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Case in point

In the Long Story Short introduction to her outstanding collection of articles on families in our low-end motels ("Just passing through," cover package, March 31), J. Adrian Stanley comments: "I guess we all like to think we're too smart, too hard-working, too resourceful to end up in a situation like that. We're fooling ourselves."

I can certainly agree with that observation. Three years ago, I was working as a nurse in one of our local hospitals. In my "Magnet Moment" there, I suffered a botched gall bladder surgery at the facility, spent a month in a coma and then was fired "because I could no longer do the work."

Gone was my family's income and health insurance. While we still have the house, it has been a financial, as well as a health, disaster. Essentially crippled for life, I am now struggling to get Social Security disability (already got the expected first denial). What Ms. Stanley describes really can happen to just about anyone.

— Matt Parkhouse, RN

Colorado Springs

Militarized mountains

Expansion of helicopter operations at Fort Carson is coming ("Altitude adjustment," News, March 31). Fiscally conservative U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn and our senators are overjoyed with federal largesse bringing economic advantages to the Pikes Peak region. But the target area for expanded military aircraft training is bigger than just Pikes Peak.

The Low Altitude Tactical Navigation Area is proposed for aircraft flying nearly 700 sorties annually, mostly after dark, as low as 200 feet above ground at speeds up to 250 nautical mph, operating from New Mexico's Cannon Air Force Base. LATN includes northern New Mexico and all of Colorado south of a line roughly from I-25 at Monument to I-70 at the Utah border. LATN benefits for Colorado, other than national security, appear few. In addition, Air National Guard training operations continue in portions of the LATN.

With economic benefits come costs of various kinds. Noise and other yet-to-be-determined impacts affecting landowners, private and public lands, tourism, recreationists, livestock, wildlife, and wilderness seem significant. As mountain skies grow crowded and noisy, who is looking at the cumulative impacts and costs of militarizing our mountains?

— John Stansfield


Not ready for Combat

Thank you for the piece on the Combat Aviation Brigade unit. You raised some great questions, which were never adequately addressed by the military.

I sent in some comments, directed mostly toward the potential noise impact, since I am a close neighbor to the east at Venetucci Farm. I am very disappointed with this decision.

— Susan Gordon

Colorado Springs

Left side of history

Call us liberals if you insist, but we are really progressives. And go back as far as you like in history to see the difference progressives make.

Do you remember your high school science? It was Copernicus, the progressive, who correctly theorized that the Earth moves about the sun and not the other way around. He was vilified by the conservative clergy even though he was correct.

But no need to go back to the 1500s for examples. Should women have the right to vote? Thank progressive activists. Do you think we should have a safe food supply? Thank a progressive. Should workers have safe working conditions? Thank a progressive. Should everyone, regardless of race, have basic rights including the right to vote? It was conservatives who passed Jim Crow laws to deny black citizens their rights — from 1876 all the way to 1965. It was progressives who broke down those vile laws. Is it a good idea to protect the environment from toxic waste? Thank a progressive.

The examples are almost endless. Progressives work to move us ahead (progressive — progress) while so many conservatives try to hold us back.

So now the Republicans on the state House Judiciary Committee managed to derail the civil unions bill. And what a surprise, three of those casting "no" votes are from El Paso County. There was no information about how those Republicans would vote regarding the Earth's orbit, but one can only guess. Well, just as sure as the Earth does orbit about the sun, some day justice will be done for our gay and lesbian citizens. When that finally happens, thank a progressive.

— Ed Brady

Colorado Springs

Cutting NPR's cord

The debate over federal funding of public broadcasting really has hit the fan among its loyal fans determined to see American public broadcasting funded by the federal government until the end of our nation, if not the end of time itself.

Rep. Doug Lamborn's intent is not to shut down public broadcasting, but to cut off the federal umbilical cord. Lamborn feels (and I agree) that the American people (via our taxes) should no longer fund public broadcasting. Have you noticed that whatever the liberals enjoy, they want to see it funded by the government? Yet they would throw a fit if radio stations like KTLF, WAY-FM or K-LOVE started getting federal funds. I would not support that either, as a matter of principle. Same goes for MSNBC on the left and FOX News on the right.

Will stations like KRCC and KCME die if the CPB is defunded? They will suffer setbacks, but if public broadcasters are smart and don't hold on to their "locally owned pride," they will do what it takes to see these stations survive, and maybe create a better public radio and/or TV station. Does that mean a public broadcasting version of corporate radio conglomerates? Certain groups like Minnesota Public Radio, Colorado Public Radio and University of Southern California have begun to do just that.

— Don McCullen

Colorado Springs

Worth the trip

I lived in Austin back in the mid-1990s and attended as many of the SXSW venues as possible every year. Wristbands were only $40 or so, but I got one for free through my work and shamelessly exploited it. The corporate grip was not so prevalent back then, and I'm glad to read ("SXSW's brave new world," Audiofile, March 24) that at its heart it is still about the music.

Pre-social media, MP3, and President Bush, SXSW back then was just awesome. Having to choose between different favorite or buzz bands playing simultaneously on a given night is difficult enough any time. To have to do it several times a night for 3, 4, 5 nights in a row, well, that is just a hell of a lot for a man to contend with, and certainly adds to that drunken debauchery episode Bill Forman described.

Keep up the good work!

— Steve Blackwell

Colorado Springs


It's a new world

In 1830s America, there were over 200 spittoon manufacturers supplying the saloons and restaurants around the country. Then the world changed. I assume those displaced craftsmen found other work. In 1776, American colonists were too numerous and dispersed for all of them to go to Philadelphia, so each voting bloc sent a representative to relay their wishes to the lawmakers of the time.

Fast-forward two centuries. We inhabit a digital age where Internet access is available to all. If you don't personally own a computer or cellphone, you can use a Web portal at the library.

It is time for Direct Digital Democracy. Any issue put before the people could be voted on directly with online elections. Cut out the middleman. The Lamborns and Bachmanns can speak for themselves, just like everybody else.

Over 150,000 paper ballots were sent to voters at considerable expense to taxpayers. Less than a week before the end of the election, not even 50,000 had been mailed back. If you trust the Web for your banking and investments, you should be able to text 1 for Obama, text 2 for Romney ... etc.

— Kenton Lloyd

Colorado Springs

McKenzie's bravery

Pam Zubeck's "Flying solo" March 24 cover story is a very sobering, painful and sadly familiar look at one man's battle with bipolar disorder. I can empathize with Grant McKenzie; I was diagnosed with bipolar Type I back in 2001. Only those who have experienced the unpredictable roller-coaster of manic depression can fathom how a mood disorder can turn one's world upside down and cause such misery.

Grant McKenzie is a brave man. Seeking help and "outing himself" takes courage, regardless of what type of psychiatric disability one has. Stigma against us is still rampant. I heard a social worker define stigma clearly and succinctly: It is prejudice and discrimination. Mr. McKenzie, unfortunately, also has criminal conviction hanging over his head, a double dose of stigma.

However, he is not a victim nor will he be relegated to dead-end, low-paying jobs for the rest of his life. To those of us in recovery from serious mental illness, Grant is a survivor. He is also blessed to have a woman like Connie in his life. He is educated, intelligent and lives with a disorder no one would ask for.

I have found support from the local chapter of Depression Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) and other peers to be a major key to maintaining mood stability and achieving my life goals.

Many famous Americans live successfully with bipolar disorder: Patty Duke, former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Jane Pauley, to name a few. People with bipolar are highly creative and resourceful. Grant will keep moving forward and I believe the hope and the tenacity that he and Connie exhibit will set the stage for better days to come.

— Steve Bell

DBSA Colorado Inc.

Colorado Springs

Rewriting the story

I admire Air Force Capt. Grant McKenzie for letting his story be told in the Independent. It's not easy to come out of the shadows of mental illness when so much stigma and misunderstanding exist. Yet stories like his build awareness. Clearly, Capt. McKenzie is a bright and gifted individual who struggled not only with illness but with system failure.

Unfortunately, his story is not unique. In 2003, President Bush's Commission on Mental Health declared mental health care "a system in shambles." Since then, nothing much has changed.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness in Colorado Springs (NAMI-CS) is working to rewrite stories like Capt. McKenzie's. We advocate for better services and support the families of those with mental illness, educating them and the public about mental illness.

We seek to alleviate the stigma associated with mental illness and promote policy changes that raise the bar on treatment.

We envision a time when those with mental illness are given the opportunity to reach their full potential. Many have found hope and support through NAMI-CS. Our programs like Family-to-Family help families who struggle with the challenges and isolation of living with mental illness. Families learn that they are not alone. They become empowered, and they become advocates for those they love. I encourage those who feel hopeless and lost to seek us out, so we can provide the support you need to rewrite your own story.

— Kathy Brandt

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Colorado Springs

The rich folks' scam

We have been told over and over, time and time again, that if we lower taxes on the wealthy, they will create more jobs with the extra money. We have been told it and sold it so many times, we would be fools not to suspect the truth of it, especially as those who are peddling this flapdoodle and hogwash are the same rich folks who stand to benefit most, and their lackeys.

So how many new jobs did the Bush tax cuts, and the Obama extensions, produce in America? They produced a small cabal of super-wealthy American industrialists who have used their extra money to purchase the state of Wisconsin, meaning governor and Legislature.

That is what the idle rich really do when they have too much money on their hands. They create tension and chaos where before there was peace; they mock and belittle working people on TV news and in TV advertisements, trying to strip workers of every shred of dignity and self-respect; and under cover of the confusion they themselves have created, they steal the fruit of workers' labors to enrich themselves.

What if the rich had to pay taxes as they used to? If they wanted to stay rich, they would be forced to invest the money left them after taxes, to create more wealth. They would be forced to create new industries and jobs, instead of new PACs. They would be forced to be more careful when spending their hard-earned money on politics and parties, candidates and campaigns. They would be forced to budget, as the rest of us do.

The rich benefit most from our society. It is only fair that they should pay for those benefits. They should pay what those benefits are actually worth. No one gets a free ride in America.

— Harry Katz

Colorado Springs

New campaign theme

The fear-mongering about America being broke and almost bankrupt is simply 2012 campaign politics. A way to determine whether the U.S. government is broke is to notice the interest rates on federal government bonds.

If we were truly broke, interest rates would be extremely high because people would risk lending to us only in exchange for high returns. Currently, government bond interest rates are at record lows. That means it is much cheaper for the government to borrow. This would never happen if we were anywhere near bankruptcy. We can also look at our debt-to-GDP ratio, which compares public debt to the total wealth of our economy. It is much lower now than it was after World War II, which incurred an extremely larger public debt, followed by a huge economic boom.

Local, state, and federal governments face big budget deficits due to a series of government policies over the past couple of decades that transferred wealth, redistributing money and economic power from the middle class to the mega-wealthy. One can argue over the essence of these policies, but there should be no question that America is the richest country in the world. The process may be broken, but we are definitely not broke.

— Sharlene White

Oceanside, Calif.

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