Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Wednesday January 21, 2009 - 06:28:00 PM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

As to the sweet squabble between Bonnie Hughes and Dorothy Bryant (both powerful Berkeley personages) about the Brit influence on us, let me just say, with lowered eyes, that both of them are correct; that is possible. But it raises for me an unmentionable truth about the intellectual Brits. And that is that they are incredibly intelligent; they are superbly articulate; they astound me with their rhetoric; and let’s face it, their colleges—Cambridge, Oxford, etc.—produce graduates who are vastly superior to ours. Just watch “Prime Ministers Questions,” for example, and try, unsuccessfully, to fight off an inferiority complex about our Congress. Sorry to be an Anglophile, but it’s the pachyderm in the foyer, to put it elegantly,  

Robert Blau 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In this day of the Internet and instant messaging, the argument that EBI must be near the main UC campus to facilitate interdisciplinary conversations is clearly without merit. 

Jerry Landis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

“Why does Mr. Mitchell feel that artists must be removed in order for this area to thrive?” So asks Rikki Gill of the Berkeley Potter’s Guild, in a Jan. 15 letter to the editor. 

Ms. Gill is referring to a recent commentary I wrote for the Planet on economic development in Berkeley. I would like to correct the record: Never, in my commentary or anywhere else, have I said any such a thing. 

I don’t mind criticism. But please don’t make stuff up. 

Russ Mitchell 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Bush and Cheney have both used the fact of no terrorist attacks on the United States in over seven years since 9/11 as major proof of their success in office. 

Why would the terrorists return here to attack us when we have sent them thousands of our U.S. military personnel to be conveniently killed over there? 

Gerta Farber 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am not a black man. I am a white woman who rides BART and I fear for my life now in the aftermath of the killing of unarmed Oscar Grant. It is clear now that BART police armed with guns are a threat to the BART-riding public. 

Whether passengers are on trains or waiting for trains, the public is at risk of a BART police officer shooting off his gun in our midst. It is very evident from the Oscar Grant killing that BART police don’t care who’s around when they shoot their guns. 

In the name of public safety, BART police should not carry guns. 

I wonder if the Bay Area anti-war movement aka the peace movement might take a moment from protesting the Gaza invasion and two U.S. wars to consider focusing some of their attention behind this simple proposal of disarming BART cops to make the Bay Area safer and more nonviolent. No more Oscar Grants or anybody else. 

Maris Arnold 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The year 1969 was our first full year living in Berkeley. There were many “peaceful” demonstrations and we learned to stay away from downtown Berkeley when a demonstration was scheduled. Some of these turned ugly with windows broken, fires set in stores, cars overturned etc. The trashings were predictable then as they are now, and cities don’t manage these events any better with the procedures and resources they are willing to use. 

Robert Chioino 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Admittedly I was only 5 years old at the time when people of all walks of life in our community came together and told the powers that be, the unelected and appointed, that this will be open space, in perpetuity. Those that, until this point, were unopposed, did not take this lightly. They sent in tanks and the National Guard and wrapped barbed wire around the pleasure of the elite. It cost one life outright and dozens of our citizens sent to area hospitals, shot-gunned by the police. Retiring Alameda County Sheriff Charles Plummer stated that his only regret in life is that he “didn’t hit the rioters harder.” Our local “Bull” Connor hung in much longer than his brothers in the south. But People’s Park has out lasted even he, and celebrates it’s 40th anniversary April 26. 

This is a place that means so many different things to so many different people that we are calling out to you all to join us in a week or remembrances culminating in a Anniversary Concert on April 26. Stake your claim on the memories of the park. Join the People’s Park Anniversary Committee in celebrating 40 years of diverse history (herstory) as only Berkeley can. 

Our next two meetings will be held at the Long Haul, 3124 Shattuck Ave. on Sunday Jan. 25 at noon. and Sunday Feb. 8 at noon. Bring something to share if you like, but it is your ideas and energy that the group is most interested in. For more information call 390-0830. 

Sunlight Starsurfer 

People’s Park 40th Anniversary  


Dan McMullan 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Kudos to Dick Bagwell for throwing more light on Julia Morgan on the occasion of her induction into the California Hall Of Fame (one of Maria Schriver’s good ideas that she got her governor/husband to support). Bagwell notes that the 2008 inductees included others with strong ties to the Bay Area—Leland Stanford, Dave Brubeck and Alice Waters. But there’s more! 

Fitness guru Jack LaLanne was born in San Francisco and spent most of his teenage years and young adult life in Berkeley and Oakland, starting his first back yard gym in his family home on Spaulding Avenue in Berkeley, starring at quarterback for the Berkeley High football team, and opening his first “Physical Culture Studio” in 1936 on 16th and Telegraph in Oakland. Most importantly, he underwent his transformation from scrawny, pimply kid to barrel-chested icon of health as a 15-year-old in 1929 while living on Spaulding Avenue. 

Another inductee, Robert Graham, the Mexican-born sculptor, received his formal training at San Jose State College and the San Francisco Art Institute. Graham died recently; he was married to Angelica Huston, who had a high profile relationship for years with another inductee, Jack Nicholson. One of the other inductees, Linus Pauling, had an institute in Menlo Park during the last 20 years of his life that was devoted to the study of Vitamin C. 

And finally, inductee Jane Fonda had some formative experiences in the East Bay in the early 1970s, hooking up there with Tom Hayden (along with Robert Scheer and Ann Weills) at the radical Red Family collective on Bateman Street in Berkeley while her daughter Vanessa attended the collective’s Blue Fairyland Nursery school, and while she made the movie Steelyard Blues with Donald Sutherland and Peter Boyle in Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco and Santa Rosa. 

Hal Reynolds 

McGee, Spaulding, Hardy Historical Interest Group 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Two years ago Nancy Pelosi became the first woman speaker of the House, third in line for the presidency. She wasted no time telling the public at large and her San Francisco constituency clamoring for Bush’s ouster that “impeachment is off the table.” In so doing she committed a sin of omission because she has a sworn duty to seek accountability from abusers of the Constitution and she declared that she would not. It is now too late for her to reverse her position. However, it’s never too late to call members of the Bush administration to account for criminal abuses of power. 

President Obama, having acknowledged a week ago that no one is above the law, said “…we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.” This seems to mean that he intends to let bygones be bygones, a la Pelosi. If so, and he does not move to initiate an inquiry, investigation, inquest or some procedure for putting facts on the table from which Speaker Pelosi removed impeachment, he will himself be complicit in the criminal abuses of the last eight years. And his sin will be worse than Pelosi’s because he swore on the Lincoln Bible in the presence of two million people, witnessed on TV by many millions more here and around the world, “to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution…” 

Thus, our new president is in a bind. If he does nothing it implies that top White House officials including himself are above the law. 

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Some thoughts about Gaza: 

“Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you.” —Rabbi Hillel. 

“Let your neighbor’s dignity be as precious to you as your own.”—Rabbi Eliezer. 

Israel can’t be both David and Goliath at the same time, the perpetual victim and the persecutor. 


When I was a little girl I contributed my nickels, each a leaf on a tree to be planted in Israel. Now Palestinian olive trees are being uprooted. Israel. I want my nickels back. 

Language note: If anyone calls you a self-hating Jew or an anti-Semite for opposing the policies of the Israeli government, tell that person as politely as possible that the correct word is “mensch.” 

(Note to the yiddish-challenged: “Mensch,” original meaning “man,” has come to mean an individual of any gender who possesses the character and strength to do and say what’s right, no matter what.) 

Ruth Bird 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I recently told my good little friend Israel that the Planet doesn’t like the way he’s been acting up lately. Really? Israel sulked, but with little apparent surprise or interest. Well, I explained, the Planet thinks your tantrums are just way out of line. The Planet says you’re always “overreacting” and just generally being a royal pain in the tush. So, Israel wondered, “How does this ‘Planet’ of yours think we should react when some bully tries to kick sand in our face or push us out of the sandlot? Remember, this is Mr. Arafat’s neighborhood here, not the Mr. Roger’s neighborhood you grew up with on Public Television which primarily formed your worldview.” Well, I explained calmly (you know how hysterical Israel becomes whenever he feels cornered or picked on unfairly), first you need to go back into your own little Zionist corner of the sandbox, take a deep breath, maybe take a little calming pill and then have a big, long time out to calm down. Adults at the Planet call this a “truce.” Then, when your blood sugar’s dropped enough, ask yourself, “Why have I been acting up so much lately? Why do I feel so insecure? Why can’t I just be nice to everyone else?”  

Now, Israel, I know you think you’re special or something, but you need to see some real consequences for being such a bad boy and upsetting the whole playground. Don’t you know, the whole Planet’s mad at you now? Israel shrugged with indifference as if to say, “So? What else is new?” I continued, “Well, Israel, since you’ve been such a very bad boy, the Planet says you should be grounded for a long time, lose all of your special privileges, plus all of your generous allowance money we give you every month.” Israel stuck his tongue out at me. “Israel!” I scolded. “That’s not a good start.”  

In fact, the Planet thinks next time you get really mad at someone you need to learn better conflict resolution skills. If you think someone is picking on you unfairly, the best thing to do is to roll over and play dead, turn the other cheek and graciously offer your back side for a nice series of hard kicks in the rear end until a mature adult like our dear friends at the United Nations (who, after all, represent the Planet) can help you work out your issues. “A kick in the rear end?” Israel lashed out again. “We’ve been kicked in the rear end now almost every day for eight years. Our bottom is getting really sore. Isn’t it about time we fought back a little?” Israel was still sassing back at me. This wasn’t a promising new start. “Now, now, Israel!” I calmly intoned. “Don’t get all in a huff again! You were just starting to calm down there. I know you feel like no one likes you very much or cares what happens to you. But it’s still not okay for you to pick a fight with others. The Planet is the adult here. The Planet will decide how to make sure everything is fair and just. Just calmly follow the Planet’s orders and we’ll arrive at a final solution to all your problems before you can shout ‘am Yisrael chai’.” 

Israel seemed deeply suspicious of this Planet and its “goodwill.” “What Planet do you come from again?” Israel suddenly demanded. Sorry, I thought that was clear from the start. I’m from “The Berkeley Daily Planet.” That’s my Planet. Israel suddenly burst into a horse laugh which startled me. It sounded almost like the rapid fire staccato of a machinegun. Then he shoved me away with defiance gleaming in his eyes and flashed both his middle fingers at me before he swaggered back over to assume his roost at the top of the play structure. 

Edna Spector