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New: Prosecutors File Murder Charges in Berkeley's First Homicide of 2014

By Bay City News
Wednesday April 02, 2014 - 11:01:00 PM

Prosecutors filed murder charges today against two people suspected in Berkeley's first and so far only homicide of 2014. 

Police found the victim, 54-year-old Sylvan Fuselier, dead in his Addison Street apartment on Feb. 28.  

Details about the manner in which Fuselier died have not been released by authorities.  

Investigators later determined that a man and woman were likely responsible for Fuselier's death. The suspects been identified by police as Michael Diggs, 28, and Kneitawnye Sessoms, 40. 

Both Diggs and Sessoms were arrested on Monday, and today, the Alameda County District Attorney's Office filed formal charges against them.  

Sessoms is being held in Berkeley jail, and Diggs is in Santa Rita jail. Both are being held without bail. 

Both Diggs and Sessoms will be arraigned tomorrow at the Wiley Manual Courthouse in Oakland. They are scheduled to appear at 2 p.m. in Department 112.

Press Release: Berkeley Homicide Suspect Arrested

From Ofc. Jennifer Coates, BPD
Wednesday April 02, 2014 - 10:57:00 PM

The City of Berkeley Police Department (BPD) would like to announce two arrests for the February 28, 2014 murder of Sylvan Fuselier. BPD Homicide Detectives have arrested Michael Diggs, a 28 year old male, of Berkeley, and Kneitawnye Sessoms, a 40 year old female, of Berkeley. 

On Friday, February 28, 2014 at approximately 11:48 a.m., the Berkeley Police Department received a welfare check request from a community member. The reporting party was concerned because they had not seen their friend, Fuselier, a resident of an apartment on the 1100 block of Addison Street, for several days. Officers obtained access to the apartment, and subsequently discovered Fuselier deceased in the apartment. Further investigation of the scene determined that Fuselier had been murdered. 

Investigators have been actively working this case, conducting interviews, following up on leads, and examining evidence. The investigators developed information implicating Diggs and Sessoms as suspects in Fuselier’s murder; both Diggs and Sessoms were arrested on April 1, 2014 and are currently in custody. The Berkeley Police Department is not searching for any further suspects as a result of this investigation. 

Berkeley Police Department homicide detectives presented their investigation to the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office on April 2, 2014. The District Attorney’s Office has filed formal charges against Michael Diggs for murder, PC 187 and Kneitawnye Sessoms with murder, PC 187. 

In the interest of maintaining the integrity of this on-going investigation, BPD will not be releasing anything further details at this time.
The Berkeley Police Department would like to thank the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office Criminalistics Laboratory, California Department of Justice, Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigative Services and Serological

New: Redwood Explodes in Berkeley During Storm

By Drew Himmelstein (BCN)
Tuesday April 01, 2014 - 09:00:00 PM

An 80-foot tree exploded on a residential street after lightning struck it during a storm Monday afternoon, breaking windows and skylights and damaging cars, homes and roofs, according to Berkeley Deputy Fire Chief Avery Webb. 

Large chunks of wood and debris flew through the air and were scattered up to a block away, Webb said. Two roofs were significantly damaged, and conditions in one home are so hazardous that the city determined it to be uninhabitable, Webb said. 

The fire department responded to a call at 1:22 p.m. that a large redwood on the corner of Holly Street and Buena Avenue had been blown apart by lightning, Webb said. 

When firefighters arrived, they found that the 80-foot tree, which sits on private property, had been reduced to a 25-foot trunk, according to Webb. 

Firefighters went door-to-door to assess hazards and see whether anyone had been injured, Webb said. 

"With the amount of carnage that resulted from that lightning strike, it was pretty amazing that nobody did get hurt," Webb said. 

Several homes lost power due to debris breaking their electrical lines, Webb said. PG&E was working on restoring power, Webb said. 

Berkeley's Department of Public Works went through the area collecting debris on public property, Webb said. Most debris landed within a half-block radius, but police found pieces as far away as Sacramento Street, a block away, according to Webb.

Environmental Groups Sue Air Quality Management, Energy Company over Crude-by-Rail Project

By Laura Dixon (BCN)
Saturday March 29, 2014 - 09:06:00 AM

Environmental justice groups have filed a federal lawsuit against the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and energy company Kinder Morgan after learning that the company has quietly been receiving crude oil by rail at its Richmond facility with the district's approval. 

Earthjustice filed the suit in San Francisco Thursday on behalf of Communities for a Better Environment, the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council in a bid to stop the transport of crude oil by rail into Richmond. 

"Kinder Morgan's operation brings highly volatile and explosive North Dakoten Bakken crude oil to Bay Area refineries in the same unit trains that derailed last July and exploded, killing nearly 50 people and decimating the downtown area of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec," the suit reads. 

According to the complaint, the highly flammable oil is being sent by rail to the Richmond facility of Kinder Morgan, which operates or owns an interest in 80,000 miles of oil and gas pipelines and 180 terminals. The lawsuit also alleges that the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, or BAAQMD, used a permitting loophole to approve the project without issuing an environmental impact report or notifying the public. 

Representatives for Kinder Morgan did not return requests for comment this afternoon and a BAAQMD spokeswoman said the district doesn't comment on pending litigation. 

According to the complaint, the project includes the transportation of fracked crude oil from North Dakota by 100-car unit trains, and the transfer of the oil to tank trucks at the Richmond facility. 

Kinder Morgan, which for the past few years has received ethanol at its Richmond facility, applied for a permit to unload crude oil instead, according to the lawsuit. 

The complaint alleges that the BAAQMD approved the permit modification in February, bypassing the standard environmental impact report and public notification process mandated by the California Environmental Quality Act. The district did this by designating the crude-by-rail project "ministerial," a type of government action typically limited to mundane approvals such as car registration or marriage licenses, according to the suit. 

"They incorrectly designated it as ministerial, and then they claimed no increases in air pollution, which is also incorrect," said Suma Peesapati, the Earthjustice attorney handling the case. 

Andres Soto, an organizer with Communities for a Better Environment, said the air district's move creates "a very scary precedent." 

"They're supposed to be guardians of the area's air quality and they should have a healthy degree of skepticism about any project proposal that comes forward, and something that's dealing with Bakken crude this close to neighborhoods certainly warrants an EIR where the whole community can weigh in," Soto said. 

According to the complaint, Kinder Morgan's crude-by-rail operation is located alongside densely populated, mostly low income, neighborhoods and within half a mile of Washington Elementary School. 

Soto said the hush-hush project is yet another slap in the face to the community, which has already suffered decades of air pollution from Chevron's Richmond refinery, where a massive fire broke out in 2012, sickening some 15,000 people. 

"Richmond residents are already over-burdened when it comes to pollution in our community and toxins in our bodies," said Sandy Saeteurn, an APEN Richmond organizer. "The idea of trains carrying explosive Bakken crude oil in and out of our neighborhoods is outrageous. It's like BAAQMD just pulled the pin off of a bomb, allowing it to roll all around town, knowing it's only a matter of time before it stops ticking, and explodes on all of us." 

The project comes as more Bay Area cities and community groups are voicing their opposition to allowing crude-by-rail in their backyards. 

Earlier this week, both Richmond and Berkeley's city councils approved resolutions opposing the transport of crude oil in their communities. 

In nearby Pittsburg, a growing group of residents has been protesting a plan that would create a crude oil storage and transfer facility in their city. 

Twenty People Safely Exit Burning Tour Bus in Berkeley

BySasha Lekach (BCN)
Friday March 28, 2014 - 06:18:00 PM

A tour bus caught fire on eastbound Interstate Highway 80 in Berkeley late this morning, according to the California Highway Patrol. 

The incident was reported at 11:16 a.m. near University Avenue. 

Twenty people on board were able to get off the burning bus and no injuries were reported, according to the CHP. 

One lane was blocked until about 1:15 p.m. once the bus was towed from the scene, according to the CHP.

Press Release: In Reaction to New Federal Study Documenting Pervasive Racial Disparities in Education, Parents of Black Students in Berkeley, CA Say: It’s No Better Here

From Parents of Children of African Descent (PCAD),
Friday March 28, 2014 - 06:09:00 PM

In this liberal enclave 13 miles from San Francisco, famous for its protest politics and a world-class university, it’s not uncommon to hear people say how fortunate they feel to live in a city that has overcome so much of the racial tension still endemic in the rest of the nation.

But for Black students in Berkeley’s public schools, publicly available information indicates a dire situation, and one that is getting worse.

Today, a group of parents in Berkeley, California organized as Parents of Children of African Descent, or PCAD, called on the Berkeley Unified School District to revamp its disciplinary actions and devote more resources to address racial disparities in its public schools.

“Many parents of African American students in the Berkeley Public Schools feel that their children are not being treated fairly or being offered a quality education,” said Laura Babitt, a member of PCAD’s Executive Board. 

This month, the US Department of Education issued a report finding overly punitive policies throughout the nation’s public schools. The government found that across the country, Black students are being suspended at three times the rate of White students. Minority children with disabilities are experiencing the heaviest discipline. The findings are based on a 2011 survey of 97,000 schools. 

Data for Berkeley parallels national trends. According to the US Department of Education’s website, in 2011, Black students made up 21% percent of total enrollment within Berkeley Unified School District yet experienced 72% of all in-school suspensions, 49% of all out-of school suspensions, and 44% of all expulsions. By contrast, White students made up 32% of enrollment but experienced only 5.6% of all in-school suspensions, 16% of all out-of-school suspensions, and 11% of all expulsions. 

“No one questions the good intentions of Berkeley’s school administrators and staff,” said Babitt, “but we’re in bad shape now and the evidence shows that things are only getting worse.” 

According to the district’s data, the total number of suspensions in Berkeley elementary schools decreased sharply between 2010 and 2013, from 196 to 86. However, the total number of suspensions that were of African American students -- who represent between 17 and 20 percent of primary school enrollment -- increased from 53% in 2010-11 to 55% in 2011-12 to 70% in 2012-13. 

Over the same three-year period, total middle school suspensions in the district decreased from 419 to 225, yet the percentages of those suspensions that were for African American students held relatively steady, increasing from 67% to 69% and then declining to 61%. African American students make up a quarter of Berkeley middle school enrollment. 

Total suspensions in Berkeley high schools did not change appreciably during the period, with African American students accounting for about 56% of all suspensions despite representing less than a quarter of students enrolled. 

According to a report of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, nearly one in five African American high school students in Berkeley was suspended at least once during the 2010-11 school year. 

The data also reflects that disproportionate numbers of Berkeley’s African American students are being classified as emotionally disturbed or requiring special education. 

“Last year,” said Babitt, “46% of Berkeley special ed students were African American and 23% of all African American students had been placed in special education.” 7% of non-African American students receive special education services. 

55% of all students enrolled in the Berkeley public schools who have been classified as emotionally disturbed are also African American. 

“These statistics are deeply troubling,” said Meleah Hall, a PCAD member. “People expect better of Berkeley.” 

In 2009, Berkeley launched its “2020 Vision,” which aims to eliminate racial disparities in education for students graduating from high school that year. Berkeley voters have also approved supplementary parcel taxes to keep class sizes small and pay for music and other enrichment programs that have been cut elsewhere. 

“Even though Berkeley voters have demonstrated their commitment to providing a quality education for all, the numbers show that Black kids are not getting a good education,” said Hall. 

According to PCAD, in 2012, only 31 of the 193 African Americans graduating from Berkeley Unified Schools were eligible to apply to a California State University or University of California campus, which requires a C grade or better in a set of prerequisite classes. 

In addition, Black students at almost every Berkeley public school score significantly below their peers on the standardized tests used in California. For example, according to GreatSchools.org, at Cragmont Elementary, located in an expensive neighborhood in the Berkeley hills, White students scored 957 on average versus 725 by African American students, who score lower than students in every other category, including the socioeconomically disadvantaged, English language learners, and students with disabilities. After White students, the next highest scores were for Asian students, at 893, and Hispanic students, at 791. 

According to the federal study, White children represent nearly 49% of middle school algebra Gifted and Talented Enrollment; Black children are 9%. Berkeley’s African American students are 2% of enrollment in Physics; 57% of the Physics students are White. 

“The current educational system is failing our African American children,” said Babitt. “Words are not enough. We need resources dedicated to address their needs.” 

The school district is currently considering how to spend $2.4 million that has become available from the state to serve children with high needs. PCAD was asked to supply a list of its priorities. 

“We are grateful to have had the opportunity to partner with the District to outline the needs of African American students,” said Babitt. On March 1, approximately 100 people turned out for a Saturday morning PCAD meeting to communicate their concerns to the District’s new Superintendent, Dr. Donald Evans. 

According to the PCAD proposal, a top priority is for mandatory cultural competency training for all staff that directly confronts deeply ingrained inequality and unconscious bias. 

According to a long-time PCAD parent: “Until we address race issues effectively between all BUSD constituents: parents, teachers, administrators, classified staff, and students, we will not achieve the positive outcomes we all desire.” 

“This is a core issue,” said Hall. “All parents should be able to send their kids to school and know that they are in a safe and nurturing environment.” 

Hall added: “Even though the District has adopted a positive behavioral support framework, disparities still exist. Many situations that could have been dealt with effectively through conflict resolution in the classrooms are escalating into disciplinary action.” 

Babitt concluded: “We need the Berkeley Unified School District to dedicate more resources to address the needs of African American students and families. We also need the District to remove barriers to learning, including harmful and ineffective policies and a hostile environment.” 

“Our students are being disenfranchised. It’s time for everyone who cares about Berkeley’s students to step up so that all of our children can have the opportunity to reach their potential.”

"The Greatest Movie Never Made": Before Star Wars there Was Jodorowsky's Dune

By Gar Smith
Friday March 28, 2014 - 05:30:00 PM

Jodorowsky's Dune is a real treat for film buffs but it may prove a challenge for the average filmgoer. Director Frank Pavich sets out to tell the story of "The greatest movie never made"—a film that anticipated (and influenced) Star Wars and a generation of fantasy films that followed in its wake. The story is told by a half-dozen of the surviving principals—most notably the mercurial would-be director, Alejandro Jodorowsky. 



Jodorowsky is best known as the Chilean director/writer/composer/star of El Topo, a jaw-dropping, eye-popping, head-scratching, blood-soaked, corpse-strewn hallucinogenic cult film that exploded across movie screens in 1975. El Topo was followed by an even more (far-)out(-man-)landish feature called The Holy Mountain

Still charismatic and electric in his 80s, Jodorowsky is interviewed extensively in the film (occasionally in the company of his son and sometimes co-star Brontis). Fair to say that Jodorowsky dominates the film. Also fair to say: "Jodo," is a strange bird, indeed. 

As he explains it, his film was going to be more than a mere movie. It was designed to be a psychedelic intervention that would reshape world consciousness and usher in a new era of global awareness. As Jodo puts it: “For me, Dune will be the coming of a god. I wanted to make something sacred, free, with new perspective. Open the mind!” 

Pavich's documentary is plump with delectable insights into the alchemy involved in imagining and creating a film. The genesis was pure happenstance. After a friend praised Frank Herbert's best-selling sci-fi novel, Dune, Jodo pounced, declaring that this would be his next movie! Had he read Herbert's book? Well, no, Jodo confessed, but that was a mere detail. 

Jodorowsky details how he assembled his eccentric team of selected artistic "warriors"—ranging from costume designers and stage artists to an eclectic cast that was to including Mick Jagger, David Carradine, Orson Wells, and Salvador Dali. (The stories of wooing Wells with food and stroking Dali's prickly ego are delightful additions to Hollywood history.) Jodorowsky even recruited Pink Floyd to score the film. 

In order to promote the film to prospective studios, Jodo's team published a massive "Dune Book." A foot-thick tome that must have topped 20 pounds, it contained complete costume paintings and detailed storyboards for the entire shoot, first scene to last. The artwork was produced by France's Jean "Moebius" Giraud and Denmark's HR Giger, two rock stars from the world of underground comics and graphic novels. Thanks to Pavich, we get to see many of the surviving "warriors" wax nostalgic as they revisit an experience that consumed several years of their lives. 

Once the book (quite possibly Hollywood's largest-ever promotional package) was shipped off to the major studios, Jodo's optimistic crew had begun scouting locations in North Africa. It looked like years of preparation were about to pay off. 

But then it all fell wrenchingly apart. Studio after studio backed off, unwilling to entrust corporate bounty to such a wild spirit. In an eleventh hour switcheroo, Dino DeLaurentis' daughter somehow got involved and "Jodo" lost control of his "life's work." The project was taken out of his hands and given to David Lynch. Naturally, this was a major trauma for Jodo. All these years later, the pain is still evident. 

Lynch's attempt to do Dune was judged a critical disaster (an outcome that Jodo recalls with undisguised relish). 

There's a happy ending. Two, actually. 

With the ingenious assist of Emmy Award nominated computer animator Syd Garon, Pavich manages to bring several of the storyboards to life, providing a glimpse of what Jodorowsky's Dune might have looked like—complete with insect-winged aircraft darting over deserts as gargantuan dune snakes erupted from the sands to wreak devastation. 

As to the second happy ending: In the course of filming this documentary, Fran Pavich put Jodorowsky on the same Paris bench with Michel Seydoux, his old French producer. They got to talking and, despite not having been in touch for more than two decades, their passions reignited. As a result, Jodorowsky's first new film in 23 years—"La Danza de la Realidad" (The Dance of Reality)—which premiered to raves at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013. 

Bonus clip: 

Cut Scene - Death of Thufir Hawat  

From the David Lynch film version of Dune. 


Rated PG-13 

Opens March 28, Embarcadero, SF. 

Opens April 4, Shattuck Cinema, Berkeley



Should the Berkeley Daily Planet Move to Texas?

By Becky O'Malley
Friday March 28, 2014 - 05:08:00 PM

Here’s an idea for how to spend the rest of my life that I hadn’t previously considered. I got this letter in today’s email:

“I am with the North East Texas Economic Development Alliance and will be in your area April 7th - 10th. I would like to speak with you about the opportunity for expansion or relocation of Berkeley Daily Planet to Texas.
“Our region offers an abundance of opportunities for companies, particularly, manufacturing and wholesale/distribution related companies.

“It is well known that Texas offers many advantages to California companies. In fact, according to Chief Executive's eighth annual survey of CEO opinion of Best and Worst States in which to do business, ‘Texas easily clinched the No. 1 rank, whereas, California was ranked dead last’.

“Please reply to this email or contact me at 866-820-9389 to schedule a meeting.

“Kind Regards,

“Brian J. Malone
“President/CEO, NETEA
“Commerce, Texas
Well, there are days when it seems alluring. Much of what used to appeal to me about California in general and Berkeley in particular seems to be evaporating. Maybe starting over in Commerce, Texas, is the cure for the Berkeley blues.

At this juncture I’m inevitably reminded of Molly Ivin’s story about the small town in Texas that advertised for some gay guys to start chichi antique stores to attract tourists. Perhaps what Commerce, TX, (pop. 9,100 in the 2010 census) wants is a Bit o’ Berkeley to spice up the place. 

But last week I heard a lot from people who seemed to think that Berkeley just ain’t what it used to be. I was invited to be part of a a panel discussion sponsored by the Berkeley Historical Society and the League of Women Voters on the topic of how development activities may potentially impact the cultural and physical characteristics of downtown Berkeley. 

One of my fellow panelists was an architect who had chaired a city-sponsored committee to develop a plan for “streetscape and open space improvements” in the downtown. He is currently designing a proposed high-rise residential building for Berkeley Way and Shattuck Avenue. (Fortuitously for him, but not surprisingly, he’s also the chair of Berkeley’s Planning Commission, which can’t be bad for business, or at least for his business.) He was very enthusiastic about changes he’d seen since he first arrived in Berkeley, and about what he envisioned for the future. 

He noted that when he first saw Shattuck Avenue it was dominated by dull stores like J.C. Penney and Ross, and now it seemed to him to be much improved, with restaurants and theaters replacing previous mundane uses. The building he proposes, for example, will displace the Berkeley Sewing and Vacuum Center, and another nearby will replace University Ace Hardware. We had a letter last week deploring the loss of these practical establishments, but that’s progress, isn’t it? 

Or is it? Other panelists (including me) and many of the vocal audience members were not so sure that the contemplated downtown, one dominated by restaurants, entertainment venues and expensive apartment blocks, will be an improvement over one heavy on retail and repair businesses. 

Even the entertainment venues are at risk: there’s a proposal in the works, fronted (naturally) by a former manager in the city of Berkeley’s Planning Department, which would replace the Shattuck Theater with yet another massive tower, effectively destroying most of a block which is now a designated city landmark. The old revolving door smacks the citizenry again. 

Most of Berkeley doesn’t seem to have any idea of what’s going on. I was discussing the panel topic over dinner at Le Bateau Ivre, a charming old restaurant in a historic building on Telegraph, and the people at the next table, overhearing our conversation, broke in with alarm when they heard of the possible fate of the theater. Yes, they said, they do read the Chronicle, but they hadn’t seen anything about it, and they were upset. 

All too often civic discourse is dominated by those who think all change is progress. Citizens learn only after the fact that profit-centered change often works contrary to the public interest. The recent spate of Public Comments in the Planet about the result of “improvements” to the Berkeley Public Libraries illustrates how this happens even in the public sector. Judging from the letters we’ve gotten here recently, library patrons have lost rather than gained from the changes, and they did not come cheap. 

Who profited from demolishing two of our four branch libraries and extensively remodeling the others, you might ask? Well, bond-sellers always make money on ventures like this, as do architects, construction companies and the building trades. Technology vendors (yes, I used to be one) profit from schemes that replace humans with gadgets, which seems to be a key part of libraries’ business plans these days. Fewer librarians on the front desk = higher salaries for the top dogs. 

In Commerce, TX, they’re looking for new businesses, but I doubt that they’re looking for the trailing edge of an unprofitable newspaper to make the difference. Actually, they seem to be doing pretty well on their own. From Wikipedia: 



“Due to being a rural college town with proximity to Dallas, Commerce has an economy that remained steady for years, but recently has seen some increase with a few new businesses opening and others being renovated. The downtown area is approximately one mile from the University and is the hub for town festivities. The downtown area includes three bars, Chinese food restaurant, fashion retailer, office supplies retailer, thrift shop, real estate, law, and tax preparation offices, pet supplies retailer, Chamber of Commerce, and four banks.”
Berkeley, ten times the size, doesn’t have a pet store downtown any more, or a fashion retailer, as I remember. Our locally owned office supply stores have folded, though we do have a chain. On the other hand, we have many, many more Chinese restaurants. 


Commerce, like Berkeley, is a college town. Texas A&M-Commerce, just a mile from downtown, seems to have more students than Commerce has townies, per the 2010 census. 

Density doesn’t seem to be an issue: Texas had plenty of space, plenty of cars and plenty of gasoline last time I was there. As a student of American government, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to learn that someone from the building industry chairs Commerce’s equivalent of the Berkeley Planning Commission, but I haven’t checked. 

It might be that, following Molly’s scenario, the folks in the North East Texas Economic Development Alliance (NETEA) are just looking for a little of the Berkeley coolness factor to add some of the Berkeley edge to the town festivities, to make life out there on the prairie more fun. If so, I’m afraid they’d be sadly disappointed in today’s Berkeley, and even more so in the Berkeley of tomorrow as envisioned by the powers-that-build. 

Before NETEA offers the Daily Planet alluring incentives to bring Berkeley’s fabled pizzazz to Commerce, TX, they should check out a piece by Lexi Pandell that appeared in The Bold Italic, a lively online San Francisco publication: Why is Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley So Uncool? 

Her punchline: “The only thing worse than Telegraph never recovering is it becoming yet another gentrified strip of road.” Sadly, I think that might be exactly what the planners and the builders in unholy alliance have in mind for all of Berkeley, including downtown. 

Or maybe it’s already happened. A commenter on a hyper-local Berkeley site recently suggested that North Berkeley could secede and become a tidy residential enclave like Piedmont. I don’t think it was a joke. We could change the name, perhaps, to Piedmont Del Norte. Or, in hommage to our burgeoning downtown forest of towers, we could become West Manhattan--no, West Dallas would be more like it. 

Sorry, North East Texas, you might be too late to find any Cool around here. 






Public Comment

Ten Suggestions for Navigating Pacifica Radio’s Newest Crisis

By C. Denney
Friday March 28, 2014 - 05:22:00 PM

1. Demonize. Anything, anyone, anytime. Simply suggest a nefarious agenda at work, however ridiculous. In this way people will hesitate to get involved which helps because that can get so messy. 

2. Deify. If you can find anybody who agrees with you or your agenda, dust off the little wings, look around for the halo and be quick about it as this moment will not last. 

3. Do not explain your goals. Simply cite the mission statement, even though your opponents, if you can figure out who they are, will be doing the same thing. This may not help people understand where you’re coming from, but the political cover is comprehensive. 

4. Only listen to people who agree with your goals. This is tricky (see #3) but keeps whichever group you happen to be with so happy they will share their pizza. 

5. Name your group the same as your opponent’s group, and when they re-name their group to sidestep this tactic just rename your group over and over again. Confusing? That’s the point. 

6. Create websites that claim victory for your group, promote your goals (keep #3 in mind) and flog that mission statement. Then create another, then another, then one that mimics your opposition’s website, then another, then another. Nobody who wasn’t actually present for an event will have any idea what’s happening, which makes everybody believe anything, a useful tool for any group. 

7. If someone asks you a question about your goals, or what happened at a meeting, refer them to the website(s) with a straight face. 

8. Slag the union. It’s become a tradition for all sides of all political debates, so you will enjoy wide support just generally trashing the union however small, hard-working, and bewildered. 

9. Always claim that the community supports your group. No one knows why this works for all sides of any political debate, but just like slagging unions, it does. 

10. Claim the moral high ground by invoking Lew Hill’s name. Again, this is a winning strategy for anyone who uses it because of the seductive, selective ambiguity present in all perspectives’ discussions to date. The moral high ground is pretty crowded at this point, but come along and bring pizza.

NSA Spying

By Jagjit Singh
Friday March 28, 2014 - 05:29:00 PM

Cyber wars and spying have intensified creating greater mistrust amongst our allies and corporate competitors. Classified documents released by Edward Snowden show that the NSA is targeting the Chinese Huawei’s network in Shenzhen and monitored the company’s top executives. The NSA is recording every single phone call made in an undisclosed foreign country. A surveillance system called MYSTIC stores the billions of phone conversations for up to 30 days. According to Ashkan Soltani, who co-wrote the Washington Post exposé on MYSTIC, revealed how the NSA uses Google cookies to pinpoint targets for hacking and how the NSA secretly broke into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world. This is another example of U.S. government overreach.  

Instead of targeting its very powerful surveillance systems on terrorists and spies, they’re doing this bulk collection that sweeps up a lot of data of innocent people. Responding to mounting outrage of their citizens, foreign governments are shunning America’s cloud computer industry deemed to be unsafe to the prying eyes of the NSA. For example, Microsoft has lost customers, including the government of Brazil. IBM is spending more than a billion dollars to build data centers overseas to safeguard data of their foreign customers.  

Former President Jimmy Carter has revealed he limits his own email use out of fear he’s spied on by U.S. intelligence. In an interview with NBC News, Carter says he avoids emails when corresponding with foreign leaders — instead using old-fashioned "snail mail."

Uranium Mining

By Tejinder Uberoi
Friday March 28, 2014 - 05:58:00 PM

In a stark example of environmental racism, Native Indians have become the target of toxic uranium mining. Energy Fuels Resources recently obtained federal approval to reopen a mine in close proximity to the Grand Canyon’s popular South Rim entrance. Environmental activists have joined forces with Native Navajos to protest the decision siting serious health risks. Earlier uranium mining has scarred the landscape and left deposits of radioactive waste from 1,000 closed mines. The mining companies failed to adequately remove the radioactive wastes which have resulted in a dramatic increase in cancer and other serious ailments.  

One native Indian activist, Klee Benally, remarked that “this is really a slow genocide of the people, not just indigenous people of this region, but it’s estimated that there are over 10 million people who are residing within 50 miles of abandoned uranium mines." The long term impact of contaminated water seepage into groundwater and its impact on wildlife have been ignored. The five-year cleanup plan initiated by the EPA has also been ignored. 

San Francisco Peaks, an area considered sacred by 13 Native tribes, has been severely impacted; to compound health concerns is the practice of using treated sewage water to make snow at the popular Snow bowl resort. The future of indigenous tribes has been railroaded over the interests of corporate greed and government watchdogs have fallen asleep at the wheel.

Concerning Rail Transport of Crude

By Jack Bragen
Friday March 28, 2014 - 05:20:00 PM

My apartment in Martinez is in close proximity to the railroad tracks that are now transporting crude oil. Nobody asked me if it was okay to put me at risk by enacting this plan. I try not to think about it that while I am asleep at night, I could be blown to fiery pieces if there were a derailment near where I live.  

I hope that my congressman, George Miller, will read this letter and will oppose this dangerous and unethical plan.

LIBRARIES: Facts First

By Thomas Lynch
Friday March 28, 2014 - 05:23:00 PM

In 2000 the American Library Association (ALA) got up in arms about the filtering of library computers. With the help of Playboy and the American Civil Liberties Union they fought filtering and won. Filters violated First Amendment Rights. That news remains in peoples’ heads to this day. 

However, it is not true. The current and correct information is: 

In 2003 the United States Congress took the ALA to court and reversed the decision because any “adult” can have software removed without needing justification. This information did not really get out to the public. 

The library needs filters on the children and young adult computers. Then all the other computers could be filter free and for adults only.


New: ECLECTIC RANT: ObamaCare and the McCarran-Ferguson Act's Exemption from the Antitrust Laws

By Ralph E. Stone
Tuesday April 01, 2014 - 09:07:00 PM

The Patient Protection Act and the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) seems to be working. Admittedly, this is not a universal view. But as of the March 31st deadline, it appears that the goal of 7 million signees may have been reached. This is quite an achievement considering the computer glitches encountered by consumers along the way. One problem, however, is that private, for-profit insurers are not under enough competitive pressure to keep premiums low. 

What is needed is a repeal of the McCarran-Ferguson Act exemption for the health insurance industry. An amendment to the financial services regulatory reform bill would have repealed the exemption but was never voted on in the 111th Congress. The bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives, but the bill was never voted on in the U.S. Senate. 

Why do we need a repeal of the McCarran-Ferguson Act exemption to the antitrust laws? According to Forbes since the passage of ObamaCare in 2010, the public health insurance companies have dramatically raised their premiums, especially on small business, multiplied their profits and sent the value of their common stocks up by 200-300 percent. One of the reasons for such high profits is the growing lack of competition in the private health insurance industry, which has led to near monopoly conditions in many markets. Any comparative analysis of health care systems indicates that the greater the role of private, for-profit health insurance companies in the delivery of health care, the higher the cost.  

The The McCarran-Ferguson Act gives states the authority to regulate the "business of insurance" without interference from federal regulation, unless federal law specifically provides otherwise. The Act provides that the "business of insurance, and every person engaged therein, shall be subject to the laws of the several States which relate to the regulation or taxation of such business." 

Congress passed the McCarran-Ferguson Act primarily in response to the Supreme Court case of U.S. v. South-Eastern Underwriters Ass'n. Before the South-Eastern Underwriters case, the issuance of an insurance policy was not thought to be a transaction in commerce, which would subject the insurance industry to federal regulation under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. In South-Eastern Underwriters, the Court held that an insurance company that conducted substantial business across state lines was engaged in interstate commerce and thus was subject to federal antitrust regulations. 

Within a year of South-Eastern Underwriters, Congress enacted the McCarran-Ferguson Act in response to states' concerns that they no longer had broad authority to regulate the insurance industry in their individual states. Thus, the McCarran-Ferguson Act provides that the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890, the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914, and the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914, apply to the business of insurance only to the extent that such business is not regulated by state law. 

The Act does not define the "business of insurance." However, in the decision of Union Labor Life Insurance Co. v. Pireno, the Supreme Court set forth three factors when determining whether a particular commercial practice constitutes the business of insurance: whether the practice has the effect of transferring or spreading a policy-holder's risk, whether the practice is an integral part of the policy relationship between the insurer and the insured, and whether the practice is limited to entities within the insurance industry. 

The business of insurance include laws aimed at protecting or regulating the performance of an insurance contract, the relationship between insurer and insured, the type of policies issued, and the policies' reliability, interpretation, and enforcement. 

While the lack of competition in the health insurance industry may well have other causes, which may or may not be cured through a repeal of the McCarran-Ferguson Act, the insurance exemption from federal antitrust laws has not helped. Repealing the Act coupled with increased antitrust enforcement is a relatively simple first step if the ultimate goals are reining in health care costs and providing affordable health care to the largest number of consumers. 

Hopefully, now that the dust has settled a bit on ObamaCare, a repeal of the McCarran-Ferguson Act for the health insurance industry will be forthcoming. However, the long term prospects are uncertain. 

THE PUBLIC EYE:Accelerating Use of Renewable Energy

By Bob Burnett
Saturday March 29, 2014 - 09:35:00 AM

US energy policy is stuck on reliance on natural gas. Most Americans understand that by the middle of the century most of our energy will have to be supplied by renewables – wind, water, and solar – but we seem content to use natural gas for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, this is not a realistic policy. 

We’re running out of time. Writing in ROLLING STONE, environmentalist Bill McKibben warned that humans can only emit 564 gigatons of carbon dioxide by 2050 and still have a reasonable chance of keeping the temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius (the threshold for catastrophic consequences). Nonetheless, last year we pumped a record 36 gigatons into the atmosphere; at this rate we’ll exceed 564 gigs in about a decade. Writing in the Washington Post, Brad Plumer observed that if we are serious about averting horrific climate change, “[Then] the world can use natural gas for only a brief period before transitioning to carbon-free power. Global gas consumption would have to peak by 2020 or 2030.” 

What will it take to get us to move aggressively to sole reliance on renewable energy? 

First of all, it has to be feasible to move to water, wind, and solar. Fortunately, there’s a lot of evidence that it is. Speaking on “The David Letterman Show,” Stanford University Professor Mark Jacobson touted his plan to move the US off of fossil fuels by 2050. Jacobson’s Solutions Project has developed a detailed plan for each state. 

The narrative differs depending upon where you live. The Solutions Project has a plan for California, where 95 percent of our electricity would be generated by renewables by 2050. In the most recent California energy estimates renewables generated 17 percent of our electricity (in-state – we import some energy). Today, more than 60 percent is developed using natural gas. 

Fortunately, California state policy is behind our transition to renewables: by 2020, California plans to generate 33 percent of its electricity from wind, water, and solar. Recently, Pacific Gas & Electric, the second largest California public utility, announced that it has “delivered 22.5 percent of its power from eligible renewable resources in 2013 and is on track to meet the state’s clean energy goals for 2020 and beyond.” 

California’s problem is that it isn’t moving aggressively enough. If our natural gas consumption peaks 10 years from now, that suggests that by 2030 more than 50 percent of our electricity should be generated by renewables. (For example, we’d close our one nuclear facility, at < a href= http://www.energy.ca.gov/nuclear/california.html >Diablo Canyon, which produces about 9 percent of our electricity.) 

There are four factors that affect this transition. The first is focus. California has to set a more aggressive goal and focus on accomplishing it. At the moment, we’re arguing about hydraulic fracturing, “fracking.” Most Democrats support a moratorium, but Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, doesn’t. At issue is development of California’s massive Monterey Shale field

This conflict mirrors what’s happening in the US, in general. Fossil-fuel companies want us to extract more oil and gas and use it to generate power. But the more we do this, the higher our carbon-emissions will be. 

That leads to the second factor, capital. Even though conversion to renewables makes economic sense, in the long run, it will take a lot of capital to get there. If tomorrow, California shut down our one nuclear facility we would have an electricity problem. Even though it doesn’t take that long, comparatively, to install solar and wind farms, we would have to build them and the transmission lines to move electricity to where it is needed. 

The multi-billion dollar question is where the capital going to come from. So far, Californians have responded with a lot of creatively. Many families, including my own, have installed photovoltaic panels on their houses. But we need the private equity market to get more involved – as it did to promote the Tesla electric car. 

The final two factors involve government. California needs to take the necessary steps to have our public utilities promote renewable sources of energy and energy conservation. 

And, at all levels of government, we need to remove incentives for fossil fuels and promote incentives for renewables. In 2013 the big five fossil-fuel companies (BP, Chevron, Conoco-Phillips, Exxon-Mobil, and Shell) got $2.4 billion in tax breaks. A Pew Research report found, “The subsidies that most increased CO2 emissions per U.S. government dollar spent include those for coal, oil, and natural gas… if the subsidies that increased CO2 emissions were to be eliminated, U.S. government expenditures would have been, on average, $12 billion less per year… over the 2005 through 2009 period.” Meanwhile, incentives for renewables are languishing. 

It’s realistic to switch to renewables now. But Americans have to make this a top priority and convince our leaders to do the right thing. 

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

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Accepting and Validating Ourselves

By Jack Bragen
Friday March 28, 2014 - 05:37:00 PM

It is not necessary to incorporate other people's expectations into your mind and heart. Other people may or may not understand you, and you need not follow their standards. When we allow ourselves to absorb other people's messages that try to define who and what we are, it sometimes leads to our own programming mimicking these ideas in the form of self-denigrating thoughts.  

I've seen myself suffer seriously due to guilt about the amount of work I expect of myself. I believe many others are the same. Sometimes we unnecessarily torment ourselves with unfair expectations. The "work ethic" that exists in cultures worldwide is a means of punishing ourselves if we do not feel as if we are producing enough work.  

If someone has a legitimate disability, including a psychiatric one, the regular work ethic should not apply, and any work the person produces should be considered exemplary.  

We need to give ourselves a break and this includes those times when other people expect us to do more. We should neither become human doormats nor walk on eggshells. Other people do not get to tell us who we should be.  

When we incorporate too much self-trashing, we might turn into self-haters and become our own worst enemies. While certainly, some of the time, things just need to get done, it doesn't mean that we can't give ourselves some down time when needed.  

When things need to get done in my life that are unpleasant, I try to approach it in an organized way, a way that minimizes the amount of pain I have to experience. If things are put on a list and are mentally categorized, it helps with minimizing anxiety concerning these things.  

The "sink or swim" mentality of testing a person may work with unimpaired people but should not be applied to people with disabilities. Applying such a standard to oneself means you could be setting yourself up for failure.  

Are you "okay" with a psychiatric disability? You need not be alienated from yourself due to a psychiatric diagnosis. I have seen too many people including myself struggle with issues of self esteem due to a mental health diagnosis. You deserve to feel good about yourself.  

It isn't necessary to compare oneself to other people who have or don't have a psychiatric illness. A person with a mental health diagnosis is still an acceptable human being. We do not need to "justify" our existences. We have as much right as does anyone else to exist and to be respected. It begins with self respect.  

Oddly enough, people who have amassed large quantities of wealth and who appear to be society's best examples of hard work may still suffer from self-esteem issues. It seems that self-appreciation is almost a universal issue--it is a gift that only we can bestow upon ourselves.  

Along the same lines, one need not always be concerned about "wasting" time. If you are getting something meaningful in the moment, it could mean that time isn't being wasted even though it may appear as if nothing is being produced.  

In life, enjoyment and meaning are things that might count more than the amount of money you have. If you are enjoying yourself in moment, then that is all you can ask. Your life isn't devalued when someone else disapproves of your progress or lack of it. If you approve of yourself, it is every bit as good as, if not better than, the approval of others. This includes family members.  

You can't change the fact that your life is going to be part good and part bad. If we believe we are making an effort at things, then we should compliment ourselves accordingly. If something is enjoyable (that doesn't harm oneself or others) then it is probably worth doing.  

Work has its place in life, so does rest, and so does play. Yet this does not have to become yet another standard to which we are comparing ourselves. The mind can always find a reason to believe we aren't going "good enough" and sometimes we must put a stop to such thoughts and just enjoy what we are doing.  

Arts & Events

EYE FROM THE AISLE: TOP GIRLS at Custom Made Theatre is a Moving, Feminist Hit!

By John A. McMullen II
Friday March 28, 2014 - 06:00:00 PM

Laura Lundy-Paine has cast and constructed an emotional and enlightening evening of entertainment in her direction of TOP GIRLS at CUSTOM MADE THEATRE on Gough St in SF. 

Historical figures figure in the first act: a Geisha from the 17th C. who was consort to the Emperor, Pope Joan who was a brilliant scholar and ecclesiastic in drag—who gave birth in the middle of a procession and was stoned by the people, a famous world-traveler who braved frontiers and jungles where proper English women dared not tread, a Saxon woman who rose to be a soldier after they killed her children, the long-suffering and ever-obedient Griselda from “The Decameron” who suffers the abduction of her children by the husband who then puts her away for another…all are at a dinner party at a private restaurant hosted by a glamorous, elegant, and charming red-haired British (hostess). 

The cast is ensemble and extraordinary: Monica Cappuccini (Pope Joan, Louise), Cary Cronholm Rose (Marlene), Carina Lastimosa Salazar (Patient Griselda/Nell/Jeanine), Cat Luedtke (Isabella Bird, Joyce, Mrs. Kidd), Megan Putnam (Waitress, Kit, Shona), Katie Robbins (Dull Get, Angie), and Mimu Tsujimura (Lady Nijo, Win). 

Food is served on stylish plates with linen napkins, the cast dines while each tells her story. They are all excellent in their characters and renditions, but a surprising performance comes from Mimu Tsujimura as the Consort…as she tells her story in spurts throughout the first act, she convincingly gets drunker and drunker and with it more emotional…with occasional comic breaks. Her performance was tour de force on opening Tuesday Press Night, and promises to shine even brighter through future performances. 

The Second Act is something totally different. 1980’s England, working class, a teenager and her pre-teen friend, and her “aunt” who is a rising career woman in London. The range of the actors is amazing in their transitions to utterly different characters. 

The triangle of sisters Marlene (Cary Cronholm Rose) Joyce (Cat Luedtke) and daughter Angie (Katie Robbins) is stunning in its family dysfunction. It is played out between sisters over a bottle of whisky and much sibling resentment. It is about class and beauty and responsibility or lack of a sense of it. It’s about Margaret Thatcher’s England in which many young women aspired to be an Iron Lady and rise in the Corporate Opportunities newly opened to them.

Some player-goers may be familiar with playwright Caryl Churchill’s other often-performed play “Cloud 9.” 

As your consumer advocate, I highly recommend this extraordinary and imaginative production of what is arguably Churchill’s major work. 

Take a look at Jay Yamada’s well-composed slideshow that shows the physicality and pulchritude you are in for if you attend Top Girls at Custom Made Theatre Co. http://www.custommade.org/topgirls/ 

Top Girls by Caryl Churchill 

Directed by Laura-Lundy Paine 

At Custom Made Theatre Co. 

1620 Gough St. (at Bush) in San Francisco 



AROUND AND ABOUT THEATER AND MUSIC: Marion Fay's Theater & Music Classes

By Ken Bullock
Friday March 28, 2014 - 05:26:00 PM

Marion Fay's excellent theater & music classes are just beginning, held weekly in Berkeley's Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda, Berkeley (near Solano Avenue & the tunnel), but include trips to performances, as well as visiting artists speaking to classes. 

Theater Explorations has two sections, meeting on Monday and Thursday, each at 1-3 p. m. There are 10 two-hour classes, and four plays which those who enroll will have the opportunity to see. The first play--with discounted tickets in addition to the enrollment fee--will be 'Venus in Fur' by David Ives at ACT, April 5 at 2 p.m. (please contact Marion Fay ASAP for tickets); others will include Nina Raine's 'Tribes' at Berkeley Rep. 

Guest speakers will include Bill English of SF Playhouse and a special in-class performance by Jean Wilcox's acting ensemble. The series: $75, with discounted theater tickets at additional charge. (The Thursday class just started; Mondays begin this coming Monday, March 31 at 1 p. m.. Enroll by attending class or contact Marion Fay.) 

Music Appreciation meets Thursdays, 10 till noon, with composers, musicians and conductors as guests. No background in music required. $75, with discounted performance tickets at additional charge.  

Contact Marion Fay, marionfay@earthlink.net