Letters to the Editor

From the week of October 30, 2003

Lots of Luck

Park and chide:Regarding Patricia Calhoun's "Attention, Cherry Creek Shoppers," in the October 23 issue:

While, in my opinion, parking in the Cherry Creek shopping district shouldn't cost a dime, there is a simple solution: Park in the free garage at the mall, and walk the measly 250 yards to the district. Are we Denverites so lazy that no one considers this an option?

David Willis
Larkspur


Pinning Pinnacol

They haven't a prayer:Regarding Stuart Steers's "Adding Insult to Injury," in the October 16 issue:

If you believe in prayer, please join me in praying that the Plagues of the Pharaohs are visited hard and fast on the lords of Pinnacol Assurance and their agents -- "nurses" and "doctors" -- who violate their oath to "do no harm." While we're at it, add in all those who make a living depriving others of their jobs, health and happiness -- not just those who make a killing "slashing jobs," but those who computerize others out of jobs, move jobs to slave labor in China, etc. And don't forget the legislators who make this all legal.

Please, if you're one of those who indiscriminately pray for the souls of those listed above, consider: They have none. You're confusing the prayer waves and diffusing planetary plagues from those who cause them.

Evan Ravitz
Boulder

Making change:Just a note of thanks for "Adding Insult to Injury," an excellent article. One wonders how to make a difference and compel change. Journalists are in a position to do so as long as their writing seems fair and balanced while exposing things that need change. Stuart Steers accomplished that.

Martin Linnet
via the Internet

Labor daze:The Colorado workers' compensation system sometimes fails to provide the best outcomes for injured workers, but is it fair to lay all the blame on Pinnacol Assurance? Stuart Steers interviewed one member of the claimant's bar, who then referred him to some of his clients whose experiences with Pinnacol Assurance have not been good. Is this really supposed to be considered an investigative approach to the subject matter?

The workers' compensation system is a complex mix of legal and medical arenas that pits the interests of workers against employers. Do Colorado's political bodies favor the business community? Absolutely. The same bodies love to attack state government agencies. Pinnacol Assurance has to be both state agency and non-profit business to accomplish its mission, and, consequently, it is an easy target for all of the parties in the fray. Treasurer Mike Coffman can attack Pinnacol Assurance to get name recognition in his run for governor. State senator Ron Tupa can keep the donations coming from the claimant's bar by demanding reforms in the system to benefit workers.

Coffman and Tupa are not very objective sources of information about what is best for the Colorado workers' compensation system. A better-researched article would have provided more insight into a serious issue.

Name withheld on request

No-fault, no foul:I used to do some legal work for Pinnacol, and I now work for a private-sector competitor. I liked Stuart Steers's "Adding Insult to Injury," but felt it was skewed against the employer/carrier position. The brief history of how the SCIA morphed into Pinnacol and the parallel history of changes in the workers' comp system offer no support for Steers's conclusion that Pinnacol executives are overpaid. There is no correlation between the current rate of pay for Pinnacol executives and the changes in the Workers' Compensation Act.

The general theme of Steers's article was that, due to the power and influence of employers and carriers with the legislature, injured workers are being denied benefits that they are entitled to. The workers' compensation system is a very old no-fault system. Both before and after the changes in the 1990s, the system was/is full of latent fraud. Certainly there is some fraud with employers, but I believe that this latent fraud exists primarily with the claimants and the doctors, and most cases involve what would be relatively minor injuries outside of work that are being treated by doctors in the system. The employer may have incentive to deny that an injury happened at work since, if successful, that claim does not count on the employer's premium; after the claim is accepted, however, much of that incentive dissolves. I would like to know the employers' and Pinnacol's positions on the three claims referenced; I imagine that there is a separate side to these stories from these entities.

Please remember that the workers' compensation system was put into place as an alternative to allowing the employee to file suit against the employer for negligence. It was designed to give the injured worker some benefits while getting treatment for the injury without regard to fault for the injury. In a majority of the cases that I have seen, if fault were a factor, I believe that the injured worker's recovery from a jury would have been significantly reduced or eliminated. The changes in the law did not give the employers the upper hand; they leveled the playing field.

All this does not mean that Pinnacol executives aren't overcompensated; they might be. Further, some injured workers (perhaps even those in Steers's article) are undercompensated. At least Pinnacol is getting its reserves up to a point that payment of claims is guaranteed; then injured workers are covered, and that's the goal of the whole system.

Frank Cavanaugh
via the Internet

Trick or treatment:Thanks for writing about the horrible Colorado workers' compensation system. The administrative trial system for workers' comp is equally bad. I was fired after calling in sick and reporting a back injury; I was subsequently denied treatment. Because the workers' comp laws and procedures are so complex, I had to hire an attorney to represent me.

In Colorado, the burden of proof at workers' comp hearings is on the worker, who has limited resources, and the process is tilted heavily in favor of the employer's insurance company, which has unlimited resources. So workers have an uphill fight to prove their claim. I ended up losing the trial, and now I'm appealing the decision. My attorney was pretty worthless. I could sue him for malpractice, but I don't have the money. I feel that the workers' compensation laws need to be repealed. Let workers sue their employers in court. That would be better than not having any chance of medical treatment for my herniated disk.

Funny, the Republican lawmakers just repealed the no-fault auto-insurance law in Colorado, and now people in auto accidents have to go back to the courts to settle claims. I wonder why the Republican lawmakers won't extend that process to workers who have accidents at work.

Employers have a great deal here in Colorado!

Bob Moser
Littleton

On-the-job injuries:My wife works for Pinnacol Assurance. I can tell you that the people work really hard there; it is the upper management that has all of those perks. If you look into the company a little closer, you will see that the employees do a good job, but the upper management pats itself on the back with all of those bonuses. They aren't just hurting the workers who make workers' comp claims, but also their own employees.

Name withheld on request


He's Good Enough...

Feat of clay:After reading in the October 16 Off Limits about Bill O'Reilly and Al Franken engaging in a near pit fight, I wonder one thing: Whatever happened to Celebrity Deathmatch? Maybe the Claymation series was becoming repetitive, trite and dull, like almost everything else in the media these days. Yet now the show would seem so appropriate.

I would love to put money on good 'ol Stuart Smalley to pummel O'Reilly's fat head in some highly entertaining celebrity boxing. Wouldn't you?

Peter Cohen
Golden


Jam and Dread

Who moved my cheese?Dave Herrera, your thoughts on the jam-band scene have merit, and I appreciate your willingness to explore (The Beatdown October 23). I would like to offer that Widespread Panic is quite different from the String Cheeses of the world. My background is Black Sabbath (the first five albums, when Ozzy wasn't a heavy-metal shill) and Zeppelin, with Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers thrown in.

Believe it or not, Panic sates my savage soul. It has some dirty, dirty music, and I feel it gets unfairly lumped into the hippie classification because of its jams and because some wookies had nowhere to go after Phish disbanded. The core following, however, is unmistakably Southern and educated, believe it or not. That doesn't mean you won't find some rednecks in the crowd. There are probably more Jack Daniel's bottles at a WSP show than there are dreadlocks at one of SCI's. The point is, its sound is not a mellow meandering mélange, as many think. In its purest form, it's ass-kicking Southern rock, and my hardcore roots are amply satisfied by the "heavy hippie" sounds of Widespread Panic.

Rick Gallagher
via the Internet

In a jam:It was only a matter of time before Westurd chimed in with a brilliantly scathing attack on jam bands and hippie music. Dave Herrera, take a page out of the current Music Critics for Dummies, copy it and throw your name on top. I wish I had a dollar for every "music critic" who whines and complains that all of his friends love jam bands, but gosh, he just doesn't get it. Lemme tell you, it ain't no big conspiracy to ostracize you from this music you so mock.

Now, I am not going to sit here and defend bands like local heroes String Cheese or Phish or the Dead, but what I want to know is why is the music so reviled? Reading and re-reading your astute observations, I have gleaned a handful of platitudes and nothing else. You get a weekly column in the local flesh-peddling alt-weekly that reaches a fairly large audience of the unwashed masses, and all you can conjure up at your Mac is "It's b-o-r-i-n-g"? Give me a break. Do some work.

The other beef I have with this piece of so-called journalism is all of the time spent talking about the fans of these bands. You do such a marvelous job of detailing your experiences in the scene, like an ethnographer studying chimps in the jungle. As a reader, should I care about how you feel about other music fans? Write about the music. It makes me wanna puke to know they are cutting down trees to print Westurd so you can tell the world your personal opinions about music fans of bands you dislike. Lemme ask you this: What music fans do you like? What concert did you go to recently where there weren't assholes wasted and/or talking the entire time?

Wait, lemme guess: You are into the DJ/club scene, where it's so cutting-edge and hip. No one in the clubs is on drugs, trust funds or is anything at all like hippies. No. No way. That music isn't boring or seriously drug-enhanced -- but I'm sure when you're touting the next crop of record-spinners in town, you will mention all of the ecstasy-fueled morons who are going to see some dick from the U.K. blend records. You will, right? Or how about the next big indie or punk show at the Ogden? You will spend several paragraphs ripping on the trucker-hat-wearing fools dripped in irony with their Punky Brewster shirts and wallet chains. Those disgusting people have to make you angry, too, with all of their posturing amidst their incessant beer-swilling and dissecting of the new Strokes album. Don't forget to point out those silly bastards. A music critic must rise above the masses to his/her place at the top of Objective Journalist Mountain, right?

Thanks again for reaffirming stereotypes, keeping the status quo for "music critics" and utterly failing to criticize music.

Kevin Ringgenberg
via the Internet

Shall we dance?Dave Herrera, I'm a Deadhead, but I have a sense of humor, and I have to admit that Beatdown was funny. The part about waking up in your own drool was great!

Have you seen Warren Haynes live in any of his incarnations (solo, Gov't Mule, Allman Brothers, Phil Lesh & Friends)? If not, you'd better check him out before giving up on jam bands. I haven't seen anyone with soul like his since I last saw Jerry. He is playing with both Govt Mule and PL&F on November 14-16 at the Fillmore; my wife and I are traveling out from Utah for the shows.

You have to go live, though. For the most part, CDs don't do it -- although Warren's version of Elton John's "Indian Sunset" on a recent CD is unbelievable. To really appreciate jam bands, you have to like to dance or like to do drugs, or both. I like to dance, since my drugging days are long gone.

Paul Fisher
Pleasant Grove, Utah


Dirty Dishes

Superzero:I have been reading Jason Sheehan's column for the past year now, and though I walk to the box each week with high hopes, I'm generally disappointed.

I've become increasingly aware of Sheehan's complete disregard for the restaurant community in Colorado. We are all aware that on our last day of work, whether in an office or on a bus route, we tend to stop and smell the roses, as it were, a bit more than most other days. Instead of talking about Duy Pham's last evening at Luna Hotel as one of a stand-up guy who stayed on even after his general manager walked out and he was told his crew was being fired, Sheehan practically ruins him in this town by making him sound like an irresponsible drunk.

With a more recent review of Mel's Restaurant and Bar ("Hum Enchanted Evening," October 9), which we all know is a place that had its day but is a bit dusty, I felt as though I were reading straight from Kitchen Confidential when Sheehan chose to describe the mood at a time before backups are stowed in the kitchen coolers.

I think many of Westword's longtime readers look to Cafe each week for a review that is passionate about the reviewer's experience with the atmosphere and the cuisine -- and less concerned about turning the review into a superhero adventure in which everyone is villain or comrade and it rains kisses or cancer.

Rob Esposito
Denver

Fowl bawl:It may make Jason Sheehan feel better about eating foie gras to think that "God put the critters on the planet specifically to act as little foie gras factories," but that isn't much consolation to the birds ("So Foie, So Good," October 16).

Foie gras is produced by force-feeding ducks and geese huge amounts of food to grotesquely enlarge their livers. Workers shove pipes down the birds' throats and shoot six to seven pounds of a corn mixture into their stomachs every day. Some of the birds' stomachs literally explode.

A PETA investigator witnessed ducks on a foie gras farm having their necks damaged and even ripped open by feeding pipes. Water poured out of a hole in one bird's neck when he tried to drink. Some birds were so debilitated that they were unable to walk and could only push themselves around with their wings. Said one wildlife pathologist who examined birds from the facility, "If this kind of thing was happening to dogs, it would be stopped immediately."

Foie gras is sick. It even has a diagnosis: hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver disease. It is an indelicate "delicacy" that no one should touch with a ten-foot feeding tube.

Alisa Mullins, staff writer
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

Watching the waste line:I appreciated Jason Sheehan's moralizing about the food chain and our need to be more thoughtful about how our meat ends up on the table. I agree that we live in a time of great abundance, but that seems to generate an equal amount of waste. And when I think of the enormous amount of perfectly edible food that is disposed of every day from hotels, convention centers, restaurants, hospitals, grocery stores and homes, it does make me wonder. While some of the above do make a non-publicized humanitarian effort to recycle food (usually through a non-profit third party that collects food for the homeless shelters so that the establishment does not create a breadline out the back door), too much ends up in the landfill.

More can and should be done. Would it be inappropriate to call attention to the restaurants that are donating leftovers of unused food to the homeless and others in need? (I'm not sure how this could be done -- maybe a window decal that they participate in such a program.) I understand that there are various health-code regulations governing the recycling of food, but if Sheehan is truly committed to the idea that every animal's life should not be in vain, then we as a society should be doing more to make every meal count. If every life is sacred, then I, as a consumer, might be more inclined to dine at an establishment that is committed to making a daily difference by honoring the animal that gave its life -- as Jason suggests we do.

P.S.: While I may not always agree with Sheehan's reviews, I enjoy his opinionated and entertaining style of writing. It fits in well with the overall tone of the other great Westword writers.

Peter Caplan
Centennial


For Crying Out Loud!

Language barrier:William Leifheit, who wrote the letter in the October 9 issue titled "Pilgrim's Progress," might do well to remember that many other languages besides English were spoken here in the Americas long before the Pilgrims landed. And our people didn't make yours leave. Heck, the Pilgrims didn't even bother to learn many of the native languages here.

So how about instead enlightening yourself and expanding your knowledge of other cultures and languages? People in other countries usually speak more than one language. This enhances their communication with each other and opens many other opportunities that you will never have.

Keith Privette
Seffner, Florida

Old yeller:Here is my rebuttal to all the people who do not like my translation of the words el grito (Letters, September 25). I'm a Colorado native, born and raised in Glenwood Springs, and went to a school there where they only taught Castillian Spanish out of a book called El Camino Real. Growing up, we were taught our Spanish by our folks, who came from Taos, New Mexico. My mother was part Cherokee, my dad was part Ta-Wa. This is the only Spanish we knew, and I will gladly go to my grave knowing that el grito means "the yell," not "the cry." To cry or weep is llora.

All you naysayers can define el grito your way. Our family will define it ours. Thanks to all who wrote in.

Vincent Sandoval
Denver

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