Letters to the Editor (6/22/16) | Letters to the Editor | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Letters to the Editor (6/22/16)


Published June 22, 2016 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated June 22, 2016 at 11:48 a.m.

Anti-Semitic Cartoon?

Members of my congregation brought to my attention Tim Newcomb's "Lisman Campaign Goes Negative" cartoon, published in your paper [June 8]. This cartoon is highly objectionable. It depicts Bruce Lisman wallowing in a pigsty, calling his opponent Phil Scott a "schlemiel." It is highly offensive, not only to Mr. Lisman, but to the entire Jewish community. While not directly calling attention to Mr. Lisman's Jewish background, it relies upon age-old anti-Semitic stereotypical images and depictions of Jews as the hated "other," as if beneath the dignity of the gentile who stands above, clean and pure. In a time of so much hate-filled language in the public sphere, we all need to be extremely careful and mindful of how we communicate. Your paper should not publish hate speech, and this is most definitely that. In the interest of promoting appropriately thoughtful political discourse, I must ask that you remove this cartoon and apologize.

Rabbi Amy Joy Small

South Burlington

Small is senior rabbi at Burlington's Ohavi Zedek Synagogue.

The June 8 editorial cartoon by Tim Newcomb, "Lisman Campaign Goes Negative," disturbingly draws on centuries-old anti-Semitic stereotypes while making the point that the gubernatorial campaign has turned negative.

The use of the Yiddish word "schlemiel" in the caption gratuitously identifies gubernatorial hopeful Bruce Lisman as Jewish. And he is portrayed with a nose that appears a bit larger and a bit more hooked than his actual nose, a trope that has been historically used by bigots to represent "greedy" and "manipulative" Jews. Finally, placing him in the mud alongside a group of pigs — an animal that is unclean under Jewish law — also seems designed to offend.

We understand that the role of a cartoonist is to exaggerate realities to illustrate their point, but surely there is a way to articulate an editorial opinion without using offensive stereotypes about a candidate's religion.

Robert O. Trestan

Boston, MA

Trestan is the New England regional director of the Anti-Defamation League.

Editor's note: The offense was unintended. Freelance cartoonist Tim Newcomb didn't even know Lisman was Jewish when he drew the cartoon. He used the Yiddish word "schlemiel" because it alliterates with Shumlin and is milder than "jerk," "asshole" or "schmuck." The inclusion of pigs in the mud pit was a cartoon cliché — a graphic reference to Lisman's "mud-slinging."

Easier to Say 'No'

[Re "Low Profile: Meet the Folks Out to Block the 14-Foot Mall Towers," June 8]: Having "met" the "folks," I find myself more sympathetic to the minor characters of "Low Profile" — Joan Shannon and the nine other Burlington city councilors who support the downtown redevelopment project. They may lack the quirky bohemian cachet of the story's heroine, but they deserve a lot of credit for actually attempting to make Burlington more "livable for all people." They carefully considered the effects of taller buildings in a few blocks of downtown and weighed them against the prospect of achieving many long-stated city goals for a vibrant, prosperous downtown. They chose to say yes, which, sadly, in cases of smart infill development, requires far more heroism than saying no.

Julie Campoli


Refugee Reality Check

[Re "Right in Rutland: Will Mayor Chris Louras Fall on His Sword for 100 Syrians?" June 8]: The majority of the citizens whom I hear oppose the refugee relocation program for Rutland are afraid to speak up or be branded "phobes" and bigots — nasty politics. They are not opposed to humanitarian efforts or persons of cultural difference. It's the lack of democratic process that angers them.

The Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program admits that keeping the plan secret was a mistake. There was no mistake. They didn't want us to do this right from the beginning. The surprise was deliberate — almost too late to stop opposition.

It has been shown that nobody but the mayor, his wife, one alderman and a person later appointed to a city position appears on the roster of the initial planning meeting with VRRP, held January 14, 2016. That the police chief, fire chief, head of public works, and city planners and workers were entirely left out of the process during the 15 weeks up to the April 26 announcement is unimaginable!

Nor has there been disclosure of the potential costs to the Rutland and city taxpayers.

Let's have neighborhood meetings. Let's see a real impact study, with real budgets, real tax implications and realistic concerns for the impact upon the people who might be relocated here this year and in the future.

The only winner in this hurry-up procedure is VRRP from Burlington, under contract from the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants of Arlington, Va. — both nongovernment organizations that get paid "by the head" for every transplant they place here. Not good!


Royal Barnard

Rutland City

The Bosom of Abrahams

[Re Feedback: "A Jew's View," June 15]: Bravo to Fred Abrahams for both reminding us of a shameful episode in American foreign policy and proposing that, as he suggests, we "act like Americans."

Joseph "Bud" Kassel


Firing Back: Readers Respond to Seven Days’ AR-15 Purchase

Paul Heintz's Fair Game column "The Gun" [June 15], about his anonymous purchase of an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle in a South Burlington parking lot, generated more online comments than nearly any story in Seven Days' history.

Just 39 hours after a man wielding an assault rifle massacred 49 people in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Heintz found an AR-15 for sale on a firearms website. He emailed and made arrangements to meet the owner at a Five Guys Burgers and Fries parking lot in South Burlington. That's where he bought the rifle, without showing any ID, for $500 cash.

In Vermont, no background checks are required for such "private sales," and leaders including Gov. Peter Shumlin have opposed state legislation to mandate them. The transaction was entirely legal — for both Heintz and the seller.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) mentioned the column Wednesday on the floor of the U.S. Senate during a 15-hour filibuster by Democrats protesting a lack of legislation on guns. "If we made universal background checks mandatory and made it illegal to sell guns without universal background checks, might that make a difference?" Leahy asked.

Heintz's column has been shared by thousands of Facebook users. Readers from across the country and Canada sounded off on the Seven Days website. Others voiced opinions on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Here's a sampling.

The Charlie Hebdo attack occurred in France, which has extremely strict gun control. New laws won't stop terrorists.

Jay Jerger

Essex Junction

This is just remarkably good reporting. If you ever wonder, "Why do we need newspapers?" this kind of thing is the answer.

Bill McKibben


This is horribly chilling. The author gave lots of indications to the seller that he wanted it right away, that he had an intended use in mind and wanted to make sure it would work, that he didn't want to disclose his identity to the seller — and yet the seller was more interested in getting money than not going ahead with a sale to a buyer I wouldn't sell a used car to. And no record check needed to buy the AR-15.

Sasha Thayer


If the gun you are showing in the picture is indeed what you bought, congratulations! You got a great deal. Now take it to the range, shoot it, learn about it. Better yet, buy a pistol in a similar transaction, shoot it and realize that there is no difference in lethality between "the black tool of murder, just like terrorist X has used in Afghanistan" and a common semiautomatic pistol equipped with a $10, 30-round magazine.

What you describe with such a degree of horror is perfectly legal is many U.S. states — most of which have extremely low homicide rates — as well as in Switzerland, which has no background checks for person-to-person transfers. Yet Switzerland in particular has a lower homicide rate than the U.S. homicide rate where guns are not involved.

Sergey Solyanik

Seattle, WA

Every mass shooter in recent history either passed a background check or stole their weapon. Not a single gun control measure that the gun control crowd has put forward would have stopped a single one of these incidents.

California is a gun control advocate's wet dream. Their laws have long since wandered into the unconstitutional realm, yet San Bernardino happened. It is nearly impossible for a civilian to get a gun like an AR-15 in France, but Paris happened.

Perhaps it's time we start looking at solutions that might actually work rather than pointing at the scary black gun that most gun control advocates know next to nothing about.

Kurt Eckert

St. Albans

How can anyone miss the point of this article? Hey, drug dealers, good news! If you want to set up shop in Vermont, you can now remove that nasty and dangerous practice of bringing guns in from out of state! Buy local!

That guy did not ask because he did not care who you were or what you were going to do. He made a profit, I'd imagine. Simply business.

What is this, the Wild West? WTF is wrong with people?!

Tony Gallucci


It would appear that many people completely missed the point of this article. It's simply far too easy to purchase weapons in Vermont.

Ray Lemire

West Lebanon, NH

If one kid on a playground was hitting the others with a stick, would you take the stick away or give every kid a stick?

Kent Gregoire

Atlanta, GA

I certainly hope you email this well-done, albeit scary, article to Gov. Shumlin's private email. I just get unhappier and unhappier with this man, and I think this finally clinched my total dislike. Hate to say it, but I have started calling him Gov. Scummy.

Cynthia Haviland


I would love to sit down with Paul Heintz and show him the difference between a real machine gun and a semiautomatic firearm. I am open to doing this at any time or place and would welcome any other reporter to also be there.

Ed Cutler


The writer is the president of Gun Owners of Vermont.

Great piece.

Tris Coffin


Coffin is the former U.S. attorney for Vermont.

I am still waiting for some anti-gun zealot like this Paul Heintz creep to explain how new and more "gun control" laws will prevent guns from getting into the hands of terrorists, thugs and criminals who, by definition, don't give a shit about laws to begin with.

Kevin Schneider

Muskogee, OK

I find it fascinating that this article has incited so many responses. If only people were so passionate about other topics in Vermont.

Shaun Boyce