Letters for the Week of January 16, 2013

Readers sound off on hackers, guns, and 'Zero Dark Thirty'.

Cracking Oakland’s Code,” Feature, 1/2

Hooray for the Hackers

Great article, great mission. It should be amazing watching this develop over the next few years.

Daniel Kronovet, Berkeley

Why Oakland Needs a Federal Gun Law,” Seven Days, 12/26

Oakland Needs a Better Government

Oakland politicians are great at turning tractable goals like reducing local crime into completely intractable ones, like getting Congress to effectively overturn the Second Amendment. Any rational person who feels empathy for victims of violence should be completely appalled by the fact that Jean Quan, Rebecca Kaplan, and Desley Brooks have refused to enact common-sense crime-fighting tools like gang injunctions and youth curfews. These shameless, self-serving politicians are almost as guilty as the murderers themselves

Andrew Hatch, Oakland

To Be Real,” Movie Review, 1/2

A Torturous Review

Your review of Zero Dark Thirty is outrageous. I am shocked to see such an ignorant and nationalistic perspective in my local independent. It belittles those who are concerned that the movie is factually inaccurate regarding information derived from torture and completely misses the point about why accuracy matters so much in this case.

Rather than being a mere technicality about whether or not we torture (and boo-hoo for those who are against it since Kelly Vance believes we need to hurt people in order to live our “American lifestyle”), the concern is that the movie indicates that we obtained critical information from our policy of torture. This is far from the truth, as torture — beyond creating more enemies, being a war crime, and being against what I thought this country stood for — probably does more harm than good in terms of obtaining useful, actionable intelligence, and it did not, in fact, provide the key to finding Bin Laden.

Kelly Vance seems willfully ignorant of that very important point, and brushes off any other concerns about accuracy with the argument that “a movie is not real life.” I’m no big fan of John McCain, but given that he personally experienced torture at the hands of the Viet Cong, I’ll trust his opinion on the matter over that of the author, who would rather us all “shut up and put some extra butter on the popcorn.”

Eric Waller, Oakland

The Flipping Frenzy,” Year in Review, 12/19

The Flipping Fallacy

When my wife and I were looking to buy our first home, one of the areas we were considering was North Oakland between the highway exit and Alcatraz near Martin Luther King, Jr. Way. The area above MLK was considered the “right side of the tracks” (literally, considering the BART tracks), but we saw a few places there in the $350,000 price range. Then the house-flippers attacked and yupped up the area. The next time we viewed houses in that area, the prices had increased by $100,000. So, the house flippers priced us and most people out of that market.

House-flippers who swarm into an area and increase the price of housing are a lot like the vulture capitalists about whom Greg Palast writes, in that they look for distressed areas, swoop in, and make money, while making it more difficult or impossible for most people to buy a home there. While house-flippers may provide a benefit to people who already own homes by increasing values, the people who really need help — those who do not own homes — are seriously harmed by this behavior. Whether large investors have helped Oakland more than hurt it depends on one’s point of view. For those who do not already own a home, increased values and prices cause serious harm. From a progressive point of view, it does not matter that those who already own homes and real estate investors and speculators make money when home values increase. The renters who get displaced by the gentrification caused by house-flipping are another group that gets harmed, and are more in need than those who benefit by this business.

Driving out poorer people and gentrifying an area in no way provides more benefit to Oakland than the harm it causes. This is not only unfair to the people driven out of their homes by landlords wanting a piece of the house-flipping action. Many of those people are the artist/musician/poet/radical types who make Oakland a great place. If the house-flipping continues, these people will be forced out, just like they were in San Francisco. This only provides a benefit to Oakland if you are socially and/or politically conservative. If that’s the case, why are you living there in the first place?

Jeff Hoffman, Berkeley


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