HE GAVE PEACE A PASS
Updike’s “Till Peace
Do Us Part” [May 2–8]. I read this article, and though I understand the
politics behind your publication, I was shocked to read such undocumented lies,
distortion of truth and lack of facts regarding the plight of the Palestinians.
The Palestinians do deserve a better life — without Arafat. And if men are imprisoned,
believe me, it is not because they looked funny the day they were arrested;
it is because they were implicated in affairs that were a security risk to Israeli
civilians. Updike speaks in the tongue of the Women in Black, people who hate
the state of Israel, want to see it dismantled, and pray for the neighboring
Arab states to take over the only democracy in the Middle East. In fact, they
wish America would fall victim to radical Islam as well.
The Israelis just want peace. Arafat walked away from the best deal ever because
he never wanted to recognize the state of Israel. He wants it destroyed,
from the Jordan to the sea. Acceptance of the Camp David accords would have
meant he would have had to fix roads, improve education, pave streets, set up
a legitimate police force and stop funneling the millions into his Swiss bank
accounts — this from the man who began setting up a new terrorist network before
the ink was dry at Oslo.
—Allyson Rowen Taylor
IT’S LOVELY AT THE TOP
G.’s Hard Medicine” [May 2–8]. As a physician with more than 20 years’ experience
practicing pediatrics, more than 12 of them with L.A. County, as well as a taxpayer,
homeowner and concerned citizen, it angers me to read about hardworking county
employees being faced with the possible loss of their jobs, while a major root
cause of never-ending financial drainage is rarely mentioned in print, let alone
actually addressed. Of course, a health department that is the last resort of
the indigent and medically indigent can never pay its own way, and it would
be foolish to pretend that it ever could. Nevertheless, the existence of large
numbers of extremely highly paid individuals whose jobs include zero — or a
token amount of — patient care is a phenomenon that, interestingly, exists in
a publicly funded organization that, every five years or so, by necessity finds
itself running to the taxpayers and screaming, “Give us more money or we’ll
have to close hospitals!”
By no means is this phenomenon restricted to M.D.s; I am sure all divisions
of the county Department of Health Services operation involve three to five
times more managers than do organizations that would go out of business if they
were wasteful and inefficient. I am in a position to see firsthand the wastefulness
involved in the employment of so-called medical administrators, and am saddened
by the huge expenditures incurred by an unwell system that is teetering on the
edge of collapse. Specifically, I serve under a supervising physician who currently
supervises a grand total of three (!) physicians and two (!) nurse practitioners;
however, it is clear his real job is to relay the dictates of his superior,
a department head who provides no patient care, has gone out of her way to block
practicing physicians from availing themselves of in-house as well as out-of-the-facility
continuing medical education, and enjoys the luxury of total non-accountability
due to the existence of a layer of “physicians” who view themselves as “instruments”
and “good soldiers” (my supervisor’s own words). This apparatus, benefiting
no one but the individuals in question, often involves costs to the taxpayer
of about $200,000 per “physician.”
Unfortunately, when we have layoffs — or fear of layoffs — in a civil-service
system like this one, only the people at the “bottom,” the people who practice
the actual health care, are affected. Many hardworking and talented people —
doctors, nurses and others — will test the waters and leave voluntarily. Based
on what I saw in 1995, the best and most marketable will leave in disproportionate
numbers. There may be token cuts in management; a few “chiefs” may be forced
to endure becoming “Indians” for a few weeks or months, then be quietly reinstated
to their previous stations, while the lack of staffing at positions directly
dealing with the patients remains unremedied.
If county management did, it would almost surely save so much money it wouldn’t
have to lay off any real doctors, nurses, etc., wouldn’t compromise patient
care one iota, and, as a bonus, there would be the possibility that administrative
decisions might even make some sense. Without multiple layers of intermediaries,
there would exist a chance to have accountability in proportion to power — as
opposed to the status quo, where we have an organization whose hallmark is infinite
power coupled with zero accountability.
—Gary Posner, M.D., pediatrics
OVMC–UCLA Medical Center/Valleycare
ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING
I just read that great article by Jim Crogan [“Made
in the USA, Part III: The Dishonor ‰ Role,” April 25–May 1], and I would
like to point out an interview I heard on KPFK’s Democracy Now, with
Dan Briody, author of The Iron Triangle: The Secret History of the Carlyle
Group. The group, says Briody, operates within the so-called iron triangle
of industry, government and the military. Its list of former and current advisers
and associates includes a vast array of some of the most powerful men in America,
and indeed around the world: President Bush Senior, President Bush Junior, former
British Prime Minister John Major, former Secretary of State James Baker, Secretary
of State Colin Powell, the half brother of Osama bin Laden . . .
I urge you to look into this and do a story on it.
I am writing to praise Margaret Wertheim’s article “Buckyballs
and Screaming Cells” [April 4–10]. Man, can she write! I think this article
should be submitted for a science-writing award: It both explained the science
clearly and simply, and narrated a story in beautiful, descriptive language.
I am a science writer myself and know how difficult seamlessly melding these
two skills can be.
THE REPUBLICANS ARE COUNTING ON YOU
On Marc Cooper’s article “Beat
Bush” [Dissonance, May 9–15], here is yet another “let’s be reasonable”
sermon by Mr. Cooper. He asks where all the paranoia about Mr. Bush comes from.
Perhaps it stems from the fact that in two and a half years, he has assumed
power under dubious circumstances, taken this as a mandate for imposing his
neo-Christian beliefs on everyone, turned an economic surplus into a massive
deficit (a good part of which has been used to feed his fat corporate friends
and annihilate a couple of Third World countries), and blatantly resurrected
the image of the “Ugly American” worldwide. And you think Dick Gephardt is a
worse choice? Contrary to your feeble attempts at reassurance, Mr. Bush is a
dangerous president. LBJ killed 2 million Vietnamese. Bush has killed ONLY thousands
of Iraqis, but he still has five and a half years to go. Yes, Mr. Cooper, we
realize only too well that Bush’s 70 percent approval rating is not a myth.
Bill Clinton may have had one blowjob too many for his own good, but I’ll
take the state of the union from 1992 to 2000 over that of Bush Nation any day.
Yes, the United States has survived depressions, wars and despotic administrations
without, as you put it, learning German. African-Americans have survived and
overcome slavery and lynchings, and Jews have survived holocausts and bigotry.
So, what’s your point — that we should just sit back and say things could be
worse? The Republicans are counting on you. Keep up the good work.
In “The Back Story”
[May 9–15], you refer to an Observer story written by Terry Gilliam.
The story was actually written by Terry Jones.