Letters for January 5

Readers sound off on our music criticism, Oakland critics, and Oakland crime.

“Crime Dropped Significantly Under Dellums,” Full Disclosure, 12/15

Crime Isn’t Down

It would be wonderful if crime were down. Unfortunately, we can’t draw that conclusion.First of all, forget about homicides. A majority of them are bad guys killing bad guys over drug deals gone bad, turf wars, and the like. There has never been a consistent correlation between homicide numbers and crime numbers in general.

Next, consider reporting of crimes. There is always some crime not reported, so the issue is whether the rate of non-reporting crimes to the police has increased. The obvious factor in Oakland is official discouraging of crime reports. As staffing drops, the police have been increasingly unable to respond, and last summer the department had to make it official, announcing that police will not respond after the fact to investigate and take reports on many types of crimes. Now the resident must be web-savvy and motivated to file a report online. No report, no statistic.

It is suggestive in this respect that “the only two exceptions were residential burglaries and robberies, which rose 31 percent and 38 percent, respectively, from 2007.” (That’s a huge increase!) These are more likely to be covered by homeowner insurance, and insurance companies demand to see the report filed with the police.

For a few months in early 2009 the city had more than eight hundred police. The officers used their strength to take measures they cannot carry out today. The city council laid off eighty police last June 30, and the current two-year budget eliminates training academies to replace retiring and resigning officers.

It doesn’t look as though Oakland will give up its current title as fifth most dangerous city in the United States any time soon. Not on the streets and at our homes, no matter what’s entered in the books.

Charles Pine, Oakland

“Oakland Won’t Have to Pay $15 Million,” Seven Days, 12/15

Tweet More

I actually think the best way to do this is to have two Twitter accounts, one that is your official sounding board (@NAME), the other that is the one you use to reply to Twitter comments, and be more conversational (@NAMEtweets). Then people who really want to know everything you have to say can follow the second account if they want, and most people will follow the main account. Works very well.

Paula K. Wirth, Oakland

“Against Immigrants, Not Latinos,” “Quan’s Undocumented Parking,” Letters, 12/15

Go Live in Boise

I love how every few weeks I pick up the Express and read about how yet another not-racist white person doesn’t hate Mexicans, but by golly, they really want those pesky “illegals” to GTFO.

Or better yet, another jackass manifesto from someone who is too scared to set foot on Oakland soil but still feels qualified to sling mud at Mayor-elect Quan using every racist cheap shot in the book.

Well hey. Here’s a racist cheap shot from a middle-aged white man who was born in Oakland and has lived one mile from downtown for 43 years:

White people (or anyone really), if you don’t live in the inner East Bay, please STFU and keep your bigoted opinions to yourself. We already know how you feel by virtue of your mailing address, and those of us who do like Oakland — warts and all — are totally sick of your sh*t.

Go live in Boise or some other crap Teabag militia town. Clearly, the color brown clashes with your bedsheets and you’re never going to be happy no matter what happens here.

Erik Kolacek, Alameda

Local Licks, 11/10

Intrigued by Twaddle

I have now read any number of Ms. Swan’s attempts at journalism and cultural criticism. Her prose is pedestrian at best, cliché ridden at worst, as she apes the currently popular glib and sassy “style” that works only in the hands of a more talented writer; one capable of deeper thinking and the application of greater analytical skill.

I point specifically to a recent “critique” of singer-songwriter, Kathy Sparling. As Ms. Sparling works as a librarian, Ms. Swan apparently found it impossible to resist the opportunity for cheap and easy stereotyping of this profession in her review. “… The job seems to have affected her mid-range alto. She sings in a soft voice, lacing her words with over-pronounced Ts and ‘shh’ sounds. Those come from being a practiced whisperer.”

Really? Really, Ms. Swan? May I assume — and I shall since Ms. Swan is under no obligation to question her assumptions for publication — that this kind of banal, light weight, indeed truly offensive analysis comes from a mind incapable of moving past its tightly held cultural biases?

But I must now thank our so-called critic! Intrigued in the negative by this twaddle, I did some research (a trick I learned from a librarian, by the way) and found Ms. Sparling’s charming web site. The songs featured are beautifully crafted, melodic, infused with subtle wit and humor, and sung in the voice of an angel. More accurately, Ms. Swan, we might imagine that it is the uniquely literary quality of some of these songs that have been informed by Ms. Sparling’s profession. And I am grateful for it.

Mary McSherry, Fremont

“Cuts and Dueling Protests at KPFA,” Culture Spy, 11/10

Follow the 12 Steps

After speaking with Tracy, I found her viewpoint both entrenched and not open to reason. While I don’t know all the inner workings of the controversy, I do feel that Pacifica National Board is not handling the issue well, violating the union contracts in order to target specific people. Furthermore, executives at Pacifica make too much money relative to the other workers at member stations.

Personally, I’d like to see Pacifica, KPFA (and KPFK and others) follow the 12-Step model where all groups are autonomous and self-managing, and stations can use Pacifica to acquire excellent programming (Democracy Now!, etc.) without compromising the local control.Pacifica has made many mistakes in dealing with shows, and IMO this is yet another massive screwup.

However, when the executive director at Pacifica kept saying “this is not good radio” while going on the air for laying off the Morning Show, I had to disagree. Transparency in business dealings plus fighting with insensitive managers is perhaps some of *the best* radio I have heard on the air — period.Much love to KPFA staff!

A blogger, vlogger, former KALX volunteer, and supporter of KPFA & formerly KPFK, and supporter of Berkeley Community Media,

Ari Krawitz, El Cerrito

“A New Look at Recovered Memories,” News, 11/24

Incest Is Real

I read your article about the book My Lie by Meredith Maran. A number of things about the author and her book struck me as a little off.

Maran seems to be very strongly affected by whomever she is around. When she was on “planet incest” (!) she decided she was an incest survivor and her whole life was about incest. Then she joined “planet not incest,” and suddenly she was not an incest survivor. Is this for real? If she started hanging out with a lot of priests would she start to believe she was a priest? Or with schizophrenics, would she get herself committed? She does not seem to know her own heart and mind.

The incest survivors I know, and unfortunately there are many of them, had very specific memories long before they went to therapy. The memories were not vague and they were and are very painful. How convenient for Ms. Maran that she has discovered most recovered memories are lies. That way she does not have to be alone with her own mess. Or perhaps, as our culture found itself finally able to begin to discuss incest, the sheer numbers involved were unbearable for her.

If Ms. Maran were simply telling her own very painful story, I would feel really sad for her and her family. It is her arrogance in trying to somehow prove that there were a lot of incest survivors that had false memories that I find reprehensible.

Maran says she started to interview people who believed that innocent folks are accused of incest by their children and falsely imprisoned. Who are these people she spoke to? Are they members of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF)? Is this who Ms. Maran is spending her time with these days? If so, given her tendency to believe whomever she surrounds herself with, no wonder she thinks this way now. What if it turns out that most of these “false memory” folks are really pedophiles covering their asses?

Will that be the next revealing book by this woman: Oops, it was all true?

I am genuinely sorry if this story about Ms. Maran’s false accusation of her father is true. I am, however, disgusted by her attempts to cast doubt on all the people who really have been through the hell of incest.

I am disappointed that the Express is writing about this. Maran’s limited, if not grossly misleading, perspective is both vague and dangerous, since people would rather believe incest is rare. That gives a little more credence to the desire to disbelieve children who are being abused, or the stories of adult incest survivors. Perhaps you can do a story by and about people who are telling the truth about incest, to give some balance here.

D. Gordon, Oakland


In our 12/15 event preview, we omitted the credit on the photo for Becoming Julia Morgan. It was taken by Lori Barnabe.

In our 12/22 Year in Review story, “World of Punch Lines,” we got the year wrong that Moshe Kasher and Brent Weinbach started their comedy showcase at the Stork Club. It was 2004.

In our 12/22 movie review of True Grit, “The Dude, Not the Duke,” we misstated the length of John Wayne’s career. The Duke, in fact, made eleven films after True Grit, including a 1975 sequel called Rooster Cogburn. The Shootist was his last movie. He died in 1979 at the age of 72.


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