Letters to the Editor

Readers write: Letters to the editor, March 27, 2017

Taxes an investment in the future

I commend Orin Seybert for his paid advertisement on March 22 regarding the budget deficit.

I began doing and paying my own taxes about 50 years ago. My reactions to performing this task seem to be unique to me. I have always felt proud to pay taxes and grateful that I am able to. (Prosperity has to do with more than finances. It means "the condition of being successful or thriving.") When we had a state income tax, I felt especially proud to pay them. I considered them an investment in my and my state's future. While I couldn't decide how the funds would be "invested" in my state, I could certainly express my hopes to my state legislators.

Frankly, I suspect that folks who are totally opposed to reinstitution of a state income tax are: 1. not really from here; 2. have been here so long they take this all for granted; or 3. allow their ideology to nullify their practicality.

I think we have allowed the conservatives to commandeer the word "patriot," which actually means "One who loves his (or her) country and zealously supports its authority and interests." I consider myself a patriot and a sourdough; I love my country and my state, and I am willing to invest in them. If you are, too, please let your state legislators know.

— Sheila Lankford

The ACA needs to be replaced


All we seem to be hearing about lately is all the people who may lose their Medicaid or health insurance because of the efforts to change the Affordable Care Act. There seems to be little media attention paid to the other side of the coin … namely the tens of millions who do not qualify for subsidies and have seen their insurance costs double or triple due in large part to the ACA.

The rhetoric which insists that the "well off" should be ashamed for trying to take money away from "the needy" doesn't come close to telling the story. The wealthy, the top 1 percent, are not the other side of the coin. It's the millions of low- to middle-income folks, many of them struggling to pay their bills, to just get by, and who do not view themselves as well off. For most of these, having their health insurance costs double or triple is catastrophic. Millions of hardworking Americans should not be forced to struggle even more, so that millions of other low-income or unemployed Americans are able to get their health care free or inexpensively.

But can the current efforts to change the ACA resolve these issues? Frank Baker's March 14 letter hit the nail on the head — it is time to do what other civilized countries have long since done: Get rid of the insurance companies and adopt universal coverage. According to the Pew Research Center, the U.S., the highest health care spending nation in the world, spends an average of $9,086 per person annually on health care and average life expectancy here is 78.8 years.

Switzerland, the second-highest-spending country and one providing universal coverage, spends $6,325 per person and has a life expectancy of 82.9 years.
With the relentless lobbying by the insurance companies, hospital groups, MD associations, and medical schools, don't hold your breath. The health of our citizens seems to be less important than maximizing profits.

— Jim Lieb

Yes on Proposition 3 parks bond

I wanted to let the community know that we have future designers, planners, and advocates at every one of our Anchorage School District schools. Myself and other professional landscape architects, in association with the Anchorage Park Foundation and Anchorage Parks and Recreation, have been visiting schools that are creating a movement of learning outdoors. These schools, and our children, are reaching out into nearby parks, trails, and waterways, designing and planning for future outdoor learning spaces. Our schools and amazing students have been working closely with design professionals on many different Anchorage park projects through a joint effort by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Alaska Chapter and Schools on Trails. These students have created a buzz about these outdoor learning labs that have been popping up at our local parks, and are the future stewards of our community. A fun twist to the Sand Lake Park-Lakeside Learning Lab is that it will incorporate some Japanese elements in the park related to the school's long running immersion program. Let's vote yes on Proposition 3 and support our great parks and our great schools!

— Kevin Doniere

Murkowski, Sullivan voted to open door to our personal info

Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan just voted to allow tech companies to capture and sell my — and yours — personal online information without my consent. Please tell me, senators, why it is you think I should not be the one to make that decision. Wait. This isn't about me, it's about politics. The privacy rule protecting my data was put in place by the prior administration. Are you kidding me?

— Ron Otte

Humans wired for compassion

It has long been assumed that selfishness, greed and competitiveness lie at the core of human behavior and are the products of our evolution. But neuroscientists, psychologists and others have significant research that indicates the human brain is wired for compassion. Humans seem to have an inherent natural drive to help one another — a proclivity that exists within and outside religious and philosophical boundaries.

During recent research projects by Emory University neuroscientists, participants were given the chance to help someone else while their brain activity was recorded. Helping others triggered activity in the caudate nucleus and anterior cingulate — portions of the brain that turn on when people receive rewards or experience pleasure. The project, among many other studies, showed that helping others brings the same pleasure we get from the gratification of personal desire.

While we see evidence of that "built in" compassion all around us in our daily lives, we can't ignore the violence, cruelty and injustice that is rampant throughout the world. Sometimes it looks as if the dark side of human nature is winning over the good side.

I believe most members of U.S. Congress feel a pull toward our benevolent, compassionate side. But they are blinded by ambition, power and the perpetuation of their careers.

A good health plan that covers all American citizens — a plan as good as our elected leaders receive — is the right thing to do for our country.


If we survive as a species, how will future (and hopefully more advanced) generations judge us? What will they say about Congressional actions in 2017 that deliberately inflicted suffering, even death, upon millions of American citizens; in this instance, those unable to afford the new health care plan?

A relatively small number of people have tenaciously corrupted our once powerful free-enterprise economic engine — an engine that created a large middle class that has stagnated. And our politicians have followed those few (analogs to Russia's oligarchs) into this purgatory to ensure their own re-elections. It is a dark region from which I hope and pray our country can escape.

— Frank Baker
Eagle River

Vote on privacy raises questions

Why did our two U.S. senators recently vote to rescind the protection of privacy rights for all customers of broadband and other telecommunications services (81 Fed. Reg. 87274)?

The change paves the way for ISPs to store your browsing history, geolocation data, financial info, passwords, health info, even your Social Security number, then sell it for their own profit to advertisers who can then use it for targeted advertising. Customers will lose the right to opt-out of such data sharing.

It's time to ask our two U.S. senators if this is their way of helping Alaskans to live a better life ?

— Tom Hughes

Hilcorp said what?

On the 28th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, out in Alaska's Cook Inlet, methane gas is spewing from a pipeline connected to a series of drill rigs operated by Hilcorp, a Houston, Texas-based company. Gas has been pouring out into the environment since December while Hilcorp waits for sea ice on the Cook Inlet to clear and days to get longer so they can safely send divers down to figure out how to repair the leak. Hilcorp cannot even find someone with a remote submersible to go down and inspect the leak site, stating in a letter to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, "… due to tides, ice, and water clarity, Hilcorp has been unable to locate a contractor that will allow their equipment to be placed into current water conditions."

Despite the potential environmental damage caused by the leaking gas over the long months until repairs can be made (luckily this is not crude oil), reasons for not getting the pipeline patched sooner are based on prudent benchmarks, namely, it is not safe to send a human or even a remote submersible down into frigid Cook Inlet waters during our long, dark winter months. The state agreed with this assessment, citing an incident in 2009 in Cook Inlet where sea ice pinned a 166-foot offshore-supply vessel against an oil platform and it sank (and leaking oil from that boat that could not be recovered until the next summer). Meanwhile, as spring approaches and our fish and wildlife are beginning to migrate up the Inlet, methane gas continues to pour out into Cook Inlet with unknown consequences.

Hilcorp is the same company that wants to develop the Liberty Island site in the Arctic Ocean just to the east of Prudhoe Bay. If you go to Hilcorp's web page touting this project you see a banner on the page proclaiming

"30 Years of Safe Operations Offshore Alaska." They continue to claim that drilling in icy Arctic waters can be done safely, despite the fact that the dark season is much longer up there, the cold is even more frigid (on average about 35 degrees F colder), and the power of the sea ice in the Arctic makes sea ice on the Cook Inlet look like soft butter.

The industry and various politicians keep saying we can safely drill and respond to spills in the Arctic; Alaskans keep hoping this is true, but the ongoing Hilcorp gas leak incident clearly contradicts those promises. Even in the relatively benign Cook Inlet, close to big urban areas (for Alaska), there are periods of time when we simply cannot respond to oil and gas spills without endangering lives. Imagine an oil spill in the Arctic Ocean.

— Nils Warnock
Audubon Society

Got what we deserve in Trump

One of the definitions of treason is "an attempt to overthrow one's government." Doesn't what we've heard the past few weeks in our nation's capital, border on this very serious act?

The man-child we voted into office has been lying to us from the beginning; not only has he sold us a "bottle of Dr. Good" but he threw in the Brooklyn Bridge for good measure. Many of us believed him. I'm not blaming the voters; at least they voted. I am blaming those people who didn't get off their couches to go out and vote. We got what we deserve.

One thing we did learn in the last two months is just how our government is designed to work. It's not too late to get involved; call Sens. Murkowski and Sullivan, and Rep. Young. You can fix this!

— Rod Webster


Krauthammer column on target

I love reading opinion pieces like Charles Krauthammer's op-ed in Friday's (March 24) paper. It offers a refreshing view of where we are as a country. I got a kick out of his comment on anti-Trump people referring to themselves as "the resistance … As if this were Vichy France. It's not." And his blast at the media and their ridiculous overkill was great.

Read the article, and take heart people.

— Alice Hildreth

Evil can wipe out the good

Dr. Tina Tomsen's defense of Planned Parenthood funding puts me in mind of another case, a person this time, whose good works were ignored. He was a Jaycee volunteer. He would often dress up as a clown and entertain the kids. Readers may know him: John Wayne Gacy, known these days not as a Jaycee volunteer but as a serial killer of young men. As with Planned Parenthood, the evil wipes out the good — if the evil is great enough.


— Pam Siegfried

The views expressed here are the writers' own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a letter under 200 words for consideration, email letters@alaskadispatch.com, or click here to submit via any web browser. Submitting a letter to the editor constitutes granting permission for it to be edited for clarity, accuracy and brevity. Send longer works of opinion to commentary@alaskadispatch.com.