Commentary Series

Mon-Thurs 8:50 a.m. and 5:50 p.m. Sundays at 10:55 a.m.

More than 50 commentators provide perspective and opinion about current events, topics of interest, and often showcase the work of writers and storytellers. The VPR Commentary Series is produced by Betty Smith-Mastaler.

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All presidents seek to employ new media to enhance their power to connect directly with the public. Few were more successful than Franklin Roosevelt with radio and John Kennedy on television.

In 1964, Justice Black wrote “No right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which we must live. Other rights, even the most basic, are illusory if the right to vote is undermined.”

Democrats and Progressives in the Vermont House of Representatives have voted to recount the close election of Chelsea Republican Representative Bob Frenier for the second time.

Molnar: Snow

Feb 17, 2017

Finally, there’s snow!

I’ve done my share of protesting in life. In 1969, I joined a half million protesters in Washington, D.C. in the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam - and was sprayed with tear gas. At a similar rally in New York City’s Bryant Park I saw fellow demonstrators clubbed by police and witnessed its rapid transformation from peaceful protest to street violence.

We’re becoming a nation of activists.

The first sign was the historic Women’s March which brought millions of women and many men into the streets the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration. “I’ve never been political before,” was the common refrain, heard widely from sign carriers.

Most of us know that plastic debris is an environmental problem we need to solve. According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags a year, which require 12 million barrels of oil to make. The American Progressive Bag Alliance, which represents the plastics industry, estimates that only 15% of those bags get recycled properly. And the California Coastal Commission calculates that roughly 80 percent of all marine debris is plastic, which never biodegrades.

Recently I heard a woman defend her support of our new president by declaring in an interview that jobs “trump everything.” It reminded me that long before President Donald Trump entered politics, I often used the word trump, with a lower case “t,” to mean override, as in “love trumps all,” or “my love for French fries trumps my New Year’s resolution to eat healthy foods.”

The general reaction to Treasurer Beth Pearce’s suggestion that the state cover about a quarter of the massive costs of cleaning up Vermont’s waterways with a de facto increase in the property tax was a collective WHAT???

If current political events have taught us anything, it’s how vulnerable we all are to misinformation and innuendo. And if 80% of us don’t trust our own government, we must then ask how many Americans even understand how their government works or their own role in a vibrant democracy. Three quarters of Americans can’t name the three branches of government and one third can’t name even one branch. An electorate that condemns its own government without understanding its functions and purpose can hardly be counted on to participate with informed voting and advocacy.

Given the debate about acceptance and tolerance, religious and otherwise, I’ve been reminded of how the Nazis required Jews to wear yellow stars on their clothing as emblems of their identity. And I’ve briefly imagined wearing a yellow star of my own, made with the Islamic image of a star and crescent moon embroidered in the center instead of Juden, the German word for Jew.

Bryan: Dear Vermont

Feb 10, 2017

Vermonters have historically been considered taciturn. And this reminds me of the story of the old Vermonter who was said to have come in from chores one morning and was so moved by the presence of his wife that he blurted out. “I love you so much that sometimes I can hardly resist the urge to come right out and say so.”

In one of the most beloved of Dr. Seuss stories, a cranky woodland creature called The Lorax fights against the deforestation of his Truffula Tree home, saying, 'I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.' And if the new administration follows through on its plans for the Environmental Protection Agency, we may soon wish we had a lot more Loraxes around.

The earth was shaking, and I was crouching under a desk on the third floor of a building in San Francisco, when I gained some insight into the way my mind works. This was the big quake of 1989, and as the building rattled, my mind produced an image: the building collapsing, with me in it, but me rising up and getting to my feet, unhurt, amid the rubble.

They came to Vermont in the thousands and tens of thousands, in cold weather and hot. Not speaking the language, often relegated to the hardest and most difficult work, they were treated as second class citizens.

At the time, one Vermont scholar wrote that they were “an abominable crew of vagabonds, robust, lazy men and boys, slatternly women with litters of filthy brats….The character of these people is not such to as to inspire the highest hope for the future of Vermont,” he concluded, “if they should become the most numerous of its population.”

National funding for the arts, humanities, and public broadcast media are once again on the chopping block in Washington. And Vermont has much to lose.

News from Washington is coming in waves, as each new appointment, executive order, and White House action washes over and obscures the last. So it would have been easy to miss one action that barely caused a ripple but could have alarming implications for news itself in the U.S.

Bleich: The Media, Marches And Muslims

Feb 6, 2017

I’ve been researching media portrayals of minorities with students at Middlebury College for four years, now. We’ve focused on how national and international media depict Muslims compared to how they discuss other religious groups.

There I was, among a dozen people invited last week to attend a national security presentation by a group preparing to brief security officials in Washington DC. We’d been invited to the presentation to ask questions, offer guidance on the content and style of the briefing prior to their Washington appearance.

The world premiere coming into its final weekend at Northern Stage, in White River Junction, is called Trick or Treat, and it’s an emotional roller coaster ride. Playwright Jack Neary gives us a working class family trying to hold itself together in Lowell, Massachusetts. For years, they’ve been keeping dark secrets from each other, and from the rest of the town.

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