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New: Save the California Public Records Act from State Senate Attack (Comment)

By Karen Joffe
Thursday June 20, 2013 - 10:46:00 PM

I consider the attack on California's Public Records Act a stealth attack on a hard-won citizen right, as is the threat of amending the state constitution to weaken a citizen's ability to obtain public records in an easily accessible format and in a reasonable timeliness. I am an involved citizen who depends on the news media and on access to government records to make informed decisions. 

The issue of who pays for the release of public records, the state or the locality, should be resolved in a public debate not by a political back room maneuver. The same goes for any effort to weaken the CA Public Records Act provisions in the state constitution. 

The overly optimistic statement made by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg about local government compliance without this mandate does not reflect a knowledge of how cleverly evasive local governments can be and how much legal expense they are willing to incur when they do not want to comply with the existing CA Public Records Act , The First Amendment Coalition v. Santa Clara Cty. or Sierra Club v. Orange Cty. being just two recent examples. 

I want this trailer removed from the state budget bill immediately; and, as well, I want California’s state senators to cease efforts to eviscerate constitutional protections to citizen access CA public records.

Two Men Charged with Berkeley Murder

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Thursday June 20, 2013 - 10:44:00 PM

Two men were charged today with murder for the fatal shooting of 34-year-old Zontee Jones in broad daylight in Berkeley in February. 

Jevon Calland, 21, had a motive to harm Jones and had threatened him in front of witnesses the day before Jones was shot to death, Berkeley police officer Jesse Grant said in a statement filed in court. 

Jones was found shot in the 1000 block of Delaware Street between 10th Street and San Pablo Avenue shortly after 11 a.m. on Feb. 4, police said. 

Grant didn't say what Calland's motive was but he said Calland "made a plan with several other people to do harm" to Jones, who he said was unarmed. 

However, Grant alleged that co-defendant Maurice Thomas, also 21, was the person who actually shot and killed Jones. 

The Alameda County District Attorney's Office charged both Calland and Thomas with murder but it also charged Thomas with discharging a firearm and causing death, which could add 25 years to his sentence if he's convicted. 

Calland and Thomas both face 25 years to life if they're convicted of first-degree murder. 

Berkeley police spokeswoman Jennifer Coats announced on Tuesday night that Calland was arrested on Sunday following a four-month investigation into Jones' death. 

However, apparently Thomas hasn't yet been arrested, as there is no record of an arrest in Grant's probable cause statement or court records. Coats couldn't immediately been reached for comment. 

Referring to the alleged plan to harm Jones, Grant said, "Calland summoned one of the other persons to the scene of the murder with a firearm." 

He said, "Calland engaged the victim in a physical confrontation and the other persons assisted him." 

Calland is seen on a video participating in the murder and was identified by witnesses both at the shooting location and running away from the scene, according to Grant. 

Thomas was identified on video and by witness statements, Grant said. Forensic evidence "supports the conclusion that Thomas shot the victim (Jones)," he said. Calland was scheduled to be arraigned on the murder charge in Alameda County Superior Court today.

New: Ask the Governor to veto SB 71 (Comment)

By Bruce Joffe
Thursday June 20, 2013 - 09:00:00 AM

When California's budget passed last week, it included several "trailer" bills that modify the budget according to various Legislators' particular interests. One trailer, SB 91, would destroy the Public Records Act by making compliance Optional, if Sections 4 and 118 of SB 71 are signed into law.

It is critical for governmental transparency and accountability that government records be available to the public in the same format that the government uses to make its decisions. The public must have the opportunity to analyze the government's data in order to understand and possibly challenge decisions. This is a foundation of democracy.

A picture of electronic records (in .pdf format) is not equivalent to the actual data in its database format. While governmental data can be searched, sorted and analyzed, a .pdf picture of that data can not be. The public needs to analyze a public agency's data exactly as the agency has done, to insure accountability. Public access to governmental data is too important to our democracy to allow it to be subverted by SB 71.

Section 6253.9 of the Public Record Act says public agencies must provide their data to the public upon request in the format that they use it. Since their data is already in these formats, there is no cost to providing it to PRA requesters. There is no budgetary justification in making the PRA requirement optional.

Email the Governor to veto Sections 4 and 118 of SB 71 (http://gov.ca.gov/m_contact.php).

New: Redistricting: An Open Letter to the Berkeley Community from the Berkeley Neighborhood Council (Comment)

By Jacquelyn McCormick, Berkeley Neighborhood Council Redistricting Committee Chair
Tuesday June 18, 2013 - 10:02:00 AM

Not so very long ago, Berkeley proclaimed itself to be a “City of neighborhoods.” Not so much now. Under the quiet and persistent guidance of the present Mayor and Council, policy and practice emphasis has steadily shifted away from neighborhoods and their well-being and preservation to individual buildings and their height and bulk.

This point was driven home on May 7, 2013 when the Council approved a motion by Council Member Gordon Wozniak (seconded by Darryl Moore) to eliminate from Council consideration the map submitted by the Berkeley Neighborhood Council (BNC). This was done even though there was no question that the BNC map was the only redistricting map submitted which was based on the dual principles of creating a majority student district and keeping neighborhood groups together under one Council representative. It was clear that keeping neighborhoods together strengthens neighborhood input; splitting neighborhoods between representatives results in no one on the Council being accountable.

The Wozniak/Moore motion focused Council consideration of redistricting on just two maps. The Berkeley Student District Campaign (BSDC) creates a student supermajority in one Council District (7), a majority in another District (4) and a near majority in a third District (8). The other accepted map, Edge Simplicity, was submitted by Eric Panzer and selected because Council Members liked its “clean” lines even though its author stated it was just an exercise and he favored the BSDC map. Since the BSDC map was clearly the one most favored by the Council, this statement will focus on the strengths of the BNC map compared to the BSDC map. 

Here are some facts about the BNC and the BSDC that everyone needs to know: 


Is the main student district only “gratuitous” as claimed by the students pushing for approval of the BSCD map?  

NO. The BNC map creates a supermajority student district (District 7) that has more students in it by at least 640 people than does the proposed BSCD supermajority student district! 


Where are the differences?  

While the BNC map does not include the Greeks (sororities and fraternities), the BSNC map does not include the Student Co-Ops north of the campus and two huge student dorms. 


Are some students more “student” than others?  

The fact is that the BNC map strengthens the creation of a student district more than does the BSDC map. 


Should maps considered by the Council recognize Communities of Interest? 

YES. State law requires consideration of Communities of Interest and defines them as a contiguous population which shares common social and economic interests that should be included within a single district for purposes of its effective and fair representation. By any one’s definition a student district is a Community of Interest and a neighborhood is equally a Community of Interest. 

The BSDC map makes up the difference in its main student district population by including in their proposed supermajority student district a significant number of blocks in the residential LeConte and Willard neighborhoods that are continually plagued by Southside Plan student-oriented development encroachment. 


Should these neighborhood groups be divided in such a manner without consideration of the State requirement to consider keeping Communities of Interest intact?  

The BNC map says both students AND neighborhoods are Communities of Interest and must be recognized as such. 

The BSDC map continues to ignore the State’s direction regarding Communities of Interest by dividing the Dwight-Hillside neighborhood and continues the weakening of a voice for neighborhoods in community affairs, by dividing the Live Oak/Codornices Creek (LOCCNA), Spruce Street, Halcyon, and Milvia Alliance neighborhoods. Additionally, the BSDC maps rejects the opportunity to right a long-standing injustice by not recognizing the hundreds of residents of West Berkeley who have been struggling to gain recognition as a neighborhood and gain Council representation for over 50 years. 


Is the claim that it would be “too big” a valid reason for rejecting the formation of a West Berkeley Council District? 

NO. A comparison of the BNC and BSDC maps of perimeter miles around Districts 1 and 2 (the Council Districts most affected by the creation of a West Berkeley Council District) shows that the BNC map with the West Berkeley District has a perimeter of 2.84 miles larger than the BSDC map, but in District 2 the BSDC map has a perimeter of 3.04 miles larger than the BNC map. A comparison of perimeter miles around other districts between the two maps show minor variations among the various districts. Seems pretty much a draw and shows the “too big” argument to be a classic red herring. It should be pointed out that, practically speaking, the BNC proposed West Berkeley District is probably the easiest area for Council candidates to walk, while more compact Districts like District 6 in the hills are very difficult to walk because of the topography. 

Only the Berkeley Neighborhood Council map addresses both objectives of creating a Student District and recognizing that a fair and just city is indeed a City of Neighborhoods. The City Council should ensure there is minimal impact to neighborhood groups and consider them as strong a Community of Interest as that of the students. Neighborhood populations are not transient and are more permanent in nature and decisions made by the Council have a long term impact on their residents livelihoods and quality of life. Neighborhoods throughout the City need to unite to ensure there is a place for you at the table of civic affairs. 

The Neighborhood Council redistricting map can be seen here (pdf) 

The time has come for all everyone concerned about the principles of fair council representation and that neighborhoods are communities of interest to sign on to this statement. Tell your Council representative to reverse the Wozniak/Moore motion by adding to their consideration the BNC map. 

All it takes is for you to email BNC your willingness to sign on to this statement at bnc50@yahoo.com 

Tell Governor Brown to Veto Public Records Act Threats in Budget Bill (Comment)

By Peter Scheer, First Amendment Coalition
Saturday June 15, 2013 - 02:17:00 PM

The California Public Records Act (CPRA) is gravely threatened by stealth amendments revealed for the first time yesterday as part of a "trailer bill" to the new state budget. Instead of the relatively minor cost-saving tweaks proposed earlier by the Governor and approved in legislative committees, the actual amending language will gut key transparency safeguards in California's most important open-government law. 

I am writing to ask you to call on Governor Brown to veto the relevant portions of the budget trailer bill that is headed to his desk as early as tomorrow. We invite you to do this by email to the Governor office. 

How, exactly, will the budget trailer bill undercut the CPRA and set back open government? 1) Public access to data controlled by local governments, so important to open-data and big-data initiatives, will come to an end. The final trailer bill, SB 71, eliminates the requirement of existing law that agencies must make available "electronic" records or information in "any format" in which the agency already holds them. Gov Code sec. 6253.9(a)(1). Instead, according to SB 71, "the local agency may determine the format of electronic data to be provided in response to a request for information." 

This change will empower local governments to limit data access to situations in which the requested data will show government agencies and officials in a positive light. All other requests for data will be blocked by producing data in formats that are unusable in databases. Example: Requests for data held in .xls (Excel) or .csv formats will be produced (if at all) as .pdf files--even though the agency has the data in the requested formats and therefore can provide it in the requested formats at no cost. 

2) Local governments, when denying written requests for public records, will no longer be required to give a reason for the denial. SB 71 purports to make that common sense requirement (found in Gov Code sec. 6255(b)) completely optional. What does optional mean? You can be sure that all lawyers for cities, counties or school boards,once they become aware of this change, will advise their clients to give no reasons for denying records. 

3) Local governments may even take the position that SB 71's changes free them from any obligation to communicate--at all!---with requesters about the status of a denied CPRA request. Agencies that believe requested records are exempt from disclosure could elect to say nothing to the requester, leaving him/her in the dark, unable to determine--without suing--whether the requested records will be disclosed or withheld. 

Tell Governor Brown to veto the provisions of SB 71 that would effect these changes in existing law. The link below opens an email form for an email message for the Governor and his staff (which we will print out and deliver).


To view section 4 of SB 71 dealing with the CPRA, use this link: SB 71 Excerpt Relating to CPRA

Suspect in Berkeley Ashkenaz Shooting to Appear in Court Today

By Sasha Lekach
Thursday June 13, 2013 - 10:16:00 PM

A man arrested in connection with a March shooting and robbery at Berkeley's Ashkenaz Music and Dance Community Center is scheduled to appear in court today, an Alameda County district attorney's office spokesman said. 

Christopher Washington, 25, of Rodeo, will have a plea hearing for five robbery charges and two attempted murder charges stemming from the March 16 incident at the center, according to district attorney's office spokesman Eamon O'Connor. 

He was arrested later that morning after two armed suspects entered the music venue shortly after midnight and demanded cash from employees. He was allegedly one of two suspects that shot and wounded two employees before fleeing from the center, located at 1317 San Pablo Ave. 

One of the employees injured was Larry Chin, the center's managing director and a Concord resident who has worked at Ashkenaz for three decades. 

He was shot in the head, while another employee, who has been at the center for five years, was struck in the arm. 

Both were released from the hospital in the days following the incident and were sent home to recover. 

The robbery happened after a 40th anniversary show at the international music and dance venue and teaching center. 

Following the violent robbery, a benefit concert was planned and the center was reviewing its security measures. 

As of today, the second suspect remains at large, Berkeley police Officer Jamie Perkins said. 

She said there are not any updates from the ongoing robbery investigation. 

Washington remains in police custody and will appear at Department 112 the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in Oakland at 9 a.m.

Berkeley Mom Wins SF Race

By Bay City News
Monday June 17, 2013 - 09:25:00 AM

A Berkeley woman and a Parisian man were the first to cross the finish line in the Wipro San Francisco Marathon this morning, a race spokeswoman said. 

Francois Lhuissier, 35, the unofficial marathon winner, finished the 26.2-mile course with a time of two hours 25 minutes and 14 seconds, spokeswoman Jenny Radloff said. 

A native of France, Lhuissier is a noted running competitor and currently lives in New York City, where he is a visiting professor at Columbia University, Radloff said. 

On the women's side, Bay Area resident Anna Bretan finished first while setting a new course record, Radloff said. 

Bretan's unofficial race time was two hours 42 minutes and 25 seconds, Radloff said. 

Bretan, 28, has competed in multiple marathons and half-marathons and was the women's winner of the 2012 Oakland Marathon, Radloff said.

Chez Panisse Comes Back with Midsummer Benefit for School Gardens

By Sasha Lekach (BCN)
Thursday June 13, 2013 - 10:37:00 PM

After a fire in March shut the doors to Berkeley's famous gourmet restaurant Chez Panisse, the eatery is preparing to reopen later this month. 

The March 8 fire at the restaurant owned by renowned chef Alice Waters, located at 1517 Shattuck Ave., caused as much as $200,000 in damage when electrical equipment under the building's porch malfunctioned. 

The fire broke out just after 3 a.m. that day and shuttered the business for months as it worked on repairs to the side and underside of the building, along with utility issues and smoke and water damage. 

Since the end of May the restaurant has been taking reservations for the restaurant and café starting on June 24. 

A Facebook message posted last week on the restaurant's page stated, "We are booking one calendar month out in advance, and can't wait to have all of you back!" 

A woman answering the reservation line this morning said calls have been coming in frequently to book a spot at the restaurant. 

Ahead of the opening, a re-opening celebration and fundraiser is scheduled at the restaurant on June 21. 

The $1,000 to $2,500 per head dining tickets will go toward education programs at the Edible Schoolyard Project. 

The nonprofit program provides a school curriculum that teaches students about food, the environment, and healthy living. 

In Berkeley, there is a 1-acre organic garden and kitchen classroom for students at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, located at 1781 Rose St. 

The evening will offer a special menu, music, dancing and wines. 

The event falls on the summer solstice and will be the first operating night at the restaurant since its closure.



Patti Dacey, 1949-2013: An Appreciation of the Life of One of Berkeley's Best and Brightest

By Becky O'Malley
Friday June 14, 2013 - 07:45:00 AM

With Patti Dacey’s death last Friday Berkeley’s civic circus lost one of its brightest stars. Most recently, Patti’s keen intellect and sparkling wit enhanced the meetings of the Planning Commission, of which she was a member, but in her too short life she added color and style to a wide range of pursuits both public and private. 

She never expected to grow old. In the last decade or so she fought type 2 diabetes, which she thought would kill her before old age, but not quite this soon. She was just 64 when she died from complications of lung cancer in Nice, France. She was there on a long-planned grand cruise with her extended family, which had turned into a kind of Last Hurrah after her cancer treatment ended, appropriate for a consummately political person of Boston Irish stock.  

People in Berkeley in recent years knew Patti as a public figure, but she was equally devoted to her family of origin and the many who became like family for her over the years. She was an army brat, one of five siblings raised on bases around the country in places as diverse as Nebraska, Puerto Rico and Massachusetts. Their late father was a high-ranking general in the Strategic Air Command—and Patti proudly wore his service jacket to anti-war demonstrations after she inherited it. Three of her brothers and sisters became lawyers and doctors around the country, and they all keep in touch and gather often. Another sister, diagnosed with schizophrenia in her teens, now lives in a group home in Nebraska, where Patti made sure to visit her for a week at a time every three months or so. 

Her pride and joy was her daughter Kirsten and twin granddaughters who now live in Oregon. Kirsten came as a surprise when Patti was an undergraduate at Wellesley. Patti had to drop out of school, and the marriage to her baby’s father didn’t last long. As she told the story in recent years she and baby enjoyed the counter-culture for a while, including a stint on a rural commune, but eventually she decided to finish her education in Berkeley as an English major at Cal, followed by law school at Boalt. 

Meanwhile, she became a leader in the Berkeley tenants’ right movement, participating in a historic rent strike accompanied by a lawsuit which resulted in the tenants being awarded title to two multi-unit houses. There they formed the collective where she lived until she died.  

Her fellow collective members became an extension of her family, particularly her apartment-mate of two decades, Janet. This familial relationship added a new dimension to single-parenting strategies when Kirsten’s father Walter, visiting his daughter, met and admired Janet, eventually married her and moved in with Patti, Janet and Kirsten, providing the lucky child with three resident parents as she was growing up and the twins with three doting grandparents in their early years. 

And in the spare time she had left from getting a law degree, making a living and raising a child, Patti enjoyed raising a little hell. As a newly-minted Southside collective homeowner, she became active in the LeConte neighborhood association, leading neighbors dealing with the mundane unpleasantries like drunken brawls and noisy vans which afflict neighborhoods near the U.C. campus.  

She was a proud and unapologetic N.I.M.B.Y, but, like the original Love Canal pollution fighters who coined the title, she interpreted the much-misunderstood slogan not just as Not In My Back Yard, but also Not In Your Backyard Either. She thought that there were some indignities that no one should have to suffer, no matter where they lived. 

I first met her when I was on the Landmarks Preservation Commission and she volunteered to write a landmark designation application for a beloved building on Telegraph which was threatened with demolition by developers. She replaced me temporarily on the LPC when a well-wired applicant group with deep pockets successfully challenged the presence of three Berkeley Architectural Heritage members on the commission, the only time that particular trick has worked that I can remember. I imagine the applicants eventually regretted knocking me off, because Patti quickly mastered the facts of the case and did a brilliant job of adjudication (better than I would have done, since I sometimes lose my temper when confronted by chicanery, and she didn’t.) 

That experience seemed to whet her appetite for volunteering to serve Berkeley in the important arena of land use law, really the only area where cities still have any residual power to affect the lives of citizens after Proposition 13. Her legal training made a big difference on citizen commissions, where non-professional volunteer members are often tempted to believe anything they’re told and staff gravitates to representing insider interests.  

Patti was fond of quoting a maxim she remembered from the first day of her administrative law class: that any regulatory agency is eventually captured by those it’s supposed to be regulating, simply because all the usual parties get to be buddies. When local land use is the topic, developers and staff quickly get on a first name basis, in Berkeley and everywhere, she realized, and the ordinary citizens suffer. 

But what was remarkable about the Public Patti is that she not only contributed spot-on legal analysis to such discussions, she managed to add humor and warm feelings to the discourse. I’ll wager that even those Planning Commission members with whom she fervently disagreed will miss her on Wednesday nights, because she managed to make public controversy fun, almost as if it were a game of tennis among friends.  

The people who’ll really miss her, though, are the ones who depended on her to hold the fort when their neighborhoods, homes or livelihoods were threatened by wealthy property owners. The most recent assault on the well-being of Berkeley residents, artists and small businesses was the brazen attempt by the council majority to rezone West Berkeley for the benefit of big corporate interests, which reared its ugly head as Measure T in the last election. Patti and her allies called their bluff, at the planning commission and in public meetings. The electorate caught on and voted Measure T down, so the public interest won that round. 

But there’s always much more to do. Corporate power continues to threaten little guys in West Berkeley and South Berkeley and everywhere else, and we continue to need people like Patti who are willing to speak out when this happens. Well, there aren’t many more people exactly like Patti, who was able to speak truth to power in her gravelly voice with style, wit and panache, but we can do our best. 

Not that we should count on winning all battles, of course. My favorite memory of political action with Patti Dacey was after George W. Bush won stole the 2000 election.  

Boy, were we mad. We thought we just had to protest, so we got tickets on Southwest and a room in a cheap motel in Maryland, jumped on a plane and ended up carrying a great big sign in freezing drizzle on the fringes of the Bush inauguration along with a couple of her friends from Alaska who were wearing HazMat suits. 

(I think they were protesting a pipeline, or maybe oil spills. I forget what our sign said.)  

Quixotic? Of course.  

Did we Dump W? Of course not.  

Was it worth it? Of course it was.  

If none of us can speak up when bad stuff happens, eventually no one will speak up about anything. And then where will we be?  

This is the classic spot to quote the telegram Joe Hill was supposed to have sent to Bill Haywood right before he was executed: 

"Goodbye, Bill, I die like a true blue rebel. Don't waste any time mourning. Organize!" 

Well, we should be allowed a bit of time to mourn Patti Dacey, a true blue rebel ‘til the end. No Berkeley memorial for her has yet been scheduled, so someone should start organizing one soon. And then someone should pick up where Patti left off, organizing everything else that needs doing that she didn’t get around to before she departed. 

The next meeting of the Berkeley Planning Commission is on Wednesday, at the North Berkeley Senior Center at 7 p.m. You might be the person who should be there to keep an eye on what they’re up to, right? If not you, who? Patti would want you to be there. Organize! 














The Editor's Back Fence

Don't Miss the Last Issue

Friday June 14, 2013 - 08:09:00 AM

The previous issue was up for a long time because I was occupied with other problems, and I just kept adding to it, so it's possible readers might have missed some excellent pieces. If you think you might have missed something, just click on the "Previous Issue" button at the top of the home page to check.

Public Comment

New: Jobs Are Not the Answer

by Allan Sheahen
Monday June 17, 2013 - 08:17:00 PM

The current unemployment rate of 7.5% percent means close to 20 million Americans remain unemployed or underemployed.

Nobody states the obvious truth: that the marketplace has changed and there willnever again be enough jobs for everyone who wants one -- no matter who is in the White House or in Congress.

Fifty years ago, economists predicted that automation and technology would displace thousands of workers a year. Now we even have robots doing human work.

Job losses will only get worse as the 21st century progresses. Global capital will continue to move jobs to places on the planet that have the lowest labor costs. Technology will continue to improve, eliminating countless jobs.

There is no evidence to back up the claim that we can create jobs for everyone who wants one. To rely on jobs and economic growth does not work. We have to get rid of the myth that "welfare-to-work" will solve the problems of unemployment, poverty, and homelessness.

"Work" and jobs are not the answer to ending poverty. This has been the hardest concept for us to understand. It's the hardest concept to sell to citizens and policy makers. To end poverty and to achieve true economic freedom, we need to break the link between work and income. 

Job creation is a completely wrong approach because the world doesn't need everyone to have a job in order to produce what is needed for us to live a decent, comfortable life. 

We need to re-think the whole concept of having a job. 

When we say we need more jobs, what we really mean is we need is more money to live on. 

Basic Income Guarantee 

One answer is to establish a basic income guarantee (BIG), enough at least to get by on -- just above the poverty level -- for everyone. Each of us could then try to find work to earn more. 

A basic income would provide economic freedom and income security to everyone. We'd have the freedom to work less if we wanted to, or work the same amount and save or spend that money. 

It would provide a direct stimulus to the economy, which would help create more jobs. 

In 1972, Democratic Presidential candidate and Senator George McGovern knew the economy was changing. He proposed a $1000 annual "demogrant" for every American. The grant would act as a kind of cushion against the loss of a job or other misfortune. 

We could pay for a Basic Income Guarantee by eliminating most of the 20th-century programs like unemployment insurance, welfare, Social Security, Section 8 housing, etc., and by having the wealthy pay their fair share in taxes. 

Billionaire Warren Buffett admits he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. Mitt Romney said he paid only 13.9 percent in federal income tax in 2010, despite earning $22 million. Average-income Americans pay about 20 percent. 

A BIG would be cheaper than a jobs program. President Obama's 2009 stimulus plan promised to create 3 to 4 million jobs at a cost of $862 billion. That's over $200,000 per job. 

Such a basic income would recognize that with productivity as high as it is today, too many workers get in each other's way. Those who don't have to work shouldn't be required to do so. Instead, they can create, do volunteer service, or work at low-paying jobs which are still socially needed, such as teaching or the arts. 

Think of it as the opposite of trickle-down economics, where we give huge tax breaks to the rich in the false hope that something will trickle down to the rest of us. 

Not a New Idea 

Basic income is not a new idea. It's been debated among policymakers in several nations since the 1970s. Economist Milton Friedman said: "We should replace the ragbag of specific welfare programs with a single comprehensive program of income supplements in cash -- a negative income tax." 

The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., said: "I am convinced that the simplest solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a guaranteed income." 

BIG's most recent American advocate is welfare critic Charles Murray. In his book: In Our Hands, Murray agrees with Friedman and King, and proposes a $10,000 yearly grant paid to every adult. Murray and others argue it would save money. There would be no bureaucracy to support and no red tape to manage. 

Opponents claim we shouldn't pay people not to work. But the duty to pursue work is based on the mistaken assumption that there is work to be had. 

In the post-industrial age, the USA will provide ever fewer opportunities for low-skilled workers. Policies in pursuit of full employment make no sense. 

Basic Income Can Work 

In 1982, the state of Alaska began distributing money from state oil revenues to every resident. The Alaska Permanent Fund gives about $1000 to $2000 each year to every man, woman, and child in the state. In 2012, the amount fell to $878. There are no work requirements. The grant has reduced poverty and the inequality of income in Alaska. 

A 10-year, 7800-family, U.S. government test of a basic income in the 1970s found that most people would continue to work, even when their incomes were guaranteed. A test in Manitoba, Canada produced similar results. 

In 2005, Brazil created a basic income for the most needy. When fully implemented, the plan will ensure that all Brazilians, regardless of their origin, race, sex, age, social or economic status, will have a monetary income enough to meet their basic needs. 

A two-year, basic income pilot program just concluded in Otjivero, Namibia. Each of 930 villagers received 1000 Namibian dollars (US$12.40) each month. Malnutritition rates of children under five fell from 42% to zero. Droupout rates at the school fell from 40% to almost zero. It led to an increase in small businesses. 

Most Americans are six months from poverty. Middle-class people who worked all their lives, then lost their jobs and saw their unemployment benefits expire, are now sleeping in parks and under bridges. 

America hasn't seen full employment in decades. Even a full-time job at the minimum wage can't lift a family of three from poverty. Millions of Americans -- children, the aged, the disabled -- are unable to work. 

A basic income guarantee would be like an insurance policy. It would give each of us the assurance that, no matter what happened, we and our families wouldn't starve. 


Allan Sheahen is the author of the new book, Basic Income Guarantee: Your Right to Economic Security. He is a board member of the U.S. Basic Income Guarantee (USBIG) Network. email: alsheahen@prodigy.net. Web sites:www.basicincomeguarantee.com, www.usbig.net, www.basicincome.org. This article previously appeared on Tikkun.org. 

New: Long Term Fast Launched in Berkeley, CA Today (PRESS RELEASE)

From Cynthia Papermaster
Saturday June 15, 2013 - 06:28:00 PM

Today Cynthia Johnson, Christopher Lewis Macy, and Cynthia Papermaster will start their open-ended fasts in solidarity with the Hunger Strike at Guantanamo Prison, where over 100 men have been refusing to eat, some for over 130 days, and where over 40 of them are being force fed in a way amounting to torture. 

There is a gathering at Provo Park (aka Civic Center Park) at 2 pm Saturday, June 15, where the fasters will have their last meals at a vegetarian potuck picnic hosted by CODEPINK WOMEN FOR PEACE, GOLDEN GATE CHAPTER. 

We're alerting the media, hoping that they'll be interested in covering the news of citizens of Berkeley going on their own hunger strikes. We also hope that they'll show an interest in the long term, ongoing, open ended fasts of other U.S. citizens: 

there are three Hunger Strikers in the U.S. who have been or were fasting for more than 25 days: Elliot Adams of upstate New York, a former President of Veterans for Peace; Diane Wilson of Texas, shrimper and cofounder of Codepink Women for Peace, and S. Brian Willson of Portland, beloved veteran activist who lost his legs when a train ran over him while he was protesting arms shipments to Latin America. In addition, there are about 8 others who are on long-term fasts. You can find details of the fasters and more at www.closegitmo.net 

There are more actions being planned, such as mass arrests in Washington, DC, of 86 orange-jumpsuited people at the White House this June 26, the annual UN International Day for Victims of Torture; a possible meeting of religious leaders with President Obama; and a trip to Guantanmo Prison via boat. 

In addition, today we are launching our Guantanamo Detainee Resettlement Fund Campaign, where we're asking every citizen of Berkeley to contribute $1 or more for one or more cleared-for-release detainees to settle in Berkeley. This is based on a Berkeley City Council Resolution which passed in October 2011, welcoming detainees to come here, using private funds. The money will be used for detainee housing, food, transportation, psychiatric counseling-- all of their expenses-- until the men can get on their feet and are able to take care of themselves. 

The Berkeley political artist Doug Minkler* is creating a poster of one of the detainees, Djamel Ameziane, cleared for release in 2008. He's an Algerian chef who trained in Switzerland and we would like to help him get here, if he wishes to resettle in Berkeley. Below are photos of Djamel as a young man, when he was first captured in 2002, and from today, 11 years later, after a decade in Guantanamo Prison without being charged. I think Obama can release him to us without Congress' okay due to a waiver in the 2012 NDAA which gives him that authority. 

What: launch of Berkeley open-ended fasts in solidarity with Guantanamo Hunger Strike 

Where: Provo Park, MLK Jr. Way between Allston and Center, across from Old City Hall in Berkeley  

When: 2 p.m. Saturday, June 15, 2013

New: Berkeley Police Intimidate Critics

By Andrea Prichett
Saturday June 15, 2013 - 06:17:00 PM

Along with family members of Kayla (Xavier) Moore, Berkeley Copwatch has been trying to investigate the February 13, 2013 death of Kayla Moore in police custody. We are troubled to see that Berkeley Police officers are not only keeping track of us and our activities with regard to Kayla's death, they are attempting to intimidate us. We don’t expect that BPD officers are capable of conducting their own impartial investigation into Kayla’s death or into the way BPD officers interact with mentally ill people, but we would hope that they would not interfere with our efforts to understand what happened on February 13th and how it could be prevented with another person in mental health crisis. We have had a series of actions and meetings over the past few months, and the police presence is becoming increasingly hostile. 

At our first event on April 17, 2013, there was only a small police presence and we were able to have our rally and march without incident. The event was peaceful and many new people heard about the case for the first time. We also took the opportunity to serve the BPD with a Public Records Act request for the police report. 

Later, we went to the Police Review Commission (which is moribund at this point) but Commissioners were unwilling to even read the police report from Kayla’s death. During PRC meetings, commissioners look apologetically at us because the PRC Officer and the City Attorney have bullied them out of challenging police power and functioning for the purpose of police review. The PRC has lost whatever credibility it once had and it has been taken over by a biased and privileged pro-police faction. The PRC’s aversion to investigating police behaviors, actions, and practices is in violation of the very ordinance which established civilian oversight in Berkeley. We do NOT have effective, reliable police review in Berkeley. 

We had hoped that the Berkeley City Council proposal to establish May as “Mental Health Month” would allow us to deepen the conversation about Kayla Moore’s death and the City’s involvement and response to it. We were shocked, however, at the April 30, 2013 City Council meeting by Councilmember Tom Bates' incredible disrespect to Kayla's family members who came to speak that night, including Bates' rude interruption of Kayla’s brother-in-law in mid-sentence. Even more disturbing was the menacing police presence during the public comment period. At one point, officers leapt from the door near the podium and grabbed one of Kayla's family members simply because he was speaking at the mic despite Mayor Bates’ interruption. Officers grabbed the family member, Carl, and began pushing the waiting speakers away in order to force him from the room. This un-neccessary escalation and blatant display of intimidation toward the rest of us happened right in front of the City Council. 

You can see it at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GD2X5ivf8I 

You can see that Berkeley Police Sgt. Cardoza and Officer Brown, who were part of the group that “restrained” Kayla Moore the night she died in custody, were the ones manhandling members of Kayla’s family at the City Council meeting. If their televised thuggery at a public meeting is any indication, it should make all of us wonder how Cardoza and Brown “handled” Kayla the night of her death. 

Most recently, our event “Cops or Counselors?” at the East Bay Media Center on May 30th was attended by a BPD officer. We found the police presence disrespectful, yet did not want to further disrupt the meeting by making a scene with the officer. I first asked him to leave and he refused. Again, I asked him if he would be willing to leave as a courtesy to people who may feel hesitant to share if they knew an officer was in the room; again he refused. I told him that I would be willing to make a video for him of the presentations, without the community conversation following, but he said the event was open to the public and he wasn’t leaving. 

We chose to proceed with our educational event about how police brutality is being visited upon our people and is referred to as “mental health services.” The possibility of not having police respond to mental health calls at all was a very exciting topic of discussion. It is long past time for us to refigure how we think of mental health and its relation to the police. 

During presentations by mental health professionals and sensitive sharing by Kayla's family members about their own findings and investigations, we discovered that the officer was recording . I asked him not to do that. He feigned an apology and was later seen recording again. 

The Berkeley police and city officials are creating a “chilling effect” on the public discourse. We've had several mental health professionals tell us that they would like to be a part of our efforts, but they are afraid to be seen at a gathering that is, or might later be seen, as critical of the police because it could cost them their agency’s funding. This kind of police intimidation is repression, and we demand that the Berkeley City Council direct its police chief to stop the harassment. If we can’t have an honest conversation about how police operate in Berkeley and if people can’t speak freely when we work together to solve problems, then the dual farces of a) free speech and b) professional policing should be laid to rest as a part of Berkeley history once and for all.

Remembering Patti

By Councilmember Jesse Arreguin
Friday June 14, 2013 - 05:14:00 PM

The sad news of the sudden death of my close friend Patti Dacey came as a shock to me and many others in Berkeley community.

She had remarkably battled lung cancer, coming out of months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment but bouncing back in her typical form, looking great and going on walks to the Farmer’s Market and enjoying great food at local restaurants. She was an incredibly strong and courageous person, and I felt prior to her untimely passing that she would pull through it. So when I received the call that I long dreaded on June 8th telling me she had passed away during her long awaited trip to Europe I was stunned. I did not expect that she would have left us so soon. I was planning on meeting with her when she returned to Berkeley, to hear about her trip and fill her in on all of the latest about what’s been going on in city politics. Unfortunately I never had the chance to say goodbye to her, but I am comforted knowing that she passed away surrounded by her family which she loved.

I have been heartbroken over the past two weeks since Patti’s passing. I thought rather than feeling sad that I would share my thoughts about what Patti meant to me and our community. 

In thinking about Patti I can’t help but remember the first time I met her. We were on opposite sides then, and it would be the last time we would be on opposite sides. We worked side by side on many issues over the last seven years: fighting for neighborhoods, historic preservation, the Downtown, rent control, affordable housing and for justice, and I enjoyed every opportunity to work with Patti. 

I first met Patti in the spring of 2004, when I was a sophomore at UC Berkeley. I was representing the student government on a proposal to build a bridge over Hearst Avenue connecting two dorms. I attended a meeting of the city Public Works Commission who was voting on whether to support giving the University of California the air rights to build the bridge. I remember Patti’s raspy and strong voice speaking out forcefully why giving the University our air rights without anything in return was a bad idea. She made such compelling points that it persuaded me to give second thought to my position. Another fun memory of Patti was when we were part of a group of Berkeley activists who after the 2005 UC-City settlement agreement lobbied the city for an inclusive community process on planning the Downtown. I remember one Planning Commission meeting in which we took over the audience and Patti made quips, to provide levity and to also stir things up. It incensed the Planning Commission Chair so much that he was banging his gavel saying “Patricia, Patricia”. Patti loved to shake things up, and cause trouble for the status quo. 

I really got to know Patti when she and I were both appointed by Councilmember Kriss Worthington as his representatives to the newly formed Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee (DAPAC), a commission tasked in coming up with a new plan for Berkeley’s Downtown. During the two year process I got to work closely with Patti. She made her points during meetings with great eloquence, skill and humor. She knew how to ease a very tense situation with her incredible wit. She also knew how to stick it to people who deserved it with her brilliant quips. Thanks to Patti we were able to build a broad coalition on the DAPAC which led to 17 of the 21 members supporting a vision for the Downtown. It’s hard to imagine 17 people agreeing on anything in Berkeley, but it happened thanks to Patti’s great coalition building skills, reaching out to members, building relationships and helping develop great strategies to move our agenda forward. One example of Patti’s great work is her critical role in drafting the DAPAC Historic Preservation Chapter, which she stopped from being watered down by anti-preservation forces. 

As the Downtown Plan left the DAPAC it went to the Planning Commission which Patti sat on. Over the next year and a half, Patti and Gene Poschman defended the DAPAC Plan and fought hard to stop the plan from being gutted by the Planning Commission majority. She used her great strategic skills to stop bad amendments, and when she was in the minority she and Gene stuck to their principles and voted no. Ultimately the Planning Commission would eviscerate the DAPAC Plan. As the Plan went to the City Council, she, and Gene Poschman and I helped pull together a coalition of former DAPAC members, environmentalists and other community leaders to push for the adoption of the DAPAC Plan. We had to literally fight to get a seat at the table, because the Mayor and staff wouldn’t allow the DAPAC to make a presentation on its plan, contrary to City rules. Ultimately the Council adopted a hodgepodge of both plans, with a poison pill, Policy LU-8.3, which was a loophole around community benefit requirements. Incensed about the passage of this watered down Plan, Patti and I were leaders of the effort to referend the Downtown Plan. After an intense one-month non-stop campaign throughout the city, including harassment anti-petition forces, we submitted 9,200 signatures to stop the Council’s Downtown Plan. I remember feeling incredibly proud and basking in the victory with Patti who worked hard to make it happen. 

We ultimately became the spokespeople for the opposition to the City Council’s high rise vision for the Downtown. We made a great team, and I loved having her as my debate partner. Together we would speak at community meetings, and win over the crowd. Ultimately we would end up fighting the City Council’s advisory measure R on the 2010 ballot, which unfortunately passed. In the end the Plan was back at the Planning Commission and Patti and Gene fought hard to make the plan better, pushing for community benefits, affordable housing and neighborhood protections. 

Throughout the 8 year struggle on the Downtown Plan, Patti and I worked side by side. We also worked closely on so many other efforts including defending rent control, the effort to stop the Mayor’s revision to the Landmarks Ordinance and the successful campaign to defeat it, as well as my successful campaign to the Berkeley City Council. Patti was one of my campaign managers. 

During her five years on the Planning Commission she was an incredible advocate for neighborhoods, preservation and social justice. She fought the pro-developer majority and yet even those she often disagreed with held great respect and affection for her. She would often bring a dull and serious meeting to life with her sense of humor, and was never afraid to speak truth to power. She stopped the commission from circumventing public process; she used her legal training to challenge staff, and used her great eloquence, skill and wit to fight for the needs of neighborhoods and everyday people. 

Outside of the Planning Commission she was a resource for neighborhoods that were facing inappropriate development projects, code violations, or other issues. She sued the city when it was wrong and won, twice! So much that she was feared by certain developers and lawyers. 

Patti was always on the right side of every issue, and she had great integrity and a passion for fighting for justice, whether it was an illegal and immoral war, or injustices happening in her own community. She was someone we could always depend on. 

On a personal level Patti was a mentor, close friend and adviser. Someone who I trusted and who wouldn't sugar coat things but would always be truthful, and who had a brilliant mind and who could give me great advice on important issues. She had a big heart and was a loyal friend. She also helped me learn and grow as a person, and I am forever changed because of her. I owe her so much and I wouldn't be where I am without her. 

Patti was a person of great courage, conviction, integrity, brilliance, and humor. She brought life to everyone around her, and made Berkeley a wonderful place. She has made a lasting impact on our community. Patti loved Berkeley and gave selflessly to improve her community. Patti represented the best of Berkeley. 

Her passing is a tremendous loss for our city. Not only are we losing a dedicated public servant, but someone who was a champion for Berkeley’s values. A part of our city died when she passed. But we need to carry on her legacy and spirit. While we can mourn, we also have to organize and continue the many struggles that Patti so ably fought for.

Comment on Hazardous Fire Risk Reduction Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Berkeley/Oakland Hills

By Antonio Rossmann
Friday June 14, 2013 - 02:21:00 PM

I am submitting this comment [to FEMA] as a frequent user of the Claremont Canyon and Strawberry Canyon trails and resident at 6442 Hillegass Avenue, Oakland; and apparently a mildly dissenting member of the Claremont Canyon Conservancy. While my professional practice over 40 years has concentrated on preparation of or response to comprehensive comments on environmental documents, this comment will not focus on linear detail but attempt summarily to reach the heart of the matter.  

The EIS posits a choice between only two alternatives: do nothing, or remove all the eucalyptus and Monterey pine. And so the community appears to have divided: those advocating wholesale acceptance of the FEMA proposed project, and those advocating no action. This circumstance, which flows from legal error so gross as to invite FEMA to withdraw the DEIS and proceed properly lest one of the interested advocates prosecute a worthy legal challenge, represents a regrettable disservice to the community. As I frequently advise my clients and my students, in the face of extremes your challenge is to find the third way. FEMA must develop and implement the third way of selective tree removal. 

This writer accepts the reality that eucalyptus and other exotics pose a fire threat in the Claremont and Strawberry Canyon areas. This hazard must be moderated to the greatest degree balanced with other considerations. At the same time, this writer believes that stands of eucalyptus and Monterey pines within the two canyons form an important element of the historic and evolving landscape. One need only consult paintings from the California plein air school to comprehend that these trees have for a century formed a recognizable part of our region's environment and ecology. Just as the law recognizes that few absolutely natural watercourses remain in the state, such that we treat the changed water resource as "natural" for regulatory purposes, so should these trees be understood as earning recognition as part of the landscape that we view and in which we recreate.  

Totalitarian elimination of this heritage landscape should be no more pursued than would we pursue elimination of other exotics, for example the striped bass from the Delta, or the post-McClaren vegetation in Golden Gate Park. And yet, action must be taken to improve both the fire security and visual access in these two canyons. Not all environmental conflicts lend themselves to beneficial resolution of competing values, but this one does. On rewrite the authors of the EIS will have the opportunity to honor the philosophy of Immanuel Kant and Isaiah Berlin, that all values are relative. 

A thinning of the exotics to preserve the most prominent trees, while removing concentrations that pose environmental risk and actually detract from the views of both hikers and observers, should be developed as a third alternative. For example, the prominent row of Monterey pines atop the north ridge of Claremont Canyon provide a visual landmark to users of the canyon and to those from afar; these should be maintained. Similarly, the landmark eucalyptus inside the elbow of the second switchback on the Claremont Canyon trail -- that is, the switchback that overlooks the Golden Bear soccer field -- would be unthinkable to destroy. Selective thinning will leave these untouched, while promoting the health of the remaining forest and improving visual access from points along the trails. Shade and habitat will be preserved. This worthy example is the one followed by UC Berkeley a few years ago in Strawberry Canyon, and which now forms the preferred method of fuel reduction within the Tahoe National Forest. 

The EIS is fatally flawed by deliberately avoiding the development of this alternative, instead including a partial clearance as a variant and part of the proposed project. This fallacy enables the decision-makers to avoid independent consideration of a partial-clearance alternative on its own, and more regrettably, from conducting the legally-required comparison of that alternative to both project and no action. The present EIS enables the decision-maker to avoid the legal necessity of identifying the alternative, other than no action, that is environmentally favorable; that strikes at the heart of NEPA. 

Finally, the EIS fails to stand as a joint EIS/EIR, and thus cannot serve the state-law actors (UC Berkeley and EBRPD) whose approvals to carry out the project also require environmental documentation. This error is also more than academic, in that not only must those local agencies make use of an EIR, but they must formulate and adopt enforceable mitigation measures more potent than those required by NEPA; and prior to that, consider alternatives that are capable of attaining most, if not all, of the project objectives, which a thoughtfully-designed thinning project can accomplish.

Government vs. the Constitution

By Steve Martinot
Friday June 14, 2013 - 07:54:00 AM

Werner Heisenberg, one of the founders along with Schroedinger of Quantum Mechanics, once said, "The very act of observing disturbs the system." He was referring to the fact that the instruments that we use to gather data about a system under study (in life or in the laboratory), changes the system being studied, and what we observe is the changed system, changed again when we seek to observe those changes. 

A different person said the same thing just a few days ago, during the week of June 6, 2013, a man named Ed Snowden. He explained that the process of government surveillence that he was exposing to the light of day was imminently disruptive in a negative sense of the system it pretended to defend, and of the principles of democracy that were the basis for that system. 

Daniel Ellsberg echoed that sentiment at the meeting on our lost civil liberties on the evening of June 11, 2013. he spoke about the movie, "The Lives of Others," a story about the East German Stasi (secret police), that had collected data on people continually, not to locate criminals, but to find out ways of manipulating people to do their bidding, to blackmail them by threatening to disrupt their social relations, in order to turn them into snitches (aka "informants"). Information about one's social relations can be used by power to manipulate people, as well as to frame them for various "crimes" by playing on the informant's "false testimony." 

When government sinks to that level, it is because it is in the throes of a profound cultural crisis. That crisis consists of two dimensions, a sense of desparation and a necessity for impunity. An organization that assumes or is granted impunity is an organization that has become a law unto itself. For government to affirm (in practice if not in words) a right (aka a need) for impunity means that, for that government, statutory law and the Constitution it is based on has already become a dead letter. The government becomes desparate through that assumption of impunity, because it can brook no undermining of its power or its sanctity. The former norms of behavior, supplanted by impunity, become nothing but a threat. To the extent the government has granted itself impunity, the US Constitution itself becomes a threat to it. 

At that point, any suggestion concerning the virtue of the former norms contained in that Constitution incurs a sense of desparation. First and foremost, for that desparation, the people are locked out of having any influence. They are by definition outside the law as soon as the government becomes a law unto itself. 

The effect is to substitute impunity for law, or rather impunity law for constitutional law, and then deal with people who still think the Constitution is relevant. It is a cultural crisis because it means that the norms of political ethics, of justice, of democratic procedure by which the government had established itself have become so antithetical to political stability that they must be turned upside down. The people are put in a position of living without what they assume to be the case, and living with what they assume they are protected against. All becomes oxymoronic, the criminalization of Snowden, of Wikileaks (cyber-terrorism), of Afghanistan and Iraq (to render naked aggression an act of self-defense), of the Cuban Five (convicted without evidence of any wrong-doing), of Cuba itself (put on a terrorist-state list for defending its sovereignty), of black and brown people (generalized profiling), Guantanamo prison (its wholesale violation of habeus corpus, UN Human Rights and anti-torture treaties). In all these cases, the victims could call upon the rights guaranteed by the US Constitution to charge the US government with criminality in what it has done to them. The list is endless, extending from the largest military establishment in history to the largest prison system in history to the largest public debt in history, to the largest death row on the planet. 

What has put this culture into crisis? We can list four major things. The inner ethos of each will stand in diametric contradiction to the most fundamental principles of democracy (regardless of whether they were ever practiced -- but they have been taught in civics classes everywhere as inherent in the culture of the US). 

One is the rise of the corporate structure to total domination of the economy, with its valorization of non-responsibility for what it does, nor for the people under its auspices. That ethos of non-responsibility brings with it a rigid hierarchy. Democratic self-governance, on the other hand, is founded on responsibility for its human constituents and an ideal of horizontal parity and equal opportunity. A second is the permanence of militarism, whose purpose is the production of obedience, subservience, the production of death, an ethos of the dispensibility of any individual along with the cheapness of life, where democratic self-governance begins with the sanctity of human life. A third is white supremacy, and the reconstruction of that misbegotten anti-democratic notion that has been in progress since it was undermined by the civil rights movements; this is done by fostering a "war on drugs" (a "New Jim Crow"), a policing system based on profiling and exacted obedience (a new color line separating those whose humanity will be discounted (the profiled) from those whose humanity will be respected), and the development of the largest prison system in history, a structure of segregation raised to the level of mass internal exile. Finally, there is the dissolution of social coherence implicit in the deindustrialization which the US has undergone (industry moving to other lands), dissolving the class cohesion of cities and communities through the destruction of the unions and steady employment for which were substituted temporary and precarious access to income. 

Today, the primary reason the police give for acting brutally or shooting people is that they "became uncooperative," which implicitly includes running away. A lethal demand for "cooperation" is a tacit admission that the norms of operation or activity the government has established for itself do not attract cooperation in and of themselves -- so it must be imposed. But that implies that those norms (rules, laws, the sanctioning of arbitrary aggressions) are at serious odds with humane practice. 

Ed Snowden has revealed a piece of this cultural crisis, not in disclosing the existence of a program of government surveillence, because that has been going on under the name of Echelon for decades, but by eliciting two responses to his actions by the government, first their labelling him a traitor, and second, by proclaimed their intention to continue the Prism Project, and its massive surveillence of the people. 

Insofar as his action defends the 4th Amendment, he stands as an icon to the proposition that treason to the government is loyalty to the people. But that simply highlights the fact that it is mistaken to think that the Constitution is broken, or that the system is broken. The Constitution is being ignored. It has been rendered an alien document, something which belonged to a now defunct system. It is in that sense that the Constitution has become a dire threat to the government. If the system were simply broken, it could be fixed. If the Constitution has been thrown away as a dead issue, then we confront a somewhat different problem.


THE PUBLIC EYE: Waiting For the Revolution

By Bob Burnett
Friday June 14, 2013 - 06:53:00 AM

In the latest recovery, 93 percent of the gains went to the top 1 percent. How long will it take before the 99 percent realize they’re getting shafted? When will American workers revolt?

It’s clear to most observers that the American economy has lost its heart and now is being run for the benefit of the rich. Over the past twenty years, US GDP and productivity increased while average household income was stagnant

There’s no shortage of insightful commentary on US economic inequality. Nonetheless, American workers don’t seem to be distressed about what’s happening. A 2012 Gallup Poll asked, “Do you think the United States benefits from having a class of rich people…?” 63 percent of respondents answered yes. Gallup asked those who do not consider themselves to be rich if they would like 

This Gallup poll reveals two levels of delusion. The first is the widespread belief that if you’re not rich now you may someday be rich. A recent study by the Federal Reserve found that most Americans stay in the class they were born into. “If you were born in the bottom 20%, your chances of ending up in the top 20% are about one in 20: 5%.” 

The second delusion is about the level of economic inequality. Writing in the Washington Post, Ezra Klein observed that Americans consistently underestimate how skewed income inequality is; it’s far worse than they imagine. 

Nonetheless, it’s too simplistic to blame ignorance or apathy for America’s indifference to the growing economic divide. Each age cohort has its own denial mechanism. 

Millenials (born after 1980) are struggling to make it. Their unemployment rate is greater than 16 percent and 43 percent are burdened by student-loan debt, typically more than $100,000. Millenials are depressed. 

Those in Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980) are self-absorbed. It’s a cohort that suffers from a deadening combination of cynicism and narcissism. 

The Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) have seen many of their dreams slip away. Now they’re anxious about their retirement and what the future holds for their children. 

Finally, members of the Silent Generation (born between 1928 and 1945) are despondent. They wonder what happened to the country they fought for. 

Most of the 99 percent are traumatized. Many deal with this by self-medicating. Some turn to therapy. And millions rely on religion. 

41 percent of Americans believe the end times are near; they feel Jesus Christ will return by 2050. If you’re of this persuasion, it’s unlikely that you’re concerned with temporal matters, such as income inequality. Besides, most Christians who believe in the rapture are Calvinists – they think the rich are the elected, the chosen ones. The version of Christianity developed by the sixteenth century French theologian, john Calvin, taught that God has predestined who will be saved. In the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, German sociologist Max Weber observed that Calvinists see worldly success as a measure of the likelihood of one’s salvation. 

For a variety of reasons, most Americans have chosen to ignore the ever-widening economic divide. That doesn’t mean the 99 percent will stay unconscious forever. But it does mean workers won’t spontaneously rise up and cast off their chains. They have to be mobilized. 

From a progressive perspective, it’s clear what needs to be done. Workers need to be paid a living wage; they need to acquire an equitable share of the benefits that have arisen from the economic recovery. Therefore, CEO salaries should be limited along with CEO-to-worker pay ratios. Unions must be strengthened. Taxes should be increased for the 1 percent and estate taxes restored. We must eliminate corporate tax loopholes and raise corporate taxes. The government has to breakup big corporations, penalize monopolistic practices, and prosecute corporate fraud. 

The Progressive challenge is accomplishing these objectives in the face of worker inertia and fierce conservative opposition. Progressives shouldn’t expect to outspend plutocrats and corporations. Progressives have to out organize them – that’s what happened in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. 

Theoretically, Progressives have a demographic advantage. According to the Pew Research Center “staunch conservatives” are 11 percent of the voting population but “staunch liberals” are 16 percent. (According to the same study, 35 percent of voters are inclined to vote Republican but 54 percent are inclined to vote Democratic.) If we mobilize our base, we will prevail. 

Historians teach that only 16 percent of the men who were eligible to fight in the Revolutionary War actually participated. Great Britain had vastly more resources than did the colonists, but our founders were motivated and focused – they mobilized their base. The Revolutionary War was won by a small band of patriots armed with a radical idea – all men are created equal and deserve respect. 

Progressives can’t wait for the second revolution to magically occur. We have to clarify our objectives, focus, and organize. 

Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. He can be reached at bburnett@sonic.net 

ECLECTIC RANT: GOP Senators Kill Paycheck Fairness Act

By Ralph E. Stone
Friday June 14, 2013 - 07:55:00 AM

The entire cast of Republican Senators voted June 4 to kill the Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA), equal pay legislation intended to close loopholes and strengthen the Equal Pay Act (EPA), first signed into law by President Kennedy over 50 years ago. 

The vote was 52 to 47 with all Republican Senators voting against the legislation. Passage of the PFA would have been a much needed 50th anniversary present to American women, indeed to all Americans. 

The EPA provides, among other things, that “No employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section shall discriminate, within any establishment in which such employees are employed, between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees in such establishment at a rate less than the rate at which he pays wages to employees of the opposite sex in such establishment for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility.” 

Upon signing the EPA, President Kennedy proclaimed the bill “affirms our determination that when women enter the labor force they will find equality in their pay envelope.” When President Kennedy signed the EPA, women who worked full-time, year-round, made 59 cents on average for every dollar earned by men. Today, women who work full-time, year-round, make 77 cents on average for every dollar earned by men. 

Since its enactment, the Equal Pay Act has never been updated or strengthened. 

The PFA, introduced in both the House (H.R. 377) and the Senate (S. 84) would have updated and strengthened the EPA in important ways. 

The PFA changes to the EPA can be found in the January 2013, How the Paycheck Fairness Act Will Strengthen the Equal Pay Act fact sheet by the National Women’s Law Center. 

Here is a summary of the PFA from the fact sheet. 

First, it would have improved EPA remedies by allowing prevailing plaintiffs to recover compensatory and punitive damages. Now the EPA provides only for liquidated damages and back pay awards, which tend to be insubstantial. The change would put gender-based wage discrimination on an equal footing with discrimination based on race or ethnicity, for which full compensatory and punitive damages are already available. 

Second, the PFA would have allowed an EPA lawsuit to proceed as a class action lawsuit in conformity with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP). Now, it is very difficult to bring EPA suits as class action lawsuits because the EPA was adopted prior to the current federal class action rule and requires plaintiffs to opt in to a suit. Under the FRCP, class members are automatically considered part of the class until they choose to opt out of the class. 

Third, the PFA would generally prohibit employers from punishing employees for sharing salary information with their coworkers. This change would have greatly enhanced employees’ ability to learn about wage disparities and to evaluate whether they are experiencing wage discrimination. 

Fourth, under the EPA, when an employer is found to be paying female employees less than male employees for equal work, the employer may assert an affirmative defense that the pay differential is based on a “factor other than sex.” The PFA would have tightened this affirmative defense so that it can excuse a pay differential for men and women only where the employer can show that the differential is truly caused by something other than sex and is related to job performance and consistent with business necessity. 

Fifth, under the EPA, in order to determine that there is wage discrimination, a wage comparison must be made between employees working at the same “establishment.” Some courts have interpreted this to mean that wages paid in different facilities or offices of the same employer cannot be compared even if the employer is paying workers different salaries for the same work. The PFA clarifies that comparisons may be made between employees in offices in the same county or similar political subdivision as well as between broader groups of offices in some commonsense circumstances. 

Sixth, the PFA would have required the EEOC to survey pay data already available and issue regulations within 18 months that require employers to submit any needed pay data identified by the race, sex, and national origin of employees. These data would enhance the EEOC’s ability to detect violations of law and improve its enforcement of the laws against pay discrimination. 

Finally, the PFA would have reinstated the collection of gender-based data in the Current Employment Statistics survey. It sets standards for conducting systematic wage discrimination analyses by the agency that oversees the nondiscrimination and affirmative action obligations of federal contractors. The PFA also would have directed implementation of the Equal Opportunity Survey, a vital tool for detecting wage and other types of discrimination. 

In the last forty years, the number of full-time working women in the U.S. increased from about 14 million to more than 43 million. Equal pay is not simply a women’s issue. Families of these working women increasingly rely on their wages to make ends meet. When women bring home less money each day, it means they have less for the everyday needs of their families. 

Hopefully, women will remember this vote at the next election.

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Misperceived by Society

By Jack Bragen
Thursday June 13, 2013 - 10:14:00 PM

Most people are taught by sensationalized news and exaggerated movies to be paranoid about persons with mental illness. People should realize that most mentally ill people are not dangerous, and on the contrary, are often victimized by criminals who see us as relatively defenseless people. 

It is important for people to distinguish between a criminal, secondly, someone who is criminally insane or thirdly, someone with a mental health diagnosis. Most criminals have a perfectly good grip on reality. They know exactly what they are doing and why they are doing it, and they have little or no regard for most other human beings. Criminally insane persons are extremely rare, and are those who commit mass murders on school campuses or in other public places. Such a person may be delusional, but has a good enough grip on reality that they can effectively carry out these atrocities. Such a person also has no regard for others, and cares only about getting revenge for perceived wrongs that they believe they have endured. 

However, most persons with mental illness have no ill will toward the world, and simply want to live their own challenged lives and to somehow make things better for themselves. Most persons with mental illness are not violent, with some rare exceptions. However, persons with severe mental illness have a high suicide risk. 

Persons with mental illness are wrongly criminalized (treated as though criminals) by our culture. 

When someone has an aunt or an uncle with mental illness, often that relative does not get talked about-the person's existence is kept hush. When someone with mental illness is able to hold a job and essentially fit into society, often their illness and the fact that they may be on medication is kept in the closet. If their employer discovers the truth, it could cause that person to be fired. And that is wrong. 

There should be no shame in having a mental illness. It is a disease like any other--which, like cancer, is fought against with much bravery. 

For our society to be healthier, conditions must be made better for persons with mental illness. As it stands, there isn't much provision for us to have worthwhile or even comfortable lives. We are discriminated against in employment, economically disadvantaged as a result and we are often treated without dignity, even by the mental health treatment system. Persons with mental illness are often incarcerated for violations that are minor, and that are caused by the disorientation of the illness. 

Persons with mental illness need to be let into mainstream society just as was done with nonwhite individuals and people of different sexual orientation. However, it is more difficult for us to speak up, because we are often silenced by our disabilities, by our medications, and by those in charge of keeping us under control.

Arts & Events

New: An Unusual Rally to Defend Our Entitlement Programs

by Harry Brill
Monday June 17, 2013 - 09:15:00 PM

On Tuesday, July 2nd, 4-6pm the AFL-CIO and the Alliance for Retired Americans will be having an unusual rally at the federal building in San Francisco to PROTECT AND IMPROVE Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Similar rallies will be held in cities throughout the country. Our East Bay Tax the Rich Group is supporting this event. 

Our goal is to attract the participation of a sufficient number of concerned persons so that we can form a human chain around the San Francisco Federal Building. The proposal by the Obama Administration to appreciably reduce the cost of living index (CPI) for those on Social Security is called the CHAINED CPI. So the reason for surrounding the building is to form a human chain in opposition to the chained CPI. 

Please come, bring your family and friends, and contact others to encourage them to join us. 

WHERE: San Francisco Federal Building - 7th and Mission HOW: Take Bart to Civic Center Station - Walk South WHEN: Tuesday, July 2nd, 4-6pm.

The Hitchcock Nine Kicks off the SF Silent Film Festival

By Gar Smith
Friday June 14, 2013 - 02:49:00 PM

There's a lot to shout about at this year's edition of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. SFSFF gets underway this week with a rare and not-to-be-missed three-day extravaganza of films by Alfred J. Hitchcock. But this is Hitchcock with a twist.

Before his fame crossed the Atlantic, Hitchcock was earning his stripes in London as a director of silent films. In the course of these early years, Hitchcock directed ten films. Today, only nine survive but – thanks to the efforts of the British Film Institute – all of these recovered and restored classics (some well-known to film buffs; others previously believed "lost") now are being seen for the first time in generations.

The Hitchcock Nine will be screening at San Francisco's Castro Theater from June 14-16, with live musical accompaniment provided by the Castro's Mighty Wurlitzer, the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra and a slew of guest soloists. This promises to be a great beginning for the 18th edition of an internationally celebrated festival that has screened more than 170 rare silent classics. 

The Genius of Hitchcock 

It was in April 1926 that the British press proclaimed 26-year-old Hitchcock "the youngest director in the world." The occasion for this accolade was the release of "The Pleasure Garden," a film that one London critic raved "astonished everyone with [its] freshness and power." Hitchcock grabbed the audiences' eyes with the very first frame, stepping out in style with a parade of marching legs as a long line of chorus girls prance down a spiral staircase. 

The work behind the restoration process is exemplified by the effort to reconstruct this film. There were only five surviving copies in the BFI's archives. Four were fragile silver nitrate prints and there appeared to be two different versions of the film. BFI technicians reconstructed a consensus version that closely resembled Hitchcock's original edit and then spent several months gingerly scanning 20 reels of ancient nitrate film rolls – more than 3 1/3 miles of film. 

In addition to two familiar classics -- Blackmail (an ironic and wickedly twisted film noir), and The Lodger (which the director later called "The first true 'Hitchcock movie'") – the SFSFF is also screening Downhill (the story of a young man's humiliation and ruin in a world of conniving women), Easy Virtue (a Noel Coward play boldly turned inside out), The Manxman (two boyhood friends drawn into a tragic love triangle on the Isle of Manx), The Ring (a melodrama set in the world of boxing), and two romantic comedies, Champagne (a silly escapade featuring a spoiled, ditzy flapper) and The Farmer's Wife (a crusty small village landowner who disastrously attempts to court a number of prospective brides only to find "true love" hidden before his eyes.) 

Every film is filled with Hitchcockian themes (dark nights, duplicity, mistaken motives, hidden identities, lies, betrayals and beautiful, endangered blondes) and adorned with inspired camera tricks. In Blackmail, the shadows from window panes cast patterns on the wall that suggest the bars of a jail cell. At one point, a character rises to her feet and, as she does, the shadows fall over body, framing her face and appearing to form a noose over her throat. 

Hitchcock called silent films "the purest form of cinema." 

There's much to admire and marvel at in this collection. It's a near-miracle that these films survived over the decades and it's a mark of Hitchcock's art that (with the exception of the superficial trifle, Champagne) they still have the staying power to capture, unnerve and thrill modern audiences more than 80 years after they were first screened.

Around and About Theater: Wilde Irish 10th Annual Bloomsday Celebrations

By Ken Bullock
Friday June 14, 2013 - 09:38:00 AM

Wilde Irish Productions is celebrating its 10th anniversary of Berkeley Bloomsday celebrations, the date in 1904 when "Leopold Bloom, the most famous Jew in Ireland, and his cohorts go traipsing and tramping the streets and strands of Dublin," out of the pages of James Joyce's 'Ulysses,' featuring Ms. Marion McEvoy, direct from Dublin, in her show about Joyce's mother, 'A Portrait of the Artist's Mother,' with music and song, as well as old and new Wilde Irish company members in scenes from 'Portrait of the Artist' and 'Finnegan's Wake'--ending with Shosi Black, who at five sang the traditional song "Finnegan's Wake" at their first Bloomsday, now reprising the number as a teenager with her father, Shay Black of the famous Dublin Black Family and the audience.  

A literary, thespian, musical delight.  

Saturday at 7, Sunday at 2, Golden Gate Creativity Center, 2911 Claremont @ Ashby. $20-$25. 644-9940, wildeirish.org

Around and About Theater: Theater Exploration Class Starts Monday

By Ken Bullock
Friday June 14, 2013 - 09:37:00 AM

Marion Fay's excellent Theater Explorations class will recommence this Monday, June 17, 1-3 pm, at Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda near Solano Avenue, with 3 plays ('Abigail's Party' by Mike Leigh at the SF Playhouse June 29, 3 pm--'This Is How It Goes' by Neil Labute at Aurora July 14, 7 pm--and 'Sea of Reeds' by Josh Kornbluth at Shotgun July 28, 5 pm) and six Monday afternoon classes.  

Speakers include actor Julia Brothers, writer-performer Josh Kornbluth and actor-director Susi Damilano. 

Register at first class, bring $15 cash in plain envelope for 'Abigail's Party' (if attending). $50 class fee plus discounted tickets, including option for class members to buy one extra discount ticket per show.  

Info: marionfay@comcast.net (END)