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A good parking spot in Sibley regional park.
Havy Hoag
A good parking spot in Sibley regional park.


New: Berkeley Couple Ties the Knot in San Francisco

By Sara Gaiser and Sasha Lekach (BCN)
Friday June 28, 2013 - 11:31:00 PM

Couples rushed into San Francisco City Hall to get married this evening after a court ruling repealing a 2008 ballot measure banning same-sex marriage was enacted.  

Kris Perry and Sandra Stier of Berkeley, two of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit that led to Proposition 8's repeal, were married just before 5 p.m. today at San Francisco City Hall, shortly after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of appeals cleared same-sex marriages to resume.  

State Attorney General Kamala Harris performed the hastily organized ceremony this afternoon before a crowd of media and bystanders numbering in the hundreds. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, state Sen. Mark Leno and Supervisor Eric Mar were among the officials also attending.  

As the ceremony got underway on the balcony under the rotunda, Harris told the smiling couple clad in a matching beige suit and dress that she could not be "more honored as I stand here today to join them." 

Harris briefly spoke about the couple's 14 years together and their desire to get married. The two had been married once before at San Francisco City Hall in 2004 when then-Mayor Gavin Newsom ordered county clerks to issue same-sex marriage licenses, but the California Supreme Court nullified their marriage later that year. 

"They have waited, hoped and fought for this moment," Harris said. "Today their wait is finally over."  

The couple, who were joined by one of their sons, Elliott Perry, as ringbearer, then exchanged vows and rings and were pronounced "spouses for life." They said they plan to have another family celebration later so that all their family members can attend.  

"What we wanted so desperately was for our sons to know that we love them enough to fight to be married," Perry said following the ceremony.  

And for everyone else still fighting to get married, Perry said, "we will fight with you." 

"We love you, we love your children and we think you all deserve to have this," Perry said.  

Everyone involved in today's ceremony professed surprise about the speed that marriages were allowed to resume after a U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this week effectively repealed Proposition 8. 

The high court's decision would not take effect until late July, but a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit today lifted a stay that had blocked gay and lesbian weddings while sponsors of Proposition 8 appealed that court's decision striking down the same-sex marriage ban.  

"We were thrilled, because every day that gays and lesbians can't get married is too many," said Stier. 

Clearly many others agreed. As word of the court's decision filtered out, couples rushed to City Hall to get their wedding licenses. The city clerk's office stayed open late to accommodate the rush and a number of impromptu weddings were performed around the building.  

Jessica Flintoft and Tara Cohen, of Oakland, had texted each other as soon as the decision was announced and hurried over to City Hall. They said they planned to get married there this evening.  

"We had a wedding a year ago," Cohen said. "We've been together for five years." 

Daly City residents Thom Watson and Jeff Tabaco said they have been together 10 years and have had a commitment ceremony, but had never tied the knot until now.  

"We decided not to marry in 2008, because we knew Proposition 8 was on the ballot and we didn't want to have our marriage annulled," as had happened with some marriages performed in 2004, Tabaco said.  

The couple said they had stood in line at the City Clerk's office in 2010, after the 9th Circuit ruled Proposition 8 unconstitutional, but then learned the court had issued a stay on same-sex marriages. 

Mayor Ed Lee issued a statement saying City Hall would stay open until 8 p.m. tonight for anyone looking to exercise their freshly restored right to marry, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.  

City Attorney Dennis Herrera said he will be joined by both plaintiff couples from the successful challenge to Proposition 8 on Sunday in the San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade, along with other advocates. Herrera has served as co-counsel on the case alongside attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies since 2009, when the city intervened as a co-plaintiff.  

"Who could think of a better beginning to Pride weekend?" Herrera said.

Flash: Berkeley Pair First to Marry Today

By Julia Cheever (BCN)
Friday June 28, 2013 - 04:10:00 PM

A federal appeals court in San Francisco today lifted a stay that had blocked same-marriages in California. 

Manny Rivera, a spokesman for the American Foundation for Equal Rights, said that lawyers for two couples who sued to challenge California's Proposition 8 believe the action by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals means that gay marriages can resume in the state. 

Rivera said the first pair to be married following the action will be one of the two plaintiff couples, Kris Perry and Sandra Stier, of Berkeley. 

They will be married at San Francisco City Hall at 4:15 p.m.

New: Albany Bulb Again Threatened

By Lydia Gans
Friday June 28, 2013 - 05:30:00 PM

After 14 years the Albany Bulb is in the news again. The Albany City Council has voted to begin the process of transferring the Bulb over to California State Park system. It will be a long and complicated process involving the Park system and East Bay Regional Park administrations as well as numerous other interested parties. And it will involve the difficult and painful issue of providing for some 55 people who have long been camped there and will be made homeless. They set October as a time to begin evictions. At Monday's Council meeting they voted for a $30,000 contract with Berkeley Food and Housing Project for a Homeless Outreach and Engagement Program to connect with the campers. 

The Bulb is a landfill created from rebar, concrete building materials and landscaping material. It belongs to the city of Albany but over the years appears to have been more of a problem than an asset. 

In 1985 the city signed a lease agreement with state parks but nothing ever came of it. There are specific rules for state parks. Camping is not permitted, any structures or art works are not permitted nor are off leash dogs. In the 1990's homeless people began moving into the Bulb. They set up tents and built simple structures, artists constructed fantastic art works from scrap materials and one long time camper set up a lending library in his shack. Before the state can take over everything will have to be removed. The removal of the rebar, concrete and other solid waste is also an issue. The campers, too, have to be permanently banned. 

In 1999 the city tried. It was a disaster. They ordered the campers to move out. Campsites were bulldozed. Attorney Osha Neumann came to the defense of the campers pointing out to the city that they cannot evict them without providing shelter. And Albany had – and still has – no homeless shelters. (Sending them to Berkeley was not an acceptable alternative.) The city contracted with an agency, Operation Dignity which brought in in a trailer to provide temporary shelter but promises to find permanent housing went unfulfilled. (An aside: Neumann also created some of the fantastic works of art.) 

The Bulb was soon reoccupied. Word was out and homeless folk, wanderers and people just looking to party drifted in and out. But a core of people made it their home. The city appeared to have neither the will nor the resources to take any interest. Occasionally the police patrolled but more often they actually told homeless people they encountered in the city streets to go out to the Bulb. 

Amber Whitson has lived at the Bulb since 2006. She talked about Bulb residents' accomplishments and contributions since they moved there (or) were told to move there by the police. “Wider site trails have been created, we've been doing maintenance on them, we do trash pickup. We've done cleanup of abandoned camps, shoreline cleanup – in 2007 people who lived out here helped take care of oiled birds during the Cosco Busan oil spill. We've done metal and re-bar hazard mitigation, we were the first to respond to the fire in the castle set by kids from the town, we created a freebox out here, we arranged for pickup of the shopping carts ourselves without help from the city, we planted fruit trees out here, we built and do our best to maintain the castle which was finished in '99 and the library both of which are not only local treasures but are also major tourist attractions. In '99 the day before the threatened eviction date one of the people who lived out here rescued a guy out of the water and out of the 4 people who showed up for the cove enhancement volunteers work that the city is doing, 3 of the 4 were people from out here, only one person was a resident of the city of Albany. We jump when they want us to jump, we reach out and help.” 

In spite of all this city officials apparently have not seen fit to communicate directly with the campers. Nor is it clear what consideration, if any, they are giving to a very extensive report from the Homeless Task Force, “Options for Ending Homelessness in Albany”. Several of the campers representing the homeless community regularly attend and participate in Task Force meetings and have high praise for the Task Force members and their work. Various agencies and friends have been supporting the campers for some time. Alameda County Health Care for the Homeless comes out regularly, Homeless Action Center helps people apply for benefits they might be eligible for, East Bay Community Law Center offers help, some folks from a local church bring pizza once a week, others bring food or help haul in water. 

The campers themselves are organizing, getting together from time to time for community meetings and to work on maintenance and improvements on the Bulb. They are concerned about metal scavengers and outsiders who come just to party and have on occasion set fires or done serious damage. They are hoping to smooth out the road where there is rebar and concrete jutting out. And they are trying to keep informed on the action the city will take affecting them. 

To prepare for questions from agencies or interested parties Amber has carried out a needs assessment and demographic survey of the 55 campers for whom the Bulb is home. She cites some numbers: 21 people have been homeless for a year or more, 23 are disabled, at least 13 want a job, 34 “actively interested in housing”, 21 with pets, 25 have an income, 21 no income at all. These are all factors affecting their needs and potential for obtaining appropriate housing for the people who will be displaced from their current residence at the Bulb. 

Though the City Council has announced an October date for enforcing the no camping rule, it is clear that actually making it happen is not possible. Osha Neumann points out that “(I)t has taken many years to bring about this situation and it's not going to get resolved over night. And they will not find placements for the people there all at once.” 

He also suggests that “Apart from constitutional issues I think there are people who are concerned on a human level with what is going to happen to people. They have some level of responsibility. They permitted and in some cases encouraged people to go out there. So now all of a sudden to close it down is not fair, not the right thing to do. I think people care.”

Updated: Historic Preservation Law Firm Moves to New Headquarters in Downtown Berkeley

By Becky O'Malley
Friday June 28, 2013 - 11:59:00 AM
This handsome building in downtown Berkeley is the new home of the Rossmann and Moore law firm, formerly in San Francisco.
This handsome building in downtown Berkeley is the new home of the Rossmann and Moore law firm, formerly in San Francisco.

On July 2, after 26 years in Hayes Valley in San Francisco, Rossmann and Moore, LLP, will move to 2014 Shattuck Avenue, between Addison and University, in a two story historic building whose original occupant was the architect of the Berkeley Public Library, main and several branches. According to one source, it's the only terra cotta facade downtown. It’s the Heywood Building (1917), a City of Berkeley Landmark. At the beginning, it included offices for both its architect, James Plachek, and its owner, William H. Heywood. 

The firm had expected to require a year to find worthy space for their water and land use practice. Instead realtor John Gordon pointed to this immediately-available space. One look and they knew this was the place. 

Founding partner Tony Rossmann said they made the move because everyone in the office lives in the East Bay, and the three attorneys will now be able to commute by bicycle, in his own case in ten minutes. This contrasts with 45 to 60 minutes door-to-door on an average BART commute. 

"The move also places me ten minutes from Boalt for my teaching there as lecturer. And five minutes from Berkeley High for swim meets and lacrosse games," Rossmann said. 

He told the Planet that "We believe that downtown Berkeley offers what Hayes Valley did a quarter century ago when our office moved there: an exciting neighborhood on the edge of greatness. New developments, public, private, cultural, and UC, are all promising. As lawyers who deal in historic preservation, we are confident we can help maintain our historic post office three blocks away. And the cost of both rent and lunches will be half what we are now experiencing in the city." 

The firm's members include founding partner Tony Rossmann, partner Roger Moore, associate Bart Lounsbury, office manager Tiffany Poovaiah, and preservation consultant Kathy Burns. 

2014 Shattuck Avenue, between Addison and University, in a two story historic building whose original occupant was the architect of the Berkeley Public Library, main and several branches. 

[Thanks to Daniella Thompson of BAHA for additions and corrections. For more information about the building, see: 





Berkeley Assault Suspect Sought by Police

By Hannah Albarazi (BCN)
Friday June 28, 2013 - 09:22:00 AM

Berkeley police are asking for the public's help in finding a wanted man who allegedly assaulted a female victim last weekend, police said. 

According to police, 33-year-old John Anthony Martin, of Berkeley, is wanted in connection with the assault. 

At about 9:30 a.m. Sunday, a suspect entered a multi-unit residential building in the 2400 block of Piedmont Avenue and prowled through several rooms, police said. 

The victim was asleep in bed when the suspect entered her room and began inappropriately touching her, causing her to wake up, according to police. 

The victim started yelling and the suspect fled the building, police said. 

A subsequent investigation identified Martin as the alleged suspect. He is described as being 6 feet 6 inches tall and weighing about 280 pounds with brown hair and hazel eyes, police said. 

Police are warning residents not to approach the suspect. Instead, police are asking anyone who sees him to call 911. 

Anyone with information about Martin's whereabouts or the case is asked to call Berkeley police at (510) 981-5735 or an anonymous tip line at (800) 222-8477. 


What's New at the Law School

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Friday June 28, 2013 - 11:50:00 AM

As a former Boalt Hall U.C. School of Law retiree, I received in today's mail a copy of the glossy 68 page "TRANSCRIPT," Boalt's handsome Journal. I was particularly interested in the article on Professor Sanford Kadish (Page 5) mentioning the dedication of his "Jurisprudence and Social Policy Library". Kadish joined Boalt's faculty in 1964 and served as dean from 1975 to 1982. He was instrumental in fortifying the School's Center for the Study of Law & Society. 

David Carrillo launched Boalt Hall's new California Constitution Center. The Center has kicked off its programming with a moot court for lawyers whose cases are pending before the California Supreme Court. This fall the Center plans to hold a conference on the California Supreme Court, paired wit a special argument session the court will hold at Boalt. 

This past November, a British rabbi's Robbins Collection lecture electrified an overflow audience at Boalt. The Robbins Collection, among the world's best research libraries in religious and civil law, has attracted top students and scholars from around the world. The Berkeley Institute seeks to broaden Jewish and Israeli studies at U.C. Berkeley. 

Boalt Professor Kristin Luker has established a new first-of-a-kind Reproductive Rights Center, focussing on reproductive rights and justice. The Center is publishing a white paper and hosting a panel in support of efforts to repeal California's welfare family cap. 

Nicholas Dirks has been named the new Berkeley Chancellor, replacing Dean Christopher Edley, Jr. Despite the brace of titles he held at Columbia University, Dirks is better known as a professor of Indian ethno-history with a passion for interdisciplinary studies. It's given him an opening to perceive the world beyond Christianity. 

The Journal has published dozens of pictures of past and present faculty, many of whom I worked for during my years at Boalt (i.e, Dick Buxbaum and Willy Fletcher.) As mentioned before, I'm grateful for the exciting years I worked at Boalt, though I fear I had little impact on the School's success. 

On a sentimental and nostalgic note, I make mention here of Professor Charles Charnas ('84), "Tall Drink of Water,"penned two years before his brush with death. The opening lines are: 

"There's a little thing I said to myself, all my own 

A watchword I repeat that's just for me 

When I wake up with the dawn and I greet the morning sun When I wake up and begin a brand new day 

I look into the mirror, I look right at myself 

And I promise that today will be okay." 

Incidentally, Chanas' love song to jazz and life are available on Amazon.com and iTunes.



Remembering Our Mother

By Becky O'Malley
Friday June 28, 2013 - 09:36:00 AM

It’s fitting that I should be writing about my mother’s life and death in a week when the Bay Area and the nation is celebrating the Supreme Court’s extension of marriage rights to everyone regardless of sexual orientation. My mother, known for most of her 98 plus years as Bette Peters, was an indefatigable matchmaker. She herself had “married well” in the best tradition of the Jane Austen novels which she thoroughly enjoyed, and she recommended the same course for everyone around her.

When the culture shifted during her long life to openly acknowledge gay relationships, she took up promoting unions for gay family members and friends with the same enthusiasm which she’d always expressed for straight matches. She died on Thursday of last week, just a little too soon for her to urge gay couples she knew to finally tie the knot.

My daughter Eliza described her grandmother’s last years well in an email to friends: “She remained sharp as a tack, independent and deeply involved in the lives of those around her up until the day she entered the hospital. “ She still lived alone in her own house at the end, still queen of her domestic empire, still keeping her eagle eye on what everyone else was up to.

In many ways she was the exemplar of what was to become the modern woman. She was born in the first years of the 20th century, but lived more than a decade into the 21st, always with one foot in the past and another in the future. 

Born in 1914, she was raised to be a conventional ornament of St. Louis’s version of high society. The oldest of five children in a family with a devout Catholic mother, she got a good education through high school in the humanities, including Latin and French, at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, which prepared her for a lifetime of continued self- education through voracious reading. It was not expected that girls like her would need any more formal schooling. 

On October 19 of 1929 she turned fifteen, and ten days later the world she was prepared for collapsed. Her father’s position in the financial world evaporated, leaving his large family dependent on the charity of relatives who had not been hit so badly by what they called The Crash. He never again got a steady job. 

My mother quickly finished school and won a scholarship to Washington University’s art school. But after only a year there, she needed to leave and take a job as a “salesgirl” in a department store to support her family. In a story I heard in recent years (which she alternately admitted and denied) she said that when she voted for Roosevelt for President her staunchly Republican father threw her out of the house, only to invite her back three weeks later when he realized she was the only family member earning any money. 

The lavish debutante parties of the Roaring 20s for which she’d been prepared disappeared. Mom “came out” (in those days it meant something different) at a modest tea at the home of an aunt. During the day she was a working woman, attending occasional evening parties for better-fixed friends in borrowed dresses when her job permitted. Selling on commission only, she was frequently required to take uncompensated leave from the sales floor to serve as a model, which she deeply resented. 

When Anita Hill testified about her experience with sexual harassment in the workplace during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings in 1991, my mother was very sympathetic. She told us for the first time of being subjected to similar indignities by male bosses during her working days. 

But like Cinderella she finally met her prince, a Princeton graduate new to St. Louis, my father, Warren Peters, known to all as Pete. They married in 1939, she retired from her job, and he took over supporting her family. 

I was born 11 months later, and less than two years after that Pearl Harbor was attacked. My father signed up for the Navy without consulting Mom. She and I moved back into my grandparents’ big old house with her family of origin to wait out the war. 

Much is made of the men of what’s now trendily denominated as “the greatest generation,” but the women of the first half of the 20th century also faced many challenges with grace. The household where my mother spent the war years included not only my unemployed but still demanding grandfather and my long-suffering grandmother, but also my beyond-eccentric great-grandmother and three of my mother’s siblings plus my aunts’ husbands or fiancés when they were home on leave and sometimes a great-uncle. And they all had to get along. 

From time to time my mother was able to join my father when he was in U.S. ports, and in due time she was pregnant again. Tragically, just a few days before my sister was born in 1943, Mom’s closest sibling, her brother Edwin, was killed in the crash of the plane he was piloting in Air Force flight school in California. A clipping she preserved documented an expose of poor management in the program, with the implication that a series of training deaths at the facility should never have happened, which made the family very bitter. My sister Edwina was named after the uncle who died. 

When the war ended my mother resumed with enthusiasm the role of wife and mother, a comfortable and fulfilling position for some women like her in the late 40s and 50s. She expended a lot of energy and considerable intelligence on her daughters’ education, picking out the best books to read to us and teaching us to read on our own—I could read before I got to first grade, thanks to my mother’s tutelage. 

She put her artistic talent to work rehabilitating and redecorating a succession of old houses in which we lived that were eventually sold for tidy profits. When I was a child in St. Louis she and her best buddy Helen Wilson frequented Father Dempsey’s, a charity emporium where they found antiques which they refinished for their houses as well as fascinating used books. 

What a reader our mother was! A prime perk of her mid-century domesticity was first dibs on the New Yorker when it came in the mail every week. I can see her now, sitting down in peace and quiet at the kitchen table for lunch with the latest New Yorker and a bowl of Campbell’s chicken noodle soup. And she read her way through all of those classics she bought at Father Dempsey’s, ending up better educated than most of her peers or mine who had fancy college degrees. She was naturally one smart woman, and she made the most of it. 

She loved good writing wherever she found it, encouraging her daughters to learn to write by giving us good things to read and critiquing our own early attempts. 

She loved her family too, and there were lots of us to love. She regretted only being able to have two children, but her two sisters and her brother in St. Louis produced many more that she doted on as much as on her own. 

My father, in the 50s mode, was an organization man, and in 1954 his corporate employers transferred him to Los Angeles. Our loyal mother hated leaving her St. Louis family, but she made the most of her new Pasadena home, not, however, without a few complaints. Fulfilling what she saw as her primary duty, she made sure that my sister and I both went to good colleges and were “married well” at an early age to Caltech graduates with “good prospects.” 

As her nest emptied, with more time on her hands, she became an enthusiastic Democrat. Her parents and my father were old-style moderate Republicans, but she was a militant liberal, an early member of her local California Democratic Club. John Kennedy’s 1960 candidacy galvanized her. 

Another corporate transfer took them to New Jersey, which she really hated. Some fancy footwork on my father’s part landed them in Santa Cruz, where he became an administrator at the new University of California. There she designed and built a charming house in the country without the aid of an architect, where my parents hosted a generation of grandchildren and their friends plus assorted nieces and nephews who called her “Tante” and a variety of waifs and strays of all descriptions. 

She was a superb grandmother. She had the gift of focusing her full attention on the person she was talking to, making each and every one feel for a moment like the most important person in the world. Every child in her sphere was an only child. 

When they got too old to live alone in the country, my parents moved to town, eventually coming to the East Bay to be near my family. They were very lucky to end up in a cozy house a few blocks from ours on a quiet street with a full complement of wonderful neighbors who look after each other. In her eighties and nineties my mother was at home a lot of the time, taking devoted care of my father in the three years he was bedridden until his death at 96. Her neighbors generously kept an eye on both of them, right up until the week she died. 

Her lifelong energy, which allowed her to keep up with a succession of lively kids and unruly dogs, perhaps could be attributed to her unique lifestyle. She smoked until she was 75, and her diet featured alcohol, sugar and lots of butter, chocolate and ice cream. She detested organized exercise, but made up for it by jittering a lot and keeping her house very clean. 

She always looked stylish in a modern way, nothing of the old lady about her even in her nineties. She fancied jeans or tight pants, enthusiastically donning the leopard-print velvet leggings she got last Christmas when she’d just turned 98. When she went to hospital for the last time, her fingernails and toenails were painted blue, in solidarity with Michelle Obama and the Democrats. 

Other enthusiasms? She always supported classical music, including serving a stint on the early board of Santa Cruz’s Cabrillo Music Festival. In the last years after my father died she particularly enjoyed Michael Morgan and the populist flavor of the Oakland Symphony, as well as any performance that featured her descendants. 

And she was passionate about politics. She watched the Senate and House on C-Span as eagerly as sports fans watch ESPN. Her boon companions in recent years, heard at top volume because her hearing went and she refused hearing aids, were Rachel Maddow and Jon Stewart. 

Meeting Elizabeth Warren during the campaign in the fall was a big thrill. She fervently hoped that a Democratic congressional majority would be able do something tangible to help the destitute people that she met around Berkeley. She was on a first name basis with the regulars who solicit funds outside stores where she shopped—when my father died she gave many of his clothes to a favorite stationed outside of La Farine on College. 

A friend has asked if any memorial contributions are in order. Well, there’s always Elizabeth Warren’s campaign committee. The Oakland Symphony is another good cause she’d support. 

Mom had a particular devotion to St. Anthony, patron saint of lost objects, and contributed to the San Francisco dining room named after him when she believed he’d helped her find something. Her eleven-year-old great-granddaughter Nora suggested that you could cover a couple of bases by donating a lot of ice cream for the homeless diners at St. Anthony’s. 

My mother had the great good fortune to live long enough to be a real presence in the lives of all nine of her great-grandchildren, the oldest of whom graduated from high school this spring and the youngest who’s just turned three. A matchmaker ‘til the end, she was scheming in the week before she went to the hospital for the last time about how to fix up her beautiful great-granddaughter with one of the attractive twin boys who lived across the street from her. 

Perhaps another good way to honor her memory would be to marry the one you love if you haven’t already done so, now that the Supreme Court, even including one of the Republicans, has finally decided that all of us have that right. These days family is where you find it, and Mom believed firmly in family. 










Odd Bodkins: The big news (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Friday June 28, 2013 - 11:30:00 AM


Dan O'Neill


Odd Bodkins: the great who am scam (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Friday June 28, 2013 - 11:28:00 AM


Dan O'Neill


Odd Bodkins: Smug (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Friday June 28, 2013 - 11:22:00 AM


Dan O'Neill


Bounce: Righting History (Cartoon)

By Joseph Young
Friday June 28, 2013 - 11:55:00 AM


Joseph Young


Bounce: The Hard Way (Cartoon)

By Joseph Young
Friday June 28, 2013 - 11:52:00 AM


Joseph Young


Bounce: Big Brother (Cartoon)

By Joseph Young
Friday June 28, 2013 - 11:49:00 AM


Joseph Young


Bounce: Eye, Robot (Cartoon)

By Joseph Young
Friday June 28, 2013 - 11:26:00 AM


Joseph Young


Bounce: Cool in a riptide (Cartoon)

By Joseph Young
Friday June 28, 2013 - 11:14:00 AM


Joseph Young


Public Comment

New: Happy 237th Independence Day to the Great Nation, USA

By Ramlah Malhi
Thursday July 04, 2013 - 09:18:00 AM

It was two hundred and thirty seven years ago that our great nation came to existence. Through these years not only have our nation seen hardship but it has been able to overcome it in a tremendous way. The United States of America has for many years been a leading part of this world and continues to be. This ability to lead can only be credited to the people of this great nation who have remained united and loyal to this country in the face of any hardship. America is a country which has given us many freedoms. This great nation has been the land of opportunity for all. It has always welcomed immigrants with open arms and has given everyone the means to achieve the American Dream. This great nation has been a thriving place for many, whether be it immigrants, refugees, or its citizens. Among many freedoms America has given us is the freedom of religion which enabled the persecuted to find a new. If we look into our history, America was first settled by the people who were victims of persecution in Europe and found in her a safe home to live and blossom in freedom.  

It is this freedom among many that is making USA stronger and stronger day by day. It is not the commonality of religion which keeps us united but rather the loyalty and love for our country which unites us. With such unity we will be able to face all hardships to keep this great nation of ours strong. 

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, whose motto is “Love for all, Hatred for none”, advocates loyalty for one’s country of residence. As a member of this community, I believe that it is necessary for everyone residing in the US to have a deep love for it and for humanity at large. Such loyalty is part of the Islamic faith as commanded in the Qur’an: “O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey His Messenger and those who are in authority among you…” (4:60) This specific verse of the Qur’an commands all Muslim Americans to be loyal to our great nation, to always stand for its defense when needed, and to always be the cause of spreading peace and harmony among its people. Indeed Ahmadi Muslims believe that love for one’s country is an essential part of faith because the founder of Islam, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) has emphatically ordered and taught this. This nation has embraced us and allowed us to become the fabric of our great society. It is our moral duty to be loyal to this country. 

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Messiah and founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community reaffirmed this concept of loyalty over a century ago. He said, “The Qur'an, therefore, is unequivocal on the point. Obedience to governmental authority is one of its imperatives." Today, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is the leading Islamic organization to promote loyalty to one’s country of residence, as Islam requires. 

Therefore, at this great occasion of being blessed to see our nation have another birthday I would like to wish everyone from the depths of my heart a very Happy Independence Day. May God make this country more powerful and a torch of justice. May God bless America.

Is the Prop 8 decision Good News?

By Bruce Joffe
Friday June 28, 2013 - 02:16:00 PM

I am happy the Supreme Court recognized that same-sex couples must be treated equally under the law, yet, I'm alarmed by their decision on California's Prop 8, Hollingsworth v Perry. The Court could have refused to take this case, but they chose to take it, and then they ruled that the Prop 8 proponents had no standing. This wasn't an "easy way out" of the gay-marriage controversy, it was a specific decision to limit citizens' access to the courts. It follows the American Express v Italian Colors decision a week earlier, which also limits citizens' access to the courts by banning class-action suits against corporations.  

While I disagree with Prop 8 proponents', their grievance was legitimate. They initiated and promoted a ballot measure which won, but then was not to be implemented, nor defended in court, because the Governor and state Attorney General didn't agree with the outcome. And now, the Supreme Court has ruled that Prop 8 proponents don't have standing. Who, then, could have standing? 

Imagine a similar situation with the politics reversed. Imagine a gun control measure voted by the people but unimplemented by a NRA-beholden governor. Proponents would have no judicial recourse. That's undemocratic.

Government Spying

By Jagjit Singh
Friday June 28, 2013 - 11:49:00 AM

As the media focuses almost exclusively on Edward Snowden’s possible whereabouts, more details have emerged on the Obama administration’s unprecedented assault on whistleblowers. New investigations have shown the administration’s crackdown extends far beyond Snowden and has unleashed its ‘fast and furious’ spy programs on the vast majority of government agencies and departments — with little or no connection to national security. A program called “Insider Threat" forces government employees to spy on their colleagues and report suspicious activity. They are also mandated to view an online video, “Treason 101” to enhance intimidation. This has created an extremely toxic work environment and opens the possibility of enormous abuse and spurious investigations. This is starkly reminiscent of totalitarian governments who wage war on dissent and command implicit obedience. 

Unfortunately the mainstream media has been trashing the messenger, Snowden, rather than examining the dirty linen that he has exposed. Snowden is the seventh person to be charged under the 100-year-old Espionage Act by the current administration, doubling all prior presidents. 

An iron curtain has descended on investigative reporting following the seizure of phone records of the Associated Press and the emails of Fox News’s James Rosen. This has had a chilling effect on investigative reporting that relies on the free flow of information. Sadly, the US government has had a long history of misleading the American people that has had disastrous consequences (see Jeremy Scahill best-selling book, “Dirty Wars”, the hidden truth behind America's covert wars). 


Plan Bay Area – A Shocking Theft Of Our Democracy

By Vivian Warkentin
Friday June 28, 2013 - 11:46:00 AM

Our local media has been dropping broad, confusing hints about something big, something imminent, coming to the greater Bay Area.

A front page article in the San Francisco Chronicle in March 2013, titled “Hard Choices for a growing S.F.” begins, “San Francisco residents will be getting thousands of new neighbors in the next 30 years, and it’s time to start figuring out where they will live and work. (??) The article goes on to say “Combined with the Association of Bay Area Governments’ (ABAG) estimate that San Francisco’s population will soar from the current 812,000 to at least 964,000 by 2025 it’s clear great change is ahead for the city.”

Tim Redmond, editor of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, lays out similar predictions in his article, “The Zero-Sum Future”: “Streets may have to be torn up, and redirected . . . ABAG, according to its most recent projections, would like to see some 90,000 new housing units in S.F. That’s got plenty of problems, particularly the likelihood of the displacement of existing residents.” 

East Bay Express editor, Robert Gammon, pulled out all the stops with his article, “How an Environmental Law is harming the Environment”, arguing that we need to gut the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) because it gets in the way of “smart growth”. 

So thousands of new neighbors are coming to our cities, even though there are neither jobs nor housing for them. Streets are going to be torn up and residents will be displaced. Thousands of new housing “units” will be needed. CEQA will have to be revised to accommodate “smart growth”. 

What is going to cause all this upheaval? What are the media outlets softening up the public for? — It’s the Plan Bay Area due to be implemented on July 18 of this year.  

Most people in Berkeley and other Bay Area cities have never heard of Plan Bay Area and only a miniscule percentage of the seven million residents of the nine Bay Area counties who will be affected have had any part in the “planning sessions.” But ABAG and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) who have designed it to address SB-375, the California Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008, say they are responding to the needs and desires of Bay Area residents. No vote of the people is planned. 

Our Berkeley Mayor, Tom Bates (as an MTC commissioner), along with mayors and city and county elected officials of the Bay Area, has been attending public-private meetings alongside non-profit groups who have alliances with corporations, developers, non-governmental organizations and government agencies. A conglomeration of locally elected officials should not constitute a legal governing body when they were not elected for that purpose. ABAG and it’s partners have effectively created an illegitimate regional branch of government that trumps city government, diminishing the rights of average citizens to affect their local environment.  

The principle behind the Plan is to restrict future development in the Bay Area region to redevelopment areas and Priority Development Areas (PDA) only. Increase public transit to outlying areas? No. It’s a cruel hard world now. By allocating federal grant money through ABAG and the MTC, the idea is to starve rural and suburban counties of transportation money and restrict land use of property owners in order to cause a migration of people to designated city centers close to mass transit. Construction in cities will be mixed-use, high density “smart growth” buildings. Wow! The callous disregard for the average person’s property rights, and rights in general, is breathtaking.  

Other policies include a carbon tax which will force us to install GPS monitoring devices on our cars, eliminating even more parking, and paying for parking at night downtown. That will be great for local business. 

People in other affected Bay Area counties are mighty upset. A Youtube videos of a hearings in Walnut Creek is available on line at: youtube.com/watch?v=ZkqWvlabnpc

Some Democrats would have us believe that only anti-government Tea Party types would object to a plan like this. I wonder if Democrats have lost their minds over climate change. Is it really environmentalism, or are the usual the money-bags and land grabbers of the world supplying self-enriching “solutions”? 

Democrats, including Loni Hancock, are actually working to gut CEQA, something developers have only dreamed about until now. Only deep-pocketed developers have the wherewithal to build giant multi-unit buildings, and are getting rich off of federal tax dollars doing so. I doubt that our lawmakers will be moving from their single family homes to stack and pack “smart growth” housing units any time soon. 

If we want to continue to call this a democracy, we in Berkeley will have to join our compatriots in other Bay Area cities and counties to say “Hell No!” to the illegitimate, tyrannical Plan Bay Area.

Rally to Protect Our Vital Programs

By Harry Brill
Friday June 28, 2013 - 09:32:00 AM

On Tuesday, July 2nd, there will be an important rally sponsored by the California Alliance for Retired Americans, the AFL-CIO and many other organizations. 


Protect and Expand Medicare, Medicaid, & Social Security 

Tuesday 4 to 6pm, July 2 

San Francisco's Federal Bldg, At Seventh and Mission 

We will form a human chain at the Federal Building to protest the proposed cut in Social Security. We will then march to Senator Feinstein's office. There will be many similar demonstrations throughout the country. 

By Bart, take the train to Civic Center and you are only a short walking distance from the Federal Building. 

For those of you who want to emphasize in this rally how military spending plays an important role in shaping the resistance of our government to sustain and improve our vital social programs, please meet at 3pm at the Civic Center Bart Station, and march together to the rally. 



All internet content is unfiltered at the Berkeley Public Library

By Thomas Lynch
Friday June 28, 2013 - 11:53:00 AM

The Berkeley Public Library’s "Children and Young Adult" computers have a No-Filtering Policy for the Internet. Consequently, all sorts of pornographic material can be accessed intentionally or accidentally by children. A friend, who is aware of my concern for youngsters, sent the following email – “I recently saw a TV show in which young people were being interviewed regarding their experience with online pornography. The more macho males led the discussion with a cynical attitude of "Oh yeah, it's out there--so what?" with very little thought to its meaning or consequences (these are teens, after all). Finally, a quieter lad, genuinely moved, spoke up saying, “When I was twelve, I saw an online pornographic image. I wish I could go back and unsee it.”” 

I do not understand how pornography on “Children and Young Adult” computers finds sanctuary at the Berkeley Public Library.


DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: Syria & The Monarchs: A Perfect Storm

By Conn Hallinan
Friday June 28, 2013 - 11:59:00 AM

The Obama administration’s decision to directly supply weapons to the Syrian opposition may end up torpedoing the possibility of a political settlement. It will almost certainly accelerate the chaos spreading from the almost three-year old civil war. It will also align the U.S. with one of the most undemocratic alliances on the planet, and one that looks increasingly unstable.

In short, we are headed into a perfect political storm.

While the rationale behind the White House’s decision to send light arms and ammunition to the rebels is that it will level the playing field and force the Assad regime to the bargaining table, it much more likely to do exactly the opposite. The US is now a direct participant in the war to bring down the Damascus regime, thus shedding any possibility that, along with Russia, it could act as a neutral force to bring the parties together. 

Of course the US has hardly been a disinterested bystander in the Syrian civil war. For more than two years it has helped facilitate the flow of arms from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates across the Jordanian and Turkish borders, and the CIA is training insurgents in Jordan. But the White House has always given lip service to a “diplomatic solution,” albeit one whose outcome was preordained: “Assad must go” the President said in August 2011, a precondition that early on turned this into a fight to the death. 

As Ramzy Mardini, a former U.S. State Department official for Near Eastern affairs, recently wrote in the New York Times, “What’s the point of negotiating a political settlement if the outcome is already predetermined?” 

It is hard to tell if the administration’s policies around Syria are Machiavellian or just stunningly inept. Take President Obama’s famous “red line” speech warning the Assad regime that the use of chemical weapons would trigger US military intervention. Didn’t the President realize that his comment was a roadmap for the insurgency: show that chemical weapons were used and in come the Marines? And, as if on cue, the insurgents began claiming poison gas was used on them, a charge the Damascus regime has denied. 

Whether there is any truth to the charge is hard to tell since neither the British, French, nor the US have released any findings. “if you are the opposition and you hear” that the White House has drawn a red line on the use of nerve agents, then “you have an interest in giving the impression that some chemical weapons have been used, says Rolf Ekeus, a Swedish scientist who headed up the UN weapons inspections in Iraq. Carla Del Ponte, of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, says it was the insurgents who used poison gas, not the Syrian government. 

The French and the British are hardly neutral bystanders, with long and sordid track records in the region. It was Paris and London that secretly divvied up the Middle East in the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement, and who used divisions between Shites, Sunnis, and Christians to keep their subject populations at one another’s throats. Both countries just successfully lobbied the European Union to end its arms embargo on the Syrian combatants and are considering supplying weapons to the insurgents.  

Besides the growing butcher bill in Syria—according to the UN the death toll is now over 93,000, with a million and a half refugees—the war is going regional, particularly in Iraq and Lebanon, although Turkey and Jordan are also being pulled into the maelstrom. 

Fighting between Shites and Saudi-sponsored Sunni extremists in Lebanon’s northern city of Tripoli is drawing in the Lebanese Army, which recently issued a warning that sectarian violence was getting out of control. There is fighting between Assad loyalists, Sunni insurgents, and the Shite-based organization Hezbollah on both sides of Lebanon’s border with Syria. 

In the meantime, Sunni extremist groups, associated with al-Qaeda, are waging a car-bombing offensive against the central government in Iraq. According to the UN, 1,000 Iraqis were killed in May, and the toll continues to mount. A recent bombing in a Turkish border town killed 51 people and local Turks blamed the insurgents, not the Assad regime. 

The war has put economically fragile Jordan on the front lines. Some 8,000 troops from 19 countries just completed war games entitled “Eager Lion” in that country. The 12-day exercise was aimed, according the Independent (UK), at preparing “for possible fighting in Syria.” The US has deployed Patriot missiles, troops, and F-16 fighter-bombers in Jordan. 

While the Syrian civil war started over the Assad regime’s brutal response to demonstrators, it has morphed into a proxy war between Syria, Iran, Russia, and government of Prime Minster Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq on one side, and the US, France, Britain, Israel, Turkey and the monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) on the other. The Council includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and new members Morocco and Jordan. 

The GCC is playing banker and arms supplier to the insurgency, much the same role it played in Libya’s civil war. Qatar has poured more than $3 billion into the effort to upend Assad, and, along with Saudi Arabia and the US, helped shift Egypt from its initial support for a diplomatic solution to backing a military overthrow of the Damascus regime. 

Egypt is in the midst of a major financial crisis, and Qatar has agreed to invest billions in its economy. Such investments come with strings, however, and Qatar is not shy about using its cash to get countries on board its foreign policy goals. Ahram Online said a major reason for the diplomatic shift was “the hope of soliciting desperately need financial and fuel aid” from Saudi Arabia. 

According to Ahram, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi bucked the advice of his top aides to switch positions. The April 6 Democratic Front Movement accused Morsi of caving in to “Washington” and extremist “Salafist Sheikhs.” 

Egypt is also trying to land a loan from the International Monetary Fund, over which the US wields considerable influence. It is hard to see Egypt’s shift as anything but a quid pro quo for a bailout. 

The Gulf Council has almost unlimited amounts of cash at its disposal, but how stable are the monarchies that make it up? 

Last year Bahrain was forced to use Saudi Arabian troops to quash protests by its Shia majority demanding democratic rights. The United Arab Emirates charged 94 people with conspiracy because they asked for democratic rights. They face 15 years in prison. Qatar recently sentenced a poet to 15 years for writing a “subversive” poem. 

The monarchs’ bitter opposition to anything that smacks of democracy or representative government suggests that their crowns do not sit all that firmly on their heads.  

Saudi Arabia is a case in point. While it is the world’s biggest oil exporter, it has a growing population—at 30 million, larger than the Gulf members of the GCC members put together—and unemployment among Saudis aged 20 to 24 is around 40 percent. The kingdom is also facing a restive Shia population in its eastern provinces. 

The Saudi monarchy has dealt with opposition through a combination of stepped up repression and a $130 billion spending program. But as Karen House points out in her book “On Saudi Arabia,” the country’s “High birthrate, poor education…and deep structural rigidities in the economy, compounded by pervasive corruption, all have led to a decline in living standards…Many of [the] young feel their future is being stolen from them.” 

The other Gulf monarchies are rich—Jordan is the exception—but lack population and rely on imported workers to meet their labor needs. Because there is essentially no public oversight, the monarchies tend to breed corruption. The Saud family has some 7,000 princes, all of whom have special access to the vast wealth of the country. 

A generation ago that corruption could be easily covered up, but the Internet makes that increasingly difficult. Twitter and YouTube have a huge following in Saudi Arabia. 

Yet it is with these monarchies—the world’s last bastions of feudal power—that the US and its allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have made common cause. 

Reliance on the GCC also means that Washington is essentially part of the Sunni jihad against Shites in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. However, while the Shite-Sunni conflict is important and long-standing, the fact that Iran, Syria and Iraq have very different foreign policies than the GCC has more to do with the Council’s hostility to Teheran than religious differences.  

It was Jordan’s King Abdullah who first warned that a “Shiite Crescent”—Hezbollah, Syria, Iraq and Iran—was a threat to the Middle East, a “warning” that conveniently fit into the US’s drive to build an alliance against Iran. But elevating sectarian divisions in Islam into an alliance not only helped unleash Sunni extremists—including the al-Qaeda-linked groups in Syria that reportedly worry Washington—it opened a Pandora’s Box of ethnic divisions that the US and the Gulf monarchies may yet come to regret. 

There is still time to halt this looming train wreck. 

United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki-moon said the US move was “not helpful,” and reiterated, “There can be no military solution to this conflict, even if the [Syrian] Government and the opposition, and their supporters, think there can be.” The Obama administration could use that admonition to call for a ceasefire, hold off sending arms, and instead concentrate—along with Russia—on building a peace conference. 

The conference would have to involve all the parties, including the countries currently being destabilized by the ongoing fighting. The US will also have to step back from its “Assad must go” position and, instead, seek a way to integrate Syria’s 2014 presidential elections into a formula for peace. But more arms and a tighter embrace of the backward Gulf Council will insure the war will continue to kill Syrians and destabilize the region. 

Conn Hallinan can be read at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com and middleempireseries.wordpress.com 









ECLECTIC RANT: A Brief Comment on the Supreme Court's DOMA Decision

By Ralph E. Stone
Friday June 28, 2013 - 10:34:00 AM

The Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor ruled that Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the law barring the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages legalized by the states, is unconstitutional. 

Adding California after the Hollingsworth v. Perry decision, twelve states now allow same-sex marriages and these couples are now eligible for federal benefits. This impacts about 1,100 federal laws, including veterans' benefits, social security, family medical leave, and tax laws.  

Six states permit same-sex unions granting rights similar to marriage under state law only. The DOMA decision does not impact these unions. Interestingly enough, this decision put New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in a difficult position. Christie had vetoed a bill that would have legalized same-sex marriage using the rationale that New Jersey already had a civil union law that was substantively equivalent to marriage, and so extending the word "marriage" to gays and lesbians was not necessary to achieve equality. Obviously he was wrong. The New Jersey legislative session runs for two years meaning that the legislature has until January 2014 to override Christie's veto. Stay tuned. 

At least 37 states prohibit same-sex marriage by statute or by their constitutions. The DOMA decision does not create a Constitutional right to same-sex marriage and thus, states are still free to prohibit same-sex marriages.  

And states prohibiting same-sex marriage are not required to recognize same-sex marriages. Query, what if a same-sex couple who was legally married in one state moves to another state where such marriages are not recognized. Can this couple still receive federal benefits? Or. for example, a same-sex couple travels to a state that prohibits same-sex marriages and one spouse becomes hospitalized and his/her spouse is not allowed visitation or powers to make a medical decision that are assumed for opposite-sex couples.  

The DOMA decision is a step in the right direction, but leaves same-sex couples in 43 states without a right to marry and thus, ineligible for federal benefits.

THE PUBLIC EYE: Texas: America’s Dream or Nightmare?

By Bob Burnett
Friday June 28, 2013 - 09:24:00 AM

On April 17th there was a horrific explosion at the West Chemical and Fertilizer plant in West, Texas, that killed 15 people, injured more than 200, destroyed or damaged 150 homes, and caused at least $100 million in losses. Five days later, Texas Governor Rick Perry was in Illinois trying to lure business to Texas, praising his state’s limited regulations. Is Texas America’s future? 

Republican conservatives have a simple economic precept: what’s good for business is good for America. Conservatives believe states should provide a “business friendly” environment with low taxes and few regulations. They argue this inevitably creates jobs and builds community through the “trickle-down” theory of Reaganomics: “a rising tide lifts all boats.” 

Texas is the foremost practitioner of the conservative theory. This year CEO magazine voted Texas “the best state to do business in” for the ninth consecutive year, citing factors such as low taxes and sparse regulations. Texas’ 6.5 percent unemployment rate is below the national average. 

But the Texas economy has negative aspects that contributed to the explosion at the West Chemical and Fertilizer plant. There is no state fire code and McLennan, the county that housed the plant, also has no fire code. According to the New York Times 

Texas has also had the nation’s highest number of workplace fatalities — more than 400 annually — for much of the past decade. Fires and explosions at Texas’ more than 1,300 chemical and industrial plants have cost as much in property damage as those in all the other states combined for the five years ending in May 2012.
In much of Texas zoning laws are non-existent. In 1962, when the West Chemical and Fertilizer plant originally opened, the facility was far from downtown; in recent years, a school, nursing home, and apartment complex were built nearby. 


A consequence of Texas’ “anything goes” attitude is not only the nation’s highest number of workplace fatalities but also America’s dirtiest environment. According to the Houston Chronicle Texas leads the US in greenhouse-gas emissions. 

Texas' coal-fired power plants and oil refineries generated 294 million tons of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases in 2010, more than the next two states – Pennsylvania and Florida – combined.

Regrettably, many Texans lack adequate healthcare. The Texas Observer reports that the state ranks first in the nation for adults without health insurance. 

Over the last decade, Texas added thousands of jobs in construction and energy. Unfortunately, Texas leads the nation in construction fatalities

The Texas construction industry is characterized by dangerous working conditions, low wages, and legal violations that hurt working families and undercut honest businesses.
Furthermore, an average of 39 energy industry workers die each year. 

Oil and gas field services and drilling workers were killed on the job in Texas more than those in any other profession, according to a Houston Chronicle analysis of five years of fatal accidents investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

And when Texans are injured on the job, they often have great difficulty getting their medical claims reimbursed. Texas is the only state where employers have a choice about paying worker’s compensation. If the worker’s employer doesn’t provide coverage, the worker has to file a civil claim. But even when there is worker’s compensation, the system is notoriously difficult

Texas Governor Rick Perry roams the US luring workers to Texas with the promise of good jobs, but the reality is unimpressive. Writing in the American Independent Patrick Brendel observed the new Texas jobs are primarily low-wage jobs: 

Texas has by far the largest number of employees working at or below the federal minimum wage ($7.25 per hour in 2010) compared to any state, according to a [Bureau of Labor Statistics] report. In 2010, about 550,000 Texans were working at or below minimum wage, or about 9.5 percent of all workers paid by the hour in the state.
On June 14, Governor Perry vetoed an equal pay bill


Meanwhile, the ruined city of West, Texas, is struggling to recover. Total losses will be more than $100 million and FEMA likely will reimburse only 10 percent. The City of West has sued the owner and supplier of the West Chemical and Fertilizer Plant. 

On April 22nd Texas Governor Rick Perry was asked about the explosion at the West Chemical and Fertilizer Plant and contended, “… more government intervention and increased spending on safety inspections would not have prevented…” the West catastrophe. 

What’s happened in West and Texas graphically illustrates the choice facing America. We can adopt an extreme pro-business strategy and subordinate worker pay and safety; we can, in effect, tell the 99 percent, “You’re on your own.” Or we can adopt a strategy that puts people first; we can decide that capitalism has to be subordinate to democracy and protect the rights of all Americans. 

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



By Jack Bragen
Thursday June 27, 2013 - 10:21:00 PM

Averting a Relapse

When someone is diagnosed as schizophrenic, symptoms such as delusions can sometimes reassert themselves, even if one has been doing well for a long time.

Going partway into a delusional system can cause a "fight or flight" reaction. Delusions can sometimes be frightening, and this fright can make the delusions more compelling. Once in a fight or flight adrenalized mode, one has momentum toward a possible relapse. 

(A reaction of this kind can entail loss of appetite, loss of sexual function, being hyper and elevated stress. It is a reaction that evolution gave us, originally in order to run from or fight off predators.) 

It is not always a simple matter of "just take your medication and you will be okay." When someone gets an adrenalized consciousness, the medication can be less effective at preventing symptoms. 

It is important for a person with mental illness to know his or her individual warning signs of an impending relapse. These warning signs can include a change in sleep habits, a change in eating habits--or the signs can be subtler. Once alerted that one is in jeopardy of relapsing, preventative measures can be taken. 

Warning signs vary on an individual basis. You can ask the question, what was it like before the previous relapse? Was I anxious? Did I lose appetite? Did I have insomnia? Was I scared? 

Things can get out of hand including when taking the prescribed medication, and can lead to becoming semi-delusional. This in turn can lead to medication noncompliance, which can then cause a full-scale relapse of psychosis. Before getting to this stage, medication can be adjusted to head off such a relapse. 

Other adjustments can be made as well, such as the possibility of calling in sick to work, making sure that one gets enough food and sleep, and getting extra counseling. 

If there has been a disruption, it can require a lot of effort to get oneself back to the normal routine--but it is important to do that. Maintaining a structured schedule is grounding and it is reassuring. 

When suspecting that your judgment could be off base or that you might be somewhat delusional, it is often a good idea to refrain from sending emails, from making any major decisions and from doing any unnecessary monetary transactions. This could avoid you collateral damage which is sometimes irreversible. 

Delusions vs. Naiveté 

Today's society has grown to resemble many people's paranoid delusions. In modern times if you are paranoid, this is probably appropriate. Thus, it can be very hard to distinguish symptomatic thoughts from accurate ones, especially when the thoughts in both categories (accurate vs. symptomatic) can sometimes say the same thing. 

Oftentimes, restabilizing involves entering a comforting state of naiveté and a denial of harsh truths. To paraphrase one of Jack Nicolson's movie lines, sometimes, a person with schizophrenia "can't handle the truth." A comforting version of the world is needed to prevent too much distress. This means that it is even more difficult for someone with paranoid schizophrenia to return to a reality based state of mind. 

The criteria for being psychotic ought to include more than just inaccurate thoughts. Anyone can think things that aren't true--this doesn't make them mentally ill. In order to fit in, however, one must track a commonly accepted version of reality to the extent that one doesn't stand out. Other people's perceptions (of a mentally ill person) play a role in this. 

It is helpful to have a friend or relative who isn't subject to delusions with whom you can share thoughts--to get an opinion on whether the thoughts seem to be correct, or if they are off. You can't tell just anyone what you are thinking. Strangers or people in the general public may not understand what you're talking about, and if they don't know you, could be freaked out. 

Just because anyone can have incorrect beliefs, it doesn't mean that your thoughts aren't psychotic. 

Perhaps the best one can hope for is to be able to meet one's basic needs. If one needs an outlet for one's "crazy thoughts" these thoughts can go into a journal.

Arts & Events

New: Around and About Theater: An Unusual 'Endgame'

By Ken Bullock
Tuesday July 02, 2013 - 09:21:00 PM

An unusual staging of Samuel Beckett's masterpiece, 'Endgame,' promising a Laurel and Hardy-style byplay between Hamm and Clov, acted on a set of digitally projected images, runs Thursdays through Saturdays, July 11-20 at 8 pm, Royce Gallery, 2901 Mariposa (at Harrison), San Francisco, prior to a run at the Edinburgh Fringe. 

Directed by Oleg Liptsin, a masterful director and actor (he also plays Clov), veteran of great theater troupes that toured out of Moscow, 'Endgame' is, among other things, something that enables a spectator to see Beckett's impact on Pinter, whose seemingly savage plays are now often performed with a comic touch. Liptsin's one of the very finest theater artists in the Bay Area--this shouldn't be missed! ($20-$24 includes refreshments:, first Thursday preview: $18. 510-854-6242, itetheater@gmail.com)

New: Around and About Music: Donato Cabrera Named California Symphony Music Director

By Ken Bullock
Tuesday July 02, 2013 - 09:16:00 PM

Donato Cabrera has been named Music Director of the California Symphony, following a long search, chosen unanimously from a field of seven finalists. 

Cabrera is best-known locally for his work as Resident Conductor with the San Francisco Symphony, Music Director of the San Francisco Youth Orchestra (which last year won the ASCAP Award for American Programming on Foreign Tours), his past work as Associate Conductor with San Francisco Opera and as guest conductor with the San Francisco Ballet. 

A California native, he'll first lead the Symphony in his new role in their Pops concert, August 29th at Todos Santos Plaza in Concord, in a program entitled—appropriately enough California! From the Golden Gate to the Silver Screen.

New: Pandora’s Empty Promise
Pro-nuclear power film obscures as much as it reveals

By Gar Smith
Saturday June 29, 2013 - 09:45:00 AM

You’ve got to give the producers of Pandora’s Promise credit for gumption. It takes a lot of chutzpah to release a pro-nuclear polemic in the wake of the triple meltdown in Fukushima, Japan. The film also suffered the ignominy of opening the same week that the owners of California’s troubled San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station announced the permanent shutdown of the facility’s two crippled reactors. Even the film’s title takes a bit of nerve; it was Pandora’s Box, after all, that unleashed a host of once-contained evils into the world. 

So, given the extensive history of nuclear mishaps and near-catastrophes, how do the producers of Pandora’s Promise manage to spin their counter-narrative of a "safe, green" nuclear future? Basically by: (1) at first accepting the criticisms of traditional nuclear power and then (2) arguing that the solution lies in "new, improved" nuclear reactors. Like a smart defense attorney, director Robert Stone begins by admitting all of the defendant’s worst foibles up front, thereby depriving the prosecution of an opportunity to score points by revealing these issues later. 

Beauty Shots of Nuclear Devastation 

Much of the early part of the film resembles an anti-nuclear documentary, and Pandora’s Promise initially bolsters the anti-nuclear message. This is unavoidable, given the trail of disasters that have dogged the industry. In scene after beautifully shot scene, Pandora’s Promise takes viewers on a series of disaster-tourism visits to Three Mile Island, Japan’s tsunami-ravaged coast, the tangled wreckage of the nearby Fukushima reactors, the crumbling sarcophagus entombing the remains of the shattered Chernobyl reactor, and the Ukranian ghost town of Pripyat. A lingering shot of an abandoned schoolbook’s weathered pages being endlessly stirred by the wind is one indelible, wrenching image. 

In Japan, the film crew dons radiation suits and rolls through the contaminated wreckage of Fukushima. The filmmakers pronounce the radioactive contamination "infinitesimal" and proclaim there has been "no evidence of medical consequences." No citations are offered to support this positive conclusion. The fact that 40 percent of Fukushima’s evacuated children have subsequently developed thyroid abnormalities goes unmentioned. 

Where Are the "Anti-nuclear Environmental Leaders"? 

Director Stone claims his goal is to share "the personal narratives of a growing number of leading former anti-nuclear activists" who have turned their backs on renewable energy solutions and switched their allegiance to nuclear power. So, who are these people? Well, Stone only managed to line up seven nuclear defenders and, as it turns out, none of them were ever what you would call "anti-nuclear leaders." 

For some reason, the film failed to include the world’s three foremost "green-nukers" – NASA scientist James Hansen, 93-year-old Gaia theorist James Lovelock, and British environmental journalist George Monbiot. Only two of Stone’s talking heads have any real clout – Stewart Brand, of Whole Earth Catalog fame, and Michael Shellenberger, president of the contrarian Breakthrough Institute. Two other supposed "greens-gone-nukes" are novelist Gwyneth Cravens and British journalist Mark Lynas. Pandora’s Promise fails to note that both are attached to Shellenberger’s Breakthrough Institute. Cravens is a Senior Fellow; Lynas is a contributing writer. 

The film leans heavily on the opinions of Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Richard Rhodes. Although he is the author of the excellent book, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, Rhodes isn’t known for being anti-nuclear energy. In fact, in 1993 he wrote a pro-nuclear book called Nuclear Renewal: Commonsense about Nuclear Energy. The remaining two "independent thinkers" are Len Koch and Charles Till. Neither were environmental activists. Both worked at the government’s Argonne National Laboratory – building nuclear reactors. 

In the only attempt at balance, Stone ambushes longtime anti-nuclear crusader Dr. Helen Caldicott in a crowd at a public event. With his camera about two feet from her face, Stone badgers Caldicott until she grows impatient and looses her temper. 

It is worth noting that Pandora’s Promise was financed by a small coterie of wealthy men, including billionaires Paul Allen (Microsoft) and Richard Branson (Virgin Group) who, as Allen put it to Forbes, wanted to use the film to "get people thinking about nuclear in a whole new way." 

A Slanted View of Energy Options 

Stone’s film is consistently dismissive of solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources. The script faults green power for being "intermittent" without mentioning workable solutions such as advanced batteries, smartgrids, microgrids and hydrogen fuel-cell storage, as well as "always-on" geothermal and tidal power sources. Pandora’s Promise also fails to fess up to the fact that nuclear plants are also "intermittent." Reactors must be routinely shut down every 18 to 24 months for maintenance and refueling, and frequently need to be taken offline for costly repairs. Between 2003 and 2007, US nuclear plants were shut down 10.6 percent of the timefor repairs, while the failure rate for solar stations and wind farms was typically around 1 to 2 percent. 

If I heard correctly, during one interview Shellenberger admits to a singular limitation that shadows the proposed nuclear solution – i.e., these new "cleaner, safer" reactors would have operating lifetimes of 60 years. This is clearly not enough time to undo the atmospheric havoc bequeathed by the age of fossil fuels. And rebuilding a nuclear infrastructure every 60 years is not a viable option. 

Nukes Are Dangerous: So Blame the Navy 

Pandora’s Promise blames our current nuclear dilemma on Admiral Hyman Rickover, the father of the nuclear Navy. It was Rickover, the filmmakers argue, who sent the country down the road of building Light Water Reactors (LWRs), which were based on the same designs used in the Navy’s atomic submarines. 

A nuclear engineer from the Rickover era suggests that, instead of going with LWRs, the US should have built breeder reactors capable of recycling nuclear waste as fuel. Instead, the engineer laments, "we wound up producing nuclear waste we didn’t expect." The viewer is left with the sense that many of the problems of the nuclear industry have to with a technological misdirection – e.g., VHS vs. Betamax – and that everything would be OK if only we went with the right system. 

A fundamental premise underling Stone’s pro-nuclear argument is the belief in unlimited growth. If growth requires electricity, then mitigating global warming becomes a powerful argument for "carbon neutral" nuclear power. Stone includes a stunning computer animation from NOAA that shows global temperatures inexorably rising over the last century. Stone also found a delicious clip of Margaret Thatcher lecturing the UN General Assembly on how climate change is clearly the result of human activities. 

So, to connect-the-dots: if you want to "grow" and you want to "avoid" carbon dioxide, the only "solution" is atomic power. A follow-up graphic shows Earth spinning in space with the continents growing brighter and brighter as the lights of expanding electric grids reflect the demand for increased energy consumption. As night turns into day (presumably powered by thousands of new nuclear power plants), the planet is shown morphing from a tranquil blue sphere into a spinning orb lit up like a disco ball. 

The pro-nuclear argument remains tightly focused on the issue of CO2 emissions – as if that were the only environmental threat haunting the planet. There is no recognition that continued consumption of resources and "endless growth" are patently unsustainable practices. If you are a forest, a river, a bat or a bobcat, it makes no difference whether a bulldozer is powered by a gas tank, a solar panel, or a fuel cell. 

While Shellenberger is a compelling presence (he radiates sober, heartfelt sincerity), he shows little patience for the likes of Amory Lovins and his "soft energy path" – an engineering approach that promotes increased efficiencies ("negawatts") and reduced consumption. "You can’t keep using less energy forever," Shellenberger insists. Why? Because we humans "won’t reduce our energy or consumption." By way of example, Shellenberger cites the fact that an iPhone’s energy usage rivals that of a refrigerator. This leads to the familiar, lofty-sounding-but-self-serving argument that nuclear is needed to save the world’s poor from a future without electricity – and without electron-sucking iPhones. 

Gwyneth Cravens has taken heat for some unfortunate misstatements. In 2007 she assured a WIRED magazine reporter: "If a reactor doesn’t have enough water, it will shut itself down." In Pandora’s Promise, Cravens boasts: "There hasn’t been one death from nuclear power in the US." Wrong again. As I note in my book, Nuclear Roulette, eight workers have died in three different explosions at a single US facility – the Surry nuclear plant in Virginia. By focusing narrowly on fatalities, Pandora’s Promise avoids the larger issue of measurable increases in thyroid and other cancers affecting people exposed to tritium leaking from nuclear facilities

Sure, the filmmakers admit, nuclear reactors routinely leak radioactive tritium gases. But, they argue, you would be exposed to more tritium by simply eating a banana. The film pushes the idea that "radiation is natural" so it’s not dangerous "in an everyday sense." Stone does a good job of making the point by waving a radiation monitor in front of his lens in various cities around the world. Sure enough, there’s radiation everywhere! On a beach in Brazil the readings soar above the background readings in Chicago, Paris and Tokyo. And inside a bathroom in a commercial jet flying at 20,000 feet, the cameras record the monitor’s highest reading: 18 times greater than the average background radiation on terra firma

While it’s useful to keep radiation risks in perspective, it seems irresponsible to totally ignore the National Institute of Science’s warning that "there is no safe dose" of radiation exposure (particularly when isotopes are inhaled or ingested). If it makes sense to reduce exposures to lead, mercury and pesticides in the environment, why should radioactivity enjoy the special status of a "protected pollutant"? 

An Adumbrated Debate over Deaths and Disease 

On the issue of Chernobyl deaths, the film stands by a report from the World Health Organization, which insists fewer than 50 members of the cleanup crew (the "liquidators") have died. The filmmakers fail to note that, under a 1959 agreement, WHO scientists cannot issue any reports on radiation effects unless they are first cleared for publication by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The film also fails to mention the WHO’s projection that "eventual" deaths from the Chernobyl disaster could top 4,000

Asked to assess the long-term problem of radioactive waste, Stewart Brand (ironically, the founder of the Long Now Foundation) opines that America’s nuclear stewards have devised a "pretty good" system for handing toxic nuclear garbage: dry-cask storage containers. Once again, there is no mention of the larger, and more problematic, part of the nuclear inventory – the mountains of radioactive "tailings" scattered at uranium mining sites around the world and the growing inventory of intensely radioactive fuel assemblies stored "temporarily" in densely packed spent-fuel pools alongside reactors. These pools need to be constantly cooled to prevent the fuel rods from overheating and triggering catastrophic fires and fallout. 

Sure, there are 70,000 tons of radioactive waste in the US, one "pro-nuke environmentalist" suggests, but that’s no biggie since all of America’s nuclear waste could be packed up and stacked ten-feet-deep inside a single football stadium. And only a small percentage of that would be composed of deadly plutonium-239, which boasts a half-life of 24,100 years. What a pity the Department of Energy couldn’t have come up with such a tidy solution. Instead, Washington spent 30 years and $96 billion digging – and then abandoning – a vast, underground storage site 1,000 feet below Nevada’s Yucca Mountain. Meanwhile, the world’s only state-of-the-art nuclear storage project – Finland’s Onkalo waste-tomb – won’t be able to accommodate more than one percent of the global nuclear industry’s waste. 

Pandora’s Solution: Bring Back the Breeder Reactor 

One of the more informative sections of Pandora’s Promise involves a discussion of the utility of Integral Fast Reactors (IFRs) – sodium-cooled reactors that eat plutonium for breakfast and "can’t melt down." 

Stewart Brand praises the IFR’s ability to generate electricity by "burning" backlogs of nuclear waste, thereby turning toxic atomic garbage into what a broadly smiling Brand calls "a renewable resource." The Argonne National Lab’s IFR (aka Experimental Breeder Reactor No. 2), went online in 1965 and ran for 30 years. Back in 1986, the Argonne IFR was famously subjected to several "stress-tests" that were witnessed by a bevy of invited nuclear scientists from around the world. A government film crew captured the event. While the guests looked on (with one eye on the exit doors), IFR operators mimicked the events that led to the explosion at Chernobyl. A second test eerily foreshadowed the chain of events that caused the TMI meltdown. In both cases, the IFR reacted as advertized. Instead of stumbling toward an irreversible calamity, the temperatures inside the reactor vessel continued to rise, and rise, and then … slowly dropped, as the reactor safely shut itself down. 

Proponents argue that IFRs not only have "passive safety advantages" over highly pressurized water-cooled reactors, they also can be fine-tuned to achieve three different goals: (1) produce electricity, (2) consume plutonium or, (3) produce more plutonium. Unlike "once-through" LWRs, which consume less than 5 percent of the enriched uranium in a fuel rod, "fast" reactors leave behind only a fraction of the waste. David McKay, chief scientist at the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change, believes IFRs could turn the country’s stored wastes into enough power to serve Britain’s energy needs for 500 years. The UK is currently weighing a plan to use a General Electric Hitachi PRISM reactor to burn nearly 120 tons of nuclear wastes stored at the Sellafield facility on England’s northwest coast. 

Problems with the IFR 

Looking beyond the ballyhoo, there are significant concerns about IFRs that Pandora’s Promise fails to address. To date, no breeder reactor has been commercially viable. Arjun Makhijani, president of the Maryland-based Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, shares David McKay’s concern about the 250-plus metric tons of excess plutonium moldering away in storage sites around the world. Makhijani, however, believes the idea that "sodium cooled-fast neutron reactors [could] be built to denature the plutonium reveals a technological optimism that is disconnected from the facts." While some IFRs "have indeed operated well," Makhijani notes, "roughly $100 billion have been spent worldwide to try and commercialize these reactors – to no avail." 

Fueled by a uranium-plutonium alloy, IFRs can produce ("breed") more plutonium than they burn. But this plutonium can be used to produce nuclear weapons, which poses serious diversion and proliferation risks. Also, IFRs are cooled by molten sodium, not water. Sodium can explode when it comes in contact with water and, when exposed to air, sodium ignites and burns furiously. Sodium-cooled reactors are prone to coolant leaks. Fast reactor accidents have occurred in France, Japan, Scotland, at the Fermi 1 reactor in Michigan, and twice at a Simi Valley reactor site in southern California. 

Several competing nuclear power designs are cited in Pandora’s Promise, but they receive little screen time. There is a brief mention of Liquid Fluoride Thorium reactors, a Traveling Wave Reactor (Bill Gates’ pet project), and the government’s support for "mini-nukes" that could be installed underground and fired up to power urban skyscrapers. How practical and safe are they? Pandora’s Promise provides few answers. There is no in-depth analysis of the pros and cons of any of these alternatives. 

Finally (as Beyond Nuclear and other watchdog groups have noted), relying on nuclear power to mitigate CO2-driven climate change is unaffordable and impractical since it would require putting a new reactor online every two weeks. 

Still, the IFR’s ability to feast off the world’s otherwise useless stockpiles of nuclear waste is such a compelling argument, one wonders why Pandora’s Promise didn’t spend more time pushing it. Since safe storage of atomic waste has proven so intractable, wouldn’t the better option be to find ways to reduce these deadly stockpiles? It seems a scenario worth investigating. 

Ultimately, Pandora’s Promise comes across as a well-executed but disingenuous exercise in special pleading. Instead of devoting 89 minutes to honestly and fully assessing the pros and cons of renewable technologies alongside the risks and benefits of new, untried nuclear power systems, Pandora’s Promise promotes a narrow agenda. As a result, the film winds up as little more than a tunnel-vision exercise in "plutonium Pollyannaism." 

Gar Smith is Editor Emeritus of Earth Island Journal and author of Nuclear Roulette: The Truth about the Most Dangerous Energy Source on Earth (Chelsea Green). 

For another perspective Pandora’s Promise, read EIJ editor Jason Mark’s review here.  

For a different perspective on the nuclear power debate, check out "The Atomic States of America" at: www.specialtystudios.com/page.asp?content_id=33502

Sunday at 2 is the Last Traviata at Berkeley's Hillside Club

Friday June 28, 2013 - 03:14:00 PM

The Verismo Opera Company will be offering the last show in its current production of La Traviata at Berkeley's Hillside Club at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 30. It will feature soprano Eliza O'Malley and tenor Fred Winthrop. The address is 2286 Cedar St Berkeley, CA 94709.