Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday April 24, 2007


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you for Phil McArdle’s April 17 article on Robert Openheimer. It was my good fortune to attend a lecture Openheimer gave after his retirement in which he said that mathematics can prove that the ultimate unit of reality is a particle or else energy. He said he believed there is something existing between these two polarities and he would now spend time seeking that other thing. 

Karl Kasten 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I couldn’t agree more with J. Douglas Allen-Taylor’s April 6 column up to a certain point. I too was struck by the resemblance of our leader to Captain Ahab when I saw Moby Dick on Channel 9 a couple of weeks ago. Allen-Taylor’s assessment of the danger of “walking backwards” out of Iraq makes sense. However, the lineup of American casualties on the PBS Newshour (12-plus almost every day) indicates that our non-mercenary troops are in gravest danger right now—not to mention thousands and thousands of Iraqi dying, and traumatized children orphaned. 

The fastest way to get out of this mess: Impeach the Bush administration now! Think of the damage they can still do with further crimes and misdemeanors! 

No one can blame Nancy Pelosi for not wanting the job, but she would be an excellent interim president during the 18 months, 78 weeks, and 549 days remaining in the current regime. 

Nancy Chirich 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Going to the Black Panther exhibit in the city last spring, I came away with my closest memories of their operation. Rockets were exploding to celebrate the A’s 3rd straight world chamiponship in 1974, as I entered the doors of the Oakland Community School on E. 14th St., and was greeted by the stunning sight of a 52-piece youth jazz orchestra. 

The Panthers had brought in jazz drummer and teacher Charles Moffett, who was a close friend of Ornette Coleman, to create a jazz curriculum. Inspiring to me that kids were being given the opportunity to learn the heights of their improv-infused culture, I became friends with Charles (he died in 1997) and his family, got him some gigs, and even a tour of Japan. 

I believe there is an incredible story to be told about what has become of those 52 kids. As a documentary, it could have a Moffett family sound track (all five are musicians, and Charnett is an acclaimed bass player). I have been talking about this for a few months, have made and re-made good connections, although not a list of the Moffett 52.  

With Ron Dellums becoming mayor, ripe seems the time. As well as talking this up with long-time friends of the creative free jazz scene locally. Any ‘n’ all who would and can help on this, hey, be my quest. 

Arnie Passman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The world faces a grave emergency. The Bush administration is carrying out war crimes and crimes against humanity in your name. These include the Iraq war, legalized torture, kangaroo courts posing as trials, warrantless spying, and now plans for war against Iran. The very nature of U.S. society and its relationship to other countries are being reshaped. 

Yet the Democratic-led Congress refuses to act in any meaningful way to stop the Bush regime, declaring that impeachment is “off the table” in the words of Nancy Pelosi. Democrats have voted to authorize $100 billion more for the Iraq war while pretending they are trying to stop it. To quote historian Howard Zinn, “It’s as if, before the Civil War, abolitionists agreed to postpone the emancipation of the slaves for a year, or two years, or five years, and coupled this with an appropriation of funds to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act.” 

Each day the situation grows more urgent as Defense Secretary Gates extends the duty tours for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and aircraft carrier task forces maneuver near Iran poised to launch attacks on the president’s order. The torture, the spying, the attacks on abortion, the scapegoating of immigrants, and the unprecedented undermining of habeas corpus—all continuing.  

Silence can be complicity. On April 25, Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, actress Olympia Dukakis, writer Chris Hedges, musician Tom Morello, reporter John Nichols, lawyer Michael Ratner, and Cindy Sheehan are inviting other prominent citizens to convene on Capitol Hill to demand Congress begin impeachment proceedings against President Bush.  

On April 28, World Can’t Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime and other organizations are calling for people to make the demand for impeachment visible everywhere. 

Big changes are possible. Bush will soon veto a war appropriations bill. His regime defends the firings of U.S. attorneys, and it is besieged over opposition at the World Bank to Paul Wolfowitz. Bush’s Supreme Court has just taken the first steps to outlaw the right of choice.  

Millions oppose the Bush regime, but we will have to manifest that sentiment in ways that cannot be ignored—to have a chance of stopping it.  

If not now, when? If not you, who?  

Kenneth J. Theisen 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

NBC is trashed for showing a killer’s rants on its airwaves. By all means, let’s bury our heads in the sand and maybe the menace will go away. Why know what sends an unstable person into a rampage? Might we find out it is society’s own materialism and selfishness that feeds this frenzy? 

About the Supreme Court decision to uphold the antiabortion doctrine. What did you expect when Bush installed two more like-minded religious icons on the Supreme Court? Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito are fulfilling the fringe right’s fondest desire; forcing their intolerant and minority viewpoint on women of America. 

Give these diehard abortion opponents an inch and they’ll take a mile, watch! 

Ron Lowe 

Grass Valley 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

I wonder why I haven’t heard anyone discuss these obvious questions?: Thirty people in a classroom should be able to simultaneously attack and subdue one person with a gun, either hitting him with chairs or using their bare hands. Why couldn’t they do that? Are we too individualistic as a culture, and not used to working as a team? Was everyone thinking about how to protect themselves, and not how to protect the group as a whole? The teacher who barred his door seems to have had the right idea, perhaps because of his prior experience with violence. 

We frequently hear about guns being used to commit crimes (including the crime of unilaterally attacking Afghanistan and Iraq). Why don’t we ever hear about guns being used (other than by the police) to do something good, such as defend people against criminals? It appears to me that, whatever the reason for allowing people to own guns, it isn’t working! The Second Amendment is either obsolete, or has been misinterpreted. 

Who can answer these questions? 

Mike Vandeman 

San Ramon 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I attended the World Water Challenge last week, and was inspired as I shared in a dialogue with more than 100 participants about the importance of protecting our water supply both abroad and here in our own community. The San Francisco Director of the Environment, Jared Blumenfeld spoke about the many ways in which we can conserve and care for the excellent water that we have access to in the Bay Area. I was pleased to hear that Mayor Gavin Newsom (SF) seems to really support the proposal to at least phase out contracts with bottled water companies, who seek to turn water into a for-profit commodity, and yet cannot even promise a product that has a better quality than the water that comes straight from our taps. The event was both informative and encouraging, especially as a diverse group of people simultaneously pledged to take personal actions to preserve water as a basic human right.  

Hanna Jacobsen 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Totally ignoring the Berkeley Public Library’s April 13 press release announcing the “upcoming vacancy on the Board of Library Trustees” (which gave potential candidates two and a half business days to apply by 2 p.m. on April 18), Trustees Darryl Moore and Laura Anderson, at the April 18 board meeting, proclaimed that there was actually no vacancy. This, despite the fact that applicant Pat Cody was present at the meeting, in accord with the vacancy announcement’s requirement that candidates must be present if they wished to be considered for the opening. However, since there was a predetermined outcome the board chose not to subject her to a pro forma interview. 

By a 3-1 vote, with Trustee Lee voting no, (Kupfer had recused herself) Trustee Susan Kupfer was recommended for reappointment for a second four-year term. 

The Berkeley Municipal Code (BMC sec.3.04.010) reads “The term of office of the members of the board shall be four years.” When that is up, the term expires. It seems clear that when a term expires it creates a vacancy. By recommending an automatic renewal of trustees’ first term appointments, essentially creating eight-year terms, the library board has refashioned the BMC to insulate themselves and nurture a self-perpetuating fraternalistic country clubish board. Any actual change in Berkeley’s laws is the job of the City Council, and the Council must take back its authority and see that the current applicable code, a four-year term for library trustees, is respected by announcing the current position opening widely, in an appropriate manner and allowing a reasonable time for potential candidates to apply. The council, under its City Charter mandate, must then appoint a trustee to fill another four-year term. 

The Library has weathered two years of strife. While the climate has changed for the better under the new director, we must heed the devastating 3.21.07 report to the board by SEIU local 535 on the failures and costs of the radio frequency identification system (RFID). Some $108,000 in addition to the $111,000 loan payment was spent in fiscal year 2006 on RFID materials. Now, additionally, a maintenance contract is being considered. The cost of this so-called labor saving system has resulted in a shortage of workers needed to reshelve a backlog of books. Can the current Board, with a vested interest in RFID, face up to the downsides of this malfunctioning system? 

Gene Bernardi 

Jane Welford 

Berkeleyans Organizing for Library Defense (SuperBOLD) 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

We at the Ecology Center deeply appreciate the efforts of the Alameda County Green Business Certification Program in helping local businesses achieve significant environmental improvements in their operations and practices. As a member of the Alameda County Source Reduction and Recycling Board, I am especially pleased to see dramatic reductions in wasting. We applaud the Berkeley Daily Planet for highlighting these businesses through the targeted advertising they have done around earth week. However, it is very important to recognize a few important distinctions when considering where to spend your dollars and what this certificate really means.  

First, there is a fundamental difference between an enterprise (for profit or not for profit) that is mission driven and one that is primarily driven by the bottom line. For example, transnational garbage company Waste Management Inc., has repeatedly demonstrated, in spite of their multi-million dollar ad campaign to the contrary, that their primary goal is to provide profit to their senior management, Board, and stockholders by burying or burning garbage (Google: SEC, Arthur Anderson, Waste Management Inc). Waste Management Inc.’s recycling activities began opportunistically as public relations efforts not from their core mission or values, and are a sideshow to their real business ventures. No matter how much they clean up garbage dumps and incinerators, they will never be a “green”, simply because of the volume of valuable resource they waste. In no way can one compare such a “green" business to a community based recycling enterprise, driven by an environmental mission.  

Second, it is important to understand that while the Green Business Certification represents an important series of initial steps that any business can and should take, the standard for certification is really low. There should be some distinction recognizing some of the businesses who have come the furthest, made the greatest actual impact, or do it from the start because they are driven by a mission. A bronze, gold, and platinum standard for example could help significantly to raise the bar. 

Finally, as a member of Sustainable Berkeley I must remind readers that green only has two e’s. When we talk about sustainable economic development and sustainable businesses we use three e’s—a triple bottom line to evaluate practices: Economic Success, Environmental Responsibility, and Social Equity. Without equity no enterprise can truly be sustainable. 

To find more green certified businesses and information on how to become one, or what it means to be one, check out For a directory of local enterprises, businesses, organizations, and agencies providing environmental information, products, and services check out the Ecology Center’s online EcoDirectory. It represents 35 years of information gathering and community engagement with mission driven and sustainable enterprises. 

Martin Bourque 

Executive Director 

Ecology Center