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“What Just Happened?": a view from the State House (and other musings)

The problem with longer sentences

What are we to make of Governor Shumlin's recent focus on opiate addiction in his state-of-the-state address? On the one hand we have the admirable proposal to treat addiction as a public health issue. No argument there; all evidence points to recovery from addiction as a process, as it is from every other illness. On the other hand, the proposal comes embedded in Read More 
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Gov. Shumlin's cheap shot

Language matters. When Governor Shumlin introduced his budget by saying he was balancing “Montpelier’s appetite for spending” with (his own) fiscal restraint, he was communicating several things, all of which set an unfortunate and unhelpful tone.

First, he set himself apart from the legislature. We’re not a team, not an “us,” but a pair of antagonists. “Montpelier” vs. the governor. Never mind that this makes no sense, since  Read More 
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Bravo, Pope Francis

With the legislative session approaching, we start mapping out priorities for the year. The bulk of my energy goes to criminal justice reform, because so many of our current policies create suffering, and our job as human beings is to help relieve suffering. But the biggest issue of all, it seems to me, is the ever-increasing income disparity—in the country as a whole and in Vermont. Without addressing this, we will not be able to muster the political energy to deal with much else. Read More 
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Stop blaming DOC

As most people know by now, the U.S. imprisons more people than any other country in the world. We have 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s prisoners. This is a result of public policies that are also familiar to most people at this point. This is key: public policies.

Too often in Vermont we point the finger at the Vt. Dept. of Corrections,  Read More 
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No military intervention in Syria

A message from WAND (Women's Action for New Directions):

We grieve the loss of life and the unpardonable sin of the use of chemical weapons in Syria. The evidence of Syrian government responsibility must be brought to the United Nations Security Council and the International Criminal Court for multilateral actions. Those responsible should be  Read More 
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Racial Profiling in Vermont

Equating blackness with criminality has become especially virulent in this country, as we all saw so vividly in the case of Trayvon Martin. We will never know what went on in George Zimmerman’s mind, but it seems clear to many of us that he followed Martin because Martin was black, which for many  Read More 
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On GMO/GE labeling

The GE (genetically engineered) labeling bill that the House passed last week does two things. First, it requires GE foods to be labeled, and, second, it prohibits the use of the word "natural" on those foods. There are three legal issues to consider, having to do with commercial speech, the Commerce Clause of the Constitution,  Read More 
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Leaving home

Why is it that whenever certain policymakers talk about education or jobs in Vermont, the wail goes up about "keeping our young people at home"? Why in the world would we want to discourage young people from stepping out into the broader world? In case anyone hasn't noticed, Vermont is a very small place!

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Disagreeing doesn't mean ignoring

I was asked to second the Speaker's nomination at the Democratic Caucus gathering on Dec. 8 , which I did happily:

It is my privilege to second the nomination of Shap Smith for Speaker.

I came into the legislature the same time Shap began his tenure as Speaker. For four years I have been observing how things get done around here. Who has  Read More 
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School of the Americas and punishment -- time to retire both

Every November, thousands of people--human rights activists, torture survivors, anti-war veterans, students, families, union workers, nuns, artists and others--gather at the School of the Americas in Ft. Benning, Georgia, to call for the school’s closing. This infamous “school,” run by the U.S. Army until 2000, continues to train military personnel, primarily from Latin and Central America, in a military curriculum that, according to training manuals released by the Pentagon in 1996, advocates targeting civilians, extrajudicial executions,  Read More 
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