Letters for the week of January 8-14, 2003 

Remembering Richard Hongisto; forgetting sound transit policy; picking on the Muslims again; and exposing the awful, sad truth.

It's time for humility
Speaking as the guy who wrote the article in that "tiny little newspaper" that inspired Richard Hongisto to confiscate almost the entire San Francisco Bay Times press run ("City of Warts," December 11), I too was startled, not only by the fact that Bates did what he did, but that other individuals in Berkeley 'fessed up to doing the same thing with little apparent remorse.

There does seem to be some level of acceptance that free newspapers are free to steal. This is an idea that the courts have decisively rejected but has apparently not yet sunk in among certain sectors of the Bay Area's population. Only recently, a number of papers with an article about Yusuf Bey and his crew apparently disappeared. In other instances some self-styled progressives have grabbed the Daily Cal and other papers from the racks.

I suspect the justification used is a critique of media ownership along the lines that the US has a free press for all those that can afford to buy one. Thus, since we are not rich, we have the right to change the message by stealing it. While understandable, the urge is not acceptable. For instance, the new owners of the East Bay Express, a group of dedicated business libertarians from Phoenix, are not exactly the most popular crew in the East Bay, but that did not result in pillaged East Bay Express boxes.

Unfortunately the sense of righteousness that pervades the Bay Area can be a bit blinding to those involved in politics. Hopefully what happened to Bates will instill a little much-needed humility into the proceedings.

P.S. Hongisto was no "darling" of the San Francisco left. Not only did he steal my newspaper, he also declared martial law and shoved hundreds of protesters in jail because they dared oppose Bush the First's Gulf War #1. Hongisto was a pallid liberal who went power-mad when he was made chief of police, and paid for it with his job and reputation.
Tim Kingston, former staff reporter, San Francisco Bay Times

No one moves to Antioch for the nice commute
It's too bad that the people of Antioch chose to live in a place with lousy public transit and awful traffic ("City of Warts," December 18). But the last thing we should be doing is squandering many hundreds of millions of dollars on a BART extension simply because of some forty-year-old campaign promises. With the same money, we could dramatically upgrade core urban systems such as AC Transit, MUNI, and VTA, and attract many more new transit riders than would ever take BART to Antioch.

Given the chronic underfunding of public transit, BART and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission should be selecting projects that will create the biggest public transit bang for the buck. And they sure won't find it in an expensive new BART station in Antioch.
Christopher Pederson, San Francisco

Joining the attack on Islam
I read the two-part article "Blood & Money" on Oakland's Black Muslims (November 13 and 20), and found the article a disgrace to journalistic integrity and the signal of a disturbing trend being demonstrated by the Express.

Despite the great numbers of groups of various political and spiritual viewpoints that are trying to exert some positive influence in the city of Oakland, a city in dire economic, social, and spiritual trouble, and of which I am sure a certain number of the members of these groups are corrupt and exhibit violence, you chose to attack the Black Muslims of Oakland.

I see no difference in your attack and the attacks being perpetrated daily on the Muslim population in general in the mass media. The "clash of civilizations" is not between the so-called "Western" world and the Islamic world, but between Jews and Muslims. This clash -- this war -- is being bitterly fought, and the Jews, through their domination of the media, have a ready forum through which to wage their war against Islam.

I would expect to read these attacks on Islam in The New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, etc., but I would not expect to read them in a newspaper that should be in solidarity with the poor and oppressed -- of which the Muslims are a part.
William Pepperell, Alamo

On the other hand
Praise to you and your paper for exposing this awful truth of Mr. Bey. I am a former student of the Panther Party. Graduated from the Oakland Community School. I say thanks for telling the truth. I know that you will get a lot of flack regarding the article. It's sad when something that should be positive turns bad because of one.
Billie Wrought, Antioch

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