Letters for the week of May 10-16, 2006

Social workers and vultures need support. Conspiracy theorists need evidence. Nelly Furtado needs some help. Cal prof needs to improve his research.

“Dirty Deeds,” Feature, 3/29 and 4/5

Help us help them
We are writing this as an addendum to the article about real-estate fraud. Mr. Denny acknowledges that he prosecutes the tip of the iceberg. We are Adult Protective Services social workers mandated to address the hidden 95 percent of that iceberg. APS is called upon to help the elderly and disabled adult victims of these crimes one at a time. We are inundated with reports of fraud and financial abuse perpetrated by not only predatory lenders and scam artists, but also abusive caregivers and greedy relatives wanting their inheritance “early.” Unfortunately, we are far too few to meet the growing need of this growing population.

How can the Alameda County Board of Supervisors fund just fifteen APS workers, countywide, to tackle this task? We are simply overloaded by the magnitude of egregious abuse of this population — abuse that includes physical and mental neglect and self-neglect, as well as financial abuse. We ask that our supervisors extend the same concern generated for Child Protective Services workers to include Adult Protective Services workers, who struggle to protect the vulnerable elderly and disabled adults of this county.
Robin Sanow, Berkeley; Ginny Garrett, Berkeley; Ron George, Albany; Karin Patterson, Berkeley; Jill Nielson, Berkeley; Molly Woelffer, Oakland; Joseph Morales, San Pablo

Stop stereotyping vultures
Although the artwork on the cover of the Express describing dirty deeds by opportunistic humans is great, the artist used the wrong image. Vultures perform a great service and, as far as I know, they do not kill others. We human animals have a tendency to unfairly stereotype others. We somehow feel that we are superior and that we have license to persecute the other, go to war, and to eat other living beings without thinking twice. Art is a powerful tool in stereotyping which can lead to “dehumanizing” of the other. We should be more careful how we use both.

Celia Menczel, Walnut Creek

“Nirvana and the Masters of the Universe,” Cred Sheet, 4/5

He’s a maniac
I’m relieved at your relief that Nelly Furtado’s “Maneater” is not a cover of the Hall and Oates classic. She couldn’t hold a candle to them anyway.

Tom Mourgos, San Francisco

“Remaking the Left 2.0,” Water Cooler, 4/5

Hope before cynicism
In “Remaking the Left 2.0,” Chris Thompson dismisses as pipe dreams the ideas of a global Marshall Plan and a Social Responsibility Amendment as set forth by the Network of Spiritual Progressives, but never explains what is so ludicrous about the notion of the world’s countries joining together to eliminate poverty, or of legislation that would hold corporations responsible for their ethical and ecological impact. Thompson writes as if generosity and responsibility are in themselves such quaint and unrealistic ideals that he need say no more.

Most of us have learned that the way to appear smart and worthy is to find fault with others’ ideas, so I don’t blame Thompson for attempting a critique. Still, if I ask myself, as Michael Lerner suggests in The Left Hand of God, whether your article moves readers toward cynicism and fear or toward hope and love, I’d have to say it moves them toward cynicism and fear. If Thompson is right, then maybe the best we can do is to look out for own interests, the rest of the world be damned. Is that really the attitude you want the East Bay Express to inspire?

The Network of Spiritual Progressives is an emerging grassroots organization committed to moving Americans toward hope, and specifically toward confidence that our highest impulses toward love, compassion, generosity, kindness, and respect for the natural world can triumph if we are willing to stand up for them.
Nichola Torbett, Berkeley, national organizer, Network of Spiritual Progressives

“Growing Up Right,” East Side Story, 4/5

Block’s study is bunk
Thanks for reporting the story of Cal professor Jack Block’s new study on the apparent childhood clues pointing to our future place on the political spectrum. This time around, though, I really have to agree with the conservative Cal students who think Block’s study is bunk.

If we were to follow Block’s suggestion that girls who were “fearful and tearful … quiet, neat, and compliant” grew up to be conservative, then I should’ve been president of the campus Republicans. In fact, I’m attending one of the most lefty-left seminaries in the country, learning to lead religious liberals into cutting-edge anti-oppression work that some card-carrying blue-staters would curl their toes at. So much for Block’s conclusions. The reasons for our conservatism and liberalism are much more complex than any easy-answer study, especially one for which the author won’t even substantiate his data.
Elizabeth Marsh, Oakland

In the massive editorial and production process our Best of the East Bay issue requires, one item got lost in the shuffle. That was Best Tiki Bar, the winner being Forbidden Island, 1304 Lincoln Ave., Alameda, 510-749-0332 (ForbiddenIslandAlameda.com). The write-up can be found on our Web site in the issue’s Restaurants & Bars category.

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