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Letters to the Editor, Week of Nov. 22, 2023

Congressional chaos, Gaza, health care and bears, oh my

Editor,

I am an 84-year-old man trying to make sense of madcap political antics that dishonor the voters who elect them to Congress. A senator and a member of the House of Representatives were indicted for multiple alleged felonies. A past Speaker of the House was accused of assaulting a member of his own political party, followed by adolescent retaliation. A House committee challenging a witness to fisticuffs. A senator holding up approval of military promotions. The current Speaker of the House belittling if not belying the 1947 Supreme Court decision that affirmed a wall of separation between church and state. The list goes on and on.

Members of both parties in Congress are compared to unruly second graders and/or to disrespectful teenagers. While these characterizations are protected speech, they cast unwarranted insults on students who expect elected officials to “grow up” and to work for the common good of all persons, not just those of a particular political party, gender or religion.

On Nov. 19, I watched a PBS special featuring 1960s folk anthems that inspired me and others of my generation. A line that captured my attention then and now is about the “eve of destruction,” which seems to be looming again. I believe that we, the elders, may have pushed us closer to that eve and that it is up to the younger generations to unite in political action for the good of our country. We may meet marching in the streets as so many did in the ’60s.

Jerry Hunter

Bellingham

Editor,

I was very dismayed at the large photo and headline regarding homeless issues in downtown (CDN, Nov. 17, 2023). Yes, it is a problem, but not so bad as your coverage conveyed. A photo is worth a thousand words, and it perpetuates the myth that our wonderful historic downtown is rife with lawlessness, drug dealing and the mentally ill. 

As a former downtown economic development manager, president of a Chamber of Commerce and a small-business owner, I am acutely familiar with the problem and am a supporter of our local Road2Home organization. I have extensive knowledge of the issues and case law surrounding the homeless, and have been following the recent court decisions that have resulted in billions — yes billions — of new dollars to help solve the problems in Los Angeles.

Moreover, as a lover of historic downtowns who has spent many months traveling around the country visiting countless small towns and who spends many hours just strolling and observing our downtown, I can attest to the fact that the problem is not pervasive; and, our downtown is a lively and inviting area that all residents should enjoy regularly. 

Ken Dalena

Bellingham 

Editor,

I’m disturbed by Perry Parsons’ and Charles Janeway’s letters to the editor on Israel’s war on Hamas. Firstly, on the number of Palestinians killed during this conflict. This information is provided to the media by Hamas, a terrorist organization that is not a trusted source of legitimate information. Hamas has a long reputation for dramatically inflating its fatality statistics, wielding casualties as a means to garner international sympathy.

It’s deeply problematic that instead of viewing these numbers with suspicion, the media is reprinting them as fact, in the same sentence as it mentions Hamas as a terrorist organization. Secondly, Janeway condemns “the indiscriminate and violent Israeli response.” In fact, the Israeli response has been moral and ethical. The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) dropped leaflets warning residents of buildings and neighborhoods of their pending incursion and encouraging them to leave for safer ground. It even called residents on their cell phones reinforcing this message. It was Hamas that prevented many of those residents from leaving, with their intention to use them as human shields.

Hamas has no regard for human life — Palestinian, Israeli, American or any other nationality. In advance of Hamas’ attack on the Israeli settlements and the Nova concert, there was no warning of the unimaginable brutality these terrorists gleefully inflicted on innocent civilians. Palestinian civilian life is important and must be protected. But the enemy here is Hamas, not Israel. Hamas must be destroyed at all costs before the Palestinians can live in safety. And that is why a ceasefire is not possible.

Lauren Kramer

Bellingham 

Editor’s note: In fact-checking stories and letters, CDN relies on information from a war zone provided by national media organizations such as The Washington Post, which reports that it gets its own information from the Gaza Health Ministry (an agency of the Hamas-controlled government), the Israeli government, the United Nations, the World Health Organization, the U.S. State Department and other international agencies. These numbers have been criticized by various groups as both over- and underreporting numbers of casualties in the conflict. 

Editor,

One of the things I learned during a 2022 hospital stay at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center is that medical staff there are not educated regarding the latest in geriatrics, in particular the safe and effective use of opioids in treating geriatric diseases involving severe chronic pain. Luckily for me, my former primary sent my swab to GeneSight laboratory to determine which opioids are compatible with my DNA. Neither the doctors nor nurses at St. Joseph had ever heard of such a test, which I had done five years prior. 

According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, the healthcare workforce lacks the capacity to meet the needs of older patients. To remedy this would require a 10-fold increase in trained staff, which the medical industry neglects for financial reasons, leaving Americans with one of the worst health care systems in the world.

Jay Taber

Blaine

Editor,

A 2021 analysis by Johns Hopkins suggested that nonprofit hospitals’ charity care is not aligned with their favorable tax treatment.

Nonprofit hospitals are exempt from paying most local, state and federal taxes in exchange for providing free or discounted care and programs such as affordable housing, access to healthy foods, substance abuse treatment and community education on various health issues.

In 2023, the respected Lown Institute calculated  “fair share” spending for over 1,700 nonprofit hospitals, comparing each system’s spending on financial assistance and community investment to the estimated value of its tax exemption. They extrapolated from IRS 990 forms for the 2020 reporting year.

The Institute found a substantial “air share deficit” — 77% of those nonprofit hospitals spent less on charity care and community investment than the value of their tax breaks.

Whatcom County’s only hospital got an overall “C” grade for equity, with a one-star rating on a five-star scale for financial assistance and community investment. I believe that’s a result of decisions made at the hospital system level in Vancouver, Clark County. (Fortunately, the hospital got an A grade for patient care.)

Nonprofit hospitals need help to change their behaviors. Shining a light on system flaws is necessary to increase the chances of making much-needed progress in health care equity and transparency.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s successful investigation of PeaceHealth’s failure to screen patients for financial assistance eligibility and CDN’s reporting on the topic are good steps in shining that light.

Micki Jackson

Bellingham 

Editor,

I am writing to support restoring grizzly bears to the Northern Cascades ecosystem.

I attended the public meeting on grizzly bear restoration in Newhalem during the first week of November where the audience supported bringing grizzlies back by a three-to-one margin.

We have the opportunity to bring back these magnificent animals that were hunted and trapped into extinction in Washington during the 19th and 20th centuries.

The North Cascades ecosystem is one of the remaining six areas in the lower 48 states that has enough habitat to support a viable population of grizzly bears.

We have seen that grizzly bears and humans can coexist in the lower 48 states. Currently, there are around 1,000 grizzly bears in each of the Greater Yellowstone and Northern Continental Divide ecosystems.

In these local communities, hikers, hunters, campers and ranchers accept and recognize grizzlies are part of the landscape. Over five million tourists visit the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem every year.

The proposed plan to return grizzlies to the North Cascades offers flexible management tools to reduce, prevent and sometimes respond to human-bear conflict. 

We live in a time of biodiversity extinction and crisis. Now is the time to return these iconic animals to the North Cascades.

John Rosapepe

Seattle

Editor,

I am writing to express my deep concerns regarding the growing reliance on neutrality agreements by labor unions as a remedy for their dwindling membership and diminishing influence. Neutrality agreements threaten the very essence of informed consent in our democratic processes. These contracts between employers and unions, which are sometimes driven by government pressure, risk compromising the ability of workers to exercise their rights with informed consent.

For decades, unions have played a crucial role in representing workers’ interests and ensuring fair labor practices. However, the recent developments where organizations like the United Auto Workers (UAW) seek to pressure battery plants into unionization through coercive means are troubling. One such example is the recent consent from General Motors to include battery plant workers in a new contract. This decision effectively deprives workers of their fundamental right to voice their opinions and make an informed choice in a union election.

The very core of our democratic values relies on the principle that individuals should have the freedom to make choices without undue influence or coercion. Neutrality agreements undermine this principle, eroding the foundation of our democracy and the rights of American workers.

We must protect the integrity of union elections by preserving workers’ rights to informed and uncoerced decisions. It is crucial that Congress addresses this issue to ensure that the principles upon which our nation was built remain intact. I urge leaders such as Sen. Maria Cantwell to uphold these values and defend the rights of workers in our great nation.

J. Manuel Reta

Ferndale

Letters to the Editor are published online Wednesdays; a selection is published in print on Fridays. Send to letters@cascadiadaily.com by 10 a.m. Tuesdays. Rules: Maximum 250 words, be civil, have a point and make it clearly. Preference is given to letters about local subjects. CDN reserves the right to reject letters or edit for length, clarity, grammar and style, or removal of personal attacks or offensive content. Letters must include an address/phone number to verify the writer’s identity (not for publication).

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