Follow the Money to Understand F-35 Basing

Demolition of Houses Around Burlington Airport

Brilliantly, no real estate developer had to put any of their own money in: Taxpayers, like you and me, paid the full price to purchase and demolish the 200 homes that were standing on 44 acres of commercially valuable land facing the airport entrance. The pretext was all too real F-16 noise. But the real reason those homes were selected for purchase and demolition was so land speculators could earn profits by commercially developing that now empty land. The genius of the scheme is that they did not have to risk a dime of their own money to purchase or demolish the homes.

F-16s were scheduled to retire. Without extreme military jet noise continuing after retirement of the F-16s there was no reason to demolish the 200 homes in the first place. There would be no reason for South Burlington to change the zoning of the 44 acres from residential to commercial.  The scheme to turn F-16 noise into money would collapse unless an extremely noisy military jet would replace the F-16.

The scheme was facilitated by political pressure on the Air Force to do something it did not want to do: bring dangerous F-35A fighters to a densely populated city. All so developers could maintain the high noise needed to turn the 44 acres into money for developers.
Oops. The taxpayer funded profit scheme got a bit tangled by 3000 problems: 3000 families, whose affordable homes will not be purchased and demolished, will remain stuck for life in the F-35 noise danger zone that the Burlington Board of Health says causes learning problems for children and heart problems for adults. Too bad for them that these 3000 families will go forward with decades of suffering while the developers enjoy this dangerous plan.

Fortunately, Burlington can put a stop to the whole unpleasant scheme at Town Meeting. Vote “yes” on Ballot Item 6 to cancel the F-35. Do not allow 3000 families to be sacrificed to further enrich the already safe and secure.

Voting for Ballot Item 6 is a way to implement a fundamental right included article 7 of Vermont’s constitution: Article 7: “That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community, and not for the particular emolument or advantage of any single person, family, or set of persons, who are a part only of that community.”  In this case, health and safety for 3000 families and loss of decent affordable housing v. taxpayer funded profit for a handful of developers.
Jimmy Leas

The Februaries

February is the shortest month, and usually the hardest here up north. We have a disease called “the Februaries”. Its symptoms are malaise, dismay, a general sense of why bother. Those of us who enjoy silky stockings and gossamer fabrics, delicate shoes and such, are tired of being swathed in layers of coarse, thick wools and downs, heavy boots and thick socks. Our hands are rough and raw, from shoveling and maybe carrying wood in and out of the house, and we are lucky if our pipes haven’t frozen, our car batteries gone out, or  (if we are more intrepid) if our ears have not been frost-bit while bicycle riding. We have had the cold or the flu for weeks, and it doesn’t seem to go away, no matter what.

But we can be consoled to know that we have only a few more months of winter to go! And then, when we see that it will be slipping away, we remember to enjoy its particular magical beauties: the sparkly starry nights, with soft snowy fairy-dust in the air; the silvery moon gleaming in the silence; the wild slabs of ice thrust up against each other in the river; the manifold animal tracks in the snow; the red cardinal against the white.

It is already getting lighter at night; we can see our way through. Keep on, my friends, keep on.



Twenty-three days into the New Year, so to speak, I am thinking about what newness is possible, probable, desirable.

Is it the white snowy fields, like blank pages spreading out into the distance?
The long, dark nights, the plentiful dream-filled sleep, the emptiness, that suggests some new kind of way of filling up space, a life, the ticking time?

Without a space to breathe and reconsider, it is hard to imagine newness to grow at all. But, on the other hand, without stimulation, discourse, interchange, nothing much will get generated.


In any case, I ordered seeds for the garden: corn and beans and carrots and three kinds of melon and flowers and herbs and beets and squash and pumkins. Way early, I know, but a girl can dream of spring whenever she wants, right?

I think, ultimately, that newness is possible, even unstoppable. Oldness recurs, to be sure. And we can, in many cases, be glad of the comforting, familiar, archetypal patterns. But newness is inevitable, is a feature of what it means to be human, is happening right now. Listen and you will hear it cracking.

Oblomov Wakes Up

Have you read that great Russian novel, Oblomov, about the man who basically never gets out of bed? He is slothful and slovenly, has crumbs in his beard and in between his sheets?

Well, that is how we have been about this website. We have been embodying the most self-indulgent traits of what some critics called the “Superfluous man”. We have not updated the masthead for months. There are no new issues posted since lord knows how long. The blog entries are few and far between. But, really, what is a website if not superfluous?

We have excuses, like all good Oblomovs, but we won’t bother you with them. Perhaps we just did not have the will to begin, or the belief in the improvability of mankind or the aesthetic or utilitarian redemption of mankind. Perhaps we were trying and failing, repeatedly, to get interns to help us with the task?

In any case, the luxurious days of neglect are now coming to an end. We begin, now, a new regime of contemporary American industriousness, to counteract the lovely, lilting delights of 19th century Russian nihilism. Watch out for vigorous reporting and ground-breaking news, insightful commentary and deeply moving suggestions.


As I write, the September issue should be on its way (late) to you, and the October issue is almost ready for printing. Thus, we look ahead to November, the month of our beloved publisher’s birth (and that of many other dear Scorpions). Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness? Season of death and darkness? The title of my favorite Flaubert novel, the month before December?

In honor of such auspicious richness of flavor and chiaroscuro, please send us your most complexly variegated texts and images.

Essays, letters, poems, pictures, visions, stories.

We are, as usual, interested in the crux where utility and beauty meet, in questions of how to be most alively human amid so much that is deadening, in the tension between wildness and civilization, democratic participation and imagination, art and politics, and any ideas about how to make all people’s (and animals’) lives more meaningful in the Lake Champlain Bio-Region and Beyond.

Prose texts should be 750 words or less to fit on one page, or 1500 words or less to fit on two.
Images are subject to cropping or the superimposition of words.

Let us know if you have any questions, comments, complaints.

For November, I need submissions by around October 10th, emailed to
And no, we don’t pay. Apologies.

Most Fondly,

Genese Gorilekova

Call for Submissions: October and November


Please send us your essays, stories, poems, dreamings, schemings, analyses, proposals, photos, drawings, cartoons, designs, inventions
on the tensions between:
Utility and Beauty
Justice and Freedom
Human, Animal, and Machine
Safety and Danger
Moral and Ethical
Boundlessness and Limits
In the Lake Champlain Bio-Region and Beyond.
Prose should be 750 words (for one page) or 1500 (for two).
Images are subject to cropping and the superimposition of words.
We are not able to pay, but you can have as many free magazines as you want.
I need your work, for the October issue, as close to September 10th as possible. For November, as close to October 10th. But send early and often!
Also, Letters to the Lonely Editor are desperately desired.


fecund parc guell

Summer is here and the gardens are overflowing. I was just in Barcelona, at the Fearless Cities Conference with two of my Burlington comrades. One of them, Ibnar A. Stratibus, found the word “fecund” most fitting to describe the smells and sites of this wonderful city, as we walked down the crumbling stairwells through Parc Guell through an abundance of flowering bushes and vines and trees. Life persists, life affirms itself, even as terror and tourism and heartache and commodification and homogenization threaten to deaden our senses and dull our diversity until we are zombies. Life persists! Nature seems sometimes, despite all, to be indefatigable. Let us take Her as our model and insist on growing and striving and joying in being alive no matter what obstacles, no matter how hopeless things might sometimes seem.

Why all the Churning?

Trish and I B & PMud, rain, sleet, sun. We are churning up the muck and it is not always pretty. But it is always beautiful. I went to the Intervale yesterday and there were mushrooms and new buds appearing right before my eyes. A sign told me not to pick the ramps and the fiddleheads. I did not, but I wondered how many others had disregarded the rules. I certainly have picked them at other times, along other paths, innocently enough. People ride by on bicycles. We shed the sweaters, the raincoats, the hats we needed in the morning, and wrap them around our waists or stash them in our bike baskets. People are feeling more feelings than they can stand and in the evenings the music wafts out of the opening and closing doors along North Winooski Avenue, just north of Pearl Street. Who is it who feels alive enough to live up to the Spring? Which of us can meet her without feeling the thorny lacerations of old regrets and new longings? Which of us is stoical enough not to feel disturbed by the stirring of ancient sap underfoot?


Spring Forward

So, it is March, almost “the ides” even, and finally it is wintery cold and wintery clear and quiet. Locally, we have yet another election (March 7th) behind us, following November’s somber fallout. Most of us have “lost”. Our candidates did not win, our ballot items did not get quite enough support, the status quo is still standing, or some new, even more dangerous innovation is in the works. What is there to do? How do we proceed?
17038683_1225493890905245_4098471698047293656_oIn local elections we keep getting 47% of the vote. Almost half. And the majority of people don’t even vote. What does this mean?

Most people say that, at least, people are more politically engaged than before, which is certainly good. But they still did not come out to vote. Why not?

People say, we have to move forward. By this they mean different things:

Keep pushing through projects and ways of living that are destroying the planet and creating increased income inequality and uglification;

Learn to work together with the people who are promoting this kind of moving forward because, well, they are the winners and have all the power, don’t they?


Keep building a movement that will one day be strong enough to inspire more people to believe in the possibility and necessity of another way of life. Keep strengthening neighborhood power and expanding our connections with each other so that one day we will break the 47% ceiling and break on through to a city where the decisions about our lives are in the hands of the people who live here. Spring Forward Neighbors!

The Pleasure and Power of Backyard Politics

Following the recent Public Hearing on Burlington’s downtown zoning change, after various factions had gone off to compare notes, nurse wounds, and celebrate what each was claiming as victory, I ran into a City Councilor and another vociferous “multi-use-mall-housing-office-parking garage-structure” supporter, who suggested that all sides should keep partying. I demurred, saying I had too much work to do, fighting city hall. The Councilor surprised me by quoting Emma Goldman’s line, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be a part of your revolution”. It was not that I couldn’t imagine him dancing (I am sure he can cut a good rug), but that I found it incongruous that a man who had recently called some community organizers in Burlington “N.I.M.B.Y.” (Not in My Back Yard) “attack dogs” chose to quote the words of a notorious anarchist agitator―with apparent approbation.  What would he be calling Emma if she were a contemporary concerned citizen of Burlington?! It also made me wonder about the tensions between pleasure and politics and the terrible tendency politics has of being no fun. Abbie Hoffman, the great yippy agent provocateur who endeavored to levitate the Pentagon and ran a pig for president, knew well how to transcend partisan dogmatism and make politics a party. Most of the time, however, politicians and activists vie with each other to present the worst possible sour faces, squeezing out a well-orchestrated sob for the poor and disenfranchised when necessary, and deploring, castigating, warning, threatening, doomsday-saying, till the cows come home―as if she who is most morally outraged on behalf of others, most piously selfless, is by right the one whose cause is most just. As if she who would willingly have a mote in her own eye or an eyesore in her own backyard were the finest shining example of citizenship.

It occurred to me further, after hearing the Burlington Mayor stigmatize those who were against creating a completely out-of-character zoning in the town center as people who were against equality and affordable housing, how easy it is, in Hamlet’s words, to “smile, and smile, and be a villain”—just as long as you claim you are helping to feed the hungry and house the homeless by doing so.  Building high-rise luxury multi-use mall-office tower-monstrosities with three floors of above-ground parking garages and 80 units of expensive student housing and a very small percentage of affordable housing is, apparently, now a campaign to help “the poor and disenfranchised”. I really might respect Mayor Weinberger more if he would just admit that it gives him pleasure to help developers like himself make money and cleanse the town of riff-raff and impecunious artists and hardly-working troublemakers. Instead, he plays pious. Those against the project also—with greater validity—have used the minimal affordable housing as a justification for not wanting the zoning to go through. Presumably, if we only talked about the views that would be lost, or the ugliness of the structure, or the added traffic that would make our lives less enjoyable, we would be considered N.I.M.B.Y’.s, and our concerns would not be respected as much. But the dichotomy, as the dichotomy between beauty and justice, is a false one.  We don’t have to choose between acting in an ethical manner and fostering lives of pleasure and happiness—for ourselves and others.

The environment can also be manipulated as a free ticket to do atrocious things.  Worrying about the ozone layer gets you more sympathy than complaining about the inconvenience and stress of traffic. In this case, the Mayor has made the disingenuous claim that a huge development, which would put excessive strain on the lake and increase carbon emissions, is the only way we could now require LEED certification, a new storm water runoff system, and to use the McNeil Power Plant for a district energy system that has been clamoring for attention for years—until he suddenly realized that opportunistically promoting it seemed like a good opportunity to sell an unpopular project to the people. Of course we can do all of these ecologically smart things without approving this new zoning change. Those against the project have counted—again, more rightly—their environmental concerns as points for their side, citing the threats to an already-ailing lake, the need for urban green spaces, and a need for a reduction of cars in the city. But if we were to defend the environment only because it is beautiful and pleasurable to experience, we would surely be called selfish N.I.M.B.Y’.s concerned with our lake views. And yet the whole city is the back yard of everyone who lives here.

The environment can be used as a moral cause because it is suffering greatly from human selfishness, because it is fundamental to our physical health, and because it is fundamentally useful (we need it to breathe, for medicines, for food). But what if it were not necessary for our continued existence on the planet?  Would a call to save the endangered redwoods or the monarch butterflies be considered merely frivolous?  Probably. It seems that our administration really does have a hard time letting beauty just be beauty without putting it toward some practical or personal use. Recently, a lovely patch of the bike path which used to be wild and weedy has been transformed into a paved-over work-out center with contraptions for joggers to stretch and tone themselves along the trail. How convenient. How useful. How utterly ugly.

Does this work-out pavement help the poor and disenfranchised? No. Does it decrease the permeable surface which soaks up toxins on their way to the lake? Yes. Not good for the poor, and not good for the eco-system. And not even pleasurable! A paved exercise area may be theoretically in service to personal physical attractiveness or fitness (which others may enjoy by looking), but at what cost to the beauty of the surrounding environment? To human enjoyment of undeveloped, wild nature? But pain trumps pleasure. A sweating jogger can claim that he is aching from all those self-flagellating miles. If a poet misses the field of flowers, well, that’s merely something more for her to lament about in the next ode.  But neither can claim that their suffering in response to this new paved fitness area will help the poor and disenfranchised, those who are unable to run due to old age or infirmity, or those who do not understand poems. The moral posture of helping others by suffering some personal sacrifice is reserved for the hypocritical apologist for bad development who is happy to have an ugly building with a 24-hour fluorescently-lit garage built right next door to his lakefront home. He piously pretends that the presence of these “lofts” lowers rent prices (which it doesn’t). This fortress of “wealthy living” is neither healthy nor socially beneficial to the underprivileged. Perhaps he just gets a perverse pleasure out of making the world uglier because beauty somehow discomforts him.

But why is hypocritical, self-sacrificing suffering such a popular position in political debates? Why should it bear more weight than the tastes and preferences of a self-interested individual who gathers together with other neighbors to protect their view or to limit traffic on their street, or to define, in any way, the boundaries of their small community according to their own interests—aesthetic, practical,  or otherwise? Nietzsche and Wilde, following Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, questioned the concept of “disinterested” criticism in the 19th century, arguing that humans are always interested, always subjective; our judgments are always colored by our tastes and our lives. This interestedness, however, was not seen as a bad thing, but as a meaningful force, a source from which pleasure fountains forth.  Of course, if we considered only ourselves we would not experience much pleasure in either personal or political life. All of our considerations of self-interest must needs consider that we live in the world with others whom we affect and whose lives and interests concern us greatly.  We can assuredly be both other-directed and self-interested at once, just as long as we don’t insist on our “right” to do just any old reckless thing without acknowledging that our own happiness is contingent on the harmony of the neighborhood.

Kant defined ethics as other-directed action, while insisting upon the basic subjective lens of the individual agent. And this is the seeming paradox of existential action: “Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will it to be a general rule” (the categorical imperative) is not that different from “Do unto others…”. That is, an existentialist who is a N.I.M.B.Y. not only doesn’t want a bad development in his own back yard, but doesn’t want that bad development anywhere else either. N.I. A. B.Y.Not in Anyone’s Backyard. But the Nay-Saying must begin wherever we live.  If we don’t say no to bad things in our own back yard, where will we say no to them? And we hope that others, elsewhere, will also say no to things in their back yards that we would deem harmful here. Their success in determining their own communities will inspire us to better cultivate our own gardens at home.

And even though Kant probably did not dance, and may have had precious little pleasure in his highly regimented scholarly life, somehow there is a connection—through Nietzsche and Wilde—to Emma Goldman’s dancing revolution.  True revolutions begin and prosper from a source of personal pleasure (not just against the pain of others), within small communities of people who love and argue with each other, who care about both their built and natural environments, their neighborhoods and traditions; and who work together to protect these things from powerful external forces which impinge on their own home-grown interests, tastes, and sense of ethical community-building. Community groups (“N.I.M.B.Y. attack dogs”) fight outside interests off so that they can win the time and freedom to envision and manifest new ways of living and interacting with each other from back yard to back yard, as existential models of universal resistance and creativity. If we forget what it is we are fighting to preserve—something we might well define as a beautiful, meaningful life—we have already lost.