Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday June 30, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I want to give proper respect to Berkeleyans who understood immediately what McKnight (“Homophobic Speech Sours Community Graduation Event,” June 23) was talking about. Scott’s other points were obliterated by mechanisms designed to protect freedom, his included. Political correctness was and still is a part of freedom and vice versa. 

Though I did not attend this year’s Celebration of Excellence, I can imagine the event by extrapolating from the controversial events organized by the African-American Studies department at Berkeley High when I attended. 

The majority of Berkeleyans disagree with Scott’s belief that hatefulness towards homosexuality is a mandate from God. Is that any reason to call for censorship? Most of us would say no. 

PC is about treating people like humans with considerate acknowledgment of diversity. It is simply an extension of common courtesy, not censorship. 

I applaud McKnight’s act of resistance against censorship. I’m glad to see that his love of discourse expands beyond the classroom to the community. He is continuing, I believe, in the tradition of Dr. Navies.  

Melinda Zapata 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I too am appalled at the comments the Rev. Manuel Scott Jr. delivered to the African American Berkeley High School graduates.  

I am doubly appalled that some blacks in Berkeley would choose to endorse bigotry while inside the African Episcopal Methodist Church-the church that was created in 1787 to shield African Americans from bigotry and racism. It was also within the sanctuary of the AME church in 1817 that Blacks overwhelmingly refused to capitulate to racism and bigotry and voted to remain in America and fight for equal rights. These historic incidents merely compound the travesty perpetrated by the Revs. Manuel Scott Jr. and Robert McKnight.  

I am all in favor of an African American graduation ceremony; particularly when compared to the silliness and gong show I witnessed that passed for Berkeley High School Commencement at the Greek Theater last week. But if I had to choose between watching “The Gong Show” or suffering two black ministers desecrating a historic African American church, I’d settle for “The Gong Show.”  

Jean Damu 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Ethan Feldman’s June 27 letter was an effective answer to the sadly misguided commencement speech of Rev. Manuel Scott and also to the letter by Lisa Owens celebrating the Rev. Scott’s condemnation of homosexuals on Biblical grounds. I know I’m not the first the point out that such Bible-backed-bigotry is best answered by those who know and respect the Bible, and who know how to read it. Unfortunately, secular people’s disdain of traditional writings, and of all religion, leaves them as ignorant as the bigots, unable to meet them on their own ground and correct them with their own sources. 

Citing Biblical sources approving slavery as an answer to a black man citing Biblical condemnation of homosexuals—perfect! 

Dorothy Bryant 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Living in Berkeley, I am still amazed at the intellectual laziness and double-standards I find among some of the citizenry, especially when it comes to the Bible. I dare say that most Berkeleyans would not be so arrogant and lazy when it comes to offering interpretations of, say, the Koran or the Vedas or the Bhagavad-Gita. Yet still we have to endure theologically and historically simplistic and reductionistic arguments about the Bible, slavery, and homosexuality from some like Ethan Feldman.  

When a preacher of whatever stripe teaches that the Bible is always and everywhere against the practice of homosexual behavior (which it is!), it gets rather tiring to hear the same old reductionistic, intellectually dishonest and lazy responses along the lines of, “Well the Bible teaches that slavery is OK and so did many preachers throughout history, so since we don’t follow the Bible on slavery, why should we follow it on homosexuality?” Well, cased closed then, eh? How come we don’t hear these same Berkeley people saying, “The Koran teaches that all infidels (i.e., non-Muslims) should be killed, so the Koran should be ignored as wrong and totally irrelevant to our world today?” Answer: Such people want to be much more careful in what they say about the Koran than they do about the Bible. Most Berkeleyans realize that the above statement about the Koran is reductionistic and overly simplistic, and so they would never say it. But they should realize that usually their statements about the Bible are just as simplistic, if not more so, than the one stated above about the Koran. So how about a little less laziness and reductionism from the “educated” Berkeley citizenry, and how about more statements about the Bible that take into account the entirety of it’s writings; more careful attention to what the text actually says and doesn’t say; the linguistic, grammatical, religious, historical, and socio-political context of it’s writings, and a deeply thoughtful interpretation of the relationship between the OT and the NT? This is the respectful way to approach not only the Bible, but any book worth reading and understanding. 

Michael Duenes 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Our city has a widely recognized identity. The descriptions run the gambit, and range from progressive and accepting to pompous and hypocritical, depending on whom you ask. 

Free speech has always been a flag Berkeleyans wave with fervor. That is, until someone with an unpopular opinion speaks up, then that person is accused of engaging in “hate speech.” 

Some letter writers are calling for the resignation or firing of Mr. McKnight because of his choice for keynote speakers at this recent event. For one, Mr. McKnight didn’t give the speech. Secondly, this event was not sanctioned by Berkeley High School, and as such Mr. McKnight cannot be accused of professional misconduct (so firing him would be an egregious act of misconduct by the BUSD itself). 

I don’t agree with the speaker either, but I wasn’t there. I haven’t read the exact language of the speech. Hence, I will not jump to any conclusions like a lot of my fellow Berkeley citizens. When you support your freedoms of speech and expression, you accept the fact that someone might say something you won’t like. 

Matthew Mitschang 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It was painful to read Reverend Manuel Scott Jr.’s remarks on gayness as he apparently delivered them to an audience of public school students on the tenth of June. When he referred to his religious opinions as “Biblical correctness” and expressed contempt for “political correctness,” all I could think of was the saying that those who do not know their history are condemned to repeat it.  

Descendants of the survivors of the European Hundred Years’ War between Roman Catholics and Protestants, a war which caused the deaths of a large proportion of the inhabitants of Europe and was fought because each side thought it was defending “Biblical correctness” by exterminating the other side, decided, having journeyed to these shores that it would be wise to found the government of the United States on the principle of separation of Church and State.  

Reverend Scott’s remarks would have been appropriate had they been delivered in church. He had no right, however, to impose his views on an audience made up of the graduates of a state-funded public high school.His remarks were hate speech and were homophobic from the point of view of those who do not share his religious beliefs, even though he himself may believe that he is courageously standing up for a spiritual truth, that he “hates the sin, not the sinner,” etc.  

If “African-American culture” is supposed to excuse Reverend Scott’s equation of gayness with, say, crack addiction, one might try visualizing such African-Americans as James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, Bayard Rustin, or Pat Parker in his audience to get a sense of how destructive Reverend Scott’s remarks really were.  

It’s unlikely that there will ever be a politically viable “Crackhead Liberation Movement.” Smoking crack is simply and purely bad for you, both physically and spiritually. 

Black Liberation, Women’s Liberation, and Gay Liberation, however—all three of which have contributed to the sometimes-hated concept of “political correctness”—have succeeded in transforming America precisely because all three represented growth in the direction of greater spiritual health for a significant portion of the American people. Their political force has been due to their spiritual validity. But all three liberation movements have been accused by their opponents of being “against God and the Bible.”  

If Reverend Scott wants to believe that the collection of books published in one volume by Protestant Christians under the title The Holy Bible is a computer readout from God that no two right-minded souls could interpret in different ways, I have to pray that the policy of separation of Church and State survives. It is, in the long run, the only thing that will protect him from others who believe the same thing, but have a different interpretation of the computer readout, who may be willing to kill to defend “God and the Bible.”  

Chadidjah McFall 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a resident and home owner in North Berkeley I am outraged at the city’s lack of will to clean up Pacific Steel Casting. I thought this was enviro-friendly, green, tree-hugging Berkeley? Instead I find out that less than a mile away from my home and work PSC is dumping toxins in the air 24/7 endangering my health and my family. 

Every day I can smell PSC from my home and have noticed shortness in breath in both myself and my daughter ever since ling here.  

It’s time for PSC to pack up and move it’s operations to an industrial area—not a residential one that is densely populated like Berkeley. It looks like for a million dollars not only can you buy a 1,200-square-foot fixer, but you also get polluted air filled with toxins from PSC.  

Any person who reads this and who lives in Berkeley need to come together and take a stand against this polluter in our community. 

David Landon 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

With tears streaming down my face and a very sad heart, I write these few words. 

An Army infantry official rang the doorbell to deliver a telegram: 

"With regrets, we wish to inform you, your son (my brother) Technical Sergeant Max Dragoon was killed in action on Sept. 3, 1944.” 

We hugged, mourned and consoled each other. War is cruel. We took comfort in the thought that Max was killed defending our country against Fascism and Hitlerism. 

Twenty-six days passed and, would you believe, another official, this time from the Army Air Force, arrived at our door with a telegram: 

"Sorry to inform you, your son (my brother) Technical Sergeant Samuel Dragoon was killed in action on Sept. 29, 1944 when the B-24 Bomber of which he was a crew member was shot down and crashed near Lyancourt, France.” 

At the time of his death , he was a member of the 787th Bomb Squadron, 466th Bomb Group. Because the Army Graves Registration Service was unable to identify the crew members’ remains separately, the crew was buried in a common grave at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St. Louis, Missouri which is centrally located in the United States. 

While each member of our family had to deal with this death in their own way, it left us all in a ‘shocked’ state, devastated with disbelief There was no hugging, no talking, no consoling—complete silence. Until this day, I am in denial and believe Sam must be lost, maybe an amnesia victim—my beloved favorite brother. 

I was 15 and my world fell apart. For years I had nightmares. Parts of me died with them. I vowed never to totally love anyone again for fear of losing them. My life was a picture of hopelessness and despair. I neglected my schooling—thought surely my heart would break. But I learned to hide my feelings and emotions and managed to somehow go on living—unhappily, miserably and lonely. War destroys the living too. 

Almost 62 years have gone by; the pain remains eternal. 

Another Grandmother Against The War  

Ann Dragoon Wasserman  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A few thoughts on the proposed increase in funding for social and police services on Telegraph Avenue: 

First, any strategy must be able to pass constitutional muster. Enforcement should be based on new civil codes that are developed to help enforce socially appropriate behavior. Ordinances on Telegraph should not be different than other areas of Berkeley. Groups and people sleeping on sidewalks need to be addressed in a coherent plan. Enforcement of crime should not be aimed primarily at skateboarders, jaywalkers and other victimless crimes. Drug dealing should be prosecuted, particularly hard drugs like heroin and crack that are sold in People’s Park. Gangs that have taken over the south campus territories should be cracked down upon and taken out of the city. Unruly behavior must be restrained. This includes aggressive panhandling, abusive speech, physically intimidating behavior—these are usually done by people that are criminally predatory, mentally ill and individuals acting out, as well as college age and older adults under the influence of alcohol. Open containers should first be confiscated with a warning or ticketed. People who suffer from mental illness or severe chemical dependency problems acting out continuously against local residents must not be allowed to stay on Telegraph. Perhaps a “three strikes” ordinance should be utilized for repeated problem incidents of behavior or crime, resulting in a “stay-away order” from the Telegraph area. The Telegraph community should be involved with any police presence and participate in enforcement efforts.  

This enforcement should be consistent throughout the day and into the late evening, with reasonably fast response times. Mental health and social services must be fully integrated in this program. 

Berkeley has always been know for its courteous and well-educated police force and any police presence on Telegraph by Berkeley and UC police should reflect this. I believe new police hires for Telegraph should be trained to be specialists in community policing, perhaps with previous experience in psychology or sociology, a future walking police who know the merchants and community and become familiar with all the problematic individuals on Telegraph. These officers need to be trained as experts in dealing with a small urban “village” such as Telegraph.  

The Telegraph community downturn is not primarily a crime problem but a sociological problem reflecting all of the realities of an urban neighborhood. Attitudes and participation by individuals in the community as well as city personnel must encourage and enforce a code of civil conduct that allows for diversity and individuality while requiring responsible public behavior. Developing a holistic, long-term approach is imperative. Telegraph should be safe, yet a free and fun place to be. 

Al Geyer 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I understand that the Arts Commission has been asked to review and update the definition of “arts and crafts” as referred to in the West Berkeley Plan. I hope they will keep in mind that tangible work requires a different setting than symbolic work. Those of us who are trying to make a living with tools and materials and our biomechanical digits need larger work spaces, the ability to make noise and, dare I say it, lower rents, than those who manipulate keyboards and pixels. If other professions compete with artisans for available workspace those of us who still work with tools and materials will be priced out of West Berkeley. 

Jim Rosenau 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I would like to thank Susi Marzuola and the other members of the East Campus Neighborhood Association (ECNA) for their “Curvy Derby” proposal that would include a home for the Berkeley High baseball players on the BUSD property at MLK and Derby. I understand that this proposal comes with conditions and that it may have to be modified before all parties can support it. But this seems to be the breakthrough that I have been hoping for that can lead to the speedy completion of this sorely needed facility. 

As for a community design process, I trust that the BHS representatives, including Athletic Director Glenchur and Baseball Coach Moellering will ensure that the needs of the student athletes will be met by the final facility design and that is my main concern. It would seem to make sense that these negotiations be conducted by representatives of the various groups such as the ECNA, the BUSD and the Ecology Center. Let’s get on with it. 

I can support any plan that includes an adequate home for the BHS baseball players. If the neighbors and the Farmers’ Market can benefit as well then good for them! Hopefully we can now work together to figure out how us Berkeley tax payers will pay for this. 

Ed Mahley  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I applaud John Aronovic’s April 18 letter to the on Kragen’s Parking Lot at University Avenue and MLK Jr. Way—and know exactly how it feels—and also had to pay the $60 for this woman to remove the boot from my car (last year) as well. I will never, and expressly promote anyone needing to go into that establishment that I meet, friend or foe, not to shop there, park there or go anywhere near this store.  

I used to shop there when it was a grocery produce store U-Save 30-plus years ago—and it was a neighborhood store then, as most stores should aspire to be if they wish continued business and future business from Berkeley patrons. This U-Save was a pre-Monterey Market venue—and I recall once, when there was a police riot between them and hippies circa 1970 or so, the store manager locked all of us in there for our own protection, so we would not be clubbed, gassed, or chased as the hippies were. That was nice—but today—this same place is a source of vile greed and for me, and a few others I have told, I hope this store goes, where so many (good) stores on Shattuck and Telegraph have gone, into history via greed with a vindictive demeanor and truly lousy customer service for all. 

Mark Bayless 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As I stepped out of my house on Sunday at noon to load my tools and some recycled wood to bring up to People’s Park to build a free box in the parking strip on Haste Street, a Berkeley police car was pulled up behind my truck writing me a ticket. I’m glad that the government of the City of Berkeley has become complicit in the discrimination that the University of California is practicing against the poorest people in our community. Politicians have always been notoriously at a loss when it comes to doing something about People’s Park. It neither speaks their language nor has the currency to turn their eyes towards the needs of the people and away from the desires of the elites. 

So here we have the dirty secret of Berkeley wrapped up in a nutshell. We pretend to stand for peace while actually profiting from war. We pretend to have some semblance of civil rights, yet sharing clothing, keeping these items out of the dumpsters is a more unacceptable method of interaction than stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from the taxpayers. 

Arthur Fonseca 




Many times when college students are featured in the news, like most news stories, it is for bad news. We wanted to let you know about the many wonderful students who by donating blood to the American Red Cross have helped to save at least 10,000 lives during the 2005–2006 school year. 

We collected more than 3,400 pints of blood during 81 drives at colleges and universities throughout Northern California, including 42 drives on the UC Berkeley campus. Thanks to these drives, well over 10,000 people may have received the gift of life, as each pint of donated blood can help three people.  

Students may have been late for class or even missed a class while they were donating blood. But much like school itself, donating blood is part of a lesson in life. Giving blood is one of the most important, rewarding and compassionate things a person can do.  

Student leaders and faculty advisors put a great deal of energy and effort into organizing a blood drive. By having a blood drive on campus, students have the opportunity to donate with their peers, making it less stressful. Students who donate are more likely to donate later in life. Our goal is to make them life-long donors because only 2-3 percent of eligible Bay Area residents donate blood. Nationwide, the average is closer to 5 percent. Medical advances require more and more blood as our population lives longer. Regular blood donors are desperately needed. High school and college blood drives account for less than 9 percent of the mobile blood drives we do, yet these students provide over 10 percent of the blood needed in the Bay Area.  

For all of this, we wish to recognize the students of UC Berkeley for their help. We would also like to remind the community that as schools are out and people take vacations, summer is a time when blood banks experience extreme challenges to maintaining an adequate supply of blood for local hospitals. Please make an extra effort to donate soon by calling 800-GIVE-LIFE or visiting 

Jay Winkenbach 

Chief Executive Officer