Letters to the Editor
April 9, 2008
Readers of Seven Days are no doubt used to reading left-leaning opinion pieces in its pages. But couching opinion as news and failing to inform readers of the writer's biases is a different story. And that's exactly what Seven Days did in its last issue, when it allowed Progressive activist Doug Hoffer to pen a "story" headlined "Is Vermont Really on the Job" with a tag that read "Economy" [Columns, April 2].
Anyone reading the piece — a so-called "analysis" criticizing the Douglas administration's economic record — might have mistakenly believed Hoffer to be a staff writer, or "an independent policy analyst," as he was described at the end of the "story."
Hoffer is a political operative and a Progressive activist whose work consists largely of selectively "analyzing" statistics to reach the conclusions desired by those paying his bills.
Here are some excerpts of a post Hoffer made to Green Mountain Daily, the Democratic-oriented blog, on February 12, defending his Progressive credentials and his work with Democrats: "Well, I'm a Prog and I work with Dems all the time . . . I've attended meetings with the State Treaurer (sic) and the State Auditor arranged by [Progressive gubernatorial candidate] Anthony [Pollina] where we discussed issues of common interest (and got things accomplished)."
This political bent colors Hoffer's analysis, but unlike the more than 1200 words (and another 778 in spurious "footnotes") he got, I've only got 250 to respond. I'll leave it at this: Hoffer's analysis is as flawed as the decision to package it as news.
Dorn is Vermont's Secretary of Commerce and Community Development.
Editor's Note: While Hoffer's piece was listed under columns in our table of contents and tagged "op-ed" in the online edition, it should have been more clearly labeled as opinion in the news pages. Hoffer is not a Seven Days staffer, but a guest columnist for the space formerly occupied by Peter Freyne.
Thank goodness Peter Freyne doesn't enjoy dribbling any more. Otherwise we might never have been rid of his puerile sniping ["Inside Track," R.I.P.].
Seven Days apparently can't grasp that mockery isn't commentary, nor is bar-stool gossip political insight. Making fun of public officials may actually be fun — giggling sophomoric wanker fun, but fun.
Pretending that it was political analysis degraded an otherwise excellent paper. The whole publication is brighter without that snot trail down the center.
NO SOOTHSAYING ALOUD
Is Seven Days honestly replacing Peter Freyne with a Democratic Party newsletter ["The Pollina Problem," March 26]?
Jon Margolis says that Progressive voters "disdain" Democrats for their "pragmatism and compromise." As a Progressive voter, I'm contemplating whether I really should have disdain for Democrats. After all, the party of "pragmatism and compromises" gave us the Iraq war, the Patriot Act, No Child Left Behind, the "Clean" Forest Act, a half a trillion dollar military budget, and a host of other mind-altering experiences.
Also, wasn't it Progressives who let the Dems have uncontested shots at the U.S. House and a host of statewide office seats for the past several years?
Alas, it seems futile to hold contempt. I'll continue to vote for qualified Democrats. Margolis can spend time fumbling with his political spectrum meter to read people as if with a Geiger counter.
Meanwhile, I will consider any candidate who will fix our health-care system, implement a sustainable-energy vision, ensure a clean environment, and level the playing field for non-politicians like me who work for a living. Anthony Pollina seems like the best gubernatorial candidate to date.
Maybe instead of Margolis' party-based soothsaying, Seven Days will find an editorialist who will ask hard questions of politicians regardless of party affiliation.
PROGS ROCK, JON
I was disappointed with last week's sweeping statement from Jon Margolis: "Progressives disdain Democrats." ["The Pollina Problem," March 26]. It is patently untrue.
There are six Progressives elected to serve in Montpelier representing seven counties. For third parties, that is a lot of seats. But it's not enough to get legislation passed. Margolis' comment would lead you to believe that we cannot work with others and never accomplish anything. This year alone, working with Democrats, we played leadership roles repealing votes twice for education budgets, passing hemp legalization, sending IRV to the governor's desk, pushing campaign-finance reform, protecting infants from lead paint, protecting workers from workers' comp rollbacks, putting more money in farmers' pockets with increased sales of farm-fresh milk, and more. And we're only halfway through the session.
As a Progressive who works well with Democrats, and I might add Independents and Republicans, it's frustrating to have Mr. Margolis perpetuating the myth otherwise. It reminds me of the days when columnists labeled Bernie "ineffective."
One of the roles Progressives also play is to challenge the Democrats when needed. As an independent party and legislative caucus, we can be vocal about our disagreements. Last week we offered an amendment to end the unfair tax on working people by closing the loophole on unearned income. At this point, this is a step Democrats are unwilling to take. This does not mean that we "disdain" them. Anthony Pollina also has many friends who are Democrats. He has worked with them on issue after issue over the years. There has been far more agreement than disagreement there.
We all need to work together to change the direction our current Governor has taken us. I'm encouraged Pollina is finding Democrats around the state receptive to working together. People agree we need to look beyond partisan labels and work to replace Douglas. This is the only way to "make this fall exciting" and change the direction our state is headed in.
Zuckerman is a Progressive representative from Burlington.
While I greatly appreciate Dan Bolles reviewing local shows, I do have three issues with his recent review of Nick Jaina, Marie Claire, Jenny Montana and Paddy Reagan ["Monkeying Around," March 26].
The first is with his review of Marie Claire. In reading it, I got the impression that she usually plays at Honky-Tonk Tuesday and is now trying out her own material solo. The fact is, Marie has been playing her solo set out for years. She has slowly added songs to the set and refined her performance to be almost devastating, if you listen close enough.
Her crowd chatter that night at the Monkey House may have seemed nervous, but her singing and playing were dead-on. Personally, I've seen her dozens of times and always wonder why there are not more people in the Burlington area that don't come out to see such a thoughtful woman play her piano. Maybe soon?
The second issue is that he said Jenny Montana came on second and Nick Jaina came on third. In fact, Nick Jania came on second and was followed by that eerie crowd silence of Jenny's first three songs.
The third issue is when Dan said Nick shared the stage with three up-and-coming local products. In fact, these are people he is speaking of. He is not talking about items you find on a convenience-store shelf. These are human beings. Call them musicians or artists or performers, or even people standing up there and doing it, but please, don't call them "products."
In "Groundwater Rising" [March 12], we misspelled the name of the state's hydrogeologist, Scott Stewart. Then, in last week's corrections, we referred to him as Mark. Wrong again, and, again, we're sorry.
There were multiple errors in the March 26 story on Middlebury physics professor Frank Winkler. Winkler was misquoted as saying, "stars that blow up in the atmosphere." Actually, the stars, or "supernovae," he was referring to blow up in the solar system. Other references to the "world" and "atmosphere" should have read "universe." "RX J0822-4300" is the name of Puppis A's neutron star, not the star itself. The phrase, "Everything that we know came from visible light" should have referred to the mid-20th century, not the beginning of time. And the professor is in Chile for a few weeks, not a full semester. Guess we failed that course.