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Blankety Blankistan 

Letters published December 21, 2005

PC meter's all tense now: It would smack of sour grapes for me to take issue with anything Zachary Lewis said about my artwork showing at the Doubting Thomas gallery in Tremont [On View, December 14], so I won't.

But I must point out that the title of the blues-themed painting he described is "The Blue Revolution in East Blankistan," not East Pakistan! I depict civil unrest and a thirst for the Blues in a fictional post-Soviet state, not the real, now-independent state of Bangladesh (which used to be East Pakistan)!

In these tense geopolitical times, I don't need any trouble for offending people from that country. Nor does Scene. So I hope you'll print this letter to stand as correction.

John Arndt

Doctor Do-Good
The humanitarian angle:
Is this reporting or propaganda? This story in Scene ["On Pills and Needles," December 7] is a classic example of how misunderstanding addiction and the law leads to misleading news stories and misguided criminal prosecutions.

Writer Josh Mound reports that Dr. Jorge Martinez gave pain patients painful "nerve-block" injections and then prescribed painkillers. According to Mound, federal prosecutors claim Martinez was a drug dealer who "turned [his patients] into addicts." While the reporter acknowledges that "patients should take some responsibility for their own choices," he says that the sheer number of claims that Martinez made people into addicts suggest that there is truth to them.

But this is absurd: Addiction is defined as a compulsive use of a substance despite negative consequences. No one can "make" someone else do this. One can certainly induce physical dependence on opioids, but one cannot compel someone else to compulsively desire and seek out drugs.

Mound fails to mention that some 90 percent of all prescription-drug misusers, according to federal statistics, have used cocaine and psychedelics. This means they are not drug-naive pain patients -- they are pre-existing users who seek out doctors to get drugs. This is why Purdue, the manufacturer of OxyContin, which has been sued hundreds of times for allegedly addicting people, has never lost a case.

Mound opens his story with the case of an addict who heard from other drug users that Martinez was an easy target for scams to get drugs. This is no innocent victim "turned into an addict" by an evil doctor. But Mound uses the case to portray Martinez as the bad guy.

He notes that a worker in Martinez' office was busted selling fake prescriptions -- and while he acknowledges that she may receive a reduced prison term for testifying against the doctor, he uses her story mainly to further demonize the physician. He reports that the doctor continued to prescribe to the man who bought the forged prescriptions.

Mound alleges that this is because Martinez was greedy -- but doesn't note that it could also be because he thought that the man was suffering from legitimate pain.

Mound repeatedly portrays Martinez as paranoid and money-hungry, and says that the nerve-block injections he gave were painful, expensive, and unnecessary. But what he misses here is that Martinez is caught between a rock and a hard place. If he simply prescribes opioids based on patients' descriptions of their pain, he is being "loose with his prescription pad," and not trying alternatives before giving potentially addictive drugs. If he gives nerve-block injections, he's making legitimate patients endure painful shots so that he can turn them into addicts. How can he win?

Mound notes that there are "many" patients who support Martinez and say he was a good doctor. But he gives this group less than 200 words to state their case in a nearly 4,000 word article. While the government didn't pay Scene to print its propaganda, with this kind of reporting, it might as well have.

Martinez may well be a terrible doctor. He might even be a drug dealer. But this article has convicted him of malpractice and drug dealing without adequately exploring the other side of the story.

Coco Bodek

Tell It, Tall Guy
They'll be calling any minute now:
Great story ["You Are All Witnesses, " December 7]! I can't wait to see you post up! Good luck with camp; they're sure to call any minute now. In fact, please don't miss a call because you took too much time reading my enthralling e-mail!

Nate Albrecht
(6 foot six, can't dunk to save my life)

Talk to the Hat
Saving lives the for-profit way:
You may have enough stupid readers to translate your First Punch diatribe "Courting For Dollars" [November 30], but "Sucker Punch" may be a better name. You suggest White Hat schools are a fraud because they have received $110 million for a $130,000 investment. You deliberately omit the fact that they are educating 15,000 students with that state money. Their cost is one-third of countless districts' expenses, and they are saving the lives of students that more expensive publicly funded systems have given up on.

White Hat began to show sound improvement after three years of existence, not 150 years, like conventional schools.

Charles A. Byrne
Cleveland Heights

Rocking the Game
Props from the prime mover:
I thought your article on Guitar Hero [Game On, November 23] was dead-on accurate. I actually did the moves for all the male characters in this game. It was a total blast reenacting all my favorite guitar gods, and I thought you did a good job reviewing the game.

Chris Kost

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