Support bookstores not owned by chains

I was pleased to see the Feb. 28 front page story on Oakland's local booksellers.

As a debut author, I am enormously grateful for the enthusiasm and support shown by these businesses, their owners and their helpful staff members.

I can speak from personal experience that A Great Good Place for Books, Laurel Bookstore and Diesel Books in particular are zealous in their support of authors, books and readers, and I urge all Oaklanders to return the favor by patronizing our local independent bookstores. They are community treasures, and we're fortunate to have them.

Patricia Bracewell


Elephant Sale does not need bad clothes

So, you have all come home with your wonderful new treasures and perhaps started collecting for next year's White Elephant Sale.

The 1,000 volunteers will be back working in about three months to sort through your donations for 2015. As one who sorts through these donations, I would like to make an observation and offer some guidelines. Disclaimer first: these are my personal comments; in no way should they be construed as coming from the White Elephant Sale board. They are much too nice.

We expect to sell your donations, that is how we make the money we donate to the Oakland Museum. Every donation goes through numerous hands before they reach our racks and shelves: everything that has an electrical cord is tested to get the "it works" tag; toys are checked for pieces; clothing goes through at least four stages. It's the last group that I wish to address as a "first responder."

Many items are beautiful and salable, many are not. Please show some respect for the clothes you donate. A tangled mess from the drier tells us that you don't think they are worth folding, so perhaps they are not worth donating.

Didn't your mothers teach you to how to fold? Socks, simply fold the tops over -- maybe that skill has been lost along with percolator coffee.

We may agree with the sentiments and envy the travels you sport on your T-shirts, but our shoppers want to make their own dreams. These shirts are soft and make great cleaning and polishing cloths -- you do do some cleaning and polishing?

Jeans sell well. The worn look of hard labor is in, clothing with house paint is not. If you wouldn't buy what you bring in for a decent price -- our customers won't either. Bite the bullet and use your recycle bins instead of expecting us to do it for you. I know you're hoping that we'll find the mate to the sweet white kid glove clearly filled with memories -- nope. Cut the fingers off and make boots for small dolls.

Please think about what I have said when you collect things for next year. And we can always use new volunteers -- you don't have to be a gray-haired lady to join.

Gen Katz


A better way to use funds for military

I support Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's push to reduce the size of the military and our national defense budget.

In 2013, the size of our defense budget was greater than the next 10 countries combined. Our military is still largely staffed and structured to respond to Cold War-era threats that no longer exist, and we spend billions on weapons that are not really needed.

I would rather see the savings invested in three other areas that provide national security as much as our military does, namely education, public safety and infrastructure.

We need more qualified teachers to alleviate overcrowded classrooms and provide our kids with the quality education that will enable them to take advantage of a 21st century job market that increasingly will require a well-educated workforce.

Regarding public safety, those of us who live in Oakland can tell you that our city (and many other U.S. cities) needs more cops patrolling the streets. The federal government has the means to help turn some of those green uniforms into much-needed blue uniforms.

And with infrastructure, our ability to stay ahead in an increasingly competitive global marketplace will require that the U.S. maintain top-notch roads, schools, research and development capabilities, as well as updated broadband and energy infrastructure. Our continued economic security and vitality, which in turn pays for troops, bases, ships and tanks, depends on making the necessary investments in these three areas.

Jay Ashford


Coca-Cola shows its true colors on labels

After a narrow defeat in Washington state, the public learned that Coca-Cola secretly had contributed more than $1.5 million to the campaign against the labeling of genetically engineered foods in the state. Coca-Cola also contributed more than $1.7 million to defeat labeling in California the year before, making the company one of the largest contributors to the defeat of state labeling efforts.

While this isn't especially surprising, it is two-faced. Coca-Cola has been marketing several of its brands to health-conscious consumers, including Odwalla, Zico Coconut Water, Honest Tea, Simply Orange, Dasani and Vitaminwater. These markets wouldn't be nearly as profitable if consumers understood where Coca-Cola has been directing their money.

Polls repeatedly have shown that the overwhelming majority of Americans believe GE foods should be labeled. According to a recent New York Times poll, 93 percent of the American public supports the labeling of genetically modified organisms. And labeling is already the norm in 64 nations, including all of Europe.

It's time for company policy to respond to the growing demand for consumer choice. Many companies, including Unilever and Mars Inc., already have responded to consumer pressure and stopped giving money to fight GE food labeling. More than 175,000 people have called on Coca-Cola to join them.

Querido Galdo