Letters for the week of February 16-22, 2005

They should go back to Liberia. We should go back to Phil Ochs. We can't go back to the Key System. They can't go back to Hawaii.

“Strangers in a Strange Land,” Cityside, 1/26

Why are we creating serfs?
I read this sort of thing and I not only get confused but I find myself getting rather angry. With legal immigration, illegal immigration, everyone wants to get into the US. Why are we letting everyone in the world that needs political safety enter? These people can go back to Liberia. It’s their country. But we have to put them in the Fruitvale — a very crowded area.

Why not South Dakota — where there are very many underpopulated small towns with many vacant small buildings. Why Fruitvale? Are we in a compassion contest? These people can’t make it — read your own article. Why are they not back in Liberia? The money spent on them would have made them rich in their own country. But we bring them here so they will be serfs. Shame.
Bill Hoch, Oakland

“Dave Dondero’s Opening Act,” Feature, 1/19

We need more finger-pointing
Thank you for the really great piece on David Dondero. It’s a great piece. The way you begin the story with an account of DD winning over an audience with a performance, and connecting that to the framing device of the horse race, is a brilliant move, working on a couple of different levels; giving one a sense of DD’s everyday life as well as symbolically. I also appreciate the occasion you take to make some points about “antifolk,” both the Jack Black vs. “earnest liberal” dichotomy, and the contrast of Dondero with the much-hooplahed “freak folk” thang. It’s also great that you help set the record straight with the Bright Eyes influence (and yes, the Gano similarities with both).

If I may raise one disagreement (which is not a criticism of your writing, just a disagreement) it would be with your account of “Pre-Invasion Jitters.” While I can see why you would criticize David for lapsing into a “folk trap” he usually avoids, I’m not sure it necessarily would alienate his “red-state listeners.” I guess, from where I come from (one of those many who got turned onto folk by Dylan and Phil Ochs), I don’t mind the occasional foray into “finger-pointing” songs — for even though I think it’s a great thing that Dylan moved away from finger-pointing songs, I also am glad he still pulls one or two of them out occasionally. And I’m glad for Dondero’s song (even though he felt a little embarrassed by it himself, as the way he announces it attests). Sure, it’s not the main thing that draws me to his music, but after all this Clear Channel censorship of political songs, and the apolitical shoegazers, it’s refreshing to hear a little of it coming back.
Chris Stroffolino, Oakland

“Uncle Al Wants You,” Feature, 1/26

If it looks shady …
A note on your January 26 cover story: While I sympathize with the would-be jobseekers who were apparently strung along by INdTV, did they not realize that this was an unusual and misleading application process? As a freelance writer, I read each job posting to which I apply carefully; you can tell a lot about a potential employer by the way they solicit workers. Crescent Diamond had the right idea when she was turned off by the lack of information about the job itself. As for the applicants who spent weeks and months of wasted time supplying blog material and ideas for free, I can only shake my head.

Folks, if you suspect you’re getting screwed, you probably are.
Allison Landa, Oakland

“The Politics of a Mural,” Culture Spy, 1/19

It was more complicated
In the Culture Spy article, it was stated that General Motors and Firestone bought the Key System in 1958 and shut it down. In fact, the consortium that they used to buy transit systems, National City Lines, bought the Key System a decade earlier and ran it until it was sold to AC Transit. Harre Demoro, the historian of Bay Area transit systems, said that when they bought the system, the tracks were already being removed, having by then fully depreciated, and that they were being replaced by buses. The only change that National City Lines made was that they canceled the order for electric buses and replaced them with diesel buses. Even at that, rail service lasted on a few lines until 1958.

The consortium included oil companies, as well as GM and Firestone, which would have been an incentive to use diesel instead of electricity. However, diesel buses have the ability to pass each other without entangling trolley poles, making them more efficient than trolley buses, and far better than rail trolleys, which have almost no ability to pass one another.

National City Lines was not the reason the Key System, which was in poor financial shape most of its existence, failed. It was more complicated than that.
Bruce De Benedictis, Oakland

“Pat vs. the Volcano,” Music, 1/26

Set the record straight
A correction to your article about Patrick Landeza. I read with some surprise this line: “… says Paul Kealoha Blake of the East Bay Media Center, who started filming Landeza’s early performances at LaVal’s Northside Pizzeria on Euclid Avenue.” As the producer of those shows, I can say that I don’t know who Mr. Kealoha is, but he certainly didn’t “film” any of those performances. Those shows, from 1991 through 1994, were videotaped for broadcast on my cable-access TV show, Live on Location, which ran on Bay Cable 8 in Berkeley and was syndicated on thirteen other California cable outlets. Patrick used one of those videotapes to get his first professional engagement at Slim’s in San Francisco, and frequently mentions me as the person who gave him his first break.

I just thought the record should be correct on this.
Earl Oliver, Fort Bragg

It’s not like he’s haole
Why is Patrick Landeza penalized because his parents moved to California to seek better jobs than they had in Hawaii? Do you consider Dan Inouye a non-Islander because he lives in Washington DC? What about Patsy Mink, who lived most of her career years in the capital?

Sonny Palabrica, San Francisco

“Iron Men,” Music, 1/12

The perfect medium
Because Will Youmans, as a member of Students for Justice for Palestine at UCB, never succeeded in convincing anyone other than his small circlejerk of the propaganda he promulgated in lieu of truth, I’m not surprised that he has recently turned to rap to promote his bilge. Come to think of it, given rap’s penchant for reducing women to “bitches” and “ho’s,” this might be the perfect medium for Youmans to articulate the gender apartheid so manifest in Palestinian society. He could in particular rap about the “honor murder” of daughters who transgress the wishes of their fathers. Can’t you just hear Youmans spitting out something like the following:

My sister violated the wishes of the patriarch my father/now my brother has dispatched her with honor murder/and become a venerated martyr.
Dan Spitzer, Kensington

“Supersized,” Letters, 1/19

The right to be wrong
Why is it that whenever somebody writes in with criticism for a journalist’s attitude, the reply always addresses some wrong fact on the letter-writer’s part but remains silent on the essential point? Are journalists constitutionally unable to ever be wrong, like politicians?
Sandy Rothman, Berkeley

“D-Gener-8,” Billboard, 1/26

Kudos to Entartete Kunst
We need more coverage of those questioning the role of authority and willing to champion the causes of the underdog and the trampled on. These guys are intelligent, fearless, and thought-provoking. Please push them more.
James Callaghan, Roslindale, Massachusetts

“In a Class of Their Own,” Feature, 12/1

Cal is not the place
I had hoped that you would have included the actual curriculum of some or most of the football players at Cal. Are these players on target to obtain a degree? Would it be better for the marginal student to forgo playing — even practicing — during the first semester and concentrate on school? It seems to me that here in California, many or most of these players would be better served by attending state universities or JCs. The UC schools would object, but obtaining the degree should be the first goal.

Pat Ryan, Mountain View

“Tinkerer, Gadfly, Soldier, Spy,” City of Warts, 1/12

He knows his stuff
I am a former engineering student of Andre Carpiaux and later an associate of his R&D CX Engineers in Oakland. I assisted at two of his seminars and lectures on engine efficiency and electric vehicles. He knows his stuff! His ideas, initiative, and implementation are the keywords for all his innovations and inventions. He does not rely much on anybody to do anything, he does it himself — and that’s how things get done. Some people are just there to thwart your projects; their involvements turn out to be negative, he found out, so you are really on your own! He has been the inspiring force behind my own invention, which has to do with spatial navigations.

In 1995, he came to me to ask to join him in making a vehicle that would be powered by the sun with photovoltaic cells. He had fabricated a crude (prototype) bi-phase AC electric hub-motor with its controller. Later on, he announced that he had founded Solarmotions with a UC graduate and the goal was to beat the world speed record for electric vehicles. The harnessing of solar energy using photovoltaic cells had become his obsession because of the economics of the operation and the sustainability of the concept thus being the only bearable mode of energy transportation of the future, he said. Then it was a project; now it’s a reality, thanks to Carpiaux.
Micheal Gurmu, inventor of Navcom Navigation System, Oakland

“Oakland Idol,” Billboard, 1/12

A star to reckon with
Thank you so much for a wonderful article. We LUV (La Toya’s United Voters) La Toya! Feel free to visit us at LuvLLondon.com. Many of us throughout the US have had the privilege of meeting Ms. London in a one-to-one and each of us is confident she WILL be a star to reckon with.

Grace Calles, Sacramento

“Current Events,” Billboard, 12/29

Islam’s positive side
I would like to personally thank you all for the article “Current Events,” which discussed modern trends in the American Muslim community and the arts. I found it so refreshing to hear something in the news media that highlights the positive side of Muslims; it’s something we don’t get enough. In times like these, I think it is wonderful that you emphasize the great ways that Islam can fuse with culture and art, rather than portraying it as if it is counterculture.

Alexandra Contos, Denver, Colorado

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