Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday July 31, 2007



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Like you, I’m disappointed with Peter Laufer’s Sunday program. After Larry Bensky’s hard-hitting, relevant, and intelligent political discussions with experts, Laufer’s program is Marin-lite. He seems to want to please everyone; there is no anger or indignation at current politics, which even Robbie Osman evinces in his folk music program Across the Great Divide, which follows Laufer’s. Instead of dealing with very urgent political issues like: To impeach or not to impeach, Gonzalez’s obfuscation and lying, the sham peace conference called by Bush, the overdevelopment of Berkeley (and our mayor’s complicity in it), on and on, Laufer gives us tepid commentary in the name of egalitarianism: an hour on the English language, murals, food, etc., etc. Bensky may have offended lots of people with his strong opinions and arrogant personality, but he also challenged our critical thinking. Give me Bensky any day! 

Estelle Jelinek 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m sorry that the authors saw our deep disappointment with Congressman Conyers as racist. One of the three people who met with Rep. John Conyers on July 23 was Reverend Lennox Yearwood, who has worked with Conyers for years and calls the congressman his mentor. Rev. Yearwood emerged from the meeting with a heavy heart and extreme disappointment at Conyers’ refusal to endorse impeachment. 

Days later, when hearing that the action at Conyers’ office was considered racist, Rev. Yearwood wrote:  

“To my African-American counterparts who take issue with the white progressive anti-war movement, I understand your criticism of our recent action in Mr. Conyers office, but I do not agree. It was extremely difficult to challenge a man that means so much to African-Americans, but impeaching Bush is critical to the future of our country.  

Impeachment begins in the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary, which Rep. John Conyers chairs. He is in the position to begin the impeachment process or keep it from happening, and no other human being is in that position. If Rep. Conyers does not put forth impeachment then we have no recourse and the Democrats will have failed us. 

This moment is not about race, it is about our future as a country.” 

While we are disappointed with Conyers on impeachment, we continue to respect him for his lifelong achievements and to have a good working relationship with him. Moreover, our closest allies in Congress in this anti-war work are, without a doubt, members of the Black Caucus. We work, on almost a daily basis, with Maxine Waters, Barbara Lee and Diane Watson. We have had yearly events on women and peace with Eddie Bernice Johnson. Both Cindy and I went to Georgia to work on the congressional campaign of Cynthia McKinney. Cong. Carrie Meek from Florida and his wife, both African-American, are great fans of Code Pink (and our neighbors here in D.C.). We work very closely with newly-elected African-American Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison, who is very concerned about the war and working with us to stop a new war with Iran, as is Cong. Gregory Meeks. We have a very close relationship with civil rights veteran and staunch anti-war Congressman John Lewis, and work closely with Sheila Jackson Lee from Texas. On issues related to Africa, we look to Donald Payne for leadership and have a close working relationship. 

Medea Benjamin 

P.S.: I also support reparations.  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A segregated world of white liberal activists and media personalities revealed itself when it played the race card against Congressman John Conyers. Understandably angry at being arrested at Conyers’ office after he refused to push an impeachment resolution in the U.S. Congress, their anger turned “stupid,” to use Becky O’Malley’s term from her July 27 editorial. 

Perhaps “ignorant” applies. Only people in a white cocoon would add to the legitimate gripe about Congressman Conyers’ decision racially divisive jibes that Conyers was a poor representative of the Congressional Black Caucus, was “no Martin Luther King,” had forgotten the meaning of Selma, Alabama, and was a living insult to his former co-worker, Rosa Parks. 

The derision is spewed upon Conyers by three writers on, where a fourth writer, Rev Lennox Yearwood, Jr. defends the sit-in but avoids mention of the slurs. Of 72 writers contributing to the issue, Yearwood is the only black (excluding a 1974 statement by Barbara Jordan), and there are no Latinos. A consistent exponent of white liberal aloofness is Air America radio. The network currently features nine radio hosts, all whites. The local 960 Quake radio affiliate has four independent hosts, all whites. In a number of cities the network got on the air by purchasing African American or Latino stations. Old staffs were dumped, according to an article in ColorLines. 

An exemplary Air America host is Thom Hartmann, who quotes heavy tomes about the constitution, damns the war in Iraq, but cuts off callers about immigration with his quip, “We don’t have an immigration problem, we have an employer problem.” O.K., but what about the U.S. policies driving millions North, and what about the migra raids that tear apart families? Hartmann’s understanding of Hispanics shows in his pronunciations of towns with Hispanic names. A few weeks ago, his screen flashed that he had a caller from what he called, “Lay Joel La,” that coastal town near San Diego. 

The cocooned white libs may pronounce black names correctly, but they show their true colors when they pick on John Conyers for his race. 

Ted Vincent 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It’s not easy to decide that persons I honor and respect, like the “Code Pink” activists, have taken an unfortunate detour from the very goal that I have also honored—to immediately end our crimes in Iraq, and to return our military. I was also convinced that demanding Bush’s impeachment seemed like a no-brainer-route to that end! But now, I’ve heard persons who I honor and respect just as much, like Representatives Conyers and Kucinich, who question this path. They fear impeachment proceedings will involve Congress far too long. Every day that our best minds and energies are used for this litigation, there will be simultaneous daily horrors continuing in Iraq.  

Impeachment of a president was probably never more justified, but has, I now believe, become an unwise diversion, as has any issue of racism, such as in this attack of frustration on Conyers. We are embarrassed and grieved by this seemingly endless waste of humanity—American, Iraq, and others! But to unwisely split our view of the correct path to peace, we may only prolong the chaos.  

Gerta Farber 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Becky O’Malley’s editorial “all about attitude” reports on a KPFA interview by Larry Bensky’s replacement person of Mayor Tom Bates. 

He provided Bates with ample opportunity to express his well-known distaste with individuals to be found on our Berkeley streets. Clearly Becky has touched the pulse of the community. However “all about attitude” doesn’t hit the complexity as I’m acquainted with it. When we did the April Coalition in 1971, one thing that happened was Tom got involved with Loni. But there was also politics, and the “center” was that—in the name of coalition between the “hippies” and the “politicos”—the idea of putting people in their place for “attitude” was replaced by an agenda of “listen.” Now Tom is presenting the so-called “Commons” initiative with attitude, as indeed the quote above indicates. What’s changed, however, is the dialogue structure. Instead of accommodating “attitude,” it is becoming increasingly important to hear the advocacy of those abused and—if next month’s San Francisco American Psychological Association demo is relevant—yes, tortured. The way to do that is not just “listen” because that’s a way of taking in .. raw pain. It requires taking people’s advocacy more seriously than the mere civility of “listen.” 

Tom quotes Berkeley Mental Health that “40 percent of the folks on the street” are ‘hardcore resistant’ to services, “treatment,” and the like. His choice, and that of Mental Health here, is “behavior management by compassion (if possible) by force (if necessary).” The alternative politics is to promote a “culture of responsibility.” It’s to see that those “40 percent” do have a point. Since the time of Gus Newport, such an alternative has not been policy. Wendy Georges—heroic advocate of the “culture of responsibility” with the Food Project—was herself “behavior managed.” 

Psychologically, the editorial does what it rails against, sitting “passively by while guests pitched the inevitability of unbridled capitalism.” We need to go beyond the “better yuppies” model, to speak more to the social change level where the advocacy of the “culture of responsibility” will be the center of discourse and activism. 

Andrew Phelps 

Former Chair, Berkeley Mental Health Advisory Board 

Former organizer, April Coalition 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

After reading all of the scandal concerning the Berkeley Housing Authority and knowing from experiencing what went on, I am not surprised at the way the Housing Authority protects their own…after all, we have heard the, “ put up or shut up” and “cover your ass” excuses by the elite of Berkeley. The untouchable well paid fired SEIU workers got to come back…get better jobs at City Hall.  

No one needs to see the film City Hall, with Al Pacino in the staring role. All we need to see are the returned former BHA employees who got hired back in spite of what went on at the Housing Authority. Many of us know from first hand that favors were made and deals were made behind the backs of the people who pay the salaries of city employees including Mayor Bates who I understand has enough to give away his small check. 

Does anyone care? Is it more important to protect city jobs and Section 8 status and keeping the Section 8 program in Berkeley? Many people are calling me and telling me sad stories, and it continues to bother me. “Favorite landlord status” and separate and unequal acts by BHA employees to oust a tenant who does not bow down to them is not new news, it is old news. A housing director who misplaced $400,000 of funds that were to go to disabled poor people is, I realize, old news. But so is the hanging of Christ who died on the cross for the poorest of the poor. 

Diane Villanueva 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Since the City of Berkeley comes in for a great deal of “dissing” these days, I’d like to come to their defense and mention a few very pleasant events they offer our community. I had business in downtown Berkeley this afternoon and so just happened to run across the Thursday Noon Concert, sponsored by the Downtown Berkeley Association. Today’s program featured the Koz George Quartet, a group of young, very talented musicians, probably none older than 16. These concerts, given Thursdays in July and August, are located at the Berkeley Bart Station. Seats, under a canopy, are provided, making for a relaxed, very enjoyable lunch hour for office workers and shoppers. 

Another, equally pleasant event, is the Friday Afternoon Movie at the Main Berkeley Library. I saw a splendid film there last week, a powerful Danish movie Brothers. The next movie will be Sunset Boulevard, a picture well worth viewing a second time.  

Need I add, this sure beats forking over $7.50 at commercial theaters. Granted that the above are hardly earthshaking events, I think we should give Berkeley credit where credit is due! 

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The stuff we need and like is so distant from us, so difficult to access because it’s so far away—big box instead of local. Health care, groceries, schools—what happened to local, to walk-to locations? They’ve been overcome by corporate conquests of the small business. They’ve been undone by theft our taxes that used to pay for local services. These are abetted by ruler-ship of the automobile and fuel makers: no reasonable public transportation!  

Community has been undone in favor of creating us slaves marching to service to big money: waged slavery. Meanwhile corporate control mandated by our state, federal and local governments prevent us caring for us and Earth. Talk about a planned economy! Not planned in our favor, but in favor of The Owners. Is that why we struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat? 

Norma J. F. Harrison 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In response to an April 6 letter to the editor, submitted by a commission chairman crowing over an award given to our city for its accessibility to disabled citizens, I have been paralyzed by irony. It has taken me months to recover from a conflict of not knowing whether to laugh or cry. 

Ask our mobile, disabled community of wheelchair users and blind pedestrians how often our lives are threatened by misleading apex curbcuts, broken sidewalks and traffic circles with high-growing vegetation that obscures drivers’ view of human traffic. 

The Transportation Commission, without first notifying commissions on aging and disability, removed pedestrian refuge areas from a busy thoroughfare, and say they plan to do another. 

It would seem to me that, considering the many broken sidewalks in Berkeley inaccessible to people in wheelchairs, which necessitates users having to move into busy streets, the treacherously tilted walkways, and the uneven concrete surfaces permitted by Public Works to accommodate developers for new construction, the mind of anyone would boggle at the idea of accepting an award for either accessibility or safety in Berkeley.  

Arlene Merryman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I work a few days a month at an office in the Tannery, at the foot of Gilman Street, and I’m glad I don’t have to go there more often. It’s too near Pacific Steel Casting and I smell that unmistakable burnt-pot smell the neighbors complain of. I have even smelled it on occasion outside my house on Channing near McGee, miles away from the plant. It’s not the smell that’s the main problem, however, it’s the chemicals and particulates that are aggravating asthma among the neighbors of the plant. I had asthma as a child, and I know how scary it is to wake up in the night unable to draw a full enough breath to call out for help. I also just lost a sister-in-law to asthma. She lived in the none-too-clean air of lower Manhattan. 

Instead of quibbling about whether Pacific Steel Casting’s emissions are the 12th worst for health in the Bay Area, or the 14th, or the 18th, we need a health survey that will show what effect the emissions are having on actual people. The city needs to hold a public hearing where people’s concerns can be addressed. Ironically, the office where I work deals with the songs and recordings of my mother, Malvina Reynolds, who wrote “What Have They Done to the Rain,” a song about nuclear testing that has also been applied to acid rain, and could easily be applied to PSC: “Just a little breeze with some smoke in its eye...”  

Nancy Schimmel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am extremely concerned with the proposed assessment tax in regard to the West Berkeley Community Benefits District. It appears to be funded and supported by big Berkeley developers. I wonder how something like this happens behind the backs of all the small people who will be affected. I am an artist, recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and two National Endowment for the Arts Grants. I own a studio in this district and have lived here since January of 1999. I also own a house on Allston Way. I am very distressed about another tax, which I see will only benefit the already affluent few. It is not what any of us need in this neighborhood. Our taxes are already exorbitantly high. My combined taxes for house and studio are roughly $16,000.00 a year. 

The big issue they claim to want to address, people demonstrating aggressive and disturbing behavior, is a sham. It reminds me of our current administration using terrorist threat and homeland security to keep us in a state of panic. I have never witnessed aggressive or disturbing behavior in my area, but seen it near the Fourth Street shopping area; a few people, probably schizophrenic, battling their demons; a few blind people, who the merchants would like to see gone. Is this not something for social services to address? How in the world do they think they are going to get these people off the streets with a private security system? These people need help, and have no power and no resources. 

Street cleaning, zoning issues, parking and transportation don’t seem like things we residents need to pay more taxes for. With all the taxes we pay why don’t we have regular street cleaning down here? 

I have spoken with a number of my neighbors about this and we are in the process of gathering names for a petition wanting to opt out of this net we are presently caught in. We are aware that large residential areas in this proposed special assessment district have already been excluded. However some of us who happen to live in this mixed use area are being thrown in with the big land owners and developers and being asked to pay for their personal agendas. The vote is weighted on money, property ownership and power. It is un-democratic and taxation without representation. 

Judy Dater 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I recently read an on-line Berkeley Daily Planet story by Cynthia Johnson concerning John Lennon and the event planned for last Saturday of which I am planning on attending. 

She stated that both John Lennon and his son Sean were born on the same day, July 27. This is in error, both father and son Lennon’s were born on Oct. 9. I am assuming that she may had been thinking of the date that her story was to appear in the Daily Planet at the time of the writing of the article, and that date remained with her. 

I do not consider this to be an important issue, unless Saturday’s events were scheduled near to the date that was thought to be Lennon’s birth date. Many attendees may be confused. 

M. C. Lanham 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

We have burdened our classrooms with a rigid curriculum. Real education is built on the spark of self-discovery. Are we prepared to devise a curriculum in which music and art and dance are primary? I believe many students become low achievers because they have not experienced the excitement of discovering something for themselves. It is time to restore the vitality of learning by providing students numerous opportunities for self-expression. 

Romila Khanna 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

For over two hours on July 21, Vice President Cheney held presidential power while Bush underwent a medical procedure. What executive orders did Acting President Cheney sign that might have given additional powers to the vice president? What secret “findings” did Cheney sign that might have authorized extra-legal activities by covert agencies? What pardons might Cheney have signed to free his convicted aid, Lewis Libby, or perhaps to shield Cheney’s accomplice, Donald Rumsfeld? 

How many investigative reporters has your news organization assigned to look for answers? 

Bruce Joffe 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Impeachment of the Bush administration would take no time at all if Congress just got right to it. As long as the short-sighted, callous, irresponsible rich boy and his evil masters are in the White House, veto power is in force. They have taken their stand on bringing the troops home (not?), all the while constructing American headquarters in Baghdad the size of several football fields, complete with electricity and running water—potable and for washing—in full view of Iraqi who have had neither since this unnecessary war started over five years ago. 

Just imagine what else they are thinking up to secretly instigate before November, 2008! 

Nancy Chirich 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Oh, how the tangled web of deceit practiced by the Bush administration becomes ever more tightly knotted! 

The Bush team has come up with a clever plan to sell to Peter and give the proceeds to Paul. It will ask congressional approval to sell $20 billion worth of high tech military stuff to Saudi Arabia, with smaller amounts for five other gulf states.  

Bush hopes that friendly King Abdullah, a Sunni Muslim, will use his enhanced military as a forceful counterbalance to Iran’s growing Shiite influence. But because the Saudis and their Arab neighbors are hostile towards Israel the sale is sure to invite opposition. In order to assuage opponents’ anxiety, the Bush administration intends to give $30 billion to Israel’s military and $13 billion to Egypt for defense.  

It has been said that the Soviet Union lost the Cold War by spending itself into bankruptcy. Will we lose the war on terror from similar profligacy—trying to purchase victory?  

The disturbing part of this is not that it takes a lot of money to buy hearts and minds but that this plan, if approved, will extend our global entanglements far into the future.  

We need a president and a Congress with the courage and foresight to hold the line against further entanglements. Enough is enough! 

Marvin Chachere  

San Pablo 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

If Bush and his war buddies are considered sane, we should all pursue insanity. George W. has left realism far behind; Iraq has become a bloody quagmire. There was no rhyme or reason for the invasion of Iraq except a faulty ideology and a GOP penchant to play the 9/11 card to the hilt. 

This is a Republican war, have no doubt about it. President Bush is undermining Congress’ attempts to end the Iraq war; Republican hard-liners filibuster any attempt to end it; and Bush core supporters cheer from the sidelines. 

The war in Iraq will not end until funding is cut off, the American public’s clamor reaches a fever pitch or the ‘I” word (impeachment) is impressed firmly on Bush’s mind. 

Ron Lowe  

Grass Valley