Letters to the Editor

Friday July 02, 2004


Editors, Daily Planet: 

A few points I would like to make: 

1. The U.S. has moral and legal responsibility to finance humanitarian relief and economic reconstruction, and must involve and employ Iraqis in the reconstruction process.  

2. The U.S. must take full responsibility for abuses of Iraqi prisoners. Senior officials must be held accountable and systemic problems must be recognized and remedied.  

3. A recent State Department terrorism report shows that in 2003, worldwide terrorist attacks were at a 20-year high.  

4. War has increased anti-American sentiment and destroyed international norms and laws regarding preemption and torture.  

5. According to the 9/11 Commission, Iraq and Al Qaeda have no connection.  

Warren W. Wright 





Editors, Daily Planet 

Big ugly buildings (BUBs) seem to be sprouting like weeds all over Berkeley. I suggest the City Council pass at least a one-year moratorium on the approval of new BUBs. That way we can take a good look at the BUBs already in the pipeline and see if we want more. I’m afraid if we don’t do this we’ll wake up one day and find that all our thoroughfares have become urban canyons and most of what’s left of Berkeley’s small town character will be lost forever. 

Michael Fullerton 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have to agree with the recent letter writer who was outraged by the Telegraph Avenue t-shirt vendor who is selling shirts that poke fun at Native Americans. Surely the vendor in question knows by now that only white males are allowed to be the butt of the joke in politically correct Berkeley. And I was doubly offended by the vendor’s latest insensitive t-shirt: a parody of the “Cal” logo, substituting “Hell” for “Cal” (in resplendent gold-and-blue Golden Bear colors no less). As a Satanist-American, I feel that comparing Cal to Hell perpetuates negative and demeaning stereotypes about the netherworld. 

Ace Backwords 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors acted totally irresponsibly and illegally without approval of the property owners when it approved pension contracts allowing employees to retire at age 50 with full pension. 

With that one stroke, they ensured that half the county employees would be retired on pensions and not providing any needed county services. 

It also ensured that county services would have to be cut back and that property owners, who had already paid for those services, would have the right to sue the county to recover those services and void the union contracts that now hold them in involuntary servitude to pay for pensions they never approved. 

You can’t tax property owners to pay for pensions. It is inherently unconstitutional. You have to pay the employees first and let them pay for their pensions. 

When the Alameda County Board of Supervisors sides with labor unions to pay back political contributions and does this at the expense of residents and property owners, this is massive political abuse and they deserve to be sued. 

Stephen Jory 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

1. Mr. Sukoff (Daily Planet, June 29-July 2) rattles off 20 opinions (not observations). One main theme is that Berkeley does not truly tolerate opinions varying from the progressive left. Did Mr. Sukoff fail to notice that his article got published? 

2. I have found that Berkeley is a community with very strong morals and values. They aren’t the same morals and values held in, say, Crawford TX, but they’re held just as strongly. If Mr. Sukoff is intimidated by this, he should work up the courage to challenge them instead of simply saying that nothing can change in Berkeley. 

3. Berkeley activist population is certainly larger than Mr. Sukoff’s guess of 1,000, if the enormous crowd that showed up at Fahrenheit 9-11 is any indication. Going to that movie is activism, voting is activism, talking with your neighbor is activism. Sukoff shouldn’t undermine the power of the small good acts we all do with his own cynicism. 

4. He thinks politics in Berkeley is bad? I lived and worked in DC for three years. Politics is blood sport. In the words of Harry S. Truman: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” 

5. I’m really glad that Berkeley city employees are not overworked, are well-paid, not constantly threatened with firing and assured a comfortable retirement. We should all be so lucky. 

Anita Sarah Jackson 

P.S.: I don’t hate Emeryville. 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I agree with Andrew Sarris’ conclusion in his middle-of-the-road review of Fahrenheit 9/11 (Daily Planet, June 29-July 2) that the documentary is “one of the most thought-provoking releases of the year.”  

Among the thoughts provoked in me is Moore’s astounding feat of portraying how a totally American coup took place while still on-going; and that the coup took place with the complicity of every single Democratic senator.  

I was also astonished to see the courage and persistence the Black Congressional Caucus demonstrated trying to get redress for 40,000 disenfranchised African American Floridians whose nullified votes gave Bush his Electoral College majority. I hadn’t read or seen before any mainstream coverage of what they did and what they said.  

Their integrity, however, couldn’t overcome the post-1968 policy decision of the Democratic Leadership Council not to fight for civil rights any more. This decision, as it turned out, delivered Bush unto us.  

I was also struck by Bush’s lack of affect upon hearing the news of the second plane attack on the World Trade Center. He showed neither sadness, nor anger, nor resolve. Instead, I thought he looked shifty or maybe guilty.  

Moore’s achievement, driven by his authentic patriotism, is also a unique milestone in that just going to see it is a political action in itself.  

Now that these truths are outing into collective consciousness in wide waves, the next dot to connect is what to do about/with them, given present political options.  

The left has now boosted Kerry’s chances and perhaps generated some leverage to nudge him from his comfy center-right perch. Can we get Kerry to repudiate the Patriot Act? It’s the least he could do for us.  

Maris Arnold  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It’s nice we’re all so jolly and jizzed over Michael Moore’s new movie. 

But is anyone else uneasy that a self-important filmmaker who’s been a little lax when it comes to intellectual discipline is having so much influence on the debate about this war? 

Didn’t you find those record-breaking lines at local theaters somewhat embarrassing? After all, we do read around here, we don’t need great big pictures.  

Alarms should go off when we find ourselves getting all tingly over Moore’s divining of motives or conjuring up perfect connections between ambiguous facts. He himself has backpedaled some from claims he made during the pre-release promo tour. 

Moore is more just a clever propagandist, a fantasist, than a real documentarian. That’s fine, but I hope we and our children remember the difference. 

James Day 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Since I have known Albert Sukoff for at least 30 of his 40 years in Berkeley and since he and I both have planning degrees from UC, I have to offer a couple of observations about his op-ed piece. First, Berkeley may indeed have a bloated city bureaucracy, but the fact that “Hayward is six times larger [in area] than Berkeley...” probably simplifies rather than expands the need for city administrators. Berkeley zoning staff, traffic engineers, and police spend a lot of time trying to sort out the problems caused by congestion in a city with no place to grow. Second, I suspect, without checking the statistics, that Berkeley has lost population because of the decline in household size, caused by gentrification of historically low-income neighborhoods and the move of some families to the suburbs in search of “better” (or at least whiter) schools. The number of households and cars belonging to households has not declined. In saying that “those who might otherwise live here must drive here...” Albert seems to buy without question the university’s inferences that the increase in faculty and staff commuters is the result of city’s policies. The problem is that the free market, that Albert so much worships, has placed the cost of Berkeley housing beyond the reach of most who live on university salaries. If the city is at fault it is because among the reasons affluent buyers push up the price of housing are that the NPO and Berkeley zoning and traffic controls, while sometimes annoying, have made so much of the city a nice place to live. 

Christopher Adams 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In response to Peter Klatt’s letter, following mine (Daily Planet, June 29-July 2), I hope I made it clear that we welcome La Farine, but oppose the granting of another food service permit, which their proposed tables would require. 

I heartily agree with him that to solve Berkeley’s budget problems we must increase retail trade. Berkeley residents probably spend tens of millions of dollars each year in Emeryville and El Cerrito, because that’s where the stores are. Big stores. And Berkeley derives no revenue from that outflow of money.  

The most obvious solution to this problem lies at the foot of Gilman, where everything west of Seventh Street is a wasteland of scrapyards and shanties. This freeway exit could become a bustling hub of commerce. 

To those who dream of the emergence of light industry there, I have a wake-up call. Light industry has gone south of the border or half way around the world. 

Jerry Landis  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you for your splendid editorial (“The Local Press Takes on the Big U,” Daily Planet, June 18-21) that addressed Chris Thompson’s hysterical journalism regarding UC’s expansion plans (East Bay Express, June 16), which includes building faculty housing in Strawberry Canyon. We wish to point out that Thompson’s ranting reproval of Berkeley residents’, and especially the Committee to Minimize Toxic Waste’s (CMTW’s), tactics in opposing UC management, has no basis in fact. In particular, his statement that CMTW members “carp about Lawrence Berkeley Lab-not to get anything done, but merely to hear themselves squawk”, shows a total ignorance (ie., lack of journalistic research) of the fact that the CMTW was founded in the early 1990s to fight the university’s plan to build a replacement facility for the storage of all it’s Berkeley Campus laboratories’ toxic and radioactive waste in Strawberry Canyon just catty-corner from the Haas swimming pools. 

This first battle was won by the CMTW and was followed several years later by another victory, the closing, Dec. 31, 2001, of the Cal-managed Lawrence Berkeley Lab National Tritium Labeling Facility, who’s legacy waste remains in the soil, groundwater and vegetation of the Strawberry Creek watershed. So much for our “tactics,” and, for those interested, check out our fact sheets and the “Contamination Chronicle” on LBNL.  

Gene Bernardi  

Co-Chair Emeritus 

Committee to Minimize Toxic Waste,  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In the June 29 issue, Albert Sukoff offers 20 observations after 40 years in Berkeley. He needs an editor, or he needs my unified field theory of Berkeley ethnography that explains everything, even our struggles over questions like “you want coffee?” or “who lives, who dies and whose deck view has monetary value?” 

For more than a hundred years, eager students from across the U.S. and the world have completed their studies at UC Berkeley. All were blessed. Some never left. Rather than just basking in the rarified air of western imperial education and then going out in the world or back home to make it a better place, these ingrate graduates, seduced by the climate no doubt, bought real estate and settled down to the great and good goal of making Berkeley heaven on earth, with excellent property values. 

Attending a City Council meeting is like going to an experts convention. The guy on your left is a PhD, the woman on his left is an “alternative realtor,” the next concerned citizen over is a doctor, next speaker is a lawyer, a government rep, a university rep, a technician from the Lab, and yes, a lot of activists making themselves useful. But contrary to Mr. Sukoff’s observations, it’s not always how hard your butt to sit past midnight, it’s also how thick your wallet and it’s not just a bunch of dilettante activists, Berkeley includes plenty of wannabe town burghers. 

The town suffers from the opposite of a brain drain—just too many darn smart citizens for good order. So, I’m suggesting a repatriation campaign. I will offer 10 dollars to the first Berkeley graduate still on the voter rolls after 20 years who goes forth, back to Iowa or Hillsborough or Bali or wherever in the provinces you came from to perform Berkeley’s good works where they’re needed.  

Then maybe this place built for the university can get back to its real job of gouging students. 

Hank Chapot 

Central Campus Gardener 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

BUSD claims to be short on money. Yet, BUSD continues wasteful spending. 

Three to four years ago, BUSD put in a covered eating area with benches and tables at Willard. Now, BUSD plans to rip out those tables and replace them with nothing. BUSD will be ripping out some of the gorgeous roses in front of Willard to plant new ones. Why? 

In schools, our kids are taught about California, its special climate and the benefits of our native plants. Yet, BUSD insists on planting more and more lawns. In the last year, BUSD planted a new lawn at the high school, a new lawn at King, and now this summer, a new lawn is in the works for the front of Willard. Grass is water-wasteful. (Just ask EBMUD.) BUSD mows its lawns with gas lawn mowers and weed whackers. The U.S. is in our second Middle East war in 12 years because of oil. And the prediction is that scarce water in the parched west will be the basis of new wars. Water and gas cost money, and gas powered tools emit greenhouse gasses. So why is BUSD planting more lawns? BUSD should consider drought tolerant and beautiful native California bunch grasses, which don’t need to be watered and don’t need to be mowed. 

We’ve had an energy crisis for several years. Yet, the brand new building at Berkeley High uses as much electricity as the entire rest of the campus. That new building has increased the high school’s power bill by 100 percent. What happened to energy conservation? 

Willard was allocated $465,000 for this round of improvements to the grounds. Then Willard was told there was only $362,000 to spend on actual work. What happened to the other $103,000? Rumor has it, BUSD spent $103,000 (25 percent) of Willard’s allocated funds for consultants and architects. Why? 

BUSD doesn’t seem broke the way it’s spending money. Maybe, BUSD should practice what it teaches our kids: the four Rs. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot. Reduce through conservation precious resources such as gas and water, Reduce what’s spent on consultants so there’s more money for teachers and students. Reuse materials and supplies we already have, don’t tear out benches, seats and existing plants which are perfectly functional. Recycle and rot. Every year in June, dumpsters arrive at each school. Hundreds of dollars worth of stuff is thrown away, which three months later, is replaced with new stuff. We can only dream that some day schools will really reduce, reuse and recycle and all the cafeteria waste will be composted rather than ending up in the landfill. 

More of us need to speak out against the waste in our schools. And BUSD needs to take active steps to wisely use the resources and money we have already given you. 

Dan Peven