Saturday, July 13, 2013


Most of the noise concerning the F35 issues is about NOISE -- and rightly so, as many Vermonters will be hurt, their lives and homes devalued and in some cases destroyed. 

But let's not forget another aspect, at the moment relatively noiseless, but in the long run, equally worthy of note: the military's push for the F-35 is intimately connected with Obama's plan to upgrade the US's nuclear strike capability. The current F-16 fleet is incapable of carrying and delivering the newly-designed "smart" nuclear bombs. The F-35 has been designed to do so. 

By supporting the development of the F-35, in Burlington or not, Vermonters are willy-nilly upholding the US's evasion of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty -- to which it is a signatory -- which contains a pledge to slowly lower nuclear strike capacity to zero.

The anti-F-35 movement itself has bracketed this issue, in part because the local, clearly predictable effects will be so severe, but partly out of wariness about being seen as "unpatriotic". What I think is unpatriotic is to allow one's own country to be the linchpin and supplier of WMDs beyond any local nightmare. 

Let this remain an undertone at least in the current symphony of noise.

Thursday, July 4, 2013


The South Burlington and Winooski City Councils are to be commended for arranging public forums on the proposed F-35 basing.  The opportunity for public process and the Council’s willingness to listen to resident concerns and opinions on the basing is most welcome.

The Air Force recently released a revised Draft Environmental Impact Statement, relating to proposed basing. After reviewing the revised DEIS, and other relevant information, I want state my strong and complete opposition to the basing of the F-35 jets at the Burlington Air Guard base, because of the damaging impact it will have on our communities. The reasons for my opposition are as follows:
Reliability of the Data 

The revised DEIS includes estimates of housing and population impact based on 2010 Census data. The estimates are significantly higher than the figures presented in the initial Draft EIS. However, the estimates are still incorrect and significantly understate the number of housing units and people that are located in the high noise zone. Using the reliable data source of municipal assessments / tax parcel data, the properties have been identified by property owner, address and indicate the number of housing units affected is substantially greater than reported in the revised DIES. This irrefutable data indicates that the Revised DEIS understates the number of housing units, located within the 65 db DNL zone (Scenario 2), by 505 units and understates the population affected by approximately 900. The EIS must be revised to accurately reflect the impact of the high noise on our homes and residents.  


A huge land area, encompassing thousands of homes and families is located within the designated accident potential zone area. The DEIS states that the F-35's will have a significantly higher risk of crash, as compared with the F-16's.  The very recent crash of an F-16 in Arizona at Luke AFB illustrates the risk.  Fortunately, this crash was in a rural area and not a populated area, and there were no casualties. The high crash zone near the Burlington Air Guard space is the most densely populated region of our entire state.  In other communities, the Air Force has gone to court to prevent residential development from occurring in Accident Potential Zones. This same standard of safety should be applied in this case.


There is credible evidence that children are at much higher risk of negative health impacts due to high noise levels. The DEIS does not adequately address the impact on the health of children and should be amended to include recent studies, including the study completed by the World Health Organization. Over one thousand children will be impacted.

Several schools are located within the 65 db DNL zone and would be negatively impacted by high noise levels. The South Burlington and Winooski school boards both oppose the basing because of the negative impact on their hundreds of students. The DEIS did not even consider the presence of the recently developed Community College of Vermont, located in downtown Winooski. This multi million dollar facility, serving hundreds of students, would also be impacted by the high noise. 
Property Values 

There is an abundance of evidence confirming that airport noise has a detrimental / negative impact on property values. The DEIS only briefly examined this issue; on one hand, recognizing the impact on property values, but neglecting to quantity the impact. There are many academic studies, as well as local market evidence, that should be reviewed in order to assess the impact of the basing on property values. There are thousands of housing units in the proposed 65 db DNL zone. The loss of equity for these mostly modestly priced homes could be financially devastating for the owners. The potential loss in home values must be considered as a cost of this basing and examined more closely in the EIS. The analysis should identify the value of the residential property which is located within the high noise zone, and estimate the potential loss in value of this property, as well as the potential cost to mitigate the noise damages, if mitigation is possible. 

Municipal and State Tax Revenues

Related to potential property value loss, is the potential loss of municipal tax revenues. The DEIS did not address this issue.  The EIS should quantify the potential loss of state and municipal tax revenues as a significant impact of the proposed basing. 
Quality of Life  

Because of the high noise levels, the quality of life will be significantly diminished for over 8,000 residents, including many disadvantaged families, elderly residents and children. The repeated exposure to excessive jet noise, up to 28 times a day, will greatly diminish the quality of living for these communities.


If the F-35's are based in Vermont, the 65 db DNL noise zone in Winooski will be expanded to include nearly 80% of all housing units in the City.  Large sections of South Burlington, Burlington and Williston are also impacted.  Aside from the very real negative impacts of high noise on property values, health and quality of life, the high noise levels will also bring the collateral Federal label to our communities and homes as being “incompatible with residential use” and “incompatible with educational use”. The FAA and Department of Defense both have policies which explicitly define this.  I believe that this will stigmatize these communities and homes through the perception that they are a less attractive and safe place to live. The affected neighborhoods and communities will be burdened by the negative reputation imposed by this Federal “label”.  Who would want to live in a community or home which has been labeled as “incompatible with residential use”?  Who would want to send their children to school in a community which carries this label?

Available Alternatives

As the DEIS informs us, there are several potential sites that are better suited to the F-35 basing. I fear that the decision is being controlled by politics.  I understand that “mission” is a controlling element in the basing decision and I am afraid that this somewhat vague term will be used to make Burlington the top choice, despite it being the worst choice from an environmental standpoint. If the Air Force and Air Guard are serious about transparency, there should be an investigation in the selection process, specifically focusing on the glaring “mistakes” in the application, which led to Burlington being erroneously selected as the preliminary top choice for the basing.

Support for Guard 

The Air National Guard has a commendable record of service to our country and state. As a community, we can support the Air Guard without supporting the F-35's. The DEIS indicates that only a small number of jobs will result from the basing, even under the most expansive plan. Air Guard leadership has publicly stated that it is unlikely that the base would ever close, while recognizing that the mission could change. The host of economic benefits associated with the ANG will continue, even if the mission is changed.  Most importantly, the marginal benefits of the F-35 basing should be weighed against the costs. For the affected communities, the costs are enormous and the benefits are minimal.

Steve Allen
87 East Spring Street

Winooski, VT  

Monday, June 10, 2013


A common assertion among proponents of basing an F-35 squadron at our Burlington airport is that noise from military aircraft is perceived as "the sound of freedom." This seems odd.
Freedom is complex. But for simplicity, let's examine a most American summary -- that of FDR's "four freedoms", a proposal for four fundamental feedoms everyone should enjoy: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.
What do our military aircraft, noise aside, have to do with providing them?
Do these planes provide freedom of speech? No, the First Amendment gives us that.
Freedom of worship? Again, no. Again, the Constitution.
Freedom from want? Here, certainly not, and rather the opposite, as the enormous sums to develop, build, and support them drain the treasury for domestic needs.
Ah, fear. Surely they make us less afraid of "the enemy" -- whoever that might be. But what enemy has the air or missile capability to attack us? None on the horizon. And our overseas attacks to pre-empt any capability seem to be creating more, not fewer, enemies, enemies whose tools are not targets such aircraft. Our fear, if anything, should be increased.
To me, freedom comes not from our warplanes, but from collaboration with nature and humans trying to be healed.

Tell it to the Russians, the Iranians, the Chinese, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban? They too don't hear the roar in the air as the sound of freedom. Nor the buzzing.

Friday, March 29, 2013


“There is something repulsive about it.”

This was the composer’s comment about his Fifth Symphony after returning from a European tour conducting it.

True, Tchaikovsky was often neurotic about his compositions, announcing his joy with them to his brother, Modest, then doubting them — and himself — after performances. Schizy. He could fly like a swan, but once on the ground, he would waddle.

Waddling is one thing, but what is “repulsive” about the Fifth? Some clues present themselves.

In a notebook page dated 13 April 1888, the year of its composition, Tchaikovsky outlines a scenario for the first movement: “Introduction: Complete resignation before Fate, or, which is the same, before the inscrutable predestination of Providence. Allegro: (1) Murmurs of doubt, complaints, reproaches against XXX. (2) Shall I throw myself in the embrace of faith??? A wonderful program, if only it can be carried out.”

A hopeful beginning. In opening the work, Tchaikovsky cuts to the core. The opening theme in the low clarinets recurs in every movement, commenting on other themes, or challenging them.

Thus, the opening theme carries a narrative function beyond its musical one, and it doesn’t take much imagination to hear it as embodying the Fate Tchaikovsky invokes in his primordial program. So let’s call it the “Fate theme”, and see how it functions throughout the piece.

Tchaikovsky always wore his heart on his compositional sleeve: the sublime slow movement is the expressive core of the whole work. The opening string chorale before the famous horn solo warns the audience to take this movement seriously, even religiously.

Halfway through this erotic movement, the orchestra begins a stringendo and crescendo culminating in fortississimo (fff) trumpets blaring out the Fate theme. It’s worse than hearing the steps of your parents entering the room when you are making out with your lover, or a cuckolded spouse returning home early. There’s only one possible effect of this interruption: to scare the hell out of the audience, and make it regret its emotional vulnerability. “Oh no you don’t. You’ll be sorry.” The avenging angel bares his sword.

If that’s the way the Fate theme can function, what is the meaning of its triumphant takeover of the last movement? Critics have always found this the least successful. Is it because it’s overwrought and only barely convincing? Protesting too much, and as such, repulsive?

I think there is little mystery what the XXX refers to in Tchaikovsky’s note to Modest. Throughout their extensive correspondence, both closeted gay men dealt in code with their “sickness”. X, it was called, or sometimes Z, in unmistakable contexts.  But in this case, there is more to it than that. What was going on for Tchaikovsky at this time?

It had been three years since Tchaikovsky had produced a major orchestral work — his Manfred Symphony. Manfred, a strange, programmatic inclusion in the series of numbered symphonies. Why Manfred?

Manfred is the subject of a dramatic poem by Byron, the story of a Swiss nobleman tortured by mysterious guilt. “Thou lovedst me/Too much,” he declares concerning his sister, “as I loved thee: we were not made/To torture thus each other, though it were/The deadliest sin to love as we have loved.”
Tchaikovsky was sympathetic to Byron’s love for his half-sister, and this for him brought up the dangerous theme of incest. At the time of writing Manfred, Tchaikovsky was already deeply in love with his nephew, Bob, his sister’s son, then 15, Tchaikovsky’s favorite age for sex with boys.  The composer dedicated his Sixth Symphony to him, and awarded him the lion’s share of his will.

Problematical family dynamics. XXX indeed, and a perfect vehicle for Tchaikovsky’s brooding about his sexuality. The noble outsider, rejected by a conventional world. He later disowned the piece, calling it “abominable…I loathe it deeply.” Sound familiar? Repulsive?

And what followed the Fifth? His fantasy overture, Hamlet, overlapping the scoring of the Fifth, and beginning again with a “Fate” theme. Over the first page, Tchaikovsky had written. “To be or not to be?” The Fifth — sandwiched between Manfred and Hamlet.

Within five years, Tchaikovsky was dead, probably by his own hand or tongue, possibly of arsenic, possibly of cholera, nine days after premiering his death-haunted Sixth Symphony, his Requiem.