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Vermont Guardian

For The Independent Mind

Breaking News Alerts

Posted April 12, 2007

Publisher’s Message
In our April 6 issue, the Vermont Guardian published a Q&A with one of the directors of the Marlboro Grad Center’s sustainability program.

The interview was conducted by our regular staff writer, Christian Avard, who also sells advertising. One of his accounts is Marlboro College, and they are currently advertising the program in the Guardian.

This information was not presented to readers, and as publisher and editor, the error rests solely with me.

It’s a story that I should not have allowed to go to print at least in the form it appeared. In the future I will take additional steps to ensure that even the appearance of a conflict of interest is either disclosed to you, the reader, or avoided entirely.

Small newsrooms where the publisher also wears the hat of editor are much different in form than those of large media organizations with more distinct “walls” between advertising and editorial. However, in substance we are the same and we need to ensure the reader trusts that what we are providing to them is of value and not unduly influenced.

I can assure you that the current ad contract, which is several hundred dollars, did not weigh heavily in our interest to profile the school’s program.

That said, I want to sincerely apologize to Christian Avard, to Marlboro College, to our readers, and to the programs at other Vermont institutions that offer similar degrees. My decision should not reflect poorly on them.

It is our intention to profile all of these fine degree programs, over time, as the Guardian believes that Vermont’s colleges and universities are offering something both unique and about to become very heavily in demand.

Shay Totten


House backs faulty program
Vermont’s at-risk three- and four-year-olds are covered by public pre-kindergarten. Additional children are currently enrolled regardless of need under a questionable Department of Education rule, and the Vermont House just voted to endorse and expand this “free” program to even more children, subject to a cap (Vermont Guardian, April 5).

Currently overburdened taxpayers should consider first that a 16-year study financed by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, reported March 26 in The New York Times and elsewhere, found:

• Keeping a pre-schooler in a day care center for a year or more increased the likelihood that the child will become disruptive in class;
• Math and reading gains didn’t last past first grade; and,
• The quality of parenting children receive is a far stronger and more consistent predictor of achievement and social functioning.

Second, the Tax Foundation reported April 4 that Vermonters now bear the highest state and local tax burden in the nation.

Third, we can’t reasonably believe, given the voracious National Education Association/educrats appetite for more programs and dollars, and the demands of parents of excluded kids, that the House cap on additional “students” not-at-risk wouldn’t soon be repealed.

Taxpayers should not be saddled with an unproven program that would expand a school system already facing a funding crisis and widespread taxpayer dissatisfaction.

The Legislature and governor should fix kindergarten through 12, not expand it. A good beginning would be to freeze and phase out pre-K for kids not at risk.

Jerry Oppenheimer

There are other MBA programs
It was disappointing to see that reporter/sales rep Christian Avard didn’t dig a bit deeper in researching his story on Marlboro College pioneering Sustainability Degrees (Vermont Guardian, April 6).

Green Mountain College launched an online MBA in sustainable business last year that has drawn students from both coasts and across the United States.

I don’t wish to take away from Marlboro or Antioch, both of whom we respect greatly. It just would have been nice to see a more comprehensive approach.

Stephen Diehl

What have we learned?
I support nuclear power but even I know that when a nuke plant sits across the street from an elementary school, you need to have a strong evacuation plan (Vermont Guardian, April 4).

Sounds like the state, the town, and the school district need to stop pointing fingers and “cowboy up.” Have we learned nothing from Katrina?

Guy Page

Vermont is doing something
Contrast the Tax Foundation’s version of Vermont as the “highest-taxed” state (Vermont Guardian, April 6) with this headline from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: “Vermont Treats Working-Poor and Near-Poor Families Under Its Income Tax Better Than Most Other States.”

Among states with an income tax, Vermont has the fourth highest threshold for tax liability both for single-parent families of three and two-parent families of four.

Vermont has the second-lowest tax rate for families of three with incomes at the poverty line or with minimum-wage earnings, and third lowest in three other categories.

Since 1991, Vermont’s income tax threshold for families of four has grown from 25 percent above the poverty line to 61 percent above the poverty line, and Vermont’s Earned Income Tax Credit provides one-parent families of three at the poverty line a tax refund of $1,366, the second largest in the country.

I think we’re doing something right here!

Linda Maloney
Enosburg Falls

Vermont tax burden higher than it seems
In regards to your article “Vermont taxes: The highest, or just real high?” (April 5) I have heard the argument before that Vermont’s “progressive” tax structure ensures that the average tax payer really does not pay that high of an amount in taxes.

The flip side of the coin is that the same argument can be turned around to point out that our progressive tax structure puts an even higher burden on small businessmen and other wealth producers than our total tax burden indicates.

In short, the anti-business climate in Vermont is even worse than the high total tax burden ratings suggest. This is not welcome news to people looking for decent paying jobs, or young college graduates looking for a career.

Robert Maynard

Gaza reporter defends stories
I find it sad that Robert Grossbaum is so determined to protect Zionism and its apartheid policies that he finds it necessary to attempt to destroy a 17-year-old boy’s reputation — a boy murdered getting ready for school in the morning (Vermont Guardian, April 6).

His attempts to harm me by undermining my credibility, reputation, and ability to work are done for the purpose of deflecting attention and causing confusion. Like all people attempting to create cognitive dissonance on this issue, he throws in a number of false “facts,” which are tantamount to libel and slander.

His attempts to discredit me — and by extension the Palestinian people — are easily disproved. Human Rights Watch, the Red Crescent Society, the Red Cross, the Israeli Defense Force’s own records, Ha’aretz daily newspaper, the United Nations, and every other credible source prove him wrong.

Grossbaum is engaging in a disinformation campaign — a classic propaganda technique that uses broad generalizations, omissions, manufactured consent, and the assumption that people will not do the research to discredit it. It’s used on in an attempt to discredit certain books. FOX News uses it to press its agenda. And we’ve seen it with the U.S. government in its justification for attacking Iraq and now Iran.

Anyone interested in learning more about the tactics of misdirection and misinformation employed by pro-Zionist groups should download the Hasbara Handbook for college students, which instructs on how to employ these tactics. It is available

This handbook — replete with partial facts that have long been disproved — details grassroots advocacy like Grossbaum’s, designed to deflect attention from Israel’s actions. It recommends “neutralizing negativity” against Israel by “arguing over sequences of events” and “attempting to reframe debates to focus on different issues.”

Grossbaum’s far-reaching attempts to discredit the story of my brother’s death are nothing but a thinly-veiled effort to distract Vermonters from the real issue: The fact that Israel’s brutal occupation of my country runs counter to every internationally accepted standard of human rights.
For more information on how the Israeli lobby and its grassroots activists manipulate public opinion and attempt to eliminate the Palestinian voice from issues, visit

Too many people are dying on both sides of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict because of the bad faith and dishonest tactics of people like Grossbaum.
Mohammed Omer
Rafah refugee camp
Gaza, Palestine

The devil is in the details
Recently, lobbyists for foreign industrial wind developers testified before House committees to oppose a state tax for industrial scale wind projects on Vermont’s ridgelines. It seems that the “green” they refer to in this pending legislation is not “green” as in energy, but “green” as in “dollars.”

Industrial wind developers are currently reaping massive federal subsidies, saleable green tags, and accelerated depreciation returns. These subsidies return more than two-thirds of a developer’s initial investment. A proposed $90 million project, for example, might expect a return of $60 million to a successful developer.

Wind is a high-risk business — but it is also high yield. The RECs, or “green tags,” attached to large-scale wind projects are valuable to regions that burn fossil fuels for energy. Federal regulators require polluting sources to invest in renewable energy. Investing in renewable power in other regions allows polluting areas to continue burning fossil fuels.

As one legislator suggested, “It is like eating a box of doughnuts and then paying someone else to exercise for you.”

Vermont, currently, is the cleanest state in the nation for electrical power generation. Because we are such a green state, many times the RECs or green tags attached to these projects are left out of agreements between developers and Vermont utilities.

Because the RECs are sold, these facilities do not count as renewable energy sources. This would also appear to mean that under the pending H. 225, these facilities would not be included in the renewable target, which would mean more industrial wind will be required.

Two-thirds of a penny for a kilowatt hour doesn’t seem like a lot when considering a multi-million dollar return. When you compare the cost to communities, the landscape, the environment, and a multi-billion dollar tourist industry, it is peanuts.

Vermont is currently the number one tourist destination in the country. It is number nine in the world. The Northeast Kingdom was recently designated one of only five new National Geographic “geo-tourism” destinations worldwide.

It seems only logical that those taxes should be even higher — especially when weighing the costs.

Let’s hope the Senate doesn’t water this one down and give yet another tax break to the wealthy in this latest new investment scheme.
Greg Bryant

Thanks, volunteers
As National Volunteer Week approaches, I would like to give my deepest thanks to our dedicated Fresh Air hosts, volunteers, and supporters in Vermont. They truly embody the meaning of the 2007 National Volunteer Week theme, “Inspire By Example.” Year after year, our volunteers demonstrate their commitment to New York city children by continuing the Fresh Air tradition in the community.

Our caring Fresh Air host families open their homes and share the everyday joys of summertime with their Fresh Air guests. Our local volunteer leaders — many of whom are also hosts — give by serving on our local Friendly Town Committee, planning summer activities, raising funds for special events, publicizing the program, and interviewing prospective host families. I would also like to thank all individuals and businesses that have generously given their time and resources to make the Friendly Town program throughout this area a great success each summer.

The Fresh Air Fund, an independent, not-for-profit agency, has provided free summer vacations to more than 1.7 million New York city children since 1877.

For more information on how you can help to continue this wonderful tradition of volunteering, please call Mary Sherman at 868-2771 or the Fresh Air Fund at (800) 367-0003.

Amanda Cortese
New York, NY
Amanda Cortese is the director of public relations for the Fresh Air Fund