Letters for the week of October 23-29, 2002. 

We don't need cab regulations, we already have a film festival, we shouldn't have lost The City, and we should fight teen drug tests.

Taxicab licenses breed taxicab exploitation
It's good to have the scumbags, who are out there trying to cheat and exploit people, pointed out ("All's Fare in Cabbies' Union Fight," October 9). But in this case, with the Singhs and their cab company, who is it that actually makes their abuses possible?

Well, could they corner the market on cab-driving jobs if there weren't a political apparatus dictating who is allowed to do that work and who isn't? And is it surprising that that political apparatus would be venal or derelict? Influence-peddling and political reproduction go hand in hand, almost necessarily. And anyone who wanted to try to run an honest cab business is kept out of the game in the name of social planning for the "common" good. Way to go, progressives!
Frank Mosta, Oakland

Now playing (since 1974)
"It's about time Oakland had its own film festival" ("Got Its Own," October 16).

Where are you getting your sources from? Oakland is the first place in the country to have a Black Filmmakers' Film Festival dating back to 1974! Where do you think Debra Allen (Fame), F. Gary Gray (Friday), Tim Story (Barbershop), Robert J. Poole (The Mack), and Tim Reid (Once Upon a Time ... When We Were Colored) got their start -- Sundance?? Check your sources!!
Rahizzle, Oakland

Dubya needs Derf
I have been a fan of the East Bay Express for two reasons:

1. Your in-depth cover articles are always well researched and written and usually are of interest to me, and

2. Derf's The City is always great.

I can't believe you dropped Derf. The Jesse's Dream column replacing Derf is dull and apropos of nothing. I have Derf strips plastered all over my cubicle at work. Did you drop Derf because you're afraid of upsetting Dubya supporters? If so, you should be ashamed of yourself. Dubya needs criticism and most of the media is too cowardly to provide it. Derf always gets a big BRAVO from me. Please reinstate his column and please explain yourself.
George Wright, Richmond

Unvoid Derf
I received an e-mail from John Backderf, the creator of The City comic, saying that you had dropped the comic from the Express. I wanted to register my disapproval. I live in Oakland now and The City is one of the main reasons I will pick up the Express. The City is a great, irreverent comic, and I hope you will reconsider your dropping of it.
John Guthrie, Oakland

"Salad shooter to ER, salad shooter to ER"
In response to the October 2 article "Big Mother Is Watching You," why on earth would the portable locating devices for nurses at Eden Hospital be designed to collect information on response time and time in room, if this information were not to be used by hospital administration to monitor some aspect of the nurses' performance? And why were nurses being monitored on their breaks? Nurses are certainly not opposed to a system that truly facilitates communication between patients and nurses, and nurses and other hospital personnel. But a system that is designed to track nurses' movements like so many salad shooters in a warehouse is demeaning.

A good communication system is essential in any hospital, but it is only a tool and has its limitations. The patients most in need of assistance in any acute hospital are either too ill or too confused to use any kind of self-initiating communication system. And the patient suffering an acute event such as a seizure is not going to be capable of using the console during a seizure. In these days of managed care, the otherwise-healthy patient lying in a hospital bed recovering from lumbosacral strain isn't there anymore.

Gone, too, are all those minor surgery patients, who are now treated on an outpatient basis. The majority of hospital patients are elderly and very sick, and often feeble and confused. A patient's condition can change suddenly, but the initial signs of change may be subtle. A patient picks at the bedclothes. The trained nurse notes this, and assesses the patient for a lack of oxygen, medication reaction, or metabolic imbalance. Another patient is too weak to sit up. The trained nurse notes pallor and, upon checking the pulse, finds that it is rapid and weak. After the doctor has been called and a blood test ordered, it is determined that the patient has internal bleeding.

A stellar communication system would not help in either of these examples of everyday situations arising on any acute medical floor. The communication system may be an assist to overall care of hospital patients, but there is no substitute for an adequate number of caring, highly trained, vigilant nurses.
Laurie Umeh, RN, nurse practitioner, Oakland

Just say no to student drug testing
Thanks for the story on the proposed plan to drug-test students at Dublin High ("Reading, Writing, and Urinalysis," October 16). You raise important points that would argue against any school district's signing onto this new national juggernaut to inspect our youth's urine. These are, most of all, respect for adolescents' basic civil liberties, as well as cost (in a state that's at the bottom in per student spending!), stigma, and inherent unfairness in who's tested. There are other issues. Some drugs (e.g. marijuana) stay in the body longer than other, more dangerous ones, which could lead to more use of the latter kind. If students test "dirty," they could be vulnerable to expulsion or even arrest. If students or parents refuse to test out of principle, they risk being called drug users.

Let me add, as a longtime drug researcher, that there is an added irony in the student drug-testing crusade. Research shows that athletics and other extracurricular activities provide a powerful alternative to alcohol or other drug use. But since when is our national drug policy based on scientific fact? As we Californians show wisdom and courage in opposing the war on the adults among us who use drugs -- through medical marijuana and Proposition 36 -- I hope we won't compensate by declaring war on our kids.
Dorie Klein, Albany

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