Further Heartbreak; Plea Circus; Moore Than We Wanted to Know; The Flesh Failures

Further Heartbreak

The next time tenants contact the media in order to gather public support in our struggle against landlords, we will just call the John Stewart Company and have them send their public relations person to do the story. Jennifer Barrios' "Heartbreak Hotel" (August 29) presented a very bleak picture of this building, and failed to mention the underlying agenda that has been behind the police raids all along.

I, also, am faced with eviction, despite charges being dropped against me. For this reason, I was unable to freely talk with this reporter until my criminal charges were dropped, and when I was able to discuss matters, the story had already gone to the press. However, I was not the only one that had things to say that needed to have been said, and which were completely overlooked.

A pretty grim picture was painted of UA Homes: needles in the laundry rooms, knife fights in the hallways, blood on the walls in the community bathrooms. These allegations were worthy of making print, and yet the tenant's allegations, against a landlord known for unfair evictions and corruption, were by and large edited right out of the feature story.

Now the tenants who are being evicted, even without charges against them sticking at all, cannot seem to find lawyers willing to take their cases. The John Stewart Company is so tied in with federal monies, grants, and the inner workings of cities that it is seen as too risky to represent us, and so we are left to fight our battles on our own. We had hoped that media attention being drawn to the insidious management practices might have some bearing, and yet the printed story did not adequately present any of the tenants' issues.
Karen Baker, Berkeley

Plea Circus

Your article on public defenders was dangerously misleading ("The Burden of Defense," August 8). Their primary function is to get cases processed as quickly as possible. This usually means getting the guilty to admit to some, or lesser, charges so that the grotesquely inefficient court system isn't overwhelmed with trials.

I have had exposure to three cases -- one through a friend's son in Sacramento, one for a friend in Alameda County, and one in Humboldt County. In the first case I reviewed the felony charges and all of the evidence with the public defender. She agreed that the case was very weak (the biggest weakness was the fact that the description of the perpetrator was not even remotely like my friend's son) and said that she could not understand why it was even being pursued. No problem!

Lulled for a long time into thinking that she was working for him, when the time for trial approached she was virtually unreachable, seemed to know nothing about the case, then wanted him to cop a plea (he was totally innocent). The family hired a lawyer at the last minute and the charges were eventually dropped.

In the second case a friend was clearly entrapped in a misdemeanor. It was a 'contracting without a license' sting operation. My friend was offering to legally work on a 'time-and-material' basis, but was talked into accepting a fixed price -- a technical violation. Again, he found the public defender unhelpful, unsympathetic, and interested only in a plea bargain. Luckily, he had the wisdom to drop bad counsel and the perseverance, capability, and presence to research the law, make his case, and be found innocent (the judge commended him).

In the third case the person may have been guilty of the victimless crime (growing dope), but the search was clearly illegal and the evidence tying him to the crop was tenuous. The public defender strung him along and, at the last minute, got him to agree to a plea bargain. He was scared, had no money, and just went along with it. Now he wishes he hadn't.

I hate to say it, but free legal aid can be a bad buy for the innocent, and sometimes even for the guilty!
Steve Juniper, Berkeley

Moore Than We Wanted to Know

Regarding your review of the movie O ("O, Brother, When Art Thou?" August 29), not having seen the movie yet, I cannot make any comments on your critique.

However, I would like to discuss the character of Iago, generally seen as a person of pure evil. While he undeniably is evil, he did have two valid reasons, professional and personal, for his venomous hatred against Othello and Cassio, an honorable lieutenant.

Professionally: When Othello chose Michael Cassio, an Elizabethan equivalent of a hotshot Harvard MBA, to be his lieutenant, a man who "...never set a squadron in the field, nor the division of a battle knows more than a spinster ... mere prattle without practice is all his soldership ..." an appointment which Iago thought (with some merit) should have been his by virtue of both experience as well as seniority.

Cassio's appointment, in fact, dashed Iago's hope for a career, and all he could see for his future was "...like his master's ass, for naught but provender, and when he is old, cast out of the service..."

The second reason for Iago's hatred for Othello is a more personal one: In Act One, Scene Three, Iago bitterly says that "...I hate the Moore, and it is thought abroad, that 'twixt my sheets he's done my office..." To be publicly cuckolded by one's superior office, (whether the charge is true or false) is indeed a bitter medicine to swallow, and does explain to some extent Iago's hatred.
Leslie Dale, Via The Internet

The Flesh Failures

Unfortunately, as is many times the case when the carnivorous eating habits of human beings is the topic of discussion, reader Diana Lazo's own tirade ("Letters," August 29) regarding local vegetarians and their "hissyfits" obviously originates from a complete lack of logic as well as supporting documentation.

Maybe someone needs to tell Ms. Lazo about the massive, and I mean massive, suffering that results from making a choice to sit down and eat that lamb chop or hamburger.

As to vegetarianism not being an affordable lifestyle choice: Noting that Ms. Lazo lives in Berkeley, I suggest she spend a day exploring her own community where I can guarantee she will be able to find very affordable (five dollars or less) and tasty vegetarian/vegan fare on just about every street corner there is. Farmers' markets are also wonderful places to buy very inexpensive organic/vegan products -- most times cheaper than what you'll pay for a non-organic equivalent at a local supermarket.

Finally, I would suggest Ms. Lazo do a little research on her own so that, if she ever does speak up again on this topic, she will be speaking from a point of intelligence rather than ignorance. It's possible she might even enjoy -- and benefit from -- enrolling in a course on critical thinking.
Barbyrah Mir Fluor, Oakland


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