Letters for January 29, 2009

Letter of the week
Another letter to Obama

Tuesday was a momentous day, as one president left office and another assumed responsibility. As much as I’ve wished for a coup in the past eight years, I’m still kind of proud that we manage to make changes like these without bloodshed. We’ve done it this way longer than most.

The [George W.] Bush administration has an endless list of crimes for which it is responsible. It has been relatively easy for the ever-increasing throngs in this country who have turned their backs on the failed dreams of a bankrupt ideology to pin blame where it belongs. It took a great deal of looking the other way on the part of the press and citizenry of this nation to allow such outrages to be perpetrated in our names, but on Tuesday, one thing changed:

Bush crimes became American crimes.

At noon on Tuesday, the people of this country and the Obama administration did not begin a new history; we merely began the continuance of one. Over the past few months, administration officials and others in a position to know have said in no uncertain terms that this country has tortured people. There is no longer any need to use euphemisms; the word is out there, and the word is “torture.” We have unofficially admitted to officially sanctioned war crimes.

The new attorney general, Eric Holder, when asked at his confirmation hearing whether or not waterboarding is torture, stated unequivocally that is. As the highest-ranking law official in the United States, his responsibility is simply to apply the measure of the law to people in this country. No one is above it, no one is exempt. He will take his cues from the new president on what to do with the evidence that exists and that which still requires investigation.

Barack Obama is reticent to start a cycle of the new gang going after the old gang. That’s sensible, practically speaking. But in this case, he simply has no choice but to allow the Justice Department to freely investigate the heinous crimes of the Bush administration. There are two simple reasons:

First, this country cannot be allowed to sink to the depths of third-rate dictatorships, where whoever is in charge can make arbitrary decisions about what the law means and to whom it applies.

Second, if these crimes are not prosecuted, they will serve as precedent for the next time it happens.

And there is always a next time.

The United States has made a much-needed course correction, but it has not done anything to repair the damage done. I beg of you, President Obama, for the greater good of the American ideal and justice, investigate, investigate, investigate. Anything less is tacit approval and continuation of the crimes of the Bush presidency.

That is not change. And I cannot ever believe in it.

Andy Sims

Summing it up

Re “Letters to Obama” (SN&R Feature, January 15):

Wow! May I try to tie [the letters] together?

“I have been to the mountaintop. I have seen the promised land” (Martin Luther King, Jr.). Will America once again be the promised land?

We did not have to vote for the lesser of two evils in the 2008 presidential election. There was a beacon of light, Barack Obama. The way is open for a paradigm shift, away from politics of fear and division, toward a society of peace and harmony.

America lost hope over the last eight years of Bush, Cheney & Company. The country is now back on track headed in the right direction. Optimism reigns supreme.

Support for Obama is intergenerational, a mixed melting pot of peoples. May God watch over Obama and may a reunited nation become a reality.

Ron Lowe
Nevada City

Experience? Change!

Re “Letters to Obama” (SN&R Feature, January 15):

Thank you for publishing all those wonderful letters to Obama.

The ignorance of those who did not vote for Obama never ceases to amaze me! President Obama is already speaking to world leaders who will drive this planet to a better place. The Dalai Lama is one.

U.S. financial success Warren Buffett is onboard, as are some of the brightest in the field of economics. Obama even has the respect of military leaders who may not say it, but surely know there is chaos in Iraq and Afghanistan. What started as a success quickly became a disaster. I remember the late Peter Jennings asking as we went to war, “Are you prepared to win the peace?”

Yet one letter writer wrote to Obama, “You have no foreign-policy experience.”

Tell that to the world, which is also hoping for change from these disastrous years of failed foreign policy!

I suggest that it is this man, with his limited thinking, who needs watching over by God, and, dare I say it, Goddess!

The Rev. Martha A. Del Rio

Who do you believe?

Re “Prison break” by Janelle Weiner (SN&R Frontlines, January 15):

Who do you believe: our outstanding governor and legislators or the unelected, independent legislative analyst?

Our governor and many legislators alerted us to a terrible and apparently sudden prison-overcrowding problem. They repeatedly cautioned that prisons were “operating at over 200 percent of design capacity,” implying, but not exactly stating, a shortage of over 80,000 beds. They promptly passed Assembly Bill 900 to fund construction of 40,000 more prison beds at a cost of $6.5 billion. Construction shouldn’t take more than four years. They labeled it prison reform and moved on to deal with other problems, like the budget deficit.

The legislative analyst assessed A.B. 900 and reported a 16,600 prison-bed shortage, relying on national correctional-prison bed standards. No one even bothered commenting on the LAO’s ridiculous claim. The LAO even claims there is a permanent prison-bed capacity of 156,500 beds. Based on that dubious claim, the prison-bed shortage has declined to 8,500 beds as of November 30, 2008.

The LAO’s figures imply that prison overcrowding could be quickly eliminated without any construction in a couple months by simply increasing the percentage of contract beds from 4 percent to 9 percent.

Who do you believe?

Richard McKone

Prisoners, this is the real world

Re “Prison break” by Janelle Weiner (SN&R Frontlines, January 15):

Waiting seven weeks to see a doctor? Welcome to the real world.

I’ve belonged to two HMOs, both of which, if you needed to see a doctor, you’d be told the next available appointment was 6 to 10 weeks. If you insisted you needed to be seen sooner, they’d repeat the 6 to 10 weeks statement, then suggest you go to the ER if you didn’t want to wait that long.

Fine. Following HMO policy, I called the HMO office for authorization to go to the ER, and was told it would not be covered because what I was describing was something that could be handled in a regular office visit. If I wanted to go to the ER rather than wait the 6 to 10 weeks, I would have to pay the whole bill (approximately $1,000) myself.

Karen M. Campbell

It’s not the Third World

Re “Prison break” by Janelle Weiner (SN&R Frontlines, January 15):

The media needs to get a total bill for prison health care spent in 2008. The media makes the [California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] sound like a Third World country, and it’s simply not true. Millions are spent on these inmates, and a lot of it is needless.

As for overcrowding, if you let 52,000 nonviolent dopers and thieves on the streets, 75 percent of them will be back in prison serving a new term with the year.

Randy Anderson
via e-mail

Nope, we didn’t pay him for this

Kudos and congrats to SN&R for what I would call a “new journalism” and a new arts and passion refocus in writing, with open-ended themes and “OMG” imagination.

It was not so long ago that I whined and complained to a former SN&R arts editor that I could read SN&R in five minutes. Well, no more of that 15 minutes, back-page, by-the-numbers weak arts coverage, or the pervading “We are green, we are soooo green; did we tell you how green we are? Turn the page and we’ll tell you again!” And no more of the “We hate Bush; we really, really hate Bush!” (which prompted a silent eye roll and a “So f-ing what! Who isn’t, and who doesn’t, that reads SN&R?).

And then something changed for the good.

Suddenly, I spied articles that spoke to me about the arts; the music and event coverage changed in tone. Flippant, serious, open-ended, new, involved and all over the place coverage.

The work of Josh Fernandez stands out to me: irreverent, cutting, and he employs his own voice in a different way to each piece. The late-night “Sac after hours” [SN&R Arts Feature; June 19, 2008] explored by Josh reminded me of the ‘Fláneur’ writings and journalism by Charles Baudelaire and Gérard de Nerval back in the mid-19th century.

The art articles by Shoka also claimed my attention: reviews and stories about the events she attended, brief shots of insight from artist and the writer brought a whole new way of enjoying critique again.

And please excuse the terms but: Who let Kel Munger out of her cage? Now she comes out swinging, inspired and fired up about her themes and stories that are now filled with verve and sass. What an improvement!

And stalwarts such as R.V. Scheide and Cosmo Garvin troll the body politic and bring home some great investigative journalism that shies away from knee-jerk clichés that most lazy alleged alt journalists fall back on.

Nick Miller’s articles and events speak more from an emotive evocative place, and he and we are better for it, too. Plus, all the new sponsored shows and Monthly Mosaic are a forum for the arts we all need. This is good.

The short side of all this verbiage? Change is good. Change for the better is even better; and I look forward to getting and reading SN&R every Wednesday night as an adventure and as a “coffee table” lay-around-till-next-week journal for reference and calendar info. I don’t know the why or what of how this happened/evolved, but I sure like it. Thanks SN&R!

Frank Andrick