Beautiful cover (“Our Desperate Neighbors,” December 2).

Sharon Murphy
El Cajon

Hard Times, Great Place

I am glad that you, our neighbor, have published an article on the Imperial Valley (“Our Desperate Neighbors,” Cover Story, December 2). I was born and raised here. However, I took one look at your front-page tagline — “Our Desperate Neighbors” — and was seriously offended by it. Although the Imperial Valley is struggling right now with an all-time high unemployment rate, we are far from being desperate. There is much to be seen and done here in the Imperial Valley, even though many young people don’t think so and would rather be living in a metropolitan area where there is more entertainment for them. But aside from that, the Imperial Valley offers a peace and solace that many young families are looking for, especially when it comes to raising a family. The local schools are probably the best there is to offer in the state. Our crime rate is down 20 percent. The people of the Imperial Valley are quick to respond to each other’s needs and even those who live outside of here. Many young men and women who serve in the armed forces come out of the Imperial Valley. Our agriculture and beef are exported worldwide. And our next-door neighbors are always on hand to help with whatever we need.

I guess you would have to be born and bred here to appreciate the hardworking people that make up the Imperial Valley. When my dad had no vehicle to get him to work, he would walk for miles to get to his job while my mother stayed at home to raise six children. Every day she would make home-cooked meals. We never drove through a fast-food restaurant to get dinner. And we all had to pitch in to make ends meet. Eighty percent of the people who live in the Imperial Valley are Hispanic, and we are a proud people who seldom ask for someone else’s help, and if we do, we pay it back threefold. You will still find many families who believe in the old ways.

Imperial Valley may be going through some rough times right now, but it is not desperate. And might I remind you that San Diego County has many times asked Imperial County to help out with water transfer, and now it is asking for a windmill farm.

I hope next time you write an article about any county, please be aware of what you are putting down on paper.

Laura Vazquez
via email

Just Too Big

I’m calling in regard to this week’s Reader, “Waiting Years for Moments of Panic” (“City Lights,” December 2). Right in the very beginning of it, it says, “Stephanie Durkee was tending to children in the school cafeteria when she heard someone swearing. ‘Fuck AIG!’ ” — and you’ve got “f-u-c-k AIG” in big, huge letters with quote marks and everything. You guys have got a lot of balls to print that. A lot of kids read the paper, and I’m very offended by it. I have kids who read the paper, and the first thing they see is the big letters, and it’s not like it can’t be seen — you’ve got it highlighted, got it quoted: “f-u-c-k AIG.” What do you think AIG feels about that? You’ve got a lawsuit coming. Too bad you can’t take back all the Readers because you guys are going to get sued, and I feel that it’s very offensive. You just lost my readership. I’m never going to get the Reader again.

via voice mail

New Theory, Old Faces

In some sense, Don Bauder is correct that bankruptcy could be salutary for San Diego; that is to say, that it could be so in theory (“Bankruptcy — Good for San Diego,” “City Lights,” December 2).

But what the theory would ignore is that the same class of people who have brought San Diego to the point that bankruptcy is, practically speaking, inevitable would hijack the process of handling that bankruptcy.

The individuals may change; the ethos will not.

Daniel Kian McKiernan
via email

A Sparkly New City

Mayor Jerry Sanders is a financial genius. Of course this is no time to declare bankruptcy (“Bankruptcy — Good for San Diego,” “City Lights,” December 2).

First, we need to float bonds to build the crown of the West Coast, a new football stadium! Remember how Maureen O’Connor said we needed to be world-class? Let’s do it. I don’t know why, but why not? After the stadium, the convention center needs to be big enough to hold two Comic-Cons at once. City hall, we need a new one. A library too. All-new community libraries while we are at it. Then pave all the streets with top-quality materials. And, finally, replace all the ancient water and sewer lines. Whoops, time to repave again.

Then it is time to declare bankruptcy. Let’s do this world-class, show Iceland, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain how it should be done.

Earl Kline
via email

Makes My Brown Eyes Blue

I love the Reader, and I look forward to the movie reviews. As I read through the review of Love and Other Drugs (December 2), the author left out one tiny little detail. “Soft and soulful pairs of big brown eyes” — unless Jake Gyllenhaal wears contacts in this movie, his eyes are blue! They are very soulful, I’ll give you that.

Stacey Camberlen
via email

Matthew Lickona responds: Ha! Right you are, Ms. Camberlen. They were so like Ms. Hathaway’s in their softness and soulfulness that I mistook them (in memory) for being like hers in color as well.

Let’s Hear From Atheists

With regard to the December 2 Reader, page 56, the letter to the editor that Jim Crooks from Oceanside submitted about the “Sheep and Goats” section of the Reader. Here’s a thought for you. I’m an atheist. We have a lot of atheists and secularists here in the country. It’s estimated about 10 percent of the population, for those of us who have come out. There are lots still in the closet, as atheists (I hear from the polls) are ranked below pedophiles as far as popularity, even though the vast majority of Nobel winners are scientists who, in fact, are secularists of one kind or another. How about with your “Sheep and Goats,” with all the craziness of religion — and, of course, I’m presenting a biased, or prejudiced, viewpoint, from us rationalists — how about submitting an article by, let’s say, a Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins or Dennett or some of the other famous atheists throughout history. All you’ve got to do is google “famous atheists” and you’ll see a whole coterie of names, including Craig Venter here in La Jolla, the famous genetics researcher, including Warren Buffett, including Bill Gates, etc., etc., etc.

Ted Rodosovich
University City
via voice mail

Decision Point

He identified himself as a police officer, had his badge out, and Manning charged him and started choking him (“Mental Illness Meets a Bullet,” “City Lights,” November 24). Just exactly at what point was this officer supposed to determine that Manning was mentally ill or high on drugs or suicidal?

John Sadler
via email

It’s Preventable

Nathan Manning’s death (“Mental Illness Meets a Bullet,” “City Lights,” November 24) was what the Treatment Advocacy Center calls a “preventable tragedy.” Turning law enforcement agents into default mental health workers makes episodes like this one inevitable and compromises the safety of officers and the community alike.

Laura’s Law has been on the books in California since 2002 to provide a humane and cost-effective way to preempt endings like Nathan Manning’s. Laura’s Law authorizes court-ordered treatment known as “assisted outpatient treatment” for the most severely ill before they end up homeless, hospitalized, or in deadly confrontations like the one that ended Mr. Manning’s life. Numerous independent studies have shown assisted outpatient treatment to reduce arrests, violence, hospitalization, and many other consequences of nontreatment.

If the San Diego Board of Supervisors wants to prevent tragedies involving law enforcement and those suffering from severe mental illness, it should take steps to implement Laura’s Law now.

Kristina M. Ragosta, Esq.
Legislative and Policy Counsel
Treatment Advocacy Center
Arlington, VA

Magical Statistics

The editor states “According to the California Employment Development Department” the number of persons employed by federal, state, and local government is “about 15 percent” of the total civilian California labor force (Letters, November 24).

Yes, that is definitely the figure reported by the government. It is also false. Official statistics are notoriously unreliable — and for good reason. If the nongovernment sector realized the financial burden imposed on it by the government sector, their frustration and outrage could easily spiral out of control (a scenario officialdom will do almost anything to prevent). This is why the government routinely undercounts and underreports the number of publicly funded employees and retirees, using a dazzling repertoire of statistical sleight of hand tricks that would make Penn and Teller green with envy. Undercounted and underreported government employee categories include state, federal, city, and county employees, retirees and pensioners, civilian government/military contractors, and the faculties and staffs of taxpayer-funded universities, schools, and colleges. All military personnel (active duty, reserve, disabled, and retired) are excluded from the 15 percent figure cited by the editor, an extremely odd omission since every member of the military is paid out of public funds collected from the taxpayer.

There are many sources of information available to those seeking to educate themselves about the pervasive and growing problem of deceptive, misleading, and inaccurate government statistics. John Williams (shadowstats.com) is just one of many researchers making an ongoing study of official deceit. Another is Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff. This year, Kotlikoff stated bluntly: “Let’s get real; the U.S. is bankrupt.” (Kotlikoff went on to describe government accounting as “Enron accounting.”)

In 2008, Harper’s magazine published a piece titled “Hard Numbers: The Economy Is Worse Than You Know,” which included this statement: “Ever since the 1960s, Washington has gulled its citizens and creditors by debasing official statistics, the vital instruments with which the vigor and muscle of the American economy are measured.”

In a June 1992 interview with Sarah McClendon, President George H.W. Bush made a comment about the Iran-Contra scandal that could apply equally well to the government’s fraudulent bookkeeping methods:

“Sarah, if the American people ever find out what we have done, they will chase us down the streets and lynch us.”

Name Withheld
via email

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One of the letters about "Mental Illness Meets a Bullet" offers a solution that could've come straight from the pages of a George Orwell novel. Many people don't realize how dangerous psychiatric drugs can be, particularly when someone is just starting to take them, or when they are trying to stop. Under these circumstances, the drugs themselves can cause a person to behave more rashly and bizarrely than they would've if they had never taken such drugs at all.

There are plenty of resources devoted to getting people to start taking these drugs, but almost no support available for people who want to quit taking them. As a result, people sometimes withdraw too quickly instead of gradually tapering down their dosage, or they don't know that the strange feelings they are having are a result of the withdrawal, rather than something inherently wrong with them.

Many psychiatrists probably don't even know how to help someone safely withdraw from the drugs that they have gotten them hooked on. And even if they did know how, there isn't much incentive for them to offer this kind of assistance. This despite the fact that there are many health hazards associated with long-term use of most psychiatric drugs, and most people taking them would have much better chances of recovery in the long-run if they didn't continue to use them for years on end (and there have been studies to show that as well, although the people working for the TAC would probably like to deny it).

Forcing someone to take drugs that they don't want to take, and euphemistically calling it "assisted treatment", is dangerous and deceitful.

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