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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Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan and Governor Phil Scott both supported immigration bill S.79 now passed by the legislature. Some say it was largely an anti-Trump symbolic gesture, while others say it sets the stage for a sanctuary state without explicitly stating that goal.

Chuck Berry’s passing reminds me of a summer night in 1987 when the rock n’ roll legend played a concert I produced in Lyndonville.

Sharp-eyed observers might have noticed that the golden dome of Vermont’s State House has begun to look a bit shabby. Its lustrous gold leaf finish now looks slightly worn and patchy. And there are flaws and cracks in the white-painted cylindrical “drum” that supports the gold cap.

We banned the Chinese in the 1880s, southern Europeans in 1924 – and, infamously, refused to admit a shipload of German Jews in 1939.

But I can’t stop thinking about 1850.

For a while now I’ve been harping on the need for state agencies to improve delivery of services through technology and digital channels. Over the years we’ve sadly seen a number of terrible state technology products and only once in a while a good one.

I was at the Green Mountain Film Festival last weekend. Living an hour away, I tend to say I’ll go more often than I do, but the Vermont ACLU was co-sponsoring a screening of the documentary Equal Means Equal and I had agreed to moderate a panel following the film.

Not long ago, after she’d finished reading two science-related magazines, my aunt passed them along to me and for some unknown reason I turned first to the prominent last page of the issue of MIT Technology Review.

McQuiston: Sales Tax

Mar 20, 2017

The Sears catalogue, back in the day, was the size of the New York City phone book. When there was a New York City phone book. It had everything from clothing to sporting goods to farm implements. It was awesome. As recently as the 1970s Sears was still so colossal that it was able to build America’s tallest building in Chicago. Now, the company no longer has the catalogue or the skyscraper.

Averyt: Throwback Snow

Mar 17, 2017

Back when I moved to Vermont in the 80s, it took many cords of wood to stoke fires, and mittens and the occasional mail flyer often disappeared into the January snow banks, not to reappear until the snow melted in March – or even April. Pipes froze as well as rivers, and so did Lake Champlain - all the way across.

Mares: Shared Sacrifice

Mar 17, 2017

The election of President Trump has reminded me of Elizabeth Kűbler-Ross' five stages of grief. The first is denial – as in how could 63 million people be so wrong? After that comes anger, followed by bargaining, depression and finally acceptance.

Early visitors to Vermont found it a beautiful and wild place but with far too many trees. So they set to work, carving farm fields out of the old-growth forests, pulling stumps from the ground, cutting 100-foot fir trees into chunks for firewood, planks for houses and masts for ships. By the time they were done, Vermont was nearly 80 percent cleared. The remaining trees were mostly relegated to the sides of mountains and the northern regions of the state.

Earlier this month, the nation was jolted by a Tweet from President Trump, notable for a questionable historical reference. He wrote: “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”

Vogel: Healthcare Advice

Mar 14, 2017

House Speaker Paul Ryan has unveiled his plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. One early headline from the New York Times sums it up this way: “Republican Health Proposal Would Direct Money from Poor to Rich.” A dramatic example, as reported by Business Insider, concludes that under the new plan the 400 wealthiest households in America get a tax cut of seven million dollars per household per year.

Living in two cultures can be enriching, sometimes it’s just plain baffling. Being a citizen of two countries helps - it makes it harder to dismiss baffling behavior as “typically German” or “typically American”.

When my daughter and I visited the Jewish cemetery in Gross Gerau, Germany, where my father’s family is buried, we were shown where to look for my grandfather’s stone by the German cemetery keeper. He proudly told us that most of the gravestones had been repaired by his Christian community - an act of redemption.

Like everyone who travels Route 30 to and from Brattleboro, I’ve been watching construction of the new I-91 bridge over the West River for years. The project began in the fall of 2013, when interstate traffic moved onto the southbound bridge and PCL Civil Constructors began dismantling the old northbound span, girder by girder.

Many young people are, by nature’s design, rash and impulsive and in loco parentis educators must often deal with the fallout from their students’ lack of experience. Real-life consequences and good mentoring, mature them over time or they become infantilized adults.

My grandparents arrived in America, refugees of a genocide perpetrated by an Islamic government against its Christian citizens.

The President of Middlebury College, Laurie Patton, is disappointed, and for good reason.

Canada’s in our DNA, literally.

Canadians, blue collar and white, have always been drawn south to the United States by economic opportunity. Between 1840 and 1930, nearly one million French Canadians migrated to New England’s mill towns; and knowledge workers like physicians, engineers and entertainers, drifted south thereafter.