Letters for March 4, 2010

Generational divide

Re “Talkin’ ’bout my generation (Feature story, by Jaime O’Neill, Feb. 25):

I found this essay compelling, to say the least. I kept waiting for something as I read, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. (I am a decade younger—55 years old.) I concluded that what it was I was waiting for was a characteristic that came 10 years later—the indignation of it all. For me, the anger still lingers about those times.

Still, I read every single word and enjoyed the essay, along with its cover picture, etc. I talk to people who are much younger than I, and when a song is played, a cliché echoed, a photo seen, I say, “You just had to be there to really understand how big that was at the time.”

I appreciate Jaime O’Neill’s savvy observations.

Judi Roth

Oh, here we go again with another generational story.

To those ’60s people like your writer: You did not really live it like a black person. You had fun, smoked some dope, got married, and ultimately got a job. I landed in the “summer of love” in San Francisco. I was East Coast straight, but ghetto smart. I sat at Black Panther meetings with Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, and old uncle Eldridge Cleaver.

They lived good in their palace overlooking Lake Merritt. All the white women in attendance, but I, the smart one, knew that they were FBI. I also knew that most of that generation would settle down and become upstanding Americans.

I went on to become a writer and a producer for ABC television (KGO), but they didn’t want talent—they just wanted a black face. Disgusted with it all, I fled to Europe for 20 years. Now back, I ponder about these so-called generations, the old, the new, and the ugly. Until there is a real revolt against “the system,” nothing will change in this country.

Jerry Harris

What an article!!!! I was seven years behind the writer and living in rural California, but everything I remember has been included, even the fact that one of my classmates also died in ’Nam. Well done and thank you.

Doug Booth
Palo Alto

Well, Jaime O’Neill and President Obama certainly have one thing in common: No matter how absurd the message, it’s well delivered.

I shared many of Mr. O’Neill’s opinions in the 1960s, mainly because I was a draft-age college student with my ass on the line. Since the ’60s our views have become more divergent, I’m sure, because of the different paths our lives have taken.

After college I eventually ended up in private industry. Over the years, being in business taught me what has made the American lifestyle so great. It is not having more government programs to take care of people, but hard work and personal responsibility so people can take care of themselves.

Mr. O’Neill’s latest contribution to your publication exemplifies the condescending and elitist attitude most career academics have toward anyone who disagrees with them. These people (apparently the majority of his high-school class) are either stupid, misguided, politically challenged, low class or all of the above.

I look at the former classmates he describes as the hard-working citizens who have built this country for the last generation and quietly led their lives. They are now seeing the America they worked for disappearing, and they are no longer remaining quiet.

Had I been a classmate of Mr. O’Neill’s, I’d be glad he was not attending my reunion.

Tom Dowd

Restore the graves

Re “Buried under the road” (Newslines, by Meredith J. Cooper, Feb. 25):

Now that people have been made aware of this, maybe it would be nice to see something actually done about it. If the road needs to be moved, do it and restore all the graves to the original state.

Victoria Johnson

Salmon on the brink

Re “Salmon numbers dive lower” (EarthWatch, Feb. 25):

The canary is dying. When will the public wake up? Massive diversions locally and regionally have pushed our iconic salmon to the brink. It’s time to put the water back where it belongs—in the streams and rivers.

Allen Harthorn

This part ain’t broke

Re “Council OKs preliminary plans to modify downtown” (Newslines, by Melissa Daugherty, Feb. 18):

Let me get this straight. One element of the city’s new traffic plan for the downtown area is to retrofit the traffic signals on First and Second streets where they cross Broadway and Main streets with sensors so as to reduce the amount of pollution-causing idling traffic, since the sensors would recognize vehicle and pedestrian traffic and thus shorten idling time.

Wait a minute here! The beauty of the timed traffic signals on Broadway, Main, The Esplanade and Park Avenue is exactly that they are timed so as to let vehicular traffic proceed smoothly from one end of town to the other at a steady, 28-mile-per-hour pace. Putting in sensor-activated traffic signals at those four intersections would alter that perfectly tuned system and create exactly the kind of pollution-causing idling traffic this plan hopes to eliminate.

I hope the city’s engineers can rethink this part of the plan.

Miles Jordan

Beyond the death penalty

Re “Death row’s high cost” (Editorial, Feb. 25):

Whether one believes in the death penalty or not, the fact is our legal system has become incompatible with timely executions, and as a result we are sinking as a state with the expense of trying to make capital punishment work, which it never will.

Nancy Oliveira
San Francisco

When my brother, Bob Kerr, was murdered in 2003, I hoped for swift justice. I am still waiting for his killer to be arrested and charged.

The death penalty does nothing to help murder victims’ family members. It prolongs justice for killers who are apprehended and charged and takes money away from unsolved homicides.

It’s time for California to wake up and recognize that prioritizing revenge in the name of a token few monsters makes us all less safe.

Judy Kerr

Thank you for your excellent editorial, to which I would add three points.

First, since 1977, permanent imprisonment, or life without parole, has been the mandatory penalty for all death-eligible crimes in California that do not result in a death sentence.

Three decades of experience with more than 3,700 prisoners sentenced to life without parole show that this imprisonment is indeed permanent. Sirhan Sirhan and Charles Manson come up for parole from time to time because they were tried and sentenced before 1977, when permanent imprisonment for murder with special circumstances went into effect.

Second, according to Amnesty International, 95 nations have abolished the death penalty for all offenses (including war crimes or genocide), while 44 others restrict this penalty to wartime or other extraordinary offenses or are “abolitionist in practice,” observing a moratorium on executions. It is time that California, with our progressive reputation, came into line with global human-rights standards.

Finally, a halt in executions over a period of some years before the death penalty is finally abolished is a normal process observed in many countries. The unofficial four-year moratorium on executions in California should be viewed in this light, as an indicator of our moral progress. Dismantling the machinery of death will permit us to redirect precious funds to raising the clearance rates for homicide, in many counties only about 50 percent, thus getting killers off the street and sending a real message of deterrence.

Margo Schulter