Commentary Series

There’s a lovely old Welsh tune, "The Ash-Grove" that elementary school music teachers and scout leaders often choose for their kids to sing. In it, lost love is recalled under the graceful boughs of the lovely and practical Ash tree.

I once bought ten acres of woods in New Hampshire because they looked so much like my Adirondacks. The county forester walked them with me and showed me how I could harvest them sustainably for firewood. But save these, he said, tapping a white ash. These are your most valuable trees.

Moats: Empathy

Mar 7, 2018

Most people would agree that empathy is a good thing — the ability to see things from another point of view, to put yourself in another’s shoes, to listen and understand. But in this season of discontent, even empathy has become a question of controversy.

The volcanic eruption of Tambora, in today’s Indonesia, produced an early modern example of climate change, causing catastrophic weather events that gave 1816 the title “year without a summer.”

I’ve been observing or reporting on Town Meetings in Vermont and New Hampshire since moving to the Upper Valley about 15 years ago.

The publication this month of Green Mountain Scholar: Samuel B. Hand commemorates the legacy of a man who — in the process of changing his own thinking about Vermont — changed the way we understand our history, even today

Since the Great Recession ended in June, 2009, changes in technology, disruption of traditional industries, and innovation in the workplace have occurred at a faster pace than ever before. After an unprecedented loss of nearly nine million jobs, the U.S. economy is fully recovered and continues to add jobs, and consumer confidence has reached its highest level since two thousand.

Up until recently, I had only known the National Rifle Association as the sporting turned Second Amendment lobbying group that has fought against proposed gun restrictions, including ones for the AR-15, the assault-style rifle used in the Parkland, Florida, school shooting that left seventeen students and teachers dead.

When I taught writing in Vermont prisons, I had to leave everything but my keys and teaching materials in my car.

If I were teaching a humanities course this term, I would focus on the Second Amendment: what it does – or doesn’t mean.

In 1981, a year after the Religious Right abandoned Jimmy Carter, a born-again evangelical Christian, for Ronald Reagan, Billy Graham remarked, “It would disturb me if there was a wedding between the religious fundamentalists and the political right. The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it.”

It’s Town Meeting time. But so what? Why should we care?

As soon as the smoke had cleared in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, the cry went up - how could such a rampage, claiming 17 lives, finally be prevented?

Clark: Robert's Rules

Feb 27, 2018
Mark Bushnell, courtesy

A neighbor told me recently that his fifth-grade son was interested in Town Meeting. “He wants to learn more about – what’s that ‘order’ thing?”

Mares: Common Ground

Feb 27, 2018

I wish Americans today might follow the sensible example of an organization I’ve belonged to for quite a few years now.

On Nine-Eleven, 1997, the late actor Charlton Heston, best known for his role as Moses in The Ten Commandments, spoke at the National Press Club on behalf of the NRA.  Yes, the NRA had opposed the Brady Bill, but with Heston as its spokesperson, the gloves, or the silencer, came off.

Megan Polyte, courtesy

Recently, my family joined dozens of others from Mother Up!: Families Rise Up for Climate Action, a project of 350Vermont, to make a presentation to the Climate Solutions Caucus at the State House .

It’s happened again. This week massive ice jams and flooding set in motion by warm weather, rain and rising waters put people and property in danger.

Watts: Town Meeting

Feb 23, 2018

Legendary Vermont Political Scientist Frank Bryan is fond of saying “Real democracy takes place in small places” and drawing a direct line from ancient Greece to our New England Town meeting.

12521104 / iStock

I’ve always loved Valentine’s Day. Not for the cupids or romantic dinners with partners. But, for the holiday of grade school: when everyone got a Valentine, because it was a day to celebrate Love, writ large. An official day for Kindness.

In Vermont, there was relief when the State Police got a tip that may have prevented more school violence.

The target was Fair Haven High School near Rutland; the suspect was an 18 year old former student who had laid out his plans in a journal.