Inside Opinion

If you have questions about how the Daily News makes editorial decisions, this blog has the answers. Editorial page editor Matt Zencey and writers Frank Gerjevic and Rosemary Shinohara will discuss what they're working on, answer questions and ask your perspective on issues facing Alaska.

Me and Nicholas Kristof - 10/12/2009 5:02 pm

Those pricey city union contracts...What ADN said at the time - 10/7/2009 6:03 pm

Home heating haiku - 10/6/2009 12:42 pm

"He got more than 175 words for his letter!" - 9/24/2009 6:23 pm

Dividend haiku - 9/23/2009 5:12 pm

Garage doors debate - 9/23/2009 4:12 pm

What Alaska members of Congress say about financial reform - 9/21/2009 4:49 pm

Why the federal court dismissed the challenge to Alaska's way of picking judges - 9/16/2009 10:58 am

Me and Nicholas Kristof

Last week New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof had this bold idea for prodding Congress into passing health care reform:

"Let me offer a modest proposal: If Congress fails to pass comprehensive health reform this year, its members should surrender health insurance in proportion with the American population that is uninsured."

Boy did that idea sound familiar. Just five years ago, the Anchorage Daily News was kind enough to publish this Alaska Notebook I wrote:

(It appeared Friday Oct. 15, 2004 on page B-12, if you want to look up the original):

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Those pricey city union contracts...What ADN said at the time

Sunday, ADN's editorial criticized then-Mayor Begich for withholding information about the city's deteriorating finances as the Assembly debated approving generous five-year contracts for city unions.

Some readers said our criticisms came about 10 months too late.

On the contrary. We wrote three editorials, two in December and one in January, questioning the process and the terms of the contracts.

Our December 2 editorial is here.

Our December 6 editorial is here.

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Home heating haiku

Cold winter coming
Natural gas, not so much
Clear-cut neighbor's yard

- Matt Zencey and Frank Gerjevic

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"He got more than 175 words for his letter!"

Wednesday, we published a 300+ word comment from hunting advocate Rod Arno, responding to an Associated Press story that he believed was too sympathetic to critics of predator control. His response appeared amid that day’s letters to the editor.

It prompted a reader to complain that Arno got a “letter” that was much longer than our typical 175 word limit.

We get this complaint a lot from people who notice when a letter is longer than our word limit, so I'm sharing the explanation I gave to the reader who complained:

"Mr. Arno requested a compass-length response to an article we published about critics of predator control and we cut his submission down to the length you saw in the paper. We felt his defense of trophy hunting was something that would be of interest to readers, whether they agreed with his view or not, and we edited it to a length we thought was appropriate to make his point in a way that was a good use of readers' limited time."

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Dividend haiku

Debtors' dividends
Exactly thirteen oh five
Creditors' delight
-- Frank Gerjevic

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Garage doors debate

An Assembly committee that has been quietly working on major revisions to Anchorage's zoning code recently took up the question: How much of the front of your house should a garage take up?
Neighborhoods are safer and more attractive if windows and living spaces face the street, the planners say.

I know I like the looks of buildings better if the front isn't completely dominated by a garage door.

The most common rule across the U.S. for garage doors is that they should take up no more than half the width of the front of the house, says a city planner. The planners proposed 55 percent for Anchorage. The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended 62 1/2 percent. Now the Assembly committee appears to be settling at 60 percent.

Right now there are no rules, so any of these decisions will be an improvement.

-- Rosemary Shinohara

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What Alaska members of Congress say about financial reform

What do Alaska's members of Congress have to say about the need for tighter rules on the nation's financial industry, to prevent a repeat meltdown of the nation's economy?

The Daily News asked all three members for brief email statements on the subject. Here's what they had to say, in full:

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI: “I understand that the Senate Banking Committee is working on its own financial overhaul package. I look forward to reviewing the details of that plan. At the heart of the issue, we need to make sure that banks are operating in a safe and sound manner. However, we must also guard against over regulation that could unnecessarily stifle capital formation and innovation, thereby slowing economic growth and job creation.

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Why the federal court dismissed the challenge to Alaska's way of picking judges

Federal Judge John W. Sedwick has issued a written ruling explaining why he summarily rejected conservative activists’ lawsuit challenging the way Alaska selects judges. The lawsuit claimed that unelected lawyers have too much influence over Alaska’s judicial selection process.

From Judge Sedwick’s ruling, issued Sept. 15:

The “one person, one vote” principle does not apply where non-legislative officers are chosen by appointment, rather than by election.”

“Moreover, the delegates to the Alaska Constitutional Convention endorsed and the people of the State of Alaska ratified the proposition that Alaska state judges are to be appointed, rather than elected. Plaintiffs have not cited, nor has this court’s research found, any authority in support of the proposition that a state may not appoint, rather than elect, its judiciary.”

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Dead-on investment?

"Bankers to bet on the lives of others"

That was a strange tale by Jenny Anderson of The New York Times that ran on the Nation & World cover of Sunday's Daily News. Strange at least to those of us unschooled in the ways of sophisticated financial instruments.

Investment bankers will buy "life settlements," life insurance policies that old and ill people sell for a cash discount. Then they'll package the policies into bonds and sell them to investors, who hope to profit when the ailing and aged kick off soon enough to end premiums and pay off.

I suppose you could say that it works for the old folks, because they get cash. And maybe it works for the bond buyers, because they make money. Maybe.

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Wednesday haiku

Nazi propaganda?
All he said was stay in school
And study hard. Sheesh.

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The president's speech to schoolchildren

You can decide for yourself whether President Obama's speech to schoolchildren was political or nonpartisan and helpful.

Click here to read a copy of the president's prepared remarks.

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George Will, peacenik? Exhibit A: Why are we sticking around so long in Iraq?

Noted conservative George Will, a Washington Post Columnist, is sounding like a left-wing peacenik these days. In a recent column, he explains why he’s more than ready for the U.S. to get all the way out of Iraq:

"After almost 6 1/2 years, and 4,327 American dead and 31,483 wounded, with a war spiraling downward in Afghanistan, it would be indefensible for the U.S. military -- overextended and in need of materiel repair and mental recuperation -- to loiter in Iraq to improve the instincts of corrupt elites. If there is a worse use of the U.S. military than "nation-building," it is adult supervision and behavior modification of other peoples' politicians."

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George Will, peacenik? Exhibit B: "Time to Get Out of Afghanistan"

Washington Post Columnist George Will, a pre-eminent conservative, wants the US out of Iraq, and he doesn't think much of the other war the U.S. is fighting, either. Here's part of his take on Afghanistan:

"Before launching New Deal 2.0 in Afghanistan, the Obama administration should ask itself: If U.S. forces are there to prevent reestablishment of al-Qaeda bases -- evidently there are none now -- must there be nation-building invasions of Somalia, Yemen and other sovereignty vacuums?"

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High praise for Nunaka Valley softball team

The Nunaka Valley 11-12 girls softball team - US western region champs - made a strong impression on Bill Shaw, who watched them play in Portland and faxed this letter-to-the-editor:

"For the past World Series I have been extremely impressed with the Nunaka Valley/Anchorage Alaska softball team. The people and leaders of this area should be very proud of this group of 11-12-year-old softball players and its coaches. The girls performed/acted well beyond their age. BE PROUD.

"I have worked for over 30 years with Little League, ASA and high-school programs. Your Alaska softball team is what youth softball should be. They came to Portland, Ore., for the Little League World Series and were a pleasure to watch. The Little League World Series attitude, sportsmanship and support by these players, coaches and fans was something they showed. They were far superior to other teams here.

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More about sarcasm in letters

Here's a letter writer who isn't afraid to use sarcasm, saying the exact opposite of what he means. Since many readers misinterpret this technique when it appears in print, without a disclaimer, I'm posting it here. It might be entitled, "Health care for all is UNAMERICAN!!"
- Matt Zencey, editorial page editor

OBamaCare is unconstitutional. It’s what enlightened Christian Countries like Canada, Europe, or FRANCE !!! have.

Christians are Socialists. The Bible says takes care of Sick and Poor, Orphans and Widows, and the imprisoned. They have “Turn the other cheek” and “Don’t Cast the First Stone” values.

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Sen. Lisa Murkowski re Senate Energy Bill

At the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce Monday, Sen. Lisa Murkowski had this to say about the energy bill passed by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee:

“Energy is an area where Congress can play a productive role.” She said Alaska is the most “energy-consuming” state – (presumably meaning highest use per person, not the most overall). Alaskans spend 12% of their household income on energy – four times the national average, and she noted the figure is much higher in the Bush.

She mentioned the dwindling natural gas supplies in Cook Inlet and raised the specter of brownouts in Alaska’s largest city. “Are we prepared? Do we have a plan?” (The state House Committee on Energy will examine those questions in a hearing Tuesday in Anchorage.)

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Sen. Lisa Murkowski re Cap and Trade (climate change) Bill

Lisa Murkowski spoke to the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce Monday (8-31) on a range of subjects. Some highlights of her remarks on the House-passed cap and trade bill to reduce greenhouse gas pollution:

In her speech, she said the bill would “be disastrous for the state of Alaska and frightening for our country.” The bill’s approach is “untested” and “fraught with great potential for abuse.” She is concerned over “how it allocated who got what” in the way of emission rights. “It was whoever barked the loudest,” she said.

Alaska’s three oil refineries “would be shut down” by the House bill, she asserted.

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Friday haiku

Sarah isn’t coming?
We thought she said she’d be here.
Fire that scheduler!

- Matt Zencey

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The perils of satire II...

Letter writer Tony Bickert's satirical take ("The jig is up," Aug. 23) on the health-debate prompted letter writer Tiffany McLean's "flabbergasted" response ("Canadian sysem works fine," Aug. 27).

To be flabbergasted, Ms. McLean would have had to take Mr. Bickert's letter as straight rather than satire.

Maybe she did, maybe she didn't. Maybe she was flabbergasted by the attitudes Mr. Bickert skewered in his letter.

I don't know, and I didn't ask Ms. McLean.

We sometimes question our letter writers' sources for assertions of fact; we clean up obscenities, strike what's libelous or simply vile, edit for brevity. But we don't hold our letter writers' hands. I'm not going to call a letter writer and ask, "Ma'am, you do understand that this letter was satire, don't you?" I'll let the teacher of a lit or communications class ask that condescending question.

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What Kennedy said in 1980 is still true today . . .

Ted Kennedy said the following about health care in 1980, in his concession speech to the Democratic presidential convention. What a sad commentary that these words from 29 years ago are just as true and relevant today...
- Matt Zencey, editorial page editor

"We cannot have a fair prosperity in isolation from a fair society. So I will continue to stand for a national health insurance. We must -- we must not surrender -- we must not surrender to the relentless medical inflation that can bankrupt almost anyone and that may soon break the budgets of government at every level. . . . let us resolve that the state of a family's health shall never depend on the size of a family's wealth."

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