Letters for April 2 

Readers sound off on that baffling AC Transit housing loan, Dacher Keltner's "junk science," and more.

"The House That AC Transit Bought," Full Disclosure, 3/5

How will we right this wrong?

Being a family member of one of the involved parties highlighted in this article, I am overjoyed to see that the truth has finally come out. Many family members of Georgia were never able to say their final "goodbyes" because of Rick Fernandez' actions leading up to her death. Now the question is this: What is the public going to do to right this wrong?

Jordan Borges, Livermore

Of layoffs and loans

My name is Velda Justin-Carr. I was a faithful nineteen-year employee of AC Transit. I was laid off on April 11, 2003 and was told it was due to a deficit. I was one of a few in management affected by this. I just read your article and it put a question in my mind. How can the board of directors approve a personal loan for the general manager during a layoff??? The monies that they loaned him could have possibly saved a few salaries. I really don't think that this money was funded to the company for a house! I never understood how a person with nineteen years of good service be laid off and never considered for rehire. Back then I thought it was discriminatory and was given a right to sue and lost. Now that this information has come out it seems as if the monies were given to "Rickie," while we suffered. I was also told not to disclose anything regarding my lawsuit and never to apply again. I think this was done out of retaliation because I attempted to fight for my rights and the unfair treatment I was given.

Velda Justin-Carr, El Cerrito

Gross mismanagement

Here is a man who makes over $21,000 a month and yet he needed a loan from a public fund to help secure a house that was $90,000 under value. In the height of the mortgage boom anyone with decent credit could get a loan. Also why would AC Transit loan another $100K to a man who makes $260K a year. How can AC Transit expect a man to manage a $300 million fund when he can't even manage his own personal finances, not to mention the money he received by changing the last will and testament? This is a gross mismanagement of public funds.

Lance McHan, Stockton

Step down

This information should be turned over the Alameda County Grand Jury and the DA. The board ought to terminate the GM as soon as possible. As far as I'm concerned both AC Transit directors Harper and Kaplan ought to resign as board members having violated the public trust. They are both duly elected to represent the taxpayers and the riding public of the district. Do the honorable thing and step down.

Jerry Wiggins, former AC Transit board member, Berkeley

The Third World could teach us something

Thank you for enlightening us all in the corruption and underhanded deals that exist within AC Transit. I hope that you will continue to dig deeper into the issue and expose the rats that continue to abuse our system and public funds for personal use. I am outraged enough that fares continue to increase while service continues to be spotty at best. It seems that the transit authority could learn something from some Third World countries, which have better bus service than us. I know, there is corruption there too, but at least they have service which meets or exceeds the needs of the community. I am also surprised that our local major networks have not picked this story up and run with it ... baffling. Anyway, great work, and I look forward to more stories from you.

Dave Ho, Berkeley

"Nice People Gain Power, (Which Makes Them Less Nice)," Ideopolis, 2/20

No more junk science

Dacher Keltner's report on the rise to power rests on the study of college students. His larger assertions are without supporting evidence: they are familiar tropes of psychologists unfamiliar with human history or the variety of human societies. To extend classroom studies and observations of US leaders to the human species as a whole is an arrogance characteristic of US researchers who have never made contact with the rest of the world. There are significant differences in human psyches across cultures (cf. Shimizu & Levine, eds. Japanese Frames of Mind, Cambridge University Press, 2001). Do they extend to political behavior? Keltner can't tell us. As for the "informal, small groups" of the human past, agriculture is 10,000 years old, and even small kin-based groups could be coalesced into larger units by powerful, self-aggrandizing leaders, especially in the context of continual warfare. Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander, Genghis Khan: who knows how nice they were as youths, or indeed remained with their inner circles? George W. Bush is still a "very extroverted" "nice guy" who "tells jokes" and pats people on the back. So was Reagan. Behavior is situational; people change with the circumstance. Not only are Keltner's prehistory, history, and evolution theory flawed, so is his psychology. Please, no more junk science!

Jeffrey M. Dickemann, Ph.D., Sonoma State University Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, Richmond

Remembering LBJ

"Think of the ruthless protagonist in the film There Will Be Blood, or consider biographer Robert Caro's subjects: Robert Moses, New York's vicious master builder; and Lyndon Johnson, who used every advantage to climb from a Texas farmhouse to the White House."

Lyndon Johnson was not perfect. However, I read the above quote in last week's issue and must say I took a tiny bit of offense to the statement. And yes, I'm from Texas. Austin, Texas to be exact. Sometimes we Texans are strange in that we take our history a bit too seriously. My apologies. Oh, and for the record ... George W. Bush is not from Texas.

LBJ, "farmhouse" boy that he may have been (what a provincial generalization to make), is often written about in history books with a mixed reverence and awe as to his ability to navigate the complex (and often pervasively corrupt and preferential) channels of the Washington political milieu. What's more, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would not have passed had it not been for that advantage-seeking ferocity of LBJ's. By acknowledging his inability to shove an important piece of legislation down very unwilling throats, he was indeed able to use the memory of a slain president to his advantage. I'll grant you that this is not the most respectable way to pass important laws and did in fact show a bit of what was to come (Gulf of Tonkin?), but more often than not I'd be willing to bet such methods pale in comparison to what is nowadays more common in the halls of our nation's capital today.

LBJ was not perfect, but he was not a monster.

Tiffany Conner, Oakland

"Scenes From a Do-Nothing City Council," Full Disclosure, 2/27

What residents want

I am thrilled to see that Mr. Plazola has taken some interest in what the majority of Oakland residents want for their city. Perhaps the following facts will be of interest to him as the lobbyist for the developer who wants to replace Schilling Gardens with the condominium project known as Emerald Views.

That is, for many years large majorities of Oakland residents have preferred to retain park land or potential park land at Lake Merritt instead of using it for private development. For example, in 1907, 80 percent of Oakland voters approved a park bond which purchased many of the now well-established parks at Lake Merritt. Similarly, in 1999, 80 percent of more than of the 6,000 residents surveyed preferred to keep Splash Pad Park rather than sell it to Trader Joe's. And, in 2002, 80 percent of Oakland voters (again!) approved Measure DD which will reclaim and improve park land at Lake Merritt.

I hope Mr. Plazola is sincere in his new-found interest in what the majority of Oakland residents want for Oakland. However, it is probably wishful thinking to believe he will be distributing a flier with these facts at the next Planning Commission or City Council meeting regarding Emerald Views.

John Klein, Oakland

"SFJAZZ Drummer Finds His Own Special Beat," Music, 3/5

Speaking of drums

This article gives me the impression that Harland speaks "drum" on and off stage. When he says that drums don't necessarily create the dynamic, I'm lead to believe that he appreciates a good melodic line. There must be music behind the beat and the vocals, if any. Our drummer's major complaint about mainstream music today is that if you take away the drums and vocal line, there's nothing left. Maybe that's why jazz continues to pick up the slack and still be the musician's music. Thanks for writing about Harland's talent. I look forward to his potential leadership in the future.

Grace Woods, Berkeley

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