Letters for January 6, 2011

Fiction truer than fact

Re “Sweet-Grass Christmas” (Cover story, by Zu Vincent, Dec. 23):

Thank you for renewing your lovely tradition of giving us a story from Zu Vincent to read over the Christmas holiday. I fondly remember Zu’s stories from previous years and had been hoping for another.

This year has been full of important news, but it does seem appropriate to take a break to read a story that lifts our spirits. Fiction can be more true than news sometimes, because it reminds us of what we have the potential for.

Like Charles Dickens’ perennial A Christmas Carol, Zu’s story reminds us to look back, to look inside and to look ahead. A perfect thing to do at this time of endings and beginnings.

Thanks for all you do for local readers and writers.

Heather Lyon


Re “A historic civil-rights vote” (Editorial, Dec. 23):

San Francisco had to close down community bath houses and control some activity in the public parks due to homosexual activity that helped cause an extreme epidemic of AIDS in the area. Fact!

Community showers are largely used in the military. By permitting the same homosexual activity in the military, Obama, the Democratic Party and a few Republicans have exposed the U.S. military to the same conditions that escalated the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco.

The United States will not be able to maintain a voluntary military if the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is not reinstated. Heterosexuals and some homosexuals don’t want superiors demanding homosexual favors in return for privileges and career promotions.

Many conservatives and independents say the liberal Democrats are dumb. They are not dumb. By repealing DADT, they have figured out a way to weaken the U.S. military without firing a shot.

I am not suggesting that homosexuals are weak. Rock Hudson was a big strong man, but he died from AIDS.

Dan Rogers
Live Oak

More on Ungerman

Re “Chico filmmaker stuck in France” (Newslines, by Christine G.K. LaPado, Dec. 23):

Thanks for the story on the plight of my sister, Stacey Wear, and her partner, Gerard Ungerman. These two people have attempted to do everything properly and legally to get immigrant status for Gerard, but it is a system fraught with peril, and, especially without a lawyer, it is easy to have the whole thing backfire on you.

Gerard and Stacey have now contracted emergency legal counsel, but need to come up immediately with a $10,000 retainer. If anyone feels like they can contribute, if only $10, toward his return please visit his website at www.FreeWillProd.com and see his PLEA 4 HELP. They can also visit his “HELP PAGE” and discover his current documentary projects. You can also send PayPal donations to this e-mail address: <script type="text/javascript" language="javascript">{ document.write(String.fromCharCode(60,97,32,104,114,101,102,61,34,109,97,105,108,116,111,58,102,114,101,101,119,105,108,108,112,114,111,100,64,102,114,101,101,119,105,108,108,112,114,111,100,46,99,111,109,34,62,102,114,101,101,119,105,108,108,112,114,111,100,64,102,114,101,101,119,105,108,108,112,114,111,100,46,99,111,109,60,47,97,62)) } </script>.

Other friends and family members in the community are rallying around this situation by organizing a fund-raising event on Sunday, Jan. 23, at the Chico Women’s Club. We will have more details on that very soon.

Donate if you can. Join us at the Women’s Club on Jan. 23. Also, please join the Facebook group “Help Gerard Ungerman return to the United States.”

Jennifer Perry

It’s unfortunate that [Gerard Ungerman] has this issue, but he is not the only one. He is getting attention because of his status as a filmmaker/teacher. There are thousands of people in this same situation. If only we all could be so lucky as to be banished to Paris!

Jolene Morgan

Child welfare and secrecy

Re “A shroud of secrecy” (From This Corner, by Robert Speer, Dec. 30) and “Ripped apart at the seams” (Cover story, by Meredith J. Cooper, Dec. 16):

Yes, secrecy is one of the problems with CPS. Caveat—I am speaking for the more than 85 percent of all reports to CPS that are found to be false allegations. And for the approximately 50 percent of the remaining 15 percent who are prosecuted but who are innocent.

The No. 1 problem is CPS is not law enforcement, CPS “investigators” are not actually investigators, and much of what they “investigate” are not even remotely crimes.

The No. 2 problem is the courts that handle CPS allegations are not constitutional courts of due process. Nobody is “innocent until proven guilty” in this system where the accusation is the evidence. Rules of evidence are virtually nonexistent. Many cases hinge around the opinions of CPS agents and their contractors, none of whom are constrained from perjury and fabricating “evidence,” nor are they even held accountable.

The rest of the problem is the dearth of lawyers who know how to vigorously defend an abuse allegation and an ever larger shortage of public defenders who know how to do so or will. The entire system is a nightmare “China court” that should not exist in America.

The biggest crime of all is the children being denied their Fourth Amendment right “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures …”

Leonard Henderson
American Family Rights
Otis, Ore.

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) California Chapter is extremely concerned about the child-welfare system. Severe funding cuts and the failure to fund family-preservation programs have greatly limited what the program can do to prevent families from entering the system.

The NASW Code of Ethics holds the well-being of the client as its highest value. Revealing the identity of children in open hearings could potentially harm children and their families and subject them to taunting, ridicule and bullying. NASW doesn’t oppose reform to the system but does not support open hearings that would permit children to come to harm in this manner.

One possible consequence of open hearings is to allow the media to publish details about the abuse and neglect that children have suffered. Some have suggested that this is the only way to get the public to pressure their representatives to increase funding for the system. One weakness in this argument is the media’s tendency to sensationalize stories to promote their circulation. We don’t think this is a legitimate way to reform the child-welfare system.

Janlee Wong
Executive Director, NASW-CA

The real harm to these children is when they are wrongly removed from a family and put at a greater risk than if they had left them at home. More children die in foster/adoptive care than if they had been left with the bio-parent. Also, more children are sexually molested in foster care than if they had been left with the bio-parent.

I have spoken before hearings of Congress to help address these issues, and nothing ever happens. The department always says something like, “Where do you think we get these parents’ names, from the phone book?” and “We are only saving children.” However, if truth be known they are putting more children at risk of being killed and/or molested by putting them in these foster/adoptive homes.

William O. Tower
President, American
Family Rights Association
Citrus Heights

Our water at stake

Everyone in the North State has a stake in California’s water wars and needs to attend a meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 11, from 6-8 p.m. at the Masonic Family Center, 1110 W. East Ave., Chico.

The Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency that controls much of our fate, and the San Luis Delta Mendota Water Agency, the most aggressive agricultural agency south of the Delta, are hosting the meeting. They must begin satisfying legal requirements for their 10-year water-transfer program, which seeks to continue unsustainable desert agriculture and expand urban sprawl. The amount of water wanted is more than what current Chico residents would need over 180 years!

This is the beginning of the environmental-review process—the only real opportunity for the public to have a voice. What the agencies need to hear from all of us who live, work, and play in the North State is that they must accurately analyze the impacts to our communities, farms and environment or we will take them to court. And then we must organize.

For more background on the 10-year water transfer, information on well monitoring, and the opportunity to support the professionals fighting on your behalf, go to www.aqualliance.net.

Barbara Vlamis
Executive Director, AquAlliance

Editor’s Note: For more on this issue, see Newslines.

‘Top-two’ isn’t ‘open’

Re “Did Arnold deliver?” (Editorial, Dec. 30):

This article would be improved if it referred to Proposition 14 as the “top-two” election system. It is not accurate to call it an “open primary.”

An open primary has been defined in U.S. Supreme Court decisions (starting in 1972 and consistently ever since then) as a system in which each party has its own primary and its own nominees, but a voter on primary day can choose which party’s primary to vote in.

Prop. 14 is entirely different. It eliminates party primaries and party nominees. The only other states that use it are Louisiana (since 1975) and Washington (since 2008). By contrast, 23 states have open primaries.

Richard Winger
San Francisco

That meat’s not squirrel!

Re “The new sustainable meat” (The Greenhouse, by Christine G.K. Lapado, Dec. 31):

I noted your photo of the stew in connection with your article on eating squirrels. While that is a stew, that is not squirrel meat in it. For a look at squirrel stew and squirrel dumplings, you can go to my YouTube channel, wmhoveysmith, and find videos and photos of both along with cooking instructions.

My take on troublesome overabundant wildlife such as squirrels, geese and deer is to kill them and eat them. This is a simple method that gets rid of these animals and puts food on someone’s table.

Hovey Smith
Sandersville, Ga.

Editor’s note: For more from Smith and squirrels, see GreenHouse.

Me? An abuser? Hardly

Re “Violence and marijuana” (Letters, by Cynthia Stevenson, Dec. 30):

So I “look older beyond my years … probably due to my substance abuse”? How could you possibly know my age? Or what I do or don’t abuse?

To be honest—and I’m all about honesty—I’ve had my run-ins with various synthetic narcotics, but thanks to less than a joint a day (that’s hardly abusive) I have been able to say no. So much for the gateway theory—for many people marijuana is actually an exit drug.

I admit that I have picked up a few wrinkles in the past year … probably the result of all the frustration I run into in my efforts to defend your right to choose what medicine you put in your body. (By the way, I’m 55 years old, and my wife thinks I’m the handsomest man in the world.)

As for my blanket statement about the tendency for cannabis users to be nonviolent, I was referring to the patients who come into my store, not the gun-toting criminals you hang out with.

If you have a point to make on this issue, then make it. This kind of personal attack serves no purpose, except to reveal your ignorance and prejudice.

Robert Galia

Sierra Nevada’s big footprint

Our local media report extensively on Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s various “environmental” initiatives. Though some of these changes are laudable, the local perception of Sierra Nevada as an environmentally sound enterprise widely misses the mark.

It is a fairly well-known fact that the food items we purchase in the United States are transported an average of 1,500 miles. We consume vast quantities of hydrocarbon fuels, moving food in mostly unnecessary ways. This is one of the most serious sustainability problems in our economic system, and Sierra Nevada represents no exception to this pattern.

At great environmental expense, Sierra Nevada brings all of the components together, here in Chico, and then ships the finished product to places like Maine and Florida and Alaska. The carbon footprint is, therefore, enormous. And, while many Americans remain in denial of the gravity of our global-warming problem, no serious environmentalist would accept the notion that Sierra Nevada’s marketing success story is an environmental success story.

Due to climatic constraints on production, one might argue that it makes some sense to ship a locally produced commodity such as almonds across the country. On the other hand, most beer ingredients can be grown, and beer can be brewed, virtually anywhere in the world. Hence, beer is a perfect example of a food that should be produced and consumed only locally.

Prior to Prohibition, every town in America had a brewery. Beer was mostly sold in bulk, transported in reusable containers and consumed within a few miles of the source. Though this may sound descriptive of an obsolete system, that system exemplifies what we should be working toward today.

Patrick Newman

Wikileaks a ‘public service’

I enjoyed the perspective that John Nichols bought to the discussion of targeting Wikileaks in the December issue of The Nation. Instead of responding to the revelations contained in the U.S. diplomatic cables, one member of Congress wants to shoot the messenger.

Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg notes that the leaks are more embarrassing than threatening and argues that those involved have performed a public service so that the American people can begin to get a grip on our incoherent policy and enforce a more humane and productive thrust to it.

This response recalls the values celebrated by President John F. Kennedy when he declared, “The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society.”

Now, it seems, information leaks about torture are a worse offense than torture itself! Bush boasts of breaking the anti-torture conventions that are the law of the land. No indictments for him are forthcoming.

How are Wikileaks leaks about agents any different than what the Bush administration did to Valerie Plame?

Rather than criminal charges, I suggest that we owe Wikileaks and Bradley Manning our thanks and our support for the opportunity for a more moral response to the acts that have been revealed.

A democracy is in danger when the voters don’t know the truth about their government.

Charles Withuhn

Save us from smoke

I am a Chico Junior High student who enjoys walking the streets of the downtown area. I do not enjoy breathing secondhand smoke.

A couple of weeks ago my very young cousin was visiting from out of town, so we went downtown to find a place for dinner. While we were walking around we were constantly walking through smoke. Because my cousin is so young and secondhand smoke has been proven to be especially harmful to small children, we decided to return home without even having a nice evening out.

Downtown Chico is a family area, and while some businesses have posted no smoking signs just outside their doors, many have not. With so many families and children downtown, I would really like to see the entryways and the areas just outside businesses smoke free.

I am hoping that the people of Chico will join me in supporting the ban on smoking within 20 feet of an entryway or window, as well as no smoking in parks. I would really enjoy walking around downtown Chico with my family and my little cousin without anyone having to cover their mouth to avoid secondhand smoke.

Jordan Reise