Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday December 28, 2007



Editors, Daily Planet: 

What is woefully lacking in the media frenzy surrounding the release of the Mitchell Report on steroid use among professional baseball players is the growing steroid use among college, high school, and even grade school students. We forget that many of our youth look on professional athletes as role models. If professional athletes use illegal drugs as the easy path to big salaries and glory on the playing field and get away with it, is it any wonder that the would-be professional athletes of tomorrow will follow their example. 

But does it matter? In this age of wide-scale cheating and lying by public officials, researchers, academics, etc., the professional athletes’ use of steroids appears irrelevant to a lot of people. After all, professional sports is just entertainment and “everyone” was doing it. It should matter and if it doesn’t, that just demonstrates how far we have fallen as a society. 

Ralph E. Stone 

San Francisco 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks for another of Phil McArdle’s excellent articles on California writers. The piece on play/film script writer Sidney Howard took me back to one of my most moving hours in a movie house, where, in the pre-TV days of my childhood, I spent so many hours, three double features per week, never knowing or caring who wrote the script. No, I’m not referring Howard’s hitting the trashy big time with Gone With The Wind. What Phil brought back to me was a film version of Howard’s play, They Knew What They Wanted, which I saw when I was about 10 or 11. 

This was the version in which Charles Laughton plays an Italian-American farmer (!) near Fresno, who writes to a rather shopworn mail-order bride, played by Carole Lombard, desperate for a home. The new hired man, played by William Gargan, sizes her up instantly as battered, vulnerable, an easy lay, and doesn’t hesitate a minute.  

One reason I remembered this movie was that I asked my mother what happened between the scene that ended with them kissing, and the news that she is pregnant (10 years old was younger then) and my mother wouldn’t tell me “until you’re older.” But a much greater reason I remembered it was for the theme that even a 10-year-old could get. Phil calls this drama a comedy, but either he uses the term in the classical sense that if the stage isn’t littered with bodies at the end, it’s a comedy, or tremendous changes were made between Howard’s play and the adaptation that hit the screen three times (scripts never written by Howard). 

I held my breath as Laughton’s mild-mannered farmer went after the hired man with a terrifying bellow, having suddenly become huge as an avenging god. No staged Hollywood fist fight here; Gargan stands mute and defenseless as Laughton attacks him. 

Then, after the hired man leaves, the farmer gains even more stature in our eyes, in his wife’s eyes, maybe even wins her love, by forgiving her freely. In those days of censored but steamy movies, when everything was sex and sentimentality, I realized, even at that age, that I had actually seen something different, a love story on the screen, a love so strong that it really changed the woman who’d seen the farmer as any old port in a storm. Even the hired man, in silently acknowledging his self-indulgent near-destruction of lives, seemed almost redeemable in his surprising sense of guilt. A rough story about ordinary people, about morality and decency and love, with no sermons. 

The film haunted me for years, as a standard that other movies rarely even approached. Then I forgot it. Thanks, Phil, for bringing it back to me. I’m tempted to try to rent it on video, but maybe it wouldn’t live up to my memory of it. Better stick to the old movie enshrined in my shredded memory. 

Dorothy Bryant 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’ve been so afraid of Cheney and his ilk that I moved to New Zealand. I want to come back home, but only when we have a legal democratic government that upholds the constitution of the United States of America. 

Dr. Judy Lightstone 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing in regards to Richard Brenneman’s article in the December 21-27, 2007 Daily Planet about the December 17, 2007 public hearing on the proposed BP Helios biofuel project at LBNL. In that article he erroneously identified me as a “retired UC Berkeley engineering professor.” 

Never in my career working for the university have I held, or claimed to have held, an academic position as a professor. All the positions I have held at the university were either in engineering design development or administrative, and never academic. 

P.S. Please correct the spelling of my name. 

John R. Shively, P.E. 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Republican presidential candidates and the anti-immigration crowd are blaming Mexican immigrants for America’s economic morass. I thought Bush and Republicans had been in control of the U.S. government, not farmworkers and fry cooks. To make Hispanic immigrants out to be the villains that are responsible for society’s ills is unconscionable; but its the GOP way in an election year. 

Republican presidential hopefuls are pandering to the lowest common denominators, biases, prejudices and fears. What else can they do, trot out their failed war, huge debts, tax cuts for the wealthy. 

The GOP, conservatives and religious right-wingers are just the latest groups to vilify new immigrants. 

Ron Lowe  

Grass Valley, CA  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Our state government’s response to the EPA’s irrational ruling in favor of automobile pollution should be quick and simple. The court suit should be pursued, but it could take years to yield results. We have other options. Let the market decide. 

To facilitate that decision, the legislature should pass a onerous vehicular carbon tax that is collected at the time of sale. It could be a very simple tax, like $20,000 or 20 percent of the sale price per vehicle (whichever is more) on vehicles whose CO2 emissions exceed acceptable levels. More sophisticated formulas of paying for vehicular carbon credits could certainly employed and even enacted later, but what is needed now is a swift, draconian response that will provoke marketing fear in Detroit. 

Will this tax provoke court challenges? Of course it will. However, we could collect a lot of money and exert a lot of influence before the case is settled. It could take years for those challenges to get through the courts. Once this tax is passed, we can kick back and watch the glory of laissez-faire market forces do their magic. 

Thomas Laxar 

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

So Art Maxwell doesn’t want to bother with city mediation services to resolve the dispute between himself and the kid park because he “didn’t think that mediation would lead to a solution.” Instead, Maxwell feels that screaming and cursing and threatening little kids, and throwing bratty temper tantrums, and blaring obscene rap music at little children, and making them cry, is the way to resolve the dispute. Hey Art, glad to see you’re handling the situation with such a high degree of maturity . . . And I should add, as one of the THOUSANDS of homeless people in Berkeley (many of whom are also seriously disabled), you can be sure that we have incredibly sympathy for the terrible, terrible living conditions that you’re forced to endure.  

Ace Backwords 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

My cherished family live within a few short blocks of 2702 Shattuck Ave where the city is about to erect cell phone towers that emit radiation and can cause cancer. Even if there is a difference of opinion about just how dangerous these towers are for human health, there is substantial research that does confirm increase in the cancer rates of those living in close proximity. I would think that in a community like Berkeley who has been a leader in caring about people( the disabled and handicapped) as opposed to profit making corporations, you would oppose such an endeavor. 

This is a residential community and people’s treasured homes are at stake. If this was happening in your own backyard, I am sure you would have a different feeling about this. 

Please reach out to those opposing this plan and reach inward into your own conscience as well. Do the right thing, in the spirit of all those who have come before you—those leaders who stood up and opposed plans which clearly endangered the lives of others. 

Margo Davis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have read much of the AC Transit report on BRT. Among other things it does estimated that approximately 1,100 parking spaces would be eliminated should the entire project come into being from Berkeley to San Leandro. The repost also says some percentage of parking spaces would be replaced or mitigated. 

My question is: Where? 

If, say 30% of those parking spaces are replaced---just where are the going to be located? The BRT report is very detailed--except when it comes to just where AC Transit would create 300 or more new parking spaces. On this issue the report is silent. 

So, does anybody out there know just where AC Transit is planning to put the replaced parking spaces? 

Frank K. Greenspan 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The chief justification for killing fallow deer at Point Reyes was that : “...they were voracious eaters.” And since it follows that Americans eat more voraciously than any other nation on the planet (35% obesity), doesn’t the slaughter of these innocent creatures have ironic overtones?  

Robert Blau 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Now why on earth would a good Irish Catholic celebrate Christmas by attending a Kosher comedy program? Well, for one thing, after morning Mass there’s little to do on Christmas Day in Berkeley. The town’s deader than a door nail. Plus, I happen to love Jewish humor. So, when I saw an ad for the Kung Pao Kosher Comedy show in San Francisco, I coaxed a friend into going with me. 

This was the 15th Annual Program, produced by Lisa Geduldig, herself a stand-up comedian, held at the New Asia Restaurant in Chinatown. People were lined up hours before the doors opened and were assigned tickets for one of the tables seating 10. My friend and I sat at the Woody Allen Table up in the balcony, affording a perfect view of the show. But first we were served a nine-course dinner; no turkey, but a delectable feast served on a revolving lazy Susan. We knew none of the people at our table; they were mostly from out of town. But by the evening’s end we were fast friends. 

After dinner came the “hot and sour” Jewish comedy, m.c.ed by Lisa, poking fun at Jews and gays. She was followed by a youthful comedian, Scott Blakeman and Esther Goodhart (a very, very funny Asian woman, afflicted with Familial Dystonia that had confined her to a wheelchair for many years.) 

Ah, but then came the attraction that had lured me to this show in the first place—Shelley Berman! 

No, friends, he ISN’T dead. But he does show his age. Dressed in sartorial splendor, he moved slowly and at times seemed weary. But his gentle humor brought howls of laughter, except for one moving telephone monologue, where he portrays his own father, owner of a Chicago deli, questioning why he should give his son $100 to enroll in an acting school in New York, when he should be helping in the deli. It was a tender, touching skit, one that was very personal to the actor. 

At the program’s conclusion, Mr. Berman stood in the lobby, shaking hands with people eager to speak to him. He was genuinely and humbly grateful for the enthusiastic response to his act, reminding us that he started his career 50 years ago in San Francisco at the Hungry I. 

So, if you’re at loose ends next Christmas, I would suggest you get yourself over to the 16th Annual King Pao Kosher Comedy show for a truly delightful experience. 

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Downtown Berkeley seeks to become a regional theater district and successful shopping district. But there’s a problem because Downtown Berkeley also wants to be a national center for solving homelessness. In trying to do both, Berkeley will fail at both. 

According to journalist Carolyn Jones, 40 percent of Alameda County’s homeless live in Berkeley which has only seven percent of the county’s population. As Downtown Berkeley successfully attracts more and more drug addicts, mentally ill persons, and street drunks, shoppers will more and more prefer to spend their time and money in Fourth Street, Emeryville, or El Cerrito Plaza where panhandling and public intoxication are forbidden. 

Perhaps Berkeley should put it to a vote—should Downtown Berkeley be the successful shopping district it can be with theaters, museums and restaurants or a community more like San Francisco’s Tenderloin with lots of homeless people and the social service agencies which enable them.  

Nathaniel Hardin 

El Cerrito 



I have a suspicion that Judith Scherr who wrote the article on the councils new recycling bid may have been a member of Local 70. 

In the article ‘Council Opts to Send Out New Bid for Recycling’ dated 12/26/07 she advised that I was retired. Others have said much the same but in spite of it all I am still active and engaged. In my opinion, most of the time. 

Chuck Mack