Letters for May 26, 2005

Some schmuck got stung

Re “Scandal-stung Bee columnist talks to SN&R” by Jeffrey M. Barker (SN&R News, May 19):

Who really knows what happened behind-the-scenes to cause the Bee to “investigate” Erwin, but if I had to bet, I’d say she wrote something that pissed off some big schmuck at the Bee, or some big schmuck in the community who has clout with the Bee. What a shame. Ms. Erwin seemed to be a true advocate for the underdogs.

As for R.E. Graswich being “embarrassed” by the scandal—is he kidding? He should be embarrassed by the inane blather he writes. His column reminds me of something printed in a junior high-school newspaper.

Carol Runge

Practicing fiction at the Bee

Re “Scandal-stung Bee columnist talks to SN&R” by Jeffrey M. Barker (SN&R News, May 19):

The public should shed no tears for the demise of Diana Griego Erwin’s career as a journalist. All too often her one-sided style of “reporting” would sympathize with those who accidentally ran over their child, blaming the SUV rather than the driver, or demonize truckers for running their rigs to stay warm (causing excess diesel emissions) during chilly winter mornings rather than fault the Home Depot for setting the early morning delivery schedule.

I hope the allegations against her are not true, but I just feel the public could have been much better served by Griego Erwin if she would not have pandered to saps, choosing instead to redirect attention to those who were truly responsible for much of what was reported in her column. We all lost on this one.

Time and time again, when given the opportunity to write a well-balanced column, we were only granted one point of view. How ironic is it that Griego Erwin may now pursue fictional writing, since her journalism career is effectively over. It appears that she was using the Bee for practice all along.

John Kuckowicz

Winner-takes-all = jigsawed districts

Re “Gerrymander jigsaw” by Jeffrey M. Barker (SN&R Cover, May 12):

Regarding the gerrymandering of legislative districts, the problem is not how the lines are drawn, but the winner-take-all nature of the contests.

The current system ensures that maybe 30-to-40 percent of the voters in a district have a representative hostile to their interests. Also, perhaps 10-to-15 percent of the voters vote for someone with whom they are unsatisfied due to the lesser-of-two-evils conundrum: If you vote for the candidate you really want, you are helping the candidate that you want the least. No amount of care in legislative district drawing can address the disenfranchisement caused by the winner-take-all system.

A better approach would be a system of proportional representation, whereby the number of representatives from each party is made to be proportional to the number of voters for that party. Voting statewide for parties would be one way to do that. Another solution would be to have larger districts with multiple representatives and ranked choice voting, as championed by Californians for Electoral Reform. This way the voters, rather than the lines on a map, would be in charge of deciding who gets sent to Sacramento.

Phillip Fujiyoshi

Even I can manipulate!

Re “Gerrymander jigsaw” by Jeffrey M. Barker (SN&R Cover, May 12):

I very much enjoyed Jeff Barker’s story on gerrymandering, particularly his description of his experiments with the Institute of Government Studies’ (IGS) redistricting database.

Several weeks ago, I conducted a similar experiment as part of some research I’m doing on minority-vote dilution, and was amazed by how easily the process can be manipulated—and by someone with ten minutes of experience using the computer program! Barker’s piece did an excellent job of demonstrating this. Well done.

Heather Barbour, fellow
New American Foundation

Give me proportional

Re “Gerrymander jigsaw” by Jeffrey Barker (SN&R Cover, May 12):

There’s a simple reason why none of the California redistricting proposals will work. Only in the United States do we think one person can accurately represent a diverse district.

Nearly every other democracy in the world uses a proportional system. So, instead of 80 districts, we could have 16 districts, each with five representatives. In a typical district, voters might elect two Democrats, two Republicans, and even an Independent, depending on the cross section of how people vote.

Every election would be competitive, and nearly every voter would be guaranteed meaningful representation. Gerrymandering would have no effect. The best part is that California can do this if the will is there. Puzzle solved.

Chris Jerdonek

What’s so annoying about equality?

Re “Sleepers” by Jill Stewart (SN&R Capitol Punishment, May 12):

As one of California’s “increasingly annoying feminists,” I want to correct Jill Stewart’s misconceptions about parental notification in her column.

I agree with Ms. Stewart that if a special election is held, it’s currently nearly impossible to tell how the issues will be decided. Where she and I differ, though, is on the importance of these issues.

Feminists are concerned about parental notification for two reasons, neither of which Ms. Stewart mentioned. We want to protect women’s health (including that of underage women), and we want to protect women’s rights. This isn’t a matter of grandstanding or making “bizarre arguments,” as she thinks.

We don’t want young girls risking their lives with self-induced miscarriages because they can’t tell their parents about their pregnancy. (Keep in mind that the girls who have good relationships with their parents tend to tell their parents anyway, as polls and studies on the subject show, so only the girls who need the most protection will be “outed” by a parental notification law.) We don’t want parents abusing their daughters in order to prevent them from having an abortion. We don’t want the state infringing on the rights of 50 percent of its citizens.

I suppose Ms. Stewart and I just have different definitions of “bizarre,” because these desires seem normal to me, a feminist, pro-choice Republican. We want to keep teens safe? We don’t want rights taken away from women? Why, that’s crazy!

Just because 31 states have parental-notification laws doesn’t make such laws correct. Nor are they correct because prominent Democrats favor them. A law that will result in harm to a vulnerable group will never be correct, and if such a belief makes me an “annoying feminist,” then I’m proud to wear the label. I hope to see my fellow annoying feminists (and parents and Democrats and Republicans and educators and health professionals, to name a few of the kinds of people who oppose parental-notification laws) at the polls.

Katharyn McLearan, grassroots coordinator
Planned Parenthood Mar Monte

A democracy drenched in oil

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

Does Steve Moore really believe that the American occupation is aiming at implementing democracy in Iraq? He couldn’t be that blind to all the facts that those of us who search for them find. The main reason for the U.S. occupation of Iraq is to control the oil and the geographic location. No more, no less.

The first reason given to the world of our ruthless invasion of Iraq was the weapons of mass destruction (WMD), none of which were found (how soon we forget). Then we started hearing of bringing democracy to the Iraqi people. Give me a break. We have approved the assignment of our buddy Al-Chalabi (remember him? The liar who told the Bushies about Iraq’s WMDs) as the minister of oil! No big surprise there.

The readers of SN&R know better than to be misled by this article. For a pollster with such high qualifications to make excuses for the occupation of Iraq is truly sickening. More so for SN&R to actually have published such a story.

Samira Al-Qazzaz

Paying to oppress others

Re “Rachel Corrie’s lesson” (SN&R Guest Comment, May 12):

I write to applaud and praise the fine guest comment from Natalie Cornett, just a high-school senior but writing in such a lucid, mature manner.

Rachel Corrie’s parents visited Sacramento last year and gave a moving program about their daughter, along with film clips from her all-too-brief lifetime. They also spoke as advocates for a Congressional Resolution, HR 111, which expressed regret for Rachel’s killing by an Israeli soldier driving an American-made Caterpillar bulldozer and called for an investigation.

Many of us were moved to write our Congressman, the late Robert Matsui, to ask him to be a co-author of this resolution. I received in reply a form letter hardly acknowledging my request. I was reminded at that point that Mr. Matsui had, earlier in his career, accepted a free trip and tour of Israel (something commonly accepted by Congress members and other up-and-coming American politicians). Clearly, this has proven to be a wise investment program for the Jewish state, ensuring the perpetuity of the annual $3 to $8 billion U.S. stipend (the exact figure is classified) given to Israel every year.

Don Knutson
via e-mail