When Worst Comes to Qwest

Letters to the Editor

The numbers game: Stuart Steers's "Wring Out the Old," in the May 23 issue, was the best-written article I have read yet on the downfall of US West (Worst), now known as QWEST Worst! The article was readable and understandable, and it was so nice to read a story written by someone who wasn't biased.

I was a 32-year employee when I retired; thanks to a CWA union contract that allowed me to retire with thirty years of service, I could leave when I still had my sanity. I started with South Western Bell, then moved to Northwestern Bell, then US West and then Qwest. The first twenty years were good; the last twelve were hell. I saw good people fired daily for things that were not even measureable items in the sales-quota requirements. If you weren't making your quota, it didn't matter if you had 29 years -- you were gone. I was a union officer, and I saw many of them gone with lots of service. Lower-level management didn't have any say on how they ran their office: make the dollars or get rid of the bodies not making them.

I'll have been retired three years on June 8, and I can say I am so glad.

Sharon Walton
Omaha, Nebraska

Board games: I want to commend Stuart Steers for his excellent report on Qwest. In my opinion, it deserves to be reprinted in both Barron's and Forbes. You will probably receive some flak from Qwest management, but believe me when I tell you that 99 percent of your readers agree with you.

What amazes me about this whole fiasco is that none of the boardmembers have shown any embarrassment, much less resigned, in acknowledging what they have allowed on their watch. Could it be that their perks, bonuses, etc. from Qwest keep their mouths closed? How are they explaining their side to the thousands of people adversely impacted by this fiasco, who relied on a board to keep the ship from running aground? It would be interesting to know how much remuneration each boardmember received during his tenure for the long and tiring days and nights they must have spent deciding on how to fairly compensate Joe Nacchio and his crack team for a job well done?

Looking forward to reading more of Steers's reports in the future.

Bill Klepinger
Highlands Ranch

Crash course: I just finished reading Stuart Steers's article on Qwest. I am 100 percent in agreement with what he wrote, and what was related to him by others -- but he has not even scratched the surface of what is going on at Qwest. (I became fed up with the way things were going there and left this year.)

Everyone is focused on money matters (i.e., excessive executive compensation, stock prices plummeting, pension plans eroded, etc.) simply because that gets the greatest instant attention. What is not getting any attention at all will have a far greater impact on millions of people as well as the employees (active and retired) and the stockholders. What I am referring to is the day-to-day operations of the company.

Qwest is not spending any money on its physical plant that provides "plain old dial tone." The plant degrades every day due to weather, aging and man-caused problems. But little or no maintenance is being done.

You can run your car without oil for a bit. But sooner rather than later, it will go belly up on you. Like the TV commercial says, you can pay me now or you can pay me later. Well, later is much more expensive than now. Five dollars of oil is far cheaper than $2,500 for a new engine.

You can go to the bank with the fact that not far down the road, you are going to start seeing telephone service degrading at an ever-increasing rate. Large-area service outages as well as localized (neighborhoods) will begin to occur on an almost daily basis. And who does this affect? Every customer and every business in fourteen states. Customers and businesses large and small. Government entities (federal, state and municipal). Anyone who depends on Qwest facilities (either through Qwest itself or through vendors that lease Qwest facilities) is at risk for service interruptions.

Twenty-five to twenty-seven million Qwest customers don't care about the stock price or executive compensation plans or what lies Nacchio is telling to what group. What they care about and depend upon is reliable telephone service. I fear that unless massive changes are made at Qwest, in the near future this service will fail rapidly.

With the debt load that Qwest now bears, it will not be in a position to get the funds to try to rehabilitate the physical plant (personnel and materials), and it will all come crashing down like a house of cards.

Name withheld on request

Gil, Grilled

Publish or perish: Gil Spencer's letter to Westword in the May 30 issue was wrong.

Neil Westergaard was never editor of the Denver Post. When Spencer retired as editor of the Post on September 30, 1993, he recommended Westergaard for the editor's position.

Management chose not to name Westergaard editor, but instead let him continue in the lesser position of executive editor while his performance was evaluated. Past mastheads of the Denver Post verify his title.

After two years, management decided against promoting Westergaard to the top job and recruited an editor from the outside. Westergaard resigned.

Westergaard ultimately got an editor title...at a small downtown weekly. Only the few readers of that publication can determine if his performance appropriately matches the title.

And Spencer? When I called this week to remind him of the facts, I got nothing more than a few choice four-letter words and two hangups. While his memory has failed him in his twilight years, his famous crude language is still intact.

I prefer to remember Spencer when most of his marbles were still in the pouch. And to remember Westergaard as executive editor, which he was -- not editor.

William Dean Singleton, chairman and publisher
The Denver Post

Column Calumny

Future shlock: Michael Roberts, your dislike of Chuck Green is evident and colors your views ("Post Mortem," May 30). While I have high regard for Sue O'Brien, her unverified comment about lack of feedback is overemphasized and unquestioned in your story and in its headline. It seems like you, a columnist, are happy with a competitor's demise. Chuck Green was an honest curmudgeon in the Mike Royko tradition. Papers are getting rid of -- or letting die off and not replacing -- this rare and valuable type of journalist. The replacements: feel-good shlock artists. Now, there's something to bemoan.

Why not give your column over to Chuck Green for a day? It's the right thing to do.

Carry on.

John K. Hartman, professor of journalism
Central Michigan University

Up Chuck: My heart goes out to Colleen Auerbach, who wrote in last week regarding Chuck Green's typical journalistic misinformation vendetta around the arrest of her daughter, Lisl Auman. Chuck Green is the most pathetic piece of mutant turd ever to wipe his filth on any Denver-area "newspapers." In our spare time, for fun, my wife and I used to try and outdo each other finding a new Chuck Green piece in the daily paper that outdid what the other had previously found, as an example of his juvenile, barely literate, writing "style" -- if you could call that pathetic slop a "style" (or, in Chuck's words, maybe: "style! style! style!").

I didn't really keep up on the whole Lisl Auman story, but it was apparent from the beginning that she was going to pay the price of a political campaign to make our prosecutors look like they are doing their job (laugh). Chuck wouldn't care if what he wrote was based on fact or fancy...in fact, all of his columns were obviously based on fancy, and I am absolutely amazed that it took that long for the Post to fire his sorry ass. I figured he had some really dirty pictures of someone in the high ranks of the Post to keep the job as long as he did. My thirteen-year-old son (and I am not exaggerating one bit here), who is more interested in math than language arts by far, outwrites that poodle-humping buffoon. May he stay permanently retired and out of any journalistic light if there is to be any hope in this country.

Sam Coffman
via the Internet

What's in a name? Mr. Anonymous, in your May 23 letter about Michael Roberts's May 16 "Three the Hard Way," you wrote that nobody could dare call you an anti-Semite because your grandfather "nearly died in the Nazi prison camp after helping Jewish families." I don't know if you are real; how can I be sure you had a grandpa? And since when did honorable behavior by one's ancestor immunize a descendant from the responsibility for his own deeds?

Allegedly, your letter was triggered by a concern for "a disturbing trend to bypass the marketplace of ideas." Actually, you were concerned only about "the departure under pressure of reporter Jensen and talk-show host Rivers." Everything else was window dressing. You mentioned the "theft of that sophomoric piece of art from the Boulder Public Library." The person who removed this piece of, ah, art, took an action and was willing to be held accountable. This is more than could be said about you or University of Colorado students who spewed anti-Semitic propaganda anonymously.

You view yourself as a "moderate": You did not agree with "some of Jensen's positions and conclusions," and found Rivers and Rush Limbaugh to be "infuriating." "Moderate" is an adjective. What kind of a "moderate" are you? A moderate conservative? A moderate liberal? A moderate chopped liver? You admitted that had you felt strongly about the opinions you disagree with, you could have written a letter to Jensen, or called Reggie or Rush to argue. You have done nothing of the sort. You just don't give a damn. This is your prerogative, but if you believe that you are a citizen concerned with the marketplace of ideas, you are sadly mistaken or very full of your anonymous self.

You refer to Jensen as a "reporter." Wrong. He wrote an opinion column, often hiding behind other columnists. Even you admitted that "he was sometimes totally wrong and way too harsh on Israel." Unfortunately, the Rocky Mountain News chose to run Jensen's opinions, pretending they were objective reporting. Only recently, under pressure from citizens truly concerned about the marketplace of ideas, did the paper begin to call a spade a spade. Had you been concerned, you would have been complaining to News publisher John Temple about the proper designation of Jensen's writings. Instead, you claimed that Temple "did not have the guts and integrity" and "forced or enticed" Jensen into "resigning." These charges, coming from a gutless wonder such as yourself, give the word chutzpah a tinge of moderation.

Jensen hoisted himself on his own petard. In his anti-Israel zeal, bordering on and sometimes crossing into the realm of anti-Semitism, he committed an egregious violation of journalistic ethics: He attributed words to Ariel Sharon that, given his position as the prime minister, pictured Israel on a par with Nazi Germany. Unfortunately for Jensen, these words belonged to another person. Jensen exposed the News not only to monumental embarrassment, but to a potentially very damaging and costly libel suit. Jensen should have resigned on the spot; I believe he eventually acted as a person of some integrity.

Rather than being honest about the situation, you perpetuated the old cabal that "the Jews own the media." May I now call you an anti-Semite? Mr. Anonymous, have the courage of your convictions, and write your own damned letter to Westword under your own proud name!

Michael Merson

Taking the L.E.A.D.

Sense abilities:We recently read Julie Jargon's article about L.E.A.D. ("Speak and Be Heard," May 9), and were charged to hear that such an initiative is under way. We are occupational therapists working for a private practice called Unique Prints Pediatric Therapy Services. We service children and adolescents with special needs, specifically those with sensory integration dysfunction. Sensory integration dysfunction (SI) and ADHD look very similar. However, often children are misdiagnosed because of the lack of education about what sensory integration dysfunction is. Parents feel that medication is the only choice, and that is far from the truth.

Sensory integration dysfunction, like ADHD, is a neurological problem. Often children who have been diagnosed with ADHD or learning disabilities have SI dysfunction as either the root of the problem or a contributing factor. Unfortunately, symptoms of SI dysfunction are often misinterpreted as psychological or behavioral problems. For example, a child who is hyperactive, inattentive, impulsive and often fidgets or squirms describes a typical child with SI dysfunction. This child is unable to process sensory information in his or her environment. The child either over- or under-registers sensory information coming into the brain. Therefore, a light touch on the arm may feel like a large pin prick and result in the child hitting the person who brushed up against him. There are many treatment approaches to remediate and treat the processing of the central nervous system that are highly effective.

With therapy, many children are able to significantly reduce the amount of medication they are on or go off medication altogether. It is important to note that ADHD is a diagnosis made by a psychologist or psychiatrist, and SI dysfunction is a diagnosis made by an occupational therapist. Many professionals are unaware of SI dysfunction, resulting in misdiagnosis of children. We would invite interested parents to read The Out of Sync Child, by Carol Kranowitz, to find out more information about SI dysfunction.

Kristy Phelps and Stephanie Trabant
via the Internet

Inhale and Hearty

A mean, Clean fighting machine: It's informed stories like Laura Bond's May 30 Backwash that keep me coming back week after week to Westword, and to Backwash in particular. I haven't read or heard anything about the CLEAN-UP bill in the House; I haven't seen it mentioned in any local NYC papers, and if it has gotten national attention, I must have missed it.

I can assure you, however, that I will write a letter to my congressman now. From the information here, it is clear promoters are being required to be responsible for everything that goes on at their shows, including whatever is inhaled, drunk, popped, swallowed or sniffed by irresponsible fans. It's reassuring to know that someone is actually reporting the news.

Nick Costalas
Brooklyn, New York

Prophylactic Measures

Rubber checks: I liked David Holthouse's "Tricks of the Trade," in the May 2 issue. I live just off Colfax, but I handle this a little differently than that lady from the South City Park neighborhood. Instead of a broom, I take a crowbar with me. Anyone I catch in the act, they lose windows, taillights, etc. I've thrown bricks through car windows.

This morning there was another condom in front of my house, so I've added a new strategy: I told Happy Haynes's office that I will start dropping those off in front of the councilwoman's office each time I find one in my neighborhood. If I knew where Mayor Webb or Police Chief Whitman lived, I would drop the condoms off there!

I've had it.

Dieter Zerressen

The hard cell: In her May 30 letter, Lynn Harris suggested that we lock up people against their will for drugs, alcohol and prostitution. She asked, "Couldn't some of [the vacant space] be used to house this type of offender?"

These people are not offending others just by being alcoholics, drug-takers or prostitutes; they are only hurting themselves. Only if they drive drunk or impaired or throw condoms on someone's front porch or commit other such offenses do they become a public nuisance -- for the acts committed. Oddly enough, we call ourselves and aspire to be a "free country." We can't just go around locking up everybody whose lifestyle we don't like. We already have more people locked up than France, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, Singapore and Holland combined. We have the largest percentage of people behind prison bars than any nation in the world (ten times the rate of most industrial countries, according to the book Affluenza).

All drugs, as well as prostitution, should be legalized, so that: 1) Drug addicts would be able to get help instead of being punished for their health and psychological problems; 2) Our taxpayer dollars wouldn't be wasted on incarcerating these people; 3) We could free up more money and space to lock up the child molesters, rapists, murderers and other violent criminals who are a danger to society; and 4) We could live truer to our ideal of being a "free country" -- one that leaves its citizens alone unless they have shown that they can't be trusted to live with others in society.

Benton Wheeler via the Internet


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