As Obama sorts through our Afghanistan options, he faces a packet of pestilence wrapped in porcupine quills. Their government is corrupt and ineffective, tribal loyalties trump national feeling, and the people fear the police more than the Taliban. Poverty is intractable and longstanding with a proscribed crop, opium, being the chief industry. Our allies are shaky after eight years, foreigners are resented, and the “enemy” can’t be distinguished from the general population.  

Not a good place for nation building.

Worse, the border with a nuclear-armed Pakistan is largely unmarked and artificial. It marks the extent of the former British empire and is deeply resented by the tribes that straddle it. It may be indefensible. Foreign forces are unwelcome and civilian casualties from using drones are creating Taliban recruits.

General McChrystal, focusing narrowly on military objectives, warns of failure without 40,000 more troops. The President is charged with larger concerns: What is winning? Will it be worth the cost?

Any decision made is sure to bring bad consequences. Divided among several options, most Americans will be disappointed.  Fox “News” will rage against the president regardless, because that’s what it does.

Maybe it’s time to give peace a chance as it is no worse than other choices and lots cheaper. Please check out Greenwald’s documentary “Rethink Afghanistan” online to get the ramifications of the problem.

Margaret Morris, Ventura

Swine flu vaccination a conspiracy
Is the swine flu vaccine likely* toxic?

The ones who are presently ruling the world have said they intend to reduce the world population by 80 percent “by any means.” This idea should send chills down our spines, for we are not mistakes of nature; we are — each one of us — meant to be here!

The very idea of a mandatory or even just a massive swine flu vaccine program should be a red flag for all of us. The so-called swine flu pandemic has been clearly puffed up to look “real” by the media.

My guess is that people will literally start dying “mostly after” their nose spray and vaccines begin. In other words, “what” they are actually injecting into our noses (which contains live viruses that will be contagious) and blood streams is highly questionable considering their stated intention!

City Council members, all you first responders. — i.e., sheriffs, firemen, policemen, cert team members, etc. — your first commitment is: “to abide by the Constitution” and “to serve and protect the people of Ventura County from harm”!

Please, never forget this!!!

People of Ventura County — you are responsible for taking cautionary methods for protecting your own health: First, let your God-given immune system do the job it was intended for. Stress is not an option when you have trust in destiny. Be matter-of-fact and have the courage to confront this whole phenomenon “wide awake.” Colloidal silver and certain homeopathic remedies work very well on influenzas of any kind and, best of all, they have no side effects. Of course, eat plenty of fresh, healthy food. Extra vitamins B, C, D3 and zinc are said to be very helpful.

“If this isn’t a clear wake-up call for all of us — good Lord, what is?” But guess what? The more awake we are, the more fully alive we are!

*See H1N1 Vaccine insert on at

Nina Remensperger, Santa Paula

Bush’s recession not the fault of Obama
“Obama appears to want to make enemies”? (What ever happened to Barry Obama? Right Persuasion, 10/15.)

Oh, Paul, Paul, Paul … As if Glen Obama-is-a-racist Beck or Rush I-want-Obama-to-fail Limbaugh ever had the slightest inclination toward even modest civility of anything related to our elected President of the United States of America Barack Obama. Conversely, these two have always done their level best to shift the consciousness of anyone without the intellectual curiosity to see the truth to one of confusion, hate and ignorance. Their lies and fear mongering only contribute to why this is a bitterly divided country. “Jobs still being lost, all the foreclosures” … this is still the fallout from Bush. Obama might not be able to turn back the damage noticeably or to undo the cataclysmic failures of eight years of Bush in his first nine months in office, but I still hope and believe that it can happen in the next three years.

Progress is starting to take shape. Small steps: the economy is picking up, we’re seeing signs of potential healthcare reform — something the Republicans weren’t able to accomplish in 12 years. And Afghanistan: McChrystal is wrong — we should get the hell out now! They’re not the same enemy they were eight years ago. It may be good business for him and Halliburton, but not for the rest of us. It’s pointless to waste another American or Afghan life and another trillion dollars on another ill-conceived war. It’s too late; Bush botched that, too. He let bin Laden get away; the Taliban were gone, now they’re back in force; and Al Qaeda has left the country, too.

Remember, Paul, that by this time in his administration, G.W. Bush had already missed the memo, failing to thwart the greatest aggressive act in history against the U.S.A., entered into a war with a country that had nothing to do with that attack and did not possess a single WMD, and had set in motion our current economic crisis by giving away trillions in tax cuts to the 1 percent of the wealthiest in the nation. That was supposed to create the jobs that we no longer have today, remember? Why is it that when Bush pissed away a trillion to the rich, a trillion in Iraq and another trillion to the rich, and his swan song $700 billion for the banks … there was nary a peep from all today’s tea partiers?

Paul, listen to ole “Barry.” He said, “Don’t tell me you don’t like the way I’m holding the mop.” I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again: This is G.W. Bush’s recession. You had your turn, tax cuts don’t work, no regulation breeds massive corruption, and war is bad. This country was screwed up by your lot — show some much-deserved respect, Paul. Roll up your damn sleeves and ask this instead: “What can we do to help you, Mr. President, Barack Hussein Obama, sir?”

Chris Jensen, Ventura

In memory of Mary Sheets
“Straight talk on breast cancer” (Cover/10/22) points out numerous concerns regarding insurance and how that relates to women with breast cancer and their families. And, as you well know, there is so much more to tell.

A few weeks back, I spoke to the more than 200 women at the American Association of University Women’s annual Author’s Day held at the Four Points Sheraton, Ventura. Mary and the VC Reporter were a part of the emotional finale. Debbie Boross and Donna Iverson, who were quoted in your article, were also in attendance, along with several ROL (Ribbons of Life) board members. 

At Table 19, there was a place setting with an empty chair decorated with artwork of Mary by artist Judy Klement, Mary’s Gladiator sword and her favorite blue tartan shawl.  She was definitely our “Braveheart.” During my speech, Mary’s chair was in the spotlight. I also held up the VCReporter’s breast cancer issue for all to see. What a tribute to Mary and the many people in Ventura County who loved and cared for her.  Our Ribbons of Life exhibit table also had a pile of VCReporters for those attending to take home so they could read your article.

In Mary’s obituary in the Ventura County Star, the third paragraph references the VCReporter. What an honor for me to assist Debbie in writing it. On behalf of all from Ribbons of Life, we appreciate our “cooperative partnership” with the VCReporter.  Thanks again.

Lisa Barreto, Ribbons of Life Breast Cancer
Foundation Ventura

Breast reconstructive surgery for too few
Thank you for publishing “Straight talk on breast cancer.” (Cover, 10/22) As a board-certified plastic surgeon, I welcome any article that helps to educate the public about this horrible disease.

I would like to point out one error. Most American breast cancer victims do not receive reconstructive plastic surgery.

You mentioned that oncologic surgery continues to be the mainstay for the treatment of breast cancer; this is true. Partial and total mastectomies remain important parts of a patient’s treatment regimen. However, mastectomies are not “often accompanied by or followed by breast reconstructive surgery.”  Only about one in six women who undergo a mastectomy receive a reconstruction.

Obviously, oncologic surgery can be deforming, especially when accompanied by adjunctive radiation therapy. Most studies estimate that at least 50 percent of American breast cancer patients are interested in reconstructive surgery. In the late 1990s, only 16 percent of American breast cancer survivors received reconstructive surgery. Alarmed by this disparity, bipartisan federal legislative action produced the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998.  This law was supposed to guarantee a woman’s access to breast reconstruction. Access did improve, by just 1 percent overall.

Let’s look at the most recent statistics from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Program, which carefully collects American cancer data.

Nationwide, only about 17 percent of women receive breast reconstructions.

As many as 41 percent of urban white women undergo reconstructive surgery.

Only 14 percent of urban Spanish-speaking Latinas receive breast reconstructions.

As few as 4.5 percent of Alaskan women opt for reconstructive surgery.

Certainly, if you are interested in breast reconstruction, it is best if you are not poor, if you do not live in a rural community, and if you are not a recent immigrant. However, if it is true that at least 50 percent of women are interested in breast reconstruction, even affluent, urban, white women are underserved; 41 percent is much less than the more than 50 percent who could be treated.

Plastic surgeons and psychologists know that breast reconstruction can aid a woman’s recovery. Some studies have even suggested that breast cancer patients who undergo breast reconstruction have less major depression and have better odds of actually beating their cancer.

As our representatives debate health care legislation, we remain skeptical. Many of us beamed with pride upon the passage of the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998, but it has failed to live up to its promise. Insurance companies have slippery ways of avoiding obligations.

Michael C. Pickart, M.D., F.A.C.S.
Pickart Plastic Surgery Inc.