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Letters to the Editor

Tuesday January 13, 2004



Editors, Daily Planet:  

I would like to start off this e-mail by first saying I’m a 17-year-old Iranian college student, and a son to two political prisoners who fled Iran more than two decades ago because of the oppressive government. I recently read the article by on the supposed derailment of any chance for improved relations between the U.S. government and Iranian regime (“Bush Remark Derails Iranian Rapprochement,” Daily Planet, Jan. 6-8).  

Although I am by no means a supporter of President Bush and his policies I think this issue should be looked at more closely. I would to refer to several things you said in the article regarding the current regime in Iran. Beeman states, “Most Americans do not realize that Iran has open and fair elections.” This is grossly inaccurate; Iran’s theocratic regime is not democratic by any means. Candidates running have to be completely part of the regime and its system—no deviance from this is allowed, even among pseudo reformists like Khatami. The label put on Khatami is just a label; he has not shown in his actions that he is any different then the hard line clerics.  

Beeman then says that although the constitution is flawed and gives power to conservative clerics, “the nation follows its precepts assiduously.” I am absolutely appalled by the ignorance of this statement. While some Iranian citizens still believe in their theocracy, the majority of Iranians want a sweeping secular transformation, as was evident by the many protests over the summer by Iranian students calling for freedom and true democracy. Iran is a nation with 70 percent of its population under the age of 30, and the majority of which is not happy with the reform government and want immediate changes. Aside from their unfair elections this regime has been condemned by the United Nations 50 times for their severe human rights violations. It has executed over 120,000 political prisoners and uses numerous types of brutal torture in its prisons. Amnesty International in 2003 reported that: “Freedom of expression and association continued to be restricted by the judiciary, and scores of students, journalists and intellectuals were detained. At least 113 people, including long-term political prisoners, were executed, frequently in public and some by stoning, and 84 were flogged, many in public.”  

Beeman next goes on the issue of terrorism and states that the Iranian regime is not a sponsor of terror and “They are utterly opposed to both the Taliban and Al Qaeda on both religious and political grounds.” Beeman lacks any evidence or reason to support any of these claims, disregarding the fact that Al Qaeda and the Taliban share the same right wing Islamic-fundamentalist perspective as the current regime in Iran. All three of them support anti-western and strictly theocratic states. Religiously they are not very far apart. Iran has also been accused of numerous international terrorist acts, including the bombing of the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires.  

Beeman also is quick to praise Iran for its quick compliance with its nuclear programs, but it has yet to be seen what inspections will reveal about a dangerous program in the hands of a terrorist regime. I do not support the United States taking military action in Iran nor do I support the policies of the current Bush administration, but I also do not support the current regime of Iran in any way.  

In closing I would like to state that I hope that in the future Mr. Beeman, and especially your readers will take the time to examine and be critical of both countries when discussing American foreign policy. 

Hamid Yazdanpanah 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Downtown Berkeley has two problems that give consumers pause before shopping there: the homeless and a lack of convenient parking.  

I have been visiting downtown Berkeley regularly since attending high school and working at the old Kress store in the ‘70s. While it is marginally more economically vibrant than it was in the past, it has failed to fulfill its potential as a destination for the vast majority of residents who use their personal vehicles as their primary modes of transportation. 

While residents of Berkeley’s hills snidely comment on the rush of development in Emeryville, they certainly appear to fill the new stores and theaters in that community. 

Few would suggest more big box retailers are needed in Berkeley, but the simple truth is that people drive their cars when they want to shop, eat or have a good time. Until there is more parking in downtown Berkeley, the homeless will continue to outnumber folks enjoying Berkeley’s ambiance after the sun goes down most weekday nights. 

Paul Lecky 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing in response to Jane Scantlebury’s opinion letter about the destruction of the parking garage and its replacement by housing (“Librarian Casts Dubious Eye on Library Gardens,” Daily Planet, Jan. 6-8). I too am outraged by this and would like to voice my opinion as loudly and clearly as she has. 

I am a Berkeley resident. Without sufficient parking for the downtown Shattuck area, I will be forced—let me repeat that, forced—to shop elsewhere. I cannot count how many times I have driven in circles trying to find parking, only to remember that, yes, I can park in the garage by the library. My daughter and I have parked there and gone to movies, shopped, stopped for ice cream, and conducted research at the library on the tree seed that she found in the park for an oral report she gave to her class. I go to the bank, get copies, and even stop by the music store to buy sheet music. 

If this plan goes through, I can say unequivocally that when I think about going to the movies or the bookstores or Christmas shopping, it will not be to go to downtown Berkeley. I will head to Oakland or Emeryville or Pinole. Who wants the hassle of driving in circles and then parking a mile away? 

It is the purpose of municipal government to protect and defend the rights of all city citizens—businesses and general public alike. By requiring businesses to replace (whether on that property or elsewhere) a fundamental use facility which they are destroying, the city is protecting both the rights of the developer to build, and the rights of the citizens to retain a sense of community. ZAB should require all developers to provide a positive community element for all new development, to offset whatever detriments their project inadvertently brings. Simply because it is business, it is not always all good. 

Has there been an environmental assessment report as to the traffic and hazards that will be associated with this development? Where is it and what does it say? If not, why not?  

DeClerq and partners do have a responsibility to provide parking for the public and other businesses—if this is where they want to develop. We are not free to develop without consequences. Yes, we can build. But we must build with forethought and planning, or we will end up with ghost towns for downtown and a maze of traffic congestion near schools and through narrow streets. 

I also am asking ZAB to deny a use permit for Library Gardens. Yes, Berkeley needs housing. But not at such cost to its civic heart. 

Maria Sundeen 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Recent news coverage in the Daily Planet of pro-Palestinian propagandists bear commentary. In the case of Henry Norr’s firing by the San Francisco Chronicle, such action was clearly merited (“Ousted Writer Settles With Chronicle,” Daily Planet, Jan. 6-9). Membership in an extremist political group such as the ISM and corresponding reportage of the target of said organization in a publication striving for objectivity is collusion deemed unethical in American journalism. Indeed, Mr. Norr boasts he a member of the ISM, a political order which according to Mother Jones Magazine embraces Palestinian terrorists as freedom fighters and has harbored both leaders of Islamic Jihad as well as suicide bombers. That he has also written critically about Israel in a publication which values its impartiality was sufficient reason in itself to give Mr. Norr his well-deserved walking papers. 

Concerning the Daily Planet’s coverage of the recent arrest of local activist Kate Rafael for obstructing the construction of a fence designed to keep homicide bombers from entering Israel, Jakob Schiller’s usual excellent reporting leaves something to be desired (“Israel Frees Jailed Local Activist,” Daily Planet, Jan. 9-12). While interviewing two pro-Palestinian sympathizers of Rafael, Schiller neglected to ask commentary of any local organization, such as the Jewish Federation or Hillel, which supports Israel.  

One of the local individuals interviewed by Schiller is Barbara Lubin and when it comes to Israel, there could hardly be any more biased Berkeley resident. Ms. Lubin, after an encounter with Hezbollah terrorists, said that “Hezbollah are nothing but ordinary schleps like you and me.” When later asked if she worried that some of the money she collected for her Middle Eastern Children’s Alliance would be siphoned off by Palestinian terrorist organizations, Ms. Lubin said, “If it goes to some freedom fighters, it goes to some freedom fighters...” 

As Kate Rafael’s critique of Israeli human rights, the Israeli courts have been internationally praised for their fair-mindedness under the equivalent of a war situation. Indeed, compare the judicial treatment of Palestinians with the American treatment of imprison members of Al Qaeda. Moreover, contrast human rights extended toward dissidents, women and gays in Israel with the Palestinian summary execution of “collaborators,” short jail sentences for “honor murders” of wives and daughters, and imprisonment of homosexuals. Indeed, the latter might give Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism pause before they next demonstrate at the Israeli Consulate. 

Dan Spitzer 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The report on fundraising for music in Berkeley public schools (“Music Fundraiser Results,” Daily Planet, Jan. 9-12) didn’t tell the full story. 

To date we have raised nearly $15,000—twice the amount quoted in the story—to restore the $138,000 cut from the school district’s music budget this year. This money should be enough to meet, beginning in the spring semester, the top priority of restoring middle school instrumental instruction. 

Rasputin Music generously spearheaded one element of a broad-based emergency response to music cuts announced last spring. Extreme Pizza, Berkeley’s public libraries, a local student who played weekends on Fourth Street as a good deed in preparation for his bar mitzvah, and many parents and Berkeley residents—have been generous and creative in their efforts to maintain Berkeley’s renowned music curriculum despite debilitating budget cuts. 

As a community we must be grateful to all these dedicated people. And we must realize that this private, crisis-based approach is not the way to keep music—or athletics, or libraries, or at this point even textbooks—in our schools. For that, only a stable and adequate tax base will do. 

Trina Ostrander, Executive Director 

Berkeley Public Education Foundation 

(fiscal sponsor for “Save Music” campaigns this year) 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

If you don’t like America then move to Iraq. We will all be happy to see you idiots leave. 

Jim Hamel 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Perhaps this is emblematic of the obesity epidemic that rages in this country. The YMCA is leading the charge to require more parking downtown. (“Library Gardens Accord Ruptures Over Parking,” Daily Planet, Jan. 6-8). 

Did it ever occur to the YMCA that its patrons could get a little exercise on their way to exercise at the gym by riding their bicycles there? 

Mark Johnson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It was no surprise that there was an expensive flood at Malcolm X, due in part to the district’s failure to do simple preventive maintenance such as to remove leaves clogging drains.  

Despite three years of funding of almost $12 million dollars since 2000 from our parcel tax, Measure BB, the Maintenance Department has been unable to move from putting out fires to doing the real job of maintenance, which is the preventive maintenance. As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The cure for flooding at Malcolm X is estimated to be at least $44,000, while a simple half hour of raking leaves would probably have prevented the flooding.  

Last fall, no one on the existing Maintenance oversight committee volunteered to be the chair. The existing co-chairs resigned. The “unofficial minutes” states some of the reasons for the resignation are: “The committee seems to have made little progress...the committee is still talking about cleaning bathrooms, pulling weeds and fixing irrigation systems; the department is still struggling with...manpower and hiring; the facilities departments are politicized, protect their own interests and bank accounts or funds, and do not work together as a unit to perform in our schools the way the district should. Construction standards seem to be no one’s bailiwick.”  

Three years ago, the superintendent set out on a course to stifle and limit citizen oversight, throwing out a plan which took three years to develop, stating that she knew how to run maintenance. Well, $12 million dollars later, the superintendent’s plan is a mess. Plus, BUSD has conducted no audits as required by Measure BB.  

We in Berkeley are generous, especially when the specter of little children are raised. We have been told, Berkeleyans never turn down a school spending measure.  

Therefore, BUSD has now turned into a cash cow for administrators, who keep giving themselves large raises while laying off teachers and closing school libraries. These school administrators have never had to be effective, efficient, or even accountable. BUSD school board members received a 30 percent raise last year.  

If after $12 million, they can’t even clean bathrooms and rake the leaves, it’s time to cut off the money supply.  

Yolanda Greening