Letters for the week of May 11-17, 2005

Treating dogs with respect. Treating butt rock with no respect. Respecting immigrant victims of violence. Disrespecting West Berkeley residents.

“Roll Over,” Trendspotting, 3/30

I feel sorry for your dog
My publisher recently alerted me to the one-paragraph mention of my book, The Wholesome Dog Biscuit, in an article by Zac Unger. Since Mr. Unger has misrepresented me and my book in several significant ways, and has also asserted an opinion that is actually dangerous, I am writing to set the record straight.

The first way in which Mr. Unger has misrepresented my book is to foolishly imply that my recipes are not good for dogs. If Mr. Unger had bothered to read the section titled “About Food Allergies,” he would know that in fact many dogs today suffer from severe food allergies, and all the recipes in my book use ingredients that are the least likely to cause allergic reactions. In dogs, food allergies can cause debilitating diarrhea and/or severe skin rashes which can even degenerate into staph infections.

The second misrepresentation is the statement, “you might like quinoa and tempeh,” which implies that I include tempeh as an ingredient in my recipes. This is absolutely not true. In fact, soy is an overused ingredient to which many dogs have developed allergies.

I wrote the book from my heart, and self-published it out of my own pocket. I cannot speak for Csanyi, Houston, Konik, or Markoe, but I did not “churn out” this 68-page book — it took me the better part of a year to create and multiple-test each recipe, polish the instructions, and draw the dog portraits. I wrote it simply in order to help other dogs like my Maeve, who in early life suffered greatly from allergies brought on by eating the garbage that “big business” introduces into commercial biscuits and dog food. Her healing only took place after I met an honest veterinarian and was told to put her on a healthy, homemade, natural-food diet.

Finally, I must point out the erroneous and potentially lethal dietary opinion expressed by Mr. Unger. He negatively compares my recipes (for biscuits made of fresh, unrefined, organic ingredients) with a “slightly greenish pound of hamburger.” Mr. Unger then asserts that we should not “feel guilty for treating our dogs like dogs.” I would not like to be acquainted with the kind of person who would be capable of remaining guilt-free if they inflicted the following kind of suffering on their dog by means of “Doctor” Unger’s rotten-meat diet: “Food poisoning is common in dogs … harmful bacteria in discarded meat can do great harm to your dog’s system, especially if the food is contaminated with salmonella or clostridium. Salmonella is especially dangerous … puppies … can die within hours.” This quotation comes from The American Animal Hospital Association Encyclopedia of Dog Health and Care, Hearst Books, 1994.
Patricia Leslie, Richmond

“Sweet Love Hangover,” Down in Front, 4/20

Cannibalism lives
In rebuttal to your recent Express show review, I’m firmly convinced that bad journalism reigns supreme. Not that I’m a writer, but that article sucked. Your article pissed me off so much you’ve immobilized my brain, and yes I am fucking stoned. All I know is that every band on that bill fucking rocked and fucking rolled and what you don’t seem to understand is that it’s us everyday workers that make rock ‘n’ roll breathe. And who are you to dictate the terms? What the fuck? This is not butt rock. This is not for the people who don’t like rock ‘n’ roll. This is for bad kids who live for this shit.

So the next time you wanna fucking suck off the Horse’s dick, call Eric Shea a goth, and forget to mention the most epic guitar work of Genghis Khan, we might just have to put you on a stake and show you that cannibalism still exists.
Anonymous, San Francisco

“American Nightmare,” Feature, 4/13/05

Just two words
In response to your recent sob story about illegal immigrant women and their dysfunctional relationships, two words: DEPORT THEM.

Peter Labriola, Berkeley

Combat anti-immigrant hysteria
I am the attorney for a nonprofit organization that serves immigrant survivors of domestic violence. I wanted to thank you for doing a piece that illuminates so well the many complexities that trap immigrant women into an impossible situation.

There has been so little understanding of the situation of battered immigrant women since the anti-immigrant hysteria that has been inflamed since September 11. Many people are not aware that when harsh and unfair measures that have not been thought through are put into place, it hurts immigrant survivors of domestic violence, many of whom are currently undocumented — even though they actually have the right to get a green card — because their abusive husbands refused to file papers for them or sabotaged their immigration status. This hurts their children too, many of whom are US citizens. But citizen or not, no human being should have to endure abuse and violence, regardless of what their immigration status is.

We cannot tolerate abuse and violence against a vulnerable person just because she is an immigrant; if we do so, the cycle of violence will spread until it engulfs our entire society.
Naomi Onaga, International Institute of the East Bay, Oakland

Everyone can learn something
Thank you for writing such a great article. The story is about me too. Even though my version of the peripetei was perhaps less dramatic than others’, I felt very lost back then. “Back then,” the International Institute was unfortunately rather unhelpful to me, as were the Catholic charities you mentioned. These organizations pick and choose their cases — I understand they might have limited resources — but it took me a lot longer to get out of the situation than it would have. Thanks to many kind people who have helped me on my journey, now I am happy, healthy, and with few scars. However, it often is the people who can help who don’t quite understand the vulnerability and complications abused immigrant women suffer from.

Katka Kastnerova, multilingual research for (a) change, Oakland

We care
Thank you for your story on the troubles of women immigrants. Here at East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, we assist immigrants and refugees with service referrals and gaining political asylum. Because of your story I am able to convince many female clients that there are others in their situation. Please post our information for readers who need legal immigration assistance: East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, 2362 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, CA 94708, EastBaySanctuary.org, 510-540-5296.

Javaughn Fernanders, Berkeley

Stop romanticizing illegals
Kara Platoni’s “American Nightmare,” depicting the plight of four immigrant women abused and exploited by husbands and employers to the point of slavery and imprisonment while in the US, pushes all the right buttons to heap truckloads of sympathy for seemingly blameless victims, and initially the dramatic ordeals worked on me until, well after establishing this sympathy, it’s disclosed that three of the young ladies are illegal immigrants, a fact at this point in the article whose relevancy is cleverly diminished to the level of a mere afterthought, at best incidental to the three accounts.

Unquestionably, the husbands and employer described are, if the characterizations are accurate, disgusting enough and just plain criminal — but the three women choose to break US law by illegally entering the country, and while neither they nor anyone else deserve to be so mistreated, they put themselves in such peril and deserve no sympathy, compensation (at least not from public funds), or special consideration for residency. The bogus husbands, bondage-style employers, and the illegals are equally culpable — a pox on all of them as well as errant sponsors, shyster immigration attorneys, scam marriage brokers, counterfeiters of documentation to establish some form of residency, politicians who pander to ethnic-bloc voters, and “coyotes” who traffic in illegal immigration. I worry more about the considerable socioeconomic harm to our own country attributable to illegal immigration, a reality vehemently denied by misguided and misinformed proponents who maintain quite erroneously that illegals contribute more to the country than they take.

To be sure, illegals come to the US for a better life, but it’s hard enough to provide for the 300,000,000 here legally, and the media all too often portrays illegals in a romanticized and heroic light to downplay their criminality and negative impact.
George Warren, Alameda

Humans first
I read Kara Platoni’s article about the difficult struggles of immigrant women. I live in Manassas, Virginia, and I attend a Spanish-speaking church, so I am in contact with immigrant men and women every day. So much of the media and especially columnists and talk-show hosts are ferociously anti-immigrant, and I see and read so many articles and commentaries insulting and degrading these people. It is so refreshing to see something published that talks about these people as human beings rather than “lawbreakers” or political pawns.

David Mills, Manassas, Virginia

Editor’s Note
The women profiled were not illegals at the time of their abuse. As spouses of United States citizens, they were eligible to live here legally, apply for a green card, and enjoy the protection of our justice system.

“Why Berkeley Can’t Do the Right Thing,” City of Warts, 4/13/05

That’s $10,204 a foot
It’s not a “bike path to nowhere”; it’s a bike path to Emeryville. In “Why Berkeley Can’t Do the Right Thing,” the author leaves a confusing ambiguity. The southern section of the proposed bike path connects to the Emeryville Greenway parks, and makes sense. Only the block north of Ashby seems to be the intended target of his criticism. Here, I agree with the author.

The one-block bike-path appendage will cost roughly one million extra dollars, and require a new traffic light on Ashby. The project makes as much sense as extending an interstate freeway with an escalator. Ninth Street is a Bicycle Boulevard, where cyclists travel in the road at ten to twenty mph. Dropping that type of cyclist onto a low-speed bike path invites conflicts with pedestrians and children, and makes for a poor commuter route. The design invites conflicts between turning cars and bike path users. A better plan for all is to extend the Ninth Street Bicycle Boulevard, which is complete except for a 98-foot gap. Since cyclists can’t be expected to jump the 98 feet, they need some help from the city and the Berkeley Bowl. They don’t, however, need a million-dollar bike path.
Bryce Nesbitt, Berkeley

It starts with good faith
The West Berkeley Traffic and Safety Coalition is pleased to note that City of Berkeley planning officials and Berkeley Bowl owner Glenn Yasuda finally have done the right thing. They’ve agreed to our request for an environmental impact report on the proposed West Berkeley Bowl, with a primary focus on traffic and parking.

At 91,000 square feet (half again as large as the existing Bowl), the new Bowl would be bigger than the Pak N Save on San Pablo in Emeryville but with much less parking. Unlike most big grocery stores, which are sited directly on major arterials, the new Bowl at 920 Heinz (just west of Orchard Supply’s parking lot) will be accessed via narrow, neighborhood-scale streets.

The original traffic study for the Bowl projected that the new store will generate 50,000 new vehicle trips a week, yet the study concluded that the project would have virtually no significant negative impact on traffic and parking. It also asserted that there’s less traffic at San Pablo and Ashby now than there was in 1993. And it gave short shrift to the children’s safety issues posed by the store’s proximity to Ecole Bilingue. To check out these and other matters, we hired an independent traffic engineer. The Berkeley Planning Department has acknowledged that our consultant’s findings were key in their decision to do an EIR after all.

The consequent delay could have been avoided if city planners had facilitated good-faith negotiations among all the stakeholders at the very start. We encourage the city to sponsor just such a collaborative effort through the EIR process.
Jeff Hogan, Ashby Lumber; Bernard Marszalek, Inkworks; John Phillips, John Phillips Harpsichords; Mary Lou Van Deventer, Urban Ore, Berkeley

Editor’s Note

Several of our readers notified us that they were offended by our May 4 cover illustration, in which a bearded Hasidic man was used to illustrate a story about allegations that Jewish jurors were systematically kept off death-penalty juries in Alameda County. Some readers said they were offended by the character’s big red nose and exaggerated features; we must point out that illustrator Justin Page draws almost everyone with big red noses and exaggerated features. Some said it was stereotypical; that, we must confess, was our intention in a story about stereotypical attitudes toward jurors of one ethnicity. Others reasonably complained that culturally conservative Hasidic Jews are in no way representative of the primarily liberal jurors discussed in the story. In the end, the bottom line for most of these readers was that it was offensive. That was certainly not our intention, and we apologize to those we may have offended.

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