Letters to the Editor (10/27/21) | Letters to the Editor | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Letters to the Editor (10/27/21) 

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Good Jam

The Vermont Tech Jam 2021 was fabulous. The venue certainly contributed to that, but the planning, organization and participants were exceptional. How can I receive or view the presentation by Martine Rothblatt and Kyle Clark?

Peter Rowan

Essex Junction

Editor's note: The video of the Tech Jam's keynote presentation, an interview with Beta Technologies founder and CEO Kyle Clark and the company's first customer, Martine Rothblatt, will be published in the next few weeks and available at techjamvt.com.

Facebook 'Fleecing'

[Re From the Publisher, October 13]: Paula Routly got it right in accusing Facebook of being a profit-driven "Anti-Social Media" company.

We've all heard about Facebook's lackluster attempts to control dangerous content such as hate speech, bullying, child exploitation, etc., but Routly draws attention to another looming issue: abuse of retail advertisers.

As a Facebook advertiser, I can attest that what Routly reports on is not an isolated incident.

From 2018 to 2020, we "boosted" Facebook posts with a budget of $50 to $100 a month. In June 2020, however, Facebook, without authorization, charged our credit card 10 times our budget. When we protested, we were referred to a chat room "algorithm" for resolution. In July 2020, the charge jumped to $508. As requested, we re-sent all pertinent background information. No response. In August, the fleecing continued, this time up to $630.

When we advised our bank of the overcharges, we were advised that our Facebook experience was "not unusual." The only way to stop bogus charging was to cancel our credit card. When this was done, we began to see notices on our Facebook page that our account had been locked out.

Believing that the overcharges could be resolved in short order if we could talk to a live person, we repeatedly attempted to contact Facebook HQ in Silicon Valley — all without success.

This policy of evasive stonewalling makes me wonder how many billions of Facebook's revenue might be attributed to a deliberate overbilling scheme?

Jack Scully

Colchester

Sex Sense

The October 13 Ask the Reverend column surprisingly perpetuated the dangerous myth that "while there are some sex workers in the business of their own accord, the trade is unfortunately rife with human trafficking." 

Human trafficking is a horrific crime, but conflating consensual adult sex work and trafficking is harmful.

The vast majority of individuals involved in sex work are consenting adults. In 2020, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported that arrests for prostitution-related offenses outnumbered those for trafficking nearly 38 to one. 

Those who urge that we fight human trafficking by continuing the failed policy of prohibition for consensual adult sex keep both sex workers and trafficking victims in harm's way — consenting adults are arrested and prosecuted, while actual victims of trafficking face barriers to services.

The leading human rights groups in the world — including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, UNAIDS, the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women and the World Health Organization — have come out in support of the decriminalization of consensual sex work in order to address human trafficking worldwide. Evidence from around the world shows that where prostitution has been decriminalized, exploitation decreases.

We cannot use overbroad language in describing this problem, especially when the vast majority of human trafficking happens in sectors other than the sex industry.

I appreciate that we are beginning to discuss sex work openly. Safe Sex Work Vermont, a group of individuals and organizations concerned about the health and safety of all Vermonters, launched safesexworkvt.org, a resource for everyone wanting to know more about this critical issue.

Henri Bynx

Montpelier

Bynx is a cofounder of the Ishtar Collective, a Vermont organization dedicated to sex workers' rights and welfare.

Tax EVs?

The [WTF, October 13] about electric vehicles and their growing popularity brought up a question I've been asking for some time. EVs are great, and when our old Toyota Corolla finally wears out, we likely will replace it with an EV. As more vehicles on the road use electric motors instead of gasoline, where does the highway maintenance money come from? Gas taxes are the major source of highway maintenance funding, and right now EVs are paying nothing toward that. As the number of EVs on the road increases, we need to develop an equitable way of taxing them to be sure there are roads for them to drive on!

Michael Fullerton

Calais

Landlord's Lament

[Re Off Message: "Residents Evicted From Burlington Homeless Encampment Following Arrests," October 14; "Progressives Decry Decision to Clear Out Burlington Homeless Encampment," October 15; "Sears Lane Residents Petition Court to Stop Eviction From Burlington Encampment," October 20]: Oh, the irony. When the City of Burlington wants people out of its property, it allows the unwanted five days to vacate. When a private landlord wants people out for equally egregious behavior, they must endure 4.5 months, and that's if the landlord does everything right.

I'm not saying the people in that Sears Lane encampment don't need more time. No, but bad tenants need to get gone much more quickly. Isn't two months of not paying rent sufficient? Where else do people get that long to simply not pay a bill? Quicker evictions would lower rent, because landlords wouldn't have to provide for the inevitability of getting an eviction-able tenant.

About nine years ago, it cost me $19,000 to evict a tenant, which was about three years' profit for my entire duplex. How fair was that?

Eric Johnson

Burlington

The Mask at Hand

[Re Off Message: "Despite Rising COVID-19 Numbers, Vermont Officials Say No to Mask Mandate," October 12]: The statement of Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine that mask mandates would not work because only the unvaccinated would not comply with them was disappointing and illogical.

First, it is not accurate to conflate the unvaccinated with those refusing to wear masks. While there is overlap, many who have refused to be vaccinated have done so for reasons unrelated to ideology. Many wear masks indoors now, despite the absence of a mandate.

Second, mask refuseniks constitute a segment of the population that has squandered its opportunity to act in a community-minded manner. This reminds one of the problem of drunk driving, which has persisted despite mandates and criminal penalties. Should we just say that those who abuse alcohol are going to drive under the influence anyway and give up on enforcement? Instead, those who have chosen not to follow the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Levine are exactly the people for whose behavior the mandates should be instituted.

Finally, the claim that other states' mask mandates did not work is also false. The proper analysis should examine what would have happened if the mandates had not been imposed. There is no credible evidence to suggest that the number of cases and deaths would not have changed without mask mandates. Indeed, the modeling used by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation has consistently illustrated the mitigating effects of mask mandates.

Levine should follow the guidance of his employees and reconsider his decision.

Brian Sullivan

South Burlington

Live on HD

Last week's calendar noted that the Metropolitan Opera's HD broadcasts of current shows can be seen at the Hopkins Center for the Arts in Hanover, N.H. These broadcasts can also be seen in Middlebury and Rutland. Check out the schedule of operas at Middlebury's Town Hall Theater website or at the website of the Paramount Theatre in Rutland.

David Clark

Middlebury

'Censorship Over Education'

click to enlarge "Absence" in the European and American Gallery at the Fleming Museum of Art - COURTESY OF CHRIS DISSINGER
  • Courtesy Of Chris Dissinger
  • "Absence" in the European and American Gallery at the Fleming Museum of Art

"The Art of Transformation" [October 13] raises important questions about censorship and the role of a university museum.

Authoritarian regimes tell citizens what they can read and see, banning books and removing artworks. A liberal democracy allows citizens to read and view and decide for themselves what is good or bad, just or unjust.

Many museums have enhanced information on artworks, informing viewers of the context and raising challenging questions about racism, colonialism and sexism. The Fleming appears to have chosen censorship over education.

University museums serve students and faculty by collecting and curating original works. Thomas Hudson was an important 18th-century English portraitist, a teacher of Joshua Reynolds. Removing his work is simply making it harder for University of Vermont students to study art firsthand.

The work removed is a portrait of Anne Isted, "who was an enslaver," according to the Fleming Museum of Art label that has replaced the painting. Isted lived in England all her life. She, like many of her upper-class peers, had colonial land holdings. Labor was provided by enslaved persons. Was this wrong? Yes. Did Isted know she held slaves? Undoubtedly. If the portrait of an old woman absentee slaveholder must be removed, shouldn't the UVM library also purge the works of Thomas Jefferson, who was not an absentee enslaver but an active one?

Engaging audiences in challenging and uncomfortable discussions about history, culture, power and oppression is central to a university's mission. Deciding what can or cannot be read or viewed is censorship, pure and simple.

Bruce Wyatt

Williston

Move Versus Remove

I grew up with the Fleming Museum of Art in the days when the wonderful Margit Holzinger was its curator; both she and the tiny museum were a big part of my "education." So I was drawn to your article ["The Art of Transformation," October 13].

I was not surprised that Andrea Rosen called out the museum's "celebratory depictions of white Europeans ... whose wealth ... [was] built on the backs of people of color." What stopped me in my tracks was that Pamela Polston added: "that is precisely what the museum aims to identify, examine and extinguish within its walls." I have no problem with the Fleming (or anyone else) "identifying and examining" anything it wants to; what worries me is the word "extinguish."

I grew up with Thomas Hudson's portrait of Anne Isted, but I never thought it argued for her moral worth; on the contrary, it rather tellingly portrays a person only too content with her extraordinary privilege. It also was a painting by a renowned British artist, and I felt lucky to have it where I could see it. So while I am all for informing anyone who visits the museum of Isted's faults and could support moving her portrait to a section for artworks of dubious moral value, I feel that removing the portrait from display is a serious mistake.

Censorship remains censorship even when the motivation is sincerely well meant. Removing every portrait of people whose lives might cause offense today would empty the halls of many museums. Whom does that benefit?

Raymond Huessy

Putney

'Who the Hell Is Anne Isted?'

The actions of the Fleming Museum of Art's curators in their decision to remove paintings and replace them with history lessons seem well intended but ill thought-out. On reading ["The Art of Transformation," October 13], one nagging thought kept at me. Who the hell is Anne Isted?

The answer? No one to whom I would have given any thought until her life was functionally enshrined in a paper that replaced her portrait. This woman, who only seems to exist on the internet as that single painting, had no history or relevance and had been all but erased by the passage of time, becoming just yet another semi-anonymous subject of a piece of artwork. By taking the focus away from the artist and putting the spotlight on the subject, the curators have elevated this woman from the dust of the past, deeming her more important than the artwork and artist for whom she was the subject.

Somehow, that action seems far more like it "reinforce[s] white supremacy" than just simply taking down the painting without fanfare and replacing it with a work more reflective of diversity, letting Isted remain nothing more than the title of a painting to be forgotten.

The proposed idea of focusing on what can be put up instead of explaining in paragraphs what came down is a far more constructive way to tackle the issue. Enshrine those more deserving, rather than let exploiters become more solidly visible in our history, functionally immortalizing their names and deeds.

Fran Bellin

Essex

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