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Letters to the Editor 

Week of Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Of Sluggers and Steroids

Are you a racist if you criticize Barry Bonds?: Thanks to Matt Smith for his article on Barry Bonds ["Little Fish, Big Fish," March 17]. I've been mildly astounded by some of the quotes that Bonds has given during this time. They've been off-putting in their arrogance, disingenuousness, and flat out whining at times.

I've also been kind of amazed by some of the writers' take on this situation. Ralph Wiley has been the most troubling to me, suggesting on the ESPN Web site that if anyone thought Bonds was guilty, they're racist, and that Bonds didn't do anything wrong since steroids hadn't been declared illegal at the time he allegedly used them.

Shea and Jenkins of the Chronicle have been critical of Turk Wendell and the other players who have spoken out about the situation, labeling them basically as squealers. I see these players as heroic, refusing to close ranks. I feel that the craziness is just going to escalate, as there'll be further pressure to deify Bonds as he closes in and eventually surpasses Hank Aaron's home run record.

Anyway, thanks again for the article. I thought it was especially commendable, given that Smith writes for an S.F. publication, and Bonds is generally painted in godlike terms there. I'll never forget the ad on the Chronicle newsstands last year with a photo of Bonds pointing to the heavens. I thought that was pretty laughable then, but it was a typical move for the local media.

Wendy Ledger

Records don't mean anything if they're achieved through drugs: Bonds will not be prosecuted, nor will other male athletes. What is really so disturbing about Martha Stewart is the deep-seated misogyny that exists in this country. Despite the class issues and the whole WASP shtick, I consider her a role model for my daughter.

Martha did it her way and didn't have to become a sex symbol in the process. I admire Bonds' work ethic as well, but when you are breaking the records of people who have defined their place in history without performance-enhancing drugs, Bonds' records and, for that matter, Mark McGwire's achievements, ring hollow.

Donna Kempner
Monterey Heights

Gavin Heads Left

Praise the Lord!: Matt Smith's piece on the first months of the Gavin Newsom administration is at once the most cogent and insightful published analysis of Newsom's (publicity-driven) abandonment of his campaign promises and an indictment of the slavish, utterly superficial coverage the new administration has received from the S.F. Chronicle ["Mayor AWOL," March 10]. Coming from a writer who had spoken favorably of Newsom during the campaign, Smith's assessment cannot be dismissed as merely partisan. Still, it should be noted that thus far, Newsom's disinterest in following through on the wedge issues that drove his election, and his apparent concern with the popularity of his mayoral opponent, Matt Gonzalez, has resulted in some positive developments.

As Smith points out, Newsom quickly dropped Proposition J, his "Workforce Housing Initiative," because of its unpopularity, and has distanced himself from homelessness -- the touchstone issue of his Chronicle-driven election. But in these instances and in others, Newsom's abandonment of his campaign propaganda has allowed San Francisco to avoid some very bad policies and, what's more, signaled the possibility that good, responsible government may come out of Newsom's office, even if for questionable reasons. Prop. J was seriously flawed legislation, and "Care Not Cash" (when was the last time Newsom mentioned that?) always held more promise as a Willie Horton-style campaign vehicle than as a serious approach to homelessness.

Since taking office, Newsom -- who insisted S.F. spends "too much money" on homelessness -- has advocated an unprecedented $150 million bond for supportive housing. Similarly, although Newsom told voters during the campaign he would oppose any change in the business tax structure that is not "revenue neutral," he has, since his election, signaled to the business community that greater business taxes are necessary. Having been elected, Newsom seems to have determined that he no longer needs the divisive and misleading propaganda that drove his campaign. And as he quietly adopts the same policy positions he criticized his opponents for advocating, San Francisco gains.

For progressives, this turn of events casts a silver lining on the election. True, the Chamber of Commerce and the Republicans who supported Newsom might wince at the mayor's reversal of focus. But the rest of us might hold out the hope that these developments reflect a rejection of craven politics, as opposed to the other way around. In any case, Newsom's apparent move to the left is a good thing, whatever its motivation. Who knows, by next year the mayor could be backing tidal energy.

Whitney Leigh

Editor's note: Leigh is a former Green Party candidate for the S.F. school board and a longtime friend of Matt Gonzalez.


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