Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday August 03, 2007

running KPFA 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a long-time media activist and KPFA-watcher, and currently a termed-out community representative on KPFA’s Program Council, I’d like to weigh in on the recent editorials and responses. I support what Becky O’Malley said: I think she’s correct and I would add that the first hour of the Sunday Salon program that featured Mayor Bates also struck me as an unfocused discussion—one that attempted to link a recent study of soaring US obesity rates with the “gourmet foodie” culture of Berkeley, instead of food supply issues that cause obesity rates to skyrocket, most noticeably in lower-income populations. 

That said, I think the lesson to be learned here is that a progressive community radio station benefits from collaborative decision-making on programming and a wide circle of opinions and voices, and suffers when it retreats into hierarchy, secretiveness and buy-in to mainstream media myths about objectivity and professionalism. We can have a mayoral love-fest on KGO any day of the week. 

I understand that running KPFA is a difficult task and the level of criticism can be hard to take, so maybe it’s no surprise that the conversation has been heated. But the issue here is the Sunday morning program needs to forge tighter connections with Bay Area progressives, activists and community organizations so it can provide acute, sharp and uncompromising coverage of local issues—and KPFA internally needs to honor the richness and diversity of its volunteers and surrounding city and region by making sure programming decisions don’t occur in bolted conference rooms but in larger committee structures that include a dozen plus people drawn from different places and experiences. It doesn’t do the station any good to box out its own programming council with volunteer, community and board input. It just makes for less rewarding programming. 

Tracy Rosenberg 

Media Alliance 

Former community representative 

KPFA Program Council 



What’s not to like? 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a Berkeley resident, doesn’t it fill you with pride to hear that Stephen Hawking is coming to lecture, Yo-Yo Ma is coming to play or that Cal’s rugby and men’s water polo teams are the NCAA Champions? We live in a world-class city because it houses a world-class university whose excellence reaches all corners of science, music, politics, the arts ... and yes, athletics. We are able to be fans at hundreds of sporting events of both men’s and women’s teams whose outstanding national rankings have earned Berkeley ninth place in the most recent NCAA Directors’ Cup.  

However, to continue to recruit the best student athletes, train them in the safest and most modern facilities, and provide the best in sports medicine for them, the university desperately needs to move ahead on its master plan for the Memorial Stadium site. 

Sadly, the media has distorted this endeavor as a football project, when in fact some 13 teams—seven women’s and six men’s teams would be housed in this state-of-the-art facility. Teams who now lack even locker rooms to change in would be served. What a boon this will be for the recruiting of the finest men and women to represent us in the tradition of excellence that we have come to expect from all areas of the Berkeley campus. 

To add to the media spin and the circus created by the “treesitters,” the Berkeley City Council has voted unanimously to spend $250,000 of our taxpayer dollars to stop this project. Their concerns centered on the Hayward fault, but those worries have been dispelled by the Geomatrix Report, the US Geological Survey and the California Geological Survey. There are no reasonable grounds to continue to oppose the project. 

If anyone else is angry about the prospect of more tax dollars being wasted to continue this lawsuit, I would encourage them to contact their councilmembers and share their views. Need to learn more about the facts or see the project drawings? Visit 

JoAnn Richert Lorber 



dear mr. conyers 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Below is a letter I sent to Congressman John Conyers. I hope other Democrats will resign this gutless party and send similar letters to Conyers, as well as to Nancy Pelosi and their state representatives. 

Dear Mr. Conyers, 

Enclosed please find the bumper sticker you sent me last year in thanks for my contribution to your congressional compaign. Find also a copy of my registration form, switching me from the Democratic party to no party. 

I contributed to your campaign because I considered your work, investigating the Bush administration’s many crimes against America, to be vitally important, and I wanted it to continue by insuring your re-election. I fully expected your investigation to lead to impeachment charges, should Democrats take the house this year. 

How wrong I was. But equally disappointing, I was apparently wrong about your commitment to hearing the voice of the people, as was demonstrated earlier this month when you had Cindy Sheehan and other activists in your office arrested. 

Shame on you, Mr. Conyers! Shame on the Democratic leadership as a whole, who are arrogantly disregarding those who elected them with their refusal to uphold our constitution by getting this mafia out of office. 

We, in response, will now work to get you out of office. 

Judy Shelton 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

One of the claims of neighbors against BRT is that “It will encourage very few automobile drivers to switch to public transit.” I ask in all sincerity, “What, pray tell, will?” It is obvious for anyone with intelligence and vision that cars are not working and that the longer we cling to them, the more painful will be the transition. Public transit offers freedom, health and a much more enjoyable society. So if it is not BRT, then what will encourage you to figure out how to live your lives without your car? 

Cyndi Johnson 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

In the Friday Weekend Edition, July 27-30, of the Planet, Judith Scherr’s article (Meeting Draws South Branch Supporters) mistakenly suggests that I am opposed to moving the South Branch Library to the proposed Ed Roberts Campus. Quite the contrary. I believe that relocating the majority of the services and book collection to the Ed Roberts site may offer a unique and perhaps one-time opportunity to expand library services at a spacious modern location while at the same time continuing to provide services to youth, a community meeting space and expand the much valued Tool Lending Library at the existing site. The new location can also offer an opportunity to greatly expand the book collection, services, number of computers available, and disability access at a reasonable cost to the city and the community. Let’s move forward! I think the relocation is a win, win situation. 

Winston Burton 

Member, Berkeley Public Library  

Foundation Board of Directors 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Although your columnist sees “Dellums Credited with Resolution of Garbage Dispute” (Berkeley Daily Planet, July 31), the fact remains that Dellums has enormous powers in the contract between the City of Oakland and Waste Management. He refused to threaten these measures, let alone invoke them, for three weeks of public stench. See for details. 

But moving on (as the evasive phrase has it), what about punitive damages for causing a public nuisance and the threat of a public health disaster? Specifically, the City should demand that WM cancel the entire July-August-September bill for all customers. Triple damages are needed; otherwise, WM learns that it can repeat such a disastrous lockout at minimal cost. Let’s see how Mayor Dellums handles this one. 

Charles Pine 

Oakland Residents for  

Peaceful Neighborhoods 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As we enjoy the many “secret” pathways and landscapes in our gorgeous city this summer, it is clear that many bikers and auto drivers are not heeding the laws of the road. How many run-away bicyclists have you seen blasting through a stop sign around town, obviously suicidal, and smiling without fear? 

How many cars have just missed your kids at our “protected” crosswalks? I’m thinking of the Solano Ave. slide and the complete horror show daily at College and Bancroft avenues. 

I spoke with City of Berkeley Police Sergant Thomas Curtain about this and he urges the public to call in all law breakers at the non-emergency number: 510-981-5900. The police want to give folks a good scolding first and then issue fines. 

Please stop at the stop signs and heed the yellow lights, people. Or we’re dead! 

Willi Paul 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Greta Farber wrote “impeachment was a no-brainer route” to end the war, but now thinks it will “prolong the chaos” because “persons whom I honor and respect, like Representatives Conyers and Kucinich, question this path ... and fear impeachment”. 


First, rather than “prolonging chaos”, impeachment could end the war. It could also prevent war with Iran and enable the Democrats’ legislative agenda to pass, without vetoes and signing statements. 

Second, Kucinich is clearly for impeachment. He introduced House Resolution 333, the articles of impeachment against Cheney. Our Representative Barbara Lee is a cosponsor.  

Third, Conyers sponsored articles of impeachment and published a book arguing for impeachment last year. His wife is on the Detroit City Council, which recently voted for impeachment through her efforts. 

Why is Conyers blocking impeachment now? Did Pelosi threaten him and other Democrats with the loss of committee assignments? Is politics trumping patriotism here? Obviously, impeachment is not a partisan issue. Conservatives are calling for impeachment too. Pelosi is playing politics, but she’s making a huge tactical error. Impeachment can’t hurt the Democrats in 2008 since 75 percent of Democrats polled want impeachment! She is shamefully and willfully ignoring her SF constituents—both SF voters and the Board of Supervisors have voted for impeachment. 

The patriots who visited Conyers represent the majority of Americans wanting impeachment. As Chair of the House Judiciary Committee Conyers can start the proceedings. We respect him, but we expect him to put politics aside and do what he knows is the right thing. This has nothing to do with race. Seven of the 14 co-sponsors of H. Res. 333 are black. 

Hundreds of thousands of lives have been sacrificed because of Cheney and Bush’s lies, our Constitution is in tatters, our administration is headed by war criminals, and we are less safe. Time and cost considerations are irrelevant under these circumstances. Cheney and Bush must be investigated. Once that investigation begins to establish their guilt, the votes will come, and perhaps their resignations. If the Democratic leadership in the House won’t do their duty, they are as guilty as the Bush Administration in ignoring the Constitution, the rule of law, and the will of the people. 

Impeachment is neither a diversion nor something to be feared. It is vital that we take action now to protect our country. Call Conyers and Pelosi and tell them to impeach: 202-224-3121. 

Cynthia Papermaster 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As usual, the confused Oakland politicos, who never met a class struggle they could comprehend, have conflated more opposing—I’d say 180-degree opposing but it’d necessitate numerous circles to encompass the many—opposing ideas as though they make sense, rather than contradicting each other. 

Sheehan actually has enumerated reasons why Bush, leader of the U.S. government needs to be impeached, same as any rapist on the street. If like Nixon, he’s let go, the dictatorship will just tighten like that noose around us.  

So Conyers made a mistake. These writers are saying people should ignore that because after all he’s done so many good things—the universal health care proposal, the reparations proposal, and he is Black, excusing any unacceptable thing he might do—we don’t think so. 

The writers did allow a bit of room for error on their part saying ‘to the best of our knowledge’ re whether the activists had done what these writers require in order for the writers to accept the activists’ behavior. Martin was a leader of all of us; another startling difference the writers want to take up, as though he were predominantly or only a Black leader.  

Fortunately there are numerous Black people who differ widely with these writers. Just talk with people at the grocery check-out counters, clerks and customers alike, Black and brown and white, for starters. When arguments like this keep coming forward I have to admire this publications’ encouragement for participation by the whole community regardless of how confused the writers are. 

Norma J F Harrison 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

If Charles Siegel wants to win my proposed “Mark Twain Award” for being the Funniest Commentator in the Planet, he’s going to have to do a lot better than his recent letter in the July 27 edition. Addressing the issue of building heights in walkable neighborhoods, Mr. Siegel wrote that I had “claimed that the Urban Land Institute generally opposes development over 35 feet in walkable neighborhoods.” I said no such thing, nor do I believe it. However, instead of continuing a battle of wits (or facts) with an unarmed opponent, let me state what I actually think about walkable—or more importantly, livable—neighborhoods. 

The good news is that I believe that livable neighborhoods can be created with sensitive buildings of almost any size. However, unless a city starts with a “blank canvas,” it cannot maintain or increase its overall livability without respecting the livability of the neighborhoods that are already there. And although it is not nearly as much fun as diddling the built environment, we must pay much more attention to the social and psychological aspects of livability. Since people spend the vast majority of their lives in their homes, what is going on inside the buildings—old or new—is generally more important than the superficial sizes, shapes, and designs of the buildings. Rabbit warrens do not lead to healthy communities for humans. 

The bad news is that, unless we have a change in the current mayor, council majority, and high-level planning staff, I don’t believe that Berkeley can create livable neighborhoods with buildings of any size—small, medium, or large. This is because Berkeley has no commitment to creating livable neighborhoods, and won’t have until we change things dramatically at City Hall. Until we create the political will to make sure our new buildings improve our city, citizens have to look at how to best avoid doing damage to the urban environment we already have. Generally speaking, smaller buildings do less damage than larger ones. 

I like nice new buildings, and I wish I lived in a city where I would look forward to new buildings of any size. But unlike some “smart growth” simplicists—or in some cases, simpletons—I don’t confuse reality with wishing. 

Sharon Hudson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a computer scientist (former chair of the Compter Science Department at New York University), I have been deeply worried about these flawed machines for some time. They should be decertified immediately. 

Dr. Martin Davis 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

There’s now a proposal being floated to “ban” bottled water sales in Berkeley. Eliminating a mountain of plastic bottles is welcome by everyone. However, the debate over bottled versus tap water has glossed over an important issue. California state law mandates that all tap water in California contain a toxic chemical: fluoride. Fluoride is a halogen, which causes DNA damage, injures the liver, causes uptake of aluminum which can contribute to Alzheimer symptoms, and loss of bone density. The list of toxic effects goes on. Flouridated toothpaste contains a warning against using fluoridated tooth paste with young children because young children tend to swallow everything in their mouths. While topical applications may prevent cavities, eating fluoride poisons us. Thirty years ago countries such as Germany, Sweden, The Netherlands and Japan stopped fluoridating their drinking water, and they have not experienced an increase in cavities. Let’s keep all those plastic bottles out of the landfill by giving everyone safe, clean, chemically free water. Our elected officials should stop requiring water districts to poison its customers. Until we get rid of the fluoride in tap water, I’m happy to drink bottled. 

Yolanda Huang 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Hardesty ( 7/10-7/12) claims that his estimate that gun owners use their guns for self-defense several million times per year is reasonable because people don’t report a crime that has been deterred. If this claim is true, either gun owners are far more at risk of being assaulted than non gun owners, or non gun owners are defending themselves against millions of violent crimes without the use of guns. Several web sources (see for example www.cbsnews. com/stories/2002/09/09/national/main521212.shtml) agree that for most crimes the actual crime rate is about 50 percent of the reported rate (murders are almost all reported). This leads to a current estimate of about one million violent crimes per year. If Hardesty is correct, gun carriers are exposed to over two million violent crime attempts per year. According to Hardesty half the adult population owns a gun, but probably only half of that number have their gun when they are being accosted. If people with or without gun access during a crime have equal risk this leads to an estimate that the non-gun people are exposed to 6 to 7 million violent crime attempts per year. If a significant number (25 to 30 percent) of the successful violent crimes happened to the gun carriers then the probability of defending or avoiding an actual assault is no better for people with guns than for people without. Alternatively, people with guns could be more at risk. People in unsafe areas possibly are more likely to own guns and thus skew the risk ratio, however it is equally plausible that people without guns are more likely to avoid unsafe areas and situations. In addition, people without guns are more likely to walk away from a situation that is becoming dangerous, instead of sticking around until they have to attempt to rescue themselves with a gun. Even if Hardesty’s self-defense estimate is true, which I doubt, these arguments show that it is insufficient by itself to prove that guns make people safer. 

Hardesty doesn’t think 800 accidental deaths per year from guns is significant, but it is 10 percent of the homicides by guns. He completely ignored my demonstration of why comparing crime statistics without evaluating social factors is useless, and even more importantly ignored the point that there are non-lethal alternatives to guns (sprays and tazers). It is intellectually dishonest to ignore points that are inconsistent with a desired conclusion. 

A correction and one final point: I reside in Berkeley not Oakland, and I did not make an ad hominem attack on Mr. Hardesty. An “ad hominem”, attack is when one asserts that the person is dishonest or incompetent, and therefore their arguments are invalid. It is not an hominem attack to state that it is dishonest to state an opinion as a fact. 

Robert Clear 





Editors, Daily Planet:  

Remember Diebold’s CEO saying that he would help elect George Bush president? How safe is our electronic ballot? 

Companies involved in Califoria’s recent voting machine review say that the tests on touch screen machines were unrealistic. All machines failed miserably. How realistic is it that America’s public elections are now in the hands of private corporations? Democracy has been privatized. 

How difficult would it have been for malevolent forces intent on stealing elections to compromise prior contests in 2000, ’02 and ’04? All that was required was to have the source codes, operating manuals and access to software—easy for insiders or anyone to get. 

Given its track record is anything beneath this administration? 

Ron Lowe  

Grass Valley, CA 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The question of what to do about Iraq is attracting tsunami waves of responses from Congress, Bush, cabinet officers, military top brass and numerous “expert” advisors. Conflicting, contradictory and overlapping answers spread into every available media space and, irrespective of political or professional source, most voices begin with the first person plural pronoun, “we”:  

We must stay, we must win, we must withdraw, we must not give up, we must accept, we must force/help their government, we must allow more time, we must change course, we this …we that. 

By definition “we” functions as a place holder, in this case for an unspecified group and yet none of the many voices take the time to identify the referent when they use it to answer the question. Why? 

“We” often refers to an assembly of family, friends, professional associates, political colleagues and such, but not in this instance because the question concerns national interest and the speakers are governmental leaders and policy makers.  

Given the context of the question, “we” can only stands for “We, the people of the United States.” That’s what Republicans, Democrats, Bush and his top advisors want us to believe. But they’re wrong.  

“We,” meaning our legislative and executive representatives, invaded Iraq on false claims, followed inept planning that has left our mighty military stuck like br’er fox to the Iraq tar-baby.  

“We,” meaning an estimated seven citizens out of ten want to detach our soldiers. We, the people recognize the folly and mendacity of our leaders. We, the people can foresee more carnage in the trap the wily al Qaeda rabbit has sprung.  

We, the people want the troops home. The sooner, the better. 

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Bush administration wants our federal government to allow a 20 billion dollar weapons deal with Saudi Arabia and other non-democracies. Saudi Arabia is a dictatorship. Their royal family is against democracy, equality, human rights, and civil liberties. They don’t support freedoms of speech, press, and religion. Women only have what liitle rights their men will allow them to have. The Bible is illegal, and any citizen who converts to Christianity can be executed. Don’t forget that Osama bin Laden and most of the 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. Some ‘’experts’’ say that this advanced weapons deal will be a good counter to Iran. I wonder if these are the same experts who said that supporting Saddam Hussein would be a good counter to Iran. Look how that turned out. Our country should support secular democracies, not theocratic dictatorships.  

Chuck Mann 

Greensboro, NC 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Riya Bhattacharjee inaccurately describes our position on HRAs in an otherwise well-written article about the recent Pacific Steel Health Risk Assessment (”Pacific Steel Releases Health Assessment, Citizens Say Process Flawed,” July 31). In response to the repeated delays in the process, I did say that the release of the HRA was long overdue. However, Communities for a Better Environment does not support the use of HRAs in general, or for this facility in particular, for several reasons. As CBE has stated publicly, HRAs tend to underestimate chemical exposure, ignore a facility’s cumulative impacts, and concentrate on risk management rather than the proper focus: preventing pollution. 

The pollution prevention approach is also called Toxics Use Reduction (TUR). As Ms. Bhattacharjee correctly reported, CBE joins public health experts and community advocates in endorsing a toxic use reduction program as “a more comprehensive and health-protective method than the HRA.” It would require a facility to examine and improve its practices, and develop strategies to reduce its use of toxic chemicals in the first place. In fact, Dr. Wilson proposed this approach to the City of Berkeley almost two years ago. 

The state legislature is currently considering a Toxics Use Reduction Act that would require industrial facilities to report and reduce their toxic chemicals, with the aim of reducing statewide use of toxics by 50%. This bill, which has passed the State Assembly, would move us away from mere risk analysis toward actual toxics reduction. The writing is on the wall for Pacific Steel and any other industrial facility: protect community health through real pollution reduction. 

Philip Huang 

Communities for a Better Environment 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

On July 31, 2007 Robert A. Sunshine, Assistant Director for Budget Analysis at the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) testified that Bush’s “war on terrorism” could cost an additional “$1,010 billion over the 2008-2017 period.” Since the CBO only deals with budget matters, Mr. Sunshine did not shed any light on how many more hundreds of thousands of deaths, if not millions, would result as a result of the war. For those who are math challenged, the CBO estimate is over a trillion dollars for the next ten years. This is on top of the $602 billion already budgeted according to the CBO. 

According to the testimony provided to the Committee on the Budget of the House of Representatives, the “CBO projected the costs through 2017 of all activities associated with operations in Iraq, Afghan-istan, and the war on terrorism…” They used two scenarios, one where the military force levels on the ground in the “war on terrorism” would be reduced to 30,000 in 2010 and remain at that level through 2017. In that “rosy” scenario, the war would cost up to $603 billion over the 10 year period. In the second scenario, troop levels would only go down to 75,000 by 2013. That is the one trillion plus scenario. The CBO testimony also made clear that they were not counting naval personnel deployed aboard ships to fight the “war on terrorism” so these are low-ball estimates of the actual possible costs. 

These are only estimates by the CBO and they do not take into account possible expansion of the “war on terrorism.” Both scenarios are based on a reduction of troop levels on the ground in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other places. But what if the U.S. attacks Iran or other countries? How many more will die and how much will it cost to kill them? 

Clearly any scenario that continues the so-called “war on terrorism” is unacceptable and will just be a continuation of the Bush regime’s crimes against humanity. The cost in lives and in dollars is far too high to allow this regime to exist more than one more day. 

To see how you can rid the world of the scourge of the Bush regime, please see 

Kenneth J. Theisen