Letters to the Editor
This letter is not intended to be pro- or anti-firearm. Instead, it represents my discomfort with Century International Arms’ anonymous presence in Vermont [“In Franklin County, a Global Arms Dealer Quietly Makes a Killing,” January 23]. I find the business’ unwillingness to reply to the media disconcerting. My concern is, of course, heightened by the recent tragedy in Connecticut.
When a person or company decides to go into the arms trade, there comes a certain amount of responsibility to reassure the immediate community by proving the legitimacy of your business practices. This accountability does not end with Century. Local public officials should take ownership of what is being manufactured and sold within their districts. The picture painted in the article depicts a militia-type facility with high walls, barbed-wire fencing and high-end security systems. When an employee of the business was asked about the kind of weapons being manufactured, his response was, “You name it.” What does that mean?
If the statement “Century firearms have also turned up south of the border, where federal authorities say they’ve become the weapons of choice for Mexican drug cartels” is true, I think state officials should investigate the business. These lethal weapons do not represent the principles and morals that we as a state and community support. Instead, they inevitably lessen the quality of life both within, and outside of, the United States.
Three cheers for Century International Arms [“In Franklin County, a Global Arms Dealer Quietly Makes a Killing,” January 23]. It’s exactly the kind of successful company Vermont needs, and it did it without subsidies (our tax dollars). It must make liberals seethe to know this company is employing so many Vermonters. Too bad — theirs is a legal operation. And, hey, they even pay taxes! What a country!
All my friends told me about a wonderful article in Seven Days [“Inn and Out,” January 9]! Of course, they were all “sold out,” so I went online. Just wanted to thank you for writing such a lovely, true article; for once it wasn’t all glorified hype! Thank you for writing such a realistic interview.
[Re “HowardCenter’s New Approach to Treating Mental Illness: More Talking, Fewer Meds,” January 16]: Thank you, Greg Tomasulo and Dr. Sandra Steingard. What sane, humane voices.
Life and Death
[Re “Vermont Life Support,” January 23]: Despite my interest in Vermont Life, I vowed never to subscribe to it after a very nasty telemarketing call I received from them. My father had a subscription to Vermont Life. A few months after he died, they called (I had my father’s number forwarded to mine) about renewing the subscription. It was the day after Christmas — my first Christmas without my father. The person who called would not believe that my father was deceased, and pushed me very rudely to renew. Perhaps I should not have vowed “never” to subscribe, but it is very difficult for me to consider doing business with them again. I do hope they have changed their telemarketing approach.
Vermont Life magazine has always been a Walt Disney version of Vermont [Re “Vermont Life Support” January 23]. It was published for the tourists, and this narrow scope is probably its ruin.
Next Best Thing to Being There
Readers of Seven Days are well aware how challenging it is to find local media with in-depth news coverage, local expertise and local opinion. So it was discouraging to read that public-access and educational television may be at risk [“Vermont’s Public-Access Television Faces an Uncertain Future,” January 23].
I have become a huge fan of Regional Educational Technology Network after undergoing training in video and sound recording and editing in order to generate content for RETN. I’ve subsequently recorded public events for airing, and in the process I’ve found that RETN.org is also a huge resource for online content of previously broadcast programs. I’ve discovered that locally we have an enormous reservoir of expertise and organized events that we can’t all attend in person. So RETN provides an invaluable way to access these resources.
Actually, the training I underwent was quite challenging because of the high standards expected, but the RETN folk seemed to have endless enthusiasm and patience to provide community service. Like so much of Vermont, RETN is a really valuable gem that we should support and preserve. Happy viewing!
The cover of your media issue affected me profoundly [January 23]. It is certainly appropriate for the theme of the issue, but how sad it is that this family, and likely many real families, is squandering this mealtime opportunity to be conversant with each other and instead being “social” with their screened devices. I’d happily be the baby in this picture, who seems to be saying, “C’mon you guys, let’s have some fun!” Perhaps it’s time to turn the counterculture phrase on its head and “Turn off, tune out, and drop in.”
Thanks for the warning about the Bagel Place’s production methods [Side Dishes, January 16]. You can call them bagels, but if they’re steamed and not boiled, they’re not bagels. It takes more than a shiny crust and a hole in the middle. Not for nothing were bagels formerly described as “Jewish hockey pucks.” There are two places I know of in Vermont that make dense, chewy, delicious, real bagels. One is a bagel shop in downtown White River Junction. Sorry, can’t remember the name. The other is the Bristol Bakery. Everything else is just ersatz. Try the real thing, and you’ll know what I mean.
Editor’s note: We think the writer means the Bakers Studio in White River Junction.
Last week’s cover depicts the situation we all may be in: nuclear family busy with their plugged-in devices, no sign of the natural world outside. Regarding the great question of how to reduce global carbon emissions, the cover also identifies the major problem for those of us who do oppose the industrialization of Vermont’s mountaintops. Why should Vermont sacrifice its very real identification with its mountains as a source of character and strength, so that society can continue to mindlessly consume?
Global carbon reduction is a problem of the tailpipe, a matter of reducing problematic emissions. At some point, it also becomes a question of the sources of appropriate energy. But if James Kunstler and Bill McKibben, whose ideas have been presented in the pages of Seven Days, are to be believed, society cannot expect to go forward in its current paradigms if we are to really deal with the challenge.
So from the point of view of Vermonters who do oppose this development, the Northeast Kingdom and other target areas are being asked to sacrifice their mountains and attendant identity without end-point emissions being reduced.
Maybe a green grid is a possibility, but much of the problem is the grid itself. The moratorium proposed in the Senate has the virtue of letting Vermont get its policy house in order (with much work to be done), but until the broader policies are framed in such a way that emissions are actually reduced, many Vermonters are justifiably skeptical.
One Is Enough
Many thanks to Ken Picard for his timely, important and witty article [“Hitting the Sack,” January 16]. Yes, we do need “zero population growth” in Vermont as well as the U.S., and we need to get there as quickly as possible. I am glad to see that Ken recognizes that it is the responsibility of both sexes. However, instead of “stop at two,” a better way to frame the discussion is for each of us to replace ourselves only once. Then, if we should separate and find a new partner, the decision of whether or not to have children is based on whether or not each person has already replaced themselves.
As Vermont authors Elizabeth Courtney and Eric Zencey say in their new book Greening Vermont, and Kathryn Blume says in her new book, Dancing to the Beat of the Great Green Heart, we are now living unsustainably. We are living that way for two main reasons: One is our highly consumptive lifestyle; the other is that there are too many of us consuming the Earth’s finite resources. In reality, limiting the number of new consumers we create is probably much easier than significantly reducing our consumption.
Plumb is executive director of Vermonters for a Sustainable Population.
Marshall Plan B
I appreciate Paul Heintz’s proud posture as he refrains from naming Karen Marshall’s career-climbing move to VTel as a conflict of interest [Fair Game, February 16]. Yet when I learn she’s climbing with (Marshall’s words) “so much sensitive information — not just about VTel but about all other carriers,” my back is breaking, my jaw is dropping.
When she accepted Shumlin’s appointment to the Vermont Telephone Authority, Marshall promised that state money would yield broadband and cellular service to every nook and cranny in Vermont. Well, as a Vermonter residing in the Northeast Kingdom, I can tell you this nook is still without cell service. If any of us in Orleans county’s nooks, crannies and mountain hollows get sick or injured away from our landlines, we are out of luck. Note: We have no access to 911.
Even with Marshall’s skills as “master facilitator” (her words), Orleans county is largely unfacilitated. Can you hear me now, Gov. Shumlin?
Meanwhile, the mountaintops of Orleans county have been “technologically advanced,” thanks to utility-scale mountain ridge wind installations. Yet those of us who travel, live and work beneath their blades cannot use our cellphones to call for help. This is no accident. No matter the executive code of ethics barring Marshall from disclosing privileged information while in state employ, the power of nonverbal communication, low-tech as it is, never fails. There’s nothing like a wink and a nod.
In regard to Karen Marshall’s quick spin through the money-grubbing revolving door [Fair Game, January 16], from Vermont state apparatchik to better-paying corporate exec, why hold Marshall to a higher standard than that applied by President Obama? The President of the United States named the very miscreants who benefited from our economic meltdown to regulate the very same financial gambling casinos, like Goldman Sachs, with which they were in collusion to steal taxpayer money. Timothy Geithner, Robert Rubin, Larry Summers and now Jacob Lew are all in the tradition of the infamous bank robber Willie Sutton, who at one time was considered by some cynical commentator as the person most qualified to advise law-enforcement officials on preventing bank robberies. As for the pungent odor of conflict of interest in Marshall’s case, why upset the governmental norm? I’m amused by the coy reaction by Marshall’s former colleagues to her job change after OKing a payout to her future employer. To them I say, “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...”
Biased Against Biomass
You display strong anti-biomass sentiment regarding Goddard College’s proposed biomass heating facility [“For Some Near Goddard College, Wood Heat Isn’t Good Heat,” January 16]. Kathryn Flagg gives three times more to anti views (Schlossberg, American Lung Association, Keeton) than pro-biomass or factual concerns. The word incinerator is used three times, wrongly conjuring images of toxic trash burners. An incinerator is defined as a furnace to burn waste materials; in the Goddard facility, the fuel is wood, not waste. Schlossberg is a paid activist whose backing comes from the out-of-state group Massachusetts Forest Watch; they have been waging a fierce regional antibiomass campaign. The resulting concern for wood supply led to the state of Massachusetts commissioning the Manomet Report, a study that jumped onto headlines two years ago proclaiming “wood is worse than coal” when measuring short-term carbon emissions.
This is the research Keeton references in the Goddard article; however, the Manomet Report has been widely criticized for modeling forest growth and harvesting scenarios unlike anything practiced on the ground in the Northeast. The Goddard plant will use 900 tons of wood each year; in comparison, one local Plainfield firewood dealer sells 600 cords (1600 tons) of firewood each year. What are the particulate emissions from all the unregulated wood stoves burning chunk firewood in Plainfield? Keeton says, “We’ve got to get a handle on this right now,” playing on what Tim Maker rightfully describes as “coming from a place of fear” — an emotion that Schlossberg et al. are eager to exploit.
Condaxis is the regulatory forester at the Ryegate Power Station.
CORRECTION: In the above letter, Josh Schlossberg is improperly identified as a “paid activist whose backing comes from the out-of-state group Massachusetts Forest Watch.” Schlossberg does not work for or get funding from Massachusetts Forest Watch, which is an all-volunteer organization; he runs the Vermont field office for Washington, D.C.-based Energy Justice Network. He’s lived in the state for 11 years.
I read with great interest your article on biomass [“For Some Near Goddard College, Wood Heat Isn’t Good Heat,” January 16]. Rightly so, community members and neighbors should be involved and concerned about how they are heating their homes, businesses and buildings in their communities.
Fossil fuels just don’t cut it. They cost too much economically, environmentally and in health matters. That is true at individual and community levels.
Wood pellets can slash heating costs by 45 to 54 percent annually, when compared to heating oil, kerosene and propane. That’s why we have found great success in providing free wood-pellet stoves to low-income Vermonters who crave heating solutions that save money. Furthermore, wood pellets are much safer in terms of combustibility, compared to kerosene or propane. Pellets also benefit the environment, with a significantly lower carbon footprint.
True sustainability relies on the principles of social justice, mindful ecology and sound economics. Excluding any one of these principles would negate the ability for long-term viability. Creating heat energy from wood pellets that are locally sourced is a cost-effective, environmentally sound, healthy way to create that reality.
Tailer is executive director of the Vermont Sustainable Heating Initiative.
Keeping Up With the Kochalkas
I first encountered “American Elf” in Seven Days and started checking it online daily. Keeping up with James and his family and seeing them occasionally in person gave me and other fans a curious experience of knowing the intimate details of someone’s life without actually being a close friend. Some have said that it made them feel like a stalker. I’m sorry that I won’t be able to keep up with the Kochalkas anymore, because I will miss the connection and the inspiration. I wanted to watch his family grow up alongside mine with James’ reminders to have fun and enjoy life.
R.I.P. “American Elf”
I never read your paper, but I’ve been reading “American Elf” online for five-plus years. Seeing it end is like watching a friend slowly slip away with their last breath; you have to smile for what you’ve had together, but you’ve got to cry, too. I go on without “American Elf,” but greater now that I’ve spent so many wonderful years with him. Thanks, James!
A reader wrote in criticizing Miro Weinberger’s condominium project on Lakeview Terrace [Feedback, “Out of Scale,” January 9]. At issue was whether the project fit in with the character of the existing neighborhood. Personally, I have no problem with it, because it isn’t much taller than any of the surrounding houses and doesn’t cover much more area than the building it replaced. More worrying is the idea that any development must not change the character of the neighborhood.
Burlington is a built-out city. The only way it can grow is through increasing density. Limiting neighborhoods to their current density essentially limits the population of Burlington to the people who currently live here. If in 1850 the residents of Burlington had felt that the character of the city must not change, it would have remained a small village, and most of the people who currently live here would not be able to. People are going to keep moving to the Burlington area. It would be better for the environment, and ultimately the economy, if those people could live within the city itself instead of out in the suburbs.