Letters for May 13, 2004

Mainstream press needs beating

Re “Beat the Press” by Jeff Kearns (SN&R Cover, May 6):

Kudos to Jeff Kearns, and to Nancy Snow for “Get your warrior image on” (SN&R Arts&culture, April 22), for effectively reminding us of today’s media paradox: While huge quantities of instantaneous news are available, the perspectives are often incredibly constrained, politically manipulated and presented in seconds-long sound bites; biases abound; and entertainment, rather than information, is the order of the day. After all, the media is simply another competitive business driven by the bottom line.

As a result, the Department of Defense “sold” a controversial Iraq war to the American public by embedding journalists and showing “front line” action with less violence than typical prime-time TV shows. Ratings escalated. Once-purported links to Al Qaeda and [weapons of mass destruction] proved false, and we were told—by a more than willing press—that the Iraq invasion was for humanitarian purposes. The president kept touting that Saddam Hussein’s “rape rooms and torture chambers are gone.” Only after a year of occupation do we learn that these rooms and chambers still exist—unfortunately, they seem to be ours. That champion of “combat transparency,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, apparently kept the lid on this tragic and embarrassing “story” for months.

Closer to home, the Schwarzenegger regime keeps us entertained with muscle pageants, cigars and trips to Israel, while the real business of California—budget negotiations, casino gambling deals, workers’-compensation solutions and who knows what else—is conducted in secret. Having campaigned on “changing politics as usual in Sacramento,” our new governor manipulates the media and uses the “ballot card” to cajole and threaten the Legislature and voters into uncertain public policies. Oh, and by the way, what ever happened to that “investigation” into his alleged groping of women that he promised during his campaign? Guess the media forgot about that one.

So, where can we go for objective and useful information? Some of us retreat from the mainstream media and resort to a variety of sources: PBS; NPR; international sources such as the United Kingdom’s Independent and Economist papers; Internet sites like www.commondreams.org, www.rightmarch.com and www.moveon.org; election pamphlet arguments; and, of course, the fearless SN&R.

Chuck McIntyre

Levee trail for recreation, not recreational sex

Re “Manhunt” by Joe Dignan (SN&R Cover, April 29):

I’ve lived in Sacramento for 16 years and only ridden my bike along that stretch of the river twice. The first time was about eight years ago. There was a hole in a fence, and I thought I could get through to 12th Street. I ducked past a tough-looking man guarding this gate, only to find myself in a crack-smoking den. When I could find no exit on the other end, I was scared, thinking for sure he would knife me on the way out. I got the hell out of there and vowed not to return.

I did return last spring, and I took a buddy with me. We rounded a corner on the trail and, voilà, there were two men doing … whatever. They were sure surprised to see us. I laughed, but my buddy freaked out. He couldn’t wait to get out of there.

It’s pretty sad that this stretch of the river is off-limits for most folks. The trails are great down there, wild and twisty and laced with a canopy of wild grape and cottonwood. But I would never go there alone, and certainly not in the evening.

If men want to have sex, most people probably do not care. When they do it in public, then law-enforcement involvement seems appropriate. But in these times of dwindling resources, I have a better solution than expensive undercover teams: Let’s put a legally designated off-road bicycling trail right through that area. Make it part of a proposed “Discovery Loop,” which would ultimately place legal off-road bicycling trails on both sides of the river between Discovery Park and Sac State.

This proposal has the potential to turn large portions of the river that people are currently scared to visit—and rightfully so—into a place where the public can enjoy healthy recreation.

To find out more about the Discovery Loop, and the update to the American River Parkway Plan, please visit the Sacramento Area Mountain Bike Association at www.sustainableenterprises .com/SAMBA/.

Robert Horowitz
president, Sacramento Area Mountain Bike Association

Beautiful “Manhunt”

Re “Manhunt” by Joe Dignan (SN&R Cover, April 29):

Just a quick note to say I think this issue’s cover is maybe the best work I’ve seen on an SN&R cover since I started reading the paper in 1992 or 1993. Conceptually, editorially, it’s world-class art direction. I imagine you might get a little flak about it, but keep up the good work.

The paper’s looking better and better lately. Oh, and the writing is good, too.

Andy Markley

Bechtel’s version

Re “Fables of the reconstruction” by Jason Vest (SN&R News, April 22):

Jason Vest’s story illustrates the danger of relying on third-hand reports for your facts. In particular, it recites incorrect claims about Bechtel’s work in Iraq. It quotes an article by two other journalists, who, in turn, quoted an Iraqi plant manager’s claim that Bechtel had failed to supply needed parts to fix a steam generator. The fact is, as we told the original reporters, Bechtel specified what parts were needed, but the Coalition Provisional Authority was responsible for the purchase and delivery of those parts.

Mr. Vest’s story also recycles a quote from the earlier story speculating that work in the power sector was being held up because Russian, German and French companies could not participate in the rebuilding of Iraq. As we and [the United States Agency for International Development] have stated publicly, Bechtel is free to choose subcontractors from those countries. Indeed, our current list of subcontractors includes two German firms: Siemens and Standard Aggregatebau AG.

Francis Canavan
public affairs manager, Bechtel Iraq Infrastructure Reconstruction Program, Baghdad

Editor’s note: This letter mischaracterizes the quotation that it purportedly was sent to correct. The article did not state that Bechtel couldn’t subcontract with Russian, German and French firms; rather, it stated that firms from those nations were prevented from getting contracts in Iraq by President Bush’s policy.

More multiplexes? Cut!

Re “Closing credits, part deux” by Cosmo Garvin (SN&R News, April 29):

As a Midtown resident who frequents the many locally owned and historical restaurants and entertainment venues, I was extremely dismayed to learn of the planned subsidies to Westfield Downtown Plaza and Century Theatres. Both of these large corporations have no need for handouts from this city and will effectively destroy our beloved small businesses in downtown and the surrounding areas. I strongly oppose the Wal-Martization of the heart of our city.

The redevelopment funds proposed for these projects could be better used to build housing in our city center. Not only have housing developments, such as Metro Square, been extremely popular and prosperous in the last six years, but those residents will be more likely to frequent the surrounding businesses. Expecting suburbanites to flock to downtown for cookie-cutter offerings that they can find with greater ease in their own neighborhoods is a dead-end street. Build housing for those of us who appreciate diversity, history and artistic culture, and we will reward those types of businesses with our shopping and entertainment dollars.

Don’t make downtown into a corporate wasteland of chain stores, theme restaurants and multiplexes. Remember the Alhambra! Save the Tower Theatre!

Lisa Teeney

The goons are real

Re “Officers aren’t cartoon goons” (SN&R Letters, April 22):

No, the officers are not cartoon goons, but they are goons nonetheless. I believe that the newspapers, and especially SN&R, are very much on the money to report the corruption.

There are so many of those correctional officers (and I am not just getting this from any movie, newspaper article or cartoon) that are corrupt. We pay them to uphold the law, and when they break it, they are shielded because they are officers.

I don’t believe this “most officers are honorable” stuff, because it’s the “most officers” who ignore the bad officers causing the problems—those “most officers” have that code of not snitching on one of their own.

Kudos to SN&R for telling us when a rogue cop/correctional officer is doing something wrong, cartoon or otherwise!

Genesther Taylor