Letters for December 23, 2004

Remembering Gary in California …

Re “Gary Webb remembered” by Bill Forman and Melinda Welsh (SN&R Opinion, December 16):

In February 1997, I saw Gary Webb give a lecture in Monterey, Calif., not long after his series about the contras-CIA-cocaine connection came out. Unfortunately, only about 30 people came to see him give an excellent speech on how the story evolved and the beginning of the backlash against him.

But what was really impressive is that he stayed for about a half-hour afterward to talk to a small group of people, including myself, who wanted to discuss this issue more. He was warm, friendly and very personable.

Unlike most of the people who pass themselves off as journalists, this guy was one. I would also say he had something else sorely lacking in our country today: integrity. Our mainstream press sure could use some more like him. He will be missed.

Scott Yeager

… and the world

Re “Gary Webb remembered” by Bill Forman and Melinda Welsh (SN&R Opinion, December 16):

As a Canadian, I didn’t know much of Mr. Webb’s journalism work, but I have become acquainted with it now in reading the articles on the Web about his passing. You have lost, by the sounds of it, a wonderful journalist and, even more importantly, a wonderful human being with a great deal of integrity!

Let us hope that some of the younger journalists might take up his zeal and carry the search for truth and justice forward.

I cannot help, however, but be cynical about his death. The thought “conspiracy” immediately leapt into my admittedly suspicious mind. I sincerely hope that his fellow investigative journalists take up the cause to “check it out.”

On another note, I’m sure his family and co-workers will try to take his zeal for truth forward into the community at large, especially in their journalism. My condolences to his family and friends.

Mary Mia
Toronto, Canada

A loss for all

Re “A sad goodbye” by Tom Walsh and “Gary Webb remembered” by Bill Forman and Melinda Welsh (SN&R Editor’s note and SN&R Opinion, December 16):

Thank you for these well-written pieces—a gracious and dignified tribute to the man.

I followed his series about the CIA. I have always believed that he was on the mark and that there was a cover-up. I also feel that he was betrayed by the daily newspaper that should have supported him.

No one but his family and closest friends can know what generated the suicide. I cannot but think that the experience with the controversial series, the stress and loss of career opportunities were contributing factors.

In any case, his passing is a loss to our society in general.

Sharon Goodnight
via e-mail

How about a little respect for Catholics?

Re “Heaven help us” by Jill Stewart (SN&R Capitol punishment, December 9):

This article makes a point. We’re so PC here in California that it can get a little ridiculous—“Christmas” tree vs. “holiday” tree.

But what overshadows Stewart’s commentary is her insulting “(shudder)” insert when referencing Catholicism. Intended to be witty or not, I find it disrespectful. It may be a little ironic, but what I am asking for is a little PC. She says she doesn’t hate or fear religion, but maybe she should give it some respect, as well.

Robert Hernandez
via e-mail

Secular humanists have it right

Re “Heaven help us” by Jill Stewart (SN&R Capitol punishment, December 9):

There is a proper reason for secular humanists to advocate the elimination of Christmas and its “tradition,” but Jill Stewart didn’t mention it in her article: Christmas is an indoctrination tool.

Christmas is used to predispose very young children to a belief in the supernatural, thus paving the way for a later acceptance of God and Jesus. The most insidious way this is accomplished is by tying that belief or acceptance to the pleasure center of the brain, using gifts. Once it’s established in a young, developing mind that a belief in the supernatural leads to some reward—whether it’s a Christmas present or “everlasting life”—that belief will be virtually unshakeable.

Anyone who doubts this effect and how it has led to a resurgence of religious belief in this country should investigate the history of the Christmas “tradition”—or rather, the lack of it—in this nation’s history. It wasn’t officially recognized as a holiday until 1870; it was actually outlawed in Boston from 1659 to 1681; and in 1789, Congress was in session on December 25, what would later become Christmas Day. It’s no more a tradition in our nation’s history than is the post-1954 Pledge of Allegiance.

The commercial aspect of Christmas is certainly no more laudable, as Ms. Stewart hints. Retailers have been exploiting the gift-giving aspect of Christmas for many decades for their own profit.

Tying religious belief to the pleasure center of the brain in young, developing minds lacking any discipline for critical thought is, to say the least, reprehensible. As a culture, we often decry commercial advertising targeted at children for the same reason: lack of any mental defense against it. Why should Christmas or any other religious indoctrination tool be acceptable for use on children?

Mark A. Craig
North Highlands

Building a good guy

Re “Trampled by progress” by Cosmo Garvin (SN&R News, December 9):

Mr. Petrovich, as the new owner of the Profound Sound building, presumably was ignorant of the laws pertaining to artists’ rights and did not intentionally set out to break those laws. He merely exercised what he reasonably thought were his property rights in removing a mural that he did not appreciate.

Now, having been publicly challenged, his defenses are up. That is understandable; demeaning Mr. Price’s mural is not.

I have worked near 19th and S for many years. I appreciated that charming mural, which better fit the unpretentious character of the neighborhood than the new chrome horse does. Of course, this is all a matter of personal opinion, but I for one feel the neighborhood was diminished by the removal of the mural. It is this intangible damage to the local community that Mr. Petrovich seems unable to appreciate.

Mr. Petrovich’s misguided comparison of the high price of the new Safeway artwork with the low price of Mr. Price’s original mural indicates an inability to appreciate value other than in monetary terms. His apparent belief that there can be only one correct assessment of art is wrong. To put this matter in perspective, the new Safeway is a highly attractive, useful and substantial upgrade to the neighborhood. In addition, Mr. Petrovich’s concerns about being shaken down are entirely reasonable.

But Mr. Petrovich made a mistake, a simple inadvertent mistake. That does not in any way make him a bad guy. Owning up to it would make him a really good guy.

Michael Doughton

Develop this!

Re “Trampled by progress” by Cosmo Garvin (SN&R News, December 9):

That was a fine and informative article about the removal of artist Kevin Price’s well-known mural at the corner of 19th and S streets.

I like the new Safeway at 19th and S. I like the chrome bumper horse out in front of the store. I like the store’s water tower. I’ll never shop there again.

Paul Petrovich, the developer, is one nervy SOB. Petrovich paints over the artist’s mural without notifying him, and he won’t compensate the artist for destroying his work.

Compensate the artist, Mr. Petrovich, and I’ll come back to your Safeway. Maybe.

William J. Hughes

Trouble on the trail

Re “Trail of fears” by Jason Probst (SN&R News, December 2):

This recent article and the Guest comment of November 11 (“Can’t see the river for the trash” by Marie Wilson) both repeat concerns for the crime element on our bike trail.

I can specifically relate to the problematic area of the Northgate and Discovery Park area.

As a business owner in the area and near the trail, I constantly combat after-hours trespassing and burglaries, and the cleanup of human excrement around my perimeter. The main crime problem specific to this area and decimation of the bike trail can be summed up in these words: Loaves & Fishes.

Brad Martin

Say it ain’t so, Joe!

Re “Nothing doing” (SN&R Bites, December 2):

I was distressed to read in your Bites column that Joe Baltake, The Sacramento Bee’s movie critic, is leaving. I hate to be mean, but there is nothing and no one else in the Bee’s entertainment pages worth reading. Bites is right—he’s irreplaceable.

At least he’s leaving at the top of his game. Good for him. Baltake’s talk of more leisure time sounds good for him, but it’s bad for us. So, don’t go, Joe! Just take a leave.

It will seem strange not to see him in the Bee anymore. Thanks, Bites, for giving us the heads-up on this. Maybe SN&R can steal him away?

Pat Bembas