Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday October 15, 2009 - 01:02:00 PM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

At the request of Councilmember Gordon Wozniak, Berkeley’s Fair Campaign Practices Commission is looking at raising the $250 contribution cap on all or some candidate races in Berkeley.The commission is holding a public workshop on the subject, today, Thurs., Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. at the North berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst, classrooms A and B. The commission will also be looking into pre-election notice and/or reporting requirements for independent expenditures. 

  The suggestion that the contribution cap be increased raises many interesting questions. How much should an election cost? How will it impact the possibility of public financing of local elections? Will raising the cap just make it possible for a small group of people to buy an election? Shouldn’t candidates be looking for broad support? How green is it so send out six or eight glossy flyers that are just going to end up in the recycling bin? 

  Because of the Internet the nature of cam paigning is undergoing rapid change. It is now possible to reach many people through email at a fraction of the cost of a mailing. Just as important, no contribution is too small when it comes online donations. Many email groups are being established giving a voice to groups that previously sat silent. The speed that information can be disseminated through the community is greatly increasing—all at a cost of a few cents. The nature of campaigns are changing. 

I believe that raising the contribution cap will not serve us well.  

Tim Hansen 



Interactive Math 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The small school concept at Berkeley High School is admirable and provides substantial benefits to students by offering a study program that focuses on individual students’ interest, skills and goals. However, the recent decision to rescind previously available options in math instruction for small school students calls for reconsideration. 

A student assigned to one of the small schools are also assigned to a single option for the study of mathematics, regardless of individual interest, abilities or aspirations. Thus, my daughter, who desires to study Geometry, is placed in the only option available, IMP, (Interactive Math Program). 

My wife and I believe that the IMP program is not an appropriate course of instruction for our daughter needs, as it doesn’t offer a complete instruction in mathematical techniques and falls short of logically interrelating core mathematical concepts. 

We fail to understand why certain doors of opportunity are closed to a significant number of students. As currently implemented, the small schools rigidly deny reasonable and available educational opportunities to a select group of students, based solely on small school affiliation. IMP should not be a mandatory course of study or the only available option for every individual student within the small schools. 

IMP is an alternative to traditional math; it is not, and can never be a replacement for every other math program offered. Unreasonable, absolute denial of readily available educational opportunity and choices for anyone, hurts everyone. 

Charles Bryant 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m ignoring the smoking ban. I like my cigar and a nice walk in the evening. 

John Panzer 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I just got a copy of the new People’s Park book at Moes Books and it is a beautiful piece of work. Terri Compost and the Slingshot coalition did a magnificent job putting the thing together. The concept, the format, the design, just fabulous. Its a hell of a lot of fun. It reads like a yearbook of all the People’s Park patriots. All them People’s Park people. Read it and weep. It is surely a Berkeley classic. Grab one quick before they’re all sold out. 

Ace Backwords 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Just wondering: what’s up with the University of California using water all summer long like they’re situated on the wet side of Kauai to keep their campus looking deep green? We in the rest of our fair city are admonished, rightly so, to restrict and conserve water use during what’s developed as a very long dry spell. 

Also, while I’m on the topic of the University and its failing grade for citizenship, wouldn’t it be nice if campus officials opened UC’s huge, and generally empty, parking structure on Oxford to evening parking for theater and restaurant going? Just an idea, I’ll leave it at that.  

Bonnie Holl 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

This week, I had the distinct pleasure of viewing the premiere Berkeley performance of “When Dreams are Interrupted,” a Purple Moon Dance Project production. In this remarkable and poignant piece, dance, theater, visual art, music and narration converge to transport the audience back in time. The time: 1942. The place: The thriving Japanese-American neighborhood of south Berkeley. This tells the story of how American citizens were unjustly uprooted from their homes, schools and businesses to be placed in concentration camps throughout the United States. What was lost could be fully acknowledged, discussed and analyzed if we are to progress as a free and democratic society.  

This profound and moving work of art should be seen by every American. 

Kevin Moore 



Aquatic Park 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Berkeley’s Aquatic Park and SF’s Marshall Beach are both managed—by different entities—open spaces, but with two distinct philosophies. Marshall Beach is a natural park; it is a beach as a beach should be. Aquatic Park was the shoreline, until the freeway was added in the 1930s. Aquatic Park is a landscaped park, with its stretch of lawn, as opposed to maintaining the fidelity what that area should naturally look like. Both parks have cultural significance to the Queer community, yet the respective managements hold different views on maintaining that status. The issue at hand is sex between men. While these activities are met with nonchalance at Marshall—it is accepted as a Queer adult beach—the city of Berkeley is attempting a crackdown at Aquatic Park.  

Officer Frankel of BPD, director of parks William Rogers and park superintendent Sue Ferrera have a smear campaign dripping with homophobia against the fairly large community of men who use the park. It has been asserted by the police and Berkeley parks management that men are leaving piles of feces everywhere, shooting up and leaving needles everywhere, disturbing the wildlife, constructing sex dens in the bushes, and are just a bunch of prostitutes. This is a very disturbed and untrue portrait of the male sex-culture at Aquatic Park.  

Firstly, homeless people are making shelters for sleeping; they are not tiny brothels. I would imagine one or two of these individuals have drug problems which might explain the occasional needle, but overall there isn’t a large problem with needles or with people sleeping. Secondly I would hope that most straight people understand that male intimacy doesn’t involve piles of feces.  

The men who play at Aquatic Park are a representative sample of guys around town: Cal students, Cal employees, rich guys, poor guys, blue color workers, etc. Aquatic Park needs a little bit of work, but it is not the bio-hazard disaster area the city of Berkeley wants people to think it is. Over in SF, the straight community doesn’t use Marshall Beach, nudity and sex is decriminalized and the natural state of the park is respected by the Queer community to be kept safe and pristine. The Berkeley straight community should abdicate half of Aquatic Park, if not all of it, to the Queer community. Allow nudity and sex. Let men tumble and celebrate nature. Afterall, Berkeley is bear territory.  

Nathan Pitts 



ac transit and Van hool 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Ah, the recession! Could it actually have some positive effects? It seems thus in the AC Boards decision to loosen its Van Hool ties. If there is a God, thank you, God for forcing some enlightenment upon the director! 

I absolutely believe in the needs of the handicapped, but how miserable must one make the ride of the others? To the average rider these buses say “I despise you, sucker! I will rattle your bones with political correctness! Love it or leave it!” One senses more ideology than practical design in these buses. The partial, timid seat modifications alter that impression very little. 

Let us hope the decision sticks, and: Good-bye, Van Hool! 

Juergen Hahn 


AC Transit’s Blunder 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I read with great interest your Oct. 8 article, “AC Transit ‘Buy-American’ Policy Could Affect Van Hool Buses.” Buy American indeed! It’s about time. 

The quotes from AC Transit Board member Chris Peeples about “how well we’ve been treated by Van Hool” were particularly noteworthy. On July 27, a small group of Oakland and Berkeley residents met with Peeples to discuss the Bus Rapid Transit proposal. Mr. Peeples said that only the Van Hool Company had been willing to allow AC Transit to design buses the way they wanted. He then said, “we made some mistakes.” 

I am amazed that AC Transit was able to find any bus company willing to design buses with some of the wacky features of the Van Hools, such as engine placement in the middle of the bus, and the multi-platform seating. 

I once had the pleasure to visit the Gillig bus company in Hayward. I was delighted to see buses in various stages of construction, mostly diesel/electric hybrids. Buses that were near completion revealed ample seating that appeared designed for comfortable transport of humans, rather than the odd perch-like formations that occupy the Van Hools. 

Mr. Peeples’ snipe about the Gillig Company lacking the “depth in engineering” to redesign buses to AC Transit’s specifications was outrageous. Refusing to build buses to ridiculous specifications would seem an act of professionalism rather than evidence of an engineering deficit. 

I certainly hope that AC Transit will begin to buy American buses. Unfortunately they have been purchasing Van Hools with abandon for years—passengers will have to live with those “mistakes” for a very long time. 

Gale Garcia 



Van Hool Challenge 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Coincidentally, every time I read the Planet’s coverage of the AC transit wheelings an dealings with the Van Hool bus manufacturers, an ongoing story, I was sitting on one—a Van Hool, not a story.  

Reading on a Van Hool bus is actually a challenge, as never in my life have I been bounced so hard and so much by the roughest shock system ever engineered for public transportation. So I think it’s time for a little user feedback.  

Van Hool buses are hazardous to your health. Design: not enough hand holds, leaving spaces where you can only rely on your feet as you move down the center aisle while the bus seems to be taking off and landing over potholes. I have over thirty years of ballet training behind me, and I have been thrown around in Van Hools more times than I care to admit. Imagine how elderly and mobility impaired passengers feel; the door opening switch doubles as a “stop requested” bell, and can be activated by the driver, or not, you don’t know, and apparently even the drivers get confused, as they have closed the door on me before I was completely off the bus. The hydraulic shutting system is powerful, let me tell you. And whatever you do, don’t sit on the seat located over the left rear wheel-well. It will burn your buns with whatever evil fire burns under there, the only relief provided by the airborne moments of the bounciest ride in town. When I wait at the bus stop, I literally pray for a bus from the old fleet, and I think I’m not the only one. 

Maurice Charrière 



bHS Education 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was born and raised in Berkeley. I attended Berkeley High and have seen first hand the lack of resources the school has to offer. How can you teach students when they do not have the resources to learn? A school’s job is to educate it’s students, and that means providing them with the tools to learn. 

Why is it that the school built a new football field, when some classes didn’t have enough copies of their textbooks or even enough desks for it’s students? It baffles me that the management decides to focus on making the school look good on the outside, when it is truly a disaster on the outside. 

It is time for City of Berkeley to stop focusing on issues like the UN and the Marine Recruiting and start focusing on educating their citizens. I thought education was what Berkeley was all about. We have a first rate university in our city, yet our local education system is barely functioning. It’s time to step your game up and teach the students what they deserve by giving them an education. 

Jacob Horn 



noise nuisance 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing concerning Use Permit #08-10000047 which has been filed with the City of Berkeley. This permit is for a new development on the roof of 1625 Shattuck in Berkeley to establish a wireless facility for AT&T, including eight antennas and four equipment cabinets.  

I spoke at the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) meeting on Oct. 8 because I am concerned that the noise of the four cabinets will exceed the limit allowed by Berkeley Municipal Code (BMC). The applicant for the permit, when I shared my findings, did not consider my concerns but rather dismissed them.  

The Design Review Committee has recommended that the “ZAB should look carefully at the noise produced from the cabinets since so close to residences behind.” AT&T retained a consultant, and reported, “As a ‘worst-case’ scenario, the consultant calculated that the four cabinets would generate up to 41 dB at the nearest neighboring residences, which are approximately 50 feet away.” In their report they write, “This noise level meets the City’s nighttime noise standard of 45 dB by 4 dB.” This reading was verified by a second firm.  

BMC §13.40.050 (Exterior noise standards) denotes that between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. the noise limit is, indeed, 45 dB, which was referenced in the staff report. There is one thing they neglected to mention. We all know that familiar constant hum of electronic equipment. Well, BMC §13.40.050.B (Correction for character of sound), sets higher standards for noise that “contains a steady, pure tone such as a whine, screech, or hum.” For such noise, the standard limits are “reduced by five dB,” making the limit 40 decibels, not 45 as cited in the staff report. 

This proposed project, as is, would create a development that would be in violation of BMC §13.40.050.B, exceeding the allowed noise limit. Plus, the reading of 41 dB was done at residences 50 feet away. What about residents who live on the second floor of 1625 Shattuck? This use permit has not been approved yet. Please join me when this permit is being considered again by the ZAB, and hold them accountable to Berkeley Municipal Code and the noise standards of this city.  

Justin Cannon 



Hassan Fouda 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Hassan Fouda’s commentary, Oct. 8, is a classic ranting diatribe, full of high pitched, emotional fervor but devoid of accurate, complete facts. I am certain that others will “Fisk” all of his factual inaccuracies. Through a mix of half truths exaggerations and personal attacks, Mr. Fouda intentionally seeks to create a distorted, misleading impression of the real situation in Gaza. This simply isn’t journalism, it is political advocacy. 

Its not surprising when a committed advocate of a political position engages in distortion and puffery in order to advance their ideology. Its what we’ve come to expect from ideologues. There is however no excuse for a news outlet of any type to provide a forum for this type of one sided, inaccurate “hit piece.” 

Rfael Moshe 



Faith Meltzer 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

In her Oct.1 letter, rabid Israel supporter and anti-Daily Planet campaigner Faith Meltzer criticizes Mark Wetzel’s statistics from the previous week as “deliberately meant to mislead.” 

Those statistics referred to the number of children killed by both Israelis and by Palestinians, in the period starting from the second intifada, on Sept.29, 2000, to the present. The disparity is shocking: 1,487 Palestinian and 123 Israeli children, a ratio of 12 to 1. 

She then goes on to justify the deaths of these Palestinian children, but as a Jewish American, I have to ask: really? The death of any child is a tragedy. When an Israeli soldier puts a bullet in the head or neck of a child, we should be shocked and appalled,not standing behind that soldier in justification. We should be outraged. And we should be committed to putting an end to these horrific acts once and for all. 

Robert Kanter 




HeaLth Insurance 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m an 18 year old student at UC Berkeley and I have no health insurance. I have not had health insurance in years and I know that if I were to ever get cancer I would go back to where I was born, Turkey, to receive medical care. Why? Why would I go back to the country I came from for such a basic care?  

My family and I came to the United States because we believe that it is the best country in the world, it is a nation where anybody can succeed if they work hard. My father became a dentist here after we lived on unemployment for 2 years and now I am paying for my own education with no financial aid.  

But when I grow old and get sick I will be left for the dead by my nation. Insurance doesn’t pay past a certain amount for any chronic illness but we pay insurance companies our whole lives. We are expected to go to war, I have friends in Iraq and Afghanistan but our nation will not help us in our dire need for health care. By the time I and your children grow up Medicare will be bankrupt and we will be left in a land which cannot provide us with the most basic need of health care while any other nation will provide their citizens. 

I only ask all of you, why should Americans suffer? 

Zahide Atli 



Health CAre 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Ralph Stone’s letter describing how America’s Fortune 500 corporations secretly take out “dead peasant” insurance on their employees leads one to a horrible and plausible conclusion. These corporations are fighting health reform because they don’t want Americans to have better health care. They profit directly from their employee’s early demise. Worse than “cynical,” worse than “criminal,” this privatization of health care has putrefied civil society. 

Bruce Joffe 



Obama’s Nobel PRize 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I raise money for an international charity in an outdoor area of heavy foot traffic. The white people nearby are either very rich, or very poor. I have a huge sign complete with pictures of starving children, and before the Obama election, people stood at my sign, applauded the effort, and perhaps donated, before walking on. After Obama was elected, the unemployed white men would shuffle forward, stop and stare at the sign, look a bit dejected, then disgusted, probably thinking, “My skin’s not brown enough, I’m not poor enough. Another club that don’t want me.” 

There’s a perception among poor whites that Obama doesn’t want to govern, but rather, win some sort of international beauty contest at their expense. You know. Another party where white people aren’t invited. In reality, Obama has neither ceded territory, nor signed a treaty that diminishes America’s influence one bit. Obama has not handed over any military bases to the nations that house them, nor has Obama cut deals that make it easier to import foreign goods. In fact, Obama nearly started a trade war in support of American tire makers. Honestly, Obama’s never been a Culture Warrior for The Left, never been the type of leader that won’t sleep until every race and tribe feels represented at every table. That’s just not been his thing. 

But politics is perception, and working-class white people are convinced Obama is working for everyone but them. That’s why I thought it was hilarious when the Nobel Committee Chairman said that the Peace Prize went to Obama because of “realpolitik.” Realpolitik, huh? By giving Obama this prize, the Committee probably increased Rush Limbaugh’s audience by a good ten percent.  

Thanks a lot, guys. 

John Cerino 



The Audacity of Hype 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

It’s a morbid joke, right? Barack Obama? Nobel Peace Prize? 

Not since Henry Kissinger was given “the Peace Prize” in 1973 has the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize involved such a sad and tragic irony. 

Between now and delivering his “Peace” Prize acceptance speech, Obama will be sending drones to bomb mostly collaterally innocent people every week—in their homes, marketplaces, villages, and even wedding parties. He will be continuing to operate George ‘Dubya’ Bush’s practically beyond-the-law, rendition-torture gulags—notoriously, Gitmo and Bagram. He will be expanding the technological advancements, types and potential “usability” of U.S. nuclear weapons—while supposedly also being awarded “for his attempts to curb nuclear proliferation”. And, he will be, upon their every request, militarily resupplying a racist apartheid state, Israel, with cumulatively billions of dollars worth of cluster, DIME and phosphorus bombs, no matter how many fleeing families upon whom that state will use those execrable terror weapons. 

The Nobel Peace Committee must still be high on the ‘Obamalade’ to make such a blatant mockery of what the Nobel prize for peace(!) should stand for. Or, should they now call it the Nobel “Peace Is War” Prize? 

Joseph Anderson 



Haiku for nasa 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

NASA shot the moon 

And the moon would not respond. 

Let’s apologize. 

Carol Denney  



nasa’s experiments 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Why do scientists think they have the right to experiment with our natural weather and atmosphere without our knowledge or permission? As one example, how many people know about NASA’s recent launch of a rocket to create an artificial aluminum oxide dust cloud at the outermost layers of Earth’s atmosphere, Project called CARE (Charged Aerosol Release Experiment). For critical analysis of this event go to News with Views., U.S. Navy to conduct Massive Atmospheric Experimental Tests, by Rosalind Peterson. 

Many current and ongoing weather modification programs listed by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) each year are changing the climate in many regions of the United States. Most Americans have not been made aware of these programs. For more information go to 

Come to a film series, “Exploring the Causes of Climate Change” and learn about an unfactored wild card in climate change theory. Hear scientists describe the technology used by the Military to heat up the ionosphere to manipulate the weather using electromagnetic waves from the HAARP facility (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Project) in Alaska. Films show every Wednesday evening in October at the Humanist Hall in Oakland. 

Vivian Warkentin 



Norwegian wood 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

there’s a mole in the white house kitchen 

slippin’ birch ash in obama’s food. 

it ain’t meant to poison him, 

just turn his skin to norwegian wood. 

Arnold Passman 



Insurance COmpanies 

Editors, Daily Planet:  

Our system works better for insurance companies that it does for the American people. Tens of millions of Americans have no health insurance, living one accident or illness away from total financial disaster. Hundreds of millions of who Americans have insurance live with the constant worry that they might lose it if they move, change jobs or lose their jobs—or that their insurance company might cancel their plan when they get sick. 

President Obama’s plan will simply make insurance work better, by holding the insurance industry accountable. Under the President’s plan, it will be against the law for insurance companies to: 

Deny coverage based on a preexisting condition. 

Drop or weaken coverage when you get sick. 

Place cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime. 

For the tens of millions of Americans without insurance, President Obama’s plan will offer quality, affordable choices. The President’s plan calls for the creation of a new insurance exchange, where individuals and small businesses a can compare plans and buy the one that works best for them. President Obama believes that one of the options available in the insurance exchange should be a public insurance option. He believes a public option is a way to create more competition and ensure every American has an affordable choice. 

We are closer now than ever to enacting comprehensive reform. An unprecedented coalition of doctors and nurses—and a huge percentage of the American people—are behind President Obama’s plan. It’s time to finish the job and pass real reform. 

Brad Michaels 



Public Option 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Anywhere from 60 to 70 percent of Americans being polled say they want a “public option” as part of health care reform currently being considered in Congress. On the other hand, almost all Republicans are on the record as wanting to kill not only any public option, but in fact, any health care reform bill. 

Without a public option there is no competition in the health insurance industry. Without competition the public losses and Congress has wasted everyone’s time. 

The GOP has a huge problem and there is a good reason why Republicans are so determined to defeat President Barack Obama’s health care plan. They know that tens of millions of people will benefit from the new health care coverage and will therefore become supporters of the Democratic Party for decades to come. 

This has happened with Social Security, Medicare and civil-rights legislation. Democrats proposed these programs and have received the political benefits many times over. 

Passage of health care coverage for all Americans will be the GOP’s Waterloo. 

Ron Lowe 

Nevada City