Letters for the week of September 18-24, 2002 

Elementary teachers have it harder, Southwestern College gets Peralta'd, OAK loses its onetime luster, but the drug war is doing just fine.

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Each tattoo tells a story
I am very annoyed at your about your recent article regarding Tattoo the Earth at the Oakland Arena. Your article was extremely disturbing and extremely unfair to those of us who appreciate the beauty and talent of the artists. Their work is extraordinary, and the artists command some respect.

As for those of us who choose to display such body art on our bodies, we are extroverts and are proud of our tattoos. Each tattoo on my body tells a story of my life and has a special meaning to me. One of my tattoos is a Marine Bulldog in honor of my father who passed away last year of a tragic accident. Another of my tattoos is a tribute to my son who was killed on his eighteenth birthday in a tragic fall from a five-hundred-foot cliff in Glide, Oregon. If you understood the meaning behind body art ... you would not judge those of us who wear them so harshly.

As far as your comments regarding Nikki Sixx, I was fortunate enough to get personally tattooed along with Nikki, and he does not deserve your comments. He was a perfect gentleman and a very nice person and I was proud to be able to be filmed and tattooed with him.
Constance "CJ Dee" DeBenning, Hayward

P.S. I am sending a copy of your article and my letter to your editor, Tattoo the Earth, and Nikki Sixx.

Businesses fail; get over it
If VC flyboys can't tell which dot-com will become a dot-bomb, if Amazon.com's CEO becomes Time's Man of the Year despite never turning a profit -- indeed, having five consecutive years of million-dollar losses -- why do you label Oakland's Municipal Lending Program/One Stop Capital Shop a failure ("One-Stop Capital Flop," Aug. 21)? What gives the city's bean counter any expertise in predicting business successes or failures? How is a man who sinks $500,000 of his own money into a business and produces over a thousand units of finished product a flimflam artist? How many dry holes does an oil company drill for each gusher? How much research does Bayer conduct to bring a pill to market?

In this same edition you feature a DuPont product which not only was not marketable, but toxic! The plant that produced it is closed! Is DuPont a flimflam artist? Was Sierra-Crete not properly marketed? And why don't you label CEDA the failure with its high turnover in administrators and staff? So the man had a dream, pursued it and it didn't work out. What about Oakland's dreams about the Raiders? How much has that cost the taxpayers? Are only failed black businessmen to be pilloried in the Express? After all, he didn't invent the Municipal Lending Program. He followed all of its rules, and several reviews by outside consultants gave him the green light. Why doesn't the Express question these "experts?"
E. Webber, Oakland

Just say no to legalization
Our work at DEA to prevent drug abuse in this country is more important than ever before (Letters, August 21). This year President Bush released one of the most comprehensive drug plans in our nation's history. He set clear priorities and goals to determine that funds will continue to yield results -- a ten percent reduction in drug use within two years and a 25 percent reduction within five years.

There are some who say that we should not continue the fight against drugs. They suggest that if we simply legalize drugs, then many of the problems that come with drugs will simply fade away. They could not be more wrong. American drug policy is working. Overall drug use in the United States is down fifty percent since the late 1970s. That is 9.3 million fewer people using illegal drugs. Cocaine use in this country has dropped by an astounding 75 percent during the last fifteen years.

The fight against drugs has become even more important since our nation went to war against terrorists. The money that pays for the violent acts of terrorists often comes from drug trafficking. About half of the terrorist organizations identified by the Department of State are supported by the narcotics trade, including the Al Qaeda network in Afghanistan and the violent FARC organization and paramilitary groups in Colombia.

There is a myth that the DEA's efforts are wasted in pursuit of drug users or low-level dealers. The DEA isn't targeting users, but traffickers -- the criminal organizations that distribute drugs in the streets and neighborhoods throughout America. Local law enforcement deals with users, but it's important to point out that only five percent of people in US federal prisons for drug offenses are there on possession convictions. First-time drug offenders, even sellers, typically do not go to prison. The truth is somebody has to work pretty darn hard to go to prison for drug use in this country.

Given the proven links between drug abuse and other social problems such as violence and child abuse and neglect, the legalization of drugs and the corresponding rise in use would overwhelm our criminal justice system and strain our already overburdened social welfare system.

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