Home improvements have made reading The Inlander a sporadic event, but I just wanted to comment that your article on the battle of the hip-hop bands ("Brittle Battle," 6/21) was so spot-on for me that I had to write this. Thank you for pointing out that hip-hop (or any genre) can transcend violence, homophobia, consumerism and misogyny! When the revolution breaks over the dam, maybe more people will work toward discipline and community health. Thank you for presenting that viewpoint; people are hungry for progressive ideas in revolutionary music. Your voice is appreciated.
The Cost of Renewal
It's ironic that your article entitled "Ray of Hope," (6/28) shows the Jefferson Hotel, rather than the New Madison as your caption states. Also, within that red-box caption you state that the building is set to be renovated to condos. Back to that later. In contrast to the closure of the 80 or so units of the Norman-Jefferson in which there was nary a whimper from the low-income housing community, the owners of the New Madison have chosen to work with community agencies in the attempt to find homes for their displaced tenants. They have chosen to illuminate rather than hide from the problem we are facing downtown: lack of decent affordable housing for very low-income residents.
The dilemma faced by owners of the old downtown apartment buildings is that incomes generated by the low rents affordable to their residents do not leave extra dollars for upgrades and improvements to the buildings. Thus these buildings deteriorate, become unsafe, and are typically razed to build parking lots. And parking lots are certainly not the answer. In order to upgrade these buildings to make them safe and decent places in which to live, significant amounts of money must be invested. Since banks like to have their loans paid back, the rents must increase to a level no longer affordable to former residents. A gap is created, and that's where government and charitable organizations need to help.
Regarding the future residents of the New Madison, they will not be high-end condo owners, but working-class folks like the rest of us. The units will remain rental apartments. There will be some low-income units, but most will be middle-income, oriented toward people who work in downtown businesses -- they, too, need affordable housing.
Health Care Festering
Although I haven't seen Michael Moore's latest film, Sicko, I must correct a statement made by Ted McGregor, Jr. in his commentary on the film and our health care industry at large ("Sick o' Politics," 6/28). Specifically, Mr. McGregor notes that America has "the world's best health care." The notion that America has the world's best health care system is, at best, a myth. At the worst, our nationally inflated sense of accomplishment on the health care front confounds the issue and makes real solutions and progress hard to see.
In the health care arena, the only category where the United States shows strong leadership is in overall spending. Ours is by far the most expensive health care system on the planet. In 2005, Americans' per-capita health care spending of $6,280 for each man, woman and child more than doubled the average ($2,307 per capita) spent in all other industrialized nations.
Nationally, over 16 percent of our Gross Domestic Product goes toward paying health care costs. In contrast, Canada puts only 10 percent of its economy into health care, Australia 9 percent, and England 7 percent. And these countries manage to provide care for every one of their citizens -- something we obviously fall far short of.
In most cases, the adage of "you get what you pay for" holds true. But while we Americans pay much more, as a nation we get much less. A baby born in Cuba has a better chance of survival than babies born here. Americans have a lower life expectancy than the citizens of Slovenia. The World Health Organization ranks the U.S. health care system at 37th in the world, just beating out Slovenia for the slot. Slovenia, folks.
On any number of different scales (save the amount of money exchanged) the U.S. health care system clearly has room for improvement. Given that information, it becomes conceivable that our system can be both cheaper and better. Convincing ourselves that our system is the best in the world only serves to shut down debate on the topic.
Regarding your feature article ("Inner War," 5/31): As a Vietnam-era conscientious objector (CO) -- who alternately served when required and until released -- I can speak to the dilemma facing individuals who act out of conscience in opposing war in all forms, not just the politically unjustified conflicts, i.e., selective opposition.
I applied and appeared before Selective Service Local Board 7 (a tough sell, I was told) in Seattle in the '60s. After several months, I obtained my deferment. In the absence of a draft, once you take the military oath of service, vowing to uphold the field service manual, you are on a one-way path to do your duty in whatever assignment is made. If you do not get reclassified (and we know that few do) your best hope is to serve as a noncombatant. For good reason, the view that any involvement in the military as part of the training and support for the war machinery is not acceptable compels those who are not released from service to face court marshal and imprisonment. So, rather than refuse induction as many did 40 years ago -- not having a I-O status -- the volunteer today must accept the decision of the military authority or face its justice system.
I cannot entirely sympathize with even the most sincere applicant who enlists and then decides to declare one's conviction. Every decision of individual conscience is peculiarly private, but not to be seen in the context of an unpopular war or as a political statement. Only one person demonstrates the purpose of spirit and soul in accepting the consequence of conscience. Placing the application on a desk should mean that one is prepared to pay the ultimate price. Such a statement of conscience defines one's place in a world that will always be engaged in violence and conflict.
Spokane Valley, Wash.
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