Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:32:00 AM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Further to Bob Burnett’s “Framing the Election” (Aug 21), here is a simple ad that might save the Dems, if they had the courage to blanket the country with it: 

“John McCain says he wants diplomacy not war. But McCain’s idea of diplomacy is exactly like Bush’s—bullying other nations into doing what he tells them. It’s a recipe for more conflict, more blood, and either higher taxes or national bankruptcy.” 

Fred Matthews 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am fed up with bicyclists who act as if traffic laws don’t apply to them and ride as if they’re only ones who have the right to be on the road. 

There have been countless times when I have nearly been hit by bike riders while walking across the street in a crosswalk. Around 7 yesterday evening, for example, I was crossing Telegraph at Oregon. All four lanes of car traffic came to a gentle stop, respecting the crosswalk. However, as usual, a bike rider refused to slow or even alter their path and came within a few inches of hitting me.  

I had always thought that being environmentally responsible was about looking out for the greater good. Apparently these riders are so wrapped up in their own egos and arrogance that they forget traffic rules also apply to them; especially the laws protecting pedestrians from harm. I have to say, there’s something perverse about pedestrians feeling safer around cars than bicycles.  

Steve Berley 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Once again Berkeley cops have demonstrated how out of control they are. On Wednesday, Aug. 20, someone in KPFA management (name to be revealed when KPFA finalizes its spin) called the cops to report a “trespass” by a KPFA volunteer, a pregnant single mom, who just happens to be African American. He called them because she wouldn’t get off the phone when he so ordered. She was finalizing a ride home and told him so. 

The cops hog-tied her and broke her arm. Yes, it is happening here. Shame on them, KPFA, and on all Berkeleyans for putting up with this behavior for so long. 

To Berkeley cops: It is possible to have law enforcement without brutality. 

Since there have been so many cop over-reactions recently, one must conclude that population control by any means necessary, and especially minority population control, is a priority for our city government. 

As for KPFA, the first statement from Interim Program Manager Sasha Lilley was that she had nothing to do with it, i.e. abdication of responsibility, instant state of denial, and no sense of outrage. 

There is this phenomenon among many so called progressives: they talk the talk and have the oh so correct analysis but in their daily lives, they share the same bullying mind set as Bush and Co. with one exception: they’re Green. 

Who’s gonna write “What’s the Matter with Berkeley”? 

Maris Arnold 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

While I agree with Ms. Leyva-Cutler that Berkeley residents must “join together in a comprehensive approach” to solve the dismal academic performance of Berkeley High students, her faith in advisories is puzzling. Advisories will reduce academic instructional minutes when students, particularly in small schools, need all the academic instructional minutes they can absorb. Advisories do not qualify as instructional minutes. The thought of reducing English and math instructional time and replacing it with advisories is simply ridiculous. 

Advisories were voted down a few months ago by our school board. I find it remarkable that the BHS principal applied for a grant to implement advisories when the school board said no. Further, advisories will require many more classrooms than are available at the currently space-crunched high school. And I can’t imagine how they can possibly provide what they claim to offer, which is an adult who can look out for students’ interests, when teacher loads will increase on average from 150 students to 170. 

Advisories are part of the small school orthodoxy, none of which has proved successful. Take a look at the test scores in the small schools compared to the rest of Berkeley High. They are significantly lower, with a downward trend since small school inception. Why the blind faith in small schools when they have as few as 4 percent of their students achieving proficiency or above in math and students from the main body of the school achieve over 35 percent proficiency or above in math? Across the board, small school students score much lower in both English and math than students in the main body of Berkeley High, and it’s getting worse every year. 

Let’s join together in a comprehensive approach to ensure our students acquire the basic literacy and numeracy skills they’ll need for any path they choose to take. Advisories are the Emperor’s New Clothes of education trends. 

Peter Kuhn 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks are due to Beatriz Leyva-Cutler for clearly explaining why the BUSD needs to implement an academic advisory program for all students at Berkeley High (Commentary, Aug. 21). Here’s a small example of how easily a student could be knocked off course for graduation.  

Yesterday my daughter picked up her class schedule for her senior year at Berkeley High. At first glance, the schedule looked more than fine—she had been assigned to all the exciting electives that she had requested. Later, however, she took a second look and realized that there was a serious error: She was not registered for one of the few courses that she absolutely needed to graduate and maintain UC/CSU eligibility, namely American government and economics. Since my daughter understands how to navigate the system, I’m sure she will manage to get her schedule fixed expeditiously, but if she were less informed, the error could have been utterly disastrous. A comprehensive advisory system would ensure that all students were informed and on track for graduation. 

Carol S. Lashof 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

It’s understandable that Russ Tilleman (Aug. 21) has concerns about AC Transit’s Bus Rapid Transit project for Telegraph Avenue and downtown. We are, even after seven years of planning, still only halfway through the environmental review process, so it’s still not possible to know exactly what the final project would be if approved and built. Only after the City Council chooses among several project alternatives will AC Transit be able to complete its final environmental impact report—and only then will we be able to study both potential impacts and their potential mitigations. In 2009 facts will replace fears, and we can then have a more informed conversation. 

That said, it is possible even now to look at Mr. Tilleman’s BRT concerns with a dispassionate eye.  

Start with the issue of traffic in the neighborhoods. It’s true that some drivers have been “cutting through” the neighborhoods south of campus from the major streets—for many years. That’s why neighbors advocated for traffic controls such as diverters, designed not to “force traffic onto the major streets” but to keep cut-through traffic out of the neighborhood streets. That benefit does come at some cost—diverters do “complicate driving around the neighborhoods”—but most residents continue to favor that tradeoff. Some neighborhoods, however, made a different choice: the Willard neighborhood voted down the installation of diverters, and many residents there complain to this day about ever-increasing cut-through traffic on Hillegass and other streets.  

The BRT project actually gives us a chance to make neighborhood traffic better. AC Transit has committed to mitigating any potential increase in neighborhood traffic that would result from its project—and effective mitigations, which the city can’t afford on its own, have the potential to decrease cut-through traffic below even today’s levels. Neighbors should be deeply involved in ensuring that any future tradeoffs required are optimal ones.  

We can also address Mr. Tillman’s other concern: that BRT will “complicate navigating” by cars on Telegraph because of changes to signals and left-turn lanes. Right now there’s no way to evaluate that, since Berkeley has not selected the actual routes that need to be designed for effective traffic management. The subject will receive detailed evaluation in the Final EIR, but until then it’s simply not fair to assume the worst. Traffic engineers know how to optimize flow in transit corridors; we should give AC Transit’s staff the chance to propose actual final plans before condemning the entire project. 

Mr. Tilleman asks, “Is there anything we will be able to do to limit [BRT’s] impact on traffic?” The answer is certainly yes—work with the city and AC Transit to require vigorous and effective mitigations of potential traffic impacts as part of the BRT implementation. In the end, an ounce of mitigation will prove much more helpful than a pound of ungrounded fears. 

Alan Tobey 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

In “BRT — Facts Will Replace Fears, Alan Tobey suggests that we wait to make the final decision on Bus Rapid Transit until all the facts are in. In this, Mr. Tobey and I are in complete agreement. However, if we value the quality of our neighborhoods, we should not leave the final decision to AC Transit and an unresponsive City Council. That is the point of the initiative to require voter approval of BRT. This initiative measure, on the ballot in November, does not stop BRT at this time. All it does is claim the right of the final decision for the people of Berkeley. What’s wrong with that? 

Mr. Tobey states that AC Transit might somehow mitigate the traffic displaced from Telegraph. But their proposed mitigation for the parked cars that BRT will displace from Telegraph is to install parking meters in the residential neighborhoods! These meters will force residents out of their street parking spaces and assign those spaces to the Telegraph businesses. Anyone who parks in these neighborhoods knows that losing 80 to 100 street parking spaces for the residents is going to be a big problem. This is not what I call acceptable mitigation. It’s just moving the problem around from one place to another, in the hope of finding a place to put it where people aren’t politically active. 

One possible “mitigation” for the College Avenue BRT traffic would be to remove all the parking spaces on College and convert it to four lanes of traffic. That might look good from AC Transit’s management offices or the Berkeley City Council chambers, but for the rest of us it wouldn’t look very nice. So I expect that the traffic mitigation will be extremely unsatisfactory. There are just not very many major North-South streets in Berkeley, only College, Shattuck, and possibly MLK are close enough to accept any vehicles displaced from Telegraph. Even if AC Transit could find a way to restructure Berkeley streets to direct more traffic onto Shattuck, it is also very busy at peak times. Adding Telegraph cars to Shattuck then would likely push some Shattuck traffic onto MLK, which would increase congestion there. 

For all these negative impacts, and a grossly wasteful $400 million price tag, BRT appears to be nearly worthless. It offers only to slightly reduce bus travel time on Telegraph, something that could easily be accomplished by adding a few more buses to the current service. So I suggest that we pass the voter initiative in November, and declare our rights as citizens of Berkeley to decide the future of our neighborhoods. 

Russ Tilleman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Nightmare is back on the north side. Verizon plans to put 10-12 cell-phone antennas on the French Hotel at 1540 Shattuck. Verizon’s application to get a use permit is moving forward. It will be up for consideration at the Zoning Adjustments Board Sept. 11. Before the ZAB meeting, Verizon is organizing a meeting with the neighbors of the French Hotel to let them know of their plan. The meeting is on Sept. 3 at 7 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center at 1901 Hearst Ave. 

There are already many antennas in this area. Three at 1600 Shattuck, four more at 2095 Rose. If there more antennas get installed in this area, the level of radiation will exceed what is set by the FCC. 

Neighbors of the French Hotel are encouraged to come to the Verizon meeting. But, please do not go inside the room where Verizon has its display. Instead stage a protest outside this room. Wireless providers count how many people attend such meetings and make a report to the Planning Department that the meeting was a success and was attended by so many people. 

Perhaps this time, people will be able to stop the Verizon Corporation. 

Mina Davenport 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is so absurd and so offensive to the decency of all Americans—and especially Barack Obama—that there continues to be cynical commentary about the need for Hillary Clinton to be on his presidential ticket in order for him to prevail this November. The Clintons wrapped up their tenure in presidential politics as a national disgrace: he the philandering pervert and she the pragmatic first lady who sacrificed her self-respect and integrity among women by staying with her disgraced and deceitful yet politically popular husband so she could win a senate seat in New York. 

Bill Clinton was a devil to the Democratic Party. He abdicated much of the platform in order to win the White House and gave away the economic well-being of the middle class to big business. Bill Clinton achieved NAFTA. He will be remembered for that effort in the same vein that Howard Jarvis will forever own the consequences of California’s Proposition 13. 

Above and beyond the damage and scandal, President Clinton exhibited the epitome of hubris by allowing himself to be glorified as the “first black president.” How foolish, and how embarrassing. The Clintons both have made great efforts to capitalize on that, as if blacks weren’t qualified to produce the first black president and the job needed to go to a white person. Proof of that is the furious response President Clinton had to the results of the North Carolina primaries, as if to say that Carolinians had no business voting for a black candidate when they already had the wife of the “first black president” on the ticket. That sort of mentality is the remnant of growing up in Arkansas during the heyday of the Klan, and the Clintons aren’t as far removed from such stuff as they’d wish, or like us to believe. 

We will all be better off without another Clinton in the Executive Branch—or for that matter, slumming around Washington in dark sunglasses while blowing a saxophone and bragging about his exploits as a black president. 

Michael Minasian 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m happy to know that Oakland City Administrator Deborah Edgerly didn’t get to keep her position and that Mayor Ron Dellums fired her. It is so pathetic that this woman could callously put the lives of police officers in danger as a favor to a misbehaving relative: so long as her “peeps” are protected, apparently all is well, from her perspective. She thought she could get away with her nepotistic activity and not be charged. Further, this is an example of the conspiratorial mismanagement plaguing many U.S. cities in the worst way, and cannot but bring to mind what some refer to as “black privilege.” In San Jose, Mayor Gonzales was fired and he apologized and held his head in shame for a relatively inconsequential garbage scandal. Instead of being arrogant about his back-handed deal, he repented. I personally had compassion for him as he seemed sincerely sorry. Oakland should be appreciative that they have John Russo as a fair and unbiased city attorney. 

Diane Villanueva 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Democrats at their convention revel in this year’s anniversaries of women’s right to vote and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. On the one hand, celebration from Denver by politicians who can’t demand single-payer-health-care, or immediate withdrawal from Iraq, or fat taxes on the fat cats is mere empty gesture. On the other hand, gestures can spark hope for causes. 

Take, for instance, the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua, where there was recently another anniversary celebration of the 1979 overthrow of dictator Somoza. On the one hand, the anniversary cheerleading by Nicaragua president Daniel Ortega was empty gesture, considering his abandonment of so much of his earlier left-revolution program. 

On the other hand, the Sandinista revolution wasn’t just about Ortega’s commitment to health care, literacy and land reform in his country. It was also about hope for a new Latin America. Padre Uriel Molina at his hippy Catholic church in Managua had his salsa band sum up Sandinistaismo at the end of each service. The musicians would break into their paean to the revolution expected in Argentina, expected in Uruguay, expected in Paraguay, in Venezuela, in Bolivia, in Brazil, in Chile, in Ecuador, in Haiti and on and on and on. And, they have almost all happened, incompletely, of course. Our struggle always messes up. But we’ll keep truckin, with the help of the hope that comes from gestures. 

Ted Vincent 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I don’t understand why the Iraq government is even negotiating with the United States over a total withdrawal date. Iraq is a sovereign nation and, if as a sovereign nation, it decides it no longer wants a foreign force within its borders, that, it seems to me, should end the discussion. After all isn’t that what we are essentially arguing in the Russia-Georgia conflict. Remember, the Bush administration’s justification for invading and now occupying Iraq was bogus to begin with. That is, the administration’s falsehoods regarding Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein’s links to al Qaeda. Thus, we never had a legitimate reason to be in Iraq. Therefore, we should declare our mission—whatever it is/was—accomplished and leave Iraq post haste.  

Ralph E. Stone 

San Francisco 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

How could John Edwards do this? Betray his wife when she had small children and dying with cancer to top it off. Did he think his sardonic smile and Ken doll looks were going to erase the pain in his wife’s breast, make her forgive? What about those young children—they did not chose to be born. He engineered it, now what would happen to them? Was he looking for a plea bargain? What kind of affidavit did he give his wife?  

His girlfriend called them lovely lips though they were more lawyerly lips that played elastically with the truth till one day the elastic would break like the elastic of his knickers and the Enquirer would break the news. Wasn’t his wife broken enough with terminal cancer or did he want to close out the case strong, drive home the point beyond breaking point? The news story says that this girlfriend, this Reille Hunter, is upset with the wife—how twisted the logic, like the tongue he snaked into her. And what about the girlfriend’s baby? There is plenty of blame to bump against but the baby is not to blame. 

And what about the boy and girl? How did he prepare his brief or the problem was he had no brief. Did he declare that he had nothing to declare or did he forget his Edwardian oath of 30 years ago—did he think the statute of limitations had run out?  

Yes, the lawyer has layers, only he shed his too quickly. And the politician has talking points, only he preferred Reille to right. Yes wasn’t he always to the left? And he preferred talking about poverty but actually preferred the Hunter to being hunted. And yes, he talked about caring for Katrina but that girl got gobbled—maybe he needed his Miranda. But he did not care much about being stuck with sonnets, shall we say of the Elizabethan kind you know. 

Is that Reille all he had to say? 

Roopa Ramamoorthi 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Both want to get us out of Iraq, saving the lives of Iraqi civilians and U.S. military personnel. 

Both want to send more U.S. military personnel to Afghanistan where more Afghani civilians and more U.S. military personnel will die. 

Why is the life of an Iraqi civilian of greater worth than the life of an Afghani civilian? 

Why is a U.S. military person dying in Afghanistan rather than in Iraq any different, at least to his/her parents and friends? 

Why not bring our military personnel home, from both Iraq and Afghanistan now or in the very near future? 

Please do whatever you can to prevent this Obama-McCain plan from going forth! 

Irving Gershenberg 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Please don’t encourage the wholesale clear-cutting of trees—sticky aphid secretion, called honeydew, is manageable without pesticides or tree destruction. 

If we could reduce the pesticide use in town and on the UC campus, we would improve the population of insects which eat aphids, such as ladybird beetles, syrphid flies, lacewings, and parasitoid wasps, creating a natural reduction in aphid population. 

There’s more: aphids are assisted by ants, parades of which you will see running up aphid-infested trees to enjoy the honeydew. The ants herd and protect the aphids, which is easy to disrupt or stop with a ring of sticky pest-strip around the tree trunk. 

There is at least one neighborhood in Berkeley which successfully used this technique to save constantly washing the sticky honeydew off its windshields. It takes a consistent neighborhood effort, but it can be done. 

The City of Berkeley has never tried this technique, but has been overly eager to replace one tree with another, robbing the community of beautiful old trees in the hope of stumbling into an unnaturally bug-free world. 

Don’t encourage them! We need our aphids to feed our pollinators, who assist our crops, etc. 

Carol Denney 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Imagine a loud two-ton cigarette going 50 miles per hour, then parking to leave an oil pool near the curb for animals to drink from after an acid rain. This doesn’t require much imagination. 

Let he who casts the first stone do his tossing in a secluded glass house. 

Ove Ofteness 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I do not want to ride in a taxi while the driver is simultaneously baby/childsitting, driving one-handedly, and or chatting on one of his phones. 

I cannot ride in a taxi that has sliding doors and high steps. For a significant number of persons needing a taxi ride, there are potential problems associated with these cabs: for example, some are unable to board and exit a van-type taxi’s high step and to manage opening and closing the sliding door. (This type of cab seats five persons, where as the conventional cab’s rear seat accommodates two or three; drivers refuse to allow passengers in the front passenger seat.) Such exclusions are part of what it is to be old and or disabled and to need to be able to select an accessible vehicle from among the line of waiting cabs. At present, this type of cab appears to be in the minority, and were it not a requirement that one board the next-in-line, it would not be a problem for us. Requiring passengers to board the first taxicab in the Center and Shattuck lineup is possibly a fairness-related measure necessary to keep order among the drivers. 

It should be possible for an old and or disabled person to phone for a cab and—assuming it arrives—have it pull up on her/his side of the street, in front of the building rather than across a high-traffic street in the middle of the block. 

I have attempted unsuccessfully to communicate these matters to Kelly Wallace, Health and Human Services Division on Aging manager and to the Commission on Aging, of which Wallace is secretary. The most recent posted Commission on Aging meeting minutes are from May. Berkeley Paratransit and taxi scrip for disabled and seniors are based in the Housing Department. 

Helen Rippier Wheeler 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Jonathan Orbiculus’ dreamy “if, then” solution (“An Opinionated Solution,” Aug. 14) is shared by many, as it is so obvious. 

The “if” part stands in the way. The fractious status quo of nation-state sovereignty has been with us since 1648, with the conclusion of the Thirty Years war. In recent years, though, this planetary political framework has lagged in relevance, at huge and sad cost, behind other globalities which emphasize inter-relation and inter-dependence, such as the biosphere, Internet, and the “globalization” of capital and commerce. 

A new political globality is crucial, and we rather few world federalists believe it should be not international, but supranational. World government is an idea whose time had come some generations, even ages, ago, via the likes of the “Games” gatherings of ancient Greece, Dante (who was an international lawyer too), Henri IV, Rousseau, Einstein, and E.B. White. For all too predictable reasons it has been dissed, ridiculed, and ignored. And then there are the feather-nesting elected and appointed powers for whom the current system works nicely, buoyed by international clubs like the UN which encourage debate, resolution, and er, “peacekeeping,” without legal teeth. 

Orbiculus wants to divert money and lives from war to worthier pursuits. Since this pastime has been engaged only by sovereign powers (city-states; monarchies, often with the church joining in; and modern nations and their alliances), a supranational sovereignty—that of the peoples of Earth—wouldn’t have others to mess with. If lesser polities could make war, California’s budget problems might quickly vanish with a targeted military strike on Nevada and its gilded casinos. 

The idea here is not the erasure of current nations, borders, or cultures. It is rather that only a democratically, constitutionally derived world governing body with courts and executives created by enforceable laws (with enumerated individual rights) can solve those ails that nations or extra-legal bodies cannot and will not settle themselves. 

The hoped-for result? An end to the War System and its arsenals of mass destruction and massive “collateral” damage. Peace, justice, world greening, and freedom under law (aka liberty) would thrive across the globe. Even the polar bears would be thankful. 

At very least, this evolutionary step should have a place at the round table of world solutions. Until then, the curious are invited to contact us world-federalist masochists at 

Phil Allen 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Police forces increasingly assume that there are no victims in society (except the police who are allegedly “always victims”).  

Civilians are generally seen as criminals fighting amongst themselves. Increasingly, the person reporting a crime is investigated, and the crime itself is ignored. 

Case in point: My car, clothes for the week, plus food for a few days were stolen. Instead of checking the crime scene, which had strong fingerprint evidence, I was told to keep my hands out of my pockets (I was cold, my sweater was stolen) and was interrogated for 30 minutes. I was repeatedly told by Albany police that I had done something to deserve the theft. I was taken down to the station interrogated again, and told nobody is really looking for the car and that I hopefully had learned my lesson. 

I have Asperger’s Syndrome. Instead of helping me cope with a difficult situation I couldn’t handle, Officer Foss of the Albany police department looked into me rather than the crime. Stranded with no food, no cellphone, no familiar faces around, I was the suspect. People on the Autism Spectrum need to be able to trust the police. Right now, we can’t. 

Nathan Pitts 

Autism Spectrum Liberation Front 

San Ramon 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

John McCain is out of touch in understanding the economic realities of ordinary Americans, like myself. Imagine not being able to answer when asked, “How many houses do you have?” His economic situation is in stark contrast to the millions facing foreclosure, who can no longer answer “one.” He doesn’t have to worry about the bank foreclosing even one of his eight houses. 

In another interview, McCain gaffed when asked “What is rich?” “About $5 million,” he managed to stumble upon. By his standards, he and Cindy are well above being rich, they are “super rich.” 

Mr. McCain accuses Mr. Obama of raising taxes. But Obama does not plan to raise the taxes of those middle-class families with incomes below $150,000. In fact, he will cut their taxes by $1,000, and will offer students who perform community service a $4,000 tax break to pay for college tuition. John McCain’s tax plan does nothing for middle-class families. Barack will also set minimum wage to rise with inflation. McCain has voted against raising the minimum wage 19 times. 

Now, I ask you, who is more in touch with the average American? Barack Obama. 

Mertis Shekeloff