April 29, 2012 in Opinion



Review needed for coal trains

I read with interest The Spokesman-Review April 18 story about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wanting a full health impact review of proposed coal exports. This is particularly important for Spokane because all the trains from the coal fields in Montana and Wyoming will be coming right through our community.

Spokane is known as the choke point for coal trains heading to ports in Washington and Oregon because the lines split south and west after they leave Spokane. Potential impacts here are a huge increase in diesel particulates, traffic congestion at rail crossings in the Spokane Valley, coal dust and increased noise and risk of accidents.

Diesel particulates are particularly worrisome. A 2010 Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency study showed increased cancer risk for those who live near the Parkwater rail yards in Spokane Valley. We could see 40 or more trains coming through downtown every day, so it makes sense that any study of the impacts of exporting all that coal to Asia should include the impacts that Spokane would face.

I hope our state and local officials join Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber in calling for a full evaluation of the environmental and health impacts.

Mike Petersen

Executive director, The Lands Council


Need change in Congress

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, then how can anyone realistically believe that re-electing Cathy McMorris Rodgers will make a difference?

McMorris Rodgers states she is working hard to reduce unemployment, yet has voted against every piece of proposed legislation that would provide relief, including the Senate jobs bill, small-business lending fund, the small-business tax amendment and aid to states, which would provide additional funding to hire and/or retain teachers.

Her response to bills in favor of extending unemployment benefits, as well as support for science and technology: a clear and resounding “no.”

She states that she worked hard to maintain Fairchild Air Force Base, yet voted against key measures for defense funding, which Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray supported.

I have spent a great deal of time researching her voting record and trying to find a connection between what she says and what she does. What I have found is a consistent pattern of evasions, distractions and outright lies.

If you truly want change, I urge you to join me in supporting Rich Cowan for Congress.

Gail Cory-Betz

Newport, Wash.

Gambling is false hope

How did gambling in our society so quickly go from vice to virtue, and from being perceived as a social disease to an economic asset?

A generation ago, it was considered to be a form of greed, covetousness and avarice. Its silent creep into current society is undermining the traditional work ethic so essential to competing with other nations and advancing individual economic freedom.

Its deception as portrayed in our media as a means of financial gain undermines the dignity of work and its value, offering false hope of wealth without industry. In addition, it especially harms the poor and less fortunate by luring them into thinking that money can be had by random chance, rather than by hard work and educational advancement.

The best way to advance upward through economic progress is not to build entertainment systems centered on the random chance of gambling, but through promotion of hard work and education.

George Will, the syndicated columnist, said it well: “The more people believe in the importance of luck, chance, randomness and fate, the less they believe in the importance of stern virtues such as industriousness, thrift, deferral of gratification, diligence and studiousness.”

Ron Belisle


Cursive lost its point

Let’s face it. Cursive writing is becoming less and less popular each generation, and yet teachers still continue to try and develop the skill. Instead of dwelling on teaching every kid how to rewrite the alphabet in a fancy way, teachers need to focus on more important subjects like English and math.

If children prefer to write in print, then let it be. This isn’t a big loss to the art of writing because more and more people use the tools of technology to contact others instead of writing letters. With an electronic communication device, you don’t need cursive writing!

According to Sally Lavin, a handwriting expert, “Texting is second nature for them, and it’s not for me.” This is 100 percent true.

Teaching every student to sign their name in cursive would be enough. It’s not necessary to learn a form of writing that no one will be able to read within a generation. Cursive writing will soon be extinct.

Erin Kautzman


Leaders showed no courage

How is it possible that affirming our city’s commitment to equal rights for all Spokane citizens is not worthy of our city leaders’ consideration? Three hundred citizens and five hours of testimony earned a 4-3 vote by City Council members saying “thanks but no thanks” to taking a stand on the Marriage Equality Resolution.

Councilpersons Mike Fagan, Nancy McLaughlin, Mike Allen and Steve Salvatori chose the politically expedient and cowardly route, tabling the resolution indefinitely. They seemingly took their cue from people threatening everything from a God curse to a gay communist takeover plot.

Allen indicated equality was a partisan issue, and as a “nonpartisan” representative he couldn’t comment. I wonder which party he thinks is against equality. Fagan doesn’t think the city is in the equality business at all. Maybe he thinks the good old Jim Crow days worked. Let’s install some “straight only” toilets at City Hall, OK?

Poor Salvatori just hemmed and hawed, finally spitting out a “What he said.” McLaughlin said she loved her gay hairdresser but, hey, no equal rights for him. She is running for state senator after all.

All in all, it was a disappointing, embarrassing evening for the city of Spokane.

Linda McHenry


Society getting freer

Sue Bruscia (April 14) confuses a theocracy with a democracy.

Through American history, there has been a societal move toward a “more perfect union,” not a more perfect religion. In the past, it was considered by some religions that it should be unlawful for women to be allowed to preach. It was also considered that it should be illegal for persons of different races to marry, or for people of a different race or gender to be allowed to vote, or, indeed, even to be considered human. These were justified through religious reasons.

Such backward ideas have changed by hewing to the principles that all men, as well as women, are equal in that they are, by natural right, free to pursue their lives as they see fit, absent harm to another.

While you may express opinions about another’s actions or ideas, you may not hinder their pursuit of those ideas or freedoms unless they harm you. This is the definition of a free society. In a free society, since gay marriage does you no harm, you have not the right to legislate against it.

If you partake of the gift of freedom, it’s required that you allow others their own.

Joe Lang


Tabling issue was right

I applaud the Spokane City Council’s decision to table the gay marriage issue. There should be a total separation of church and state. Civil government’s job is to protect the rights of all with fairness and justice. Therefore, civil government has the authority to determine what constitutes a civil union – no matter what name is applied.

However, the institutions of marriage and the seventh-day Sabbath were established by God at creation. Therefore, these are fundamentally religious issues. The real question then is how any person who claims to be God’s minister or his disciple could sanction a perversion of these institutions of God?

Phyllis Eckler


Marriage backlash is toxic

Sam Watt, “Editorial choice odd,” April 25, seems to be an expert on the Roman Catholic Church and “its teachings against homosexual conduct.” Well, what exactly is the “Roman Catholic Church”? The curia in Rome? The pope? Because if it is primarily the local faith community in its acts of faith, hope and love, I have a hard time noticing any teachings against homosexual conduct.

And there is no need for theological analysis. People with a certain level of intelligence and knowledge, balanced personalities and a normal level of self-confidence do not feel threatened by anybody who is different.

Statements a la “Homosexual marriages will destroy the institution of marriage” or “God is against homosexual marriages” say much more about the people who utter them than about homosexuality. We have to stand by our homosexual friends not just because it is fair, and granting them marriage is reasonable, but because homophobic initiatives like Referendum 74 make the air toxic for all of us.

Peter C. Dolina


Better be king of the world

In this centennial year of the sinking of the Titanic, it is interesting to note the similarity with today’s titanic health care problems. As the ship sunk beneath the waves, 60 percent of those in first class found survival in the lifeboats while less than 25 percent of those in third class survived. Nobody today would find it acceptable that the cost of a ticket bestowed one space in a lifeboat, but basically it did.

As we engage in today’s heated debate on health care, we should look to that day. As long as you have the money and can buy a seat in the first-class section of our health care system, you have a good chance to survive the icy waters. If you are struggling along, riding in steerage with your third-class ticket, you’d best hope you can fight your way through the mob to find a spot in the lifeboats.

You’d best hope that you can get past the authorities that are trying to keep you locked in your place below decks. You’d best hope you don’t find yourself sliding beneath the waves because it isn’t affordable to keep you alive.

Pat Driscoll


Let Citizens United stand

“Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech,” says the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Ten clear, easily understood words without ambiguity or hidden penumbra inferences. Nor are they lacking in discernible intent.

Of course, this right is not absolute. There are circumstances that are actionable, such as certain threats, slanders or fallacious sworn testimony. Based on the cacophony of complaints regarding the Citizens United decision, corporate political advocacy should also be on this nefarious list.

Although there are increasing calls for legislation to circumvent the ruling, this rare originalist court decision is an improvement over the normal progressive standard of judicial or executive fiat. I must suggest that any such legislation also contain an equally clear prohibition against corporate taxation, as I recall something about no taxation without representation.

And, for good measure, corporations should not be subjected to administrative regulations if prohibited from any material participation. If you find these proposals preposterous I agree, but no more so than being held defenseless against swarms of soulless, parasitic bureaucrats.

If the alleged 99 percent are too partisan, stupid or lazy to investigate any well-financed yet fraudulent campaign, then vote accordingly. That is the real problem, isn’t it?

Gary Warren


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