Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday June 26, 2007



Editors, Daily Planet: 

What is it that Daily Planet letter and op-ed writers don’t get about the Inconvenient Truth of polar ice cap melting and planetary destruction, and how this might somehow be eased by the inconvenience of using mass transit, bicycling and walking, plus the concept of transit-friendly development? Perhaps Berkeley needs to enforce existing laws, such as citing bad drivers for speeding, neglecting turn signals and not yielding to pedestrians, in order to make driving less convenient. And, perhaps Berkeley can deputize more traffic enforcement staff, incent them with “commissions” on the citations, and use the revenues to pay for more city services. 

Mitch Cohen 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Can someone help me understand the rhetorical use of quotation marks in some of your correspondents’ letters ? 

Just recently, for instance, Ms. June Brott referred to British academics exercised by the “moral implications” (her punctuation) of Israeli treatment of Palestinians. Why this term deserves or requires problematization by enclosure in quotation marks is a mystery to me. A reasonable person might feel that imprisoning over 1 million people in Gaza without adequate food or water, no means of earning a living and no way to escape, has moral implications. Incessant sonic booms, lack of access to their own tax money, tanks and bulldozers on the prowl at any time of the day. The majority of their elected representatives thrown in prison along with many thousands of others, where they are not treated kindly. Readers of HaAretz will recall how one detainee was paralyzed for life by a vicious kick to the chest. 

Ms. Brott’s inability to detect a genuine moral issue here says a great deal about her own moral tone-deafness. Unless we’re talking about a victim of the Palestinians, such as the journalist who was kidnapped, she simply cannot see any moral implications, and this with the benefit of a religious tradition spanning thousands of years. Perhaps Ms. Brott could spell out when something rises to the level of having genuine moral implications (without ironic quotation marks). If there were 1 million Jews being starved and shot in Gaza, would that qualify ? Please, Ms. Brott, share with us your vision of “morality” and explain why it has no room for anyone in Gaza. 

Edward Strauss 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I know that the general American public no longer appreciates “real” news, we are in love with Paris, Britney, and Lindsay, and so the media in turn continues to feed us that. If not Paris, it’s the soap opera-style drama of the political front, or the “war” that no one is truly comfortable with. There are a few items that I think should be highlighted in your papers: Though news reports of Sudan’s latest agreement to allow a United Nations-African Union hybrid peacekeeping force into Darfur seem like a positive development, there is considerable reason to be skeptical. 

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has failed to live up to his past commitments to the international community, including stonewalling after agreeing to this same hybrid peacekeeping force in 2006. 

Any regime that would bomb its own villages and kill as many as 400,000 of its own people does not deserve the benefit of the doubt. 

The violence is far from over. Sudan’s air force continues to bomb villages and the government-sponsored Janjaweed militia have not relented in their horrific attacks. 

Just as this “positive” news came out of Sudan last week, one of the largest humanitarian aid groups in the world announced it was permanently leaving Darfur—due to continued attacks and concern for aid workers’ safety. 

World leaders, and especially the United States, China and France—each which have unique influence over Sudan—must increase their pressure on Sudan to make sure that this latest “promise” is fulfilled. 

Kasey Ellison 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Bush network’s catastrophic invasion of Iraq crossed the border into desperation territory late last year when Rumsfeld’s successor undertook supervision of a newly minted surge tactic. Last week we found out exactly how deep our military is stuck in the terrain of desperation; it has turned to Sunni clansmen, former enemies, and given them weapons in return for a promise to use them against al Qaeda, their enemy and ours.  

Lt. General Odierno proudly declared, “Engaging with the tribal entities and others has made a huge difference.” Leave aside questions regarding the nature of “entities,” the identity of “others,” and the specifics of “a huge difference,” I see no reason for optimism.  

I taught math for over three decades and never told my students that two negatives make a positive—they do if you multiply, they don’t if you add. 

I claim no experience with foreign policy, but I think that to be our friend, the enemy of our enemy, i.e. Sunni clansmen, should bring something more positive to the enterprise. Don’t you? 

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Andrew Ritchie’s letter is an example of the liberal mind taken to its reductio ad absurdum. 

If a drunk driver kills a loved one then we should sue General Motors or maybe even the state for maintaining highways. Extend this to every product or service under the sun. 

Lardasses can sue Kraft Foods and McDonald’s for their failure to control themselves. 

The fact is that guns are used in self-defense millions of times every year in the United States. 

The “progressive” assumption that only state officials are qualified to own weapons is a deeply totalitarian premise.  

But, Andy, keep those manic letters coming, it’s always great sport to see a statist shoot himself in the nuts (pun intended.) 

Michael P. Hardesty 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

In my discussions with many friends in the last few days, there is almost universal agreement that this gun shop (Old West Gun Room) should be removed from the community. It sits right next to the El Cerrito Plaza between the new Peets and Tulip Hardwood Floors. What the hell is a gun shop doing in this respectable middle-class community? 

But where is the expression of resistance, where are the picketers demonstrating outside the shop, where is the will to resist this obscene commerce in weapons of death? Who will organize resistance to them, and drive them out of business? I know they have a Second Amendment legal right to be there, but we, the citizens, also have the right to organize against them, to petition the City of El Cerrito to deny them their license. We have the right to take a moral stand against gun violence. 

I see that in Chicago Jesse Jackson was just arrested on a trespass charge after demonstrating in front of a suburban gunshop. But gun shops are banned in the actual City of Chicago. Unless the citizens step forward and make their wishes and their views felt, there will be no change, and it will be the business of death and murder as usual. 

Of course, the nature of these killings as a masculinist act perpetrated on females should also not be ignored - an indication of deeper, more widespread issues in American society. But whereas we cannot change these deeply ingrained attitudes except in ourselves, we can change the manifestation of unacceptable aggressive commerce right on our doorsteps. 

Andrew Ritchie 







Editors, Daily Planet: 

Last night (Saturday, June 23) at about 10 p.m., our neighbor was attacked by a gang of five youths, knocked from his bike, and hit in the face with a metal object. He was returning from work, and close to his house. He had noticed a rowdy group of black youths (12-14 years of age) as he headed up 59th from Dover. He thought nothing of it as they followed him up the street. Unexpectedly, without warning or words, and before he could call out or defend himself, they’d hit him in the face (he believes with a metal object like a pipe) and knocked him down. At that point, an unknown “middle-aged, heavy-set” black man interrupted the beating and chased the youths off. He also left, without the neighbor being able to thank him. The neighbors called the police, and Officer Alaura arrived on the scene a short time later. He was a calming presence and quickly checked out other close-by neighbors and the street for witnesses or culprits. He didn’t come up with anything. 

The officer suggested that the attack was probably not an interrupted mugging, but a random act of violence. Our neighbor was in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

This is a very worrying development. We’ve lived on this block for some 36 years. It’s been a relatively quiet place, despite the presence of three empty houses. But the drug dealers own the corner of 59th and Shattuck and are a near-constant presence. The house on the corner of 59th and Shattuck has been vacant for years and its driveway serves as a toilet—at best—or drug-dealing haven and whatnot at worst. I do not want to exploit my neighbor’s trauma. His face is quite swollen today. He credits the Good Samaritan with saving him from a perhaps severe beating, and grapples with the bleak “what-if?” alternative scenario to the episode. 

But as the city approves one massive North Oakland condo project after another with inadequate off-street parking, we are lectured by the Planning Commissioners (most of whom drive in from their single-family homes high in the hills) that cars are so retro and we live in the flats on “transit corridors” close to not one but two BART stations from where residents can easily walk or bike. 

Our neighbor was returning from his job in the City from the BART station on his bike when he was attacked. It was even a warm night, not that late, with windows open and people still up and about, when he was so brazenly set-upon. 

While we are encouraged by the prompt police response and the officer’s professionalism, essential urban “amenities” like safe neighborhoods do not necessarily follow in the wake of market-rate condo projects that don’t pay their fair share toward police services or improvements to the schools to point these kids, now a menace to themselves and others, in a better direction for their lives. This could be a long, hot summer. 

Bob Brokl 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Michael Katz’s critical letter about AC Transit’s proposed Bus Rapid Transit project states that only a few minutes will be saved riding the bus from Berkeley to San Leandro, implying that the project will duplicate BART. He misses the reason for the project. 

Very few would use the BRT over its total length. BRT is for local trips such as from Berkeley to Oakland where existing buses carry 6,000 riders a day. The BRT draft environmental impact report (DEIR) estimates the ridership will increase to around 10,000 riders. Why? 

With BRT this trip will be faster, more frequent, reliable and will conveniently serve the corridor with more stations than BART. The current buses take 40 minutes, whereas the BRT will take only 19 minutes, saving 21 minutes. Moreover, BRT will have up to 37 stations, almost five times the number of stations as BART from Berkeley to San Leandro The DEIR indicates very little change of total energy consumed by both autos and BRT. However, American Public Transit Association says Transit produces nearly 50 percent less carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide per passenger mile as private vehicles today. By 2020 AC Transit should have a new fleet that are much more fuel-efficient and with additional passenger loads per bus and better fuel efficiency, the emissions of BRT will clearly be less than half that of autos. 

Katz says that the LA Orange Line BRT has experienced frequent collisions with cars. This was true only in the beginning months of operation. After over a year of operation, the accident rate has fallen to levels similar to light rail. 

BRT passes through one of the most developed areas in the East Bay containing a great percentage of the region’s jobs, schools, churches, cultural and community faculties. BRT will be much more accessible to far more people than BART throughout this high-density corridor. Over the years traffic congestion has increased even with relatively little development. The I-80 has been the most congested freeway and it is known many drivers use local arterials like San Pablo Avenue to bypass it. The fourth bore of the Caldecott Tunnel will increase local traffic as well. So, we will have congestion whether we build BRT or not. BRT may not eliminate congestion, but is a necessary and desirable alternative to congestion. BRT is the best and most cost-effective alternative we have to counter gridlock, increased pollution and Global Warming by reducing CO2 emissions.. 

Roy Nakadegawa 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I read a letter by Andrew Ritchie arguing that selling guns is anti-social and should be stopped immediately. I want to argue the opposite. The recent incident of the man killing his wife, daughters and then himself is a terrible tragedy. However, an incident of a woman being grabbed by a man who jumps out of the bushes and rapes her, as has happened countless times in Oakland and Berkeley, is also tragic, especially when she, like most Californians, is forbidden to carry a gun with her when she walks the streets at night. It infuriates me that our lawmakers forbid us to carry with us the most effective means for self-defense as we walk our streets. In tony Rockridge a couple of years ago, on Ocean View Drive, a young woman was raped by a man wielding a wooden baton of some sort as a weapon. She has to live with the psychological trauma of that incident every day for the rest of her life. If she’d been able to carry a gun, she might have been able to shoot that scumbag dead and save herself from this trauma. I think it is reprehensible that we have denied her that possibility. I think it is outrageous that our state deprives us of the right to effectively defend ourselves from grievous bodily injury.  

I demand that all Californians who are legally able to own guns be allowed to carry guns for self-defense: this is the only thing that can equalize a small, weak woman against a large, strong man. Every municipality that has prohibited guns has seen a rise, not a drop, in violent crime, for instance, Washington, D.C. “It is estimated that 20 percent of American homicides are concentrated in the four cities that have some of the most restrictive gun-control laws, New York, Chicago, Washington D.C. and Detroit.” (from Armed and Female, by Paxton Quigley). In municipalities where criminals have good reason to believe they might face an armed citizen, violent crime rates are lower. The state of Nevada allows its citizens to carry guns nearly everywhere: their rate of violent crime is much lower than ours. In my south Berkeley neighborhood there have been many armed robberies lately. I can guarantee that if these criminals had any expectation that those they accosted were likely to be armed, the rates of armed robbery would drastically plummet. Criminals fear armed citizens much more than they fear the police. Police will arrest them: busy courts will toss them about and very likely free them all too soon. Armed citizens will kill them. Most criminals have anti-social personality disorder and are not deterred when treated with compassion, which they view as weakness. Fear of being shot dead is a very effective deterrent to crime.  

Deborah Cloudwalker 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

KyotoUSA and its supporters express their thanks to the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) Board for its unanimous decision to proceed with the installation of a photovoltaic (PV) system on Washington Elementary. After suggested energy efficiency measures are implemented, the PV system will provide 100 percent of the electricity requirements for the school’s main building. 

The HELiOS Project (Helios Energy Lights Our Schools)—now some fourteen months in the making—brought together individuals and organizations from throughout the City and beyond. It has been a community inspired project involving the School District, the Washington School PTA, City of Berkeley staff, the Berkeley City Council, the Sierra Club, the university, board members of organizations such as the Ecology Center and the Chamber of Commerce, and hundreds of community members who expressed their agreement with letters of support, expertise, and financial contributions. One of the most inspiring contributions came from an eleven-year old girl who asked her parents, relatives and friends to donate to the project instead of buying her birthday presents. 

In April 2006, KyotoUSA assembled a team of local experts to evaluate the feasibility of installing a photovoltaic system on a Berkeley public school in a way that would not add any additional costs to the district. The team included financial and technical experts from two of Berkeley’s solar companies and energy experts from the city. Over time we were able to demonstrate to the district that such an approach was feasible with the financial support of Berkeley residents. Once the district expressed its backing and we had identified Washington Elementary as the likely first school, we presented the project to the Washington Elementary school community to seek their support and input. 

Washington parents pointed out that energy efficiency was an important first step in any renewable energy project. In fact, energy efficiency has been a keystone of the project since its inception. In August 2006, KyotoUSA, together with the City of Berkeley and BUSD applied for a grant from UC Berkeley to conduct energy audits at Willard Middle School and at Washington Elementary. The grant was approved and the audit at Washington Elementary was completed in mid-May 2007. The full report is now available and shows that modest energy efficiency improvements can reduce the school’s electricity needs by about 20%. KyotoUSA donors will gift $12,000 to the district to help implement those energy saving measures. 

This project also provides a number of co-benefits, not the least of which is that it is a tangible way of showing our children that we care about their future and that we are taking steps to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and combat the dire threat of climate change. 

Thank you, Berkeley, for all your support!  

Tom and Jane Kelly 

Co-Founders KyotoUSA  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In our efforts to reduce greenhouse gases we often overlook the cultural dimensions. These days, we love the idea of “24/7” —that production and services run 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Certainly this makes for higher production of goods and services, as well as greenhouse gases! What ever happened to the “the Lord’s Day” or the Sabbath? It was Saturday for the Jews and Sunday for the Christians. One day in every seven set aside as a Holy Day; on that day, no work. Yes, things shut down; instead, we talk with family and neighbors, and walk around the neighborhood. That once included not using machines, such as automobiles and aircraft. With a weekly “Environmental Sabbath Day” we would save upwards of 14 percent of energy use! Plus, get back the time to slow down, relax and have more humane lives. Good for the environment, good for us. 

Americ Azevedo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have been very interested in the internet. All kinds of people have presented their issues, and I have been able to support some organizations that I care about. 

Now I hear that some large cable and telephone corporations are working together to get the FCC to agree that only people with money will be able to put information on the Internet. What we have now is called “Net Neutrality.” I can look at anything I want to on the Internet. I can e-mail organizations that interest me. I can learn from them. 

This will no longer be possible if a bill passes which will let corporations which can pay put their messages on the Internet, and everyone else will be left behind. I hope that people reading this letter will want to keep the Internet the way it is. If you want to keep the Internet, look at 

Julia Craig 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

In my view, the large vacant lot at Telegraph and Haste Street more or less symbolizes the decay—or should I say “decline”—of Telegraph Avenue. Once the site of The Berkeley Inn, this corner lot has stood vacant for at least a dozen of years. There’s something almost sinister and forbidding about the tall black fence with its pointed “spears” encasing the lot, which is littered with trash and beer cans. 

I find it ludicrous that this valuable piece of property, almost within stone’s throw of one of the country’s most illustrious universities, remains a disgrace and an eyesore for residents and visitors passing by. Can not the City of Berkeley or the University itself take steps to rectify this long standing blight on our community? 

Dorothy Snodgrass