Letters to the Editor

Tuesday June 14, 2005


Editors, Daily Planet: 

In the past issues of the Daily Planet, I have seen a number of letters lamenting about what happened to “radical” Berkeley. As a lifelong Bay Area resident who is also a student of history, I’ll hazard some answers to this question. About 30 years ago, in the wake of Vietnam, the powers that be, that is government, business, and academia (both Democrat and Republican), took it upon themselves to put the American public back in line. In their own words: more “moderation” was needed in the public debate, because the public had become “ungovernable.” At the same time, many former “progressives” went into these institutions convinced that one could change the system from within. They soon found out that centralized power is very selective about who it admits to its ranks. Those who advocated radical ideas were marginalized, ignored, and than forced out. Also, these people were faced with student loans to pay, children to raise, and the general pressure from family and society to “get on with your lives.” Economic downturns and the cutting of government benefits completed the process of coercing the young. At this point the ex-radicals must have become aware of the realities of power, about who actually rules, and by what means it is done. Lakota poet and activist John Trudell best described it as “being caught between living a lie or not living at all.” In other words, go with the system, or starve. Beset upon by these forces, the former “progressives” compromised and eventually capitulated to the establishment. This process of absorption became complete when Bill Clinton (who was just as enthusiastic in helping corporate America as Bush) was sworn in 12 years ago. It is these same forces of co-option that are responsible for the demise of “Radical Berkeley.” Let us now hope that the present generation of activists can learn from the past and avoid the trap of being taken over and controlled by the powers that be.  

John F. Davies 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Perhaps I have lost track of which book was flushed. And was that toilet at Guantanamo or the White House? In a June 9 New York Times article, “California Father and Son Face Charges in Terrorism Case,” Dean Murphy and David Johnson write: “They have been charged with lying to federal investigators…..” I thought that speech was protected in my country by the First Amendment. A Federal Court even gave corporations the right to lie in advertising under the First Amendment. If lying to federal agents is a crime, only a fool would talk to an FBI agent. You might be innocent and still get charged with lying. Of course there is no shortage of fools in the world, but some of us will advise our grandchildren don’t count on the FBI or the media to protect your freedoms. The Times might point out that under this fabulous democracy people are charged with specific crimes. 

Marc Sapir 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Cars, Cars, Cars. I’d love to be able to impress upon car users just how awful those carbon monoxide fumes emitted from cars really are to the health and well being of the human and other living bodies. But whatever I said would probably not be too very much noticed. I am not a scientist and I cannot produce many many years of careful examination to prove the point. Only thing is...somewhere in each of us, we know it. And every time I hear of yet another death or another person suffering horribly with cancer...something in me wants to cry out. Is it too much trouble to not inflict disease? 

Look at yourselves, car users. Look at yourselves. Stop using petroleum to fuel your freedom. We, all of us, are enslaved to the marketplace in many ways. This automobile stuff has gone too far, however. We believe the truth of global warming. No one ever talks about using their poisons and them killing each other and ourselves. Intricate sentences won’t convince anyone. 

Perhaps the voice of the soul will. Refuse to use their tools of destruction. 

Iris Crider 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Have you heard of Pink Man? Hopefully that’s a silly question, as for years I’ve been called “a Legend” by all the papers in the Bay Area. As a matter of fact, if you asked practically anyone in Berkeley which performance artist has had the most positive impact, you would hear my name come up most often (please refer to countless stories on my site: www.pinkman.net). For almost 10 years I have ridden and danced and sung in “the most progressive city in the United States.” And for free. Unless you count getting punched, and dragged along side a car, and all sorts of stuff thrown at me. But I love doing what I do, that’s why I do it for free. 

But now I am terribly desperate; I am in Paris to spread the joy, to sort of represent the States and California in a positive way. But due to a lack of planning on my part I am frightfully close to sleeping on the streets. Like, tomorrow. I am not kidding. I’m scared, Berkeley. And my fear is making me angry. You see, I have already e-mailed people on the City Council pleading for some emergency financial help via paypal on my website. To my horror, I have not received even an e-mail in reply. My life has become a movie, and right about now Berkeley hangs on the edge of being portrayed as, well...we’ll see how it goes. 

I’m currently on TV around the world on the Discovery Channel’s “Lonely Planet.” I have already been on TV around the world, it’s exciting, but I haven’t gotten a dime for it.  

Mary Steenburgen, in Paris filming the DaVinci Code with Tom Hanks, came up to me and gave me a great big hug; “Pink Man! What are you doing here?!!” Just another fan of something good and worthwhile. But I need help, Berkeley. Surely you can afford something. 

Please at least be decent enough to e-mail a “fuck you.” I’m sorry. Again, I’m scared, I don’t know what else to do. Busking has proven ineffective, maybe because I stink from not having done laundry in so many days. Pathetic, isn’t it?  

Your turn. 

Michael John Maxfield, 

Your superfolkin’ hero 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It comes as no surprise to read of the sexual harassment lawsuit against Dennis Bernstein, host of KPFA’s Flashpoints News Magazine, and further allegations of sexual discrimination against him by other women. Anyone who has heard incessant Israel-basher Bernstein’s rants either on the air or in various colloquiums knows that he either denies or refuses to discuss the gender apartheid, honor murder or other forms of abuse so widespread against women in Palestinian society in particular and Arab culture in general. Given these accusations against Bernstein, perhaps we might now realize why he is so reluctant to discuss sexual discrimination elsewhere. 

On another matter, letter writer Robert Blau proclaims that Bolivia’s probable nationalization of oil and gas will benefit “the indigenous and poor people” of that country. A red flag (pun intended) should be run up in Berkeley every time the word “benefit of the people” is evoked. But then again, erstwhile progressives usually prove themselves deficient when it comes to history, as Mexico’s nationalization of oil has for nearly three quarters of a century proven to be as corrupt and inept as any industry existent in the Western Hemisphere. Ever since nationalization, Mexico has experienced a staggering siphoning off of profits by avaricious bureaucrats and labor leaders who make Enron’s corporate thugs appear benign by comparison. As a consequence, the “people” of Mexico have benefited but little. 

Dan Spitzer 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Your article about the KPFA snakes and mongooses poses a cruel dilemma for the progressive community. Two ardent ideologues of the left are now undermining a major mouthpiece of the anti-American community. On the one hand, we have the Jewish Kapo who wants deprive Jews and Israel of our minuscule homeland. In an earlier incarnation this saintly figure would have been pushing Jewish children into boxcars on their way to Auschwitz. On the other hand, there is an equally saintly figure of the new left, who devotes her time and our airwaves to propaganda on behalf of a notorious cop killer. 

Poor KPFA is caught in the middle. All KPFA has ever discriminated against are people who do not subscribe to its political philosophy that the good consists in taking other people’s property without paying for it. KPFA has benefited from the self-destructive goodhearted instincts of liberal America which has allowed Pacifica/KPFA to use the public’s airways for free in order to undermine America. 

Alan Wofsy 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The angry June 10 commentary of Dean Metzger and David Wilson is well intentioned but poorly reasoned. All the settlement agreement says in subsection III.D. is that, should state law be changed to alter the financial obligations of the university toward the city, the parties will try to renegotiate the settlement to keep the total amount the same, inclusive of the new obligations. That is not inconsistent with what Mayor Bates, et al., wrote in their commentary. If the university were assessed the full $13.5 million or more, that it owes, then obviously the parties would not be able to keep the total amount the same while including the new obligation. Metzger and Wilson have strained at the gnat and swallowed the camel. The camel is this: Both parties are promulgating a deceptive lie concerning the law as it now reads. 

The following is from the commentary by Tom Bates, Linda Maio, Laurie Capitelli and Max Anderson: “no court could have compelled the university to pay a penny to the city for basic services.” Here is what the real authority in the matter, the California Supreme Court, has to say: “On the other hand, when one tax-supported entity provides goods or services to another, neither the California Constitution nor decisional law exempts the public entity from paying for these goods and services” (San Marcos Water Dist. v. San Marcos Unified School Dist. (1986) 42 Cal.3d 154, 161). The university cannot be charged for special assessments, which means basically capital improvements, but it can be charged for basic services. The myth that it cannot be so charged is apparently one of the big lies that has come to be accepted as reality by a docile and legally unaware public. Citizenry in a participatory democracy requires more. 

I should add that there is an attempt to permanently exempt the University from parking taxes and sewer fees in subsections VI.B. and VI.C. of the settlement agreement, but there is actually a nice little provision at the bottom of section VI. to the effect that if either of these subsections are violated, the settlement agreement terminates. Good riddance to bad rubbish, as we used to say in grade school. All we have to do to end this miserable agreement is charge them what is really due, and by the language of the agreement, the whole thing automatically terminates. Wonderful! Let’s do it immediately, or as soon as the City Council comes to its senses. There will still be the struggle to reinstate the original lawsuit, but that is not an insurmountable problem, either. It is in the works, as we speak. It might help if the City Council would join the fray on our side, for a change. 

Peter Mutnick 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Your article of June 10-13 regarding the Hills Fire Station is a horrible example of bad reporting. A news article should answer the simple question, “Why?” Why is the Hills Fire Station over budget and behind schedule as your headline trumpets? It is so surprising that a project originally estimated at $2.5 million (if that is in fact the original estimate) should have escalated 13 years later to $6.7 million? Absolutely nothing is said about the relentless lawsuits filed by one neighbor, that was the primary cause of the delay. Instead, the implication is that somehow Berkeley can’t manage its budgets, or spends money recklessly, or doesn’t pay attention to neighborhood opinion, unlike our neighbor Oakland. 

There are other subtle hints in this article that imply that somehow the prejudices of the writer, the editor, or the publisher account for the choice of “facts” left in or out. Why are objections of some neighbors hashed through once again, when the support of hundreds of residents who spoke for this project in endless hearings, letters, meetings is not mentioned? Why is nothing said about the citizen’s committee that worked for years to support this needed and very popular project? What are the unanswered critical questions one neighbor claims the city neglects to answer? Is there anything that has not been answered about this project in the hundreds of hours of public time devoted to it?  

Myrna Walton 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Is an act good because the gods say it is or do the gods say an act is good because it is?  

The Bush network has a knack for changing its goals to suit whatever means it may be deploying at the time. For example, the military is currently helping Iraqis develop a democracy but it started out to protect us from mushroom clouds. This Orwellian practice of adjusting ends to suit on-going means perverts the basis of ethics whereby the good (or evil) lies in the act itself. In order to get away with it the Bush network has enjoyed full media collaboration.  

It justified unprovoked war by lying and the media collaborated by blaming faulty intelligence. Although the decision, sui generis, to remove Saddam Hussein was taken a year before the fabricated justification the media concluded (sheepishly and reluctantly): Sure, that’s the Bush style, but it’s no “smoking gun.” In other words, there’s no murder if there’s no smokin’.  

How absurd! No wonder so many people distrust the media.  

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am surprised and pleased to see the Berkeley School Board exhibiting wisdom and leadership on the Jefferson School issue. All great men (and women) have their faults. Slavery, when Jefferson lived, was largely an unquestioned part of human existence and had been since the beginning of time. Choose any culture at any time in recorded history and you will find slavery, strict class hierarchy and in many cases horrific and brutal religious ceremony. It seems inappropriate to render moral judgments on the worth of a person’s life based on moral standards of today and which did not exist at that time. 

It is well documented that many “free Negroes” were slave owners themselves and , indeed the U.S. census from 1860 reveals that nearly one third of the “free Negroes” in the city of New Orleans owned slaves. Of course, the original slaves taken from Africa were captured and sold by their own black brothers. There is no monopoly on slavery and in fact it still exists today in Africa, India, and Asia.  

It is fair that the School Board include the larger Berkeley community in the debate over the name change. The teachers have, certainly, brainwashed the students who are too young to make a thoughtful and historically contextual decision. The parents are only affiliated with the school for a short time and because of the forced diversity aspect of Berkeley schools, many do not even live near the campus. The teachers and principal come and go and may not even live in Berkeley. 

There is a larger concern though; Where does it end? If we decide to change the name of Jefferson School because he was a slave owner, we must then change the name of our own city as well. The City of Berkeley is named for Bishop George Berkeley. Berkeley bought and owned slaves on his Rhode Island Plantation “Whitehall.” When Berkeley returned to Europe in 1731 he donated the profits from the plantation to Yale University for a set of scholarships. The “Berkeley Premiums,” as they came to be called, are still awarded today. Berkeley High is named after a slave owner. Martin Luther King Jr. school is named after a drunken womanizer and self-proclaimed communist. (It is against the law to advocate communism in California public schools today.) Malcolm X was a petty criminal who did time in prison. We do not judge them on these aspects of their lives but on the great accomplishments of their lives which have positively affected all of our lives today. 

We all sit here today thinking that we are smarter and more sophisticated than the barbarians of the past. We constantly ask how societies could have accepted such behavior in the past. We are so much better than that now. Are we really? Are the cheap and plentiful products we buy today produced by virtual slave labor? Is that chicken or burger that we salivate over on the grill the result of a cruel and pain-filled life? Do we care? Out of sight, out of mind. 

Nazi Germany was populated by an educated and intelligent people. How could a nation like that allow the mass murder of millions of Jews? Politicians demonized the Jews and blamed them for the woes of the country. Good people did nothing and the result was the Holocaust. Are we so different today? Howard Dean, the powerful leader of the Democratic Party and former presidential candidate, is publicly demonizing “white Christians” and blaming them for the country’s woes. This blatant racist and anti-Christian statement was uttered by the leader of the self- described party of intellectuals. My guess is that most Berkeley leftists agree with him. Let us not judge others before we judge ourselves. There are more important things to do than to change the names of our towns and institutions to fit a changed revisionists view of history. I know we are in Berkeley but let’s try living in reality for a while. 

If the name of the school must be changed, I have a solution which may save money on stationary and signs and also satisfy malcontent MargueriteTalley-Hughes. Change it from Thomas Jefferson to George Jefferson. 

Michael Larrick 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Well, it’s time for Americans to hit the trail—the Oregon Trail. The Oregon Paper Trail. 

Please explain to me why Congress is so hot and anxious to circle the wagons and spend billions of dollars on voting machines that don’t work when they can follow the example of voting pioneers in Oregon and just have everyone mail in their votes. Why spend our hard-earned bucks on Diebold when we can chose the Pony Express instead? 

And here’s another Oregon (paper) Trail that needs to be looked at carefully. There was, according to prominent Republicans, a lot of cross-party vote switching going on in Florida. Oh really? Why is that? Abortion issues. Gay issues. “Moral” issues,” the Republicans tell us. But those same issues are present in Oregon too. Many Oregonians think a lot like Floridans regarding these issues. For instance, Oregon just passed an anti-gay-marriage ordinance. And a friend of mine who just moved there told me that she was surrounded by right-wing evangelical types. And yet despite all this potential for vote-switching, Kerry still won in Oregon.  

After noticing the pronounced differences between Oregon vote-switching patterns and Florida vote-switching patterns despite similarities in voter attitudes, it becomes obvious that we need to check out the Florida Trail too. However, in far too many cases, there isn’t any trail to check out. How sad for Americans. How convenient for Bush. 

Our George is always talking about how much he needs more money to buy weapons with. Well. If Bush really wanted to save more money to give to his scalawag friends in the weapons business, he would jump right on this here band wagon—or, in his words, “catapult the propaganda”—in favor of mail-in ballots. They are safe. They are accurate. They are cheap. 

When it comes to eliminating vote fraud, acting like a free country and saving tons and tons of money, the rest of America needs to dump those high-falutin’ lily-livered voting machine varmints in Washington and hit the Oregon Trail! 

Jane Stillwater 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It will be a beautiful peach of an Impeachment: the coming impeachment, trial, conviction and removal from office of President Bush and Vice President Cheney for their high crimes and misdemeanors against the American people and the United States Constitution.  

Predict the exact date of the coming final and complete collapse of the illegitimate Bush regime. Win big prizes: freedom and democracy for all Americans! Help end the hated Bush war on Iraq. Bring our boys and girls back home. Help end the illegitimate grip of Diebold Corporation and ES&S Corporation, two privately held right-wing run electronic voting machine manufacturers, on our elections, with their miscounting our votes in private with proprietary secret software. Create the return to honest elections with traditional hand-counted paper ballots. Help right our badly listing ship of state.  

Currently the corporate mainstream media is holding the Sword of Damocles over the continued existence of the Bush regime. When the corporate mainstream media finally tires of the Bush regimes endless monkeyshines, they will quickly pull the plug by broadcasting some of the truth about how the Bush gang stole the 2000 Presidential election in Florida, how Dick Cheney and his neo-con idiot buddies were complicit in letting the 9-11 terrorist attacks proceed as originally planned (the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) stated that they needed “a new Pearl Harbor” to implement their imperialistic plans to dominate the Middle East in the 21st century; some 52 warnings to the FAA about how the al Qaeda terrorists planned to use hijacked airliners as weapons, and the FAA just could not be bothered to simply seal off the airliners’ cockpits and thereby prevent any airliner hijackings), how the Bush gang told a pack of lies about Iraq and WMD before launching its illegal criminal war on the Iraqi people in March 2003 (see www.downingstreetmemo.com), how the Bush gang stole the 2004 Presidential election by having its thugs and technicians hack and rig electronically attack insecure Diebold and ES&S electronic voting machines and vote tabulating machines on November 2, 2004 and flipped several million Kerry votes into Bush votes, how the Bush administration funneled billions of taxpayer dollars into Halliburton Corporation with its infamous “no-bid” Iraq “reconstruction” contracts and how right-wing Texas energy corporations, such as Enron and El Paso Natural Gas, conspired to rig and game the California electrical energy market and steal billions of dollars from California ratepayers with the phony energy crisis.  

Any regime, which bases its continued existence upon lies, fear, election rigging and public complacency, will fall sooner or later. This illegitimate Bush regime will fall sooner than later. Help grease the skids for this coming collapse by getting the Impeachment Ball rolling. Hold an Impeachment Ball in your neighborhood, city, county or state. Have a Ball. Have an Impeachment Ball. Create your very own Im-Peach-Mint website. Watch the coming collapse of the Bush house of cards. Help pull the dark curtains of secrecy aside and reveal the inner machinations of this pathetic bunch of cowardly chicken-hawks. Bring on Impeachment. Bring it on.  

The winning date will be the day that the House Judiciary Committee approves articles of impeachment against President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.  

Pick out which media outlet broadcast will be the final straw that breaks the camel’s back, as it were. Will it be Air America Radio, Pacifica Radio Network, NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, CNN or perhaps even Fox?  

Submit your entry as a letter-to-the-editor to local newspapers, regional newspapers and national newspapers. Post it on your own personal web site. 

Submit your entry to progressive web sites. Submit your entry to reactionary right-wing web sites (thereby increasing their paranoia level). Submit your entry to the mainstream corporate media outlets. Note: This Impeachment Revolution will be televised. Mission accomplished.  

James K. Sayre 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It isn’t quite clear to what equality H. L. Blash (Letters, June 7) aspires, or how he or she would like the “playing field” evened. What is clear, however, is that H. L. Blash could be outdone by a freshman student of rhetoric or informal logic. My goodness, we could almost pick and choose among most of the so-called informal fallacies of logic...say, non causa pro cause or petitio principii (the latter commonly known as “begging the question,” which bears no relation to the way in which journalists and talking heads use the expression) in the argument presented. We’ll leave it to H. L. Blash to look up, and perhaps even ponder, these terms in regard to his or her protestation. 

What I find offensive in his or her plaint is not necessarily the implied demand that women on Medicaid be given medications (and, if they exist, why not?) to improve their sex lives so as to receive treatment comparable to the dispensation of Viagra. And neither am I entertaining the possibility here that one unstated (O.K., subtext, we in Berkeley seem to be fond of this term) intent of the letter was to whine about taxpayer’s dollars going for what might be deemed by him or her for something to which layabouts on Medicaid are not entitled. 

What really offends me is the silliness of the implication (subtext!) that men and women are physiologically identical sexually. I see this silliness as part of the lingering fog of critical theory through which people still wander, even though they may never have heard of, in fact, critical theory. Some of us...especially in Berkeley!...know that the intellectual revolution of, say, the years 1965 to 1985 produced volumes of fascinating and challenging theories, pronouncements, and ideas. Some of these were based on critiques of political economy and difficult to disprove (who can forget Marcuse’s analysis of how the state minimizes the opportunities for sexual opportunity in order to keep the gears of industry grinding?), some were based on the linguistic movements that sprang up around the turn of the century, and convinced us, for example, that it was tres degoute to enjoy a novel for its narrative features, and feminist critical theory bought into the idea, counter-intuitive even at that time, that the sexual behavior of men and women was largely and most importantly constructed by environment....nurture....pretty much to the exclusion of nature. Hence, their enchantment with Sartre and his pronouncement that “A baby is a mere puddle of vomit,” i.e., a blank slate waiting to be shaped by the vagaries of environment. Parenthetically, think with what outrage lingering adherents of feminine critical theory would act if one were to attribute, in the manner of Christian fundamentalists, homosexuality to a life-choice, with the implication that that life-choice had been environmentally shaped.  

Even at the time, science knew this thesis to be way off the mark, but many scientists were shouted down, ostracized, and labeled as social Darwinists. Today, we have the benefit of genetic and cognitive science to provide hard data to push the “nature” argument back to its much smaller, though justifiable, position. There is an explosion of research in these fields today (most of the researchers are women) providing the data that delineate the “hard-wired” differences between men and woman....sexually and otherwise. One might pick up the latest issue of Scientifiic American, for example, and read about the intriguing discoveries of the differences in our amigdallae, and the consequent differences in behavior of men and women. 

Finally, there are many woes of women, gynaecologically speaking, with which men are not bedeviled.. But I can’t think of many that actually prevent a women from having copulative sex, except perhaps vaginismus, for which treatments exist. Men, on the other hand, H. L. Blash must know, almost always need to achieve and maintain an erection to have an orgasm. Copulation for women may be a wonderful, or ho-hum, or terrible experience. But nothing happens to them, with age, that prevents them from having a go at it. The obverse situation in men, I believe, is why (whoever) has decided that drugs like Viagra should be paid for by some medical insurers, justifiably or not. 

Latin language courses always begin with what the textbooks call “conjugal rites” (How many thousands of seventh-graders have had a giggle with that one?). I recommend to H. L. Blash a course in conjugal rites as the phrase is more typically connoted. And remember, begging a question will always invite a question from those who are paying close attention! 

Peter Hubbard