Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday February 12, 2008

EDITOR’S NOTE: Letters regarding the City Council resolution against the Marine Recruiting Station start on Page Eight. 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is not surprising that the Prevaricator-in-Chief and his Dark Lord would deny that waterboarding is torture, and now further assert that they have a legal right to order such practices. Neither Pol Pot, Slobodan Milosevic, Idi Amin, Agusto Pinochet, nor the rulers of Nazi Germany admitted that their actions were illegal torture. But it was not for them to say. The International Criminal Court has that authority, and obligation. Someday, the human rights abusers currently running our country will be taken to the bar of justice as well. Soon, I pray, very soon.  

Bruce Joffe 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

While I must give the benefit of the doubt to those women, Latinos, Asians, and poor people who say they cannot vote for Obama because of his lack of experience, I wonder if it has occurred to them that more than anything else, we need to patch up the world view of us. Let Congress fumble and mumble with our economy, immigration, health care etc.—they will anyway, if we continue to perpetuate acrimony with the rest of the world, we are in danger of losing everything. Put yourselves in the place of an angry third world person who views the United States with its aggressive and selfish attitude as an arrogant place run by arrogant white people. Think what a biracial, multicultural, liberally educated young man might do for them. Already I’ve read of hopeful incredulousness from Middle Easteners just at the thought of a U.S. president whose middle name is Hussein. It is looked on as a huge sea change and a ray of hope. Give it a thought.  

Madeline Smith Moore 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am both outraged and frustrated at President Bush’s brazen announcement on Feb. 6 that waterboarding is not torture and therefore legal. I also note that the CIA admitted using waterboarding on three suspects in 2002 and 2003; the White House stated that the CIA could use the technique in the future. Waterboarding is clearly prohibited by the Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Convention. Thus, President Bush has declared the United States above international law. We are now in the same company as such vile regimes as the Khymer Rouge, the North Vietnamese, and the North Koreans, who used waterboarding to elicit (usually false) confessions, not useful intelligence. Thus, our president would sacrifice our moral values for little or no purpose whatsoever. 

I am frustrated because this president will not be held accountable during his presidency. Representative Pelosi has taken impeachment off the table. And remember, Sen. Feinstein in casting a decisive vote to confirm Michael Mukasey for attorney general, brushed aside Mr. Mukasey’s refusal to show his independence from the President by categorically declaring “waterboarding” illegal. Remember also that Rudolph Guiliani, Mitt Romney, and Fred Thompson, three of the leading Republican presidential candidates at the time, refused to condemn the use of “waterboarding.” Where is the outrage? 

As Walt Kelly’s Pogo observed: “We have met the enemy, and they are us.” 

Ralph E. Stone 

San Francisco 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

After living here in beautiful Berkeley for eight months now, I have had plenty of time to speak to a never-ending cadre of cranks, luddites, scientifically illiterate conspiracy theorists, loud-mouthed complainers, and professional contrarians. I have come to the conclusion that self-righteous bitching about minutiae is the most popular city pastime. In keeping with this spirit I would like to inform the people of Berkeley that unregulated electromagnetic radiation is a danger to all and must be brought under control. Yes I am talking about the insidious dangers of Sunny Day Radiation. While sunny days may be beautiful and inspiring they are also silent killers giving rise to cancer and killing thousands every year. Mother Nature has not submitted an environmental impact report, detailing all the possible implications of this unregulated radiation emission. Effects of sunny days are not fully known. In addition Sunny Day Radiation affects minorities and those of darker skin color differently than whites violating Berkeley’s anti-discrimination ordinance. Mother Nature illegally irradiates local crops with ionizing radiation violating the Nuclear Free Berkeley Act. I propose a giant dome be placed above Berkeley to shield us from this radiation until Mother Nature complies with the proper regulations. We will be holding a demonstration against this electromagnetic radiation in People’s Park on Wednesday Feb. 20 between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m., by staring directly at the sun for an hour and demonstrating our resistance to this photonic tyranny. 

Michael Bakeman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

So, Barack Obama wins a Grammy award for his voice recording of the book he penned, The Audacity of Hope—not to mention sweeping all the latest Democratic primaries and caucuses—and Hillary Clinton fires her campaign manager. These are just the latest signposts of what’s been going on under the surface for weeks now. Obama’s soaring popularity is a subliminal consciousness phenomenon, electric and unifying. What’s behind it? For one thing, Obama is a clean slate on which we can all write our own hopes and dreams, while Clinton is a cluttered canvas on which we perceive many of our compromised ideals and failed efforts. It’s human nature—none of us likes to remember the pain of past betrayals. 

But it’s more than that. The Clinton campaign’s choice to highlight her “experience” was particularly unfortunate—as it constantly draws our attention to her past. The problem is, most of Clinton’s claim to having experience comes from her having been in the vicinity, rather than in charge. The distinction is not lost on the electorate. But most important, experience is largely an intellectual issue. Idealism always trumps experience emotionally, and that’s where she is losing big. Look at the faces of the people who attend Obama’s campaign events, and you see clear resemblances to the faces in the crowds that flocked to hear John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy speak. There is real political energy here, and Clinton’s strategists with their poll experts and donor lists completely failed to understand its importance. 

Obama hasn’t peaked yet. When he does, it will be clear to everybody that he will be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States. And I think he’ll win in November. 

Doug Buckwald 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Let’s cut to the chase. Did you see the picture of George Bush embracing John McCain? If you want four more years of Bush policy, vote McCain in November. 

The NRA must be at its wits end to come up with more phony excuses to explain away the continuing wave of gun violence. 

The anti-immigration movement continues to use patriotism, the flag and security to justify the 700-mile fence along the southern border. What about the 3,000 miles of Canadian border that remains wide open? Is it that Canadians don’t have brown skin? 

The Republicans tried to impeach President Clinton for lies. The Bush, Cheney, Republican conundrum has subjected America to seven years of lies 

Is everybody in denial or just braindead? Taser guns cause death. Two hundred and fifty people didn’t die being arrested before tasers became the weapon of choice. 

Ron Lowe 

Grass Valley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a recently new resident of Berkeley, I have noticed a disturbing safety hazard on our streets. An inordinate number of cars are operating with headlights out throughout the greater Berkeley area. Seemingly every time I walk or drive at night, I see at least one or two cars being driven with only one headlight. Driving with one headlight not only reduces your visibility, but also makes it more difficult for other drivers to judge how far away your car is. I would urge the Berkeley police as well as citizens to be vigilant in identifying and correcting this hazard. 

On a related note, I have lived in several college towns in the past and am dismayed at the lack of police presence in Berkeley, especially at night. Unfortunately, I have several friends and acquaintances that have been mugged, threatened, or robbed while living in this otherwise charming city. Many of these incidents occurred within blocks of the university. Other college towns I have lived in have a noticeable police presence that I can only assume deters this behavior. Having enough police on the streets driving through our neighborhoods not only prevents crime, but also creates jobs and boosts our local economy by allowing residents to feel safe enough walk alone at night to restaurants and shops. The police men and women in Berkeley with whom I have interacted have always exemplified the qualities of professionalism and judgment that make great police forces. I simply wish their ranks were larger to allow them to do even more good for long-time residents and students alike. 

I urge the City Council and UC Berkeley to consider equally the general safety of its residents in addition to the issues that have made this city so famous, such as its environmental leadership and history of promoting free speech. 

Zachery Jacobson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am underwhelmed by the excuses Mr. Wicinas offers in his Feb. 8 commentary “Why BHS Classroom Construction Has Stalled” for the classroom fiasco at Berkeley High School.  

First he blames the lack of classrooms on a new superintendent whose “attention was aimed at budget issues judged more urgent than the commencement of new building projects.” Huh? BUSD promised to build classrooms at BHS when it sent the 2000 Measure AA Bond to voters for approval. End of story. Except that we have fewer classrooms now, after a $116 million bond measure. 

Then he suggests there was a significant drop in the student population. I find that hard to believe—there were 3,200 students in 2003 and that number has not varied significantly. Certainly BUSD blamed over-enrollment on all the problems my older son experienced with lack of textbooks and over 40 students in some classes through 2005. So figure it out, BUSD. Are you going to blame lower enrollment or higher enrollment for your failure to live up to your promises (and legal commitments)? And please, don’t refer to anger over lack of textbooks and desks as a “perception of overcrowding.” At any rate, this is completely irrelevant to the commitment BUSD made to construct classrooms at BHS. 

He also claims “the public lost interest in the overcrowding issue.” What does he base this on? Most of us in Berkeley assumed we’d have classrooms built within eight years of the bond measure passing. Does the public really need to storm the barricades at School Board meetings to ensure promises are kept? 

Finally, he blames the preservationists. Guess what? Those people didn’t get going until recently. Too bad the BUSD didn’t have the classrooms built by now, isn’t it?  

Now BUSD can blame the long delay (they created) as the reason for no classrooms—there simply won’t be enough money to build those classrooms because now it’s too expensive. Will we hear whatever happened to the $10 million contingency for unforeseen conditions and the $18.9 million earmarked for inflation that was part of Measure AA? 

The only explanation for the lack of classrooms at Berkeley High is either gross mismanagement of bond monies or criminal malfeasance. Take your pick. Either way we lose. No way should the BUSD or the City of Berkeley attempt to float another bond issue until they give us the classrooms they promised and we paid for eight long years ago. 

Peter Kuhn