“Top Ramen for Life,” Feature, 11/10
It’s a Racket
The federal government has been making, not losing money on defaulted student loans for years. This is a key point that was left out of this article.
Alan M. Collinge, University Place, WA
Boycott Student Loans
A top bankruptcy attorney told me that student loans are the worst loans to get. He indicated that I would have been better off getting ten credit cards and maxing them out to pay for my college education. I’m 59 years old and went back to school after losing my job in 2003. I thought increasing my skills and marketability by getting a master’s degree was a wiser decision over collecting unemployment. IT WAS THE BIGGEST MISTAKE I’VE MADE IN MY LIFE!!! I received my degree and was making all my $1,000+ monthly Sallie Mae payments. Then I lost my job and have been diagnosed with a rare debilitating disease. My loans are in default and have skyrocketed. The bankruptcy attorney won’t even accept the case because it’s student loans and he won’t waste my money trying, until the laws change. I’ve had excellent credit all my life, and now my credit rating is ruined, and there’s no way out. There should be a national movement to BOYCOTT STUDENT LOANS!!! And maybe our banks and other financial institutions will begin to offer students college loans that include consumer protections, in the event that some unforeseeable crisis prevents you from repaying.
Ross Payson, Carpinteria
I Was Scammed
I can’t believe the implication that all students put themselves into default. I was managing my loans just fine until I consolidated with Sallie Mae. My loans were guaranteed loans and interest was paid as long as I was in school half time. I accrued 2 years of interest and went back to school. Sallie Mae never disclosed to me that adding an unsubsidized loan with subsidized loans would unsubsidize them all. I had one $2,500.00 loan that was unsubsidized and I never would have added that loan if the proper information was given to me. Not only that, it took me eight years calling weekly and monthly to find out what happened. They would never discuss my loan with me and I never received any paper work about my loan. Everytime I inquire I do not get the information I am requesting. In fact, at one point a lady told me my loan was none of my business. WHAT!!! I am certain they scammed me and I have no recourse. I want my loan back to the original amount of $37,000 at 8 percent. I now owe $122,000. I will not accept that this defaulted loan is my fault. I was SCAMMED!!!!
Julie Ahrens, St. Clair, Michigan
Graduates Are Still Screwed
Correction — “Holders of federally issued loans have gotten help as well through recent improvements to the Income Based Repayment program” — this only applies to NEW borrowers starting in 2014. No statement on whether you can consolidate after 2014 to get re-classified from existing to new. Those of us who have already graduated continue to be screwed.
Sean Feeney, Terre Haute, IN
“Mehserle Sentence Is an Insult to the Black Community,” Raising the Bar, 11/10
Social Justice Is Not Racial
Mehserle’s sentence is an insult to anyone and everyone who believes in social justice and equality before the law. I’m insulted by your headline “Mehserle Sentence Is an Insult to the Black Community.” Your neo-liberal roots are showing. Your headline is yet one more attempt to segregate “social justice” as a black issue. Fortunately, for the rest of us, the multi-ethnic turn-outs over cops running amok and the law encouraging that prove that the Express ought to change its name to the Walnut Creek Express. You don’t really represent this side of the hills.
Maris Snyder, Berkeley
Racial Profiling at its Worst
My anger at the lenient sentence handed out to Johannes Mehserle is exceeded only by my outrage at the ghastly header and subheader for Jay Youngdahl’s article in last week’s Express. The assertions in those two horrific sentences are racist in the extreme. They have no place in any decent newspaper. Stating that Mehserle’s sentence is “an insult to the black community” callously implies that outrage belongs solely to African Americans while it disregards the sentiments of all other racial and ethnic groups. This is racial profiling at its worst. Shame on Jay Youngdahl for writing such drivel and shame on the Express for printing it. You haven’t risen above racial politics at all; in fact, you’re mired in the same morass.
Miltiades Mandros, Oakland
Too Stoned to Comment?
I see another article on medical cannabis. Good job, I love getting stoned. Last week you ran an article regarding the lack of justice for Oscar Grant. Good job, two years for killing a person is a lack of justice. Strange, however, not a word this week about Derrick Jones. An unarmed man shot five times by the Oakland police. A police spokesperson said Oakland is a dangerous place. He’s not kidding. The police will kill you even if they don’t see an actual weapon. Oakland PD isn’t going to wait to actually see the weapon. I’m white and I am outraged by the racist attitude of the Oakland PD. This is not a mistake, it’s because the police are afraid of black Oakland. The shoot-first-fill-in-the-blanks-later attitude just fuels this racism. Where’s your outrage, East Bay Express, about the killing of this man? Too stoned to comment?
Scott Jocoy, Oakland
“Hello … Wanna Give to a Good Cause?,” Feature, 11/3
My Life As a Canvasser
I worked as a manager for GCI in Portland, OR, and experienced all the awful conditions described and more. The truth is, Green is totally correct in saying that those of us who go to work for someplace like GCI (especially as managers) do drink the Kool-Aid. I fully believed that I would be doing something good for the world, making some kind of measurable difference, and getting my foot in the door of a political universe that I badly wanted to work in. And I’m not a rich kid, making it that much harder for me to make it economically while working the insane hours and neglecting my own health and safety in service of some lauded “greater good.”
So it wasn’t until I was sexually assaulted while canvassing, in an environment that went directly against the rules set out by the home office (though such rules were never followed) that I realized I had been duped. Because I am strong, self-aware, and have self-defense training, I was able to fight and wasn’t hurt, but when I reported this to my immediate supervisor, she told me I had brought it on myself and forbade me from telling our workers. That was my moment of disillusionment: I was canvassing for the ACLU and being silenced — it was the worst kind of irony.
I spent a week trying to decide what to do, weighing the reality of not being able to find other work (I ended up working retail after drawing unemployment for three months) with the knowledge that not only was I working unbelievable hours without overtime, meal times, or even bathroom breaks, not only was I being pressured to spend what (little) time I had off socializing with my co-workers (for group cohesion, they said, much like a drill sergeant or fraternity pledge master), and not only was I being told not to call my parents or try to spend time with my boyfriend (like a cult), but that, as manager, I was responsible for creating the same work environment for my employees. I was supervising mostly eighteen-year-old young women and was putting them in the same, harmful, dangerous positions that led to my assault. I was lying or misleading the people whom I interviewed, hired, and then fired, often in the span of a few days. And I was complicit in gross legal injustices, like denying paychecks to people who’d worked half-days and then left, or hiring based on the dubious rubric of “gut instinct” (which, as it was explained to me, often boiled down to classism or, at its worst, racism, as I was told to only hire “people whom you’d want to approach on a street” and was scolded for hiring anyone who looked vaguely “non-traditional.”)
So now when I see canvassers, I say I’m sorry. I stop and ask how they’re doing, make sure they know that there are a lot of people who’ve been in their (uncomfortable) shoes before, and try to say that there are other jobs out there. The sad fact is, though, that there aren’t many, and the only reason someplace like GCI can function is because a lot of us have had few other options.
Martina Miles, Eugene, OR
What a Waste of Enthusiasm
I was recruited by contact from the Reich campaign for governor of 2002 (which thankfully never asked for money on the street, just votes) and worked for them for a week in Boston in 2004 raising money for the DNC, and it was awful. They pressured me so much that I ended up making a “second ask” to a woman whose husband had just died, and then they got mad at me for it. I quit after four days when it appeared that I wasn’t going to make quota on the fifth. (I was supposedly hired two months before for the entire summer as a manager, but apparently I had to work my way up by first, and this involved making quota.)
I felt guilty asking people for money knowing that 1/3+ of it was commission, when they could easily go online and make a direct contribution. The attitude of the staff was incredibly pretentious and off-putting. After the week was over, I had to fight for three more weeks to get reimbursed for $100 I had spotted them for getting us out of the parking garage one day. I wrote up a letter to the DNC complaining about my experience afterwards, but apparently it did nothing. I can’t believe these guys are still in business and have created a whole street canvassing industry. What a waste of young peoples’ enthusiasm.
Zack Subin, Oakland
Visual Art Coverage, Museums & Galleries
Get DeWitt Out Earlier
I’ve seen wonderful art I wouldn’t have known about because of DeWitt Cheng. HOWEVER (there’s always a however), his column is almost always published within days of the exhibit’s closing. Your great paper comes out on Wednesday, and the “don’t miss” closes on Sunday. PLEASE print that column ASAP instead of waiting till the last minute.
Thanks (gallery owners agree)
Ruth Bird, Berkeley
“Biking to the City,” News, 11/10
What Can Bicyclists Do?
Great background on this project. When the path on the east span is done, it will be a “path to nowhere” unless we get moving on putting bike and pedestrian access on the other half of the bridge. The article fills us in on all the challenges and obstacles, but what can the public do to make this happen sooner? Kudos to the EBBC and Loni Hancock for their hard work on pushing this through.
Brian Toy, Oakland
Where’s the Cost-Benefit Analysis?
San Francisco is 7 miles across, as is the Bay Bridge. How many people habitually walk across San Francisco? Answer, none. But that apparently doesn’t stop Loony Hancock from promoting her bicycle/pedestrian adjunct to the Bay Bridge. The idea of spending upwards of $200 million to build a bridge for the benefit of a couple of dozen bicyclists a day and the occasional hiker defies credulity. With morons like Hancock ladling out the money, no wonder California is bankrupt.
Hangston Giles, San Leandro
“Voters Did Understand Ranked Voting,” Seven Days, 11/17
Voters Got It …
I worked at the polls on Election Day. I completely agree that voters understood the RCV system. They were not at all confused, and consciously chose to vote as they did — for one, two, or three candidates.
Helen Hutchison, Oakland.
… But Perata Didn’t
I think the only one who was confused about the RCV system was Perata.
Jean Walker, Benicia
“Spinsterdom in Greek,” Theater, 10/27
Show, Don’t Tell
About “show not tell”: Greek theatre was based on show not tell. Example: in the BACCHAE, the Messenger came in and told all about Pentheus climbing up a tree to spy on the Maenads and his mom. The Messenger was a big part of their theatre. Which is not to say they didn’t have spectacle: They’d have an earthquake and columns would crumble on stage. In the tragedies, they didn’t show killing or sex (they showed sex in the comedies). They’d just wheel the body parts on stage in a wheelbarrow and weep over the remains. It was the Romans who showed it all.
John McMullen, Oakland
“A Brief Guide to Food and Coffee Pairing,” Bars, Clubs, & Coffeehouses, 10/27
Coffee Pairings? Nahhh.
The French, the Italians, and even the Persians … they all have centuries of historic wine-making and long-standing traditions of wine pairing with the local food. But when we look to the original coffee cultures of Ethiopia, Yemen, Turkey, etc. — the concept of food pairing is alien and all but absent. Is this by accident? Hardly. But some people have got it in their heads that if you are particular about the origins and production of what you consume, you must shoehorn it into a wine equivalent — which means doing ridiculous things like coffee pairings. We like a good cigar too now and then, and there’s a reason why cigar pairings with food are also not present in history. Fortunately, curious novelty fades and common sense prevails. In the meantime, I suppose this is mankind’s way of trying to recreate the events that lead to the first humanoids that ate artichokes … or who removed the seeds from coffee cherries, burnt them, crushed them, and suddenly thought brewing that with water was an interesting idea. Coffee pairing will undoubtedly never make it any further than it did with our ancestors centuries ago.
Greg Sherwin, San Francisco
“Erk Tha Jerk,” CD Reviews, 11/3
Down to Earth …
I was convinced that hip-hop was dead until I began to explore the music of some of the talented local artists in the Bay Area. While Erk may spit some bravado lyrics, he always keeps it down to Earth. He has brought the concept of connecting with the listeners/fans back to rap, using clever words and comparisons; there are no boasts about cars, jewelry, and things of such superficial nature. He knows his worth, however remains humble, unlike many of the artists parading around using their celebrity to sell their music. Luckily, Erk has real talent. I can’t wait to see how well his album does. He deserves to make it.
Jeanet Moore, Oakland
… Repping His ‘Hood
Erk Tha Jerk raps about the “real,” he reps his ‘hood and he spits with uncommon skill. He does all this well and without apology. Erk deserves to “blow up” if any hip-hop artist does. If you give it a real chance, his music will talk to you and convince you of his worth. If given a true opportunity, let me be the first to say that Nerd’s Eye View and several songs on it could compete for Grammy recognition!
H.D. Williamson, Richmond
“Cuts and Dueling Protests at KPFA,” Culture Spy, 11/3
It’s Pacifica’s Fault
The local management gave the National Board, including Tracey Rosenberg, a balanced budget which was a combination of layoffs and other cuts. Those other cuts were completely shot down by Tracey and other board members in a 10-7 vote. They can’t complain about shortfalls. They had an opportunity to have a balanced budget and they turned it down. Tracey knows that and simply chooses to not mention it when the press comes around. This could have been averted.
Chris Stehlik, Berkeley
A Cancer on KPFA
Pacifica is a cancer on a self-supporting, sustainable local community station, which needs to excise said cancer before it’s terminal.
Mary Eisenhart, Oakland
“Prop 19 Didn’t Resonate With Minority Voters,” Full Disclosure, 11/9
Pot and Minorities
It’s only a matter of time for minorities to wake up. Cannabis (marijuana) prohibition was enacted by bigots to target minorities from the beginning. To perpetuate cannabis prohibition, government has ensnared large percentages of minorities into the legal system and prohibits many of them from even voting to end the discredited laws which unfairly harmed them. What kind of government persecutes and punishes minority humans for using what God says is good on the 1st page of the Bible?
Stan White, Dillon, Colorado
19 Was Not Good For Black Folk
I almost spit the fried rice out of my mouth reading the last paragraph. While it might be worthy to visit race and Props 8 and 19, you would have to first start with the basics and how social values and economics play in and stop overestimating how socially liberal black folks are.
There is no benefit to black people to pass prop 19, even with the “pushers” of Prop 19 trying to sell us that the black arrest rate for pot crimes vs. whites will somehow go down. Dale Gieringer from California NORML laid it out real well, “the fact is that blacks and Latinos are targeted for ALL crimes, and so marijuana just isn’t different in that regard.” It is also insulting to think that that is the only thing we would care about. Most blacks know that even with passage nothing would have changed, in fact, crime would have gone up and there would be MORE nickel and dime street dealers trying to “come up” selling pot, hence, more violence in our streets and more arrests. And really access is not an issue either, today anyone could pay a yearly $150 fee to the thousands of prescribing doctors, get a medical card, and grow a nice personal decent amount — EVEN IF NOTHING IS MEDICALLY WRONG WITH YOU. (Just look in the Express ads, you’ll find at least 50.)
What Prop 19 proponents FAILED to discuss was how specifically black communities were going to benefit economically. The pyramid scheme had already been worked out with the local and state government, the Big 4 grow houses, the permitting process, and the Pharma industry. Where and how were black and brown folks going to fit in?? Was it in the role of the $10.00 an hour hired security guards or the minimum-wage pot-picking farmer?
One other thing to note is that those grow houses and lil’ weed shops were not going to be placed in the neighborhoods of the very same loud white people arguing and financing the legalization of pot. They did not have to worry about their neighborhoods becoming a militarization zone, or property values going down, because they are not going to accept that shyt in their own backyards.
Lastly, the biggest failure was not being up front about what the social impacts were. I am a consumer of pot and one of those blacks who voted NO when I got into the booth. I didn’t trust Prop 19, and knew deep down inside that “no good” could ever come out of legalizing “another “drug that might impact the overall wellness of my people and community — a community that already was in danger and fragmented with poverty, single parenting, failing schools, and unsafe neighborhoods. Lest I mention, a community that never recovered from that nagging crack cocaine epidemic that decimated lives, families, and neighborhoods forever, but pot is cool and sanctioned? Really!??
As for proponents of Prop 8, they missed the mark on a lot of “inconvenient truths” — but that is a different post.
Beverly Marie, Oakland
“Charting the Rise of Medical Cannabis,” Legalization Nation, 11/17
What the Research Shows
Here are just some of the many studies the Feds wish they’d never commissioned:
1) MARIJUANA USE HAS NO EFFECT ON MORTALITY: A massive study of California HMO members funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) found marijuana use caused no significant increase in mortality. Tobacco use was associated with increased risk of death. Sidney, S et al. Marijuana Use and Mortality. American Journal of Public Health. Vol. 87 No. 4, April 1997. p. 585-590. Sept. 2002.
2) HEAVY MARIJUANA USE AS A YOUNG ADULT WON’T RUIN YOUR LIFE: Veterans Affairs scientists looked at whether heavy marijuana use as a young adult caused long-term problems later, studying identical twins in which one twin had been a heavy marijuana user for a year or longer but had stopped at least one month before the study, while the second twin had used marijuana no more than five times ever. Marijuana use had no significant impact on physical or mental health care utilization, health-related quality of life, or current socio-demographic characteristics. Eisen SE et al. Does Marijuana Use Have Residual Adverse Effects on Self-Reported Health Measures, Socio-Demographics or Quality of Life? A Monozygotic Co-Twin Control Study in Men. Addiction. Vol. 97 No. 9. p.1083-1086. Sept. 1997
3) THE “GATEWAY EFFECT” MAY BE A MIRAGE: Marijuana is often called a “gateway drug” by supporters of prohibition, who point to statistical “associations” indicating that persons who use marijuana are more likely to eventually try hard drugs than those who never use marijuana — implying that marijuana use somehow causes hard drug use. But a model developed by RAND Corp. researcher Andrew Morral demonstrates that these associations can be explained “without requiring a gateway effect.” More likely, this federally funded study suggests, some people simply have an underlying propensity to try drugs, and start with what’s most readily available. Morral AR, McCaffrey D and Paddock S. Reassessing the Marijuana Gateway Effect. Addiction. December 2002. p. 1493-1504.
4) PROHIBITION DOESN’T WORK: The White House had the National Research Council examine the data being gathered about drug use and the effects of US drug policies. NRC concluded, “the nation possesses little information about the effectiveness of current drug policy, especially of drug law enforcement.” And what data exist show “little apparent relationship between severity of sanctions prescribed for drug use and prevalence or frequency of use.” In other words, there is no proof that prohibition — the cornerstone of US drug policy for a century — reduces drug use. National Research Council. Informing America’s Policy on Illegal Drugs: What We Don’t Know Keeps Hurting Us. National Academy Press, 2001. p. 193.
5) PROHIBITION MAY CAUSE THE “GATEWAY EFFECT”?): US and Dutch researchers, supported in part by NIDA, compared marijuana users in San Francisco, where non-medical use remains illegal, to Amsterdam, where adults may possess and purchase small amounts of marijuana from regulated businesses. Looking at such parameters as frequency and quantity of use and age at onset of use, they found the following: Cannabis (Marijuana) use in San Francisco was 3 times the prevalence found in the Amsterdam sample. And lifetime use of hard drugs was significantly lower in Amsterdam, with its “tolerant” marijuana policies. For example, lifetime crack cocaine use was 4.5 times higher in San Francisco than Amsterdam. Reinarman, C, Cohen, PDA, and Kaal, HL. The Limited Relevance of Drug Policy: Cannabis in Amsterdam and San Francisco. American Journal of Public Health. Vol. 94, No. 5. May 2004. p 836-842.
6) OOPS, MARIJUANA MAY PREVENT CANCER (PART 1): Federal researchers implanted several types of cancer, including leukemia and lung cancers, in mice, then treated them with cannabinoids (unique, active components found in marijuana). THC and other cannabinoids shrank tumors and increased the mice’s lifespans. Munson, AE et al. Antineoplastic Activity of Cannabinoids. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Sept. 1975. p. 597-602.
7) OOPS, MARIJUANA MAY PREVENT CANCER, (PART 2): In a 1994 study the government tried to suppress, federal researchers gave mice and rats massive doses of THC, looking for cancers or other signs of toxicity. The rodents given THC lived longer and had fewer cancers, “in a dose-dependent manner” (i.e. the more THC they got, the fewer tumors). NTP Technical Report On The Toxicology And Carcinogenesis Studies Of 1-Trans- Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol, CAS No. 1972-08-3, In F344/N Rats And B6C3F Mice, Gavage Studies. See also, “Medical Marijuana: Unpublished Federal Study Found THC-Treated Rats Lived Longer, Had Less Cancer,” AIDS Treatment News no. 263, Jan. 17, 1997.
8) OOPS, MARIJUANA MAY PREVENT CANCER (PART 3): Researchers at the Kaiser-Permanente HMO, funded by NIDA, followed 65,000 patients for nearly a decade, comparing cancer rates among non-smokers, tobacco smokers, and marijuana smokers. Tobacco smokers had massively higher rates of lung cancer and other cancers. Marijuana smokers who didn’t also use tobacco had no increase in risk of tobacco-related cancers or of cancer risk overall. In fact their rates of lung and most other cancers were slightly lower than non-smokers, though the difference did not reach statistical significance. Sidney, S. et al. Marijuana Use and Cancer Incidence (California, United States). Cancer Causes and Control. Vol. 8. Sept. 1997, p. 722-728.
9) OOPS, MARIJUANA MAY PREVENT CANCER (PART 4): Donald Tashkin, a UCLA researcher whose work is funded by NIDA, did a case-control study comparing 1,200 patients with lung, head, and neck cancers to a matched group with no cancer. Even the heaviest marijuana smokers had no increased risk of cancer, and had somewhat lower cancer risk than non-smokers (tobacco smokers had a 20-fold increased Lung Cancer risk). Tashkin D. Marijuana Use and Lung Cancer: Results of a Case-Control Study. American Thoracic Society International Conference. May 23, 2006.
10) MARIJUANA DOES HAVE GREAT MEDICAL VALUE: In response to the passage of California’s medical marijuana law, the White House had the Institute of Medicine (IOM) review the data on marijuana’s medical benefits and risks. The IOM concluded, “Nausea, appetite loss, pain and anxiety are all afflictions of wasting, and all can be mitigated by marijuana.” The report also added, “we acknowledge that there is no clear alternative for people suffering from chronic conditions that might be relieved by smoking marijuana, such as pain or AIDS wasting.” The government’s refusal to acknowledge this finding caused co-author John A. Benson to tell The New York Times that the government “loves to ignore our report … they would rather it never happened.” Joy, JE, Watson, SJ, and Benson, JA. Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base. National Academy Press. 1999. p. 159. See also, Harris, G. FDA Dismisses Medical Benefit From Marijuana. The New York Times. Apr. 21, 2006
Malcolm Kyle, New York
“Why Legalization Failed,’ Legalization Nation, 11/10
Break the Research-Pot Monopoly
Proposition 19’s failure at the polls demonstrates that although Californians have accepted the medicinal use of marijuana, they are not ready to accept recreational use. This makes it that much more important to facilitate research into the benefits and harms of marijuana in order to properly assess the utility of cannabis. At present, researchers have to contend with a monopoly over the marijuana supply held by the National Institute on Drug Abuse whose mission is to study the harmful effects of illicit drugs. This disqualifies them as objective judges as to who to provide marijuana to for FDA approved studies.
To clarify the efficacy of our existing medical marijuana law, Californians need to strengthen their understanding of how to effectively utilize marijuana medicinally. We can facilitate research through breaking NIDA’s monopoly over the marijuana supply for FDA studies by putting pressure on the DEA to issue a license to cultivate marijuana to Dr. Lyle Craker at UMASS Amherst. To give our representatives the courage to push for expanding marijuana research, they can look to DEA Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner, who found that it would be in the public interest to issue Dr. Craker a license to cultivate cannabis. Acting DEA Administrator Michelle Leonhart rejected this recommendation shortly after Obama took office. It’s time we ask why she chose to uphold an obstructive federal monopoly in order to bring this issue from the political to the scientific sphere.
Stephen Morseman, San Leandro
Our November 10 Feature, “Top Ramen for Life,” misstated Kyle McCarthy’s professional ambition. He wanted to go into sports management.
In our November 17 Body & Soul pick on the Big Yes Society, we misspelled the name of author Allen Klein.
Send in the Clouds
After two years of recovery clouds are again darkening America’s horizon. We’re going to hear all the same claptrap that we heard from Republicans during the eight years of Bush.
Americans traded in the splendid ideals of President Obama for the worn-out spin of House Minority Leader John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Wall Street financiers will be raking in billions again with Republicans ascending in power.
“Power to the People” is being sacrificed to the greed of corporations and special interests.
The stated GOP goal for the next two years is “no compromise” and to block all legislation proposed by the Obama administration, and probably, Republicans will go back to attacking Social Security and Medicare. Does this sound like democracy to you? Republicans will also try to dismantle all that Obama and Democrats accomplished in the last two years. What a waste!
Ron Lowe, Nevada City