Letters for the week of April 17, 2002 

"White Powder, Bronze Culture" gets an "F" for too many GFEs; "Walking Amok" provokes pedestrian-safety arguments.

Give her an F
Re: "White Powder, Bronze Culture" (March 27). As the author of the article in question ("MEChA: Student-Funded Bigotry and Hate," California Patriot, February 2002), the gross factual errors (GFEs) committed by Ms. Hung are evidence of the worst form of unprincipled and unethical journalism I have ever come across. When I was studying journalism at a lowly community college, one GFE would get you an "F" in the course. Apparently your tabloid has no such grading system or journalistic integrity.

First of all, the California Patriot was stolen by Mechista thugs in the dead of night, and the East Bay Express did not utter a sound as to this abridgement of the First Amendment at UC Berkeley. Perhaps if the entire press run of the East Bay Express were stolen by fascist thugs, your publication would feel differently about the Bill of Rights and would defend the First Amendment. Firsthand eyewitness accounts of the theft have been ignored by the UCPD, and chances are that "offensive" publications will be stolen in the future at Cal, just as they have in the past. This is the sad state of affairs on our college campuses, and the sad state of affairs for "alternative journalism."

Secondly, the author did not accurately portray my article as an exposition of hate, nor did she bother to cite any relevant part of the article. I denounced MEChA as a hate group, using their own words, and instead the author chose to infer that my article is related to the rash of hate mail towards the Chicano community. This is false, libelous, and without merit or journalistic integrity. By exposing the truth of MEChA's ideology of hatred towards "gringos" and "gabachos," my article has been called "similar in language" to the hate mail. This is an outrageous and particularly libelous claim.

Ironically, Berkeley is supposed to be a "hate free" zone, yet this type of hate is tolerated and funded with my compulsory student fees.

No matter how hard the Mechistas try to distance themselves from their founding documents, the ultimate ideology of MEChA is the liberation of Aztlan. That is why the name of the organization is the Chicano Student Movement of Aztlan. If you bothered to read "El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan," you would know this. Also, "The Spiritual Plan" is referenced in both MEChA chapters' constitutions on file with the ASUC, if your reporter had bothered to look.

Racial hatred, however it manifests itself, should not be tolerated by any society: that is why I wrote the article.

Grade: Ms. Hung gets an "F" for too many GFEs.
Juan Carlos Leal Solis, Berkeley

We're lucky it's not worse
Congratulations to Will Harper for his exploration of the faulty analysis behind the claim that Berkeley's streets are especially dangerous for pedestrians ("Walking Amok," March 27). I'm not insensible to pedestrian safety issues. Most of my own travel through Berkeley is on foot. I've seen plenty of bad and dangerous driving behavior on Berkeley's streets. And some years ago one of my coworkers was struck and killed by a bus turning onto Shattuck Avenue, much as Jayne Ash was killed last year.

However, during the past several years I've also watched my fellow Berkeley pedestrians become increasingly indifferent to sensible behavior and simple laws. It is now commonplace to see pedestrians enter a crosswalk or jaywalk midblock without looking to see if any traffic is coming. Wait at the curb for a "walk" sign in Berkeley and you'll draw strange, pitying glances from the many who amble across the street against the red light. The latest self-absorbed idiocy (which I've seen twice in the past month) involves pedestrians who, rather than waiting on the curb for a few additional seconds, decide to dash across streets in front of sirening fire engines, forcing those vehicles to brake.

Judging from my daily experiences, the only travelers distinctively worse as a group than Berkeley pedestrians are the many Berkeley bicyclists who routinely run red lights, almost never stop at stop signs, shift onto and off sidewalks without warning, fly the wrong way down one-way streets, dodge and weave through other traffic, don't signal turns, usually don't use required safety equipment, think nothing of dashing along at speeds dangerous to themselves and those on foot, and often seem incapable of understanding that they don't have a God-given right to ride as fast as possible without pause to the literal front door of their destination.

My observation is that Berkeley car drivers, while definitely not always well behaved, collectively rank ahead of Berkeley pedestrians and cyclists when it comes to street safety.
Steven Finacom, Berkeley

Slowing down is harder than it sounds
The headline "Walking Amok" (Cityside, March 27) perfectly expresses the absurdity of equating pedestrian carelessness with bad driving as causes of Berkeley's traffic woes. A driver speeding or running a red light is a mortal threat to others, whereas those not armed with, and shielded by, a couple of tons of steel usually risk only their own lives. A careless student certainly scares me if I nearly hit him, but his crime, at worst, is attempted suicide.

Whenever our main streets aren't gridlocked, traffic moves at 35 to 40 mph. Driving this fast, it is difficult or impossible to safely stop for pedestrians. Thus, otherwise thoughtful drivers have developed the habit of ignoring people waiting to cross, and vigilant paranoia is required of crosswalk users.

Police Chief Butler says we haven't got enough cops to enforce traffic laws. Did I miss a chapter? What dangers are police protecting us from that are worse than a hurtling SUV? Talk of reducing speed limits: we've got perfectly serviceable speed limits all over town, but no one remembers what they are.

What if, when driving main streets, we keep the speed, probably about 30 mph, that allows us to see and stop for people waiting to cross? Slowing down is harder than it sounds. We feel the impatience of other drivers who can't go as fast as usual. But keeping our community livable warrants nonviolent resistance to fellow drivers' (illegal) saving of five minutes getting across town. And if even 20 percent of us do this it will make a difference.
Ann Sieck, Berkeley

Off-key? I got your off-key right here
"Soul and jazz may be branches from the same musical cultural tree." (Ledisi review in Hearsay, March 20). A dubious proposition. The latter is a significantly older musical form than the former, and the conventional wisdom is that soul is derived primarily from R&B and gospel, neither of which are themselves considered direct descendants of anything generally labeled "jazz."

"Few singers have managed to successfully move back and forth between the two idioms." Many singers move between, blend, and straddle the two genres. Nina Simone and Marlena Shaw are notable GOOD examples.

"Ledisi lands off-key far too often." One of us is clearly unclear on the concept of "off-key."

Soulsinger was a solid album in some rights but was, in general, a disappointment to Ledisi fans. Feeling Orange But Sometimes Blue vindicates those same fans. It is a jazz-inflected soul album and should rightly be compared to Jill Scott, N'Dambi, and Erykah Badu rather than Rachelle Ferrell and Dianne Reeves. As such it is handily one of the best female soul albums in years.
R. Mitchell, Oakland

Enjoy her while you can
I read with interest your article on Britney Spears ("Slave 4 Britney," March 20). I'm a fifty-eight-year-old white American male. I have absolutely no qualms about saying that I really appreciate all that is Britney. I enjoy her recorded music, her videos, her interviews, her appearances on Saturday Night Live ("she don't represent"), her TV special from Las Vegas, and I especially loved her movie, Crossroads.

It seems that nobody above the age of sixteen is entirely sure if it's okay to like her or not. It's as if they're waiting to see if she's really for real and to see if she can somehow legitimize herself (as Madonna did) before they all jump on the Britney bandwagon. I think that everybody should just relax and enjoy Britney while she's young and essentially still on the make.
Jim Brennan, Emeryville

Phooey
Last week, I picked up my copy of the Express and went "Yippee! Two articles plus a cover story! Just like the Good Old Days!" This week, I went "Phooey! Only one article. Just like the Bad New Days."

Please be aware that out here in Readerland nobody likes the changes from the buyout. Wading through ads to get to the table of contents, difficult to read movie reviews, and miniature want ads. Phooey.
Ernest Isaacs, Berkeley

Correction
In a column in last week's issue, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists was mistakenly called the American Federation of Television and Recording Artists.

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