Letters for November 12, 2009

Weighing in on Wally

Re “Wally’s world” (Cover story, by Tom Gascoyne, Nov. 5):

Excellent article about Wally Herger, but I must take exception to your statement that the Veterans Administration is “run well.” My experience with the VA indicates otherwise. During the Vietnam War I sustained a leg injury, and for the last 20 years have been trying to get a proper disability rating for it. The VA, however, has a “down and dirty denial” culture of its own. (My case could eventually end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.)

There is a backlog of disability claims at the VA because the VA routinely denies claims. If the VA properly processed claims, there would be no backlog. However, if the veteran dies before the claim goes through, then there is no payment. A cheap, dirty way to save money.

The VA is one of the most corrupt government organizations I’ve ever dealt with.

Michael M. Peters

Tom Gascoyne’s article about our confounding (and confounded) 2nd District congressman was timely and straightforward, and raised the question so many North State citizens ask: Isn’t the village of Rio Oso still missing an idiot?

Herger’s parallels with George W. Bush are uncanny: A two-time draft dodger who now happily sends our men and women to war; inheritor of his father’s energy-business fortunes; a disingenuous career politician who cultivates a blue-collar pretense before throwing the middle class and the working poor under the bus with each vote he casts.

The most telling (and candid) moment of Gascoyne’s article was when Herger said he didn’t know of anything the government runs efficiently, anything it doesn’t run into debt. This coming from a man who’s been in government for nearly 30 years, and who for the last eight of them voted in lockstep with an administration that took us to the highest level of national debt in our country’s history, and right to the brink of another Great Depression.

Floyd Walsh

It’s pay now or pay later

Re “Putting a price on safety” (Newslines, by Robin Huffman, Nov. 5):

As a homeowner in Magalia, fire concerns me greatly, and I will definitely support any efforts to protect the Ridge from fire. In forming the Mello-Roos fire district, we should expand the services beyond just fire fighting.

We should pay $100-$150 a year to include fire breaks and debris cleanup. Goat herds could be used around the perimeter to reduce brush. The California Department of Corrections, the California Conservation Corps or CalFire crews could also be enlisted to help create fire breaks. The Upper Ridge Coordinating Council, the town of Paradise, and the Butte County Fire Safe Council could all work together with the homeowners in the fire district to make the Ridge safer.

Otherwise, it’s just a matter of time before the next fire sweeps through. Magalia/Dogtown has a history of fire destruction for the past 150 years. Paying an extra $150 a year is nothing compared to paying for the devastation left behind a firestorm.

This is not a “tax.” This is a user fee to get more fire prevention and protection where it’s needed most. Those who need it pay for it. Let’s be proactive about fire protection and form the fire district!

Cindy Jones

Censored or not?

Re “Big money on campus” (Editorial, Oct. 22):

I’m disappointed that you criticized Cal Poly over Michael Pollan’s campus visit. Pollan wasn’t censored; when presented with the options, he chose to take part in the forum rather than give an independent talk. Why is it a bad thing to encourage diverse debate by bringing in representatives from the other side to engage with him?

It’s great that Pollan has motivated people to start thinking more about where their food comes from, but we need to remember his credentials. He’s a journalism professor, not an agriculture expert or authority on food.

This whole fiasco just reiterates the fact that farmers and ranchers have to do a better job at educating people about where their food comes from. It’s great to support farmers’ markets and CSAs, as Pollan suggests, but it is not fair to condemn larger practices that use the most efficient, modern techniques to feed the world.

Sarah Hubbart
Chico State College of Agriculture graduate

Two views of treatment

Re “Generation Rx” (Cover story, by Shannon Rooney, Oct. 15):

As a toxicologist, I have been gratified to see the expansion of science-based, medical treatment for addiction, offering people an alternative to the dogmatic, cultish organizations that have had a virtual stranglehold on the addiction world for half a century.

But let’s not go overboard and succumb to “drug demonology”—the irrational fear of addiction that results in pain relief being withheld from people with agonizing diseases. Studies have repeatedly shown that only 10 percent of patients prescribed opiates for pain relief ever become addicted; these patients had a history of drug misuse prior to their illnesses.

Overzealous and poorly informed law-enforcement officials have driven legitimate physicians from practice and left remaining practitioners too apprehensive to prescribe medications in amounts required to keep patients comfortable and able to lead full lives. There are some alternative pain-management medications, and more under development, but for now opiates are the mainstay for the relief of severe pain.

Marti Wolfe

I am writing to express my surprise and disappointment with Shannon Rooney’s article. I was astounded by the lack of detachment by your reporter and, to be honest, found the piece to read more like an infomercial for Dr. Altman’s pain management and Suboxone practice than a work of true journalism.

Had Rooney done her due diligence, as we have, she would have discovered that Dr. Altman’s practice does not provide to his patients the basic evidence-based services necessary to support long-term recovery, such as therapy, support groups and social-work services. Simply prescribing another drug itself will not make a lasting difference in the lives of those suffering.

Having a true interdisciplinary treatment within our facilities (e.g. psychologists, social workers, clinical specialists, doctors, nurses, case managers, etc.), Aegis has been able to create a treatment center that has produced among the lowest relapse rates in the state and rivals the best in the nation.

As the only licensed, certified and accredited treatment program for opioid addiction in Butte County, Aegis is proud to have been involved in cutting-edge pharmaceutical and behavioral research projects with some of the most prominent research institutions in the nation (e.g. UCLA, the Rand Corporation, NIDA). This has afforded Aegis the expertise to continue to meet the ever-changing needs of our 5,500 patients throughout 24 communities in California and explains why Aegis continues to be the treatment center of preference among judges, parole officers, law enforcement and state officials.

Arron Hightower
Director of Clinical Services

Aegis Medical Systems Inc.Los Angeles

Editor’s note: As the article states, Dr. Altman does offer an in-office counseling program in addition to Suboxone therapy.

Saving the salmon

Re “Officials address viability of salmon, steelhead” (Newslines, by Meredith J. Cooper, Oct. 22) and “An American icon” (Guest comment, by Paul Johnson, Oct. 29):

I used to wake up very early on school days, drive from Chico all the way to my favorite Feather River fishing spot and fish for hours for salmon. Afterwards I would go home, cut and filet the salmon and then get to Butte College by 8 a.m., still smelling like fish.

Fishing is more than a sport. It is a way of life. Born in a family that has little to eat, one learns to appreciate nature and its way of giving.

Today, many places such as the Feather River have taken the initiative to try to keep the salmon population up by completely stopping salmon fishing on the river. Removing the four dams on the lower Snake River will allow salmon to have easier access to their historic breeding grounds and thus increase their populations.

Many people don’t see the big picture, but if the salmon are depleted, we are only endangering our human race. I encourage the adjustment to help the salmon population so that maybe our children and our children’s children may have the chance to enjoy salmon fishing, as I did when I was a kid and still do.

Phong Xiong

There are almost no salmon in the Feather River to replenish other rivers. What is wrong with NOAA? They should ask those of us who dive the river!

Go to www.myspace.com/scubadiverbob—check out my blogs and pictures, including cool pictures of Feather River salmon from three years ago. Soon they may become extinct (we will know in the next two years). Also, check what I’ve posted at the www.vintagescubasupply.com “discussion board” and at http://norcaldiveclub.proboards.com/ about the salmon.

Robert Berry

Useless losses

Re “Toward an Afghan strategy” (Editorial, Oct. 22):

Alexander the Great and more recently in the 1980s the Russians were both unable to pacify Afghanistan. And the Russians used many more troops than have been proposed here.

From a strategic point of view, it is easy for us to be mistaken about the Taliban and about where to fight al-Qaida. The Taliban are not a monolithic group, but quite diverse.

Also, there is evidence from the experience of Greg Mortenson (Three Cups of Tea), who lived among the Afghans for a period, and then with the Pashtun in Pakistan, where al-Qaida is more likely to be concentrated. He felt that our troops are widely thought to be foreign interlopers and that the U.S.-sponsored security troops are widely detested by the Afghans.

The financially strapped U.S. cannot afford useless expenditures, and our overextended military useless loss of American lives. We need to withdraw all but token forces from Afghanistan.

Julian Lorenz

Remembering Norton

Re “Saying good-bye to Norton Buffalo” (Newslines, by Jaime O’Neill, Nov. 5):

Sad, so sad. Another musician with so much to give has left us way too soon.

One of the recurring themes in newspaper articles, radio tributes, and Web sites since Norton Buffalo’s death is that he always had a sense of humor—much needed in these trying times and a catalyst for making good times better. And, yes, his music made you feel good.

A few years ago, while I was living in Monterey, Norton did a show there with his Friends band, and I chatted with him afterward. He was a downright warm, friendly and unpretentious human being. I had the good fortune to see him speak this past May as part of the Artist Lecture Series at the Chico Art Center. The lecture and personal chats afterward once again reflected his down-to-earth relationships with everybody over the course of his lifetime, as well as the spiritual component of love.

Norton Buffalo made the most of his time on Earth. He fought the good fight with his illness. We give thanks for what he has given. From Paradise, Calif., to paradise in harmonica heaven. I’m sure he will be jamming with other musicians who have preceded him doing some ethereal gigs on the celestial concert tour. Happy heavenly harp playing, Norton.

Bill Frisch