Letters for January 31, 2002

Beating around George’s bush

Re “Forbidden Words 2002” by Matt Groening, Life in Hell (SN&R Cartoon, January 24):

Matt Groening did readers a meritorious service by identifying a plethora of platitudes and clichés we would all be better off without. However, he made one hell of an error by including among those hackneyed platitudes the terms “evil” and “evildoer.” Perhaps Groening prefers beating around the bush to George W. Bush. However, when it comes to those who target innocent Americans for miscreant machinations involving unspeakably cruel acts of terror, there is no room for equivocation or the mincing of words.

Words like evil and evildoer are ugly to psychologists, myself included, because they tend to invalidate and artificially simplify the complex nature of human nature. However, we must hold onto these terms as a way of characterizing the acts of terrorists. Otherwise we weaken our posture in relation to them and set ourselves up for more acts of terror. If we stick our heads in the sand, pretending that evil doesn’t exist, we may find that September 11, 2001, was just a prelude to a symphony of destruction.

Bruce L. Thiessen

Take that, Tax Man!

Re “Tax Man” by Steve Wampler (SN&R Guest Comment, January 24):

At least Wampler didn’t overtly blame liberals for all ills like so many conservatives do who debate by shouting.

I’m not defending Gray Davis’ record, but I’d like to ask why Wampler thinks increasing California’s public spending is a bad thing—doesn’t he drive on our roads, require public services, have children attending public schools? Does he think that by decreasing public spending by X percent, politicians will decrease the pork they give away by X percent?

Ronald Reagan and his neoliberalism followers effectively broke the federal social contract and pushed social responsibility back to local governments in the guise of “local control.” Politicians in California needed to provide services, but hamstrung by Proposition 13 and the need to be electable, chose to court retail sales taxes to offset the loss of property tax revenue. Burgeoning human population required still more social services. Plus, new federal regulations required compliance, but provided no funds to pay for them.

So, how do you pay for all this with taxes from handbags, automobiles, home improvement products and entertainment? You don’t. Societal infrastructure has been getting by with duct tape and bailing wire. Look at the demographics of our human population and their requirements for services. Now look at how our society is structured—auto-centric, isolated and excluding all who can’t afford the latest products and a computer to surf the Internet for “information.” The duct tape is fraying.

I would never ask a conservative to solve society’s ills. I have to ask someone to try, and right now the only someone happens to be a politician who terms out in eight years, leaving the revolving door open for the next interest group-funded hack. Hopefully, one day Mr. Wampler and I can sit down together and agree on someone else to ask.

Dan Staley

SN&R scores

Re “A Center of Compassion” by Melinda Welsh (SN&R Cover, January 17):

Thank you SN&R for making this wonderful article your feature story. The noblest thing people can do is to find ways to make positive contributions to our community and our world.

One of the most valuable things media sources can do is to provide examples, such as that of Vlade Divac, that inspire people to do their part in making the world a better place. Great job, SN&R!

Bill Drake
Nevada City

It’s called breaking the law, not a cycle

Re “Driving in Circles” by Chuck Seidel (SN&R News, January 17):

The cycle of the “vast revolving door of justice” can be broken if criminals would simply stop breaking laws.

Mr. Seidel’s mitigation of Mr. Martin’s drunk driving offense by calling it “one of those kid things” is disgusting, just as Mr. Martin’s “numerous run-ins for driving without a license” is hardly “a good driving record,” as Mr. Seidel’s comments lead us to believe. Surely there are many victims of serious collisions by similarly unlicensed, uninsured and irresponsible drivers who would disagree that Mr. Martin is a victim at all; he rightfully suffered consequences of his own decisions to drive without a license, registration or insurance.

I’m disturbed by the fact that he had a blood alcohol level of .11, “just above the limit,” and pleaded guilty, supposedly because he “couldn’t afford an attorney.” .11 is not kind of guilty or sort of guilty, it’s guilty! Might he have pleaded guilty because he was guilty, perhaps because his court-appointed attorney determined his case was unwinnable?

I resent the attempt at manipulating my feelings by mentioning that Mr. Martin has three children, as though that somehow excuses his behavior because he was working to support his family. What kind of example is he setting for his kids by knowingly and willfully breaking laws? Did he apply for a restricted license so that he could legally drive to and from work?

I cannot feel sorry for someone who was inconvenienced by the consequences of his guilt of breaking serious laws. Driving is a privilege, not a right, and his privilege was taken away from him to protect us. The system is not flawed; we instead find flaws in the reasoning and logic (or lack thereof) of the criminals who voluntarily repeat the cycle of breaking laws, getting caught and being punished.

Keith S.
via e-mail

Desire for streetcars

I read with interest the article “Dreaming of Rails” by Cosmo Garvin, in the January 17, 2002, issue of the Sacramento News & Review. I like the idea of streetcars going through the neighborhoods. Because I don’t own a car, I use public transportation and I’m grateful for both the bus and light rail. Although there are areas that the bus and light rail don’t go, that I would like to go to, streetcars would fill that need.

As I read the article, I got the impression that RT, city and county government would not support or expedite something that was not their own idea. I feel the people lose, when those in positions of authority choose to think in this manner.

James Logan

Not the way of San Jose

Re “Sprawl’s Not Well” (SN&R Editorial, January 17):

After reading the January 17 editorial, I was left wondering: What kind of growth is best for a city?

Clearly, urban sprawl is not good: Sprawling subdivisions, rambling office parks and huge shopping complexes often result in long commutes as people drive from Point A to Point B. Could we also say, from a philosophical standpoint, that with this type of urban planning, people are becoming increasingly isolated from one another.

The solution seems clear: Reduce the space between people. Now the question remains: How to do it?

Coming from the Midwest, I’ve seen the effects of sprawl. You know the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for”? Well, after cursing sprawl for so long, and wishing for a more efficient use of land space, I moved to San Jose, California. Now, there is sprawl, encroaching on the few remaining parcels of open space left in the area. However, there is very little room to breathe. Literally. You want to talk about stress and heart conditions? Try living in a city where you are elbow to elbow with your neighbors and have to fight for parking in ‘compact car only’ spaces. Or where you have to go shopping at 2 a.m. at Safeway just to beat the crowds. Affordable housing is a joke, and a studio apartment is seen as a ‘steal’ for ‘only $999 a month.’ I am continually amazed at the amount of apartments that developers are able to squeeze on a small lot. When you are living in an area of foothill-to-foothill people, you have to be creative with how you use land space. Fortunately, change is on the horizon. Recently, the city began reclaiming some of the land in blighted areas of town, to create parks for children to play in.

The population is growing in California, as in many other parts of the country. That will not change. What urban planners and developers can do is plan ahead. Anticipate growth before it gets out of control, or you are forced to pack people like sardines against each other.

Please, Sacramento. Be smart about your urban planning. While striving to reduce sprawl, cut down on commute time, and integrate residential, business and transit, please keep San Jose in mind. Bring the people together, but not too close!

Angela Teters
via e-mail