Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday November 13, 2008 - 09:47:00 AM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

It has come to our attention that Mr. Zachary Running Wolf claims us as endorsers of his write-in mayoral campaign. We were not asked and did not endorse.  

Gray Brechin 

Ignacio Chapela 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I support Carol Brighton’s decision to use curatorial judgment on the “Art of Democracy” show at the Windows on Addison Gallery. Carol is a sterling person of incredible integrity, generosity and intelligence. Art Hazelwood had an opportunity to select another gallery for the show, knowing full well the gallery’s policy. Carol Brighton has an e-mail from Art Hazelwood, early on agreeing to the gallery’s position. Why didn’t he find another gallery for his show? I find this curious. 

Nancy McKay 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

“Curatorial judgment” does not mean individuals can censor public images because of their content. Doing so, as Carol Brightman and Mary Ann Merker have done, is not respectful of art, artists, or Berkeley citizens. Their arbitrary censorship of anti-violence images at the Addison Street Windows Gallery is a public stance in favor of totalitarianism and should not be allowed. Their censoring does violence to democracy. 

Tim Drescher 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In February Melanie Cervantes and I drafted a number of letters alerting the city that there was a serious problem involving arbitrary unnecessary curatorial censorship of the Windows on Addison Gallery. Since that time I have learned that there have been others that have not been allowed to show their work in the Berkeley’s Addison Street Windows. The curator, Carol Brighton and the Berkeley Art Commission’s decision to back her ban on military symbols in this public space was an unconstitutional act. To limit debate on a most central issue of our times—war—through abolition of war objects is not legal. The embedded journalist/embedded art commissioner model does not reflect the community of Berkeley nor the Bay Area. Our three months of meetings and letter-writing trying to correct this policy accomplished little. No one we wrote or spoke to at the city wanted to take on this censorship issue. 

Today the community of Berkeley has again been denied an opportunity to view important work (the Art and Democracy Exhibit) due to this absurd ban on artists who show military armaments in their work. This is like telling poets they can’t use the word death in their poems because it might be unsettling to the children that read their poems. All poets that use the word death are banned from exhibiting in the Addison Street Windows by order of the City of Berkeley. Context is everything. 

I support the current attempt being launched by the “Art of Democracy” artists to have these precious windows freed from the current censorship policy. The First Amendment, free speech, means nothing if we do not enforce it. Please speak up. 

Doug Minkler  





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am a former art curator, museum educator and an artist living in Berkeley. I am dismayed at Mary Ann Merker and Carol Brighton’s decision not to display the “Art of Democracy” exhibition at the Addison Street Gallery. This is censorship, plain and simple. 

Would they have decided not to exhibit Picasso’s Guernica because it contained disturbing images and nudity? Would they have denied the public the right to view Goya’s Disasters of War because it contained violent images? Would they have passed on the opportunity to show Rauschenberg’s Vietnam War-era work because it might frighten or offend people? 

I have been working on a series of anti-war ceramic pieces and the Richmond Art Center showed my work, entitled, “Will They Never Learn?” It contained graphic images of war. Apparently, Richmond, has more integrity and courage than the City of Berkeley’s Civic Arts department. What a pity that this should happen in Berkeley, home to the Free Speech Movement. It is a shame that our community, with its large political and anti-war movements was denied the chance to view the “Art of Democracy.” 

Nancy Becker 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Once again: Berkeley is not “home of the free speech movement” because it honored speech, but quite the opposite. The oppression of free speech in Berkeley is so outrageous that people, from time to time, understandably revolt. 

Carol Denney 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Here is a short thought about the current financial crisis in America. On the one hand you have the corporate world, and on the other hand you have the American people. In the middle you have the Federal Reserve (and to a lesser extent you have the American government).  

The Corporate world needs help, as well as the American people need help. But, strange things happen on the way to the bank. The corporations get to stand in a different line than the American people. The corporations get to stand in the cash bailout line, while the people get to stand in the loan restructuring line.  

In other words corporations get all the cash infusion they collectively need to right their ships, while the average American gets no real cash, no real debt forgiveness, no congress fighting to bail us out, and no fund for the beleaguered to tap in case of an emergency. The only reprieve that the people get out the deal is a postponement in foreclosures, while the banks that the taxpayers are bailing out get to restructure our debt. Is it just me, or is this kind of ironic? 

I wish that the American public was 70 percent of the Gross Domestic Product instead of the corporations. Oops, Americans are 70 percent of GDP. Why let 70 percent of America’s GDP suffer while at best the corporate world makes up 30 percent of GDP. Saying that the corporate world is too big to fail, then letting the American people fail is not smart thinking. I cannot find the logic in this practice of the Fed and the American government. It looks to me that the people are too big to fail—not the corporate world.  

Kevin Thomas 






Editors, Daily Planet: 

The commentary by Ayodele Nzinga is disconcerting. The Berkeley Police Department isn’t perfect, but I’ve never known them to display the kind of behavior that Ayodele Nzinga accuses them of. 

Further, I think that Daily Planet should start displaying better standards of journalism. I’ve nothing against someone airing a grievance in a public forum, but if this accusation is true and not merely a smear campaign against the BPD, then the officer involved and his badge number should be mentioned in the public accusation. Anyone can see a BPD car driving down the street, take down the car number and make a vague complaint. 

Finally, doing this bit of fact checking before publishing something that is inflammatory for our community is not difficult to do. All you need is the time, date, and address of supposed incident, then you can cross reference the beat officer assignment list ( and knock on a couple of doors where the incident supposedly happened and see if there were witnesses. 

There are a lot of blind accusations in this city against the police and it seems that the community forgets at times that BPD officers put their lives on the line every day to help us out when drug dealers, gangs, rapists, carjackers, prostitutes etc., start taking over in different neighborhoods. I don’t always see eye to eye with the BPD, but when that happens I do try my best to get my facts straight and support it with hard evidence, especially if I air a grievance in a public forum. 

Jarad Carleton 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The issues raised in your article concerning the Addison Street Windows Gallery are numerous: whether there are explicit, written guidelines for exhibition in this public space, what constitute those guidelines and what criteria are used to determine the appropriateness of artwork for exhibition, who makes this determination, and how/whether/if this information is public knowledge. As artists (scheduled to exhibit a collaborative installation in the Addison windows in December and as yet not informed of specific written guidelines) we believe the issues are actually broader than the question of censorship and free speech in Berkeley. 

One of the roles of the artist is to engage and thoughtfully provoke, to ask questions, hold up mirrors, and make creative linkages that often go unnoticed or unvoiced. Questions we would ask are, “What role does the community of Berkeley want artists to play in helping shape public discourse on critical issues of our time? How can our public exhibition spaces be used to enhance and enrich our daily lives, and in so doing provide reflective experiences that deepen and stretch our understanding of the world around us? 

If the curator and arts commission, with community input, deem that we would benefit from broad guidelines for the windows gallery, we would support ones similar to “Work exhibited in this public space should refrain from explicit or gratuitous sex (i.e., pornography or similar) or from glorifying violence (i.e., glamorize gang warfare or warfare in general).” But maintaining (an as yet unpublished) policy that out of hand prohibits nudity and guns —guns being equated as violence —without taking context into account, effectively and sadly eliminates a range of important artwork across the spectrum from the likes of Michelangelo’s David—exhibited in the Piazza Signora in Florence for four centuries (the original statue now in the Academia), to most forms of visual discourse on the role of militarism in our society and the world at large. Given that we are currently engaged in two wars, one of the most pressing current socio-political issues, eliminating the representation of guns from permitted artwork, guns by their nature one of the most effective symbols incorporated into anti-war and anti-militarism artwork, seems both counter-productive and problematic, all the more so in a progressive community like Berkeley. 

Hopefully, we will use this opportunity to explore the crucial role that art can play in our community and help shape guidelines to be used as a curatorial framework for this wonderful public gallery space that benefits us all. 

Laurie Polster, Oakland 

Janet Delaney, Berkeley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Last week an article in your paper featured the complaints of a couple of artists who were planning to show in the Addison Street Windows gallery. I love this gallery, because of its public aspect; the work is visible to anyone walking down the sidewalk, day or night, and whether or not they consider themselves part of an art-going community. 

Unfortunately, the first artist mentioned in your article was misleading when he characterized curation as censorship. It’s too bad your reporter didn’t call a few other public art administrators for more background on the issue of respect guidelines, which Ms. Brighton (the Windows’ curator) mentioned. 

A guideline is just that, a guide. A curator can choose beyond that guide if she considers the art worthy of the challenge, and she can then provide some context to educate people who might otherwise feel disrespected by the choice. (See Mapplethorpe labels.) 

But curators are not compelled to include work submitted after the original artists’ agreement has been made; if they were, exhibits would never open on time, and any decision could be rendered arbitrary. 

Ms. Brighton demonstrates strong insight that is inclusive and not antagonistic; potent qualities in a curator. I don’t love each and every show that I see in the windows. That’s not the point. 

As to the charge of “boring” leveled by the second artist, since he is a member of the art commission I’m sure he too listens to all sorts of praise and complaints, and then is asked to exercise good judgment and diplomacy in recommending—or not recommending—a variety of artists for city awards. 

Why was his opinion in this case of the windows considered news? 

Jennifer Cole 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

We, the members of the Berkeley Potters Studio, have mixed feelings about receiving a last-minute invitation to show at the Addison Street Windows Gallery. We are always pleased to have a chance to display our work and let people know about our studio. But had we known about the scheduled show that was canceled over free speech issues, we would not have agreed to participate. 

In fact, just a few days after we set up the show, we were shocked to read about the controversy in Nov. 3 issue of the Daily Planet. Frankly, we felt unwittingly complicit with what certainly looks like a censorship action. Whether it was Carol Brighton, the curator of the gallery, or the City that has rejected the works depicting guns, we agree with the Art of Democracy artists that the poster show should have been put up as fully constituted, and that the works that were “curated” out had sound artistic and political reasons for including the so-called offensive images. 

Berkeley is after all, the home of the Free Speech Movement. A key manifestation of free speech is the right of artists to shed light on the key issues of the day. Certainly violence, war and gun proliferation are important issues in America today. Even a teapot knows that! 

Maija Williams 

Studio Manager, The Potters Studio 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding your statement (in the Nov. 6 article “Bates Re-Elected, Arreguin Wins District 4, Wengraf Replaces Olds, Capitelli Retains Seat”) that Max Anderson “captured 96.2 percent of the vote of 93,337 ballots” for the District 3 City Council seat, per the partial count released by the Alameda County registrar’s office, Anderson got 3,377 votes. What percentage that is of ballots cast is currently unknown, since the registrar has so far reported only votes and write-ins, not blanks. 

My understanding is that roughly a third of the ballots remain to be counted. Once the registrar issues the official final results, we can see what percentage of District 3 voters expressed their dissatisfaction or apathy by leaving the City Council choice blank. 

Robert Lauriston 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am disappointed that Proposition 8 has passed, but I am glad to be living in a county that voted Proposition 8 down. 

I donated time in an effort to defeat Proposition 8, and I met a lot of really great people in the process. Good people came out together from all walks of life to fight this terrible Proposition. I live in Berkeley with my partner and it is a good feeling knowing that I live in a place where bigotry and hate is not what people value. The Bay Area (excluding Solano County), and all of the counties where Proposition 8 failed to pass are what I like to call “Enlightened America.” 

The fight for marriage equality is not over! It has just begun. In the words of Gavin Newsom: “The door’s wide open now. It’s gonna happen...” 

Ian Griffith 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As an amateur psychologist, I’d like to point out an important factor that the pundits (left, right and center) failed to mention about the election. And that was the powerful messianic quality that Barack Obama exuded. Here, on some deep level, was a black messiah who seemed to appear out of nowhere, awesomely eloquent, youthful, handsome, and Harvard smart; a person to “deliver us from evil.....Amen!”  

Robert Blau 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

In middle school in 1960s San Francisco, Terry was my best friend. His eyes were brown like mine. His hair was brown like mine, but wavier. His lips were full like mine, but not much more so. His skin was darker than mine, but no darker than I can get in a week of California sun. I thought nothing of it. Then I met his father. He looked like Willie Brown. I thought, “My God, Terry’s father is black! That must mean that my best friend is black.” I just hadn’t noticed, and now that I did, it just didn’t matter, even though inner cities were burning and we white folks were supposed to be afraid. Terry and I went on being best friends until one of us moved away and we lost touch. More than friendship was lost. Over the years, I looked back on that experience of color blindness as an innocence of youth, never to be recaptured, and I have always cherished it. 

In 2008, I supported a presidential candidate, and he won the election. I certainly knew that he was an African-American, but it just didn’t matter. The media touted the historical significance of his candidacy from the beginning of his campaign, growing louder as he drew nearer to the goal, but that steady din, increasing by imperceptible degrees over the many months, just seemed so much background noise to what I hoped he could accomplish for our nation. On election night, I saw the television images of Jesse Jackson and Oprah Winfrey listening to the most moving speech I have heard since John F. Kennedy, and tears welled in my eyes as well, for I shared their joy. A couple of days after the election, an image was circulated by e-mail: a group photo of the future First Family with the presidential seal behind them, and I was struck by the enormity of the deed we had accomplished as a nation. I thought, “My God, the First Family is black!” In that moment, I realized that I had been color blind again. 

It just didn’t matter.  

And yet, it does matter. 

Thomas Gangale 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Howard Zinn says: “There is a general understanding among Americans who follow politics, and certainly among students of constitutional law, that the Bush administration has committed outrageous violations of both constitutional and statutory law.” 

Now, after the election, each of us has a new job to do: Undoing the Bush/Cheney Legacy. So Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute has just published a handy book with that title, subtitled: “Tool Kit for Congress and Activists.” 

Our interns and I did not even realize the size of our problem until we got into it! We found 70 Bush-Cheney laws that could/should come before the new Congress in the first 100 days for amendment or repeal—and several signing statements and executive orders President Obama could immediately reject. If everyone who worked on the election started working on their Congress members now, this could happen! 

On every issue, from agriculture and anti-trust to veterans and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the book gives: 

• Name of Bush law. 

• Where to find it. 

• Who is hurt by this law. 

• What the law provides. 

• What basic law the Bush law ignores, both sections of the U.S. Constitution and articles in treaties ratified by the U.S. that are, under the Constitution, “the supreme law of the land.” 

• Bills already introduced into Congress amending or repealing the laws. 

• Names of representatives and senators who have introduced good bills on each issue. 

Zinn says about the book: “But no one has documented these violations as meticulously, as dramatically, as [Editor] Ann Fagan Ginger has done in this concise and very important volume. It will give both scholars and citizens the information they need to contest what has been going on, in order to restore the liberties taken away by this administration.” 

El Cerrito Democratic Club vice chair Betty Brown says the Tool Kit is “an invaluable and timely guide.” 

If Planet readers would like to discuss the issues in the book, give us a call at (510) 848-0599, or get your copy: 

Ann Fagan Ginger 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The other day I met a woman who had been beaten and after a cataract operation she had no where to go. She had just left a slum single room occupancy hotel in Oakland where the landlord had ignored the rats and the mice which were harmful to her well being while she lay helpless after the injury. Normally I do not take in strangers. Years ago I was a street artist and I started missing work. I would go to the food truck sometimes just to hear “good morning” even when I had coffee at home. Recently I returned to working at a real job writing comedy and copy for local hotels and other businesses which is important to me. I had been lonely before when I was forced to rest following my own experience of being assaulted, robbed, threatened and almost killed living and consequent breakdown in a so-called low income apartment. In light of my own experience I took in this blind defenseless woman rather than see her die on the streets of Berkeley. I did this in the spirit of the Golden Rule of do unto others what I would have done unto me. I am now trying to help her get into senior housing. I feel compelled to help her. 

Our homeless sisters and brothers will be cold and hungry in the winter in our parks and on the streets, dying, at times physically disabled while the rich will be in the hills gorging on wonderful holiday feasts. I want to ask them and you the reader to give housing back to those without. The $150,000 bailout to the Berkeley Housing Authority has not visibly made any difference on the streets as the new authority enjoys brunch out at the Hilton Doubletree. Where did the rest of the money go? Why do we see the hiring of Tia Ingram as director of the BHA when she left under a cloud of $400,000 missing money from when she was at Richmond Housing Authority? A former BHA director Jackie Foster was taken away in handcuffs for letting her boyfriend near the petty cash. We have seen the previous indictment of Franklin Raines former head of Fannie Mae before the recent federal bailout. We have seen badly managed properties under the Oakland Housing Authority. Why do the very poorest, the most neediest fail to get help and into housing when those who have gamed the system on top go unpunished? Does anyone care? 

Diane Arsanis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I just finished writing to Representative Barbara Lee asking her to initiate the process for Congress to set aside Nov. 4 of each year as a National Day of Unity in recognition of the monumental mark in history that was made on Nov. 4, 2008. This presidential election has brought together and accomplished the dreams of diversity in action, racial unity, with the great overshadowing of hope for the future of this nation. When President-Elect Barack Obama and Vice-President-Elect Joe Biden, along with their families, embraced one another and walked forward on that platform last night, chills ran through my body as I saw unity in action; an action only just beginning.  

The will and the power of the people have prevailed. This election has restored faith in our hearts and healed wounds laying in wait for this moment. President-Elect Obama has set the stage for a new United States of America. A new time and a new world is about to emerge. 

Join with me now by writing your representative and asking that this date be marked not only in history books but as a National Day of Unity. 

Serena Nova 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

From the most virulent Obama opponent to the most zealous supporter, everyone agrees that the election of our 44th president was an event of profound historic significance. I have read several dozen commentaries, op-eds, letters, poems, and hallelujahs but despite universal consensus as to the event’s great extraordinary moment, taken together there is not a single line that might encompass the vast range of reactions.  

Ignore the stupid (Obama is a Marxist/socialist), the malicious (Obama pals around with terrorists) and the inane (McCain’s main man Sen. Lindsay Graham’s promise to drown himself if Obama “…took North Carolina” and Sen. Joe Lieberman’s assertion that unlike his idol McCain, Obama did not “…always put America first”). What one hears from scanning 360 degrees of Babel in the dominant media is a shrieking cacophony of mostly biased reactions. Here’s a brief incomplete survey. 

The New York Times asks provocatively and without acknowledging inherent speculative bias, “Will a President Obama fall captive to liberal interest groups and the Democratic Congress?” (Online edition, “Bloggingheads,” Nov. 8). The same illustrious newspaper of record reported that “a Jihadi leader” declared that “…the election of Barack Obama represents a victory for radical Islamic groups,” yet failed to recognize the poison implicit in that anonymous assertion. Several members of the hard-right punditry whined in harmony that McCain lost not because he ran a bad campaign or because Obama was the better man but because the economy, collapsing when it did, tilted the game in Obama’s favor; Obama just lucked out. 

There’s more, but by headlining this kind of nonsense the dominant media distracts us from the fact that we have a president, almost the opposite of the incumbent, that we have long hoped for, a president who is not only “…young, handsome and suntanned” according to Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi who ought to know, but is, articulate, intelligent, sensitive, diligent and sincere.  

We couldn’t wish for anything more.  

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Now that Democrats have the ultimate say, what could possibly be the reason for not upholding the Constitution and impeach Bush for the many crimes against the state that he’s committed? The world is watching to see if now, finally, the Democrats will fulfill their appointed duty to hold our officials as accountable for their actions as the average citizen is held for theirs. 

Both Kucinich and Wexler have given to the Congress all the evidence necessary to begin the investigations and proceedings. 

It will be to the shame of Nancy Pelosi and all Democrats to ignore the Constitutional directive for impeachment for crimes against the State. It will be the shame of our entire nation to let these immense wrongs that have killed and maimed and traumatized so many, go unpunished. 

Sabriga Turgon 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The recent election results of the election of our nation’s first black president, combined with the passage of Proposition 8 to ban same-sex marriages, has resulted in many heated discussions: particularly given the exit poll statistics that 70 percent of black voters voted yes on Prop. 8. Letters have appeared expressing dismay that a group who has historically experienced so much oppression voted so overwhelmingly to discriminate against another minority group. Discussions I observed also often contained comparisions between the suffering or oppression of different groups, in one case with a black man who voted yes on 8 arguing vehemently that no one has experienced the type of suffering that blacks in America have experienced.  

A couple reflections. First, I have always found something repugnant about any oppressed group’s attempt to make their history of oppression/suffering into a bank account or cash cow whereby they can extract equity, obtain leverage and/or moral authority, and basically use their suffering to either devalue another person’s experience or figuratively “hit” someone on the head or assign blame. “We’re the biggest victims of all so the rest of you better shut up” is not a very noble argument. Secondly, the attempt to compare types of suffering in order to find “who’s had it worst of all” is equally repugnant, and in that move to glorify victimization and assert the “superiority” of one’s experience of oppression, we not only devalue and belittle the experiences of other groups or individual’s pain, but we denigrate suffering and pain itself. The experience of suffering cries out with its own innate eloquence, and in itself can open hearts. I think of the song sung by Nina Simone, “Strange Fruit.” That powerful song simply opens hearts. Leave it alone. Once you attach to it the argument, “and you white folks did this to us, you nasty racists!” immediately the pureness, power and poignancy of that song is lost in the distasteful and misguided, corrupted move to assign blame. Will we ever learn that there is no one group or people who is innately evil, and no one group who’s got the monopoly on suffering? Let’s just listen to each other, valuing all our stories, and stop trying to compare and find the “winner.” 

When a legacy of suffering simply becomes a bank account or a cash cow to gain wealth from, a weapon to assign blame, or a tool with which to cow others into obedience or to manipulate, we’ve corrupted our experience of suffering.  

Deborah Cloudwalker 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

For the last two years, I’ve been writing and telling anyone who would listen that American women could elect the next president, if only they voted. 

Well, this time they did, and there is no doubt that women were a decisive factor in the election of Barack Obama. 

To listen to the pundits, however, you’d think that only youth (bless them!) and minorities turned out in overwhelming numbers to stand on endless lines to elect the first African American and liberal and brilliant president. 

Frank Rich, whom I admire tremendously, even missed the boat. In his Sunday New York Times column in The Week in Review, Rich never mentioned the amazing gender gap that catapulted a young and relatively unknown senator to become our 44th president. 

Just take a serious look at the numbers. As the data in the Week in Review in the New York Times reveals, women constituted 53 percent of the electorate, while only 47 percent of men voted. Among those who voted for Obama, 56 percent were women and 43 percent were men. Among unmarried women, a whopping 70 percent voted for Obama. 

There are many variables in this data that need to be explained. The extraordinary female vote almost certainly came largely from minority and young women. But even white, married women, who usually vote more conservatively, went for Obama. 

Does this matter? Yes, and here’s why. For years, women have been saying that we are invisible in this political culture. The consequence of this invisibility is that our poverty, our economic insecurity, our need for health care, child care, elder care, and equality in wages and training are also ignored. 

So, with all due respect to those who are praising the young and minorities, and rightfully blessing their energy and enthusiasm, take a good hard look and notice that it was women who, in the end, sealed the deal. 

Ruth Rosen 

Professor Emerita of History, UC Davis 

Visiting Professor of History, UC Berkeley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I hate to sound like a spoiler while the Bay Area celebrates the election of Barack Obama. But am I the only one concerned that he raised almost a billion dollars in campaign contributions? Who will he be indebted to? Unless we have real election reform so obscene amounts of money aren’t involved in elections, the corporations and the banks will always run this country. 

Stacy Taylor 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

With every issue, the Berkeley Daily Planet devotes an entire page of space to J. Douglas Allen-Taylor’s discussions of either current incidents of racism, or, if he can’t find those, incidents from 50, 100, 200 or 300 years ago. Clearly the Planet readership is by now well educated about issues of racism. Given the outcome of the recent elections, where racism in whites did not prevent the nation from voting in a black president, but prevalent homophobia in the black community may well have caused the proposition banning gay marriage to pass, I think new priorities are in order. The Planet should cease devoting so much space to Allen-Taylor’s lectures about real or imagined racism in whites and more to education of the black community about their heterosexism.  

Arthur Levin 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

At Monterey Market recently, the couple before me at the cash register, who I had never met, insisted on treating me to the muffin I was about to purchase. I was amazed. They explained that they were feeling very happy about the election, and this was one way of expressing it. On Shattuck Avenue, right after Obama’s acceptance speech, huge crowds of people were hugging each other and dancing in the street. Much of the Bay Area was raining with joy.  

The defeat of Bush and the election of an African American to the nation’s highest political post is a monumental event, which is already having a tremendous personal impact upon us. It has certainly given us a glimmer of what is possible. For most people, the realization that emerged from the election has shown that years of psychotherapy is unnecessary to access our capacity for happiness and our social selves. These wonderful qualities are right beneath the surface. And they can be realized by making important political gains. 

But we are also mindful of the unfortunate vote on Proposition 8. I have no doubts, though, that defeating the right of gay people to marry will be overcome. The civil rights movement of gay people to achieve equality deserves our support and involvement. Human and civil rights belong to all of us. No exceptions. 

Harry Brill 

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Mr. Stone describes the state of Israel as a major arms dealer. However, his list of products, beginning with “high-tech fences” and ending with “prisoner interrogation systems” is entirely defensive in nature. Not one of them is designed to kill anyone. What he describes is a good global citizen. 

James D. Young 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Hassan Fouda’s letter about Walid Shoebat and Kamal Saleem made several statements about both speakers that were just plain wrong. 

Fouda claimed the two speakers were “frauds” who converted to Christianity to present themselves as “insiders on a holy mission to warn the world about Muslim’s designs to wipe out Christians and Jews.” 

They did no such thing. 

First, they did explain how they were raised in a culture of Jew hatred and felt that American Muslims should not support such ideas and also asks Muslims here to say Allah bless America—not make excuses for terrorist groups overseas. 

Second, the Jerusalem Post did no investigation as Hassan Fouda claims proving the men to be “frauds.” The Post ran an article by an independent writer that the newspaper later retracted as inadequate and uncorroborated. The article was a hit piece by someone claiming he wanted to interview Walid Shoebat who ultimately interviewed people who had threatened Walid’s life and wanted to destroy him—even members of his own family who had been arrested for terrorism in the past. The article that ran also did not establish that “Shoebat’s story is lies” but only had the author claiming he could not find proof of some events—that’s a big difference. 

The Air Force Academy article by Chris Hedges also contained smears because Chris Hedges did not like the message from Shoebat and Saleem in support of Israel and the US. Calling these two brave men frauds does not negate the truth that they are the real deal. As further proof they have been invited to speak to the US Marine Corp’s training academy and by the FBI. Law enforcement agencies continually seek their advice and expertise. 

Fouda, who belongs to ICHAD, a group that objects to the homes of suicide bombers or domiciles used as bombmaking factories being destroyed by the IDF has an axe to grind against anyone who supports peace with Israel and support for the US. As such his letter is both untrue and a veiled attempt at mouthing support for terrorist activities and groups overseas. What he really means is “these guys can’t be real terrorists therefore the actions of real terrorists are legitimate and should be condoned.” 

I know both of these men and, yes, their stories are real—they were once terrorists—and what bothers the likes of Fouda so much is that they show the hypocrisy and deception of anti-Israel/anti-U.S. movements so prevalent in Berkeley today. 

Lee Kaplan 

Walid Shoebat Foundation 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I want to congratulate Jesse Arreguin on his decisive win for District 4 and for Berkeley. This victory was earned through the hard work of Jesse, his family, and Dona Spring’s legacy of and hardworking and sincere activists and advocates who are the backbone of his campaign. I celebrate their victory. Jesse Arreguin is a good man, his values are in the right place, he is earnest, dedicated and covers all the bases necessary to clearly address the issues at hand. Like Kriss Worthington and unlike the rest of our City Council, Jesse is known for reading every last page submitted to the agenda. This race was a fight for the heart of our city, and for the voice of dissent on our council. Like two years before, the developers pushed hard to take every seat in our City Council. And once again the community voice and not the developers dollar, spoke loudest. 

As I celebrate Jesse’s victory I thank all of you who supported me in this campaign for City Council. We injected a great deal of content into this last round of local elections, not just in the contest for District 4, but into all the races. And Berkeley needs more voices to build a clearer perspective of the problems we face, and the solutions they invite. 

I will continue working to empower real neighborhood and community input in our governance process. Its the only thing that can holistically beat the community vs. developer gridlock. Its a deeper solution for a resilient and engaged voting populace. Along that line the Berkeley Climate Action Plan developed by the planning department (read developers department) needs a real response. 

I organized a wiki for us to develop our own real climate action plan, and for us to critique the existing one. Its a real wiki, which means it hosts real live group editing. You can plug in valuable content form other areas climate action plans, and we can all edit it into a seamless plan. You can check it out at 

Asa Dodsworth 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Measure KK, the anti-Bus-Rapid-Transit initiative, was defeated overwhelmingly—by a margin of more than 3-1. A margin of 2-1 is generally considered a landslide, and the defeat of KK went much further than that. 

No doubt, the anti-transit crowd will complain that the campaign was unfair. If the margin were close, their complaints might carry some weight, but a margin this large cannot be explained by the campaign. The supporters of this initiative defined it as a vote on car lanes versus transit lanes, and the result shows clearly that most Berkeley voters are pro-transit. 

Though we hear from them all the time, opponents of BRT represents a distinct minority of Berkeley’s voters—a relatively small group of squeaky wheels who are constantly making noise. 

It is time to remember that we are a democracy, where the majority rules, and not a squeaky-wheel-ocracy, where the people who make noise rule. This election shows that, in Berkeley, the majority cares about the environment, the majority wants better public transportation, and the majority supports Bus Rapid Transit. 

Charles Siegel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A part of the rush-hour crush on BART could be alleviated by charging senior citizens double fare during rush hours. Senior BART tickets for $24 worth of rides are sold for less than half price. The present toll stiles distinguish between regular and senior tickets. They should be capable of being easily adjusted to open passage during rush hours only after two insertions of a senior ticket. 

A similar adjustment for San Francisco, certain peninsula and East Bay bus systems could also diminish their rush-hour discomfort and overloads. 

Judith Segard Hunt 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding your “Sather Gate Gets a Facelift” story: Eight fields of learning? I thought there were seven, the trivium and the quadrivium combined. “Don’t know much about algebra...” (Or math either.) 

H. Granger 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have appreciated the calmness of Berkeley City Council meetings during the past years of Mayor Tom Bates’ management. 

However, I wonder to what extent the smooth functioning of the council depends on manipulation of election campaigns for council seats so that only a candidate who fully supports the mayor can win. 

Dorothea Gielow 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

This old white guy, a native Southerner (Kentucky), cried tears of joy when Obama won the election. What an extraordinary day for people of color—indeed, for the entire world. 

And now exit polls report that 70 percent of African-Americans and the majority of Latinos voted for California’s Prop. 8 (and similar hateful propositions in Arizona, Florida and Arkansas). One would think that these folks would know enough about discrimination and prejudice so as not to trample on the rights and happiness of others. Not fair! And certainly not “Christian.” So much for the Golden Rule. 

I doubt that Jesus would approve. Whatever has happened to “separation of church and state,” pray? Churches which get politically involved should at least be taxed accordingly. 

Gay marriage is a Constitutional matter which will doubtlessly be won in the courts. In the interim, perhaps we should mount an initiative to ban straight marriage, since more than half of them end in divorce, and infidelity is rampant. Such immoral behavior sets a terrible example for gay people everywhere. 

Eric Mills 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I know that we are now supposed to be all bi-partisan and stuff but I need to scream this at the top on my lungs before I can possibly do that: SUCK IT, REPUBLICANS! 

Jane Powell 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’ve always been rather skeptical about the hype, but I do think it’s great that you’re going to be our next President. And I did contribute to your election, in my own small way. Now I want to join those who are saying, “Congrats Barack, now get the hell out of Iraq!” 

I know you’ll say we can’t just pull U.S. troops and mercenaries out of Iraq within a few short weeks. But we say, “Yes we can!” 

You’ll probably say we can’t just withdraw from Afghanistan and shut down our 800-plus military bases all over the world. But we say, “Yes we can!” 

And you’ll probably say we can’t expect to see justice for the Palestinian people. But we say, “Yes we can!” 

And you’ll probably say we can’t actually honor the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, which we signed forty years ago, in which the United States and other nuclear nations agreed “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.” (Article VI) But we say, “Yes we can!” 

And you’ll probably say we can’t have a single payer health care system like our neighbors in Canada, must less even consider the health care system of our Cuban neighbors to the south. But we say, “Yes we can!” 

And you’ll probably say we can’t just tear down the walls on the border, abolish the ICE, and welcome immigrants (the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, and the homeless, tempest tossed) into the United States, But we say, “Yes we can!” 

And you’ll probably say we can’t have a moratorium on all evictions and layoffs, so workers don’t lose their homes and jobs because of the greed of the bankers and financiers. But we say, “Yes we can!” 

And you’ll probably say we can’t have a special prosecutor to investigate the crooks in Wall Street and Washington. But we say, “Yes we can!” 

And you’ll probably say we have to be patient, that change takes time, and we can’t expect real revolutionary change in this country. But we say, “Yes we can!” 

Anyway, that’s what I think. Have a nice day and enjoy your new puppy. 

Eugene E. Ruyle 

Peace and Freedom Party Candidate for Congress 

California’s 10th Congressional District 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

For two decades, the “big three” American auto makers have been making a fortune building and selling gas-guzzling SUVs while Toyota and Honda were developing energy-efficient, well-designed, long-lasting cars. They were able to profit so mightily because their SUVs were exempted from the Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) standards, due to their lobbying of Congress. Now the cry-babies want a bailout? I say, “Heck no.” Let these companies wither or get bought up by companies who know how to make good and useful cars for the 21st century. 

Bruce Joffe 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I don’t know what to make of Alan Tobey’s references to weaponry and the bible in his Nov. 6 commentary about Measure KK. But Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) does seem to be a religion to him. 

Discussion of AC Transit’s BRT proposal is now out in the open. Measure KK brought BRT out of the dark recesses of Berkeley’s broken process, the “dozens of public meetings, workshops and public hearings” that serve to wear people down rather than encourage citizen participation. Partly because of the lively discussion that has taken place about BRT, opposition from Oakland residents is rapidly growing. 

Interestingly, Tom Bates distanced himself from BRT at every campaign debate I attended, as if he didn’t want to be associated with it while running for office. Also, at the Green Party endorsement meeting, Kriss Worthington said he was opposed to Measure KK, but then clearly stated that if he could vote against AC Transit’s current BRT proposal, he would do so. 

The local branch of the Sierra Club allowed its good name to be used in vain. Mailers and large signs against Measure KK shouted, “Sierra Club says", as though the entire membership was speaking in concert. I understand that only a small number of very biased individuals got to vote to endorse against Measure KK. Mr. Tobey seems proud of their bias; he called the Club a “charter member of the Bates Machine” in a widely circulated e-mail. 

I have heard about a few members who intend to quit the Sierra Club because of its mendacious, over-the-top campaign against a citizen-initiated measure. I would prefer to see people become active in reforming the organization’s endorsement process. But if members do not have time to get actively involved, their financial support might continue to be used—not to protect the environment—but to squash democracy. 

Gale Garcia 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

After reading the article “A Victorious AC Transit President Sets His Sights on the Bus District’s Challenges And Problems,” I tell you, Joyce Roy is surely out of touch for the needs of the parents and not family friendly. I love European Busses, they are more parent and stroller friendly. Having experience visiting European cities from Marseille, Rhodes, Palma de Mallorca, Toulon, etc; after seeing the Mercedes Citaro, Renault, Iveco, MAN and Van Hool busses, I felt how come American mass transit agencies can’t purchase these types of busses? I know it is because the Buy America law, but it should be exempt if American made busses can’t meet the specification of being stroller friendly. Until Gillig, NABI, Orion, New Flyer can finally get a clue of becoming stroller friendly like the European busses, I think all American mass transit agencies should buy European busses, and be exempt from Buy America policy. The American manufacturers finally got the clue of designing them more aerodynamic and low floor, but they still haven’t got the clue of being more stroller friendly. AC Transit and all other Mass Transit Agencies, please continue to buy European busses until the American bus manufacturers get a clue. Van Hool and other European bus manufacturers have a clue; I am able to board through the middle door with my daughter in the stroller and able to park the stroller in the open area and secure the stroller with the seat belt, and pay fare with my Translink Card, after securing my daughter’s stroller. AC Transit and all other Mass Transit Agencies please buy more European busses, not just Van Hools.  

I also suggest Merceds Citaro for the School Routes and Owl service. Knowing the Orions are made by Daimler, how come they can’t just manufacture the Mercedes Citaro in the U.S., just like they do the Sprinter.  

David Yamaguchi