Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday November 12, 2009 - 09:43:00 AM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I thoroughly appreciated the wonderful tribute paid to the memory of Hilda Roberts in your last issue. I had learned earlier from her friend Jane Welford that she had passed on Sept. 30 but wondered why no paper had reported on it until you did so last Thursday. 

I was one of Hilda’s many long-time admirers. I first only knew her by reputation as a nurse serving the fighters against Franco and fascism in the Spanish Civil War, but didn’t meet her personally until joining with her a few years back in the Rockin’ Solidarity Labor Heritage Chorus in which we both sang. She was such a warm, gentle, radiant person, but just as fierce in fighting for social justice to almost the end just as she must have been as a young nurse in Spain. 

Although she couldn’t manage the route all the way, I recall her in Dolores Park at the beginning of one of the innumerable antiwar marches that have taken place in San Francisco. After another march I saw her with the Women in Black at the SF Civic Center, always with the same beautiful demeanor. 

I also appreciated Arnie Passman’s tribute to the late Ted Vincent in the same issue who I was also honored to know. 

Hilda and Ted were two lifelong battlers for social justice in the finest Berkeley progressive tradition. They’ll be much missed but long-remembered. 

Harry Siitonen 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks to Conn Hallinan’s informative piece on Sgr. Belusconi of Oct. 29, I can sleep, assured that Italian politics is as messed up as ever. Better still, he seems to have drawn assurance of his own from power-consolidating lessons imparted by the Cheney-Bush-Limburger triumvirate. 

Mulling things over, I got this terrific notion: the Prime Minister should re-instate the Roman Empire, beginning with the 15 or so regions in “the Boot.” The roads, navy, and aqueducts are in place. Italy has the prominence of G-20 membership. People from all over love its natural, town, and countryside beauty, food, art, design, expressiveness, whatall. Silvio could become Silvius I, wear a purple toga, and commit magnanimous deeds. Maybe even bring back real sports; who needs dumb old football or wrestling when we can thrill to gladiators? 

Just a musing. Still, I think I’ll mention it to him at our next session. 

Phil Allen  




Editors, Daily Planet:   

Alright, enough already, the Cal athletic program must put out bids for a long-running sitcom series —hit preferences?—whose profits and royalties could then go to academics, 21st century sports. . . 

There are sure signs aplenty that football sure should end—10 minutes or whatever from being No. 1 in gringolandia to deep dive bombing in 2007, the slashing of the oaks curse—whose ordering judge died this weekend, a mere 58—hyper-trashed by ducks in Oregon is one thing, but getting thoroughly chewed again at home by beavers, well. . . 

     You know Cal is the co-cretinous creator of the atom bomb with the University of Chicago—and they gave up football 75 years ago. Hint! Hint! 

     Any further football fantasy wish fulfillment, hellacious macho blindness and annual holiday toilet bowl visit is just not worthy of an enlightened university town—wherever it is. Keep a soft upper lip. 

    As for the student-athletes of the football team, the word on the street is the Board of Regents is shopping for an Imperial Guard—an SS to the UC Gestapolice?—Triple Canopy trained.  

Arnie Passman 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Daily Californian this morning, Nov. 6, that the UC Berkeley Faculty Senate is distressed by the fact that the Intercollegiate Athletics program at the University received $13.4 million in fiscal 2008-09 from student fees and the university’s general fund, and that the ICA had cost the university more than $10 million each year for the past five years, and that the university had had to forgive the ICA a $34.1 million debt in 2007.  

In short, the Intercollegiate Athletics program has cost the university about $171 million since 1991.  

Then there is the additional $321 million being spent to renovate the football stadium, and the $136 million to construct a new Student-Athlete High Performance Center for the use of about 450 athletes, and the multi-million dollar salaries of the coaches. 

On KPFA radio this morning, also Nov. 6, I listened to a program decrying the $14.2 million which has been cut from the California State Parks budget for the coming year, imperiling the existence of about 80 percent of our State Parks. 

$13.4 million and $14.2 million are very roughly equivalent amounts. Comparisons are both odious and sometimes misleading, but I can’t help but wonder which is more important to us, the Cal Bears teams or our State Parks? 

Bill Woodcock 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The UC President has a UCB Chancellor that should do the high paid job he is paid for instead of hiring an East Coast consulting firm to fulfill his responsibilities. “World class” smart executives like Chancellor Birgeneau need to do the analysis, hard work and make the difficult decisions of their executive job! 

Where do consulting firms like Bain—paid $3 million for their consulting services for UC—get their recommendations?  

From interviewing the senior management that hired them and will be approving their monthly consultant fees and expense reports. Remember the nationally known auditing firm who said the right things and submitted recommendations that senior management wanted to hear and fooled government oversight agencies and the public? Consultants never bite the hand that feeds them. 

Mr. Birgeneau’s executive officer performance management responsibilities include “inspiring innovation and leading change.” This involves “defining outcomes, energizing others at all levels and ensuring continuing commitment.” Instead of demonstrating his capacity to fulfill his executive accountabilities, Mr. Birgeneau outsourced them. Doesn’t he engage University of California and University of California Berkeley people at all levels to help examine the budget and recommend the necessary trims? Hasn’t he talked to Cornell and the University of North Carolina—which also hired Bain— about best practices and recommendations that might apply to UCB cuts? 

No wonder the faculty and staff are angry and suspicious. Three million dollars is a high price for Californians to pay when a knowledgeable “world-class” Chancellor is not doing his job. 

Please help save $3,000,000 for teaching our students and request that the UC President require the UCB Chancellor to fulfill his executive job accountabilities! 

Milan Moravec 

Walnut Creek 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is with great appreciation, the legal administration and professional judicial community reflect on the outstanding service to Alameda County by the recently transitioned Alameda County Superior Court Judge, Barbara J. Miller. Much prior to Judge Miller’s notoriety resulting from adjudicating the ubiquitous University California football stadium tree sitters litigation, Judge Miller, as a Court Commissioner, demonstrated a commitment, talent, conscientiousness and equitable treatment towards litigating parties and attorneys. In the spirit of the outstanding Alameda County judges Dawn Girard, Roderick Duncan, Benjamin Travis, Martin Jenkins. Christopher Hurley and many others, Judge Barbara Miller read the case files and pleadings of the parties and was always prepared for her court hearings. The last set of hearings this writer observed with Judge Miller sitting was in the Family Court Division of the Hayward branch Alameda County Superior Court. Given the Alameda County Court budget constraints, it was instructive to witness Judge Miller’s command of the law, legal issues involved in each case and the equity of her rulings in a very crowded calendar. Judge Barbara Miller’s professionalism and courteous decorum will be missed but well remembered by the greater Alameda County legal and public communities. 

Ulysses S. Crockett, Jr. 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I think it is a bad idea to have your “Partisan Position” articles included in the news section of the Berkeley Daily Planet. These articles fit into a gray area between opinion and news, and this presents a real difficulty for readers in evaluating them. I’ve noticed that sometimes even the basic facts get mixed up. That’s really not good! While a trained reporter will make attempts to verify facts before including them in a story, untrained writers—as well-intentioned as they may be—may not have the time or experience to perform this task adequately. As a result, the news section of your paper now lacks its previous level of integrity. 

I thought your best reporter by far was Richard Brenneman. He helped me understand the intricacies of City Council meetings and other city events. I don’t think the “partisan” reporters are up to this task. Could you please bring Mr. Brenneman back to the paper? I would really appreciate it! 

Satya Preeti 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Berlanty Azzam, a young woman in her final semester at Bethlehem University in the West Bank, was detained Wed., Oct. 28, by the Israeli military on her way back to Bethlehem from an internship interview in Ramallah. The soldiers blindfolded and handcuffed her and deported her to Gaza. Israeli authorities claimed she had no permit to be in the West Bank. When she entered the West Bank in 2005 to attend college, no such permit was required, only a permit to cross through Israel from Gaza, and she received that permit. Israel requires no permit to remain in the West Bank. The Israeli state admits that a “mistake” was made in removing her from the West Bank, but refuses to allow her to return to Bethlehem to complete her final semester towards her bachelor’s degree in business administration. The Israeli High Court of Justice will hold another hearing Thurs., Nov. 12, for the Israeli military to explain its case. The Israeli nonprofit legal organization Gisha is representing Berlanty in court. For the time being she remains at home with her parents. Her father works for the YMCA, and her mother works for UNRWA. The family is Christian. Bethlehem University is a Vatican-sponsored university. 

Please contact your elected officials, the United States Consulate in Jerusalem (, and Secretary of State Clinton on Berlanty’s behalf, asking that Berlanty be allowed to return to Bethlehem University complete her studies on humanitarian grounds, in the spirit of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access negotiated between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. You can get more information about her case at and at People around the world have already made a difference. I doubt the Israeli government would have admitted it made a “mistake” in abducting her without the outpouring of support from the U.S., Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. 

Whatever anyone can do to help will be most appreciated. 

Jeanie Shaterian 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The so-called health care reform bill passed by the House last Saturday essentially requires Americans to continue to accept a defective, unfair, inefficient, and costly health care system—with just a few minor improvements. It also happens to be a huge waste of money at a time when this country can ill afford such expenditures—whereas a system like universal single payer health care would actually save us money. Why hasn’t this important fiscal issue been highlighted at every congressional meeting or public event during the lengthy health care debate this year? Simple: the corporations don’t want us to think about it, and the major media do their duty as opinion-shapers in their service.  

Unfortunately, the price we’ll pay for these tid-bits of health insurance reform—not health care reform, mind you, which is what we really need—will be astronomically high.Estimates range as high as a trillion dollars over the next ten years or so. Just because it may not add to the national deficit, the money still comes from somewhere—our pockets, to be exact. 

Worse yet, passing this sham reform bill means that needed healthcare reforms will be delayed for years to come. That is exactly the outcome that the health insurance giants hoped for, and the Obama administration played right into their hands. Gosh, it turns out he was really on their side all the time, and his starring role was a reprise of that all-time favorite of Democratic and Republican administrations alike: “Tricking the Public into Voting Against their Own Best Interests.” This is definitely the longest-running show in town—nobody ever seems to tire of watching it. 

One thing we have learned, though, just changing the cast doesn’t change the script. 

Doug Buckwald 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

According to the SF Chronicle, Oakland Mayor Dellums currently owes almost $240,000 in unpaid taxes. The NY Times reported that Congressman Rangel failed to report $75,000 in income from residential income properties he owns in the Dominican Republic. In an interview on MSNBC, our own Congresswoman Barbara Lee refused to condemn Rangel’s failure to comply in his personal life with the very tax code he himself oversees as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. While everyday working Americans pay increasing levels of their incomes in taxes, too many of our leaders seem comfortable with sloppiness at best in their own taxpaying and with corruption at worst. If a public official’s personal tax situation is so disorganized or dishonest that they will not or cannot pay their taxes, they must immediately resign.  How can such an individual be expected to effectively and honestly administer government bodies which receive tax revenues? Why do we tolerate such mediocrity in our public officials?   

Nathaniel Hardin 

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

President Obama’s statement on the 30th anniversary of the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran makes no mention of the precipitating event—the CIA overthrow of Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister Mossadegh in 1953. If Obama wants to establish a relationship of “mutual respect” with the Iranian people, he should travel in person to Tehran, issue an unconditional and far-reaching apology for that shameful episode, and offer reparations. As it stands, his claim that the American people have great respect for Iran’s “rich history” is absurd. Most Americans have no idea what we did to Iran in 1953, or the consequences of that action. Stephen Kinzer’s “All the Shah’s Men” should be required reading for all U.S. citizens. 

Matthew Taylor 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Robert Kanters’ Nov. 5 letter contains a major factual error. According to Wikipedia’s list of countries by military expenditures, Israel is ranked No. 17. According to, in terms of military personnel, Israel is ranked a distant No. 37, well behind Iran (No. 11), Syria (No. 17) and Saudi Arabia (No. 29) And according to, Irans’ active military manpower is ranked No. 8 , Egypt is ranked No. 10, Syria is ranked No. 13, well ahead of Israel, ranked No. 22. 

Looking at specifics—Israel naval strength is ranked No. 36, well behind its neighbor Egypt, which comes in at No. 15, and Iran at No. 23. Israels’ air systems are ranked 11th in the world. 

Israel is ranked No. 153 in the world in terms of size. Israel’s land mass is 1/16th of one perceent of that of the neighboring Arab lands, with a total land mass is 12,877 square miles. Israel is roughly the size of New Jersey, our second smallest state. The land mass of the 21 surrounding Arab countries along with the Palestinian Authority-controlled areas including Gaza and parts of the West Bank is 8,368,272 square miles.  

  Using both Internet and print based research material, I see is nothing whatsoever that supports Mr. Kanters’ contention that Israel is the “fourth most powerful military force in the world.” Mr. Kanter, care to cite some sources, please? 

Faith Melzer 

El Cerrito