Letters for January 9, 2003

Speed trap
This is in response to your “Fast train a-comin'” [Everybody’s business, Dec. 26, 2002].

Union Pacific trains and, before them, Southern Pacific trains have been “speeding” through Redding, Red Bluff, Gridley, etc., on their way to Roseville ever since the railroad first came to the Northstate.

In Redding for example, the tracks are on a curve through much of downtown and visibility is less than it is in Chico. However, trains have never had to slow down when passing through. The slowdown in Chico was to appease what I call the “Friends of Drunk and Clueless College Students.”

I ask, how can Ms. Peggy Schrum be a spokeswoman for the RRESQ when she seems to have little knowledge of railroads and how they work? Her ignorance was brought to light when she said in the article that she “didn’t know that trains could go that fast.”

Well, Ms. Schrum, yes they can and they should through Chico. I have seen first-hand that “accidents” happen in Chico and elsewhere no matter what speed a train is moving. So when you see the crossing lights blinking and the gates down, you’d better be out of the way.

Adam Clegg

Grim statistics
The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo set goals for funding a 20-year population and reproductive health program, but donor countries—mostly industrial nations—have fallen short on their funding commitments by some two-thirds. Few funding shortfalls have such a high social toll. Estimates are that each $1 million shortfall in contraceptive spending translates into 360,000 additional unwanted pregnancies, 150,000 additional induced abortions, 800 maternal deaths, 11,000 infant deaths and 14,000 additional deaths of children under the age of 5—all preventable.

Now that President Bush has ignored the recommendations of his own State Department and withdrawn a promised $34 million in funding for the United Nations Population Fund, other donor countries and individuals are scrambling to try to make up the difference so that women will not lose access to vital services. With the world’s largest generation of young people entering their reproductive years, this is not the time to cut family planning funds!

So much for a kinder, gentler nation. You do the math.

Tanya Henrich

Defense education
I am not going to argue with Jim Brobeck’s impassioned guest comment [“Get military out of our schools,” Dec. 26, 2002], except to note that his passion is based on a hugely erroneous premise. Brobeck ranted at an asserted imbalance between “militarism and education funding,” citing the U.S. Department of Education’s $56.5 billion budget and the U.S. Defense Department’s $396 billion budget for 2003.

What Brobeck doesn’t seem to understand is that all defense funding is federal, but a large portion of education funding in this country is from state and local sources. According to the National Library of Education, education spending from all sources—including state and local governments—is estimated at $731.7 billion for 2001-02 (the latest period available).

I’m sure the fact that education spending in this country is about 85 percent higher than defense funding won’t change Brobeck’s virulently anti-defense perspective, but others with a little more intellectual acumen might be less alarmed by the actual balance.

Tony St. Amant

International drainage pipe
Another year and another $9 billion sent to Mexico by mostly illegal immigrants using phony immigration papers and driver’s licenses. Most are from California. Some from Butte County? Desperation is often the driving force.

Many would like to have family who work hard and send money home. But money earned in one community and spent elsewhere—well, just look at Paradise for an example of economic drainage. It’s boundless.

Employers—farmers, restaurants, etc.—are required to screen for illegals. But often this is incompatible with grasping underpaid workers. Greed controls. Oppression of the poor and ignorant is regrettably part of this ugly picture.

Illegal border crossings are perpetual. The Immigration and Naturalization Service fails to protect Americans. Society’s guilt by association negatively stereotypes America’s legal citizens.

The INS estimates that somewhere between 7 and 10 million undocumented people are within the United States. Deportation is fundamental.

No discussion of immigration would be complete without focusing on legal immigration quota laws. America welcomes immigrants and did so satisfactorily until 1965, with caps of 170,000 to 230,000 annually. Then Congress, presumably with the advocating of political contributors from big business seeking cheap labor, lifted those caps. Now it’s uncontrollable.

Continuing this current swollen rate of U.S. growth our nation may not copiously sustain beyond 2030. For more information from the immigration experts go to www.numbersusa.com.

Lloyd Downs

Bitter forecast
I firmly believe that our local “weather guessers,” a.k.a. as graduates of some unheard-of meteorological school, need to have a new form of compensation.

I have noticed that during the last two to three years their predictions have been extremely inaccurate and further and further from the truth. The new compensation plan would mirror the success ratio(s) of their predictions, in that the more accurate their “guesses,” the greater their remuneration for services rendered. If they are completely inaccurate, then they do not get paid at all or they are required to re-pay their employers for their mistakes and resultant loss of consumer confidence.

The protections already in place for other famous “guessers” (liberal politicians, educators and doctors) need not be extended to the “weather readers.”

Tom Fiscus

In praise of fools
Now is the time for holy fools to come to the aid of their country! Conventional wisdom has brought us to the brink of war. Now it’s time for some “crazy wisdom.”

Here are some characteristics of holy fools: They ask their hearts to inform their brains. They live simply, preferring to care for people instead of possessions. They like simple yet profound statements, such as, “Do small things with great love” (Mother Teresa) and “Life is to be lived as play” (Plato). And playful they are, but not in the competitive ways our culture calls play. True play requires kindness, not conflict, not winners and losers but a joining together in trust. Like children, holy fools are curious, asking lots of questions and speaking their truth without fear.

Court jesters in the Middle Ages could get away with making fun of the king because they also made him laugh. Thus a great sense of humor in the service of being subversive is another sign of a holy fool. To subvert means to overthrow something established. But because they are holy and follow the commandments, “Love thy enemy” and “Thou shalt not kill,” holy fools are never violent. They row their boats gently and merrily, trusting that life is but a dream and that the Universe is both intelligent and benevolent.

There is a subversive film playing at the Pageant by a holy fool who has come to the aid of his country with wisdom and wit. Now is the time for all Americans to go see it.

Renee Renaud