Letters for the week of September 21-27, 2005 

Git yer frankin' facts straight! We don't even have a water cooler. And whatever does Chris Thompson expect he's going to accomplish?

"Welcome to Pombo Country," Feature, 8/24

You're welcome
Excellent journalism. Well-researched exposé. I'm new to the area and I'm going to make the Express part of my weekly routine. Thanks!
Tim Harmon, Livermore

Ouch, these state pumps!
Fantastic writing!!! I never expected to read that kind of writing in EBX! It's like an article you'd expect to be reading in Time magazine. Gammon just writes the facts of life in Pombo Country and allows the reader to form an opinion, and I really appreciate that as a reader. It's only fitting the windmills, killing thousands of raptors and bats every year and the Tracy pumps (state and federal pumps) killing millions of fish every year, are not only in Pombo's district but near his home in Tracy.
Brian Murphy, Walnut Creek

Franking frankness
Robert Gammon writes that "Pombo also has used government resources for political or personal ends. ... 166,000 copies of a two-page color leaflet ... to snowmobile owners in the swing states of Minnesota and Wisconsin. ... The mailers cost $68,081 in federal funds. ... Spending taxpayer dollars on partisan political ads is illegal ... the complaints were dismissed." Was it illegal, or were the complaints dismissed? Which is the case? It can't be both. You sound like a bit of a politician yourself, in failing to mention this as an example of the exercise of the time-honored FRANKING PRIVILEGE. Perhaps you would like to write an article advocating repeal of that privilege? But then what would Congresspeople of your political persuasion have to say about that? Please stick to reporting news on the news pages, and to editorializing on the op-ed pages.
William Keevers, Lodi

Editor's note
The abovementioned issue is entirely bipartisan. To wit, in 1992, Bakersfield Republican Bill Thomas introduced HR 4104, a bill to prohibit US representatives from making franked mass mailings to people outside of their congressional districts, and from using official public allowances for such mailings. The bill, which got stuck in committee, garnered 93 cosponsors, ranging broadly from ultraliberals (Barney Frank) to moderates (Republican Tom Campbell, Democrat George Miller) to conservatives (Tom DeLay, Dana Rohrabacher).

"Malt Liquor Supernova," Music, 8/24

Alhambra, line one
Golda Supernova is an amazing artist! To witness her in performance is to witness an enchantress communing with both God and the devil. Her band is filled with musicians of similar caliber, and I am fortunate to have been nurtured by the creative community at Bindlestiff Studio that they have contributed so much to. I am surprised, however, to come across statements made about Bindlestiff Studio's circumstances that were not followed by any attempts to obtain a response from Bindlestiff's current leadership -- a standard journalistic practice I would expect from a quality paper like the Express.

To characterize the current culture at the theater as having devolved into some lifeless paperweight-pushing wasteland à la Office Space (complete with "chitchatting by the water cooler") is misinformed hyperbole at best. At worst, it is a slanderous distortion and a slap in the face to the current leadership team and board of directors who have been working so hard to keep Bindlestiff from drowning in the murky waters that SF Redevelopment has thrown us into.

It is true that Bindlestiff has been forced into functioning as a by-the-book nonprofit rather then a clubhouse for shifting cults of personality. This task has been met head on by artists who, unlike myself (and certain others, apparently), have the capacity and the willingness to sacrifice their time (lots and lots of their time) to keep Bindlestiff functioning as a community resource available to artists and to the underprivileged youth in the SOMA region.

James, Brandon, Golda, and Ogie are musical divinity without question. But the efforts of Lyle, Manny, E., Louie, Rachel, Christina, Werner, Ann, Ed, Yato, Renee, Lorna, and the others that I'm forgetting are often unrecognized, though crucial, in allowing myself and others an opportunity to practice our craft and have our moments in the spotlight.

PS: There is no water cooler in Bindlestiff.
Jose "Flipchild" Saenz, San Francisco

"Son, Tell the Jury," Bottom Feeder, 8/3

Felix changed my life
I was a client of Felix Polk's for years. He was always appropriate, compassionate, and wise. After spending years in therapy with other clinicians, Felix was the one psychologist who helped me to overcome the effects of a severe-abuse background. I have never respected a person more than I did Felix. He changed my life.

It was obvious to me at the end of our years of therapeutic work together that Felix was under strain. He began to have health problems and seemed distracted and tense. I had no idea what he was going through at home with Susan. After such a long marriage which produced three beautiful, bright sons, I do not see how Susan's "abuse" as a former patient who became romantically involved with Felix could continue to haunt her enough to take his life with such violence.

While I know that appearances can be deceiving, because my own father seemed to be the model of propriety yet was abusive at home, it is inconceivable to me that Felix could ever abuse anybody. He was the survivor of a family murdered in the Holocaust, had a distinguished military career fighting for our country, helped abused children and adolescents over many years as a psychologist, was a brilliant writer, speaker, and teacher, always advocating for others and standing for causes he believed in. He was dedicated to his family, his patients, and his community, with the belief that impacting the lives of individuals might have a ripple effect in larger ways. Felix wanted to help raise our collective consciousness about man's inhumanity to man so that we might come together in an effort to combat the atrocities of violence and war. Never have I known a person more patient or more resolute. I will never forget him and will always feel his loss in my life.
Heather Emelin Graham, San Anselmo

"Pay to Pray," City of Warts, 8/24

Tilting at windmills
Chris Thompson makes a good point about the property taxes in real terms that can be assayed on the value of churches and other religious structures. Thompson will, I am sure, be made to notice that worshippers of all denominations pay taxes. Most, because it is not just homeowners who attend to the Sabbath. Renters, too, who pay no property tax and do not have to pay a wide variety of bonds and charges, also attend to God's calling. Perhaps Mr. Thompson should shed some light on his own status(es): Churchgoer? Homeowner? Taxpayer?

Perhaps Mr. Thompson should stop writing frivolous editorials about federal laws he can't hope to change and start looking for something to complain about that matters. Like how the city of Berkeley pays its employees for time they spend volunteering in the community. That's not volunteer work, and it's not very Samaritan either.
John Parman, Birmingham, England

Some churches struggle
Although I might agree with some of Thompson's conclusions, his total lack of respect for any and all religions is apparent. It's funny that Christians and atheists are cut from the same cloth. Both are mirror image, loudly proclaiming and vehemently defending the right to believe or not believe in the same thing. They constantly damn each other and act so convincingly that they, only they, are right and everyone else is wrong.

As far as rich and powerful churches go, maybe we should tax excess wealth. However, there are a lot of churches, temples, mosques, Native American spiritualism, etc., that are small and cannot afford to pay taxes to worship!

Take my temple, for instance. We are neither Christians nor a concocted Johnny-come-lately. We are an ancient religion based on concepts of the Vedas. We put on one festival a year that costs $30,000. We have other festivals in our temple that cost various amounts and we have a congregation of 300 to 500 in Northern California. Sure, you could dig up some dirt on us, but we are here to stay, year after year. We fill the spiritual lives of our congregation and beyond. We have to come up with property taxes and other large usage, etc., fees each year. We barely can make it but when the bill comes in for $5,000, it's a lot. We have to fund-raise in the community and usually barely make it. Obviously, we have no excess wealth of any kind.

Chris Thompson is probably a cloaked atheist. He would rather tax religions into the ground and just rid the world of religion altogether.

The first thing he brought up was child molestation. I bet if you took a survey, there would be as many cases among nonreligious perpetrators as religious ones. Sick molesters come in all shapes and sizes. The way this goes in Chris' logic: A. Some priests are child molesters; B. All religionists are child molesters.

Chris, you better make sure all your bases are covered when you leave your body.
Jay Plath, Oakland

The opening photo credit was accidentally cropped from last week's feature: The vintage Green Day photo was by Ian Harper.

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