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Letters to the Editor: October 15, 2014 

More to Gary Webb's story; Molina is really tasty; Walmart, get lost

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It's Complicated

The article ("Gary's Web," Oct. 8) suggests Mercury News executive editor Jerry Ceppos threw Gary Webb under the bus, but the truth is more complex than that.

At the time, in the Albion Monitor I paraphrased Ceppos' editorial thus: "Look, this was an extremely important story, but it was also complex and involved staggering amounts of information. It was probably the greatest challenge I've seen in my three decades as a reporter. For the record, I'd like to say that I'm not satisfied with a few points. We did a great job, but I'd change a few things if I had my druthers." In particular, Ceppos was right in saying that the series oversimplified the causes of the crack explosion in urban America.

But the New York Times pounced on his editorial and "produced an article and editorial as deceitful as Ceppos' work was noble" (quoting again my 1997 piece that appeared in the Albion Monitor). "The Mercury News Comes Clean," read the NYT editorial headline, falsely claiming that Ceppos and the Mercury News were retracting all or part of the story.

To the contrary, Ceppos wrote in his editorial: "Indeed, one of the most bedeviling questions for us over the past few months has been: Does the presence of conflicting information invalidate our entire effort? I strongly believe the answer is no, and that this story was right on many important points."

The Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times worked hard to discredit the series and succeeded, to their shame. The Post also refused to print a letter to the editor from Ceppos in response to their critique.

If Webb's series was flawed, it's because he didn't delve deep enough into those bloodied waters. Yet the Times misused the Ceppos editorial as an excuse to exonerate the CIA—something far more deceptive than Ceppos' qualified admission that they couldn't conclusively link top CIA officials to the operation.

Via online

Eat at Molina

Best place in Marin ("Not Run of the Mill," Oct. 8). Love the music, love the food and love Todd.

Via online

Walmart Not Wanted

What happens in Rohnert Park does not stay in Rohnert Park. That is why local environmental, labor, health and social justice organizations have consistently opposed the expansion of the Walmart store in that city.

Since Rohnert Park is a part of a regional economy and the proposed expansion is designed to attract shoppers from nearby communities, city officials should assess the long-term impacts on the region, not just their city.

Instead of supporting pedestrian and bike-friendly neighborhood shopping centers, anchored by a grocery store, as envisioned in the city's general plan, the construction of a super-center far from any residential complex tramples that vision. It means long shopping trips across town or on 101, increasing traffic and carbon emissions in an already congested corridor.

Because Walmart ships many of its products from distant or offshore factories, its operations are energy intensive and its container ships release millions of tons of greenhouse gases. Instead of buying local, its food products are shipped by truck from factory farms or canneries, burning fossil fuels and increasing carbon emissions. This expansion and 24-7 operations will double Walmart's carbon footprint.

This is not just about Walmart, or about Rohnert Park. We are part of a national movement against the low-wage, no benefits packages of big-box retail outlets and fast-food restaurants. Although more Americans are employed today than in 2008, they earn 23 percent less.

We welcome the promise of new jobs, but we need jobs which offer a living wage. Since Walmart does not pay a living wage, its employees qualify for food stamps, rental assistance and Medicaid.

Although Walmart supporters cite the increased revenue from sales taxes, the major increase will be in nontaxable grocery items. Any increase in sales, therefore, will be at the expense of existing businesses without increasing jobs, sales or revenue.

The big-box retail model, based on low wages and part-time employment, and pressuring suppliers and competitors to reduce employee compensation, has also played a role in the decline of the middle class. By forcing small, locally owned businesses, the major source of job creation, to close, this model reduces good job opportunities.

Under smart growth policies, workers and consumers live close to where they work and shop, reducing traffic, commuting costs and emissions. When they receive a living wage, they spend it in locally owned businesses, promoting job growth and a stable local economy.

By supporting smart growth and expressing our opposition to the big-box model, we work for a more efficient and stable economy, one which offers just compensation, protects our environment and preserves our democracy.

Santa Rosa

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