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The Berkeley Fair Campaign Practices Commission Hears TUFF Charges

By Dave Blake
Friday May 17, 2013 - 11:42:00 AM

Last night marked the first well-attended Fair Campaign Practices Commission meeting on the TUFF violations; there were 20 audience members, and the Oakland Tribune sent a reporter. The result was predictable, with commissioners whose Council appointers had endorsed the slate voting to accept the stipulation arrived at between city legal staff and the offenders (with one important change) and commission members appointed by Councilmembers who hadn't backed the slate voting in the minority (4-3) to reject it. But the path to the vote involved four different kinds of hand-wringing by the prevailing majority that at least provided the audience, the vast majority of which had spoken against accepting the stipulation, with moments of suspense and mystery. 

The first interesting wrinkle was technical. There are only eight members on the commission (the Moore appointment is vacant), which would normally mean five votes were needed to prevail; but even though one commissioner was absent (Dave Ritchie, Maio's appointee—Maio's long-time aide Brad Smith was appointed by Wozniak, so Ritchie is likely a swap with Wozniak, a move generally made when political considerations make it uncomfortable for a Councilperson to appoint the person they really want to appoint), they were able to pass the stipulation with only four votes because Ritchie's absence was, under recently-adopted Council rules, counted as a vacancy because it was formally excused in advance. 

The minority also voted, on motions by Anna De Leon (Arreguin), first to reject the stipulations, and next to overturn the previous decision by the board and to proceed with an investigation and testimony under oath. The only member to put on a real show of conscience, Jay Costa, was appointed by, appropriately, Bates, who's also the only member of the council machine who had not endorsed the entire TUFF slate. In order to bring Costa back into the fold, chair O'Donnell (Capitelli, originally appointed by Diane Woolley Baer) offered a motion which included sacrificing the parts of the stipulations declaring that there was no evidence of intent to violate city ordinances. De Leon had argued forcibly that the idea of making a determination of no intent in the absence of a hearing and sworn testimony was logically impossible. O'Donnell also made the assertion that the Commission shouldn't fine the TUFF defendants the $50,000 in illegal donations they'd gotten because the statutory authority to do that had been put in place by Council a year ago, and it was too new and untested to use yet. The accused parties will have to accept the stipulation absent the no-intent determination before the case is closed. 

Afterwards, in the matter of the stipulation arrived at by staff with the No on S Committee over their failure to report $500 in late contributions in a timely fashion as prescribed by the ordinance, the commission voted unanimously to reduce the stipulation from $500 to $50. it had been pointed out by audience members that the No on S committee's fine, unlike the TUFF fine, was exactly equal to the amount of donations they had mishandled. It was also pointed out that the violation the No on S committee had made, not reporting late donations on time, was surely worth a discount on a par with that given to the TUFF violators, who had solicited, accepted and spent donations in illegal amounts and from prohibited business entities. 

FORMAL VOTES: To reject both stipulations (as to 1) TUFF officers and illegal donors and 2) TUFF members. Made by De Leon, seconded by Al Murray (Anderson). In favor, De Leon, Murray, Spencer Pritchard (Worthington); Opposed, Jennifer Lombardi (Wengraf), O'Donnell, Smith; abstain, Costa. 

To open an investigation: same vote. 

To amend the stipulations to remove from each paragraph 29, which asserts that the Commission has found no evidence that respondents violated the ordinance intentionally. Made by O'Donnell, seconded by Costa. Unanimously in favor. 

To accept the stipulations as amended. Made by O'Donnell, seconded by Costa. In favor, Lombardi, O'Donnell, Smith, Costa. Opposed: De Leon, Murray, Pritchard.


Press Release: It's Official: Andy Katz is Running for Assembly [forwarded by a reader]

From Andy Katz
Thursday May 16, 2013 - 03:38:00 PM

Dear XXXX,

California is approaching a crucial turning point. Next year, many of our strongest legislators on important issues like the environment are leaving the State Legislature due to term limits, including our current Assemblymember, Nancy Skinner.

Assemblymember Skinner has been an outstanding leader on the environment, on climate protection, the State budget, and many other essential issues. Her absence will be a significant loss to our community and to our Assembly District, a District with a long tradition of representation by strong progressive and environmentalist public officials.

So we need real leadership in Sacramento this next decade. We need leaders who will recommit California to a strong future for our environment, our schools, and our community.

And that is why today I'm announcing that I will be a Democratic candidate for California State Assembly in the 15th District in 2014. 

Please contribute to my campaign for the Assembly today. 

I’m writing to you first because I’ve known I could count on you—and I’m so thankful for it—not just to stand with me, but to stand up for the values we both hold dear. Your continued friendship and support will mean so much as we begin this campaign. 

An open Assembly seat doesn't come along often, so this promises to be an incredibly competitive race. 

Let's get this campaign off to a strong start. 

Please click here to make a generous contribution to my Assembly campaign right now. 

My experience makes me uniquely qualified for this office. I’ve worked to protect our environment, clean up our air, support working families, and create jobs. I have a deep commitment to education, to social justice, and to improving the lives of those I serve. My values reflect the progressive values of our District. 

I’m currently serving my second term as an elected Boardmember at the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD), the governing body that ensures clean, reliable water in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. In 2013, I was elected Board President. 

My work at EBMUD led to the development of the first food-waste-to-energy converter in America, which uses cutting edge technology to transform food scraps into clean energy. At EBMUD, I’ve helped double water conservation projects, protect water quality, and expand solar energy projects, and I’ve fought to provide a safety net for low-income households, so the most vulnerable among us can afford water, which I consider a civil right. 

I also serve as Government Affairs Director at Breathe California, an organization fighting for clean air. I’m currently leading Breathe California’s efforts to respond to the Richmond refinery fire by co-sponsoring a Senate bill to increase penalties for large air pollution violations. And I’m working with community groups to press for reforms that require refineries to conduct safety audits and install safer technology. 

As former Chair of Sierra Club California, I led the organization's efforts to pass environmental legislation through the State Legislature, and represented Sierra Club as a delegate to United Nations Climate Conferences throughout the world, where I urged the United States and other countries to adopt strong greenhouse gas reduction goals. 

And as a proud member of the LGBT community, I have worked to elect LGBT candidates in the Bay Area and address health disparities in the LGBT community. 

In the Assembly, I’ll put my experience to work for you, so we can create good green jobs for California and strengthen our climate protection laws. 

Help me fight for the environment in the Assembly. Click here to learn more and get involved. 

I will bring a long held commitment to working families to the Assembly, where I will fight to expand access to healthcare for working people and communities of color, and reinvest in our schools. 

Help me stand up for working people in California. Click here to learn more and get involved. 

And in the Assembly, I will fight tirelessly to ensure our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender sisters and brothers throughout the state are afforded the equal rights we all deserve.  

Please help me get to the Assembly and fight for LGBT equality. Click here to learn more and get involved. 

Thank you so much. Your early support means a lot to me, and will make a real difference as we get this campaign off the ground. 

I'm really looking forward to working with you on this campaign, and I'll be in touch soon.


Graffitirazzi – Live Oak Park, Part 3

By Gar Smith
Thursday May 16, 2013 - 05:00:00 PM

              Live Oak Tunnel, East Side
Gar Smith
Live Oak Tunnel, East Side
The East side of the bridgeway is inaccessible to foot traffic. In order to protect children on the grounds of Congregation Beth El, both sides of the creek are totally surrounded by a tall fence, making access difficult, if not impossible. Fortunately, the barrier's metal wires are just wide enough to accommodate a curious camera lens.
Gar Smith
The East side of the bridgeway is inaccessible to foot traffic. In order to protect children on the grounds of Congregation Beth El, both sides of the creek are totally surrounded by a tall fence, making access difficult, if not impossible. Fortunately, the barrier's metal wires are just wide enough to accommodate a curious camera lens.
Viewed from a distance, the entrance to the west side of the tunnel is covered with some disappointing scrawls, including a tag by Psycho.
Gar Smith
Viewed from a distance, the entrance to the west side of the tunnel is covered with some disappointing scrawls, including a tag by Psycho.
Gar Smith

              
              If you aren't wearing rubber boots, reaching the tunnel will require some effort. Camera in hand, I had to carefully slide down two concrete drainage channels along the wall of the bridge and then drop several feet to the rock bed of the creek.
              
              The question was: If graffiti teams had to scramble through the tunnel to reach the fenced-in eastern wall, did they leave any additional art behind, hidden inside the tunnel?
              
              Let's take a look. But first, you'll need to hunker down because the top of the cement tunnel is barely five feet above the water
Gar Smith
If you aren't wearing rubber boots, reaching the tunnel will require some effort. Camera in hand, I had to carefully slide down two concrete drainage channels along the wall of the bridge and then drop several feet to the rock bed of the creek. The question was: If graffiti teams had to scramble through the tunnel to reach the fenced-in eastern wall, did they leave any additional art behind, hidden inside the tunnel? Let's take a look. But first, you'll need to hunker down because the top of the cement tunnel is barely five feet above the water
Gar Smith
Gar Smith
At this point, the tunnel makes a sharp turn south, into darkness. Lacking boots or a flashlight, Graffitirazi opted to end the exploration at this point. If any readers wish to don some waders and document the rest of the tunnel's innards, photos can be sent to The Planet for future posting.
Gar Smith
At this point, the tunnel makes a sharp turn south, into darkness. Lacking boots or a flashlight, Graffitirazi opted to end the exploration at this point. If any readers wish to don some waders and document the rest of the tunnel's innards, photos can be sent to The Planet for future posting.
Gar Smith
Gar Smith

The west side of the Cordonices Creek bridge that supports Oxford Street is layered with patches of colorful graffiti that extend over the wall on both sides of the tunnel through which the creek flows. But there's another wall of art hidden on the eastern side. To reach it, however, you may have to take the same path used by the graffiti artists – through the tunnel. 

 

In Other News: 

Chronicle's C. W. Nevius, Targets Graffiti Supply Stores 

On May 3, San Francisco Chronicle writer C.W. Nevius offered a somewhat caustic article titled "Graffiti Supplies at Retail." Nevius drew attention to a couple of local stores that sell spray cans filled with paint. "While the city fights taggers," Nevius kvetched, "specialty stores are selling them spray paint." 

One of the shops singled out by Nevius was 1AM, a five-year-old operation located at 1000 Howard and Sixth in the SOMA. After Nevius' column appeared, the store's managers posted this response on their website (1amsf.com): 

Nevius … only focused on a small part of what we do. So, we wanted to give Nevius and his readers the opportunity to learn more about who we are by sharing our mission statement and making them aware of all the services and products we offer that was strategically missing from his article. 

(9) Make Moves by 1AM 

Mission Statement 

1AM, short for First Amendment, is a company that stands for the freedom of speech. We strive to showcase, teach, and inspire the public on street and urban art through our exhibitions, murals and classes. In our art gallery, we exhibit world-renowned and local artists that specialize in graffiti, urban, and vinyl toy art.  

(9) Make Moves 

Outside our gallery walls, our mural production team has been striving to beautify the city of San Francisco with large-scale murals that have positive messages like "Make Moves" and "Knowledge is Golden." …. We offer classes and team-building workshops and have hosted corporate off-sites with companies like Facebook, Genentech, Yahoo! and more. We have worked with local youth organizations, YMCA, Galileo High School, and First Graduates to empower and educate our kids. Most recently, we launched 1AM Mobile App, a free photography app that … allows you to capture and share images and locations of your street art discoveries and follow other members and their findings worldwide.  

Lastly, 1AM has a retail store that sells original clothing, street art books and art supplies. Similar to art supply stores like Blick, Utrecht, Arch and Flax -- as well as hardware stores like Ace and Home Depot (who carry a lower-cost option) -- we indeed do sell spray paint and markers. 

(10) Fear Head by 1AM 

 

 

 

Piece By Piece: A San Francisco Graffiti Documentary

Piece By Piece documents San Francisco's graffiti culture from the early 1980s to 2004. It is narrated by San Francisco graffiti artist Senor One, better known as Renos. The San Francisco Bay Guardian hailed the film as the highlight of the 2006 Hi/Lo film festival, calling it "a thorough history that still makes time … for abstract, lyrical flowing passages" and praising the film and director for displaying "a deep but entertaining understanding of the city as both a historical site and a nexus for contemporary change." Rory L. Aronsky in Film Threat wrote that the documentary "gets this graffiti culture completely right" while for Dennis Harvey in Variety it was "an excellent overview of two decades' graffiti in San Francisco." 

 

 

 


New: Berkeley's Fair Campaign Practices Commission Meets Tonight To Consider Light Penalties for Flagrant Election Law Evaders (News Analysis)

By Dave Blake and Dean Metzger
Thursday May 16, 2013 - 01:08:00 PM

Tonight the Fair Campaign Practices Commission meets (7 pm, N Berkeley Senior Center) to consider the stipulation offered by members of Tenants United for Fairness (TUFF)—a slate that ran for Berkeley’s Rent Stabilization Board in the November election—and the landlords who illegally funded their campaign. 

The proposed stipulation would fine the TUFF slate members $300 each, and their backers under $3000 total. 

In comparison, at the same meeting the people who raised money to defeat the street-sitting prohibiting Measure S and who failed to properly report $500 in late contributions in a timely manner are proposed to pay a penalty of that amount—$500, the amount they received. Nothing illegal about the contributions, they're just paying the amount of the contribution for failing to report it on time. 

TUFF raised and spent over $50,000 from landlords, over $30,000 from one PAC alone. Berkeley has a $250 per candidate donation limit and bars business donations, the vast bulk of those donations. Councilmember Maio's appointee to the Commission, Brad Smith, when first introduced to the violations, said they were flagrant and unconscionable, then at the next meeting urged the commission not to investigate the complaint at all, saying they were "just kids who didn't know what they were doing." TUFF was endorsed by five councilmembers including Maio, and put out illegal joint literature with two of them. 

When an audience member asked him to defend his objectivity in light of the fact that TUFF’s lead candidate, then Rent Board member Nicole Drake, has the exact same job he’d held for over a decade, serving Maio as her sole aide, Smith explained that he'd had lunch with Linda to explain to her that she wasn't to discuss the issue with him, to maintain his objectivity. 

At that meeting the Commission decided not to investigate, and to instruct their staff to negotiate with the TUFF members and their backers over what their punishment should be, leading to this proposed stipulation. 

Berkley election law specifically says that the Commission should consider fining candidates who accept illegal contributions the amount of contributions they illegally accepted, in this case over $40,000. Not only will accepting this stipulation mean that the candidates pay a pittance for their violations, but it will also mean that the candidate they successfully got elected to the Board with a campaign funded over 90% by illegal donations will remain in office, rather than be forced to resign in accordance with the law. 

The Commission meetings have been poorly attended, and completely uncovered by all the local mainstream media. For anyone who feels that the Commission should formally investigate what Commissioner Smith called the worst electoral crime in the history of Berkeley election law, this will be the last chance to appeal to the Commission's integrity. There is no appeal to the Council for FCPC cases. If the FCPC accepts the stipulation, the matter will be closed, unless the State’s comparable body decides to investigate. 


Berkeley Hills Shooting Victim Identified

By Sasha Lekach (BCN)
Tuesday May 14, 2013 - 01:10:00 PM

A 21-year-old Fremont man was shot and killed at a popular Berkeley hills turnout Sunday morning, a University of California at Berkeley police lieutenant said.

Alverto Santana-Silva was shot around 5:30 a.m. at an overlook off of Grizzly Peak Boulevard near signpost 16 that is frequented by people looking at the view of the Bay and hills, UC Berkeley police Lt. Marc DeCoulode said. 

There were three different groups at the turnout, which is on university land, and several people got into an argument. 

Santana-Silva intervened in the argument, however he did not know the people involved, DeCoulode said. 

About 30 minutes after he intervened in the fight, one of the people who had left returned. He came up and shot Santana-Silva while he was sitting in the driver's seat of a parked car, DeCoulode said. 

Santana-Silva was shot several times and pronounced dead at the scene, DeCoulode said. 

Before authorities arrived, the suspect fled. 

The suspect is believed to be a Hispanic or Filipino man in his mid 20s or 30s. He is about 5 feet 8 inches tall and roughly 200 pounds with a bald or shaved head. 

The suspect had initially left the turnout with an Asian woman who stood about 5 feet 3 inches. She was described as being in her 20s and had black hair in a ponytail. 

When the suspect returned, the woman was no longer with him and he was a passenger in a car. He is believed to have fled in that vehicle.  

He is associated with two different cars including a candy apple red Chevy Caprice, or similar sedan, with large chrome wheels with spokes, and a white Chevy Suburban, or similar car, DeCoulode said. 

Several people were held and questioned but have since been released.


Press Release: Homicide Near Berkeley on Grizzly Peak Boulevard, Signpost 16

From UC Police Department
Tuesday May 14, 2013 - 07:34:00 AM

On Sunday, May 12, 2013 at 5:38 a.m., UCPD officers were dispatched to the area near Signpost 16 on Grizzly Peak Boulevard regarding a report of a casualty, possibly related to a shooting. When they arrived on scene, they found a vehicle off to the side of the road and an adult male gunshot victim outside on the ground. UCPD officers provided medical aid to the victim, but unfortunately the victim did not survive his injuries and was pronounced deceased by the Berkeley Fire Department on scene. 

If you have any information about this crime, please contact: 

University of California Police Department Criminal Investigation Bureau (510) 642-0472 / 8AM–5PM (510) 642-6760 / All other times 

This crime alert is distributed as a public service to the University community and in compliance with The Jeanne Clery Act of 1998. In the interest of the follow-up investigation, these are all the very important community safety Crime Alert details that UCPD is offering at this time.


Police Raid UC Berkeley's Occupy the Farm Site

By Zack Farmer (BCN)
Monday May 13, 2013 - 11:22:00 AM

University of California at Berkeley officials plowed thousands of plants from a tract of land they own in Albany this morning that the "Occupy The Farm" encampment planted during the weekend, a group member said. 

The Occupy activists had been there since Saturday when several dozen people marched onto the agricultural fields located near the corner of Marin and San Pablo avenues, part of a property they call the Gill Tract, to protest the university's plans to build a chain grocery store there. 

UC Berkeley police raided the Gill Tract at about 4 a.m. and removed the campers, organizer Lesley Haddock said. 

The campers planted thousands of plants over about an acre, Haddock said, including kale, squash, and other various vegetables and herbs. 

This raid occurred after the activists publicly announced they would leave the site later today. 

Once the campers had been cleared out, the university brought in a tractor at about 9 a.m. to remove the plants, organizer Matthew McHale said. 

"There is a sense of frustration and outrage," he said. 

Four people were arrested, including one who attempted to block the tractor, Haddock said.  

"This university is turning into a private institution and no longer holds my best interest in mind," Haddock, who is also a UC Berkeley student, said. "It really underscores they're really acting out of private interest." 

Calls to UC police have not been returned. 

Haddock says they plan to reconvene at the site at 5 p.m. to talk about what their options are.  

"This space is really important," she said. "We're not going away."


Drones or No Drones? The Debate Drones On (News Analysis)

By Gar Smith
Monday May 13, 2013 - 10:35:00 AM
Berkeley citizens express their concerns over drones.
Wendy Kenin
Berkeley citizens express their concerns over drones.
UAVSI drone on display at hearing
Gar Smith
UAVSI drone on display at hearing
Members of the Peace and Justice Commission listen to testimony.
Wendy Kenin
Members of the Peace and Justice Commission listen to testimony.

Late last year, when word leaked that police in Alameda County and Berkeley were preparing to jump on the post-911 bandwagon by acquiring unmanned, aerial surveillance drones, it was the kind of news that makes a pacifist go ballistic. So, on December 18, 2012, squadrons of anti-drone activists homed in on a City Council meeting to demand that the city -- home of the country's first "Nuclear-Free Zone" -- declare itself a "No Drone Zone."

Despite the unanimous public outcry against the idea of "drones in Berkeley," when it came time to act, the council was split -- with a majority clearly entranced by the promise of the city owning its own high-tech drone to handle "emergency situations." The council ordered a time-out for further study. They did, however, agree to send a letter to Alameda's Sheriff and Board of Supervisors asking that the county "delay any action on the purchase of a drone until the City of Berkeley has completed its evaluation of the issue." 

(Note: It's not just the anti-war crowd that bridles at the idea of UAVs flying over public parks and backyard barbecues. The specter of homegrown drones has united Republicans, Democrats and Tea Partiers in 29 states that are currently working on new tri-partisan laws to rein in any potential use of drones in US cities. In February, Charlottesville, Virginia, became the first US city to enact a drone-free ordinance.) 

An Anti-Drone Quorum at the Forum 

As part of the evaluation process, Berkeley's Peace & Justice Commission hosted a "Town Hall Forum on Drones" on May 1. Joined by members of the Police Review Commission, the two city panels heard testimony from five expert witnesses and 30 members of the audience. The Town Forum did not hear from either the BPD or the BFD, however. Police and fire department officials turned down invitations to participate in the discussion. 

The pros and cons raged for more than two hours. Only one of the five experts spoke in support of drones and only two members of the audience had anything good to say about the proposal to release unmanned spybots into the urban airspace. 

The sole pro-drone voice belonged to Patrick Egan, a spokesperson for the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). Eagan brought along a display table featuring a small drone and a series of aerial photos that he had snapped. Eagan promised to provide the board with copies of an AUVSI book called "First To Deploy -- Unmanned Aircraft For SAR & Law Enforcement." ["SAR" refers to Search and Rescue.] However, instead of a report linking drones and cops, AUVSI provided a 38-page study on "The Economic Impact" of UAVs. The only part that was relevant to California was on page 24 where three charts predicted drone deployment would create several thousand new jobs, $1.8 billion in "total economic impact," and more than $10 billion in added state tax revenues by 2015. 

A Chorus of Criticism 

The remaining speakers (from the ACLU, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, CopWatch and the Electronic Frontier Foundation) chose to ignore the promise of economic gain and focused, instead, on the social and constitutional negatives. 

ACLU staff attorney Linda Lye began by noting the many ways drones raise serious Fourth Amendment privacy concerns. Lye also argued that deploying drones would likely violate the State Constitution's Article I, Section 1, which grants privacy protection for personal information. Lye listed four reasons to oppose drones: (1) They make surveillance "cheap", (2) they are "less obvious" to people being spied on, (3) they come with night-vision and infra-red capabilities that can "see through walls" to spy on the people inside and (4) they would be used in the SF Bay Area, which is one of the Federal government's "fusion centers" – a major hub for collecting and analyzing intercepted communications and intelligence data. 

The Alameda Sheriff would be one of the first state police agencies to acquire a drone. (Sacramento reportedly acquired a drone in 2007.) The Sheriff's latest budget is for a whopping $20 million and the ACLU has requested an explanation of what the money will be spent on. Lye said she was still "awaiting a response." 

Current law guarantees citizens only a "reasonable expectation of privacy." But what is "reasonable" these days? "It could take years to resolve this in court," Lye noted, "but technology evolves much faster than constitutional law. So we need to act now." 

If drones were to be allowed, Lye advised, they should only be used upon the issuance of a warrant based on probable cause -- and there should be no sharing of gathered information between departments. 

The Rise of the Surveillance Society 

Don't be tempted by promises of grants from the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security, Lye cautioned, since these are essentially bribes intended to prime the pump for the corporations set to benefit from the expansion of the Surveillance Society. It might not be fiscally prudent to rush to purchase any new surveillance toys, Lye argued. As an example of an investment that went sour, she pointed to the recall of the TSA's controversial full-body scanners, which she characterized as "a $45 million mistake." 

After enduring the crowd's enthusiastic applause during Lye's litany of criticisms, AUVSI's Eagan approached the microphone with an edge to his voice. 

"So you don't have fixed wing aircraft in Berkeley? You don't have helicopters?" he chided, in a mistaken attempt to establish that the crowd accepted planes and choppers but had a unique bias against drones. Eagan seemed caught be surprise when someone in the audience shouted, "Police helicopters are banned in Berkeley!" 

"Well, then," Eagan shot back, "I guess you [people of Berkeley] like privacy more than public safety!" 

Eagen went on to argue that store and street surveillance cameras, along with telephone, computer and text spying "already exist" (so more is better?). He suggested that drones were great tools for "studying grass fires" and finding lost children. (The argument that hovering cameras can be used to "find a lost child" or "an elderly person with Alzheimer's" comes up so often, it's become something of a running joke.) 

Commissioner George Lippman asked if the AUSVI received any money from companies that manufacture drones but the query failed to elicit a clear response. 

Why the 'Drones to the Rescue' Argument Won't Fly 

Nadia Kayyali, a Legal Fellow with the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, began her presentation by recalling how the Alameda and Berkeley cops (in cahoots with the UC Berkeley campus police) had been embarrassed by exposure of a secret plan to jointly purchase and share an armored personnel carrier. Kayyali called the new push for drones another "rushed implementation that is being fueled by money." 

Kayyali quickly dismissed the "rescue drone" arguments. The battery-powered drones being considered for city purchase can't fly for more than 25 minutes at a time, they can only be flown during the day, they need to be controlled by two operators, they must be flown in "line-of-sight," they can't be operated more than 400 feet above the ground, they can't be flown on windy days and, if you tried to use one to monitor a grass fire or a burning building, it would probably start to melt. 

Kayyali's conclusion? "Current drone technology is best suited for one thing: surveillance." Because drones can "hover very quietly outside of windows," Kayyali warned, the ability "to conduct covert surveillance with a small piece of equipment is unprecedented." 

(The short battery life may not be a problem for future drones. Work now is underway to design metal tails that will allow drones to grab energy from city power lines and new ground-based laser systems may allow operators to recharge drones while they are still in flight.) 

It's Raining Cats and Drones 

Even in the best of conditions, drones would pose significant risks to public safety. "Drones are unproven in American civilian airspace" and the record of UAVs in combat situations is troubling Kayyali stated. "They are the least safe class of aircraft in operation." Customs and Border Protection has reported 52.7 drone accidents per 100,000 hours of flight time -- seven times the accident rate for all of civil aviation. 

One of the latest cases of "drones behaving badly" occurred last September when the Sheriff of Montgomery County, Texas, showed up for a demonstration of his department's new $300,000 Shadowhawk drone. The UAV successfully soared into the air -- only to plummet back to earth. It crashed into the police department's prized Bear Cat armored tank, which had been parked nearby. 

In combat zones, drones have experienced what the Pentagon likes to call "control uplink failures." These glitches have caused combat drones to "go rogue," requiring soldiers to chase after them and shoot them down. 

Even with the best camera technology, drones lack the critical "see-and-avoid" ability of a human pilot. To date, the FAA has not been able to find any collision avoidance system that can guarantee a drone won't fly into a commercial aircraft. (This is not a theoretical risk. In August 2011, a Shadow UAV crashed into the wing of a C-130 in the skies over Afghanistan.) 

Can Drones Be Weaponized? 

Kayyali cited a "large and expanding toolkit [that] makes drones incredibly powerful tools of surveillance" including "high-definition cameras, infrared systems which can see through obstacles, radar, LIDAR, the ability to intercept cell phone communications, 'less lethal' weapons, and lethal weapons." 

Kayyali noted that Alameda Sheriff Gregory J. Ahern went on record on February 14 warning that he would have no qualms about using drones to monitor public demonstrations. "I'm not going to tell you we wouldn't use [a drone] in the event that a crowd turned violent." 

But drones clearly have the potential to escalate those situations in which the police "turn violent." As Kayyali explained: "Drones are currently being armed with tear gas and rubber bullets, with obvious implications for public activism." 

Can the Police Be Trusted? 

In addition to the question: Can drones be trusted? Andrea Prichett, testifying on behalf of Berkeley CopWatch, raised a related question: Can the Berkeley police be trusted? "The BPD doesn't comply with the public records act," Prichett charged and "unlike Oakland and San Francisco, the BPD doesn't post its policies on police tactics." If the BPD were to obtain a drone, could the department be trusted to respect civil rights? "If we can't even get them to come to this meeting, I'm not very hopeful," Prichett noted grimly. 

Two members of the Peace and Justice Commission then mentioned cases where the BPD had refused to release photos or investigative information to the Commission. "If we can't get … one picture, how would we get photos from a drone?" a commissioner asked. 

Then it was the audience's turn. 

Public Testimony Favors a 'No Drone Zone' 

For the next hour, drones were critiqued and ridiculed by a host of speakers from a range of organizations including The World Can't Wait, Iraq Vets Against War, Environmentalists Against War, and the Nevada Desert Experience. 

A member of CopWatch spoke of the psychological stress of living under drones, citing "the intimidation factor of constant surveillance." In addition to the noise of hovering drones, sound-equipped UAVs would allow police "overseers" to bark orders and threats from the sky. 

Referring to repeated problems with microphones and one speaker's attempt to screen a PowerPoint presentation, lawyer and political activist Ann Fagin Ginger (founder of Berkeley's Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute), pointedly observed: "If we can't get our mikes and computers to work, what makes us think drones will work?" 

A member of the Asian Law Caucus noted that many of the police drones are built by the same companies that build drones the Pentagon uses to commit "targeted assassinations." Case in point: the 13.2-pound Stalker (yes, that's what they chose to name it) is built by the military arms giant Lockheed-Martin. 

One dubious speaker ridiculed the idea of "search and rescue" drones. "Drones aren't like helicopters," she pointed out. "They don't have onboard stretchers or ropes or doctors." 

"As a civil libertarian, I'm opposed to drones," one speaker added. "But as a journalist, I can't wait to get my own drone so I can spy on city politicians and monitor and record police operations in Berkeley." 

One speaker held up a copy of the March 2013 National Geographic and read some choice excerpts: 

 

Even when controlled by skilled, well-intentioned operators, drones can pose a hazard -- that’s what the FAA is concerned about. The safety record of military drones is not reassuring. Since 2001, according to the Air Force, its three main UAVs -- the Predator, Global Hawk, and Reaper -- have been involved in at least 120 "mishaps," 76 of which destroyed the drone. The statistics don’t include drones operated by the other branches of the military or the CIA. Nor do they include drone attacks that accidentally killed civilians or US or allied troops…. 

GPS is vulnerable…. Its signals can be blocked by buildings or deliberately jammed. In December 2011, when a CIA drone crashed in Iran, authorities there claimed they had diverted it by hacking its GPS…. 

[Dave] Raquet [a lab technician] demonstrates … with a square drone powered by rotors at each corner. On the first try the drone, buzzing like a nest of enraged hornets, flips over. On the second it crashes into a wall. “This demonstrates the need for trust,” Raquet says with a strained smile. 

A Pandora's Box Filled with Drones 

It wasn't until well into the final hour of the debate that the two camps were able to find some common ground. Speaking from the audience, AUSVI's Chet Hartridge (seeming to sense the overwhelming consensus) conceded: "I believe in the Forth Amendment. I don't want to be photographed in the nude in my backyard either." 

After listening to the evening's testimony (which clearly favored declaring Berkeley a "No Drone Zone"), Drone Subcommittee Chair Bob Meola announced that he had been convinced the Commission should return to its original demand for an outright ban on drones within the city boundaries. (Hobbyists still would be allowed to fly small drones over non-residential recreational areas.) 

Another commissioner asked what would happen if the County bought a drone and tried to fly it through Berkeley's airspace. The answer came from a woman in the audience: "Shoot it down!" she hollered. This prompted another Commissioner to surmise that, if drones were ever flown over Oakland, "they would be used for target practice!" 

These comments brought some welcome mirth to the high-stakes battle to keep the city's skies drone-free. As one participant noted: "If we can't stop drones in Berkeley, where can you stop this technology?" 

But the unique -- and looming -- threat of drones is not a laughing matter. 

Returning to that National Geographic story, here are some additional passages the speaker did not have time to read into the record: 

What, one might ask, will prevent terrorists and criminals from getting their hands on some kind of lethal drone? Although American officials rarely discuss the threat in public, they take it seriously. The militant Islamic group Hezbollah, based in Lebanon, says it has obtained drones from Iran.  

Last November, a federal court sentenced a Massachusetts man to 17 years in prison for plotting to attack Washington, D.C., with drones loaded with C-4 explosives…. 

The answer to the threat of drone attacks, some engineers say, is more drones. “The new field is counter-UAVs….” [designed to] enable one UAV to spot and destroy another, either by ramming it or shooting it down. 

Just imagine how profitable a Global Drone War on Drones could become! 

You can watch the entire Town Forum on YouTube:


Opinion

Editorials

Berkeley Council Plots Squelching
the Man Who Knows Too Much
About Land Use

By Becky O'Malley
Thursday May 16, 2013 - 07:12:00 PM

The darkest deeds are done in the dead of night. That’s why it’s often a good idea to check out the last item on the online video of the Berkeley City Council meetings. Yes, if you’re a political junky you can watch the council in real time on your home computer (or godforbid even attend in person) but you have to be badly addicted to stay awake until the wee small hours when the powers-that-wanna-be take up their worst proposals. 

Of course, for Berkeley’s elderly councilmembers, the wee small hours are only between 10 and midnight, but by that time many watchers have tuned out, from sheer boredom if nothing else. I finally got around to checking out last week’s council meeting over the weekend, but watching the last item left me nothing but confused. 

I admit, I didn’t go back and review previous iterations, but it appeared that Councilmembers Capitelli and Wengraf wanted to make sure that some appointees to city commissions don’t outstay their welcome. Needless to say, however, who you welcome depends on who you are. Or who you work for. 

Councilmember Max Anderson, the master of pungent prose, got it right: “ Let's just snatch the veil off this stuff. This is pure political opportunism, that's what it is.” 

Yup. 

After exhaustive study of the online video to figure out what the city council seemed to be doing, I decided that what Councilmember Capitelli is really trying to do is eliminate The Man Who Knows Too Much, Gene Poschman, from the Planning Commission. Capitelli and Poschman locked horns many times when they served together on the Planning Commission and the Zoning Adjustment Board, a total of 8 years if not more. 

It’s no coincidence that the four targeted commissions, Planning, ZAB, Landmarks Preservation and the Housing Advisory Committee (HAC) are concerned with land use, the only area where local governments have retained real power. The land use speculators who have descended on Berkeley like a swarm of locusts in recent years are terrified of Poschman, with good reason, even though he’s a genial fellow. 

He’s a political scientist, a retired professor who used to work as a staffer in the state legislature, who has an intimate understanding of the intricacies of planning and zoning laws. The myriad developer-funded schemes to wrest control of Berkeley land use from public oversight might have succeeded in many, many instances without Gene’s eagle eye on what was going down. Measure T, the West Berkeley rezoning effort turned down by the voters in November, is the latest example, but there have been numerous similar land grabs attempted and thwarted during Poschman’s public service era. 

Capitelli used to be a developer, and he’s still in the real estate business. A cursory review of his list of campaign contributors reveals many familiar names of his development industry colleagues. That’s a crowd that likes to get their own way in the public process, and having a knowledgeable policy wonk like the good professor Poschman on Berkeley’s land use decision bodies is bound to annoy them. 

Those who pay the piper call the tune, and it’s clear that Capitelli is playing the developers’ song with this proposal. 

What specifically does he propose? Well, here’s how he described his amendment at the council meeting last week: 

 

“Refer to the city manager an amendment to BMC 3.02.040 that imposes an eight-year cumulative -- eight cumulative years in any ten-year period--cumulative term limit for all commissioners serving on the LPC, the HAC, the ZAB, and the Planning Commission, currently subject to an eight-year consecutive term limit and whose service commenced on or before… September 1, 2006.’ I also would insert "and all future commissioners."  

So we're not just talking about commissioners that are serving now but all future commissioners. 

And the September 1, 2006 date would extend this, then, to September 1 of 2014, providing a transition period for those who are exceeding the limit.” 

 

So, now that that’s perfectly clear—not to me, but maybe to the councilmembers—let’s see why Capitelli said he wanted these changes: 

“Number one, there are rarely vacancies on any of these four boards that I identified.
Number two, there are lots of people, including commissioners who I have appointed who will be moving on after eight years.
Number three, it's the intended policy of this council to have an eight-year limit, and there happens to be a big loophole in it, which I object to.”
No data to support the first two assertions was provided, and Councilmember Worthington said they were incorrect as far as his own appointees were concerned, , but policy wonk Poschman, in a two minute public comment slot, offered a reality check on Number Three. He actually did the numbers and tried to explain them to a confused and largely innumerate council. 

 

The bottom line is that in the time period he studied, perhaps 1.6% of the commissioners, perhaps 8 individuals total, benefited from the so-called “big loophole”. Or put another way 98 or 99% of the commissioners served 8 years or less according to the standard formula,. 

Not only that, most of the small number of commissioners who arranged to get reappointed after serving close to 8 years did so because they were in the midst of working on specific projects like the Downtown Plan which they wanted to complete before stepping down. Councilmember Susan Wengraf, Capitelli’s co-sponsor for this proposal, took advantage of the loophole herself to get reappointed to the Planning Commission at least once. 

But it just so happens that all those complicated words have just one function: they exactly delineate the terms of just four sitting commissioners, Poschman the most prominent among them. 

The irony underlying this whole chaotic discussion is that a sizable percentage of the sitting councilmembers have been in office much, much longer that the commissioners they propose to fire. A couple of them,Wengraf and Moore, had been aides to previous councilmembers before they were elected in their own right, giving them fingers in the pie for a very very long time indeed. 

The usual argument against term limits of any kind is that the expertise officeholders develop is wasted if they are automatically dumped. Those who watch Sacramento politics often comment that the legislators there are increasingly dominated by lobbyists, since they’ve just learned the ropes before they’re sent home. 

And even the most avid proponents of term limits for legislators rarely support term limits for judges, since judges really need to understand what they’re doing-their years on the bench educate them in the law and the subject matter. 

That’s why choosing to kick commissioners off Berkeley’s four quasi-judicial bodies is particularly foolish. It takes a good while for many ZAB members to grasp what’s meant by arcane acronyms like FAR and C2A. 

If any kind of term limits is needed, it’s term limits for councilmembers that should be under discussion. Incumbents are automatically re-elected time after time after time, which is why only one of nine is under 50 in a town full of students. 

Mayor Bates should be well aware of the arguments pro and con, since after 24 years in the state legislature he sued to defeat the term limits imposed on those bodies, carrying his suit all the way to the Supreme Court before it lost. Under the circumstances, he should be embarrassed to try to get a Berkeley planning commissioner (and longtime supporter) with a great deal of accumulated knowledge and institutional memory knocked off after only eight years on the job. 

Ultimately, last week the council abandoned the confused discussion so they could go home to bed, postponing it until next Tuesday’s meeting. It will be interesting to see what happens. 

If you’re a policy wonk yourself, you could watch the excerpt below, decide whether you think Professor Poschman should be fired from the Planning Commission, and call or write your councilmember with your opinion before Tuesday. I can’t promise, however, that they’ll pay you any mind—it doesn’t usually work that way in Berkeley any more. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 









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The Editor's Back Fence

Berkeley Assemblymember Nancy Skinner Pays to Play with Democrats in the California Legislature

Thursday May 16, 2013 - 04:31:00 PM

The Sunday Chronicle headlined a juicy story from the Center for Investigative Reporting over the weekend: Speaker Perez Gave Top Donors Plum Posts.

On the CIR website, this was the title:

California speaker gives Assembly's juiciest jobs to biggest fundraisers

And Berkeleyans will be interested to learn some information that for some reason was cut from the Chron’s version of the story: our own Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, now termed out of the Assembly, expected to be tapped by the queenmakers to succeed Loni Hancock as State Senator, is one of the big players (and the big payers) in this pay-to-play system. 

Here’s the paragraph from the CIR version that the Chronicle left out: 

“Nancy Skinner of Berkeley gave $201,000 to the targets. She continues to serve as chairwoman of the Rules Committee, a post that is part of Pérez’s leadership team, and sits on two juice committees: Business, Professions and Consumer Protection, which supervises occupational licensing and state regulatory agencies; and Utilities and Commerce, which regulates energy companies and public utilities. She is a former Berkeley City Council member and environmental activist. Of her fundraising, Skinner wrote in a statement: ‘I am enthusiastic to support our Caucus efforts to elect great Assemblymembers.’ “ 

This is how CIR senior reporter Lance Williams describes the scheme: 

“In May 2012 and again in June, Speaker John A. Pérez wrote memos to Democrats in the California Assembly. He wanted millions in campaign cash to win a handful of key races. 

“At stake, Pérez wrote, was their party’s control of the Assembly – and, as it turned out, the perks and power enjoyed by the lawmakers themselves. 

‘It is critical that we band together to maximize our financial resources,’ the burly Los Angeles legislative leader wrote in the memos, copies of which were obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting. 

“The lawmakers gave Pérez what he wanted, state campaign finance records show. 

“Exploiting loopholes in a law enacted to stanch the flow of big money in state politics, the Assembly Democrats pumped $5.8 million into the campaigns Pérez designated, a CIR data analysis shows. The infusion of cash helped the Democrats win a supermajority in the Capitol: two-thirds control of the Legislature for the first time since 1883. 

“The system also paid off for the speaker’s biggest fundraisers in the Assembly. 

“According to the data, Pérez gave lawmakers who raised the most money the best assignments in the new Legislature – posts on the speaker’s leadership team and seats on the powerful “juice committees.” 

One of whom, it turns out, was Nancy Skinner. 

Go to the CIR website to read the full story. It’s curious that the Chronicle version omitted her role, since Berkeley is still a relatively strong readership area for a paper whose circulation is steadily shrinking.  


Cartoons

Odd Bodkins: The man who wrestled furniture (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Thursday May 16, 2013 - 04:40:00 PM

 

Dan O'Neill

 


Odd Bodkins: Number 47 (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Thursday May 16, 2013 - 04:34:00 PM

 

Dan O'Neill

 


Public Comment

The State of Equality and Justice in America: The Presumption of Guilt

By Congressman John Lewis and Bryan Stevenson
Friday May 17, 2013 - 10:14:00 AM

"The State of Equality and Justice in America" is a 20-part series of columns written by an all star list of contributors to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. The contributors include: U. S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) LCCRUL 50th Anniversary Grand Marshal; Ms. Barbara Arnwine, President and Executive Director, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (LCCRUL); Mr. Charles Ogletree, Professor, Harvard University Law School/Director, Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice; the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr., President/CEO, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition; the Rev. Joseph Lowery, Co-founder, Southern Christian Leadership Conference; U. S. Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.); and 14 additional thought leaders and national advocates for equal justice. 

 

Here's the 15th op-ed of the series: 

 

 

U. S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.)
Bryan Stevenson
Bryan Stevenson 

After serving 42 years in an Arizona prison for a crime he didn't commit, a 58-year-old man was finally released this April. When Louis Taylor was just 16, he ventured out of his comfort zone to try a happy hour advertised by an upscale Tucson hotel, a typical foray for an adventurous teenage boy. Unfortunately, that night a fire broke out that ultimately claimed 29 lives. In that moment, Taylor stopped being typical and became extraordinary. He did not run from the danger as most people would. Instead he took responsibility. He was spotted during the crisis busily helping people escape the flames, escorting guests to safety and assisting people on stretchers. 

Ordinarily, he would have been hailed a teenage hero for demonstrating a civic duty only expected of grown men. Yet eyewitness accounts of his beyond-the-call-of-duty service were not credited as outstanding demonstrations of good character. To police and even some bystanders his very presence made him automatically suspect. More than the possibility that he could have saved someone's life, people were consumed by their sense that he "did not belong in a fancy Tucson hotel". 

 

The forensic evidence suggested faulty electrical wiring or some building defect as the likely cause, not arson, but scientific facts could not derail a hardwired determination that because Taylor was black, he had to be at fault. His youth, his innocence, and even his dramatic work to save and comfort the victims were imperceptible and irrelevant. 

 

Outraged citizens wanted the death penalty. A profiler was brought in who swore under oath that the likely perpetrator was "a black teenager." Taylor was convicted by an all-white jury and sentenced to multiple life sentences, ensuring he would die in prison. Fortunately, the Arizona Justice Project recently took up the case. New research from the National Academy of Science proved there was no evidence of arson in the fire. Wrongly convicted, Taylor was finally released-42 years later. 

 

It would be hard to call Mr. Taylor lucky, but the truth is thousands just like him, including innocent children, are being victimized by a presumption of guilt that never sees black and brown youth as blameless, as engaged in proverbial "good, clean, fun", as harmless. Instead it attributes to them every violence and vice, even if those suspicions contradict the facts. 

 

For nearly 50 years, starting in the 1920s, America maintained a prison population of close to 200,000 people. Today we have the highest incarceration rate in the world with 2.3 million people in jails or prison. One out of three black boys born in 2001 is likely to serve time in jail or prison during his lifetime. Half of our incarcerated are imprisoned for non-violent drug crimes. While African American and Latino teens are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol than whites, they are 3-4 times more likely to be arrested, convicted or sent to jail or prison for non-violent drug offenses. The violent crime rate in America is the same as it was in 1968, yet our prison system has grown by over 500 percent.  

 

The presumption of guilt follows too many poor and minority children to school, a place where children should be nurtured and supported, not criminalized and incarcerated. Yet the pipeline from school to jail is so insidious, many parents now fear schools as much as they fear the criminal justice system. 

 

In 2012, the Justice Department sued school officials in Meridian, Mississippi for systematically incarcerating black and disabled children for days at a time for minor dress code infractions like wearing the wrong color socks or talking back to the teacher. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, children have been expelled for giving Midol to classmates, bringing household goods to school for Goodwill donations and scissors to class for an art project. Recently, one black Florida during a science experiment. 

 

Children as young as five years old are being led out of classrooms in handcuffs for acting out or throwing temper tantrums. They have been arrested for throwing an eraser at a teacher, breaking a pencil, and having rap lyrics in a locker. Black children constitute 18 percent of the nation's public school population but 40% of the children who are suspended or expelled. 

 

In Arizona, Alabama, Georgia and a growing number of states, legally sanctioned racial profiling has been resurrected leading Latinos particularly, and other U.S citizens of color, to fear harassment, suspicion and detention. 

 

In New York City between 2002 to 2011, 90 percent of the city's notorious 'stop and frisk' victims have been Black and Latino residents. In 88 percent of those stops, people of color were found to be innocent of any wrongdoing. 

 

In the year when this nation will celebrate the Supreme Court's historic ruling to create a right to counsel for indigent people accused of crimes, protections for the poor and innocent are almost non-existent. In a courtroom, where justice should be blind, the presumption of guilt is especially dangerous. Today too many innocent prisoners like Taylor are trapped by systemic pressure to plead guilty in a system where 96 percent of all convictions are rendered by plea bargains. 

 

The Innocent Defendant's Dilemma, a recent study, describes how the blameless, particularly those who are poor, find it an onerous, nearly impossible burden to prove their innocence. With few resources for defense, they find themselves trapped by a system that presumes their guilt. Since the odds seem hopelessly stacked against them, many innocent individuals reluctantly plead guilty to avoid the longest prison terms or even death. Innocent victims lose years in prison, face rejection because of criminal records, and many never reach their potential. 

 

We have come a great distance in the last 50 years, but we still have not fully escaped the miseducation and distortions created by America's policies of racial injustice. These problems demand remedies, and we must admit this nation may require some form of therapy before we can freely reconcile ourselves to a better future informed by the truth surrounding present human rights abuses and those of the past. 

 

Despite progress, in the last 50 years we have retreated from an honest conversation about racial and economic justice, and have opted instead for mass criminalization and incarceration leaving many poor and minority people marginalized and condemned. As Taylor's story reminds us, out of sight is hardly out of mind. It is an abysmal violation of human dignity. 

 

 

U. S. Rep. John Lewis has represented the 5th Congressional District of Georgia since 1987. An iconic civil rights leader and recipient of a 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom, he is the only living person who was actually a speaker at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Bryan Stevenson is executive director and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative and a professor of law at New York University. 

 

This article - the fifteenth of a 20-part series - is written in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, of which Congressman Lewis is grand marshal. The Lawyers' Committee is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to enlist the private bar's leadership and resources in combating racial discrimination and the resulting inequality of opportunity - work that continues to be vital today. For more information, please visit www.lawyerscommittee.org. 

 

 

 


Reopen Willard Pool?

By Larry Bensky
Thursday May 16, 2013 - 01:56:00 PM

[Editor's note: this piece originally was published in the East Bay Express. The editor thoroughly enjoyed it and secured the author's permission to reprint it here. ]

While it is certainly understandable that many people are upset, if not disgusted, at the opening of yet another big box chain store in Berkeley, it would not be fair to see the Derby/Telegraph CVS as the same old/new thing.

We should recognize that, due to the foresight and leadership of Berkeley's city government, on many levels, we now have a situation many of us can applaud. Led by Mayor Tom Bates and city staff, an arrangement was negotiated with CVS to reopen the now closed, and very much missed, Willard Pool as a condition for building and use permits for the CVS just across the street.

While such arrangements are common in many other cities, it's been a long time since we saw one in supposedly progressive Berkeley. 

Sure, it's in CVS's interest to have a pool used each year by thousands of people just across the street. Sales of things such as sunscreen, goggles, swimsuits, towels, snacks, drinks, etc. to the mostly young users of the pool will be considerable. Team T-shirts, etc., for the newly revived Willard Middle School boys and girls swim teams will also be a big profit item for CVS. 

Unfortunately, no visible progress seems to have been made toward reopening the pool this summer. Therefore, dozens of young Berkeley residents will not be able to get desperately needed jobs as lifeguards and pool attendants. And hundreds of kids will not have the traditional swimming classes and relief from hot days that Willard has provided in the past. 

But the knowledge that funding has come from a private source will no doubt help Berkeley city government overcome its reluctance to spend city funds in the public interest, and get busy soon to restore what never should have been lost. 

If you'd like to thank Mayor Bates for his leadership on this issue, and encourage him and city staff to reopen the pool as quickly as possible, his office phone is 510-981-7100. Individual city councilmembers may be contacted via their web sites.


New: Berkeley Fair Campaign Practices Commission to Act on Most Egregious Violations of Local Election Laws

By Alejandro Soto-Vigil
Thursday May 16, 2013 - 01:17:00 PM

Berkeley Tenants United for Fairness”, a pro-landlord slate, has admitted numerous violations of state and local campaign finance laws The violations committed by TUFF are some of the most egregious in Berkeley history and could pave the way for other violations in the future, and undermine the letter and spirit of Berkeley’s voter approved Election Reform Act. 

Berkeley’s Fair Campaign Practices Commission, charged with enforcing the city’s voter approved Election Reform Act, will be acting on a complaint Thursday night against “Berkeley Tenants United for Fairness” a slate mailer organization (SMO) created in the 2012 election, who has admitted numerous violations of state and local campaign finance and disclosure laws.  

TUFF’s use of a Slate Mailer Organization (SMO) to circumvent local election laws has raised the concern of the Berkeley Fair Campaign Practices Commission who will also be looking into establishing local rules to regulate SMOs. 

In response to a complaint filed, the City Attorney’s office is recommending that the commission approve a stipulation with TUFF that admits guilt for a wide range of state and local campaign violations in exchange for paying $4,000 in penalties. According to estimates by City staff, potential penalties for the violations committed by TUFF would normally result in tens of thousands of dollars in fines. 

Berkeley Tenants United for Fairness is a slate mailer organization created last fall to support four candidates for the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board: Jay James, Judy Hunt, Nicole Drake and Kiran Shenoy. Jay James was named as an officer of the committee and all four candidates had control over the content of mailers sent out, according to campaign filings. 

While misleadingly calling themselves “Tenants” United for Fairness, in fact the four person slate included a landlord (Judy Hunt) and a rent-stabilized tenant (Jay James) who also owns a 20% interest in a real estate LLC. All four candidates were supported by Berkeley Property Owners Association President Sid Lakireddy and landlord and real estate interests. Mr. Lakireddy also fundraised for TUFF and campaigned for all four candidates. These candidates campaigned on a platform which would have undermined Berkeley’s voter approved Rent Stabilization Ordinance, and hurt thousands of renters in Berkeley. 

TUFF received more than $50,000 in contributions from large property owners and corporate interests. However in the process of accepting contributions, it broke several laws. According to investigative reports, the role of candidate Jay James as an officer of the SMO made it a candidate committee, and therefore subject to local laws, including the city contribution limit of $250 per candidate and prohibitions on business contributions. Yet TUFF accepted thousands of dollars in donations and money from businesses. 

City staff, in a draft stipulation prepared for the Commission’s review, agreed that TUFF “accepted contributions from prohibited business sources …which were used for the benefit of the four candidates.” 

In the stipulation, City staff also notes the four TUFF candidates violated the letter and spirit of the Berkeley Election Reform Act namely “receipts and expenditures in municipal election campaigns should be fully and truthfully disclosed in order that the voters may be fully informed and improper practices may be inhibited.” The candidates disclosed contributions received through the TUFF SMO as much as two months after the filing deadline. 


What: Berkeley Fair Campaign Practices Commission vote on complaint against Tenants United for Fairness 

Where: North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Avenue, Classroom C, Berkeley 

When: Thursday, May 16, 2013, 7:00 pm


New: OUTRAGEOUS! Berkeley's City Staff has essentially endorsed corruption by failing to hold TUFF and the BPOA accountable

By Fred Dodsworth
Thursday May 16, 2013 - 01:16:00 PM

Berkeley's Fair Campaign Practices Commission must hold the "Tenants' United for Fairness" TUFF slate — a dark-money stalking horse for the Berkeley Property Owners Association — accountable and punish these flagrant violations in a substantial fashion that sends a loud clear message to those who would destroy our local democracy! 

Anything short of fining the TUFF Slate substantially MORE than that fake slate acquired through illegal, coordinated contributions will simply encourage additional economic/electoral excesses in all subsequent elections and substitute a pervasive culture of corruption for the culture of community involvement and concern which Berkeley is nationally known for. 

Punish those who would destroy our democracy or the responsibility for this death of democracy lies at your feet. 

The famous story goes that as Benjamin Franklin was emerging from Independence Hall, after helping to craft our Constitution and coalesce the necessary support to enact our democracy a woman approached him and asked: "Doctor Franklin. What have we got? A Representative Republic or a monarchy?" Our founding father replied: "A Republic, madam, if you can keep it." 

Shine a light on the filth and decay, the corrupting, immoral, perverted monsters who hide their destructive monetary influences in the dark of shadows of corrupt but influential organizations which would deny us all representation. Support freedom. Support democracy. Support the values we believe in, have fought for and have bleed for, by holding those accountable who would do us such great damage.


Statement in Support of a Citywide "No Drone Zone"

By Gar Smith / Environmentalists Against War (www.envirosagainstwar.org)
Monday May 13, 2013 - 10:30:00 AM

Environmentalists Against War is a global coalition of more than 100 environmental, peace, and social justice groups committed to addressing the impacts of war and militarism. 

We are opposed to the introduction of police and commercial drones in US cities. We are opposed to the militarization of the commons by private corporations that hope to profit by filling the urban environment with surveillance drones. 

The FAA currently has no plans to prevent potential collisions with drones. Despite these unresolved safety concerns, Congress has moved to legalize domestic drones within three years. Government incentives will be used to encourage the country's 18,000 police departments to purchase spy-drones. 

By 2030, as many as 30,000 remote-controlled mini-aircraft are projected to fill US skies. Military contractors anticipate the domestic market for drones designed to spy-on-the-fly could become a $30 billion industry by 2015. 

Drones are already being used by paparazzi to stalk celebrities on the French Riviera. Drones are already being used in the US. The Pentagon's Reaper drones (the same kind used by the US to kill "targets" in the Middle East and Africa) are currently deployed along the US-Mexican border. Ten years ago, I reported on the existence of the Flybot, a Pentagon drone capable of hovering between buildings and remotely firing grenades and chemical weapons to suppress civil unrest. 

In the US, entrepreneurs want to use 100-pound drones to deliver pizzas. Like all machines, drones fail. As Wired magazine editor and former Berkeley resident Chris Anderson has observed, when drones fall from the sky they become "flying lawnmowers." Last September, a US Predator drone suffered an "inexplicable engine failure" over Afghanistan and was intentionally flown into a mountainside. Cost to taxpayers: $3.8 million. 

Aerovironment, a major US drone maker, has produced spy drones in the shape of hummingbirds and sparrows able to "perch-and-peep" on unsuspecting civilian targets. Some Pentagon drones are the size of flies. Aerovironment's Switchblade drone—a "robotic kamikaze" the size of a rolled-up magazine—can be quickly weaponized to drop bombs or fire rockets at a human target. 

Individuals and groups like Team Blacksheep have already flown spy drones over and around potential terrorist targets — including the Statue of Liberty and the Golden Gate Bridge. Even the most sophisticated drone can be hacked by a potential terrorist. In 2011, Iran famously seized electronic control of a Predator drone—which is now proudly on display in Tehran. 

As the conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer has stated: "I'm very concerned we're at the beginning of a revolution in surveillance that will not stop. It's like having a permanent camera over everybody's head, in every street, forever." 

For these reasons we support the adoption of the No Drone Zone resolution.


Columns

THE PUBLIC EYE: Who’s to Blame for Long-Term Unemployment?

By Bob Burnett
Friday May 17, 2013 - 10:08:00 AM

May 3rd brought news that the unemployment rate has dipped to 7.5 percent and there’s been an alarming rise in the suicide rate for middle-aged Americans. According to the Center for Disease Control, “The [suicide] increase does coincide with a decrease in financial standing for a lot of families…” 4.35 million Americans have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks. Whose fault is this? 

As a result of “the great recession,” U.S. unemployment peaked at 10.2 percent in October of 2009. Since, the job situation has steadily improved. The economy is recovering, but not as fast as many had hoped. 

4.35 million workers have been jobless for more than 26 weeks. Although the total is down from 6.7 million in April of 2010, this trend is little consolation to forlorn jobseekers who typically have been without employment for 36.5 weeks. 

Many observers believe the situation is actually grimmer because of the millions of workers who are no longer included in the labor force statistic because they are “discouraged” or “marginally attached.” One of these is George Ross, whose story was in the San Francisco Chronicle. Ross, an information technology specialist, has been out of work for two years, but quit looking because he has to care for his son, a disabled Afghanistan War veteran. 

There are two competing economic explanations for long-term unemployment. Structural unemployment postulates long-term unemployment results from the changed nature of the labor market: it argues there are jobs available but the long-term jobless don’t have the proper skills. However, a recent paper by economists Edward Lazear and James Spletzer disputed this: “An analysis of labor market data suggests that there are no structural changes that can explain movements in unemployment rates over recent years. Neither industrial nor demographic shifts nor a mismatch of skills with job vacancies is behind the increased rates of unemployment.” Furthermore, the number of unemployed persons per job opening is high: “When the most recent recession began (December 2007), the number of unemployed persons per job opening was 1.8. When the recession ended (June 2009), there were 6.2 unemployed persons.” Currently the metric is 3.1. 

The second economic explanation is cyclical unemployment. Lazear and Spletzer said, “The patterns observed are consistent with unemployment being caused by cyclic phenomena that are more pronounced during the current recession.” Writing in the New York Times Nelson Schwartz observed, “the jobless rate remains far higher than it typically would be this far into a recovery…While the private sector has been on the upswing since last summer, cutbacks in government employment continue to prevent a stronger acceleration in the economy.” 

The cyclical explanation has three components. Writing in the Washington Post Zachary Goldfarb blamed weak economic conditions, “Several years after the end of the recession, more than 10 million people still owe more on their homes than their properties are worth… [Studies] have shown that carrying a high debt leads consumers to spend less and save more, depriving the economy of its traditional engine of growth.” 

Furthermore, because of economic uncertainty Employers are taking longer to fill job openings. Writing in the New York Times Catherine Rampell noted, “vacancies are staying unfilled much longer than they used to – an average of 23 business days today compared to a low of 15 in mid-2009.” 

And there’s systemic bias against the long-term unemployed. Bloomberg News reported, “When researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston sent fake resumes to employers with job openings, the length of time candidates had been out of work mattered more than their job experience in determining who got called in for an interview.” That’s the experience described by software developer, Geoffrey Weglarz, on a recent PBS News Hour. Weglarz has been out of work for two years, has applied for 481 jobs, and has run out of money. 

Who’s to blame for America’s long-term unemployment problem? 

The primary fault lies with failed conservative economic policy. Beginning with the Reagan administration, Republicans were guided by three malignant notions: helping the rich get richer would inevitably help everyone else; markets were inherently self correcting and therefore there was no need for government regulation; and the US did not need an economic strategy because the free market would fix our problems. This ideology led the Bush Administration to ignore the housing bubble and Wall Street malfeasance and caused the great recession of 2008. 

Unfortunately, Republicans can’t admit their philosophy was wrong. They cling to Reaganomics and contend that government is the problem. Even worse, Republicans have no sympathy for the unemployed. Republican presidential candidate, Herman Cain, told the Wall Street Journal, “If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself.” 

President Obama has tried to do the right thing, both for the economy and the unemployed, but has had no support from Republicans. That situation is unlikely to change until Democrats control Congress. 


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


ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Inadequate Coping Skills

By Jack Bragen
Thursday May 16, 2013 - 03:33:00 PM

When someone, anyone, experiences emotional distress, they have an instinctive reaction to try to alleviate or get away from that. When someone with a severe mental illness experiences distress or perhaps painful emotions, they may have a lot of difficulty coping with it. 

Some persons with mental illness, not all of us, do not have good systems for dealing with the stresses of life or with emotional pain or distress. This could be one of the factors that caused getting ill to begin with. (This is not to dismiss the role of a genetic predisposition.) 

Overwhelming emotions can cause some persons with mental illness to become destabilized including when they are taking their prescribed medication. Some turn to illicit drugs in a misguided effort to somehow feel better. This causes them to embark on an entirely new set of problems. Others have different behavior problems which are a desperate attempt to obtain relief. 

When emotional pain is constant, it can cause the bearer to lose hope. The suffering of medication side effects (or that of depression, which can also be caused by some medications) can be unbearable and can seem to never go away. This can lead to despair, which can then trigger becoming destabilized. Becoming medication noncompliant may sometimes follow this. 

A person with mental illness may be triggered into a full relapse by an extremely upsetting event or series of events. When this happens, the relapse is sometimes delayed from a few weeks to a few months after the triggering event. I had a relapse in 1984, about three months after being held up at gunpoint (for eleven hours, alone) in a robbery at one of the supermarkets where I worked. 

Excessively strong emotions can be poisonous for someone with mental illness, especially if their stability is fragile to begin with. The death of a loved one can lead to becoming unstable, if the person can't handle the grief that comes with that. Jealousy can be destabilizing, if the person experiences that emotion strongly. Becoming too fearful can definitely trigger becoming paranoid. Excessive anxiety, which is its own symptom of mental illness, can lead to other symptoms. 

Once the symptoms of mental illness have been triggered, they in turn can cause a greater volume of painful, fearful or angry emotions, and these new emotions can cause becoming even more symptomatic. In this way, getting destabilized can snowball. 

Medication may work through lowering the "volume" of thoughts in general, even though the problem that needs to be dealt with may be local to one or two sites within the brain. This could be a reason why medications work so imperfectly, and also why medications, although they are often needed, can do a lot to make life more difficult. 

To deal with painful emotions, I have invented my own brand of meditation which for me works some of the time. Having a method of meditation that even sometimes works means that, when upset, my "will" is directed toward meditation. This, for me, is a very good path, when I could have otherwise been at a loss for how to deal with suffering. Most persons with mental illness may not be able to do meditation like this. I am lucky to have this coping skill. 

However, other coping skills can be taught to persons with mental illness, such as deep breathing or other methods in a psychotherapist's tool bag. Not all psychotherapists are evil, and I have met some who are quite good. When times are tough, a person with mental illness ought to take extra steps to take care of one's self. This could include getting extra support from family, friends and mental health professionals, getting plenty of rest, and not trying anything excessively difficult. 

When someone with mental illness gets closer to becoming well, oftentimes they have a lot more emotions that come up to consciousness, emotions that were previously dealt with by getting symptomatic. 

Learning healthy channels for dealing with painful emotions, the stresses of life, and painful truths is an important, long term step in progress toward some level of recovery. 

* * * 

As always, my books are available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle format, including but not limited to: "Instructions for Dealing with Schizophrenia-a Self Help Manual," and "Jack Bragen's Essays on Mental Illness." I can be reached with your comments at: bragenkjack@yahoo.com


SENIOR POWER:fallen…

By Helen Rippier Wheeler, pen136@dslextreme.com
Thursday May 16, 2013 - 03:32:00 PM

Maybe it's true that life begins at 50... but everything else starts to wear out, fall out, or spread out. That’s according to Phyllis Diller. She was ninety-five years old when she died last year, a devotee of cosmetic surgery, and a strong woman.  

A lot of fallen senior and mid-life citizens no longer laugh at the old saw about the shortest time span, said to be between the traffic light turning green and the driver behind you honking. The shortest time span is between falling and landing hard on the cement! Some (myself included) have found the time between tripping and landing to be the longest time span. One is thinking “Oh, no” and sometimes, “Oh, no. Not again.” Taint funny, McGee.  

The real risk and potential complications of falls can be exceeded by the morbid fear associated with going to the ground. And it’s a circular problem — studies have shown the fear of falling actually increases the risk of falling. 

Sex and the City’s fictional columnist Carrie Bradshaw observed that “When you're young, your whole life is about the pursuit of fun. Then, you grow up and learn to be cautious. You could break a bone or a heart. You look before you leap and sometimes you don't leap at all because there's not always someone there to catch you. And in life, there's no safety net. When did it stop being fun and start being scary?”  

That older people take more time to cross the street is a fact. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study showed the risk of pedestrian death increasing slowly through life and peaking with people over age 75; they are more than twice as likely to be killed by a car than are people overall. Better safety generally would make walking safer for older people. Better crosswalks, raised medians, enforcement of speed limits and pedestrian right-of-way, and car-free zones. Crossing signals need to be altered so that people -- seniors are people -- have sufficient time to cross the street. Why men were found to be twice as likely as women to be killed as pedestrians may be due to men walking more often than women, as well as alcohol consumption.  

Falls are one of the top 10 causes of injury reported by California Hospitals’ Emergency Department 2011 data. This month an American Association for the Advancement of Science study reported an increase in fall-related traumatic brain injuries among elderly men and women. In Australia, where four times as many elderly die from falls, falls by the elderly are proving costly for hospital. 

Falls, osteoporosis, fractures, balance and hearing, joints and knees are often associated.  

Total knee arthroplasty (TKA -- knee replacement) is one of the most costly surgical procedures performed in the United States. It “is a common and safe procedure typically performed for relief of symptoms in patients with severe knee arthritis. Available data suggest that approximately 600,000 TKA procedures are performed annually in the United States at a cost of approximately $15,000 per procedure…” Medscape’s 2013 Physician Compensation Report is online: physicians are doing well and income is on the rise overall. About one third of the specialties surveyed each earned a mean of over $300,000 annually. This year's 3 top-earning specialties -- orthopedics, cardiology, and radiology -- were the same as in the 2012 Compensation Report. 

The increase in total knee arthroplasty procedures over the past 20 years has been driven by increases both in the number of Medicare enrollees and in per capita utilization, and by an aging population and an increasing prevalence of certain conditions that predispose patients to osteoarthritis, most notably obesity. While there has been a decrease in hospital length of stay for TKA -- the notorious three-day hospital stay -- there have been increased hospital readmission rates and increased rates of infectious complications. 

A senior citizen who resorts to a TKA has usually applied all the ‘simple reminders…’ that may help prevent fractures. Knee braces from the drugstore can, it is said, 'significantly' reduce pain of kneecap osteoarthritis for a while. Glucosamine chondroitin is in vogue. Pool exercise may build strength, reduce falls. 'Mobility shoes' take a load off for knee osteoarthritis sufferers. Physical therapy may delay surgery.  

A new study by researchers at the Hospital for Special Surgery reports spinal -- or epidural -- anesthesia, improves outcomes in patients undergoing hip or knee replacement. It was found that neuraxial anesthesia, a type of regional anesthesia, reduced morbidity, mortality, length of hospital stay and costs when compared with general anesthesia. [May 2013 Anesthesiology journal] Wasn’t this well known? 

It is essential that the total knee arthroplasty (TKA -- knee replacement) patient take command of her/his situation long before surgery. Try the delay tactics first. Then into the hospital. Here’s my seniorcitizenwithoutfamily-relevant checklist:  

Before hospitalization, discuss with the orthopedic surgeon your wish/need for: a morphine drip, no catheters, at least a week’s hospital stay, and thence to a “rehab,” i.e. not a nursing home. Ask her/him to write each into your hospital chart. Whether s/he will comply with your requests or even discuss them is another matter. 

Ask the anesthesiologist for spinal anesthetic and to make you unconscious during the procedure.  

Stay at least 2 weeks in the “rehab.”  

Follow up with a month’s physical therapy visits. 

“Dreamer!,” you respond, and several aspects may indeed be beyond the patient control. They shouldn’t be. Your primary care physician may be willing and able to intervene in your behalf.  

According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 98% of total knee replacement patients return to life and work following surgery.  

NEWS 

May 8, 2013 headline: Older New Yorkers Advocate for an Age Equality Budget. More than 350 older New Yorkers from senior centers descended on City Hall to advocate for $26 million in restorations to services funded through the Department for the Aging. These services directly impact the lives and those of their families, friends and neighbors.  

Senior citizen delegations, led by the Council of Senior Centers and Services (CSCS,) met with 45 of the 51 Councilmembers. CSCS Executive Director Igal Jellinek stated, “The community-based aging services network were first responders during and after Hurricane Sandy making 20,000 calls to homebound older adults, delivering meals-on-wheels and keeping senior centers operating and used as community warming centers. These services are more important than ever.” 

On May 13, 2013, the Vermont legislature passed the Patient Choice and Control at End of Life Act – a tremendous advance for citizens of the state and the entire movement. The bill is similar to Oregon’s law, but reduces requirements for patients after three years, when Vermont physicians may practice aid in dying under professional practice standards instead of procedures adopted by the legislature. This makes Vermont: the first legislature in the nation to approve death with dignity; the first state in the East and fourth in the nation affirmatively to permit aid in dying; and the first state to pass a bill that transitions to less government involvement. 

OWL (The Voice of Midlife and Older Women) reports that median income for older women is only $15,000 a year. Underemployment is much higher among older women -- 20.5%, than men - 7.2%. Seventy percent older Americans living in poverty are women.  


THE PUBLIC EYE: Who’s to Blame for Long-Term Unemployment?

By Bob Burnett
Monday May 13, 2013 - 10:21:00 AM

May 3rd brought news that the unemployment rate has dipped to 7.5 percent and there’s been an alarming rise in the suicide rate for middle-aged Americans. According to the Center for Disease Control, “The [suicide] increase does coincide with a decrease in financial standing for a lot of families…” 4.35 million Americans have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks. Whose fault is this? 

As a result of “the great recession,” U.S. unemployment peaked at 10.2 percent in October of 2009. Since, the job situation has steadily improved. The economy is recovering, but not as fast as many had hoped. 

4.35 million workers have been jobless for more than 26 weeks. Although the total is down from 6.7 million in April of 2010, this trend is little consolation to forlorn jobseekers who typically have been without employment for 36.5 weeks. 

Many observers believe the situation is actually grimmer because of the millions of workers who are no longer included in the labor force statistic because they are “discouraged” or “marginally attached.” One of these is George Ross, whose story was in the San Francisco Chronicle. Ross, an information technology specialist, has been out of work for two years, but quit looking because he has to care for his son, a disabled Afghanistan War veteran. 

There are two competing economic explanations for long-term unemployment. Structural unemployment postulates long-term unemployment results from the changed nature of the labor market: it argues there are jobs available but the long-term jobless don’t have the proper skills. However, a recent paper by economists Edward Lazear and James Spletzer disputed this: “An analysis of labor market data suggests that there are no structural changes that can explain movements in unemployment rates over recent years. Neither industrial nor demographic shifts nor a mismatch of skills with job vacancies is behind the increased rates of unemployment.” Furthermore, the number of unemployed persons per job opening is high: “When the most recent recession began (December 2007), the number of unemployed persons per job opening was 1.8. When the recession ended (June 2009), there were 6.2 unemployed persons.” Currently the metric is 3.1. 

The second economic explanation is cyclical unemployment. Lazear and Spletzer said, “The patterns observed are consistent with unemployment being caused by cyclic phenomena that are more pronounced during the current recession.” Writing in the New York Times Nelson Schwartz observed, “the jobless rate remains far higher than it typically would be this far into a recovery…While the private sector has been on the upswing since last summer, cutbacks in government employment continue to prevent a stronger acceleration in the economy.” 

The cyclical explanation has three components. Writing in the Washington Post Zachary Goldfarb blamed weak economic conditions, “Several years after the end of the recession, more than 10 million people still owe more on their homes than their properties are worth… [Studies] have shown that carrying a high debt leads consumers to spend less and save more, depriving the economy of its traditional engine of growth.” 

Furthermore, because of economic uncertainty Employers are taking longer to fill job openings. Writing in the New York Times Catherine Rampell noted, “vacancies are staying unfilled much longer than they used to – an average of 23 business days today compared to a low of 15 in mid-2009.” 

And there’s systemic bias against the long-term unemployed. Bloomberg News reported, “When researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston sent fake resumes to employers with job openings, the length of time candidates had been out of work mattered more than their job experience in determining who got called in for an interview.” That’s the experience described by software developer, Geoffrey Weglarz, on a recent PBS News Hour. Weglarz has been out of work for two years, has applied for 481 jobs, and has run out of money. 

Who’s to blame for America’s long-term unemployment problem? 

The primary fault lies with failed conservative economic policy. Beginning with the Reagan administration, Republicans were guided by three malignant notions: helping the rich get richer would inevitably help everyone else; markets were inherently self correcting and therefore there was no need for government regulation; and the US did not need an economic strategy because the free market would fix our problems. This ideology led the Bush Administration to ignore the housing bubble and Wall Street malfeasance and caused the great recession of 2008. 

Unfortunately, Republicans can’t admit their philosophy was wrong. They cling to Reaganomics and contend that government is the problem. Even worse, Republicans have no sympathy for the unemployed. Republican presidential candidate, Herman Cain, told the Wall Street Journal, “If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself.” 

President Obama has tried to do the right thing, both for the economy and the unemployed, but has had no support from Republicans. That situation is unlikely to change until Democrats control Congress. 


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


ECLECTIC RANT: Timeshares: Know What You Are Buying

By Ralph E. Stone
Monday May 13, 2013 - 10:34:00 AM

Mr. Smith received a mailer -- "3 Free Nights in Waikiki-Spend 3 nights in 4 star hotel-no purchase necessary." The mailer directed him to call the listed telephone number "to schedule your short presentation from ABC Resort." When he called the telephone number on the mailer, he was given a nearby address and time for him to attend the presentation. Both Mr. Smith and his wife showed up and were given a hard-sell sales presentation that while not illegal, bordered on the unethical. Instead of carefully reading the contract or better yet, taking it home and having their lawyer read it, the Smiths impulsively signed the contract obligating them to pay $20,000 for their timeshare. 

The Smiths received their voucher for 3 nights in Waikiki, but, of course, had to pay the airfare and the times were subject to availability.  

What is a timeshare anyway? It is the subdivision of condominium property into legal estates where occupancy rights are restricted to a number of days, usually seven, at specified or reserved times of the year. Timeshares are either owned in fee simple or nonfee. Under fee ownership, the purchaser receives an undivided interest in real estate, coupled with an exclusive but restricted right of occupancy. 

Timeshare fee ownership periods are either fixed or floating. Fixed time ownership is where the calendar year is divided into fifty-two one-week periods and property occupancy rights are assigned by week number. The owner of week thirty in a fixed-time timeshare property, for example, has the right to use week thirty forever. In a floating time arrangement, the calendar year has been divided into seasons. The owner of a floating time timeshare week has the right to occupy the property during any week within that season provided the resort can confirm the availability of that week.  

In a nonfee arrangement, the interest is contractual. The person buys a lease, license, or club membership (sometimes called a points-based vacation plan) that allows the person to use the property for a specific amount of time each year for a stated number of years. 

Many timeshare owners become a member of an exchange program, where the timeshare owner can, for example, "exchange" his Colorado resort timeshare for the use of a similar time period in a Florida resort. Exchange companies label time periods according to whether they are in high, mid, or low season. They also grade and rate each property to provide for an equal or fair exchange.  

Timeshare resort developers may both develop and sell timeshares. In other case, the developer will arrange for a company specializing in marketing and selling his timeshares. If done this way, marketing and sales cost can be 50 percent or more of the developers sales price. Let's look at the math. Assuming the developer can can build and furnish a two‑bedroom condominium unit for about $150,000 per unit. By dividing the unit into 50 one-week units and selling each unit for an average price of even as low as $10,000, the developer will gross $500,000 per unit. If the developer spends half this amount marketing the units ($250,000 per unit), the construction, sales, and marketing costs together will total $400,000, leaving $100,000 net income per unit.  

There are about 8 million timeshare owners in the United States. Annual sales volume in United States resorts has grown from about $291 million in 1978 to approximately $6.5 billion in 2011. The number of resorts has increased from 240 to about 1,500. In 2011, the average sales price for a timeshare was $18,401 with annual maintenance fees averaging $786. The states with the largest sales volume of timeshares are Florida, Hawaii, California, and South Carolina.  

Many owners of these timeshares are interested in selling. Thus, a timeshare resale market or secondary market has emerged over the years. Unfortunately, timeshare owners are usually competing with the highly sophisticated sales promotions of timeshare resort developers or marketers. In addition, timeshare owners are typically absentee owners who live some distance from their timeshares. Therefore, it is inconvenient for them to show their timeshares to potential buyers. Thus, timeshare owners frequently seek assistance from timeshare resale companies in selling their timeshares. While attempting to sell the timeshare, the owner will probably be responsible for maintenance fees, taxes, and finance charges. 

The timeshare buyer is paying an inflated price for his or her unit as about 50 percent of the price represents the developer's marketing and sales program. As there are many more trying to sell their timeshares than those looking to buy them, the resale market is generally a buyers' market.  

Given the number of timeshares for sale in both the primary and secondary market coupled with the large amount of profit to made, the sales of timeshares has been ripe for scams. As an attorney for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), I prosecuted a case against Timeshare Owners Foundation, Inc. (TOF), a Florida-based timeshare resale company, the first FTC challenge to a timeshare resale company. The FTC complaint alleged that TOF and its principals misrepresented the nature and present value of its $1,000 bond guarantee and by misrepresenting the likelihood of a sale within a year for a price equal to or in excess of the price paid for the timeshare. The suit was brought in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.  

TOF targeted timeshare owners as its customers by mail solicitations, inviting the owner to call TOF, or by unsolicited telephone calls. The pivotal come on was a $1,000 bond guarantee that promised a sale of the timeshare within 12 months or the owner would receive a $1,000 government bond. The principal elements of the sales pitch was the promise of a sale at a desirable price within a year.  

In actuality, the $1,000 government bond turned out to be zero coupon bonds worth from $62.50 to $95.00, considerably less than the $295 to $495 price that customers paid for TOF's services.  

TOF's promise of a sale within a year or less was also alleged to be false. TOF's services simply did not provide customers with access to any resale market that were likely to sell timeshares within a year at any price. 

The TOF defendants entered into a stipulated permanent injunction -- without admitting fault -- ordering them to pay $1.25 million in pro rata redress to consumers. The defendant were also ordered to clearly disclose the nature and value of any bond. Further the defendants were enjoined from representing the likelihood of a sale within a given time period or price without the possession of reliable data substantiating the claims before making such claims. Finally, the defendant were ordered to provide a twenty day right-to-cancel the transaction and receive a full refund. 

Before buying a timeshare, calculate the total cost of the timeshare, including mortgage payments and expenses, like travel costs, annual maintenance fees and taxes, closing costs, broker commissions, and finance charges. Then compare these costs with the cost of renting similar accommodations with similar amenities in the same location for the same time period. And remember, a timeshare is not an investment for profit or an interest in real estate that will likely appreciate over time. And if you try to resell your timeshare, it is unlikely you will get any way near what you paid for it.


ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Self-Coaching

By Jack Bragen
Monday May 13, 2013 - 10:26:00 AM

Self-coaching might consist of you telling yourself positive things, some of which might be affirmations, in order to deal with a situation. If a situation brings anxiety or apprehension, or if challenging to face, self-coaching can make it easier and can sometimes make the outcome better. 

People who are disabled are sometimes given a job coach. However, when the positive messages are generated by oneself, without the need for external help, it can be better for self esteem. 

In a job, self coaching might consist of assuring oneself that one can perform a task, and/or that everything is going okay. If a person has negative anticipation about something, coaching oneself can help with that. The term, "self-assurance" implies that a person is reassuring their self. When someone creates their own confidence, it equips them to successfully deal with a number of things in life. 

When an Olympic gymnast stumbles during a floor routine, or when a performer trips and falls in front of hundreds of people in their audience, they normally do not have a meltdown and run away, they get back up and finish their performance. The truism says that if you stumble, you are supposed to get back up. This is one example of the usefulness of self-coaching. 

Self coaching can help a person remain focused on the task at hand, and not get sidetracked by internal, self-critical thoughts which detract. A housekeeper (working for my wife and I) broke a picture frame by accident. I did not make a negative comment, nor did I criticize her-I continued to be confident in this person's ability. This helped in producing a good outcome. And I assume that the housekeeper had her own internal system for remaining confident. 

When worried about a future scenario, it is good to visualize it in advance, and deal with the emotions and the thoughts that come up. This prepares you for dealing with a situation in which, at that time, you may not have the option of stopping what you are doing to deal with the detracting thoughts and emotions. This could apply to a political candidate making an important speech, or could be used by someone who has difficulty going to the store and buying a loaf of bread. 

Affirmations can be used by anyone, disabled or not, across the entire demographic spectrum, and in a wide variety of situations. 

Sometimes it is a good idea to get a sheet of paper (yes, actual paper and not an I Pad) and write down affirmations that you have thought of. If the thoughts that you are going to use have come from you, they have a better chance of being effective, rather than if you are adopting someone else's ideas. Because someone else's ideas might feel foreign, they might be rejected by your subconscious. 

It helps not to program oneself with absolutes. This means you shouldn't program yourself with the thought "I am invincible," or "nothing can stop me." You are better off keeping things milder. A good thought with which to program one's mind might be something like, "Yes, I am capable of doing this job." Another might be "I am safe when I am at the Laundromat." 

Self-coaching can include, but is not limited to, affirmative thoughts that boost one's self-confidence and self-esteem. You might tell yourself something like, "People do like me," or "I am intelligent and good-looking." You can also work to undo some paranoid beliefs, if that is applicable. You could affirm the thought, "It is probably my imagination that people are out to get me." 

Self-coaching is a form of autosuggestion, and is applicable to numerous challenging or difficult situations. It can be used in social or work situations, or anything that is anxiety producing. The subconscious often takes things literally, so anything you repeat to yourself enough times will probably be incorporated. It won't change your surroundings although it might seem to, since it can change how you interpret your surroundings. It can change an intolerable situation into a viable one. This is accomplished simply with the change in attitude that will be produced by using affirmations.


Arts & Events

New: Eliza O'Malley Sings Aaron Blumenfeld's Songs on Thursday at the Berkeley Arts Festival

By Bonnie Hughes
Tuesday May 21, 2013 - 01:45:00 PM

Composer Aaron Blumenfeld works in three fields of music: classical, jazz and Jewish music. He has composed a jazz piano concerto (funded by a grant from the New Jersey Council on the Arts), two operas, several albums of original jazz and blues, and numerous classical works. In 2010 and 2012 he received awards from Shalshelet: The Foundation for New Jewish Liturgical Music. Today's concert will consist of two sections: classical songs set to the poems of Berkeley poet Judith Goldhaber (performed by soprano Eliza O'Malley and pianist Willis Hickox), and selections from "42 Brief Hebrew Art Songs" (performed by Cantor Izthak Emanuel, former cantor at Congregation Beth David in Saratoga, with Mr. Blumenfeld at the piano). 

www.aarons-world.com 

8pm to 10pm, 2133 University Ave. suggested donation $10-$20


New: A Meeting of Wizards: Indra’s Net’s “Copenhagen” at Berkeley’s Osher Studio

By John A. McMullen II
Tuesday May 21, 2013 - 02:44:00 PM
MIchael K. Cassidy, Karol Stremke, and Robert Ernst
Irene Young
MIchael K. Cassidy, Karol Stremke, and Robert Ernst

There is something special about seeing Michael Frayn’s “Copenhagen” in Berkeley. Oppenheimer’s home, the Lawrence lab’s cyclotron, and this small city’s part in the history of the creation of the nuclear bomb makes it a special place to see it, a masterstroke to produce it here, and a must for Berkeley-ites of intellect to attend. 

Indra’s Net Theatre, founded and directed by Bruce Coughran, presents “Copenhagen” as their inaugural production in the Osher Theatre Complex in the Arts Passage at 2055 Center Street through this weekend ending Sunday, May 26 with performances at 7:30 on Thu-Fri-Sat and 2 pm on Sunday. 

“Copenhagen,” which won the Tony award for best play, is about the friendship between Werner Heisenberg and his mentor Niels Bohr who together formulated the explanation of the physical universe we know as quantum mechanics in their “Copenhagen Interpretation.” The meetings are at Bohr’s home in Copenhagen during WW2 when Denmark is occupied by the Third Reich. Bohr’s mother was Jewish. Heisenberg is a German and heading the weaponizing of fissionable material in Germany.  

It is a nearly perfectly written play about intellectual and moral conflict. Frayn makes us witness to the strain of the aforementioned struggle and provides insight into the personal and professional contests between these wizards who changed the world, people smarter than almost all the rest of us. 

(For those who didn’t know or remember what these Uber-intellects discovered and theorized—like I was before I saw the play—a précis of their accomplishments can be found at the bottom of this review under the heading “Background.”) 

Michael Kern Cassidy* convincingly portrays Heisenberg, torn between his patriotism to his country that he knows is corrupt and his loyalty to science, humanity, and his father-figure Bohr. Blonde and poised, Cassidy’s portrayal with reserved demeanor and calm, noble bearing is the very image of a proper Teutonic intellectual.  

Cassidy’s portrayal is the highlight of the play, second only to Frayn’s superlative playwriting which blends personal and historical fact together while almost solely relying on the words the men spoke. He makes the science understandable while revealing the psyches of these God-like revealers of the secrets of the universe. This moment in history “when everything changed forever” demands the audience’s concentration while rewarding us with an awe-inspiring understanding. 

Coughran’s production is the third version this reviewer has seen of “Copenhagen.” His insightful interpretation— making Heisenberg the central character—differs from the other two, and makes for a dramatically superior interpretation. Having a pivotal main character rather than sharing equally among the three—as was done in the previous two versions—seems to more accurately represent the writing. The other two versions had the actors firing constant salvoes of language at a “theatrical” speed approximating 180 wpm, perhaps to show the superior rate of fire of the characters’ preternatural synapses. But the material is too dense to understand at that heightened rate. Delivery here was maybe 160 wpm, and though it runs 2hrs 30min which includes intermission, it is very understandable. 

There are problems with the production, however.  

As preamble to the piece, the Mozart piano sonata in A minor and a Beethoven piece are played competently if stolidly by Ben Malkevitch, but the recital is a bit too long for our anticipation of the play to begin. 

Robert Ernst*, one of the founders of the legendary Blake Street Hawkeyes, is less convincing in the role of Bohr, assuming a Berkeley casualness with passionately animated gestures. He alternates between histrionic exuberance and postured introspection with folded arms and covered mouth, or else with hands shoved into pockets or defiantly on hips. That flamboyance and relaxed American easiness seemed to this reviewer to be at odds with the assumed European properness of the scion of a university professor, born in 1885 into a staid Nordic world of manners and protocol.  

The character of Margrethe Bohr, his wife, typist, and sounding board, is undertaken by Karol Strempke, whose regal profile and upswept silvering blonde hair finished in a French braid bun is visually the image of Dronning or "Queen" Margrethe as she was known. However, her use of a tremulous voice to show emotion and stilted manner undercuts the image. Both actors seem to be performing rather than interacting realistically with one another.  

The sound design by Teddy Hulsker duplicates the description of the action by the players in an error of artistic “indicating”: when Heisenberg describes walking down the gravel drive and opening the door, it is accompanied by the sound effects of walking on gravel and a door opening; when table tennis is mentioned, we hear the momentary sound of a ping pong ball knocked by a paddle, etc. Verbal description is meant by playwrights to trigger the images in the audience’s mind, and such aural duplication is distracting and interferes with that process. 

The lighting by Maxx Kurzunski, recent Critics Circle award-winner, complements the action and is at times properly dramatic but hurts the aesthetic by using a bank of red lights to signal conflict and distress. 

Costuming consists of modern suits for the men and a warm embroidered sweater for Margrethe, and missed the opportunity to transport us to the 1940’s with the eye-pleasing fashion of that great era for couture. Bohr doesn’t wear a tie (there are few photos of him without one). There was no costumer listed in the program, and in spare theatre productions like this, the use of costumes is one production value that can be capitalized on to help us enter the era of the drama. 

Lili Smith’s set design consists of three Danish modern chairs, a small couch, two white circular rugs and hanging tapestries of the outdoors with a babbling brook (again, the sound of a babbling brook throughout is disconcerting and competes with understanding the words and sometimes abstruse ideas). The set is spare and more recognizable as the furnishings of a Berkeley starter apartment than of a European drawing room of the 1940’s. The comfortable leather chairs and vintage love seat in the lobby seemed more appropriate to that era of drawing rooms than the furnishings on the stage. 

The round white rugs seemed almost a metaphor for the production: they were lovely and nearly perfect in design, but they turned up at the edges to reveal the matting beneath which interfered with the picture. 

The staging employs much unmotivated rising and sitting with obvious counter-crosses, and Coughran allows the players to employ those over-used moves of a consoling hand on shoulder or of grasping the other’s arms in a display of sincerity. Too often an actor is positioned too close to the audience during a monologue which breaks the “empathetic distance” and temporarily bursts the bubble of our suspended disbelief.  

Regardless of this production’s short-comings, it is an inexpensive, enlightening, and enjoyable evening which should not be missed. 

P.S. Bring a pillow—the seats in the Osher Studio supply little cushioning. 

P.P.S. I had the good fortune to attend the one-time pre-show talk with Dr. David Presti, molecular biologist and senior lecturer at UCB, who recounted the scientific lineage from current Berkeley professors back to Bohr, and whose succinct and eye-opening description of the cyclotron was worth coming out just to hear. The background he offered significantly informed the understanding and enjoyment of the play.  

Indra’s Net Theater plans to produce plays that deal with science and scientific inquiry and their human and philosophical implications. The new theater derives its name from the quotation from the Rig Veda, “In the heavens of India, there is said to be a network of pearls, so arranged that if you look at one you see all the others reflected in it.”  

More info at http://www.indrasnettheater.com/ 

*member, Actors’ Equity Association, which is celebrating its 100 anniversary of protecting actors and stage managers by laboring to improve working conditions in the American Theatre and to provide them with a fair chance to prove their talent, to receive reasonable compensation for their work, and to be treated with dignity and fairness. 

 

Background 

http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1922/bohr-bio.html 

http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1932/heisenberg-bio.html 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copenhagen_(play) 

Bohr was a Danish physicist who developed the “