Wednesday October 24, 2012

Both Sides Untied in Denial

Editor of the Reformer:

I am glad to see the Reformer is exploring the issue of emergency evacuation in the event of a VY incident (series, "How Prepared Are We?"). A few years back when my kids were both in Elementary School I looked into the plans, and I came away with the impression that what was in place was a prescription for the world’s biggest traffic jam.

The fatal flaw, as I saw it, is that the schools could not be evacuated in one shot, rather some schools would need to wait for buses to return from evacuating students to Peterborough. The plan expects parents to evacuate, then patiently wait for the buses to go back into the evacuation zone to shuttle their kids out. It seems obvious to me that most parents are going to ignore anyone directing traffic out of town and make a bee line to the school to retrieve their kids.

I also came away with the impression that the one thing that unites the pro-nuke and the anti-nuke folks was a determination to maintain denial about the flawed evacuation plans. The pro-nuke side thought that focusing on evacuation draws too much attention to the potential dangers of nuclear energy, and the anti-nuke side thought that having a workable evacuation plan gives a false sense of security.

I’m OK with denial if it makes everyone happy. Let’s revise our plan and call it a "hurricane evacuation plan" (one of those radiation hurricanes). Lets just make sure that we take into account anything that might possibly go wrong, and prepare for it.

John Gurney,

Brattleboro, Oct. 21

On yard sales

Editor of the Reformer:

I have not written before about issues concerning other people. Really, it’s not my business.

But when the town is going to create an ordinance about yard sales, that is a bit much. I think there might be like three or four people in this huge town of Hinsdale that have regular yard sales. You are really going to have permits and fines and police watching for yard sales? We really have nothing better to do? Who is going to pay to take them to court if they break a rule, the criminals that they are? Older people that need to make an honest buck. No drugs, no alcohol, just stuff.

I know of quite a few people that go to Dwight’s on Rt. 119 when they are looking for something. We used to live up that way and used to walk over just to see what there was new there. When we were moving and needed shelves, yes, that is where we went. When I wanted some extra bread pans, yes, that is where we went. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying it’s OK to have a five or seven day a week business making money and not be held to the same rules as everyone else. But they are not every weekend. And it is only on the weekend and only in the summer. Recycle , re-use they say, well he does! And like the article in the Reformer says, he needs to supplement to help take care of his wife. I am also aware that there is an ordinance on the books in Hinsdale that you need a permit for window air conditioners. Well let me think on thisÅ As hot as it was this year, can you imagine our Hinsdale finest going around our houses trying to catch everyone in violation. Or will that be our town leaders going door to door checking on permits. I am sorry. This is an election year and we have far more to worry about in our town than yard sales. What is there for our teens to do? I bet that wonderful nice lady married to Dwight would be more than willing to teach some young girls to sew and quilt. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

P.J. Braun,

Hinsdale, N.H., Oct. 10

In support of Hoffer

Editor of the Reformer:

Doug Hoffer is running as a Democrat-Progressive for VT State Auditor of Accounts in the upcoming November election. I am excited and honored to give Hoffer my vote.

Here’s why:

Hoffer is a numbers guy with a laser-like focus on sniffing out waste, fraud and abuse. His interest in public policy (well documented elsewhere), his legal and financial background, his clear-thinking, and his 20-plus years of experience including five years working for the State Auditor, make Hoffer a terrific fit for the Auditor’s post. It is important to note that he is not a career politician.

Moreover, in interviews, debates and press releases, Hoffer has made it crystal clear that State Auditor is the only political position he seeks and that if elected his efforts will be full-time and publicly transparent. In contrast, Vince Illuzzi, his Republican opponent, under questioning has said that if elected he would continue to hold for up to two years another paid post that he already holds, the job of State’s Attorney in Essex County. Hoffer says, "If elected, I can assure Vermonters that the job of state auditor will be my sole focus." Illuzzi also brings a certain reluctance to his race for Auditor. His first choice was to run for attorney general. Only when he concluded that he couldn’t win that race did he declare for auditor.

Hoffer will also bring greater transparency and accountability to the state auditor’s post: He will "invite the public in" by posting the auditor’s budget on the Vermont state web site. In contrast, Mr. Illuzzi, former chairman of the Vermont Senate Institutions Committee, only 12 times over a six year period provided recordings of his committee’s hearings. Yet, Illuzzi’s Institutions Committee made allocation recommendations on tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer funds. I think Hoffer rightly questions what that says about how Illuzzi would behave as state auditor.

Finally, Hoffer has earned the endorsement of Senator Bernie Sanders, Governor Peter Shumlin, Environmentalist Bill McKibben, the Sierra Club, AFL-CIO, Planned Parenthood, plus the Democratic and Progressive Parties. Illuzzi, who presents himself as an "independent" Republican, supports Mitt Romney, voted against the Legislature’s health care plan, and cosponsored a bill that would give sizable tax breaks to the wealthy (S.196, 2012).

For me, the choice is clear. Please join me in voting for Doug Hoffer for state auditor -- he’ll work for us all.

Peter A. Cooper,

Brattleboro, Oct. 19

An interesting question

Editor of the Reformer:

It’s an interesting question: Why is there something rather than nothing? It’s easy to know what I mean by "something" when I refer to the known material universe, which is very large and old-perhaps the largest and oldest something around.

My appreciation of this fact was recently enhanced when I read in The Science News about a newly discovered 1,000-galaxy cluster called Phoenix, whose central galaxy is more than 1,000 light years across, contains more mass than 2,000 Milky Ways, and is birthing about 740 suns a year (a record-breaking fertility rate that astronomers guess will continue for the next 100-million years.) Add to these mind-busting things all the teeny tiny somethings such as microbes, atoms, and now the Higgs boson particle, and you get a lot of somethings.

It’s not so easy to wrap your mind around the concept of nothing. Nothing is the absence of everything. But that’s just begging the question. What is nothing, really? Can it even exist? I have a hard time describing nothing in any terms that do not refer to something. Is it a vacuum? But what is the pronoun "it" referring to? Okay, it refers to the concept of nothing. That’s hard too, since some physicists (see Einstein) tell us that empty space can bend which means it can take on some of the properties of something.

And what about concepts? They are thoughts in brains or memes in culture. The fact that there are brain patterns or written words denoting concepts means that they exist, and therefore in that sense are somethings.

But this leads to the fact that in the wide, seemingly endless universe, there are still mysteries: things that exist but that human beings are unable to detect ... or at least there is difference of opinion whether some things exist. Maybe somewhere there is something that perfectly fits our concept of a unicorn, in which case the concept fits something rather than nothing. In my opinion the court is still out on the concept of the big bang, despite the fact that millions accept it as true, which only goes to show that sometimes people are sheep. But then, Cm a maverick. I’m skeptical about the existence of just about everything. So I apologize: I can’t give you a convincing answer to the "interesting question." I don’t know why there is something rather than nothing ... and I don’t think anyone else does either.

James Reid,

Brattleboro, Oct. 15