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Letters to the Editor (3/15/17)

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Wrong Mountains?

I'm very fond of your paper but wondering why you featured a photo of mountains that do not appear to be in Vermont behind the headline "White Out," which was celebrating all the great snow we had gotten [Last 7, February 15]. Opportunities abounded in this great state for a suitable photo op. Are you that shorthanded?

Catherine Hughes

Charlotte

Media Rights and Wrongs

Kudos to Paul Heintz on his historical commentary about Anthony Haswell and freedom of the press then and now ["Early Sedition," March 8]. Tyler Resch's scholarship about that era in Vermont is invaluable. Our constitutional rights can and will be attacked, defended by our constitution and those who uphold it.

Freedom of the press, however, is not freedom from criticism.

American news media have relaxed the editorial standard of rigorous reporting. For example:

"President Trump bans travel from six majority-Muslim countries."

"President Trump bans travel from six among 50 majority-Muslim countries."

The first statement is the American news media's current editorial standard: assuming bias against Muslims.

The second statement is their former editorial standard: reporting why these six countries, but not the other 44.

Freedom of the press entails the right to question freely, the responsibility to answer fully and the duty not to take for granted what is to be proved, aka petitio principii.

Howard Fairman

Putney

Hope in History

[Re "Early Sedition," March 8]: I'm starting to dislike former president John Adams nearly as much as I detest our current proto-fascist one. But this well-researched article gave me hope. History does repeat itself. The justice system, though delayed, prevailed — and the United States survived and prospered.

Fred Abrahams

Brattleboro

Cashman Was Robbed

[Re "Life Sentence," March 8]: As a probation and parole officer and a member of the Chittenden County Drug Court team in Burlington, I had many opportunities to interact with judge Ed Cashman over the course of 15 years. Mark Davis' article captures his humanity, wit, compassion, intelligence and courage. Unfortunately, it should have been published a decade ago so that more people would have understood the complexities of the Mark Hulett case rather than pass judgment themselves. The media, the public and especially our leaders should have made an effort to acquaint themselves with all the facts. Not doing so caused the vilification of a man who had the knowledge and guts to make a tough decision that ultimately changed access to treatment for sex offenders in Vermont. It was the system that was most flawed, not judge Cashman.

It is discouraging that, 11 years later, we still find ourselves rushing to formulate opinions using information that is often incomplete, sometimes skewed and occasionally based on outright lies. I have sent a copy of the article to Bill O'Reilly at Fox News, demanding he issue a full retraction of his previous "reporting."

Carl Yalicki

Moretown

Yalicki retired in 2009.

No Deal for Cashman

Neither his so-called good intentions nor the passage of time is enough to wipe clean judge Cashman's reputation ["Life Sentence," March 8]. A 60-day jail sentence for a man who repeatedly raped a girl from the time she was 7 years old? There is no getting around it: Cashman deserves the reputation he has.

David Don

Burlington

Nothing Funny About It

I can't even begin to tell you how much last week's "Rachel Lives Here Now" [March 8] cartoon resonated with me, as someone who once had aspirations for a creative career but has had to make every decision since the age of 21 based on whether or not there would be health benefits. In 2003 I didn't have the Affordable Care Act to keep me in the safety of my parents' health insurance, and my inconsistent physical well-being often required days of rest at a time, which meant: So long, freelance work!

It was refreshing to see such a relatable, personal statement being made by a comic who's usually got a more playful and goofy style. Thank you for running it; I needed that.

Janine Fleri

South Burlington

Trouble With Town Meeting

[In "Diminishing Democracy? At Kirby Town Meeting, the 18 Percent Rule," March 8], Kevin J. Kelley overlooks the single biggest factor in low attendance at Town Meeting Day: Most voters have to work. The days when the majority of a town's residents work close to the community in which they live are long gone. This means that the majority of community members available to attend town meeting are retirees, the unemployed or those with the luxury to take a day off work. This is hardly representative of any town's voters. Retirees, in particular, comprise the largest bloc of voters in most meetings yet represent a minority of residents. The concerns of younger residents, those with school-age children and members of the military, for example, are rarely heard because these individuals are often obliged to be elsewhere during town meeting.

Australian ballot affords many of these disenfranchised community members a voice and an opportunity to participate in the direct democracy Vermonters so rightly cherish. Open discussion at town meeting needs to continue, but as an outlet for interested citizens to voice their opinion, not as a means to decide town business. In these days of Front Porch Forum and social media, there are ample opportunities for residents to express and debate their opinions in an open forum. For those of us who cannot afford to take the day off, Australian ballot offers at least an opportunity for our voices to be heard.

Matt Hughes

Fairfield

Misleading Cartoon

[Re "Almanac": "My First Protest, Part II," March 1]: This disturbing cartoon by Iona Fox portrays Palestine solidarity activists marching in Washington, D.C., as anti-Semitic, showing an Israeli flag with a swastika in the middle instead of a star, followed by a speech bubble of redacted words with the vague caption "anti-Semitic chant." This is a seriously misleading message conflating Palestine solidarity with anti-Semitism, a common charge from the U.S. Israel lobby for which no evidence exists.

Criticism of the government of Israel is not directed at Jews as a religious ethnic group, but at the behavior of a state that has flouted international law since 1948, when it expelled 750,000 Palestinians from their land; until today Israel continues its land theft and oppression of the people of Palestine with unjust laws, home demolition, arbitrary detention and violence. Many of us who criticize Israel are ourselves Jewish and members of organizations such as Jewish Voice for Peace, who work for the same justice for Palestinians that only Israeli Jews enjoy. Messages like this are a dangerous distraction from the very real anti-Semitism emerging in the U.S. as a result of the general embrace of white nationalism by the current administration.

Kathy Shapiro

Middlesex

On the Wrong March

Vermonters wish to be united without regard to race and do not appreciate being labeled racist and intolerant. Slavery was abolished here in 1777, and many of our forebears fought and died in the Civil War. Vermonters take pride in their independence, community and tolerance — all of which are being tarnished unnecessarily by generalizations being spewed by Black Lives Matter Vermont and legitimized by Seven Days in Dan Bolles' cover story "On the March" [March 1].

Ebony Nyoni's credentials appear to be that of an agitator, not a peacemaker. We are told that her activism "runs in the family," where "extended family members were affiliated with the Black Panthers." Obstructing traffic and sporting an "evocative ... raised-fist logo," Nyoni is described as a "firebrand" from the Bronx whose "specialty" is "disturbing [people's] environments" as she seeks to "tear ... down and rebuild" Vermont's systems, of which "the criminal justice system is just one symptom of a much larger disease."

I oversee a charity for Ugandan children, and we have raised thousands of dollars in the Northeast Kingdom, where the almost exclusively white population already demonstrates that it is aware that black lives matter. (Please see our Facebook page: Children in Need Uganda).

This is not to say there is no racism in Vermont: It is to say that caustic recriminations will cause more antipathy and encourage racism. I suspect that the theft of BLMVT signs is a reflection of resentment rather than racism — much as some would remove KKK signs without hating white people.

To quote Langston Hughes from the end of his poem "Democracy":

Freedom
Is a strong seed
Planted
In a great need.
I live here, too.  
I want freedom
Just as you.

John Klar

Westfield

New Calendar Category

Given the current state of political affairs in Vermont and in the nation at large, I was thinking it might be helpful to add a new category to the calendar section. This section might be called "Protests" or something similar, and it could list any upcoming demonstrations or other similar events. It could be useful in planning.

Dana Baron

Essex Junction

Editor's note: We added an "Activism" category to the calendar more than two years ago.

A Word About Freedom

[Re "Early Sedition," March 8]: I am an 89-year-old Vermont resident with macular degeneration, so a friend is typing this for me, but the thoughts are mine and are based on my history before and during World War II. I spent my childhood in Europe, moving as an adolescent to the United States to escape the repressive regimes of Franco, Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini.

I learned at a young age how dangerous suppressing the media is. I find recent comments suggesting that the media is the enemy of the American people frightening, because shutting down the free flow of information is one of the first tools dictators use to manipulate public opinion and obscure the leaders' intentions.

Despite claims of "fake news" and certain misrepresentations from competing publications, truth eventually emerges, thanks to the ongoing efforts of dedicated journalists. You can be sure that the more those in power complain about the press, the more they have something to hide.

We must be ever vigilant in defending the First Amendment, which states in part, "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press..." Our forefathers wrote these words to ensure that Americans are given facts and the context in which to separate facts from rumor or deceitful proclamations of the government. Calling the press "the opposition party" is a contemptuous dismissal of the amendment and thus our Constitution, which is why all of us, regardless of party affiliation, must insist that the administration operate within the laws outlined in our founders' remarkable document.

Alicia Cusimano

Marshfield

Why Bash Bernie?

I'm writing from California, as one of many local political beneficiaries of the more frequent out-of-state visits by Sen. Bernie Sanders just dissed by John Walters in Fair Game: "Outta Town: Vermont's Congressional Delegation Spends Recess Far From Home" [February 22].

Even from afar, I know enough about Vermont politics and the relative accessibility of the state's two U.S. senators to recognize that Walters' conflating of Sanders' town meeting record and Pat Leahy's is highly inaccurate and unfair.

To conclude that Bernie Sanders isn't "much different than oft-criticized Republicans" in the area of "constituent engagement" is even more off the wall.

Few Republicans sign up for this kind of give-and-take, although more are getting a taste of it, as part of the anti-Trump backlash around the country today.

Phil Fiermonte's defense of Bernie's record (he's "held more public town meetings in Vermont than any elected official in Vermont history") is not only correct but overly modest. Sanders has, without a doubt, led the entire U.S. Senate in this category since he was elected to that body in 2006.

If more of us out-of-staters have had the chance to participate in these kinds of forums with Bernie in the last several years, the country has been better off for it — a fact that snarky reporters at Seven Days seem not to appreciate?

Steve Early

Richmond, CA

Early is the author of Refinery Town: Big Oil, Big Money, and the Remaking of An American City, a new book from Beacon Press with a foreword by Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Been There, Done That

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I have a March 25, 1982, article from the Northfield News that includes a photo of my husband and son sugaring in our driveway using a rig that fits the description of the one in your article ["Tapping a Tradition," March 1]. My husband built it. Not such a novel idea after all.

Elizabeth Carney

Roxbury

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