Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday July 17, 2007


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Becky O’Malley’s editorial on the accelerating dumbing down of ever more concentrated mass media, and especially about the Chronicle’s tragic death spiral. was particularly apt as Dean Singleton and the Hearst Corporation collude to control and corrode virtually all of the print media in the entire Bay Area. 

I remember when, in 1999, the Hearst Corporation was engaging in “fancy horse trading” to sidestep vanishing anti-trust laws and essentially turn San Francisco into a one-newspaper town by buying the deYoung family’s Chronicle and paying the Fang family $66 million to take its flagship Examiner. A spokesperson for the company promised that with Hearst’s far greater financial resources, it would make the Chronicle into the “world-class newspaper that the Bay Area deserves.” At the time, I thought that that would be an historical first for Hearst; conservative editor Thomas A. Rickard once said that William Randolph Hearst had “for the time of a whole generation, debauched and defiled the intelligence of the American people,” and he was by no means alone in that assessment. Boozy media magnate Bill Hearst, Jr. contended that his “Pop” was “the greatest newsman of all times,” but Hearst has never been known for first-rate journalism and my own research into the papers that Pop acquired and degraded abundantly confirmed Rickard’s claim. Hearst was the Rupert Murdoch of his time. 

Instead of giving the Bay Area the excellent newspaper it allegedly deserves, a Manhattan-based corporation born in the West is now canning some of the best people on the Chron’s staff and delivering a tabloid ever more like the gee-whiz journalism that Hearst, Sr. created as his way to ever greater wealth and the White House a century ago.  

Gray Brechin 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

PG&E leaves city street lights in cities on too long in the morning—long after the daylight occurs. 

At a time when we are all concerned about the chance of more electrical blackouts, this waste of electricity is a major statewide factor on which the Public Utilities Commission should take action. 

Charles L. Smith 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I must admit to not being 100 percent informed on the details of SB 840. I probably know more than most as I’ve read portions of the bill as well as various synopses of it. I do know that “health care” in this country is a sick joke. I lived for 10 years in Germany and can say this with personal authority. The only real reason to not support wholesale reform of our system is to preserve the profits. Simply put, support for the status quo is an unethical and profoundly inhuman stance to take. It may serve someone personally of course, but so do theft, assault, fraud, murder and the like. We manage to almost universally disregard the claims of perpetrators who defend their actions by claiming personal gain: “I killed him because he was inconvenient and I didn’t feel like dealing with him.” This argument is not likely to win over many juries. This is, however, exactly what our health care system is doing to us on a daily basis again and again. Virtually everyone feels it, most of us know it deeply and can relate personal tales to this effect.  

SB 840 might not be perfect, but it is so beyond the disgusting heap that we currently have and any of the other dishonest attempts to reform that I have seen. Let us move into a new paradigm here and get something fundamentally good and honest on its feet. Then we can split hairs over minor details. I am sick of arguments to delay because the alternative is not perfect. Would you tell a starving man that he must continue eating dirt because the vegetable soup isn’t fully developed and the salt may still be a bit off? Would you support legislators or a Governor who make these kinds of arguments? I won’t. The time is ripe for change so let’s go to harvest! 

Timothy Melton 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The recent California Supreme Court decision in Copley Press to close records and hearings about police misconduct complaints that were previously public only serves to protect a few bad officers and will undermine police-community relations. Without public access to a police department’s response to citizen complaints about serious police abuse, members of the public will always question whether misconduct complaints are being taken seriously. 

Although the effects of the closure of police misconduct records are being felt statewide, the situation in Berkeley is particularly poignant. Created pursuant to a citywide ballot vote in 1973, the Berkeley Police Review Commission was the first organization of its type in the nation. As such, it was an inspiration for many commissions that were established later.  

Here and elsewhere, the answer to the present problem is the passage of California Senate Bill 1019 (authored by Gloria Romero, Los Angeles). If passed into law, the legislation will allow for records to be reopened, and for independent review boards to again operate in the public’s view. 

Citizen trust for peace officers is critical to the smooth running of the criminal justice system. Secrecy surrounding police misconduct undermines that trust and ultimately hurts public safety.  

State Sen. Don Perata should join Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton and the National Black Police Association in supporting SB 1019. 

Thomas Sarbaugh 

Corresponding Secretary, 

ACLU of Northern California 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing to ask readers to extend solidarity to the recycling, clerical and landfill workers in ILWU 6 who are honoring the picket lines at Waste Management in Oakland, and do not qualify for unemployment or strike fund benefits. 

If we in the Bay Area community offer concrete financial support to enable other garbage workers NOT to cross picket lines, it may be the most significant contribution we can make to helping the labor movement survive in this difficult era, and it will show the garbage company that we won’t tolerate such abuse of union workers. Call your Supervisor and ask them to end the lockout, then send a contribution to the Hardship Fund c/o Central Labor Council, l00 Hegenberger Rd, #l50, Oakland 94621.  

Lauren Coodley 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

As usual, I read with delight another missive from your frequent letter writer, Steve Geller. Surely Mr. Geller is the most subtle humorist of our generation, raising postpostmodern literary ambiguity to new heights. Mark Twain, move aside! The master has arrived! 

(Sorry Charles Siegel, your work is also very humorous, but Mr. Geller’s high head-scratching score and tone of charming naiveté make him the winner—for now.) 

Yes, indeed! Where ARE all the letters from UC’s SUV-driving commuters, who are waiting with bated breath for BRT to rescue them from their onerous daily commute? After all, BRT will save them 3.5 minutes over the current rapid bus—minus their extra walk time to the BRT stop. I daresay, if that doesn’t get them out of their cars, nothing will! So why haven’t those selfish, earth-hating bastards been speaking up? Inquiring minds want to know because in the complex answer to that question lies the real solution to making mass transit work. 

Yes, Mr. Geller, when the Planet receives about 5,000 such letters from future repentant drivers, then let’s give serious consideration to implementing BRT. 

Or alternatively, since BRT will take half the traffic lanes (not even counting the removed parking lanes), when (let’s say) 30 percent of Telegraph users are bus riders, instead of the current tiny percentage rattling around in supersized buses, then again we might consider BRT. 

I’m happy to go with either option. Are you?  

Sharon Hudson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Although transit dependent account low vision and a long term transit advocate, I find myself in the company of pro auto, pro parking NIMBYs. AC’s BRT project is a mistake driven by availability of funding for capital projects while operations are shortchanged. Ride the Telegraph bus as I often do(it is closest to my home) and you can be the sole passenger circa 7 PM between 40th and Alcatraz. This level of usage does not justify either exclusive lanes or the elaborate “stations” proposed by AC. The recently instituted Rapid service does not operate weekends BECAUSE the riders aren’t there. (It does operate east of downtown Oakland where ridership is much heavier) If AC were serious abou speeding up buses, exclusive lanes on University would be a far better investment as the auto interference is greater and ridership higher than Tele south of Ashby. 

In the larger picture, the issue raised by Michael Katz on July 6th is far more relevant. AC and BART must be forced to again provide unlimited use joint agency passes. As riders we are not impressed by different paint schemes, we simply need to access the most convenient combination of transit modes from A to B. 

David Vartanoff 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Would it be possible to require Trader Joe’s to provide a package delivery service within a few miles of the store? Customers would come to the store to shop on foot or bike or bus but not have to worry about carrying packages. Similar to what is available commonly in Japan. This would help cut down on the parking problems.  

Janine Brown 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The editorials and letters regarding Berkeley Iceland miss the point. Almost everyone—skaters, owners, and developers— would like to save Iceland, and save the facade of the building. But who’s going to do it?  

Mr. Zamboni, the present owner tried hard and couldn’t make a go of it, and it is extremely unlikely that any new owner would have better luck. The Save Iceland group is many tens of millions of dollars from being close to buying and renovating and operating any ice rink. The City of Berkeley could buy it if it thinks saving the ice rink is so important to the city, but even they can not afford to do it. By the way, isn’t there an ice rink in downtown Oakland, about a block from a BART station? Unfortunately, it is one of life’s hard realities that times change, and ice rinks simply are not as commercially viable as they once were. So if no one can afford to operate an ice rink, the only choice is to use the property for some other purpose or leave it vacant, maybe a home for vagrants, the homeless or addicts. The only questions is who can put the space to the best use for the most residents of the city. The YMCA and Ali Kashani have submitted a proposal that would leave the front facade intact, preserved for history, while using the back, rink area for Head Start, a teen center, and affordable housing. I doubt if there is a better, more responsible choice available. Blaming them for anything Patrick Kennedy might have done is unfair and wrong. Their proposal, any everyone else’s proposal, should stand or fall on its own merits, or the building will remain a vacant, dangerous eyesore or decades. 

David Weitzman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Explaining President Bush’s failure to pressure the Iraqi parliament to remain in session in August, White House press secretary Tony Snow remarked “You know, it’s 130 degrees in Baghdad in August.” Yes, Mr. Snow, we KNOW that temperatures in Baghdad reach 130 in August. So do thousands of American soldiers and marines, sweltering in unbearable heat, wearing heavy helmets and combat gear weighing close to forty or more pounds! Could the President not grant them a reprieve in August? 

Dorothy Snodgrass 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Congratulations to Judith Sherr and the Berkeley Daily Planet for covering the Alameda County Grand Jury Report on the Berkeley Public Library, and for providing the link to the full online text (article 6-29-07). 

The Grand Jury report faulted the Board of Library Trustees (BOLT) management of the contract with the Library’s RFID vendor, Checkpoint Systems, Inc., as “laissez-faire” and “not in the public interest,” as your article said, and the Grand Jury “did indicate some concern with performance,” saying the [Library] director “is working . . . to improve the system.” 

Two points were not mentioned in the article: the Grand Jury report began by saying it received a complaint about the contract, and for this we should thank whoever sent the complaint; and second, the report did not appear to provide a comprehensive review of the system’s performance, although it clearly expressed concern, and it was not clear whether the recent report of operational problems presented to BOLT by library workers was included among the documents that the Grand Jury reviewed. 

Peter Warfield, Executive Director 

Library Users Association 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Some of the information in the Daily Planet’s July 13 article “Wrecking Ball Scheduled for Earl Warren Hall” is in error. While Warren Hall at UC Berkeley is indeed scheduled to be replaced, demolition work will not begin this fall, as noted in your story, but in early 2008. 

The Request for Qualifications mentioned in the article is for work needed in advance of the demolition. This preliminary activity is scheduled to take place this fall, along with the underground utilities upgrades that have started. Following the demolition of the building in early 2008 the campus will construct the Li Ka Shing Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences. For more on the project please see Construction updates about this project will be posted on the web at, where there is currently some detail about the utilities work underway. Anyone with questions about the project is welcome to contact me at 

Thank you for correcting the information, 

Christine Shaff 

Communications Manager 

UC Berkeley Facilities Services 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As one Charles to another, I read, with more than a little amusement, the letter from Charles L. Smith. I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that Mr. Smith is somewhat of a nut case. He didn’t like a film (Mr. Brooks), so he went through all the trouble and expense to make up two sandwich boards, print 200 copies of a “statement”, carefully fold the statements and then hold a one-person protest at a movie theater. (Not to mention the fact that he owns a folding machine and apparently a printing press too!) 

Sounds a tad excessive over a film he didn’t even like. He wasn’t offended by the film, he just didn’t like it. Yikes! I can usually tell within a half hour or less that I don’t like a film. One can always ask for their money back and I almost guarantee that you will get the money back. I also might bad-mouth the film to family and friends, but sandwich boards? 

I might suggest to Mr. Smith that he go to Craig’s List and post a scathing review. It’s easy and free. 

I also saw Mr. Brooks and thoroughly enjoyed it. That’s what happens. Some folks like a film, some don’t. I personally thought March of the Penguins was a terrible film, but most people loved it. Go figure. 

Charles R. Shaw 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

If you have any hopes for the Bush administration to pullout of Iraq don’t hold your breath. Iraq has been a big milking cow, $450+ billion dollars so far and growing, for the Bush administrations “friends” so you think they are going to give that up? For example a recent documentary, Iraq for sale, revealed among many other things that the government has been paying Haliburton/KBR $100 for each bag of laundry it washes for our troops in the field. According to interviews, troops are not allowed to wash their own laundry. Let’s just work that out with some quick math: 130,000 troops in Iraq times $100 per bag of laundry works out to … let’s see … $13 million dollars paid to Cheney’s ex-company Haliburton/KBR each week. That’s $676 million per year—just for laundry. No wonder this war is so expensive. It is also easy to see how the Iraq war became the most privatized war ever. So do not fool yourself: this is not a war to fight terrorism or to spread democracy but a privatized war for corporate profit using American tax payers’ money and our soldiers’ blood.  

Thomas Husted 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Here we go again! The Bush administration keeps doing the same things over and over and Americans keep falling for it. Homeland Security czar Michael Chertoff has a gut feeling that the U.S. is in for another terrorist attack this summer. Will the Bush administration, being forewarned, stop the disaster? 

Instead of higher gas prices this summer look for higher color-coded terror alerts based on uncorroborated intelligence from the White House. Will Chertoff’s premonition turn out to be self-fulfilling?  

Ron Lowe