Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday May 28, 2009 - 07:07:00 PM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Memorial Day was created to honor the Union soldiers of the American Civil War. It was originally called Decoration Day, and was the creation of freed blacks, who on May 30, 1868, returned to the Charleston Union Graveyard, and decorated with flowers the individual graves of Union soldiers lying in rest. 

A few years earlier, at the end of the war, these freed slaves had opened the mass graves of the confederate prison and transferred the dead union soldiers to honorable single graves. In 1868, on the first Memorial day, a parade of thousands of freed blacks and Union soldiers from the area was followed by patriotic singing and a picnic. 

Memorial Day was created by Charleston blacks to honor those who fought and suffered in a war that ended slavery. This celebration emerged from the deep personal experience of a people who honored an indisputable just cause at the center, of the Civil War: the end of slavery. 

The true way of honoring the fallen is to prevent further death. Let’s work to end all wars. Let’s pray for justice, peace and understanding. Let’s reflect on what all those lives lost could have been if war had been prevented. 

Jovanka Beckles 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Your current editorial, “Paying for the News Upfront, Part 2,” examining the financial plight of your publication, and explanation of your experimental solutions, triggered some memories. 

Many years ago, I was involved with another community weekly newspaper, the Berkeley Barb. At the time, individuals could purchase small quantities of these at “wholesale” pricing and then “retail” directly to the public at a modest margin. 

I noted that you’ve included a somewhat similar arrangement for your intended distribution location donation-based plan, including what you’ve identified as “homes where someone can take collection responsibility.” Why limit this to “homes”? It sounds as though the “donation” basis anticipates revenues to you only after collection from the end-user, rather than upfront from the distributor. Can’t you just reverse that procedure? 

When and where should I show up to obtain my first bundle, and at what cost? Just leave it to me exactly where they will be distributed, at a home or otherwise. 

Christopher Kohler 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Issues concerning Israel and Palestinians do neglect some history of the region. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem met with and supported Hitler and the Holocaust. Jews were murdered by Arabs in the middle east before and during WW2. The creation of Israel by the U.N. did not alter the behavior of Palestinians. Islam, as practiced by the Moors in Spain, under which Jews, Christians and Islamic cultures flourished, should again be cultivated, to the benefit of all. 

Harry Gans 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Pete Najarian and Randall Broder don’t get it; wildlife and off-leash dogs cannot safely share open space in the meadow. Most dog guardians are as clueless as these two, and the planet can’t wait. 

Carol Denney 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Before Saturday, May 16, I would not have publicly expressed my concern with the issue of crime in Oakland. After last Saturday, I feel need to, even though I have no idea how to fix the problem. The young man driving the Mazda the night of May 16 was my cousin, Todd Perea. Tomorrow, my dear cousin Larry will be burying his son. Larry ... who has dedicated over half of his life to helping people—as an ambulance driver and in the field of law enforcement. And Todd, who was going about his own business that night and was so loved by everyone who was lucky enough to have their lives touched by him. Nothing good has come out of this tragedy and I really don’t see anything positive coming out of it in the future.  

I was born in Oakland but moved to Washington State as a young child. Oakland was bad then. It is certainly worse now. How can we take these streets back again? How can we make these streets safer for our families? I wish I knew. I wish I had the answer. All I know is that my cousin is gone and his father, to whom he was so close, has a broken heart. As the mother of four, I cannot fathom the thought of burying one of my children. Thanks to the thoughtless actions of four individuals, my cousin Larry will have first-hand experience. 

Nancy M. Hein 

Washington State  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The well documented history of Catholicism and the Catholic church is one long litany of violence, suppression, cruelty, bigotry, hypocrisy and sexual repression.  

“Be Afraid and Suffer! But if you give us everything you have including your soul and obey us in everything, it will be all right when you die.” 

We are all taught to respect other people’s religions and faiths, but frankly, when a so-called responsible grown man, a pillar of society tells me that he has a blind faith in an imaginary talking dead friend whose mother was a virgin and the custodians of that faith are nothing more than centuries-long crooks and terrorists, torturers and abusers, I am incapable of finding anything to respect, nevermind take seriously. He is either a charlatan, a hypocrite or a fool. The Catholic Church has always and will likely always be the incarnation of all that is evil in the hearts and minds of Mankind. The odd exceptions are called Saints. I might even suggest that it is for Obama to give Notre Dame a miss. 

Christopher Osborn 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It’s disappointing to see your cartoonist aiding and abetting Gingrich and Limbaugh in deflecting attention from the Bush administration torture program by mocking Nancy Pelosi. 

Pat Cody 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Pete Najarian loved the Berkeley Meadow as it was. The meadow changed and he has lost something that he loved. I am sympathetic to this. It is difficult when the world around us changes and we do not understand why. However, Mr. Najarian is misinformed about many things and directing his anger at the wrong targets. I offer this letter to clarify. 

First, Citizens for East Shore Parks (CESP) does not administer the East Shore State Park, nor did it make the decision to fence off the Berkeley Meadow. The East Bay Regional Park District administers East Shore State Park on behalf of California State Parks. The decision to fence off the meadow was made through the public planning process that preceded the opening of the park. The process included 24 public meetings, design charettes, and other opportunities for public input. Mr. Najarian did not attend any of these meetings and seemed unaware that they even existed when he came to voice his complaints at a recent CESP meeting. It is this public process that established the Berkeley Meadow as a restoration site, just as it established other parts of the park for bike trails, soccer fields, picnic areas, parking lots, and other non-wildlife uses. 

Second, the Berkeley Meadow is 72 acres, not 174 acres as Mr. Najarian claims. Not all of that is fenced. The meadow comprises less than four percent of the more than 1,800 acres that make up East Shore State Park.  

Third, contrary to Mr. Najarian’s statements, Norman LaForce is not a director of the East Bay Regional Park District.  

Finally and most significantly, dogs and certain types of wildlife do not peacefully co-exist. I say this not only as a restoration planner and a board member of CESP and Golden Gate Audubon, but also as an off-leash dog owner. I am well aware of the damage my dog can do to ground-nesting birds, squirrels, rabbits, rodents, and other wildlife deserving of protection. She is a terrier and can easily navigate through thick brush to sniff out nests, burrows, and dens. It is what she and many other dogs were bred to do. As a dog owner, I am content with the abundance of designated off-leash dog areas in the adjacent Cesar Chavez Park, at Pt. Isabel, and the informal access available at the Albany Bulb. The East Bay is home to millions of people and the East Shore Park must serve many purposes. It provides a balance of wildlife protection, playing fields, dog areas, and other park amenities. 

Restoration projects often disappoint people in their first year or so. Whatever was there before is gone, and what will be there in the future has not grown in yet. Complaints are common. But in just a few years, Berkeley Meadow will be a gorgeous coastal prairie, home to all kinds of plants and wildlife that were not able to live there when it was a patch of fennel, pampas grass, and encampments.  

Again, I am sorry that Mr. Najarian lost a place that he loved. For better or worse, our cities are constantly evolving around us. I just wish that Mr. Najarian’s comments and critiques were more consistent with the facts. 

Rich Walkling 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I like Barack O-Blah-Blah. He’s an intelligent, cool dude, and a pretty nifty basketball player. But hey, it’s time to take this guy on ... one on one. “Bringing people together” is a fine and dandy idea. But the real question is: What are you bringing people together around? What principle is being honored in the process of synthesizing our differences into amenable policy? In the case of the recent credit card reform legislation Obama has endorsed a piggyback provision permitting gun owners to carry concealed weapons in our national parks. 

Compromise does not imply surrender. But that’s exactly what the president has done by allowing this pernicious piece of statutory nonsense to be codified into our experience within the great outdoor expanse of our national parks. But next time folks in the adjacent campsite keep the music blaring past midnight you’d better think twice about asking them to “turn it down.” One beer too many and they might just dismiss your complaint with a bullet through your brain. In urban America, people often get shot for less, and there’s no reason to believe that nihilistic sensibility won’t be brought into our national parks. 

What do we get for this capitulation to “compromise”? A credit card bill that is essentially a slap on the wrist to the corporations that have already ripped into our quality of life with their avarice and blunders. Nothing in the bill prevents them from charging whatever interest rate they choose. It simply demands of them a bit more etiquette in doing so. 

What’s happened to the principled leadership our new automotive CEO, Obama, went on and on about in the campaign? Apparently it’s been relegated to the trash heap of rhetoric that has characterized our political culture and leadership for far too long. 

Marc Winokur 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I realize the law requires public notice of unclaimed government checks (posted by the City of Berkeley on page nine of the May 21 Daily Planet). With all due respect, though, a number of entries suggest lack of basic bookkeeping follow-up by city employees (or by their counterparts at the payees’ offices): is “Alameda—Treasurer, County of” really waiting for a $28,828.80 check, issued July 1, 1999, from the City of Berkeley? Or Fidelity National Title for a $1712.50 check issued June 3, 2003? These are two of several for an office or business which could easily be contacted if someone picked up the phone. 

If the real issue is that city employees, constantly pressured in this budget-challenged period to do more with less, do not have the time for this type of follow-up, perhaps someone could arrange for a group of high school students to take follow-up on as a civics project. Students might find the research process very instructive, and useful for future job references, in checking public record information to locate persons and businesses whom the city may still owe. 

Keeping unclaimed funds on the books for almost 10 years (some entries go back to July 1999) leaves funds needed for current services in limbo, and not so incidentally, creates a backlog of work for the city, which continually has to reconcile these old, outstanding checks against current records. Surely, even in difficult budget times, a way can be found to clear these years-old outstanding checks off the books, without waiting almost ten years to post a legal notice. 

Pam Rolph 

South San Francisco 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am a Berkeley resident and a home owner. For the past three or four years I have worked hard to reduce my footprint on the landscape by drastically reducing how much garbage I produce every week. I now only put my small garbage can out for collection twice a month instead of every week. I have accomplished this by 1) Recycling everything that can be recycled. 2) Composting everything that can be composted. 3) Buying primarily fresh produce and not processed foods. 4) By carefully purchasing only what I really need. 

Despite the fact that I use the refuse services only twice a month, I pay the same rate as a person using the refuse services four times a month. The notice sent out by the city clearly shows that commercial entities are not only charged by the size of the dumpsters, but also by the number of times a month that they use the city services. Namely a dumpster picked up four times a month costs twice as much as one picked up twice a month. 

The rates for the commercial users are determined by size of the refuse container multiplied by the number of times the container is collected. I believe the same formula needs to be used for the residential user. If it is fair for the city to charge the commercial user by the frequency of use that same fairness needs to be extended to the residential user. 

Adjusting the rate of the residential user according to how often the resident uses the refuse collection services will encourage residents of the city to generate less garbage. 

I urge the City Council to send this proposal back and ask that the formula suggested above be applied to the residential users. This is not only fair, but of great benefit in terms of reducing the amount of garbage each household will produce. 

Edith Hillinger 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

When I heard that print media appears to be on its was out, I laughed. You are kidding, right? There will always be room for newspapers and the multi-cultural magazines. However I found myself asking what print media I rely on and currently trust to provide me with accurate information on a regular basis.  

My first thoughts included childhood. My dad required the person who got up first to bring the newspaper inside. This ritual soon became a daily part of my household’s routine, and included reading the funnies, local contests, family discussions that centered around the newspapers. I did my very first written paper for school on how the newspapers were one of the first to implement and maintain a trust system for the purchase of its products through the use of vendor machines without restricted access. High school teachers gave extra credit in world history or current affair to students’ use of newspaper clippings relevant to study topic.  

The old black and white and Technocolor movies made newspapers and reporting appear very glamorous, showing reporters dictating via phone stories directly to the newspaper for the next day. The effort of telling a good provocative story was found in the facial expression, wording used and most important the facts, at least in the Hollywood movies. Spider Man gave of us photographer Peter Parker and Superman, Clark Kent, both embellished versions of the “man of the street.”  

However, how relevant are these feelings to the current status of print media? What role do they play in where I get my news from? When did I stop reading the newspaper on a regular basis and was I alone in my reasoning? There was a time in my adult life I read the paper we subscribed to, USA Today, Parents’ Press, Berkeley Daily Planet, and periodically went to the library to read other newspapers to compare the translations of local news stories, and learn of worldwide events through foreign cable channels directly from other countries: CNN, The United Nations News and trial broadcasts, Ted Turner news network, the morning news and nightly local news without question.  

Since we have always had a number of TVs in our home, often watching different stations reporting on or at the same events was a family choice. The newspapers, however, remained a member of the family. I felt cheated when the newspaper was not delivered and or cared for properly. 

Oh no, I got it, “not cared for properly,” that was it the first clue to what came between me and my newspapers. 

Allainyaha-Charlene M K Matthews 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It’s time for Obama to declare victory in Afghanistan and get our fighting heroes the hell out of that quagmire. America hasn’t the stomach for this war and so it ends in military defeat with lots of ruined American lives. There will be no military victory without killing untold numbers of Afghan civilians and America will not do this. So why are we there? And why the deafening silence from Congresswoman Barbara Lee? In the end, was her “courageous” opposition to Bush war policies just posturing for political gain? When will we see bumperstickers saying “Barbara Lee No Longer Speaks For Me”? 

Nathaniel Hardin 

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I live at Savo Island Cooperative Homes, Inc, a HUD-sponsored housing project here in south Berkeley, located right across the street from the Berkeley Bowl. There is a housing project similar to Savo Island in every city and town in America, all built in 1979—under the guidance of President Jimmy Carter. But that was then and this is now. 

Right now, our little housing co-op is pretty much falling apart. The siding is falling off, the roofs leak, etc. “How come Savo looks so trashy?” a neighbor asked me the other day. 

“Because HUD, our various management companies and several residents here have been trying to get the place re-habbed for over eight years now—and every time we almost get the re-hab going, our board of directors seems to drop the ball.” The latest nail in our re-hab’s coffin was pounded in last week when our lending bank withdrew their offer to give us a re-hab loan. The bank officially cited their reason for backing out as being because of “the passage of time since this project was engaged.” But perhaps the bank also withdrew because Savo’s board had just fired yet another management company, this one being the 13th or 14th one the board has gone through, averaging a different management company approximately every two years. Never a good idea to change horses in mid-stream. And now Savo Island not only has to scramble around looking for another lender—they also have to find another management company too (the one the board had lined up next has not been approved by HUD).  

In addition, HUD has recently required that our board of directors be supplemented by two outside financial and/or housing experts. Maybe this will finally help get our re-hab back on track. But in the meantime Savo Island continues to look like it was built in 1879 instead of 1979, developers are apparently hoping our re-hab will fail so that they can swoop in and construct yet another Berkeley high-rise condo on this site, and our whole neighborhood is beginning to panic about what will happen here next. And I’m panicked too—as the possibility of homelessness begins to stare me in the face. 

So. What action do I want the readers of the Berkeley Daily Planet to take regarding this matter? That’s easy. Please, please, please don’t anyone tell Jimmy Carter what has befallen his wonderful fair-and-affordable housing dream for Berkeley. 

Jane Stillwater 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

If the preponderance of Iranians and the preponderance of Israelis belong to different races, that news has not yet reached modern science. The definition of words shifts according to their common usage, hence “racist” now means “someone I hate and wish to destroy.” Only naifs think that the Arab-Israeli conflict is about land. It is specifically about—and both interested parties understand this perfectly—about survival versus hate. 

Dick Bagwell 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Policy Steering Committee met on Friday, May 15, to discuss the future of local service on the BRT route. The committee is comprised of three members of the AC Transit Board and several other local officials, including Tom Bates and Kriss Worthington. 

The question under discussion was whether to eliminate Route 1 service, the local service on Telegraph Avenue and International Boulevard if BRT is implemented. Using his customary verbal legerdemain, AC Transit’s Jim Cunradi dismissed the local service as irrelevant. He has invented a new name for his plan to ax the local buses. He now calls it the “all-in-one” plan. I guess “BRT only” was too explicit—people could figure out what it meant.  

With the exception of Kriss Worthington, who has consistently shown concern for the riders in danger of losing their local bus stops, committee members beamed with enthusiasm over this invitation to drop the local stops. Tom Bates was so enthused that he wanted to take a vote that day, but voting on this matter wasn’t on the agenda. The vote will therefore occur at the next Policy Steering Committee meeting, which will take place on June 19. 

Gale Garcia 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In his anti-KPFA, anti-Daily Planet letter of May 20, in the East Bay Express, Dan Spitzer asserts that Berkeley’s population is “about 20 percent Jewish.” In a commentary published in the Planet on July 29, 2005, the same John Gertz whom Spitzer praises for his meticulous research announced that Berkeley’s Jewish community comprises “about 25 percent of voters.” Of course residents and voters are two different things, which may account for the discrepancy. But how realistic is either of these figures? The U.S. Jewish population can only be estimated (mostly by extrapolation from surveys), but most sources agree that it is about 2 percent and dropping. The highest concentration is in New York City in particular and the northeast in general, followed by Washington D.C., with south Florida and California pretty much tied for a distant third place. Sources available online put the Bay Area Jewish population at approximately 220,000. With an overall population of 7.2 million, that makes the density of Jews 3 percent, which is about what one might guess. Even if Berkeley has a slightly higher concentration of Jews than, say, Richmond, the Jewish population of Berkeley, whether counted as citizens or voters, cannot be higher than 4 percent and is unlikely to be that high. 

Of course many of us, whether Jewish or not, may feel that Spitzer’s and Gertz’s numbers seem plausible, even if far removed from fact. How can such a tiny population be so constantly present? It takes dedication to a single cause, excellent organization, and lots and lots of money—not to mention help from a foreign government. But despite Spitzer/Gertz et al., the 3 percent of the population that’s Jewish doesn’t all speak with one voice anyway. When you factor in that polls show that the great majority of U.S. Jews favor a two-state solution; that Bay Area Jews, like the rest of the Bay Area population, are more likely to be liberal than the rest of the U.S.; and that among younger Jews any form of interest in Israel is dropping off drastically enough to set off major alarm bells, then, boys and girls, take out a pencil and paper and figure out just what percentage of Berkeley’s or the greater Bay Area’s population agrees with Dan Spitzer and John Gertz. 

Joanna Graham 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Former Vice President Cheney wants the public to believe that the “enhanced interrogation techniques” sanctioned by the Bush administration are not torture and dismisses criticism as “contrived indignation and phony moralizing.” Cheney is engaging in a familiar Goebbels-type technique. That is, you tell a whopper—the larger the better—often enough and most people will come to accept it as the truth. Unfortunately, too many Americans are believing this big lie. Those in the Bush administration who sanctioned torture either don’t know the law, or advocated flaunting the law. Human torture is not only morally unacceptable—it is also a crime. Waterboarding, for example, is explicitly prohibited by the Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions.  

Using torture places us in the same company as history’s infamous torturers. Waterboarding, for example, dates back to the Dark Ages. By using torture, we lost any ideological advantage we might have had—the promotion of democracy, freedom and human rights. We became the thugs our enemies say we are. I for one urge those who authorized torture be prosecuted. No one, not even a former president or vice president, is above the law. 

Ralph E. Stone 

San Francisco 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Has anyone else noticed the hypocrisy shown by the United States, as well as by all of the other members of the Security Council of the United Nations, about the outrage over North Korea's testing of a low-level atomic weapon? The United States is the only country to have used atomic weapons to kill people, having killed probably 200,000 people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. Furthermore, the United States, and all the other Security Council members, as well as China and India, following World War II, repeatedly tested atomic and thermonuclear weapons in the atmosphere, spreading radiation all over the world. Our country also uprooted whole native populations from their homelands, e.g. Eniwetok and Bikini Atolls, so that we could use their homelands to test thermonuclear bombs. All the members of the Security Council have atomic and thermonuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. What right have they to forbid North Korea from developing such weapons? 

Now, consider the situation from the point of view of North Korea. President Bush labeled North Korea, Iran and Iraq as “the axis of evil” and then proceeded to invade one of them (Iraq) and has made no secret of contingency plans to invade Iran. If you were in the government of the third member of the “axis of evil” what would you do? The North Koreans know perfectly well that if they possessed atomic weapons and the means to deliver them the United States or any other power would at least think twice before attacking. Seems to me that going ahead with developing a nuclear capability is not the work of some nut cases, as our government likes to portray the North Korean government, but is rather a rational decision to avoid being attacked. Instead of using sanctions and threats, diplomacy and aid would be a more effective means of persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear program. 

Krehe Ritter