Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Monday December 15, 2008 - 02:49:00 PM





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Richard Brenneman's recent story on the reported selection of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Director Steven Chu as the nation’s new secretary of energy was remarkably one-sided. Instead of describing how Dr. Chu has forcefully made the case for the urgent need to tackle climate change, and his promotion of a broad range of research on technologies that could provide alternatives to fossil fuels, Brenneman quoted a critic of the biofuels research effort that is one of the approaches that may be part of a strategy to reduce use of fossil fuels. Apparently he feels that good reporting doesn't require presenting views other than the one that he himself agrees with (as has been evident in his reporting). 

The nation is fortunate to have someone with Dr. Chu's vision and drive as secretary of energy, and the people of Berkeley deserve a better profile of him than what we read in the Daily Planet. 

Steve Meyers 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Progressives have a new foe: Barack Obama. After the environmentalist group Save Strawberry Canyon declares victory over the scale of LBNL's Helios building, Obama rewarded LBNL director Steven Chu, naming him secretary of energy.  

Sadly UC-BP’s Helios may continue, just smaller. The largest corporate-university deal in history, UC Berkeley and BP want to mar and pollute Strawberry Canyon with a monstrous temple dedicated to unintelligent business and scientific decisions. The Helios building begins with intentional deception; it has nothing to do with the sun and solar energy. A main thrust is actually to do research that would increase oil production. Helios will also try to dupe the masses by reviving the “clean coal” myth. It also focuses on genetically engineered switch grass, as opposed to a wide variety of natural (undesigned) or recycled biomasses. Though the U.S. will use the majority of this biofuel, it will be grown in developing countries after we cut down more of their forests. BP has its hands in Iraq; what would stop switch grass related conflicts? 

What of Berkeley's trees? The original plans for Helios didn’t meet environmental standards, but Steven Chu, Robert Birgeneau, and the UC Board of Regents (aka the Legion of Doom) tried to move forward anyway. The only things that stopped UC from breaking the law, and stopped Chu from being director of an illegally and immorally constructed lab, were a rag tag team of canyon defenders and their lawsuit.  

If Obama had been president during the past couple of years, and Helios being integral to his energy policy, would things have been different? How would Obama have handled protesters (the BP Bears, Stop UC-BP and others) who rallied on campus against BP and its Helios? 

Oh, you remember the talk of the Bevatron pulverization? That's right, Obama gave the secretary of energy position to someone who wants to haul debris including Cobalt 60, Cesium 137, and Europium 154, asbestos, lead, mercury, PCBs, and chlorinated VOCs through the city, past residences, in uncovered trucks.  

No, we can’t succeed through shifty corporate deals, giving bad projects cute names, relying on production overseas, ignoring human rights, and by refusing to severely use less energy per American. The next administration must understand that if we are going to overhaul our energy plan, we must overhaul our values, communities, and relationship to nature.  

Nathan Pitts 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In critical care units the term "triage" is often used. A triage system is implemented in a critical care unit when there are more patient admissions than available beds. Patients determined to be safe enough to transfer to lower levels of care are transferred so as to be able to give priority to those who need more attention. If there were enough resources available at all times, triaging would not be necessary. Comparably, if there was no achievement gap and no at-risk students at Berkeley High School, a redesign plan would not be needed. Those speaking out against the redesign plan and the idea of "initiating a school wide change to help only a few hundred students" (Daily Planet, Dec. 11) have perhaps not been in a situation where stepping back and letting the more critically ill people—or in this case the more at-risk students—be the priority. Is it possible that some Berkeley High parents are only supportive of progressive politics when their own children are not effected?  

Felicity Blau 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Planning Commissioner Larry Gurley said the following about the West Berkeley area: "I'm not sure it's in the city's interest to provide storage for Berkeley residents." Perhaps instead of trying to decide what is best for the rest of us, planning commissioners can trust the people involved—those that care the most about storage in West Berkeley. People in Berkeley want to pay to store their stuff in this city, and the owners want to make money providing that storage. Conclusion? Very clearly in the best interest of Berkeley residents as both sides benefit, and (as is very important in this city) their transactions have few, if any, negative externalities. Using land for mini-storage may not bring in as much revenue to the city, but increased city revenue is not the goal of land-use decisions.  

Furthermore, Mr. Gurley and others on the commission need to be reminded that the city of Berkeley is not a singular entity to be pleased, only an amalgamation of all its residents, each with different desires and ideas of what is best. Allowing some to be happy and to conduct storage business without having to fork over tax dollars should be a desirable thing. Lastly, I hope all land use controllers appreciate why this attitude towards planning engenders tremendous dislike towards them. You want to allow certain types of businesses and activities that conform to your idea of what Berkeley should be without regard to the large (but unseen) costs your meddling imposes on all Berkeley residents. 

Damian Bickett 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Chuck Heinricks suggested that the city buy the failed condo project at 2700 San Pablo Ave. for housing police. That’s a good idea, though maybe too late. When the property went into default this summer, I suggested to Councilmember Darryl Moore that the city purchase it for employees, especially first responders. We’re really going to be in trouble after the next big earthquake because so many of our firefighters and police live out of town. 

In Britain it is usual for towns to own and operate housing as well as parking garages, sport complexes, and other communal facilities. Instead of giving away so many development rights to private companies for the building of more big yuppie dormitories, we could create some attractive and affordable family-sized housing for city employees. 

For financing, the city could tap the enormous equity of older property owners who might be willing to pool their wealth for a stake in new housing development.  

Toni Mester 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Now that Peter Camejo is stone-dead, buried, lionized and memorialized, can we discuss his legacy?  

I always said Peter was a good candidate and spokesperson. I worked with him on two of his vanity projects, the Progressive Alliance of Alameda County in 1993 (a $20,000-plus failure) and his first run for governor in 2001 (a wash). I walked away thinking, "What a pompous, self-involved blowhard." So my animus is well-earned.  

But I kept my opinions to myself. When a friend complained bitterly about the poor return on her investments at Progressive Assets Management, I ignored it because I had nothing to invest. And when Peter rallied his acolytes and initiated the divisive purge known as the "Greens for Democracy and Independence," GDI (another failure), and began to target fellow greens with his Stalinist attacks, I still withheld my opinion. When he died and all the flowers started to drop, I was told it was in bad taste to criticize him. But I think it is a perfect time to share my distaste for this self-appointed egotistical millionaire political poseur.  

I can't think of another white male leader during my entire history with the Green Party (since 1989) who has done more damage, both state-wide and nationally, than Peter Camejo.  

As for all those mystical superlatives, what would you expect? The only people at the memorial were his fans and supporters. Peter's detractors, among whom I count myself, stayed away. 

Hank Chapot 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Recently I noticed a tiny woman (I'll call her Caregiver) standing at the curb in the middle of a block of a major Berkeley thoroughfare. She was managing a wheelchair occupied by a silent elderly man (I'll call him Patient.) When I passed their way again, about half an hour or so later, they were both still there, waiting. I thought they must be waiting for a family member who has been delayed; maybe they don't have a cell phone. 

A taxi pulled up and parked on the opposite side of the street . Cars, trucks, emergency vehicles, motorcycles, buses flew by as the driver sat there glaring. Finally, a taxi appeared at the curb where the couple waited. It was obvious that Patient was unable to get into the back seat and needed access to the front passenger seat. Caregiver managed to get him out of the wheelchair and into the front seat. She then hauled the wheelchair off the curb and around to the back of the taxi, where with no assistance from anybody she strained to lift it into the taxi trunk. I could see on her face the effort required. She returned to the front passenger side to buckle the patient's seat-belt and then got into the back of this public service vehicle. And away they went. 

Helen Rippier Wheeler 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

For me and to many others, our opposition to President Carter's statements on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict do not stem solely from his criticism of the Israeli government, but from the fact that he chastises only one side. I am hard pressed to find any statement of his taking the Palestinians—politicians and terrorists alike—to task for their actions. Many of us are saddened by discriminatory actions taken by the Israeli government and by strains of racism which permeate some—but hardly all—of Israeli society. And we are appalled not only by the actions of the Hebron settlers last week, but by the IDF's refusal to take immediate action to halt these outrages. 

So when I and other members of San Francisco Voice for Israel counterprotest against groups we consider to be Israel-bashers (as we did against Bay Area Women in Black at the Ashby Flea Market last Sunday), we are there solely to support the right of Israel to exist in peace, as a Jewish state, within secure boundaries. We have a limited mission statement, because once we go beyond this narrow focus there are too many opposing opinions for us to agree on anything without alienating many of our members and supporters. And when we stand in opposition to larger groups, as we did at the annual AIPAIC dinner in San Francisco this week, it's for the same reason and, even more so, to counter even more radical groups who declare that Israel has no right to exist. 

The Daily Planet seems to have fallen into the same trap that many of these anti-Israel protesters have found themselves—stating only one side of the case. Trying to find a way out of this morass is impossible when you have only one eye to guide you. Without a balanced approach to this quagmire, any effort at peace is doomed to failure. 

Marshall E. Schwartz 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Joanne Kowalsky (Commentary, Dec. 11) fails to zero in on why Obama didn’t give former President Carter a speaking role at the Democratic Convention. Obama didn’t give Carter a speaking role not because of Jewish lobby opposition or because Obama doesn’t respect Carter’s policies or humanitarian efforts. No, Obama didn’t give Carter a speaking role because Carter as President was very bad for the Party. Carter took a Democratic Party enjoying an extraordinarily steep rise in popularity beginning in 1974 and ran it into the ground. Carter failed to include various coalitions of the party in his government. Too many Carter appointees were from his native state of Georgia and not enough from other regions. Hence, he was challenged by the very influential Senator Kennedy in the Democratic primaries of 1980. Plus, Carter was ineffective. His time as President was one of high inflation and high unemployment. Thus, Carter was ousted from power by the 1980 49-state landslide victory of Republican Ronald Reagan. As a future President who wants to serve two terms and to be an effective president, President-elect Barack Obama can ill afford to too closely associate himself with Jimmy Carter.  

Nathaniel Hardin 

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Last summer the Congress passed and the president signed the Consumer Product Safety Commission Improvement Act which set a strong lead limit and banned the use of plastic softeners called phthalates in toys and other products designed for children and sold after Feb. 10, 2009. Phthalates are endocrine disruptors and hormone mimics. They have been linked to birth defects, early puberty in girls, deformities of the reproductive tract in male infants, and cancer. Did that solve the problem? Apparently not. The Consumer Product Safety Commission's legal council has decided to reinterpret the intent of the Act to allow retailers to continue selling toxic toys until their back stock is sold, which may be long after Feb. 10. Greed apparently trumps health. 

Allowing greed to endanger these precious children is a violation of moral principles, common decency, and good sense. The CPSC should be called back to its mission to protect consumers. Christmas should not be an occasion for a child to receive a present that may permanently damage health. 

Joe Magruder 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

By the time Barack Hussein Obama is sworn into office he will have had 11 weeks to get his personnel in place, just barely enough time to assemble several hundred skilled people into a ship tight and sufficiently seaworthy to stay afloat and on course in a sea of troubles. The storms raging at home and abroad were created by eight years of incompetence, greed, neglect and insolence. The accumulated virulence, however, is unprecedented and so the new president’s ability to calm the seas will necessarily be an experimental endeavor.  

Meanwhile, everyone who can talk or write, including those in the punditry and in academia, has advice: put this person in the wheelhouse, avoid this guy, be careful not to steer here or to run with the wind, too fast or too slow, be bold, be circumspect, etc., etc. 

When the jubilant inaugural celebration ends we can be sure of one thing: the 44th presidency will set out on an “enterprise of great pitch and moment…” What we do not know is whether the course he takes is the one we hoped for when we voted for him.'' 

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In an age where humans are increasingly disconnected from the natural environment, it is more pressing than ever to protect what remains of America’s pristine forest areas under the Roadless Conservation Rule. It is important to remember that although most of us carry out our daily lives in urban concrete jungles, a vast and rugged wilderness is part of a truly unique American cultural heritage. The Roadless areas Conservation Rule was passed by the U.S. Forest Service in 2001 in order to protect that last remaining areas of our national forest system that are truly “wild”—those areas that are completely free from road building and logging. This area makes up approximately 58.5 million acres of national forest, and is home to 1,600 threatened or endangered plant and animal species. Unfortunately, in the following 8 years the Bush administration has done all it could to rollback the protection offered by the rule. This has been compounded by the efforts of big business, particularly the mining and lumber industries, which have filed 9 lawsuits against the rule. With the new Obama administration we now have a fresh opportunity to make sure this important legislation is respected and upheld, but we as ordinary citizens have the responsibility to let those in power know that this issue is important to us. 

Rebecca Huyck 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Associated Press recently reported that the Mexican "war on drugs" has resulted in more than 8,000 deaths in the last three years, with about 5,376 in this year alone. Those murdered include judges, police, witnesses, journalists, and innocent citizens. There is a growing perception among Mexicans that the government is losing the war against these well-armed drug cartels. However, little is said about the source of the weapons used in these killings.  

For the period Oct. 1, 2004 to Sept. 30, 2007, weapons found discarded at shootings in Mexico or confiscated from the drug cartels were traced to 15 states. Texas sellers were the source of 2,085 weapons. California was runner-up with 1,006. Texas and California together are the source of more than the combined total of weapons from the other 13 states. An untold number of guns couldn't be traced or are still in the hands of the drug cartels. The illicit drugs flow north and the weapons flow south. Under Mexico's strict regulations, it is against the law to own or sell armor-piercing penetrating assault rifles and semiautomatic pistols. But they are legally available in sporting goods stores and gun shows in the United States where straw men buy them and then they are smuggled into Mexico. And weapons are easy to purchase in the U.S.  

Now, U.S. law only requires that dealers run an instant FBI background check to make sure the potential buyer has no felony convictions, is a U.S. citizen, and then require the buyer to sign a form attesting that the weapon is not for someone else. We have heard the old canard that "people, not guns, kill people." Actually, it is people with guns that kill the most people. Obviously, the United States and Mexico must place more emphasis on catching gunrunners and tightening and enforcing the laws regarding the sale and purchase of weapons in the U.S.  

Ralph E. Stone 

San Francisco 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

GOP tactics are putting the whole state at risk. A handful of Republican legislators are trying to force their flawed and suspect anti-tax doctrine on tens of millions of Californians causing a financial earthquake. Who are these unsavory culprits and obstructionists? State Assembly and Senate members Mike Villines, Dave Cogdill, Dave Cox, Roger Niello, Ted Gaines, Kevin Jeffries and Rick Keane are GOP leaders holding the state hostage. 

Why doesn't fellow Republican and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger call the members of his party to task? 

Maybe it is the apathetic Californian citizenry and their ho-hum attitude that is adding fuel to this crisis. Will it take the loss of basic services to finally get the public off their easy chairs and say enough is enough to this GOP minority that is holding the state at bay? 

Ron Lowe 

Nevada City