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Letters to the Editor 

Published March 25, 2009 at 7:11 a.m.


Thank you for publishing “The $7.25 Million Dollar Man,” [“Fair Game,” March 18], and thank you, Shay Totten, for revealing the golden parachute of William R. Milnes Jr., of Vermont Health Plan and Blue Cross Blue Shield. I have two questions:

(1) How can anyone with any conscience still support the continuation of private health insurance?

(2) How can anyone in his right mind oppose government-financed, patient-controlled single payer, such as is presented in H.R. 676 by Rep. Conyers of Michigan, titled Universal Health Care?

Peter D. Moss



Talk about old school [“Old School,” February 18]. My sister had mobility issues and attended school in the 1950s and ’60s. By the time she was 14, she was using a wheelchair. She had to stop attending school and be tutored at home, creating intense isolation. To get into a movie, we had to use the back door. To get into church, we had to recruit men to carry her in and out.

No public buildings were accessible, and even private homes had steep stairways and bathroom doors that were too narrow for a typical wheelchair to fit through.

The world said, “You do not exist” to her.

The ADA has been wonderful, but too many people think it’s providing something extra for people with mobility issues. Think about it: If we constructed buildings without stairs and doors and expected everyone to be able-bodied enough to climb a knotted rope to get in and out through the windows, we might gain some perspective. Why then do we assume that buildings are supposed to have stairs and hard-to-open doors, instead of ramps and accessible entrances?

For too many years, opening our public buildings to the disabled has been considered a favor, when it’s just as much a right as stairs and doors.

I’m disgusted with the current so-called fiscal responsibility that once again squeezes out school projects, especially ADA projects. I hope someday we recognize the difference between a favor and a right, especially when most of us enjoy that right.

Pat Goudey O’Brien



In response to “On the Lamb,” [March 11]: Hilarious! Can’t wait for the book!

Lisa Beers



The photo of the lamb on the front page of Seven Days [March 11] evokes delight. What a beautiful, innocent baby animal. We all want to cuddle her.

But then the thought strikes me with horror as to the next step in her short life: slitting the gentle little lamb’s throat and hanging her upside down to bleed to death as she struggles and suffers.

The observation by the ancient sage, Plutarch, is so fitting here, “But for the sake of some little mouthful of flesh, we deprive a soul of the sun and light, and of that proportion of life and time it had been born into the world to enjoy.” Amen.

Monica Farrington



Here I am, sitting with an “old” friend, and we happened upon this magnificent poem about tomatoes [“Late August,” by Ben Aleshire, September 3]. As I was reading, the descriptions were lovely, as was his flow and use of allegory. Just lovely.

Quinn Bruck



Regarding your review of Respect Water ~ Protect Water [“Vermont Environmentalists Collaborate on Water Words,” March 11]: The reviewer attempts the leap to “critic” but trips over his cheap shot at the fine spiritual verse and only announces, “It ain’t prose.” Reviewer Ives likely couldn’t even find his way to a literary MFA and is probably uncomfortable about a prayer-literature connection.

Bill Ross



In response to the story, “Everything You Wanted to Know About IRV But Didn’t Know Who to Ask,” [February 25], suppose the 10,000 voters are divided as follows:

4500 rank the candidates in order Republican, Democrat, Progressive.

3000 rank them Progressive, Democrat, Republican.

2500 rank them Democrat, Progressive, Republican.

In plurality voting the Republican wins.

In IRV, the Democrat comes in last, and so is eliminated; the 2500 votes then have the Progressive in first place, and so the Progressive wins over the Republican by 1000 votes.

Yet 4500 + 2500 = 7000 voters, 70 percent of them, rank the Democrat higher than the Progressive.

How could this happen? Simple. IRV ignores the second choice of the largest group of voters, the Republicans.

In summary, while IRV makes use of some second choices, it ignores the second choices of the runner-up, who may be the largest group of voters. That’s not fair!

Robert Norman



I read with interest the sheep story “On the Lamb” by John O’Brien [March 11.] I realize John’s comments in his article are supposed to make the reader laugh; he’s an author and film producer. But as a successful sheep farmer (who just so happened to buy her first breeding ram from John’s mother), I can also see the harm his story can do to people like me that have made an effort to do the best job possible raising our animals to reach their full potential.

Having raised sheep for 30 years, I can relate to many of his “dead sheep” situations and have personally experienced many myself. I also know that as a prudent shepherd, many of those deaths can be prevented by responsible management and I, like other shepherds, have learned this the hard way. John quotes Chet Parsons, UVM livestock specialist and sheep farmer, answering the question: Why it is so hard to make money with sheep? “In the Civil War, wool sold for more than $1 a pound. He estimates that a sheep produces 7 pounds of wool per year, with each pound going for 8 cents. That’s 56 cents of income.” For the record, I rarely get under $8 per pound for “raw” (right off the sheep) wool and often as much as $12 to $14 a pound. If it is dyed or spun into yarn, or made into garments, the per-pound goes way up from that. And there is great demand for locally grown lamb. I am never able to fill all the requests I get every year for it.

There have been very few years of the past 30 that my sheep have not made a profit — or, at worse, broken even. The money they have earned me — through the sale of their nice spinning fleeces, breeding stock, freezer lamb, yarn sales, and in some cases prize money — has paid for all but the initial 30-by-36-foot barn that houses them and the first fenced area we put up. This means an addition to the barn, wiring, a second floor in the barn, purchase of rams, a loom, two spinning wheels, vet bills, additional fencing, hay, grain, straw, etc. I kept 40 sheep over this winter, have 25 bred (lambing as I write this) and their bank account had over $4300 in it going into 2009. I realize one cannot pay all their bills with this low amount, but the profits can add to a family’s income, and as a farm, we can declare legitimate tax deductions (as well as provide great-tasting meat, and warm sweaters and rugs for ourselves).

And personally, this “profit” does not reflect the great friendships all over the United States that have evolved due to these animals, nor the fact that they have kept our land in grass instead of ragweed and goldenrod, which is taking over many of the open fields in Chittenden County.

My concern with this story of John’s is that it’s being read, I’m sure, by many people looking to make a transition to some type of sustainable living (including farming) that currently know nothing about sheep. They may read this and say, “No way! Why should I waste my time and money trying to raise sheep with all John’s experience of years of bad luck? I am writing this to say that I and others that I know have had a very different experience raising these smart (yes, smart) and easy-keeping animals.

Susan Johnson



Consider the following hypothetical: There is a particularly problematic bully on the playground at school. He arbitrarily, capriciously and reliably beats and terrorizes other students ... Try as they may, however, aggrieved parents are unable to get the school to do anything about it. Every time a complaint is filed, the bully’s parents hire a PR firm called Vermont Academic Partnership to extol the virtues of the little brat.

VAP consists of a team of lawyers who pooh-pooh the complaints launched against the bully, and counter with a publicity campaign cleansing the bully’s record, whom they maintain is simply misunderstood ... They fabricate stories about how he shovels the walk and carries books for several teachers, plus they point out that he is really good at showing other students where their physical weaknesses lie.

This is what comes to my mind every time I see a full-page advertisement promoting Entergy Nuclear’s little bully in Vernon [February 25, March 4]. Why do we allow this bully-in-the-living-room continued domination of the discussion? Why does Seven Days accept Entergy’s filthy advertising money? Why is anyone not invested in it, pro-nuclear? What is the problem with proactive conservation, wind, solar, hydro and biomass? Why would anyone (except those making money from it) care if Yankee is shut in favor of more sustainable alternatives? Isn’t it time we, the people, tell our legislators what we want, and bar the corporate bullies from the conversation, rather than the other way around?

Steven Farnham



Your sex survey article [February 25] was surprisingly insensitive with this line: “Fewer people claimed ‘bisexual.’ Finally made up your minds, did you?”

Yeah, ha-ha, BUT … I expect more awareness at Seven Days towards the variety of sexual and gender journeys we, as individuals, are on. We are all unique, and some of us resent our choice of identification scoffed at because we do not fit into the repressive and phobic boxes that exist to make those who define themselves as strictly monosexual comfortable.

Alexander Hirka



I am writing in response to the article published called “A Marriage of Inconvenience” [“Fair Game,” March 11]. The article stated that “Vermont has come a long way” in reference to unity around the Freedom to Marry Act. I would have to agree — but not far enough if we don’t all come together and talk to our neighbors, our friends, our families and our legislators about it. We have come a long way and we now have the opportunity to prove it. I was happy to read that Rep. Patti Komline (R-Dorset), the House Minority Leader, was supporting the act publicly because it demonstrates that no matter what your political affiliation, or whether you are gay or straight, we can all recognize this as an issue that is not just about marriage but about equal rights and fairness for each member of our community.

I am proud to be a Vermonter and one of many young Vermonters who decided to move back to this state and start my family here. I urge every one reading this to support the Freedom to Marry Act. I believe this is a matter of social justice.

Tiffany Silliman



In your article “Building a Better Burlington” [March 4] you mention WiFi throughout the city. Have you ever researched on the health implications of WiFi? It seems that people want the quick fix — which is understandable — but at the same time not even considering the consequences. If you make WiFi happen all over the city, and in three years find out that the cancer rate increased 150 percent, will you still say it was worth it? Why not research this subject more, before jumping to suggestions? Here’s a little quote from the online [New York] Times, from December 11, 2006, just to inform you: “In September, 30 scientists from all over the world signed a resolution calling for a ‘full and independent review of the scientific evidence that points to hazards from current electromagnetic field exposure (in this case WiFi) conditions worldwide.’”

Closer to home, the Irish Doctors Environmental Association has asked its country’s government to carry out “a full assessment of the health impacts of electromagnetic radiation.” The people of Burlington, and everywhere where WiFi is being offered, should have the full disclosure on this subject and its possible health hazards.

Jenni Belotserkovsky


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