Friday, June 20, 2008

Windham World Affairs Council hears Ambassador Basora

The Windham World Affairs Council of Vermont held its 2008 annual meeting tonight, Friday, June 20, at the Library.

Ambassador Adrian Basora, of the Foreign Policy Institute, gave a talk after the business meeting and coffee.
Basora spoke on the retreat of democracy in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Soviet union and dismantling of their economic political governments, various forms of Communism, and the beginnings of democracy in those countries.

The 28 former communist countries can be looked at in four categories: moderately advanced democracies, emerging democracies, hybrid regimes, and autocracies.

Basora detailed his talk through the use of charts created from Freedom House data. Freedom House is a non-governmental organization which (according to its web site) supports the expansion of freedom in the world. Freedom is possible only in democratic political systems in which the governments are accountable to their own people; the rule of law prevails; and freedoms of expression, association, belief and respect for the rights of minorities and women are guaranteed.

Freedom House was founded by Eleanor Roosevelt and Wendell Wilkie. They publish rankings of freedom for all the countries. Their Nations in Transitions report has been published annually since 1997.

Basora's charts, which were handed out to the audience, display various degrees of freedom that exist in these countries. Emerging democracies are showing promise with
Bulgaria and Romania at the top as what he called developing democracies.

However, support for democracy is weaker in most central European countries than any other place in the world. And this was after the transition from their old economies polls showed at that time they were full
of hope.

The "
authoritarian camp" former 8 Soviet satellites, make up 91% of the land mass, are autocracies. These 8 "sister autocracies" are the most problematic and will be the hardest to reverse.

Fifteen of the 29 former communist are either democracies or emerging democracies, but most are quite small countries, 10 million or less. They count of only 30% of the
population and only 6% of the land mass.

Why the regression after the optimistic democratization of
the 1990's.

1. A resurgent Russia. Putin establishes a highly centralized state and the rise in energy prices have allowed him.

2. Moscow initiates "managed democracy." Sham elections, centralization of power, and professional diplomacy

3. Reduced U.S. influenced and good will due to the Iraqi and
Afghanistan wars. Our focus has shifted from promoting democracy in eastern/central Europe to a quagmire in the M.E.

4. European Union expansion
fatigue: They have turned inward after some failures.

5. Popular disillusionment: There were great hopes that these nations would catch up with Western Europe. GNP went down 30-70% over the first 5 years.

6. Low hanging fruit: many of the earlier democracies were closer to Europe and they already had a middle class. But with the introduction of market economies came inequalities. Sort of a robber baron stage in their development. People saw others getting rich and their security eroded.

Why democracies have regressed. Can they overturn the regression. why should the U.S care? If we cannot get democracies and free economies straight here we will not be able to encourage democracies elsewhere, especially in the Middle East. There should be a new US investment to resist the decline. More subtle and differentiated approach to these countries. We must do more outside of government,
NGO, academia, the media. US cannot impose a democratic style; it must work with people in these nations to promote democracies. Increase investment in the "hybrid" countries to tip the balance toward more democracy. Use Helsinki framework to engage the dictators of Russia and former satellites to engage them and promote democracy.

Why did communism not fall in China. Embraced a state capitalism but retained the one party state and created prosperity. The same with Russia.

What about Cuba and Venezuela: Basora was analyst for Cuba in the 1960's. The economic embargo was counter productive; Raul is a transitional figure but the regime is highly institutionalized therefore it retained the state. Chavez is a "caudillo" strong-arm figure that goes directly to the people. But Basora thinks he is incompetent like Peron in Argentina.

After Amb. Basora took the final question, the evening ended with the 60+ crowd milling around discussing the talk and asking Amb. Basora individual questions.

Next Windham World Affairs Council meeting will be Friday, September 26, &:30 at Brooks Memorial Library, with David Lampton Dean of Faculty; George and Sadie Hyman Professor of China Studies; Director of the China Studies Program at Johns Hopkins University. His most recent book is The Three Faces of Chinese Power: Might, Money and Minds (2008);

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Jerry Goldberg honored at Library Trustees' Event

Jerold Goldberg was honored at a backyard get together of Library Board of Trustees at vice-president Sara Warner-Phillips' home on Friday night, June 11.

Jerry was presented with a Vermont slate memento inscribed with the Spirit of Life logos and his term as Trustee, a full 9 years, 3-3 year terms, 1999-2008.

A nice writeup about the Daniel Chester French Spirit of Life sculptures can be found here. The Library is the custodian for the one given to the Town in 1923 which was part of the fountain at Plaza Park on lower Main St.

Jerry's tenure as chair from 2002-2007 saw the library's collection and physical space enhanced with a grants from the Vermont Public Library Foundation. A third five year plan, 2001-2006 was also written under his tenure.

All trustees expressed regret that Jerry fulfilled his term limit, but encouraged him to return in the next several years.

Goldberg is executive director of the Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Moooove those books--2008 Strolling of the Heifers Booksale is history

I kind of dread this annual booksale thing, because it's alot of hard work. Sorting, schleping, retrieving the shelves, erecting the shelves, scheduling the workers, getting the shelves stocked with inventory, etc. It seems to never end. Then, you got worry about the weather.

And it always does get done. But only with the help from a roomful of people. Let me start with the Friends of the Library who sponsor the event and provide much of the labor.

Then I must mention Elaine Murray, our star book sorter, who works all year going through the many books that come to the library. Staff member Therese Marcy who has a natural knack for making something like a booksale work. And then the all of the volunteers who put in their hours. Here is a list, and my apologies if I forgot someone:

John Crandall, Bob Oeser, Pindaro Lockhart, Bob Pearson, Elizabeth Wohl, Caray Lane, Marshall Wheelock, Veronica Wheelock, Jennifer Reidt, Sharon Reidt, Beverly Fleming, Hazel Anderson, John Nirenberg, Eric Blomquist, Winnie Vogt, Gee Costelloe, Shoshana Rihn, Margot Liddell, Frankie Gibson, Carol Corwin, Bruce Corwin, Matt Raptis, Adrienne Raptis, Devin Starylanyl, Mark Mayer, Stephen Frankel, Joann Nichols, Connie Kimball, Fanny Speno, Helene Henry, Kari Lyn McLellan, Mary Lou Buchanan, Jo Hulbirt, Betty Jean Maples, Patty Frankel, Amelia Hancock.

Gee Costelloe, the FOL vice-president, said to me on Saturday, "You know, Jerry, this is more than just a booksale," "it is the community showing their love of for their library."

So, when you put it that way, memories of all the work dissipate. So, if you want to see this "love for the library" in a virtual sense, please click on this link for a slide show

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Friday, June 06, 2008

Vermont has new State Librarian

Martha Reid, the Burnham (Colchester, VT.) Library director for the past 8 years, has been appointed State Librarian of Vermont, succeeding Sybil McShane, who has been in the office since 1997. Sybil retires this month after nearly 30 years at the State Library. She was primarily responsible for bringing technology to Vermont public libraries with the automation of the State Library and the Vermont Automated Library System, which facilitates the loaning of Vermont library materials in the State. Many small public libraries got their first computers with Department of Library grants which Sybil implemented.

Marty Reid comes with 30 years of experience in a wide variety of libraries in Colorado and Connecticut. According to Secretary of Administration, Michael Smith,

Martha Reid has worked in public libraries for more than 30 years in Virginia, Connecticut and Colorado, and has led the Burnham Library in Colchester for the past seven years. Her experience ranges from children’s outreach services in rural areas to serving as a workshop leader, a reference librarian, and collection coordinator in a large, suburban library system,” says Secretary Smith. “Her broad range of experience will serve her well in her new capacity as State Librarian. I look forward to having her join the Agency of Administration in this role.”

According to Marty:

“Being chosen as the new State Librarian is a distinct honor for me,” said Ms. Reid. “Vermonters are lucky to have so many good libraries around the state, and deserve the best that we can provide in the 21st century. I look forward to the challenges and opportunities that this position will bring.”

Smith said of McShane,

“Sybil has been a valued member of the team from day one, and she is a true government professional in every sense of the word,” says Secretary Smith. “I thank her for all she has done for me, for this administration, and for the State of Vermont.”

I agree: Sybil has been a major mover and shaker in helping all Vermont libraries come into the 21st century. Her breadth and depth of knowledge will be sorely missed. I wish her good luck in her retirement years.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

It's June....There must be programs!

Yes. students have graduated, teachers are out for summer break, and for the rest of us the living is easy.

Diversity is the key to good library programming, and so we try to make them as ecletic as possible: There are environmental films; presidental biography reading/discussion; a research class on Jewish genealogy; and two programs on Cuba--one about contemporary agrarian reform and another with more of an historical bent showing the darker side of Castro's revolution.

So, why not attend one--or all-- of these programs at Brooks this month? And don't forget the really big Seventh Annual Strolling of the Heifers booksale on Saturday, June 7 sponsored by the Friends of Brooks Memorial Library. Join now and get in to the Library one hour early (8 AM.)

June 4, Regeneration: Vermonters Making a Difference
June 18, Harvesting The Wind and Energy For A Developing World
June 25, The Green Apple and Affordable Green Housing

7:00 PM until 9:00 PM

SUSTAINABLE CHOICES FILM SERIES Brooks Memorial Library and Brattleboro-area environmental organizations are continuing a very special film series during the month of June. Travel with us to a variety of locales to view firsthand the things that individuals are doing to create environmentally friendly solutions in their businesses and communities. You won't find these extraordinary films in mainstream theaters or on network television. Come and be inspired and uplifted by these stories, and know that we all can and do make a difference. Each film will be shown Wednesdays at 7:00 pm at the Brooks Memorial Library, 224 Main Street, Brattleboro, VT. Films are approximately one hour long with optional group discussion afterwards. All films are free and open to the public. Brooks Memorial Library is delighted to again sponsor this amazing collection of films in partnership with Brattleboro Climate Protection, Vermont Earth Institute, Bonnyvale Environmental Education Center, Post-Oil Solutions and Windham Environmental Coalition. For more information, call Paul Cameron at 251-8135. Wednesday, June 4 “ReGeneration: Vermonters Making A Difference” This eye-opening Vermont Public Television film profiles Vermont-based eco-designers that are in the forefront of adopting environmentally friendly practices. These visionary individuals are using permaculture principles to design edible and sustainable landscapes, building beautiful, energy-efficient homes from local and recycled materials, and employing the latest renewable energy technologies - turning waste into resources and problems into solutions right here in Vermont.

Discovering Your Jewish Ancestry, Part 2

Monday June 9, 2008
5:30 PM until 7:00 PM

Discovering Your Jewish Ancestry Part 2 is scheduled for Monday, June 9 from 5:30 to 7:00. Depending on the needs of the class, possible topics of exploration will include: forming a Jewish family ancestry group; Jewish family and given names; ethnicity, race and DNA. Participants will also discover how to untie certain family myths. For example, many grandfathers were not tailors in Europe, and great grandmothers managed factories.

There will also be a discussion of the problems of researching and understanding the information gathered. A list of sources helpful for Jewish genealogy research will also be made available.

Norma Cavey has been a family archeologist since childhood. For fifty years, in her wide-ranging research and professional activities, Norma Cavey work has included Ethnic and Immigration history, Community Studies and Social Policy. She was the first Environmental and Ethnic Community Planner for the National Park Service; Elllis Island, Statue of Liberty. Norma Cavey was a College Professor and Senior Administrative Planner for Government and nonprofits. She has done research in Europe. For more information, contact Brooks Memorial Library at 802.254.5290, extension 109, or For all library events, see the library’s calendar at

Presidential Biography Series--Stephen Ambrose, Eisenhower

Wednesday June 11, 2008
7:00 PM until 9:00 PM

Presidential Biography Series continues in 2008 The popular "American Political and Presidential History" reading and discussion series continues into 2008, as the presidential primary season heads full steam into the upcoming election. Assembled from several Vermont Humanities Council reading/discussion programs, "Part 2-Founders and Presidents of the Past" begins on January 9. Again, Vermont humanities scholar Deborah Luskin facilitates discussions at 7 p.m. (note new time) in the library's Meeting Room. All sessions are free and open to the public. Books will be available for checkout at the main circulation desk.

July 9 Robert Dallek, An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963 August 13 Irwin and Debi Unger, LBJ: A Life October 8 Lou Cannon, President Reagan:The Role of a Lifetime

Fighting Castro: A Love Story

Thursday June 19, 2008
7:00 PM until 9:00 PM

Author Kay Abella will tell the story of the writing of Fighting Castro: A Love Story. What happens when a Cuban doctor is imprisoned by Castro as a resistance leader and his wife must choose between helping her husband stay alive and staying with her young children? This dilemma is at the heart of the harrowing true saga of Lino and Emy Fernandez. For seventeen years. Lino fights against life-threatening cruelty and attempted humiliation in prison while Emy tries to live with the consequences of the decision she made. For more information, see her web site at

The Changing Life of the Cuban Farmer

Thursday June 26, 2008
7:00 PM until 9:00 PM

Dan MacArthur, a founder of the Vermont-Cuba Solidarity Committee and frequent traveller to Cuba, will talk on his recent trip to Cuba in March 2008. MacArthur in recent years has brought antique auto parts and bicycles to this island nation. MacArthur will be at Brooks Memorial Library on Thursday, June 26, at 7 PM to show photos and discuss recent trends in Cuban agriculture. MacArthur will also discuss the ways in which the lives of farmers seem to be changing and some of the reasons why, and attempt to paint a picture of the hopefulness and resolve of people living on the land under a completely different type of system than our own.

Location: Brooks Memorial Library Main Room

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