Letters to the Editor for 12/19/2001

"Guess what? Alameda is filled with the wrong kind of people' (and bowling is fun)."

The Pros and the Con
I was very disturbed by the cover article of December 5, regarding Summit Medical Center (“Someone to Watch over Me”). I am a physician who has worked at the Summit hospitals for over twenty years, the last ten providing in-patient hospital care. In this capacity I have worked side by side with Linda Tschappat as well as many other case managers and social workers. I would like to respond to several elements of the story.

First, it is an unfortunate truth that our country has many priorities ahead of caring for the health of its citizens. Many patients spend extra days, weeks, even months in the hospital because no place in the community can be found to take them in. Staying in the hospital after you are no longer sick is bad for so many reasons it is hard to name them all, but exposure to resistant organisms and a nonexistent social life are at the top of the list. Needlessly occupying a hospital bed needed by a person waiting in the emergency room is another. Insurance companies do not pay for patients who are “boarding” in the acute hospital.

Granted, it is a misdemeanor to refer someone to an unlicensed facility; let’s not pretend that a license is a guarantee against abuse, or that an unlicensed facility is not capable of providing loving care. Case managers spend hours searching for homes for patients. They get to know the community facilities very well. The author of your article admitted that Mr. Williams’ home had been visited several times and had been found to be clean and well kept up. I can tell you from my own experience that facilities, licensed or not, whose clients return to the hospital ill-kept do not receive referrals from our case managers, and facilities do get reported for elder abuse.

The fact that Mr. Williams is a con man of the first order seems to be the main point of the story. It seems extremely unfair to blame SMC and Ms. Tschappat for being his victim. In fact, he was able to con the police officer who, having been alerted by the DA, interrupted him in the middle of his illegal activities. The loss of Ms. Pland’s home was a result of the criminal acts of Mr. Williams. He forged her name. The hospital and the case managers had nothing to do with that.

I think that the most disturbing aspect to this story, however, is the sensationalism of the cover and headlines. Thanks again to our social priorities, Summit Medical Center is the only hospital in town for thousands of us. It provides compassionate and technically excellent care to everyone who enters, as well as sponsoring many community health efforts. To trash its reputation with this kind of superficial, sensationalistic article, in which the connection to SMC is flimsy at best, is irresponsible journalism. To damage the community’s confidence in Summit has the potential to be life-threatening as well. And as someone who knows Linda Tschappat, who has witnessed the compassion, dedication, and long hours she gives to her work, to see her name dragged through the mud — well, it is difficult for me to find words to express how repellant that is.

Lorraine Bonner, Oakland

One for the Ages
The article “Is Islam to Blame?” (December 12) implies that Noam Chomsky is a Muslim.

Either you have the story of the century or you need to do better copy editing and fact-checking.

Of course, the century is young….

John Levy, via the Internet

Pick Your Cliché
For the benefit of readers of David Bacon’s article “Thanks, but No Thanks,” in the December 5 edition of the East Bay Express, I would like to offer the following lexicon of some of the technical terms of education theory.

Creativity: A mystical state of happiness and well-being that spontaneously occurs if children are not expected to learn anything. Sample sentence: We believe that an excessive emphasis on academics destroys children’s creativity.

Critical thinking: Learning to recite the politically correct clichés for any occasion.

Rote learning: Any determinate content or skill. Sample sentence: We are being asked to teach rote learning instead of critical thinking (q.v.).

Self-esteem: Achieving a blissful state of narcissistic self-regard in the absence of any achievement.

Teaching to the test: Requiring that students master a body of knowledge and a set of skills in order to be promoted or to graduate.

Joe Willingham, Berkeley

Taking a Dive
Steve Henson says, “We want to make it a place where people go and feel good” (“Planet Clair,” November 28). As if anyone who ever went into the Minnow before did so to “feel bad.” And you say he rubbed a few people the wrong way?

Kick out the working class and open a pseudo dive-bar for an upscale clientele. Kick out the punks for a more “polite” crowd that will bus their own tables. This is exactly the recipe that destroyed the Mission district.

Rooster’s Roadhouse? Wha thu fu…? Oh I get it; Hanson finally got out of Contra Costa County and wandered into a House of Blues somewhere. Does he understand the reason they put chicken wire up in roadhouses is to protect the band from flying bottles? Not the crowd he wants, but obviously it’s the oh-so-déclassé environment he wants for his upscale clientele that would be scared shitless to go into a real roadhouse — reminds me of the same kind of people that started showing up at the Boom Boom Room to gawk at JLH. (The management of which told PG&E they wanted to be exempt from rolling blackouts because they were afraid that if the place went dark, their clientele would “freak out.”)

And I guess Steve Henson finally heard about that new Swing Dance Craze that’s been sweeping the nation for the past decade. Does he understand that more than half of the nouveau big band musicians in the Bay Area have punk roots? And that no self-respecting swing band will be caught dead at such a convoluted, confused Disney-esque version of a juke joint? But what do you expect from an investment planner from freakin’ Walnut Creek?

Guess what? Alameda is filled with “the wrong kind of people” (and bowling is fun, you should try it). That’s why lots of the old school came over from San Francisco, to escape the “better class of people” that screwed up the blue-collar neighborhoods there. The same reason anybody with an ounce of urban blood never goes to Walnut Creek.

Ralph McDaniel, Oakland

In our December 12 issue, a story about the Oakland band the Cuts was erroneously credited to Rene Spencer Saller. Actually, it was written by Jennifer Maerz and photographed by John Mockus.


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