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Letters for the Week of November 10

Readers sound off on legalization, Exotic Erotic Ball, and our Bars, Clubs, & Coffeehouses issue.


"Undressing the Exotic Erotic Ball," Culture Spy, 10/6

Blame Richmond

Sad to see this year canceled, but I had a feeling this might be the case.I recall years ago going to this when it was a really big and bawdy event in SF — quite fun!!!

But things have changed over the years.Not just the down economy and all that, but the location . . . in Richmond???

Sorry to say, I think this turned a lot of people off. Richmond has had its share of challenges, not the least of which is the perception that there is a really serious violent crime problem there.Had this been in SF, or maybe Berkeley or somewhere else that is a bit more comfortable for folks to visit, might have been a different reception.

But, I think the Richmond location put the final cabash on ticket sales, vendor sponsorship and so on.

That's just the way it is . . .

Charles Ostman, Berkeley

"Imprisoned, Rehabilitated, Unemployed," Feature, 10/13

A Police State

Welcome to America.

In the 1970s, prisoner management moved from rehabilitation to punishment, based on a very flawed report from a couple of psychologists that suggested that rehab simply didn't work.

As a result, recidivism has gone from around 30 percent to over 70 percent. At the same time, California has become ridiculously litigious. Companies are a very easy target for the ambulance-chasing breed of lawyers whose population has exploded in the past 35 years.So the safe path for any employer is to immediately exclude any person who would provide any kind of leverage to an ambulance-chaser. When a case finishes up in front of a jury, one thing you can be certain of: when you are looking for justice, all you find is "just us." So the state government has created a police state, a prison nightmare, and unsupportable debt. This has been compounded by crooked cops (ask John Burris about his experiences suing the City of Oakland et al), a public that can't be bothered engaging in a political process that is utterly broken, and "gamed" by cronyistic behavior that goes uninvestigated.So why would you worry about this tiny tip of the iceberg? Business is fleeing from California, and it ain't coming back. As somebody who has built two national companies, one of them in the US from a California base, I can tell you I would never be foolish enough to do that again. :)Unemployment amongst felons is very unfortunate, but it is the tip of the unemployment iceberg, which is about to get worse.

Richard Hamilton-Gibbs, Walnut Creek

"NUHW Vote Is a Bloody Nose for the Labor Left," Raising the Bar, 10/20

We Can Do Better

True enough, the UHW drew significant progressive support for its bout with SEIU at Kaiser. But the breakaway local's coattails weren't entirely clean. Some of us remember UHW's leader, Sal Rosselli's role in earlier disputes as less positive, and in some instances decidedly sell-out. 

He sided with nursing home owners to restrict sanctions for neglect of residents to cases of intentional abuse in exchange for "card check neutrality" in organizing their workers. This move sold out the elderly and disabled communities that had been key to winning bargaining rights for homecare workers, a significant sector of his members at the time.  Not to mention that nursing home abuse is seldom intentional, it's the result of exploitation of the very workers he was seeking to represent. It is also the source of many illnesses and unreported fatalities among the frail and disabled who are stuck in residential settings. I spoke to a Local 250 staff member at the time who felt she had to go home and take a shower after the deal was struck. It's detailed in an article still available at: 

Rosselli refused to pay "per capita" dues to the Alameda County Labor Council for years, long before Andy Stern broke with the AFL-CIO. In the labor movement, members are told that their dues are the key to solidarity — why was such a huge local exempt? The rivalry between Sal and the California Nurses Association (CNA) may have had many sources, but it contributed to the ultimate failure of single payer health insurance bills in California.

We may be desperate to find standard bearers for progressive change in the labor movement, but we could do better than Sal. I am not altogether pleased to be a member of SEIU, and feel that members should do all we can to rejoin the AFL-CIO.  But the only way to build a really successful movement is to confront bad behavior wherever and whenever it is found. 

Susan Chacin, SEIU 1021, Berkeley

"A Cup of Coffee With Your Wi-Fi?" Bars, Clubs, & Coffeehouses, 10/27

Don't Be a Hog

There's no doubt that technology has caused a surge in coffee shop patronage. I'm just one coffee shop devotee who is proof of that. I use its wi-fi and I can be seen here almost daily.

In fact, just today the manager of my local coffee shop (one of the larger, corporate-owned brands) introduced me to his district manager; she, in turn, actually asked my opinion about some improvements they were making here. I was flattered to say the least ... but it made me realize something. The independent coffee houses ("indies") don't have the same luxury of unlimited resources that the big-brand coffee companies do.

On the one hand, I understand when owners create policies limiting wi-fi use to maximize business goals or to maintain their culture/atmosphere. On the other hand, as illustrated in Mr. Tsai's article, these rules can adversely affect a segment of their customer base. Indie owners have to ask themselves if this is what they want. Do they want to alienate a segment of their customer base because a few tables (or the majority of them in some cases) have been occupied by laptops and their owners? Or can they come up with some creative solutions to avoid having those customers angrily storm out and write bad reviews online? Either way, they are the owners and they can do what they want with their cafes.Coffee shop customers who squat on an indie's free wi-fi should also realize that the space they're using is not public and not free. Not buying anything at all is just plain rude. The owners, managers, and staff who allow it should be commended for their patience and understanding. I love working from a coffee shop — which I call my coffice. I try to adhere to a certain amount of etiquette, and so I would hate to find out that a bad element of coffee shop squatters ruined my ability to do what I love.Buy something. Share space if needed. Don't be a power hog. Clean up after yourself. Be nice. Tip well. Tip often. Enjoy.

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