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Letters to the Editor

Wednesday February 14, 2001

Secretary should not fight others’ opposition to arms escalation 


Any believer in God should know we don’t belong up in the heavens - more “cold-bloodedly” referred to today as space - with our military might, nor does any other nation. You could say that that is what the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missiles’ Treaty symbolizes.  

Nevertheless, our Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, is reported to have been trying this past Saturday, in Munich, Germany of all places (the 1930’s headquarters of Hitler and his then Nazi gangsters), “to defuse opposition to the Bush administration’s anti-missile plans by offering to help European nations and other allies to deploy missile defenses.”  

So when Donald Rumsfeld, who should be called (as his position was historically referred to when the United States was still viewing the world and its problems realistically) the Secretary of War, tries to defuse opposition to escalation of the international arms race, he is acting as a world-class promoter of what the United Nations General Assembly voted opposition to on a number of significant occasions within the past several years with just two dissenters: Israel and the U.S.  

And with Senator Joseph Lieberman supporting Rumsfeld in Munich it’s obvious we wouldn’t have had a different approach to achieving world peace had he and Gore been elected to provide leadership truly committed to world peace along the lines enunciated by Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. We need rational citizens of the United States of America; and thank God there are a lot of us who are willing to work, democratically, along those lines in the interest of global freedom from poverty, disease, ignorance and injustice - not to mention nationalistic, racial and religious prejudice, and none of it in the interest of war and the means of waging it in criminal violation of the principles and the spirit of the United Nations Charter, and the U.S. Constitution, as well as the U.S. Declaration of Independence.  


Al Williams 



Wealthy are source of our problems; don’t need tax break 


Two decades have passed since the United States’ top income brackets were taxed at a rate of more than 70 percent. Consequently, only older citizens are conditioned to consider the current rate below 40 percent to be low, while “President” Bush and others believe it would be wise to diminish further the tax on six figure and up incomes.  

Yet the recipients of current gigantic incomes (and inheritances) are the very cause of our major national problem: The increasing gap between the poor and the super-rich. e.g.: The huge profits from the power shell game in California, with the consequent and inevitable rise in the cost of living, go not into governmental pockets, but ultimately into private ones.  

The way to get back these ill-gotten gains and return them to the populace at large is to greatly increase the personal income tax rate. Thus, the government will secure the wherewithal to invest in projects of public benefit such as: publicly owned power plants and transmission systems, highway and bridge repair, nationwide equalized support of public schools (rather than local support through real estate taxes, which inevitably deprive children of the poor), national health services, public rental housing, etc.  

With much higher income taxation of the rich should be added removal of the income ceiling on social security contributions and a cost of living exemption so that all workers may have social security coverage. But contributions will not commence, as is now, to be taken from the first dollar earned, but would leave contribution-free a decent amount on which first to live.  


Judith Segard Hunt 



Gas shortage  

is shell game 


Concerning that expensive Shell game, the supposed energy and gas shortage in California (and elsewhere?):  

The Democratic governor of California wants to use surplus tax funds to buy gas from utility companies; this is then to be sold to citizens, who will pay twice for the same product - first from the tax funds to which they contributed and then again to the gas companies. 

This scam started when Republican Governor Pete Wilson was in office, but one could hardly tell the difference. The refusal of President Bush to cap oil profits will handsomely reward his friends in the oil business. Moreover, his planned tax cut will transfer the expected government tax surplus to tax payers; low and middle-class citizens, however, will need that refunded money to pay for uncontrolled gas prices.  

All that new wealth of the government will thereby be transferred to the energy companies.  


Max Alfert 


Spirituality should count  

The Daily Planet received this letter to Robert Kehlmann, commissioner on the Landmarks Preservation Commission:  

Today’s Berkeley Daily Planet carries a lead article, “Shellmound’s Intangible Value is Spirituality.” In it is your recommendation that environmental studies add a new consideration - spirituality.  

I have for some time been a supporter of the preservation of our Berkeley Shellmound, and I think now that I’ve read your recommendation I can say that it has been for the spirituality of the Shellmounds that I have been so supportive. I have, as Stephanie Manning knows, written any number of poems about the Shellmound, moved on a deep level by what I can name as something “spiritual.” I have sent letters to various commissioners and other involved parties. These, too, have come from the same place, and I’m glad to have it named - publicly.  

I encourage you to have this recommendation discussed on our city boards and commissions that deal with environmental studies. Hopefully, more ways will be found for inviting the public to participate. Many sensitive Berkeley residents, I’m sure, would have strong reactions to “in Stephanie’s words) “driving piles 70 feet into the ground, right through the burial grounds.”  

Thanks for the creative idea.  


William Noel 



Ode To Berkeley (sung to Sing A song Of Sixpence) 


I'd sing a song of Berkeley 

except I'm ready to explode. 

You forgot to pick up garbage 

and my dumpster overflowed. 

It happens at least once a month. 

I'm really getting mad. 

I pay lots of money – on time, in full –  

for service that is bad. 


This is not about police or fire departments 

or city schools. 

Nor is about the Zoning Board 

or Rent Stabilization Board (the fools!) 

It's just about a simple thing  

like keeping Berkeley clean. 

If you'd collect my garbage– on time, in full– 

I wouldn't sound so mean. 


So Mayor Dean and Council Members 

will you kindly do your stuff? 

Direct the refuse commissar  

to please get off his duff. 

I'll close by saying simply: 

I'm not a “k'vetch” from Hell: 

just an ordinary Berkeley homie  

who wants this city to run well. 

Ljuba Davis 




A Witness's Account of Reclaim the Streets 2/9/00 


On Friday an emergency demonstration was held to support the people's effort to halt the suicidal steamroller of globalization. Specifically we wanted to demonstrate in solidarity with indigenous people who are rising up against the International Monetary Fund’s imposition of “structural adjustments” in Ecuador.  

The situation there is dire. As of Feb. 6, at least three people have been killed by police, many more injured. Six thousand have marched on the capital. Masses of people have occupied schools, television stations, blocked roads of bridges, and more. The emergency demonstration called by “Reclaim the Streets” was an effort show our support for their struggle and to highlight the destructive practices of the IMF.  

It was also called by Berkeley Critical Mass, so the demonstration served a secondary purpose to promote awareness for the need of more bicycle and people friendly streets. It is America's dependence on oil that precipitates human rights abuses in “3rd” world countries. The big corporations, backed by the IMF and World Bank, decimate indigenous people and their lands in search of oil and other natural resources that end up in other countries. 

The demonstration was a peaceful reclamation of the streets as a way to get the message out. However the police response was as if there was some kind of riot taking place. The only thing that was taking place was a street party/demonstration. There was a sound system, free food, speakers, banners, bicyclists, a couch, and speaking truth to power. We had no guns, 

we had no weapons. There wasn't any violence at all until the police showed up. The police immediately needed to “take control” of the situation. They captured our sound system and started jabbing people with their clubs. I saw several people get jabbed and violently shoved 

for merely dancing in the streets. Our right to peaceably assemble meant nothing to the Berkeley P.D. Our right to freedom of speech also meant nothing illustrated when a police officer jumped into the crowd that was on the sidewalk and stole the banner that read “indigenous freedom”. Two 

people were arrested, for what I do not know. I watched them get arrested and it looked like they were singled out of the crowd. Probably because they were the ones most vocal about the injustices that were taking place before their eyes. 

The polices' response and behavior that night not only represent a threat 

to human rights and free speech, but a major threat to public safety. When 

the two people who were arrested were being driven off in a Police van, the 

driver of that van drove very reckless and erratic. He was not only 

endangering the lives of the citizens who were in the path of this out of 

control police vehicle, but he was also endangering the two unwilling 

passengers in that van. Since most of Brancroft was still blocked off the 

driver of the van could not go down Bancroft. I guess he was too impatient 

to wait for the crowd to disperse so he drove over the curb on Bancroft 

near Telegraph and launched down the stairs between Eshelman and the Bear's 

Lair. Thet’s right, the driver of the van took his vehicle down the stairs. 

It was going so fast. I was shocked and afraid. Shocked because I 

wouldn't even take a four wheel drive SUV down those stairs. Afraid 

because of the speed of the van. Big vans like that can't stop on a dime, 

especially if they are cruising down a flight of stairs. There could have 

been people at the bottom of those steps. I'm certain that the officer 

couldn't see or know if his path was clear. His reckless behavior could 

have resulted in death for some unsuspecting person walking near those 


The vehicle made a loud thump as it hit the ground and stairs. The impact 

was so great that it tore off several bricks. If you think I am 

exaggerating, go to the stairs that I am talking about and you will see the 

damage the police vehicle did to them. Besides the threat to innocent 

bystanders near those stairs was the threat to the captives in the back of 

that police van. I watched them get loaded into that van and they weren't 

buckled up or anything. These two captives could have sustained serious 

injuries as they bounced around in the back of the van as it plowed down 

those stairs. 

This incident captures how the Berkeley P.D. deals with nonviolent 

protesters: they over react by bringing out an armed goon squad of 100+ 

officers, make unnecessary arrests and threaten overall public safety with 

reckless and irresponsible behavior. Don't get me wrong, I would rather 

deal with the Berkeley P.D., then the armed forces in Ecuador who kill 

protesters. But don't let that preference down play the seriousness of the 

situation that took place Friday night. Berkeley Police Department 

policies concerning how they deal with nonviolent protesters needs to be 

looked at. The officer of that out of control van also needs to answer for 

his apparent lack of concern for public safety and lack of concern for 

those who are forced to be his passengers. 


Nicholas Sobb 






Dear Editor,  

So the ever ineffective Berkeley Police Review Commission can't find a policy that is violated by an on duty police officer tearing down posters expressing political speech. Might I suggest THE FIRST AMENDMENT OF THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION. Police officers, on duty, are not private citizens but an organ of the government. There is no policy statement necessary for superiors insist that government employees not intentionally violate the Constitution they have sworn to uphold. I am not foolish enough to believe any action will be taken. I've lived in this town too long.  


Robert Nichols  

2018 Channing  

Berkeley,CA 94704  




Dear Editor: 

The demand for more parking will never cease until we find a way to live without having to drive everywhere. Cars and culture cannot somehow mix to make healthy and vibrant communities. Until we stop fighting about parking and start building a better city for pedestrians, we will forever be at the mercy of the car and its needs. Maybe some of you would agree that a vibrant new Arts District in the downtown would be much nicer without maximum parking and yet another glut of cars circling the downtown. Even if we built a giant coliseum of parking, we 'd still experience the increase in cars in the streets as they wind in and out of town. The goal isn't building community in this scenario, it is selling culture and services to people who live outside the community.  

But isn't Berkeley big enough to support its own theaters, supplemented by BART riders from San Francisco and Walnut Creek? Apparently not, because we don't have enough people living here in to fill the seats. We didn't think ahead. Instead, we kept building to live by and for the car, fueling a mass exodus to the sprawling suburbs and creating the commuter lifestyle. As a result, we now have a lot more jobs and things to buy and dothan we have places to live for the people who would work at those jobs and buy things here. We are living out of balance and still trying to fulfill our commercial and arts district expectations by bringing in more cars, throwing the entire situation yet further out of whack.  

One solution currently being discussed is to build more housing in the downtown. And better yet, some are suggesting to make lots of it car-free housing. What better way to ensure a captive audience of theater and movie goers who aren't going to hop into cars and go driving away? If Berkeley additionally created a beautiful pedestrian oriented public plaza with natural and cultural amenities supported partly by this new breed of car-free urban culture lovers, the other residents of Berkeley and public transit takers from around the Bay Area, everyone would benefit, (except General Motors). Ecocity Builders and our network of supporters thinks that the time has come for us to start planning for the city of walkable centers, connected by public transportation, in natural and agricultural landscapes, connected by natural habitat corridors. It will take years and it will not be easy. But working towards the ecolgocially balanced city will benefit us all, now and into the future. In our minds, there is no other direction. We owe it to our children and their children to set in motion a sequence of events that will work to heal and harmonize rather than continue to pave the way, literally, for mass destruction of the biosphere.  

Ecocities benefit people of all backgrounds, incomes, ages and life-styles. People who don't drive won't buy gas or need lots of parking, but they will still buy food, clothes and tickets to the theater. In fact, without having to spend all that money on their cars, they might even be able to spend more on CDs and books and other cultural amenities Berkeley offers.  

But there still are those folks who are suspicious about these mysterious "car free" people. "Who are they?" they wonder. They can't imagine that a regular sort of person could really live without a car. There seems to be an stereotype labeling anyone who will want to be living without a car in Berkeley as either a student or a "bike radical." That is an incorrect assumption, although there is nothing wrong with either of those kinds of people. Car free people may work at a restaurant, or a school, or a high powered law firm. 

Some of them may ride bikes and some may take classes at the University. Others will be different. Diversity and variety in people is much more interesting than models of cars. But if we don't start focusing on creating a city for people, all we will ever get is more arguments about parking and yet more cars. 


Kirstin Miller 

Ecocity Builders 


1474 7th St. 




I'm sure you have been informed of an extremely cruel website called 


We feel it is important to inform the public that, while this is probably no more than a cruel hoax, it promotes an idea that will torture and kill small animals and, if actually done, would constitute felony animal cruelty under California law.  


This website is already being monitored by the ASPCA and they have a statement about it on their website.  


It is sad that any person or group would devalue companion animals in this way. If you would like to talk to me about this, please call 845-7735, extension 22. 


Nancy Frensley 

Berkeley East Bay Humane Society 

Berkeley, CA 







Title: Racist History in the Media 


Modern Medicine started with Greek science, phonetic writing was invented by 

the Semites, and Egyptians were light skinned. All are misconceptions actively promoted by our modern media. 

The ancient Egyptians were primarily African for the earlier part of their history, as artifacts show. Yet Dreamworks' “Prince of Egypt”, a typical child's introduction to Egypt, portrays Egyptians as light skinned. 

The Egyptians used a phonetic alphabet called Hieratic for business, administration, science, and popular stories that is a clear ancestor of the Phoenician and in turn our Latin alphabet. Yet the New York Times in November 13 1999, discussing new archaeological finds, praises the enumerable benefits of the early Semitic “discovery” of a phonetic alphabet. They could have said the same about the African Egyptian's discovery of a full thousand years earlier which the Semites themselves apparently borrowed. 

Moreover, these Egyptians wrote the first medical texts (at least in the western hemisphere) in their Hieratic script. 

Medical historians have reported that the Greeks set up their medical schools on Egyptian technology in Egypt, and that early Indo-European 

courts like the Persians boasted an Egyptian physician. Yet if you believe our children’s' history books the Greeks are the sole founders of modern medicine. 

European scholars earlier this century first reported the African versions I discuss above, and it was only subsequently that people got to work to “cleanse” history of African influence, producing the three misconceptions I opened with. Your recent opinion piece last week on Black History Month is to be commended. History ghettos haven't succeeded in repairing our society's racist view of early western civilization and our media still promotes this racism. 


Wray Buntine