Letters to the Editor

What's more horrifying, HMOs or the alternative? Plus: Nothing new about Jewish athletes; was Baltimore election about race?

Published October 21, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

Woe is HMO


Advocates for socialized medicine were defeated several years ago in their
first attempt at a government takeover of our health-care system. Learning
that the public won't accept such a proposal all at once, they have shrewdly
changed their strategy. The goal now seems to be to slip socialized
medicine in the back door by making private health insurance as expensive as
possible. When this happens, more will go uninsured, and more will clamor
for the government to "do something." Regardless of what the different
varieties of health-care reform may provide, anything that makes health
insurance more expensive will move us closer to a government-financed and
controlled health-care system. If dealing with the bureaucrats at an HMO is
difficult now, I shudder to think about having to get approval from
Washingtom for a medical procedure.

-- Brad Beebe

If the Hillary-backed health-care-reform legislation had passed
several years ago, the HMOs would have been on a choke collar and abuses
such as those described in this story might not have happened. The
reason this legislation didn't pass was that not enough people voted in
1992. Precedent shows that when turnout is low, Republicans -- and
their "free-market" philosophies, which largely reject any meaningful
overhaul of the health-care system -- most often win.

Should "Clinton fatigue" causes non-voters to keep away and soccer
moms to vote for George W. in 2000, it will only get worse. The
non-voters are so alienated and apathetic they are beyond hope. For
things to change, maybe it will take managed-care callousness to become
so endemic and prices to rise so high that some investments-addicted,
social Darwinist, suburban "independent" voters will have to cash in
some of their precious 401Ks to pay for decent care for themselves or
the ones they love.

-- Russell Shaw

Portland, Ore.

You should have used a better example for your article than baby Elizabeth Wooldridge. Since the test only cost $125, if I were the parent, I would have begged, borrowed or stolen the money. If both of these parents got an evening job at $5 an hour, working 20 hours a week slinging hamburgers or something, they would have had the money in no time.

I don't blame them for suing their HMO, but they should have attacked the problem as soon as they found out the money for the test would not be forthcoming from the HMO.

-- Myrtle Clark

I can well understand the difficulties the people in this piece faced. However, it seems
every single one of these cases was an ultra-serious disease, the type that
probably account for a tiny percentage of the medical care rendered by the HMO industry.

My wife and I have belonged to an HMO for about seven years, both
private and through Medicare, and we can say in complete honesty that we
have never had better medical care in our entire lives. We have never
been denied referrals to specialists. We have never been denied
emergency room care, drugs, diagnostic tests, X-rays, MRIs, etc.
Maybe we are just lucky in using the right HMO, but as far as we are
concerned, this is the only way to go. It is a perfect match for us.

-- Sol Gordon

Tamarac, Fla.

Give me an "oy!"


Lance Gould might mention that Jews dominated the toughest sport of them
all -- boxing -- in the 1920s and the '30s. Benny Leonard and Barney Ross both wore the Star of David, and are considered two of the best boxers of all times. Anti-Semitic statements
such as "We Jews are not exactly renowned for our athletic prowess -- we're
usually better at the management side of things" would never play had this
been written about any other ethnic group and disregards a
history of persecution that is best illustrated by the slaughter of Israeli
athletes in Munich. Stop the self-hating, Lance -- Jews are as tough and as
competitive as the best of them, even if survival and assimilation has
demanded different venues for Jewish talent.

Gould might also want to explore his
definitions: Zab Judah, who is undefeated and a junior welterweight
champion, is a proud Jew who wears the Mogen David on his shorts and is
destined for greatness. He also happens to be black.

-- Jeffrey Abelson

New York

Gray Lady down


I'd thought the NYT bestseller lists were specious enough, but at least
their spokespeople appear to be schooled in grammar usage. I shudder at the
thought of our buying and reading habits being influenced in any way by
those who think "ahold" is a word. (This is from Barnes & Noble spokeswoman Debra
Williams, who says that B&N's system allows the customer to "get ahold of
the list in a more expedient way.")

-- Laura Van

For several years I reported the information for the largest
independent bookstore in the South. Little seems to have changed. It's always easier to work with the
titles already supplied on the sheet, rather than having to not only fill
in the blanks but then go over the additions with the person. It
would have been incredibly easy to alter our reported quantities to push
specific titles. (This is what caused the music industry to move from
store reporting to an actual sales-tracking system some years
back; at the time it produced the "revelation" that country and hip-hop
were selling in far greater quantities than the Billboard charts then indicated.)

-- Lang Thompson

White men can jump



Debra Dickerson gets it wrong when she says that O'Malley's victory
in the Democratic primary transcended race.
O'Malley got a majority of the vote, and more than one-third of the
black vote. However, race was a factor: About 90 percent of whites
voted for the white candidate. When Dickerson writes that "both
white and black voters ... feel justified in lowering race several
notches in their calculations," what she means is that minorities voted
across racial lines. (Disclosure: I'm a white Baltimorean who voted for O'Malley with some

Another way to view the situation is that one minority group in
Baltimore City -- the white third of the city -- voted in a single block,
sealing O'Malley's victory. To be fair to O'Malley's intentions in the
campaign regarding splitting the black vote, it should be noted that he
supported Kweisi Mfume until Mfume decided not to run.

Finally, for all his failings, Carl Stokes worked hard to build a
multiracial coalition -- in fact, until O'Malley entered the race,
Stokes was successfully building such a coalition. Of course, the
self-destruction of Stokes' campaign may have proved that O'Malley was
the better candidate, but the tone of Dickerson's article makes it clear
that she hasn't considered that racism on the part of white voters might
have been an equally large part in O'Malley's nomination.

-- Jon Lasser


Anyone for a poop daiquiri?


Thank you. It's OK now for me to laugh hysterically at my 4-year-old son's strange and
dark sense of humor, which he got from the egg side of the union. Humor is an outlet, a stress release, a place to go to forget the hardships of full-time day care and horribly unfair dinner and bedtime practices.

I am delighted that my son, Carson, can laugh at some of life's complexities. I
think it's wonderful that he enjoys putting on a standup routine for his
little sister. So bring on the under-the-arm farts, the dolls with their heads on
backwards and an occasional giggle at a truly violent scene in a movie
that only mom and dad should be watching. ("Hey, when did you come
downstairs?") I think it's healthy to be able to handle uncomfortable
situations with a laugh. For me, it's part of arming my children for the
real world.

-- Beverly Brandt

St. Louis

Nuclear spanking


I find it hard to believe that the Senate would go against the entire
scientific community, which has fully backed the Comprehensive Test Ban
Treaty. The arguments used against the treaty appear to be trite, based on
domestic politics and not on scientific fact. Verification of clandestine
nuclear tests will be a lot harder if there is no worldwide network of
seismic stations, as guaranteed under the CTBT. All the scientific
evidence published in Science, Nature and the Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences prove that even a 0.5 kiloton yield (which was not even
considered to be detectable in the CTBT) can be picked up with the seismic

The reputable scientific organizations that support this treaty are
too numerous to mention, but with every director of the national nuclear
laboratories providing written statements that the stewardship stockpile
program is good enough to guarantee U.S. security, I fail to see the need
for more U.S. tests. The recent events in Pakistan should have made it clear
that reducing nuclear proliferation is an urgent U.S. national goal, as well
as one for the international community.

The failure of the Senate to ratify the CTBT puts the United States in the same
category as India and Pakistan. I am saddened that the United States, once leaders in the field of arms control, has gone against not only the interest of its citizens, but the best scientific
and military advice available to solve this global and urgent problem.

-- Paul Guinnessy

The Senate's failure to ratify the comprehensive test ban treaty is a
function of the unwillingness of the Democratic leadership to force Clinton
from office at the height of the Lewinsky scandal. The whole episode demonstrated he
was not fit to govern. There was a time when the
president's credibility was part of the national security apparatus of the
United States. No longer.

-- Dexter Van Zile

I don't understand why everyone is saying the vote against the Comprehensive Test
Ban Treaty is an embarrassment for Clinton. It is the Republicans who should
feel embarrassed that they let hate and malice get in the way of running the
country. These are the activities of a kindergarten classroom, not the behavior one would expect from grown adults in positions of power. It's really sad.

-- Bill Alderson

What a wonderful example of the incorrigible childishness of journalism: the
Senate defeats the nuclear test ban treaty, and Salon treats the event as
just another amusing move in the game of domestic politics. Granted that
the Republicans demonstrated a similar disconnect from reality in voting
down the treaty -- but why must the press obsess about trifles? Surely the very
least important thing at stake in this matter is the prestige of Bill Clinton.

-- Jim Harrison

San Francisco

The sacred profaned in Santa Fe


Lillie Wade is not the only distraught believer in this cynical era, but she has gamely chosen to share her disappointment at finding that, even in an ostensibly Catholic institution, so many of her peers and teachers are complacently agnostic, if not outright atheists -- and that
some are only too willing to express their low opinion of religion in a loutish, dismissive manner.

To dismiss religious faith after all the horrors it has wrought on humans throughout recorded
human history is simply stupid, even dangerous. Religion as asserted by the pope or the Taliban or the Serbian church may seem in the
light of current scientific understanding and reason to be simply laughable, but to blithely ignore its awful consequences, the threat it yet poses to all of us, is intellectually negligent. Ask the poor benighted women of Afghanistan or Sudan or East Timor or Sao Paulo or Kosovo if
modern-day religion is dangerous to one's mental and bodily health.

I do not suggest Wade excuse those who, knowing and hating the plight of these billions who are commanded by their religious masters to live in ignorance and suffer sexual, economic,
political and intellectual repression, have selected you and your faith as a conveniently close-by object of scorn. There can be no excuse for ideological bullying. But also please do not assume that all who abhor your faith and all others are mere fanatics or thoughtless.

-- David Yancey


Our lady of lies


This appears to be a transcript from some psychiatrist's couch revealing the maniacal
ramblings of a tortured mind, rather than a point of view to be taken seriously. Or
Christopher Hitchens may have assumed the role of a character in George Orwell's
"1984" or "Animal Farm," for whom the words and meanings of war and peace, love and
hate, and truth and lies are interchangeable.

In any case, it is unethical to allow a message of "prayer, Bible study, fasting and the
rosary" to be depicted as standing for "bloody ethnic hatreds," or to allow the growth of
a small village to be portrayed as "the wreckage of an entire city," or for minarets to be
described as destroyed where they have never existed at all.

Cardinal Stepinac, far from being "the clerical face" of a Nazi regime, was a de facto
clerical voice of the Allies, having his wartime sermons re-broadcast by the BBC and
Voice of America throughout World War II. It is obvious that Hitchens has allowed his imagination and his malice to run wild.

-- Domagoj Sola

Consul General

Consulate General of the Republic of Croatia


By Letters to the Editor

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