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It’s All Good: Tweety nostrums, 1st and 2nd encounters, off the allergy list…

Originalism >> has come unstuck from its time with Mr. Justice Scalia. Originalism has become a foundational phrase (or dog whistle) for Judge Gorsuch s run to replace Scalia at SCOTUS.–Tweet tweet! : What the Constitution actually says What the Founding Fathers actually meant, and so on. The slogans are self-evident to Conservatives & for perhaps for some voters sufficiently healthy to work three jobs, pay the rent, buy food, forgo health insurance and vote Radical Republican. Try applying those tweety nostrums to the Second Amendment. (Is there an Oxford Comma missing in my last sentence but one?) What did the FF s actually mean ( the security of a free State )? What s a free State as distinct, say, from a free state ? was there a distinction, in 1789, or simply early orthographic custom (generally capitalize nouns, but not always)? Were there North American States before 1789? (Yes, 12 of them . . . Or no, if you say that only our current Constitution confers statehood.) Was any of the 12 a free State or a free state ? (No.) Vermont was a free non-state as of 1777, became the 14th state in 1791, the only free S/state of our original 13. Does the 2nd Amendment ( the security of a free State ) only apply to Vermont? Etc.–The orginalist Eagle can t fly without enough common-sense, in-our-time interpretation to turn the Conservative, originalist eagle into Benj. Franklin s bemusing turkey.

2nd encounter of >> the emergency medical kind. Why are you here? asked the receptionist with green hair at UVMC s ER the other night (last night, 3/21).–Her question & efficiency smoothly handed me & Isis off to Cody (intake nurse) and into the care of Macy (RN from Texas), Dr. Ol0en (no need for appositive to Dr. ), Raquel (respiratory therapist), an x-ray technician whose id badge was obscured, a security guard named Michael.–Specialist services, and kind. The specialists kindness was a sort of halo over their routine (to them) activity. It just suited me, concerned about breathing problems which seemed to be getting worse. No chest pain, though. But my 1st encounter >> of the not-yet emergency kind was dreadful. Shortly after 6 p.m. I phoned my doc s office, hoping to catch Andy still at work, or to leave a call-back number for the on-call doc to ring me. With luck in that case, I d get Dr. Harris.–I got the tape: We re sorry, we re closed now. Please stay on the line and you ll be transferred . . . . (I don t remember if the if emergency/hang up & dial 911 played.) The initial sorrow & promised transfer replayed for several minutes & like Bob Dylan, I hung up, in bad temper.–Isis (w/o bad temper) had the same experience & she innovated. Called the main UVMC line. Someone very helpfully transferred her to another line, which in due duration transferred her to the we re-sorry loop.–On the ridge, we packed up gear and Nick, and headed for the ER. UVMC: >> Your you ve-reached-a-zombie messaging system needs priority status on your up-grade to-do list. Those taped messages are often the first therapeutic gesture you make toward patients, whose stress levels rise with each looping of bored script readers.

Back in the ER >> things went well. If Isis doesn t know everyone when she enters a room, she knows most of them when she leaves. Raquel read her a poem. She chatted with Cody about her distinctively decorated stethoscope: It sparkles! — Keeps people from stealing it, Cody said. My actual treatment was two superintended doses of albuterol sulfate, to free my bronchia; steroids for my lungs; Dr. Olsen s implication that I should take my codeine-laced cough medicine, even if it gave me a hangover next day. Isis had established that Dr. Olsen was from the heartland(read, trustworthy), and probably related: Granddaddy Olsen was a farmer. Doc Olsen smiled & said the x-ray showed no pneumonia remaining in left lung.


On the way >> home, Isis said I knew you were sick when you didn t include Republicans on your allergy list for Macy. –Make sure your advocate thoroughly knows your case.–Thanks, everyone

Probably the on-call doc would have told us to do what we did, here on this ridge: Go to the ER. But UVMC s messaging behavior is a thumb in the ear of an ill person.–[email protected]

Suzi Wizowaty: Why we need more restorative justice

Editor s note: This commentary is by Suzi Wizowaty, who is the executive director of Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform[1]. She is a former member of the Vermont House of Representatives.

I have been known to say, a few hundred times, that punishment doesn t work. That is to say, it works if your goal is to cause suffering. But it doesn t work if you want to make things better as a result, for example to reduce future crime, because the human beings we punish tend to emerge more damaged as a result that is, more prone to hurt others, rather than chastened or rehabilitated and propelled to a better, kinder, more responsible life.

The question then becomes, what s the alternative? There is an alternative, but look what happens when well-meaning people who want to avoid the destructive consequences of punishment are not able to access the alternative, either because it doesn t exist or because they don t know it exists. Here s an example (true story): In a semi-public setting, a man assaulted a woman grabbed her and tried to force himself on her. She got away, was not harmed physically, and immediately told those in charge of the setting. The man was asked to leave the premises and did. The woman did not want to involve the police. Her reason: He was an immigrant and she feared he might be deported, which she felt was an extreme sanction.

(Let me make very clear that he could just as easily have been a long-term Vermonter or a local college student; the point is not that he was an immigrant but that well-intentioned Vermonters have very real concerns about the overreaction of our criminal justice system in this case potential deportation and now more than ever.)

Adults who continue to engage in destructive behaviors whether merely socially unacceptable or truly harmful often need a more significant intervention. Reading this, one might have several reactions. That was stupid, he should have been punished. Or yes, that was a generous and right thing to do, because the criminal justice system is unpredictable and racially biased and you can t count on fairness. Or perhaps something in between, like, that was potentially dangerous; with no consequences, he s likely to do it again to someone else. But that s not the end of the story. What happened next is this: The same man appeared a few months later in the same setting, this time as a security guard, on contract from a local company. One of the workers recognized him and spoke with those in charge. (Another woman who knew of the earlier event immediately fled, in response to her own PTSD panic.) The company was called and a different security guard requested.

What is wrong with this scenario? What s missing? What s missing is any kind of accountability that might support internal change on this man s part. What s wrong is the equating of punishment with accountability. Were those involved in the first incident wrong not to involve the police? No. Because in fact in our current system of criminal justice, punishment often precludes true accountability that is, discourages it and often literally makes it impossible, by prohibiting contact between the two parties. But then, what might accountability rather than punishment look like? This is where restorative justice comes in. Restorative justice stresses accountability. The process asks some version of the following: What happened (who was hurt?)? What do the various parties need? Who has an obligation to address the needs/repair the harm/restore the relationships, and how will that be done?

Now, I don t know that a restorative process would have worked in this situation. I wasn t there, and don t know the parties personally. But the chances are good. We know this because statistically, those involved in restorative processes report higher satisfaction with the process, and the recidivism rate is lower. It s important to note that those who spend their lives fighting to end sexual violence have raised legitimate concerns about the viability of a system that assumes participants have equal power (i.e. restorative justice processes); others have noted that the current criminal justice system has a host of problems that render it ineffective at best and harmful at worst. It doesn t address victims needs, and it doesn t ensure any change on the part of the offender (and as noted can result in worse outcomes). Perhaps most significantly, because getting the state involved has the potential to further harm a family, victims often choose not to seek help at all until problems have escalated to the point of life-threatening danger. But it s important to note that in the example above, the imagined alternative doesn t require the woman affected to sit in a circle with the man who assaulted her, to confront him directly, even if supported by community members. That s one possibility, and it tends to provide satisfaction to those who choose it. But a victim-centered process can have as great an impact when others represent the victim, who may choose not be present.

This particular story has no end. It s entirely possible that the man featured in it learned something on his own about appropriate behavior with women. However, adults who continue to engage in destructive behaviors whether merely socially unacceptable or truly harmful often need a more significant intervention. Not punishment, and certainly not jail, but an experience of being held truly accountable, and allowed to make things right, to the extent possible. That is the alternative that more of us need to know about, and that needs to be made more available to address interpersonal harm.


  1. ^ Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform (

Senate Democrats seek to rescind Trump border-wall order

Senate Democrats Seek To Rescind Trump Border-wall Order

(MGN graphic)

Senate Democrats Seek To Rescind Trump Border-wall Order

(MGN graphic)

WASHINGTON – Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., joined 22 other senators late last week in introducing legislation to rescind President Trump s executive order to construct a border wall and ramp up deportations and detentions of undocumented immigrants. Trump s executive order, signed January 25, mandates the immediate planning and construction of a wall along the entirety of the U.S. southern border with Mexico, expands the controversial 287(g) program that allows state and local authorities to carry out federal immigration statutes, requires Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to hire 5,000 additional agents, and calls for increased removals and detentions of undocumented immigrants.

If the president wants to reform our immigration system, he should start with a bipartisan proposal in Congress, not this harmful executive order that would stick taxpayers with a massive bill, Wyden said. Mass deportations round up innocent people who contribute to our communities every day. It s hard to see how kicking out these Oregonians makes us any safer. In addition to Wyden, the bill was introduced Thursday by Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Chris Coons, D-Del., Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., Tammy Duckworth D-Ill., Richard Durbin, D-Ill., Al Franken, D-Minn., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Tim Kaine, D-Va., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Ed Markey, D-Mass., Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Patty Murray, D-Wash., Jack Reed, D-R.I., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. are original co-sponsors of the legislation.

The bill can be found here[1].

Here are the opponents’ arguments against construction of an expanded border wall:

The proposed wall would be incredibly expensive, with American taxpayers set to bear the cost. The non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimates that it will cost $21 billion to build the wall, not including the costs to acquire land. The President maintains that Mexico will pay for the wall, a claim that Mexico and most Republicans deny. The Trump Administration is considering unacceptable cuts to important DHS agencies in Fiscal Year 2018, including the Coast Guard and Transportation Security Administration (TSA), on top of an increase in DHS s overall budget in order start to pay for expenses associated with this ill-advised executive order. These cuts will harm aviation security and drug interdiction efforts, likely making Americans less secure.

There is no evidence that more wall is needed. There are already some 650 miles of fencing at the border where DHS has determined it is most effective. The non-partisan GAO has found that DHS has no metrics showing how much additional security benefit a border wall would add. The terrain at the border cannot be secured with a one-size-fits-all solution. Areas that have not been walled off include remote mountaintops and difficult to access riverbeds; privately owned land; and areas monitored by aerostats, motion sensors, and other proven force multiplier technologies; and deserts. President Trump s executive order does little besides deliver on a campaign promise to build a wall despite the proven effectiveness of less costly solutions to enhance our border security.

The aggressive construction timeline has high potential for waste. DHS has faced challenges staying on schedule and budget when making major acquisitions in the past, and acquisitions remain on the Department s high-risk list. Despite these challenges, the President s Executive Order requires the Secretary to construct a wall before he has even had the chance to assess what is needed to secure our border. This backwards timeline is a surefire way to waste taxpayer funds on an unnecessary wall, when other solutions would be more effective.

The executive order ramps up immigration enforcement programs that have proven to be costly and ineffective.The executive order also calls for the construction of new detention facilities at our southern border, which will likely house nonviolent undocumented immigrants at great expense to the taxpayer. Additionally, the order would grow the force of CBP agents by nearly 25%, necessitating a cut in hiring and training standards and leading the agency to hire candidates susceptible to corruption by drug cartels.


  1. ^ here (https)
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