Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday January 05, 2007


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Here’s some solace for the holidays for those who traditionally lament Berkeley’s parking situation. The week before Christmas I drove down to Oakland for a meeting. I would have taken the BART but I ran late and so hopped in a car. Joy of joys there was a vacant, standard one hour meter on the 2200 block of Franklin where my meeting was to take place. I threw in my five quarters and skipped off smiling. When I returned 59 minutes later here was a friendly uniformed meter man standing by my car talking with another fellow on the sidewalk. A bright ticket envelope held in place by my windshield wiper blew gently in the breeze. “But I paid the meter and it’s just running out now,” I protested to Meterman. With a bashful smile he responded, “No that’s not it” and pointed at the signpost not 10 feet from where we stood. It said “No parking 4-6 p.m.” The time was 4:25 p.m. In old-fashion marketing parlance that’s probably called a “bait and switch.” The enticing meter gave me no clues as to what I was going to be buying. “You’ve got to read the signs,” said my parking cop friend. Of course Berkeley has some “no-parking” lanes for traffic 4-6 p.m. too. But the ones I know-of are meterless. My foray into the murder capital of the area left me unscathed, if a bit fleeced. I have to be thankful that I was saved by the city and so I’ve already contributed my $48.25 to Oaktown for the holidays. Is that tax deductible? Honestly, I think they owe me my $1.25 back. There is a moral to this story for the meter challenged, like myself. When you see one of these metal polls and it reminds you of interactions with something black and white, check to see if its tail is in the air and never forget that you might get skunked.  

Marc Sapir 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

This is a true dream story: It came to me around 2:30 a.m. on Dec. 23 at home. Prior to that date I had written no letters of protest or spoken with anyone regarding the UC Regents proposal to locate the UC Athletic Training Facility on the site of a grove of trees. I had considered sending letters to newspapers, and city, university, and state elected officials with some kind of protest, but until this dream I actually did nothing. 

The dream was presented to me as a fully thought-out and detailed report. I woke up and grabbed my ready-to-go dream writing kit (handily placed paper, pencil, and a book to write against) and spontaneously wrote the entire dream. 

Begin the dream: The new UC Athletic Training Center and offices goes on the southwest corner of the campus under the existing athletic practice field at Bancroft and Oxford streets. The relocated athletic practice field goes on top, the new A.T. Center and offices go below. The parking (much less than the 900 proposed for the A.T. Center) goes below and/or in a new expanded parking structure on the existing surface lot and the old bank building between Bancroft and Durant. That site can also take additional uses that relate to the training center such as offices, guest athlete dorms, and expanded student and faculty housing. Possibly tie that southward extension to the redesigned training center with a sky-bridge (or a tunnel). Cover the redesigned practice field (at Oxford and Bancroft) with a (movable) glass or plastic atrium cover. Open up Center Street for the sub-level creek, and add a pedestrian under crossing that serves the campus and the new A.T. Center, and possibly a sub-level shuttle bus link. Enhance BART and AC Transit with a Eco-Pass, especially for users of the new facilities by the public, UC Staff, and students; upgrade passes to nearly mandatory status. End of dream. 

An afterthought: Link the UC Coliseum to the north campus with a tunnel under Piedmont at Stadium Rim Road for pedestrians, bikes, and maybe shuttle busses, but for heaven’s sake, miss the trees. 

Ken Norwood 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It seems that Councilmember Spring just can’t afford the time to add facts to her statements. She claims that Raudel Wilson’s recent participation in the district elections was “set up by the chamber” but she offers no proof to this allegation. Yes, the chamber endorsed Mr. Wilson. But the chamber also endorsed Mayor Bates and Gordon Wozniak. Did the chamber “set them up” too? 

Also, to accuse a man for wanting to provide better and affordable living conditions for his family, is a low blow, even for Ms. Spring. Again, is there such a thing as a sore winner? Councilmember Spring needs to move on with taking care of the city’s business, as she was re-elected to do. 

Richard Hom 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you for Susan Parker’s article on “Christmas in Las Vegas: Part One.” Please, please, please, don’t let there be a part two. Do I really care that Susan had to wait in line? Do I care if she finds some sort of small nugget of Christmas joy to hold onto in the thick of all this line waiting? May I suggest more compelling article ideas for Susan Parker:  

“How I Started My Car this Morning.” 

“Sunday Night Between 8:15 and 8:20 in My Kitchen: Part 3.” 

“Paper Bags.” 

Sander Douglas 






Editors, Daily Planet: 

One of the few positive features of our public lives during 2006 has been the continued existence of the Berkeley Daily Planet. While newspapers deteriorate and disappear as sources of information, the Planet continues to offer actual news and opinion, allowing readers to talk back to it and to each other. Thanks to all the staff and volunteers, and may you prosper in the New Year. 

Dorothy Bryant 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Dec. 19-21 edition reported on the Zoning Board progress on Trader Joe’s, Drayage, Bus Yard, and Condos. What about Berkeley’s animals? 

A bond measure was passed four years ago because voter’s recognized the need for a new city shelter. Where is it? 

The ideal situation is one building, housing Animal Control, Berkeley East Bay Humane Society, and Fix our Ferals. These three organizations work cooperatively and have succeeded in significantly minimizing euthanasia, increasing adoptions, and lowering population by neutering. This is done on a shoestring budget, by hard working staff, and devoted volunteers. 

It is embarrassing and shameful that Berkeley, a city of intelligent and compassionate people, has such limited animal facilities, especially when compared to the San Francisco SPCA, Oakland SPCA, and ARF in Walnut Creek--virtual palaces by comparison. 

Dogs and cats are in kennels and cages due to limited space. Caged animals have increased stress which can delay socialization and adoption. The shelters must devote time and energy for fund raisers and shoring up out- dated buildings that have leaked and flooded in winter rain, time and energy better spent on animal care and public education. 

Some City Council members are vocal in their support but no action has occurred. Who or what is holding up the wishes of Berkeley voters and the well being of our animals? 

Carole Gill 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Dr. Mohammed Yunus’ micro-credit project in Bangladesh has become a darling of the West, up to the point of winning for Dr. Yunus a Nobel Prize. However, one should be aware that there is a contrarian view from NGO’s and others on the ground. One can find it by Googling the relevant terms and searching for thorns among the roses. Just to relate a couple of points made by those skeptics:. 

1) The commentary implies that loans are made to the most needy people. In fact, they are made to people with houses and other collateral. 2) Loans may be made mostly to women, but it is naive to assume that in South Asian society women necessarily keep control of the money. 3) It may be that in some cases loans are made to groups of women. According to reports, in Muslim Bangladesh men are taking additional wives in order to maximize their borrowing. In many cases, the business they set up is--guess what—moneylending! This is the traditional best path to economic advancement in rural South Asia. They take the money and re-lend it at higher rates of interest, creating wealth for one family and impoverishing their neighbors. 

The suggestion by some is that the women who receive loans are not so much the agents of new businesses as they are Grameen’s agents for the collection of interest. 

Mark Tatz 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding J. Douglas Allen-Taylor’s “Debating the Use of the Word ‘Nigger’ ”: 

The word “nigger” was never uttered in the racist family in which I grew up, and still, at age 79, I find it difficult to even write those six letters. I never doubted or even questioned, however, that my parent’s substitute Yiddish word, “shwartza” was always used with contempt. 

To this day, I am still grieved and embarrassed to recall an event which painfully illustrates the power and the destiny of such racism; not only in my family, but blindly tolerated in my schoolroom as well. Even as a young California mother, on a trip back to my old home in Ohio, with my husband and two children, we took photos of the old house, but never spoke to the elderly black man on the porch—with my children a witness to this inhumanity. Sometimes silence is the loudest obscenity of all. 

Such intolerances were finally an important part of the painful dissolution of our marriage. My children and I have grown up together, with a rainbow of friends and partners—an invaluable reeducation, even resulting in miracles such as my black daughter-in-law and grandchild. 

I have encountered many racists along the way, the most painful being senior family members unwilling to accept my inter-racial family. Unlike Michael Richards, most such bigots I have known have been extremely careful to substitute society’s codes for words like “nigger.” What’s missing in Allen-Taylor’s discussions of such terms, is society’s unfortunate need for such obscenities. These six letters, if omitted, would simply be replaced by other profanities. 

Just as sexual pornography, like it or not, can fill a human need, other obscenities can also have importance in our imperfect world. Just as such words as “nigger” have been recognized by courts as evidence of certain racist crimes, we all hear them as an aid in judging the values of others. Bruising words like “nigger” may even be used in lieu of bruising actions. Our constantly evolving language, ugly or beautiful, is, after all, an imperative indication of our feelings and passions, as well as our values. 

Gerta Farber 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Becky O’Malley of the Berkeley Daily Planet can hardly make a case in defense of religion (“Humans Still Missing Peace at Home,” Dec. 22) with arguments like, “There are no soup kitchens run by militant atheist organizations that I’m aware of. I don’t know of any kind of charitable programs organized by anti-religious people....” This kind of black-and-white view ignores the vast middle of secular organizations: Food Not Bombs, Doctors without Borders, UNICEF, Oxfam, the Grameen Bank, et cetera, et cetera. “Good works” are not the exclusive property of the religious. 

C. A. Gilbert 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I recently went to a lecture on global warming. One of the lecturer’s comments was that high temperatures that currently occur only a few times a year, will become common summer temperatures in the next few decades. Furthermore, data from the last 30 years showed that the increase in the highest temperatures was significantly larger than the increase in the average temperatures. If you live in a city with a peak summer temperature of 110 degrees now, in a few decades this may be a common summer temperature, and the peak may go to 120 degrees. 

The data on major storms was more ambivalent, as the feedback between the factors driving them is less well understood. While the lecturer was willing to predict that temperatures would increase, he was only willing to state that a major increase in storm severity was possible. 

The changes in climate are not happening uniformly across the country. Washington D. C., perhaps unfortunately, has shown no significant change over the last 30 years. The entire southern portion of the United States has significantly warmed. So what does this mean for our society? Many people have migrated to the south because of its warmer climate. When its climate becomes inhospitable will many then migrate back north? And if the south becomes too hot, what about Mexico and Central America? If they do migrate north, where will they settle? 

If the editor and many letter writers to the Daily Planet have their way, it won’t be Berkeley. 

Berkeley is already a dense city, and the anti-growth proponents apparently figure we have done our bit. Further growth in Berkeley is viewed as unjustified. From this perspective, growth in Berkeley is driven only by cynical or near-sighted self-interest. There is only one issue - the character of the pro- and anti- people. The developers get rich and we get screwed. If we let them get bigger buildings in the commercial areas they will want to build elsewhere too. The developers are cynically clever too, as witness their including a Trader Joe’s with the apartments planned for University Avenue. But even a benefit like this can be cast in terms of character issues, as only the rich in the hills benefit because then they can drive to it and buy their “...pseudo-ethnic specialties and cheap wine...". 

I feel really screwed. I am not associated with the developer, I’m not rich, I don’t live in the hills, I don’t have a car so I can’t drive to the proposed Trader Joe’s, and if I do bike there instead of Emeryville, I’ll probably still buy the same stuff: cheap cereal, toilet paper and facial tissue, bread, and other basics. Dang, no pseudo-ethnic specialties, and no concern about the impact of the built environment on global warming. 

Robert Clear 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In a thinly veiled attempt to undercut and reverse Berkeley’s traditional progressive political agenda, the Berkeley City Council will consider a proposal on Jan.16 designed to remove—and bar future—citizen volunteers from the City of Berkeley’s 40 citizen commissions and boards. 

Berkeley City Councilmemeber Laurie Capitelli is the measure’s initiating sponsor. Mr. Capitelli’s proposal would bar Berkeley citizens from serving on more than one city commission. Current policy allows for a citizen to serve on two or three commissions simultaneously if a citizen is prepared to devote the necessary time and energy. 

Mr. Capitelli’s proposal is an attempt to target progressive commissioners on Berkeley’s 40 commissions and boards by preventing progressive-leaning citizens from providing their experience, expertise and public policy recommendations. 

Berkeley’s commission system is the foundation of the city’s public policy discussions and decisions. Traditionally, commission policy recommendations are forwarded to the City Council for consideration and/or action. 

If Mr. Capitelli is so concerned about citizen volunteers serving on more than one city commission, as he purports to claim, he should apply his concern to his own commission appointees. Instead, Mr. Capitelli is attempting to unilaterally force his own personal appointee policy down the throats of his fellow City Councilmembers. 

Mr. Capitelli should stick to worrying about his own 40 commission appointments and let his eight fellow Councilmember colleagues appoint the citizen volunteers they wish to the commissions they see fit (without Mr. Capitelli’s interference). 

I urge Berkeley voters to phone their respective councilmembers to voice their concern about Mr. Capitelli’s anti-democratic proposal. The proposal will be considered by the City Council at its next regular council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 16. 

Chris Kavanagh 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

How should we live so that those who are less fortunate than us are included in our actions? We come from many nations in the world but all of us have the same basic wants. We need food and shelter, of course, but all of us, rich and poor alike, want respect from others. The general attitude in our society is that the poor are guilty of some sin: they are lazy or distracted or unwilling to learn English. We feel that they do not deserve the respect we give to full human beings. I think it is high time that we take care of others? needs and share our comforts with those who are less fortunate. Let us treat them with the utmost respect. We might save our money and time fixing societal breakdown later if we can improvise small local ways to help our less fortunate neighbors now. 

Romila Khanna 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Now that liberals won a great victory in the November elections, Bob Burnett says it’s time for the winners to “sink the conservative ideology that has dominated American politics for 25 years.” (“Killing Conservatism,” Daily Planet, Dec. 12). But the ten-part ideology he describes, starting with “Government is bad,” is reactionary, not conservative. Reactionaries dislike government and liberals with equal fervor. Conservatives may not always like government, but they recognize its importance and generally work to improve it, just as liberals do. 

Economist Paul Krugman exposed the reactionary fiscal policy they call “Starving the Beast,” where the beast is government, which reactionaries want to eliminate. Under Bush/Cheney/Rove starving the beast destroys government by creating huge deficits, spending money we don’t have on things we don’t need like war in Iraq, and cutting taxes for corporations and for the rich at the same time. Who among us has not suffered from the induced poverty of governmental entities under this regime? Who among us has not seen the anguished letters from true conservatives bemoaning the reactionary agenda and saying they regret that they can no longer vote for candidates who call themselves conservative, but who once they win office pursue radical change at the expense of cherished institutions and values? 

Reactionaries have cloaked themselves in conservative rhetoric and the media has bought the imagery. Liberals have bought it too, but if they want to win in the future I think they have to start figuring out how to help the real conservatives separate themselves from the reactionaries. This will allow conservatives to pursue their true calling, which is akin to pruning and weeding the garden that the liberals lay out and plant. 

The optimal situation is for liberals and conservatives to work together to make government strong, fair, and efficient, to do well the things that government does best. This will isolate the reactionaries and greatly facilitate their removal from elected office. 

Dan Knapp 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am unable to reconcile the Carter Center’s mission statement with the founder’s recent book. 

Mr. Carter ignores centuries of history, in Hebron and elsewhere. He ignores 80 years of homicidal Arab violence against Jews in the land promised them. He lies about events he did not witness. 

He endorses the ongoing anti-Jewish terrorism embodied in the Hamas Charter and the PLO Covenant. 

I would be grateful if the Carter Center would help me understand how this promotes their declared purpose.  

I would be grateful to know the center’s position about a person who charges money to tell lies that support, among other practices, the training of children to believe that becoming suicide bombers is the greatest future to which they can aspire.  

David Altschul 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I think that it’s about time we stopped poking fun at George Bush. His supporters are folks who believe in equal rights for the handicapped. Bush is capable in many areas. He clears brush. He can dress himself. He does long as you don’t confuse him with questions. He can bathe himself. And he likes to wear a uniform. It’s unreasonable to expect him to wear it in dangerous situations.  

It’s a tribute to our country that such a man can become our president.  

And he was even re-elected. 

Harry Gans 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

What if our great East Bay born-and-bred composer leaders, Peter Apfelbaum and Butch Morris, long New York- and Planet-acclaimed, were to direct an orchestra of an individual musicians from every United Nations country to open the U.N. General Assembly every year? Once proposed as: 


Let’s move the United Nations to Camp Cazadero, 

New York has had it too long. 

Put the Security Council in the redwoods of Sonoma, 

Have ‘em debate it in song. 

Slip Fidel and Daniel through the mouth of the Russian, 


We’ll party with love, and by Jove, 

We seek and we’ll hide ‘em, 

The light that’ll guide ‘em is the burning of Bohemian Grove. 


And to close the session annually, have our great improvisational vocalists, Rhiannon, Linda Tilley, So-Vo-So, lead a circle of delegates in such wondrous on-the-spot land’s end created sounds as we have grown to celebrate over the past five years from noon to midnight on Dec. 30 at “Sing For Your Life” at the First Congressional Church of Oakland. (Green language, or the language of the birds, is the avion ability to confer with the initiated, and mystically vice versa.) 

Arnie Passman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced its approval of meat and dairy products from cloned animals amidst widespread concern among scientists and food safety advocates. Despite recent consumer opinion polls showing that most Americans do not want food from cloned animals, cloned milk may soon be sold, unlabeled, in grocery stores across the country, and cloned meat will be next. Scientists say that clones may be inherently unhealthy, with potentially harmful consequences for animal foods derived from clones. Moreover, animal cloning is a cruel technology that results in needless animal suffering. 

The first cloned mammal was the famed sheep Dolly. But after the hype, few followed the story of Dolly’s demise. Just 6 years old when euthanized (sheep of Dolly’s breed generally live to 11 or 12), Dolly suffered from arthritis and lung disease usually seen in much older animals. Sadly, Dolly is not unique among clones. Leading cloning scientists say clones are likely to carry genetic abnormalities, and the lead scientist responsible for creating Dolly has warned that even small imbalances in a clone’s hormone, protein or fat levels could compromise the safety of its milk or meat. 

It appears that once again the FDA has seemingly ignored scientific and public concerns and fast-tracked a decision for the benefit of a handful of cloning companies. It’s time for FDA to put the health and welfare of Americans over corporate profits. 

Cynthia Johnson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The American public are generally ignorant, uneducated, and politically behind the curve by several years, but they finally got the message about Iraq, as evidenced by the mid-term elections and recent polls. They are prepared for a new message.  

What the Congress should say: To be fiscally responsible, we must protect Social Security and Medicare, revive education, and rebuild the military for the needs of long term security. We cannot afford to continue our presence in Iraq at a cost of two billion dollars per week. Therefore we will authorize sufficient funds to bring the troops home, and no more. 

What the White House should say: Our job is done. Saddam is gone, and replaced by a democratically elected government. Without being in the shadow of U.S. troops, the Iraqi forces will have greater legitimacy and authority, and through their own internal intelligence will be more able to identify and eradicate terrorists who infiltrate from neighboring states. 

What the State Department should say to Saudi Arabia: The partitioning of Iraq is inevitable. Ethnic cleansing has begun as Shiite militias are routing Sunnis from Shia territory. Saudi Arabia should assure the safe relocation of Sunni families, and if necessary, we will pay you under the table to do that.  

The cost of humanitarian resettlement is far less than that of our military presence. Three small stable Iraqi states are less threatening than a large volatile one, and the serious threats to the U.S. are Iran and North Korea. In each case, the U.S. should assist in the development of nuclear power, with full inspection. Even a surreptitious venture into nuclear arms is not necessarily dire, if the U.S. protects its borders and rigorously inspects ships and containers. But the U.S. should make it clear, unilaterally, that if a vehicle appears on an Iranian or North Korean launch pad with the capability of reaching Israel, Europe, or the U.S., it will be destroyed. 

Jerry Landis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Holidays are a good time to reflect on what went down over the last year, last four years under Bush-Republican domination. Symptomatic of the malaise that enveloped the United States over the past four years is the current quandary President Bush finds himself in; what to do next about Iraq. Dude, his decision to invade Iraq was made in an instant, and he had no problem convincing Congress and the entire nation that it would be a cakewalk. 

Yet, now, the “decider” has put off his decision on the fate of Iraq until next year. Almost four years of war and George W. doesn’t know what to do! 

More than likely we will stay the course to nowhere, and add more troops to a disintegrating theater. More troops in Iraq is like throwing good money after bad. Didn’t the current batch of politicians learn anything from Vietnam? 

Ron Lowe 

Grass Valley