Tuesday May 21, 2013

Look toward Denmark for glimpse at our future

Editor of the Reformer:

I would like to thank Senator Bernie Sanders for bringing the Danish ambassador, Peter Taksøe-Jensen, to speak in Brattleboro. There are several reasons why this is important.

One is that Denmark illustrates the reality that Vermont (which in America is regarded as a progressive, socially advanced state) is actually harsh and socially limited, although not nearly as regressive as the vast majority of U.S. states. Second, within the European Union, Denmark is not unique. What ambassador Taksøe-Jensen said about Denmark could apply to most of Northern and Central Europe at this point -- between 100 and 200 million people. It’s just one example of a group of socially advanced nations, of which the USA is not a member. And to bring it closer to home, every time you click together Lego, use Skype or employ any number of other products and services, you are interacting with the economy of Denmark. Denmark is part of your world.

So, why is the character of daily life in Denmark seemingly beyond any reasonable hopes and dreams for you and me? Why is Denmark’s way of living not part of your world? Why are you condemned to struggle and worry and be satisfied with so little when it comes to health care, child care, education, energy, transportation, working conditions, job security and many other things?

Once upon a time, this question did not come up. The USA had won World War II and our affluence exploded. The Scandinavians and other Europeans were slowly building their social democratic welfare states, piece by piece, but in America you could always make a lot of money, and there was material wealth aplenty in our consumer society. Europe seemed meager and Spartan by comparison.

This has all changed now, for complex reasons I don’t have the space here to speculate about, but congratulations to Senator Sanders for setting his sights on the Nordic social model as the direction in which Vermont should move. Vermont’s Democrats and Progressives in the State Legislature appear to have also adopted his vision, and are working very hard to implement a single-payer health care system, smart energy policies, universal day care, mandatory GMO labeling, smart growth, and other policies to at least get Vermont to the on-ramp of what has been called the "Third Way" -- between communism and capitalism. They are heading the right way -- right for our economy, our quality of life, and our environment.

To get out of the unpleasant, exploitive, and frankly dangerous social system we have ended up in, and make significant progress toward the Nordic model, we are going to have to work harder, study harder, increase our faith in one another and in the soundness of this model, and increase our determination to fight the short-sighted corporate interests that would lose so much shareholder value if Vermont (and then other states) broke free of their orbit.

They have enormous resources to keep us in our places. But Denmark exemplifies the prize, and we have to keep our eyes on it.

Ralph Meima,

Brattleboro, May 20

Getting to the bottom of the Grega murder case

Editor of the Reformer:

In following the John Grega case in the newspapers I have come to the one inescapable conclusion possible in this matter, that Mr. Grega is the only person on Earth who knows if he indeed did murder his wife back in 1994 in West Dover. It’s an interesting case with many facets to consider. With no admission of his guilt, no definite proof of who committed the crime, he was convicted based on circumstantial evidence. That’s exactly the way innocent people are put behind bars. Now with the new DNA testing possible literally hundreds of wrongly convicted people are being freed from jail. In Mr. Grega’s case recent testing has now discovered an unknown person’s DNA on the dead woman’s bodily samples.This has created a reasonable doubt of his guilt. Since he was not condemned to death he now has a chance to clear himself, unlike back in the 1940s and ‘50s when the convicted murders went to the electric chair.

Only Sherlock Holmes with his deductive logic could figure the Grega case out for sure. But, with no fresh clues even he would have to give up on this one. It’s a "cold case" now and the evidence is gone with the years since the murder in 1994. The case borders on Mr. Grega being "tried twice for the same crime" with the new charge for the same crime he was convicted of after almost 20 years. That previous conviction was vacated by the court. It also borders on the "beat a dead horse principal" and appears as an overkill by the legal system. When is enough, enough with a case like this? Since no one but Mr. Grega really knows for sure if he killed his wife why not call it a day and move on. He spent almost 20 years in jail and maintained his innocence all those years. Either way he will have to live with the truth.

Tom King,

Shaftsbury, May 20

In defense of Galbraith

Editor of the Reformer"

Democratic Windham County Senator Peter Galbraith has angered his colleagues, including fellow Democrats, calling a campaign finance reform bill a "sham," and criticizing the bill’s supporters for "hypocrisy."

According to an AP report: "This Senate has proposed a constitutional amendment to undo Citizens United with the goal of getting corporate money out of politics," Galbraith said. "But our real message is: Let’s get corporate money out of politics, but please don’t take away my corporate contribution. There is one word for this: hypocrisy.’’

According to the report, our other Democratic Windham County Senator, Jeanette White, said: ‘’He’s not a team player ... He clearly knows better than we do." Other senators piled on including the majority leader who accused Galbraith of being tedious in persisting with an intensive questioning of White, who advocates compromise on campaign finance limitations.

According to the AP article: "During Friday’s interrogation, some senators rose to suggest that Galbraith could get answers to his questions by reading the legislation."

I personally have not studied the proposed legislation, but I cannot help noticing some strange dynamics here. The suggestion that Galbraith should go sit in a corner and quietly read the legislation (which I am sure he already has done) is not only insulting: It means that what these senators are really objecting to is open, on-the-record process.

I was at the Statehouse a few weeks ago to support other legislation, and I could not help noticing the ambiance ... a pervasive sense of self-importance. When a high official whom I have known for 24 years, and who -- on his way up -- always had time to say hello, seemed barely able to tolerate stopping to go through the motions of greeting a constituent; I could not help feeling that the trappings of power, even in Vermont, are seductive.

I have noticed before that some of my representatives at times seem more loyal to their colleagues than to those of us whom they are supposed to represent. I do not know if Galbraith is tedious or not. I do know that style and schmoozing is less important than substance. Is it a senator’s responsibility to please other senators, or did we elect Peter Galbraith to carry out his responsibilities with integrity, even if it means taking flak?

Steven K-Brooks,

Brattleboro, May 20