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Letters for the week of May 24, 2017

First, start 
with the elephants

The Republican Party itself needs to be impeached in the court of public opinion for high crimes and misdemeanors committed against the American people.
A charge of “organized racketeering” would be appropriate to address multiple grievances of public democracy, damaged by dangerous extremists determined to burn down the house that shelters them. 
It is time to enforce higher ethical standards for political operatives and break up mega-party structures too hugely hegemonic to allow to continue to overwhelm the electoral landscape, intimidating voters instead of offering them real choices.

—Eric Lovald, Blaine

Can’t see forest for the trees

I was a bit surprised by your recent article on Blanchard Mountain forest for a number of reasons.
First, the article included a photo of the Samish Overlook viewpoint. The only reason that there’s a view is that the slope was logged off decades ago.
Second, the article states that “the spectacular views from the Oyster Dome are at risk for a logging plan that would clearcut the summit.” The problem is that the summit is more than half a mile to the east and isn’t visible from the Oyster Dome viewpoint. If the summit were to be logged, I’d be inclined to bushwhack over and check out the view.
Third, there was a quote from the lands commissioner stating that it would take 150 years to get the forest back. Well, I have a habit of counting tree rings, and trees get pretty big in half that time. I’d be surprised if any of those trees are more than 90 years old, the entire area having been logged off in the past 100 years.
While I’m not a huge fan of logging, they’ve logged a couple of visible areas in the past few years and it doesn’t seem to have a huge visual impact. However, the threat of logging seems t increase use of that trail radically. It is crazy busy these days.

—Rob Steady, Bellingham

Create a living will

Many of us are pleased that PeaceHealth Medical Group is rolling out a more robust program to motivate patients, their family members and physicians to address the proven benefits of health advance care planning and advance directives, before illness or accident occurs. 
At a recent overflow community-wide event, Dr. Scott Foster, PHMG Chief Medical Executive, energized our community by announcing PeaceHealth’s commitment to encourage patients with decision-making capacity to be proactive in guiding their future health care decisions in the event they become unable to participate directly in their care.
This involves a comprehensive process that requires patients accept shared responsibility with their professional caregivers.
Dr. Foster suggested four things for each of us to do to ensure we get the care we want: 1) Have values-based conversations with friends and family; 2) Identify decision-making surrogate(s) who will honor our wishes; 3) Initiate advance care discussions with health care professionals; 4) Complete an advance directive routinely.
Two experienced intensive care nurses are giving a presentation at 6pm June 14 at St. Luke’s Health Education Center that is a “conversation starter” to help prepare for completing an advance directive.
An important ethical argument for advance directives (sometimes called living wills) is their appeal to the principle of patient autonomy. Living wills attempt to ensure that patients receive the treatment they want, but perhaps most importantly, the living will promotes patient-centered care.
Don’t wait until it’s too late; talk to your family members, physicians and other members of your health care team—make your wishes known.

—Barbara Aiken, Deming

‘Membering Manning

On May 17, I cried in celebration for the freedom of Chelsea Manning. I cried also in grief and mourning for what she endured for seven years in prison, including 11 months in solitary confinement.  When she attempted suicide, she was punished by being forced back into solitary.
Today, Chelsea is free due to the pressure and persistence of activists, advocates and attorneys from around the world. Without this visible, steadfast support, she would have disappeared from the foggy conscience of America—as she did to a large extent anyway.
She should never have been imprisoned for her acts of disclosing many darkened secrets, some of which I consider to be war crimes committed by my own country. Sadly, true freedom from suffering may never be hers. For the infliction of her long incarceration cannot but have damaged her body and soul at the core.
When President Barack Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, I was shocked. I spoke out against it, believing that true peace could never come from a Commander in Chief. At the time, it seemed universally agreed upon that the award was premature at best. Furthermore, in his speech in Oslo, Norway, the President dismissed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s methods of nonviolence as not possibly working in the current world.  Disrespecting Dr. King from the same podium where King received the same prize in 1964—unforgivable, in my eyes.
Bradley/Chelsea Manning should have never been in prison. President Obama should have acted years sooner. I know that. Yet his commutation of her sentence has allowed her to go free 25 years earlier, saving her life. Through this act, Barack Obama has, in my eyes, finally earned the Nobel Peace Prize.

—Marie Marchand, Bellingham

‘Every gun made, every warship launched’

The White House requested another $54 billion to add to the Pentagon’s bloated, unaudited budget. Congress has already granted a portion of the Trump administration’s request by approving an additional $15 billion for 2017. The current Pentagon budget is nearly $600 billion a year.
Former assistant defense secretary, Lawrence Korb, stated the Trump administration’s request to increase the Department of Defense budget was not only unnecessary, it is counterproductive to national defense.
There are a multitude of reasons not to increase this out-of-control budget, but a very pragmatic one is: If Congress agrees to even a portion of the Trump Administration’s Pentagon budget increase requests, they will be effectively undermining the case that the DoD must operate more efficiently.
In 2013, then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recognized that the Pentagon budget must stop growing exponentially; his study showed that the Pentagon could save $125 billion over five years by trimming back-office personnel, which currently exceeds one million people supporting an active duty force of 1.3 million.
How can that be justified? Cost overruns are egregious—and ignored. The unnecessary aircraft carrier, USS Gerald Ford, on which President Trump made his case for increasing Pentagon spending, came in two years late and 50 percent over budget.
Our congressional delegation gets few calls on this issue. However, the calls opposing Pentagon budget increases are noticeably increasing.
Call your senators and representative and tell them to oppose all increases to the Pentagon budget—DofD spending is riddled with waste, fraud and abuse. Sen. Murray: 206-553-5545; Sen. Cantwell: 206-220-6400; Rep. Larsen, 360-733-4500; Rep. DelBene: 425-485-0085.

—Micki Jackson, Bellingham

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