Letters for January 13, 2005

Many hands needed in reform

Re “CYA goes to reform school” by Stephen James (SN&R Cover, December 30):

Thanks for the article last week about the California Youth Authority (CYA). I’m a registered nurse at the [Preston Youth Correctional Facility], and many of the situations and stories sounded familiar. As a member of the bargaining team that represents RNs—we’re members of [Service Employees International Union (SEIU)] Local 1000—I look forward to being part of the solution to the problems in the youth authority.

My only quarrel with the story is the same issue I take with most reporting about the youth and adult correctional systems in California: Corrections officers are not the only people who work in these institutions. And, by the way, most of the corrections officers I know are honest people, not the corrupt and selfish goons portrayed in the news.

In fact, SEIU Local 1000 alone represents over 11,000 employees, none of whom wear badges or carry weapons. Our membership includes correctional case-records analysts, who make sure inmates serve the right sentence; and educators, who help prepare inmates and wards for life on the outside. By running kitchens and even training inmates in the trade, food-service workers help cut down on riots and other instances of violence. CYA and corrections health-care professionals protect the rest of California from communicable diseases like HIV and tuberculosis by providing timely diagnosis and treatment for wards and inmates.

Remember, there are thousands of state employees who work in our youth-authority institutions and in the prisons who are not officers. To reform our corrections system, all employees need to be heard and to be part of the solution.

Nancy Lyerla
Valley Springs

Editor spits out crap

Re “American Abu Ghraib” by Tom Walsh (SN&R Editor’s note, December 30):

Every week I read the S(ocialist) A(nd) C(ommunist) News & Review. Normally I disagree, but it is always wise to be versed in your opponent’s arguments. I may have to just dismiss your rag as far-left propaganda and stop reading it.

When Tom Walsh says that he is embarrassed to be an American because of the fake controversies of prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, it may just be time to leave.

My response is: “Go. Get the hell out!” A lot of good men and women have died to give you the right to say the crap that you say, and this is how you spit on their legacy and utilize that right? If you can find another country where you could get away with openly putting down their society and government, then you should move there. If you can find another country half as great as the United States, then please, by all means, move, leave, get out.

But you are one of those hypocrites that loves to spit in the face of America and then use the rights given to us “by our creator” and our country to protect yourself.

Michele Don Beacham II
via e-mail

Arrrrrrnold should scurrrrrry back to Austrrrrrria

Re “The importance of being Arrrrrrnold” by Harmon Leon (SN&R Essay, December 30):

I loved this piece. It made me laugh because our esteemed governor takes himself very seriously and is very comical. He is an egomaniac and truly believes that he is the Terminator and can do whatever he wishes, including not release his tax returns for 2003. He makes his own rules, disregarding the California population’s wishes or needs. But then, what did we expect by voting this clown into such an important office?

I truly hope that if the law is changed and he is able to run for president of the United States that there will be such an outcry of protests and demonstrations of the general public that Arnold will have to scurry back to his beloved Austria. And I have friends that live in Austria that tell me Arnold is not well-loved in his home country. I wonder if they will want to take him back.

Angel Schaechterle
Citrus Heights

Edu-crats’ same old line

Re “A promise we need to keep” (SN&R Guest comment, December 30):

What a farce! The same old line: “It’s for the children.” Scott Plotkin continues a well-worn cry, pleading to the readers of SN&R that the children of California are being cheated by the mean Republican governor.

No, Mr. Plotkin, the children are being cheated by the greedy unions, the greedy administrators and all the other greedy government and private parasites feeding at the money trough that’s education today.

No, Mr. Plotkin, throwing good money at a corrupt bloated system is not a good idea. Do readers know that district-superintendent salaries average $134,121, that the average high-school principal makes over $100,000 or that the average first-grade teacher with only 20 students tops out at over $60,000 a year?

Mr. Plotkin, please explain why [National Education Association] statistics for last year ranked California per-pupil spending at 25th in the nation, but, during the same period, they ranked California first in average teacher’s salaries at $58,287?

And lastly, why did the [California Teachers Association] help to defeat Proposition 187? Mr. Plotkin, aren’t we cheating “our” children by spending billions of dollars to educate illegal aliens? Bottom line: Guys like you, Mr. Plotkin, are ripping us off. I hope the Governator kicks edu-crat butt and cleans house on you guys.

Don Stewart

Frustrated, powerless and tuned out

Re “Young and uniformed” by Kel Munger (SN&R Words, December 30):

I am a 23-year-old uninformed (registered) voter. Tuned Out sounds like a very interesting book.

I, like many friends my age, refused to vote in this most recent “election.” I have heard many reasons for our lack of participation: stupidity, ignorance, apathy and even pure laziness. While I am certain these attributes are present, I think they take a backseat to the deeper underlying motives behind our disinterest, and often outright disgust, with news and politics.

A feeling of powerlessness accounts for much. The system has been built to maintain the status quo, and it works well. These last two elections seemed proof enough of the corruption. We know that the popular vote does not actually decide who will be president, not to mention that we always know some payoff will be occurring in the backrooms, if not right in the open.

We have no real heroes left. We have grown up knowing that most of the heroes of the past have been frauds or corrupt or hypocrites. If they’re in office, or running, they’re dirty; it’s the only way they made it there.

When it comes to the news, the only way to get a clear idea of what really happened is to watch, read and listen to every story, and then compare and read between the lines. With 500 TV channels, two (local) papers and innumerable books on every topic, who has the time to critically analyze each story? Especially considering that a great deal of young people have to work two jobs just to make ends meet (I have three). Is it any wonder we “tune out”?

All that work to understand what really happened, and then be frustrated by it but powerless to change it—it’s no wonder our youth doesn’t trust the news or find much value in it.

Tyson Rien

Lose the ageist narcissism

Re “Young and uninformed” by Kel Munger (SN&R Words, December 30):

Kel Munger’s review of Tuned Out: Why Americans Under 40 Don’t Follow the News starts with this: “I’ve often wondered why watching the nightly news requires sitting through commercials that seem preoccupied with arthritis, incontinence and digestive health. It turns out that the average nightly news viewer’s age hovers right around 60; those complaints—and the need for drugs to address them—come with the territory.”

Are we to assume from this lead that people like poor Munger and all those young people “required” to sit through the advertisements in question are turned off by mainstream news because they are confronted with the specter of old people? I guess not, since two paragraphs later we learn that young people “pay attention only to the ‘news’ that seems pertinent to them, and increasingly, that’s sports and entertainment.”

So much for the icky-old-people theory. It’s really just about narcissism. Why then the gratuitous slap at the elderly? Mostly likely it’s because Munger doesn’t see the words as offensive, since this culture is drenched in the same kinds of dismissive attitudes.

As a gay man, I hear lesbians and gay men say all the time that homophobia is the last acceptable form of bigotry in America. I disagree. Homophobia is a distant second to ageism, which permeates this culture to the extent that you can find it quite readily (even in progressive newspapers).

Small wonder then that we are creating a screwed-up society in which the worst thing you can be is old.

Jeff Epperly
via e-mail