Ken Picard's March 22 piece "Shen Yun: Entertaining Family Fare, Political Propaganda — or Both?" does your readership a disservice while veering far from journalistic standards.
The horrific abuses of Falun Gong prisoners of conscience in China are not "alleged" or "accused," as Picard writes, nor can they be brushed off by quoting the perpetrator of these crimes — China's communist dictatorship — as if it were a legitimate source. For the full story, visit faluninfo.net.
Amnesty International and the United Nations have extensively documented China's torture and killing of Falun Gong members. The Wall Street Journal's Ian Johnson won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of it. And it has been the subject of five U.S. congressional resolutions.
Picard's portrayal of our peaceful beliefs, motives and way of life goes beyond misleading to being hurtful and offensive. Would Seven Days feel OK quoting libelous, hateful, anti-Semitic speech if reporting on, say, Fiddler on the Roof?
While quoting at length a controversial, uncredentialed fringe figure with a criminal past, Picard omits all positive information about Falun Gong and its founder — a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and recipient of multiple humanitarian awards.
David Ownby, a university professor and recognized scholar of Falun Gong, writes, "The entire issue of the supposed cultic nature of Falun Gong was a red herring from the beginning, cleverly exploited by the Chinese state to blunt the appeal of Falun Gong and the effectiveness of the group's activities outside of China."
How unfortunate your writer fell for it.
Jaw is president of the Falun Dafa Association of New England.
Young Had Heart
I was saddened to read of the death of Matt Young [Life Lines, March 29]. When Matt began his work on the Church Street Marketplace, there were some who were expecting a street cleaner to cleanse the street of the unwelcome and the unwanted. That wasn't Matt, that's for sure.
He was a gift to the lonely and homeless and, even more, a teacher to the community.
The Howard Center should be proud, and Burlington should give thanks to this good man.
Leddy is a former state senator who ran the Howard Center from 1980 to 2000. The street worker program started during his tenure.
The Other Side of Eviction
A current justice of the peace who left hundreds of knife holes in the walls and allowed heroin to be dealt out of the apartment. A young couple whose interpretation of "reasonable wear and tear" gave an excuse to never clean an apartment. A beloved waiter making "good money" at a favorite local restaurant who entered a lease he could never afford and left a legal bill near $10,000.
What do these people have in common? They were former tenants who nearly bankrupted me.
The article about tenants lawyering up may sound like a nice solution against sketchy landlords ["A Little Free Advice: Lawyers Help Vermonters Facing Eviction," March 15]. Some property owners truly give landlords a bad name. But odds are that most landlords are small, well intentioned and can't afford the legal fees required to file for eviction.
Although Chittenden County does not require a lawyer to file for eviction, navigating the legal morass is all but impossible without hiring an attorney. There is no free guidance, no standardized court forms and an association whose mission sometimes conflicts with small landlords' needs.
If Judge Helen Toor and Legal Services Corporation really care about proactively leveling the field, there are better ways than using precious donor dollars to lawyer up. Instead: Remove the need for lawyers — post forms online. Let magistrates hear eviction cases. Use brief, easy-to-understand memos. Follow the example of Barnstable County, Mass., whose website offers a clear path forward.
Education makes the eviction process a two-way street. In truth, isn't that how any dispute resolution should be handled?
'Girls'? Try 'Women'
["Zen and the Art of Bar Food," March 22]: Please consider in future articles referring to adult females as women rather than "two girls in their early twenties." Would you, for instance, refer to males as "two boys in their early twenties?" Probably not.
At a time when women need to make their voices heard, it's more important than ever to refer to each other appropriately.
Covering Southern Vermont
Kudos to Paul Heintz for his thorough feature about the Bennington Banner, Brattleboro Reformer and Manchester Journal being returned to regional ownership, and Brattleboro competitor the Commons ["Trial and Error," March 29].
Founded by former Reformer reporters and editors, the free-circulation, weekly Commons weakens the paid-circulation, daily Reformer without replacing it.
Lacking reporters, it is news when either paper covers most Windham County towns with local stories attracting local readers.
There was a time when stringers covered smaller Vermont towns with their local knowledge and interest — grassroots reporting now facilitated and enhanced by filing stories and photos online.
Although stringers likely could not be paid much, they might do it for their towns and for the experience as aspiring journalists mentored by their editors.
Liberty or Security?
The conversation on proposed legislation to take guns from people involved in domestic violence accusations should also be considered from a "search and seizure" angle ["Up in Arms: Bill Would Let Cops Take Guns in Domestic Violence Cases," March 22]. I am not writing from a "pro-" or "anti-" gun angle. Instead, I urge lawmakers not to give government agents such immense authority over the rest of us. This bill would allow police to confiscate property without a warrant. This is not about chipping away at gun rights; it's about chipping away at our rights against unlawful seizure. Should we be passing laws that allow the police to make the decision regarding when to take our property without first getting a warrant or court order? By any objective statistic, we are a very safe state. Tragedies are terrible and make any compassionate person's heart ache. Yet I can't help but think of the famous Ben Franklin quote that "Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither."
Don't Blame ICE
[Re Off Message: "Migrant Justice Cases Spark Protest at Boston Immigration Court," March 27; "A Wife Vows to Fight Her Husband's Deportation," March 23; "After Arrests, Attorney Says ICE Is Targeting Migrant Justice," March 21; "Vermont's Congressional Delegation Joins the Criticism of ICE Arrests," March 20; "ICE Arrests Two More Immigration Advocates in Burlington," March 17; "ICE Arrests Immigrant Worker Outside Burlington Courthouse," March 16]: Just a few words on the folks who are getting upset over the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrests: What did you expect or assume would happen? Through representatives, we the people put in place laws concerning immigration. We hire people to enforce them, and when they do their job, some of us get upset? Did you expect law enforcement to ignore the laws indefinitely? If so, who decides what laws we should ignore? If you do not like a law, do not break it; change it. This gets me back to our congressional delegation, the members of which should be replaced. They could have sponsored a reasonable guest-worker law that would work for farmers. They did not! Replace them, and get someone in there who can do the job for farmers.
The Deets on Montpelier Indivisible
Montpelier Indivisible would like to offer some clarification on our group's purpose ["Follow the Leader? Stakes Are High for Vermont Pols on Social Media," March 22]. While Indivisible groups across the U.S. focus on their congressional delegations to resist the Trump administration's policy agenda, the efforts of Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) have afforded us the opportunity to direct our energies elsewhere. That's why Indivisible groups across Vermont are getting involved with sister districts and our state legislature. Some Montpelier Indivisible members are working to support 2017 special elections across the country; others are supporting organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and Rights & Democracy. In fact, most of us aren't all that active on social media!
The intent behind sharing social media posts isn't to shame anyone but to highlight materials that raise questions constituents may be interested in asking their own legislators. Everyone commits gaffes online, but when an elected official continuously shares materials in conflict with the values of their constituents, a conversation needs to take place. For instance, social media activity focusing on migrant rights may interest Vermonters, given the recent arrests of Migrant Justice activists.
Of course, social media is just one point at which to begin a conversation with legislators. Voting histories, sponsored legislation and campaign finance data are much better ways of evaluating our legislators.
In order to stop the Trump agenda, we need to highlight where legislators' votes may be out of line with Vermont values. We hope our research encourages Vermonters across the state to learn more about their representatives, regardless of party affiliation.