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Unstable Hillside Affects Traffic, Shuttles, Building 46
Unstable Hillside Affects Traffic, Shuttles, Building 46


New: Professor Warned of Berkeley Lab Slide Risk

By Becky O'Malley
Wednesday January 16, 2013 - 03:14:00 PM
Unstable Hillside Affects Traffic, Shuttles, Building 46
Unstable Hillside Affects Traffic, Shuttles, Building 46

The Berkeley Lab (formerly known as Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) reports on its website that “consistent rain over the last few months has destabilized the hillside above McMillan Road between Buildings 17 and 71. The hillside continues to inch toward the road, which has been closed as a precaution. A potential landslide warrants the road closure and relocation of Building 46 occupants.”

The site is in Strawberry Canyon, in the hills above the University of California at Berkeley campus, where new Berkeley Lab expansion building projects are now in progress.

The Planet has received a letter from Georgia Wright pointing out that the late Geology Professor Garniss Curtis had warned that building the original laboratory in this area was risky, and that future construction would also be problematical. Wright is the producer of a pair of short videos which focus on Curtis’ analysis.  

In her letter, she says that “the recent landslide is evidently on the site of the slide in 1974, a topic in the video ‘The Fault: Quakes, Slides, and the Lawrence Berkeley Lab.’  

“Prof. Garniss Curtis, who died on December 19, 2011, was interviewed about the geology of the Lab site. He had written the Regents in 2008, warning them not to build on the hill.” 

Her videos can be found online: 


Professor Curtis’ Letter


May 11, 2008 

To: Regents University of California
C/o Anne Shaw, Associate Secretary
Regents of the University of California 

From: Professor Emeritus Garniss H. Curtis
Department Earth and Planetary Science
University of California, Berkeley 

Re: Certification of Final Environmental Impact Reports for Proposed Computational Research and Theory Facility and Helios Energy Resources Facility and Project Approvals 

Dear Ladies and Sirs: 

As the request for my geologic opinion on the advisability of constructing large buildings in the lower part of Strawberry Canyon and in the next canyon to the north known as Blackberry Canyon came to me on May 4th, I have to be brief and rely on my memory. I shall first say as strongly as I can Òabsolutely do not construct any buildings in those two canyons,Ó then I shall go into the reason based on the work I did as consultant to Mr. Ben Lennart 25 to 35 years ago who was contracted by the University to investigate a number of sites for possible constructions or for stopping land slides that were threatening buildings. 

First, the geologic setting of the two areas: The active Hayward Fault goes across the mouths of both canyons. Further east, the Wildcat Canyon fault parallels the Hayward Fault behind the Botanical Gardens and northward joins the Hayward near the town of San Pablo. Southward the Wildcat Canyon fault can be easily traced to Sibley Park and beyond. A few small epicenters lie along this fault near its junction with the Hayward, but it does not seem to be active elsewhere to the south. However, in the past the area between the two streams and the two faults which includes the whole of the Lawrence Laboratory complex lay four miles to the south next to Sibley Park. The volcanic rocks in both areas have potassium-argon dates of approximately 10 million years, and the rhyolite found in both of them is the same rhyolite. The volcanic rocks underlying most of the Lawrence Lab complex fill an old crater, a collapse caldera. The old volcano that once rose above these rocks collapsed after the expulsion of a very large amount of rhyolite ash, now largely removed by erosion. The volcanic rocks broke up as the collapse occurred and many show crushing and deformation and are mixed with large amounts of ash and volcanic fragmental debris. This material should never have been built on, as it is so clay-rich and unconsolidated. The western rim of this caldera is easily traced from its arcuate shape that is cut off by the Wildcat Canyon not far from the Merry-go-Round in Tilden Park. The boundary rocks to the west are sandstones and shales thought to be of Cretaceous age, that is, they are older than 65 million years. 

Exposures of these sandstones and shales are good below Building 50 down to Bowles Hall, and they dip westward at angles of 20 to 25 degrees, about which more later. The Hayward Fault passes very close to the rear of Bowles Hall after going through the Stadium where it has caused major deformation of the support pillars and offset of the two sides of the Stadium since its construction in 1927. 

Behind Hearst Mining Building and a few feet to the east, is the Lawson Adit that is a tunnel going eastward. Begun in the 1920s or earlier, it was completed in 1938 when it reached the Hayward Fault. Professor George Louderback told me (personal communication) that it was not an ordinary fault gouge that he found in the Hayward Fault zone but a peculiar mixture of serpentine and metamorphic rocks that also appear on the surface and underlie Stern Hall and part of Foothill Student Housing. Founders Rock near the corner of Hearst and Gayley Road is in this mŽlange. Also in the tunnel are several exposures of the offset of Strawberry Creek as determined from the contained rounded cobbles of Strawberry Canyon origin. Thus this indicates a displacement of more than 600 feet north along the Hayward Fault. 

Still further north along the Hayward all the way to San Pablo huge amounts of the mŽlange similar to that in the Lawson Adit have been squeezed out of the Hayward Fault and are gradually sliding down the slope below the fault. Much of this mŽlange has reached the bottom of the hill back of El Cerrito. Along the Arlington many houses built on this mŽlange are sliding and have caused a great number of legal problems. Within the fault itself no movement can the detected in these deposits, some of which are more than 100 feet thick. Thus we believe that movement and expulsion of this mŽlange takes place during major earthquakes on the Hayward Fault. 

A great deal of research has been done recently on the Hayward Fault by the USGS at Menlo Park, which was reported in a talk on the last Thursday of this past April. They have established a return time of major quakes of 6.5-7 magnitudes on the Hayward Fault of 130 years. The last major quake along the northern part of the Hayward Fault was 140 years ago, so we are over-due. They estimate that there is approximately a 65 percent chance a major quake will occur in the next 30 years. 

Lennart was able to get survey notes from East Bay Municipal Utility District for the San Pablo Dam water tunnel to El Cerrito which crosses the Hayward Fault and shows that the right lateral horizontal movement of approximately one centimeter per year is matched by uplift of the east side of the fault of approximately one centimeter per year also. So, with the evidence of the horizontal displacement of the old Strawberry Creek of 600 feet horizontally along Galey Road, the Cretaceous sedimentary rocks east of the Hayward Fault there have also risen 600 feet. Building 50(?) sits on these Cretaceous strata, which, as mentioned dip westward 20-25 degrees. If an earthquake occurs when these beds are soaked with winter rains the chance of a major landslide are great along the slippage planes of shale dipping westward. Minor slides have already occurred in these beds behind Bowles Hall. Indeed, the Foothill Student Housing was planned to be built there until I called attention to the landslide. A major landslide would probably destroy all the buildings on both sides of Galey Road from the Stadium to the buildings on both sides of Hearst Avenue and would probably reach Dow Library, destroying everything in its path to that point and possibly beyond. Buildings in the lower parts of both Strawberry and Blackberry Canyons would be buried if not destroyed. 

Major landslides of the type I have described here are not rare along the Hayward Fault as was shown to us during our study of the Hayward Fault at the base of the hill behind the Clark Kerr Campus. We discovered that most of the campus was underlain by a large landslide that had originated in Claremont Canyon, and was gradually moved northward along the Hayward Fault. Trenches and drill holes showed this landslide to be up to 30 feet thick. It extends westward to and possibly beyond Piedmont Avenue. Further south is a huge landslide that underlies most of the campus of Mills College and extends westward another quarter mile. Still further south are more large slides that have originated in canyons and steep slopes east of the Hayward Fault. As the hills rise and become unstable, earthquakes cause them to break loose and slide. Very few large slides have occurred on the eastern slopes of the Berkeley Hills; hence the relationship to earthquakes of major land slides close to the Hayward Fault along the western slopes of the Berkeley Hills. Normal erosion rounds off unstable areas on the eastern slope of the Berkeley Hills before they break loose and slide. 

Most of the buildings of the Lawrence Laboratory are on the unstable ground filling the old caldera particularly the Bevatron and associated buildings. As the Cretaceous beds immediately west of these buildings have been eroded away there is nothing to keep these soft caldera-filled beds from sliding. The buildings on them will certainly move a few feet in a major earthquake if not hundreds of feet. Keep in mind the Loma Prieta quake of 1989 of magnitude 6.9 which from a distance of over 60 miles destroyed a section of the Bay Bridge, as section of the overhead freeway in Oakland killing 63 people, and many houses on filled ground in the Marina of northern San Francisco some 70 miles from the quake! 

No! Major buildings of any kind should not be constructed in either of these canyons bordering this huge block of unstable rock. 

Professor Emeritus Garniss H. Curtis
Department Earth and Planetary Science
University of California, Berkeley
For: Regents University of California, May 11, 2008

New: Berkeley Assemblymember and Others Respond to Obama Proposals to End Gun Violence

By Sasha Lekach (BCN)
Wednesday January 16, 2013 - 09:23:00 PM

President Obama unveiled this morning what he called "common-sense measures" to reduce gun violence after Vice President Joe Biden delivered recommendations earlier this week to prevent mass shootings like the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre last month. 

Obama highlighted several reforms from a list of 23 recommendations for Congress to OK spending a proposed $500 million on efforts to quell gun violence. 

"If there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there is even one life that can be saved, then we've got an obligation to try," Obama said this morning. 

The recommendations were based on work headed by Biden and cabinet members who met with 290 groups ranging from law enforcement agencies, public health offices, marksmen, hunters, religious leaders, gun advocates, mayors, governors, and county officials in the month since the Dec. 14 school shooting in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 first graders and six adults. 

Based on Biden's task force recommendations, Obama proposed strengthening criminal background checks for all gun buyers. 

He cited 40 percent of all gun purchases are conducted without a background check, and called that dangerous and negligent. 

"It's not fair to responsible gun buyers or sellers," he said. 

The president also called for restoring a ban on all military-style assault weapons and a 10-round limit for magazines. 

"Weapons designed for the theater of war have no place in a movie theater," he said, referring to last July's Aurora, Colo., theater shooting that killed 12. 

Obama asked for more severe punishment for gun crime and illegal gun sales, bolstered by increased police presence on city streets. 

Additionally, he noted that the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives needs a confirmed director after six years, and said he would recommend that interim director Todd Jones be named to that post. 

A 15-page report released from the White House late this morning details other proposals including more gun and violence research initiatives, more focus on mental health, and increased school safety measures.  

Those on both sides of the gun control debate have responded to the president's directive to Congress. 

U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, herself a shooting survivor from the 1978 Jonestown massacre in Guyana, sits on the bipartisan Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, which she said will come up with complementary recommendations for reducing gun violence that she expects to be fully supported. 

"The horrific nature of the Sandy Hook shootings is painful for all of us," she said this afternoon. "It's also important to realize we live in an incredibly violent society." 

She said the most important aspects of Obama's plan and the congressional recommendations that need to pass in Congress are mandatory criminal background checks. 

Although a huge number of illegal guns and assault weapons are already in circulation, she said measures are needed to stop the cycle. 

Following today's proposal, Speier said she will be introducing two bills to renew assault weapons and high-capacity magazine bans and improve tracking of guns used in crimes. 

She emphasized the importance of keeping tabs on guns and expanding California's already existing gun registry. 

The congresswoman reflected on her own experience with gun violence in the mass shooting where she was shot multiple times and U.S. Rep. Ryan Leo was killed along with four others on a fact-finding mission for suspected human rights violations by a cult. 

"I feel a personal obligation to do something, because I survived," she said. 

U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, the chair of the congressional task force, recognized the importance of executive action and the next steps needed for reform. 

"Now it's time for Congress to step up and do what needs to be done to save lives," he said in a statement this morning.  

The task force is developing a comprehensive set of policy recommendations that will be released in early February. 

Sen. Dianne Feinstein released a statement today commending what she called Obama's comprehensive and commonsense plan, highlighting his remarks about assault weapon reform. 

She announced that next week she will introduce legislation banning assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition. 

"These weapons have one purpose: to kill the most people in the shortest amount of time possible," she said in the statement. 

State Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, noted in a statement released this morning that Obama's plan would reduce gun violence at the much-needed federal level. 

"California has tough gun laws but our ability to address gun violence is undermined when one can bypass California rules by crossing state lines. Federal action is needed to ensure the effectiveness of our state laws," she said. 

Skinner last month introduced state legislation to reduce gun ammunition sales. 

Rev. Dr. Amos Brown, president of the San Francisco chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said he has worked with local clergy and written to Obama about gun violence and that "we are on the same page," on issues ranging from background checks to bans on assault weapons. 

"Why do you need to be that armed up?" Brown said. 

Brown was quick to distinguish between the problem of urban violence and mass shootings, noting that increased crime in many Bay Area cities stem from socio-economic disparities and lack of opportunity for young people. 

As for the nation, Brown said something has to be done on how we view gun ownership and protecting ourselves -- at the expense of innocent lives. 

"It's time that faith leaders take the lead," he said, "and take out the political posturing." 

"Let's look at what's good for the people," Brown said. 

Scott Jackson, the chief instructor from the Burlingame-based Bay Area Training Group, asserted that Obama is not dealing with gun crime problem correctly. 

As an instructor, Jackson trains people how to properly use and keep guns and said gun owners have to be responsible, especially keeping the weapon locked up and registered. 

He said in the past weeks since the Sandy Hook shooting he's seen his training session attendance quadruple from about 90 clients a month to more than 350 in the past month. 

"We're making people safe shooters," he said. 

More information about Obama's plan to stop gun violence is available at whitehouse.gov/now-is-the-time.

New: Ruptured Berkeley Water Main Repaired Overnight

By Laura Dixon (BCN)
Wednesday January 16, 2013 - 09:20:00 PM

Thirty-six East Bay Municipal Utility District customers in Berkeley can turn on their faucets again today after a water main break left them without water service Tuesday afternoon. 

The 8-inch main ruptured around 4 p.m. Tuesday near the intersection of Cedar and Seventh streets, district spokesman Charles Hardy said. 

The pipe break caused some flooding, but traffic was not affected, Hardy said. 

Crews repaired the main and restored service to the affected customers by 2 a.m., he said. 

No property damage was reported.

New: Mechanics Bank on Solano in Berkeley Robbed at Gunpoint

By Laura Dixon (BCN)
Wednesday January 16, 2013 - 09:19:00 PM

A man robbed a Mechanics Bank in Berkeley at gunpoint this morning, a police spokeswoman said. 

Officers were called around 9:25 a.m. to the Mechanics Bank at 1801 Solano Ave. Police spokeswoman Jennifer Coats said a suspect armed with a gun stole an undisclosed amount of cash. 

No one was injured. 

Police are attempting to locate the suspect, described as a black man in his late 30s who is about 6 feet 6 inches tall with a stocky build and dark complexion.  

He was wearing a black beanie and black hooded sweatshirt and carrying a black backpack at the time of the robbery, Coats said. 

Detectives remained at the bank investigating this afternoon.

One Life Span: A Letter to Children Born in 2013 (First Person)

By Bill Tilden
Friday January 11, 2013 - 01:50:00 PM

This year, 2013, I will turn 70 years old. Although my outward appearance defines me as “old,” internally, I feel as vibrant and alert and as young as I did when I was in my thirties (a psychologist would call this “cognitive dissonance”). I would like to share the following insight with those of you who will be born this year, which I have observed from my newly attained vantage point:

Traditionally, we measure the past in terms of years or decades or generations (of 20 to 25 years), but if we measure history in terms of life spans (of say 70 years), the past is much, much closer than we imagine.

For example, (a) I was born in 1943, during World War II when Hitler’s armies had encircled Stalingrad and the Holocaust was raging; (b) a person who was 70 years old in the year of my birth would have been born in 1873, when Ulysses S. Grant was president, eight years after the Civil War had ended and African-Americans had been freed from slavery; (c) an individual who was 70 years old in that year would have been born in 1803 when Thomas Jefferson was President and the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory from France; (d) a person who was 70 years old in that year would have been born in 1733, when Benjamin Franklin began his Poor Richard’s Alamanck; (e) a person who was 70 years old in that year would have born in 1663 20 years before Issac Newton published his Principia and when the Puritans theocrats ruled New England, and (f) a person who was 70 years old in that year would have been born in 1593, ten years before Queen Elizabeth I died and six years before Shakespeare wrote Hamlet.

So, if you placed me and these five individuals together in a classroom or at a cocktail party, between us, we would have witnessed and could have recounted our personal histories for the last 400 years, since the beginning of the modern era. Further, if you put 28 of us with consecutive lifespans together in a room, we could tell you personal, first-hand stories dating back to the Roman era and the birth of Jesus.

To those of you who will be born this year, I say: welcome to the human family; you are the living link to our future; please be conscious of how quickly history unfolds and how closely we are all related to one another.



Whatever Happened on the Way to the High-Tech Downtown Berkeley Start-ups?

By Becky O'Malley
Friday January 11, 2013 - 12:07:00 PM

Saying “I told you so”, as Cassandra could have attested, does nothing to make you popular. But a little bit of schadenfreude is perhaps understandable in this case.

Not even a full year ago, in this very space, I said that “As a (retired) entrepreneur who’s actually participated in starting something up, I can testify that adding one more bureaucrat to the Mayor’s office staff won’t make a dime’s worth of difference to location decisions of nascent enterprises.”

The context for my gloomy prediction was an editorial suggesting that perhaps Judith Iglehart, the bureaucrat in question, erstwhile Chief of Staff for the Mayor of Berkeley, wasn’t the right person for the job of serving the citizens on behalf of their mayor. She was presumably hired because of her experience with high-tech startups both at UC Berkeley and in the marketplace, but she seems not to have produced any techno-miracles while she was a city employee, nor has she markedly improved the way Bates serves the public—though he did get re-elected.

And now, a year later, after collecting something in the range of a hundred thousand dollars or so from the citizens of Berkeley, Ms. Iglehart is bailing to create her own job in the private profit arena, according to a story on Berkeleyside.com

She’s appeared on these pages just a couple of times during the year. 

In March, Zelda Bronstein covered her appearance at a “Startup Forum” sponsored by Berkeleyside.com, in a piece which revealed that Iglehart planned to continue her association with Keiretsu International, where she was Vice President for International Chapter Development and Operations. It’s likely that this was the kind of networking that’s now paid off with her new job. 

Then in August Ted Friedman spotted her at Tom Bates’ campaign kickoff, where she played but a cameo role: “Bates' food was donated, prepared by Judith Iglehart, his new city-employee chief of staff, who called it "finger food." 

In some circles cooking up noshes for a campaign event might be considered inappropriate for a city employee, but perhaps she baked those cookies or chopped those crudités at her home in Piedmont as a political contribution to the Bates campaign, not on the City of Berkeley’s time as an employee. 

And Bates told the Berkeleyside reporter “that Iglehart had been largely absent from city hall during his recent re-election campaign due to a long recovery necessitated by a double knee operation.” So she might have had time for domestic pursuits. 

B-side commenters, sometimes a surly bunch, were rude enough to wonder aloud exactly what Iglehart had done for Berkeley in this short year of service. Said their Number One airhead (with whom I seldom agree, and whose 3K+ comments on the site beat the next guy’s by almost 4-1): she “doesn't seem to have done a whole lot during her tenure.” 

That might be, for once, an understatement. Another windy fellow sprang to her defense, trying to give her credit for bringing a $200 million project to downtown Berkeley, but Numero Uno batted him down effectively, asking for proof that it was her baby and receiving none. 

In a way, you can’t blame her for what she has or hasn’t done this year. Someone looking forward to having both knees done would be smart to take a not-too-taxing public job with good healthcare benefits for the duration of the medical problem, and then to go on to more lucrative pursuits in the private sector. 

And while we’re on the subject, whether Iglehart can take the credit or not, how about that project—the latest mega-monstrosity that the land speculators are trying to foist on downtown Berkeley? The absentee owner of the old Hinks building, now the thriving Shattuck theater complex, sold it to a Southern California group which proposes once again to destroy the downtown in order to save it. (Boy, am I tired of that Vietnam era formulation, but it’s still got legs.) 

Mark Rhoades, former city planning employee and husband of development lobbyist Erin Rhoades, is serving as the project’s—“expediter”—isn’t that what they call it in San Francisco? In Chicago it would be “fixer”, but that’s too crude for Berkeley, isn’t it? Though we have revolving doors in our planning office, just like they do in the big cities, don’t we? 

One of the few things I learned in my 15 years in the computer industry was “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” Despite the incessant kvetching of the Downtown Berkeley Association and their boy the Mayor, it’s starting to seem like Downtown Berkeley is almost working despite the whiners. But the grandiosely titled “Residences at Berkeley Plaza”, accurately described by its boosters as “unlike anything else in downtown Berkeley” could manage to break what’s now working about Downtown. 

What’s working there now, among other things, is the Shattuck Theater complex, which the project threatens to demolish. The area has finally become the arts destination which was envisioned for many years, with thriving entertainment venues and associated eateries, plus a handy BART station to bring the bridge-and-tunnel crowd, which adores the Berkeley Rep, in from the burbs. 

We went downtown with friends on Saturday night and experienced the scene first-hand. We hoped to have an early dinner in one of the two trendy restaurants on the west side of Shattuck just north of Addison and then take in the 8 o’clock show at the Shattuck. Since UC’s still on break, we thought we’d have no trouble getting in to all these places without reservations, though we knew they’re usually jammed. 

What a mistake! By the time we got there at six, Downtown was jumping, even in pouring rain. Both restaurants were filled, with long waits for tables, if at all. 

I still can’t bring myself to patronize the third trendy spot on the south side of that corner since the proprietor took out after the homeless during the Measure S campaign, but we found a pleasant family-run Asian restaurant and had a leisurely dinner. Somewhat too leisurely, in fact, because when we tried to buy our tickets at the Shattuck they were sold out. 

So much for the Downtown Doldrums. Yes, there were some spare-changers abroad in the rain, but we survived the encounters. Downtown Berkeley is doing fine, thank you—but that could change. 

The proposed development, three glass boxes up to 180-feet and 17 stories, is pitched as 365 luxury apartments aimed at employees of the techie boom now spilling out of San Francisco and Silicon Valley. It would have the obligatory ground floor retail, just in case there aren’t enough empty storefronts downtown already. 

And while promoters will give lip service to the fiction that residents in luxury apartments don’t drive cars, in fact there will be lots of parking for their inevitable autos in the project. Don’t ask me to believe that the luxurious tenants will survive without owning one luxurious vehicle per person, adding to traffic even if they might BART to San Francisco for work. 

An out-of-town UC alumnus friend asked if the building will be taller than the Campanile. Yes. 

Might it block the view of the bay from many points in the hills? Yes. 

Do we need this? No. 

Whatever happened to all those Downtown startups that Ms. Iglehart was expected to produce? Maybe I’ve missed something, but all I’ve heard about so far is a crib in the Great-Western/Powerbar/Chase-Western building for UC grad students, working cheap for their professors, which has yet to provide any revenue to the city. 

The Residences, so-called, are not expected to house any such enterprises. 

This whole boondoggle is yet another example of Planning by Property Ownership. The out-of-town owners of the site, both past and present, think of the Shattuck Theater as just a blank space on an aerial map, ripe for exploitation by builders, who don’t care whether the eventual occupants are good for Berkeley or not. 

The sorry history of luxury residential developments in Berkeley is embodied in the still-moribund Seagate/Arpeggio building on Addison, whose godfather at birth way back in 2004 was the very same Mark Rhoades, then employed on the other side of the revolving door as a Berkeley city planner. At the time ace Planet reporter Richard Brenneman covered the whole sorry story in depth—citizens of all stripes predicted the disastrous course which this project has taken, and for their efforts they were called NIMBYs. 

Once again, just today, the ever-optimistic San Francisco Business Times predicts “Housing Boom to Hit Berkeley”. 

From the lede: 

Like a college graduate entering the real world, downtown Berkeley is growing up. 

Investment is pouring into the city’s nucleus with residential developers proposing more than 800 units in six projects — more new housing than the city has seen in years — as well as numerous new restaurants and a business improvement district giving the downtown an urban, upscale makeover. 

“The economy is roaring back,” said Mark Rhoades, a Berkeley residential developer and consultant. “People are now pushing out to the East Bay from San Francisco. There’s lots of interest in Berkeley plus the constant need for housing for the University of California and the passing of the downtown area plan.” 

Oh sure. The puff piece fails to mention that we already have a bunch of similar units still vacant after all these years, with the Arpeggio (or whatever it’s now called) leading the pack. It might be interesting if an SFBT reporter could find out what Berkeley’s current vacancy rate in this category might be, a figure guarded jealously by the powers that be, if in fact anyone actually knows. 

The Bay Area in the 40 years I’ve lived here has been subjected to a great number of boom-and-bust construction cycles, sometimes residential and sometimes office. Inevitably, the builders make out like bandits and the citizens pick up the pieces when the expected tenants don’t materialize on schedule. 

I hereby predict lots more vacant fancy apartments for Berkeley if this project is built, and few if any new start-up businesses. We’ll see what happens. 

Some of the Planet’s regular contributors have told me they plan in-depth discussions of the impact of the Residences proposal. We welcome contributions from anyone who has an opinion on this topic, especially one that’s backed up by data. 






Public Comment

Clean Air Goes Up in Smoke – Again

By Carol Denney
Tuesday January 15, 2013 - 05:13:00 PM

The group of citizens who beseeched the Ad Hoc Committee on Smokefree Housing to protect their health walked away thinking that smokefree housing was getting closer, perhaps requiring only another year watching their families choke on secondhand smoke before finally being able to breath smokefree air.

They were wrong.

The preliminary memo from the Public Health Department, the committee chair confirms, embraces grandfathering smokers – leaving smokers in place – out of the same mythological fear of eviction which shipwrecked smokefree housing efforts five years ago. 

It only takes one smoker to create toxic air in an entire apartment or condominium building, so “grandfathering” clauses obviate the entire point of smokefree laws, since healthy, smokefree air is the goal, and there is no safe dose of secondhand smoke. 

Come, if you can, to the Ad Hoc Committee on Smokefree Housing this Friday, January 18th, 10:00 am, on the 2nd Floor of 2001 Center Street. Watch your very own Health Department professionals slide backwards in time to the applause of the tobacco industry!

Unsafe Intersections

By Bill Kristy
Tuesday January 15, 2013 - 10:05:00 AM

When Berkeley Bowl opened on Heinz, right turns from northbound 9th Street onto Heinz Avenue were not allowed. Now that they are, the "bulge" of the sidewalk on the southeast corner of 9th and Heinz is very unsafe; it's bulge into Heinz leaves that spot on Heinz only a vehicle-width, which one needs more than in a turn. If there have been no accidents by vehicles turning, when encountering oncoming opposite-direction traffic on Heinz, it's only due to luck. Please remove this unsafe "bulge". 

Speaking of unsafe: The barriers in so many intersections in residential Berkeley are unsafe, pushing motor vehicles into the sides of the intersections best left only to pedestrians and bikes in the crosswalks.

Persons with Mental Illness Don't Need Guns

By Jack Bragen
Tuesday January 15, 2013 - 10:03:00 AM

I know someone, who is an acquaintance only, who said he intended to purchase a gun. He said, "I don't like the direction this country is going." This negative view of our President seems to be the excuse of many injudicious people who needed a justification for buying a weapon. In several states in The South, petitions have been circulated to "peacefully secede" from the U.S. 

Some of President Obama's staunchest opponents are probably racist and would like to bring back the Civil War, while others don't like him merely because he's a liberal Democrat. Either way, the ones who support President Obama, like me, are the same people who support gun restrictions. 

It is my opinion that something substantial must have gone wrong with the brain of anyone who believes they need to buy an automatic weapon. We could be dealing with millions of undiagnosed cases of personality disorder. 

If you are mentally ill, you especially don't need to own a gun or any other weapon. I would agree to any restriction concerning the ownership of guns that applies to persons with mental illness. 

I believe that guns, unless you are in law enforcement, or in the wilderness and up against bears, wolves and mountain lions, have no purpose whatsoever. People want them either out of fear, or from the need to feel powerful. Most gun owners fit the profile of being adult, male, and able-bodied. Thus, they shouldn't need a weapon for the purpose of self-defense. 

The people currently in charge of the NRA believe that the solution to the proliferation of guns in the U.S. is more guns. This is like a doctor saying that if you have a staph infection, the cure is to obtain more infections. 

Once restrictions on weapons and ammunition are put into law, there will be a delay of years, perhaps decades, before we see a significant reduction in these senseless shootings. People across the U.S., in response to fears of impending legislation, have bought millions more weapons. You have to start somewhere. If we can create a safer society for the next generation, we should do so.

Better Bad News: Alternate Reality

By George Coates
Tuesday January 15, 2013 - 06:07:00 PM

Ralph E. Stone's ill considered column about the CIA Pentagon co -production, Zero Dark Thirty (BDP Jan 11. 2013) promotes torture as a tool for combatting terror while perpetuating the myth that foreigners attacked the US on 9/11. 

Mr. Stone writes: 

1. The filmmakers had the full cooperation of the CIA, the Pentagon, and the White House. 

2. Everybody knows that Osama bin Laden was killed by a team of Navy SEALS on May 2, 2011. 

Mr. Stone asserts Osama bin Laden's guilt for 9/11 with no proof having ever been presented in a court of law. And contrary to his conclusion: Everybody does not know that Osama bin Laden was killed by a team of Navy SEALS on May 2, 2011. 

There is no credible evidence proving that anyone was captured by Navy Seals and buried at sea. Zero Dark Thirty asserts the official fantasy that an old man operating out of a cave in Tora Bora was responsible for the the attacks at ground zero on 9/11.  

Here's a question Mr. Stone failed to ask: How does the Pentagon/CIA/WhiteHouse benefit from co-producing a hollywood film depicting the US torture of detainees and perpetuating the myth that foreigners attacked the US on 9/11?  

It is for those who place blame to prove their case. Skeptics are under no obligation to propose an alternative narrative.  

Let's hope the film does not result in an increase in army enlistments among high school graduates who uncritically swallow the corporate media lie echoed with such bravado by by the military entertainment complex and Ralph E. Stone.


DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: Four More Years: Militarizing Latin America

By Conn Hallinan
Wednesday January 16, 2013 - 03:05:00 PM

This past December marked the 190th anniversary of the Monroe Doctrine, the 1823 policy declaration by President James Monroe that essentially made Latin America the exclusive reserve of the United States. And if anyone has any doubts about what lay at the heart of that Doctrine, consider that since 1843 the U.S. has intervened in Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Haiti, Nicaragua, Panama, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Uruguay, Granada, Bolivia, and Venezuela. In the case of Nicaragua, nine times, and Honduras, eight.

Sometimes the intrusion was unadorned with diplomatic niceties: the U.S. infantry assaulting Chapultepec Castle outside Mexico City in 1847, Marines hunting down insurgents in Central America, or Gen. “Black Jack” Pershing pursuing Pancho Villa through Chihuahua in 1916.

At other times the intervention was cloaked in shadow—a secret payoff, a nod and a wink to some generals, or strangling an economy because some government had the temerity to propose land reform or a re-distribution of wealth.

For 150 years, the history of this region, that stretches across two hemispheres and ranges from frozen tundra to blazing deserts and steaming rainforests, was in large part determined by what happened in Washington. As the wily old Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz once put it, the great tragedy of Latin America is that it lay so far from God and so near to the United States.

But Latin America today is not the same as was 20 years ago. Left and progressive governments dominate most of South America. China has replaced the U.S. as the region’s largest trading partner, and Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Venezuela have banded together in a common market, Mercosur, that is the third largest on the planet. Five other nations are associate members. The Union of South American Nations and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean State have sidelined that old Cold War relic, the Organization of American States. The former includes Cuba, but excludes the U.S. and Canada.

On the surface, Mr. Monroe’s Doctrine would appear to be a dead letter.

Which is why the policies of the Obama administration vis-à-vis Latin America are so disturbing. After decades of peace and economic development, why is the U.S. engaged in a major military buildup in the region? Why has Washington turned a blind eye to two successful, and one attempted, coups in the last three years? And why isn’t Washington distancing itself from the predatory practices of so-called “vulture funds,” whose greed is threatening to destabilize the Argentinean economy? 

As it has in Africa and Asia, the Obama administration has militarized its foreign policy vis-à-vis Latin America. Washington has spread a network of bases from Central America to Argentina. Colombia now has seven major bases, and there are U.S. military installations in Honduras, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Panama, and Belize. The newly reactivated Fourth Fleet prowls the South Atlantic. Marines are in Guatemala chasing drug dealers. Special Forces are in Honduras and Colombia. What are their missions? How many are there? We don’t know because much of this deployment is obscured by the cloak of “national security.” 

The military buildup is coupled with a disturbing tolerance for coups. When the Honduran military and elites overthrew President Manuel Zelaya in 2009, rather than condemning the ouster, the Obama administration lobbied—albeit largely unsuccessfully—for Latin American nations to recognize the illegally installed government. The White House was also silent about the attempted coup against leftist Rafael Correa in Ecuador the following year, and has refused to condemn the “parliamentary” coup against the progressive president of Paraguay, Fernando Lugo, the so-called “Red Bishop”. 

Dark memories of American engineered and supported coups against governments in Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Guatemala are hardly forgotten on the continent, as a recent comment by Argentine economics minister Hernan Lorenzino made clear. Calling a U.S. Appeals Court ruling that Buenos Aires should pay $1.3 billion in damages to two “vulture fund” creditors “legal colonialism,” the minister said “All we need now is for [Appeals Court Judge Thomas] Griesa to send us the Fifth Fleet.” 

Much of this military buildup takes place behind the rhetoric of the war on drugs, but a glance at the placement of bases in Colombia suggests that the protection of oil pipelines has more to do with the marching orders of U.S. Special Forces than drug-dealers. Plan Colombia, which has already cost close to $4 billion, was conceived and lobbied for by the Los Angeles-based oil and gas company, Occidental Petroleum

Colombia currently has five million displaced people, the most in the world. It is also a very dangerous place if you happen to be a trade unionist, in spite of the fact that Bogota is supposed to have instituted a Labor Action Plan (LAP) as part of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Washington. But since the Obama administration said the Colombian government was in compliance with LAP, the attacks have actually increased. “What happened since then [the U.S. compliance statement] is a surge in reprisals against almost all trade unions and labor activists that really believed in the Labor Action Plan,” says Gimena Sanchez-Garzoli of the Latin American watchdog organization, WOLA. Human Rights Watch reached a similar conclusion. 

The drug war has been an unmitigated disaster, as an increasing number of Latin American leaders are concluding. At least 100,000 people have been killed or disappeared in Mexico alone, and the drug trade is corrupting governments, militaries and police forces from Bolivia to the U.S. border. And lest we think this is a Latin American problem, several Texas law enforcement officers were recently indicted for aiding and abetting the movement of drugs from Mexico to the U.S. 

The Obama administration should join the growing chorus of regional leaders who have decided to examine the issue of legalization and to de-militarize the war against drugs. Recent studies have demonstrated that there is a sharp rise in violence once militaries become part of the conflict and that, as Portugal and Australia have demonstrated, legalization does not lead to an increase in the number of addicts. 

A major U.S, initiative in the region is the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), even though it has led to increases in poverty, social dislocation, and even an increase in the drug trade. In their book “Drug War Mexico” Peter Walt and Roberto Zapeda point out that deregulation has opened doors for traffickers, a danger that both the U.S. Customs Service and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) warned about back in 1993. 

By lowering or eliminating tariffs, NAFTA has flooded Latin America with cheap, U.S. government subsidized corn that has put millions of small farmers out of business, forcing them to either immigrate, flood their country’s overstressed cities, or turn to growing more lucrative crops—marijuana and coca. From 1994, the year NAFTA went into effect, to 2000, some two million Mexican farmers left their land, and hundreds of thousands of undocumented people have emigrated to the U.S. each year. 

According to the aid organization, Oxfam, the FTA with Colombia will result in a 16 percent drop in income for 1.8 million farmers and a loss of income between 48 percent and 70 percent for some 400,000 people working under that country’s minimum monthly wage of $328.08. 

“Free trade” prevents emerging countries from protecting their own industries and resources, and pits them against the industrial might of the U.S. That uneven playing field results in poverty for Latin Americans, but enormous profits for U.S. corporations and some of the region’s elites. 

The White house has continued the Bush administration’s demonization of president Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, in spite of the fact that Chavez has been twice elected by large margins, and his government has overseen a major reduction in poverty. According to the United Nations, Venezuelan inequality is the lowest in Latin America, poverty has been cut by a half, and extreme poverty by 70 percent. These kinds of figures are something the Obama administration supposedly hails. 

As for Chavez’s attacks on the U.S., given that U.S. supported the 2002 coup against him, has deployed Special Forces and the CIA in neighboring Columbia, and takes a blasé attitude toward coups, one can hardly blame the Chavistas for a certain level of paranoia. 

Washington should recognize that Latin America is experimenting with new political and economic models in an attempt to reduce the region’s traditional poverty, underdevelopment, and chronic divisions between rich and poor. Rather than trying to marginalize leaders like Chavez, Correa, Evo Morales of Bolivia, and Christine Kirchner of Argentina, the Obama administration should accept the fact that the U.S. is no longer the Northern Colossus that always gets it way. In any case, it is the U.S. currently being marginalized in the region, not its opponents. 

Instead of signing silly laws, like “The Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act” (honest to God), the White House should be lobbying for Brazil to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, ending its illegal and immoral blockade of Cuba, and demanding that Britain end support for its colony in the Falkland’s or Malvinas. The fact is that Britain can’t “own” land almost 9,000 miles from London just because it has a superior navy. Colonialism is over. 

And while the administration cannot directly intervene with the U.S. Court of Appeals in the current dispute between Elliot Management, Aurelius Capital Management, and Argentina, the White House should make it clear that it thinks the efforts by these “vulture funds” to cash in on the 2002 Argentine economic crisis are despicable. There is also the very practical matter that if “vulture funds” force Buenos Aires to pay full fare for debts they purchased for 15 cents on the dollar, it will threaten efforts by countries like Greece, Spain, Ireland and Portugal to deal with their creditors. Given that U.S. banks—including the “vultures”—had a hand in creating the crisis in the first place, it is especially incumbent on the American government to stand with the Kirchner government in this matter. And if the Fifth Fleet does get involved, it might consider shelling Elliot’s headquarters in the Cayman Islands. 

After centuries of colonial exploitation and economic domination by the U.S. and Europe, Latin America is finally coming into its own. It largely weathered the worldwide recession in 2008, and living standards are generally improving throughout the region—dramatically so in the countries Washington describes as “left.” These days Latin America’s ties are more with the BRICS—Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—than with the U.S., and the region is forging its own international agenda. There is unanimous opposition to the blockade of Cuba, and, in 2010, Brazil and Turkey put forth what is probably the most sensible solution to date on how to end the nuclear crisis with Iran. 

Over the next four years the Obama administration has an opportunity to re-write America’s long and shameful record in Latin America and replace it with one built on mutual respect and cooperation. Or it can fall back on shadowy Special Forces, silent subversion, and intolerance of differences. The choice is ours. 

Conn Hallinan can be read at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com and middleempireseries.wordpress.com 

ECLECTIC RANT: Zero Dark Thirty: Turning the Spotlight on US Use of Torture.

By Ralph E. Stone
Friday January 11, 2013 - 01:38:00 PM

Everybody knows that Osama bin Laden was killed by a team of Navy SEALS on May 2, 2011. The film Zero Dark Thirty involves the ten-year search for bin Laden, pitting Maya, played by Jessica Chastain, who believes bin Laden is likely hiding in plain sight, against the non-believers, which builds up to an action-packed climax where bin Laden is killed. The title of the film is spy-jargon for "half past midnight," the time of bin Laden's death. 

The film has become controversial as it shows graphic scenes of torture including waterboarding, beating, sleep deprivation, humiliation, and psychological torture at overseas black sites. In response, Senators Feinstein, Levin, and McCain's wrote to Sony Pictures Entertainment claiming the movie "grossly inaccurate and misleading in its suggestion that torture resulted in information that led to the location of Usama bin Laden." Is this a case of these senators "shooting the messenger."  

Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal countered saying, "We depicted a variety of controversial practices and intelligence methods that were used in the name of finding bin Laden. The film shows that no single method was necessarily responsible for solving the manhunt, nor can any single scene taken in isolation fairly capture the totality of efforts the film dramatizes." 

The filmmakers had the full cooperation of the CIA, the Pentagon, and the White House in the making of the film. Given this country's use of torture in the past, I for one tend to believe that the film's depiction of torture of POWs is accurate. 

Let's look back on some of the highlights, or lowlights if you will, on this country's use of torture. A good place to start is the infamous "Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation" training manual. When interrogating "resistant sources," the Kubark manual states, "The deprivation of stimuli induces regression by depriving the subject's mind of contact with an outer world and thus forcing it in upon itself. At the same time, the calculated provision of stimuli during interrogation tends to make the regressed subject view the interrogator as a father-figure." 

The Kubark manual is based on the notorious MK-ULTRA programme, where in the 1950s, the CIA suppled funds to scientists to carry out research into "unusual techniques of interrogation." One of the psychiatrists who received CIA funding was Donald Ewen Cameron, of Montreal's McGill University. Cameron subjected hundreds of psychiatric patients to large doses of electroshock and total sensory isolation, and drugged them with LSD and PCP, which produces the "primary symptoms of schizophrenia." Similar techniques were used on prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Afghanistan, and Abu Ghraib

According to Human Rights Watch, the US ran a detention facility near Kabul known as the "prison of darkness" - tiny pitch-black cells, strange blaring sounds. "Plenty lost their minds," one former inmate recalled. "I could hear people knocking their heads against the walls and the doors." 

And who can forget the U.S Army School of Americas (SOA), based in Fort Benning, Georgia, which trains Latin American mlitary officers in interrogation and counterintelligence techniques.  

Similar interrogation techniques found in the Kubark manuel were incorporated in the SOA training manuals. Is it any wonder that SOA graduates were responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses in Latin America? In response to the controversy over SOA and protests by human rights activists, the SOA was officially "closed" in December 2000. But it reopened a month later as Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation - in the same installations, with the same staff carrying out the same work, and still remains in operation although SOA Watch has been advocating its closure for years. 

Remember when on April 16, 2009, President Obama released four top secret memos that allowed the CIA under the Bush administration to torture al Qaeda and other suspects held at Guantánamo and secret detention centers round the world. According to the memos, ten techniques were approved: attention grasp (grasping the individual with both hands, one hand on each side of the collar opening, in a controlled and quick motion); walling (in which the suspect could be pushed into a wall); a facial hold; a facial slap; cramped confinement; wall standing; sleep deprivation; insects placed in a confinement box (the suspect had a fear of insects); and waterboarding.  

In waterboarding the individual is bound securely to an inclined bench, which is approximately four feet by seven feet. The individual's feet are generally elevated. A cloth is placed over the forehead and eyes. Water is then applied to the cloth in a controlled manner which produces the perception of suffocation and incipient panic. 

In the now-discredited August 2002 memorandum from then Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee to then White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez narrowly defined physical torture as requiring pain "equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, the permanent impairment of a significant bodily function, or even death." 

And we all remember former Vice President Dick Cheney's comment that: "enhanced interrogation techniques" (a euphemism for torture) sanctioned by the Bush administration are not torture and dismissed criticism as "contrived indignation and phony moralizing." 

And remember the torture conducted on prisoners at Abu Ghraib

Extraordinary renditions apparently continue to this day. These are secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to other countries where torture is used. Torture is torture whether it is done by Americans at Guantánamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, Afghanistan, or by proxy through our rendition program. 

As of October 3, 2012, there were still 166 detainees at Guantánamo Bay being held without charges, many of whom have been held for years. In addition, 50 detainees are considered too dangerous to release, but cannot be tried because the evidence against them is too flimsy or was extracted from them by coercion, so would not hold up in court. Thus, these detainees will be held indefinitely without charges or trial. Amnesty International has described the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay as "the gulag of our times, entrenching the practice of arbitrary and indefinite detention in violation of international law."  

Human torture is not only morally unacceptable – it is also a crime. Waterboarding, for example, is explicitly prohibited by the Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions

Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis statement in Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438 (1928) explains why we should be concerned about what our government does in our name: 

“Decency, security, and liberty alike demand that government officials shall be subjected to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen. In a government of laws, existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. To declare that in the administration of the criminal law the end justifies the means — to declare that the government may commit crimes in order to secure the conviction of a private criminal — would bring terrible retribution. Against that pernicious doctrine this court should resolutely set its face.” 

And torture does not work. 

It will make most ordinary people say anything the torturer wants.Sadly, according to an August 2011 Pew Research poll, only 24 percent of those polled responded that torture is never justified to obtain important information from terrorists. Too many Americans probably view the killing of Osama bin Ladin justified the means to that end.  

Too many Americans probably view the killing of Osama bin Laden justified the means to that end. 

Senator Feinstein now wants the CIA to detail its contributions to the film Zero Dark Thirty, and even wants the filmmakers to include a disclaimer indicating the film is fiction, only based on a true story. But shouldn't the focus of any such inquiry be on whether the CIA still uses enhanced interrogation techniques? If such techniques are still being used, then perhaps Feinstein's oversight committee is not doing its job.  

I call upon Senator Feinstein, the White House, and the CIA to publish with as few redactions as possible the 6,000 page Senate intelligence committee study on CIA interrogation and detention to inform the public debate about torture. The report should help set the record straight. 

By the way, I highly recommend Zero Dark Thirty. Americans should see another example of what is being done in their name. 

THE PUBLIC EYE: Zombie Politics: 2013 Republicans

By Bob Burnett
Friday January 11, 2013 - 01:36:00 PM

Originally a “zombie” was a reanimated corpse, but recently the term has expanded to signify a person under a spell without consciousness and self-awareness. A contemporary Republican politician. 

Writing in The American Prospect, John Sides defined “Zombie Politics” as politics based upon ideas that are dead but live on. That capsulizes the 2013 Republican Party.  

While there are many examples of Republican zombie politics, the two most recent have been the GOP responses to the end-of-year fiscal cliff and relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy. In the fiscal cliff negotiations, House Republicans stuck to their position of no tax increases until the supposed 12/31 deadline passed. Then a minority of Republicans agreed to the Obama plan, enough so it passed given overwhelming Democratic support. 

Of course, no tax increases is a core Republican position based upon their belief that low rates grow the economy; it’s a fundamental tenet of Reaganomics, the trickle-down theory that “a rising tide lifts all boats.” It’s been widely discredited but nonetheless lives on as the cornerstone of zombie politics. 

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives initially failed to pass relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy. Then on January 4 the House approved a stripped down bill that provides only $9.7 billion for flood insurance. 67 Republicans voted against this. The most prominent was Paul Ryan, George Romney’s 2012 running mate, who said, “Unfortunately [the bill] refuses to distinguish—or even prioritize—disaster relief over pork-barrel spending." (This falsehood was immediately refuted by New York Republican Representative Peter King.) 

But it should not have been a surprise that Republicans opposed disaster relief; they have a long history of doing this. Republicans typically justify their opposition with complaints about “pork-barrel spending” or “an supervised slush fund,” but their true concern is about validating the role of government as the relief agency of last resort. Republicans have no use for government. They hold tight to the zombie view that government is America’s number-one problem, even when it comes to providing aid for American disaster victims. 

As 2013 begins, we can anticipate a series of battles between the White House and Congressional Republicans. In February, Congress has to approve lifting the nation’s borrowing limit. Republicans say they are unwilling to do this unless they get massive concessions from President Obama, such as cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. (These requests are amplified by the pending automatic cuts, “sequestrations,” totaling $1.2 trillion, split between defense and domestic spending.) Many Republicans claim that letting the President have increased spending authority is irresponsible. FactCheck.org reported, “Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Michele Bachmann, have said that the president wants ‘a blank check.’ Not true. First, he's asking to borrow money to pay obligations Congress has already approved.” Giving Obama a blank check is a zombie proverb. 

Zombie priest Grover Norquist famously proclaimed, “Our goal is to shrink government to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub.” Even though most Americans appreciate government services, Republicans are determined to shrink the size of government, no matter whom it hurts. 

Given the heated discussion about the fiscal cliff and relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy, Washington politicians have for the moment stopped talking about job creation. Nonetheless, it should be the Obama Administration’s number-one-priority. After all, while the US is slowly recovering from The Great Recession, 12.2 million Americans are unemployed (7.8 percent of the workforce).  

In his acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention Obama highlighted his plan to create more jobs. Reporting for NPR, John Ydstie noted the President’s plan is based upon the American Jobs Act. proposed to Congress on September 8, 2011. Unfortunately, Republicans filibustered the primary provisions of Obama’s plan: “More spending on infrastructure, a tax cut for firms that hire new workers, aid to state and local governments, and a program to rebuild schools.”  

The GOP’s resistance to the President’s jobs plan is based upon a conservative maxim that is dead but lives on: jobs are created by less government, lower taxes, and fewer regulations. This notion guided eight years of the Bush-Cheney Administration that saw a savage increase in monopoly capitalism and income inequality, and the loss of 3.5 million jobs

What explains the allure of zombie politics? 

For thirty years, Republicans have been listening to the same message: “government is bad,” “taxes are too high,” “citizens can enjoy public services without paying for them,” and “the free market will cure all problems.” Republican leaders, and Republicans in general, have been hypnotized. They’ve been cast under a spell that has diminished their capacity and made them woefully unaware of their own humanity.  

Ronald Reagan, Milton Friedman, and the other progenitors of Reaganomics are dead but their evil ideas live on to guide the contemporary Republican Party. Zombie politics. 

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

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Recovery is a Lifelong Endeavor

By Jack Bragen
Friday January 11, 2013 - 01:52:00 PM

When someone is correctly diagnosed with a major mental illness, the path of life is changed indelibly. The individual is on a path of either recognizing and dealing with his or her psychiatric illness, or being in denial and having a path of repeated disasters. Either way, an individual newly diagnosed with psychiatric illness does not usually have an easy destiny. 

While a person with mental illness is usually better off being medication compliant, some things other than pills that come with the package deal of a diagnosis need not be swallowed. 

For example, we should not believe people's assertions that we will be permanently disabled and unable to work. Many people with psychiatric conditions are able to work or be self-employed, and only the worst of counselors will advise a person that they can't work. We should not buy into the concept that we have less intellectual development than the counselors who are paid to help us. While there are counselors who know a lot, we should keep the thought that we have valuable life experiences. We can think and use our minds, and we should. We should not give up on being intelligent merely because we have a psychiatric diagnosis. 

We should not believe people's implications or assertions that we are a "sick person" or that we "are not in a healthy space." Some counselors will automatically judge us as "people with emotional problems," when the cause of our problems may actually be a malfunction in a part of the brain. These are two very different things. A person with mental illness can be psychiatrically ill but emotionally healthy. 

As persons with mental health diagnoses, our life paths may have some unanticipated twists and turns that we can not always avoid. We may be forced to live for a while on disability insurance or SSI. This does not automatically mean that we should throw in the towel regarding having prospects in our lives. 

We may reach a time in life that seems anti- or post- climactic. This is a state of uneventfulness that follows on the heels of a success. Happily ever after does not exist. Life offers repeated episodes of struggle, and that is what makes people's lives interesting. If we have a victory in life or a time of achieving something which is followed by a lull, we still have the option of trying to do more. 

Finding more clarity than we previously had is a valuable thing. For many people, reaching middle age brings a greater amount of wisdom. We may think, "If I only knew then the things I know now." Yet, this is actually a good, healthy point to reach. Of course you should know more in middle age than you knew in young adulthood-it comes with the territory. 

However, there are some who never reach that clarity of thought, whose minds remain clouded through repeated episodes of mental illness and repeated unhappy events. Still others remain mentally clouded through the use of illicit drugs and alcohol. 

My advice concerning illicit drugs and alcohol is that you should never take that first sip of alcohol, you should never take that first toke, and you should never get high on drugs to begin with. Once you try these substances for the first time, you have a very large chance of becoming permanently addicted, with all of the disagreeable baggage that goes with it. 

As we mature, we may realize the folly of being medication noncompliant. If we are medication compliant most of the time, we have a chance of learning from life's experiences. Failing to get the illness treated means that our mental equipment will be unusable, and we will not be able to benefit from life's lessons. 

As persons with disabilities, we often have little choice but to accept living with less of the things money can buy. And we may have to deal with a certain amount of disrespect when we are among mainstream, nondisabled people. Settling for less is a hard pill to swallow; it is a pill as bad tasting as a mouthful of medication. It would be nice to believe that we can have everything that others have if we just try hard enough, but that appears to be a pipedream. Therefore, it is necessary for persons with mental illness to get enjoyment from basic, simple, and nonmaterial things, such as a cup of tea, or a good book. It is very Zen to do this, and not the self absorbed version of Zen practiced by affluent people-this version of mindfulness comes from harsh necessity. 

The path of life for someone with mental illness is difficult-more so if we shrink away from the effort required to make a go of it. Recovery never ends; we are perpetually works in progress. We must not postpone getting some enjoyment while on this journey. To use a cliché, it's not about the destination, it is about the trip.

Arts & Events

Around & About the Performing Arts: Marion Fay's Music & Theater Appreciation Classes

By Ken Bullock
Friday January 11, 2013 - 01:33:00 PM

For years now, Marion Fay's led a remarkable series of adult ed classes in both music and theater appreciation at the Northbrae Community Church (941 The Alameda, Berkeley, near Solano Avenue & the tunnel), with visiting composers, conductors and musicians of the SF, Berkeley and Oakland Symphonies, who discuss and perform their work, and actors and directors for the theater classes, which also feature field trips to performances, at discount prices, with post-show discussions. 

The classes for this period have already begun, but it's still possible to sign up. There's no requirement for previous musical education or training for the class in classical music. 

Music class: 10-noon, Thursday mornings (10 classes): $75, excluding discount tickets for field trips. 

Theater class: Choice of Mondays, 10-12 or 1-3, or Thursdays 1-3. (10 classes): $75, excluding discount tickets for field trips. 

Further info: marionfay.com

Around & About Entertainment: The 13th Edwardian Ball & World's Faire

By Ken Bullock
Friday January 11, 2013 - 01:29:00 PM

How do you pigeonhole the now-13 year-old Edwardian Ball & World's Faire, a cascade of wonders and diversions, on January 18-19 at the old Regency Ballroom on Van Ness at Sutter, in the same complex as the old Avalon?
In a town once famous for exotic events—and rave-up balls—the Edwardian is probably the closest to the good old days, before the remnants of the others became stale, commercial—or just ceased to exist. Something nostalgic—and refreshing.
Featuring the staging of an Edward Gorey tale, The Doubtful Guest (with the blessings of the Gorey Charitable Trust), with original music and choreography, the other wonders and diversions include parlor games, steam machinery, aerial performances, period technology, games, fashion shows, a museum of wonders—and of course, dancing in the ballroom to live music and DJs ...
Friday the 18th is the Edwardian World's Faire, with special events including the Wanderlust Circus Orchestra from Portland; Saturday is teh Edwardian Ball. Both start at 8, but on Saturday there's the Vendor Bazaar and Piano Saloon from noon to 5, accessible separately for $5, or free with admission to the main events at night.
Founded by Rosin Coven, co-hosted by Vau de Vire Society, with a Ball also at the Fonda Theatre in LA on February 23.
Tickets & VIP passes: $30-$90 at: bit.ly/edwardian13 or at the door