Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday July 06, 2010 - 11:31:00 AM

Tearing Down Libraries is Waste, Not Green; Bates and Council Thumb Their Noses at the Public; Anger Management; Fire Wall?; Intimidation; Guns; Palin’s Opinion; Afghanistan — the U.S. between a rock and a hard place 

Tearing Down Libraries is Waste, Not Green 

I've just read the Daily Planet article on the plans for our branch libraries ( and am sickened. It's bad enough to see the wasteful, barbaric demolition of the Public Health building downtown—taking months because the building had been retrofitted. To contemplate demolition of two of Berkeley's libraries, instead of the renovation we approved, is truly depressing. Anyone who studies the issues of our carbon footprint and climate change is aware that demolition is deeply irresponsible. Large amounts of energy, fossil fuel, even water are used in the process of demolishing a building, more gas and oil for removal of the debris. The materials from which the original building was constructed are wasted, including cement which is so environmentally costly to make, and it contributes needlessly to a landfill somewhere else. 

Ii is inexcusable to use our tax dollars, so generously given to our libraries when needed, to demolish library buildings in Berkeley. And the renovations offer shockingly little if any added shelf space for books, with the reference desks to be eliminated in favor of "roving" librarians. I urge that the city council ask the library commission to reconsider these plans and do the right thing for the loyal, library-loving residents of Berkeley. Surely I'm not the only one who thinks of our libraries as a home for books and for readers, with social and computer spaces secondary and surely not a justification for demolition. 

If the city council wishes to call Berkeley a green city, it cannot approve demolition of our libraries and the zoning variances requested by the library commission's plans. 

Charlene Woodcock 


Bates and Council Thumb Their Noses at the Public 

The June 29th city council meeting, a 5-hour marathon, was an ABCs lesson on how Mayor Bates, with the pained support of his ham-strung council, promotes the rule of city employees over the interests of our community. 

On the council consent calendar agenda was a seemingly innocuous Item #2. It was crafted by Phil Kamlarz, the city manager, and provided for taxpayer funding of $231,000 to subsidize city employee memberships to the YMCA. So what was at issue?Here are excerpts from citizen letters to the mayor and council: 

“We urge you to unanimously reject Item 2 in its entirety and to instruct the City Manager to redirect these funds to programs that benefit our community rather than our employees. At your June 22nd Special Meeting you rejected funding for keeping the Willard pool open to the public and you declined minimal financial support for programs such as Options and the Womens’ Drop-In Center. You rebuffed the many people who came to plead for these causes. 

“You, Mr. Mayor and council, have continuously supported, even irresponsibly augmented, the rich status quo of our city employees. You have done this in spite of citizen objections and to the ultimate detriment to Berkeley residents, to our infrastructure, our financial viability, and to our values. 

“You are now considering a $231,000 taxpayer expenditure to fund perks for employees while our citizens and services literally go begging. Shame on the city manager for having the effrontery to present this measure, and shame on you if you endorse it.” 

But approve it they did. At the same time they again denied funding to keep Willard pool open to the public and all whom it serves ($84,000), and again rejected monies for important civic programs ($35,000). It seems we can afford to send our city employees to the Y, but can’t afford to send the south-side community’s children to the local swimming pool. The City Manager also announced that new taxes would likely be forthcoming on refuse and other services, so as to close our budget gap, a gap created by ignoring reform of the unsustainable advantages city employees enjoy. Y-passes are just the tip of the iceberg. 

What’s not to like?From my point of view that would be a self-serving city manager, a bullyingmayor who ignores all public input, and a city council that doesn’t protect our interests. Do you sense a building mistrust in city hall and their ability to represent us?Do you sense some anger here?Yes you do. And I hope some of you are equally outraged. 

Victoria Peirotes
Berkeley Resident 


Anger Management 

I've given serious thought of late to signing up for an anger management program. Why the anger? Simply put, it has to do with the Oscar Grant/Mehserle trial. While I'm truly sorry for the shooting of Grant as such an early age, I have no opinion on the guilt or innocence of Mehserle in that shooting. This is clearly a matter for a jury and a judge to decide. 

What's driving me up the wall is the repeated showing of those amateur videos at the Fruitvale Bart Station. Week after week, month after month, the videos have been aired on morning, noon and evening television programs. If I've seen the videos once, I've seen them fifty times, and, frankly, I've had it up to here! 

Adding fuel to my anger is the widespread discussion of the violence that may likely erupt once a verdict is reached. 

People are cautioned to stay calm and refrain from violent protests. The Oakland Police have organized mock-riot exercises involving more than 450 officers. Even the July 2 New York Times carried the headline "With Verdict in Officer's Trial Near, Oakland Braces for Violence." To my way of thinking, all of these dire warnings by the media can only egg on would-be protesters, eager to smash store windows and damage automobiles for any cause. I'm dreading the jury's verdict when it's announced to the public and I'm bracing myself for the out-of-control demonstrations that will surely follow, thanks to the media's irresponsibility! 

Dorothy Snodgrass  


Fire Wall? 

In the Great Depression in 1933, the act that was passed—the Glass-Steagall Act and the bank act that was a part of the connector to that—transformed the landscape. It disallowed banks to take risks and hold our customer deposits. And it gave an incentive to banks that held deposits that they would be supported by the government, that the FDIC was created to back our money. But then they would also not be allowed to speculate and trade and create esoteric, complex instruments that are difficult to understand and don’t have a market and can collapse an entire economy. That was a big bill. 

1956, there was a Bank Holding Act. That said, banks can’t merge across state lines, they can’t buy insurance companies, they can’t by investment banks. They wanna do plain banking, they do plain banking. That was as a solidification of the Glass-Steagall Act. That was strengthening the act. This does none of that. This allows all of that complexity, it allows banks to hold insurance companies and investment back and trade and speculate and have government backing for deposits. 

Two major things were not addressed in the new bill, the most important things: first of all, it does nothing to put the fire wall back up between regular banking commercial activity and those investment firms on Wall Street. That distinction was critical to protect all of us from this kind of collapse. This bill does not fix it. The second thing is it does not do anything serious about these institutions, these investment companies and others that are too big to fail. And too big to be safe for America. It does not handle that. So the two biggest issues are not resolved—pretend this is somehow the kind of reform we needed to avoid the financial collapse is really not being honest with the American people. 

Ted Rudow III,MA 



I would like to commend Mal Burnstein for his courageous account of the intimidation City Councilmember Capitelli was subjected to when he planned to introduce a resollution at the City Council meeting condemning Israel for their attack on the flotilla carrying humanitarian supplies to Palestine. As Mal mentioned these intimidations are the same that helped cause the demise of the Berkeley Daily Planet and the same individuals of a Jewish Zionist group are at it again. How long are people in Berkeley willing to tolerate these tactics? This reminds me of a small scale mafia and I urge Councilmember Capitelli to come forward and tell us what threats he received before he was silenced. 

Andree Julian 


Steele’s Gaffe 

Poor Michael Steele, getting beat up for following the Republican line too closely, not the line that approves war in Afghanistan, but the line that says Obama is always wrong. However, Mr. Steele understands what others fail to: Republicans must relentlessly portray the President as an utter failure, with no variation. Such a strategy is easy to remember, and doesn’t require much thinking (a plus for Mr. Steele). GOP hopes all come down to pure, unprincipled opposition to everything Obama says and does. And here it is, a few days after Mr. Steele’s gaffe, many GOP spokesmen have joined Mr. Steele in claiming that President Obama started the war in Afghanistan. They've seen the light. After all, these are the same voters that handed Bush Jr. a second term as President, and are not likely to get all bothered over a lie or two, no matter how ridiculous. What’s more, the hurricane season is upon us. Maybe they can blame Obama for that as well! 

SK Phillips 


Nuclear Event Inevitable 

Without an enhanced and deliberate policy of engagement, our international scene is likely to produce at least one singular hostile nuclear event within a simple arms reach of 20 years, or less. 

What effects will we see in our communities, once this occurs? 

Who will become the victims? I predict the frontlines, the police, are likely to fall first and hardest, when all hell breaks loose. 

Can't we put reality and negotiation, above posturing and propaganda? 

Let our society crumble, and let the police blood spill without rhyme nor reason, when all hell breaks loose. 

Is it safeto ride a bike in Berkeley, post Mehserle verdict? 

Guess again, Rodney II. 

Dave Mouton
Arcata California 


Oil Spill 

To do something about the Gulf Oil Spill Disaster we can at least start driving less and buying local. About 250 million vehicles are on American road and each one uses on average about ten gallons of gasoline per week. Cutting back would fight back against big oil companies with their lack of preparedness for an oil disaster. Each week if we use three gallons of gasoline less, each car would reduce greenhouse gases from emissions by 63 pounds and cut American dependence on imported oil in half. We would then be able to put twice as much money into our own economy. 

Use public transportation
Carpool (Post a carpooling sign in offices near your workplace)
Save for an electric car (especially if you go 25+ miles per day)
Buy local food 

Frozen foods on your table represent 90% more energy than fresh foods. Processed foods like ketchup represent 1300 miles to your plate. A corporation buys tomatoes in California, transports them to the Midwest to be made into ketchup and then transports them back to our supermarkets. In addition, there is packaging and other energy-consuming processes involved in that bottle of ketchup. Buying a tomato at a farmers market, slicing it and using it in a sandwich saves a lot of enrgy. Also, look at labels and see how far some items like apple juice have travelled compared to the juice or fruit you buy at a farmers market. 

Ask your supermarket if they could mark shelves with local products 

Grow your own tomatoes, beans, lettuce, spinach, etc. (even on windowsills you can grow lettuce and spinach) 

Ask your city council to pay the fees farmers are charged at farmers’ markets 

Jane Harada 


War in Afghanistan 

The Afghanistan war serves no purpose. We will not recover out lost dignity in Vietnam (or Korea) by winning in either Iraq or Afghanistan. The amount of treasure squandered in both theatres could have made the US oil independent by now. 

Russ D'Arensbourg 

The US military has been in Afghanistan for ten years now, occupying a mountainous tribal country during its long civil war. Every drone launched from Nevada kills more civilians and drives more recruits to the Taliban. This occupation cannot be "won." If the war is really about claiming land for a future oil pipeline, this too is useless, as the only way out of peak oil is to shift as soon as possible to the sustainable economy required to save civilization. The war appropriations should be stopped, and the money poured into building the new green economy needed by the US. 

Helene Knox 

These wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have proved to be interminable, costly in American lives lost, and tragic in the humanitarian disaster to the societies of both those countries. At a time when our own economy is nearly in shambles, we can ill afford to be pressing a continuing military presence where the cost of victory escalates daily. In the last 60 years, both Britain and the Soviet Union have failed to establish governments in Afghanistan that were amenable to western interests. It is time to withdraw and to formulate a more humane diplomatic and political strategy for achieving our foreign policy aims in the mideastern region. 

Richard Kalman 

One million dollars a day per district for this endless stupid war. Afghanistan did not invade "us" and the U.S. must stop this pointless occupation. It's not our job to change THEIR government and society. 

Brenda Hillman 

Please be brave enough to end the occupation of Afghanistan. We are currently traveling in Turkey, and cannot tell you how deeply enraged people are over the occupation. "American does not have any friends," they say, "It only has interests". In the case of Afghanistan, we have no interest in being there as a military occupation force. What we are doing is counter productive to our real interests. 

Tom Miller 



A letter writer (6/29) states that "there are numerous ways" a potential victim can defend themself but doesn't give any of these alleged numerous reasons! The Supreme Court ruling simply upholds the Second Amendment as subject to the same standard of individual rights as the rest of the Bill of Rights. It doesn't strike down laws preventing minors or felons from owning weapons. Nor does it in any way excuse the misuse of a gun. The fact is that in my former hometown of Washington, D.C. criminals were the only ones with guns and they knew in advance that their victims would be legally disarmed. Now a would be robber or rapist is going to have to worry about the possibility of lethal resistance, the threat of which is the only deterrent to the criminal mentality. The DC ruling in 2008 only applied to Federal territory hence the necessity of the ruling in Chicago's identical ordinance denying the right of self-defense. The "liberal" distrust of fellow individuals to properly exercise their rights is most revealing of their real authoritarian philosophy. As far as leaving guns up to the police (this during the current BART officer trial!) and the military thanks but no cigar. The Second Amendment was adopted precisely with the thought of governmental tyranny in mind. It had nothing to do with hunting ducks as Bill Clinton once claimed. Furthermore, contrary to the writer's assertion, individual citizens are much more likely to be held accountable than the cops or the military. As Elena Kagan told Senator Feinstein yesterday this is now settled law whether you like it or not.  

Michael P. Hardesty 


Palin’s Opinion 

The Tea Party's Sarah Palin is already offering her opinion about California's race for governor. Predictably, she's not so much giving support to any candidate as she is trying to tear someone down. 

She claims Jerry Brown was a bad governor and "started; us down the road that has led "us" to our current economic problems. 

Those of us old enough remember Brown being called "Governor Moon-Beam" by his critics, in large part because he ditched the expensive limos and mansions that were such a drain on California's economy. 

Whatever else you might think about him, as governor Jerry Brown was among the best we've had in my lifetime. He didn't raise taxes, in fact he cut them repeatedly during his term in office. He left California at the end of his term having created millions of jobs. 

Ms. Palin - the half-term governor of Alaska - is not someone who should have anything to do with California's future. 

Palin makes political talk for cable newsbite fans and "red state" conservatives. She is so out of touch with the California scene. 

Ron Lowe 


Afghanistan—the U.S. between a rock and a hardplace 

Afghanistan now produces 90 percent of the world’s opium, which ends up on the streets of the world as heroin. According to one U.S. report, the area devoted to poppy production has nearly tripled in the last two years, and the country is on the verge of becoming a narcotics state. You can see why—drugs are about the only thing that poor country has that anyone else wants tobuy! 

The funny thing is, the U.S. is acting as the chief drug lord there, in a way, because it made it possible for all the smaller drug lords to come to power. Now the U.S. is between a rock and a hard place. So the U.S. hasn’t exactly been a virtuous liberator, because while it proclaims how it’s installed a new, more democratic government in Afghanistan, what it’s actually done is set the drug lords and warlords free to operate again, who control most of the country outside Kabul, thecapital.  

The U.S. has also taken advantage of Afghanistan’s lawlessness to convert its bases there into what one human rights advocate called “an enormous U.S. jail.” You see, since 9/11, one of the strategies of the U.S. in its “war on terror” has been to lock up anyone considered a suspect on any sort of grounds whatsoever, and where better to do it than Afghanistan, where there’s no legal system to challenge them and very few lawyers or human rights advocates to harass them and complain. Especially in the U.S., where most Americans stopped caring about Afghanistan a long timeago! 

Ted Rudow III,MA 

Former Commandant of the U.S. Marines, Maj. General Smedley D. Butler said it best in his frank expose titled "War is a Racket": 

"War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small 'inside' group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes." In another often cited quote from the book Butler says: "I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents." 

Stop the murder and racketeering in Afghanistan and Iraq NOW! 

Glen Kohler