Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:43:00 AM



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Hey everybody! Come to the Transportation Commission hearing tonight (Thursday, Nov. 19) and let’s show these arrogant bullies that they can’t manipulate the democratic process anymore. It’s time for us to stand up for our rights as Berkeley citizens.  

The hearing on the Bus Rapid Transit Locally Preferred Alternative is at 6 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. 

Hope to see you there! 

Doug Buckwald 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

If there was ever any doubt of the astonishing number of journalist Amy Goodman’s ardent admirers, that doubt was dispelled Monday morning, when she spoke to any overflow audience at the Northgate Hall Library in the UC School of Journalism at the rather unorthodox hour of 10 a.m. Introduced by Lowell Bergman, himself a well-known professor and investigative reporter, Amy spoke for more than an hour to rapt listeners, reading from her new book, Breaking the Sound Barrier. Producer of the radio program, “Democracy Now,” she is without question one of the most respected news reporter and analyst in the country. 

On a personal note, Amy’s a petite, attractive and very outgoing woman, not at all the somber, somewhat dour person we see on our Cable TV screen. At the conclusion of her remarks and the lively question and answer session, she received a standing ovation, with everyone rising to their feet in recognition of this outstanding journalist. 

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Last week, a failed vice-presidential candidate claimed that animals belong right next to the mashed potatoes. This week, our president is pardoning two turkeys. It’s food for thought. 

Each of us has the presidential power to pardon a turkey this Thanksgiving. It shows our compassion for an innocent animal, as well as our concern for our family’s and our planet’s health. It’s a most fitting way to give thanks for our own life, health, and happiness. 

The 270 million turkeys abused and slaughtered in the United States each year have nothing to give thanks for. They breathe toxic fumes in crowded sheds. Their beaks and toes are severed. At the slaughter-house, workers cut their throats, and dump them into boiling water, sometimes while still conscious. 

Consumers too pay a heavy price. Turkey flesh is laced with cholesterol and saturated fats that ele-vate the risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Careful adherence to government warning labels is required to avoid food poisoning. Turkey excrements pollute our water supplies. 

This Thanksgiving, I won’t be calling the Poultry Hot Line, or staying awake wondering how that turkey lived and died. I will be joining millions of other Americans in observing this joyful family holiday with nonviolent healthful products of the earth’s bounty: vegetables, fruits, and grains. 

A visit to my local supermarket or health food store and an Internet search on vegan Thanksgiving will provide me more recipes and delicious turkey alternatives than I can possibly use. 

Harold Kunitz 

Walnut Creek 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

How can we attach party to the Republicans? And isn’t it beyond time now to call them the Reprivateans, no? 

Arnie Passman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Becky O’Malley’s Nov. 12 editorial, “Telling the Truth About Carbon,” made the point that even a new LEED certified building has a far greater environmental impact than keeping an existing building in use. The example she cited is the proposed Safeway superstore at College and Claremont. 

An even more obvious example of environmental irresponsibility is the decision of the Berkeley Unified School District to tear down the landmarked old gymnasium at Berkeley High School. The school board decided to build a new building in spite of the fact that everything they are planning to build can fit in the old building with room to spare. 

I have prepared plans that demonstrate the feasibility of this adaptive reuse which would also keep the warm pool in operation. The school board has shown no interest in looking at this proposal which would be a truly green solution. 

Henrik Bull 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It always amazes me how a person only sees what they wish to see, as opposed to what appears before their eyes. This is the only explanation I could conclude from anti-Daily Planet campaign supporter Faith Meltzer’s Nov. 12 letter, which asserts that my previous letter “contains a major factual error.” She then challenged me to “cite some sources, please” of my statement that Israel has the fourth most powerful military force in the world. 

Upon checking the very sources she uses to refute my allegation, I discovered some intriguing information. ranks Israel 11th overall, but gives it the top spot among all nations listed in military expenditures per capita and military weapon holdings per capita. It ranked fourth in military weapon holdings, a category I would equate to military power. 

Also, according to Nationmaster, Israel has the most advanced nuclear weapons program in the Middle East, clandestinely established in the late 1950s by its first prime minister, David Ben Gurion. Based on estimates, they have roughly 100-200 nuclear explosive devices. Israeli officials continue to prevent any international inspections of these weapons, nor are they a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. 

The point of my previous letter was not to tussle over boring statistics or facts. It was primarily to refute the idea that Israel is weak and powerless over their enemies. They are not. They have the ability to solve their differences without violence, they just don’t have the courage to do so. I and many others around the Bay Area and the world are crying out, not to annihilate them—which obviously won’t happen—but to push them to find that courage. I urge you all to join us, in any way that you can. 

Robert Kanter 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Have you ever had to run from a leaf blower? 

My wife does it a few times a day. One good leaf blower could put her in the hospital with her allergies. I found out that leafblowers are against the law in Berkeley. But you would never know it. They are every where all over town making the dirt and clippings of a landscaping job someone else’s problem. 

Leafblowers are not made to clean up. They are made to blow dirt into the street, the neighbors and the atmosphere. Anywhere but here. 

There is a reason why leafblowers are illegal and we need to ask the mayor, the City Council and the Police Department to take our respiratory health seriously. 

Dan McMullan 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding Shirley Barker’s off-target polemic casting organic food producers as an enemy of the people’s right to eat: 

Barker could choose to plant/tend her own tomatoes in one of those pots. Of course that involves much effort, demands ample sun and to succeed she will have to periodically pluck off pests. 

Likely her “vendor” was hired to work the stand and isn’t the farmer who would have more to say. It’s not just inputs raising the costs. Small farms reclaiming land in “service to the soil,” remains an outlier business model. Tending to soil health is a labor-intensive process taking some number of years before running on anything similar to the misleading, bucolic auto-pilot Barker suggests. Allocating acreage to lie fallow also raises the cost per output for acres planted. 

Consider the “shelf life” of produce harvested and brought to market ready to eat. It isn’t long, true, but our idea that tomatoes or other fruits and veggies can “last” weeks is a perversion of “natural” produce grown in full spectrum, mineral rich soils. Cost per mile to truck peak harvest into the city farmers’ markets from more sun drenched soils that grow those luscious tomatoes is another cost factor. 

As is hiring, supervising and paying market workers. Large, mono-crop agribiz farms feed product into the grand maw of a large, centralized distribution system that plunks their outputs into the bins of grocery chains without further need for the trucking and selling costs that local farmers incur. 

Last, but certainly not least, egregious USDA farm policy’s labyrinthine regulations that keep small fruit and vegetable producers from being able to actively work more land in the hopes of meeting demand with lower prices made possible by achieving economies of scale. At first blush it’s challenging to pin the high cost of organic fruits and vegetables on USDA Farm subsidies—90 percent of which support only corn, wheat, soy, rice or cotton crops—but it turns out that the most recent bill penalizes any farmer who receives government commodity subsidies from—even experimenting with—growing perishables for sale. Nor can s/he rent out unplanted acres to a small producer who could put the land to use in meeting the rising demand for healthy food crops.  

Caretaking the land remains hard work. Feeding the hungry is a virtue. The farmer and his/her family are welcome to their success. 

Fern Leaf 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I would first like to publicly thank the People’s Park Community Advisory Board Subcommittee on Censorship for meeting secretly on the public’s behalf on Friday, Nov. 6, as best suits a subcommittee formed to govern the public tongue, which, without appropriate safeguards, would probably just say the wrong thing. 

I would secondly like to commend them for starting the ball rolling on a procedure for evaluating and endorsing slogans for the People’s Park stage. As a member of the public, I appreciate that finding precisely the right slogan could take months, even years, but that the search itself will be a journey worth taking with the whole-hearted, open-minded members of the Subcommittee on Censorship. 

I would thirdly like to recommend going further. Now that a Subcommittee on Censorship is firmly in place, I would suggest that all speech in People’s Park, which is often a location burdened with great contention and gratuitous discussion, be sent through this Subcommittee first for approval. 

I believe this will bring about a more pastoral, peaceful park, and assure park users that any language used therein has the full endorsement and approval of the University of California. 

Carol Denney 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’ve been a swimmer at Berkeley’s public pools for some 20 years, and I am dismayed this year by the curtailing of hours for lap swimmers. It seems odd to me to cut the hours from two to one and also to cut out swimming time not only for lap swimmers but for children and seniors. What is your reasoning for this? The lifeguards sit in their lobby office for about four hours each day, waiting for their next shift; of course, they don’t get paid for their waiting time, but the pool is still heated as are the locker rooms. What a waste! And we swimmers must rush to swim in very crowded lanes for one brief hour! 

People I’ve talked to say they are now going to the pools at Temescal, El Cerrito, and the JFK High School Richmond pool because they have longer hours for lap swimming, so the city of Berkeley is losing money and the good health of their citizens. 

I urge the city to reconsider its decision (how was it reached?!!) and continue the two-hour shifts and also restore the afternoon swim times on the weekend, just when everyone has more time to swim! 

Estelle Jelinek 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As the current chair of Berkeley’s Commission on Aging, I must correct an impression left by Helen Wheeler’s informative and passionate commentary on elder abuse (Daily Planet, Nov. 5). After describing a program she organized on this important topic, she states that the commission chair did not think elder abuse “merit(s) consideration.” Apparently, that program was over two years ago, and she must be citing some previous chair, as I have never thought that and find it hard to imagine anyone concerned about aging would. Of course, elder abuse is a major social problem, an issue on which I hope the commission and City of Berkeley can focus greater attention, in pursuit of effective remedies. Toward that end, the commission recently invited a presentation by police representatives regarding elder safety, including from crime, fraud, physical hazards. In the coming year, we hope to develop a community forum on safety and on abuse, in its disturbingly various and prevalent forms. 

Judy Turiel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Poor people! You know peoples, I really don’t feel right when poor people beg. Don’t you care! Give them some support here! They need some help. Think about it, you have a house, they don’t. They live on the streets. You have food, they don’t and if they had three or four dollars they’d usually have to go to McDonald’s or some nasty place. You have a TV, they don’t. You have a bed and covers and they sleep on the ground. Think about it, you can get on a plane and afford it and go when ever you need to. They have to stay and sit all day or walk and not have food. You all, including me, are a great country. You have more team work and love somewhere in your hearts! 

Sylvia Sawislak 

3rd grade 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The world around us is often noisy. 

Many children feel frustrated by the noisy conversational style of their parents and of their peers. It is not easy for noisy, bustling children to settle into receptive attentiveness. 

We all know that when we get a chance to take a deep breath, our nerves calm down and we feel relaxed. Beginning each class with a minute or two of “watching” our breathing will be a very effective way for children to get focused. Their memory cells will feel fresh and clear thinking will become natural. All the teacher has to say is: “Sit in a relaxed way and watch your breath flow in and out.” 

Children who begins lessons this way become very good learners.  

Romila Khanna 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In honor of the great David Swanson’s visit to Berkeley this Sunday, Nov. 22—he’s speaking at the Unitarian Fellowship Hall, 1924 Cedar @ Bonita, 7:30 pm—there will be a peaceful protest at “torture professor” John Yoo’s house from 10-11 am, on Grizzly Peak near Shasta. “Yoo” will be there in striped prison garb and handcuffs, telling anyone who will listen that he can’t be held accountable for the torture and deaths of many innocents, including children, because “I was just doing my job. I cleverly redefined torture in those memos. Yes, the memos were rescinded by the DOJ for shoddy research, but I was correct: it is legal to torture people if the president wants to. It kept us safe from terrorists! Don’t let them prosecute me. I’m a tenured professor at UC. Professors are exempt from the law!” 

Unfortunately, UC Law School continues to legitimize John Yoo’s complicity in torture by allowing him to teach next semester: “Constitutional Design and the California Constitution” Wednesdays, 6:20 p.m., co-taught with David Carrillo, deputy attorney general with the California Department of Justice, member of La Raza Lawyers Association, active supporter of the Constitutional Rights Foundation, an inescapable irony. The worst aspect of this situation at the law school, in my judgment, is that students are being misinformed. They’re being told that Yoo’s academic freedom is at stake when it’s Yoo’s actionable legal advice to the Bush administration that it’s legal to torture people to get false intelligence to justify the illegal occupation of Iraq that is being questioned. Yoo should be disciplined—if not fired, at least not given a class to teach! This is a slap in the face to our Berkeley community, where the City Council passed a resolution calling for Yoo’s prosecution! 

Swanson, a PDA and UFPJ board member and founder of and, looks forward to joining the protest and meeting some of the great community members who continue to shine the spotlight on Professor Yoo’s crimes. “John Yoo of the Office of Legal Counsel famously claimed in 2006 that the president had the right to crush a child’s testicles. Somehow that image doesn’t strike me as a worthy replacement for the Statue of Liberty,” says Swanson in his new book Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union, Seven Stories Press, 2009. David’s talk is Sunday at 7:30. Join us! 

Cynthia Papermaster