Letters to the Editor (2/1/17) | Letters to the Editor | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Published February 1, 2017 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated February 7, 2017 at 3:56 p.m.

Can you Help?

[Re Off Message: "Louras: Trump Plan Would Be 'End of Refugee Resettlement for Rutland," January 25]: You know what I'm really disheartened to hear? That we shouldn't help refugees from other countries, because we have Americans here who need help first.

And what do we tell our fellow Americans? We tell them that their poverty or drug addiction is their fault, and we tell them to solve their own problems. We get angry that our tax dollars go to welfare programs, citing that our hard work gets heavily taxed to enable laziness in others.

So, maybe people should stop hiding behind the we-should-help-our-people-before-helping-refugees reason, when clearly they don't want to help anyone at all. And what is the measurement that we use to say that we have helped our own fellow Americans and then can help others? Eighty percent of the U.S. population? One hundred percent? That has always been unclear to me, and no one has been able to give a detailed response on how we can realistically implement this reasoning.

If you're angry with what I've written and disagree, ask yourself what you've done to help others, and answer honestly. What have you done to help your fellow human beings? Do you volunteer? Donate money? Do you vote for legislators who vote or support bills that aid our veterans?

For those who say other countries should take them in, I wasn't aware that helping others required others to step in first before we take action. In this, America should lead, not follow.

Thanh-Thuy Doan


Fat Chance

[Re "Fat of the Land," January 18]: I'm surprised that food writer Suzanne Podhaizer didn't check on the statement made by University of Vermont nutrition and food sciences professor Catherine Donnelly that "average Americans consume about seven pounds of cheese a year." I was unsure what the correct number was, but I knew that seven pounds a year seemed very low. That sounds more like the amount of cheese consumed via pizza alone.

A quick Google search found that since 1970, we've gone from eight pounds per person per year to 23 pounds, according to 2013 data — the most recent available — from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

This is a very important fact, because Podhaizer's article seems to make the case that Americans are not eating enough animal fats, when that is clearly not the case. We eat a huge amount of animal fats, and that leads to serious health issues. While I agree it's better to consume those fats from pasture-raised animals, the author should have mentioned that quantity is a very important factor. Fats are trendy right now, but let's not forget Michael Pollan's good advice: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

Alysia Catalfamo


Writer's note: I stand corrected. But that doesn't mean that cheese, or saturated fat, is to blame for our health problems. A 2015 study showed that Americans consume around 35 pounds of cheese per year, not even close to what they eat in France: approximately 57 pounds annually. Among the five top cheese-consuming nations — France, Finland, Denmark, Iceland and Germany — all but Denmark have higher life expectancies than the U.S. Except for Finland, they also have dramatically lower rates of coronary heart disease. In fact, of 172 countries surveyed, France has the second lowest rate of heart disease. 

Celebrating Mosher

[Re Live Culture: "Author Howard Frank Mosher in Hospice With 'Untreatable' Cancer," January 23]; “A Reporter’s Fond Remembrance of Howard Frank Mosher, 1942-2017,” January 29; “Howard Frank Mosher’s Imagination of Vermont: A Tribute,” January 31]: When Howard Frank Mosher invites you along for a canoe ride on a Northeast Kingdom lake, or through the woods tracking a deer, or to spend the night in a frigid log cabin, be sure to go along with him. You will never again see lakes or woods or cabins with such a compelling experience for all your senses, never again feel such a vital kinship with everything around you.

He has made the Northeast Kingdom a place that you can never forget. Thank you, Howard.

M. Dickey Drysdale


Get With 'the Program'

Thank you, Seven Days, for the heartbreaking coverage of the deadly opioid epidemic ["Death by Drugs," January 25]. Clearly, addiction steals lives, with no regard for anything, really. What's missing for me, as both a licensed clinical social worker and a longtime recovering alcoholic, is talk about Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. After 38 years, I still go regularly to meetings. Why? Because it helps me stay sane and balanced, and it helps me to help others. In the last few years, the greeting, "Hi! I'm so-and-so, and I'm an alcoholic" has become "Hi! I'm so-and-so, and I'm an addict/alcoholic," or some variation of this.

It would be interesting to interview some addicts in recovery who use 12-step programs for support, to hear from them how critically helpful the Program (as we call it) is to their recovery and healing. Because it's not just about refraining from using; your article attested to how vulnerable addicts are in early recovery to relapse, and to a fatal relapse. I myself would not be here if I hadn't stumbled into AA at 28. I don't think you can do it alone. There is too much stress in life and in the culture, noise and confusion inside the heart and mind. And the stuff, whatever the stuff is, is too available, too easy to get and to do.

So thanks a million for the article. Now do one on AA/NA and spread the word.

Anya Hunter


Go Grill

As Emma Mulvaney-Stanak notes in [Feedback: "Misdirected Criticism," January 25], the mayor did "go low" in deriding Progressive council candidates Charles Winkleman and Charles Simpson.

That the mayor appeared flailing and rhetorically out of control may be explained in part by the independent council candidate in the Central District, Genese Grill, who is vying to oust Jane Knodell, the Progressive with the Mayor Miro Weinberger seal of approval.

Neighborhood power is Grill's passion and goal. She believes that the Neighborhood Planning Assemblies should be central in Burlington's democracy and that neighborhood discussion should shape the policies enacted and implemented by the city council and the mayor at city hall. This is how things should work, but it is not often how they do work.

That's why Grill is running against an incumbent who has been on the city council since the mid-'90s, with one short interruption. Not only is that too long, but the status quo she represents is taking care of other interests before the people's, governing as if citizens are spectators.

The Ward 2/3 NPA, anchored by amazing food and music, is likely the most active and energized in the city. But even here, instead of shaping the city and the neighborhood themselves, citizens often find out what city hall has decided for them.

Grill will work to bring the city's power back to its people and neighborhoods. It's time for change. Send a message to city hall. Vote for Grill on March 7.

Michael Long


Gov's Got It Backward

[Re "Gov. Scott Promises to Transform Economy, Education in Inaugural Address," January 5]: No more Mr. Nice Guy! Instead of asking the wealthy to pay their fair share in order to support early childhood and higher education, our new governor wants our children in grades K-12 and their teachers to pay for it.

And as for that old-fashioned conservative ideal of local control of education, it turns out our new governor is a proponent of big government when Republicans are in charge. Sound familiar?

Martha Abbott


Science, Anyone?

I just saw your Wellness Issue [January 18] and wondered whether it was edited by Gwyneth Paltrow or Theodoric of York, the medieval barber-surgeon character on "Saturday Night Live."

The cover shows a woman being cupped, a practice from four-humors treatment. That's a theory codified by the Roman physician Galen 2,000 years ago and thoroughly debunked and abandoned by science two centuries ago. I suppose bleeding or purging (emetic or laxative) would be too edgy for the cover.

I visited the website of the salt cave business ["Saline Solutions"] and clicked through to the studies it cites. The ones on cystic fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease give results that are either statistically insignificant or irrelevant to their claims. There are no peer-reviewed, double-blind studies supporting halotherapy for respiratory conditions. The long list of conditions supposedly treated, from acne to postpartum depression, is a dead giveaway of quackery.

Likewise, vibroacoustic therapy ["Deep Breaths"] lacks any scientific support.

Progressives deride conservatives for their antiscience views. Why do so many people pitch science in the trash when it comes to health care? The plural of anecdote is not data. "That sounds cool" and "They did it in the old days" are not scientific standards.

Yes, yes, science-based medicine has flaws. Science is self-correcting over time. Quackery stays wrong forever. Please do better next year.

Hilton Dier III


All About Ethics

[Re Fair Game: "The Usual Suspects," January 18]: When the Ethics Commission bill, S.8, left the Senate's Government Operations Committee last week, it did not advance an "independent" ethics commission in Vermont.

At the outset, the Vermont State Ethics Code is erroneously referred to as the "Agency of Human Resources Ethics Code." In concordance with all state ethics codes nationally, Vermont's should be entitled the Vermont State Ethics Code.

In addition, the duty of investigating ethical violations is inappropriately assigned to the Agency of Human Resources — a state agency also subject to an ethics investigation. The Vermont Ethics Commission must have ethics code investigation and enforcement authority.

Noteworthy is that S.8 recommends that the executive director of the commission will be a part-time, temporary position borrowed from the Department of Human Resources, with no additional staff. The fact is, the proposed financial allocation is inadequate for the successful operation of a robust ethics program. A commitment to adequate funding is necessary for policy-program development; ethics training and information materials for all state employees and legislators; a hotline; ethics compliance monitoring; and reasonable costs for an independent, comprehensive ethics commission on par with state government ethics offices across the U.S. and Canada.

If Vermont is going to have one, it should be an entity independent from other state agencies and mandated to do the work of a bona fide government ethics office.

Madeline M. Motta