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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Lately we’ve been seeing what I suppose are well intentioned efforts to erase problematic bits of the historic record – but I think they’re seriously misguided.

Mares: Swimming Safety

Jul 31, 2017

Two refugee youths from Africa drowned recently in separate accidents in Burlington. One was Ali Muhina from Somalia, the other Christian Kibabu of the Republic of Congo.

One of my day dreams is to open a restaurant. It would be called “The Quiet Restaurant,” a place with good food where customers could talk without getting sore throats and actually hear one another.

When there’s political or social unrest, people take to the streets and protest. Recent examples include the Women’s March, the People’s Climate March, and the March for Science. There’ve also been marches in many cities around the country in response to shootings of African American men by police. There’ve been marches for many causes throughout American history, but marches for the civil rights of African Americans are comparatively new. They may have begun one hundred years ago tomorrow.

I’m old enough to remember when digital learning meant using human digits to move a pencil around on a piece of paper.

If there’s anything angering liberals more than Donald Trump, it’s his loyal base of unquestioning supporters. “How can people be so blind?” they ask.

Ted Levin

Sitting on my desk at home is a small vial of alcohol containing three pickled, blacklegged tick nymphs, each no bigger than the period at the end of a typed sentence… three tiny alarming arachnids.

Many Americans were surprised that some of the most militant responses to the proposed Republican health care plan came from disability activists – who staged a “die-in” outside the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that resulted in a woman being removed from her wheelchair as she was arrested. But in fact, the disability rights movement has for decades employed a battery of tactics, including mass protest and civil disobedience.

Visiting a retrospective exhibition of the art and film of Robin Lloyd and Doreen Kraft reminded me of how many arts administrators are also artists in our community. I found this collaborative installation especially interesting because it affords a glimpse of the artistic side of Doreen Kraft, who most of us know as the director of Burlington City Arts.

Congressman William Meyer represented Vermont in 1959 and 1960. He was the only member of the US House to vote against one of the earliest appropriations to send military aid to South Vietnam, which he saw as a step toward active US military involvement. Senator George McGovern once called him "the conscience of the House."

I wonder what would happen if all Vermont schools, churches, and businesses planted a portion of their property with pollinator-friendly plants for a butterfly garden or a bee habitat.

Now that many in the federal government have become engaged in climate change denial, real climate leadership will have to come from somewhere else - like the courts, non-violent direct action, and strong political will at state and local levels.

We recently harvested our first-ever crop of sour cherries, which I figure took about ten years and four hours to produce. We planted and nurtured the tree for a decade, and this was the first time there were enough cherries to pick. With ladders and buckets, it took us most of an hour to pluck the cherries by ones and twos.

Vermont Division for Historic Preservation

It’s obvious that Calvin Coolidge loved his hometown, the tiny village of Plymouth Notch. Even after he was President, he returned there whenever he could, went fishing as any country lad might, and did farm chores wearing his grandfather’s coarse homespun farmer’s smock.

When I first heard that Senator John McCain had undergone emergency surgery for a blood clot in his brain, I was really worried for him and his family. Those are not simple operations, no matter what the cause or prognosis. 

Among June’s Supreme Court releases was a short per curium ruling in Hernández v. Mesa. It didn’t get much coverage – the Justices basically sent everything back to the lower court. But, the case itself raised some of the most controversial questions of the term … and the Court’s attempt to avoid answering them spoke volumes.

Implicit or unconscious bias is increasingly used to explain and address racist behavior in this country, like the disproportionate use of deadly physical force against Blacks by the police. In Vermont, Act 147 establishes deadlines for completing fair and impartial policing initiatives, and the Legislature is seeking funds to implement its own training on implicit bias.

My state representative Lee Oxenham recently asked me to sign a petition calling on the town select board to commit to the goals of the Paris Climate Accords. I gave it a quick look.

With all the talk in the news today about alternative facts and untrue statements, I’ve been reminded that before Google and Wikipedia, the best source of accurate information was usually the local reference librarian. And I’ve been wondering what librarians might say was the oddest question they’d ever been asked.

The kerfuffle between the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity and Vermont’s Secretary of State has me thinking about privacy, secrecy and transparency.

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