Montpelier in winter

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

The problem with longer sentences

January 29, 2014

Tags: crime, addiction

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 (more…)

Gov. Shumlin's cheap shot

January 17, 2014

Tags: government, governor, spending

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 (more…)

Bravo, Pope Francis

December 22, 2013

Tags: income disparity, economy

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. (more…)

Stop blaming DOC

November 21, 2013

Tags: DOC, prison, overincarceration

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, (more…)

No military intervention in Syria

September 3, 2013

Tags: 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 (more…)

Racial Profiling in Vermont

August 18, 2013

Tags: racial profiling, race data, traffic stops

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 (more…)

On GMO/GE labeling

May 15, 2013

Tags: GE labeling, Monsanto, genetic engineering

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, (more…)

Leaving home

January 14, 2013

Tags: education, jobs

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!


Disagreeing doesn't mean ignoring

December 9, 2012

Tags: nominating speech, Shap Smith, Speaker

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 (more…)

School of the Americas and punishment -- time to retire both

November 12, 2012

Tags: SOA, School of the Americas, punishment, prisons

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, (more…)