Letters to the Editor

Tuesday May 04, 2004


Editors, Daily Planet: 

In a front-page piece presented as a news article in your April 30-May 3 edition (“UC Admissions Drop Hits Native Americans”), Jakob Schiller repeatedly uses, but never defines, “underrepresented,” as in “underrepresented students,” “underrepresented groups.” 

The article states Cal is admitting fewer Native Americans this year. It fails to compare the percentage of applying Native Americans who got accepted this year with the percentage last year, and fails to compare either percentage with the percentage of accepted applicants from other groups. 

Either set of facts would put some meat on the “underrepresented” adjective employed. 

It’s also unfortunate that you buried the real problem on the next-to-last page of the paper: that many Native Americans don’t have a peer model that associates personal success with academic performance. 

David Altschul 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

John Hawkridge (Letters, Daily Planet, April 30-May 3) speaks of a noxious odor in West Berkeley. This smell has been making my family really nauseous for the last five years and we have been consistently told by agencies we have called that it is either “coffee being processed” or “burnt bread” from a local bakery. 

I was incredibly disturbed by the last letter, as we have driven around many times trying to find this odor as it makes us (and neighbors) really sick. The elderly, disabled woman down the street gets severe headaches and vomits from this. Isn’t this supposed to be environmentally friendly Berkeley? Isn’t this supposed to be the city that prides itself on pure air, soil and a caring city government? We moved here five years ago from Benicia, as we were worried about the industrial odors. I can’t believe that this is being allowed to go on. Are we (the occupants of West Berkeley) considered to be disposable —are we being poisoned , so that we can be turned into mulch that will be then turned into another park? This is crazy. What makes this any different than Los Angeles, or South San Francisco (noxious fumes galore), I thought it was because we could live here and not be poisoned. UNFAIR !!!!! 

Catherine Malkow 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The responsibility of the press and TV is to inform us about what is happening in our world. They present facts and we, their readers and viewers, have the responsibility to think about what is read or said and draw our own conclusions. 

Sinclair Broadcasting Group, by refusing to allow ABC’s Nightline to air on their stations, does not serve the public interest of our need and our right to know. I strongly object to this stand. It is censorship at the worst level. 

Anne Smith 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Malcolm Carden writes that the responses to his earlier letter have not contradicted his statement that restricting parking in downtown is bad for downtown businesses. He concludes by asking: “have you ever tried carrying a TV or a kitchen table on a bike?” (Letters, Daily Planet, April 30-May 3). 

But my response to him (Letters, April 23-26) did contradict his statement. I said that the most successful shopping district in the Bay Area is the Union Square area, which has relatively little parking. And I said that downtown Berkeley cannot compete with auto-oriented shopping areas, because of its distance from the freeway and limited street capacity, so its best chance of success is creating an interesting, pedestrian-oriented environment. 

People buy heavy items like kitchen tables on a very small percentage of shopping trips. When they are in urban neighborhoods, the stores that sell these items offer deliveries. The Ikea in New York delivers more than half the products that they sell. 

I have never carried a kitchen table on my bicycle, but I used to bicycle to Gorman’s to buy my furniture, because they would deliver for a few extra dollars. In central Berkeley, where 40 percent of households do not own cars, we need a furniture store that offers deliveries. Does Carden think all those people should buy cars, so they can use them once a year when they buy furniture? 

Charles Siegel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Perhaps by now most people have seen the pictures of the atrocities of the U.S. soldiers in Iraqi prison. This is not a surprise and not new. This is American chivalry. Americans have done it in Vietnam, Korea, and many other places. So, next time you see the charred bodies of Americans in pieces hanging from bridges in Iraq, do not call the Iraqi freedom fighters barbaric. Bush always says that they hate us for our values and our way of living. Are American values about violating human rights? 

Saleh Almajridi 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

There is one issue that has been conspicuously absent from the review process of the Code of Student Conduct, which is its effects on free speech. 

After highly politicized hearings in recent years targeting student protesters, the administration has responded to criticisms from both sides (those who wanted swift and harsh punishment and those who thought the disciplinary process was unfair) by suggesting the revision of the Code of Student Conduct. 

Despite such beginnings, the committee has not discussed the potential effects of the revised code on First Amendment activities. Such matters were supposed to be discussed in a subcommittee within the review committee, but that subcommittee has never been convened. (Vice Chancellor Padilla has suggested that it will be convened next year, but the final report of the code revision is being prepared now.) 

By severely limiting due process rights—no guarantee of legal representation, nor of open hearings—future political protests could become easy targets of punishment. The university will be even more vulnerable to outside demands for the punishment of unpopular speech because it is going to 

be easier to carry such demands.  

It is regrettable that UC Berkeley, with its proud tradition of free speech, has come up with a set of rules that are so weak in its protection against potential abuses of the disciplinary process. 

Takeshi Akiba 

Graduate student representative to 

the Code of Student Conduct Revision Committee, 

UC Berkeley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In a letter seething with venom for your newspaper, Nate Bloom (Letters, Daily Planet, April 30-May 3) charges that those who have written in defense of the controversial DeFreitas cartoon (“State of Palestine,” Daily Planet, April 16-19) “suffer from an intellectual laziness that is often reflected in the same lack of rigor that the people who post these cartoons have in regard to a nuanced or evenhanded discussion of the [Israeli-Palestinian] issues.” Apparently as an example of said rigor, Bloom soldiers on to claim that “there is little difference between the Ku Klux Klan and elements of the Left in terms of their Jew hating,” etc. 

I, too, would like a little nuanced discussion from those who uncritically support anything that Ariel Sharon and Israel do in the way of progressive brutalization and dispossession of Palestinians, which is a bit like watching a protracted mugging in broad daylight. I have previously posed three questions: What is “Greater Israel,” why are there any Jewish-only colonies on Palestinian land, and why am I paying for these ever-expanding colonies with my taxes? 

So far, I have had no answer other than accusations that I am anti-Semitic or prone to “Pravda clichés” for asking. 

This is nuance? 

Gray Brechin 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It was the middle of the night. The phone rang. “If you ever say that Palestine is like the Warsaw Ghetto again, we will kill you.” Click. And they didn’t even leave a call-back number! 

Despite all that, here I am again. Equating Gaza with Warsaw. What am I thinking! But jeez Louise. The simile is just too ripe for a writer like me to resist. And besides, don’t you just hate it when people tell you what to do? 

I first figured that Gaza might be for sale when Ariel Sharon was accused of corrupt real estate dealings in Greece. And I was right too. Sharon has put together a real estate package in Gaza that is a sleazy developer’s dream: Trading that run-down Gaza dump for the eloquent olive groves and high rises of East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Score! 

That’s like trading the South Bronx for the Garden State—including Princeton, Washington Crossing and Atlantic City. That’s like dumping Mediterranean Avenue and buying the Boardwalk. And Park Place! 

But wait. Won’t the Palestinians at least come out of the deal owning Gaza? Isn’t that a trade up for them? They will now own houses and hotels, right? Wrong. Palestinians will not be passing Go. And they will not be collecting $200. They will not be owning Gaza. Ariel Sharon will still own Gaza. What the Palestinians will be getting from this real estate deal is the right to continue to live in a prison, a jail and a slum.  

What the Palestinians will be getting is a place on a map that is the exact re-creation of the spirit and mood of the ghetto at Warsaw—no more, no less. The Israeli army will surround Gaza on all sides. No one will be let in or out. Watch towers, machine guns and barbed wire will ring the city. Tanks will rumble up and down the streets. The only thing missing to complete this tableau will be the yellow crescents sewn on residents’ clothing—and that can be arranged.  

Being an Arab these days is chillingly similar to being a Jew in 1939. The only difference I can see is that instead of Prescott financing genocide, we now have his grandson George.  

No one spoke out to protect the Jews in 1939. But dag nab it, I’m not going to let that happen again. And, hopefully, it’s not going to kill me to do it.  

Jane Stillwater 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In response to two recent articles, one about bullying and the other about the population boom, it is also very important to remember that California’s over-population boom is exactly what is feeding the bullying problem within our schools. As a discipline counselor with the Los Angeles School District and a part time resident of Berkeley, it is obvious to see that the same apparent factors prevail within different areas of the state. When the homes are as overcrowded and dysfunctional as are the schools, competition among peer groups and bullying prevails. School is often regarded as requiring more structure than students’ homes, thus becoming the “enemy” where students are often acting out. 

Thanks also to the negative and counterproductive influences of rap music, community violence and various forms of media within the free society, such daily occurrences of school violence, graffiti, including “tagging crews,” fights and different forms of group hatred are regularly seen. This often results in families with better resources or perhaps just concern for their children, in seeking other school possibilities. 

To many, it is unclear just why California is inviting so many people here these days, especially when schools are overcrowded and funding for public education is almost always in jeopardy. Think about it, it affects all of us in society. 

Michael J. Packer 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The swirling buzz of proposals for constitutional amendments reminds me of the most fundamental change we need to make in order to preserve our democracy: Every vote must count equally. Under the current system, a million more Californians could vote for one candidate than for the other guy, and it wouldn’t have any more impact on the presidential election than if that candidate received only one additional vote. Nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand votes would be thrown away, just as Gore’s half-million-vote majority was dismissed in the last election. 

The problem, of course, is the Electoral College mechanism which gives voters in small-population states, like Wyoming, nearly four times the count as voters in California have. This anachronism must go; everyone’s vote must count equally. The Electoral College was originally instituted as a political compromise for conditions far different from the way we live now. Then, electors had the option of not following their state’s majority outcome, in case the “uneducated rabble” elected the “wrong man.” Now, the outcome of the Electors’ meeting is predetermined by law. And in the last election, when a true controversy arose about how the votes were counted, or mis-counted, it was the Supreme Court, not the Electoral College, that determined the current President. 

If Bush were to be re-appointed president with a minority of votes, the legitimacy of the Federal government’s authority would end, along with our claim to be the world’s leading democracy. I don’t know if people will march in the streets, form revolutionary cadres, or simply shrug their shoulders and pay their taxes. But I would feel a very close kinship with our nation’s Founders who fought to forge a democratic government from the grip of King George. 

Bruce Joffe