Letters for the week of July 21-27, 2004 

What's killing bulky trash day? How about the profit motive? Plus thoughts on Mexican Americans and a few more bullying resources.

"But He Was Just Taking Orders," East Side Story, 6/16

Money and power corrupt
Justin Berton's East Side Story about the Lakireddy men was not only one of the clearest reviews yet of this dirty little mess, but also a superb character study of how money and power can co-opt an entire family.
Doug Hayward, Alameda

"Thought about it 2," Letters, 6/23

C'oooooooooops
In regards to Boots Riley's statement: "Bands Against Bush advertised the Coup as headlining a concert that they had never spoken to me about, positing me as some 'anybody but Bush' guy."

Boots Riley was never confirmed for the Bands of Bush International Day of Action in 2003. The organizing group wanted him to be involved, and was in communication with his manager. There was a miscommunication along the way, and it went to press with him confirmed when it should not have been.

We were never claiming to speak for or trying to put words in the mouth of an artist we respect or feel a kinship for. That's not what we do. Clearly, we were just less organized than we are now in the world of booking and organization, and something went out, uncorrected, that should not have. Sorry!
Conan Neutron, Bands Against Bush Bay Area

"Down to a Science," On Food, 6/30

Oh my god
I read Jonathan Kauffman's review of the Albany Bistro on June 30. I went there immediately for the best meal I have had since I can't remember when! The ambience is beautiful, the music heavenly, the service superb, and the food! OH MY GOD. Gravlax with a hint of ginger and fresh dill on crisp won ton skins, plump juicy prawns in a crisp rice noodle wrapping -- difficult to describe. Chicken wrapped in crisp pancetta -- all these for six or seven dollars tops! The management was so hurt by the write-up because the chef had made an error on one of the sauces! You should visit a place more than once before writing a critical report. This restaurant -- which is open all the time -- is a MUST-GO experience!
Anne Van Winkle, Oakland

EDITOR'S NOTE
As his review made clear, Jon Kauffman always pays two visits to the restaurants he reviews.

"What's Killing Bulky Trash Day?" Feature, 6/30

Free is best
To answer the question -- "What's Killing Bulky Trash Day?" -- we need to go a little deeper than the article. I remember the good old days of bulky trash in the Mission in SF when our neighborhood partied down, swapping stuff, handing out bikes to the kids, trucks and shopping carts swooping through, the junk piles magically melting away. The atmosphere was hectic, festive. It had to be stopped. This was just too damn un-American. The idea of people sharing their stuff, allowing artists free materials, letting marginal or (gasp) homeless people to sell junk at flea markets is anarchy. It is contrary to the very notion of PROFIT.

I have been a confirmed Dumpster diver for many fruitful years. It is a rare day riding around Berkeley on my bicycle that I don't find something I can use. Yesterday, a backpack frame perfect for a giant puppet. Today, a set of plastic storage drawers just right for my mosaic tiles. I also worked for the East Bay Depot for about a year. It was a dream come true. Part of my duties was to go out in the big yellow truck for Berkeley's bulky trash days. I was a "professional" Dumpster diver with a license to scrounge. I always tried to encourage homeowners to be positive about the other folks out there picking up junk. I ran into all kinds of people -- artists, neighbors, and flea market vendors who were helping to recycle the trash. There was plenty for all; we always filled up our truck with primo junk.

But working for the depot became more and more frustrating since they would not allow us to pick up anything other than salable furniture and art in perfect condition. No sports or exercise equipment, no plastic, no toys, no clothes, construction materials, hardly any books, etc. The depot and Urban Ore turn away tons of usable items because they would rather price things high and handle less inventory.

The depot has a very rigid management which did not allow any room for suggestion as to how to recycle, or anything else for that matter. When the employees unanimously voted to join a union, management fired, laid off, harassed, and got rid of almost the entire staff. So it is a little tough to see the depot featured so positively. I would encourage everyone not to donate to the depot and instead to simply put their usable junk out in open cardboard boxes. Black plastic bags are not only a waste of plastic (one of the most difficult materials to recycle) but they are also hard to open without making a mess.

The other day I cruised by a yard that had about ten boxes of various things laid out, a sign that said "free," and some paper bags for your shopping convenience. A brilliant Berkeley solution. Just because the joyous abundance of bulky pickups is no more doesn't mean that we can't put our stuff out on the curb.

Obviously, reuse is better than recycling because a secondhand item does not use raw materials and energy to be manufactured. It's far better to reuse stuff locally, avoiding environmentally costly transportation.

Don't call the cops on the Dumpster diver; share your superfluous stuff with a smile. Free is best!
Helen Jones, Berkeley

"Portrait of the Times," Feature, 5/26

Los Estados Unidos of America
I read "Aztlan's big lie" (Letters, 7/7), and remembered the story regarding the Victor Castro mural. As a Hispanic, I feel it's time Hispanics take their heads out of their past. Mexico is just like any other civilization. It has oppressed and been oppressed. There's nothing honorable about it. It's life, plain and simple. Instead, we should focus on a bigger, more obvious picture when referring to where we came from. If we did, we might actually take a step toward helping citizens who come here seeking a better life, only to be branded as illegal aliens.

What bigger picture? How about Mexico being an American country? That's right. So many Hispanics differentiate between being born in "America" and/or being born in Mexico. Either way, they are American-born. Last time I checked, the United States has never had any exclusive rights to the title "America." In fact, Mexico was an American country before the United States was even established. So, instead of labeling hardworking American citizens as "illegal immigrants," maybe they should be seen as fellow Americans.

In my view, it's inevitable that the two countries will eventually agree on some form of unification. It's one thing to know where you came from, but it's quite another to sustain internal divisions because of historical technicalities. To me, it's petty and it doesn't help the people who need our cooperation the most, those in the here and now. Our fellow Mexicans/Americans could really benefit from a more unified front.
José, Oakland

He was Spanish
I just read Lance Beeson's letter in the July 9 Express. The writer makes several interesting points. However, I believe he is mistaken about Joaquin Isidro Castro's origins. As I received the story from two different sources, Joaquin Isidro Castro was born in Spain, most likely in Catalonia. His wife, Marie Martine Boutilier, was born in France and was a distant relative of the Bourbon family. Marie's ancestry caused a serious problem, since the Bourbon family and the Bourbon king of Spain were extremely unpopular in Catalonia during the mid-18th century. Joaquin and Marie moved to New Spain and settled in Sonora. All of their children were born there. Then, in 1775, they moved to California with the Anza expedition.

(By the way, I also am a seventh-generation descendant of Joaquin and Marie and a fifth-generation descendant of Victor.)
James M. Castro, Clancy, Montana

"The Bullying Industrial Complex," Feature, 6/16

Neither bullies nor victims
I want to thank Katy St. Clair for her article on bullies. As she pointed out, this is a huge problem. Street Safe Kids offers youth groups, grants, materials, and training so concerned adults can help strengthen kids. Children don't have to be bullies or victims. Perhaps you can help us get the word out.

I also have an article, "Making Cities Safe," on Senator Vasconcellos' Web site. Our communities need more involvement from the public to keep children safe. The article is at PoliticsofTrust.net/HTML/LIBRARY/ARTICLES/StephanieMann.htm
Stephanie L. Mann, program director, Street Safe Kids, Oakland

Maybe they were bullied
I haven't linked to your article because your examples were drawn mainly from grade school and my Web site Raven Days (RavenDays.org) is about secondary-school bullying, but I thought it was pretty good.

Note, however, that there was absolutely nothing "automatic" about the assumption that Harris and Klebold acted the way they did because they were bullied. On the contrary, the initial assumption on the part of most authorities was that it was either a purely random act of violence ("We can never know"), or else the boys' attempt to imitate a first-person action-adventure shooting game. Some, perhaps many, people still believe one of those two things.

For my part, I'm not sure that I believe that Harris and Klebold weren't bullied. From the descriptions of Columbine's high school culture, I'd think they would almost have had to have been, even if not as much as the real Trenchcoat Mafia.

Also, while you may be right about the recent influx of commercial antibullying sites, please realize that there are a group of sites run by people who aren't in this for money. You can tell who we are, because the commercial sites don't link to us. My site is one of them. I put in about an hour a day; I have since 1999, and I've never made a dime from it. Brenda's The Wounded Child (TheWoundedChild.org) and Stan's Stop Bullying Now! (StopBullyingNow.com) are more commercial than my site, but not much more so. Stan has written an excellent book on bullying, the best I've seen. (And no, I'm not getting a kickback for saying so.)
Meredith Dixon, Mannington, West Virginia

"Berkeley Intifada," Feature, 5/19

Non sequitur
No sane person would justify the harassment of an American of Arab descent because of the terrorist actions of Saudi nationals on September 11, 2001. Nor would any reasonable human being condone the intimidation of persons of Chinese descent because of China's occupation of Tibet, or support an attack on a person of Indian descent because of India's control of most of disputed Jammu-Kashmir, etc. Yet a great many pro-Palestinian activists see attacks on American Jews as justified because of these activists' opposition to Israel's policies -- and, truth be told, their opposition to Israel's very existence.
Aharon S.R. Silver, Walnut Creek

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