Letters for December 11, 2008

Fairness is an overrated doctrine
Re: “It’s only right to give the left air time” (Guest Comment, by Dan Gordon, CN&R, Dec. 4):

The notion that the Fairness Doctrine ever gave or would give the left any exposure on commercial airwaves is naive. Except for an occasional “bone,” accompanied by show hosts providing “needed (often derisive) context,” powerful leftist critiques of capitalism have always been systematically excluded from corporate media. Only reformist liberal and neo-liberal voices have been deemed appropriate opposition to right-wing opinion.

All the Fairness Doctrine would do is reinforce the notion that anyone to the left of Rush Limbaugh is a liberal. (It is the right’s determination of what is liberal that sustains their bogus rant about “the liberal media.") Thus, in the name of “fairness,” the corporate media would remain dominated by the right with only the mildest of opposition voices allowed in, both reflecting ruling-class opinion.

Better to have us understand that no matter how “personable” or “entertaining” they are, conservative hosts are nothing more than shills for capital. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t have the job. It is for this reason that non-corporate community media are the real (and only) venues of oppositional discourse.

Beau Grosscup

I am all for a reappraisal of the Fairness Doctrine. We can start with the News & Review’s columnists and letters department—clearly left-wing biased.

Oh, the N&R isn’t a public entity? OK, it’s time to balance out the City Council, which is way out on the left fringe, as demonstrated by the asinine disc-golf decision.

Oh, they were elected? OK, how about Chico State? It’s no secret that the faculty is predominantly left-wing; anyone to the right of Marx is a pariah.

Oh, you’re talking about the public airwaves! OK, KZFR is clearly left-wing; let them put on Air America. Oh, Air America is a financial bust and no one wants to carry it?

Who is going to pick the “thought police” who will decide which program is to the left enough? What government agency, appointed by what party, will be responsible for programming KPAY?

There is nothing “fair” about the Fairness Doctrine; rather, it is used as an effort to stifle dissent.

Ron Acevedo

I would like to voice my support for Dan Gordon’s attempt to end free speech. After all, anyone who doesn’t agree with Dan’s enlightened politics must surely be silenced, right?

We’ve come to a point in progressive America where we no longer need differing opinions. Those fools who believe that a strong nation must respect the importance of borders, language and culture must be controlled and taught to stay in line, right Dan?

So let’s do this thing. After talk radio, we’ll need to move on to local liberal rags. I notice on the free newsstand that conservative viewpoints are entirely unrepresented. By Dan’s logic, aren’t the less fortunate who live downtown being subjected to an unfair left-wing bias in our local publications?

So, sorry, News & Review. You’re going to have to dedicate half of your print space to right-wing opinions. Prepare to have the government proofreading your publication for fairness. Prepare to lay off some of your staff in order to replace them with writers whom the government deems acceptable.

Prepare for Dan’s version of Soviet America.

Ruben Leon

Editor’s note: Freedom of the press and stewardship of the public airways are distinct legal concepts.

Relative efficiency
Re: “Green ideas ripe for implementing” (Letters, by Michael M. Peters, CN&R, Dec. 4):

Michael Peters’ recent letter on “green living” and “sustainability” is timely. These are not new ideas; they only seem new to us, a people used to excessive consumption and profligate waste.

The Carnot engine he cites, however, is a theoretical device that demonstrates the relationships among heat, temperature, pressure, and volume. It is not a real engine, and it is not an engine that can ever be built. Its efficiency, though, is the largest possible for any given heat differential. Any engine that could approximate the Carnot engine would be very efficient.

There are many real engines that are highly efficient. We don’t use them for three reasons: They have relatively high fuel costs (e.g., hydrogen); they are not very portable (e.g., wind power); or, they are just not very good for most of the purposes for which we build engines.

High efficiency does not necessarily equal high utility. We will be able to switch to more sustainable fuels and greener engines only when they can be made more useful than existing fossil-fueled engines.

Michael Panunto

Not so confident
Re: “Confidence man” (Editorial, CN&R, Dec. 4):

Time will tell if Obama has the insight to cure the economic woes of America. I personally believe he does not. You don’t get that kind of knowledge from a college or a law school, because colleges teach corporate capitalism, which makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. Most politicians come from a legal background and don’t have the economic knowledge to create or maintain a solid economy.

As for Obama and his selection of his cabinet, he is turning to the same people who have helped create the financial crisis to begin with!

Larry Gastineau
Bloomington, Ill.

Don’t blame—learn
Re: “Poor schools shortchange all of us” (Guest Comment, by Dick Cory, CN&R, Nov. 26):

The repercussions of the state of California’s inadequate funding of public education will be felt for years to come in the form of higher levels of public assistance, increased incarceration and a lower standard of living. Additionally, the regressive accountability system of NCLB hinders true reform.

Mr. Cory makes an eloquent argument for why we as Californians should be ashamed of these government policies. Unfortunately, as some educators tend to do, he then “turns on his own” and inaccurately blames our educational woes on charter schools. He claims that charter schools serve a “select group of students,” different from others who cannot afford the “time or money outlay.”

Charter schools, by law, are open to all students. They do not charge tuition or require any “money outlay” by parents. Any time requirement (hours or service by families) is encouraged, but not mandated.

His argument that charter schools siphon money away from traditional public schools is an old complaint subscribed to by those who feel public education has an entitlement to the taxpayers’ dollars.

Charter schools operate with less funding than traditional public schools yet are able to maintain smaller class size, have local control, develop curricula, and maintain their fine arts, music and elective programs. Maybe traditional schools should look to that model to emulate, instead of blame.

Paul Weber

Editor’s note: Mr. Weber is principal of Chico Country Day School.

Due process for all
Re: “A matter of ‘respect’ “ (Newslines, by Ginger McGuire, CN&R, Nov. 26):

In an era when budgets portend stagnation, real loss of wages and benefits, and often layoffs for average working men and women, it would seem that the least an employer would want to do is preserve fair and equitable working conditions.

Yet the Chico Unified School District takes a stance on arbitration of grievances that undermines fundamental notions of fair play and due process for its classified employees. How can an employer review itself and keep a straight face?

Clearly the cost of arbitration of disputes pales in comparison to the cost of disgruntled employees. If the district is going to ask its employees to “suck it up” during hard times, it should at a bare minimum provide a working environment where workplace issues get a fair hearing.

The current grievance process for classified employees is flawed without an impartial third party.

Binding arbitration was recommended by a fact-finding panel. The school board should heed this advice rather than give credence to the “second class citizen” charge. Having a different due process procedure for different groups of employees is unfair.

Bill Patton

Editor’s note: Mr. Patton has been a personnel commissioner for the Chico school district.

A personal history
Re: “The end of the Sixties” (Cover story, by Robert Speer, CN&R, Nov. 20):

I was hired in 1968 to teach in the Sociology Department. I had been in SDS [Students for a Democratic Society] at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. When I arrived in Chico that fall, I joined the small SDS chapter.

In November of that year a group of “agit-prop” students from San Francisco State came to the campus to ask us to join a statewide strike in support of the on-going strike on their campus. They were hit with a barrage of oranges thrown by pro-war students, but they continued with their performance.

After several subsequent public rallies on the campus, a vote was taken and a strike was declared. The university president put an end to the rallies and protests by closing the university early ahead of the Thanksgiving break.

I was fired the next semester along with two other professors. One other professor quit in protest of our firing.

Dr. Jerry Carr
Norfolk, Va.

Re: “Taking the long view” (Newslines, by Evan Tuchinsky, CN&R, Dec. 4): Chico State’s endowment was worth approximately $35 million before the Wall Street crash; President Paul Zingg estimates its current worth at around $30 million. This has been adjusted online.