Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Monday October 06, 2008 - 02:11:00 PM




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On behalf of our entire community, I wish to express shock, outrage and profound disgust that the word “G-d” (I can’t bring myself to spell out that odious term) may have been uttered in one of our public school classrooms. How can we tolerate in our midst a public school teacher who not so secretly cleaves to the heresy of creationism? 

It’s not enough that this teacher has been allowed personal leave since this blasphemy against Science and Reason. The damage already done to these impressionable young minds by the denial of Evolution and the Big Bang (it’s not a “theory”) may be irreparable! 

What’s the School District’s answer to this thought crime? To “seek some form of discipline against her.” We demand a more public form of excommunication! We may have a true “witch” on our hands here and only a public “witch trial” will suffice to reestablish the purity of our community’s dogma. Yes, we demand a new “Scopes Trial,” “A G-d Trial” of the “Infidel Martin”! 

Edna Spector 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding Richard Brenneman's Oct. 2 story "Commission Spurns DAPAC Parking, Traffic Proposals," I want to clarify that I did not have the opportunity to serve on the DAPAC committee, as Mr. Brenneman states. My appointment to the Planning Commission began after DAPAC had completed its work. 

Roia Ferrazares 

Planning Commission 

District 2 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is hard to swallow EBMUD's complaints that its customers are not conserving enough water. I have been taking short showers, flushing the toilet with water I catch in the shower, haranguing my teenagers, etc. Yet in the past few weeks I have ridden my bike past block after block of enormous lush green lawns in Lafayette and Orinda. On top of that, I always see several yards being watered in the heat of the day on every ride. I really don't think the few gallons I am saving makes much of a difference in the whole scheme of things. When EBMUD gets serious, maybe its customers will too. 

Eric Weaver 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

When I saw Sarah Palin look into the TV camera, flash her cosmetic eyelashes, and say so sincerely, "Change is coming, and John McCain is the leader of that reform," I could almost believe her. Except I wasn't born yesterday. I've seen McCain fight to remove government regulation and oversight for 26 years, which has dumped us in the financial firestorm that is now melting our economy. 

Sen. Biden reminded debate viewers that the so-called "maverick" voted for George Bush's budgets, which piled up over $3 trillion in debt. McCain voted for Bush's exclusion of 3.6 million children from the S-CHIP health care plan. He supported Bush's war in Iraq from the beginning, and voted billions of tax breaks for the most wealthy corporations and CEOs. 

But even if Palin really does believe that McCain would bring change, he couldn't do it single-handedly. He'd have to use many of the same Republican operatives and lobbyists that are so deeply entrenched in Bush's administration. These are the birds he's flown with all his career, from Alaska to Arizona, to K Street in DC. 

As for Palin's debate performance: She was chipper; she was smiley. She dodged the questions she couldn't answer, and she stayed on message. And, gosh darn it, she sounded sincere. Sarah Palin would be a perfect presidential press secretary. Too bad she got bumped up to a responsibility she's not ready for. 

Bruce Joffe 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Recently, my daughter, a UC Berkeley student, tried to sign up for a P.E. class. Not only were all the classes full, all the waiting lists were also full. Meanwhile, while the regular students are neglected, Birgeneau is spending an incredible amount of time, energy and money on the High Performance Center for elite athletes whose main purpose is entertainment. I entirely agree with the Boyce's letter to Chancellor Birgeneau in which they voiced their concern about how the mission of the university is being diverted from education to spectator sports. Now more than ever, given the growing consumption of fast food and weight problems, students need to be participating in physical activities, not watching from the sidelines. I'm sure Birgeneau would insist that spectator sports are necessary to increase donations, but I am sure many people prefer to donate elsewhere due to the university's emphasis on football instead of education.  

Sally Levinson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The old tried and true mantra, "Capitalism cannot be successfully regulated," has now been replaced by an even more terrifying truism: "Globilization will never be sucessfully regulated." Looks like we are in a pickle without a paddle. Looks like old Karl was right on. 

Robert Blau 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’d like to reply to Frank Greenspan's Oct. 2 letter. Dona Spring’s death left a huge hole in our hearts and leaves us without a progressive candidate in District 4. We all have mentors, a caring parent, or a teacher that is no longer with us. In making an important decision, I often ask myself “what would my mother do,” or as an artist, I might ponder what my mentor had taught me. This does not mean I don’t think for myself; I am simply remembering the important things I have learned from those who are no longer with me.  

I support Jesse Arreguin for District 4, for many reasons, and one of them is because he has shown he does think for himself and yet will still carry on the work that Dona started. He has many supporters both in his district and from other progressive leaders.  

I am a warm pool advocate (my mother taught me compassion), and I believe among other issues, he is a strong proponent for the disabled community. 

My biggest fear is that the progressive candidates will split the vote and Terry Doran will dance in and be sitting in Dona’s chair. We cannot let this happen. It is a time for Berkeley to come together and make sure that we continue our reputation as a city who cares about our most vulnerable citizens. 

Lori Kossowsky 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you for the balanced review of Measure VV in your Sept. 15 "Analysis of Regional Ballot Measures." Here's additional information to help inform voters in November. 

AC Transit provides a critical service to 227,000 daily riders in Alameda and Contra Costa counties; 60,000 riders are youth who depend on AC to go to school and after-school programs (school buses are extremely limited in the East Bay). 

Last winter AC Transit proposed to raise youth passes from $15 to $28 a month, senior passes from $20 to $28 a month. These extreme increases would have burdened some of the area's neediest populations. Higher fares mean that many families cannot afford to send their children to school everyday; or senior citizens have access to necessary goods and services. Measure VV keeps fares low for both youth and seniors. 

Although nearly one-third of AC Transit's riders owns a vehicle, they choose the bus as an affordable alternative. Not only can Measure VV keep fares affordable but also attract more riders and continue to help reduce traffic and air pollution. 

Since Measure VV guarantees funds be used for operating costs only, the current fleet can be maintained without cutting service. We need reliable and affordable public transit for all people if we are to meet current and future environmental challenges. Measure VV spreads a small burden across a large population and helps everyone.  

Summer Brenner 

Youth Transportation Coalition  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

While reading the Oct. 2 Daily Cal article "Downtown Redevelopment Plays Major Role in Election," I was flabbergasted to see District 4 candidate Terry Doran quoted as saying he thought a denser downtown would help decrease greenhouse gas emissions. "The greatest contributor to greenhouse gases is driving cars," said Doran, "that's another reason why I support these larger structures downtown." 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, all transportation—including cars, trucks, trains, and airplanes—accounts for just 27 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. On the other hand, construction and operation of buildings produces 48 percent of such emissions. 

Doran's plan to tear down existing downtown buildings and construct new, far larger ones, would not only not help decrease greenhouse gas emissions—it would contribute to them in a major way. 

In the words of Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation: "Any new building represents a new impact on the environment. The bottom line is that the greenest building is one that already exists. We cannot build our way out of this global warming crisis. We have to conserve our way out. This means we have to make better, wiser use of what we've already built." 

That's a good reason to vote no on Measure LL in November. 

Terry Doran, you have some homework to do. 

Daniella Thompson 




Editors, Daily Planet:
 In defending Measure KK, Bruce Kaplan goes to some ridiculous lengths to convince readers that the measure is “pro-transit.” Among other things, he rehashes many of the now-familiar arguments about the evils of the proposed East Bay Bus Rapid Transit project—why it won’t really improve public transit, why it isn’t really green, and so on. There’s no need to go over that familiar territory again.
 But Kaplan does introduce a couple of novel ideas that deserve attention.
 He says, “I know that most of the city’s political elite have come out against the measure.”
 Think about that. The entire City Council—Mayor Tom Bates and all seven current councilmembers—is opposed to Measure KK. Is that the city’s political elite? Where is Sarah Palin when we need her? You just can’t trust those elites any more, can you? Never mind that we elected all of them, and that the essence of democracy in our country is something called representative government. Down with the “elites”! Yes, indeed.
 And then there’s Kaplan’s reference to all the neighborhood opposition to the BRT project and support for Measure KK. They include “CENA, Willard, Le Conte and Northeast Berkeley, the Council of Neighborhood Associations (CNA). These organizations represent the folks that actually live here in Berkeley. They understand how detrimental the presently proposed plan would be if allowed to go forward.”
 Let me tell you something about those organizations. I’ve talked with many friends who live in the neighborhoods the organizations supposedly represent, and what they’ve said to me is they find the organizations so conservative and negative that they don’t want to have anything to do with them. “You should go to their meetings and express your views,” I’ve argued. “They represent you!”
 But I can understand their reluctance. 

Here’s what a friend who lives in one of the above-mentioned neighborhoods wrote to me in an e-mail: “Nobody beside a small inner circle e-mail list was notified that the neighborhood association was even discussing BRT. In the past, we used to have a newsletter and notices of meetings which were dropped at over 1,000 doors. People throughout the neighborhood were told what was going to be discussed at the next neighborhood meeting and had a chance to come and speak. Now, only a few insiders know about meetings if there are any. The last time there was a widely distributed neighborhood meeting notice was a few years ago when I distributed it and posted it myself.” 

Hank Resnik



Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Daily Planet again brings forth the radical anti-Israel ideologues to justify vandalism, graffiti, and swastikas as some kind of legitimate and civil protest in the city of Berkeley. In the Looking Glass world of the Israel haters: gay and women's rights are of no concern, free press and free speech are dismissed, multiparty democracy is equated with the political system in China, and peaceful efforts for coexistence are cynically belittled. Meanwhile those who censor free speech using Nazi symbols to literally cover up the truth are elevated. Their victims are then called Nazis! 

Americans understand this kind of swiftboating, big lie propaganda technique. If people think that Israel is like China, then I might urge them to visit both countries and peacefully hand out leaflets protesting government policies, except I would hate to see someone end up in a Chinese jail. Israel, on the other hand, is a democratic country with freedom of the press and freedom of speech. Unlike the United States, in Israel, citizens—both Jewish and non-Jewish—deal daily with serious terrorist threats without the fearmongering and attack on civil rights that is going on here. 

Israel and Palestine have serious problems. The solutions will come through efforts toward moderation, coexistence, and civil rights, not through bombs, violence and repression. Americans can best help Israel and Palestine by supporting peaceful coexistence and saying no to extremists on both sides.  

Rabbi Jane Rachel Litman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

We at BlueStarPR (a non-profit located in San Francisco) are astounded that you would publish readers' letters justifying graffiti equating a swastika with a Jewish star accompanied by anti-Israel ravings. By any reasonable definition, these letter are gross examples of hate speech. This is not my opinion but rather an undeniable fact according the official definition of anti-Semitism by the European Union. The European Union is hardly a part of the Republican Party and has often found itself in very contentious disagreement with the State of Israel. I urge you to consider the conclusions of its 2005 Brussels meeting of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) on anti-Israel expression and anti-Semitism. 

Firstly, the European Union declared that denying Israel’s right to exist is anti-Semitism. 

They have also determined the following acts or statements to be anti-Semitism: 

• Denying the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, e.g. by claiming that the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavor. 
 • Applying double standards by requiring of Israel a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation. 
 • Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism (e.g. claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis. 
 • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis. 
 • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel. 

However, they concluded that criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic. 

I call each individual resident of Berkeley to personally adopt this European resolution in its entirety. Berkeley should strive to live up to its own standards and avoid sinking into that morass of hatred where the authors of those offensive letters seem to permanently dwell. 

Pin Altman 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

With interest—and with some bemusement—I read Matt Cantor's column about knob and tube wiring in last week's issue of the Berkeley Daily Planet. I found the piece generally informative, but I question the accuracy of a couple of Cantor's assertions. In particular, I do not believe that, "If you have a house built before 1950, there is a good chance that it contains some knob and tube wiring." The fact is that the use of knob and tube wiring was almost non-existent after the 1930s (at the latest) in almost all parts of the country. By the 1920s, fabric or cloth covered bundled wiring had been invented and gradually superceded the more antiquated system. 

I know of absolutely no instances where knob and tube wiring was used in post-war housing, at least in the Midwest and in the east. My observations come from long years as a general contractor dating from the early 1950s on. I have worked on wide variety of wood-framed, steel-framed, and concrete buildings ranging from three hundred year old New England saltboxes to many urban residential and commercial structures in Boston, New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. 

While I concur that knob and tube wiring was a reasonable system when it came into usage in the late 19th century, I take issue with Cantor's claim that it currently constitutes a safe alternative to armored cable or Romex. While I believe that it is possible to permit existing knob and tube runs to remain active in certain out of the way locations such as in basements, I cannot believe that a single licensed electrician in this country would install it, even where the codes would allow its use. And even if the required components were available, training employee in its proper assembly would be out of the question, I would think. 

From a 21st century perspective, I view knob and tube wiring as a fascinating anachronism—and an integral part of American construction history. 

Miltiades Mandros 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am a university student and I am greatly concerned about the recent racist defacing of a poster.  

As a student of an American university, I consider myself very lucky. The university in America plays a unique role and ideally should be serving as the epicenter for free speech and expression. A place where top minds and aspiring youth hungry for knowledge can cut their teeth and explore the realms of academia in a safe and diverse environment. Not just a racially diverse or culturally diverse environment (although those are both important, too) but also ideologically diverse. A place where people can discuss different opinions in a respectful and open manner and feel free in doing so is a beautiful place indeed.  

On the other hand, when there are those cowards who would seek to intimidate or eliminate other view points just because they are different, and that is a dangerous and terrible thing. When there are those who would seek to use the most vile and genocidal image of the modern era in order to stifle the free speech of others, that is beyond sickening.  

I hope that the true idea of freedom, freedom of thoughts, words and beliefs, can be made whole in Berkeley and elsewhere. I hope that that this type of thuggery is not accepted by the community at large, and as other hate movements are, only exists as a fringe group that represents no one but the sick twisted individuals who would stoop to this type of thing.  

Jonathan Brostoff 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was very disappointed that you published the obviously hateful letter regarding Israel and the defacing of the positive message in the Blue Star posters. You make decisions every day on what to publish and not publish. Surely this crossed the line. Please reconsider in the future. 

Peter Logan 

San Francisco 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Marc Sapir’s commentary on graffiti and Israel is written in a historical vacuum. His comments are borne of humanistic concerns but fail to take into account the historical context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Conditions are what they are today primarily for one reason and one reason alone: anti-Semitism.  

Before the birth of Israel, Jews suffered thousands of years of persecution, and prior to the establishment of the state of Israel, the Arabs had joined the Nazis as allies in their attempt to destroy the Jewish people. With the end of World War II, the nations of the world almost unanimously supported a division between adversaries, Palestinian Arabs and Palestinian Jews. This division resulted in the formation of two separate nations, and was necessary to ensure the safety of the Jewish people. Borders were drawn by UN consensus and they were not perfect. Jews remained on Arab land, Arabs remained on Jewish land; Arabs received more land, Jews received major port access, and so on. Jerusalem was split between the two peoples. 

True to form, however, the area’s Arab countries could not tolerate a Jewish country in their midst, and thus ensued yet another attempt to eradicate the Jewish people. During the violence that followed Palestinians on Israeli lands fled to Palestinian lands, and Jews on Palestinian lands fled to Israeli lands. After turning away the Arab aggressors, the fledgling Jewish state was faced with the continual threat of annihilation by Arab countries surrounding it as evidenced by three additional Arab-initiated wars. With two subsequent intifadas Israel has necessarily developed a survival mentality that persists to this day. Hence, the current situation. 

Despite Sapir’s hard-edged finger pointing, Israel has been forced to react to its circumstances. There has not been one Israeli leader since 1948 who hasn’t said that when the Arab leaders decide that they will accept Israel’s right to exist, and genuinely and permanently want peace and co-existence, Israel would rejoice and negotiate fairly and equitably on all matters. At that very moment conditions for Palestinian Arabs would improve. 

So, it really is a question of what comes first, the chicken or the egg. Those who harshly criticize Israel fail to appreciate Israel’s raison d’etre, its reason for existence. Instead, they attribute what they perceive as nefarious designs to some baseless notion of Israel realpolitik.  

Can Israel really do anything differently under these circumstances? Nothing substantive. In a dispute, it is not enough for one party to want peace. Both parties must want peace. Take with a grain of salt Sapir’s use of words such as Zionism, colonialism, segregationist, and racism. They are buzz words that only reflect continuing anti-Semitism when applied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

Barry Gustin 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is a sad statement on the editorial policy of your paper when an objective article about the defacing of an advertising poster is followed by a virulently anti-Israel reader commentary. When one of your reporters acknowledges the presence of anti-Semitic graffiti on a poster promoting peaceful co-existence in Israel—the swastika is a symbol for the annihilation of the Jewish people—somehow this is soundly discounted in a subsequent op-ed piece. Leaders from the university and City of Berkeley have decried this hateful act of graffiti as intolerable in a city that is committed to diversity and pluralism. Clearly, most would recognize that by equating a swastika with a Jewish star, a line is being crossed between criticizing Israel and demonizing the Jewish people. Regardless of politics, it was a missed opportunity by your paper to show support and humanity for those in the Jewish community who felt violated by this act. An editorial denouncing this hateful act, as we hope you would have written for other communities similarly attacked, would have been the appropriate response. 

Myrna David 

East Bay Regional Director 

Jewish Community Relations Council 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Those of us who feel now is not the time for additional new taxes in Berkeley are not opposed to funding the libraries, the fire fighters and other essential services. Our opposition to Measures FF, GG and HH is based on the premise that these essential services should be funded first out of the general fund, rather than by special taxes.  

In the “good times” of 2004, Berkeley voters were clear that they opposed new taxes. One message our elected representatives didn't seem to get from those votes was that they should look to other funding sources to leverage city money in funding these essential services. 

Many of our neighboring communities have been much more active in going after grants from both public and private sources for funding essential services. For the libraries, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will pay for new computers and librarian training. For police and firefighters, new radios that allow interagency communication can be purchased with Department of Homeland Security matching funds. 

The other thing our elected representatives should have taken from the 2004 vote is that better management of the funding they do have is needed.  

That might mean less generous raises for city employees. That might mean looking at alternative means of delivering services such as employing an outside contractor to provide paramedic services, rather than rolling expensive firefighters for every call. That might mean controlling overtime by city staff, especially in the fire and police departments. At some point it becomes cheaper to hire additional staff than to pay one person the salary of two people. 

In the past we have approved many special taxes. We thought we could get improved streets, parks, EMT and other services. Instead, what our elected representatives did, was for every penny we added as additional taxes, they took away City funding. This is why, although we are paying for more taxes, we don't receive better services. 

Our elected representatives have ignored the critical need to identify and adequately fund essential services, before making hard decisions about the many nice-to-have services. A no vote on Measures FF, GG and HH will make it clear that essential services must be our city's top priority and must be funded first. 

Vincent Casalaina 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Please consider the importance of the case in which Troy Davis will be sentenced to death without overwhelming proof of his guilt and a lot of evidence as to his innocence. We must not continue to allow disparities in racial and economic equality be the cause of wrongful death. We must do everything we can to preserve our dignity as a nation and avoid this brutality on the part of a flawed judicial system. Nobody would want this to happen to someone they knew and yet the possibility only increases the more we become desensitized to these travesties of justice. Regardless of one's position on the death penalty we should all reasonably agree that we need to be safe as citizens from wrongful execution. We cannot ignore this any longer for humanity's sake. 

Georgia's judicial system has so far failed to consider the compelling new evidence of Mr. Davis´s innocence and either exonerate him or at least grant him a new trial and let a jury decide if he is guilty or innocent. 

The case of Troy Davis highlights some of the many problems that death penalty supporters have no answers for: the risk of innocent people being executed, inadequate counsel, and racial and economic status disparities. 

The Troy Davis case also is an example of a less obvious problem with our criminal justice system -- that the ever-increasing number of procedural hurdles erected by courts and legislators to deny death-row inmates relief and expedite their executions has seriously eroded the system's ability to correct its mistakes. 

Had Troy Davis had adequate resources to defend himself, this miscarriage of justice might not have occurred. Like virtually everyone else on death row in this country, Troy Davis is indigent. There are no millionaires on death row. 

Meagan Mosher-Stockinger