Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Wednesday April 08, 2009 - 06:11:00 PM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Kristina Bormann’s letter regarding the vandalism at the Marine Recruiting Center, truly encapsulates “berkeleythink”: “I have the political and moral high ground, thus my actions are not only warranted, but above the law.” 

Jeffrey L. Suits 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I grew up in San Francisco during the 1950s and ’60s. I occasionally visit Bay Area newspapers’ opinion pages to see what people are talking about “back home.” 

People in Berkeley have always been different—even when I lived in The City, Berkeley was a little off the wall. I read in the April 1 letters to the editor what should have been an April Fool’s joke. One letter writer justifies a cowardly vandalism attack on the Marine Recruiter office (which cost the landlord to repair) and another letter blaming the deaths of four Oakland policemen on the distribution of wealth. 

I can accept that Berkeley is the center of liberal America, but come on people, justifying attacks on the men and women who protect your rights is ridiculous. 

It brings to mind the mindless statement from a Code Pink member in front of the Marine Recruiter office. She stated that if there was no military there would be no war. When asked if we didn’t have police would there be no crime, her ridiculous Berkeley response was, “Yes, potentially.” 

Tom Cavallero 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I disagree with J. Douglas Allen-Taylor’s remarks in his column about the recent police killings in Oakland. He indicates that Mr. Mixon may have acted as he did because he did not wish to return to prison. However, if he did not wish to return to prison, why did he violate his probation and buy weapons and possibly engage in other illegal activities? He had a choice to make. 

I think the issue we need to confront is the proliferation of weapons, both legal and illegal. Instead of focusing on the Oakland police, we should focus on the power of the National Rifle Association, the easy access to weapons, as well as the disregard for human lives in our society, both at home and overseas. 

Ilse M. Eden 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It has been said that “Denial is not just a river in Egypt,” and in Oakland that is providential fact. The appalling, tragic and indeed senseless murder by a parolee of four Oakland police officers is the incarnation of evil to a degree rarely matched anywhere. To the civilized world it is mortification personified.  

Still, it comes as no surprise that there are those among us in Oakland who willfully obscure the facts in their odd and vain attempt to assign context and a perverse, illogical rationalization for murder. Minds so deluded by the culture of irresponsible behavior, convenience before discipline and willful indifference to the concept of absolute right and wrong can be easily manipulated into the most confounding and pathological perversion.  

Thus the ridiculous distortions of truth that have found their way into the public forums. People devoid of logic and afflicted by such a profound lack of maturity and objectivity can distort and demean reality in ways that responsible adults would find unconscionable. It isn’t just the fools parading for the thug murderer in the streets of East Oakland but the allegedly responsible citizens who can assign a justification for cowardly, selfish slaughter. It sickens and saddens me to realize that in Oakland at least the world is tilting so badly that it is almost off its axis. The perversity of thought and action in Oakland is astonishing. Moral relativism leads to the undoing of civilization. 

Jonathan C. Breault 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

What an inflammatory, absurd commentary by Joseph Anderson (“The Karmic Justice of Lovelle Mixon’s Act,” April 2). To refer to the deaths of four public servants as “karmic justice” is perverse. Clearly not only is Mr. Anderson willing to engage in hyperbolic generalities, but he has a grievous misunderstanding of the concept of karma as well. He will persuade no one that black citizens of Oakland suffer from racial injustice because no one “sitting on the fence” will be able to look past his palpable hatred for police officers. But then this probably is not his intention. He is merely content to light a match and toss it into the flames of human suffering.  

S. Linder 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Are there no editorial standards at the Berkeley Daily Planet? Is it really considered acceptable or constructive to glorify Lovelle Mixon, a man who rapes 12-year-olds and shoots police officers while they do their jobs responsibly? Is there no editor who knows enough history to know that the police of this and any other country do not come out of “white slave patrols,” whatever that might be? Does no one see the value in correcting the implication that it was the Oakland Police Department who shot Oscar Grant? 

There is a coherent argument to be made regarding the role of the police in some neighborhoods and situations. There are a great many critiques to be made of the Oakland Police Department and its management. Unfortunately, Joseph Anderson’s commentary sets those efforts back through his haphazard pack of outdated stereotypes and generalizations. Would he really say this to the three widows left behind? Does he know those officers were people, too? 

By choosing to run the piece, the Daily Planet exercises an editorial choice. I hope it is considered more carefully in the future. It’s just bad journalism to print blatantly incorrect and misleading assertions. It’s shameful to give a soapbox to a man so twisted by his own prejudice that he will forgive for raping minors in order to condone his murders. 

Seth Katz 

Maureen Logan 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have spent a third of my 50 years in State and federal prisons. I was one of the bad guys, as hard as it is for some to believe. My crimes were fraud related. I wasn’t a violent offender, but I spent seven or more years in max and medium security prisons. In my life I’ve known a few Mixons—prisons are chock full of them and should be. J. Douglas Allen-Taylor’s column suggesting that Mixon was being unfairly judged on tentative DNA tests, and a commentary by Joseph Anderson, stating that the murder of four police officers was justified, payback, an eye for an eye, are glaring examples of people who don’t get it. I’ve walked among the Lovelle Mixons of the world, both in and out of prison. Guess what? They need to be in prison. Society really does need to be protected from these predatory men. I’ve seen these guys in action. In prison they prey on the weak, and they do the same on the streets. Apologists cry out, “It’s societies fault, the justice system’s fault, it’s white America’s fault, poverty did it.” Then there are the folks who can barely conceal their satisfaction, the idea that karma exacted a price for past and present wrongs. They not only excuse the killer, they blame the victim.  

Let me be really clear here, Lovelle Mixon decided to kill to avoid accountability, period. A human being who can willfully take a life to avoid accountability, to avoid a possible six- or 12-month parole violation, that type of person is called a sociopath. Now multiply that one life by four and you have a monster. These same clowns who suggest Mixon is some kind of victim, or worse yet, a martyr, would quickly brand him a monster if his violence had directly touched their own lives. It’s easy to have such high sensibility when you are observing from afar. After all the cops weren’t their family, their people. I’m an unemployed ex-convict. Race no longer is an advantage for me. I get just as many doors slammed in my face as a black ex-con. With millions of honest, non-felons unemployed, a guy like me doesn’t stand a chance competing for a position. It’s a given that the honest square guy will get the job, and really it’s only fair, right? You pay a price when you decide to willingly break the laws of society. You make a conscious decision, and that decision comes with a price. That’s how it should be, it’s fair.  

As an ex-con you have choices to make. You can man up, walk a straight line, or you can continue to be a criminal. I chose the former, Lovelle Mixon chose the latter. He was a predator, a killer, most likely a rapist, and in the end he is as close to a monster as humanly possible. Just ask the widows, the children, friends, family, and fellow officers of the four cops he killed in an effort to avoid accountability.  

Mark Smith 

Kansas City, MO 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have a bad feeling about Joseph Anderson’s April 2 commentary. Anderson wants the violence to continue and is in fact excited about death in a very unhealthy way. In a well-ordered society he would be in a straitjacket in a mental hospital. As it is, he is going out of his way to get cops killed. That is insane. 

Lovelle Mixon was garbage. He was a rapist and a dangerous addict who would have created much more heartbreak if he hadn’t been mercifully killed by the fifth cop. To write an article like this and attempt to make him heroic is a sick and a disgraceful action directed at the volatile young African community which is desperate for peace. This commentary by Anderson is malicious mischief and will cause more murder and heartache. I think that Mr. Anderson must know this, somewhere deep in his stone cold heart. I am aghast that Becky O’Malley would publish this and I am saddened at her seeming need to stir things up in a town whose citizens want peace. Shame on you, Becky, and shame on you, Joseph. If you want excitement, learn to play a musical instrument.  

Mic Jordan 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Hopefully by now the bus that brings the children to daycare can drive that remaining block and let them off in the lot at Clark Kerr, rather than requiring groups of children to cross a dangerous street. The school should have seen to this from the start. Even the most experienced and conscious care provider could not have prevented a 5-year-old from breaking hand lock with another 5-year-old in a group. Is it possible to get the present status on this? 

Autumn Dann 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

After reading Richard Brenneman’s April 2 article, “Another Rough Month for The Mainstream Media,” I was astonished to see how many Bay Area newspapers fell under the ownership of so few publishers. However, in reflection, this is not so amazing since most, if not all, of the Bay Area newsrooms and their editors were all a member of the same clique of liberal opinion, and took their news feed from the Old Gray Lady (New York Times) and other “progressive” sources. The ironic denouement comes pitting the newsrooms, the editorial staffs, and the unions against the management, who championed the “progressive” cause. The Marxist cause of progressive newspapers now threatens to devour them from within. Nations with only one news source are usually touted as tyrannies. However, most people still associate America with diversity and freedom even though America’s newspapers are void of both. I believe journalists are in the business to “make a difference,” but can there really be a difference when all the newspapers publish the same “news” and carry the same “opinions”? 

A solution may lie in reviewing the common political paradigm of the editorial newsrooms for the sake of the profession. If you achieve your political objective as a clique of progressives, do you really serve the cause of journalism, which is to deliver to the pubic information where facts are separate from opinion? Aside from “Do you care?”, would the public not be served best by competition from journals with competing points of view? Would you buy a newspaper if it always had an opinion contrary to what you were thinking? Where would you go for news and opinion if all you had to read were clones of the Wall Street Journal’s opinion page? Don’t people buy newspapers so they can refer to them often, which one cannot do if they just listen to or see it on TV? 

Is anybody stirring the pot up in Berkeley? It’s a stagnation of thought. Is anyone challenging progressive opinion on the local front, or is a newspaper just supposed to rubber-stamp popular opinion? 

John May 

San Jose 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In these economic hard times, the City of Berkeley scrambles to meet the costs of its overpaid bureaucracy by increasing parking fees and fines and by taxing residents for services that a municipal government should be expected to provide. Downtown business revenue is drying up because commerce is conducted in shopping malls, not downtown. And where are the malls? Emeryville, Albany, and El Cerrito. Where are Target and Berkeley Toyota? In Albany! 

Meanwhile the entire area of West Berkeley is kept in general disuse by the West Berkeley Plan, an outdated 16-year-old code designed to protect the low-rent status of artisans and small manufacturers. It is irrational to protect a small class of businesses at the expense of the general citizenry. Those small manufacturers and artisans who have a viable market will survive. For those who don’t, there are rural enclaves that will welcome art and craft colonies at low rents.  

West Berkeley must be opened to much broader revenue-enhancing use: car dealerships and big-box retail near the freeway interchanges at Ashby, University and Gilman, and new technology and commerce through much of the area. 

Jerry Landis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The financial predicament of the Berkeley Unified School District’s lunch program could be easily solved by closing the high school campus at lunch for ninth and 10th grade students and redefining off-campus lunch as an earned privilege for 11th and 12th grade students. The true cost to the community of an open campus in both dollars and sense includes increased truancy, lost ADA from the state, increased police staffing costs responding to crime, higher rates of drug and alcohol use during the school day, negative impact on downtown economy...the list goes on. When will the adults in Berkeley make good decisions benefiting pro-social youth development? As it stands now we are supporting administrators who are afraid to make sound decisions because they don’t want to hear the youth whine and protest. What about expecting youth to be a part of the solution? 

Laura Menard 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On April 6, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates proposed a bold Defense budget that cuts spending. 

I support the scaling back of a variety of programs including missile defense, the F-22 and the DDG-1000 destroyer. There are further cuts that could be made, but I support the effort to try to start turning the priorities around at the Pentagon. 

Investing in mass transit and education creates twice as many jobs as investing in the military. 

Zanne deJanvier 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Congratulations to Albert Sukoff for both correcting Richard Brenneman’s misuse of population statistics and for providing a sensible perspective on the benefits of density in creating a vibrant community. The challenge, as he points out, is accommodating more people without creating a proportional increase in automobile traffic. The city’s policy of concentrating new residential development in the downtown and along major transit corridors is intended to do just that. 

Steve Meyers 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In his April 2 commentary, “Density, Schmensity,” my old friend Albert Sukoff makes a good point about population density. How you define the area being described does make a difference. He claims Berkeley’s density “would drop in half” if we added “Tilden Park” to total city area, but no matter how I do the math I can’t come close to “half” the census bureau density for Berkeley of 9,822 persons per square mile. Even if I could, the proper definition is Tilden Regional Park, and since Kensington, El Cerrito, and Orinda also abut the park and their residents also pay for it and enjoy its space, it doesn’t belong to Berkeley. If we take the 2000 population of the abutting communities to pro-rate each community’s share, Berkeley could be said to “own” 69 percent of the park area. Calculated this way Berkeley would have a density of 8,084 persons per square mile—a drop, yes, but nowhere near “half.” To get to half of the census bureau density Albert would have to add the bureau’s count of Berkeley’s “water area” plus 100 percent of Tilden. But then to be consistent, wouldn’t he have to recalculate the density of Manhattan Island to include half of the Hudson and East rivers?  

Census data is always fun to parse. For example if you check the census data for the zip code in Berkeley where Albert lives, the density is 5,357 persons per square mile. In zip code 94703, which bears the brunt of our current City Council’s development approvals, such as the Trader Joe’s project, the density is 14,980 persons per square mile, almost three times as high.  

I don’t know enough about Albert’s New Jersey examples to do more than note that he doesn’t mention the city where he grew up (density: 3,570 persons per square mile). Does he know the Los Angeles suburbs he cites? Wild horses could not drag me back to most of them, but I do kind of like Hermosa Beach, which he says has “over 13,000 persons per square mile.” It’s right next to Manhattan Beach, where I grew up and where residential real estate prices are about 15 percent higher. On the other side of Manhattan Beach are an oil refinery and a power plant; Hermosa’s other neighbor is a yacht harbor. Manhattan’s beachfront is indistinguishable from Hermosa’s. So why the difference in values? Manhattan’s density is 8,614 persons per square mile. Maybe, schmaybe, there’s something to density after all, something that even realtors can appreciate. 

Christopher Adams 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Tobacco causes more deaths in the United States than HIV, illegal drugs, alcohol, motor vehicles injuries, suicides and murders combined.” 

A recent report by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration showed a 30 percent increase in the rate of smokeless tobacco use among boys aged 12 to 17 from 2002 to 2007. This includes snuff and chewing tobacco.  

The use of such products increases the risk of oral cancer as well as heart disease, stroke and emphysema. It leads to nicotine addiction just like cigarette smoking. I should know—tobacco has killed about half my family. 

How is it, then, that U.S. Smokeless Tobacco is the principal sponsor of Hayward’s Rowell Ranch Rodeo in May? Animal cruelty aside, this hardly fits in with rodeo’s “wholesome family entertainment” image. 

Those concerned should contact the Rodeo Committee and the Hayward Area Recreation & Parks District (HARD) at 1099 E Street, Hayward, CA , 94541.  

Eric Mills 

Action for Animals 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

A massive National Cancer Institute study in a recent issue of Archives of Internal Medicine corroborates dozens of earlier findings linking meat consumption with premature deaths and reaffirms the role of lifestyle in determining our life expectancy. 

The 10-year study of 545,653 Americans found that those consuming the equivalent of a small hamburger were 33 percent more likely to die, mostly from heart disease and cancer, than those who ate the least meat. 

Last October, a study of 16,000 people in 52 countries, published by the American Heart Association, found that a “western” diet of meat, fried foods, and salty snacks raised the risk of heart attacks by 35 percent. Conversely, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables reduced heart attack risk by 30 percent. A 24-year study of 88,517 female nurses, published in last April’s Archives of Internal Medicine found that those who ate lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, reduced their risk of heart attack and stroke by 24 and 18 percent, respectively. 

A landmark review of 7,000 diet and health reports, released in the fall of 2007 by the World Cancer Research Fund, found a “convincing” link between consumption of meat and an elevated risk of colon cancer, as well as a “likely” link with cancers of the lung, stomach, pancreas, esophagus, prostate, and uterus. 

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly we condemn regulatory authorities for traces of toxins in our food or water, while ignoring the much larger dietary health threat of animal products. 

Jeff Garner 

Walnut Creek 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

More visibility for vacancies on public bodies is clearly appropriate and needed. 

Whatever happened to public noticing of meetings of city agencies and of vacancies on such important bodies as the Housing Authority boards, the Housing Advisory Commission, Commissions on Aging and on Disability? The mayor’s office lady informs that noticing now consists of a reference in the City Council agenda. Apparently, mention in his newsletter is also considered public noticing.  

How many persons qualified to fill the reconstituted Berkeley Housing Authority board’s several vacancies have known and are going to know in a timely, affirmative fashion of their existence? (Calls to the BHA get a recording; messages left requesting “closing date[s],” etc., are not returned.) One wonders how many potential candidates for the library board’s recent vacancy were enabled to know of its existence in a timely, affirmative fashion. 

Law dictionaries’ definitions of the verb “to notice”: “to give legal notice to, and or of, the public or persons affected, usually by publication in a newspaper of general circulation.” Public notice is a formal official announcement in a newspaper or prominent place where everyone can know about something that is going to happen. (In the dim past, noticing included “box” notices published in the Berkeley Daily Planet.)  

Scheduling of all meetings of city agencies and bodies should be provided in a timely fashion that enables posting on the city’s own website Community Calendar as well as the Daily Planet’s Community Calendar. 

Helen Rippier Wheeler 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The subject matter of recent letters brought to mind a revenue scheme to keep the Planet in our newsstands. While speech is indeed free, the printed word costs money. In the Planet’s marketplace of ideas it should be possible to defray costs by monetizing popular terms. Google has made a fortune using a similar concept in their AdWords system. 

Rather than bidding for placement as with Google, every backgammon player should be familiar with the patent-free concept of upping the stakes via the doubling die. Unlike the die, we’d use linear pricing where each unique noun becomes more expensive based on its popularity. First use of a noun costs nothing, second use adds 10 cents, third adds 20 cents, fourth adds 30 cents, and so on. This makes a single-use noun free, otherwise the total noun cost is evenly split. This promotes the minority voice and appeals to the socialist ideal of dividing costs evenly. 

How will this work in practice? For the letters column of March 26 the most popular noun and 10th most common word (of 1,721 unique lowercase terms) was “israel” with 76 uses (stemming rules applied). That calculates to $292.60 or $3.85 for each use. The second most frequent noun, “jew,” is used 30 times or $1.55 per use. The third noun is “planet” with 21 uses. (My suggestion is to make this one free to support your brand.) Fourth, “people” at 19 x $1. And so on with subsequent nouns “sinkinson,” “state,” “anti-semitism,” etc.  

Applied to the letters as a whole, this simple process yields over $700. While someone could game the system with incorrect spelling, I believe this scheme is self-policing because no one wants to look like a fool in print. 

John Vinopal 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

What does it take to get graffiti abated on commercial property in your neighborhood? It turns out, constant communication on the behalf of the neighbors—in fact, a year’s worth. Berkeley needs a better solution to this increasing blight. Studies have proven that lack of remediation contributes to increased tagging and graffiti. Property owners and managers must share our mutual interest in making commercial corridors appear as conductive and inviting to potential business owners and customers. Property littered with graffiti detracts from the quality of life for all around it. 

Neighbors rejoiced this past Friday as they succeeded in getting a property manager to repaint a commercial property that has blighted our neighborhood for over 18 months. All of our efforts were finally rewarded. The newly painted façade did wonders to lessen the blighted appearance of the area. How long will it look fresh? With the property owner’s diligence maintaining the property, hopefully a long time. Neighbors have volunteered to help with that effort. 

To all who had a hand in helping resolve this neighborhood issue, thank you. This of course, is not the end, but the beginning. Taggers have a habit of returning. Let’s all do our part to spot and discourage new graffiti—like stowing your garbage receptacles as soon as possible after pick-ups and cleaning up any tagging promptly. Repaint defaced property quickly when it occurs and encourage our city’s government to take stronger action against the vandals and negligent property owners. 

These are our neighborhoods. This is our quality of life that is affected. These are our children who are currently receiving the message that graffiti and blighted properties are acceptable. Show them you care. Possible solutions that were presented at our recent local neighborhood meeting included having the city providing graffiti artists a venue to display their art within an appropriate context and starting groups of interested neighbors (Graffiti Squads) who would volunteer to remediate local tagging. Attendance included our district representative, City of Berkeley’s Supervisor for Code Enforcement and the President of the Solano Avenue Association. These efforts and others can make a big difference to our community. 

Alesia Connelly 

and Jane Tierney 

On behalf of the Solano Avenue  

Neighborhood Association