The Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee gave a 5-0 thumbs-up Monday to the California DISCLOSE Act (Assembly Bill 1148), which would require political ads on the web, radio and TV, and in print to identify who paid for them. -more-
On Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at approximately 10:14 p.m., there was an unverified sighting of a mountain lion on top of a dumpster at the Smythe-Fernwald apartment complex. In December, 2011 UCPD received a report of an unverified sighting of two mountain lions running north on Lawrence Road toward Glaser Road at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. Last year several sightings of mountain lions occurred in the hills above the Berkeley campus and carcasses of animals suspected to have been attacked by mountain lions were also discovered. -more-
Is “OccupyCal” sprouting anew? The Fall encampment on the Savio Steps in front of Sproul Hall was quietly cleared by the University in mid-December, as Finals approached. There was little press attention, save a short Daily Cal article, in contrast to the much-publicized and Sturm und Drang evictions of Occupy encampments in Oakland, San Francisco, and Downtown Berkeley. -more-
Amir Mirzai Hekmati, a US citizen of Iranian descent and a former Marine, has been sentenced to death by a court in Tehran for spying. According to Iranian press reports, Hekmati was found guilty of "co-operating with a hostile nation, membership of [sic] the CIA and trying to implicate Iran in terrorism."
Although the story broke big in the mainstream press this week, Hekmati's alleged videotaped "confession" was actually broadcast -- in its entirety, with Hekmati speaking
Arabic Farsi-- on Iranian television on December 18, 2011. While staged confessions are always suspect, in the videos, Hekmati looks relaxed and healthy and he speaks quietly, in calm, measured tones.
Berkeley City Clerk Deanna Despain died early Saturday morning as a result of "a terrible accident" at her home in Oakland, according to a statement issued today by her family and Berkeley City Manager Christine Daniel. -more-
Just another day in the hood, Berkeley's South-side—my Lake Woebegone. -more-
Press Release: Realty Notes from All Over: Developer Bails, Berkeley Blamed, Ross-for-Less Building Sold for $8.425 Million
"After over three years of vacancy the former Ross Dress for Less building located at 2190 Shattuck Ave. on the corner of Shattuck & Allston has been sold to a new ownership group, Somera Sansome Partners based out of San Francisco. Retail West Inc.’s Matt Holmes and Dean Copans represented both the buyer and seller in this transaction that sold for $8,425,000. According to Holmes, "The building went vacant at the outset of the recent recession and there had been considerable interest from an out of state developer to try and assemble the entire block in an effort to create a quasi San Francisco Center styled type of urban retail project with both hotel and large promotional retailers. The market decline killed that ambitious project and than [sic] two subsequent deals died at the hands of the city of Berkeley with their zoning and planning oversight." Holmes added that this has been a classic case of utopian urban planning versus the realities of a tough market and limited retail playing field.' A single tenant retailer is in negotiations to occupy the street level and the developers are intending to create a second story large format class A office space on the upper floor." -more-
Who does the Mayor of Berkeley serve? The city charter provides for a “weak mayor” form of government, with the mayor theoretically having not much more power than an extra at-large councilmember who presides over meetings and cuts ribbons at civic events.
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, schooled in the ways of politics by 20-some-odd years in the state legislature and married to the former mayor, has made the most of the job. He is adept at squeezing every possible perk out of the job, though he can’t accept direct pay for his work without losing his state of California pension.
What he does have, and exploits to the max, is a great big city-paid office staff, huge considering what the mayor is supposed to be doing under the charter. When his wife had the job, she increased the staff head count from one (like all the other councilmembers) to four FTEs. They’re well-paid by the city of Berkeley—with 2010 salaries alone totaling close to a half-million dollars, before benefits, which in Berkeley are famously generous.
(These figures come from the San Jose Mercury’s Public Employees Salaries Database—but the city has refused to disclose how much is paid out in benefits despite repeated requests.)
What does the Mayor’s staff do for the citizens of Berkeley, exactly? -more-
The Editor's Back Fence
A self-described patriotic friend recently sent me a letter entitled, “The Gray Haired Brigade". He apparently believed I would be receptive to its suggestions that, “You have tasted socialism and seen evil face to face, and have found you don’t like it after all”, and “We didn’t fight for the Socialist States of America, we fought for the ‘Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave’”.
I told my friend I am not threatened by the U.S. Postal Service, Social Security, the National Guard, U.S. Marshals, our National Parks Service, the FBI or public schools. That’s the socialism I have tasted.
I explained that my wife and I are both military veterans, and our son is currently serving in Naval Special Forces. We place our hands over our hearts when saying the words, “With liberty and justice for all”. To us, “all” refers to Americans regardless of religion, race, color, income, sexual orientation, or health conditions. -more-
Worldwide Candlelight Vigil to Unite Movements for a Better World--
MLK, Jr. Birthday, January 15, 7pm
On his birthday and in the spirit of Dr. King’s vision for racial and economic equality, peace, and non-violence, we are holding candlelight vigils at 7pm in each time zone to unite our world in a global movement for systemic change. On January 15, wherever we may be, whether in our homes, in city squares, online, Occupies, places of worship, or at work, we lift a beautiful message high above the political dialogue. We light the dream of a more equitable world in our hearts. We can overcome! -more-
Papers across the country are revealing horrific plans by the USDA-Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service to sterilize members of America's last wild buffalo population, the beloved herds of Yellowstone country. -more-
Imagine opening up your copy of the Constitution one day and finding these words:
Federal, State and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own contributions and expenditures, for the purpose of influencing in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure.-more-
Federal, State and local government shall require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed.
Redevelopment has been sold to the public nationwide as a virtual panacea for numerous urban ills. The California Redevelopment Association website features pictures of happy children frolicking in a presumably redeveloped urban area. Although this idyllic image is charming, adults need to address quality of life issues in a mature way. There are many desirable societal goals for which redevelopment is touted as the road to achieving these goals. This brief letter will discuss some of the hard facts behind the hype surrounding redevelopment. -more-
Laud Governor Brown's initiative in dissolving The Centre City Development Board, among others, which was but the San Diego City Council Writ Large. -more-
Press Release: ZOA Praises U.S. Cong. Brad Sherman For Call To UC Berkeley: Reconsider Award To Former UN Official And Israel-Basher [sic] Mary Robinson
NEW YORK, January 10, 2012-- The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) strongly praised U.S. Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) today for urging the University of California, Berkeley to reconsider its decision to give Mary Robinson, formerly the president of Ireland and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, its "2012 Public Health Hero" award. Congressman Sherman stated that his recommendation was based on Robinson's "record of bias and animus against Israel." -more-
After Rick Santorum’s surprising showing in the January 3rd Iowa caucuses, many observers asked, “Why didn’t Mitt Romney win? What explains Santorum’s late surge?” The answer lies at the core of contemporary Republican politics: they don’t have one candidate that appeals to their fractured base. -more-
January 21st marks the second anniversary of the infamous January 21, 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case, where the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment prohibits government from placing limits on independent spending for political purposes by corporations and unions. In other words, money equals speech. Move to Amend
Many of the nation's fast-growing, elderly population are prime targets for abuse — physical, financial, sexual or emotional. Concern among the elderly and their advocates mounts as the number of seniors soars and more of them live longer. The Cedar Village Retirement Community in the Cincinnati suburb of Mason has opened a long-term care facility to victims of abuse. It is the first elder abuse shelter in Ohio and one of only a half-dozen in the country. All are funded by non-profit groups. -more-
During his confirmation hearings this past June, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned the Senate, “The next Pearl Harbor we confront could very well be a cyber attack that cripples our grid, our security systems, our financial systems, our governmental systems.” It was powerful imagery: a mighty fleet reduced to smoking ruin, an expansionist Asian power at the nation’s doorstep. -more-
The taxonomists are at it again, reshuffling the natural order. This is not in itself a bad thing. Science keeps clarifying the evolutionary relationships among plants and animals, and their scientific names—the classic Latin or Latinoid binomials—are altered accordingly. For amateurs, though, it can be annoying. -more-
Arts & Events
When I first heard that Jon Moscone was the new artistic director of Cal Shakes, my brain went “Moscone? Any relation?” When I found that he was, it always set me to wondering in the way we wonder about John-John and Caroline and other scions of assassinated good-guys. -more-
Carnage opens at Berkeley's Shattuck Cinema on January 13.
Roman Polanski's latest film could best be described as a comedy of manners — really bad manners.
If you liked "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe?" (another film-to-play translation featuring a quartet of quarreling couples), this Big Screen sparring match may be just your cup of tease. -more-
Don Reed’s solo East 14th comedy/storytelling played to raves last year, and garnered award nominations. I didn’t see it. I did see the opening of KIPLING HOTEL at The Marsh in Berkeley last Saturday night, and there are no raves or nominations in the offing for this outing. It was the sort of jokey storytelling that the sort-of-funny guy tells when holding forth in the kitchen at the party where everyone laughs for his effort and because they are a little tipsy. There were polite chuckles and occasional hearty laughs. But I noted three people in adjacent rows close to the stage were falling asleep. -more-