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Letters to the Editor 

Letters from March 21, 2001

No Light at the End of the Tunnel Vision

Tell us again -- if politicians are idiots, why do we need more of them?: Ron Russell's dismaying story of the 1996 passage of the utility deregulation bill, AB 1890 ("Dim Bulbs," March 7), contains all the elements of legislative disaster predicted by the critics of term limits: inexperienced and ill-informed legislators outgunned by interest groups on complex policy issues; increased influence of lobbyists; short-term, ambitious politicians interested only in building campaign war chests; the loss of experienced political leaders who might have at least slowed down the AB 1890 bulldozer.

An equal problem of the state Legislature is its small size compared with California's growing population of 35 million. The Assembly's 80 districts average 437,000 residents, and the Senate's 40 districts, about 850,000. Compared with other advanced nations, as its economy often is, Californians enjoy less democracy than citizens of France (one assembly member for every 100,000 residents), the United Kingdom (every 88,000), Germany (every 121,000), and Brazil (every 315,000).

The Assembly should be reformed by enlarging it and ending term limits. How many more disasters must Californians endure before realizing that what we have in Sacramento isn't democracy at all, but merely a rubber stamp for whatever big-money interests buy the politicians' attention?

Jerome M. Garchik

Here at SF Weekly, we've given up margaritas and unplugged the blender: The electricity deregulation bill was a truly wretched piece of legislation. It gave us the worst of both worlds: the greedy excesses of the free market, along with the inflexibility and inefficiency of government regulation. But the single biggest factor in the electricity "shortage" is not giant corporations and foolish politicians. The biggest factor is electricity consumers.

We do not have an electricity shortage in this state. We generate far more electricity than we need, but then waste most of it. Experts have calculated that the U.S. could cut energy consumption by far more than 50 percent with no reduction in the standard of living.

We are surrounded by houses with only one occupant but half a dozen lights on. Businesses keep their computer monitors on 24 hours a day. At the company where I used to work, even after we'd been hit by a blackout that knocked out hundreds of computers, it was impossible to get more than a handful of people to turn off their cubicle lights and their computer monitors at night. You can train even a brain-damaged pigeon to turn a switch on and off, but training a human with a master's degree to do that same task is essentially impossible.

Which solution to the power crisis do you prefer -- one that costs billions of dollars and will require years to build new power plants, or one that saves billions of dollars and can be done in five seconds by turning off a few switches?

Mark Gilkey
Mountain View

The Best Defensiveness Is a Good Offensiveness

We're still looking for N.C. on the map: I enjoyed your Pop Philosophy article (March 7, by Dan Strachota). Re: Mark Kozelek's Asian references in his act getting an irate response from SF Weekly reader Stephanie Chin, Mark should keep in mind that generally residents of the S.F. Bay Area have no sense of humor about themselves.

When I go out of town to my home state of North Carolina, it's like a breath of fresh air being there with people who enjoy little harmless digs regarding their own human foibles and even their accents.

Conversely, it's a real drag returning home and observing San Francisco residents on the same flight or in airports. They are real easy to spot. These drips still think dressing in black is reeeal hip and that having a generally dissatisfied or self-absorbed attitude somehow makes them more interesting. In reality, they're a bunch of defensive art school yuppies who can't get along except in the rarefied, politically correct box of S.F.

And you, Mr. Strachota, with your cowardly parting shot at Kozelek, are a perfect example of the San Francisco starched rectum described above. Aren't you ashamed of your last paragraph?

Better stay in your tiny San Francisco. Anyplace else they'd think you're no fun at all. And if you print this letter, you can really score some points if you say something derogatory about my home state of North Carolina. It's a cheap shot but very common and very effective in the little world of Smug Francisco.

C. C. White Jr.
Western Addition

Language Barrier

And for what it's worth, we know a great Thai restaurant in Winnemucca: Concerning Matt Smith's "Language Arts for a New Millennium" (March 7): Hopefully, Mr. Smith was trying -- rather distastefully -- to be humorous.

An alternative explanation for those students at the Harvey Milk Institute wanting to learn Thai involves wanting to appreciate the rich culture, history, and Buddhist tradition of Thailand.

Moreover, according to, the lowest cost for a round-trip ticket from SFO to Bangkok, Thailand, is presently $2,061. Nevada is a lot cheaper, legal, and just a six-hour drive away. If people wanted hookers, why learn Thai, spend $2,061 for a plane trip, and spend at least 18 hours one-way on a plane?

Michael Menaster, M.D.
Pacific Heights

Or very particular: Since it seems that Matt Smith's column exists to irritate readers with stupidity so that they write letters, I am reluctant to perpetuate the pattern. Nonetheless, I have to say that anyone who thinks that speaking some Thai is necessary to engage prostitutes in Thailand is very ignorant.

Stephen Murray
Potrero Hill

We apologize. Due to editing difficulties, "toothless German plumbers" was mistakenly substituted for the original phrase, "flatulent French accountants." SF Weekly regrets the error.: I was shocked to read Matt Smith's article. I find his reference to "toothless German plumbers" racist and crude. How can someone denigrate Germans and characterize them as toothless when they have a much higher standard of living than the average San Franciscan? Whatever happened to tolerance?

George Hoss


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