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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Governor Scott and Democratic legislative leaders are at loggerheads over realizing $75 million in savings from switching the state’s teachers to a health insurance plan compliant with the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare.

Republicans students at Middlebury College are unhappy about what they see as the lenient discipline administered to students who disrupted a speech earlier this year by author Charles Murray.

Today we observe Memorial Day and I use the word “observe” with intention. We might easily say that we’re “celebrating” Memorial Day and, indeed, that may seem more appropriate. This is the start of summer, the first lifting of the dusty, gritty grill lid, the washing of the deck chairs, the crack of bat on ball, the first dipping of toes in chill mountain streams, the move outside for the duration of the season. After a Vermont winter, it’s certainly something to be celebrated.

In the hills of Entebbe, the sound of children’s voices fill a courtyard between a compound of small buildings. Now and then, a lanky man with a short pony-tail emerges. He is Robert Fleming, the founder of Malayaka House, currently home to 39 children, ranging in age from infancy to late teens.

Winston Churchill once quipped that, You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else.

For about an hour, I was one of 30 audience members sitting in a ring on the Main Stage of Burlington’s Flynn Center while four strong, agile and graceful women danced in and around us. It was a remarkable performance - one of four shows by Adele Myers and Dancers.

My cousin in Manchester describes Monday's concert tragedy as “desperately sad.” She lives about six miles from the Manchester Arena, where a homemade bomb, packed with metal nuts and bolts, exploded as thousands of attendees - mostly girls and their parents - were leaving after a well-attended performance by popstar Ariana Grande.

A few years ago I sat in the Federal Court House in Burlington and watched the full might of the US Auto Industry on display. Vermont had joined a number of other northeast states and California in requiring higher gas mileage in cars. Auto companies had then chosen to sue three states; California, New York and Vermont. The discovery requests alone had kept several staff in the state’s environmental agency busy for months.

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.

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