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Needle Exchange

Some readers say our article on a "harm reduction" approach to the drug problem is, itself, harmful.

Your report, "First, Reduce Harm" (November/December 2008), on drug addiction was the most moving and frightening that I've read in some time. What a dilemma it poses! We in the U.S. can hardly suggest that we are doing it right. Here we have drug dealers with suitcases full of money, policemen and border security corruption being rampant and juvenile dealers and crime on every city street corner. Our system cries for some change and experimentation with alternate methods.

Albert J. Kubany
Flint, Mich.

A Human Rights Violation?
"First, Reduce Harm" is based on the skewed concept of harm reduction associated with needle "exchange" and so-called safe injection site programs. These programs not only accept drug use without attempting to help people to sobriety; they create the dangerous misperception that drugs are safe.

I read with trepidation about the dubious onsite "residential rehab" facility associated with Insite. Is the "gateway into detox" walking down an aisle lined with junkies shooting up? For addicts considering sobriety, this visual trigger is a major impediment to completion of the trip.

This article proclaims Insite is testing the theory that its program keeps junkies from engaging in crimes but ignores the fact when people are using drugs their judgment is impaired. Insite merely provides addicts "safety" from law enforcement intervention that can leverage them into treatment and save their lives. Is it fair to be "testing" a concept with people's lives while aiding and abetting their drug use?

Drug overdoses have increased (per coroner reports) since injection sites opened. A credible 2006 study found that addicts now account for 18,000 to 20,000 days at an inner-city hospital in Vancouver per year.

There is no "exchange" going on. The author describes addicts coming to Insite to grab a fistful of needles — over 2 million needles are handed out every year — and then he walks down a Vancouver sidewalk stepping over countless dirty needles. Addiction itself is a public safety and health crisis to which Insite is negatively contributing.

As a drug policy and prevention expert for more than 25 years, I assure you that these programs were established without solid evidence of reducing HIV and other blood-borne infections. They are violating human rights — those of drug-free citizens and of addicted individuals who deserve legitimate abstinence-based treatment. As long as funding is poured into these drug-enabling programs rather than legitimate intervention and treatment programs, everyone loses!

Calvina L. Fay
St. Petersburg, Fla.

The Need for Jail
Your article "First, Reduce Harm" is harmful itself as it encourages people to "accept the notion that people aren't going to stop abusing drugs." Methods for reducing harm discourage abusers from stopping drug use. Drug courts have demonstrated the need for jail threat to help people get off drugs, and numerous celebrities have credited having had to spend time in jail due to their drug use with saving their lives.

As for 1 in 3 Americans having tried some kind of illicit drug once, the usage started before age 21 in essentially all cases, which points to the need for more effective programs for prevention of drug use by youth.

Since drug use has become so prevalent among youth, there also needs to be school programs for random drug testing of students. Parents need that assistance, as do their children (the students), to help them remain drug-free during their immature growing-up years.

Effective (action against) youth drug-use and possession is needed. Harm reduction for adult drug use is too late and is not effective.

Nancy Starr
Erie, Pa.

B Ratings Fail to Make the Grade
As they flounder in their aptly named "B Ratings System" ("How to B Good," November/December), Gilbert et al. may be forgetting Gilbert's axiom ("Don't believe your own shit"). What's missing are metrics. A competitor could score with an "A Ratings System" that actually measures corporate progress toward serving the public interest.

What's going on here? A simple Web search reveals plenty of socially responsible business screening and opportunities for socially responsible investing. Neither cleaning up your act nor treating people right requires amending your charter. God help us if socially responsible behavior requires a passing grade on a test with 200 questions.

For decades, companies have been proving that total quality management embraces employees, suppliers, the community and our environment. TQM improves efficiency, reduces waste and increases profits. The big four who pioneered TQM — W. Edwards Deming, Joseph Juran, Philip Crosby and Kaoru Ishikawa — didn't mess around with corporate charters, questionnaires or vague mission statements.

Give the lads at "B Ratings System" high marks for creating a profitable brand out of thin air. But without requiring objective evidence of good behavior, the "B" approach could divert companies and the public agencies that monitor them from establishing and enforcing limits.

Richard Reid
Salem, Ore.

Setting the Record Straight
In your story about the role of race in the election ("How a Race About Race Could Be Less About Race," October), Michael Haederle cited my remarks correctly save one grievous error. I did not say — nor would I ever imply — that the fact that some young whites in part support Obama because he is black is "reverse racism." It is not. As you know, this is a term incorrectly used by the right wing to denounce affirmative action. It is an absurd charge in any context. Until white Americans suffer two centuries of slavery and another century of legal segregation, there can be no "reverse racism" in the United States.

Thomas F. Pettigrew
University of California, Santa Cruz

Support for the Vets
The long, difficult process of filing VA claims is one of the many issues our returning heroes are facing ("The VA Brush-Off," October). So much needs to be done to ease the transition for our mentally and physically wounded veterans. I'm so glad Eggemeyer found someone to help him. Too many go without because they don't know where to reach out and find real help!

Brannan Vines
Lake Wylie, S.C.

Diaper Bank's Deposits Stink
Two million plastic diapers landfilled annually: "Congratulations, ladies." What would the Disposable Heroes of Hypocrisy have to say now? Your article "Clean Start" (October) left me chafed. So I came up with a new bike sticker: "Dispose of your child's future with Pampers advertising."

The amount of money spent on this disposable diaper campaign sure would pay for a lot of seamstresses to make diapers out of clean rags otherwise landfilled. This would create jobs rather than a black hole at the landfill.

Douglass Andrew Smith
Trinidad, Calif.

Family Planning Should Precede the Need for Diapers
My concern is the story about the good work of Joanne Goldblum in providing diapers for impoverished children. She is to be commended. But her work does not take into consideration the long run. Where is Planned Parenthood for the parents she supports? Who plans to bring a child into the world when she cannot take care of its basic needs for hygiene? Parents-to-be need thoughtful planning and information about birth control.

Second, those diapers take 450 years to biodegrade. Many parents who are concerned about this issue use cloth diapers. Yes, they require washing. I remember, at the age of 6, washing the diapers of my baby sister. It did not bother me because I did it for my darling sister.

Joanne Marrow
Professor emeritus, California State University, Sacramento
Sacramento, Calif.

The Markets, Falsely Maligned
In "Market Failure" (October), the author of the review of the book by Lawrence Brown and Lawrence Jacobs, The Private Abuse of the Public Interest: Market Myths and Public Muddles(U. of Chicago Press), confused me. He says, "America now faces blowback from 40 years of political dominance by right-wing market utopians, who championed extreme industry deregulation only to increase government's size and power." But other than former representative Dick Armey of Texas, no one is mentioned who actually promoted free markets. Nor is there any mention of any policies, other than something vague referred to as "deregulation," that actually reduced government intervention in the economy and reduced the size and cost of government (which would have been implied by political policies that favor the free market). Indeed, the author notes that Brown and Jacobs observe that "small-government rhetoric often directly contradicts real-world policy." If this is so, evidently the so-called market utopians achieved nothing, and none of what is happening today in our economy can be blamed on the free market. And, indeed, the meltdown in the credit industry is due to extensive government interference by way of instructions to such government-backed organizations as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to lower the price of credit so as to help out those who cannot afford market prices! This is what mostly contributed to the current financial fiasco, not the free market!

The mantra today from statists tends to be that everyone around the globe has become a market fundamentalist. But this is a myth and can only be promoted by those who want to discredit markets despite the fact that they are anything but ubiquitous in the world, even in America. The difficulties with the economy are not created by free market processes but by the very costly system of the mixed economy. This system wants it both ways: economically sound policies as well as public policies that make it easy for everyone to live well. That is tantamount to trying to square the circle.

Tibor R. Machan
Silverado, Calif.

Justice Denied by Weak-Kneed Journalists
Weak-kneed journalism also operates in the reverse ("Innocent Until Reported Guilty," October). In addition to elevating police/prosecutors' charges to fact, we seem to accept when police or prosecutors fail to charge someone when evidence of a crime is hard to ignore. Has it been that so many strong editors and reporters have already bailed on our ailing industry that we're left with a sea of human tape recorders, afraid or unwilling to challenge sources and yet incapable of seeing why readership so steadily declines? If anyone in this society should remain committed to good citizenship, it should be journalists. And that takes guts.

Debbie Gebolys
Columbus, Ohio

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