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Letters to the Editor

August 20, 2008


Published August 20, 2008 at 5:33 a.m.


Though Ken Picard's recent article about Pine Ridge School ["Hard Lessons," July 16] was primarily an attack on Headmaster Dana Blackhurst, in which the lone named critic lacked credibility and the others were anonymous, Picard did not bother to speak to current parents, current members of the Board of Trustees, heads of other schools or even ex-staff members who would support Dana and could provide a bigger context to this story. Picard was given those names and numbers.

Dana was the focus of the story, yet Picard did not interview him until Thursday, July 10, and the story printed Wednesday, July 16. Wouldn't a balanced report require adequate time for follow-up research after interviewing the main subject?

Picard did not report on our new VT scholarship but instead described it as "slashing" tuition.

Dana's office is full of textbooks. The photographer took pictures of them, but Picard chose to only mention toy cars and a box of Fruit Loops (gifts from former students).

Our students are taught that they are not defined by their disability/learning differences. Your cover, of which I could find no other comparable example in the last decade of Seven Days, literally framed Dana by his dyslexia. How did the editors miss that this was appallingly insensitive and simply ignorant?

Picard's report described pre-Dana PRS as a "tight-knit community" that was over-staffed, suffering from mission drift and racking up $1.4 million in debt - yet Dana was portrayed as the problem? Cognitive dissonance, anyone?

John Thomas


Thomas is the admissions director at Pine Ridge School.


I appreciate Bill McKibben's praise for the down-to-earth activists and practitioners of a self-sufficient Vermont, as well as his concern that the Vermont secession movement (if it can even be called a movement) is more intellectual than pragmatic ["Independence Fray," July 23].

It was also telling that McKibben referred to Thomas Naylor, a southerner relocated to Vermont, as the "leader" of the Vermont independence effort when he described the controversy over the Second Vermont Republic's association with the League of the South. In his ostensible role as "leader" of this nascent movement, Naylor has distanced himself from the neo-racist League without ever offering an apology for giving priority to the tactic of secession over the moral goals of personal and collective sovereignty and dignity.

It is also revealing about the moral foundation of the SVR (which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Thomas Naylor) that a life-long activist for progressive social change and small-scale economics such as myself was "dismissed" from both my active membership in the SVR and my role on the editorial board of the Vermont Commons because I publicly questioned the undemocratic nature of the leadership (at that time, Thomas Naylor and Rob Williams).

Like McKibben, I believe that true independence comes from the feet-on-the-ground activism of pragmatists rather than from the self-important declarations and theatrics of autocratic "movements" of questionable provenance.

Robert Riversong



I recently read something in the Seven Daysies issue [August 6] that seriously disturbed me.

Staff writer Jon Taylor reports on The Kountry Kart Deli, the staff pick for "Best Pub Crawl Finish Line." Taylor starts by not talking about the deli itself, but by describing the booze-soaked events which lead revelers to the Kountry Kart: "... in a bar-laden town such as Burlington, it's damn near impossible not to get caught up in the scene every once in a while. In fact, use it to your benefit."

Good God! Is Taylor encouraging us to get drunk? As if drinking to the point of almost passing out and stumbling around (with a good chance of puking or doing something even more destructive) isn't enough, Taylor then promotes greasy food. It sounds to me as though Taylor is promoting an unhealthy lifestyle here.

Once inside Burlington's late-night grease fest, Taylor remarks on "KKD's mesmerizing wall of beverages" which is "a soothing sight for sore and slightly blurry eyes."

"Mesmerizing wall of beverages?" I've ordered from the Kountry Kart when I was stone-cold sober, and I've found nothing mesmerizing about Kountry Kart's big honkin' cooler stocked with soda, iced tea and bottled water. If you want "mesmerizing," why not walk down to the waterfront one late, moonlit, booze-soaked night and gaze out at our beautiful Lake Champlain?

This has to be the stupidest thing I've read in Seven Days ever. I sincerely hope it was really only a staff pick and does not speak for Burlingtonians and Vermonters in general. If this is the case, I would not be very proud of my fellow Vermonters.

Edward A. Burke



Alice Levitt's article was some of the best news I have heard in weeks ["Bubble Brain," August 13].

I am a "bobaholic" (drinking the tea since third grade) and I have sorely missed the treat. I am so glad to hear that the drink is now being served down the road in South Burlington! I will no longer have to visit my boyfriend in New York City!

Ellen Zuckerman



Thank you, Judith Levine, for your courageous voice in the wilderness ["Poli Psy," August 13].

If these Draconian proposals are adopted, modern Vermont criminal trials of citizens accused of sex crimes will resemble the medieval guilt-detection methods used on accused witches, as described by University of Wisconsin history professor J.P. Sommerville: "'Swimming' or 'floating' a witch involved throwing the suspect into water, with her left hand or thumb tied to her right foot, and her right hand tied to her left foot. The guilty would float, the innocent sink (perhaps because water would reject corrupt agents of the Devil.) A rope was tied around the suspect's middle, to prevent the innocent drowning."

Why not resurrect this technique and add it as a "modest proposal" to the panoply of proposals now being considered by our elected officials in this atmosphere of hysteria? After all, the recent legislative and administration proposals described in your article, including the elimination of pretrial depositions, the automatic admission of evidence of prior convictions for sex crimes, the slashing of the public defenders' budget, are moving inexorably in that direction.

Can we so easily forget or ignore the dozens of wrongly convicted suspects, many of whom served years, some even decades, in prison before being exonerated by the Innocence Project?

Daniel Albert



What a bunch of hogwash by the state. They jump down the throats of the composters in Burlington and Montpelier, then do the bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo when it comes to a dump ["Junkyard Dog," August 13].

I don't really care what the history of the dump is. Do something about it. Yes, we are a nation of laws, but there is a clear lack of leadership when this kind of thing can fester for decades with so many conflicts. Why don't our elected officials show some bone and step up to say, "Hey, that's our responsibility."

Be creative. There's an answer Milton and the citizens of Vermont deserve.

Greg Giro



It's a shame to read Shay Totten taking apparent glee while reporting on the woes of the Vermont Milk Company ["Fair Game," August 6]. While supporters and farmers all tell Totten that the Vermont Milk Company is a good thing, and they hope it succeeds, Totten asks, "Who's milking whom?"

Start-up companies struggle - that's a fact. If they didn't, wouldn't the farmers have formed start-ups a long time ago? Totten should know that after failing to become Joseph Pulitzer when he started the Vermont Guardian.

Ross Laffan



Judith Levine's article, "Cruel and Unusual," is her best, among many, on the topic of the insane, ineffective and unjust ¨sex offender¨ laws. She is to be congratulated for staying with this very unpopular point of view.

America, and Vermont evidently, remain in the grip of an extreme hysteria, which has produced only fear and pain. These laws have certainly not helped ¨victims,¨ and they have brought incredible humiliation and agony to hundreds of thousands of men and women and millions of their family members across the country. They have also seriously undermined the Constitution.

I urge readers of Seven Days to visit www.reformsexoffenderlaws.org, and become involved in the political struggle to begin to roll back this abusive wave of hatred.

Tom Reeves