Letters for February 17, 2005

Thou shalt not mock

Re “Get straight or get thee to hell” by Harmon Leon (SN&R Cover, February 10):

Evidently, Harmon Leon lacks the very honesty and sincerity that he mocks in his story.

He apparently attempts to “expose” well-meaning Christian groups by taking advantage of their sincerity through a lying ruse. He speaks of group leader Debbie’s “bobbleheaded enthusiasm.” He also helps us to understand Carol by letting us know that she “resembles a high-school women’s-softball coach.”

What exactly do these descriptions mean? What journalistic honesty is that supposed to reveal? He feels the need to interject that Carol has no counseling degree and no medical qualifications. At least she admits as much, which is more than can be said for Leon’s dishonesty and lack of integrity. By the way, Mr. Leon conveniently omits his own qualifications to write such a story.

He mocks the Fellow Warriors’ meeting place as “crappy” and resembling “a meth-addict trucker motel.” What is the point of such negative adjectives, unless it is an attempt to reinforce his own bias? He mentions “excited eyes” and “crazed eye contact” and being “trumpeted as fresh meat.” In his attempt to further paint what he sees as a negative group in an even more negative light, Leon reveals his own bias more than the supposed bias he thinks he sees.

Tom Rupp

Better a private, successful method

Re “Schooled in spirituality” by Chrisanne Beckner (SN&R Cover, February 3):

Ever since the addition of “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance during the Cold War, as a jab at the godless commies, Christianity has had a stranglehold on the American education system. The most recent example is the thinly veiled creationism that some U.S. high schools have added to their science curricula. “Heaven forbid” any socio-philosophical enlightenment—literally!

Waldorf students can apparently not only read by the time they reach middle-school, they can also spell, write legibly, cook, clean up, sew, make change and find Africa on a map, which is more than many public high-school graduates across the country can do.

It’s obvious that the Waldorf system is vastly different from our public schools. Rather than sacrifice its effective methods of education, it should return to private status so it can pursue its purpose uncensored and without compromise.

Candy Taylor Tutt

More on Rummy’s spies

Re “Spies R Us” (SN&R Editorial, February 3):

The central premise of your editorial, which bashes Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for making use of covert intelligence teams in the Middle East, is factually incorrect. According to your editorial, “espionage duties typically reside within the domain of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA),” not the Defense Department. That is simply not true.

The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) resides within the Department of Defense and has been a major producer of foreign military intelligence for over four decades. The DIA provides military intelligence to war fighters, defense policymakers and force planners in support of U.S. military operations. Intelligence operations are conducted under both the Defense Department and the CIA. Consequently, your claim that intelligence and espionage duties are not within the purview of the Secretary of Defense is bogus.

Your editorial correctly points out that the CIA is a flawed agency “with a history of foul-ups.” That has been true for decades under both Democratic and Republican administrations. How, then, can you blame Rumsfeld for wanting to use intelligence assets under his own control in the Defense Department? As you strive passionately to find fault with every conceivable action of the Bush administration, you should at least get your facts straight.

Gregg M. Wardrip

SN&R editors respond: The editorial is correct in saying “espionage duties typically reside within the domain of the CIA.” It is true that the DIA undertook considerable espionage duties during the 1960s and 1970s, but that capability became quite limited thereafter. According to recent news reports, the Pentagon has relied on the CIA for the bulk of its spy work since the 1980s.

Be grateful Stewart’s not your accountant

Re “Dueling pensions” (SN&R Letters, February 3):

It’s lucky for SN&R that Jill Stewart is a writer and not its accountant, because her math skills are atrocious. First, she fails to mention in her column of January 20 (“Look for the union label,” SN&R Capitol punishment) that state employees pay 5 percent of their income into the pension fund.

Next, in response to Charlie Klein’s February 3 letter regarding state pensions not being worth $1 million, she commits a common sleight of hand used by those more concerned with an agenda than the facts. Her calculation of the value of the pension starts with a salary in today’s real dollars and then includes the “sweet cost of living deal” to come up with an inflation-adjusted value.

Inflation-adjusted dollars cannot be compared to today’s real dollars. The [cost-of-living adjustment] is designed to prevent the loss of value of the pension due to inflation and is a common feature of all pension systems (public and private), including Social Security. That pension may have been worth a million dollars by the time the employee dies, but as anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of economics knows, that million dollars 20-plus years from now is worth a lot less than a million dollars today.

Her $57,000-per-year average state-employee-salary figure is also specious. A quick e-mail to the Department of Personnel Administration reveals this number to be $55,620. More importantly, though, averages are not accurate descriptive statistics of data that do not have a “normal” distribution (i.e., a bell curve). Twenty percent of the state workforce is supervisors and career executive appointments (neither of which are represented by a union), and their salaries skew the average high.

The median salary (the value at which half of employees are below and half are above) is the appropriate statistic and would be much lower. Since Ms. Stewart’s real concern seems to be the power of state-employee unions, discussions of salaries should include only those of represented employees and should not include data distorted by career executive appointments, who negotiate their own salaries, or management.

However, the real blame can’t be put on Ms. Stewart. She has consistently proven she is merely a hack for the right wing. The real shame is on the SN&R editorial board for not checking her numbers.

Shawn Saving

Immigrating toward help

Re “Migrants no more” by Maggie Jones (SN&R Cover, January 27):

I have lived in California for 20 years and realize that the Mexican farmworkers are treated badly and underpaid. But after reading this article, I am reminded that we are so lucky and should feel for those who come here to work so hard to better their life and their children’s future.

These immigrants deserve better, and I am glad SN&R could represent their voices.

I am an immigrant myself, and I went through a lot of difficulties when I first came to this country, but those Mexican farmworkers are enduring far more hardship. They deserve better treatment.

Thomas Nguyen
via e-mail

No conundrum here

Re “The widow conundrum” (SN&R Editorial, January 20):

Apparently, no one at SN&R has any sense of Sacramento history; if anyone did, your insulting editorial about Doris Matsui would not have made it to print.

Congressman Robert and Mrs. Doris Matsui were a devoted couple and a genuine team. She was heavily involved in his political life and developed outstanding political skills in the process. She’s smart, personable and experienced in the ways of Washington and the relationships of Congress—important skills for someone who is going to have the lowest seniority in the lower house. In some ways, she brings skills and strengths to the job that even her husband lacked.

Your assumption that being married to a congressman is the only qualification she brings to her candidacy is an insult to women who are partners in any marriage. Your lack of understanding of, or appreciation for, her contributions to Sacramento and to her husband’s successful career is so close to sexism that I was shocked to be reading it in SN&R.

Before hunting scandal where none exists, talk to some people who have worked with the Matsuis during their 30-plus years in public service to benefit Sacramento. The 5th District will genuinely be fortunate to have Doris Matsui representing us in Congress.

Robert E. Oakes