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A new Senate low

Just when one thinks the Senate cannot reach a new low in behavior — it does. Recently, the Senate took up hearings to confirm the next CIA director. Gina Haspel is a woman with 33 years’ experience at all levels in the agency. Her past work history suggests she may even be over-qualified for the job. As usual the Senate, on both sides, looks to find reasons to tear her down or not confirm her. Now she is accused of being too close to the “immoral” interrogations used on people who murdered more than 3,000 Americans on 9/11.

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., a potential presidential candidate in 2020, badgered her fiercely. She wanted “yes” or “no” answers, believing there could be no nuances on the subject. Understand that these tactics were deemed legal at the time performed. Ms. Haspel tried her best to be civil but responsive.

Look at this from a different perspective. Some people think abortion is immoral. Some people think capital punishment is immoral. Neither of these actions are illegal. How then are the interrogations immoral? In fact, the interrogations applied to three killers, terrorists, were done with exceptional medical supervision, probably better than the care given to many of our VA patients who have died because of the lack of care.

I have no patience for hypocrites who cannot understand the fallacy of their arguments nor the danger their positions pose to our national security. What is the Senate’s next new low?

David Blahnik

Bend

High cost of cameras

A recent guest column by John Thompson suggested that cameras be installed in our public classrooms to monitor and possibly edit teachers for, as John states, “quality and training.” He cherry-picked three egregious examples to make his case. As a retired educator, I am not opposed to his plan. Certainly, some parents would welcome the opportunity to monitor the classroom behavior of their children and listen in to the teacher’s lesson plan to follow the curriculum being taught. School administrators would be able to monitor for quality and training. However, he neglected to mention an important component of his recommendation. The cost.

A recently signed law in Texas does require schools to install security cameras in certain classrooms to protect teachers and students. The school district estimates that it will cost $200,000 to $300,000 to deploy security cameras in only 60 classrooms.

In 2013, Oregon had 587,564 students enrolled in a total of 1,251 schools in 220 school districts, resulting in about 25,000 classrooms. The cost of purchasing, installing the infrastructure and maintaining a surveillance system for every Oregon public classroom would be a staggering $125 million or more. With the recent nationwide teacher protests on salary and school funding, not to mention education budget cuts, where will Oregonians find the revenue?

Joe Kosanovic

Redmond

Taxing sugary beverages

The recent editorial, “Oregon should ban taxes and fees on groceries,” is misleading and argued from false premises.

At issue is a ballot initiative that would ban sales taxes on groceries. Sounds good, right? And, as the editorial points out, “Most states, at least, exempt food from sales taxes.”

But Oregon does not have a sales tax, and its voters have shown no interest in changing that. This is a solution without a problem.

It is also subversive. The true intent of the initiative is to pre-empt local jurisdictions from passing targeted sales taxes on things like sugary beverages (i.e. soda, energy drinks), which is an effective public health strategy to reduce sugar consumption and fund obesity-prevention efforts.

The editorial goes on to say, “Taxes should be used to raise revenue, not control the population.”

Hogwash.

Yes, taxes are needed to raise revenue. But taxes — and tax breaks — are also used to encourage behavior change: the mortgage interest deduction increases home ownership; the student loan interest deduction helps people achieve their education and career dreams; cigarette taxes reduce smoking rates; tax-protected investment vehicles help Americans to save for retirement. Tax policy is all about modifying behavior.

Corporations are getting rich selling us cheap, sugary drinks. We are picking up the hospital tab. Oregon is not going to tax your carrots and eggs. We do not need this ballot initiative.

Peter Reed

Portland

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