Letters for March 26, 2009

Shining example of arts exposure

Re: “Creating a living” (cover story, by Jason Cassidy, Christine G.K. LaPado and Christy Pryde) and “One dad fights back against music cuts” (Newslines, by Meredith J. Cooper, CN&R, March 19):

That was fun to see those articles about the arts. After all, after survival, the arts are what make life worth living.

School band class in my youth completely molded my life toward the positive and, thus, has affected everyone I have ever met. Music “socialized” this shy boy; it taught me how to focus, plan, apply myself, research, create and communicate. It gave me a sense of self-worth and a trajectory of positive accomplishments.

It continues to this day.

I, my wife, and a surprising number of other music professionals we know were initially sparked in our early schooling. (Thank you, Mr. Burch in sixth grade!) To be a musician is a respectable and viable career. It is not unlike taking an English class and becoming a writer, or a science class and becoming an engineer.

I wish someone had pointed out to me earlier that there are so many other ways to be a professional musician, other than the local or regional bar scene. In just my circle of Chico friends, there are two who create books and CDs of music teaching materials sold nationally, three others who perform and teach their instrument, another who performs internationally, and another who has played Carnegie Hall. These are their sole “day jobs.”

Whether in the realm of visual, auditory, culinary, writing, dancing, or whatever you can conjure, all the arts are connecting and healing. They’re worth your time, your life effort … and, yes, even your money.

Gordy Ohliger
Butte Creek Canyon

Editor’s note: Mr. Ohliger is a banjo player and historian who’s been profiled in the CN&R.

Look past dollars to education value

Re: “California’s kids get left behind” (Guest Comment, by Desiree Gonzalez, CN&R March 19):

Desiree Gonzalez is too young and too smart to already be an apologist for the status quo in education. The correlation between school spending and results is tenuous at best, while cause and effect are even harder to pinpoint. Otherwise, the United States, which spends more per student than all but a very few other nations, would lead the world in outcomes instead of ranking so poorly.

Factors such as time spent in school and on homework, as well as community and family cultural values, easily outrank dollars spent as predictors of academic success.

California already specifies by law that the lion’s share of its public revenues go to public schools, even when this means that other areas of human services often go without adequate funding. This year, when so many important public service areas are being cut, the budget for education remains above the Proposition 98 guarantee.

It may be time to look beyond “business as usual” in education. We could start by examining the funds devoted to activities that have nothing to do with teaching, such as operating vehicles, cutting grass, preparing and serving meals, writing and filing reports, attending meetings, and performing various administrative functions that might be consolidated.

Rather than bemoaning the proliferation of private and charter schools, Gonzalez should take a closer look. Maybe she could find out why some are delivering such good value at low cost, and what our educational establishment might learn from them.

Carl Ochsner

Preserve our history

Re: “Butte County’s buried treasure” (Newslines, by Ginger McGuire, CN&R, March 19):

It saddens me to hear we do not take care to preserve our Butte County historical documents. After all, our history is a reflection of our future.

Suzi Enders

Rancher’s reaction

Re: “No matter how you slice it …” (Letters, by Sarah Downs, CN&R, March 19):

I applaud Ms. Down’s work as an animal-rights activist. However, I feel she missed the point of the informed article written by Ms. Hubbart [“Local ranchers work on image,” Newslines, March 12].

The majority of animals that are incorporated into our food supply are treated with dignity and respect. The incident in Chino is by no means the norm in our industry, and we were also horrified to see it occur. Our industry is working very hard to ensure it does not happen again.

The fact is most harvest facilities are very good at what they do and most animals never feel a thing or even realize what is happening. I can speak from experience by having had the unique opportunity to tour hundreds of ranches and harvest facilities throughout the Western United States.

Most feedlots and harvest facilities (slaughterhouse is an outdated term) are very environmentally conscious. Harris Ranch, for example, uses its waste to fertilize many organic crops in our valley—something both vegetarians and omnivores can enjoy.

Ms. Downs is 100 percent right: It’s not difficult to raise an animal for consumption in a humane manner—and most farms and ranches do. I look forward to future articles written by Ms. Hubbart that will show that the animal industry isn’t as bad as many animal-rights groups paint us to be. Keep up the good work, CN&R!

Megan Brown
Butte Valley

Editor’s note: The CN&R writer mentioned, Sarah Hubbart, is our intern who’s majoring in agricultural communications at Chico State University.

Certified endeavors

Re: “Changing the world” (Fifteen Minutes, by Meredith J. Cooper, CN&R, March 19):

A recent Q&A with 10-year old Allison Boyer focuses on the good work of one young girl to protect the environment and orangutans. While this tremendous young activist highlights a distressing situation, the story ignores that some palm-oil-producing countries are doing things right.

Malaysia has been working to preserve the rainforests and wildlife through strict sustainability standards, zero-burning replanting techniques, protecting species such as orangutans, and a wildlife conservation fund. In fact, Malaysian palm-oil plantations have been certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the world’s only international association formed to codify sustainable industry practices; Malaysia was the first country to have a plantation certified. The RSPO certifications are a clear statement that Malaysia is serious about sustainability.

Malaysia’s wildlife conservation fund is a $6.4 million revolving fund dedicated to studies, efforts and initiatives in conserving wildlife and the environment. The Malaysian palm-oil industry and the government provided equal funds to create the fund, and several research projects—including those that focus on orangutans—are under way.

We should all be concerned about the issues Allison raises, which is why Malaysia’s palm-oil industry is working to protect its wildlife and environment.

Mohd Salleh Kassim
Los Angeles

Editor’s note: Mr. Kassim is executive director of the American Palm Oil Council, which represents the Malaysian palm-oil industry.

Healthy argument

Recently I viewed Wally Herger’s opening statement to the annual MedPAC [Medicare Payment Advisory Commission] report to Congress on health care. As a baby boomer and Blue Cross PPO member, health care is a high priority for me, and all Americans. This is especially a dire concern since America is the only industrial nation where citizens lose their homes and life savings when major illnesses occur.

There are fraud and abuse in Medicaid programs, like MedPAC reported, because (small government mentality) politicians underfund the enforcement agencies that would prevent this from occurring. The (small government mentality) politicians’ philosophy of “self regulation” is a fallacy, as the current Wall Street debacle has just proven.

Hospitals and physicians would receive appropriate payments instead of underpayments by Medicaid if we paid them instead of the (middleman) private health-insurance companies that receive billions of dollars for denying patients needed treatment.

We need a fair and equitable health-care system like in Canada, the United Kingdom, and France—for all Americans, not just the rich ones. We can stop the fraud and abuse in Medicaid and Medicare by properly staffing these government agencies and investing in Americans instead of the Wall Street health-insurance companies that deny us benefits and treatment.

Felipe Garcia

‘A losing model’

As President Obama and a willing, if not eager, Congress push us toward a European type of socialism, a question has been forming in my mind: If the European model of government is more superior and efficient, then why aren’t they taking the lead out of this economic downturn?

Seems to me that their economies are as bad or worse in a lot of sectors, their banks are in the same state, and their politicians spend as much time as ours pointing fingers at somebody else.

Speak up, progressives: Why should we follow a losing model?

Rodney Jenkins


Re: “Creating a living” (cover story, CN&R, March 19): In a section on visual art, the first name of painter Cynthia Schildhauer was incorrect. We apologize for the misidentification, which has been corrected online.