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Letters to the Editor 

Published November 4, 2009 at 7:57 a.m.

Separation Anxiety

[In his October 21 “Fair Game” column, Shay Totten wrote]: “Hats off to Louis Porter at the Vermont Press Bureau for his eyebrow-raising item in Sunday’s ‘Capitol Beat’ column. Porter reported that Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin (D-Windham) has separated from his wife of 20 years.”

Why is this news? I guess it fits the theme of the column, “Secret Lives, Public Officials,” but I really don’t see relevance beyond that and, frankly, it made me feel a little creepy to be reading about this, sort of like graffiti on the bathroom wall. Rather than “raise eyebrows,” non-voyeurs would likely look away.

I enjoy reading Shay’s columns, he does a great job, but this item doesn’t fit his normally high “Fair Game” standard.

Tom Bisson


Shumlin’s Secret

[Senate President Pro Tem] Peter Shumlin is located extremely low on my list of valued public servants [“Fair Game,” October 21]. He has created a system of tabulations that somehow would in the long run make Gaye Symington the winner in the last gubernatorial race by splitting her vote, which was lower than Anthony Pollina’s, then taking a multiplier times 68 divided by 4 equalizing a victory over Gov. Douglas. His whole career — whether personally, business-wise or as part of the government — has been spent on creative bookkeeping. Looks like Deb Shumlin has seen through the cracks. Anyone wonder why Peter has delayed in announcing his intentions. Maybe we now know.

Dale Tillotson


Critical Addition

I have wanted to write my appreciation of Margot Harrison’s Seven Days reviews for some long time. Her piece on Where the Wild Things Are caught something I had not seen in other reviews of the movie, so I thought this is a good time to underscore the strength and originality of her critical writing.

How often do we read reviews and never see the movies? How many times do we find ourselves knowing a film more from its trailer and some critic’s description than our own viewing? Are most folk older than 24 still going regularly to the movies?

Far too many film critics (local and national) play a very silly game of telling would-be audiences movie plots, highlighting celebrity stars’ latest roles and, in truth, helping with the general promotion of the latest theatrical releases. Margot either doesn’t know how to play that game or, wisely, chooses not to do so. When she does tell a narrative plot, she often makes fun of its absurdities. Often I have found her reviews more entertaining than the films themselves, if I see them.

Her review of Where the Wild Things Are is more about how children and adults look at movies than the movie itself, although she does write beautifully about its characters, story and use of contemporary special effects. Who tackles the subject of childhood innocence in a movie review? Who would dare to say that older kids might not like a kid’s movie and that younger kids might find it too scary? Margot thinks clearly and doesn’t seem to care what people think of her critical writing. She is honest. I trust her.

I don’t know if I can talk my teen son into seeing Where the Wild Things Are, but her review has made me want to try.

Kenneth Peck


Peck is a cinema professor and independent documentary filmmaker.

Buzz Kill

Suzanne Podhaizer hit on only the high points of Green Mountain Coffee [“Cool Beans,” October 21]. I support their success and do not want to demonize them. However, the image that the company promotes suffers from some glaring hypocrisies that Suzanne should have not only mentioned but called significant attention to. GMC needs to be pressured by their consumers to fix these problems.

First: The product they promote the most heavily is the individual-cup brewer. Every single cup of coffee with these brewers comes in a nonbiodegradable plastic container. The more this product grows, the more wasteful GMC will be, and the more likely it is for other companies to create similar wasteful systems.

Second, I have seen Styrofoam Green Mountain coffee cups. I hope those have been discontinued.

Third, I have frequently had old, lukewarm, watered-down Green Mountain coffee at a gas station. GMC might do a good job of tracking their coffee from growers to the U.S., but their quality control to the many gas stations that serve it is lacking.

I spoke to the GMC representative at their headquarters about this. She said they are working on the quality control and on a delivery mechanism that did not use plastic cups. Until they do find that, they should not claim to be green while promoting such a dirty coffee-delivery mechanism. As it stands now, their marketing is nothing more than hypocritical greenwashing. Suzanne should have done a better job calling attention to these issues in her article.

Jonny Adler


Funny Stuff

Yuck! No “News Quirks,” no “Straight Dope,” no “Red Meat,” no “Trouble Town,” but plenty of articles aimed at wealthy winter sports fans. The newspaper has been getting more and more adolescent recently, but, with the new format, you have become totally irrelevant. I can think of no reason to pick up a copy anymore.

Are you guys even financially viable anymore?

Russ Martin


(Editor’s note: Uh, all of the features mentioned above are still in the paper. Maybe check the table of contents? And yes, we’re financially viable. Thanks for your concern.)

.08 Mile

If Vermont and other states want to keep drunk drivers off the streets, they should start by insisting on sober reporting about DUI laws [“Road Worriers,” October 7].

DUI is not DWI or drunk driving. It doesn’t take any legal brilliance to read Vermont’s DUI statute (23 VSA section 1201) and to see that this law does not even mention intoxication.

The statute may still be called “DWI” in some states, but the offense itself in all states now is that of Driving Under the Influence and not Driving While Intoxicated.

Yet the media persist in indulging in such hysterical hyperbole as saying, “On any given day, untold numbers of drunk drivers barrel down interstates and country highways.”

Nonsense. The fact is that on any given day many drivers commit the offense of DUI by driving with a BAC above .08. But the great majority of these drivers are not intoxicated, are not “barreling down the road,” and very likely have no idea that they are breaking the law.

A BAC of .08 means about four drinks for an average-sized man. Anyone who knows how to hold his liquor is not even buzzed at that level, much less drunk. And such a person, if he has been misled by irresponsible reporting to believe that DUI laws prohibit drunk driving, is likely to drive. They’re not drunk, so why shouldn’t they drive?

If Seven Days wants to be part of the solution rather than of the problem, then you need to stop emulating the tabloids.

John T. Finn


Consuming Thoughts

Thanks to Ken Picard for his profile of my book and an indirect debate between me and Bill McKibben on consumption and the environment [“Room to Consume,” October 7]. Overall, the article did a good job of balancing the coverage, but at the end it seemed to give “the last word” to Bill without giving me a chance to respond. There seemed to be an acknowledgment by Bill that we should indeed think at a global level but only with “ideas and images.” My basic point is that we have to think of livelihoods, given constraint of ecosystems and demography — I wish ideas and images alone could feed people and improve development indicators. There is not a single example of a country that has been able to develop without global trade. Even insular economies like Cuba that many of my friends on the Left often champion could not be functional without trade. Of course, we need to keep the pressure on corporations to ensure that trade is fair, but to valorize insularity is a bad idea both for the environment and for the economy.

Regarding Walmart’s impact on local employment, there are many methodological challenges to studying this issue due to issues of “endogeneity” — the chicken and egg problem. Does Walmart reduce wages, or does Walmart move to communities where wages are declining in any case? Studies are all over the map on this matter, and if you look at the global perspective, jobs with such multinationals overall increase (perhaps more in the developing world where they are most imminently needed and where there are fewer social safety nets). The bottom line is that, as responsible environmentalists, we need to be pragmatic about our decisions not just in terms of our local community, but as planetary citizens in a world full of misery and discontent. Let’s work toward the common goal of a better world that is not threatened by technological progress but helps to harness innovation efficiently toward solving our environmental and economic challenges.

As for E.F. Schumacher’s book Small Is Beautiful that one reader suggested to me for reading — I have indeed read the book in detail and his vision has value in cases where there is relatively low population and inequality (which is not the case in our world). Also, I would suggest that the readers advert the subtitle of his book: “economics as if people mattered.” Indeed, that is what I am aiming for as well: “Economics and Environmentalism as if People Mattered.”

Saleem H. Ali


Ali is associate professor of Environmental Planning and Asian Studies at UVM’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources.

“Venture” Farther

It was very exciting to read “A Taste for ‘Venture’” [October 21]. It’s good to get the word out about all of the exciting and important work that is being done to build the momentum of small business development combined with local food enterprise. However, since the LACE Community Kitchen was not included in the article, I’d like to take this opportunity to let your readers know about us.

LACE — the Local Agricultural Community Exchange — is centrally located in downtown Barre, and has a number of community-building and economic- development initiatives that are designed to “lace” together people, farms and food. Our Community Kitchen is a licensed processing facility, and even as we are getting fully equipped, we have five producers who utilize our kitchen regularly, and we can accommodate many more. Our kitchen is an appropriate facility for those just barely starting out, or who are further along in their business development.

In addition, a unique aspect of the LACE Community Kitchen is that we host cooking and nutrition classes for all ages, and have plans to help farmers develop value-added products. Business and product-development assistance is provided through our partnership with Central Vermont Community Action Council’s Micro Business Development Program.

Community Kitchens and Business Incubator Kitchens are proving to be a vital element in economic development and local foods production for Vermonters. I encourage anyone interested in learning more about LACE and our Community Kitchen to call myself or Jeff Dutton at 802-476-4276. We love to give tours and show the ways we can help meet food processing needs.

Ariel Zevon


Zevon is executive director of the Local Agricultural Community Exchange in Barre.

CORRECTIONS: In our story last week, “Hardwick Architect Celebrated for His “Sacred Space,’” we erroneously stated that Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. In fact it was his son, Lloyd Wright.

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