Letters for June 12, 2008

Letter of the week
Farewell to Utah

I was saddened to hear of the passing of the great American folk singer, U. Utah Phillips.

The first time I saw Utah perform was at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, Calif., in the late ’60s or early ’70s. He shared the bill with longtime pal Rosalie Sorrels. I thought they were the finest artists I had ever heard and truly worthy of wearing the mantle of folks such as Woody Guthrie and Malvina Reynolds.

Since then, I have been fortunate to attend their concerts, from those held in small clubs and churches in front of small audiences of less than 100 to the larger halls and festivals in front of thousands.

Fortunately, Rosalie is still with us and performing occasionally. Fans of Utah will be glad to know that his brilliant radio program, “Loafer’s Glory,” can be heard on alternate Sunday evenings at 9 p.m. on radio station KVMR.

If you are interested in hearing American history told from a different perspective as well as listening to great storytelling and music, you might want to give it a listen.

Marc Brandes

Late on urban golf

Re “Fore play” by R.V. Scheide (SN&R Summer Guide, June 5):

Regarding R.V. Scheide’s story on urban golf, you guys are on such the late show.

As course marshal, I would like to inform you that we have been doing urban golf since 2003. It’s called the Bobby Burns Memorial International Invitational Urban Golf Classic and Pub Crawl.

Some photographic proof and incriminating evidence can be found on these pages: www.sacramentocacophony.com. Even though we have been doing it for five years (that we can remember), we call it the “first annual” every year for obvious reasons.

For those people who remember Bobby Burns (fondly or not), this is an appropriate tribute. I would invite you to join us for our next round, which will be held sometime in the next few months. Or if you can’t wait for golf, join us for any of our other “exciting” activities.


Where will we grow food?

Re “Food revolution” by Sena Christian (SN&R Feature, May 29):

So [the Sacramento Area Council of Governments] has developed a growth strategy that calls for growing through infill?

If all infill vacant lots were developed within a city’s core, how could enough food be possibly grown to support a city the size of Sacramento? Isn’t this concept of growing by infill shortsighted? Growers would have to travel outside the city core to find land in order to grow food.

Just imagine the nightmare that would ensue if our present industrial food system were to suddenly end. The hoods and gangbangers that dominate many areas of Sacramento would terrorize and take what they could! I don’t want to even think about it.

Sandy Biroli

Obama’s multiracial, not black

Re “Destroy all monsters” by R.V. Scheide (SN&R Race to the Bottom, May 29):

Obama is the product of a white woman from Kansas and black man from Africa. The Clinton campaign has never reminded me or anyone else that Obama is a black man. It’s writers like R.V. Scheide and the rest of the news media that keep reminding us.

Why do R.V. Scheide and the rest of the news media insist on incorrectly labeling Obama as a black man? The reality is that Obama is a light-skinned man of multiracial heritage! Start reporting reality!

Jamal Smith
via e-mail

Not a Holocaust apologist

Re “Destroy all monsters” by R.V. Scheide (SN&R Race to the Bottom, May 29):

In between his gleeful attacks on presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and John McCain (including a wistful reference to the possibility that a cancer recurrence would clear the field for Barack Obama), the writer inaccurately characterized a friend of mine.

The misrepresentation of Pastor John Hagee as a Holocaust apologist is sickening. He has spent decades combating anti-Semitism and founded Christians United for Israel (www.cufi.org ) to put his words into action.

Pastor Hagee’s comments regarding the Holocaust reflect a search for spiritual answers to a horror beyond human comprehension. His interpretation that God was not powerless as this unspeakable evil occurred matches that of many Jews and Christians alike, including Holocaust survivors.

Friendship does not mean that we agree on every issue, and indeed we have differences of opinion. But these differences do not obscure our recognition that Pastor Hagee is indeed a devoted, sincere friend to the Jewish people and to those of us who value all human beings.

Linda Halderman

Stop demonizing Muslims

Re “Faith in identity” by Keleigh Friedrich (SN&R Higher Ground, May 29):

I would like to ask you just what is the meaning of this article that you recently published with the subtitle: “Law enforcement still can’t tell the difference between Sikhs and Muslims.”

Why, exactly, do you and the Sikh man whom you extensively quoted (Darshan Singh Mundy) think it is so vitally important to be able to “tell the difference”? Are you joining the right wing by assuming that it’s important to tell the difference, so you can tell who “the enemy” really is? Are you not actually justifying discrimination and prejudice and bigotry against Muslims?

Yes, I understand that it could be annoying to Sikhs to be misidentified as Muslims. Everyone is proud of who they are and doesn’t want to be mistaken for someone else. But the tone of the article makes it plain that that simple, innocent reason (group identity) is not the motivation for the Sikhs’ complaints, and for the unfortunate tone of the article.

It is especially ironic that Mr. Mundy goes on and on about the need for people to accept each other’s differences and “see God” in one another, treat each other as equals, etc. I was agreeing with him until the last paragraph of the article, when he made it clear that he was referring to Sikhs and Christians/Jews/secularists reaching an understanding.

Muslims are specifically excluded by him, looked down upon, condescended to and treated as The Enemy and The Other.

For example, Mr. Mundy is quoted as saying: “Sihks are peace-loving people. Our women have equal rights. The faith is totally different from [that of] the Muslims. … We are patriots also.” The implication is so clear, it’s like a pimp slap across the face: Muslims are not peace-loving people, are not patriots and Muslim women do not have equal rights.

It appears that Mr. Mundy is a good old-fashioned American bigot, in spite of his turban, and I have a similar opinion of the author and editor of this article. I have that opinion because they uncritically quoted him without any follow-up questions or clarification, without probing the reasons behind his apparent attitude, without even quoting a Muslim for balance. What kind of bigoted, slipshod “journalism” is this anyway? What is the point of your article?

It seems that even left-wing papers like SN&R, which decry the Iraq war and other conservative causes, still endorse discrimination against Muslims. Why don’t you treat us like human beings and actually talk to us?

R. R. Stallmann

SN&R’s clownish history

Re “No clowning around” by Kel Munger (SN&R Essay, May 29):

SN&R’s editorial board was shocked by media figures kicking lesser-known mayoral candidates around? Boy, that’s a surprise!

In the 2003 California gubernatorial recall election, SN&R led the California media pack in kicking lesser-known gubernatorial candidates around. With 135 candidates running, many with impressive credentials, SN&R featured just five or six of the most notorious publicity seekers, all with the aim of discrediting the entire election, ignoring all the others. Nothing like kicking around the weak to show you mean business. Why the change?

I can only hope that the slovenly gatekeeping exercised by the national media over the last decade, which led directly to the Iraq war, has caused some rethinking even on SN&R’s editorial board. Elections are always vital and should never, ever be scorned. Candidates are rarely frivolous: It’s a weary, expensive process to chase votes. Fringe candidacies often announce the birth of important new political forces. Democratic presidential politics example: 1972’s Shirley Chisholm led ultimately to 2008’s Barack Obama.

Overlooked constituencies generally have only fringe candidacies to push new ideas into the political mainstream. The 2003 recall election example: Several candidates championed the rights of noncustodial divorced fathers in California courts. It’s an oddball political issue, and if you read SN&R faithfully, you will remain blithely ignorant to it, plus being completely blindsided if it ever develops into something bigger. The media in general and SN&R in particular must stop righteously abusing public-spirited citizens for wanting to enter the political process. I’m glad SN&R put away the pins and voodoo dolls, at least until the next election.

Marc Valdez

Careful with that pot

Re “Healing power of pot” by Nick Miller (SN&R Feature, May 22):

Modern marijuana is beautiful and extremely potent. Prolonged use can be toxic to the liver and kidneys. Marijuana can make you very, very sick. Be careful, folks.

C. Creo

Good news on the arts scene

Re “The worst cuts are the deepest” by Estee Lee (SN&R Frontlines, May 22):

I appreciated your recent story reporting how the proposed state cuts in education funding will lead many local school districts to cut vital programs, including art and music. The old adage, “You get what you pay for,” certainly applies here. California kids will not receive the well-rounded education they deserve if we keep subjecting our schools to budget cuts.

There is a still a bit of good news, which your story missed. Separate from the overall cuts to education, the governor’s proposed state budget continues to include over $100 million earmarked for K-12 arts education. So while districts are confronting overall budget shortfalls, they will still receive an allocation just for the arts.

At the end of the day, we need both well-funded schools and a targeted investment in arts education. As long as schools are struggling to survive, no program can really flourish.

Mark Slavkin
Los Angeles