Letters for September 1, 2011

Letter of the week

Facebook kills privacy

Re “Facebook fatigue” by Adrianne Jeffries with Ted Cox (SN&R Feature, August 25):

New and improved privacy controls? This is kind of funny, because this still doesn’t address the real issues regarding privacy, anonymity and information.

Let’s see: facial recognition software, plus information users provide, plus information collected that users don’t know they’re providing, plus data mining, plus information sharing and selling, plus technology users don’t know [the information] exists equals total loss of privacy rights, freedoms, and anonymity. It’s an open library for cybercriminals and corporations, and even the government!

Carlson Yamamoto
via email

Choose water

Re “Gasland cometh?” by Hugh Biggar (SN&R Frontlines, August 25):

What the practice of fracking comes down to is a choice between water or fossil fuel. The least California can do is regulate fracking. The best that California can do is change to locally focused economies that use much less energy, provide more jobs producing locally made goods and producing energy from renewable sources.

I choose water.

Robin Huffman

Buffett and apples

Re “The super rich & taxes” (SN&R Editorial, August 25):

Warren Buffet is not comparing apples to apples. Most of the rich get their income from capital gains, not wages. The capital gains rate is lower than the income tax rate on wages and there are no social security taxes (what you call payroll taxes) taken out of capital gains.

Mr. Buffett may be mega-rich, but he is not at all completely truthful, and he can write a big check for extra taxes to Uncle Sam any time he chooses to do so.

Dennis Johnson

Only the rich shall ride?

Re “Rail debate’s on the wrong track” by Cosmo Garvin (SN&R Bites, August 18):

This is just crazy! We are going to spend billions on a high-speed train that only the very well-to-do will use while everyone, including the poor, will be picking up this bill yet never be able to afford to use it. Hello! Our streets are falling apart! Our police departments are getting cut! The disabled are getting cuts! We have up to 2,000 people/children homeless on any given day here in Sacramento alone.

Only the rich and politicians who travel from [Los Angeles] to the capital will really benefit from this while everyone will have to pay for this. What are they thinking?

Sharon Blasingame

Fewer people = less infrastructure

Re “Rail debate’s on wrong track” by Cosmo Garvin (SN&R Bites, August 18):

Arguing that the state’s growing population warrants high-speed rail ignores another option. At a fraction of the cost of HSR, an investment in family-planning services would dramatically reduce the growth of California’s population, reduce unplanned pregnancies, reduce the need for infrastructure, save billions in social costs of unwanted children, and reduce greenhouse gases and consumption of resources.

Build, build, build is unsustainable. Let’s break the vicious cycle now.

Also, the projected (optimistic) revenue of $4 billion would not even cover the debt-service cost for this project.

Evan Jones

Pay, but how much?

Re “Pay to PLA?” by Cosmo Garvin (SN&R Frontlines, August 18):

I guess SN&R was not aware of a new USC-reviewed study by The National University System Institute for Policy Research, entitled “Measuring the Cost of Project Labor Agreements on School Construction in California,” has determined that using PLAs on California prevailing wage school construction adds between 13 percent and 15 percent to the cost. The study is available in electronic (.pdf) format at www.thecostofplas.com.

This study follows five other studies done in the last 20 years, all but one of which found that PLAs cost more than straight prevailing wage construction.

Kevin D. Korenthal
executive director
The ABC California Cooperation Committee

The editor replies: The report Mr. Korenthal refers to is cited and discussed in the article.

No paid signature gatherers …

Re “No ‘pay to play’” (SN&R Editorial, August 18):

The problem with the initiative process in California is that wealthy individuals and corporations can spend millions of dollars qualifying measures by using paid signature gatherers. Once on the ballot, these same wealthy folks and corporations can spend millions more on deceptive advertising to convince voters that the measure will do the exact opposite of its intended purpose. Enough voters are often swayed by these deceptive campaigns to pass the measure. After the fact, the voters find that the people who will benefit from the initiative won’t be rank and file Californians but, instead, the very same wealthy people and corporations that put it on the ballot in the first place.

If we really want to reform the process, we need to do away with paid signature gatherers altogether. If an idea is truly appealing, the organization trying to qualify it for the ballot should certainly be able to find enough volunteers to collect the signatures, thus making it an actual grassroots campaign. If enough volunteers cannot be found to do the legwork, then it doesn’t need to be on the ballot.

Bruce Fairbanks
via email

… or just no initiatives?

Re “No ‘pay to play’” (SN&R Editorial, August 18):

[Senate Bill] 168 was a waste of time. It would not have changed the real issue, which is special interests (liberal, conservative, and other) still plunking down as much money as democracy can buy.

Real reform is needed, not play-pretend reforms that only make a tiny fragment of the picture less muddy. End the initiative system now!

Andy Reddson

Criticism for the critic

Re “The road to WTF” by Patti Roberts (SN&R Stage, August 18):

I give Ms. Roberts review only [half a] star. Wonder of the World at Big Idea Theatre is one of the finest, funniest plays I’ve seen in 10 years; performed flawlessly by a professional level cast. Do not miss it—theater doesn’t get any better than this!

John Heinen

We need Nirvana and Iggy Pop

Re “Recycle, abuse, seduce, retard” by Nick Miller (SN&R Sound Advice, August 18):

I completely agree with your assessment of Outside Lands. I’m 24, but, dear God, I felt old and out of touch.

What happened to bands that know how to rock out and not give a shit? The only one I saw approaching some good, hard, power-trio-feeling rock and roll (besides some of the big name acts) was the Joy Formidable. It’s like someone asked, “How many bland and pretentious electro-pop bands can we book for one festival, and how many 19-year-olds that dress in hippie clothing for one weekend a year can we get to come see them?”

I listen to a ton of electronic music, but where is the balance? Where are our Nirvanas and Iggy Pops?

Ian Benton
Fair Oaks

Be nice to Josh Groban

Re “Josh Groban” by Rachel Leibrock (SN&R EightGigs, August 18):

“Artless” music? You don’t have to like it, but by using that word you’ve as much as admitted that you haven’t actually listened to it. It’s not to everyone’s taste, but it embodies the fine art side of music.

Please stop taking lazy, cheap shots and offer actual criticism if you can’t be positive.

Kevin Palance
via email

‘Amazon’ use tax makes sense

Re “Where’s the integrity?” by Judith Redmond (SN&R Essay, August 11):

You make a good point; reporters, lawmakers, and lobby groups go out of their way not to present the true facts.

Sales taxes were invented in the 1930s and were never designed for mail order, or today, the Internet. It’s fine for one store with one location and one tax rate—and the same applies when you pay a use tax (you know, that one rate in your own county).

Here is the problem online business faces: Across the U.S., there are over 8,000 tax districts, and none are defined by zip code. In Myrtle Beach, S.C., for example, they have a 3 percent tourism tax. The problem is, Myrtle Beach has three zip codes, and the city is divided by all three. Does a buyer with a Myrtle Beach zip code owe 6 percent or 9 percent? Neither Myrtle Beach nor the South Carolina Department of Revenue has any software to figure the correct tax online.

Now, a large company like Amazon does have that software, but still—remittance is a pain, as depending on state law, you need to cut a check to the city, county and state.

Oh, what a web lawmakers weave! Even the proposed law in California only starts to simplify the process, but leaves many loopholes that only the collection of a use tax will cover.

Keith Yockey

Watering the suburbs

Re “Wake up call” by Hugh Biggar and Cosmo Garvin (SN&R Feature, August 4):

If the “per capita” water use of Sacramento is being calculated by measuring all the water used in the Sacramento area and then dividing that quantity by the number of Sacramento residents, the numbers would not reflect the fact that every weekday, thousands of people clog highways 5, 50, 80 and 99 commuting into Sacramento, where they do their part contributing to Sacramento’s water usage without being counted as residents for the purposes of determining the “per capita” figures.

I know Sacramento’s dry heat fries lawns, and I know that the comparable cities have commuting downtown office workers, but I have a tough time believing that Sacramento residents use twice as much water as San Diegans.

John S. Smith