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October 17th, 2007

The Real Iraq We Knew

FROM THE WASHINGTON POST

By 12 former Army captains
Tuesday, October 16, 2007; 12:00 AM

 

Today marks five years since the authorization of military force in Iraq, setting Operation Iraqi Freedom in motion. Five years on, the Iraq war is as undermanned and under-resourced as it was from the start. And, five years on, Iraq is in shambles.

As Army captains who served in Baghdad and beyond, we've seen the corruption and the sectarian division. We understand what it's like to be stretched too thin. And we know when it's time to get out.

What does Iraq look like on the ground? It's certainly far from being a modern, self-sustaining country. Many roads, bridges, schools and hospitals are in deplorable condition. Fewer people have access to drinking water or sewage systems than before the war. And Baghdad is averaging less than eight hours of electricity a day.

Iraq's institutional infrastructure, too, is sorely wanting. Even if the Iraqis wanted to work together and accept the national identity foisted upon them in 1920s, the ministries do not have enough trained administrators or technicians to coordinate themselves. At the local level, most communities are still controlled by the same autocratic sheiks that ruled under Saddam. There is no reliable postal system. No effective banking system. No registration system to monitor the population and its needs.

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October 11th

Is the sky falling in Middlebury?

By Angelo Lynn

Area residents against any outside development in Middlebury must think the sky is falling.

Within just the past couple of weeks, Middlebury has seen applications to develop a 2,400-square-foot Starbucks coffee house, a 15,000-square-foot Staples, and now a 17,000-square-foot warehouse type building for an Aldi discount food store, plus 4,200 square feet to be leased for commercial/retail uses. Add that to the prospect of Aldi building another office building on an adjacent lot in the future, and the prospect of a 40,000-square-foot commercial building in the downtown behind the Ilsley Library (see stories Page 1A) and that’s a whole lot of change coming down the pike in a hurry.

But is the sky falling down or is this managed growth?

To be fair, the prospects of growth within The Centre Plaza, where Hannafords is located, have always been contemplated. And certainly town officials and residents have been anticipating for the past couple of years some commercial enterprise replacing the dilapidated car wash next to McDonald’s. And to the extent that The Centre Plaza has had the capacity to expand on its existing lot — or could achieve that with adjoining land acquisition — it’s not beyond the pale to believe the town has anticipated a full build-out of that property since its original application.

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September 28th

Of Starbucks & split identities

An undated Associated Press file photo of a Starbucks Coffee Shop in California. This photo is not representative of all Starbucks, nor is it necessarily a rendition of how a Middlebury Starbucks will look.

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Douglas veto

Chalk one up for the governor. He successfully killed the Legislature’s session-long effort to pass legislation that would have helped Vermont residents reduce their dependence on foreign oil, save money on their fuel bills, and reduce the state’s carbon dioxide emissions that are accelerating global warming. He did it by threatening to veto progressive legislation the Democrats proposed throughout the session, and only offering a half-baked counter proposal after the session ended. Worse, during the past several weeks when legislators were scrambling to craft a compromise with the governor and save the best initiatives of the bill, he refused to budge.

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Property Tax Reform

Partisans on both sides of the political aisle in Vermont might wonder why members of either party would want to push raising the income tax as a means of funding education. That, however, is what House Democrats are considering and what Gov. James Douglas has pounced on as if it were a political softball for him to slug out of the park.

The proposal by House Democrats and some House Republicans is simply to reduce the property tax burden on people’s homes and replace it with a higher personal income tax. The theory is simple: the income tax reflects a person’s ability to pay the tax better than a tax on one’s property. Without a doubt, that is true.

But that’s not the issue. The perception of hiking the income tax is the issue to this governor, as is the prospect of creating a tax scenario that could increase overall education spending. It doesn’t even matter if the net tax effect is neutral: what matters is that Vermont would hike its income tax and the governor thinks the perception of increased taxes might discourage businesses and individuals from locating here.

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Getting out of Iraq

As the war in Iraq continues to deteriorate, civil war looms closer on the horizon and the military progress in Iraq is falling far short of President Bush’s own modest goals, it is clear to nearly everyone but this president and a handful of his advisors that it is time to devise another strategy in Iraq.

Diplomacy with allies in the region is one answer, though the collapse of a central power that can provide a modicum of safety for Iraqi residents presents a huge hurdle to overcome. As U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker said late last week, fear now dominates the landscape. “If there is one word I would use to sum up the atmosphere in Iraq — on the streets, in the countryside, in the neighborhoods and at the national level — that word would be fear.”

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Gravel Pits

Gravel pits that currently exist near residential areas are akin to putting matches next to powder kegs: it doesn’t take much of a spark to blow things sky high. That has been true in Bristol as that community has struggled with a proposal to expand a pit close to the downtown owned by the Lathrop family. A similar battle is brewing in East Middlebury with a proposal by J.P. Carrara & Sons to expand an existing pit there (see stories on Page 1A.). In both cases, what’s needed is a big-picture view of current and future residential development within the respective towns along with the recognition by residents that economic benefits can be derived by the respective expansions.

In the case in East Middlebury, the proposed expansion of the gravel pit is a direct benefit to Carrara & Son’s concrete business — a principle factor in the business’s operations for the past several decades. The business is also one of Middlebury’s largest, employing more than 100 area residents with many high-paying jobs.

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Lessons from a peace rally

Students at Vergennes Union High School learned a lot more than just how to speak in public and how to organize an event around an issue during this year’s Peace One Day rally. They also learned the meaning of public activism.

Most importantly, they learned how to do it well.

By “well,” we mean their general approach to the issue of peace. “We may not be able to control what other states or countries are doing, but we can control the world around us or at least our part in it,” said Kelly Burkett in today’s issue of the Addison Independent. (See story Page 3A.) The comment reflects the students’ emphasis on support of peace at all levels or society, rather than a protest against America’s involvement in the war in Iraq.

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