Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday March 25, 2008







Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Berkeley Rep should be shamed for presenting the hackneyed one person show by Carrie Fisher as part of its subscription series. The Roda Theater should be used for state of the art productions. To reduce its use to bloviation with no focus by a third rate actor renders the contributions of its founders a travesty. I do not know how the Berkeley Rep justifies this betrayal of its historic purpose. The first show I saw at Berkeley Rep more than 30 years ago was a wonderfully nuanced comedy of manners by Feydeau. To see the mishmash of Wishful Drinking as part of that lineage is to abandon judgment. The Jack-in-the Box audience members in the front rows jumping up to give Wishful Drinking a standing ovation testify to how low things have become. If subscribers are not careful, we may get more of the same. 

Ken Hempel 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a Berkeley resident for over 25 years, I have been proud to call myself a left/progressive person. But I have been aghast at the misogyny, close-mindedness, and mean-spiritedness demonstrated by some members of the left this primary season. The vitriol, the attacks on Hillary Clinton and her supporters, the name calling, all of it has been contrary to the progressive agenda of tolerance, equality, and fairness. Try to question Obama’s qualifications to be president or express concern about his ties to people like Tony Rezko, and find yourself on the receiving end of attacks. This is unity? Count how many of his supporters have actually researched his background and are aware of both his strengths and weaknesses. This is intellectual freedom? What I’ve learned from this experience is that extremism, whether on the left or the right, can sometimes lead to blindness and a hardening of the heart. 

Stacy Taylor 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

In response to Deborah Cloudwalker’s March 21 letter, I would like to say that it is both un-informed and irresponsible to argue that the reality of race relations in America resides entirely in the minds of black people. This type of statement attempts to negate the reality of structural and institutional racism, confining it only to personal experience. More importantly than placing blame (which Cloudwalker’s letter appears to do), this sentiment denies that anyone but black people have a stake in ending racism. This is simply not the case. Racism is not the problem of people of color alone, white people are harmed by its poisonous effects as well. While it is true that racism may not exist everywhere that people believe they see it, it is just as true that many are unable or simply refuse to acknowledge racism where it does, in fact, exist. 

Sadly, the history of this nation is built on episodes of genocide and violence aimed at people of color. As a nation, we can be proud of the steps that we have taken towards remedying this history. However, it is again un-informed and irresponsible to claim that racism is a thing of the past. For those who are resistant to the notion that racism continues to exist, it is crucial to acknowledge that not all allegations of racism are aimed at individuals. Nor is it necessary for discrimination to be the stated intent of an action for racist effects to occur. This is the crux of American racism at this point in history. For many, it is comforting to believe that Ward Connerly, Condoleeza Rice, and the Civil Rights Movement are evidence of racism’s demise. Yet racism continues to exist in the laws and structures of out society, “hidden” for some and very tangible for others. Yes, America has started down the path towards ending racism, but we are far from the finish line. 

Sarah Fong 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

In J. Douglas Allen-Taylor’s recent column about race, he asks why other candidates for national public office have not spoken to racial issues. This is a disingenuous question. White Americans have long ago learned that we cannot speak honestly about racial issues, because whenever we do, we are called “racist” and our attempts to open dialogue about this very worthy issue are closed down. It is insincere for black Americans to on the one hand cry that white Americans aren’t speaking about race, and then on the other hand to slap us in the face and shut us down when we attempt to do so honestly.  

Secondly, Barack Obama did not speak openly about race until forced to do so by the scandalous images of racist and hateful preaching by his pastor for 20 years. There is anti-black racism in America, no doubt, and Allen-Taylor gives examples of this, which all of us must be willing to face. There is anti-white racism in America as well, which Reverend Wright demonstrates, and which all of us must be willing to face. As long as “talking about race in America” means nothing but blacks airing their grievances and refusing to allow white people to speak honestly about our experiences, and our grievances, which include anti-white racism, or our concern about blacks such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson “playing the race card” in a manipulative and self-serving fashion, then the “dialogue” ensuing is little but a biased sermon, is untruthful and is no dialogue at all. Real dialogue means all people must be allowed to speak honestly, no matter the color of their skin, and means all of us being honest and open and working together for change. I hope this is the new dawn which Barack Obama may bring to this nation.  

Hank Goldman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It appears that AC Transit has come up with a bold and sophisticated plan to make bus usage even less attractive. As we learned in last Friday’s Daily Planet (“AC Transit Sets Fare Increase Hearing for May 21”), the AC Transit Board intends to increase fares and cut back on routes. These changes—along with the recent changeover of the bus fleet to the hated and uncomfortable Van Hool buses—are certain to decrease bus ridership even further. Brilliant! 

Thank heavens such a competent agency is in charge of the proposed Bus Rapid Transit project. If recent trends are any indication, I have no doubt that AC Transit will find a way to build and run this system without a single passenger ever using it at all! But the practical benefits of such an approach are apparent. Without ever having to stop for passengers, buses will have a much easier time meeting their schedules. And without any boardings, AC Transit will save significant dollars on wear and tear on the fare boxes and bus interiors. 

The savings that will accrue can be put into the travel budget for AC Transit executives—who regularly need to search the world for new buses to purchase. I have heard that they are currently in negotiations with bus companies in Tahiti, Venice, and the Greek Islands. Obligatory week-long stopovers at luxury hotels in Paris will be included in each junket, both to ease the transition to a new time zone and to make sure that the effects of jet lag do not cloud the judgment of our AC Transit officials. But, then again, who would ever notice the difference? 

Doug Buckwald 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The new soccer compound being constructed on the shores of the bay was supposed to be a low-impact project benefiting many communities and was apparently endorsed by the Sierra Club, CESP and Save Our Shoreline. It turns out that due to lack of funds, the specified less visible, high quality fencing as well as landscaping to lessen visual impact have been eliminated. We are now getting the “my” design. 

Although there were insufficient funds to budget those critical visual elements, the “possible” owl-burrough was moved to the Albany Plateau at a cost of $75,000—and without the owl. Then, as a result of “value engineering,” we now have an unsightly architecture which will be a blight on our waterfront for many years to come. 

The prominent feature looking West will be the 20-foot tall, unpainted galvanized posts and prison-like chain link fence surrounding the fields. This structure will obscure our wonderful view of Mt.Tam and the horizon as we are using the Bay Trail or driving north on I-80. 

Every sunset, we will be blinded by bright-as-day lighting coming on just as twilight casts its spell over the bay. We have not “saved” our shoreline or protected its natural beauty by any means. 

Along with this, we are told that there will be many days when traffic to Golden Gate Fields combined with games will cause major congestion at the bottom of Gilman Street. There are two parking lots planned, one on Gilman and one on the south end, both of which will be a mess at game time. 

I suggest that the joint commission find a way to beautify this project: field coating the tall posts, coated fencing and some landscaping to make it look more natural. In the future, no waterfront projects, whether developer or government sponsored, should be supported which lack funding to include required amenities. 

Peter Hobart 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Sen. Don Perata is circulating information about a senate resolution (SCR 87) urging the California Department of Food and Agriculture to impose a moratorium on aerial spraying for the Light Brown Apple Moth until the CDFA can prove that the compound it intends to use is both safe and effective. 

SCR87 may be a good first step. But those who want to spray us will try to make it sound safe; they will spend lots of money to try to get their way. 

Does anybody know the answers to the following questions? 

Who will profit from the proposed spraying? The companies selling the spray? Friends of the governor? 

Why can’t traps with the pheromones be placed around orchards and yards by hand? I heard one community activist suggesting that ordinary citizens (who don’t want spraying) could be organized to help with moth control in this way. I think organizing that kind of effort would be possible and have a positive overall social effect. 

And additionally, isn’t there some law that protects us from being used as subjects of experimentation or research without our consent? Because that’s what this spraying method really is; they are researching what the effect would be on the population. They are experimenting on us, and we do not consent! 

We must continue to resist this crazy plan to spray humans and pets and livestock in order to try to control a moth. 

Barbara Whipperman 






Editors, Daily Planet: 

There is a serious public health problem with the proposed pesticide spray which I have not heard mentioned. That is the anxiety, depression, incidence of panic attacks, distraction from productive work, and anger accompanied by violent ideation which, as a clinical psychologist, I hear from clients who express their concerns about the consequences of the proposed spray. These are thoughtful and accomplished people. Some are elders; some are young and pregnant and have young children; some are chemically sensitive and vulnerable to allergies. 

Most of them, and perhaps all of us, are reasonably at risk, as demonstrated by scientific studies of ingredients of the spray—carcinogenic, mutagenic, and toxic, one a reproductive effector associated with birth defects, and several of which should not be inhaled. We know about the hundreds of reports of health problems following spraying in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. 

Their fears of disabling physical damage—for themselves, for their children, for their own parents—which might not be evident for years, cannot be dismissed. We have too much evidence of the application of insufficiently tested substancescthalidomide is the first that comes to mind. 

The anger that arises when citizen rights guaranteed by both national and state constitutions—the consent of the governed—has led to most of the world’s violence, and is fueled by the declaration of false emergencies and imposition of “executive authority,” which has been shown to be scientifically unsound. 

The longevity of grandparents who want to see their grandchildren grow into healthy adults is at risk. 

Even our food supply is at risk as we use methods which kill bees as well as the intended target of the light brown apple moth. Why? That moth has been in New Zealand for a hundred years and in California for likely 30-50 years without crop damage. If it were necessary to control, there are proven non-toxic methods available. 

I ask readers for your attention to these factors and their long-term consequences at many levels—physical, emotional, mental, and for some, spiritual, as well as political, economic, and environmental. 

I ask that you urge others to do all they can to influence our governor and the California Department of Food and Agriculture to call off and cancel all plans for aerial pesticide spraying. I am asking the state to divert the enormous economic outlay the current plan would entail to provide health-producing benefits rather than stress-inducing toxic spraying. Imagine keeping state parks open, providing early school for all children, and supporting training for organic farming.  

Anne Maiden Brown 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Last week at a meeting for Monterey County farmers, Secretary A.G. Kawamura of the CDFA said he was on a mission to fight “misinformation” about the aerial spraying to eradicate the light brown apple moth. 

There were rumors, he said, that the synthetic pheromone kills cats and fish, causes penile deformity in baby boys, and is even “radioactive,” a local newspaper reported. He was out to dispel these rumors and stand above the public’s ignorance. 

Kawamura was using a classic but juvenile communication tactic by creating a false premise (straw man) and then knocking it down, instead of talking about the real issues.  

But some people in Kawamura’s audience must have thought, “What is this guy talking about? What about the 643 illness complaints, and the kids who ended up in the hospital after the spraying in Monterey and Santa Cruz? Why is he bringing up these ridiculous ideas that I’ve never heard before? He is out of touch. He’s avoiding the truth. I can’t trust him!” 

But then again, what could Kawamura do? If he addressed the real issues, he’d have to talk about the people who have been forced from their homes on the Central Coast because they’re asthmatic or chemically sensitive and could not risk their lives.  

He’d have to talk about the long list of toxic ingredients in the spray, and the time-released micro-particles that embed themselves in a person’s deep lung tissue.  

And he’d have to talk about the privilege of being subjects of a health experiment against our informed consent, something prohibited by the Nuremberg Code, an internationally accepted standard of conduct instituted after the atrocities of World War II. 

I guess Kawamura had to focus on rumors like radioactivity and deformed body parts, because the aerial spraying campaign he is managing has such flawed science and reasoning behind it, and has already resulted in so much suffering and harm.  

If anyone is going to talk about the real issues—like how this aerial assault on our civil rights is not necessary, safe or effective—it is going to have to be citizens like you and me, and our state representatives who have shown courage in this matter. We don’t have to be afraid of the truth. 

Mike Lynberg 

Pacific Grove 






Editors, Daily Planet: 

Last week, for the first time in, alas, yet another Christian millennium, anniversaries of Peace Symbol templated Easter Week. This is less than five years away from the end of that drum-beating Mayan Age, Winter Solstice 2012, that could just be cycle renewal, or bring extinction—nuclear holocaust, global warming, unknown. . . 

But it ain’t in the stars; it’s in us northern hemishpereoids and our energy lust. It’s maybe in the stars, but that ain’t for no astrologer me to say, as Pisces ended things, a full moon Good Friday Aries started it all over again—spring time and its allergies. 

The week kicked off Monday, March 17 with International Peace Symbol Day, created after the start of the stinking Iraq War. Of course, that self same St. Patrick’s Day had to be celebrated this year on the 15th because Paddy’s Day cannot parochially be boogied during Holy Week. 

Happened last in 1940, not again until 2160. We’re taking about rarities. With me? 

The past Easter weekend marked the Christian calendar’s 50th anniversary of the first public viewing of the Peace Symbol. It was on that initial 45-mile 1958 Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament stepping out death-and-resurrection April 4-7 from London to Aldermaston, England’s nuclear weapons factory to this day.  

A Golden Jubilee for the rest of us! From Peace Symbol’s Feb. 21 creation through its latest ban-the-bomb march to our customary calendar comin’ up Friday through Monday, April 4-7.  

Three galas! Like a well-trained preacher consummately stating belief three times. What more need be deduced. Tell me. Tell us. 

Armin A. Legdon 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Those casting stones at Barack Obama better not live in glass houses. How many years have these same Republican corps, who are casting dispersions on Obama and holding him accountable for the words of his pastor, how many years have these same self-serving puritans been sitting in their megachurches listening to the likes of Rev. John Hegee spew out virulent, fiery, hate-filled sermons targeting immigrants, gays and abortion providers? 

Should Barack or any of us be held accountable for the words that issue forth from our pastor’s mouths? No, and this is not what this latest charade is about. The Obama controversy has all the earmarks of the Republican spin machine and is a preview of the sleazy things to come this fall. 

Ron Lowe 

Grass Valley