Letters for the week of June 14-20, 2006

A debate on the culture of hyphy; a mea culpa from editor Stephen Buel; a clarification by the best hair salon; a rebuttal of Chris Thompson's nuke column.

“Final Days of a Barrio Parish,” City of Warts, 4/26

“Once again the Catholic Church has the right of things, catering to the wealthy and powerful at the expense of the poor and humble. For this, no doubt, Jesus drove the money changers from the temple, and later suffered on the cross. Kudos to the Holy See! Verily, the Prince of the World has never had a better friend.”

Expect to see [this flier] going around at the opening of that new monument to pride, the so-called “Cathedral” in Oakland. I understand Martin Luther much better now.
James J. Fenton, Oakland

Editor’s note
Kevin Keane tore me a new asshole a couple weeks ago. Keane is the executive editor of ANG Newspapers, and he was angry with our May 31 special issue dedicated to his parent company’s acquisition of the Contra Costa Times, San Jose Mercury News, and 35 other Bay Area papers. After a June 1 panel discussion about the growing clout of Bay Area newspaper chains — including the one I work for — Keane asked me out to the sidewalk and minced no words in letting me know what he thought about the package.

He had every right to be angry. Our section was skeptical about his parent company’s commitment to news coverage and critical of the quality of much of what appears in ANG’s Oakland Tribune, Hayward Daily Review, Fremont Argus, and Tri-Valley Herald. I stand by our overall conclusion, which was that his papers have historically been starved for resources and that now that his parent company has a stronger Bay Area revenue base, it needs to show us what it’s really made of.

But I also regret a few elements of our package. One was that we failed to formally call ANG for comment. Given that the deal has not yet been consummated, the new bosses have not yet been named, and the possible changes have not yet been discussed, we had little reason to expect their comments would illuminate anything, but that’s no excuse for not picking up the phone. We remedy that omission in this week’s issue with an after-the-fact interview with Keane on page 10.

I also now regret publishing, under a fake byline, an article that ranked various ANG and Knight Ridder reporters. The article was my idea and I’ll take responsibility for that, but I regret not killing it when the writer demanded no byline at the last minute. It was chickenshit for us to call people out by name when we weren’t willing to sign our own name to our criticisms. My fault.

Finally, along with our criticism, I am truly sorry that we did not call attention to some of the good work done by reporters at ANG. Since Keane arrived a few years ago, I believe the overall quality of its papers is improved. Many of their reporters do a fine job on tight deadlines, and some of their coverage — Douglas Fischer on our growing chemical “Body Burden,” Ian Hoffman on Alameda County’s computerized voting machines, Sean Holstege and Jill Tucker on the Bay Bridge welding scandal — has been truly noteworthy. Here’s hoping that the company’s new resources allow ANG to raise its wages so that talented journalists such as Holstege and Tucker — both of whom have since accepted positions at other papers — can stick around. — Stephen Buel

“Go Less Dumb,” Close 2 tha Edge, 4/26

Which came first?
First off, I like the way you showed both sides to this. Real talk. A lot of these people ain’t knowin’ that hyphy ain’t music. It’s how we living in the town. And the people that sell dope and shit, they gonna sell that anyway it goes. Basically music don’t influence niggas, niggas influence music.
Marcus Anderson, Oakland

Go smart
After reading your composition regarding the present-day culture of hip-hop, its impact on black youth, and unexpected disregard to a phenomenal community activist such as David Muhammad, I was inspired to share a point of view that may motivate you to question your intentions. There is an American history of violence and neglect that assists in the disenfranchisement, displacement, miseducation, high murder, and drug abuse in most African-American communities. How is this very old social disorder still immobilizing one of the greatest groups of people known to mankind? I am sure that we will all agree that there are many vises used to manipulate and control the progressive expansion of black love, thought, and movement.

It is important that those of us who are in positions to influence a great number of people through our actions and/or spoken/writing words be mindful of the level of respect needed to make shifts possible as it pertains to the advancement of African Americans. David Muhammad is just one of the many leaders in the black community who offers valuable solutions in reference to the “go dumb” movement. The Mentoring Program has helped to redirect thousands of youth in the Bay Area. Last week the Mentoring Program distributed T-shirts that read “GO SMART” on the front, and on the back: “WHO AM I?,” “HOW DO I SEE MYSELF?,” and “WHAT IS MY LIFE’S PURPOSE?” David Muhammad correlates the “Go Dumb/Hyphie” culture or movement to the detrimental behavior [of] young blacks.

While this may not be an original perspective, it certainly is not a tired argument as you state in your article. In fact, it is an idea that needs to be respected and nurtured. David Muhammad does not belittle the hip-hop or rap music culture; instead he clearly speaks of the imposition of mainstream hip-hop and rap music and its digressive impact on black youth. Who is going to hold the “propaganda agents” accountable for their irresponsible lyrical persuasions? I would consider David Muhammad brave and courageous for his attempt to bring light to the dark and grim “Go Dumb/Hyphie.”

Please come visit the Mentoring Program every Wednesday from 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. We would love to hear your solutions. Ancient proverb: If you want happiness for a lifetime, help the next generation.
Sultanah Corbett, educator, mentor, business owner, mother, Oakland

“Best Hair Salon,” Goods and Services, 5/3

Okay, humble, then
I want to thank you and your readers for recognizing Festoon as “Best Hair Salon.” We at Festoon are proud to serve our East Bay community and we are flattered to have this support reciprocated. However, I am disappointed by the description of our stylists as “haughty.” We are neither arrogant nor disdainful toward our clientele. Festoon takes special care to ensure the most rewarding experience possible for every client. To suggest otherwise is both inappropriate and dismissive of the opinions of your readers. I am also compelled to correct factual errors:

1) The average wait time for an appointment is one month, not four.

2) Our average service ticket is $65.

3) Festoon is not age exclusive — the average age of our clientele is 35-45 years, most of whom are successful, talented, and professional women.

It is unfortunate that the flippant tone of the review tried to diminish this honor.
Melissa Ryan, Festoon Salon, Berkeley

“Nuclear Now, for the Good of the Earth,” City of Warts, 5/17

The coming uranium shortage
Let’s see if I have this right. You’re actually suggesting that we replace our current fossil-fueled power plants with nuclear plants, because nuclear plants don’t emit CO2, etc.? Not too long ago, we thought natural gas would save us from increasing oil prices. Numerous new gas-fired generating plants were built. What happened? Gas prices went up. Do you not think the price of uranium will climb if we begin building more nuclear plants? How long will it be before we face shortages? When will people in other places decide not to sell us any more?

In the long run, the answer is solar energy, in one form or another. Biomass (including ethanol and biodiesel) and wind are simply other forms of solar energy. When the sun runs out, energy will be the least of our worries! And yes, we may have to change our lifestyles somewhat. There may not be enough energy available for some of us to drive 7,000-pound vehicles to and from the grocery store. Get over it!
Dave Baldwin, Jacksonville

Downplaying the risks
The recklessness displayed by “Nuclear Now, for the Good of the Earth” is breathtaking. Chris Thompson proposes a Bush-style either/or that radically downplays the huge drawbacks of nuclear energy. And it ignores the myriad ways our energy needs can be supplied, starting with much greater energy efficiency to cut energy waste. It takes years and many millions of dollars to build a nuclear power plant. There is still no solution to the disposal of radioactive waste, some of which will be potent for tens of thousands of years. It is immoral to leave insecurely stored poisonous wastes to future generations. To publish so biased an article on this very serious subject does a great disservice to your readers, who need to be educated about immediately effective ways to address global climate change.
Charlene M. Woodcock, Berkeley

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