Originally published in the Rutland Herald on July 18, 2012.

Rutland County GOP Chairman Rob Towle’s offensive Facebook post has become a national news story and sadly has brought the ugly, racially charged rhetoric currently at play in parts of the Republican Party home to Vermont.

While the post was eventually removed after commenters from all sides decried it as racist and offensive, Towle’s half-hearted non-apology only drew more criticism. By Tuesday, Towle found some better words and apologized in earnest for his “bad judgment,” calling the post “stupid and insensitive.”

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Originally published in the Rutland Herald on July 5, 2012.

In their haste to report on last week’s Supreme Court ruling of the Affordable Care Act, CNN and Fox News Channel got one key part of the story wrong: all of it. This most recent failure underscores exactly what is wrong with the 24-hour cable news channels: Simply saying something — anything — is now enough. On Thursday, CNN and Fox performed the journalistic equivalent of a commenter writing “FIRST!” on an Internet message board.

This ratings-driven motivation comes at the expense of both organizations’ credibility and devalues the importance of factual journalism. Viewers would have been better served if the reporter had simply read the document or just held it up to the camera and slowly flipped the pages.

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Photo by Cassandra Hotaling Hahn / Rutland Herald

Originally published in the April 19, 2012, edition of the Rutland Herald.

Last week, Rutland was witness to something unique: A Chamber of Commerce mixer that people were actually talking about. Wales Street became a spectacle as scores of people crowded inside the large tent to mix, mingle and enjoy the complimentary food and drinks.

Donald Billings, chef-owner of Roots the Restaurant — which co-hosted the mixer with Earth Waste Systems — threw down with a menu dominated by locally sourced food. The centerpiece, a pig roast, helped build anticipation as it cooked slowly in Roots’ driveway — its smoky scents wafting through all of downtown a full day ahead of the event.

The buzz around the mixer was unprecedented for these typically humdrum Chamber gatherings. Clearly, the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce knew it had something special, as it was especially effusive in its promotion of the mixer via email, print ads and social media.

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It was announced yesterday that one of the two FYE stores in Rutland is closing. To mark the occasion, I wanted to re-post a piece I did for The Plaid Crew about the last time I shopped there. Enjoy.

I’m not good at consumerism. I rarely buy things I don’t need, and when I do I usually experience heavy bouts of buyer’s remorse. Often, I will spend long periods of time in a store asking myself if I really need whatever is in my hand only to put it down and walk out, unable to seal the deal. It’s downright un-American.

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In recent weeks, the Internet has been consumed with the latest meme. Inevitably, it has finally arrived here in Vermont.

For those readers less familiar with web jargon, a meme is a term used to describe a “concept that spreads via the Internet” (source: Wikipedia). It is often a cultural reference of some sort that is played out in numerous iterations by users. For a primer, visit

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Originally published in the Rutland County Express on Jan 12, 2012.

In a recent post on   entitled, “Don’t Support Your Local Bookseller,” technology columnist Farhad Manjoo posed an interesting and somewhat convincing argument: in this world of Amazon, with our iPads and Kindles, independent bookstores are inefficient, inconvenient and expensive.

Manjoo writes, “Compared with online retailers, bookstores present a frustrating consumer experience. A physical store … offers a relatively paltry selection, no customer reviews, no reliable way to find what you’re looking for and a dubious recommendations engine.”

Needless to say, such an argument does not go unnoticed or unpunished. Calling bookstores “cultish, moldering institutions” is sure to irk a few ires. Refutations came pouring in from all sides — the literati, the buy-localistas and various other well-meaning, indignant Luddites (as Manjoo might like to characterize them).

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Originally published in the Rutland County Express on Jan. 5, 2011.

New Year’s Eve might be my least favorite holiday. Over-hyped and forced, it’s a contrived excuse for celebration that, at its best, always feels halfhearted. Why does the conclusion of a year need to be marked with such trite fanfare? Who was the first person to say, “Hey, it’s the end of the year, let’s consume large quantities of alcohol and spend way too much money!” anyway?

Every year, when the requisite New Year’s Eve planning commences among my friends, I am grudgingly pulled into the discussion. I’m not much help. I tend to set the bar pretty low — as in, I dig a hole in the ground and put the bar in it. Having low or no expectations for NYE is my preference. At best, it’s a good night out (or in) with friends. At worst, it’s a drama-filled ordeal fueled by too many drinks and inevitable disappointment.

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