Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday April 04, 2008


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I attended the dedication of the memorial to the American Lincoln Brigade this last Sunday. I don’t know how many folks are familiar with the three-year Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Nearly 3,000 Americans volunteered to help fight the Franco, Nazi, 

and Italian forces trying to overthrow the elected government. A good portion of these men and women died in Spain. Had the Spanish Republicans won that war, World War II might well have been avoided. 

The United States, England and France embargoed the elected Spanish government, thus contributing to the victory of fascism. It certainly emboldened Hitler and Mussolini. 

Anyway, it was a thrill to see 11 veterans of the Lincoln Brigade, who were grateful for recognition and the memorial. There are 39 men and women veterans left. We do owe them for their sacrifice. 

The memorial is in San Francisco near the ferry building. Worth seeing. 

Harry Gans 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Richard Brenneman wrote an excellent article in your April 1 issue summarizing the talk by Wolfgang Homburger at the City Commons Club of Berkeley on March 28. Mr. Brenneman captured the complex details covered by Mr. Homburger in his one-hour presentation, and he wrote the article in a very clear and understandable way that includes all of the subtle points included in the talk. 

Somehow, while taking copious notes during Mr. Homburger’s talk, Mr. Brenneman also managed to shoot a bunch of photos, and the one you published shows action and focus in one little frame. 

The Berkeley Daily Planet has been supporting City Commons Club of Berkeley for many years by publishing our meeting notices in every issue. This has brought us some new members and has helped Berkeley area residents to learn about the high quality of the distinguished speakers who appear every Friday at noon at City Commons Club which meets in the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Avenue, Berkeley. 

We thank Richard Brenneman for his excellent article, and we thank the Daily Planet for your continuing support as we begin our 98th year of serving the East Bay communities with our educational programming. 

Edward L. Klinenberg 

President, City Commons Club 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am pleased the Berkeley City Council had the courage to say that recruiting for war is unwelcome, and admire the efforts of those who protest daily in front of the marine recruiting center to remind the recruiters we want them out of both Iraq and Berkeley. But I take issue with the idiot idea of announcing to news outlets that the Marine Recruiting station was going to be closing. 

Hearing the news on KPFA brought elation, followed by profound sadness when I later discovered it was untrue. The incident caused considerable confusion and demoralization among many who want to see the office closed. Starting rumors that sow confusion and that demoralize the left was a tactic favored by the FBI during operation Cointelpro because the FBI understood how discouraging such misinformation was. It is a shame that Code Pink engaged in this pathetic antic to get attention. 

I hope in the future that they focus on actually closing the recruiting station through protest and civil disobedience instead of using tactics that only serve to confuse and demoralize those who share their goal of closing the marine recruiting office. 

Anne Reisse 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

To disagree with a political opponent is fine. But to make fun of their appearance rather than arguing the issues seems like the behavior of a knave. A number of letters, and one editorial have painted the anti-Code Pink contingent as out-of-shape losers. As a long-time observer of political theater, I have noticed that both the Code Pink and pro-Marine groups seem to be made up of mostly middle-age folks with a smattering of younger people. Both groups seem to have about the same level of physical fitness and attractiveness. There seem to be more women in Code Pink, and more men in the pro-Marine groups, but other than that, not much difference in their level of fitness and attractiveness. If the two sides changed clothing and exchanged signs, I doubt if many of us would notice the difference. 

As to the effectiveness of the Code Pink tactics, I think they are counterproductive. I am against the Iraq war, and have been from the beginning. In every way, this is a bogus, inhumane, and wasteful war, being fought because of Bush administration lies. I am not, however, against the military. The Code Pink protests in front of the Marine Recruiting Office are preaching to the converted, and the smugness of the Code Pink members rubs many of us the wrong way. Why aren’t they in Texas or Ohio, where they might change some minds. Why aren’t they campaigning for Obama or Clinton. As long as the Bush/Cheney machine is in office, no amount of protesting will end the war in Iraq. There are many positive ways to make a difference in the world: help the presidential candidate of your choice, plant a tree or two, write letters to your representatives, mentor a child. But I am pretty sure that all of the Code Pink protests in Berkeley won’t shave one hour off of this war, and in fact will alienate a number of folks who share their disgust with the Iraq war. 

Fred Massell 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The tree-root damage that Barbara Widhalm commented on in the March 28 issue sounds like it might have been approved (if at all) by the same “behind-the-desk-arborist” who, a few years ago, insisted against the word of others more knowledgeable that the big tree at the corner of Cedar and Sixth streets was healthy and had to remain. So it did, until one day it did what seriously sick trees did—it fell over and died. Unfortunately, so did the driver of a car at that intersection, who had the misfortune of being stopped by the traffic light there, with his body exactly where the trunk of the huge tree fell. 

Why do we see so many erroneous pronouncements by those who aren’t experts in a particular specialty? Having to consult a truly knowledgeable source is not an admission of total incompetence. To the neighbors who enjoyed the curbside trees daily, their eventual loss may be as serious as the loss of Berkeley Iceland to the community’s ice skaters, where an inappropriate decision to require a portable refrigeration system of unknown condition was pronounced better than the original system that had been professionally maintained, thus depleting financial resources that could have been applied to current repairs and maintenance. 

Milford Brown 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I wanted to read the commentary entitled The Winter Soldier Investigation, but it wasn’t until the third column that the author, Mark Sapir, bothered to talk about anything other than trashing KPFA. Been there (exhaustively), done that. I thought it was a rather poor April Fool’s joke—on your readers. 

Mal Burnstein 

Former Local Board Chair, KPFA 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

If the teachers want more money, why don’t they identify a part of the budget to cut? Here are some ideas.  

Mandate that no person who works for the state can get more than 50 percent of their pay in retirement and work until 62 to get it. Return class size to 30-to-1; that will allow the schools to eliminate 25 percent of the administrators and teachers using attrition. Make government employees pay one third of their medical premium. Also, go into every part of government and get rid of at least 10 percent of the employees. This is more than fair and would go a long way to balancing the budget. See, what they want is just more and more. It is like a heroin addict he will never get enough and will sooner or later overdose on the drugs. The people are overtaxed and their lives and futures are being destroyed in order to keep an out-of-control system going.  

Dan Carter 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Shame on you Chevron! You bussed your employees to the Planning Board Meeting to filibuster the important decision around the 22-mile highly explosive hydrogen pipeline, leaving opponents literally out in the cold. Then you used manipulating words—new jobs, upgrade, less pollution, help for Richmond. Fortunately the members asked probing questions: How many permanent jobs? (Answer: 10.) Why won’t you agree to no dirty polluting crude oil? (We don’t have the equipment. Then when pushed, we would have to come back to the board if we decide differently.) 

You had three years to explore alternative nonpolluting energy; you made $18.3 billion profit; you charge a record $110 per barrel. What a missed opportunity to clean up your shameful record in oil spills in our bay, the Australian Barrier Reef, toxic flaring around the world. Shame on you to say you’re helping Richmond then want to reduce taxes and increase pollution 5-50 times (according to scientists from CBE and Attorney General Brown). 

Folks, we have not only a cancer and respiratory illness epidemic, this is a global warming crisis! Write and ask the Planning Board to resubmit the DEIR and appear at the April 10 meeting. Democracy and health need you. 

Ruth Gilmore 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

After the much-maligned North Shattuck Plaza ran into heated opposition from area residents and merchants in 2007, the plaza’s leading proponent, Planning Commissioner David Stoloff told the San Francisco Chronicle late last year that he was on the verge of withdrawing his plan. He claimed he was doing so because he was “outshouted.” 

People who have seen Stoloff in action were not convinced that his plan was really going away. Sure enough, the public review draft of the Berkeley Pedestrian Master Plan was released this past February, and there, towards the end on pages 6-68 and 6-69 is a proposal for a North Shattuck Plaza. Key elements of the plan are nearly identical to what Stoloff proposed last year. 

How did this privately developed plan, dreamed up mainly by architects and developers who stand to profit enormously from it, wind up in a city master plan? It’s not hard to figure out. Stoloff campaigned very hard and raised a lot of money for Mayor Tom Bates in 2004, who subsequently appointed him to the Planning Commission. Bates is running for re-election this year.  

Councilmember Laurie Capitelli, another leading advocate for the Plaza, also may have had a hand in trying to quietly slip a very divisive proposal through the city planning process. Capitelli too, is up for re-election this year. 

Fortunately, neighborhood activist Merilee Mitchell took the time to read the nearly 300-page Master Plan document and alerted North Shattuck people to what was in it. If not for that, Stoloff & Co. might have been able to slip through the back door what it had been unable to obtain through an open public process. 

The public comment period for the Berkeley Pedestrian Master Plan closes on April 11. Comments should be sent to 

Art Goldberg 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Since 1983, sexually active gay men have been selectively prohibited from donating blood. The policy was enacted in reaction to the emergence of HIV/AIDS among the gay male population in the United States. In order to best protect the blood supply from the widely misunderstood virus, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA)—the federal body charged with overseeing blood donations—implemented a lifetime ban for all men who had engaged in sexual intercourse with other men, since 1977. Twenty-four years later, the policy is still in place despite technological and blood screening advancements, which includes a three-phase process to ensure all transferred blood is untainted.  

The FDA defers donors temporarily based on many conditions, such as travel to foreign countries or recent exposure to needles, but provides no flexibility when considering the deferral of sexually active gay men. If a man engages in monogamous, protected sexual intercourse with only one man over a lifetime, this man is still considered at higher risk than the general sexually active population, and is therefore banned for life from donating blood.  

Some university campuses have decided to approach the policy with a kind of activism and message to blood banks that is loud and clear—“you are not welcome here.” Based on public university non-discrimination policies, these campuses propose to ban blood drives on campus. University President Don Kassing recently enacted such a ban at San Jose State University and professors at Sonoma State University are currently weighing a measure that would do the same at their campus. The premise of this approach is commendable, but at what cost? UC Berkeley’s monthly blood drives bring in nearly hundreds blood units each school year, meaning that just as many lives have been affected by campus blood donation. While more adversarial efforts are effective in raising awareness, a new and innovative approach might better offer benefits for both a marginalized community seeking equality and an individual in desperate need of blood.  

To balance these competing interests, the LGBT community organized a Sponsor Blood Drive last year, which invited deferred donor students and community members to seek sponsors to give blood in their name. The event raised awareness of the policy and provided an opportunity for all individuals to participate in the unique act of giving life. Due to its success, and the Bay Area’s recent involvement in the cause, UC Berkeley is holding another Sponsor Blood Drive on Monday, April 7. UC Berkeley has an opportunity to take part in this important discussion, and we should be heard loud and clear—do not discriminate…but give blood, too.  

I encourage all those able individuals to give blood and save lives. If you cannot give on April 7, then find your nearest blood service provider at We should all have the right to give life – let us continue to strive for that aim and continue to save lives in the process. Please stop by the Right to Give Life booth on Sproul the week of March 31– April 4 or drop in to give blood on Monday, April 7 in the Pauly Ballroom, MLK, Jr.  

Jeff Manassero 

Senior and former ASUC Senator 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Martial law in America—a story that won’t go away. The Bush administration has passed several omnibus bills in the last four years that relate to martial law. Every once in a while you read nefarious reports that concentration camps and detention centers are being outfitted. Who are the shadowy groups involved with this clandestine plot? 

On another level, The Progressive magazine published an article about the FBI and Homeland Security deputizing 25,000 people from the private sector to report on suspicious activities and unusual events. 

Infragard, as the organization is called, is another secret surveillance unit that is keeping tabs on Americans. 

One chilling reference mentioned in the article was a agent advising the group “when—not if—martial law is declared.” A FBI spokeswoman’s response to the statement, how ridiculous. 

Ron Lowe 

Grass Valley