Let me suggest a municipal performance review, modeled after Vice President Al Gore's National Performance Review. In essence, this would subject every single city government unit to an independent and thorough fiscal and management audit, from which efficiencies and economies could improve the delivery and quality of public services. The restructuring of city government for the 21st century could then begin.
We should demand that each mayoral candidate take the "audit pledge" y2Dy2D a promise to institute a municipal performance review as his or her first act upon taking office.
The need for fiscal order and sound management practices at City Hall is especially critical now because of the tidal wave of cutbacks in state and federal aid that will befall our city this year and for the foreseeable future.
In Praise of Angels
For the record, in my three years as artistic director of the American Conservatory Theater, there is nothing that makes me prouder than Mark Wing-Davey's magnificent production of Tony Kushner's beautiful play Angels in America (Aisle Seat, May 3). Mark, his remarkable cast, his design collaborators and all of ACT's support staff brought colors and passion to Kushner's play that no one in the Bay Area will forget for many years. This production was a watershed for ACT, and we are already at work with Kushner on a new project that we look forward to sharing with the Bay Area in the years to come.
Also for the record, I continue to be a staunch supporter of director Benny Sato Ambush, as I was throughout his tenure at ACT. I very much hope that we'll collaborate together in the future.
Artistic Director, ACT
What is stupid about informing people how to handle a bomb threat ("Dial S for Stupid," Dog Bites, May 3)? What's stupid is cynically belittling efforts to prepare people to handle a potentially dangerous situation.
It's clearly in the interest of the people receiving a threat to gather as much information as possible about the nature of the threat and the persons making it (including their motives). Not all the questions ("What is your address?") are likely to be answered truthfully, but any answer is a potential clue that can help discover the bomb (if any) and track down the persons responsible. It should be equally obvious that telling people beforehand to note certain characteristics of a phoned-in threat will make them better able to recall crucial details of the call.
Preparation can make the difference between a panicked apprehension that "there's a bomb in the building" and "the caller is threatening to blow up the building at 10:00 if certain conditions aren't met." And, lest someone fatally err on the side of disbelief, the existence of guidelines encourages people to deal with threats seriously, if not credulously.
The Grammar of War
Paul Reidinger's story on "War Junkie" Jacques Leslie (April 26) was an insightful account into a war correspondent's psyche, in addition to being a good book review and profile.
But in his article Reidinger unilaterally concludes that the Persian Gulf War (notice proud capitalization) of 1991 was "unpleasant but necessary." Without any qualification supporting this foolish statement, he gives the impression that although most people were not cheering and high-fivin' during the Gulf War, they were, nonetheless, condoning it, turning a blind eye. Surely that's a little nonrepresentative of most San Francisco residents? If you were in or around the streets of San Francisco during early '91, you would have witnessed hordes of angry protesters, people who were not merely standing by, unconcerned.
Did you consider asking for whom and why the Gulf War was allowed to become "necessary" in the first place? Do you understand the U.S. was sucked into WWII, kicking and screaming, but at least the ensuing war effort helped the nation finally pull out of a long depression? WWII was a bitter pill to swallow. Since the 1940s a large portion of the U.S. economy has been stuck in the quicksand of military expenditures, and so far, notwithstanding base closures, most efforts to reverse this course have been either cosmetic or political. Unwilling to let the economy pull free, the interests that be remain steadfast and recalcitrant. After all, exporting a dozen F-16s will generate way more cash than selling 12 tons of corn, any day.
Third World militaristic tyrants like Hussein are convenient for nations with superpower status: They're used in proxy wars, as customers for weapons and eventually as enemies. If they control the oil that we're led to believe we need to kill for, then all the better. First it's impressed upon these despots that they're "allies" with the U.S., giving them a false sense of stature as buddies with the numero uno country on the planet. Next, their lust for imperialistic expansion is nurtured by sales of the latest, most expensive weapons and technology. In Hussein's case, most of the weapons were provided by the Soviet and French governments, but U.S. companies (under the auspices of their government) conducted such transactions as well. The dictators are slowly fattened like a prize turkey for the upcoming turkey shoot. After the war, 200,000-plus human beings on both sides are dead, reduced to carnage -- all for some vague "necessity." Then the price of oil conveniently falls, and since Iraq's infrastructure has been blown to pieces, Western Europe and U.S. companies start jockeying for lucrative reconstruction contracts. If you suggest that the Gulf War was simply "unpleasant but necessary," then you risk being mistaken as a reporter who's in bed with either the oil companies, the military or firms like Bechtel.
Innocent human beings with families get ripped to pieces on all sides. In your article, you properly blessed the 58,000 brave American men and women who lost their lives during the Vietnam War. But what about 3,000,000 Vietnamese men and women who lost their lives, in a war their former enemies now admit was a mistake? Don't they deserve at least equal consoling?
The problem of wars is not an American one or an Iranian one or a Vietnamese one -- it is a human one, and it's been around since civilization started. A human lifetime takes up a very thin slice of history. We just happen to be living now, during the waning Pax Americana, when America still controls the proverbial Bomb and the strings that awkwardly conduct the geopolitical puppets. Twenty-five hundred years ago, there was a different superpower running sick proxy wars, and 2,500 years from now there will be yet another.
I recently noticed a letter in the SF Weekly that admonished its editorial content as a "laughing stock." Please allow me to put a positive twist on this, for Laughing Stock is an example of a brilliantly produced album by a band called Talk Talk. These days, it seems the main reason to read the SF Weekly is for the outstanding arts coverage. In particular the band features and record reviews, which are in-depth, thought-provoking and examine music intelligently via many angles. Please give your arts writers a hug and a raise. And please be a bit more careful with statements that, in effect, casually sanction carnage. After all, Reidinger's article wasn't pop writing, was it?