Letters for March 18 

Readers sound off on Measure Y, AK Press, Brita recycling, and our theater reviews.

"Measure Y Is a Bad Law," Full Disclosure, 2/18

Talk to Me

I can't believe you feel you can write an article like this without even bothering to talk to me. I am no "political gadfly." I've been to exactly one city council meeting in my entire life. I've had no involvement in Oakland politics ever, with the exception of this lawsuit. You have no idea who I am, what I am hoping to accomplish with this lawsuit, or why I filed it in the first place. In addition, you did not go to the hearing and you did not hear what the judge had to say about the Oakland proposal of using rookie cops to fill PSO positions. Specifically, he indicated that Measure Y allows funds to be used for training only in community policing techniques; he did not think academy training for any officers at all would be permitted — Measure Y or otherwise.

I urge anybody interested in this issue to check out my new blog at DefendingMeasureY.blogspot.com. I've tried to lay out the issues very clearly so that the types of misinformation that you are perpetuating will stop.

Marleen Sacks, Oakland

Blame the Council

Technically, any proposition is "legislating from the ballot box." Measure Y, though, was not an initiative by a group doing an end run around the city council. The council wrote the blasted thing. Some of us were castigated during the 2004 campaign for warning that Y would not guarantee a single additional officer, community policing or otherwise. We were right.

Yes, City Hall needs to work out a plan to get to 1,100 police and commit to it, instead of ignoring the basic need while offering micro-managed fixes.

Charles Pine, Oakland Residents for Peaceful Neighborhoods, Oakland

Suggest a Plan

Robert Gammon's opinion, "Measure Y Is a Bad Law," rings true in many ways, especially with his call for a new tax measure to pay for more police. Unfortunately he doesn't suggest how that tax plan should be written, and complaining without suggesting a solution is not constructive. Perhaps a solution can be found in defining a benefit assessment district under Proposition 218 and let the folks in high crime areas of Oakland tax themselves for more police protection. In 2003, the property owners in Oakland within a well-defined high fire danger area agreed to pay additional property taxes to pay for additional fire protection, perhaps the folks in high crime areas could do the same. The results of this sort of election will determine what the people of the high crime areas are willing to do about the condition.

John Batcheller, Oakland

"Beyond Anarchy at AK Press," Culture Spy, 2/18

We're Not Technophobes

I'm a bit puzzled by Rachel Swan's depiction of AK Press as a cantankerous crew of technophobic, political purists holed up in a warehouse in Oakland. I know a far different AK Press: A week prior to the appearance of Ms. Swan's article I bought a copy of their latest DVD, Shutdown: The Rise and Fall of Direct Action to Stop the War, and as an author with the press I've been encouraged to participate in their blog, Revolution by the Book. AK Press carries a wide variety of works including novels, DVDs, and other media that — much to the horror of some of their more doctrinaire colleagues in the anarchist movement — don't fit neatly into anarchist political thought. I would encourage your readers to visit AK Press's web site to learn more about one of the Bay Area's most vibrant resources for creative thought and action.

Terence Kissack, Oakland

Voluntary, Not Coercion

PM sounds like a good idea. Being outvoted is why our collective business works on consensus instead of majority rule, dialoging until a satisfactory resolution is reached, sometimes over months, if it's not immediately resolvable. The whole idea of anarchism is VOLUNTARY association, therefore if Kanaan gets fed up with the collective for whatever reason, he can leave and begin a new collective with likeminded folks. In a non-capitalist world, this is common sense.

But in our capitalist world, this is an impossible decision for most people, as bosses control most wealth and access to jobs. This is why Kanaan has to start PM as a volunteer project at first, to build capital. This setup is NOT voluntary association, this is coercion. This is the big difference, and this is why collectives are better, especially if we lived in a society where most wealth was not hoarded by a select few. Unfortunately, there is no way to get to be able to voluntarily associate with others other than to just do it within the system we have, at least until enough of us do it that a new system arises. Until then, we will work harder to work freer.

Dylan Barr, New Orleans

A Spoiled Democrat

An interesting story might have been written about Ramsey Kanaan ("Beyond Anarchy"), if its author had talked to anybody besides Ramsey Kanaan. He now says — or Rachel Swan says — he is beyond anarchy, but his anarchist critics have long contended that he never even got that far. He tried to peddle democracy as anarchism, and with family money to play with, he bought himself a place in anarchist circles, where a little money goes a long way, as there is only a little money to be seen there. He's a class-struggle social democrat, not an anarchist. 

But it turns out he is not much of a democrat either. He founded, financed, and dominated AK Press for many years, and is even your staff writer so naive as to believe that he took his turn sweeping out the warehouse while Crusty the Bicycle Messenger took his turn deciding whether to publish yet another collection of Noam Chomsky ephemera? (Actually an easy call, because Chomsky pays for it, using AK Press as a vanity press.) Unlike Ms. Swan, Bay Area anarchists have heard of the high turnover/burnout rate in the supposedly egalitarian AK collective, which is of course a gerontocratic oligarchy. When the collective made some decisions he disagreed with, he decided he did not care for majority rule after all. He started over — again the founder, again the financier — because, as he says, a collective is ever so much better when it always agrees with you! 

Ramsey Kanaan, with mom's money to be sure, has achieved the American Dream, but how did he manage that, as he is not an American, and it is illegal for foreign anarchists even to enter the United States? How is it he operates businesses here, although I am not aware that anarchist (or whatever) publishers are one of the categories of workers deemed admissible because there are not enough Americans for such work? Has the Citizenship and Immigration Service given him a pass? 

Bob Black, Albany, New York

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