Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday February 01, 2008


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Many thanks for the update on the attempt to ban recruiting for our military in your fair city. As one who visits annually with three friends for a long weekend of Cal and Raider football (while staying in the Berkeley Marina area and paying huge taxes on the rooms and rental car and other miscellaneous items and services) we won’t be coming back due to this continued effort. Its racial, unpatriotic and downright wrong. We’ll take in a Raider game in another more rational city and try to do the same with Cal.  

Thanks for the memories.  

Wesley W. Brumback 

Oviedo, Florida 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Since the Aug. 2, 2007 murder of Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey, the media has increasingly focused on the late Yusuf Bey, his family and followers, and Your Black Muslim Bakery. I see some similarity between the unhealthy relationship between Yusuf Bey and East Bay politicians, and Jim Jones, the Peoples Temple leader and power broker in San Francisco. Remember Doctor Faustus, who sold his soul to the devil for power and knowledge? Why were politicians so easily taken in by Bey and Jones? Or were they? There isn’t anything extraordinary about Bey’s or Jones’ power. It was pure politics. They could deliver what politicians want, which is power. And how do you get power? By votes. And Bey and Jones could deliver the votes. The people who warned about Bey and Jones were ignored, intimidated, or marginalized. And many of the same politicians continue in power. Will we learn from these experiences? I am not optimistic. 

Ralph E. Stone 

San Francisco 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Randy Shaw writes that progressives should reject Proposition 93, claiming “Prop. 93 is a disaster for progressive interests.” I think he is 100 percent wrong, and that the defeat of Prop. 93 will kill the effort to relieve us from the pernicious effects of term limits for at least a decade.  

The argument in favor of Prop. 93 is really very simple, to wit: 

1. Term limits bad. 

2. Prop. 93 weakens term limits. 

3. Therefore, Prop. 93 good! 

That is true despite the blatant self-interest of some who are responsible for Prop. 93 being on the ballot. The bottom line is that, if Prop. 93 passes, it leaves us with a better public policy than we have now. We need to look beyond the parochial down-side and recognize the enormous benefits to all of us of legislators who have sufficient time on the job to have a chance to learn the ropes and accomplish complicated and time-consuming legislative goals before they are arbitrarily removed from office (in most cases despite the wishes of their constituents). 

Of course, if you support term limits — an anti-democratic method of telling people who they can and can’t vote for—then I suppose you oppose Prop. 93. And we simply agree to disagree. But if you recognize the noxious effects of term limits, then it must be obvious that Prop. 93 is a way to loosen their iron grip and allow legislators to gain sufficient experience and longevity in their job to be able to accomplish something. For example, Loni Hancock, assembly member for the 14th Assembly District, is termed out this year. She is the legislative author of clean money. If we lose her fervor, knowledge and experience in working that legislation, how will it ever become law? Sheila Kuehl is now termed out of the senate. If we don’t have her as our champion, who can or will effectively fight for single payer health insurance? Do we really want to leave the legislative process to legislators who barely have time to find their office before they are termed out? And, do we really want to have un-elected staff and lobbyists the only ones who know how things work in Sacramento? 

Mr. Shaw rails against Don Perata and Fabian Nuñez. I agree with him that they are rotten legislators. But there is a democratic answer to rotten legislators: vote them out of office. And if you can’t do that (and if the federal government won’t do it for us—in Perata’s case), don’t take out your frustration and pique on all the other legislators in the state, and the voters that want them in office. Progressives have no business, or self-interest in supporting an anti-democratic public policy because of unhappiness with any particular politician. (And I note parenthetically that Wilma Chan comes out of the Perata machine, so I wonder what real advantage we would have replacing him with her.) 

Progressives, of whatever party, should not be so inherently childish that they are willing to scuttle a much-needed reform of a very bad policy because it also benefits an undeserving politician. With respect, I think for progressives supporting Prop. 93 is both an easy and an eminently correct decision. 

Mal Burnstein 

Co-chair Progressive Caucus 

California Democratic Party 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

If you steal $1.5 billion a week (present cost of Iraq occupation) of a nation’s wealth, destroy almost all of its international alliances, totally scatter and weaken its army, kill thousands and wound tens of thousands of its soldiers, and make all of its citizens more vulnerable to terrorist attacks, public health emergencies and natural disasters, plus destroy its environment, what does that make you? 

An enemy of that nation. 

Remember all those years that our government was worried about America being infiltrated by communists? 

Well, now we have been infiltrated by an actual enemy, and our country is being destroyed. 

It seems that if a person had even a shred of ability to think logically, the Bush government would meet every definition of the word “enemy.” It’s ironic that after we became so strong that nobody could defeat us, we attacked ourselves! 

Jeff Syrop 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing about the surprised reaction of the AC Transit Board to the idea that humans may someday be able to cross 12th Street. 

Recently-elected AC Transit directors may not realize that the 12th Street project has been on the radar for a long time. As a founding member of the Coalition of Advocates for Lake Merritt, I clearly remember discussing 12th Street with an AC Transit planner in 2001. The 12th Street improvement plan is as old or older than the detailed planning of the bus rapid transit system. Our citizen-generated plan, drawn up with the help of experienced architects and planners, was covered in all the newspapers in 2001 and 2002. The Lake Merritt Master Plan then incorporated the idea, later included in the Measure DD bond measure passed by 80 percent of Oakland’s citizens. 

The concept of rapid public transit must go hand in hand with creating a pedestrian-friendly, bike-friendly, and child-friendly East Bay. A one-to-two-minute delay at 12th Street will not doom bus rapid transit. The folks who may slightly slow the rapid buses are the same ones who form the ridership, after all. 

I have reduced my automobile use drastically, and use the bus. In order to reach the bus stops, commuters, park visitors, bicyclists and pedestrians will need to cross 12th Street. I am confident that AC Transit and the City of Oakland can work out an elegant solution, enhancing Lake Merritt and its park, providing opportunities to remain alive while crossing the street, and increasing transit use at the new open spaces and improved lakeshore. 

Cooperation is a green skill! I’d be happy to assist. 

Naomi Schiff 

Member, Coalition of Advocates  

for Lake Merritt 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m just taking a moment to write a note from my “cell” in the “mayor’s crown jewel at the corner of University and Sacramento” rather than walk the “long, meandering halls.” 

As a resident of the above described Helios Corner Senior Apartments, I struggled to connect my experience here with Ms/Miss/Mrs. Wiggins description. My spacious—granted, not huge—one-bedroom apartment opens onto a long terrace, I have many amenities as standard equipment, the insulation is great (only used the heat three times so far), there are many community rooms for resident gatherings and activities, a wonderful array of classes are offered onsite through Berkeley Adult School, West Berkeley Senior Center provides door-to-door transportation for shopping, public transportation is very convenient (enabling environmentally sound living), the entire roof area is solar panels, the staff is courteous and warm, there are beautiful public outdoor gathering areas, the other residents are friendly and intelligent people. 

Best of all, the rent is lower than I was paying in an old, drafty studio in a declining neighborhood that has experienced several shootings in the past six months. I love it here, my neighbors love it here. We’re sorry Constance Wiggins misrepresented our beautiful new home in her letter. 

Gary Wilson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m a budding disability rights advocate (particularly for Asperger’s and related conditions) and budding environmental advocate. There should be no doubt that protecting the environment against gross over-development is the same as protecting the health of our society.  

I am also disabled; I have Asperger’s and related conditions. I was also beaten by a UCB cop on Jan. 28. His foot kicked my head against the concrete on more than one occasion, he used a sharp portion of his handcuffs to cut my hand and generally used excessive force on me just because I took a brief moment that day to say hi to a good dear friend, who happens to live in a tree, and show her a photo. The only reason he stopped before I was serious hurt is because I know as an Aspie that when cops go bad I can always cry for help and draw a crowd to witness brutality. 

Those of us who are differently abled are still brave enough to fight for what we believe in, even though we are dealing with handicaps that slow us down a bit. I may have Asperger’s, but that doesn’t make me less of a person. And doesn’t make me love the planet or my friends any less. I will stay strong as will all friends of the trees. The cops can’t assault my spirit. 

For the naysayers, the good people of Landmark Security video-taped the assault and the tape will be used as evidence in my trial to show the brutality of UCB against the friends of the trees. Especially the brutality used against people who are disabled. The tape will show me explaining my condition to the cops. 

For those curious, I was showing my friend a photo of the Weld Pirate Ship. Look it up, it’s amazing and inspirational. 

Nate Pitts  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

UC Berkeley, followed by a group including UCLA, UC San Diego, and UC Irvine, are public ivies. Preliminary figures show applications for the fall 2008 term by international applicants to all UC campuses rose 25 percent. This year, our first group of 51 graduating seniors here at Hankuk Academy of Foreign Studies, Yongin, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea, who applied early admission, were accepted into: Stanford (2), Amherst, Brown, Georgetown (2), U Penn (2), Duke, Johns Hopkins (2), Northwestern (2), and Columbia. Several of our seniors applied to the four UCs mentioned above, during November (notifications for early admissions were mailed in December). Last year, freshman Asian-American admissions outnumbered whites at UC Berkeley by 730. Asian-American admissions outnumbered whites at UCLA by 1,168. Asian-American admissions outnumbered whites at UC San Diego by 2,411. Asian-American admissions outnumbered whites at UC Irvine by 4,034. Go Bears!  

Richard Thompson 

San Diego / South Korea 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The tax refund being pushed by the president and Congress is ridiculous as the refund will quickly get spent by most Americans on products of Asian origin doing very little to stimulate our economy. I would suggest that we should have that money put into a resurrected WPA for rebuilding many run-down public housing projects put up decades ago. That would provide jobs for many workers in the fast collapsing housing industry; workers, who will soon start drawing unemployment benefits to burden the government more due to the workers not paying income tax then. 

I also suggest much more stimulation of the economy can occur if the money were to be put into developing the program for pyrolysis of organic wastes that I outlined in my Nov. 30, 2007 commentary. Those wastes are an already harvested biofuels crop wasted, and they have trapped carbon dioxide that we needlessly let get reemitted especially in the much touted composting now going on. Some energy and/or fuel can be gotten from the pyrolysis process, and charcoal to be buried, thereby actually remove some from the globe to help reduce albeit slowly the overload of carbon dioxide on the globe causing warming. Ever increasing amounts of megabucks being spent every year to maintain dumps containing organic wastes could be greatly reduced by pyrolysis of such wastes as germs and toxics would be destroyed. Most of the money spent in maintaining dumps is to be sure that germs and toxics do not leak out, and the cost reduction in paying for maintaining dumps might end up putting more money in your pocket yearly than the refund. 

I call on Planet readers to wake up Berkeley and their elected officials to using pyrolysis hoping that some of that refund money might be put to better use than stimulating Asian economies.  

James Singmaster 

Environmental Toxicologist, Retired 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding KFC’s treatment of our feathered friends, consider the following and then frequent KFC with a clean conscience, if you can! 

KFC’s suppliers scalds many birds to death while they’re still conscious. 

KFC’s suppliers breed and drug birds to grow so fast that many may become crippled under the weight of their massive upper bodies. 

Birds raised for KFC live in extremely crowded sheds and have barely enough room to spread a wing. 

PETA is urging KFC to make the changes that its own animal welfare advisors have asked it to make. 

PETA’s recommendations would prevent birds from having their wings and legs broken, suffering painful and crippling diseases, having their throats slit, and being scalded to death while still conscious. 

If KFC executives were abusing dogs, cats, pigs, or cows the way that they’re abusing chickens, they could go to jail on felony cruelty-to-animal charges. 

Thank you for this opportunity to protest this malicious practice. I only hope that people will take to heart the suffering of these creatures and boycott KFC. 

Janet Butler 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

From reading the Berkeley Daily Planet opinions and letters, it seems libertarian, Second Amendment- and NRA-loving Ron Paul will do well in Tuesday’s Berkeley election. Bernie Lenhof’s favorite arm to bear on Berkeley roads is his 2.5 ton missile (Planet, Jan. 15), while Doug Buckwald likes his sleek 1.5 ton model (Jan. 25). Unfortunately for Sandra Gruber, one misguided weapon user thought it’s fine to deploy his arms while blinded by the sun. Various members of the libertarian choir sing that’s OK, for pedestrians shouldn’t cross streets when it’s sunny, dark, rainy, cloudy, or while cars have any metal blocking the driver’s view. I don’t encourage recklessness, but yielding to cars reinforces motorists’ bad behavior. I agree with Steve Douglas (Jan. 25) and Laurie Capitelli (Jan. 11) that Berkeley must change the paradigm via effective enforcement. 

Though the misguided weapon user was driving on Colusa, not Marin, the libertarian choir sings that all government traffic-calming interference should be removed. They ignore Preston Jordan’s data (Jan. 15) that average speeds on Marin have dropped significantly, perhaps because it doesn’t support their goal of saving precious nanoseconds while speeding. And, many (Jan. 29) praise Mike Katz (Jan. 25) for “thoughtful commentary,” yet what data supports his claim that Marin area residents used safety as a ruse “to divert traffic elsewhere [and] raise property values”? How about diverting unsafe, inconsiderate drivers to Ron Paul’s more sparsely populated East Texas district? Affordable housing awaits, near warm beaches. 

My observations about Berkeley’s four-lane roads, such as pre-reconfigured Marin, are that most drivers speed significantly. Usually, when one car starts to slow for pedestrians, the trailing cars assume a turn without signaling, and zig into the next lane, to save their lives’ precious nanoseconds. Oops! Too bad the selfish pedestrians’ heirs didn’t inherit maximized property values. 

Mike also thoughtfully considers cost effectiveness. With this in mind for our libertarian Berkeley drivers, why doesn’t Berkeley raise money by PRIVATIZING traffic enforcement for speeding, blinkerless turns, improper stops and failure to yield to pedestrians? Let them squeeze out every last profit, and make our streets safe enough to walk or bike, thereby reducing congestion and global warming. 

Mitch Cohen 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I want to thank J. Douglas Allen-Taylor for letting us know about some very troubling BRT complications in his piece, “BRT Runs into Delay in Central Oakland.” (Jan. 25). It is clear that establishing an exclusive bus-only lane in central Oakland would cause significant traffic delays—slowing not only automobile and truck traffic but also the buses themselves! The consulting engineer’s estimated traffic delays of up to two minutes on a 1,000-yard stretch of roadway are indeed problematic—and show that implementing BRT might actually lengthen the travel time current bus riders spend on that part of the route, as well as increasing the overall time along the entire route. It’s no wonder that AC Transit Board Vice President Rebecca Kaplan stated recently, “That is enough of a delay to destroy the whole purpose of rapid transit.” 

For a problem of this magnitude to appear so late in the process shows how poorly conceived the entire BRT scheme is, and illustrates a wholesale failure of AC Transit officials to plan adequately to meet our transit needs. Instead of spending taxpayer money on trying to fit a poorly-suited and costly BRT system into this area, they should have been working to develop a fleet of smaller local buses that would serve more people and link up more effectively with BART for regional travel. 

It’s time for AC Transit to change its approach and begin to work with the people in the communities it serves to find out what transit improvements they would prefer—instead of just working with insiders who stand to benefit from the construction of BRT. Either that, or it’s time to consider recalling the entire AC Transit Board. 

Doug Buckwald 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I currently support Barack Obama, but I also believe Hillary Clinton is qualified as well to be president, especially in comparison to the dysfunctional administration which has been in office for the past eight years. I am leaning more toward Barack, not because he’s black, but because I think he represents a new agenda and can connect with a broader constituency than has ever been seen in this America.  

However, with my many years of experience with the politics of the United States and the bigotry, good old boy networks, assassinations, and hypocrisies that have led to so many disappointments in my family’s, and people of color’s, lives I am less than optimistic that this leopard can change its spots! I think that in the privacy of the voting booth that most people (black, white, Asian, Hispanic etc.) vote racist, sexist and for whatever personal and private agenda they might have while no one is looking. I still haven’t met anyone that has admitted they voted for George W. Bush, but I hope I’m wrong this time!  

I’ve said in the past that we in the Bay Area are almost a separate nation from the rest of the country, the state, and the other side of the Caldecott Tunnel. We believe we are able to put our prejudice aside and vote for the best person. I think if either Barack or Hillary were elected president it would send a message that we’re now capable of viewing the world differently and avoiding the mistakes of the past. Who knows? Maybe it will change how other nations view us, and offer hope to the rest of the world too. But beware! That leopard is still lurking. So let’s get out and vote! 

Winston Burton