Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday March 29, 2011 - 10:02:00 PM
Two images of Warren McKenna, as a young man, and more recently
Contributed Photo
Two images of Warren McKenna, as a young man, and more recently

Remembering Warren McKenna; Government Education is an Oxymoron; Football Safety Hearings; Stonewalled by Stonemountain; Berkeley High School and the Lack of Shops; Obama Didn't Tell the Full Story; New Beginning? 

Remembering Warren McKenna 

With the death of Warren McKenna on March 3rd, Berkeley lost one of its most extraordinary and dedicated citizens -- a man totally committed to social causes. Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Warren graduated from Wesleyan College and Episcopal Theological School and went on to be the rector of St. Peter's in Jamaica Plain, Ma., then Holy Trinity in London. He was a member of the Progressive Party and a self-proclaimed radical, thus landing in FBI files! 

Attending the Moscow Youth Festival in 1957, he went to China with 41 fellow Americans at the invitation of the Chinese government. He participated in Freedom Summer in Mississippi in 1964 and went on to be Associate Director of the Delta Ministry in Greenville, Mississippi to promote voter registration and integration. In 1968. with his wife Elizabeth, he moved to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands where they both managed a hotel, built vacation homes, and opened Skyworld, one of the first gourmet restaurants on the Island, one that still exists. 

After 30 years of Island living, Warren and Elizabeth moved to Berkeley, where Warren continued to participate in peace demonstrations and closely followed politics. Throughout all of his life, he approached everything with passion, zeal for learning, and strong belief in people's ability to promote change and make the world a better place. 

In celebration and memory of Warren, a memorial service was held on Sunday, March 20th, at the Berkeley City Club, with family and friends paying tribute to this wonderful man. Daughter, Leslie Easterday, read a moving eulogy listing her father's remarkable achievements, and grandchildren offered their own loving sentiments. Before moving into another lounge for a delectable buffet, Elizabeth read a tender verse her husband had given her, "Hinterhof" ("Stay near to me and I'll stay near to you as you are dear to me will do." Need I say we were all reduced to tears at this point? All in all, the Memorial was a fitting and well-deserved tribute to a truly admirable, dedicated man! 

Dorothy Snodgrass 


Government Education is an Oxymoron 

As Isabel Paterson wrote in The God Of The Machine many years ago, 'Why do you have to get your fees by extortion and your pupils by compulsion ?' Michelle Melamed and Raymond Barglow are advocating more of the same poison which is killing the American mind. John Dewey's pragmatism is a horror in all respects, from the youth who have no ability to form concepts, to think beyond the most concrete-bound journalism to the politicians whose criterion is not that things work because they are true but they are true because they seem to work for the moment. 

After a century of unprincipled, warmongering liars from both Roosevelts to Wilson to Truman to LBJ, Nixon, both Bushes, Clinton and Obama you would think people could wake up and smell the house that's on fire. But no, just the Loni Hancocks and the Jerry Browns and the Babs Boxers, in other words the same old, same old. There is no right to anything produced by the efforts of others. In a modern industrial civilization this means the intellectual effort to create and sustain products and services. 

Education doesn't grow on trees and is NOT 'fun.' It's hard work that takes discipline and concentration. And it's not for everyone. The more graduates the less each degree is worth as the principle of inflation operates everywhere. Probably 95% of the total population is trainable, 5% is actually educable. T 

hose are the ones whom both high school and college should preserved for. The rest can go to trade schools or if we sensibly repeal asinine child anti-labor laws can start working. The sooner the better as no one in the future will be retiring before 75 at least. Uncle Obama is getting ready to have Year Number Three without COLA for those on Social Security. I think you can see which way the wind is blowing and not where Bobby D. thought. If education is totally privatized as it should be then you will have more diversity than one can imagine at present. No one size fits all model will be shoved down everyone's throat. Montessori schools, Progressive schools, segregated schools, integrated schools, the possibilities are vast. Oh, and no NEA or vast governmental administrative apparatus of hacks working to bring down everything to its lowest common denominator. If we can only live long enough the anti-Berkeley mindset future will be glorious. 

]Michael Paul Hardesty 


Football Safety Hearings 

U.S. Senator Tom Udall has proposed legislation on football helmet safety and there is sure to be helmet hearings in Congress in some form, on either Udall’s initiative or that of Democrats on the House Commerce Committee. In addition, the Federal Trade Commission has started an investigation of marketing claims that some football helmets can help reduce concussions. The FTC investigation will focus on safety marketing claims for some new and reconditioned helmets to determine whether they are misleading or deceptive. 

Congressional and FTC interest in football helmet safety is because pro-football injuries and concussions are at a nine-year high with brain-related injuries the most common type of injury in NFL games. As the season progresses, the chance of injury increases. It is not an exaggeration to say that there is a national public health crisis of concussions in sports – estimated to total four million annually, not including the possibility that tens of millions more “sub-concussive” head blows contribute to youth mental deterioration. 

For example, Aaron Rodgers, the quarterback for the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, has suffered two concussions already in his young career, and Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has suffered four concussions so far. 

The National Football uses college and university football programs as its minor leagues. Few college football players go on to the NFL, but I assume that most football programs rely directly or indirectly on the NFL for guidance on what equipment to use in their programs. Perhaps, this reliance is misguided. Reportedly, the safety claims made for helmet safety are based on studies conducted by individuals connected to the NFL or NFL teams. This calls into question the validity of these studies. This is one area Congress and the FTC will be investigating. 

Shouldn't colleges and universities with football programs be involved in the hearings? After all, they all have an interest in football safety. 

Ralph E. Stone, BA 1961 


Stonewalled by Stonemountain 

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Stonemountain and Daughter Fabrics, a Berkeley institution, and one of the few independent fabric stores left standing in an era of chain fabric stores which now devote much of their floor space to crafts rather than fabric. Stonemountain has remained profitable even in this difficult economy, grossing over $2 million last year. Owners Suzan and Bob Steinberg are proud of the store’s longevity and “giving back to the community”- but they should be ashamed. Their business was actually built by retail workers whose skills and knowledge they tout constantly (“Our knowledgeable staff”), but who have never been paid a living wage or offered more than part-time hours. 

The store was first unionized by the IWW in 2003, and a few concessions have been made since then. The base wage is now a whopping $10.70 an hour, and you can get crappy Kaiser health insurance if you’re willing to devote a third of your monthly paycheck to the premium- except you won’t be able to afford to use it, seeing as how it has a $1500 deductible. $10.70 may even look like a lot to people who are being paid minimum wage in other retail jobs, but the reality is that retail wages have barely risen at all over the past twenty five years- while the cost of things like gas, food, and rent have tripled. (For example, the Stonemountain starting wage today is about what Macy’s Union Square was paying in 1987, except Macy’s provided 100% employer-paid benefits, including medical, dental, vision, and a pension.) 

The union is currently in contract negotiations with the owners. They have offered the same contract as three years ago- no wage increase, a pitiful increase in paid time off, and a contract that runs four years. We were proudly told by the owners that we are some of the highest paid fabric store workers in the U.S.- which suggests that the others are horribly underpaid. All of the current employees at the store are women- it’s sad that a female business owner feels she can exploit other women. 

The owners apparently think we all have other jobs which are extremely lucrative, and we don’t need the money. In reality, standing on a concrete floor for nine hours a day, three or four days a week, doesn’t leave anyone a whole lot of energy for doing anything else. 

We are asking for support from Stonemountain customers and the community at large in our fight for a decent wage. We love the store and the customers and we want it to succeed, but we also want to share financially in that success. Please e-mail the owners, Suzan ( and Bob ( and tell them you support higher wages for Stonemountain workers. 

Jane Powell 

Berkeley High School and the Lack of Shops 

Berkeley High School is yet another California public high school (with a corresponding school Board) that removed shop and vocational type classes, disabling the potential for any student to learn a living-wage trade, falsely believing that classes should only be “college-prep” explaining why the overall drop-out rate is high, leaving kids bored and eventually out on the streets. The school board should be empowering kids to bring tools of various trades to schools, and not handguns. If only one school board member had been, for example, a welder, carpenter, mechanic, or other in life. 

Robert A. Valentine 

Obama Didn't Tell the Full Story 

During his recent trip to Latin America, President Obama paid homage to the assassinated Archbishop Oscar Romero, an El Salvadoran hero famous for standing with the poor during the war-torn 1980s. Oscar Romero was assassinated while giving mass 31 years ago this week. In El Salvador, Obama acknowledged Romero's heroism and bravery. However, what Obama failed to mention is that the Archbishop's assassination was planned and carried out by individuals trained by the United States at the School of the Americas (SOA). The SOA is still in operation, training Latin American soldiers that become human rights abusers at an astonishing rate. And until Obama acknowledges the U.S.'s role in Oscar Romero's tragedy and closes this school of assassins, the reputation of the United States will be tainted in Latin America. 

Beverly Bell 

New Beginning? 

Despite Obama's attempts to reach out to some Latin American leftists, Ivan Briscoe, the security analyst, believes elements within the US military’s Southern Command are advocating a "hard-line military response" to security problems in the region, even though this strategy has failed in the past. Guatemala, another impoverished Central American country, recently followed this "hard-line" approach when authorities declared a state of emergency to battle drug gangs. 

Structural problems in Central America, leaving average people with few viable options, can be traced to the mentality of local elites, says Carlos Velazquez, the El Salvadorian political researcher The history of Central America is so sad that it's almost too tragic to relate and how it's coming to a head to a new beginning is yet to be see! 

Ted Rudow III, MA