Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:15:00 PM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I read today your article about Elephant Pharmacy closing. Their phone prescription line is still accepting orders for refills! 

This is unconscionable—and potentially dangerous.  

I called the California Board of Pharmacy to ask them to take action today, Thursday, Feb 5, and got a recording saying that they are closed Friday, Feb 6, per the governor's order. OK, but why aren’t they answering the phone today? 

Nancy Van House 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

For years now I’ve been reading about how wonderful it is that the UC campuses set a new record every semester for the total number of enrollments. Can somebody tell me what’s so wonderful about congestion and housing shortages? Can somebody tell me what’s so wonderful about our population exploding out of control from a level of mass immigration that is unprecedented in human history? Can somebody explain this to me? 

Ace Backwords 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Uncivilized by design and management, Santa Rita is a horrible place. So cops raised money for bail, and now Johannes Mehserle walks among us. Police forces can so coldly ignore, even ridicule, civilian calls to bring jails and prisons up to higher ethical standards. But when one of their own gets into the system, all of the sudden there’s a humanitarian crisis. I used to work at a book store that regularly sent items to Santa Rita; the success rate of those books and magazines meeting their intended recipient was dismal. The simple joy of reading, of receiving that small gift from someone, could be hindered by guards for myriad reasons, or no reason at all. Having been inside Santa Rita, I know that having bail posted doesn’t mean that anyone is legally obligated to sign off on it in a reasonable amount of time. Food is a joke, sanitation is questionable, and health care is a myth. Psychologically oppressive, Santa Rita breeds abuse and violence. Cops and guards take pride in sending people to places like Santa Rita. They lobby to build more jails, at the expense of education and social services. Cops say that they cannot relate to the prisons as an industrial complex. They think the accusation is just a gimmick by prisoners and their families to throw the blame off themselves—that the whole problem lies in a lack of personal accountability. But when one of their own is locked up, suddenly there’s a victim of the system. Suddenly the quarters aren’t decent enough, the food isn’t proper, and the overall atmosphere is abysmal.  

I would hope that police, guards, and all who keep the system running, reflect on their chosen profession and their chosen ethics. If Santa Rita was no place for Johannes Mehserle, then why is it appropriate to fill Santa Rita with so many people who have committed offenses that don’t even approach the grievousness of his actions? Will cops bail out an old man who was caught squatting, wanting to escape the cold? What about donations for an activist? Where’s the bail for a guy who got caught with a sack of weed and shrooms? Police cannot continue to argue that the system is fair to the community they allegedly serve, while also believing the system is not right for themselves.  

Nathan Pitts 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Memo to Linda Smith (“Why are they carrying tasers on BART?”, Letters, Feb. 5): They carry guns on BART, dear. Does that ease your discomfort about tasers? 

I have a couple of Why questions, myself. Why is nobody asking the Why question about guns? Guns in BART stations, aboard BART trains, carried by men and women given leave to use them at their personal discretion. I assure you it’s not about post-9/11 armed air marshals in your plane, despite how it feels, Ms. BART commuter, though it’s surely of a piece with the Homeland Securitization of every moment of our lives. 

No, the BART cops with guns issue arose a while ago, but not so long ago that the local media should be oblivious to it. There was a time, not that far back, when BART cops were in fact unarmed, and arming them for lethal action was actually debated. Am I imagining this? There was a shooting incident—at the MacArthur station?—that an enterprising reporter for an actual local paper might want to track down. 

My other Why questions: Why does “He thought he was reaching for his taser” not imply lethal intent? Why has the question of taser lethality—well and horrifyingly documented, easily researched—not been part of the analysis and discussion of BART policies and management culpability? 

M. Hall 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

If Republicans just want Obama to fail (Rush Limbaugh) and are so blinded by their failed ideology of tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts, why even try to be bipartisan with them by loading down the economic stimulus bill with tax cuts (42 percent in the Senate version—strangely similar to the Republican votes in the Senate) which are much less stimulative than spending? 

To get any compromise with Republicans in the Senate, the Democrats reduced aid to the states and education, both of which are vitally important. And the Republicans are still unwilling to join in. 

I say restore aid to states and education and reduce the less stimulative tax cuts. And, if the Republicans are determined to stay intransigent and resist, let them. Then pass the bill anyway, and reduce the number of votes necessary to prevent filibuster. 

Richard Tamm 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Bad Thing: Becky O’Malley did not use her bully pulpit to admit what everybody already knows: that the Berkeley Voice business model worked because it was cheap to operate; and it helped a local sports reporter (yes, I realize the shock the reader may be feeling at this moment), Peter Mentor, to stay in Berkeley and report on prep sports for 14 years before he went to Santa Cruz to be a Waldorf School teacher. 

Good Thing: The hopeful realization that Becky O’Malley didn’t establish the Berkeley Daily Planet Trust and then run for City Council on a Keep the Planet Green ticket in the 2008 election. I can only imagine when I venture her alternating slogans would be a folk song called, “O’Malley’s as Irish as Barack Obama,” and a button for children in all of Berkeley’s schools emblazoned with the words, “Pay for Free Speech with the Dividend of Capitalism.” 

A question I often ask in these situations is: What do you want to achieve with your philanthropy? 

John E. Parman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I used to live in Puerto Rico and the bedbug problem there was very rare. From what I heard from several people from there, the problem usually was eliminated by just having some small eucalyptus branches put under the bed. This might also help get rid of head lice, fleas and other midnight biters, possibly some carrying diseases. The leaves may need to be bruised a bit to get quick action. Some people may have allergies to eucalyptus sap so some care should be taken by just testing with a few leaves at first. But eucalyptus ingredients are major parts of various additives for vaporizing steam inhalers indicating pretty widespread tolerance.  

James Singmaster 






Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am amazed at the self righteous statements by Bob Brokl, who gloats over the misfortunes of the developers of the Creekside project, as if it was due to their stupidity and greed that the economy and housing market has tanked, and their project has to be put on hold indefinitely. This same project was endlessly modified and changed to meet neighborhood objections and was finally lauded as a reasonable and appropriate development by most of us who cared. Equally important, it would forever get rid of one of the ugliest buildings ever built in Oakland, a true eyesore if there ever was one. Mr. Brokl seems to like it and compares it to some equally ugly building in Nebraska; what a terrific recommendation. 

I do agree that the owners need to secure the building immediately, better yet, demolish it. Its rental value is minimal and there are too many vacant or marginally occupied retail premises in the Temescal to justify the costs of rehabilitating this building. I, for one, cannot wait to see it demolished. 

Michael Yovino-Young 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks so much to all the community members who came to, or donated items to, “The Colors of Love” Valentine’s Yard Sale, a fundraising event for the neighborhood organization Friends of Kenney Cottage Garden! 

And a big thank you also to the Daily Planet for helping to publicize this event. Many people said they’d seen it in the Planet, either in the Community Calendar section or in the excellent and informative piece on the Kenney Cottage’s history by Steven Finacom.  

There will be lots more opportunities for community members to get involved in the effort to restore and bring the Kenney Cottage, along with a community garden, to a vacant lot in a West Berkeley neighborhood. Stay tuned! 

Patty Marcks 

Friends of Kenney Cottage 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Becky O’Malley, in her Jan. 29 editorial, justifiably bemoans the difficulties of sustaining a print publication. However, if Ms. O’Malley could figure out what she is trying to produce, and be honest about it, she may get more sympathy for her plight. She even sites Victor Navasky, former editor and publisher of The Nation magazine, but doesn’t seem to understand that he is talking about “journals of opinion,” not newspapers in his book titled, A Matter of Opinion. 

Ms. O’Malley describes the Planet as “professionally reported news,” but is it? Maybe if she described the Planet as “professionally created opinion” she might actually receive more than 50 or 60 responses to her appeal for support. 

Let’s just look at one article as an example from this same edition of the Planet, “Zoning Board Approves Kashani’s Ashby Ave. Condos.” This project was approved by the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) by a 7-1 vote. So what should a “professional journalist,” working for a “newspaper” write? What is the story that the readers would welcome as “news”? (Full disclosure: I am one of the seven board members voting yes, and am a retired journalism teacher). 

I would think, as a “news story,” that the overwhelming vote by ZAB should be in the article. It was not. I would also think that the reasons ZAB approved this project should be in the article, but not one ZAB member was quoted or cited. And I would think the public would be interested in knowing how this project effects Berkeley, being one of the largest residential structures proposed for West Berkeley in recent history. What was at this site before this project, how does it fit into Berkeley’s General Plan, San Pablo Avenue Plan, Berkeley’s Climate Action Plan, or help or hurt the housing needs of Berkeley? None of this was in the article. 

Instead, the few critics, supported by one ZAB member in the end, were highlighted in the first two paragraphs of the article and the bulk of the article was devoted to their objections. Again, seven out of eight members supported this project and yet not one thing was mentioned in the article, until the very last paragraph, about “any” benefit to Berkeley when many were discussed at the meeting, by board members and the public. 

So Ms. O’Malley, what is it you are trying to sustain, a “newspaper” or a “journal of opinion”? Your answer may just be the solution to your problem. 

Terry Doran 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Perhaps the Daily Planet should run a column called “Mayor Bates Bloopers.” 

Since we have to live with him for another two years, we might as well have a little fun to ease the hurt of having a mayor who doesn’t seem to have empathy for the poor or disabled. I’m recollecting the mayor who asked the disabled people (and I am one) who support the warm pool not come to the meeting, but instead let our co-chair come and speak for us. What? I mean we all need a reason to chuckle these days. 

A few weeks I wrote what I called the “So What” blooper. Tonight the mayor referred to tenants (when talking about the condo conversion ordinance ), made the comment that tenants should have the “right” to become an owner and not be just be a tenant? Now wait a minute. Just be a tenant? 

Well, I’m sorry if the majority of us don’t have the income to be an owner, Mr. Mayor, but each day becomes scarier as the number of homeless people grows. Now on to the next blooper. 

Lori Kossowsky