Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Monday August 04, 2008 - 07:56:00 PM




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Quarter after quarter, and year after year, the oil companies post record profits that are higher than ever before. If they were just passing the high cost of crude oil on to the consumer, their profits would be constant. No, they are squeezing us for excessive profits simply because they can. 

Sure, this hurts us consumers. It is also wrecking havoc on our country's economy. And still, they receive billions in tax breaks. These must stop. Instead, the oily companies should pay a windfall-profits tax. Let's use their profits to fund solar and wind energy alternatives. Then we could drive plug-in electric cars with no carbon footprint on the environment. 

Bruce Joffe 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I've been a regular patron of McDonald's restaurant in Berkeley over the past 20 or more years, always aiming for a table at the window where I've spent happy hours sipping coffee, reading a newspaper or simply watching the passing parade on Shattuck Avenue. 

In all those years I've had ample opportunity to observe Susan Hanks, who was recently dismissed by McDonald's after 26 years of faithful service. Granted that Susan is developmentally disabled, this didn't affect her work one whit. Clearly, Susan loved her job—loved it with a passion. She wiped tables and chairs with gusto, stacked trays, picked up trash from the floor and pushed a broom, all with lightning speed. If I tried to engage her in conversation, she made it clear she was there to work—not to chat. Never mind that we had been neighbors in the Elmwood District at one time. 

It pains me to think what this cruel dismissal has meant to someone so dedicated to her job. Could McDonald's not have waited until Susan and the two other employee retired? Are we to assume that this restaurant will now recruit only graduate students and Ph.D.'s to clean tables and pick up trash? I suggest they consider that Safeway stores have successfully hired developmentally disabled workers for many years. 

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In the East Bay Then and Now article entitled "Civil War Hero Established a Military Dynasty," the exploits of Captain William McCleave during the Civil War are described. Several incidents involved battles between the California Volunteers and Indian tribes in Texas and New Mexico. I have a different perspective on his actions there. For example, Captain McCleave and the infamous Kit Carson attacked a Kiowa village of 150 lodges and killed many men, women and children. For this, Kit Carson named him as the officer "deserving highest praise." 

He may have led an honorable and productive life in Berkeley, but his actions against many Indian tribes and individuals during the Civil War do not make him a hero.  

What is ironic is that he left Ireland during the famine that resulted from English policies that favored the rights of the large landowners over the farmers who worked the land. So he and his family and many thousands others were driven from Ireland because of a government policy. Then he comes to the United States and attacks Native Americans who also are trying to protect their ancestral lands and families against a military machine. 

For me the irony is two-fold. My ancestors were driven from their ancestral lands in Scotland in the early 1800s so that large English landowners could use their land to graze sheep for the lucrative wool markets of England. In many cases the families were forced off their land and their houses burned to the ground. My Irish ancestors came to the United States, like Wm McCleave, because they were starving, due to a potato famine and English policy. I wonder why he thought that attacking Kiowa and Comanche villages was honorable, but starving in Ireland was not. 

He may have been a hero to some, but not to me and many of my friends and relatives. 

Will Galeson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

China is a major trade partner, major arms supplier and major defender of the junta in the international arena, especially in the United Nations Security Council. The military junta in Burma is still in power to this day, despite strong and continuous resistance by the people of Burma, because of China's support. China has provided billions of dollars in weapons, used its veto power at the UN Security Council to paralyze peaceful efforts at change, and unilaterally undermined diplomatic efforts to free the world's only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners. 

The Olympics begin on Aug.8—the 20th anniversary of Burma's largest national democratic uprising, when millions bravely marched through the streets, and nearly toppled the military regime if they had not been brutally massacred. 

The people of Burma are continually calling for a protection of freedom and human rights and an end to attacks against ethnic minorities. China however continues to send weapons and funds to the Burmese dictatorship, allowing attacks against civilians to continue 

Human rights activists inside Burma have called on people around the world to not watch the Olympic ceremonies because of China's support for the Burmese military. You can still support the athletes in what they do, support the Chinese people, and support the games for what they stand for, but don't support the Chinese government's policies. 

Don Irwin 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

In the event of an earthquake on the Hayward Fault could the university be held liable for any injuries or deaths occurring at or near the (new) sports facility cum stadium given that a reasonable person could (and many have) foreseen such an occurrence and other building options were readily available? Given the likelihood of such an occurrence, would the lack of an adequate disaster plan and evacuation proceeding constitute simple negligence or rise to the level of willful and intentional disregard of human safety and life? Will the liability for any such an event be restricted to the university or can it be extended to any donors, trustees or public officials who knowingly supported the venture despite its risks? Or will the taxpayers be saddled with any liabilities that may occur? 

Should the university be liable to the city for any infrastructure damage or public safety costs caused by the project? Should not users of the facility as well as people who live and work nearby be adequately warned of the dangers and likelihood of a major quake? Would warning labels printed (like on cigarette packages) on tickets along with postings in the area be adequate or should users and property buyers be required to sign documents assuming the risk? Should disaster plans be posted at all entrances and exits to the complex? Should half-time disaster drills become a normal part of every game? 

At what point does potential risk outweigh potential gain? Should not safety be a primary consideration in the creation of any educational facility? Is a sports facility at that location necessary for the diffusion of knowledge? When and how can an institution be judged guilty of betraying a public trust? What is the penalty for that? 

Joanne Kowalski 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Our great City of Berkeley is known worldwide for its outstanding progressiveness. When Mike and Becky O'Malley purchased the Daily Planet, they created an amazing newspaper that represents that unique, distinguishing quality. No other publication has now, or ever, done that important job. Without getting too maudlin: Three big Berkeley cheers for the O'Malleys! 

Robert Blau 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A "friend of mine" who is a former smoker (he quit again, just this morning), remembered an incident on Telegraph Avenue, near the Med. He was directed as far from its entrance as possible. Fair enough, I say. 

Standing at the edge of the street where bike riders were exposed to his exhalations (and car exhaust), "he" uttered to a fellow fumer, "We're pushed to the curb with the junkies and pigeons. Oh. Sorry—you don't look like a pigeon." 

I've stopped referring to tobacco addiction as a habit. Not many years ago, there was a running ad in a local paper which read: "Be paid to ridicule smokers." Had that ad been about alcoholics, there would have been quite a negative response from readers. The medical condition of alcoholism has been upgraded to a disease. Remember when those who suffered that affliction were considered by more people as losers and bums? 

Pedestrians are not addicted to car exhaust, nor to the noise they produce. 

If only the mass availability of tobacco had been prevented, especially the most toxic form: cigarettes. 

Ove Ofteness 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Soon there won't be any place in public to smoke. After all, smoking in public makes everyone downwind smoke, too. It's not as unobtrusive as snuff or chaw, after all. It makes the rest of us do the drug, too. A little help for you, Al, and Michael, and other self-loathing smokers: Feverfew. This bitter (God's way of preventing overdosing?) relative of tansy and chrysanthemum contains chemicals called parthenols which do the same thing to your capillaries as nicotine. This gets rid of the dreaded withdrawal migraine. Nicotine's stimulant and anti-depressant affects can be replaced by coffee or tea or chocolate or even guarana, none of which have to be set on fire to tickle the brain and enrage passing crazed bicyclists. Can't find Feverfew? It grows like a weed in this area, freely self-seeding and coming back from mild frosts readily. E-mail me for a plant or five. No more dragon breath, please.  

Linus Hollis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Al Winslow’s article “Not A Time To Be A Smoker” illustrates the lengths to which a smoker must go to avoid persecution. I feel bad for those poor addicted people. But smoke—any kind of smoke—causes me to cough and constantly clear my throat. Everyone's right to clean air trumps any perceived right to smoke. 

It is clear that both smokers and second-hand smokers are at risk for a number of diseases and cancers. It’s no wonder, because cigarettes contain a high number of toxic chemicals. 

Smoking organic tobacco and papers still takes its toll on the lungs because of fine particulates, as well as the dioxin that rains down on all crops, whether organic or not. 

Research in the scientific journal Archives of Environmental Health has shown that cigarettes deliver high levels of dioxins that are comparable to those coming out of incinerator stacks. Dioxins are linked to a very wide range of diseases and cancers, some of which have negative effects on the human endocrine system. This makes dioxin an endocrine disruptor, causing inappropriate quantity of hormones—too much, too little or none at all—that affect nearly every bodily function from reproduction and development to memory and body temperature regulation. 

But there are many other toxic chemicals involved in smoking. Alternative ingredients can take the place of real tobacco including but not limited to: loblolly pine cellulose; paper manufacturing waste; agricultural waste; timber products waste; municipal paper waste; and food processing waste. The chlorine-bleached paper it’s typically wrapped in is a source of dioxins. If that isn’t enough then there are radioactive phosphate tobacco fertilizers (Polonium 210); burn accelerants; a wide range of sugars and artificial sweeteners; an abundance of chemicals used in commercial farming; and residue from 400 pesticides registered for use with tobacco. 

To continue smoking is to continue one's self abuse. But please don’t do it around others who did not specifically give permission to smoke nearby. I wish the author and all smokers the will to stop. But just give it up Al. (Please.) 

Paul Goettlich 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In his July 31 letter, Ben Padilla attempts to justify his opposition to gay marriage on both historical and biblical grounds. He states that the "personal writings" of our "Founding Fathers" make it clear that they were theists and believed in "the God of the Bible." Probably true, but in their wisdom they set aside their personal beliefs to create a constitution which forbids "respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." The Bible, like other ancient religious scripts, is a collection of opinion and superstition set forth by pedants whose views, in their time, were surely as bigoted as those of Mr. Padilla, and it has no place in state policy. His own distaste for homosexuality is made vivid by his revulsion at public gay displays. As to his contention that homosexuality is "physically harmful" and damaging to the spirit, I wonder what has so severely damaged his. The glory of democracy is that we all may decide for ourselves what is good for us, or not. 

Jerry Landis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Our California Constitution—the law of our land—should guarantee the same freedoms and rights to everyone. No one group should be singled out to be treated differently. However, Proposition 8 would deny gay and lesbian couples these freedoms and rights. Regardless of how you feel about this issue, the freedom to marry is fundamental to our society, just like the freedoms of religion and speech. The government has no business telling people who can and cannot get married. Just like government has no business telling us what to read, watch on TV or do in our private lives. We don't need Prop. 8; we don't need more government in our lives. 

Will Weiner 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Twice in the past couple of months strangers have come to help when I've toppled over in my electric scooters (two different ones, and the falls were for two different reasons). 

The more recent event was this past Thursday on Haste Street, where some clown was parked in a driveway, narrowing the already narrow sidewalk. Scooter and I went over sideways, with the scooter's falling on top of my leg and pinning me. Fortunately, my service dog managed to steer clear of me. I called for help and four people showed up. The first was a man who kept saying, "I love you, I'm coming to help you," as he piled his packages near a wall. The second, third and fourth were an occupational therapist who undoubtedly works at the Herrick Campus, a FedEx deliveryman and a man in scrubs who could have been anything from a neurosurgeon to a janitor. The first man got the scooter off me. The occupational therapist helped me sit up and lent me her handkerchief, and the FedEx man and the man in scrubs got the scooter upright. 

The earlier event was scary enough that I had a bystander (who'd been all the way across Shattuck) come running across to offer help. Since I'd landed on my head I was concerned about a head injury, so I asked the guy to call 911. Our paramedics are wonderful. They're kind, gentle and very well trained. And they had me sitting up and standing up in a very short time. 

And both times, I found myself thinking how glad I am that I moved to Berkeley, lo these many years ago, because it's a place where people do pay attention when others need help. The purpose of this letter is to say thank you to everyone who helped me and made sure I was OK. 

And for the occupational therapist, I'm going to return your handkerchief, cleaned of blood and as fresh and soft as when you offered it to me. 

Joann Lee 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Over two weeks ago, Dan Mogulof, executive director of UC Berkeley's Office of Public Affairs, criticized Becky O'Malley's editorial for its "personal animus." As yet, you have remained undefended, until now. How does the spokesman for an organization employing for two months the tactic of starving the young people in the oaks dare to claim the higher ground? And even offer a sarcastic lecture in his July letter to the editor? It is UC who has handled the theater of the last year and a half so poorly, so arrogantly considering the amount of neighborhood and citywide opposition to their athletic project. How often do you see Shirley Dean and Betty Olds climbing trees? Of course, remember Dona Spring's appearance at the tree-sit and unanswered plea for reason (food for the protestors)? However this turns out, UC and Mogulof have without a doubt behaved shamefully with unnecessary disrespect to its neighbors and the citizens of Berkeley. 

Charles Pappas  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

There is graffiti on the wall at Milva and Channing which says "cars are assholes." In Berkeley it barely raises an eyebrow; if it does you may have chuckled. I no longer drive, but I do walk all over Berkeley. In the past three years I have been hit three times, I have been screamed at, sworn at, and spit upon—not by car drivers but by bicyclists. I'm not speaking about thugs from the lower rungs of society, I'm speaking of UC Berkeley students, 30-something parents towing their toddler buggy, workers heading to their jobs, and younger students heading to classes or parks. 

The City of Berkeley speaks of their master plan for the community, a plan in which they reduce the number of cars and provide incentive for the use of public transport, bikes, foot traffic as alternate ways of moving from place to place. I am all for better living and reducing our dependency on oil and gas by reducing the use of cars, but not if there is no incentive for the police department to enforce public safety. 

I'll put this simply: If you are on wheels you are not a pedestrian and do not belong on a sidewalk. Twice I have been hit in a marked crosswalk (once while pushing a stroller) by a cyclist who blew through a stop sign. Both times, they did not apologize; they just admonished me for not getting out of their way. Once I was hit on a sidewalk because I would not give way after they had shouted "on your left!" 

I see cyclists on the sidewalk all over Berkeley, even on designated bicycle boulevards: Milva, Virginia and Ninth Street. I see cyclists ride against the flow of traffic so they can see cars. I see cyclists ignore traffic lights and street signs. I see people decide they're cyclists until confronted by a red light and then suddenly they become a pedestrian, hoping the curb and turning abruptly to ride through the pedestrian crosswalk; wobbling into pedestrians crossing the street. And then, most disheartening of all, I see the Berkeley police force make the choice to stop a jaywalker downtown and ignore the bicyclist wobbling into the elderly woman with a cane in front of Tullys and the main BART station entrance; within 20 feet of the blue and white sign which says "Walk your bike on the sidewalk." 

What I would like to see is more effort made by all of us to remember that our safety and well-being is tied to the safety and well being of those around us. If you want respect for your chosen mode of transportation, than you need to respect others around you, regardless of their mode of transportation. I would like to see Berkeley step up to the plate and realize that just because you have plans that limit and reduce the use of cars in the city, that does not mean you have reduced threats to public safety. I'd like to see the laws of public safety applied uniformly and safely—not just in the tourist areas or the business districts. We residents, who suffer endure harassment and injury due to the carelessness or ignorance of bicyclists, deserve the support and protection of the law enforcement and the city government. 

Meri Liston 




Editors, Daily Planet: 


You've heard the lies and alibis  

Of bandits in their suits and ties 

Who'd kill the krill and spoil the soil  

And steal from those who truly toil! 


They'll rob our wealth and hurt our health 

They'll break our banks, not fill our tanks 


So please be wise, don't compromise 

Our pristine shoreline for their moonshine 

Don't let them greenwash smart renewables 

While polluting oceans with dark spewables 


Offshore drilling's just a bag of tricks 

So just say nix to this fake fix! 

Don't fall for Big Oil's greedy gimmick 

Or I'll have to pen yet another lame limerick! 


Paula Wagner