Letters for the Week of July 11, 2012 

Readers sound off on our ageism, anti-hunting bias, and "progressive bullshit."

"Over the Top," Restaurant Review, 6/27

Ageism: It's What's for Dinner

Apparently, blatant ageism is the only "ism" left that is safe to freely express, as evidenced by Luke Tsai's review of The Terrace Room at the Lake Merritt Hotel. Tsai's take on the view, the location, and the food was overwhelmed by his stupefied shock of encountering old people doing the unthinkable — eating their dinner while enjoying the beautiful view in a nice restaurant not plagued with music amped up to create the illusion of a "happenin' scene."

I wanted to ask Tsai why it is any more remarkable for a diner to want or need to bring his or her own cushion than it is for diners to request a high chair for a tiny child, How condescending is it to assume the staff's "goodness" shown to the old diners is any different than the "goodness" shown to any regular patron (waiters depends on everybody's tips — even old people's). Why is Tsai so obsessed with the dining and behavioral habits of the old people whom he observed — an old man who put his hands on his head, then ate with "aplomb" (really? aplomb?) may, according to Tsai's interpretation, be doing so due to "confusion." Some old diners dressed up. Um, yeah, some people of all ages still like to honor a formal dining experience by dressing up.

Luke Tsai never comes right out and says that a restaurant room occupied by more than one or two diners who "look upwards of eighty years old" is just icky, but he sure suggests it by his concentration on this aspect of The Terrace Room. The real issue is why a review steeped in ageist attitudes is fit to print unchallenged by the editorial staff. I'm pretty sure that an observation that a restaurant's clientele is dominated by, say, a particular race that details his interpretation of their behaviors and dress habits, or by the disabled, would go straight back to the writer for a rewrite.

The irony of the oblivion to ageism is that everyone (except those who die tragically young) gets old — even Luke Tsai, even the editors at the Express.

Kathy Rehak, Richmond

Luke Tsai Responds

One of the tricky things that every writer struggles with (or ought to struggle with) is tone. The last thing I wanted for that particular article was to take on a sarcastic or condescending tone toward the elderly. I'm very sorry that that's how it came across to you. I wonder, though, if you go back and reread my review, if it's possible for you to see that I was trying to report, as objectively as I could, on what I saw at The Terrace Room. I did talk about how many of the diners were elderly, not because I have any problem with that, but because I think that's useful information for people to know when they're deciding if it's a restaurant they'd like to visit.

If a restaurant has a lot of families with children eating there, I'll mention that. If a restaurant seems to cater to tattooed "scenesters," I'll talk about that. In one recent review of an Afghan restaurant in Oakland, I mentioned that it seemed popular with the local Spanish-speaking population. I wasn't judging that fact; I just mentioned it because I thought it was interesting and maybe somewhat unexpected. I did in fact spend a portion of my review of The Terrace Room describing some of the elderly diners that I saw during my first visit, but honestly and truly, my intention was never to make fun of them or to make them sound "icky," as you put it. 

"Pot Tickets and Prop 215: Ask Legalization Nation," Legalization Nation, 6/27

Educate the Cops

After working jail intake for seven years, I came up with a simple rule to stay out of trouble: Never talk to cops. If you must, be brief, be courteous, try to get on your way.

However, the ridiculousness surrounding the enforcement of Prop 215 sounds more like state-sanctioned schadenfreude than public safety provision. The c'est la vie policy seems to be not to require that our officers remain abreast of current law, but rather to slap cancer patients with felonies and leave them to (forgive me) hash it out in court.

Our justice system is overburdened enough as is, with only 5 percent of criminal cases making it to trial. The judges and prosecutors pushing the papers in these cases probably aren't thrilled about the busywork, so if the problem is a matter of lower-level officers not receiving proper education on the regulations, then the solution seems really obvious: educate them. Stop wasting time and money.

Tyler Pritchard, Oakland

"Silent Summer," Seven Days, 6/27

The Anti-Hunting Legislature

From a general environmentalist statement, you went off on a rant about lead and condors, professing [the value of] a ban on the use of lead for hunting and shooting statewide. I believe you are misinformed in a number of ways about the use of lead for hunting and its effects.

Without a conclusive scientific study about the condor population and lead, the state legislature, in a knee-jerk manner, superseded the authority of the Department of Fish and Game and enacted legislation to form a no-lead hunting zone in the Condor Habitat Range. You are suggesting banning the use of hunting with lead statewide, even outside of the condor range.

I was schooled as a conservationist and studied wildlife management as an undergraduate. I question whether non-friable lead, such as that in lead bullets and shot, has an effect on any wildlife.

The bottom line is anti-hunting and anti-gun groups such as the Humane Society and the Brady Campaign want to stop all hunting in the state of California. And, unfortunately, they have the backing of the current majority in the legislature. This is a Humane Society-backed bill and just another step toward banning hunting. What will be brought up next in the hot-button, knee-jerk legislature? Banning the use of dogs to hunt game or retrieve waterfowl? My suggestion to you is to study up on the issue and present facts in an unbiased way. As for fish and game laws, that should be left to the Department of Fish and Game and the Fish and Game Commission. They are the avenues for study, public comment, and wildlife habitat and management — not the anti-hunting state legislature.

James Zigenis, Oakland

"Up in Smoke," Seven Days, 6/27

Progressive Bulllshit

Just like with the failure of the recall in Wisconsin, Robert Gammon, and most of the media, blame the failure of Prop 29 on the amount of money pumped into it by corporations.

Proposition 29 was supported by the Democratic establishment that enjoys overwhelming majority in Sacramento and all of the offices in the state, plus the media, but it still lost. It lost because we, the workers of this state, won't allow any more gimmicks from the Democratic Party to justify more taxes on consumers — and I don't even smoke.

It just doesn't matter if "Perata squandered Prop 29 funds" or not; we are going to continue to defeat your same-sex marriages, your marijuana legalization, your affirmative action, and any of your propositions. We are not swallowing your progressive bullshit.

Leo T. West, San Leandro

"Damning Report of OPD," News, 6/20

Reform Starts from the Inside

The City of Oakland is already starting to hem and haw about the Urban Strategies research. Quan's aide has already stated that the 100 Blocks plan was based on crap. She's in Brazil. What a surprise.

BondGraham and Winston have done more work on more important issues in the Oakland Police Department than anyone else in several years, maybe more. I wouldn't get too entertained by the one date mistake — although I agree that the two-year lag in that policy was a harbinger of the future — that a reader chanced to find. Their research and observations putting it all together are the best chance the people of Oakland have to empower their community — if they will use it and stand up to their do-nothing council, the council that allows the people's police to spend the funds that should go to education, social services, and salaries of city workers on [settling] brutality [cases] and covering their asses.

We need more than anonymous quotes from concerned OPD officers telling us what we already know. OPD's decent officers need to stand up as professionals and clean up their department. There's no other way they can take pride in what they do for a living.

Cynthia Morse, Oakland

Miscellaneous Letters

I'm Not Lovin' It!

The McDonald's construction project on 45th Street and Telegraph Avenue has shown blatant disregard for our city's street trees. It now appears the Temescal neighborhood may lose up to six mature London Planes as a result. Two trees have already been removed. These trees were never posted for removal, and it is uncertain if tree-removal permits were even issued, as required by the Oakland City Tree Ordinance. Three of the four remaining trees have suffered significant root damage and could be lost; one tree's roots were cut up the base, where destabilization may now be an issue. There are no standard tree-protection measures in place, which are also required.

The project should be halted immediately and the remaining trees should be assessed for damage and stability. If the four remaining trees can be saved, appropriate health mitigation treatments should be prescribed and implemented immediately.

Furthermore, a discussion needs to take place on how McDonald's can compensate the Temescal neighborhood for the significant loss in tree canopy cover. Small-stature trees planted in the restaurant's parking lot will not begin to compensate for the loss of these mature city street trees.

As an arborist, I don't understand how these transgressions could have happened. But I would like to see the city put measures in place so that nothing like this can happen again.

Molly Batchelder

Consulting Arborist, SBCA Tree Consulting

Ahead of the Pack on Affordable Care Act

The US Supreme Court decision upholding key provisions of the Affordable Care Act is welcome news for Alameda County, where we have already been advancing a program to expand health care access to thousands of low-income residents.

The need for reform is clear. Walk into any public hospital in the US today and you see a very different population than that which is depicted on television shows like ER. You see not only the faces of the homeless, gunshot victims, and migrant workers. At Highland Hospital, Alameda County's primary site for indigent emergency care, many of our patients work multiple part-time jobs and delay preventative care because they must choose between paying the doctor's bill and buying groceries.

For the nearly 50 million uninsured people nationwide, the act will provide a support system to aid in everyday survival. For those workers fortunate enough to have benefits, health care reform will also bring relief by leveling the playing field, bringing younger, healthier people into the system and reducing costs for all.

Health care coverage for a typical family of four under an employer-sponsored plan is expected to cost the employer and employee a combined $20,000 in 2012. That figure has risen more than 7 percent from 2011, according to projections by the consulting firm Milliman, Inc.

Preventable conditions like diabetes affect patients' quality of life and also lead to emotional and financial burdens that are borne by families, employers, and the American taxpayer. According to the New America Foundation, the poor health and shorter lifespan of the uninsured cost the US economy between $102 and $204 billion annually in lost productivity.

Even before the Supreme Court decision, in Alameda County, we had been implementing the "Bridge to Reform." This program provides people who will be eligible for MediCal (Medicaid) in 2014 access to public insurance now through the Low Income Health Program, called HealthPAC.

There are currently between 75,000 and 100,000 Alameda County residents eligible for HealthPAC. These people are currently ineligible for MediCal, are younger than 65, have a family income between 0 and 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, and are able to verify citizenship or legal permanent residency for at least five years.

Since enrollment began in July 2011, 40,000 residents have signed up. Alameda County is partnering with community clinics, safety-net hospitals, social services agencies, and churches to get the word out.

Alameda County's rapid implementation of the program has already brought in more than $35 million in new federal money to fully fund HealthPAC. Continuing toward full implementation, Alameda County will receive even more federal funding to fulfill our mission of providing safety-net services for those most in need.

Come 2014, Alameda County will be well positioned to focus on enrolling people who don't qualify for HealthPAC into the California State Insurance Exchange, where they can purchase their own health plan and access federal subsidies.

While the Affordable Care Act is a step in the right direction, we still must continue to advocate for a single payer system in which all people have full health care coverage.

Saving employers money and keeping our residents healthy is not a liberal or a conservative issue. Don't we all want Americans to be healthy and prosperous? Don't we all want children to stay in school and workers to stay on the job?

Keith Carson

Alameda County Supervisor, District 5


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