Letters for the week of April 2-8, 2003 

The Express loses touch with Telegraph; Oakland loses touch with its youth; Seamen lose touch with their history; the Populists can help us regain touch.

"Attack of the Phantom Street Kids," City of Warts, 3/12/03

Come back and smell the espresso

As a resident of the Telegraph neighborhood, I wish to express my outrage at the gross inaccuracies and snide tone of Chris Thompson's article on the so-called "Phantom Street Kids" of Telegraph Avenue. I attended the meeting of Telegraph merchants and other interested parties called by Councilmembers Kriss Worthington and Gordon Wozniak on February 12. The meeting with the councilmembers was a positive and constructive exchange on issues ranging from the city budget to public safety to parking to homeless issues. It provided a good opportunity for participants to ask for the city's help in restoring the image of Telegraph as a fine and funky place to shop, eat, and people-watch.

The Telegraph business and residential community is notably compassionate toward the homeless population that exists in Berkeley. We are very aware that many of the homeless who frequent the Telegraph area are mentally ill and drug- and alcohol-addicted, and in need of help and treatment. In fact, the Telegraph Area Association is working with the city, the university, local businesses, and nonprofit agencies to create more resources to deal with these problems.

The economic downturn affecting the entire country has hit the Telegraph area, naturally; but no one is attempting to scapegoat the homeless or the transient youth who sometimes make Berkeley their headquarters. Instead, the merchants and others who care about the neighborhood are trying to find ways of dealing with inadequate social services and facilities in a time of severely strained budgets.

Telegraph remains the East Bay center for new and used books, CDs and vinyl records, and eclectic dining at student-budget prices. The Express -- at least Thompson -- has clearly lost touch with the area. I invite him to come back and smell the espresso and open his eyes to the magic of Telegraph.
Barbara Hadenfeldt, area resident and TAA boardmember, Berkeley

"The Making of Leon Powe," Feature, 2/19/03

Cal's gain is Tech's loss

I appreciate your cover story on Leon Powe. You really brought out the young man's strong character and wonderful spirit.

As a former teacher at Tech, my heart was warmed by the graciousness, humbleness, and maturity exuded by Leon. I know Oakland Tech loves him and will miss his presence and leadership in its classrooms, hallways, and sporting events.
Nadirah Moreland, Washington, DC

"Showing Their Side," Feature, 3/12/03

Hey, do you need any tickets to the sideshow?

GREAT STORY and WRITING! Compare kids in the Southwest taking their dirt bikes to the hills, meeting no resistance, and their sport turned into an ESPN event, and you begin to see the urban agenda of repression at work. The Oakland/Alameda Arena/Coliseum should sell tickets!
Max Pontifex, Rome, Italy

"Osama bin Longshoreman?" 7 Days, 3/12/03

Union-bashing that passes for "homeland security"

Your articlecaught my attention. I've been blackballed by Bush with his Port and Maritime Security Act. I was laid off the USNS Shughart in February. I'm not the first marine transport worker to be fired as a security risk, and I'm sure I won't be the last.

Merchant seamen have played a progressive role in the struggle for democracy. Seamen were shot down in the streets of Boston for protesting the Stamp Act in 1770. Seamen organized themselves to fight the slavelike conditions on ships and the exploitation they endured on land. Antifascist activists, like Bill Bailey, volunteered in the Spanish Civil War and rode the Liberty Ships during WWII to carry arms to fight Hitler and Mussolini. Merchant marine sailors lost more lives crossing the Atlantic and the Pacific than any military service. Merchant marines did not receive any benefits as veterans of WWII until the Fairness Act of 1997. Bailey survived the war, only to be blacklisted from ever sailing again.

During the Korean War, anticommunist hysteria helped US Senator Magnuson push a bill calling on the United States Coast Guard to issue new seamen's documents to all US sailors. Right-wing leadership, in the various seafarers' unions, secretly turned over a list of left-wing members. In Bailey's own words, "When you came to the Coast Guard for your new seamen's documents, if your name was on the list you were denied your new documents and handed a slip of paper stating that you were suspected of belonging to an organization whose program was not considered favorable to the best interests of the United States." This blackballing destroyed effective union organizing.

After the attacks of September 11, Senator Hollings used antiterrorist hysteria to push a bill for the Port and Maritime Security Act. The act calls for new background checks on sailors and for the issuance of a new ID card for all maritime workers. Labor organizations capitulated with very little protest.

Recently, I have been fired from my position as a boatswain. After almost three years, the Military Sealift Command has deemed me a security risk. I have been blacklisted from working any military vessels because of my past arrest record without any convictions. President Bush must still be angry with me over yelling obscenities at his father during the last war with Iraq. Given the US aggression against Iraq, being laid off is probably not the worst thing for me. Even though the number of progressive seamen has never been the same as before WWII, the ones that remain will be under close security for the sake of homeland security. The ship owners were benefiting from unions being kept under the thumb of the government.

The continual loss of US-Flag commercial shipping has led my trade union, the Sailors' Union of the Pacific, to hope for any government-contracted ships. The fact that my union has signed nonstrike contracts "in the name of national security" has damaged not only the integrity of international seafarers, but that of union workers worldwide. This has muzzled any opinion within our industry. As marine transport workers, we face losing our livelihoods in the name of security. Or losing our ability to organize the security of our livelihood.
Liam Flynn, Baltimore, Maryland (shipped there by my union from the Bay Area, where I lived for eight years)

"Losing One for the Gipper," City of Warts, 2/26/03

Let us now give thanks for Prop. 13 and term limits

Chris Thompson is a fine writer and a good reporter, but he is off in his views of government. While I have not been a Republican for many years, I totally support the libertarian concept of severely limited government, and favor freedom as much in the producer-economic realm as I do the social area.

As a homeowner, I give thanks every day for Prop. 13; I pay way too much taxes and get very little in return as it is now. Without Prop. 13, many people would be forced out of their homes. Though I voted against term limits, I now favor extending them to the federal level. I am sick of the many career politicians around here who feed at the public trough. I have absolutely no desire to pay even higher taxes for fewer public services. I have seen no evidence that government can provide the basic minimal infrastructure that a functioning society requires such as roads, highways, education, police protection, competent judiciary, etc.

The GOP "Reagan Revolution" was a fraud that ended up increasing the size and reach of government at all levels. While the GOP, with its tiresome prowar and antiabortion politics, is becoming moribund in California, what ideas do the Dummycrats have to offer? More controls, more regulations, higher taxes, more pandering to special-interest minority groups, higher license fees, ad nauseam.

Chris, please remove that cup of conventional "governing" wisdom from your lips -- it's pure poison.
Michael P. Hardesty, Oakland

If only the Democrats would emulate the Populists

Don't bash the Populists! They were more staunchly against Republican politics than the Dems! If you are referring to Populists' so-called "obstructionist" politics, you would be referring to things like direct election of officials, graduated income taxes, women's rights, and immigration reform. What would our country be like if no one had ever spoken up for these things? Okay, the Republicans are out of control, but don't bash the Populists; otherwise, who will be left to oust more Republicans in 2004? A "Fusion" Democrat.
Chris Christensen, La Mesa


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