Letters for the week of April 24, 2002 

Standing up in defense of Ron Dellums and company; learning from the mistake of Snow White.

Is making money a crime?
Stripped of its purer-than-thou hand-wringing, the facts in Will Harper's semi-hit piece on Ron Dellums ("The Radical Insider," April 3) indicate that since he left Washington, Mr. Dellums has continued to work tirelessly and successfully to fight AIDS in Africa. His real crime, apparently, is that he also works for a living. Mr. Dellums is not a saint (who is?). But being registered as a lobbyist is not a sin. Indeed, shorn of its rhetoric, the facts of the article show post-Washington Dellums acting in an effective, pragmatic, and honorable way. Much the same way he acted in Congress, where, I assume, he also was paid for his work.


Brad Seligman, Berkeley

Ron D lobbies for me
Why is it that in our community, one known for its progressive politics, we take pleasure in beating up and publicly chastising progressive leaders? This sorry excuse for journalism is a tacky example of the left beating the left, while the only people deserving of such beatings are our enemies on the right. Harper's mischaracterization of Dellums is as if Dellums left Berkeley and started working for the radical right. If anything, Dellums was wise to refuse an interview with Harper, who clearly was out to discredit his recent accomplishments.

As someone who was born, raised, and educated in Berkeley during Dellums' admirable tenure as our public servant, I remain proud of the accomplished congressman and his most recent accomplishments. Unlike many other elected officials, Dellums is a noble hero worthy of acknowledgement for his accomplishments and deserving of our respect. Despite the article, I believe with great confidence that the former "consciousness of the congress" continues to use his good name and talents to advance progressive values.

Whether in the halls of Congress, the corporate boardroom, or anywhere else, I know Dellums' consciousness is reflective of mine. Who else would have secured over $200 million per year to tackle the AIDS crisis in Africa after leaving Congress? Who else to better articulate modern genocide in Africa to corporate multinationals and the Republican right? Harper failed to acknowledge that Dellums convinced his ultra-right-wing nemesis Jesse Helms, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to invest in foreign aid for those most grossly affected by AIDS in Africa. Now that's progress.

P.S. Fred Harper's cover illustration does no justice to the man once voted the sexiest man on Capitol Hill.
Luis Orozco, Oakland

Malaria, not erections
Will Harper wrongly gives credit to Ron Dellums for establishing the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria. United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan is responsible for the fund.

Barbara Lee has formed a bipartisan coalition in Washington to increase (by $700 million this year and $1 billion for the next) the woefully inadequate US contribution to the Global Fund. Bush's $200 million amounts to 67 cents per American, while Norwegians contribute $25 per capita. Rwanda donates a larger percentage of its gross domestic product than does the United States. Bush has set the bar low for all other donors. We in the industrialized world participate in denial and passive genocide as 17,000 (mostly African) people die from these diseases daily. Have you contacted your representatives regarding money for the Global Fund?

The US-Europe-based pharmaceutical companies are guilty of overpricing and still doing everything possible to protect patents. They are also guilty of neglecting research for new TB and malaria drugs in favor of more profitable vanity drugs for Western waistlines, hair loss, and hard-ons.

Perhaps Ron Dellums can do something about the recent supply problems of Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) AIDS drugs in Nigeria. Thank goodness Nigeria also has negotiated contracts with Indian generic manufacturers. I would like to think Dellums had something to do with BMS ceasing its harassment of Brazil and Thailand. These two governments produce their own AIDS drugs.
John Iversen, Berkeley

Truth is a defense
Annie Kasdin's letter (Letters, April 3) may have confused some of your readers. It was an odd defense of Mr. Wiggins that concluded by wishing Sheila Jordan, the County Superintendent (and my wife), should consume poison. Also baseless were her allegations of racism.

Annie Kasdin's bitter letter stems more from our longtime friendship with her former husband than concern for Mr. Wiggins' electoral fortunes. If she doubts that Sheila has been active in the fight against racism, we would be happy to show her a picture of Sheila taking the Kasdin children to an anti-apartheid demonstration in the mid-1980s. I don't remember Annie attending those demonstrations -- or any others, for that matter.

Fortunately, neither the vast majority of African-American elected officials who endorsed Sheila Jordan, the sizable number who endorsed Jacki Fox Ruby, nor African-American voters themselves appear to agree with her allegations of racism. If you examine the election results, Jacki Fox Ruby won a majority of votes in nearly all predominantly African-American precincts, including in West Oakland, the flatlands of North Oakland, and districts of Emeryville and Berkeley. Wiggins, by contrast, had his highest percentages in four Piedmont precincts. He performed best overall in Piedmont as well, losing only narrowly to Ruby, whose own best totals were in Berkeley (61 percent).

Nor did Sheila's letter describing Mr. Wiggins' behavior make a marked difference. Absentee voters, most of whom did not receive the letter until after they voted, returned a 55-45 percent majority for Ruby, only a slight difference from the final 58-42 percent margin of victory.

As a footnote, Mr. Wiggins has yet to sue us for libel, perhaps because truth is a sufficient defense. But if a witch does appear on our doorstep carrying a basketful of apples, we won't make Snow White's mistake.
Larry Cooperman, Oakland

A pedestrian comedy act
This letter is to address the Cityside piece on March 27 ("Walking Amok" ). I've lived on the Oakland/Berkeley border most of my life, and the reality is, people who drive usually are not worthy of a bronze star or a Purple Heart. But the peds and bicyclists have certainly put some of the sand in the Vaseline. I know when you get cruisin' you don't want to stop and go, you want to go and keep going till you get to your destination.

Hey, I got it. Instead of flags at busy crosswalks, we should all wear bright flashing Bozo noses.
Macks Hanavan, Oakland

Chicken, Berkeley-style
I got a grim chuckle reading the article on how dangerous it is to walk in Berkeley. The statistics might be misleading, but the danger is real. Berkeley is different.

Pushy drivers get surprised by an encounter with the hardy Berkeley pedestrian, who is likely to glare at the driver while proceeding to cross the street in no particular hurry. Equally often, particularly at marked crosswalks covered by the much-flouted law, Berkeley pedestrians will just cross, paying little attention to oncoming traffic. This goes on a lot near the UC campus.

I'm a resident, and I enjoy playing this Berkeley form of "chicken," but I try to estimate whether the driver is paying attention. I think if I make eye contact, I can get my right of way. I usually back off for light pickups driven by young males, subcompacts driven by young females, and for anyone driving a bright-red car -- for some reason, these people are most likely to be inattentive or pushy.

Most Berkeley drivers are likely to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk and generally show a live-and-let-live attitude. Most Berkeley pedestrians are reasonable too; we take our right of way, but try to quickly get across the street. But Berkeley does have a distinct minority of drivers who can become downright homicidal. Berkeley's orange flags don't do a lot of good. People still have to pay attention. This is true anywhere, but in Berkeley there may be a bit of an attitude problem.
Steve Geller, Berkeley

The Patriot's two strikes
I found your article about the recent liberal-conservative clashes on the UCB campus ("White Powder, Bronze Culture," March 27) both interesting and disheartening. If college Republicans at Berkeley are a "minority," they are an extremely vocal, incendiary one. When attending classes I made it a point to pick up a copy of the Patriot -- I always enjoyed reading the outrageous and poorly written stories to my amused friends and laughing at the inadvertently humorous parts. "Publications" such as the Patriot are doubly unfortunate, because supposedly intelligent conservative institutions lavish them with funds, and for the disinformed hate they purvey as rational argument and fact.


Scott Esposito, Berkeley

Father, forgive them
Regarding "lifetime Democrat" George Warren's letter attacking Yuri Kochiyama (Letters, April 10): Let me see if I've got this right. Mrs. Kochiyama was "a groupie" of "a charismatic liar" who "espoused a bizarre theory" and whom she comforted as he lay dying. Furthermore, she was known to associate with "street thugs and addicts."

In Biblical times, exactly the same thing was said about Mary Magdalene.
Dan Akira Nishimura, Oakland

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