Let the Sun Shine in Berkeley Too

By Becky O'Malley
Tuesday March 15, 2011 - 10:31:00 PM

This week is Sunshine Week all over the United States. What, you may ask, is Sunshine Week?

It’s sponsored by American Society of Newspaper Editors, joined by the National Freedom of Information Coalition, California’s First Amendment Coalition and many other groups. Briefly summarizing, from the NFAC web page: “Sunshine Week is a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants include news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others interested in the public's right to know.”

For a complete overview, there’s a website which explains it all.

Here in Berkeley, we’re proud to report that our own Dean Metzger, the indefatigable advocate for Berkeley’s Sunshine Initiative, now scheduled for the November 2012 ballot, has been cited in the Sacramento Bee, one of the participating papers, as one of six outstanding “citizen watchdogs” in California. And Dean has not been working alone—with him on the Sunshine Initiative committee there’s an unlikely assortment of Berkeleyans who seldom agree on everything, but are united in their belief that all of us deserve to know much more about what our city government is up to. -more-

The Editor's Back Fence

What Do You Think?

Wednesday March 16, 2011 - 11:20:00 AM

You can quickly express your opinion at berkeleyfreepress.com on three provocative topics: -more-

Check Out These Links

Wednesday March 16, 2011 - 10:44:00 AM

Plans to site a school for students who have previously committed crimes alarm residents near the old Franklin School, reports Berkeleyside.com. Read the previous history of the Berkeley Unified School District's plans and promise for the site as previously reported in The Planet here. There's a meeting tonight (Wednesday). -more-


Cartoon Page: Odd Bodkins, BOUNCE

Tuesday March 15, 2011 - 11:41:00 PM

Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Wednesday March 16, 2011 - 12:12:00 PM

Torture; Charity; Those Old Tea Partyers; Who Pays for PGE’s Misdeeds?Union Busting; No War -more-

Should the Berkeley Police Department Use Facebook?

By Thomas Lord
Tuesday March 15, 2011 - 03:27:00 PM

Recently, the local blog Berkeleyside wondered aloud whether or not Berkeley Police should be using Facebook to communicate with the public. They cited examples of other cities that have started using Facebook and Twitter, apparently to good effect.

I'm not so enthusiastic about the idea.

It would be bad policy for Berkeley to use the social networks we've got if the end result was a de facto requirement: citizens who want to be well informed, say, by the police department - must sign up for Facebook and/or Twitter. Yet if the Berkeley Police's main wide-reaching tool for publishing vital information becomes Facebook or Twitter, residents who want to be well informed will have no choice but to sign up. It will be a de facto requirement. -more-

Sunshine Week Commentary: The U.S. is alone among western democracies in protecting “hate speech.” Chalk it up to a healthy fear of government censorship.

By Peter Scheer
Tuesday March 15, 2011 - 09:29:00 PM

An inebriated John Galliano, sitting in a Paris bar, unleashes an anti-semitic rant (“I love Hitler”) that is captured on a cellphone camera and posted on the internet. Within days the Dior designer is not only fired from his job, but is given a trial date to face criminal charges for his offensive remarks.

In the same week, the U.S. Supreme Court extends First Amendment protection to the homophobic proclamations of a fringe religious group whose founder and members, picketing near a funeral for an American soldier killed in Iraq, hold signs stating, among other things, “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” “God hates fags” and “You’re Going to Hell.” The Court, in Snyder v. Phelps, bars a suit against the religious group for damages because the demonstrators’ message, although causing “emotional distress” to the dead soldier’s family, dealt with “matters of public concern.”

The contrast between these cases reflects fundamentally different views about the role of free speech in a democracy. France, hardly an intolerant or autocratic country, imposes criminal fines for racial epithets, Holocaust-denial, anti-immigrant advocacy and other forms of “hate speech.” And the French are not alone. To varying degrees, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada–liberal democracies, all–enforce similar laws banning hate speech.

The United States is an outlier when it comes to freedom of expression. Although we share other countries’ repugnance for hate speech, particularly the race- and religion-baiting variety, the First Amendment reflects a uniquely strong aversion to government censorship of any kind. As interpreted in Supreme Court decisions going back nearly a century, the First Amendment forbids government suppression of ideas, no matter how vile, deranged or offensive—as long as the speaker doesn’t cross the line separating speech and illegal action (or succeed in inciting others to engage in violent crimes). -more-

BRT, NIMBYs, and the New York Times

By Charles Siegel
Tuesday March 22, 2011 - 08:28:00 PM

On March 12, the New York Times ran an article named “Green Development? Not in My (Liberal) Backyard.” -more-

Why is the New York Times Bashing Environmentalists?

By Randy Shaw
Tuesday March 15, 2011 - 10:43:00 PM

With corporations and their Republican backers in an all-out push to rollback environmental protections, one would think the New York Times could be counted upon for accurate stories rebutting these attacks. Unfortunately, the Times has become an independent source of green disinformation, including two major pieces this past weekend – one on the front-page – that falsely accuse environmentalists of being green hypocrites. Is the nation’s leading newspaper now getting its environmental information from Glenn Beck? -more-

New: Differing Visions for KPFA and Pacifica

By Akio Tanaka, KPFA Local Station Board member
Wednesday March 16, 2011 - 03:40:00 PM

A budget crisis at KPFA led to a staff reduction in November 2010. A controversy about the cuts ensued and has divided the KPFA community. The three months of controversy have revealed some of the substantive differences between those who propose different solutions. -more-

Zionist Extremist Hate Crime Against Rabbi Lerner: 3rd Attack on His Home and the limits of "freedom of the press"

From Tikkun Magazine
Wednesday March 16, 2011 - 10:36:00 AM

Only one day after Rabbi Lerner presented the Tikkun Award to South African Justice Richard Goldstone, at a celebration of Tikkun's 25th Anniversary attended by over 600 people at the University of California, Berkeley, Rabbi Lerner's home was again assaulted by extremist Zionist haters who plastered posters over his home once again. This is the 3rd assault on his home since Lerner announced the award to Justice Goldstone whose report on Israel's human rights violations during the Israeli assault on Gaza in Dec. 2008 and Jan.2009 was denounced by the State of Israel and by the AIPAC-dominated House of Representatives last year. You would not have known about the 2nd attack, which was reported to the police but not to the media because Lerner had been advised that not giving the attackers attention might make future attacks less likely. That strategy failed. -more-

UC Berkeley : Stop Wasting City Resources on Shows of Force

By Berkeley Copwatch
Wednesday March 16, 2011 - 10:33:00 AM

The student protests of March 3rd 2011 in support of education were inspiring and absolutely necessary. However, as UCB alum and long time residents of Berkeley,we are troubled by the massive and disproportionate police mobilization that we saw in front of Wheeler Hall that evening. We want this action to be reviewed for a number of reasons. -more-