Letters for July 2 

Readers sound off on electronic noise, gun violence, race and crime, Ethiopian food, John Yoo, and more.

"Enjoy the Silence," Your Words Here, 6/4

Only the Wealthy Will Be Able to Afford Quiet

I had to read Steve Koppman's brilliant summation on "electronic age noise" twice because I couldn't believe someone was finally addressing this most insidious issue. I've had many discussions with people concerning the "maddening din" around us (car alarms, gas-powered leaf blowers, brain-numbing car sub-woofers, cell phones, and all other disruptive electronic blips, bleeps, and rings). Mr. Koppman has really hit on the precise meaning of it all — technology marches on, corporations reap the benefits, and quiet goes "out the window" along with civility. We need quiet now more than ever. The most disturbing fact is that this past generation and the current generation of children and young adults have grown up in this cocoon of noise and are simply used to it. I actually believe that they're uncomfortable in situations where their surroundings are "too quiet." As I've often suspected, we are rapidly approaching a time in which only the wealthy will be able to afford that which all of us have always taken for granted — the right to privacy and simple peace and quiet. 

Perry Trautner, Oakland

"The High Cost of Gun Violence," Feature, 6/4


If you're between the ages of 21 and 64, aren't pregnant or disabled, and don't have TB, HIV, or any minor children in your home, you are not eligible for Medi-Cal. Matthew Green's description of Medi-Cal as "the state's health insurance program for low-income residents" is sloppy, irresponsible, misleading, and wrong.

David Altschul, Berkeley

The Problem Is Guns

The plague of gun deaths and the out-of-control costs are, alas, very old everyday news. If criminals and underage kids did not have such easy access to illegal guns, these blown-apart, maimed, paralyzed, and dead kids would, in large part, have cursed and punched each other. The violence prevention programs are very well done. But with the present proliferation of illegal guns, they are like triage on a bloody battlefield.

Sherman Kassof, Oakland

The Roots of Crime and Violence

Matthew Green raised some important points, and it was encouraging to read that there is a group (Caught in the Crossfire) reaching out to young potential criminals who have been victims of violence, but Mr. Green made no attempt to point at the glaringly obvious roots of crime and violence in our society. Crime and violence are caused by sociological conditions: poverty, racism, poor educational and job opportunities, illegal drugs and the illegality of those same drugs, etc. The knives and guns these mostly black young men use to stab and shoot each other are merely objects picked up by victims of a long cycle of violence, young men deprived of the means to exit this cycle of violence by the elected officials of our country who have been unwilling to make the tough and expensive choices to break out of this path of destruction.

It has been well known to our legislators as far back as Bush I that poor and minority children who experienced the benefits of Four-Year-Old Head Start under Lyndon Johnson had far lower levels of felony conviction, drug addiction, and alcoholism, far higher levels of high school and college graduation and stable marriage, as well as fewer children than comparable groups of children who did not have the Four-Year-Old Head Start training. This does not even touch upon the potentially far greater benefits of Three-Year-Old Head Start which never got far past the planning stages because the vast wealth of America in the 1960s which easily could have paid for these programs was squandered paying for things like bombs in holes in the ground (missile silos) in far greater numbers than any reasonable person could imagine we needed.

Throughout the Clinton years the head of the NEA repeatedly went to members of Congress from both parties to show them the incontrovertible evidence of how effective these programs had been, but they all said it would require increased taxes which no one wanted to risk his/her political career by supporting so another generation of inner-city youth was sacrificed to the deprivation and murder so amply described by Mr. Green.

It is to Mr. Green's credit that he did not raise the canard of gun control as a solution to this problem. Gun control is nothing more than a trick by rich people to convince the middle-class electorate that there is a cheap, painless solution to inner-city mayhem that does not involve a generation-long commitment to increased taxes on the wealthy to finance expensive but necessary educational programs, both preschool and free public daycare as well as job training, which will bring about the only long-term solutions to this problem. ... Oh, yes, protection of well-paying American jobs would help, too.

Eric King, Berkeley

"Playing the Race Card," Letters, 6/4

Show Your Cards

I am sorry to find Parker Lanet's letter a mystery of sorts. In my 39 years of life, I have been robbed twice (once involving a knife-wielding subject), had my car stolen, and have been assaulted twice. In all of these instances, which involved successful prosecution and conviction, the suspects were African-American or black. The detectives and the police who responded (except for once) were African-American or black. While being victimized, I did not ask the perpetrators (when available to do so) if I had been selected because I held the wrong "race card," or was I randomly targeted or profiled. Was I targeted because the same incidents had been perpetrated more easily in regards to my race, or was it something that came out of the blue? If I behave in criminal ways, I expect that the representation of myself is diminished, regardless of race. It may also indicate something or two of my upbringing or my parents or lack thereof. The persons mentioned in Apprehension are given descriptors. If any member of any race chooses to represent themselves in a criminal act, so be it. They do so at the risk of fueling a negative stereotype toward themselves, as well as their race, possibly for future generations as well. It is time that persons accept responsibility for their actions, instead of playing a well-worn, predictable card in a deck that lost its value. It is the card that is dog-eared from so many people trying to exploit it. It is the race card.

Jim Smart, Oakland

"A Panoply of Spice," Food, 6/4

Call the Zoning Board


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