Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday March 04, 2008







Editors, Daily Planet: 

Councilmember Kriss Worthington’s thoughtful observations on the City Council’s attack on the Marines leaves out a larger irony. 

Berkeley spent many, many months and half a million dollars of taxpayers’ money supposedly trying to make Berkeley streets friendlier to shoppers through the “Public Commons for Everyone Initiative,” which makes life even harder for the poor, and then in one moment splashed the usual “Berkeley Equals Riot Police” publicity across the nation’s headlines. 

Rest assured, however, that when revenues fall short, they will, as tradition dictates, blame the poor. 

Carol Denney 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

To Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez: Now that you are both running on the same Independent ticket for the Presidency, I want to welcome your voices. 

Barack Obama, whom I support because I believe the Republicans need to be ousted not just debated, said today that no party has a monopoly on the truth. And that certainly goes for the Democratic Party, which needs constant, active intervention for it to be an effective force against the Republicans. Surely, the Democratic Party alone is not the answer. 

But, I will watch what you two say closely. I will engage it in good faith. And I hope to hear you at the debates. 

I encourage both of you, however, to concentrate your energies on the relationship between American corporations and war-making. You cannot merely assault Fortress Corporate America without elucidating how far its privatized-militarized tentacles reach—especially into Asia. You both have an obligation to show the public connections between corporate capitalism and warfare in the United States. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are failures—one million dead, one trillion spent. Why they are failures, how they continue to be ignored as failures, are central questions the public needs to examine. Your work will greatly help turn things around. 

Moreover, I encourage you both to talk openly and frankly about two countries which do not get enough critical examination in the press: Israel and Mexico. Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza is a nightmare, sustained by Israeli theft of Gazan natural gas reserves—one trillion cubic meters. Mexico’s current government is a right-wing, anti-human rights haven that has made racist public comments about African-Americans competing for employment with immigrants from Mexico. 

If both of you start going after the Democratic Party, without first talking about the Republican corporate boondoggle of post-9/11 America, and how Israel and Mexico have fully participated in it, then it will be hard for me to resist the media hype, which will undoubtedly portray your candidacies as much about your egos as legacies. 

Congratulations again. 

Louis Anthes 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Ralph Nader running for president helps Republicans. Ross Perot running for president helped Democrats. How is John McCain as president going to help conservationists, Greens and Ralph Nader’s VP running mate Matt Gonzalez? 

The League of Conservation Voter’s ranked senators on their environmental votes last year. Sen. McCain got zero percent, Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama had voting records of 73 percent and 67 percent respectively. 

Nader says he’s no spoiler, and cows jump over the moon. 

Ron Lowe 

Grass Valley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The 11th annual Berkeley High School Red & Golden Girls reunion luncheon will be held on Thursday, April 17 at the venerable Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. Women who graduated from BHS 50 or more years ago are eligible to attend. Special parking arrangements have been made for guests. Honored guest will be Belva Davis, Bay Area journalist and television personality, Class of 1952. Festivities begin at 11 a.m. Tickets are $35. Reservations are necessary and must be made by April 3. Call Virginia Branco, Class of 1944, for reservations, at (510) 582-2478. 

Jeanne Loughman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In regards to William F. Buckley: I know it’s improper to speak ill of the recently dead (no one else has, so here goes): After all, let’s face it, in an ad hominem way, wasn’t he an incredibly strange, grinning, facial-spastic guy, who was a Harvard type, egg-head, right-wing effeminate extremist, who just freaked and weirded us all out? Do I hear applause?  

Robert Blau  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

So, J. Douglas Allen-Taylor, what should Oakland do? The city is broken. It’s jammed full of parolees and probationers. The police department is completely overwhelmed. The command staff gets heat from city officials and the press. They have to come up with something. It’s a Band-Aid on a gaping wound. We have it good here in Berkeley. The ratio of crooks to cops is probably about 10 to 1. In Oakland? A thousand to one? It must be really high. Oakland can’t afford to pay for 2,000 cops. There is no easy solution. 

Peter Bjeldanes 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Both sides of the Marine recruiting center debate seem to be unclear on the concept of freedom of speech. On the one hand are the Republican sponsors of the Semper Fi Act, who wish to punish anyone living or working in Berkeley for the City Council’s opposition to the center. On the other hand, though, are those who try to prevent the Marine recruiting center from functioning, and obstruct entering the center. Allowing Code Pink to have a weekly parking space and demonstration permit in front of the center, with the use of bullhorns, is not free speech. Nor is your proposal to establish a “free speech zone” in front of this center. Both are attempts to harass and prevent the center from operating. Not everyone agrees with your views on the Iraq war, or on serving in the Marines or other U.S. armed forces. That is a choice for the individual to make, not for the city of Berkeley or a group of activists to impose upon others. 

Stephen Denney 

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As I’ve been saying to friends since the recruiting office was set up on ShatShattuck Square, the USMC advertising arm must have been saying “what’s taken Berkeley so long?” 

By the way, is there a record of production at the recruiting office: bodies enlisted per square footage rented? Or bodies enlisted/total rent. Maybe there’s someone at Haas who’s keeping track. 

Peter Kleinman 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Bus Rapid Transit project proposed by AC Transit contains numerous flaws in regards to the public interest of the citizens of Berkeley. As a whole, the idea of a faster bus system is appealing to get people out of their cars and into more eco-friendly buses. But with the manner in which Berkeley was originally designed, implementing the BRT would be detrimental to businesses and residents.  

As the entire Bay Area knows, parking in Berkeley is a nightmare and even if one is lucky enough to find a spot within a mile of his or her destination, parking tickets seem to outnumber citizens in the city. Taking away a single lane of traffic on busy streets like Telegraph will only aggravate the problem. People are already less likely to drive their cars into Berkeley because of the difficulty of finding parking, but the few that do drive most likely have a legitimate reason to brave the parking meters. Eliminating even more parking will deter many from even visiting Berkeley, especially with the increased hostility against the city of Berkeley because of the Marine Recruiting Center issue. Businesses will falter and resentment among citizens will flourish in areas where parking is already tight. Cars will be forced to park in extremely expensive parking garages, no matter if they are staying for just five minutes. Even worse, the rates are confusing and one can end up spending over $50 to stay overnight from 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. Car drivers will alternatively park in residential areas, which will contradict the goal that the original planners had for Berkeley residents. All traffic is directed to bigger streets (such as College and Telegraph) using dead ends and one way streets so as to leave the residential areas quieter and safer. William Fulton concludes that “as with other aspects of public infrastructure, such as parks and schools, transportation systems should be designed in concert with the communities they are supposed to serve” (Fulton, Guide to California Planning, 3rd Edition).  

In this case, the community will not benefit from having a lane of traffic devoted to buses only. Citizens and officials need to think clearly about the effects and perhaps use a different city as the guinea pig. Berkeley has a reputation of having virtually no parking and before we take it one step further, consequences need to seriously be put on the table. 

Cassie Mullendore 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The following is a somewhat surprising result from comparing the records and approaches to political life of President Bush and Sen. Clinton. 

President Bush and Sen. Clinton have, of course, many differences: chiefly, he would like to limit the role of government; she seeks to use government to solve our problems. 

Where there seem to be unanticipated parallels between them is in areas of negotiating style and maintaining relationships with those whose support they might need. 

President Bush has shown a tendency to demonize those whose views he dislikes, as in his Axis of Evil speech. He prefers to have no dialogue with nations he does not care for. He tends to go it alone in international affairs, without getting the support of other members of the world community. 

This my way or nothing approach is seen in President Bush’s current approach to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, where apparently no compromise with Congress is possible. 

Regarding Sen. Clinton’s approach, the failure of First Lady Clinton’s 1993 health care plan has been attributed to her presenting an unworkable plan, then refusing to make any changes. She is said to have demonized those in her own party who proposed alternatives, making negotiation impossible. 

More recently, the Clinton campaign last year said those who would support her candidacy should do so very early. Those who also supported opposing candidates could expect to not receive the benefits of being her supporter. 

Sen. Clinton describes herself as a fighter but does not say how that will lead to crafting workable solutions in a two-party system where politics is described as the art of the possible. 

President Bush could be characterized as a fighter in his approach to Congress and international relationships, but that does not seem to have helped us very much. 

It appears then, surprisingly, that both President Bush and Sen. Clinton have a similar history of a draconian approach to politics, tend to rigidly demonize opponents, and have little taste for compromise in the service of higher goals. (Ralph Nader may be a third example.) 

If Sen. Clinton were to be our next president, does the record suggest that we would have four more years of a president who follows a my way or nothing approach, calls those who hold divergent views enemies, and is indifferent to the possibility of working with others to craft viable solutions to our nation’s problems? 

Brad Belden 



HR 5224 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I think we’re all tired of the rich getting richer. Even the very rich. 

It must take a lot of time, resetting credit card interest rates each month, harassing working people at home at inconvenient times. 

That’s why banks and credit card companies should get behind Ohio Congressman Charles Saunders’ HR 5244, the Credit Cardholders Bill of Rights Act. 

It’s not just about giving working consumers a break. It’s about letting the super-rich, super-powerful take a break from all their arm-twisting and pocketbook wringing. 

Stephen Shea 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

In the Berkeley Voice’s lead article Feb. 29 (“Downtown businesses feel pinch of protests), the writer presented no evidence, other than hearsay, that “people who are angry at city leaders for their anti-military stance are taking it out on businesses—canceling hotel and restaurant reservations as well as theater tickets.” 

The Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Business Association are quoted as “hearing” of cancellations, but the Voice’s reporters didn’t get any details. A fast-food establishment and a hardware store say that business is down somewhat due to the protests themselves, but didn’t cite any of the “punishment” of Berkeley asserted by the Chamber of Commerce representative. (It’s doubtful that a fast-food restaurant would be taking reservations, in any case.) The director of Berkeley Rep said that the noise is “off-putting” but again the Berkeley Voice’s reporters failed to get any evidence that theater reservations had actually been canceled.  

The Voice’s reporters need to do a better job in presenting their case before making such a strong and controversial assertion.  

Chris Gilbert 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Gasoline prices, we are told, like all consumer products rise and fall largely as a result of supply and demand, a law articulated by Adam Smith in the Wealth of Nations (1776) and reverently associated with the economy’s Invisible Hand.  

We the tax payers gave the oil industry $1.7 billion in tax breaks in 2007—a pittance compared to the industry’s combined profits of $145 billion (New York Times editorial, March 3).  

Question: What happens when our government gives tax breaks to the oil and gas industry? 

Answer: Government subsidies subvert the law of supply and demand. 

Conclusion: We the people must pay more at the gas pump so that Big Oil can maintain the profits to which it has become accustomed. 

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo