Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday March 10, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

What exactly is a sweatshop? Our college students’ aversion to sweat must apply only when the sweat results from productive labor, but not when it results from unproductive labor, as happens at the gym. Is the Cal Rec facility a sweatshop or not? The students want Cal merchandise produced in a “sweat-free” factory. What does that mean? Maybe they think everyone should sit comfortably at a computer terminal in an air-conditioned office, but that isn’t how clothes are made. 

As long as most of us keep demanding both low prices and high wages, U.S. factories will continue to close and move production to cheaper places. In most of those places one will find high temperatures, high population density, low wages and low employment rates. These features combine to motivate workers to work very fast and sweat. If they’re not sweating, we’re not saving money. It would be good if we could again produce most of our own clothing, but we probably won’t, and whoever does will sweat. They will have to. 

Paul Wooton 


P.S. Great cover photo! 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Many of us elders walk daily for our health and for errands, as we no longer drive. I want to advocate more resting stops, like the ones found at bus stops, but scattered through neighborhoods where buses do not go. Lack of such benches keeps many elders virtually housebound. 

Pat Cody 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I just found out that the secretary of state has certified the use of the entire Diebold line of voting machines in California despite the ample research findings that these machines are not reliable.  

As a 10-year resident of California, a low-income but high-bracket taxpayer, and an escapee from Ohio, the state Diebold makes its home, this action taken by the secretary of state is an affront to everything that I believe in and have supported in California. 

As a member of the Rules Committee Sen. Don Perata should subpoena the voting machine manufacturers, the ITA testers, and other relevant insiders. (For example: Diebold, ES&S, Sequoia, and Hart Intercivic; Ciber labs, Wyle labs, and the voting system examiners.) 

These folks are openly Republican, and, like other very well-known Republicans, have a habit of disregarding regulations with impunity. They should be required to testify under oath in response to questions put by the Senate Elections Committee.  

There are a lot of unanswered questions about voting machine programming, examination and certification, and these people need to be held to account to citizens and voters for their actions and decisions. 

California should be a trendsetter state, not an extension of the Bush administration’s Banana Republic. 

Heather Merriam 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Suzanne La Barre’s article on the forthcoming Bus Rapid Transit improvements says that “the line will speed through” three towns and 18 miles in 12 minutes—an average of 90 miles per hour, counting over 30 stops. Rapid indeed! 

At last we get some transit improvements that will make a real difference. But let’s hope the buses come equipped with seatbelts.  

Alan Tobey 


EDITOR’S NOTE: See correction, Page Two. 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

South Dakota has passed a law outlawing most abortions for any reason. The governor stated he is doing this for the purpose of forcing a challenge to Roe. So now we know why President Bush lost interest in his war in Afghanistan. He’s planning to bring the Taliban to the United States. 

Jeff Paularino 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Hopefully this letter will get printed as the trickle of letters on this subject turns into a torrent. 

Two points about the matter of the Daily Planet accepting advertising from the “Church” of Scientology: 

First, the First Amendment issue: I recognize that this paper has the right to decide which advertising to accept. I also recognize that running ads for an organization doesn’t necessarily mean that the paper supports the aims of that organization. However, if Executive Editor Becky O’Malley has any doubt about whether refusing Scientology’s advertising might be seen as, or might in fact be, suppression of anyone’s freedom of religion, that doubt is very easily allayed. Because Scientology is not a religion. It says it’s a religion. It puts on airs as if it were a religion. It tries to assume the trappings of a religion. But it’s not; it’s a scam, perpetrated by a well-known science fiction writer with a bizarre imagination, and taken up zealously by his minions. 

By the way, please don’t take my word for any of this. One place you ought to look for starters is Wikipedia. Go there and look up their entry on “Xenu.” That’s right—just type this in and see what they have to say about this subject, which forms one of the core beliefs of this “religion.” Then decide for yourself whether this “church” ought to be accorded respect. (While you’re there at Wikipedia, there are lots more articles on the subject. I recommend reading them.) 

While you may think this is just a disagreement about whether people ought to be able to believe in whatever they want (in this case, space aliens—I kid you not), it’s much more than that. The Cult of Scientology is actually quite dangerous. One of the things imparted by their founder was a propensity to be absolutely vicious when attacked, and to attack their critics back harder. This is much different from a debate, say, over whether the Falun Gong ought to be allowed to march in the Chinese New Year parade. These people fight dirty. And yes, they are after your money. 

To sum: I won’t stop reading the paper even if they continue running Scientology ads. But if it were me, I’d pull that plug in a nanosecond with nary a pang of conscience. 

David Nebenzahl 

North Oakland 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On the Academy Awards post-mortem, regarding the shameless baring of boobs to every eye in the place, plus the uncounted others across the globe: I guess they served the purpose of keeping the audience alert to a possible peek at some renegade nipple when the program waned. 

The whole business leads me to ask about the possibility of adding the Peek-a-Boobs award to the person sighting the first nipple of the evening. Other awards for successive sightings could follow along with one for the most daring cleavage not providing nipple sighting. 

There there are the men to consider, men in jock straps: Now there’s a bonanza for you. Oh, it could go on and on, and think how the ratings would go up. 

Dorothy V. Benson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

You have to ask yourself who are religious zealots and inquisitors going to target once they strike down Roe vs. Wade? It’s kind of a loaded question. We all know who these Biblical hypocrits have had their sights on. Are you now or have you ever been gay? 

Ron Lowe 

Nevada City 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

My 25-year-old software programmer nephew was visiting the other day. We were talking about the Berkeley economy, and when I told him about all the land zoned for light manufacturing, he cracked up laughing and almost fell to the floor. 

Your recent story about the proposed West Berkeley Bowl quotes one of your columnists, Zelda Bronstein, wondering whether the city is really committed to manufacturing and affordable living for artists. 

Given sky-high taxes and long-term budget woes, maybe the city would be better off commiting itself to supporting growing businesses that hire workers and pay taxes. 

If Berkeley can’t find a way to accommodate a popular organic grocery store, it’s hard to imagine that Berkeley is bound for anything other than declining 


Tom Case 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was pleased to see Rob Wrenn advocate for authentic citizen participation in development planning in Berkeley (“Brower Center, Ashby BART: A Right Way, A Wrong Way,” Feb. 28). Directly criticizing the way the city recently began the process of planning for the Ashby BART site, Mr. Wrenn argues that it is essential for such development plans to be “worked out in an extensive public process, not predetermined. There are many options to be considered. Let’s stand with Berkeley’s tradition of participatory democracy.” Elsewhere in his commentary, he lauds planning processes in which the public has “extensive and meaningful involvement.” It is clear that Mr. Wrenn holds this principle in very high regard.  

Therefore, I fully expect him to promote an extensive public process in considering the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) plan proposed by AC Transit (“Inter-City Rapid Bus Transit on the Fast Track,” March 7). In case you are not aware of this project, it would turn Telegraph Avenue—our last functioning north-south thoroughfare—into a road with one single lane in each direction. That is because one of the traffic lanes in each direction would be used for buses only at all times. In addition, Telegraph Avenue would become a virtual dead end for drivers where it reaches Dwight Way, because Telegraph from Dwight to Bancroft would be completely closed to automobile traffic. These proposed changes would dramatically increase traffic congestion on Telegraph, cause increased traffic flow into the neighborhoods adjacent to Telegraph, and result in substantial restrictions on motorists’ ability to enter and exit Telegraph Avenue due to turning restrictions. The BRT would also result in lane reductions on other streets because the buses need to travel on a route to connect with Berkeley’s downtown bus transit center. This proposal would have a dramatic impact on all residents and business owners throughout the Southside.  

Unfortunately, the public has been excluded from any meaningful involvement in the planning process for this major project. Knowing of Mr. Wrenn’s strong commitment to public participation, I anticipate that he will do everything he can to further an authentic public process to consider all of the implications of the BRT proposal as soon as possible. 

Doug Buckwald  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Berkeley progressives are invited to plan a Coalition Convention for city elections.  

Berkeley’s progressive mission is to promote a more equitable economic and social life in our city and beyond, and to enhance social justice and democratic co-operation on every level. If this sounds like you, or your organization, then you are invited to help us plan at 2:45 p.m. Sunday, March 12 in the third-floor meeting room of the Berkeley Public Library at Kittredege Street and Shattuck Avenue. 

We will be planning two Coalition Conventions for Berkeley progressives for next November’s city election; first for platform and principles, and second for candidates. This is an opportunity to build a coalition which will include your priorities and those of your organization in its founding document. 

We can apply our progressive principles to every level of life; and we have been talking in our meetings so far about the following (alphabetically): 

Art; city planning and land use; economic development; disability; election reform; environment and ecology; ethnic and racial diversity; gay and lesbian concerns; health; homelessness and poverty; housing (affordable); labor; media; neighborhood and community; open public process; peace and international affiars; political clubs; public schools; religious life; seniors; women; university life.  

Yes, you’re right, you can’t talk about all of these in one session, and you can’t include it all in one platform (certainly not in the time we have available). But this list (and more) are what we mean when we talk about the progressive movement. If any of these are your passion, or the passion of your organization, then you are invited. Especially if you want to move in the direction of greater liberty, equality, justice and co-operation. Yes the words are old, but still unfulfilled. 

We have been talking about a Convention for Platform and Principles on the last weekend of April, and Candidate selection perhaps the next weekend. Both principles and candidates (and which city offices we contest) will be up to you and your organizations. We hope after March 12 that various groups may want to meet together according to type: ecology, students, neighborhood, etc., to work out common ideas. 

We expect that this convention and the following election will be only the beginning. Can we forge a progressive coalition which will further the goals of each individual and organization, and also enhance our ability to communicate and work for common ideals? It is up to all of us.  

Laurence Schectman 

Berkeley Coalition for a  

Progressive Convention  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Congress could vote as early as today (Wednesday, March 8), or very soon thereafter. This time, they are trying to vote in a bill titled “National Uniformity for Food Act.” My understanding is that they wish to stop labeling foods that contain allergy-inducing ingredients such as dairy, wheat, nuts, or other things, as well as not tell us whether a food is genetically modified. Guys, genetically modified foods are very very bad for the planet. Monsanto and the other corporate thugs-that-be aren’t telling us the full story on GM foods. We could be eating genetically modified foods at our favorite fast-food restaurants, or food bought at conventional big supermarkets like Safeway or Albertson’s. We may never know it! This is horrendous. I have food allergies which have very uncomfortable effects on me if I happen to accidentally ingest allergy-foods. So do many of us. Please call or e-mail your representatives and tell them to oppose HR 4167, the so-called “National Uniformity! for Food Act.”  

And kudos to the Berkeley Daily Planet for publishing online letters to the editor which can’t be printed in the paper edition. I am a very frequent and loyal reader of the Berkeley Daily Planet. You guys have exposed to me—and all of us—political corruptions that we may never have known about otherwise.  

Thanks, Becky O’Malley and everybody. 

Linda Smith 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The ship of state is adrift and sinking.  

One hundred and 17 years ago its architects designed a stout new hull, laminating civil liberty with due process to carry legislative, executive and judicial functions above a completely new creation called “balance of powers.”  

For over two centuries the ship made it through some severe storms—a war on board and attacks from abroad. To survive it was necessary from time to time to amend and renovate but on the whole the ship has served us passengers remarkably well—until now.  

At the controls the Bush/Cheney crew operates in secrecy in pursuit of global hegemony. Officers in the wheel house, against all reason, attend more to leaked revelations about their conduct than to leaks occurring in the hull of the ship itself.  

The falsely named Patriot Act breaches the civil liberty hull while wiretaps on passengers drown their due process protections. Ballast born of laziness and covered in “enemy combatants” and “terrorist suspects” compel the crew to jettison prohibitions against torture along with respects for human rights. The most critical damage, however, comes from structural imbalance.  

Executive power currently outweighs the combined powers of the legislature and the judiciary creating a precarious tilt further aggravated by heavily militarized cargo.  

If the leaks are to be repaired and the ship of state saved from sinking we passengers must oust the officials in control. The first chance we have to do it will come next November.  

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have been in Berkeley two years and have experienced continuous problems at the public library—which never occur in other local systems—concerning the computer department. This is true of nearby libraries and overseas, too. 

Forgetting the fact that the computer system is down far more than any other system I have ever encountered, there are problems with about four sites which I can get but cannot get sections within them—all are chatrooms. 

I have brought this to the attention of the north branch staff and also of the central staff. The central staff sent a person out over a year ago and confirmed I was right (north branch had already done that). I was sloughed off with “we will get back to you.”  

They never did and they studiously ignore my communications asking for status—unbelievable arrogance!! 

One other thing I have brought to their attention is laughable-—always whining about not enough funding but north branch is frequently with heat blasting out and all windows and door wide open! Again I am studiously ignored. 

What a third world community you have here. 

Brian C Waters 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Was it due to incompetence or treason that Bush failed to heed the warnings about the attack on 9/11? Was it incompetence, or treason, when Cheney and Rumsfeld fabricated the assertion that Iraq had WMDs in order to start the war? Was it incompetence, or treason, that Bush’s administration has drained our national wealth with this endless, unwinable war, killing tens of thousands? Is it incompetence or treason that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rove are using the endless war as an excuse for curtailing our civil liberties and for torturing people in American gulags? Was it incompetence that Bush’s administration cut funding to rebuild the levees in New Orleans before Katrina, and Chertoff prevented a coordinated emergency response to the flood? Or was it treason that Bush lost New Orleans, the major port to our heartland? 

And now, as Bush and Chertoff want to let the Dubai Ports World company, from United Arab Emirates, run the six largest ports on our East and Gulf coasts, is it incompetence or treason, to risk Al Qaeda sneaking a bomb into our cities? Connect the dots, America, before Bush looses our entire country. 

Bruce Joffe 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Please, please bring the Republican convention to San Francisco in 2008. It will be the political TV entertainment of the decade. Ideally all the San Francisco freaks will turn out. They can protest the war, tout gay marriage and wear out their favorite buzz words like education, environment, health care, corporations, oil, profit and developer, none of which have any meaning from the mouth of a San Francisco Democrat. The ‘48 (Goldwater) and ‘56 (Eisenhower) conventions were great, but this would be the best. There is a downside risk. The freaks may refuse to play and sit home with their yoga. We could invite 90 percent of the Berkeley voters as imitators. Another by-product: a really good performance could ensure conservative victory for 30 years.  

W. O. Locke 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The American public and Congress should oppose the Bush administration’s ill-considered nuclear treaty with India. This treaty violates the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) by allowing sales of nuclear fuel and reactor components to India and allowing India to increase its nuclear weapons production. The NPT forbids providing nuclear technological assistance to governments which haven’t signed it. India’s government is one of only three that has never signed the NPT.  

Meanwhile, President Bush wants North Korea and Iran not to develop nuclear weapons while he lets India make them. Don’t forget that Bush still sits on one of the world’s biggest stockpiles of nukes. Bush’s message to the international community is clear: “Do as we say, not as we do.” This hypocritical behavior makes other nations distrust us, and encourages the proliferation of nuclear weapons. “If you can have them, we can too!” 

Congress has the power to stop this. Voters should urge their senators and representatives to vote against treaty ratification and to cosponsor H.Con.Res. 318, introduced by Representative Ed Markey (D-MA). Voters should also demand that Congress reduce America’s nuclear weapon stockpile. We need to halt the nuclear madness, not encourage it. 

David Mitchell 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I would like to leave politics out of this request, for an investigation on the wiretaps, FISA issue. No matter if the president is a Democrat, Republican, male, female, Jewish, Christian, etc. etc. I would still ask the question, “Are you spying on U.S. citizens? Wiretapping their phones? Reading their e-mails? What and where is the evidence for your cause?” 

Just the truth is all I am seeking. 

Michael Shemchuk