Forum, Dec. 6: Women’s Voices, Stories Needed

Tuesday, December 05, 2017
Women’s Voices, Stories Needed

Becoming a subscriber to the Valley News was a great decision, and I value what I learn here about local lives, communities, land and history. But there are a couple of areas in which I think this newspaper could do much better. First, it’s high time for the Monday “A Life” series to include more stories of women, people of color, people who die young (in the opioid epidemic and otherwise), and people who in other ways break the mold of Venerable White Men. Second, the Valley News should feature at least one weekly female columnist in its opinion and local sections. Among other shortcomings, there’s something self-evidently absurd about all-male coverage of our country’s current sexual-harassment scandals (“Cut It Out, Guys” doesn’t cut it). We can talk all we want about the need for change, but until the lives we remember and the voices we listen to are truly diverse, it’s hard to embody the change we say we want.

Julie Puttgen


A Vigil for the Gun Crisis

Dec. 14 is the fifth anniversary of the tragic Newtown Elementary School massacre. Since that time, more than 150,000 individuals have lost their lives as a result of a firearm: suicides, homicides, mass shootings, domestic violence or unintentional deaths. Many hundreds of thousands have been injured. This compares with the 58,220 U.S. military deaths suffered in the Vietnam conflict. The United States is a virtual war zone.

The NRA is telling us to accept our fate: sheep to the slaughter. The current situation is not acceptable; we are being terrorized due to the current gun culture, enabled by the NRA and the gun industry they lobby for. The NRA is supporting “domestic terrorism,” threatening legislators against enacting legislation that could reduce this daily carnage.

This is a public health crisis. There are measures our legislators can take to reduce deaths and injuries. Public safety can be improved while protecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.

On Dec.14, we will be holding a reflective vigil on the Green in Norwich at 5 p.m. to contemplate how each of us can respond to this crisis. We cannot remain silent any longer; time has passed to just offer prayers and condolences. We need to push our state and federal legislators to act.

There will not be one single piece of legislation to address all of the root causes of a particular gun death or injury. In the wake of the recent Texas tragedy, there are two actions Congress can institute. They need to reinstate the ban on military style weapons. These weapons should be stored and only accessible at gun clubs. Second, we need to tighten up the loopholes in our present National Instant Background Check System. Background checks need to be obtained on all firearms: private sales and gun shows included.

Hope to see you at the vigil; afterward there will be a short program in the Norwich UCC parish hall. But more importantly, be patriotic and use your democratic privilege of citizenship to influence our representatives.

Paul Manganiello


Self-Interest and the Truth

When I worked at the Valley News in the 1990s, a period that coincided with the genocidal wars in the former Yugoslavia, I would, entirely in jest, accuse the editors of pro-Croatian bias depending on how certain news reports about the war were featured in our local paper. The point of the ribbing was not to make light of the tragedy underway in the Balkans, which was truly horrific and shocked us all, but to parody the way many people in that part of the world view all news through a prism of total self-interest, truth be damned.

But as Americans and as journalists dedicated to presenting the truth as objectively as possible, those of us who worked at the paper were simply trying to keep local readers well informed. I have no doubt that approach still guides the Valley News today. I was therefore mildly disappointed to see the paper’s disparate coverage of two recent war crimes trials at the Hague.

The conviction of Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic, the man most directly responsible for the massacre at Srebrenica and other indefensible atrocities, was featured on the front page. But several days later, our local paper neglected to cover a Bosnian Croat general’s conviction by the same court, even though the man did everything possible to garner media attention (upon hearing the verdict, he dramatically swallowed poison in the courtroom). In its coverage of this event, The New York Times provided excellent background on how the respective Serb and Croat governments during the war colluded to orchestrate the dismemberment of Bosnia through ethnic cleansing. There was plenty of blame to go around.

I use this example to make two points. First, it’s hard enough to present the news fairly and comprehensively even when journalists and media act in good faith. Second, as Americans we owe it to ourselves to get at the truth, even if it means a temporary setback for our own interests, otherwise we end up like the Balkans.

Philip Glouchevitch


Costs of Vermont’s Act 46

Good public policy requires weighing costs and benefits. Unfortunately, the costs of Act 46, the Vermont education law requiring elimination of local school boards and the consolidation of school districts, has been pretty much kept hidden. While the millions spent for consultants and in administrative time by the state, supervisory unions and local districts trying to implement this law is still not known, a window was recently opened on the costs of the incentives provided by this law. In a footnote on page 5 of the state tax commissioner’s annual report on the education fund outlook issued Nov. 30, the costs of the incentives are listed. They were $2.5 million last year, $10.1 million this year and $14.1 million for next year. No data is available on cost savings from this law, but given the large tax increase needed for the state education fund for next year, at this point there is little to none.

Finally, the purpose of the law was supposed to be to increase educational quality. However, recent data has found Vermont testing scores heading downward. Vermont legislators need to press for full disclosure of the costs and benefits of Act 46. Without this information and the ability to act upon it, the public interest and the education of our children will not be well served.

John Freitag

South Strafford

Tax Plan Doesn’t Add UP

Ed Eastridge’s Dec. 1 letter (How About a “Trickle Up Plan?) accurately describes what economists call Demand Side vs. Supply Side economic stimulus.

Mr. Eastridge’s “trickle up” tax plan describes Demand Side stimulus, in which more money is put in the hands of consumers so that they will spend more, which will encourage companies to build more factories and hire more people to meet increased demand. This investment will then further stimulate the economy. Pretty simple and straightforward.

Supply Side “trickle-down” economics, on the other hand, seeks to give more money to corporations and rich investors via tax decreases, in hopes that they will use this money to invest in new factories and jobs, which will somehow magically reduce prices, therefore increasing demand. A current issue with this theory is that companies are today sitting on lots of unspent cash and could borrow money easily at current low interest rates. One would assume, therefore, that if these companies saw benefits in increasing production, they would have already done so. As evidence that this theory does not work, previous supply side tax plans, i.e., the tax decrease for the wealthy under George W. Bush, had poor overall results. In contrast, Bill Clinton’s increasing taxes on the wealthy was followed by a very good economy.

This makes one wonder why Republicans have almost unanimously supported the current mean-spirited, anti-anybody but the upper 1 percent, deficit increasing and un-American tax plan. Their reasoning certainly has nothing to do with the overall economic health of the country.

Philip Robertson