Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday April 27, 2007


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Sometimes I like to imagine living in a fair and equitable city. I think about a just and rational solution to the cell phone antenna dilemma. I make a leap of faith and believe that this community actually supports equity and, in order to enjoy the convenience of cell phones, is willing to share the risk of living near antennas with their emissions of potentially dangerous RF radiation.  

This is what I imagine: a city-owned municipal cell phone company which installs, roughly equal distance apart, low wattage single antennas placed on tall poles in vacant lots created for this purpose throughout Berkeley. I imagine an educational campaign that teaches young and old alike the pros and cons of using cell phones, and publicizes all the latest research. I imagine a government that supports individual choice by keeping our land lines repaired and inexpensive and that puts back corner telephone booths, painted in bright colors with flower boxes containing ivy, sweet peas, and geraniums. I imagine more and more people relegating their cell phone usage to emergencies-real emergencies-and that slowly, neighborhood by neighborhood, the city is able to dismantle many of these antennas. I imagine people being fair and supporting affirmative action on this issue and shutting antennas down first in those neighborhoods that have suffered from this pollution the longest. Finally, I imagine antenna-free neighborhoods. Maybe, just maybe, we could decrease rates of cancer and autism. A healthy environment for all is worth a little inconvenience. 

I am not an electrical engineer. My fantasy may not be the best way to establish a safe wireless system. What do you think is the right way? On May 8 at 7 p.m. at Old City Hall our City Council will have a chance to practice the progressive values they claim to stand for. Join us at 2134 MLK Jr. Way to see how our elected representatives vote. For further information, e-mail BNAFU at  

Laurie Baumgarten  

Berkeley Neighborhood  

Antenna-Free Union  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Congratulations to the Berkeley Daily Planet for your California Appeals Court victory which will allow the public to see 15,000 pages of documents pertaining to the employment lawsuit that Wal-Mart faces. These documents will help shed more light on Wal-Mart’s “labor guidelines and staffing formula, pay and incentive guidelines....” 

In that April 13 article I was struck by the comment of your executive editor, Becky O’Malley: “It’s the job of the press to make every effort to find out what corporations like Wal-Mart are doing, and to tell citizens about it.” Absolutely! 

Our citizen’s group, Iowa City Stop Wal-Mart, recently concluded a successful 17-month fight to prevent Wal-Mart from building a SuperCenter on 23 acres that our city council had agreed to sell them. I was so upset by the coverage of our local newspapers that I called the Columbia Journalism Review and proposed a freelance article on the plethora of inaccuracies, omissions, and misleading comments that emanated from our newspapers. I was turned down by one of CJR’s editors, because, as she said, “This kind of poor coverage is all too typical of newspapers these days.”  

So, again, kudos to the Berkeley Daily Planet. 

Gary Sanders 

Chair, Iowa City Stop Wal-Mart 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Reading Tuesday’s editorial, I believe I can solve a number of downtown Berkeley’s ills with a very few steps. 

First, the Arpeggio nee Seagate building is a ludicrous waste at nine stories. It is half a block from BART and next to the two tallest buildings in Berkeley. It should be at least 16 stories. 

Likewise, similar spots for downtown living should include the ever vacant Eddie Bauer/Gateway building/flophouse and the Constitution Square. Both of these buildings cry for the wreckers ball. The footprint of the Bauer (new project name: “Bower”) should be suitable for a mid-size grocery. What, you don’t like trees? 

Furthermore, downtown Berkeley needs another cocktail lounge (perhaps in the courtyard of the Arpeggio) as Jupiter is far too crowded on weekends. Finally, as a concrete measure for the mayor’s “Public Commons” the city should take a cue from Singapore and mandate caning for public expectoration. 

With a stroll down a loogie-free sidewalk to a drink and a deluxe apartment in the sky, I believe Berkeley will be a far finer place.  

John Vinopal 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Proponents of animal welfare and fair play will be pleased to know that Assembly Bill 1614 passed the Assembly Arts and Entertainment Committee last week by a vote of 6-0. The bill will next be heard on May 2 before the Assembly Appropriations Committee, chaired by Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), then the Assembly floor. This humane legislation was introduced by Assemblywoman Audra Strickland (R-Moorpark), and co-authored by Assemblymen Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys) and Joe Coto (D San Jose). Mr. Coto is also chair of the 26-member Latino Caucus. Heartfelt thanks to all for this bipartisan effort. 

California boasts the best rodeo animal welfare law in the country (Penal Code 596.7). Sadly, by definition, it does not cover “charreadas,” the Mexican-style rodeos common throughout the state. AB 1614 would correct this inequity. It’s a matter of fairness. Current law requires either an on-site or on-call veterinarian to care for injured animals; restricts the use of the electric prod; provides for a conveyance to move injured animals; and requires that the attending veterinarian submit an injury report to the State Veterinary Medical Board within 48 hours of the rodeo’s conclusion. Seems reasonable, no? 

Support letters are needed. All legislators may be written c/o The State Capitol, Sacramento, CA 95814. 

Eric Mills, coordinator, 

Action for Animals (bill sponsor) 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Graffiti is out of control in Berkeley. There are many reasons for this. One reason is that Berkeley juries are reluctant to convict graffiti taggers, even when they are caught red-handed. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people in Berkeley who think of graffiti tagging as a victimless crime, which it isn’t. Berkeley homeowners, businesses, and the city spend millions of dollars every year on graffiti removal.  

Fortunately, there are some things you can do about graffiti: 

1. Remove or paint over graffiti immediately. By immediately, I mean the same day it appears. Graffiti attracts more graffiti. Taggers have a competitive ethic. If one tagger puts his mark on your building, a rival will want to put his mark there as well. Graffiti taggers like to see their work and show it off to others. If it’s not there when they return, they will move on to other properties, places where the owners don’t remove graffiti. 

2. Keep paint on hand that matches the exterior surfaces of your building that are most accessible to graffiti taggers. Water-based paints are the easiest to work with and easiest to clean up afterwards. Keep a can of Kilz or similar sealer on hand, in case a graffiti tagger uses paint or ink that bleeds through your cover-up paint. 

3. If graffiti is sprayed on enameled metal or other impermeable surface, like glazed tile, furniture finisher and Scotch pads will usually remove paint and ink. Don’t breathe the stuff and wear rubber gloves. 

4. Graffiti is usually impossible to remove from brick and stonework, short of sandblasting. You may be able to remove some of the graffiti with a wire brush, but you probably won’t get it all off. If you have exposed brick, stone, or masonry walls; consider coating them with clear anti-graffiti coating, available at most paint stores. If you want to see what anti-graffiti coating looks like before deciding whether to use it or not, go to the Ashby BART station. Most of the concrete retaining walls in the parking lot are covered with anti-graffiti coating. 

Mark Tarses 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I liked the headline of Becky O’Malley’s latest editorial “It’s Too Easy Acting Green...” Players on the local, state and federal scene have bent over backwards to appear “green.” Scientists, politicians and citizens are lining up to jump on the bandwagon of curing global warming by rearranging chairs on the Titanic. How many are willing to make changes in their own diets?  

The destruction of our planet that we are now experiencing has more to do with our modern diet than anything else. The Worldwatch Institute reported, back in July of 1991, that overgrazing, deforestation, water pollution and methane emissions from livestock production were the main cause of global warming. Their calls for decreased meat and poultry production went unheeded.  

In addition, it takes a huge amount of the world’s energy to transport and store foods that are not grown locally. People around the world starve to death because their country’s land is used to grow beef, bananas, coffee, sugar and more for Americans. It could be used to grow food for the people who live in those lands. 

The single most important thing you can do to avert global warming and restore the natural order is to change your diet from a meat-centered one, to a plant based, local one. It may not grab headlines, but it will certainly be more effective than rearranging those chairs once again. 

Michael Bauce 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The House and Senate have exercised their legal prerogative to affect U.S. policy by placing timetable restrictions on continued funding of the Iraq war. President Bush has mischaracterized this action as “micromanaging.” Indeed, it would be micromanaging if Congress told the generals “how” to fight the war, but it is Congress’ duty to tell the generals “whether” we should fight this misconceived, dishonestly promoted, incompetently managed failure. 

Bush threatens to veto the Iraq funding bill because of Congress’ restrictions. If he does veto, funding for current operations will begin to run out. If Congress refuses to pass another, unrestricted funding bill, how bad is that? Our military will have to use its remaining funding to secure a safe withdrawal from Iraq. 

Of course, Bush will blame the Democrats for “loosing” Iraq, and the Democrats will take credit for extracting us from a quagmire. Meanwhile, there will be no more killing on account of American occupation. Looks like a win-win situation to me. 

Bruce Joffe 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

“Oh, for Pete’s sake, when are you going to let up on President Bush?” my friends ask, some in exasperation, others in amusement. Well, dear friends, I’ll let up on George Bush when there are no more growing lists of American military killed in Iraq, no flag-draped coffins arriving at airports, no soldiers, only recently recovered from serious injuries, being sent back for another 12 months of duty. 

I’ll let up on Bush when innocent Iraqi citizens are no longer blown to bits in market places, when there are no haunting images of small children in hospital beds, their heads or limbs swathed in bandages. 

I’ll let up on Bush when our country is no longer viewed across the world with scorn and indignation because of this president’s 

“cowboy diplomacy.” 

I’ll let up on Bush when he no longer stubbornly defends an inept, untruthful District Attorney Alberto Gonzales, in the face of opposition by Republicans and Democrats alike, thus diminishing that office. 

I’ll let up on Bush when he no longer staunchly advocates the rights of citizens to bear arms, while tearfully extending condolences to the families of victims of mass shootings—all the while invoking the name of God. 

I’ll let up on Mr. B. when he can express a simple thought coherently and intelligibly. (I’m not hopeful on this.)  

And I shall joyfully let up on George Bush when legislators and fed up citizens have the guts to demand the impeachment of a president who’s thrown this nation and much of the world into chaos since declaring HIS war! 

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On May 15, the Alameda City Council will hear whether the Planning Board overstepped their authority in appointing an ad-hoc committee to plan a forum to discuss the charter amendment known as Measure A. 

Some background for your readers: In 1973, when Alameda had developers pushing to develop high density housing and many Victorians were being torn down, residents gathered the required signatures to place a simple proposition on the ballot. Measure A reads, “their shall be no multiple units built in Alameda.”  

The measure passed overwhelmingly. It was later expanded on to say that duplexes were allowed and that lots needed to be 2,000 square feet. As a result, a planned development of 10,000 homes was reduced to 3,000. This simple act saved Alameda from being overdeveloped. In 2002 there was a forum held to discuss Measure A which was very well attended. The response was that we needed to keep this measure in place to protect us from developers and politicians that can’t be trusted. 

In 2007, we once again have a developer friendly City Council and a Planning Board who both want high density housing. The biggest problem, of course, is that Alameda is an Island. All the bridges and our one tube are already at capacity. This seems to not make much of an impression on our city leaders. Traffic is a huge problem, with little thought or plans to solve those problems. It is apparent the big money is in town—Lennar and Catellus are two of the largest developers in the country, so us little guys have quite a task before us, just as they did in 1973. I do believe that when the facts are known, the residents of Alameda will rise and take control of our community. 

Unfortunately, we also have local print newspapers that are merchant dependent, and political yes men, so it will be difficult to get the word out. The local high density advocates seem to have all the time in the world to lobby the Planning Board and have the money to hold a forum themselves, but prefer that the taxpayers pay for the forum that they want. They cannot get the required signatures to place the issue on the ballot, so lobbying the Planning Board and City Council to place a measure on the ballot to usurp Measure A is a short cut they have been trying to put together for years. 

While I am no fan of Mayor Beverly Johnson, there might be a glimmer of hope considering she ran on a “Protect Measure A” platform in her recent re-election campaign. All who are interested to learn more can go to 

Pat Bail 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Words are the sole product of politicians, journalists, scholars and comedians. This might lead you to think such folks schooled in meaning and skilled in assessing the value of words, would be very careful in their use. In the case of politicians (and most journalist) you’d be wrong because politicians use words either as shields to protect their authority or as weapons to defeat their opponents.  

This is aptly illustrated in the current war of words between the White House and Democratic congressional leaders. The squabble is centered on when to withdraw the “dogs of war” in Iraq.  

It is heartbreaking to read and watch humans by the hundreds getting killed and maimed daily, tragic that some killing is done by our own troops and obscene that many are killed by suicidal young people longing for paradise. “Cry havoc.” but it is not war.  

In Iraq our soldiers dressed in sophisticated gear and backed up by helicopter gun ships, fighter planes, artillery, tanks and surveillance drones fight an enemy in civilian clothes who possess no military training, operate under no established chain of command, fly no flag and are equipped with only the weapons they can carry and only the explosives they can improvise. Call it whatever you like but it is certainly not war.  

What you name a situation has a huge impact on how you deal with it. A military occupation is not a war. So long as the branches of our government see it as war they will continue to quarrel…and the killing will go on. 

We, the people who matter because we pay in lives and treasure, see it for what it is, an unprovoked, bloody and unnecessary catastrophe. And we want out. Now! 

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

To any American who happens to have even noticed, Israel’s killing last weekend of nine Palestinians and this week’s resumption of rocket fire by Hamas most likely looks like the usual they’re-always-at-it eternal-warfare-in-Israel-Palestine model . 

But it isn’t. The Palestinians have been making a heroic attempt for a long time now to refrain from violence and to use other methods to pursue justice, including legal redress, international support, and creative nonviolent resistance. None of this has been of much avail, but they have persisted. 

The Israelis meanwhile, have been badly needing Palestinian violence in order to justify their refusal to negotiate. Last weekend’s murders were a deliberate, and apparently successful, attempt to provoke it. 

There are so many things to feel terrible about right now. My worst of the week, I guess, is Australian Prime Minister John Howard’s announcement that if rain doesn’t fall soon, the government will be forced to cut off irrigation water to the farmers in the Murray-Darling river basin, who produce 40% of Australia’s food, in order to have drinking water for people in the cities. 

Given that Australia may soon become Earth’s first continent (large island, whatever) to become completely uninhabitable, that the government of Israel is cynical enough to solicit violence against its own citizens seems like an issue beneath notice by comparison. 

But, believe me, they are trying for a suicide bombing. And it is to such a country that we have pledged our most undying devotion. Should the bomb go off—and I pray it doesn’t—remember that you read it here. Before it happened. 

Joanna Graham 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On April 23, presidential candidate Sen. Obama delivered a major foreign policy speech. Those that hope Obama will be an agent of positive change should not be deluded by his proposals.  

He outlined a foreign policy to make U.S. domination of the world more effective for U.S. imperialist interests. He proposed to “build a 21st century military” by expanding it by 92,000 troops. He wants to “garner the clear support and participation of others” when the U.S. uses force “to protect...our vital interests.” In other words, he wants to involve other nations in the crimes of the U.S. when it launches war so that the U.S. is more likely to succeed. But “multi-lateral imperialism” is no better than Bush’s “unilateral imperialism.” 

For Obama, the problem with the Iraq war is not that the war’s aims are fundamentally unjust or it has led to unimaginable suffering for Iraqis. In his book, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream in describing the “dire” consequences of the war, he mentions only the toll on U.S. troops and never mentions the 650,000 Iraqis killed and 3 million refugees forced to flee the ongoing carnage. For Obama the war is a mistake because it threatens to turn into a strategic debacle that threatens to weaken U.S. power and dominance. He believes that U.S. strategy must now shift and American forces should be redeployed to better protect U.S. interests. 

Obama’s proposal to expand the military is reprehensible. Already under the Bush regime the U.S. spends more money on its military than the entire rest of the world combined. The U.S. military is in 130 countries with 700 bases. U.S. armed force is utilized to enforce U.S. global domination. The Bush administration has already attacked Afghanistan and Iraq and is planning to attack Iran as you read this. We do not need to make U.S. aggression more effective, we need to end it. The vital interests of U.S. imperialism are not in the interests of humanity.  

In order to halt the horrors of the Bush regime we need to drive it from power, but we can not replace it with another “more effective style of imperialism” like that proposed by Obama. The world can not afford to wait until Bush leaves office in 2009. To learn how to rid the world of the Bush regime, see 

Kenneth J. Theisen