Opinion

Our American Arrogance

Recent federal policies are putting our international standing at risk. Traditionally our moral standing as a world power lay in our persistent efforts to exemplify democracy, support international development, welcome strangers, and maintain a lead in technical, scientific, and environmental innovation – all while maintaining our financial and military hegemony in a fragile world. The notion that we know better than our neighbors and have nothing to learn from them is little more than a form of national racism – an arrogance that denies the fundamentals of learning: curiosity, open-mindedness, and collaboration. We are beset by internal problems like the cost, quality, and access to home ownership, health care and nutrition, education and a crumbling transportation infrastructure. We’re burdened by …
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Paul Ryan: Patriotic American Women Should Breed More Workers & Consumers???

Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan has suggested that our economic recovery could be stoked by American women simply having more children. According to the Center for Disease Control, or CDC, America’s fertility rate is at an historic low – partially due to choice and partially biological. Reuters has reported that scientists are alarmed by a precipitous decline in male sperm count – more than fifty percent in the U.S. and E.U. that they attribute to chemical exposure, pesticides, stress, and obesity. But to me, Mr. Ryan’s formula for recovery – breed more workers and consumers – is rich in dark irony, especially since we don’t care for those we have. And if his goal is indeed for women to have …
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Truth, Propaganda and Art

They say truth, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. But this doesn’t mean certain truths aren’t verifiable. Much depends on the granularity and scope of a statement. “That’s a dandelion,” and “God exists,” are two assertions of truth with wildly differing levels of verifiability. And some truths are indeed relative. I find one of the miseries of age is my ability to effectively argue either side of an issue. But the relativity of truth isn’t new. Propaganda dates back centuries, but today is amplified and weaponized by new media technologies. To the extent we can verify it, a shared understanding of what is true is vital to our democracy’s survival but, sadly, truth is losing sway among …
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Sustaining Our Communities

In physics, centripetal forces propel objects toward the center and centrifugal forces drive them away. And today, our societies and communities are engaged in an epic battle between these two opposing forces. I once attended a Salzburg Seminar and the most compelling presentation I heard was from a sociologist analyzing the Bosnian War. He explained how the Serbs destroyed villages by first attacking the places in which villagers gathered – like libraries, cafes, schools, and houses of worship. The rationale was simple, if you destroy the places where people come together, you shatter the cohesive spirit of a community. And while we’re hardly besieged by a warring tribe today, technical and societal forces are exerting a strong centrifugal force on …
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The Curse of Instruction Manuals

When I was young, cursing was frowned on in our family. I was raised a Catholic and it was a mortal sin to take the Lord’s name in vain. But I remember shocking myself one day as I led a pack of Stowe ski friends down the mountain after a 20-inch snowfall in a game of “follow the leader.” To show off, I veered off the summit trail and over the cliff that begins the National, a notoriously difficult racing trail. The new snow had obscured a chain and a pendant sign across the trail indicating it was closed. I felt the sharp pain in my shins and pitched forward over the chain. Both skis and one boot released, and …
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Sexual Behavior

Any male not now asking himself about his own behavior towards woman and children is extending the risk to both into future generations. Sexual abuse rolls forward from generation to generation until someone – both victim and perpetrator – decides to get honest with themselves and others. Victims are now coming forth in droves, perpetrators only when outed. Mutual sexual attraction is one of our greatest gifts, a healthy and natural phenomenon occurring even before puberty. But we live in cultures, not the wild and so attraction must be tempered so it’s not just the powerful who control relationships. Sexual predation, especially on children or the powerless, is one of our most destructive and enduring behaviors. We must do more …
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Ourselves, our children

At seventy-two, I often hear myself say, “Well, when I was young…” followed by some judgment about the behavior of today’s kids. I seem to remember my parent’s expectations of me as a kid were quite different from what parents seem to expect today.  Looking back, my parents’ expectations and boundaries hardly felt ambiguous. All of which leads me to ponder how we raise and educate those who’ll take the reins from us and hopefully forge a better world. It’s a tall order to prepare our children to take risks, respect but question authority, create and innovate, procreate respectfully, and serve mankind. Children learn by watching how adults behave and by listening to what we teach them at home and …
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The Comforts of a Mediocre Education

It’s no secret that many colleges and prep schools are in financial trouble. Accrediting organizations predict a significant number of institutional failures in the next decade. We even feel the pain here in Vermont but, understandably, no one wants to discuss it, as any faint whiff of distress further discourages applications. The college value equation has been eroding for decades. Total private college costs average $45,000 annually, $20,000 at in-state colleges. Accounting for payments, discounts and scholarships, average college graduates carry $37,000 worth of debt. And in return, according to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) to which the U.S. subscribes, we rank thirtieth in math and nineteenth in science among the thirty-five sponsoring countries. Access to a free …
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The Vegas Shootout: Yes, Let’s Politicize it.

When I was eight, I took the NRA safety and target training at a camp in Maine. Two years later, my parents gave me a Winchester .22 long rifle. We kids would peddle our bikes up to the dump after it closed on Saturday to “pop” rats. During deer season the high school boys brought their 30.06s to school and left them in the principal’s office so they could hunt right after school before sundown. Today, our property is the only one in the neighborhood not “posted.” We have friends who hunt here and we welcome them. We have two old hunting guns in the house, and believe in hunting for food, sport, and to manage our wildlife populations. But …
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Who Will Save Us from Ourselves?

As humans, we’re living in a time when our evolutionary capacity as humans to understand, regulate, and use technological innovation in a way beneficial to mankind and our planetary home is simply overwhelmed by the relentless speed of discovery and invention. While civilization is about six thousand years old, it was the industrial age that first started taxing our management capacity as humans some hundred and seventy years ago. Our understanding of natural phenomenon and therefore the pace of technical change accelerated greatly between 1850 and 1950 and has only sped up since that time. Technology, like biology, is an evolutionary process. Only the fit, or in the case of technology, the functional, survive to potentiate new waves of invention …
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