Soap Box

A viable health-care crisis solution

To the editor,

When listening to Democratic candidates discuss health care, it’s important to hear what they mean as opposed to what they say. Michael Bennet, who is sponsoring Medicare X, talks about the benefits of a public option. When the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was being negotiated and the public option got nixed, it was in part because a public option undercuts insurance and pharmaceutical company profits. The idea is that those who can’t afford the phenomenal premiums currently being charged by the industry could “buy in” to Medicare ... the public option ... at a much lower price. If a public option is such a good thing, why is there not a public opportunity for every American, cradle to grave, to have comprehensive health care? That’s National Improved Medicare for All (NIMA)!

One of the problems with the ACA is that coverage was mandated for every American, yet there is no limit on premiums (and therefore profits) that insurance companies can charge. Similarly, there is no cap on drug prices, and no government negotiating for Medicare drug pricing. A public option would have been much more affordable.

Imagine comprehensive care for every American, including dental, vision, preventative and mental health care and prescription medications. Health care is possibly the biggest problem we face in America today; it underlies many of our other issues, including stagnant wages because of employer health care costs, bankruptcies, drug and alcohol addiction, and infectious disease outbreaks, to name a few. NIMA is the only viable solution to our health-care crisis.

– Dr. Lauri Costello, Durango

It's up to us to protect public lands

To the editor,

Two recent Telegraph articles about public lands issues (Silverton scoping on travel plan, June 13; and USFS rule change, June 27) bring to attention the ongoing problems with “public input” and federal agencies following (or not) policies/rules coming from congress or the current administration.

On the BLM side of things, Elijah Waters was quoted in the Silverton scoping article as saying; “Roads & trails on public lands are very important to the economy of Silverton and SJ County.” This is the same BLM official who post-Silverton Mountain Guides scoping on expanding/changing the “pods,” or areas where Silverton Mountain could take its helicopters to heli-ski, ignored the vast majority (85 percent) of public comment on the issue to approve the expansion (perhaps following “economic” benefit analysis?)

Which leads to the other Telegraph article, and whether a Forest Service rule change that would allow “categorical exclusions” would further limit or exclude public input, that then might lead to further “economic or extractive” impacts on our public lands. So as far as I can tell, giving USFS or BLM officials any more leeway in deciding for themselves what is in the best interest of the public is not advisable, as they are already influenced by the whims of Washington politics (just think about the Village at Wolf Creek) and may not even take into account the input the public does give them (think about SMG and heli-skiing). We need to keep the public in “public lands” debates as much as we can.

Democracy is messy and not as expedient as less representative forms of governing. It’s a price worth paying to help preserve what’s at stake of being lost (wildlife, quiet, wilderness, roadless areas ...). Speak up and be heard. And call them out when they don’t listen, and act against or try to weaken set policy by supporting those who monitor public lands issues (think local nonprofit environmental orgs.)

– Tim Thomas, Durango

The Trump way of war

To the editor,

Notice how similar the Trump administration’s interactions with Iran and North Korea are? The pattern in both cases is dangerous, ill-informed and bound to fail. U.S. adversaries by now understand the pattern; Trump is predictable:

• Trump disparages U.S. policy in the Obama administration, determines to reverse it.

• Trump authorizes a program of escalating sanctions designed to destabilize the adversary’s government.

• Trump advisers make demands of the adversary, whom it quickly denounces.

• Trump threatens the adversary with total destruction unless U.S. demands are met, and deploys forces to the conflict area. The adversary responds with threats of its own.

• Trump ignores concerns about war powers expressed by members of Congress. Says he doesn’t want war, (falsely) claiming humanitarian concerns.

• Trump shifts gears, now says he is willing to talk directly with the adversary’s leader. Tells about the prosperous life his country will have if it gives in to U.S. demands.

• Trump plays good cop: positions himself as a dove and his top national security advisers as bad cops whom he must restrain. (“These people want to push us into war, and it’s so disgusting” he recently said, referring to his “inner circle.”) He shifts again and asserts sanctions designed to create pressure for regime change will remain until the adversary yields.

• The adversary declares it will not yield under threat, says negotiations must include easing of sanctions. The two sides trade personal insults.

• Trump, with advisers concurring, escalates sanctions and threats, says he will talk “without preconditions.” In fact, he has a major precondition: the adversary’s agreement to surrender in advance its main bargaining asset (such as its actual or potential nuclear weapons). The adversary responds with taunts and further acts of defiance. Thus do crises persist, with Trump alternating between stoking war talk and playing the anti-war leader. Truth is, he doesn’t want full-out war but doesn’t want to make concessions in negotiations either. He wants
to win on the cheap – the same ambition he had in his business life. It’s called brinkmanship: the “art” of getting to the brink without going over. We see it being practiced in the trade war with China, the tariffs on Mexico, the rift with Venezuela and the threat to withdraw from alliances. He plays the same game with the deportation of migrant families and even the payouts to keep women silent.

Brinkmanship, Trump style, is always accompanied by bullying: threats of terrible things to come, punishing sanctions (aka economic warfare) and the coordinated pressure of willing partners. Problem is, what happens when the adversary doesn’t cave and in fact resists even more strongly?

– Mel Gurtov, professor of political science, Portland State University, for PeaceVoice

Health should be bottom line

To the editor,

A new Harris Poll found that only 16 percent of U.S. residents believe health insurance corporations put patients before profits. Pharmaceutical companies (9 percent), hospitals (23 percent) and doctors (36 percent) also came up on the wrong end of the patients-first question.

Despite the Affordable Care Act, the cost of health insurance and pharmaceuticals keeps rising as patients are forced to pay more through co-pays and deductibles. And, still, coverage is often denied.

Dr. Sanjeev Sriram, a pediatrician and health policy advisor, wrote that he once believed the insurance industry would become better partners through the ACA’s reasonable guidelines. Not anymore.

“I have lost faith and accepted the insurance corporations for what they are: machines of unappeasable greed, accountable only to shareholders, never my patients,” he said. Sriram pointed out that, in 2018, as millions of Americans borrowed $88 billion to pay for health care, 62 CEOs of health care companies raked in a combined $1.1 billion in salaries.

“When it comes to our current health-care system’s priorities,” Sriram concluded, “patients are no match for profits.”

In order to restore faith in the system, the “bottom line” needs to be health. If health care is a human right, as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights championed by Eleanor Roosevelt and signed in 1948, then it cannot also be a commodity. The two are incompatible.

Improved Medicare for All, a publicly funded system, will be a first step in restoring the trust and health of our people.

– Jan Phillips, Durango


From the southwest, the long gray- bellied lines
move overhead and past me.
Journeying swiftly northeasterly,
they bully what is blue, pushing toward tomorrow,
never at rest, never motionless.
The cycle, massive and careless
parades its morphing molecules, always
ready to destroy or heal, like abeyant gods
under the great tangents of light.
They wait for no one.
We too, journey through the endless cycle,
at times hollow or full, passing swiftly in and out
of the warm or cold drifts of our narrow actions.
Yes, the long gray- bellied line above
moves over and past, ephemeral yet constant
in its configurations.
It’s capricious blossoms of white and gold build
above the terrifying darkening
and I, so far below,
witness, once again,
the foundations of a limitless firmament.

– Burt Baldwin, Ignacio