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Ask Dr. Salvo

March 28, 1995

Ask Dr. Salvo

Dear Dr. Salvo,

Thank you for publishing the USA Hospital Drug Policy (Harbinger 2/21-3/6, 1995). I used it as a required reading assignment in my Biology of Drugs Course (Bly 208) last week and for subsequent classroom discussion.

In addition to the concerns you voiced, there was one that was particularly disturbing to me, i.e. the total lack of due process. It appeared to me that once the test was positive the individual was automatically assumed to be guilty with no apparent means of contesting the verdict. There could easily have been causes for the positive results other than an individual partaking of the illegal substance. For example, there is the possibility that there was an error in the laboratory, a phenomenon that has occured any number of times. There is no mechanism for blood or urinary analyses by independent laboratories, i.e. labs unassociated with USA.

Also, there is the distinct possiblity that in some cases, especially with marihuana, that an individual innocently inhaled either side-stream or second hand smoke from a particular environment which he frequented, i.e. rock concert or a night club for an evening of dinner and dancing. According to the state forensic laboratory, with whom I was in contact last week to confirm my information, there is no way to distinguish between urinary metabolites of the cannabinoids obtained from direct smoking or accidental inhalation from the environment.

With respect to the opiates, there is the problem for those of us who enjoy poppy seed dressing or poppy seeds on our bagels (that goes along with the genic component of my ethnic gastronomy), that we will test positive for opiod metabolites without being guilty of illegal drug use.

Thus, unless due process is incorporated as part of the drug policy statement, it seems to me that the enforcement of that policy could be challenged on constitutional grounds, i.e., lack of due process.

I tend to be a civil libertarian and I am always concerned about governmental encroachment on our civil liberties. In truth, government implies men and women in power. With each passing year I become more distrustful of people in power. I am enclosing a couple of reprints of mine that appeared in NEGATIVE CAPABILITY about a decade ago. I think they are quite apropos to this situation.

Thank you for making us aware of what is happening. Perhaps your column will serve a positive function if, by the nature of the discussion published therein, it would help alter that specific policy and open up the policy making process to wide discussion before making final drafts and legislation.

Keep up the good work and the fight. Illigitimati non-carborundum (I hope my Latin is correct, if not please make the appropriate spelling changes).

With warm regards, I am
Sincerely yours,
Sheldon F. Gottlieb, Ph.D.

Dear Dr. Gottlieb,

Thank you for your kind and sensible letter of 2/27/95. I quite agree with everything you say, and also admire your temperate tone. I am still reviewing your two excellent articles, and find on first look that we agree on all the principles involved. I wish more people in academic circles would remember that academic freedom, like civil liberties tends to disappear unless exercised, thought and talked about; fought for at times.


Dear Boss,

Universal Management (a.k.a. She Who Must Be Obeyed) has been leaning on me for some Nature Notes. She is afraid the Spring will pass without my scientific assistance. So here goes: What a low altitude scientist will note right away are the white dewberry blossoms, right next to the ground. Better look quick, for they turn into dewberries and are devoured by you and those squirrels before you can say fresh dewberry pie. Other mini-blossoms are coming on strong, one with four oval white petals and flat leaves all hugging the ground. It will be a partridge berry or something very like it. Even the white violet, about 1/4 inch across and smelling faintly delicious, has joined the display. It likes to live in or on the rich cover of green moss under the oak and gum trees.

If I lift my nose to a 45 degree angle I'll see showers of yellow jasmine, and I note that once again your old TV aerial has turned into a gold umbrella thanks to the jasmine. I expect it to smell a lot more than it does. The dogwoods and the azaleas are confused; some have quit blooming and some are just starting. The blue berry (and huckleberry) is blooming, little pairs and triplets of purplish bells. They too will suddenly become the world's: best fresh blueberry pie -- and vanish before the blackberries do. It is my belief that all these berries, if they are good berries, are transmogrified into grateful humans. These in their turn become agreeable angels -- not the kind to sit on your shoulder and boss your around, but the ones who will occasionally let slip the name of some bang tail in danger of winning the Derby at staggering odds.

Nothing is lost from our Universe, and sometimes we get more than we wished for. For instance we now have a surfeit of goldfinches and blackbirds, (Or, as I call them Yellow Eyed Bullies), but not enough Pileated Woodpeckers. One to be exact, and we suspect the block of suet seduced him to be a guest, along with a pair of large, stylish flickers and some sapsuckers. The Towhee is kicking along in the leaves; likewise those well dressed brown thrashers. Still not sure how to tell the thrashers from the thrush. The Caroline Wren, our only variety, is quite at ease around the house, and is getting his share of suet with bugs en terrine. Our Carolina chickadee and Tufted Titmouse are with us all year -- I leave it to you, dear readers, to pick out the transients. Downtown I saw a murder of crows and a premonition of ravens. A couple of ospreys on the rivers, but no eagles. The big, white pelicans seem to have gone north, but before that they put on a curious display: Two or three big flocks broke up into groups of 8 or 10 birds, floating in rough circles and seemingly idle. However, the circles drew together like a purse, and eventually they dined together on the little alewives and trashfish they had rounded up. That fishing method makes it unnecessary for this lordly bird to impair his dignity by diving on his head like a commoner, or brown pelican in order to catch a single fish.

Boss, I don't see, but know for a fact that the Bay in front of your place is teaming with eels as big as your arm. They are down from the swamps, marshes, and wet meadows, heading for the mythic Sargasso Sea. There, they will engage in prolonged erotic jamborees and Himalayas beyond the wildest doggie dream or anthropoid fancy. The near microscopic little elvers that eventuate from this amorous frenzy will then swim all the way home to the same little creek they grew up in. It is of course on that first trip that eel aficionados seize them and opportunity -- to have smoked eel, eel-in-the green, grilled eel and noodles, eel sushi roll, and probably eel yogurt.

I am not suggesting, of course, that you interrupt your philanthropic endeavors to catch eels.

Your totally dedicated research associate,

Dear Boss,

Living so far above the earth you probably never think of the scientific clues to be found at ground level. For instance, last Sunday I had the Classified ads spread on the floor of the bird watching room and was idly perusing "miscellaneous" when my glance was arrested by a very small ad that said For Sale: 3 year old donkey (jack) $175.00. Very healthy. No vices. (phone number).

Well, Boss, you are probably almost as surprised as I was to learn that donkeys have or don't have vices. Being a highly intelligent, furry, domesticated quadruped myself, I was astonished to see the question raised. Being a disciplined research associate I was bound to follow wherever my curiosity led me.

Well, it led me to a small farm owner and farmer, west of Semmes, who lives in a "portable home" with his wife, and tries to prevent his land from sliding over into Mississippi when it rains. It appears he and his neighbors are plagued by coyotes, especially at night; when the moon is out they drown out the late dancers on the T.V. This may seem a circumlocation, but the connection is Jack. He is a superb watch-donkey, and can fend off a pack of coyotes with a few ribald hee-haws and a kick of his heels!

When I called the number in the want ads, a very pleasant voice greeted me, promising the sort of patience my enquiry would require. I had a number of pressing questions to resolve, so after I said "Ralph!" -- (my usual phone greeting) we got down to cases:

Q: What vices can donkeys have?

A: If you're up front, they kin bite (spelled buyt). If around back they kin kick ya. Kin be vicious.

Q: Is Jack -- may I call him Jack? -- in recovery from a vice, e.g., drinking, overeating, gambling in Biloxi or the Boats; running around???

A: You must be a city slicker.

Q: Has Jack been through the Twelve Steps?

A: So he claims. I let him roam one night a week. He sey he goes to service at Sons and Daughters of I Will Arise.

Q: No AA meetings?

A: He says they make him vicious, especially the one called the Gadooshee Club. (He will go to a human club at times. But look at all those dudes who frequent the Country Club -- with no hope of redemption!)

Q: is it possible your donkey has secret vices?

A: Now you're getting personal! Out of here or I'll call Jack himself!

Yours for Science

P.S. If you have question about Jack, call 479-5359 and ask for Kleinschnaut.


-- March 28, 1995

The Harbinger