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New: Man Found Dead at Berkeley Marina Identified

By Bay City News
Sunday March 18, 2012 - 03:41:00 PM

The Alameda County coroner's bureau has identified a man who washed ashore at the Berkeley Marina on Saturday as 31-year-old Douglas Jones. 

The Berkeley resident was spotted in the water against the rocks at the marina's southernmost point at about 7:45 a.m., police Sgt. David White said. 

Police and firefighters responded, and fire personnel confirmed the man was deceased. 

Jones' body did not show any obvious signs of trauma, police said. 

The case remains under investigation.

Berkeley Hires Law Firm to Conduct Independent Probe of Police Chief's Actions

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Friday March 16, 2012 - 11:15:00 PM

Berkeley City Manager Christine Daniel said today that the city has hired a law firm to conduct an independent investigation of Police Chief Michael Meehan's decision to send an officer to a reporter's home in the middle of the night to demand a correction to a story. 

Daniel said the city retained the San Francisco-based law firm Renne Sloan Holtzman Sakai on Monday and the "process will be conducted to its conclusion." 

Meehan has come under fire for sending police spokeswoman Sgt. Mary Kusmiss to the home of Oakland Tribune reporter Doug Oakley at 12:45 a.m. on March 9 to ask him to correct a story he had posted online a short time earlier about a community meeting attended by about 150 people the night of March 8. 

Oakley's story said Meehan had apologized at the meeting for the department's slow response to the Feb. 18 slaying of Berkeley hills homeowner Peter Cukor, who had called police to report that there was an intruder in his garage. 

The story upset Meehan, who had not apologized for a slow response and said his officers responded appropriately to the situation on Feb. 18. 

Instead, Meehan apologized at the meeting for failing to quickly release information to the community about the killing, saying that his department's slowness resulted in the news media spreading information that "was not accurate or true." 

The Oakland Tribune said in an editorial this week that Oakley had misinterpreted Meehan's remarks and it corrected his story. 

But the newspaper also said that Meehan overreacted by sending Kusmiss to Oakley's home in the middle of the night. 

After the incident, Meehan issued a statement apologizing for his actions, saying, "I was frustrated with the department's ability to get out timely information, but that is no excuse." 

Before Daniel's announcement today that the city has hired the law firm to investigate Meehan's actions, the Berkeley Police Association, which represents the city's police officers, issued a statement saying that city officials were engaging in "a double standard" by not conducting a probe of the chief. 

Officer Tim Kaplan, the group's president, said, "If a police officer uses poor judgment and violates department policy, he is placed on administrative leave and is fully investigated." 

Kaplan said, "As law enforcement officers, we don't just get to say 'I'm sorry' and have the whole matter go away." 

He said, "There needs to be full transparency and there can't be a standard that applies to the police force, but not to the chief of police." 

The police union's attorney, Rocky Lucia, said in a letter to Daniel, "There is no doubt that had any sworn member of the department other than the chief ordered a member of the department to contact a reporter under the same conditions that member would not only be investigated but likely be put on administrative leave and be subject to discipline." 

After Kaplan learned later in the day that the city has ordered an outside investigation of Meehan he said he feels "a little better" about the situation. 

"That was what we've been asking for," Kaplan said. 

He said, "If they do the right thing, that ultimately is our goal." 

Kaplan said, "We have no preconceived notions about the outcome" of the investigation. 

Kaplan said as far as he knows Meehan is still working as chief and hasn't been placed on leave. 

City of Berkeley spokeswoman Mary Kay Clunies-Ross said she can't comment on Meehan's status, saying it's a personnel matter.

More than a Dozen Berkeley Occupy Cal Protesters to be Arraigned

By Sara Gaiser (BCN)
Friday March 16, 2012 - 11:12:00 PM

More than a dozen people charged in connection with Occupy Cal protests are set to be arraigned in Alameda County Superior Court this week and next.  

University of California at Berkeley Professor Celeste Langan pleaded not guilty today to charges connected to a Nov. 9, 2011 clash between police and protestors, according to attorneys for By Any Means Necessary, a group working with protestors. 

Langan is charged with one count of resisting arrest and one count of blocking the sidewalk, both misdemeanors, according to the Alameda County District Attorney's Office. She is scheduled to return to court April 5.  

Twelve other people are scheduled to appear for arraignment next week on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday on similar charges in connection with the protests, district attorney's office spokeswoman Teresa Drenick said.  

At least four of those being prosecuted are also involved in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco in November alleging that police used excessive force during the protest.  

Attorneys for By Any Means Necessary, the group filing the lawsuit, say that they expect to add allegations of retaliatory prosecution to the lawsuit in light of the criminal charges, which were filed after the lawsuit.  

They noted that some of those being prosecuted were not among the more than three dozen people arrested during the actual protest but were among those reporting injuries and taking part in the lawsuit.  

Yvette Felarca, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit and a leader in organizing the protest, for example, was not arrested during the event but can be seen on a video being struck by police, according to attorney Ronald Cruz. She now faces four misdemeanor charges and is scheduled to be arraigned on March 20.  

"The prosecutions show what we've been saying from the beginning, that this is a conscious effort to quell free speech and to target people," said attorney Ronald Cruz.  

The clash at UC Berkeley occurred when university police moved to remove tents erected by Occupy Cal protestors at Sproul Plaza. The protest sparked controversy over police tactics after videos circulated showing officers using batons on protestors -- controversy that increased a week later when UC Davis police were shown pepper-spraying protestors.  

The police response at UC Berkeley and in Davis was condemned by UC President Mark Yudof, as well as by the Council of UC Faculty Associations.  

A report from UC Berkeley's police review board is pending, following two public forums in February and a hearing in early March, university spokeswoman Janet Gilmore said. Campus police have also brought in someone from the UC Los Angeles police department to conduct an internal review of police actions.  

UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau on Wednesday forwarded a petition signed by 395 faculty members to Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley urging that all charges against student and faculty in connection with the protest be dropped.  

Birgeneau's letter did not take a position on the appropriateness of individual charges, but noted that the university had offered amnesty from the student conduct process for those charged with misdemeanors on Nov. 9.  

"We urge you to be sensitive to the context of the campus environment and to the strong feelings this has raised on campus, as reflected in the petition," the letter read. 


CONTACT: BAMN, Monica Smith (313) 585-3637 or Ronald Cruz (510) 384-8859 District Attorney spokeswoman Teresa Drenick (510) 272-6222 UC Berkeley spokeswoman Janet Gilmore (510) 642-5685 


Copyright © 2012 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited. 


Berkeley Library Branch Van Vanishes

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Friday March 16, 2012 - 04:37:00 PM

Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn't. Mark Twain

It’s Friday morning, March 16, 2012. The Berkeley Public Library branch van is scheduled for 3 hours at the Live Oak curb on this cold and rainy day. Nothing on my BPL website account advises differently, so I plan to proceed uphill to pick up my requested books and other media and to return others, all with deadlines. 

Rumor reaches me that the branch van is not operating! Indefinitely. I call the BPL Questions phone number and get a recorded voice. I dial around and ultimately someone reports “it broke down…”. I check the Library home website: 

“The Branch Van is out for maintenance until further notice - Branch Van holds can be picked up at the Central Library beginning at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, March 14th. We apologize for the inconvenience. Questions - call 981-6174.”  

I won’t need to hike up hill to Live Oak this afternoon. And Ms. Vivian and her colleague won’t have to spend 3+ hours in the cold, unheated van. I drew this oversight to the attention of library administration ages ago; receipt acknowledged. I normally used the North BPL branch, where there were more than 3 hours in the library week, and it was possible to request/get more ‘holds.’ I also relied on South branch, mainly for the variety of its “New Books.”  

I make it in the cold rain and slippery sidewalks to downtown Berkeley. The branch van is indeed not in its designated parking spot. Is it being serviced by a local merchant? Wasn’t something said during North BPL’s closure celebration about its origins being VW in Germany?  

A recent Library’s Director’s report to the board focuses on the annual meeting of the American Library Association in Anaheim in June. (This is not the Public Library Association’s annual conference, which is presently meeting in Philadelphia.) There will be a placement center. 

Helen Rippier Wheeler, M.S. (Libary Science) writes the Planet's Senior Power column when she's not chasing down the library. 


Press Release: Police Union Calls for a Formal Investigation of Chief Meehan “Error in Judgment” in 12:45 a.m. Visit to Reporter’s Home

From Officer Tim Kaplan, Rocky Lucia, Mary Jo Rossi
Friday March 16, 2012 - 08:40:00 AM

Citing the lack of review of Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan’s self-subscribed error in judgment as a double standard and serious disregard for Department policy, the Berkeley Police Association (BPA) today called for a formal investigation of the incidents that culminated in Meehan’s order to have a police sergeant make a 12:45 a.m. visit to the home of Oakland Tribune reporter Doug Oakley to demand that he change a newspaper story. 

On behalf of the BPA, attorney Rocky Lucia of Rains Lucia Stern, PC delivered a letter today to Berkeley City Manager Christine Daniel requesting a full outside independent investigation of the events that occurred on March 9 when Meehan ordered Sergeant Mary Kusmiss to the newspaper reporter’s home at 12:45 a.m. to request that a story on a recent Berkeley homicide be altered. 

Meehan has been quoted in numerous press articles stating: “It was a significant error of judgment on my part.” (Berkeleyside, March 11, 2012) “My actions do not reflect the values of the Berkeley Police Department.” (Chief Meehan Official Statement, Berkeleyside, March 10, 2012) 

“If a police officer uses poor judgment and violates Department policy, he is placed on administrative leave and is fully investigated,” said Officer Tim Kaplan, President of the 160-member BPA. “As law enforcement officers, we don’t just get to say ‘I’m sorry’ and have the whole matter go away.” 

The three page letter (attached) sent to the City on behalf of the BPA reads: “The Berkeley Police Department, through its Chief of Police, has been eager to investigate and discipline officers while espousing zero tolerance at many levels for violations of policy and procedures. “Moreover, the Chief of Police has demanded that the members of the Police Department perform at the highest levels and constantly insists that accountability be a necessary component to the delivery of police services to the citizens of Berkeley.” 

“There needs to be full transparency and there can’t be a standard that applies to the police force, but not to the Chief of Police,” Kaplan added. 

The letter further states: “The media accounts and the Chief’s own admissions and apologies to various members of the Police Department seem to confirm that the order to Sergeant Kusmiss was not only inappropriate, but in violation of professional standards.” “It is appalling that the City of Berkeley has seen fit to simply allow this incident to slide into a media graveyard without further examination or review.” 

The letter demands an outside independent investigation into the following possible departmental policy violations: (1) misconduct/supervisory and command officer responsibility; (2) reporting misconduct; (3) general responsibilities of officers and employees; (4) courtesy; (5) acts – statements by employees; and, (6) function of the Chief of Police. 

“The citizens of Berkeley rightfully demand at every level complete transparency and full accountability of its police officers and should expect nothing less from their Chief of Police,” Kaplan said. “The City can’t just sweep this or any other potential policy violation under the rug.”

Press Release: Statement from Berkeley Interim City Manager Christine Daniel

From Mary Kay Clunies-Ross, City of Berkeley Public Information Officer
Thursday March 15, 2012 - 09:34:00 PM

“On Monday of this week, the City retained the firm of Renne Sloan Holtzman Sakai to conduct an investigation into the events of March 8th and 9th involving Chief of Police Michael K. Meehan. That process will be conducted to its conclusion.” 

There is no additional information or comment to provide at this time. 

Press Release: Berkeley Patients Group to Remain Open -- Medical Cannabis Dispensary Plans to Relocate in Berkeley

From Sean Luse, Chief Operating Officer, Berkeley Patients' Group
Thursday March 15, 2012 - 09:25:00 PM

[Editor's note: "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated." – Mark Twain]

Recent media reports have erroneously stated that Berkeley Patients Group, one of the oldest and well-respected medical cannabis dispensaries in California, is closing its doors. The following statement provides accurate information on BPG’s status:

Berkeley Patients Group remains dedicated to providing safe and affordable access to its patient-members, while working to preserve the jobs of its 70+ employees. BPG is not closing. We have been looking to relocate for several years and look forward to announcing our new site, soon. We are grateful for the level of support we have received from the Berkeley community over the years. 

BPG is committed both to providing safe access – and to protecting it. We strive to operate a dispensary that is a model of compassion and legal integrity. BPG operates in strict compliance with the letter and the spirit of California's medical cannabis laws.

New: Body Found at Berkeley Marina

By Bay Area News Service
Saturday March 17, 2012 - 03:47:00 PM

The Alameda County coroner's bureau is working to identify the body of a man that washed ashore at the Berkeley Marina this morning, a police sergeant said. 

At approximately 7:45 a.m., police received a report of a body in the water against the rocks at the marina's southernmost point, Berkeley police Sgt. David White said. 

Police and firefighters responded, and fire personnel confirmed the man was deceased. The coroner's bureau took custody of the body, which White said did not show any obvious signs of trauma. 

The man's identity has not yet been determined.

AC Transit Will Buy New Buses in Hayward

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Friday March 16, 2012 - 08:33:00 AM

Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District directors have agreed to spend $16.4 million to buy up to 40 new buses from a bus manufacturing firm in Hayward, the Gillig Corp. 

The purchase, approved in a 6-1 vote Wednesday night, is the bus agency's first major vehicle order since it adopted a "Buy American Goods" policy in 2009. 

The lone vote against the purchase was cast by Director Jeff Davis. 

AC Transit, which carries about 200,000 passengers a day in 13 cities and unincorporated areas in western Alameda and Contra Costa counties, had been buying many of its buses from the Van Hool company in Belgium. 

AC Transit will spend $8.2 million of its own funds on the new buses and the other $8.2 million will come from the State-Local Partnership Program.  

Board President Elsa Ortiz, who authored the "Buy American Goods" policy, said in a statement, "I am happy that we are not only buying American, but we are buying buses made in this district." 

Ortiz said, "We don't need to go overseas to buy buses when we have people right in our backyard who need work and are capable of making a high-quality product at a competitive price." 

A prototype of the new bus is expected to be delivered to the agency by the end of the year and several of the buses are expected to be in service early next year.  

The Gillig Corp., which was founded in San Francisco in 1890, has more than 500 employees in the East Bay. 

Doug Bloch, political coordinator for the Teamsters Union, which represents employees at Gillig, said, "This is great news for our workers." 


Copyright © 2012 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited. 


Berkeley Chancellor Birgenau to Step Down at End of Year

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Tuesday March 13, 2012 - 01:40:00 PM

University of California at Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau announced today that he will step down at the end of the year after more than eight years of heading the campus. 

In a letter to the campus community, Birgeneau, 69, wrote, "I am deeply grateful to have been entrusted with the profound responsibility of leading this great institution and its outstanding faculty, staff and students through one of the most challenging periods in its 144-year history." 

Birgeneau, who is also a professor of physics, said he plans to remain at UC Berkeley to teach and conduct research. 

Appointed as UC Berkeley's ninth chancellor in September 2004, Birgeneau said he initially hoped to serve for seven years but remained in his post longer because of the state's economic crisis and the related challenges to the university that he described as "the most extreme disinvestment by the state in UC's history." 

Birgeneau said, "Although challenges still remain, I am confident that we have put into place a clear pathway for the years ahead and strategies that will support Berkeley's ongoing excellence and its impact on the world." 

UC President Mark Yudof said he will establish a committee to conduct a nationwide search for a new chancellor for UC Berkeley. 

Yudof said in a statement that Birgeneau "has proven to be a passionate, dedicated and effective steward of the world's greatest public university and an ardent champion of academic excellence, as well as an unwavering advocate for the underdog." 

Yudof credited Birgeneau with promoting new research initiatives at UC Berkeley such as the Blum Center for Developing Economies and the Li Ka Shing Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences. 

He said Birgenau "has aimed high in his efforts to make UC Berkeley a truly global force in higher education and research, but he also has managed to preserve its historic standing in California as a beacon of hope and opportunity for all prospective students." 

Birgeneau said, "I will continue to devote my full energies to leading Berkeley until my successor is appointed by the UC Regents and will work with him or her to effect a smooth transition."

The Santorum Strategy (News Analysis)

By George Lakoff, Reader Supported News
Monday March 12, 2012 - 10:29:00 PM

The Santorum Strategy is not just about Santorum. It is about pounding the most radical conservative ideas into the public mind by constant repetition during the Republican presidential campaign, whether by Santorum himself, by Gingrich or Ron Paul, by an intimidated Romney, or by the Republican House majority. The Republican presidential campaign is about a lot more than the campaign for the presidency. It is about guaranteeing a radical conservative future for America. I am old enough to remember how liberals (me included) made fun of Ronald Reagan as a not-too-bright mediocre actor who could not possibly be elected president. I remember liberals making fun of George W.Bush as so ignorant and ill-spoken that Americans couldn't possibly take him seriously. Both turned out to be clever politicians who changed America much for the worse. And among the things they and their fellow conservatives managed to do was change public discourse, and with it, change how a great many Americans thought. 

The Republican presidential campaign has to be seen in this light. 

Liberals tend to underestimate the importance of public discourse and its effect on the brains of our citizens. All thought is physical. You think with your brain. You have no alternative. Brain circuitry strengthens with repeated activation. And language, far from being neutral, activates complex brain circuitry that is rooted in conservative and liberal moral systems. Conservative language, even when argued against, activates and strengthens conservative brain circuitry. This is extremely important for so-called "independents," who actually have both conservative and liberal moral systems in their brains and can shift back and forth. The more they hear conservative language over the next eight months, the more their conservative brain circuitry will be strengthened. 

This point is being missed by Democrats and by the media, and yet it is the most vital issue for our future in what is now being discussed. No matter who gets the Republican nomination for president, the Santorum Strategy will have succeeded unless Democrats dramatically change their communication strategy as soon as possible. Even if President Obama is re-elected, he will have very little power if the Republicans keep the House, and a great deal less if they take the Senate. And if they keep and take more state houses and local offices around the country, there will be less and less possibility of a liberal future. 

The Republican presidential campaign is not just about the presidential race. It is about using conservative language to strengthen conservative values in the brains of voters - in campaigns at all levels from Congress to school boards. Part of the Republican strategy is to get liberals to argue against them, repeating conservative language. There is a reason I wrote a book called Don't Think of an Elephant! When you negate conservative language, you activate conservative ideas and, hence, automatically and unconsciously strengthen the brain circuitry that characterizes conservative values. 

As I was writing the paragraphs above, the mail came. In it was material from Public Citizen (an organization I admire) promoting Single Payer Health Care (which I agree with) by arguing against right-wing lies about it. In big, bold type the lies were listed: Single payer is socialized medicine. Single payer will lead to rationing, like in Canada. Costs will skyrocket under single Payer. And so on. After each one, came the negative: Wrong. And then in small, unbolded type, the laundry lists of policy truths. Public Citizen was unconsciously promoting the conservative lies by repeating them in boldface and then negating them. 

The same naiveté about messaging, public discourse, and effects on brains is now showing up in liberal discussions of the Republican presidential race. Many Democrats are reacting either with glee ("their field is so ridiculously weak and wacky." - Maureen Dowd), with outrage (their deficit-reduction proposals would actually raise the deficit - Paul Krugman), or with incredulity ("Why we're debating a woman's access to birth control is beyond me." - Debbie Wasserman Schultz). Hendrik Hertzberg dismissed the ultra-conservatives as "a kick line of clowns, knaves, and zealots." Joe Nocera wrote that he hope Santorum would be the Republican candidate, claiming that he is so far to the right that he would be "crushed" - an "epic defeat," "shock therapy" that would bring back moderate Republicans. Democrats even voted for Santorum in the Michigan primary on the grounds that he would be the weaker candidate and that it would be to the Democrats' advantage if the Republican race dragged on for a long time. 

I mention these liberals by name because they are all people I admire and largely agree with. I hope that they are right. And I hope that the liberal discourse of glee, scorn, outrage, incredulity, and support for the most radical conservative will actually win the day for Democrats at all levels. But, frankly, I have my doubts. I think Democrats need much better positive messaging, expressing and repeating liberal moral values - not just policies- uniformly across the party. That is not happening. 

One of the reasons that it is not happening is that there is a failure to understand the difference between policy and morality, that morality beats policy, and that moral discourse is absolutely necessary. This is a major reason why the Democrats lost the House in 2010. Consider how conservatives got a majority of Americans to be against the Obama health care plan. The president had polled the provisions, and each had strong public support: No preconditions, no caps, no loss of coverage if you get sick, ability to keep your college-age child on your policy, and so on. These are policy details, and they matter. The conservatives never argued against any of them. Instead, they re-framed; they made a moral case against "Obamacare." Their moral principles were freedom and life, and they had language to go with them. Freedom: "government takeover." Life: "death panels." Republicans at all levels repeated them over and over, and convinced millions of people who were for the policy provisions of the Obama plan to be against the plan as a whole. They changed the public discourse, changed the brains of the electorate - especially the "independents" - and won in 2010. 

The radical conservative discourse of the Republican presidential race has the same purpose, and conservative Republicans are luring Democrats into making the same mistakes. Santorum, the purest radical conservative, is the best example. From the perspective of conservative moral values, he is making sense and arguing logically, making his moral values clear and coming across as straightforward and authentic, as Reagan did. 

The Moral Value Systems 

The basic moral values in the progressive moral system are empathy and responsibility, both for oneself and others. This leads to a view of government as having certain moral obligations: providing protection and empowerment for everyone equally. This requires a vibrant commitment to the public - public infrastructure (roads, buildings, sewers), public education, public health, and so on. No private business can prosper at all without such public provisions. The private depends on the public. 

These values follow from certain ideal progressive family values, as projected to larger institutions. The progressive family has parents of equal authority. Their central moral role requires empathy with each other and their children, it requires self-responsibility, and responsibility for the well-being of other family members. This means open communication, transparency about family rules, shared decision-making, and need-based fairness. 

This is an idealized view. Because our first acquaintance with being governed is in our families, we come to understand ideal versions of governing institutions (e.g., churches, schools, teams, and nations) in terms of idealizations of families. 

The idealized conservative family is structured around a strict father who is the natural leader of the family, who is assumed to know right from wrong, whose authority is absolute and unchallengeable, who is masculine, makes decisions about reproduction, and who sets the rules - in short, the Decider. Children must be taught right from wrong through strict discipline, which is required to be moral. This maps onto the nation. To be prosperous in a free market, one must be fiscally disciplined. If you are not prosperous, you must not be disciplined, and if you are not disciplined, you cannot be moral, and so you deserve your poverty. 

When this idealized family model is projected onto various governing institutions, we get conservative versions of them: conservative religion with a strict father God; a view of the market as Decider with no external authority over the market from government, unions, or the courts; and strictness in other institutions, like education, prisons, businesses, sports teams, romantic relationships, and the world community. Control over reproduction ought to be in the hands of male authorities. 

For conservatives, democracy is about liberty, individual responsibility and self-reliance - the freedom to seek one's own self-interest with minimal or no commitment to the interests of others. This implies a minimal public and a maximal private. 

We can now see why the Santorum Strategy is so concerned with family values. Strict father family values are the model for radical conservative values. Conservative populism - in which poor conservatives vote against their financial interests - depends on those poor conservatives having strict father family values, defining themselves in terms of those values, and voting on the basis of those values, thus selecting strict fathers as their political leaders. 

The repetition of language expressing those values leads to more and more working people becoming political and accepting those values in their politics. As long as the Democrats have no positive moral messaging of their own, repeated over and over, the Santorum Strategy will go unchallenged and conservative populism will expand. Moreover, repeating the Santorum language by mocking it or arguing against it using that language will only help radical conservatives in propagating their views. 

Democrats are concentrating on the presidential race, hoping that if Obama wins, as it looks like he will, all will be fine. They are missing the bigger picture. The Democratic strategy of getting the independent women's vote for Obama is not sufficient, because independent women may still vote for their local conservative leaders as the strict fathers they want to see in office. 

Democrats have been gleeful about the Santorum birth control strategy, taken up by conservatives in the House as a moral position that if you want to use birth control, you should pay for it yourself. Democrats see this as irrational Republican self-destruction, assuming that it will help all Democrats to frame it as a "war against women." I hope they are right, but I have doubts. 

This is anything but an irrational position for radically conservative Republicans. Quite the contrary. It fits conservative moral logic - the logic used by conservative populists, male for sure and for many women as well. In some respects it embodies the most powerful aspects of conservative moral logic, strengthening conservative moral logic in the minds not only of conservatives, but also of independents who have both conservative and progressive world views and swing between them. 

Here's how that logic goes. 


The strict father determines what happens in the family, including reproduction. Thus reproduction is the province of male authority.

The strict father does not condone moral weakness and self-indulgence without moral consequences. Sex without reproductive consequences is thus seen as immoral.

If the nation supports birth control for unmarried women, then the nation supports immoral behavior.

The conservative stress on individual responsibility means that you and no one else should have to pay for your birth control - not your employer, your HMO, or the taxpayers.

Having to pay for your birth control also has a metaphorical religious value - paying for your sins.

This is a classical slippery slope narrative. If no one else should have to pay for your birth control, the next step is that no one else should have to pay for any of your health care.

And the step after that is that no one else should be forced to pay for anyone else. This is, everything should be privatized - no public education, safety nets, parks, or any public institutions or services.
That is what makes conservative moral logic into such a powerful instrument. And conservative and independent women can be pragmatic about the birth control details, while accepting the moral logic as a whole. 


Incidentally, Rush Limbaugh's "slut" and "prostitute" remarks, while even more extreme than Santorum, make sense to conservatives in terms of the same conservative moral logic. Limbaugh apologized for those two words, but not for the logic behind them. Even after the apology for the two words, the logic lingers. 

All moral logic in politics, whether progressive or conservative, is based on metaphorical thought processes, applying family moral values to political moral values. Republicans understand this and Santorum carries it out masterfully for the benefit of all conservative Republican office seekers at all levels, today and in the future. 

The Santorum Strategy does not end with this election. It is part of a permanent campaign that has been going on since the Gingrich revolution of 1994, and will continue into the indefinite future. 

Democrats tend to be literalists, assuming that the presidential campaign is only about the presidential campaign and that birth control is only about birth control. In 2010, they thought that health policy was only about health policy, even as conservatives were metaphorically making it about freedom ("government takeover") and life ("death panels"). 

It is vital that Democrats not make that mistake again. 


Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. George Lakoff is a Berkeley resident and a professor at U.C. Berkeley.  


Berkeley Police Officers Express Concern About Chief's Action

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Monday March 12, 2012 - 10:26:00 PM

Berkeley police officers are expressing concern about Police Chief Michael Meehan's decision to send an officer to a reporter's home early Friday morning to demand a correction to a story about a community meeting on a recent high-profile crime.

Members of the Berkeley Police Association, which represents the city's officers, said in a statement that they "stand with our community and share in their concerns about the appearance and correctness of the chief's orders."

They also said they "are gravely concerned about the impact his actions will have on our ability to maintain the vital trust of the community we serve."

Police union members said, "We are committed to providing the best possible service to the community, and protecting the constitutional rights of the citizens of Berkeley to whom we ultimately answer."

They said, "We do not believe that the actions tak en by Chief Meehan represent the will, spirit, or sentiment of the membership of the Berkeley Police Association." 

Meehan and Berkeley City Councilmembers Susan Wengraff and Laurie Capitelli held a community meeting Thursday night to discuss the Police Department's response to a Feb. 18 incident in which a man who's been described as mentally ill allegedly entered the property of Berkeley hills homeowner Peter Cukor and killed him with a flower pot. 

After midnight, Meehan sent police spokeswoman Sgt. Mary Kusmiss to the home of an Oakland Tribune reporter to demand a correction to a story the reporter had posted on the newspaper's website late Thursday night. 

Meehan later issued a statement saying, "I sincerely apologize for my actions." 

He said, "I have apologized to the reporter personally and I take full responsibility for this error in judgment. I was frustrated with the department's ability to get out timely information, but that is no excuse." 

Meehan added, "My actions do not reflect the values of the Berkeley Police Department. I deeply appreciate the importance of an independent and thoroughly informed media, and how they assist us in making our community aware of important events and information." 

Meehan pledged to arrange for "an independent review of the department's policies and practices regarding release of information to the media." 

Berkeley City Manager Christine Daniel said in a statement, "I take this situation very seriously. We understand and appreciate the depth of response to this incident." 

Daniel said, "There was no justification for contacting the reporter in this way and the chief understands that the more appropriate response to his concerns about inaccurate statements in the article should have been to wait until the following day and make contact by phone or email." 

She said, "The chief has acknowledged his lapse in judgment and assured me that nothing like this will happen again." 

A spokeswoman for Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said he agrees with Daniel's comments about the situation.

Press Release: Statement on Recent Incident Involving Chief of Police and a Member of the Press

From Anthony Sanchez for Councilmember Jesse Arreguin
Wednesday March 14, 2012 - 09:58:00 AM

Sending a police officer in the middle of the night to a reporter’s house to ask for changes to a story is flat-out inappropriate and just plain wrong. It is a serious trespass that treads dangerously close to State censorship of the Press. Chief Meehan has taken full responsibility for the incident, apologizing for his grave error and assuring the City, the Public, and the Press that it will never happen again. 

While I believe that the anger and concern in the community over the Chief’s actions are entirely warranted, I also believe this was an isolated incident and does not reflect on the Chief’s personal character. It would be unfortunate for this incident to detract from the exemplary record of our police officers and Chief Meehan, and their commitment to serve our community. 

It is a hard lesson learned for Chief Meehan, but in light of his sincere apology and self-recognition of his error, it is time to move on and move forward as a community. Acknowledging that press intimidation –intended or not- is unacceptable and anathema to Berkeley’s values, I offer my continued support of Chief Meehan to serve and protect our City.



Who's After Berkeley Police Chief's Scalp, and Why?

By Becky O'Malley
Friday March 16, 2012 - 10:40:00 AM

The subject lines on friends’ email forwards of the original Bay Area News Group article about PoliceChiefGate told the story. “OMG!” “Unbelievable!” and more. And who could argue with their reaction? Everyone in Berkeley and beyond, it seemed, even people who have never agreed on anything else before, agreed on this one:. “How could he? What could he have been thinking?”

And so did I. I’ve been a First Amendment absolutist for all of my adult life. I joined the ACLU before I was old enough to vote. I’ve many times quoted Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black on the constitutional ban on abridging freedom of speech: “When it says ‘no law’ it means NO LAW!”

After working for a number of years as a political agitator for civil rights and in the anti-war movement, I took up journalism. These experiences fueled my outrage at the report of the Berkeley Police Chief’s midnight messenger sent to press a reporter to correct an online story. I imagined myself hearing that ominous knock, reliving that fearsome confrontation with an armed officer on my doorstep.

There’s no question in my mind that what used to be called The Standard Liberal Position is that this should never have happened. We all have the right to be safe and secure in our homes, don’t we? And we shouldn’t have to be afraid when someone comes knocking after midnight, especially the police. I absolutely agree—or at least I do when I’m wearing my journalist’s hat.

But when the Berkeley Police Officers’ Association issued their first statement criticizing Meehan, I started to wonder. The BPOA is technically not a union, since they can’t strike under the law—but it’s a professional association which does collective bargaining on behalf of its members . And as luck would have it, collective bargaining is underway right now—and Chief Meehan is the boss with whom they’re negotiating. It occurred to me that there might be more than one reason the Association is looking askance at him.

When Berkeley attorney Jim Chanin, a veteran ACLU officer, a former chair of Berkeley’s Police Review Commission and a litigator who has brought and won many police misconduct lawsuits in many jurisdictions in his 40 year career, was quoted in the Chronicle as thinking that Meehan showed “a serious lapse in judgment”, but should not have to resign, I wondered more. So I called Jim to get his take at first hand. 

He pointed out that in Berkeley alone he’d won at least 25 lawsuits against the police for wrongful death, not just scaring someone, and not once had his clients received an apology. Not once had the BPOA called for an apology in any case he’d handled, no matter how bad. Meehan, by contrast, has apologized, profusely. Chanin suggested that there might be “ulterior motives” at work here. 

And today the BPOA has put out another even stronger denunciation of Meehan—this one co-signed by Rocky Lucia, an attorney with the Walnut Creek labor law firm that represents the union. The plot thickens. 

Opinions differ on whether Berkeley’s elected officials can or should express an opinion on what the consequences to Meehan should be in this situation. During public comment at Monday’s special city council meeting, former mayoral candidate (and Planet contributor) Zelda Bronstein asked why Mayor Bates hadn’t made a statement about the incident. 

Councilmember Kriss Worthington came to Bates’ defense, explaining in elaborate detail legal advice the council had received, that only Interim City Manager Chris Daniel could fire a department head like the police chief, and that if councilmembers expressed an opinion it might be used against the city in a wrongful termination lawsuit later on. 

But Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, normally a Worthington ally and someone I respect, wasn’t present when Worthington spoke during the public comment period. On Wednesday he issued a statement saying that “it is a hard lesson learned for Chief Meehan, but in light of his sincere apology and self-recognition of his error, it is time to move on and move forward as a community. Acknowledging that press intimidation –intended or not- is unacceptable and anathema to Berkeley’s values, I offer my continued support of Chief Meehan to serve and protect our City.” 

This seems to violate the legal opinion that Worthington cited, but Arreguin could conceivably argue that if Meehan’s not fired there’s no risk of a wrongful termination suit. The reporter in question, Doug Oakley of the Oakland Tribune et al, has said he accepts Meehan’s apology and doesn’t plan to sue either. 

Arreguin’s not the only person who thinks that, overall, Meehan has been doing a good job. He’s been shaking up a department long criticized for excessive overtime and bloated pensions, with occasional serious lapses like the officer who was taking confiscated drugs from the evidence room. 

Meehan has been trying to change that culture. Some suggest that the union was so quick to denounce him because he was hanging tough in the negotiations now in progress. 

It’s been very hard, verging on impossible, for reporters to pry information out of the BPD in the 10 years I’ve been watching them regularly. Former Planet ace reporter Richard Brenneman, who has covered police in many cities including Las Vegas, has always said that Berkeley is the hardest place to find out what the police are up to that he’s ever worked. We tried many different kinds of people on the police beat in the 8 years the Planet was in print with paid staff—young, old, experienced, naïve, stern, charming—the whole gamut. Nothing ever really worked, and no other publication has done much better. 

Public information officers have come and gone, but they’ve all seemed to view their job as withholding information, not providing it. The current incumbent, Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, is courteous and responsible, better than most, but she’s only on duty for four (ten hour) days a week and often seems to be the last to find out what’s going on. 

She’s not intimidating in any way. People like her. 

And that brings us to the crux of the Oakley story. Reports differ as to whether Sgt. Kusmiss was carrying a gun when she rang his doorbell, but it’s generally conceded that she was in plain clothes. Her persona is mild, almost retiring, often apologetic when she can’t provide you with the news you’re looking for. She’s been quoted as telling Oakley she was “mortified” to be carrying out the chief’s orders for her late night call. 

I can’t speak to Doug Oakley’s state of mind, so I don’t know why he said he was afraid of her, why he reported a panic attack after she rang his bell at 12:45. I can’t imagine myself being scared of Mary Kusmiss at any time of the day or night. 

Angry, hell yes. Like most of us, I don’t like to be disturbed by anyone ringing my doorbell after about ten at night. With modern communication technology available, many think it’s no longer okay to drop by someone’s home without calling first, at any time of the day. Especially, of course, if you’re a police person. 

(Ironic sidebar: when word leaked out that Christine Daniel would be the new city manager, and that she was probably the first openly gay person to hold that job, I called her on her cell phone about nine at night to confirm the rumors for a little feel-good feature. I was told emphatically that I had no business calling her at home—to call back at the office the next day.) 

But the point, of course, is that Kusmiss was and is a police officer. As a matter of principle, police officers shouldn’t make unannounced late night house calls unless it’s a dire emergency, especially on reporters, whose obvious assumption is that the intent is to shape the news. They really shouldn’t make house calls on reporters at all, because it’s bound to look bad no matter what the intent. 

In fact, in this instance Chief Meehan was not trying to warp the reporting of the news, by all accounts. He wasn’t threatening to abridge anyone’s rights under the First Amendment. He sincerely wanted a justifiable correction of a factual error, and BANG later agreed he deserved it. It’s just that his timing stank. 

It’s not unreasonable to conclude that Oakley and BANG decided not to sue is because they couldn’t make a credible allegation that the reporter been injured enough for damages to be awarded. The kind of clients Jim Chanin represents have the kind of injuries which are more easily proven in court, mostly physical ones. 

Did Meehan do something stupid? You bet. But as Jim Chanin pointed out to me, Meehan’s shown no “pattern and practice” of dumb mistakes, and he’s apologized for this one. In Jim’s opinion he should be given a second chance. Just one, of course. 

Can you even fire someone for just for acting stupid? As a former employer, I’m here to tell you it’s hard, verging on impossible. 

Did the BPD set Meehan up for a fall? That doesn’t seem possible, but their eagerness to kick him when he is down sure looks a lot like crocodile tears. 

Putting on my GooGoo (Good Government) hat, I tend to agree with Chanin, Arreguin and the other attorneys, city officials and even experienced journalists I sounded out on the question of whether Meehan should be asked to leave at this point. As a Berkeley citizen and taxpayer, I’d like to see if anyone can really get the BPD under control for once, and Meehan was well on his way to succeeding before this incident. I’d like to see him keep trying for a while longer, if he doesn’t make any more mistakes like this one.

The Editor's Back Fence

Hiring and Firing Department Heads in Berkeley's City Government: A Legal Sidebar

By Becky O'Malley
Friday March 16, 2012 - 11:07:00 AM

A legal point, often misunderstood, is that under Berkeley’s charter the city council can vote whether or not to accept the manager’s hiring recommendations, but after a department head is hired only the manager can fire him or her.

If the councilmembers, including the mayor, wanted to get rid of such an employee and the manager declined to do so, they’d have to fire the manager first. So the mayor and his fellow council members can’t just fire the embattled police chief, even if they want to.

Right now there’s another good current illustration of what this entails. The department head position of Director of Planning is vacant. It was mistakenly reported in a local news outlet that one Eric Angstadt of Oakland had the job, but the mayor and council took great pains at the Monday meeting to say that he had NOT been hired, that the council was just receiving the recommendation and the approval vote wouldn’t be until April 3.

But if you were in any doubt that Angstadt’s got the job nailed, two little slips of the often-loose Mayoral tongue offer further proof. On Monday Mayor Tom Bates let slip that he’d met Angstadt, though only for “a couple of minutes’. Then at the Tuesday special council meeting the mayor spoke approvingly of “our new planning director. ” And it’s not a done deal? 

No one who’s familiar with the revolving door which exists between planning jobs and the development industry should be surprised by this insider information. The erroneous story which reported Angstadt’s selection quoted one of the biggest Oakland developers and a prominent Hayward smart growth proponent as favoring Berkeley’s choice.  

And there are other clues to how the deal went down: Marc Rhoades, Berkeley’s former Director of Current Planning is now a would-be developer married to smart growth lobbyist Erin Rhoades. Marc and his business partner Ali Kashani once thought they were in on the ground floor in the nascent marijuana dispensary market, with pot-ready properties in Albany and elsewhere, especially because Rhoades had snagged an appointment to Berkeley’s marijuana commission. But now the federal government seems, temporarily at least, to have put the kibosh on the marijuana business—a big Berkeley outlet is reported to be closing or at least moving because of federal pressure, and others are on indefinite hold., 

So Rhoades seems to have taken a day job as Benicia’s “interim” planning director—a position which was formerly filled by none other than Eric Angstadt. Did Rhoades promote Angstadt’s appointment to his old department in Berkeley? How would we even know? 

Is your head spinning yet?  

Another wrinkle is that Interim City Manager Christine Daniel herself will be up for review in May, and if the council were to decide to let her go and look further, they’d have to pay her a year’s salary, about a quarter of a million dollars in round numbers.  

The moral in all this, if there is one, is that given the current problems with the head of Berkeley’s police department, the council really ought to take a harder look at who’s being hired to head the city’s planning department, because they’ll be stuck with him for a long time 

Check Out This Link: UC's Edifice Complex

Friday March 16, 2012 - 08:35:00 AM

Here's a terrific story from Berkeley-based California Watch which shows how the University of California has been cheerfully constructing away, with no real plan for how to pay for staffing the many new buildings named after donors.


Odd Bodkins: Moral Fiber (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Tuesday March 13, 2012 - 05:18:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday March 16, 2012 - 12:43:00 PM


As someone who has spent my entire life laboring under the burden of a waterfall of uncorrected SLAPP-suit-related slander, I am amused by the implication that the police chief’s version of the truth somehow must, by right, be printed. 

But the second assertion is more disturbing; in a closed, secretive system, how would anyone know whether there is a “pattern and practice” of misconduct? 

My letter did not call for anyone’s resignation. But I would suggest that no one affirm, just because they are blindfolded, that there is nothing to see. 

Carol Denney

A Crisis of Legitimacy in Berkeley

By Steve Martinot
Friday March 16, 2012 - 11:42:00 AM

Police action in Berkeley has been the subject of much discussion of late. There were problematic police responses to phonecalls (directly impacting Peter Cukor's murder in the Berkeley hills Feb. 18), two different apologies by the police chief, a degree of outrage or at least concern by Berkeleyans, a special community meeting to vet the issues, direct police pressure on a reporter at that meeting to report only what would be agreeable to the police chief, a further apology by the chief for that pressure, and a public statement made by some Berkeley police officers dissociating themselves from the chief's action with respect to the reporter (SFChron, March 12, 2012), claiming it could damage their relation of trust with the community. 

The Occupy movement was mentioned in all this, because police expressed concern that an Occupy march might possibly appear, which would upstage Cukor's call for help. This invokes a broader context, and gives a different meaning to the above events. 

The police have been the subject of discussions in Berkeley City Council lately because of their involvement in the suppression of Occupy Oakland. Berkeley police had been requested to assist the Oakland police on Oct. 23 and 24, under a mutual aid agreement, and participated in the demolition of the Oakland encampment, as well as in subsequent encounters with protesters. Berkeley police officers were videoed in Oakland, engaged in actions against political expression, actions that the city of Berkeley does not condone. Some Berkeley officers were videoed with their badge numbers and names taped over, in violation of the law. This led to proposals in City Council that police mutual aid agreements be revised, and weakened so that Berkeley police officers could not step beyond Berkeley ethical standards. 

But Berkeley police had been involved in clearing out the Occupy Berkeley encampment on Martin Luther King Park at roughly that same time, much to the chagrin of some city councilmembers, who understood the encampments as valid political expression, as protected speech, as it were. The encampment offered in reality no threat to the city that could not be dealt with by the encampment itself through its internal processes. These demolitions of the Oakland and Berkeley encampments should have been given broad community discussion before the fact. They are relevant to the Cukor case insofar as the police have engendered for themselves an antagonistic relation. 

It is noteworthy that SF's police chief is acting similarly. He has recently demanded (March 13, 2012) that SF Mayor Lee veto a measure giving the city greater power over agreements between SF police officers and the FBI. 

Politically speaking, the Occupy encampments present an interesting phenomenon because of their populist character. In Oakland, for instance, before being crushed on October 23, the encampment had constructed itself as a village. It had a kitchen, a library, a café, a restaurant, and a first aid tent. It was self-determining and self-governing, a source of community and engagement for the activists that populated it, on top of its becaming a site where many homeless people, who could get recognition and care nowhere else, found a community and a sense of belonging for themselves.The village aspect of the encampments provided services and comfort to individuals that the city either neglected or refused to provide. (There were some inevitable but not irresolvable problems; in the name of these problems, the baby was thrown out with the bathwater in a questionable act of arbitrary violence.) 

What has gotten lost in the focus on violence and counterviolence is the political recognition in both cities that Occupy was a political expression which political leaders needed to address, to dialogue with, and perhaps even honor as a demographic and democratic phenomenon, especially in light of the initial general support that the encampments got. Shutting them down, throwing them in the trash barrel with mass arrests, were not within the ethical purview of city councils. Indeed, there was some embarassment when the police departments of Oakland and Berkeley demolished the encampments without explicit city council decisions to do so, and using flimsy excuses about public safety, sanitation, etc. The embarassment stemmed from the fact that the police acted autonomously – suspiciously in concert with assaults on encampments occurring across the nation, which smacked of federal coordination, and thus unconstitutional intervention into local affairs (read the 10th Amendment). 

What all this implies is a crisis of legitimacy in civilian government in our cities. Does the political structure command the police, or have the police become a political power obeying a different authority than local political bodies? Are the police exercising and demanding a legitimacy that is not given them by local political bodies? When Berkeley's police chief first apologized in the Cukor murder event, it was not for not responding to Cukor's first call, but for not informing the community sufficiently. That is, information is being substituted for performance. (Shades of Reagan who, when the government was caught redhanded, projected changing the perception of the government rather than its actions.) This then directly extends to the police chief telling a reporter what to write. 

If the police assume control over political or journalistic expression, then authentic political leadership has been marginalized, divested of authority, and thus of legitimacy. If that is the case, and police actions have demonstrated that the political legitimacy of the city has been eroded, then we the people have only ourselves to turn to, to reconstruct a political legitimacy for ourselves. 

Perhaps that is what the Occupy movement has wanted us to do all along.

Building a School-Based Local Food System

By Hannah Kopp-Yates
Friday March 16, 2012 - 01:58:00 PM

I used to live in a food desert, in the Temescal district of Oakland. I remember wandering the aisles of our local liquor-grocery store when I was young, searching for something I considered edible—something whose earthly origin I could at least recognize. I was always shocked to find that among the Corn Nuts, Doritos and Hostess Cakes, there was nothing resembling the beautiful vegetables that my Mom always brought back from her weekly trip to the Berkeley farmer’s market. Today, our gentrified neighborhood has abundant options for purchasing fresh food, like the weekly farmers’ market and the organic produce store on our corner. But I remember what it was like before, and I know that 23.5 million Americans continue to live without this kind of choice. 8% of the US lives in a food desert: a low-income area where a source of fresh foods is not available. 

Living in a food desert doesn’t necessarily mean starvation—on the contrary, higher rates of obesity are found in these areas. That’s because fast food chains and the junk-food industry serve up highly palatable, energy-dense, low-cost foods to those who cannot afford or access anything better. But these are calories devoid of true nutrition. Nourishing, nutrient-rich fruits and veggies are nowhere to be found. 

Access to fresh and healthy foods should not be restricted higher-class neighborhoods. If we really care about making more sustainable and healthful food choices as a nation, then we need to not only look at where our food comes from, but also where it gets to. 

We can look to an Oakland Initiative for a simple and effective way to improve eating habits in low-income areas and offer education and exposure to healthy foods. Thanks to the Oakland Fresh program, twenty-two Oakland schools now have a volunteer-run produce stand where parents and children can buy locally grown vegetables, fruits, nuts, eggs, honey and whole grains at below-supermarket prices. 

In a city like Oakland, where up to 40% of residents are forced to travel outside of their neighborhood to find fresh food, this makes a huge difference. The produce stands make it convenient for parents to feed both themselves and their children better. And this can even break even: during its first year of operation, Oakland Fresh distributed 2,000 pounds of food per week and grossed more than $100,000 in sales. Does the Berkeley School District have a program like this? Even if you don’t live in a food desert, chances are that children and their families could be eating fresher and more wholesome foods than they do now. Bring it to a PTA meeting. Express your concern about the fact that 32% of San Francisco’s children are obese, tell them about Oakland’s success, and explore whether your school could do something similar. If there is a farmer’s market near your children’s school, buy from them as much as you possibly can! Talk to vendors and encourage them to engage with local schools. We can plant seeds of change in America’s food deserts. Will you join us? 

Hannah Kopp-Yates is a member of the Stanford University Class of 2012 and a B.A. Candidate in Human Biology.

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday March 13, 2012 - 09:41:00 PM

Oil Consumption, 2707 Rose, Financing Our Schools 

Oil Consumption 

Bob Burnett's column of 3/9/12 noted that our consumption is 19 million barrels, but neglected to mention that this is per day. Our "proven" reserves of 19 billion barrels is less than 3 years supply for our total consumption, and only about 6 years at our current production rate. Exploration is continuing to add oil to our "proven" reserves, so we will not simply run out in 6 years. We do, however, seem to be close to the peak production rate, so increases in demand from China, India, and other developing countries is going to make oil more expensive. It takes time to switch from oil to the alternatives. The cost-conscious consumer should do it soon. The environmentally conscious consumer has hopefully already started. 

Robert Clear 

2707 Rose 

Just thought you might want to know that a request by the City and the Kapors for a rehearing of the 2707 Rose case by the Court of Appeal has been denied. A mistake in wording in the decision has also been corrected at the request of our attorney. Full details at www.2707rose.org . 

Charles S. Fadley 

Financing Our Schools 

City residents should have more say in the distribution of funds to city schools than the state or the federal government. I wonder where our tax dollars go. How is it that the top salaried people are not directly affected by our budget crisis? 

It is true that the top salaried people are using their intellect to make complex decisions but some of their decisions involve saving their own funds while they they eliminate other people's jobs or reduce their hourly rates or monthly salaries. Why is all the balancing act done on the backs of poor hard working people? Where are we all are going? Must we hurt the most vulnerable members of our society so that the high salaried managers can flourish? 

Romila Khanna 

Letters about the Berkeley Police Chief

Tuesday March 13, 2012 - 09:07:00 PM

Chief Must Go; "doing a pretty good job overall"? Police Chief 

Chief Must Go 

I had just asked for the chief's resignation at last week's city council for the cover up (lying twice) about the mishandling of the eventual murder of a Berkeley resident while trying to blame Occupy Oakland. And now this, intimidating a journalist, or at the very least asking favors; this just cements my feeling that the chief must go, along with the mayor. 

Zachary Running Wolf Brown, mayoral candidate 

"doing a pretty good job overall"? 

Really? This is the same police chief who refused, at a Police Review Commission meeting about a year and a half ago, to allow short trainings by the tobacco control officer for the Berkeley police department, which had freely admitted that most of its officers had no idea there was a smokefree commercial districts law by claiming there were just too many laws to keep track of. 

Sending an officer in the middle of the night to demand changes to a story doesn't just chill one reporter, who to his own discredit swiftly made changes to his story. It chills everybody, whether they are reporters or not, who wishes to weigh in on police department policy. 

Intimidating and controlling the press obviously, and sadly, had a much higher priority than investigating a prowler. 

Carol Denney 

Police Chief 

Berkeley's police chief not only stepped over the line in the Doug Oakley incident, he obliterated it. Can he continue to serve Berkeley with the full confidence of the community? 

Alan Goldfarb

New: The Warm Pool Situation: Dona's Last Wish-- How the City of Berkeley Fails again

By Lori Kossowsky
Tuesday March 13, 2012 - 09:46:00 PM

Each morning when I wake up, one of the thoughts in my mind is "Oh no, the warm pool is gone." And I feel a thud in my chest and a yearning to swim in those warm waters again. Then comes the realization that my community I cherish has no where to go. The BUSD and the COB could have easily prevented this, but they refused. 

Last Tuesday I attended the city council meeting to remind them to put a pools initiative on the ballot. 

Mayor Bates, when interviewed on television said the warm pool is a vital part of our community and they do great work. On his campaign promises from 2008 he promised to have a warm pool built. So, where is it? 

When I asked at a previous city council meeting, before the holidays, if they could take an hour of their time, to convene a meeting to keep the warm pool open till March, saying it would mean so much to all who depended on the pool, it was denied, the reason being that the building was seismically unsafe. Yet the city hall building where I made this request is far more hazardous. 

At the February 28th city council meeting I asked them to poll the community in an honest poll, not like the one they did in 2008, when we should have been on the ballot. And certainly not like the poll which was done for the ill fated Measure C, which said we would win, although this was statistically impossible. It is to our credit that we did as well as we did. 

The COB, has said that they are providing similar programs for the warm pool at other pools. I believe it was channel five who reported this news. They have a disabled swim at King pool in the evening hours, from 5-7. All I can say is i wish they were joking, but they sadly are not. The Aqua Chi class which I attended for many years and was a huge help for my nerve pain, was supposed to be replaced at, yes, you guessed it, King pool! Though when I called to find out who they hired and when did this "class" met, the people I spoke to at Parks and Rec had no idea what I was speaking about. 

The Y is not working for many. The little pool which is supposed to be 90 degrees to 92 degrees is often lower and there are not enough hours to accommodate the influx of warm pool people. The air temperature in that room is very cold. Gracie's pool which was supposed to be raised to 88 degrees to 90 degrees, is often lower; I've rarely seen it above 88 degrees. Again, they didn't add any extra hours for warm pool people. If there are more then 25 people swimming in Grace's Pool, one can wait till someone leaves which is difficult for people with mobility problems, or give up and go home. 

Many of the city council members and the mayor are up for reelection. Please tell them they won't get your vote unless a decent pools plan is placed on the ballot-- one which can win! 

Sad to say, that while we wait again for a new warm pool, it's " Pie in the Sky" for many.

Synchronize Our Daylight Savings

By Bruce Joffe
Tuesday March 13, 2012 - 09:27:00 PM

Sunday evening's extra daylight was marvelous! But we paid the price for moving the clocks ahead one hour on Monday morning, when we had to arise for work in the dark. Jumping ahead to Daylight Savings Time before the Spring Equinox - when there are equal amounts of daytime and night - results in dark mornings. 

The problem is the safety of our children walking or biking to school as the rising sun shines into commuters' eyes. It's dangerous. It is even worse in the Fall when we wait until six weeks after the Autumn Equinox before changing the clocks back to Standard Time. 

We should synchronize our daylight savings with the Earth and Sun's natural rhythms, starting DST at the Spring Equinox, March 21, and ending with the Autumn Equinox, Sept 21.

New: Berkeley Copwatch Comment on Chief Meehan Scandal

By Andrea Prichett
Wednesday March 14, 2012 - 08:42:00 AM

It is not surprising that recent actions by Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan have been met by calls for his resignation. It is some comfort that, in these days of rampant police misconduct, it is still considered outrageous when a police chief sends a police officer to the door of a reporter to demand that a story be changed. It is always bad news when police take action against the written word. There are some of us in the Bay Area who remember the story of former San Francisco Police Chief Richard Hongisto who lost his job as chief after ordering the disposal of stacks of the SF Bay Times that had a rather compromising picture of him on the front cover. If there are any standards of fairness or equity, Meehan also should lose his job. 

Berkeley's city leaders may choose to send a message that they are such strong defenders of the constitution that they would be willing to fire a cop who violates first amendment press protections, but then, what about the rest of the first amendment? 

The Berkeley Police Association was concerned enough about "protecting the constitutional rights of the citizens of Berkeley" that its president, Tim Kaplan, issued a public statement criticizing the chief. But why was the BPA moved to write a public letter and become so suddenly concerned for the sanctity of the Bill of Rights? Where was their worry when BPD officers were bashing peaceful students in front of Wheeler Hall in 2009? What concern did they express about Occupy Berkeley having their political meetings busted up by armed thugs who continued to physically attack and provoke them throughout the night of December 23, 2011 and beyond. 

It is rumored that there is a significant number of officers in the department with no confidence in the chief. There are others, however, who believe that the fact that Chief Meehan is from out of state and unconnected to the "good ol' boy" network within BPD makes it actually possible for him to challenge the existing structures of power within the department. Remember that back in 2007 when the evidence theft scandal was uncovered, the BPD brass and city council worked to ensure that a real investigation about possible drug dealing within BPD never took place. Maybe an outsider could shake that up and get rid of corrupt cops. 

Governing structures and long standing relations are not easily changed by someone from within. Set this next to BPD's incredible violence at Marine Recruiter protests, UC and city of Berkeley demonstrations, and even it's actions in Oakland, and it is hard to accept that the BPA is sincere in its defense of the constitution. 

The chief seems to be a sensitive guy, sometimes. It seems he was sensitive to the fact that if he allowed a story to be published that seemed to be criticizing the police response to the February 18 murder of Peter Cukor, he could be facing a lawsuit. From several directions. He might be perceived as "evaluating" job performance publicly and this, of course, is not allowed. This might be why he was so desperate to change that story and working so hard to get it right. 

However, if the chief of police really can't see how a reporter (or anyone) might respond to the sight of a cop at their front door in the middle of the night, is to really lack any sensitivity to the people you are supposed to be serving. . If Chief Meehan knows it is wrong and sent Sgt. Kusmiss anyway, then he is a thug, too. If he sent Sgt. Kusmiss and didn't know that this could be considered invasive at midnight, he is hopelessly out of touch. 

Chief, that is only the tip of the iceberg. Reporters and common folk don't jump with joy at the sight of the police. Many thousands of law abiding, solid, everyday people fear them. A chief should know that. If you don't recognize that first, you will never have the trust of the people. Without trust, what is a police department, really?

Will Council Member Walk the Walk or Just Talk the Talk?

By Gene Bernardi, Veterans For Peace, Representative to the Coalition for a Safe Berkeley (for identification only) and SuperBOLD member.
Tuesday March 13, 2012 - 09:30:00 PM

While George Lippman’s commentary (“a Step on the Road to Protect Civil Rights”, BDP 3/6-13/12)informs us of the patriotic remarks of several councilmembers and particularly the eloquent speech of Councilmember Anderson, it misinforms the reader of the actual vote on the police department agreements that took place at the 2/14/2012 City Council meeting. 

Referring to the proposal Councilmember Arreguin distributed at the meeting, (which asked the City Council to APPROVE all the police department agreements which he "bulleted" with conditions). Councilmember Capitelli moved and Councilmember Wozniak seconded “to approve agreements with the Northern California Regional Information Center, The Urban Area Security Initiative, and the University of California police department and to refer the bullet point information from supplemental recommendations 1 and 2 as well as 4, 5, and 6 in their entirety to the City Manager and the Police Review Commission for consideration in the 2012 Mutual Aid Agreement review process. City Manager to report back to Council by May 15, 2012.” (Annotated Agenda Berkeley City Council meeting, Tuesday, February 14, 2012, Item 14, p.5) 

Prior to the vote on the main motion, Councilmember Kriss Worthington made a substitute motion, seconded by Councilmember Anderson, also referring to Arreguin’s proposal, to approve items 3-6 [regarding modifications to Mutual Aid agreements with U.C. and other police departments and Jail and Intelligence policies] and defer action on items 1 and 2 [agreements with the Northern California Regional Information Center (NCRIC) and the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI)]. Councilmembers Anderson, Arreguin and Worthington were the only YES votes on the substitute motion, so it failed. Next came the vote on Capitelli/Wozniak’s main motion to essentially renew the Police Department Agreements without change (except by default to include a request to Police Chief Meehan to discuss with the U.C. Police Chief adoption of the City’s Policy regarding not immediately towing vehicles of unlicensed undocumented persons.) First round of voting, all Councilmembers except Worthington (who voted NO and Anderson who passed) voted YES, then Anderson also voted YES. Final vote 8-1-0 to approve NCRIC and UASI and Mutual Aid agreements without modification. 

The action regarding NCRIC should be voided since the Council voted to approve an agreement with the Northern California Regional Information Center which I don’t think exists. The federally funded agency under consideration is the NCR INTELLIGENCE Center. This program involves submitting Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) which may be based on unwarranted investigations and need not be based on ‘reasonable suspicion of criminal behavior’. Thus, NCRIC violates our constitutional rights to privacy, freedom of speech and assembly, as well as our security, by facilitating profiling, especially of dark skinned and Muslim appearing persons. 

The SARs, which may be completely subjective reports of benign activities, such as taking a photo of a building, are conveyed to data fusion centers. With the National Defense Authorization Act in place, the SARs can be used by the military to detain indefinitely, without charge or trial, persons who are merely suspected of ‘substantial support’ for terrorism which is not clearly defined in the Defense Act. 

Two Berkeley police officers operate under NCRIC as Local Terrorism Liaison officers and the agreement between the City and NCRIC is not publicly available. 

We are NOT a democracy with U.S. Constitutional protection if we allow secret agreements under which our police may make Suspicious Activity Reports that have no requirement for reasonable suspicion of a crime. 

The Urban Areas Security Initiative (under which training exercises for urban warfare were held on the U.C. campus and were credited for their effectiveness in the eviction of Occupy Oakland) works closely with NCRIC. 

The 2012 Mutual Aid Agreement Review Process including NCRIC and UASI will come before the City Council on or about May 15th, 2012. Will the Berkeley City Councilmembers Walk the Walk and fulfill their Oath to Defend the Constitution against Domestic Enemies. (NCRIC and UASI) i.e. vote to protect our civil liberties, or will they Talk the Talk as they did on February 14, 2012? The police department Mutual Aid, NCRIC and UASI agreements will be on the Police Review Commission agenda on March 28, 2012. The PRC Chair stated there are only a limited number of Berkeley community members “who want to protect civil liberties…this is not a city wide concern”. Let’s prove the Chair wrong! Attend the PRC on March 28th, 7pm South Berkeley Senior Center at Ellis and Ashby Streets, Berkeley. 

Gene Bernardi

Help Spread Sunshine to Berkeley

By Dean Metzger and Shirley Dean
Tuesday March 13, 2012 - 09:29:00 AM

Summer is still three months away, but it is time to think about sunshine. National Sunshine Week is March 11-17, and in Berkeley we have a chance to pass the strongest Sunshine law in the country. This ordinance would not govern the sun's rays, which light up our homes and illuminate our yards, but would instead mandate that sunshine must flow into our city government and ensure that our politicians and their employees cannot hide in the shadows. 

In 1909, Florida was one of the first states to adopt an open meetings law, but it wasn't until the mid 1950s that most other states began to follow suit. In 1967, the Sunshine State tied its own state nickname to the cause through Florida's Government-in-the-Sunshine Law. Within ten years the U.S. Congress had passed its own Government in the Sunshine Act, and there was some form of open government law in every state. 

But open meeting laws are only the first step, and most of these early laws allowed governments to violate them without any possibility of penalties. Without an enforceable mechanism built into these sunshine laws, the government is able to keep anything secret that it chooses and there is almost nothing citizens can do to intervene. 

In a paper published through the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communication, Punishment for Shade: An Analysis of Penalties and Remedies for Violations of Open Meetings Laws Across the Country, Adrianna C. Rodriguez, a graduate student, and Dr. Laurence B. Alexander, a Professor of Journalism, establish that Sunshine laws can only be effective if they cannot be ignored. 

The move to bring sunshine to our local Berkeley government started around 2001. After five years — and a lot of reminders to our council of their supposed commitment to open government — they finally held a public workshop in 2006. As a result of that workshop the council called upon the League of Women Voters to organize a committee of citizens who would write a proposed sunshine law. 

For the next three years an ad-hoc group of Berkeley residents, discussed, debated researched and drafted what would become the 2012 Berkeley Sunshine Ordinance. At times, the committee called upon city staff and the city council to help them find the best approaches to achieving a transparent government, but the city officials were unable to provide any significant assistance. 

When the citizens’ committee decided its work was completed and — after many requests — allowed to present their proposed ordinance to the council, it was immediately clear that the city would not accept their proposed ordinance. The committee offered to work with the council to find an acceptable compromise, but this too was completely unsuccessful and the committee reluctantly decided their only hope for meaningful law was to go to the ballot box and ask the voters to stand up for Sunshine and open government, something the city council has refused to do. 

After 11 years of effort, the issue will finally be decided by the voters of Berkeley when they step into the polls this November to elect the next president of the United States. Mayor Tom Bates has already started his campaign to defeat this measure and will likely tell the voters that they already have all the open government they need and should put their trust in the city council's weak and unenforceable Open Government Ordinance. But in a city where the chief of police doesn't think twice before sending an officer to a reporter's home in the middle of the night to demand a correction, it's clear that trust has not been earned. 

We look forward to the chance to work together to bring sunshine to the people of Berkeley and we hope to educate the city about the importance of the 2012 Berkeley Sunshine Ordinance, and the need for reasonable enforcement. 

To do this we need your help. Please go to our website www.berkeleysunshine.org, read more about these issues and support our efforts at creating a truly open and transparent Berkeley government.

Massacre in Afghanistan

By Jagjit Singh
Tuesday March 13, 2012 - 09:15:00 PM

The seething anger triggered by the slaughter of 16 Afghan civilians, mainly women and children, by a U.S. soldier comes amidst outrage over other civilian deaths. Last week violence erupted by the burning of the Koran by U.S. troops. In January American marines were captured on video urinating on dead Taliban militants. A US army ‘kill team’ was also caught on video cutting off dead body parts as souvenir trophies. On February 8th, helicopter gunships slaughtered eight shepherds on a mountainside as they were out grazing their flocks. Just three days later in Kapisa, four civilians were killed, mistaken for insurgents. 

Daily night raids and drone attacks continue with an alarming numbers of civilian deaths. 

President Karzai’s demands that such attacks stop have been ignored. Whole villages have been burned (NYT, March 13, 2012) eerily similar to the rational given in justifying such atrocities in the Vietnam war and brings forth the ghost of the My Lai massacre. 

Meanwhile hundreds of Afghan children are dying daily from hunger as we continue to support our illegal occupation robbing our treasury of $2 billion a month. Our hidden agenda appears little to do with nation building (our large scale destruction of Iraq is hardly a good model) but more to do with maintaining a large military presence with 450 bases and protection of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline. 

It is time to end our occupation now. Period. 

Response to Ms. O'Malley's editorial in regards to mental health care

By "Mary Smith" (pseudonym)
Tuesday March 13, 2012 - 01:40:00 PM

My name is withheld since I am a woman who suffers from bipolar disorder. Maintaining anonymity is essential for me to function in our community and maintain my right to confidentiality. I am responding to Ms. O'Malley's editorial. Sorry, it's long and I need to go to bed. You may find it of interest.  

I can understand the pain that families and people with mental illness go through. I know first hand what it's like to go through psychotic episodes, taking many different medications, choosing to be off medications, being admitted nearly every year to a lock up psychiatric ward, going through months of outpatient programs, and finding a good psychiatrist and a good counselor, which is nearly impossible in the Bay Area, since most of them have a full patient load already or they don't take your insurance. I've even been off my medications a few times early on in my illness, because I thought I didn't need them anymore, but now I know taking myself off medications not only hurt me physically but was a mistake. Most psychiatric medications need to be weaned down to avoid physical and mental harm and side effects. 

It was 2 years before I was diagnosed correctly as having bipolar disorder instead of major depression, and even when my psychiatrist told me he believed I had bipolar disorder because of certain behaviors that were witnessed, I screamed at him that he was dead wrong and he would be better off re-reading the DSM. He treated me as bipolar anyway, we didn't talk about it until years afterwards, when I felt comfortable enough to ask him if he thought I was still bipolar. I was lucky I had a wise psychiatrist, who didn't challenge me. He also knew I wasn't stupid. I knew what the drug combinations was for, but I just went on thinking I had major depression because I was comfortable being depressed. 

When I did ask him, he told me to read up on bipolar 2 disorder, which I did, and was shocked to find that every single symptom I had was named. It took a few more years to have it really sink in, but I was able to attach bipolar disorder to myself a few weeks after he told me to read up on it. 

I would just have a couple of months when I would be okay, even while on medications. During those moments, I took it upon myself to advocate myself, fight for decent treatment in the hospital facilities, with the insurances both government (Medicare) and private, and fight my own thoughts that I didn't need medication after I got better. It required having good and reasonable friends to reality check my thoughts, a strong will, complete trust in a psychiatrist who I didn't know personally but who was considerate and never gave up hope even when I did, and the reinforcement that I mattered to many people. I also had to avoid some people who were so sure I should get off my medications and just drink mangosteen juice 3 times a day to be cured.  

It took over 13 years for me to finally get to the point where I felt like I am nearly a well person. I had to stop working, which wasn't my choice, but my psychiatrist wouldn't let me go back to work. My colleagues were very supportive, but they also agreed that I was losing my battle by still being on the job. By the time I stopped working, I was considered to have medically resistant bipolar disorder, with only a 10% chance of being fully functioning for the rest of my life. Even then, my life would most likely be shortened by suicide, since my bipolar disorder has a high suicide rate. Even after those statements, my doctor did not give up but he asked for help, and I saw a bipolar expert. 

The bipolar expert recommended a "last ditch" medication. I took it 4 months ago. The side effects are terrible. Blood work monitoring and psychiatric office visits were weekly. I had to go even when I couldn't find the strength to stand up early in the morning. The medication is dispense weekly by the pharmacy because it was based on the blood lab results. I stuck the course. I didn't care whether I lived or whether I died when I started and when I felt bad. I forced myself to do the basic things I needed to do. Now, the effect is miraculous. I feel nearly well. I don't have much stamina, but I can see myself working again one day,and being off Social Security and Medicare. 

My private insurance that is secondary to Medicare advocated me to give me the medical financial help to get the treatment I needed. It was one benefits/claims supervisor who came to my rescue after a major breakdown that I had in a doctor's office years ago after dealing with a very rude receptionist. It She still bats for me, and she has climbed the ladder but still takes my calls, although she assigns an effective analyst to assist me in my favor. It is more cost effective for the insurance company for me to be well and get medical treatment. I learned it was worth it to complain and pursue relentlessly as long as you had a solution and concrete reasons why it needs to be done. 

Regarding Medicare, you have to jump through hoops just to try to get mental health care. Don't even bother trying to get a psychologist or get information on how or what psychiatric care is available to you. I got a list of 10 psychologists and half didn't even bother returning my call and the other half told me they weren't accepting any Medicare patients. Also, mental illness is the only condition where they have a 190 days hospitalization limitation for a LIFETIME. They have an unbelievable automated phone cycle that last forever, and when you do get someone, they just read you what it says in the brochure that you have in front of you. Apparently, they are an outside answering company. Even Social Security told me not to bother calling Medicare, and yet Social Security requires me to be on Medicare.You can't even complain to Medicare about Medicare. They don't have anyone for you to make a complaint. The only people you can complain to are the politicians, and you know how long Congress takes to make a decision or a change. 

By the way,for those who believe in physically forcing a person to take medication against their will: The only way you can do that is to coerce, restrain or sedate or both, place a nasogastric tube down their nose to go to their stomach, then crush the medication and force it in with an irrigation syringe and flush with water, then take the tube out. That's assault. It is not allowed for people with physical illnesses, and it shouldn't be allowed for mentally ill people. The only time it's done against someone's will is when they commit suicide, are in an ER and semi-conscious, or they are not conscious enough to speak for themselves and have no written advance directive or a durable power of attorney. The only other time conscious mentally ill people are forced to take medication is when they need to be mentally competent to stand trial. 

Mentally ill people should have a choice on what kind of treatment or medication we get just like physically ill people. We have to live with the side effects and we have to administer the medications ourselves. It may not be possible for us to go through a certain kind of treatment, because of what we value in our lives. We may not even be able to afford the treatment. Having our rights, our independence and the ability to choose are inherent to being treated as a human being, and it makes us feel safe. The Patient's Bill of Rights is not just a placard that hangs on a hospital wall. It was written because abuses were done in the past. Ill people are not in the position to have power without those rights. 

We know what mental pain is, we go through torture all the time, we've seen how it nearly destroys our families we lose our friends, and many times, we lose our credibility just by being mentally ill. I cannot tell you how many times I would say something and I would be discredited just because I have the bipolar diagnosis by health care workers, some friends and strangers. I've even had people talk to me like I only have a quarter of my brain left when they found out I was bipolar. 

Some of us are lucky to have friends and families who stick with us no matter how bad it gets. Most of us don't. There is no difference in the pain that a family or a person goes through when the person decides not to go for treatment for a physical or mental illness.  

I do agree that the mental health support system is losing ground financially or even by treatment. Psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professional are woefully underpaid by mental health insurance companies compared to health care professionals who deal with physical illness. Our outpatient programs are drastically cut. It is usually the first to get cut in the health care system. I think you know full well that when there isn't much out there, we will self medicate with alcohol or other drugs, which presents another set of problems for society. 

It's the most prevalent illness in the United States and yet there are people who do not believe that mental illness even exist. I have a feeling whoever recommended the mental health benefits for Medicare are some of those people. I know city health care systems in this country that do not cover suicide because it's a self inflicted injury, and disability insurances that only cover it for 2 years, instead of decades as with physical illnesses, because they consider it based on "self reported symptoms." It's amazing that people think with so much disregard for an illness that causes so much pain and suffering for the sufferer and the people around them. The irony is that even when a small number of mentally ill people kill someone or many people, there is usually an uproar, but then, it will blow over and nothing will be done to improve the system, and it will happen again and again. People just make judgments, get angry, do absolutely nothing to be effective and forget.

No Public Input in Latest Medi-Cal Cuts

By Andrés E. Jiménez
Tuesday March 13, 2012 - 10:50:00 AM

When making a decision that affects the quality of health care for millions of Californians and the livelihoods of the state’s physicians and pharmacists, one would think the state and federal government departments responsible would take into account input from the public and well-informed stakeholders. 

But when it comes to the recently approved 10 percent cut to Medi-Cal reimbursement rates, which was not the case. There was not a single public hearing. So it’s hard to say what is more troubling: yet another cut to Medi-Cal patients, or the absolute lack of public input of any kind in making that decision. 

Late last month, the federal government approved California’s request to cut -- by another 10 percent -- the reimbursement rates to medical professionals who serve the 7.7 million patients who rely on Medi-Cal. The cuts will be retroactive to June 1. These new cuts will lead to fewer physicians and pharmacists able to provide health care services to Medi-Cal enrollees, diminished health services of numerous Californians, and more economic strain upon our health care providers. 

Through Medi-Cal, the state ostensibly reimburses physicians, pharmacists, and hospitals for the costs of providing essential health care services to Medi-Cal clients. But over recent years, those reimbursements have suffered a steady string of reductions. Take those cuts, add them to the fact that costs in the health care system continue to rise, and the equation stops penciling out for many medical professionals. 

Already, many medical and health professionals know that Medi-Cal patients face numerous challenges. Another reduction in reimbursement rates will mean doctors and hospitals will address administrative and cost issues other than providing the best care for their patients. Medical and health care professionals need fair reimbursement in order to provide proper care for those who need their services and we need their services. Without this reimbursement both the Medi-Cal and general population suffer due to the decline in reasonable health care coverage for Californians. 

Andrés E. Jiménez is Senior Public Policy Analyst at the Greenlining Institute and directed the University of California system wide California Policy Research Center for 17 years that included two major health policy programs. He writes on federal and state public policy from Berkeley, California.

Bob Burnett's recent editorial on Obama's disastrous energy policy

By Christopher Calder
Tuesday March 13, 2012 - 09:33:00 PM

Bob Burnett's recent editorial on Obama's disastrous energy policy is an example of pure mindless propaganda. 

The Democratic Party is committing political suicide by not enthusiastically supporting the Keystone Pipeline. Americans will need oil to survive for at least another 50 years no matter what we do. We should drill for oil everywhere we can, including all of Alaska. Our society is collapsing due to high energy prices, and all Democrats can do is finance worthless boondoggle wind and solar schemes. 

We should use the right tool for the right job. Wind energy is good for pleasure sailboats and irrigation, not for producing electricity. Solar is good for pocket calculators and powering remote weather stations, not for large scale energy production. 

Food equals energy and energy equals food. You cannot eat hollow, impotent, feel-good symbolic gestures. High energy prices always cause high food prices and unemployment. The Democratic Party currently equals the party of mass starvation and economic collapse. 

Biofuels have killed through malnutrition and related illness an absolute minimum of 20 million people worldwide over the last 20 years due to the global food price hyperinflation they have created, and biofuel farming has damaged the environment far more than any other new activity of man. Does biofuel farming represent a moral and rational energy policy? Ask yourself why Democrats would rather drill the human food supply for energy than Alaska. Is that sane and responsible energy policy? 

Democrats failed to cut off funding for Bush’s illegal war in Iraq, and Obama’s counterproductive war in Afghanistan. So exactly, what is the Democratic Party good for? 

Please read THE RENEWABLE ENERGY DISASTER at: http://renewable.50webs.com/ 

Christopher Calder is a nonprofit food security advocate in Eugene, Oregon.


DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: Ireland’s Debt & the Heart of St. O’Toole

By Conn Hallinan
Friday March 16, 2012 - 08:40:00 AM

Someone has pinched the heart of St. Lawrence O’Toole, and thereby hangs a typical Irish tale filled with metaphors, parallels, and some pretty serious weirdness. 

Who done it? The suspects are many and varied. 

Could the heist from Dublin’s Christ Church Cathedral have been engineered by the infamous “troika” of the European Commission, the European Bank, and the International Monetary Fund? Seems like a stretch, but consider the following: O’Toole—patron saint of Dublin—was, according to the Catholic Church, famous for practicing “the greatest austerity.” Lawrence liked to wear a hair shirt underneath his Episcopal gowns and spent 40 days in a cave each year. 

That is a point of view the troika can respect. They have overseen a massive austerity program in Ireland that has strangled the economy, cut wages 22 percent, slashed education, health care, and public transport, raised taxes and fees, and driven the jobless rate up to 15percent—30% if you are young. At this rate many Irish will soon be living in caves, and while hair shirts may be uncomfortable, they are warm. 

There are other suspects as well. For instance, St. O’Toole was friendly with the Norman/English King Henry II, who conquered the island in 1171. The Irish are not enamored of Henry II, indeed most of them did their level best to drive the bastard into the sea. Not Lawrence. He welcomed Henry to Dublin and, according to the Church, “Paid him due deference.” 

So “deference” establishes yet another suspect: the current Fine Gael/Labor ruling coalition. Fine Gael leader and Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Edna Kenny has already signed the new European Treaty, but was forced to put it up for a public referendum at home (no other EU county is being allowed to vote “yea” or “nay”). Kenny is pressing for a “yes” vote, and Labor’s Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore argues that a “yes” vote would be a “vote for economic stability and a vote for economic recovery.” 

The Treaty will not only continue the austerity program, it will move decision-making to EU headquarters in Brussels. This means that governments will be powerless when it comes to the economy. Think “Model United Nations” and lots of earnest high school students. 

Who will make these decisions? Good question. Well, it turns out that a committee of the German Bundestag debated the Irish austerity proposals before the Dublin government even got a chance to look at them. How did that happen? Again, good question, but no answer yet. 

Maybe German Chancellor Andrea Merkel lifted O’Toole’s heart. She certainly has a motive: Merkel is leading the “austerity is good for you” charge, a stance that has battered economies from Spain to Greece. In any case, the Irish are already suspicious of the German chancellor. An anti-austerity demonstration outside the Dail, Ireland’s parliament, featured a poster calling government ministers “Angela’s Asses.” 

Much of the economic crisis in Europe—and virtually all of it in Ireland— is due to the out-of-control speculation by German banks, along with the Dutch, Austrian, and French financial institutions. “Yet it is the working people of Ireland and Europe who are being asked to pay the price,” argues Des Dalton of Sinn Fein. It appears that the Germans have discovered that one does not need Panzer divisions to conquer Europe, just bankers and compliant governments. 

“Compliant,” however, has run into some difficulties in Ireland, a place where “difficulty” is a very common noun. On Mar. 2, Sinn Fein President Jerry Adams trekked out to Castlebar in the west of Ireland to resurrect the ghost of Michael Davitt, founder of the Land League and leader of the 1878 Land War (there was an earlier one from 1761 to 1784, but more on that later). Adams told the Mayo County crowd “The Irish people cannot afford this treaty.” 

The Castlebar symbolism was about as heavy as you can get. Davitt, along with the great Irish Parliamentarian Charles Stewart Parnell, launched the land war from that city, calling up the words of the great revolutionary, James Fintan Lalor: “I hold and maintain that the entire soil of a country belongs by right to the entire people of that country.” 

These days that is not a popular sentiment in most European capitals, where governments are shedding public ownership in everything from airlines to energy production. The Irish government is trying to sell off several lucrative holdings, including Aer Lingus, Ireland’s natural gas company, and parts of its Electricity Supply Board. The state’s forestry will be sold as well. “It is the depth of treachery to sell billions of Euros worth of State assets to pay bad gambling debts,” Socialist Party member Joe Higgins said in the Dail. 

The land wars were a reaction to efforts by the English to apply to Ireland the Enclosure Acts, a policy that sold “common land” to private landowners and forced the rural population of England, Scotland and Wales into the hellishness of industrial Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and Liverpool. 

As Laura Nader and Ugo Mattei maintain in their book “Plunder: When the rule of law is illegal,” what is currently happening in Ireland (and all over Europe) is a 21st century version of the Enclosure Acts. The last vestiges of public ownership are being systematically auctioned to the highest bidder, and the concept of “the common good” is fading like the ghost of providence. 

But not without a fight. 

While Adams was resurrecting the spirit of Michael Davitt, demonstrators were besieging Parliaments in Greece, Spain and Romania. 

Ireland rejected two previous European treaties, only to pass them in a second round of voting. However, under the new rules, it no longer has veto power. If 12 out of the 17 Euro Zone countries endorse—pretty much considered a slam-dunk—then the new treaty goes into effect. 

A number of commentators are saying that the 12 country threshold makes the Irish referendum irrelevant, but a “no” vote will be a blow to the Euro currency, and it might eventually encourage similar “no” votes in other countries. In that sense, the Irish tail could end up wagging the European dog. 

Since Irish stories always include parallels, there is certainly one to be made between the first land war and the current debt crisis. The 1761 effort by English landlords to apply the Enclosure Acts to Ireland ignited resistance, first in Limerick, then spreading to Munster, Connacht and Leinster. Crowds of Irish tenants dressed in linen masks and coats—hence their generic name, the” Whiteboys”— burned hayricks, knocked down enclosure walls, and hamstrung cattle. On occasion they pitched land agents into the local bog. 

The Irish resistance to the Enclosure Acts was not unique, but a very odd thing happened in Ireland: they won. A combination of population growth and war had driven up the price of food, so even the small-scale agriculture practiced by the Irish was profitable. Plus the rent capital skimmed off the Irish peasantry was playing an important role in helping to capitalize the English industrial revolution. Add to this the resistance, and the English decided that it was in their best interests to back off. 

The average Irish tenant knew nothing about international finance or capital accumulation, but they got the idea that if you dug in your heels and went toe-to-toe with the buggers, you could beat them. It was a momentous experience, and a collective memory that would help fuel more than 150 years of rebellion. 

Can the current Irish resistance movement turn the tide against the austerity madness that has gripped the European continent? Well, the Left is on the rise (in some places, so is the Right). Sinn Fein’s support in the most recent opinion polls shows a 25 percent approval ratting, up 4 percent. In comparison, Fianna Fail—the party that ushered in the current crisis—has dropped from 20 percent to 16 percent. Labor has fallen to 10 percent, and Fine Gael is at 32 percent. Other Left parties are also doing well. 

Indeed, the Left seems to be resurging in other countries as well. A center-left party in Slovakia ousted a right-wing government, and France seems poised to vote socialist. The Greek Left is fractious, but its various stripes now make up a majority. 

Weirdness. Remember weirdness? For starters, an 832-year-old heart is pretty strange. And it wasn’t just the heart that was snatched. Someone also stole a splinter of the “true cross” (if one added up all the splinters in all the Cathedrals of Europe you end up with a fair size forest). And then there is the matter of the cheekbone of St. Brigid that just missed getting lifted from a church in North Dublin. 

In the end, saints will not preserve Ireland from an invasion of the austerity snakes. The Irish people will have to do that. But they sport an impressive track record of overturning imperial designs, and they have long memories: put enough people into the streets of Castlebar (Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Galway, Limerick, etc) and the bastards will back off. 

As Adams said in Castlebar, “Stand together, stand united, and there is nothing we cannot achieve.” 

Read Conn Hallinan at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com and middleempireseries.wordpress.com. 

THE PUBLIC EYE: Sarah Palin and the Republican Identity Crisis

By Bob Burnett
Friday March 16, 2012 - 11:40:00 AM

HBO’s splendid movie, Game Change tells the story of Sarah Palin’s rise and fall as John McCain’s running mate in the 2008 presidential contest. It provides insight into the GOP’s identity crisis that’s produced this year’s demolition derby in the Republican primaries. 

Game Change asserts that Palin was a desperate choice by the McCain campaign. Because they needed a dynamic vice-presidential candidate to stop Barack Obama’s momentum, McCain and his advisers rushed the process and did not adequately vet Palin. Then they discovered Palin had little knowledge of current events, much less foreign and domestic policy. At first they kept her isolated from the press and attempted to tutor her. When that didn’t work, and she gave several disastrous interviews, they had her memorize a script and emphasized Palin’s singular talent: “She’s the best actress in American politics.” 

None of this is particularly new information to the political cognoscenti – although the story is amplified by Julianne Moore’s unerring portrayal of Palin. It illustrates the GOP has a fundamental flaw – an identity crisis – and the only way they can cover it up is to have an actor be their Presidential candidate. 

Consider the Republican candidates of the last thirty years: Ronald Regan – an actor and two-term president; George H.W. Bush – not an actor and a one-term president who lost his reelection bid to actor Bill Clinton; Bob Dole – not an actor and an unsuccessful candidate; George W. Bush – an actor and two-term president; and John McCain – not an actor. 

Republicans must recruit an actor to be their Presidential candidate because, at the national level, they have a near impossible task: unifying their diverse base and appealing to Independents. Republicans must nominate a candidate who is an actor, who projects different images to different voting blocs. That was true of Reagan – voters didn’t particularly like his policies but they loved the man. That was true of George W. Bush – conservatives believed he was one of them, while Independents believed that he was outside the political mainstream: “a uniter, not a divider.” 

“Game Change” reminds us that McCain started his presidential campaign with two enormous problems: Republican social conservatives didn’t trust him and he wasn’t an actor – he didn’t have the ability to enthrall diverse groups. The selection of Palin as his VP running mate made sense because she immediately captured the hearts of social conservatives and she was an actor – for an instant she appeared to capture the hearts of Independents.  

NEW YORKER correspondent Ryan Lizza recently pointed out the obvious, the Republican base has become more conservative. The good news for the GOP is that their “intense policy demanders” are energized; the bad news is that their involvement means Republicans have moved farther away from the American mainstream. To win at the national level, the GOP needs an actor to both unify their base and bring in Independents. At the moment, they don’t have one. 

A Pew Research poll allocated likely 2012 voters to three groups: “Mostly Republican,” 25 percent, “Mostly Independent,” 35 percent, and “Mostly Democratic,” 40 percent. The “Mostly Republican” group includes “Staunch Conservatives” (11 percent) and “Main Street Republicans” (14 percent). Staunch Conservatives are older white voters who “take extremely conservative positions on nearly all issues – on the size and role of government, on economics, foreign policy, social issues and moral concerns.“ Their favored candidate is Rick Santorum. Main Street Republicans are not as conservative, less concerned about social issues. Their favored candidate is Mitt Romney. Just outside the “Mostly Republican” group is a bloc of Independents, “Libertarians” (10 percent), that typically vote for the Republican presidential candidate. Their favored candidate is Ron Paul. 

Romney is favored to win the Republican nomination but he’s not an actor. He’s unlikely to unify the GOP and also attract Independents. That’s the political reality that Republican Party leaders will struggle with. They have four alternatives: 

One is to abandon hope they will win the Presidency and focus, instead, on Congress. That’s the strategy advocated by conservative columnist George Will

A second alternative would be to plan for a deadlocked convention and convince someone, an actor, to rise from the Republican ashes and become the nominee. In this context, Jeb Bush is frequently mentioned. 

A third alternative would be for the GOP to accept Romney as the nominee and force him to accept a social-conservative VP running mate who is also an actor – this season’s Sarah Palin. That might be Michele Bachmann. 

A fourth alternative would for Republicans to muddle through their convention, nominate a ticket such as Romney and Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey, and plan to defeat President Obama by suppressing the Democratic vote. Republicans would try to throw the election into the Electoral College and win the presidency by subverting the vote in swing states. 

Because of their ideological identity crisis, Republicans have rough road ahead. 

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

SENIOR POWER: Bells are Ringing…

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Friday March 16, 2012 - 11:56:00 AM

In 1976 Margaret Elliot Murdock was interviewed about her father, printer Charles Albert Murdock (1841-1928), and early San Francisco and UC, B days for the Bancroft Library oral history program. From her responses, I have gleaned herstory. Part 1 (last week’s column) was mainly about her San Francisco childhood. Part 2 takes her to Berkeley and the University, and Part 3 (next week’s column) to the Sather Tower bells. 

Part 2  

I had gone to the normal school to earn money and taught about a year and a half before I came to college. I took the San Francisco Civil Service examinations as needed to be a permanent teacher there. After I graduated, I decided I preferred working on the campus. So I returned to the campus and have been here ever since, one way or another. 

Lucy Stebbins invited me to be in the Dean’s office. That was something that was kind of in the family tradition to be connected with the Stebbins family. I certainly enjoyed it. While I enjoyed teaching, I think I’ve been very lucky to be on the campus all these years. 

The dean of women’s office, in California Hall, handled for women: housing, and employment, and scholarships, and loans, and academic advice, and a little of everything that s now scattered all over the campus. There were just three people: Miss Stebbins, the Dean, and Mary Davidson, the Assistant Dean, and the office girl who handled the window and the correspondence, and a little of everything, so it was quite a responsibility. Next door were the dean of men’s office and across the hall, the registrar s office, and at the end of the hall was the president’s office and the comptroller’s office. Practically the whole university was handled from the second floor of California Hall.  

I stayed in Cal Hall for quite a while because I was moved into the president’s office as Assistant to the University Representative in Educational Relations, concerned with relations with junior colleges. That was centralized at that time in the president‘s office. Then we were moved over into the education department because we were mostly handling junior college staff to be sure that the University helped them get the best-trained people, whether they happened to be University of California graduates or not. So, that moved into a form of college placement office… from that I moved over into counseling and advising students, one thing sort of led to another. 

It was an interesting time to be in touch with the junior college movement and development. First of all from the job aspect and then later, the preparation for service in the California schools, because the state credentials seemed complicated to people who didn’t try to keep track of them. It was much easier to have the advice centralized so that people from other states who would ask about teaching in California, whether in elementary or college, or somewhere between, would come over to be told what the state requirements were. And the University students who wanted to go into teaching were sent over by their own departments. They knew what they wanted to major in but, for the getting ready for the certificate, the sequence of education courses, or the appropriate minors to go with their particular major was something else it was much easier for people to say, Go see Miss Murdock than to try to remember credential regulations. Or a student who had thought he wanted to go into medicine and weakened, needed to re-cycle his courses to be a science teacher with math on the side. 

I worked at the Women’s Faculty Club. I lived at the Women’s Faculty Club from [19]23 to 40 and was active on different boards and committees. So, I knew the Club, of course first through Miss Stebbins and Jessica Peixotto and the other founders. I was Miss Stebbins’ secretary when it was established. It gives me a real interest in the Women’s Faculty Club and pride in what the women have accomplished. Miss Patterson and Miss Hope Gladding both did a good deal in the early days on the furnishing and the general equipment of the Club. Many of those people collected oriental things that the Club naturally inherited. 

I think that while universities were never very cordial to women, the University of California reluctantly accepted a few more than others did, and they were fortunate in having some very fine people like Jessica Peixotto who certainly had plenty of brains established herself in the economics department and Miss Stebbins herself, and Dr. Agnes Fay Morgan and some of the other women who got the Club started were also people that the University had reason to be very proud of. 

The hospital services were much earlier than the Women’s Faculty Club. The Prytanean Society, back in the early 1900s, in fact, Dr. Mary Ritter and other women who were connected with student health. But I think Miss Stebbins and the dean of women’s office were concerned with women’s housing. There weren’t any dormitories at the time that I first worked in the dean of women’s office. It was something that was needed and they did a great deal for that. 

[The Prytanean Club invited Margaret to be an honorary member.] Yes, and that was, I guess, because I was working in the dean of women’s office and knew the people of that generation pretty well. It’s been a wonderful organization as far as service to the University goes.  

[In the summer of 1923, Margaret suddenly found herself a bell player of the Sather Tower] I never expected to find myself a bell player but I think that any of us who were on the campus in [19]17 and 18 were excited to be around when the tower was being built, when the bells were being installed, when we first heard them. So, before I took over from my friend, Edith Frisbee, I really had some interest but I never expected to be connected with them such a long time. I played more than three times a week. When I lived here at the Club, I’d chase over to play in the morning and right at noon. 

1923 was quite a year. I was living here at the Club and playing duets with my friend Edith Frisbee, who had been successful in a try-out for the bell ringer. So I didn’t try out; I just inherited her job and started in that summer.  

I was just finishing up her summer appointment under Dr. King but I think he found it handy to have a ringer who was living here, on the campus, and able to fill in for him on short notice if something happened in the morning he cut himself shaving, or his car wouldn’t start or … he’d ring here to the Club and I’d hurry up to the tower and do his morning assignment even if it wasn’t my regular day. That was the year that we played for President Harding, who died in San Francisco; we tolled the bell. That was the same year, of course, as the Berkeley fire for which we summoned the students…to get them to come and help. 

… a little later, in 1933 Harmon Gymnasium took fire. It was being torn down anyway. It was just a kind of a wreck. I was up in the tower and there were quite obviously some flames starting down there. So, Scotland’s Burning seemed an appropriate thing to play. A few years later Lindbergh flew west and President Campbell, being an astronomer and liking the skies, wanted people to be able to come and watch and see when he appeared. So I spent most of one Saturday morning up in the tower watching to see just when his plane appeared over Berkeley.  

It’s always been a kind of Box and Cox existence; if one’s there, the other isn’t. But Mr. King would make out the programs and I’d try to find in the miscellaneous music, just what he wanted me to play because it came out in the University Calendar. He loved to give me a hymn done by a composer [named] Redhead because I was a redhead and he thought that was very funny, to ask me to play some thing by a Redhead. 




On March 8, 2012, International Women’s Day, the President of the UN General Assembly, H.E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser and the Secretary-General of the UN H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon jointly proposed the convening of a United Nations Fifth World Conference on Women in 2015, 20 years after the last women’s summit in Beijing. They hope that the international community in general would welcome this joint initiative and that the Member-States who have the final authority to convene the proposed conference would take the necessary steps during the on-going 66th session of the General Assembly. For entire Joint Statement: see http://www.un.org/sg/statements/index.asp?nid=5904 

Chicago Tribune’s John Hilkevitch reports that, in response to public outrage over "granny pat-downs," the Transportation Security Administration will ease screening procedures for airline passengers age 75+ at O'Hare International Airport. The new screening will also be tested at Denver, Orlando, and Portland International Airports. Individuals may still be required to remove their shoes and undergo a pat-down if anomalies are detected during security screening that cannot be resolved through other procedures. 

Prior to Super Tuesday, 15 national organizations representing the interests of senior citizens and individuals with disabilities and including the National Council on Aging (NCOA), invited presidential candidates to answer 5 questions about their views on long-term services and supports. The questionnaire was distributed to all major candidates for the Office of President of the United States, regardless of political party affiliation. Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum did not respond. Barack Obama and New Gingrich responded. See NCOA and candidates’ websites. 

This month, SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders)'s National Resource Center on LGBT Aging released its first comprehensive guide for aging service professionals and agencies, offering a range of tools and tips on creating affirming services for LGBT older adults. Titled Inclusive Services for LGBT Older Adults: A Practical Guide to Creating Welcoming Agencies, this guide can help agencies foster a welcoming environment for many diverse populations, including LGBT older adults. Download a PDF of the guide, or request print copies.  


MARK YOUR CALENDAR returns next week. Readers are welcome to share by email news of future events and deadlines that may interest boomers, seniors and elders. Daytime, free, and Bay Area events preferred. pen136@dslextreme.com.  


Sunday, March 18. 2 – 3:15 P.M. San Francisco Shakespeare presents Macbeth. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. The touring company presents a 55 minute production of the "Scottish play" with costumes, props, sets and recorded music. Stay for a Q&A session with the actors. 510-981-6100. 

Tuesday, March 20. 12:30 P.M. San Francisco Gray Panthers general meeting. “Let's Talk about Taxes: Tax the 1%!” Location: Fireside Room, Unitarian Center, 1187 Franklin St. (at Geary). 415-552-8800. 

Wednesday, March 21. 12:15 – 1 P.M. Noon concert, UC, B. Music Department. Hertz Concert Hall. UC Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, David Milnes, director. Weber: Bassoon Concerto, Drew Gascon, soloist. Debussy: Nocturnes. Tickets not required. 510-642-4864. 

Wednesday, March 21. 7:00- 8:00 P.M. Albany branch library, 1247 Marin Av. Adult 

Evening Book Group: Pat Barker's Regeneration. When poet and soldier Siegfried Sassoon writes a letter critical of England's efforts in World War I, he is sent to a mental hospital where Dr. W. H. R. Rivers tries to help patients express their war memories as a means of healing their "nerves." Rosalie Gonzales facilitates the discussion. Come to one meeting, or all meetings. Books are available at the Library. 510- 526-3720. 

Friday, March 23. 12:15-1 P.M. Bustan Quartet. Free Noon Concert Series. Lecture/demonstration: Co-sponsored event: Highlights: Hertz Concert Hall. Visiting Israeli group demonstrates their work in crafting new means of musical expression from diverse resources. Tickets not required. 510-642-4864.  

Saturday, March 24. Berkeley Public Library North Branch final open day for BranchVan Service at Live Oak Park. See April 7. 

Monday, March 26. 7 P.M. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av. Book Club.  

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peal Society by Mary Ann Shaffer. Each meeting starts with a poem selected and read by a member with a brief discussion following the reading. New members are always welcome. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Current-March 30. “Berkeley Women Vote: Celebrating California Suffrage 1911-2011.” An Exhibit at the Berkeley History Center, 1931 Center Street. 510-848-0181. 

Tuesday, March 27. 3 – 4 P.M. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St.,  

Tea and Cookies at the Library. A book club for people who want to share the books they have read. 510-981-6100. 

Wednesday, March 28-April 1. ASA Aging in America Conference, Washington, DC. 15% off registration fees through March 21. Use discount code DCNCoa15 when you register. You also can save by signing up to volunteer at the conference. Go to NCOA website. 

Wednesday, March 28. 1:30 - 2:30 P.M. Great Books Discussion Group: Mikhail Bulgakov's Master and Margarita. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Rosalie Gonzales facilitates the discussion. Come to one meeting, or all meetings. Books are available at the Library. 510- 526-3720. 

 Wednesday, March 28.  1:30 P.M.  Berkeley East Bay Gray Panthers.  North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst, corner MLK.  Free.  510-548-9696. 
Wednesday, March 28. 2-3 P.M. Moraga Library. 1500 St. Mary’s Road. Join a Berkeley Rep Theatre-trained docent to talk about the latest production, John Logan's Tony Award-winning two-character bio-drama about abstract impressionist, Mark Rothko, that's been called a "master class of questions and answers." Free. 925-376-6852. 925- 254-2184 

Monday, April 2. 6:30 P.M. Castoffs knitting group. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av. An evening of knitting, show and tell and yarn exchange. All levels are welcome and help will be provided. Free. 510-524-3043.  

Saturday, April 7. 1 – 5 P.M. Berkeley Public Library North Branch, 1170 The Alameda. Grand Reopening Event. The final open day for BranchVan Service at Live Oak Park will be Saturday, March 24, 2012. Details at www.berkeleypubliclibrary.org

Monday, April 9. 11:30 – 1:30 A.M. Older Adult Passover Seder. Jewish Community Center of the East Bay, Berkeley Branch 1414 Walnut Street. Kosher meal will include chicken and matzo ball soup, gefilte fish with horseradish sauce, fresh green salad w/ hard boiled eggs, roasted chicken, matzoh kugel, and wine. The Seder will be led by Ron Feldman. $10 JCC East Bay Member. $13 Non-Member. RSVP by March 29. Contact: Front DeskPhone: 510-848-0237. Email: samy@jcceastbay.org 

Thursday, April 12. 7:00 P.M. El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Avenue. Folk singer Tim Holt performs and discusses our heritage of traditional songs and sea chanteys. Some favorites he will sing are "Shenandoah,? "The Erie Canal,? and Woody Guthrie?s "Talkin' Columbia" and "Roll On Columbia." Holt will include a song with his own original lyrics, "Sailing Down My Mountain Stream," adapted from a Pete Seeger song about cleaning up the Hudson River. His version focuses on a more recent effort to restore wild salmon to the upper reaches of the Sacramento River. Sponsored by the Friends of the El Cerrito Library. 510-526-7512. 

Saturday, April 14. Berkeley Public Library Claremont Branch’s final open day for BranchVan Service at St. John’s Presbyterian Church.  

Monday, May 7. 6:30 P.M. Castoffs knitting group. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av. An evening of knitting, show and tell and yarn exchange. All levels are welcome and help will be provided. Free. 510-524-3043.  

Monday, May 14. 7:00 P.M. Identity Theft Program. Barbara Jue, an Associate with Legal Shield, will offer information and advice on how to prevent Identity theft and how to deal with it if it should happen. She will also talk about children and computer use and cyber bullying. A DVD will be shown; Q&A will follow. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Avenue. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Monday May 21. 7 P.M. Kensington Library Book Club: Color of the Sea by John Hamamura. 61 Arlington Av. Each meeting starts with a poem selected and read by a member with a brief discussion following the reading. New members are always welcome. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Monday, June 4. 6:30 P.M. "Castoffs" - Knitting Group. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Avenue. An evening of knitting, show and tell and yarn exchange. All levels are welcome and help will be provided. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Monday, June 18. 7 P.M. Art historian Michael Stehr will discuss Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who was the Michelangelo of the Baroque. He will also present a slide show. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Avenue. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Monday June 25. 7 P.M. Kensington Library Book Club: The Chosen by Chaim Potok. 61 Arlington Av. Free. 510-524-3043.

WILD NEIGHBORS: The Black Swift’s Secret

By Joe Eaton
Tuesday March 13, 2012 - 05:17:00 PM
Black swift on nest behind waterfall, Yellowdog Creek, Idaho.
Terry Gray (Wikimedia Commons)
Black swift on nest behind waterfall, Yellowdog Creek, Idaho.

Finding the breeding or wintering grounds of a migratory bird species is always a big deal. I’m old enough to recall the excitement attending the discovery of the Alaskan breeding range of the bristle-thighed curlew. Not that people were dancing in the streets, kissing random nurses, or setting fire to police cars, but there was a nice photo spread in National Geographic. (That may also have been my first encounter with the word “thigh.” In my family, in deference to my grandmother’s sensibilities, we called that part of the chicken the shortjoint.) 

A group of researchers at the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory in Brighton, Colorado have just filled in another blank in the ornithological map. Thanks to a mix of technology and luck, we now know where the black swift spends the winter. 

I will admit that this is one of my favorite birds. They’re charismatic little guys, fond of mountains and seacliffs. Although I’ve encountered black swifts in the North Cascades, at Yosemite, and on the San Mateo coast, the best place to observe them is Burney Falls, north of Mount Lassen. The swifts nest behind the waterfall. You can watch them zoom through the curtain of water and disappear somewhere in the mossy face of the cliff. Burney Falls is also a very cool place to be on a hot midsummer day in the mountains. 

These relatively large and robust swifts have a patchy distribution from southeastern Alaska to Costa Rica. There are also populations on the larger Caribbean islands, some of which are year-round residents. Mainland black swifts migrate, though. For years no one had a clue as to their destination. 

That was typical for a bird that plays its cards close to its chest. Its nest and eggs (two at most, often just one) were not described until 1901, when A. G. Vrooman collected an egg near Santa Cruz. Nobody believed him at the time; some insisted what he had was the egg of a storm-petrel, the kind of bird you would expect to nest in a coastal cliff. It was another 92 years before the bird’s voice was recorded. No one had credibly reported a black swift sighting south of Costa Rica, much less laid hands on a banded specimen. 

A clue came in 1992 when the Colombian ornithologist Alvaro Negret collected a black swift specimen in September in a canyon of the Rio Cauca, 1800 m high in the Central Andes. It proved to be a male of the migratory subspecies borealis. Negret observed a group of 15 in that area of Colombia for a week. Then, although the canyon was still swarming with edible flying insects, they moved on, to an unknown destination somewhere in South America. 

According to an article just published in the Wilson Journal of Ornithology, Jason Beason and his colleagues cracked the case by netting four black swifts and rigging them with lightweight geolocators. These gadgets, which consist of a light sensor, a digital clock, and a memory chip, aren’t radios: you can’t use them to track a moving bird in real time. What they do is log the times of sunrises and sunsets. But if you have that much, you can calculate the longitude and latitude at which the recording was made, and you know where the device—and the bird that wears it—have been. 

There’s a catch, of course: to read a geolocator’s data, you have to recapture the bird. Fortunately, black swifts exhibit strong breeding site fidelity. Setting up mist nets near the roosts where the swifts were caught, the researchers trapped three birds that were still wearing their devices. 

If the data can be trusted, the three swifts spent the winter in Brazil, in the western Amazon basin. They seem to have covered a lot of territory, which is consistent with their foraging behavior in North America. The authors speculated that the birds may have stayed airborne for 24 hours a day, as the Eurasian common swift is known to do. Northbound, they flew west of the Pacific coast of Central America, then hung a right at Mexico and headed for Colorado. 

So now we know. It’s not exactly finding Bigfoot, but it’s a critical data point if we’re serious about protecting these birds, which are thought to be particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and are listed as a California Species of Special Concern (a designation more honorific than effective.) Some might lament the solving of another natural mystery. Don’t worry: there are plenty of those left.