“And Now You Know the Rest of the Story”

My title is borrowed from Paul Harvey and his sign-off closing from his old radio show, “The Rest of the Story.” For those of you that are not familiar with Paul Harvey, he often furnished good back stories to the major news events of the day. When I was about 12 years old, I came down with nephritis, a fancy name for some kind of kidney disease. I was stuck in the Barre City Hospital (hot happily) for about a month.

Oh, I hated this time and confinement. It was in May and the weather was breaking after a long Vermont winter. I could hear kids playing outside my hospital bedroom window, some of my friends coming over from our house on King Street to get my attention. Our home was not far from the Barre City Hospital so this was equally tormenting as I wanted to be home and playing outside.

Little did I know my future wife was also a patient at Barre City Hospital at this time and she was just down the hall from me. She said the nurses talked about some bratty kid down the hall that kept whining about going home. I was so mad at our doctor, Dr. Dente, that when he came into my room, I would roll over and look at the wall and not talk to him. I guess I was a brat. During the month of my stay, a gang of nurses came in and held me down and forced me to have an enema. I don’t think I needed one – I think this was more a show of force. I fought like a tiger, but I was overpowered by some brutes (lol) – some of the old Barre City Hospital nurses.

Radio was a bigger thing then (still is for me) and the radio was turned on first thing in the morning in our house. The radio stations were local, the announcers were members of the community, and the programming was good. My father brought my radio over to the hospital so I could listen (no tvs in the rooms back then – at least not in my room). With all day to lie in bed the radio was my best friend and this is when I came to enjoy listening to Paul Harvey and his radio show, “The Rest of the Story.”

And now for some more commentary (from me).

A few pieces of news from yesterday – first the big story is the FBI search of Mar Lago, Trump’s home in Florida. This had to be predicated by a signed search warrant and evidence presented to a judge to convince the judge there was sufficient evidence to, and probable cause of a crime. I cannot overstate this part, and then the unprecedented search that was made of a former president. This was at the highest levels of seriousness and accountability in our government. As an aside, Christopher Wray, the head of the FBI is a Trump appointee and also a member of the ultra conservative Federalist Society – the same group that advised on Trump’s Supreme Court appoinments. It should not go unnoticed that this FBI search was on the anniversary of the Nixon resignation in 1973. I have always believed that the country was and our system of government was cheated in not holding Nixon accountable. We need to do this for leaders and should do it when warranted. It is my most sincere wish that we finally, as a nation, have the will to hold leaders accountable. This process was aborted when President Ford gave Nixon a pardon and left justice waiting.

My second story, this resonates with me, is the death of one of my favorite historians, David McCullough. Some of you may have read his great history, “John Adams.” I first discovered David McCullough with his history of the Panama Canal, “The Path Between the Waters.” He also wrote of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, a fascinating story, and “1776,” a history of the American Revolution. There are other titles I am missing here off the top of my head, all good history. My favorite is the John Adams history. David McCullough was 89 and lived on Martha’s Vineyard.

My last story has to do with the death of singer/actress Olivea Newton John. She had been battling cancer for many years and was 73 years old. When we were a young family and with Jamie about 5 years old, we had a vacation in our favorite place, Wells/Ogunquit, Maine. We went to the movies in Oquanquit one of the nights we were staying in Maine and the theater was playing the movie, “Grease” with Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta. I have to admit I was not really aware of Olivia Newton-John then, but I new of John Travolta. Well, during the movie, our Jamie, the young fella, was dancing to all of the music – he loved it. He danced his way out of the theater at the end of the movie. Others in the audience got quite a kick out of this. I have always been grateful for a wonderful evening and memory we got from this movie and the fun music that was so much of the film. RIP Olivia Newton-John and thanks for the happiness we had with your talents.

And now you know, “The Rest of the Story.” (thank you Paul Harvey for a great line to close with.

Note: the picture is of me several years ago on the First Branch of the White River between Chelsea and Tunbridge – I would rather be fishing is the message (lol)

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And there is the garden…

Well, this is what Susan and I have been up to lately. We have now made 70 jars of raspberry jam in the last couple of weeks. My best estimate is we are about half way through our raspberry crop with still lots more to pick and coming. Four years ago I started a new raspberry patch with 100 new plants from Elmore Roots in Vermont. These are of the Kilarney variety and produce lots of great berries.

I just started picking blueberries yesterday. We have 32 high-bush blueberry bushes and they are loaded. I will be picking both berries pretty steady for another week or so.

And then, we start with the pickles and dilly beans. I picked our first cukes this morning – and then the tomatoes are coming. Not to mention, I have five cords of wood to stack. I’ll be able to talk again maybe in September. Oh, it is good to have all of this to do. The garden has been good to us this year.

Welcome to West Topsham Views

This is my view looking east down the Waits River Valley on Vermont Route 25. As you can see, it is a very rural setting with mostly mountains and forests. It is a simple setting mostly uncluttered by life in the 21st century. This is where I get my peace and clarity of mind. This is where I have time to think and be with my thoughts.

You will find some of my thoughts here on this blog – those I was able to capture and put in writing. I am somewhat of a thinker and also independent in my thinking. I refuse to let anyone do my thinking for me. My thoughts are mine and here to share if you are interested. I make no claim on being right or having the best ideas, but they are my ideas. I try not to insist on my thinking, but I do share it as it is. Come to your own conclusions as I have. This is the organizing premise here – come to your own conclusions as I have.

I am going to bounce around between comments on our present place in time and then some happier thoughts about a rural life and education. I spent a good part of my life as an educator and I have some thoughts about the business of learning. A warning, I worked in alternative education programs for at-risk young adults and thinking outside the box was the process of finding what worked. I tend to believe that what worked for my students would work for all students as I really pulled from my history and experience as a life-long learner.

I will also share some pieces dedicated to rural life in Vermont – something very dear to me. This is my home and my happy place. This is where I have roots and those in my family that have passed have their final resting place. I am also a 3rd generation American so the idea of America being a welcoming place and land of opportunity for all is important to me.

Please enjoy if you are so inclined.

Thank you for visiting with me and take care.

Place is more than where I am

(the Robert Burns statue overlooking Barre City Park)

Place has a big role to play in our lives. Our hearts know place and want to be there. Place is where we had our beginnings, it is where we were with family, it is where we learned to be human, and it is where we find true peace.

Place is not somewhere we travel to because we are already there. If you have to journey to your place then you are not living there. You cannot lose your place, but you can leave it, and many do. Place is where we see the same views our ancestors saw. It is where we have history. It is where people know our name and know of us and those that came before. It is where we put our loved ones when it is time for their last rest.

I think the sense of place is missing in our culture today and is part of the cause of a society that appears to be unsettled and not at peace with itself. Transience and place are not compatible. There are no roots in transience. Transience is a type of living that is dominated by only the very present, it is a state of being where you are at the moment, and maybe somewhere else in the next moment. Transience does not have the capacity to work with memory. It is too fluid and always moving. Memory and transience are not compatible. It is like the life of a nomad on a great desert that is alway shifting with the sands of time.

I think transience makes us fearful of most things. We cannot depend on much as it is not of our place. We fear the unknown and when we are not in our place, the world is a great unknown. Faces we see are strange and not familiar to us. Why would they be? Situations are hard to know and understand. The predictable part of life is not there.

Americans leave their place because they can, and mostly to chase money. Our aspirations are often dominated by dollars, and not by the values of place that make for a healthy place to live and raise a family. When we are disappointed in our quest for finances, we are not happy, and the support of a history and family is often not there for us. We become more and more dependent upon a government to provide for us and make the opportunities we think we need. As more and more turn to government to provide what they think they need, our political life becomes a push me – pull you struggle (which side will get what they need, those with or those without). The larger challenges of providing for the long term are never taken up as the immediate needs and wants of each side take up all our energies and devotion.

I was looking for a silver lining in the cloud of the pandemic, enough of a pause in all the other stresses of life to give us a chance to understand place and the importance of place to us and our families. I think we missed the chance.

I am in agreement with Dorothy – “I want to go home.”

“Truth Tellers”

“She was a real ‘truth teller.'” I just heard this being used to describe a person. This has really resonated with me. We are desparate for “real truth tellers.” We need the truth tellers to speak up. Our country is exhausted with the double speak and spin of the politicians. We need the “truth tellers.” We may not always like the truth. The truth is not about trying to please or appeal to a base. It is the truth – it stands by itself. It does not need a spin show. It just needs to be spoken and heard.

What has moved me beyond human comprehension is our willingess of late to accept out-right lies and falsehoods. Too many of us do not seem to have any working filters to sift out the lies that are passed for respectable communication. I am also equally shocked that there seems to be no penalty or chastisement for lying to the public. The lies are repeated and repeated on the platforms and take on a life of their own. Our culture is hurting becasue we cannot tell the truth and be honest with each other. We only have ourselves to blame and only we can fix this.

Some Thoughts About the Fraud of “Cancel Culture”

I think the notion of “cancel culture” is a fraud. It implies that there are some good aspects of our culture that are coming under attack unfairly and with malicious intent.

I find taking down statues of Confederate generals and soldiers a good thing. I cannot imagine any justification for honoring men that fought to preserve slavery and also fought in rebellion against our country. If patriotism is a virtue highly valued by those crying “cancel culture,” they are missing that those in rebellion against the United States (1861-1865) were not patriots, they were traitors and treasonous. They fought in rebellion against the United States of America to preserve the institution of slavery. There is no honor here. There are no statues in Germany honoring Hitler’s generals.

And then, there is the issue of racisim and parts of our culture and legal system that have worked to keep minorities down as well as disenfranchised. This continues today. I do not buy “white grievance,” but I do know outright racisim and violation of rights when I see it. There are pockets in this country where these are legitimized and part of the practice of government. To close one’s eyes to the denial of equal rights and fair treatment of others is an offense against our being a nation and the principles held so dear by our founders. I find it hard to accept any Christian support for a cry of “cancel culture” as a hurt when the real hurt is caused by the culture that exists.

Most of this “cancel culture” rhetoric seems to be a twisted use of words to defend a shameful position to begin with. I do not find those crying to be hurt by “cancel culture” to have any genuine injuries. In reality, those claiming offense and injury from recognition of our faults are wanting us to ignore parts of our history and culture, and even honor those that have hurt and continue to hurt Americans. Any nation that has legalized slavery as part of its origin story is not going to have a sterling history. This goes without saying. Not all of our history and culture is worthy of pride and honor. Why honor and revere the bad and hurtful? Why enshrine in our culture that which any of us would be hurt by if it was part of our experience?

This is about polictics and its peverted use to support what is wrong because it appeals to a base. It is never right to use what is morally wrong because you will find support with your base doing this. I think we fought a world war (1941-45) that had this as part of its antecedents. This is about a peverted defense of the parts of our history that are not full of deserved pride. There lies the key to all of this – a perverted defense of what is shameful, but not deniable.

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There Is No Rule of Law Without Holding Our Leaders Accountable

We point to a foundational principle, the rule of law, as to what makes the United States exemplary and also at the core of our origin and history. The rule of law is the architect and arbiter of our system.

This foundational principle has been increasingly made a sham by our politics. We have let our leaders decide when the rule of law applies and to whom it applies.

Our politics have waged a war on the rule of law since the Nixon presidency. Nixon left the presidency with a resignation, not being held accountable for his acts and conduct. Some will say resigning the presidency was enough. I don’t think so. Allowing Nixon to resign without impeachment allowed our system to avoid holding a leader accountable. Nixon walked away from being held accountable and the rule of law was the loser.

Go forward about 25 years and revisit the Irancontra problem within the Reagan administration. Again, we stopped short of holding leaders accountable. Laws were broken and broken by the top members of the Reagan administration. At the time, those at the very top were claiming they were “out of the loop,” including President Reagan and Vice President Bush. We stopped short of ever finding out how big the “loop” was and holding those involved responsible. I have always thought some decision was made in a back room somewhere in Washington not to put the country through another Watergate. We made the lower players in this crime the scapegoats and let the big players get away without scrutiny. The Ollie Norths became the darlings of the Far Right as a result of all of this discretionary rule of law. Someday, I think proof of my supposition will surface.

Next we get to Clinton and the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Did Clinton commit crimes that mocked the rule of law? I think his dishonesty and word play when questioned again made the rule of law a victim in his presidency. Yes, he was impeached and the vote to convict him of impeachable crimes was purely on party lines, again a strong indicator of rule of law being the loser in this process.

Follow Clinton with the 2nd Bush and the Iraq War. The justifications and lead up to the Iraq War were largely fabricated. Fabricated is a polite way of saying the foundations of the Iraq War were lies. These are not insignificant lies. These lies meant the loss of life of thousands of people, mostly to satisfy the ego of a president. The Iraq War was not connected to the tragedy of 9/11, but this is the justification the American people were given. Those flying the planes on 9/11 were all Saudis, not Iraqis. Until recenlty, Americans could not bring suit against the Saudi government for the losses that came with the attacks on 9/11. In all of this, oil was more important than the rule of law, accountability, and justice – some more nails in the coffin of the American principle of rule of law.

Our errosion of the foundational rule of law principle set the table for someone like Trump. A modern history of not holding our leaders accountable was established. Our politics and political parties had learned they only needed to pay lip service to the rule of law principle. Our system was not going to hold them accountable. We blinded ourselves through the Mueller investigation, the first Trump impeachment, and then January 6th. The evidence from each of these was serious and warranted charges as well as accountablity. We did none of this. We even justified some of our abandonment of the rule of law to a Justice Dept. memo that says sitting presidents cannot be held accountable to the law during their time in office. This is a memo, not a law, not a court decision – to support this memo is beyond ludicrous, but in all of this, we threw the rule of law under the bus because of politics and political parties.

We have not held our leaders accountable. The rule of law in application applies only to some of us. I believe we are at a tipping point with all of this. It is one thing to mouth lofty principles, it is something all together different to live by them, all of us included.

Unless we go back to our foundational principle of the rule of law, we are a country that lets different crime families/political parties take turns running the country.

Some New Agricultural Workers On My Farm

I have recently done some immigration work on my mini farm here in West Topsham. I needed more help in the coop so I added some feathered friends that have an English background, Speckled Sussex to be exact.

As you can see, they are a fine looking immigrant and will soon be a productive memeber of the farm. I am thinking early this fall they should be really helping with the egg production as I have a strong demand. I suppose you might think of them as an illegal immigrant as they do not have any papers. I slipped them across the border and got them set up on my farm before the ICE folks knew what I was up to. It was like the old days, folks crossed over and were welcome if they were willing to work and be part of my grand design. We used the northern route and avoided all the hubbub with the Ellis Island crowd.

My Speckeld Sussex have a distinguished history. They have an English background and some were responsible for feeding the United Kingdom during the War. They are a dual purpose chicken, great egg layers, and also fine for meat as the hens will get up to about 7-9 lbs., not that I am going to eat my new friends. I cannot quite bring myself to eating my flock.

The addition of my new girls brings my flock number up to 19 hens. I used to have a rooster, a miserable fellow, big Buckeye with reddish feathers. He liked to strut around the yard and jump on hens constantly. When he wasn’t abusing the gals, he was fond of one I named “Stormy Daniels,” he would attack me if my back was turned to him. I finally had enough evidence to send him to rooster jail forever. No more real estate deals or porn playmates for this guy. I couldn’t stand him anyway – just a big blowhard.

Back to my immigration story – the new gals are doing well. The flock has welcomed them and they are fitting right in. I have plenty of work for them all so nobody is going to take anybody’s job. It’s a big coop with lots of space for more so tight quarters are not a problem. I have noticed the newcomers kind of stick together and seem to have their own neighborhood. I think they like the comfort of being with birds of a feather and they do have their own customs. That’s ok, I enjoy all the rich culture they provide. Maybe I should think about celebrating all this cultural diversity with a heritage parade sometime, might be fun for everyone.

They are all “good eggs,” and even my old Puritan bird, a Plymouth Barred Rock has taken to the new English gals without any troubles. Prior to the actual addition to the flock, I let them see and meet each other for a few days in an adjoining pen. Once they have gotten beyond introductions, I have had good luck merging them into the main flock.

I enjoy being their friend and sponsor. They seem to appreciate me and give me lots of nice eggs. Sometimes I think they work too hard, but you know immigrants, they want so bad to be accepted and part of the whole. I am guessing this was the same for when my great grandfather came over from Scotland to quarry granite in Barre. I remember hearing my grandparents and parents tell me their wish for me was to grow up and be a good American. Well, I try, and the closer I get to being a little farmer, the closer I am to my roots. It’s all about fitting in and doing what you can, working hard, and finding a place at the table.

I think my new gals will do just fine.

What Direction?

I read recently the results of a current poll that finds most Americans on both sides of the aisle feel the country is headed in the wrong direction. Well, there is very little I find myself in agreement with today, but this is one of those times I nod my head, “yes.”

If you know me this comes as no surprise. I have never been much of a joiner of anything. Really, only those groups I sort of had to like being in my grade in school. Joining always seemed highly overrated to me and kind of took away my being me.

Let’s get back to the mutual agreement that the country is headed in the wrong direction. Due to the timing of my birth in the early aftermath of WWII, I grew up as a “boomer,” sort of a silly tag, but I was never asked about what to call the generation born in the first years after the War. Statistics have long said there are lots of us. You have to remember tv was in its infancy then, reception was poor to none existent in many parts of the country, and we had a lot of parents damn glad to have survived the War. “Buffalo Bob,” “Howdy Doody,” “Ozzie and Harriet,” and “I Love Lucy” were our reference points. Listening to my parents and grandparents talk, it seemed a common phrase was “…during the Depression…” I had no idea what this meant, but it seemed to be a time that had a strong impression on the adults in my life, especially my grandparents. I could connect enough dots to recognize that it was a hard time and one nobody wanted to go back to – that would have been the “headed in the wrong direction…” for those that lived through it.

In New England, and especially Vermont in the 1950s and early 1960s, we were kind of insulated from much that was happening in other parts of the country and the world. Some of the insulation for my peer group also had to do with we were still kids and not really ready to understand what was going on. For me, the turning point was the assassination of President Kennedy. This tragedy was very real and I was also at an age (12) to begin to understand that events away from us could be very bad. Let’s say I started paying attention. I started paying attention to the news coming into our living rooms, I watched folks, mostly black, being beaten by State policemen on horseback swinging night sticks and whips, using big police dogs to attack them. It seemed their crime was having a parade of some sorts. And then, the lynchings and poor people swinging from ropes hanging down from trees while a crowd watched their deaths. I did not know what the folks lynched did that was so wrong to deserve this. It seemed it was about them being black and not about some crime committed. Let’s say my eyes were open and I was paying attention to what was going on.

And then, in 1969, sort of a real mile marker year, I graduated from high school, watched Neil Armstrong take those first steps for mankind on the moon, and registered for the draft on my eighteenth birthday as a freshman in college. I was fast becoming aware of a place called Vietnam where many of my age group was going off to fight, and many die, and I did not really know why? Still don’t. I think the country is still waitng for an explanation – don’t hold your breath.

Ok, by the end of 1969, my roots of cyncism and skepticism are getting well establised. Let’s say the events that followed did a good job nurturing these roots and helping me get to the point where my reaction to most of what is coming at me from people in power is to question everything and accept nothing at face value. The sad thing is this perspective has been reinforced by us, meaning our leaders, so many times over the years that I have no other system of cognition other than to question and suspect. Nixon and Watergate cemented the capstone in my cynicism and skepticism. Some other flawed leaders that followed gave me no reason to abandon my operating system.

So, is the country heading in the wrong direction? Yes, it has been for a long time. It should not take a lot of convincing to accept this. I lay the blame at our leaders, and especially the political parties. I don’t suppose it will do much good to mention some history, but Washington tried to warn us about the danger of political parties. I find most politicians to be some of the most selfish people walking the earth. They are in politics for themselves, the power they accrue, and of course, the money. It is always about follow the dollars if you want to understand.

My vote goes with wrong direction. But, and a big “but,” (a good axe handle across kind of butt), outside of New England and my native Vermont, I do not see much to encourage me in changes of direction. A lot of the country seems to have dropped their moral compasses a long time ago and are just following some blow hard slob leading them to more of the same – hardly a direction to take up in my opinion.

I think I’ll go fishing and think about all of this in a peaceful place where nature still can add some decency to my life. Or, there is “…always the garden when the world wearies and ceases to satisfy…” (Minnie Aumonier). Working to grow food is taking on great importance and also satisfaction in my later years, especially this one.

Originalism is a Weak Argument and Not Supportable By History or Precedent

I have been thinking about the doctrine of “originalism” that is dominant on our Supreme Court today. Originalism maintains that the Constitution must be interpreted within the mind of the Framers as it was written.

I disagree for a couple of reasons, one being that the history of the decisions of the United State Supreme Court are far from a history of “originalism.” Any of us can go back and look at landmark Supreme Court decisions and not find a continuing thread of “originalism.”

Secondly, if the lense of “originalism” is so important to our Constitution, then where are the voices of the Framers and Court Justices telling us down through the last two hundred and thirty some odd years that “originalism” needs to be the guiding principle in Constitutional law?

Those voices and guidance from the Framers and Court are not there. The Framers agonized over slavery and its continuance – hardly a position that would state they were looking at originalism to guide their construction of the Constitution. Originalism is a made up justification for unwinding the Federal Goverment and our society that grew out of World War II. It is as made up as Mitch McConnell making up a rule so he did not give Merrick Garland a hearing and vote as President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. Interstingly, when Justice Ginsberg died at the end of Trump’s term, the McConnell rule was no where in sight. This is why it is so hard to respect these people – they do not have the consistency of their own principles and they bend them to suit themselves – hippocrisy.

One last point and I have said this before, the men that fought our Revolutionary War and established the new United States of America were the height of liberalism at that time. The Conservatives were still supporting the King. The kind of government our Founding Fathers established was as far out there on the Left as they could be at that time. Radicals, yes, they were – very radical. They were as far from being conservative and bound to a doctrine of “originalism” as you could be in 1788.

Originalism is as phony as the testimony we heard from Trump’s nominees to the Court about respecting Roe vs. Wade and the principle of state decisis (honoring precedent established in prior case law). Originalism is a raft of horse feathers.