Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday January 08, 2008


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding Isabella La Rocca’s Jan. 4 letter calling for a boycott of Kentucky Fried Chicken, I presume it was inspired by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ five-year campaign focused on KFC. Readers should be aware that the real targets of PETA’s campaign are the large wholesale chicken producers that supply all major restaurant chains, conventional supermarkets, and the vast majority of independent restaurants. In this context, singling out KFC may be politically pragmatic, but it’s ethically arbitrary. If you want to boycott inhumanely-raised chicken, limit your purchases to the small but growing minority of restaurants and markets that specifically identify their suppliers and/or have been certified humane by organizations such as Humane Farm Animal Care ( 

Robert Lauriston 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

J. Douglas Allen-Taylor’s column (Dec. 14) speaks to an issue that is coming more and more into focus. 

“There is a Tradition to American Torture,” and there is also the problem of what to do about it. The founding fathers took on “cruel and unusual punishment” in the Bill of Rights, but they neglected to ban torture in the Constitution. They seem to have thought it was “obvious.” 

He says, “However it may be treated with shame, like the odd cousin never let out of the closet while company is in the house, torture has been—and remains—an American tradition. To end that tradition, we must first stop pretending that it does not exist or feign shock and surprise when it resurfaces, as it does, periodically.” 

This summer in San Francisco the American Psychological Association split over psychologists providing services for (interrogation) torture. A similar issue happened with the American Anthropological Association. “Resurfacing” is happening in a serious way. 

I work with the Coalition for Justice and Accountability in San Jose. Our group was organized around police brutality, notably the July 2003 shooting of Bich Cau Tran by the SJPD. We struggle against several kinds of torture, including, as well as police brutality, Tasers, forensic abuse of prisoners, and child abuse. We are allied with the SVDebug effort to create police oversight in San Jose. We also struggle against behavioral health “treatment” when it takes the form of torture, and we were a cosponsor of the “Ethical APA” demonstration against interrogation torture in San Francisco this summer. 

This country should face up to the “tradition” and move towards a Constitutional ban on torture. 

Andrew Phelps 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

J. Douglas Allen-Taylor (Jan. 4) suggests that a debate on faith and religion should be part of the electoral process, to explore and explain the relevant positions of process, to explore and explain the relevant positions of candidates. Since the supposed merits of various religious superstitions and shibboleths have been debated and fought over for thousands of years and since there can never be a factual basis for any opinion, I doubt that we would be enlightened by such a colloquium. 

In an ideal world we could hope for a candidate who had the courage to eschew any religious affiliation, but given a populace that considers obeisance a virtue, the best we may hope for is a pledge not to let religious conviction affect political policy. Meanwhile, we have a president who—acting on the advice of god, he tells us—has wasted our military reserve, crippled our economy, and eroded our stature in the world. Such a president can send thousands of men to their death in military adventures, comforting himself that their valor will win them a virtuous place in an eternal afterlife. So long as we elect men who believe such hokum we consign ourselves to having a madman as president. 

And one would-be replacement rejects evolution, perhaps the most researched and validated concept in science, while his belief that the world was created 6,000 years ago dismisses many areas of established knowledge in physics, chemistry, genetics, geology, archeology, and astronomy. It’s an international embarrassment that this ignorant man is considered a viable candidate for the presidency. 

Jerry Landis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In J. Douglas Allen-Taylor’s Undercurrents essay entitled: “A Religious and Spiritual Test for Candidates,” he calls for a “roundtable” where representatives of all major faiths from Christians through Wiccans can discuss their faiths and religions. But nowhere in this dialogue does he include the 14 or so percent of us who are estimated to have no religious views. 

Not that much different from Mitt Romney who, to smooth over apprehensions about his Mormonism, tries to appeal to all faiths but leaves “no room at the inn” for us non-believers. Instead, he cites “secularism” as the great common enemy. His fellow Republican ex-president George H. W. Bush once said: “I don’t know that atheists should be regarded as citizens nor should they be regarded as patriots. This is one nation under God.” 

As a life-long atheist and/or secular humanist, I regard our thinking to be more along the lines of our Deist early statesman who wrote the Constitutional clause decreeing the separation of church and state than that of most theists. 

Theists talk about “values” candidates for office as those professing a religious faith as if non-believers have no “values.” 

I was raised by working-class immigrant atheist parents, of whom I’m proud and whose values were part and parcel with their humanist, democratic socialist politics. They inspired me with their advocacy for the underdogs and have-nots of society, social equality, the rights of labor and in their horror of war as a means of solving human problems. They had no need for a supreme being to arrive at these values in their lives. 

Only one member of the U.S. Congress has the courage of his convictions to declare himself a non-believer. He is Rep. Pete Stark of our own Bay Area. So deep is the prejudice of so many of the religious in America. 

But it is different in some other countries. A couple of years ago, overwhelmingly Roman-Catholic Chile elected an avowed agnostic, Michele Bachelet, as its first woman president. 

Tarja Halonen, the first woman president of Finland, now serving her second six-year term, left the Lutheran Church, a state religion, some decades ago in protest over its refusal at that time to ordain women clergy. In a country that is now 80 percent Lutheran, her current popularity figures surpass 80 percent. 

One hopes that some day our own country would become so open-minded and leave religous affiliation or profession aside as a determinant for elective office. 

Harry Siitonen 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In reading J. Douglas Allen-Taylor’s column “A Religious and Spiritual Test for Candidates” (Jan. 4), I noticed that when he is mentioning religions, he uses the terms Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Christian, Buddhist, Islam and Mormonism. He also uses “wicca” and “ifa.” I’m not sure why he chose to not capitalize the latter two religions, or why the editors chose to allow the article to be printed that way. It is admittedly a very minor quibble with what was otherwise a good column, but it has been my experience that when the uncapitalized form is used, it reveals an opinion that the religion isn’t a “real” one, and that it can be denigrated. I do not know if this was the author’s intent or not, but I wanted to ask the Berkley Daily Planet to consider using the term “Wicca” in its proper capitalized form, just as it would any other religion. 

Robert A. James 

McFarland, WI 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

Voters in both parties went for new faces, new voices and a new approach to politics in Iowa’s caucuses. There is nothing new about the Republican winner Mike Huckabee. He is the product of three decades of religious and political inbreeding of the far right. 

Mike Huckabee as George Bush’s shadow and as a future Republican president would bring America four more years of Bush administration lite; more war, more deficits, more lies and secrecy, and more policies out of touch with mainstream America. 

How scary is Mike Huckabee: Fear factor 7. 

Ron Lowe 

Grass Valley  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I live in the south campus area but am not nearly as close as some longtime friends to the UC Storage building—where the City Council has signed off on a minimum of 23 cell towers beamed straight out from Ward and Shattuck into this dense residential neighborhood. 

People who have lovingly kept up and improved their home right in the “line of fire” are now most reluctantly looking into selling the house they’d hoped to one day pass on to their son. 

Why? Two reasons come to mind: First, a recent Israeli study which showed that some 622 people living close to cell towers for three to seven years faced four times the risk of cancer compared to those who did not. 

Second is the haunting memory of an older woman who came to a public hearing on the UC Storage proposal. She told of how dramatically her own life and health changed for the worse when a cell tower was beamed toward her apartment from a short distance. It was clear she had no “political” axe to grind, but wanted others to hear her story. 

The EPA says California cannot use a higher vehicle-emissions standard than the federal one. The FCC says it’s fine for media conglomerates to own all the outlets in a market, and that human health can’t be taken into consideration in siting cell-transmission towers. 

Let’s show support for those directly affected by the UC Storage decision. Personally, I think several of our council members need spine transplants. 

Donna Mickleson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On New Years’ Day I took a walk at Eastshore Park. “Where?” a friend asked: “Oh, you mean ‘the Bulb.’” 

Several small wooden signs, like oblong mushrooms, seemed to have sprung from the damp ground. “Trust Everyone.” “Share Everything.” Their idealism and optimism a reminder of the creative spirit that painted the caves at Lascaux and drew beauty out of the scrap and refuge that still litters this place. 

The beach was sealed off with yellow tape because of the oil spill. I walked the trail to Mad Mark’s castle and hobbled down the rocks to the breakwater. The rippling water reflected its shifting patterns on the hillside rocks while water birds fed and traveled across the surface of the bay. 

I noticed a small piece of metal embedded in the ground. “Listen” it read. So I stood in place and heard the wind while overhead two lines of cloud met in a burst of spectrum like a compressed rainbow. 

On my way back I saw lying on the ground two pieces of wood with lettering on them. Approaching closer I recognized them as the broken halves of the “Trust Everyone” sign I had seen on my way in. I suppose you could call the vandalism of that sign ironic. But that would be too cerebral a response. I felt it as heartbreak. 

Pete Levine 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

It’s easy to be seduced by intensifying winter storms and summer hurricanes into thinking that global warming only produces the melodramatic effects we see on television. But the real effects of global warming are arriving far more gently—and in Berkeley I have the personal data to prove it. When I moved into my northwest Berkeley house in 1977 (near Lalime’s restaurant on Gilman Street and a mile from the bay) I built a highly insulated space in the basement to use for wine storage. The temperature never changes measurably from day to night, but it does gradually change from summer to winter and back. Throughout the ’80s and ’90s that annual temperature variation consistently ranged between 60 and 65 degrees every year. In the current decade the annual variation—now over several years—has consistently moved up to between 62 and 67 degrees. That’s not much of a change, but it is a measurable one. It’s my own little two-degree share of global warming, and it’s a data source I will certainly continue to monitor. 

Alan Tobey 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

With the coming of each new year, I’ve been in the habit of making a Wish List—things that I believe would make this a better country. This year my list includes, among other things, the following: 

1. An end to the war in Iraq. 

2. Peace in the Middle East. 

3. A let-up in random, senseless shootings. 

4. No Britney Spears stories on TV and in the press. 

Having heard all I can bear about the trials and tribulations of Britney—her marital woes, custody battle for her children, frequent stays in rehab and/or the slammer on drunk driving charges, her nervous breakdown this past week, and, of course, her shaved head—in desperation I’ve sought help from above. “Heavenly Father, in your infinite mercy, please, please spare us further saturation of this unfortunate woman’s problems. Above all, may we not be subjected to similar stories about her pregnant 16-year old sister, Jamie Lynn!” 

It’s my sincere hope that we can go back to the more uplifting news of Jolie and Brad. 

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A recent newspaper headline announced: “Spears exits hospital, escorted by Dr. Phil.” I for one am fed up with reports, sightings, etc. of Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Lindsay Lohan. They seem such vacuous people who shouldn’t appear in the media again until they discover a cure for cancer, settle the Mideast crisis, curb global warming, or perform some more newsworthy accomplishment other than being their silly, self-destructive selves. Otherwise I really don’t want to hear their names or see their inane faces in the news again. They seem such useless and annoying creatures. The media has more important news to cover. 

Ralph E. Stone 

San Francisco  




Editors, Daily Planet:  

I would like to compliment you and your newspaper for publishing the article “Christmas Should Be All Year.” 

In fact, Mariana Castilho Rogedo was extremely happy to describe Christmastime in the present days. A great deal of consumerism and lack of understanding among people prevails. 

The same situation occurs here in Brazil, unfortunately, as a result of this world trend. 

My congratulations to Mariana. 

Antonio Castilho de Souza 

Belo Horizonte, Brazil 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

It was recently reported that after four-and-one-half years, 3,000 U.S. troops have died in Iraq and another 28,661 wounded. A 2006 “Lancet” study estimates that since the U.S. invasion in March 2003 through July 2006, there have been 654,964 “excess deaths” of Iraqis due to the war. In addition, it is estimated that 2.2 million Iraqis have been displaced inside the country and another 2.2 million have sought shelter in neighboring countries. Finally, the Iraq war costs to date exceed $480.6 billion and the cost could eventually surpass $1 trillion. 

What have we accomplished? 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 war began. In fact, a September 2007 BBC, ABC News, and NHK poll of 2,000 Iraqis found that about 70 percent believed that the recent surge “hampered conditions for political dialogue, reconstruction and economic development” and that nearly 60 percent see attacks on U.S.-led forces as justified. When will this president and Congress come to their senses and bring our troops home? 

Ralph E. Stone 

San Francisco 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

First there was the bait and switch - substituting war in Iraq for the apprehension of Osama bin Laden. 

There were non-existent WMD’S, War in Iraq, and “Mission Accomplished.” 

There were Bush tax cuts for the most wealthy using Clinton-era surpluses to hoodwink the public. Since then Bush and anti-tax Republicans have run up deficits in the trillions. 

There was Abu Graib, Gitmo, Gonzalez, secret prisons and always the coverup. 

Along came Hurricane Katrina, “Brownie,” and Bush administration ineptness. 

There was the White House outing of Valerie Plame, and U.S. Attorneys, “Scooter” Libby taking the fall for higher ups in the Oval Office. 

Now the missing CIA torture tapes. 

How much more damage can Bush do in the remaining year? 

Ron Lowe  

Grass Valley  





Editors, Daily Planet: 

In the new year 2008 I would like to see more peace, more happiness, better health and better education for all Bay area schools. I would like to see communities sharing their best resources with school-age children. 

I am distressed, when I read news about the difficult situation a child has to face. Neighborhood streets are preyed upon by a few uncaring adults who can take away an innocent child’s safety. The child cannot step out to play for fear of getting harassed or abused or kidnapped or killed. These uncaring adults on account of drugs or other addictions have lost the power to think that children of any group or race need the whole community’s help to grow and develop fearlessly. Those who have not experienced secure spaces during their early years may lose motivation. 

I am especially concerned about low income, single parent families which are already struggling to raise their children in this kind of unsafe environment. I have overheard children saying that they don’t like to walk home without their mothers because they don’t feel safe walking alone. 

My personal wish is for neighborhood communities to contribute their helping hands and their vigilant eyes to protect all children. Perhaps neighborhood adults can be more observant while children play close to schools or near public parks. Perhaps neighborhood businesses can help install good lighting in areas where children hang out. I will be very happy if civic leaders can give more thought to the safety of our children in the East Bay. 

Romila Khanna