Letters for May 19, 2005

Thumping the owl

Re “Humping the dolphin” by Christian Kiefer (SN&R Clubber, May 12):

I wanted to say that your column regarding the Owl Club was well-timed.

There were a host of posts on the Craigslist Sacramento musicians’ forum (http://sacramento.craigslist.org/muc) about the described problems that have been cropping up regarding booking/playing at the Owl Club. It had been disregarded as overly sensitive local musicians bitching. But your article has pinpointed the issues that most of these “whiners” described.

Though I can’t say the Owl Club is one of my frequented venues, I wanted to send you a thanks for honest reporting, as it were. I’m quite sure most people doing a show review would have completely skipped addressing the scenario described in your article, instead of noting the reality of the situation at hand.

Again, thanks for brutally honest reviews and local updates.

Ross Hoyt
via e-mail

Spare the Iraqis from spin

Re “War-zone pollster” by Sasha Abramsky (SN&R Cover, May 5):

So, Steven Moore’s idea of democracy in Iraq is to bring the Iraqi people the same spin and lack of in-depth political analysis that we have in our country. While spending months in Iraq, Moore proved that he may know less now than he did when he got there. He even managed to throw in a typical Arab stereotype by stating that you can’t “date” Iraqi women for fear of being hacked up by her brothers with swords.

Moore brags at his accomplishments, such as setting up 300-400 focus groups. Bravo! You have taught countless indigenous people how to use the tyranny of minority by thinking that the focus-group crowd really speaks for the rest of the people.

It is shocking that SN&R spent so much time on Moore. Did he create any democratic institutions? Did he teach the people how to get their garbage picked up, lights turned on, or acquire other municipal services, a skill that is the foundation of democracy?

What did all of this polling get the Iraqis? It didn’t get them direct democracy, because they can only vote for regional representatives, who in turn vote for the governing counsel. What are the poll numbers on Ahmed Chalabi being elected to the vice presidency? Was that the will of the people?

T. Farouk
via e-mail

It’s the oil, stupid …

Re “No oil for war” by Kevin L. Jones (SN&R News, May 5):

Your spin on Dan Lungren’s letter to constituents regarding his Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) position and your “gotcha” that his letter tied Iraq, war and oil together and was a break in the Republicans’ code of silence just isn’t helpful.

Of course Iraq is about the oil. There are plenty of sociopathic, murderous dictators we let stand because their countries offer no underlying (pun intended) economic interest. The lesson many among us learned from Vietnam was that going into a country only for political reasons and in response to amorphous geopolitical threats is stupid. Maybe that’s why a Democratic president didn’t do anything about the genocide in Rwanda.

A Monday-morning quarterbacking saying that the weapons-of-mass-destruction threat was a big conspiracy follows the same logic as saying that the whole Cold War was unnecessary. The Soviet Union and Saddam’s Iraq were closed societies where those caught pursuing espionage were subject to slow and painful deaths. That makes it difficult to recruit.

Let’s see if I can say it for Lungren. With our transportation system 97-percent dependent on petroleum, 60 percent of which is imported, we can’t let large domestic sources of oil such as in ANWR remain untapped. He does say that we should look for alternatives.

This is the reasonable approach. Not perfect, but if we acknowledge that going cold turkey isn’t therapeutic, it’s perfect enough. Instead of singling Lungren out with an “Ah-ha! He’s admitting the tie between oil and Iraq,” so that he can be shushed by his party, he and his words should be encouraged, applauded and depoliticized. This issue is too important to be left to the party hacks on either side.

Reed M. Benet

… and we always knew it

Re “No oil for war” by Kevin L. Jones (SN&R News, May 5):

Is this article news? Larry Goldstein, president of the Petroleum Industry Research Foundation, told the Wall Street Journal on January 16, 2003, “If we go to war, it’s not about oil. But the day the war ends, it has everything to do with oil.”

Sydney Bernard Smith
Dundalk, Ireland

What are those conservatives drinking, anyway?

Re “Think Pravda and the Bee” (SN&R Letters, May 5):

In his letter, Mr. Stewart demonstrates some wit when presenting his alternative captions to Tom Tomorrow’s This Modern World cartoon. But, unfortunately, he doesn’t stop there, and taking himself seriously, he labels The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Sacramento Bee, the San Francisco Chronicle—and, by extension, the Associated Press, Knight Ridder and Reuters—as being unreliable spreaders of liberal propaganda.

Today (May 6), I opened my Bee seeking coverage on the leaked Blair Cabinet memos, strong evidence that Bush lied to the American public and the Congress about his intentions in Iraq, including “shaping intelligence to meet those goals.” And where did the Bee—this “liberal, anti-Bush publication”—have the story? Back on page 10. And on page 1? A story about alleged political misdeeds involving the state Senate’s president pro-tem, a Democrat.

But I don’t want to shortchange Mr. Stewart, because he ends his letter by informing us that instead of relying on the above publications for news, one should trust talk radio and blogs.

Therefore, in order to offer its readers “propaganda-free news,” I suggest that SN&R invite Mr. Stewart to contribute a weekly column, where he can share with us the “news” that he has gotten courtesy of Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, The Drudge Report, Talon News, WorldNetDaily, BloggersforBush and the like.

And I even have a title: “The Further Dumbing of America.”

Has anyone checked the water in Lincoln/Roseville?

Don Negri

By the book on disability

Re “Disability in the Senate” by Jill Stewart (SN&R Capitol punishment, April 28):

Jill Stewart, in her recent article, makes a number of assertions that are mean-spirited, biased and plain wrong.

Ms. Stewart’s main contention is that Ms. Andrea Hoch is somehow going to get more money for the truly injured while taking it from those with minor injuries. The great method of this transition is the American Medical Association’s (AMA) Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment.

First, it is interesting that Guides actually states it should not be used to determine levels of permanent disability. On page 12, it states, “The Guides is not to be used for direct financial awards, nor as the sole measure of disability.” On page 13, it goes on to say, “Impairment percentages derived from the Guides criteria should not be used as direct estimates of disability.” This is precisely what Ms. Hoch has done with her new schedule of disability.

Ms. Stewart asserts that the new schedule will give greater benefits to the severely injured workers. That is wrong. Obviously, no higher award can be given than 100-percent disability. The assumption at 100 percent is that the individual is precluded from 100 percent of the labor market. He or she cannot compete for a job.

Under the old pre-Hoch schedule, there were several ways one might end up at 100-percent disability. For example, if an industrial injury caused you to completely lose your vision, it was considered 100-percent disability. An injury that resulted in being unable to breathe on your own was considered 100-percent disabled. If you were in a coma, suffered a head injury so severe as to cause you to require constant supervision and assistance to perform basic activities of daily living, or you were put into a wheelchair, you were considered to be 100-percent disabled.

The AMA Guides finds those injuries to be less than 100-percent impairment. For example, the Guides finds that an “individual has no capacity for spontaneous respiration … has a 90 percent impairment of the whole person” (pages 341 and 397). Or that 100-percent loss of visual ability is a 74-percent to 85-percent impairment of the whole person (page 298). How can Ms. Stewart argue that a 74-percent to 85-percent, or even a 90-percent, disability is more than 100 percent?

Mark A. Steinberg

Jill Stewart responds: His focus on the very small population of workers who end up in comas entirely misses the point. Under the reforms, thousands of workers now can seek treatment immediately, up to $10,000, without awaiting long paperwork approvals. They couldn’t before. Moreover, seriously injured people who are able to return to work but are handicapped by their injuries can now expect their employers to spend several thousand dollars to modify their workplace and their jobs, all so the employee can get his or her life back. It wasn’t provided before. These enormous sums of money, spent to ease the situation for truly injured workers, will help California shake its well-earned reputation for providing the worst benefits in the United States. Although later adjustments are always made by every U.S. state that has fixed its workers’-comp system, the focus by opponents on rare cases is a red herring.