Letters to the Editor

Friday September 02, 2005


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Many thanks for enlightening readers regarding the “crises” of increased “above moderate” housing. Let me add further dangers of this creeping social nemesis. As middle income families increased the crime rate simultaneously has fallen. So too new entertainment venues opened and restaurants and retail began to make profits. City accounts balance as new tax payers are initially charged market rather than Prop. 13 rates. Schools are full and the school board may be forced to give priority to residents over non-taxable crashers from out of district. Yes, nice housing is the root social problem of our city! Thanks for a fair and thoughtful consideration of the issue. 

Professor David Baggins 

CSU Hayward 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Of all the sad news that has resulted from Hurricane Katrina, the media’s characterization of white people as “finding food” while black people are “looting” (AFP and AP photo feeds), is one of the most disappointing reminders of the racism that pervades our country. 

Allyson Klein 

San Francisco  




Editors, Daily Planet:  

Becky O’Malley welcomes the students back to Berkeley with tales of conflict between UC and our city. She admonishes student behavior. She sees students as merely guests of real city residents. 

Ms. O’Malley, Where you see conflict and bad behavior, I see vibrancy, excitement, opportunity and renewal. Many long-term residents were themselves attracted to this town because of the affiliations and opportunities associated with a great university. The student body while possibly only residents for four or six years are vital to the well being of all permanent residents and the greater good of our city. The students are in no way a temporary guests. Many students stay and become permanent citizens. The rest act as ambassadors and boosters for our town, their alma mater. 

Our wealth, diversity and international recognition are a privilege derived from UC’s coattails, and no longer earned by the city itself. What came first, the chicken or the egg? What would Berkeley be if not for UC. A suburb of San Francisco? 

This city has allowed itself to be dominated by a conservative neighborhoods at the expense of the greater good. 

If neighbors can’t live with the UC’s “noise” or understand its contribution they should simply relocate to a non-university town. Don’t buy a house next to a football stadium or amphitheater if you don’t like noisy crowds. 

The job of the City Council and it’s many commissions is to capture the energy of the university in the form of a tax base instead of demanding handouts from UC. UC related startup companies choosing to do business in Berkeley usually end up in Emeryville. Outdated zoning ordinances preserve derelict factories and empty warehouses instead of allowing innovative companies to thrive. 

Instead of thousands of students enjoying our downtown every evening there is the sucking sound of cars and BART trains taking them away to San Francisco to entertain themselves. Instead of thousands of Bay Area citizens enjoying unique UC funded venues such as the Football stadium, the Greek Theatre etc., neighbors restrict their full use. 

Students of UC let your youthful exuberance overflow onto our streets. Your immediate neighbors can move to quieter locales. Thanks to UC their land values will be high. We feel privileged that you chose this university even if the town is becoming unattractive, unhip, and unfriendly. Make a big racket while you are here. We are enriched by your presence. Stay even longer and help write our next downtown plan! 

Peter Levitt 

Proprietor of Saul’s Delicatessen 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Bob Burnett (“Democrats Must Cease to be The ‘Un’ Party,” Aug. 23) has it exactly right. Anybody, anything other than Bush didn’t cut it in November 2004 and won’t be effective in 2006 or 2008. Burnett provides three examples of policy areas (national security, social security, energy) for which the Democrats should propose positive and realistic alternatives to what the Bush Republicans are offering. He might well have added to this list, including such policy possibilities as poverty, education, medical insurance, affordable housing, income equality, etc. Unfortunately, he did not go on and suggest what such alternative policy statements might contain or who might be charged with the responsibility of drawing up such statements. A more glaring lack in Burnett’s presentation is the absence of any discussion of exactly what or who was meant to be the audience for these policy presentations. 

To my way of thinking, both the main stream Democratic Party and the political left have continued to ignore religiously inspired people who, in part at least because of being ignored and often mocked, have gravitated to the Republican Party. They account for 30 or more percent of the electorate. It is a most un-natural home for them. To be good Christians and Jews, to adhere to the precepts set forth in the new and old testaments, religiously inspired people must be committed to reducing, if not eradicating, poverty, to caring for the sick and for the old, to caring for this earth, this universe. And these are all areas in which the Democratic Party has a justifiable claim to represent, to champion what is best in political and spiritual America. What the party and left must do is to actively seek ways to communicate, compassionately (must we let Bush monopolize this term?) and respectfully, with our religiously inspired fellow American. 

Irving Gershenberg 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you, Jessica Matthews. I have had a running e-mail battle with Susan Parker since her racist columns appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle some time ago. I was very disappointed when the Daily Planet picked her up. There are countless good, witty writers in Berkeley and Oakland. Why her?  

At the time she was denigrating Ms. Scott (who since died), Jernae, the helpers waiting on her poor husband, and any other of her neighborhood 

friends of color. When I pointed out to Ms. Parker how insulting her pieces were rather than humorous as she seemed to find them, she told me that the people she wrote about thought her pieces were just dandy. They would, wouldn’t they? These unsophisticated people trusted her. And she continues to take liberties with them (and by inference all African-Americans, myself included). 

What really bothers me is why newspapers such as the Berkeley Daily Planet continue to publish her. Evidently the white press doesn’t get it either. You (the press) consider her witty—an amusing read. And when she is finished belittling black people, she belittles Ralph. I have often wished he would rise up out of his wheel chair and “go upside her head.” 

Madeline Smith Moore 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

When I saw that Richard Brenneman had featured “Crime Pedalers” in his controversial Police Blotter, I at first thought it my duty as a member of the board of directors of the Bicycle-Friendly Berkeley Coalition (BFBC) to write a good, stuffy “We are not amused” type letter. However, after a moment’s thought, I realized that Brenneman is on to something; the hoodlums have just gotten ahead of the curve, as they so often seem to do, and figured out that the bicycle has real practical advantages as a means of urban transportation. Something we in the bicycle-advocacy community have been trying to demonstrate to the general public for years! So I’m glad to see that somebody’s listening, even if it’s the wrong guys. 

For others who may want to explore the low-cost, convenient, swift and easy transport that a bicycle provides, BFBC is hosting four “Get Acquainted  

Rides” to the Solano Stroll on Sunday, Sept. 12; two groups will leave from North Berkeley BART, at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m., two others will leave from El  

Cerrito Plaza BART at 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.: destination for all four is the valet bicycle parking booth in the Wells Fargo Bank parking lot at Solano and Colusa, where riders can leave their bikes safely—for free—while they enjoy the Stroll. 

Anyone interested in joining one of these rides can get more information at www.bfbc.org/events or by calling 549-RIDE. We can also use volunteers to distribute flyers, call 549-RIDE and leave your phone number and/or e-mail address,. We’ll be in touch. 

David Coolidge 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Your identification of me under my article in last Tuesday’s Daily Planet says that I was a KPFA broadcaster for 37 years. 

It’s hard enough to rebuild an audience with a half-hour show only every second week, and a change in time right in the middle of the 14 weeks assured me, without the further handicap of being described in the past tense. My broadcasts henceforth will be every other Friday, at 2:30 p.m., the next on Sept. 16. Whether I have guests or not, they will include the phone-in period that won me the status of most popular individual broadcaster in numerous surveys over the years by the station itself. 

Listeners whose work hours prohibit tuning in at that time may hear my program, and any other, by computer. Go to kpfa.org. Click on “archive.” That will bring up an alphabetical list of all programs. I am under “T”: “Thinking Out Loud With Bill Mandel.” Click on that, and all of my programs to date come up. They are not repetitive in any way, so you will find a lot of interesting listening. 

Bill Mandel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I enjoy reading the Daily Planet so much, and feel a loss when I miss an issue. Thanks for your excellent coverage of local issues. 

Thank you also for branching out, for publishing the article about Palestinians being driven out of their small village by Jewish settlers. Publishing it was courageous; I’m sure there are many Daily Planet readers who are not aware of the extent of the hateful behavior of many of the Israeli settlers. They are the illegal residents, and yet go unpunished. We as Americans must know what Israel is doing in our name and with our tax money, and must speak out to our government to stop endorsing the kind of behavior pointed out in this article. 

Joy Hilden 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I confess to mixed feelings about Henry Norr’s article about Israeli settler hooliganism. On the one hand, his article does ring true. A small minority of settlers are indeed prepared to act recklessly guided by their religious chauvinism. As far as they are concerned, God gave them the whole land of Israel plus Palestine and any Arab thereon is a trespasser. In this regard they are similar to Hamas, which represents the view of Islamic chauvinists who believe that Allah has given them the whole land of Israel plus Palestine, and that any Jew found thereon is to be slaughtered as an infidel trespasser. Followers of Hamas are far more numerous, and their acts are often fatal, while their Jewish counterparts, though loathsome fanatics, have generally, but not always, used non-lethal tactics. 

But what bothers me about this article is that the Daily Planet published it not as an op-ed, but in a form that made it look like it was written by a reporter, when in fact it was written by a pro-Palestinian activist. Late in the article Norr admits that he is one of a group of international volunteers who has come to the West Bank to protect Palestinians. We further know that Norr is a Palestinian activist, because he ends his article with a reiteration of standard Palestinian propaganda. He calls for the removal of all Israeli settlements in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 242. Although that is the governing resolution in the matter, 242 in no way calls for the removal of all settlements. Quite the opposite, it calls for Israeli withdrawal from territories in exchange for peace. First, a final end-of-conflict peace has never been offered by the Palestinians. Second, 224 pointedly left out the word “the” in front of “territories.” This was a matter of intense diplomatic negotiation at the time. All parties understood that Israel would not be required to give up “the” or “all the” territories and return to the 1967 line. That line, after all, was not an international border, but an armistice line. Arafat’s attacks on Israel began in 1965 precisely because he did not recognize that line, and the 1967 war was precipitated by the Arabs who felt that Israel’s true border should be the sea. The war began when Nasser famously boasted “I will throw the Jews into the sea.” He then blockaded Israeli shipping (an act of war) and sent his armies into Sinai. In fact, Jordan entered that war, and thus lost the West Bank, on Egypt’s assurance that its armies were fast approaching Tel Aviv, when in fact they had already been largely destroyed en route. 

Elsewhere, Norr seems to indicate that the name of his group of volunteers is ISM. ISM is the pro-Palestinian group that sent Rachel Corrie into a war zone to protect Hamas weapons smuggling tunnels. ISM, though practicing non-violence itself, praises Palestinian violence, and explicitly supports suicide bombings. In fact, ISM was found to have harbored a suicide bomber in its office. The group was also caught passing photos to the press allegedly taken at Corrie’s tragic death, when they were not. Since having so thoroughly discredited itself in this fashion, ISM has been almost completely shut out of the press, except of course, our own Daily Planet, which never seems to care a whit about fact-checking or the reliability of its sources when it comes to Israel/Palestine. Politically, ISM has also been totally discredited everywhere, except of course here in Berkeley, where they are supported by Linda Maio’s wing of the City Council. 

So, is the Daily Planet’s account of a small hapless Palestinian village accurate? I have no idea. The story sounds believable, but neither the Planet, nor its reporter, have any more credibility than a tabloid peddling cheap sensationalism. 

John Gertz 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you, Henry Norr, for the reminder of how Palestinians are made to disappear from their land. Of course some of our readers will find ethnic cleansing to be just fine and dandy (as long as it’s aimed at the right ethnicity). Others find it sad but inevitable, because the West Bank will be tamed and the buffalo are gone, anyway. (Oops! Wrong ethnocide.) 

Thank you, Daily Planet, for the reminder of what a free press looks like. The San Francisco Chronicle already told Mr. Norr it had no further use for exposure of Israeli intentions, so I’m glad to see someone still recognizes its journalistic value. 

Thank you, city of Berkeley and its Peace and Justice Commission, for reminding us that government by the people is still alive. If the nation and the State are too spineless to address an issue, let the city of Berkeley be their Socrates, and give stinging advice to those who would deceive themselves and others. 

To who girds our freedoms with repressive intent, I say, “Go join! Your nation calls you.” 

Paul Larudee 

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I would like to thank Henry Norr one thousand and one times for his Aug. 30 article, “Palestinians Struggle to Hold on to Land, Watering Holes.” His story is a small yet no less tragic story of the ethnic cleansing which has been going on for years in the West Bank and Jerusalem. The timing of this article is particularly important, because the Gaza disengagement has proved, predictably, to be a giant cover for the systematic land-grab sponsored by the Israeli government, the U.S. government, and paid for by us, the taxpayers. There will never be peace in Israel-Palestine until Americans are aware of the pain and suffering on both sides. The mass media tends to focus only on Israel’s story, which makes Norr’s article a rare bird indeed. 

Heather Merriam 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

This letter is about the dispute between the KPFA Local Station Board and the paid KPFA staff. The LSB wants to move Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now!” program to 7 a.m. “Prime Drive Time” and the paid staff refuses to follow the order. The reason for the LSB’s decision is that Amy Goodman is “Pacifica’s proudest human product” (Bill Mandel’s description). 

The inference is that “Democracy Now!” is a better program than “The Morning Show” and better than all the other KPFA programs, that Amy Goodman is a better producer and interviewer than Philip Maldari and Andrea Lewis and all the other KPFA producers and interviewers. 

My opinion is that they are all equally good: Philip Maldari, Andrea Lewis, Dennis Bernstein, Larry Bensky, Kris Welch, C. S. Soong, Sasha Lilley, Pratap Chatterjee, Bonnie Faulkner, Amy Goodman and so on. 

I think the reason that Amy Goodman is the “star” of Pacifica is that her program is broadcast on many stations. If any other Pacifica programmers were broadcast on many other stations, they too would be “stars.” 

There was a survey of KPFA’s contributors about KPFA’s programming. We’ve never been given the results of that survey. Does the LSB have it and their decision reflects the desires of the contributors? I would like to know. 

Myrna Sokolinsky 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The commentary by some KPFA board members on that appeared on Aug. 26 leaves out some important details. 

Though they say that the board: 

1. Hired Mr. Dan Siegel, a well known local attorney, to conduct an investigation. 

2. Met with Mr. Siegel to review and discuss his findings [about the sexual harassment charges against Mr. Campenella].” They leave out the fact that they ignored Mr. Siegel’s recommendation to fire Roy Campenella as general manager. When asked about this, they respond that the report was biased, but when asked to explain further they will hastily explain that they can’t due to confidentiality. Apparently the statement that the investigator, that the board itself hired, is biased is not confidential but the reasons behind it are. 

They go on to state that while they didn’t recommend firing Mr. Campenella or even the purely symbolic act of putting him on probation, but “On Aug. 20, it [the board} approved a motion recommending constructive steps to be taken to improve the situation at KPFA.” 

However, the board hasn’t detailed what those “steps” are beyond that one word description of “constructive.” 

Chris Stehlik 

KPFA staff person 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Usually, when people assert that Jack London was a racist it is because some of his characters are racists, as J. Douglas-Allen Taylor recently pointed out in the Daily Planet on Aug. 26 and Aug. 30. 

If a novelist gives voice to bigots, racists, fascists, etc., does that make him one? If his fiction accurately portrays the sentiments of his times does that mean he agreed with them? What about authors of mystery novels? Does this make them murders or sympathetic to murderers? 

Jack London stated very clearly that he wrote two kinds of work: fiction for money, non-fiction for conviction. Jack London was a life-long socialist who saw racism as a tool for dividing working people. Jack London can speak for himself on this question, quoting from a letter to Toichi Nakahara, editor of the Japanese American Commercial Weekly, dated Aug. 25, 1913:  

Dear sir: 

In reply to yours of August 16,1913. First of all, I should say by stopping the stupid newspaper from always fomenting race prejudice. 

This of course, being impossible, I would say, next, by educating the people of Japan so that they will be too intelligently tolerant to respond to any call to race prejudice. 

And, finally, by realizing, in industry and government, of socialism—which last word is merely a word that stands for the actual application of in the affairs off men of the theory of the Brotherhood of Man. 

In the meantime the nations and races are only unruly boys who have not yet grown to the stature of men. So we must expect them to do unruly and boisterous things at times. And, just as boys grow up, so the races of mankind will grow up and laugh when they look back upon their childish quarrels. 

Sincerely yours, 

Jack London 

(From The Letters of Jack London: Volume Three: 1913-1916, edited by Earle Labor, Robert C. Leitz, III, and I. Milo Shepard, Stanford University Press 1988, p.1219) 

Tarnel Abbott 

(One of Jack London’s great-granddaughters 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

It’s good that Superintendent Michele Lawrence attended the August meeting of the Berkeley Alliance of Neighborhood Associations and participated in the agenda item about ballot initiatives for Berkeley’s public schools. 

The first initiative in circulation seeks to change the way school board members are elected to be in sync with our city’s eight districts. This way, every resident in Berkeley will have representation on the School Board. Some districts, like mine, District 8, has not had a representative for many, many years.  

The second initiative being prepared, would require BUSD to have an auditor whose job would be to insure that our tax monies are efficiently and effectively used. We know the school district spends the money. But no one seems to be able to say, was the money well spent? In fact, the state’s Fiscal Management Crisis Advisory Team, in their June, 2006 report, rated the personnel management as a 5.65 and financial management as a 5.7 on a scale of 10. Less than 60 percent equals an F. We need to do much better than that. 

The third initiative being prepared would require that the school district to not sell land unless approved by the voters of Berkeley. We all know that once the school district sells land, it will never be able to buy it back. The school district holds land and other assets in trust for the public, so the public should be consulted before any sale.  

I hope the School Board and superintendent will work cooperatively with the community rather than opposing the community so that we can, together, productively invest our energy, time and money into our very important public schools. 

Stephanie Corcos 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Last year, Berkeley voters passed instant runoff voting election modernization by a landslide, with over 72 percent support, the most greatest margin of any item on the ballot. We want our first, second and third choice to count. San Francisco voters are already benefiting from better elections. 

The city and county should be making election modernization a top priority so that we too can have IRV elections with less hostility, more votes counted, and without an expensive and time-consuming runoff in 2006. Ranked Voting elections empower voters otherwise disenfranchised by the antiquated one-choice plurality election system 

On Monday Aug. 29, please join us in front of City Hall for a noon rally to renew Berkeley’s call for better democracy. Much of the nation watches our city for civic leadership. IRV elections here in 2006 will support the efforts of congressmen Cynthia McKinney, Jesse Jackson Jr., and Dennis Kucinich, and also Howard Dean, U.S. Sen. Obama, and Assemblymember Loni Hancock for state and national IRV reform by 2008.  

Sennet WIliams