Archive for April, 2011

It was a glorious, happy day for England when the handsome Prince William and the winsome Kate Middleton exchanged vows on a beautiful London day and led a colorful and happy procession to Buckingham Palace and a quick kiss on the balcony. The beautiful flag, the red uniforms, horses and carriages, the Lancaster bomber and the Spitfire and Hurricane fighter planes that saved London in World War II and of course happiness—what a pride in its tradition and history.

The mass of humanity watching was all smiles. England was having a week-long holiday. The pubs are full. This celebration of royalty, youth and happiness is contagious. Gone are the weights we have carried these past years—the killing in Iraq and Afghanistan, the wars of Africa, the devastation on Haiti and the tsumani of Japan, the absolute bitterness and ineptness of the American political system, the despair of so many Americans who cannot shelter and feed properly their family. The list goes on.

So this respite of happiness and decorum, of royal dignity, of affection, of pomp and circumstance, of youth is so welcome.

You know, we in Vermont had a similar experience in 1998. Vermont’s famous and loved farmer-actor Fred Tuttle (The Man with the Plan) defeated that carpet bagger from Massachusetts, Jack McMullin in the senatorial primary. The debates were hilarious and the state lightened up. We all had smiles and guffaws filled our bellies.

Fred died in 2003. The bankers took apart our country’s economy, People in Vermont have nothing to spend as they save for fuel oil and gas and taxes. There is little hope in our country and a depression of the mind matches our economy.

We have the royal wedding, a happy event, for a day. It’s like a beautiful wedding cake, to be admired and eaten forthrightly. The trees in London are in spring bloom, Hyde park is a blanket of green.

And here in Vermont, spring will arrive later than sooner but its still mud season and we’re wondering where the cash is coming from to pay our monthly bills.

And there’s that foul taste many Vermonters have which is that the America we grew up in, the morals we inherited from our parents, has withered.

It isn’t that we have to reinvent ourselves. What we need to do is recognize the morals and ethics of the old hillside farmers, brush them off, burnish them, and establish a new code for living in Vermont—within our means, in a simple way. We need to take our souls off the grid.


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One week ago the Sunday New York Times published an interesting report headlined The Drought Is over (At least for C.E.O.’s), written by Daniel Costello.

Think the C.E.O.’s made too much in 2009? It’s worse in 2010. One of the biggest scams America has ever seen continues to grow. Corporations can set whatever fee they want for their chief executives, regardless of what stockholders vote.

So this year, with American unemployment at 8.8%, or 13.5 million at risk for hunger and shelter, and corporations not anxious to hire, 200 top American corporations paid their bosses an average of 9.644 million dollars, 12% higher than last year.

That’s $1,928,800 dollars they divied up.

The highest paid was Phillippe P. Dauman, of Viacom, who received $84.5 million in 2010. The lowest was John Mackey of Whole Foods Market, who received $45, 968 (but has over $41 million in stock).

Let’s look at Vermont, my home state. We have a deficit of $358 million, a debt of $4.14 billion (7th worse in the country), and 5.4 % unemployment (these figures are misleading as many Vermonters have exhausted their unemployment benefits and exist by trade or on cash basis. I t would be very interesting to know the number of us who are working and are not on the statistic tables).

Vermont has an average income slightly over $28,000, or about $76 a day. These execs have an average of $5,357, a day, give or take a few bucks. No wonder Vermonters are chilled by more than heating costs for their homes.

In the same financial section is an article by Gretchen Morgenson, a very acute reporter, slugged Enriching a Few At the Expense of Many. In it she interviews Albert Meyer, a money manager at Bastiat Capital in Plano, Texas.

Mr. Meyer calls most corporate compensation plans a form of insider trading and stock-watering. He compares Exxon Oil with Statoil, a Norwegian company. Statoil has had an average increase of 22% a year in stock price during the last decade, while Exxon is at 11.4%.

The chief executive of Statoil received $1.8 million in 2010 and no stock options.
The C.E.O executive at Exxon received $21.7 million in salary, bonuses and stock awards in 2009 and the figures for 2010 will probably be higher.

American C.E.O.’s and their boards are ripping off the stockholders. Comparisons of pay with global companies outside of America compare to what American CEO’s are paid is shocking.

Why do the American C.E.O.’s  need so much money? What sort of greed is feeding this cannibalism? Why are our regulatory boards allowing this?

It appears to be based upon the Mafia business model of pay off, bribes, fancy accounting,  legal jibes and watch out for yourself.
In the context of America, Vermont does not count unless we come up with systems that are not self serving and benefit the average Vermonter. Then the rest of the country can see a model that works for its citizens. Vermont should distance itself from this sort of  gekkoism.

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One week ago today (which is Sunday, April 17) the Times Argus of Barre had a front-page article on embezzlement in the state of Vermont. It carried on for a half page on page 4 and was written by Brent Curtis, a staff writer.

It did not mention a long article seen on Vtdigger.org, an investigative news group edited by Anne Galloway (agalloway@vtdigger.org). It was a very thorough and complete article and a compilation of a dozen of over 100 embezzlements made in Vermont since 2009. The story began in her hometown of Hardwick with an embezzlement of huge proportions ($1.4 million over 10 years by Joyce Bellavance, an employee of the electric department. (Anne Galloway mentioned in the article that her husband is one of the commissioners for Hardwick’s electric utility)

If I were Brent Curtis of the Times Argus, I would have acknowledged Anne Galloway’s investigative reportage, the website www. Vermontdigger.org, and I would have interviewed her and her husband to see how Bellavance could get away with 1.4 million and no one notice. My first thought is that Hardwick residents are being overcharged for their electrical power.

But no, there was no mention in the Times Argus article of who broke this story. This is a lapse of journalistic ethics at the least, or, if Curtis or his editors never knew of the Galloway article, an instance of absurd indifference to research.

Nothing new with the way people are appropriating anything they fancy. It is called self-entitlement. The New York Times had an article on the subject “It’s the Kids! Lock up the China!” was the title of this article, written by Stephanie Rosenbloom, in 2005. It’s been going on for a while. Maybe it all began with Gordon Gekko in 1987.

In the case of journalism, it is not plagiarism so much as idea theft when not attributed. Without attribution, the writer says, “Look at me, I broke this story! I should have a raise!” Or call it resume building on someone else’s work.

This has happened to me. I wrote a story on Arden Magoon, a simple man who lives in Stowe and built telescopes, trained himself in astronomy, and even found a comet. I photographed Arden and wrote an article, which appeared in Vermont Magazine. I sent a few of the photos and an idea of the story to the Stowe Reporter, thinking they might make a short mention of Arden and use the picture. They said thanks and did not run any mention of the article or use photographs. They did six weeks later, sending a reporter out to interview him and displaying a feature story with some pretty bad photos. They never mentioned who broke the story, where it appeared, and they could have used the photos for nothing. Arrogance and thievery, I call it.

In another instance, AP interviewed me about the farming sisters the Lepines, who are in my book Vermont People and Vermont Farm Women. They sent out the story on the national wire as a feature. No attribution to me for the time I spent talking to her, no mention of my books, no use of photos, which I would have let them use. So much for AP.

The biggest theft, though, was the New York Times Sunday Magazine. I had written a few articles for them and, as I had just finished People of the Great Plains, a book I spent three years researching and photographing, I suggested a story on North Dakota as an upbeat story on a state often downtrodden by the press. I sent them a 16-page dummy of the book. They said no thanks. About six weeks later they had a story on North Dakota. They turned it around and said why North Dakota shouldn’t be a state. They assigned a writer (from Vermont! I received some nasty letters from there, for they thought I was the writer), and they sent out a photographer.

The Times story was a potboiler, something thought up around a staff table. They obviously used my dummy and suggestion because the photographer photographed a building in Velva, North Dakota, that was identical to one I took and was in the dummy I sent them.

Now this is theft. I complained to the New York Times ombudsman and there was no reply. I should have sued. I will not ever again make a suggestion to the New York Times. I consider them bent.

If journalists are into ripping off ideas, will they not also fudge their stories? Honesty and accuracy, at least to this journalist, are out of the same nest.

Now back to Anne Galloway and her article on embezzlement. I have been embezzled. I caught the theft and the money was returned (about $8,000). I kept the affair quiet. I shouldn’t have. She did some other bad things. Anytime you catch an embezzler, said my accountant, “Don’t be a fool! Prosecute!).

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The Gourmet Butcher

So we all know about how fuel oil and gas is decimating our love of country living in a harsh climate and many are well aware of the cost of hamburger, pork and steak at the chain grocery stores. Now here’s something else you can do to alleviate the pain and go native: do your own butchering.

Don’t know where to start? Cole Ward, will show you to do cut up a side of beef, pork or lamb. He has taken his 45 years experience as a butcher and put it in a two DVD set— The Gourmet Butcher …from Farm to Table…

This is the only how-to-butcher DVD I know of. Cole is the resident butcher at Green Top Market in Morrisville, Vermont (802.888.8883). He has worked in supermarkets and became weary of butchering mediocre cuts and moved to specialty
butcher shops (like La Frieda Prime Meats in LA where he served Hollywood stars) before he returned to his home state of Vermont.

Paired with Cole in his DVD is Chef Courtney Contos, who in one clip takes a freshly cut slab of flat iron steak and turns it into a steak au poivre.

It would be worth it to watch the DVD a couple of times, or better yet set up a screen when you are operating.
The Gourmet Butcher sells for $29.95 and is available through http://www.thegourmetbutcher.com. Cole Ward also has a blog— http://colescuts.com —which has video clips of the DVD plus a number of tips you would expect from a gourmet butcher.

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