Letters to the Editor

Friday August 19, 2005


Editors, Daily Planet: 

The loudmouth chicken-hawks criticize Cindy Sheehan because her cause is being supported by pro-peace groups such as MoveOn.org, Democracy for America, and TrueMajority. When a person stands up on her own initiative, arising from her own pain and moral outrage, it is wonderful that other people respond and stand with her. We are all connected; our survival as Americans and as humans on this Earth depends upon our mutual compassion and support of each other. 

If Cindy stood all alone, the hate-mongers would call her a “kook.” If she stands with others, they call her a “dupe.” Their hateful slurs show these media puppets to be hollow, cynical, limited individuals. Cindy is outraged at the callous and fatal exploitation of her son. She expresses what most parents feel, that Bush’s government ruthlessly disregards the lives of our children. 

Bruce Joffe 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

President Cindy Sheehan. President Sheehan. What more could America ns want in a president? She’s smart, courageous, thoughtful and humanistic. She wants to bring home our American troops from Iraq now. She has called for the Impeachment of President Bush. Cindy Sheehan says that we can end the threat of terrorism by withdrawing American troops from Iraq and getting the Israelis to withdraw from Palestine. 

When Bush and Cheney are Impeached, Tried, Convicted and Removed, Cindy Sheehan can be appointed president and “a liberal to be named later” can become vice president. I m sure that Cindy will be happy to pick a fine vice president. 

James K. Sayre 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a member of Beth El, and long time resident of the Live Oak Park Area, I wish to thank my neighbor Alan Gould, and all my other neighbors, for their continuing support our right to exist, congregate, worship, educate our children, and provide social services to the community. 

During the years that I lived next to Live Oak Park I found that most residents have off-street parking a nd therefore did not have any need to park on the street. Even residents with off-street parking qualified for a residential parking permit that allowed them to exceed the two-hour restriction applicable to all cars without the permit. The parking situati on for residents is pretty good and this not likely to change after Beth El moves several blocks to the new location. 

I now live near the North Berkeley BART station on a street that does not have any daily parking restrictions! Shocking as this may seem, our block is completely parked up by daily commuters! People park their cars for as long as they want. Later they get back in their cars and drive them away. After they leave, somebody else can park in their spot. This daily occurrence does not bother m e. The movement of people in and out of the area is a sign that our vibrant community is thriving; and is not experiencing the type of large scale urban decay prevalent in Detroit where there is an abundance of free parking now that the majority of the po pulation has abandoned the community. 

I support Alan Gould’s suggestion that we concentrate on more important matters such as educating our children and living in harmony with the environment. 

David Lerman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regar ding an advertisement for Ringling Bros. appearing in the Daily Planet: 

It’s disappointing to see your complicity in animal abuse, even if it is a paid ad. We are supposed to become more aware and educated over time; it has been well documented as to the abuse and deprivations suffered by animals in circuses in the pursuit of shallow “entertainment.” This attitude and its acceptance needs to be halted; it might just make us better human beings. 

David Horn 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I commend your Aug. 12 article on KPFA by Matthew Artz. He cites several sources in addition to those named in the release which gave a much broader perspective on events at the station. This differed from a San Francisco newspaper that quoted the press release an d the GM who is advised by his attorney to comment as little as possible.  

Some respondents believe that the complaints of sexual harassment are a cover for a much broader objective, i.e., to avoid complying with the decision to move Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now!” to the 7 a.m. hour as mandated by the 2004 LSB. (I understand that the current GM decided (and later rescinded the decision) to move “Democracy Now!” to the 7 p.m., hour thus disrupting all the 7 p.m. shows including the popular “Africa Today” public affairs program produced by Walter Turner.) The question who really controls decisions or “who governs?” is still being contested at the reorganized KPFA-Pacifica and the staff is a powerful contestant.  

The Berkeley Daily Planet makes it clear th at individual complaints of sexual harassment are not the only driving force in the controversy although some workers such as Lemlem Rijio and Sasha Lily are covering themselves with this umbrella and others’ complaints. Their complaints, I’m told, stem f rom the GM’s failure to praise their performances and suggested that they may not be well-selected for some of the tasks they are attempting to perform. Performance evaluation, essential in all industries, may never have been done and is strongly resisted at KPFA except for the staff driven GM evaluation scheduled for later this year. We discussed calling performance evaluations “performance enhancement reports” as a member of the Program Council. This was done to overcome resistance to staff evaluations by staff and their presumed supporters. Again, thanks for actually working on the KPFA story that is very important to many listeners and readers.  

Willie Thompson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Sept. 23, 2000, a mountain bike race was held in Briones Regional Park, near Walnut Creek, California (see http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/ebrpd16). A 37-year-old man crashed and ended up in a coma for a long time. I asked the Parks District and the race sponsor what eventually happened to him, but they refused to tell me. I finally found out yesterday: He ended up brain damaged and divorced. 

Both the East Bay Regional Park District and the race organizer deny responsibility, and refuse to talk about this incident, and the utter irresponsibility of allowing mountain biking races in wildlife habitat, in public parks, and in places not suited and designed for racing. Serious injuries and deaths from this destructive sport have become an almost weekly occurrence. Meanwhile, the International Mountain Bicycling Association continues to lobby hard in Congress for mountain biking, for allowing bikes in wilderness, and for promoting mountain biking among children (they would like the entire nation to celebrate a “Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day”)! 

It’s hi gh time that we put a halt to this abuse and sacrifice of our natural areas and of our young people. Mountain biking accelerates erosion, creates V-shaped ruts in trails, kills small animals and plants on and next to the trail, and drives wildlife and oth er trail users off the trails and out of the parks. What’s good about that? 

Mike Vandeman 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

This is with regards to the article by Richard Brenneman entitled, “No Charges Filed Yet in Firearms Case.” I feel it nec essary to correct some errors, some omissions, and some pejorative terminology. 

Possession of fully automatic firearms is only a violation of federal law if the individual possessing that firearm did not pay the tax, have the firearm registered, and have passed a criminal background check. For more information research the 1932 National Firearms Act (NFA) and the 1968 Gun Control Act (GCA). 

Although BATF is now under the Department Homeland Security, it was previously under the Treasury Department. The 1932 NFA did not prohibit ownership of firearms but did establish a $200 tax.  

However, California state law does not allow individual to possess fully automatic firearms. A person must be a registered FFL Class 3 dealer to possess and sell fully automat ic firearms to eligible people. That is why in California it is illegal to own firearms but in states such as Arizona and Nevada is completely legal. 

I object to the author’s use of the term “assault weapons.” It is pejorative term for an inanimate objec t. Under California state law, the battlefield rifle of WWII (M1 Garand) which semi-automatically fires the venerable 30-06 cartridge is not an assault weapon. Under the same California state law, the semi-automatic version of the battlefield rifle of Vie tnam (AR-15) which fires a puny .22 caliber bullet is classified as an assault weapon. The difference between the two rifles is that one has a classic wood stock (M1 Garand) and the other has a black plastic stock with “conspicuously protruding” pistol gr ip. If I had to go to battle, I would prefer the venerable M1 Garand over the AR-15 any day of the week and twice on Sunday. 

Vicki Weaver who was standing on the front porch of her home at Ruby Ridge (cradling her baby in her arms, no less) was shot in t he head by FBI sniper, Lon Horiuchi, over this $200 tax. Agent Horiuchi later went on to participate in the massacre at Waco ... also over this $200 tax. None of the agents of the FBI or BATF who were responsible for the murder of these innocents have eve r been brought to justice. 

Alec Dawson 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing regarding Becky O’Malley’s Aug. 12 editorial, “Crying Wolf Can Backfire,” which states that “religious institutions in Berkeley, particularly the large ones with regional drawing power like Beth El. . . . should remember that they are guests in this city which is our home, and that we are supporting their religious mission, even if we re not ourselves believers, by providing them with streets to park on while exe mpting them from paying property taxes.” What a shocking statement! I have to wonder how you arrived at these distinctions. Just how did you decide that Beth El is too large? And, in your mind, just how pure does a membership have to be to qualify as a lo cal institution?  

The idea that Congregation Beth El and other religious institutions in Berkeley are “guests” of yours, who need to learn to behave themselves, is shocking, offensive, and just plain wrong. In the first place, the vast majority of Beth E l members live in Berkeley—just like you. We are not “guests” of yours; we are a vital part of the cultural and religious life of our city. Don’t you realize that our churches, schools, fire houses, parks and police stations are the social threads that bi nd together the commercial, industrial and residential components of our city? Zoning and tax considerations are provided in consideration of these essential community elements.  

Beth El has been at the corner of Arch and Vine for over 50 years. My husba nd and I have lived here since the early ‘60s and have enjoyed many of the benefits of our residence here. Our home was saved by Berkeley firefighters, our children played in city parks and were educated in Berkeley schools, and our family continues to th rive in the nurturing arms of the Beth El community. I completely reject the notion that Beth El, or any other of our religious institutions or seminaries should be considered “guests” in their own community. Beth El is a fundamental fact of this city’s h istory and contributes daily to the goodness of our lives. Before issuing authoritative moral mandates from the editorial page, please spend some time in the company of congregants, students, officers and residents to learn how things “are” before preaching about how they “should” be.   

Shirley Issel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A contributor to the Daily Planet’s letters section personally challenged me to prove the statement that the Palestinian Authority has used its schools and TV stations to teach children that the best thing they can grow up to be is a suicide bomber. 

To see the evidence, log on to www.honestreporting.com, enter “relentless” in the search box, and buy the $24.95 video by that name. 

As I appreciate the chance to make this evidence well-known, I won’t expect an apology from the previous writer.  

David Altschul 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Daily Planet again treats us to Middle East “history” lessons straight from the annals of Arab propaganda, an d bearing little, if any, resemblance to actual facts. This time the lessons come from Schmavonian and Hardesty. I am not going to refute them, since I assume others will, but rather note that people are better served by learning their history from source s other than a tabloid that chooses not to do even rudimentary fact checking. I once met with Linda Maio, and asked her why she chose to make anti-Israelism a policy of the City of Berkeley. She professed to know next to nothing about the Israel/Palestine conflict. She told me, however, that someone had given her a book on the subject, and that she planned to read it one of these days. So why the anti-Israelism? No answer, except the obvious. It was a cynical sop to her radical base. So, this is what Ms. Maio and the old Peace and Justice have wrought. Day after day of incessant wrangling between the parties’ supporters in the Daily Planet, with roughly half the commentaries and letters devoted to the subject. Hasn’t this city any more immediate problems to solve, Ms. Maio, than a far away conflict of which you professedly know nothing? 

John Gertz 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing regarding Ms. O’Malley’s Aug. 12 editorial. If parking is what troubles some members of LOCCNA so much, let’s lo ok at the facts. 

Beth El, not LOCCNA as erroneously reported in Diane Tokugawa’s Aug. 9 letter to the Daily Planet, initiated an optional environmental impact report (EIR) that was completed and filed with the City of Berkeley in 2000. Among the many thi ngs assessed by the two engineering firms that did the required studies was parking. Engineers evaluated parking on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings, peak periods of Beth El operations. Assessments were done when Beth El operated at Arch and Vine and Netivot Shalom held Saturday morning services at the JCC at Walnut and Rose. 

This is what the EIR found. On Saturday mornings there were, on average, 301 surplus, unused parking spaces within a mile of the property at 1301 Oxford St., and 78 surplus spa ces within one block. On Friday nights, there were 83 surplus spaces within one block. This does not count the 23 spots on the frontage of the 1301 Oxford St. property or spaces on private property in the neighborhood. I suspect that many Daily Planet rea ders would be happy to have even 25 percent of those parking spaces available on their own Berkeley blocks.  

In the parking management plan approved by the City of Berkeley, Congregation Beth El is committed to using no more than 50 percent of the unused spaces on the public streets in an area defined by the city. If we exceed that amount, we have to make other plans. So, for example, at the block level, the parking issue is likely to come down to this: sharing up to 50 percent of the 78-83 parking spaces that are currently unused, perhaps, a dozen times a year. Frankly, the furor over parking seems to be much ado about very little. 

Katherine Haynes Sanstad 

First Vice President,  

Congregation Beth El 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It’s heartening to read Phillip Maldari, co-host of KPFA’s morning news program, respond to charges of sexist behavior against General Manager Campanella by saying, “I’m astounded that a leftist political organization like this one is so ignorant of the importance of tak ing seriously sexual harassment on the job” (Daily Planet, Aug.16) 

Gee Phil, if you are so all-fired upset by sexual harassment, why don’t you, Barbara Lubin, and Dennis Bernstein, on either KPFA News or Flashpoints, discuss the gender apartheid and hono r murder so prevalent amongst Pacifica’s Palestinian pets? And have you no words of condemnation for your buddy, Bernstein, who once again is being accused of sexism by a former female co-host of Flashpoints? 

On another matter, I think it’s appropriate t o respond to Michael Hardesty, master of Middle East historical fiction, who implied because of my support for Israel that I was a disloyal U.S. citizen. Hardesty wrote (Aug. 7), “If you really are such a great Zionist, Spitzer, go live in Israel.” I woul d like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Hardesty for assisting me in taking a trip down Nostalgia Lane as when I protested the Vietnam War, I remember right-wing bystanders urging me to go live in Russia.  

Question, Mr. Hardesty: Were you one of the vermillion-necked folks urging that I and my fellow protesters move to Moscow? Anyhow, thanks so much for the memories, to say nothing of the levity! 

Dan Spitzer 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Gerald Schmavonian’s op-ed (“Some Myths Are Dangerous,” Aug. 16-18) inadvertently makes two things clear: (1) the far left has replaced the far right as the most important source of anti-Semitism in the United States; and (2) what really sets the left’s teeth on edge is the fact that Isra el refuses to accept the notion that there is virtue in cowardice when faced with the constant threat of violence.  

Eric Tremont 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I don’t intend to participate in the pissing contest about whether the Daily Planet is anti-Semitic, and I don’t claim to be knowledgeable about the Beth El situation, but I want to point out that David Spieler (Letters, Aug. 16) is factually very wrong about Nazi Germany. Spieler states: “If you remember Germany in the ‘30s the Nazis were n’t anti-Semitic when they started out.”  

Well, I was a German Jew when Hitler came to power, and I know from personal observation that the troubles started immediately. Some relatives were promptly denied the right to practice their professions, the Naz is having been helped to power by Aryan competitors. Similarly, an uncle who owned a successful business fled the country on the first day, knowing that he would be a prime target. Another uncle was picked up by the Gestapo within days and thoroughly beat en up. 

Hitler’s Mein Kampf was written long before he came to power and reeked of anti-Semitism. Also, Jewish cabinet members had been assassinated by Nazis during the ‘20s. 

I feel embarrassed to be defended from anti-Semitism by someone as uninformed a s Spieler. 

Gilbert Bendix 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Salinas Prison lock-down is highly disturbing, to all family members who have loved ones there. The continual lock-downs are state wide. Why are families tolerating this type of m ental torture to their loved ones? Lock-downs plummet the inmates into deeper mental illness, slow down their court cases and cause great stress among their children and wives. Families have been forced to travel hundreds of miles. Salinas Valley Prison h as been locked down for four months. The inmates cannot call home, mail is held up. The inmates report horrible chaos. The guards are not processing their 602 appeals, and are forcing them to drop them, through coercive means. The inmates are depressed, d ue to the separation from their families by telephone and visits denied.  

Salinas Valley is in a state of emergency, in political defiance, there is truly a crisis in effect. This is the same prison, that went without water for days, because the water th ey had be drinking was poisonous. This lock-down is worse than usual. Two guards were recently stabbed, so a good measure of this is retributive. The cycle of retribution never ends. Overcrowding and psychological torture of the inmates. Guards are pittin g gangs against one another, so that lock-down will continue, guards have an easy job during lock-downs. Guards are psychologically strained, so they behave badly. Prison administrators do nothing, to relieve the distressed guards’ torments, due to over-crowding. The courts create this entire problem. Our tax dollars at work!  

Alexis Endurance 

San Bruno 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m writing in response to David Magid’s recent opinion piece, in which I am singled out. Contrary to his assumption, I’m not a member of LOCCNA, nor did I fully agree with LOCCNA in their dispute with Beth El. My knowledge of the controversies between the congregation and its neighbors is derived from the local papers. It may be that Beth El used no undue political influence, but my perception was the opposite.  

I’ve lived half a block from Beth El’s current site for 30 years. While my house is closer to their new site than they are, I don’t think of myself as a Live Oak neighbor. Beth El’s impact will be felt most by the blocks of Oxford and Spruce that it immediately adjoins. I believe that most other neighbors display these signs out of solidarity with them.  

Whatever they choose to believe about their neighbors, Beth El will benefit from putting those thoughts asi de and responding to the actual words on the signs. The congregation would get a lot of mileage if its leaders would simply affirm, once again, that it intends to honor its agreements and respect its neighbors. Do this, and act on it, and all will be well.  

John Parman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Enough already, can’t we get along! For the last month there have been numerous columns and letters for and against evolution and intelligent design. Good debate but a lot of rehash and ludicrou s positions. How about this: There is a self-evident creator behind everything and evolution is a scientific method used to explain manifestation and these two facts compliment and coexist with each other. Materialists seem to have problems accepting this simple insight. It’s time for the uninformed to move on to the next wedge issue. Science and a creative source can and do exist together, maybe just not in the classroom. Evolution can be experienced and validated and soul, spirit and source can be experienced and verified. 

Ron Lowe 

Nevada City