Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday September 07, 2007


Editors, Daily Planet  

I am from Tennessee and just returned home from a wonderful experience with the fans and citizens of the Bay Area. We were treated well every place we toured. The Cal fans were kind in victory. We would have enjoyed a victory, but your team played better. Those of us in the Southeastern Conference could learn some lessons on sportsmanship from your fans. I think you live in the most beautiful part of America. God has truly blessed you to allow you to live and work where you do. Hope to visit again. Thank you for all the kind words. I will be pulling for you to win the rest of your games this year.  

Phil Saylors 





Editors, Daily Planet 

I flew from Tennessee to California to attend the UT-CAL game this past Saturday. The Cal campus is beautiful. Although I wore the most obnoxious orange clothes and shoes I had, everyone I met was exceedingly friendly and gracious. Except for the fact that my team lost the game (the better team won) everything else about my time and experience in Berkeley and on campus was exceptionally positive. 

I was, however, slightly unnerved by the people in the trees. Everywhere I went I heard people saying they had high-powered rifles and could be snipers. Although I didn’t take such talk seriously it did create a slight sense of uneasiness. I asked a police official stationed at the base of an occupied tree overlooking the football field if there were any truth to the “rumors.” His half-smile while saying “no” was not very reassuring. 

The attitude of the authorities and people in California is cavalier and dismissive as if a Virginia Tech or University of Texas Bell Tower incident couldn’t happen there. I know this is very unpleasant, uncomfortable, difficult and even painful to contemplate for some of you but it could happen. 

Perhaps they have conducted background checks and psychological tests to ensure the people they allow in the trees are emotionally and psychologically healthy and stable. I hope so. 

Robert W. Overman 

Memphis, TN 




Editors, Daily Planet 

The ongoing controversy over the oak grove is about much more than several dozen trees; it is about the character and future of the university. The campus’ architectural design of classical Greek and Roman arcs and lines was to embody principles of learning and democracy, and the current battles over its layout are simultaneously battles over the future of our public university.  

When John Galen Howard finished plans the university in 1922 he oriented what was to be a “City of Learning” on an east-west axis, drawing a stark line from the Strawberry Creek Canyon headwaters, through a central glade, and on out through the Golden Gate. Fiat Lux was literally inscribed in the landscape. The very geographic layout was designed to embody in this “Western Acropolis of Learning” ideals of public interest (but also racist imperialism, which, until recently, we had mostly moved past).  

Since then, much of the canyon and creek have been built over and polluted. The university’s idealist layout is being corroded and cornered on all sides by financial and military interests (Bechtel to the North, Haas and Lawrence to the East, in the West the Department of Energy and Shing bioterrorism center). Down go testaments to great figures of public interest such as Earl Warren Hall—named after the Berkely alum and Supreme Court justice key in forming landmark civil rights rulings—and up come glass-and-steel engineering complexes named after the highest bidder.  

True, the UC has throughout history embodied a contradictory mix of corporate and public interest. Yet, the university’s mix is being shifted in unprecedented ways by the deliberate international projects of free market idolatry and militarization waged by groups such as the Mont Peleran Society and the neo-conservatives.  

The campaign to save the oaks and stop UCBP are not in essence about these particular trees or that edifice, but about whether we seek to replace Fiat Lux with secretive deals with abusive corporations and eschew difficult public fundraising for short-term sports advertising gimmicks. The oaks and BP campaigns are rightly part of the Phoenix Coalition to free the UC—“democratize, demilitarize, divest” is their slogan—that ultimately requires reforming the Regents and Proposition 13.  

The blunders of UC pay scandals, back room dealings with BP, and now the heavy-handed oak fencing indicate an increasingly out of touch and arrogant UC administration. The chancellor has called the proposed BP-Berkeley collaboration “our generation’s moonshot.” We would do well to remember the numerous errors and threats to human life that plagued that mission and that its slim success relied heavily on chance, open communication, and flexibility.  

Go Bears!  

Clement S. Calado 




Editors, Daily Planet 

In his Aug. 31 commentary, “Berkeley’s Misplaced Planning Priorities,” Paul Glusman states that “... there has never been any direct public transit between Berkeley or Oakland and Marin County.” For many years Golden Gate Transit (GGT) has been running a bus service from El Cerrito Del Norte BART station to San Rafael. The GGT No. 40 Express runs several times in both direction during the morning and evening commute hours. The No. 42 runs every half hour from 5:30 in the morning till 11:30 in the evening. Travel time is 30-40 minutes. Fare is $3.60 one way. The bus schedule for the 40/42 line is available at http:// Aside from arriving on BART, the El Cerrito Del Norte BART station can be reached by the 72 Rapid bus on weekdays from most locations on San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley within 15 minutes. 

Len Conly 




Editors, Daily Planet 

As a longtime Berkeley resident who recently moved to New York, I read the Planet to catch up on some of the little quirks that make Berkeley so unique and utterly bizarre. However, it seems that recently the Planet has deemed it fit to publish columns that contain obviously false statements. In her recent column, Becky O’Malley states:  

“The whole ugly scene, complete with nasty skinhead cops with gas masks clubbing unarmed victims, has been captured on You Tube by LA Wood on the Berkeley Citizen website at> .”  

Has Ms. O’Malley ever watched the video she cites in her column? I can read through columns detailing the erosion of First Amendment rights, the expansion of the police state and the overall collapse of western civilization brought about by the cutting down of a small grove of trees, but when your own statements are completely contradicted by the video evidence that you cite as proof, it is too much. All the video shows is several police officers restraining two individuals without using excessive force, no use of clubs or other foreign objects, and, unless my eyes deceive me, not a single gas mask or skinhead in sight. I will grant Ms. O’Malley a certain amount of creative license, but each of her statements is loaded with additional meaning. Using them, without any sort of corroborating evidence, is both irresponsible and unprofessional—let alone completely wrong. 

Tomas Holmes 



Editors, Daily Planet 

Please pass my e-mail address onto Becky O’Malley. If she does live in Berkeley I’d love for her to give me her home after she moves out of this horrible country we live in. I love the city of Berkeley, I can’t think of a better place to live than in a great city in the greatest place in the world, the Bay Area. I can’t afford to live there and would love it if Becky would offer me her home when she moves to Canada or maybe Switzerland because she can’t stand the United States. It must be a fact that Michael Vick is exactly like every other athlete in the world and it also must be a fact that athletics are what is wrong with the world. Becky can you please leave me all your wisdom, so I can live a life like you, as you exit the USA.  

How about Becky you come back to reality, stay here in the US, vote against the Republicans in the next election, help push for sustainability and environmental understanding across the world, and quit worrying about a grove of oak trees between a city street and an athletic stadium. Many organizations in the Bay Area are pushing to save real wilderness lands and I’m a part of one of them/Save Mt. Diablo.  

If you don’t come to your senses please remember me, a contributing member of society who lives in an active earthquake region but who is not afraid, loves the country but knows there are many things that should change about our government. Athletics is not to blame for the worlds evils. 

Please remember me Becky as you exit the United States, I’d love to take your spot. 

Would love to hear an offer. 

Andrew Sproul  





Editors, Daily Planet 

Mr. Allen-Taylor’s opinion piece regarding Sen. Craig was unusually empathetic and thoughtful amid the current media circus on the topic It was the best of Allen-Taylor’s writing thus far. 

Bob Gable 




Editors, Daily Planet 

A few recent letters have said that AC Transit should provide more bus service instead of building Bus Rapid Transit. Most recently, Teddy Knight wrote: “It would cost no more to double/triple the current schedules than to build BRT.” 

These letter writers don’t know a basic principle of transit funding: there are separate budgets for capital expenses and operating expenses. If AC Transit dropped the BRT project, it could not use that capital funding to operate more buses. It would simply lose the funding. 

BRT actually would allow AC to provide more frequent service. Because buses go more quickly in dedicated lanes, BRT would have lower operating costs than this line has now. AC could use the money saved to provide more frequent service on other lines. 

I can understand why people don’t know the difference between capital and operating expenses, when they have no history of supporting transit and suddenly become interested in the issue when a project is proposed in their back yards. But some of the red herrings that opponents are throwing at BRT are beyond understanding. 

For example, an opinion piece of July 31 claimed that, instead of BRT, we should use an “incremental approach,” which would include not only “more buses/shorter headway” but also “increased gas tax.” I can understand why he would not know that BRT funding cannot be used to run more buses at shorter headways, but I cannot understand why in the world he would think that stopping BRT would help us to increase gas taxes. 

BRT and increased gas taxes obviously are not mutually exclusive. I am in favor of increasing taxes not only on gasoline but on all CO2 emissions. And I am in favor of BRT for the same reason: because I want to slow global warming and leave a livable world to our children. 

Charles Siegel 




Editors, Daily Planet 

The Republican Party has fielded the worse White House team in history and although it has failed in some recent objectives— privatizing Social Security, reforming immigration—it remains strong and against all odds may win again in 2008.  

The party’s major source of strength comes from Bush’s global war on terror (GWOT), which, strictly speaking, is not a war but a tactical instrument, a political bludgeon he uses to intimidate and subdue his opponents. Democratic leaders are afraid to challenge the “war” head on; after a few whimpers they give Bush whatever he wants—money, tribunals, torture, spying, etc. 

The spearhead of Bush’s GWOT is Iraq and although public support is slipping away lawmakers of all stripes are diligently seeking ways “to keep on keepin’ on”—setting benchmarks, changing the mission, supporting (or replacing) Prime Minister al-Maliki, involving Iraq’s neighbors, etc. Neither lawmakers nor establishment intellectuals take ethical considerations into account. You’d think “morality” was a dirty word. 

Most every one seems to accept that armed might is a substitute for moral right. Old-fashioned virtue is no longer embraced as the wellspring of American ideals of freedom, justice, and equality. Bush leads the way, offering his own righteousness in place of what is right and Congress falls in line.  

The Bush team’s immoral behavior—unprovoked invasion—cannot be excused by faulty intelligence, inept planning, and incompetent leadership and his continuing military occupation cannot be disguised by U.N. Security Council resolutions.  

Sooner or later we as a nation will be ethically required to make right the bloody god-awful consequences of this president’s imperious and immoral calamity.  

Marvin Chachere  

San Pablo 




Editors, Daily Planet 

In your Aug. 31 edition, Steve Martinot writes that Kitchen Democracy pretends to host referendums, and that City Council and the zoning board follow that pretense. 

Mr. Martinot is wrong on both counts. The website clearly states that the Kitchen Democracy tally is not legally binding. Moreover, the archive of closed issues on the website contains cases where Berkeley City Hall decisions diverged from the Kitchen Democracy tally. 

Mr. Martinot is also wrong when he states that Kitchen Democracy does not belong to the constituency whose interests are presented in our issue statements. Kitchen Democracy is its users. If the 3,000 Berkeley residents and stakeholders who formulate, select and discuss Kitchen Democracy issues do not belong to that constituency, who does? 

Kitchen Democracy forums are simply another channel through which residents can participate in democracy. Some people prefer to attend City Hall meetings; others prefer to read about issues at home and check Yes or No on their browser. Simona and I believe that a healthy democracy welcomes all forms of participation. That’s why we started Kitchen Democracy eighteen months ago, and why we are thrilled to see it becoming more vibrant every day. 

Robert Vogel 

Co-Founder, Kitchen Democracy 




Editors, Daily Planet 

This quote pretty well sums up the conflicts in Iraq and the Middle East: “All wars are holy wars fought by people who think they alone know the truth.” God told George Bush to invade Afghanistan and Iraq while Osama bin Laden claims he is fighting God’s holy war. Republicans of a religious stripe pushed America into war in Iraq and fundamentalist terrorists are on the rise everywhere. 

Ron Lowe  

Grass Valley 




Editors, Daily Planet 

I really hope you cover the Berkeley High football team a little this year. Coach Alonzo Carter and his student athletes have spent a lot of time and energy to prepare for the season that starts this week. While some in Berkeley may not care about high school sports, and view it as a distraction to what is “important” in life, there are many in our city (especially long-time residents) who believe youth sports develops character and discipline. These aren’t clichés for the boys on the teams sweating through practices and study halls. 

The football team at Berkeley High is energizing a lot of people who don’t normally read the Daily Planet, but might if it contained news about the boys they know in a positive light rather than just in crime stories. 

Coach Carter has the boys thinking about winning games and going to College. A great way to help many of the boys at BHS become successful young men in our society would be to support the football team. The football team doesn’t have a lot of rich parents or alumni to fund it, and Coach Carter’s program should be allowed to thrive with community support and your paper’s attention.  

Paul Lecky 




Editors, Daily Planet 

Crying for Justice 

The president said “I’ve got God’s shoulder to cry on.” He cries in mansions staffed with servants who peel grapes for banquets. Today’s news carried photos of a woman and her children crying in horror as her husband was hauled off by American soldiers in a night raid. She despairs that like other arrested men, his body might later be found dumped around Baghdad.  

The people of Iraq did no harm to Americans. The Iraq war was plotted with lies by Bush and Cheney. They should be in the docket of the War Crimes Tribunal. Bush must answer for hundreds of thousands of widows, orphans, amputees, and refugees. They have a right to demand justice and tell of their pain. They should have a chance to see Bush cry.  

News stories abound that Bush and Cheney are plotting a massive bombing attack on Iran. This would be the greatest disaster in history and lead to economic chaos, a bottomless military nightmare, and rivers of tears and blood.  

The people must swarm Congress, demand that Bush and Cheney be removed, and remind the generals and admirals that conspiring to wage a war of aggression is a war crime. 

John Mackesy 





Editors, Daily Planet 

The sound of a train whistle has long had a connection for me to the romance of train travel. I have wonderful memories of taking the train across the United States and Canada. Unfortunately that sound is now waking me regularly between midnight and dawn. Although, I live more than a mile from the train tracks in Berkeley/Oakland, freight train engineers seem to like to blow their loud horns almost continuously as they go through Berkeley/Oakland during the night.  

I believe it is time to impose restrictions on this disturbance. Airports in the Bay Area measure the noise of airplanes landing and taking off. They are restricted in the hours that they can take off during the night. We need the same rules for trains in urban areas. It may be difficult to restrict the times that trains run through Berkeley but it should be easy to restrict the speed they travel at and the way they use their horns. For example, if trains in Berkeley were limited to 20 miles/hour from 11 p.m. till 6 a.m. they would not need to use their horns since there is no danger of a collision at that speed. In addition, just as airports measure their noise, Union Pacific should be required to install noise-recording machines at the Berkeley and Emeryville stations. This time history of train noise would establish a way for local residents to examine for trains that violate good procedures and would be an incentive for Union Pacific to improve their performance. 

Al Thompson 





Editors, Daily Planet 

Graffiti is the art of those who do not much care for public spaces. Why can’t these people accept the social responsibility of caring for our common property? I am under the impression that graffiti destroys the beauty of our clean walls and benches, and reveals at the same time the anger of some uncaring people. Such people may experience relief if they are given special public spaces fitted with whiteboards to display their anger. At the same time neighborhood watch committees can help. They can remind graffiti writers of their responsibility for the cleanliness of public spaces. If the graffiti writers still don’t stop, they should be dealt with severely. Let us keep our cities looking clean. 

Romila Khanna