Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday February 08, 2008

EDITOR’S NOTE: Letters regarding the City Council’s ruling on the Marine Recruitment Center are on Page Fifteen. 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing to commend Andronico’s CEO Bill Andronico for his leadership and courage in dropping tobacco sales from his eight Bay Area markets on Feb. 4 despite the potential loss of revenue stemming from this decision. Personally, I am planning to increase my patronage of Andronico’s and encourage others to do likewise. I hope other grocery stores will follow Andronico’s lead, telling the tobacco industry “no thanks” to offering shelf space for their addictive and dangerous product. For smokers who might object, I encourage them to get help to quit from the American Cancer Society at 1.800.ACS.2345. Andronico’s philosophy of healthy and organic foods, sustainable products, and environmentalism is clearly inconsistent with a sales of a cancer-causing product. I applaud them for recognizing this and taking action. 

Janna Katz 

American Cancer Society 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As the time draws closer, I’m readying myself to say, loudly and proudly, “The nation and the world are well rid of you wielding your autocratic power!” to George Bush. I wonder if other Berkeley citizens feel, as I do, the desire to celebrate that occasion. Whoever wins the presidency this November, it sure won’t be Shrub. Although one of my paranoid friends thinks something could be made to happen that would put Cheney in the presidency before election time, I’m too much of a Pollyanna to go there—but we’ll see. 

The event I have in mind would be one of those uniquely “Berkeley things” that as well as a cathartic “Thank God, he’s gone!” event. I’m going to be making contacts with those I know who have the kind of activist experience that I lack, but wonder if Daily Planet readers might have some suggestions as to how to pull such a thing off. 

Thanks for listening! 

Nicola Bourne 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have long read most of Susan Parker’s columns and her most recent ones are the best and most passionate. I don’t live in Oakland but I believe that people have a right to stay in there home when big business comes to knock down their house. Children’s Hospital maybe important but so is living in a place where you can see the neighborhood and not be blocked by the views of a 10-story hospital building, with a helipad. 

I wasn’t sure how I was going to vote on Measures A and B, but Susan Parker made me realize that the Children’s Hospital reach for more money with the use of children was low-down and dirty. At least, Susan Parker and her 50 neighbors are doing things the right way. Grassroots and all.  

Anita Fiessi 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

There are two kinds of recycling pickup in Berkeley. People living in houses have small blue bins. The Ecology Center picks them up. The Ecology Center also leaves recycling directions at each house. 

Recycling for apartments is different. Three big bins are put near each apartment house. These are marked “mixed paper” “cardboard” and “bottles and cans.” No directions are given to people who live in the apartments. These bins are often not sorted correctly, and if they are not sorted correctly, they are not emptied. I have a peculiar habit of resorting apartment bins near where I live. 

Because of the recycling mess, I think that the city of Berkeley should mail or deliver directions to each apartment dweller. Something like this: Bins should be sorted carefully. “Mixed paper” includes thin cardboard. “Cardboard” includes brown paper bags. Cans and bottles should be in the third bin. 

Julia Craig 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I recently heard someone dismiss Barack Obama’s presidential bid with the comment: “The American people have never elected anyone whose name ended in a vowel.” I decided to look into this. 

It turns out America has already elected four vowel-afflicted presidents: James Monroe, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce and Calvin Coolidge. It is also a matter of record that the names of five presidents end in an “r,” four with “t,” and three with “s” or “er.” 

The big surprise is that eight (18.6 percent) of our presidents had names that ended in “son.” And, if you count William Jefferson Clinton, that’s nine (20.1 percent). So, if you name ends in “son,” son, you’ve got a one-in-five chance of beating the competition in the race to the Oval Office. (Yeah, I know: “Tell that to Jessie Jackson.”) 

But here’s the real surprise. If you’re name ends with an “n,” history tells us that you’re a virtual shoo-in. Seventeen of the USA’s elected presidents had names ending in “n.” That’s a whopping 39.5 percent. So, if your name ends in an n, you’ve got better than one-chance-in-three of sweeping the polls. 

Perhaps that explains why Guliani, Kucinich, Edwards, Gravel, Huckabee, and Romney won’t be going to Washington. (If Joe Biden had studied the link between last-letters and first-finishers, he might have stayed in the race.) 

So, if history is any guide, after Super Tuesday, the nominees for November will be McCain and Clinton. 

Of course, there is always the off-chance that Barack Obama can rise above the Curse of the Vowel. Even in the Presidential Name Game, nothing is for certain. (Just ask Fred Thompson.) 

Gar Smith 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have lived in this country for 26 years, and I am now a citizen. I consider the United States to be my new home. I have always had opinions about America: some good and some not so good. But now that I can vote, I feel a lot more impassioned about my opinions, and about what goes in this country than ever before. I have heard for years how young black Americans have low self-esteem issues because there aren’t too many (but a handful of) black figureheads, heroes, or statesmen to look up to compared to their white counterparts. Of course, there are black athletes that are filling that role. But more often than not they don’t make good role models, because of their lavish lifestyle which is incongruent with the plight of a young African American who is trying to make a name for himself/herself in environment where the cards are stacked against them. These young African Americans are pretty much taught a Eurocentric, white-dominated history (some rightly warranted, especially if you consider the history of the industrial age, science, and geographical conquests). 

I took note of Obama when he spoke at the Democratic convention. I thought he spoke eloquently, and gave a very inspirational speech. So when he decided to run for the presidency I took a long, hard look at him, comparing him to the other candidates ad nauseum. After much deliberation, I decided that he indeed was the best person for the job; we do indeed need some infusion of fresh blood into our extremely anemic Washington politics. I never for once took the color of Obama’s skin into consideration because he basically transcended that (I am Indian). He struck me as more of a statesman, and a leader than a politician: albeit everyone is a little guilty of being a politician to some extent when running for an office. His message is inclusive, encompassing, insightful, and quite fresh. His idea for change in direction for this country is compelling. His speeches are impassioned, moving, and lofty: very reminiscent of John F. Kennedy or even Dr. King to some degree.  

So here is a very promising, young, vibrant, black person, full of potential and leadership qualities that anyone can be proud of, regardless of race. And yes, with a fairy tale background that is only possible in America. I am loathe to see the status quo black politicians like Charles Rangel, Maxine Waters, Ron Dellums et al, sitting and clapping unabashedly in the front row of a Hillary rally or the billionaire Bob Johnson making distastefully disparaging remarks about Obama, or Charles Rangel defending Bill Clinton’s extremely belittling (not to mention very unbecoming of an ex-president) remark about Obama. I am now beginning to wonder if the self-esteem issue is only plaguing young black Americans!  

Rizwan Rahmani 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Helios Energy Research Facility / Energy Biosciences Institute (Helios/EBI) to be housed at LBNL must not be approved. EBI is financed by a $500 million British Petroleum grant the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires effects of a project to be considered that are not only direct, but indirect or secondary, or which may occur later in time, but are still reasonably foreseeable. Some of these effects are environmental and global and involve moral concerns, such as human and civil rights as noted below.  

The UC Regents should not approve this project because: 

1) It violates academic freedom. Corporations fund research to produce goods to sell for profit. Their involvement in research can undermine scientific inquiry for the public good. Hiding the research inside LBNL fence further distances the research from public view. 

2) Biofuels main focus of the BP grant, presumably an alternative to oil may take more energy to make than they produce. 

3) Occupying third-world countries for cropland for biofuel development would substitute for occupation for their oil. U.S. biofuel needs require six times the current amount of cropland in the United States. Solar and wind do not require occupation and war. 

4) Biofuel research involves genetically modified organisms to develop transgenic grasses, trees, corn, soybeans, and bacteria for highly industrialized monoculture. These practices result in deforestation, soil depletion, displacement of people, loss of local knowledge and self-reliance, as well as the demise of biodiversity. 

5) Researchers in the Helios building will collaborate with nanoscience researchers at the Molecular Foundry built without an EIR/EIS. Effects of nanotechnology are not fully known. This violates the Precautionary Principle. 

6) Coal and oil are not abandoned. There will be research on how to use microorganisms to “enhance recovery of petroleum from underground reserves” and the use of microbes for processing coal into fuel etc. 

Gene Bernardi 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

We are responding to Sharon Bauer’s Jan. 29 letter. Though we don’t argue Ms. Bauer’s right to her opinion, it is important to note that most of what she asserts in her letter is just that. As a primary example, her minimizing the impacts on Berkeley Unified School District, and all districts in California, because of “nickels and dimes” is an insult to the real budgetary and fiscal impacts currently being proposed by the governor. If enacted in whole, the proposals coming from the governor’s office this budget cycle would result in over $3 million in lost or reduced revenues to the Berkeley Unified School District. Only a multi-millionaire could characterize that figure as “nickels and dimes.” 

Further, Ms. Bauer’s assertion that California teachers are among “the highest paid of the populated states” demands a response. Her assertion is true, but context is everything. A quick glance at CNN.Money and its survey of zip code housing costs indicates that the most expensive housing markets in the nation are almost all within California, and only Hawaii, Greenwich Connecticut, and Manhattan New York rival the housing costs of dozens of towns and cities within California. Furthermore, the cost of living here in the Bay Area, in the Los Angeles area, and the San Diego area are some of the highest in the country. 

Money is not the solution to all the problems and issues that face California school districts. But lack of adequate funding is certainly one of the obstacles every school board, every superintendent, and every teacher in California has to deal with on a daily basis. We urge all who read this to remind their state representatives of the importance of sufficient school funding, even in times of fiscal shortfalls. We are only shortchanging our own futures by anything less. 

Cathy Campbell 

President, Berkeley Federation  

of Teachers 

John Selawsky 

President, Berkeley School Board 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you to everyone in Berkeley and other communities who stayed out at the polls late into the evening to make sure their voices were heard! As unacceptable as it is to experience a shortage of ballots during an election, I ask that the people of Berkeley, the state of California and the nation to continue insisting upon the use of paper ballots. They may take more time to count, but they are vastly more accurate and secure than electronic voting systems. 

I’d like to remind the community that electronic voting machines, specifically Diebold machines (now Premier Election Services), were ordered out of Berkeley for very concrete reasons. Diebold was actually sued by Berkeley residents over its unacceptable behavior involving a recount for Measure R. Not only was it found by the court that the removable memory from the machines was improperly handled, but the fixed memory within the machines was deemed unrecoverable, therefore making an accurate recount impossible. 

Now if you were watching the “up-to-the-minute” news coverage on KRON 4, like I was, the reporting staff seemed visibly annoyed that Berkeley and other East Bay communities were relying heavily upon paper ballots. This annoyance seemed to triggered by the amount of time it takes to count paper ballots, therefore stifling their “up-to-the-minute” announcement of the results. Several times they hinted that electronic voting machines would have sped up the process and eliminated the prolonged waits and extended hours at polling stations. I ask you, fellow citizens, do not be suckered by this line. 

Voting machines may facilitate rapid reporting of results, but is this really desirable? Do we want people rushing through election results at breakneck speed in order to facilitate media sources? Or do we want an accurate, traceable election record that stands up to scrutiny? Yes, it was unacceptable that polling stations were running out of paper ballots, but this can easily be solved by supplying a greater quantity of ballots to each polling station in advance. Don’t let vested interests trick you into sacrificing election security for election convenience. Choosing leaders and laws is serious business, and voting should not be approached with a “drive-thru” mentality. 

Roger LaChance 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine I’d lament, actually grieve, over the closing of the Ross Store on Shattuck Avenue. A Saks Fifth Avenue/ Bloomingdale’s it definitely was not. But it was THERE, darn it—the only department store in downtown Berkeley! I never went downtown that I didn’t pop into Ross, if only for a new bra, wallet or sauce pan. I can’t say that this was ever a particularly thrilling experience. There were no attractive young women spraying an expensive perfume in my direction, nor were there cosmetic counters with tall stools where one could sit and be transformed into a ravishing beauty by gorgeous young women (or men) lavishly applying Estee Lauder or Dior make-up. That was a blessing in disguise, as I always falls hook, line and sinker for cosmetics that never seem to make a noticeable improvement in my appearance. 

I must admit there were many things about the store I definitely did not like, such as the security guard who would eye me with suspicion when noticing my large tote bag. I could feel his eyes follow me as I made my way through the store. And I was always dismayed at the number of garments strewn about the floor in the clothing department. Being somewhat of a neatness freak, I’d make it my business to pick up these items, dust them off, put them on hangers and place them on the racks where they belonged. Quite often I’d find famous name designer clothes, but, alas, they were always a size 4 or 6, never a 14! Upstairs in the housewares department I’d lose all control and pick up wine goblets, cutlery, casseroles, tablecloths, etc., etc.—things for which I had no need. But with a senior discount on Tuesdays, how could I resist? 

Oh, yes, with all of its faults I miss Ross horribly. Having a deep-seated, almost pathological dislike for shopping malls, what are my options now? Travel to Emeryville or El Cerrito for their Ross, or take BART to the San Francisco Nordstrom’s and Bloomingales? Is Berkeley such a hick town that it can’t support at least one department store? Are we slowly but surely becoming a ghost town where only McDonald’s will survive? 

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Speaking on The United Nations Mission in Haiti, Chilean Juan Gabriel Valdés, who headed that bloody Mission between 2004 and 2006, told listeners at UC Berkeley on Feb. 5 that “lack of a government in Haiti” made it impossible for the UN to bring peace 

or accomplish its goal of national reconstruction. The president had “left Haiti” on Feb. 29, 2004, he explained, in the midst of a “civil war” between the country’s elites and the country’s poor. Today, there are serious problems in the country caused by NGOs skimming money from funds that should be used for development. 

The real problem in Haiti, he declared, is one of “perception"—people just not seeing eye to eye on what needs to be done. 

WHAT? As is well known, President Aristide did not “leave” office; he was kidnapped at gunpoint by U.S. military and forced out of the country. Far from civil war, the country was actually united under a president that Haitians had twice elected by landslides. And everyone, everywhere, recognizes that international monetary policy, including gargantuan debt service, 

is the force that makes development in Haiti nearly impossible. 

After totally distorting the situation in Haiti, Valdés went on to express his disagreement with his friend, a Haitian businessman, who contends that the only way peace can be achieved in the country is through dictatorship and terror. There are “ethical problems” with that point of view, Valdés acknowledged. What he failed to mention is that the UN troops under his leadership completely disregarded those ethical problems and instituted a reign of terror which is still in progress at this time. 

Ignoring the poster-size photographs brought to the room by a member of the audience, of Haitian children shot through the head by UN troops, Valdés did not deny that the well-documented massacres of July 6, 2005 and Dec. 22, 2006 (captured on film, with eyewitness descriptions of UN troops firing on unarmed civilians) had taken place; he only denied that the UN had anything to do with the killings. Terrorism in Haiti, he claimed, is not the work of the UN [or the elites served by the UN, or the political thugs who carried out the coup against the elected government of President Aristide], but rather the violent groups of people who live in shantytowns. When two members of the audience confronted him with the fact that on the basis of his role as head of the UN mission, a Haitian people’s tribunal had convicted him of 

crimes against humanity, Valdés claimed to be unaware of the proceedings. 

It does not speak well for the university, that it brings to campus a convicted criminal billed as a diplomat, without disclosing the unconscionable record of his tenure as head of the UN Mission in Haiti. It’s like bringing in the Grim Reaper, showing him with a Princeton diploma in his hands instead of his bloody scythe. 

Adrianne Aron 

Haiti Action Committee 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The battle continues against increasing radio frequency radiation in South Berkeley. On Monday, Feb. 4, the Berkeley Neighborhood Antenna-Free Union (BNAFU) filed a lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court to stop installation of 11 more cell phone antennas at 2721 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley. It is clear that we no longer have local control over this technology. Today (Friday) BNAFU is holding a demonstration at City Hall, 2180 Milvia St. The demonstration will take place between 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. 

Our neighborhood believes that people, including many children in our neighborhood, have the right not to be used as guinea pigs exposed 24/7 to microwave frequency radiation, particularly when cell phone service in South Berkeley is excellent. 

This coming Tuesday evening, Feb. 12, a cell antenna moratorium will be on the City Council Agenda. 

Contact BNAFU at or 849-4014. 

Michael Barglow