Letters for January 6, 2005

A fire to rekindle journalism

Re “The day the writing died” by Chrisanne Beckner (SN&R News, December 23):

Thank you for your recent coverage of journalist Gary Webb upon his passing.

In February 1997, as an independent journalist, I was part of a Japanese TV production team that was looking into the broad issue of drugs in various regions of the world. I had insisted while we were shooting footage and interviewing people on the U.S. West Coast that we spend some time talking with Gary Webb, then a reporter with the San Jose Mercury News, about his controversial “Dark Alliance” series.

Gary was most gracious with his time and information during what surely must have been a chaotic period for him. I still remember the sense of determination and professionalism with which he handled our interview. Most regrettably for me, however, the great footage we had of Gary in Sacramento ended up on the cutting room floor when the Japanese prime-time TV program aired later that spring.

But Gary Webb’s words have survived. His reportage on “Dark Alliance,” especially his book of the same name, will stand the test of time as one of the great American journalistic works.

The world is a lot poorer for his absence among us.

Many are citing Gary’s passing as marking the death of American journalism, as well. I prefer to think the opposite: that Gary’s most excellent research and reporting will be the fire that helps rekindle the passion that so many honest, conscientious journalists have for their work. Though Gary Webb is no longer with us, I believe his life’s work will continue to inspire young, independent-minded journalists for generations to come.

Brian Ohkubo Covert
Hyogo, Japan

Stewart only got part of the secret …

Re “Hush—you’ll ruin it” by Jill Stewart (SN&R Capitol punishment, December 23):

Thirty-one thousand dollars times 14,000 prisoners equals $434 million every year that we spend on keeping illegal aliens in California jails, not for the crime of entering the country illegally, but for crimes they have committed after they illegally entered the country. Of course, this does not include the staggering court expenses involved. Crimes range from theft all the way to murder.

Jill Stewart has done a great reporting job on this subject. How about proceeding to other topics?

For instance, the cost of treating illegals in emergency rooms, plus having to shut down many ERs and no longer serve American citizens because the illegals have driven the ERs into bankrupt status.

Then there’s the cost of educating children of illegals, many of whom come and go to and from Mexico, do not speak English at home and take up enormous amounts of teaching time that should be spent on legal students.

And other problems, such as driver’s licenses, housing, illegal hiring, etc.

Allen Jamieson

… but she hit the nail on the head

Re “Hush—you’ll ruin it” by Jill Stewart (SN&R Capitol punishment, December 23):

This has got to be the most fair and honest article about illegal immigration from Mexico I have ever read. Anyone who has an opinion on this issue, especially the pro-illegal-immigration Latino Caucus, needs to read it.

Ms. Stewart left out the usual racist rhetoric found in such articles, and political claptrap like A Day Without a Mexican, while hitting the nail squarely on the head. One can decry illegal immigration without being racist and “blaming the victim.”

Hopefully, Senator Gloria Romero’s experience will influence future thinking in this area.

Robert Ingersoll

Tough love, minus love

Re “Hush—you’ll ruin it” by Jill Stewart (SN&R Capitol punishment, December 23):

Jill Stewart is pleasingly blunt about Mexico’s systemic dysfunction and what it costs us. But then she dismisses as “ridiculous” the obvious solution: putting troops on our border with Mexico. That way, our expensive military would be doing something of immediate benefit to American taxpayers.

To continue the blunt discussion where Stewart left off, the Mexican oligarchy knows full well that they’re lousy neighbors for us. They heatedly complain when we attempt to enforce our immigration laws, but they strictly control their own southern border and enforce their own immigration laws.

Inevitably, Mexico’s cynical elites will simply laugh off earnest lectures from us on socialism’s drawbacks and on the rule of law, while browbeating us about all the services we “owe” Mexican illegal aliens.

The only way things will change is if we hold their feet to the fire: Seal our southern border, forcing them to deal with their own poverty legions or face revolution.

Let’s just call it “tough love, without the love.”

Paul Nachman
Redondo Beach

Steinberg’s mental-health work only the start

Re “Exit interview” by Cosmo Garvin (SN&R News, December 23):

Sincere thanks to Assemblyman Darrell Steinberg. It is regrettable that major mental-health-delivery-system changes were not also mandated.

As a layman who helped homeless mentally ill in denial and most in need, I found that their most effective aid came from workers in the mental-health-crisis clinic and teams of police officers and mental-health workers.

Every mental-health worker and educator should be required to serve a year’s internship in each position before they can nab an office job where they “teach” others about mental health or “counsel” by appointment those who already realize they are mentally ill.

Many mentally ill, even when diagnosed with the same illness, are not affected by or respond to a drug in the same way. There are glib, insensitive and sweeping opinions that patients would feel fine if they didn’t stop taking their prescribed medication. While that may be true of a majority, other patients may only appear to “feel fine.” Some symptoms of those diagnosed with the same mental illness are more serious and lasting than others, and patients often do not know what feeling “normal” is.

Patients will often tell workers what they think their counselors want to hear, because they appreciate counselors’ efforts and do not want to hurt their feelings or be a problem.

Workers often fail to admit and state publicly that some patients “self-medicate” with alcohol or marijuana because it enables them to “forget, feel good, deal with demons, spirits,” even temporarily, which medications fail to do. Workers cannot effectively diagnose and treat with proper medication and dosage in the voluntary (unless a danger to themselves or others) limited 72-hour hold period.

The current operating system must be changed to be more responsive to patient needs. Until many of these flaws are corrected, it is unlikely any amount of funding will maximize results.

Dale Kooyman

No price tag on public art

Re “Trampled by progress” by Cosmo Garvin (SN&R News, December 9):

I am writing to vent some of the frustration I feel for Paul Petrovich and his money-filled pockets. Kevin Price’s mural at the corner of 19th and S streets was not an eyesore. It was not bringing down the neighborhood as Petrovich wants to imply.

For two years, I passed that mural every day while taking my then-2-year-old son to his daycare. Every day, my son, a huge music enthusiast, would ask me to name the artists featured in the mural. And before the light would turn green, I would try my best.

My point is that what makes a community a community is its character and how much it reflects those who live there. The mural was unique and inspired many interpretations and memories for people of all ages living and working in the area.

Paul Petrovich seems clearly bent on the idea that if it doesn’t cost an absurd amount of money to create, then it’s not art. He clearly states this when making mention of his waterless water tower that cost more than $850,000 to make. To say what he took away was replaced “multiple” times with this piece is an insult to all people who enjoy living and working in the downtown community!

Molly A. Flores

Extreme right means lost rights

Re “Abort the act” (SN&R Editorial, December 9):

Slowly but surely, the edifice of rights and services on which women’s access to abortion depends is being destroyed by Bush Republicans and religious right-wingers.

How would you like it if your wife, sister, daughter or mother’s life was in danger from birth complications, and she couldn’t get an abortion because the cult of religious zealots controlling power in the United States had closed the abortion door? That’s exactly what anti-abortion extremists are trying to do.

George W. Bush is not the moderate he appears to be when it comes to the issue of abortion. He is one of these anti-abortion extremists.

Ron Lowe
Nevada City