Letters to the Editor

Health plan column had inaccuracies

In Michael Smerconish's column, "Health plan levels playing field," in the March 24 Tidings, he states that the five million federal employees (and retirees) enrolled in the federal Blue Cross health have 87 percent of their premiums paid by the U.S. government on average. As a former federal employee and now retiree, I can tell you that this is incorrect.

Both the Standard Option Self and Standard Option Family plans have 67 percent of premiums paid by the government. The Basic Option plans, which are less popular and have more limited coverage, have about 75 percent of their premiums paid by the government.

My share of premium for Standard Option Family is $401 per month and has increased by 25 percent in the last two years. So health insurance for federal employees, while good, is not quite as gilt-edged as some people think.

The Smerconish column may be correct about congressional representatives and their staffs having to enroll in new state-based exchanges, but to the best of my knowledge other federal workers and retirees will remain in the separate Federal Employees Health Benefits Program for the foreseeable future.

Kenneth Bergman


Obama should extend help to mentally ill

I just read a front-page article from a major newspaper not acknowledging the Democrats' major though imperfect victory for humanity and humanism over greed and superstition but suggesting on no real evidence that Obama would next attack Social Security "entitlements."

Here are my thoughts on what the Obama movement could do to benefit and strengthen our society: In truth, many of our most creative minds can be found talking to themselves on corners or in jails, partly because our nation's treatment of the mentally ill has historically been barbaric, and so they avoid institutions with their powerful civil rights to do anything but get humane treatment.

I have some experience with Rogue Valley Medical Center's Two North and in my opinion it's a positive model for what should be available for anyone experiencing a psychological crisis, with the exception of inadequate funding.

Also, for the patient who needs to be transferred to another institution, there isn't much except for high-danger cases. Should a person have substance-abuse problems, she might get a little time in a government-funded program with 12 steps leading to a mighty God in the sky.

Personally, I believe in secularism, liberalism and the right of mentally ill people like myself to humane treatment.

Sean Lawlor Nelson


Racism in America

It is commendable that Chris Honoré so intelligently and compassionately addressed the problem of race in America in his "Post-racial America" (March 5, Daily Tidings). Slavery is the "worm in the bud" of the American tragedy, bringing in its train the "strange fruit" of racism, violence, brutality, rejection and continuing segregation and discrimination. As Honoré points out, the election of a (half-white) African American has only increased the manifestations of racism, at least among some groups. Those groups especially need to be reminded that America was the "slave-holding Republic" for many generations; after the Civil War slavery was officially abolished, only to be replaced by "Slavery By Another Name: Re-enslavement Under Jim Crow" (Douglas A. Brown) and by something "Worse Than Slavery: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice" (David M. Oshinsky). And now we have "The New Jim Crow: How the War on Drugs Gave Birth to a Permanent American Underclass," by Michelle Alexander.

As Honoré points out, some American black leaders could not embrace the realities of African American life depicted in the film "Precious." But Michelle Alexander documents the lack of progress offered to black Americans in the five decades since the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. The "war on drugs" was, and remains, primarily an assault on black Americans. All of the relevant crime and prosecution statistics amply support only that conclusion. As Alexander writes: "The entrance into this new caste system can be found at the prison gate ... This is not the promised land. The cyclical rebirth of cast in America is a recurring racial nightmare."

As Honoré puts it, only by getting our racist history and our race relations right will we ever be able to enter a genuine "post-racial society." Maybe we can do it.

Gerald Cavanaugh


Film worth watching

I read Chris Honoré's review of "The Last Station" with interest and have a different opinion. I found the film to be very important, particularly as it made clear how women who have no control over their lives (especially their financial well-being) can become neurotic: manipulative, hysterical, scheming, pleading. What other tactics did women of the Tolstoy era have to assure their security and that of their children?

I thought that Helen Mirren demonstrated that point magnificently. It was not a pretty thing to see in Tolstoy's wife but I can believe it was true to fact, if not for her, at least for many women of her time. Ibsen's "The Doll House" described this kind of behavior precisely.

I urge all to see this excellent film and to keep my point in mind as they do. I did not find the film dull or tedious but, rather, fascinating. The acting is also superb. I think the Oscar nominations for Plummer and Mirren are well deserved.

Nita Rosene Brooks


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