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Letters to the Editor 

Week of June 25, 2003

Houston, We Have a Problem

But we amateur rocketeers shall overcome: Thanks to Tommy Craggs for the wonderfully detailed article about the life of Bill Colburn and his amateur Sub-Orbital Rocket ["Pipe Dreams," June 11]. Too bad the tone seemed so melancholy. Was that the intent? I hope Craggs knows about other projects such as the Experimental Rocket Propulsion Society and Tripoli which are pushing the quality of amateur rocketry to new levels.

I'm heavily involved in the space advocacy world. I'm surprised Craggs did not mention the X Prize contest and that there is high chance that the 62-mile barrier will be breached by the end of this year.

Samuel Coniglio

Reefer Beefer

What is your guy's problem with medical pot?: Thanks to Matt Smith for his ongoing concern that not all medicinal marijuana patients in San Francisco are either terminal cancer patients trying to alleviate the side effects of chemotherapy or AIDS victims wasting away ["Hey, Man, Got Any ID?," June 11]. I think I speak on behalf of most of his publication's readers when I say that we all sleep a little better at night knowing that Mr. Smith is so diligently exposing these alleged abuses of S.F.'s medicinal marijuana program.

And speaking of the politics of marijuana, I'm just curious: Does Mr. Smith ever report on our government's policies toward marijuana that actually do impact the citizens of this country? Over the last few decades the U.S. has spent billions of dollars to fight marijuana and put several million of its citizens in prison for the crime of possessing marijuana. I strongly urge Mr. Smith to read Eric Schlosser's Reefer Madness to get some better perspective on his crusade.

Joe Sokolinsky

This is his problem, bub: Smith hit another home run with his article on the mess in the medical marijuana program.

I'm not surprised to read about the three heavy hitters who approve of the use of marijuana for their "patients." Too bad Smith didn't "name names"! I wonder if they are some of the same doctors who are "gatekeepers" for the Marin County version of the S.F. marijuana clinic. (I practice psychiatry in Marin.) I guess he felt that he was opening himself up to something or other if he did so.

"Medical marijuana" is a farce. I agree with Bob Marley and William F. Buckley Jr.: "Legalize it!" (And I mean all drugs, not just marijuana.)

Arnold Knepfer, M.D.
Via the Internet

Big Teeth, Small Point

Why can't Mecklin see past the chick's choppers?: This letter is in response to John Mecklin's June 4 column, in which he takes issue with the Commonwealth Club's new ad campaign ["So I Wrote a Snide Column"].

Mecklin chooses to only refer to a single ad in the campaign, the one that highlights a past speaker, Burning Man founder Larry Harvey, and neglects to mention the other ads in the campaign, in which everyday people ask tough questions of national opinion leaders. One ad, for example, depicts a questioner asking Ralph Nader: "What is perpetuating the two party system: big money or big media?" Another questioner asks Daniel Ellsberg if he would be tried for terrorism if he leaked the Pentagon Papers today.

It's not clear exactly what it is Mecklin takes issue with since he recognizes the enduring and matchless caliber of the club's events, writing: "[T]his nonprofit, nonpartisan organization has sponsored an incredible cast of speakers in its 100 years of life, from presidents to activists to authors to tycoons. In just the first half of this week, the group hosted talks by combative and smarmy ex-Clinton adviser Sidney Blumenthal, legendary and controversial CBS producer George Crile, and biographer Robert Dallek, whose new book on JFK is winning rave reviews."

It's true. The club has changed and evolved over its 100-year history. Integral to this evolution has been its increasing effort to encourage the participation of people of all ages, from different walks of life. The ad campaign, which was strategically placed in and around major public transportation outlets, has been an important part of this effort.

Another way the Commonwealth Club is building on its 100-year legacy is with the founding of INFORUM, a division of the club geared towards its younger membership. Since its launch in 2002, INFORUM has ballooned to more than 1,700 members. The topics of INFORUM events are cutting edge and the debates lively. In May, INFORUM hosted rigorous discussions on the press coverage of the Iraq war and brought Middle East experts on Israel and Palestine together to discuss the potential for conflict resolution in the region.

Sadly, much of Mecklin's article focused on the teeth of the model in one of the ad campaigns. His comments are petty at best, and hardly illuminating.

The Commonwealth Club, the nation's oldest and largest public affairs forum, is throwing open its doors, and engaging new generations and populations in civic life. I encourage readers to attend a Commonwealth Club event and experience this dynamic and evolving organization firsthand.

Jessica Mullens
North Waterfront

Socially Unconscious

That's what your mean writer is!: If people working menial temporary jobs are worthy of ridicule as evidenced by the tone of Jenny Pritchett's June 4 Dog Bites piece ["Life at Sublevel"], then I have some really good ideas for future stories.

How about those debased losers working in meat processing plants? Not only are they uneducated, they tend to suffer from debilitating and gruesome accidents. Migrant farm workers are a real hoot. They get poisoned by pesticides and are mostly foreigners so they don't even speak English. This is worthy grist for your mill, Jenny.

How the hell can you ridicule people making low wages doing menial work? Is that what your college degree taught you? Perhaps Mr. Buckley can use a writer of your caliber to fawn over Dick Cheney and John Ashcroft in the pages of the National Review.

Joshua Lake
Palo Alto

Stop the Blither Blather!

Brody must go: As a native San Franciscan and inveterate foodie, I enjoy picking up a Bay Guardian and an SF Weekly on my Wednesday morning dog walk. I turn immediately to both your food reviews while comparing them to the folks at the Chron.

I used to enjoy the Weekly's slant on food, until you recently hired Meredith Brody as your food writer. I was flabbergasted by her first review, which was a senselessly sophomoric blathering about her personal social life and outlook, devoting a few final paragraphs to actual restaurant review. The review was silly and superficial, failing to deal with the restaurant's atmosphere, menu, and other important items which make up the gist of a food review.

I foolishly continued to read her prattle awaiting a real food review and not reading about her pals and her dad and what SHE thinks about things. I am still waiting!

She is a mindless ninny who knows not a nit about the culinary world of food and service. Get rid of this worthless windbag and install someone who can get away from his/her galloping egotism and provide intelligence to the food scene in San Francisco.

Send Meredith Brody back to Modesto where she belongs, among the blithering sheep.

Robert E. Kaiser
Bernal Heights

False Front

The S.F. Bicycle Coalition is Critical Mass: Belated but huge thanks to Matt Smith for his May 14 "Critical Masturbation" column. Let me know if he needs further anecdotes (from a bike advocate) about how bicycle-friendly cops can be -- and about how wacky and damaging to their own cause bike advocates can be.

For example: Berkeley's chief traffic cop is a courteous, beanpole-shaped guy who rides a bike to work every day, has ridden cross-country and up/down the coast several times, and organizes a cops' ride to Sacramento every year to raise money for charity Thanksgiving baskets.

And the reason that Leah Shahum of the S.F. Bicycle Coalition has to "explain" to S.F. cops every year that "We're not Critical Mass. We're the Bicycle Coalition," is that the cops are onto the fact that SFBC is indeed Critical Mass.

As far as I know, the whole staff goes out and rides CM on the hallowed Friday. For years, SFBC has been playing this coy game of "not representing" the allegedly "leaderless" CM, while in fact doing just that. That's severely undercut its credibility and accomplishments. Among the region's bike groups, SFBC has by far the largest membership and budget, and is the only one with a significant paid staff. Yet it arguably has the least progress to show members in return for their donations.

Oh, and vehicle-lane-reduction schemes like Sacramento's are not clearly a good thing. Removing vehicle lanes is definitely not the best way to get bike lanes. On S.F.'s Valencia Street, removing the passing lanes tangibly increased tension and noise: Motorists honk instead of pass -- notably when they get trapped behind buses whose drivers either ignore bus stops or find them blocked.

The lane reduction also had some role in transforming Valencia into a "La Cienega Boulevard North" restaurant row whose gentrification is distasteful in the Mission. Those center turn pockets were supposed to be a mitigation for the lane reduction. They weren't supposed to be appropriated by the restaurants for valet parking, and that appropriation should not go unpunished by the DPT.

Name withheld by request
Via the Internet


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