Letters to the Editor

Tuesday October 11, 2005


Editors, Daily Planet: 

It’s time now to oppose the global warming theory with the “intelligent weather” theory. This is the notion that the recent weather disturbances can only be caused and explained by the intervention of a higher, all-knowing power. The idea that WE could cause global warming is absurd. Something of this magnitude can only be the work of an higher intelligence.  

Robert Blau 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Harriet Miers nomination is an out-and-out sham. I urge all members of the Judiciary Committee and the Senate to reject this obvious handmaid for George Bush. 

Joan Levinson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I remember when Roman Hruska defended Richard Nixon’s Supreme Court nominee, Harold Carswell, by saying: “Even if he is mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren’t they?” 

Carswell and Hruska were laughed off the stage.  

Will modern Democrats gather the nerve to reject this new, farcical nomination, or will mediocre cronies finally become the majority on the Supreme Court? 

Dale Sophiea 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Though not yet at the Bush-lie-and-thousands-die level, you have to admit Berkeley is pretty looth with the truth these days. 

Did it all start with “Not a Through Street” signs on streets that do go through? The barricade-produced dogleg, Parker-Piedmont-Derby route, between Warring and College, has long been so signed. 

Then, this January, el Gran Alcalde de Berkeley signed a resolution saying, “Whereas, Marin Avenue is a residential street on which 85 percent of vehicles currently travel more than 10 mph over the posted speed limit of 25 mph;...,” a document still online at: www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/citycouncil/resos/2005/62796.pdf . This clause appears carefully transported, by Berkeley’s Office of Transportation, from Korve Engineering’s “Traffic Plan for the City of Albany” (2000), wherein this mind-warp derived from data claiming only that the 85th percentile speed on Marin was around 36 mph (only 15 percent over 25 mph). 

And then we question just what “daily” means in the masthead of the Berkeley-based medium by which this message of enlightenment has reached you ... a paper observed in mint condition only on Tuesdays and Fridays. We all now know that a couple of exosolar planets have recently been found which rotate so slowly and orbit their star so quickly that they experience less than four days in their years. Certainly the Daily Planet would find any residents of these (very hot) worlds to be very lucrative game. 

Raymond A. Chamberlin 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was surprised to learn that at a recent UC Berkeley tailgate party, the university allowed various vendors to give out free alcoholic beverages to all those who attended, both young and old. I was particularly troubled that an automobile dealership, Berkeley Honda, seized the opportunity and was giving out drinks to young people without asking for proof of age. As an automobile dealer, Berkeley Honda must certainly be aware that driving under the influence of alcohol is dangerous, and a leading cause of death among young people. 

Clearly, Berkeley Hon-da’s management had only one interest, to create community goodwill and thereby enhance its business. Berkeley Honda certainly has a right to market its product. But there are many positive ways of accomplishing that without jeopardizing people’s safety. 

Karen Weinstein  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Look at this time of planetary disturbances and natural disasters as a way earth is cleaning herself of excesses and diseases. Bird flu, tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, are Mother Nature’s way of telling inhabitants to clean up their act—clean up the mess they’ve created over time. 

We’ve all seen of earth from space and know the planet is very much alive, in motion and vibrant. Mother Earth has ways of cleansing herself of pollution and overuse. Humans have their ways of shaking off colds, diseases and excesses. As above, so below. 

Ron Lowe 

Nevada City 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was very happy to see the article about my very own University Village community garden in the Daily Planet. My husband and I live in the old Section A housing, and have two plots in the garden. So far we have grown heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, sun flowers, mint, oregano, basil, taro, peas, beans, sweet potatoes, zucchini, squash, strawberries, lavender, cilantro, cosmos, bell peppers, habeneros, corn, arugula, lettuce, beets, spinach, green onions, columbine, tea trees and snapdragons. And our small plots are relatively unproductive. Over our growing seasons here, we have produced maybe a modest 50 pounds of tasty organic fruits and veggies. Our neighboring gardeners, however, have produced hundreds and hundreds of pounds in their more diligently kept garden plots. One point that I think the article did not emphasize enough was the fact that these plots are a necessary source of food for many of the gardeners. And that losing access to these plots for a few years, or forever, if they are simply paved over, will rob these gardeners of a valuable asset, and cost them hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, in additional food costs. The 32 foot encroachment for head-in parking is ridiculous. No car is 32 feet long. This paved swatch over the best, oldest, and most beautiful plots (including a pond, arbors, and fruit trees) is symbolic of the disdain the UC Regents have for UCB families. In Berkeley, if anywhere, the garden community should be protected and upheld as an example to other universities. The garden symbolizes the growth and success of a racially, nationally, and economically diverse community, in a creative, productive and organic environment. If the garden is paved, it will symbolize the homogenizing of UC Berkeley. Faceless, yardless, expensive high density housing on the train tracks will replace the open spaces and human creativity now so evident. 

Rebecca Davis Stevenson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

P. M. Price’s column regarding Meleia Willis-Starbuck may be sincerely heartfelt, but it completely misfires with statements like “I hope that the politicians, community activists, university officials and other dignitaries, who praised Meleia so ardently for her short life’s full work, do not allow her memory to be tarnished for any reason. No reason would be good enough.” Price couldn’t be more wrong. 

What I will remember more than anything about Ms. Willis-Starbuck is that she chose to engage in a verbal altercation on the street when she could have gotten into a car with friends and driven away; that she chose to call another friend to bring a gun into the situation, an action so irresponsible as to defy belief when coming from an Ivy League student; and that her friend fired recklessly into a crowd of people, killing Meleia. I will remember that this girl’s stupidity, bad judgment and lousy choice of friends caused her own death. All the Dartmouths and Berkeley-chic trips to Cuba in the world cannot erase that tragic fact. 

Michael Stephens 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was delighted to read the article titled “UC: Trees Cause Homelessness” in the Oct 4-6 edition of the Pepper Spray Times because I just encountered a similar case of twisted tree thinking last week. When City of Berkeley employees showed up to work on a tree on my block, I asked why they were trimming it. They explained that drivers were not stopping at the stop sign. To connect the drivers’ actions to the tree seemed odd because the foliage didn’t actually obscure the stop sign. In addition, now that the tree has been trimmed into a silly-looking pompom, the drivers still just roll on through. Seems like no matter what the problem is, both the University and the City think the proper response is to reduce the plant life. I guess it makes them feel like they are doing something positive. But, in fact, all they are doing is reducing the livability of this urban environment.  

Sally Levinson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Ms. O’Malley’s editorial on disaster planning raises interesting questions on the relative roles of the federal government and of voluntary associations in disaster situations. It’s curious that she chooses Cuba as the shining example of how to do it right. 

I’m a Red Cross disaster volunteer who was traveling in China when Katrina struck and who happened to see a TV interview with a representative of the Chinese Red Cross. He expressed great dissatisfaction with the apparent lack of effective response in the U.S., and said that “in China it’s a lot easier: when we have a big flood we just call the People’s Liberation Army, and they send 100,000 troops right away.” People are, however, not “moved out of harm’s way” in China, because a flood on the Yellow River strikes specific areas without sufficient predictability—it’s a levee issue there as well. Instead Chinese flood victims are evacuated after the fact with no provision for saving their belongings, housed temporarily en masse, and then generally left to return and rebuild on their own. 

A tiny country like Cuba, whose natural disasters come with days of warning to predictable locales, may be able to work proactively. But China—equally endowed with a dominant federal “regime”—is almost never able to do anything but react. The scale of natural events can always easily overwhelm the scale of government preparation and response, no matter how centrally planned for and no matter how many troops are on call. 

I join Ms. O’Malley in not blindly accepting as an excuse the claim that “the Bush regime just doesn’t like the federal government,” even though that’s conservative dogma. An adventurous and ideological administration without apparent regard for fiscal responsibility is perfectly capable of using the federal government for big local interventions, not all of which would be welcome. 

Our own “patchwork of voluntary organizations” such as the Red Cross and the Salvation Army may not have the organizational simplicity of the People’s Liberation Army. The Red Cross has so far sent “only” 25,000 volunteers to the recent hurricane zones, and that has taken weeks to arrange. But such “people’s liberation organizations,” to coin a phrase, don’t create the dangerous precedent of massive federal-troop intervention in our daily life. With precedents in place via disaster response, how big a step would it be to find an “emergency needing federal troops” in the next large and unruly national political demonstration? Remember that the Chinese government also called in the PLA to “assist” with that unplanned 1989 political “disaster” in Tienanmen Square. We’re a long way from that here, thankfully, but let’s think long and hard before we open such a door even for compelling disaster needs. 

Voluntary disaster responders don’t pack any political agenda and bring no ideological goals to a disaster zone. Why do we need to go any farther than making sure their organizations are well supported for the tasks they take on so fearlessly and collectively perform so well? 

Alan Tobey 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Mr. Allen-Taylor makes an argument that I don’t find persuasive against the notion that the subject remarks were racist. I indeed believe them to be, and also believe a more compelling argument can be made that they are than that they are not. That said, however, should it be desirable to seek alternative labels to the racist one, perhaps we should consider eugenicist. Eugenics, the closeted pseudo-science, more fashionable in the period 1925-1980 than today, would embrace heartily Mr. Bennett’s notion of a crime-rate improvement to be achieved through black abortion, or sterilization for that matter. Eugenicists had and have as a stated aim the denial of progeny to those deemed undesirable, and clearly the implication is that this race prone to crime and violence beyond their numerical share would qualify as such. 

As one of their number, having experienced rather than having perpetrated crime, I take issue with his conclusion. Back in 1969, when then not yet President George Herbert Walker Bush hosted a discussion on what to do about the increased birth rate of black babies, and introduced two leading eugenicists to opine on the matter, hardly a brow was raised in surprise. Certainly there was no drumbeat of outrage. Surely we cannot be taken aback that his former drug czar would share concerns about black babies. To the credit of both, the birth rate is no longer a runaway problem. Whether openly or covertly, the relative population of African descent has been and is being managed downward. 

If Mr. Allen-Taylor sees this in a non-racist context, I won’t chose to argue the semantics. It is noteworthy, however, to observe and understand the larger issue; thus eugenics is much more meaningfully explored than racism in this instance. 

Tony Jennings  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

An important fact is missing in J. Douglas Allen-Taylor’s excellent thesis on Bill Bennett and racism. If every American of any color or culture was offered free education beyond high school; if offered the ability to pursue any desired vocation or knowledge, we would not only reduce crime, and the wasting of vital funds on punishment, we would certainly reduce the number of confused citizens like Bill Bennett. 

Gerta Farber 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I must take issue with J. Douglas Allen-Taylor’s reflections on William Bennett on two grounds: 

First, Mr. Allen-Taylor defames our language by saying we lack appropriate words to describe Bennett’s comments. Yet he contradicts himself in the same article by finding perfectly fine words: “stupid”, “self-righteous” and “wrong” are excellent choices. Drawing from Allen-Taylor’s response, we could add “irresponsible” and “inciting.” There’s no need to tar the English language, Mr. Allen-Taylor. 

Second, Mr. Allen-Taylor doesn’t fight back hard enough against the unquestioned premise that blacks commit a disproportionate number of crimes. Yes, it sure at least looks like law enforcement is applied unevenly and so we SHOULD, as Allen-Taylor suggests, wonder what the actual rates of crime COMMISSION are. And, yes, we ought to have an economic suspicion that if any group is removed from the scene, the economic niche for crimes associated with that group may very well be filled by other groups—an entire mode of essentialist political theory (that some groups have, in their essence or even culture, a unique propensity to generate a particular class of social phenomenon (good or ill, criminal or civil)) was forcibly put down in World War II and has been philosophically and scientifically torn to shreds by thinkers from Socrates onward. But in this particular case, the crime rate in America and its racial correlations, one can go much further: 

My understanding is that there is plenty of research which claims to show that once one compares apples to apples, controlling for factors such as economic status and location, a great deal of the correlations between race and crime rate disappear. Whether that research is ultimately correct or not, it points up that glib assertions about race and crime-rate correlation are less right or wrong so much as they are MEANINGLESS in any scientific sense. That such glib assertions are (all too) MEANINGFUL in shaping public opinion makes their uncritical repetition by public figures like Bennett outright immoral. 

So, Mr. Allen-Taylor, there is one more word for your list to describe the author of The Book of Virtues on the occasion of this latest gaffe: “hypocrite.” 

Thomas Lord 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I wish I could totally agree with J. Douglas Allen-Taylor’s assessment of Bill Bennett. While it is impossible to prove he is a racist, I am afraid we cannot dismiss him as stupid either. The words I would use to describe Bill Bennett are shrewd, cynical, and desperate.  

It is no accident Bennett used blacks in his abortion example. He could have said aborting all Italian-American fetuses would reduce crime because there would be no one to join the Mafia. He could have said that aborting the fetuses of those in the lowest economic classes would reduce crime. He could then go on to say how ridiculous and morally offensive it is to argue those positions. He could have used those examples to make his point, but he didn’t. He knew that the resulting publicity would bring curious listeners to his show. It didn’t matter to him if what he was saying was factually wrong. All he had to do was word his statement in a way that he could later deny any racist intent.  

With the current glut of conservative talk shows, latecomers to the game are having trouble getting an audience. Bennett’s show is one that is struggling. He is syndicated on 115 stations according to Salem Radio’s web site. In comparison, Michael Medved, another host syndicated by Salem, is heard on 180. Michael Reagan, syndicated by Radio America, is heard on over 200 stations. Rush Limbaugh’s show on Premiere Radio Networks has 650.  

Making a racially charged comment on the air may get Bennett the listeners he desperately seeks. Then again, it may give Salem an excuse to pull the plug on an underperforming show. If he loses his show now, he will blame the Left for silencing him. Any campaign to cancel him would give Bennett exactly want he wants. Without that campaign, his show would soon die from a lack of audience, leaving him with no one to blame but himself.  

Tom Yamaguchi  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I agree with Winston Burton that erecting a Jimi Hendrix statue would be an excellent idea, but please place the statue on a busy corner so that we can all admire it daily, instead of needing to veer off to a side street. 

No doubt a local Jimi Hendrix museum would go over well too. It would draw tourists, and probably just needs to permission of his estate to be opened. Giving the profits to local school music programs is a great idea. 

I became a Hendrix fan at age 11, my parents would not allow me to see him at the Hollywood Bowl (where he opened for the Monkees), and he died when I was 14. My friends know that I want Voodoo Chile (slight return) played at my funeral, and I had it played by the band at my wedding. 

I’ll start the offer with $200 towards building a Jimi Hendrix statue here in Berkeley. 

Will the city help by finding and donating a nice place? 

Robert Berend 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

As I read the story of Berkeley’s newest hero/future obstetrician, I couldn’t help but hear Deep Throat’s cryptic words somewhere in my head, “follow the money.” Three children in intensive care until December? At public expense? For a mother who doesn’t have custody of her other three children? Who does have a social worker? I’m confused. To compound my confusion, I didn’t see any mention of the new father in the report. Couldn’t these hundreds of thousands of public dollars been spent to benefit more of our precious children? 

Neal Rockett 

P.S. Before anyone screams about cultural insensitivity, I have sent this letter independent of the creed, color, sexual preference, race or ethnicity of all participants.  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Mr. Biko Eisen-Martin, this is Linda Smith. I don’t know you, but I want to say thank you for helping a new mother in need. You are obviously a Human Angel-On-Call. (According to this book on Angels, an “Angel-On-Call” is any human being who shows up “by chance” to be of service to someone else in need. I know that there are special Coincidence Arranging Angels who arrange for people to run into each other “by chance” and then one ends up aiding the other. These are the same Angels who arrange for future lovers or very good friends to meet, or for people who long to see each other again but who don’t have a phone number, email, or contact information to help arrange that. And then one day, boom! You run into the person whom you ached to meet again, but thought you never would. This has happened to me a lot in recent times). 

I’m amazed that more people didn’t stop to notice: “Hey, there’s a woman bleeding on the steps of BART, in a very crowded area of Downtown Berkeley! Hello?!?! Somebody help her!” Thank God for Biko, who did. 

Why don’t Americans notice people and things more? What is it about a car-and work-and home/family centered society, that makes us frequently not notice things like buckeye butterflies or people on the streets or a beautiful display of fresh-cut flowers? I pray and hope that everyone begins to pray and meditate more. Part of prayer is taking appropriate action as you are led by your indwelling God or Wisdom. Another form of prayer or spiritual work, is noticing what needs to be done to make the world a better place, and then doing something, big or small, to help that. 

We all have talents, passions, strengths, things we love to do for fun or work. Fun and work and world service should be synonymous, don’t you think? 

Noticing people or things, taking time to slow down, is a choice. And, a good one! 

Linda M. Smith 

P.S. Somebody finally noticed me the other day enjoying all the trees and butterflies and such. I took time to just “magickally listen” to him. Now I’ve made a new friend. I’ve bumped into him twice, “by chance.” A “coincidence” is just a polite term for “a miracle.” Miracles are all around us. We can choose to notice them. It may or may not be anything spectacular, like mental telepathy or instant healing of cancer or a broken limb. Miracles come in all sizes. That black mother had three miracles the other day. Thanks also to the people who transported her to the hospital, and the ones who helped birth and care for her three kids. Thanks to the person who loaned Biko a cell phone to call the ambulance. 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Your reporter, perhaps blinded by the need for political correctness, has missed a number of critical points in his coverage of the birth of triplets 

to a woman at the Berkeley BART station. 

Unanswered questions include: Where is the father of the children? Why are her other three children not in her custody? Why is this woman, who is apparently homeless, jobless and on welfare, having more children? 

Perhaps you don’t want to invade the women’s privacy by asking any hard questions, but don’t you think that the public, who are now, in ‘loco parentis,’ picking up the bill to house and feed these children, deserve some answers? 

R. Eisenman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Berkeley City government by its policies expresses its view that my life is a thing of no value and entirely dispensable as collateral damage, not in a war on foreign soil, against which its members would hypocritically protest, but in the class war between landlords and landowners versus tenants. The government expresses the view that property owners must have carte blanche to do as they please on private property, especially with respect to renovation and development, regardless of the damage to the comfort, health, and life of “lesser” members of the community, such as myself. The Berkeley Municipal Code does not support the government in its view. To maintain its inhumane and fascistic view, the government must substitute its own supposedly arcane and ostensibly nonsensical interpretation of the intent of local law for the plain word meaning of the ordinances. It claims that the courts have ruled in its favor, but it will not make those rulings available to the public. They are not otherwise accessible, since they were only trial court rulings, at best, and never reached the appellate level where they would become published opinions that would truly set precedent. They force citizens to challenge them in the courts and are confident of getting bad rulings from the court to bolster their nonsensical and fascistic interpretations of local ordinances. They are swaggering bullies, who have no compunction about bullying citizens such as myself to death. If they insist, I will challenge them in the courts, even though the odds are stacked against me and even though I am trying against all odds to recover from almost certainly terminal cancer. I hope I will at least demonstrate to all good citizens left in the City of Berkeley what they must do to overthrow the monster that has overtaken our City—we must fight against all odds and never say die—we must love not our own lives unto death—we must die for the cause of liberty and justice if need be. This is the Way of Christ, the way that so-called “progressives” who have now flip-flopped over into fascists will never know. 

Peter Mutnick 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am a parent of a child who is in his second year of Oakland School for the Arts. I was quite appalled by the unbalanced article written by J. Doulas Allen Taylor in the Sept. 2-5 Daily Planet entitled “Turmoil in Oakland School for the Arts, Parents Say.” The vast majority of your full-page article was focused on the experience of one disgruntled child who was at OSA less than a semester.  

I want to say that my son Daniel has had a vastly different experience of OSA, and many other students there have had a very positive experience. Your article stated “the humanities classes were “so disorganized that differnet classes were taught during the year by a French teacher, a Spanish teacher, an English teacher and a Visual Arts Teacher.” In my child’s case, his humanities course was taught by Dr. Zachary Polsky, a teacher with a BA from Grinnel College and a PhD from the University of California at Davis. Dr. Polsky was certainly more than capable of teaching both French and Humanities. His Humanities course was delightful. My son was reading Plato’s “allegory of the Cave” from the “Republic,” excerpts from the “Epic of Gilgamesh,” the poetry of Lesbos. He read the play “Lysistrata,” and wrote a report comparing the ecstatic sculpture and art of ancient Indian Civilizations to the religious art of the mideaval European period. His teachers were excellent, stimulating, and had fine academic preparation. In addition to Dr. Polsky, his science teacher Adelaid Cheng hails from UC Berkeley; his music teacher Mr. Aton, trained at Chicago State University and New England Conservatory of Music; his English teacher Mr. Przyborowski was from San Francisco State University; his Math Teacher Mr. Taylor, trained at Swartmore College and the London School of Economics. Other outstanding faculty my son associated with were Mr. Keyes, the head of the Visual Arts Department who has a BFA from the Chicago Art Institute and an MFA from Yale University; Reginald Savage who is the artistic director for Savage Jazz Dance Company; Penelope Thomas with a BA from Rice University and an MA from the University of California at Santa Cruz; Josy Miller from Barnard College of Columbia University; Andrey Tarnarutskiy from Moscow Polytechnical Univeristy, Shchukin Theatre College in Moscow and an MA from New York Univerity; and Cava Menzies from the Berklee School of Music. All of these teachers have returned this year; and have been supplemented by some fine new teachers. My son has found his guitar teacher Omid Zoufonoun (University of Southern California, who was also classically trained in music in Vienna) to be absolutely outstanding. He considers Osceola Free, an English teacher from Southern University”totally inspirational,” and Hani Aldhafari, his math teacher from the University of California at Berkeley smart and “cool.” 

I have been impressed by the small class sizes (he has no more than 18-20 students in each of his academic classes); the individualized attention he receives from both teachers and administrative staff; and the cultural diversity of the faculty. My son’s artistic emphasis is instrumental music. He gets 5 hours a day of varied musical instruction 4 days a week, and 3 hours of instruction in music related activities on Wednesdays. He is learning the technical aspects of performing and recording music through faculty from Expressions College in Emeryville. I could never afford to pay for this high level of musical training in the community. 

As a new school, OSA has not been without its growing pains and there was indeed been some teacher turnover last year. However, the overwhelming majority of my son’s teachers have returned. While your reporter Mr. Allen-Taylor dedicated 4 columns of his article to Lydia Kosmos and her mother’s complaints about OSA; he relegated his single positive comment about the school to a single line buried at the end of paragraph 5 when he wrote “OSA is ranked in the top 10 percentile in the Academic Performance Index, California’s official scorecard for rating its grade schools.” Last year OSA scored 9 of 10 on the Statewide Academic Performance Index. The next closest Oakland High School, Skyline High, scored 3 of 10 and all of the other Oakland High Schools scored 1 of 10. When the API scores for OSA were adjusted for socio-economic status , the school scored 10 of 10. This outstanding academic achievement was well documented by both the San Francisco Chronicle and the Oakland Tribune. I would hope that Mr. Allen-Taylor would spend some time investigating and writing a balanced report on OSA. Why not spend some time interviewing the kids who love the school? To do otherwise causes me to assume that your reporter has a biased agenda. 

Dr. Jane Haggstrom