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The California Marching Band provided a rousing introduction to the U.C. Berkeley campus for new students.
Steven Finacom
The California Marching Band provided a rousing introduction to the U.C. Berkeley campus for new students.


Dispatches From The Edge: 10 Myths About Libya? (Column)

Conn Hallinan
Friday August 26, 2011 - 01:27:00 PM

In his essay, “Top Ten Myths about the Libyan War,” Juan Cole argues that U.S. interests in the conflict consisted of stopping “massacres of people,” a “lawful world order,” “the NATO alliance,” and oddly, “the fate of Egypt.” It is worth taking a moment to look at each of these arguments, as well as his dismissal of the idea that the U.S./NATO intervention had anything to do with oil as “daft.” 

Massacres are bad things, but the U.S. has never demonstrated a concern for them unless its interests were at stake. It made up the “massacre” of Kosovo Albanians in order to launch the Yugoslav War, and ended up acquiring one of the largest U.S. bases in the world, Camp Bond Steel. It has resolutely ignored the massacre of Palestinians and Shiites in Bahrain because it is not in Washington’s interests to concern itself with those things. Israel is an ally, and Bahrain hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet. Cole accepts the fact that Qaddafi would have “massacred” his people, but his evidence for that is thin, and he chooses to completely ignore the deaths and casualties resulting from the NATO bombing. 

The U.S. is interested in a “lawful world order.” That would certainly come as a surprise to the Palestinians, the Shiites in the Gulf, and peasants in Colombia who suffer the deprivations of death squads aided by the U.S. (see the Washington Post story of 8/20/11) etc. The U.S, supports international law when it is in its interests to do so, undermines it when it is not, and ignores it when it is inconvenient. I wish Cole were correct but he is not. The record speaks for itself. 

Okay, spot on for the NATO alliance, which is exactly the problem. Africa has increasingly become a chess piece in a global competition for resources and cheap labor. It is no accident that the U.S. recently formed an African Command (Africom)—the Libyan War was the organization’s coming out party—and is training troops in countries that border the Sahara. It is already intervening in Somalia, and a recent story in the New York Times about an “al-Qaeda threat” in Northern Nigeria should send a collective chill down all our spines. NATO has already “war gamed” the possibility of intervention in the Gulf of Guinea to insure oil supplies in the advent of “civil disturbances” that might affect the flow of energy resources. 

NATO represents western economic and political interests, which rarely coincide with the interests of either the alliance’s own people, or those of the countries it occupies. The Libyan intervention sets a very dangerous precedent for the entire continent, which is why the African Union opposed it. Who will be next? 

Ummm, Egypt? Certainly the U.S. has “a deep interest in the fate of Egypt,” which ought to scare hell out of the Egyptians. But overthrowing Qaddafi was important because he had “high Egyptian officials on his payroll”? Is Cole seriously suggesting that Libya’s 6.4 million people have anything to do with determining the fate of 83 million Egyptians? 

Opposition to the Libyan War is not based on supporting Qaddafi, although Cole’s portrait of the man is one-sided. For instance, Libya played an important role in financing the African Bank, thus allowing African nations to avoid the tender mercies of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Libya also financed a continent-wide telecommunications system that saved African countries hundreds of millions of dollars by allowing them to bypass western-controlled networks. He also raised living standards. This does not make him a good guy, but it does say that Libya’s role in Africa cannot be reduced to simply “sinister.” 

Lastly, the charge that this was about Libya’s oil is “daft”? Libya is the largest producer of oil in Africa, and the 12th largest in the world. Its resources are very important for NATO’s European allies, and over the past several years there has been competition over these supplies. The Chinese have made major investments. During the war China, Russia, and Brazil supported the African Union’s call for a ceasefire and talks, and pointed out that UN Resolution 1973 did not call for regime change. One of the first statements out of the Transitional National Council following Qaddafi’s collapse was that China, Russia and Brazil were going to be sidelined in favor of French, Spanish, and Italian companies. Quid pro quo? 

The war was not just over oil, but how can anyone dismiss the importance of energy supplies at a time of worldwide competition over their control? The U.S. is currently fighting several wars in a region that contains more than 65 percent of the world’s oil supplies. Does he think this is a coincidence? Sure, the companies that invested in Libya will take some initial losses, but does Cole think those Libyans beholden to NATO for their new positions will drive a hard bargain with the likes of Total SA and Repso when it comes to making deals? If I were those companies I would see the war as a very lucrative investment in futures. In any case, when the U.S., China, and Russia are locked in a bitter worldwide battle over energy resources, to dismiss the role of oil in the Libyan War is, well, daft. 

Special Forces are taking over the U.S. military. Africom is increasingly active on the continent. NATO has just finished its first intervention in Africa. With Qaddafi gone, every country that borders the Mediterranean is now associated with NATO, essentially turning this sea into an alliance lake. 

This is not a good thing. 

Conn Hallinan can be read at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com

Comment on Development of Golden Gate Fields for Lawrence Berkeley Lab on Monday (Opinion Communication)

From Kate Looby, Senior Chapter Director, Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter
Friday August 26, 2011 - 01:15:00 PM

Tell the developers in Albany/Berkeley to adhere to the Voices to Vision plan!  

Lawrence Berkeley National Lab is in the planning stages for building a second campus. There were many proposals that have been narrowed down to six locations: 

  • Alameda - Naval Air Station
  • Albany / Berkeley - Golden Gate Fields
  • Berkeley - Aquatic Park West
  • Emeryville / Berkeley
  • Oakland - Brooklyn Basin
  • Richmond - UC Field Station
The Bay Chapter has concerns about the Golden Gate Fields location in Albany/Berkeley. The extensive Voices to Vision process culminated in a plan requiring 75% open space with 25% development when Golden Gate Fields is redeveloped. 

We want to make sure that this development adheres to the original Voices to Vision plan! 

Here Is What You Can Do:  

Please come to the meeting and tell the developers to adhere to the original plan -- 75/25, set forth through the Voices to Vision process! 

WHAT: A meeting to discuss the future of the Albany shoreline, called Voices to Vision.
WHEN: Monday, August 29, 7:00 pm.
WHERE: Albany -- Location to be determined once they tally the number of RSVP's received. After you RSVP, you should receive an email indicating the chosen venue. If you do not receive an email indicating the chosen venue, please contact Kate Looby

To come, you must RSVP, which you can do here: RSVP to the Q&A with the Developer and the City of Albany on Monday, August 29, 2011 at 7:00 pm

Friday Night Football at UC Berkeley's Memorial Stadium:
The Environmental Impact

Edited by Jacquelyn McCormick
Friday August 26, 2011 - 10:47:00 AM

This is a summary document that was compiled from the Supplemental Environmental Impact Report (SEIR) for the Cal Memorial Stadium Project. Information was taken directly from the SEIR and relates specifically to future Friday night football games. Initial cursory comments from the editor are provided at the end of paragraphs and are in italicized bold font. Everything else is a copy of excerpts pulled directly from the SEIR.  

“The agreement to play Thursday/Friday night games was deemed essential by the Commissioner in order to meet the objectives established by the Conference executives of achieving national exposure for football and basketball teams, as well as maximizing the incremental financial support garnered from the new media agreement. UC Berkeley will not be required to host a Thursday night game as an obligation of this contract (Barbour, June, 2011).” 

“Changes to the official football competition schedule such that one weekday evening game would be played on a Friday at the CMS in one year, two years in every four, would result in infrequent and temporary yet significant, unavoidable impacts on the surrounding transportation network. These impacts would occur as well if UC Berkeley were to qualify for a championship game, adding the possibility of an additional Friday night game into the schedule on rare occasion.” Isn’t this the point of building a state of the art High Performance Athletic Center, to win divisional championships? 

Key information about the Friday night games would be: 

· Kickoff would be scheduled for between 5 and 7 pm 

· Any schedule that includes a Friday night football game would be confirmed no later than June 30 of that year. 

· Friday night games would be nationally televised on ESPN. For which the conference would share in advertising revenue… 

· The Conference is also committed to the addition of a “championship” game, to be played at the home of the team with the best record for its division in a season. On the occasion that UC Berkeley qualifies for this game, and that it has the privilege as well of hosting the game, the championship game is also anticipated to occur on a Friday evening. 


“CMS is an atypical venue for a modern stadium. It is not directly near freeway off-ramps nor surrounded by acres of surface parking. The new and infrequent schedule will exacerbate traffic and parking needs.” 

Other city and campus activities scheduled will put additional stress on traffic and parking. 

5 pm is peak arrival time for game attendees. This will occur during the heart of daily commute hours, on the busiest night of the week, and on the most heavily congested Berkeley arteries. 

The City of Berkeley restricts parking on surrounding campus streets during game days from 9am – 11pm. Where will homeowners, employees and transient students who utilize street parking park during these days? How might this affect student’s class schedules/attendance? How will street closures impact typical Friday evening commutes – especially by those who do not live in Berkeley and are not familiar with typical game day procedures? 


“Nonetheless, the parking supply is entirely insufficient to accommodate typical Friday parking demand and football related demand simultaneously; the possibility of overlap with other special events would exacerbate this insufficiency. Because the overlap of commute parking demand and football patron demand is likely to magnify parking supply issues under any circumstance, the impact of the scheduling change upon parking supply is considered significant and unavoidable, despite implementation of the mitigation measures”….. 

4000 spaces are available on campus and used during weekdays and then made available for game parking on Saturdays. Parking demand decreases by 8% from typical week day use on Fridays. However, these spaces cannot be available until 5pm on Friday game days. On game days most of these spaces are assigned to season ticket holders. How will the surrounding neighborhood and downtown Berkeley streets absorb these automobiles as they wait for their assigned spaces to become available? 

An additional 2000 spaces are available on Saturdays from sororities, fraternity’s private lots and city of Berkeley. Nonetheless, the parking supply is entirely insufficient to accommodate typical Friday parking demand and football related demand simultaneously. Once again, how will this ad hoc parking impact the neighborhood during commute hours? 

Public Transportation 

Travel to the game on a Friday evening coincides with peak commute hours, when most BART trains operate near or above capacity. Similarly, day time or evening baseball games at AT&T Park or the Oakland Coliseum may result in commute hour impacts. 

Because of Federal Transit Authority (FTA) rules, AC Transit is no longer able to run “Special” game day service which was typically run from Rockridge BART and the 4th Street area in the past. AC Transit may only run increased service along their normal routes. Headways (i.e., time between bus arrivals) would increase. In some instances, connections may be missed as travelers on slowed routes cannot connect with routes outside the impact area in a timely fashion. Considering that many AC Transit buses currently operate near or above capacity during the peak commute periods, it is expected that the additional demand generated by the Friday evening games would exceed the available capacity on most AC Transit routes. Friday evening games are expected to end after 10:00 PM when many AC Transit routes stop operating or operate with a reduced schedule. Despite potential mitigation, this would be a significant unavoidable transit impact of Friday evening games 


Starting in 2012, parking for bicycles would be provided adjacent to the CMS. However, as observed in 2005, there was little to no bicycle activity in the project area before and after the game. For evening games, where darkness occurs early in the fall, bicycle activity would not be anticipated to significantly increase. There was no mention of the impact to typical weekday bicycle commuters and their safety or proposed mitigation.. 

Panoramic Hill 

The Panoramic Hill emergency service agreement reached as a part of the recent settlement is expected to continue as in game days. There was no mention of the impact to residents commuting home from work and how they would access their homes nor was any mitigation proposed. Additionally, if there is an ad-hoc championship game scheduled, the impact to residents could be significant. Adequate time would not be available for residents of Panoramic Hill who had previously scheduled an event at their home. 

Alternative Venues 

If a Friday evening game is hosted by UC Berkeley at an alternative venue, such as AT&T Park or 

Overstock.com (Oakland) Coliseum, mitigation measures requiring coordination and planning will still be needed. 

Mitigations to address parking availability near campus will not be needed, but students, staff and athletes would add travel demand leaving Berkeley. Impacts upon potential regional transit would still occur, similar to existing impacts of weekday baseball. However, these options would not have the impact on the neighborhoods as they are a “typical modern venue, near freeway off ramps and surrounded by acres of parking.  

When weighing the travel demand impact required of these optional venues vs. the impact to the thousands of people who live in the neighborhoods plus the impact to commuters and season ticket holders fighting to get to their assigned parking spaces, the choice is obvious. Hold the Friday night games elsewhere.

The entire SEIR (2000 pages) can be found at: http://www.cp.berkeley.edu/SCIP/EIR.html

The specific section from which the information and attached comments were derived is: http://www.cp.berkeley.edu/SCIP/SEIR/Recirc_Subsequent_EIR_Thematic_July2011.pdf 


The official comment period to the SEIR ended Wednesday. However, there will be a community meeting as noted below. For those of you who wish to speak and/or want to engage others to speak you are strongly encouraged to do so. 

Memorial Stadium Construction Update 

Thursday, September 8, 2011 


Unit 1 All Purpose Room 

Durant Avenue 




Robert Reich Welcomes New Students to Berkeley

By Steven Finacom
Wednesday August 24, 2011 - 11:11:00 AM
ASUC President Vishalli Loomba exhorted her fellow students while the other
              speakers, including Dean of Students Jonathan Poullard, Mary Catherine Birgeneau,
              Professor Robert Reich, and Vice Chancellor Harry LeGrande, looked on.
Steven Finacom
ASUC President Vishalli Loomba exhorted her fellow students while the other speakers, including Dean of Students Jonathan Poullard, Mary Catherine Birgeneau, Professor Robert Reich, and Vice Chancellor Harry LeGrande, looked on.
The California Marching Band provided a rousing introduction to the U.C. Berkeley campus for new students.
Steven Finacom
The California Marching Band provided a rousing introduction to the U.C. Berkeley campus for new students.
Latecomers basked—or baked—in the late afternoon sun at the Greek Theatre.
Steven Finacom
Latecomers basked—or baked—in the late afternoon sun at the Greek Theatre.

New students at the University of California Berkeley—both incoming freshmen and junior transfers—flocked to the venerable blue and gold balloon festooned Hearst Greek Theatre on the late afternoon of August 22, 2011, to receive an official welcome to the campus in the form of the annual New Student Convocation. 

They heard welcoming remarks, encouragement, and exhortations to both personally aspire and contribute to the Berkeley community from the Dean of Students, ASUC President, and keynoter Professor Robert Reich. 

The Cal Band, casually attired for practice, opened the event with a vigorous performance. 

The new student attendees—thousands of them—filled the orchestra and spilled into the upper diazoma, nearly to the top of the Theatre. A relatively small contingent of faculty and staff occupied seats at one side, and a few others were scattered in the crowd. 

The day was warm and cloudless, and at any given time probably a quarter of the audience was fanning itself and another quarter was consulting various pocket electronic devices. 

Many of the students sat in the late afternoon sun, shading their eyes to see the stage. Berkeley weather has this way. When floods of new freshmen arrive from Southern California, Berkeley typically tantalizes them in their first week or two with warm, sunny, conditions. Then, once the semester begins, it’s back to fog and evening chill. 

There were many Southlanders at the Convocation. More than 50% of the incoming freshmen that are California residents are from Southern California, and they gave themselves a big cheer when master of ceremonies and Vice Chancellor for Student Services Harry LeGrande announced that fact. 

35% of the freshmen come from the Bay Area, LeGrande said, and another 10% from elsewhere in Northern California, with the remaining 5% from the Central Valley. 

The Californians represented 70% of the new students. “We’re a global university”, Le Grande told the crowd. An additional 19% of new students come from other states in the United States, and 11% from foreign countries, seventy-four overall. 

He also noted that 103 of the new students are “military affiliated”, either as veterans, reservists, or active duty service members. They received warm applause, as did the small contingent of current UC faculty and staff who attended the event. 

LeGrande added that the youngest new freshman is 12 years old, and the youngest transfer student is 16. The oldest incoming student is 63. 26% of the new students earned 4.0 grade point averages in high school. “Everyone here deserves to be here, you’ve earned a place at this great university”, LeGrande said. 

“We place a higher priority on teaching undergraduates”, he said. “We are a campus with a rich history of critical thought, vital research, and critical activism.” 

After the obligatory dorm food joke—a caution “about the chili cheese fries at Crossroads”—the next speaker, Vishalli Loomba, President of the ASUC (Associated Students of the University of California), told the new students “we all bring something unique and special to the table.” 

Loomba noted she is the first Indian-American to be ASUC President, as well as the first President “to be an active member of a Panhellenic society” (she belongs to Delta Delta Delta sorority). 

“You made the right choice. UC Berkeley with undoubtedly change your life like no other.” “We have a long standing history of commitment to creating change across the globe”, she told the students. 

“UC Berkeley students are known for setting the standard in all areas”, she said. “We are all proud Golden Bears.” 

“My message to you is simple—say ‘Yes’,” Loomba concluded. “Say yes to trying something new.” “Challenge yourself each day, and make your time here worthwhile.” 

“You are the global citizens of the next generation”, and “college is a chance to invent yourself.” 

She added that she remembered a piece of advice that Steve Jobs had offered during a talk she attended at Cal when she was herself a new student. “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” 

LeGrande introduced the keynote speaker, Professor Robert Reich, with a mention of the premier quality of the Berkeley faculty. Looking at the periodic table of elements, LeGrande joked, “you won’t find a Stanfordium, or a UCLAium…none of those things exist”, but there is an element named for Berkeley and discovered here. 

Reich, who is now the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy in UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy, served as Secretary of Labor under President Clinton, and is a frequent commentator on economic and political issues. 

After taking the microphone, the diminutive Reich walked around the podium, which was nearly as tall as him, and spoke to the students from the lip of the stage with a combination of low-key wit, insight, and avuncularity. 

“I guess I’m the first member of the faculty you’ve actually seen, in life, right?” he joked, to laughter. “I’m fairly representative. Everyone on this faculty is under five feet tall. It’s a small faculty.” 

“We are so excited you are here”, he said, promising to tell them “a secret faculty keep to themselves…don’t mention that I’m giving it away.” 

“We believe that the reason that Berkeley graduates, Cal graduates do so well, contribute so much to the world, are successful in every possible way…the reason that happens is because of what we, the faculty, give you,” he began. 

“But, I’m going to give you a secret,” he went on. “This university is so selective…We only take the cream of the crop, the cream of the cream, the very best, and then we put you together with others who are the very best.” 

“You learn so much from each other, are so inspired by each other, and do so much for each other that you graduate from here, and the secret is you learn more from each other than you do from us.” 

“Don’t ever repeat that, particularly to a member of the faculty”, he cautioned with mock seriousness. 

He then spoke about “what community means.” “I used to teach in a large university whose colors are crimson and white on the Cambridge River in Massachusetts”, he said. “I liked it very much, but there was not nearly the degree of community or diversity that we have here.” 

“This is the best public university in the world,” he continued to applause. “It’s a public university because we are not only diverse in terms of race and ethnicity and backgrounds, but we are also diverse because of our economic backgrounds. Much more diverse than at every private university.” 

“We learn from each other because we respect each other,” he told the students. And “the best way to learn is to find people who disagree with you and talk to them, and get to know them…It is that ferment between you and people who see the world slightly differently…that actually is the essence of the learning experience.” 

“Reaching out beyond that comfort zone and finding people who are different. I urge you to do that. You will do that.” 

“You see a little blue card you got when you came in?” Reich said, holding up a statement of community values that had been given to the attendees. “Read that card. Not right now, because I’m talking to you,” he added with mock exasperation, to laughter, as many in the audience obligingly started reading. 

“Read that card and think about it, because this is the essence of what we mean by community.” 

He told the students that among their classmates “a few of them might get into some trouble.” “And you, as part of this community have responsibility to help them help themselves.” Help them get campus services, he said. “Make sure you are alert and take responsibility for the health and well being of others around you.” 

“Some of you are going to automatically do very well here. Some of you are going to find this a breeze. For example, those of you who got here early and got into the shadiest chairs, you are almost by definition ambitious and foresighted. It’s those people I’m worried about,” Reich pointed to the hundreds of latecomers sitting in the sun, as laughter washed through the crowd. 

“Do not be anxious about your ability to succeed here. Nor should you be too calm and apathetic about that,” he continued. 

He related his own first exposure to Berkeley, recalling that he had been an undergraduate at Dartmouth College, “a small college up in New Hampshire. It was actually, in those days, more like a monastery in Siberia.” 

So coming into Berkeley after my senior year of college, as a research assistant, it was just extraordinary…it was like I was let out of a cage.” 

“I first came to Berkeley years ago. I came in a little beat up VW bug. I drove up University Avenue, it was 1968, and I remembered that aroma, that first smell I got. It was a cross of eucalyptus and tear gas and marijuana, all mixed up. It was extraordinary. I thought, ‘I have arrived at Paradise’.” 

As the cheers and laughter died down, Reich added, “As I look at your faces I realize I’m not taking in anything I’m saying. Because so many people are talking to you today, and there’s so much going on in your heads. Most of you—and because I’ve been teaching so long I can actually read minds—most of you are here about 30%. 40%? 60%? you’re actually here 60%,” he said, pointing to various students in the crowd. 

But what I want to say is when I got to Berkeley, even as a research assistant, I was so excited by being let out of a cage is that all I could think of was the freedom I had,” he continued in a more serious vein. 

Berkeley…also relies on you to handle your freedom responsibly and well. Nobody is going to be looking over your shoulder. Nobody is going to be telling you what to do. It is up to you to make the most of what you have here….Just remember that last point. It is up to you to both make this a community, and to make this the best learning experience in your lives. And it will be.” 

The addresses included brief remarks from Mary Catherine Birgeneau, wife of the current Chancellor. The Chancellor wasn’t able to attend because he is recovering from a knee operation, LeGrande said. 

“I just wanted to add my greetings to this great group of people”, the blue and gold clad Mrs. Birgeneau said. Each year “we can hardly wait until the end of August and our freshmen come back.” 

“We really regard all of you as our wonderful big family”, she added, reminding the students that they were each invited to attend one of two evenings of receptions this week for new students at University House, the official Chancellor’s residence on campus. 

Jonathan Poullard, the Dean of Students, concluded the speeches with an impassioned exhortation to the new students to get to know people unlike themselves. 

You should be “engaged and engaging”, he said. “That means you are not sitting on the sidelines.” “You will not be on the sidelines, you will be on the field.” 

Poullard said that students are told to respect others, but “respect is difficult”. “What happens when our value systems…are in direct conflict?” 

He told a story from his own life, as an openly gay undergraduate student at Jackson State, where he decided to limit his contact with straight men because some had harassed him. “Since they didn’t like me, I wasn’t going to like them,” he said, and he began to associate primarily with other gay men. 

Later, though, at graduate school he was befriended by a straight man who remains one of his close friends. The experience taught him to reach across boundaries and not to assume that only people like him could be his friends. “Just because someone is your people, does not mean they are your kind.” 

He exhorted the students “to be open to the possibility that someone who is not like me might have something in common with you.” “Community is a participating act. It’s not sitting on the sidelines.” 

“How am I going to move beyond myself to figure out how to create community here?” was the question he posed for the newcomers. “Think hard about how you are going to give back.” 

“You are the chosen folk”, Poullard concluded, noting that only 30% of Americans have college degrees. “How are you going to use that chosenness to be engaged? “If you do not (engage), then I say shame on you.” 

The official event concluded with five members of the UC Men’s Octet singing “Hail to California”. LeGrande then invited the students to join a picnic dinner being served on the lawn above the seating tiers, and the seats swiftly emptied out as students headed for the food. 


Most Speakers at BART Hearing Critical of Cellphone Cutoff

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Wednesday August 24, 2011 - 06:05:00 PM

Most of the eight speakers at a three-hour public hearing today criticized BART's decision to temporarily cut off cellphone service at several San Francisco stations Aug. 11 because of concerns there would be a violent protest. 

Michael Risher, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, told the transit agency's board of directors that BART's cellphone network "is a designated public forum that you can't cut off except in very limited circumstances." 

Risher asked, "Do we want to have a society where the government is in a position to shut down cellphone service because a few people might use it for disruptive purposes?" 

But a man who identified himself only as Gary H. said that to claim that BART violated passengers' free speech rights by temporarily halting cellphone service at a few stations is a "specious" argument and "trivializes our First Amendment rights." 

He said, "I urge the board not be distracted by phony claims of First Amendment rights." 

The Aug. 11 protest was planned by groups such as No Justice, No BART who have criticized the transit agency's police officers for fatally shooting Charles Hill, a transient man, at the Civic Center station in San Francisco the night of July 3. 

BART police said Hill was armed with two knives and a broken bottle and was attacking them. 

BART Interim General Manager Sherwood Wakeman said Police Chief Kenton Rainey recommended temporarily cutting off cellphone service and he approved the action "based on my concern that the demonstration would include illegal activity which would be a serious threat to the safety of our patrons." 

BART Director Gail Murray said the demonstration "was not planned to be peaceful" because protesters planned to chain themselves together and be arrested. 

Murray said if the transit agency had not taken decisive action, service might have been severely disrupted and passengers might have been trapped in the Transbay Tube. 

BART directors were briefed on the decision to temporarily halt cellphone service and approved the action but several directors said today that they have second thoughts about it in the wake of the public's outcry and legal opinions cited by the ACLU. 

Director Joel Keller said, "I would have asked more questions" if he had seen those legal opinions beforehand and in the future he would lean against authorizing similar cellphone shutdowns. 

Director Robert Raburn said he thought the move "was a prudent action" but warned that "we should avoid a police state." 

Although the board was consulted about the decision, Director Lynette Sweet said, "As a board member it really is frustrating that I will be held responsible for a staff decision." 

She said, "It shouldn't be made that way again." 

Board President Bob Franklin said BART directors and staff will now formulate a formal policy on when the transit system will cut off cellphone service in underground stations. 

Franklin said BART officials will consult with the agency's recently-formed citizens' police review board and free speech groups before bringing the proposed policy to a board of directors meeting in two to four weeks. 

Although 18 people spoke at the meeting today, Franklin said he had expected a larger turnout. 

"I was surprised that there were not as many protesters today and it was less raucous than I expected," he said. 

A protest Monday night over the cellphone cutoff and Hill's death temporarily shut down the Civic Center and Powell Street stations in San Francisco and resulted in about 40 people being arrested. 

Franklin said he hopes the arrests "shift the tide" against protesters who have disrupted BART service, but demonstrators are threatening to have another protest next Monday. 

Asked if he expects more arrests then, Franklin said, "I would assume so."

Updated: Berkeley's Jesus Jungle Host to "Prime-Time" Jane Fonda

By Ted Friedman
Wednesday August 24, 2011 - 10:17:00 AM
Jane, Prime-time, Fonda, 73, addresses the faithful at Berkeley's first Congregational Church last Wednesday
Ted Friedman
Jane, Prime-time, Fonda, 73, addresses the faithful at Berkeley's first Congregational Church last Wednesday
Jane up-close last Wednesday in Berkeley--signing her latest book after her talk
Ted Friedman
Jane up-close last Wednesday in Berkeley--signing her latest book after her talk
Cristina Doan, 20, the Cal undergraduate, who challenged Jane Fonda last Wednesday (see accompanying story) in Q & A, then got her autograph. Did Jane know? Photo from Doan's camera
Cristina Doan, 20, the Cal undergraduate, who challenged Jane Fonda last Wednesday (see accompanying story) in Q & A, then got her autograph. Did Jane know? Photo from Doan's camera

Jane Fonda, 73, Breezed (she copped a '74 Oscar for Bree Daniels in Klute) into Berkeley last Wednesday evening to plug her new book, "Prime Time," at the First Congregational Church in the heart of South side's Jesus Jungle. Jesus Jungle is five block-hogging churches bounded on the North by Bancroft Way and on the South by Haste Street, West of Telegraph—two blocks of churches. 

The event had been sold out for days. Extra chairs had to be crammed into the church sanctuary to accommodate the standing-room-only crowd (900) of mostly older women. 

I dished with some of the audience before the talk to see if I could pick up a vibe. One woman voiced a quibble, I was curious about. 'What if you're a fatty, like me, and you hope to change, but then you see how thin Jane is and feel hopeless by comparison." 

Another questioned Fonda's breast implants and other plastic surgery. "She said she wanted to age naturally." 

But all doubts evaporated as Fonda worked her mojo. A charismatic key-note speaker, 

she won over her gaga audience early. 

Fonda started off with berkeley recollections of bringing her three-year-old daughter to a free school run by the Red Family commune, a Berkeley political-activist commune (including Bob Scheer and Tom Hayden). "It's probably all in my 22 page FBI file," from the period, she laughed. 

When commuting to Berkeley to drop off her daughter at the commune school, she was living, she told me at the book signing, in a hotel in San Francisco for the filming of a 1974 film, Steelyard Blues. She was only commuting to Berkeley less than three weeks, she said. As to reports that she had "lived briefly" in the Elmwood, she said, "What's the Elmwood?" 

In a big audience pleaser, Fonda apologized for wearing prescription sunglasses, but said she lost her reading glasses, and besides the sunglasses matched her clothes (laughter). That's not very Berkeley," she improvised, "but I live in Hollywood" (more laughter). 

Fonda sermonized, from her new book, on aging, exercise, personal growth, and, of course—sex. "Why do I talk so much about sex?" (She told Jay Lenno, Aug. 12, she "likes it slow and easy," and told the church audience she'd been celibate six years after leaving Ted Turner but was now "shacked up" with her latest boyfriend). She said she would never marry again. 

Her new book book which she wrote and researched herself ("pretty good for a college drop-out"), using, she said, her laptop sporadically. "I started out at 14 pica, and in the course of the writing needed 18 pica. I lost eye-sight to gain insight," she said, drawing a big laugh. 

This was not the first infirmity she revealed. She has had a hip and knee replacement, 

a lumpectomy, and plastic surgery, she said. 

"It was so sad when I left Ted's twenty room mansion for one bedroom-no closet—in my daughter's apartment," she recalled. "It was one of the worst days of my life. I wondered whether I had done the right thing. Maybe I should have stayed where I didn't have to work for a living." 

Fonda said she had grown in the post-Ted period, learning how to live without men; she now questions patriarchy, she said. 

Acknowledging that old age "is hard if you're ill or poor," she spoke, inspirationally, of the golden years, saying it was possible to gain insights on the past and forgive loved ones—now gone. "Poor things, they did the best they could." 

Ranging from Victor Frankl ("Man's Search for Meaning") to "the lowdown on getting it up in act three (we've closed shop down there"), Fonda concluded with a plea for elders to use their life-time wisdom "to make a difference in the world." 

I had been told that security would be beefed up and it was. Four unarmed security guards flanked the outer aisles and one kept me from getting closer with my camera. 

The senior security guard declined to say whether any guards were undercover. "Besides," he said, "if we told you that, then we'd lose our advantage." 

In the question-and-answer period and during the book signing, those missing the good-old-days of Cody's got a blast from the past, as Jane offered to answer all questions, un-filtered. Although Fonda read questions written in advance rather than directly from a Cody's audience—answer all questions she did. 

We learned: her favorite role model was the Lone Ranger, a nick-name Tom Hayden used in referring to her in his writing; he was not a good parent and has had to " do a lot of work" with her daughter "to explain this period." 

That: she left Ted, from whom she learned a lot, but left because she wanted a slower pace to her life, (not over her conversion to Christianity in 2002, as I reported); doesn't care what's written about her; didn't care that Monster Mom was panned. "Now young people who never heard of me, know me as "Monster Mom." And she wants to do a TV series about an "old, funny, serious woman." 

Cristina Doan, 20, of San Jose, a second generation Vietnamese U.C. berkeley undergraduate wrote in her submitted question that her family had been destroyed by North Vietnam and she is bitter that Fonda may have given momentum to Ho Chi Minh's victory over the South. 

Jane has heard this one many times. She no longer apologizes, but commented that the young woman should be grateful she is alive, a Cal student, and in a position to "do something in the world." 

A real Cody moment occurred during book signings when a young tall man with white hair read aloud in the balcony from a poetic tribute to Fonda. He was not clearly audible from downstairs, where many said his free speech rights were violated by two security guards, who ushered him out. 

I met the poet outside, where he said he was from Sonoma State. He gave me the scribbled notes from his Fonda tribute, which was, as billed, a tribute. As Fonda's audience filed past the poet on the way out, many exchanged pleasantries with the alleged disruptor. 

So Cody's! 

From Fonda to Berkeley farce in Jesus Jungle. 



Ted Friedman has lived in the South side shadows of Jesus Jungle for 40 years. Cristina Doan speaks for herself in the Commentary Section.

Dear Students: Stop Robbing, Start Learning (Please) (News Analysis)

By Thomas Lord
Wednesday August 24, 2011 - 10:28:00 AM

On behalf of the Berkeley Daily Planet I spoke with Director of Student Services Susan Craig. I asked her to help us understand the Berkeley High School's policies about robbery reporting. How does the district exercise its discretion about calling in the police? And why? 

Test Your Knowledge! 

Quick quiz: When a Berkeley High School student commits a robbery while under the jurisdiction of the school, which of the following is true: 

a) The school is legally required to call the police in. 

b) The school may choose to call in the police if it so desires. 

c) The school is legally required not to call the police in. 

d) It depends. The school has limited discretion. 

The answer is (d). The school is legally required to report some robberies such as those that involve weapons or sexual assaults. In other cases, the school has discretion so long as they apply that discretion equally and fairly to all students. 

So how does the school exercise its discretion? And why do they do it that way? 

The Why Part is Easy 

"Our goal," says Director Craig, "is ideally to direct students back to what they are here for: to learn." 

There is concern in the community, Craig points out, that over-eagerness to give students official criminal records, and to put them through the criminal justice system runs contrary to the goal of reducing crime and educating students. 

There is an opposing concern, Craig adds, that to in any way coddle student criminal behavior, such as by not reporting it to the police, is contrary to the goal of reducing crime and educating students. 

When pressed on how the district regards those polarized concerns, Craig is eager to suggest a graceful evasion: simply asking what is the best way to get the students back into a state of doing what they are there for - to learn. 

What's Changing? 

Craig says that Superintendent Bill Huyet, Principle Pasquale Scuderi and Craig herself have discussed how to exercise the school's discretion in reporting robberies. They did this in consultation with Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan. 

Those three school officials have issued new guidance about the school's reporting practices. When the school has discretion about reporting a robbery, the practice is now more explicitly to go ahead and inform the police. The police then have discretion about whether or not to pursue the incident as a criminal matter. 

Craig points out that this is not a change in policy but rather a change in the practice by which policy is routinely carried out. 

Checks and Balances 

To better understand what "report all robberies" implied compared to historical practice, I asked Craig some about some hypothetical situations. Here are our scenarios and her answers: 

Scenario 1: One student corners another and through physical intimidation takes a portable music player away. Is that reported? That's now the usual practice. 

Scenario 2: The same scenario but only a can of soda is stolen? Is that supposed to be reported? That's now the usual practice. 

Scenario 3: This time nothing is stolen but only the cornering and physical intimidation. Is that reported? It is a discretionary question: the school has no fixed practice to always report such an incident. 

A Criminal Record for a Can of Soda? 

With this practice, two nearly identical incidents may be treated very differently: a bully who steals a soda being reported, and one who does not possibly going unreported. 

Craig suggested another scenario that highlights the slight absurdity of the distinctions being drawn: Suppose that a student leaves a backpack in a locker room from which, while the student is away, valuable property is stolen. In the eyes of the law this is not a robbery - it's a theft. Such a theft is not something that would be automatically reported -- it is a discretionary question. 

The practice of reporting robberies to the police does not mean the police must treat every such incident as a crime to be prosecuted. Berkeley High School will normally report all of these incidents, but it is up to the police department whether or not they will act and, if so, how. As with the school district itself, the police department is required by law to treat all students equally and fairly when they decide which crimes to pursue and which not. 

Rumor and Innuendo 

We pointed out another community concern to Craig. In particular, we pointed out that some people seem to be saying that BHS and BUSD had misunderstood the laws about robbery reporting and student privacy. In this alternative view, the district and the high school are now making a policy change about crime reporting, giving up mistaken interpretations of the law, and perhaps coming into conformance with the law. 

Craig's understated response was "[That view] is not correct", which sums up our conclusion as well. The law is very clear that with limited exceptions such as crimes involving weapons or sexual assault, school's have discretion about whether or not to call in the police. Sometimes the most effective choice is to not criminalize a matter but rather to handle it as a school discipline issue. 

Big Brother Threat? 

One important reason that schools are not obligated to report every robbery to the police is to protect student privacy. As the district attempts to satisfy community concerns by reporting every robbery incident, it also puts student privacy at risk. 

If the Berkeley police are informed even of student committed robberies that clearly don't merit criminal prosecution, then the Berkeley police get the opportunity to accumulate sensitive personal data about various students. Even when a student is spared a criminal record, incidents that might otherwise have been handled privately within the school system will be the subject of reports to the police. 

Hey Kid. Yeah, You. 

The school officials and the police have taken some steps here to reassure a nervous public that they can and do work together to try to make the schools safe learning environments. 

Robberies have been a focal point of community criticism of the district and the high school. In response to that criticism, school officials have now made it more plainly explicit that the police and public prosecutors get a say in the handling of all student committed robberies. 

The school and the police must walk a delicate line to balance student civil rights against law enforcement. They are pulled between conflicting community concerns. 

The goal though is quite clear. It is not to shoulder as many youth as possible with criminal records and loss of privacy. It is also not to coddle criminals. Very simply: 

"The goal is ideally to direct students back to what they are here for: to learn." 

Some unsolicited advice to the youth of today: Cut the crap, kid, and hit the books.

Two Quakes Felt in Berkeley, East Bay

By Patricia Decker (BCN)
Wednesday August 24, 2011 - 03:59:00 PM

A 3.6-magnitude earthquake rattled the Bay Area for the second time in as many days, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. 

The quake struck in the East Bay at 9:47 a.m., with its epicenter about three miles north-northeast of San Leandro and six miles east-southeast of Oakland and a depth of 5.7 miles. 

There were reports that the tremor was felt around the East Bay as far away as Martinez. A manager with the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley reported that the building swayed from the seismic activity. 

BART held trains to complete track inspections, resulting in residual delays across the system of 10 to 15 minutes. 

An earthquake of the same magnitude struck in San Leandro on Tuesday at 11:36 p.m., and shaking was felt across much of the Bay Area. The USGS reported a 2.3-magnitude aftershock late Tuesday night. 

The aftershock was recorded at 11:41 p.m. in an area three miles from San Leandro, about five minutes after the initial quake, according to the USGS. 

The first temblor Tuesday night had a depth of about 5.5 miles and was centered near San Leandro, while the aftershock had a recorded depth of about 5 miles, according to the USGS. 

People in Danville, San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury neighborhood and southeast Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood reported feeling the shake. There were other reports of shakes felt throughout the Peninsula, the East Bay and in parts of Marin County.



Politics' Fatal Therapeutic Turn: Two Berkeley Political Organizations Analyzed

By Zelda Bronstein (Guest Editor)
Wednesday August 24, 2011 - 03:51:00 PM

Editor's Note: The editor is otherwise occupied today, but this is an ideal opportunity to direct your attention to an excellent piece in the current Dissent magazine, written by Berkeley writer and Planet contributor Zelda Bronstein, in which she analyzes two local organizations that have hoped to be players on the national political scene, Kitchen Democracy and Move On. Click here to read it. An editorial might appear later in the week, as well as some other late-arriving articles and opinions.


Cartoon Page: Odd Bodkins, BOUNCE

Wednesday August 24, 2011 - 05:08:00 PM


Dan O'Neill



Joseph Young


Public Comment

My Life Is Jane Fonda

By Cristina Doan
Thursday August 18, 2011 - 10:19:00 AM

I feel really confused after meeting Jane Fonda last night and having her answer my question about the Vietnam War. 

Basically, she was in Berkeley last night to promote her new book about being healthy and aging nicely, I guess. And she kept repeating to the audience: "Stay positive. Always think positive thoughts." 

So index cards were circulating in the audience. The talk took place in a church--in the middle of Berkeley's so-called "Jesus Jungle" of churches sprawled around a cross-street near a residence hall. The index cards were meant for us to write our questions down to Jane Fonda and she would read them aloud and answer them. I guess it sped up the question-asking process and kept things a bit more anonymous. 

I wrote something along the lines of: 

"I appreciate your efforts during the Vietnam War to stop all the killing. However, my family remains dysfunctional after the war, with more people in my family going to jail than to college. How can I 'stay positive' as I pay for a UC Berkeley education on my own without any support from my family?" 

The audience had a dramatic "oh my" hum throughout the dark church. She seemed to stumble a bit, probably thinking about how guilty she felt for assisting North Vietnam as they slaughtered my South Vietnamese brothers and sisters. 

"Well, first off," she said. "I would like to say that I have been to other countries that were at war with the US, and that they always said something like, 'Go home Yankee' [when they saw Americans]. I never sensed that among the Vietnamese people. You come from a beautiful country and are a beautiful, Vietnamese person. Have gratitude for that. Be grateful that you come from a country so beautiful and so forgiving and so brave...I think, thinking about the fact that you're alive, that you are at UC Berkeley, that you can pay your way through Berkeley, gratitude that you are in that situation...I would just be grateful for all the things you already have." 

I have to be honest here. Having a renowned, famous actress address my humble "Vietnamese self" was inspiring at first. I bought into the hype of her bubbly, cheerleader demeanor. Her preaching of, "It doesn't matter how old you are, you can still have a rockin' body like me...even though I used to be anorexic and bulimic. Oh, and I've never done research in my life and was a drop out, but now I'm just starting and I'm so smart and BUY MY BOOK OR ELSE YOU WON'T GET AN AUTOGRAPH." I was hypnotized by my surroundings, of older people nodding their heads in agreement to everything she said. And feeling like the coolest fucking young person there for even knowing who Jane Fonda was. 

After the autograph and the picture with her--after the glam was over, I was brought back to reality. 

She literally told me to be grateful for what I have. Which is fine, but...has she not owned up to her actions in North Vietnam? If she really wanted the killing to stop back then, I don't think going to North Vietnam and sitting on artillery guns to shoot down airplanes was the best choice. How am I supposed to feel about that? 

Well, I guess I don't have a choice because constantly--over and fucking over--people who are NOT Vietnamese are telling ME how to feel about that god-damned war. When I mourn for the three million Vietnamese that were killed in the Vietnam War, I am seen as a self-pitying, self-victimizing type. When I say, "Hmm, maybe it was a cool hip thing to do back in those days to support Communism. So maybe that's why Jane Fonda went to North Vietnam," I'm considered a Communist and a traitor to the non-Communist South Vietnamese people. 

Maybe I just wanted to feel grateful for what I have. Given the cards dealt to me, I've done a fucking good job. Straight A's, two sources of income, being featured in every Bay Area newspaper and news channel you can think of for standing-up-for-what-I-believe-in...the list goes on. I'm grateful for that. 

What I'm NOT grateful for are people who refuse to research the facts before they do something detrimental to another country. I wonder if Jane Fonda knew a damn first thing about what her actions in North Vietnam would mean to us South Vietnamese. I know the South Vietnamese were not all comprised of angels either, but what the fuck did she do there that was so important and life-changing for the politics of a war-torn country? She's pretty. Yes. She's rich. Yes. She knows how to market a book. Yes. 

But does she know how to reconcile the tremendous pain felt in the heart of the only young, Vietnamese girl in the audience, who still carries the trauma of her Vietnamese refugee aunts, uncles, parents, and grandparents? 

I wanted to go back in time, before I was even born, and run through the jungles of Vietnam--stopping all the bullets shot and taking away every bomb and Agent Orange and rapist fuck of a soldier targeted at innocent Vietnamese brothers and sisters. 

Instead, I walked out of the church Jane Fonda spoke in, stuck in a Jesus Jungle and a country that has no heart or conscience about the three million Vietnamese slaughtered during the war--and the millions of survivors and descendants of the war who can't simply forget the pain that has consumed their lives. 

My Life Is Jane Fonda.


The Public Eye: Why Did Capitalism Fail?

By Bob Burnett
Wednesday August 24, 2011 - 09:32:00 AM

We live in interesting times. The global economy is splintering. US voters hate all politicians and there’s political unrest throughout the world. The root cause of this turmoil is the failure of the dominant economic paradigm – global corporate capitalism. 

The modern world is ruled by multinational corporations and governed by a capitalistic ideology that believes: Corporations are a special breed of people, motivated solely by self-interest. Corporations seek to maximize return on capital by leveraging productivity and paying the least possible amount for taxes and labor. Corporate executives pledge allegiance to their directors and shareholders. The dominant corporate perspective is short term, the current financial quarter, and the dominant corporate ethic is greed, doing whatever it takes to maximize profit. 

Five factors are responsible for the failure of global corporate capitalism. First, global corporations are too big. We’re living in the age of corporate dinosaurs. (The largest multinational is JP Morgan Chase with assets of $2 Trillion, 240,000 employees, and offices in 100 countries.) The original dinosaurs perished because their huge bodies possessed tiny brains. Modern dinosaurs are failing because their massive bureaucracies possess miniscule hearts. 

Since the Reagan era global corporations have followed the path of least resistance to profit; they’ve swallowed up their competitors and created monopolies, which have produced humongous bureaucracies. In the short-term, scale helps corporations grow profitable, but in the long-term it makes them inflexible and difficult to manage. Gigantism creates a culture where workers are encouraged to take enormous risks in order to create greater profits; it’s based upon the notion that the corporation is “too big to fail.” 

Second, global corporations disdain civil society. They’ve created a culture of organizational narcissism, where workers pledge allegiance to the enterprise. Corporate employees live in a bubble, where they log obscene hours and then vacation with their co-workers. Multinationals develop their own code of ethics and worldview separate from that of any national state. Corporate executives don’t care about the success or failure of any particular country, only the growth and profitability of their global corporation. (Many large corporations pay no US income tax; in 2009 Exxon Mobil actually got a $156 M rebate.) 

Third, global corporations are modern outlaws, living outside the law. There is no invisible hand that regulates multinationals. In 1759 Philosopher Adam Smith argued that while wealthy individuals and corporations were motivated by self interest, an “invisible hand” was operating in the background ensuring that capitalist activities ultimately benefited society. In modern times this concept became the basis for the pronouncements of the Chicago School of Economics that markets were inherently self regulating. However, the last five years have demonstrated that there is no “invisible hand” – unregulated markets have spelled disaster for the average person. The “recovery” of 2009-10 ensured that “too big to fail” institutions would survive and the rich would continue to be rich. Meanwhile millions of good jobs were either eliminated or replaced by low-wage jobs with poor or no benefits. 

Fourth, global corporations are ruining our natural capital. Four of the top 10 multinational corporations are energy companies, with Exxon Mobil leading the list. But there are many indications that our oil reserves are gone. Meanwhile, other forms of natural capital have been depleted – arable land, water, minerals, forests, fish, and so forth. Multinational corporations have treated the environment as a free resource. When the timberlands of North America began to be depleted, lumber corporations moved to South America and then Asia. Now, the “easy pickings” are gone. Global corporations have ravished the world and citizens of every nation live with the consequences: dirty air, foul water, and pollution of every sort. 

Fifth, global corporations have angered the world community. The world GDP is $63 Trillion but multinational corporations garner a disproportionate share – with banks accounting for an estimated $4 trillion (bank assets are $100 trillion). Global black markets make $2 trillion – illegal drugs account for at least $300 billion. In many parts of the world, a worker is not able to earn a living wage, have a bank account or drive a car, but can always obtain drugs, sex, and weapons. And while the world may not be one big village in terms of lifestyle, it shares an image of “the good life” that’s proffered in movies, TV, and the Internet. That’s what teenagers in Afghanistan have in common with teenagers in England; they’ve been fed the same image of success in the global community and they know it’s inaccessible. They are angry and, ultimately, their anger has the same target – multinational corporations (and the governments that support them). 

We live in interesting times. The good news is we’re witnessing the failure of global corporate capitalism. The bad news is we don’t know what will replace it. 

Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. He can be reached at bobburnett@comcast.net

Wild Neighbors: A Sense of Where You Are

By Joe Eaton
Wednesday August 24, 2011 - 09:24:00 AM
Starlings blacken the sky over Denmark.
Tommy Hansen, via Wikimedia Commons
Starlings blacken the sky over Denmark.

I doubt that anyone has captured the internal dynamics of a flock of birds quite as well as Richard Wilbur, in “An Event”: 

As if a cast of grain leapt back to the hand,  

A landscapeful of small black birds, intent  

On the far south, convene at some command  

At once in the middle of the air, at once are gone  

With headlong and unanimous consent  

From the pale trees and fields they settled on.  


What is an individual thing? They roll  

Like a drunken fingerprint across the sky!  

Or so I give their image to my soul  

Until, as if refusing to be caught  

In any singular vision of my eye  

Or in the nets and cages of my thought,  

They tower up, shatter, and madden space  


With their divergences, are each alone  

Swallowed from sight, and leave me in this place  

Shaping these images to make them stay:  

Meanwhile, in some formation of their own,  

They fly me still, and steal my thoughts away.  


Delighted with myself and with the birds,  

I set them down and give them leave to be.  

It is by words and the defeat of words,  

Down sudden vistas of the vain attempt,  

That for a flying moment one may see  

By what cross-purposes the world is dreamt. 

“Drunken fingerprint” is good. I’ve seen several kinds of birds go through these mass aerial evolutions: New World blackbirds, dunlin and other shorebirds (especially when pursued by a raptor), and, on film, quelea finches in Africa and dickcissels on their wintering grounds in South America. Absent evidence to the contrary, though, I suspect Wilbur’s “small black birds” were European starlings. 

The flight maneuvers of birds have fascinated lay and scientific observers alike for centuries. How do they do it? How do they coordinate their moves so as to avoid colliding with each other? Is there a lead bird providing cues too subtle for human observers to recognize? Is telepathy involved? The otherwise sane British ornithologist Edmund Selous, writing in 1931, leaned toward that explanation: “It is transfused thought, thought transference—collective thinking practically. What else can it be?” 

The why of flocking is more intuitive than the how. Being part of a group reduces a bird’s chance of falling victim to a predator. A location in the group’s center is even better. But everyone wants to be in the center, so the shape of the flock continually morphs as individuals shift. 

About fifty years ago, a Russian biologist named Dimitri Radakov found that every fish in a school coordinates its movements with those of its nearest neighbors. Others suspected that bird flocks were using a similar algorithm. Wayne Potts, studying dunlins on Puget Sound in the 1970s, proposed that the shorebirds kept an eye on more distant individuals, since a wave of movement could sweep through a flock three times faster than the nearest-neighbor rule could account for. He called this the “chorus line hypothesis.” 

Later researchers, mostly in Rome (which has an overabundance of starlings), have used high-speed stereoscopic photography and software developed for molecular-level materials analysis to map the three-dimensional structure of flocks in motion. According to physicist Andrea Cavagna, each individual starling appears to track six or seven neighbors. More data than that might overload the birds’ brains. I recall a report of similar attention parameters among chorus-singing frogs. 

Most recently, Charlotte Hemelrijk at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands has used the Rome group’s computer models to simulate how a starling flock circles above a roost. The ground rules: birds are attracted to other birds, they move in the same direction, and they try to avoid collisions. Hemelrijk and her colleagues found that the dynamics were different than in a school of fish. Fish on the outside of a turning school accelerate while those on the inside slow down, so each fish keeps its original spot and the school maintains an oblong shape. Starlings, however, turn individually, which accounts for the fantastic toroid formations of the flock as a whole. Flock shape varies most when more birds are involved, fewer of them interact, and individuals roll into the turn. The models didn’t account for variables like wind, air turbulence, or predator evasion, but the research, just published online , is a significant advance in understanding flock behavior. Caution: contains equations. 

Scientists with an interest in the emergent properties of systems—the way an ant colony can perform complex functions based on a set of simple decision rules--are paying attention to the starling studies. Some are looking for analogies with human voting or consumer behavior. The pestiferous European starling (introduced to North America by a badly misguided Shakespeare buff) may yet turn out to have its own contribution to make, for better or worse. 



Eclectic Rant: America's Job Woes

By Ralph E. Stone
Wednesday August 24, 2011 - 09:21:00 AM

As we all now know, the United States is in economic and political turmoil. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 9.5 percent in August, partly because of concern about the health of the U.S. and European economies. Some of the causes of our economic woes are well known: eight years of deregulation or lack of regulation of the economy; Wall Street greed; dollar draining wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya; the growing income disparity in this country; a $14.6 trillion deficit; and the Standard & Poor's downgrade.  

What we need now is jobs, jobs, jobs. And not just low-paying jobs that are unlikely to provide sufficient wages to live on.  

The following is a brief summary of where we are now. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in July 2011, the unemployment rate in the U.S. -- seasonally adjusted -- was 9.1 percent or 13.9 million unemployed persons. (It is 12 percent in California.) This figure does not include 2.8 million persons who wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.  

The unemployment rate for teenagers is 25 percent and 8.2 percent for Asians. An Ohio State University study on unemployment and race showed the unemployment rate for Black Americans at 16.6 percent and Latinos at 12 percent.  

The crisis in unemployment can only be overcome by more, not less, government stimulus beyond the recent one, which just matched the decline in state and local spending. But even that limited stimulus probably saved millions of jobs. 

The U.S. income gap between rich and poor is the greatest among Western industrialized nations. According to U.S. Census data, the top 20 percent of American earners -- those making more than $100,000 annually - received 49.4 percent of all income generated in the country, compared with the 3.4 percent earned by those below the poverty line. That is a ratio of 14.5-to-1, up from 13.6 in 2008 and almost double the low figure of 7.69 recorded in 1968. 

Crime, ill-health, imprisonment rates, mental illness are far more common in unequal societies than ones with better economic distribution and less gap between the richest and the poorest.  

A Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that a large majority of the population favor addressing the deficit by taxing the very rich (72 percent, 27 percent opposed). Cutting health programs is opposed by an overwhelming majority (69 percent Medicaid, 78 percent Medicare). The public also favored more spending on job training, education, and pollution control. The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press poll found that 60 percent of respondents want to keep Social Security benefits the way they are. Clearly, Congress is out-of-touch with the American public. 

The economy is growing albeit at a very slow rate; it will take decades to bring us back to where it was before the economic crisis. The unemployment crisis can only be overcome with significant additional government stimulus. Given the current makeup of Congress, it is extremely unlikely that additional stimulus will be approved. 

The main problem with solving our economic problems is that Tea Party-supported House members became beholden to the Tea Party platform, which in part means no new taxes even if the taxes are on the rich.. House members are up for election every two years. Thus, a vote for taxes on the rich would probably lose them Tea Party support in the next election and jeopardise their reelection chances.  

In the August 11, Republican presidential debate, all eight of the candidates said they would refuse to support a deal with tax increases, even if tax revenues were outweighed 10-to-one by spending cuts. At a time when the richest 1 percent of Americans have a greater collective net worth than the entire bottom 90 percent, there are other ways we could raise money while also making tax policy more equitable. Yet, Republicans are refusing to close tax loopholes -- not to help create jobs -- but to protect some of America's wealthiest financiers. 

And Defense Secretary Leon Panetta convinced Congress to raise taxes and cut Social Security and Medicare before reducing the Pentagon budget beyond defense cuts already called for in the debt-ceiling deal. The budget deal actually adds $5 billion to the Pentagon's budget. 

Meanwhile, Tea Party members of Congress are against regulation that might prevent future financial fraud. The House Appropriations Committee cut the budget of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and are determined to defang the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. 

Part of the latest budget deal, a bi-partisan, 12-member Congressional deficit "Super Committee" was established, which is supposed to deliver at least $1.2 trillion in across the board cuts or increases in income by November 23, 2011. The Committee's proposals must be voted on by December 23. If the Committee fails to produce a debt reduction plan, as much as $1.2 trillion in across the board cuts kick in evenly divided between defense and non-defense spending.  

It should be noted that Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R. TX), Sen. John Kyl (R. AZ), Sen. Pat Toomey (R. PA), and Rep. Dave Camp (R. MI) -- members of this Super Committee -- are on record as no-taxers. Thus, the chances of new taxes on the rich and closing tax loopholes are unlikely to be iproposed by this Committee. Thus, across the board cuts will be the likely result. Across the board cuts will likely mean more reductions in the safety nets for the poor, unemployed, the elderly, and the sick. 

As the final blow, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services announced that it lowered its long-term sovereign credit rating on the U.S. to "AA+" from "AAA". S&P lowered the rating because it does not believe the U.S., in the near term, will likely get its economic house in order. (www.standardandpoors.com/ratings/articles/en/us/?assetID=1245316529563) While S&P's downgrade is controversial, its assessment of the state of the U.S. economy and the lack of political will to act responsibly is accurate. This downgrade may effect credit card and mortgage rates and consumer loans. 

As you enter the Humphrey Building, the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, these words are written there on a wall: “…the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life—the sick, the needy, and the handicapped.” So far, we as a country are flunking this moral test.  

The U.S. has a chance with this Super Committee to raise our moral test score. I am hopeful, but not optimistic.

My Commonplace Book (a diary of excerpts copied from printed books, with comments added by the reader.)

By Dorothy Bryant
Wednesday August 24, 2011 - 03:59:00 PM

“Overachievers don’t generally become writers because the skill set is so different.”

Whitney Otto, NY Times Book Review 5/12/06, on a highly-publicized case of a ‘chick lit’ novel plagiarized by a Harvard student. 

The first question people asked was how someone smart enough to get into Harvard could be stupid enough to jeopardize her future by plagiarizing formulaic genre fiction. The next question was, why didn’t the Harvard girl write a book of her own—which elicited Whitney Otto’s comment about different “skill sets.” 

During my first twenty-odd years I worked on the “overachiever’s” skill set. I did the assigned reading and writing, learned to follow rules of spelling, grammar, and punctuation. I sorted out the important points to know for a test and learned to write papers giving back facts and opinions my teachers considered central. My efforts led to a teaching credential and a job (which, in my social/economic class, was “overachieving.”) 

And I loved teaching—until I was bitten by the writing bug, for which I had to learn a new, quite different skill set. 

1. I could not write true, non-formula fiction by assignment or even by my own choice. My “assigned” subject tickled like an elusive flea, or fell on my head like a truck-load of seeds to be sorted out—like those tasks set for girls by witches in fairy tales 

2. I sorted and resorted, took notes and made outlines, wrote chapters, then threw them all out and started again, slowly learning that the only path to the Right Way led through thickets of wrong ways. In other words, I could recognize and eliminate errors only by making them, then seeing the true path clearly—maybe. 

3. Seeking advice was useless. I was on my own, until I had gone through this process over and over again, until I despaired, ready to abandon the project. THEN, if I got lucky, the right, rare person might read the aborted manuscript and locate the spot where something fixable would set me on the path to the right rewrite. 

Does this sound like a skill set? It feels more like spelunking without a light: sinking blindly through the dark, narrow caves of my unconscious, until I reach a level where—maybe—I pick up something I know, but never knew I know. 

And the trouble is—the gem that I pick up and carry to the surface, and spend a couple of years polishing, might turn out not to be a precious stone, after all. 

In fact, that’s what usually happens. And I just have start all over again. 



Senior Power : ‘A Writing Project’ Through Tri-Focals

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Wednesday August 24, 2011 - 09:13:00 AM

Each year, August 26th is designated as Women's Equality Day. Established in 1971, it commemorates passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. 


I left a faculty seminar early that morning in 1983 and headed for Wheeler Hall. I taught a class in this large building, one of several with a history of problems for women. Ten o'clock classes were still in session. 

Inside the vestibule a man stared down at me from the top of the staircase. His fly was open, which does not constitute indecent exposure (California Penal Code Section 314), in many states an indictable offense at common law. I could see his penis, and I was aware of movement as he masturbated.  

He may have pre-judged this not-young, Caucasian female as one who had “made it” at the University. In reality, I was one of the few women involved in civil rights class action with whom he was likely ever to encounter. Passing him meant getting around him on the marble stairs. I pushed myself up from one knee and skirted out of the stairwell into the building’s first floor.  

The nearest telephone was in the Chicano Studies library-room. I said something about phoning security. A young woman fluttered out from behind the desk, headed for a man who was reading a newspaper. He dialed around, chancing upon security. Campus police had been reached. I stated what had happened and where. Suddenly, "They've got him."  

I was impressed. Although I was not asked my name or that I return to the area where the crime had taken place. I did so. One of the uniforms stated that they had picked him up but could not hold him… was I willing to make a citizen’s arrest? She put it to me as if it was doubtful that I would. Finally, she said “it would be good” if I identified him then and there . . . they had him “right outside.” I responded that I would identify him as well as make a citizen’s arrest, but “wouldn’t it be better if I described him before I identify him?” duh  


The Sergeant asked me to come to headquarters to provide a statement. I explained that I would come directly after class, at 12 o'clock. Still, no one asked my name. I was a few minutes late to class and made a brief announcement—today (uniquely) I would have to leave right after class. Someone wrote in her/his anonymous "Course Evaluation" (a misnomer for rating instructors) that “once she came to class in disarray." 

At noon, I went to police reception. The Sergeant took me to a cubicle the size and shape of a telephone booth. I was backed into it and seated. She went away, returned with "the arresting officer." He stuck out his hand. I attempted to get up but was expected to stay down. He zapped out a form "I need for you to sign" and belabored a series of boxes, "and you p-r-i-n-t" this and that. Sitting there in a poorly-lit, unventilated, upended coffin, I wanted to read what I was expected to sign. Parts had already been filled out. Looking down at me, "Oh you don’t need to read that; it don’t have anything to do with you… it’s not revalent.” [Sic]  

The Sergeant responded minimally to my questions. Had he been checked in the computer touted by the campus newspaper? Two computers, one was down, the other not checked. Was he a student? No, nowhere; carrying a registration card reported stolen by a University student. They had concluded it was a first offense and a misdemeanor.  

They stepped a few feet away and conferred. He tossed several more questions at me including "Are you sure you know what a penis looks like when you see one?” They examined me along two lines— where his hands were, and wasn't it strange that nobody else had seen him on a campus this size? I was placed on the defensive.  

Finally, she said they needed a statement. "The district attorney would be relying on it." Although he considered me so inexperienced or stupid that I might not recognize male anatomy, I was expected to provide a statement that would be legally adequate and to prepare it on the spot. She stated that, "as a first offense,” he would likely be let off. Indecent exposure and carrying stolen ID apparently were not offensive. 

I asked to use a typewriter and followed her to an area seemingly their staff room: battered couch, dilapidated table holding feet and bag lunches, typewriter on a rickety stand. She stood over me while chatting with colleagues. Everyone was talking loudly, several eating. I was hungry and thirsty. Uniformed men and one woman came and went, discussing things they shouldn't have in front of a stranger.  

I was told I would hear about appearing in court, and I should be "ready.” The University police pre-judged on the bases of my sex/gender, age, and attire allied with their personal stereotypes. I was not dressed the right way (jeans, no makeup), I did not toss my doctorate around or act the way they expected a not-young lady teaching at a prestigious university to act . . . And I was quite willing to write a complaint report despite little provision for doing so.  

Subsequently, I ascertained that: (1) the arresting officer did not complete the fingerprinting process, because the perpetrator resisted; (2) possibly one of at least two computer data bases may have been checked; (3) the address that perpetrator provided and was accepted as his residence was not a residence; and (4) his name was unknown to persons at that address. 


Months passed. I was preparing for a trip to Japan. I sent the police chief a note regarding how I could be reached and when I would return. He telephoned and casually informed me that he had "told the girl" to let me know that "it had been dismissed." 

Initially, I had naïve confidence in policy boastfully issued by the Chancellor banning indecent exposure, public nudity and lewd or sexually offensive conduct on campus. 

I discovered that the police construct their own version and merely staple it to the victim's hasty, restricted-to-one-side-of-the-page statement. There was disparity between the two versions. The arresting officer in his rendition but made no reference to suspect's carrying stolen identification. The police failed to process the suspect thoroughly — described as a Haitian citizen — because he intimidated them.  




By 1990, the University ranked high in USA Today's Campus Crime Index. The media reported other sex/gender-related incidents. One was headlined "Feds probe UC sex harassment; Campus complaint process assailed." A complaint had been filed with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR). I wrote OCR, asking that my letter be considered nonconfidential citizen input and shared with the woman student, who was about to graduate and attempting to find employment— two of the reasons typically offered for not responding to discrimination.  

K.R. had been loyal to the University and confident of its processes. Unable to get anywhere within the patriarchal family, she filed her complaint with OCR: she had been sexually harassed by a campus police officer while in custody, and she accused the University police department of failing to provide adequate grievance procedures for such cases. Her charges stemmed from an incident when police arrested several persons during an attempted sleep-in commemorating Gulf War casualties. During the booking and while in custody, the arresting officer repeatedly asked her suggestive questions "of a sexual nature."  

K.R. was misdirected and misinformed about her rights by campus officials. She met with both the University Title IX sexual harassment compliance officer and the police chief in an attempt to file a complaint. When she finally found the appropriate office, she was told the campus police could not formally investigate because she had missed their 30-day deadline for filing a complaint! A month later, a police lieutenant informed her that, because her charges were considered unofficial, she would not receive a report of what had been concluded. So she turned to the feds. 

Shortly after K.R.’s experience, two other women filed complaints against the University police department, accusing an officer of sexual assault and brutality, abusing his authority, and taking advantage of women held in custody. Almost a year after the K.R. incident, OCR issued its report, conceding that the University and its police department procedures differed in terms of coverage and filing deadlines. OCR's director of program review concluded that, "while the police officer in question might have acted in an inappropriate or unprofessional manner, his actions did not constitute harassment under the law." It found no merit in K.R.'s accusations. 

In order to learn anything about OCR’s investigation, an attempt to invoke the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was necessary. President Bill Clinton’s appointee, former Berkeley Mayor Loni Hancock headed the OCR office. She denied my FOIA request becauseit "is made not for a general public purpose relating to OCR's own conduct, but appears to be related to your desire to utilize information for a writing project." 

By 2008, Hancock represented California Assembly District 14, which encompasses much of Alameda County, including the University of California (the City’s largest employer,) the City of Berkeley, and part of Oakland. She is the spouse of UC, B graduate, former District 14 California State Assemblymember, and Berkeley current Mayor Thomas H. “Tom” Bates. She ran a well-funded campaign for the state Senate, to which she was elected by a considerable majority. Hancock is currently serving as the representative of California State Senate District 9.  

K.R. left California.  

x x x x 

Mark Your Calendar will return next week.  

Helen Rippier Wheeler can be reached at pen136@dslextreme.com. Please, no phone calls. 



On Mental Illness: Scenarios of "Noncompliance" and Relapse

By Jack Bragen
Wednesday August 24, 2011 - 10:37:00 AM

When I met with my first outpatient psychiatrist, he would monitor me for early warning signs of a relapse of psychosis. He would ask me if I was eating and sleeping O.K., and if I had “unusual” thoughts. He would also check me for excessive side effects of the Prolixin. 

When I was nineteen I became medication compliant after a phase of trying to refuse medication. I had experienced a second episode of psychosis while at work. I had worked for a janitorial service in Pacheco for a year, polishing supermarket floors; and had done this while essentially crazy for about the last month. I spent a few weeks on the hospital and became stabilized on medication. Then I spent seven months at a halfway house in Hayward, and then moved back to Concord, to live at my mother’s house once again. When back in Concord, I once again saw the first psychiatrist—to whom I had previously lied about taking medication. He behaved in a mild-mannered, soft-spoken and calm manner. This is a good trait in a psychiatrist, as opposed to authoritarian and overly direct, as some of them are. 

During each of the four or five relapses I have had, I lost weight rapidly due to not eating properly, if at all. Not eating is a strong predictor of imminent problems. Not sleeping can lead to a mental health crisis almost immediately. 

At some point of progression in a relapse, there often comes the decision to stop taking medication. The initial dosage of medication may be too low, and this can foster the delusion or the denial that says medication isn’t needed. (In my case, had I been on a higher dose of antipsychotic medications, I might have processed more clearly and might not have made the foolish decision to discontinue medication entirely.) 

Denial is a trait that can lead to discontinuing mental health treatment and not taking care of oneself. It is easy for someone who is subject to delusions to inaccurately believe that he or she doesn’t have an illness. This leads to stopping medication against medical advice, which sometimes causes a complete relapse of acute symptoms. If the initial dose of medication is too low, or if it gets gradually lowered too much over time, you don’t get that “aha” that the medication is needed. 

Delusions must be continually “pruned” from the mind even while medicated; medication alone often doesn’t do enough to correct the thought processes. Medication slows the mind enough so that you can work with it. That’s where “one-on-one counseling” should come in; so that the person with mental illness can be helped by a therapist to process thoughts with greater clarity. The above description applies mostly to those with schizophrenia. And I believe something very similar takes place for those with bipolar. 

When dealing with someone with whom compliance is an issue, injections of medication are sometimes useful. Prolixin and some other antipsychotic medications are available as a time release injection that can be administered once or twice a month. I was put on regular injections twice in my life. The first time this was over my objections. However, now that I’m older I’m grateful for it. If you are dealing with a son or daughter who is psychotic and who has behaved “wildly” and who doesn’t want to go along with treatment, it may work to be a bit “hard line” with this offspring, at least in terms of forcing him or her to take medication. This can be done with injections, (usually administered by a nurse.) (When taking tablets, it is too easy to hide the pill, and lie that the medication is being taken.) After a year of it, the person may have gained more insight concerning the illness. And then, at some point, the person who suffers from the illness should gain the insight that the medication is needed; and then can switch to oral medication. 

It is good if someone can get their episodes of psychosis or bipolar over with early in life. Having it happen when older can be a rougher ride; and it is harder and more time consuming to bounce back. Also, when older, you do not have parents to help and to provide some guidance. Unfortunately, people do not have control over when in life these illnesses will strike. 

My relapses over the past thirty years were because I briefly became medication noncompliant. Enough time had elapsed since the most recent episode that I forgot how hellish a psychotic episode is, and how powerful the force is that pushes me toward a relapse. My last episode of severe psychosis was in 1996, and I hope to never have another one. Yet, I can’t be certain of this.

Arts & Events

Don't Miss This

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Wednesday August 24, 2011 - 10:04:00 AM

With all those gloomy newspaper headlines and television reports of the unhappy news that the Dow had tumbled 5%, leading to global recession fears, it's hard to feel optimistic about the future. Nevertheless, we may take comfort in some of the pleasant, informative activities lined up for the next several weeks. 

"The Fantastics", Willows Theatre, 1975 Diamond Blvd., Concord. Wednesdays through Sundays, thru Labor Day Weekend. 

"Smokey Joe's Cafe", the songs of Leiber and Stoller, Lesher Center Repertory, Sept. 2 - Oct. 9. Also at Lesher Center, "A Week With Pablo Picasso", Oct. 22 - Nov. 19. (925) 943-SHOW. 

"Richard III", starring Kevin Spacey, Oct. 19 - 29, Curran Theatre, S.F. 

"Candida", George Bernard Shaw, directed by George Moscone, now through Sept. 4th, Bruins Ampitheatre, Orinda. Tickets start at $35. (510) 548-9666. 

"Chicago", (the Musical), Firehouse Arts Center, 4444 Railroad Avenue, Pleasanton, through Sept. 4th. (925-931-848. 

"Ringling Bros. & Barnum Bailey Circus," Sept. 1st. Cow Palace, S.F. Kids tickets $10. (800) 7454-3000. 

"The Steins Collect," (Matisse, Picasso, etc.) Saturdays through Sept. 3, 10 a.m. - 8:45. SFMOMA, 151 Third St., S.F. 

"Osher Lifelong Learning Program" (OLLI) Open House, Tuesday, Sept. 13, Freight & Salvage Coffee House, 2020 Addison St., Berkeley. An educational program for older adults who are learning for the joy of it. Reservations: 510) 642-0034. 

We trust some of the above activities will whet your appetite!

Freedom: The Movie that Dares to Defend Ethanol

Reviewed by Gar Smith
Wednesday August 24, 2011 - 09:38:00 AM

Back in the ‘80s, I was in the vanguard of environmental reporters who warned against the adoption of methanol as an alternative to oil-based gasoline. The preferred fuel, I claimed, was ethanol. Made from a renewable plant crops, ethanol was a perfect “green” fuel that burned clean and didn’t emit Greenhouse Gases. But a series of critical scientific studies began to challenge ethanol’s claims and critics attacked the concept of using corn to feed automobiles instead of people. Soon environmental organizations were protesting agrofuel programs as criminal conspiracies against the biosphere. Ethanol was no longer a cool fuel.

And then Josh and Rebecca Tickell rolled into town. 

It’s not easy being an environmental prophet. Back in the ‘80s, I was in the vanguard of environmental reporters who warned against the adoption of methanol as an alternative to oil-based gasoline. After all, methanol could dissolve engine parts and only produced a third of the energy as gasoline. The preferred fuel, I claimed, was ethanol. Made from a renewable plant crops, ethanol was a perfect “green” fuel that burned clean, contained twice the energy as methanol, and wouldn’t add any new CO2 burden to the atmosphere. 

Ah, but that all changed after a series of critical scientific studies began to argue that producing ethanol consumed more energy than it produced; that ethanol generates unwanted emissions; that ethanol would cause food shortages and price spikes. 

The idea that using food crops like corn to feed automobiles instead of people was particularly gripping. Ethanol was no longer a cool fuel and environmental organizations began to target agrofuel programs as criminal conspiracies against the biosphere. 


And then Josh and Rebecca Tickell rolled into town. 

The Tickells first gained renown when they helped publicize biofuels via a self-made Sundance-Award-winning movie that documented their cross-country trip in a VeggieVan powered by leftover fry-grease collected at US fast-food joints. With a little pluck, patience and a portable mini-refinery, the Tickells demonstrated how it was possible to transform used French-fry oil into a road-worthy substitute for petroleum. Talk about living off the fat of the land! 

Just as in the 90s, when the Tickells pulled into town last week in their latest oil-free vehicle, it was an event. This time, instead of a small van, the Tickells arrived in a large, tricked-out bus called “Freedom” that’s powered by a hybrid ethanol/electric engine and outfitted with an array of 19 photovoltaic panels on the rooftop. 

Last Thursday, the bus was parked prominently on Oxford Street in front of the David Brower Building. It was Week Two of a 140-week, 50-city tour and the Tickells were inside, preparing to host a screening of their latest documentary, “Freedom” (as in “Freedom from Oil”). 

‘Freedom’ Screens in Berkeley 

Josh apologized for the “unfinished” quality of the rough-cut but no apologies were needed. The film is expertly edited and filled with enough revelations, interviews and on-site excursions to fill a dozen films. But the main goal is a simple (but challenging) one: to defend ethanol and debunk the debunkers. To bolster their argument, the Tickells rely on more than 20 talking heads ranging from Ed Begley Jr. to Newt Gingrich (and that’s quite a range). 


The Tickells kick off their film by recounting the personal anguish of seeing ethanol — a “solution” Josh has promoted for more than 10 years — suddenly demonized. “We would show up for an event in our van and environmentalists would start protesting us!” they recalled. “What happened? We thought we were the good guys!” 

The film’s best early argument for reconsidering the ethics of ethanol comes with an investigation into the roots of the anti-ethanol campaign. Behind the public attacks (which included numerous research papers and an oft-cited cover story in Scientific American) the Tickells discovered a vast, covert PR campaign that had been put together by the same powerful company that had once worked for John D. Rockefeller’s oil cabal. 

One of the film’s more remarkable assertions is that Rockefeller was responsible for pushing the law that resulting in Prohibition, a law that was carefully crafted to outlaw the production of farm alcohol as well as bootleg booze. Up to that point, auto pioneer Henry Ford had presided over an expanding auto industry that was fueled by renewable, farm-based agrofuels. (Ford even used hemp to make body parts for some of his vehicles.) 

According to Tickells’ narrative, it wasn’t impatience with the gangland tactics of organized crime that lead to a repeal of Prohibition, it was Henry Ford’s personal capitulation to Oil Baron Rockefeller. When Ford agreed to abandon farm-alcohol as a fuel, Rockefeller signaled it was time to pull the plug on Prohibition. [For more, see “Rockefeller, Ford and the Secret History of Alcohol” at: http://www.prisonplanet.com/rockefeller-ford-and-the-secret-history-of-alcohol.html.] 

The film quotes the hidden strategies and goals spelled out in the oil lobby’s secret game plan. This effort to manipulate public opinion recalls a historic parallel to the campaign to criminalized hemp. Once again, it was a case of Big Oil versus Small Farmers. Hemp had proven its utility as a robust commercial crop that provided reliable and durable fiber for clothing and rope. But the Petrol Potentates saw potential new markets for synthetic cables and garments — once hemp was taken out of the picture. A media campaign against “Devil Marijuana” was the result. (The Tickells’ film includes a snippet of the US government’s earlier pro-marijuana propaganda flick, “Hemp for Victory.”) 

“Freedom” starts off by confronting the arguments against ethanol and goes straight to the source, interviewing the scientists whose work has been most effective in damaging ethanol’s reputation as a responsible fuel choice. And one by one, the Tickells throw every argument into question. To challenge the argument that turning corn into fuel is tantamount to taking food from the mouths of children, the Tickells visit the Corn Belt to interview farmers. Turns out that only a small percent of the nation’s corn harvest is used for food. Most is industrialized corn, grown for processing into by-products and additives. To prove the point, the Tickells hike halfway up a mini-mountain of kernels and try a mouthful. Sure enough, the stuff is tasteless and inedible — like munching on gravel. 

The Tickell Tour returns to Josh’s Louisiana birthplace to check out the Gulf shore, a year after the BP oil spill. Walking on the beach, Rebecca is able to spot clumps of oil on the rocks and manages to dig up more lumps of crude hidden just beneath the surface of the sand. Soon afterwards, her body erupts in a painful rash and the skin on the bottom of her feet begins to peel away. She also experiences lung irritation and other maladies reported to be common among local residents. 

How to Switch over to Biofuel in Berkeley 

Finally, the film takes viewers on a tour of the many of the cutting-edge businesses that are springing up with new solutions to the fuel dilemma. Some are making fuel from algae; others are producing high-octane alternatives from cellulosic crop wastes. “There is no one solution,” Tickell cautions in the film. Finding a way to move heavy loads on this planet is going to take a lot of different approaches. One of which is relearning how to do with less. 

During the post-screening Q and A, the Tickells invited a dozen local innovators to discuss the work they were doing. Josh pointed out that the speakers demonstrated how “fuel and food interests could stand side-by-side.” 

A farmer who supplies fresh organic food to Gather, the Brower Center’s celebrated restaurant, spoke about plans to grow plants to produce alcohol for fuel. A gentleman from San Francisco’s Department of Transportation reviewed his city’s 20-year campaign to introduce alternative vehicles and fuels. The owner of Dogpatch Biofuels invited drivers to sample the 100% ethanol fuel available at his pumps in San Francisco. A representative from the International Institute for Ecological Agriculture plugged the pioneering work of David Bloom, author of Alcohol Can Be a Gas (a massive book that was the target of a long-running censorship campaign by the Oil Lobby). 

One of the most interesting speakers was Matt Horton, CEO of Propel, Inc., a Redwood City company that is already supplying ethanol blends and 100% ethanol fuels to Bay Area drivers. Thanks to businesses like Propel, local drivers are finally being given the freedom to choose a non-petroleum fuel. (It’s not even that radical. As one audience member recalled, in the 1960s, then-Governor Jerry Brown had promoted 100% ethanol for state vehicles. ) 

In the film, the Tickells are shown installing an “ethanol conversion device” under the hood of their vehicle. These devices cost around $200 and snap into place within minutes, turning many standard vehicles into cleaner-burning “flex-fuel” cars. If your car is compatible (check www.propelfuels.com to find out), you could be pulling into the Propel station at 849 University Avenue as early as next week — and declaring your own “freedom from oil.” 

Resources: Information on do-it-yourself ethanol conversion is available on the Internet and in numerous YouTube videos.  

For more information on the Tickells’ film and their bus tour, go to: www.thefreedomfilm.com

Six Characters Chasing an Author

By Ted Friedman
Wednesday August 24, 2011 - 09:38:00 AM
David A. Moss ponders a question in Q & A after his one-man play--"Cracked Clown"
Ted Friedman
David A. Moss ponders a question in Q & A after his one-man play--"Cracked Clown"

For David A. Moss's one-man play, "Cracked Clown," a work-in-progress staged last weekend at the performance studio at East Bay Media Center in Berkeley, Moss creates at least six characters who chase him around the stage for the entire 60 minute performance. The characters—mostly demons and one angel—seem to have him on the run, until the surprising ending. Caspar the Friendly Ghost, and G.I. Joe appear in cameos. 

The one-man show, for small performance-stage, was hilariously funny, hysterically sad, hopelessly tragic, and finally—hopeful. An over-flowing audience (50) boarded Moss's speeding train (a central metaphor) bound for oblivion. There were almost as many laughs as in a night-club performance. 

Moss, a former headlining night club comedian (D. Allen Moss), fighting alcohol and cocaine addiction seemed at war with his abusive family-abandoning alcoholic black father, his alcoholic white mother from Cleveland, and his abusive, white alcoholic stepfather. 

Depicting one of his drunken, drugged-out nightclub performance, Moss stalks off-stage, sneering, "Fuck you; good night; don't think I'm funny; it's my life." The comedian's love-hate affair with stand-up comedy and his determination to emerge as his own realized self is the canvas on which Moss paints. 

As Moss put it, in an intimate question-and-answer period after the show, "I was a stand-up" (comic), but my father didn't stand up. You have to be accountable for yourself and stop whining and blaming others." 

But in the show, the blame flies. In fast-paced, stiletto bits, Moss spares no one, especially not himself. "Did you think the audience didn't know you were drunk, David? 

You could smell it!" Or, "Okay, I fucked up childhood." 

As Moss roamed the stage like a graceful panther, crouching, dropping effortlessly to a cross-legged sitting position to play himself as a boy he seemed at first—demented. 

Moss called this technique, "obsession." As the play opened, the setting might have been a mad-house, for Moss has clearly been driven mad by his demons. 

He's sitting in a motel ("one and a half stars"), crawling the carpet and smoking a toe-nail which he mistakes for crack. His demons, including Casper, call him a loser, a "cracked clown." 

With no mike and one light, two chairs, table, and glass of tea Moss managed to transcend the limitations of the small room, using his voice and sweeping gestures. Moss' years as a night-club comic and actor were evident. 

Some of the imagery of the play runs so deep, you can get lost. A cocaine trip comes to life as a character. Moss as a boy becomes a toy and is locked in a drawer. As G.I. Joe, Moss learns to not like the men in his military unit. "They'll just die, anyway." 

Between plot developments, Moss had plenty of opportunities for comic riffs. "What if Jesus, drank too much of that wine," Moss muses, going into the basic what-if strategy of comedians, depicting a drunken Christ slurring his speech: "let's see, we have one loaf of bread and some fish." 

Religion and preachers, white and black, appear as hounding demons. "Everyone wants to love Jesus, but no one wants to die." Or, "spirituality is going to Hell, not praying about it." 

Now who was that demon-angel? A sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Johnson, who took an interest in boy David and played checkers with him. "Do you want to be black, David?" 

"No," the boy snaps. Moss is "half and half." "Okay," the teacher replies. "You can be red." 

Does an artist have to be troubled to create, Moss asks at some point, but shoots down the idea. Moss can't extricate himself from this cat's cradle. He's riffing on his troubled, comic's past, and that's what makes the play work. 

Most self destructive and abusive behavior stems from self-hatred," Moss says, trying to understand his father. 

"Why do blacks burn their own neighborhoods? I'll burn up to protest my childhood. Richard (Pryor) already did that." 

But Pryor is dead and Moss—Pryor's spiritual child—may be the next best thing. Arts and Entertainment will let you know where "Cracked Clown" plays next. 

Before Ted Friedman became the Planet's reporter on the South side, and before he was homeless he was an aspiring night-club comic where he M.C.ed for two weeks at S.F.'s Holy City Zoo. D. Allan Moss was already starring there.

Film Review: Ripe Tomatoes: Herzog Doc Gets Second Wind at Elmwood

by Ted Friedman
Wednesday August 24, 2011 - 03:54:00 PM
Promotional shot of Werner Herzog's, 'the Cave of Forgotten Dreams, 2010, showing at the Elmwood in the Elmwood--
Promotional shot of Werner Herzog's, 'the Cave of Forgotten Dreams, 2010, showing at the Elmwood in the Elmwood-- Ooyala

Werner Herzog's The Cave of Forgotten Dreams has been revived for a second run at the Elmwood, Friday, after ending a three month run at Shattuck Cinemas. 

Dreams was billed as Herzog's most conventional documentary when it first opened to higher weekend box-office revenues and more favorable reviews than any other Herzog documentary. It has racked up more than five million in ticket-sales and earned an 8.6 rating (34 critics) at Metacritic, on-line. 

The subject of the film is Chauvet Cave, discovered in 1994 in the valley near France's Ardeche River. The Chauvet Cave contains the oldest cave paintings on record (some of them 32,000 years old), almost perfectly preserved when collapsing rocks sealed off the entrance some 25,000 years ago. 

Inspired by a New Yorker piece written by Judith Thurman (credited here as a co-producer), Herzog became the first filmmaker permitted by the French Ministry of Culture to shoot inside the cave, joining a small archaeological team for a few weeks in the spring of 2010. 

The film is visually stunning—you're getting a rare glimpse into Chauvet Cave, now closed to public view. All that beauty but with none of the world-renowned Herzog misanthropy. In fact the film grows downright tedious. Only 16 feet of the "football stadium" cave floor can be accessed by a narrow metal walkway, which may be why, Herzog, filmed the same artifacts three separate times (they were permitted four days of four-hour shoots). 

You have to look hard for the Herzog touch, although Herzog is hysterically wordy on the narration. The famous director, one of the greatest working directors in the world and pushing 70, manages a few Herzog moves, and at one point I wondered if you could not see a weak stab at Herzogian ridicule. (Some of the scientists he interviews, in segments between back-at-the-cave, might be satirized). 

Unfortunately that seems not to be the case; these breathlessly excited archeologists, paleontologists, and anthropologists are over the top. Sometimes, you'd think these frenchmen (the French Ministry of Culture co-produced) were discussing Jerry Lewis. They are, after all—French. 

The satirical Herzog featured in "Burden of Dreams,"—although directed by Berkeley's Les Blank, a close ally of Herzog's, or the scornful Herzog's (Grizzly Man, 2005), or his obsessional Fitzgeraldo, '82. seems at first view to be missing from the Cave. 

In Burden of dreams, based on Herzog's filming of Fitzgaraldo starring Klaus Kinsky—a real weirdo—and certainly Grizzly Man, and scores of other Herzog films Herzog's life-long artistic mission depicts man's losing struggle with nature. 

You may not see the scientists admitting their lost struggle with nature in the film because they are too busy spinning unsupportable interpretations (eg. the cock-eyed notion that the cave-artists were emailing us or had invented cinema 32,000 years ago; Herzog calls it "proto-cinema"). 

There are a few more Herzog surprising touches I won't divulge. 

Still, if you want a course in excavation and cave art, or just want to see some amazing proto-typical cave-art, beautifully filmed and lit by flashlights, you will be rewarded with a stunning, if tedious, film. 

But then the tedium is worth it with Herzog. And he still may be be messing with us. You just have to look for it. 


Ted Friedman, a Planet reporter on the South side, has been a film-fluff for 35 years, "studying" with Edith Kramer, Marilyn Fabe, and George Pauly. He has attended Film 50 for more than a decade at Cal. Ted Lander, 83, contributed.