Letter: We're an oligarchy not a democracy anymore
To the editor:
We've all heard the clichés throughout our lives about the need to vote. "It's our civic duty to vote." "Everyone's vote counts."
Then why am I having such a difficult time deciding on whether to put in an appearance on Nov. 8?
Perhaps I can't get excited about voting for the lesser of the evils. Or maybe I just can't get inspired to cast my vote for candidates with the most unfavorable poll ratings in recent history.
Well, to tell you the truth, it's probably neither of these negatives. Instead, I'm much more likely to commit this sacrilegious act for a very different reason.
First, as you certainly know by now, we no longer live in a democracy. Let's put the best spin on it and call it an oligarchy. It is crucial to understand that the country is ruled by a surprisingly few elites, insiders, which we call the Deep State. It doesn't matter which party the president comes from; he gets his marching orders from the real rulers.
I've come to think that the whole idea of holding elections is monumentally blockheaded. Millions of people stand in line to cast their votes for someone whom almost none of them really knows, whose policies few of them understand, which may or may not be pursued, and with consequences that are usually unknowable.
Without getting into what the candidates say as opposed to what they do once they are in office, let's zero in on the system that is so riddled with preposterous hallucinations and outrageous conceits that it requires the willing belief on the part of practically every propaganda-riddled citizen in the nation to hold it up.
But if they ever caught onto what a scam and a farce it is, the whole thing would fall down in a heap. There is no objective reality to it. It is all lies, lies, lies.
But don't let any of the above discourage you. Please express your civic duty and be sure to show up on Nov. 8.
Charles Steinhacker, Great Barrington
Facing the realities of life
To the Editor:
I too, like Leonard Quart, have "lost my capacity to tilt at windmills" ("Bernie back in the day, but Hillary today," May 27). He makes such a valid point that Bernie Sanders would have been a welcome candidate back in the 1960s.
We were all so idealistic then. We sang of "Revolution" with The Beatles and screamed "We Won't Get Fooled Again" with The Who.
I happened to be in New York when Bernie held a rally in Washington Square, a place that resonated with me because so many fanciful, well-intentioned gatherings took place there.
We thought we could change the world with Peace and Love. No wonder many young people idealize Bernie with his talk of free college and freedom from shackles of government.
They too will have to grow up as we did and face the realities of life. They call Hillary Clinton the "establishment" but sorry kids, that's the only way to get things done. We are the "establishment," like it or not.
Keep your dreams, but work with us to slowly and sensibly to change the world.
Susan Zuckerman, Pittsfield
Credit unions should pay taxes like the banks do
To the Editor:
The issue of whether credit unions, which don't pay state and federal taxes, should be able to expand their powers has surfaced again.
Credit unions are focused on expanding their powers to serve more wealthy customers, accept public deposits and engage in what could be excessive, riskier business lending. In essence, credit unions want all the powers of mutual community banks, but without having to pay taxes.
Credit unions claim that they are "not-for-profit, member-owned cooperatives that exist solely to serve the financial needs of members."
In fact, credit unions are extremely profitable. What business wouldn't be if you were able to keep 28 to 39 percent of your revenue that would normally go to taxes? That's the same money that should be going to the state and federal government to cover spending that we all rely on: Infrastructure, education, municipal services, mass transit, social service programs, etc. Between 2012 and 2014, the combined state and federal corporate tax exemption given to credit unions in Massachusetts cost taxpayers between $539 million and $751 million.
Everyone must ask: Do credit unions deserve to be given a competitive advantage by not paying state and local taxes?
All but a handful of banks in Massachusetts are community banks, and the vast majority of them (70 percent) are mutual banks. Mutuals are similar in structure to credit unions; but all mutual community banks pay taxes unlike credit unions. If credit unions want the same powers as mutual community banks, then pay taxes like we do.
Robert J. Fraser, North Adams The author is president and CEO of MountainOne Financial.
Chief Gray Lock legend draws scrutiny
To the Editor:
One wonders where the historical myths about Chief Gray Lock originated. The Eagle's story ("Bascom Lodge opens with Abenaki Festival," May 29) about the opening of Bascom Lodge is almost completely incorrect.
The chief was a Worenoke Indian, not an Abenaki, although he lived among the Abenakis in Vermont after 1676. He never lived on Mount Greylock and probably never actually saw the mountain.
There were no English settlements in Berkshire County in 1712, when Gray Lock began his raids into Massachusetts. He operated from his fort near Missiquoi Bay at the north end of Lake Champlain and usually led a small number of warriors (four to 10 men) against the eastern towns of Northfield, Hatfield, and Rutland.
The early Berkshire settlers called the mountain "Saddle-back," and there was no reference to an Indian named Grey Lock being associated with it.
Lion G. Miles, Stockbridge
Long days journey into a New England city night
To the Editor:
It is sad watching the demise of the St. Francis Church. North Adams, "the City of Steeples," has the look of one those German cities one sees along the Rhine.
But we don't live in a prosperous social democracy. We cannot afford such extravagance and beauty.
It was appropriate how the city and others responded when the St. Francis Church began to fall. The quick response is to be commended in the face of what was unfolding.
We were lucky a child was not near the crumbling relic. A girl with a hula hoop. Public safety comes first.
But what of the other crumbling edifices in North Adams and elsewhere?
The St. Francis case teaches us that more must be done with older, privately held buildings.
We can look to see what others have done, with public infrastructure: the national and state governments. Our nation is burdened with old and aging iron and steel truss bridges, some dating to the Industrial Period.
A "Red List" was established. Deficient bridges are now surveyed and judged. Pressure to replace is increased and monies found for this endeavor.
And the list offsets efforts by historic preservationists and other sentimentalists who have had earlier successes: saving wooden covered bridges and stone arch bridges. These are now almost impossible to replace.
A Commonwealth "Red List" for privately owned heritage structures is in order. One that calls for stiff engineering studies on structures older than 75 years and taller than three stories.
This list is not only for public safety, but also for rejuvenating the economy, freeing up building lots for better uses. Let the bulldozers roll and the wrecking balls fly. We have only just begun.
Steve Lindsey, Keene, N.H.
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