Letters for May 27, 2004

Let’s not play the Bush blame game

Re “Presidential puppet show” (SN&R Editorial, May 13):

Your editorial criticizes President Bush because he would only answer questions in private before the 9/11 Commission. However, you neglected to mention that former President Clinton and former Vice President Gore also testified in private. The public has not seen the testimony of Clinton or Gore, either.

You also chide Bush because a small group of conservative ideologues in his administration were on record as supporting regime change in Iraq well before Bush took office. Are you kidding? Regime change was the official policy of the United States under the Clinton administration, as well.

Probably the biggest whopper in your editorial is the suggestion that Bush’s actions had something to do with causing the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center took place in 1993 during Clinton’s presidency. Although I support President Bush, I would never suggest that Clinton had anything to do with causing the first World Trade Center attack. There have certainly been intelligence failures spanning several administrations, but let’s get real about who is responsible for the terrorist acts and place the blame where it belongs: on the radical Muslim extremists who committed them.

I believe that Bush’s policy of going after terrorists in the Middle East and establishing democracy in Iraq is the right policy, but reasonable people can disagree. It’s perfectly OK to oppose the war in Iraq and the re-election of President Bush, but you should at least present your facts in an evenhanded context when you do so.

Gregg M. Wardrip

It’s not easy being Iranian

Re “Iraq’s multiple personality disorder” (SN&R Guest comment, May 13):

It is difficult to have a serious discussion of foreign policy when writers in your publication seem to have learned their concept of “same-different” from Sesame Street. Don Sizemore’s amateur historical analysis looks at the Middle East and thinks of Europe. A more serious comparison would be to look at Iraq and think of Iran. While living in Iran in the 1970s, I encountered a fiercely nationalistic and proud population in spite of its ethnic, religious and tribal diversity.

Modern Iran was forcefully founded by the deposed Shah’s father, Reza Shah, a brutal dictator who united the disparate elements under a common flag, central government and national boundary. His son continued the nation building and modernization, giving women the right to vote and access to higher education and instituting land reform in the ’60s, over the strenuous objections of the ayatollahs. Today, a majority of Iranians are under 30, very pro-American and pro-democracy, and engaged in a counter-revolution against the clerics in Tehran.

Similarly, the people of Iraq were calling themselves Iraqis long before Saddam Hussein. In spite of the Western media hype, a majority of Iraqis are secular. It will not be their differences, but their common interest combined with a constitutional structure that will strengthen their unity. Sadly, there are too many citizens in this democracy disgracefully rooting for failure of Iraqi democracy for lame partisan reasons.

Dennis McMurray
Nevada City

Calling all benevolent despots

Re “Inside Najaf” by Paul Ferrell (SN&R News, May 13):

Every once in a while, I read an article in SN&R that reminds me of why I pick up the paper every Thursday, an article that reminds us of the value of the alternative press in America. So it is with Paul Ferrell’s report.

While the implications of Ferrell’s reportage can be terrible to contemplate, one cannot help but wonder what proportion of Najaf’s population does Muqtada al-Sadr truly represent? Let us not forget he “seized Najaf and the neighboring city of Kufa on April 4.” He was not elected mayor. Also, hundreds of moderate Shiites demonstrated in the streets of Najaf for al-Sadr and his gunmen to vacate the city.

The situation in Najaf is a microcosm of the war in Iraq. How we handle it may predict the outcome for the entire country.

Al-Sadr and his militia remind me of the [Irish Republican Army] in Northern Ireland. A few thugs can dictate the situation. His militia may use the cover of religion, but they are still thugs doing their own people a disservice. Just as in Northern Ireland, I am sure the majority of people want all the guns to go away so they can be left in peace. But if we leave, it is the thugs who will take over. If the thugs take over the entire country, eventually we may have to come back.

Expecting a real democracy in Iraq is unrealistic. We should be pleased with a one- party democracy or even a benevolent despot.

Mike Savino

Anyone opposing Arnold is a liar

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

It is truly pitiable that after all of these years, you still don’t get it! You are the problem, not the solution.

Sometime in the ’60s, journalists and journalism-school teachers decided that being an advocate for social change was more important than the hard labor involved in digging out and reporting the truth. Then, when Bob Woodward became a superstar, everybody joined the herd.

So, now we have a situation where no one can be trusted.

Bishops, doctors, editors, ministers, politicians and reporters are all “spin meisters,” a polite way of saying “opportunistic liars.”

Think I am being too harsh? Go back and look at all of the “journalists” who were on record as opposing the recall and the election of Schwarzenegger. You were unanimously opposed, particularly bogus “revolutionaries” of the alternative press such as SN&R.

Schwarzenegger has been exactly what California needed—a true agent of change who cares about the state.

Journalism as we used to know it can rest in peace. What we have now is entertainment. Please call me if someone is able to bring integrity back into style.

John Parks
via e-mail

What about me?

Re “Palace intrigue” by Jill Stewart (SN&R Capitol punishment, May 13):

Who are these “hotshot” state workers interested in “cost savings and reform” that Stewart mentions? The California Performance Review team is comprised of volunteers. Several members that I have met are very near retirement, and others are employees who could be spared from the daily tasks of running the state government.

As far as we worker bees know, they meet in secret under a charter that none of us on the outside has seen. Handpicked volunteers interact with appointed directors and deputies in preparing a report that must remain secret until June 30. How does one get to be a “hotshot”? The selection criteria were not made public, either.

How does any of this activity help me as a state worker and citizen of California? What makes this different from countless other public-relations ploys by governors of California? We get lots of surveys and pronouncements, but all the changes that take place end up making it harder for us to provide for our families.

I am very afraid that this is just the latest example of the governor blowing smoke.

R. Vennes

Cleaning up in almond country

Re “The Dirty Dozen” by Cosmo Garvin and Melinda Welsh (SN&R Cover, April 22):

We noted with interest your article. We take great exception to the information in the Blue Diamond section of the article, since it is based on an air-toxin-emission report that was generated in 1994 and does not represent the facts today. Since 1994, Blue Diamond has not been required to file air-toxin-emission reports because its potential risk number falls below the levels that require such reports. The report you base your information on is 10 years old!

Since 1994, Blue Diamond has removed the cogeneration boiler plant primarily responsible for the outdated information printed in your article. Blue Diamond installed a state-of-the-art propylene-oxide-removal system in 1994, which has resulted in a staggering 43-percent decrease in air contamination.

Blue Diamond cares about its community and works closely with local regulatory agencies to minimize the environmental impact of its facility on its neighbors. Blue Diamond contributes to its community’s well-being in many ways, including the after-school program at Washington Children’s Center; the B Street Children’s Theatre; Muir Park events; St. John’s Shelter for women and children; Safetyville USA; Big Brothers, Big Sisters; Children’s Receiving Home of Sacramento; and many other community projects.

Susan Brauner
director of public affairs, Blue Diamond Growers

Cosmo Garvin replies: As we stated in the story’s introduction, information about toxic releases from Blue Diamond and all other facilities were based on the Federal EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory data from 2001, which is the most recently available data. The cancer-risk number that was cited is the number that currently is assigned to Blue Diamond by the Sacramento Air Quality Management District.