Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday April 08, 2008



Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Bay Area Seed Interchange Library of the Berkeley Ecology Center will be holding our first Bay Area Homegrown Tomato Show-Off. So keep track of which varieties you are planting and plan on bringing some of your first and best (Non-Hybrid) tomatoes to the Show-Off on Saturday, Aug. 9 at the Berkeley Farmer’s Market’s Tomato Tasting Celebration. 

Seeds will be saved to be shared through The Seed Library. Be a part of finding, saving, sharing and adapting seed that does well in our special heat challenged climate. Also through seed saving we are reclaiming a crucial part of the sustainability cycle and offering an antidote to the corporate buy-out of world seed companies. Plus you’ll get to show off the fruits of your labor and be eligible for groovy raffle prizes. May your gardens prosper! 

Terri Compost 

Bay Area Seed Interchange Library 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Our two-party system is really unfair and disenfranchising. Watching the Clinton-Obama battle over superdelegates makes me think how much fairer our elections would be if we went to instant runoff voting. Everyone could rank all the candidates—regardless of party.  

Steve Geller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A reserved parking space for protesters in front of the recruitment office that stands a block away from the nearest station of a world-class mass-transit system and a major intersection served by several bus lines? 

The U.S. military is in Iraq for oil—first and last. Anything else—like weapons of mass destruction (WMD in Iraq? Check Pentagon receipts.), overthrowing a hostile regime (are fewer Iraqis in jail with U.S. forces than under Hussein?), spreading democracy, liberating the Iraqi people—is window dressing. Congress and the White House are using the U.S. military as a private security force for the oil industry. 

A reserved parking space to protest the wasteful and insane oil war is reminiscent of those who converged upon Universal Studios to protest Martin Scorcese’s The Last Temptation of Christ. Rather than taking the bus that runs along Ventura Boulevard right past Universal Studios, the protesters drove their cars and parked in Universal’s lot, paying thousands of dollars in parking fees to the Studio—effectively canceling out their protest. 

Every time we turn the key in the ignition, we’re dropping more money in the oil industry’s pocket and keeping our troops in an oil-rich region. 

However, we can break our habit of wide-spread car ownership by walking, bicycling, hitch-hiking, taking public transportation, foregoing all motorized recreation and leisure driving, voluntarily rationing gasoline by driving fewer days a week, driving no faster than 55 mph (During World War II, the United States had a national speed limit of 35 mph to save not only fuel, but rubber, for the troops.), etc.—all of which would go a long way toward reducing oil consumption, having less pollution, and a better, stronger, and more open society. 

We can protest the lying war machine without driving around town. 

Michael Lang 






Editors, Daily Planet: 

History should not be ignored. About two decades ago, during the height of the crack epidemic, residents near the intersection of Fairview and California streets had severe problems with fast cars. Barriers were busted through, and when the “staple” (low steel under-carriage device) between the barriers was installed, some drivers went up the curb and drove on the sidewalk to go east from California Street onto Fairview. The installation of some permanent pillars on the sidewalk finally cut out that option. Fairview became a quiet street. 

The questionnaire justifying the traffic circles did show initial support for some in the neighborhood. But whether or not you supported “enhancing” your neighborhood, the survey only gave choices for first or second priority for each intersection; the only way to indicate you wanted any particular intersection left alone was to provide no answer, which was the response in 36 percent to 41 percent of the cases. The highest first priority rating was an uninspiring 44 percent.  

Some residents at the Fairview and California intersection got assurances that the barriers would remain in place even with the circle installed. Instead, the barriers were moved to the side. Now the city has gone to the expense of removing the “staple” and painting the road and posting signs saying, in effect, “don’t drive through here.” People who drive in a legal fashion may obey that, if they figure it out with the confusion of the circle signs. People who would drive on the sidewalk are not likely to be impressed. 

As the economy tanks and legal employment decreases, and new cheap, addictive drugs become available, the open air drug market is likely to become a problem again. Could we at least keep a few of the safety measures that worked in the past, and re-block Fairview? 

Barbara Judd 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am an educator with 36 years of teaching experience in classrooms for both regular and challenged students. 

But here in the United States (where I have been teaching for 15 years) I have noticed that the attention of teachers of challenged students has shifted from strengthening the children’s’ academic skills to helping them gain certificates and credentials. I want to remind us that handicapped students feel self-reliant only when they can analyze abstract problems on their own. 

A high school certificate may make such children feel good but it is no substitute for careful training in reading, mathematics and critical thinking. 

Let us not be false helpers who push students through to the credential. Let us teach them the three Rs with discipline and with passion. 

Romila Khanna 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The American Waterworks Association reports that the water quality in San Francisco is almost alone in being free of contaminants. They tested 20 of the nation’s water systems including Marin County but nothing has been reported regarding the quality of our drinking water in the East Bay. 

Tori Thompson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I can’t image the number of meetings, days and hours of sweat and conscientious thinking that Commissioner Brad Smith has generously given to the Waterfront Commission and to this city during his long tenure. He has been a dedicated servant in looking after our marvelous waterfront. It is not easy to find community members willing to serve as commissioners, and it is particularly hard to find good ones who fill the 350 or more commission seats on something like 40 commissions. Brad is an outstanding one, and I for one honor and appreciate his commitment. 

My experience I’m sure is one of many. Brad stepped up early in our efforts to usher the Chavez Memorial Solar Calendar and Education Project through the many tiers of city government. He was always balanced and fair in his assessments and advice. Our project had many a rocky exchanges with some of the Commissioners in the early stages 10 years ago. Brad always kept above the fray and guided us to consensus and forward movement. He is a trained mediator, and he brings all those skills and more to bare in ways that change the tenor of the discussion to an understanding and appreciation of one another’s positions. But when needed he also has backbone. 

We went back to the commission many times over those 10 years, and each time the commission had a different makeup. Brad was a source of stable leadership who guarded the institutional memory of the commission. 

I do not know how the commission or the city will honor his departure. But I know that his last meeting will end, the lights will be turned off, people will go on to the remainder of their evening, and the commission will begin a new chapter. But the seat that he occupied so nobly will be a huge one to fill. 

We have not finished the journey with the Chavez Memorial project yet, but we have brought it a long way. Brad Smith will forever occupy a position of high honor in its history. I salute your service, Brad. Thank you! 

Santiago Casal 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a resident in the Claremont/Elmwood neighborhood I was very interested to read about the technicality on which rests “to build or not to build” the new office/gym facility at the Memorial Stadium (“UC Tries to Re-Write Earthquake Safety Law,” Commentary, Hank Gehman, April 4). It would seem to me that the earthquake construction regulations and safety laws are written for a purpose. And that being that a very large massing in the area of potential earthquake activity is to be avoided. How can it even be discussed that a “sports athletic high performance center” adjacent (connected?) to a sports stadium is not, in the spirit of the regulation and safety law “connected” ? Earthquake safety laws and regulations are written to protect those within structures and very large structure(s) very close together with potentially high degree of usage (as at a sports event, an office in daily use) need additional, not negative, space around them for possible collapse and to offer the maximum safety and ability to leave to those using the structure(s). The massing of additional building(s) within the geographical area at the bottom of Strawberry Canyon is very dangerous indeed for the whole earthquake readiness of the Claremont/Elmwood neighborhood and could potentially burden the city streets and facilities beyond any possible emergency readiness. The university students are a large part of our neighborhood population and even as we speak, there are plans to start additional seismic retrofit work at the Clark Kerr Campus, although the buildings are well spaced and low in massing, which is also in our neighborhood and lies on the earthquake fault. For the safety of this community I would hope the judge sees the connection. 

Wendy Markel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Jim Harris’ April 4 commentary equates the war and U.S. occupation of Iraq with the Israeli occupation in the West Bank, and calls on Barbara Boxer to condition aid to Israel on its immediate withdrawal. While I’m sure he has his followers, this kind of simplistic thinking in support of a political agenda can get us into trouble (as if we need more). Any one possessed of reasonable analytical ability and a rudimentary knowledge of history can see the situations are not remotely comparable, as Ms. Boxer well knows. For Harris, history conveniently begins 40 years ago; had he chosen to go back a little farther he would have understood that from its inception Israel has been engaged in a war for survival among hostile governments that have included at one time or another Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, Algeria and Iran. Israel occupies the West Bank as a result of its victory in the six-day war, a war it did not seek, at the end of which it also found itself in possession of the Sinai peninsula. Perhaps Harris’ selective view of history does not permit him to recall that Israel returned the Sinai to Egypt in exchange for a peace treaty that has more or less held up. Unfortunately, other governments in the region continue to maintain the objective by whatever means necessary of the complete destruction of Israel. Or, as it is called by the current gang that passes for a government in the West Bank, “the struggle.” 

Evelyn Giardina 

Walnut Creek 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Mal Bernstein writes, with sarcasm, that my commentary published April 1 in the Planet under the title “The Winter Soldier Investigation” was “a rather poor April Fool’s joke.” I agree with Mal. Indeed, I had a bit of a dust-up with Becky O’Malley over that misleading title. However, Mal uses the title mainly as the entry point to distort the substance of my article. The article had two distinct themes. One was merely reportage from a forum organized and conducted by KPFA programmers, producers, and the head of the Apprenticeship program, essentially representing several ethnic minority communities. That’s not happened before. If KPFA staff with those credential don’t have a right to critique KPFA, then who does? The forum content was around the question of how poor and disempowered communities can get themselves represented in Media. The critique of KPFA by KPFA staff was in that context. The second theme presented my own thoughts on how to get past the KPFA internal acrimony, proposing three new nationally based programs: a GI rights program, a prison rights program and an Immigrants rights program each organized within those respective national movements with technical help from KPFA. Mal attacked my article without mentioning the proposals at its heart. I think it’s time that we all focus on the need for national movement programs that represent disempowered people (as the forum itself proposed)? Mal Bernstein is the current chair of the “Progressive Caucus” of the California Democratic Party. His avoidance of the substance of my article is indicative of the way that some people believe they can appropriate the title “progressive” to themselves but do not want to debate real issues we now face. In my view we aren’t going to get out of Iraq until the GIs refuse to fight en masse. Iraq Veterans against the War ( needs our support. I challenge Mal or anyone else to respond to the proposal (pro or con) for regular programs that help these important national movements for change. 

Marc Sapir 


EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to space restrictions, the headline for Mr. Sapir’s commentary was shortened. However, the piece was published on the Planet’s website under Mr. Sapir’s original title, “The Winter Soldier Investigation and Our National Movement for Liberation and Popular Democracy.” 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

There are some things I never seem to hear about John McCain from the media. This list comes from 

Ten things you should know about John McCain (but probably don’t): 

1. John McCain voted against establishing a national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Now he says his position has “evolved,” yet he’s continues to oppose key civil rights laws. 

2. According to Bloomberg News, McCain is more hawkish than Bush on Iraq, Russia and China. Conservative columnist Pat Buchanan says McCain “will make Cheney look like Gandhi.” 

3. His reputation is built on his opposition to torture, but McCain voted against a bill to ban waterboarding, and then applauded President Bush for vetoing that ban. 

4. McCain opposes a woman’s right to choose. He said, “I do not support Roe v. Wade. It should be overturned.” 

5. The Children’s Defense Fund rated McCain as the worst senator in Congress for children. He voted against the children’s health care bill last year, then defended Bush’s veto of the bill. 

6. He’s one of the richest people in a Senate filled with millionaires. The Associated Press reports he and his wife own at least eight homes! Yet McCain says the solution to the housing crisis is for people facing foreclosure to get a “second job” and skip their vacations. 

7. Many of McCain’s fellow Republican senators say he’s too reckless to be commander in chief. One Republican senator said: “The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine. He’s erratic. He’s hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me.” 

8. McCain talks a lot about taking on special interests, but his campaign manager and top advisers are actually lobbyists. The government watchdog group Public Citizen says McCain has 59 lobbyists raising money for his campaign, more than any of the other presidential candidates. 

9. McCain has sought closer ties to the extreme religious right in recent years. The pastor McCain calls his “spiritual guide,” Rod Parsley, believes America’s founding mission is to destroy Islam, which he calls a “false religion.” McCain sought the political support of right-wing preacher John Hagee, who believes Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment for gay rights and called the Catholic Church “the Antichrist” and a “false cult.” 

10. He positions himself as pro-environment, but he scored a 0—yes, zero—from the League of Conservation Voters last year. 

John McCain is not who the Washington press corps makes him out to be. 

Jonah Zern 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The plan to close the service road between Rose and Vine streets to purportedly “ease” traffic congestion is without foundation. There is no traffic congestion. We don’t want the service road closed or altered. 

Our petition, North Shattuck Neighbors Opposed to the Plaza, is very specific about the service road between Rose and Vine streets, it states “We want the angled parking between Vine and Rose streets to remain, not be torn up, removed or reduced. We oppose tearing up the sidewalks and/or service road for a plaza project or any other purpose.” 

The North Shattuck Plaza project would signal an end to our “small village” lifestyle. Our beautiful neighborhood “gone” in the name of development. Gone would be the easy parking needed to unload our laundry and/or used books which keep long-time business like Bing Wong Laundry and Black Oak Books alive. 

Gone as well would be our clean air and quiet environment. People don’t like shopping around noisy, dirty construction sites. The merchants surrounding the proposed Plaza would surly take a major economic hit because of diminished sales and services. 

Once completed, the North Shattuck Plaza project would escalate rents without guaranteeing more business or a larger customer base. 

There’s another problem that our local merchants might not want to deal with once the plaza is built. The unfortunate truth is that environments such as plazas and parks turn into sleeping encampments for people who are seeking shelter. The question then becomes who is going to pay for the additional policing and maintenance of the plaza? 

If we enter into a recession, Berkeley’s stretched budget would be better spent on social programs to help these men, women and children survive the economic downturn. The North Shattuck Plaza proposal runs contrary to the wishes of the community. 

As of April 2, we have collected 1,128 signatures opposed to the North Shattuck Plaza development. The majority of these signatures were collected within a block or two of the proposed plaza project. 

The following local businesses carried our petition. They collected hundreds of signatures in their effort to stop the North Shattuck Plaza project: Copy Central, Bel Forno, Vitamin Express, Black Oak Books, Nina Hairstylist, Earthly Goods, You Send Me. 

Harvey Sherback 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Whatever you may think of the integrity or wisdom of Code Pink’s April Fools Day hoax about the Marine Recruiting Office 

moving out of Berkeley, please consider that many of us had a full day’s flush of happiness that the political culture of 

Berkeley produced a positive result. This would not have happened without the wide media coverage of the City Council’s 

actions against the Marines’ presence in the city. Medea Benjamin’s skillful mimic of a perfect press release was utterly convincing—it even fooled Amy Goodman (Democracy Now) for a whole day. 

And consider the noisy outcry against “lying” on such a serious issue. Contrast this with the lack of a noisy outcry from the 

press and the country generally to the official lying about the 9/11 destruction of the World Trade Center, the stories about WMDs, 

the quick “victory” of the war, the Iraq public’s gratitude to the United States, the need for a forever war on terror, the democratic new Iraq Parliament, the Iraqi oil revenues that would rebuild the country... (this could get to be a long paragraph). 

Those of us against the war need a victory of some kind (even a bogus one) to keep our spirits up in this perpetual war so we 

can have some hope our efforts will be successful. When faced with the reality that an overwhelming proportion of Americans want 

this war to end, Cheney’s attitude of “So..” is the latest and scariest evidence of the undemocracy fostered by seven years of lies 

about the intent of this administration. 

I say Bravo! to the City Council and the Code Pink women! 

Joan Levinson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Rule number one of journalism is “spell the name right.” Mr. Brenneman’s brief on the redesign proposals for Lower Sproul Plaza mistakenly referred to Eshelman Hall throughout. The building is named after former Lt. Governor John Morton Eshleman. The UC did not alter the spelling when dedicating it, nor in the request for qualification (link cited in the brief). 

Jason Eshleman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Wednesday evening, one of the most important public meetings so far about Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) will be held at the North Berkeley Senior Center, starting at 7 p.m. Don’t know the details of BRT? Better educate yourself, because its effects would be felt city-wide for decades to come. In fact, there is a common misunderstanding about BRT—that it will be restricted to the Southside. Not true! BRT advocates are already recommending other Berkeley thoroughfares for inclusion in a BRT network: University, Shattuck, San Pablo, and others. But they are keeping this as quiet as possible now, so as not to alarm residents who use these roads. They plan to take away traffic lanes on all of them! But wait a minute, if you decrease the capacity of our major thoroughfares by 50 percent, where will all the cars go? Well, frankly my dears, they don’t give a damn. No, actually it’s even worse than that—they are intending to make traffic congestion so bad that it will cause automobile drivers to suffer so much that they will somehow decide to hop on buses that are uncomfortable, noisy, expensive, unsafe at night, spew diesel exhaust, don’t go where they need to travel, have very limited transfer policies, and don’t coordinate schedules with other transit agencies. And they will do this because with BRT the average passenger would save about a minute and a half of time compared to the existing bus service? Yes, that’s right—I said about a minute and a half. Ninety seconds. 

Does this make any sense? No. Shouldn’t the citizens of Berkeley have a major say in evaluating the BRT proposal? Yes. So here is your chance to participate. Show up and let your views be known—before it’s too late, and the human-scale Berkeley we love is gone forever. 

Doug Buckwald 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

With the ruckus going on in Berkeley about the Marines Officer Recruitment Center, I’ve been curious about the groups World Can’t Wait (WCW) and Code Pink. Without much trouble I have learned that the Code Pink founders are practicing Marxists and that WCW shares offices with the American Revolutionary Communist Party in San Francisco. 

I have also learned that Berkeley High School hosted a “Teach In” sponsored by the WCW. Mr. Kenneth Theisen, who is listed as the organizer for WCW, has published commentaries in the Berkeley Daily Planet stating that the WCW does not support our troops and has preached the teachings of Bob Avakian (Leader of the American Revolutionary Communist Party).  

I can understand exposing students to a myriad of political beliefs; but why would a school allow the Communist Party the facilities and school backing to organize a “Teach In"? 

Why do the parents of Berkeley High students allow the Communist Party access to their Children? Are the parents aware there is an active chapter of WCW at Berkeley High?  

Tom Cavallero