Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday May 31, 2011 - 09:47:00 PM

Tom Roberts, the Puppet Man; A Matter of Mattresses; Flute Concert; Peace; UC Berkeley: Chancellor Treats Cal as Fiefdom; Take Care of the Children; Safety Net; Geography; Middle East; Disfunctional Government 

Tom Roberts, the Puppet Man 

I wrote some years back asking people to share their memories of the late Tom Roberts, known as the puppet man. 

People did indeed respond and more information keeps coming in. I want to invite people to look at the new website featuring those memories at and ask that people write me directly at

I will be glad to accept memories, leads, photos and mementos. 

Nathaniel S. Rounds 

* * * 

A Matter of Mattresses 

I'm convinced that Berkeley is the capital city of mattresses! For the past week a dumpster labelled "Cal Student Move On" has been parked across the street. It's been the object of curiosity all hours of the day and night, with agile people hopping inside to help themselves to the loot. I spent a full half-hour just now watching one of those yellow garbage trucks swallowing up mattresses, desks, chairs, even vacuum cleaners. It was a sinister, almost surreal scene as the truck moved down the street to the next dumpster. I think wistfully of all those Serta Beauty Rests gone forever! 

Dorothy Snodgrass 

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Flute Concert 

Some of you may know Marvin Sanders, the classical-flute-playing former street busker who produced the wonderful chamber-music concerts at Berkeley Art Center for many years. Marvin will be performing on June 12 at the Giorgi Gallery, 3 pm, with John Burke on piano. It's not only a concert of Bach, Haydn, Poulenc, and Faure; it's also a rent party because Marvin has gotten himself into deep financial doo-doo. This concert is a benefit to help Marvin stay housed. Refreshments offered. Admission: sliding scale $10-$50 (and more).510-845-6811. I highly recommend this concert. Bring your friends. 

Estelle Jelinek 

* * * 


In his famous book of 1795 Immanuel Kant advocated these three things: 

Standing armies must be totally abolished in due course; A country must not intervene with force to change another country's structure or government; During war a country must not act so that it becomes impossible to be trusted during a future period of peace 

The U.S. disarmed Japan to guarantee its war objective: that Japan never again become a threat to the U.S. In accordance with Kant's third principle, we must not apply limitless violence in war, and we must think about the period after the restoration of peace. As we bargain for peace let us remember there will be no refunds on lives given toward the same purpose 

There'll be love and laughter and peace ever after, in God's tomorrow when the World is free of war. God blesses peace! 

Ted Rudow III, MA 

* * * 

UC Berkeley: Chancellor Treats Cal as Fiefdom 

University of California Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau ($500,000 salary) has forgotten that he is a public servant, steward of the public money, not overseer of his own fiefdom (these are not isolated examples): 



  • recruits (uses California tax $) out of state $50,000 tuition students that displace qualified Californians from public university education;
  • spends $7,000,000 + for consultants to do his & vice chancellors work (prominent East Coast university accomplishing same,0 cost);
  • pays ex Michigan governor $300,000 for lectures;
  • in procuring $3,000,000 consultants he failed to receive proposals from other firms;
  • Latino enrollment drops while out of state jumps
  • tuition to Return on Investment drops below top10;
  • NCAA places basketball program on probation: absence [of] institutional control.
It’s all shameful. 

There is no justification for such practices by a steward of the public trust. Absolutely none. 

Birgeneau’s practices will not change. UC Board of Regents Chair Sherry Lansing must do a better job of vigorously enforcing oversight by President Yudof than has been done in the past over Chancellors who, like Birgeneau, treat the university as their fiefdom. 

Until demonstrable action is swiftly applied to Chancellors by the Board of Regents/President Yudof, the University of California shouldn’t come to the Governor or public for support for any taxes. 

I have 35 years’ consulting experience, have taught at UC Berkeley, where I observed the culture and the way senior management worked. No, I was not fired or downsized. 


* * * 

Take Care of the Children 

Oh what magical ways there are of cheating ordinary people! Especially young children and seniors. We hear that our worthy leaders in Washington are debating benefits for tomorrow's children and grandchildren. But who is debating the fate of today's children who are sunk in poverty? How can our leaders forget that some low income or no income family's child is keen to go to school but the family does not have enough food to eat? It is good to be farsighted but how can we forget the desperate need of those who are needy today? 

Do we really want the next generation to become parasites on productive members of society or we want them to get the knowledge and skills to become economically independent? 

We are asking today's children to manage on their own but how about teaching them employable skills? 

Let's change the mood from aggressive slashing of the budget to compassion towards the weaker section of our society. 

Romina Khanna 

* * * 

Safety Net 

What a joke! In one of the stories I've read, "Me First," a monkey gets the first big share and then sits down again with the other monkeys for his big share of what remains. At the end of the story the other monkeys get nothing to assuage their hunger pangs. In another story I've read the people who grew the fruit tree and watered it for many years get the smallest portion of the fruit. 

In today's enlightened society the first monkey gets the biggest portion without putting in any hard work. Ordinary hard working people drive cars which are owned by their banks. They pay through the nose for gas they put in the car. Why not raise taxes for oil companies which mint money off the back of these hard working people? 

Every Republican has a magic wand to make our crumbling economy sound in the shortest period of time. Cut entitlements. Cut Social Security. Cut Medicare. The purse of the rich must remain untouched so they can invest in innovation. Who needs a safety net for the ailing and the poor? 

At the present difficult time, elections are run by lobbyists. The representatives are willing to barter. You give me money to get elected. I will give you special write offs for your industry. 

I repeat: who needs a safety net for the ailing and the poor? 

Romila Khanna 

* * * 


There appears to be some geographically challenged folks in Berkeley. OSH Hardware 9th and Ashby, isn't 6 miles from anywhere in Berkeley. Although you'll get better service at any Ace including Ashby Lumbar 2 blocks from OSH or True Value (3 in Berkeley). 

Judi Sierra 

* * * 

Middle East 

In a major speech on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and on the Arab Spring, President Obama said a Palestinian state must be based on the 1967 borders, the first time a U.S. president has explicitly taken this position. The Israeli government immediately rejected Obama’s comments, calling the 1967 borders "indefensible." 

President Bush, over three years ago, made a similar speech. He said that "There should be an end to the occupation that began in 1967. [An] agreement must establish Palestine as a homeland for the Palestinian people, just as Israel is a homeland for the Jewish people." The Camp David summit of July 2000 was the latest in a long line of attempts by Israelis and Palestinians to attain peace in the Middle East. Zionist leader David Ben-Gurion unilaterally declared Israel a nation on May 14, 1948, following the UN partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states. And the list goes on and on. So the World is fed up! And they have voted unanimously against further occupancy of the Palestinian lands by Israel. 

"The war crimes and occupation, oppression and inequality that Palestinians are suffering from must end. And it was absolutely despicable to see our Congress pandering to Netanyahu as if he was the president of the United States." --Rae Abileah, a Jewish-American activist. 

Ted Rudow III, MA 

* * * 

Disfunctional Government 

Everybody look what's going down. If you think the government is functioning improperly now, watch what happens if anti-tax Republicans shut it down again. The GOP obviously didn't learn its lesson when they shut the government down in 1995-1996. 

Destroying America's credit is no small matter. It's outrageous to risk doing so for political gain. But the Republicans and Tea Party seem determined to play chicken with the debt ceiling. 

If Congress is blocked by the GOP from raising the national debt ceiling how bad will it be? By the beginning of August the Treasury will be deciding which bills to pay. The U.S. would begin defaulting on some of the Treasury notes and bonds as they come due. Some pension funds and insurance companies that are huge holders of treasuries would have to dump them because they're prohibited from owning debt of institutions that are in default. 

The GOP and Tea Party threatening not to raise the debt ceiling is not just playing with fire, but playing with fire in a dynamite factory. 

Ron Lowe