Letters for January 31, 2008

Sensitivity check

Re “Preg knot” by Kel Munger (SN&R Feature, January 24):

As a 23-year-old woman who’s been through the obligatory unplanned-pregnancy-in-college routine, I found your article insulting and over-simplified. Most women do not take the abortion decision lightly. It is not simply: “This is an undifferentiated mass of cells, so I will therefore abort it.”

Pregnancy is big. Whether or not you view a fetus as a baby or a potential baby, it is irresponsible for your publication to over-simplify the decision to abort by claiming that “ babies take nine months to develop, not 10 weeks.” Says who? You would never—in a million years—approach a woman who was pregnant by choice and tell her that her baby is not a baby.

Regardless of what you actually think an embryo/fetus is, pregnancy—even when it is uninvited is life-changing. It is emotional, it is physical, it is instinctive, and it is supported by millions of years of evolution. A woman who is facing the option of carrying to term or aborting is stacked against evolutionary odds, and cheapening her situation by designating an embryo [as] a cluster of cells only tells her that she has no right to take the situation seriously.

Please be more sensitive to the issues women face.

Faith Merino
via e-mail

Reality check

Re “Preg knot” by Kel Munger (SN&R Feature, January 24):

Before picking up this issue, I wondered if I would read anything about what it means to live in a society where abortion is illegal. See, I just spent the better part of a year living in Tanzania, a country where abortion is against the law. In Tanzania, if you have an abortion, attempt to have an abortion, help someone have an abortion or encourage someone to have an abortion, you can be prosecuted and sent to jail.

Sounds terrific, eh? Must really help cut down on the amount of abortions women are having, right?

Wrong. Tanzania is a country of about 37 million people, and on average there are 50,000 attempted abortions a year, and about 80 deaths a month due to these attempts.

So what does this mean? It means that outlawing abortion doesn’t do anything to stop it. It never has, and it never will.

Listen, no one likes abortion. I don’t like it myself. I don’t throw a party and high-five the nearest person I see every time a fetus is aborted. But we simply cannot make the procedure illegal.

Indulge me and let’s follow the numbers: If abortion becomes illegal in the United States (a country with just about 10 times the population of Tanzania), we’re talking about 500,000 attempted abortions a year and 800 deaths a month due to botched, unsafe, back-alley procedures that are likely to occur. Of course, these numbers aren’t perfect, but really think about that. That’s roughly 9,500 deaths a year! That’s more than double the amount of U.S. casualties sustained since the beginning of the Iraq war nearly five years ago. Furthermore, it’s not just a lot of people; it’s a lot of women, and their fetuses as well.

I would love to live in a perfect world where everyone abstained from sex until they were happily married and emotionally mature enough to handle the complexities of adult life, up to and including what it means to bear a child. But we have to be realistic here: Prevention is the key. People are having sex. Young people are having sex. We must educate individuals and give them the tools to protect themselves and make wiser decisions; not ask the government to try and make those decisions for us.

Joshua Montmeny
via e-mail

SN&R’s editor replies:
Mr. Montmeny’s figures are based on the U.S. population and the rate of abortion in Tanzania. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 250,000 abortions are performed in the United States annually, a much lower rate than that of Tanzania.

Yes on Proposition 92

Re “Ready, set, vote” (SN&R Editorial, January 24):

Proposition 92 would lower [community college] student fees to $15 per unit. More importantly, it would make it difficult to raise fees, which the governor and Legislature always do during budget crises. Their solution to times like ours is to balance the budget on the backs of students. Consequently, Proposition 92 should be treated as a serious public-policy proposal that, if enacted, would return California’s education policy to some semblance of the 1960 Master Plan [for Higher Education], which ensured access to a higher education for all Californians.

I was able to rise above my lower middle-class upbringing to become a college teacher, even though my father was a roughneck in the oil fields of Long Beach and my grandfather was a sharecropper from Iowa. My father and grandfather never could have dreamed of having the life the Master Plan allowed me to obtain.

Fee increases have priced out students and have caused an enrollment decline in the community colleges of .07 percent for every 1 percent increase in fees; indeed, the community-college system loses up to 15,000 students for every $1 increase in fees. The jump from $18 to $26 per unit in 2004 alone resulted in a loss of 305,000 students in the community colleges, who then became destined for jobs at Burger King and Starbucks.

Over the past decade and a half, my colleagues and I have witnessed the volatile effects of fee increases on the front lines at Cosumnes River College. At-risk and poor students are the most vulnerable to fee increases—students for whom rent and groceries often must be a higher priority than fees and textbooks. My colleagues can all attest with me to how many of our students are just one bad break away from dropping out at any time. And while it is popular for the pundits to say that fees in the California community colleges are among the lowest in the country, those already well-educated baby boomers just don’t know our students.

Plato once had Socrates ask in a metaphor that anticipated the collapse of the Master Plan, “What sort of gardener would tend only to the old plants, and not to the young plants?” The tragic answer is, “Only a gardener who soon does not want a garden.” Under the Master Plan, we tended to the young. Proposition 92 is a step toward that restoration.

Chuck Van Patten professor of philosophy
Cosumnes River College

Extra credit for budget quiz

Re “Take SN&R’s budget quiz!” (SN&R Editorial, January 17):

The budget quiz was interesting, but oddly left out one very telling fiscal problem that California faces and is seemingly unable to tackle: illegal immigration.

Based on data from various sources, if the approximately 3.5 million illegal immigrants now residing in California returned to their countries of origin, $10.2 billion would be available for our overloaded school system, bankrupted hospitals, and an about-to-burst prison system.

I do not doubt SN&R’s figures, but considering the amount of money that this state allocates to illegal immigrants, I do feel it should have been included in the quiz.

Steve Wolfe

Cob in Sac

Re “An ancient come back” by Sena Christian (SN&R Green Days, January 17):

Wonderful article on cob! I have built my own cob structure in East Sacramento using East Sac soil. Building the structure was a very meditative and healing experience.

The structures are easy to build. A 70-year-old woman in Oregon built her own house using the method. Nothing is more wonderful than to go to a building site and see all the builders sculpting and in … quiet … meditation. The structure is the most relaxing place I can think of. There is absolutely no way to make an ugly cob structure.

My structure was featured in another local newspaper. As a result, I know there is interest in the city to build cob projects from the response I received. There was a cob-building convergence in Portland, Ore., a few years back. It would be great to have one in Sacramento.

There are many cob projects, including mine, featured on www.cobprojects.info. Anyone interested in what is going on in the world of cob should take a look and see.

Currently, I am planning on hosting a workshop on designing and building cob structures on my property in Nevada County. Becky Bee, a very well-known author of cob-building books, is planning to be there to lend her years of expertise.

Dana Jenks

Name your own ‘hood

Re “Grid and bear it” by T. Allegra Knight (SN&R Essay, January 10):

In response to T. Allegra Knight’s article about the boundaries of Midtown, I have two comments:

First, I used to live at 14th & G [streets], like Megan (until a certain encroachment drove me out of my apartment!), and always referred to myself as living “downtown,” not Midtown. I’ve heard that cab drivers draw the line between downtown and Midtown at the 15th Steet-16th Street block.

Second, you can easily identify where you live (which I might think of as East Sac) as McKinley Park and avoid the question altogether, although you’re obviously still on the grid, since there are numbers and letters. I would do the same, except I don’t know if anyone else knows what Marshall School means!

Midtown snobbery be damned. It’s fun to be a grid kid, no matter what your specific neighborhood is called.

Elizabeth Ball

Bravo, Allegra!

Re “Grid and bear it” by T. Allegra Knight (SN&R Essay, January 10):

T. Allegra Knight’s essay has been the memorable high point of the several issues since the departure of Becca “Nothing Ever Happens” Costello. Any chance of signing Ms. Knight on full-time? She showed the attractive knack, readably and stylishly, of wittily making a Sacramento-specific point and giving an enthralling account of well, nearly nothing, but very charmingly.

Surely the narrations of non-events in a simple Sacramento, young lifestyle are missed by many. More of Knight’s observations would certainly be more welcome than the dispatches from Davis that merely seem sooooo over-the-causeway. The lemon tree epic (“We’re not in Berkeley anymore,” SN&R Greetings from Davis, November 1, 2007) was odd and interesting/quirky, but even that elicited at the end merely a shrug at best.

So consider adding Knight regularly. Smart and on-the-scene, she’d make SN&R even more of a regular must-read.

N. Lanquist
Grass Valley

Trés passé

Re “Where trends come to die” by Kate Washington (SN&R Arts&Culture, January 3):

There is nothing more passé then writing a pointless article about things passé, my dear Kate.

A cupcake enthusiast
via e-mail