Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday May 15, 2007


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Becky O’Malley’s May 11 editorial, “Another Foggy Night on the Public Commons,” was depressing, as I realized that the Berkeley bourgeois bullies lead by the Mayor Bates and the “liberals” on the City Council were intent again on making life as miserable as possible for the down-and-out that have the misfortune of currently living in Berkeley. No public restrooms? No public shower facilities? No public storage lockers? No local public campgrounds? Hey, this is liberal-fascist America in the 21st century. It’s amazing to me to notice that there is a great similarity in the attitudes exhibited by the Bush gangsters, currently holed up in the White House, and the liberal fascists that currently hold sway on the Berkeley City Council. Both groups share a hatred and a disdain for anyone poorer than themselves or anyone lower on the power structure pecking order. 

America is the only remaining industrialized country that is unwilling to provide universal health care and universal health insurance for all its citizens. One guesses that we’d rather be spending our money on armaments and troops that are currently stationed in (or occupying) over one hundred countries around the world. Kids, can you say, “empire?” 

Australia, New Zealand, Japan and many European countries have had provided said universal health care and insurance for many years now… What is our problem? We’d rather have the corporate greed system of interlocking HMOs, insurance companies and pharmaceutical corporations, thank you very much…  

This same perverse attitude covers the areas of public toilets, public showers and public campgrounds with low-cost trailer accommodations for both travelers and poorer local residents. In New Zealand, every city, town and hamlet has public bathrooms, called comfort blocks, installed in convenient locations. Even the French provide urinals (for men), which are discreetly placed in the shrubbery around public parks in their cities. There are hundreds of public campgrounds in New Zealand, called caravan parks, which provide low-cost accommodations for both travelers and local residents. Small trailers (with large picture windows!) are available for rent. Or you can bring in your own vehicle or house trailer. There are bathroom blocks with showers, kitchen and laundry facilities available for all in a central building. 

Could we do this in America in the 21st century? Hmm. We’d have to give up our snotty bourgeois bullying attitudes, but we may be able to build a humanistic, caring society for all its members at some point. Let’s hope that this transformation will not simply be a social mirage, constantly receding into the future, a la our proposed date for leaving Iraq to the Iraqi people… 

James K. Sayre 






Editors, Daily Planet: 

To me, “public commons” is any space that I have to share with other members of the public. 

People aren’t allowed to smoke or eat on AC Transit buses. But they are allowed to talk. During my frequent bus rides, I often encounter someone randomly ranting. These are not just loud cell phone conversations. These people are just talking to themselves. They are not just mumbling; they are loud enough to annoy everyone on the bus. What they say occasionally makes a little sense (racist or political taunts), but mostly it is random rant. 

Would the public commons initiative increase sheriff patrols on the buses? Can I expect random ranters to be cited or ejected? What about the loud people on their cell phones? 

If lying down on the sidewalk or “objectionable behavior” will be illegal, maybe the sheriff will cite the bus riders who slump in an aisle seat, blocking access to a vacant window seat. Surely they’ll cite the riders who prop their dirty feet on the seat opposite. Or should bus riders just put up with these inconveniences and let the police focus on enforcing the laws covering car and drug traffic? 

Steve Geller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

CNN’s May 11 broadcast in Europe showed some children in Baghdad gathered around a big pool of water, created by holes punched in one of the makeshift water lines leading into the Green Zone. They weren’t frolicking in the water as one might expect; they were washing themselves and collecting water in squalid plastic containers. These kids know the discomfort of being dirty and not having water to clean themselves; they live with the fear of thirst. For them, this pipeline carrying water to the powerful of Baghdad was not a temptation for vandalism; it was a necessity.  

This image illustrates the failure of the Bush administration’s great social experiment. Under the guise of “making the Middle-East safe for Democracy,” the neo-con Republicans’ social theory actually intended to provide unfettered privilege to the wealthy, with the afterthought that their improved economy would drip down to the poor people. Drip down economics, indeed. The idea of collective public works for the good of the community is anathema to these Republicans, whose anti-taxation spokesman, George W. Bush, proclaims, “it’s your money, don’t let the government take it away.”  

Seductive sentiment if you have money, money enough to buy your own clean-water system and prevent those who don’t from taking “your” water. But, as we now see on CNN, this is a formula for incredible personal misery where, ultimately, even the wealthy live in danger. “Mission accomplished,” experiment failed.  

Bruce Joffe 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I wanted to add my voice to those who’ve been protesting against that dangerously bright, energy-sucking electronic billboard along the eastern side of the Bay Bridge. My partner and I drove past this monstrosity late last night and couldn’t decide which was worse: the blinding messages being flashed at us (the white background was particularly bright), or the amount of energy that thing must be consuming every hour as our country comes to grips with global warming. On both counts, it’s an irresponsible and obnoxious example of advertising that has gone over the edge. I’m going to ask my local, state and federal representatives to help bring it down, and I urge other readers to do the same. 

Mark Pasley 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

What does it take for teachers to stop being encouraging to the children in their care? Does the fault lie in the selection process by which new teachers are hired? Does the fault lie in weak development of an inner sense of responsibility towards children? Teachers don’t just teach skills. By their example, they teach the way of virtuous living. By what process of selection, by what process of inspiration can we strengthen the trustworthiness of teachers ? 

Romila Khanna 






Editors, Daily Planet: 

As Steven Jukes of Reuters News Service said, immediately following 9/11: “We all know that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter…”  

The reason it’s so difficult to distinguish a terrorist from a militant freedom fighter is that all terrorists are militants but not all militant freedom fighters are terrorists. Three examples highlight the overlaps:  

1. Timothy McVeigh, a decorated Army veteran, perpetrated an act of terrorism that killed 168 innocent adults and children. 

2. John Walker Lindh, neither a militant freedom fighter nor a terrorist, was seized at a military training camp in Afghanistan, tried for supporting terrorists and sent to prison.  

McVeigh and Lindh may invoke a modicum of sympathy as being young, misguided, delusional and fellow Americans. 

3. No sympathy is due to Luis Posada Carilles who dedicated his life to using terror as a tactical instrument in the fight for freedom.  

Posada first distinguished himself by applying the training he got in the use of explosives at the CIA run School of the Americas to “mastermind” the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner killing 73 people, and went on to other acts of violence spanning half a century.  

A few days ago a federal court ordered Mr. Posada released from detention by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and thus, in effect, officially blurred the distinction between terrorist and freedom fighter.  

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Aware that I’ve come down pretty hard on the president of late, and feeling a bit contrite, I decided last week I would cool it—lay off. No more snide remarks. Then, having made this momentous decision, like millions of other Americans, I turned my attention to the extensive television coverage of Queen Elizabeth’s visit to the colonies. What a grand spectacle it was! I must admit that Mr. Bush did a creditable job of escorting Liz around. He did flub one introduction, but it might have been that he was taken aback by that god-awful hat she wore. (On the subject of hats, they got worse by the day, didn’t they? The one she wore to the Kentucky Derby was a doozy! I was amazed that the horses didn’t stop in their tracks when they passed her box.) Oh, but I digress. 

I think we’ll have to concede that George and Laura did a splendid job on the white-tie dinner. That was one classy affair! I’ve no doubt the queen returned to London, assured that we Americans are more civilized than she thought. Yes, all in all, I started to feel a little better about George Bush, and concluded that he might not be such a bad guy after all. 

Well, my newfound respect for the president quickly dissipated with the announcement that he was sending 35,000 troops to Iraq, over the objections of Congress and members of his own party. Further, in his typical bully fashion, he threatened to veto any congressional bill that would require him to withdraw troops in three months, completing the withdrawal in nine months. Once again, the “Commander Guy” (his self-bestowed title) has shown utter disregard for the wishes of the American public to bring this disastrous war to a close. 

Therefore, I will not lay off George W. Bush—I’ll continue to rave and rant. This arrogant, mule-headed man and his entire sleazy administration must be squelched. I fervently hope that a nation which so far has shown little outrage at this bloody war will finally speak up and demand that our troops return to their families—the fortunate ones who escaped suicide bombers. 

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

This past weekend PBS ran Casablanca, and as I watched I kept flashing to a Middle Eastern Islamic country of today. 

In Casablanca of 1942 big tall egotistical foreigners wearing impressive military gear strutted with authority among fearful turban wearers. Corruption abounded in that big city, as it does in another one now, but in the movie it was hard not to identify with the crooked Sidney Greenstreet, the shifty eyed Peter Lorre and the “cynical” Humphrey Bogart, proprietor of a gambling den with a fishy roulette wheel. I rooted for the flawed but believable rabble to stay afloat in a land where the occupiers didn’t have full control, and often had to defer to police chief Claude Rains. However the stormtroopers could still whisk people away to a dark prison where very bad things happened. 

All told, I was glad to see the colonel take a bullet from Bogey, enabling “movement” leader Paul Henreid and Bogey’s lost love Ingrid Bergman to board that plane to Lisbon, the jump off to an escape to “America.” How the script has flipped over! Where would the plane from Baghdad fly?  

Ted Vincent 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I note that China has named an African envoy to focus on the crisis in Darfur. The threat to boycott the upcoming Summer Olympics in Beijing and label it the “Genocide Olympics” appears to be working. Over 450,000 have been killed in Darfur and another 2.5 million have been displaced. Why focus on China? Sudan is Africa’s third largest oil producer after only Nigeria and Angola and China has a large economic interest in this Sudanese oil. China dominates Sudan’s oil fields through the China National Petroleum Corporation. China participated in the construction of a 1,500-kilometer pipeline through Sudan to the Red Sea where it has built a tanker terminal, and has built an oil refinery in Khartoum. More than half of Sudan’s oil exports go to China. More than 10,000 Chinese nationals work in Sudan. In return, China furnishes weaponry to Sudan which it uses to commit wide scale killings in Darfur. As a sidenote, it has been reported that a large oil field exists in Darfur. Isn’t it usually about oil? 

Also, China has a seat on the U.N. Security Council and uses a threat of a veto to weaken a series of resolutions aimed at pressuring Sudan to stop support for the Juwadeen militia’s mass killings in Darfur. Why would a boycott work? A threat to boycott the “Genocide Olympics” might shame the Chinese government to pressure Sudan to stop the killings in Darfur. China craves respect and status from others. Thus, it has invested enormous hopes in hosting next year’s Summer Olympics at Beijing. If the Olympic theme of “One World, One Dream” became the “Genocide Olympics,” it would be a serious blow to China’s prestige. The Olympics’ major sponsors such as Coca-Cola, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, and McDonalds, and key collaborators like Mr. Spielberg, who has been hired to help stage the Olympic ceremonies, might think twice about participating in a Genocide Olympics. Let’s keep up the pressure. 

Ralph E. Stone 

San Francisco 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On May 11 Vice President Cheney threatened Iran from the deck of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. John C. Stennis. He stated, “With two carrier strike groups in the Gulf, we’re sending clear messages to friends and adversaries alike…[The United States] will…prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating this region.” The United States has maintained two carrier groups in the region to support military action in Iraq, but also with the potential to launch attacks on Iran. 

Cheney has repeatedly issued threats to Iran on behalf of the Bush regime. In February, he stated, “It would be a serious mistake if a nation like Iran were to become a nuclear power.” He threatened that “All options are still on the table,” to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. 

It is interesting that his latest threat included the words “to prevent Iran…dominating the region.” The Bush regime fears Iran’s influence with various Shiite forces in Iraq. In January, the White House issued a power point presentation to the media. In it were the words, “Our Allies in the region are concerned about Iranian influence in Iraq…Iran has been cultivating influence in Iraq through all means at its disposal. Iran’s threat involves both lethal action and the burrowing of Iranian actors into Iraqi institutions.” 

The Bush regime has repeatedly accused Iran of interfering in Iraq. It has accused Iran of smuggling weapons and sophisticated IEDs into the country as well as of training “terrorists” to conduct operations in Iraq. All these accusations and the rhetoric around Iran’s nuclear program are all designed to give the United States political cover for attacking Iran. 

Many do not believe that the United States will attack Iran while it is bogged down in two wars. But this latest threat by the vice president should alert everyone that the administration is very capable of launching such an attack.  

The Bush regime will continue to make charges against Iran concerning its alleged intent to acquire nukes and also regarding Iranian interference in Iraq. But do not be lulled into believing it is just rhetoric. The regime has already attacked two nations in the region and even the VP says it is a “clear message.” We just need to listen and then mobilize to prevent this new war. To learn how to do so, see 

Kenneth J. Theisen 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

In Palestine, Hamas have used a Mickey Mouse clone to indoctrinate their children into the ways of hate and intolerance. In America the fundamentalist and anti-abortionists indoctrinate their children from birth into a life of deception, hypocrisy and secrecy. 

Is there a difference between the fundamentalists in the Middle East and America? Only in the degree of violence they use. In Iraq it is physical violence that prevails while in America fundamentalists use psychological violence to harass and intimidate their victims. 

Both groups of fundamentalists are indoctrinating their children into a future of religious extremism. 

Ron Lowe  

Grass Valley