Letters to the editor

Cow patties to that!

In response to Stewart David’s “Cowed” commentary, Mountain Xpress, Jan. 14:

1) It is disingenuous to cite “two American studies” in support of your argument without stating who did them, when and where [they were done], and who paid for them. Citing unverifiable studies is a favorite tactic of debaters who lack facts.

2) There is no direct proof that anyone ever contracted CJD [the brain-wasting Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease] from eating infected beef. It’s all conjecture — reasonable conjecture to be sure, but still conjecture. Many reasonable propositions are not true.

3) It is theorized that mad cow disease [Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or BSE] and CJD are caused by right-handed prions, a variant of a naturally occurring protein. Left-handed prions are adequately disposed of; right-handed prions not only avoid the body’s house-cleaning functions, they also replicate themselves. This leads to their accumulation, which causes CJD.

Apparently the body’s chemistry is not always accurate, and sooner or later, a right-handed prior will occur to get the ball rolling. Obviously, the older you get, the more likely this [is to] happen. Therefore, it is not unthinkable that “5.5 percent and 13 percent” of people diagnosed with Alzheimers [as you cited] got that way entirely on their own, without the help of a cow, mad or otherwise.

4) [Your] article reads like yet another vegetarian manifesto/conspiracy theory dressed in “scientific” camouflage. You may or may not be right, but you certainly haven’t proven your case.

— George E. Gjelfriend

Words from the front lines of mental illness

Call me Ishmael. Call me Job. Call me one of the more than 10,000 residents of Buncombe County who suffer from some form of mental illness. I really don’t give a damn anymore.

I am writing in response to recent events and situations at the Blue Ridge Center — the only source of “help” available to those who can’t afford to bring a $100 bill, and put it on the private psychiatrist/psychologist’s desk in exchange for some form of psychiatric therapy. As I have been 100 percent disabled by chronic pain and several forms of mental illness since Jan. 1, 1975, that luxury is unavailable to me.

Perhaps before you begin to snicker and think this a communique from a lunatic, let me help you get to know me.

I am a 1970 cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa graduate with a B.A. in English from Clark University in Worcester, Mass., a highly respected member in the ranks of our nation’s small colleges and universities. I have been a professional newspaper journalist most of my life, beginning in the 1970s, working first as a beat reporter and later as an investigative reporter and feature writer, and finally as a regional news editor for a daily newspaper in Massachusetts, then with a paid circulation of 150,000. I was accountable for assignments, editing, and design and layout of a full-page of regional news six days a week.

No one is immune from mental illness. It can strike one down with the speed of an anti-personnel mine, blowing as soon as the trip wire is activated.

For more than three years, I have been a client of Blue Ridge Center in Buncombe County. For more than two years I had regular therapy sessions averaging once every two weeks (same therapist; to be truthful, several people at Blue Ridge have helped me tremendously). I had met with my doctor — the same doctor who followed me until her retirement.

About 10 or 12 weeks ago, I was transferred to a new therapist — one of the best I have ever worked with, and a friend as well. Anyone ever working with a therapist knows that it takes time to develop trust on both sides.

It was about the time of the second therapist that things started to go to hell at Blue Ridge. Instead of being followed by one doctor for medications, I saw a different one nearly each time. You would see him/her once and “presto-change-o,” they were gone! Also, Blue Ridge stopped participating in the patient-assistance program with the pharmaceutical companies that allows disabled and low-income county residents to get their medications at no cost, while simultaneously, the amount of free sample medications at the center began to dwindle to the point of near nonexistence.

So the doctor would write your prescriptions (to what point?). To fill them would have cost, for me, $300-$600 a month.

When my second therapist left, he promised that I would be hooked up with a certain highly respected therapist whom I’ve been calling now for about six weeks; just today I got a call from the “therapist on coverage,” who informed me that I had “misunderstood” the words of my friend and former therapist, but if I like, I can “come to Blue Ridge to see a doctor and get medications,” she said.

Firstly, this what in 1984 Orwell called “doublespeak.” Secondly, because of an insufficient supply of medications, medication doses would vary from week to week. I don’t have to have gone to Harvard Medical School and done residency at Johns Hopkins to do the math on that one.

There are laws — hundreds of them — protecting minorities from racial and cultural prejudice, and a plethora of “affirmative action” and similar programs. John Lennon once sang in concert, captured on Live in New York City, a song he had written entitled “Woman Is the Nigger of the World.”

So I ask you, who is the nigger of the world (U.S.A.) now? We are spending millions of dollars a day fighting a war in Iraq where we have not a clue whom the enemy is, but our country has basically, via its actions, turned its back on the mentally ill and let them “swing in the wind.”

I was further informed today that the reason I have no therapist is because there is no therapist on staff for Jeff Long. The coverage therapist intimated, but did not confirm, that Blue Ridge was engaged in trying to locate one. “We’ll call you when we get one,” she said.

In other words, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you!

— Jeff Long

Help me lose this bet, please!

My roommate and I never agree on politics, but we have a great time debating our views with each other. Our most recent discussion ended in a bet that I thought I would share with you.

Our discussion centered on the upcoming presidential election, and what the response of American citizens would be given the actions of President Bush so far in his current term, along with 9/11, economic [factors], the War on Terrorism and Iraq. Without going into our political views or party affiliations, here is the general gist of the bet: He believes more people will vote than normal due to the events of the last four years, and that the increase in the national percentage of voters in the presidential election will be at least 18 percent. I, on the other hand, feel that even given the events of the last four years, the apathy of American citizens will keep any increase in voters below 4 percent.

It is sad, but true, that I have no faith in an increase of voters in the presidential election of more than 4 percent. I hope he proves me wrong, but based on the nature of complacency in American society, I am afraid he will not. Won’t you help him prove me wrong? All I will lose is the cost of an elegant dinner for two, but the gain to America would be more than worth it to me.

— Janice A. Sitton

Note to president: PSAs would be nice

One thing that I’d like to see our next president do is to [give] simple public-service announcements. Regardless of who the president is and what political affiliation he or she is, there are certain common-sense issues that would not interfere with politics, and the president could simply have an opinion about [them] and state it to the general public every now and again.

For example, the president could come on the TV and radio just once a month for about two minutes and talk about simple issues that are important. These could be issues such as recycling, not throwing cigarette butts on the ground, the importance of tipping your waiter or waitress, the importance of driving the speed limit and driving sober, being pleasant to strangers on the street, picking up your dog’s crap so that no one will step in it, asking people to give to their favorite charity, explaining the benefits of exercise and a good diet, or simply just thanking the American people for working hard to make this a great nation. There are tons of things that the president [could] give an unbiased, nonpolitical, non-opinionated, brief statement about every now and again.

The bottom line is that regardless of who the president is, people stop to at least listen. Reporters take notes, [and] TV and radio always track every move and broadcast every statement [the president makes].

I think that our president should do things like this to get more on a personal basis with the general public to relay important common-sense issues. Right now it is up to low-funded groups that hardly have an outlet, large groups that have to pay millions for a 30-second commercial, or private individuals who try really hard, sometimes to no avail.

The president has a platform that can reach out to most everyone for, basically, free. If I had a platform like that, I’d read this letter on TV and I bet you even the president would hear me and at least consider doing something like this.

— John Kelleher

Time to get off our asses and take this country back

We gave it up, without even a fight.

Our country now belongs to special interests and big money. We gave our country away, and we didn’t even realize what was happening, and the people got nothing in return. Bush has a way of saying he’s doing one thing, and behind our backs, he’s doing another. It’s just like when he stole the election. Now he’s stolen our country. He’s taken our environment hostage, removing the air-quality regulations we fought so hard to get. He’s undermined our economy with this unnecessary war, and lied to us about his reasons. He’s claimed to be for education, but cut funding.

But his sleight of hand is starting to be revealed, and now is the time to get off our lazy asses and take action. We must take our country back, before the environment and economy are irrevocably lost. We owe this to our children.

Now is the time for those who care about our country to make sure [we] are registered [as] Democrats. It’s more important today to save our country than it is to make a green statement. We must unite. We must work together. We have the power to take it back from special interests, but only if we work together. Don’t underestimate your power. You can register at your county’s board of elections, or online at www.sboe.state.nc.us, … [or] get forms for mailing at the library, the Employment Security Commission or social services, or at [your] driver’s license renewal.

I like Howard Dean ’cause he’s got spunk, heart and a good record; he’s creative, he’s not a Washington insider and he’s lit a fire under a lot of young people with enthusiasm. But whoever gets the ticket, let’s get behind them, and get our buddies off their butts to get involved as well. This may be the most important election of our lifetimes.

It’s really happening. The time is right. Let’s have a peaceful revolution.

— Linda Kirkman

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