Letters for April 21, 2011

Taxes and Reagan

Re “Tax myths and tall tales” (Cover story, by David Cay Johnston, April 14):

As someone from Europe who has lived in Germany, I can tell readers the big difference between the system the author describes in Germany and the United States is that Germans trust their government to spend money wisely and Americans with good reason do not.

The debate needs to go beyond the old “raise taxes” argument. We need fair taxes, perhaps a flat tax like Russia has, and a broader tax base, so that all pay something and have a stake in society. Corporations must also pay, and should be incentivized to create jobs and profits within the United States. Modernization of government and taxation is needed, not just another mindless tax increase funding yet more dysfunctional government.

Roy Bishop

Ronald Reagan can be blamed for turning the USA into a Third World country and for destroying the American middle class. In 1960 the ratio of a CEO’s income to that of his workers was 12 to 1; by 1988 it had increased to 93 to 1. In the 1980s the pay of those earning more than $1 million increased by 2,184 percent (that’s right, 2,184 percent).

And Reagan did not defeat the Soviet Union—I had a seminar with Alexander Kerensky in the late 1960s at UC Berkeley, and Kerensky said that the USSR was due to collapse in about 20 years from internal problems—and he was right on the money. Reagan had nothing to do with the collapse of the Soviet Union. The aberrant myth of Ronald Reagan continues to destroy this country.

Michael Peters

Why storage is needed

Re “Too dammed expensive” (Editorial, April 14):

You editorial that says “No way” to the construction of new dams in our state to make beneficial use of excess water is short-sighted and is lacking in the knowledge of who pays for what.

Current discussions about potential reservoirs, including Sites Reservoir in the Sacramento Valley and Temperance Flat east of Fresno, have included the phrase “beneficiaries pay.” That means the folks who are receiving the benefit from these new projects would be footing the bill.

It is important to remember that most reservoirs include benefits such as flood control and recreation. Unfortunately, the “beneficiaries pay” concept has failed to stick with the state for these public benefits that it is required to pay. Farm water users have been forced to subsidize these public benefits to the tune of millions of dollars, in addition to paying their own costs.

Mike Wade
Executive Director, California Farm Water Coalition

The author should make a trip to Southern California; I’d be happy to show him the areas where active groundwater recharge is going on today to capture floodwaters, recycle wastewater and “bank” imported water for not-so-rainy days.

The problem with the author’s concept of recharging water in California is getting it to the recharge areas. The conveyance system is limited, and there is the bottleneck called the Delta. There really needs to be a place to “park” the water so it can be released through the conveyance system gradually and moved to the recharge areas—be they in Northern/Central California or Southern California.

If you believe in climate change, we will be losing our cheapest and largest reservoir—our snowpack. If the snowpack is reduced, we will see more rain with very high runoff rates. Can our conveyance system accommodate this and route the water to recharge areas? I doubt it. Even our existing surface storage will be overwhelmed.

The solution to California’s water crisis is not one answer, but a combination of surface storage, conveyance, Delta fix, and groundwater storage, along with conservation and recycling.

Joseph C. Reichenberger P.E.
professor of civil engineering and environmental science

Loyola Marymount UniversityLos Angeles

Measure A: two views

Re “Measure A: pros and cons” (From this Corner, by Robert Speer, March 24):

Your assertion that that the measure would cut voter participation in half but raise the cost by $73,000 is misleading. The initial cost of the measure might be $73,000, but that is because our current City Council voted 5-2 against having mail-in ballots only for this election.

After this first election in June, the remainder of elections for City Council will not cost the city or taxpayers anything extra. The City Council elections will be included on the ballot with the other local elections.

You mentioned the fact that Stephanie Taber is a local Tea Party activist. Does that somehow prohibit her from backing the measure? You failed to mention that those opposed to Measure A were funded not only by several Democratic PACs, but also by the ACLU, including the ACLU in San Francisco. How hypocritical is it, then, for you to mention that Stephanie Taber works for Larry Wahl, or that the real work was done by a Florida company.

Let’s be realistic about this. Those who oppose Measure A want to keep partisan politics and money in our city elections. Ann Schwab, Jim Walker and Scott Gruendl benefit from donations from the Democratic Party. That would not happen in June. In June, our elections would be purely local and nonpartisan. What could be better than that?

Sue Hubbard

For the record, the county clerk estimates that the cost of a June 2012 City Council election would be approximately $130,000, as opposed to an estimated $57,000 cost for the November 2012 election.—ed.

In their recent spate of letters, supporters of Measure A are persistently dishonest about their motives and purposes. This small but well-funded group claims to be motivated by some vague good-government aim related to more attention to the council elections.

Here’s the real story: They don’t like the results of council elections when a large number of the local community vote. They think the results will be more to their liking with a smaller electorate.

We know from history that the total participation in the fall is two to three times as large as in June. Anyone who believes in American ideals and believes in democracy welcomes high voter turnout. But this little group of elitists think they know better and want our council chosen in a low-turnout election.

So: June council elections will cost the city more—on top of the $150,000 cost of this special election—and bring out fewer voters. What’s good about this?

David Welch

Israel and Palestine

Re “One-sided blame,” (Letters, by Rabbi Julie Hilton Danan, April 7):

This is to clarify some points regarding Rabbi Danan’s letter criticizing Ann Polivka’s guest comment [“Palestine needs our support”].

While Rabbi Danan is correct in stating that “surrounding countries attacked the new state [of Israel] after the United Nations voted in its favor,” it is also very important that people know about how Arabs were forced from their homes, as Ann Polivka points out. This practice continues today in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

In no way does did Ms. Polivka’s letter “delegitimize Israel’s very existence.” As for the Camp David summit, Israel’s “generous offer” did not call for a contiguous Palestinian state. If Israel needed a “security” wall, why deep inside Palestinian territory, separating people and communities from each other, instead of following the Green Line? In condemning terrorism on both sides, it’s important to understand that West Bank Jewish settlers often attack Palestinians.

The Palestinian Authority genuinely wants peace and a two-state solution. President Obama now must act boldly by insisting on this, and make a trip to Israel and Palestine to talk with the people there.

Walter Ballin

I see the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians as a Jewish social-justice issue, especially as Israel purports to speak for all Jews, which includes me.

I am not interested in the usual back and forth over who did what, who is the victim/victimizer, who is most to blame. The narratives of both peoples have validity as well as limitations. Debates over disputed “facts” seem endless.

I want to know if Jewish-Muslim dialogue ever includes genuine listening and heartfelt apology. Can Jews acknowledge that the formation of Israel has caused great pain and suffering for the Palestinian people? Can Palestinians acknowledge the historically savage persecution of Jews wherever they lived that led to the vision of a “safe” country for the Jews? Do advocates for the Palestinians ignore the fears of the average Israeli who desires to live in security? Can we all acknowledge that there have been atrocities committed by both sides?

Can we American Jews admit that Israel has far greater capacity to do harm? And do we look with horror at the dead children of both peoples and grieve? Or do we hasten to justify the carnage committed by Israeli bombings?

There are peacemakers on both sides in this conflict. In late February, Israelis rallied in Zion Square in Jerusalem, protesting the current wave of racism in Israeli society. A speaker whose son was stabbed to death by Jewish teens said, “My son fell victim to racism in Jerusalem. I’ve come here to say that we are fighting racism together, Jews and Arabs.”

I would be encouraged to hear Israel’s strongest supporters admit that the occupation, with its ever-expanding settlements that control the lives of millions of Palestinians, is immoral and unjust. Bulldozing homes, uprooting ancient olive trees, torching agricultural land worked by Palestinians, are not Jewish values. Disrespect and hatred of the “other” are not Jewish values.

It hardly seems human to be “picking sides” in this tragic dispute. You really can care about Israel and also advocate for the rights of the Palestinian people. Pursuing justice has always been a true Jewish value.

Silona Reyman

Rabbi Danan should read Israeli historians who have painfully sifted through the documents from the British Mandate of Palestine, and stop repeating the myths.

Myth 1: “… all the surrounding countries attacked the new state.” The Arab League rounded up some volunteers, with antiquated weapons; Egypt, after May 15, 1948, sent ill-equipped soldiers into the Negev to protect Egypt’s Gaza area; Transjordan’s King Abdullah cut a secret deal with the Zionists that he would do nothing as long as he was able to keep the West Bank.

In short, the Palestinians were left to their own devices without weapons, guns, certainly no airplanes, and no help for years leading up to 1948. Israel, on the other hand, helped by the British and smugglers, had a well-armed fighting force of around 50,000-80,000 thousand troops, a small air force, navy and units of tanks, armored cars and heavy artillery.

World Zionist Organization raised money to buy arms throughout the 1940s, and after the end of the war in Europe to buy up whole military bases—vehicles, weapons and ammunition. (Grant Smith, America’s Defense Line).

From 1929 onward, the Zionists in the Mandate were writing plans to cleanse the Palestinian population, and when the British pulled out of Palestine, nearly half of the 571 Palestinian villages were destroyed and bulldozed before any Arab soldier had entered Palestine. The ethnic-cleansing plans are all preserved, and even taught in Israeli schools! Plans A, B, C, and the infamous “final solution” Plan Delat. (Pappe, Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine).

Myth 2: Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and Palestinians live freely there. From the Goldstone Report, to numerous documents from human-rights organizations and the Jerusalem Post, we can learn about more than 30 discriminatory laws passed by the Israeli Knesset discriminating against its Palestinian citizens in the areas of land rights, education, loyalty oaths, work and employment, water, and agriculture.

Myth 3: Israel is not practicing apartheid. What word would you use to describe roads that can be driven on only by Jews, houses only for Jews, villages only for Jews, and a gigantic wall to separate Jews and Palestinians. OK, I won’t call it apartheid. In South Africa blacks were allowed into white areas to gather trash and do the hard word and lifting, but not in Israel, so I guess it’s different, but what is it?

Peggy McCormack
Butte College instructor


High cost of death

Re “Death penalty ‘inherently flawed’ “(Editorial, April 14):

Your editorial is right on. Death row’s $1 billion price tag over the next five years is enough to alarm anyone—but it doesn’t end there. Our death row has perennially been the poster child of out-of-control government waste.

Your article noted that California has executed only 13 inmates since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976. This means that, over the life of the program, the death penalty has cost the California taxpayer $250 million per execution. It’s time to do away with this punishment once and for all and reallocate the money to a more worthy cause.

John MacGregor
San Francisco

You are absolutely right that the time has come for California to join Illinois in abolishing executions. Regardless of what one thinks about the morality of the death penalty, it has been an unmitigated disaster as public policy, and our current economic crisis means we no longer have the luxury of waiting around for this broken system to fix itself.

The $125 million California spends on capital punishment each year is $125 million that is not being spent to educate our children, improve our communities, and protect our neighborhoods. Coupled with the fact that our convoluted legal machinery has ensured that no one has been executed in five years, and it becomes apparent that we need to cut our losses and get out of the death business.

James Brockway

A mellow scene

Re “Good-times rag” (Music feature, by Ken Smith, April 14):

I would just like to add a thought or two to Mr. Smith’s very nice article on the Tin Pan Alley night at Sierra Sunrise Terraces. Besides the goodly number of already-accomplished musicians who play here, this venue has been an incubator for a lot of the performers you see around town, in bands or playing individually.

Since the mood of the crowd is warm and welcoming, the performer is not anxious about being perfect and so can just enjoy sharing his or her talent. Performance anxiety is something a number of us have grown out of in such an atmosphere. Experience is available in this venue, and in the three or so other open mics around town. It is a pleasure to watch people grow as performers and showmen.

This is also a place to meet other performers and share information as well as hook up to make a performing group. You never know who will show up. You can try out your schtick, or advertise an upcoming show, or come just because you heard about it and want to find someone to play with. Every night is different. Every night is a gem.

Sharon Smith

The open mic has become something the community can be proud of. Most important, it has enabled many talented people whose only fault as performers was a lack of self-confidence to blossom into something special (even though some of them still don’t recognize how good they have become).

It has also become an event where people who enjoy music performed in a pre-’60s style are likely to experience an evening of quality entertainment they will enjoy. Ken Smith, the author of the article, tells us he was impressed with all the performances and will soon return as a performer instead of as a reporter. He will be very welcome.

Bernie and Bob LoFaso

Brazilian blowback

Re “Hair to die for” (Earthwatch, March 31):

I have had three Brazilian Blowout treatments. It is true, for a female with frizzy hair this product is a dream come true. I thought I was set for life and even considered the possibility of moving to the beach.

Not too long ago I noticed my hair thinning and areas of my scalp with no hair at all. Long full strands of hair appeared in my hairbrush. I was shocked and highly concerned but thought it was due to a high level of stress.

After talking with a friend in the pharmaceutical industry, I realized that perhaps the BB was causing my hair loss. There is much written about the level of toxic chemicals, and yes, I must admit the odor was strong and my eyes watered; but only sparse comments about hair loss. Can you tell me about any confirmed studies relating to hair loss with the BB treatment? Thank you.

Gwen Kazmierczak

We can’t help you there, but you probably should stop using the stuff.—ed.

The plutonium factor

Re “Hard lesson from Japan” (Editorial, March 17):

If you want to know more about nuclear issues, read John McPhee’s 1973 book The Curve of Binding Energy (hot stuff, very readable) and the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, available at bookstores. For instance, see the sidebar on page 5 of the March/April 2003 issue of the Bulletin concerning safety issues in the Japanese nuclear industry, driven by “ever-increasing pressures to cut costs and minimize safety measures.”

The nuclear industry has produced enough plutonium to kill every human on the planet many times over, just on the basis of its toxicity. People who should know tell us that one-millionth of a gram will be fatal if ingested; many hundreds of kilograms have gone missing in the United States, Russia, Japan, etc. We are allowing corporations to play with this stuff for profit. Every person who pretends to be a responsible citizen must know more about this in order to respond appropriately when they hear the words “clean, safe nuclear power.”

Nelson H, Kaiser

Support Ai WeiWei

To all Chico artists and people who love and will fight for freedom of expression: The Chinese government has arrested the great modern Chinese artist Ai WeiWei.

Now, many might not know this brilliant artist and social activist. He is world recognized, and now the Big Bad Chinese government has jailed him and is keeping his whereabouts secret. For what? He has the audacity to create art that challenges their superiority over people.

We in the United States take our freedom for granted. Please send your protests to the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., demanding his release.

Jerry Harris
Chico/San Francisco

How America breeds terrorists

Saw a Pakistani leader on TV complaining that our drone strikes are creating more Al-Qaeda recruits. He said that most of the men in Pakistan are armed and that he has no idea of the number of Al-Qaeda (estimated at 200) there are. There have been 233 drone strikes with an estimated 1,435 people killed.

To think that we can, with aerial surveillance, identify terrorists or, more specifically, Al-Qaeda leaders on the ground and bomb them is absurd.

For each person we kill with a drone attack we have become the terrorist creating many more terrorists.

Each time we bomb another country (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya) that has not attacked us, we have broken moral law, constitutional law and international law.

Norm Dillinger

A better election reform

Chico has hundreds of homes whose residents cannot vote in local elections because they have not been annexed. The Tea Party people should be trying to get more votes from these disenfranchised citizens rather than take away votes from students.

I have been a Chico resident for about 25 years. I have lived in seven different locations in central Chico, and of them only three were considered in the city for voting purposes.

I am surprised that there hasn’t been some kind of state or national inquiry into this gross violation of people’s right to vote in this community. The annexation costs are effectively a poll tax that keeps productive members of this community from participating in the decision-making of the community.

Why haven’t realtors been all over this issue? It has to be embarrassing to sell someone a house for $300,000 and then have to tell them, “Oh, by the way, for an extra $8,000 to $10,000 you can keep your rights as a citizen to vote in local elections.” And what about the loss of tax dollars to the city? Wouldn’t annexation broaden the tax base and help the city balance its budget?

Please, we have much bigger fish to fry than changing the voting day to June.

Russ Kalen

The business agenda

Businesses are fighting for less taxes because they do not want to have the EPA and other regulatory agencies poking around and observing the pollution and unfair practices they use to make money. After allm they don’t want to go without health care and live on the limited incomes they offer their employees.

It is to the benefit of some to keep the general public uneducated and therefore easily manipulated. The Republicans have been working on regaining their power, and it is becoming more and more clear what they are willing to do to regain that power. Hold on! The average citizen will be in for a rough ride. It’s all about power and not people.

I am disabled from environmental illness and wish to move out of the country, but I am stuck here, too.

Jorja Stewart

Throw the bums out!

Are you satisfied with your present representation in Sacramento and Washington? If the answer is yes, just keep doing what you are doing: absolutely nothing! Your incumbent representatives depend on your apathy to get re-elected.

In fact, incumbent representatives (those currently in office running for a second or third term) get automatically re-elected 93 percent of the time. They know that if you vote at all, you will vote for the name you recognize, regardless of his or her voting record or performance in office. They spend lots of money for just one thing: name recognition. They also take advantage of their free postage privilege to mail you glossy propaganda to insure that they will be returned to office.

I am not satisfied with my so-called representatives! I don’t feel represented at all. The last thing I want to do is support the same old political games being played in Sacramento or Washington. I can’t tell you how to vote, but if you want change, if you want to restore representation, we must vote incumbents out of office!

Until we change that 93 percent statistic, our current elected officials have no fear of being turned out of office, so they do as they please. Right now what is pleasing to them is not solving any of our state or national problems.

Gary Janosz


Our Newslines story last week about a forum addressing on the earthquake and tsunami in Japan (“Shedding light on science behind quake,” by Stacey Kennelly) misidentified participant Ann Bykerk-Kauffman. She is a geology professor in the College of Natural Sciences at Chico State. Our apologies for the error.—ed.