Letters to the Editor

Tuesday April 05, 2005


Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is nice after a rain to clear the air. I have asthma and ride a bike to and from work. Riding up Delaware is an experience akin to being downwind from a chimney. Please people, don’t burn wood. There is enough pollution from vehicles, cars and trucks which have in adequate emission controls. Woodsmoke has triggered asthmatic reactions. It is not a healthy practice to burn. Not everyone travels around in a climate-controlled bubble, Arnold. 

BC Martin 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Portugal, seven women went on trial for having self-inflicted abortions. This is a glimpse of BushAmerica if he and Congressional Republicans have their way and eliminate Roe vs. Wade. Criminalization of a whole gender thanks to home grown religious fanatics. How can any woman support George W. Bush and his insidious goal? European anti-choice forces are taking after inquisitors in America.  

Choice is the basic ingredient of life; choice is the right of every human being. Religious right-wingers want to take this essential freedom away from half of the American population. There is a good old fashion Middle Ages crusade going on in America. Wake up! 

Ron Lowe 

Nevada City 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Unbelievable! California nurses are under attack again. The hospital owner’s lobby (the California Hospital Association) and their shills are again cranking-out propaganda trying to convince you that safe staffing won’t work. These TV ads and newspaper articles, written by slick ad agencies, are designed to inject cold fear deep into your heart. Do they really think we are so stupid that we’ll see their commercials and start clamoring for the return of unsafe staffing? They cry about California’s nursing shortage but will never admit that their own greed caused it or that the ratio law is rapidly curing it.  

The hospital owner’s are worried because the 5:1 patient ratio law is so simple their high-priced lawyers can’t get around it. That’s why this powerful lobby and their hired-gun governor are trying so hard to kill it. Many hospital owners will undoubtedly cut the nurses’ support staff, again putting their bonuses before patients’ lives; and Gov. Schwarzenegger, not yet used to being typecast as the “loser,” will surely put the full force of state agencies to task trying to save face. Unless you own a hospital, these people are not your friends.  

As always, trust your nurse. 

Mike Kirchubel 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

March 29 Critical Thinkers Day on the Left. First, Commondreams prints two thoughtful pieces by Naomi Jaffe and Mark Polit dissenting from that herd of independent minds on the Party Line Left as regards the slow, drawn murder of Terri Schiavo. Then a nuanced piece on Counterpunch by Dr. Teresa Whitehurst warning of a downside for the Left on this despite current opinion polls. I’m an atheist and pro-abortion choice but I’m with the pro-life crowd on this one. I have no desire to see ACLU type Judges promote some nefarious “right to die.” Nature already takes care of that, thank you. 

Nor am I sympathetic to many of my fellow libertarians and Objectivists with their usual Party Line No Government Intervention mantra. We are supposed to be protected from arbitrary killing once we leave the womb and I cheer on whomever does it, private or public. 

I can’t even really discuss this with my partner, and I was getting SO depressed with the formulaic crap on Air America and KPFA on this issue. 

Keep on thinking ! 

Michael Hardesty 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Here we go again with the “never again” cycle.  

Because we, the world community, have decided that a mournful, post-facto “never again” pledge is simply more convenient than the action required, Darfur will take its place in history. History textbooks will find “Sudan” between “Rwanda” and whatever site the next genocide will ravage as we busy ourselves watering these most recent killing fields with our crocodile tears, long after the chance to save a single life has passed. 

Although Sudan has been plagued by civil war since its independence in 1956, this most recent outbreak of violence in Darfur dates back only to February 2003, when rebel groups began to instigate attacks against the government in Khartoum, which, in turn, dispatched the Janjaweed militia as a counter rebellion force. 

The wrinkle in the conflict that is so deeply divisive for the Sudanese is the racism that divides the two sides. Since February 2003, a militia known as Janjaweed (men on horseback) has been engaging in a genocidal campaign to displace and wipe out communities of African tribal farmers in Darfur, Sudan. More than one and a half million people have been displaced, forced from their homes as their villages are torched, water supplies poisoned or destroyed, livestock stolen or killed, and women raped and murdered. Government air raids have frequently preceded or followed militia attacks. This is the stark reality created by the international community’s refusal to act in this crisis. 

Unfortunately, most of the discussion surrounding Darfur revolves around what we should call the crisis, rather than what is actually happening. In September, the US government labeled the crisis genocide, but the international community has done little more than to call on the government in Khartoum to end the conflict and threaten the use of sanctions. Thus, while the international community wastes time on semantics, genocide continues.  

Certainly we could be doing more to end this violence, but many governments, with the U.S. at the forefront, seem content merely to label the situation as genocide. Even invoking the Genocide Convention has not spurred the rest of the world to take decisive action. Could this mean that the US views the Genocide Convention as just another meaningless agreement?  

But in the end, the burden is, and can only be, on the leadership of the international community. The U.S. resolution is certainly a step in the right direction, and the Bush administration must take even further stewardship on the issue by publicly and openly pressuring member nations to take action. 

What’s going on in Sudan isn’t only Sudan’s problem. It is humanity’s problem, and certainly it doesn’t hurt to remind our elected officials of this fact. 

Each orphan that starves in a refugee camp, each woman that survives a brutal rape, each family that is destroyed by the murder, displacement and savagery that has enveloped Sudan underscores the hypocrisy, the cruel mockery of the “never again” memorials we place on the headstone of each holocaust past. The time for “never again” is too far in the past, and too far in the future. If the day eventually comes and genocide in Sudan ends, will we regret our inaction? “Never again” means to act now, in the present.  

Sandra Murcia 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I read the article regarding Jefferson School with great interest. Several issues seemed important for us all to consider. 

The school community is defined as the current parents, students and staff of the school. Who has defined it this way? Who else might be appropriately considered part of the school community whose voice should be heard? Those of us who are alumni? Those of us who are neighbors? Perhaps most pertinent, those of us who fund the school through our taxes? Jefferson school is part of our larger community and I disagree with the exclusionary assumption that we are not part of its community. 

The comment is made that students are likely to choose the name of Cesar Chavez because “they’ve all studied him, it’s a name they are all familiar with.” If the students are being treated seriously as voters then it seems to me they should be treated seriously as thinkers. We don’t hold elections in which only one of the candidates has been allowed to campaign. Time should be taken to educate students about each person being considered, including Thomas Jefferson. 

The key issue though is Dora Dean Bradley’s statement that Jefferson didn’t write the Declaration of Independence for her. I think every reader must recognize and sympathize with the pain reflected in that statement—the sense of injustice and exclusion.  

I want to encourage a broader perspective which might lessen that pain. As we know, when Jefferson wrote that document the assumption was deeply embedded that a very few would, as a matter of course, rule the majority around them. That practice had held for generation upon generation, century upon century. Thomas Jefferson was one of a handful proposing a huge change. Jefferson spent his life working to disseminate power more equally. He supported immigrants’ rights in Virginia and worked tirelessly for religious freedoms. He was not just a liberal but a radical in his time. Yes, we can look at him and see that he did not fully embody his own principles but what he did accomplish is more astonishing and more enduring. And it is his work upon which others would later stand in order to bring about broader freedoms such as emancipation and suffrage. Without that first compelling statement of essential rights on what would others have based their efforts? It is not fair to someone taking the first step to accuse him of not having taken all the steps we would like. He opened the way for so many others to follow. The ideas he articulated have served not just our country but the world; countries in South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa have used his document to call for their own freedom from repression. Consider the amazing force of the sprout bursting through the hard seed case and out of the darkness into the light and you will not denigrate it because it has not yet flowered fully.  

Every citizen benefits from that Declaration and from our Constitution. Our parents and our grandparents have as well. And yes, those documents were written, as it turns out, equally for each one of us now living.  

Kathleen Davis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

With all the discussion and debate around reform in Sacramento, it stands out to me that an essential element is missing from both the executive and legislative agendas: Clean Money. 

Clean Money is full public financing of election campaigns. Clean Money is real reform that reduces the fundraising pressures on politicians, and restores control of politics to people. Voters, rather than special interests, pay for campaigns. This is a proven and effective way to bring real change to California’s government. The Governor said it best himself during his campaign: 

“Special interests have a stranglehold on Sacramento. Here’s how it works. Money comes in, favors go out. The people lose.” 

• Real reform efforts must include Clean Money public financing of election campaigns. 

• Without Clean Money, reform efforts are just “moving the boxes around.” 

• If the governor for whatever reason cannot make good on his campaign promises to get special interest money out of Sacramento, then the Legislature has got to pass AB 583, the California Clean Money and Fair Elections bill. 

And actually, as a matter of good policy, the Legislature should pass AB 583 in any event. 

Thank you for the opportunity to comment. 

David Jaber 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I enjoyed the piece on Edward Rowland Sill. There are those among us who remember having to read or even memorize poems such as “Opportunity” or “The Fool’s Prayer.” I had almost forgotten him and had no idea he figured in local history. 

Jenifer Steele 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I recall how back in 1993 near the beginning of our building frenzy, I heard planners, pundits and politicians talk about a “revitalized downtown” where renovated/retrofitted older buildings would be interspersed with new, well designed, built-to-scale (three to five stories) infills with quality shops and services at ground level, apartments and offices above. With trees and green space, public art and sidewalk cafes, downtown would be a pleasant place to bike or walk and would be designed to serve the carless downtown residents, public transit commuters (both to The City and UC and from the neighborhoods) and visitors and tourists via BART. A kind of Fourth Street for the masses. 

For the past 10 years, downtown has been in a state of permanent construction. Virtually every east/west street between Oxford and MLK has been closed or one-laned more than once for months at a time in order for building to take place. This has created an ever-shifting maze that combined with a constant shrinkage in parking, short term meters and increased congestion on feeder streets like Shattuck and University frustrates drivers. Walking is even worse since you have to either make long detours to avoid construction or pick your way alongside building sites and be assaulted by the din of the jackhammers and fumes and dust from the concrete and tar that burns the eyes and coats the lungs.  

It is no surprise that downtown businesses are failing. Downtown, with car or without, is not a pleasant place to be. Many small merchants near construction zones where I used to shop have closed defeated by a drop in foot traffic on their blocks along with the parking problems and high rents. There are more and more empty storefronts, fewer shops, less variety. And while many of the renovated buildings are nicely done and there are jewels among the new ones, they are hard to enjoy. Green space (along with parking) has disappeared. Trees have been replaced by concrete. And the new behemoths which received extra height because of ground floor commercial and/or cultural use manage to block the sun and funnel the wind while contributing little to street level life. Downtown Berkeley with its empty, darkened storefronts, its narrow streets, construction zones and cavernous walls has become an eerie place, particularly at night.  

Nor will the new downtown be completed anytime soon. With all the new projects in the pipeline, it looks like at least another 10 years of life in a construction zone. (Particularly vulnerable to the next spate of activity will be businesses in some of our most recently completed sections like the Arts District and Center Street.) At the rate we’re going, when construction is completed, all of the businesses except for fast food chains will have moved out. Despite our Brower Centers and eco-friendly rhetoric, it looks like we are recreating simply another urban downtown. 

Joanne Kowalski 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding the Pacific Steel story: This is exactly what this paper needs. A story like this really needs to be told. I’ve had many experiences in the West Berkeley area relating to the odor with major concern. I can’t wait to see what will happen next. Credit to you, Daily Planet. 

Brant Bellamon 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Letter-writer Helen Burke (March 29-31 edition) echoes the Big Lie that there is a conspiracy of “outsiders” trying to take over the Sierra Club. Far from it. The real conspiracy is that of club insiders led by Director Carl Pope to keep the organization from dealing with the country’s population explosion and environmental decline caused by runaway immigration. Here, in California, we are paving over the finest agricultural land on the planet for stripmalls and highways and driving to extinction species as we bulldoze habitat to provide for 600,000 immigrants and their children each year. 

I urge Sierra Club members to cast their vote for the independent petition candidates with real courage: 

James McDonald, Alan Kuper, Gregory Bungo, Robert Roy van de Hoek. 

In doing so they will honor the memory of David Brower, the late giant of the environmental movement who resigned from the Sierra Club board because of its craven refusal to confront population problems. At that time he admonished, “Overpopulation is perhaps the biggest problem facing us, and immigration is part of that problem. It has to be addressed.” 

Tim Aaronson 

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Mark Johnson’s letter in response to Helen Burke’s letter on the Sierra Club elections misstates and mischaracterizes the issue on the Sierra Club ballot in this election. The ballot initiative would change Sierra Club policy to support further restrictions on legal immigration. It does not change existing Sierra Club policy on population, which supports population reduction and the need to reduce birthrates but is neutral on immigration levels. 

Restrictions on immigration do nothing to reduce the root causes of overpopulation or worldwide population levels.  

I urge Sierra Club members to vote no on the initiative to change Sierra Club policy to support reductions in legal immigration and to vote for candidates Bosh, Catlin, Ferenstin, McGrady, and Frank, who oppose the initiative and are committed to the club’s core conservation agenda supporting parks and open space, clean air, clean water, and clean and efficient energy. 

Alan Carlton 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Planet correspondents have covered most complaints about the new AC Transit busses, but so far none have mentioned the Velcro upholstery. Once one recovers from negotiating the alp to senior seating, it is time to prepare to alight. This means pinpointing the whereabouts of a nearby button to punch for a stop, and analysis of attendant contortions to attain it. Unfortunately, the upholstery now has one in its death grip. Can one achieve the button and be released from the clutches of the seat in time to get off at one’s stop? Suspense mounts. Will the driver allow one to simply holler out one’s street? Pleasant drivers will, but I know of a sullen female who insists on correct protocol and doesn’t care how many extra blocks you have to walk back. A lot of civic agony could be eliminated if designers had to actually use their designs and the bureaucrats who order them had to personally try them out first. 

Nancy Chirich 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have been very saddened over the feuding between the Berkeley Federation of Teachers and the Berkeley Unified School District. While I fully support the teachers in this battle, it is very disheartening to see the harmful effects of the “work-to-rule” action on both the teachers and the students. Teachers are slower at grading our tests or are not available to help us with our questions before-school, during lunch, or after-school. It is very frustrating for the student who can’t get back the results of his/her tests for several weeks and who can’t see teachers regarding a confusion they have with their course. Teachers also suffer from this. They come to work very stressed out and feel that they can not teach to their full potential. 

The school district initially said that they have no money for a teacher raise. However, a couple weeks ago they came up with money to offer senior teachers a 1.2 percent raise. Where did this money come from? I do not believe that the school district is intentionally holding back a cost of living wage increase to the teachers. It is just as the school district says. The money is just not there. However, I believe that if BUSD spent their money more wisely and efficiently, we would not be in such a mess. I think that a great solution to this problem would be to set the salary of an administrator to be no higher than that of a teacher.  

I encourage everyone to e-mail and call the school board directors at 644-6550 and encourage them to offer the teachers what they deserve. Only then will the students be able to learn in the best environment possible. 

Rio Bauce 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Russ Mitchell, in an April 1 letter, states that “The main issue is why the union goes to such great lengths to protect the job of the all-time worst teacher.” 

The reason why is very simple, and is founded in very basic principles both of civics and of labor-unionism: In a world where there are plenty of people who will beat up on the worker, it is the role of the union to advocate for that worker. This is exactly as it should be. 

The union sees too it that when someone such as Ms. O’Malley makes up her mind that a teacher is the “all-time worst” she has known, and perhaps takes that opinion forward, there is someone to tell that teacher’s side of the story. 

After all, people have all sorts of reasons for deciding that a teacher is “bad” and should be fired.  

Maybe he is, indeed, a bad teacher. But perhaps she simply gave the little darling of someone influential the failing grade that he deserved. Perhaps he talked back to a school board member. Or she wrote a letter to the editor of the Daily Planet that wasn’t very popular. Perhaps, like Dr. Churchill out in Colorado, he expressed an unpopular academic opinion using rhetoric that irked many taxpayers. Perhaps she insists on discipline in the classroom, even from those students who don’t get it at home. Maybe he just looks funny. Maybe some parent doesn’t agree with the teacher’s sexual orientation. Then again, maybe she really is a bad teacher. 

Like a good defense attorney, who doesn’t help the prosecution make the case against her client, the role of the union is not to take the side of the forces that would see one of their members fired. Their role is to stand with their dues-paying member. Their role is also is to negotiate processes that make it very difficult for the ‘squeaky wheel’ or the tide of public opinion to get one of their members fired based on subjective criteria. 

There are, as we’ve seen in the rhetoric of the past week, plenty of other individuals and bodies to say bad things about a given teacher or about teachers in general, without the union taking on that role.  

Indeed, Mr. Mitchell should fear ever getting that for which he appears to be asking. Because it would mean the end of academic freedom, it would mean the end of teachers being in charge of their own classrooms, and it would turn the academic world, from top to bottom, into a popularity contest. 

Solidarity means solidarity. 

Greg Bullough 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Sorry to sound a sour note on your article on Tupper & Reed, but some of the reason they are closing may be bad service. BUSD re-instituted its music program and it has stayed active, although your article only mentioned their cutting it. When I tried to rent a cello there for my daughter, they would not accept my credit; the cards were shared with my husband and only his name showed on their computer, so they required him to be there to sign the rental agreement. Later on, I had no trouble renting a cello from Ifshin. 

More recently, I had tried to order sheet music through Tupper & Reed. About half the time they did not notify me when the item arrived (once I found it in the public sale area), nor did they notify me when they found out that they were unable to order it. 

Berkeley is blessed with a number of music stores: Ifshin and Forrest on University, 5th String and Musical Instrument Exchange on Adeline, and checking addresses in the phone book, one new to me, Starving Musician on Shattuck. For sheet music, SheetMusicPlus.com has not let me down. Berkeley is also home to many musicians working in many styles, and many people making instruments. Although one store did not make it, music is alive and well in Berkeley. 

Barbara Judd