Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday March 21, 2008






Editors, Daily Planet: 

As members of the Willard Middle School newspaper, the Uptown News, we would like to respond to the Daily Planet’s coverage of our former vice principal and to the letter written by Yvette Deas concerning our school and our former vice principal, Margaret Lowry. We would like to point out that, contrary to the claims by Ms. Deas, students do in fact have voices.  

Over the past year, we have looked at the Planet as a reliable source of local news and a role model for our own publication. In the last few issues of the Planet, that respect and admiration have been greatly reduced. The articles by your reporter, Riya Bhattacharjee, about our school and our former vice principal have been biased against Mrs. Lowry and our school. Each article published about her features the same examples of complaints from parents, and contains little or no new news about her case. Furthermore, there has been nothing published in the Planet about how all charges were dropped against Mrs. Lowry.  

In the March 18 edition there is nothing about Mrs. Lowry but a passionately misinformed letter from Ms. Deas. She talked about students of our school as though we can’t say anything about what is going on with Mrs. Lowry, and made her look like a criminal based on articles that are biased against her. It is odd that the Planet would publish such a letter given the fact that Lowry was cleared of charges and has subsequently resigned. What’s the point? 

On March 14, the Berkeley Voice published an article that said charges had been dropped against Mrs. Lowry. Your edition, published four days later, mentioned nothing about this new development. As a newspaper, you are supposed to keep people informed, and you have failed to do so. Your readers are still under the impression that Mrs. Lowry is guilty, when in fact she is not. We hope that your next issue will clarify Mrs. Lowry’s case. 

Your reckless journalism has presented Willard Middle School to the Berkeley community as a school that has more problems than it does in reality. We were disappointed that you have chosen to portray only the negative aspects of our school without a mention of the good things going on at Willard. 

Sofia Escudero and Alex Wood 

Eighth grade students at Willard 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a Democrat I’m enraged almost daily as Bush-Cheney secrets continue to ooze into view. A recent addition to stress overkill is uncalled-for blame piling up yet again on Ralph Nader for single-handedly putting George W. in office. 

In the year 2000 many Americans still believed that each vote cast would be accurately counted; that the Supreme Court consisted of nine soberly objective, Constitution-revering justices; and that Al Gore would not concede the presidency until all Florida votes were proven without a doubt. How to survive an insane Bush legacy for future decades would never have come up. 

Although a few Congressional Democrats have divorced themselves from the current administration, too many have followed Speaker Pelosi downhill from the time she took impeachment “off the table.” We desperately need an active third party allowed into the exclusive two-party club. Somebody’s gotta do it! 

Even so, this November I’ll “hold my nose and vote” for whichever Democratic candidate is still standing. John McCain is way too scary. Meanwhile, “Bravo!” Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez for courageously and knowingly confronting vicious attacks from all sides. 

Nancy Chirich 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

While I’m in complete sympathy to anyone who is in pain, I believe that Ms. Stewart’s behavior during a performance by Danny Hoch at the Berkeley Rep was completely inappropriate. I’m writing this to help improve future encounters between people with special needs attending theater performances. At the time of purchasing tickets, the box office should be notified about any special needs, including seeing-eye dogs, wheelchairs, the need to stand during a performance, or any number of other conditions. The box office will suggest the appropriate seating arrangements.  

However, the patron should also make a point to discuss these needs with the house manager upon arrival at the theater. The house manager is responsible for the well being of all patrons and volunteers; he or she may notify the cast regarding anything out of the ordinary (you can be sure that actors are very much aware of what is happening in the audience, especially in a small theater such as the Thrust, where Mr. Hoch was performing). If something unexpected or unusual is going on, the intense focus of a monologist can be destroyed. The house manager will make every effort to find an appropriate seat for someone who says beforehand that they must stand at some point, and will also point out where in the auditorium that patron can comfortably stand, without violating fire laws, annoying the audience, or disturbing the cast. I wonder why Ms. Stewart did not make her need known to the house manager? (Her independent decision to stand in the exit well is not permitted by the fire code.) Further, when Mr. Hoch made repeated requests for her to sit, she continued to stand. When the house manager was finally summoned and requested Ms. Stewart to stand in the lobby (where she could have comfortably watched the last 15 minutes of the performance) Ms. Stewart opted to sit, endure more pain, humiliation and whatever else occurred, to the discomfort of everyone in the theater that evening. 

As for the event that occurred on a previous visit to the Rep, when an usher opened the locked door on a chilly night to let Ms. Stewart into the theater before the theater was open to the public: there are several cafes up and down the street which could provide warmth to patrons arriving early. The House Manager leads an orientation meeting with her staff of ushers, which is a private meeting and not meant to be overheard by the public. The usher who opened the door was in error—when there is a real need to permit premature entry to a patron, the HM is always to be consulted beforehand. In this case, the House Manager had every right to request that Ms. Stewart leave, no matter how discreet her behavior. 

In the interest of full disclosure, I work as a volunteer for the Berkeley Rep, and I also have some house management experience elsewhere. I’ve worked in theaters most of my life in one capacity or another. I know that the well being of the patron is paramount in the view of theater personnel and it is always dismaying when a patron is made uncomfortable for any reason. To avoid any such incidents in the future, please make your requirements known in advance. 

Marilyn Goodman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Why hasn’t the United States joined so many nations and had a woman president, Nino Matocinos asks in the March 18 issue. A prime factor is that we are so focused on people’s gender or race that transcendent issues and qualifications are obscured.  

Of Hillary and Barack, he wins many fans by showing us how to look beyond our fetish with gender and race, beyond with such things as the media excessive attention to a women’s physical appearance. In contrast, Barack describes in his book of memories about his father many meetings with women, and the book being autobiography, one might expect him to write, “She was a tall, lithe woman, one of those who could wear 10-inch spiked heals without falling over.” No such body identity is in the book. And yet, the mind of one woman in particular is adored intensely. And when Barack goes to Africa, we readers are conditioned to expect him to write, “As the plane approached the runway I looked out the window and saw real African grass, and then I stepped on actual African land, and with my heart beating a mile a minute I took a deep breath and breathed real African air.” No, very little of that. Instead, his lengthy African section is about the interconnected and disconnected social and political relations of his family. 

Barack talks beyond our hang-up. Hillary wants us to feel good that it will be a breakthrough if either she or the black guy is in the white house. Scoring points on gender and race is becoming a distraction in a world of unchecked capitalism and melting ice caps. 

Ted Vincent 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Reading commentary about the scandal with Jeremiah Wright and Barack Obama this week, I saw that one man asserted “blacks in America are angry.” Reading the letter by Byron Delcomb in the March 18 edition of the Daily Planet, I can better understand why that is. If American blacks would agree with Byron that it is a “racist action” when police take measures to attempt to apprehend a fleeing robbery suspect, and check out someone who looks like him, or that it is a “racist action” when unruly or disruptive or otherwise problematic students are sent to the principals office, choosing to interpret these events as racist because the persons in these situations are black, then no wonder so many blacks are angry. They are reading racism into far too many situations where there isn’t any racism at all, just cause and effect. A simple solution to the problem of so much black anger, then, would be: stop trying to find racism everywhere you look. Your thoughts in part create your reality, and what you are determined to find, you will either find, or if you can’t find it, you’ll fabricate it. If you want to change the world, change your thoughts, and your world will change.  

Deborah Cloudwalker 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Barack Obama’s speech, “A More Perfect Union,” recognized that many of us feel some degree of black anger and white resentment. He acknowledged these emotions while neither justifying them nor condemning them. While condemning their hateful expression, he conceded that these feelings exist. Admitting them is the first step to dissolving them and moving onward.  

Obama spoke from the heart, from his true experience of living in both our black and our white cultures. His life, indeed his DNA, embodies our truly American experience.  

Obama mapped out a vision for getting beyond the distractions of race and racism, toward solving the real problems we face: war, economy, health, education, and environment.  

An imperfect man leading us toward a more perfect union, Obama is a mensch, a real human being, the real deal. After so very many years of lesser candidates and presidents, let us hope that the American people can tell the difference. Perhaps even some political pundits, nay-sayers, and fearmongers will recognize his sensible hopefulness when they hear him. 

Bruce Joffe 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Here’s a terrifying thought that occurs to me as I listen to the “Winter Soldier” testimony on KPFA. Young men and women who have been raised in families which promote values of decency and humanitarianism in their children, are coming home overwhelmed with guilt about what they did or didn’t do in Iraq. And, guilt produces drug addiction, alcoholism, etc. Thus, the decent young women and men who have “served,” are the ones who are being sidelined, leaving the ones who aren’t, with us.  

Robert Blau 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Berkeley High gym contains two pools, three gyms, and huge classroom spaces, that open out onto large playing fields. The state Historic Resources Commission unanimously recommended the gym for the National Register of Historic Places—it is now listed. So of course it is a no-brainer for the School Board to preserve and rehabilitate this noted building—isn’t it? 

For the new mantra of every politician and city planner I read about is to proclaim “green, green, green.” We recently learned that half of the greenhouse gases in the United States are from buildings—not autos as most of us assume. And we citizens are encouraged to feel good about our recycling bottles, cans, and paper—this is small potatoes as compared to the ecologic effect of preserving old buildings instead of tearing them down.  

And global warming is the problem from hell, so the adaptive reuse of existing buildings should be the preferential option whenever there is a choice. When the structure is well-designed, has good use left in it, and has meaningful links to the past, it should be a no-brainer. Coincidentally, at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 27 at the First Christian Science Church, Richard Moe of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Jon Carroll of the San Francisco Chronicle will speak on the role of historic preservation in fighting climate change. 

Well, I have surprising news for the citizens; the school board wants to tear down the Berkeley High gym. The planners and politicians, who shout “Green!”until they’re green in the face, have never seen a big new construction project they didn’t like. In Washington they call it “pork-barrel.” Locally it looks like big-time real estate and construction money that dominate land-use planning in Berkeley.  

So it’s only the concerned citizenry that can demand that the School Board call a halt to this “business-as-usual” demolition and big new construction, and remind the boardmembers that preservation is the ultimate recycling. The greenest building is the one that is already built.  

Neal Blumenfeld  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I realize that listening to the morning news is not particularly conducive to one’s mental health. But, as a die-hard “newsaholic,” I plant myself every morning in front of TV to watch the 7 a.m. ABC program, “Good Morning, America,” while having breakfast. (This frequently results in severe heartburn after a steady succession of lurid revelations of sex scandals, corrupt government administration, Iraq fatalities and the escalating political battles.) 

But a segment I find rather intriguing is that entitled, “Opening Bells,” originating from the New York Stock Exchange. If for no other reason, I’m fascinated by all those attractive people standing on a balcony at the Exchange, smiling blissfully and clapping their hands vigorously. Not to worry that the Dow Jones has hit an all-time low, that stocks have spiraled downwards and that the United States economy is going to hell in a hand basket. No, siree, nothing erases the broad smiles of these balcony people nor lessens their enthusiastic applause. 

Who, I wonder, are these poor misguided souls? Are they robots, wound up in back like the wooden figures on cuckoo clocks, emerging from doors when the hour strikes? Or could this merely be a case of arrested development? Granted that the market made a miraculous recovery this past week, stocks will undoubtedly plummet again in the weeks to come. But again, not to worry. The familiar balcony scene will continue to offer Americans assurance that the economy is booming! After all, hasn’t our president told us so? 

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Supreme Court is reviewing the right to bear arms, and the military is planning to refurbish our stock of nuclear weapons. 

There’s a connection. 

As I read the Second Amendment, our right to bear arms is based only on the need to form militias; beyond that, the wording is ambiguous. I don’t see that we have the right to keep automatic weapons for personal defense. The United States is refurbishing its nuclear weapons, but at the same time objects to Iran gaining the capacity to have its own nuclear weapons. Where does the right to bear arms stop? If I’m allowed to carry a loaded pistol, is my need to protect myself against attack in my neighborhood more important than the public danger I might pose? I see the pistol and the nuke as different degrees of the same proliferation problem. There haven’t been any nukes used in war since 1945, but there sure have been a lot of people killed by pistols. 

Steve Geller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Peter Josheff’s bizarre letter is a perfect microcosm of what passes for the “liberal mind” in Berkeley. 

Like the O’Malley editorial, there are no specifics, only generalized insults. I labeled O’Malley but also included a whole list of specifics of where she was wrong. And, pray tell, what is “overwhelmingly moderate”? I found O’Malley’s editorial on the Nader ticket rather underwhelming, intellectually speaking. Becky has been guilty of much, but never of writing “moderate” (a weasel word) editorials. 

And what does my rebuttal of O’Malley have to do with so-called gun control? 

I made my points on that subject at length last year to the point where I tired of repeating myself to the dim bulb statists among the readership. If your beloved Dummycrats get in November, you’ll see how little real difference it will make. But the stupid asses of pwogwessism will keep coming back for more! 

Michael P. Hardesty 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

It would appear that thieves are targeting 1990s Honda Civics in the Berkeley area. I’ve lost my 1992 Civic VX hatchback. A friend just lost her 1990 Civic Wagon. My replacement 1995 Civic was recently broken into, but the Club stopped the thieves on that occasion. 

In both cases, the cars were stolen, stripped of just a few parts, enough to have the insurance companies consider the car a total loss. The obvious, easily-replaced parts, such as tires, basic engine parts, etc., were not taken, but unique parts that cannot be replaced at a parts store were taken, such as a door, the interior plastic panels, and a cluster gauge. 

Both cars ended up in Oakland (mine on Skyline Boulevard), and then towed to the same salvage yard. My car had the name of someone who had scoped it out and “tagged” it to be sold to him at the end of the 30 days in the yard. Many Civics were lined up with these names written the windshield. 

A trip to the yard showed dozens of these Hondas, with just a few parts surgically stripped out. I’ve since seen many of these odd parts on Craigslist. Inquiries were well received unless I mentioned that my car was stolen. Then the sellers wouldn’t respond. 

Oakland police offered no assistance, or interest in stopping these thieves by at least taking finger prints, or other information. If the police aren’t going to connect the dots, Honda owners need to protect themselves. 

Buy a Club, and use it every time. Buy one that locks the steering wheel to the clutch pedal if you can. Buy and use a car cover every time. Buy one that has a cable and lock so it doesn’t get stolen too. 

Install an alarm. One with a kill switch will stop thieves before they can get it to their strip destination. A LoJack system with GPS will allow the car to be tracked and located. 

Last of all, buy comprehensive insurance for your car with a low deductible. It will cost a bit more, but having a free rental car will help keep your life in order while you go through the process of getting your car back in order. 

Alice La Pierre 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I highly urge the Santa Cruz City Council and other local governments in Monterey and San Francisco Bay Area to direct their local police departments to protect and defend the people from the aerial chemical pesticide spray bombardment that is coming again in June 2008 to our area. 

Specifically, to direct our local police departments to use lethal force to shoot down the planes and helicopters that are threatening the health, well-being and lives of our communities with the state and federal government’s illegal and harmful chemical/pesticide aerial spraying campaign. It is the mandate of the local police departments to “protect and defend” the people—by force of arms—as a last resort if all other means of solving conflicts and disputes are to no avail (i.e. pending lawsuits against the state and federal governments). The local police are ones empowered by mandate and by law in our communities to protect the people from internal and external violent attacks and to secure the peace and security of our cities. 

They have the weapons, sophisticated arsenals to tap and the obligation and the means to protect our communities from terrorist attacks. I say lets empower them to do their job.  

Take cue from the city of Brattleboro, Vermont—who have recently passed a resolution to arrest George Bush and Dick Cheney if they ever set foot in their city. 

Rafik Shakar 

Santa Cruz 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Democratic presidential contenders, Clinton and Obama, continue their contentious prattle while Republican nominee John McCain looks every bit presidential chatting with world leaders. 

Hillary wants Barack to play second fiddle on a Clinton/Obama “Dream Team” ticket. Hillary Clinton at the top of the Democratic ticket spells disaster for the party in November. 

Hillary will energize and inflame the Republican base like nothing and no one else can. Look at what she has done to Democratic campaigning! 

What happened to focusing on the issues? Do independents and moderates want to hear Clinton/Obama party infighting. Leave hardball politics to the GOP. 

It is time for Howard Dean and the DNC to rein in the Clinton campaign or we will be witnessing the swearing in of another “war president,” John Sidney McCain III, as our 44th president, next January. 

Ron Lowe 

Grass Valley