Letters to the Editor

Friday August 12, 2005


Editors, Daily Planet: 

John Koenigshofer is wrong to say that “No right turn on red light” signs reduce pedestrian safety (Letters, Aug. 9).  

Most drivers making a right turn at a red light glide right through the crosswalk, looking to their left to see if cars are coming but not looking to their right to see if pedestrians are coming.  

I was once almost hit when I was crossing Cedar Street at Shattuck Avenue on the green light. Someone was barreling down Cedar at high speed, went right through the crosswalk just looking to his left, slowed down just enough so he could stop if he saw traffic coming from the left, and made a right turn without ever stopping for the red light. He never even saw that I was in the crosswalk just to his right and that he missed me by inches.  

This is an extreme case, but anyone who walks in Berkeley has had the experience of being afraid to cross on a green light because a driver who wants to make a right turn on the red is just looking to his left for cars, not looking both ways for pedestrians.  

If we want to make Berkeley safer and more comfortable for pedestrians, the city should keep putting up “No right turn on red light” signs at dangerous intersections.  

Charles Siegel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I would like to invite all Berkeley citizens to join the striking Berkeley Honda workers and their supporters at a rally this Saturday, Aug. 13, between 1 and 2 p.m., in front of the dealership at Shattuck and Parker. You are also encouraged to join the picket line any time between 6:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Our continuing presence is having a very damaging effect on Berkeley Honda’s business, but we need to keep up the pressure. 

If you can’t picket, you can write letters to the dealership (2600 Shattuck, Berkeley 94704) and to your local papers; if you can’t write letters, you can call the dealership (843-3704); and if you can’t manage any of those things, you can still do the most important thing of all: take your business elsewhere until Berkeley Honda settles with the union. 

We have the opportunity to make a real difference in the outcome of this strike, and to stand up for the values so many of us in Berkeley profess to believe in. This will entail some inconvenience; doing the right thing usually does. 

It may take a while to make our point. The new owners at Berkeley Honda are stubborn, and they are calculating that before long, the tide will reverse and they will gradually rebuild their customer base. And we can assume that anti-labor businesses throughout the country, who reserve a special contempt for Berkeley, are cheering them on. 

Let’s disappoint them all. Let’s win. 

Judy Shelton 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In the Daily Planet issue of July 22-25, I read of a giant cache of weapons; high-powered rifles, and even machine guns found by accident by firemen in Berkeley. Yes, machine guns in Berkeley! 

In the same week, in your paper, I read the story of the young woman in Berkeley shot and killed by her friend. 

To me these stories were of such importance that I thought there would be further coverage by your paper supplying more information such as the following: 

Who owned those weapons? How did they get into Berkeley? Who has been arrested and charged with what? So far nothing further has been reported.  

And with regard to the Willis- Starbuck girl the only follow-up story I read was a very brief account saying that the boy who shot her had not been found and that some unidentified person alleged that the girl asked her friend “to bring the heat.” 

Surely by now other eye witnesses to the shooting have been found and your paper could report on just what was said that led the girl to call for help and what University football players (if any) were involved. 

These stories in my opinion are more important than the size of some tomato plant in a backyard of Berkeley which is the front-page story of the weekend edition of Aug. 5-8. 

Max Macks 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a giant black hole of money and energy that robs from our ability to address other pressing issues. As an American Jew, I resent having to spend so much time not letting establishment American Jewish organizations speak in my name.  

I further resent how Israeli occupation policies are corrupting the Jewish communities, religious or otherwise, in this country and making Israel an unlivable pioneer fort on the prairie. Yes, I too would like other issues to be addressed by the Peace and Justice Commission, but given how absolutely the U.S. and Israel are intertwined, this is a pipe dream.  

Sadly, Thom Seaton’s stew of defensive and ill-informed finger-pointing bodes ill for the direction of the Peace and Justice Commission. He asks about Rwanda and Darfur, why not the same for these disasters as for Israeli and Palestine? He disingenuously asks why his resolution for investigating the deaths of all Americans in Israel and Palestine is so different than calling for the examination of Rachel Corrie’s murder specifically? The implication is that everything is like everything else, therefore what? Let’s not examine anything or examine everything. Either way, the idea is to exhaust any efforts to examine something specific. And why examine Israel and Palestine specifically?  

Well, as Tony Judt said in a recent New York Review of Books article, and I paraphrase, “When you fancy yourself as a modern western democracy, asking why others are not examining Sudan or Morroco, is hardly edifying,” particularly when this self-proclaimed democracy is heinously occupying another people.  

When this heinous occupation is, further, being funded to the tune of around $3 billion, economic and military aid, by U.S. taxpayers yearly, (we are not even talking about indirect aid, loan guarantees, trade agreements that might add another %5 billion or so a year) things begin to clear up. Israel is almost like a 51st state in terms of its relationship to the U.S. How much are we supporting Sudan this year? Morocco? Everything is not the same, the relationship between Israel and Palestine is the relationship between prison guards and prisoners.  

Rachel Corrie was killed by the organized Israeli military carrying out a policy that is, in no little part, funded by the U.S. Can the same be said for para-military attacks by disparate Palestinian factions without any central command? What would be the point of such an investigation? Would the U.S. give less money to Hamas? Islamic Jihad, or perhaps more money to Israel? Can the same U.S. support be shown for the Sudanese government or the Hutu genociders? Again, no one is arguing that these things are really sucky bad, but we can argue about how much we might be able to actually do about any particular situation.  

Thus when Seaton asks why should we look mostly to U.S. supported states this seems almost like a Monty Python skit question, imagine that. I’m saying this slowly ... because those are the states we can most influence. I know, I know, this is passe, and I should be all hot and riled about Cuba and everywhere else that the U.S. likes to hate, but I will not let Seaton, Gertz or others try to confuse what is relatively simple, shall we review: The occupation is the root problem, unalloyed U.S. support (the only super power) necessarily will focus attention on Israel, Israel itself calls attention to itself as the “only democracy in the middle east” and our tax dollars feed this terrible situation. If Seaton or Gertz can make similar claims, as if they actually care, for any other peace and justice scenario, have at it.  

Robert Lipton 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A. Charlene Matthews’ comments in the Aug. 9-11 issue angered me greatly. The only question that remains unanswerable, Ms. Matthews, is why are guns the national totem and why are so few people in this country willing to give them up?  

For your information as well, if you call 911 from a cell phone, you get the CHP. Your comments reflect an attitude that blames the victim. Perhaps the only thing Meleia did wrong was to trust the wrong man, and who hasn’t done that? I have no idea what you mean by “these types of problems,” but I suggest that you consider a forum to discuss the disgusting availability of guns in this society. 

Batiya Jacobs 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In response to A. Charlene Matthews’ letter regarding the death of Meleia Willis-Starbuck, and many other similar commentaries, I would like to say that I am getting tired of this line of questioning. As a friend of Meleia’s, it only adds salt to the wound of losing a friend to hear people attempt to blame her in her own death. Not only is it ludicrous to blame the victim, but it is entirely unrealistic to believe that the police would pay any mind to a phone call reporting disrespectful young men. Judging from my own experiences, the police would have brushed her off and come to the scene far later, if they came at all. I have heard and read all kinds of commentary on the death of a friend and yet hardly any of it has been about the real issues. Why is no one talking about the presence of guns in the streets and the ease with which they can be accessed? What about gun control? Why is no one concerned about the way men treat women? It has gotten to the point where many young women feel physically threatened simply walking down the street, why is this OK? What about the fact that many young people see violence as their only way of solving conflict?  

I don’t see the point in attempting to blame a dead victim, because this line of reasoning does not change the facts of the case nor will it prevent this type of crime from reoccurring. We need to look at and take action on the core issues: gun control, violence among young people (much of which is directed at women), and finally the attitude of some young men who feel that it is their right and privileged to disrespect women—which is an act of violence in and of itself.  

For more information about gun violence, please go to www.bradycampaign.org and www.millionmommarch.org  

Sarah Fong 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am responding to the “Little Rock Redux” commentary in the Aug. 5 Daily Planet. In this letter, Ms. Haynes Sanstad compares the ongoing dispute between Beth El and concerned neighbors, and the resulting yard signs, to the civil rights struggle of Little Rock in the 1950s. Sanstad, as an African American Jew, speaks of the impact on her children who pass by these yard signs and feel threatened and unwanted in this neighborhood. She implores her children to “hold their heads high.” 

That Sanstad would compare the dispute over the development of Beth El in a residential neighborhood to the events of tle Rock belittles the efforts of the Civil Rights Movement. The Civil Rights Movement sought an end to Jim Crow racial subordination backed by a web of state laws, intense public hostility, and physical violence intended to terrify. Little Rock ultimately required federal troops. Sanstad’s comparison casts Beth El as a victim of neighbors motivated primarily by racial bigotry or group antipathy. 

As a neighborhood member who has a yard sign in front of my house, my intent is to inform the community, including the congregants of Beth El, that the leadership of that institution has not acted in good faith in drafting a parking plan that addresses our concerns and that the parking plans recently submitted to the city do not reflect or respect an agreement that Beth El signed with concerned representatives of this community. The yard signs serve to bring public attention to what has been a long and hard fought battle to have Beth El rework the proposed parking plan. The signs call for Beth El to “honor their agreements.” 

It is inflammatory nonsense to interpret this as an effort motivated by racism and anti-Semitism instead of valid neighborhood concerns. Sanstad, as a member of Beth El’s board, should not resort to such hyperbole. It imperils civil conversation, much less productive discourse. I would hope that Beth El would publicly reject the implications intended by Sanstad. 

Perhaps Sanstad should reframe the lessons she teaches her children as they walk Oxford, past my home. She should talk to them about the importance of hood discourse, of community planning, of consideration and respect for neighbors and their concerns. She should tell them that many of the members of LOCCNA, the community group that has negotiated with Beth El, are themselves Jewish. That often, within any community, valid disagreements arise. What she certainly can not claim is that this has been a battle to integrate and bring civil rights to an oppressed and subordinated group of people in the Berkeley Hills. If she has any doubt, may I suggest the family rent Eyes on the Prize and compare the experience. 

Deborah Drickersen Cortez 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Your readers should know that the toll house cookies at Nabolom are really good! 

Alice Jorgensen 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Why I’m not boycotting Walgreens: I ride a bicycle. 

Now that all the car fascists have turned away I’ll give the rest of you a few hints. Although most of Walgreens stuff is cheap crap and the deceptive ads and bait and switch routines are annoying, you can still get vitamins and milk a lot cheaper than either the Bowling Alley, Holier than thou Foods, or Mafia’s R Us. And you should never buy anything that is not on sale, they don’t deserve it. 

Now that the yuppies have turned away, I guess I’ll keep riding the bike until the Save Ourselves From Ourselves fascists make it illegal to ride sans helmet, airbag, and whatever else they deem necessary. Of course then I’ll just start driving my diesel. Now before all you MTBE eco-morons go crying to mommy you should know I’ve already installed a diesel catalytic converter (already made mandatory in Europe) that makes it cleaner than most of the guzzelene driven cars out there. On yet another tangent it should be reiterated that you get more miles per barrel of oil from a diesel which means the terrorists whether they be psuedo-muslim or “christian” (and you know who you are) have less money to blow things up. Oh yeah I’ll still be going to Walgreens and parking at the Bowling alley just to annoy them all. Rant done ... for now. 

Carl Max 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m writing in support of the proposed ballot initiative to lower the voting age to 17 for School Board elections in Berkeley. It seems that opposition to this proposal centers around the basic fallacy that 17-year-olds, in their puerile ignorance, will simply mimic the opinions and votes of their parents and teachers. As a Berkeley teacher for the past 23 years, I’ve met very few of these aforementioned lemmings. Instead, I’ve been blessed with students who are informed, intelligent, and open-minded. 

These are the people with the best first hand knowledge of the challenges our schools face as well as potential solutions to problems. They are more than entitled to vote for trustees whose decisions directly impact them. The Daily Planet is saturated with the bombast of pundits offering their remedies for what ails Berkeley youth. Try empowerment. All of us may learn something. 

Tim Moellering 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It’s very interesting how, when challenged, the Zionists always illustrate the old Arab proverb: “The excuse is worse than the crime.” 

Thom Seaton, echoing Zorro, brags about how he tried to justify the murder of Rachel Corrie on the City Council. Then he brags about his friendship with the U.S.-funded Cuban resistance, known for blowing up civilian Cuban airliners. Not satisfied with that self-exposure, he then brags about his support for the murderous occupation of Iraq. 

I can see why a Jewish person like Joanna Graham would wonder how far such people would go, when they don’t hesitate to advertise their support for all this violence. 

Clearly Thom has not the slightest interest in supporting peace anywhere. 

Mark Richey 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Unusual Sights 

The posters BART has borrowed from London urging riders‚ to be “Bomb Detectors” and play a part in the so-called war on terror may only serve to keep its riders uneasy. 

Destruction by fanatics like McVeigh is uncommon; suicide is not normal no matter who does it or what their motive; terrorist acts however frequent are by their nature extraordinary. When President Bush insists that a struggle against violent extremists is really a war he effectively normalized the abnormal.  

Before anyone take the action given on the poster they should understand the enabling condition. The poster tells what to do “If you see something unusual.” Presumably hearing, smelling or feeling something unusual is OK. It also implies that it’s okay if you see anything uncommon, abnormal, extraordinary or simply something you’ve never seen before you can just ignore it. You only have to take steps if it’s unusual.  

The inanity of the poster rests on the obvious fact that what you see as unusual may very well appear to your neighbor as familiar and entirely harmless.  

When the unusual is in the eye of the beholder, terrorism wins. 

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thom Seaton’s well-intentioned defense of his tenure on Berkeley’s Peace and Justice Commission overlooks several salient points. First, he assumes that the singular anti-Israel focus of the commission’s resolutions is inconsistent with a true liberal or progressive vision of fair and impartial conflict resolution. In fact, regarding the expulsion of Jews as a necessity to achieve peace has a long and respectable intellectual pedigree in progressive circles. Indeed, one of our own most illustrious native daughters, a Jew by heritage, a pioneer of contemporary lesbianism and surely a progressive icon for all times, Gertrude Stein, once employed this exact line of reasoning in proposing that Adolf Hitler deserved the Noble Peace Prize: 

“I say that Hitler ought to have the peace prize because he is removing all elements of contest and struggle from Germany. By driving out the Jews and the democratic and Left element, he is driving out everything that conduces to activity. That means peace.” (New York Times Magazine, May 6, 1934). 

From all accounts, Stein lived comfortably through the years of the Nazi occupation of France, often extolling the leader of the Vichy government, Marshal Petain, as a George Washington-like figure, as many progressives, Jewish or otherwise, today proudly view Yassir Arafat as a point of cogent comparison. 

Yet there is a deeper point at play here. The whole concept of a small city Peace and Justice Commission really is the love child of a certain species of Leftist politics left over from the 1960s and now reaching a characteristically immature middle-age. In many ways, the Peace and Justice Commission represents a peculiar fusion of old time Quaker-like pacifism with au courant multi-cultural Universalism. Face it, Thom, this is their baby, their first-born, their pride and joy, hence they must assume the privileged role of the Nomenklatura in all its resolutions. As the Dr. Frankensteins of Peace and Justice, there is an axiomatic correlation between the opinions of the commission’s progenitors and fellow travelers and the very meaning of the terms “peace and justice.” It’s simply not open to question or rational analysis and Thom wastes his valuable time in any attempt to do so. 

In fact, in the last analysis, isn’t the whole Peace and Justice Commission a sort of theater of the absurd at its core, a sophomoric Model United Nations for gray beards, where Bambi takes on and defeats Godzilla, where simpleminded early childhood make-believe morphs into an animated cartoon-like commission episodically issuing meaningless utopian resolutions for “peace and justice?” 

Edna Spector 





Dear President Bush: 

I’m eagerly waiting news that you’ve agreed to meet with Cindy Sheehan once you’ve cleared the brush at your Crawford ranch. I understand this is how you spend the greater part of your vacation. How lovely that you can enjoy a five-week hiatus from annoying problems at the White House. Incidentally, from what I read, you’ve taken more vacations than any other president on record.) 

While you’ve frequently stated that you don’t read newspapers or watch television news, I assume you’ve heard from your staff that the anti-war activist, Cindy Sheehan, has been camped, in boiling sun, on the road outside your ranch. You’ve heard, of course, that Ms. Sheehan’s 24-year old son, Casey, was killed in Iraq last year. For this reason, she’s hoping that you’ll come out and meet with her to explain why Casey’s death was justified. So far, only two senior officials have met with her. She’s been turned back by guards and warned that she must vacate your property. Evidently she’d be an embarrassment when you’re visited by Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleeza Rice. I fervently hope she doesn’t waiver in her determination to speak with you, Mr. President, because this mother represents thousands of other mothers who have shared her loss and known the pain of learning that their sons have also paid the ultimate price for a war that has no justification, that has brought death and unspeakable carnage to a small nation that never, ever posed a threat to this country. 

So, Mr. President, I plead with you to take the short walk from Prairie Chapel (the quaint name of your ranch) and accord Ms. Sheehan the courtesy of meeting with her. 

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am very troubled by the personal attacks by Joanna Graham in the commentary section from the week of Aug. 2. I applaud the commentary of Lawrence W. White in the Aug. 5 edition for its attempt to educate and not simply shout down the opposition. 

As a Rabbi, with a compassionate heart, I really like to think (and really try) to see both sides of the issue. Looking back to the history of the Mideast even before 1948, I understand that both the Israelis and the Palestinians have arguments that can be made in their favor and criticisms that can be leveled about sad behavior with terrible consequences. In too many discussions of the Mideast people are so self righteous about their position while displaying tremendous ignorance of the entire scope of the problem. 

People in Berkeley protect their own right to speak without respecting their neighbor’s right. Free speech to some means shouting down their neighbor rather than speaking, then listening. The attack on John Gertz is ridiculous. I know this honorable man personally and none of what Joanna Graham insinuated in her overblown rhetoric, that he might be doing, was true. 

My question is why would the Daily Planet print it? In a community that is about 25 percent Jewish, the Planet seems to have the idea that most of us support the position that Israel is solely at fault. This is untrue. And I don’t think many of us support hate speech either. I hope we are all in favor of a discussion that acknowledges and knows what has really gone before but wants to find a path that we can all walk together. One of my children’s teachers advocated that my daughter (the child of Rabbis) go to a rally for “Peace in the Middle East.” I was astonished that she didn’t name it what it was, a pro-Palestianian/bash Israel Rally, but also that when questioned she had no real knowledge about how things have gotten to the state they are in—meaning what is the real history. So many in Berkeley are real knee-jerk liberals. I am a liberal, but I like to think that I actually think. What good does it do any of us to have you print the kind of hateful attacks that you do? How are fair-minded people to come to the table if you just inflame the issue? Perhaps it would be interesting to have an opinion page where you have one historian from each side lay out the history and the issues. Inform rather than inflame. And then perhaps we will just have to agree to disagree, but will have an enlarged understanding of the issue and how we all come to it. We may be the home of the Free Speech Movement but we are probably the most intolerant place in the U.S. when faced with a differing view. 

And also it wouldn’t hurt to remember that each of us gets the right to speak but that we only represent ourselves, unless we are elected officials and speaking in that capacity. Many in Berkeley feel that they have the only right opinion and that everyone should believe as they do or they are due only contempt and to be dismissed as fools. 

Rabbi Sara Shendelman