Holly Spaulding‘s article on the “New Water Order“ (11/7) is nothing but a continuation of the disingenuous arguments (already continued ad nauseum) that the Sweetwater Alliance has treated NE readers to over the last few months.
No one has answered some pretty basic questions about the whole Sweetwater hysteria: Why is the Ice Mountain factory, in itself, worth all this hoopla aside from the fact that a foreign multi-national is a good target for mindless protesting? Nothing, after all, makes people lay down on the asphalt like rich foreigners exploiting “our“ resources, right?
Also, how is it that a bunch of Michiganders trying to make sure that Great Lakes water never leaves the Great Lakes Basin (which ends about 30 miles inland from the lakes) have anything whatsoever in common with people who have no water across the globe? If the Sweetwater Alliance wins their point, doesn‘t that mean that the world‘s thirsty masses will never be able to get their grubby hands on our water? I mean, isn‘t that really the point of all the scary propaganda about the coming water crisis and the threat it poses to “our“ water.
Isn‘t this movement predicated on the assumption that it‘s better for millions to die of thirst than for the recreational fishing industry in Michigan to be damaged? Or is the Sweetwater Alliance willing to say that they are foursquare behind the idea that we in North America ought to make some sacrifices -- even some environmentally unpleasant sacrifices -- in order to ensure that the people of the world get what they call their “right“ -- access to clean fresh water. I am very interested to know the answer to this question, because the Sweetwater Alliance has spent a lot of time playing both sides of the street on this crucial issue.
Water is a hot issue. Water is something that we should care about. It‘s something we should care about too much to lie and obfuscate. I feel water and water rights are, indeed, issues that will define our future. I think Sweetwater feels that water is a good hot issue to get people to carry picket signs. And lying and obfuscating about water issues is fine so long as it is in the service of the greater cause of possibly “radicalizing“ the masses.
Well, lotsa‘ luck on radicalizing the masses, but I think it far more likely that you‘ll destroy the prospects for an intelligent solution to our water issues than that you‘ll “radicalize“ very many people.
Oran Kelley via email
Annaka Dodds letter, Too little, too late, (11/21) is an ill-informed attack on Jim Olson and Holly Spaulding and is evidence of the fact that she is obviously not aware of the depth of their work nor of their convictions. In particular, Jim Olson has dedicated his life to protect whats left of our natural resources. Before she writes another high-minded, contradictory letter, shed better check the facts. Implying that someone of Jims stature and passion spends too much time relaxing in front of an incense burner or regards activism as just another form of party game is a little like implying that George Bush spends too much time reading Mensa newsletters.
Mike Delp Green Lake Township
Buy Nothing Day
This November 29, a world celebration of values outside the box of consumerism is taking place, and it is called Buy Nothing Day. The day after Thanksgiving, the 29th will be typically thought of as the busiest shopping day of the year, but this year people all over the world, from North America to Europe, are redefining this day to mean something different. Instead of going out and spending the day in shopping malls or super centers, many people are taking a break from consumer spending to spend more time with families or sponsor free community events.
In a time of economic recession, many people view Buy Nothing Day in a negative light, writing it off as a mindless attack against the American economy.
Buy Nothing Day is far from mindless. In a world in which 20% of the population consumes over 80% of its natural resources, the distribution of wealth is far from equitable. The American way of life has come to be based around over-consumption, which is reflected in the vast amounts of resources that we, as Americans, consume for the sake of convenience and not necessity, and by the amount of waste this new economic system creates. I use the term “new economic system“ because America‘s economy wasn‘t always based on consuming anything it could get its hands on.
Today‘s disposable way of life is far from the values of early Puritan settlements that emphasized simplicity and clean living. Thanksgiving was meant to be a day to reflect on what we have, not a day reserved for gluttony. Unfortunately in today‘s corporate landscape, such holidays have been stolen from us and their meanings lost.
Christmas too has been stolen and then marketed back to us in our own homes. If there is a Grinch, it has made itself known in the form of corporate America. Christmas is no longer a time to celebrate, but a time to make demands for more toys. How are children supposed to know any better when the commercials seen along with Saturday morning cartoons are specifically designed with the help of teams of psychoanalysts to induce nagging?
Every time you buy something, there is a true cost of your purchase that can‘t be measured with dollars or cents. Somehow what you bought was manufactured, and someday you will most likely throw it away. Gas had to be burned to ship it to a store nearby; chemicals had to be released into the air or maybe even water. Perhaps what you bought was made by 10-year-old children working 70-hour weeks just to survive. Our world isn‘t dying; it is being killed by multinational corporations and the way they do business.
Without a sustainable habitat, we, like any other living things, are sure to perish. Until our economy can be redesigned to take the true costs of our actions as inhabitants of this planet into account, we will fail to realize that there are other types of wealth besides the material kind. As long as another rain forest being felled just shows up as numbers on a page, our natural world will continued to be destroyed. After all, it‘s just business.
This year, participate by not participating. Celebrate Buy Nothing Day on Nov. 29.
For more information go to www.adbusters.org or contact Jason at 932-7837.
Jason Glover via email
Hitchens‘ cheap shot
In your column of the Nov. 14-20 issue (“Random Thoughts“) you refer to Christopher Hitchens as an example of some recent defections of a few “liberals who favor war.“ You erroneously state that he “quit the editorship of “The Nation“ magazine last month out of disgust over leftist attitudes.“ To the best of my knowledge, Hitchens has never been the editor of “The Nation.“ The editor was, and remains, Katrina vanden Heuvel.
Hitchens was a regular contributor, known as a contrarian, whose forte is ruffling feathers. In that sense, I am not at all surprised at his stance towards the war in Iraq. Hitchens is the archetypal schoolboy prefect who never grew up and got over himself, a sort of liberal version of William F. Buckley, a narcissistic know it all. So it wasn‘t a big shock to see Hitchens part from his “Nation“ gig with a cheap shot jab at his former colleagues. I wouldn‘t take it as indicative of anything like a reasoned argument for war against Iraq.
If you want to read Katha Pollit‘s impassioned but informed reply to Hitchens‘ parting shot, check it out at “The Nation“ web site, http://www.thenation.com or, better yet, subscribe to “The Nation.“
Mark Smith Lake Leelanau
The nursing strike
Much of value has already been said regarding the reasons for nurses‘ strike at Northern Michigan Hospital in Petoskey. The hospital claims this is mostly a dollar issue, while the 200+ nurses out on strike cite patient safety and the nurses‘ need for greater input into critical policy decisions (i.e., nurse-to-patient ratios).
The history of women in health care involves issues of em-powerment for women specifically, and for direct-care healers and community health advocates in general. In Medieval times, the role of women as herbalists and village healers came under direct assault by new institutions competing for that power. The church of the Middle Ages branded local herbalists and folk healers “witches“ -- and it was the testimony of physicians in the rising new medical profession that often helped send those mainly female village healers to death. Since “only those who have attended the new medical colleges“ could legally serve as attendants to the sick, and since women were specifically banned from enrolling in these colleges, the rise of a male-dominated medical establishment was guaranteed.
The disempowerment of nurses thus has its roots set deeply in the Middle Ages. What we are witnessing now is the efforts of many of our local nurses to regain a powerful voice in helping to shape important health care issues in our community today.
All individuals of conscience -- whether they be on the Board of NMH, physicians, nurses who choose to continue to work in the hospital, or nurses who are out on the picket lines every morning in protest -- must first acknowledge that more than money is at stake here.
Our local strike in Petoskey is not an isolated event centering around paychecks or self-aggrandizement; rather it concerns the broader social issue of whose voices will get counted, and whose won‘t in health care reform today.
Some in our community seem shocked that so many nurses would choose to join a union and protest out in our streets to gain this voice -- indeed it is a strange sight for our quiet town of Petoskey. Yet we must remember that every social reform movement from women‘s suffrage to civil rights has found people of good conscience picketing, cheering, and waving signs for change. The health care reform movement today is clearly coming of age, and whether we find it distasteful or inspiring, people of good conscience are out in our streets every day advocating for reform.
My letter is one of support for all nurses, striking or not, but especially for those brave ones who have put their job security and personal comforts on the line. They are our true heroines and heroes now. They stand outside their hospital and ours every day in the cold, taking risks not only for the future of their profession, but for matters of deep concern to us all.
Jim Norgaard Petoskey
On the backs of nurses
Northern Michigan Hospital nurses have joined a growing number of nurses across the nation in striking. Across the U.S., nurses struggle under increasing patient loads, longer hours and reduced benefits. For many years, the administration and boards of Michigan‘s hospitals have faced an impending crisis. The unionization of the nurses at Northern Michigan Hospital is symptomatic of a much larger health care crisis.
While the administration and board of Northern Michigan hospitals may have been out of touch with staff, mismanagement at the local level is a small part of the health care crisis in America. Nurses across America are being pinched by hospital boards and administration as the government abdicates responsibility for health care, and as insurance and medical costs make basic health coverage out of reach for average Americans.
All local hospitals in Northern Michigan are non-profit. New equipment and technology are vital and hospital income must be reinvested in the operation. The cost of pharmaceuticals continues to escalate. Today, half the patients are Medicare beneficiaries (Northern Michigan treated 66,000 Medicaid patients in 1998), and Medicare and Medicaid do not cover costs of care. As revenues have fallen, more and more people are uninsured.
Hospitals have depended on charitable donations to meet losses. At Munson, the interest from their endowment fund, in the good years, made up for huge losses. But as markets tank, hospitals dependent on endowments have suffered. Rural hospitals have been closing at a frightening rate and the large hospitals must take up the burden of the rural poor and uninsured. The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 hit hospitals hard and administrative costs went up six-fold when the state changed to “managed care“ from fee-for-service.
The cost of keeping up with new science and technology is enormous. Northern Michigan Hospital‘s capital campaign for a new emergency unit has raised $13 million of $15 million needed. The Burns Clinic Foundation had an additional $26,886,386 in investment/ securities in 2000.
The woes of hospitals will not be fixed on the backs of the nurses. The problem is way too big. Across the nation, skimming dollars from nurses‘ pensions and increasing patient loads will only delay the death of a failed health system. Part of the disease is our society‘s inability to wrestle with really difficult problems. People are living longer, and high tech medicine offers new cures and greater expense. Who will live and who will die... who gets care and what care they will get, has been determined to a great extent by who can pay. The working poor and uninsured cannot afford basic health care and medicine, while well-insured people have access to high-tech diagnostic medicine and extreme life-prolonging measures. It is a story of failed government leadership and a health care system that is floundering. It will get worse as baby boomers get old.
One thing is certain. Hospitals cannot stay in business if they continue to lose money. Until the American health system is drastically rehabilitated, hospitals, their staffs and boards are headed straight for the shoals. Throwing the nurses overboard will not save them.
Jo Anne Beemon via email
Turnaround for judge
Yes, another letter / opinion directed towards the behavior of Judge Gilbert. The more letters that I read offering understanding and leniency towards your Honor, the more outraged I become and less able to harness my silence. I am sorry this happened to a respected member of our community, but I am not sorry that he got caught. Perhaps now he may feel what its like for those who get caught and have to stand in front of him in his courtroom.
I will admit that my vendetta is personal, as all three of my children, when they were teenagers in Traverse City, experienced the fear and uncertainty of being “caught“ irregardless of the circumstances: being in a friend‘s car with marijuana or at a party that was raided and yes, even guilty of a “puff or two.“ Well, now they are still paying the consequences every time they fill out a job application that requires an answer to that conviction question. Specifically, my daughter happened to draw Tom Gilbert as her court-appointed attorney for a misdemeanor. She was young, scared and unknowledgeable of the entire judicial process. Yes, she committed the act, but her lawyer, who was designated to represent her, was cold, indifferent and minimally spent time with her to “understand“ the situation or even know her beyond her name on his docket. Where was the understanding when the roles were reversed?
Yes, we all make mistakes and must understand and forgive, but we also must abide by the laws. So, when laws are broken, even by one careless act, and as my children learned, there are far-reaching consequences and restitution. Should we expect any less of the person who delivers these judgements ? I can‘t.
(The writers name has been omitted by request to preserve the anonimity of her children.)
I am thankful to see that you have told the story about the anthrax vaccine (11/21). I am director of education and research for Michigan Opposing Mandatory Vaccines, a nonprofit organization dedicated to insuring freedom for parents in Michigan to make educated vaccine choices for their children.
I know Major Randy Bates personally and helped organize a rally in Lansing on the capitol steps last year for the anti-anthrax vaccine movement. I am not only deeply concerned for the servicemen of this country, but the children as well. They are being exposed to toxic chemicals through the childhood vaccines.
As I write, the Senate just passed the “Homeland Security Act,“ which gives the government the power to force all Americans to get the smallpox vaccine. Very few people know about this vaccine and the special interest groups pushed this act through before it was thoroughly discussed.
I am part of a huge network of vaccine groups around the country, and we all spent hours faxing and calling our senators to plead with them to hold up the vote, or vote no. Along with the vaccine mandate, they snuck in, at the last minute, an amendment which bails out a pharmaceutical company called Eli Lilly. The company manufactures thimerosol, a form of mercury used in childhood vaccines. This drug manufacturer is targeted by class action law suits all around the country because strong evidence suggests that thimerosol is one of the main reasons for the huge increase in autism. They covered their butt by adding in a clause that, “Eli Lilly cannot be held liable for any litigation due to the thimerosol in vaccines.“ There is no thimerosol in the smallpox vaccine discussed in the Homeland Security Act, and therefore, this should not have been included in the act.
Well, the sick children of the USA just got screwed over. Autism affects one in every 150 children at this time and the statistics just keep on going up. There is overwhelming evidence that thimerosol is a key factor in the cause of autism, thanks to Congressman Dan Burton and the hearings he has been holding in Washington.
Mary Tocco via email