Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Wednesday November 26, 2008 - 10:43:00 AM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I really don’t relish being the crabby old woman who sits on the bus up near the driver and tells student-age people that by federal law they should be yielding seats in front to seniors and the disabled, but most of the seniors and disabled I know are simply too polite to kick up a fuss, so I guess I’m stuck with the role. 

Recently I saw a very pregnant woman get on the bus and not one person offered her a seat. The same thing happened with a blind man not long ago who was left to stand uncertainly. (Not that pregnancy is a disability, of course; I’m just talking about common decency.) Was I ever really that dumb or insensitive? Well...maybe. And if so, I as for forgiveness. If only we could all just be “a bit...a blot...a crumb...a fragment” kinder to one another. 

Susan Leonard 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am a student at Berkeley City College and I am trying to get the word out that the financial aid department of my school is not holding up to their end of the deal. I was told that the second week of school I would receive my financial aid check, so I rushed to turn in all my paper work so that the problems could be worked out early; unfortunately that wasn’t the case. The financial aid office continues to make claims that we will have out checks within “the next couple weeks.” The first time I heard them tell me this was more then a month ago. We are now in the 13th week of school and I still have not received any money from the financial aid department. I have been building up debt and now I am no longer able to pay for rent and other bills. I would not suggest anybody go to this school with the idea that they can rely on the financial aid department. I know this may not affect many people, but I am hoping that if I get the word out I might be able to force my school into giving not only me but all the other struggling students the money they have been expecting as well. 

Jonathan Forbes Heaton 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Last week an apparent arson fire in the parking lot of city-owned Section 8 housing at 1812 Fairview totaled two vehicles and damaged a third as power lines melted and dropped to the street. Vigorous, high flames from two totaled cars under a tree could have ignited the multi-unit building and spread to other buildings in the densely populated area. I went to view the burnt-out shell of a car days later, and spoke to a woman in the parking lot. “That’s my car,” she said.” “What happened?” I asked. “Gang activity,” she replied.  

At the Oct. 28 Berkeley City Council meeting, city and police agencies gave their plans to deal with alarming murders, violence and crime in southwest Berkeley. While residents appreciate tree trimming, working streetlights, and pickup of dumped items, these are basic duties the city owes the taxpayers and not exceptional efforts. We were told the city is “identifying problem properties.”  

We know we have problem properties such as the city-owned Section 8 housing at 1812 Fairview. My question is: When will you take definitive action against problem properties? I invite you to view the dramatic video of the fire on YouTube, entitled “Fire on Fairview St.” and ask yourself what you would do if an arson fire of this magnitude happened in your neighborhood.  

Recently a meth lab was discovered at a BOSS transitional housing unit inhabited by a man wanted for questioning in connection with a recent drive-by shooting and other serious offenses. The residence has little supervision. The meth lab put many West Berkeley residents in danger and could cost the city a great deal to cleanup. I expect the insurance costs for these properties will soar and rightly so, once the arson fires and meth lab are disclosed to the insurers.  

It’s time for real, not imagined or promised concerted action on problem properties and responsible supervision of transitional and subsidized housing to keep neighborhoods safe.  

Robin Wright 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Any given person’s mind is infinitely complex, denying any label or measure. The only avenue towards “knowing” a person is through an intimate relationship over a long period of time. And yet, even parents, who one could argue would most fulfill these qualifications, often do not really “know” their son or daughter—especially at the age of adolescence, when our bodies, and minds are constantly changing. 

Thus the problem for college admissions: They want a student who will succeed in their programs and contribute to the community. Yet how to predict such a winning combination?  

It is true that grades, and test scores of the past will most likely predict grade and test scores of the future. But I remember college as being more than just grades and test scores. Discussions, activism, leadership and networking were other dimensions that were just as important—if not more. These are the college experiences that carry on and influence a person’s success: after all, how many jobs ask for a grade point average on a resume? 

So why should a student’s test score be an important measure of their capacity for learning? Typically a student is not even considered for entrance unless they reach a minimum score. Why should how a student performs for three to four hours on a given day be such an all-encompassing measure? A close friend of mine took her LSAT while she had bronchitis. She vomited at least three times during the test. Whether she performed well or not, no one would consider the score she got as being a real indicator of her best. 

The poster child for unnoticed exceptional intelligence is Albert Einstein. One of the great scientific geniuses of our time was completely unrecognized in high school. I myself disliked all high school subjects—but upon choosing a specialized field of interest in college, found learning exciting and inspiring. The standardized learning of high school may alienate some who would blossom in a different environment. 

So how can we conduct college admissions? At the very least, do not assume that a test score can tell you how fit a student is for college. Test scores should be seen as just that—test scores. Obviously a student with a high SAT score can do well on tests. However, do they have passion? Do they have curiosity? Do they want to give to the community? Do they want to find a mentor that will cultivate their learning? Do they want to make a change? Do they want to be a leader? Their extracurricular activities, their recommendations, and their personal statement all are better indicators of these desirable qualities.  

Joy Lee Chua 

English Teacher, Berkeley Technology Academy 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Martha Dickey’s mention, in her Nov. 20 First Person essay, of the “What Are You Grateful For?” question and its slightly sermonizing tone recalled my feeling when the lettering first appeared on an otherwise nice green awning atop the gratitudinal restaurant on Shattuck Avenue: I’m grateful for awnings that don’t ask me questions. 

Sandy Rothman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Concerning the ‘Little Lectures Everywhere’ essay in the Nov. 20 edition: I would like to congratulate Martha Dickey for the craziest, most ludicrously self-justifying anecdote in the plentiful history of the Daily Planet. 

Stephen Ronan 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing to express my extreme indignation at the brown-shirt tactics used by pro-Israeli thugs at Eshelman Hall. 

It’s not enough that our incoming president has prayed at the Western Wall or pronounced Israeli’s security “sacrosanct.” It’s not enough that 1 million Gazans eat or starve at the whim of the Israelis. 

The fact is, it’s never enough! Power is addictive, and the closer one gets to the goal of absolute control over others’ lives, the more infuriating it becomes when one’s power is not absolute. There’s always one defiant person waving a a banner (at least until his organization is removed from Eshelman Hall). 

Last month the university embarrassed itself by over-reacting to the “desecration” of a commercial billboard which was not even on university property. How then will it respond to an organized invasion of a university building by non-students resulting in violence directed against students? Investigation by the police is of course in order, but how much better if the chancellor was moved to express his strong feeling that beatings by brownshirts are not compatible with the ideals of the university. 

I won’t hold my breath! I guess it’s a matter of who is being beaten. Try to imagine the outrage if someone should invade a university building and start beating Jewish students. You can bet the administration would be on that pronto. 

Edward Strauss 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

A group calling itself International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network has published its manifesto in two parts in the Oct. 23 and Nov. 20 editions of the Daily Planet. Never having heard of such a group, I went to their website and discovered that it has been newly formed only in early October of this year. Their kick-off event was a demonstration in Oakland. Pictures posted on their website show about 10 unidentified attendees. Although admittedly Jews can come in different hues, some of the anonymous attendees clearly do not look classically Jewish, being apparently black and Chinese.  

More importantly, this group has declared that Palestinians “commemorated 60 years of ruthless occupation this year. At first glance, one would think this to be a simple editorial error, as in a typo. The occupation is normally taken to have resulted from the Six Day War, fought in June 1967, 41 years ago, not 60 years ago.  

But, on second glance, one realizes that this was no simple error at all. By the reckoning of this new group, the occupation did begin 60 years ago, in 1948, with the establishment by the United Nations of the State of Israel. The Anti-Zionist Network’s manifesto then can only be understood as a declaration calling for the destruction of Israel. What is to become of Israel’s millions of Jews? Are the three million or so Arab Jews and their descendants who were forcibly evicted from their homes now to be forcibly repatriated to Iraq, Syria, Morocco, Syria, Algeria, Egypt, Yemen, and Libya? Would these hapless Jews want to go (I definitely doubt it)? Would the Arab countries have them? Remember, not one single Jew is permitted to live in Palestinian Gaza, and by all peace proposals I have seen, Jews will not be allowed to live in the West Bank portion of Palestine either, just as, by law, Jews are not permitted to live in Saudi Arabia. Are the descendants of Holocaust survivors to be extradited to the countries that gave them up to Hitler’s ovens?  

Such extreme views among Jews (let’s say for the sake of argument that those black and oriental demonstrators were Jews) are very rare indeed. Occasionally, one will find pictures of an ultra-Orthodox rabbi hugging and kissing the now deceased Yasser Arafat or were more recently photographed with Ahmadininjad at a Holocaust denier’s convention. These folks believe that Israel and its ancient Temple cannot rise again until the day the Messiah shall appear to proclaim it. Any premature act of state building by man is then blasphemy, such that Israel’s enemies are actually doing God’s holy work in destroying the modern and democratic State of Israel. On the other hand, “secular” Jews who argue for the destruction of Israel are usually religious fanatics as well, worshipping at the altar of utopian one-worldism. They are often the descendants of an earlier age of Communist refugees from Europe. Most of their European and Russian counterparts perished in the gulags and the Holocaust. These few are the quaint remains of a discredited worldview, with remaining toeholds only in Cuba and North Korea if at all. There is even a name for them in the Jewish world, “red babies.” Paraphrasing the famous Israeli author, Amos Oz, wouldn’t it be nice if all borders could be erased and we all lived on one harmonious planet. Israel could then merge into the rest of the world, and should do so. Only, let Israel be the 40th or 50th country to go away, not the first. 

John Gertz 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Being a young gay man with Asperger’s is a frustrating experience. I need things to change, a lot of people in my situation need it to. A chance at employment, maybe a chance at a degree, a chance to learn better communication skills, a chance at a place to call home... . 

As for Asperger’s services in Berkeley, the College Internship Program has a ban on anyone older than 23, and anyone who can’t shovel over $60,000 a year, not including room and food. A fortress of cold elitism, CIP makes no attempts to reach out to young but poor autistics. Other smaller operations don’t want such mountains of cash, but still are way beyond the scope of what most people my age who have Asperger’s can afford.  

Despite the struggle for equality, the push to dissolve Proposition 8, I actually find many in the gay community can be cold to those who they don’t understand. The Pacific Center has a standing ban on anyone with any form of autism, depression, or anxiety disorder. Leslie Ewing and Judith Weatherly of the Pacific Center continue to reject the notion of supporting a Queer Suitcase Clinic, a service that would help all kinds of people who live on a very small SSDI check, like me. The Pacific Center used to tout itself as a center for human development. It could be one again if it opened it’s heart and if people donated funds and supplies to it. A city like Berkeley needs a thriving gay community that is open to all, especially those who feel isolated. It takes more than marriage to have a healthy and inclusive community. 

There has got to be a way I, and people like me, can have a chance at life. If you are a counselor who wants to set up an autism program, or want to help set up an autism co-op, or in anyway want to improve the quality of living for people on the Autism Spectrum please contact: 

Nathan Pitts 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

After reading and re-reading Joel Teller’s letter to the editor about my colleague Art Hazelwood’s intentions regarding this past fall’s planned “Art of Democracy” exhibition at the Addison Street Gallery, I find it most unfortunate that Mr. Teller deemed it necessary to take such a low road, accusing Mr. Hazelwood (and his coterie) of conspiring to manufacture a publicity stunt. Let’s blame the victim and then, well, shoot the victim, too. 

What impressed, amazed and continues to inspire our audiences, artists, and art critics alike is the extraordinary “high road” taken across the board by “Art of Democracy” exhibition planners, and artist participants. Speaking somewhat from the side-lines, I can however attest to the numerous internal, genuinely concerned, rational, solution-oriented communications between those concerned during the heat of the Addison Street Gallery “negotiations.”  

Never was it ever remotely a fleeting idea that a “censorship issue” might make for a timely self-serving cause among any associated with the coalition. On the contrary: From the start, “Art of Democracy” exhibitions have only been about a healthy exchange of politically oriented ideas through the open presentation of art to the public. 

Stephen A. Fredericks 

National Co-Organizer, 

Art of Democracy Coalition of Political Art Exhibitions 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As acting archivist and poster participant for the “Art of Democracy” coalition, I have to address this preposterous notion that Mr. Hazelwood engaged us in a deliberate censorship publicity stunt involving the Addison Street Gallery. The right to voice our political discontent is at the heart of what the “Art of Democracy” has accomplished thus far. This unprecedented level of freedom of expression is exactly what attracted such a widespread following of artists to this coalition and extended as well into the decision making processes Mr. Hazelwood has always graciously upheld. As artists, we voted and chose collectively not to exhibit our posters in a nonsensical and constricted environment that would deny visibility to any one of our participants. In a society that is increasingly vigilant in censoring, “Art of Democracy” showed a rare compassion for its outcasts and stood collectively in defense of our rights. 

Selene Vasquez 

Acting archivist and poster participant 

Hollywood, Florida 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have been a customer of EBMUD since 1976. The meter reading for my home have been estimated on and off for several years now. If either end of a billing period is an estimate, the billing is an estimate. I’ve been repeatedly told by EBMUD personnel and it is also obvious from looking at the bills, estimated meter readings are not always marked “estimate.” So, my bimonthly unit estimates for the last three years are a very unfair basis for calculating water rations for my home. The only fair thing to do is have the allocations be the average allocation per household for the district. 

I would also like to make a plea to have all the rationing for all households be the same, with some adjustment for number of people; not based on previous bills. 

Like many other people in the East Bay, I have tried to save water by every means possible for many years. Most of my landscaping is drought tolerant except the summer vegetable garden and the roses which I only drip irrigate once a week in the dry season. The lawn was taken out many years ago. I use gray water (reuse water for multiple purposes). We low water users should not be punished like this by much higher prices and punitive rationing, for having been good citizens. 

Also, it seems obvious that this whole problem came in large part about because you, the EBMUD board, have continually expanded the size and scope of the EBMUD district (an otherwise intermittent desert) for the last 30-plus years, seemly at the request of and for the profit of big developers. Now some of us have to drink Delta water rather than the high quality Mokelumne river water and the households in those same new developments get, on average, much higher water rations, in some cases to keep watering their inappropriate lawns. 

Please fix this very unfair and unworkable water rationing plan at once by making one district wide standard for reasonable water use as you have in previous droughts. 

Also, it more than time to ban further expansion of the EBMUD service district, without exception.  

Catherine Neergaard 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

No one criticizes firemen. They are essential. But why did they wear their uniforms off duty when campaigning? Why did they use firetrucks to put up political signs? Why can they not control overtime? I'm told there were 37,000 overtime hours last year. Why do they really only receive one phone call per day for seven fire stations? Why do we need a measure to fund their operations, including overtime, when we have a city budget to fund these activities? Perhaps someone ought to look into this. Like the city manager. And account to the public for it. 

George Oram 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I wanted people to understand that I am not trying to defend Mayor Ron Dellums. I had some disagreement with him on some issues. However, I am appalled by the vicious attacks on him by both the local media (Oakland Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle) and zealot folks who never liked him nor believed his vision of a multi-racial Oakland. 

For example, they claim that Mayor Dellums is ineffective and doesn’t go out of his office much. That is a lie. Last year, Mayor Dellums, along with local mayors were pushing to get green jobs in their cities. Also at that same time, at the Paul Robeson School District Building, he along with Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, Assemblywoman Loni Hancock and others were there in a meeting to talk about returning local control to Oakland schools. 

Then Mayor Dellums settles a garbage strike at Waste Management between workers and their boss. In his state of the union address this year at the Oakland Marriott, he invited everyone, something that former mayor, Jerry Brown wouldn’t do. Finally, he wants to add more police to Oakland to solve the crime in this city, although I have some questions about it. 

Yet, both the local media and zealot folks are still not satisfied with his performance and some want him recalled. Personally, I look at these attacks on Mayor Dellums as a form of racial double standard because these same people were silent during the eight year reign of former mayor Jerry Brown about his misdeeds such as allowing back-room deals to allow questionable development in this city as well as his ineffectiveness in solving the homicide rate. 

Billy Trice, Jr. 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Why does the federal government give billions of dollars to banks in the hope the banks will loan the money to individuals and small businesses. Isn’t this just another phony trickle-down theory and a scam to give away more billions of dollars to big business? Wouldn’t it make more sense for the federal government to become a competitor to the banks? Competition is healthy. It brings out the best in people and businesses and usually results in better opportunities for all concerned.  

The federal government should set up a federal loan agency. The sole purpose of this agency would be to make loan money available to credit-worthy individuals and businesses at reasonable interest rates. The loans would be protected because of the creditworthiness of the borrowers and the loans would be secured by real property or actual interests in the assets of the businesses. The government would only obtain secured interests if the borrowers defaulted on the loans. The vast majority of the loans would be paid off in a responsible manner. The economy would be stimulated and the populace would feel more secure. People wouldn’t have to worry about grossly mismanaged banks going under or about corporate greed (read extravagant bonuses) effecting the stability of their lender.  

Why do we need middlemen? Why do we need to give vast sums of money to banks and then beg them to loan it to individuals and businesses to stimulate the economy? If we must give money to banks, it needs to be given with strict controls requiring proof of loans and a requirement that the money be returned if not used for the purposes intended. What is wrong with our lawmakers and our regulators? This is simple stuff unless you are in the pockets of big business or corrupted.  

If the media or certain individuals complain that the federal government should not be in the loan business, or that it smacks of Socialism, ask them why their friends and buddies are recipients of government largesse. Also, the federal loan corporation or agency (whatever you want to name it) could have an expiration period. When it is no longer necessary because private institutions are filling the need they were meant to fill, then it could be dissolved.  

Paul M. Schwartz