Letters for the week of February 16-22, 2005 

They should go back to Liberia. We should go back to Phil Ochs. We can't go back to the Key System. They can't go back to Hawaii.

"Strangers in a Strange Land," Cityside, 1/26

Why are we creating serfs?
I read this sort of thing and I not only get confused but I find myself getting rather angry. With legal immigration, illegal immigration, everyone wants to get into the US. Why are we letting everyone in the world that needs political safety enter? These people can go back to Liberia. It's their country. But we have to put them in the Fruitvale -- a very crowded area.

Why not South Dakota -- where there are very many underpopulated small towns with many vacant small buildings. Why Fruitvale? Are we in a compassion contest? These people can't make it -- read your own article. Why are they not back in Liberia? The money spent on them would have made them rich in their own country. But we bring them here so they will be serfs. Shame.
Bill Hoch, Oakland

"Dave Dondero's Opening Act," Feature, 1/19

We need more finger-pointing
Thank you for the really great piece on David Dondero. It's a great piece. The way you begin the story with an account of DD winning over an audience with a performance, and connecting that to the framing device of the horse race, is a brilliant move, working on a couple of different levels; giving one a sense of DD's everyday life as well as symbolically. I also appreciate the occasion you take to make some points about "antifolk," both the Jack Black vs. "earnest liberal" dichotomy, and the contrast of Dondero with the much-hooplahed "freak folk" thang. It's also great that you help set the record straight with the Bright Eyes influence (and yes, the Gano similarities with both).

If I may raise one disagreement (which is not a criticism of your writing, just a disagreement) it would be with your account of "Pre-Invasion Jitters." While I can see why you would criticize David for lapsing into a "folk trap" he usually avoids, I'm not sure it necessarily would alienate his "red-state listeners." I guess, from where I come from (one of those many who got turned onto folk by Dylan and Phil Ochs), I don't mind the occasional foray into "finger-pointing" songs -- for even though I think it's a great thing that Dylan moved away from finger-pointing songs, I also am glad he still pulls one or two of them out occasionally. And I'm glad for Dondero's song (even though he felt a little embarrassed by it himself, as the way he announces it attests). Sure, it's not the main thing that draws me to his music, but after all this Clear Channel censorship of political songs, and the apolitical shoegazers, it's refreshing to hear a little of it coming back.
Chris Stroffolino, Oakland

"Uncle Al Wants You," Feature, 1/26

If it looks shady ...
A note on your January 26 cover story: While I sympathize with the would-be jobseekers who were apparently strung along by INdTV, did they not realize that this was an unusual and misleading application process? As a freelance writer, I read each job posting to which I apply carefully; you can tell a lot about a potential employer by the way they solicit workers. Crescent Diamond had the right idea when she was turned off by the lack of information about the job itself. As for the applicants who spent weeks and months of wasted time supplying blog material and ideas for free, I can only shake my head.

Folks, if you suspect you're getting screwed, you probably are.
Allison Landa, Oakland

"The Politics of a Mural," Culture Spy, 1/19

It was more complicated
In the Culture Spy article, it was stated that General Motors and Firestone bought the Key System in 1958 and shut it down. In fact, the consortium that they used to buy transit systems, National City Lines, bought the Key System a decade earlier and ran it until it was sold to AC Transit. Harre Demoro, the historian of Bay Area transit systems, said that when they bought the system, the tracks were already being removed, having by then fully depreciated, and that they were being replaced by buses. The only change that National City Lines made was that they canceled the order for electric buses and replaced them with diesel buses. Even at that, rail service lasted on a few lines until 1958.

The consortium included oil companies, as well as GM and Firestone, which would have been an incentive to use diesel instead of electricity. However, diesel buses have the ability to pass each other without entangling trolley poles, making them more efficient than trolley buses, and far better than rail trolleys, which have almost no ability to pass one another.

National City Lines was not the reason the Key System, which was in poor financial shape most of its existence, failed. It was more complicated than that.
Bruce De Benedictis, Oakland

"Pat vs. the Volcano," Music, 1/26

Set the record straight
A correction to your article about Patrick Landeza. I read with some surprise this line: "... says Paul Kealoha Blake of the East Bay Media Center, who started filming Landeza's early performances at LaVal's Northside Pizzeria on Euclid Avenue." As the producer of those shows, I can say that I don't know who Mr. Kealoha is, but he certainly didn't "film" any of those performances. Those shows, from 1991 through 1994, were videotaped for broadcast on my cable-access TV show, Live on Location, which ran on Bay Cable 8 in Berkeley and was syndicated on thirteen other California cable outlets. Patrick used one of those videotapes to get his first professional engagement at Slim's in San Francisco, and frequently mentions me as the person who gave him his first break.

I just thought the record should be correct on this.
Earl Oliver, Fort Bragg

It's not like he's haole
Why is Patrick Landeza penalized because his parents moved to California to seek better jobs than they had in Hawaii? Do you consider Dan Inouye a non-Islander because he lives in Washington DC? What about Patsy Mink, who lived most of her career years in the capital?
Sonny Palabrica, San Francisco


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