Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday December 18, 2007



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Of course Ross and the Shoe Pavilion are leaving downtown Berkeley—shoppers need places to park! I’ve had to give up several times when I attempted to shop downtown. I can’t carry bedding or boxes of shoes long distances to my car or onto a bus. I drive to where I can park and shop. No parking or difficult and expensive parking downtown means no shopping.  

Diane Straus 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Law enforcement agencies are having trouble finding recruits who can meet a required zero tolerance for drug use. That is for illicit drugs, not alcohol and tobacco, which cause more deaths annually than all illegal substances combined. 

We should welcome the common sense approach being initiated by California cities where there are unfilled law enforcement jobs. Zero tolerance is not a realistic standard, and never has been, at any level of society, whether it’s in a public high school or police academy. 

If police and criminal justice resources were focused on serious crimes, the shortage of police officers would be less critical and police officers’ jobs would be less difficult…and less dangerous. Too much of our police effort is wasted on expensive drug busts chasing non-violent offenders.  

The raids being conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration (the notorious “Feds”), in cooperation with local police, on harmless marijuana dispensaries smacks of terrorism. 

Our nation spends an estimated eight billion dollars on marijuana enforcement annually while arresting over 800,000 of our fellow citizens, 89 percent of whom for simple possession alone (FBI Uniform Report). 

Where are our public officials and our representatives in Congress? Our politicians? Are they afraid of alienating the powerful interests who benefit from the status quo? 

John Wagers  





Editors, Daily Planet: 

While reading the old Berkeley Daily Gazette recently, I was amazed at one of the front page stories for March 18, 1926. The Berkeley Planning Commission was discussing height limits for buildings since the 12-story Chamber of Commerce Building (now the Wells Fargo Building, northwest corner Center and Shattuck) had recently been constructed.  

One speaker at the meeting brought a before and after photo showing what downtown Berkeley would look like with rows of 12-story buildings along Shattuck Avenue. Surprisingly, the speaker was UC President William W. Campbell who argued that Berkeley owed some consideration to UC, while making it clear that UC had no intention of interfering in Berkeley’s zoning matters. Dr. Campbell also pointed to European cities that he claimed had successfully controlled building heights. In a follow-up letter, Dr. Campbell argued that the founders of the UC campus had selected Berkeley, in part, because of the spectacular views! He felt that it would be unfair to obstruct campus views with so many skyscrapers. 

A few years later Dr. Campbell was replaced by UC Comptroller Robert Gordon Sproul, who would take a huge 1926 voter-approved bond to fund a 30-year building spree, interrupted only by a depression and war. Sproul would never have shown up at a Berkeley Planning Commission meeting. 

Jerry Sulliger 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I would like to briefly comment on Sue Pflederer’s Dec. 14 letter to the editor about “The Surge.” As I remember, the surge was supposed to improve security so that Iraq could find a political solution for its internal conflicts. Quoting President Bush: “Victory in Iraq will bring something new in the Arab world—a functioning democracy that polices its territory, upholds the rule of law, respects fundamental human liberties and answers to its people.” That’s not today’s Iraq. Iraq is no closer to a functioning government or to a reconciliation among its various religious groups as when the surge began. In fact, a September 2007 BBC, ABC News, and NHK poll of 2,000 Iraqis found that about 70 percent believed that the surge “hampered conditions for political dialogue, reconstruction and economic development” and that nearly 60 percent see attacks on U.S.-led forces as justified. And U.S. officials have admitted that the recent decrease in violence has much to do with the decision by Muqtada al-Sadr to temporarily stand down his militia, the Sunni groups reigning in al Qaeda, and Iran using its influence to curb the violence by some Shiite militias. 

Of course, I don’t want to be accused of confusing anyone with facts. I will just finish with a quote from a past master of propaganda: “Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.” (Hermann Goering, Nazi leader, at the Nuremberg Trials, April 18, 1946.) See any similarities? 

Ralph E. Stone 

San Francisco 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I don’t think they should shut down any lanes on Telegraph. It is already hard to maneuver from my house in North Berkeley to the medical offices in South Berkeley. 

I think that BART is the answer to north-south transportation in Alameda County. The AC Transit Buses should loop to the BART stations. The reason why more people don’t take BART for local transportation is that it is too expensive. They should lower the fares on BART. 

From the looks of things, it appears that AC Transit is competing with BART. Why do they have buses going over the Bay Bridge when BART is much more efficient? 

Aren’t all the mayors and other politicians de facto members of BART’s board? Why don’t they push for more cooperation? Or is this a situation like the firemen on the trains that switched to diesel? AC Transit people just don’t want to be eliminated. 

Bill Weiss 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I promise not to recite any poetry or call for any shows of hands at the BRT debate. I appreciate that Charles Siegel let me know what the real problem was—all along, I thought it was just their reluctance to allow an honest public discussion of the facts about BRT. Now that that’s been cleared up, can we set a date for the event? I think sometime in early February would work well. 

Doug Buckwald 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Where in the world did Riya Bhattacharjee get information regarding the story “Effort to Save Historic Japanese Florist Can’t Prevent Demolition” (Dec. 14)? Specifically the assertion that “For many of the Berkeley residents who frequented the Auto California showroom at 1806 San Pablo Ave. until it closed recently, the building meant just one thing—a car wash run by an amicable Middle Eastern family.” First, developer Syed Adeli is anything but amicable as neighbors of the property can testify. Second, Auto California has not “recently closed.” This junk yard has been an eyesore since before the auto repair shop closed at least four years ago. When Mr. Adeli opened the repair shop several years ago he violated city code by installing repair lifts and other equipment without proper permits. The property was overgrown with weeds and has been frequented by the homeless and drug dealers. Neighbors have had to repeatedly nag Mr. Adeli to clean-up the property. 

About the only item that’s accurate in the story is that Mr. Adeli is asking the city to defer his permit fees of $315,588. The deferral would be secured by a deed of trust on another property owned by Mr. Adeli. Mr. Adeli is not a poor man trying to salvage his financial livelihood. He owns several properties, including his own home, that can be used as collateral with outside financial institutions in order to secure the permit fees. The City of Berkeley should not be in the business of granting loans to developers. 

When writers report such inaccuracies as Riya Bhattacharjee has for this story, it damages the credibility of the Daily Planet. Stop making things up and report the news. 

Dennis Markham 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

One New Year’s Eve, we had a dog food emergency. I rushed down to Animal Farm. Coming out, suspect (violation of Stupidity to Animals) realized that his canines were locked in the vehicle with the engine running. The wife didn’t answer the phone. We never cleaned. Any vacuuming was done in a frantic spree. 

I flagged down a police car. Two officers tried opening my door. No go. Officers, this is my address. Here is my license (no, not a license for the monkeys). Take it so that my wife will give you car keys. 

At home, the police knocked and noticed. No answer, only the sound of binge vacuuming. Overhead lights and siren were used. Vacuuming silenced. Police flashed my license. Wife scared sh—less. “My husband expired during the dog food mission?” Keys to dogmobile taken into evidence then driven back to me. Our doggies journeyed into the New Year with full bellies. 

Why this confession? I promised to thank the officers by a letter to the Police Department. I never did. Their helpfulness happened 20 years ago. I’ve lost their names. Is it too late to make amends? Sorry I didn’t keep my word. My puppies have passed on, but your gentleness and humor reflected the spirit of our animal companions. Thank you, officers. 

Gatto Louie 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Hey, all you retiring baby boomers who aren’t moving out to the soporific boondocks, who still love the lively, urban environs of Berkeley, who want to give back to the community, who aren’t afraid of Telegraph Avenue and who want to jazz up their lives with new friends, we’ve got something for you! 

The Friends of the Berkeley Public Library is seeking members and volunteers to help operate its two thriving stores that sell used books. We are a non-profit group that for over 10 years has collected and sold books that have been donated to us from private libraries and individuals. Up to $100,000 is made each year and given directly to the Berkeley Public Library. Uses of the moneys have included the Summer Reading Program, Adult Literacy, Earphone English, the Noon Music Series (the Baguette Quartette!), the acquisition of special collections and the support of our library staffs’ continuing education with free college scholarships. 

Volunteers are needed at our two stores; a one-person space at the Central Library and the main store in the Sather Gate Mall. The one-person store is like a BART station newspaper stand with just enough room to turn around once in a while. But the locale can’t be beat. Central is a jumping place and the store has the best view of a parade of visitors. Everyone you have ever known throughout your decades in Berkeley will inevitably journey into Central and find you. Even those you’ve forgotten or avoided will show up and old remembrances will be brought up, as everyone goes to the Library. This is the store for those who hoped that everyone they once knew through schools, work or living had not left town. 

On the other hand, our main Bookstore is in the bustling Telegraph Avenue shopping district and is one of its great, hidden treasures. It is near the elevators of the Sather Gate Mall and Parking Garage that is located below Telegraph between Durant and Channing. It may be one of the City’s largest used bookstores and it is stuffed with books. When you see it, you might despair of its crowded ambiance. However, we are hoping to double our size soon and expand into an adjacent space. We will then be directly on the Mall thoroughfare with much better visibility, light and air. 

Our members serve as the sellers, deliverers, sorters, pricers, shelvers and promoters of the thousands of generously donated books. If you’ve ever wanted to help run a little bookshop, make lots of money for the community, enjoy the company of like-minded bibliophiles, browse through a trove of books, and place on your resume-merchant book seller, this is the group for you. You’ll be handling Civil War journals, first editions of poetry, fabulous art portfolios, music scores and other never know what will turn-ups at our doorstep. There’s an added benefit of re-experiencing first-hand, this time as a sort of merchant, the indescribable Telegraph Avenue scene!  

The Friends is one of those little-known Berkeley organizations that quietly perform essential community work. We are entirely non-political, busy worker bees, not affiliated with other Library groups such as the Trustees or the Foundation. For those of you who love the Library and want to work directly for its betterment, please consider joining our good company. Contact the Sather Gate Bookstore at 841-5604 (Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).  

Jim Novosel  





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Two topics have been prominent in recent issues of the Planet: The cost of the Iraq war and the state of American education. On Tuesday evening, Dec. 11, seeking an hour of mindless entertainment, I tuned the TV to Boston Legal on ABC, a show that is reliably silly and sometimes fun. To my surprise the writers had addressed those two topics in language that may deserve repeating. In the first of two fictional legal actions, a man who had lost his business to a predicted flood sued the National Guard for failure to protect him, since they were deployed in Iraq. As part of his argument, his attorney said: 

“Let’s just consider what the $450 dollars we’ve spent in Iraq could buy us: Free health insurance for every uninsured family ($124 billion). Converting every single car to run on ethanol ($68 billion). Primary education for every child on the planet ($30 billion). Ending hunger in America ($7 billion).” 

In the second case, an honors high school student sent to study abroad for a year had found herself disgraced by the inferiority of her education compared to that of her European counterparts. On her return, she protested by shredding a copy of the national assessment test and scattering the confetti in the school office, for which she was expelled. In suing to be readmitted, she argued in part: 

“Did you know there’s a study that found one third of young adults in the United States can’t tell you which way northwest is? Less than 40 percent of high school seniors can read proficiently. The data on these tests in so fudged—in Mississippi, for example, the national test showed that only 18 percent of kids can read proficiently, so what did they do? They made a special Mississippi test that showed that 89 percent were proficient, and presto—they avoid sanctions from No Child Left Behind.” 

Can there be hope for prime time network TV? 

Jerry Landis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I wonder why we still allow cigarette sales near student housing areas or near bus stops or on the sidewalks. If smokers have the right to inhale all kinds of stuff what about the rights of those who don’t have any such need? What about those who want to be miles away from smokers and their smoke? I have difficulty in finding smoke-free bus stops as I travel to work each day. I do see signs on the benches which read: No Smoking — 20 feet. But why allow any smoking close to bus stops? We non-smokers don’t need second hand smoke; the environment is already polluted from hundreds of cars, trucks and buses emitting carbon monoxide. 

Let smokers go to smoking clubs if they wish. The rest of us would like to stay as healthy as possible. 

Romila Khanna 






Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have seen television newscasts that show self-proclaimed experts behind a desk with papers and computers in the backdrop; these apparent experts proclaim that according to physics—specifically according to thermodynamics—you have to expend more energy in the production of ethanol than you get back.  

This is a compelling argument. After all, isn’t it so that you can’t get energy out of nowhere? Isn’t it so that the energy you get out of a point must be equal to the energy that goes in?  

Before thermodynamics, many experimenters attempted to invent “perpetual motion” devices. For example, what about connecting a motor up to a generator that supplies the motor with electricity? Wouldn’t that keep running indefinitely as it supplies itself? Except for the fact of heat loss, it might work. Additionally, thermodynamics tells us that the amount of energy we get out of something has to be equal to the amount we put in, minus losses due to imperfect efficiency of the thing. The imperfect efficiency of something means that some of the energy expended takes the form of heat produced. When ball bearings rub against each other, there is some resistance that causes slight drag on the motion of the bearing and produces heat. In the windings of a motor, there exists resistance in the copper, again that produces heat as the current flows through the wire.  

Why, (despite the thermodynamic argument of these pseudo professors) can the amount of energy we get in the form of ethanol be more than the amount of energy expended by the farm and production equipment?  

The answer is: our sun radiates light energy into the leaves of cornstalks that makes them grow and produces energy molecules (sugar, fat, etc). The sugar in the corn is then fermented to produce ethanol. The sun is the actual supply of energy when you grow corn to produce ethanol to supply our automobiles.  

It is still possible to expend more than a gallon of gas to produce a gallon of ethanol, however. This is the case if the corn is grown in an extremely inefficient and power hungry manner. In this case, more gasoline energy is consumed farming the corn than the energy our sun puts into the system. In this case, ways must be found to make the process more efficient. Either that, or get the ethanol from another, less power hungry source.  

Jack Bragen 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Every day, hundreds of kids from Berkeley High School go to the Young Men’s Christian Association (the YMCA) facilities on Allston Way, less than a block away from the school campus. They don’t go there because it’s a Christian-men only association (which it’s not), but because it has a great swimming pool, workout facilities, racquetball court, steam room, sauna. You name it, it has it. I personally enjoy this place a lot and consider it a great asset to the community. 

However, I would like to explain some of the frustrations that many of my peers and I have with this place. The YMCA closes too early. They won’t allow you in after a certain time. I understand that they don’t have insurance for us after 8 p.m. on weekdays, but we need to change this policy. If you open up a YMCA right near a major high school, you need to cater to them. I feel that the real reason they don’t allow in teens after specific hours is that certain people want a time slot to go to the Y where they don’t have to look at and share the facilities with “mindless hooligans.” It’s ageism and many of us don’t appreciate it.  

Another issue is the guest system. Up until a year or two ago, adults AND teens were allowed to bring guests into the YMCA. Adults have/had a certain number of guests they can/could bring, and guests of teens had to pay $5 for a visit. It was great. Teens who didn’t have a Y membership could still check out the facilities. Now the management has decided that teens can’t bring any guests in at all. 

I would like to encourage everybody to call up David Chong, director of facilities at the Berkeley YMCA at 848-9622 x 230 and tell him that you want to see more of a dialogue regarding teen hours and discuss ways to receive insurance for kids after 8 p.m. In addition, tell him that you want teens to be allowed to bring guests into the Y. 

With your help, we can make the Berkeley YMCA a more kid-friendly place. Thank you for listening. 

Rio Bauce 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Senators Boxer and Feinstein have once again demonstrated their commitment to California constituents and to genocide-afflicted civilians in Darfur. Last week, both senators voted for the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act (SADA), which authorizes and protects states and asset managers that divest from foreign companies whose business relationship with Sudan helps fuel the Darfur genocide. This piece of legislation is especially crucial for us Californians, since both our state and our UC system have recently divested from businesses working with the genocidal regime in Sudan. All that’s left now is to convince the Bush administration of SADA’s importance—a difficult feat that will require the determination of all our elected officials, including Senators Boxer and Feinstein, and Representative Lee. 

Charlotte Hill 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In a Dec. 11 letter by KPFA Concerned Listeners (CL) Mary and Jon Fromer, Warren Mar, Susan McDonough, PhoeBe Sorgen, John VanEyck, Sherry Gendelman and Conn Hallinan complain that a challenge to the certification of the recent board elections by candidate Steve Zeltzer is wrong and damaging to KPFA. 

The statement is factually wrong on many counts. 

1. The petition to the National Election Supervisor (NES) Casey Peters has 25 people including members of all three independent slates. Targeting one of the signers is a personal attack not only against Zeltzer but all the “losing” candidates. 

2. The challenge calls for the (NES) to remedy the violation of bylaws and election rules include using foundation resources for partisan intervention in the election most openly by Pacifica Counsel Dan Siegel and programmer Larry Bensky. 

3. The (NES) is blamed for being partisan however CL candidates were unfairly supported by the management. Radio carts were not played in a fair manner and only after the election was nearly over and the web site prevented links from going out by the Voices For Justice slate. Management has also thwarted the efforts of the unpaid staff organization UPSO to participate in staff elections. 

4. NES actions to remedy these violations were taken but ignored in part by KPFA management. Obstruction of NES rulings by CL management supporters is itself an election violation and puts the election in jeopardy. 

5. Signers charge Peoples Radio (PR) ballot statements are “personal attacks” but providing written facts about the record of CL supporters maybe uncomfortable but is essential information for an informed electorate. 

6. The election did not have “record listener turnout.” It dropped 500 votes from the last election. 

7. Concerned Listeners want the election “certified rather than going to the expense of another election, which has cost the station $70,000 of the listeners’ money,” yet the same Gendelman and CL/programmer supporter Brian Edwards-Tiekert have threatened to sue Pacifica unless the election is certified. (Letter from attorney Pyle, former colleague of Dan Siegel and president of N.CA NLG.) 

Doing damage control for management by CL in this election seems to be more important than “saving money” at KPFA/Pacifica. The election mess and lawsuit threat maybe one reason, Nicole Sawaya, Pacifica ED has recently quit after only weeks on the job. This interim management/CL nexus at KPFA/Pacifica have created an untenable situation even for people they consider their own. 

Bob English, Steve Zeltzer, Linda Hewitt, Mara Rivera, Maxine Doogan, Joseph Wanzala, Carl Bryant, Stan Woods 


EDITOR’S NOTE: In an upcoming issue, the Daily Planet will run one commentary each from Concerned Listeners and People’s Radio on the Local Station Board election. Each side will then be given space to respond to the other in a subsequent issue. Until then, the Planet will print no further letters on the topic. 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Sunday evening, Oct. 28, I attended the annual dinner of the Ecumenical Peace Institute at Redwood Gardens in North Berkeley. Although I moved a year-and-a-half ago to Santa Cruz from the East Bay, where I’d lived for 11 years, I went up to Berkeley primarily to attend the dinner and see a long-time friend, Dr. Joseph Gerson, who is program secretary for the American Friends Service Committee’s New England Region, where I served as regional director in the late 1970s and hired Joe to do Middle East educational work. 

Upon coming out of the dining room, I made the rather complicated crossings of upper Derby street and the street it turns into at the northern barrier, accompanied by a helpful gentleman whose wife awaited him in a wheelchair. As we reached the corner where my car was parked, he turned back, and I headed onto the handicap ramp, leaning on my cane. But it really wasn’t a ramp—there was a curb of about one-and-one half inches, and I stumbled as my foot caught the curb. Down I went—Splat!—with my face and left knee hitting the sidewalk really hard. My nose immediately started running blood, and I could feel blood on my forehead and coming from my lip. A driver who had been waiting at the light for me to cross turned the corner and parked. He ran back to me with wads of tissues or napkins, and said, “I’m a doctor, I’ll call 911,” which he proceeded to do, then waited with me until a fire truck came. The crew gave me more tissues and asked the usual questions about name, did I know where I was, etc. They were joined by a kindly policeman, who comforted me until a red ambulance came and took me to Alta Bates Emergency Room—the crew handling me carefully and caringly and asking me more questions. 

At the hospital, I was surprised to see a completely re-built, re-furbished emergency room and waiting room. When I took my husband there some years ago, those rooms were freezing cold, and dingy. He told the staff immediately that he had malaria (being form Africa, he’d had it many times and knew the symptoms well). Nevertheless, they did a number of tests and four hours later, called and woke up a specialist, who told them that of course, with those symptoms, he had malaria. 

This time, the staff were immediately attentive—they put warm blankets on me, examined my wounds, and did a CAT scan to make certain my brain was not bleeding and that I had no cracks in my skull. The gave me pain medication and mopped up the blood, stitched my upper lip on the inside and stuck a blob of glue on the outside. They took my Medicare and insurance information, and gave me a written report, instructions and prescriptions. The released me in the care of my daughter, who got out of bed to come and pick me up. 

I cannot give enough thanks to everyone involved, from the doctor who called the ambulance and staved off my fright, to the firemen, policeman, and ambulance crew, and then the hospital staff—from Dr. Jonathan Vlahos to the nurses Elmo and Laurel and others, everyone was competent, solicitous and kind. I am now finally shedding all the black, blue, purple, red and yellow face colorings and two very black eyes. (I have told people, “No , it isn’t left-over Halloween face paint, and nobody beat me up!”) 

Residents of Berkeley are fortunate to have such efficient, well-trained, kindly public servants and medical personnel. And thanks too, to Alta Bates, which seems to have gotten its act together since my husband was there, and provides first class treatment. I offer my appreciation to all those nice folks who helped me so much when I needed it. 

Marjorie Swann Edwin 

Santa Cruz 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I like Hillary Clinton. But a recent poll suggests she would lose in head-to-head matchups with any of the five leading GOP presidential candidates. Why is this?  

Hillary’s unfavorable rating, nationally, continues holding steady at 47 percent. Not only does she lose in matchups with Republican White House hopefuls, she would probably drag the whole Democratic ticket down. 

And there are tens of millions of evangelicals and fundamentalists who actively and compassionately despise Hillary Clinton (this from a group of religionists who proclaim Jesus, Lord of Love, as their leader. 

What can democratic leaders be thinking, considering Hillary a viable and winning presidential candidate? 

Ron Lowe  

Grass Valley