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A thief in the night

Surrounded by looming old trees long since in need of pruning, my back yard in downtown Durango is dark and tame, enlivened only by the rustle of leaves left yet un-raked. Walking the narrow concrete path hungrily bordered by my pathetic lawn, one hardly gets a sense of being in the wild. Kyle and I saunter through the back door with little energy, anticipating a quiet conclusion to the evening. Encircled by late-night shadows, we are greeted with the unlikely sounds of crashing picture frames and the dull thud of books as they meet with an unforgiving wood floor. Bolting toward the source of the ruckus, I am stopped dead in my tracks by nothing less than a bushy tail and two yellow glowing eyes peering out at me from the second shelf of my bookcase. Blinking dramatically in disbelief, I bellow the obvious. “Oh, my God, there’s a RACCOON in my living room!” Kyle responds with something equally as brilliant but I scarcely hear him, this creature hiding behind human constructs consumes me. My secure urban lifestyle is suddenly in question; there is a wild animal filed between Faulkner and Kafka.

We devise that our savvy trespasser must have entered through the doggie-door. A vestige of former tenants, I frequently leave this open for the housecats, both of whom stand calmly observing our intruder’s blatant disregard for literary genius. (They have since been fired as guard dogs.) Unwittingly, we had interrupted the bandit attempting to open the cat food bin. Remarkably, she had nearly completed this task. (For the record, I frequently struggle to open this idiotic contraption, and many a morning has found me cursing it.) Of course, in the moment, I find this all very funny and fabulously unexpected. Giddily wielding brooms and fearsome demands such as “Go outside, bad Raccoon!” (no, no, we were actually very sober) we open the front door and begin to gently prod her. Certainly she will run out in order to escape us in all our fierceness. Not at all. Rather, after attempting to scramble further up the shelves and knocking nearly everything off, she runs AWAY from the open door to the opposite corner of the room, under another series of shelves, and hunkers down for a fight. I survey the damage. This beast is now dangerously close to entangling herself in a bramble of electrical cords. Innocent electronics are perched two shelves up, peacefully unaware that they might, at any moment, find themselves dashed to the ground. We stomp and we holler. We swat at the thief with our weapons of domesticity. The tortured beast advances a few inches, bearing its teeth, and ferociously removes the plastic made-in-China end from my broom. I squeal in delighted terror, I should have been a lion-tamer. Yet the beast will not move. Little do we know that while chaos ensues in the front room, another raccoon is entering through the back. My heart skips a beat as my eyes meet with those of another furry interloper crouched at the far end of the hall. I’m staring down a juvenile raccoon desperately looking for its mamma. I shout and flail about, incredulous at this additional insult. Mercifully, the adorable little guy turns tail and runs out the way he came in. Adding to our list of glowing achievements, we have now successfully tormented a single mother and begrudged her latchkey kid its protector.

An hour has passed and the situation is rapidly losing its humor. Kyle and I have already concluded that our methodology is seriously and irreconcilably flawed. At this point, I feel ridiculous, if not wholly incompetent, in light of an opponent whose greatest desire is pilfering cat food. Animal Control is closed, the police cannot help us, and the Division of Wildlife claims raccoons are merely pests, not wild animals (I beg to differ). We slump, deflated and tired. Obviously a new strategy is called for. We retire the battered cleaning equipment. Against my better judgment, Kyle and I simply turn off the lights, leave the door wide open … and leave. And it works; our visitor merely strolls out through the front door. So much for my better judgment. The lesson? Contrary to so many aspects of my personality, to the very manner in which we cope with life’s challenges, perhaps quietly doing nothing, and letting nature takes its course, is more effective than forceful action. That, and its entirely possible that living in town has softened our brains.

– Julie M. Dobbs, Durango

‘Won’t get fooled again’

Dear Editors,

“Won’t get fooled again” were the first words atop the Nov. 8th Durango Telegraph. While you could be quoting The Who, I’m sure it was a reminder to pay attention to the ’08 Presidential election. After all we’ve seen, how could we not? But here we are on the verge of making the same mistake again.

We are coerced by the mainstream media to support the candidate who will maximize their profits. Any unbiased delving into the candidate’s plan for the country or in-depth look at the issues is deemed outside the preferred entertainment loop and too lengthy for sound bites. I sure hope the public is out there digging for answers on their own because the national media continues to betray our country with fake journalism.

Rupert Murdoch and four other News Corporation/ Fox News execs have contributed to Clinton’s campaign, along with $567,950 under the heading “lobbyists,” according to opensecrets.org. Barack Obama has made it a priority to not take a cent from lobbyists. He doesn’t expect contributions by News Corp. because he is their worst nightmare. Obama’s goal is to take the partisanship and divisive tactics – the lifeblood of FNC – down several notches and lead America to solutions on real issues. If Clinton gets nominated, partisan bickering along with the divisive battles of the past will grind to a halt any progress on the big issues – like ending the crusade in the Middle East, affordable health care, and moving toward renewable energy.

Clinton’s strings are pulled by the real owners of this country who spend billions to cloud the minds of good, honest people. Take a look at the Chevron and BP ad campaigns touting how wonderful they are for our environment. Chevron, BP, Conoco Phillips, and Exxon Mobil, empowered by Bush/Cheney’s war, profited $94 billion last year - $320 billion since the invasion or a 300 percent increase in profit since 2002 – from the combination of not paying for injecting CO2 between the public and a healthy environment and price gouging drivers at the pump.

The pharmaceutical industry is allowed to manipulate public health. The price of prescription drugs is doubled in order to invent and push new ailments such as “restless leg syndrome.” With sales of RLS meds approaching $1 billion in the U.S. this year, there is evidence of questionable reasoning headed for the voting booth.

“Won’t get fooled again” has me on the campaign trail for Obama. We are faced with a critical moment in our nation’s history for choosing the course we take on the war, affordable health care, and ending our addiction to oil. We can choose between continuing the status quo – division and government ruled by the corporate lobby – or beginning to lead government toward accountability and solving the issues. This draws the greatest distinction between Clinton and Obama.

– Darren White, via e-mail

A holiday wish list

Dear Editors,

With the recent snowfall this week, I’m extremely happy and thankful, as many of your readers sure are as well. One could say “I’m in the Christmas spirit.” But what does that mean these days?

Except for a few charities and some children, I’m not spending any money this year. Sorry. I have everything I need and all my friends and family seem to live just fine.

I’m not going to support the corporations with unnecessary spending. If this is how a society shows their love of God and honors Christ’s birth, I want no part in it. Spend! Spend! Spend!

This American Over-Consumption-Machine has gotten out of control. What have we become? What happened to Peace on Earth? How about feed the hungry, house the homeless? Look at all the suffering in the world (much of it U.S. caused). Do something to end that. Make a donation. Read, think, understand the world. Isn’t that what a good, God-loving society does?

– Peace, Bill Vana, Durango

Navigating political waters

Dear Editors,

It is hard to believe that the political season is again upon us. As you know, the Colorado Dems have moved the caucuses up this year, from March to Feb. 5. This means Coloradoans’ caucus votes are going to be really important this year, for the first time ever. Those interested in participating in the process should mark in big red ink “Sunday, Dec. 9” on their calendars.  Anyone interested in attending the county, state or national Democratic Conventions should attend this significant meeting. Caucus training will be presented by Ms. Pat Waak – chair of the Colorado Democratic Party – which all of us need to understand to navigate the waters of delegate selection. A community conversation will then be led by Mr. Sky Gallegos of the Democratic National Convention Committee as he updates us on the 2008 National Convention to be held in Denver in August.

Note this is a regional party event for Southwest Colorado. I encourage all of you to make time for this key event on the way to the convention and successful elections in November. The training will be Sun., Dec. 9, 1-3 p.m., the Peaks Room of the Durango Rec Center.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

– Erich Bussian, chairman, La Plata County Democratic Party


Health insurance system no longer works

Dear Editors,

Only one of five Colorado health-care reform proposals evaluated by the Lewin Group has demonstrated any cost savings – $1.4 billion. The Colorado Health Services Single Payer Insurance proposal is also the only one shown capable of providing comprehensive health care for all.

Single payer – or single-risk-pool – insurance would eliminate wasteful administrative spending.

Currently, more than 30 percent of U.S. health care dollars go to inefficient administration costs, CEO salaries and profits of more than 1,200 U.S. commercial insurances. Providers and hospitals are forced to hire extra staff just to deal with administrative costs of multiple insurance authorization procedures and drug formularies, and requirements for claims, billing and provider recredentialing – excess costs ultimately passed on to taxpayers and consumers.

U.S. commercial health insurance no longer performs the function for which it was developed in the 1930s and ’40s – to spread health-care risk and cost.

Assertions that the “free market” will lower health costs are belied by the fact that commercial health premiums have risen 78 percent since 2001, and that increasingly we pay more for less coverage. U.S. health insurance is best described as a monopoly market, now dominated by three behemoths – UnitedHealth, Wellpoint and Aetna. Annual premium increases continue to exceed both the rate of inflation and increases in workers’ earnings.

In response to rising premium costs, more and more employers move employees into catastrophic insurance policies with high out-of-pocket costs that place individuals and families at greater health and financial risk. Individual out-of-pocket health costs rose 59 percent over the decade preceding 2005; simultaneously, unpaid medical bills increased 60 percent, relates the American Hospital Association. Not coincidentally, large medical bills contribute to over 50 percent of U.S. personal bankruptcies.

Commercial health insurances game the system to increase profits by covering the healthy and rejecting as a “pre-existing condition” anyone who might require health care.

Gaming the system also takes the form of “denial management” – insurance middlemen scan claims for excuses to delay, deny or renig on reimbursements, at an additional cost of $20 billion annually, reports The Wall Street Journal (2-14-07).

Privatizing public programs is also very costly. Medicare prescription drug reform of 2003 was exploited as an opportunity to move more seniors into higher-cost, heavily subsidized private insurance plans. Insurance and pharmaceutical lobbies co-wrote the reform to enhance their bottom lines with billions of dollars of subsidies and inflated profits.

Because commercial health insurances shift more risks and costs to individuals, many hesitate to share personal information with their physicians for fear it will be used as an excuse to deny them coverage. In no other industrialized nation do people fear loss of health-care benefits with change of jobs; nor do families agonize about losing everything due to huge medical bills, as U.S. families do.

Single payer insurance saves money by cutting the high administrative costs of multiple private insurances and by permitting negotiation of bulk rates for pharmaceuticals and durable medical goods. Additional administrative savings are realized by hospitals and providers, and passed on to patients. No longer would cancer be a twin battle – one with disease, and another to retain insurance coverage. Single payer would eliminate U.S. commercial insurance premiums that average over $1,000 a month and save families from the “Sophie’s Choice” of which family members to cover.

Every other industrialized nation has some form of single payer insurance. All average half as much health-care costs and better overall health outcomes than the U.S. Questions for our time: Can we muster the will to stand up to powerful lobbies and eliminate the wasteful spending on health insurance middlemen? Do we insure their bottom line or health care access for all?

– Michele Swenson, Health Care for All Colorado, via e-mail



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows