Letters for the Week of November 5, 2014

Readers sound off on media bias, euthanasia and the Oakland Zoo.

“The Myth of the Unbiased Media,” Feature, 10/22

The Better Term Is ‘Right Wing Liberal’

While I agree that all media is biased, I strongly object to the term “centrist” as a description of the type of politician that is favored by the corporate media, which is often euphemistically called “mainstream” media. I believe that a more accurate definition of terms would clarify things. (There are other categories, such as socialist, capitalist, fascist, reactionary, progressive, and radical, but I’ve excluded these for the sake of clarity.)

“Liberal” and “conservative” describe one’s views on social issues, such as racism, gay rights, and women’s rights. “Right” and “left” describe one’s views on economic and geopolitical issues, such as taxes, minimum wages, and war and peace. Some issues, such as most environmental issues, do not fall clearly into one category or another, but analyzing political positions in this manner would clarify why the corporate media supports certain types of candidates, and it would thus change the classification from what you call “centrist” candidates to “right wing liberal” candidates.

Corporate media is part of Corporate America, and wants to see candidates elected who support the corporate interests, such as low or no taxes, support of industrial complexes (military, prison, etc.), and deregulation. Being in the very liberal Bay Area, the San Francisco Chronicle supports liberal candidates who are right-wing. Its strong and longtime support for Dianne Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi are perfect examples of this, and perfect examples of what I’m talking about. These people are not centrists; they are right-wingers who also happen to be liberal.

A “centrist” is someone whose political positions are in the middle between right and left, and/or liberal and conservative. Calling a right-winger “centrist” merely because he or she is liberal is grossly misleading. The corporate propaganda machine, aka corporate media, supports right wing candidates who support and advocate for corporate interests. Whether those candidates are liberal or conservative is generally determined by where the corporate media is located. Here in the Bay Area, corporate media is not generally going to support conservative candidates for obvious reasons, but it is always happy to support right-wing candidates who have a decent chance of winning.

Please stop using the term “centrist” to describe right-wing candidates who are also liberal. It does a great disservice to your readers, because it indicates that these candidates are halfway between left and right, which they are not.

Jeff Hoffman, Berkeley

“Oakland Is Killing Adoptable Dogs,” News, 10/15

Stop Calling It Euthanasia

Thanks a million for the great article about dogs being killed at Oakland Animal Services. I’ve got to mention, however, that you do a disservice when you call killing “euthanasia.” You’re a person who must value language, and appreciate the power of words. Using a euphemism (“murder” is actually the most accurate term) makes the killing all the more easy for the workers and the public to swallow. But that use makes my blood boil! Keep this in mind, please! 

Cynthia Burke, Richmond

“Zoo Gone Wild,” Feature, 9/3

The Zoo Is a World-Class Facility

As a devoted and active volunteering resident of Oakland for the past 22 years —17 spent living at the footsteps of Knowland Park — I have seen the Oakland Zoo become a beacon for our city. The zoo, through its leadership and community support, has grown in recognition and value within the natural and animal conservation world. Its plans for the California Trail Exhibit will further this mission, while still allowing the zoo to serve as good steward of Knowland Park.

The California Trail Exhibit was approved in 1998 with the full engagement of the neighborhoods and groups around Knowland Park, and again unanimously in 2011. The proposed Conservation Easement is a last step in a very long public process and will ensure Knowland Park habitat monitoring and management in perpetuity. The proposed project — based upon this decade-old agreement that included extensive input from the community and concessions from the zoo — will not eliminate trail access for neighbors or others who come to Knowland Park to walk with their dogs. Native species are protected and preserved under this already approved plan.

A world-class facility, the zoo adds to our city’s marketability to businesses and brings increased recognition from educational institutions, attracting visitors to Oakland. And its growing popularity and the proposed project will allow the zoo to grow as an economic engine and educational asset for Oakland, creating work for Oaklanders and elevating the perception of Oakland. Our zoo is and will be an ongoing symbol of how and why our city is growing in recognition and stature, and attracting visitors for all the right reasons.

Both state and federal agencies that have oversight of our state’s natural resources have permitted the California Trail Exhibit, including requiring the City of Oakland to set aside a portion of Knowland Park for permanent conservation. As a neighbor and proud Oakland resident, I fully support the already approved plans for the California Trail Exhibit.

Ken Benson, Oakland

Miscellaneous Letters

A Letter That Doesn’t Blast Kaiser

As a lifelong — and satisfied — Kaiser member, I finally felt like I had to respond to the series of articles and many letters to the editor published by the Express, blasting the health plan. I’m not defending Kaiser from what seem like legitimate grievances raised by the many nurses quoted in the Express over the past few months. It seems like there are serious problems that need to be addressed.
However, I felt I should offer an alternative perspective that is sorely lacking. I’ve been a Kaiser member since I was a child and wouldn’t have it any other way. My family has experienced all sorts of services, from routine care to management of a chronic condition, two pregnancies and deliveries (one normal and one high-risk), and two pediatric surgeries. For the most part, our care has ranged from good to stellar. 

I have to agree with the assessment of many of my friends who belong to Kaiser: For preventative care, routine issues, range of facilities and specialties, and anything else that benefits from economies of scale, Kaiser is hard to beat. Need a flu shot? Walk in on a Saturday morning and get it for free with no wait. Need (as I did) a special blood thinning medication that costs $1,800 over the counter? Get it for $20.
Again, as a lifelong member and fairly heavy user, I’ve experienced the good, the bad and the ugly, so I am no corporate mouthpiece (and have no personal connections to Kaiser).

I have not heard great things about mental health services, and ended my own brief stint in Kaiser counseling after my therapist repeatedly took personal cell calls during our session. I had a painful (though not dangerous) encounter with short staffing when I couldn’t visit my premature newborn for hours because there was no spare nurse to take me to the NICU. But a friend once reminded me that Kaiser nationwide serves a population equivalent to that of the country of Austria. With that kind of member base, you’re going to find a million patient stories that are great, bad, and everything in between.

I also acknowledge that my general good experience may be somewhat tied to the fact that I am a native English speaker, light-skinned, financially secure, and well educated — and thus am well positioned to navigate a huge system and be catered to by that system. My family also benefits from living four blocks away from Kaiser’s flagship medical center — so when our children needed emergency care, we didn’t have to make the type of tough choices about traveling to and from the hospital faced by the family from Hayward that you profiled.

All that being said, my experience with Kaiser — and that of my wife, children, and many friends and family — is so removed from the horror show you have been depicting that I have to start to question the Express’ journalism. I’m staunchly pro-labor, and even I’m starting to wonder if this article-and-letter campaign is some sort of collusion between the Express and the nurses union.

You’ve made your point about Kaiser’s problems, and they may well be legitimate — but they’re not the whole story. Can we please hear from someone else (like doctors or a wider range of patients)? Could we please read about other real and important stories in health care that plague all hospitals and health plans, like alarm fatigue, and rising costs? Then you’ll get me reading — and trusting — again.

Gloria Bruce, Oakland

Close the Environmental Loophole

A recently released report called “Waterways Restored” highlights how the Clean Water Act has successfully protected the Monterey Bay by conserving Palo Corona and preventing runoff pollution.

All of California’s waters deserve a success story, but right now, a loophole in the Clean Water Act has left 140,000 miles of California’s streams, including those that feed into Monterey Bay, vulnerable to pollution.

Thankfully, the US Environmental Protection Agency has proposed closing this loophole in order to protect all of the state’s rivers and streams, but agribusinesses and big developers are waging a bitter campaign against it. The agency is still looking for public comments on its rule until November 14. I urge the EPA to stand up to big polluters and restore safeguards to California’s waters.

Kakivant Lal, Santa Cruz


The Express won two first-place awards for journalism excellence and shared in another in this year’s Society of Professional Journalism contest for Northern California news organizations. The Express also won the most awards of any newsweekly in Northern California.

Express staff writer Sam Levin won a first place in the Arts and Culture reporting category for his January 8 cover story, “When Corporations Want Profits, They Don’t Ask for Permission.” Levin’s piece focused on how large retail chains have been stealing the work of artists, and then forcing them to remain silent about it through legal settlement agreements.

Former Express co-editor Kathleen Richards won first place in the Feature Storytelling category for her June 25 cover story, “Hunting with a Rat.” The contests judges said Richards wrote “engagingly about her confrontation with guns, bikers, and wild boars, exploring the dilemma of a meat eater who abhors killing.”

And Express contributor Joaquin Palomino won in the Outstanding Emerging Journalist category for his cover stories, “California’s Thirsty Almonds” (2/5/14) and “The Water Tunnel Boondoggle” (5/13/14. Palomino was also honored for his report, “Archaeology’s Poisonous Past,” in High Country News.

Levin and Richards won in the small circulation division.

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