Letters for March 31, 2005

Which is it, Jill?

Re “Midas in reverse” by Jill Stewart (SN&R Capitol Punishment, March 17):

Last fall, Jill Stewart took California voters to task for voting without sufficient knowledge of the candidates or issues (“Voting for dummies,” SN&R Capitol Punishment, October 28, 2004). In that column, she declared that “The real turkeys are the earnest types who complete their ballots, not knowing what in the world they voted for,” and concluded “But when you get to items that you know diddly about, why not choose democracy and not dumb-ocracy? Spare us your need to feel ‘involved.’ If you don’t know, don’t vote.” A rather derogatory and condescending attitude towards voters, but with some merit and a rather justifiable final message.

I find it strange, then, that Ms. Stewart reprimands her media colleagues for treating voters with this same attitude in her most recent column, declaring “I get the distinct impression that most media think of voters as poor, pathetic victims who cannot wade through the information thrown at them to find the true, decent, sensible proposals on the ballot.”

So which is it, Ms. Stewart? Are we voters to be trusted with the responsibility to cast informed votes based on the information available to us? Or are we to be treated like irresponsible children who are not worthy of full participation in the ballot process?

I’m quite certain you’d place yourself in the former category, but given the inconsistency of your comments, I’m tempted to toss you in with the other poor lost souls in the latter category. “And best of luck.”

Jodi Samuels

Critical letter

Re “Midas in reverse” by Jill Stewart (SN&R Capitol Punishment, March 17).

Although I am an “undereducated but well-paid teacher,” I do know something about logical fallacies—reasoning far removed from facts ,or conclusions based on too few facts. Some specific examples of logical fallacies that I found in Ms. Stewart’s article are: “card stacking,” “glittering generalities,” “false generalizations,” “name-calling,” and “loaded words.” If Ms. Stewart wants to find out the meanings of these terms, perhaps she should pick up a textbook on critical thinking.

Stewart states that “Proposition 39 has not produced better schools, largely because sparkling new schools have zero effect on learning” (glittering generalities) “as the math teaching genius Jaime Escalante proved years ago at his aging high school in East Los Angeles, jammed with 40 kids per class” (card stacking).

In defense of Mr. Escalante, he did accomplish a marvelous feat at his school, but a little research into the facts reveals his first few AP Calculus classes had less than 15 students. Only after he showed remarkable results did his class sizes balloon to 40 students.

And a check of the facts will reveal that “the same undereducated but well paid ‘certified’ teachers who can’t teach math—or reading” (false generalization) have consistently raised test scores in the state the last few years. Admittedly, the success is not across the board, and we still have along way to go. Nevertheless, at my high school, which serves students who are described as at-risk, we have met and exceeded both our API (Academic Performance Index) and NCLB (No Child Left Behind) goals the last three years.

Stewart states that “most media”—of which she is a part—“think of voters as poor, pathetic victims who cannot wade through the information thrown at them to find the true, decent, sensible proposals on the ballot” (loaded words, glittering generalities). I must agree that the initiative process is out of control in this state, especially when a gazillionaire governor (name-calling) can force his agenda through that same process rather than let our elected officials, or “girlie men” (name-calling, loaded words), in the state Legislature do their jobs.

Perhaps Ms. Stewart should do her own job rather than taking swipes at other people’s professions.

Scott Rauschkolb
North Highlands

Reasonable editorial for reasonable people

Re “War’s anniversary” (SN&R Editorial, March 17):

Thank you for a thoughtful and balanced editorial on the war in Iraq. Your editorial honestly presents the reasons for your initial opposition to the war, as well as the positive outcomes to date, most notably the fact that the people of Iraq have had the opportunity to vote in a real democratic election for the first time in decades.

As a supporter of the war, I have always believed that reasonable people could disagree and that all points of view should be respected. What I did not appreciate were all the one-sided hit pieces in the media that failed to acknowledge even the most basic positive accomplishments of the war, such as ridding the world of a brutal dictator and providing the impetus for democracy in Iraq and the greater Middle East. The writers of these articles seemed more intent on discrediting a president whom they didn’t like, rather than making a constructive contribution to public discourse.

Your editorial is correct that history will be the ultimate judge of the significance of the war. Thanks again for a mature assessment of the situation to date.

Gregg M. Wardrip

Schooled by guitar upside the head

Re “The awful truth” by Christian Kiefer (SN&R Arts&Culture, March 17):

Christian Kiefer writes well and is obviously wrestling with an issue of great importance, both to him personally and to the community.

The awful truth is that I rarely listen to the music produced by the downtown music scene because it makes me feel like that great illustration by Mike Gorman. The actual truth is that I prefer other modes of music.

Questions: When you were a learner, Christian, how did you best learn? Did someone take a guitar to your head? Wasn’t there sometime, someone who gave you a good word, a pat on the shoulder, a wink or nod of approval? Wouldn’t it be an act more in keeping with your given name to write only when you have positive things to say?

What exactly is your function as a music critic? To teach your hypothetical teenager to spend his $20 wisely? How about your responsibility to the music community? Is it fair to consider yourself a promoter of better music in the region?

M. H. Foster
via e-mail

If you can’t stand the heat, get off the stage

Re “The awful truth” by Christian Kiefer (SN&R Arts&Culture, March 17):

The generation who championed the philosophy of giving every child an award for something, no matter how mundane, thereby rewarding mediocrity and ignoring true excellence, is now bringing the same philosophy to print in some music reviews.

This is doing a disservice to the consumer who relies on these reviews when spending their time and money and it is also deluding the talent. Too many artists are pursuing dreams of stardom and wealth based on lack of positive criticism of their true capabilities. No one wants to be the “bad guy,” to tell the singer she is off key more than she is on, or tell the musician that his skills are roughly equivalent to those of a 4th grader. Instead, their egos are fueled with the belief that if anyone comes to see them, then they must have talent.

If critics are fearful that a negative review will cause someone with real talent to give up their dream of pursuing a career in music, they need to understand that the music business is full of rejection. If the artist doesn’t believe in themselves enough to keep going when met with one negative review, then it is better that they get out of the business now rather than waste more of their life before they get rejected on a larger scale.

People criticize “American Idol” critic Simon Cowell, but even with his brutally honest evaluations of talent, more people than ever auditioned, believing that they had true talent.

Critics should be fair: If a band was really bad one night, go see them again on the chance that they just had an “off” night. If the next performance is similar in quality, write an honest review. Unless you are a PR person, paid by the band, your obligation is to the readers/listeners of your outlet, not to the band. The music business is a brutal one, and you must remember it is a business. Only those with the talent, strength and perseverance will make it to the top.

Roxane R. Fritz
via e-mail


Re “Love thy neighbor” (SN&R Cheers! advertising supplement, March 17):

The baseball team the Sacramento Solons was mistakenly spelled the “Salons.” Also, the man identified as Joe Marty in the group photo was actually Bob Barthelson.