Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday December 03, 2009 - 08:59:00 AM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

  Last week a large load of wood chips was dumped on the eastern edge of the historic Anna Head School along Bowditch St. Today there is a sign atop the pile advertising genuine “Treesitter Wood Chips” at what looks like $5 per bushel, and a 642 number to call. This could only be described as a tasteless example of how low UC-City relations have gone. 

Jerry Sulliger 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Construction has been dragging at 1800 San Pablo Ave. since the very beginning. Now—more a year and a half later—the project’s General Contractor has informed me that construction has been stopped due to financial problems. It is my understanding that Saeed Adelli, the building’s owner, is on the verge of losing—or has already lost—ownership of the building. A number of liens have been filed against the building. 

Meanwhile, the building presents neighborhood security concerns. Although security is still present one wonders if it will be pulled. Without security the building’s gaping unfinished garage and the scaffolding invite problem activities. What confidence do we have that the building will be safe in the near future? 

Additionally, the building is an eyesore and a pedestrian nightmare. A beautiful new facade presently sits hidden behind ugly, sidewalk-clogging scaffolding. Construction toilets, debris boxes, mud and general garbage litter the site. How long is the neighborhood expected to put up with this mess? 

Who knows how long it will be before construction resumes? The neighborhood shouldn’t be burdened with this problem. The city needs to step in here. I ask that the city council and the Planning Department quickly review conditions and enforce the following: 1) the building’s facade should be sealed for security, 2) the scaffolding should be be removed and the sidewalks cleared until construction is resumed, 3) the building’s present and future owners should write a letter accepting continuous responsibility for current and future site and building security. Finally, the city council should seek payment of outstanding permit fees that were temporarily waived at the beginning of construction. 

Jon Alff 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I just read Daniel’s “First Person:Through Afghanistan and Pakistan, Lands of the Pashtuns.” I really like it.  

In recent times where world media portray them as terrorists, few good men like Benjamin Gilmour and Daniel Borgstrom are sharing their personal experiences with Pashtuns. 

A group of few Pashtuns across the globe are maintaining an internet based monthly magazine “SAHAR: Voice of Pashtuns” which is non-profit based and totally volunteer. The purpose of magazine is to bring awareness about Pashtuns and their true culture and their non-violent potential once demonstrated to the world by their beloved leader Abdul Ghaffar Khan, The Frontier Gandhi. 

Qazi Roohul Amin 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As I watched television coverage of last Friday’s student protests and the 12 hour-occupation of Wheeler Hall, from my living room window I could see helicopters circling the campus and hovering over Wheeler. This brought back vivid memories of the Vietnam and People’s Park protests which I witnessed as I was then working at Boalt Hall School of Law. 

On May 15, 1969, our beloved Governor Reagan sent the California Highway Patrol to quell the protests, that incident referred to as “Bloody Thursday.” Adding insult to injury, he then called out 2,200 state National Guard troops to occupy the city of Berkeley. Some of these National Guards were offered brownies laced with LSD. Then came the tear gassing. I remember walking up Bancroft on my way to work at the Law School, choking on the tear gas, my eyes burning. Needless to say, this chaotic scene did little to help students who were taking exams that day. 

And then came People’s Park. The University had purchased a plot of land south of the campus, hoping to build student dorms on that site. But Cal students claimed the land for themselves. When the administration decided to go ahead with construction plans, 30,000 students—and denizens—marched on the Park, confronting the National Guard troops called in by Reagan. On that occasion, I narrowly escaped being struck with a heavy brick which a protester—a non-student I’m sure—hurled at the Bank of America on Telegraph and Durant, smashing a large window. Not surprisingly, that bank no longer has windows. So, with the Vietnam War demonstrations, the nonviolent, peaceful spirit of student evidenced in the earlier Free Speech movement, immortalized by Mario Savio’s famous speech, activism gave way to violent and confrontational politics, attracting outsiders looking for a good time. 

While I don’t condone violent student protests, the Vietnam demonstrations were, in my mind, justified. 

I’m no so sure about last week’s protests which were radicalized. And I must confess that I’m concerned that today’s UC students did not actively demonstrate against the war in Iraq and have shown only half-hearted condemnation of Professor John Yoo, and his defense of torture. Have they now grown passive, their idealism gone awry? I hope not!  

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

George Pimentel was a true CAL Bear though he never played on the football team. I’d like to tell you something about him, not for his glorification, but because he represents the countless students who fulfill their potential and contribute untold benefits to society as a result of the free—or affordable—education they received at the University of California. 

George grew up in the depression in Los Angeles where his single mother worked a night shift to support him and his brother, and she encouraged them to attend UCLA, though they had to live at home and commute across town to study there. He received his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley, where he remained to do research and teach for the next forty years. 

During that time he made groundbreaking discoveries in chemistry research, edited the influential “Pimentel Report” for the National Academy of Sciences, taught freshman Chemistry to many thousands of students, and led the writing of the revolutionary and widely used high school chemistry curriculum CHEM Study. He served the nation as Deputy Director of the NSF for three years, and worked tirelessly on UC committees to maintain and improve the university he believed in so fervently. The effects of such a career increase with time: for example, many of his high-achieving graduate students credit his influence on their lives, and he influenced countless students, colleagues, and the public with his talks both here and abroad.  

I can’t believe he would have accomplished so much in his relatively short life—he died at 67—if he had been denied the opportunity of attending one of the world’s best universities. There are many, many such stories, in every discipline. Given George’s personality, and the moral support at home, he would probably have gotten himself some sort of education somewhere; thousands of people more timid but just as talented are lost to us without this opportunity—and sometimes direct their energy to destructive ends. The cost to society is unthinkable—and unnecessary. 

Don’t let a misguided state government devastate the university, the lives of present and future students, and ultimately the quality of life of millions even beyond California. Surely there is enough talent in the university and the state to come up with an imaginative solution? 

Jeanne Pimentel  

(Mrs. George C. Pimentel) 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

For a moment, I thought the Cal-Berkeley Sixties-style protesting was history. 

Then the Rent-a-Mob war cry, “Shame on You, Shame on You” and “Books not Batons, Books not Batons” rang out and clear, and the fun began. 

I say shame on the Cal students, their faculty nannies, and the junior college rabble who took part in the riot. Yes, that’s was what it was, a riot. 

Faculty members should have been teaching or grading papers, and the students should have been in class or doing homework. 

Larry Hawkins 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Once again, the supporter of the campaign to defame the Daily Planet—which found its way onto the pages of the New York Times last Saturday—has failed to see the facts laid out before her (letters, Nov.25.) She also thinks I’m stupid and don’t know the meaning of “per capita.” Even though I met her previous challenge to name the source which alluded to the state of Israel as the fourth most powerful military force in the world, she ignores this information and mentions my name five times in her 250 word reply. And even though the primary subject was Israel, she mentions Dominica and Cyprus to throw off readers. 

She also mentions a weapons shipment that Israel intercepted last month that was allegedly bound for Hezbollah militants, which most likely was a ruse by Israeli officials intended to divert attention from the UN Goldstone report detailing Israeli war crimes in Gaza last winter. The most telling part is this, from the original AP story: “Israel has not publicly shown the document, however, nor offered evidence to back its assertion that the weapons were headed for Lebanon’s Hezbollah fighters.” 

I guess she somehow must have missed that small detail. And according to PressTV in a more recent but less widely published report, the photos of documents used to prove the shipment originated from Iran were forged. 

Finally, she suggests that I “take this little debate away from the pages of the Daily Planet, and perhaps meet me for coffee,” as if it were some kind of magical elixir that would allow me to see her perspective more clearly. It was never my intention to engage in this topic bilaterally, but I do perceive the Daily Planet as an ideal forum in which to debunk the Israeli propaganda which she espouses. I also know there are at least a few readers out there who would tend to agree. 

Robert Kanter 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is high time that something is done about the achievement gap in Berkeley. If something is broke you must fix it. A charter school in Berkeley will go a long ways to fixing the achievement gap problem in Berkeley. I hope the school board displays some wisdom when it is time to vote for the proposal and they say yes to the Realm Charter school. 

Alan Roselius 

Castro Valley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The viewers of Caryl Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza quoted by Marc Sapir are entirely right—it is difficult to know if it is possible to “produce a play purportedly about the relationship between Palestine and Israel without a single Palestinian voice uttering one word.”. Something must be missing, one feels. 

Of course, Palestinian voices are not the only ones missing from Seven Jewish Children. There is also a striking dearth of Jewish voices in this short piece. The speakers in the play are puppets of Churchill’s expectations, obediently mouthing lines about swimming pools filled with stolen water, and children who watch American T.V. shows to protect them from the news. Nothing about these cardboard cutouts is authentically informed with Israeli or Jewish experience, which I suppose should not surprise me. Giving voice to such experience was not the point of this piece. 

Despite the play’s minimal length, Churchill skillfully uses her ahistorical and biased understanding of Israeli Jews to silence the voices of the Mizrahim and Sephardim, the poor and the religious, those whose families had lived in Jerusalem or Hebron time out of mind, the voices of the Russians and the Ethiopians, and the voices of the children of Sderot living under siege. Added to the Palestinian numbers, this is an impressive array of voices to be silenced in one ten minute play. I suppose this speaks to the author’s intent, as well as her skill as a playwright. 

Charlotte Honigman-Smith 

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Lindsay Schachiner’s response, on Nov. 25, to my Nov. 18 Commentary on Berkeley’s new police chief is straight out of Reefer Madness. Plus it was besides the point. She focused on the supposed evils of a healing herb when my main gist was the quality of law enforcement already known about Berkeley’s chief to be, Michael Meehan, that our City Council has brought to its residents.  

Schachiner apparently isn’t disturbed that as Seattle’s chief of police, Meehan ignored accurate research data on lower crime rates—re low priority marijuana arrests—and instead indicated there were higher crime rates. Nor is she outraged that Meehan’s marijuana arrest policy resulted in perpetuating and maintaining institutionalized racism. Does she believe, as perhaps Meehan does, that the means justifies the end as long as it’s one she wants to see happen? 

We will have a safer city when integrity, justice, and fairness are reflected in all of its policies on every level. We wouldn’t have then toxic dumping in Aquatic Park by the Public Works Dept. in a supposedly green city, a mayor who steals opposition newspapers, or racial disparities in a low priority arrest category in a city that prides itself on its desegregation history. We wouldn’t have a police chief described as “a police chief cut from the mold of the Bush era drug policy.” 

One thing known about that era and the policies that ensued from it is that it was fueled by the most ignominious of human motives draped in the red, white, and blue, and “traditional” Christian values. 

Maris Arnold 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I woke up early this past Saturday morning and went to the Marine Recruiting Center in Berkeley at 7 a.m. to give a good send-off to CodePINK’s busload leaving for Creech Airforce Base in Nevada.  

They are travelling to Nevada to protest the unmanned drones which are operated by soldiers sitting at computer consoles. The protest will last five days.  

Protesting the drones started with the Ground the Drones 14-day vigil by Voices for Creative Nonviolence in April, 2009. CODEPINKer Nancy Mancias recently fasted at Creech for four days around Thanksgiving—including the holiday. 

These drones can both spy on people and drop bombs and shoot missiles. We keep hearing of mistakes being made, of civilians being killed by these drones in Pakistan and Afghanistan and Iraq. “They have killed at least 14 Al Qaeda leaders and approximately 700 civilians—a 50:1 ratio of innocent victims to targeted enemies. Drones are the most horrific ‘war toy’ since nuclear weapons.”  

“These unmanned aircraft patrol waters off Somalia, the U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada,” over our National Parks and in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq and who knows where else.  

Please check this info about drones out at and 

The caravan went through Las Vegas to give court support to 12 activists who were arrested in September for “Disturbing the War.”  

There were stops at various military bases in California on the way to Creech.  

Thank you CodePINK, from all of us who wanted to, but couldn’t go!  

Jane Welford 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The current national pastime of attempting to describe the appeal, traits, and merits of ex-governor Sarah Palin could be seen as fuelled in perhaps equal parts by the great enthusiasm of her supporters and the angst and foreboding of her critics. 

Perhaps one more query may be added to the many thoughts about her significance in our national life: Has she changed her values since high school in Wasilla?  

During last year’s campaign she said, “...everything I ever needed to know I learned on the basketball team. All about setting goals and working hard and having self-discipline and knowing what strengths were in the team members and then assembling those team members and tasking the team to fulfill missions. That’s what you learn in sports.” 

And as the excellent captain of her high school basketball team, she helped lead them to an unexpected Alaska state championship in her senior year. 

Are those same values of hard work, self-discipline, and loyalty as strongly expressed in her post-campaign life today? 

Was resigning as Governor of Alaska with a year and a half remaining in her term consistent with the values she showed in high school? Or could it be seen as letting go of one responsibility to try to focus on a different opportunity? 

Perhaps one useful analogy would be to imagine that, while in high school, team captain Palin had been offered an opportunity to play for a professional basketball team, with all that possibility’s glamour, fame, and financial rewards. Who could blame a star-struck high school athlete for considering such a choice? Even if it meant abandoning her current teammates and perhaps lessening their chance for the state championship title later. 

Turning pro has always been an option for the talented and for the lucky. Being picked by John McCain as vice presidential nominee in 2008 gave Governor Palin a previously unthought-of opportunity to have a career on the national political stage, to turn pro. The pro world is a bit more hard edged and loyalties are different.  

Could her recent new book as well have been titled “Turning Pro”? 

Brad Belden 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The new mammogram screening recommendations were a wake-up call for anyone concerned about breast cancer. For years we have been promised a better screening method than mammography. While we’re still waiting, the debate rages about the effectiveness of this technology. Like all medical interventions, mammography has benefits and risks. Why is it so hard to be honest about them? 

After years of walkathons and millions raised by the sales of pink-ribboned products, I’m angry that a woman still dies of breast cancer every 13 minutes. We need to join with organizations such as Breast Cancer Action to advocate for screening techniques that provide more benefit than harm, demand more effective, less toxic treatments, and work to decrease the involuntary environmental exposures that put people at risk for breast cancer. Our voices need to be heard. 

Jan Schmuckler