Vermont Diary

 

Change of Season


It’s been a rough first quarter in many ways down at the community kitchen, Loaves and Fishes. Two long-time members of our group have passed — and some equipment is going the same way.


At 6:30 Friday morning I discovered there was no hot water. Attendance numbers have been at about 350 meals recently, 700 a week, and one dishwashing machine can’t cope with that volume, or quickly enough so most of it is usually done by hand. On Friday we served 368 meals — despite the additional little problem of flames coming out of one of the gas keys on the oven, again.


It may seem like a minor thing but it’s like working with a 1,000lb bomb which is now 80 years old. Recent fundraising has raised most of the money for replacement. The gas and hot water got fixed that morning, and if only the Victorian drainage system would behave, we would be on a better, drier footing.


Meanwhile just before service FoodBank called to say there was a lot of meat we could have, but it has to be now — so we stowed all we could and shared with other groups what we couldn’t.


We lose a few people to other locations in the summer, temporally with vacations, or for the whole time, but the CSA is opening up, and we get fresh greens again.


We still need a few thousand dollars to basically update our hardware to standard. Anyone wishing to donate please drop me a line and I will connect you with our treasurer. vtviewsinnes@gmail.com




The British Aren’t Coming — Alas


Following a tongue-in cheek April Fools article about Vermont seceding back to England, there has been such a lot of correspondence that I evolved this Baker’s Dozen of Things Which Would Change. It has changed from jokes or whimsical ideas to real ones which look like they would work — they are not all in place in UK, but they work someplace in Europe.


1.Universal health care, not sickness-insurance, paid for by socialized 15% of personal income, and managed by trustees of the contributors.

2.Education: look, if you can’t read to a functional level, or make change out of a buck, recognize major countries on the map, or know whose sides Patrick Henry was on in the right order, then you shouldn’t get a high school diploma — but the state needs intelligent workers so why continue to pay 10 grand a year for duh?!

3.Establishment of the Bernie Dome [illustrated] somewhere midstate, say Dummerston, which would be an exposition center and educational facility for existing and emerging science and technology projects in Vermont for tourists and those who might relocate businesses here, plus natural science studies — on a much larger scale than the goodish I91 Welcome Center in Guilford, and as show-piece for all of Vermont, plus large scale new stuff [see Zero Energy Housing below]

4.Tax-free Marmite! Americans detest this British yeast-extract, but seriously, how about a Commendable Food Program in schools administered by Brit Jamie Oliver who recently took on, to its shame, the entire state of California for a program that not only promotes healthy food, but does not subsidize unhealthy ones at the wholesale level [high fructose corn syrup, massive fats, sugar and salt content, eg] or sell its unhealthy commercial product right there in the cantina of the school?

5.Vermont Prisoners will no longer be incarcerated in Alabama, in off-shore boats, or wherever is cheapest, but will remain in state, unless they prefer a place where Vermonters can’t visit them, and can take out a loan to stay there. Even so, something is wrong with Vermont incarceration which cost 1.5 times as much as other states, including for a low risk woman’s prison.

6.Prisoners to earn an honest wage for their work which will pay 50% of their upkeep [food, lodging, security] as part a Futures Program, see note 10. Prisoners may choose to opt out of this program and join chain gangs down in ‘Bama, if they wish.

7.Vermont will adopt a new constitution called A Bill of Wrongs. Unlike the US Constitution which tells you what you can do, the Vermont Constitution, like the British one, will not presume to rule over anything ‘natural’ which after all, is granted by Government and can be taken away by government, and is in fact unnatural— instead it will tell you what you cannot do, such as kill thy neighbor or scratch his SUV ‘by accident’. The basis of the Vermont Constitution will proceed that way.

8.Prescription for Mary-Jane and other substances will become available on the same medical basis as the current prescriptive and use laws for opiates, codeine, and other significant mood alteration and diminished social responsibility drugs.

9.Women, being 95% responsible, in our time, for raising children, shall be 100% responsible for governing their well being, including of young mothers, children’s education, health considerations for both, including being responsible for determining funding distribution until age 18.

10.The prison population will construct and deploy no less than 5,000 zero-energy modular [expandable] houses per year, along already existing German models, which cost should not exceed a typical 12 year mortgage. This includes low and high tech infrastructural technologies, and mostly deployed to new eco villages in our almost unpopulated state. Unemployed people after 6 months will be offered the same deal of working in this program and guaranteed work and fair pay, and employed to a needed level of requirement by the program and their ability to meet that requirement, or try their luck in Alabama or whoever would take them. This would replace welfare and ‘ragged people’, except for specific medical exemptions that the person could do nothing socially worthwhile.

11.Corporate taxes shall be set at 10% payable to state of Vermont, with no exceptions nor discounts. Individual taxes shall be set at 12.5% with only  one permissible deduction, mortgage interest, which for traditional houses will be 75% of paid interest, and for Vermont Zero-Energy Housing, at 90%. Dividend interest earned by out of state residents shall be taxed at 6.5% deducted at the time of payment.

12.Paid and voluntary security forces in the state will be incremented by a service program which will teach participants to not only shoot straight, but by trained personnel such as may be considered ‘a well-ordered militia’, not by Uncle Joe in the woods after a bottle of Wild Turkey, trying to shoot the bottle afterwards. Additionally participants in this force will also train for emergency deployments, mainly in state, as a first deployment force against disaster, and additionally to surrounding states and accessible countries in dire need. Attack aircraft programs will be discontinued, and evolution of disaster relief training and technologies including their transport encouraged.

13. A tax on all out of state traffic shall be accessed at the borders of the state as a $15 entry fee,  to fund roadways, bridges, policing and other emergency responders — with the exception of those people living elsewhere who work in the state, who can swipe or insert their handy new Vermonty chip card, and pay nothing. The other 35% of Vermont traffic can pay its due share, and if $15 is too much or too little, adjust this entry tax directly against real cost.


Evidently this is neither a left or right polemic but it iis a Vermonty one, and I think now we all know what happens if we do nothing. Nuff said., except to say, who disagrees, and what would you say better?



Spiritual Theft in the Year of the Monkey



It’s been a difficult year to publish this magazine. Many columnists have been angry, enthusiastic and despairing per lunar phase, and writing upon election themes the whole time, and at too considerable a length.


2016 as the Year of the Monkey seems to have fooled even the New York Times who in an article dated as late as October 13th 2016 confidently wrote about what it was going to be like with a female president.


It is as if we as individual citizens had no nous, no power, no other orientation than to give it all up to one pole of the duo — that politicians could do something for us for which our own souls played no part. They stole people’s power, like sly wizards whether of the Bernie, Hillary or The Donald, kind.


Promises made were not only difficult or impossible to achieve, but could sensibly only be achieved by consensus in local communities, and enacted from our very souls — World Affairs have indeed become soul-sized.


Journalists believed everything politicians said, and wrote about it the whole year long, since after all, the news is more entertainment than anything old fashioned like intelligent criticism to inform individual action and the human heart, right?


To give Americans a break, Brits were equally drunk on their enthusiasms, and having got Scottish secession issues completely wrong, nevermind the massive intelligence gathering capability, legal and covert, of the economically sixth biggest power in the world, in 2016 they confidently got Brexit wrong.


Bringing it all back home a recent front cover editorial in the free paper local paper “The Commons” written by a sub-editor opined and led by a pull-quote why the journalist writing the article [his degrees and experience mentioned] should not extend his understanding to the 57,000,000 people who voted in a way he didn’t like. Not exactly a liberal sentiment, is it?


Journalism, if you are going to do it at all, is not about changing opinions to what you personally like, that’s propaganda — though the whole country went for it, forgetting that little thing which can actually make a difference. “Me”.


Can the reader be trusted to make up their own mind? What is lacking is personal contribution and wanting big daddy [with apologies to Hillary] to do it for us. We seem to want a strong leader as much as the Russians do.


If you as a Vermonter became convinced to think that way, whether to the left or right, someone made a Monkey of you. “Polity” means something other than “politics” and if the future of democracy is to be a bio-regional devolved management which admits us by our lights, better get over that 2016 embarrassing investment in Orwellian Great Leaders.


Then re-orient and get on with the real thing which is right in front of our noses. As Kennedy almost put it, “what have you done for your country recently?” That would be a form or basis of nation building very credible at home and abroad, uncheatable, and direct, and very Vermonty. 




Quality of Life


No ovens at the community kitchen Loaves and Fishes this week. Same as last week when we entertained two state senators, a Bernie Representative, the town manager and 20 others who had jurisdiction on the fate of the hungry and homeless. Under a program organized by Sandglass Theater, all these visitors mixed with our clientele with same food, same line, same tables — on Tuesday and Friday on twin colloquia with topics of food security and homelessness… first time in 10 years we had seen any of these folks — and we had one of our two ovens out.


Both local newspapers declined to show up, so I will have to report to you myself.


Our oven is estimated to be 80 years old. True, there were flames coming out of the front, but we got that fixed at expense of current situation where both ovens were gonzo.


We trucked our stuff over to the Senior Center and cooked it there — we have done same for them, but dammit, this is playing light with people’s welfare, no?


I worked for some months with an organizer of these meetings, and described our venue as ‘ground zero for hunger,’ which I am not sure was understood as other than rhetoric, but there really is no more ‘down’ to descend to.


My late friend who I will call Melinda B was Executive Director of the Drop-In center in Brattleboro, and said to me after the visit of a wannabe State Governor that a social worker had said to this fella that they were concerned with people freezing that year.


He turned to an aide and said that ‘we should look into fuel aide,’ whereas the social worker said, ‘Fuel aide for the homeless? We are afraid of them freezing to DEATH,” she emphasized.


At Loaves and Fishes we want to maintain a family feeling, giving our clients a nonintrusive ‘tribe,’ to relate with, a sense of belonging to this community as regular citizens even for a few hours a week.


That’s what it’s about, and even if not always absolute conditions of life and death, certainly it has to do with quality of life, and much of that offsets suicidal tendencies, especially in this season.


Very much these days in our society has to do with a sense of quality of life, eh? When even the well-off wail and the government spends four years on which toilet you can go into.



Words or Deeds




Racism: The guy who comes down our street with his dog talks with me, maybe because of his dog who I spoil rotten with dog cookies, but we have come to talk over the past years, and he was a teacher and now on a diversionary board for ‘troubled-youth’ keeping them out of prison, and we often talk about that, since I have done similar. But he does talk about the election too, and how after 8 years of Obama racism seems worse to him, rather than better. And I suppose we could check that out statistically or something, or we could notice his expert opinion, since he’s black.


Sexism: Following along this trend, the question about electing a woman, is if she will also ‘raise awareness’ of the fact of being female, and will that actual further the cause of females, or shall we see as with Obama and blacks, people coming out of the woodwork to even more openly denigrate females? I think you are more likely to catch my gist if you are a black person.


Nationalism: Orwell remarked in 1944 about the flood of refugee Jews in London, and a rising anti-Semitism with the usual petty scandals such as jumping queues, and so on, but also a pale resentment in the press by those who resent anti-Jewish sentiment. He said it was sad that so many whited sepulchers are writing to The Times resenting anti-Semitism and we must assume the writers have never felt anti-Semitic. Better, he said, if someone who had actually felt anti-Semitic wrote of a change of mind, since then we might learn something.


Realism: From the soup  [or community] kitchen where I work at food security ground zero, I have noticed from the past 18 months collections of people in the community who discuss the homeless and hungry. Rather than paraphrase these speeches from groups of 200 people or more, I merely note that we have no new pans in our kitchen as a result of those conversation, nor anyone from these concerned groups showing up to actually cook in or wash them. Raising awareness of an issue does not necessarily mean anything will happen in terms of the people’s willingness to do other than talk, it does not indicate willingness to actually do work.


Ourselves: The truth is that world affairs are now soul-sized. We cannot have more without than we can admit to ourselves within including democracy, and this could evoke an attitude of service and love for others— a service not to concepts or leaders, but to serve with others as a collective means of attaining a certain form of intelligence, love and light. And some say this is why we are here incarnated as a group in the first place. Displacing that and whining and projecting it onto politicians is unfair, since evidently they cannot lead where people will not commit to go.


As above, if you are a black person, or an aboriginal in your own country, or female, you will understand this more readily. And to these folks, I defer.





Out of the closet





I came under some fire earlier this week for putting up a columnist’s dramatic [though factually true] piece on the plight of Greek refugees. Later in the week there is a widespread furor over the latest outburst by a presidential candidate on the topic of sexual abuse.


The publishing question is whether to vent these subjects of keep them in the closet? Several million women this week have thought the former to be the better course — the best disinfectant being light and air. I don’t want to address that more, but did write to the columnist about the resentment she received in writing what she did, and me for publishing it.


This is what she wrote in reply:—


“Your response clearly demonstrates your comprehension that what is happening to these refugees is horrendous and indeed this emotion filled and dramatic account is written for the express purpose of seeing this from a refugee's point of view.


Indeed when I taught at the University of Connecticut and saw a total lack of empathy in my students who read of terrible things happening on the other side of the world I cut out newspaper articles and said to my students, "Imagine you are one of the persons in this photograph and write what is happening and what you feel."


This specific exercise enabled even a very rich, proud and insulated boy whose family lived in an exclusive community in Greenwich to identify with the perspective of a stranger. That is my intention writing this piece. Simply how would you feel if this were you?”


Fortunately I do not cover the news in the magazine as much as topics which relate to quality of life — much news seems nothing more than shadenfreude entertainment where a peep-show reveals misfortune of others, and the ‘news’ program even celebrates their orientation.


Readers over 45 do not derive their values much from news sources and have slowed down enough to have digested just what qualities that actually produces — and resolved that what aids us lies elsewhere.



Out of time





At around 3 Thursday afternoon my wife told me that she saw on Facebook that my friend Merritt Brown had passed away that morning.


Last night I determined to get in one or two group photography trips and thought of going either to Putney Mountain or The Retreat Ice Pond or down Northfield way where there is an enormous corn-field with swamp and birds beside the Connecticut River.


The odd thing is, instead off all the above, I had done something unusual, gone out early to photograph a place I had perhaps over-photographed — but it was the last place Merritt and I visited together — along with Jeff Lewis.  Merritt had died that very hour.


I even remarked earlier today that in a bird sanctuary how odd not to see nor hear any birds as if the foggy surrounds also rendered the place out-of-time.


He was probably the best landscape photographer in New England, though certainly a most modest man, and we had gone on a half dozen group photo trips I had organized together.


How strange to think of him not being around for more invitations, and I never did get him up to the Retreat ice-pond beyond the ski-jump, and was looking forward to a just-snowed Fall visit.


We did go up Black Mountain last year though, and I’m not sure he had been there before [nor previously to the Hogle where I was this morning] .


I’m just typing now, not quite knowing what to say.


This morning I had not checked my camera as usual, and the battery was showing low when I got there, so I only took a few photos, and then put it away in order to be present in a different way.  Later I wrote, feeling somewhat strange:—


“The last time I was at the Hogle all the vegetation had been cut down so that the funky boardwalk was exposed in its meander. This morning it was more mysterious — and my conceit with this photo was that it was the opening sequence in a film, and soon an actor would emerge walking slowly toward the camera.”





Lots of words to it



A few days ago I joined 199 other people and began discussing Facebook at the invitation of the company. People have all sorts of businesses and differing concerns, but it seems like a wide-open discussion with criticism for and against various features.


Meanwhile the magazine has increased its numbers of readers — and while quantification is not everything in a magazine that has to do with quality, it is nevertheless encouraging.


A few new columns are in the works, and also series of articles by people who want to write more than one essay, but not a continuous regular column.


While page-clicks give you quantities of people reading any article, Facebook offers you a demographic on who is doing the reading, and this is who you are in the aggregate:—


Location: 80% from 50 miles radius of Brattleboro, 20% from NY City and Connecticut


Gender: 54% female


Education: 80% with at least an undergraduate degree


Age: 52


There is a popular Facebook group called ‘Be honest, what books are on your bedside table’ and since my birthday July 8th I have read:—


Gone to Earth by Mary Webb, and author almost unknown in the USA, but a ‘female Thomas Hardy’ writing in the same English vein as Austen and Eliot.


Landmarks by Robert MacFarlane, which has to do with our increasingly lost lexicon for natural things


Rising Ground: A Search for the Spirit of Place by Philip Marsden, and gratifyingly set mostly in my native Cornwall, and ending in the Scilly Isles


Which is where the first chapter of WaterLog, a swimmer’s journey through Britain begins, written by one of the original founders of Friends of the Earth, Roger Deakin.


Since that title mentions a little-known spa in the North of England repleat with lido, and also that Iris Murdock set a title there, I am also reading The Philosopher’s Pupil.


Finally, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan is a wonderful anthropology of food, with sometimes less wonderful witness to what we consume as industrial food, contrasted with local, fresh and organic.


Finally, two long audios — All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren and a WWII novel about two French women is the subject of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale.


Even more finally, the last two chapters of a new biography of Charlotte Bronte, A Fiery Heart by Claire Harman.





Birthday Boy



Up at 4:45: Strong black coffee then sitting quietly for an hour as usual. Then to the CSA to pick up greens for the soup kitchen where it is 80 degrees with the ovens off at 6:30am. I have 8 trays of mostly meat protein going at 7:30 and by the time anyone else gets in nine-ish its to hand over the shift— I take out defrost for next Tuesday’s meal for 40 kids, 70 adults, and 80 take-outs, and go home.


Better than yesterday when it said 88 with humidity index at 100 [with ovens = off]. You have to look to your fellow workers average age high 60s at this heat and humidity level, if they have a red face; and someone did come in and fall over by cornering too fast in a one person accident. She was okay which is good since she has had a hip replacement. Later she brought me some McVities Dark for my birthday.


Way down there on the background national level, I should note as Dan Shore noted every year what significant things changed for better or for worse. Dan had got into this annual report and always apologized that things really weren’t much better. This year not even Saint Bernie Sanders has made climate change a plank in his agenda. I’ll just say that so that if you are from elsewhere you will get a gleam about how US politics actually works in the world’s greatest polluting state, absolutely and per pop, and how government goes about its business with the people, since if it don’t get you 5% of any constituency, it’s off the menu.


In Europe the Brexit farce continues and it would take a heart of stone not to laugh. In the UK alone, politicians of both parties have self-imploded, and got rid of 30 years of stale rhetoric and ‘plunge in’ brinkmanship politics, such as one might dream of eliminating, and maybe we will get back the liberals such as we had in 1920, when to be liberal meant to have an education and non-partisan. Tony Blair, same age as me, has been censured by Parliament for starting an unnecessary war, and basically as daft as a Bush.


Funniest thing happened on my new cell phone when I got a message from Scott at  Greenfield Toyota thanking me for my visit, and how did his staff do? I didn’t have the heart to message him back and tell him that I have not visited Greenfield Toyota, and maybe his staff need to attend to details?


That’s how it is sometimes and seriously too with Pluto opposite the sun — you have to find your own deep calm and mission, or instead you can be hyper-reactive and go shoot cops as some guy did today with a handy weapon which both sides of the US government recently said you can have as many of as you want.


That’s no tone to end a day with. But it becomes more true that affairs are now soul sized, and that many folk, most folk, are unhappy with mere political leadership and orientations, while religious leadership also seems inert.  Folks want another option to give their lives some view and meaning which they can assess for themselves while retaining their feet on the ground. Not much of that sort of thing in the news — that is still full of the woes of the fag-end of the Piscian era, and must be dealt with before any Aquarian beneficence can shine through on a collective level.


Eat raspberries with ice-cream after dinner.



SHOCK of the Present




I sometimes feel like a latter-day Alaister Cooke explaining Americans to Englishmen, and vice-versa. Here we are called to explain how the 5th largest economy in the world has opted out of the European Union, and that it was a surprise to politicians everywhere, left and right.


Of course, when all the pundits, academics, media and the politicians get it wrong they could be fairly accused of not being in touch with what people want — and in America this is true in respect of Bernie Sanders who has shocked everyone by being tuned into what especially people aspire to in their country and saying it out loud. By ‘everyone’ we mean of course pundits, academic experts, the media and the politicians who have seemed clueless, and unfit to lead in ideas, research, news or actual government.


The British vote to exit Europe was supported by two main factors, people over 55 coming out in unprecedented numbers, and ‘the regions’ being other than London’s conurbation.


People over 55 have observed what effect being in the EU had during their adult lifetimes, and resolved that it was very little in any economic sense or in terms of values, especially to those with less income, that is to say, 80% of people. The regions have always been antithetical to bigger political and economic entities, preferring to press the other way into bioregional devolution from central power, as another ‘surprise to government’ occurred in the Scottish referendum on succession.


Objectively the $500 million dollars Britain invests every week into the EU comes back a few years later after all the applications forms are done and processed as $200 million of mostly regional development help — but that is a net loss of $300 million a week to support other countries. And it was the regions who universally wanted out of this system, hence it was a vote to keep the money in the first place and serve themselves.


Somehow the UK government missed this factor or sought to override it, and in terms of being connected with people’s aspirations proved themselves no more witty than British government over the colonies, as they were. In short, central government has learned nothing in 400 years.


I do not say that what devolutionary people want is necessarily rational, well balanced, nor deeply thought out, but I think it is fair to say that Government’s policy suffers the same criticism by continuing the status quo. It is after all only 2% of Britain’s GNP.


Best thing for Prime Minister Cameron and successors to do is to not ‘save’ that investment, but invest it county by county, and region by region, as if to actually ask people in the counties once every year, “you get $500 million dollars this week, how would you like to spend it?”


That the US Government has been broken by partisanship these past dozen years is hardly a matter of dispute, and no one thinks that that is exactly the right forward model to represent an entire continent, whereas in our state, Vermont, we are outvoted by single cities by a factor of 15 to 1 and thus invoking the infamous phrase ‘tyranny of the majority.’


Who here, for example, wants to be ruled by the sensibilities of LA or New York City? I think that is how Brits have felt these past 35 years of experiment in the nebulous European Union. Why this fact should be ‘surprising’ is unclear.





US Politics for Forns from Yurp [part deux]





I tried to write an explanation of the American election process to an intelligent correspondent in London, she does have a PhD. Now I have another PhD in Holland who asks similar questions.


The plain facts are that ‘Superdelegates’ determine who the American people will be able to vote for in the national election, and that superdelegates are not elected.


Superdelegates are chosen by a political party, themselves not elected, and decide often a year before any other candidate even enters the race for that party who they will vote for.


To say this system is profoundly undemocratic is to use too many words. It is undemocratic.


Even the saint of the liberal left, Elizabeth Warren, with prospective cabinet posts or even the vice-presidency in view, is a superdelegate, even though ‘she does not like superdelegates’ she can in effect vote for her own prospects. Even though she doesn’t like it, she does not resign her superdelegacy. That is how strong the system is, or perhaps Elizabeth Warren is.


I didn’t offer to make sense of the American system, merely report it.


In effect, it is only the will of the people at the national election which will determine the next presidency, and there can be no two candidates from the same side as it were — Bernie Sanders is proscribed from running against Hillary Clinton, for example, even though in consistent poles conducting over the past six months and across the continent, he is likely to fair better contra-Trump than is Clinton for the Liberal cause.


Albeit, the expectation is that he will now give up and throw in his lot with Clinton, even though We, The People, have expressed ourselves democratically in these poles that he is the better chance to beat Trump.


Get it?



Ticks and Tourism





Seems like the word is out.  Southern Vermont is maybe the best place to acquire Lyme Disease than anywhere else in New England or anywhere else come to that, by wondering around the Green Mountains or even the lower valleys.


Just after the civil war Vermont was 80% unforested, but now Southern Vermont is 90% forested, and a stroll in the woods can contact the stroller with winter resistant ticks even ‘off-season’ in February, for example. My own stroll up the West River old railroad track achieved 1 tick attached to my person, two to my pants, and two in my shirt.


Tourism is down in Vermont, they say, because of this and because dogs bathing in Lake Champlain die. The dogs die because of excess run-off ‘product’ in the water. Basically this means effluent or huge quantities of raw shit and fertilizer and antibiotics breading nasty microbes dumped into Champlain, ever since 1960, and complicit with the state’s permit. But ticks are different.


Evidently I am not writing a chamber of commerce style ‘visit us’ message here, and it is rare to meet anyone much who goes into the woods and off the trail around Brattleboro, except they are on bikes.


As above, 140 years ago at the end of the civil war Southern Vermont was 80% unwooded, and contained a vast sheep population which kept it so. The cleared ground permitted a relatively massive amount of ground feeding birds which eat such things as ticks and other chiggers.


I can tell you that 100 feet into the woods there is no bird movement nor bird song these days in these dead woods. And Thoreau would be amazed though not amused. I can also say that I have hardly met a tourist even 100 yards off or on any local trail.


And I think tourists know this, and stick to the hardtop which sensibly leads them to clean all-paved resorts mid-state, entirely passing us by.



Over  the mountain





We received an invitation to visit the joint libraries of some friends, two literature professors, Laura Stevenson and the late Franklin Reeve, up there above Wilmington, Saturday morning, and bring a book bag, since it was Laura’s intend to disperse some 2,500 books into the community — no charge, but no dealers, take a dozen of whatever you like.


The air was spectacularly clear and dry, best day of the year so far, and up there it was so quiet you could hear a distant peak breathing.


I acquired the following:—


Johnson’s Dictionary

A handsome book on the Hudson River painters

A Cornish romance set in Elizabethan times, and

The Badianus Manuscript (Codex Barberini, Latin 241) from the Vatican Library, being An Aztec herbal of 1552, printed in Baltimore in 1940.


I also picked up some CDs;

Jacqueline du Pre’s 5 Beethoven cello sonatas, Barenboim conducting

Vivaldi’s 6 cello sonatas, Pieter Wispelwey

A Gershwin collection, &

A 21 hour audio recording of All the King’s Men [how topical!] by Robert Penn Warren


On the way back we stopped at Hogback Mountain and I could see some 60 miles into Massachusetts clear to Wachusett Mountain, more than half way to Boston.


Then we cut across country to South Newfane and the magic ended — lots of shacks and trailers, and burned shacks and falling-down houses, some lived in some not.


This is still a frontier of sorts in Northern Appalachia where there is both luxury and poverty in the poorest county in a poor state.


Walker’s Farm was open and we bought potting soil, talking of that — The books remind us of other things, to encourage becoming grounded not anyplace but this place.





Is the experiment with Republics now over?






On Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday speculation on the future of the monarchy is all over the media, and it is mostly ho-hum character-based stuff until I heard an academic on the BBC ask for less rhetoric and more fact comparing Monarchies and Republics.


Four of the Five monarchies in Europe are the most egalitarian and progressive countries in the world, he said.  No one could think the United States more egalitarian than any of these — and they are popular too, there is hardly any sentiment to remove these northern European institutions in Britain or in Scandinavia.


On the other hand, yesterday morning I received a call from a friend in Tennessee who spoke of a large campus there which intends to re-institute segregation — not as a wish of White people, but as a wish by Black people. He said that even though the general population was 12% Blacks, the college has 35% blacks, but still wants a White-Free Zone.


Of course this may be seen to be regressive and in the long term even counter-productive, still and yet it is a measure of how some Blacks in TN actually feel, as well as a desire that they determine something about their own environment.


Comparatively, recent pronouncements in the Candidates races have been so racist it is difficult for Europeans to determine what candidates actually said from comedians who satire them — nothing seems too far ‘over the top.’


Therefore, concluded our academic, Monarchies are renewing themselves along with the times, but shall we conclude that the experiment with Republics is now failed?






Weird Wyoming — A letter to England




After ‘Weird-Wyoming’ where Sanders won the majority of the vote, but none of the delegates, a friend from England asked if I could ‘splain the American electoral process — since it wasn’t evident how, despite massive media coverage, anything worked.


“State and local governments run the primary elections, while caucuses are private events that are directly run by the political parties themselves. A state's primary election or caucus is usually an indirect election: instead of voters directly selecting a particular person running for President, they determine the number of delegates each party's national convention will receive from their respective state. These delegates then in turn select their party's presidential nominee.”


In the UK this was called the ‘Baronial System’ in the 1400s and a stolid feature of middle-feudalism, and in the US it is not clear to me how the precedent was established by:—


Delegates to the national convention were usually selected at state conventions whose own delegates were chosen by district conventions. Sometimes they were dominated by intrigue between political bosses who controlled delegates; the national convention was far from democratic or transparent. Progressive Era reformers looked to the primary election as a way to measure popular opinion of candidates, as opposed to the opinion of the bosses. In 1910, Oregon became the first state to establish a presidential preference primary, which requires delegates to the National Convention to support the winner of the primary at the convention.


This Anomaly remains, and includes:—


The impetus for national adoption of the binding primary election was the chaotic 1968 Democratic National Convention. Vice President Hubert Humphrey secured the nomination despite not winning a single primary under his own name.


Wherefore:—


The term "superdelegate" itself was used originally as a criticism of unpledged delegates. Political commentator Susan Estrich argued in 1981 that these delegates, who at the time were predominantly white and male, had more power than other delegates because of their greater freedom to vote as they wish. The Democratic Party in particular has faced accusations that it conducts its nominating process in an undemocratic way, because superdelegates are generally chosen without regard to their preferences in the presidential race and are not obligated to support the candidate chosen by the voters.


Therefore it is found in my investigation that a person may become president after not winning any state’s majority vote who prefer them to other candidates.


In other words, this was same as the electoral basis to Parliament in England circa 1400-1800, including ‘rotten boroughs’ etc.  It is difficult to find the reason why the system exists at all in the US without going back to the conflicted Hamilton and Madison, who wrote the Federalist Papers against political factions, and ended up being the core leaders in this partisanship.


Starting with the 1796 election, Congressional party or a state legislature party caucus selected the party's presidential candidates — and that is to say, without obligation to what is normally termed democracy, or the selection by a majority of voters.


In summary: citizens vote only for delegates who are not obliged in any way to represent their wishes. This is called ‘democratic’ only inasmuch as voting goes on. The current issue has arisen around Bernie Sanders, even where he has a huge predominance of votes representing wishes of citizens, ‘barons and bosses’ even in his own state have decided otherwise even before any candidate spoke a word to We the People.


The net result is that Americans never select the ‘issues’ they wish pursued, neither do they select the president who pledges to pursue them.




Quintish




This is a note sent to columnists and frequent contributors to the magazine — I am not a secretive person, although understand privacy, so might as well share with readers, methought.


As those of you know who have been with the magazine a long time I put out a quarterly newsletter to columnists and frequent contributors about every 15 months, or 5 quarters — the learned term for this periodicity is not known to me, ‘quintish?’

 

Sometimes these messages are general, which is to say boring, but otherwise they are full of topical goings on, which is to say, even more boring, but often relate to copyright, libel and similar things upon which we may all choke whether about lawyers or paucity of readers.

 

I know I have buried the lead, but the main topic this time is Election Season, which is a two year period here in the US, or continuous, as it were. It is likely though not certain that contributors to and readers of the magazine will be a tad to the left of Donald Trump — even so, if you spell his name Drumpf then this is a bit contentious to those who are more middling and will not read another word after that one, and same as to lawyers. I say this equitably, and mean no offence to anyone, especially since I am the seeming hypocrite who recently essayed on ‘General von Trump.’ Mine is acceptable satire, name-calling or changing otherwise is not, and not just as a ‘house style’, but in law.

 

On a similar libelous note, if you contribute an unprovenanced photo with no attribution then I do not understand if there is a © copyright ‘issue’ with it, and saying ‘found it on the internet’ is no defense for me or you.

 

New Topic: My studies reveal that people will generally read about 650-750 words from a screen, so that if you send in 2,000+ words and don’t get to the point before word 1,000, which I suggest is a maximum, you will not be read to any degree of comprehension. I know that is pathetic attention span, and also know that several of you could well be writing for print product as in the New Yorker Magazine with 5,000 word essays. Even so, it seems worth pointing out should you wish to retain your reader’s attention.

 

Certainly we may go long, but in digestible pieces for the reader to take in — my breaking an article into 2 x 1,000 word essays is not quite the same as if you design the two halves yourself.

 

Finally of all, as President Clinton used to say, the magazine is stable in circulation and doing fine! Readers appreciate and applaud it for its focus on a quality of life orientation rather than news, and from mature reader comment which averages 52 years of age, it is presumptively the opposite of hype and propaganda that people appreciate, and such an approach is, they say, rara avis, and thank you! Thank us! Of course, people do not read the magazine because I publish it but because you write it! You write in a bio-regional cultural magazine, with supplementary notes of planetary focus, such as the positively causal and parochial ‘as here so we are everywhere’ statement of human consciousness, plus a little charred & oakened fruit from your well digested wisdom becoming your age, with additional hint of rat at back of throat, as they would say in fancy wine journals.

 

Stand by for more paternal publishing and unfortunately legal sermonizing in less than 600 words, though I had to sweat it, and more on that sometime later in 2017.


PC, euphemisms, including death and toilets



I have recently been taken to task for the title of a popular column ‘Passages’ where my correspondent insists this only means death rather than a passage of literature, say of Shakespeare or from the Bible, but not of any living person.


There were two big Victorian taboos which we still evidently struggle with, one about bodily functions, and the second about their cessation.


Let’s stay with living bodies for the moment and the contortions we go through about wiping our backsides. In England mention of such things has been taboo for 100 years, even the place where we do them, such as to refer to the place as the ‘water closet’ but never so directly! That became the W. C.


In America we have substituted the toilet for ‘bathroom’ which often contains no bath, and employ ‘bathroom tissue’ which even savvy Europeans do not immediately understand, since what has a bath to do with a toilet?


We actually say toilet paper, but such words cannot be printed above supermarket isles, lest they… what?


As to ‘passages’ referring only to death ‘issues’ one can understand a need to soften such an event in an immediate and public pronouncement, but in plain-speak someone is dead if you are referring to end of life, otherwise try Google-ing passages and see what comes up. 


And ‘issues’ is a verb which euphemistically we use otherwise since we can’t allow ourselves to say that we mean ‘problems’ itself a euphemism since we might be considered ‘judgmental’ which is a terrible crime these days, but actually intending a diminished judgment or lack of trustworthy performance, right?




Couple pointers for President Trump



First one, frankly, is about these generals. My father came home from 6 years in WWII with 3 medals. These were called ‘theatre medals’ and were for Northern Convoys [to Murmansk, Russia], another for Pacific Theatre round about the Philippines trawling for mines, and thirdly, so I understand, for suffering the attentions of forward Australian women on Bondai Beach, Australia.


But these generals, Donald, they got a chest-full of stuff and most of em look too young to have been even in Vietnam. I don’t mind a medal or two, but let those in actual combat have em, right? My father was sunk twice, BTW, and you got no medals for that in the Royal Navy in 1943.


The other thing, can I call you Don? is about David, the NSA, and Homeland Security.


David, or someone like him from Indian call centers, has made some 400+ calls to my house about my Windows operating system, except I don’t actually use that product, and am on a ‘do not call’ list, and here’s the dang thing of it all — if monitoring phone systems can’t pick up on this obviously profitable scam from overseas, what confidence should we have that NSA or Homeland are picking up on any dang thing at all? How about a bit of show and tell, Don?


Answer me these things First Person Donald since they are both significant; the first is about some people acting superior to others in an ostentatious way but don’t deserve it — whether it’s money or straight out authority, and the second is about the competency of publicly funded multi-billion dollar agencies who do squat about actual tangible basic homeland security that would be evident to We, The People.


Catching my drift? Do these two things first Donny boy, then I got a couple more things about what are both honorable and secure from the citizen’s point of view.


It’s not a long list, about a dozen really, and to tell you the truth I stole eight of them from Jefferson who perceived not the immediate republic, more the potential one, and one which any Republican or Democrat too might like to see actually deployed in the body politic.




Flight Path Options


That’s the half joking topic of conversations around town if General von Trump gets in — which way to flee? Australia is OK but you have to be a millionaire, and of other English speaking countries England is closed even to an English persons’ foreign spouse! So, it’s Canada people are talking about.


The other possibility than getting out of the country, is to stay put, and put Vermont out of the country. People actually like this idea but also say it is impractical. It might be useful going forward to get used to the general realm of ideas associated with it.


A brief look at Secessionist movements in the US reveals this:—


A 2008 Zogby International poll found that 22% of Americans believed that "any state or region has the right to peaceably secede and become an independent republic." A 2014 Reuters/Ipsos poll showed 23.9% of Americans supported their state seceding from the union if necessary; 53.3% opposed the idea. Republicans were somewhat more supportive than Democrats. Respondents cited issues like gridlock, governmental overreach, the Affordable Care Act and a loss of faith in the federal government as reasons for secession.


The Declaration of Independence says this:—


That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.


In Vermont there is an active movement to secede:—


Vermont: The Second Vermont Republic, founded in 2003, is a loose network of several groups that describes itself as "a nonviolent citizens' network and think tank opposed to the tyranny of Corporate America and the U.S. government, and committed to the peaceful return of Vermont to its status as an independent republic and more broadly the dissolution of the Union." Its "primary objective is to extricate Vermont peacefully from the United States as soon as possible." They have worked closely with the Middlebury Institute created from a meeting sponsored in Vermont in 2004. On October 28, 2005, activists held the Vermont Independence Conference, "the first statewide convention on secession in the United States since North Carolina voted to secede from the Union on May 20, 1861". They also participated in the 2006 and 2007 Middlebury-organized national secessionist meetings that brought delegates from over a dozen groups.


A Concluding Note: It is not necessary to go along with any of these groups to feel a need for self-determination, and the questions are — what bases should there be to make a decision, within the state and without it?





Featuring the numbers 7, 40, 911, 12, respectively.


At 7am dropped off soup to the soup kitchen and on the way there saw a Buick with no lights on doing at least 40 on Main Street.


Later on the way to the Coop I saw a lady keel over near the Latchis — stopped the car, saw she was bleeding copiously from the face and had an egg-sized bump on her forehead. My wife called 911 who arrived from the FD and from Rescue proper in just a few minutes.


Then I gave a guy who had asked a ride to the hospital.


On the way home back on Main by the Post Office I stopped to let an elderly gent with a walking stick cross the road at a marked crossing and he was half way across when a big SUV with NY plates almost ran him over. I blew my horn which may have had some effect on the result — though the SUV carried straight on, oblivious.


Anyway, spectator adrenalin still going, it was good to get home and away from the sleepwalkers. Something of a 12th house day, as we say.


It’s not snowing yet, but I am going to do some cooking and finish listening to Archer Mayor’s audio recorded book “Second Mouse” [available from The Brooks when I don’t have it] which will seem far less … you know. A little no’theasta is coming in, but this was all before the snow.



Paint, peeling


I understand why Garrison Keeler says ‘it has been a quiet week in Lake Wobegone’, that is to say, quiet but not always insignificant, though usually. To stay on that parochial subject a moment, some years ago it was thought he would move here to Brattleboro, maybe broadcasting the ‘home’ show from the Latchis Theater, rather than from the twin-cities or from the towers of Manhattan.


I do like his show, albeit, as one critic said, ‘be it ever so white’ and our national interest in Norwegian farmers is somewhat over-estimated.


I wonder why there is not a more sustained exploration of non-white non-Norwegian farmer culture on National Radio? I emphasize ‘national.’  There is nothing wrong with Norwegian farmers that I know of, except if that’s the only thing reported and all people are indeed interested in Norwegian farmers, you’d think this would go over well wouldn’t you, considering our sustained and mutual interest in Norwegian bachelor farmers, and except considering I just addressed more than half the nation who are not represented on ‘national’ radio, like presumably the white folks who really dig this stuff.


Anyway — here in Lake Brattleboro it has been a quiet week. The paint is peeling off the walls of the cop-shop, the fire department too, and that is as much excitement as there was to be had, according to the newspapers. Except it’s going to cost $14million to fix it, they say, to a town of 12,000, less than half of whom pay town taxes.


The closing Nuke down the street with millions of decommissioning dollars, doesn’t seem to recognize the first response town of Brattleboro has had in their support in disbursement of their monies, or is that to do with the State of Vermont who are leaving us to fend ourselves?


I like the cops and the firefighters and even a fair amount of Norwegian bachelor farmers, but come on, where is there any dialogue about the poorest county in Vermont, a state itself pretty poor?


There has never been much middle ground here between halves and have-nots, and I suppose we are as romantic a prospect to outsiders as you can afford — labor is cheap, for example.


One sign of how well things are is that we as an aging population see our kids get out of here as soon as they can.


There are possibilities in our community to claim a culture not evident elsewhere, even so, you must consider from your 22-year old self if you buy into it or no — and as well as the exodus of young people, volunteers are also in decline in all the decisive compartments; like Fire department, like soup-kitchens.


It is not free to live here and enjoy the resources. You have to do something more than write letters to the newspaper.




The British aren’t coming





I asked my daughter born in the Highlands of Scotland if she could become POTUS since she has an American mother — despite having a British father?


The answer is obscure, and rather than cite Mr. Trump here instead is Lawrence Tribe the Harvard law professor and constitutional scholar, who believes the “natural born” provision has outlived its original intent considering that the redcoats are no longer coming. [captioned, incidentally, is Brit Idris Elba not Lawrence tribe]


“The worry that George III might come over and exert undue British influence is no longer a threat, the clause in the Constitution. It really needs to be removed.”


I note that the following US lawmakers were also not born in the USA


INDIA

Senator Michael Bennet Democrat of Colorado

ITALY

Representative Don Beyer Jr., Democrat of Virginia

CANADA

Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas

JAPAN

Representative Diana DeGette, Democrat of Colorado

THAILAND

Representative Tammy Duckworth, Democrat of Illinois

PERU

Representative Jim Himes, Democrat of Connecticut

JAPAN

Senator Mazie Hirono, Democrat of Hawaii*

TAIWAN

Representative Ted Lieu, Democrat of California*

CANADA

Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, Democrat of New York

PANAMA

Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona

FRANCE

Representative Mark Meadows, Republican of North Carolina

CUBA

Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican of Florida*

GERMANY

Representative David Rouzer, Republican of North Carolina

MEXICO

Representative Raul Ruiz, Democrat of California*

CUBA

Representative Albio Sires, Democrat of New Jersey*

GUATEMALA

Representative Norma J. Torres, Democrat of California*

PAKISTAN

Representative Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland

* Denotes citizenship by naturalization.




Weeding out the truth about It


Local representative Jeanette White has come out in favor of legalizing It, since, she says, she can’t see any way to stop It. It is not such a problem as heroin in our state, though she doesn’t mention legalizing that too — but let’s stay with It for the moment and take a little survey about social, not private, use of It.


The school bus driver smokes one before setting out to collect your kids on a particularly icy morning to deliver them to school — okay with you?


The fire chief after a long night goes home and on his own time wants to relax and has a joint — okay with you?


After dinner the town manager smokes some Mary-Jane from a tin in his kitchen, and it will be a tough day ahead, big financial presentation to Selectboard tonight involving millions of dollars on the new fire/police station — okay with you?


A person in a foodservice had a toke or two at lunch, will relaxed inhibitions effect hygiene for customers? — okay with you?


The substitute teacher at the High School knows its going to be a hell-day with 12th grade, and to calm herself down has a pipe of It before the class — okay with you?


A driver smokes a joint because he is tense about a medical outcome and before heading north to the hospital at Dartmouth in February, on I91 has a single-car accident after sliding off the road by going too fast. The driver tells his insurance company the damage was due to black-ice, not that they were going too fast. The insurance company declines to pay because of marijuana use — okay with you?


Back to the top, a school bus driver...


A shrink wrote in the papers relatively recently that marijuana is much stronger than it used to be, and, medical usage apart, there are concerns about the discrimination of those taking It. There was no substantive response.


I have asked what you really think about people who are stoned acting in the public sphere. Any of those examples above okay with you? Just the school teacher, right?



A strange accounting



Another good old end of year wrap-up? Not. No great achievements, high notes, or significant whatevers mentioned. Instead a bit more down to earth and here-and-now, in the Brattle-hood.


First thing was I went to buy Brussels sprouts this morning and they were the sorriest  looking things you ever saw; ‘rescue sprouts’ I thought. Okay after de-leafing but, bunch of work.


At home, a knock at the door, and a neighbor offering me really good looking ones from her garden.


Then there was another neighbor visiting just as I was chopping up the last piece of kindling from his attic  — therefore, kindling from 1850 — with another big bag of the same stuff.


Back in the kitchen I am trying out some salt-pork for the soup kitchen, never cooked with it before.  And it happens, after you render it, to go very well with Brussels sprouts.


I know this is all less exciting than reporting on deaths-by-police in 2015 in the USA, all 1,130 of them. Thank heavens The Guardian UK are keeping track, since the FBI admit they don’t have a clue.


But enough of that — there is nothing I can do to effect the death-toll, but I can cook, and to adapt a title from a columnist, Cooking is Love in Action. There is always a strange accounting to combating what ails us, whether to emphasize and combat the real but negative habits of society, or to work the other side, and do things which bring people together respectful of their incarnations and our host planet.


Best seems like an intelligent sense of both — and this, thanks for reading this far — is likely the greatest ode to salt-pork yet written in the known universe.




Come to think of it


Discussing climate change with green architect Keith Dewey this week I proposed that anyone seeking to hold national office and determine environment factors for the rest of us, should take a simple test based on cause and effect in nature [or science].


I mean, if immigrants need to quote chunks from the bible as was recently suggested by a presidential candidate, how about politicians needing to quote chunks from 9th grade science?


Come to think of it, men who wish to pronounce on female reproductive systems should be required to attend STORK 101


People who blame Mexicans, Moslems or Moroccans for practically everything, should take the Psychology course PROJECTION 101


As for running the economy, senators, congress-persons, aspirants for the presidency, should prove they can run a LEMONADE STAND [at a profit, with no bail-out]


These are all generally referred to in educational realms as ‘competency testing’.



Notes from underground.



It was a strange realization today that Vermont Health Connect was being administered out of India.


Strange in two ways — the first was that the person we spoke with had to be asked twice what she said every time she spoke for 45 minutes, having not enough English pronunciation to make herself understood.


The second thing being why Vermont did not choose to employ Vermonters to do the job instead of outsourcing our healthcare to another country at least if this is a minimum wage job, some Vermonter might be able to afford it.


I doubt there will be any response to this plaint from any source, other than that people from India are cheaper to employ, and cheap is the same ‘ol Black, no?


This happened before — when I was getting calls to vote for Peter Shumlin for Governor, they were coming from Alabama, and I could pretty much understand the speech on many occasions, but also wondered why Vermonters should have their politics outsourced to the third world?


You catching my drift?


It was a sober day. Except at the library when someone who attends the soup kitchen breathed fumes over me at 11:30am but had no conversation really — just sought acquaintance in public— at least this was understandable.


Then there was Adolf Trunk, the politician, braying out his ‘racial’ ignorance to the nation and getting absolutely top spot for it in all national and international media.


My letter about feeding the hungry did show up in The Commons in local media this week, saying that we expect little from all the column inches devoted to hunger and homeless to actually have practical effect at our kitchen where we actually feed ‘them’.  Or say when.


But this was not at all what my day was like, this was mere contact with ‘society’, and it might rain later.




Hunger’s Ground-Zero in Our Town



The Commons weekly newspaper’s letters page was flooded this week with the plight of the homeless and hungry. This is a good attention — and I am happy to inform any reader of the state of ground-zero hungry in Brattleboro.


In the four years I have been working at one of the two community kitchens in town we have seen two politicians attend us, both at election time, then not seen them again. We have never seen a select-board person, nor a journalist. We did once have a professor from SIT who stood around with a clipboard until I asked her how she herself would like that?


Anyway, this is the real deal about who actually does what. Cooks show up at 7 am. Support staff typically around 9. We obtain food from Foodbank to which all local supermarkets contribute, The Coop, Hannafords, Price Chopper and Aldi’s.


We do not always know what we will get in advance, so the meal plan is on about a 10 day sched. when it is not on an hour to hour sched.

Bridget’s Kitchen is our sister organization providing a similar service, but at Loaves and Fishes we also provide for a day-care center of about 30-some kids, their families and their teachers, and with take outs the daily demand is about 175 meals.


This number is not going south but seems to be increasing, un-dramatically but certainly by about 5% a year in round numbers.


Thing is, when you write so much in the newspaper about hungry people, nothing much happens at our end – not more food, nor more equipment, nor more volunteers. Did I mention that average volunteer age is high sixties? And since there are few media reports on folks who can put in 15 hours a week, you should know we receive no pay either.


You will then appreciate that our 7am conversations in the kitchen do not reside on fantasy scenarios of things radically changing for the better, our exchanges are not in the least cynical, and err on the side of sensible expectation.


We all show up to give people as healthy a meal as we can, and also as a reprieve to them from being a 2nd class citizen on the street, to someone who can feel of themselves they are part of our society — at least for an hour.


This is not nothing.


This entirely unofficial communication from our kitchen is to encourage not as much talk about hunger or ‘action plans’, but acknowledgement to what is already being done in our community, which was not so much mentioned in the letters column. I mention this not as much to seek sympathy, or even funding, though if you feel moved, should prefer the latter — but to explain the circumstances and orientation of those we serve and the basis from which we do so.






On Aggression



Someone wrote that Konrad Lorenz’s title was the most important book of the C20th — the century of world wars and genocides. Essentially Lorenz said that in nature’s kingdom aggression was by no means unhealthy, in fact the opposite and entirely necessary. When animals engaged in ritual displays over territory, it prevented over feeding of any one locale, with reef fish and with deer for instance.


Switching to ex World Chess Champion Gary Kasparov, he asked in a leader in the Financial Times, ‘what legitimate outlet does American youth have for its aggression?’ Apart from Halloween and the football team, there were few answers.


Both Lorenz and Kasparov were warning that if the ‘ritual’ aspect of aggression was removed, actual conflict takes place. Our culture seems ever shocked by fact, but rarely shocked enough to do anything about it.


Rather than talk about events in France directly, if we keep it at home, last night a statistic for the year went over 1,000 — that is, of people killed by the police in the US. A contrast with the UK with 1 death occasioned by police, and with France at about ten times more killed than the recent shootings in Paris.


A great majority of these people killed by police are black, putting the question to the ‘Do Black Lives Matter’ slogan, answering it by ‘not as to worth mentioning,’ by American media. My report comes from The Guardian UK.


To employ the normal euphemism, more than 10% of these police deaths are ‘questionable’ which is about the same number killed by terrorists in France.




Something wonderful just happened



This is not about politics, this is about a fellow who, in the middle of a TV debate which resembled a last-five scenario from Survivor, rescued the whole mess from the mercies of CNN.


He did it by being, by letting his humanity come before anything else. He simply said, ‘never mind the e-mails, what about the policies?’


It was immediately evident that the press hated him for saying this because, they have been concentrating on the e-mails and other trivia for months, and because the ‘Survivor’ panel of journalists tried to bring about divisiveness among the applicants for office.


What Sanders did was not male gallantry — it was obvious that he would have done the same if the e-mails were from a man. He threw away a large political advantage in half a dozen words. He didn’t achieve it with any sophistry of speech or cleverness.


He achieved it by being a decent human being. Nevermind what your politics are, this is the first statesman-like action I have witnessed in any of the campaigns so far.

Takes the air out of those who mumble about fellow travelers, and makes you glad you are a fellow Vermonter.


 

Vermont
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Phil Innes



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