Though I generally agree with her, Jill Stewart got it completely wrong when she wrote her defense of Rob Reiner in last week’s Reporter (3/30/06, “Give Robe Reiner a break, already”). For Stewart, it is enough that Meathead and his cronies at the First Five Commission are “trying.” They care about children, and that’s all that should count.

I’m not so forgiving. You see, Rob Reiner has had literally hundreds of millions of dollars to improve pre-schooler’s lives here in California, and most of that money has been spent on image over substance. Though he claimed he would use the 50-cents-a-pack cigarette tax to create more preschool slots, instead Reiner and his pals began re-inventing the early childhood education wheel. Even though First Five was pulling in over $400 million a year, it wasn’t enough. They needed more. Hence, First Five California became a campaign vehicle for other attempts to raise taxes.

This is not First Five’s (or Reiner’s) first time using First Five revenues to promote other political campaigns, either. Before the imbroglio over $23 million spent promoting universal preschool while Reiner was campaigning for it, there have been at least two other attempts to put a preschool-for-all type ballot initiative before California voters, and both attempts were “coordinated” with First Five monies. This is why Reiner had to go and why Stewart got it all wrong.

William P. McGowan, (a.k.a. The Angry Economist)

Forced abortions

Please allow me to revisit your recent article “Methyl Iodide? Probably not what the doctor ordered” (3/23/06, news) and put a spotlight on an important statement buried in the middle of the article. Dr. Susan Kegley said that if the EPA approves its use, “it’s highly likely methyl iodide would pollute air and water, and could cause miscarriages of pregnancies in humans.”

The term “miscarriage” is a socially acceptable sympathetic term. In pesticide toxicity data, the term for the same event is “spontaneous abortion.” Spontaneous abortion, unlike an elective abortion, usually occurs in women who wish to remain pregnant and deliver healthy babies. This is basically a forced abortion, against her will.

Where is the righteous indignation from the pro-life/anti-abortion camp? Also, is chemically induced spontaneous abortion, without consent, acceptable to the pro-choice camp? What could be more anti-choice and anti-life than air contaminants that abort babies? Accepting this aspect of pesticide toxicity as a necessary evil makes hypocrites out of a lot of people who usually have strong opinions on abortion.

Methyl iodide is not the only pesticide used on Ventura County fields and orchards that lists “spontaneous abortion” as a risk of exposure. Women and children’s health is disproportionately affected by pesticide exposures and many pesticides clearly pose a serious threat at the very beginning of life.

Farm worker women have complained about this problem for decades. With the suburbs encroaching on ag lands, suburban women and their children are now suffering the same health problems as farm worker women and their children. Pesticide users can no longer blame genetics, socio-economic or educational factors for these women’s health problems.

Who are the local pesticide consumers that use the pesticides that harm women and children? Victims have been surprised to discover the local agricultural landowners complicit in poisoning them were their doctor, their church, or their school. They are not the only ones, but these folks should be leading the way in farming without harming their neighbors. If these community members stop causing spontaneous abortions, illness and disease, maybe others will follow.

Deborah Bechtel, Ventura

Upside down flags

On March 27, 2006, students from several Los Angeles area high schools desecrated the American flag, and no one did anything! While the police stood idly by, our American flag was taken down, a Mexican flag was put in its place, and the American flag was re-hung upside down beneath it. Although it happened on Montebello High School\’s campus, the school claims that none of its students were involved (despite pictures to the contrary) and blames students from neighboring Whittier and El Rancho High Schools.

When I called those schools to inquire what action was being taken against the students who participated in this debacle, the answer was a resounding \”nothing!\” The schools\’ claims of ignorance regarding who was involved rang pretty hollow considering the numerous photos published on the Web of students who participated.

According to the East L.A. District Attorney\’s Office, it is not illegal in California to desecrate the American flag, but that doesn\’t make it right.

I can’t think of a worse insult to the thousands of Americans who have fought and died for our country. The last time I checked, this was still America, and we, as Americans, need to fight back against this utterly unacceptable behavior.

Gretchen Szostak, Santa Barbara