Letters for February 16, 2012

Piling on Steve

Re “The other Steve Jobs” (Guest comment, by Jaime O’Neill, Feb. 9): Much of what you write about Steve Jobs might be true—although I’m puzzled by the statement that each Chinese worker produces $400,000 in profit. Is that over a lifetime? The number seems improbable.

But my real objection to your piece is the idea that Steve Jobs has been canonized. I know no one who views him as a saint or as a savior of capitalism—although many people who own Apple stock are glad they do.

I favor creating work for Americans. I believe that the true costs of outsourcing are not revealed; some people benefit, large numbers are harmed.

But your article does not give any hints about how we could create and keep the work here. Really, it’s more of a “piling on” piece than a piece that clarifies our thoughts or understanding.

Murray Suid

Editor’s note: In a major Jan. 21 piece on Apple, the New York Times reported, “Last year, it earned over $400,000 in profit per employee, more than Goldman Sachs, Exxon Mobil or Google.”

Don’t know if you have had a chance to read Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson, but it is a very good chronicle of his entire career, warts and all. It’s true that Apple’s Chinese manufacturing facility, Foxconn, has a terrible history, but Apple does have a very complete requirement for compliance to decent labor practices, which Apple does monitor.

Unfortunately, electronics manufacturing will probably never return to the U.S.—in fact, Jobs said as much to President Obama at a meeting a year or so back. It’s not because of wage differences, as that is a small percentage of an iPhone’s or an iPad’s cost; rather it’s the complete integration of manufacturing infrastructure—parts suppliers, the support staff, employees living on site, manufacturing engineering—all subsidized by the Chinese government.

This can never happen here; even if the U.S. government supported such a policy, it is prohibitively expensive.

As far as Jobs’ management style is concerned, he was a demanding perfectionist who did not suffer fools gladly. His worst mistake was hiring the Pepsi chairman as CEO. Also, his wealth came mostly from Pixar and Disney; Apple Computer, not so much.

John Cecil

Vlamis’ BEC legacy

Re “BEC gets a new boss” (Downstroke, Feb. 9): The CN&R incorrectly stated that the previous BEC director, Barbara Vlamis, was dismissed in 2007. In fact, Vlamis was at the helm until July 2009.

Under her leadership, BEC was known throughout California as a leading water-advocacy organization. It challenged Glenn Colusa Irrigation District’s 2007 plan to install seven production wells designed to “test” the ability of the aquifer to provide water to rice farms selling their river entitlements to San Joaquin Valley water purveyors. The litigation altered the debate by letting the “water buffalo” know that a skilled environmental advocate was representing the interests of the 99 percent of North State residents unaffiliated with the lucrative water market.

Vlamis also raised $72,000 and filed a coalition lawsuit in April 2009 to stop the state’s Drought Water Bank from draining the Tuscan aquifer. This successful litigation stopped the groundwater transfer and resulted in a settlement that included repaying legal expenses so that advocates would have a legal-defense fund to challenge future water-heist schemes.

AquAlliance was created by 50 activists who recognized the necessity of maintaining vigorous resistance to power brokers who would trade the Tuscan-dependent environment and economy for big money. I have worked under Vlamis for 10 years, and the founding members of AquAlliance were delighted to have her continued leadership on matters crucial to the long-term environmental and economic health of the region. I urge everyone to join with me in supporting AquAlliance’s efforts to defend the foundation of our well-being in the North State.

Jim Brobeck

Excitable boy

Re “Playtime 4 Chico” (15 Minutes, by Howard Hardee, Feb. 9): Sticks and stones might break my bones, but whips and chains excite me.

Vern Leathers

Repainting is not the same

Re “Pugh to repaint mural” (Downstroke, Feb. 9): Chico State should apply its considerable ingenuity to maintain John Pugh’s mural Academe in its present location. This is a public treasure, a monumental marker physically and metaphorically welcoming student and visitor alike to the university. There is really no other “façade” to Chico State University; this is the interface between the college and the town.

That John Pugh, our now internationally renowned alumnus, may be willing to make an exact replica (to the tune of $70,000) is beside the point. The real mural exists: Why invest in a copy if the original is not valued enough to be preserved?

Since plans have not yet been drawn for the new building, nor has an architect been chosen, this mural could be the perfect vehicle to determine the final design in a way that serves the future but acknowledges the past.

Academe launched Pugh’s career. The piece was chosen from among more than 200 others, many in more celebrated places, for the cover of Kevin Bruce’s recent monograph on the artist. The mural makes us look good; preserving it would communicate a powerful lesson about honoring our heritage instead of trivializing it.

The writers of the EIR made a monumental mistake by not recognizing that it is not just age but substance and cultural value and identity that determine the need to preserve a monument. “Young” as it may be, Academe is already part of Chico’s historic heritage.

Maria Phillips

Documenting fracking

If you haven’t seen the documentary Gasland, you should. It documents Josh Fox’s travels through 26 states exposing the results of “fracking"—a technique for mining fossil fuels in which huge amounts of highly pressurized water (typically 20,000 to 80,000 gallons per well) are forced deep underground to release oil and natural gas.

He found people living near these wells who could hold a cigarette lighter up to their kitchen tap and actually light the water on fire because it was so contaminated. Some said that their water was making their whole family sick.

Environmentalists claim the BLM has leased over 2,500 acres in California to oil companies for fracking without sufficient analysis of possible impacts. Last month it was reported that Gov. Brown pressured a top state regulator to shortcut the permitting process for fracking, and then removed that regulator after he refused to comply.

California’s water supply is already stretched to the limit. The last thing we need to do is to contaminate what precious water we have.

We need to cut our dependence on fossil fuels. Developing light rail would be a major improvement in this regard. Please write Gov. Brown a letter. Tell him to cut fracking and develop light rail.

Sharon Fritsch

Birds of a feather

Re “Of bowerbirds and courtship” (Feature story, by Robert Speer, Feb. 9):

The great bowerbird, Chlamydera nuchalis, the topic of your ditty—and quite a scoundrel, if I may say—was not the beast in the article’s photo. Ptilonorhynchus violaceus, the satin bowerbird, somehow made the cut. Scoundrel too! Anyway, these things matter to the English. To the fanatics—even more.

Chris Durniak


Due to a misunderstanding, Tom Gascoyne reported in his Newslines article last week, “CSU provost quits suddenly,” that a woman who answered the phone in the provost’s office said, “We weren’t surprised,” when they learned of Sandra Flake’s resignation. In fact, as the woman has since informed us, she said, “We were surprised.”

Also, in his City Council report last week, “Riding the waves,” Robert Speer misidentified Paul Sullivan as the owner of Alternative Energy Systems. He is the sales manager.

Our apologies. The errors have been corrected online.—ed.

A Jewish doctor on circumcision

Re “Circumcision controversy” (Letters, by Norma Wilcox RN, Feb. 9): I am a physician who was raised Jewish and still consider myself to be so culturally. As a newborn I went through an in-home religious ceremonial circumcision and had my bar mitzvah when I was 13 years old. In addition, as a physician I have performed circumcisions in a hospital setting.

Norma Wilcox’s statements regarding what we now know about circumcision are totally based on current medical research and are quite consistent with my personal experience performing circumcisions.

In fact, I stopped performing circumcisions back when I was a medical resident due to the pain that it caused the infants as well as the evidence even at that time (1992) that circumcisions did not result in any short- or long-term health benefits to the males themselves or to their future partners.

The belief prior to that time was that circumcision decreased the incidence of phimosis, a condition that would not allow the foreskin to be retracted back over the penis as a boy matured. Also, there was the belief that circumcision helped to decrease the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases and in turn decrease the incidence of cervical cancer in female partners.

During circumcisions, even with the administration of local anesthesia and the best attempts of my colleagues and me to be as gentle as possible, the infants would cry to an extreme degree as soon as the circumcision clamp was tightened down.

With regard to the religious reasons for performing a circumcision in order to honor the Jewish people’s “covenant with G-d": There is controversy as to whether this is even considered to be a requirement to be Jewish.

Based on the well-supported and documented facts that Norma Wilcox provided in her letter, I have to strongly agree that to continue to perform circumcisions on infants is not acceptable from a spiritual, medical or legal-ethical point of view.

I added spiritually harmful because to continue to do something that we now know is harmful to someone else is to my way of thinking spiritually harmful to those of us who continue to do the harm.

If a person chooses to have a circumcision performed when he is an adult and able to understand what he is choosing and that there will be pain associated with the procedure; I believe that is his right. However, to perform this procedure on a newborn infant, given what we now know about it, I do not believe is any longer acceptable for us as parents, physicians, religious leaders and political leaders.

Jerry Weiner, DO, MSW

A matter of freedom

Re “The foreskin chronicles” (From This Corner, by Robert Speer, Feb. 9): Since you write that the anti-circumcision folks are giving you a hard time for the article about the bris milah (Jewish ritual circumcision), I am taking a moment to write to thank you for publishing that article and showing how this is an issue of religious freedom for Jews and Muslims in our country, and also mentioning the potential health benefits of circumcision.

I thought that the article gave different points of view. Male circumcision should be a matter of parental or personal choice for religious or health reasons.

Rabbi Julie Hilton Danan

Dangerous insinuations

Should Jesse Kelly and Sarah Palin be prosecuted for conspiracy to incite violence against political figures? I think that Palin, with her gun-sight targeting of “liberals,” and Kelly, with his campaign stunt to remove Giffords from office by having his supporters shoot an M16 rifle, were obviously making calls for violence.

These activities go beyond defending people’s right to own a gun for protection or sport. Instead these actions are encouraging people to use these guns as threats against others that do not share their political ideology.

The insinuation that it is OK to shoot “liberal” politicians is a staple of right-wing television and radio talk shows. Political and media figures are looked upon with great respect and have a responsibility to promote order in society. When they start hinting that shooting people is socially acceptable, they must be held legally liable for their actions.

R. Sterling Ogden