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Letters to the Editor 

White Guy’s Lament

[Re Kathryn Flagg’s “What Women Want Now,” May 2]: Tough question. No, wait, it’s a statement. No, wait, it’s a pun: N.O.W. now? Twelve years ago, Hollywood put up $70 million on a bet. Paramount Pictures’ What Women Want raked in $371 million from all across the globe.

Why juxtapose Hollywood and “serious feminism”?  We are in the age of the camo-style thong and the kick-ass, gun-totin’ chick flick. I recently spent a few minutes with a thirtysomething woman who explicated her take on the schizophrenia in today’s feminism: parity in the workplace? Jimmy Choo knockoffs are more popular than ever. In a pair of stilettos, you can’t run to help others; you can’t run to save yourself. But put up a sign — 75% off Jimmy Choos — and you’re mobbed.

Now rallies Madeleine Kunin to the Statehouse lawn, her new book in hand. Publishers Weekly says, “Though Kunin’s passion is obvious in her anecdotes, a heavy-handed reliance on statistics and expert opinions will likely make this book appeal more to already-active feminists than to a general audience.”

Here’s a stat: I’m a native Vermonter — an unemployed, middle-aged, white male with an advanced degree.  And, thanks to the confines and constraints of “EOE” culture, I may never work in my chosen field again: education. For the past several years, I have been “perfect for the job.” But every almost-got-it job — 23 in row — has gone to a woman.

Feminist battles have had a certain effect — certainly on me. But, it would seem, not on the new generation of women. Maybe Mrs. Kunin should take her message from the Statehouse lawn to the movie-studio gate? 

Paul Cook


Calling All Women

Letter-writer Casey Stevens criticizes Madeleine Kunin for her “tired tale about how young folks don’t appreciate feminist gains” [Feedback, May 16]. I think the current war on women calls for all women to respond! It wasn’t that long ago women had to go to Mexico to seek an abortion or to New York for an illegal abortion. We could not procure contraception, which was only given to married women, without a doctor’s prescription.

Maybe feminists should be tired after winning the right for women to vote, for civil rights, for legal contraception, for legal abortion, for Title IX, for class action for equal pay and for childcare support. But, instead, we’re calling all women to join the fight for the women in Texas now without health care, for the women in Virginia subjected to vaginal probes when seeking a legal abortion and for the women in Wisconsin denied the right to sue for wage discrimination.

No one can take away from me the pride I feel in my feminist sisters who fought and gained these rights for women, but they can succeed in taking away these rights for women. So please, whatever works — letters or Facebook or protests. Let’s stop this horrific war on women rather than criticizing each other! There’s too much at stake!

Johanna Nichols


Horror Show

[Re Blurt, “ECHO’s ‘Our Body’ Exhibit Sparks Controversy, Questions,” May 15]: Wow, Seven Days really missed the real story by failing to dig deeper back when it produced April 18’s “Stuck in Vermont.” Had I wandered into ECHO’s show, I would have turned on my heel and walked out — for the same reason I choose to steer clear of accidents, public executions and most of what goes on in Florida.

This stuff should be for medical professionals only — people who are taught to respect the human body and have valid reasons for needing to examine it in such detail. After all, if public displays like this were OK, we’d have witnessed coroner offices charging at the door a long time ago!

ECHO’s exhibit disrespects the human body in a calculated effort to boost ticket sales. A little research backs this up. What makes shows like this so attractive to potential venues is that they dramatically increase door receipts. This is a moneymaker, pure and simple — not unlike its close cousin, the carnival sideshow. Actually, I take that back. The shocking issue of provenance alone really puts shows like this in their own category.

People can’t be trusted to know on their own what’s appropriate. I read that some folks brought their children to this show. Who would think that’s OK? The Burlington Free Press — and the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, etc. — got it right. This whole story reeks more than the “rubberized” body parts on display. It’s time for ECHO to come clean and pull this show.

Kai Mikkel Forlie


Editor’s note: The Burlington Free Press is a sponsor of the exhibit “Our Body: The Universe Within.”

Pro-Vaccine Voice

I am not a regular reader of Judith Levine’s Poli Psy column, but her editorial championing vaccines was well written, well researched and logical [“Immune to Reason,” May 23]. I agree with her on the necessities of vaccines. Their successes are well documented. The same cannot be said for the argument against vaccination. It’s a shame Judith felt the need to stay out of the debate for fear of being excoriated by your readers for her views. The tactic of silencing another’s opinion by shouting it down brings Tea Party tactics to mind. Nice job, Judith.

Al Erkenbrach

South Burlington

Vaccines Aren’t Perfect

I place myself firmly in the camp of individuals who believe that the development of vaccines is one of humanity’s greatest achievements. That said, I found Judith Levine’s piece on vaccines [Poli Psy, “Immune to Reason,” May 23] to be overly simplistic. Her blistering attack on anyone and everyone who declines to vaccinate or who verbalizes concerns that vaccines can cause harm is both elitist and counterproductive. Demeaning assaults will not change the minds of such individuals.  

Vaccines can and do cause harm — frequently mild but certainly not always. The live poliovirus vaccine (used in the U.S. until 2000) that is currently used to vaccinate children in developing nations actually causes paralytic polio in a very small number of children every year. 

Just as importantly, since 1988, when the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program was created, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims has paid out more than $2 billion to slightly fewer than 3000 individuals who have experienced serious adverse events associated with vaccination, including death.

Life is about weighing risks and benefits. The fact that some individuals reach a conclusion about vaccination that differs from Levine’s and mine does not mean they “lack moral responsibility.” As long as their numbers do not exceed 5 to 10 percent of the population, “herd” immunity will remain intact, and in only very rare cases will “innocents” in society suffer from the decision of such individuals not to vaccinate.

Gerry Silverstein

South Burlington

Quitting Quirks?

According to the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security, “excessive yawning” and “clock watching” are indications that someone is a terrorist [News Quirks, April 25]. I can see the rationale for clock watching in that someone may be waiting for a bomb to go off, but I think that’s stretching it. And I don’t see at all where yawning would come into it. So if I watch late-night movies the night before going back to work, and almost miss the bus, that makes me a terrorist? I think when these things reach the point of being this absurd, it may be time to recall the words of a famous Vermonter in the ’50s, then-senator Ralph Flanders, who stood up to fellow senator Joe McCarthy and said: “Haven’t you had enough?”

Brian Garen


It Doesn’t Add Up

I hope readers realize two things from “Where Have All the Dollars Gone? A Tally of Your Taxes” [April 4] as presented in the graphics accompanying the article. First, the $377 — out of an example Vermonter’s $2600 federal tax bill — is for only the interest on U.S. debt, and it does not represent any payment of principal. Yes, nearly 15 percent of that $2600 is going toward interest on deficit spending. Although U.S. debt is structured slightly differently, this would be like paying only the interest on your mortgage or car loan but never actually reducing the loan’s outstanding balance.

Second, the same page suggests what we could fund in Vermont if our federal taxes were redirected toward spending in this state instead of at a national level. This is the problem with our thinking today: We should not redirect our taxes to other spending; we should redirect our taxes to pay off our debt while substantially reducing current spending. When the country’s borrowing is paid off and there are no longer interest payments or outstanding balances, then, perhaps, we can dream about redirecting monies to activities closer to home.

In one of the final conversations I had with my grandfather, he commented that he could not believe that the United States had become a debtor nation. I can believe it. To paraphrase Robert Frost: Two paths diverged, and we as a country chose the easier one.

Scott A. Sabol


Costly Proposition

The 2000 planned F-35 jets are estimated to be worth a total of $400 billion [“F-35 Fighter Jets in South Burlington? Air Force Idea Bombs and Soars,” May 16]. That is $200 million per jet. Burlington is said to be getting 24 jets, or $4.8 billion worth of jet hardware. Dividing $4.8 billion by the population of the whole of Vermont at 62,6431 people equals $7662 per person.

Lockheed Martin is building the F-35. Robert J. Stevens, CEO of Lockheed Martin, had an annual salary package for 2011 worth more than $25 million. If he does eight-hour workdays and has two weeks off work a year, that is more than $7662 an hour.

Perhaps $7662 given to each person in Vermont would be a wise community-building idea, rather than spending it on items whose purpose is to drop or fire things with deadly effect at communities. Then $25 million should be put into, say, doing some nice things for people and the planet?

John Dawkins


Not Scared at All

In “F-35 Fighter Jets in South Burlington? Air Force Idea Bombs and Soars” [May 16], Kevin J. Kelley wrote, “F-35 opponents characterized such testimony as ‘scare tactics.’” I find it interesting that he would use that quote in that context when, just a few paragraphs later, he quotes Juliet Buck saying, “Winooski is toast.” How is that not a scare tactic?

I grew up in Winooski and still live there, near St. Mike’s. I do hear the jets in the evening powering up at the end of the runway. It’s a little annoying for a whole three to four minutes! Making silly statements like St. Mike’s will have to be bought out and torn down is ridiculous at best, and a bold-faced scare tactic at worst!

I support the F-35s coming to BTV!

Chris LaMothe


Fighter Jets Are Killing Machines

Why do we want jets, F-16s or F-35s, thundering over our heads on a daily basis here in beautiful, pastoral Burlington [“F-35 Fighter Jets in South Burlington? Air Force Idea Bombs and Soars,” May 16]? They are lethal killing machines that obscene amounts of money have been spent to purchase, maintain and fly. In recent years, such jets have played a major role in killing thousands of innocent men, women and children in other countries, that we, the U.S., have invaded. Do we want the excuse of jobs to cover that up, and to keep covering that up? Can we not invest and create thousands of other jobs in more positive and environmentally healthy ways? We are complicit in many aspects of our modern lives, but for Burlington to actively support this project is condoning the U.S.’ illegal military campaigns and the military industrial complex.

For 25 years I have worked as a professor at St. Michael’s College. In that time, I have often had to stop class and wait for the noise from these jets to recede before continuing with class. I am the Artist (Poet) in Residence there and over the years I have written poems that relate my abhorrence of these jets.

I have also had to stop playing with my 11-year-old son, Dan, and his friends in my back garden off North Avenue as the jets drowned out our voices.

What message does supporting these jets send to young people — or indeed, to anyone?

Greg Delanty


Joyful Noise

[Re “F-35 Fighter Jets in South Burlington? Air Force Idea Bombs and Soars,” May 16]: They represent the sound of freedom. Is that noise not worth it to you?

Tom Perry


You There?

I am not sure if your reporters attended the same hearing that I did on Monday, May 14, re F-35s being “bedded down” in South Burlington [“F-35 Fighter Jets in South Burlington? Air Force Idea Bombs and Soars,” May 16]. The story says, “Leahy and Sanders offered only lukewarm and hedged endorsements last week in response to queries from Seven Days about whether they still view South Burlington as a suitable site for the new warplanes.” Weird: The joint Leahy-Sanders statement sounded like an endorsement to me. Sens. Sanders and Leahy, Rep. Peter Welch, Gov. Peter Shumlin, and others had representatives from their offices read statements declaring their unconditional support for the basing. In fact, while I don’t remember the exact wording, it was something to the effect of how having the F-35s based here would contribute to the high quality of life.

The hearing was a joke. It was purportedly to review and gather public feedback about the Environmental Impact Statement, but instead focused on the economic impacts, not the environmental impacts, of the bed down. The hearing focused on businesses and government officials touting the economic benefits of having F-35s here. There was barely time for citizens to speak, and the hearing ended before everyone who had requested speaking time was able to be heard.

Terry Zigmund


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