My Letters to the Editor of the Burlington Free Press


I lived in Vermont from January 1985 until June 1997. As someone who was originally from the Midwest (and returned there) I think I have always been able to see things in Vermont from the ‘outsider’s’ point of view. I am certainly not ‘politically correct’ nor a slave to any particular political party or position though I am basically quite conservative. I read the Burlington Free Press online, including the Editorial and Letter to the Editor. Occasionally I see an article or letter to which I want to respond. I will admit that normally my responses are either a disagreement or a ‘devil’s advocate’ alternative viewpoint, but my letters have never been disagreeable, rude, or in any way unfit for print.

Having seen none of my letters printed, I emailed once to inquire why this was. A nice young lady named Emma replied that the Free Press, being a local paper, only printed letters from people who live in Vermont. It did appear that was in fact the case and I had no problem with that. Emma said I should feel free to drop a note anytime as she enjoyed my comments though they would not be able to be printed. I have continued to send an occasional Letter to the Editor.

Recently I noted in one column, two letters not from Vermont. One was a ‘thank you’ note from parents whose child had been helped while injured on a vacation trip, and I would expect them to print such a note. The other however was from some sort of social worker in Maine, regarding the ‘homeless’ men who live in the Intervale. I noted the out-of-state address and emailed to say ‘Either you have changed your policy about out of state letters, or else perhaps I am not politically correct enough…’ No response. I fear Emma has left the building. Today appeared another out of state letter, from California, from someone who planned to move to Charlotte VT and was opposed to a proposed dairy farm.

Personally, I am of the opinion that I have written some very good letters to the Free Press. No, I’m not planning to move back to Vermont, but having lived there and paid taxes there for a dozen years, and with many of the same issues I left behind still current in that state, I feel that I sometimes have a viewpoint worth consideration. I have agreed with some letter writers or ‘It’s My Turn’ pieces and submitted comments to that effect; frequently I have taken issue with people who compare President Bush with Hitler or worse; I have pointed out the foolishness of insisting on big-city solutions to problems that do not even exist there. You can read for yourself… since these letters never saw print in the Free Press, I publish them here on the Web myself. Yes, there are a good number of them, but hope springs eternal, at least in us conservatives. For those whose names appear in my letters, I will alter them to preserve their privacy.

Emma, thank you for your friendly replies and occasional notes.



    Over the past several months I have written a few letters to the editor of the Free Press. Perhaps it is because I am only a former twelve-year resident of Vermont, and not a current resident, which is why none of my letters have been published. (I had no difficulty getting my letters printed when I lived in Colchester.) My most recent submission went unprinted, while a letter about how often older women have sex was seen as worthy of publication.  When that happened, I concluded there was no point to sending any more letters to the Free Press; does that sacred Vermont cow named "diversity" apply to skin color and language and sexual orientation, but not to opinion?
    However, after reading Jim Collxxx's offensive letter in the Wednesday online edition of the Free Press, I have decided I have to try just once more. If my letter is not published, so be it... at least the editor will have read it and I will be satisifed to have accomplished that much.

    Robert Burns wrote "O wad some Power the giftie gie us, To see oursels as ithers see us!" Mr. Collxxx has so 'gifted' me, a Midwesterner, with his bitter view in that regard. I would like to comment on his letter and make a few observations of my own, if you please, editor.
    Mr. Collxxx, you stated that "perhaps the new editor from the Midwest is not familiar, or does not agree with, the New England tradition of the town meeting where every individual citizen has the opportunity to express his or her views and to hear those of others."  I have lived for thirty three years in the Midwest but I also lived for over twelve years in Vermont, where I owned a house, worked, and paid taxes. I continue to follow the TV and print news stories from there, daily. I think I have a pretty fair perspective on both places and I can assure you that New England has no monopoly on expression of views, sir. None whatever. I lived in your state for a fourth of my life; how long did you live in the Midwest, to feel you can make such statements?
    You then said about the editor, "Or maybe he has, being from the Midwest, swallowed the garbage put out by Republicans and their toady, George Bush." I resent your implication that being from the Midwest causes anyone to 'swallow garbage'. Your reference to our President as anyone's 'toady' amounts to childish name-calling  For that matter, the vast majority of Democrats and Republicans in this country are of the opinion that President Bush is doing a superb job in the war against terrorism. He surely is not sitting in the Oval Office having pubescent sexcapades with the female help, spending years ignoring the outside world as some before him have done.
    Next you go on to say that perhaps the editor believes "that the "heartland" is the place where "real" Americans reside and the views of those outside this region are not worth hearing." Outside which region? I have yet to get a letter published in the Free Press since I moved away from Vermont, "New England traditions" as you describe notwithstanding. Whose region seems to be excluding views? As for the 'real Americans' comment, I'll take that up in a minute.
    You conclude, Mr. Collxxx, with "If the new editor is uncomfortable with this side of the New England psyche, perhaps he should ask for reassignment to the "heartland," the country's "red zone." I am not sure what you mean by this, because it is not the Midwestern "heartland" which constantly flirts with socialism. It is not the "heartland" which elects representatives who want everyone to belong to unions while themselves refusing to join a political party. We do 'run in the red' in my state, in that we send more tax money to Washington than we receive back - unlike your state.  

    I find it troubling, as much now as I did when I lived in Vermont, that such venom and bile are spewed there at anyone who is from a different place, particularly from a different state. For all the valuing of 'diversity', one can grow nauseous being reminded constantly that he or she is only a second-class 'flatlander' and can never, ever be a 'Real Vermonter.' When I first moved to Vermont in 1985, I thought perhaps with some time as a working, home-owning, tax-paying resident of that state, I might someday be considered a 'real Vermonter'. Well, Mr. Collxxx, if you are what a real Vermonter is, then I was foolish to ever want to be one. I would never want to be such a Chauvinist as you. Earlier I referred to your comment about people thinking 'the heartland' is where 'real Americans' reside. In 1997, when I sold my house in Vermont and moved back to the Midwest, I felt as though after a long absence, I had indeed returned to America. Yes, America - where one earns a decent wage, pays reasonable taxes, and can afford to own a home because we actually allow a few to be built. America, where we (in the Midwest) are proud to be from here, yet we do not despise people who relocate here nor do we call them names nor do we practice exclusion. We don't dub ourselves "Real (state)-ers" and tell everyone else 'You can never be as good as us.'  Where I live, if you work and obey the law and behave yourself, everyone will welcome you unconditionally. One of the nicest couples I ever knew in Vermont relocated to the Chicago suburban area two years ago, and nobody has told them they can never be "real" -anything because they were not born there. In fact, they have been made to feel welcome. Can you fathom such a thing? I doubt it.
    So please keep your superiority complex, your snide remarks and your name-calling, Mr. Collxxx. I must say that in the dozen years I lived in Vermont, I met some very fine and wonderful people; I hope it is they, not you, who are the 'real Vermonters'. And finally, any newspaper which will print letters the likes of yours cannot justifiably be criticized for failing to let peoples' opinions, however repugnant, be aired.



    I'm back again with another "ineligible for print" letter, but I do appreciate your indulgence in reading my comments.

    Richard Waxxx of Hinesburg wrote in favor of keeping the Champlain Flyer funded and operating, citing that in 25 years there will be a 300% increase in traffic congestion in Chittendon County. I respectfully disagree with Mr. Waxxx.

    First - I have serious doubts that 25 years from now will bring a tripling of traffic congestion in Chittendon County. It was about 17 years ago that I moved there from the Chicago area and five years ago that I moved away. In the twelve years I lived there I saw nothing more than perhaps a small increase in traffic, certainly nothing that would lead to a 300% increase (i.e. 3 times more, or 4 times as much as present). I think the 300% increase in congestion estimate comes from the same people who originally claimed how much ridership the Flyer would have. Certainly nobody suggested or voted for a train that would cost so much and carry so few people. If Mr. Waxxx wants to do something about congestion, he should be pushing for the Circumferential Highway to be completed at long, long last.

    Second - Mr. Waxxx said "As our population ages, transportation choices must increase." I am not sure what he means but taken at face value, I can only say that if he is concerned about transportation of people who are older on average, the automobile is far superior to any train. You can't get in a train at your front door and get dropped off or park within fifty feet of the entrance of the store or doctor's office. You can't say 'I need a train to pick me up at 9:45 to get me to my doctor's appointment at 10:00' though you can easily get in the car and make that trip without waiting around (where?) for extended periods for a train to arrive. People forget the tremendous freedom, the tremendous personal choice one has when they control their own transportation.

    (Why do people who seem to value 'choice' and 'alternatives' throw that out the window when it comes to health care or transportation?)

    Third - If the $50,000 per passenger per year figure I have read about the Flyer is even close to accurate, it would be cheaper to buy each passenger a brand new minivan each year, pay all the expenses for the year, GIVE them the van to keep after one year, and buy them another new one to use. Or, just buy them a new single-family home every few years and GIVE it to them. Can't anyone see how astronomically expensive the Flyer is? For what good?

    Personally I don't care how noble or politically-correct the cause, when it is so expensive and inefficient and wasteful of tax money (which is needed for so many other things) I say it's time to stop worrying about putting big-city ideas into what is still basically a rural area. Burlington, for those who don't get out much, happens to be the size of a single medium-to-small suburban American town. Go to New York or Chicago and you will find literally scores, no, hundreds of towns the size of Burlington surrounding larger cities. In those places, mass transit makes some sense. In Burlington, for the cost and limited need, it simply does not. It might never, for that matter. If that is so troubling, move to a place that has trains because it needs trains.

    Bear in mind that if an area fights development and sprawl, as does Vermont so mightily, the results of that ought to negate the need for expensive mass-transit systems however politically correct or "progressive" they may seem. With the population and its distribution as they are in the area of Chittendon county there simply is not a need to spend so much money  - or ANY money - running trains which cost more to bring a commuter ten miles than it would cost to fly them to California.


    Once again, I'd like to offer my unprintable (well, ineligible) thoughts on something in the online version of the Free Press:

    One letter writer wrote of how it was important to raise the cigaratte tax to deter young smokers. If it has that effect then I am all in favor of it despite anything else. However I do have two further observations to make:

    First, call me cynical but I think it's obvious that most people continue to smoke even if the price of doing so goes up. Maybe they are hooked, maybe they enjoy it. (I myself am proof that it is possible to quit smoking if one wants to.) Personally I think the states see this tax-raising primarily as revenu-raising, not do deter smokers as much as to take advantage of the fact that they will likely choose to smoke, and pay the tax.

    Secondly, I would never disagree with the evidence of health risks from smoking. My own father died of lung cancer after smoking for many years and I have seen other people also suffer the effects of smoking - and they died younger than they should have. But all this 'stuff' about smokers costing the government all this money to treat them is baloney in my opinion. Tell me how many people die of an inexpensive disease? Nobody does unless they die in their sleep of natural causes or a fast heart attack. Now compare my father, who smoked, and my great aunt who never smoked: My father died at 63. He collected little or no Security. His own medical insurance paid his hospital bills. During his life he paid many, many thousands of dollars in cigarette taxes. My great aunt on the other hand lived to be 95 years old. She collected Social Security for 30 years. She used Medicare for 30 years. In addition to any other medical problems she may have had, her last five years she had Alzheimers and needed round the clock care like an infant, which must have cost a fortune. She paid not one penny in cigarette taxes in her life. Who cost the government money, really? That is why I don't buy the idea that smoking is costing the government a lot of money. It sound logical until you take a little more of a look at it, then you see maybe it's not as logical after all.


       Here I am again, and thanks in advance for listening.

    I was very impressed and pleased by the letter from Victoria Roxx. In it she said that though the Champlain Flyer is apparently not worth keeping running, there are some in government who would say 'just stop running it and hopefully we won't have to pay back the federal money.' I believe the amount is something like $17 million, or at least that is what rings a bell. My argument can be extrapolated to any dollar amount.

    I agree with Ms. Roxx. The idea of making a commitment and walking away from it when one is no longer happy with it is wrong. It is wrong in family life, it is wrong in financial matters, it is wrong whenever the other party to the agreement is simply to be told 'too bad'. I gather that is what is hoped can be done about paying back the money that was spent on the Flyer, as it supposedly must be if the train is shut down.

    In business, in government, the big thing these days is 'accountability.' So why then should anyone think it's okay to commit to an idea which was flawed and pointless from the beginning, and then make the taxpayers pick up the tab for a politically-correct gamble? As a taxpayer who helped provide some of that $17 million, I want those who made the deal to live up to it.

    Take an average family, making perhaps $40,000 a year. Suppose through deductions etc. their annual income tax bill comes to $5000. What we are being told is to let slide the entire federal income tax contributions for one year of 3,400 familes - THREE THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED FAMILIES - for a needless commuter train that was a waste and a failure. Sure, go ahead, gamble with MY money in another state.

    I hear so much about the evils of corporate welfare. Well to me this is ten times worse. This is just outright gambling with the tax contributions of the public. I have no complaint with my money being spent for defense or infrastructure which has value. I object to the idea that politicians will so cavalierly toss away the taxes paid by thousands of families to run a train which carries a relative handful of people. Funny but it seems to me the same sort of people who pushed for this train pride themselves on progressive thinking and caring about people - yet they will take public money and throw it away.

    The commitment was made to either run the train or pay back the money and that commitment should be honored. And if the money needs to be paid back, and this causes hardship, then let everyone know who it is who they elected who made such a poor decision. It isn't only businesses that need to be held accountable. The idea of using tax dollars on a grand 'feel good' experiment and then walking away from the results unscathed is simply wrong. In business this kind of thing would get a person fired pronto, not allowed to say 'oops' and move on.


    I'm on a roll this week with letters that of course can't be printed as I no longer live in Vermont. It makes me happy to know that the Free Press doesn't mind receiving my emails and lets me get some things off my chest.

    At least in the online edition of the Free Press on Friday 4/5 is a story with the brief headline 'Effort to Hinder College Students from Voting Fizzles'. I know space is limited in a headline, but perhaps it should have read "Effort to have students vote in their state of legal residence fails'. I know that I must have written a letter to the Free Press on this same subject back when I lived in Colchester. It annoyed me then, that an idealistic, probably liberal-voting college student could vote for leaders and thus policies / taxes I would have to live with for years, long after the student had left the state. I found this to be a handy tool for the liberals, Progressives, and Democrats to round up votes but as a conservative voter, I really didn't appreciate the idea of having imported voters choosing my government, which would affect me far more than it would affect them. I was always in favor of having students vote where they came from and are returning to after they leave school.

    I suspect that if students were notoriusly conservative in their voting, the outcome of this issue would have been somewhat different.

    Finally, one can't help detect a bit of a 'Republicans try to keep students from voting' angle to this, even if it is unintended. I hope nobody forgets (alas, they have) that we had a President who campaigned on giving the right to vote to the 18 year olds. When he took office he made good on that campaign pledge, whereupon the voting age was dropped to include just about every college student. That President was a Republican named Richard Nixon, who also gave us OSHA and the EPA.

    (Just testing peoples' memories. He did more than Watergate.)


       What a wonderful letter by Dave Gaxxxcht regarding health care and how it's paid for. Though I'm a conservative Republican I normally am opposed to government programs such as the single payer health care system for precisely the reasons he has pointed out - namely that people often engage in diet and exercise and lifestyle choices that cannot help but result in consequences for them eventually.

    How much money do we spend on AIDS, its victims and research and treatments? AIDS is almost entirely preventable yet it continues to occur. Obesity and heart disease come from people choosing to eat too much of the wrong things and then sit on their hind ends until their arteries are plugged or they get diabetes. We all know what smoking and excessive drinking can do to one's health. All these things continue to add mightily to our cost of health care and yet nobody is held to be responsible for their own choices. Well I believe we have the right to do as we please but we don't have the right to then insist that someone else spare us the cost of our choices.

    Mr. Gaxxxht's letter might be seen as mean-spirited by various "advocates" (definition of advocates, too often = "busybodies") but he makes a lot of sense. I too would not mind helping pay for those whose problems with health are not their own doing, but when people bring them on themselves, how sorry am I supposed to feel for them? For practically all the diseases we get, the risk factors are known yet people seem to take little or no precaution to protect themselves. Please protect me from having to pay for those lousy choices that feel good and end up in disease.


       I want to comment on the letter which appeared on Friday April 12, from Richard H. Bxxxtein M.D., in which he states something to the effect that 'Very few would argue that the current system of transportation can be sustained indefinitely.' He argues in favor of continuing funding for the Champlain Flyer.

    First, be he an M.D. or be he not, his higher education is not in the field of transportation. I will attach no irrelevant degrees to my signature, for I am not a transportation expert any more than is Dr.Bxxxstein. However, I am possessed of a fair amount of common sense... this is a situation I live with owing to the fact that my income is nothing like the amount which a doctor is paid. I resist the 'green eyed monster' of envy at those who make more money than I do, but at every turn but there is no mistaking the fact that making $45,000 a year gives one a more practical perspective than is attained making $200,000 a year. I may have more understanding of the concepts of 'living within one's means' than does Dr. Bxxxstein.

    Secondly... there must be some benefit to all this anti-sprawl, anti-development sentiment that Vermont is known for. I would suggest it ought to be unnecessary, and in practice it has proven to be so, that there would need to be a commuter railroad, however much the political correctness crowd desires to see Burlington move further along the path to old Budapest.

    Third, I would argue with the good Dr. Bxxxstein that the Champlain Flyer could be sustained indefinitely. Fact is, based on its cost and usage and level of need, it cannot be sustained rationally for the next ten seconds. Vermont itself cannot sustain it at all. I suggest anyone who is so concerned over the lack of commuter rail, should immediately pack up and move to a sprawled, congested, polluted area which does in fact stand to see some use and benefit from commuter rail. Running a train which weighs scores of tons, is not pollution-controlled, and hauls ten people for a laughable pittance of pocket change, is indeed something that cannot be sustained.

    Isn't it interesting though, how well Progressive and Socialist policies can be viewed, as long as there's that hated Capitalist-system's money to pay the bills! As a taxpayer in a state which sends money to subsidize Vermont, I resent that Vermont would continually squander the funds on a pointless commuter railroad. What would Vermont care to send of value to MY state, which we could flush down the toilet and expect no complaint over having wasted it?


    I found Michael Patxx's letter, "Threats To Liberty", interesting but even moreso, ironic.

    Mr. Patxx in his letter says Vermonters should not scorn their representatives for bringing money to Vermont because it's their money sent in in the first place - "For every dollar we send we get a dollar back, more or less." (Well, the answer is not more or less, it's more, but that's not my real comment. Many rural states are in that boat.) He points out that the money is received with strings attached - and says Vermont could spend its own money more adeptly on its own than getting a federal check with an edict. He is so right - and what an ideal illustration of what Act 60 has done to Vermont cities and towns.

    When Act 60 was first being contemplated I was a Vermont homeowner. The realization that the state thought it could take an enormous chunk of money in property taxes and redistribute it fairly based on some complex schemes, was pretty scary to me. I cannot  believe there was no way to improve the finances of some of the poorer school districts without basically removing local control of the schools, which like it or not is just what Act 60 did. Towns have lost control of their schools and much of the property tax money to boot, as well as being pitted one against another. And, owing to human nature, some towns analyze the framework of Act 60 to find ways to maximize its return to them vs. what they have paid in, so they can spend more of other people's money, never mind what that might do to other towns or to the total cost of running the schools. All of this fun and games was not possible before Act 60. Each town ran its schools as efficiently and at the lowest cost it could within its means. If some towns lacked sufficient funds, those towns should have been addressed individually rather than through collectivization of all the school districts. Kreuschev would have been proud.

    I can honestly say that the defining moment in my decision to sell my house and leave Vermont came about when I realized that my property taxes, already at nearly $2500 for a modest 1200 square foot house, were going to be subject to a plan which as I understood it, was going to magically provide more money for schools while somehow lowering property taxes for many or most homeowners. If you believe that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

    The same problem Mr. Patno sees in receiving back VT money from the feds, now with strings attached, exists in spades entirely within the state as Act 60 - only unlike Vermont and the feds, there is no hard and fast 'get back more than you sent'. Some towns which really can't afford to properly run their schools now, are sending tax money to other towns. Legislating fairness and equality is not working.

     When I read the news accounts of the town meeting day proceedings recently, I couldn't help but reflect on how much of their self-determination the towns had given up, or had had taken from them, courtesy of Montpelier. I don't know if any area or party has a corner on hatching these crackpot schemes but Vermont needs to look very seriously at who is determining the direction the state is moving in and needs to ask 'Is this really what we are about?' I seriously felt a sense of relief to no longer be a subject of Vermont's ever more oppressive government on the day I sold my house - which nearly coincided with the passage of Act 60.



    Sen. Ankeney really ought to know better. She is chiming in with the 'I don't want my money going to corporations' theme but as a state which consistently receives more in federal money than it pays, as a Vermonter (or Vermont citizen, she might not be a Vermonter) her money comes back from the federal government 100% plus another several percentage points.
    Some of us in other places (I live in Indiana) truly do provide more to the federal government than we receive back, and as such, we are the ones who have a right to complain about the money others receive, or do not pay. Personally, I am not that worked up about the corporations. I also do not mind helping out states such as Vermont which need assistance due to their small tax base. However, be it a corporation or a state, I do ask that my support of same be used wisely and not squandered. Complete wastes of MY tax money on things like the Champlain Flyer, parking garages which close a month after they open, do concern me. I hope they concern Ms. Ankeney as well. I might add that as a resident of Indiana, my state was greatly affected by the recent problems in the economy, and so were its businesses. Perhaps some of those businesses are on Ms. Ankeney's list for paying what she feels are insufficient taxes. I would rather those businesses survive while paying less or even no taxes, and keep people employed in the private sector, than to insist they pay extra money and then subject their workers to layoffs, and then needing to subsist on government handouts.

    One has to remember to ask, "Whose money is it, anyway?" It's not the government's and it's not hers either.


    Another unprintable letter from me here in Indiana: 

    I found an interesting contrast between two letters written regarding South Burlington's establishment of a health club which would compete against a privately owned (read: free enterprise, small businessperson, proof-of-America-as-the-land-of-opportunity) health club.

    One letter was adamantly opposed to South Burlington dabbling in business and for no good reason to boot. The author, Sheldon Kxxx, is from the Libertarian party. I do not always agree with the positions the Libertarians take but in this case, I could not agree more. There is no reason for towns to decide to engage in business they have no business of. What did our forefathers establish our Constitution and Bill of Rights for? So they could use our tax dollars to subsidize forays into fitness centers? How far afield does government have to go before we realize it is getting way, way out of bounds? They cannot afford to run the schools, and fix the roads and maintain public services, and yet they are going to find the funds to gamble opening what ought to be a private enterprise? In competition with its own citizens who have to make a living, pay taxes, and provide for themselves, now we begin to crowd them out. The egg is starting to eat the chicken that laid it.

    The second letter was from Amy Nxxxerson of Shelburne who is in favor of this new center in South Burlington. She ends her letter with the question / argument "Shouldn't access to fitness and recreation opportunities be more universal?" Rhetorical questions are neither proof nor valid argument for anything. Clearly nobody would say 'No, access to fitness facilities should be less available.'  But that does not mean there must therefore be immediate action in the opposite direction, and by the government to boot. I might ask her, "Amy, shouldn't you be doing more to help feed the poor?" Unless she can say no (how cold and heartless, of course she should say yes), I think then that she should start cooking immediately and notify the public that poor people may knock on her door and be served a free meal. And shouldn't those meals be more convenient than just during restricted hours? Of course, so knock on her door any time of the night if you are hungry.

    My logic is every bit as sound as Amy's. Hey, I got it from her. If you pose a rhetorical question that can't be answered without sounding in some way bad or negative, you must then act in the opposite manner immediately? No.

    We've turned to the government to raise - feed - babysit our kids, to plan for our retirement and our medical care, and gosh knows how many other things. Now they are supposed to offer us increased choice in fitness facilities. What are they not to do?

    One begins to see the real value of the Libertarian approach. I know I have.


    From out of state and I know, ineligible for printing, but.... here I am again.

    Several days ago Virginia Wxxxner wrote in to the Free Press with her experience of shopping for comparable items at City Market and at a major supermarket chain in the area. Her experience was that City Market was substantially more expensive. A few days later, Steve Bxxxin writes that he believes Ms. Wxxxer's entire purpose of this was to harm the City Market, and that he feels as a small local business with unique attributes it deserves public support. Now, I believe in supporting local business when possible, and I also realize that I have limited funds and have to shop carefully. I understand both Ms. Wxxxner's and Mr. Bxxxin's points of view, and would like to make some comments.

    I do take issue with Mr. Bxxxin's accusation that Ms. Wxxxner (and her husband) deliberately set out to cause trouble for City Market. I think it is unfair of him to make that statement - it seems to me Ms. Wxxxner stated that her family did not need to shop at City Market and she did the comparison strictly for the purpose of seeing how the prices compared. She doesn't have any reason to start out on this trip with an agenda as Mr. Bxxxin charges. Further, had she found marvelous bargains at City Market I have no doubt she would have told us that as well.

    The bigger picture, if you roll up the situation of City Market, and the letters of Mr. Bxxxin and Ms. Wxxxer, seems to be this:

    For those who wanted a supermarket in the downtown area, they likely did not care if it was a City Market or a Shaw's or Hannaford's or whatever so long as it carried what they wanted to buy at similar prices to a typical supermarket. Many of the 'alternatives' offered by City Market were probably available at the former co-op store, for those who want them. What was (and it seems still is) lacking downtown was a store where people could buy their groceries for the best price. To me it seems elitist - "let them eat cake" - to suggest that everyone ought to be willing to buy groceries at a locally-owned store, price be damned. Perhaps Mr. Bxxxin earns somewhat higher than the average wage and doesn't appreciate what it's like to really have to shop for price. 

    Of course it is admirable to try to keep local money in the local economy by using locally-owned businesses. But, when the pricing must be considerably higher due to the inability to volume-buy and warehouse product, what is the difference if money leaves the area as profit to a grocery chain - or as profit to the grocery wholesalers, who simply can't offer the same level of pricing to a much smaller client, i.e. City Market? In the end the money is still leaving the area, so the economic benefit is minimal if any. And, it seems odd to me that the alleged economic benefits of the locally-owned store result in much higher prices for the customers, and yet the need to excuse that store from paying the livable wage level. How much tax does the store pay to the federal and state government? I believe the co-op is a non-profit and thus pays nothing. Economic benefits? They seem limited, if they exist at all.

    My wife works (here in Indiana) at a grocery chain which consists of a handful of full-line grocery stores. Somehow, they manage to compete very well with the major grocery chains in our area. They meet or beat them on service and selection, as well as on price. (I might add that they also sell locally-grown produce). I buy 99% of my groceries there. We have a locally-owned chain of hardware stores and I always give them first crack at my hardware purchases, and they too are usually in the ballpark, price-wise, and out front with service and variety. I fully support the idea of supporting local merchants and businesses, as does Mr. Bxxxin. But, those businesses have to compete like any others - and they should do so without favorable treatment by the government. 

   It all boils down to the fact that most consumers have limited funds and have to look for the best deal. As long as the stores are clean and well-run, people are going to buy from the one with the best prices, whichever one it may be. The fact that a business is local is no guarantee however that it's going to necessarily be the best choice for the consumers. I hope and expect City Market will find its niche; I hope the local shoppers can find a place to buy their groceries at the best prices. No, I have never been to City Market, other than through the eyes and writing of those who have. The City Market is a fine place, I'm sure - I just wonder if a lot of people didn't want something else just as fine, only different and more affordable too.


    Another one from Indiana -- 

    John Pxxxher, without specifically stating the purpose of the day, describes 4/20 as an event where people of different races, sexes,  orientations, etc. can get together peacefully on 'common ground' and that apparently this is something we should be applauding and supporting.

    I submit one can find the exact same scenario at any 'smoker's hut' or 'smoking area' outside any company or business in Vermont, the difference being that those individuals are smoking tobacco, not weed. They are segregated because their habit is construed as harmful and smelly and dangerous. I see nobody applauding cigarette smokers for standing this 'common ground'. In fact, they endure being segregated to enjoy their habit; nobody is celebrating them however, and such an idea is ridiculous.

    Someday Mr. Pxxxher will realize that every minute spend defending weed is nearly as big a waste of time as what is spent being stoned on it. Has he nothing better to do? The biggest potheads I ever knew were the most appropriate to the old saying, 'Get a life'.


    From Indiana, with nary a chance for publishing, but not a problem.... 

    After reading the recent articles about the 'homeless camps' in the Intervale I think it is time to re-introduce a word to common usage. Politically-incorrect or not, it is accurate. The word is "BUMS."


    Again, a letter from Indiana, just to share thoughts not able to be published. This is in regards to the item by Daniel Rxxxac 'Don't Skimp on the Tip for Good Restaurant Service.'

    When my wife and I lived in Vermont, she worked in a locally-owned chain of pizza restaurants and she saw the whole range regarding tipping. There are a few comments I would like to make based on her experiences, about tipping and a couple other things too.

    First, it's bad enough when the service is decent and there's no tip left... what my wife saw more than once was even worse however. She observed when there was no other way for it to have happened, that diners at one table would actually steal the tip money left by the persons who had eaten at a nearby table. Of course there was no tip left at the second table either. This was outright theft of money from an individual at the restaurant - an individual who is charged taxes based on what they were likely to have received in tips. Not only did the server get no tip (for it had been stolen) but was also charged income tax on the money stolen from her. Nearly as bad was the large family group which ran up a $100 bill, were evidently pleased with the service, had no complaints, and left a dollar. A whole dollar! The server was charged income tax on an estimated $15 tip. The tip did not cover the tax she had to pay on it. Servers are charged tax on their tips, and that is calculated off their sales, not the actual amount they receive. 

    Secondly, it frequently happened that the local high school would bring a sports or band group to the restaurant to eat after an event. Not only were the kids often out of hand, creating an enormous unnecessary mess (pouring ketchup on tables, tearing open sugar packets and tossing them at each other, etc. etc.) and disturbing the other customers, but the kids were each presented individually with their own check for their food. Very few ever left a tip. This is not an acceptable thing, to take a bunch of kids to a restaurant without making sure they understand that the servers are entitled to 15% for decent service. I realize that modern kids tend to stink at math but surely they can be told how to figure out 15%. It was bad enough that the kids created a mess and a disturbance but the leaders of the group are supposed to be adults - what else are they along for but to govern the behavior of the group? And, perhaps to help them learn something outside of a classroom setting? Taking two dozen teenagers to a pizza restaurant and doing nothing to see that they pay for their service is unfair and unacceptable. It should not happen at all. It happens regularly. If you take kids to a restaurant, you had better keep them in control and see that they pay properly for their dinner and the service. If you can't do that then you have no business taking the kids anyplace. The trip is not a success just becauset the kids get home with food in their stomachs.

    Third, there would sometimes be people who would walk into the restaurant literally five minutes before closing time and they would demand to be served. Most of the food had been put away and the server was all but ready to leave. A take-out order would have been reasonable but no, the diners insisted they wanted to eat in. My wife might be scheduled to work until 10pm and the customers would come in five minutes before then, and sit and laugh and talk and shoot the breeze until 11:30, in no hurry whatever. Most of the lights would be off, the sign would be turned off, my wife would be sitting, and waiting, and waiting, obviously only for them to finish and leave, which they chose to do at their own pace. This was rude, rude, rude!  Why are people like this?

    Finally, at her restaurant, it was sometimes very hectic. Even at busy time, people would freqently insist on phoning in their orders by having their cute little three year old place the order. When you ask a three year old 'do you mean half sausage and half mushroom, or do you want one half to be sausage and mushroom and one half just cheese' you can't get an answer to that. It is also not easy understand when a small child says  'We wa sma che orda a' bigga foo, uh... a sanich...'  and then the parents get mad when told the kid could not be understood. This is frustating enough to deal with but moreso when you have two other lines blinking and a customer staring blankly at you holding a $20 bill and just wanting to be able to pay for the food so they can leave. People in restaurants are waitstaff, cooks, and servers - not speech therapists. Don't get mad when they haven't time to engage in training your toddler. It should take half a minute, not take two or three minutes, for them to take your order and tell you when it will be ready.

    I haven't ever worked in a restaurant but my wife having done so for years, I know what she went through too often. It's too bad the only thing we ever hear about is 'raising awareness of women's issues'. Men have issues, working people have issues, lots of us have issues and we never hear about them. If we did, maybe some people would behave a bit differently.

    Thanks for letting me vent!


    From Indiana, ineligible for printing but thanks for letting me vent:

    Howard Dean feels he is somehow qualified to be considered for the most powerful, important job on Earth? Never mind worrying about stormwater runoff, I think it's time to see if someone is putting LSD in his water supply. Perhaps he could run for mayor of Memphis TN. With 50% more citizens than the whole state of Vermont it would be a nice increase in his duties and a jump in his learning curve. Of course he would have a lot to learn, but it would be somewhat within his reach.

    He's spending most of his time running around these days attending conferences and basically immersing himself in a 'crash course' to pad out his paper-thin stack of qualifications. Meanwhile, Act 60 (one of the reasons I decided to sell my house and leave VT) continues to be seriously flawed and unresolved; the state's colleges get some of the least funding of any in the nation; the state's largest private emplyer is apparently about to make a second major round of job cuts, Vermont is on the verge of economic hard times. Meanwhile, Dean is racing around sticking gold stars next to his name so he will appear to be fit for President. Nero fiddled while Rome burned. See any parallels?

    Maybe the state capitol belongs in Waterbury.


    I feel the need to comment, without chance of publishing I know, on the letter of Leslie Blxxx, which was titled 'Leahy is Honorable.'

    Blxxx said, "Former Attorney General Ed Meese and his so-called "truth squad" have a nerve coming to Vermont to berate Sen. Patrick Leahy and insult the intelligence of Vermont citizens." It pains me to say it because I knew many fine people in Vermont, but sadly, there seems to be an ample supply of people whose intelligence rates less than a flowered compliment, as evidenced by Ms. Blxxx's letter and the need it shows for someone to provide a different viewpoint for people to consider.

    She continued: "Leahy, in his important role as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is holding hearings on judicial nominations responsibly and admirably. He has demonstrated a commitment to choosing judges for the federal bench who are willing to uphold the U.S. Constitution." Senator Leahy might do well to uphold the Constitution himself. It does not say that the judiciary chair is to deny nominees hearings because the chair disagrees with their positions. The chair is to review the nominations; affirming or denying them is to be left to the vote by the Senate, a vote which Leahy is unconstutionally denying them. It is not up to Senator Leahy to approve or prevent confirmations. Ms. Blxxx, it would be good to realize that the whole Constitution must be upheld, not just the parts that serve your agenda.

    Next she said: "Meese would prefer to see President George W. Bush's anti-women's rights, anti-civil rights nominees confirmed, and he came to Vermont to spread poisonous misinformation about Leahy to the senator's own constituents." Ms. Blxxx, again, it is up to the full Senate - 100 Senators, not just one - to determine who is confirmed. Some very good nominees have been unconstitutionally denied this by Senator Leahy.

    (What is this proclivity Vermont's Senators have to take advantage of their tiny corner to swing whole agendas their narrow way? Leahy's usurping of his post; Jeffords' party switch to alter the Senate majority; I am utterly cynical of every word that comes out of the mouth of a Vermont Senator. The Founding Fathers of this country would have rewritten whole portions of the Constitution had they gotten a glimpse of the future, and what kind of stunts Vermont's Senators would be pulling.)

    Finally, Ms. Blxxx says: "Vermont citizens don't need any of Meese's versions of the "truth." We know who represents us in the United States Senate and what he stands for. We wholeheartedly support Leahy's considered choice of federal judges and his respect for law. We have confidence in his ability to do his job honorably." What a collection of oxymorons! Vermonters ARE entitled to some semblance of the truth.  Leahy's position does not entitle him to choose judges and therein lies the entire failing of your argument, Ms. Blxxx. By using his position as he is, Leahy is putting his own positions ahead of the law and ahead of honor. Did you ever hear the phrase that this is a government of laws, not of men? 

    Ms. Blxxx, I live in another state and I know who represents ME in the Senate, too - and it is NOT Senator Leahy. My Senators have a right to vote on judicial nominees who were selected by the President I voted for, but they are being unconstitutionally prevented from doing so by YOUR Senator. Like it or not, that's what is happening. It is up to the whole U.S. Senate to approve or disapprove judicial nominees, which do not have to please the Senator of Vermont in order to qualify for that vote. A  liberal Democrat from Vermont is trampling the intentions of the Founding Fathers and violating the rights of every American to have their Senators be able to elect judges. Now, there is something to be proud of.

    Vermont could use a little more of the perspective of others - including that of Ed Meese - than the constant hysterical shouting of its panicky home-grown liberals. "As others see us", indeed, is a worthy look to take sometimes. Thanks for reading my little diatribe.   


       From Indiana, not eligible for printing but thanks for reading my comments: 

    I want to comment on the situation with IBM and briefly on Governor Dean. I'm sure this is THE hot topic and will be for some time to come. I spent a dozen years at IBM in Essex as a contractor, 1985-1997.

    To keep a big-league employer and a big-league industry, it is necessary for the state to 'play the game' as professionals, not as amateurs, not as second-guessers, not with a bunch of backseat drivers complaining and demanding things be done a different way or not done at all. The so-called Progressives and the enviros have made Vermont into an uninviting - no, hostile place to start a new business or expand one such as IBM. While Vemont once upon a time had a golden opportunity to become a Silicon Valley of the Northeast, after decades of gestation they are letting the opportunity die of neglect, or even contempt. 

    A state with some understanding of what it takes to attract and keep good companies might not have lost that new IBM microchip facility to Fishkill NY. When I worked as a contractor at IBM until 1997, something called "Fab 2000" was already on everyone's lips and it seemed a given that it was going to be built in Vermont. The rumors were always there, it was going to be announced soon, etc. etc. But, from what I read recently, IBM would not even consider Vermont as a site of new facilities. The words used by one official were 'no way' or 'not even close', as I recall.

    One expert recently said that 'after a while it becomes more economical to build fresh than to continually rehab old microchip facilities.'  IBM is building a fresh new plant elsewhere; meanwhile, IBM in Essex has not had a new manufacturing building built in decades. 1500 high paying positions have been eliminated so far this year. The facts speak for themselves. The problem continues and so will the downsizing of IBM in Vermont if some drastic actions aren't taken. Vermont needs IBM a whole lot more than IBM needs Vermont, but you'd never think so to look at the lack of concern for IBM.

    Howard Dean, hot on the trail of the White House, doesn't have time to do much about this problem but to offer his sympathies to the former IBM'ers and say 'we could have done nothing.' I hope nobody is buying this tripe. Yes, there is a global slowdown in the microchip industry, but IBM is building a brand new facility, and they are building it someplace else. Why would they build in Vermont? They can't get so much as a short section of highway to make it easier for their people to drive to work. Unless you count windmills and bicycle paths, there's no way any new utility or transportation infrastructure will be built except over the dead bodies of the CLF, VPIRG, and the Progressives. IBM is outgrowing Vermont and too many special interest groups want a 21st century IBM to operate in a 1910 Vermont.

    My sympathies to those who have lost their jobs at IBM; I hope they can find a way to get their lives moving forward again.


    From Indiana yet again, just to vent, but what the heck.... (thank you Emma...) 

    In the Sunday 6/9 Free Press Letters column I saw a glimmer of hope. Maybe some people do get it. Maybe now they will begin to speak out and vote in increasing numbers and take back the state of Vermont and its future from those with the rose-colored glasses. What I am referring to are letters by Charles E. Rxxx, Jr. of Milton; John E. Rxxx of Swanton; and H.E. Dietxxx of Essex. These people all wrote basically to say 'You reap what you sow. Vermont is losing businesses and industries, and with them jobs, often to other states. There must be a reason and we have to fix the problem."

    I am not at all against business and industry behaving in a responsible manner, but there comes a point of diminishing returns. There comes a point when insistance on the last 2% or 5% of an issue costs more than the first 95% cost, and the company having to comply just says 'enough'. People have to understand this. For too long those who have been saying this have been portrayed as pro-(hated)-business and anti-anything-good. It's about time those people are portrayed more fairly, as being pro-employment, pro-tax-base, pro-opportunity, pro-future. Seeing letters such as the ones I referred to above makes me think, maybe now people will begin to speak out and be heard and not let themselves be drowned out by the 'tax and regulate to the nth degree' crowd who has seized Vermont. IBM is the only thing that has kept Vermont from being an economic wasteland for decades, yet any more such industry would be utterly impossible to locate there, and IBM itself has now begun to shrink its operations. What more does it take? How bad does it have to get before the majority realizes what is happening to Vermont's economy?

    Recently I saw a news report saying "On the other hand, Vermont is a popular destination for people getting married." Now there is an industry that will replace IBM, eh? Seeing this as even a tiny offset to IBM is like finding a shiny nickel in the wreckage of a collapsed building. Big deal!

    There's an old rock opera by the Who, named "Tommy." Tommy at an early age is minimally communicative, minimally functional. The game of pinball is introduced to him and suddenly he breaks out of his shell. He goes from being nothing and nobody to being a charismatic leader. But after a while, Tommy insists that his followers conform to his rules and do outrageous or ridiculous things, if they want to continue to be his followers. Eventually they realize how foolish this all is, they turn on him and they abandon him. He has no more disobedient followers - but he has no followers at all. Rejected, he returns again to his original condition. Right back where he started, he calls 'See me, feel me, touch me, heal me,' but nobody wants to help him anymore.

    In this I see the story of Vermont. From a place with little happening, IBM awakened Vermont just as pinball awakened Tommy. The resulting businesses and economics are like Tommy's followers. The endless taxation and hassles are like Tommy's foolish demands. Now the followers are losing interest and going elsewhere.

    Vermont has courted such rejection for years and now it is happening. Changes had better be made if it's to be reversed.


    From Indiana, ineligible for printing but I can't resist: 

    I'm all in favor of naming the North Beach after Congressman Sanders. After all, they are both what a friend of mine would jokingly refer to as 'sunny-beaches.' (If it's not obvious enough, that's his joking reference to a term normally abbreviated S.O.B.)

    Today is the fifth anniversary of the day I sold my home in Colchester and returned to more normal American life. My small pickup truck had a sticker on the back window which remains to this day even with its current owner- "Bye Bye Bernie". As I drove across the border to leave Vermont that afternoon, I yelled out the window, "Bernie, you're fired!"

    Actually there are some things about him that I like - but overall very few. I will grant that he is sincere about his positions, 99% with which I disagree.


    From Indiana once more, not for printing - but thanks for letting me vent. 

    When I lived in Vermont the schools and their curriculum and "accountability" (i.e. the portfolio system) were always a sore spot with me though I don't have kids. When the head of the state's largest teacher's union puts his kids in private school, that says something. Now the state's student testing procedures have come in with an extremely poor showing, ranking 44th out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

    Regarding student testing, from today's Free Press online: "The poor grades come two months after Gov. Howard Dean proposed that Vermont turn down more than $25 million in federal funding to avoid complying with testing guidelines in the new federal education-reform law. Dean, who is planning to run for president in 2004, said in April that Vermont's tests are adequate to judge schools. He has called the federal law, which was promoted by President Bush, a "terrible mistake."

    I realize Bush, as a conservative Republican, is widely despised in Vermont, some having compared him to Hitler in fact. But, when he was the governor of Texas, education was a priority with him. Texas is many times larger than Vermont and with a much wider assortment of teaching challenges due to the heavily bi-lingual nature of the students, many of whom speak Spanish much better than they speak English.

    So, until about 18 months ago, Bush was governor of Texas and had been for two terms. Look at the Princeton Review's chart on student testing accountability. Where is Texas on that list? It's in the second position from the very top. Despite the challenges, despite the size of the task, Bush spent eight years as governor there and seems to have done very darned well in making sure how well the students are learning, with effective testing, according to an outside organization.

    I think Dean wouldn't know a "terrible mistake" if it bit him. Here's a few he should be watching out for: spending all his time running for President while he is supposed to be governor; letting his states major golden-egg-laying-goose IBM slowly wander out of the yard; watching his state's economy slowly evaporate. And as for being President, it is apparent to me that the one we have is far superior to the one who wants to be, from Vermont.


    I'm sorry, I can't help it, I have to actually send you a second letter today! Why, I don't know, maybe just because at least someone up there will hear what I have to say. Even one person is infinitely better than none when one needs to vent frustrations. So with your indulgence, from Indiana.... 

    Regarding James Marc Lxxx' letter "Cuts for What?":

    Mr. Lxxx said, regarding recent IBM job cuts: "High revenues and profits mean layoffs weren't needed. Minimal growth in sales and profit mean executives weren't entitled to incentive bonuses, especially not after inflicting damage on IBM and IBMers." He went on to say that executives got too much money and that the company should not have trimmed back the working people in Vermont.

    How can someone with the education to be a patent lawyer be so naive?

    First, as a former IBM patent lawyer, he was probably grossly overpaid and continues to be so, in retirement. He is in no position to claim that others are paid too much. Yes, the execs make huge sums. The good ones have to actively run enormous worldwide corporations and like athletes or movie stars, they command high salaries. But, at least they earn their money, much moreso than someone who reads lines before a camera or runs to catch a ball. Tens of thousands of peoples' jobs rely on what they do and how well they do their jobs. Compared to Hollywood and sport "stars", they are not overpaid in the least.

    Second, Mr. Lxxx ought to know that every portion of a business has to be run as a separate profit center. One does not keep a company alive and well by turning an overall modest profit, while half of its enterprises are operating at a loss. Lxxx says 'profits mean layoffs weren't needed.' If IBM had a whole company of places as 'profitable' as Essex, those high profits would cease to exist. No company survives and remains viable if it is run like a social program. If Essex is not making money for IBM, IBM has to make changes. They write a whole lot of paychecks for working people in a lot of places besides Essex. They do not want to jeopardize the everyone else by keeping deadwood afloat. Did Mr. Lxxx complain when he got raises at IBM while they closed other operations such as Boca Raton? Gee, let me wonder. I'll guess... no, he probably didn't have much to say then but "Hey, I got a nice big raise!"

    Finally, if Mr. Lxxx thinks that the employees and contractors and their families (?) are going to start an organization to squeeze blood from an anemic Essex Junction IBM site, they will find themselves protesting an empty building in an economic wasteland.

    People said many nasty things about Reagan's "supply side" economics. Actually, the concept is quite sound and he demonstrated how well it works while he was in office (and for years afterwards). Mr. Lxxx seems to promote something called "demand side economics". He's retired now, he has his fat pension and easy retirement, he'd better watch out lest he endorse policies that lead to headlines such as "IBM Pension Defaults; Unprofitable Facilities Kept Open While Losses Mount; Bernie Sanders Demands Investigation Into Accounting Practices."

    Enjoy your retirement, Mr. Lxxx. Hopefully your pension will last as long as you will, if IBM manages to not go broke running a charity organization.


     From Indiana, I can't resist commenting on something near to my heart - pizza.... 

    The South Burlington school board awarded a $50,000 pizza contract to Domino's, though Zachary's bid was the same; the school board said "All the pizza was tasty."

    I have never been a locale-bigot; I would never arbitrarily choose a local product as better simply because it was local. (When I lived in Vermont I couldn't understand the fuss about McKenzie hot dogs; how I longed for my Vienna Beef Franks which were not available there! Luckily we have them in Indiana.) My wife worked at Zachary's for years and neither is that an influence in my remarks.

    However, in this case there is simply no comparison. Zachary's pizza is substantially better than Domino's. For the board to say "all the pizza was tasty" tells me that it was probably taste-tested by people who eat little or no pizza. 

    I have bought Domino's many times, and it's certainly acceptable. They sell more pizza than anyone else but it's not because their pizza is best. I think their success comes from having a consistently-acceptable product (not outstanding, but acceptable) and a reliable, short time frame for delivery.   

    I agree with the letter writer who said the board missed a chance to demonstrate "buying locally"; if all was equal, Zachary's should have won on that count, but in this case they even have the superior product and still they lost.

    (Zach's pizza can even be reheated at a low power level in a microwave and come out as good as new; Domino's crust never survives that process.)

    Finally, in case I might shoot myself in the foot, my comments pertain to Lee Zachary's pizza, not his brother's smaller company located in Burlington. Lee's pizza was much better. I assume it was his company which bid on the pizza contract. If by some slim chance it was his brother's company which bid, then Domino's probably does get the nod in my book.


    From Indiana, not to be printed I know: 

    Cara Cookxxx wrote in "It's My Turn" how the portfolio system is better and fairer than standardized testing. How is a test of whether a person has learned math or science or English "fair"? Learning is not a relative or moral judgement process; it is able to quantitatively be measured. Yes, we can all have a bad day; nobody however is going to certify a child a 'failure' because of a lesser score. If anything, it is the teacher and the teaching which will be shown to be failing.

    Personally, I see the absence of standardized testing as a way to relieve educators of any accountability for the job they do. It certainly can be measured whether a child knows a noun from a verb, or can do a mathematics problem, or knows what the compound 'water' is made of. Cherry-picking some good assignments which may or may not contain any specific proof of knowledge, does not tell whether students are learning or whether their teacher or curriculum are succeeding.


   From Indiana, I just have to vent a little.

    Regarding Peter Grxxx of Bristol's letter on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks... He wants to know why certain responses were chosen on September 11 which he says made it harder or impossible to intercept and "redirect" (!) the hijacked airliners. He wants an investigation of this and says after such an investigation, Bush won't be so popular. (Funny, I had never known Bristol to be a nerve center for government policy or military intelligentsia.... obviously it must be. Either that, or Mr. Grxxx is delusional. I wonder which is the case?)

    Let's see. Most of the planes were incommunicado with the outside world in the brief time it took for the terrorists to take them over and fly them into their targets. I'm sure that during these brief minutes, Bush was aware of what was happening and made deliberate decisions to ensure that innocent people in planes and on the ground would die. He was doing this even as he read to schoolchildren in a classroom. Sure.

    That is what Mr. Grxxx seems to suggest. Interestingly he chooses to accuse Bush of failing to do things to protect this country - after eight years of Clinton's defense-gutting and after many years of Bernie's demands that we spend less on intelligence gathering.

    Mr. Grxxx at least needs a reality check, if not medication or some sort of therapy.


    From Indiana, I know it won't be printed but hey, it lets me vent... 

    I want to comment on Dale Hxxxer's letter, "Medicaid Cuts Hurt", and briefly on Harriet Chxxx's letter which followed it, titled "Welcome Home!"

    Mr. Hxxxer states that the government is supposed to protect and take care of its citizens. I have no qualms with the government assisting those who truly need it, but nobody ever told me that it was the government's job to protect me (other than from war and criminals) or take care of me. Vermont appears to have taken on too much of the burden of taking care of people, including many who simply and obviously did not need to rely on government programs (i.e. medicaid) to pay for their health care. When a family making up to $50,000 is driving a new $25,000 minivan and can afford to take a vacation to DisneyWorld, that is a family who does not need their kids on medicaid. Sorry. No, I don't have any specific references, but I have read that a family making that level of income can receive benefits for their kids. And at that income level, you can bet people afford vacations or new cars. This goes to the comment Harriet Chxxx made, about how many people in Vermont are receiving benefits.

    Now the economy has slowed, the money is shrinking, more people have truly become needy and at the same time the state government is cutting back benefits. Sad to say but it is going to get much worse - even the initial impact of the IBM cuts has yet to be felt, let alone the shockwave to other industries and jobs which will follow. The need will continue to grow while the money to pay for services will continue to shrink.

    (My current state has also made some bad choices but we haven't gone all out to put everyone on socialized medicine programs. We're also having financial setbacks due to the economy but we aren't having to massively gut our programs.)

    I'm not sure but I have to wonder, does Vermont's fiscal economic disaster give lie to a comment made by Mr. Hooker, that cutting programs will cost more in the long run? Look how much Vermont has spent on its medical programs for everyone. Is the state saving huge sums in other areas? Has this proven to be a financial bonanza, giving a wide array of benefits to too many people? I have a hunch that the cost has enormously exceeded the benefits. Did education spending drop markedly once more kids could get free eyeglasses? Now far be it from me to deny a kid a pair of glasses so he can see the blackboard; but when I was a kid my folks did not make a great deal of money, we were not on any government programs, and yet they saw to it that I had my eyeglasses. They also paid tuition for me to attend parochial school. We drove older cars and my mom clipped coupons, we didn't take many vacations (two in ten years, where we rented a cabin and went fishing), but we did not have to rely on programs to exist either.     

    I don't live in Vermont anymore and frankly a lot of people would say 'butt out'. Fine. I still offer my suggestion that the state had better take a long hard look at what it can afford to provide, and who it can afford to provide it for, and set a course they can stick with rather than periodically throwing people to the sharks. Times get better and times get worse; a well thought out policy will be able to be maintained through them all. What is happening now is proof that the heart and the brain were not hitched together when so many were brought on board government health benefits, including many who really did not need to be.

    And that goes for "Presidential Timber" Howard Dean, who went along with all of this while failing to consider what might happen in the future. Now that his administration has failed to maintain IBM's presence in the state, he says 'We could have done nothing' and gets on a plane to make another appearance as a presidential candidate. His citizens, including those who cannot afford the cuts, are suffering because of his short sightedness in numerous areas. As it is, he is wasting his time in his plan to run for President; by the time the next campaign rolls around he won't have anything to point to other than failed programs and failed economics as his legacy, due to poor planning.


    I just have to make a comment about a recent editorial item though it won't be printed, as I don't live in Vermont.... thanks for reading anyhow. 

    Howard Dean holding himself up as some sort of education expert, even taking on President George W. Bush, is laughable.        

    Bush was governor of Texas, a state which individual cities are several times more populous than all of Vermont. Texas has a very wide demographic range, a much more diverse culture, and a huge presence of citizens and students whose first (or only) language is not English. During his two terms in Texas he and his administration made tremendous improvements in the educational system. I believe there were some recent rankings which bore out Texas' position high up the ratings. Vermont was somewhat  - I mean tremendously - lower in those ratings.

    Dean is governor of a state of just over half a million people, and there are probably less than half that many in the schools. The system for paying for public education, Act 60,  is a pressure cooker waiting to explode. Despite the total failure of similar schemes everywhere else it's been implemented, Vermont (under Dean) plunged ahead and set up a similar plan. While some areas have gotten more money and made improvements, other areas were dragged down to compensate. Shared mediocrity, I think it's called. Nobody seems to be happy with what they pay in property taxes and they continue to skyrocket. In fact it was Act 60 - not entirely, but heavily - that finally pushed me to sell my house and move back to the Midwest. (Incidentally, our schools are fine here. My property taxes run under $1200 a year for an in-town house that would easily sell for $175,000 in Burlington.)

    For all of these shenanigans in a small school system with small class sizes, high spending, high taxes, and darned few students, what is the educational outcome? Middling at best. Certainly not at the level of what George W. Bush achieved in Texas with much greater challenges on a much larger scale.

    Howard Dean is in for a big shock when he stops talking about himself as a candidate for President, and has to stand back and let his record speak. No matter how badly he wants to be President, he has neither the background nor the track record to demonstrate that he has any business in that office. Perhaps he could run for Mayor of a large town and slowly work his way up; problem is, he's not really qualified to do that either.

    He wants to serve, and that is admirable, but it would be fine if he used some of the intelligence I know he has, and made a better choice of careers. He could be a very good administrator for some sort of health-related program, I'm sure of that. But President? No.


    From Indiana, with no chance of publication I know, but I want to comment anyhow.

    Reverned Zabrisxxx of the Witness for Peace program goes on at length in his commentary about why the US should end our embargo against Cuba. Cuba, where there is a white minority government ruling a black majority. Cuba, where the only people not living in utter poverty are the ones displayed for foreign visitors. Cuba, the country (still under the same leader) which allowed the Soviet Union to install missiles right off this country's shores. Cuba, the country that does not offer its citizens any opportunity to elect anyone but from one party - or do they even bother to have elections?

    Remember the outcry about American dealings with South Africa and all the sanctions people wanted, because of the black majority being governed by the white minority? Not much different than Cuba, except interestingly, the Communists Cubans have sympathizers in the US, while the non-Communist South Africans did not.

    For all the panicked letters I see in the Free Press comparing President Bush with Hitler and worse, he is the Pope, Jesus Christ, Mother Teresa and Gandhi combines compared to the dictator who rules Cuba. When we use violent means against enemies people say 'No, use an embargo and be non-violent!' Well that's what we are doing with Cuba, the peace-groups still aren't happy, and we see how effective the idea is anyhow.

    I guess the best solution is to turn a blind eye to repression and lack of human rights, to minority governments, and just reward them the same as any other. That will get results.

    The Reverend would do better to spend more time praying for the Cubans.


    From Indiana, though I know it's not eligible for print:

    I simply cannot fail to respond to Jennifer Deklxxx's letter regarding Fletcher Allen Hospital. She referred to "Fletcher Allen's $9 million computer and disregard of public regulation as the last straw."

    First I would like to say that in many if not most places, hospitals are not under such tight rein as in Vermont. In my state of Indiana, a certificate of need is required if you want to build a hospital - but not to spend money updating the one you already have. My own hospital is in the midst of a widespread computer upgrade program in which we are improving our major systems - the clinical systems which deal with patients and their information and medical conditions, the lab system, the radiology system, our financial and accounting systems, and our networks. I expect we are spending as much or more than Fletcher Allen is, and fortunately we did not need to get approval from anyone but those who run our hospital.

    Ms. Deklxxx seems to not understand the implications of improving the computer system at Fletcher Allen. My understanding is that the project includes clinical systems, i.e. dealing with the patients. This bears directly on the accuracy of their care and records, the proper tracking of their progress, and also on making it easier to see that people get the treatment they need but not those that do not fit their condition. This is directly related to quality of care. Further, there have been regulations implemented at the Federal level which make stringent requirements about patient information confidentiality. Some older computer systems simply cannot be brought into compliance - and the hospital must be compliant. Entire computer systems may in fact require replacement to achieve this, and there is a deadline.

    Further, it is possible that by improving the computer system the nurses and doctors and staff people can all do their jobs better and faster. A major cause of harm to patients in hospitals is incorrect ordering by physicians in an old-fashioned pen and paper system. Where I work we are doing away with that, and with it, the errors that harm patients.

    My hospital has set up what is called a Virtual Private Network, by which we can set up anyone (including doctors) to access their clinical and non-clinical computer work at the hospital, through the Internet from their homes. A doctor can monitor or assess a patient from his own home in almost no time, instead of having to drive in to the hospital, wasting time (not to mention energy) doing so.

    In short, while Ms. Deklxxx may have valid concerns about the hospital's treatment of the nurses, regarding an expenditure on computer equipment so cavalierly does not properly regard it for the improvements it can bring to doctors, staff, and patients. This is not a nicety; nobody looks for someplace to spend $9 million for the heck of it. I can truly say that I am glad my hospital does not have to get permission before it makes a move; I doubt it would be the modern and efficient facility it is without expenditures that an overseeing commission might not have approved.


    From Indiana, not eligible for printing but here it comes - thanks for letting me vent:

    After seeing two letters from out of state in the same day in your Letters to the Editor column it appears that there has been a change of policy...? I can understand bending a policy to print a thank-you from out of state people who want to say 'thank you' for help their son received; of course you should print such a letter. I note however a letter from Maine disputing someone's viewpoint on the situation of homeless people.

    I daresay that I have written comparably insightful and enlightening letters with an alternate point of view, on many subjects; they allow me to express my feelings to one person - the one who receives them in the email. Beyond that, they are not eligible for print.

    Hey, I lived for nearly thirteen years in Colchester and much of what I comment on in the area I had first-hand experience with. I wonder if Ms. Lightfoot-Lxxx has ever lived in Vermont? Or perhaps I am not politically-correct enough to suit.

    No hard feelings from me of course, but I like to point out these ironies.


    From Indiana, ineligible for print (apparently) but thanks for reading... 

    I have read numerous letters in the Free Press where people make reference to the $9 million IDX computer system which was being installed at FAHC. The general attitude I have picked up from these letters is that the computer system is some sort of unnecessary frill, and the money should instead be spent 'where it would help patient care' on things such as nursing salaries etc.

    As someone who works at a hospital which is devoting a large number of resources to a computer system upgrade, I think people should be made aware that nowadays, the computer system at a hospital is a key component of patient care. Patient medical information is maintained, monitored and analyzed on these systems - which in turn makes it possible to treat the patients more accurately and efficiently. Further, patient treatment information is then interfaced (transmitted) to the financial systems for such purposes as billing and insurance reimbursement; this eliminates a huge amount of paperwork and entry and re-entry of data, with all the inefficiencies and keying mistakes that go along with it.

    Additionally, new federal patient privacy regulations which take effect next year virtually mandate the replacement or major upgrade of nearly all hospital computer systems. Putting patient information on a clipboard hanging on a bed is not acceptable, nor are computer systems which do not monitor and track and audit every single access of every patient's medical information. Perhaps this is overkill, but it was the Federal government which decided we needed this and there is no choice but to comply.

    My own hospital of employ investigated numerous new computer systems, including IDX, and chose to go with a different one. However, I have little doubt that the IDX system is quite satisfactory. While the wisdom of "Buy Vermont" has different implications for hospital computer systems than it has for cheese and maple syrup, I leave the call of whether an the decision to use IDX was improperly influenced. From my perspective however,  the hew and cry has not been the choice of a system, but that one is being purchased by FAHC in the first place.

    The idea that FAHC's new computer system is some sort of frill is a very mistaken one. I would like to suggest that instead of simply seeing it referred to over and over as the $9 million computer system, perhaps the public could be treated to an article describing what new hospital computer systems provide as compared with the old ones. I am sure you would find someone at FAHC's computer department who would be able to explain it, and I think your readers would benefit from learning. In fact, I suspect they would be surprised and impressed at how vital computers are in patient care these days. From what I have seen, very few people seem to understand it at this point. You would be doing them a favor to educate them.


From Indiana, a place from which you don't print letters, but thanks anyhow for reading: 

    I was amused by Mr. Kildxx's letter from California regarding his opposition to an 'agribusiness' in Charlotte. (Apparently though he's not from Vermont at present, the fact that he plans to return is sufficient to print his letter.) We're all familiar with the NIMBY ('Not In My Back Yard') syndrome, but he has illustrated a new and rarer variation - the NIMPCOT syndrome, 'Not In My Prospective City Or Town'.