April 23, 2003

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Talkback

Hold the fire

I don't remember the Oakland police shooting any nonlethal bullets at the crowd of over 1,000 Raider fans that was assembled after the Super Bowl, even though they were looting, overturning cars, and setting fires.

Terri Frye

San Francisco

Subvert from within

Socially responsible investing may feel good but is little more than symbolic, that is, if you understand how financial markets work ["Principles and Profits," 4/9/03].

When you buy or sell a stock or bond on Wall Street, you usually buy it from or sell it to another shareholder just like you, not the company or the U.S. Treasury, therefore having little or no effect on the latter.

The stock price reflects how investors value a company's assets and earning power. So, if enough socially responsible shareholders sell their holdings, it could make the share price more lucrative for those who buy them.

I am surprised that Peter Camejo, a financial adviser who should know better, still insists on creating this false notion that your disinvestment matters. A much more effective idea is to use one's shareholder rights to influence a company's policies with shareholder proposals to be voted on at annual meetings.

Erich P. Kellner

Walnut Creek

Stuff your mattress

Kudos to Michael Stoll for giving visibility to socially responsible investing, "The Peace Portfolio" [4/9/03]. I would urge anyone interested in using the investment power of their dollars, large or small, to stop and learn how the banking system works today, locally, nationally, and globally. Each of us can make a difference.

I take issue with the effectiveness of socially responsible mutual funds that invest in screened equity stocks. Corporations run on short- and medium-term credit. More stock is retired from the stock market in the form of buybacks than is issued. Instead of looking at stock funds, we should all take a hard look at where our money market funds are invested. What each of us will find is our dollars going either directly to corporations or through large banks to corporations.

My suggestion to anyone who wants to make an impact with their investment dollars is that they invest locally, either in local banks or community development funds, or just stuff the money in their mattress. And since there is only about $600 billion of currency in circulation, two-thirds of which is overseas, and $2 trillion invested in money market funds, it won't take too much mattress stuffing before someone cries uncle.

Rupert Ayton

San Francisco

Whose streets?

For the protesters who held up traffic, the way I see it is that the streets are public places available for public expression whether the public like it or not. That's the situation with public anything. If the streets were owned by the property owners, they could manage them as they choose, establish the parameters, and hire their own security. But in both the public and private sphere, my libertarian priorities place liberty over order. After all, under Mussolini and Hitler, the trains ran on time.

But that doesn't mean I cannot sympathize with those disrupted by the protesters. It's too bad that protesters chose to disrupt everyone in the area and not just those few who support war. While not the same magnitude, this is the equivalent of dropping a cluster bomb on a village containing some military personnel mixed with civilians. Personally, I suggest protesters focus on the state and federal buildings, symbols of the real origin of war. War is, after all, the health of the state and its horrors the state's greatest achievement. That is not a compliment.

Those are the reasons I cannot support Sup. Tony Hall's initiative ["Protesters Pay," 4/16/03]. The use of police force and heavy fines to prevent nonviolent disruptive expression on public streets values order over freedom. I cannot accept that.

Michael F. Denny

Libertarian candidate for mayor

San Francisco

Correction

In last week's Careers and Education section, the story "Project Shareware" contained a fact-checking error regarding OTX-West. OTX-West is a project of the nonprofit organization Marcus A. Foster Educational Institute. Marcus A. Foster Educational Institute is not a funding body, and OTX-West is not its own nonprofit.