More to the story

Editor of the Reformer:

Not surprisingly, the U.S. mainstream media have fallen completely in line with the government’s narrative on Ukraine, Russia and the Crimea. Russia and President Putin are portrayed as the aggressors and villains, the U.S. and its European allies as the good guys and the present "interim" government of the Ukraine as the victim. The reality is very different.

The conflict in Ukraine started when its President Yanukovych reversed course on Nov. 21, 2012, and decided to shelve an economic agreement with the European Union and instead agreed to a massive loan deal with Russia. This sparked weeks of protest in Kiev, which grew ever more violent. Yanukovych used massive, deadly police force to squelch the protests, to no avail. Finally, when the situation became untenable, Yanukovych and the opposition signed an agreement on Feb. 21, mediated by the EU and the OSCE, which forced Yanukovych to relinquish much of his power, hold early elections and order the police to withdraw. This agreement was supposed to solve the crisis and clear the way for Yanukovych’s orderly departure. But even though it was co-signed by EU-members, these nations stood by when opposition militias, among which were neo-Nazi groups, exploited the police withdrawal and overran government buildings, thereby breaking the agreement and forcing Yanukovych and other government to flee for their lives.

The president’s supporters in the parliament were ousted, and the rump parliament, under the militias’ armed guard, ousted Yanukovych under violation of the impeachment procedures established by Ukraine’s constitution. This overthrow amounted to an actual coup and was completely unconstitutional. Despite all of that, the U.S. and the EU immediately recognized the putsch government. Putin, on the other hand, was incensed that his ally Yanukovych was ousted by an illegal coup. No matter what one thinks of Putin, he is right. The new Ukrainian government is illegitimate. And the chain of events that has since followed is the direct consequence of Washington’s and Brussels’ embracing this illegitimate government that is heavily influenced by neo-Nazi elements.

Reto Pieth,

Grafton, March 12

1 percent tax will make future uncertain

Editor of the Reformer:

I hate to be writing the same letter again, but the town of Brattleboro has yet again resurrected the 1 percent local option tax as a way to try to pay down some of the huge burden of three large construction projects slated to be built at the same time -- a project that I believe needs to be examined again.

We all know the many challenges of living in a border town, next to tax-free New Hampshire, as well as competing with the wild world of the Internet.

Rather than go into depth about the particulars of tax unfairness, I would rather discuss the value that the community places on maintaining a viable downtown. For many of us who choose to live and/or work in downtown Brattleboro, the overall draw is not about what we can buy, but instead about how we can live in community. When we go into town, whether to a cafe, a movie, a retail shop, or an evening out, many of us encounter people we have known for decades, young adults we knew as kids, retired folks we knew when they were busy at work every day.

As the co-owner of a downtown business, I have been seeing the same troubling lack of people on the streets this winter that others have commented on. Between ultra-cold weather, the huge construction project at Brooks House, icy sidewalks, and unknown factors, this has been a truly challenging winter for many downtown businesses. I feel certain that the extra 1 percent tax burden, while not huge, will be one more message to shoppers that Brattleboro is not a welcoming environment -- a message that many already feel loud and clear from the very high parking rates and the speed of the parking ticketing.

I want the downtown area to thrive, to improve, to become a place where locals and visitors feel that they are welcome in our town, that this is a place not only for those who can afford to spend in an unlimited way. If the 1 percent tax passes, we will lose current and potential businesses, and make the future of downtown even more uncertain.

Nancy Braus,

Everyone’s Books, Brattleboro, March 13

Insurance companies
control ACA

Editor of the Reformer:

I read today "Thanks, but no thanks" (Dan Dewalt, March 13), which criticizes the monopolistic health insurance companies for making huge profits at the expense of American people enrolling in the Affordable Care Act.

If my memory serves me correctly, before President Obama succeeded in having the act passed, he was busy getting any and all supporters lined up, from unions, political action groups, illegal workers, etc. The biggest health insurance companies at first were not in favor of Obama’s bill, but suddenly were behind it. Deals were made and one of them was to give power to these companies to administer the details. There would be no federal oversight to see that rates were kept low. It would be like Medicare Plan D, where companies like Humana have sole control of the cost and coverage. A complaint call I made to a Medicare helpline representative told me that if I had a complaint over the unfairness of some Plan D regulations, I would have to talk to a representative of the insurance company and that Medicare itself did not administer it. In another complaint I made to the office of the Vermont commissioner of insurance I learned Vermont had no control over anything the Plan D insurance company did.

Going back in history, the McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945 gave monopoly rights to health insurance companies. An effort to repeal this dangerous and misguided law was entered in the U.S. Senate in 2012 and was tabled in 2013. About 13 percent of tabled laws in the Senate never get passed. Our own senator, Patrick Leahy, was on the Senate committee to move the act. The reason in my opinion that the old monopoly law was tabled is that the same law gives companies the power they have today in the Affordable Care Act. The original act did allow states to regulate insurance companies, but a recent study says that only five states actually do this. These insurance companies are the biggest reason for our out-of-control health costs.

I, personally, talked for several hours to Humana agents about many problems: the yearly cost of prescription drugs, the cost of cheaper plans, and finally the decision to opt out of the Humana prescription plan altogether. I got conflicting answers, was not offered available options, and their delaying tactics resulted in my not acting within the time period they specified. In other words I have to wait until next October to make changes to my plan, at a cost of about $47 per month. I wrote a letter of protest, waited two months for a reply that they had received my letter, and a few weeks later received a six-page letter that was irrelevant to my original complaints.

For the above reasons I fully agree with Dan DeWalt’s assessment of our health insurance companies.

Demetrius S. Latchis,

Brattleboro, March 13

A tax proposal

Editor of the Reformer:

We the people of Vermont cannot afford these high taxes on our homes and live in our state, therefore I propose the following change to our residential tax structure: Veterans and senior citizens should not pay the school tax that supports sports in our public schools; the mathematical formula must be changed to exempt us from this expense that we cannot afford any longer if we are to stay in Vermont. If it were not for the homestead exemption we would all be homeless. Please work to correct this injustice immediately as it is pretty bad when the convicts and the felons have it easier then the law abiding citizens and specifically the native born.

Christian Blake,

Westminster, March 17

Support the option tax

Editor of the Reformer:

I urge my fellows Town Meeting Representatives to vote for the 1 percent tax proposal Saturday. It is about time we gave some thought to the citizens and taxpayers of Brattleboro. The real estate water-sewer rates continue to rise.

Over 800 voters passed this tax bill. Let’s listen to what the voter has to say.

Hugh Bronson

Town Meeting Representative

Brattleboro, March 18

An old tactic

Editor of the Reformer:

I agree with your editorial calling Scott Brown a carpetbagger for running for office in New Hampshire while being a native of Massachusetts (March 18). But the practice of choosing an easy seat wherever it may be is an old political tradition, used by members of both parties. Think of Hillary Clinton pushing aside lifelong residents to run for senator in New York. Or Robert Kennedy, also New York. All politics stink, and one must be a stinker to succeed.

Tom Murray,

Brattleboro, March 18