Letters to the Editor

Tuesday August 30, 2005


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I live on Oxford Street one block from the new Temple Beth El. Let me begin by saying that I am not Jewish and I am not a churchgoer. In my view the neighbors who are posting signs and complaining about the new site even before it opens are reacting too harshly. This is a residential neighborhood but a residential neighborhood is the place to build churches, schools or temples. 

Will there be impacts on street parking? Of course. But the other institutions in the neighborhood also have visitors who park on the street. Aren’t the Utah plates common on Sunday morning going to the Mormon church on Walnut and Vine? Do not Oxford School parents attend events at Oxford School and park on the street? Live Oak Park events often make it difficult to park. Even Cal football games affect parking even thought the stadium is more than a mile off. Currently Beth-El is already in the neighborhood and has lees parking now than at the new site. 

I expect that Beth El will be a good steward of Cordonices Creek and that the neighborhood will survive the parking impacts. If the parking regulations in the neighborhood need to be changed, those can be changed after the temple opens and a need is shown. 

Instead of the current anti-Beth El signs I would post a sign on m lawn that says: “Beth El: Welcome to Oxford Street.” 

William Flynn 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I believe that the right wing in Berkeley, including three members of the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission, have launched a campaign to discredit the commission. 

The right wing was infuriated last year when a majority of the committee voted for the U.S. government to conduct an investigation of the Israeli Army driving over and killing Rachael Corrie in Palestine. 

The right wing on the committee tried to block the vote and once it was defeated, their friends vowed revenge. 

Now they are trying to block the authority of the commission, which is a light in Berkeley on local, national, and international issues. We in Berkeley are not ostriches. We want a voice in our country and with people in other countries. The commission mostly does work with Berkeley residents who ask the commission to take a stand on political issues. 

The attack on the commission is an attack on our First Amendment right to free speech and a free press. It wants to stop Berkeley from speaking out on the violence and terrorism of the U.S., Israel, and other right-wing governments and the rule of the corporations and neo-liberals. We must work to stop this trend in Berkeley. Support the commission and call a city councilmember to support the commission members for the commission. 

John Murcko 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am dismayed to see that the Alameda County Board of Supervisors is considering spending several millions of dollars to purchase voting machines which will produce a paper trail as per state law.  

Although mandated by the state, it is only throwing good money after bad and thereby locking us into a fatally flawed system. 

A voter verified paper trail is a farce. A computer’s source codes can be programmed to “print out” an accurate receipt of a voter’s selections and, at the same time, record an entirely different result in the “official” tabulation. It’s a simple programming situation, and one which can be “instantly erased” so that no computer trail can be detected. 

I think we need to go back to paper ballots and hand-counting until the conditions for computer-based electoral fraud are solved. 

Sydney Vilen 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I would like to express my view regarding childhood obesity in particular among the low-income community. It is my opinion that obesity among children starts with poor diet, lack of adequate exercise and the often discussed genetic inheritance. I’m pleased to know that there is a state-wide campaign led by California First Lady Maria Shriver to combat childhood obesity. Low-income families lack money to buy healthy nutritious food items including salad and health promoting fruits. No partnership can enhance the low-income people’s health unless the low-income people get healthy food free of charge. If they could afford it I’m sure they would choose a healthy diet to promote their health and enhance their lifespan. Most people have the knowledge about nutritional diets but they can not afford it.  

I want to hear from the first lady how she will help such needy people to survive and maintain good health. All the junk food that they get as donations from people or restaurants are generally fried meat products or leftovers. I don’t consider such food healthy and it will not make them physically fit or give them energy. As a community we must provide healthy nutritious food to low-income children, thereby laying the foundation of a stronger, healthier America. 

Romila Khanna 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

To parents of high school and middle school children: As soon as school begins, please look in your child’s packet from her/his school. There should be an “opt out” form. This form is to prevent your child’s information from being given to the military recruiters. According to the No Child Left Behind Act, schools are required to hand over information on their students to the military for recruitment, unless parents opt out. If you do not receive an opt out form, call the registrar or principal of the school and ask that a form be sent to you, or , if possible, go to school to pick it up. Also, please share this information with parents you know who are not likely to see this newspaper. 

It might be a good idea for the Berkeley Daily Planet to have a reporter write an article on this situation as well. 

Jean Pauline 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Diebold, our county’s voting equipment company, is walking all over us, and we’re letting them get away with it.  

First, after gaping security holes were found in their equipment, they lost a $2.6 million settlement in Alameda County Superior Court. Then they tried to charge the county $2 million for instant runoff voting in Berkeley, only to drop the price by $1 million under public scrutiny. Now the state refuses to certify them because of printer jams and a ten percent failure rate.  

Clearly, enough is enough. We deserve to have a voting equipment company that is safe and secure. It’s time for the City Council to step up and say no to Diebold. 

By switching to another vendor for our city’s elections in November 2006, we can do instant runoff voting easily and save money in the process. We can vote on paper and know that our vote is secure. Finally, we can show companies like Diebold that their actions have consequences.  

Let’s not let Diebold hold our elections hostage any longer.  

Matt Stewart 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Wow! It was so refreshing reading Anne Cromwell’s commentary (Aug. 23) that actually addressed statements made by others, as opposed to so many letters to the editor which answer a lot of questions that no one is even asking. 

Sarah Turner 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Nancy Jean, quoted in “Every Dog Has Its Day In Berkeley” as saying, in protest of restricting off-lease dogs at Albany Bulb, “What are they (dogs) going to do, eat the weeds?” betrays an alarming ignorance of ecology. Reactions like this should task local environmentalists with some public education. 

First of all, to migrating or indigenous fauna (and flora!), the “weeds” have a purpose, each and every instance playing some part in the fabric of our local ecology. With regard to restricting dogs to protect birds, though, it’s somewhat another matter. Migrating birds, especially, have radically depleted levels of energy at certain times of year—imagine flying several thousand miles to get to Albany—and cannot withstand very well the intrusion of introduced mammals, to which they must respond with evasion or flight. Such reactions at times of low reserves of energy can be deadly to them. As well, dogs are very threatening to the well-being of any birds, such as plovers, that nest on the ground. If you’ve ever seen a female killdeer frantically faking an injured wing so as to draw a real or imagined predator/despoiler of her nest, it’s easy to image the energy expended, and how such an expense is corrosive of the bird’s ability to perform other tasks for which it needs lots of fuel to nurture its young. 

Dogs have been an important element in my life. My wife and I love dearly our little border collie mix, and we love to take her places where she can run free with little or no harm to the environment. We are happy to make this accommodation so that we can help optimize future generations’ chances for enjoyment not only of dogs, but of our natural environment as well. And it’s no credit to Matthew Artz of the Daily Planet that he implicitly endorses the illegal presence of off-lease dogs at Albany Bulb. 

Peter Hubbard 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

When it comes to union negotiations, the management of Berkeley Honda are a pretty nonchalant bunch. First, they can barely be bothered to come to the bargaining table, so they schedule negotiating sessions weeks apart. Then, when they do come to bargain, they can only manage two or three hours before the press of business sends them right out the door again (although it’s not clear what that business might be, since their clientele is down by about two thirds). Lastly, there’s the way they act during those brief and infrequent meetings: Not troubling themselves to take notes, not getting down to the union’s concerns about health care, wages, and the pension plan. 

In contrast, their behavior at the dealership can be downright bellicose. Last Thursday they really went off the scale. They called the police on me for ostensibly “harassing” (i.e., talking to) their customers. A few minutes after that, they stood by the service entrance and hurled insults at the strikers—the union guys are dupes of the union, I’m crazy, and we’re all deluded if we think we’re going to get anywhere with this. Furthermore, did we want them to call the police again, since I’d just gone up and harassed another customer about our situation? Because they would be happy to oblige. One of the salesmen kept telling me to “Go away! Go away!” I said I would gladly go away. All they have to do is settle with the union, and I’ll be gone. Oh, don’t be stupid, they said, they can’t do that because of the pension. 

No? Even though the union has offered to lower management’s monthly contribution to $300, which is what they wanted to pay into a 401K plan? And even though the union further agreed that they would let the pension deficit ride for five years, after which, if the plan was still underfunded, they would (1) release management’s obligation to the deficit, and (2) would be willing to switch to a 401k plan? Even with all that, the pension is still a problem? 

Hmm. What does it all mean? Well, to me, their refusal to deal with the pension at negotiations, and their insistence on clinging to the now-irrelevant excuse of the pension deficit in Thursday’s encounter, proves what we’ve known from the beginning. They don’t want to settle this strike because they don’t want a union at Berkeley Honda.  

Judy Shelton 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

We need the community more than ever to support the striking Berkeley Honda workers. Management is trying to wear the workers down. After meeting with union reps for only a few short hours on Aug. 23, it has refused to negotiate again until Sept. 19, almost four weeks later. From the beginning, Berkeley Honda has adopted a policy of continual delays. 

This is unacceptable. The new management team is putting a tremendous financial and psychological burden on the striking workers, who have been out of work since mid-June. We must demand that Berkeley Honda negotiate now!  

We are rallying with the striking workers at Shattuck and Parker every Thursday from 4:30 to 6 p.m. and Saturday, 1 to 2:30 until the labor dispute is settled. Please join us. 

Both the strikers and the union leadership have continually acknowledged that community participation is essential to winning the strike. Also, if we lose this battle, it can have a domino effect. It would make it more difficult for other workers in the East Bay to protect their jobs, wages, and benefits.  

We cannot allow Berkeley Honda’s right-wing agenda—to bust the union and to substantially reduce wages and benefits—prevail. We have to demonstrate that the persistence and endurance of the workers and community will triumph.  

Also, please call Berkeley Honda at 843-3704 to demand that it negotiate now. 

Harry Brill 

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks for running an article that appreciates pigeons, the most friendly and tame kind of wild bird. Pigeons think of people as part of their own bird society, and people who love them accept that. We’re the lucky ones, able to make friends with these wild animals. 

Maybe the reason redtails catch pigeons regardless of the color of the rump patch is that they’re techniques are very different. Buteo hawks—that’s what these broad-winged predators are called—cruise around over a flock, picking out the prey that’s least likely to escape. The slow hawks move more like bombers as contrasted with falcons, which are like maneuverable fighters. Some of the time, the hawks close in and trap a pigeon in tree branches. More often, they dive and catch them when they’re eating on open ground. 

The rumor that pigeons spread disease is false. All birds have the same germs, but what we catch comes almost exclusively from other people. The only excuse for shunning pigeons is their droppings, which they do when perched, almost never when flying. To keep them off buildings, only the most humane, non-lethal, and cheap methods work.  

Please take the time to read about pigeons and observe them. They’re worth it. They make wonderful, affectionate pets. They play with toys, invent games, love music, even put on jewelry. 

Al Streit 

New York City 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I loved the article about our underappreciated pigeons. There are more things I love about those birds: 

1. Their orange eyes, which can see you whether you’re above, front, back, or side. You can see them, too. They must have extremely precise vision to see tiny crumbs and human donors’ gestures. 

2. Their iridescent necks. 

3. Their color-coordinated pink feet. 

Sometimes we miss the beauty that’s all around us. 

Ruth Bird 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Hey, you missed one great place for dogs and people. Café Zeste, on the edge of Strawberry Creek Park, in the Design Center at 1250 Addison. The two-legged types can sit on the patio and eat fabulous food while the four-legged types (and the kids) play in the park. You can throw a Frisbee right from your table! 

Barbara Shayesteh 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding Richard Brenneman’s colorful Police Blotter writing: I have to come down on the side of those who like (or who are at least not offended by) his tarting-up of otherwise mundane events. To his detractors I say, do you really want these crimes reported in cop-speak circumlocutions, like “The male subject allegedly accosted a female pedestrian and was apprehended” ? (Are police spokespersons required to use clinical terms like “male” and “female,” as if speaking about some other species? How about “man” and “woman”?) If people like that style, they can always read that competing new daily rag. 

But I am irritated by sloppy reporting, which I think Mr. Brenneman is guilty of in his Police Blotter of Aug. 23, where he reports that “[a] gang of four or five felons ranging in ages between 15 and 20 confronted a man outside Iceland.” The report went on to say that they were “long gone” before police arrived. There are at least two problems with this: For one, as I’m sure Brenneman knows, one is not a felon until actually convicted of a felony. These chaps weren’t even available to be so charged. Plus, I’m not sure if a 15-year old can even be a felon, though with the rapid advances of the National Security Lock-’em-Up state, I’m sure that oversight will soon be corrected. 

So he should have at least thrown a modifier in there: “a gang of four or five wannabe felons.” 

Another small nit: Brenneman might want to consider using jargon that’s not commonly understood, like the “deuce rap” he described in another item. After all, what good is snappy language if people don’t understand it? 

David Nebenzahl 

North Oakland 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m disappointed in Susan Parker’s recent piece, “Queen LaSuzy is Big Momma for a Day,” because it epitomizes a dangerous behavior that I see so many white folks espousing: that of aligning themselves with African-American culture in an effort to take the sting out of their own racist words or actions.  

Ms. Parker seems to feel that if she makes certain to let us know how big-hearted and generous she is for taking in a young black teenager from Hunter’s Point for the summer, and tells a humorous story of this young woman’s impressive grandmother and her brand of discipline, that it excuses the racist implications of referring to herself as “Queen LaSuzy.” It does not.  

I would have felt much better about this essay if Ms. Parker had not chosen to go for the cheap laugh by cheekily mocking a trend in African-American names that is so frequently put up for public denigration. White people often think it’s cute and funny to write or tell anecdotes about how they bemusedly find themselves in the midst of black, Asian, or Latino culture, and how they end up being so hip to that culture that they now feel comfortable mocking the eccentricities of that culture as insiders. Usually, this makes the “hip white insider” sound amazingly similar to a white racist outsider who is mocking the culture for sport, but without any kind of social consequences or public censure.  

No matter how many black friends/acquaintances you have, no matter how secure you are in your anti-racist altruism, no matter how generous you are toward African-American teenagers, you are still a white person poking fun at black culture, and it is racist because you are still acting from a place of economic, social, and political privilege.  

Ms. Parker, please try a bit harder not to take such racist potshots in the name of being “down.” It sets a tone and example for other white people that only perpetuates unhealthy, unequal dynamics in an already strained relationship between races. A good guideline for any white person tempted to create humor based on a culture other than their own is to remember that membership has its privileges, and you are not party to them no matter how “hip” you are. 

Jessica Matthews 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Susan Parker’s Aug. 23 column, “Queen LaSuzy is Big Momma for a Day,” was great. She nailed the issue of teens and taking charge right on the head. Leave it to a seasoned grandmother to come up with just the right approach for dealing with a 15-year-old! 

Thanks, Grandmother, for your pearls of wisdom and thanks to Susan for your continued joyful, poignant articles in the Daily Planet.  

Barbara Scheifler  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The NCAA’s executive committee made a compromise decision involving American Indian mascots in some sports teams. They will only ban them during post-season tournament. That is not good enough. The mascots of American Indians should be banned immediately, not just half of the season. These mascots are very degrading to American Indians. It makes them less of a people. 

Other people who are saying that American Indians had other things to worry about than the mascots are the same folks that are not fighting for American Indian sovereignty, such as water and land rights. 

In conclusion, the NCAA’s action is half-complete. 

Billy Trice 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

To the administrators of BUSD: 

As our children grow up in school, we teach them to use the words “please” and “thank-you” when asking for or receiving something from someone else. Yet how many of you ever use the same phrases to your staff members that work for you? How many of you ever say, “please” get this or that when your staff member is at lunch, and when they have spent time looking up something that you need for your presentation to the School Board and public, how many of you have said, “This was prepared by my staff” in a positive way? How many times has the superintendent thanked the staff members for their presentations by saying “Thank you and your staff.” 

Many of the employees in the BUSD come in early, work through their breaks and lunches, stay beyond their working hours, and even take work home in order to get their own work finished after spending all day working on yours. How many of you administrators even think of giving them something for it. A pay increase would be nice, but even something simple like a card, flowers or an honest “thank-you” will be appreciated. 

Your staff is what makes you look good to your boss and the public. If you treat them like human beings and respect their abilities and promote an enjoyable work environment in your office, then the staff may be willing to overlook some of your shortfalls. 

Remember the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you.” 

Dave Fidiam