Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday December 11, 2007


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Conn Hallinan’s Dec. 7 column “The Algebra of Occupation” is a succinct popularization of Guerrilla Warfare I. It is what every military historian and analyst—not to mention counterinsurgency specialists like U.S. Army Special Forces and General Petraeus—know, and are largely helpless to overcome. 

The military solution should be withdrawal, but the geo-political strategy of imperialism is ascendant. Hence victims and victimizers do the suffering. 

Al Sargis 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I read in the Planet and elsewhere that Sea Scout master Eugene Evans was just arrested for molesting some of his young charges after being the chief plaintiff before the Supreme Court against Berkeley denying cheap berthing rights to his group due to the Boy Scouts of America barring gay youths from joining. 

So another self-righteous moralizer joins the homophobic parade of hypocrites, which include the likes of evangelist honcho Ted Haggard, Senator Larry Craig (R), the airport men’s room prowler, and Rep. Mark Foley (R), the would-be hassler of Congressional pages. 

What Richard Brenneman neglected to mention in his story was that atheists are also barred from joining the BSA and thus its Berkeley-affiliated Sea Scouts. This means that the following nonbelievers would have been stiffed had they had been our contemporaries as youngsters: Mark Twain, Bertrand Russell, Thomas Edison, Noam Chomsky, Woody Allen, George Carlin, Percy Bryce Shelley, Albert Einstein and computer tycoons Bill Gates and Larry Ellison. 

Harry Siitonen 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Metro Lighting Exonerated 

Metro Lighting recently received a letter from the acting regional director of Region 32 (Oakland) of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) containing the following findings: 


The Region (Oakland NLRB) has carefully investigated and considered the (unfair labor) charges against Metro Lighting and Crafts... Based on that investigation, I have concluded that further proceedings are not warranted and I am dismissing the charges.” 

The charges dismissed were that Metro Lighting: 

1. Locked out pro-union workers. 

2. Disciplined workers differently after they picketed. 

3. Fired a worker for union organizing. 

The investigation concluded that: 

1. Workers walked out, they were not locked out. 

2. The discipline was in response to the workers’ refusal to obey direct orders and unrelated to the picketing activity. 

3. The worker was terminated for non-union related reasons involving his job performance. 

Therefore the NLRB has determined that these claims were not substantiated.  


Of course we knew that, but it is great to have it in writing from the government! 

Lawrence Grown 

METRO Lighting & Crafts 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

This is following up on J. Douglas Allen-Taylor’s Undercurrents column two weeks ago of “Who Will Manage: The Police 12-Hour Shift Decision” Allen-Taylor does mentions the problems associated with trying to fit three ten hour police shift schedules into a 24-hour day, resulting in six hours of unintended overlap time. He does not mention the potentially bigger problem arising from half the patrol department works Sunday to Wednesday, and the other half works Thursday to Sunday, which results in a double overlap all day Sunday and partial quadruple overlap for six hours on Sunday. I have been told that these double and quadruple overlaps results in a 24 percent loss of effectiveness of OPD (Oakland Police Department.) 

The 12-hour shifts proposed by the Oakland mayor and police chief will result in one officer per patrol beat at all times with the total elimination of all the double and quadruple overlaps, which should be an improvement. After some online research, I am not as concerned about the 12-hour days as I initially was. There seem to be about as many different officer schedules as there are police departments. In many police departments the officers intentionally chose 12-hour shifts, and even see it as a positive recruitment factor. In the 19th century, officers often worked much longer hours six days a week, and often bunked at the station house like firemen do today. Yes, fatigue can be a factor. But officers on 12-hour shifts tend to get full days off every second or third day. Research shows that many officers with eight- or 10-hour shifts and less frequent breaks are equally likely to have some fatigue even before their shift begins. Also, many officers with shorter shifts are much more often mandated to extend their shifts, the worst of both worlds. My biggest current concern for Oakland is the morale issue where the Oakland police officers union is dead set against the twelve-hour schedule which they feel is being forced down their throats. 

However, I think Oakland could do even better by following Berkeley’s model which has four day 10-hour staggered shifts which Oakland officers want. Oakland does not seem to be taking advantage of the quieter times to have more officers available during the more active times of the day with much higher calls for service. 

A patrol officer is normally supposed to handle all the calls for service that arise in his beat during his patrol time. Beats in the Oakland flats on the Berkeley-Oakland Border are about 50 blocks in size. Just over the border in Berkeley, beats are a much more manageable 30 blocks in size. However, during the quieter hours of the night and early morning, Berkeley assigns one officer to cover two beats, a total area just slightly larger than one of Oakland’s adjacent beats. This much more closely follows the pattern of calls for service with smaller areas during the busy times and bigger areas during the quiet time. Berkeley does this with just small intentional 15 and 30 minute overlaps for roll call. 

Two subsequent letters by Charles Pine and Phil McArdle responding to Allen-Taylor’s feature article by make the arguments that Oakland should have either 1,100 or 2,000 officers. Many cities, especially on the east coast, would have 1,600 or more officers for a city the size of Oakland. Oakland has approximately 720 officers for 395,000 population, Berkeley has approximate 182 officers for 104,000 population, almost an exact four to one ratio in both officers and population. However, if Berkeley had the same murder rate as Oakland, there would be 20-25 deaths each year in Berkeley rather than the middle single digits. Yes, the demographics are different, but do the demographics account for the entire four or five to one difference in the murder rate? 

Osman Vincent 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Bush and his co-conspirators have known since 2003 that Iran is not producing and does not intend to produce nuclear weapons. Why then are they still insistent that war be perpetrated upon the nation and people of Iran? 

The answer is the I.O.C.: the Iran Oil Bourse, which is also called the International Oil Bourse. Although Iran has delayed opening its own new market for oil transactions three times since Spring of 2006 it has begun using the Euro in as many oil transactions as it can. 

When the dollar is no longer used in the majority of oil transactions world-wide the United States will no longer be in a controlling position in world oil markets. This is why ex and not-so-ex kingpins of the oil cartel in D.C. are pushing for war. 

Glen Kohler 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is with great pleasure that I read Ron Lowe’s weekly editorials...I mean letters. Becky, I can’t imagine what he’s done to gain such favor with you. Johanna Graham is another who seems to share your special editorial slant and enjoys a regular space for her misinformed rants. I so enjoy theirs and others’ perspectives on the world that find their way into this silly paper. It’s so dang entertaining! 

Anyway, I look forward to reading your fair and balanced coverage from outside the annual AIPAC dinner coming up. 

May I pass along any message on your behalf to all the elected officials inside the event? Remember, they’re ALL committed supporters of the Jewish state 

Jonathan Wornick 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Canyon Oaks II, as is, paves the way for destructive over-development in Richmond/El Sobrante Hills. The Hillside Ordinance calls for minimal grading and tree removal. The Tentative Tract Map imposes a typical suburban subdivision layout on steep hills and riparian corridors. The result is excessive grading and tree removal, contradicting the intent of the Hillside Ordinance. 200 to 400 significant trees are proposed to be removed where the Ordinance calls for careful consideration of tree-by-tree removal when “reasonably” necessary; implying only when other options are unavailable. 

Tree removal or grading should be allowed only after the CLB is formally established and irreversible. A prior, widely accepted working model should be presented for all to see, and then followed. 

Parts of the unusually large 32 lower lots could be left in their natural state (ungraded, with no trees removed). Homes could be placed flexibly. This could preserve significant wildlife habitat and make the project more appealing to both residents and neighbors. 

The upper lot pads for the custom home should be carefully conditioned. The upper lots are extraordinary habitats, laterally steep and tremendously scenic. These homes should not be towering mansions.. 

We want to condition Canyon Oaks II so that it adequately conforms to the Hillside Ordinance and General Plan; a win-win solution. This appeal will be heard at 7 p.m. Dec. 11, Richmond City Council Chambers, 1401 Marina Way South. 

Herk Schusteff 

El Sobrante 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

At the Canyon Oaks II planned development site, a grove of at least 200 healthy, mature California Live Oak trees are slated for removal along the northern steep slope. This fails to weigh the ecological impacts on the larger community. Hillside stability will be compromised. Tree dwelling mammals, birds and insects lose their homes, food sources and nesting areas. Ground mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects lose damp, shady areas that protect them from hot sun. 

Trees are nature’s most energy efficient air-cooling, filtering, and oxygen enriching systems. Loss of shade on this expanse of hillside creates a hotter microclimate. In addition to compromised air quality, this means increased water needs (for artificially imposed landscaping) and more electricity for home cooling. It seems contradictory for Richmond to allow this, while committing to “go green". While environmentally friendly industry should be applauded, could they also commit to “stay green"?  

The words “minimizing impacts, preserving and integrating natural features” appear repeatedly throughout the Richmond Hillside Ordinance, yet the Canyon Oaks II development is moving through, as is, in spite of failure to comply with these regulations. Please attend the Dec. 11 Richmond City Council meeting. There is a better solution. 

Mary De Benedictis 

El Sobrante 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Steve Geller keeps implying that I have avoided addressing the likely impact on local businesses if Bus Rapid Transit were implemented in Berkeley. That’s simply untrue. I have consistently stated that the removal of on-street parking spaces on Telegraph Avenue and in downtown would hurt small businesses.  

AC Transit’s current BRT proposal calls for the elimination of many parking spaces -- without replacement. Anyone who doubts that this would affect business revenue should talk with the merchants on Telegraph whose businesses suffered significant drops in income after the city removed parking spaces in front of their stores earlier this year. (The spaces have since been restored). 

Comparisons between Eugene, Oregon’s BRT system and AC Transit’s proposal are of limited value because conditions are different here. For example, their BRT route is not lined with businesses that rely upon on-street parking, while our route would pass businesses that need this parking along virtually the entire route. In addition, when parking was removed in Oregon, the planners made sure that ample alternate parking was available nearby, while in our case, the lost parking would not be replaced. 

I would be happy to discuss BRT with Steve Geller or anybody else at any time. I am 

hardly guilty of trying to duck this issue. As your readers know, I called for a public debate on this topic months ago, and I am still waiting for any BRT proponent to take me up on this offer. 

I think the public would benefit from a fuller discussion of the facts surrounding 

the BRT controversy. That’s our best hope to avoid making a disruptive $400 million mistake that would cost even more millions of dollars to correct later. 

Doug Buckwald 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

So which candidate am I rooting for as our next president? I vacillate on this decision almost daily. One day I’m high on Hillary, the next day it’s Obama. But this is what I know. In light of the horrendous Omaha and Colorado killings, whichever candidate demonstrates the courage to risk the wrath of the National Rifle Association by demanding tighter gun control laws will win my vote. 

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Several years ago I remained in “good faith” as I watched and worked with the city, particularly the Parks and Recreation Department, to find a way to keep our city pools open for use by the citizens of Berkeley. 

In 2001, the first year I was involved with P&R, COB, and citizen pool users in the effort to keep pools open, we experienced the same tactics and lack of good faith communication expressed in the Dec. 7 Daily Planet article, “Swimmers Irate after City Decides to Close the Last Open Pool.” It all sounds sadly and, unfortunately, totally familiar! 

Five and a half years ago, in that year’s attempt to close our pools, we found that apparently at least several thousands of dollars collected for city swim programs had been deposited in a private account and not turned over to the City of Berkeley. 

After we discovered and exposed the person responsible for these city swim programs and the money involved, said person was placed on administrative- leave with full pay pending investigation. I was told I would probably be called for testimony before the police department in regard to what I knew. But I was never called. 

The better part of a year transpired until the city again decided to close the pools in 2002. Citizens, now naming themselves the “United Pools Council,” attempted once again to work with the COB/P&R Dept. to find a way to keep pools open. During this time, he “United Pools Council” (UPC) raised over $30K in a fund raising marathon. Evidently, however, none of our efforts were sufficient. The COB/P&R had decided to close pools, and close pools they would—regardless, regardless, regardless! The decision had been made. 

But the most astonishing revelation of this period was when we found out that the person, “alleged” to have fraudulently collected several thousands of dollars in pool revenues which were never turned over to the city, was still on administrative leave, at full salary, pending investigation. This was 10 months after his initial removal. His annual pay was equal to the amount stated by P&R needed to keep a pool open for the entire year. 

Since then, it has become impossible to get any additional information about this case. When I/we call City of Berkeley Parks and Recreation Department to inquire of the status of the investigation, I/we are told, it is city policy that they are not allowed to discuss personnel matters. 

However, I don’t see this as a personnel matter. I see it as an investigation into a possible criminal matter. 

To this day, I have no idea what has happened in this matter. For all I know, the person in question may still never have been investigated, may still be on administrative leave, receiving full pay, pending investigation. 

What does this say to you about City of Berkeley? I know what it says to me. 

Sydney Vilen 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The United States used to be a symbol of justice, fairness, democracy, and human rights. We cannot say that we have a perfect history. However, we have never gone down as low as we stand today. The first decade of this millennium will put the United States side by side with dictatorial governments that committed atrocities and behaved with blatant disregard for international law. As a U.S. citizen and Army veteran, I would love to see justice and true democracy restored in my country. We owe it to ourselves, our children, and our place in history. 

Gustav Davila 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Last month, independent research teams from Japan and the University of Wisconsin announced that they had successfully reprogrammed adult skin cells to function as embryonic stem cells (ESCs.) This means that researchers need not engage in cloning for the purpose of deriving ESCs; and, importantly, there’s even less good reason to subject women to the health risks of ovarian hyperstimulation to extract the eggs needed to do the cloning. Further, one of the Wisconsin researchers, James Thompson, who also happens to be one of the pioneers who first derived ESCs, confesses now that he had always been uncomfortable doing ESC research. According to a bioethicist he consulted, the “technological power” of the research was disturbing. What would happen, for example, if someone were to place human stem cells into a rat’s brain? For Thompson, then, reprogramming adult cells came as a relief. Similarly, Ian Wilmut, one of the researchers responsible for cloning the sheep, Dolly, is so taken with cell reprogramming that he intends to give up cloning. “It seems we should all focus our efforts on reprogramming,” said Wilmut. So why does the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) insist that cloning research must continue? 

The justification for continuing ESC cloning seems to be that the new technology of cell reprogramming is too new and untried. Reprogrammed cells must prove themselves to be “pluripotent” (i.e. capable of maturing into other cell types) and safe. But truth be told, ESC cloning research is itself new and highly speculative. And its safety is far from certain—ESCs cause tumors. So why should ESC research—relatively new, highly speculative and of questionable safety—be held as standard bearer? Could it be that the potentially lucrative link between cloning and human genetic engineering accounts for the reluctance to drop cloning? The fact is that CIRM already has dedicated funds to conduct cloning research and millions of dollars in patenting opportunities are at stake. If CIRM wanted to avoid human genetic engineering and cared more about women’s health it would stop funding cloning research and invest solely in the less socially fraught enterprise of cell reprogramming. 

M. L. Tina Stevens 

Diane Beeson 

Alliance for Humane Biotechnology 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Without a doubt, I can honestly say, I am overjoyed by the three commentaries the Daily Planet printed as a response to my Nov. 23 commentary, “The State of Education.” Given the fact that my motivation to write this article derived from a sense of duty to our young people, it is extremely rewarding to see my hope for a dialogue realized. I am also pleased that several individuals found cause enough in my words to defend the education system as an institutional success. Obviously, this is not a stance I find very compelling, as my experiences as an educator substantially differ from those individuals who wrote responses to my article. 

I believe these individuals fail to understand, however, that I wrote my article in deference to a personal inclination to protect the status-quo of my profession. In his respect, my article robbed from me, the ability to insulate myself against the spiritual atrophy of personal failure. The phenomenon of personal failure is something that haunts teachers as they assess their life’s work in the shadow of the systemic failure that defines their trade over the last quarter century. 

This is not to say that everyday is a failure in our public schools. In regard to this point, I would be forever in the debt of any person who could point out where exactly in my previous article, as the three respondents claim, I stated that nothing positive ever happens in our schools. No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to find that particular passage. At this point I would be doing my self-esteem a huge service by finding this passage, removing it and imploring the Daily Planet to reprint the revised version. 

All kidding aside, in my life I have found that people attack a person’s credibility to win an argument only if they feel that facts don’t back up their claims. Therefore, it would be arrogant of me to sit here and deconstruct every article that was written in response to mine, given that the crux of these argument were, like mine, anecdotal. If these individuals view the quality of our schools as adequate, I cannot argue against their contention, by virtue of the fact that I was never in the classroom with any of these individuals. The only thing I can do is report the world as I see it. From where I am standing, our schools do not present as rosy a picture as these teachers implore upon the readers of this newspaper to believe. Hopefully, the greater percentage of people who consider my article carefully, would realize that I made no pretense to undermine the individual educator or student, only the system as a whole. Frankly, I am confused by the fact that trained educators (assuming they are formally trained), as the authors of these articles, can not distinguish between conjectural and anecdotal writing. 

Another thing that confounds me is that no letters were printed in this newspaper which hinted at anything positive I wrote in my article. If no letters were forthcoming in this respect, I would be very surprised. I make this claim, because I can attest to the fact that there are many educators who agree with my assessment of our educational system. Anyone who has had the chance to spend a day in a teacher’s lounge in the bay area would not argue this claim. I am aware that I cannot speak for every educator, and there are certainly those eternally optimistic few who scoff at my views. In fact, I have had a several discussions when a teacher disagreed with me outright. Although I didn’t agree with them on many of the issues we discussed, at least they had the forethought to utilize proper grammatical structure when addressing me. 

Jonathan Stephens 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Mike Huckabee’s rise in polling numbers, voter approval, is coming from one source only—white evangelicals and fundamentalists —and is not in anyway a representative picture of the overall voting electorate. Huckabee’s support comes from the religious right, from a group intent on tearing down the wall between church and state and having prayer in school. Huckabee represents a segment of society that is anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-immigration pro-war and out of touch with reality. 

Has United States become the bully pulpit of religious politics and does America need another Republican in the White House expanding his ministry? 

Ron Lowe 

Grass Valley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is no surprise that KPFA ( 94.1 FM) listeners elected five Bay Area notables in the recent Local Station Board election (Sherry Gendelman, Warren Mar, Matthew Hallinan, Susan McDonough and Dianne Enriquez, all Concerned Listeners) who ran positive campaigns focussed on the strength of their experience and their vision for KPFA. Four candidates from other slates were also elected. Perhaps it also should not be a surprise that candidates who have lost, such as Steve Zeltzer, are now contesting the election. What is alarming is that Pacifica Election Supervisor Casey Peters has indulged in partisan behavior throughout the election process and is now threatening not to certify the election on grounds that can only be described as politically motivated. 

We would be the first to point out the problems with this election. The most egregious violation of Pacifica’s Fair Campaign rules was the serial defammation by one slate, personally attacking Concerned Listener candidates as well as KPFA staff and board members, which was published with Pacifica resources and sent to the tens of thousands of KPFA subscribers with their ballots. Despite the fact that Peters allowed this to happen, we feel that it is in KPFA’s best interest for the election to be certified rather than going to the expense of another election, which has cost the station $70,000 of the listeners’ money, although we are confident if it were done over, our slate would win again. 

Zeltzer is challenging the election based on specious grounds, claiming that commentaries written by KPFA staff in the Planet violated the Fair Campaign rules. Those rules state that no station resources may be used to advocate in favor or against any candidate, but staff clearly have First Amendment rights and are allowed to state their opinions in non-Pacifica public fora. Zeltzer even argues that an email written in 2005 by radical journalist Doug Henwood about Bob English, who ran for the board this fall, was a violation of this election’s Fair Campaign rules! 

Zeltzer also argues that the elections should be overturned because of an email Larry Bensky sent endorsing Concerned Listeners. Bensky, who is no longer a KPFA employee, emailed listeners who had asked to stay in touch with him following his retirement. He contacted the Local Elections Supervisor beforehand to see if it was okay for him to do this and was never told he should not send it. Pacifica Election Supervisor Peters now refuses to certify the elections until Larry Bensky makes a public statement in favor of listener-elected boards and vows to never endorse candidates in any future election -- which Pacifica does not ask of any staff or listener and which is a violation of his free speech rights. Peters has already punished Bensky by banning him from Pacifica’s airwaves until Peters’ term is over, extended into 2008. 

It is time for Peters to move beyond partisanship and act in KPFA’s best interest by certifying this election, which had record listener turnout, so that the Local Station Board can get to work to improving that wonderful and priceless resource. 

Mary and Jon Fromer, Warren Mar, Susan McDonough, PhoeBe Sorgen, John VanEyck, Sherry Gendelman, Conn Hallinan