Letters to the Editor | Letters to the Editor | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Published March 7, 2012 at 5:16 a.m.

Macedonia Claims Mother Teresa

[Re “A Former Mayor’s New Direction,” February 29]: Very interesting article [by Kevin J. Kelley], but “Today, Ferries points out that Albania is best known internationally as the birthplace of Mother Teresa” — not correct! Mother Teresa was born in Skopje, the capital of Macedonia!

Vlado Zura

Ohrid, Macedonia

Kevin J. Kelley responds: Mother Teresa’s case is more complicated than Betsy Ferries suggested and Seven Days reported. Both of her parents were Albanian, which led Mother Teresa to declare: “By blood I am Albanian. By citizenship, Indian.”

It’s true she was born in 1910 in what is now Macedonia, but today’s Albania, like Macedonia, was a part of the Ottoman Empire at the time of Mother Teresa’s birth. The Albania government asked in 2009 that India transfer her remains so they could be interred alongside those of her mother and sister in a cemetery in Tirana, Albania’s capital. India refused.

Shaky Stats

If you are going to root around in the statistics for evidence of racism, you have an obligation to be more careful with your facts [Fair Game: “Do You Know Why I Pulled You Over?” February 22]. According to the published report, white drivers were issued a ticket in 41.83 percent of all stops, nonwhite drivers 51.99 percent. That’s a difference, to be sure, but is probably explained by the fact that whites get disproportionately stopped for equipment failures, which result in more warnings and fewer tickets. At any rate, it’s nowhere near the “2½ times more likely to be ticketed” that you cite.

You are also playing with the numbers when you count searches of African Americans separately but don’t give us the results of their searches separately. They may be getting searched the “right” amount. We can’t tell.

You also fail to mention that nonwhites are three times more likely than whites to be arrested on an outstanding warrant. And finally, you leave it up to your readers to calculate sample size. In one year, nonwhites were searched in 2.63 percent of their 1761 total stops. That’s just 46 people, not African Americans, but all minorities. I don’t see how you or your “expert” Stephanie Seguino can reach any conclusions by further dividing this tiny sample size into even smaller chunks. You are already in “rounding error” territory. The very most that you can conclude, as the state police report did, is that some data bear watching.

Will Workman


Wary of Lisman

Mr. Lisman is a snake-oil salesman [Fair Game, “What Is Bruce Lisman Up To?” February 29]. When he was a UVM trustee, he spoke to the staff on a couple occasions and tried to convince them that what they thought was in their interest wasn’t; and what was in the interest of him and his big-business buddies on the board, was.

Regarding the possibility that he might run for office: At a meeting I attended at UVM maybe 15 years ago, Lisman lamented that the Sunshine Laws were detrimental to carrying out policies at a public institution. It doesn’t surprise me that he is attacking public education. When I was a worker at UVM and he sat on the board of trustees, I wasn’t too convinced he cared much for the concept then.

On another very important matter: Should Lisman decide to run for public office, he was once vice-president of the stock division of Bear Stearns — the first in the current round of big financial houses to bet other people’s money on a Wall Street Ponzi scheme and fail. In its final days, he insisted that people’s investments were safe while the firm wriggled free from its debts. Don’t let him have control of any more public monies.

Ron Jacobs


Ruloff Responds

I was never interviewed by Kevin J. Kelley or anyone else for the article on the Ward 3 city council race. My views and positions go far beyond stating, to paraphrase your “reporting”: “I live in a truck.” (Which is a statement I never made to you.) You had a reasonably good photo of me, but you might have said you failed to contact me for the article, rather than portraying me as a meaningless entity surviving in an old motor vehicle on the streets.

Your liberal-radical left bias is showing. The Dems and the Progs, with their self-serving, politically correct and anti-Semitic rant, are “objectively” reported as the front-runners. They’re just brainwashed yuppies with a rant: I invited all of them in person to debate me on my show, “Radio Free Brooklyn,” and none showed. None wanted to subject their views to any sort of rational analysis. 

Remember, it was the Dems and Progs on the council who paid no attention to the city’s deteriorating finances over the past six or seven years because they’re “volunteers.” Remember, it was Bob Kiss the Progressive who introduced total secrecy into the mayor’s office and an authoritarian form of city government, and who has been allowed to skate free of criminal charges although he illegally diverted some $17 million in city funds. And the same people who are friends of Kiss and Clavelle should be allowed to stay in office? Sure, because of the backing of propaganda sheets like Seven Days, which carefully covers up all liberal malfeasance.

Ron Ruloff


Ruloff ran for city council as an independent in Ward 3.

Editor’s response: It’s true Kelley didn’t interview Ruloff; the information about his living in a truck came from Ruloff’s remarks at a candidate forum. Kelley’s original story also included other remarks by Ruloff, a self-described “survivalist,” including, “The crash is coming, people.” Those remarks were edited out of the final story.

How Do You Say...?

Regarding Dan Bolles’ foray into the Vermont “accent” [“Say What? Examining the origins and uncertain future of the Vermont accent,” February 15], I would like to point out that there is a difference between an “accent” and a speech impediment, or lack of proper speech development. Many youngsters exhibit the glottal stop Bolles described, even though their parents and teachers do not speak that way; most outgrow it. To my ear, the glottal stop, and a significant amount of the fronting and raising, is simply a lack of proper training — not an “accent.”

Bolles would apparently have us believe that while New Hampshire and Maine have their “provincially charming drawls,” “Vermontese” is punctuated with a variety of ignorant-sounding extra vowels and missing consonants. I most enthusiastically disagree. I have witnessed plenty of Vermont “accents” where the language is pronounced as perfectly as the Queen’s English; it just sounds different.

No study of Vermont’s language is complete without boning up on the mid-20th-century work of Dartmouth College history professor Allen Foley, and, to this longtime observer, Rusty DeWees is an amateur compared to George Woodard, originator of the world-famous (at least in a few parts of the world) Ground Hog Opry. Easily the greatest (legal) entertainment on Earth, it’s like “Prairie Home Companion,” except that the Ground Hog Opry is funny.

And lucky for you, Ground Hog Opry is playing throughout March [in Chelsea, Randolph, Hyde Park, Barre and Waterbury]. I encourage one and all, Dan Bolles especially, to be in attendance.

Steven Farnham


New Hampshire’s Got the Idea

The reason the state is revenue “stripped” is that our politicians can’t stop spending [“Vermont Software Firms: Taxing the Cloud Has No Silver Lining,” February 15]. How come New Hampshire, with a population twice the size of Vermont’s, has a state budget approximately the same as ours? Maybe they provide fewer services. Maybe we should learn to live with less rather than tax the people and businesses of this state to poverty?

Jim Tompkins


Taxing What?

I must applaud the restraint of our entrepreneurial IT friends [“Vermont Software Firms: Taxing the Cloud Has No Silver Lining,” February 15]. Were I to receive a tax bill like those described in the article, I would be livid, and maybe even planning how to get my business based in another state.

The policy decision is just plain wrong on so many levels, it is ludicrous. If someone hires their neighbor to shovel the driveway instead of buying a shovel themselves, does that also make the transaction subject to sales tax?

Cloud computing is attractive precisely because it is a service and not a product. This isn’t a tax dodge; it is a fundamentally different way of meeting our needs. If this should be taxed, it requires a new type of tax to do it fairly; this is much more like a utility bill.

Aside from this, imposing a retroactive tax on something that clearly, on the face of it, should not be subject to the tax is abhorrent. And in this particular case, it is foolish, as well. One huge advantage of cloud-based computing is that the actual physical infrastructure can be located anywhere. I suspect it would be relatively easy for many of these businesses to legally relocate their “headquarters” out of state for the purposes of avoiding tax, without significantly inconveniencing either their staff or customers. Why should we push them to do this?

These are the sorts of jobs we should be welcoming to Vermont. I encourage the legislature to step in and pass a law retroactively “forgiving” this tax and reaffirming our commitment to helping these companies thrive. Then consider a more just way to ensure everyone benefits from their productivity.

Brian Leet



The name of Vermont Rail System president David Wulfson was misspelled in last week’s story “What Would It Take to Develop Burlington’s Waterfront Rail Yard?”

There was also an error in the article “No Tiff on TIF: Kiss, Community Leaders Say It’s a Win-Win for Downtown Burlington.” Main Street Landing has contributed approximately $8 million in property taxes and impact and permit fees over the past 30 years, not annually, as stated in the article.

Due to an editing error, a February 22 blog post about the proposed Fair Haven biomass plant — that was excerpted in that week’s print issue — suggested “tree limbs” are used as fuel. While this is sometimes the case, entire trees may also be harvested to feed the fire.