Letters to the Editor

Friday May 07, 2004


Editor, Daily Planet: 

George Bush says that the reprehensible behavior of American soldiers (under the guidance of U.S. intelligence officials) at Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq does not represent “the America I know.”  

It’s a disconcerting statement to say the least, but not inconsistent of a man who boasts that he doesn’t read newspapers. 

It’s tempting to hope that now he does know a bit more about his, er, America, he’ll change course—after all, he certainly knows that the Senate Armed Forces Committee is at this moment investigating reports of rampant torture and murder in U.S. prisons in Afghanistan and Cuba. 

But that would be most unlikely; it certainly wouldn’t be the president I know. 

Sheila Newbery 




Editor, Daily Planet: 

Ask a silly question, get a silly answer. In regards to Mr. Garden’s question: “Have you ever tried carrying a TV or a kitchen table on a bike?” My answer is not only “yes!” but also “so have a lot of people, how long have you lived in Berkeley?” I have participated in assisting several friends move their homes and with enough people, bicycles and bicycle trailers, we have successfully moved them without the aid of fossil fuels. Berkeley Critical Mass, on a monthly basis, moves a sofa and large amounts of stereo equipment from downtown Berkeley BART to other locations around the city. Friends of mine regularly carry large construction materials on their bicycles, which is how goods are also usually transported in so-called developing countries. I specifically moved to the Bay Area from Southern California so I would never have to own a car. In the 10 years I have lived here I have bicycled not only to go to school, jobs and errands, but also to radiation and chemotherapy appointments for the cancer I was diagnosed with seven years ago. When I am too sick or tired to bicycle, my friend transports me on his tandem or I use public transportation, as do most of the people who also cannot drive: the disabled, the elderly and children. Anyone who pursues an auto-centric society is clearly opposed to the concerns of some of the neediest people in our society. 

Jennifer Dieges 




Editor, Daily Planet: 

In support of his proposal to further limit parking in downtown Berkeley, Charles Seigel states in his letter that was published in the Daily Planet’s May 4-6 edition that there is “relatively little parking” in the Union Square area of San Francisco which he classifies as the “most successful shopping district in the Bay Area.” To the contrary, what sits under Union Square is a large, relatively low priced parking garage. As a result of this, Union Square is the one part of San Francisco where I am willing to shop. Convenient parking is essential to any retail business district.  

When I worked in San Francisco and made the same trip into and out of the city every day at the same times, I used public transportation. For non-routine trips or trips where I have substantial amounts of purchases to get home such as grocery shopping, I need to be able to drive and park near to where I am going. Would that we lived in a paradise where everyone was young and fit and every store delivered. But until that world arrives, I will continue to need to drive my car and will need parking for it.  

Mary Oram 




Editor, Daily Planet: 

Suppose you’re having a family barbecue in your West Berkeley back yard when a railroad car carrying 90 tons of cooled liquified chlorine derails on the western edge of Berkeley. The liquid turns to a gas almost instantly and the prevailing wind off the Bay moves the dense poisonous cloud toward your house. If you are warned in time, you can get your family into the house, close it up, and shelter in place until the cloud passes by. If you stay outdoors and are close enough to the release point, mere breaths of the gas can kill you, each member of your family, and your pets. 

Or suppose you live in a house near Tilden Park or Strawberry Canyon by the Cal stadium when coals from a campfire built by someone living in the woods blow into dry weeds and brush, igniting a blaze that moves rapidly uphill, turning within minutes into an inferno roaring toward your house. 

A way of warning Berkeley residents of such impending disasters in time for many to take protective action has been under study by the Office of Emergency Services, a division of the Berkeley Fire Department. It is an outdoor siren system that would alert people and give them verbal instructions on what to do. A sonic survey to determine coverage in Berkeley, an important step in the design of this outdoor warning system, was conducted on April 22, 2004. Many people complained, both before and after the survey tests. Comments included “The sirens are loud” (put your fingers in your ears as you do when a fire engine passes you on the street), and “It reminds me of the use of sirens during the unrests here in the late ‘60s” (face it—this IS different). 

In Berkeley we’ve experienced disastrous wildfires and we are aware of, but sometimes try not to think about, the terrible damage that earthquakes can cause. We seldom consider terrorist events in Berkeley, which are not only conceivable—they’ve actually occurred here: bombs at a bookstore, two Unabomber attacks that injured people on the UC campus, and more. Think what publicity would follow from a successful terrorist act on the West Coast, near San Francisco, in world-famous Berkeley.  

How big could the tank-car event be? EPA studies indicate that the toxic plume in this case could reach more than six miles into the city. To a terrorist, the resulting deaths and serious injuries would be attractive newsworthy results. 

Please support the OES outdoor alerting and warning initiative to provide our citizens with the early emergency warnings that could greatly reduce loss of life and the number of serious, long-lasting injuries. 

For more information on the spread of poisonous gas see material on chlorine under “technical background” at http://yosemite.epa.gov/oswer/ceppoweb.nsf/content/EPAguidance.htm#Ammonia. 

Dick White 

Member, Berkeley Disaster Council 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Marlene Friedlander, in her letter of April 23, quotes “no less a civil rights icon than Jesse Jackson” as saying that “’gays were never called three-fifths human in the Constitution,’” as a way of claiming that the black struggle for equality is more valid than the gay struggle for equality and therefore same sex marriage cannot be a right. Does being hounded, beaten, lynched (yes, I said lynched), and made a social pariah count? Does having to spend one’s life hiding the truth for fear of being fired, ostracized, compared to a pedophiliac count? Does living under a constant stereotype count? Do the horrendous murders of people like Gwen Araujo and Matthew Shepherd count? Marriage is a ceremonial union between two people that on the one hand automatically provides important legal rights granted in no other union and on the other, announces to the world that two people have sworn to love, care, and respect each other for as long as each shall live. I don’t need to go into the state of opposite sex marriage in the United States today; just look at the statistics for divorce and abuse. Is anyone suggesting that is due to the existence of people whose sexual orientation may be different from theirs? I do find it encouraging that people—any people, any color, any sexual orientation—care enough about each other to want to live together under law, their religion, and in the eyes of society, with mutual honor and love, and I find it repugnant that ignorance denies love because it doesn’t match some definition from so-called civil rights icons or for that matter, religious sources like the Bible—Genesis 29:17-28, for example, sets the precedent that marriage shall consist of a union between one man and one or more women, especially if the first wife is guilty of barrenness, and Deuteronomy 22:13 makes it clear a valid marriage is between a man and a woman who’s a virgin—and if she’s not a virgin, she must be stoned to death. 

Many people still do not have equal rights in this country, including immigrants, women, the poor, gays and lesbians, and people of color. No one group has any business declaring that they and only they have suffered enough to be worthy soldiers in the struggle. An amendment was necessary to overturn the injustice and wrongness of the three-fifths human definition. No amendment is necessary to deny people the right to love and marry. 

Jacquelin Bautista 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am a law student at UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall. I am writing to voice my concern about the proposed fee hikes facing all students enrolled in a public institution of higher learning in California as part of Gov. Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget. In short, the cuts are unfair and shortsighted. 

If the governor’s budget is approved, all UC professional school students will face a $5,000 increase in fees, on top of a $2,500 increase implemented three weeks before the beginning of the 2003-2004 school year. This would be a total 80 percent increase since enrollment began for the class of 2005. None of these increases come back to our own schools—the money goes to the California general fund, making the hikes a de facto direct tax on a population least able to afford it—graduate students already massively in debt.  

The governor is asking students to shoulder a great burden. Under the proposed budget, fees will also soar by 10 percent for undergraduates and 40 percent for students in graduate liberal arts and sciences programs. At the same time, key university programs continue to be under-funded. These increases are in addition to recent cuts we’ve already suffered, including faculty-hiring freezes, no cost-of-living salary increases for faculty or staff, the elimination of vital community outreach and retention programs, and cuts to financial aid. 

These increases will hurt Boalt, the UC flagship law school, in some special ways. Right now Boalt is able to offer a top legal education at a competitive price, making it accessible to students from many economic backgrounds. In addition, I think I am justified in saying that Californians are proud of the quality of its public higher education institutions, including Boalt. If fees continue to increase, disadvantaged students won’t be able to afford Boalt, and talented students who can may stop choosing Boalt because of its comparative value in favor of other top schools like Stanford, Harvard, and NYU. Boalt’s prestige will decline, deterring talented faculty and students from coming to Boalt and causing a vicious downward cycle. Greater student debt will also discourage Boalt graduates from pursuing lower-paying public interest careers, which will tarnish Boalt’s reputation as a leader in the field of social justice and public service. 

UC Berkeley graduates drive the California economy, constantly producing new ideas, technologies, and innovations that improve the quality of life in California. We provide social services as doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, social workers, psychologists, and health workers. If Gov. Schwarzenegger makes the U.C. inaccessible (by hiking grad and professional fees), he’ll be taking away the social infrastructure that keeps Californians healthy and safe. 

But what disturbs me even more about the drastic proposed cuts to public higher education is reneging the promise made to all qualifying high school students who graduate in the top 12.5 percent of their class of a guaranteed place at UC The governor’s “solution,” offering these talented and dedicated students two years at a community college with the “promise” of later enrollment at UC, is a paltry substitute and a complete failure to uphold the state’s end of the bargain it has made with all California students. 

The California legislature has not finalized the budget yet, and there is still hope that our legislators will listen to our demands that California continue to provide its citizens with top-notch, accessible public education. Our future depends on it. 

Jamie Crook 

Law student, UC Berkeley