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Letters to the Editor 

Week of 5-30-2007

This Is Your Brain Off


Freudian slip: Amy Goldwitz's article "Just Say No" [May 23] was interesting, well done, and important, but bizarre in its absence of historical context. News flash: This is not a new debate, but a wave in a controversy that has been going on for a very long time. The idea that people with psychological difficulties should to the greatest degree possible face the conflicts that formed them, and minimize the use of drugs to avoid facing them, is not at all new with certain admittedly admirable local organizations like Full Spectrum, as Goldwitz states.

Psychoanalytic theory, the dominant psychological school of the mid-20th century and still a very important school of thought, also took this broad position. This very view, cited by the author with open-mouthed amazement as an extraordinary brand-new thought in human history, was a dominant one in the days when psychology was viewed as more about human experience and development than brain chemistry, as recently, say, as the 1970s.

And of course, like virtually all ideas, it will come back, the pendulum will swing.

It is a profound and common journalistic mistake to view history — of psychology, or anything else — as if it began 10 or 20 years ago, and to see every new trend of thought as totally new rather than as a small wave in an "argument without end."

Steve Koppman


Pro-choice: In light of the often hysterical response to the tragedy of Virginia Tech, this article was a breath of fresh air. The people it describes are not a species of alien being given to acts of random violence.

The article places the focus squarely on the issues: informed choice and the availability of alternatives that challenge the status quo. Medication in the absence of other treatments is not choice; hospitalization in the absence of community-living supports is not choice; just as assisted suicide in the absence of universal health care is not choice. Real choice often challenges the accepted truths.

Herb Levine

Executive Director, Independent Living Resource Center

San Francisco

Hot Air for the Homeless

Governance by press release: For the most part, I very much agree with Matt Smith's thoughts on the S.F. Housing Authority (with the exception of the union issue) ["The Mayor Yells Fire," May 23]. I expressed very similar sentiments in a recent article. The mayor's been all lip service on this issue. It's very frustrating for me as an advocate because he appears to be doing something. But his only real action is the issuance of press releases and formation of task forces.

I actually do think HopeSF is a good idea, at least in concept. But the devil is in the details and the timeframe is much too long, as Smith notes. How can Newsom cite the terrible conditions as the case for the bond, and yet allow 10-15 years to go by before completion of his plan?

I also wanted to point out a key fact in supporting Smith's argument: The mayor is refusing to sign the budget supplement that contains $5 million for immediate public housing repairs. Talk about not putting money where your mouth is. Just thought I'd chime in.

Sara Shortt

San Francisco

Cotchett vs. Cotchett

When philanthropists attack!: I am a personal friend to both Joe and Victoria Cotchett, and your article ["Sealed With a Dis," May 23] doesn't begin to describe the two most generous people in our community. Why didn't you print how much they do for St. Anthony's Foundation, Boys and Girls Clubs, Community Gatepath, or Peninsula Humane Society, not to mention the countless individuals they have helped. They are always there for everyone! In such a private time why don't you give them and their family the respect they so deserve?

Cyndi Gilson

Hillsborough, Calif.


Last week's review of Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years misidentified the reviewer. Brock Keeling wrote the book review.


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