Letters for December 4, 2008

Letter of the week
Genius solves marriage issue!

Re “Prop. 8 should be a nonissue” (SN&R Letters, November 26):

Robert Muñoz is a genius and so am I. The same idea has been rolling around in my head for several months, and goes a tad beyond Mr. Muñoz’s comments.

Contrary to media reports and water-cooler conversations, both sides in this discussion are totally united about one thing: They think that two people standing hand in hand in front of a civil servant pretending to be some sort of secular priest who mumbles some words, asks them to mumble some words and then gives them permission to kiss as if that is the first time they have engaged in this extraordinary intimacy will somehow make more meaningful a self-created mutual commitment that in most cases has been long-standing.

In fact, it seems to me that this cheapens the matter. I don’t need the government to make my relationship with someone else more meaningful. I think the government needs to bug out of things it has no real reason to be involved in.

The only legitimate role of the government in the relationship between any two people who are not already related by blood or adoption is to become aware of and register that those two people have chosen to be more significantly related than, say, the partners in a one-night stand. The government’s legitimate need relates to things like who gets to claim the dead body of one of the two committed partners, who has the right to visit the other in the hospital, who can enjoy tax advantages relating to something beyond a one-night stand, who will receive survivor benefits from a pension plan and (probably most importantly) that children belonging to both partners don’t get dumped on the street for the community to take care of when the relationship between the two partners becomes less committed.

To meet these legitimate needs, the government does not need to perform a marriage ceremony for any couple (hetero, gay, lesbian, bi or whatever), any more than it needs to perform a ceremony when it issues a driver’s license. All it needs to do is issue a domestic-partnership license and stop infringing on the marriage-ceremony industry, which is, properly, already almost entirely privatized.

One key advantage would be that, given the ingenuity of American business to meet the special needs of each consumer group, those couples that feel the need for a ceremony would be able to find a purveyor of marriage services that exactly meets that couple’s specific preferences and needs.

Anybody that believes marriage is holy should enthusiastically support this concept. Conservatives should support this concept because it gets government out of a sphere where it has no legitimate role. Libertarians ditto. Same-sex couples ditto (also and especially because this means they are accorded exactly the same treatment by government as heterosexual couples).

A very practical reason to try to set this up in California is that when the largest state in the union no longer marries any kind of people, the federal government will be constrained to stop discriminating for tax purposes against people that are not officially “married,” as it currently does. This would force the feds to treat all couples whose state government has recognized their legally connected relationship in a way that has nothing to do with whether a civil servant pretended to be a priest for what is really most important, the federal tax bite.

Karl Jaensch

Josh’s run is inspiring …

Re “Run, Josh, run” by Josh Fernandez (SN&R Feature, November 26):

[Josh Fernandez’s] story is amazing.

I’ve just started running about five months ago, and I have been feeling that same healing energy, that same powerful drive. Thank you for writing this and putting this out there. I hope other people can read your story and find in it a way out of their addiction.

Keep going, Josh. What an amazing and contagious transformation you have undergone. Wow. You make me want to put my shoes back on and hit the pavement. I hope to see you out on the trails!

Ron Laran

… unless it’s depressing

Re “Run, Josh, run” by Josh Fernandez (SN&R Feature, November 26):

What this article says to a 20-something—or anyone else, for that matter—is that as long as you have a college degree, you can eventually obtain a great job, even if you are a former drug addict, drinking and doing drugs.

I’m not sure what the point of this article is, other than to shove it up the ass of anyone without a college education.

Noah Kameyer
via e-mail

But green is good

Re “Governor greenwash” by Cosmo Garvin (SN&R Frontlines, November 26):

Being from another state, I am very impressed with [Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s] efforts to promote alternative energy. Gov. Schwarzenegger and the state of California are leading the way and setting a precedent with Project Better Place. You must be proud of your state for this huge accomplishment.

I guess you can’t have it all; you have to give in one area to move forward in another. That has to be a daunting task to figure it all out in these days of budget constraints.

As an outsider looking in, I think you are blessed to live in such an innovative state with the ability to look at the big picture.

Sherry Jansen
North Port, Fla.

One cow does not a factory make

Re “Top 5 holiday tips” by Sena Christian (SN&R Green Town, November 26):

I really look forward to each new issue of SN&R and enjoy reading many of the articles. However, I noticed a disheartening contradiction in the article about alternative things you can give for the holidays: Tip No. 3 about contributing to Heifer International, which on the surface seems like a great thing to do since it seems to be a way to help people in undeveloped countries to become more self-reliant. Yes, it may do that, but at the same time it promotes animal production and all the environmental hazards that go with it, all of which are explained clearly in an article by Jim Motavalli (“What’s driving global warming,” SN&R Feature, August 28).

To quote just a part of that article: “Grazing occupies an incredible 26 percent of the ice- and water-free surface of the planet Earth. The area devoted to growing crops to feed those animals amounts to 33 percent of arable land. Meat production is a major factor in deforestation as well, and grazing now occupies 70 percent of previously forested land in the Amazon region. In Brazil, 60 to 70 percent of rainforest destruction is caused by clearing for animal pasture, one reason why livestock accounts for 9 percent of human-caused carbon-dioxide emissions.”

And: “Food grown for animals could be feeding people. Raising livestock consumes 90 percent of the soy crop in the United States, 80 percent of its corn and 70 percent of its grain. David Pimentel, professor of entomology at Cornell University, points out that ‘if all the grain currently fed to livestock in the U.S. was consumed directly by people, the number who could be fed is nearly 800 million.’”

This was a great article packed full of timely information that I guess Sena Christian didn’t see or remember. Ironically, at the end of her Tip No. 4, she suggests “ditching meat for the month … consider the suffering of animals in factory farms and the environmental havoc wreaked by the meat industry.”

Heifer International is not about factory farming, but they are promoting meat production, which ends up being the same thing when you consider the environment as a complex connection between people and the Earth. Meat consumption has gone from 44 million tons in 1950 to 253 million tons annually, at a huge cost to the Earth. I think Heifer International is a very sad way to promote feeding people and raising their standard of living.

Ellen McMahill

Next time, who will it be?

Re “An uncivil proposition” by Kel Munger (SN&R Frontlines, November 20):

Every member of a minority group needs to take notice of this fact: If so-called “conservative” forces are able to establish “majoritarianism” as a fact, no one is safe.

It’s not just racial minorities, although they’ll undoubtedly be the first targeted. But think of how much some parts of the business community hate the [Americans With Disabilities Act] because accommodations cost them money.

Just because gay people were the first to be targeted for removal of their rights by popular vote doesn’t mean they’ll be the last.

Jan Kline

No reason to filter news

Re “Don’t turn us against each other” (SN&R Letter of the Week, November 20):

Ms. [Catherine] Tobia’s assertion that The Sacramento Bee is attempting to drive a social wedge between the gay community and African-Americans by reporting that 70 percent of African-Americans who voted favored the passage of Proposition 8 is just another politically correct rant and a racially based argument for press censorship.

Ms. Tobia seems to believe that we need to have our news filtered for us, as we are not intelligent enough to think for ourselves, and to spare us the agony of racial discord. Oh, please. She also accused the Bee of publishing the 70 percent statistic “repeatedly,” meaning twice in one week. That’s nothing compared to coverage accorded the Mormons who helped fund the Yes on 8 campaign, and that coverage became a national story in both the print and broadcast mediums.

But since most Mormons are white people, I guess that’s OK with Ms. Tobia.

As for me, I’ve grown weary of hearing African-Americans playing the race card whenever they feel slighted about anything, real or imagined, by someone outside their own race. I just tune it out, and I am not alone in doing that.

And Ms. Tobia? I also agree with Teddy Roosevelt who said that “America is not a polyglot boarding house. A hyphenated American is no American at all.”

But T.R. was a white guy. What did he know?

Mike Browne

Toxic yards

Re “Toxic schoolyard” by Sena Christian (SN&R Feature, November 13):

It is heartening to see SN&R reporting on this topic, as we face threats from lawn-care pesticides on an almost daily basis.

It is clear that Sacramentans want parks, schools and home lawns free from toxins. Companies like the largest lawn-care applicator in our region spray pesticides in our communities that include extremely harmful chemicals, especially for children and pets. Many customers contract with lawn-care companies because they don’t have time to tend their own lawns and are unaware of the risks posed by the chemicals [these companies] use.

In a survey by Toxics Action Center and Pesticide Watch, 17 of 32 (53 percent) pesticide products used by TruGreen-ChemLawn, the largest lawn-care company, include ingredients that are possible carcinogens as defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer.

But just because we don’t have the time to treat our own lawn doesn’t mean our families should fall victim to pesticide poisoning. Sacramentans deserve an organic, nontoxic lawn service, one subject to a national standard. Perhaps then our schools and parks will follow suit.

Katie S. Towers