Letters for April 28, 2005

The answer is a lobotomy

Re “My dinner with the white supremacists” by Harmon Leon (SN&R Cover, April 21):

Racism is the mental equivalent of an intellectual black hole, wherein the gravitational pull of ignorance is so intense, it is impossible for intelligent thought to escape.

Now that I’ve raised the intellectual bar, I can go on. So many discussions of race are cartoonish and simplistic in the extreme. Every racist response is traceable to some oxygen-deprived musing of the most banal mind. It’s as if whole portions of a person’s mind were shut down temporarily and they clung to some disturbed vision their mind conceived in its asphyxiated state. I can’t think of a better explanation than that.

No line of reasoning that I’ve heard espoused by a racist even makes an iota of sense. Listening to any of it is the equivalent of letting delinquents man a nuclear launch station. Who would ever do that?

Perhaps I should schedule a lobotomy so I can keep up. Until then, my only chance at sanity in this world is to sometimes take the time to write in to publications that will at least listen to all voices. I sincerely appreciate you for being that type of publication.

Kirk Parker
via e-mail

The wholesome and the loathsome

Re “My dinner with the white supremacists” by Harmon Leon (SN&R Cover, April 21):

I found this article to be very intriguing. The front cover of the SN&R was very eye-catching. What a creative, tongue-in-cheek, paradoxical photo combining the wholesome (apple pie) with the loathsome (racism).

It was personally affecting because in 1988, when I was 15 years old, I dated a self-proclaimed racist who handed out—you guessed it—white racist propaganda to classmates in El Dorado County. I was somewhat naive about his ideologies until, in retrospect, I was able to examine them through a clear cultural lens a few years later. Hindsight is 20/20.

Ironically, I am an Asian female. I guess he made an “exception” to the Ku Klux Klan “klause.” I find it utterly deplorable and despicable to promote one’s race at the expense of demeaning and dehumanizing those of another race. It’s one thing to be proud of one’s race and culture; it’s quite another to promote bigotry and ignorance.

Even though the people that Leon interviewed seemed quite disturbingly normal and didn’t don the infamous white-pillowcase headdresses revealing their true identity, they still are internally toxic. It’s very disturbing that many neo-Nazis are living in what I thought was a racially tolerant, culturally diverse Sacramento. True utopia can never be reached by so-called ethnic “cleansing,” but by unity among all people.

Jeri Kozak

No exclusive on racism

Re “My dinner with the white supremacists” by Harmon Leon (SN&R Cover, April 21):

Your article about white supremacists reminded me again why it is so repugnant to be lumped in with that scum just because I oppose illegal immigration. And it does happen.

In Maine, Utah, New York and Georgia, when concerned citizens have organized to lobby against illegal immigration, these cockroaches have come into the community and poisoned the well of public discourse. And, of course, they have attempted to do that with the Minuteman Project, but with little success, as the organizers screened-out the racial night crawlers.

One question does occur to me: Leon can infiltrate a white-supremacist gathering, but can he do likewise with groups that preach the same brand of racial hatred from “persons of color”? Racism isn’t exclusive to any race, but you’d never know it from too many stories in the media. I note that the Federal Communications Commission is coming down on Spanish-language radio because gay and lesbian activists have brought blatant gay bashing to their attention.

But besides my carping remarks, Leon’s cover story serves a useful purpose: to remind us what lurks in the hearts of some men and women.

Barbara Vickroy

Ask a millionaire

Re “Governor Pighead” by Jill Stewart (SN&R Capitol punishment, April 14)

It is a gross miscalculation on the author’s part to cavalierly state that “a typical secretary that today takes a job with the state, working 20 years until retirement age, will get a $1 million payout if he or she lives to full life expectancy.”

A secretary who climbs to the highest position available, Secretary II, hits the salary ceiling at $3,734.00 per month (see the California State Personnel Board Web site at www.spb.ca.gov/employment/spbpay2rd.cfm.

The earliest a retiree can retire with the California Public Employees’ Retirement System is age 50. However, for sake of argument, let’s say the “typical secretary” retires at age 55 under a miscellaneous employee formula of 2 percent. This means he or she would receive 2 percent of his or her monthly pay rate for every one year of service.

In this scenario, the calculation would look like this:

20 (years of service) times 2 percent (2 percent at 55 formula) = 40 percent (of pay rate)

40 percent (of pay rate) times $3,734.00 (monthly salary) = $1,493.60

Let’s pretend the “typical secretary” retiree lives until age 90.

12 (months in a year) times $1,493.60 (monthly pension) = $17,923.20 (yearly pension)

35 (years retired) times $17,923.20 (yearly pension) = $627,312.00 (lifetime accumulation of pension)

$627,312.00 is much less than $1 million. Ask any millionaire.

Cost-of-living adjustments should not be taken into account in this sort of projection because they only account for our economy’s inflation. A gallon of milk will cost a lot more in 35 years than it does now. Ask anyone who is 90 years old how much milk cost when they were 55 years old.

Additionally, the entire lifetime of the pension is taxed, so approximately 25 percent of the pension goes back to the government.

Jennifer Hamarlund
senior benefit program specialist, CalPERS

Greenlighting a Dills movie

Re “The Dills misfortune” by Chrisanne Beckner (SN&R Cover, April 14):

I met Senator Dills when I was a law-school student, mentored by his son, Leighton Dills.

What has transpired since the elder Dills’ lucidity started to deteriorate rings like a Greek tragedy: the elder hero incapacitated and living like a pauper amid animal feces and a decaying realm, a noble son exiled by jealousies, great wealth being fought over, and someone marrying a stepparent with Oedipal deviousness (sounds like a movie-development deal that should include Anthony Hopkins and Lucy Liu).

However, above this family’s public deconstruction, your incisive coverage reveals troubling, unanswered questions: What processes do we have in place to protect the health and safety of our elderly and their estates? What interventions exist to protect even individuals of great reputation who may be (mistakenly) deemed to have no need of reasonable intervention?

We shudder at the mere thought of government intruding on family-estate matters regarding health and wealth. Why is it, then, we as a community put more trust in government for law-enforcement protection and security restrictions?

One thing the recent Schiavo “right-to-die” case in Florida demonstrated to us is that family members often are the least competent individuals to make decisions in stressful moments involving a loved one. Perhaps a more-detached guardian or legal entity could and would make decisions more clearly, fairly and impartially in situations rising above common family and probate concerns.

Where millions of dollars are at stake, I trust family motives even less. Anyone who objects to more legal restraints on family should tell me that the Ralph Dills and Terri Schiavo situations were the ideal outcomes for these individuals. These tragedies are a call for reform, vigilance and community responsibility, because, sadly, in the cases that I see everyday, it certainly isn’t coming from the families.

Michelangelo Saucedo

Well-read … at least Joey

Re “Cheating with porn?” by Joey Garcia (SN&R Ask Joey, April 7):

Joey’s response to the person asking about the relationship between altruism and one’s psycho-spiritual health resonated strongly with me. I suspect there are parts of this complex I am not aware of, but one that is clear to me is the stunning success of Madison Avenue at leading people into thinking they can fill their spiritual hollows with material goods.

Some years ago, I learned of an Arab proverb that I see as fitting our culture perfectly: “The only person who worries about the water in his well is the man whose well is full.” Recently, I had occasion to check this out with an Egyptian native, who corroborated that my memory had it right.

Thank you, Joey, for your column. It is my only “must read” in SN&R, though there are many other parts I also look at—and read some of.

Bob Barns
Nevada City