Letters for the Week of June 6, 2012 

Readers sound off on Friendzone, biogas, and the Gill Tract.

Page 3 of 4

Among your other contributions was a $700 donation from the Tidewater Group, which is co-run by Ana Chretien, owner of ABC Security, which has maintained private security contracts with the city over the past two decades. Tidewater also is co-run by Oakland lobbyist Carlos Plazola, who represents numerous entities that seek special deals from the city. You've also received $700 from lobbyist Lily Hu.

Unfortunately, we don't know more about Plazola and Hu's clients and what they want from the city because you and the council have voted to gut the city's political watchdog — the Public Ethics Commission. It also should be noted that you have voted repeatedly over the years to slash the city attorney's office budget, forcing the office to lay off lawyers, thereby requiring taxpayers to hire expensive outside counsel to defend the city in litigation.

As such, your contention that Barbara Parker has done something untoward while your hands are clean is hypocritical. Moreover, as a longtime city councilmember, if you were truly worried about pay-to-play politics in Oakland, you could have easily introduced legislation to ban contributions from businesses and people who do business with the city. But you haven't.

As for the column in question, I stand by my opinion that the council should not vote to put the term-limits measure on the ballot unless you and your campaign manager Larry Tramutola (whom you have already paid at least $10,000) agree not to participate in or benefit from the ballot measure campaign.


Miscellaneous Letters

Steampunk Republicans?

When I first heard the phrase "Restore Our Future" on the radio, my mind did one of those time blips, causing a mental wormhole that sent me into oxymoronic deep space. How can one restore a future? "Highly illogical," Dr. Spock would say.

"Restore Our Future" is the name of a Super PAC (Political Action Committee) created to support Mitt Romney in the upcoming presidential election. As a Super PAC, "Restore our Future" is permitted to raise and spend unlimited amounts of contributions under the terms of the Citizen United Supreme Court decision of 2010. As of April 2012, it had spent $40 million. (This same Supreme Court defined a corporation as a "person" [which makes about as much sense to me as the phrase "Restore Our Future"]. The dictionary definition of the word "person" is "an individual human being." I'd bet 99 percent of the American public would agree with that definition.)

But I finally figured it out. With "Restore Our Future," the Republican Party is actually going for the Steampunk vote. Yes, you heard it here first. 

Joking aside: For those of you unfamiliar with the term, "Steampunk" began as a literary genre and has developed into a popular subculture incorporating elements of speculative and science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, and horror. (Special thanks to DeWitt Cheng's article on Steampunk "Forward to the Past" in a recent edition of the East Bay Monthly.)  

Steampunkers are identified by wearing whimsical Victorian clothing and accessories, recycling, and the invention of clockwork and alternative mechanisms. They are committed to the creative process and sharing information freely, not holding on tightly to their knowledge and processes.

So far, Steampunk is most visible on the Internet, at Burning Man, and at the Maker Faire here in the Bay Area. Inventors and tinkerers are the backbone of the movement; writers and artists are the mouthpieces. A soon-to-come documentary film entitled Vintage Tomorrows describes Steampunk as "retro-futurism." 

Steampunk sci-fi author Cherie Priest defines Steampunk as "the science fiction of a future that never happened." Sound familiar, "Restore Our Future"?

Steampunkers very consciously use contradictory temporal language — to make a point about what has happened in the past and what is happening now, and what can happen — differently — in the future.  

Here's the rub: If the Republicans are trying to restore a future, they need to explain the future they want to restore. And how in the hell do they intend to do it? Time travel?

This is what the Republicans don't get: The future isn't about repeating what went before; it's about learning from the past and pursuing different options. No wonder the Republicans are still bumbling on how to promote their candidates in cyberspace. No wonder Newt Gingrich wants colonies on the moon to "harvest" its riches.

Einstein said it best: "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them."

Much of Steampunk fiction is based on what every person age twelve (and up) realizes: Our human civilization is facing annihilation due to our own collective (corporate) technological greed, immorality, and arrogance.

Steampunk is based on the deep relationship of individual human beings (persons) with technology. It studies the past and considers alternative realities. It's about the "how," not the bottom line.

Sue Silva, Oakland

Corrections

In our May 23 music story "Inside the Friendzone," we incorrectly stated that both James Laurence and Dylan Reznick left Destroy Tokyo before the band became Religious Girls. In fact, Reznick was part of the rechristened band.

A photo of Willow Rosenthal in our May 30 Lectures and Lit picks should have been credited to Sarah Henry of Berkeleyside.

In the May 30 installment of Last Call, "Pops on Hops," we erroneously stated that Beer Revolution has been open for three years. It has in fact been open since February 2010.

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