Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Wednesday April 01, 2009 - 09:43:00 PM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

In reference to your article, “Vandals Strike Berkeley Marine Recruiting Center,” I think that the reasoning behind the City Council’s assertion that the recruiting center is “uninvited and unwelcome” should have been included in the article. 

In December 2008, the City Council decided by a majority vote that they were against the presence of the recruiters due to the illegitimacy of the Iraq war and the military’s sexual orientation discriminatory policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” 

In addition, the council supports efforts by Code Pink to circulate petitions to put a measure on the November ballot in Berkeley to impede the possibility of establishing recruiting offices near homes, parks, schools, churches, libraries, or health clinics. 

I support the actions of the City Council and believe that it is unfair to simply recount the vandalism of the recruiting center without first explaining the legitimate claims that many Berkeley citizens have against the center. This would contextualize the vandalism by acknowledging its probable cause, rather than representing these acts as irrational and unprovoked destruction. 

Kristina Borrman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I read with disgust the remarks by Ms. Gibson, president of Association of Bay Area Governments, that the “ongoing concern (of ABAG) is how do we protect our planet in the context of the Bay Area.” It is that kind of “super hero,” pseudo-cosmic, pompous thought that has brought my country to the sad state it is in today.  

“Stop the overpopulation of America? Oh, we can’t do that without fixing global overpopulation.” “Reduce American homelessness? Can’t do that without solving it globally.” Etc, etc.  

Is my taxpayer dollar going to ABAG so it can “protect our planet”? It is this now—thankfully—fading delusional belief in the omnipotence of American power and benevolence that has allowed America’s domestic propels to grow unchecked.  

And while we’re at it, the biggest cause of California’s population growth—and all the resultant problems Ms. Gibson wrings her hands about—is immigration and its resultant high birth rate. Oh, but we must never talk about that. Safer to spin a globe around and keep our cushy jobs. 

Ken Silver 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Do you remember? 

What ever happened to the white paper Colin Powell was going to produce proving al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden were responsible for 9/11? 

This was what the Taliban were waiting for before they would turn over Osama Bin Laden, and possibly also his associates, top al Qaeda members, to the United States. 

Instead, we are now fighting the Taliban, as well as al Qaeda and Osama. Why not work WITH the Taliban against al Qaeda and Osama? All we need is to give the Taliban proof of Bin Laden’s culpability and involvement in 9/11. Don’t we have proof? And, if not, what are we doing? Let’s reinvestigate 9/11! And, this time, let’s have a thorough and honest investigation that is not led by a close Bush ally like Robert Zelikow (who had just completed a book with Condoleezza Rice). 

Richard Tamm 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Sure, buses can save the Berkeley Ferry. Paul Kamen is right—on with his scheme to have people board the ferry directly from the bus. We should not provide any Marina parking for ferry patrons—none at all. The ferry is public transit. If people want to warehouse their car while they visit the city, let them use Center Street Garage and catch a bus. I’d be glad to see the 51 bus once again terminate at the Marina. I look forward to an expansion of Bus Rapid Transit to run down University Avenue and connect with the ferry. 

Steve Geller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A bipartisan letter from 14 Congress representatives—six Republicans and eight Democrats—was sent to President Obama protesting U.S. military action in Afghan-istan. The letter urges President Obama to “reconsider the decision to send an additional 17,000 troops and to resist pressure to escalate even further.” In fact, agreeing with a study by the Carnegie Foundation, the letter advised that that the only meaningful way to halt the insurgency’s momentum is to start withdrawing troops.  

Among the signers were Representative Kucinich of Ohio and Representative Conyers of Michigan. Unfortunately, Barbara Lee did not sign the letter. Undoubtedly, Barbara Lee is among the most progressive members of Congress. But the lesson we are reminded of is the necessity of “eternal vigilance.” The pressures in office are enormous, which can tempt even the best and the brightest to slide somewhat. We must be persistent in our efforts to assure that progressive officials, including Barbara Lee, stay the course, particularly on the vital issues of war and peace. Even a 90-percent track record is not enough. 

Harry Brill 

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Human nature being what it is, the death of the five men in Oakland last week was formulaic. 

If a community is poor (little money and therefore little power over their own lives), the community will usually become corrupt. A few will grab power and use violence to coerce from the others what little they have. Let us call this community “Poor Town.” 

If another community, which is not poor, becomes paranoid enough about the potential violence spreading to their community, they will try and contain the problem. Let us call this community “Privilege Town.” 

Privilege Town tries to control the violence and corruption in Poor Town, by using force and punishment. 

The people, who are acting on behalf of Privilege Town, are viewed as the enemy by most of the people in Poor Town. 

The effectiveness of Privilege Town in quelling the internal violence in Poor Town will not much change the opinion of people in Poor Town. After all, they are still poor and powerless. 

Violence begets violence. 

The killing is inevitable. 

Our country is playing this out in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Oakland. Our agents, the young men and woman of our military/police forces who bring no hope, just control, are being sacrificed on the pillar of our paranoia. If we only cry for them and not the poor and the downtrodden they control, we are crying crocodile tears. 

Harry Wiener 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Here’s a possible solution to the impending City of Berkeley crackdown on the Daily Planet for damaged or graffiti-covered newsracks: Put out a call for volunteers to check the newsracks in their neighborhoods once a week and paint them if necessary or call the Planet if extensive repair is required. It wouldn’t take long to create some “newsrack districts” and have volunteers sign up to check the racks in their own neighborhood. In this land of joggers, dog walkers, and cyclists, it shouldn’t be much of a job to check the corner Planet rack while doing your outdoor thing. 

We’re ready to check racks, and we’re sure that many other progressive supporters of the Planet will join too. 

Don and Laura Santina 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Becky’s editorial remarks in the March 26 edition regarding Berkeley’s approach to dealing with the intractable problem of newsrack vandalism greeted me personally and professionally. 

As the Planet’s distribution manager in its earliest years (née 1999), no aspect of my duties was as pointless and frustrating as dealing with vandalism to our newsracks. I spent many a lovely day and weekend restoring as many as I could to ordinance acceptability, armed with my kit of paints, solvents, adhesive dissolvers, hardware, and plastic windows. The burned-out ones required extra attention. One of the few people I hired to assist me reported that, after fixing up 10 or so, he’d go back to the first to find it wrecked anew. While we got along man to man, working rationally and realistically with the then “Mr. Stick” (and the city) was futile. Ordinances were staff-originated rubber-stamp affairs summarily passed by the council, in a time when this issue was minor at best. And how many boxes did I pull from the corporation yard, after forking over a per-offense fine? (Many, in the company of other vendors’ yanked racks.) And how often did the city’s finest bust vandals, or their buddies who stole our papers to sell to recyclers? (Not at all.) I felt like Gary Cooper in High Noon, without the badge. 

Back then, the Planet had a sister paper, the San Mateo Daily Journal; its racks were depressingly pristine, but for elemental weathering. 

I sense First-Amendment class-action for this long-ignored, out-in-the-open issue. It soured me then. Now, the Free Republic of Orwell reminds me to renew my acid-blocker medication. Should occasion arise, please consider me as an expert witness on the subject. 

Phil Allen 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I read your article by J. Douglas Allen-Taylor and cannot resist responding. Mayor Tom Bates is a piece of work, and every once and a while, he worries me by some of the stupid things he says and does. With regard to raising parking fees, the mayor is quoted as saying, “I think it’s unfortunate that the state, sort of in the middle of the night, would basically just rip off $4.50 from every parking ticket in the State of California.... It’s pretty unconscionable...” 

The mayor makes it sound like he has no clue how this could have happened and that this occurred completely without his knowledge. Give me a break! Does the mayor ever talk to his wife, our state senator, Loni Hancock? Given the fact that his wife has been serving in the state Legislature for the last seven years, the mayor’s comments appear a bit disingenuous. 

George Collins 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I thought a law was passed last year to curb smoking in public areas. 

Well, I work and go to school in Berkeley, and I enjoy eating my lunch outside in Constitution plaza, yet it seems people like to light up toxic tobacco almost constantly. The real issue is I’m not the only person I know who has an adverse reaction to cigarette smoke. Most of the people I know (including myself) can get asthma attacks and severe migraines. This makes the problem a severe health hazard. It also pushes out other people from using public places. 

Should the people who decide to use public space in Berkeley only be smokers? Let’s have a war on smoking in Berkeley, Let’s harass smokers for once! Smoking is a choice and a habit, people who want to stop can make an effort, but I shouldn’t get migraines for your bad habit. 

Stop with the cigs, Berkeley! Stop polluting our air! It would be nice to see the Berkeley police write a ticket or two. 

Gregg Horton 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Many thanks to Steven Walstead for his image to the editor last week (March 19, page 17), proposing “improved sculptures for the pedestrian bridge.”  

Now instead of groaning each time I pass under that double nightmare, I laugh out loud imagining Double Doggie Diner heads proudly displaying Berkeley’s sense of humor to the world, instead of its leaden disregard for the drivers below. Presumably our tax money was used for this crass amendment to a public work, which on its own was a bold and proud achievement for Berkeley.  

Neil Kellman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Three days before her February community meeting (on going green), Oakland City Council President Jane Brunner announced she would spend $3.3 million of Measure WW park funds on an artificial turf soccer field to be placed on top of the blacktop play area behind the old Washington School, now Sankofa Academy. It appears from her announcement that Jane has the power over park expenditures in her North Oakland district. 

Bushrod Park, perhaps the largest park in North Oakland, already has three baseball fields, a soccer field, tennis courts, outdoor basketball courts and a recreation center. In fact, nearly 90 percent of the park is given over to organized sports. There is no dog run, no natural area, few picnic facilities, a poor children’s playground and little flat space for unorganized play. Now Brunner wants to cover, not remove, a large section of blacktop that in the winter floods onto Shattuck Avenue. 

Artificial turf has become controversial across the United States for many reasons, including: Friction between skin and artificial turf causes abrasions and/or burns to a much greater extent than natural grass; turf-toe is a medical condition often associated with playing on artificial turf pitches; a higher incidence of MRSA infections because pathogens are not readily broken down by natural processes and periodic disinfection is required; artificial turf can become much hotter than natural grass when exposed to the sun, because cushioning it requires infill such as silicon sand and/or granulated rubber made from recycled car tires which may carry heavy metals; it has a short life span (10 year or less) and can fail earlier; and finally, artificial turf contributes to the loss of parks jobs and local funds are spent out of state for a manufactured petroleum product, and more petroleum is needed for shipping and installation. 

Artificial turf is not guaranteed against accident, machinery, spiked shoes, animals, misuse, fire, flood, chemical reactions, acts of God, static or dynamic loads exceeding the manufacturers specifications at time of installation, improper or faulty subsurface preparation, failure of the subsurface after the installation including settling of the surface, and the use of dry cleaning fluids or other improper cleaning methods. Artificial turf is subject to vandalism and even if the up-front costs are said to be cheaper. 

It is great that Councilmember Brunner is seeking to improve Bushrod Park, but there has never been a task force to analyze the wishes of the neighborhood and park users. In addition, Brunner will likely  

be forced to do spend additional funds for an environmental impact report on the project. 

Hank Chapot 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Many persons believe it is completely irresponsible for BP (British Petroleum) and the University of California to knowingly put people in harm’s way by locating the proposed CRT (Computational Re-search Theory Facility), Helios Project, and General Purpose Laboratory buildings in Strawberry Canyon and the adjacent Blackberry Canyon.  

It is well documented 1) that this ground is unstable and could slide westward at any time, 2) that this is a hazardous wildfire area, and, 3) that it is in close proximity to the Hayward Earthquake Fault. 

There are alternative sites that would not endanger peoples’ lives. These warrant a study and subsequent decision. Such an alternative site should address these ecological concerns. 

Sylvia McLaughlin  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

That Conn Hallinan has been accused of anti-Semitism is not surprising. Pro-Israeli organizations often use accusations of anti-Semitism to silence or invalidate legitimate criticisms of Israeli policies and actions. 

In recent writing Hallinan criticized the massive killing and destruction in Gaza, and the spreading popularity among Jewish Israelis of the view that loyalty oaths and/or expulsion of Arab Israelis are legitimate means to achieve security in Israel. Hallinan has strong views based in evidence and analysis. He states them plainly. 

As a Jew I want to hear a wide range of points of view from knowledgeable writers on the issues that keep the Israeli-Palestinian tragedy from peaceful resolution. I do not want views silenced or softened through the intimidation that comes with equating points of view critical of the Israelis with anti-Semitism. 

Conn Hallinan’s voice, views, and knowledge are important contributions to our understanding of the barriers as well as the pathways to peace and justice between Israeli Jews and Palestinians and Arabs. We need his voice! 

Barbara Haber  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

First of all, though I do not live in Berkeley, I have felt the necessity to write of my concerns to your newspaper.  

My ties to Berkeley have been through my father’s relatives who lived in Berkeley during the late 1800s, my mother who was born in Berkeley in 1913, my great uncle, father, and I who attended UC, and my son who was born in Herrick Hospital in 1962. I left Berkeley for Oakland in 1989. Berkeley used to register much pride with me for its beauty, intellectual openness, and pleasantness—a city of true quality. But reading the Berkeley Daily Planet during the past few years easily changed this positive perspective. 

I deem it an intolerable matter when I read editorials that contain an anti-Semitic attitude, and letters to the editor and particular articles in your newspaper of this same ilk.  

I understand that your defense of what you have published has been that controversy is an important component in any news item and that this can readily be defended within our Constitutional rights. This sounds genuinely credible. However, make no mistake: What you have been writing and the letters and articles that you have been publishing have messages that stir up the pot of hateful relations among your readers. Those kind of messages have no place in Berkeley, California, or in any other part of the United States. 

Disagreement with any policy of any country (yes, including Israel) is one matter, but carrying out streams of muddied ideas that can only produce resentment and hatred is an odious matter.  

I am sure that with increased awareness of your intentions, your readership will be greatly reduced. However, with a change of heart, you may be able to bring pride and restore credibility to the Daily Planet. 

Susan Heller-Somerville 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Amidst the outpouring of grief at the horrific shooting of those fine Oakland policemen, I scan the papers and listen to news broadcasts in hopes that our elected officials will demand tighter gun control laws, particularly handguns—demands from Obama, Schwarzenegger, Congress, Mayor Dellums, and Senators Pelosi and Boxer. But their voices are strangely silent. No doubt they’re unwilling to risk the wrath of the National Rifle Association. How sad that the NRA makes our cities killing fields. 

Dorothy Snodgrass 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

After the laws banning all guns are passed, there should be an amnesty period that would allow all gun owners to voluntarily turn in their guns. After that, a system of rewards for informants could be put in place, with upgraded rewards for turning in family members who still own guns.  

We should not only get rid of the guns in circulation now, but melt down those in museums, as well; they have no place in our world. When all guns are gone, everywhere, the world will return to the peaceful, nurturing society that existed before the scourge of firearms made us violent.  

Of course, warrantless personal/vehicular/home searches would be necessary, but what a small price to pay for a safe, orderly, peaceful society! 

Jeffrey L. Suits 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Last week I watched the KQED presentation of Marie Antoinette. Then I watched the news, which showed our own self-important bloated rich. They didn’t wear huge wigs or jeweled dresses, but their attitudes matched perfectly. 

Ruth Bird 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

“Reindustrializing America,” by Harry Brill—right on. I would like to expand on it. It just makes me sick when I see large steel sections floated in from China, for the upgrade of the Bay Bridge. AC Van Hool buses made in Holland paying for this with our tax money, while thousands are getting laid off, at GM, Ford, and Chrysler, etc. I don’t really think they’re saving any money in the first place, if you figure every worker is going to be paying 40 percent in taxes. The company that employs these workers will also be paying taxes. These employees in turn will be spending money which, would create more jobs. 

Maybe we have a problem, that we don’t have enough skilled workers, so this leads me to the education system. I went through the Berkeley school system 51 years ago, and they had shop classes then. I even had shop classes in junior high—sheet metal, wood, and print shop. In high school there was general, wood, machine, radio, and auto shop. I have a son who is 30 now and the closest he came to a shop class was some sort of cafeteria class. 

Historical note: The barn at the animal farm in Tilden Park was built by the Berkeley High wood shop, I believe in 1957. 

Fred Perry 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

At a time when most of us feel we can only watch with growing dismay as the state of California decimates school budgets, we seek some sense of power and control. We wish there was some small thing we could do to make a difference. 

There is: Participate in the Berkeley Unified School District’s (BUSD) school lunch program. By purchasing a school lunch you not only feed your child, you contribute to the health and well being of every child in the district. School lunch programs thrive only with robust participation. Withdraw your participation—whether you pay full price or receive a free or reduced-price lunch for your child—and the quality of food offered diminishes for all children. 

We are extremely fortunate to be part of BUSD—home to a daily $3 miracle. In the face of a government commodities program anxious to foist corn byproducts, cheese, and “chicken” nuggets upon our schools, Chef Ann Cooper and her team resist the pressures and manage to fuel our children’s potential with nutritious meals made from scratch and featuring a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and a share of organic and locally sourced ingredients. 

Instead of nuggets, you’ll find chicken tamales, made with organic brown rice and slow-cooked pinto beans. Or fresh-roasted chicken with real mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli. 

The certainty that BUSD school children can continue to access these menu items, along with fresh salad bars, hormone-free milk and other high quality lunches rests upon you: Upon your $3 for a school lunch. Upon your participation in a free or reduced-lunch program that receives funding based on participation rates. 

We don’t get many opportunities to do good for the larger community simply making a choice for our own child—a choice that is affordable, nutritious, tasty, and vital to our child’s performance throughout the school day. It’s not just lunch—it’s learning power. 

And it’s not just a choice that feeds your child, it’s a choice that goes toward nourishing all children in your district and community. 

Valerie Gilbert-Perens 

Washington Elementary parent 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Our family is outraged by Jim Sinkinson’s claim that Conn Hallinan’s writing is “often” anti-Semitic For years we have shared Jewish holidays and Jewish rites of passage with Conn and his family. We have learned from his deep knowledge of Judaism. His critique of Israeli policies is rooted in his profound humanitarian instincts. Challenge his documentation, challenge his research, but this kind of dishonest smear does not deserve publication. 

Danny Beagle, Lisa Rubens, 

Julie Beagle, Matthew Beagle 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Jim Sinkinson picks a pretty snide way to smear Conn “Ringo” Hallinan. He characterizes Hallinan’s writing “ as falling into the category” of anti-Semitism. That’s supposed mean, what? That only his writing is anti-Semitic, not the man himself? 

The whole conjecture either way of Sinkinson is swill. Hallinan is a journalist, and a scholar who pores over foreign publications, keeping track of the buzz and the thinking in many places of the world, including Israel and Palestine. He quotes extensively from his wide reading and reports often on Israeli opposition to government policy, which tends to be under-reported in the U.S. He regularly makes a valuable contribution to those who are trying to stay abreast of issues, conflicts and wars in other countries. Hallinan may examine Israeli government positions on the occupation with which he disagrees, but he has always supported the right of Israel as a nation to exist. 

To accuse Hallinan of anti-Semitism—or anti-Semitic type of discourse—is laughable both from a professional standpoint of his reporting but in his private and political life as well. His children, his wife, and many of his friends are Jewish. He heartily partakes in Jewish rituals—shabat, Passover seder dinners, and so on, making a mockery of the charge. 

His politics are honest, not spieling propaganda or with any agenda other than justice—and pragmatic justice, at that. He has, in fact, fought those who are anti-Israeli and would drive the Jews into the sea, whether from their soap box on KPFA or in the world of the pro-Palestinian and rabidly anti-Israel leftist front that has been vocal and activist in the Bay Area generally.  

There will always be a right-wing pro-Israeli position that states that any criticism of the Israeli government is anti-Semitic. I resent hearing this charge raised against Mr. Hallinan. It is not true. 

Kate Coleman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have known journalist Conn Hallinan professionally as a colleague at UC Santa Cruz, where he was admired as an inclusive college Provost and award-winning teacher. And I have known him as a long-time friend, and the husband of my even longer-time friend, Anne Bernstein. 

To call Hallinan an anti-Semite is slander. Hallinan’s world is inclusive rather than restrictive and is the antithesis of religious or racial prejudice. Hallinan is a critic of Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians. This no more makes him an anti-Semite than my criticism of President Obama’s policy toward faith-based organizations makes me a racist. 

Further, not only are some of Hallinan’s best friends Jews, his wife is a Jew, as are all his children. 

Hallinan is a proud Irish-American who has forged his professional and personal life in the most American of ways—with integrity, and among persons of diverse races and religions. 

David Swanger 

Professor Emeritus 

University of California, Santa Cruz 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Yes, the U.S. could provide health care for all citizens. During the 1950s, when I was in high school, I remember President Eisenhower vetoing the “Foran” bill because it would provide “socialized medicine.” I don’t remember the details, but It struck me as ironic and even hypocritical. From the time he entered West Point and all through his long military career, he used government-supplied medical facilities and staff. Indeed, while he was president he had a heart attack and of course he went to Walter Reed Army Hospital.  

During the 1970–90s, while I worked as a U. S. Civil Service employee in a federal agency in downtown San Francisco, I was able to obtain routine medical exams and flu shots at the U. S. Public Health Service in the same building. What’s good enough for Ike and good enough for civil service employees should be good enough for everyone. 

Dick Lerner 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

“Section 8 Tenants Go on Rampage!” No matter how hard I searched our many local and regional newspapers I couldn’t find such a story.  

That’s what left me so perplexed about a meeting I attended recently at the Francis Albrier Center in Berkeley. The meeting was ostensibly about the recent occasions of violence in my neighborhood. In my work with disabled people that are left homeless on our streets, I have often had to fight the demonization of people who in essence are actually being ripped off by the very government that had promised to be there for them (and us) if some misfortune should befall us. And with this promise they take from the fruits of our labor, and the sweat of our brow.  

Think on this. On the corner of Sixth and Hearst stand a group of men. Cars sometimes come up and the occupant says to these men, “I need two men to paint, mow some grass, dig a ditch ... whatever.” These men are eager to do the car’s occupant’s bidding. They are poor. They need the money.  

Meanwhile, on the other side of town on the corner of California and Ward, another group of men stand. A car comes driving up (sometimes it’s the same car that approaches on Sixth and Hearst). He wants these men to work, too. He wants them to find him some drugs so he will not be exposed to arrest or some other embarrassment. It never crosses his mind that some of these young men would like the dignity of making the money they need, through an honest day’s work. They too are poor. They too need the money. How many choices do they really have?  

When I was young and in high school, there was a contractor in my neighborhood. He would come looking for me down at the park. “Hey Dan, you wanna work today?” “Sure!” I would reply. It made me feel great to swing a hammer and do a good job. I see a contractor that lives across the street from me today. Not one of his workers is a kid from the neighborhood. I have a friend who works for a well-known pizza chain on University Avenue. He is up front at the register. All the other employees, are out of sight in back. They are undocumented folks being paid what amounts to slave labor.  

I worked at a pizza joint in high school, in the back, cutting veggies and making pizzas. These jobs are not available to our kids here in the neighborhood. So before we start the Scapegoat Game so popular here in Berkeley, let’s think about it for a second or maybe even two. Is that $2-cheaper pizza really worth leaving these kids out on the corner? Does it really make you feel good to see a group of young men at work and not one of our local young men being represented? I know I for one would love to see a few of my neighborhood young people in the back of my neighbor’s truck heading off to a job. Maybe we should ask when we are getting these cut-rate deals to cut our grass or paint our homes, “How many local young people do you have working for you?” Maybe the City of Berkeley should have a registry of such contractors and issue a sticker on their vehicles identifying them as such. I’m just saying that we need to give these young people the same opportunities that I remember having when I was young and needed a start in life. 

Dan McMullan 

Disabled People Outside Project