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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I’m staring one of those big fat numbers in the face. Forty-five. Forty-five years ago, I graduated from Bennington College with a degree in literature. But I remember graduation day as if it were yesterday. I covered lots of commencements over the years as a reporter, but I’ve never been to one quite like mine.

I just happened to be in France during the recent presidential election there, and discovered the French candidates had some interesting things in common with our current president.

Mitch Wertlieb / VPR

I wanted to take this moment to tell you about a friend.

Despite calls for the president’s removal either by impeachment or invoking the 25th amendment, neither’s likely.

Governor Scott’s proposal to save $26 million in the state education fund by reforming the health care coverage for teachers put him at loggerheads with the opposing legislative majority and the VTNEA, which has deep financial resources to influence public opinion.

It seems like every time I turn on the news there’s another story about the Russian investigation, possible leaks of classified information, denials, explanations, and alternative facts. This comes after months of environmental rollbacks, healthcare cuts and attacks on basic civil rights.  It’s getting hard to bear!

There's a phrase from sports that has always been intriguing to me: People say something is or isn't “in the interest of baseball.” The word “baseball,” spoken in this way, carries with it a whole value system or code of conduct.

Relatively late in the legislative game, Governor Phil Scott suggested that property taxpayers could save twenty-six million dollars a year if all teacher health insurance plans were rolled into one state contract.

The frequent news stories these days about the countless hungry and homeless strangers seeking shelter and security, both in Europe and the US, raise the same issues that are raised in Robert Frost’s famous poem Two Tramps in Mud Time.

There’s a book in my library titled Whisperers by a Russian historian of the Stalin era in which everyone tells on everyone else. And I was reminded of it recently, when I set out for a hike with my dog Fred in my rusty old pick-up truck. I love the old wreck and when Fred and I go places in it, we’re kings of the road.

If you’re trying to come up with that Next Big Thing you should know that the U.S. Patents and Trademark Office will only award a patent if it includes an “illogical step.” I love that. But it also makes me think hard about how it’s possible to find or create illogical steps.

Coffin: Finding Tiger

May 12, 2017

Daniel Lillie - nicknamed Tiger by his men - was one of the most popular officers in the Civil War’s Vermont Brigade.

We Americans have always headed into our workshops, spare rooms and garages, and made stuff. From smart eighteenth century New England farm boys who brought their inventions south to Worcester, MA, where there was power to rent, to Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak tinkering on the first personal computer prototypes, this is what we do. But as school districts tighten their belts by cutting all but academic basics, we sacrifice practice in fabrication, the training ground for innovation.

Before we moved to Vermont, we lived in a wooded area north of New York City. Behind our tiny plot, some hundred acres of undeveloped land stretched away. We made it ours by walking in it, eating its berries and building tepee houses with fallen branches.

Richard Nixon has long been regarded as the Dracula of American politics: regularly re-appearing no matter how often his political obituary had been written. And, apparently, here he is again: this time thinly disguised as President Donald Trump, whose recent firing of FBI Director James Comey has been compared to the 1973 Watergate Saturday Night Massacre when Nixon fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox and in the process forced the resignations of his Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General.

In the darkened theater we followed an Afghan woman as she escaped her burning village with nine children, carrying a fifty-pound sack of flour on her head while trudging through deep mountain snows.

Recent demonstrations in Vermont and across the country show newly invigorated grass roots movements around issues of climate change, economic inequality, health care, and rights for women and people of color.

When my son and daughter look at their baby albums, they see pictures of themselves bundled in blankets alongside other mementos that most kids don’t have – like electrodes that attached to their chests and lead wires connecting them to computers that measured every heart beat and breath for weeks, and tubes used to feed them.

In the world of local television, WCAX has been a rarity. It was the last independently owned and operated CBS station – and one of the few mom and pop shops left in the country.

My latest strategy for achieving greater political peace of mind is to think Cassini. Not Oleg Cassini, the famous fashion designer, but Cassini the space probe, launched in 1997 to explore the planet Saturn.

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