Letters to the Editor

Friday December 03, 2004


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Too high or drunk to take care of your things? Thinking of wintering down south but would rather not schlep all of your crap around with you but don’t want to get rid of it either? Well, don’t fret my pet: Berkeley doesn’t have enough money to adequately fund library, fire, and police services or to keep its streets clean but it apparently has ample funds to gather up and store your possessions—free of charge. Such a deal! (“Protecting Possessions For City’s Homeless Strains Resources,” Daily Planet, Nov. 12-15). 

I will continue to vote no to any attempts by the Berkeley City Council to increase my taxes until they chose to spend our money more responsibly. 

Millicent Wilson 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have been a nurse assistant for 15 years at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center and would like to give a frontline worker’s perspective on union contract negotiations and our strike. Sutter says that the strike is about some hidden agenda that the union has, but it’s not. My co-workers and I have made the difficult decision to strike because we care so strongly about our community and we need to stand up for our patients. Sutter keeps cutting down the number of caregivers and nurses and we don’t have time to really take care of people. All other hospitals except Sutter have agreed to patient care standards to improve staffing and training. Sutter has been bargaining in bad faith and using unfair labor practices to try to scare us, but they can’t silence us. We will do what it takes to stop Sutter’s unfair labor practices and stand up for good care in our community. Instead of using patients’ money to commit unfair labor practices, Sutter should be living up to the standard that has been set everywhere else. 

Darnita Goodman 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks for your continuing coverage of the Zeneca-Simeon development in Richmond. We residents much appreciate the attention to this issue—which 

is sorely lacking from the major media and the other so-called “independents.” 

Karen Franklin 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Author Pratap Chaterjee’s observation that NGO’s are leaving Iraq because “it takes profit to motivate” under dangerous conditions (“Berkeley Author Investigates Iraq War Profiteers,” Daily Planet, Nov. 30-Dec. 2) may well be true, but the best reason an NGO should stay out (in addition to the possibility of staff losing their heads) is that their participation in the occupation is against the interests and desires of the Iraqi people. As long as the public perception is of the U.S. as occupier controlling Iraq’s future, no matter how pure a foreigner’s motivation, unless they are actively working against the occupation, they will not be welcome. The U.S., through military might, may crush the Iraqi people into submission, but in doing so will destroy voices of moderation and reap a harvest of hatred and revenge for generations to come.  

Tom Miller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Some of you with friends or relatives who depend on Berkeley’s taxi scrip program to have a life may have heard that City of Berkeley is proposing to drastically cut down the number of rides it offers to seniors and the disabled.  

A staff memo on taxi scrip states that there is no money for everyday life trips, only scrip for emergencies. However, it is those “everyday life trips” that keep seniors and disabled persons out of nursing homes and institutions. It is those “everyday life trips” that allow them to participate in their community, and prevent deadening isolation. While the proposal promises to add over 200 new riders to the program, it is doing so by slashing the number of rides by a whopping 80 percent.  

Astonishingly, a look at the taxi scrip budget shows that administrative costs are remaining as expensive as they were when more scrip was distributed. Those costs haven’t been slashed a commensurate 80 percent. In fact, these administrative costs are over 50 percent the amount spent on scrip. This is not right. Too much is at stake.  

There are solutions. Here’s one: Why not shutter down the taxi scrip office to very part-time hours and sell taxi scrip for only two weeks every three months? Why not use volunteers at the senior centers to help with the distribution during those two weeks, further cutting down administrative costs?  

If I could think up one alternative to butchering a life saving program, I’m sure city staff could come up with perhaps even better ones. Not too long ago, taxi scrip was improved thanks in large part to former Mayor Dean and staff that cooperated with her concern. Under Mayor Bates, the same concern and cooperation are expected.  

If you care, please call Mayor Bates urging him not to decimate the taxi scrip program and to work instead toward maximizing its effectiveness.  

Maris Arnold  

P.S. Another money saving suggestion to City of Berkeley: Stop hiring consultants! Especially those $100,000-a-pop ones. Use instead the vast reservoir of expertise from retired Berkeleyans.  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The irritating device of asking a question in order to provide an answer (see Bonnie Hughes’ letters, Daily Planet, Nov. 26-29) has a long history, and Ms. Hughes has correctly pointed out that it has nothing to do with uncovering the truth. The “question” format came into being during the Middle Ages when the church was trying to explain the Trinity. 

It was a confusing concept. How could Jesus be the son of God, if the holy spirit, Jesus and God were all one? When Jesus said, “Father, why have thee forsaken me?” was he talking to himself? You can see why the peasants scratched their heads at the whole idea. The church does not like believers to be unclear about these things, so it invented the “question” format as a way for priests, bishops, etc. to “explain” things. However, the “question” was always slanted to have  

only one answer, so while it seemed to be a real question, in fact it was just a way to manipulate the people who scratched their heads (about 99 percent of the population). 

The “question” suggests that the query lies in the mind of the reader, but in fact it is a device of the writer. It allows people to hide behind “just asking questions,” rather than coming out and stating their point of view. Christians these days are raising “questions” about evolution, but their purpose is not to discover answers, but to make people believe the world is 6,000 years old and human beings were made in God’s image. 

Back in the Middle Ages, failure to get the right “answer” generally got you burned at the stake. We aren’t there yet, but when 35 percent of the population thinks there is no evidence for evolution, and 29 percent isn’t sure, don’t bank on not ending up there. 

Conn Hallinan 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

With increasingly widespread reports of various types of election fraud, it’s time for citizens to rise up and demand action. We must demand full coverage in the media, we must demand that both parties pay as much attention to these reports as they are to those in the Ukraine. It is a cruel irony that Colin Powell and others demand democracy there, yet ignore the hijacking of democracy here in the U.S. The big question is: Where is the Democratic Party in all this? Perhaps trying not to seem “unpatriotic” in questioning the very fabric of our democracy, moving ever further away from their base and to the right. Whatever the reason, we cannot afford to wait for action from the party. We must stand up for what we value most—our democracy and our freedom. We must take to the streets and the time is now. 

Arianna Siegel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

One of my responses to Ms. Thomas (“Berkeley-Stanford Big Game Means Big Headache for Stadium Neighbors,” Daily Planet, Nov. 23-25) was that after several centuries, we might make it a policy not to build anything on or near a major fault, say within a quarter mile. 

This might happen sooner, but only after our present siting practices are obviously not suitable. 

Moving buildings and activities back away from any fault will be very expensive and time consuming. 

Charles Smith 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’ve been meaning to convey my great appreciation for Justin DeFreitas’ sharp-edged, well-targeted political cartoons—concise and powerful in both substance and style. We really need to keep exposing the incredible hypocrisy of these power-mad folks, and his cartoons are right on target. 

The Planet and its readers are fortunate to have his work. I hope it reaches ever more widely. 


Charlene Woodcock 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I just read Zelda Bronstein’s article on MBNA switching her SoCal affinity card from Mastercard to Amex (“MBNA Switches Cal Alumni Credit Card Without Member’s Approval,” Daily Planet, Nov. 30-Dec. 2). Basically she’s bashing MBNA for her own admitted carelessness in throwing out valuable and informative literature that was sent to her. It’s obvious she follows the ever-growing masses in this country that take no responsibility for their own actions. Does she think institutions like that spend their money sending out useless literature? Sure some of it may be simply of no importance or contain solicitous information but you should at least give it a cursory glance on the off chance it may—and did in her case—contain very important information regarding her account. Shame on her for her careless disregard and shame on you for printing such an article.  

Robert Umenhofer  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The International Committee of the Red Cross concluded that prisoners at Guantanamo had been tortured. A criminal complaint filed in Berlin charged the Secretary of Defense, Director of the CIA and the General in charge of U.S. forces in Iraq and others, with human rights violations at Abu Ghraib prison. 

Are we not capable of washing our own dirty linen? Has Congress completely abandoned its responsibility to check the policies and balance the excesses of the White House? If so, then out of a sense of honesty Congress should consider amending the Constitution to remove the prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishment.”  

This is not a partisan issue. It involves our already diminished reputation in the world. By ignoring Geneva Convention rules, sanctioning the abuse of prisoners, we risk losing whatever trust we have left and, more importantly, the destruction of our own self-respect. I value my own self-respect and I demand that Congress take care of our nation’s self-respect. 

Marvin Chachere  

San Pablo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thousands of us went to Ohio, ground zero, to volunteer our time in order to remove George Bush from office and we definitely made a difference. I worked out of the America Coming Together office in Cuyahoga County which includes Cleveland and most of its suburbs, a heavily democratic area. There were folks there from all over the United States, including Hawaii, and from several other countries such as Denmark, Canada and Holland that I had the privilege to work with. Together we canvassed voters by telephone and in neighborhoods, organized voter education events, did data entry, hosted celebrities, presented assemblies to 18 year old high school students, who were very excited about voting, and the list goes on. 

On November 2 along with Move On, Election Protection, Vote Mob, the Kerry Campaign and other groups throughout Ohio we turned out more voters for the Democratic ticket than had voted in Ohio in many years. At the polls we provided voting assistance to countless citizens who wished to cast ballots, many who had never voted before or not in a very long time. Many more voters would have been disenfranchised if it were not for the help they received from the many volunteers who were ready and willing to walk several extra miles to make sure folks got to the correct polling places, had comfortable situations while waiting in long lines, made sure that the disabled were accommodated, bought and passed out food and drink to those in need and much more. We did make a big difference. 

During my 17 days in Ohio I met many new and empowered activists and half of them were under 30. They were inspired by the energy that all of us created together which boosted their hope that we would make the difference. And for this they were willing to work tirelessly. These new participants are charged up and will continue to be involved because so many of us went to Ohio and other swing states and helped to create inspiration. 

Most of us who worked in Ohio to help elect John Kerry feel certain that Kerry would have carried Ohio if not for the massive amount of disenfranchisement, dirty tricks and possible voter fraud. The jury is still out on much of it as the recount goes forward. Most importantly, though, is that we made an incredible effort and all together we inspired ourselves to continue to work very hard to take back our democracy. 

Meaveen O’Connor 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors last year wisely voted to ban elephant rides from the annual Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival, for reasons of animal welfare and public safety. 

Such progressive and compassionate views have yet to reach Sacramento, apparently. Even now California State Fair officials are negotiating to have elephant rides at the 2005 State Fair. Bad idea, and they need to hear from us. 

One can only imagine the death and destruction (not to mention lawsuits) should a five-ton elephant run amok through a crowd of 50,000 people with terrified children aboard. It wouldn’t take much to set the disaster in motion: a car backfiring, a firecracker, a minor earthquake, an airplane’s sonic boom.... 

When not giving rides, these Asian elephants (an endangered species) are kept in chains, separated from their family groups. The travel in trucks from Southern California is stressful on the animals, and potentially dangerous. 

There’s also a public health risk: Elephants can carry and transmit tuberculosis to humans. And what of the negative message that such bogus “entertainment” sends to impressionable young children? 

Those concerned should contact Mr. Norbert Bartosik, General Manager and CEO, California State Fair, P.O. Box 15649, Sacramento, CA 95852. Telephone: (916) 263-3000; fax: (916) 263-7903; e-mail: genmgr@calexpo.com. 

The elephants and the public alike deserve better. 

Eric Mills 

Action for Animals 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

What a hoot! Ironically, officials of the Bush administration are pointing at exit polls and saying that they show that the election was stolen. I could not agree more. However, the Bush administration officials are very selective in their finger-pointing. They are not talking about the recent Presidential election with its ever-growing list of computer glitches, computer errors, computer anomalies and computer mistakes, all of which magically favored Bush, no, they are talking about the recent election in the Ukraine! 

In our election, Bush had only a 47 percent pre-election job approval rating and only a 48 percent post-election job approval rating (Zogby International polls), yet Bush managed to get an amazing 52 percent of the popular vote in the “counting” on Election Day. A one-day electronic vote wonder. Thirty million votes were cast on electronic voting machines without any paper trails.  

This Bush election “miracle” was created inside of the voting machines run by his right-wing corporate buddies, Diebold, ES&S, Sequoia and SAIC, four interlocked secretive right-wing electronic vote-counting machine manufacturers, using secret software to “count” our votes privately. 

Without paper trails for all votes, it is clearly impossible to demonstrate that this election was not stolen.  

James K. Sayre