"Berkeley Cabbies Take on City Hall," News, 1/19
I'd say go on strike and show the city you guys mean business. I drove a cab for several years and saw how it is. The city allowed too many cabs to operate in Berkeley. This started back in the '80s or '90s. The city government does not respect working people. Cab drivers have one of the most dangerous jobs there is. They should be respected.
John Delmos, Lebec, California
Judith, your article on cabbing is a fine piece of journalism. I was particularly interested in what you had to say because I'm a former cab driver who spent seven years cabbing in New York City. Some of the issues you mention are complex. I would take a passenger to her destination, but I was not allowed to pick up another passenger. So I had to return with an empty cab and an empty purse. And, of course, with lost time. The most serious problem cab drivers confront is being forced to be independent contractors. So the cab driver has to first pay upfront to take the cab out, and also had to fill up the tank. I don't know the situation in Berkeley. But if you ever plan to do another piece on the hassles of cab driving, perhaps you should look at the independent contractor issue. Since I drove a long time ago, I was defined, appropriately, as an employee. My take was 43 percent of the clock. If I didn't make money, nor did the employer. That seemed, and still seems, fair to me.
Harry Brill, El Cerrito
"The Tiger Mother and the Talk Show Host," Lectures & Lit Preview, 1/19
Regardless of intention or not, Chua's article in the WSJ (a paper owned by Rupert Murdoch) was irresponsible and a marketing ploy. I highly urge readers not to buy this book — or her daughter's recently published piece in, as Jeff Yang notes, another paper owned by Rupert Murdoch. While Jeff seems willing to let Chua off the hook, I strongly disagree. Chua should take responsibility for those words published under her name — but she won't 'cause (according to Yang) she's gonna get more than 500Gs off the book sales. So wait for it at the secondhand bookshop, support local bookstores, and give a donation to your local API mental health services agency or organization. And don't buy the book or go to the book signing.
Diana Pei Wu, Los Angeles
"Fight to Feelmore," Culture Spy, 1/5
Not Feeling Good
The decision, on the part of the Oakland Planning Commission, to greenlight yet another unfortunate project proposal on 12/15/10 was more than a huge letdown. It was also a gigantic slap in the face for them to okay the Feelmore Adult Sex Store on 17th and Telegraph. Our protests were loud, yet seemingly heard in vain. Possibly this issue came up in a timely fashion, so that Northgate neighbors, Youth Radio and the Oakland School of The Arts, would need to trudge through the grinding sands of "Furlough Week" as the city shut down over the holiday, making it very difficult to raise the $1,000-plus fees to appeal and file paperwork in seven days! We all vehemently oppose this positioning of "Feelmore" within one to two blocks of the schools close by.
These sex shops have no business being "around the corner" from our kids' classrooms. We already have an adult parlor on 24th Street and Telegraph, seven blocks from the new one. These places are intrinsically linked, regardless of what big bow you put on it to seem acceptable, to: 1) the high rise of addiction to porn in this country, 2) sex trafficking of minors, 3) drug trade, slave trade, and gambling rip-off activities. Healthy individuals, sound of mind, do not need ten "toys," hours of Internet porn, etc. in order to enjoy "it." "It" is a natural expression of the need for closeness and affection felt by all. That's it, period. Simple. Our community's children should never need to win over adults on the planning commission in order to keep this "Feelmore" place out of the way of being a child, going to school, developing healthy relationships with peers as well as with adults.
If our kids don't want it, no one has the right or "privilege" to shove this crap in front of them. Survivors of the child and teen sex trade know that subtle grooming and dishonest flirtations can convince even a ninety-pound fifteen-year-old with acne that no medicated pad seems to abate, that he or she could be transformed from geeky to attractive with a hair and wardrobe re-do. One can easily fall for such persuasion if self-esteem is weak. Predators are always on the lookout for kids who so desperately need for someone, anyone, to tell them they matter. Places like adult bookstores, bus stops, schools, malls, parks, etc. are ideal locations to creep up, cozy-up to a lonely kid, and isolate him/her. Then begins the schmoozing work, getting them ready to take that plunge into hell.
So, no, no, no sex shop on 17th and Telegraph. It is not an "arts and entertainment district"; it is a business district and schools. It doesn't matter how much you ballyhoo it, or even if you make it look like a church. It is still a sex shop. So, yeah, call P. Allen Smith to design some exterior planters around it, call Martha Stewart to design the interior. It won't change anything at all. Feelmore would still be an adult bookstore one to two blocks from two schools. And no, thank you, we also don't want our children to be enticed inside for "educational" instruction. No, that's the job of the school, the parents, the counseling facilities available for teens, and which have certifiable mentors who are truly concerned about the life they give guidance to.