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Thursday June 21, 2001

Spend tax windfall on charity GW hates 


We needn’t tell you that President Bush’s tax cut means a windfall for the rich and further cuts in needed public services (education, health care, etc.) for the rest of us. We dread this re-direction of money so badly needed for the public good. And we deeply resent Bush’s cynical assumption that our acquiescence can be bought with a few hundred dollars. 

Yes, there are many ways we could spend our tax refund when the check arrives. Fortunately for the two of us, at the moment there is no way that we really MUST spend it. 

Therefore we decided to sign over our refund to one of the public or private services that needs and deserves our support. But how could we name them all, let alone choose one? After endless discussion, we decided on the Berkeley Public Library Foundation. 

If this idea makes sense for you, we suggest you choose a favorite cause – education, the arts, the environment, peace, health, human rights, the needy and oppressed here and abroad – the list goes on and on. Sign over your refund check to a group that furthers your chosen cause. (Feeling mischievous? Choose one that Bush supporters HATE.) Before sending it, make a photo-copy for your representative in Congress, perhaps adding a word or two about what this gesture means to you. Contact friends and colleagues who might want to do the same. (You can forward this message or make up your own, even urging your choice on others!) 

By putting our money where our mouth is, we make a statement that some legislators might heed as evidence of serious protest. Even if they don’t, we at least console ourselves that our small refunds bought valuable services for our common welfare. 


Robert and Dorothy Bryant 



Prioritize needs: now not time to save Codornices 


I hadn’t been paying attention to the brouhaha in north Berkeley over the construction of a synagogue in a decaying sylvan area, unnoticed for decades, until I heard about the Save the Creek (Codornices) campaign from an old friend. The friend is a longtime member of the congregation of Beth El, which has outgrown its location and would like to replace it.  

Like any longtime resident of Berkeley, I am used to controversy. After all, I have always lived on the south side, the side that usually gets the most attention in the press. The south side is noted for its advocacy of Causes and is especially fierce about Saving the Environment, so when my friend told me about the campaign in north Berkeley, I was interested. I had been on a committee decades ago to plan Willard Park, and our committee had also faced a Save the Creek campaign – Derby Creek – which is underground and, it was thought by some, needed exposure. Eventually, we decided it didn’t. It would have been expensive and difficult to summon up our creek. That campaign was relatively benign and ended quietly.  

In the case of the north Berkeley neighborhood campaign, a lot of passionate planning appears to be involved. “Go up and down Oxford and Shattuck,” my friend advised, “There are signs everywhere.” And, she said, they’re all printed the same; no handmade scrawls here. There’s something to be admired about a campaign like that. Solidarity. Unity. But, to the outsider (OK, me) there is a sticky aspect to this campaign: has this subject occupied the neighbors a lot in the past? Or are they really worried about parking disappearing from their streets? (Even people on the south side – dare I say it – are very touchy about parking.) Are they worried about noise emanating from the synagogue and disturbing them? Some of these more common concerns have probably already been brought up and their solutions tackled.  

There are many worthwhile causes to be espoused in this world, but because there are so many, sometimes there is a need to establish priorities. As high-minded an idea as the north Berkeley Save the Creek campaign may be, it may also be that the time is not ripe to throw enormous energy into saving the creek. Later, surely, but not right now. The time may be far riper to assure the congregants of Beth El that their desire for a new place of worship is of a higher priority.  


Heidi Seney 



Republicans got us into energy mess 


Students of advanced spin strategy could have a field day with the June 14th letter by Shawn Steel, chair of the California Republican Party. In it, Steel lauds “President” Bush for his $1.35 trillion tax cut while blaming Governor Gray Davis for the California energy mess, stating that Davis “is using taxpayer dollars to hire ‘spin doctors’ who handled the Whitewater and Lewinsky scandals in the Clinton White House.” 

Though I am no fan of Davis, I seem to recall that it was Republican Pete Wilson and Republican-funded right wing think tanks that brought us the miracle of deregulation, breaking a system that wasn’t broke in the first place. Steel’s attempt to lay blame on Davis is actually the opening salvo of an expensive ad campaign orchestrated by Republican spin doctor Alex Castellanos whom the Los Angeles Times identifies as a Texas media expert and attack ad specialist who worked for the Bush presidential campaign. 

Steel’s party is understandably getting antsy about exactly which holes California voters will punch in the next election as they learn more about what the boys on the Houston energy exchange who bankrolled the Cheney presidency are doing to the state’s economy. The GOP needs a scapegoat other than itself. 

In a related op ed piece on why the U.S. should not build a national missile defense shield (June 17), Professor Dietrich Fischer states that “The principal beneficiaries - and supporters - of the NMD are U.S. defense contractors who hope to make an estimated $60 to $100 billion at taxpayers’ expense.” Since the Rube Goldberg technology promoted by the Lawrence Livermore lab has yet to be developed and most tests have failed, those oft-repeated figures mean nothing; like the previous nuclear arms race, the NMD is actually a blank check which we taxpayers are about to sign over to the eager weapons contractors and Livermore-Los Alamos scientists. 

The confluence of the Republican tax cut, the Houston-generated energy crisis, and the NMD will generate the social and economic equivalent of the Perfect Storm. Unfortunately, we are all in the same boat facing that cresting wave. 


Gray Brechin 



Israel or oil? 


Franz Schurman, Berkeley Daily Planet, June 10, writes: “Saudis are prepared to cover all shortages in world markets after Iraq halted all exports.” What the professor left out was another factor, namely, “Saudis are prepared to withdraw all oil from world markets if Israel enlarges the war.” 

After that insane suicide bombing in Tel Aviv recently, Israel must widen the war to stay in the picture; this means attacking another Arab country (Sharon said last month, before the Tel Aviv bombing, that he wants “the other side of the Jordan River.”) In 1992, my wife and I were in Israel and we toured down the Israeli side of the Jordan; our tour guide said “See those women working in the fields? They are Jordanians.” Not for long.  

If the U.S. must choose between Israel or oil, it will sell out Israel. This is why the CIA sent their top dog to Jerusalem last week; perhaps the professor can tell us about that? 


George Kauffman