May 24, 2018

Healthy CVU boys hockey team set for playoff opener2/19/09

Feb. 19, 2009

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

The Redhawks are no longer the Blue Cross brigade.

On Tuesday, Coach Doug Hopper declared his ice combine in great health as it prepares for Saturday’s Division 1 quarterfinal playdown against seventh seeded (10-10) Burlington High. The puck drops at 12:20 p.m. on home ice at Cairns Arena in South Burlington.

CVU (11-6-3), which stormed to solid wins in its final two regular season games, was seeded second. A victory Saturday will boost the Redhawks, last year’s championship runners-up, into a semifinal match at the University of Vermont’s Gutterson Field House Feb. 25.

“Burlington is a tough team,” Hopper said of the Seahorses, with whom the Redhawks divided a pair of regular season fixtures.

CVU won 4-2 in December at Cairns, but then fell 5-3 in late January at BHS’ Leddy Arena.

Essex High, which nipped CVU in last year’s title game, finished 12-6-2 and claimed the top seed. If records prevail as seeded, the two would meet again for the crown.

But not so fast, Hopper warned.

“This is going to be one tough, tough tournament,” he forecast. “This league is very close this year.”

Aiding the outlook for CVU is that the team is healthy for the first time since the first period of opening night back in the first week of December. As many as six players have missed ice time due to an unusual series of injuries.

But on Saturday, in the final regular season game against a strong Spaulding High team in Barre, Hopper said he was able to fill out the lineup sheet with all names for the first time since that opening contest.

Facing a Crimson Tide team that scored a 2-1 victory over them a month ago at Cairns, the Redhawks got flying early in the second period and soared to a 5-0 victory.

A Robbie Dobrowski to Nate Lacroix feed set up the first CVU goal early in the second period. The Hawks took over from there, with Derek Goodwin, Wes O’Brien, Dobrowski and Tim Reichert adding tallies. Reichert also had three assists, according to Hopper.

The coach also praised the penalty killing efforts of J.P. Benoit and Andrew Childs, who helped nullify four CVU excursions to the cooler. Goalie Mark Albertson had 21 saves in racking up his third shutout.


[Read more…]

Boys ride hot streak into hoops playoffs2/19/09

Feb. 19, 2009

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

Last Saturday, the Champlain Valley Union High boys basketball team barbequed the cords in popping visiting North Country Union High 71-33.


    Observer photo by Ben Sarle
Chris Beaton (2), a Champlain Valley Union High junior, drives against a North Country Union High player on Saturday. The Redhawks won the game 71-33, and faced North Country again after press deadline on Wednesday in an opening round playoff game.


    Observer photo by Ben Sarle
Champlain Valley Union High sophomore Jake Donnelly (1) puts up a shot against North Country Union on Saturday.

On Wednesday, North Country, 10-10 and seeded 10th in the Division 1 playoffs, was back at Bremner Gymnasium for a playoff test with the 12-8 Redhawks, a ticket to the quarterfinals riding on the outcome.

The game was set to be played after press deadline, and the winner would play again on Saturday, facing the victor between 15th-seeded Mount Mansfield Union (3-17) and second-seeded Rice Memorial High (18-2).

In running past the Falcons, the Redhawks canned 26 of 51 shots from the floor, the second straight game they unleashed a 50-plus percent shooting bonanza on a foe. CVU popped the strings at a 55 percent clip (23-42) in a stellar 74-64 triumph at Essex High (13-7) last Thursday night.

“When we are unselfish, we are a good offensive team,” coach Scott Bliss noted after the North Country victory. “We were unselfish and we got to the rim.”

There was little doubt about the game’s outcome as CVU rolled up a 19-5 lead by the end of the first quarter and carried on swishingly to a 35-16 halftime advantage.

The trio of Js — Jack Jesset, Jake Donnelly and John Donnelly — all finished in double figures in scoring and with plenty of other solid marks as well. Jesset had 13 points while leading in rebounds and assists with 12 and six. Jake Donnelly collected 16 points with two rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots.

John Donnelly had 15 points, 11 rebounds, two steals, one assist and one blocked shot.

An improving bench, led by guard Chris Beaton with seven points, contributed a total of 25 tallies, six rebounds and four assists.

Defensively, the Redhawks limited the Falcons to 10-of-38 shooting from the floor.

In the win over Essex, a team that had handled CVU earlier in the season at Bremner Gym, Jake Donnelly hit 6 of 10 shots from the floor and 7 of 11 from the line for a game-high 19 points to go with five rebounds and three assists.

John Donnelly collected 18 points, eight rebounds, five steals and two assists, while Ryan Poirier dropped in 15 points, including a pair of treys, pulled down five rebounds and passed off for three assists. Robert Russ chipped in 10 points, five rebounds and two assists.

Jesset got eight points to go with five rebounds and three thefts.

The first quarter was problematic. CVU committed eight turnovers against the Hornets’ trapping 2-1-2 zone while Essex bolted in front behind four (count ‘em, gulp, four) three-point buckets.

But then the Hawks got the hang of quick passing over and around the shifting zone, stopped the treys on the defensive end and proceeded to shoot the lights out. The good shooting was a very good thing, since the Hornets hit 50 percent themselves (27-54).

Coach Seth Emerson’s junior varsity Redhawks whacked North Country 52-29 to finish the season with a glowing 16-4 record.


North Country Union (33)

Ingram 4 8-12 16, Pinard 2 2-4 6, Patten 1 0-0 2, Grondin 0 0-0 0, Batista 2 0-0 5, Royer 0 2-8 2, Medley 0 0-0 0, Kennison 0 0-0 0, Warner 1 0-0 2, Adam 0 0-0 0. Totals 10 12-24 33.

CVU (71)

Jesset 5 3-5 13, Ja. Donnelly 4 7-7 16, Jo. Donnelly 7 0-0 15, Poirier 1 0-0 2, Duke 0 0-1 0, Beaton 3 1-1 7, Russ 0 0-0 0, Nigh 1 0-0 3, Hurd 1 2-4 4, Gale 3 0-0 6, Leckerling 0 2-2 2, Lambert 1 1-2 3. Totals 26 16-22 71.

NCU    5    11    13    4 – 33

CVU    19    17    14    21 – 71


[Read more…]

Trip to Barre wraps up regular season for girls hoopsters2/19/09

Feb. 19, 2009

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

Hoping to improve their playoff seeding, the Champlain Valley Union High girls basketball team will close out the regular season Thursday night in Barre against 16-3 Spaulding High.

The Crimson Tide edged CVU 43-41 at Hinesburg in mid-January.

On Tuesday night, the 10-9 Redhawks saw a three-game winning streak end at Burlington High, where the 15-4 Seahorses prevailed 51-39.

Allison Gannon scored 19 points to lead all scorers. It was Burlington’s second triumph over CVU.

The Redhawks’ late season string of victories culminated with a tense 41-38 triumph over visiting Essex High (11-7) Friday night when Gannon sank three of four free throws in the final seconds to snap a 38-38 tie.

Gannon, the veteran junior, misfired on the first of two with 17.3 seconds remaining. Essex coach Shawn Montague called a timeout after the miss, apparently hoping to increase the foul shooter’s anxiety.

Didn’t work.

“I was nervous on the first shot, but I was able to relax during the time out,” Gannon said after the game.

“If he (Montague) had not called the timeout, I would have,” CVU coach Stan Williams said with a grin after the game.

She sank the second charity shot and then swished two more with five seconds left to clinch the hard-earned win.

CVU, which trailed 17-15 after a rugged and ragged first half of physical play and turnovers galore, raised the quality level of its participation in the third quarter as senior Kendal Kohlasch struck for nine points to kick-start what until then had been an unproductive (4-for-16 in the first half) offense.

The Redhawks, led by Gannon in the fourth quarter, charged to 34-28 and 36-30 leads before Essex came back to tie at 36 with 2:30 to go.

Kohlasch put CVU up 38-36, sinking one of two foul shots at 2:13 and again with 49 seconds left.

Antonia Armstrong-Laird put back a rebound for Essex to forge the final tie at 40 seconds.

Gannon got nine of her game-high 17 points in the fourth quarter, helped by Kohlasch, who twice found her inside with deft passes for easy hoops. Senior Becca Russ — it was seniors and their parents night — got all of her four points and two of her six rebounds in the final reel.

Assist leaders were Amanda Kinneston with four, Kohlasch with three and Carlee Evans and Kendall Berry with two each.

Defensively, CVU relied primarily on a zone defense to hold Essex to 17 baskets in 60 shots. The Redhawks also kept fouls to a minimum, allowing the Hornets just five tries from the line, where they made three.


[Read more…]

Redhawk gymnasts land third place at states2/19/09

CVU has bright prospects for next season

Feb. 19, 2009

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

A third place finish in the Vermont State Meet was a tad below expectations, but Champlain Valley Union High gymnastics co-coach Rachel Miller believes the Redhawks will bounce right back up into a position to challenge next year.


    Observer photo by Pogo Senior
Champlain Valley Union High gymnast Kiley Bourdeau spins over the mat as part of her floor routine during Saturday’s state championship meet.


    Observer photo by Pogo Senior
Corynn Benoit, a junior on the CVU gymnastics team, leaps off the balance beam during the state meet.

Essex High’s veterans did meet expectations and then some, winning the team competition with a record-setting 146.05 points. Essex was led by senior Mary Krug, who easily captured all-around honors for the fourth straight year.

The meet was held Saturday afternoon at Essex High School.

The Redhawks, seeded second in the meet after losing only to the eventual champions during the regular season, wound up third (125.550) behind runner-up St. Johnsbury Academy (127.775).

CVU was without its top individual performer, Ashley Bachand, who was sidelined with the flu.

“Ashley has been sick for about three days,” said Miller. “The others had to step it up and they did.”

Senior co-captain Kiley Bourdeau led the CVU team with an eighth place in all-around. She finished in a tie for sixth on the vault, seventh in floor exercise and ninth on the uneven bars and the balance beam.

CVU’s other co-captain, Bethany Karstens, was eighth on the bars.

Krug captured victories on the bars (an astonishing 9.6 score) and beam, took second to teammate Mary Parmenter in floor exercise, and was sixth on the vault.

Essex swept the top three places in all-around, plus fifth place. Three of the Hornets top performers — Krug, Kimmy Dirmaier and Becca Lee — are seniors, a fact not lost on Miller.

“We have a good group coming back, plus some talented people coming in,” said Miller. “We are looking forward to next season.”

Bourdeau and Karstens were the lone seniors.


[Read more…]

Education Briefs2/19/09

Feb. 19, 2009

Youth Risk Behavior Survey

Students at Champlain Valley Union High School will participate in a Youth Risk Behavior Survey on March 5. The survey is given every two years in Chittenden South Supervisory Union, and asks students about nutrition, alcohol, tobacco and other drug use, physical exercise, injuries and sexual behavior.

The survey is anonymous, and individual responses are not disclosed to anyone. Still, the survey is optional. Though CVU wants all students to participate, students can opt out of taking the survey, and parents and guardians can review the survey before it is administered. To keep their child from participating, parents and guardians must file a written request with the school by Feb. 27.

The survey is sponsored by the Vermont Department of Education and the Office of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs.

For questions, contact Jen Bickel at 482-6951.

Seeking chess champs

Young chess players should start honing their skills — the Vermont State Scholastic Chess Championships are taking place on April 11 in Berlin.

Vermont students from kindergarten through grade 12 are eligible to compete. Classes exist for each grade from kindergarten through sixth grade, middle school (grades seven and eight) and high school (grades nine through 12).

The tournament will follow standard United States Chess Federation rules, and be held at Berlin Elementary School.

Complete rules and registration information can be found online at or by contacting Tournament Director Mike Stridsberg at or 802-223-1948.

Spirit week at Williston Central School

Students at Williston Central School are spending the week participating in workshops for the annual “Related Arts Theme Week.” This year’s theme is “Hands across the community.”

Workshops and features tied to the theme include beaded bracelets for autism awareness, songwriting, rugby and jugglers in the community. The culmination celebration takes place on Friday.

For more information, contact teachers Andy Smith or Jenn Oakes at 878-2762 or visit the school’s Web site at


[Read more…]

Recipe Corner2/19/09

Great tasting meatless meals

Feb. 19, 2009

By Ginger Isham

In the past, farm dinners consisted mainly of beef, pork and chicken — because we raised a beef cow, a pig and our own chickens. Sometimes we had canned salmon made into gravy and served over mashed potatoes or on crackers or toast.

Times have certainly changed. I still like a pot roast with vegetables or a pork roast with mashed potatoes and gravy or a chicken pie with vegetables and biscuits baked on top. And then there was the ham dinner with mashed potatoes and brown gravy. But today we have many different kinds of food, and more choices with fewer calories. Nowadays, I like making spaghetti sauce without ground beef or meatballs, and I add broccoli, cauliflower and carrots in place of meat. An Alfredo sauce served over linguine or fettuccine is good, too.

Light Alfredo sauce with pasta

1 pound fettuccine or linguine (cook as directed)

1 1/2 tablespoons butter

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 1/2 tablespoons flour

2 cups skim milk

3 tablespoons light cream cheese

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons fresh parsley

In a saucepan, melt butter and add garlic and cook and stir 30 seconds. Stir in flour and gradually whisk in the milk. Cook until mixture comes to a boil and thickens. Remove and add cheeses and parsley. Heat until cheeses melt. Toss with pasta and serve. Can add cubes of cooked chicken (if you can’t live without meat) and broccoli to the sauce.

Asian salmon burgers with dilled yogurt sauce

1 14-ounce can of pink or red salmon

1 medium boiled potato

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Mash salmon and potato; mix in soy sauce, ginger and garlic. Form into 4 patties. Sprinkle with black pepper. Spray with olive oil and grill on each side for 4 minutes. Can fry in hot skillet or use oven broiler.

Make sauce with 1 cup fat-free plain yogurt mixed with 1/3 cup fresh dill and salt to taste.

Aunt Jean’s baked fish

In dish one: mix 1/3 cup flour and 1/4 teaspoon pepper

In dish two: mix 1 egg with 2 tablespoons water

In dish three: mix 2/3 cup crushed corn flakes (crush corn flakes in plastic bag with rolling pin), 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Cut 1 to 1 1/4 pounds of haddock into serving size pieces. Cover pieces with flour mix in dish one, dip in egg mixture in dish two and coat with crumb mix in dish three. Place in lightly greased baking dish and bake at 425 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. Great served with tarter sauce or lemon juice. Delicious and easy.

Ginger Isham was the co-owner of Maple Grove Farm Bed & Breakfast in Williston, a fifth generation family farm on Oak Hill Road where she still lives.


[Read more…]

Letters to the Editor2/19/09

Feb. 19, 2009


Local elections will be held on Tuesday, March 3. Please note the Observer will not run any Letters to the Editor pertaining to the elections on Feb. 26, the week prior to the election.

All Letters to the Editor written in regards to the March 3 election had a deadline of Monday, Feb. 16. No additional election-related letters will appear in the Observer.

Contents of President Lincoln’s pockets

On Oct. 28, 1937, Mrs. Charles Isham (President Abraham Lincoln’s granddaughter) handed a shoebox-sized metal box wrapped in brown paper and tied with a string to the librarian at the Library of Congress to be kept in the library safe.

In the bicentennial year of this country, it was decided to open the box. Inside were items taken from the body of President Lincoln after he died. The most interesting item was a $5 Confederate bill. Other items were a handkerchief embroidered with “A. Lincoln,” a penknife, a mate-less cufflink, a watch fob, a folding pair of eyeglasses in a small case, another pair of glasses — broken, as the temple piece was held together with a piece of string — and a newspaper clipping from 1863 with the heading “Disaffection Among Southern Soldiers.” A second piece of paper was a letter to an editor of an unidentified newspaper that included a quote from a letter to Horace Greeley from a British reformer named John Bright who supported the Union cause. It read, “It is not because they believe Mr. Lincoln to be wiser or better than all other men on your continent but they think they have observed in his career a ground of purpose and patriotism which knows no change or does not falter.”

No one knows who removed these items from the president’s pockets. The box of items were given to the president’s son, Robert Todd Lincoln, who later turned them over to his daughter, Mrs. Mary Harlan Lincoln Isham.

This information was condensed and taken from our family genealogy book.

Ginger Isham



McCullough’s ‘misguided’ bill

Jim McCullough’s proposal to give a preference to Vermont-based businesses on state contracts (“Bill gives Vt. firms first shot at state contracts,” Feb. 12) is misguided.

His bill in the Legislature, H. 164, would require that projects be awarded to in-state businesses even though the same work could be done by out-of-state firms at less cost. This would increase the cost of projects, raise taxes for Vermonters already taxed to the hilt, penalize efficient businesses, reward inefficient businesses, mangle the marketplace’s unique ability to allocate resources and create yet another barrier to prosperity in this state. Even local businesses would not benefit, as they would have less incentive to provide goods and services at a reasonable price.

At the same time, McCullough opposes measures truly helpful to Vermont businesses such as lower taxes, less costly permitting, accountability in public education and improved transportation. Fortunately, it is not likely this bill will get out of the Government Operations Committee.

Bret P. Powell



[Read more…]

Guest Column2/19/09

Don't stop marketing during the tough times

Feb. 19, 2009

By Liz Schlegel

The economic news gets worse every day, and people are starting to react to it by cutting spending — even if they have money. This is a tough situation, and it can cause a vicious cycle. Here’s some advice: Stop paying so much attention to the news, and don’t change your good habits because of it.

Good habits are the marketing things you do frequently and consistently, that keep your business visible and engaged in the community. It could be your advertising, or your customer mailings, or your store window displays. These are things you do well, and the message they send to your customers is a strong one: It says you are OK (and by extension, so is the community).

With cash getting tight, it’s a natural instinct to hold it close and not spend. There are places where that is wise, and there are places where that is a mistake. It’s wise to seek lower-cost alternatives and to be upfront with your vendors, lenders and investors. Ask for a better deal, or make more favorable payment arrangements, or be cautious around hiring.

But it’s short-sighted to cut way back on your marketing during a downturn. Instead, you should have a good understanding of all your marketing initiatives, and understand why you do them and what they cost you. Then, you can make good decisions about the ones to maintain — or even increase — during this time. Cutting back on everything will not only damage your short-term sales — it could get you into a spiral which will be hard to get out of.

For example, if you are a business that depends on local traffic — a retail shop or restaurant — then it would be risky to eliminate your newspaper or radio advertising. People in a small community such as Williston’s pay attention to advertising, and we all notice what’s happening with our local media outlets. Potential shoppers or diners might think your business was in trouble — and then they would stop coming to it!

Instead, this may be a time to think about new creative ads, or adding value to your ads by including educational information (rather than just promotional info). Make sure you’re getting good value for your media investment, and run ads that are well-produced and effective.

I’m not suggesting you just keep chugging along — this is not the time for complacency! What I am advocating is a thoughtful examination of the marketing activities you do for your business, and evaluating the short- and long-term effects of potential changes. You may be able to find new ways to communicate with customers and prospects — and isn’t that what social media is all about?! — but it doesn’t necessarily mean you should ditch all of the old ways of communicating.

One last word on social media: Jason Pelletier (a partner in Found Line) and I gave a presentation on social media last week; it was sponsored by the Vermont Small Business Development Center and Central Vermont Economic Development Corp. The slides can be viewed online at

Liz Schlegel and her family have lived in Waterbury since 1996. Liz is business director at Found Line in Burlington, helping organizations large and small solve marketing problems. E-mail her at

This column originally appeared in The Waterbury Record.


[Read more…]

Right to the Point2/19/09

Dear President George W. Bush

Feb. 19, 2009

By Mike Benevento

Thank you for all the hard work you did these past eight years for the American people.

Because of your decisive and determined actions following Sept. 11, as The Wall Street Journal observed, “Not a single man, woman or child has been killed by terrorists on U.S. soil since the morning of September 11.” For that, I’m extremely thankful.

Right after taking office, you proposed the No Child Left Behind Act. This bipartisan law improves schools by increasing standards. As Barron’s Editorial Page Editor Thomas Donlan noted, “Mandating testing in public schools forced some states to identify and study their schools’ failures.”

Early on, you reinstituted the Mexico City Policy, which banned U.S. funding for international family-planning groups involved with abortion. Later in your presidency, you kept your pro-life promise by signing the partial birth abortion ban — a bill President Bill Clinton refused to sign.

Alas, just three days after you left office, America’s world standing took a hit when President Barack Obama rescinded the Mexico City Policy — effectively putting American taxpayers in the business of funding abortions throughout the world.

During your term, you pushed three tax-cut bills through Congress. You promoted Social Security reform and championed judicial appointees who support strict interpretations of the Constitution. Additionally, Congress expanded coverage for senior citizens by passing into law your Medicare prescription drug program.

Your unyielding resolve following the unprovoked Sept. 11, 2001 attacks defined your presidency. Immediately afterwards, you took action to prevent further terrorist strikes in the United States.

You reversed course from President Clinton regarding the use of military force to protect America. Realizing our criminal justice system inadequately deters terrorists, you kept America safer by rightfully treating them and those who attack Americans on the battlefield as enemy combatants.

You announced an aggressive global war on terror and invaded Afghanistan after the Taliban refused to stop harboring al Qaeda. You advocated the Patriot Act, which the Senate passed with a 98-1 vote weeks later. In your 2002 State of the Union Address, you defined North Korea, Iran and Iraq as an Axis of Evil that sponsors terrorism and seeks weapons of mass destruction.

Finally, your Bush Doctrine laid out America’s foreign policy principles. They include defending the United States against terrorism and regimes that aid terrorists. The doctrine promotes spreading democracy and calls for preemptive and unilateral engagement if necessary when our country is in imminent danger.

Lest you think I have only good things to say about your presidency, rest assured I did not agree with many of your decisions.

Despite the economic and national security threat to our nation, Congress and your administration did little to stem the flow of illegal aliens across our borders. In fact, your laissez-faire approach to border security and calls for amnesty actually encouraged more illegal — rather than legal — immigration into America.

A major mistake was presiding over massive increases in government spending. Instead of trimming domestic programs in a time of war, Congress continued to spend — often with your blessing. While you watched, the size of the federal government expanded, adding $4 trillion to the national debt.

Republicans like you are supposed to stand for fiscally conservative values. Americans do not support Republicans who abandon their principles. The Republican Party rightfully paid dearly in last November’s polls.

(You will be glad to know that the January election of former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele as chairman of the Republican National Committee is a big step in the right direction.)

Let’s face it; you are bashed more than any president in modern history. “1-20-09” stickers are still seen on many bumpers. Bush haters abound. Whether deserved or not, you were blamed for almost all of America’s ills, from the seemingly slow Hurricane Katrina response to fixing the price of oil relatively high so Halliburton and your oil buddies could make a financial killing. Heck, many kooks still believe Sept. 11 was an inside job orchestrated by you and Vice President Dick Cheney.

If future travel takes you to Vermont, Calvin, Matthew, Kristine and I extend you and your family an open invitation for dinner at our home. As a former co-owner of the Texas Rangers, you know there is no better place than at the ballpark to catch up with friends — and Vermont has one of the best. After dinner, we’ll take you to Centennial Field to watch the Lake Monsters play. We can chat about baseball, politics and family. It will be our way of saying thanks. Heck, I’ll even spring for some Champ Chips — the new fried pickle concession specialty.

Michael Benevento is a former Air Force fighter jet weapon systems officer. He has a bachelor’s degree in Military History and a master’s in International Relations. Mike resides in Williston with his wife Kristine and their two sons, Matthew and Calvin.


[Read more…]

Liberally Speaking2/19/09

The problem with the truth

Feb. 19, 2009

By Steve Mount

When Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy starts talking about truth-telling, people start to get squirmy. It’s odd — truth-telling should be a goal for all of us, but especially for public servants, for our elected representatives.

Leahy has a plan to create a Truth Commission, to place in the sunlight the most controversial acts of the Bush administration. There are several goals in such exposure. First, exposure gives us a chance to take a sober look at what happened and decide for ourselves if it was all necessary.

Second, exposure shows us places where our system of checks and balances might have failed, and shows where the underpinnings of that system might need to be reinforced.

Lastly, exposure shows the rest of the world that we can admit our mistakes and rise above them.

But when President Barack Obama was asked about the establishment of a Truth Commission, his response was, as described by the Associated Press, “lukewarm.”

I understand Obama’s reticence. He wants to place laser-like focus on the economy right now, putting policies in place to create and maintain jobs, to ensure that struggling homeowners stay in their homes, to get credit flowing. These are all critically important, and he’s loath to support any distraction from those goals.

“My view is also that nobody’s above the law,” Obama said last week, “and if there are clear instances of wrongdoing, that people should be prosecuted just like any ordinary citizen … but my general orientation is to say let’s get it right moving forward.”

I’m in general agreement with the president’s conclusion here — that we need to move forward. However, I agree more with his statement that no one is above the law and people should be held accountable for wrongdoing.

Basically, there are three schools of thought on the whole issue. One was voiced by former Bush aide Mark Thiessen, who said that such a commission would expose the facts about American interrogation techniques, exposure that would be “terribly dangerous.”

Those kinds of remarks make me incredulous. Are you honestly saying that violations of American law, international law and basic human rights should not be exposed because Al Qaeda would then know what we did? This creates an institutional loophole for abuses of power. Cloak the abuses in “national security” and the abuses become un-checkable.

The second school of thought says that we must prosecute everyone from the people who performed torture and should have refused to, all the way up to the person who explicitly or tacitly authorized the torture itself.

Beyond the feeling that justice needs to be served, constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley points out that we have treaty obligations in place in regards to investigating allegations of torture. Turley supports prosecutions, but is incredulous himself over Obama’s lack of support for even a Truth Commission.

“I have great respect for (Obama),” Turley said, “but you cannot say that no one is above the law and block the investigation of the war crimes by your predecessor. It is a position without principle.”

Despite my sense of justice, though, I cannot imagine actual trials having the effect that Leahy’s Truth Commission would have. Those who would be prosecuted would undoubtedly be the lowest-level worker bees, who are actually the least culpable. The prosecution of someone at the level of a department secretary, or even higher, would drag on for years, tangled in so much red tape and black redaction that we might never get the answers we need.

That leaves us with the third school, Leahy’s school. Forget about prosecution — let’s just get it out there. Tell the truth about wire tapping, about political hiring and firing in the Justice Department, about bad intelligence. Tell the truth about torture.

According to Mary Robinson, president of the International Commission of Jurists, our actions are being used as justification by other nations: “We were getting evidence of practices of torture, et cetera … Somehow the laws had changed, the situation had changed, and when we countered that, they would say, well look what’s happening in the United States … Our concern was that countries that were champions of upholding the rule of law had compromised those standards in the name of countering terrorism.”

We should never have compromised those standards. It seems pretty clear that we did. The perpetrators should be punished, but that just may not be practical. At the very least, we should learn the truth, so that we can keep it from happening again.

Steve Mount has been a Williston resident since 1996. He is a software engineer at GE Healthcare and is devoted to his family, his country and his Constitution. You can reach Steve at or read his blog at


[Read more…]