Letters for February 27, 2003

New and improved CIA is credible

Re “Memo to the President” by Ray McGovern (SN&R Essay, February 13):

McGovern has been busy—on the one hand, touting his CIA analyst credentials, and on the other, denigrating the place he worked for 27 years. Just a few facts about McGovern: He isn’t currently privy to any CIA intelligence data because he hasn’t worked there since 1990—before the first Gulf War—and when he did work for the CIA, he wasn’t assigned to the Middle East section and would therefore not be as informed as his article implies. Currently a youth minister in Washington, D.C., McGovern really has no more credible insight than the average reader of the average mainstream newspaper.

The biggest incongruity in McGovern’s article is his warning to President Bush that an attack on Iraq would be troublesome to our military, which he claims is ill-equipped to deal with the barrage of chemical and biological weapons the Iraqi regime will lob its way.

Huh? I understood the current mantra of the peace-at-any-cost groups was that Iraq had no such weapons. The U.N. inspectors haven’t found any yet, so they must not be there, right?

The fact is that any current intelligence analyst will tell you that Iraq has loads of the stuff: anthrax, VX and sarin gas and containers of chemical and biological agents guarded around the clock by Saddam’s special security organizations—and four years to hide it all. Iraq also has in its possession several aluminum tubes that, when modified, can be used in centrifuges to make enriched uranium. The hapless inspectors will not find any of this, but CIA reports given to the president and discussed in the mainstream press tell us that these weapons exist, as McGovern apparently would agree.

It’s appealing to assume more toothless U.N. resolutions (apparently 16 aren’t enough) and years, maybe decades of further inspections will eventually disarm Iraq. In a world full of terrorists not attached to any country and in search of the weapons Iraq possesses, we can’t wait to connect the fuzzy dots through treaties and cat-and-mouse games with Saddam.

What is clear, however, is that it bothers McGovern and his former colleagues that President Bush is indeed listening to CIA reports. What he is not doing, thankfully, is listening to disgruntled former CIA employees and their ill-informed opinions.

Michael Arno

Serbian anger result of censorship

Re “Hate E-mail” by Tom Walsh (SN&R Editor’s Note, February 13):

Though I do appreciate SN&R publishing letters opposing Cosmo Garvin’s article, “Vlade’s Three-finger Salute” (SN&R News, January 30), your editor misses the reason behind the “Serbian anger” in his defense of publishing the article.

For more than a decade, mistruths about the civil wars in the Balkans have continued to permeate U.S. media, primarily because of severe censorship of any points of view beyond what our State Department wants you to hear.

If we truly have a free press in this country, then it is the responsibility of editors to publish not only a Bosnian Muslim or Croat or Kosovar Albanian view, but also a Serbian view, or to at least allow commentary to counter views that some of your readers have severe disagreements with.

Letters to the editor are something, but real stories on par with what was originally published are really the true spirit of debate and democracy.

However, the censorship of Serbian-American points of view continues to this day. Serbs haven’t forgotten their countrymen’s lost battles in 1389, and they will never stop fighting to get the truth of that conflict told, either.

So, the next time you publish a point of view from a Bosnian Muslim, why don’t you also find a Bosnian or Croatian or Kosovar Serb refugee—there are plenty to be found these days who would be most happy to share their views with you—and give them a voice.

You might be surprised to hear a perspective that has been mostly censored in this country.

Michael Pravica
Las Vegas, NM

VLF (very large fallacy)

Re “Car (Double) Talk” by Jill Stewart (SN&R Capitol Punishment, February 6):

The Vehicle License Fee (VLF) may not be the best way to tax automobile use so that drivers contribute more toward the full cost of that use—and overuse—but at least it’s something. Increasing gas taxes and paying for insurance at the pump might be a better long-term strategy, but it doesn’t sound like Stewart thinks it’s fair to pay for the privilege of driving.

And it’s hard to imagine a whole article about the VLF without once mentioning how local governments are going to make up for the tremendous loss of revenue if the VLF is not restored.

Walt Seifert
executive director, Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates

Stars are out … of whack

Re “Gidget Got Soul” by Liz Kellar (SN&R Dish, February 6):

I am confused. Lemon Grass got a very tepid review, yet three-and-a-half stars. Sandra Dee’s Bar-B-Que & Seafood got a very favorable review, but only three-and-a-half stars. Based on your review, Lemon Grass was nowhere near as enjoyable as Sandra Dee’s.

Are you required to give three-and-a-half stars to advertisers?

Instead of assigning three-and-a-half stars to everything, you should actually grade restaurants based on your review. Here’s a suggestion: four stars, as near perfect as possible; one star, stinkypoo.

D. Payne
via e-mail

He ain’t heavy; he’s a cyclist

Re “Speed Kills” by Jessica Wakefield (SN&R News, February 6):

Although news of the city of Sacramento making efforts to curb the accidents between autos and bikes/pedestrians is welcome, it is with reservation that true change will occur. Things will get safer when an attitude change occurs—attitude of drivers, the Sacramento police and even the news reporters.

On the clear morning of December 8, 2001, I was injured by a hit-and-run driver at Ninth and L streets while riding my bike to work. The car ran a red light at L Street doing approximately 30 mph! The impact bent my bike frame like a pretzel, and I got launched into the air as he sped away—never even slowed down! The injuries have healed, but the psychological scars remain. The driver did not have the decency to stop—no value for another life. The Sacramento police did not take any time to investigate the felonious driver. They refused to return any of my calls to inquire about any other witnesses. For God’s sake, it was 8 a.m. on a weekday, and only two witnesses? When I asked The Bee to cover the story, they deemed it not newsworthy. (I guess I had to die to make at least a byline.)

How many of us stop for the pedestrians waiting at an un-signalled crosswalk? It is the law. When people get with the program and start valuing their neighbors, being a little more courteous and obeying the laws, we will see real change.

Jeffrey L. Spencer

Pick up the budget slack

Re “The Budget Czar” by Jeff Kearns (SN&R Cover, January 23):

The Czar did a great job of explaining the state’s fiscal crisis.

For fear of losing my head, I won’t argue with him about the details of his budget plan. But the next time His Excellency looks at public spending, he should remember that it’s our community’s nonprofit organizations that pick up the slack when government shrinks its allocations for medical coverage; cash assistance for the aged, blind and disabled; and the rest of the so-called safety net.

Under The Czar’s regime, California might end up with a balanced budget, but only at the cost of imposing an un-funded mandate on thousands of nonprofits that are already suffering from flat or falling corporate, foundation and individual support due to the stock market’s decline and the dot-com bust.

With our state’s poverty level stuck at well above the national average, and state spending for relief of poverty and its consequences well below the national average, any decline in overall resources for meeting human needs immediately trickles down to nonprofits and the people they serve. Before we implement The Budget Czar’s recommendations, we need to calculate the real cost of his mandates and arrive at a concrete understanding of how they affect our communities.

Simply shifting the burden to nonprofits without planning or compensation will only cost us more in the long run, destabilizing the lives of those who are homeless, mentally ill, jobless or uninsured and sending the nonprofits who serve them scrambling for dollars instead of providing much-needed services.

It’s time that we move beyond pork, panic and pandering to devise a state budget that is truly balanced, in terms of both dollars and human needs, and that is based on both sound financial forecasts and solid analysis of the impact of spending and revenue decisions on nonprofit organizations and the problems they are working to solve.

Kenneth M. Larsen
director of public policy, California Association of Nonprofits