Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday July 30, 2009 - 11:13:00 AM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Has no one noticed the $18-plus million that the UC Board of Regents allocated to the football program at the same session as the one where the employee furlough plan was adopted? 

Is this money from existing, dedicated funds? Or is it part of the annual general budget? Why not have the entertainment effort “feel the pain” as the furloughed employees are being required to do? In effect the furloughed employee could be paying for fun and games of alumni. A cut back in the extramural program would bring the message to alumni, “Yes there is a problem. Help.” 

Don Reynolds 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In response to M. Wheeler’s July 23 letter: Open, tactful debate keeps the blood flowing in a free press. I stepped out of bounds by offending a devoted teacher with a limerick. Our excellent teachers deserve the highest respect, and I apologize for the negative effect of my words. 

Ove Ofteness 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Why are homeless folk in this great land of ours walked on, around, over, and just generally stigmatized? Could it be that they’re...un-American? How dare they be here with us, penniless, just lying there, instead of joining in on scoring the American dream like those off-the-boat immigrants we heard about in school, the ones who built industries, cities, and cheese factories, and then became philanthropists? 

Mercy is a national virtue. Don’t we hop up to help every time our lessers in foreign lands get buried in earthquakes, drowned in tidal waves, bugged by pandemics? Well? If we won’t help our own, or at least let ‘em sleep in peace, let’s do the right thing: turn them into pet food. 

Gotta go; I just heard about a vacant bush under an overpass. It’s “clean” and sort of dry, and I’ll get to hear the roar of success on the roadway above, as big trucks and cars and whatnot zoom past on their way to something better, somewhere. 

Phil Allen 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Do we need it? Yes, more than 40 million Americans are without health insurance. Healthcare costs are bankrupting the insured. More Americans daily lose their coverage. If we do nothing it will only get worse, not better. This is embarrassing for a developed nation. Other developed societies have appropriate healthcare for all citizens without the throat-clutching fear of being one medical emergency away from the loss of a home and/or personal bankruptcy. I am a retired elementary school principal whose employer paid for health insurance for 37 years. I have prostate cancer, and if my employer had not provided retirement health care benefits until I’m 65, I would not have been able to get health insurance. This is not right. 

Those who profit from the existing system have fought against it for more than 20 years and today are again bankrolling the fight against any change to the status quo at the rate of $1 million per day. 

Provide affordable healthcare to all Americans and spread the cost. Provide and expand choice to all Americans, including a public insurance program. Reduce costs via efficiency, reform and re-structuring incentives. Regulate insurance providers to require coverage of all Americans not just those without pre-existing conditions. 

Delay is an obstructionist tactic. Pass reform in 2009. History is watching. The American people cannot wait any longer. 

Bob Kelly-Thomas 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Low-income senior and disabled housing should be within easy walking distance of a grocery store (preferably with indoor ATM), a drugstore (i.e. pharmacy), bus stops, a library, a bank (if grocery store does not have indoor ATM), and a senior center. Put these in your own priority order. 

Helen Rippier Wheeler 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing in response to the article “Is Berkeley Mean To Its Homeless?” This article aired the grievances of a few homeless people in Berkeley (complaining about the quality of free meals, no one gives them money, etc.), and offered little to nothing in regards to what people who are homeless see as a solution; how do they propose to solve the problem of homelessness here?  

There was only one person mentioned who made any suggestion of the homeless population giving back to our society and our city by picking up trash, or helping those in need of help, in order to receive goods or services for their labors. 

I live in Berkeley, and must honestly admit that I do not like being asked for money everywhere I go. I don’t even like to be solicited to buy a Street Spirit newspaper, since I don’t see people selling these newspapers as a sustainable solution to our homelessness problem. It seemed the people in the article who were homeless by choice were implying it was the responsibility of others to support them and their chosen lifestyle. Why are others “mean” if they don’t give them money? 

We need solutions that address the systemic problems, such as alcoholism, drug abuse, and mental health issues. An individual handing someone some change or feeding them a free meal does nothing to address the underlying problems that are bigger and not as easily addressed. An article in the Daily Planet dealing with potential solutions to the homelessness problem and suggesting ways for the community to work together towards a solution would be appreciated in the future.  

Personally, I feel Berkeley is meaner to its Republicans than it is to the homeless….not that I’m a Republican, of course! 

Laura Figueroa 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Justice for Cheney! What does Dick Cheney need to do before the Department of Justice will prosecute him? Aren’t any of these illegal activities enough to warrant at least an investigation? Illegal torture, illegal murder, war profiteering, lying to Congress, lying to the nation, setting secret energy policy, deceiving the United Nations, exposing the identity of a covert CIA agent, illegal wiretapping, elimination of habeas corpus, and allowing the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001 to kill thousands of U.S. citizens. 

Cynthia Papermaster 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Hasan Fouda has it all wrong in his July 23 letter. In writing of “Israel’s apartheid laws,” he seems unable to grasp that Jews and Arabs should have an equal right to live in the area of the former Palestine Mandate, between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. However, whereas Arabs live in Israel, go to universities there, play in the national soccer league, appear together with a Jew at the Eurovision competition and vote for Arab parties and be elected to Israel’s parliament, Jews are told they can’t live in what is supposed to be this new “Palestine” state. And during the earlier 1948-1967 period, Arab terror of the fedayeen and the PLO, founded in 1964, sought to prevent Jews from living in the state of Israel before it began administering additional territories gained in defending itself from Arab aggression in the year 1967. 

Yisrael Medad 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

California’s state Legislature did the right thing by apologizing for your state’s past treatment of Chinese immigrants. Hopefully the federal government will apologize for the Chinese Exclusion Act.  

Chuck Mann 

Greensboro, NC 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Matt Cantor’s statement (July 23) that LEDs use about one tenth the energy of incandescent lamps may be true for the people he is advising in Orinda, but it is not likely to be true for most of the people here in Berkeley. No, I am not claiming that light bulbs behave differently in Berkeley. Its the fixtures that tend to be different.  

Older homes in Berkeley have a lot of surface-mounted fixtures which spray light out in all directions. Many upscale modern homes have fixtures that are recessed into the ceiling, which catch and absorb light that goes up or to the sides from the lamp. Two thirds of the light from a regular incandescent or CFL can easily be lost in this type of fixture, with the result that a focused LED really can be 10 times more efficient than a regular incandescent.  

However, you can also double the overall efficiency in a recessed fixture by using a reflector incandescent (R or PAR lamps), and you can get about the same factor of 10 from a reflector CFL (but you have to check that it is rated to take the heat in the recessed fixture or it will fail early). If you have older open surface-mounted fixtures, like many of us in Berkeley, CFLs are still somewhat more efficient (and a lot cheaper) than LEDs, although that may not be true in another year or so. 

Robert Clear 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution. The United States stands alone in this hemisphere stubbornly refusing to open diplomatic relations with Cuba. Later this week, I will join 250 Americans to travel to Cuba to openly defy the 50-year old travel ban imposed by the United States. We travel to Cuba with high hopes that President Obama will finally lift the embargo and travel ban against Cuba. 

Cuba continues to be vilified by the U.S. government and the media. While our economic crisis is forcing people to go without healthcare, people in Cuba have access to free and excellent medical care. While college expenses are rising dramatically for us, college education is free for the Cuban people. 

But the Cuban people face great hardships due to shortages caused by the U.S. economic embargo. I know that U.S. policies against Cuba will not change overnight and President Obama faces an uphill battle to change anything. I hope our efforts to defy the travel ban will spur my government to lift the embargo, end the travel ban and open up long overdue relations with Cuba, our island neighbor. 

Annie Johnston 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I couldn’t agree more with Allen Michaan’s recent commentary on the impact on small businesses of Oakland’s outrageous new hike in parking rates to $2 an hour—and, I must add, the impact on residents and consumers who keep small businesses alive.  

Raising parking rates and extending them into the evening with “state-of-the-art” meters that keep the money we don’t use? What a striking contradiction in these times when the president and the politicians pledge support for small businesses and urge citizens to spend more.  

Meanwhile Berkeley’s downtown has been losing small businesses and customers for years, as residents are forced go to neighboring towns and big-box stores for consumer needs. How does this solve the city’s need for revenue? How does raising parking rates encourage local shopping and prevent small businesses from closing? Buses and BART may work for commuters and people who cannot drive, but certainly not for local and senior residents who need to buy goods and services. 

As a—so far—independent senior in Berkeley, I drive locally for food and household goods and for medical, dental, and personal needs. As a longtime North Berkeley resident, I avoid downtown like the plague, as do my friends. I avoid the nearby Gourmet Ghetto after 9 a.m. when the meters take over—except for Andronico’s and Longs Drugs, which provide parking. I avoid College Avenue, Telegraph Avenue, and the entire UC Berkeley perimeter. Fourth Street? Forget it. It’s largely for the gentry who can afford high-priced restaurants and shops. Even Cody’s didn’t make it there. 

Monterey and Hopkins is a notable exception. It’s a popular neighborhood shopping area where people come from all over to patronize its small family businesses (many there for decades), the Monterey produce market, and the Berkeley Horticultural Garden—a lovely, green placeholder amid homes and stores. And guess what? There are no parking meters in the area. People of all generations walk and shop and eat in a friendly small-town environment. 

Solano Avenue, one parking spot past the Berkeley border, draws many Berkeley customers to its shops and restaurants because of its welcoming 90-minute diagonal parking with no meters to feed.  

Will Berkeley go the way of Oakland and raise parking rates to $2 an hour? Will working people and poor families continue to drive to other cities or in big-box stores for necessities? Will gentrification take over all of Berkeley and make it unlivable for working and retired residents and taxpayers?  

Marianne Robinson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The author of this piece, while critical of the Obama administration, makes the same mistake as the Obama administration: At no point does he explain how the ouster of Zelaya was illegal, or could in any way be referred to as a “coup.” 

The two deaths are tragedies for which there may never be acceptable explanations. That is the nature of violence, be it by a mob or a trooper’s nervous trigger finger. But they do not transform Honduras’ constitutional crisis into a “putsch.”  

  Like many Americans, I am completely flummoxed by my country’s reaction to these events. If the history that this author refers to should have taught us anything, it is to uphold the rule of law. Our failure to support the new government in Honduras merely keeps us on the same tragic road we have too often taken before. 

Don Teeter 

Orangevale, CA 

(Berkeley native) 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Riddle—where does a 900-pound gorilla sit? Anywhere it wants to. What happens if we substitute our Sturdy Golden Bear for that unfairly maligned gorilla? The bear is poised to sit in upper Strawberry Canyon, an ecological treasure, never supposed to have anything built there in the first place. But as you read these words, coming our way is a triple-whammy—a UC Atom-bomb Industrial Park: Helios (BP) biofuel project, weighing in at a half-billion; Lawrence National Radiation Lab expansion, now touting an “experimental” laser, “Bella,” so named by George Orwell—it could have come from Star Wars; plus a super conductor computer facility, so all the Dr. Strangeloves can conveniently hang out in a formerly pristine canyon. 

Wait a minute. My friend Dr. Pangloss (Voltaire’s Pollyanna character) demurs. He is for Science—and to keep our country “strong.” You mean strong like that gorilla, sits on whomever it wants? I hate to tell you, Dr. Pangloss, that’s exactly what Dr. Strangelove said—played by our own beloved Edward Teller. 

Dr. Pangloss is indignant: “Are you seriously comparing Alma Mater, with its roster of Nobel Laureates—(whom I won’t tarnish by mentioning their Cold Warrior/A-bomb CV’s)—to a gorilla?  

No, ha, ha gorillas are peaceful creatures. They’ve never designed a firecracker, let alone an A-bomb. Maybe our bear is more like King Kong; instead of taking apart Manhattan, he (she?) is raging instead through upper Strawberry Canyon. 

Now I don’t believe in arguing with King Kong or Dr. Strangelovers. Look what happened to Robert Oppenheimer—he lost out to Dr. Strangelove, who seemed to know which side his paranoia was buttered on.  

I’d just as soon be rooting for the football team. 

Go King Kong! 

Neal Blumenfeld 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It appears that the Obama-Henry Gates-Sgt. Crowley controversy has been resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, much to the relief of those of us who were fed up with the media’s obsession with this matter. Oh, yes, it’s all smiles and politeness now—even getting together for a beer. 

Nonetheless, I’m still haunted by the mug shots and disturbing picture of Henry Gates, cowering like a trapped animal in the doorway of his own house. That these images should be aired night after night, damaging the reputation of this brilliant Harvard University professor, renowned scholar and author is surely an indictment of television and the media for their lack of sensitivity and common decency. We may in time forget this unfortunate incident, but Professor Gates may well be forever identified with those mug shots! 

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Now that East Bay Regional Parks District has turned the Berkeley Meadow into its private preserve, it has become clear to me that this once beautiful open land will never again be accessible to the public.  

This is a pork barrel project and EBRPD intends to milk it all the way. Beyond the ominous signs and fences, I really don’t see anything going on in there. The time is now to organize a resistance to this takeover. 

We cannot afford to lose this open space. There is so little of it left.  

If they are successful in this takeover, what is next? Possibly the Virginia Street side next to the meadow and north of that all the way to Albany. This is not progress. This is greed and lust for power and if this is not confronted now, there will be no place for the community to enjoy. All that will be available is some tiny pristine place where you can’t do this and can’t do that. No dogs allowed, no this and no that. 

Randall Broder 

El Sobrante 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A headline on the top of the page of the July 23-29 issue of the Berkeley Daily Planet reads, “Mort Sahl and Dick Gregory at San Francisco’s Rrazz Room, Page 16.” The article itself, however, is only about Mort Sahl who was interviewed by the reporter. 

This is a disappointment. Dick Gregory has led a very unusual and significant life. A comedian and civil rights activist, Dick Gregory fasted on liquids for two years to protest the Vietnam War. He is an ethical vegetarian who protests the ill treatment of animals. It would have been interesting to read about him. 

Joan Clair 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding Mr. Allen-Taylor’s July 2 column: Being progressive is all very well and good, but what would it really hurt to honor and celebrate those young people who do not use profanity, who do not smoke or drink, or use drugs, who do not use weapons, who mind their manners, and who carry themselves with dignity? What would that really hurt? 

John Madonna 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

It’s real funny that Oakland Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente is the vice president of the Glaziers, Molders, and Plasterers Union Local 164B, who are working with Pacific Steel in Berkeley. There has to be a conflict of interest because he is working with a company in Berkeley as well as being a councilmember in Oakland. 

De La Fuente had the audacity to blame environmentalists and the residents in Berkeley for Pacific Steel’s layoffs. He claimed they were pressuring Pacific Steel to spend millions of dollars for new technology for cleaner air. It is easy for him to make the allegation when he does not live near the steel mill, while residents there were having health problems due to the toxic emissions and odors that the Pacific Steel plant emits. 

The people in Berkeley have a right to clean air, and it seems to me that De La Fuente cares more about profits than people’s health. 

Billy Trice, Jr. 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Mitch Celaya’s tenure as police chief starts with a criminal investigation which will end his tenure as police chief.  

I am pleased to announced that the law offices of Robert J. Beles have joined the Autism Spectrum Liberation Front. Anne Beles is representing the law firm in an investigation into lies perpetrated by Mitch Celaya and the UC Berkeley Police Department. Also under investigation are officers Sean Aranas, Zoe Garlick, and Mike Miceli.  

I am pleased to announce that the deputy district attorney in the case, Scott Jackson, has accepted the inclusion of the Beles Law Firm into the investigation into Mitch Celaya. 

I am pleased to announce that the Alameda Appeals Court has accepted the inclusion of the Beles Law Firm into the criminal investigation of members of the UC Berkeley Police Department and its new chief, Mitch Celaya. 

Autistic people must defend themselves from the police. Autistics are seven times more likely to be abused by police officers than neuro-typicals. This isn’t just about me, this is about stopping police aggression on autistics. 

The Beles Law Firm, as well as the Autism Liberation Front are going to change the rules for autistics, so we can get a fair chance at a rigged game. 

Mitch Celaya messed with the wrong autistic. His disdain for the disabled woke a sleeping dragon. 

Nathan Pitts