Program has no impact

The winter Spare the Air program only addresses wood burning inside homes, and thus has virtually no impact on air pollution, since the primary source of air pollution is the burning of fossil fuels such as gasoline, oil and natural gas.

Hardly anyone burns wood anymore, and the few who do often do so to help keep their homes and families warm in winter.

Our air is good enough that we simply don't need this rule. I have several friends who shiver in their homes on these days when fires are outlawed, thereby diminishing the effectiveness of their immune systems and exposing them to health hazards greater than a little wood smoke.

This is yet another example of government run amok, this time with environmental zealots making rules without voter approval.

At the very least, we need to rein in the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and subject their rule-making to an unbiased citizen oversight board.

Better still, abolish rules that prevent people from keeping their homes and families warm.

Dick Patterson

El Cerrito

Census survey is important

In her Jan. 3 letter in the Journal, Kathe Jordan expressed her concern about the American Community Survey (ACS) and its intrusiveness.


Advertisement

ACS data inform policymakers, researchers and those responsible for governmental budgets who and what is in need of service, including providing public schools, putting in streetlights, or building courts.

It can reveal who is slipping through the cracks, as our economy shifts from a manufacturing, to a service, to an information society. It provides data to businesses on how and where to invest and develop jobs.

The ACS helps everyone in our country, because otherwise we would essentially be driving blind. Formerly known as the "long form" in the census (required by the Constitution), the ACS is more cost-effective.

Responding to the survey is required by law to make sure we hear from all Americans. All questions asked are scrutinized for policy value.

While an individual citizen may not see the purpose of any particular question, such as dividends or highest attained degree, there are people who do. All free, civil, democratic societies have high quality census and survey systems.

Leora Lawton

Berkeley

'Humanities' important

It is sad to read that humanities curricula are "losing funding, enrollment and appreciation."

Humanity study offers in-depth exposure to great thinkers, to movers and shapers of culture, the arts, language and philosophy. Note the word "human" embedded in "humanities."

We learn how people all over the world add to advancement of the human race through ideas and creativity. Humanities offers courses that enrich our lives and that we can personally relate to.

Science and technology have their place alongside the humanities, not overshadowing it.

Libraries are treasure chests for literature, arts, language, philosophy -- offering books, tapes, videos and more. A well-rounded education includes humanities as well as science and tech.

Claire J. Baker

Pinole

Medical center must be saved

When things that most of us take for granted are lost, the effect can be profound: hunger, homelessness, untreated illness and death.

In Contra Costa County, a hospital that serves thousands is headed toward closure in 2014. Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo, a much-utilized and much-needed district hospital is failing financially. It lacks an adequate, guaranteed and consistent funding source.

If the hospital closes, many residents of West Contra Costa County will be without easily accessible emergency care for heart attacks, strokes and catastrophic acute illness.

The hospital closure will also mean loss of an outstanding cancer center, inpatient dialysis, outpatient surgery services and, most importantly, loss of a dedicated and skilled medical and hospital staff used to caring for medically complex, severely ill patients, including many without insurance.

If Doctors Medical Center closes there will be great demands placed on remaining medical facilities. For those who are ill, there will be painful delays, unwarranted suffering and, possibly, death.

Saving Doctors Medical Center should be a top priority of the county. Waiting until closure occurs is not an option.

Dr. Lorna Cogen

Berkeley

Victimhood, poor test scores

I am referring to a recent column in the Times by Thomas Sowell, "Research challenges ingrained beliefs on victimhood."

I totally agree with Sowell that victimhood is a huge, if not the only factor, that comes into play when it comes to poor test scores.

Children who are told they can never be anything important usually don't even make the attempt. There definitely seems to be a correlation between the poor scoring of low-income whites of England and the poor scoring of low-income black students in the United States.

Victimhood of the lower classes seems to be the link. It is very important, through all stages of life, to receive positive reactions to our struggle for greatness. Being told the people you relate to in society all do poorly does not help you do well on tests.

The subconscious mind can be treacherous and can sometimes sabotage us on our journey through life. Some of us begin with a trap already set around our ankles.

Patrick Ramos

Pinole

Smoke is not harmless

My asthma with emphysema means smoke strangles me even more than most.

My neighbor's chimney is directly at eye level of my home. When I asked him to help, he said, "Smoke has never in the history of mankind harmed anyone. Smoke is harmless."

Only with actual oversight and fines has he stopped burning wood on Spare the Air days. I can breathe again! Works for me.

Ria Tanz Kubota

El Sobrante