Friday, March 16, 2007

From Siberia To Mud Season To Blizzard Yet Again?

For the first time in three months, temperatures here in Vermont hit above freezing which was great cause for celebration. However, we hit aboving freezing here in South Woodbury with well more than two feet of snow still in place from the St. Valentine's Day record blizzard and a big snowstore after that, which meant that Mud Season (one of the two additional seasons Vermont boasts besides the standard four; Black Fly Season is the other one) commenced.

Now, after days of trying to move along dirt roads where the ruts are two-feet or more deep, in a ride that was FAR more harrowing than anything any amusement park can or would dream up, we're back to just over single digit temps, the mud has frozen and now, we're told to expect a possible blizzard starting before midnight.

Oh goodie. More snow. More stuff to melt next time temps hit the seasonal average of a day-time high of 38 degrees Fahrenheit. So we can either stop freezing our asses off but be forced to stay home at the risk a bad accident OR have frozen toes while you're able to get out of the driveway in the car.

Oh joy. Oh bliss. Oh $@*$!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Civil Rights Under Siege In Israel

This letter from Mark Hage of Montpelier in the Time Argus, I believe, states some excellent points:
Thank you for your editorial ("Israel's Dilemma," Feb. 23) on the controversy in Israel over a manifesto that calls for the country, officially a "Jewish state," to become a bi-national state with full equality for all citizens.

Since the mid-90s, Palestinian citizens have intensified their political and legal efforts to achieve the same rights as Jews. There are more than one million Palestinian citizens in Israel, and they live under apartheid-like conditions. Hundreds of rural communities have been established since Israel was created in 1948, but are closed to Arab citizens. For 60 years, vast tracts of private Arab landholdings have been confiscated by government authorities to benefit Jews exclusively.

Most Palestinian children, prior to the university level, attend segregated, inferior and under-funded schools. Arab towns, the poorest in the country, are short-changed annually when it comes to municipal budgets and funding infrastructure projects.

Palestinians are no strangers to police brutality, and Israeli cops, like Jewish soldiers, are prone to being trigger-happy when their weapons are aimed at Arabs. In October, 2000, police shot dead 12 unarmed Palestinians and a man from Gaza during protests against Israel's repressive measures in the occupied territories. No Jewish officers were indicted for this atrocity.

Job discrimination against Palestinian workers is widespread, and substantial sectors of the Israeli economy are off-limits to them. The civil service is the country' largest employer, but in 2004, just 5 percent of its 55,000 workers were Palestinian. Islamic and Christian holy sites get a pittance of their funding from public coffers, and according to English journalist Jonathan Cook, "almost all of the Muslim and Christian holy places that existed in Israel before 1948 have been destroyed, fenced off, locked up or converted for the use of Jewish communities."

Israel is confronting a civil rights movement within its 1967 borders, and a national liberation struggle in the West Bank and Gaza. Both challenge the fundamental tenets and structures of Zionism, which elevate Jewish blood, privilege and religion over democracy, equality and the rule of law.

Mark Hage


Double Tragedy in Cabot

Those who watch Vermont news no doubt heard of the death by hit-and-run driver of a 27-year-old Cabot man, Jason Bear, Sunday evening, left to die in a ditch along the side of Route 215. The tragedy was compounded when it was discovered that the person who hit this by all accounts sensitive young father of a five-year-old son was none other than his stepfather, a man my age, also of Cabot, William Luther.

I realized I was probably in the same store when the dead young man was looking at DVDs and was traveling along that same road myself that evening. I wish I had some sense of what had happened so I could have gotten this young man assistance since he may have lived for some time after he was hit.

Many locals have criticized Luther for the action - not just leaving the scene of an accident and not trying to get his stepson help - but also for trying to cover up his crime by damaging his Jeep by first running it into a cement buttress and then into trees before he arranged to have the vehicle towed some distance away. But I suspect this was just a very sad case of someone panicking and then, as a result, doing absolutely everything wrong. I doubt those who make such mistakes ever believe ahead of time they would be capable of going to such lengths but, in truth, tragically, it happens all the time.

The only part of this that angers me is that Luther, like so many others, used, "I was drinking" as an excuse for what happened. But drinking and driving is a conscious act, so when you drink alcohol (or take drugs) and then get behind the wheel, "I was drunk" simply is no excuse. It enrages me everytime I hear someone use drugs or alcohol as a defense against an act they commit.

Otherwise, however, this case just saddens me: one life destroyed, another well on its way to such, and the rest of the family and close friends left to grieve for what might have been if Luther had not been drinking or out driving, or if he'd sought help for Bear immediately.

Unemployment In The State Is Rising

Story here, but the statistics don't show another face to the issue which should make these stats look far worse: the number of Vermonters under-employed and those who work 2-3 jobs, often without any benefits, and still can't make ends meet since Vermont is NOT a cheap place to live.