Letters to the Editor

Tuesday June 07, 2005

Due to a copyediting error, the following letter ran incorrectly in the June 3-6 Daily Planet.  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The mayor’s secret deal with the university—facilitated with the questionable assistance of the city attorney and affirmed by a majority of the City Council—is a disgrace. 

These people in their infinite (or is it somehow self-serving?) wisdom have in essence given the city away to the university. What did they get for their trouble? A few hundred thousand to help the University make a plan for Berkeley’s downtown, two square blocks of which are already going for a university “hotel” and associated complex. And a few hundred thousand more for some sewers and traffic lights.  

We can thank Councilmembers Betty Olds, Dona Spring, and Kriss Worthington for refusing to go along. At least three on the council could see this deal, wreaked upon us by the mayor out of public view, for the disaster it is. 

Sharon Entwistle 



Editors, Daily Planet:  

Carol Denney’s “Will the Circles Be Unbroken?” (June 3) was deliciously on target: The “traffic circles” sprouting like weeds around Berkeley are incomprehensible, unsafe, and largely unwanted by the residents now being afflicted by them. Still, we can make the best of a bad situation. 

We can remove them.  

And donate all that fresh topsoil and cedar chips to community gardens, where the chips would probably make great mulch. 

Marcia Lau 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

With all the talk about traffic in Berkeley—Marin Avenue, the circles, the buses and all—it is time to add another concept to the mix and really get people going. How will our city streets function if we remove all traffic signage, road striping and stoplights? Is Berkeley ready for the complete removal of the reminders of the rules everyone should know anyway? 

A recent article in the Toronto Star described these “Naked Streets.” The idea, gaining popularity in Europe and pretty much the rule in less developed countries, is to reduce the sense of ownership vehicle drivers carry and equalize users of roads by forcing more eye contact and negotiation. Experiments in a handful of European cities with signage removal are ongoing, but the preliminary results are very encouraging. Dutch, German and Danish planners are having good results with the test, even in crowded inner-city intersections. Some districts in London will soon begin trying out the idea. 

On naked streets, drivers slow down a bit, check the intersections on approach and make eye contact with other drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists, instead of blindly driving wherever the signs say they can. Removal of signs and striping encourages drivers to focus not on lights and signage but on what’s happening around them, and to adjust their driving style accordingly. 

In the U.S., we go for extreme regulation rather than common sense and sharing. Americans will shudder with thoughts of anarchy on the roadway when they hear of naked streets, but when all signage, striping and lights are removed the rules of the road still apply. Naked streets might reverse our authoritarian impulses just a little. Oh, maybe we’ll keep the street signs. 

Hank Chapot 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is annoying that Christian conservatives are blasting people for not having God in their lives. They describe them as being “Godless.” These same Christian conservatives who claim to have God on their side are using it to commit abusive acts. For example, they use God to justify the destruction of clean water and clean air. They are getting help from both President Bush and a conservative Congress. 

Clean water is important for the human body. It nourishes and cleans it. Clean air is also very important. If it is the thinking of Christian conservatives to do away with both clean water and clean air, then they are showing the hypocrisy of having God on their side while being fake about morality. 

Bill Trice, Jr. 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Medicaid pays for Viagra?!?! 

Is this true? Does Medicaid also pay for medication and/or equipment to ensure female orgasm as well? Since (to my knowledge) 99.98 percent of all erections end in orgasm, I want to know that the playing field is even. 

Since we are paying for senior sex (some well beyond what nature seems to have intended) I would like to ensure that my money is applied equally. 






Editors, Daily Planet: 

Since Oakland’s current policies have failed to curtail “sideshows,” J. Douglas Allen-Taylor apparently believes there is no point in trying to outlaw such activities (“You Knew it Was Coming—Another Sideshow Crackdown,” June 3-6). Mr. Allen-Taylor also thinks that if citizens of Oakland who are deeply offended by sideshows would make an effort to get to know the perpetrators, we “might begin to talk with them like people, and then we might begin to find that there might be a solution to the sideshow conflict besides throwing as many of them in jail as we can, and running the rest out of town.” 

It is no secret that sideshows always occur in lower income African-American neighborhoods. If Oakland’s mayor and City Council were to ignore this problem they would be guilty of liberal racism. This is because if sideshows occurred in any of Oakland’s affluent white neighborhoods, the residents of those neighborhoods would never tolerate it, and the Oakland police would immediately shut down such activities. Furthermore, the residents of the white neighborhoods would be no more interested in getting to know the perpetrators of sideshows than they would want to get to know graffiti taggers, toxic waste polluters, or heroin dealers.  

The residents of Rockridge and other bastions of white privilege in Oakland are famous for storming city hall when their aesthetic sensibilities are offended (like whenever Starbucks tries to open a new store on College Avenue). They ought to become even more agitated when a real threat to public health and safety like sideshows rears its ugly head in less privileged neighborhoods.  

Eric Tremont 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Time after time I have committed to writing a letter praising the work of J. Douglas Allen-Taylor only to fail to do so. But his column on Jerry Brown’s latest sideshow crackdown was so brilliant and perceptive that praise for Allen-Taylor can no longer be deferred. 

Allen-Taylor often seems to be the only Bay Area journalist who sees Jerry Brown for what he is: a fraud, phony, elitist, and hypocrite who has betrayed his public commitment to work hard on behalf of Oakland’s low-income African American and Latino population. 

From his bizarre appointments to the school board, his contempt for opponents of his military academy, his focus on his run for attorney general almost from the time he won a second term, and his presiding over an outrageous state takeover of a progressive Oakland school board, Brown has put his own selfish interests first. Without Allen-Taylor, many Berkeleyans who would otherwise only know Brown from his KPFA radio show and governorship would not have been exposed to the truth about his deplorable record as mayor. 

Although Brown once railed against the prison industrial complex, the attorney general wannabe did radio ads to defeat the modified version of Three Strikes that was on last November’s ballot. This type of hypocrisy has been ignored in the San Francisco Chronicle’s coverage of Brown, but readers of Allen-Taylor know better. 

Thanks to Allen-Taylor, the Daily Planet not only provides the most insightful coverage of Berkeley, but of Oakland as well. 

Randy Shaw 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

J. Douglas Allen-Taylor’s June 3 front-page article states that Jefferson was the second president. It is my opinion that he was the third. I also believe that Washington was the first and John Adams the second. I hope my views do not offend any segment of your diverse readership. 

Edward Saslow 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

So Rumsfeld accuses China of unsettling Asia with military spending and expansion. What hyprocrisy. What about the Bush administration unsettling the entire world with its out of control military spending and expansion? I really think most people in this country and certainly throughout the world are disgusted with the hypocrisy, arrogance, and outright lying of the Bush administration. There are still a lot of unanswered questions concerning 9/11, the invasion of Iraq, voter fraud in the last two presidential elections, the torturing of prisoners—and those are just the major unanswered questions. How much longer can this all continue before something is done about it? If Congress or our judicial system does do its job of really addressing these issues then eventually we the people will have to do it our selves. This is not wishful thinking, as this has happened many times before in recent history, such as in Latin American and the former Soviet Union. It also happened here in 1776. 

Thomas Husted 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding Joseph Daniel Johnston’s May 24 letter, advancing his own peculiar political agenda over a Good Samaritan’s body, with no sensitivity to the memory of Fay Stender, nor to the feelings of her family and friends: How can it be a “cop-out” to describe her attempted assassination as an irrational act, when Mr. Johnston’s entire argument is based on being irrational? I know the details of what happened, but in my letter I chose instead to talk about Fay’s good life. 

Anyway, I do not necessarily regard Commentary, nor Mr. Johnston, as being absolute judges of the truth. (Nor my ethics.) E.g., it was the Black Guerrilla Prison Gang, an extreme offshoot of the Black Panthers. There were three invaders, not one. Fay was not “hiding from reprisal in Hong Kong”: considerate as always, thinking of others in that ghastly condition, she went there to save family and friends the additional trauma of her suicide. Besides, what reprisal? What more could they do to her, they’d already destroyed her. Mr. Johnston’s logic escapes me. 

I’m a survivor myself: Both my families suffered violent death, the first in the London blitz, on Sept. 24, 1940, the second by murder, Santa Barbara, May 31, 1980 (another Good Samaritan). I’ve developed a green thumb in healing other survivors. I have a sensitivity towards their feelings which Mr. Johnston, with his grudging, mean-spirited, backhanded praise for Fay, does not appear to possess. 

I don’t find his political arguments too convincing, either. “It was the night the dream died.” Overly dramatic and far-fetched, maybe? And what cockeyed, revisionist dream? There’s nothing so venal as a radical leftist turned radical rightist. 

Fay did good. She was a Good Samaritan. This cruel and violent world needs idealists. Honor them Joseph. Fuck the politics. 

Brian Gluss 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

What a righteous letter from Joseph Daniel Johnston about Fay Stender and her death: “Since that night, the Left has been based on a lie, and continues to be to this day.” “Since that night”?? Maybe Fay Stender’s death was a wake-up call to some Berkeley liberals (who are always the last to know). But a lot of us had woken up a long time before that. And speaking of “lies,” wasn’t Fay Stender the one who helped ghost -write George Jackson’s prison diaries, and perpetuated the “lie” that this vicious criminal thug George Jackson was some kind of “revolutionary prisoner” and “victim of racial oppressions”? And aren’t Fay Stender’s “lies” still being disseminated to this day to hundreds of thousands of gullible readers? And wasn’t Fay Stender the one who got up and court and told countless similar “lies” about countless other black criminals who Stender chose to portray as “heroic martyrs”? And isn’t it a fact that Fay Stender couldn’t have cared less about the consequences of her action—that most of the criminal thugs that she got released from prison thanks to HER “lies,” almost immediately continued to commit similar criminal acts against other innocent victims? And that Fay Stender couldn’t have cared less about that.....until it happened to HER? Maybe some of Fay Stender’s supporters should be a little less strident about other people’s “lies.”  

Peter Labriola 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A little-known fact: Every day, malaria produces a human death toll equal to that of the tragic events of 9/11. Yesterday, over 3,000 people died of malaria in developing countries, the vast majority of them children. Over 3,000 more will die today, as their families agonize over the loss of a son, daughter, mother or father. What’s amazing is that it costs so little to prevent and treat malaria. Public health experts estimate that with funding of less than $3 per rich country citizen, the known solutions to the problem of malaria could be scaled up and malaria deaths would be cut in half. Yet right now our elected officials are committing less than one dollar a year per American citizen towards fighting malaria. This drastically tiny contribution of 0.002 percent of GDP ranks the U.S. last among the 22 rich countries of the OECD. Please contact your member of Congress and Senators Feinstein and Boxer, urging them to help America lead the world in making malaria history at this year’s G8 Summit on July 6. 

Mike Batell  

UC Berkeley student 

Athens, GA 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Daily Planet’s May 31 front-page story about the Albany Waterfront Park—known to aficionados as The Bulb—being absorbed into the Eastshore State Park was a nice lead in to the story on the next page about the Magna Corporations greedy designs for the area right next door to the new state park.  

And of course development friendly Albany City Councilmembers and Berkeley’s corporate friend, the mayor, couldn’t be more relieved at the prospect that civil libertarians, artists and dog lovers will be thrown off their unregulated urban wilderness. The hotels, upscale mall and conference facilities will arrive at about the same time as the interpretive center is being constructed in the park. So that people who are busy consuming can be taught how excessive consumption created the mounds of landfill they are now sitting on, eating their Styrofoam packed fast food.  

  The words conformity and compliance slip off the tongue of State Parks honcho Brian Hickey when talking of art and dogs—but one look at the variety of activities provided in state parks would suggest that other California communities are more accomodated.  

  Activities like the hunting of waterfowl, spear fishing, off-highway vehicles, powerboats and high speed Internet piped directly to your tent are now standard fare in California’s state parks. A motorized trail is being planned from Oregon to Mexico through public lands...one way to avoid the freeway traffic on Memorial Day getaways.  

Did I really use the phrase “environmentalist wackos”? Oops. Mind you, I’m not the only one beginning to wonder whether this once honorable movement has seriously lost it’s philosophical way.  

Your reporter, Richard Brenneman, caught me at a bad time. Three hours after my glorious husky mix died, I was probably not as cautious as I might have been. But I’m proud to say that Riff Raff’s last—offleash—walk had been that morning at The Bulb. As she trotted past the roses, fennel and wild irises, as she sniffed the sewage wafting in from the flats, as she ran elegantly through the bushes and watched the redwing blackbirds crisscross the trail ahead of her, she looked at me  

with pure joy.  

Jill Posener  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In the early 1950s, when middle class families could afford a television, there was serious debate regarding harm or benefit, especially to children. Would television enhance education or drug the young? Someone—I don’t remember who—told this joke: The bible forbids television. In the Gospel according to St. Matthew (17:9) Jesus admonished his disciples, “Tell [th]e vision to no one” 

Jokes aside, Newton Minow, the FCC chairman appointed by JFK, derided television as “a vast wasteland,” and during the next four decades it grew immeasurably more vast and infinitely more wasted.  

New networks, then PBS, then cable, then satellite expanded the menu to include documentaries, public service, 24-hour news, celebrity talk shows, special subject channels (MTV, cooking, weather, comedy, gardening, home remodeling, and the like), uncivil verbal combat, contrived reality and if you can come up with something not yet seen you can probably find a sponsor before bedtime. 

With us, unlike with our cousins in England, television is not government-supported (except for PBS, a tiny speck in the vastness). And unlike with our traditional protagonists (Russia, Cuba, et al.) our television is not government controlled but it might as well be.  

With us, free speech is guaranteed by the Constitution, but it remains free today only in furtherance of the nobility and selflessness of our global dominance. 

Let one example of television’s current subservience stand for its entire array of failings...laziness (Dan Rather and CBS), deceits (Jessica Lynch, Pat Tillman), implants (Jeff Gannon), fake news (Armstrong Ward) and so on. Not only does television not keep us informed it fosters confusion by not distinguishing between fantasy and fact. Let this instance of electronic spreading of political garbage stand for television’s general failure: 

In the Middle East where nearly everybody hates our guts Laura Bush’s polished goodwill tour was marred by protests and television cameras captured the shouting, sign-bearing street crowds. CBS, certainly not alone in this, concluded its report saying “The U.S. may still have some image building to do.” In other words, the U.S. need is for better public relations! Karen Hughes, Bush’s PR person, is on board but not yet at the wheel. 

Fortunately for us however, television’s trivializing spins do little to hide or diminish the tragic truth ˆ invasion justified by lies, occupation posing as liberation, tens of thousands killed, the majority by insurgents with only the armament or explosives they can carry but many by the most well-equipped military force the world has ever seen.  

The pungent odor emanating from your television is from news stories carrying an implicit, underlying purpose. Any sad truth in the story is covered by the slime brewing in a vast wasteland.  

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Tom Lord’s commentary in support of the Iraq war was amoral and repulsive, but one could not do a better job in defending the indefensible.  

It is nonsense to think Bush & Co. initiated this war because “Weapons of Mass Destruction” threatened us. This was the justification given, by Bush and the media. We now know the “intelligence “was being “fixed around the facts,” as the Downing Street memo makes very clear.  

Mr. Lord concedes that Bush lied, but thinks it was necessary. Bush lied to the thousands of Iraq vets who now wait for treatment at his nearest under-funded V.A. hospital. I think they deserved the truth, and I think we all did. It is imperative in a democracy, which we aspire to be, to come to decisions regarding going to war based on honest debate. Instead, Bush and his apologists seem to be saying, “We have to destroy Democracy in order to save it” (or rather to control oil supplies).  

What of the current excuse—that the U.S. invaded to “liberate” Iraq? We need to look at the record of the Bush gang to expose that for what it is. We see that they have nothing but contempt for the people of the Middle East. Daniel Pipes, a Bush advisor, was a strong proponent of the arming of Saddam, back when Saddam was killing Iranians and Kurds by the thousands. We can also see the contempt in the detention of tens of thousands of ordinary Iraqis, many of whom never involved in any violent attacks, yet suffer systematic abuse at the hands of the U.S. military. All approved by guidelines prepared at the highest level of the Bush administration.  

What should those who care for peace and justice do?  

First, we must do all we can to expose Bush and his lies. At tomjoad.org, one can find copies of these documents, like the Downing Street memo, that provide all the evidence we need to prove that crimes have been committed.  

We can do our part to make sure that Bush will be brought to justice if we help spread the word to our neighbors, families, co-workers. We are all the “next Deep Throat.”  

Second, no local politician will escape accountability. That means Nancy Pelosi, who refuses to support any resolution regarding the withdrawal of U.S. troops, should never be allowed the luxury of an appearance without calling her to account for her endless devotion to Bush policy in Iraq, and her support for lobbies for militarism, such as AIPAC.  

Third, we can do all we can to counter military recruiters. There is nothing honorable in serving in a war of aggression. Indeed, it is those military men and women, who refused illegal orders, who we must honor. We must teach our youth to do likewise. We will best serve our nation and planet by ending the senseless, immoral, illegal U.S. occupation of Iraq.  

Jim Harris 




Finally a new defense to robbery charges: The bank wouldn’t give me the money so I was justified in taking it. What a wonderful idea! We can probably use it in murder cases as well (the victim refused to die, so I was forced to kill her/him).  

That is the lesson we learn from Tom Lord’s amusing article on how the invasion of Iraq was right: The government was forced to lie to the country because the nasty “Left” refused to accept the real reason for the war—geopolitics and because the Iraqis had scientists and their regime was so terribly unfriendly, don’t you know. (I kid you not).  

Why, we wonder, haven’t we then invaded much of the rest of the world, including France—they have scientists (even more than Iraq), and they are certainly not too friendly these days. And, of course, Iran, Syria and the all-around favorite, North Korea? Maybe we shouldn’t ask that question because this administration may believe it has the moral, legal and political right to do so, and to hell with the rest of the world. 

For the record, I wouldn’t know a latte if I tripped over him or her. (Plain old retired workingperson’s decaf for me.) 

At least Christopher Hitchens justified his support for the invasion of Iraq on what he saw as the truth—support for the clearly oppressed Kurds whom he had come to like and admire. No lies for him, despite being flat-assed wrong about the probable results of an invasion as we can now see. 

Mal Burnstein