False Alarm

Greedy greens: I have been reading your articles about the gray whale and the formerly proposed salt plant at Laguna San Ignacio in Baja California ("Crying Whale," November 22). I have not even finished, but it did not take me too long to realize that I had been bamboozled by the Natural Resources Defense Council and its partners. I feel terrible that I was taken advantage of by organizations I trusted and I feel bad that I was one of the 20,000 who sent letters to the President of Mexico and gave money to defeat the salt plant. I wonder if I can ever trust some of those organizations in their drives to improve environmental conditions worldwide. I now know that I cannot trust NRDC or the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and I guarantee that they will never see another dime of my money. Thank you for this article. I hope this gets worldwide dissemination. I will do my best to publicize your article.

Jerrold J. Feldner

It's my oil and I'll steal it if I want to: Thanks to your reporters for "Crying Whale." In keeping with the thesis of Joe Queenan's Balsamic Dreams: A Short but Self-Important History of the Baby Boomer Generation, American environmentalists do latch onto issues that don't require much self-sacrifice, even when the issue has little or no scientific basis.

To cut America's voracious appetite for oil, on the other hand, would be a worthy environmental effort.

Environmentalist Walter Brueggeman has said that the United States is the "quintessential practitioner of the quintessential greed . . . the last colonial power with standing armies to defend markets, so we think the oil over there is our oil," whether Ecuador, helping Indonesia kill a third of the population of East Timor, or Iraq.

The 1996 book Savages by Joe Kane tells of the destruction of native people and the Ecuadorian rain forest close to the headwaters of the Amazon by American oil interests (Texaco). A native leader states: "Americans kill without knowing they are doing it. You don't want to know you are doing it -- yet you are going to destroy an entire way of life. So you tell me: Who are the savages?"

Oil is dangerous to Third World people who happen to have it in their country because we think the oil over there is our oil.

Last October I went with a group of veterans to rebuild a water system near Basra, Iraq. Basra was a center of the Shiite Intifada after the war in 1991 and thousands of people were executed by Saddam Hussein after the betrayal of the Iraqi resistance by the U.S.

The November-December 2001 issue of Mother Jones has an article by Chuck Sudetic, "The Betrayal of Basra," which states, "Ten years of U.S.-sponsored sanctions have not dislodged Saddam Hussein. They have, however, ensured that the people of Basra and millions of other Iraqis now hate Washington and Baghdad with equal passion."

Hussein is locked up in luxury in his cage, but he still justifies a huge U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf. And as long as relatively inexpensive oil continues to flow, it is considered a non-story in the U.S., while a majority of Iraqis live in poverty and a degraded environment.

I am working on the wording of a referendum/initiative that would tie the sales tax and vehicle license tax for new, non-commercial vehicles to fuel efficiency -- making both of those taxes sliding-scale-based on fuel efficiency. I will need help with this.

Roland James

Greens fees: Suffice to say I was stunned after reading your article "Crying Whale." No, it didn't surprise me that environmental extremists used lies, distortions, half-truths, faulty science, scare tactics and Nazi-like intimidation to advance their agenda, which in this case had nothing to do with the gray whale, but everything to do with filling their bank accounts. The fact is, I'm sure most of these "advocates" have a warm spot in their hearts for Marxist-Leninism, and the power of the "Big Lie." Plus, an undeniable truth of life is that every bureaucracy or advocacy group ends up, as its sole reason for existence, its own self-perpetuation.

No, what stunned me the most is that New Times, with whom I disagree politically more often than not, would do such a brutally honest piece on the subject. Color me mighty impressed. It's no secret that the writing staff of New Times leans, shall we say, in the direction of the environmentalists, and against anything with a corporate connotation. That's why it was so refreshing that you just went after the truth, no matter where it led you.

On behalf of those of us sick of Left, Right, Conservative and Liberal labels, many thanks. Now that was journalism!

Tom Stitt

Nailing Westwood

Bookkeeping, schmookkeeping: The recent article on NAILEM's co-founder was interesting and mildly troubling ("Welcome to Donnawood," John W. Allman, November 15). As a community development activist and business consultant, I am often shocked at the apparent inability of many nonprofit organizations to follow rudimentary standards of bookkeeping.

I am not involved intimately enough with NAILEM to verify or deny most of the article's "facts," but I do take exception to one allegation made. In the article, the author implies that NAILEM may be a clout-inducing smoke screen, an organization purported to include many for the purpose of edifying only one. However, this conclusion and its underlying reasoning are specious when the author also states that NAILEM was created loosely on purpose. Indeed, just as the acronym suggests, the Neighborhood Activists Inter-Linked Empowerment Movement is an information, resource and alliance network for individuals and groups with common objectives. From that perspective, no one is a member in the traditional sense, nor does NAILEM act as a formal lobbyist on behalf of organized groups; however, most organized groups and interested individuals do send and receive crucial information through NAILEM. From that vantage, membership is indeed substantial and active. Further, we rely upon the considerable draw of NAILEM-sponsored events; for example, NAILEM featured a city council candidate forum that was well attended, uniquely formatted and genuinely informative. I personally have not met any community activist who does not interact with NAILEM.

I am not an apologist for poorly managed organizations of any size or prominence. However, it is important to recognize the unique challenges that community organizations must face. Usually under-resourced, they typically rely upon the charismatic leadership and zeal of a handful of "people-people" who may not be, true, brilliant business managers or even attentive to administrative details. They are instead attentive to the details of identifying social problems and organic solutions. I hope that this article will not deter neighbors from supporting grassroots efforts, but will instead underscore the fundamental need for volunteers who have administrative expertise.

Marlena Hanlon

BOB Bailout

Insight into stadium predicament: A very small and quick investigation on your part will reveal nothing prevents Bank One Ballpark from being used by the Cardinals the few times a year they actually need a stadium.

It has been used two years in a row by Insight.com for its bowl games, so we know BOB can handle football just fine.

If we can bail out Mr. Jerry Colangelo to the tune of $6 million ("Ballpark Bailout," November 15,online), the very least he can do for the taxpayers is to make a copy of the stadium key for Mr. Bill Bidwill, thus ending all this insanity about finding a site for the Cardinals and giving much-deserved tax relief to taxpayers who couldn't care less about baseball or football.

Name withheld by request


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