Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:52:00 AM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Tonight, Thurs., Sept. 24, the Willard Neighborhood Association is coordinating a meeting at 7 p.m. along with the Le Conte, Claremont-Elmwood, Halcyon and Bateman neighborhoods at the Willard Middle School Cafetorium to discuss the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) for AC Transit’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) proposal. 

The LPA is the City of Berkeley’s preliminary recommendation for the BRT route. The basic idea behind the BRT is to improve bus service by providing dedicated bus lanes on a route stretching from San Leandro to Berkeley. In the Southside neighborhoods, this will entail, among other things, replacing two auto lanes on Telegraph Avenue with bus-only lanes. 

The city wants input as to the bus route, where the stops are, and to hear neighborhood concerns and suggestions for implementation of the BRT. At the end of this process, the city may decide not to implement the BRT at all. This meeting, however, is designed to answer the question—“if this BRT is to be implemented, what do you think of this plan to do it?” We will also discuss alternatives to the BRT, including the No Build option—doing nothing at all.  

This is an important meeting about a controversial topic. Please come and participate. For our part, we’ll try hard to make sure every voice gets heard. If you have questions, please send me an e-mail at  

George Beier 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

  I believe that today’s walkout and strike at UCs throughout the state is an essential wakeup call for our state. Our state has been far too silent about the devestating cuts to services to our communities, while prisons go for the most part untouched and due to Proposition 13 the wealthy and corporations do nothing to pay their share.  

As a newlywed considering beginning a family, I am certain that I would not want to raise my children in a state who’s social services and environmental programs are so weakened. As a citizen and an organizer, I am aware that power concedes nothing without demand and that the cuts to our state’s programs have only been allowed to the extent that they have been done because of our relative silence. 

We cannot accept that our children’s future, programs for elderly, the minimal services unemployed receive, domestic violence programs, our state parks and environmental programs, our state workers, the basic net that maintains our society is an expendable thing, based upon the ebb and flow of capitalism. We cannot allow our state to balence its budget on the backs of the powerless and stand silent, for if it not our backs today, it surely will be our backs tomorrow. We cannot allow our state which, prior to Proposition 13, was the best in the country in education will continue to fall further and futher behind, as we build more prisons.  

The walkout and strike is an event significant in itself and one we must support.  Beyond that it must serve as a wakeup call for all of us who have been far too silent in the devestating actions of our state to stand up and take action.  

  “There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”  Mario Savio’s speech before the Free Speech Movement sit-in.  

Jonah Minkoff-Zern 



Editors, Daily Planet:   

The public option is not a step forward in the campaign for single-payer healthcare for all Americans; it is a diversion from it. Moreover, even with some kind of public option, healthcare in the United States would be no better and as expensive as ever for most people. To understand this, read Paul Street’s “Corporate-Managed Democracy: Healthreform in the age of Obama” in Z Magazine, September, 2009. 

Richard Wiebe 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

“We have first-hand experience with that problem, since the entry for the Berkeley Daily Planet is being stalked by one ‘Dr. Mike’ Harris of Sausalito, a card-carrying member of the lunatic fringe of supporters of right-wing Israeli politics. Every time someone corrects the misinformation he’s inserted into the entry, he changes it back.” 

Really now. 

Had you bothered to check the “history” page in the Wikipedia entry about the BDP, it shows that I edited the Wikipedia entry of the BDP on several occasions on one date only: March 29, 2009. I pointed out that one of the anti-Semitic letters that you published was from an Iranian student living in India, to let readers draw their own conclusions about your editorial policy regarding preferring local opinions; an exception obviously was made in this case, so let the Wikipedia reader decide why that would be. I also removed your statement about a “free-speech” policy since you clearly do not apply that to supporters of Israel—to the extent that I don’t expect this letter to be published. I also cleaned up some poorly formatted references. Nobody else made any edits that day so I haven’t changed anything “back” if another editor subsequently removed my edits. 

Since you are obviously unfamiliar with the fact that everything is visible on Wikipedia, I have copied the screen shot of the “history” page and attached it. Your readers can check it out for themselves at 

index.php?title=Berkeley_Daily_Planet&action=history so anyone can see the changes that I made. 

Maybe next time you can do a modicum of research before making unfounded allegations. I don’t even live in Sausalito. 

Mike Harris,  


San Francisco Voice for Israel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The changes in this latest AC Transit proposal will have more busses laying over in downtown Berkeley. This area is being turned into a transit hub, as has already happened with the splitting off of the 79 from the 15. Does Shattuck and Center have room for more busses to be hanging around between runs? I don’t think so. 

Charles Stevenson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am so upset that I may be inarticulate. But I had read of the cuts AC Transit is planning. It took me some time to realize that two important bus lines appear to be being axed, the 18 and the 51. The 18 is being cut in Oakland, and eliminated in Berkeley. How are people supposed to go down Shattuck?  

The other line being cut is the 51 going down University in Berkeley. Many many people aside from myself take these buses. Both the 51 and the 18 are often full.  

Nevertheless, it is understandable with cutbacks in funding that these lines could be cut back, but instead they are eliminated in Berkeley. I hope that I am wrong about this. 

Ardys DeLu 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

AC Transit has identified Bus Line 98 that serves Oakland Hills (Grass Valley) as one of the lines to be discontinued.  

I am worried that AC Transit plans to cease servicing a whole community that is isolated from the rest of the city by a two-mile stretch of treacherous woods. I am not talking about service reductions. There are quite a few residents of Oakland Hills like me who have no vehicles and depend upon the public transportation system to go to work, school and grocery. I really do think that it is unfair to exclude a whole community from essential services.  

The community has not been well represented at the public hearings because there is no transportation back to the hills after the  hearings are over. The current bus service is strictly for commute hours which in this case ends at 7 p.m. There is no service on weekends and now AC Transit is proposing to cut the line completely. I sense a measure of injustice with this proposal.  

Could you please use your widely read newspaper to draw attention to this potential hardship to a tax-paying community. Thanks. 

Rudy Uba 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you for printing Conn Hallinan’s “Afghanistan…” an extraordinarily lucid and well informed essay that should be required reading by all members of the Obama administration. 

Bernard Rosenthal 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

If anyone still needs a good example of why the United States needs dramatic health care insurance reform, you need look no farther than the Bayer campus here in Berkeley. Last week, Bayer, which is already Berkeley’s largest private employer, announced that they are going to spend $100 million to expand their Berkeley facility. Why? Mainly to make Kogenate, a biotech drug used to treat hemophilia. Daily doses of Kogenate can cost a patient $150,000 a year. Yes, you read that right. $150,000 a year for a single medication for a single patient, and for the rest of his life.  

Hemophilia is not like acne. If a teenager stops taking his acne medication, in most cases, he will just have more zits on his face, but if a hemophiliac stops taking his meds, his life will likely be short and painful. This letter is not meant to be a criticism of Bayer, but of the way our society prices and allocates health care. We need universal health insurance now! 

Mark Tarses 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Wed., Sept. 16, in the East Bay Express there appeared a lengthy list of persons describing themselves as “Jews and Non Jews” in battle with the list of their brethren’s list that appeared a week ago in the Daily Planet who are up in arms about the appearance in the one or the other publications that dare to discuss Israel and the problems of the Middle East. 

Not to mention how crazy all this enmity appears to those of us who do not give as much of a damn, it is really amazing that these parochial combatants would pick as their their battle ground a freebee newspaper that publishes letters from nearly any crank. 

It would seem that our community needs a few seminars and other venues concerning the first amendment. 

Within legal limits it is ok to batter and slander each other in whatever media we can find. But words do have consequences. And they do provoke violence and disharmony. 

Marilyn Talcott 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Sunday I read the East Bay Express. On page 19 I saw a full-page advertisment paid for by the Israeli Action Committee of the East Bay. The ad attacked the Berkeley Daily Planet as anti-Semitic and was endorsed with 461 names. These names are organized into six columns of 66 and one of 65. 

On Saturday I observed Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on a Christian cable TV channel. Netanyahu implored the audience to send money to Israel because American Christians and the Jewish people were allies in the battle against satanic evil. 

On Friday, I read Margaret Foudas’ letter to the editor in the West County Times. She wrote that from Sept. 29, 2000 to the present, 123 Israeli children have been killed by Palestinians. In the same period, Fouda said, 1,487 Palestinian children have been killed by the state of Israel. 

Mark Wetzel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It’s fair enough after all those years for Jane Stillwater to mix up a few lead singers and bands: Pat Enright wasn’t “the main singer for High Country” but rather the Phantoms Of the Opry, a superlative local bluegrass band of the era she writes of. More troubling to me than Jane not being recognized at the fancy new Freight was her story about not being allowed to photograph her granddaughter next to a snack table. Not on a snack table, but next to it. What possible liability insurance problem would that pose? 

Sandy Rothman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Once again Richard Brenneman is being accused of “cheeky” and “insensitive” reporting of crime stories, while his fans are branded with equal disdain. 

Mr. Brenneman’s reporting would, by any reasonable analysis, meet the criteria of conciseness, easy word flow, and—in the absence of contrary evidence—accuracy. 

If only his detractors would wage serious tirades against the real merchants of journalistic baloney: Larry King on CNN; the GOP stooges on Fox News; and the reinstated Jan Wahl on KRON 4. 

Ross Norton 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Free Speech Radio News is in real danger of going away forever. If you listen to news on KPFA, some other Pacifica station, or on any of over a hundred other community stations, you know how valuable it is. On a very small budget, FSRN brings you news from reporters on the ground all over the world.  

The problem is cash flow and belt tightening that can’t get any tighter. 

  Pacifica provides a big chunk of FSRN’s revenue. Last year when Pacifica cut FSRN’s payments by a third (down to $34,000 per month), the reporters and staff took pay cuts, and everyone worked even harder to develop more diverse income sources. Of course, Pacifica has their own very serious financial problems. They are currently about a month and half behind on their payments to FSRN. 

The lastest cost saving measure taken at FSRN was to layoff the fundraiser. This was a necessary drastic step. There is simply no money for anything besides getting the news out. 

I believe that this is just a rough patch. With luck FSRN will be back on a more solid footing soon. Can you help us through this hard time?  

Any amount will help and may be just what we need to continue to bring you the news that you won’t get anywhere else. To donate, or to just read the news of the day, go to 

For those of you with more means than most, you might want to sponsor one day of FSRN news, which costs approximately $2600. And if you are really blessed with lots of money, $30,000 would fill our current gap and get us safely to Oct. 15, when we are expecting another payment from Pacifica. 

Susan da Silva 

FSRN Board Member 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks to Richard Brenneman and the Planet for covering the endless “reconstruction” torment of long-time residents in the old Obata building (”Fate of Historic Building,” Sept. 17). The attention of elected officials, neighborhood activists, and community press is of vital importance in the assymetrical landlord-tenant legal arena. 

For the sake of tens of thousands who began renting their homes in this century, it is important to correct the statement that “the state legislature abolished rent control” in 1999. If memory serves, rent limitations were gradually moved from the rental unit to the unit renter by the 1995 legislation by Rep. Costa (D-Fresno); in other words, an initial rent may be set by the landlord for each new tenant, but then rent, and often more importantly, eviction, protections are fully in effect. 

Jeff Jordan 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

True, I am not an economist. I am curious though. Afghanistan has not been conquered since Alexander the Great. We are now engaged monetarily, militarily in what looks like a no win. 

Narcotic crops support the Taliban. Growth of poppies are definitely not in our interest. Suppose we offer to pay poppy farmers the same as they get for growing poppies, to not grow poppies. They don’t lose income. It costs us much less than the cost of military presence,and the lives of our young soldiers. 

The Afghan farmers then would be free to grow food crops, which would bring added income to them. 

We save lives, money, and improve the Afghan standard of living. 

Harry Gans 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Why you should wear a bike helmet: here you are, slowly riding your bike on a quiet street, in the bike lane. A car suddenly turns right, in front of you, not noticing you, and you are whacked to the ground. Your head hits the curb. You are injured; you may have a concussion. If your spine is damaged, you may be paralyzed. A skull fracture may mean you are dead. Of course it is the distracted driver’s fault, but you are the one injured! That’s why bike riders should wear helmets!  

Colleen Houlihan  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

At least George Rose has clarified what at least one helmet-free rider wants on his tombstone: “I love to feel the wind in my hair.” 

Carol Denney 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Strange things are happening in Radiation Safety at LBNL. One would think that at this level laboratory topnotch people are handling radiation safety. Apparently there is not the case. There is no Certified Health Physicist in LBNL Radiation Protection Group and there is no one on staff with appropriate education and experience.   

Radiation Safety Technologists are filling the role of Health Physicists and Radiation Safety Manager (RSO) has no Health Physics degree and only few years of experience. The RSO position was currently advertised. The requirements specified for this position were M.S. degree and three years of experience. This was in a strong contrast with the other posted positions. For example the requirements stated for Health Physicist who reports to RSM are: Advanced degree in Health Physics or related field and 7–10 years of applicable experience; a BS and 15 years experience; or an equivalent combination of education and experience. Actually the requirements for the top position in Radiation Protection at LBNL did match the requirements for a junior Industrial Hygienist in the same Environment, Health and Safety Division. In times when governments are strapped for money it seems strange that LBNL is willing to pay managerial salary to someone with three years of experience. 

I wonder what comments LBNL management might have on this issue. 

Krzysztof Szornel 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I consider myself blessed to have attended hundreds of concerts in my lifetime and to have heard world famous musicians perform in magnificent concert halls—San Francisco, New York, London, Vienna and Rome. If I appear to be boasting, I mention all of the above for a  reason. I’m contrasting these concerts with the one I attended this past Sunday evening in the modest, unpretentious Berkeley Fellowship Church at Cedar and Bonita Street.  This program was unlike any I've ever attended. 

Called “The Seventh Annual Family and Friends Concert,” the concert was organized by Debbie Carton and her mother, Joy Kawaguchi, both accomplished musicians. Debbie is an Art & Music Librarian at the Berkeley Public Library, where she plans and presents concerts.  Her mother, Joy, has played with  several community orchestras. Debbie’s adorable 10 year-old son, Tom Ronningen, plays the flute; her lovely daughter, Audrey, a junior at Albany High School, is a violinist.  She also has a brother, a flutist, who could not attend. 

Another family performing that evening was the Yamamoto family—Satoko Yamamoto and her sons, Albert, a 12-year-old violinist/pianist and Nathan, viola virtuoso, a senior at Marin Academy in San Rafael. 

Mother and sons added much to the program. 

I think you understand now why the program was described as a “Family and Friends Concert.” Here we have musicians who have played together since childhood for the sheer pleasure of sharing their passion for music. Debbie modestly claims to be an amateur musician, but those hearing her play a Handel Sonata and Bach's Prelude in F minor think differently.  And the Yamamotos’ dual rendition of  Fritz  Kreisler’s “Tambourin Chinois” and a Handel Viola Concerto was nothing short of brilliant. 

To sum up that unique and intimate performance Sunday evening, played to an overflow audience—it was clearly the joy of playing together as families that gave such meaning to the evening’s program. I look forward to “The 8th Annual Family and Friends Concert.” 

I should mention that Debbie’s passion for music is equalled by her love of theatre, as evidenced by her class, “Playreading for Adults,” held every Wednesday in the Fourth Floor Story Room at the Berkeley Public Library from noon to 1 p.m. The play currently being read and discussed is “Madwoman of Chaillot.”  I ask you, could there be a better way to spend one’s lunch hour? 

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I hope you will agree that the right’s gleeful attack on ACORN is really an attack on anyone who dares to stand up for the victims of this economy, especially if they are black. Now is the time to stand with ACORN, and to shame the right! They are also asking for donations to offset the loss of federal funds. It seems to me that it is a mark of ACORN’s importance that they have been subjected to this sort of scrutiny and attack. 

Jane Eisley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Why were five Berkeley Police Officers sitting in traffic court for two hours? 

Or better yet, why were we, the citizens of Berkeley, paying for five Berkeley Police Officers to sit in traffic court for two hours this morning? 

This past spring finally the city wisely ended their policy of paying five or six police officers to stand guard in front of MRS (marine recruiting station) doors protecting military recruiters—who are getting highly paid (by us) to ensnare our youth into the violent web of cannon fodder for our empire—from a handful of CodePINK women protesting their violent presence in our peace-loving city. 

Yet today, five of those same police officers appeared in traffic court with the main honcho of the MRS, the captain, and sat for two hours waiting for what they thought was an infraction case to be heard. 

An infraction. Traffic court. 

In case we have forgotten as some seem to have forgotten, an infraction is a minor violation of the law which carries no jail time or hefty fine but merely a ticket and/or fine if found guilty. 

This is a priority for our police in this day of budget crisis and dwindling funds? 

And why were the police sitting cozily with the military? The very same military that has not stopped training our youth to become killers as we keep our troops in Iraq, escalate troops in Afghanistan, and increase killing in Pakistan? 

Why were the police not sitting on the other side, with the citizens of Berkeley? 

Maybe these upside down, inside out priorities are but a poor reflection of our larger society, but I would expect and hold Berkeley to higher standards and priorities that reflect our long-standing, elevated core values of peace, sanctuary, equity, love, anti-war we mostly all hold so dear here. 

Xan (Zanne) Sam Joi 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I see that Chevron was the No. 2 greenhouse gas emitter in the Bay Area in 2009. Maybe a little background on Chevron is in order.  

Chevron is the fifth largest corporation in the world with $263 billion in 2008 revenues. In 2008, Chevron’s affected communities came together to create “The True Cost of Chevron: An Alternative Annual Report,” released by Global Exchange at Chevron's 2009 annual shareholder meeting. It reveals a corporation with a consistent pattern of using its vast financial and political weight to operate with blatant disrespect for the health, security, economic livelihood, safety, and environment of far too many communities within which it operates.  

The report details gross human rights abuses by the company in Burma and Nigeria; environmental and public health devastation in California, Alaska, Mississippi, New York, New Jersey, Angola, Canada, Chad, Cameroon, Ecuador, Kazakhstan, and the Philippines; participation in a war for oil in Iraq; and great political and consumer price manipulation throughout the U.S. and globally. 

I for one do not patronize Texaco/Chevron. Texaco was an independent company until it merged into Chevron Corp. in 2001. 

Ralph E. Stone 

San Francisco 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Some young men claiming to be students from San Francisco State University Communications Department were raising money in the following way, going door to door. 

This is the scam: If contributors buy subscriptions to magazines, they will be sent to hospitals or to soldiers overseas. You can choose who gets the magazine, maybe children in hospitals. This donation is tax deductible. The students get credits towards going on a trip to London. 

It turns out that none of this is true.  

The students are not in that department. The money is a standard magazine subscription, perhaps, but it is not tax deductible. There is no sense in which it is a donation. 

The magazine company prints a form that says that these are not their agents, and that this is not a charitable donation. It isn’t clear how they make money since the checks are made out to the magazine supplier in Georgia. 

The important thing to do if they come to your door is to read the fine print and call the police in such a way that the police come before they leave. 

Arianna Doxis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Racism has not moved into the past. It is only harder to spot now, as people are more careful in what they say and think; one senses it lurking around every corner. Conservatives and Republicans insist “racism is over.” Tell that to the legion of Rep. Joe Wilson followers and think-alikes. 

Americans are deluding themselves, in denial, if they think racial prejudice is a thing of the past! Look at the volumn and viciousness of the attacks being leveled against our president of color under the guise of health care debate. 

Racism is far from dead. Racist behavior has declined but racist attitudes have not. And racial hatred is no longer just a product of the South; It exists and infects every city and town in America. 

White supremacy and power is deeply ingrained in a portion of the American psyche. Bigots and conservative white folk are not happy about giving up the power they’ve held for so long. 

Ron Lowe 

Nevada City 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am urging the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District to pressure both the state and federal government for more money so they can lower the price of the bus pass for both the seniors and disabled. Twenty dollars is just too much for both of them to handle because they had to make a choice of either a bus pass or buying food. That is not right. The majority of both the seniors and disabled are loyal bus passengers. 

They use the bus as their only transportation. As a result, they are fighting global warming. So in conclusion, I am urging the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District to demand more money from both the state and federal government so they can lower the price of the bus pass for both seniors and disabled. 

Billy Trice, Jr.