Sorry, Wrong Number
Perhaps others have already chimed in on the wildly miscalculated number in the December 2 publisher's column [From the Publisher: "Pressed for Time"]. Paula Routly correctly states the number of estimated U.S. deaths from the 1918 flu pandemic as 675,000 but says this was roughly 28 percent of the U.S. citizenry at the time!
It's hard to fathom that an event killing over one quarter of the U.S. population could have gone underreported. As the U.S. population in 1918 was about 103 million, the deaths were about 0.67 percent of the citizenry — still an appalling number, but over 40 times less than what the article states.
I so appreciated Chelsea Edgar's beautifully written piece "Separation Anxiety" [November 25]. I learned some things from this article, but I appreciated even more the recognition and articulation of my own experience in this time of isolation. Edgar did skillful work exploring the shades of gray that characterize this time.
We live in a time when a significant percentage of the population can't distinguish evidence-based science from conspiracy; do we really need journalism treating real science and pseudoscience as if they are equal?
In [Staytripper: "Stars in Our Eyes," November 25], a meteorologist discussing an astronomical event is placed on par with an "astrologer and holistic sex educator." This is like reading an article on Down syndrome that references a geneticist and a phrenologist.
There is a difference between astronomy and astrology, geology and dowsing, and ibuprofen and crystal energy. Understanding the difference between an explanation arrived at via the scientific method and a more palatable explanation based on belief is not just a matter of ideology anymore; it is an essential distinction that must be understood if the world is to move forward in a rational direction.
We are on the verge of mass access to a vaccine that could end a worldwide pandemic, but as a frontline healthcare worker I worry about how many will refuse this vaccine due to a fear that it will make them sick, that there is some kind of tracking device in it, or due to a preference for "natural" remedies, like vitamin C.
The dismissal of facts that don't fit one's worldview is the more dangerous epidemic we are facing. We need journalism that promotes the objective truth of science, not the flaky alternative snake oil being soaked up in its place.
Pray, Stop Gathering
As an emergency room physician and mother, I was filled with horror and dismay at the willful disregard for public health measures described at the Ignite Church in Williston ["When State Meets Church," December 2]. The hard work and sacrifices made by our community during this pandemic, particularly by the children, are so easily undone by the negligence of a few. I can't help but wonder: How is this kind? How is this Christ-like?
'Faith to Depression'
[Re "When State Meets Church," December 2]: I'll start with what I've seen: refugees without jobs, their work shut down due to stringent COVID-19 regulations. They can't afford to keep their families here and have sent them away. Jobs and housing? Hard to find.
Business owners and laborers barely keeping afloat, bidding for jobs at cutthroat competitive rates, trimming fat and muscle. Winter's coming.
People more isolated than ever. After the first stay-at-home orders ended, pastors estimate that a third of people never returned, in person or online. Some of that's a reshuffle — but it's also a spiral from hope to despair, faith to depression, and community to self-isolation. Some of it is people waiting for vaccines. Some of it is people waiting to be "freed" from masks. See the dilemma?
And so, here's a church trying to keep people together and healthy in a time harder than most — and then this local paper says, "This would make a great story!" Says, "Non-masked religious people? Perfect Burlington fodder!"
The papers will supply the war.
Be more cautious? Certainly! But moralistic, critical tones against pastor Todd Callahan are redundant, beyond the degree of offense. Why blame churches and businesses for helping people? They see problems; they want to supply solutions.
People aren't chickens. You can't keep a human cooped up in a 20-by-20-foot apartment. They're incarnate creatures. They must be known and cared for. God made it so. And with 29 hospitalizations in Vermont, you might forgive Callahan for caring for people — even if they did walk from their seats without masks.
Aaron J. Clark
[Feedback: "Bad Info?" November 25] covers the macro end of things. My personal experience includes individuals, including those on Church Street, who openly cough while not wearing a mask. Is this their micro political statement?
The late Jesse Watkins, a former police commissioner in Burlington, told me that there are only 15 police officers in our city. Where are they? Is it too much to ask to have a foot-patrol person walk up and down our thoroughfare and at the very least mention the mandate to those who don't seem to care and flout it?
[Re "Raj's Revival?" December 2]: Raj Bhakta invited his ex-colleagues to a bonfire by shooting off a shotgun, which he calls "Vermont country farm-life fun"? Nobody I knew ever took a shotgun to invite friends over, especially to their workplace. Probably because it's dangerous and threatening, but also because most people would fear the legal consequences — unlike Mr. Bhakta.
On his four DUIs? I don't want to judge somebody for his struggles, but it doesn't seem like Bhakta has changed much — maybe because finding his way out of trouble comes easy to him. He sips, rather than drinks, his liquor now, but in my experience, enough tasting can still get you drunk. His brandy company is a strange way to promote a sober lifestyle.
Plus, the $28,000 charge, from what "turned out" to be a bordello. What a confusing trip that must have been! If this was truly fraud, I feel for him, but if it wasn't and he spent that much money (a year's salary for some people!) on a company credit card for nonbusiness expenses, I would expect at least some remorse from him.
And now he owns a college. A new neighbor claims that Bhakta is either a great actor or a really decent human being. I think he's a complicated man-child who desperately seeks validation. Maybe this will lead him to do truly great things at Green Mountain College. Or maybe it won't be long before he gets bored and moves on, seeking that validation from somewhere else.
Give Weinberger Credit
[Re "Race On," November 25]: Reporter Courtney Lamdin and Seven Days are entitled to an anti-Miro Weinberger platform, but not to an article with blatant factual inaccuracy. Lamdin brings up the "hole in the ground" multiple times without ever mentioning by far the most significant recent development: three local business owners taking over the project and building a shorter building with more housing and no hotel — just what our town needs. It's as though the article were written before that was announced but nobody bothered to update it. It is particularly misleading when you consider the multipage advertising in the previous issues about CityPlace Burlington from those very developers. Never mentioned is that we got rid of a horrible indoor mall full of corporate brands that cut our city in half and snarled traffic, and that in place of it we will get reconnected streets.
Just like the beautiful new City Hall Park, Weinberger should get credit for these improvements and patience that construction takes time. Beyond the omitted facts, there were spun ones: Black Lives Matter brought needed accountability nationally, and, rightfully, the Burlington Police Department and Weinberger weren't spared of it. Can Lamdin — or anybody else, for that matter — think of an elected leader who has taken more concrete action than this: hiring a director of racial equity, inclusion and belonging; declaring racism a public health emergency; forming a reparations task force; and hiring a director of police transformation?
Seven Days is entitled to its opinion, but I wish you made more of an effort to report fairly and factually on local politics.
Don't Publish Fake News
With all the fake news out there, please stop running those Pomerleau ads disguised as journalism. They are created by a marketing firm to look like news articles. They are fake news, and you are complicit in this deception.
Furthermore, the Pomerleau ads are political, calculated to project a rosy aura around very controversial projects tied to the incumbent mayor's reelection campaign:
• an expensive City Hall Park renovation that changed a shady, green park into a concrete performance venue; and
• the latest Pit plan, proposed now to be financed by working people's union dues — to build housing and business space that many working people can't afford, and to use federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and tax increment financing money designated to benefit low-income people. The housing in this project does not relieve the need in our community for subsidized housing, and there are 1,800 eligible families on the HUD voucher housing waiting list in Vermont.
Pomerleau Real Estate buys space in your publication for these deceptive ads disguised as news articles that are nothing but political propaganda, and you sell it to them. Community trust in the honesty of news matters! Seven Days, you have betrayed our trust. Furthermore, you have put a once-a-month limit on individual residents' letters to the editor, but Pomerleau can buy space in your paper for fake news week after week.
Editor's note: We welcome advertising in Seven Days — it's the primary way we fund our award-winning journalism. All paid content in Seven Days is clearly labeled as such, both in print and online. Staff writers do not produce paid content, and advertisers have no influence over what our reporters write.