Sam on Wry
In regard to Patricia Calhoun's July 22 column, "The Answer to a Riddle," I'm glad to see that Sam Riddle is taking some heat! I've heard Tom Martino and Peter Boyles speak their minds about Sam, but it was nice to see a lengthy and thoughtful editorial questioning him. The morning that I saw Sam Riddle's photo on the front page of the Denver Rocky Mountain News (at the hospital, comforting one of Vikki Buckley's loved ones), I called Martino's show asking if anyone could find out if he was on the clock during the family's "time of need." Unfortunately, Martino was out for the week and I never got an answer.
To read that friends and family were there holding a vigil at the hospital was okay, but who could have guessed that Sam Riddle and his clients the Shoelses would be there? I had no idea that the Shoelses were so close to Ms. Buckley. (I believe Mr. Shoels was quoted as saying that Ms. Buckley was "like a sister.") Did they know Ms. Buckley before Sam Riddle contacted them after Columbine? Of course, Sam Riddle has said that he was well worth his fee and is more than happy to attack his accusers rather than defend his positions. I heard him do exactly that when he hosted Jay Marvin's KHOW show a couple of weeks ago. The topic was the upcoming Safeway strike, and I was angered when I heard callers try to offer counter-arguments to his pro-union stance. When callers spoke of replacement workers working through any possible strike, Sam's basic response was to insist that there were no replacement workers, only "scabs." No sense in debating the issue when you have the ability to attack the caller and hang up on them!
In my opinion, Sam Riddle holds the same esteem in this town as Ann Sulton (Follow That Story!, July 22). Remember the righteous attorney who defended the "victim" car thief who killed a cop during his high-speed getaway attempt, then was injured because he was slammed onto a gurney before being loaded into an ambulance? Both Ms. Sulton and Mr. Riddle are obviously out to even the playing field for those who are being slandered in the press. Of course, their only reward is the satisfaction of bettering the community (oh, yeah, and collecting some decent cash for their efforts, too!).
Stay on Sam's ass, Patty! You go, girl!
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I have a two-pronged letter regarding two Westword articles, both dealing with the medical community.
Gayle Worland's "Missed Diagnosis," in the July 22 issue, dealt with the mistakes doctors have made in several cases, their unmitigated arrogance after being called to task, and the lack of recourse besides the figurehead Board of Medical Examiners, which does nothing for injured patients. That is why we need a valid Patients Bill of Rights, but insurance companies and doctors have diluted that effort. Only if we band together and demand accountability from providers are we ever going to see a change. Most doctors arrogantly refer people to mental-health practitioners when they are incapable of diagnosing a particular problem, and this is a common problem, especially with women and the elderly, who are victims of the medical profession.
The other article was T.R. Witcher's "This is Crazy," in the June 17 issue, which described Stan Israel's 72-hour hold in a psychiatric ward for no good reason except the absolute arrogance of the medical community.
I don't need to elaborate on the articles, both of which were well-reported. Keep up the good work, Westword. Obviously, Colorado has a long way to go with medical care. The state needs to stop bragging and improve standards of health care. Thank you for your paper; it's needed here!
This is my first letter to the editor, but I feel strongly about Gayle Worland's "Missed Diagnosis." I almost lost my daughter due to a doctor's arrogance and smugness. She was below her birth weight at two months and was listless and uninterested. For two weeks she had a constant low fever and diarrhea. My pediatrician kept blaming her weight loss and lethargy on the quality of my breast milk. He had me try Jell-O water and goat's-milk-formulas and banana-based formulas. He ignored me (I was a very young mother, eighteen years old), and nothing I said was taken seriously. He kept telling me, "Try this for a week or so..." And she just kept failing.
I contracted strep throat, and with a fever of 104, I couldn't care for her. In desperation, I took her to the hospital. Thank God I did. If I hadn't brought her in that morning, the nurses told me, she'd have died of dehydration by afternoon. There were two other babies admitted who were born on the same day and in the same delivery room (it hadn't been cleaned properly), and the other babies were admitted on the second or third day for fever and diarrhea.
Please, mothers, trust yourselves. Doctors aren't God (even though we pay them as if they were), and no one knows your baby as well as you do. If your insurance company is objecting to treatment you feel is necessary or won't pay for a second opinion (or a third!), find the care on your own. It's better to have a healthy baby and a big bill in the mail! Luckily, my daughter had no lasting effects from this incident. She's happy and healthy and grown now. But believe me, neither of us take a doctor's word as gospel. Ask questions--ask "why" until you get a clear answer. Don't let the smoke and mirrors confuse you! Be strong and persevere; you are on a righteous quest.
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In Gayle Worland's story, most interesting was the paragraph that stated that "four pediatricians--including Dr. Schmitt--responded to the medical board's query on his behalf, stating that Fries's care was appropriate and did not deviate from the standard of care..."
This is very telling. In other words, the desired or expected or acceptable standard of care given by physicians is the standard of care which this family received from Dr. Fries. Yet it looks as if the boy would have died if he had continued under only this doctor's care, whereas the second doctor properly diagnosed and treated him, and thus his life was saved. I wonder why the judges of society's reasonable expectations of medical care would consider the standard of care exhibited by Dr. Fries to be adequate or acceptable? Something's wrong here!
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During a recent "you can, too, go home again" Denver visit, it was wonderful to find Robin Chotzinoff's evocative piece on the Denver Dry Tea Room ("Tea and Sympathy," July 15). This served as the office lunchroom for many of us who worked at the Denver Post when it was at 15th and California streets.
Fortunately, Robin was born too late to have experienced the quaint sexism that for years must have been official marching orders for the "hostesses." There were a few large round tables reserved for men only. When the waiting line was long and a few empty chairs could be spotted at those male preserves, inquiring women might be told, "Oh, honey, you wouldn't want to sit there. Those men are smoking cigars." Men were always given spacious tables with some privacy, even if they were accompanied by only one or two women. Strolling in with Post restaurant critic Barry Morrison assured any damsel a good seat, no matter how crowded the queue. But two women together usually were led to tiny tables mere inches from their neighbors. I shall never forget a long lunch with the late Judy Brimberg, a Post colleague, who needed to thrash out some man trouble. At the next--very nearby--table sat a sweet grandmother type. When the woman got up to leave, she patted Judy's arm and said, "Thank you, dear, for such an interesting lunch!"
Speaking of the Post, I was startled this month to see that the old building is gone--but the metal bearing its motto still stands. "O Justice, when expelled from other habitations, make this thy dwelling place." (Did I get that right?) Tourists must be puzzled that the "dwelling place" today is a parking lot.
Barbara Haddad Ryan
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Sermons on the Mount
I just finished reading Julie Jargon's "The Black Sheep," in the July 1 issue of your paper, sent to me by a friend. It is a powerful piece of journalism, the kind of social commentary the public deserves from its press but sadly, in these days, so seldom gets. Unless I miss my guess, Julie Jargon is a reporter by whom the future will be well-served. Her balanced and objective article nonetheless highlights the central difficulty many of us have with the evangelical right: namely, as William Sloane Coffin recently put it, that "to many American evangelists, faith is a goody they got and others didn't, an extraordinary degree of certainty that most can't achieve. This kind of certainty," said Coffin, "is dangerous for it can be and often is worn as a merit badge or used as a club to clobber others."
From Jargon's brilliant analytic piece, one is forced to the sad conclusion that precisely such behavior is the south Denver evangelical clergy's response to the recent tragedy at Columbine High School. The Queen City of the Plains deserves better from those who presume to guide its morals.
The July 22 letter from L. Long--"If you think Focus on the Family is homophobic, wait till you meet God"--says more about being incredibly selective in what a person chooses to believe.
What about "Judge not least..."? What about not casting the first stone? What about thieves, liars, rapists, etc.? Why do you focus on homosexuals? What is your psychological problem?
My belief is that if you talked to God, He would tell you that having faith in Him is a commitment of all of your consciousness--all of the time--to keep your house in order, leaving Him to take care of His business His way. That you have a belief does not make it true. That you have a belief has no bearing on anyone's reality other than your own. And to make such a statement in public is more indicative of your ignorance and lack of compassion. Christians are not God's police. They're more like God's mafia.
If Christians want to live up to their commitment to God, they should be expressing the truth about God as loving, compassionate and forgiving, all positive because the truth is that is what God is--all good all the time. What we as humans suffer is how we use the gift God gave us, our consciousness, to create hurt, fear, shame, guilt, prejudice and the resulting alienation. God doesn't do that; we do it to each other. That is the only Hell there is.
Every week I look forward to Peter Gilstrap's Jesus of the Week--only to be disappointed. Now, please don't get me wrong. When I first discovered your weekly, JOTW was great. Each week I would grab the latest issue and flip through the cosmetic-surgery ads and the free-hot-sex stuff to arrive at your latest installment. I would soon find myself awash in recollections of sweet junior-high humor, brought back to the days when poking fun at the obvious seemed novel. You know, back when each of us were convinced that we were the discoverers of the underarm fart noises. Oh, how simple life was back then...
Alas, we Coloradans have come to expect so much more from cutting-edge Californians like Gilstrap. Sure, the thinly veiled bitterness is still exciting, but if you're going to spoon-feed us, why not consider an addition to your paper? Include that Buddha guy sometimes--now, that's a character! He's always so fat and jolly. And how about some pictures of those blue-skinned Hindu gods? What, with the flaming war chariots, the bristling weaponry and those terrific sex scenes, you could surely get a lot of laughs.
Please, Peter. Not only could you float to unexplored levels of hip "journalism," but you could also advance Colorado's education on how to behave as we follow your wake into uncharted popular culture.
Music to Our Ears
With the recent move of Michael Roberts out of the Backbeat section of Westword, I wanted to make two things known. First, Colorado's hip-hop community owes Mr. Roberts an enormous debt of gratitude for his continuous and insightful coverage of the genre. While almost every other media outlet ignores the art form, Westword has embraced hip-hop and turntablism, thanks primarily to Mr. Roberts.
Also, to all the bands who think they will get signed by majors and embark on world tours now that Mr. Roberts has shifted gears: I'm sorry--you still don't sound any better.
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Editor's note: As Michael Roberts reported in last week's Feedback, he's moving on from his role as Backbeat editor--and up to the front of the paper, where he'll write about assorted topics, including the media. Laura Bond is Westword's new music editor; her Backwash column debuts this week on page 93.
Letters policy: Westword wants to hear from you, whether you have a complaint or compliment about what we write from week to week. Letters should be no more than 200 words; we reserve the right to edit for libel, length and clarity. Although we'll occasionally withhold an author's name on request, all letters must include your name, address and telephone number. Write to:
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Missed a story? The editorial contents of Westword, dating back to July 1, 1996, are available online at www.westword.com/archive/index.html.
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