"Maxed Out," Feature, 10/2
Rock on, Mamas
Hooray for this piece! We really can't look in on other people's lives and think from our perspective that we actually have the big picture. Really, we never know what others are dealing with, at work, at home, or inside their own minds! I applaud this movement toward less dogma, less judgment, and more acceptance. I do think though that sometimes our shame and fear of judgment actually comes from within ourselves. We anticipate judgment sometimes because we are uncertain about our own decisions. Not to say it isn't ever there, but I do think the media does a good job of making us question our own choices as if we were being judged. Rock on, mamas. You're doing a great job.
Bernadette Noll, Austin, Texas
What About Women of Color?
Why do these articles always seem to exclude women of color and single mothers like me?
All this angst seems to be the product of the choice of whether to stay home or not. If a single mother chooses to stay at home to raise her children then she's a welfare queen. Women of color have traditionally been in the workforce, but not as CEOs of high-tech companies or directors of nonprofits, so their work is not valued and changes to their working conditions are never focused on. The cries to "end the mommy wars" are synonymous with "upper middle-class white women, stop picking on each other." And that's fair. But what about the rest of us?
Alicia Martin, Oakland
Time to Lean Out
Congratulations to Katrina Alcorn for her honesty on a subject that causes so much stress among today's moms. I am a psychotherapist who has been in practice for more than 25 years working with parents, couples, and families. In the last five years I have seen more and more mothers like the ones Katrina writes about. The career moms feel guilty for leaving their kids and feel that they are both bad workers and bad mothers. The stay-at-home moms feel guilty not working, especially the ones I see who mostly have professional degrees. Those working part-time often feel they have the worst of both worlds — not being a good stay-at-home mom and not getting enough work done at their job.
There is very little support in our society for any choice a mother makes, which is why, as Katrina says, they are "on the brink." I hope this article (and Katrina's book) will inspire more mothers to "lean out" and talk about this issue with their friends, family, and seek counseling to get added support.
Fran Wickner, Albany
Non-Parent Co-Workers Can Be Allies
Working mothers: Want a huge cohort of allies? Then start framing the discussion on working conditions to include your non-parent co-workers. Yes, it's true, many of the rest of us want job sharing, sabbaticals without severe demotion, and explosion of the myth that our jobs "require" long hours and all-day meetings. But the corporations will continue to succeed in diluting our power so long as the wording for these arguments focus on female parents.
Melanie Archer, Oakland
"Fracking Jerry Brown," Full Disclosure, 10/2
Oily Campaign Donations
It looks like our "drill, baby, drill" governor is helping ignite the carbon bomb that will cook the planet. Jerry Brown's pursuit of oily campaign donations, his blockage of any bill that would restrict fracking, his failure to get the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources to monitor fracking, and his support of a weak-noodle SB 4 tells it all. Brown doesn't care about the environment. He doesn't care if fracking destroys California's aquifers, he doesn't care about the health concerns of Californians, and he doesn't care what these fracking eyesores do to our property values. What he cares about is oily campaign donations. It looks like Jerry Brown's legacy will be the governor that led California into climate hell.
Dr. James McFadden, Berkeley
This Is a Non-Story
So what? There's nothing wrong here, though the story seems to try to create something to that effect. Parties negotiate while legislation is going through its process. And legislators and public officials receive campaign contributions. We have a new bill, which requires companies that perform hydraulic fracturing to report their activities and the chemicals they use to the state and to affected property owners. At the same time, new, badly needed jobs will be created in California, helping people get on their feet, manage their debt, and feed their families. This is a non-story unless we're celebrating the fact that we now have rules for hydraulic fracturing in California. It's time.
Debran Reed, Sacramento
"Field of Dreams," Seven Days, 10/2
A Potential Boondoggle
Field of dreams is a good title for this as I like and hope the best for Oakland, but I just don't see the area around the Coliseum as financially lucrative, even with the best investors in the world. What do I fear? That Oakland taxpayers will somehow end up paying for a fiasco as we did for the Coliseum, costing taxpayers millions of dollars, which we are still paying off. Bob [Gammon], I hope you will do the big digging on this story next. How do cities really pay for sports teams and coliseums? In many cities like Oakland, there are legions of failed attempts and cities being on the hook big-time for dozens of years, if not for a generation.
I would like to see the mayor and her staff concentrate on smaller, sustainable projects, like just getting a permanent food-pod policy or having a permit for the forty or so individual trucks out there operating without a permit, only because the city can't get it together for a policy. It's these small, incremental changes that add up to real jobs, not necessarily the flashy ones. Lots of low-wage jobs near the coliseum? Not sure about that. What about the green economy and industrial and biotech jobs that would pump more money in quicker? I see the idea of Coliseum City as a potential boondoggle.
Karen Hester, Oakland
Economic Promises Are Not Delivered
Oakland's providing the land and some ancillary add-ons are, indeed, subsidies, whether or not these subsidies amount to "major funding." The question remains as to the net economic and social benefit to Oakland of such a project. I think that the experience of many cities is that the economic benefits promised are not, in the end, delivered.
I would rather see Oakland help East Oakland and the Coliseum area develop in a much richer, truly community-oriented way, through competent urban planning and the encouragement of small businesses. Unfortunately, Oakland's elected officials aren't very good at community-building and urban planning, among other things.
Mike Ferro, Oakland
"Who's Jacking Up the Price of Housing?" News, 10/2
Geography is more to blame than any individual companies or landlords. You can't change the fact that West Oakland is a ten-minute BART ride from downtown San Francisco.
Timothy Mulshine, Oakland
"Too Damn Loud," Music, 9/25
Fighting Level Creep
I worked in rock 'n' roll in the 1960s and '70s, managing clubs and producing concerts, and had to fight "level creep" constantly. You do a sound check at the start of a gig, but after fifteen to twenty minutes of the show, the people mixing the sound have diminished hearing capacity, so they turn the master level up. Every ten to fifteen minutes, it just doesn't seem as loud to them, so the level goes up again.
The thing is, if you started the show with the sound levels even at 50 or 60 percent of your sound system's top capacity, when you get to 80 percent, you're starting to get distortions in the sound. So, the first problem with too-loud music is that it just won't sound as good. The only two acts I ever knew who had the tech and expertise to play loudly without being distorted were Frank Zappa and the [Grateful] Dead. Anyway, after forty minutes of a concert, the sound is over-amplified and distorted, but everybody's hearing has such diminished capacity that they can't detect it. So the problem just keeps escalating.
Back in the day, I stood next to the speakers a lot; it finally got to be too physically painful. That sensitivity, I suppose, was just lucky because it made me notice that my hearing was getting injured. Most people don't feel it as acutely. I finally had to stop going to amplified concerts in the mid-'80s, because overly loud music would leave me in pain for a day or two and so I still have most of my hearing range.
It's really a drag. Even music that traditionally was never played with amplification, like folk music, chamber music, and Indian raga, is now performed with piles of amps and speakers because so many people in the average audience, and most musicians nowadays, are all partly deaf. Plus, nobody knows how to listen anymore.
I've been warning people for forty years that if you're wearing in-ear headphones, and somebody else can hear the music you're listening to, you are badly damaging your hearing. Guaranteed. The younger you are when you start wearing earphones, the worse the effect on hearing. I really think letting kids use them at all is abuse. But then, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported decades ago that children under twelve should only be exposed to television for a maximum of three to four hours per week, and children under two should not be in the same room with a television because of measured, non-reversible changes in brain structure that result. Anyway ... what? Did you say something? Speak up a bit!
Rashid Patch, Oakland
"Why BART's Wage Offer Doesn't Include a Raise," News, 9/25
Cost of Living Raise Is a Safeguard
In my thirty years as an autoworker, there was only one time that we didn't get the cost of living with our raise in our contract. That was in 1975. Everyone knows that inflation can eat up a raise in a few months. I have also seen the inflation rate go down and we lost several cents per hour. So the cost of living is a safeguard for the employee against inflation.
Mike Myers, Oakland