Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday April 30, 2009 - 06:51:00 PM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

At the United Nations Racism Conference in Geneva, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Israel “a cruel and repressive racist regime,” prompting delegates from European nations to walk out. While I am not a fan of the Iranian president and his numerous diatribes, he did make a point. Why doesn’t Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians belong at a forum on discrimination and xenophobia?  

Consider, Israel has erected a wall or fence, which cuts deep into Palestinian territory, joining large Jewish settlement blocks to Israel, further confining the Palestinians to isolated enclaves. Israel continues to establish new settlements (called outposts), demolishing homes and uprooting farms and families in the process. And since Israel instituted a strict closure policy in 2000, the Palestinian economy has been on a downward trend. Fuel, electricity and materials to maintain water and sanitation are under Israeli control. The lack of investment in public infrastructure and private enterprises are eroding the limited remaining Palestinian economic base. The economic blockade has devastated the Gaza private sector and driven almost all industrial producers out of business. About 63 percent of Gazans and 45 percent of the West Bank population live below the UN poverty line. The Palestinian unemployment rate is about 24 percent.  

How can a people, who have been persecuted for centuries and were the victims of the Holocaust, in turn persecute the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip? Looks like a prima facie case of racism to me and a proper item for discussion at a conference on racism. 

Succumbing to lobbying by Jewish and pro-Israeli groups, the United States boycotted this conference as did a number of other nations. Given our history of discrimination against blacks, Asians, Irish, Jews, etc., we could have provided a unique perspective on racism. After all, a conference on racism is an ideal place to discuss controversial opinions. And isn’t somewhat ironic that an African American president declined to provide leadership at a conference on racism? As Woody Allen once said, “90 percent of life is just showing up.” 

Ralph E. Stone 

San Francisco 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

While federal, state and local politicians are tripping over each other trying to appear “green,” they seem unwilling to address what the United Nations 2006 report calls the biggest contributor to global warming: methane gas produced by cattle. It’s effects are more destructive than all forms of transport put together. 

Cattle excrement now amounts to more than 250,000 pounds per second. It is estimated that in order to reverse global warming, Americans must cut their daily meat consumption to the size of a half-dollar. Our leaders seem more interested in rearranging chairs on the Titanic than making the real changes in diet that would reverse our path. 

The real solution to our personal and planetary health is to change what we put in our mouths. How many are willing to effect real change by changing their diets? 

Michael Bauce 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a former high school teacher in Philadelphia and Oakland, and junior high school teacher at Willard, I write to protest the treatment of Eugenio Juarez. Mr. Juarez has worked at Berkeley High for 13 years under seven different principals, and has always received excellent to outstanding evaluations. However, after his advocacy and actions on behalf of primary language diagnostic testing for Spanish-speaking students, he has been threatened with dismissal. Juarez was a lone voice campaigning that these tests be administered, just as they are for non-Hispanic students. He believes that without them, students cannot receive the education they deserve. 

When his pleas where ignored by the Berkeley High School administration he appealed to the community for support, wrote leaflets, and handed them out at parent-teacher day. Ever since he began advocating for this cause he has been a target of retribution, systematic and selective discipline. 

Now, finally, the high school has mandated that primary language diagnostic testing will take place in the spring, as well as two or three weeks prior to the start of classes in the fall. Unfortunately, the Berkeley High School administration still wants to fire Mr. Juarez. He feels that he is definitely being treated unfairly and his only alternative is to appeal for federal assistance because his rights are being violated. 

I urge the superintendent, and principal of Berkeley High School to reconsider their actions against Eugenio Juarez, and keep a teacher who has demonstrated a strong devotion to the education of Spanish-speaking minority students. 

Daniel Rudman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

If Pete Najarian were being honest, he would admit that the previously unfenced wetland area near the Marina was being thoroughly abused by dog owners too lazy to take their pets to the area carefully created for them in the center of Cesar Chavez Park. 

The fences are a small price to pay for the opportunity, finally, to see the wildlife which now can survive a moment’s respite from a long migration, or a moment in the sun without being set upon by off-leash dogs whose guardians don’t mind seeing wildlife treated like chew toys. 

Carol Denney 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

My April 24 e-mails included this from Joanna Kim Selby: 

“Today, my proposal “Honoring Senior Volunteers in May,” SCR 28 (Senate Concurrent Resolution) passed Senate Floor unanimously 40-0. I went to the Senate Floor this morning to see how things are going and it went through and Senator Correa who is the author introduced me to the Senate Floor and my Senator Loni Hancock greeted me. 

I am really happy because we cannot do our work without our senior volunteers. We have to honor those volunteers in May of this year. Thanks for your support. Joanna.” 

I first met Joanna Kim Selby when we both served on the Alameda County Area Agency Advisory Commission on Aging. She has since been nominated to serve on California’s own Commission on Aging. Lately she’s been regularly trekking from the East Bay to Sacramento, as an elected member of the California Senior Legislature. Elections held for the Senior Legislature take place in senior centers. When the Senior Legislature is in session in Sacramento, sessions are televised on Channel 15. 

So, I ask, why for 31 days honor seniors who volunteer to do things that likely wouldn’t otherwise get done, largely in behalf of other seniors? And why aren’t more seniors willing and able to volunteer good works on behalf of their peers? Several explanations include lack of transportation, stereotypes that handicap some “volunteer coordinators,” and the unpleasant-sounding areas of greatest need for volunteers: caregiver abuse, nursing home conditions, ombudsmanship, meals-on-wheels, advocacy for health coverage, hospice. 

Helen Rippier Wheeler 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In his favorable April 16 review of Aurora’s Miss Julie, Ken Bullock reminds us that Lauren Grace, who plays Miss Julie, was Hilda Wangel in the 2006 Aurora presentation of The Master Builder, and he goes on to say that “maybe it’s time for her to play Hedda Gabler.” She would indeed be excellent in that role, too, but for me, a performance as good as any I’ve ever seen was that of Stacy Ross as Hedda Gabler in an Aurora production. How well the subtlety of her acting would reach a large audience I don’t know, but in the front row in the Berkeley City Club, it was stunning. 

Richard Wiebe 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

This afternoon I bought the April edition of Street Spirit from a friendly young woman on Shattuck and I was disturbed to read the article “Oakland Police Criminalize Street Spirit Vendor.” I am writing out of concern for the violation of rights which seem to have occurred. According to the article, Ricky Anderson, a Street Spirit vendor, was ticketed by a police officer as a panhandler. For those who are not aware, the newspaper is published by American Friends Service Committee, to be sold by homeless individuals so that they can earn a living. Through this work, it seems likely that someone might go on to find more work and eventually get off the streets. Though this particular incident occurred in Oakland, there are many Street Spirit vendors in Berkeley. Seeing the vendors working everyday, rain or shine, demonstrates considerably more resolve than that possessed by the average office worker. I hope that Ricky Anderson’s ticket is rescinded and that police in Berkeley and in Oakland work on solving crimes instead of creating crimes. 

Iris Levitis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

For yet another of its popular “Arts in the Afternoon” events, the Women’s Faculty Club on the U.C. campus presented a very special program this past Thursday—a celebration of William Shakespeare’s birthday, his 445th! In honor of this auspicious occasion, Professor Davitt Moroney, a faculty member of the University of California, provided a concert perfectly suited for such a celebration. As director of the University Baroque Ensemble, he brought together 17 gifted young musicians who performed selections from composers of Shakespeare’s era—Henry Purcell, Marin Marais, Matthew Locke and Antonio Vivaldi. 

These brilliant young musicians in some instances played on original 18th-century violins, a sopranino recorder, Baroque guitar and harpsichord. According to Moroney, this is the only student group in the world performing on such antique instruments, all of which were donated to the Music Department over 40 years ago by the A. Salz Collection. 

Sitting in the lovely Stebbins Lounge, sipping wine and enjoying music dating back to the 1600s, one could easily imagine oneself watching one of the Bard’s plays in the old Globe Theatre (perhaps The Tempest, with music by composer Matthew Locke). The more imaginative of us almost sensed the presence of W.S. in our midst. 

Professor Moroney gave a brief history of the Baroque Music Endowment Fund, established in 2004, this at a time when other programs have had to slim down because of the university’s budget cuts. Anyone wishing to donate to the fund, donate an instrument or sponsor the restoration of an old instrument should contact him at the Music Department. 

After the concert, guests were treated to a reception in the dining room for a light buffet and a large birthday cake for Will—but without 445 candles! So, once again, the Women’s Faculty Club is deserving of warm thanks for this memorable event, enjoyed by an overflow of appreciative guests. 

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Our country is currently absorbed with the question of how to deal with the fact that United States government personnel tortured suspected “terrorists.” The primary focus, perhaps narrowly framed by the mass corporate media, seems to be what to do with those public officials who approved torture, either by legal contortion or official fiat. While this question is definitely an important one and goes to our very identity as U.S. citizens, some of the very politicians who are so intent upon investigating and pursuing officials of the Bush administration on the one hand, vote with the other hand to send billions of tax dollars to prop up the security forces of Latin American governments who routinely practice torture on their own citizens. I refer specifically to the Merida Initiative (Plan Mexico) and Plan Colombia, two “plans” to allegedly “fight drug trafficking.” 

Why do we believe it is wrong for the United States to practice torture, but give funds, equipment and training to countries whose security forces regularly practice torture upon their own citizens? In contrast to our senators and congresspersons, that receive lots of classified information, we ordinary citizens rarely receive accurate news about either Mexico or Colombia in English through the corporate news media in the United States. Those of us who have both the time and interest have to search alternative media or read Spanish language media to find such information. 

I invite all those who are interested to come and see Mexican security forces in action in a video documentary filmed in San Salvador Atenco, Mexico. It will be shown at the Niebyl Proctor Marxist Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, May 3. Admission is free. 

Mary Ann Tenuto Sánchez 

Chiapas Support Committee 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It’s time the government stopped all efforts to prop up irresponsible financial institutions that have capitalized on the government’s equally irresponsible deregulation and reframing of key economic safeguards. Pouring trillions of dollars into insolvent banks, with toxic assets of their own creation, eliminates the responsibility that comes with risk and creates a totally unwarranted debt to taxpayers that will only feed the economic spiral even as wealthy investors are salvaged. The zombie banks that are hoarding bailout money need to be put into receivership immediately to have their assets and liabilities clarified and dealt with responsibly. Then we need to rebuild our nation on a real economy and real human need, not on predatory financial institutions and junk products that add to environmental malaise. A fraction of the trillions of dollars wasted on zombie banks could have been put into responsible financial institutions to increase liquidity or into government programs or public banks that quickly put people back to work and restored confidence. It is not too late. By putting the failed banks into receivership immediately, perhaps some of our tax dollars can yet be retrieved for an economic recovery built on responsibility and accountability and an ethic of service. 

James Cisney 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In the April 23 Planet, my letter was included in those protesting the Climate Action Plan. I wish to expand on that letter, not by retracting my rude assessment of the City Council, who consistently run Berkeley like a charity bazaar rather than the municipal corporation it is, but by saying that I support, in general, the intent behind that plan. In trying to control global warming, I suppose that every effort may help. But in the grand scope of the problem, fussing about the color of our roofs or the caulking of our windows has about as much relevance as knitting tea cozies for the homeless. At the least, we may expect the sea level to rise three feet by the end of this century. Berkeley’s population could contribute one hundredth of an inch to that rise. But we may have a voice, and others may listen. 

If we consider the domino effect described by Matthew Taylor in the same issue, the sea level will probably rise much more, and meaningful remedies are far beyond those being voiced here or worldwide. Rational first steps certainly include minimizing the transportation of people, food, and goods. Toward this goal, petroleum taxes should be increased to raise the cost of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel to ten dollars per gallon within two years, produce should be grown and consumed locally, and relocation of jobs and residences should be subsidized. While there is a small flurry of renewed interest in cold fusion, it is generally dismissed as fantasy by most of the scientific community. The proposed process for removing carbon dioxide from coal and sequestering it in the earth’s crust appears to be far more difficult and costly than burying waste from nuclear power plants, so the default choice may be the replacement of coal by nuclear. 

But all of these are baby steps. We are so far behind the warming curve that, given the lack of effective or cooperative world government, we must expect the end of the century to bring the displacement of millions from coastal areas, the parching of agricultural lands, and mass starvation. The only viable preparation for this prospect is the planned reduction of world population by at least one third by 2100. This can’t occur voluntarily—people will not stop breeding—so forced sterilization or genocide have been proposed. In either case, someone must decide where the cuts will be made. Surely those societies with the most advanced democracies, educational systems and technologies must be preserved, while those which contribute least to human betterment may be weeded out. Thumbs up to North America, Europe, China, and much of the Far East. On the down side are radical Muslim groups still slogging through the tenth century with their murderous fanaticism and crushing of women. How about the drug cartels south of the border? And those African states that seem only to exist for the ego battles of thuggish dictators—we can do without Somalia, Zimbabwe, Sudan. Even the Irish, with their especially benighted form of Catholicism and perpetual political infighting, can go down the drain. Oh, what a field day of cultural prejudice! 

You may find these conjectures laughable—your great-grandchildren won’t. I’m glad I won’t be around. 

Jerry Landis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Last summer, through a class at UC Berkeley, I volunteered as a tutor for elementary students in West Oakland, one of the poorest school districts in the state. For the first time, I saw the stark reality of the educational inequities in our state. I met students who were two or three grades behind in reading; a third-grader who could not add sums greater than ten; ESL students struggling to master a new language with little support; and students who had memorized multiplication tables but couldn’t solve simple problems. The experience deeply moved me, ultimately leading to my decision to become an elementary school teacher in the inner city. 

It breaks my heart that in the current economic climate, students like the ones I worked with are likely to lose funding for supplies, facilities, and teachers. If anything, these students need more funding from the state, not less. Even with incoming federal stimulus money, the legislature has slashed the education budget, and districts across California are laying off thousands of teachers. This is not the way to save California’s already underserved public schools. 

On May 13, I will travel to Sacramento with thousands of high school students from across the state to rally for educational equity. We believe that all graduating seniors in California should be 100 percent prepared to succeed in college or a meaningful career, regardless of race or socioeconomic status. Even in these tough economic times, we can—and must—invest in our state’s most precious resource: our students. 

As a future inner-city teacher, I hope to provide students like the ones I met in Oakland with the resources they need to succeed in school and in life. Until the state government provides adequate funding for education, however, our most underserved students will continue to fall behind. We must let Gov. Schwarzenegger know that this is unacceptable. 

William Daly 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The first two tickets to Berkeley High’s graduation ceremony at UC Berkeley’s Greek Theater may be free, but UC Berkeley will probably gouge anyone who wants to park in their lots by again raising the normal prices to “special event” parking of $20 at their parking lots, without advance notice, just like they did for the Dalai Lama! 

I’d like to see a story about UC Berkeley’s horrible and unethical practice of gouging the elderly, disabled and infirm who need to park nearby. 

UC Berkeley does not provide advance notice of their exorbitant “special” fees. Why can’t they stick with their normal prices? Aren’t they high enough already? Why does UC’s parking department feel the need to gouge? If ticket scalping is illegal, gouging for parking should be too! They should be required to stick to their posted rates. 

David Lerman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

What I call “A Berkeley of the Imagination” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti is worthy of the attention given to his “A Coney Island of the Mind” and “A Far Rockawy of the Heart.” I refer to the visual work of the artist now on display at the Berkeley Art Center under the title, “Lyric Escape” and to the title of two of his books of poems for which he is best known. The exhibition was reported on by Ken Bullock. 

The exhibition deserves to be seen in its own right because of the excellence of the individual works and the overall impact of the collection. What makes it especially valuable is that it allows many who have known Lawrence Ferlinghetti as a poet to see him as a painter on a large scale. In the paintings we find things like and unlike his written poems. The attention to detail on a broad canvas, the simple lines, the fine colors, the human figure in a particular setting: these we have “seen” in his poems. 

But the exhibition is full of surprises for one who has only read the his poems. There is mystery and there is revelation which has to be seen to be believed. There is an old saying that what can’t be said can’t be said and it can’t be whistled either. OK. But in this exhibition Ferlinghetti suggests that what can’t be said may be painted. 

This is why what I call “A Berkeley of the Imagination” belongs up there with Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s important printed and spoken words. Go see for yourself in this rare exhibition. 

David James Randolph 


(Associated with the Center for the Arts, Religion and Education at the GTU) 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I couldn’t disagree more with Joe Eaton’s recent column on the North Meadow at the Berkeley Marina. I remember going there for years, when it was admittedly dirty, uncared for and full of homeless camps. But it was fun, free-wheeling, and dog owners could go there and enjoy it. Now we have a place where nature fanatics have made it resemble nothing so much as a reform school, with insulting fences to remind you that you are not worthy to share this area with nature, but only to look at its superiority. 

My greatest fear is that the same nature fanatics will ruin the area south of the little cafe at University and the freeway, and make it another place too good for ordinary people to use. 

Gui Mayo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you for an excellent newspaper. 

Regarding Mr. Allen-Taylor’s column on the Oakland police officer shootings: I do not agree that Lovelle Mixon deserves the “monster” status the media has assigned to him. 

I think monster status should go to those people who open fire on the public, fellow students, business associates, or people like the woman who murdered that little girl in Tracy 

Mr. Mixon would warrant monster status if he had disarmed the police, made them lie face down on the street, handcuffed them behind their backs and then shot them. That’s a monster. 

Dan Alaniz 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Not to cavil, as I too groan with every fund drive on NPR, but unlike Becky O’Malley (“Community-Supported Journalism: Is It Sustainable?”), I left the radio on during its recent fund drive. The drive you tuned into was, I think, a national programmatic fling with being green for a half-day’s local programming. 

You know, of course, that the Obama economic team will probably do a bailout of some sort—whether with cash or allowing newspaper conglomerates to reorganize as nonprofits or as public utilities is up for political grabs—so in some way, tree-chopping news delivery systems will be sustained, to answer your question. 

As a geezer currently at 79 still a writer for a Spanish magazine, a working newspaper arts reporter and art critic until my early 70s, I remember a scale and a mode of what is defined now as community-based that should be looked at. I.F. Stone’s weekly, Paul Krasner’s The Realist, and the local efforts of the late Carlton Goodlett and the Berkeley Daily Planet defined the community in the sense of how I think you mean community. National newspapers (unlike in the original Hearst street-sales days) monetized by advertising, whose business side has primacy over its editorial side, whose business model logically requires going global to sustain the reach to their community, are, of course, not sustainable. Do the Howard Dean and Obama campaigns (i.e., social networking) offer ways that sustainability might persist? 

Alfredo de la Rosa 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

There was no real “sunshine,” no transparency and openness, at the April 21 City Council meeting. And most of the public was illegally turned away for lack of room in council chambers, when ordinarily the overflow crowd is told to wait to speak on their items of concern. 

With 54 items on consent calendar, Mayor Bates violated his own published rules printed on the agenda: “Up to three speakers will be entitled to two minutes each to speak in opposition to or in support of a consent calendar item.” 

So item no. 1, for example, regarding the environmental review process for the Downtown Plan, had no speakers. This plan certainly needs a full environmental impact report and not a little quickie Mickey-Mouse procedure which shuts out the public on their own downtown. 

Reporter Richard Brenneman wrote eloquently regarding impacts of this plan for Berkeley’s downtown in the Daily Planet’s Feb. 5 issue. A must read! Brenneman wrote: “The development in the Downtown Area Plan (DAP), would have significant, unavoidable impacts—the highest level of detriment spelled out under the California Environmental Quality Act”— and he lists examples, such as views, air quality, including pollution and toxic air contaminants and odors, demolition of historic resources, increased noise from traffic and construction. 

Merrilie Mitchell