Letters for the week of December 10-16, 2003 

Soulbeat will not be missed. Nick Van Exel is not a superstar. The prisons should not discriminate. Democracy is essential, but not pretty.

"Soul on Thin Ice," Bottom Feeder, 11/12

A long, slow slide
Good riddance to Soulbeat. Soulbeat has been an embarrassment since at least the late '80s when all of us kids used to watch our old-folk parents, neighbors, and teachers do the Electric Slide at Jimmie's on one of their live broadcasts of the nightclub. In the almost twenty years that I've watched Soulbeat, the channel has gotten progressively worse, not better. I still see commercials that were "produced" back when I was in high school in the late '80s. The premise of Soulbeat is great; however, the station's usefulness ended back when they stopped showing OAL football games. I wish Comcast would consider MBC as a replacement for black entertainment and not the blowhard Chauncey Bailey who, as I've seen from his show, doesn't have much more to offer in the way of quality news.
DeReece Arvjuane, Oakland

"Banking on the Baby-Faced Killer," Cityside, 10/29

One of these is not like the other
Please do not call Nick Van Exel a superstar. If I must prove that statement untrue, then how does this sound? Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Nick Van Exel. Which one does not belong?
Russ Lobar, Richmond

"Spare Change for a Trauma Center?" City of Warts, 11/26

Save the safety net
Thank you for the wonderful coverage of the health-care crisis at Highland. It is shocking that the county supervisors could dismantle so much of our health-care safety net without any explanation to the public. More responsible politicians would disclose to the public that they may close the labor and delivery floor, and the cancer, TB, orthopedics, AIDS, and trauma clinics. People in Alameda County have a right to know.
Ann Nomura, Oakland

"Jackson Inaction," Culture, 11/19

Why the double standard?
Your article on the prison authorities' reluctance to allow filming of the George Jackson story and escape should recall to readers that Bound by Honor was filmed in San Quentin in 1993, and that it, too, featured less-than-desirable characters, horrific racial tensions, plenty of violence, riots, and less-than-honorable guards in its prison sequences. And yet filming was allowed inside the maximum-security prison. Why the reluctance to allowing filming ten years later? Simply because a film has an inflammatory nature is no reason to in essence ban it from being filmed in its proper location. The filming of Bound by Honor must have posed some large security problems, and the story certainly couldn't have done much to increase racial harmony either in prison or in the community, yet the on-location shooting gave it a realistic punch all its own. I hope the prison authorities can be persuaded to change their minds -- realism isn't always pleasant, but it certainly is powerful, especially in a film.
Martin Bickerstaff, Alameda

"All Tomorrow's Zombies," Music, 11/19

It takes one to know one
You're essentially correct re the indie stare, but if you yourself were up in the action for the likes of the Mars Volta, then you would have had no time to notice whether other folks were getting their groove on or not. Difficult to accept criticism from one who took an active role in what they're now criticizing, ya know?
Paul Atwood, Berkeley

"Singh vs. Singh," Feature, 11/19

Violent means attract violent types
Malcolm Gay deserves applause for a meticulously researched and balanced piece on a sensitive subject. However, a pair of errors managed to get past his eagle eye.

First, Guru Arjan, whose martyrdom day coincided with June 1984's Operation Blue Star, concluded (rather than launched) the construction of the Golden Temple (or Darbar Sahib), Sikhism's holiest shrine located in Amritsar, Punjab. Guru Arjan's predecessor, Guru Amar Das, was responsible for commencing its construction.

Second, according to veteran BBC correspondent Mark Tully's book Amritsar: Mrs. Gandhi's Last Battle, the Babbar Khalsa was formed not "in the wake of Operation Blue Star" but during the years leading up to it. They "took their name from the Babbar Akalis, the group of terrorists who rejected the Akali Dal's nonviolent policy during the Gurdwara Reform Movement (GRM) in the 1920s."

I was particularly rankled by Bhajan Singh Bhinder's statement about not wanting to hold elections at the Fremont Gurdwara (since 1996) "because elections have been known to be abused." Sidestepping democratic institutions is an ineffective way to go about refining them. In Winston Churchill's famous words, "democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

A strong precedence for the democratic governance of gurdwaras exists in the form of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), an elected body, established per the Sikh Gurdwaras Act of 1925, responsible for the management of all major gurdwaras in and around the Punjab region.


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