Letters for the week of March 8-14, 2006 

Nihilism in the neighborhood, death in Dublin, baiting in Berkeley, and outsiders in Oklahoma.

"Hood TV," Feature, 2/15

Outklanning the Klan
No matter how hard it tried, the Ku Klux Klan couldn't have created a more stereotypical propaganda piece against black people in America than Hood 2 Hood.
Nat Mastick, Oakland

You're nihilists too
The front-page picture with gangster and guns titled "Hood TV" caught my attention, as did the article. It used to be that sex sells, but in this case violence and verifying our worst fears sells. Let's see: How about we sell magazines and "street documentaries" by depicting the most hideous and outrageous stereotypes of African-American males? This is as nihilistic an enterprise as the gangsters they depict. The only problems is that it makes it harder for hard-working and honest black males to break into careers and enterprises dominated by white employers who say that black males are uneducated, illiterate, dishonest, lacking initiative and motivation, and involved with gangs and drugs.

How about we show on the front page a black male in a tool belt holding a hammer and screw gun, showing up to work and supporting a family despite having friends and family members decimated by the ravages of "the hip-hop lifestyle"? A person like this actually works for me. But I guess that doesn't sell rags to people looking to affirm their racist stereotypes. We must all get over the racist gun-toting gangster attitude, go to work, and get these kids educated and employed so they can join our boring old civil society.
Bill Hamilton, Berkeley

And now, this Toronto sales pitch
Your article was definitely a good read. This kind of knowledge and nonbiased coverage is commendable. I am the producer of The Real Toronto DVD, a ghetto documentary which made a lot of noise in Canada, and share almost the same experiences as Aquis Bryant while filming for my DVD. Which features a lot of the similar content that you will see on Hood 2 Hood, but everything is filmed in the different hoods of Toronto. Check it out.
Madd Russian, RealTorontoDVD.com, Toronto


"The problem was childhood," Letters, 2/15

We don't know till you're dead
Sorry you didn't listen to Kevin Ahern's correction regarding life expectancy. Since I taught baby demography for thirty years, perhaps you'll listen to me. "Life expectancy" means nothing at all, as it doesn't specify when the measure is taken. "Average life expectancy at birth" is usually meant. The life expectancy of a cohort of people of the same age is affected by age of death throughout the lifetimes of all those in the group, until all are deceased.

As Ahern said, life expectancy at birth may be very low, even as low as 25 years on average, but those who survive the early years will have much higher life expectancy, even surviving their eighties and nineties. Never speak of "life expectancy" without specifying the age to which you refer.
Jeffrey M. Dickemann, professor of anthropology emeritus, Sonoma State University, Richmond

"A Suburban Horror, Revisited," Cityside, 2/15

Tragic, but understandable
I read your article with great interest and am a Dublin resident. Regardless of how this turns out, this was a tragic situation for the families involved as well as the officers and their families. My thoughts and prayers are with them.

Many people underestimate the lethal threat a man with a knife represents. A drill called the Tueller drill demonstrates that by the time an officer can present their firearm and place two well-placed shots on an attacker, the attacker can close a distance of 21 feet. So at 21 feet, the officer is likely to shoot the attacker and get injured or killed in the process. Depending on the skills of the officer and attacker, this distance may even be greater. With this in mind, a man with a knife showing questionable intent is a lethal threat to officers in most homes given the distances discussed above.

Clearly Kwang Tae Lee needed to drop the knife. He was a perceived threat to officers and should have complied. Regardless of one's ability to communicate, the message is pretty clear when you have two uniformed officers start taking action to defend themselves. I have traveled in many foreign countries and know how to respond to uniformed officers taking police action, even when I can't speak their language.

I look forward to the final results of the police investigation and hope it brings closure.
Name withheld by request, Dublin


"Hit and Miss," Culture, 2/1

Uninvited company
In Eliza Strickland's critique of the John Perkins (Confessions of an Economic Hit Man) event, I was amazed that she stated: "Perkins' credibility certainly wasn't bolstered by the company he kept. ... At the auditorium door ... various progressive causes were handing out fliers ... [including] ... that the World Trade Center towers were brought down by explosions planned by the US government."

These people come to events like this and pass out their weird fliers, which Mr. Perkins had nothing to do with. Two days later, I had a similar event in San Francisco with Mr. Perkins. Just as he started his presentation, along came the same fliers down the rows to folks trying to listen to him. These "conspiratorial theorists" are quite rude and did not ask permission to do this. They take every opportunity to try to foist their ideas on others as that is one of the few ways people even pay any attention to them. Please remember we cannot help what they do; certainly we cannot control their actions or want to "be in their company."
Dolores Perez Priem, San Francisco


"About that flier," Letters, 2/22

What about the conspiracy actualists?
Eliza Strickland responds to Rebecca Medcalf with the statement that her letter and flier "imply that the US government was complicit in the intentional destruction of the WTC." Exactly the point, Eliza, but only the beginning. Why not suspend your immediate disbelief and educate yourself? Why not be a journalist and investigate the implication? It's much easier to stay in your comfortable world and write us all off as "conspiracy theorists," isn't it? How convenient for the "conspiracy actualists" in power!
Steve Keightley, Oakland

Good recovery
Much praise for Becky Medcalf for her excellent rebuttal to the facile and ignorant dismissal of the only decent research I've seen on the fall of the three buildings in the WTC. The Express deserves great credit for publishing it, especially in its entirety. Granted, the review of Perkins' book/talk and the kneejerk dismissal of Becky's flier were bad, but everyone makes misteaks, and the Express has shown a level of integrity far above the norm in giving Becky her say. Thanks again for having the guts to take some uncomfortable feedback.
Ed Rippy, Concord

"Leave My Mother Out of This!" Bottom Feeder, 2/8

Good cop, bad cop
I read with great interest Will Harper's account in the February 8 Express of Elliot Cohen being intimidated and threatened by Officer Marianne Jamison. Some Berkeley police officers are notorious for trying to bait innocent bystanders who assert their First Amendment rights. The account is timely given the recent articles in the San Francisco Chronicle about police misconduct and the inability of the San Francisco Police Department to track, identify, reform, or let go wayward officers. The problem at the City of Berkeley is just as big, if not bigger. The attempt by some Berkeley police officers to characterize as unstable those of us who are asserting our constitutional rights and wish to observe police or misconduct is simply a ruse to intimidate or use force to shut down an otherwise legal activity.

Don't get me wrong: I believe police officers have one of the most difficult jobs in the country. We expect a lot out of police officers because of the position of trust that we place them in. Consequently, they have to be able to rise above the crowd in difficult situations and use extremely good judgment. Many officers do rise to this challenge in a dignified way. Some do not. We need to ensure that we reward and honor those who meet the challenge. For those who do not, we need to ensure that there are mechanisms in place to provide the appropriate training and counseling for them to meet the challenge. For those that continually fail, we need to have publicly accountable mechanisms to ensure that they are not placed in positions of trust and are dismissed. Sadly, we are not there.
Anonymous, Oakland


"Identity Theft," Feature, 1/25

Identity leasing
As an Indian recently arrived from Oklahoma, I thought I would tell you about the white intrusion into Indian gambling. The Oklahoma Seminole, Citizen Pottawatomie, and others have an Indian at the head of the organization which owns a gambling house, but the corporation that owns the building and/or the corporation is part of the gaming industry.

Although tribes are independent entities and questions are always met with resistance, my experience in Oklahoma suggests there are non-Indian members of the gaming industry who are receiving large profits and controlling the gaming. I suggest your inquiries will always be met with a response that the information of ownership is that of an Indian. Further inquiries will be met with issues of confidentiality. The tribal governor is usually bought off by the members of the gaming industry, so the problem is larger than the tribe.
Jack Hohenstein, Concord


"Schoolchildren Will Be the Losers," City of Warts, 2/15

Pay or benefits
Thank you for your recent article. I am one of many Oakland public school parents who are gravely concerned about the possibility of a strike. I do have to say, however, that it's not solely OEA that's holding up this deal -- it was Ward that walked away from negotiations and has refused to return.

Also, I don't think it's fair to ding OEA for requesting a 7 percent increase -- the teachers have been without a contract for almost two years; they will close these negotiations only to return immediately back to the table to begin hashing out the next contract. Also, Oakland teachers have one of the lowest pay scales statewide, in large part because they have consistently chosen full benefit coverage over larger pay increases. If Oakland teachers have to start paying for health care, they should have pay comparable with other districts.
Jean Parker, Oakland

GOP journalism
Concerning Chris Thompson's article on the pending teachers' strike, I find it disingenuous for him to snivel about the educational fate of working-class/minority children when he has been an advocate for "redevelopment." Redevelopment is just a code word for "gentrification," which does more to hurt the working class and minorities (of any age) than any teachers' strike ever would.

Frankly, Thompson's political rhetoric reads very like that of a corporate union buster. Has the Express now put Republicans (or their sympathizers) as primary journalists on its staff? To be sure, I am not the only one asking this question.
James J. Fenton, Oakland


"Blood Business," Movies, 2/8

Why we write
I wanted to express appreciation to Jean Oppenheimer for an excellent review of Why We Fight. I feel that I now know a critic that I can trust.
Margaret Child, Richmond

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