Letters for April 21, 2005

The reason for limits

Re “The Dills misfortune” by Chrisanne Beckner (SN&R Cover, April 14):

One more stroke for term limits!

Somewhere about 1990, I was one member of a team calling on legislators about immigration problems. One of our contacts was Ralph Dills.

Dills’ office was full of saxophone memorabilia, right down to the necktie. The walls were totally covered with plaques and commendations from all over, mostly from education sources. I gathered that much of the adulation came from unions whose members had gotten more goodies as a result of his work.

We tried to open our subject about immigration. Dills would not stop talking for a second, mostly about all the “wonderful things” he had done for the people of California.

Beckner’s article treated a highly confusing subject as well as possible. I really wasn’t surprised by the whole thing, although I knew nothing about Dills’ personal affairs beyond the saxophone.

It would be interesting to have more stories about strange members of the Legislature. I have never had any faith in that body, unfortunately, and this kind of thing is fun to read, although lowering my faith level in any form of government, where corruption rules at all levels.

Allen Jamieson

Inmates run the asylum

Re “Failing Paul Muskeni” by Jeffrey M. Barker (SN&R News, April 7):

Once again, SN&R has brought forward the absurd and dangerous faults within the structure of Sacramento County’s mental-health system.

As a mental-health clinician in this county, I can tell you that Paul Muskeni’s experience is far from unique. I’ve known dozens of psychiatric patients that have gone through the same “no meds, 3 a.m. downtown drop-off” coming out of the county jail.

This is part of a more far-reaching problem at the very foundation of Sacramento County’s mental-health system, one that consistently degrades the quality of care for our psychiatrically disabled citizens.

On Sacramento County’s Division of Mental Health Web page, they claim: “Moreover, Sacramento County proudly boasts of having more Consumer employees [mental health clients] … in our organizational structure than anywhere else in the State.” The county and its contract providers maintain an unsound philosophical standpoint that the more psychiatric patients you have as staff members, the greater the quality of psychiatric care provided to others. Staff members who are supposed to be clear-headed enough to responsibly care for our mentally ill friends and family members are suffering from mental illnesses themselves!

Where’s the outrage? If this isn’t treating mental-health consumers like second-class citizens, then I don’t know what is. Sacramento’s psychiatrically disabled deserve top-rate care by skilled psychiatric professionals, not just a shared cup of coffee and a cigarette with “someone who’s been there.”

Would hiring “movie consumers” as film producers create better movies? Would increasing the number of “dental-care consumers” working in a dentist’s office somehow provide better dental care to patients? How about hiring “restaurant consumers” as chefs?

The very serious point here is that we are not talking about movies or teeth or food. We’re talking about the ongoing suffering of hundreds of people in our community who, because of a backward mental-health system, continue to hurt or kill themselves—and, worse, others—and everyone still wonders why.

Why would anyone think that it might be efficient or even remotely safe to employ someone with a known history of psychosis and/or emotional instability as a provider of critical psychiatric care for others?

Name withheld by request

Bite the bullet on oil

Re “Soldier’s story” by Melinda Welsh (SN&R Cover, March 24):

Melinda Welsh did an excellent job in this story of the exemplary all-American life and tragic death in Iraq of local hero Capt. Alan B. Rowe, U.S. Marine Corps (USMC). I share with Capt. Rowe nearly five years of experience as a USMC infantry officer, also attaining the rank of captain before I went off to a [Master of Business Administration degree] and a start-up business career. I never met him, but our shared experiences allow me to respect him and grieve for him like a brother.

Given my background, I hope that I do Capt. Rowe and his family no dishonor by saying the following: Iraq is, in its most important ways, not Vietnam. Beyond deposing a sociopath dictator, under Iraq’s sands is the third-largest petroleum reserve in the world, and 80 percent of the world’s reserves are within a 1,000-mile radius.

Our society is addicted to petroleum. Petroleum is heavily subsidized in terms of tax breaks, the cost of the war, infrastructure, and health and environmental costs. Are we willing to pay for petroleum and its alternatives—the $1 to $4 a gallon more that they really cost?

Biofuels aren’t perfect. Despite significant decreases (as compared to petroleum diesel) in particulate matter, carbon monoxide, greenhouse gases, sulfur oxides and volatile organic compounds, their use causes a slight increase in a smog precursor, nitrogen oxide. California has the right to set its own health-related air-pollution standards through the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which allows us to sidestep the powerful, obstructive oil and vehicle lobbies in Congress. Would we be willing for CARB to be less concerned about 2.5-micron particulate matter coming out of fuel-efficient diesel engines (particularly those running on biofuels) to avoid bullets and shrapnel in the lungs of Marines in Iraq?

What are we going to do about it? Is putting an American flag or an “I support the troops” bumper sticker on a gas-guzzling vehicle good enough?

Reed M. Benet