Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday September 03, 2009 - 11:16:00 AM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

The students are back and are outside screaming and partying all hours of the night. Late last night—a Monday—I called the police to ask them to come quiet down the street—I didn’t even have an address there were so many parties with people roving outside. 

The dispatcher was unbelievably rude. I asked her if she was one of the dispatchers that earn over $100,000 per year. Amazingly, she actually told me she was. So—remember that I was experiencing noise as if I were at a college theme park of “let’s get drunk, smash bottles in the street and do anything we’re not allowed to do at home”—I asked her if a bit of civility could be purchased at that price. 

By the way, as far as I know the police never showed up. While one expects students to party when returning, this type of behavior crosses the line. What does it say about a city and the university that condone this type of behavior? What message are we imparting to our young people? I don’t see a big difference between corporations that are ruled by greed and young people who demonstrate unrestrained narcissistic, rude behavior. In neither case are there civilized restraints which acknowledge and protect the rights of others. 

Michelle Pellegrin 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

With the apparent success of the referendum petition, let’s take advantage of the Downtown Plan pause and consider a “vertical farm” for downtown Berkeley, as recently proposed in a New York Times op-ed piece by Columbia University public health professor, Dicksen Despommier. “Imagine a farm right in the middle of a major city,” Despommier writes. “Food production would take advantage of hydroponic and aeroponic technologies. Both methods are soil-free. Hydroponics allows us to grow plants in a water-and-nutrient solution, while aeroponics grows them in a nutrient-laden mist. These methods use far less water than conventional cultivation techniques, in some cases as much as 90 percent less.” He’s looking for the first city to give it a try. Why not Berkeley? 

Tom Miller 

President, Green Cities Fund 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I love how such a hoopla is being made over Japanese remains when the university is currently holding 43,000 Native remains under the women’s swimming pool. 

Think about it. 

John Stamford 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It has come to my attention that the City of Berkeley has allocated $200,000 per year in order to operate the Berkeley Guides program (the brown-shirted “ambassadors”). For the life of me I cannot figure out how paying people to do absolutely nothing is going to help the city which screams about its budget every time someone has a constuctive idea to improve the social service programs that the City of Berkeley offers. The hardest work that I have seen any one of those guides doing is slipping a fresh DVD into a movie player while they’re sitting in the Caffe Mediterraneum. 

Let us get this straight—the City of Berkeley is paying these people $200,000 per year to do abolutely nothing, but it cannot afford to take on the maintenance contract for People’s Park? According to university employees, $200,000 is the operating budget for People’s Park for a year, but no, the City of Berkeley just doesn’t have that money around. I guess it’s a better idea to have the university in there refusing to work constructively with this community in order to provide such things as 1.) functional recycling kiosks. 2.) publicly accessible green waste bins and a functional composting program for the community gardens. 3.) A free clothing box that the university doesn’t keep destroying. 4.) Desperately needed maintenance on the entrance pathways. 5.) A viable policy for facilitating user-development, and for removing the UC Regents as the private owners of that very public and precious community resource. 6.) Park employees who do more than sit around in the office all day long calling the cops and not much else. 7.) Bathrooms that don’t make you nauseous. 

What is even worse, the Berkeley Guides have been brazenly sauntering around for more than six months now, and nobody else has gotten disgusted enough to complain. 

Arthur Fonseca  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Why does UC Berkeley have such a vested interest in supporting John Yoo and his torture memos? Starvation, dehydration, sleep deprivation techniques, threatening detainees with death at gun point, a detainee collapsing and being denied even basic medical care; is this a description of Guantanamo Bay or the former Oak Grove tree-sit? The military and police worlds are too intertwined. It was never assumed that torture would be contained in distant military bases. The Right was counting on a trickle down effect. Soldiers who torture become, or influence, police officers who torture. The police officers who expressed the most violence at the tree-sit are the same officers who stand at John Yoo’s every beck and call. An entire squadron of officers, paid by the state, just standing at his house or in front of his classroom like a bunch of stormtroopers.   

John Yoo is not some legal genius. There is nothing he brings to the Bay Area but shame. UC values John Yoo because if his memos can be validated through Eric Holder’s unwillingness to prosecute, then torture programs used against ecological and political protesters can be expanded.   

Given that the horrors of Guantanamo were partially orchestrated by a UC professor, and are upheld by UC police, the prison should be commonly refered to UC Berkeley Extension at Guantanamo Bay. People died at Gitmo. Many more were brutalized mentally and physically. John Yoo must be prosecuted. 

Nathan Pitts 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It seems so simple but I guess it isn’t. You’re walking down the street, a man of color approaches. You get nervous. Ask yourself if you are being rational. 

Is it a dark street? Or is it Saturday afternoon in front of Chez Pannisse? Is the man carrying a weapon or a bag of groceries? Is the person following you or simply behind you on the time space continuum? Are they swimming or hovering near the changing area? Are you at the opera? Are you in Prague? Most of these are examples are my having evinced panic mode which is hurtful as well as insulting. Random crime can strike at any time. Mr. Madoff stole more money than every purse-snatching in the history of the world. There has never been organized and sustained black-on-white crime in America. Too bad you can’t say that the other way around. Some sensitivity on this would be a truly magnanimous gesture. 

Zac Morrison 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In his excellent piece on James Keller (An ‘Articulate Enthusiast’ Aug. 27) Ken Bullock refers to the “late stage director, Albert Takazakis.” As an actor I had the privilege of working with Albert in several productions, and in the interest of remembering him with historical accuracy, I would point out that he spelled his name Takazauckas. 

Jerry Landis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Many thanks to Ken Bullock for his fine in-depth profile of James Keller in this week’s Daily Planet. As a regular attendee at Keller’s Tuesday afternoon movie series at the North Berkeley Senior Center, I heartily agree that he is, indeed, an “articulate enthusiast.” This man knows everything there is to know about the world of theater and films. 

He presents films that are often little known, quite often foreign, but always thought-provoking—ones you think about long after you’ve left. His commentary before and after the movie reflects his broad experience and involvement in theater (i.e., as a teacher at the International Film School in London). I recall his discussion of Marlene Dietrich and her service to this country during World War II, a fact not well known. 

Keller’s classes, a Berkeley Adult School offering, will resume on Tuesday, Sept. 8, at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Avenue. The morning class, “World Drama” meets at 10:30. I’ll be attending his Classic Film series at 1:30. I would urge lovers of theater and movies to avail themselves of these outstanding classes. 

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Upon returning from vacation, I was surprised and troubled to read your story (Aug. 6) stating that the East Bay Council of Rabbis condemned Jim Sinkinson. I know for a fact that the East Bay Council of Rabbis did no such thing, and indeed, did not even meet during the period in question.  

At its last meeting, in June, the East Bay Council of Rabbis unanimously agreed to send a letter to the Daily Planet supporting free speech for both the paper and its critics and upholding the importance of responsible journalism. That letter, expressing the unanimous view of the diverse members of the East Bay Council of Rabbis, was printed in the Daily Planet on June 25 and speaks for itself. 

Rabbi Jane Rachel Litman 

Past President, East Bay Council of Rabbis 


EDITOR’S NOTE: The Aug. 6 article said nothing about a meeting of the East Bay Council of Rabbis. The council was contacted for comment about Jim Sinkinson’s use of the letter that appeared in the Daily Planet. Rabbi Deborah Kohn, the council’s vice president, and Rabbi Andrea Berlin, the council’s past president and author of the letter, returned the call and characterized Sinkinson’s use of the letter as “deeply disturbing” and that he “picks and chooses” in quoting from the letter with the result that it “departs from the original intention of our letter.”  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

So long as we are naming names and Reza Valiyee is the culprit doing business without permits, can Brenneman also fill us in with more names of employees that allow this to happen?  

The Berkeley Housing Authority was bailed out by the City Council and was rewarded for federal fraud. No one went to jail and some of the $25 million was unaccounted for, which came from HUD. Perhaps we should name the names of city employees who do favors for certain landlords. Reza never brought women over from Iran for cheap labor unlike some landlords in Berkeley. 

I was not pleased with the cruel mocking of Mr. Valiyee. I felt it was unnecessary. The only thing I know about Reza is that he consoled me when I lived on Parker Sreet and he saw the horrific conditions and violence. There were death threats against the manager by some Section 8 tenants. It seemed that the city was blaming the landlady who was fed up with those tenants. 

Just because a person owns a lot of property does not make them an enemy. He cared about my plight and I appreciated his kindness. He’s probably a genius and who knows; maybe he has discovered the perpetual motion machine? Since some Berkeley employees have committed so much fraud, perhaps Reza did not respect the local politics regarding the use of permits. Why don’t we also name the names that allowed Reza to bypass the permit process? 

Diane Arsanis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In the fall of 1979 I lived in a Valiyee residence, on Prospect Avenue at Dwight Way. Reza was up to his shenanigans even back then. Within weeks of the building filling with students, all the toilets but one in the three-story building had backed up and hot water ceased to work. He felt exempt not just from city ordinances, but from any sense of decency toward his tenants. 

He once even rented the same room to two people, who felt powerless to redress their grievance; they ended up sharing the room. 

So if Berkeley’s “heavy hand” was finally brought down on Valiyee, it was certainly a long time in coming. 

And, yes, his perpetual motion machine was just around the corner even then. Apparently some things never change. 

Ted Courant 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It has been insidious. Over the years, somehow, the moneyed and powerful have altered our language until even the media and people that should know better are using the wrong term for the American people. 

Please listen: I am not and no longer wish to be referred to as a “consumer.” I am a “citizen” and I wish to be called that and treated as such. As a consumer I may consume whatever bogus false reform the powers that be force upon me to consume as a health care plan. But as a citizen, I deserve a public option that gives me the choice to be respected as a citizen with all the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I should have a choice whether I consume a product meant to make a profit for a corporate entity off of a gamble on my life, or participate as a citizen of my country so that all are covered by health care (life and liberty). We are the citizens, not the corporate entities. So far, only they are getting the universal guarantee of “health care” (financial) because they are “too big to fail.” 

Every citizen in this nation is too important to fail, because we are citizens, not because of how much or little we consume. The public option in universal health care is not optional. It is patriotic.  

Tobie Helene Shapiro 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Ted Kennedy was wrong on every issue from gun confiscation to socialized medicine to support of Israel to apologetics for Communist tyrannies. JFK was smart, RFK was very smart and Ted was just plain dumb as he revealed in the 1980 interview with Roger Mudd when he couldn’t even give a reason as to why he should be president. Ted behaved in the most irresponsible way when he let Mary Jo drown and spent hours trying to cover his butt before he notified the police. Ted was wrong in pushing Civil Wrongs legislation that totally violated individual and property rights. Ted was always pushing for more and more and more government.  

Ted had a lock on Massachusetts politics thanks to a corrupt, hack, statist-driven media. “Prince,” my behind! As Ayn Rand wrote of his brother JFK in 1960, Ted was a highbrow lowlife. Maybe the editor should broaden her perusal of websites because a great many people thought, Good riddance! 

Michael P. Hardesty 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

How tragic Teddy K., like his brothers, turned out to be. What his voice would have meant in this year’s health care reform morass. It even feels like another parting bunker buster by the previous ad nausea administration. 

I’m sorry the Planet didn’t have any coverage of Cynthia McKinney during her explosive week’s stay in the Bay Area. 

Arnie Passman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I would like to correct an item mentioned on the front page of your Aug. 27 edition. Richard Brenneman mistakenly wrote that the petitions challenging the Berkeley Downtown Plan were turned in “late Friday afternoon.” They were in fact turned in on Thursday, Aug. 20. I should know because I was there. For documentation of the event, please go to and search for a video titled, “Berkeley Petition Drive.” You will see interviews with the participants as well as the actual delivery of the petitions. Could you please print a correction and check your facts more thoroughly in future editions?  

Paul Griffin 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A letter writer in last week’s edition statflu vaccine may be more dangerous than the swine flu.” This is a statement with no factual foundation whatsoever. In fact, the most recent news we have indicates that the tests of the new vaccine have turned up no side effects so far. 

This statement has ramifications beyond the obvious ethical issues of spreading mis-information. The subtext of this message is that people should not get vaccinated. It is important to remember that a vaccination doesn’t just protect the person getting the vaccination. It protects all the immune compromised people in our community as well. 

When one refuses to take available measures to prevent getting sick, they become possible carriers of diseases that can be deadly to any immune compromised person they come in contact with. That includes people that suffer from AIDS, infants, diabetics, the elderly, people that are on chemotherapy and many others. Of course, available measures are not just vaccines, but also include handwashing, staying home when ill and other strategies. 

It is true that some people should not take the flu vaccine. For example, people who are allergic to eggs and infants under six months are in that group. To find out if you are one of these people, the authoritative source of that kind of information is the Center For Disease Control. If you are not in one of the excluded groups listed by the CDC, it is very important that you get vaccinated to protect those who are prevented from using that protection. 

The writer of the letter further speculates that the drug companies are using genetic engineering to purposely infect people so they can profit from the vaccines. That kind of thinking can take its place in the cultural mythos along with Sarah Palin’s “Death Panel” conspiracy and those who compare Obama’s healthcare agenda to the Nazi extermination schemes for the “unfit.” There is no point in arguing against those fantastic assertions, but one should take them into account when assessing the quality of the writer’s information. 

Thomas Stephen Laxar 

El Cerrito 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Just a note of appreciation for the review by Riya Bhattacharjee of the meeting celebrating the opening of the show of Tony Guerrerros’s paintings. There was a pamphlet of prints and poems by him, all recognizably humanistic, sensitive, the more remarkable considering his isolation in US Prison Colorado. Sadly but understandably, one of his paintings, one praised by author Alice Walker at the celebration—the painting of a prison door, apparently the hole—was not reproduced in the pamphlet. Being geomorphologically inclined, I enjoyed his paintings of Colorado Mountains, from his “altitude,” and the Cuban shore (Caribbean? Gulf?) altitude at sea level. One omission in the pamphlet, I think, was not identifying prints of specific mothers of the Cuban Five.  From the exhibit, they are: top across left to right: Nereida Salazar (mother of Ramon Labanino Salazar); Magaly Llort (mother of Fernando Gonzales Llort); Irma Sehweret (mother of Rene Gonzales Sehwerert). From top left to bottom, they are: Salazar; Carmen Nordelo (mother of Gerardo Hernandez Nordelo); and Mirta Rodriguez (mother of Tony Guerrero Rodriguez).  

It boggles the mind that these Five will start their 12th year in U.S. prisons on this September 12th—in U.S. prisons for acting against terrorism. A note: apparently three of the Cuban 5 (Gonzales, Llort, Guerrero) have been returned to Miami for re-sentencing in early October. Go figure.    

Fred Hayden  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Smoking or holding a burning cigarette is inappropriate behavior and should be banned.  

The key question is, if I am walking in the public domain, who decides what chemicals touch my lungs and sinuses? Should I or the person smoking or holding a burning cigarette make the decision?  

I think I and not the smoker should make the decision. 

I have never consented to allow the chemicals from burning cigarettes to touch my lungs and sinuses. 

I support banning smoking on sidewalks, malls, parks and other places. I and others have never consented to have our lungs and sinuses raped and molested by cigarettes and marijuana smokers. 

Victims of rape and molestation of the lungs and sinuses should be able to sue the offender for $1 million indexed to inflation/incident. 

Smokers should use nicotine patches, nicotine chewing gums or a device like a smokeless cannabis delivery device: efficient and less toxic. I support people’s rights to sovereignty over their bodies and my own right to sovereignty over my body. 

A lot of the time, smokers hold a burning cigarette and don’t even smoke the cigarette or breathe the cigarettes or marijuana smoke. The chemicals from the burning cigarette molest and improperly touch the lungs and sinuses of people behind them and they don’t care. 

Ghaouar Camij Toschian 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m almost to the point of viewing the Democratic Party as nothing more important than the team that plays the Harlem Globetrotters, just there to lose in an exciting game. If you refuse to prosecute the large volume of crimes that have been committed by the Bush administration during the last eight years, you will be held complicit. 

Susan Templeton