Letters for August 31, 2006

Cool solution for hot future

Re “Hot futures” by Ralph Brave (SN&R Feature Story, August 24):

This was an excellent and alarming summary of the climate-change crisis that we face here in the Sacramento region. While clearly the solution to excessive carbon-dioxide generation is global and national, there are simple and local solutions as well.

About half of the carbon dioxide generated is from transportation sources. High-tech solutions may make some difference in the far-off future, but there is a simple solution available today.

The solution is sitting in most folks’ garages right now. It is the bicycle.

The bicycle is a zero-emissions form of transportation. Studies show many trips are in the three- to five-mile range. With our climate and level streets, this distance is easily traveled in 15 minutes on a bike. Cycling is a safe, convenient and desirable way to solve multiple environmental, health and parking problems.

Many people who want to cycle but don’t cite safety issues. Improved bikeway facilities and bike education can mitigate these concerns. Getting better bikeways is simply a matter of political policy. There is no need for some future high-tech miracle, but there is a need for our elected officials to address this issue.

Politicians talk about global warming but aren’t doing much about it. Our current governor has made public his climate-change concerns, but yet he has vetoed bills that would have advanced cycling, such as one that would have required bicycle and pedestrian accommodations in transportation planning. The Legislature’s upcoming transportation bond proposition has nothing for bicycling.

William Appleby

Two Georges

Re “Fear itself” (SN&R Bites, August 24):

Bites nails it. We don’t need to remove our nipple rings (ouch) to figure it out: President Bush is scrambling to keep the House Republican in November—and thereby keep from being impeached by a Democratic House—so he and Rove/Cheney desperately need another terror “incident” to divert Americans’ interest and prove they’re still masters of the “war on terror.”

Bush claimed to be our “war president” when interviewed on NBC some time back. Another misrepresentation (lie?); he’s actually our “terror president.” “Fear president” might also work, but the key word here seems to be “terror.”

If we accept a standard definition of what is meant to terrorize: “to dominate or coerce by intimidation … fill with intense fear,” it’s clear our current administration has mastered the technique. “Orwellian?” Sorry, George, old news. We’ve got our own George, and the appropriate phrase is now “Bushian.”

Chuck McIntyre

Don’t discriminate with tax dollars

Re “Boy Scout snag” by Kel Munger (SN&R Upfront, August 24):

It is a shame that David Murphy, superintendent of the Davis Joint Unified School District, feels it unnecessary to mention, in paperwork sent to school parents, that the Boy Scouts of America has a discriminatory policy with respect to gays and atheists because “everybody knows that.”

The only way that groups who discriminate against anyone are going to begin to rethink their practices is if they are held accountable every day for their bigoted policies. I do not believe “everybody” realizes that the BSA discriminates (it is the only branch of the Boy Scouts worldwide that does, by the way). But even if that were the case, I believe that the BSA needs to see that the school district is going to stand by its policy and constantly remind parents that their children will be taught discrimination if they join this group.

I do not deny the BSA, as a private organization, its constitutional right to hold bigoted membership policies. But I want people who might prefer taking the “ostrich approach” to be reminded that discrimination, bigotry and hatred are alive and well in this country. And I want the government to refuse to use my tax dollars to support any discriminatory group.

Beverly Sykes

Cut him some slack

Re “Nasty business” (SN&R Bites, August 17):

I disagree with Bites’ assessment of U2’s music, and I think it’s rather obnoxious to label them “Christianofascist.” It’s no secret that members of U2 are Christians and their music reflects those beliefs. But Bites makes it sound rather sinister.

As someone who doesn’t believe in God, I don’t recall ever feeling compelled to attend church after listening to U2. Nor have I ever heard of attempts by the band to convert people at their shows. And I’m not aware of any subliminal messages on their CDs that compel the listener to read the Bible.

Bono’s hanging out with Rupert Murdoch and Tony Blair certainly shows questionable taste. But the fact remains that Bono has done a great deal of good. Instead of just sitting back enjoying his considerable wealth, he has used his fame to shine a light on the less fortunate in our world and attempt to get people involved, at all levels, to help them.

How about cutting the guy a little slack, eh?

Bruce Fairbanks

Always a bias

Re “Call me Mohamed” by R.V. Scheide (SN&R News, August 17):

One doesn’t have to be that proverbial rocket scientist to see that all of us have biases. In my years teaching elementary and high-school grades, I do not recall any educators pronouncing that they could instruct without prejudice. For instance, despite the goal of teaching without expressing my own disdain for some government policies, the kids usually figure out my own biases.

In Mr. Umbashi’s case, the author’s views are apparent in the geography text that we have used for the past two years. For instance, in that same terrorism section there is the phrase: “al-Qaeda was formed to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.” True enough, except there is no mention of the United States providing millions of dollars to Osama bin Laden and his followers to help them organize.

The book’s conservative bent is reflected when it defines terrorism as “the unlawful use, or threat of use, of force to cause fear or intimidation while promoting political or social goals.” While this seems a reasonable explanation, the book remains curiously silent on whether this definition also fits misconduct by nation states.

As teacher Barbara Boyd noted, not much time is spent on this section. Instead, for our own classes, we use more supplemental materials, such as online articles, class debates and guest speakers from different religions or viewpoints. You see, I don’t care what the pupils think so much as that they can articulate a reasoned argument to support their views. That is a vital skill they will find helpful for future challenges.

Christopher Barry

Political symbol, political speech

Re “SN&R’s cartoon controversy” (SN&R Essay, August 17):

Those complaining about Kloss’ August 3 cartoon need to direct their concerns to the state of Israel, which chose to use this religious symbol as a political one.

[The Star of David] is not only on the Israeli flag, as Melinda Welsh points out; it is on the uniforms of the soldiers who are killing civilians in Lebanon and Gaza and kidnapping Palestinian parliament members.

Those complaining might also suggest separation of religion and state to the Israeli government, including elimination of their apartheid-type laws that discriminate against non-Jews.

Maggie Coulter

Not so appealing

Re “The new nukes” by R.V. Scheide (SN&R Feature Story, August 3):

The promise of safe, clean energy may be tempting, but the reality of nuclear power is that its production falls in the center of a spectrum that is disconcertingly polluting, carbon-dependent and expensive.

Uranium mining is environmentally destructive, carbon-intensive and highly dangerous to people both working the mines and living downwind/downstream. Sixty-five percent of the known uranium reserves in the United States are located on Native American reservations or treaty lands. Indigenous peoples will carry a disproportionate burden of the cost of America’s insatiable appetite for energy consumption: drinking water contaminated by mine tailings, radioactive air from uranium dust and contaminated land that cannot be occupied safely for thousands of years.

Every 1,000-megawatt nuclear reactor produces 25.4 metric tons of spent-fuel waste every year, totaling nearly 3,000 tons nationwide annually. What do we do with this stuff?

If Yucca Mountain were approved and opened, nearly 77,000 tons of high-level radioactive waste would travel by rail and highway through 43 states near 52 million people in casks that have not been fully tested for a 30-year period. According to government figures, approximately 50 to 260 accidents would occur, and 250 to 900 “incidents” would be expected over the 30-year period. How can we afford to even have one accident occur during the transportation of high-level radioactive waste?

Where can we find a site to ensure safe containment of highly radioactive material for at least 10,000 years? Yucca Mountain has over 30 active earthquake fault lines running through it, and since 1976, there have been over 600 seismic events of greater than 2.5 magnitude within a 50-mile radius. The Yucca Mountain Project is not about the geological isolation of radioactive waste, but about the delayed environmental exposure of the waste.

Your article stated that “the addition of more than 1,000 new reactors would require that a new repository capacity equal to the nominal storage capacity of Yucca Mountain … be created somewhere in the world every four years.” Who bears that burden?

How appealing is nuclear power now?

Kelly Fitzgerald


Re “Hip-hop’s local legacy” by Christian Kiefer (SN&R Feature Story, August 17):

In our recent cover story about the SoleSides crew’s local roots, we mistakenly identified Lateef the Truth Speaker as being white. He’s black/Puerto Rican. We regret the error. This has been corrected on the Web site.