Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday March 14, 2008







Editors, Daily Planet: 

To summarize Becky’s March 11 editorial: Berkeley’s downtown has not had any commercial relevance since the 1950s. It’s only value is as yet another reason to try to oust Mayor Bates. Let’s thank Cody’s for disagreeing with Becky. 

Any story about the neighborhood’s economic decline should at least mention the end of commercial rent control. Too many landlords have wet dreams about Starbucks, et al., moving into their building to fund their Tahitian retirement home. They think it’s better to leave their building vacant, to allow that ephemeral rich tenant a quick set-up, than to maintain the neighborhood’s viability. 

Thank you, Becky, for your “fair and balanced” editorial. Yogi Berra might opine, perhaps more briefly and logically: No one goes there because it’s too crowded. 

Mitch Cohen 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was astonished and appalled by Ms. O’Malley’s arrogant editorial cavalierly writing off Downtown Berkeley as irrelevant and therefore worthy of being allowed to further decay. I moved to Berkeley in 1978. Years ago Downtown was a charming area that boasted: an upscale department store, two candy stores, two fabric stores, a jewelry store, a children’s shoe store, a man who repaired almost anything, a sewing machine repairman, a vacuum store, cinemas, restaurants, furniture stores, a toy store, an art glass gallery, a bakery, a music store, a specialty video store, a store that sold surfing gear, a Gateway computer store, a lingerie store, clothing stores, a hardware store, a paint store, bike stores, bookstores, a stereo store, the Berkeley Rep, and the library’sCentral Branch—to name just a few. It was certainly not irrelevant to me. 

Berkeley’s anti-business stance, unwillingness to admit why the homeless are on the streets and gravitate to Berkeley, and willingness to tolerate the endless complaints and agendas of vocal minorities, have resulted in a once pleasant area turning into a Skid Row harboring drug addicts, alcoholics, unemployable ex-felons, and the mentally ill.  

Is it possible for Berkeley’s downtown to experience a renaissance? Only if we get a city government dedicated to intelligent leadership and economic growth rather than political theater.  

J.K. Zimbler 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was glad to see the Planet’s March 11 story detailing actions by the Landmarks Preservation Commission at their March 6 meeting. But I was also chagrined to see myself quoted so extensively on the Hezlett’s Silk Store issue, without a mention of the author of the landmark nomination. 

Robert Johnson, a member of the commission, researched and drafted the landmark application for 2277 Shattuck Ave., which housed both Hezlett’s Silk and Tupper and Reed over the decades.  

He was justifiably congratulated and applauded at the meeting by his fellow commissioners and the audience for a thorough and solid nomination.  

All the credit for bringing this building before the commission and establishing its significance belongs to Mr. Johnson and his volunteer efforts. 

I was simply a speaker at the public hearing adding my two-cents worth in favor of the nomination, as did other members of the public who spoke. I didn’t even know about the nomination until about a week before the meeting, when I saw the public hearing notice posted on the facade. 

Steven Finacom 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Since Hillary claims that she and McCain are the only qualified, experienced candidates, why doesn’t she offer McCain the vice presidency ? 

Harry Gans 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Democracy is broken, and you haven’t noticed. In the March 7 edition, an editorial was printed by Becky O’Malley, that suggests voters vote in a way that pretty much breaks the democratic system the way it was intended. This partisan method of putting in a vote is breaking my country, and as pleased as I was to get away from the corrupt conservative government that runs my hometown of Miami, I’ve found that politics in Berkeley has sharper teeth. 

We are not intended to consider a candidate’s chance of winning as a determining factor in our vote. We are intended to make a choice that represents our own interests, and aligns itself with our personal philosophies. If every person casts such a vote, a measure of the preferences of the majority may be taken. The suggestion that it is more sophisticated to consider a mediocre candidate with heaps of support over a candidate that represents the most ideas one may believe in is a betrayal of our system of government. 

The biased statement that if too many people vote for Republicans, things are bound to get worse, is disappointing at best. Democrats aren’t any more the answer to our problems than Republicans. We need to get our noses out of this good-cop/bad-cop game. Smart, independent, and diverse voters, who don’t buy into the team mentality of partisan politics and genuinely consider all candidates for their best option—these are what we need. 

Armando Garcia 

Miami, Florida 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was pleased to see Mr. Hardesty’s March 11 letter. I’d been wondering what sort of person would vote for a Nader/Gonzalez ticket. 

Dick Bagwell 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was shocked to read in the Daily Planet about the treatment given Jean Stewart at Berkeley Rep! 

I wonder if the house manager ever took the House Manager 101. What does she think she is there for? What right has she to be so severe with the patrons? Was she beaten into submission when she was a child and wants to make others miserable? This is beyond reason. I know Berkeley Rep has had difficulty in keeping house managers because of the scope of their responsibility; however, this seems to come down to finding a new house manager or losing patronage. 

I am also chagrined to hear how Jean Stewart was treated by Danny Hoch. Audience participation is one thing, but he went too far. I hope in the future that Berkeley Rep will give some guidance to the performer as well. I thought he was a brilliant performer when I saw him; however, after reading this commentary, I have lost all respect for him as an artist. 

Anne Thompson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Message to Jean Stewart regarding the Danny Hoch incident: Jean, come to the warm pool where people are kind, considerate and helpful. Where people know about pain and struggle. Where you can grab a couple of “noodles” and float like a Portuguese Man-of-War, taking pressure off all your uncomfortable body parts. Where the plight of some of the children will rip your heart out and make you glad you can take your own problems back from the Wailing Wall. Where it’s 93 degrees and only costs $2 and there is lots of handicapped parking and everyone has a way to get in and out of the pool. 

Come join us and let the warm waters help wash away that terrible encounter with Danny Hoch. 

Rosemary Vimont 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing in response to the recent series of articles about the former vice principal of Willard Middle School. I do not know the details of this incident but wish to speak about the climate of the school and its community. 

As a former parent and a current volunteer at Willard I want to draw attention to the incredibly dedicated staff that support these students everyday. 

The teachers are a thoughtful, talented, fun-loving group who work together in a collegial and caring fashion, devoting countless hours to their students and each other. The principal, Mr. Ithurburn, gives his all and can be found in the halls or roaming the campus during the school day, staying late into the evening and weekends to attend events and to improve systems and strategies for student success. At Willard my children and I made lifelong friends and found a compassionate community. I felt lucky to have been able to count on these amazing professionals to help my children navigate the changing landscape of adolescence. 

Karen Meryash 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I propose we observe the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion in meditation on two topics. 

1. The leaders who were so sublimely confident and tragically wrong in predicting what would happen are the same people, with different names (Gates for Rumsfeld, Patreaus for Franks, Rice for Powell, etc.), telling us with equal confidence what would happen if we left. 

2. The debate over an exit strategy is exaggerated political showmanship because, obviously, we get out the same way we got in. 

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Holly Harwood (Letters, March 7) says “…Great Britain lacks the rights we have in this country.” Asthis statement is echoed by others from time to time, I thought I might comment. One example of the contrary is that Britain did not, during World War II, jail citizens living in Britain, whose ancestors came from countries with which it was at war. Indeed, it only jailed foreign citizens until such time as they could appear before tribunals to ascertain their allegiances. In the same period the United States jailed, for about three years, over 70,000 American citizens of Japanese ancestry, without accusation or trial. Is not a long period in jail, without trial, or accusation, the most egregious violation of civil liberties there is, short of capital punishment? And where is Britain’s Guantanamo, holding people indefinitely without trial or access to lawyers? Do these internments support Ms. Harwood’s contention that Britain lacks the rights we have in this country? She may defend her statement by noting that this was in a time of war. But the acid test of commitments to civil liberties is when the country is under stress, not when everything is sailing along smoothly. 

Stuart Pawsey 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Department of Agriculture spokesperson Steve Lyle recently commented that the light brown apple moth (LBAM) threatens the environment and our food supply as justification for applying chlorpyrifos to our nurseries, cat poison (permethrin) to our yards, pesticides along our streets and in our schools and parks, and then blanketing our communities with aerial pesticide applications. Someone needs to educate Mr. Lyle about the basic biology of LBAM, which rightfully should be called the “eats hardly anything moth.” Not only will it not threaten our food supply it will become a primary protein source for a large number of beneficial insects that are an inherent part of a healthy ecosystem including ants, earwigs, and spiders; and when it is fully mature, it will be bird food. 

In disputing the findings of the Harder report which shows that LBAM is not the moth of mass destruction as portrayed by the Department of Agriculture, Lyle further writes that comparing impacts on the environments of New Zealand and California “is like comparing apples and oranges.” This causes one to speculate as to why Lyle’s agriculture department is spending part of their $75 million in “emergency” funding carrying out their primary LBAM studies in New Zealand. In point of fact, as in California, LBAM is an introduced pest and the prime growing regions of New Zealand (e.g. Hawke’s Bay) provides a close comparison to the prime growing range of the Monterey Bay in terms of climate and terrain. Mr. Lyle probably should have also been told that his own entomologists have demonstrated that native California wasps attack LBAM larvae and that LBAM is so similar to some native California moths that it requires genetic testing to distinguish between the species. It is clear that no widespread pesticide programs against LBAM are utilized or needed in New Zealand agriculture and there is absolutely no reason to believe that pesticide spraying of residential areas is needed here. 

Even a cursory review of the State’s justification for the “emergency” and the subsequent development and implementation of every part of their program reveals that there is little scientific justification for their actions and that the products being used are both inadequately tested and unsafe. The true cost of their spray: one child almost dead, more than 600 reports of people injured, and 750 dead sea birds. I hope the $75 million is worth it. 

Roy Upton 

LBAM Liaison, Citizens For Health, 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Some of the practical things about spraying that should be said are as follows: 

1. Spraying should be done only on days when there is no wind blowing. 

2. When spraying is to be done, it should be publicly announced through all the radio and TV stations, so people can stay inside. 

3. Hospitals and doctors’ offices should keep track of any illnesses which are beginning to be noticed and report them to the Health Department. 

4. The cost of treating anyone who gets sick should be able to be collected from the company that provides the spray. The spray company should provide a central place where payments will be made. 

5. Our politicians should see to it that these procedures are carefully followed. Formal notification of these procedures to all the persons involved in spraying should be required before spraying is commenced. 

Charles Smith 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a CAL alumnus, Berkeley resident and life-long environmentalist, I share the enthusiasm described by Richard Brenneman at the UC Berkeley Energy Symposium about the future of green energy. I’d love to see a vibrant green tech corridor in the East Bay with UC Berkeley playing an integral part. 

But I wonder how much of the wealth created by the various partnerships among the university, venture capitalists and, to some degree, the government, will go towards achieving excellence in education and the student experience on campus in all its schools and departments. Certainly this flow of investment will allow professors and graduate students in bio-engineering and relevant fields to perform cutting-edge and socially relevant research. This in turn will serve to attract and keep high quality professors and graduate students in these fields of whom the university and alumni are justifiably proud. 

I believe that “green capitalism,” technological innovation and political will be the answer to global warming (although the growing consensus in the environmental movement is chiefly efficiency, solar and wind with plug in vehicles not bio-fuels). But how will these partnerships, or even start-ups such as professor Jay Keasling’s LS9, “the Renewable Petroleum Company,” help reduce the shamefully high tuition students must pay to attend this great university? A tuition rate of $8,000 or so per year for undergraduates undermines the basic tenet of a public university in providing affordable education to all qualified candidates. In fact, it might very well be less expensive to attend Stanford for middle-class and economically disadvantaged students these days after factoring in the generous scholarships that university gives. 

I wonder if all this enthusiasm in general and focus by university administrators on the benefits of “green tech boom” partnerships does not serve at the same time to mask the lamentable reality that the passing of proposition 13 and the so-called “taxpayers revolt” has thrown higher education in California into something of a perpetual a state of economic emergency for the past 30 years, one that is particularly acute at this time. A clear-eyed assessment of the financial benefits from these green-energy partnerships promises very little in terms of abating this state of economic emergency at CAL, it seems to me. 

In the end a public university must be funded by the public, a sacrifice that is made by individual citizens for the very tangible benefits to society that a public university affords, the foremost of which was argued for by Thomas Jefferson at the founding of this nation, the education necessary for the great hope of participatory democracy. 

David Weinstein 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Settling into my seat for the Hertz Hall Noon Concert this past Wednesday, I noted from the program that these concerts have been going on for 55 years. That caused me to speculate on just how many of these wonderful programs I personally have attended. My mathematics might not be totally accurate, but going back to the many decades I worked at Boalt Hall School of Law to the present time, when I regularly attended these Wednesday (and sometimes Friday) concerts, I came up with the astonishing figure of 2450! What magnificent concerts they’ve been—student and professional recitals, piano, cello and violin virtuosi, Brazilian jazz, Baroque, Javanese Gamelan, the full University Symphony and Chorus—all for free! 

This week’s concert featured the University Chamber Chorus under the direction of John Kendall Bailey in an all-French recital of composers such as Gabriel Faure, Camille Saint-Saens, Maurice Ravel, Olivier Messiaen and Maurice Durufle. With soloists Christa Pfeiffer and Edward Betts, accompanied by pianist Pheaross Graham and a magnificent chorus of 34 voice and small chamber group, we were treated to a truly sublime program. I’m quite sure no program at Davies Hall could surpass the beauty of this program. I might mention that an unfortunate incident occurred when a member of the chorus fainted, thereby interrupting the program. It was announced that an ambulance had been called, which would delay the concert, but if the audience was willing to put up with this delay, the final two numbers would be performed. Attesting to the appreciation of this concert, the audience did indeed remain for the conclusion of the program. (We were assured that the young singer was just fine, such news being heartily applauded.) 

Leaving Hertz Hall, my friends and I agreed that Berkeley and the entire East Bay are blessed to have this opportunity to enjoy outstanding programs of music and the arts week after week, year after year, thanks to the University of California! 

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The intent behind Bus Rapid Transit is to motivate car drivers to become bus riders, because the BRT trips take about as long as car trips. A surprising number of people don’t understand that this has to cause some inconvenience to cars. That’s the whole idea behind the bus-only lanes. 

If we can’t inconvenience cars by taking a lane or taking parking, then we shouldn’t expect the BRT to be any more attractive than other buses, and it certainly will continue to be less attractive than driving a car. 

Are we serious about reducing car traffic, or do we insist that nothing be yielded to the cars? Is all this “climate action plan” talk just hot air? 

Steve Geller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

James E. Vann (Letters, March 11) states: “Congress must oppose retroactive immunity for phone companies that participated in the Bush-Cheney administration warrantless surveillance program.” 

Obviously, Mr. Vann, like all the other Democrats who espouse this, or a similar statement, do not understand the law. For the record, again, here is the United States Code (legal authority, for uneducated folks like Mr. Vann): 

According to 50 U.S.C. §1801(a)(1), (2), (3), the president has total authority to authorize the attorney general to survey, electronically, anyone in the US without a court order for a period of up to one year, provided that it is only for foreign intelligence information. 

And please, do not insult everyone’s intelligence by making false accusation that Americans are being eavesdropped on; there are no verifiable data to even suggest that...unless you are a New York Times journalist (and I use that term lightly). 

It is easy to say Bush broke the law, but it is a simple issue of knowing the law. Mr. Vann, and a myriad of other hateful people, obviously do not. 

T.J. Conrads 

Boise, Idaho 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was an Edwards supporter and when he dropped out I would have supported any candidate on the Democratic ticket. My first ballot was cast for FDR back in the 1940s and I have remained faithful to the Democratic Party ever since. I voted twice for Bill Clinton. 

I am now faced with who to support in November—Sen. Clinton or Sen. Obama? Following the campaign closely, I cannot understand why the Democratic Party stands passive amid the self-destruction now taking place. As of now, neither one of the two remaining candidates has a sufficient number of delegates to be crowned at the convention and with all possible calculations it is virtually impossible for either candidate to achieve that magic number before the convention. Therefore, superdelegates have to choose who will be the Democratic candidate.  

Right now Sen. Obama has well over 100 delegates more than Sen. Clinton. Millions of enthusiastic new voters have flocked to the Democratic Party, giving Obama a victory not only in delegates but in states as well as in voters. No matter what happens, the margin of victory may increase or decrease, but he will remain the winner. 

The superdelegates have to decide whose name will be on the ballot and they are being bombarded to make a decision. It is obvious who is the winner, no matter what spin is presented. The world saw how Bush stole the elections and the incalculable damage that resulted. God forbid the superdelegates steal this election by placing the losing candidate on the ballot. 

Otherwise, I shudder to think of the nightmare that would follow. It would split the Democratic Party in two. African Americans have been the most loyal voting block in the party and without their support the Democrats simply cannot win an election. Can you imagine how an African American would be shellshocked into feelings of betrayal, seeing a fellow member who played fairly by the rules, is superbly qualified , has won the delegates, states and voters, and is then relegated to the back of the bus so that a white lady got preferential treatment? Where is our civil rights struggle? Do we expect millions of enthusiastic new voters who have swelled our ranks into a phenomenal grassroots movement to support dirty politics as usual? Is this what we have come to? Doesn’t it occur to anyone that Sen. Clinton’s negative rating is so high for a reason? No amount of kitchen-sink campaigning will hide the truth. 

I am a white female, an old Democrat, and I cannot betray the principles of what the Democratic Party represents and I will not take part in any scheme to steal the elections of 2008. I trust the leadership of the Democratic Party will wake up and recognize its responsibility, stop the senseless bloodletting and instead, bring us together to defeat the well-oiled Republican machine in November. I hope I can continue to be proud of calling myself a Democrat.  

Helen M. Harris 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I believe Kenneth Thiesen should be thanking our U.S. military and supporting them. Without our past, present and future military Ken, most likely, would not be able to pen such articles voicing his opinion against our fine men and women who serve in the U.S. military. Although I must say, it might be a blessing if he could not write and therefore not reveal his ignorance and stupidity. Ken, I hope you never need military assistance because I don’t believe they will come to your aid. 

Gina McBride 

Prairieville, LA  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

To Kenneth Thiesen: If you “support the troops” in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the other more than 100 countries in which they are located, you also objectively support U.S. hegemony in the world. I believe that the vast majority of people who say they support the troops do not wish to support U.S. imperialism, but that is what they are really doing by putting forth the slogan of “support the troops.” 

Kenneth, that and many of the other things you say in the article sound a whole lot like “you’re either with us or with the terrorists.” 

But I thought that only conservative republicans were black and white absolutists! 

Jon Davison 

Sheridan, Indiana 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Mr. Theissen’s recent commentary in you paper leads me to believe that he has limited his studies to the newspapers and commentaries that were published during the anti-Vietnam War era. He sounds just like the folks that were writing to end that war. I’m sure he also believes that the whole 9/11 incident was a government conspiracy. I’m not going to waste my time trying to debate with him as only a fool argues with a fool but he needs to broaden his reading horizons. 

Just one thing, the military has been there to protect our freedoms for over 200 years and without them we would all be talking with British or German or Japanese accents. They aren’t perfect. No organization is. But supporting them is not supporting so called American Imperialism. It is merely supporting our brothers and sisters who are willing to put their lives on the line. Something I’m sure Mr. Theissen was never willing to do. 

William Seiler 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Glad to see the commie slime is still alive and well in Berkeley. Those of us who left and found out what the real world was all about are truly embarrassed. It is hard to imagine that after all these years and the recognition of the misguided anti-war policies of the leftist scum how things are still the same. 

We need a cultural revolution and force all these misguided idiots out into the mud of the fields and see what life is about. Once properly reformed, they would be allowed to return to spread truth and loyalty to the masses. 

Robert F. Tulloch  

Munith, Minnesota 

Former Berkeley resident 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Mr. Thiesen seems to have a very perverted concept of the world we live in and the activities of the U.S. Military in that world. He also lacks perspective of reality. 

One of his contentions is that we halt all enlistments into our military. If there is no enlistment there is consequently no military. If there is no military there is/are no inhibiting force(s) to prevent invasion of our country and the destruction of our society. In today’s world we will quickly be dominated by either the drug lords from Central and South America , the Islamic radicals and their sharia law, or both. Neither of these is especially appealing. 

Domination by either of these groups will, by comparison, make Bush’s supposed fascism look like a Sunday picnic. Does Mr. Thiesen really want all female members of society forced to wear body length burlap sacks with only eye slits. Does Mr. Thiesen really want all female members of society confined to their home allowed to exit their homes only with the permission of their husbands. Does Mr. Thiesen really want others to control every aspect of his life, telling him what he can eat, trying to control his every spoken or written word? Does Mr. Thiesen want to live in fear of wearing the wrong clothing on the wrong side of the street and offending a gang member? 

Would Mr. Thiesen have preferred that the American military had not participated in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, World War I or World War II? 

John Lobenstein 

Angier NC