Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday September 29, 2006



Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a disgusted Democrat who’d now vote for almost any third party that could get on a primary ballot, I agree with Arthur Blaustein’s Sept. 22 commentary—with the exception of his apparently boundless faith in the Democrats we elected to represent us. 

By their spinelessness, Dems seem just as willing as the GOP to shred our still valid Constitution. In the few days before Nov. 7, it’s doubtful they’ll suddenly rise up en masse against the Bush administration. 

I have tried in vain to understand their cowardly waffling! Everything Bush does, no matter how “secret,” can to be found on record somewhere. Why wait until inevitable post-election “leaks” to do what Dems must know is right for this country? Why not put their cadre of “intellectual elites” into momentary “blue-collar” mode to attack Republicans directly? 

What’s so hard about unanimously backing John Conyers and his cohorts to impeach all high-ranking members of the Bush team for their many thoroughly documented impeachable offenses?  

The results of this election will affect us all, including Congress and their families and cronies and the rest of the known world.  

If the Dems don’t pull together immediately to act forcefully with common sense, no one in this “democracy” will even have a vote after another Republican majority in Congress and two more years of Bush. 

Nancy Chirich 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The West Berkeley development plan (Daily Planet, Sept. 26) presented to the Civic Arts Commission by Doug Herst and Darrell de Tienne is an amazing opportunity to preserve an arts community in Berkeley and to begin the process of revitalizing that area. Because it proposes a small sector of more dense residential construction as well as artist workspace, both requiring added height, it will meet some resistance from a few diehard obstructionists who seem determined to keep West Berkeley the wasteland of shanties and scrapyards that much of it now is. (A member of the commission cited a survey that found 25 acres of West Berkeley virtually unused). 

Brenneman’s article mentions my urging that it’s time to rezone parts of West Berkeley. (I’m not, by the way, an artist, as he calls me, in the usual sense—I’m a retired Equity actor with a history of performances at Berkeley Rep, Berkeley Jewish Theater, CCCT and others.) I think it’s important to readjust the divisions of the West Berkeley Plan, as well as some zoning constraints, to make more flexible use of that area without sacrificing the overall balance embodied in the Plan. In an effective trade-off, the proposed creative center could give artists and artisans a stimulating community with adjacent live/work spaces (the ultimate goal in traffic reduction) and allow pockets of land near the freeway access points at Ashby, University, and Gilman to be developed for car dealerships and big box retail, providing our city the commercial revenue it desperately needs to survive. Telegraph and Shattuck are dying as a commercial tax base, and every year Berkeley residents spend millions of dollars in Emeryville and El Cerrito because that’s where the stores are. If Berkeley doesn’t provide competitive venues near the freeway we face a slow economic death.  

Jerry Landis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

There will a free October Surprise Peace Concert-Rally from 1-5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 8 at People’s Park. It will be a united front around saying no to the Iraq war, a draft, nuking or bombing Iran, and torture. Many bands and speakers are lined up. Bush and all have in the past elections used some kind of October Surprise to win the last three elections. The fix might be already in with re-districting and the voting machines. Another problem the democrats probably will sit on there hands if they win. Also the Navy is getting in place to block Iran’s ports to provoke an incident so Bush can start bombing. So on the following Tuesday at 8 a.m., we will march from Telegraph and Bancroft to Professor Yoo’s class and try to do a citizen arrest for war crimes against the Geneva Accords which is the law of our land because of signed Treaties. Hope to see you at both events.  

Michael Delacour 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you, Daily Planet and Becky O’Malley, for your wonderful editorial and endorsement of Jerry McNerney who is running against despicable Richard Pombo in District 2. Even though it is out of our district, we also feel that we all live in Pombo’s district and he must be defeated. Jerry has an excellent chance to win and with all our help, he can. My partner Dan and I have been traveling to Tracy, Pombo’s hometown, an hour away, to help with canvassing Pombo’s hometown. Tracy has an excellent precinct coordinator, Martha Gamez ( who would love to hear from you if you have any time to help. We all must find time to do this. This current administration must be defeated and the only way to do this to regain control of Congress is to defeat execrable congressman such as Pombo and replace him with a wind engineer who is totally supportive of environmental policies and replace corrupt politicians with someone who has the integrity and courage to speak out and fight. 

Andree Leenaers 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The emotional heat generated by some of neighbors of The MILO Foundation’s Pet Adoption Store continues to rise. They have genuine concerns but these are sometimes clouded by their exaggerations and misinformation. When you have a case, why taint it? 

No one at MILO, and none of their supporters, including me—a former MILO board member, and current Berkeley Humane Commissioner—deny the impact of the store. And no one at MILO is cavalier about the need for change and adjustment. But to be vilified, screamed at, have your legally parked vehicle red tagged by neighbors, and have Animal Services and the Parking Division used as tools against the Pet Adoption Store is plainly disheartening. 

As to the Zoning Adjustments Board—true, they are not there to judge the moral value of a project. Too bad. Perhaps that would ensure that the kind of life enriching and community enhancing businesses and artisan projects so dear to our hearts could really flourish in Berkeley, instead of Dollar Stores and cell phone providers. 

But ZAB does make adjustments, obviously. In fact, ZAB had to make a zoning adjustment for the whole of Berkeley after the 2002 election. Berkeley residents passed Bond Measure I, which I initiated, to build a new Berkeley Animal Shelter to replace the disgraceful cinder block building on Second Street. At that time, we discovered that no area in Berkeley was zoned for kennels/shelters. Assuming that a new shelter would be built in a mixed-use light-industrial area (MULI), then-Deputy City Manager Phil Kamlarz wrote the zoning change to allow kennels/shelters in Berkeley. 

The code which Mr. Mattingly quotes about where kennels can be placed was written almost 40 years ago, and like much of Berkeley animal code is inappropriate for modern conditions and community standards. Ironically, with a live/work space right next door to the Berkeley Municipal Animal Shelter on Second Street our own city shelter is also in violation of this law. But new shelters are increasingly being built directly adjoining housing developments because it is understood now that animal welfare and pet ownership are an integral part of contemporary family life. 

But perhaps no one has noticed. It is almost four years since Measure I passed—the only successful tax measure in the East Bay that election season—and where is our new shelter? Nowhere. And why? Perhaps it’s because there are many in this city who continue to see animal shelters as the dirty little secret down by the railroad tracks, and that includes some in City Hall who shouldn’t be talking of any development in West Berkeley that does not include the new animal shelter as a vital community enriching component. 

As a committed MILO supporter, I would love to see the project succeed—and as a property owner in Berkeley I am enormously empathetic with neighbor complaints. But to hurl insults and to suggest as one neighbor has, that pregnant women and HIV positive individuals are at risk from MILO is not only ignorant but malicious. The whole debate of how and where we place animal shelters, pet adoption stores, kennels and animal friendly businesses is linked—and perhaps these bright, concerned and well informed residents could join forces with me and others like me to find solutions and further enhance Berkeley’s reputation as progressive and innovative. 

Jill Posener 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Aug. 9, there was an apartment fire on the 2600 block of Hillegass Avenue. As reported on the local news channels, the fire injured six people, including a good Samaritan. 

That good Samaritan’s name is David Anderson. He’s 44 years old, from Chicago, he’s a musician, and he’s homeless. For the past several years he has lived in Willard Park. Some nights he stays in the men’s shelter on Center Street, across from Civic Center Park in downtown Berkeley. I got to know David through Alice Kurpiewski, a retired social worker who lives on Hillegass Avenue, just across from Willard Park. She had heard my name from some of my neighbors and called me up. Alice told me of David’s heroism in the Hillegass fire, his subsequent hospitalization and the theft of his acoustic guitar while he was in recovery. The three of us met a couple of weeks ago. I am writing this letter today in search of another good Samaritan who might have a new or used guitar to give to David. 

David first noticed the fire a little after 4:30 in the afternoon. He ran to the fire and blew his whistle as loud as he could to alert any people inside that they were in danger. There were no firefighters or police yet on the scene. To alert anyone remaining in the building, he started throwing bricks through the windows on the side of the building. He then ran around to the front of the house and noticed a woman inside the building, staring at the fire. A man was with her and yelled at her to get out of the building as soon as possible. Both of them tumbled down the stairs inside the building. David ran up the stairs to make sure that there was no one left in the building. He kept shouting as loud as he could to tell people to get out of the building. He saw a locked door and did his best to kick it down. There was a shattering of wood and glass and David realized that he had injured himself. He extricated himself from the broken door and made his way down the stairs.  

I’ve seen his scar. It goes from his ankle to the middle of his thigh. At the San Leandro trauma center, David received 27 stitches and 14 staples. He is thankful to Dr. Lee for doing such a good job of patching him up, though he’ll probably have permanent pain in his leg for the nerve damage that he suffered. 

It was during his hospital stay that his guitar was stolen. He kept it with his other belongings at Willard Park. Alice and I asked him about what it was like to live in the park. He said that most of the time he feels safe but that from time to time some hoodlums come through the park and rough them up and steal their belongings. David finds solace in his music. He writes music, plays the guitar and piano, and sings. He’s also frequently seen attending services at the West Street church in Oakland.  

There are so many aspects of David’s story that we could talk about – but right now what we really need is a guitar! If anyone has one, Alice and I know it would be very much appreciated. Please call me at 848-9451. Thank you, Berkeley! 

George Beier and Alice Kurpiewski 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have been a registered Democrat for several decades, however, recent events have given me reason to question this party affiliation. In particular a presentation recently made by Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates. 

The topic in question was the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance, which Mr. Bates hopes to repeal. His efforts are not the reason for my concern so much as how he is going about it. Mayor Bates detailed one case I am familiar with by virtue of being a neighbor, of 2901 Otis St. This little house represents, in my opinion, everything right with the Landmarks Ordinance. It was built a century ago, not significantly altered since that time, and though it has been neglected is a compliment to its South Berkeley neighborhood. 

Two years ago a small group of developers purchased the property and applied for permits to demolish the house and build a three story apartment/condo in its place. They also applied for zoning exemptions to pave the yard for parking. Despite the inappropriateness of this type of building to its neighborhood, permits were approved by the Planning Department contingent on Zoning and Landmarks commission approval. It was not acted on by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, apparently because commissioners did not have time to perform a review and schedule a hearing. Eventually the neighborhood figured out what was going on, no thanks to Planning Department notices, and quickly gathered the 50 signatures needed to initiate the property for structure of merit designation. Despite turnout of the entire neighborhood against this demolition Planning Department Director Dan Marks denigrated our effort calling the house unremarkable. Worse, City Council sided with Marks and developers and overturned our landmarking effort. Despite this wholly undemocratic process the story does have a happy ending. A hero from the neighborhood stepped up and purchased the property from the group of real-estate speculators before it was torn down. 

At the presentations in question Mayor Bates made a number of outright false statements, but I will mention just the most outrageous. He said “the owner almost went broke.” In fact there was not one but four owners, real-estate speculators from out of town, who not only were never out of pocket more than a few mortgage payments but ended up taking home $80,000 in profit when they sold the property. That’s right, $80,000 each, for doing nothing but threatening the neighbors with a butt-ugly flying cottage. 

Mayor Bates also said that his proposed LPO revisions would not impact neighborhoods but only University Avenue, San Pablo Avenue, and other major transit corridors. That’s self-serving speculation at best. It ignores the many apartments built 40 years ago. More recent examples include 2901 Otis, Milvia and Rose, and several others in working class neighborhoods, traditional neighborhoods, not along transit corridors. 

Perhaps I’ve just been naive for 50-plus years but I have never seen such bald faced dishonesty, from a Democratic public official to a Democratic group, and they didn’t even question him on it. What is our city coming to? 

John Felix 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Congress recently cut a deal with the Bush regime that will continue torture and limitations on basic legal rights for detainees in the “war on terror.” Bush proclaimed, “I had a single test for the pending legislation…: Would the CIA operators tell me whether they could go forward…to question detainees to be able to get information… I’m pleased to say that this agreement preserves…the CIA program to question the world’s most dangerous terrorists and to get their secrets.” 

In June the Supreme Court ruled that Bush’s secretive military tribunals for detainees were unconstitutional. These tribunals conducted without oversight, would allow evidence obtained through torture, and convict detainees with hearsay and “classified evidence” they would not be able to see. The Bush regime then decided to work with Congress to legalize the tribunals. When Republican senators McCain, Graham, and Warner, opposed Bush’s proposed legislation, some thought that Bush’s tribunals would be halted. Those hopes were dashed against the rocks in a deal worked out in Dick Cheney’s office on Sept. 21. 

The compromise bill for trying “enemy combatants” agreed upon by the administration and the “opposition” Senators will: Allow coerced evidence if the tribunal judge decides it’s reliable or relevant; give torturers immunity from prosecution for torture carried out before the legislation; prevent detainees from using the Geneva Conventions to challenge detention or seek civil damages for being tortured; with the exception of a few “grave breaches,” allow the president to decide what is considered a Geneva Convention violation; make the prosecution provide redacted or a summary version of secret evidence to the defense; and maintain the president’s ability to declare anyone an “enemy combatant” and hold them without charges indefinitely. 

This entire process illustrates that halting the torture, secret detentions, and the denial of basic legal rights, will not be stopped through official political channels. We are at a defining moment, where before the world’s eyes the U.S. Congress is poised to legalize torture in our name. If Americans remain silent, the world will see us as complicit in torture. 

End the silence! On October 5th people will walk out of school, take off work, and come to different locations. From there, we will go through the streets and call on many more to join us - making a powerful statement: “No! This regime does not represent us! And we will drive it out.” For more information, see 

Kenneth J. Theisen 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

It never ends with the Daily Planet and its unrelenting campaign to smear Zionism and promote hatred of Israel. The Sept. 26 commentary by Carl Shames is the latest installment, and it is riddled with disinformation. Forget about God and Covenants—the Jews lived in Israel some 1,700 hundred years before any Arab ever set foot in it. And there have been Jews living in that land continuously for more than 3,000 years. 

Secondly, on what evidence does Shames claim that racism was the reason the Jewish state was established in Palestine rather than being carved out of Germany? Jewish settlement had been going on steadily for 65 years in Palestine by the end of World War II. Jewish settlers had purchased land from indigenous and absentee Arab landowners, drained swampland, and made the land more prosperous than it had been in centuries. As a consequence, many Arabs settled there to take advantage of economic opportunities spurred by the Jews. Also, the Jewish settlement in Palestine saved about 500,000 Jewish lives, who otherwise would have perished in the Holocaust in Europe. 

It was totally impractical to establish a Jewish state in Germany when the Jewish state already had 65 years of development in Palestine. 

Thirdly, I would like to ask Mr. Shames if he thinks he is a racist by virtue of the fact that he lives in California on land that was stolen twice—first from the indigenous Indians and then from the Mexicans. By his reasoning, if he lives in America, he is complicit in the imperialism and genocide that made California part of the United States. The same can be said for almost every country in the world. The indigenous peoples of every European country and most others have been vanquished and conquered. The indigenous Celts in England were first conquered by the Romans, then later the Anglo-Saxons, who in turn were conquered by the Normans. Israel has fought numerous wars of survival against unrelentingly hostile foes determined to exterminate it. And it has triumphed each time. Everyone wishes it could have been another way, but unfortunately those were the choices that were made. That is the way of the world. By their sacrifice in blood in all those wars, Israelis have purchased their legitimate claim to the land twofold, just as America and England and hundreds of other countries (including the Arab ones) have done before it. Stop promoting this twisted, bigoted, and demented hatred of Israel and the Jews. 

Marvin Harrison 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Just because Shames is Jewish doesn’t mean he represents the majority of the Jewish community or even a facsimile of the truth. Shames’ claim that the founding of Israel was based upon “an alleged covenant with God, and the Holocaust” does not agree with facts. Theodor Herzl, the visionary of Zionism, saw the future state of Israel as a modern, European-style enlightened society. Israel was to be neutral and peace-seeking, and more importantly, secular. No covenant of G-d here. 

Despite being ridicule from Jewish leaders at the time, Herzl convened six Zionist Congresses between 1897 and 1902. It was here that the tools for Zionist activism were forged. Since the Holocaust was still decades in the future, I am not sure how this could have influenced Herzl’s efforts. What did motivate Herzl was his conclusion that anti Semitism was a permanent factor in human society, which assimilation did not solve. He concluded that Jews could gain acceptance in the world only if they created a political (not religious) entity of their own. 

Jonathan Carey 

San Francisco 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

To those who keep harping on Israel’s right to take position permanently of lands taken in war, please remember that Israel stands in defiance of repeated UN resolutions (beginning with Resolution 242) demanding that it withdraw from the territories it occupied during the 1967 Six Day War. The resolutions are expressions of the Geneva Accords of 1949, which, ironically, to prevent a repetition of Nazi wartime appropriations, forbid annexation of territories gained in war.  

Estelle Jelinek 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I want to thank Carl Shames for exposing the misguided narrative that allows a “left-wing, non-Zionist Jew” to maintain his hatred for the state of Israel regardless of the facts. I have no doubt that this erroneous narrative informs his entire view of the Middle East conflict.  

Because of space limitations, I will address just one of the many half-truths, factual omissions and outright falsehoods this world-view contains. 

Carl alleges that the UN considers Zionism to be racism. Wrong. 

Shames is correct that the UN General Assembly passed resolution 3379 by a vote of 72 to 35 (with 32 abstentions) in 1975. Yet, he fails to mention that the General Assembly rectified that error in 1991 with resolution 4686 revoking the determination that Zionism is racism. Resolution 4686 passed by a vote of 111 to 25 (with 13 abstentions). Whether he agrees with it or not, the revocation of that determination passed with a much larger majority of the nations of the world. 

Regardless of this UN action, some might still claim that Zionism is racism. To test that assertion, let’s look at the UN’s definition of racism from Resolution 3379. 3379 says that “any doctrine of racial differentiation or superiority is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous.” 

The reality is that there is no doctrine of racial differentiation or superiority in Israel. People of any race can and often do become Jewish and Israeli. 

Anyone who has been to Israel knows this is true. People from the Middle East and Africa represent a majority of Israel’s population. And more than 20 percent of Israel’s citizens are not Jews, yet have full rights of citizenship. Israelis come in all colors, from blonde haired, blue-eyed Europeans, to brown skinned Arab Jews (no, that is not an oxymoron) to black Africans. In fact, Israel rescued tens of thousands of black, Ethiopian Jews from persecution and starvation and transported them to Israel. 

This multiculturalism is in sharp contrast to other countries in the region where Christians and Jews are either second class citizens or not allowed to be citizens at all. 

Carl Shames clearly does not let these facts intrude on his blind hatred for Israel. 

Hilda Kessler 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Carl Shames conveniently fails to mention, or perhaps doesn’t know, that in the same era that the state of Israel was created as a homeland for the Jews, the state of Trans-Jordan (now Jordan) was created and given to the minority Hashemites. 

Iraq was created to be ruled by the minority Sunni Moslems. The modern state of Syria was created and then seized by the minority Alawites. Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the Gulf States also came into being in the last century. 

None of these nations was created by a vote of its people, yet only Israel’s legitimacy is regularly questioned. 

Why is that, Carl? 

Jerry Weintraub