The Pandemic Revealed and We Turned a Blind Eye

There seemed to finally be hope that the American health care non-system would finally be scrutinized in a new way. It became clear that as the pandemic unfolded our public health infrastructure was inadequate to meet even the most basic of needs. It also became clear that what we call health care in this country is really a reflection of the socioeconomic divide that is growing wider every day.

We learned that if you have money and live in a “good” neighborhood you have a better chance of staying healthy and avoiding the ravages of the pandemic. This comes as no surprise to anyone who has had their eyes open for the past few years.


Climate Not Christmas, Sharing Not Shopping – Scientists Say Get Real

Recent research shows children around the world are highly anxious and depressed — not just about the climate, but about their parents and governments doing nothing about it. Isn’t it weird to talk about it and see it looking so calm and harmless in a screen or paper? If you really think about it, you can get very very upset in a few moments. As a serious active work it will make you anxious and depressed. And now we know, when we do nothing, children feel betrayed. Belief in the science of climate change is not enough… Scientists have been demanding radical, drastic, unprecedented action.

The crisis is unthinkable. But doing nothing is NOT an option. We must act.


Infrastructure Crumbles While Politicians Fight

It’s the same old game. One side doesn’t like what the other side is proposing so they will block every attempt to pass the other party’s legislation. The difference this time is that the entire country’s infrastructure hangs in the balance.

Even Washington politicians of all parties know that this country lags behind most of the industrialized world in keeping bridges, roads, railways, drinking water, internet access and a host of other basic necessities up to an acceptable standard. These issues have been with us for decades and we finally have an administration willing to make the effort to make life better for all Americans.

Everyone knew that such a project was going to cost a lot of money, even in Washington dollars. It started out at around six trillion dollars and the political process has whittled it down to 1.5 trillion. The Democrats want to pay for the plan by taxing the rich and making them pay the fair share that they have not been paying for years.


Progressive United! Slate Wins Third Straight Election with Mandate at Vermont AFL-CIO Convention

Northeast Kingdom, VERMONT: Today the progressive UNITED! Slate overwhelmingly won their third straight election for leadership positions within the Vermont State Labor Council, AFL-CIO at their annual Convention. United! prevailed in winning 18 of 19 Executive Board positions including David Van Deusen for President (2nd term), Dwight Brown for Executive Vice President (1st term), and Danielle Bombardier for Secretary-Treasurer (2nd term). United! also won elections for the Chair of the Rank & File Presidential Advisory Committee (Damion Gilbert), and for President of the Green Mountain Riders Union Motorcycle Club (Dan Brush). The election results are viewed as a mandate by the incoming leadership to keep moving in a more progressive direction.

UNITED! was formed in 2019 in response to the continuing decline of the labor movement happening all over the country, including right here in Vermont. Union density — the percentage of workers who belong to a labor union — has been hovering around 10% nationally, a record low. In Vermont, union density is 11.8% as of 2020, but has climbed in 2021 due to new organizing by UFCW, AFSCME, and AFT. The Vermont State Labor Council now has over 11,000 members.


Bernie Sanders’ New Political Life

The longevity of the political life of Bernie Sanders is nothing short of amazing. I think too many of us tend to take him for granted as our lone voice in the wilderness for what is just and fair for the American people.

Bernie is a political anomaly because he does what he says he will do and he has never wavered from his core principles over the decades of his political career. There are not too many Washington politicians who fit that profile and Vermonters, as well as the rest of the country, are lucky to have such a mensch in office.

We need to remind ourselves from time to time just how valuable Bernie has become to the national political process, especially during these times of political rancor and turmoil. I have always been amazed at Bernie’s ability to stay above the fray and forge straight ahead, despite the fact that Washington power brokers have tried to marginalize him at every turn.


Empty Bowls Fundraiser for Foodworks Remains Virtual in 2021

BRATTLEBORO, VT — In recognition of increased COVID case numbers, the Empty Bowls Steering Committee has opted to go virtual again this year as opposed to returning to an in-person dinner.  For 18 years now, local potters have created and donated beautiful and functional bowls to raise funds for the food shelf that has now grown to be Foodworks. In that regard, this year is no different.

“We experienced incredible support last year, putting on Empty Bowls in the time of COVID,” explains Groundworks Board Member and Empty Bowls Co-Chair Beth Kiendl. “The tweaks we made last year—shifting to selling bowls in local storefronts—were so successful due to the community support for our work providing emergency food to all who need it in our community.”  


Some Progress In Climate Legislation

The Climate Crisis Committee of the Windham Southeast School District is advocating bold legislation..
Two years ago BCS started a Climate Crisis Committee in the school district in order to create a standing forum for climate issues and to keep climate issues in the board directors’ attention. The school district is larger than Brattleboro, and people are more sensitive and protective about it. So, it is a good venue.

In steady times the purpose of education is the transfer of culture and society. The Greta Thunberg Resolution addresses climate crisis through the schools. Realistically, scientifically, in the ultimate crisis the purpose of education must be to prepare students for life in that crisis, and to encourage serious action for survival and rescue. Since we all recognize Greta Thunberg as an exemplary influence on our students and society the WSESD should reduce the school week to four days, so that students have time to pursue climate rescue following Greta Thunberg’s exemplary activism. Many people who say they admire and support Greta Thunberg will oppose the resolution. So, the resolution illuminates latent denial.


Keeping Windham County Safe for Immigrant Communities

Join the Windham County No Más Polimigra campaign and Migrant Justice for an on-line information session on loopholes in the county’s Fair and Impartial Policing Policy that allow the Sheriff’s Department to collaborate with federal immigration authorities–and what we can do to close those loopholes. We will be joined by a farmworker from Migrant Justice who will talk about why this is important to the human rights of their community and we’ll hear about how this affects our local asylum seekers. Aug. 30, 6:30-8:30

Register at bit.ly/KeepWindhamSafe to get the Zoom link.


No Easy Way To End A War

I am not a military strategist. I am not a diplomat and I make no claim to knowing anything about how to end a war. I do possess a functioning level of common sense and I use that as a guide to try to understand the events that have unfolded in the last few weeks as the United States withdraws its troops from Afghanistan.

Most estimates indicate that over 80,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan as the Taliban seize complete control of the country. I have to wonder what the American evacuees were thinking over the past year or so when it became clear that the United States was on the brink of pulling all of its troops out of Afghanistan.


Heroes Put It All On The Line

Shock. Sadness. Anger. Those were some of the emotions that grabbed me as I read the account by Mindy Haskins Rogers in the August 11 issue of The Commons of Brattleboro. She told the story of alleged sexual abuse by a former Brattleboro Union High School English teacher, Zeke Hecker, and the years-long cover up of his behavior.

We hear about sexual abuse nearly every day and we have come to realize that not enough abusers are ever brought to justice. You only have to look as far as a former president to understand that the deck is stacked against the abused.

Silence is one of the best weapons that abusers have. Sadly, there are too many examples of child sexual abuse, including that of the Catholic church.


The Eve Of Destruction

It is helpful to step back every once in awhile and try to look at the big picture. What we see when we look at the human species and the planet is not pretty.
Living organisms are programmed for survival. But the great paradox is that so many human activities are geared toward destruction. One of the most glaring example has to do with climate change.

There have always been naturalists and conservationists among us. I would consider them people who understand that our behavior has an effect on all other living matter around us. Their voices have been small and not very loud over the ages, yet they possess the knowledge that all of us need to help preserve the natural world that we live in. Humans have never given science the respect it is due and that attitude is proving destructive to everything we interact with.

In the 21st century it is not enough for there to be naturalists pointing the way because humans have become so arrogant and selfish that the only way they will move to change their behavior is if it effects their pocketbook or their selfish way of life.


Trumka & National AFL-CIO Back Off VT – No Action To Be Taken Against Vermont AFL-CIO For General Strike Vote

Today 6/29/21] I received a formal letter from National AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. In the letter Trumka confirmed that the investigation against us for passing a General Strike Authorization Resolution has concluded and that he asserts we engaged in misconduct based on his (dubious) reading of national bylaws. Trumka also used the letter to attack us for developing a relationship of solidarity with the progressive rank & file caucuses within the non-AFL-CIO VSEA (Vermont State Workers United!) and NEA (Vermont School Workers Action Committee). But in the end, he stated that he would NOT take any disciplinary action against us at this time. This is a major win for Union democracy within the AFL-CIO, and the Vermont AFL-CIO is proud of our conduct, commitment to social justice Unionism, relationship building within the broader pro-Union left, and our fidelity to the defense of democracy. We may be one of the smallest and most rural States in the nation (with a population of just over 600,000), but here in Vermont our membership is growing and we are not afraid to lead. And lead we shall!


Life Out Of Balance

From this chart we see that in 10,000 BCE (12,000 years ago) wild animals comprised 100% of the total vertebrate biomass on this planet. Today, wild animals comprise only 4% — less biomass than the cats and dogs that we humans keep for pets. The world’s cattle now comprise a greater biomass than all other animal species combined. Now you can believe that methane from cattle can make a deadly difference.


Thugs, Politicians and Guns

I can’t stop being outraged at the lack of action by politicians on the issue of gun control. It would be easy to become insensitive to the daily reports of mass shootings in this country but every time I hear about one I become more and more depressed because I know that nothing will change in my lifetime, if ever.

This lack of action makes it clear that the U.S. political system is controlled by amoral, unethical and inhumane people. It is fueled by self-interest and the only time that things get done is when politicians think they can get more votes or more financial support in the next election.

Gun control is not about guns or mental health. It is about a failed political system.


The Future of Democracy: Brattleboro Democracy Forum With Nick Biddle, Tim Kipp and Friends

Nick says: A recent study of 75 nations with democratic governments in 1994 found that only 15 remain democratic. The rest (60) have turned into autocracies. Does democracy have a future?

A quadrennial report released last month by the National Intelligence Council, an advisory group to the eighteen intelligence agencies of the federal government (e.g. CIA, DEA, NSA, etc), is not optimistic. Using the report, titled “Global Trends, 2020-2040,” as a springboard, this session of the Democracy Forum will explore a prognosis for democracy’s future. Nick Biddle will open with a short presentation to which Tim Kipp will respond. General discussion will follow.

The meeting will be recorded and aired on BCTV and WVEW 107.7 FM.


iBrattleboro Contributor and Local AFL-CIO President David Van Deusen In Hot Water For November General Strike Vote

As a sometime reader of Counterpunch, I occasionally run across items of local interest. This time, it’s an article highlighting a voice iBrattleboro readers know well — Vermont-chapter AFL-CIO President David Van Deusen. Van Deusen has been posting articles on iBrattleboro about local labor issues, and I’ve always been surprised by how refreshingly “left” this union rep sounds — why he’s almost a firebrand! Which is why I was unsurprised to learn that not everyone finds his labor radicalism so appealing.

The article, entitled “Why is AFL-CIO So Worried About Its Vermont Affiliate?” details recent friction between Vermont’s local chapter of the AFL-CIO and the national leadership of the parent organization. It all stems from a local resolution to call for a general strike if there was any protracted attempt on the part of the Right to keep Trump in office illegally.


White Supremacy Culture –  What It Is And What To Do About It

Racism often refers to acts of overt, intentional prejudice and a social order that debases people of color while glorifying whiteness. But white supremacy is a systemic and structural phenomenon woven throughout our culture—rather than just the work of racist individuals who intentionally and maliciously discriminate. Our institutions and social practices themselves prop up white advantage and protect white communities, while making communities of color vulnerable to exploitation, domination, and violence.

What actions are needed to repair ourselves in order to identify and dismantle white supremacy culture? This discussion will incorporate the pre-session resources listed below. Click on the link or copy the URL into your search bar to have a look. General discussion will follow Mary’s presentation. Please take part.


No Hope For Reform

As the pandemic unfolded it became clear how dysfunctional the American health care system is. There was even talk among a wide range of people about the urgency for the need for systemic reform. Sadly, when legislators talk that way nothing usually happens. They recognize the problem, say something must be done and then move on to the next pressing issue. Anyone remember gun control?

This has been the case both nationally and on a state level. The Biden administration has done a few things that will tinker with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to undo some of the damage that the previous administration did and make insurance a little more affordable for some people, but it is unlikely they will make any bold moves when it comes to health care reform.


Ten Years Since Fukushima

March 11 2021 marks ten years since Japan was hit by an earthquake and tsunami, destroying 85,000 homes and businesses. By 2021 the country could have rebuilt but for a disaster that continues today: the meltdown of three nuclear reactors in Fukushima, on the shore of the Pacific Ocean. The reactors were Mark 1 boiling water reactors, the same type and age as Vermont Yankee. Vermonters witnessed horrific stories coming from refugees in the Fukushima evacuation zone and beyond, reactors exploding and radioactivity filling the air, land, water and groundwater. All these tragedies continue in Japan today. In 2014, Vermont Yankee shut down; today, its 900 tons of nuclear waste remains on site, beside the Connecticut River.