This morning (Sunday) U.C. Berkeley has begun cutting down redwood trees at Ridge Road and Le Roy Avenue in order to build the Paul Jacobs Design Institute. Students, faculty/staff and Berkeley residents want the trees to stay, but the UC has ignored the community.The ground breaking ceremony for the design center is April 12th, Cal Day. The trees are being cut down to clear the lot for the public ceremony.
Update from a reader: That isn’t a UC crew cutting the redwoods, it's an outside contractor. They’ve also recently cut down some pretty old olives and younger redwoods at Kleiberger Field for a new parking structure.
This morning (Sunday) U.C. Berkeley has begun cutting down redwood trees at Ridge Road and Le Roy Avenue in order to build the Paul Jacobs Design Institute. Students, faculty/staff and Berkeley residents want the trees to stay, but the UC has ignored the community.The ground breaking ceremony for the design center is April 12th, Cal Day. The trees are being cut down to clear the lot for the public ceremony.
A 41-year-old man is being held on suspicion of attempted murder, battery on an officer and other charges after allegedly trying to take a gun from a Berkeley police officer on Monday, police said today.
Berkeley police spokesman Byron White said officers were dispatched to Bolivar Drive along Aquatic Park, adjacent to Interstate Highway 80, after receiving a report that a man was trying to start a fire.
White said the first officer who arrived at the scene spotted the suspect, Carlos Alberto Delagarza, and tried to detain him but Delagarza knocked the officer to the ground and began punching and kicking him.
During the struggle, Delagarza grabbed onto the officer's holstered gun to try to pull it out but the officer tried to fend off the Delagarza's blows, maintain his weapon and fighting for his life, White said.
Delagarza then ran down the road and jumped into the water, according to White.
After several other officers arrived at the scene to assist the first officer, authorities were able to coax Delagarza out of the water and he was taken into custody, White said.
Delagarza was taken to a local hospital to be treated for minor injuries and then moved to the Berkeley City Jail, according to White.
The officer was treated for minor injuries at a local hospital and is "doing well," White said.
In addition to attempted murder and battery against an officer, Delagarza is being held on suspicion of taking a firearm from a police officer, second-degree robbery and battery with serious bodily injury.
A 98-year-old man died after being hit by a car while crossing the street in Berkeley on Friday, a police spokeswoman said today.
Joseph Luft of Berkeley was crossing the intersection of Bancroft Way and Sacramento Street when he was hit, authorities said.
Emergency responders took Luft to an area hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries on Friday evening, Berkeley police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Coats said.
The driver involved in the collision remained at the scene on Friday and is cooperating with police.
Police do not believe drugs or alcohol were factors in the collision.
Anyone with additional information about the collision is asked to call the Berkeley Police Department's Traffic Bureau at (510) 981-5890. Anonymous tips may be left at (800) 222-TIPS.
A second University of California at Berkeley student has been diagnosed with measles, according to university officials.
The student, who attended classes the week of March 31, was diagnosed on Friday, according to a statement from the University Health Services.
The diagnosis comes after a Cal student was diagnosed with measles in February.
Campus officials are working with the city of Berkeley's public health department to notify any residents who may have been exposed to the disease.
Anyone who believes they may have been exposed is urged to review their immunization records and get the measles vaccine as soon as possible if they have not already.
Symptoms of the disease can surface one to three weeks after exposure and include high fever, red, watery eyes, coughing and runny nose. Those infected with measles usually develop a rash on the face that spreads to the rest of the body, typically lasting five to six days, according to health officials.
People infected with the disease are contagious for several days before and after the rash appears.
More information about the illness can be found at www.cdc.gov/measles.
Maybeck’s Rose Walk and Surroundings
On Sunday, May 4, the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA) will hold its 39th annual Spring House Tour and Garden Reception. This year’s tour, themed Maybeck’s Rose Walk and Surroundings, will focus on the beloved path and the adjacent Wheeler Tract.
The Berkeley hills abound in scenic paths and byways, many of them vestiges of the early twentieth century, when commuter traffic was largely based on the Key System’s trains and streetcars.
Each weekday, morning and evening, hill dwellers on their way to and from work in San Francisco and Oakland bounded up and down the shortcut paths that connected their residential streets with the traffic arteries along which the streetcars ran.
Although the Berkeley Path Wanderers Association has identified 136 named paths in Berkeley, it is safe to say that none of them is as famous as Rose Walk, whose name has spread virtually around the world. Its gracefully curving double stairway, “elephant pink” stucco, and carefully tended flowerbeds, surrounded by rustic cottages, continue to charm visitors from far and wide.
Like many notable street improvements in the districts lying directly to the north of the University of California campus, Rose Walk owes its distinctive appearance to the members of the Hillside Club and its moving spirit, Bernard Maybeck.
In 1908, the People’s Water Company, owner of Berryman Reservoir, leased the land surrounding the reservoir to the City of Berkeley and the Hillside Club for 15 years at $1 per year. Around 1910, the first plans for a path on the Rose Street right-of-way just south of the reservoir were drawn up by City Engineer J.J. Jessup. None of Jessup’s half a dozen or more plans found favor with the Hillside Club or the neighbors.
The following year, the Hillside Club took matters into its own hands by forming a committee, which raised path-building funds by subscription from the neighbors. Maybeck donated his design services. His plans called for the path “to be constructed of concrete, bordered with hedges of roses and decorative trees.”
Rose Walk was completed in July 1913. Ten years later, the great Berkeley Fire wiped away the entire built environment in the neighboring Wheeler Tract. The houses built after the fire gave the neighborhood an entirely new appearance. Brown shingles no longer dominated the streetscape, but architects channeled their creativity in new directions, no less picturesque than the old.
Today, the Wheeler Tract consists of houses built primarily in the 1920s and clad mostly in stucco, although brick, shingle, and board-and-batten make an appearance here and there. The 1920s saw the flowering of period revival and storybook style, and variations of these idioms are abundant on the hillside slopes.
On BAHA’s 2014 Spring House Tour, visitors will have the opportunity to see an interesting palette of architectural expressions reflecting the varying sensibilities of their creators, including leading architects such as Bernard Maybeck, John Galen Howard, Julia Morgan, Ernest Coxhead; Walter H. Ratcliff, Jr.; Warren C. Perry; William I. Garren; Sidney, Noble & Archie Newsom; Edwin Lewis Snyder; and Roger Lee. Several glorious secret gardens will also be on view.
See the BAHA website for information and tickets.
BAHA 2014 Spring House Tour & Garden Reception
Where: Rose Walk and surroundings
When: Sunday, May 4, 2014
Time: 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Tickets: $45 general; $35 BAHA members
A fellow ex-Pasadenan riffed in his column last week about the difficulties attached to covering the news while also trying to make money. I imagine he remembers the Pasadena Star-News from our childhood (I’m just a bit older), a prototypical small-city daily which has been published in one form or another since 1884. By the time I noticed it, it had been acquired by Barney Ridder’s nascent Ridder Publications, which was M&A’d into Knight-Ridder, briefly the largest newspaper chain in the country, or maybe even the world. But throughout the 50s and early 60s it was the voice of a reasonably self-sufficient quasi-urban streetcar suburb not unlike Berkeley in its relationship to its metropolitan area (L.A.).
There used to be such a thing as Local News, in an era where there was also Local Government. Now all government with any power is regional, or statewide, federal or global.
The Pasadena Star-News today is just another minor cog in the Media News machine, which local readers may know as the owner of: the Contra Costa Times, the Oakland Tribune, the Berkeley Voice, the Santa Cruz Sentinel, the San Jose Mercury-News, the Montclarion, the West County Times….you get the idea. Media News has managed to ring metropolitan areas, including the San Francisco Bay Area, with look-alike clones of formerly local papers both print and online, into which homogeneous chain-generated content is dropped as needed, along with a smattering of local content.
Jon Carroll’s column, entitled There are indeed some worthy news websites, was a response to a reader’s complaint that a previous column was “unduly pessimistic about the ability of online media to cover serious political and social issues, particularly those without notably sexy narratives.” It came from Frances Dinkelspiel, whom he described as “the co-founder of Berkeleyside, a website that covers that very kind of thing.”
His response to her:
“I think she's right; I think that my failure to mention sites like hers was an oversight. There are good people doing good work online. They are keeping alive a fine tradition of journalism. Berkeleyside is intensely local; even the links are to stories of largely parochial interest. 'But hey, if you live in Berkeley, it's great. That's the point of local journalism: to distribute information to people who need it. And Berkeleyside does have a lot of small ads, mostly for local businesses. It clearly has a revenue stream - but, as she said, no one has found the magic bullet yet, one that combines revenue with investigative journalism, what used to be called 'muckraking'." And that's the problem. People get into the media business to make money. I hope that doesn't come as a shock. That's their primary motivation. They know that with excellent market penetration comes money, and with money comes power and perks.”Well, no, not really. It seems that Jon has missed the old joke: How do you make a small fortune in the newspaper business? Start with a larger fortune, of course!
In our lifetime, that could apply to almost every news enterprise in the country, all the way from big enterprises like Knight-Ridder, sustained for a long time by the profits of previous generations of the Knight and Ridder families from way back in the day when you could actually make money in media, down to “intensely local” publications like Berkeleyside.com featuring, yes, “stories of largely parochial interest”.
The Berkeley Daily Planet, it’s true, was founded by three Stanford MBAs who expected to turn a profit. But they quickly bailed, replaced by owners (us) using profits from the dreaded technology sector who never did manage to break even, let alone make money—an expensive folly. But we never expected to make money.
The three founders of Berkeleyside.com freely admit that they still aren’t drawing salaries, which means that they’ve been subsidizing at least 3 FTEs (foregoing the salaries they could be getting elsewhere for their own valuable work) out of their own pockets, a generous contribution to the local scene worth hundreds of thousands of dollars every year. In fact, a substantial portion of Bay Area journalism these days is underwritten by Frances Dinkelspiel’s family, more credit to them.
The Center for Investigative Reporting, originally founded by an heir to the Eli Lilly fortune, merged with the Bay Citizen in 2013. Both non-profits have in recent years been supported by her cousin, the late financier and philanthropist Warren Hellman, and a lot of the San Francisco Chronicle’s front page these days carries the CIR byline, which means that the for-profit but not profitable Chron is being partially subsidized by non-profit (and non-union) reporting which depends on philanthropy for sustenance.
(A similar investigative outfit, Pro Publica, originally was and perhaps still is funded by gifts from Berkeley’s Herb and Marion Sandler, who also made their money in finance.)
Does this prove that “…no one has found the magic bullet yet, one that combines revenue with investigative journalism, what used to be called ‘muckraking.’ "?
It’s more complicated than that.
In my lexicon I distinguish three kinds of news reporting. The first is what used to be called just “reporting”. The reporter goes to an event, notes what happened, and tells the reader about it, without much analysis. Berkeleyside.com’s solitary paid reporter has been doing a good job of this, reporting on City Council meetings and such, “distributing information to people who need it.”
“Investigative journalism” is somewhat different. Investigative journalists push beyond scenes which take place in public, mining records for data, asking questions of bystanders. It’s hard for local level publications to pay for much of that.
Some profitable news outlets have from time to time done good investigative journalism, though few of those which still exist are now profitable. And even the best investigative journalism essentially reports what happened—but it’s often short on why.
Muckraking OhMyGod investigative journalism looks for scandal without trying very hard to explain what went wrong and why. There’s a third descriptive term which I see on the back cover of the 1974 I.F. Stone Weekly Reader on my desk, a quote from the Christian Science Monitor’s description of Izzy Stone’s work: he did “interpretative journalism.” That’s something we haven’t heard much about lately.
There’s a great though lengthy dissection of why investigative journalists are getting it wrong these days in the recent Texas Observer, Robert Jensen’s review of Dean Starkman’s The Watchdog That Didn’t Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism.
Here are his opening paragraphs:
“The fundamental failure of Dean Starkman’s The Watchdog That Didn’t Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism—and of mainstream journalism more generally—is hidden in plain sight in the title’s metaphor. Starkman explains why journalists often aren’t alert watchdogs, but he can’t see why limiting the profession to the role of a barking dog is, quite literally, a dead-end. “To explain that rather harsh judgment, allow me to mix metaphors: The best the journalistic watchdog can do these days is bark at people rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, and meanwhile the train has left the station. “That’s not clear? Let me throw in a few clichés: Because Starkman is committed to “dance with the one that brung ya,” he can’t see the forest for the trees, and as a result he takes his eye off the prize(s).He goes on for pages in this vein, a lot of words to read on line, but well worth the effort.
“Still not clear? Here’s some help decoding: The prizes we should be after are social justice and ecological sustainability in a meaningfully democratic society. The trees are the crimes and misdemeanors of various evil and/or incompetent executives and politicians. The forest is our vaunted corporate-capitalist system, the predatory essence of which makes those crimes—and worse—inevitable. The dance is the implicit bargain with powerful people and institutions struck by journalists, who agree not to point out that the whole system is morally indefensible, politically incoherent, and ecologically destructive.
“Representative democracy yoked to a capitalist system driven by hyperconsumption is no longer sustainable (that’s the train that has left the station), and if we refuse to grapple with these realities the system is going to go down (that’s the Titanic).”
A local example of missing the forest for the trees: the Center for Investigative Reporting’s recent series (picked up by the Chronicle and KQED) about the admittedly seedy condition of Richmond’s 50-year-old public housing units. Yes, the buildings are in bad shape, but how did they get that way?
Hint: Think deficient HUD funding, not a low-level employee lining his pockets.
How does this illustrate “a capitalist system driven by hyperconsumption”?
- Public housing is most often funded by financial instruments which function as tax breaks for the wealthy.
- New construction is always profitable for the building industry, whether it’s needed or not.
- Nobody important profits much from mundane maintenance, so nobody’s willing to pay for it, although
- Repairing existing buildings is always more environmentally sustainable than constructing the greenest of LEED-type new ones, even the best of which are "ecologically destructive".
“Despite growing evidence that lack of sufficient funding from HUD is the root cause of public housing deficiencies, the City Council continues to blame everyone else, including itself, for conditions at the Hacienda that require a $19 million capital infusion to bring the building up to acceptable standards. Not only that, but they are prepared to spend nearly a million dollars of general fund money to relocate tenants while giving HUD a complete pass if HUD doesn’t provide the money. HUD owns the public housing in Richmond and has a responsibility to provide adequate funding to maintain it, yet the City Council refuses to hold HUD accountable.”What’s wrong in Richmond is not really ‘local’ or ‘parochial’. A quick look into problems with HUD-owned public housing in particular and affordable housing in general reveals comparable situations in Berkeley (and Oakland and Bay View and all over the country). In many ways interpreting what’s wrong with HUD is beyond the scope of news outlets like Berkeleyside.com or the Berkeley Daily Planet or the Contra Costa Times or even the San Francisco Chronicle channeling CIR.
Tom Butt’s newsletter offers a complete catalogue of links to related stories in the local and regional media, which taken together with his critiques of them should be used as the syllabus for seminars in Interpretative Journalism which should be part of the curriculum of the U.C. J-School. But don’t hold your breath….the professor would have to “point out that the whole system is morally indefensible, politically incoherent, and ecologically destructive”, and that might annoy some of the Regents whose personal fortunes are derived from the building and finance industries and major donors to U.C. programs of all kinds.
That dog won't hunt, to add to Jensen's rich mix of metaphors. As Jon Carroll said, “with money comes power and perks.”
NOTE: Per request, a phrase has been added to this text to clarify that the three founder/proprietors of Berkeleyside.com are subsidizing their enterprise by foregoing salaries for themselves, not by subsidizing the site's other expenses, a matter about which I have no knowledge.
The Editor's Back Fence
Former Berkeley Daily Planet reporter John Geluardi, in a story in this week's East Bay Express , nails the beyond-sloppy Center for Investigative Reporting's "exposé" of maintenance problems in Richmond's Hacienda public housing project.
The Planet first reported on this story on February 26, when it published a 5,000 word rebuttal by Richmond Councilmember Tom Butt citing numerous errors and omissions in the CIR piece, which was picked up by the Chronicle and KQED--see today's editorial for more.
Despite growing evidence that lack of sufficient funding from HUD is the root cause of public housing deficiencies, the [Richmond] City Council continues to blame everyone else, including itself, for conditions at the Hacienda that require a $19 million capital infusion to bring the building up to acceptable standards. Not only that, but they are prepared to spend nearly a million dollars of general fund money to relocate tenants while giving HUD a complete pass if HUD doesn’t provided the money. HUD owns the public housing in Richmond and has a responsibility to provide adequate funding to maintain it, yet the City Council refuses to hold HUD accountable.
More than 83 percent of the qualified voters of Crimea recently participated in a referendum to rejoin Russia. And of that number well over 93 percent voted to separate themselves from Ukraine and once more become a part of Russia, in what was a massively one-sided victory .
What should be kept in mind is that Crimea would never have pursued such an action, and Russia would never had been receptive to such a course, were it not that Ukraine was in the grip of disruptive forces that were driving toward "regime change."
"Regime change" is a form of action designed to make it impossible for the existing government to govern. We have seen this organized chaos and endless disruption in various other countries. Well organized groups are financed and equipped by outside western interests. Ultra-nationalists and mercenaries take hold of the protesting crowds and set the direction and pace of action, secure in the knowledge that they have the global reach of the western powers at their backs. The most retrogressive among them in Kiev launched slanderous attacks against Jews, Negroes, Chinese, Muscovites, and, of course, Communists.
In Ukraine, crypto-fascist groups like Svoboda, the Right Sector, and others have had ample funds to keep thousands of people fed and comfortable on the streets of Kiev for weeks, complete with well-made marching flags, symbols, and signs in various languages. Meanwhile the western media report everything the way the White House wants. And the "protestors" perpetrate acts of disruption, violence, and terror.
This disruption is something we have seen in numerous other countries---at this very time from Venezuela to Thailand. The goal of these western-financed attacks has been to make the world safe for the 1%, the global super rich. Ukraine citizens who think they are fighting for democracy will eventually discover that they are really serving the western plutocracy. They will be left with a new government filled with old intentions. Ukrainians will end up with nothing to show for their efforts except a still more depressed and more corrupt economy, an enormous IMF debt, a worsening of social services, and an empty "democracy," led by corrupt opportunists like Tymoshenko.
Russia has stepped in on behalf of Russian Crimea. So Russia is now maligned by the western global plutocrats who seek ways to put Moscow in isolated retreat. Putin is denounced and demonized at every opportunity. Has anyone in the U.S. media ever read Putin's speeches? They are so much more clear and sane than the lies put out by Obama (as in Obama's Brussels speech about how the U.S. has saved and democratized Iraq). The intent is to encircle and reduce Russia to a frightened satellite. But that is much easier said than done. Obama has very few tricks and trumps left to play.
Michael Parenti is an internationally known author. His most recent books include: The Face of Imperialism and Waiting for Yesterday (an ethnic memoir).
In a recent ‘60 Minutes’ expose’, Michael Lewis, author of "Flash Boys," demonstrated how the US market is rigged in favor of the ‘big banks’, who like competing athletes taking performance enhancing drugs, have rigged the system in their favor. The ‘insiders’ eavesdrop on other traders orders, select the ones that look most promising, then using superior technology, called high frequency trading (HFT), ‘front run’ other traders to the exchanges and then place buy and sell orders cashing in huge amounts of money – all in the blink of an eye. Conversely, the ‘little guy’ is left gasping wondering why his order never got executed.
HFT may be legal but clearly is patently unfair. In a zero-sum game, ‘heads I win tails you lose game,’ HFT ensures that billions of dollars are generated executing tens of thousands of orders in nanoseconds skimming dollars of the more routine form of trading.
HFT is an artifact of computer technology in the hands of rapacious traders reducing the market to a casino. The current system screams of the urgent necessity of reforms to bring about a level playing field; a small transaction fee should be imposed on all trades to partially mitigate the unfair advantage of HFT. Finally, a new exchange, IEX, established by the ‘hero’ of Michael Lewis’s investigative reporting should go a long way to levelling the playing field.
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!
Predictably, the Mideast talks appear to be near collapse. Fortunately, Mr. Abbas has seen through the façade of pursuing the moribund peace talks and has wisely chosen to join 15 international organizations affiliated with the United Nations. Abbas should also present his grievances to the International Court at The Hague and expose the myriad of crimes and injustices heaped on his people.
Israel’s continued practice of demolishing Palestinian homes, land grabbing and settlement building in Palestinian territory is nothing more than blatant theft. It continues its delaying tactic absorbing more and more land while at the same time projecting itself as the aggrieved party – willing to negotiate in good faith but alas not finding “a suitable partner”. This will most certainly accelerate its further isolation and galvanize the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement.
Sadly, the United States has been an enabler allowing this to happen rewarding Israel with tens of billions of taxpayer dollars in military and economic aid. Israel’s tired insistence that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state is a sure way of torpedoing any hope of a peaceful settlement. This demand is like someone forcibly occupying your home and then insisting that you sign over a ‘quitclaim’ on your own property and then acquiescing to the intruder as the rightful owner. Finally, Pollard should remain in prison where he belongs. He demonstrated that his first allegiance is to Israel not the United States.
The challenges faced by U.S. soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. "I went to the VA, and I wanted treatment for this or that or the other thing, and all they would give me is highly addictive narcotic painkillers, opiates, which are similar in their chemical makeup to heroin." They found a 270 percent increase in the number of opiate prescriptions that these doctors at the VA were writing. And we also found incredible, wild variation in how many prescriptions doctors were writing depending on where a veteran happened to live.
The rise in psychological trauma associated with the war in Iraq and Afghanistan should not surprise experts. The extent of wartime trauma is directly proportional to the type of warfare fought and the experiences encountered. Studies of Vietnam veterans show that between 26 and 31 percent have experienced PTSD. This rate is understandable given that the Vietnam War combat environment included both guerilla and conventional warfare. It is arguable that the war in Iraq compares to the Vietnam War, as there is no safe place, no enemy lines, and threats surround the soldier on all sides. Situations that can contribute to the development of PTSD.
I've worked as a volunteer Counselor at the VA Hospital in Menlo Park,CA for 17 years as a musician therapist. I work mostly with Vietnam Vets. War is the national creed of America. So, even though in Washington they knew this was a problem, they didn’t manage it. They allowed doctors who are overstressed, with so many people coming back from war and not nearly enough training or time to treat them, to reach for their prescription pad and write these prescriptions for medications that might dull the pain temporarily, but can have horrible, tragic, sometimes even fatal, results.
Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) was recently criminally indicted for twelve violations of the federal Pipeline Safety Act. No executives of PG&E were indicted.
The federal indictment follows PG&E's alleged negligence in safely maintaining its natural gas pipeline infrastructure which resulted in a massive explosion in the Crestmoor residential neighborhood of San Bruno on September 9, 2010. The resulting inferno killed eight people, injured 64, leveled 35 homes and damaged many more. In addition, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), who regulates PG&E, may fine them a substantial amount -- rumored to be as much as $2 billion.
PG&E enjoys a near monopoly over much of Northern and Central California with 5.1 electric customers and 4.3 million natural gas customers. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which has been accused of being too cozy with the utilities it's mandated to regulate, allows PG&E to charge 30 percent higher rates than the national average. As a regulated utility, the publicly traded company's shareholders benefit from a guaranteed 11.35 percent return on equity, 10.5 percent above the national average.
Regulators had approved PG&E's request for $4.9 million to repair the South San Francisco segment of the pipeline, but PG&E spent the money elsewhere, and then in 2009 requested an additional $5 million from ratepayers to do the job.
On September 20, 2010, PG&E released a list of its top 100 aging pipeline "projects" in need of replacement or repair. The San Bruno pipeline segment was not included on the list.
Remember the 2003 record bankruptcy bailout that put ratepayers on the hook to pay PG&E's creditors and resuscitate the corporation? It was in addition to the $8 billion in previous bailout funds already paid to PG&E by ratepayers since 1998, bringing the bailout total to over $16 billion. The bailout plan was approved by the CPUC and the Bankruptcy Judge despite accusations that PG&E's officers siphoned $4 billion to its unregulated holding company, PGE Corporation, from the $8 billion in "Competition Transition Surcharge" funds already paid to PG&E by its ratepayers between 1998 and 2000.
To add insult to injury, just weeks after handing out $50 million in bonuses while on the verge of financial collapse, PG&E received judicial permission to award $17.5 million for a "management retention program" intended to prevent over 200 top executives from departing the company during the bankruptcy process.
PG&E should have let these executives depart and then hired a more competent management team, possibly saving the lives and homes in the San Bruno explosion. If found guilty of the federal criminal charges, PG&E will be on the hook for a maximum penalty of $6 million, chump change for PG&E and its holding company. Of course, there is the possibility the Court will appoint a monitor for PG&E's natural gas operations. Perhaps the monitor will fire PG&E's executives. But, then again, any fired executives will likely receive hefty golden parachutes, courtesy of ratepayers.
It’s a treasured American maxim that every problem is an opportunity in disguise. Seven months before the mid-term election Democrats face a serious problem: most Americans feel the country is headed in the wrong direction and many blame the President. Meanwhile, Republican billionaires are spending millions of dollars on attack ads with the intent of sweeping Dems out of Congress. Nonetheless, 2014 is an opportunity for progressives to remake the Democratic Party with a clear populist ethic.
The latest Gallup Poll indicated that 73 percent of respondents are, “dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States.” That same poll found that only 45 percent approved of the way President Obama is doing his job. (Although Obama’s numbers are bound to get better, given the number of enrollees for Affordable Health Care and the corresponding surge in support.)
Fortunately, underneath this political turmoil is a hopeful reality: most Americans don’t want less government; instead, they want government to work for all the people not just the rich and powerful. In a February speech, political columnist Jim Hightower identified the core problem: “[In] today’s America… too few people control too much of the money and power, and they’re using that control to grab more money and power from the rest of us.” Average Americans realize our democracy is slipping away and want politicians who will fight for the 99 percent.
2014 is an important battle in an ongoing struggle for the soul of America; a class war that’s flared up several times in the Republic’s 238-year history: plutocrats versus democrats. On one side we have rich capitalists, the 1 percent, who believe what is good for them is good for the country; who believe whoever has the most wealth should have the most power. On the other side are egalitarian democrats – populists – who believe what benefits the 99 percent strengthens the country; who believe power should be shared by all the people.
Although Americans are concerned about lots of issues – the minimum wage, decent jobs, healthcare, education, and protection of the environment, to name only a few – what they crave is a reassertion of fundamental American values: fairness, justice, and equal opportunity for all. (By the way, these are the same values that motivated America’s founders.)
Fairness begins with the assertion the economy must work for all the people. This means that the proceeds from economic growth should go to everyone, not just the one percent.
Fairness requires that women and men get equal pay for the same work.
Justice requires that Americans be treated be treated equally regardless of class, race, ethnicity, age, or sexual persuasion. Justice requires that the 99 percent get a say in their government by being able to vote. Justice requires common-sense limits on the role of money in elections – politicians should not be bought and sold by the rich.
Justice requires a level playing field. Justice demands a society where all citizens have access to food, water, shelter, and healthcare; a nation where everyone has the right to a decent education and the requisite support services (such as childcare).
And, justice requires that all Americans have the right to live in a healthy community free from environmental pollution, where they can trust that the air the breathe, the water they drink, and the food they eat are from harmful contaminants.
Equal opportunity for all means ensuring that everyone who wants to work can find a job – a job rebuilding American’s infrastructure, if need be. And this should be a decent job that pays a living wage and has benefits such as healthcare. Opportunity means keeping alive the cherished myth of the triumphant individual. As UC professor Robert Reich tells it, “The little guy who works hard, takes risks, believes in himself, and eventually gains wealth, fame, and honor.”
The 2014 midterm election offers voters a stark choice. On the one side are plutocrats and their Republican lackeys who want to maintain the status quo. Politicians who are satisfied with an economy that benefits the one percent at the expense of everyone else. Republicans who, for the 5+ years of the Obama Administration, have dogmatically blocked every Democratic initiative to create jobs. Politicians who resist all efforts to raise the minimum wage, create gender wage equity, or extend unemployment benefits. Republicans who feign disbelief at global climate change while stolidly supporting subsidies and policies that benefit fossil-fuel companies. Politicians who argue a corporation is a “person” and strive to limit voting rights for struggling Americans at the same time they work to shred campaign-finance reform.
On the other side of the 2014 election are populists. They must keep the American dream alive and prevent capitalist barbarians from storming the gates of American democracy. Populists have to rally Democrats and Independents to keep an already troubled Washington from descending into absolute gridlock. The way for populists to succeed is by emphasizing classic American values of fairness, justice, and equal opportunity for all.
Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Seen any good films lately that were about the passage of time? About people aging? Here are Anita, Gloria, Honey, five people Out Late, plus three Old Goats.
Anita: Speaking Truth to Power is a 2013, 95-minute documentary directed by Freida Lee Mock. Jan Wahl, San Francisco-based film++ critic, gives Anita a raving Four Hats.
Anita Faye Hill is a 58-year old American attorney and academic, “currently a professor of social policy, law and women’s studies at Brandeis University's Heller School for Social Policy and Management” [Wikipedia]. Brandeis’ web site identifies her as Professor of Social Policy, Law and Women's Studies in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program. Is women’s studies like home econ, one wonders? Brandeis’ online library catalog lists many by-and-about Hill media.
Anita Hill is the woman who accused then-Supreme Court justice nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment at the 1991 Senate Judiciary Committee hearings. Incredibly, there are still people who question whether or not she was telling the truth! In an interview on HuffPost Live, Hill spoke about those hearings. She said that they were meant to "inform the public" and that then-Senator Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. did a "terrible job" as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman during the 1991 hearings.
Sixty-six year old Thomas is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. “Joe” Biden is Vice President.
Biden, one of the hearing’s disinterested senators, failed to call to testify three women who had been subpoenaed to discuss alleged inappropriate behavior by Thomas. In addition, Hill said there were experts available who could have "given information and helped the public understand sexual harassment." She argued that Biden's actions were both a "disservice to [her] and, more importantly, a disservice to the public." [“Anita Hill: Joe Biden Botched The Clarence Thomas Hearings.” The Huffington Post, by Natasha Bach. 03/20/2014 ]
From Chile, comes Gloria, a new film not to be confused with Gena Rowlands’ 1980 portrayal of an ex-gun moll and showgirl suddenly forced to protect a child whose parents have been rubbed out by the mob. 2013’s Gloria is a late-middle aged, divorced “free-spirited older woman”. Paulina Garcia won the top acting prize at the 2013 Berlin Film Festival, where the movie was a surprise hit. It opened in January in New York and Los Angeles, and more widely in February. I’m looking forward to seeing it and have placed a hold on the library DVD. Closed captioned, Spanish audio, English and Spanish subtitles.
The Los Angeles Times praised “Chilean director Sebastian Lelio's near-perfect film about the very imperfect world of a divorced woman of a certain age." Indeed, most reviewers relied on that old “woman of a certain age” saw. The message, according to Newsday, is that the course of romance is no smoother at 50 than it is at 15. Gloria gets caught up in a passionate whirlwind romance with a retired naval officer, whom she meets at a dance club for singles.
From Italy, here’s Honey, a bittersweet nuanced approach to euthanasia. “Honey is a fascinating and complex figure, and Jasmine Trinca inhabits the role with a detached intensity that's thoroughly compelling." [Sheri Linden. Los Angeles Times, March 14, 2014].
The assured feature-directing debut by actress Valeria Golino (Susanna in Rain Man) achieves the rare feat of addressing euthanasia head-on without devolving into a dramatized treatise or a button-pushing issue movie.
Medical school dropout Irene lives alone in a town near Rome. Honey is her adopted name for her illegal work: using barbiturates she buys in Tijuana, she provides assisted suicide services to the terminally ill. Calm and systematic, she takes control of each emotionally charged session, providing precise instructions along with the necessary ingredients. Irene has the procedure down pat and her life neatly compartmentalized. But beneath the compassion and steeliness is personal anguish.
Out Late is a 64-minute production that looks at 5 people who made the decision to come out as a lesbian, gay, or transgender person after age 55. Written and directed by Beatrice Alda and Jennifer Brooke, it was released as a motion picture in 2008 and as a DVD in 2011.
On February 26, 2014 the Equal Rights Center (ERC), in partnership with Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders, 305 7th Avenue, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10001), released the results of a 10-state testing-based investigation documenting differential treatment against older same-sex couples seeking housing in senior living facilities. Read the report at the GLBT website, Opening Doors: An Investigation of Barriers to Senior Housing for Same-Sex Couples. Among other findings, the tests showed that 48% of same-sex couples experienced at least one form of adverse differential treatment when inquiring about senior housing as compared to their heterosexual counterparts. The investigation showed housing agents: providing information about additional units being available to the tester from an opposite-sex couple; advising the tester from the same-sex couple about additional fees, costs, and/or a more extensive application process than were disclosed to the heterosexual tester; providing information about additional amenities to the testers from the opposite sex couple that were not mentioned to the tester from the same sex couple; and offering "specials" and discounts to the tester from the same-sex couple that were not offered to the tester from the opposite sex couple. [Same-sex couples encounter more barriers when seeking senior housing, study finds," by Tara Bahrampour (Washington Post, Feb. 26, 2014).]
BBC News reports "The growth of gay retirement homes," by Aidan Lewis, March 18, 2014.
"For aging transgender population, retirement can be bittersweet refuge," by Ryan Schuessler (Al Jazeera America, February 20, 2014).
Old Goats, released in 2011, consists of 91 minutes of elusive comedy. Well, it eludes me, and this is my column. Three elderly men play themselves within a fictional framework. The story is said to blend fiction and reality.
Britt (Britton Crosley) lives alone on a cluttered old boat and seeks excitement and romance. Bob (Bob Burkholder) is writing a memoir of his supposed soldier, para-trooper, bush pilot life, but is uneasy about revealing his youthful sins. Dave (David VanderWal) struggles to adapt to retired life with his wife (played by an actor). The story begins when the guys meet, greet and exercise at the senior center, and then it goes on… and on… as each gent attempts to change his ways and to make the most of his sunset years.
Opinionated and set in their ways, each copes with aging in his own way. Conventional Dave rebels against his wife wanting to spend their retirement as he had promised, hoarder Britt struggles to learn internet dating (that part is actually kind of humorous), and lively ladies' man (he should be so lucky) Bob juggles girlfriend (an actor) and the memoir of his notorious (he should be so lucky) past.
The other characters are played by actors, the women considerably more youthful appearing than the three “live” men, much as in real life. I dare say some viewers will perceive Old Goats as a hilarious and heartfelt story of a trio of spirited senior citizens on a quest to make the most of their remaining years. For some viewers, this may provide a refreshing perspective on the golden years, proving it's never too late to chase your dreams. Same old same old.
In real life, old goats can be useful for brush clearance.
Recommended Reading, from the Berkeley Daily Planet:
Press release: “Berkeley Public Library selects Noll & Tam architects and planners for improvements to the central library interior public spaces.” March 21, 2014.
“The sterilization of the Berkeley Libraries,” by Vivian Warkentin. March 22, 2014.
“Libraries: Overhaul fails,” by Phil Allen. March 26, 2014.
“LIBRARIES: Facts First” by Thomas Lynch . March 28, 2014.
I have not formally studied neurology. But, from exposure to mainstream media, from what I have read, and from living in venues of mental health treatment, I have picked up a smattering of information.
When someone has schizophrenia or bipolar, the frontal lobes are affected. The frontal lobes of the human brain are thought to be the seat of human judgment, planning, and putting things into perspective.
A head trauma can also affect the frontal lobes of the brain, or it could have any of a number of effects on a person's functioning. Oddly, it seems as though some people with head trauma or perhaps a brain tumor do better in life than do some mentally ill people. Either way, you're trying to use faulty equipment while attempting to navigate in your life.
There have been numerous news reports concerning the long term effects on the brain of the repeated impacts that take place in professional football. Dementia-like symptoms have been reported. For people who have had repeated jolts to the head, I believe research is being done to find a treatment that will help. You are probably better off having schizophrenia or bipolar compared to collision induced problems, because for schizophrenia and bipolar there are known treatments that often help.
For someone subject to psychosis or some other neurological problems, sound reasoning is hard to attain and is a very valuable thing.
Without being able to reason properly and apply this reasoning to life decisions, a person lacks navigation and quickly ends up in a disastrous scenario, or has other people repeatedly rescuing them. This is probably one reason why the mental health treatment system exerts a lot of control on persons with mental illness. Some of us have not developed or have lost the ability to make sound decisions about life.
I somehow came to my senses a while back, and I believe this was due to taking a lot of time in a process of self education--teaching myself how to better use my mind. I sat in a corner of my apartment every day, played a radio, and took notes of my thoughts for several hours. I did this for several months following my most recent psychotic episode (which happened to me about eighteen years ago). And I developed my own "software" that allowed me to process information better while on medication.
Journaling is invaluable for someone who wants better use of their mind. Additionally, because I cooperate most of the time with treatment, I have steadily gained ground in respect to accurate thought processes.
If I were to go off medication and experience another complete relapse, this progress would be largely erased, and, upon reinstatement of treatment, would need to be redeveloped from square one.
I have studied my mind and have learned that the mind tends to follow the instructions that you give it. However, the very instructions that the mind follows are also the conclusions that the mind has previously arrived upon. Thus, the human mind often recycles its content. To maintain realistic thoughts, it is often necessary to incorporate some ideas other than your own.
Arts & Events
Aurora Theatre Co. previews for 'Wittenberg,' a wry view of Hamlet's higher education, begin Friday, April 4th, with opening Thursday the 10th, performances continuing through May 4th.
David Davalos' play, directed by Josh Costello, follows the Melancholy Prince's return to the ivy halls for his senior year (Class of 1518), troubled by a great revelation, and finding himself bounced back and forth between the opposing views of two famous professors: Rev. Martin Luther and Dr. John Faustus. The cast includes one of the Bay Area's finest comic actors, Dan Hiatt.
Tuesday through Sunday at various times, including matinees. 2081 Addison, near Shattuck. $32-$50, with $20 rush tickets a half hour before curtain, cash only, availability not guaranteed. 843-4822; auroratheatre.org
Philharmonia Baroque, led by music director Nicholas McGegan, will perform Vivaldi's only surviving oratorio, Juditha triumphans, with an extraordinary all-female cast, the full Philharmonia Chorale, led by Bruce LaMott, and an impressive array of baroque instruments, including viols, recorders, two theorbos, and chaulumeaux, this Saturday and Sunday evenings at the First Congregational Church.
Soprano Dominique Labelle and four mezzo-sopranos--Cécile van de Sant, Viveca Genaux, Diana Moore and Virginia Warnken--will sing the story of Judith's triumph over Holofernes to save her city, composed by Vivaldi to celebrate a Venetrian victory over the Ottomans, the only oratorio of Vivaldi's to come down to us of the four he's known to have composed.
Saturday at 8, Sunday at 7:30, First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way (entrance on Dana near Durant). $25-$95. philharmonia.org