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Letters to the Editor

November 7, 2007


Published November 7, 2007 at 5:00 a.m.


As president of what is apparently the state's oldest public policy think tank - the less government/lower tax/more freedom Ethan Allen Institute (EAI) - I welcome the appearance of Paul Cillo's Public Assets Institute (PAI) ["Big Picture Politics," October 31]. As I observed to reporter Ken Picard, "in the words of a great leader more associated with the collectivist side of public issues, 'let a hundred flowers bloom.'"

On two occasions we have had Paul as a panelist on our statehouse roundtables, where he has made a real contribution to illuminating public issues. EAI looks forward to cooperating with PAI in promoting greater transparency in state government spending.

I did make the point that Paul (the co-father of Act 60) and Jack Hoffman have been longtime advocates of larger government and higher taxation. I did not, however, describe them as "strident" advocates. Your reporter must bear the responsibility for inserting that adjective.

I was, however, taken aback by the cheap shot from my former Senate colleague Doug Racine, namely, that EAI is "just a mouthpiece for the (conservative) Heritage Foundation."

Your readers need to know that Doug has long been a passionate advocate for greater benefits for - and, in my view, less responsibility from - "the poor." In 1992, Senate President Pro Tem Racine killed Democratic Governor Howard Dean's welfare reform legislation, a bill that had passed a Democratically controlled House, by a vote of 125-7.

Doug's problem was that the toughened welfare rules that Dean wanted would place too great a burden (work) on the poor. I moved to bring the Dean measure to a Senate floor vote, where it would probably have passed. Doug marshaled all his forces to kill the motion. Funny, Howard never thanked me for trying to rescue his legislation.

Three weeks ago, I authored a commentary that reviewed the condition of "the poor." It recommended that poor people ought to make choices that would make it possible for them to rise into the middle class, instead of remaining forever in poverty. I sent a copy to Doug and Ann Pugh, the co-chairs of the new poverty commission.

That challenge to Doug's preferred program for the poor - more generous benefits, fewer responsibilities, and blaming somebody else - undoubtedly triggered his acerbic criticism of me.

My commentary did make use of census data collected and summarized by Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, one of the leading social policy analysts in Washington. Out of more than 300 commentaries I have published over the years, I believe that no more than two made use of data or analysis from the Heritage Foundation. One good reason is that Heritage has essentially nothing to say about Vermont issues, which are the only ones that EAI addresses.

I have learned that when their passionately held beliefs are challenged, sensitive welfare liberals can lash out without thinking. So I forgive Doug for his - no doubt - momentary lapse.

John McClaughry


McClaughry is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.


I want to thank both Peggy Luhrs and Jon Turner for their eloquent letters in a recent issue of my favorite newspaper ["Letters," October 24]. "Pentagonorrhea" has been way out of control for some time. And while some top military brass are speaking out against the occupation of Iraq, there obviously must be too many people making too much money off it to pack up our toys and go home, which really sucks.

But what makes it all so much worse is that our thief-in-chief sends our family members over there to do his dirty work (when is it Jenna and Barbara's turn?), yet won't take care of them when they return. The post-traumatic stress resulting from war is obviously a crippling and widespread problem - as Jon related in his letter - and the physical price our soldiers pay is often equally high. Yet the medical and psychiatric care our vets need so desperately is denied them by a government ethically and morally bound to provide it.

So we write letters, join truemajority.org and Second Vermont Republic. Here's another idea: Focus on peace in our own lives. Visit the Burlington Earth Clock on the waterfront and enjoy magical moments. Walk a labyrinth and dedicate it to peace. Vibrate with as much peace as possible. It's becoming a cliché, but we create our own reality. I haven't heard a better theory. Try it. It can't hurt. Anywhere we can create peace on the planet, I have to believe, adds to the greater energy of peace worldwide.

Marna Ehrech



In his interview with Ken Picard ["The Wall Has Two Sides," October 10], David Gutmann contemplates why so many Palestinians fled their homeland during the War of 1948. Among other reasons, he speculates that, perhaps, the Arabs didn't want to "live among Jews."

Even a cursory review of the historical record reveals that Jews and Arabs in Palestine lived together for centuries before the advent of Zionism. When Crusaders sacked Jerusalem in the 11th century, the streets ran red with Jewish and Muslim blood.

On the subject of the War of 1948, to which he was both witness and partisan, David Gutmann's knowledge and personal experience are inadequate to understanding the political and military catastrophe that befell Arab Palestine.

Zionism, since its inception, has been dedicated to ethnically cleansing Palestine of its Arab people. That Jews "forced these poor, innocent peasants away from their olive fields and their orange groves," Gutmann asserts, is "one of the great lies."

Actually, it is a searing and well-documented truth - Israel's "original sin," as one historian put it.

In 1938, David Ben Gurion, the most powerful Jewish leader in Palestine - later to become the first prime minister of Israel - weighed in on the question of forcing Palestinians to leave their homes and lands to create a racially exclusive Jewish state. "I am for compulsory transfer; I do not see anything immoral in it," he told the Jewish Agency Executive.

The concept of population transfer - its ideological roots go back to the late 19th century - was debated vigorously by the Zionist leadership, from the late 1930s on. The reason is simple: By the end of the 1930s, after 50 years of Jewish immigration, Palestine's population was two-thirds Arab and predominantly Muslim.

This was highly problematic for Zionists. How could a sovereign Jewish state with a Jewish majority be established in a land inhabited by an overwhelming number of indigenous Palestinian Arabs with strong nationalist yearnings? The solution presented itself in 1948 when Ben Gurion and his compatriots seized the opportunity to unleash one of the most devastating and systematic ethnic cleansing operations of the 20th century. The blueprint for this operation was codenamed "Plan Dalet," and it has been described by Israeli historian Illan Pappe as "the master plan for the expulsion of all the villages in rural Palestine."

Occupation, expulsion, destruction - these triple horrors were charted by Plan Dalet and implemented by Jewish forces, who succeeded in driving at least 250,000 Palestinians from their homes before Arab armies entered Palestine.

When the war officially ended in 1949, the state of Israel was an established fact on 78 percent of Mandate Palestine, and 750,000 Palestinians - nearly half the Arab population - were refugees. Hundreds of Palestinian villages had been depopulated and demolished in Jewish military operations that also resulted in massacres, rapes, land confiscations and extensive looting.

In essence, the Palestinian catastrophe of 1948 - and the four-decade-old conflict in the Occupied Territories - is the consequence of Zionist Jews not wanting to live with Palestinian Arabs.

Mark Hage



To the youth of Vermont, the United States and the world: The quality of our lives and the world in which we live is being dictated by older generations that have irresponsibly depleted the Earth's natural resources and destroyed the environment. It has become clear that, despite the efforts of many brilliant minds to change these practices, those who have the power to cause any positive change have shown a willful disregard for the health of our planet and for future generations. Therefore, it is up to us, the ones who have the most to lose from these irresponsible practices, to instigate the actions and the change that previous generations have been unwilling to.

There is one word that seems to be absent from discussions on our energy future. That word is sustainability. How can we live in a way that does not have an adverse effect on our planet? For centuries, we have been unsustainably extracting the wealth of the Earth in almost every industry, including fishing, logging, agriculture and fossil fuels. We are now feeling the effects of these unsustainable practices. Our oceans are nearly out of fish, our forests are disappearing, our soil is being depleted of its nutrients, and we are nearing the end of our current energy sources. Unless we begin to live sustainable lives, and begin now, we will face a devastating collapse of the Earth's ecosystem.

The best way to avoid such a disaster is for our generation to enact sustainable practices on a local level, while simultaneously moving towards the larger goal of living in harmony with our environment. There is no blanket solution, but we need to start searching for sustainable energy alternatives and put those solutions to use in our community, while also communicating with others who have the same goals.

As an example of taking this type of action in Vermont, we are working towards the establishment of a biofuels research facility. This lab would involve area high school and college students, professors, professionals and regular citizens. The lab would conduct biofuels research and would also serve as a center through which scientific findings from numerous sources could be channeled into community action. Once effective ways of producing and utilizing biofuels have been established, they will be implemented directly into our lives.

The State of Vermont is in the unique position of being both relatively open to and ecologically fit for more sustainable energy practices. This is not the case elsewhere, but there are options for everyone who wishes to create a more sustainable way of life in their community. Our generation must begin to act now by getting involved in the political process, conducting research and promoting sustainability. We must make it known that we will no longer allow the inaction of our current leaders to deny us a livable future. We must stop being irresponsible with our Earth and begin to be actively sustainable. If you are interested in getting involved, contact us at galen.helms@gmail.com.

Jessie-Ruth Corkins, Henry Webb and Galen Helms


Corkins, Webb and Helms are members of Bristol's Mount Abraham Union High School Class of 2008.


In a story that ran in last week's issue ["State Term-Limit Debate is Back"], Seven Days incorrectly identified former Gov. Madeleine Kunin's age. She is 74 years old.