Letters, Jan. 7

Jan 06, 2013

Columnist needs to back up statistics with hard data

To the editor:

As usual, John Hood’s column on Dec. 31, had some “selective” statistics without any citations to back them up.   He contends that the US health system is as good, or better, than that of other countries based on life expectancy.  He claims that when adjusting for accidents and homicides, the U.S. has the longest life expectancies in the developed world.  This is not supported by a quick Internet search.

Consider the following data from the following website: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2102rank.html that draws from Factbook  ISSN 1553-8133.  Based on this site, the projected life expectancy for 2012 lists the US at 51st in the world with a projected life expectancy of 78.5 years as compared to 83.9 for Japan.  Countries such as Italy, Spain, France, Canada, and Australia all have life expectancies in excess of 81 years – far longer than the 76.9 year US life expectancy Hood cites when taking out accidents and homicides.  Even when you go back to the 2007 data cited by Wikipedia, the US is still at 38th with many of the European countries having life expectancies greater than 80 years based on the older data.

Hood also dismisses the cost of healthcare in the US as being justified by more timely service.  This questionable and ignores the fact that the US is the only developed country that allows insurance middlemen to take up to 25% off the top from what is paid for healthcare.  That is correct, for every dollar allocated for healthcare in the private sector the insurance companies get up to a quarter for “overhead” and profit.  In contrast, Medicare overheads are under 5%.  Now try making the case that everything the government does is inefficient.

The biggest weakness of Obamacare is that it did not allow for a single payer option like Medicare.  That possibly could have cut healthcare expenditures by as much as 15-20% for many Americans.

Also, when have you heard of the private sector detecting fraud in healthcare?  The reality is that the private sector has no real reason to check for fraud because costs are just passed along to the consumer or employer.  In some cases, insurers get a percentage of the total expenditure.  Thus they have no reason to strive for economical healthcare practices.  In contrast Medicare and Medicaid do try detecting fraud and excessive costs.

I would agree with Hood that “We have a long way to go to achieve a consensus about what’s really going on in healthcare...” Reaching a consensus is not helped by cooked “facts” or selectively quoting dubious statistics.

Norman Hoffmann,


Ten Commandment displays questioned

To the editor;

As a Thomas Jefferson/Thomas Paine/George Washington/etc Deist/Unitarian and a firm believer in the Founding Principle of the Deistic notion of Naturally inherent or otherwise inalienable rights, I recognize it is an obligation of all citizens to respect and defend each person’s liberty of expressed opinions, regardless if they agree or not.

However, as was quite well established, no one should have to pay for the representation of opinion they disagree with. To that end, I can’t help but wonder if by openly promoting trinitarianism you risk alienizing those who disagree.

I certainly hope not. But tell me dear editors, where in your bible or our Constitutions does it direct “Christians” to erect platitudes to your opinion on property we the people own together?

Are there not lessons against “idle worshiping” in your bible? Correct me if I’m wrong but doesn’t the Ten Commandments forbid any such thing? Sweet irony, ain’t it.

Furthermore, regardless of accusations to the contrary, there are no depictions of the Ten Commandments on our Supreme Court’s building.

There are three depictions of Moses holding two tablets but with only numbers on them. No words whatsoever.

On the most important south courtroom frieze above the court Moses is depicted only as a lawgiver in connection to 17 other lawgivers. They are: Menes, Hammurabi, Solomon, Lycurgus, Solon, Draco, Confucius, Augustus, Justinian, Mohammed, Charlemagne, King John, St. Louis, Hugo Grotius, William Blackstone, John Marshall, and Napoleon. No connection to any Deity whatsoever.


The Curator’s office makes the following comments on Weinman’s North and South frieze sculptures:

Weinman’s training emphasized a correlation between the sculptural subject and the function of the building and, because of this, Gilbert relied on him to choose the subjects and figures that best reflected the function of the Supreme Court building. Faithful to classical sources, Weinman designed for the Courtroom friezes a procession of “great lawgivers of history,” from many civilizations, to portray the development of secular law (p. 2, emphasis ours)

Chuck Zimmerman



Thanks for the coverage

To the editor:

I just wanted to say thanks again for the coverage you two gave to theliving nativity scene and Christmas service in a Stable at our barn (3rd Generation Barn Loft) the first week-end of December.

We had a good turnout for both and many nice comments about the uniqueness of them being in a real barn.

Happy New Year.

Torpy Skinner



Evangelizing, cartoons questioned

To the editor:

It is with dismay that I continue to witness the sharp turn to the right in The Mountaineer since Jeff Shumacher returned as general manager.

Every one of his columns ends up being a sermon rather than an editorial, reflecting an exclusive fundamentalist theology where “trust Jesus” offers a rather bland, vague palliative for dealing with every ill.

Such proselytizing serves up simple, repetitive bromides rather than carefully reasoned opinions connected to the real world that one should expect from a newspaper.

I do not deride his faith but think the local newspaper —which is published for everyone and should respect those who are not of the Christian faith — is simply not the place for him to repeatedly evangelize.

Most distressing though is that while these columns attempt to be humble and genially optimistic, the cartoons (again) reflect the worst in partisan cynicism.  I think both aspects of the paper reached a new low with the recent cartoon making fun of Hillary Clinton’s serious medical condition and the Christmas admonition to consider one’s eternal destiny if one were to die suddenly.

The latter is boiler plate fundamentalist, fire-and-brimstone evangelism, and far from the joyous message of peace, hope and goodwill towards others that we associate Jesus’ birth.

I know that Haywood County is suffused in evangelicalism, and I myself come from that faith perspective; but if it is serious about economic development and attracting a new entrepreneurial and community spirit, it will need to reflect more the diversity (witnessed in many of the letters to the editor) that is increasingly a part of Western North Carolina culture in the 21st century.

There is no better vehicle than the local newspaper to lead the way.

Thanks for listening and best wishes for the new year.

Ben Lowe

Maggie Valley

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