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Vermont Guardian

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Posted March 9, 2007

Questions remain about 9/11

I want to thank you for publishing the article “Why the towers fell: Two theories” (Vermont Guardian, March 2). I think news media in general have been afraid to touch this story although the open questions about this most important event beg to be answered. I hope you continue to publish valid critiques and scientifically sound information about the WTC collapses, especially building 7, so that the people may be educated and their representatives may be pressured to perform a full and honest investigation of what happened that day.

Craig Winters
Las Cruces, NM

9/11 commentary raises good points

I don’t believe that explosives took down the towers, but I don’t believe necessarily that fires from the planes did either. Basically I’m agnostic on the issue pending a real investigation. I do have to say that the case of World Trade Center building 7 is damning evidence of a controlled demolition that is hard to refute. I find it beyond intriguing that the National Institute of Standards and Technology has yet to produce their report on WTC7’s collapse and that they are considering controlled demolition as a hypothesis. Anyway, please keep up the good work of independent media. Awesome job!

Patrick Thomson
Port Jefferson, OH

9/11 commentary ignores science

William Rice’s essay on two theories of why the twin towers fell is full of numerous errors, not the least of which is a glaring misunderstanding of basic physics. It pains me to point this out in accusation of someone who obviously has achieved some measure of credentials, but I feel I must.

Rice does not understand calculus-based physics, which is most of physics for that matter. Newton’s law of conservation of momentum is not violated in any way shape or form with a free-fall collapse of the twin towers. Newton’s second law, as stated originally, is that force is equal to the derivative of momentum with respect to time. Momentum is defined (loosely) as mass times velocity. This means that the derivative and thus force is dependent on any change in mass as well as velocity. Since the collapse of the floors in the towers represents a change in mass as well as velocity, this is a sort of reverse rocket problem (in rockets mass is usually decreasing as you accelerate).

Now, supposing one floor of the WTC tower(s) collapsed onto the floor below. Let’s also suppose that the floor beneath it has sufficient inertia (stationary momentum) to slow down or even nearly stop the floor above it before failing itself. That means that both floors combined now have more velocity than the first floor when it broke free (since the first floor started from a dead stop), and since there are two floors, the falling floors have more mass. More mass and more velocity mean more momentum than one floor falling. When more momentum hits the third floor down, there’s even less resistance to further collapse, meaning less velocity lost, and more mass added. This happens again and again and again. With such huge masses hitting each other in a way they were never designed to, it wouldn’t take long at all to get complete freefall.

Rice should know this. If he doesn’t, then his understanding of physics is highly suspect and I weep for the young minds he teaches at a technical college.

Jeremy Young
Long Beach, CA

Global warming: The third party solution

My fellow citizens, and all other earthlings: After some intense study and reflection, and after consulting with my mother ship, I have come to conclude that the only solution to global warming is a nuclear winter.

Therefore, I will urge the president — and will ask for support from all citizens on this action — that nuclear strikes against Iran, North Korea, and, let’s say, Pakistan commence immediately.

This, of course, will initiate counter-strikes by these nations, but not enough to cause the United States or the rest of the world any big deal — 300 to 700 million dead, max, worldwide.

Considering the fact that this has been a terrible ski season for Vermont, I hope for an endorsement from the Second Vermont Republic and Gov. Jim Douglas. Fashionable ski apparel can be made in Vermont to accommodate falling temperatures and increased radiation levels.

For years and years I have tried to alert people about global warming. I have racked my brain and staved my soul, and vice-versa. Mockery! Mockery! There seems to be a lack of interest in finding a solution to this emergency facing our (your) planet. The human race, especially in the United States, seems to avoid confronting difficult issues. So, let’s do it the easy way. We have the technology, all we need is the will. We owe this to our children and our children’s children. And their pets.

I deeply regret that many will have to die to put the Earth back in environmental whack, but, as the saying goes, sometimes compromises can achieve a greater good.

I will be elaborating on this proposal in the next few weeks. I hope to gain the support of Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, the American Friends Service Committee, peace coalitions locally and nationally, women’s groups, the American Association of Christian Snake Handlers, Sean Penn, and various distinguished figures in science and professional sports.

We must act before it is too late.

Peter Buknatski
Montpelier

Change from the booth, not the battlefield

I was a member of Charlie Company, part of the 368th Combat Engineers Army Reserve unit out of Rutland, for 29 years. The last eight years, I served as their First Sergeant.
From January 2003 to April 2004, Charlie Company and the 368th Battalion was activated to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).

I like to be very clear to people I talk to. Charley Co. was in support of OIF in Kuwait. We were not sent over the border. All of our missions were inside Kuwait improving roads and overall living conditions for troops coming into and out of Iraq.

As First Sargent, it was my responsibility to help solve soldiers’ problems and to always be aware of my soldiers’ morale. I can tell you that from the day Gov. Jim Douglas and Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie sent us off to war and then welcomed us back home, my soldiers understood why we needed to be activated. And just like the rest of our U.S. military, we served our country with pride and honor.

Looking at what I have seen this past year in our country, it is very frustrating to me. I see the images of 9/11 slowly fading from our memories.

We live in a very different world today. Our soldiers are fighting an enemy that is all but invisible. The same man you help today could be the one who would attempt to kill you tonight. An enemy that has been taught as a child to kill U.S. citizens by dying as a suicide bomber is a hard enemy to fight. Driving into an improvised explosive device without even getting a chance to fight back, that is a hard enemy to fight.

But what is our alternative? Pull out our troops and hope the terrorists will not bother us again? Give them a date that we would be willing to pull out some of our forces?

Any one of these answers will only result in our men and women in uniform having to fight our enemies with less support and or on a different battlefield. And where would we like the battlefield to be next time? I’m asking as if it would be up to us.

This is not rocket science. Every time a politician speaks out about the war because he is worrying about keeping his job, it makes our enemy stronger. Every time there is a public debate on the war, our enemy gets stronger.

I’m not saying we should not all be able to voice our opinions. I’m just saying think of the men and women in uniform who are fighting every day so you can enjoy that right.

I have heard the cries to bring our soldiers home. I would love to see that happen also. The cold hard truth is this war on terrorism is here to stay. Our enemies are engaged in Iraq at this time. Don’t you wonder what they would do if they were not?

Pulling our troops out of Iraq will only make the battles our soldiers will have to fight in the future that much harder.

Let our military do their job. They are the best in the world.

If people think they have not been told the truth about the war, then make changes in the voting booth, not on the battlefield.

We need to face the cold hard truth. Terrorists are not going to stop until we can stop the brain washing of children around the world who grow up just to die for Allah. Until that time, the only way to protect ourselves is to hunt the terrorists down no matter where it takes us and give them that one on one time with Allah that they so desperately want and deserve.

Danny Pinsonault
East Dorset

Act 60 is working
Ten years ago — on Feb. 5, 1997 — the Vermont Supreme Court declared the state’s foundation formula for financing education unconstitutional because it failed to provide all Vermont children with equal educational opportunity. Vermont corrected the problem with Act 60 and later Act 68.

Financing education would be simple if both running a school and raising the money to pay for it were controlled either by towns alone or by the state. But a system of locally run schools funded by local taxes ends up treating children and taxpayers unequally across the state. And one that lets the state run the schools using state revenues strips communities of local control.

Act 68, signed by Gov. Jim Douglas in 2003, is a complicated law because it addresses this complicated problem. Like its predecessor, Act 60, it provides equal educational opportunity to all of Vermont’s children, it does so in a way that is fair to taxpayers, and it keeps control of schools in local hands.

Most people would agree that these are good goals. They are proud of Vermont’s schools and want to keep them excellent. And they know that local control is not only the best way to manage a public education system, it is also central to the cohesion of our communities.

Still, understandably, they are concerned about increasing taxes. And some have turned that concern into a cry to repeal Act 68, which opponents say is “broken and can’t be fixed.”

In fact, there’s some good news about taxes — and for much of it, Vermont can thank Act 68.

School tax as a percentage of personal income has dropped. Yes, school costs have gone up significantly, and with them taxes. But personal income has grown faster. The result: From 1996 — the year before Act 60 — to 2006, the percentage of personal income that goes to taxes has dropped from 5.4 percent to 4.9 percent.

Most Vermonters are protected from rising property taxes. The income sensitivity provisions of Act 68 allow people in owner occupied homes to pay their school taxes based on income, not the value of their homes. Most of these households — 60 percent — do so. Even if school property taxes rise in their communities, they aren’t forced to move.

The confusing system is about to get simpler. Unfortunately, many people don’t know how much they’re paying. To pay based on income, taxpayers must first pay their property taxes, then wait for a check from the state. Because these taxpayers do not connect the two parts of the system, they feel they are paying a huge property tax bill. In fact, they’re paying the property tax bill minus the refund (or “prebate”). The Legislature has gotten rid of this two-step process. Starting this summer, towns will bill taxpayers the actual amount they owe.

There’s more money due from state coffers for education. Under Act 68, money is transferred from the General Fund to the Education Fund each year. The law requires that the amount of the transfer grow at the same rate as General Fund base spending (anticipated year-after-year spending). Over the past two years, however, the General Fund transfer was millions less than required by law. To make up the difference, property taxes grew. If Montpelier plays by the rules, the burden on property taxes will be lighter.

Every state wrestles with funding public education. The money has to come from somewhere — and every state continues to rely on property taxes. Act 68 is fairer and more sustainable than an all-property-tax system. It balances the needs of all of Vermont’s children with those of its taxpayers and it trusts local communities to manage their schools best. Our system needs refinement. But Vermont’s Act 68 is still the best school financing law in the nation.

Paul Cillo
Hardwick

Paul Cillo is president of the Public Assets Institute, a nonprofit that analyzes state tax and budget issues. He is a former majority leader of the Vermont House and co-wrote Act 60.

E-state is good, but e-school is better

Read about the governor’s e-state idea, think we should have pursued this 10 years ago. As Tom Friedman says, the Earth is flat — that is, the fall of the Berlin wall and the rise of e-commerce has leveled the financial playing field so that Bangalore has just as much chance of getting the big contract as does Burlington. I might add that Heather Bartlett of Jericho has been proposing a similar idea — Vermont as the home of the e-school. This would be a separate school district without an expensive physical plant but with far more flexibility in its academic offerings. It could be a boon to gifted and talented students and homeschoolers. If the current educational structure feels threatened, maybe the funding could come from industry hungry for tech-savvy young workers.

Thanks Vermont Guardian for leading the way by becoming the first widespread, relevant e-newspaper in Vermont.

Guy Page
Cambridge