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Neighborhoods Unite to Oppose New Mini‐Dorm Project

From Jacquelyn McCormick, Southside Neighborhood Coalition
Thursday July 10, 2014 - 10:29:00 AM

A coalition of neighborhoods associations in Berkeley’s Southside that have been fighting the proliferation of mini‐dorms have joined together to oppose a new 38‐bedroom mini‐dorm project at 2201 Blake and 2204 Dwight Way. The project is on tonight’s agenda of Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board and proposes 38 bedrooms –with an estimated occupancy two to five times what is permitted under the residential density standards in the City’s general plan. SNC submitted a detailed critique of the project and points out flaws in the City’s analysis (attached). 

“I can’t image a worse idea - this property is already at or beyond the maximum density permitted under the General Plan. The City staff should be protecting the quality of life in our low and medium residential neighborhoods and upholding the integrity of our community planning process, rather than doing end runs around the density standards that we all agreed on in the Southside Plan” said Phil Bokovoy, one of the organizers of the Southside Neighborhood Consortium and activist in the Parker/Piedmont neighborhood. 

Laura Watkins who lives next door to the proposed mini‐dorm in the LeConte neighborhood added: “the negative impacts of mini‐dorms can be huge: late night noise, increased traffic and trash, all the logical results of too many people in a small area. Family neighborhoods aren't designed to deal with these problems. Student housing should be focused north of Dwight and in downtown, as the city itself proposes in its general plan.” 

One of the key findings of the SNC’s analysis of the 2201 Blake and 2204 Dwight Way project is that city staff failed to analyze the existing and proposed residential density to determine consistency with the general plan as they did for a recent recently proposed mini dorm project at 2610 Hillegass Avenue that staff recommended not be approved. “It is inappropriate and unprofessional to cherry‐pick standards. All projects should be evaluated in same manner and staff analyses must include a determination of consistency with general plan residential density standards as well as other general plan and zoning development standards” commented Phil Bokovoy. “We hope that the ZAB will use the SNC analysis of the project, along with the facts in a number of letters of opposition, to deny the project.”

Press Release: El Cerrito City Council Election Nomination Period Opens

From Cheryl Morse, El Cerrito City Clerk
Wednesday July 09, 2014 - 03:01:00 PM

Persons interested in running for the office of City Council Member for the City of El Cerrito in the upcoming November 4, 2014 election may obtain Nomination Papers and a Candidate’s Packet from the City Clerk beginning Monday, July 14, 2014 at 8:00 a.m. The General Municipal Election will fill two seats on the City Council for four year terms. The successful candidates will be installed in the month of December 2014. 

To be eligible to hold office as a City Councilmember, a person must be 18 years old and a registered voter residing within the boundaries of the City of El Cerrito. 

Each Nomination Paper must be signed by at least 20 and no more than 30 persons who are registered to vote in the City of El Cerrito. Nomination signatures can be collected between July 14, 2014 and August 8, 2014. The deadline for filing nomination and other associated papers is August 8, 2014 at 4:00 p.m. 

Each candidate is required to file a Statement of Economic Interests disclosing investment, income, business positions, and interests in real property when Nomination Papers are returned for filing. Candidates may also prepare a Statement that includes their name and a brief description of no more than 250 words setting forth the candidate’s education and qualifications. The Statement is filed with the Nomination Papers and is included in the voter pamphlet mailed to voters. The charge to each candidate for providing this service is estimated to be $275 and is payable at the time of filing nomination papers. 

All forms required for nomination and election to the City Council in the City of El Cerrito are furnished by and filed with the El Cerrito City Clerk. Appointments to obtain the Nomination Papers and Candidate’s Packet are highly recommended to ensure ample time to thoroughly review the filing requirements and answer any questions. The process takes approximately 30 minutes. 

The City Clerk’s office is located at City Hall, 10890 San Pablo Avenue. Regular office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and alternate Fridays

Attempted Robbery on UC Berkeley Campus

By Laura Dixon (BCN)
Monday July 07, 2014 - 08:05:00 PM

Police at University of California, Berkeley, are attempting to locate two suspects who tried to rob a student walking on campus Friday night. The student was walking on the Grinnell Pathway near Mulford Hall around 8:45 p.m. when two males on bicycles approached and demanded his property, according to UC Berkeley police. 

Police said the victim ran to a nearby payphone and yelled that he was calling the police and the two suspects fled. 

The victim was uninjured during the encounter. 

Campus police searched the area but didn't find the suspects. 

The suspects were both described only as black males believed to be around 14 years old who were each estimated to be roughly 5 feet 8 inches tall with thin builds, according to police.  

Both were wearing black hooded sweatshirts at the time of the attempted robbery, police said. 

Anyone with information about this crime is asked to call UC police at (510) 642-0472 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. or (510) 642-6760 after hours. 

UC police are reminding those on campus to stay safe by remaining alert and aware of their surroundings and to move away from a threatening situation. People on campus may call (510) 642-3333 or use a Blue Light emergency phone to get help. 

Missing Woman Found Safe in Berkeley

Sasha Lekach (BCN and Planet)
Friday July 04, 2014 - 12:24:00 PM

A missing elderly homeless woman was found in Berkeley today, according to San Francisco police. 

San Francisco police said Wednesday that Nancy J. Cross, 94, a former Alameda County political activist and elected official, was reported missing after she was last seen Friday wearing a blue sweatshirt and green skirt. 

Cross is now homeless and was considered at-risk because of her advanced age, She was found safe in Berkeley, police said.



Be a Patriot for a Change--Join the Democratic Parade

Becky O'Malley
Friday July 04, 2014 - 11:57:00 AM

Once again, it’s patriotism time. Many of our readers, I imagine, are thoroughly tired of the old love-your-country routine, and yet, it’s still worth considering.

If nothing else, it’s sobering to observe how many countries in the half-century or so I’ve been paying attention have enthusiastically announced conversion to “democracy”, only to revert to some kind of autocracy, with oligarchy being the most popular version. The former Soviet Union in all its branches provides a host of bad examples, along with a few successes to be sure.

The demise of the much-touted Arab Spring is the latest sad story. Some Middle Eastern countries can’t even drum up a strongman to run things, but have reverted to a kind of tribal feudalism reminiscent of Europe in Shakespeare’s time, with no end in sight. Iraq and Afghanistan, two countries which have absorbed a great deal of money and a huge investment of human lives, seem poised to abandon the pretense of elected governments altogether. And so it goes.

The “democracies” I studied in my high school ancient history class don’t look much better in retrospect. Yes, some Greeks and some Romans for relatively short periods of time had some versions of group decision-making, but your chances of being outside the group were much greater than your chance of being a voting citizen, if you were a foreigner, a woman, a slave…. 

That was a millennium and a half or so ago, and covered some small number of centuries. The recent experiment called The United States of America hasn’t endured for much more than a couple of centuries, and it’s constantly at risk. Despite the brave words of the Declaration of Independence which we celebrate today, it could be plausibly argued that American democracy in the United States didn’t really exist until the voting rights of the descendants of those who were slaves in 1776 were decisively ensured by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, despite having been granted decades earlier by constitutional amendment. That was just a half-century ago, while the extension of the franchise to white women happened not quite a half-century before that . 

And the brief flowering here of something resembling true democracy is constantly in danger. A perpetual threat is oligarchy: government by and for money, either by wealthy individuals (most often white men) or, lately, by those concentrations of wealth called corporations.  

The Citizens United decision empowers capital to buy elections even more openly than in the past. A corollary anti-democratic tactic is voter-suppression: the continuing attempts by privileged and powerful people to deny the vote to less-privileged segments of the voting population (many, though not all, of whom are the descendants of slaves) by enacting various laws which make it hard for poor people to vote. 

So what we’re celebrating in this country today is not exactly a perfect democracy, is it? But it remains better than a whole lot of alternatives both in the past and in other parts of today’s world. We still have a lot of say about what goes on here.  

Our president, though not himself a descendant of those enslaved at the time of the Declaration of Independence, looks a lot like them, and his wife and children do trace their ancestry to previously excluded Americans. Those of us who live in Berkeley can rejoice in the fact that now all of our current representatives to higher levels of government are women—that would have been impossible less than a century ago. 

How to celebrate what’s good about what we’ve got? By vigorous participation in the process of government, even when it’s not so easy. 

There’s an election coming up this November, as is often the case. Right now is the time to sign up with your preferred candidates to contribute time or money. It probably feels counter-intuitive to make your choices for the November election in early July, but that’s how you can make a difference.  

An organization which promoted the election of women to public office (thank goodness, no longer a problem here) used the acronym E.M.I.L. Y: Early Money is Like Yeast. To that we would add: People Power Supplies the Flour, without which you can’t make bread at all. The more personal participation there is in a candidate’s campaign, the less power money has to swing an election. 

We’ve already endorsed Tony Thurmond for California Assembly District 15. He was a winner in the June primary as one of the two final candidates (both Democrats), and will now face Elizabeth Echols in November. If you like him too, help him out,. 

For your reference, here are some dates for our Berkeley readers to keep in mind regarding the November City Council elections: 

July 24: last day to collect signatures on candidate nomination papers in lieu of paying $150 to file as candidates for the Berkeley City Council. What you can do: if you’re asked, sign the petition, since paying money shouldn’t be a qualification for running for office. You can contribute your signature for any candidate city-wide—you don’t have to be in the same district, and you can sign them all if you want. You might even circulate petitions for your favorite candidates. 

July 14-August8: Filing period for candidate nomination papers. If an incumbent in a council doesn’t file for re-election, other candidates can file up until August 13, in that district only. 

September 25-October 14: Sample Ballots are being mailed. 

October 6-October 28: Period to obtain Vote-by-Mail Ballots. After 10/28, V-B-M ballots can be gotten at the Alameda County Registrar of Voters office. 

This is your chance to join the door-to-door and phone-banking campaign efforts of your candidate to make sure that all of his or her fans actually remember to vote. For details on how Vote-by-Mail works, see this excellent web site: http://www.acgov.org/rov/votebymail.htm 

October 20: Last day to register to vote.  

November 4: Election Day. Anyone who hasn’t managed to vote by mail can take their ballot to their local polling place or designate someone else to deliver it. For a retro experience, you can even vote in person on Election Day! 

Announced candidates in contested races for the Berkeley City Council to date: District 1: Alejandro Soto-Vigil, Linda Maio. District 7: Sean Barry, Kriss Worthington. District 8: George Beier, Lori Droste, Michael Alvarez Cohen, Jacquelyn McCormick.  

We hope to provide a detailed discussion of all of these campaigns, possibly with endorsements, in the very near future. Meanwhile, I encourage candidates and/or their supporters to submit position statements of any length to opinion@berkeleydailyplanet.com. It’s free, which is a lot cheaper and more ecological than spending money on a lot of glossy paper mailers which will only end up in the recycling bin.  








The Editor's Back Fence

Subscribing to the Planet

Becky O'Malley
Sunday July 06, 2014 - 11:15:00 AM

A recent business section column expressed mystification at the discovery that many people prefers to get information through simple emailed newsletters instead of through complicated, graphics-heavy social media communication strategies. I’m not surprised—I hate all that fancy stuff myself. I’m a word person.

Well, I thought, maybe the Berkeley Daily Planet should have a newsletter.

But wait! We already do have a newsletter. Approximately weekly, I write to about 1,000 readers to give them links to stories they might want to read which have appeared on the berkeleydailyplanet.com website in the last two weeks or so.

I’ve realized that offering regular readers of the Planet the opportunity to “subscribe” doesn’t really tell them what that means.

It’s very simple. It's free. There are no dues. There are no meetings. Our email list doesn’t connect to anything else, so you won’t get any annoying new ads when you subscribe. We don’t share it with anyone.

If you’d like to get these letters from me, just send an email to subscribe@berkeleydailyplanet.com. If you change your mind, just send another email to unsubscribe@berkeleydailyplanet.com.

That’s really simple, isn’t it?


Odd Bodkins: The Blind Alley (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Sunday July 06, 2014 - 09:27:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Public Comment

What's Wrong with Laura's Law

Carol Denney
Tuesday July 08, 2014 - 01:03:00 PM

If we lived in a world where housing was honestly affordable and readily available, mental health services were immediately available without social stigma, jobs were plentiful and paid a living wage, and local police departments were monitored by accountability systems which insured fair treatment for everyone, Ralph Stone might be able to make an argument for Laura's Law.

But at present, when none of those conditions are foreseeable, it is a recipe for the same discriminatory practices people in poverty see every day. 

It is likely that you are violating the law by sleeping in a car or a park, or sitting on the sidewalk, or removing recyclables from a bin. It is likely that you are at the bottom of the hiring pool or the apartment applicant pool if you are disabled, or have mental health issues, or are the wrong color in a world where jobs are scarce and prejudice runs high. 

It is likely that the police in your neighborhood have already made decisions about whom they would love "disappeared" from the street, or the park, or under the freeway overpass. Laura's Law enables the police to clear the streets of people. You are wrong to think it can't be you.

Immigration System Needs Reform

Hamid Yazdan Panah
Friday July 04, 2014 - 08:36:00 AM

Last month a series of shocking photos were leaked showing undocumented children packed into Federal detention facilities. The photos were a disturbing reminder of just how broken our current immigration system is, and how little attention is being paid to those in need.

There is no doubt our immigration system needs reform. As a practicing immigration attorney, I can attest to how confusing and contradictory our current immigration laws can be. The politics of comprehensive immigration reform can be just as daunting, yet there must be common ground which we can all agree on. To start, we need to find practical solutions to address the global refugee epidemic, while treating those who flee violence and warfare with dignity and compassion. 

Having come to the United States as a refugee, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to transition into a new society. According to UN statistics, the number of refugees around the world has hit a 19-year high, with more than 45 million refugees and internally displaced people worldwide. 

How does the U.S. decide how many refugees we’ll let in? The President consults with Congress in order to set an overall refugee admission ceiling for each fiscal year. This ceiling is not a firm commitment as to the number of actual applications approved, but a flexible target that is often not met. For example the refugee ceiling for 2012 was set at 76,000 but only 58,238 refugees were actually admitted. That is almost 18,000 unfilled spots. Each of those spots represents a refugee; 

Despite the existing global crisis, the U.S. set its 2014 refugee ceiling at 70,000 — 6,000 fewer than 2012. We cannot leave women and children in such miserable conditions when we have the means to help. There must be a concerted effort to not only meet the refugee ceiling in its entirety, but to increase it for 2015 to do what we can to help. 

Another important step is to put an end to the one year deadline for asylum applicants. Individuals fleeing persecution often deal with trauma, mistrust and language barriers. The current one year deadline undermines the efficiency of the asylum process, forcing immigration judges to review credible cases that were not filed within the one year deadline. 

Lastly, it is time we ended the costly and dehumanizing detention of refugees and immigrants. Recently I took on a pro-bono case of a young woman from Ghana fleeing gender based persecution. After a long and dangerous journey, she was incarcerated in medium security prison amongst the general population for 7 months, because she did not have the money to pay for a lawyer. I took her case through the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, and was able to have her released within a matter of weeks. 

American history has long been defined by the concept of accepting the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Few Americans are aware that the United States maintains the largest immigration detention infrastructure in the world, detaining more than 400,000 people each year. This includes a controversial “detention bed quota” to keep an average of 34,000 detainees in ICE custody; recent research has shown that nearly half of immigrants detained had no criminal convictions, not even traffic violations. Almost half of these individuals were ultimately allowed to return to American society, but not before spending months in detention, disrupting families, and costing tens of thousands in taxpayer dollars. 

There are alternatives to the current system. According to testimony by ICE officials before Congress, alternative detention programs have had compliance rates of 96 percent with court-ordered appearances. 

Each of the suggestions I’ve put forward are practical steps which address a global need, treat asylees and immigrants with dignity, and save taxpayer dollars. These steps would not require a massive increase in budgetary requirements, nor are they as daunting as passing comprehensive immigration reform. 

I believe that it is time for those of us in the Bay Area to push for change on this issue. The images which have emerged from Texas should be enough to push both sides of the political aisle to come up with a just and compassionate solution. Refugees have already been the victims of wars, violence, and devastation. They should not become victims of internal politics and a broken system. 

Hamid Yazdan Panah is an immigration attorney focusing on asylum in Berkeley California.

Israel and Palestine: occupation is at the root

Laetitia Tso
Friday July 04, 2014 - 08:04:00 AM

I am writing to express my views about the current escalation of violence in Israel and Palestine. The shedding of any child's blood is cause for deep mourning, and my heart is broken for the families of the 3 teenagers who were killed in the West Bank. But my heart also breaks for the families of the ten Palestinians killed in the last three weeks, and for the families of the 1,384 Palestinian children killed by the Israeli military since 2000, according to the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem. That's 1 child killed every 3 to 4 days. One of the Palestinian victims was 16 year-old Mohammed Abu Khudair who was found dead in East Jerusalem, the victim of what appears to be a price tag attack, revenge for the killing of three Israeli teenagers on the West Bank. He was the 10th Palestinian killed by the IDF or right-wing extremists in the last two weeks. We mourn his death as we do all lost lives. 

For the past few weeks, Israeli leaders' calls for revenge have escalated racist attacks on Palestinians. In the last few days alone, hundreds of right-wing Jews rioted in the streets of Jerusalem, chanting “death to the Arabs†and “we want war†. Groups searched for random Palestinians on the street, even forcing their way into a Mcdonald's in an attempt to assault Palestinan workers. Others burst into commuter trains while, according to the Israeli paper Ha'aretz, “Light rail security guards stood next to Palestinian passengers to protect them from the mob.†Moereover, Prime Minister Netanyahu's repeated calls for vengance in the form of collective punishment of Palestinian civilians including mass arrests, killings and even missle drops on Gaza should trouble any person believes in due process and the law. 

Good media coverage gives the readers all of the facts and the context. In your ongoing coverage, you might consider reporting that according to the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, since 2000 1,384 Palestinian children have been killed by the Israeli forces, and 127 Israeli children have been killed by Palestinians.

Reflecting on Independence Day and Ramadhan

Khalida Jamilah
Friday July 04, 2014 - 12:30:00 PM

The sixth day of Ramadhan is special because it is also America’s birthday. During Ramadhan, every Muslim around the world increase their spirituality by praying more intensely, reciting the Qur’an more abundantly, giving more charity, and being more grateful for every privilege that God has provided such as good health, wealth, family, and good education. As an immigrant from Indonesia and a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, I want to express my gratitude to God for enabling me to live in the United States so I could exercise my religion freely because in Indonesia, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is persecuted. 

While my fellow Americans celebrate the Fourth of July with fireworks, we the Ahmadi Muslims celebrate America’s 238th birthday by promoting a nationwide campaign, Muslims for Loyalty. The purpose of this campaign is to educate fellow Americans that Islam stresses the importance of loyalty to one’s country and Ahmadi Muslims are ready to make every sacrifice for the sake of their nation. In this blessed month, I celebrate America’s birthday by praying for every privilege and freedom that America has given to me. So happy birthday America and may God bless you! 

Khalida Jamilah is a member of Ahmadiyya Muslim Women Writers’ Association and a student at UC Berkeley.


THE PUBLIC EYE:Getting Democrats to Vote

Bob Burnett
Thursday July 03, 2014 - 01:29:00 PM

After an absence of several years, the new Pew Research Center political typology poll was just released. It breaks the American political electorate into eight groups. And, it makes clear what the Democratic challenge is in November midterm election.. 

The Pew political typology has two dimensions. One is the likelihood of voting. Pew factors voters into three categories: “General Public,” “Registered Voter,” and “Politically Engaged.” I’ll assume the “Politically Engaged” are those likely to vote in the November midterm election and focus on those percentages. 

The second Pew dimension is the degree of partisanship. Pew sees three clusters. The first is “The Partisan Anchors,” the Republican and Democratic base: “Steadfast Conservatives” (19 percent), “Business Conservatives” (17 percent), and “Solid Liberals” (21 percent). Steadfast Conservatives are “staunch critics of government and the social safety net and are very socially conservative.” Typically they are described as Tea Party Republicans. Business Conservatives “share Steadfast Conservatives’ preference for limited government, but differ in their support for Wall Street and business, as well as immigration reform.” In most cases, they would vote for the Republican candidate, but if he or she is a Tea Party member Business Conservatives might vote for a centrist Democrat. Thus, in 2016, if Texas Senator Ted Cruz is the Republican candidate and Hillary Clinton is the Democratic candidate, some Business Conservatives will vote for Hillary. 

(With regards to global climate change, Steadfast Conservatives don’t believe it is happening. Business Conservatives have a more nuanced view. They reject it or the logical consequences because it is bad for business. They’re not ignorant; they’re greedy.) 

The second Pew cluster is “Less partisan, less predictable” and has four groups: “Young Outsiders” (11 percent), “Hard-Pressed Skeptics” (9 percent), “Next Generation Left” (11 percent), and “Faith and Family Left” (12 percent). Young Outsiders “lean Republican but do not have a strong allegiance to the Republican Party.” Hard-Pressed Skeptics 

Have been battered by the struggling economy, and their difficult financial circumstances have left them resentful of both government and business. Despite their criticism of government performance, they back more generous government support for the poor and needy. Most Hard-Pressed Skeptics say they voted for Obama in 2012, though fewer than half approve of his job performance today.
Next Generation Left “are young, relatively affluent and very liberal on social issues... But they have reservations about the cost of social programs.” Faith and Family Left “lean Democratic… But this very religious, racially and ethnically diverse group is uncomfortable with the pace of societal change…” 

The third Pew cluster is “Bystanders,” 10 percent of the population that is not registered to vote. 

The Pew typology makes clear the problem for Republicans. Wherever there is a Tea-Party candidate, the Steadfast Conservatives will turn out to vote, but the Business Conservatives and Young Outsiders may either stay at home or vote for the Democratic candidate if they are not perceived as liberal. (Thus, in the Colorado Senate race, incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Udall tries to paint his opponent, Republican Congressman Cory Gardner, as ultra conservative – Gardner does not believe in global climate change. Gardner decries Udall as a liberal with close ties to President Obama.) 

The midterm problem for Democrats is that they first have to get their base out to vote: Solid Liberals (21 percent), Next Generation Left (11 percent), and Faith and Family Left (12 percent). But this is only 44 percent of the probable electorate. To prevail in November, Democrats have to win back the Hard-Pressed Skeptics (9 percent) who voted for Obama in 2012 but are disillusioned. 

The Pew typology helps us understand Hard-Pressed Skeptics: 

Only about a third of Hard-Pressed Skeptics (32%) say they work-full-time… About six-in-ten (61%) are white, non-Hispanic… About half (51%) are 50 or older, which is somewhat higher than the share of older Americans in the public (44%).
Members of this group are not well informed. “Just 39% of Hard-Pressed Skeptics say they are interested in government and politics, the lowest percentage of any typology group.” On the other hand, they have a Democratic perspective: “Seven-in-ten (71%) Hard-Pressed Skeptics say the poor have hard lives because government benefits don’t go far enough to help them live decently.” Nonetheless, Hard-Pressed Skeptics have mixed political allegiance, “51% plan to vote for the Democrat in their congressional district, while 37% plan to vote Republican.” 

To reengage these voters, Democrats have to appeal to them on bread-and-butter issues. This won’t be the Affordable Care Act, where Pew reports that only 40 percent have a favorable view. However, 66 percent of Hard-Pressed Skeptics believe “Government should do more for the needy even if it means going deeper in debt.” In the Colorado Senate race, Democratic Senator Mark Udall is attacking his opponent for failing to support a minimum wage increase. 

What remains to be seen is whether the Hard-Pressed Skeptics will actually vote. Given how preoccupied they are with economic survival, the only way that Democrats can reengage with these voters is face-to-face contact. This suggests that the strength of the Democratic ground game will determine the success of beleaguered Democratic candidates On November 4th. 

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


DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: Iraq: War & Remembrance

Conn Hallinan
Friday July 04, 2014 - 08:39:00 AM

“So far as Syria is concerned, it is France and not Turkey that is the enemy”

T. E. Lawrence, February 1915

It was a curious comment by the oddball, but unarguably brilliant, British agent and scholar, Thomas Edward Lawrence. The time was World War I, and England and France were locked in a death match with the Triple Alliance, of which Turkey was a prominent member. But it was none-the-less true, and no less now than then. In the Middle East, to paraphrase William Faulkner, history is not the past, it’s the present.

In his 1915 letter, Lawrence was describing French machinations over Syria, but he could just as well have been commenting on England’s designs in the region, what allied leaders in World War I came to call “The Great Loot”—the imperial vivisection of the Middle East.

As Iraq tumbles into a yet another civil war, it is important to remember how all this came about, and why adding yet more warfare to the current crisis will perpetuate exactly what the “Great Loot” set out to do: divide and conquer an entire region of the world. 

There is a scorecard here, filled with names, but they are not just George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice—though the latter helped mightily to fuel the latest explosion—but names most people have never heard of, like Sir Tatton Benvenuto Mark Sykes, 6th Baronet of Sledmore and Francois Georges-Picot. In 1915, these two mid-level diplomats created a secret plan to divvy up the Middle East. Almost a century later that imperial map not only defines the region and most of the players, but continues to spin out tragedy after tragedy, like some grotesque, historical Groundhog Day. 

In 1915, the imperial powers’ major goal in the Middle East was to smother any expression of Arab nationalism and prevent any unified resistance to the designs of Paris and London. France wanted Greater Syria, Britain control of the land bridges to India. The competition was so intense, that while hundreds of thousands of French and British troops were dying on the Western Front, both countries secret services were blackguarding one another from Samara to Medina, maneuvering for position for when the Ottoman Empire finally collapsed. 

The Sykes-Picot Agreement was the compromise aimed at ending the internecine warfare. France would get Greater Syria (which it would divide to create Lebanon), plus zones of influence in northern Iraq. Britain would get the rest of Iraq, Jordan and establish the Palestine Mandate. All of this, however, had to be kept secret from the locals lest they find out that they were replacing Turkish overlords with French and British colonialism. 

The Arabs thought they were fighting for independence, but London and Paris had other designs. Instead of the lands between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and access to the Mediterranean the Arabs had been promised, they would get the sun-blasted deserts of Arabia, and the rule of monarchs, who were easy to buy or bully. 

However, to run such a vast enterprise through the use of direct force was beyond the power of even London and Paris. So both empires transplanted their strategies of using religion, sect, tribe and ethnicity, which had worked so well in Indochina, India, Ireland and Africa, to divide and conquer, adding to it a dash of chaos. 

There are new players in the Middle East since Sykes and Picot drew up their agreement. Washington and Israel were latecomers, but eventually replaced both imperial powers as the major military forces in the region. 

The enemy of the “Great Loot” was secular nationalism, and the U.S., France, and Britain have been trying to overthrow or isolate secular regimes in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Libya since they first appeared. The rationale for the hostility is that secular regimes were run by dictators—many were—but questionably no worse than the Wahabi fanatics in Saudi Arabia, or the monsters the Gulf monarchies have nurtured in Syria and northern Iraq. 

Why is Syria a dictatorship and Saudi Arabia is not? This past February, the Kingdom passed a law equating dissent, the exposure of corruption, or demands for reform with “terrorism” including “offending the nation’s reputation or its position.” 

The list of names on the ledger of those who nurture terrorism in the Middle East is long. Yes, it certainly includes the Bush administration, which smashed up one of the most developed countries in the region, dismantled the Iraqi state, and stoked the division between Sunni and Shiites. But also the Clinton administration, whose brutal sanctions impoverished Iraq. And further back, during the First Gulf war, George H. Bush pounded southern Iraq with toxic depleted uranium, inflicting a massive cancer epidemic on places like Basra. It was Jimmy Carter and the CIA who backed Saddam Hussein’s rise to power, because the Ba’athist dictator was particularly efficient at torturing and killing trade unionists and members of the Iraqi left. 

Not to mention members of the Gulf Cooperation Council—Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Morocco and Jordan— who fund the Islamic insurgency in Syria. Some of those countries may decry the excesses of the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant (ISIL), but it was they who nursed the pinion that impelled the steel. 

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also on that list. It is through Turkey’s borders that most fighters and supplies pass into Syria. So is the Obama administration, which farmed the insurgency out to Qatar and Saudi Arabia and is now horrified by the creatures that Wahabist feudal monarchies produced. 

And don’t forget T.E. Lawrence’s French. 

Paris has never forgiven the Syrians for tossing them out in 1961, nor for Damascus’s role in the 1975-91 Lebanese civil war that dethroned the French-favored Christian minority who had dominated the country since its formation in 1941. 

The French have been enthusiastic supporters of the insurgency in the Syrian civil war and, along with the British, successfully lobbied the European Union to drop its ban on supplying the rebels with military hardware. Paris has also earned favor from Saudi Arabia by trying to derail efforts to find a solution to the conflict over Iran’s nuclear program. France is a member of the P5+1—France, the U.S., Russia, Britain, China and Germany—involved in talks with Teheran. 

The Gulf Council praised France’s attempted sabotage, and Paris promptly landed a $6 billion contract to upgrade Saudi Arabia’s air defense system. It is negotiating to sell $8 billion in fighter-bombers to the Emirates and almost $10 billion worth to Qatar. 

Saudi Arabia recently donated $3 billion in aid to the Lebanese Army on the condition that it is used to buy French weapons and ammunition. It is a somewhat ironic gift, since the major foe of the Lebanese Army has been Saudi-supported Wahabists in the country’s northern city of Tripoli. 

Apparently French President Francois Hollande met with the foreign ministers of Jordan and Emirates last September to discuss a plan for Pakistan to train a 50,000-man Sunni army to overthrow the Syrian government and defeat al-Qaida-affiliated jihadist groups. 

Members of that army may already be on their way to Europe, much as the mujahedeen from Afghanistan did a generation ago. According to western intelligence services, more than 3,000 European Union citizens have gone to fight in Syria, ten times the number who went to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. The gunman who killed four people May 24 at the Jewish Museum in Brussels was a veteran jihadist from the Syrian civil war. 

For now, the Gulf monarchies see themselves as pulling the strings, but they have virtually no control over what they have wrought. Those Wahabi fanatics in Syria and northern Iraq may do what Osama bin-Laden did and target the corruption of the monarchies next. 

The Gulf countries are rich but fragile. Youth unemployment in Saudi Arabia is between 30 and 40 percent, and half the country’s 28 million are under 25 years of age. In other Gulf nations a tiny strata of superrich rule over a huge and exploited foreign work force. When the monarchies begin to unravel, the current chaos will look like the Pax Romana. 

But chaos has always been an ally of imperialism. If things fall apart and mayhem rules, governments and bankers in Paris, Zurich or New York have not been overly bothered. “The agenda has always been about imposing division and chaos on the Arab world,” wrote long-time peace activist Tom Hayden. “In 1992, Bernard Lewis, a major Middle East expert, write that if the central power is sufficiently weakened, there is no real civil society to hold the polity together, no real sense of common identity…the state then disintegrates into a chaos of squabbling, feuding, fighting sects, tribes, regions and parties.” 

Military intervention by the U.S. and its allies will accelerate the divisions in the Middle East. If the White House is serious about stemming the chaos, it should stop fueling the Syrian civil war, lean on the Gulf Monarchies to end their sectarian jihad against Shiites, pressure the Israelis to settle with the Palestinians, and end the campaign to isolate Iran. 

And tell the French to butt out. 

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









ECLECTIC RANT: San Francisco Poised to Implement Laura’s Law

Ralph E. Stone
Friday July 04, 2014 - 12:13:00 PM

The Board of Supervisors appears poised to finally implement Laura’s Law in San Francisco at a meeting tentatively set for July 8. Supervisor David Campos, a long-time opponent of involuntary treatment of the mentally ill, reportedly agreed to support the move if certain amendments are added. With Campos’ vote, Laura’s Law is likely to pass avoiding a November referendum on the issue. 

The amendments are window dressing in an attempt to appease opponents of Laura’s Law. To qualify for treatment, a person must have been hospitalized or jailed stemming from mental health issues twice in the past three years and have been violent to themselves or someone else in the past four years. The treatment would be administered at an outpatient facility and would not permit compelled medication. 

Laura's Law is an assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) program that allows court-ordered, intensive outpatient treatment for persons with severe mental illness who refuse medication because their illness impairs their ability to make rational decisions. 

California passed Laura’s law in 2002 and it has been extended to 2017, but only Nevada and Orange counties have implemented it fully with Los Angeles County opting for a small pilot project. Forty-five states permit the use of assisted outpatient treatment. 

One of the Campos amendments would prohibit compelled medication. This amendment illustrates a common misconception about Laura’s Law. AOT orders cannot authorize forced medication. Before a person can be compelled to take medication, a Riese hearing is required. In a Riese hearing, the person has a right to an advocate or counsel. In other words, if a person does not follow AOT treatment plan, a Riese hearing can be invoked. In short, an AOT plan can include medication only by an order issued by a judge. 

Laura’s Law is not about the physical act of forced medication. Forced medication can — and should –- only happen at a licensed medical facility. One of the goals of Laura’s Law is to eliminate the need for forced medication. 

Opponents of Laura’s Law argue that any involuntary treatment trample the civil rights of the mentally ill. The response to these opponents was well stated by Don Edward Green, former Contra Costa County probate judge: 

“Laura’s Law provides a very thorough protection of the civil rights of the persons with severe mental illness. But, you may hear claims that Laura’s Law is an infringement of civil rights. At the core of our civil rights is our ability to choose to do what we want. When a person is unable to understand the nature and consequences of their decisions because of their illness, that person is fundamentally deprived of the ability to exercise any civil rights… We make a mockery of civil rights when we ignore people with severe mental illness, leaving them on the streets until they do something we characterize as a crime, then we lock them in our overcrowded jails and prisons.” 

I urge the Board of Supervisors to implement Laura’s Law with or without the unnecessary amendments. 

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Being In Touch With Emotions—Is This a Good Thing?

Jack Bragen
Thursday July 03, 2014 - 01:22:00 PM

In the 1980's, a couple of different times I was an inpatient at Kaiser Martinez psychiatric ward, (a facility which probably no longer exists) and many of the staff members were very good. Some of them gave talks. One female staff member wrote on a chalk board the words, "Feel what you're feeling." 

My interpretation of this is that you should not be out of touch with where you are, on the emotional map, in the moment. This does not have to entail that you go deeply into traumatic incidents of the past and relive them for some profound therapeutic purpose. Rehashing old pain is often useless and it is sometimes harmful. The exceptions to this might include if old pain is interfering with your present day-to-day living, or if the issue keeps arising and doesn't go away. 

But, concerning the moment, you should at least be aware of how you feel. 

It is partly through being aware of how you feel that you might be able to forestall improper actions that could arise from painful emotions. The prevention of yelling at someone with whom you are angry isn't repression. The prevention of doing destructive things when you feel bad also isn't repression. Repression only exists when you fail to acknowledge an emotion. Self-discipline of a constructive type exists when we acknowledge our feelings but control our actions and speech. Self-harm is as negative as harming someone else. 

It is important to realize that our fellow human beings also have feelings. Other people are affected by how we behave toward them. Failing to realize that your fellow beings have feelings, and only considering your own feelings, is arrogance. This is not to say that my behavior has always been pristine. 

You can't judge someone with a mental illness by the same standards as someone else. That is, unless they are in a position of assuming responsibility and would like to be treated as a non-disabled person. That doesn't mean you can't invoke reasonable accommodation. Several editors have forgiven some of my idiosyncrasies that might be related to my condition. 

To summarize, we ought to acknowledge our feelings and not suppress them, but we do not always need to act on our feelings. 

And yet, I might add that going into the feelings excessively can cause them to be overemphasized. And this excessive emphasis on feelings is common among consumers in the mental health treatment system. It can make a person more manipulable, and can cause inability to perform in a demanding situation such as a job. Also, excessive emphasis on emotions can be pretty darned uncomfortable. 

The level of emphasis of emotions is adjustable like a volume control on a television. There may even be a "mute button" for emotions. 

This doesn't make the feelings not exist; it is an adjustment concerning how emphasized they are in consciousness, and thus of how aware we are of our feelings. For example, in an emergency situation, we're not focusing so much on how we feel because it is essential that survival actions happen. Another example: In a job situation, you can not afford to avoid certain tasks merely because they are uncomfortable—you have to work. 

(Most people haven't learned to change the emphasis level of emotions voluntarily. Usually this adjustment will happen to people as a response to environment. A more demanding environment produces a person less sensitive to discomfort. If an environment is too comfortable, you end up with an oversensitive person.) 

If you go around in life with the emotions muted at all times, then you will be cut off from a part of yourself. This can lead to severe problems in life. However, it is good to have the ability to at least temporarily suspend feelings in a situation where they would get in the way too much. 

SENIOR POWER: The people of Poplar and the residents of Nonnatus House

By Helen Rippier Wheeler, pen136@dslextreme.com
Thursday July 03, 2014 - 01:18:00 PM

I dipped into my Senior Power milk crate. A year ago now, the July 4, 2013 column began: “If you enjoyed PBS’ ‘Call the Midwife’ and want to know more about Jennifer Worth, RN RM, read on. You can also go to YouTube for an April 14, 2009 interview with her plus lots of related photographs.”  

Call the Midwife is back on PBS, and now there are numerous vignettes accessible via YouTube. 

Jennifer Lee Worth (1935-2011) was a British nurse, midwife and musician who trained at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading, and moved to London for midwifery training. She was hired as a staff nurse at London Hospital in Whitechapel, a poor and working-class East End neighborhood, known for the infamous Jack the Ripper murders in the late 1880s. Today’s residents are of varied ethnic origin, primarily Bangladeshi Bengali

With an Anglican community of nuns, she worked to aid the poor and wrote about her work as a midwife practicing in the poverty-stricken Poplar Docklands of the 1950s. Later, she became a ward sister in London hospitals, focusing on caring for the terminally ill and treating patients nearing the ends of their lives.  

She married in 1963, and had two daughters. In 1973 Jennifer Worth retired from nursing to pursue her interest in music, performing as a soloist and with choirs throughout Britain and Europe. And she began writing. Worth was 76 years old when she died of esophageal cancer.  

Call the Midwife, the first volume of her memoirs, was published in 2002. A bestseller when reissued in 2007, the trilogy sold almost a million copies in the UK. The plot follows newly qualified midwife Jenny Lee and the work of midwives and the nuns of Nonnatus House, a nursing convent, part of an Anglican religious order. The sisters and midwives carry out many nursing duties across the community. Their primary work was to help bring safe childbirth to women in the area and to look after the many newborns. Between 80 and 100 babies were born each month in Poplar. 

In 2012, BBC One commenced broadcasting the Call the Midwife television series, created by Heidi Thomas and based on Worth’s three books: Call the Midwife, Shadows of the Workhouse, and Farewell to The East End. The fourth volume of memoirs was originally titled In the Midst of Life and was published in 2010).  

Sister Julienne, head of the Nonnatus House midwives and nuns is played by Jennifer Ann “Jenny” Agutter (1952- ). Agutter began her career as a child actor, starring in The Railway Children BBC TV series and the film adaptation of the book. Her lead part in Walkabout, a 1971 film drama set in Australia, also novel-based, was memorable.  

Pamela E. “Pam” Ferris (1948- ) plays Sister Evangelina, the gruff and strong sister who climbs the rope ladder on the side of a ship moored in the Thames River to get to her patient. It is she who brings the Constable and Chummy together. For local PBS viewers, Ferris is Laura Thyme in TV’s Rosemary & Thyme. 

Jessica Raine, the actress who portrayed narrator Jenny Lee in the program since its launch, is seen leaving her job as a midwife to take up a new position as a nurse in a Marie Curie cancer hospice. Her character will continue to narrate the story with the voice of Vanessa Redgrave (1937- ).  



CALIFORNIA SENIOR NEWS: Nursing Home Care May Be Out of Reach for Many Aging 'Boomers': Study," (HealthDay, June 30, 2014). 

JAPAN SENIOR NEWS: "Nursing care hike set for high-income elderly," by Takeharu Yasuda and Naotaka Kobayashi (Yomiuri Shimbun [Tokyo], July 1, 2014). 

"Imagine 10,000 people with dementia going missing and never being found," (JapanToday, July 1, 2014). 

"Pension benefit ratio seen below 50%," (Yomiuri Shimbun, June 28, 2014). 

NEW ZEALAND SENIOR NEWS: "Robots on the march into retirement homes," by Anne Gibson (New Zealand Herald [Auckland], June 28, 2014).

Arts & Events

MUSIC REVIEWS: Ojai North Music Festival at Hertz Hall and Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes at San Francisco Symphony

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Thursday July 03, 2014 - 01:24:00 PM

Kicking off the 2014 Ojai North Music Festival on Thursday, June 19, was a comic opera by Jeremy Denk and Steven Stucky entitled The Classical Style: An Opera (of Sorts). According to Denk, Music Director of Ojai North and librettist for this comic opera, the idea of making an opera out of Charles Rosen’s erudite book The Classical Style originally came to him as a joke. Denk, who had just spent an evening with Rosen, who was both a gifted pianist and a formidable musicologist, thought it might be hilariously entertaining to poke a bit of affectionate fun at Rosen’s learned musicological analysis of the so-called “classical style” of composers Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Ludwig van Beethoven.  

The resulting comic opera, with a libretto by Denk and a pastiche musical score by Steven Stucky, and with the Knights orchestra conducted by Robert Spano, turned out to be a real hoot. Directed by Mary Birnbaum, The Classical Style opens in Heaven, where the bored Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven play Scrabble to pass the time. Throughout the opening scene, Haydn, sung by tenor Dominic Armstrong, is avuncular; Beethoven, sung by bass-baritone Ashraf Sewailam, is sententious; and Mozart, sung in a trousers role by diminutive soprano Janet Zetlan, is scatological. Mozart also reads aloud a letter he is writing to the producers of the film Amadeus asking for 25% of the film’s gross receipts. He also complains of having to hear over and over Emperor Joseph’s remark, “Too many notes,” at which point Mozart launches into outrageous coloratura roulades on the word ‘notes’. 

This is only the first of this opera’s many musical jokes. When the big 3 classical composers complain that they’ve become caricatures of themselves and long for the days when they were truly great, Haydn comes up with the idea of seeking out Charles Rosen in the hope that the author of the book The Classical Style might clarify what made them great and perhaps enable them to regain some of their former glory. Lights dim; and Charles Rosen appears, sung by bass-baritone Kim Josephson. A music student reminds Rosen he’s expected at a symposium; but Rosen instead launches into an arioso on the birth of the classical style, set to musical snatches from Beethoven’s opera Fidelio.  

The next scene takes place in a bar, where a bartender, sung by tenor Dominic Armstrong, serves drinks to characters named Dominant, Tonic, and Sub-dominant – three principal elements of western music. Dominant, sung by mezzo-soprano Rachel Calloway, complains that she feels somehow incomplete and seeks resolution. Tonic, a true narcissist sung by bass-baritone Aubrey Allicock, struts about and sings only of “me, me, me.” Subdominant, sung by mezzo-soprano Peabody Southwell, slinks about sexily and brags of her power to reconcile op-posites. This banter among musical elements is both humorous and insightful, for it highlights – by humanizing them – the roles these elements play in classical music’s overall structure. Together, they tell us, they form what Charles Rosen calls “a circle of fifths.” 

At this point, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven enter the bar looking for Charles Rosen. However, Mozart takes one look at the curvaceous Subdominant, practically sticking his nose down her cleavage, and propositions her. There is a blackout; and when the lights come up Charles Rosen delivers a brief lecture on Mozart as the most sinful and shockingly voluptuous of all composers. In a quick turnabout, characters from Mozart’s Don Giovanni rush in, accompanied by music from that opera’s opening scene. Donna Anna pursues Don Giovanni and calls for help from her father, the Commendatore. Instead of this latter, in comes a musicology Ph.D. student, Henry Snibblesworth, sung by tenor Keith Jameson, who delivers an erudite but totally beside-the-point lecture about melodic style. His discourse has the un-expected result of dampening the sexual ardor of Don Giovanni, suddenly become impotent. When Donna Anna’s father finally enters, the Commendatore, portrayed by bass-baritone Ashraf Sewailam, sings a hilarious Catalog aria to the tune of Leporello’s famous catalog aria. Here the Commendatore totes up statistics re-vealing the worldwide music industry’s prodigious exploitation of the great classical composers. 

It’s all huge fun; and it gets even funnier a bit later, when a character named The Tristan Chord enters with a patch over one eye (shades of Wotan, the Wanderer) and wearing a trench-coat. To the sound of Wagner’s famous Tristan chord, this eponymous character, sung by Kim Josephson, laments that he wanders the world homeless and unmoored. In one of this opera’s most telling lines, he sings, “Since by ambiguity I rule, by ambiguity I am ruled: Freest of all chords, I am a slave.” 

In spite – or because -- of all the fun poked at musicological analysis in this opera, there are many insightful points made here. In writing this review, I have only touched on some of the best – and funniest – of the insights this opera puts forth. Suffice it to say that librettist Jeremy Denk and composer Steven Stucky have created in The Classical Style: An Opera (of Sorts) a most entertaining and inform-ative postmodern self-referential opera. 


Britten’s Peter Grimes: 

Over the weekend of Gay Pride, June 26-9,2014, the San Francisco Symphony presented three semi-staged performances of Benjamin Britten’s first – and perhaps greatest – opera success, Peter Grimes. These performances by the Symphony, fol-lowing two earlier concerts of Britten’s music, belatedly marked the end of the centennial celebration of Britten’s birth in 1913. Benjamin Britten entered London’s Royal College of Music at age 17. On completion of his studies, Britten worked as a composer in England’s prestigious General Post Office Film Unit, writing scores for numerous documentary films. The GPO Film Unit was a hotbed of left-wing pacifists that included W.H. Auden, Christopher Isherwood, and Montagu Slater; and some were openly gay. In 1937, Britten, then 24, met the young tenor Peter Pears, who became Britten’s lifelong partner. 

The subject matter of Britten’s Peter Grimes had its source in a lengthy poem, “The Borough,” by English poet George Crabbe (1754-1832). The opera’s story, as written by librettist Montagu Slater, tells of an East Anglian fisherman, Peter Grimes, who takes on pauper boys as apprentices, works them overly hard, and becomes personally haunted – and hated by the locals – when three successive apprentices die in suspicious circumstances, two at sea and the third by falling off a cliff when ordered by Grimes to report for work. For this tragic tale, Britten wrote music of overwhelming power, mixing moments of harsh dissonance (the “Storm”), lyrical passages (Ellen Orford’s soliloquy in the first scene), salty sea-chanteys, and complex polyrhythmic choruses (the pub scene at “The “Boar” in Act II). In Peter Grimes, which premiered at Sadler’s Wells in 1945 with Peter Pears as Grimes, Britten established himself as a master of many different musical styles, at once both modern and traditional. 

For the San Francisco Symphony performances of Peter Grimes, Music Director/Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas assembled a large and excellent cast of singers; a large chorus under the direction of Ragnar Bohlin; a substantial orchestra augmented by a xylophone, a celeseta, and an organ; and video projections designed by Adam Larsen. These latter consist of stark black-and-gray images of the sea and the seaside village. Sometimes, the audience has the impression it is viewing the village as if from a fishing boat offshore. 

As Peter Grimes begins, lawyer Mr. Swallow, sung here by baritone John Relyea, questions Grimes about his recent apprentice’s mysterious death at sea. Coming after the previous death of an apprentice, the villagers are gossiping that Grimes is a murderer. But Swallow, forcefully sung by John Relyea, chides the villagers for putting too much stake in gossip and declares that this must be considered an accidental death. This does not satisfy the villagers: They smell blood and they want Grimes to pay.  

In the role of Peter Grimes, Australian tenor Stuart Skelton gave a robust per-formance, his husky voice rising and falling like the tides of the sea. Skelton por-trayed Grimes as an obsessive-compulsive individual, aware of his position as an outsider in society, yet driven to make good by hauling in a large catch of fish and thereby ‘buying’ the respect he so craves from his fellow villagers. However, in the course of this opera, Grimes’s obsessive-compulsive behavior becomes almost psychopathic; and questions about him linger throughout – and even after – the opera. 

As the widow Ellen Orford, Elza van den Heever, a former San Francisco Opera Merola and Adler Fellow, gave a very fine performance, her lilting soprano expressing her stable conviction that Peter Grimes is innocent of the crimes the villagers suspect him of committing. Yet when Ellen discovers in Act II the bruises on the neck of the third of Peter’s apprentices, Elza van den Heever renders a lyrical outpouring of pain at the discovery that Ellen’s faith in Peter (and her hopes to marry him) may be misplaced. In Ellen’s Act III “Embroidery” duet with retired Sea Captain Balstrode (sung here by baritone Alan Opie), Elza van den Heever gave voice to wistful resignation in the face of certain tragedy, yet joined with Balstrode in vowing to stick with Grimes to the bitter end.  

Very few villagers aside from Ellen and Balstrode, give Grimes any sympathy. Only Ned Keene, sung here by baritone Eugene Brancoveanu, occasionally chimes in to support Grimes. Meanwhile, Rev. Horace Adams, sung here by tenor Kim Begley, hurls imprecations at Grimes while brandishing aloft the Bible. Mrs. Sedley, sung here by mezzo-soprano Nancy Maultsby, is a laudanum-addicted gossip-monger who wants Grimes’s hide. Tenor Richard Cox sings the role of the ever-drunk Bob Boles; and bass Kevin Langan sings the role of Hobson, the carter, who washes his hands of the affairs of the villagers. Likewise, “Auntie,” the local pub-keeper, sung here by mezzo-soprano Ann Murray, wants only to offer her pub, “The Boar,” as a place for the villagers to forget their cares by drowning them in drink. She also hopes to find suitable husbands for her young nieces, sung here by soprano Nikki Enfield and mezzo-soprano Abigail Nims. In Act II, Auntie and her nieces, together with Ellen Orford, sing a lovely lyrical quartet in which they express that when menfolk rail and rage, women offer them motherly nurture and a place of peace and calm. 

Meanwhile, Grimes has trouble getting his new young apprentice, who seems fearful of being hurt further by his sometimes brutal master, to report for sea-duty. Finally, a worked-up Grimes practically shoves his apprentice down a steep path that leads to a cove where their boat is beached. Violence is in the air; and only a few steps further the apprentice stumbles and plunges off the cliff to his death. Grimes, now thoroughly deranged, searches in vain for the boy’s body. Then, aware of what the villagers will think, he staggers towards home. When Balstrode encounters Grimes, the sympathetic retired sea-captain senses how utterly distraught and deranged Grimes has become. In a conversation overheard by Ellen, Balstrode advises Grimes to sink himself and his boat at sea rather than face the angry villagers. Grimes apparently heeds Balstrode’s advice, for a boat is reportedly seen sinking offshore. However, a question remains: By this end-point in the opera, are Balstrode and Ellen more than a little suspicious that Grimes may well be guilty, or do they simply understand that Grimes has endured far too many blows from a cruel fate to face up yet again to the angry mob of villagers? 

Throughout Peter Grimes, under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas the San Francisco Symphony navigated quite brilliantly Britten’s ebbing and flowing musical score. Likewise, the Symphony Chorus under the direction of Ragnar Bohlin made vital contributions to this opera’s portrayal of gossiping and angry village mobs. Stage and Costume Director James Darrah made good use of the ramped stage, and he was especially astute in his decision, towards the end of Act III, to have singers and chorus members sometimes enter and exit the stage through the audience, thereby implicating us all as villagers standing in judgment of Peter Grimes. Finally, credit is due Scenic and Lighting Designer Cameron Jaye Mock for helping video artist Adam Larsen create a visual ambience of an East Anglian seaside village. For Benjamin Britten, Peter Grimes was an intensely personal work. As a homosexual in an era far less accepting of homosexuality than today, Britten was well aware of what it meant to be a social outcast about whom straight people might suspect all sorts of things, including abuse of young boys. Yet Britten once ex-pressed himself thusly about the character of Peter Grimes: “Grimes represents man against a narrow society,” explained Britten. “He is a little different; he has a little more imagination. You have to sense his pride and his helplessness.” Perhaps by performing Britten’s Peter Grimes on the weekend celebrating Gay Pride, Music Director/Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, himself a gay man, sought not only to celebrate Benjamin Britten, but also to inspire in all of us a bit of empathy towards individuals who are, as Britten wrote, “a little different.”

Birthday Party for the Berkeley Post Office

Hali Hammer
Friday July 04, 2014 - 08:31:00 AM

It’s the 239th birthday of the United States Post Office and the 100th birthday of the Berkeley Post Office! Please join in the celebration which will include a birthday cake, music, and a group photo. These festivities will be one of many events throughout the country commemorating National Postal Heritage Day.

What: Birthday Party for the Berkeley Post Office

Where: On the steps of the Main Post Office, 2000 Allston Way at Milvia, Berkeley CA

When: Saturday, July 26, 2014 from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. 

Contact: Hali Hammer, 1609 Woolsey Street,, Berkeley CA 94703, halih@yahoo.com (510) 649-1423

FILM REVIEW: Aaron Swartz:
The Internet's Own Boy
Opens July 4 at San Francisco's Roxie Theater

Reviewed by Gar Smith
Friday July 04, 2014 - 08:09:00 AM

It is only right that the filmed story of Aaron Swartz' amazing life and tragic death opens on Independence Day. This boy-genius, Internet pioneer, free speech activist and information liberator changed everyone's lives in many ways but when his idealism and organizing skills clashed with a corporate game-plan to secure massive profits by seizing electronic control of the flow of ideas, two things happened: (1) Against all odds, he thwarted Big Data's plot and (2) the US government pulled out all stops to destroy him. 


Aaron helped create Reddit and the Creative Commons copyright system; he helped launch the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. Awash in "buy-out" money, he left the East Coast for San Francisco and a short-lived gig with WIRED magazine that ended when Aaron tired of the "grey office monotony." 

His life took a dramatic turn when a friend alerted him to a little-known piece of federal legislation called the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). The corporate-bankrolled legislation was considered a shoo-in by Washington pols and lobbyists but Aaron rightly saw it as a threat to Internet freedom. 

There is a saying that "Information wants to be free." In this case, information needed a helping hand. Aaron founded a group called Demand Progress and, against all odds, wound up leading an energized popular resistance that overturned Big Data's apple cart. The SOPA Goliath was defeated by millions of electronically connected Davids. 

Suddenly, Aaron Swartz was a force to be reckoned with. And this film details—in chilling, agonizing detail—how government investigators targeted an idealistic young man with proven political power. They finally brought him down by accusing him of "stealing" electronic versions of academic articles stored by MIT and controlled by a profit-making corporation that charged users to read the articles. (Under this business model, the scholars who actually wrote the articles were not compensated.) 

Aaron may have been a bit of a pain as a chubby pre-teen, lecturing adult computer geeks at college seminars, but when he hit his teens, he turned into a lean, keen polemic machine. He was instantly charismatic, with a compelling voice and a passion for ideas that was soul-deep and palpable. Whether he was shaved and combed or (more likely) scruffy and rumpled, you couldn't take your eyes off him. The Internet's Own Boy captures Aaron's energy and enthusiasm in videotapes of his many impassioned interviews but the film also benefits from the inclusion of scores of intimate snapshots contributed by friends, coworkers, admirers and the two remarkable young women in his life – Quinn Norton and Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman. 

As the feds close in and tighten the net, you can see the emotional pressures building in the voices and faces of Aaron's parents, his closest friends, his colleagues (including Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig), and his defenders. Aaron's apartment is raided. He is arrested, thrown into lockdown and threatened with years in a prison cell. For a free spirit like Aaron, this was (quite literally) a maddening proposition. In one raw and emotionally charged interview, Aaron's girlfriend Quinn Norton visibly vibrates with anguish and rage as she recalls the pain the government's relentless persecution brought into their lives. 

Director Brian Knappnberger's harrowing and moving testament to Aaron's life pulls no punches. It shows what can happen when you "speak truth to power." If you pose a threat to established political and corporate power, you run the risk of being destroyed – either convicted for violating a federal law or driven to helpless despair as the government's noose draws ever tighter around your neck. 

Aaron refused to cut a deal with the government prosecutors. As a result, he was facing many years of imprisonment. On January 11, 2013, Aaron Swartz committed suicide. He was 26 years old. 

Director Brian Knappenberger's Statement:  

Aaron's story reached far beyond the Internet communities in which he was a celebrity. It also struck a chord with people who were outraged about government overreach, both technological and in our criminal justice system. 

Criminalization has become our knee-jerk response to pretty much anything that scares us or that we don't understand. This is true for everything from the war on drugs to terrorism, but even includes areas like open access to information. 

This is the moment when we need to make sure our values and civil liberties are stitched into the code our networked world. Geeks and hackers already knew this but, thanks to Edward Snowden and people like Aaron Swartz, now everyone is beginning to realize it. Without basic civil liberties and freedom of speech, all the other causes you feel strongly about can't get solved. 

Aaron's story embodies all of this and more. But his actions while he was alive also demonstrated the potential of technological tools to transform our lives and democracy for the better. His loss shows us what we lose when we are tone deaf about technology and its relationship to our civil liberties. But it also shows us how we can do better. 


"How We Stopped SOPA"  

Aaron Swartz' Galvanizing Keynote Speech  

At F2C: Freedom to Connect 2012, in Washington DC on May 21 2012. 






The Guerilla Open Access Manifesto






November 8, 1986 - Born in Chicago, Illinois - son of Susan and Robert Swartz 

Childhood - attended North Shore Country Day School, a small private school in Winnetka, Illinois. Robert Swartz founded a software company. Aaron immersed in Internet culture. 

3 years old - Self-taught himself how to read 

Elementary School - Built ATM machine for school project 

12 years old - Diagnosed with ulcerative colitis which would plague him for the rest of his life 

13 years old - won second prize at ArsDigita, a competition for young people who create "useful, educational, and collaborative" noncommercial websites. Prize included a trip to MIT. 

14 years old - served on the RDF Core working group at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), authored RFC 3870. Helped develop the RSS Standard. "Agitated without cease - or compensation - for the free culture movement." 

2001 - Creative commons founded. 

2002 (age 16) - Aaron emails Lawrence Lessig with a suggestion on how to design certain creative commons licenses. 

2002 - Launch of Creative Commons Version 1.0 - with Larry Lessig, Aaron talks about metadata. "Represent bibliographical information in a machine readable format." Says about Aaron saying how could we fail when "we have this genius creating our infastructure." 

October 9, 2002, and on January 15, 2003 - Eldrid v. Ashcroft argument argued by Lawrence Lessig in front of the Supreme court. 

2004 (age 18) - enrolled at Stanford likely to be near Lessig, joining the class of ‘08 but wrote in his blog that he didn't "find it an intellectual atmosphere." Meets with Paul Graham, drops out of Stanford and moves to Boston within a year. 

March 2004 - Co-creator of Markdown. Gets involved in start-up world. Founded Infogami through Y Combinator - part of Y Combinator's first Summer Founders program. 

November, 2005 - at the suggestion of Y Combinator organizers, Infogami merges with Reddit. 

Summer 2006 - attends Wikimania with Richard Stallman 

Late 2006 - after months of negotiations, Reddit acquired by Condé Nast Publications, owners of Wired magazine. Swartz moves to San Francisco to work with Wired. It doesn't work out, he's asked to leave and not told why, said to be a "messy divorce" with other Reddit co-founders. Describes office life on his blog and why he never gets anything done; "You wake up in the morning, take some crushing public transit system or dodge oncoming traffic to get to work, grab some food, and then sit down at your desk" the "grey office monotony sneaks through." 

November 16, 2006 - Aaron blog post about public domain works - includes Kayle and Lofgren. 

September 2007 - with Simon Carstensen, Swartz launches Jottit. Becomes a fellow at Harvard University′s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics 

2008 - Swartz founded Watchdog.net to aggregate data about politicians. 

December, 2008 - authors a Harvard Law Review paper with Shireen Barday which looked through thousands of law review articles looking for law professors who had been paid by industry patrons to write papers. 

Architected OpenLibrary.org - the Internet Archive's free public catalog of books 

2008 - the federal court system briefly allowed free access to its court records system, Pacer (normally eight cents per page) Using a small PERL script, he pulled nearly 20 million pages of public court documents - now available for free on the Internet Archive. FBI investigates the PACER hack, but no charges are filed. 

2009 - Aaron took a month long vacation from the Internet 

January 2009 to August 2010 - From PCCC Aaron Swartz "contributed so much to the launch of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and our technology during our first 20 months, from January 2009 to August 2010 

October 5, 2009 - Aaron FOIA's his own FBI file 


2010 - founded Demand Progress, non-profit group that helped drive successful grassroots opposition to SOPA 

June, 2010 - Internet "Kill switch" initiated by Joseph Leiberman. Demand Progress fights against it. 

2010 - New Yorker article quotes Quinn Norton saying she spent most of 2010 keeping him away from suicide. 

September 24th, 2010 to January 6th, 2011 - Aaron accessed MIT's network to scrape an "extraordinary volume of articles" from the academic database JSTOR - after several attempts by JSTOR and MIT to block him, Swartz gained access to a restricted closet and directly hardwired his laptop to the network, leaving it there to pull data. 

September 24th, 2010 - Aaron Swartz buys an Acer laptop from a local computer store and registers it on the MIT campus under the fictitious name "Gary Host" with the client name "ghost laptop." 

September 24th & 25th, 2010 - According to indictment, working under the client name "Ghost laptop" Swartz uses the Acer laptop to run a program called "keepgrabbing.py" which begins to download an "extraordinary volume of articles" from JSTOR. 

September 25th, 2010 EVENING - JSTOR blocks the IP address of Aaron's Acer laptop and stops the downloading. 

September 26th, 2010 - Swartz assigns his computer a different IP address and continues to mass download articles. By midday JSTOR had blocked that address and a broader range of IP addresses [known as the class C network], which took out JSTOR service for a large number of users at MIT. JSTOR notifies MIT. 

September 27th, 2010 - MIT blocks the MAC address - the unique identifier - of the Acer laptop's interface card and bans the "ghost laptop" from it's network entirely. MIT's access to JSTOR is restored. 

October 2nd, 2010 - the "ghost laptop" was back, this time Swartz had spoofed the MAC address. 

October 9th, 2010 - Swartz re-registers the computer under "Grace Host" and by the 9th was downloading articles again. JSTOR blocks the entire MIT network from its services for several days. 

November through December 2010 - Swartz physically installs a laptop in a wiring closet in the basement of Building 16 on the MIT campus and downloads another two million "articles, reviews, news stories, editorials and miscellaneous documents." He hides the laptop and a "succession" of external storage drives under a box in the closet. 

November 2, 2010 - US Elections. Taren says two days before is the first time she spent any time with Aaron. They met in Summer of 2009. 

December 26, 2010 – JSTOR informs MIT that it has detected additional excessive downloading (The message is not received until after the holiday break). Morning of January 4th, 2011 - MIT personnel found Swartz's laptop and connected a second computer to the network switch to monitor Swartz's activity. U.S. Secret Service took over the investigation. Secret Service agent Michael Prickett recommended MIT personnel leave Swartz's laptop in the closet for monitoring. Acquired data was given to the Secret Service. NOTE: MIT IT dept. calls MIT Police who in turn calls a Cambridge PD Detective who they've worked with before on computer issues. The SS agent shows up with the detective. 

January 5, 2011 – US Attorney's office opens criminal investigation of the accessing of MIT's network. 

January 6th, 2011 - Swartz enters the wiring closet to retrieve his computer, holding his bike helmet up to shield his face. He takes the computer and leaves the closet, tries to connect again from a different building. After chasing him down, MIT and Cambridge police with the help of special agent Prickett, arrested Swartz on charges of breaking and entering with intent to commit a felony. NOTE: He successfully connects the laptop in another building where it is discovered later that day and before his arrest. 

January 14, 2011 - Three MIT employees (two from IS&T, one from Libraries) are interviewed by an Assistant U.S. Attorney, a special agent of the U.S. Secret Service, and a Cambridge Police detective. 

January 27, 2011- First grand jury subpoena is served on MIT. Raid of Aaron's office and apartment 

February 2011 - Wisconsin labor union protests begin. Taren and Aaron meet each other there. She says she is flirting with him, but he's distracted. She doesn't realize at the time that he had just been arrested a few weeks before. 

February 4, 2011 - MIT's first production of documents in response to the January 27, 2011, subpoena. 

February 18, 2011 - MIT's second production of documents in response to the January 

27, 2011, subpoena. 

February 28, 2011 - MIT's third production of documents in response to the January 27, 

2011, subpoena. 

April 13, 2011 - MIT's final production of records in response to the January 27, 2011, 


May 6, 2011 - Heymann tells MIT's Office of the General Counsel (OGC) that Aaron Swartz rejected a plea offer, and the case would likely move forward as a felony charge. 

June 3, 2011 - JSTOR settles its potential civil claims with Aaron Swartz. 

June 6, 2011 - MIT retains outside counsel experienced in criminal law. 

June 13, 2011 - Robert Swartz reaches out to the incoming Director of the MIT Media Lab, where he is a consultant, for assistance in dealing with MIT's administration and OGC on behalf of his son. 

June 13, 2011 - OGC responds via email to defense attorney William Kettlewell, informing him that MIT is not taking a position on whether Swartz should be prosecuted. 

June 21, 2011 - A conversation with the lead prosecutor leads OGC to infer that MIT's views on the case will have little impact on the prosecution going forward. 

June 24, 2011 - Second grand jury subpoena is served on MIT. 

July 6, 2011 - MIT's production of records in response to June 24, 2011, subpoena. 

Summer of 2011 - Starts to date Taren Stinebrickner - Kaufman. Assures her that depression he wrote about on blog was a thing of the past. "started doing the dishes for the first time" - (from memorial.) 

July 14, 2011 - INITIAL INDICTMENT federal prosecutors charged Swartz with four felony counts, including wire fraud, computer fraud, theft of information from a computer and recklessly damaging a computer 

July 19th, 2011 - Aaron Swartz voluntarily appears at the federal courthouse and is arrested. He is released on $100,000 bail 

July 19th, 2011 - JSTOR says in a statement that they "had no interest in this becoming an ongoing legal matter." 

July 19, 2011 - Demand Progress publishes article on Internet and solicits statements and signatures in support of Aaron Swartz. 

September 14, 2011 - Robert Swartz meets with MIT's Chancellor and an attorney from the OGC, and is told MIT's position is that of "neutrality." 

October 25, 2011 - Martin Weinberg takes over as Aaron Swartz's new defense attorney. 

October 27, 2011 - Andrew Good withdraws as defense attorney for Aaron Swartz. 


November 30, 2011 - Arraigned in Middlesex superior court - pleads not guilty SOPA 

May 12, 2011 - PIPA introduced in the Senate 

May 26th, - 2011 - PIPA Passes Senate judiciary committee by unanimous voice vote 

June 30, 2011 - Gamer community begins to get involved, putting protests on YouTube. 

Demand Progress call to action. 

October 25th, 2011 

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Center For Rights on Vimeo


October 26th, 2011 - SOPA introduced in the House with strong support 

November 16th, 2011 - House Judiciary holds meetings on SOPA, and the first major day of protest, called "American Censorship Day is held. 1 million people contact congress in one day and 2 million people sign petitions. Lofgren participates and censors her own page. 

Nov 29 - Dec 15, 2011 - calls continue 

Dec 22, 2011 - Large scale protests against GoDaddy for support of SOPA and PIPA. Users transfer their domains away from GoDaddy. By Dec 29th, GoDaddy had caved and had reversed their support. 

January 5th, 2012 - In person meetings with Senators 

Friday, Jan. 13, 2012: SOPA and PIPA Authors Remove DNS Provisions 

Monday, Jan. 16, 2012: The White House Takes a Stand 

Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012: Wikipedia Announces Blackout, Google Plans to Censor Logo 

Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012: The Day The Internet Went Dark 

Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012: SOPA and PIPA Enter the Mainstream 

Friday, Jan. 20, 2012: Congress Tables SOPA and PIPA 

March 8th, 2012 - State drops charges against Swartz. These include anything involving the physical break-in. 

April 25, 2012 - William Kettlewell and Martin Weinberg meet with MIT's outside counsel. 

August 9, 2012 - MIT's outside counsel speaks with Heymann, communicating MIT's positions on various issues concerning the prosecution of Aaron Swartz. 

September 12, 2012 - Robert Swartz again meets with MIT's Chancellor and an attorney from the OGC. 

Sept. 12, 2012 - prosecutors filed a superseding indictment with thirteen felony counts - increasing Swartz's maximum penalty to 50 years in prison. Number of counts against him goes from 4 to 13. 

September 18, 2012 - Eleven MIT employees (nine from IS&T, one from Libraries, and one from MIT Police) are interviewed by two Assistant U.S. Attorneys, a special agent of the U.S. Secret Service, and a Cambridge Police detective. 

September 24, 2012 - Swartz Arraigned on superseding indictment, pleads not guilty to all counts. 

September 28, 2012 - Martin Weinberg and William Kettlewell meet with MIT's Chancellor, General Counsel, and outside counsel, asking MIT to meet with the USAO in support of Aaron Swartz, and describing the motions they will file to suppress evidence, including that the motions will allege that MIT collected or produced information unlawfully. 

October 5th, 2012 - Defense attorney Martin Weinberg files five motions to suppress evidence and one motion to dismiss the indictment. 

October 16, 2012 - Two MIT employees from IS&T are interviewed by two Assistant U.S. Attorneys and a Cambridge Police detective. 

October 26, 2012 - MIT's outside counsel notifies Martin Weinberg that MIT is willing to attend a meeting with the U.S. Attorney's Office, and of what MIT is willing to say, and not willing to say. 

October 31, 2012 - Martin Weinberg withdraws as Aaron Swartz's defense counsel. 

November 6, 2012 - Elliot Peters notifies MIT's outside counsel that Aaron Swartz's defense no longer seeks its participation in a meeting with the U.S. Attorney's Office. 

November 8, 2012 - Elliot Peters and Michael J. Pineault assume representation of Aaron Swartz in federal court. 

November 16th, 2012 - Government files opposition to motions to suppress. Response "included a panoply of 22 exhibits... including photographs... argues that many of Swartz's motions to suppress evidence are without merit..." 

December 7, 2012 - Swartz's legal team ask to delay his trial from February to June and filed responses to the government's replies to his motions to suppress evidence. Ortiz and Heymann charged Swartz under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act - 29-year-old law, notable for being out of date and broadly interpretable. 

December 11, 2012 – Two MIT employees, one from MIT Libraries and one from IS&T, are interviewed by an attorney and an expert witness for Aaron Swartz. 

December 14, 2012 - A hearing on the previously filed motions to dismiss and suppress is scheduled for January 25, 2013. 

January 3, 2013 - Five MIT employees (three from IS&T, one from MIT Police, and one from Human Resources) are interviewed by two Assistant U.S. Attorneys and a Cambridge Police detective. 

January 4, 2013 - Four MIT employees (three from IS&T and one from Libraries) are interviewed by two Assistant U.S. Attorneys and a Cambridge Police detective. 

January 9, 2013 – Prosecution rejects a plea deal that would have kept AS out of prison. 

January 9, 2013 – JSTOR announces an archive of 1200+ articles will be made available for free reading by the public. 

January 11, 2013 – A motion is filed to supplement the Oct 5 motions to suppress Evidence "with a critical document only recently produced to Swartz by the Government." [This is the email between Heymann and the Secret Service "that would have helped suppress illegally-acquired evidence"] 

January 11th, 2013 - Aaron Swartz, age 26, commits suicide in Brooklyn, New York. 

January 12, 2013 – White House petitions to remove Carmen Ortiz from office and to fire Steve Heymann are created. 

January 13, 2013 - Anonymous attacks MIT with a DoS attack, defaces websites. 

January 13, 2013 - Hal Ableson chosen to lead MIT report 

January 14th, 2013 - Carmen Ortiz dismisses the Swartz case (The judge was Judge Nathanial M. Gordon but it is the prosecution who actually dismisses the case.) 

January 14ish, 2013 – Christina Sterling, spokesperson for Carmen Ortiz's office says they will not comment on the case because they want to respect the privacy of the family. 

January 15, 2013 – Petition to remove Carmen Oritz from office reaches threshold needed 

January 15, 2013 – The White House announces they're raising the threshold of petition signatures needed to solicit a response from 25k to 11k but says it will not be applied retroactively to pre-existing petitions. 

January 15, 2013 – House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa announces investigation into the Justice Department's prosecution of AS. 

January 15, 2013 - Zoe Lofgren announces she will introduce a bill, "Aaron's Law," to amend the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. 

January 16, 2013 – Carmen Ortiz releases statement on AS death, says that prosecution was appropriate even though there was no evidence that AS "committed his acts for personal financial gain." Claims her office never sought a max sentence. 

January 18, 2013 – Senator John Cornyn (R - TX) sends a "sharply worded letter" to Attorney General Eric Holder questioning DOJ's prosecution of AS. 

January 19th, 2013 - Memorial at the Great Hall at New York's Cooper Union 

January 25, 2013 – Today would have been the hearing on previously filed motions to 

suppress evidence. 

January 28, 2013 – Darrel Issa (R) and Elijah Cummings (D) send a joint letter to Attorney General posing question about the prosecution and requesting a briefing. 

January 28, 2013 – Elliot Peters files a complaint with the DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility accusing Heymann of misconduct alleging that he withheld an email that would have helped suppress illegally acquired evidence. Accuses him of "violating his duty of candor to the court" and of using "extreme" plea offers to "coerce" a deal. 

February 4, 2013 – The trial was originally scheduled to begin today. 

February 9th/10th, 2013 – "Fire Steve Heymann" petition reaches threshold required be 

answered by White House. 

February 15, 2013 – DOJ gives private briefing to House Oversight Committee staffers. 

February 27ish, 2013 – Darrell Issa says in an interview that he plans to expand his 


March 6, 2013 – Attorney General Eric Holder defends prosecution before a Senate 

committee (The hearing covered a variety of topics – not just Swartz). 


NOTE: Because this film is a production of Participant Films, after you watch it, you can take action by signing a petition. 

Tell the DOJ: #NoMoreAarons! Sign the Petition for Better Oversight for Federal Attorney Misconduct 

NOTE: Although the film is not being screened in Berkeley (it was screened for three days in June at the SF IndieFest), you can watch it online and for free – the way Aaron would have wanted it. The film is available on Vimeo, iTunes, Google, Xbox, Movies on Demand and elsewhere. 



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