About Vermont Slavery...
I read with interest "WTF: Why Does a Sign in Richmond Tell Passersby to 'Understand Slavery'?" [April 26]. However, I wish people would stop saying that Vermont outlawed slavery in 1777. No such thing happened — the Vermont Constitution outlawed adult slavery only. Young men could be enslaved until age 21; young women until age 18.
At a time when African American life expectancy was about the mid-thirties, people of color could be enslaved for most of their lives. Many were never freed at their age of majority but were sold to slave states. The "owners" then forced new youngsters to work for them.
Some were simply never freed and stayed enslaved for life in Vermont. The age of majority was later changed to 21 for both genders. That is still in our Vermont Constitution today!
Elise A. Guyette
[Re Off Message: "Vermont Senate Rebuffs Attempt to Raise Smoking Age," April 25]: On March 26, 2015, the Huffington Post reported that "Cigarettes used to be everywhere in American society. Fifty years ago, 42.4 percent of U.S. adults smoked. Since then, that figure has declined by more than half, reaching a record low 17.8 percent in 2014 ... The Surgeon General's Office estimates that almost nine out of 10 smokers began smoking before age 18, while virtually every smoker — a full 99 percent — started by age 26. Accordingly, a lot of effort has been directed at discouraging young people from picking up that first cigarette."
Raising the legal age for cigarette purchases to 21 is a positive step in safeguarding the health of the next generation and lowering the crippling costs to our health system of the subsequent diseases associated with smoking cigarettes. Age 25 would be even better. The Vermont legislature — both houses — should have the health and welfare of all citizens of Vermont as an underlying principle in their work.
[Re "Vermont Fantasy Novel Sparks a Tale of Fascism and Internet Fury," April 26]: The interview with author Laurie Forest begins with the statement that Goodreads is a democratic forum and goes on to describe readers who have condemned the book without ever having read it. It is remarkable to me that the article does not comment further on what has been, with this book and others, a "fury" of cyberbullying. Dissent and civil discourse are healthy, but what has happened on Goodreads has been vicious, bereft of critical thinking, including ad hominem attacks on the author and threats to those who dare to disagree.
As the daughter of Holocaust survivors, I find this kind of mob behavior frighteningly reminiscent. The web serves to magnify and depersonalize the behavior and exempts the bullies from being seen and held responsible for the damage they inflict. There is nothing democratic about thuggery and intimidation, whether physical or verbal. It is critically important, especially in these times, for all of us to stand up and say that this behavior is unacceptable and antidemocratic, and that we will not let it go unopposed.
In last week's profile of Gibberfish ["Shroud in the Cloud," April 26], an Electronic Frontier Foundation representative expressed skepticism: "It creates a honeypot. All you have to do is break this one tool, and you have all the activists." It's a reasonable concern, and one we thought through when designing our platform.
Unlike other offerings, we don't run a centralized system. Each client has their own isolated server; there are no shared resources. Leaks from any of these systems will be contained to that server alone. Granted, there may be vulnerabilities in the common codebase, but that's a universal issue for all software, even the alternatives suggested by the EFF. As we said in the interview, "It's an arms race."
Also, many secure systems require users to have apps and data stored on their phone or computer. These devices are more likely to be compromised by malware and viruses, or physically stolen. Gibberfish allows users to work entirely in a browser. Their files are stored on their server, not on a local device.
And by using Tor, it's easy to access Gibberfish without leaving a trail. Our system is accessible as a "hidden service," making it virtually impossible to monitor its use.
Finally, Gibberfish is based on Nextcloud, a commercial open-source software platform. So we benefit from having its security team testing much of the underlying code.
Is Gibberfish a magic bullet that's perfect for everyone? Of course not, but we believe it provides a much-needed private space for public-interest organizations to collaborate.
O'Donnell is the executive director of Gibberfish.
Pain, No Gain
I read Seven Days regularly and have followed your coverage of the opiate epidemic. Your most recent article ["Do No Harm: New Rules Discourage Overprescribing Opiates," April 26] has compelled me to share another side to this issue. As someone with often-severe chronic pain, I have been denied medications that would allow me to live a more functional life, contribute to the community and keep me out of the emergency room, where I take resources from life-threatening emergencies.
Many of us in chronic pain have experienced the frustration of being treated as "drug seekers" when we are just trying to manage a very difficult life. I know how serious the addiction epidemic is; I have a close friend struggling with opiate addiction. Overprescribing absolutely needs to be addressed. However, the pendulum has swung too far in the medical community insofar as it is negatively impacting chronic pain sufferers.
What we need is a balanced approach, not a blind lockdown on these drugs when, for some, they are part of a multifaceted chronic pain treatment plan. It may not make gripping headlines, but there are people who use these drugs responsibly and have a better quality of life. Until there are further developments in chronic pain management, the reality is that these drugs are necessary for some people, and it is poor medicine to deny them to us.