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Letters to the Editor 

Published April 20, 2011 at 4:11 a.m.

Bye-Bye, Books

In Margot Harrison’s story, “Print Versus Pixels” [April 13], Robin Ingenthron states that “hard-rock metal mining is by far the most horrible polluting activity by man on the planet.” Is Robin high? That’s an outright lie. The “academic scrutiny” he’s missing here is the devastating pollutants generated by the meat industry! Christ, that takes five minutes to fact-check on Google. Is hard-rock mining worse than oil spills? Ingenthron goes on “...if you have an e-reader and you don’t read...” WTF! Who has an e-reader who doesn’t read?! I don’t know many people who buy $300 devices for no reason at all; that is a ridiculous argument.

I’ve published five New York Times best sellers, been “on press” during massive first-print runs and visited countless booksellers from Maine to California, so I feel I have some insight into the battle over e-readers and traditional books. The bottom line, in my expert opinion, is that traditional books are worse for the planet than reading devices, and if I hear one more “book lover” tell me how much they “love the feel of a book,” I’m going to throw up. On the book lover.

These people collect their reads like trophies, display them all on bookshelves for everyone to see. Pathetic. If you love something, let it the fuck go (I’m paraphrasing from Love Story here), especially if the thing you love is destroying the planet. Oh, and by the way, I did the math, and I can fit roughly 94,000 copies of Infinite Jest on my iPad. That’s 102,272,000 pages, not including Wallace’s notes! Do you have any idea how much energy it takes to make 94,000 copies of a 1008-page book? I didn’t think so.

But, in the end, what’s really important is the work itself — the content, right? Ideas, after all, are green.

Harry Bliss

South Burlington

Don’t Buy an E-Reader

Thank you for Margot Harrison’s thoughtful investigation of publishing trends [“Print Versus Pixels,” April 13]. The real story here is how stupid all the eco-green witch hunters look when someone mentions that the waste involved with the paper industry doesn’t hold a candle to the ore mining for computer parts. Our culture of planned obsolescence is what’s filling landfills, not literature.

If people are really interested in reducing waste, pollution and destruction, they could start by flooding the streets and demanding that our military be downsized. Books are sacred. Margot, from one lover of books to another, I beg you not to buy an e-reader. Why don’t you wait a few years, until the Crow Bookstore is demolished and replaced with an eco-friendly Internet kiosk where we can have Shakespeare uploaded directly into our brains?

Ben Aleshire


Ben Aleshire is editor of Burlington-based The Salon: A Journal of Poetry & Fiction.

Flawed Logic

I felt the need to respond to the editorial introduction as well as Jon Adler’s letter in “Feedback” [April 6]. Both commit errors in reasoning. Seven Days creates a false dichotomy claiming that there’s “a growing conflict” between schools and students with disabilities. To which Mr. Adler’s letter adds that parents of special-ed students are flocking to Vermont to capitalize on the largesse of schools that, say, build elevators. Both treat persons with disabilities as scapegoats for our current budgetary woes. Nothing can be further from fact. Special-ed classifications often include students from poor, ethnic and linguistic minorities as well as students with physical, emotional, intellectual or behavioral issues. Our schools serve many with few dollars.

This leads to elevators. Mr. Adler implied that only a “few” will use the elevator at Edmunds. It won’t just be the mobility-challenged student but also the teacher with one leg, the custodian moving desks, the parent with a skiing injury, the elderly citizen attending an after school event. The heart of my point: If we avoid prejudicial logic as in the above examples, we would not find ourselves in these tight places. While it is expensive to retrofit a building or educate a child well when you need to scramble for accommodations, if we think creatively and thoroughly from the beginning, we can do it well and cost effectively.

Patrick Standen


Gold Is Good

It’s not surprising that someone in the media doesn’t understand gold [“Gold Fever,” April 6]. First things first: Glenn Beck is a hack. He shills for Goldline for the same reason that Shaquille O’Neal shills for Icy Hot: because they pay him to. Glenn Beck has about as much to do with the current bull market in gold as Shaq has to do with why old people and athletes have back pain.

Don’t think of gold as some confusing, archaic metal that is in some way like money. Gold is money. It’s been money for thousands of years. It hasn’t been a common money for only the past 40 years. So, thousands of years ... or 40 years? Which are you willing to bet was the delusion? The fact that Lauren Ober and most other people think that paper is money will be a delusion that soon comes to an end.

There will come a time in the not-so-distant future when Lauren and most other people come to their senses and realize they’ve been a part of one of the greatest swindles in world history.

Kevin McElroy


Net Gain?

Alas, so-called “net metering” never “pays” money — only provides a credit, which is confiscated at the end of the next calendar year [“Energy Bill Would “Pay” Vermonters to Produce Their Own Power,” April 13]. That means that if you put up a “net metering” system and your usage is frugal, you will give the excess power away. You can blow the credit on heating, but that’s a waste of precious solar power. (Use wood!) A very small system is not cost effective. “Group net metering” is just extra paperwork. But they don’t want you to conserve, thus the hurdles. No good deed goes unpunished.

Moshe Braner


Editor’s note: We put the word “pays” in quotations to suggest the arrangement is more complicated than that.

Incomplete Equation

[Re: “The Green Veneer,” April 13]: While I haven’t read her book, Green Gone Wrong, and fully agree with her statement that “You can’t have real hope if you are deceiving yourself or allowing yourself to be deceived,” I must say that Heather Rogers seems to have fallen into the trap of denial and deception when she elaborates her “we need to consume less” prescription by saying, “I’m talking about cutting out the kind of waste we have in our system that it must have in order to grow.”

While waste is enormous and pandemic to our economic system, reducing waste alone will no more avert global calamity than shaving the waste from federal spending programs will eliminate the national debt. And it is not waste that is the engine for economic growth, but a debt-based monetary system and a profit-oriented commercial system.

At this point, even the poorest nations are consuming more than their “fair share” of the ecological footprint (because of the sheer numbers of people), and the U.S. population consumes 25 percent of the world’s resources. We have to have the courage and prescience and wisdom to actually consume less — a lot less. And until we’re willing to acknowledge that “inconvenient truth,” we have no chance of living sustainably on this little planet.

Robert Riversong


The Other Side of Adoption

I want to comment on the article “‘Friending’ Mother” [March 30], which is a good example of how birth parents and adult adoptees continue to be left out of public conversations about adoption. I have met both Wanda Audette and Dawn Smith-Pliner, and I’m sure that neither one of them would want to contribute to stereotypes and misinformation, but your article has done just that. Even though there are many well-spoken and well-informed members of the adoption community in Vermont, your reporter chose to interview just two adoptive parents who are also administrators of adoption programs, ignoring the voices of all the rest of us — the birth parents, adopted persons and adoptive parents who have, frankly, been speaking “truth to power” for decades.

The idea that birth parents are some threatening entity from whom their children must be protected is certainly not in line with current enlightened adoption practice. It is also not the case that the purpose of confidentiality in adoption is to protect the adoptee or the adoptive family from the birth mother. In fact, confidentiality was devised to protect the mother and child from public scrutiny and scandal in a time when birth mothers were considered “fallen women” and their children referred to as “bastards.”

In addition to being a birth mother for 43 years and part of an extended family that includes three relinquishments and four adoptions, I am a clinical social worker who has worked with many people touched by adoption. I understand the importance of boundaries and, in fact, encourage establishing and maintaining boundaries in situations where the birth parent might actually pose a risk to the child, but these instances are extremely rare and they are even rarer with regard to adoptions involving separation of mother and child in infancy. Birth mothers are some of the most patient people I know.

One last comment: Those of us in the adoption triangle do not necessarily agree with the idea that a third party should be involved in a search — and I just have to say that agencies, contrary to the comment in the article, have a significant investment in adoptions. In some circumstances this might be warranted, but, in most cases, those of us who have lived with adoption want to do our own work and we want the empowerment that comes with reconnecting and repairing severed relationships for ourselves.

Kim Butterfield


Poor Treatment of Special Educators

This letter is in reference to your recent article “Classroom Divide” [March 30]. As a parent of an autistic child, my intent here is not to pit myself against other parents of children with special needs. Our daily reality when coping and negotiating even the most mundane of activities can be challenging on a level not understood by most individuals. My heart is with all of the families mentioned in your article.

With that said, I’d like to address the editors of Seven Days. Your article was obviously not compiled to inform but rather to negatively attack an entire school district and, most of all, their special-education teachers and administrators.

My experience with the teachers and administrators at the SBSD compels me to say without any reservation that they are committed to this community and to education excellence. It might have been a good idea to sit with at least one special-education teacher for one day in order to get an accurate idea of his or her level of commitment. It might have been a good idea to sit with a regular education teacher who has a special-needs child in class. You’d be moved by their level of commitment. You chose not to.

Why did Seven Days choose only two sentences from the interview that you conducted with my wife, Miriam Vega? Also, your article states, “The Vegas moved to South Burlington from New York City because of what they had heard about the district’s special-ed program.” Correction: We moved to Vermont because I was hired to work at UVM as a senior lecturer in the music department.

After receiving my appointment letter, I contacted many of the parents I had become friendly with during my tenure as artist-in-residence at the Flynn’s summer jazz youth program. I wanted to get their opinions on how special education was being handled by school districts in the Burlington area. The two districts that were on the top of the list were Essex Junction and South Burlington. Parents were raving about these districts and their excellence in addressing the myriad challenges pertaining to special-needs children. Your statement can be easily misunderstood.

Did you even attempt to contact other families with opposing opinions concerning SBSD and special education?

Does public education fall short sometimes? Yes, but not all of the time. I’m really sorry that we don’t live in a world where teachers can magically correct everything that falls under the highly complex umbrella of “special needs.” There is no magic bullet that will cure all things autism. I’ve already come to terms with the song “Day by Day.”

Seven Days, in this article you chose to employ the model of FOX News. You were not fair and balanced.

Ray Vega

South Burlington

Something’s Wrong in South Burlington

As a parent and taxpayer in South Burlington, I have been reading with great alarm the article and letters in Seven Days regarding criminal abuse of children with learning disabilities at Orchard school [“Classroom Divide,” March 30]. There are three distinct issues here:

1. The absolutely intolerable physical and emotional abuse of children by school staff, which I’m sure is punishable by law and at the very least should have led/be leading to the permanent dismissal of said staff from working in education in any capacity, for the rest of their lives. Has this happened?

2. The denial of a child’s right to feel safe after abuse has occurred. Why would any administrator not see the link between abuse and safety? Those responsible for making such horrendous decisions should also be removed from their positions. Has this happened?

3. The lack of resources for special-ed programming. One would expect that a constructive dialogue always be the first priority. However, that seems unlikely for the families who’ve suffered abuses by school staff and administrators, certainly until justice is served and the school system is accountable for these incidents.

The public school system and all its employees are there by our power and choice. We are their bosses. Something is clearly very, very wrong in South Burlington and I, as I’m sure many others, would like to know what is being done about it!

Ero Lippold

South Burlington

Art Stimulates the Economy

Kevin Kelley’s article “The Taxman Cometh: Nonprofits Anticipate Effects on Ticket Sales” [March 16] misses several important points in regard to taxation of ticket sales by nonprofit arts organizations. Most, if not all, of the nonprofits make no profit, as the name suggests, and in fact are kept in operation by the charitable gifts and other support received from members and interested community participants.

Secondly, these nonprofits generate meaningful and substantial taxable business activity in their communities. The extent of that activity should not be underestimated. In Barre, local restaurateurs contact the Opera House to determine their personnel and inventory requirements for show nights. To the extent that this tax discourages attendance at nonprofit events or forecloses the activity altogether, a loss of economic activity and tax revenue will be the result.

Between the costs of collection to the state, the costs of compliance incurred by the nonprofits and the discouragement of economic activity in our communities, there will be a net loss to all.

There are other, broad-based taxes available to the Legislature that would cost little additional to collect the projected amount of revenue and without comparable negative economic consequences. What is required is the political courage to use them.

William B. Field


Field is president of the Barre Opera House’s board of trustees.


Last week’s “Fair Game” contained some incorrect information. Dave Skinas can take part in future scholarly panels to review Native American petitions for recognition as long as he does so on his own time and it doesn’t conflict with his official duties as a federal employee.

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