Letters for September 15, 2005

Whose safety?

Re “Safety first” (SN&R Guest comment, September 8):

Ms. McLearan of Planned Parenthood writes a great article. But before one buys into her opinion, one must wonder about her objectivity. One must also remember that she earns her living in a place that rips living fetuses (remember Conner Peterson?) out of teenage children without the knowledge or consent of their parents. Makes one think, doesn’t it?

Dennis G. Diede
Elk Grove

Why does Jill Stewart hate teachers so much?

Re Mr. Nice Guy” by Jill Stewart (SN&R Capitol punishment, September 1):

With her continued smearing of the performance of teachers in California, I am left to wonder if Ms. Stewart has a personal vendetta against educators. Did a teacher harm her fragile self-esteem?

Once again, she throws out false information and anecdotal evidence, and overlooks what is really taking place in education in California. To begin with, “incompetent local school boards” have no input and never have regarding the strict teaching standards imposed by the state. District administration and classroom teachers are responsible for implementing standards in the classroom.

In addition, to state that the 320,000 teachers who teach our children “very often don’t know what to do with the time” is insulting.

Does she have any idea what courses students are taking? I am a classroom teacher who currently teaches an English Language Arts (ELA) Support class, an extra period designed to bring students up to grade-level standards in their regular core ELA classroom. Similar programs are in place for ELA and math at both junior-high and high-school levels. Remedial reading classes at the junior- and senior-high level for students reading three grade levels or more below the standards have been required for the last four to five years.

The resulting elimination of electives in high school and core classes in junior high hardly constitutes changes that “wouldn’t be fair to the other subjects,” not to mention that the data she cites is from “the late 1990s.”

She does throw a bone to teachers—“wonderful people doing a hard job”—but follows it up by stating that they use “uneducated hunches that backfire with such stunning regularity you could make book on it.” School districts across the state are closely monitoring student performance and implementing standards-based assessments at each grade level—hardly “uneducated hunches.”

Reforms on addressing teacher performance need to be implemented. But we should remember the reason why “test scores are finally edging upward.” It’s the hard work being done by classroom teachers and school districts, not by school boards, not by the state superintendent of education and certainly not by uninformed editorial columnists.

Scott Rauschkolb
North Highlands

Don’t judge Cindy

Re “Cindy’s been co-opted” (SN&R Letters, September 1):

I had the opportunity to meet Cindy Sheehan in Crawford, Texas, and Frederick Cianci, you couldn’t be more wrong about her. Maybe you should meet her before you judge her and spread misinformation about her and the rest of us who oppose the war and grieve for the more than 1,800 sons and daughters lost.

At Camp Casey, I met Iraq vets, gold-star parents, Texans with two kids in the military who didn’t vote for George W. Bush, Vietnam vets, Gulf War vets and people like me who don’t want to stand by and do nothing while more people die.

Casey didn’t die for something he believed in; he died because he wanted to go to college, and his parents didn’t have the money to send him, like so many kids who join the military. Do you think the Iraq vets I met who oppose the war want to “diminish their sacrifice”? Mr. Cianci, does your yellow “support the troops” ribbon magnet stand for all the troops, including those who oppose the war? Or is it just for the ones who agree with you?

Vanessa M. Rose

The Code Pinking of Cindy

Re “Gold stars in the heart of Texas” by Ryan Rose (SN&R News, September 1):

Cindy Sheehan could have been a powerful symbol: a grieving mother standing alone in front of the commander-in-chief’s residence. But Ms. Sheehan chose a different symbolism.

By embracing the liberal fundamentalists of the Democratic Party, whose mindless anti-American animus and phony moral posturing is epitomized by organizations such as Code Pink and Veterans for Peace, she squandered that precious opportunity.

As you read this, Code Pink anti-war protesters are taunting, with impunity, our seriously wounded soldiers at Walter Reed hospital. As a combat veteran of Vietnam, I can’t think of anything more despicable.

Dennis McMurray
Nevada City

Cindy’s genuine

Re “Cindy’s been co-opted” (SN&R Letters, September 1):

I have met Cindy Sheehan and heard her speak at a Sacramento for Democracy meeting. I’ve read her letters. I’ve witnessed her warmth and her pain. When she speaks, she looks straight into your eyes.

I think it’s important that people know that Cindy is not a “crackpot” or “publicity whore.” She’s no one’s “puppet” or “shill” or “co-conspirator.” She is not “anti-America,” “anti-troops” or “anti-democracy.”

She is an American woman, a mother who was happy with her apolitical life until her son Casey was killed in Iraq in April 2004, and she later learned of the lies presented to the American public to justify the invasion of another country that had made no threat to America, possessed no weapons of mass destruction and had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11.

As the death toll of both U.S. troops and Iraqi citizens mounted, she decided she could no longer remain silent.

I ask every parent, sibling and spouse to look into their own hearts and ask themselves, “How would I react if I learned one of my loved ones had died for a lie?” The answer may surprise them.

Amanda Ridge
West Sacramento

Less waste with little effort

Re “Wasted away in Sacramento” (SN&R Guest comment, August 25):

Heather Wokusch sees the United States just as I do, yet I’m age 84, born and raised here.

It seems every good thing to be done in the environment, politics or business is totally controlled by big money with little or no concern.

Daily, I drive near Sunrise Boulevard in Rancho Cordova. No one obeys the speed limits. I drive the 45-mph speed limit, and nine out of 10 cars pass me. If we cut the speed limits five or 10 mph, especially on freeways and boulevards like Sunrise, we’d save more gasoline than by driving little cars.

W. Bain
Fair Oaks

Thanks, Joey

Re “Never can say goodbye” by Joey Garcia (SN&R Arts&culture, August 25):

I just wanted to send a quick note to tell you I appreciated this article.

I am notorious for intentionally neglecting a relationship in an effort to end it. “Ignore, ignore, ignore” has been my philosophy for years. Joey’s right; it’s a disrespectful tool used to protect my own image of myself.

I wrote a bit of her article on a Post-it note and keep it stuck to my monitor: “When we tell someone the truth, we are saying, in effect, ‘You are someone of value, and I am someone of integrity.’”

Michael Ash
via e-mail

Correlation is not causation

Re “Mercury and meds” (SN&R Editorial, August 18):

I was deeply shocked by the poor research and irresponsible views presented in this editorial. Frankly, this story is quite easy to get correct, and the promulgation of the wrong story has devastating consequences.

There is no “almost certain link” between thimerosal in vaccines and autism. Far from being “suppressed,” this is an old story, yet parents fearful for their children’s neurological development continue to be taken in by it, with the help of poor reporting such as this editorial.

Since the initial study by [Andrew Wakefield in The Lancet] (based on 15 cases, anecdotal evidence and no science—Wakefield himself only speculated a connection between vaccines and autism; he didn’t claim one), the possible causal link between vaccines, mercury and autism has been carefully and repeatedly investigated, and no clinical data whatsoever has been found. These studies have been done in several countries and numerous institutions—they were not performed with “an agenda” by the drug companies.

In the meantime, there’s been good evidence found for a genetic component for autism.

Whatever the cause, whatever the reason for the increase in cases, it is the height of irresponsibility to push a false cause. The scare factor has led to millions of parents worldwide refusing to vaccinate their children. In the first six months of this year, 40,367 children in the United Kingdom came down with mumps—a completely preventable and potentially serious disease—10 times the number of cases than in the same period in 2004.

I cannot conceive why, with a world-class institute that specialized in autism less than 20 miles away (UC Davis’ MIND Center), the author of the editorial would rely on poor data and worse science. Say it again, folks: Correlation is not causation. It’s true that 100 percent of people who ate fried chicken in 1880 are dead. This is not a reason to legislate against KFC.

I’m all for looking closely at Bill Frist’s motives and possible “gimmes” to drug companies and other corporations. But as far as trying to protect Eli Lilly and Merck against lawsuits by the parents of autistic children, if his legislation can do that, kudos to him. There is no link, and the makers of vaccines shouldn’t pay for damages they didn’t cause.

Jane Albusche