Letters for July 5, 2007

Return to reason

Re “God & war” (SN&R Feature Story, June 28):

Kudos for gathering local clergy to weigh in on the Iraq war. Despite their admonition that we should pull out our troops “now,” their comments are a reminder that there was little objection to the war at the onset, particularly when we seemed to be “winning”; even now, there’s hesitation to question bad decisions.

The whole discussion suggests that the war problem is the result of three failed religions: Christianity, Islam and Judaism. I say “failed” not because the majority in each of these religions who would opt for peace have acted preemptively, but because that majority in each religion has allowed an extremist fringe to set the agenda for everyone else, all the way from the crusades to claims on property or about race to the present-day suicide bombers. Millions have been murdered in the name of God.

We are responsible—for our faith, our beliefs, for knowing what our government is doing and for voting and participating in the democratic process (as Jaime O’Neill reminds us elsewhere in this excellent edition of SN&R). We’re also reminded that politics and a manipulative media are big business and we are the ones who—literally—buy into it and the fear it generates.

Rather than obsessing on O’Neill’s “bimbo brigade,” we should take time to critically examine our beliefs and work within our sphere of influence, creating the “pockets of peace” as suggested by Reverend Oshita. We can also demand a return to reason and basic principles.

Chuck McIntyre

Work for peace— fight sprawl

Re “Work for peace—really” (SN&R Guest Comment, June 21):

While I applaud the work of Sacramento’s peace activists at demonstrations, I suggest there’s more than one way to skin this particular cat.

Because U.S. domestic oil production peaked in 1971 (when 30 percent of the oil consumed was imported and the price was about $1.75 a barrel), the U.S. has grown increasingly dependent on foreign oil. The United States now imports 70 percent of the petroleum consumed, priced at more than $60 a barrel. Even if all the oil projected to be in Alaska and offshore materialized, production will not return to that 1971 peak. This dependency is certainly at the root of much of America’s war-like policy in the Middle East.

When we continue to build suburban sprawl rather than mixed-use, pedestrian- and transit-friendly neighborhoods, we’re increasing the dependency on petroleum-fueled commutes. So when activists appear at the local Board of Supervisors or City Council opposing more sprawl, they are making local policies that promote peace, as much as people who protest our foreign wars.

Ask yourself what good it would do to stop this war if the very social fabric of the United States meant it would have to start another one to ensure access to energy-intensive living. Let’s have peace for the long term.

Mark Dempsey

Bullshit artist

Re “Third eye un-blind” by Jeff vonKaenel (SN&R Essay, June 21):

I was somewhat shocked to see how easily someone who supposedly “grew up in a house where Darwin, Einstein and Newton were revered” could be so easily duped by a bullshit artist.

Mr. vonKaenel claims that the Hindu group Brahma Kumaris are known for doing a great deal of good work in India, but he sure failed to give any examples. Instead, he explained how 15,000 people gathered in an arena (and no doubt paid a tithe as well) to hear an old woman “channel” a man dead for almost forty years. Religious organizations like the BK only serve to take from those who can least afford it (their no doubt poor followers) and give to those who least deserve it (the wealthy priest class). They were even able to con Mr. vonKaenel to give them free advertisement in the SN&R.

Mr. vonKaenel claims that India suffers from a culture of corruption and organized crime, but fails to see that by giving him a “beautiful gold ring,” BK proves that it is actually a part of that culture!

James Ferguson
via e-mail

Vang Pao’s a hero …

Re “Hero or heroin?” by Nick Schou (SN&R News, June 21):

My answer to the question in your headline is: hero.

General Vang Pao believes strongly in a democractic society and he tries to promote democracy in Laos. This is difficult because of the ethnic cleansing that has gone undetected in Laos for three decades.

Go to www.rebeccasommer.org and check out the video, Hunted Like Animals. You will see why General Vang Pao has tried to promote democracy for Laos for over three decades.

Why have the facts of Hunted Like Animals, which spurred his dreams of democracy in Laos, eluded the mainstream media?

Wayne Her
via e-mail

… and so are the Hmong

Re “Hero or heroin?” by Nick Schou (SN&R News, June 21):

To say that General Vang Pao killed brutally during war does not justify half of what his people are going through right now in the jungle of Laos. They are being hunted like animals without any weapons to defend themselves. The saddest part is the Americans betrayed him and his people by promising safety if they fought to protect the Americans during the Vietnam War.

If Pao is so terrible for what he did, then who are we to blame but the Americans, who came into our villages in Laos and recruited children as young as 12 to fight for them? Americans should not blame him for heroin because they came to Vietnam and Thailand and they already have gotten themselves addicted to it. The Hmong use opium as medicine because they do not have hospitals or doctors like the United States. We should blame the Americans for coming over and recruiting our children and getting our people addicted to tobacco and alcohol, but we don’t.

It is sad that many Americans do not know that we Hmong were the freedom fighters that helped the Americans during the Vietnam War. It is even sadder to know that we have been left behind to get slaughtered like animals because we allied with the Americans, who promised us safety for our people. We are the forgotten ones that never made it in the history books.

If you believe in human rights, please publish an article on the killings and genocide of the Hmong still trapped in the jungle of Laos. Read U.N. report before passing judgment about Pao and the Hmong people.

Mai Ya-Va

Curtains for culture, too

Re “Curtain call for K Street” by Nicholas Miller (SN&R News, June 21):

Leslie Fritzsche stated that it would be best to “keep the Crest Theater in its historic way.” Historically, the Crest has been a venue that has shown films—not just big-budget blockbusters, but great films with lesser budgets and higher artistic value that we Sacramentans have precious few places to see.

There seems to be a kind of desperation to make Sacramento into a “Big City” on par with places like San Francisco. It is not wrong to think that art is a part of the equation to what makes a “Big City.” However, from my experience, art cannot be forced; it must be allowed to expand organically.

If people in Sacramento want another performing-arts center, the people of Sacramento will make that happen. We don’t need someone who does not even live in this town to tell us what we need and what will make us great. What the people in Sacramento wanted was more places to see art-house cinema, and that’s what the people of Sacramento did. There are folks who worked real damn hard to make the Crest what it is. It smacks of insult for someone to say, “That’s real nice what you guys did here, but you did it all wrong”.

I certainly know I won’t be hanging out on K Street when films are no longer playing at the Crest and every other shop is a Bed Bath & Beyond or Starbucks. But, then again, maybe that’s precisely the intent. Sacramento doesn’t want me or my culture, at least not anywhere where “normal” people can see it.

Jaz Brown

Review spew

Re “Cop schlock” by David Riedel (SN&R Scene&Heard, June 21):

I can recall a time when those who plied the trade of musical criticism actually had something to say about music’s importance to society. I was struck by this insight while perusing the mean-spirited “review” of the Police’s reunion tour by David Riedel following the band’s appearance at Oakland’s McAfee Coliseum. Riedel confuses criticism with firing stupid insults. He comes up short in both areas.

Reidel’s main complaint is that he didn’t like the arrangements for many of the tunes. Of course, he is only parroting what his big-league colleagues at real papers also said. He moans about the venue. As this was the Police’s first stadium show, there were bound to be sound problems.

But Reidel wasn’t done. Horror of horrors, they’re old! Just what did he expect? The Police’s last studio recording was released in 1983. Their music has played on in classic-rock format radio; this is not likely to attract a youthful or diverse audience, especially at those prices. This tour was never meant to be cutting edge. This was about reliving with its fans a great time in the annals of rock music when the Police was on top of the world.

As for the perplexed Reidel, couldn’t someone at SN&R please spring for a paperback copy of Shaw On Music?

Jack Shinar