My criticism of the Feb. 28 article “Even in winter, houseboats stay afloat on river” might sound trivial if not for the fact that it came very close to portraying the good folks of Winona as ignorant river rats.

The author refused to even consider the possibility that the residents of Latsch Island correctly refer to their homes as boat houses; instead she insisted that they are actually houseboats. I grew up in Winona, so I know a bit about housing and boating; I also went on to become a writer, so I know about adjectives and nouns.

A houseboat is first a boat, just like a red car is first a car. A boat of the “house” variety has a motor, and it sometimes serves as a home for those who ply the river and live on it temporarily. A boathouse is first a house, just like a doghouse is first a house. A boat can live in a house, just like a dog can live in a house. Confused? Yes, so was the author.

If she had asked why those silly people called their houses boathouses, they would have explained that they were built as houses for boats, kind of like garages are built for cars. They didn’t move up and down the river, and they had an overhead door that opened up, allowing boats to slip in, then closed behind them. Inside, there was a deck that surrounded the boat, where owners stored tools. Eventually these river rats began to spend more and more time in their little boat houses. They outfitted them with electricity and furnished them with tables and chairs and stoves. When their children grew up and became teenagers they put them to good use doing the things that teenagers do when they’re alone together in the deep dark woods with a roof over their heads, friends at their sides, sipping contraband beer and being lulled to sleep by the gentle sway of the rolling river.

And thus a new kind of life was discovered, in a new kind of house; not a new kind of boat. It was good, and it still is.

Steve Ford, St. Paul


In ‘repeal/replace’ era, what is health care insurance, anyway?

As we move into Affordable Care Act “repeal and replace” discussions and action, consider Obamacare’s fundamental philosophical and economic paradoxes.

On one hand, the ACA law is a boon to establishing government-insurance company cartels taking federal and state government money to “cover” U.S. citizens who are not enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid and the VA. Also, of course, the large ACA Medicaid expansion in Minnesota is administered through HMOs in cartel arrangements with our state government.

But what is the fundamental definition of heath care insurance, anyway? The ACA flatly negates the principles of individual patient insurance risk underwriting by requiring “guaranteed issue” and removing all “preexisting conditions” as coverage exclusions. So now, health care insurance companies must enroll all applicants based not on the likelihood of their incurring projected health care expenses but rather based on their social status as defined by government-income thresholds. Therefore, it’s no surprise that insurance companies have dropped out of MNsure and the Minnesota individual insurance market. We must continue to pay off the insurance companies unless we have proper definitions of health care insurance distinct from social health care entitlements.

2017? This year, the Minnesota Legislature decided to subsidize insurance companies that cover Minnesotans faced with huge increases in their health care premiums. There are current proposals to re-establish a Minnesota high-risk pool to be administered internally within Minnesota insurance companies. This will allow them to unload expensive cases to taxpayers.

I’m thinking we should bring back a patient-centered high-risk health care insurance pool in Minnesota modeled after the 1976 Minnesota Comprehensive Health Association plan (, which was phased out in 2013 because the ACA was supposed to be a refuge and safety net for patients and families with expensive medical conditions.

Dr. Lee Beecher, Maple Grove

The writer is president of the Minnesota Physician-Patient Alliance.


Article about its use by schools dwelled on costs, omitted benefits

The Feb. 21 article “More schools, including U, turning to private flights” unfortunately missed a few points about the importance of these aircraft, and the airports they use, or the benefits of that use not just for the organizations, but often, for the surrounding communities.

First, many colleges are located in small towns and rural areas, and for these institutions a general aviation airplane allows people to quickly cover distances that could take hours or days to cover with other transportation modes, thereby optimizing efficiency and turning travel into work time, in which people can collaborate while flying between destinations.

Additionally, for many academic institutions their local aircraft and airport are needed to support aviation-education programs, and are also used to facilitate flight training and air traffic control training. The airplanes may also be used on flights from small, nearby airports in support of military, National Guard and Civil Air Patrol operations, or air-ambulance and angel flight missions.

Simply put, the value of general aviation, and of community airports, explains why universities — as well as companies of all sizes, philanthropic organizations, local and federal government agencies, and other enterprises — make use of such assets.

It’s unfortunate that the story emphasized only the negative effect of these aircraft, instead of taking a closer look at their benefits.

Ed Bolen, Washington, D.C.

The writer is president and CEO of the National Business Aviation Association.


‘Distracting’ to cast artists of color in period plays? That’s regressive.

Recently, the Star Tribune published a review of “The Royal Family” at the Guthrie, in which the critic stated that the casting of a black actress into a fictional family suggested “a sexual dalliance” involving her character’s mother, played by a white actress, and a family friend, played by a black actor (“ ‘Royal Family’ as timeless as celebrities and family feuds,” Feb. 6). That the critic included this textually unfounded remark as a parenthetical aside is puzzling. She then implied that the director’s casting decisions seemed to be an effort to “deconstruct [reconstruct?]” a 1920s play. To be clear, the critic wrote: “The lighting stunts are much more distracting than the casting.” Claiming, even in relative terms, that it’s distracting to cast artists of color in period plays is a regressive observation. The idea that whiteness is a neutral baseline, and that every other culture or skin tone onstage should be explained, defended and defined, sets us back decades.

As an organization dedicated to its community, and with the firm belief that classics belong to everyone, we maintain that the artists hired to tell these stories must reflect the fabric of our country.

Equity, diversity and inclusion are core values of the Guthrie; they guide our practices onstage and off. We are steadfastly committed to this vital work, and while there is much to be done, we are making strides.

The Guthrie’s existence is tied to our ability to connect to an increasingly diverse population, and we remain committed to diversifying the voices and perspectives in our work. To do otherwise would be to defeat ourselves and our community.

Joseph Haj, Minneapolis

The writer is artistic director of the Guthrie Theater.