Letters for the week of September 18-24, 2002 

Elementary teachers have it harder, Southwestern College gets Peralta'd, OAK loses its onetime luster, but the drug war is doing just fine.

Lecturers don't matter if students don't get that far
In his interesting article, "The New University Underclass" (Aug. 28), Chris Thompson wrote that "[experienced UC] lecturers ... often draw lower salaries than elementary schoolteachers." The purpose of comparing the salaries of lecturers and schoolteachers is unclear at best. Maybe lecturers deserve better pay, but they do not deserve better pay than schoolteachers.

The job of teaching college students is child's play next to the job of teaching elementary schoolchildren. Most lecturers have a Ph.D, and possess more specialized subject matter knowledge, but every other aspect of the elementary school job is harder, from the workload to the outside pressures (for example, parents). The teaching challenges far outweigh those faced by a teacher of adults, especially considering that many if not most people who teach adults have no knowledge whatsoever of how to teach, nor any training about how people (of any age) learn.

Teaching young children is also a far more important job. If your Biology 1A teacher is boring or unclear, you can ask your TA for help, compare notes with other students, read the textbook more carefully; you can deal with it. If your first-grade teacher is bad, it can mess up your whole life.
David Herzstein Couch, Berkeley

Tattoo the correction
I'm the producer of the Tattoo the Earth festival that took place in Oakland a few weeks ago. The August 21 article "Death and Tattoos" by Katy St. Clair has an error. The name of the show is "Tattoo the Earth," not "Tattoo the World." More attention to detail, instead of an obvious overzealousness to be clever, might be a good idea before Ms. St. Clair submits her next piece. Tattoos may be "sooo 1993," but sloppy journalism has never been in style.
Scott Alderman, Cambridge, MA

Editor's Note:
We regret the error.

Tattoos are forever, but what's wrong with that?
No, I would never get a lover's name tattooed on me (Planet Clair, August 21), and having worked for a tattoo artist for three years from 1991, I even told my mother that when she had my father's name inked on her. She won't be leaving my father, she told me: 'nuff said. I changed my mind about names when my best friend was killed and I put a memorial of her on my arm.

A tattoo convention is like a Republican convention. We attend to find others like us to feel okay and proud to be a "freak." Unlike the aforementioned convention, these folks are certainly more interesting to look at, at least donning something different than the regulation blue suit and power tie. They go to get tattoos from artists from around the world they wouldn't normally have access to. If they get a little self-empowerment on the way, ain't that a good thing? Cheaper than a year's worth of therapy, and a souvenir for life to boot. For some it is therapy, with landmark buildings being blown apart and our way of life changing at an amazing pace. Some people are looking for a little permanence where they can find it. As I told my advanced English teacher in high school, as I walked out of school our last day (she told me how my tattoos bothered her), "I have no fear of permanence: do you?"
Angelique X. Gibbons, San Freaksicko

Each tattoo tells a story
I am very annoyed at your about your recent article regarding Tattoo the Earth at the Oakland Arena. Your article was extremely disturbing and extremely unfair to those of us who appreciate the beauty and talent of the artists. Their work is extraordinary, and the artists command some respect.

As for those of us who choose to display such body art on our bodies, we are extroverts and are proud of our tattoos. Each tattoo on my body tells a story of my life and has a special meaning to me. One of my tattoos is a Marine Bulldog in honor of my father who passed away last year of a tragic accident. Another of my tattoos is a tribute to my son who was killed on his eighteenth birthday in a tragic fall from a five-hundred-foot cliff in Glide, Oregon. If you understood the meaning behind body art ... you would not judge those of us who wear them so harshly.

As far as your comments regarding Nikki Sixx, I was fortunate enough to get personally tattooed along with Nikki, and he does not deserve your comments. He was a perfect gentleman and a very nice person and I was proud to be able to be filmed and tattooed with him.
Constance "CJ Dee" DeBenning, Hayward

P.S. I am sending a copy of your article and my letter to your editor, Tattoo the Earth, and Nikki Sixx.

Businesses fail; get over it
If VC flyboys can't tell which dot-com will become a dot-bomb, if Amazon.com's CEO becomes Time's Man of the Year despite never turning a profit -- indeed, having five consecutive years of million-dollar losses -- why do you label Oakland's Municipal Lending Program/One Stop Capital Shop a failure ("One-Stop Capital Flop," Aug. 21)? What gives the city's bean counter any expertise in predicting business successes or failures? How is a man who sinks $500,000 of his own money into a business and produces over a thousand units of finished product a flimflam artist? How many dry holes does an oil company drill for each gusher? How much research does Bayer conduct to bring a pill to market?

In this same edition you feature a DuPont product which not only was not marketable, but toxic! The plant that produced it is closed! Is DuPont a flimflam artist? Was Sierra-Crete not properly marketed? And why don't you label CEDA the failure with its high turnover in administrators and staff? So the man had a dream, pursued it and it didn't work out. What about Oakland's dreams about the Raiders? How much has that cost the taxpayers? Are only failed black businessmen to be pilloried in the Express? After all, he didn't invent the Municipal Lending Program. He followed all of its rules, and several reviews by outside consultants gave him the green light. Why doesn't the Express question these "experts?"
E. Webber, Oakland

Just say no to legalization
Our work at DEA to prevent drug abuse in this country is more important than ever before (Letters, August 21). This year President Bush released one of the most comprehensive drug plans in our nation's history. He set clear priorities and goals to determine that funds will continue to yield results -- a ten percent reduction in drug use within two years and a 25 percent reduction within five years.

There are some who say that we should not continue the fight against drugs. They suggest that if we simply legalize drugs, then many of the problems that come with drugs will simply fade away. They could not be more wrong. American drug policy is working. Overall drug use in the United States is down fifty percent since the late 1970s. That is 9.3 million fewer people using illegal drugs. Cocaine use in this country has dropped by an astounding 75 percent during the last fifteen years.

The fight against drugs has become even more important since our nation went to war against terrorists. The money that pays for the violent acts of terrorists often comes from drug trafficking. About half of the terrorist organizations identified by the Department of State are supported by the narcotics trade, including the Al Qaeda network in Afghanistan and the violent FARC organization and paramilitary groups in Colombia.

There is a myth that the DEA's efforts are wasted in pursuit of drug users or low-level dealers. The DEA isn't targeting users, but traffickers -- the criminal organizations that distribute drugs in the streets and neighborhoods throughout America. Local law enforcement deals with users, but it's important to point out that only five percent of people in US federal prisons for drug offenses are there on possession convictions. First-time drug offenders, even sellers, typically do not go to prison. The truth is somebody has to work pretty darn hard to go to prison for drug use in this country.

Given the proven links between drug abuse and other social problems such as violence and child abuse and neglect, the legalization of drugs and the corresponding rise in use would overwhelm our criminal justice system and strain our already overburdened social welfare system.

Young people need to know their government believes drug use is not just an alternative lifestyle, but a serious problem for them and for society. In a legalization scenario, there will be more arrests for serious crimes because arrests are more often than not the result of altered, and often violent, behavior that is caused by mind-altering drug use than by a need to support a drug habit.
Stephen C. Delgado, special agent in charge, DEA, San Francisco Field Division, San Francisco


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