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posted December 8, 2006

Early Democratic action
I’m writing to respond to the article (Nov. 17, Vermont Guardian) about the GOP by Shay Totten that started, “Until the 1960s there was no other ‘real’ political party in Vermont than Republican.”

Just for the record, when my husband and I came to Vermont in the fall of 1939 to be part of the Putney School, we were contacted by a small group who asked us if we would register as Democrats and work for the Democratic Party. We had come from New York where we were registered as independents. As I had been brought up to believe governing would probably be better for all with many parties and my husband supported my political agenda, we did work for the Democratic Party until the we left in 1956.

For most of my life, I’ve been working for visions that took time for others to envision. I like to think that my early work for the Democrats helped what happened in the 1960s.
Another vision, reconnecting Earth and humans so that both flourish into the far future, is also beginning to happen, especially in Vermont. There is much to be thankful for in this holiday season.

Marion Leonard

The Guardian: Free and independent
At a time when so much of the U.S. media is more beholden to its stockholders than to the constitutional ideals of a free and independent press, I am heartened by the fact that we, in Vermont, have an alternative — the Vermont Guardian.

As a community activist in Rutland, I count on the Guardian to carry the news and stories that seldom fit into the narrow focus of many mainstream newspapers. Most recently, you wrote a story about Marine Sgt. Liam Madden and his speaking engagement in Rutland (, Nov. 21). The story, which included Liam’s own words as well as background information about his life and work, gave your readers insight into this young man’s commitment to ending the war in Iraq and (hopefully) encouraged those readers to attend his presentation. Once again, the Guardian provided in-depth coverage of an important issue of our time.

I want to thank the Guardian for its commitment to journalism and for doing its part to keep our press free, independent, and a source for citizen education and awareness.

Carol Tashie

Choose the next ag chief wisely
In appointing a new secretary of agriculture it would be a testimony to the governor’s integrity if he appointed a non-farmer to this position.

While the farming community struggles with serious economic issues, this does not excuse this population from being responsible citizens of the state. It is not a given that every farmer has a sense of integrity, a sense of stewardship, and commitment to be a good neighbor.

It is astonishing that farmers, in fact, are exempt from these commonly held standards for the rest of the citizens of this state; the Vermont farmer is protected by the Legislature, the legal system, and the executive branch. The farmer is viewed as a sacred being not to be tampered with.

The demographics of Vermont are changing; non-farmers are making great contributions to the well-being of the state. This group cannot continue to be treated as second-class citizens. The farming community needs to be led by someone who has the ability to grasp the big picture. This individual needs to be sensitive to the tensions within the farming community itself and not be beholden to companies such as Monsanto and others. Our past secretaries have lacked integrity, have lacked vision, and generally allowed devisiveness to reign. Let us see an appointment of courage from the governor.

Carole Trickett

Vermont needs a fairer tax
It was troubling to read the recent report that Vermont has the nation’s second-oldest housing stock, which leaks energy and our money like a sieve, and that 85 percent of our heating needs come from burning fossil fuels.

Troubling for two reasons: It’s so expensive to heat so many leaky and inefficient buildings, and all that oil, coal, and natural gas smoke going up our chimneys makes global warming worse.

But the solution is at hand. If we invest now in a major expansion of renewable energy (including wind farms on some of our ridgelines) and energy efficiency, it will clean up the environment, reduce our energy bills, and strengthen our economy with lower energy costs and more jobs.

Then comes the obvious question: Where does the money come from? I think Gov. Jim Douglas should rethink his opposition to any new taxes, and take a good look at the urgent need for more revenue to invest in a clean energy future and a stronger economy.

A statewide coalition, Vermont Fairness Alliance, is calling for a fair share tax to reclaim some of the massive Bush tax cuts that the best-off Vermonters have received in the past five years, and for the next five as well.

Raising their state taxes — but not those of the other 95 percent of low- and middle-income taxpayers — would bring in tens of millions of dollars to help solve our looming budget deficit, and fund important public services, from health care, housing, and education to clean energy and conservation.

If the governor doesn’t agree, then the 2007 Legislature — with its large, veto-proof Democratic and Progressive majority — should use their mandate from the people of Vermont and pass a fair share tax to invest in our state’s economic, environmental, and energy future.

John Berkowitz

John Berkowitz is the director of Vermonters for a Fair Economy and Environmental Protection.

Questions about recycling
On tip number eight from the story about Laurie David (, Nov. 30), I would be interested if you could research this, partly because the numbers don’t seem to make sense: If paper bags cost four times as much energy, but are recycled at 20 times the rate of plastic bags, aren’t they five times better, in energy terms?

However, this whole issue is pretty cloudy now. Consider the fact that if trees are grown for paper, and after use that paper is landfilled (not recycled) — where it doesn’t decay for a long time — then the net result is you’ve removed CO2 from the atmosphere. This issue is not at all clear anymore. Look up a study recently published by the Heinz Foundation. Thanks for your story.

Ken Hnottavange-Telleen
Marlborough, MA

A plan for Iraq?
It’s time to clean up the mess that the greedy Republicans created with their ill-considered plan for Pax Americana.

The U.S. must not abandon Iraqis in their hour of need as we did once before at the conclusion of Desert Storm when they rose up against Saddam Hussein. Responsibility is a virtue. Regardless of how you felt about this fiasco at the outset, it’s our collective duty to do what can be done to rectify our mistake.

So here are a few good ideas I’d like to drop into the Iraq Study Group suggestion box. I looked for a suggestion box at the Institute of Peace’s website for this shadowy group, but apparently it’s an elite and secretive operation that is relying on a team of “experts” to formulate a new Iraq policy.

The Internet is an abundant source of information about Iraq and ideas about what needs to be done. As Pres. George W. Bush said, “If you want to know the truth about the war, read the Internet.” Many people have good information and good ideas. We need to pay attention to them. The leaders of Iraq and the United States need to pay attention.

The idea of solving the problems of Iraq using a secret study group with hand-picked “experts” is much like the idea of creating a national health care system by holding secret meetings with insurance companies. Remember Hillary Clinton’s health care plan?

The “secret panel” approach is a recipe for failure, like almost everything the Bush Republicans have done regarding Iraq. We the people need to rescue our government from its own ineptness. We need to take the initiative and guide this demented foreign policy back onto the rails of righteousness.

The first premise I wish to suggest is that whatever we do should work regardless of when we decide to “vacate the premises” and remove our military machine from the sands of Iraq. There is far too much debate on timelines and expectations and not nearly enough focus on how we will leave Iraq.

We will leave Iraq when we succeed in empowering Iraqis to govern themselves in a democratic and virtuous manner. It’s our responsibility to do that much, even if we go bankrupt in the process. We goofed!

The point is that we need to get moving with positive actions which will empower Iraqis to mold their destiny in their own hands, democratically, using communication tools to build consensus among themselves. We can help with knowledge and tools, such as software and databases, but they will need to do the work, regardless of whether they have fled to Jordan or the United Kingdom or are still holding out in Iraq.

The U.S. needs to negotiate a status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government and neighboring countries so everyone is securely aware of how many troops are in Iraq and where they are allowed to go, where they are prevented from going, what they are permitted to do, and what they are not permitted to do.

A broader peace conference for the Middle East should be initiated on a permanent basis. Everything is temporary, even life itself, but the problems of the Middle East have been so persistent and have lasted for so long that we need to create an institution dedicated to conflict resolution and maintaining lines of communication between all concerned parties. This would include all the nations that depend on Middle Eastern oil. The notion that the United States shouldn’t talk to Syria or Iran is totally insane.

The immediate priorities for this institution should be the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Israeli-Lebanon conflict, and the Iraqi conflict. All of these conflicts are intertwined and a true solution in Iraq requires solutions for all of them.

The religious leaders of the region and of the world should hold a “spiritual conference” to form a consensus and speak with one voice, embracing the ancient virtues of humanity. Virtue starts with a humble search for the truth, then an honest rendering of it with words, and finally a consensual unity around the true facts and most promising ideas.

Steve Moyer

Editor’s note: An expanded version of Steve Moyer’s plan can be read at

Stop the nuclear bombplex
The Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which is responsible for maintaining the United States’ nuclear weapons arsenal, is designing new nuclear weapons. These new designs are being prepared under the so-called Reliable Replacement Warhead program (RRW). To begin industrial production of these new weapons, the NNSA has proposed an expensive, dangerous, and unnecessary overhaul of the current nuclear complex. The resulting bombplex will mean new facilities for new nuclear weapons development and maintenance.

New nukes in the United States mean new nukes in other countries. Designing and building new nuclear weapons will encourage other countries to follow the same path, ultimately leading to a new nuclear arms race. At a time when the United States is trying to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program, Iran to halt uranium enrichment, and the rest of the world to abstain from developing nuclear weapons, we should not be taking actions that encourage other countries to develop or expand their nuclear weapons capabilities. We should be dismantling our existing weapons, not developing new ones.

Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, of which the United States is both a signatory and one of the chief architects, says that the United States is obligated to engage in effective multilateral efforts leading to nuclear disarmament.

The NNSA has said that the Reliable Replacement Warhead is necessary to replace aging nuclear weapons in the US arsenal. The NNSA already spends billions of dollars every year making sure our nuclear arsenal is reliable and will last for decades. The Government Accounting Office has estimated that simply building the bombplex will cost an additional $150 billion. According to a currently unreleased study conducted by the nuclear labs themselves, the nuclear weapons we have now could last as long as 100 years. The reality is that we don’t need to waste money on nuclear weapons that will continue to be functional long into the future.

The DOE is legally required to listen to what you have to say. Until Jan. 17, they are required to hold public hearings around the country where you can comment. You can also submit comments through e-mail. Write to the NNSA today to tell them that the bombplex is wrong.

Robert Lincoln