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Berkeley Man Shot Monday Identified by Police

By Bay City News
Wednesday February 06, 2013 - 09:13:00 PM

A man who was fatally shot on a busy Berkeley street in broad daylight late Monday morning has been identified by police as 34-year-old Zontee Jones of Berkeley. 

Jones was shot shortly after 11 a.m. Monday in the 1000 block of Delaware Street between 10th Street and San Pablo Avenue. 

Arriving officers found him down on the street and he was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. 

Berkeley police spokeswoman Stephanie Polizziani said detectives are "working nonstop" to try to solve the case but no one has been arrested so far. She declined to release any other information about the shooting.

Updated: Berkeley Hills Fire Controlled; Causes Damage, No Injuries

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Wednesday February 06, 2013 - 03:08:00 PM

A spectacular two-alarm fire caused extensive damage to a home in a heavily-wooded section of the Berkeley hills today, but there weren't any injuries to the residents or firefighters. 

Berkeley fire officials said the three-story home with wooden shingles at the top of a steep driveway at 1177 Keith Ave. was fully engulfed when they arrived a few moments after a resident of nearby Keeler Avenue reported smoke. 

Interim fire Chief Gil Dong said the fire was contained as of 12:25 p.m. but about an hour later smoke and flames were still coming from the third floor. 

Acting deputy fire Chief Averyn Webb said the fire mainly was confined to the home's second and third floors and nearby homes weren't damaged, although there were some scary moments and nearby residents were advised but not forced to evacuate. 

Webb said it wasn't immediately clear if the people who live at 1177 Keith Ave. were at home when the fire broke out. The residents were nearby as firefighters completed their work but declined to talk to reporters. 

Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the fire and the amount of damage to the house hasn't been assessed, Webb said. 

He said it was "difficult" for firefighters to get to the house and battle the blaze because the roads are curvy and narrow, there are a lot of trees and long hoses had to be run up the hill to carry water to the house. 

Webb said five engines, two trucks, two ambulances and additional fire personnel responded to fight the fire.

UC Berkeley Lab Building Re-Opens after Bomb Scare

By Sasha Lekach (BCN)
Wednesday February 06, 2013 - 03:01:00 PM

Authorities have reopened streets near two buildings that were evacuated this morning after a bomb threat was reported at a University of California at Berkeley-affiliated office in Emeryville. 

Police gave the all-clear to reopen the roads and buildings around 1 p.m. after the threat came into an office space rented by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the EmeryStation East building at 5885 Hollis St. 

The threat was reported around 7 a.m., UC Berkeley police Lt. Eric Tejada said.  

A second office building located across the street from EmeryStation East had also been evacuated as a precaution. 

Bomb-sniffing K-9 units from the UC Berkeley Police Department, the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security finished their inspections, Tejada said. 

He said the threat came into the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory office and employees called UC Berkeley police. 

"It seemed credible, so we took it seriously," he said. 

He said authorities are investigating who sent the threat. He would not disclose how the threat was delivered to the office. 

Two floors that house the lab facility were still closed when the threat was received. They remained closed during the investigation. 

Other occupants evacuated the building after the threat.

Flash: Three-Story House Engulfed in Flames in Berkeley Hills

By Sasha Lekach (BCN)
Wednesday February 06, 2013 - 01:13:00 PM

Firefighters are tackling a one-alarm fire at a three-story home in the Berkeley Hills this afternoon, the Berkeley interim fire chief said. 

The fire was reported at 11:46 a.m. in the 1100 block of Keith Avenue. 

As of 12:25 p.m., the fire had been contained to the home but was not under control, interim fire Chief Gil Dong said. 

Heavy fire has engulfed the second and third floors of the home, he said. 

Residents at nearby homes are being evacuated, he said. 

There was no reports of injuries, Dong said.

Press Release: Mechanics Bank Robber Arrested

From Ofc. Jennifer Coats, BPD
Wednesday February 06, 2013 - 10:54:00 AM

The City of Berkeley Police Department is announcing the arrest of James Craig Davis, 33 years old, of San Pablo, for the January 6, 2013 armed robbery of Mechanics Bank on Solano Avenue. 

On Thursday, January 6, 2013, at approximately 9:23 a.m., BPD officers responded to Mechanics Bank on Solano Avenue for a reported armed robbery. Officers determined the suspect entered the bank, displayed a handgun, and demanded cash from a teller. The suspect fled the bank with an undisclosed amount of cash. 

BPD Robbery Detectives immediately obtained bank security photos of the suspect, and distributed them to law enforcement agencies in the region. Within a day, a Deputy Sheriff employed by the Marin County Sheriff’s Office notified BPD detectives that he recognized the suspect depicted in the bank security photos.  

BPD Detectives continued their investigation, ultimately identifying the suspect in the case as James Craig Davis, 33, of San Pablo. BPD detectives obtained an arrest warrant, and had it entered into state and national databases on January 22, 2013. 

Later that same date, a Deputy Sheriff contacted Davis during a traffic stop in Platte County Missouri. The deputy determined Davis was wanted for the Berkeley robbery, and placed him into custody without incident, and notified BPD Detectives. Davis has been extradited to California to face the robbery charge. 








Flash: UC Berkeley Building Evacuated after Bomb Threat

Wednesday February 06, 2013 - 10:53:00 AM

Two buildings have been evacuated this morning as police and fire crews investigate a bomb threat to a University of California at Berkeley-affiliated office in Emeryville. 

The bomb threat to office space rented by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the EmeryStation East building at 5885 Hollis St. was reported around 7 a.m., UC Berkeley police Lt. Eric Tejada said. 

As of 9:45 a.m., a second office building located across the street from EmeryStation East in the 5800 block of Hollis Street had also been evacuated as a precaution. 

The two floors that house the lab facility had not opened for the day when the threat was received and are remaining closed during the investigation. Occupants of other parts of the building also chose to leave as a precaution, Tejada said. 

Bomb-sniffing K-9s from the UC Berkeley Police Department, the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security were also there to inspect the building.

Flash: Delaware Street Closed After Homicide in Berkeley

By Sasha Lekach (BCN)and Planet
Monday February 04, 2013 - 04:34:00 PM

UPDATE: According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the victim has been identified as Zontee Jones of Berkeley. 

A male victim who was found shot on a Berkeley street this morning died at the hospital, a police spokeswoman said.

Police received reports of shots fired around 11:10 a.m. and responded to Delaware Street just west of San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley police spokeswoman Jennifer Coats said.

Arriving officers found a male victim down on the street. Medical personnel took him to a hospital where he was pronounced dead, Coats said.

Witnesses said a group of people was seen running away from the scene, but no other suspect information was immediately available, she said.

Delaware Street remains closed through the afternoon between San Pablo Avenue and Tenth Street as police investigate the fatal shooting, Coats said.

Flash: Homicide on Delaware Street in Berkeley This Morning

PRESS RELEASE From Officer Jennifer Coates, Berkeley Police
Monday February 04, 2013 - 04:30:00 PM

The City of Berkeley Police Department (BPD) is investigating a fatal shooting that occurred on Delaware Street near the intersection of San Pablo Avenue.

On Monday, at approximately 11:08 a.m., BPD patrol officers responded to multiple reports of shots fired, with a victim down near the intersection of Delaware Street and San Pablo Avenue. BPD officers arrived on scene and discovered a single victim down, suffering from gunshot wounds. The victim a 34 year old male was transported to a local hospital by the Albany Fire Department. The victim was pronounced deceased at the hospital. BPD will not be releasing the victim’s name out of respect for those family or friends that still need to be notified of his passing. 

BPD Homicide detectives and officers are actively working the crime scene, canvassing the area, interviewing witnesses and following up on leads. 

BPD is urging anyone who may know anything about this homicide to call the BPD Homicide detail at (510) 981-5741 or the 24 hour BPD non emergency number of (510) 981-5900. If a person wishes to remain anonymous, he/she can call the Bay Area Crimes Stoppers (BACS) at (800)-222-TIPS (8477). Any information may be critical to solving this crime.

Berkeley's Chu Resigns as Energy Secretary

By Bay City News
Friday February 01, 2013 - 04:45:00 PM

Energy Secretary Steven Chu, the Nobel Prize-winning former director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, announced his resignation today, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

In a letter to department employees today, Chu said that he had informed the president of his decision to leave a few days after the election, and noted that he and his wife are "eager to return to California.

"I would like to return to an academic life of teaching and research, but will still work to advance the missions that we have been working on together for the last four years," Chu said. 

Chu's tenure was marked by controversy over his handling of federal loans to Solyndra, a Fremont solar panel manufacturer that went bankrupt in 2011. However, in the letter to employees today, he defended that loan, which was made as part of a 2009 federal stimulus package. 

"Through the Recovery Act, the Department of Energy made grants and loans to more than 1,300 companies," Chu said in the letter. "While critics try hard to discredit the program, the truth is that only one percent of the companies we funded went bankrupt. That one percent has gotten more attention than the 99 percent that have not." 

Chu, who was known as an outspoken advocate for scientific solutions to the problems of global warming before his appointment as energy secretary, noted that the production of renewable energy from wind and solar has doubled nationwide in the past four years. 

In addition, installations of solar photovoltaic systems have nearly doubled in each of the past three years, he said. 

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer praised Chu in a statement released today following the announcement of his resignation. 

"Secretary Chu is a brilliant man who understands the importance of addressing the threat posed by climate change and has helped put America on a path toward energy independence and a clean energy future," Boxer said. 

Chu was named director of the Berkeley lab on June 17, 2004, and assumed the post in August 2004. 

He earned his doctorate from University of California at Berkeley and has taught at both UC Berkeley and Stanford University. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics with Claude Cohen-Tannoudji and William D. Phillips for developing methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light. 

Chu was instrumental in bringing to the Bay Area the Joint BioEnergy Institute, a $135 million bio-energy research center funded by the Department of Energy and operated by a multi-institutional partnership under the leadership of Berkeley Lab. 

Chu also played a major role in the creation of the Energy Biosciences Institute, which is funded by a $500 million grant from the petroleum company BP.

New: Dog Walkers Urged to Stay Safe On Shore if Dogs Are Swept Out--Dogs Will Survive

By Laura Dixon (BCN)
Friday February 01, 2013 - 10:49:00 PM

The U.S. Coast Guard, National Park Service and East Bay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals teamed up today to remind people that while dogs almost always survive being swept out to sea, their owners usually don't.

The message at East Bay SPCA headquarters in Oakland today came less than a week after Northern California saw another fatality involving a person at the beach with their dog. 

In that incident, a woman was walking along a beach at Shelter Cove in Humboldt County with her dog and boyfriend when a powerful wave dragged her into the ocean.  

The woman was knocked down by what is known as a "sneaker wave," or a large, powerful wave that catches people off-guard when they're not paying attention, U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Pamela Boehland said today. 

That incident was the fourth fatality since November involving people at Northern California beaches with their dogs, Boehland said. 

While winter is always a dangerous time for sneaker waves at California beaches, Coast Guard officials said this year has been especially deadly. 

The Saturday after Thanksgiving, three family members perished on a beach near Arcata, Calif. after a mother and father attempted to save their teenage son who was swept out to sea when he swam out to rescue the family's dog. 

And on New Year's Day, 59-year-old Richmond man Charles Quaid drowned after heading into the surf in Bodega Bay to save his wife and their dog, who had been knocked to the ground by a large wave. 

Bystanders rescued the woman and the dog but were unable to reach Quaid, who had been pulled under the water by 10- to 12-foot waves. 

Coast Guard, SPCA and National Park Service officials said today that such tragic scenarios tend to unfold whenever an untrained person attempts an ocean rescue. 

"So many people don't make it back, but their dogs survive," East Bay SPCA Director Allison Lindquist said. 

That's because dogs are built to float in water, so that they go with the flow of the water until they are rescued, she said. 

Humans, on the other hand, tend to get pulled down by the waves and start to panic and exhaust themselves before help can arrive. 

Instead, anyone who is pulled out to sea is advised to swim parallel to the waves to return to shore or to tread water, remain calm and yell out to someone on the shore for help. 

For those on shore, the best thing to do after either a person or dog is pulled out by ocean waves is to call 911, National Park Services spokeswoman Alexandra Picavet said. 

"We love our dogs and will do anything to save them, but we must guard against the instinct to jump into the surf," Lindquist said. 

Rather than getting into the water, owners can follow their dog along the shoreline and call to them, which may help orient the dog toward shore, while waiting for help, according to Lindquist. 

And since dogs that are swept out to sea tend to be rescued far from their owners, it's essential to equip the animals with a microchip and ID tags. 

More importantly, officials said today, pet owners should try to prevent their dogs from getting taken out by a wave by keeping an eye on their animals while at the beach. 

If the waves seem especially large or if a dog is smaller or older than average, owners should take extra caution to keep them away from the water. Unfortunately, "rogue waves" or "sneaker waves" often live up to their names by overtaking people and dogs even when beach conditions do not seem to warrant extra caution, Coast Guard officers said. 

"Rogue waves do exist, they happen all the time," U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Gabe Pulliam said.  

"Respect the ocean, never turn your back on it."

New: Spare the Air Today in Berkeley

By Dan McMenamin (BCN)
Friday February 01, 2013 - 04:49:00 PM

The 10th "Winter Spare the Air" alert of the season has been issued for Saturday, according to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

The alert means that Bay Area residents will not be able to burn wood for 24 hours because a high-pressure weather system has caused an unhealthy level of wood smoke and particle pollution in the air. 

"Wood smoke is the other 'second-hand smoke,'" air district executive officer Jack Broadbent said in a statement. "In the Bay Area, it's the single largest source of air pollution on still winter days." 

Residents are not allowed to use fireplaces, woodstoves, fire pits or other wood-burning devices on Saturday. Homes where those items are the only source of heat are exempt from the restriction, according to the air district. 

First-time violators will be given the option of taking a wood smoke awareness class, but will be fined $500 for a second offense. 

The Winter Spare the Air season runs from Nov. 1 through Feb. 28. 

Residents can call (877) 4-NO-BURN to learn whether an alert has been issued each day. People can also sign up to receive alerts at www.sparetheair.org.

Two Suspects with Guns Mug Teen Near UC Berkeley

By Sasha Lekach (BCN)
Friday February 01, 2013 - 12:43:00 PM

Early Thursday morning a teen was robbed by two men with a gun near the south side of the University of California at Berkeley campus, UC Berkeley police said.

The 19-year-old man was standing at Warring Street and Channing Way around 1:30 a.m. when he was approached by two men, later identified as an armed 21-year-old and a 24-year-old man, police said.

The 21-year-old suspect had a gun and demanded the victim's backpack, cellphone and wallet.

The victim complied and the suspects fled into a car driven by a third suspect, a 22-year-old man, police said.

UC police and Berkeley police officers searched the area for the suspects and the car, and eventually found the trio driving on state Highway 13 in Oakland. 

The three men were taken into custody on robbery charges, police said. 

A Berkeley police spokeswoman said the names of the three suspects had not yet been released. 

The victim was not injured during the robbery, police said.

Stork With Me; Bird Puns on Fire, a One-Minute Play

By C. Denney
Monday February 04, 2013 - 02:53:00 PM

“ I lark you,” he said.
“You make me feel like a tanager,” she said.
“Stork with me,” he said. “I’ll never leave you a loon. But I’m vireo late. I can’t sparrow minute.”
“What’s thrush?” she asked.
“I kite tell you now,” he said. “Magpie later.”
“I baked a crake for you,” she said.
“Wait until ostrich my legs,” he said.
“It’s a parrot that you don’t love me any moa,” she said.
“I widgeon wasn’t true,” he replied. “From heron, it’s going to be a little auklet. You see, I accipiter invitation.”
“Chicken come with us,” she said. “I don’t mynah.” 

“It’s snow goose,” he said. “She’s bittern about last time.”
“But it wasn’t her tern,” she said. “We were out of petrel, and I couldn’t plover.”
“Sure, you coot,” he said. “It would have been eagle.”
“You’re shrike,” she said. “I worried she’d never stop grousing.”
“Ibis she’s not like that,” he said. “She’s not that kind of gull.”
“It’s swan thing or the other,” she said. “Why don’t we just barn owl the firewood.”
“That’s egret idea!” he agreed. “Waterthrush! Before we do that, let osprey.”
“Willet matter?” she asked.
“That’s oriole good question,” he replied.




Cars? In Berkeley? Specifically, My Old Red Van?

By Becky O'Malley
Friday February 01, 2013 - 12:22:00 PM

So okay, has anyone seen a 1995 red Honda Odyssey, a small van, that doesn’t belong on their block?

Someone stole (or “borrowed”) my car on Wednesday night, darn it. 

This is not the first time I’ve had a car stolen, nor will it be the last, I expect. 

The pleasant officer who came promptly, arriving very soon after I called the Berkeley police, said that these old Hondas and Toyotas are easy to steal because many keys will work in them. In fact, our even older car, the ’88 Toyota, was stolen four times. It was found twice in Richmond and once in the Elmwood, seemingly borrowed by someone who just wanted transport for the evening. A new owner is dealing with that one now. 

This one, the erstwhile “new car”, has never before been taken— we tried a club on the old Toyota, but I didn’t think my van needed one. Somehow I thought Hondas were more secure, but evidently I was wrong.  

Our previous really old car, a Ford Econoline, was stolen a couple of times in Ann Arbor in the early 70s, by a smart alec who first stole the keys. After its second outing the resident engineer jerry-rigged an alarm system which sounded the horn if a key was turned in the ignition without turning off a switch. When the horn eventually went off, we rushed out to see the back of a very surprised young man who left behind his key chain with dozens of keys to other people’s cars. But we don’t hold with commercial car alarms here, because vibrations from the constant traffic on Ashby Avenue set them off all the time, much to the annoyance of the neighbors.  

It’s just urban living at its best, and we’re used to it. Living as we do on one of Berkeley’s small number of sacrifice streets, we see more of this kind of thing than our friends who are privileged to live behind barriers or in the hills do, though it happens everywhere. 

This city is a living testament to failed planning of all kinds. Woe to those who make friends in neighborhoods not their own—typically, you can’t get there from here. It’s possible to expel endless carbon and expend endless hours trying to figure out how to drive to the home of a new acquaintance in another part of Berkeley. 

Oh, you say, you should be biking instead? Well, sure, if you’re fully able-bodied and preferably young, but riding a bicycle is a luxurious option with diminishing availability as life’s vicissitudes take their inevitable toll on your body.  

Or perhaps a bus? It’s a continuing mystery to me that as propaganda for public transport increases in frequency and volume, bus routes continue to shrink and vanish. When my kids were at Berkeley High, they could jump on a 65 bus at our front door and be there in 20 minutes. I could take the E bus at all hours of the day and night to my job in San Francisco. The 51 bus went from Alameda to the Berkeley marina with no need to change at Rockridge BART. These buses were modest in size, frequent, speedy and usually full. And there were even clean, safe and reliable Greyhound buses that my daughters could take from Oakland to visit their grandparents in Santa Cruz, but no more. 

Now AC Transit has sunk untold millions into gigantic ocean liners that can only be accessed on major streets like Telegraph, and can be seen, often travelling in pairs, using huge amounts of energy on warming the planet, with at most four passengers on board. The well-concealed fact about current state-of-the-art public transit is that it uses MORE energy per passenger mile than efficient automobiles with multiple passengers.  

Nonetheless, huge sites in and near downtown Berkeley have recently been rezoned, both locally and per operation of California law, as targets for what is euphemistically called “transit-oriented development” (TOD). The philosophical underpinning of TOD legislation seems to be “if we build it they will come”—contrary data be damned. It’s a kind of cargo cult, like those of natives of South Sea islands who built elaborate constructs anticipating the arrival of ships with lavish gifts. But though “transit villages” are proliferating, the transit never comes. 

In downtown Berkeley, the latest promoted project (with skids well-greased by hiring an ex-City-of-Berkeley planner to “expedite” the permit process) aims to construct luxury apartments to serve as bedrooms for highly paid commuters to San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Will they take buses? Maybe to and from work, but on their ski weekends or day trips to Point Reyes? I doubt it. Never fear, they’ll have ample cars to keep in the commodious planned on-site garage. 

Yet and still, Berkeley is also spot zoning sites in West Berkeley which are close to the freeway and far from BART or buses, for office projects which will inevitably be peopled by high tech employees driving down from the hills or on freeways through tunnels and over bridges to get to work. There’s no sign of imminent arrival of transit down there. 

So the bottom line seems to be that it’s still mighty hard and getter harder, not easier, for most people to navigate the Bay Area without a car, and Berkeley’s not much better than the ‘burbs despite a lot of pious rhetoric. Yes, the mayor does occasionally walk from his Berkeley digs to City Hall, just a few blocks, but he’s often seen in his wife’s car (state-supplied?) on other excursions. And frankly, he’s even older than I am, so why should I begrudge him that convenience? 

I guess that I’ll just have to hope that the cheerful police officer was right in his estimation that my own car will soon be found, since I need to travel to points farther than downtown Berkeley where public transit really doesn’t function. He said that mostly these old Hondas and Toyotas are just taken by someone who needs quick transportation, and they’re abandoned at the destination. 

It’s possible that the problem of casual car theft by stranded travelers would be alleviated if AC Transit beefed up its totally inadequate late night service to the remoter reaches of Richmond and Oakland. Worth a try, anyway. But in the meantime, until the cargo ship arrives, please do let me or the police know if you spot an old red Honda van somewhere.

The Editor's Back Fence

New: Berkeley Business Briefs

Monday February 04, 2013 - 02:28:00 PM

Wondering what will become of the old Andronico’s site on Telegraph? Forget whatever you’ve seen elsewhere. Trombonist-raconteur Mal Sharp, caught by the Planet last Wednesday playing the Bateau Ivre next door, with chanteuse Melanie O’Reilly and his band Big Money in Dixieland, says that he and Mel are putting together a group to turn it into a bowling alley. Yes, that’s right, he says that they hope to build the biggest bowling alley west of the Mississippi: 47 lanes, big neon “OPEN” sign, the works. Oh, and because it’s Berkeley, he says, for bowling shoes they plan to provide Birkenstocks. Umm-hmm.


Bounce: Hello ... I must be going. (Cartoon)

By Joseph Young
Saturday February 02, 2013 - 09:54:00 PM


Joseph Young


Public Comment

New: Gun Laws Needed

By Romila Khanna
Sunday February 03, 2013 - 09:54:00 AM

I hear a lot of arguments in favor of gun ownership and guns sales but these arguments are seldom made by people who have lost loved ones to violent crime. Unfortunately it is difficult to tell ahead of time who will use readily available guns wisely and who will use these weapons in a fit of rage or crime. Of the many imperfect ways available to reduce the senseless killing of civilians it seems best to introduce strict gun controls. 

The aim of the second amendment was not the literal right to possess a gun but the crucial right to be safe and protected. The wide availability of guns today is making our society a war zone. I don't believe civilian society should be a war zone. The Constitution wanted to support all those offices of government which enabled citizens to have the opportunity to live in freedom and to pursue happiness. In service of that opportunity I think only security department employees or military personnel should have access to assault weapons. In the East Bay where I live one life is lost every day in spite of all efforts by local police to provide safety for citizens. The fact is that there are too many guns in the hands of people who should be behind the bars. Only strict gun control laws can save the nation at this critical time.

A Terrible Normality

By Michael Parenti
Friday February 01, 2013 - 01:17:00 PM

Through much of history the abnormal has been the norm. This is a paradox to which we should attend. Aberrations, so plentiful as to form a terrible normality of their own, descend upon us with frightful consistency.

The number of massacres in history, for instance, are almost more than we can record. There was the New World holocaust, consisting of the extermination of indigenous Native American peoples throughout the western hemisphere, extending over four centuries or more, continuing into recent times in the Amazon region.

There were the centuries of heartless slavery in the Americas and elsewhere, followed by a full century of lynch mob rule and Jim Crow segregation in the United States, and today the numerous killings and incarcerations of Black youth by law enforcement agencies.

Let us not forget the extermination of some 200,000 Filipinos by the U.S. military at the beginning of the twentieth century, the genocidal massacre of 1.5 million Armenians by the Turks in 1915, and the mass killings of African peoples by the western colonists, including the 63,000 Herero victims in German Southwest Africa in 1904, and the brutalization and enslavement of millions in the Belgian Congo from the late 1880s until emancipation in 1960---followed by years of neocolonial free-market exploitation and repression in what was Mobutu's Zaire. 

French colonizers killed some 150,000 Algerians. Later on, several million souls perished in Angola and Mozambique along with an estimated five million in the merciless region now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

The twentieth century gave us---among other horrors---more than sixteen million lost and twenty million wounded or mutilated in World War I, followed by the estimated 62 million to 78 million killed in World War II, including some 24 million Soviet military personnel and civilians, 5.8 million European Jews, and taken together: several million Serbs, Poles, Roma, homosexuals, and a score of other nationalities.  

In the decades after World War II, many, if not most, massacres and wars have been openly or covertly sponsored by the U.S. national security state. This includes the two million or so left dead or missing in Vietnam, along with 250,000 Cambodians, 100,000 Laotians, and 58,000 Americans. 

Today in much of Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East there are "smaller" wars, replete with atrocities of all sorts. Central America, Colombia, Rwanda and other places too numerous to list, suffered the massacres and death-squad exterminations of hundreds of thousands, a constancy of violent horrors. In Mexico a "war on drugs" has taken 70,000 lives with 8,000 missing. 

There was the slaughter of more than half a million socialistic or democratic nationalist Indonesians by the U.S.-supported Indonesian military in 1965, eventually followed by the extermination of 100,000 East Timorese by that same U.S.-backed military. 

Consider the 78-days of NATO's aerial destruction of Yugoslavia complete with depleted uranium, and the bombings and invasion of Panama, Grenada, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Western Pakistan, Afghanistan, and now the devastating war of attrition brokered against Syria. And as I write (early 2013), the U.S.-sponsored sanctions against Iran are seeding severe hardship for the civilian population of that country. 

All the above amounts to a very incomplete listing of the world's violent and ugly injustice. A comprehensive inventory would fill volumes. How do we record the countless other life-searing abuses: the many millions who survive wars and massacres but remain forever broken in body and spirit, left to a lifetime of suffering and pitiless privation, refugees without sufficient food or medical supplies or water and sanitation services in countries like Syria, Haiti, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Mali.  

Think of the millions of women and children around the world and across the centuries who have been trafficked in unspeakable ways, and the millions upon millions trapped in exploitative toil, be they slaves, indentured servants, or underpaid laborers. The number of impoverished is now growing at a faster rate than the world's population. Add to that, the countless acts of repression, incarceration, torture, and other criminal abuses that beat upon the human spirit throughout the world day by day. 

Let us not overlook the ubiquitous corporate corruption and massive financial swindles, the plundering of natural resources and industrial poisoning of whole regions, the forceful dislocation of entire populations, the continuing catastrophes of Chernobyl and Fukushima and other impending disasters awaiting numerous aging nuclear reactors. 

The world's dreadful aberrations are so commonplace and unrelenting that they lose their edge and we become inured to the horror of it all. "Who today remembers the Armenians?" Hitler is quoted as having said while plotting his "final solution" for the Jews. Who today remembers the Iraqis and the death and destruction done to them on a grand scale by the U.S. invasion of their lands? William Blum reminds us that more than half the Iraq population is either dead, wounded, traumatized, imprisoned, displaced, or exiled, while their environment is saturated with depleted uranium (from U.S. weaponry) inflicting horrific birth defects. 

What is to be made of all this? First, we must not ascribe these aberrations to happenstance, innocent confusion, and unintended consequences. Nor should we believe the usual rationales about spreading democracy, fighting terrorism, providing humanitarian rescue, protecting U.S. national interests and other such rallying cries promulgated by ruling elites and their mouthpieces. 

The repetitious patterns of atrocity and violence are so persistent as to invite the suspicion that they usually serve real interests; they are structural not incidental. All this destruction and slaughter has greatly profited those plutocrats who pursue economic expansion, resource acquisition, territorial dominion, and financial accumulation. 

Ruling interests are well served by their superiority in firepower and striking force. Violence is what we are talking about here, not just the wild and wanton type but the persistent and well-organized kind. As a political resource, violence is the instrument of ultimate authority. Violence allows for the conquest of entire lands and the riches they contain, while keeping displaced laborers and other slaves in harness. 

The plutocratic rulers find it necessary to misuse or exterminate restive multitudes, to let them starve while the fruits of their land and the sweat of their labor enrich privileged coteries.  

Thus we had a profit-driven imperial rule that helped precipitate the great famine in northern China, 1876-1879, resulting in the death of some thirteen million. At about that same time the Madras famine in India took the lives of as many as twelve million while the colonial forces grew ever richer. And thirty years earlier, the great potato famine in Ireland led to about one million deaths, with another desperate million emigrating from their homeland. Nothing accidental about this: while the Irish starved, their English landlords exported shiploads of Irish grain and livestock to England and elsewhere at considerable profit to themselves. 

These occurrences must be seen as something more than just historic abnormalities floating aimlessly in time and space, driven only by overweening impulse or happenstance. It is not enough to condemn monstrous events and bad times, we also must try to understand them. They must be contextualized in the larger framework of historical social relations. 

The dominant socio-economic system today is free-market capitalism (in all its variations). Along with its unrelenting imperial terrorism, free-market capitalism provides "normal abnormalities" from within its own dynamic, creating scarcity and maldistributed excess, filled with duplication, waste, overproduction, frightening environmental destruction, and varieties of financial crises, bringing swollen rewards to a select few and continual hardship to multitudes. 

Economic crises are not exceptional; they are the standing operational mode of the capitalist system. Once again, the irrational is the norm. Consider U.S. free-market history: after the American Revolution, there were the debtor rebellions of the late 1780s, the panic of 1792, the recession of 1809 (lasting several years), the panics of 1819 and 1837, and recessions and crashes through much of the rest of that century. The serious recession of 1893 continued for more than a decade. 

After the industrial underemployment of 1900 to 1915 came the agrarian depression of the 1920s---hidden behind what became known to us as "the Jazz Age," followed by a horrendous crash and the Great Depression of 1929-1942. All through the twentieth century we had wars, recessions, inflation, labor struggles, high unemployment---hardly a year that would be considered "normal" in any pleasant sense. An extended normal period would itself have been an abnormality. The free market is by design inherently unstable in every aspect other than wealth accumulation for the select few. 

What we are witnessing is not an irrational output from a basically rational society but the converse: the "rational" (to be expected) output of a fundamentally irrational system. Does this mean these horrors are inescapable? No, they are not made of supernatural forces. They are produced by plutocratic greed and deception. 

So, if the aberrant is the norm and the horrific is chronic, then we in our fightback should give less attention to the idiosyncratic and more to the systemic. Wars, massacres and recessions help to increase capital concentration, monopolize markets and natural resources, and destroy labor organizations and popular transformative resistance. 

The brutish vagaries of plutocracy are not the product of particular personalities but of systemic interests. President George W. Bush was ridiculed for misusing words, but his empire-building and stripping of government services and regulations revealed a keen devotion to ruling-class interests. Likewise, President Barack Obama is not spineless. He is hypocritical but not confused. He is (by his own description) an erstwhile "liberal Republican," or as I would put it, a faithful servant of corporate America. 

Our various leaders are well informed, not deluded. They come from different regions and different families, and have different personalities, yet they pursue pretty much the same policies on behalf of the same plutocracy. 

So it is not enough to denounce atrocities and wars, we also must understand who propagates them and who benefits. We have to ask why violence and deception are constant ingredients.  

Unintended consequences and other oddities do arise in worldly affairs but we also must take account of interest-driven rational intentions. More often than not, the aberrations---be they wars, market crashes, famines, individual assassinations or mass killings---take shape because those at the top are pursuing gainful expropriation. Many may suffer and perish but somebody somewhere is benefiting boundlessly. 

Knowing your enemies and what they are capable of doing is the first step toward effective opposition. The world becomes less of a horrific puzzlement. We can only resist these global (and local) perpetrators when we see who they are and what they are doing to us and our sacred environment. 

Democratic victories, however small and partial they be, must be embraced. But the people must not be satisfied with tinseled favors offered by smooth leaders. We need to strive in every way possible for the revolutionary unraveling, a revolution of organized consciousness striking at the empire's heart with the full force of democracy, the kind of irresistible upsurge that seems to come from nowhere while carrying everything before it. 

Michael Parenti is the author of The Face of Imperialism and numerous other books. For further information, visit www.michaelparenti.org.

Open Letter to City Attorney Laura McKinney Re West Berkeley Crime

By Jon Alff
Friday February 08, 2013 - 04:39:00 PM

Dear Ms. McKinney,

I have lived in West Berkeley for more than 18 years. I am proud of my neighborhood and have been active with my neighbors on many local projects over the years. I write you with deep gratitude for your work regarding the problems originating at 1722 Ninth Street, which is barely a block from my home.

As you know, the area has been subject to disturbing crime for years. Most of the crime originates with or involves several local properties. Everyone - residents and the Police - knows where the crime comes from. Drug houses, such as 1722 Ninth Street, and apartment buildings, such as 1011 Delaware and 1726 Tenth Street (and others), have been the primary sources of our problems. These properties have supported major drug dealing, prostitution and violent domestic situations on an ongoing rotating basis for decades. Each time something horrible happens there is a flurry of 'action'. Then everything quiets down only to return the same horrible problems once again.

Yesterday, people associated with the apartment building at 1011 Delaware Street endangered us for the second time in less than a year. Once again shots were fired. This time someone, highly suspected of drug and gang involvement, died. Thankfully, the bullets did not hit anyone else. Of course, these problems are not limited to West Berkeley - they are all over Berkeley. 

We do not live in a ghetto. We do not want to live with the crime that evermore unfolds in front of our homes. This is too much, we are desperate. We cannot solve these problems by ourselves. Many are afraid to speak up for fear of retribution. Others are willing to step up to the task but are overwhelmed at the bewildering complexity of the problem and the City's tradition of inaction. 

While I am very glad to hear of progress regarding 1722 Ninth Street, mostly at your behest, I remain profoundly alarmed at the ongoing problems that remain. Simply put - we need a broader approach to crime. Putting a finger in the dyke will not work. We need to address each problem property as a group, not piecemeal and partially from time to time. 

It is time to act. Yesterday's death might well have been prevented if we had joined forces to fight crime at these properties months or years ago. What can we do? How can you and the City Attorney's office help us? We are beyond community meetings. We are looking for solutions, solutions that involve real and decisive actions against criminals and the owners of problem properties. Failure to punish those doing or supporting crime has to stop. I and my neighbors wait eagerly for any and all opportunity work with you, the Police and the City to defend our neighborhood.

February Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Saturday February 02, 2013 - 09:48:00 PM

Editor's Note: The latest issue of the Pepper Spray Times is now available.

You can view it absolutely free of charge by clicking here . You can print it out to give to your friends.

Grace Underpressure has been producing it for many years now, even before the Berkeley Daily Planet started distributing it, most of the time without being paid, and now we'd like you to show your appreciation by using the button below to send her money.  

This is a Very Good Deal. Go for it! 


THE PUBLIC EYE: Chuck Hagel: Obama’s Hatchet Man?

By Bob Burnett
Friday February 01, 2013 - 12:42:00 PM

Even though he’s one of their own, many Republicans oppose President Obama’s Secretary of Defense nominee, former Senator Chuck Hagel. GOP leaders fear Hagel will be Obama’s hatchet man, leading the effort to shrink the defense budget.

Hagel is a Vietnam War veteran, an enlisted man who rose to the rank of sergeant as an infantry squad leader. A two-term Republican Senator, Hagel began as a hawk but his ardor for war diminished after he understood the mismanagement of the war in Iraq. In 2005, Hagel compared the Iraq conflict to the War in Vietnam.

If Hagel is confirmed he will oversee a bitter fight on the trajectory of the DOD budget. The 2012 budget was $646 billion – roughly 20 percent of the total US budget. But in 2013 sequestration would cut $55 Billion from the proposed budget. The current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said such a cut would be “a disaster for national defense.” Nonetheless, many Washington pundits doubt that there would be a dramatic impact, pointing to waste in defense spending and noting the US is winding down two wars. 

In the President’s proposed 2013 budget the defense allocation is $701 billion, the largest discretionary category after entitlements at $2.217 trillion (56 percent). Since America has left Iraq and plans to leave Afghanistan in 2014, it seems logical that the US could reduce the size of its military forces. This is what happened after the end of the War in Vietnam and the end of the Cold War. But when it comes to the defense budget, deliberations are seldom rational.  

There are several reasons for the contentious nature of defense budget deliberations. One is that US defense allocations are so enormous their size warps perspective. Writing in The New Yorker, journalist Jill Lepore observed, “Between 1998 and 2011, military spending doubled, reaching more than seven hundred billion dollars a year—more, in adjusted dollars, than at any time since the Allies were fighting the Axis.” The Council on Foreign Relations reported that in 2011 the United States had 4 percent of the world’s population, accounted for 22 percent of the gross domestic product, yet was responsible for 42 percent of military spending. Lepore observed that what drives our defense budget is “the idea that the manifest destiny of the United States is to patrol the world…six decades after V-J day nearly three hundred thousand American troops are stationed overseas including fifty-five thousand in Germany, thirty-five thousand in Japan, and ten thousand in Italy.” Former Republican Congressman Ron Paul claimed the US military operates out of 900 bases deployed in 130 nations. 

Defense budget discussions are heavily politicized. Ever since 1952, when Republicans won the presidency by accusing Democrats of being soft on Communism and having “lost China,” Republicans have dogmatically advocated for gigantic defense budgets. Barack Obama is the first Democratic President in sixty years to have unassailable credentials on national security. During the 2012 presidential campaign, Obama was seen as stronger on defense than Mitt Romney. Obama won the final debate, on foreign policy and national security, because Romney couldn’t differentiate himself from the President. 

Another reason for the contentious nature of defense budget discussions is that sixty-three years of ever-increasing defense budgets has fomented a military-industrial complex that constantly lobbies for billion-dollar defense projects. This has led to a bloated budget and an overabundance of generals. When senior officers do retire, they quite often join the staff of a military contractor and become lobbyists. Meanwhile, Senators and Representatives fight for military projects for their constituents believing that it will help employment and increase their prospects for reelection. 

Further complicating discussion of the defense budget is the fact the war on terror has no concrete objectives. President Bush, likened it to a war on tyranny, stating "We will stay on the offense against the terrorists, fighting them abroad so we do not have to face them here at home." But the United States has made great progress decimating Al Qaeda – an estimated 75 percent of their leadership has been killed and most drone strikes kill Al Qaeda foot soldiers (or civilians).  

Whenever defense budget reductions are proposed, generals and congressmen warn us, “The world continues to be a dangerous place.” They point out threats such as Iran and North Korea to justify the proposed budget. But what’s not discussed is why the United States has to continue to be the world’s police force. For example, why does the belligerency of North Korea have to be our problem? Why can’t it be China’s problem?  

The defense budget should be cut. But when it comes to taking on the defense establishment, President Obama has been timid. He needs someone to take the lead for him, a decorated military veteran with perspective. Chuck Hagel fits the bill to be Obama’s hatchet man. 

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

Osama, Where Art Thou?

By Ralph E. Stone
Friday February 01, 2013 - 12:30:00 PM

Under the prevailing narrative, Osama bin Laden was killed by Navy SEALS at bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2, 2011, at zero dark thirty, spy-jargon for "half past midnight," the time of bin Laden's death. According to this narrative, the raid was videotaped and photographs were taken. The body was then taken to the supercarrier USS Carl Vinson where traditional procedures for an Islamic burial were followed. The body was then placed in a weighted bag and slid into the sea.  

Several methods were used to confirm that bin Laden was actually killed, including DNA testing, facial-recognition techniques, a CIA analysis of photographs, and one of bin Laden's own wives had identified his body. Supposedly, bin Laden was buried so soon after his killing because according to Islamic practice and tradition the body must be buried within 24 hours. Why at sea? Probably because a grave site might end up being a place of worship for bin Laden followers. 

We know there was a raid in Pakistan because Pakistani officials condemned the "unilateral action . . . which constitutes a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty." During the raid, one of the Navy helicopters malfunctioned and was destroyed before the Navy SEALS left. There are images of the destroyed helicopter available on the internet. In fact, the U.S. is concerned that Pakistan gave China access to the high-tech helicopter.  

On May 6, 2011, al-Qaeda confirmed that Osama bin Laden was dead, dispelling doubts by some Muslims that the group's leader had really been killed by U.S. forces, and vowed to mount more attacks on the West. 

Why were the Bush and Obama Administrations so obsessed with assassinating bin Laden? Because bin Laden was the actual and symbolic leader of al-Qaeda, who in 2004 admitted ordering the September 11, 2001 attacks, which resulted in 2,977 deaths. The killing was part of the Administration's targeted assassination program, an extrajudicial execution. The U.N. General Assembly and Human Rights Commission, as well as Amnesty International, have all condemned extrajudicial executions. Will the U.S. be held accountable for this extrajudicial assassination? Probably not. 

All this evidence should convince skeptics that bin Laden was indeed killed by Navy SEALS on May 2, 2011. Unfortunately, the Obama administration has refused to release photographs, videotapes and other evidence establishing bin Laden's death, arguing that the photographs are gruesome and their release could damage national security. This refusal only fuels conspiracy theories, rumors, and hoaxes that bin Laden has been dead for years or is still alive. But is the U.S. government capable of engineering a giant hoax of this magnitude and keep it going over two years through a presidential election and the snooping of the Zero Dark Thirty filmmakers? I don't think so. 

The Obama Administration admits it released sensitive information about the bin Laden raid to the Zero Dark Thirty filmmakers but claims this same information could cause an "unnecessary security and counterintelligence risk" if released to the general public. What makes the filmmakers so special that they get access to "sensitive information" while the general public is left out?  

In Judicial Watch, Inc. v. DoD and CIA, Judicial Watch has asked the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to overturn a U.S. District Court ruling and instruct the DOD and CIA to release 52 images from the raid on bin Laden’s compound and bin Laden's burial at sea. A hearing was held on January 10, 2013. I doubt the Court of Appeals will require the government to release the images. 

Osama, where art thou? Lying at the bottom of the sea. There is ample actual and circumstantial evidence to support this conclusion.  

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: The Folly of Trying to Be Psychic

By Jack Bragen
Friday February 01, 2013 - 04:44:00 PM

The assumption that you are “psychic” teaches the mind to come up with nonsense and treat it as reality. Attributing internal feelings, thoughts and perceptions to outside forces is very un-liberating and will create more problems. While I have experienced things that I could not explain, and that seemed to come from some kind of supernatural phenomena, I know that trying to be a psychic or participate in a belief system of a psychic group will generally spell a disaster for someone trying to recover from mental illness.  

In the past, I have met two individuals who seemed able to know things about me, without having met me and apparently without access to details of my life. This could mean that they were truly “psychic” or that I was dealing with some kind of bizarre spying. I also seem able to generate hunches that are often accurate from seemingly very little information. Yet the latter could be explained in other ways.  

However, belief in extrasensory perception, in psychic powers, or the idea that one has such abilities, spell disaster for the mind of someone who is already subject to delusions. For one thing, what if someone attributes the thoughts and feelings that are on the inside to outside influences? Then you have a recipe for that person to become extremely delusional in a very short time.  

And yet, this is exactly what psychic groups and psychic instructors will often do. They teach someone to believe that their “bad feelings” are generated by other people’s energy. This does not work for people with schizophrenia. It is also very un-empowering, since it implies that you are not in charge of your own innards. This belief system makes people keep coming back to the psychic group for more “healings,” since a person will invariably need help with bad energy they can’t get rid of. This repeat business helps in creating more income for the psychic individual or organization.  

Our human minds operate from basic assumptions. It is not uncommon to be unaware of what one assumes. If your basic assumption is that “things are good,” then it follows that everything that happens to you will be experienced as a good event. If your assumption is that everyone hates you, then your mind will continuously generate a frightening, paranoid world.  

If you adopt an assumption in your thinking that you are psychic and therefore that you know things beyond the limits of your five senses, then you are much more prone to believing in delusions, especially since a delusion will present itself within the mind as if it were a psychic perception. If you adopt an assumption that you are psychic, it could create a “data corruption” in your mind’s operating system.  

In the mental exercises that I have invented as an augment to medication, (exercises that I use to help remain more accurate and more stabilized) I need to be able to discard a suspected delusional thought at will. If I assume I am psychic, I will attribute truth to every thought that occurs in my mind and will not be able to discard any thoughts as junk. This will result in my thinking turning to rot. 

A troubled young man who suffered from psychiatric illness, Daniel Dewitt, is a primary suspect in a manslaughter case. Prior to the incident in which he allegedly killed a random homeowner in Berkeley with a flower pot, Daniel claimed that he was “psychic.” This is a concrete example of someone with schizophrenia who had the belief of being psychic—and the outcome was horrible.  

The premise that oneself is a psychic or has special powers is common among people who suffer from delusions. This belief ought not to receive reinforcement by people who claim to be “a medium.” The result of adopting this belief is an acceleration of the worsening of symptoms for someone with schizophrenia.  

Although belief in psychic abilities is apparently suitable for some people, those of us with mental illness can’t have this belief if we are to succeed in life or even survive.  

Arts & Events

New: Shakespeare and Australia in Chains, plus Sarah Cahill, at the Berkeley Arts Festival, Friday-February 8, 8 pm

Friday February 01, 2013 - 10:45:00 PM

Shakespeare scholar Philippa Kelly, author of The King and I and a descendant of convicts shipped from England to Australia in chains, will discuss Across the Atlantic, Across the Pacific: Conversations About Diaspora, exploring the sense of loss and shame in the cultures of both colonial and Aboriginal Australians. She looks at how the theater, and especially the themes of King Lear, can help us understand and express racial blindness in the context of national histories of loss. Sharing the evening, Sarah Cahill performs Four Preludes by Andrew Lovett, currently visiting composer at Stanford. 

2133 University Avenue, Berkeley 

Suggested donation: $10-$20 at the door only 

Wheelchair accessible