Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday July 21, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I read Suzanne La Barre’s article “Parents Press BUSD and City to Curb Teen Violence” and realized that many residents don’t know about the Berkeley Police Activities League’s violence prevention program, radKids, a national program that uses a hands-on approach to teach children, up to age 12, how to deal with bullying, physical abduction, sexual and physical abuse, home fires, Internet predators and much more. If you would like more information about radKids you can go their website at If you would like to sign up for the Berkeley Police Activities League’s free class, contact Fele Uperesa at 845-7193. 

Alan Pagle 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Will somebody explain to me in plain English: 

• How come the City of Berkeley has to fence us in with vast tonnages of steel and concrete, obliterating the sky everywhere we look? 

• How come we haven’t had a vote on any of it? You know, having a copy of the proposition to take to the polls? 

• Where does it say the mayor got the right to do a city makeover? Was it through a secret form of eminent domain—or just plain and simple George Bush anarchy? 

• What’s the sense in building more tenant units when the signs say “Vacancy”? 

• How does a densely populated city evacuate after a catastrophe? 

• How do we stop desecrators? 

Will somebody tell me in plain English: 

• What do we do now? 

Dorothy V. Benson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Gap leaves, American Apparel arrives. Cody’s leaves, Peet’s arrives. 

That’s a matter of capital. 

First UC came for the Communists. 

Then UC and the merchants came for the beatniks. 

The UC, the merchants and the neighbors came for the hippies. 

Now they come for the punks and anarchists as their property values soar sky high. 

That’s a matter of class. 

Charles Gary 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The letter suggesting the hotel be named for men like Maybeck or Muir means well, but hotels are named for deserving citizens. To call it the Berkeley Charles makes sense only to the developer and his Charles Hotel in Boston. The best name—simple, yet dignified—is the Hotel Berkeley. 

Peter Selz 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Though I do appreciate having a local paper covering Berkeley news, I feel that Judith Scherr’s stories about the Berkeley Public Library read more like op-ed pieces than unbiased news reports—even when printed right on your front page. 

Ms. Scherr seems to work from the assumption that it is a given that the library administration is inept and has enacted counterproductive policies and changes. This certainly has not been my experience. I find the library to be one of Berkeley’s greatest assets—the collection carefully maintained, the staff helpful, the special programs creative, and the integration of technology into the library very effective. The RFID book inserts have been a wonderful addition, allowing much quicker automated checkout. 

I hope the library administration is given the chance to continue with similar improvements! I’m looking forward to spending my retirement in one of those comfortable chairs on the Berkeley Main Library’s second floor. 

Loren Linnard 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Have you found yourself of late casting a critical eye around your apartment? “This living room could sure stand sprucing up,” you mutter glumly, staring at a 20-year-old sofa that has definitely seen better days. Well, friends, heed my words, there’s no better time than now for replacing that offending sofa. 

As happens every summer when students take leave of the university, the streets of Berkeley are suddenly awash with sofas! Said students obviously have never heard of Goodwill, the Salvation Army and St. Vincent DePaul Thrifts Shops. Or maybe it’s jut that it’s a lot easier to haul old sofas, beat up armchairs and computers out onto the sidewalk. South Campus is undeniably the prime neighborhood for abandoned furniture. Walk along Dana, Fulton or Dwight Way and you may just spot a sofa to your liking, though admittedly many of these rejects suggest they’ve been through a hurricane of Katrina proportions—broken springs, cigarette burns, ketchup stains, etc., etc.  

Glancing out my window at the corner of Dana and Parker streets on any given morning, I’m sure to see a whole new display of rejects gracing the sidewalk, most of which can best be describe as “yucky.” But just the other day, walking along Haste Street, I spotted a sofa that was an absolute gem—infinitely more attractive than my own. This was a large, four-cushion sofa with immaculate, tasteful upholstery and generously sized pillows. Since traffic wasn’t too heavy along Haste that morning, I sat down on the sofa, sinking comfortably into the cushions. “Hey, not bad!” I said to myself, visualizing how it would look in my living room. 

But then, reality set in. Could I actually settle for an abandoned sofa left on the sidewalk? Where was my pride, my self-respect? More important, how would I get the darned thing home? I wouldn’t dare call friends, who would be absolutely aghast, pointing out the germs sure to be lurking in those deep, comfy cushions. Furthermore, how did I know the sofa would still be there if I rushed home to look up movers? Dare I ask a passerby to sit on the sofa while I went in search of a telephone? That seems highly unlikely. 

In any event, the practical logistics involved in getting the sofa back to my apartment suddenly seemed insurmountable. Sighing heavily and with a last longing glance at this abandoned treasure, I headed for home. Later that afternoon, out of curiosity, I walked back to Haste Street. Of course, the sofa—my sofa—was gone. Alas, it wasn’t to be. A golden opportunity missed. Oh, but I take comfort in the knowledge that just as sure as day follows night, there’ll be many, many sofas lining the streets of Berkeley all summer! 

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It’s certainly appropriate to think that the City of Berkeley should locally source its business suppliers wherever legally possible and financially feasible. But it’s also appropriate not to unfairly demonize suppliers who follow the city’s rules to win a competitive bid. Office Depot is certainly a large business entity headquartered in Florida; but incorrectly calling it a “conglomerate” conveys an acquisitive appetite that only our town’s admittedly large population of conspiracy theorists could confidently find. Even in Berkeley, simply being a national corporation is not yet proof of globally evil intentions. 

Alan Tobey 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Elliot Cohen excoriates me and indulges in nasty name-calling ( “deplorable and reactionary”) while agreeing with the point of my recent commentary that putting the Bush impeachment on the Berkeley ballot is “a cynical ploy to win votes” and definitely not geared to focus attention on important local issues. 

I happen to really like referenda as an expression of pure democracy. And, while I am a fiscal conservative, I do not per se object to the $10K per item cost of simple Council-promulgated referenda. Ten thousand dollars is chump change in our $300 million annual city budget and spending even $100,000 on 10 well-chosen referenda to educate and gauge public opinion on key local issues could be money well and wisely spent. So I did not object to the impeach Bush referendum because it cost the taxpayers $10,000 despite what Elliot claimed!  

I would not necessarily object to the Bush measure if local voters also had a chance to directly vote on an array of key local issues, such as the UC settlement, the Oxford/Brower project, garbage and sewer fee increases, more Downtown parking, and many of the other important local issues of the day, some of which I listed in my commentary. What is chosen to be put before the voters (and what is not chosen!) is of utmost importance. Those who set the agenda (even for referenda) substantially direct (manipulate?) the debate, and, while the Bush presidency is certainly important, I believe that the Berkeley polity needs to direct its limited energy and attention to major Berkeley issues. 

Barbara Gilbert 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I thank David Mayeri and Laura Billings for their correction regarding the original use of the interesting building at 2747 San Pablo Ave. For the record, my error had its origin in the City of Berkeley’s West Berkeley Plan, which states, “The unusual round building occupied by Berkeley Equipment Rental (2747 San Pablo Ave., near Grayson) was built in 1952 as a Mel’s Drive In.” 

A follow-up correspondence I initiated with Michael Myerson, who organized the ad hoc committee’s demonstrations at several Mel’s Drive-In locations in 1963, revealed that the Berkeley demonstration took place at Mel’s on the corner of Shattuck Avenue and Channing Way. The Shattuck Avenue Mel’s was converted into a stereo store in the 1970s. The much-altered building is still there, adjacent to La Note, and houses the Futon Shop. As for 2747 San Pablo Ave., I can add that the car dealership based there was called Bay Bridge Motors. It was apparently operated by C. Roy Warren. 

I applaud Mr. Mayeri for planning a LEED-certified building. His efforts would be even more laudable were he to seek a way to incorporate the round façade of the existing building into his new development. Even though the building was never a Mel’s Drive-In, it is a very good example of mid-century roadside architecture, of which precious little remains in Berkeley. It would be a great shame to lose it.  

Daniella Thompson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thousands of Americans fleeing Israeli bombs. It’s incredible to hear the doubletalk coming from American politicians speaking out against terrorism! With thousands of Americans fleeing for their lives to escape the terror of Israeli bombs dropping overhead, it’s time for U.S. politicians to wake up and pull the plug on any further economic or military support to the Israeli War Machine! 

Down with all politicians supporting Israel, and the brutal bombing attacks that have been placing American lives at risk! In addition to this current madness going on, the White House had the nerve to promote a policy to charge Americans for assistance to escape the Israeli bombing campaign! 

Are they insane! 

What a world!!! 

Lynda Carson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I attended the July 12 PRC meeting where the Mental Health Commission initiative on “5150” (psychiatric intervention) was presented. “Danger” was not at issue here, it was unnecessary use of force. Unlike San Francisco or Oakland, Berkeley routinely sends police to psychiatric hold situations—danger or not. The reason—a standing policy of contempt for the community; this reflects what is a general dialogue “disconnect” and the MHC is to be commended for challenging the Mental Health administration. One staff member at B.M.H. initiated the outreach to the PRC. Altogether five members of Mental Health staff—on their own time—were there in support of the initiative, while the Director Harvey Tureck pretended shamelessly to be supportive himself. Two members of the MHC, plus myself (a former chair) spoke and provided context. This initiative was a no-brainer, as it saves police resources; the PRC expressed only procedural worries. The PRC agreed 7-0 to co-sponsor with the MHC a public hearing Sept. 7 on Berkeley’s “5150” policy. The tightly walled off “mental health control space” is showing cracks. 

Andrew Phelps 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In the aftermath of the Berkeley City Council’s disappointing—even shocking—July 11 vote to kill a Clean Money election campaign reform ballot measure, it is now critical that Berkeley citizens defend and implement a second city election reform issue: instant runoff voting (also called “ranked choice” voting). 

I commend and congratulate City Councilmembers Spring, Worthington, Anderson and Moore for their support of the Clean Money ballot measure issue, modeled on Arizona’s and Maine’s successful, vote-approved Clean Money election reform laws. 

In 2004, Berkeley voters passed an instant runoff voting (IRV) ballot measure by an overwhelming landslide—72 percent. 2004’s Measure I mandated IRV for future City Council and mayoral candidate elections. 

Recently, the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board’s elected commissioners unanimously approved a letter sent to all councilmembers. The letter urges the council to move expeditiously to implement IRV in advance of the November election. 

If necessary, the Rent Board commissioners urge the City Council to conduct the Nov. 7 election by hand counting IRV ballots if the County of Alameda is unable to deliver an IRV ballot system for the city. 

The will and overwhelming mandate of Berkeley’s voters—as represented by 2004’s Measure I—must be respected and implemented by the City Council before Nov. 7. 

Chris Kavanagh 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was dismayed to see Susan Parker use my objection to the term “confined to a wheelchair” as an excuse for yet another diatribe on the unappetizing ordeal of caring for her husband Ralph. My point about a wheelchair being not the source of the problem but one of the tools used to deal with it evidently went right over her head.  

In a physical sense, Brian, Ruthanne and I have a lot less freedom than she does; I can’t imagine why she thinks we need a lecture on how tough disability can be on everyone involved. 

Just for the record, I don’t want to see her use euphemisms, but after years of writing about everything else, I wish she’d use a column to explain why she stays with Ralph, and how he copes with being the focal point of her bitterness. 

Ann Sieck 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding Susan Parker’s latest column about her husband being “confined to a wheelchair”: In words that Mrs. Scott would use, “You go, Suzy, tell it like it is.” 

Laurie Marquez 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I recently received a copy of a proposal for re-designing People’s Park which apparently passed unanimously through the University of California’s new park advisory committee. 

I appreciate that the chancellor’s appointees may be well-intended. But it doesn’t matter how benign one might consider the proposal or the participants; this group is hand-selected by the chancellor, and therefore not representative in the least.  

If the participants believe they would be selected in a community-wide ballot by Berkeley citizens to govern or advise the park, then that’s fine, as long as there is an honest effort made to have a community-wide ballot. Until that time they should, if they must stay on this committee, keep smiling as they continually remind themselves that as a chancellor-selected group that they are not entitled or qualified to make decisions about the park. 

The last chancellor-selected group took years to formulate a plan for the park with highly-paid consultants, years of public meetings, well-intended participants, and still ended up with a plan so inappropriate it cost the public millions of dollars for the University of California to construct and then ultimately remove its elements. The students, merchants, and residents suffered the brunt of this bad planning, and are arguably still in recovery. 

I see it as our job to object to this undemocratic, unrepresentative group, in the nicest way, of course.  

Carol Denney 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Daily Planet article regarding the possibility of the lease running out for the Post Office branch at College Avenue and Webster Street alarms me greatly. I second the sentiments and logic of Mr. Schwendinger. I live across the street and fear the location of a commercial outlet in its place. The aspect of a 24/7 type outlet and its audience would be most disruptive to this residential street and this part of the neighborhood. Perhaps more important to the neighbors and citizens in this part of town would be the loss of the post office facility. One doesn’t have to stand long outside the facility to see the frequency of use and convenience of a local mail service Mail pick-up and package and postal services are well used. It would be less than a pleasant trek to downtown Berkeley for our everyday mail and postal needs. It would be a disruption to our lives. 

The comments of Councilmember Wozniak are totally erroneous. There is no graffiti on the building. The facility is well kept. He has obviously not visited the site. What is his agenda? 

I, for one, am willing to collect signatures, at the post office, to petition the city, the owners and USPS to push for a continued lease. I would like for a group to coalesce to give some citizen movement to this cause. 

Wattie Taylor 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I write to you as a parent and as a former teacher of 12 years experience. I was dismayed at Monday night’s Albany City Council meeting to hear Albany teachers, parents and even a School Board member speaking of the “dire financial consequences” of rejecting the possible Waterfront Mall and the “huge fiscal benefit” to our schools if it is accepted. This is one of those rumors that has been repeated enough times to become Albany’s very own urban myth. It simply isn’t true and details about how taxes relate to school funding are openly available from city sources. 

However, I do not blame these parties for taking the position they do—parents, teachers and the School Board members care deeply about the future for this city’s young people but unfortunately have been misled. Teachers are experts in nurturing critical thinking skills so they themselves should be able to see beyond the spin. 

We live in the vast homogeneous urban sprawl of the Bay Area and choose Albany because it feels like a “real” town. We worry that our children grow up in a vast homogenized culture and want them to have experiences that are varied, healthy, educational and connect with the “real" world. I don’t think that another retail development offers this. I don’t think that I could feel much pride in telling my son or a class of young people that I helped a developer create a shopping plaza. I have faith that Educationalists have more vision than most and I urge them to use that vision to help make Albany’s waterfront into something that offers generations of our children something “real.” That would be something we can all take pride in. 

Martin Webb 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The announcement that the Albany Shoreline mall proposed by an L.A. developer is dead is welcome news—if it is true. This would not be the first time this developer has used such a ploy. He similarly “withdrew” proposals in Glendale and Thousand Oaks but “conceded” to come back when his demands were met. In Albany, the issue is not, as the San Francisco Chronicle states, getting his project “heard” by the City Council. The issue is the preferential treatment asked for by the developer through his resolution of an advance guarantee of a completed environmental impact report (EIR). Wisely the council voted to give equal treatment that would be given to any applicant. Why should the city guarantee this developer an EIR before a plan is submitted? Perhaps because it would help him bypass the City Council and take his proposal directly to the voters, allowing him to spend millions, as he did in Glendale, to influence the election. I hope Albany is not fooled by these undemocratic manipulations. 

Most Albany citizens do not want a mall on our Waterfront. They want open space and a continuation of the Eastshore State Park, with thoughtful commercial development determined by a community needs assessment and planning process for the waterfront should Golden Gate Fields close. They want a plan that is first and foremost good for our community and future generations that enhances our quality of life, not a mall that brings L.A. to the East Bay. 

Marge Atkinson 

Co-Chair, Citizens for the Albany Shoreline 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was astonished and delighted to hear that the powerful Southern California developer has withdrawn from Albany in search of greener pastures. I’m glad he finally realized that his proposed development was a poor fit and was threatening to tear our community apart. Now we can embark on a community planning process that allows everyone’s opinion to be heard. Only by incorporating the visions of many can we create a comprehensive, congenial plan for this hidden treasure by the bay.  

Anne Richardson 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The news that the L.A. mall developer will not submit an application to build a lifestyle center shopping mall on the Albany waterfront seems at first to be a surprising development. After more than a year of wooing Albany citizens with visions of an upscale shopping experience and streams of tax revenue filling the public coffers, the mall developer appeared frustrated by the City Council decision to process his application in the same manner it deals with all developer proposals. A resolution written by Caruso lawyers, which would have given his proposal special treatment, failed to pass. All of the council members asked Mr. Caruso to submit his plan, but this apparently was not good enough. Is this the end of the “lifestyle center”? Twice, in Southern California, city councils failed to give Caruso concessions he wanted and there was a similar “I’m out of here” reaction. His “heartbroken” supporters responded with outrage and councils capitulated to his demands. I think (hope) that Albany citizens are more sophisticated about this kind of manipulation than the shopping lifestyle lovers of Southern Cal, but only time will tell. If this is the end of the mall, I say so long Mr. Caruso, and thanks for all the coffee. While your proposal for Albany generated a lot of neighbor vs. neighbor animosity, it has also helped to trigger a discussion in this town about what it is that Albany wants and needs along its shoreline. It is my hope that we might finally begin a city, not developer generated, planning process for our waterfront. 

Peter Maass 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am pleased to see that developer Rick Caruso has abandoned his plans to build a large mall on the Albany Shoreline. The mall would have brought traffic jams and urbanization to our beautiful shoreline, precluded efforts to preserve more open space, and ended the small town ambiance of Albany. Now we can move forward with a planning process that focuses on what’s best for our city, not a reactive process that focuses on the developer’s proposed plans. 

Steve Granholm  





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Letter writer Keith Winnard (Letters, July 18) describes the Proposition 89 “Clean Money” initiative as “one of the most wasteful means of reducing the improper impact on politics there is” This is not the experience of states such as Maine and Arizona which have adopted Clean Money laws where “clean” candidates have put a stop to pork barrel politics through the simple fact that they owe allegiance to voters, not donors In California, public funding of elections could have prevented the prison guard union from reaping a reward of $500 million in public funds by donating $5 million at a time California’s education and health budgets were being drastically cut. The cost per voter—the price of a latte and a bun—would be the best investment in good government possible and assure that valuable tax money was spent on the public good, rather than private and special interest profit. 

Tom Miller 

Advisory Board Member 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Well, at least Bush didn’t throw up on Merkel as his father did on the Japanese prime minister. 

Nancy Ward 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was quite amused by Allen C. Michaan’s commentary claiming that the Alameda County Supervisors embraced election fraud by making a decision to enter into a contract for a new voting system. Perhaps we can all be thankful that “commentary” and “fact” are quite different beasts, since it would appear that Mr. Michaan has some sort of ax to grind, and since he appears quite ignorant in dealing with technology related issues.  

Here are the accusations that I find most entertaining: 

• That Alameda County’s Board of Supervisors displayed ignorance and failed to be responsive to the county’s voters. 

• That the “secret” software codes provided by Sequoia cannot be trusted to deliver honest vote counts. 

• That such systems are ultimately vulnerable to hacking. 

Mr. Michaan apparently fails to understand some very basic facts. Those facts include the following: (1) that finding 50 poor souls who are willing to hype the fear of technology does not provide any evidence that the County Board was not responding to its constituents; (2) that the “secret” software codes are quite advanced and typically provide significant protection against fraud; and (3) that such systems have not yet been demonstrated to have been hacked. I find it interesting that Mr. Michaan’s alarmist diatribe focused on the emotional fears of some voters, and called for us to move back to the stone age of vote counting. He also appears unaware that optical scan systems are used today in a number of Canadian provinces with a fairly high degree of success.  

If Alameda County were to return to the days of hand-counting, would results be more accurate? More honest? I think not. In so far as I am aware, human beings are fully capable of failing to properly count and are fully capable of being corrupted, and thus could themselves be prone to “failing to deliver honest results.” How long does Mr. Michaan propose that we all wait for election returns to be reported? How much money does he suggest we spend to staff and train all of these “highly qualified vote counters”? Interestingly, he fails to address such points.  

The Alameda Board of Supervisors appropriately voted to adopt a new system that meets California standards and that meets a number of strict federal standards and tests. To suggest that each Board member must have great expertise prior to voting for a contract in a specific technology area begs the following question.... “Must each Board member have a great depth of knowledge and expertise in tax systems or judicial systems or property record systems or law enforcement systems before deciding how to react to contract recommendations brought before them?” If so, I wonder how many in any given County might truly qualify to represent taxpayers.  

I’ll be interested to see what Allen Michaan suggests next. Perhaps we should do away with electronic banking, with ATM’s, with credit cards, because...heavens, there are risks! While we’re at it, perhaps we should do away with electronic media...especially if accuracy is paramount!  

Douglas P. Allen 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have read the follies of Berkeley Unified School District with interest over these last few months, since I wrote to you last about a bungling “fence job” this same public school district perpetrated some time ago. 

I find this district in serious trouble, when the sitting administration sees fit to hire and pay tremendous salaries to two assistant superintendants—a Mr. Neil Smith and a Ms. Lisa Udell at an astonishing $134,931 annual (see the Daily Planet’s April 4 and June 30 editions, respectively)—is anyone worth this amount of money in a 9-to-5, 10-month position who does not actually perform their duties in the classroom teaching children? I don’t think so—do you?  

I see in these same issues of the Daily Planet (April 4, April 7, June 30) articles that these paraprofessionals in this same BUSD are to be dismissed for reasons that lie in federal laws perpetrated by this same sitting president, G.W. Bush—and this same BUSD have deemed punitive actions towards these hard-working people. I see these hard-working teachers enter and exit the Hopkins Street Pre-School daily, and as tired as they appear, they always have a smile on their faces—and so do the children there—do they receive $134,931 salaries too? I do not think so.  

Again, I see another example of what is really wrong with BUSD—and like the S.S. Poseidon and many a ship I saw founder during Vietnam, a ship too top heavy sinks like a rock—this public school district is top heavy with administrators who do not know how to manage public money (see poor management of Maintenance Department discussions in Daily Planet, “fence-job” (listed above), etc., and punitive actions towards its paraprofessionals, etc.), who retain a vast majority of salaried personnel at the top, while they dismiss personnel at the classroom level. Is this any way to run a school district —to teach our children what they need to know—by mismanagement, by firing those who work with children while those who do not receive a raise, by a maintenance department who performs below standards. (I see maintenance crews at Hopkins Pre-School once a-month—how much can those little nippers damage, break or bust in their school—unless what is repaired is not repaired properly?) This BUSD needs to be placed under a microscope and examined for disease—I see an entire system broken here, and I am concerned about it. Are you? 

Karl Jensen 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I want to commend Rep. Barbara Lee for her excellent leadership in Congress. Rep. Lee is a member of an elite group of Representatives who work for animal protection in our nation’s capitol. As a co-sponsor of the Farm Animal Stewardship Purchasing Act (FASPA) Rep. Lee is on the cutting edge of a push towards more humane farms. FASPA, if passed, would compel the Federal Government to purchase meat from farms that treat animals with respect and compassion. The Federal procurement process has a long history as a trendsetter. In fact the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act began as procurement measure in 1958 before being passed as a widespread measure impacting all slaughter houses in 1978. FASPA could have the same effect, setting a standard for more humane farms across the country. With organizations like the Humane Society of the United States and elected officials like Rep. Lee working together for animals I have faith we will soon see a higher standard for farm animal welfare.  

Christine Morrissey 

Director, East Bay Animal Advocates 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Bad news from Baghdad  

After watching The War Tapes at the local cinema, I decided to become an embedded reporter in Iraq. I wrote to the U.S. military’s CentCom (Central Command) in Baghdad, saying that I was a reporter for OpEd News, had realized how unpopular the “War on Iraq” was in America—two out of three Americans are now against it—and was offering to embed so that I could bring the American people positive stories about the war so that we taxpayers might be reassured that our tax dollars are being spent wisely over there. 

CentCom e-mailed me back. “We’d be happy to have you, Jane. All you need to embed is to fill out the enclosed application, get some Kevlar body armor and buy a plane ticket to Iraq.” I was in! I was going to Iraq! I was embedding! 

Or not. 

CentCom apparently checked OpEd News out and discovered it was a progressive news service. “You can’t come over here after all,” they wrote me. “We do not embed bloggers.” Oh. So if you are against the “war” then you are not considered to be an official news service? You are only a blogger? “You need to represent a newspaper, news service or legitimate media outlet.”  

No problem. 

First, the editor of OpEd News explained carefully to CentCom that yes, OpEd News was a genuine news service. Second, Becky O’Malley, the editor of the heroic Berkeley Daily Planet, wrote a letter saying that I would be representing the Berkeley Daily Planet, a genuine newspaper. So. What more did I need (besides air fare and Kevlar)? Baghdad here I come! 

Not so fast. CentCom e-mailed me back. “You are not going to be embedded.” End of discussion. 

OK. Here are the facts. I applied. I was judged a liberal. I was turned down. No positive stories from Iraq coming from me. No freedom of speech for me. No democracy in Iraq for me. And no “Operation Iraqi Freedom” for me either. “Operation Iraqi Freedom” is only for the American journalists who support the “war.” “Operation Iraqi Freedom” is only for “good” Americans. 

Helen Thomas need not apply. 

So much for freedom of speech for the two-thirds of America that does not suppor the "war." So much for finding out what is really going on over there. Is there nothing in Iraq left that is positive enough for me to report about? Over there, has everything become like the days just before they evacuated Saigon? Are the helicopters standing at ready on the rooftop of the American embassy? I want to know. America wants to know. America has the right to know. 

Help me out here. 

If you are a newsservice, please let CentCom Iraq——know that you want me to embed on your behalf as well as for OpEd News and the Berkeley Daily Planet. And please send me a plane ticket and some Kevlar! 

And if you are a blogger, guess what? What you say doesn't count. 

Jane Stillwater