Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday September 26, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you for printing Rosemary Ruether’s excellent commentary (Sept. 19) on the pope’s recent faux pas in Regensburg. I think her comments were judicious, perceptive, and generally right on target. Let’s hope Papa Bene reads the Berkeley Daily Planet! Of course, the rest of us could still heed her advice, even if Papa doesn’t. 

Keith Barton 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I very much liked the Aug. 29 article by Dorothy Bryant about independent bookstores in Berkeley: “Hangouts for booklovers who come to buy books or just to browse and maybe schmooze with the busy people who work there.” Most often these booksellers have a college degree and came from another, often book-related career. What do they want to call their job? “Sellers” is too commercial, “book clerk” too stuffy. All this reminds me of a bookstore hangout in the German city of Darmstadt where I lived from 1938 to 1952. 

It was called “The Darmstadter Bucherstube” (Book Room or Book Parlor) and was a meeting place for young and old people who wanted to read more than the Nazis permitted. To work in a bookstore in Germany you started as an apprentice and after having learned the trade for years you became a “Buchhandler” (book trader for dealer) recognized as a profession, like maybe a librarian. There were book dealers and publishers associations where lectures were given about new publications, authors, etc. During the Nazi years the Darmstadter Bucherstube did a great and often dangerous job of giving people a place to speak freely, for exchanging and obtaining forbidden or disappeared books and to teach young people about another world possible. 

Marianne d’Hooghe and her husband Robert who both worked in a Berlin bookstore bought the Darmstadt one in 1937 from its Jewish owner, Alfred Bodenheimer whose business had been dying out for lack of customers who defied the Nazi boycott and without access to supplies. He was happy to find a buyer in the Berliner couple, so he could emigrate to America before the worst persecution of the Jews had begun. The first year in Darmstadt was hard for the d’Hooghes: Some people shunned them because they believed the new owners had robbed the Jew Bodenheimer whom they had loved and supported, and others stayed away as they had before because of whatever “Jewish connections.” But gradually, as resistance against the Nazis and then against the war, increased, the Bucherstube became a rare refuge for many people who found there life-long friends (which also happened to me). The Bucherstube helped to save us from hopelessness and despair in those terrible years, even when Darmstadt was almost totally destroyed by Allied bombs (mostly on Sept. 11, 1944). The Bucherstube was also severely damaged, but reopened at a new location in the rebuilt city after the was. As far as I know it is still there, with new owners, as Robert and Marianne died a few years ago. 

Blessed be independent bookstore! 

Lenore Veltfort 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Berkeley’s application of state density bonus law is so contorted that only a lawyer could love it. (In fact, the developer who came up with it and sold us on it four years ago, Patrick Kennedy, is indeed a member of the bar.) Every person on our fair Joint Density Bonus Subcommittee, however, has a good enough grasp of the law that none of us (especially me, who represented the committee before the City Council) could ever have said any of the quotes attributed to me in the Planet’s weekend issue. The new ordinance won’t be having its main intensifying effect in the San Pablo district, because the ordinance doesn’t intensify a bit (quite the opposite, it gives the ZAB and council more discretion over the ultimate shape of buildings); CW zoning does not apply in the Telegraph area, since it applies specifically to West Berkeley (hence the W in CW); we never looked into opportunity site differences between CW and CT areas (CT, that’s the real name of the Telegraph district), so none of us would have cited such a difference to suggest that the new ordinance won’t affect Telegraph much (the article’s fundamental misunderstanding that the new ordinance intensifies zoning is at fault for this error too). 

In fact I privately thanked Planning Director Dan Marks after the council decision for working so hard to make sure the council enacted the protections it did last Tuesday, and I know Dan will tell you that my thanks were unmistakably sincere. I hope your readers also will understand, despite the imposing quotation marks in the article, that I never called staff “sell-outs,” or anything remotely like that. (Were I to call someone a sell-out, I hope I would at least say something about how they were selling out. which was totally missing from my supposed quote. I am an editor, and I like my words, insulting or not, to mean something.) 

It could have been worse, I suppose. The lead article in the Berkeley Voice covering the same subject this week carefully informed their readers that all the changes applied only to downtown, the only commercial area in the city totally unaffected by the ordinance. 

Dave Blake 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The only “flu” that will plague us and the rest of the world, is the one created by the public and private biology laboratories right here in Berkeley, and at Stanford and the rest of the UC system. And yes, it has been deliberately designed to terrorize and murder. 

One of the “academics” at the sham 9/11 forum where I was arrested for speaking the truth is the director of the university’s very own Homeland Security Project, which just happens to provide “accelerated vaccine development.” He’s not alone, unfortunately. You can listen to any high-level Republican politician drool over the “possibly” approaching pandemic flu lockdown—just turn on the TV.  

Given that the supposed “Avian flu” does not “yet” spread between humans, how can there already be vaccines waiting to be injected into us? “Well, you just never can tell with that Hostile Mother Nature. She’s always getting ready to kill us off with mutations,” the anti-scientists so idiotically and psychopathically claim. 

For those who still cannot believe that such calculated and malicious liars and killers are here amongst us (the human species), I would recommend they read Robert Jay Lifton’s “Nazi Doctors” and compare the current bio-medical establishment with Germany in the early 1940s. 

And for everyone else, who can think on their own, and speaks about the subject in public, well, they’ll just be discredited as “raving” or throwing a “tantrum” or “mentally unstable.” The only way to “prove” atrocious lies such as 9/11 and Bird Flu, is to attack and discredit the person who dares expose or even question their legitimacy or motive. 

And thanks to the recent expansion in “mental health” services—you can be sure they’ll make the slander stick, one way or the other. It indeed is depressing to get forced into designing ways to kill people under threat of failure, character assassination, and worse. 

Christian Pecaut 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Every year high school students in California volunteer to work at the polls at elections. In order to work at the polls they have to miss a day of school. As a result the school's ADA (average daily attendance) drops and they loose hundreds of dollars of funding. 

Working at the polls at elections is a very unique experience. Students get to have a hands on participation in democracy, which is easily as valuable or more valuable than teacher's lecture or reading a chapter out of a text book. Students at schools that cannot afford to loose the funding loose this important educational experience. 

In 2004 a group of students at Acalanes high school in Lafayette took the initiative to write and advocate a bill (AB 1944 (Hancock)) that would allow students to miss a day of school to work at the polls without the school's ADA being affected. The bill passed through senate and legislature and got to Governor Schwarzenegger's desk. The governor vetoed the bill. 

Last year some more students decided to give this bill another shot. They found a senator to write and fund it and got it all the way through senate and legislature, and now it is again on the governor's desk waiting for him to sign it into law or veto it. Unfortunately this bill has turned into something of a partisan issue even though it should be a matter of education not politics. 

Hannah Keegan 

Acalanes High School, Lafayette 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Riya Bhattacharjee’s Sept. 19 report on the Zoning Adjustments Board hearing regarding the Milo Foundation pet adoption store on Solano Avenue misses the point in exactly the same way that most members of the ZAB missed the point: 

Zoning does not exist to approve or disapprove of the morality of the goals of businesses. 

Testimony in favor of Milo Foundation’s continued operation of a dog and cat pound on Solano Avenue focused on the nobility of their mission to find homes for abandoned animals. 

This is completely irrelevant. Do we issue permits to real estate brokers or antique shops or haberdashers because we approve of their “goals"? Do we allow them to continue operation - despite zoning and health and municipal code violations - because their businesses make us feel warm and fuzzy? 

The Berkeley Municipal Code (BMC Section 10.04.130) says that housing more than four dogs requires a kennel (to be approved by the Health Department)—and that the kennel not be within 25 feet of a human residence. Milo Foundation is in violation of this law. 

Furthermore, the Solano Avenue business district prohibits kennels, so Milo is clearly out of compliance. Not incidentally or accidentally or unknowingly but by the nature of their business. 

The ZAB should (in fairness to other businesses governed by zoning laws) revoke Milo’s permit because they are in violation of zoning and BMC regulations. Instead, the ZAB hearing morphed into a conversation about how much the neighbors do or don’t mind Milo’s dogs crapping on their lawns - and about how much Milo’s volunteers enjoy walking the dogs. This is absurd. 

Until two days before the ZAB hearing, Milo daily flushed a stream of raw animal sewage down their driveway, across a public sidewalk, and directly into a storm drain on Capistrano Ave. which empties (untreated) into the bay. As the neighborhood had been complaining about this for months (with no result), one can only conclude that the timing of the cessation of this disgusting and unsanitary medieval sewage disposal technique was not merely coincidental. 

Zoning exists to ensure some minimum level of civility between neighbors. Businesses whose practices don’t meet these minimal tests are not allowed to operate, no matter the purity of their souls. That the ZAB should think its job is to evaluate the loftiness of a business’s mission statement - rather than to enforce zoning laws by which the rest of us have to abide—is a sad display of malfeasance and should not be represented in the Daily Planet as just an amusing “he said/she said” story. 

George Mattingly