Letters for January 7 

Readers sound off on condoms, charitable giving, and Oakland crime.

"Go Thin or Bust," Feature, 11/19

A Kinder, Gentler Condom

Kudos to Rachel Swan for her story on thin condoms and for calling attention to Mayer Labs, a true safer-sex pioneer. Two things re: condom sensitivity. First, from my days at the Sexologists' Sexual Health Project and the condom info taught in the late '80s at the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality: any condom will feel more sensitive if two or three drops of lube go into the head before the condom is rolled on — this allows the latex to move on the penis' corona and add stimulation, rather like a foreskin would. When the condom is thin to start with, so much the better — among other things, this lets more body warmth transfer through the latex. Second, Swan mentions the Inspiral condom (with a head shaped like a soft-serve ice cream cone), but the early adopter of the shaped condom was Pleasure Plus, whose design looked like a rubber with a pelican pouch. This, too, allows more friction on the head of the penis. Good Vibrations liked this design so much (and listened to so many guys complain when it went out of stock) that it has them packaged with its own logo. Play safe, people — your Queen of Hearts misses you! Visit me at SexandCulture.org and get on our workshop mailing list if you want!

Carol Queen, PhD, founding director, Center for Sex & Culture, San Francisco

"Changing the Philanthropic Agenda," Raising the Bar, 11/26

Profit over Philanthropy

Charitable gifts are tax deductible, albeit with some limitations. Perhaps, as a consequence, Americans make far more charitable gifts than anyone else in the world, by a substantial margin. In Europe, for example, charitable giving is quite limited. So, Doctors Without Borders, a French organization, gets most of its contributions from Americans. Europeans figure that the needs of society will be met by government through their taxes.

Nonprofits, who are the recipients of foundation money, have long felt resentment at having to beg the foundations for their sustenance. My experience, though, is that the alternative of fund-raising, by the organization itself, is not employed enough. It is a lot of work, but then the nonprofit can control its own destiny. Additionally, when a nonprofit goes into the community and asks for funds, it is competing with others and sometimes that competition helps the nonprofit tailor its activities and fund-raising to the interests of the donors. That can result in more focused and appropriate charitable endeavors.

I suppose some foundations are more concerned with their own survival than their eleemosynary mission. Guess what? Many nonprofits suffer from the same affliction.

Kurt Schoeneman, Boonville

"Arrests Are Down, and Crime Is Up," Feature, 12/3

Crime Isn't Normal

I have long felt that crime is not taken seriously by the Oakland Police Department and by the politicians and bureaucrats running things in this extraordinarily troubled and dysfunctional town. In addition, I have never agreed with nor understood the premise postulated by the police that "we cannot arrest our way out of the problem." The fact that empirical, irrefutable evidence contradicts this odd assertion seems to have been either missed or ignored by those in the know downtown. If one were to dwell in some horrific Orwellian nightmare of self-serving delusion, one would then be compelled to conclude that crime is endemic and as such impossible to control. Following this odd and peculiar reasoning, one would have to then accept crime and its exponential increase as normal and, though unpleasant, an uncontrollable consequence of modern society. Given the fact that I reject this notion as nonsense, which only serves to rationalize incompetence and indifference, I have instead concluded that Oakland's leaders are not up to the job. This fact is self-evident and to my mind incredibly obvious. And what is ostensibly the cultural norm here is so irrational and convoluted that after a while nothing makes sense because lunacy and profoundly unintelligent thinking prevails. Oakland is run by the oddest, most extraordinarily brain-addled folks I have ever countenanced. Crime is endemic because it is tolerated and police department members like Mr. Jordon rationalize it and perpetuate the fiction that it is a consequence of outside factors. Crime is committed by very bad, selfish, irresponsible, cruel people. That is a fact.

Jonathan C. Breault, Oakland

Tale of Ineptitude

A few years ago, my neighbor's car was stolen. The police didn't find it. I found it a few days later while out walking my dogs, and reported its whereabouts to my neighbor, who in turn called the cops. I was scandalized to learn that the police did not even dust the car for prints — it was full of partying evidence and other incriminating detritus, and it would have been pretty easy to eliminate my neighbor from the absolute fest of prints and DNA.

Had that crime been properly investigated, who knows how much other crime could have been forestalled by putting the perps away.

Mary Eisenhart, Oakland

Blame the Riders

As far as the Police Dept. itself is concerned, the problems stem from the consent decree resultant from the "Riders" case. This consent decree was put into place at exactly the point in time when the destruction of the OPD as an effective police force began. Coincidence? Hardly. This travesty of an agreement has set the police up to fail. As told to me by an Oakland cop that I am acquainted with, "as far as most of us [police officers] are concerned, we won't make an arrest unless there is blood in the streets and we saw the crime committed." The reason for this is that under the terms of the consent decree, any person arrested is asked (encouraged?) if they wish to file a complaint against the arresting officer and is given a list of attorneys and pro bono groups whose stock-in-trade is suing the City of Oakland. These complaints, WHETHER PROVEN OR NOT are entered into the permanent record of the officer. These folks need promotions and raises like anyone else. Understand the attitude? If it isn't an absolute slam dunk, no officer will risk it. This consent decree has got to go. I urge the reporter to address this issue in a future piece. No one ever speaks of this issue, but it is of tantamount importance. Something that should be pointed out is that after multiple trials, not a single conviction resulted from the Riders case.

Thomas Dryden, Oakland

Fighting Crime Isn't PC

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