Letters for September 13, 2007

Take the train!

Re “Don’t take flight” (SN&R Ask A Treehugger, September 6):

Treehugger’s piece regarding air travel should have included passenger rail as another alternative to driving.

According to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in 2005 automobiles and airlines consumed 27 percent and 20 percent more energy, respectively, per passenger-mile than Amtrak. In addition to energy intensity, the Financial Times reported last May that because planes emit greenhouse gases at higher altitudes, the global-warming impact is twice as much.

Amtrak’s trains have annual ridership of almost 25 million, and it’s obvious that without rail, people would be forced to either drive or fly, resulting in more pollution and even greater dependence on foreign oil. In addition to improving and expanding the current intercity rail system, high-speed rail is also essential in heavily populated corridors in Florida, Texas, and even here in California, to alleviate congestion and pollution caused by a lot of short-haul flights. Even former executives from Continental and American Airlines said in last month’s Wall Street Journal that high-speed rail is the best for short-distance travel.

Let’s improve Amtrak’s intercity system and establish high-speed rail to combat global warming and reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil while meeting the economic and travel needs of the 21st century.

Randell Hansen
treasurer, Train Riders Association of California

It’s about the money

Re “Holding all the cards” by Cosmo Garvin (SN&R Feature Story, August 30):

Sorry Mr. Esparza has to pay $500 a month for family health coverage. I pay $800 for single coverage. Seems Cosmo Garvin failed to mention the portion of the premium that Blue Diamond Growers pays on behalf of Esparza. In agriculture and food processing, it is very rare that anyone gets health benefits, much less the 401k program that BDG provides.

The real issue behind the move for unionization at BDG is to get higher wages. The fact that BDG already pays the highest wages in the industry is not relevant to the union organizers, nor apparently to Garvin, since the fact was not presented in his article.

SN&R readers should know that BDG is a co-op owned by California almond growers. There aren’t any wealthy fat cats in New York reaping millions from the underpaid workers in Sacramento. If the members of BDG see their neighbors getting a higher return from small competitors located in rural areas, often employing underpaid illegal immigrants, they are going to leave BDG and take their product with them.

I worked for BDG for nearly seven years and know the company provides a clean, safe working environment and is fair in their dealings with employees.

B.R. Meng
via e-mail

Remember the hops riot

Re “The hops of wrath” by David A. Kulcyzk (SN&R Feature Story, August 30):

This story is a great reminder to those of us who now enjoy the benefits of a lifestyle of abundance, although many of us don’t look at it that way. These workers’ stand against exploitive and unfair labor represents the fight that occurred to bring working people that abundance.

Young people, listen and remember what it took to get us where we are, and the fight still goes on and will need new fighters. I hope you are listening.

Tim DeHerrera

Not buying Bonds

Re “Taking stock of Bonds” by Jay Feldman (SN&R Essay, August 30):

Jay Feldman’s essay regarding Barry Bonds and steroid use never states the obvious: from 1989 to 2000, Barry Bonds looked like Tarzan. In 2001, he showed up to play baseball looking like the Incredible Hulk. His yearly home-run average jumped from 35 per season from 1989 to 2000 up to 55 per season beginning with his “hulk” years.

As Bob Costas said on PBS the day after [Bonds] broke Hank Aaron’s record, “I don’t know what Barry Bonds was using, but I know he was using something.” The fact that Bonds never tested positive for illegal steroids ignores the number of unknown designer drugs that are available to athletes that haven’t yet been identified and banned.

Feldman’s facile analysis about American society and racism doesn’t go deep enough. The African-American response to O.J. Simpson and Bonds just goes to show that they are as willing to deny, rationalize and/or ignore the obvious faults of their cultural celebrities as any other group of people.

It’s not racism at work, Mr. Feldman. It’s a worldwide, human phenomenon known as “tribalism.” It’s the “us vs. them” mentality that describes the behavior of high-school football teams, bigots of every stripe, political parties, African-genocide movements, and even Shiite vs. Sunni murder in Iraq.

Mr. Feldman can persist in his liberal whining that America will never be a colorblind society. But tribalism is a human condition that everyone needs to be aware of. It’s more than just an American sin that liberals enjoy feeling guilty about.

Daniel E. McMasters

Possession is a problem

Re “Nugg life” (SN&R Feature Story, August 23):

The reported penalty for [marijuana] possession under an ounce is misleading. There are more consequences than a fine. It is a misdemeanor; that means that it goes on your record. You must disclose it to future employers when asked—until you have it expunged. Even then if you ever want to get a state license or be employed by the government—lawyer, doctor, real estate, CPA, etc.—you must disclose the conviction. While most people don’t care about a possession conviction, it is still there and could affect you much later in life. So while you wont go to jail, it isn’t as simple as paying a fine.

Seth Jones
via e-mail

Just say ‘treatment’

Re “The Pot Issue” (SN&R Feature Story, August 23):

It was with great interest I read SN&R’s “The Pot Issue.”

Marijuana is a problem on several fronts. First off, it is illegal, and carries the full weight of repercussions associated with such crimes, from serious to seriously inconvenient. One example is that anyone under the age of 21 convicted of marijuana, (alcohol, or other drug offense) faces a 12-month driver’s license suspension, regardless of whether the offense was driving-related.

Although medical marijuana is used for pain relief, glaucoma or movement disorders, it is most commonly used as a recreational drug. As a psychotropic substance, marijuana acts primarily upon the brain’s central nervous system to bring about subjective changes in mood, behavior and perceptions that can feel favorable. On the other hand, many users have reported feelings of anxiety and paranoia associated with marijuana use.

Although experimentation with drugs can be a rite of passage, for many the continual and ongoing use can also lead to serious difficulties. Each user experiences a different high, and the nature of it may vary upon factors such as potency, dose, chemical composition, method of consumption and setting. The fact is: marijuana retards feelings and, in doing so, shifts perceptions. It can make you feel good in the way any numbing agent takes the edge off.

SN&R’s articles and sidebars reference plenty of statistics about marijuana, but the fact remains that no matter if you are for or against marijuana use, research shows it alters brain function, resulting in temporary changes in perception, mood, consciousness and behavior. The effects are especially dramatic in developing minds.

Currently 76 percent of the youth seeking treatment at Strategies for Change have identified marijuana as their primary drug problem. Moreover, the level of crime associated with such use is concerning. Theft, vandalism, violence and participating in other crimes are general catalysts that direct youth to seek treatment at my facility. One of my youth counselors reports that all of her clients were high when committing their crime, which of course raises the question, if they were not high, or involved with marijuana use, would they have committed the crime or act of violence? The relationship between crime and drug use seems to be intertwined.

Life can be challenging, it can be fun and it is always precious. Marijuana changes perception, mood and behavior. Many use it to feel good, but we have found that more commonly than not, it is a way of hiding from ones true self and living ones dreams.

Cynthia Keeth
executive director Strategies for Change

Corrections and clarifications

A typographical error in “Red? Yellow? Star? Stripes?” (SN&R News, September 6) changed the meaning of a paragraph that should have read: “Therein lies one of the chief causes of the younger generation’s misconceptions about the Vietnamese flag and, by correlation, about their heritage. Their recent memory overshadowed by life in America, the youth may not think to or want to discuss the history that brought their families here.”

In our grief, we misspelled the first name of our dearly departed colleague Ralph Brave’s girlfriend, Kathi Sylva (“In memory,” SN&R News, September 6).

In “Caffeinated Sacramento” (SN&R’s Goin’ Sac, August 30), the incorrect name and cross streets were given for Javalounge, which is actually at 2416 16th Street.

“And it stoned me” (SNR Dish, August 23) reported there is a lounge upstairs at Stonegrill & Bar. There is not—although we did get the address right (2110 L Street).