Page One


Wednesday August 01, 2001

The market is a racket 


Fred Foldvary and others may choose to believe that the market economy is not a racket. But there are people who choose to believe that the earth is flat. What are the facts? 

Stockholders receive dividends, for which they do no work. Moneylenders receive interest for which they do no work. Big landlords receive rent for which they do no work. When people who don’t work live off the labor of people who do, what else can you call this but a racket? The fact that these scams are legal simply shows that the entire “free enterprise” system is a racket.  

As the world changes, the old rackets can be eliminated. The slaveowners once had a great racket, but slavery is now virtually extinct. Absolute monarchs once had their racket, and claimed to rule by divine right. They too are almost extinct.  

When enough people become aware that the wealthy perform no necessary function, we will be able to change things. The parasitic stockholders, landlords and moneylenders will all be driven out of the temple and will have to go to work.  

Marion Syrek 



Oxford lot wish list may be too long for height limit 


I must respond to a characterization (as a “sneer”) by Zelda Bronstein (Letters, Daily Planet, July 30) of a remark I made to a reporter regarding the proposed Oxford Lot downtown development. She then opined, “Perhaps Smith would like to explain.” 

Ms. Bronstein is the vice chair of the city’s Planning Commission. Here is my response to her challenge: 

The City Council approved last week the Planning Commission’s recommendation to develop the current city parking lot on Oxford Way at Kittredge Street in an extraordinary combination of nonprofit office and display space (for an environmental center to be named for David Brower); affordable housing; community arts space that would include a performance stage and galleries; two floors of (very costly) underground parking, and retail shops. 

Add to this the fact that Ms. Bronstein and other Planning Commission spokespeople have said that all these components must be enclosed in a structure that cannot exceed five stories! 

The Civic Arts Commission, which it is my pleasure to chair, is in favor of the Oxford Lot structure including the largest feasible cultural arts space, as the Planning Department staff works on meshing all these great ideas into a proposal that will honestly address how much all this will cost and whether or not a developer, and the city and Brower Center as partners, will all realistically be able to afford to build it along the lines of this initial proposal. 

It will be some time – many months – before the details are hammered out and the costs estimated (this is called “penciling out”) as the city goes out to seek proposals from the development community. 

Quite the opposite of “sneering” at supposed extravagance, I was simply telling the truth as I see it: that the initial proposal is a compendium of wonderful desires, probably all of which will have to be adjusted to literally fit within the structure as it is currently limited (five floors, 50,000 square feet per floor). When the reporter asked what I thought of the chances for everyone involved with the project getting their heart’s desire, that’s when I indicated that some of what is being wished for will doubtless have to fall away. Anyone who thinks that is not going to happen does not have a grasp of economic reality, to wit: the city’s budget is not a bottomless pit, and developers must have a financial incentive to bid on a project. 

I regret that Ms. Bronstein decided to express her feelings in a personal attack, but once she did so I felt I had no choice but to set the record straight. 

Sherry Smith 

Civic Arts Commission chair 



Anti-tobacco folk go too far 


Perhaps Ben Lumpkin would do another article about the anti-cigarette folks. How do members of the Tobacco Prevention Coalition differentiate themselves from other anti-choice groups and factions? Which of their own behaviors do they hope will be legislated against – for their own good? Have all coalition members stopped driving their cars, as these pollute our shared air? Have any ever purchased cigarettes, or gas? 

After TPC folk beat down the pharmacies, will they then move on to bookstores which sell books of which members disapprove, or theaters showing films members find distasteful? Also, as friend once said to me, “Won’t they be surprised when they get to die of nothing?”  

A Berkeley non-driver, by individual choice who is not evangelical about my own choices! 

Sangwan Zimmerman 



Media needs to pay attention 


We went to the Federal Courthouse on Tuesday July 24 to witness Judge Armstrong’s sentencing of Lakireddy Bali Reddy’s rich and powerful brother and sister-in-law – Jayaprakash and Annapurna Lakireddy – for their part in the importation of undocumented aliens from India for sexual and labor exploitation. As with Reddy, the attorneys had agreed to absurdly lenient sentences of a maximum of 16 months for Jayaprakash and a maximum of 12 months for Annapurna. We had earlier written to Judge Armstrong to ask her to reject the attorney’s plea bargain and to instead sentence the Lakireddys to at least 10 years each.  

Jayaprakash and Annapurna Lakireddy had willfully falsified visa applications and other immigration documents so that Reddy and his sons would have sexual slaves to rape as frequently as they pleased, and so that they could share in the profits from exploiting the labor of many other indentured servants to build their financial empires.  

We told Judge Armstrong that deliberately pimping young girls for pedophiles should not be tolerated. We emphasized that exploiting vulnerable people for cheap labor to build financial empires on their backs should also not be tolerated.  

Just as Judge Armstrong had given Reddy a scandalously light sentence of only 8 years on June 19, we anticipated that she might follow this pattern with the Lakireddys. This would be consistent with the typically unjust practice of preserving a double standard of justice – one for the rich and powerful and another for everyone else. Consider the fact that Judge Armstrong readily granted Reddy’s request to serve his sentence in Lompoc Prison, a luxury institution nicknamed “Club Fed.” Why would she voluntarily add to his privileged treatment in this way when it isn’t required by the legal system that criminals choose where they are to be incarcerated? We wondered if she would grant this same privilege to the Lakireddys. 

We were surprised and disappointed to note the lack of media interest in the sentencing of the Lakireddys. Despite our colorful protest before Judge Armstrong convened her Court, only one cameraman was waiting outside – too bored, it seemed, to even take a picture of us. This, despite the fact that the courtroom was nearly filled by interested individuals. How does the media decide that two pimps who are guilty of the trafficking in young girls for a serial sexual pervert, among other crimes, is of no interest to the public? 

After secret negotiations in the courtroom, Judge Armstrong postponed the sentencing of the Lakireddys until September 18. The Lakireddys looked distressed by this decision. We wondered if they, too, were expecting to get a token rap on the knuckles for their crimes. The media will have another opportunity to treat Jayaprakash and Annapurna Lakireddy’s sentencing with the seriousness it deserves. And hopefully Judge Armstrong will have time to reflect on the injustice of handing out light sentences to criminals merely because they are rich and/or powerful.  

Dr. Diana Russell 

Marcia Poole