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Letters to the Editor

Tuesday December 16, 2003


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was disappointed in the coverage of the events inside and outside of Mr. Mopps (Daily Planet, Dec. 12-15). Your reporter appears more interested in condemning the police than in finding out what happened. 

The report begins by stating that “a woman inexplicably attacked two shoppers with her bare Mr. Mopps Children’s Books.” That’s the only explanation readers get for why police were called to the scene. 

And yet, we are told that the Daily Planet’s photographer believes “excessive force” was used by the police on the scene. A woman at a nearby bus stop is said to have believed “excessive force” was used. (It’s unclear from the article whether the phrase was used by the witness herself or by the reporter’s prompt, as in “Do you believe the police used excessive force?” Given the obvious slant of the article, I would not be surprised if this were the case.) 

The reporter appears to have made no effort to question witnesses inside the store. Or if he did, he did not include this in his report.  

If it’s true that the woman in the photograph attacked people without provocation in a toy store, why wouldn’t the police assume that she was a danger?  

Rosemary Graham 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Berkeley Unified School District’s Food Services is slated to lose at least another $600,000 this year. This would total a loss of $2.4 million over the last three years. This loss has contributed to teacher layoffs and severe over crowding of classes at the high school. Half of the classes for my sophomore at BHS have over 40 students in each class.  

Three years ago, Michele Lawrence was asked at a meeting how long it is reasonable for taxpayers to endure incompetence in Food Service management. She didn’t answer the question. I guess three years is not too long; $2.4 million is not too much to lose. A state report from FCMAT this July stated that as of July no one in the administration had instructed Food Services to stop losing money. Unbelievable! To add insult to injury, the Food Services administrator, who is paid a six-figure salary, received a 7.5 percent raise this past summer, courtesy of Nancy Riddle, John Selawsky, and Terry Doran. Only Shirley Issel and Joaquin Rivera expressed the common sense to oppose this raise.  

This fall, the School Board wants to put a school parcel tax on the ballot asking us for tax money. Before the school board does so, please tell us, how long will BUSD use tax payers money to pay for incompetent administrators at the expense of teachers in the classroom.  

John Selawsky, you’re the new board president. You stated publicly before you voted for the pay raise that “hard work deserves reward.” Tell us how this incompetent administrator deserved a raise, and why hasn’t this administrator been held accountable for her incompetence? Let’s see a reply in this paper.  

Yolanda Huang  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Daily Planet has sunk to the quality of the rest of the media with Becky O’Malley’s editorial (“Anatomy of a Failed Tax Vote,” Daily Planet, Dec. 5-8). Ms. O’Malley generalized that the higher hills are increasingly populated by rich people who shop in San Francisco and Walnut Creek, read the New York Times, summer on Cape Cod and send their kids to private school. She further opined that “Hill People” don’t care about school closings, big box invasions and fast food culture because we don’t read the Planet. 

Ms. O’Malley needs correcting. We’ve lived in the “higher hills” for more than 15 years. Our kids steadfastly attend Berkeley public schools and so do most of our neighbors’ kids. In fact, we’re proud of our oldest son’s observation (a Berkeley High graduate) of his alma mater, “our strongest institutions recognize that everyone has something to contribute.” 

Ms. O’Malley could learn something from that sentiment before she alienates people who generally oppose big-box, fast-food culture; oppose the Bush administration’s exploitative attitude towards the rest of the planet; generously support Berkeley’s public schools with money and time; and who support sustainability through organic farming and buying local whenever possible. Some of our neighbors are retired, and live on fixed incomes; and almost everyone we know up here has to be frugal to make it to the next paycheck. Our youngest son, a Berkeley High student, is curious why a newspaper with such liberal credentials would engage in such stereotypes in the first place! 

Don’t generalize about us, because you obviously don’t know us, and, for heaven’s sake, don’t alienate us. In the spirit of marshaling Berkeley’s meager resources in an increasingly hostile America, we need each other.  

By the way, we avidly read the Daily Planet. We love Berkeley and its diversity, and we’ve been proud of the way our “daily” knits our community together by provoking thought and dialogue, and by standing apart from the rest of the media. Editorials like “Anatomy...” however, simply provoke! 

Bryan Sheridan 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It was reported in the local media that City Council voted down the appeal of neighbors to stop construction at the city’s Corporation Yard. Council blamed the budget difficulties for their decision. This is very disturbing and alarming because it shows City Council is willing to sacrifice truth and justice for the sake of budget. Or, perhaps, the city is now using the budget problem as a scapegoat to push for its pro-development agenda by voting down appeals by neighbors. It appears that the city is offering Berkeley on a silver platter to developers and corporations. The city is now run by Kennedy, Starbucks, AT&T, etc. Residents and local businesses are being sacrificed for such entities. Not long ago, people in Berkeley had power, and there were UC Theater, Shambhala Book-store, etc. Mayor Bates and Councilmembers, could you be fair to the people of Berkeley, please? Honorable mayor, according to the news, you plan to file a lawsuit against the governor for his repeal of the vehicle license fee increase. If you believe what the governor has done is unfair, then look how unfair rulings of City Council or other city offices affect lives of Berkeley residents. 

Mina Davenport 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

This year’s annual membership dinner for AIPAC was held at the Oakland Marriot on Dec. 8. AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is the premier lobby group that convinces Congress to give $5 billion every year to fund the military occupation of Palestine.  

Outside this gathering was a picket line, with a demand for a foreign policy of peace and justice, and money for human needs, not occupation.  

This did not deter many of the guests from attending, however. Among them were Mayor Tom Bates and his wife, Assemblymember Loni Hancock. Why, in the midst of dealing with a city budget crisis, does Mr. Bates feel the need to cozy up to a lobby that insists that U.S. taxpayers fund this brutal occupation?  

Berkeley is a city known worldwide for its questioning of U.S. policy, most of us have outgrown that kind of blind allegiance to U.S. government policy that we know is really destructive to the well-being of our planet, and the real interests of our own country. So why does Mayor Bates support this gathering that Jewish Weekly described as an “Israel pep rally,” showing that same kind of destructive devotion to the policies of the Israeli government?  

Just what were you thinking, Mr. Bates?  

We are organizing a write-in to Mr. Bates, demanding that he listen to the other side for a few hours, to those of us who are desire an end to occupation, and U.S. funding of this tragedy. More information can be found at  

James F. Harris  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I so enjoyed Dorothy Bryant’s article about Pat Cody (“Cody’s Books Co-founder Leads an Activist’s Life,” Daily Planet, Dec. 9-11). Well written and really useful to those of us who live in Berkeley and care about its historical legacy as a center of real change. 

The article, however, left out an important source on Pat and Fred Cody, Pat and Fred’s own book: Cody’s Books, made of up letters by Fred and commentary by Pat, covering the years 1956-1977, published in 1992 by Chronicle Books. Cody’s is sure to have some copies of this important document of Berkeley history. 

Paul Heller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The article by George Bishwarat (“The Other Diaspora Israelis Must Confront,” Daily Planet, Dec. 9-11) is full of errors and distortions. Palestinians were not “driven out of Israel” in 1948 but left on the advice of the leaders of the Arab states. Israel absorbed over 600,000 of the 900,000 Jews who were driven out Arab lands. The United States supported the UN’s 1947 mandate which established two states, but the Arab states and the Arabs of Palestine rejected it. The combined aries of the Arab states attacked Israel the day after Israel was created.  

Today Arabs are citizens of Israel and serve in the Parliament. More than 1.2 million Arabs live in Israel. If they were driven out in 1948, then where did they come from? 

Professor Bishwarat’s article is full of outright lies and is a pure propaganda piece.  

Sanne DeWitt  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

George Bisharat’s propaganda piece on the Palestinian refugee problem was so full of twisted “facts” that it’s hard to know where to begin. Let’s start with the fact that what Bisharat calls refugees are not really refugees, but rather (unlike any other recognized refugee group in history) these are the children and grandchildren of refugees. All other refugee groups have been taken in by their hosts—just as Israel took in nearly 800,000 Jewish refugees who fled Arab lands after the 1948 war, just as Germany resettled displaced German nationals after World War II, just as India and Pakistan resettled their people after the partition of Pakistan. Only the Arab nations, like Egypt and Syria, refused to patriate the original refugees (and their descendants)—in fact, the Palestinians still may not become citizens of most Arab countries. In truth, the Arabs have kept their brethren in squalid camps for decades as a political ploy—to keep hope alive that the Jews will be defeated and that Arabs will rule what is now Israel.  

James Sinkinson 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding your article by George Bisharat on the Palestinian refugee history and current problem. 

I thought it might be interesting for you and your readers to read what Arab and Palestinian leaders published in the immediate aftermath of the “Nakba”, which I agree was a terrible catastrophy for the Arabs of Palestine. 

“The Arab states do now want to solve the refugee problem. They want to keep it as an open sore, as an affront to the UN and as a weapon against Israel. Arab leaders do not give a damn whether Arab refugees live or die” RUTH GALLOWAY, former head of UNWRO-1956 

“Since 1948, the Arab leaders have approached the Palestinian problem in an irresponsible manner. They have used to Palestinian people for political purposes; this is ridiculous, I might even say criminal...” KING HUSSSEIN 1996 

“Since 1948, it is we who have demanded the return of the refugees, while it is we who made them leave. We brought disaster upon the refugees by inviting them and bringing pressure on them to leave. We have accustomed them to begging...we have participated in lowering their morale and social level...Then we exploited them in executing crimes of murder, arson and throwing stones upon men, women and children...all this in the service of political purposes...”  

KHALED AL-AZM Syrian prime mistier after the 1948 War, in his 1972 memoirs. 

“The fact that there are these refugees is the direct consequences of the Arab of the Arab states in opposing partition and the Jewish state. The Arab states agreed upon this policy unanimously, and they must share in the solution of the problem” 

Emil Ghoury, secretary-general of the Arab Higher Committee - Beirut Telegraph, Sept. 6 1948 

In the historical context Prof. Benny Morris, who Mr. Bisharat refered to as a recognized expert on the subject of the Palestinian refugees, at the end of his book concludes with the comment that had the Palestinian Arabs not rejected the UN partition plan for Palestine and had the Arab League not declared war on Israel, there would have been NO refugee problem  

I trust your news paper, if truly responsible, will share this information with your readers. 

Yoram Getzler 






[The following is an open letter to Delta Upsilon fraternity. Please run it in your opinion section.] 

December 12, 2003 


Open letter to Delta Upsilon fraternity, 

As members of the Oscar Wilde House, an openly lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender (LGBT) themed co-op, we are outraged by a series of homophobic acts by some residents of the Delta Upsilon (DU) fraternity. These actions have continued despite repeated protests and must stop. 

At 9:40 PM on the night of December 5, Marcio von Muhlen, DU’s new president, was left by his fraternity brothers on our front porch, tied to a chair, and drenched in a nauseating combination of salad dressing, salsa, and beer. This person told us he was DU’s new president and this was the fraternity using its one opportunity to treat him badly before his term started. 

Other incidents of harassment occurred this year as well. This letter does not include more commonplace occurrences of people on the front steps of DU heckling Wilde members entering and leaving our house. On June 28, four men walked into our house uninvited at 3 in the morning, were obnoxiously loud and drunk, and told a female member of our house, “It’s okay. We love lesbians. Show us your pussy—but God hates faggots and we hate faggots.” These men had Irish accents, as did some others in other incidents listed here who identified themselves as residents of DU. 

At 3:40 AM on July 1, five individuals from DU carried a man who was saran-wrapped to a chair across the street to our front porch and left him there. The group returned to the DU lawn, where about ten people yelled at us to “Fuck him up the ass!” among other things, while laughing. 

On the street near our house at 12:30 AM on July 15, a man, accompanied by another man and a woman, hit the buttocks of a member of our house with a purse repeatedly and unprovoked as they passed by. When asked if they were from DU, they replied yes. When our house member replied he was from Wilde, this man said, “You’re gay then.” When the house member said he was not, this man said, “Well, you live there. That’s the gay house. If you live there you are gay. 

After these and other incidents this summer, we spoke with von Muhlen, who was then DU’s house manager, and made clear we felt these incidents were harassment and homophobic. However, the events of December 5 proved that DU has so far refused to change its behavior. 

DU’s idea of humiliating their new president is to tie him up and put him on public display in front of a queer house, as if this would subject him to unwanted gay sexual advances. DU’s ritual is homophobic and based on a dehumanizing stereotype of LGBT people. It is intolerable that prejudice against queer people should be institutionalized in DU’s culture. 

These are not the only incidents of harassment we have received from DU. In October or November of 1999, a friend of a current member of the Wilde House was dropped off in front of our house, when approximately ten men rushed out of DU and ran after him. Two women of our house stepped outside to confront the men. The men left after yelling “dyke” at the two women. 

These incidents have occurred repeatedly, and we can only conclude that there is an anti-queer sentiment in DU and that we have been targeted for harassment because we are an LGBT-themed house. These actions will not be tolerated. 

We are DU’s neighbors and equals, as completely deserving of respect as any other human beings. We want to make the street we both live on a safe and tolerant community for all. 

The Oscar Wilde House is a proud community of queer and straight people who support and recognize the dignity and equality of everyone. We expect DU to make a written apology to our house and to the public for its homophobic actions, and to make a formal commitment to stop harassing LGBT people in the future. 


The Oscar Wilde House, lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender themed student co-op 




to: The Mayor and City Council Members, City of Berkeley 

from: The Berkeley Budget Oversight Committee 

re: Reasons for our opposition to the proposed rotating closure of fire companies during daylight hours from Jan. 1, 2004 to June 24, 2004 for an estimated savings of $250,000. 

1. Implementing this City Council proposed cut in fire safety services will potentially negatively impact the response time of a fire truck reaching an incident; a fire or a medical emergency. 

2. If a death or a health hazard to an individual or property damage results from a delayed response time, the city will probably be sued for damage. Since the city is self-insured, it means that tax payers will pay this bill.  

3. The potential delay in response time also a reassessment of the “ISO” fire rates used by insurance companies in assigning home owner’s fire insurance. Therefore, our insurance rates will probably increase. 

4. Can you honestly stand by a proposal to save $250,000 gambling with Berkeley residents lives when you continually fund projects that have no impact on public safety. 

Can you do this in good conscience? Don’t you think that your constituency will remember this when you are up for re-election? We feel that that there is an implied contract between the elected body that represents government and their constituency to provide adequate public safety for it’s constituency. Essential public safety services are fire, police, sewers, clean water and air, and eliminating toxic environmental spills. Almost everything else is secondary. 

In this instance, we would recommend that the need for overtime would best be addressed by filling the vacancies in both the fire and police departments. 

Viki Tamaradze