Letters for the Week of July 21

Readers sound off on Oakland police, the Berkeley Bowl, Mandela Foods Co-op, and that cover.

“From Genesis, Chapter 4:1,” Letters, 6/30

Uh, Cows, Not Sows

Thank you for publishing my letter concerning the parable of Joseph and the Pharaoh; however a mild rebuke is in order here. The Bible is (as far as I know) the largest collection of ancient literature to be found between two covers, and one of the most widely read. Whether a person is religious or not, it behooves them to get Scripture right. I paraphrased and extracted when I wrote that parable, without any substantial change in “the Word.” You, however, mangled it horribly. First, I quoted from Chapter 41 (Forty-one) of Genesis, not Ch. 4:1, which is a reference to a particular line in another chapter. Second, and more egregiously, the parable involves “seven gaunt cows,” not “seven gaunt sows” as you printed. Genesis was written by Jews, and you may be sure that sows were not to be found anywhere on their menus. But I forgive you (however, I’m not Jewish).

James Fenton

“Be Cool,” Editor’s Note and Cover, 7/7

Bigger Than Bernstein

Dear Mr. Buel, your cover poster is the most important act of journalism I’ve seen in fifty years of reading — and yes, I remember Watergate and Ellsberg.

When we have a president who refuses to fully deploy our Coast Guard and who rejects help from thirteen nations offering to clean our worst disaster ever, when we have a “Justice” Department that chooses not to prosecute New Black Panther Party Members for racial intimidation of would-be-voters, when we have legislators blithely refusing to pass a budget, it’s heartening to see a results-oriented person who is more concerned with proactive community than with turf, power, ideology, or greed. Bless You.

David Altschul, Berkeley

Fight the Power

THERE ARE NO “OUTSIDERS” IN THE STRUGGLE AGAINST OPPRESSION To those who talk about “inoculating” people against the so-called “violence” of the masses. Who preach against protest. Who say “be cool.” Who say they want to preserve a “peaceful and thriving Oakland” when the reality is that every day the police run rampant, brutalizing and killing our youth. Who cynically invoke the names of Malcolm X and Huey Newton in attempts to pre-emptively quell the outrage of the people. Who speak of “love” while they denigrate those who have taken a stand, calling them “outside agitators” and “extreme fringe groups” We say: WHERE IS YOUR OUTRAGE AT THE MURDER OF OSCAR GRANT?

Oscar Grant, 22 years old, with his whole life ahead of him, was shot in the back at point blank range in front of his friends and hundreds of BART passengers. It was a horror. A violent, brutal, totally unjustified execution. WHERE IS YOUR OUTRAGE AT THE EPIDEMIC OF POLICE BRUTALITY?

At least 100 people are killed by police each year in California. At least 1,000 people are killed by law enforcement each year across the US. Sergio Hernandez, 15, shot by border patrol while committing no crime and while on the Mexican side of the border. Aiyana Stanley Jones, only 7 years old, killed by Detroit police grenade and bullet. AND WHERE IS YOUR OUTRAGE AT THE PRE-EMPTIVE REPRESSIVE MEASURES, EDICTS, AND MILITARY EXERCISES BY THE POLICE? WHY ARE YOU SPEAKING OUT AGAINST THE PROTESTERS, INSTEAD OF STANDING WITH THEM AGAINST POLICE BRUTALITY?


This system of capitalism/imperialism is poisoning the oceans, creating dead zones; is waging unjust wars; is criminalizing immigrants; attacking women; and it enforces all of this oppression and injustice with brutality, repression, and violence. We say it is right to rebel. If the people do not resist oppression, they will be demoralized and crushed — forced to swallow their anger until they eventually turn it against each other. WHO DO YOU “LOVE”? WHERE DO YOU STAND? WHERE IS YOUR OUTRAGE AGAINST THE SYSTEM? WHAT KIND OF WORLD ARE YOU FIGHTING FOR?

The system delivered its verdict, a slap on the wrist to Joannes Mehserle. It mobilized its armies of cops, its liars in the media, its networks of politicians, ministers, nonprofits, and snitches to stifle and suppress the people. We take heart that in the face of all that people took to the streets with courage and determination, and gave voice to the bitter anger of many, many more, in Oakland and beyond. There are no outsiders in the struggle against oppression. The whole damn system IS guilty. We are stepping up the battle for justice for Oscar, the battle against the whole damn system, and we are building a movement for revolution. Fight the Power, and transform the people, for revolution!

Reiko Redmonde, Oakland

“Pleasant Days in Pixarville,” Food, 6/30

Café Aquarius, Interrupted

Good review. Helpful clarification: You list the hours as 7-3 p.m. and started by describing the popular lemon-ricotta pancakes. We went there today; however, the pancakes are only served on weekend brunch and the restaurant has defined hours for breakfast and lunch i.e. breakfast weekdays 7:30-10:30 and lunch weekdays 11:30-2:30 with brunch 9-2 week-end. We arrived at 11:00 unfortunately.

We looked in window and walked by. The owner, Patrick, came out. He asked if we were in search of the pancakes. He was most cordial and spent awhile talking with us. He gave us copies of their 3 menus (their web site is being revised) and two of their pastries (delicious). Another couple arrived and seemed to have info re hours that was not fully accurate.

My first impressions from the appearance of the restaurant, menu, and owner are great so I’m hoping to have some meals there soon! Perhaps you could clarify hours/pancake issues.

Ellen R., Oakland

“Years in the Making, Mandela Foods Cooperative Still a Secret,” News, 6/16

Tax Money for Food Justice

As a co-founder of a nonprofit working on food justice issues in the East Bay, I appreciate your coverage of Mandela Foods Coop on June 16th (“Years in the Making, Mandela Foods Cooperative Still a Secret”). However, the feature provides a shallow investigation into the actual work of Mandela Marketplace, which successfully enables economic empowerment and affordable healthy food options in the West Oakland community. The article also fails to understand the relationship between the worker-owned and operated store, Mandela Foods Coop, and the non-profit that supports it, Mandela Marketplace, which has no ownership over the store. This grocery store is owned and operated by multi-generational people of color who are from West Oakland, not “Harvey and Co.” as Taylor purports. Their produce is mostly sourced from small farmers of color within 100 miles. Plus, the youth program is also making this produce available through partnerships with two corner stores, Bottles Liquor and Millennium Market, in addition to the cooperative grocery store in West Oakland. With all the public development money that goes to provide incentives for corporate chain stores, it’s about time some of our tax money supported true economic and food justice in Oakland. Everyone should support this store!

Haleh Zandi, Oakland

“Workers at Berkeley Bowl Boot Their Union,” News, 6/30

A Situation Worth Monitoring

I recently left Berkeley Bowl after working there for roughly a year. I can honestly say that I got along with and was treated well by management. But, at the same time, I witnessed some inconsistent treatment. Policies, procedures, and even our medical plan changed without much notice, arguably in violation of our existing contract. UFCW Local 5 clearly had its faults — namely, communicating with employees only when contract negotiations were imminent. I’m not surprised that saving $50 a month was enough for some employees to support decertification. Many weren’t sure what they’d be missing. But I question how employees are going to get a better package from Berkeley Bowl without union representation, especially considering the company’s history. For my friends and former co-workers, I hope this “Berkeley Bowl plan” far exceeds the pre-2003 working conditions. I’d ask the community and whatever “watchdog” organization develops to make sure pro-union employees to not receive the retaliation many feared.”

Steve Westhoff, Walnut Creek

Workers Need Their Own Unions

US workers are not stupid; they know that the unions in the United States are no longer run by workers. A whole bunch of petty bourgeois intellectuals with university titles, such us Business Rep, Labor Organizers and even lawyers have taken control of the union halls and have used the workers’ dues to run their campaigns to climb up to the “leadership” positions.

United Food and Commercial Workers has a particularly nefarious record in the last 25 years. In 1986, when the Local P-9 in Austin, Minnesota went on strike against the Hormel meatpacking house, the “International” decertified the local and formed another local with the scabs, under the orders of the late President William Wynn. P-9 workers had fought Hormel for a year with the support of workers around the country. Since, the meatpacking houses in the Midwest have either deunionized or have imposed concessionary contracts, employing mostly illegal scabs at wages that are a third of those of 1986.

In the 21st Century, the UFCW carried out another disastrous “negotiation” with Safeway and other supermarkets in California. It refused to go on strike during the end-of-the-year holidays, when the strike could’ve been more effective, postponing it for mid-January after another of their “shrewd” “negotiations” failed. Result: another concessionary contract with several tiers that left newly hired workers with a third of prevalent wages and no benefits.

The UFCW, together with the SEIU, are the most pro-illegal scabs unions and we, the workers, know that that means the erosion of wages, working conditions and safety rules. The workers must form their own unions and political organizations in order to be able to fight capitalism effectively.

Leo T. West, San Leandro

“Oakland Police Search Without Warrants,” News, 6/30

It’s a Trend

Up in Humboldt County a similar building-code scheme was used to get bench warrants, without evidence, permitting entry to one property suspected of “code violations,” with a half-dozen armed deputies fanning out from there. The fun part was, case law says cops can operate freely in securing “open fields” near any old non-crime scene — so the cops went warrant-free as far as two miles away into peoples’ homes and yards looking for … whatever, under cover of the far-off routine, evidence-free warrant. A big stink two years ago toned down this particular approach up there, but the lower evidentiary standard for building code warrants means that even “warranted” raids can be completely unwarranted.

Charley Custer, Redway

Taking Away Rights

Every liberty that is taken away from people who think they are free, without asking, by due process of law, finds many other citizens like me who are loath to give up the things that we could freely do and receive, while we were about our liberties, not without a fight. The number of angry disillusioned citizens whose ability to trust in government has been undermined increases every day. We are lucky, so far, that mankind is more disposed to suffer evils, while the evils are sufferable. However, all history shows those with eyes to see, that within human societies there is a weight in numbers that can break the camel’s back. A critical number of citizens loathing losses of some liberty that can tip the scale of justice, which is balanced on the perceptions of those who are being governed. Then the people rise up to put down the unwarranted invasions into society’s greatest sovereign sphere of action by right of conquest and constitution secured to “WE THE PEOPLE.”

Thomas Jones, Weston, Oregon

“Oakland’s New Sewer Fees Penalize Water Conservation,” Eco Watch, 6/30

Piling On the Little Guy

Here’s a repeat of my e-mail to each of the council members: Besides protesting the alarmingly high percentage increases you are proposing to implement over the next three years (because you think you can get away with them and because of the way I know the way this city sloshes funds around between departments as it sees fit, —particularly when funds are otherwise tight), let me copy you about the reprehensible pretense about equity you all generally give lip service to by quoting from my e-mail to Nate Seltenrich at the East Bay Express:

“Thank you so much for your information in the June 30, 2010 edition of the Express about the disproportionate, inequitable allocation of Oakland sewer fee charges between larger and generally more affluent property owners and we smaller and generally more conservative water users.

“This sort of disproportionate, discriminatory imposition on the smaller guy is a rife expedient that Oakland politicians, (and those at the more “elevated” — term not used as any sort of compliment! — levels of government exploit ALL THE TIME), out of expedience and out of savvy to hold at bay their generally more outspoken and more campaign-funding-generous political supporters.”

Sad to say, Oakland politicians — notwithstanding all their politically correct oratory — are just as cynical and self-serving as the rest of their ilk.

Michael Sachs, Oakland

“Factories for the Future,” Small Business Monthly, 6/30

Jobs Must Be Protected

The West Berkeley Artisans & Industrial Companies (WEBAIC) was gratified to see the front page article, “Factories for the Future,” acknowledging the value of manufacturing in today’s society. While other cities are now energized to reinvigorate their manufacturing base, Berkeley’s farsighted, community driven, West Berkeley Plan implemented industrial protection policies in the Nineties that have assured the present, successful mixed-use economy and culture in West Berkeley. By providing an adequate and affordable land base for the industrial production, distribution, and repair (PDR) sectors, the industrial protection policies addressed the three components of true sustainability — economy, environment, and equity — through:

Contributing mightily to local economies through taxes and the deeply interconnected network supply chains, providing the bulk of family-wage jobs to those without a college education (23% of all jobs in East Bay shore cities), and providing valuable goods and services (bakeries, recycling, food & produce distribution, building and solar contractors, printers, auto repair, machine shops, cabinet makers, engravers, scientific glass blowers, caterers, etc.,) to the local and regional populace.

With about half of West Berkeley employment in the industrial and arts sectors and the other half in scientific, technical, professional, service, and retail, the success of this envisioned mixed-use policy is revealed. Not mentioned in the article, but highly relevant to the topic, is the ongoing multi-year community effort in Berkeley, initiated by WEBAIC, to maintain West Berkeley’s successful industrial protection zoning policies in the face of forces seeking their dismantling. Hausrath Economics’ 2008 report commissioned by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Goods Movement/Land Use Project For The San Francisco Bay Area, quantified in detail the projected growth of these industrial Production, Distribution, and Repair (PDR) activities, the growing demand for these “goods movement” lands, and the serious, negative consequences to the economy, environment, and equity of the region resulting from East Bay shore cities not preserving this land.

The study’s central conclusion is: Due to local municipalities allowing their industrial “goods movement” PDR lands to be converted to more highly capitalized housing, office, retail, and R&D uses, the industrial companies that depend on these lands are either being forced out of business or pushed over the passes into the Central Valley, resulting in: “87,100 fewer goods movement industry jobs in East Bay shore cities by 2035; fewer good-paying blue/green collar jobs in proximity to the urban workforce residing in the central Bay Area, particularly jobs for workers with less than college educations; an additional 347,900 truck vehicle miles traveled per day on regional highways in 2035; higher emissions of greenhouse gases and criteria pollutants, including VOCs, CO, NOx, SO2, PM2.5, and PM10; greater auto-truck interactions; increased health risks in the I-580 corridor; higher costs of goods and higher cost of living overall in Bay Area; greater pressures on agricultural lands; and fewer opportunities to work near places of residence.” The Report concludes with a request for “initiatives to support industry’s role in more balanced smart growth” due to “a dispersed goods movement/industrial land use pattern being contrary to the region’s Smart Growth Vision.”

As even in this downturn Berkeley has the second lowest aggregate vacancy rate for manufacturing and warehouse space (lower than office) among the seven cities from Richmond to Fremont, and as we still have over 320 PDR companies providing close to 7000 family-wage jobs in West Berkeley, the effort here is centered on expanding and keeping what we have while at the same time assuring adequate space for new, clean tech R&D, particularly Lawrence Berkeley Lab spin-offs. To accommodate these hoped-for uses, WEBAIC has proposed opening up protections on at least 28 acres to provide millions of square feet for R&D, while keeping protections on land outside these large sites where most companies with green and blue collar jobs now live. This balanced proposal facilitates both green-tech and green-collar, fulfilling the mission of the Green Corridor and assuring space for the “cradle-to-scale” strategy described by Green Corridor director Carla Din in the Express article.

Forces within Berkeley City government together with developers seek to limit this capacity by opening up not just large sites, but all West Berkeley industrially-protected land to uses able to pay much more for space than protected uses. This radical proposal that would displace long-contributing companies and important jobs, particularly for those who’ve taken the brunt of regressive federal economic policies over the last several decades, would strike a blow against our City’s and region’s economic and ethnic diversity and would set back efforts to create a truly sustainable, local serving economy.

WEBAIC believes that ultimately the citizenry and decision-makers will see the folly of this approach and take the hopeful path forward laid out in the Express article.

John Curl, WEBAIC chair; Rick Auerbach WEBAIC staff; Berkeley

Miscellaneous Letters

A Mother’s Plea for Justice

By Ellen Hoeft-Edenfield

On May 13, 2010 my only child, Andrew Hoeft-Edenfield, was found guilty of second-degree murder for the tragic death of a UC student in a trial that shattered my belief in the fairness of our court system. To begin with, the DA put me on her witness list, which kept me out of the courtroom, but then she never called me. This manipulation barred me from attending my own son’s trial.

Two years before this verdict, on May 3, 2008, Christopher Wooten, a fraternity member at Sigma Pi, was killed while engaged in a violent brawl on frat row near U.C. Berkeley.

My son Andrew was then a student at Berkeley City College and working part-time at Jamba Juice. It was simply unimaginable to those who know him, that Andrew, who had no criminal record whatsoever, could be involved in this tragedy.

The morning after this nightmarish night, I found Andrew at the police station with a battered and bruised body. His elbow was shredded and it looked like half of his kneecap was gone; there were shoe prints on his back where he was kicked and stomped. His head was full of multiple bloody cuts and welts where he had been kicked in the head. My son’s friend had also been badly beaten. None of the frat boys were arrested for the assault. Chris sustained only one stab wound.

That night Andrew had been at a birthday party down the street from the university’s fraternity row. After he and one of his friends left the party, they walked in front of Sigma Pi. One fraternity member testified that he decided my son was a troublemaker because he wore baggy clothes and had an earring. Inflammatory words were exchanged, and another fraternity member testified that my son and his friend left the scene.

Sigma Pi fraternity members then chased Andrew and his friend up the street and into a parking lot. Several frat members involved admitted on the witness stand that they intended to challenge Andrew. Other testimony indicated that ten to fifteen Sigma Pi members and their friends formed a circle around Andrew and his friend. Anyone would have been terrified.

During the trial, instead of focusing on the facts of what happened that night, the district attorney was allowed to present irrelevancies such as my son’s ninth-grade backpack, on which he’d scrawled “thug life,” the title of a popular Tupac Shakur album, claiming this indicated my son had a “thug mentality.” She also brought in school records from elementary school that said he’d thrown rocks at cars when he was 11½.

That my son was a Boy Scout for many years and was very close to becoming an Eagle Scout was not allowed as evidence. His scout leader wanted to testify about my son’s days in scouting, but this too was not allowed. At Andrew’s bail hearing we had ten character witnesses at the hearing who were also not allowed to testify on my son’s behalf. One of the witnesses was a previous employer who planned to offer Andrew a job if he was allowed out on bail.

More recent, serious and pertinent evidence about Chris’s background was excluded, including that the fact that he’d been in a very similar fight just six months before. Chris had also had been thrown out of Kips, a local bar, for aggressive behavior. We had a witness who’d had his hair pulled out of his scalp and both of his arms broken by frats. The judge would not allow him to testify either.

What is probably most important is that evidence was excluded about the ongoing culture of alcohol and violence that has become a part of fraternity row, not just in Berkeley, but also around the nation. The US Department of Health identifies alcohol as a special health risk in colleges.

On the night he died, Chris Wooten had an alcohol blood level of .21, far beyond the level that causes intoxication. The corner’s report indicated he had thirty bruises on his body from other fights and on his MYSPACE blog he boasted about how he and his frat brothers had outnumbered another young man in an earlier incident and ground his face into the sidewalk while kicking his ribs and head.

This culture of alcohol abuse and violence has led to a pending class action lawsuit against the fraternities at UC Berkeley filed by the South of Campus Neighborhood Association. One neighbor has security surveillance videotapes of frats breaking into his house and of regular violence in the area posted on his web site. Information about the many neighbors who have suffered from fraternity unruliness was also not allowed, although it was essential to understanding the social problems that led to the attack on Andrew and to Chris’s death.

California law gives each of us the right to self-defense. The community does not benefit when all the blame is placed on just one person — my son Andrew — and everyone else is absolved of responsibility.

The law allows self-defense because people have the right to protect themselves when they are attacked and outnumbered ten against two by drunk, aggressive, and violent young men. Most of those convicted of second degree never receive parole.

I have great compassion for the Wooten family and the loss of their child, which is probably the greatest loss any human being can experience. Further compounding this tragedy is the injustice dealt to my son. If Andrew had not defended himself he could very well be on life support or dead himself.

Ellen Hoeft-Edenfield, Berkeley

Costly Savings

Just what California needs; budget cuts that hurt millions of people and don’t save any money! The governor wants drastic reductions in In-Home Support services, Adult Day Health Care, and mental health programs. He’ll “save” a billion dollars or so. But these programs enable people to keep living at home. Without them, thousands of disabled people will require nursing homes and cost Medi-Cal billions more!

Instead of cutting highly cost-effective programs, we need to tax the rich and the oil companies to pay for needed services. Or we could cut the prison budget by releasing non-violent offenders. Anything is better than the governor’s stupid and cruel plan. Contact the governor and your state representatives now! And drop by the Arnieville camp at Adeline and Russell and help them protest these cuts.

David Spero, San Francisco

Cell Phones and Cancer

Too bad that San Francisco’s new Right-to-Know Law has prompted the wireless industry to boycott the city. Two important cell-phone studies that received financing from wireless corporations certainly justify the Right-to-Know Law enacted by San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors. T-Mobile, which is among the nation’s largest wireless companies, commissioned a study with a highly reputable independent research institute, on the health impact of cell phone emissions. The study concluded, “Given the results of the present epidemiological studies, it can be concluded that electromagnetic fields with frequencies in the mobile telecommunications range do play a role in the development of cancer.”

The thirteen-country inter-phone study that was just released was heavily biased in favor of the industry, which paid about half the costs. Among its many serious limitations, children and young adults under thirty, who are particularly vulnerable to electromagnetic emissions, were excluded from the study. Nevertheless, the research found that the heaviest cell phone users were 40 percent more likely, on average, to be diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor.

Clearly, these studies were not conducted by researchers with an ax to grind against cell phones. Moreover, when we look at many other carefully designed research studies that are completely independent, the results are disturbing.

Harry Brill, El Cerrito

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