Friday April 19, 2013

Deliberation?
Not in the
U.S. Senate Editor of the Reformer:

For years, as Chair or Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, our senior senator and now dean of the senate, Patrick Leahy has been AWOL on the immigration issue. Now, a group of eight from both sides of the aisle (sans our senator), is about to deliver a 1,500-page immigration bill. Leahy has agreed to hold only one hearing, and it is the day the bill will be delivered to the senators for debate. The debate will be on a bill no one has read, all too common an occurrence in the "most deliberative" body (until the last few years) in the world.

Voting on a bill no one has read has become a habit in the Senate. They voted a 2,700-page stimulus bill, which no one read and which did little in the way of stimulus. They voted a 1,990-page health care bill that no one had read and about which Speaker Pelosi said "you’ll know what’s in it after we pass it." And now there are some 20,000 pages of regulations to interpret the health care bill which no one person can read and understand, and will control our birth-to-grave healthcare. And, from what I read, the consequences will be less than good. Not at all what we were promised as far as reducing costs, improving access and improving care. It is just a huge power grab by the Federal government.


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I am a staunch supporter of making corrections to our immigration policy: I support registration of all immigrants; I support a right for illegal immigrants to have legal work permits; I support some sort of path to legality so they don’t fear deportation in the future; I do not want families broken up by sending parents back to their home countries leaving children behind who were born here; I do not support sending people back to a country they may never have visited because their parents brought them here, illegally, as infants; I support strict control of our borders; I support more immigrants under legal quotas, especially those with high technology skills.

I do believe this country belongs to the legal citizens who reside here and these citizens have a right to determine who and how many can come in. Admissions should be for those who benefit our society. I am sure corrections to our broken policy could be made in less than 1,500 pages.

Pundits and lawyers like to refer to "reform." To me, reform means our "leaders" don’t know how to solve problems, so they throw all the problems they can come up with in a pot, stir it around and print out a tome, called reform, which no one reads or understands. Unfortunately, those pots always end up with lots of fat. And, everyone in the health care business tell us too much fat is bad for us.

Mr. Leahy, it is time to "reform" how you and your colleagues are creating laws and doing the "people’s" business.

Dart Everett,

Brattleboro, April 15

Say ‘no’ to GMOs

Editor of the Reformer:

I am writing to urge my neighbors to support the GMO Labeling Bill, H.112, which will be introduced in the Vermont House’s Judiciary committee on Thursday, April 18.

Vermonters have a right to know how our food is produced and what it contains. It’s that simple. We can go on debating about the level of risk the proliferation of GMOs poses to the health of humans and the ecosystems upon which our lives depend, but 90 percent of Americans agree that we have the right to know whether our food contains GMOs so we can make those decisions for ourselves. I’d be surprised if Vermonters are less adamant than the nation as a whole about such a basic liberty.

I am convinced that the risks GMOs pose to biodiversity and thus ecological resilience are sufficient to warrant banning them from our food supply. I am also convinced by the research data that indicates foods containing GMOs can provoke allergies and other immunological dysfunction in those who ingest them. I note that a growing number of other nations are taking action to prevent GMO products from entering their food supplies. Their interpretation of the data on GMOs can hardly be more biased than that of the U.S.government.

The U.S. Congress recently passed, and President Obama signed into law, an agricultural appropriations bill containing an article that "effectively bars federal courts from being able to halt the sale or planting of controversial genetically modified or genetically engineered seeds, no matter what health issues may arise concerning GMOs in the future."

Senator Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the author of this provision, acknowledges that he crafted it in collaboration with Monsanto lawyers. Under these circumstances, no one can reasonably deny that Monsanto is successfully manipulating federal policy to maximize their profits and control of the marketplace.

But even if I thought GMOs were harmless and corporate control of the world’s food supply was benign, I would stand for the right of my neighbors who felt differently to choose what they feed their children. I hope my neighbors will call or write their representatives to let them know that Vermonters support GMO labeling.

Lisa Nash,

Putney, April 15

The strange case of percentages

Editor of the Reformer:

In today’s paper I read on the editorial page a column by Joyce Lemire ("The crisis is not over for abused adults," April 15. My comments here do not address the topic of this column, but merely the mathematical statements contained in paragraphs three and four.

Lemire tells us that the APS accepted 29 percent fewer cases in 2012 than in 2011; over 400 fewer cases accepted for review. (note: 29 percent is rounded to one-third in the article). That means there were about 1,200 accepted cases in 2011, but only 800 in 2012. However, in the next paragraph she raises the question as to whether it is possible that this means that the number of unaccepted cases has risen by one-third. Whoa. That would depend on what the total number of reported cases was. For example, if in 2011, there were 3,200 cases reported, 2,000 unaccepted; and in 2012, 3,200 reported, 2,400 unaccepted, then the 400 more unaccepted cases is a 20-percent increase over the previous year. This gets even fuzzier if the total number (3,200 in my example) of reported cases was not the same in both years. Percents (or proportions like one-third) are peculiar when they are figured relative to different total amounts; in Lemire’s article, the number of accepted cases on the one hand versus the number of unaccepted cases on the other.

Percent is a convenient way of recording increase/decrease. For example, to read that the tax rate for the budget increased 2.6 percent makes it very easy to calculate your own increase, regardless of how much you paid last year, as opposed to reading that the tax rate went up $0.63 per $100 of assessed valuation. However, percent can be tricky. For example, if the tax rate went up 2.6 percent one year, and down 2.6 percent the next, the tax is not now back to what it was.

As percent can be tricky, it is sometimes wiser, to give the actual numbers. Lemire’s organization must know the total number of reported cases of abuse, and how many were accepted or not accepted; these numbers might well give a clearer picture of what’s happening than dubious percent statements.

Finally, my comments were only regarding the mathematics of the situation; Lemire’s questions and conclusion are certainly quite valid. In the next-to-last paragraph she indicates that if Vermonters want to know the facts, they should contact Gov. Shumlin and tell him so. My point is that the facts need to be presented most carefully, in a manner most clearly understood by the reader, who along with the writer, may not be fully cognizant of the peculiarities of percent statements.

The interested reader is invited to investigate "Simpson’s Paradox" to find out just how strange percent can be.

Ken McCaffrey,

Brattleboro, April 15

Violence will
not win

Editor of the Reformer:

I hope my Facebook friends forgive my plagiarism. Another act of violence, another wave of sorrow, frustration, anger, a sense of helplessness and confusion. And then my friend Anna, and others after her saying "No, violence will not win." We will not let it win. One, two, 100 acts of violence is nothing compared to the millions and millions of acts of goodness, by good people we see every day -- including there in Boston, after the explosion. We will stand up to cruelty, unfairness, and violence. We won’t put up with it. Patton Oswalt is my new hero. He said "So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or ... misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, ‘The good outnumber you, and we always will.’"

Rebecca Jones,

Brattleboro, April 16