Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday March 28, 2008







Editors, Daily Planet: 

For those with weak stomachs who missed ABC-TV’s weekend interview with Dick Cheney, held during his latest “surprise!” visit to Iraq, he offered up the best one-word apology for the last seven years: “So?”  

So? Martha Raddatz’ request to compare the rectitude of Bush foreign policy to citizen discontent over the military-industrial incursion in Iraq (home of the Garden of Eden), damned them (us) for our tidal “fluctuations” of polled opinion. Now that’s a new one. 

Wouldn’t “So?” make a great epitaph on Cheney’s marker? 

Phil Allen 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m a life-long resident of Berkeley and I’m not a huge fan of Berkeley attitude. However one thing that I was very pleased to see was the weekly pick-up of green debris waste. Berkeley is known for being green, so being able to recycle food waste is a great idea. 

Today was our garbage and debris pick-up day, so I was shocked to see that the garbage collectors put my green debris bin into the same truck as the garbage. If I go to the trouble of separating out the green debris, then I expect the garbage people to keep them separate also. Berkeley appears to be green on the surface only. In actuality, it’s just another garbage dump. 

Kathy Fong 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Coming home after being out of town for a few days, I found half the trees on my street severely damaged from curb renovation work. In some cases, an area the size of the entire stem and top root diameter was chain-sawed open several feet deep into the soil, which, most likely, will result in tree death. I knew the city was planning to repave the road, but no one had notified us that they were planning to deeply cut into the stems and root systems of the 70-plus-year-old oak trees lining Deakin Street. There was no safety hazard whatsoever associated with our curbs. 

I am appalled that Berkeley of all places, a city claiming to be a model for green living and sustainable urban design, would—consciously or by negligence—threaten the survival of its own beautiful tall street trees. Not only are we losing yet another piece of nature and habitat, we are also contributing to global warming by destroying our urban carbon sinks and natural cooling capacities. A City officially committed to greenhouse gas reduction must watch more closely to what is happening to its own trees. 

I am grieving not just for these trees but also for the state of this world. This senseless damage symbolizes what is happening to our planet. Every time I look out the window at my oak tree, I am again reminded that we are cutting off our own life support system. While the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing, while we mindlessly take measures to improve the “urban quality of life” and continue our consumption habits as usual, the diameter of damage keeps expanding. The leaves of my oak tree are still green today, the tree may even survive another year or two, and by the time we see its leaves turn brown in spring and fall off in summer, it will already be on the verge of death.  

This oak tree’s wounds are this world’s wounds, they are my own wounds, and my child’s wounds. My 9-year-old daughter said “I can hear the tree cry.” And I cry with her because I have no way of knowing whether our children will survive the consequences of our own stupidity. 

Barbara Widhalm 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On March 31 we celebrate the birthday of the late Cesar Chavez, founder of the United Farm Workers. Hopefully this will a national holiday some day, for Chavez was a true American hero. 

Chavez fought for the rights of all beings, not just the farm workers. Unbeknownst to many of his followers, Chavez was a long-time vegetarian for ethical reasons. One of my most treasured possessions is a letter he wrote to me on Dec. 26, 1990 in support of my animal welfare efforts. It contains these insightful words: 

“Kindness and compassion towards all living things is a mark of a civilized society. Conversely, cruelty, whether it is directed against human beings or against animals, is not the exclusive province of any one culture or community of people. Racism, economic deprival, dogfighting and cockfighting, bullfighting and rodeos are cut from the same fabric: violence. Only when we have become nonviolent towards all life will we have learned to live well ourselves.” 

Words to live by. 

Eric Mills, coordinator 

Action for Animals 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I wish I could just ignore the war and get on with my life. But I am a citizen of this country, which means that the war in Iraq is being waged in my name. They say that the surge is working. What about all of the people who are being killed each day? 

The only explanation is that leaders like Dick Cheney actually want everything to be in chaos, so that their privatized oil and security firms can make bundles of money. They have projected their own psychological issues onto society at large, and their screwed-up heads have lead them to create a screwed-up world. 

I hope when Barack Obama is president, and Bill Richardson is either vice president or secretary of state (he gets to choose), that they ask John Edwards to be our attorney general. Edwards could lead the investigations into all of the wrongdoing, and we can get the Bushes and Cheneys some psychological help after we put them in jail. 

Tom Kennedy 

San Francisco 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Please continue to give the Iraqi war the maximum amount of coverage. It is so very important to keep us all alert to the terrible costs of this monstrous war. All wars are signs of moral failure, none more so than this one. We must think every day of the lives lost, the lives ruined, the excruciating pain felt by the wounded in their bodies and by their loved ones in their hearts. We must try to share that pain by taking some action, every day, to protest and to urge others to do the same. That applies to us all, of course, but no one has a larger responsibility to do this than you, our media. It is your cross, and you must bear it. The rest of us must help you as we can. 

Kay Lawson 

Professor Emerita of Political Science, San Francisco State University 

Member, Grandmas Against the War 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

All Easter weekend long, we heard radio voices weighing in on Obama. How do white people feel about his blackness, how do black people feel about his whiteness? Absent from the discussion is any awareness of what he’s actually done. Where has he landed his punches? During Obama’s brief political career thus far, what issues has he acted on? Much has been made of his pastor’s disparaging comments about America and 9/11. So is that really Obama? Did he spend his young senate days hanging with the fringe wing of the Democratic party that pushes 9/11 conspiracy theories? Did he lend his voice to the view that 9/11 was America’s just comeuppance? No. If anything, Mr. Obama was a bit timid as a young senator, watching in dismay as his idealistic bits of legislation got watered down over time. 

Obama himself is a bit of a Rorschach Test, in that commentators superimpose on him what they think should be there. For this reason, Obama is often linked to Black Liberation Theology. This is silly, because he was never a radical. In his youth, he never went through a Chicago Seven phase, all fist-pumping, Bobby Seal haircuts and incendiary speeches. If anything, Obama was an eager but cautious Harvard law student with an eye on social justice issues, but apt to keep his options open. Not “options open” in a cynical sense, not soft-pedaling his views, but rather, living according to a belief that brash, extreme opinions only alienate those who might otherwise be your allies. Like many young black leaders, Obama saw the limitations of racially-charged politics, the futility of replacing one racial stereotype with another. Thus, he would find ways to discuss inflammatory issues in reasonable, nuanced tones. 

It looks like this year, America has a candidate that prefers to shed light, rather than heat. Are we up for it? If Obama loses, it won’t be because he’s black. It’ll be because America’s not ready for a President that talks to you as if you have a brain. 

Joy Apperson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Bush-Cheney administration has done tremendous damage to our country. The war, the debt, the flouting of the Constitution, increase of Islamic enemies... Quite probably the worst administration in U.S. history. It will take much to begin to recover after them. Unless Congress at least starts the process of Impeachment, history will take a very dim view of the Congress, and us for not demanding it do so. 

Harry Gans 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

“For the most part, Senator Clinton and Senator Obama have identical voting records on Iraq,” says the National Journal. Yes, before becoming a senator, Obama spoke out against giving Bush the authority to send troops to Iraq and that is to his credit. But, in a real sense that was an easy thing to do. What I think is much more telling is how Obama has voted since joining the Senate. If he is truly committed to getting us out of Iraq, shouldn’t he have voted against funding the military so that we might not be able to keep our troops there? One cannot oppose the war and yet support keeping our troops in Iraq.  

Irving Gershenberg 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I saw Walter Hood present his ideas for a public space on Center Street at a Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee meeting last year. Immediately after his talk, I went up to speak to him about my primary concerns about his initial concept: There wasn’t enough space for a true public plaza that could accommodate large groups, and there weren’t nearly enough trees. He was so dismissive of my suggestions that I knew right then that such features would not be present in his final proposals. That has indeed come to pass (Daily Planet, “Two Designs Promise Center Street Changes,” March 21). 

It’s not really Mr. Hood’s fault, after all. He’s been asked to do the impossible. A long and narrow space—like a street—just does not function well as a central gathering and performance space. And we do sorely need a central public plaza downtown. That is the one change that could really bring people back to our city center. One nearby example of a highly successful public square project can be found in Portland, Oregon. Done right, a public plaza works to bring a community together. 

So, here’s what I propose: Leave the street alone. It’s working pretty well, and the businesses are getting patrons, and it is quite lovely with the trees and the sunlight that shines on it. Instead, let’s put the new university art museum completely underground. And then on top at ground level, we can put a wonderful public square with a large assembly space, plenty of grass and trees, and lots of places for people to sit comfortably. In other words, a real public square. And if not here, let’s find another location with adequate space for the concept. 

But please, let’s not just change the paving of a narrow strip of land from asphalt to textured blocks, and add a water fountain or a couple little pools, and call it a public square. It will not be one. You can call a pig a palomino as many times as you want, but that doesn’t really increase its chances of winning the Kentucky Derby, does it? 

Doug Buckwald 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I don’t understand the outrage to Rev. Wright’s speech. He accused the United States of being racist from the beginning. Can anyone deny that land, freedom, and lives were stolen from Native Americans as soon as Europeans landed here? Soon after that, Africans were kidnapped and held as slaves, cruelly treated to enrich the slaveholders. Chinese laborers were used to build the railroads, then denied human rights. European factory workers were exploited and worked in wretched conditions. Japanese citizens were held in concentration camps because of their ancestry. Today, people of Mexican and Arabic descent are often persecuted. Sounds like racism to me. Resentment would be the mildest reaction to expect 

Another question: In what way do some people think that the marines are protecting my freedom of speech and behavior? From whom? No, thank you. 

The solution to budget cuts, school layoffs, health care shortages, and deficits of all kinds....... (drum roll please) cancel the war! Use the trillion or so dollars for sane, helpful purposes! 

Ruth Bird 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In Toyo Ito’s rendering of the proposed art museum, the sidewalk on Oxford Street in front of the museum is filled with people. But that sidewalk is empty today, and the rendering shows nothing that will attract all those people. 

In the rendering, the Oxford Street facade of the museum is made up of blank white walls rising up behind small lawns with abstract sculptures on them. Anyone who understands how to create lively urban places can predict that this will be an empty, unused space. 

If we want this to be a lively space, we should replace the small, unusable lawns with cafe seating, and we should add a couple of stands nearby selling coffee, tea, and food. 

Artsy architects are attracted by blank white walls rising up behind small lawns, but ordinary people are not. If we want people here, we need something that will attract people. 

Charles Siegel 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a registered Green, I don’t condone the remarks that Senator Barack Obama’s pastor, Jeremiah Wright, made, but I have read, seen and heard about white conservative Christian pastors preaching more hate than Wright does. They describe people who don’t have a God in their lives as being “Godless.” It is not surprising since they have a long history of preaching hate in the name of Christianity. 

For example, several centuries ago, the majority of these white Christian pastors condoned the racist atrocities toward American Indians in this country. The Pequot Indians in New England for example, were massacred because their religion, according to the majority of these white Christians, is heathen, and that they are “Godless.” 

Also centuries ago, the majority of these white conservative Christians condoned the enslavement of African Americans in this country. After the Civil War and through the end of the 1960s they also condoned the lynching of black men who flirted with white women, and they supported Jim Crow. Someone should denounce the hateful rhetoric by these white conservative Christians. 

Billy Trice, Jr. 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Berkeley Unified School District directors are about as nice to the warm pool community as Israel is nice to its neighbor, Palestine. Iffy. 

BUSD directors have announced in the press they intend to take any new advice of a (charrette) committee of professionals about revising the BHS south-of-Bancroft master plan as seriously as our U.S. president takes the advice of protesters and peace-lovers around the world, including the new democratic majority in Congress: that is to say, not at all. 

All the great and warm effort and time expended by Superintendent Mclaughlin to help the warm pool community are as nothing to the president of the board of directors at BUSD. 

All the agreements and contracts by the board and Super Jack prior to His Coming are as nothing to the president of the board, regarding maintenance, parking, crosswalk, continued existence where now located ... of the warm pool at BHS. 

All communication about flawed reports are as nothing to the board of directors regarding the value of the warm pool and the old gym at BHS. 

All efforts to speak to the BUSD board are as nothing to the board and their president re the value of the warm pool. 

I could go on but maybe the reader begins to understand how I feel on the subject. Pessimistic. 

Reportedly the committee in question is intent on suggesting reasonable alternative(s) to the truly awful master plan in question. 

However, just as our dictatorial president seems intent on wrecking the U.S. government and U.S. economy to get his way, I anticipate the BUSD president to respond to rational pressures to save buildings and money ... with irrational total negativity, as usual. 

Terry Cochrell 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

What do you know about Republican presidential candidate John McCain? 

John McCain is another “war president” in waiting, cut in the mold of George Bush. 

Ex-POW McCain urged President Bush to veto a bill that would have banned waterboarding torture. 

McCain wants to make Bush tax cuts for the wealthy permanent. 

John McCain has flip flopped on most hot button issues since he began his run for president. 

John McCain believes women should be prosecuted if they have abortions. (San Francisco Chronicle, Feb. 24.) 

McCain wants to fill the Supreme Court with more social conservatives like John Roberts and Samuel Alito. 

The League of Conservation Voters gave McCain a zero percent rating on his environmental votes last year. 

“I am a very superstitious person” he recently said. McCain is wholeheartedly behind Bush’s pre-emptive war syndrome. 

“Superstitious people are possessed by panic and they produce it,” said Voltaire. 

I’ve yet to hear any new ideas from John McCain, just more of the same. 

With John McCain as the next president America would go from the frying pan into the fire. 

Ron Lowe 

Grass Valley