Category Archives: Community

Video report: Rallying for compassionate politics


Here’s an important and ongoing story given far too little coverage in mainstream media.

First up, the Contributor Network poses a question:

This Past Saturday, 80K Plus Marched on Raleigh, NC. Why Didn’t We Hear About It?

A crowd declared by organizers to exceed 80,000 showed up to march to protest Republican policies in Raleigh, N.C. Saturday. But you wouldn’t know it if you live outside the area.

Saturday’s big march, organized by the North Carolina NAACP and more than 160 partner organizations, was called “the Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) People’s Coalition.” Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the NC NAACP and convener of HKonJ, said at the march:

“We are black, white, Latino, Native American. We are Democrat, Republican, independent. We are people of all faiths, and people not of faith but who believe in a moral universe. We are natives and immigrants, business leaders and workers and unemployed, doctors and the uninsured, gay and straight, students and parents and retirees. We stand here – a quilt of many colors, faiths, and creeds.”

There were few reports in any national news outlets (though USA Today did carry a report, saying there was “a crowd of between 80,000 and 100,000 people”), but some local media picked up the story.

And for more depth, here’s a report on the rally and its origins from The Real News Network:

80,000+ Moral Monday Protesters Fight For Justice Regardless of Which Party Is In Power

From the transcript:

JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.

So, do you remember the Moral Monday protests? Well, they’re back, and last Saturday, tens of thousands marched in Raleigh, North Carolina, protesting policies enacted by the GOP-controlled legislature and Republican governor Pat McCrory. Participants came from all over the country to join the Forward Together / Moral movement and the HKonJ, which is the Historic Thousands on Jones St. People’s Assembly, to reignite the Moral Monday protests.

Here’s just a quick look at the GOP’s record in North Carolina and what these protesters are fighting against. Since 2010, they’ve ended the earned income tax credit. They’ve also refused to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act. And they cut pre-K programs and passed voter ID laws requiring voter IDs, and eliminated same-day voter registration.

Now joining us to discuss all this is one of the leaders of the movement, Reverend Curtis Gatewood. Reverend Gatewood is the HKonJ Coalition coordinator for the North Carolina NAACP. From 2005 to 2011, Gatewood served as the second vice president of the state’s NAACP.

Thanks for joining us, Rev. Gatewood.

REV. CURTIS E. GATEWOOD, COMMUNITY ORGANIZER, NORTH CAROLINA NAACP: Hello, Jessica. It’s a pleasure to be here.

DESVARIEUX: So, Rev. Gatewood, let’s get right into this. Can you just discuss why your group decided to participate in this march?

GATEWOOD: Well, first, I do feel that there’s a certain level of honor due as I bring greetings on behalf of the North Carolina NAACP State Conference, where we have the conspicuous and prophetic leadership of Rev. William J. Barber[incompr.]II, who in 2005 was elected to become the state NAACP president at the same time, as you mention, I was elected second vice president.

After that, Rev. Barber worked with leaders around the state to form what is now known as HKonJ, the HKonJ Coalition, which is the acronym for Historic Thousands on Jones St. As a part of the coalition, we were able to put together an agenda which was also related to the mission of the NAACP. And by putting together the agenda, we were able to identify experts within the community, for example education equality. Of course, then we would look for experts who speak to those issues–women’s rights, health care for all.

Or so–as we put together this, about a 14-point agenda, which basically now can be broken down to about five categories, we were able to identify issues at the state level. And since that formation of HKonJ and its coalition, we have gone across the state in building and focusing on legislative issues that were served the worst interests of our agenda.

So we first of all want to make clear that we did not just start challenging policies because we have now a majority Republican House. In fact, when we started, we had a majority Democratic House.

Humans and landscapes, a complex interaction


On his UC Berkeley faculty website, archaeologist Patrick V. Kirch lists his specialties as “Prehistory and ethnography of Oceania, ethnoarchaeology and settlement archaeology, prehistoric agricultural systems, cultural ecology and paleoenvironmentalism, ethnobotany and ethnoscience, development of complex societies in Oceania.”

In this presentation Dr. Kirch applies the ideas of the cultural landscape developed by an earlier Berkeley geographer, Carl O. Sauer, to human interaction with the landscapes of three Polynesian cultures, those of Mangareva, Mo’orea, and Hawaii.

What kept the Polynesian Islands so green? In part, the phosphorus blown in the winds in dust from China and Mongolia.

But some islands, like those of the Mangareva archipelago and Easter Island, lay in regions missed by the winds from Asia, leaving one other source of phosphorus and other key soil nutrients, populations of fish-eating, guano-pooping sea birds.

Todat the once-forested islets of Mangareva, the smallest, most barren, and most ancient of the three, today resemble a nearly barren desert islands, landscapes created in large part by the relatively late arrival of Polynesians who eliminated or decimated the once varied native bird populations.

Mo’orea is a much younger island, with the human population living in intimate relationship with an evolving and eroding landscape, shifting settlement as new soils are exposed and older soils become depleted.

And then there’s Hawaii, a still-growing landscape but nonetheless precarious landscapes populated by an emerging state society that had neared the carrying capacity of the delicate landscape when Europeans arrived, along with the diseases that laid waste to the Polynesians.

From University of California Television, an important reminder of just how delicate our world really is:

Island Landscapes or Sauer Among the Polynesians

Program notes:

Geographer Carl Ortwin Sauer demonstrated through his work and writings that landscapes are the long-term contingent product of interactions between natural processes and cultural forces. In this lecture, Patrick Kirch, Professor of Anthropology and Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley, applies the concept of landscape to the islands of Polynesia. Drawing upon recent multi-disciplinary research, Kirch shows how certain natural properties of islands shaped the course of cultural and social evolution of island peoples, at the same time that cumulative effect of human actions irreversibly altered island environments. Series: “UC Berkeley Graduate Council Lectures” [2/2014]

Headlines of the day II: EconoPoliAsianWoes


Today’s compilation of economic, political, and environmental developments opens with a somber statement from the Economic Times:

US economy may be stuck in slow lane for long run

Two straight weak job reports have raised doubts about economists’ predictions of breakout growth in 2014. The global economy is showing signs of slowing _ again. Manufacturing has slumped. Fewer people are signing contracts to buy homes. Global stock markets have sunk as anxiety has gripped developing nations.

Some long-term trends are equally dispiriting.

The Congressional Budget Office foresees growth picking up through 2016, only to weaken starting in 2017. By the CBO’s reckoning, the economy will soon slam into a demographic wall: The vast baby boom generation will retire. Their exodus will shrink the share of Americans who are working, which will hamper the economy’s ability to accelerate.

At the same time, the government may have to borrow more, raise taxes or cut spending to support Social Security and Medicare for those retirees.

From the Daily Dot, the latest from the party of family values:

Are fake candidate websites the new political attack ads?

Republican politicians finally figured out how to use the Internet as a campaign tool, and they’re really proud of themselves. Unfortunately, the GOP’s newfound Web savvy has taken the form of a campaign program that’s ethically questionable, intensely negative, and may or may not be against the law.

The National Republican Congressional Committee created a spate of fake websites for Democratic candidates that at first glance look like normal, legit sites, but then rip into the candidate in the text. The faux sites also have donation forms that send funds to the NRCC. There are several fake microsites up now, and the committee says it’s buying up URLs to create even more.

So is this shit even legal? It’s not an easy thing to answer. The spoof sites teeter on the fine line between parody and fraud, and the devil is in the details of the election law. According to Federal Election Commission regulations, political groups can’t use a candidate’s name in a “special project”—like a website—unless it “clearly and unambiguously shows opposition to the named candidate.”

Cementing class divisions with the San Jose Mercury News:

High prices sending Bay Area renters and homebuyers to outlying communities

Squeezed by astronomical home prices and rents that are almost as unaffordable, a growing number of Bay Area residents are pulling up stakes and trading long commutes for cheaper housing.

They’re heading to places like Tracy, Mountain House, Patterson, Hollister and Los Banos. Some are buying bigger homes and others are renting for much less, hoping to put money aside for a down payment of their own one day, in a replay of the eastward migration during the dot-com boom.

“Rentals in the Bay Area are just too high,” said Alma Gomez, an administrative assistant for Union City who’s heading east with her family.

The San Francisco Chronicle covers another kind of costly leak:

Bay Bridge’s new problem: leaks

The just-opened eastern span of the Bay Bridge, already beset by questions about flawed welds and cracked steel rods, has a new problem: It leaks.

Rainwater is dripping into the steel structure beneath the road deck on the suspension stretch of the span, which is supposed to be watertight, Caltrans said. Outside experts say that could pose a risk of corrosion on a bridge that cost $6.4 billion and is supposed to last well into the 22nd century.

“That’s a problem, a big problem,” said Lisa Thomas, a metallurgical engineer who studies material failure at a laboratory in Berkeley and analyzed bridge rods that snapped last year. “They want it to last 150 years, but with water coming in, something is going to corrode until it’s too thin and weak.”

From the Washington Post removing pedal appendage from orifice:

AOL chief reverses changes to 401(k) policy after a week of bad publicity

AOL chief executive Tim Armstrong told employees in an e-mail Saturday evening that he was reversing the company’s 401(k) policy and apologized for his controversial comments last week.

“The leadership team and I listened to your feedback over the last week,” Armstrong wrote in his e-mail to the company. “We heard you on this topic. And as we discussed the matter over several days, with management and employees, we have decided to change the policy back to a per-pay-period matching contribution.”

The policy change would have switched 401(k) matching contributions to an annual lump sum, rather than being distributed throughout the year with every paycheck. The switch would have punished employees who quit or were fired mid-year. It would also have cost employees who stayed, since they would not see the benefits of compounding in their retirement accounts.

The Financial Express covers funny money:

Bitcoin gang inches towards 100-member mark, hits $13-bn value

Enhanced regulatory oversight in India and other countries seems to be having little impact on spread of bitcoins and other virtual currencies, whose number is fast moving towards a century with a total valuation of close to USD 13 billion.

A number of new entrants, such as bitgem, catcoin, unobtanium and sexcoin, have arrived on the scene even as regulators across the world grapple with risks posed by such currencies and transactions conducted through them.

At least 93 virtual currencies are at present being used by people across the world over the internet, as also for some offline transactions, and their total valuation has reached USD 13 billion (over Rs 80,000 crore), out of which bitcoin alone accounts for over USD nine billion, according to market estimates.

At end of December last year, the number of virtual currencies stood at 67.

Of to Europe and a cautionary note from the London Telegraph:

Eurozone banks face £42bn ‘capital black hole’

Government adviser Davide Serra says this year’s stress tests by European authorities are likely to find fresh problems in the eurozone banks.

Eurozone banks are facing a new capital black hole of as much as €50bn (£42bn), according to one of the UK’s most respected financial analysts.

Davide Serra, the chief executive of Algebris, who advises the Government on banking, said that this year’s stress tests by the European Banking Authority and the European Central Bank were likely to find fresh problems in the eurozone banks.

He said that Germany had one of “the worst banking systems in the world” and that three or four regional Landesbanken were likely to be wound up. He also said banks in Portugal and Greece were likely to need more capital.

Britain next and life at the bottom of the pyramid from The Independent:

Working poor trapped in unbreakable cycle of poverty turn to food banks in their lunch breaks

Millions of low-paid workers are trapped in an unbreakable cycle of poverty, and are even turning up at food banks in their lunch breaks asking for help to feed their families, the Archbishop of York warns.

Dr John Sentamu, writing in The Independent, says low pay is a “scourge on our society” and challenges David Cameron to back up his “warm words” with action to boost the incomes of the working poor.

An independent commission chaired by the Archbishop says the economic recovery will make no difference to the lives of the five million lowest-paid workers unless they paid the so-called “living wage”.

They are being suffering a “double squeeze” on their incomes as their wages remain stagnant and their and living costs rise steadily.

Bankster insecurity from The Guardian:

Barclays blasted over ‘catastrophic’ theft of thousands of customer files

  • Files containing names, addresses, medical details and NI numbers have allegedly been sold for use by scammers

Barclays is under scrutiny by regulators and could face a hefty fine after thousands of confidential customer files were stolen in a data breach described as catastrophic by an adviser to the business secretary, Vince Cable.

The files, containing details on 2,000 individuals including their names, addresses, phone numbers, passport numbers, mortgages and levels of savings, were allegedly sold for use in boiler-room scams, in which vulnerable savers are snared into fraudulent investments.

“This is catastrophic, just awful,” the Liberal Democrat MP Tessa Munt, who is parliamentary private secretary to Cable and has campaigned on mis-selling by banks, told the Guardian. “What protections have Barclays got in place? Are the police going to pursue this, are they going to prosecute, and is someone going to go to jail for this? They should do.”

From The Independent, playing to the base of the base:

David Cameron accused of ‘pandering’ to xenophobia with rhetoric on immigration

Laszlo Andor, the Employment Commissioner, who has previously attacked the Government for its “nasty” curbs on benefits for foreign nationals, will step up his attack during a visit to Britain.

He will accuse politicians of avoiding the “inconvenient truth” that most migrants move for work and are an “asset” to economies like Britain’s with an ageing population.

Mr Andor will warn the Prime Minister he cannot base policy on “perceptions, gut feelings or anecdotes”.

In a speech in Bristol, he will say: “Politicians should be responsible enough to talk about facts, rather than to pander to prejudice, or in the worst cases, xenophobia.”

The Observer crowns hypocrisy:

Royal estates ‘fail to meet targets to build affordable homes’

  • Study finds Crown Estate and Duchy of Cornwall regularly get councils to cut ratios of affordable homes on cost grounds

Two of Britain’s largest landowning bodies, which between them generate millions of pounds a year for the Queen and Prince Charles, are regularly failing to meet affordable housing targets when building new homes on their land.

Amid an escalating housing crisis, planning documents unearthed by the independent Bureau of Investigative Journalism reveal that both the Crown Estate and the Duchy of Cornwall are persuading councils to allow them to cut their affordable housing quotas on the grounds that meeting them would be too expensive.

An investigation by the bureau for the Observer has examined the two landowners’ plans to build 4,299 homes in 31 schemes. Of these, 14 developments, set to produce 2,470 units, fail to meet local targets, resulting in at least 213 fewer affordable homes being built. The bureau also found that 10 of the 19 largest Crown Estate developments have not or will not meet affordable housing targets.

And New Europe bubbles:

London housing market under price bubbles risk

Housing market in London is beginning to show signs of bubble-like conditions, said a research report issued by Ernst and Young Item Club (EY ITEM Club) on Monday, while asking the government to monitor the trend closely and be prepared to intervene.

The EY ITEM Club forecast showed the average house price in London is expected to reach nearly £600,000 by 2018, some 3.5 times the average price in Northern Ireland and more than 3.3 times the average in the North East.

It said the average house prices in Britain growing by 8.4% this year and 7.3% in 2015, before cooling to around 5.5% in 2016.  House prices would show a regional divergence. Outside of London and the South East, the regions with the highest levels of house price growth are expected to be the South West and East of England, both set to grow by 6.2% from 2013-18.

Switzerland next and job-creating electoral results from TheLocal.ch:

Voters back national rail infrastructure plan

A project to boost financing for passenger rail infrastructure won widespread support from Swiss voters in a national referendum on Sunday.

More than 62 percent of the electorate voted for the improvements designed to improve train service through 6.4 billion francs’ worth of projects between now and 2025.

The plan will also add an extra billion francs a year to the four billion francs already allocated annually for rail infrastructure and maintenance.

It will allow for improvements to service on Lausanne-Geneva, Bern-Lucerne, Zurich-Chur, Lucerne-Giswil, Bellinzona-Tenero and Zurich-Fiesch routes, according to the federal government, which backed the proposal.

The expansion gives the green light for the financing of such projects as the expansion of Geneva’s main train station Cornavin (790 million francs) and a billion-franc modernization of the Lausanne station and its links with Renens, the nearby suburb.

While BBC News has another electoral result, and a possible Swiss miss:

Swiss immigration: 50.3% back quotas, final results show

Swiss voters have narrowly backed a referendum proposal to bring back strict quotas for immigration from European Union countries.

Final results showed 50.3% voted in favour. The vote invalidates the Swiss-EU agreement on freedom of movement.

Fiercely independent Switzerland is not a member of the EU, but has adopted large sections of EU policy. Brussels said it regretted the outcome of the vote and would examine its implications.

A Yes vote of more than 50% was needed for the referendum to pass.

On to Spain and life on the sombra side from TheLocal.es:

Spain’s shadow economy flourishes in downturn

Spain’s shadow economy — where cash is king, there are no contracts and the taxman is cut out of the equation — is flourishing amid an economic downturn that has pushed the jobless rate to 26 percent.

Economists estimate Spain’s underground economy equals 25 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

The parallel economy “unfortunately is a longtime problem” in Spain, which “has worsened due to the economic crisis”, said Santos Nogales of the UGT, Spain’s second-largest labour union.

“Undeclared work does not distinguish between nationalities. It touches immigrants and many Spaniards,” he added.

thinkSPAIN delivers a shock:

New electricity bill structure ‘penalises energy saving’ and increases costs for low-use households, say consumer groups

CONSUMER protection groups have criticised the government’s new electricity billing structure as it ‘penalises’ those who use the least power and does not provide any incentive to save on energy consumption.

A year ago, the ‘fixed’ part of a household bill accounted for 35 per cent and the variable part, relating to consumption, was 65 per cent, but this was changed last July with a gradual move towards the standing charge taking up a higher percentage of what is paid by residential homes.

Now that this gradual migration has finished, from this week onwards, the fixed charge will be 60 per cent of the bill and the variable consumption-related part 40 per cent.

While New Europe lays off:

Jobless total spikes

Spanish government figures show that the number of people registered as unemployed has risen by 113,097 as temporary job contracts created over Christmas come to an end, AP reported.

On 4 February, the Labor Ministry said the reduction put the total number of those registered in unemployment offices at 4.81 million in January. Year-on-year, the figure was down 166,343.

Quarterly unemployment surveys – seen as more accurate by economists – show Spain’s unemployment rate was 26% in the fourth quarter of 2013, with six million people out of work. The rate is the second highest in the 28-country European Union after Greece.

Spain is battling to recover from a two-year recession. However, the government insists the economy is improving and will create jobs in 2014.  Almost 100,000 people were laid off from the services sector, while employment also fell in agriculture, by 8,110 people and in industry, by 3,577.

And from TheLocal.es, not a crowning glory:

Spain princess ‘evasive’ in fraud hearing

Spain’s princess Cristina tried to distance herself from unprecedented fraud accusations Saturday, telling a judge she had simply trusted her husband, one of the lawyers in the courtroom said.

Spanish King Juan Carlos’s youngest daughter was “evasive” as she testified as a criminal suspect in the Palma de Majorca court, said Manuel Delgado, a lawyer for a civil party in the case, left-wing association Frente Civico.

The first direct member of the Spanish royal family in history to face such a hearing, the 48-year-old blonde Cristina said she “had great trust in her husband”, the lawyer told reporters during a break in the proceedings.

Long thought untouchable as a royal, Cristina finds herself at the centre of the scandal, accused of being complicit in the allegedly fraudulent business dealings of her husband, former Olympic handball player Inaki Urdangarin, who is also under investigation.

While Al Jazeera America covers the culture wars:

Thousands protest proposed abortion restrictions in Spain

Thousands of women marched in the streets of Madrid Saturday to protest against the Spanish government’s plan to limit access to abortion, which could force many women to travel abroad to obtain the procedure.

Protesters chanted “Freedom of abortion!” and waved signs such as “MPs and rosaries, out of my ovaries”, targeting the Catholic Church as the supposed driver of the new restrictions.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government said in December it would eliminate a 2010 law that allows women to opt for an abortion within the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.

The new legislation would allow abortion only in cases of rape or a threat to the physical or psychological health of the mother.

After the jump, Greek protests and woes, outrage in Bosnia, crisis in the Ukraine, Mexico rising, hard times in South Korean heavy industry, Chinese austerity and an exodus, Japanese corporate games, and the latest Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

‘David Simon on America as a Horror Show’


From Moyers and Company:

David Simon on America as a Horror Show

From the transcript:

BILL MOYERS: Watching the president’s speech the other night– he was hopeful, he was upbeat, he was encouraging and inclusive and what he said. But I kept listening and thinking about that speech you had made last fall in Australia where you said what’s happening here in America is “a horror show.” And I wonder, how do you reconcile those two visions of our country?

DAVID SIMON: I don’t think that you can call the American government anything other than broken at this point. And I think the break has come at the legislative level. I mean, that’s the part of the government that has been purchased.

You can buy these guys on the cheap. And the capital’s been at it a long time and the rules have been relaxed. The Supreme Court has walked away from any sort of responsibility to maintain democracy at that level. That’s the aspect of government that’s broken.

And it doesn’t matter whether it’s Obama or Clinton or Bush or anybody at this point. If this is the way we’re going to do business, we’re not going to do business. You know, they’ve paid for it to be inert. And it is inert. And ultimately that aspect of capitalism hasn’t been dealt with in any way.

Chart of the day: Who cares for Grandma?


From an important new study [PDF] from the Pew Research Center focusing on the growing proportion of the elderly in global populations and their future in a growing world:

Microsoft Word - Pew Research Center Global Aging Report FINAL J

A burglary in Media: Exposing the FBI’s evils


Yesterday’s chilling revelation that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has redefined its basic mission from crime-fighting to national security immediately reminded us of one of the most diabolical operations ever carried out under color of authority: COINTELPRO.

Under the aegis of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, federal agents carried out black operations against American citizens opposed to the Vietnam War and working on behalf of racial equality [previously].

Just how many deaths resulted may never be known, but the feds set out to destroy both people and organizations, provoking violence in order to discredit.

What blew the lid off COINTELPRO was a burglary, and the story is told here for the first time in a video from the New York Times:

Stealing J. Edgar Hoover’s Secrets: ‘The Greatest Heist You’ve Never Heard Of’

Program note:

One night in 1971, files were stolen from an F.B.I. office near Philadelphia. They proved that the bureau was spying on thousands of Americans. The case was unsolved, until now.

Accompany the Times video is a Mark Mazzetti story, “Burglars Who Took On F.B.I. Abandon Shadows.” The following is an excerpt:

The perfect crime is far easier to pull off when nobody is watching.

So on a night nearly 43 years ago, while Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier bludgeoned each other over 15 rounds in a televised title bout viewed by millions around the world, burglars took a lock pick and a crowbar and broke into a Federal Bureau of Investigation office in a suburb of Philadelphia, making off with nearly every document inside.

They were never caught, and the stolen documents that they mailed anonymously to newspaper reporters were the first trickle of what would become a flood of revelations about extensive spying and dirty-tricks operations by the F.B.I. against dissident groups.

The burglary in Media, Pa., on March 8, 1971, is a historical echo today, as disclosures by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden have cast another unflattering light on government spying and opened a national debate about the proper limits of government surveillance. The burglars had, until now, maintained a vow of silence about their roles in the operation. They were content in knowing that their actions had dealt the first significant blow to an institution that had amassed enormous power and prestige during J. Edgar Hoover’s lengthy tenure as director.

Read the rest.

The same paranoia and fears that drove the FBI under Hoover to violate the basic rights of American  citizens flourishes again today. In any sane world, the burglars of Media would be honored.

Given that the current occupant of the White House has prosecuted more whistleblowers and leakers that all previous administrations combined, we aren’t holding or breath.

South Berkeley Street Seens: New Year’s Eve


Sights encountered on a stroll to the Adeline Street post office.

First, a skyline seen at the end of the block. . .

31 December 2013, Panasonic DMC-LX5, ISO 160, 47.3 mm, 1/500 sec, f5.8

31 December 2013, Panasonic DMC-LX5, ISO 160, 47.3 mm, 1/500 sec, f5.8

A fencesitter encountered in a town known for treesitters. . .

31 December 2013, Panasonic DMC-LX5, ISO 160, 4.3 mm, 1/320 sec, f4

31 December 2013, Panasonic DMC-LX5, ISO 160, 4.3 mm, 1/320 sec, f4

And a face-to-face encounter. . .

31 December 2013, Panasonic DMC-LX5, ISO 100, 4 mm, 1/400 sec, f4

31 December 2013, Panasonic DMC-LX5, ISO 100, 4 mm, 1/400 sec, f4

A fellow pedestrian. . .

31 December 2013, Panasonic DMC-LX5, ISO 160, 16.1 mm, 1/400 sec, f5.2

31 December 2013, Panasonic DMC-LX5, ISO 160, 16.1 mm, 1/400 sec, f5.2

Traces left by a pedestrian past. . .

31 December 2013, Panasonic DMC-LX5, ISO 125, 31.5 mm, 1/80 sec, f5.4

31 December 2013, Panasonic DMC-LX5, ISO 125, 31.5 mm, 1/80 sec, f5.4

Evidence of another past walker. . .

31 December 2013, Panasonic DMC-LX5, ISO 100, 21.8 mm, 1/100 sec, f5.4

31 December 2013, Panasonic DMC-LX5, ISO 100, 21.8 mm, 1/100 sec, f5.4

Adeline Street Post Office parking lot skyline. . .

31 December 2013, Panasonic DMC-LX5, ISO 100, 4.4 mm, 1/1300 sec, f3.3

31 December 2013, Panasonic DMC-LX5, ISO 100, 4.4 mm, 1/1300 sec, f3.3

The Stately Homes of Prince Street. . .

BLOG Stately r

And the latest sigil appearing on the wall near Casa esnl. . .

31 December 2013, Panasonic DMC-LX5, ISO 100, 31.3 mm, 1/500 sec, f5.4

31 December 2013, Panasonic DMC-LX5, ISO 100, 31.3 mm, 1/500 sec, f5.4

And, after the jump, the obligatory selfie. . . Continue reading

Chart of the day: Why we love our libraries


From a new report [PDF] from the Pew Research Center, “How Americans Value Public Libraries in Their Communities”:

BLOG Libraries

The revolving door spins in downtown Berkeley


A familiar story replays itself in Berkeley

Heard the one about the expensive consultant hired by the city who helps to craft a new plan favorable to developers, then joins the ranks of its beneficiaries?

Well, consider the case of Matt Taecker, hired by the City of Berkeley to steer the creation of a new downtown plan.

During our days with the late print edition of the Berkeley Daily Planet, we spent the better part of two years charting the development of a downtown plan by a citizens’ committee under Taecker’s aegis.

When the committee refused to rubber stamp the agenda set by Mayor Tom Bates and then UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, Bates overrode the panel and won passage of a much more developer-friendly package.

And now who’s going to be a primary beneficiary?

Would you believe Matt Taecker?

From the Oakland Tribune:

A development group has submitted plans to the city of Berkeley for a 16-floor hotel with 293 rooms downtown at Center Street and Shattuck Avenue, a space currently occupied by Bank of America and its parking lot.

Center Street Partners spokesman Matt Taecker said the group hopes to complete the city application process by spring of 2015. He said the project will be reviewed by the city planning commission, the zoning adjustment board, the design review commission and the landmarks preservation commission. Developers also will write an environmental impact report.

>snip<

If the project wins approval and is completed, it will be next to a new UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive currently under construction at Center and Oxford streets. That project is expected to open in early 2016.

Taecker followed former city Land Use Planning Manager Mark Rhoades through the revolving door, though Rhoades left at the wrong time, right as the Great Crash of 2008 was shaping up.

Instead of building high rises, Rhoades turned to drugs.

Portrait of a South Berkeley businessman


Bill, born in Bethlehem and the longtime owner of Roxie’s Delicatessen at the corner of Ashby and Shattuck Avenues in Berkeley, California:

4 April 2007, Nikon D200, ISO 320, 60 mm, 1/60 sec, f4

4 April 2007, Nikon D200, ISO 320, 60 mm, 1/60 sec, f4

No Job Land: The human cost of austerian crisis


A short, searing documentary on the real costs of the austerian agenda now being imposed across the globe as reflected in the everyday plight of Spaniards.

From Narratively:

No Job Land

From the film’s web page:

From Gabriel Pecot, Olmo Calvo and Eva Filgueira

Five years ago, Spain was flush with cash and the sky was the limit. Today, millions of unemployed citizens are clinging to their homes, despairing for the future—and demanding that their government finally take a stand.

The global financial crisis and a culture of real estate speculation gone bad has had a desperate effect on once-wealthy Spain, where there are now millions of unemployed citizens, many on the verge of social exclusion. Now, they are self-organizing and bringing their grief to the streets, demanding the government take a stance to defend the future of their families.

* * *

Olmo Calvo is a Spanish freelance photojournalist, member and cofounder of the SUB photography cooperative in Buenos Aires. He lives in Madrid and never leaves his cameras at home.

Eva Filgueira is a freelance journalist and multimedia editor based in Madrid. She loves storytelling and has done multimedia projects for Magnum Photos (NYC).

Gabriel Pecot is a freelance photojournalist and multimedia producer living in Madrid, Spain. Since he discovered audio and motion, nothing was the same again.

Andres Serrano: Signs of the Times


A very short film from Andres Serrano consisting of signs held by New York City’s homeless in the daily quest for sustenance:

Sign of the Times – Andres Serrano

From his account, posted at Creative Time Reports:

“Sign of the Times” was conceived of in early October when I started to see what I perceived as a greater number of homeless people in the city. As a native New Yorker, it surprised me because I had never seen so many people begging and sleeping on the streets. It occurred to me to start buying the signs that the homeless use to ask for money.

I immersed myself in the project, going out almost on a daily basis and walking five, six, seven hours a day. Once, I even walked 12 hours uptown to Harlem, East and West, downtown to Battery Park and back home. I never took transportation anywhere because I felt that since the homeless live on the streets, I had to walk the streets like they do. After a while, a few said to me, “I’ve heard of you. You’re the guy going around buying signs. I was wondering if you were ever going to find me.” I bought about 200 signs and usually offered $20, which they were happy, even ecstatic, to get. (Once, though, I saw a sign that said, “Just need $10? so I said to the guy, “I’ll give you 10 for it and he said, “You got it. I guess the sign did its job!”)

What struck me about the people who sold me their signs was their willingness to let go of them. It was as if they had little attachment to them, even though some signs had been with them for a long time. Of course, they needed the money. Many people would tell me they had made nothing that day. But I also think that those who possess little have less attachment to material things. They know what it’s like to live with less.

Ralph Nader on wealth, power, and politics


This is the first of three segments from The Real News Network featuring an extended Paul Jay interview of Ralph Nader:

McCarthyism Made Us Veer Away From a Systemic Doctrine for Change – Ralph Nader

From the transcript:

JAY: But now, you know, as we see capitalism in its–the ’08 financial crisis and the sort of recovery of Asia, you start to see–and let me add another big thing is there’s no longer this–even if it’s hypothetical–or was it theoretical?–but there wasn’t this supposed socialist Soviet Union that was going to guarantee jobs and insurance, health insurance, and this and that. I mean, the message of European capitalism and America to Europe, not so much to Americans: well, you don’t need socialism to get all this; capitalism can do it for you.

NADER: Yeah, social democratic politics they called it.

JAY: But now Europe is now turning on itself, and they’re doing everything they can to get rid of all this stuff. And now they want to be like the American model, to be more competitive.

But I guess where I’m going with this is: have we entered a kind of new stage of history of capitalist development?

NADER: Well, basically it was globalization that did it to Western Europe. Once they took in the model of the World Trade Organization, once they in effect financialized more of their economy–derivatives, speculation, stock market, all that–that’s when they started going down. I warned them: do not accept the U.S. multinational model, ’cause it’s going to happen to you. And the effect of the multinational model was exacerbated by the European common market. So if they got in one country, they’d get in a lot of the other countries.

However, they still have a safety net. And it’s frayed badly in England. For example, they’re charging students now as high as $12,000 a year for tuition. But by comparison with us, nobody dies in Western Europe–nobody dies in Western Europe because they don’t have health insurance. They’re insured from the cradle to the grave. In this country, 800 Americans die every week, every week, ’cause they can’t afford health insurance to get diagnosed and treated in time.

And that’s–figure comes from a Harvard Medical School peer-reviewed study in the December 2009 Journal of American Public Health. This is not some wild figure. Eight hundred a week, and not a single major politician is talking about it in the election year last year.

Moonlight over San Francisco Bay


From the Lawrence Hall of Science webcam at 11:39 p.m. Monday:

BLOG Moonlight

Scenes from a South Berkeley twilight stroll


Just a collection of photos from the neighborhood. . .

A bollard of distinction. . .

7 December 2013, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 1250, 9 mm, 1/80 sec, f4.4

7 December 2013, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 1250, 9 mm, 1/80 sec, f4.4

A trio of painted ladies. . .

7 December 2013, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 800, 4.3 mm, 1/15 sec, f3.3

7 December 2013, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 800, 4.3 mm, 1/15 sec, f3.3

Gilding a Victorian jewel. . .

7 December 2013, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 800, 4.3 mm, 1/15 sec, f3.3

7 December 2013, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 800, 4.3 mm, 1/15 sec, f3.3

A scene on a garage door. . .

7 December 2013, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 400, 4.3 mm, 1/15 sec, f3.3

7 December 2013, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 400, 4.3 mm, 1/15 sec, f3.3

And Le Conte Elementary School, built in 1951 for the first blush of the Baby Boom. . .

7 December 2013, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 400, 4.3 mm, 1/40 sec, f3.3

7 December 2013, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 400, 4.3 mm, 1/40 sec, f3.3

Chris Hedges on the pathology of the elite


In this two-part series from The Real News Network, Paul Jay interviews veteran journalist Chris Hedges, who has reported for many of America’s elite newspapers, most recently as the Mideast Bureau Chief of the New York Times.

In this discussion, Jay and Hedges focus on the elite and their capture and corruption of power.

From The Real News Network:

The Pathology of the Rich – Chris Hedges on Reality Asserts Itself, part 1

From the transcript:

PAUL JAY: This is a piece you wrote called “Let’s Get This Class War Started”, which I guess is a play on Pink’s song, is it? “Let’s Get This Party Started”. The quote is: “The inability to grasp the pathology of our oligarchic rulers is one of our gravest faults.” What are you talking about?

HEDGES: Because we don’t understand the pathology of the rich. We’ve been saturated with cultural images and a kind of cultural deification of wealth and those who have wealth. We are being—you know, they present people of immense wealth as somehow leaders—oracles, even. And we don’t grasp internally what it is an oligarchic class is finally about or how venal and morally bankrupt they are.

We need to recover the language of class warfare and grasp what is happening to us, and we need to shatter this self-delusion that somehow if, as Obama says, we work hard enough and study hard enough, we can be one of them. The fact is, the people who created the economic mess that we’re in were the best-educated people in the country—Larry Summers, a former president of Harvard, and others. The issue is not education. The issue is greed.

And I, unfortunately, had the experience of being shipped off to a private boarding school at the age of ten as a scholarship student and live—I was one of 16 kids on scholarship, and I lived among the super-rich and I watched them. And I think much of my hatred of authority and my repugnance for the ruling elite comes from having been among them for so long.

Credibility of the Ruling Elite is Being Shredded – Chris Hedges on Reality Asserts Itself, part 2

From the transcript:

JAY: So you wrote a column in Truthdig. The title of it is “Our Invisible Revolution”, and you quote, to start with, Alexander Berkman: “Did you ever ask yourself how it happens that government and capitalism continue to exist in spite of all the evil and trouble they are causing in the world?”

And let me add to that. We’ve had these enormous revelations recently, WikiLeaks and Snowden, and Hammond’s leaks of the Stratfor files. And it should, one would think–and enough of this has gotten into the mainstream media, you know, enough of the revelations, that you would have had, you’d think, a fundamental shaking of masses of people’s belief in the American narrative. But not so much. Like, we’ve not really seen a change in the political landscape at the mass scale that one might have thought.

HEDGES: Well, this was what Berkman–this essay is called “The Idea Is the Thing”–is playing out, that as long as the ideas that sustain the power elite have currency or relevancy, the institutions that hold up that system of power are unassailable. Once those ideas are utterly discredited, those institutions collapse.

And Berkman draws the analogy of heating water on a kettle, that you can’t make a revolution, you can’t decide that next Monday is the revolution. Revolutions are organic. And they take place through this change within the culture whereby the ideas that sustain a particular ruling class are so thoroughly discredited that the ruling class is finally only able to sustain itself through the use of force and violence, that it’s kind of–it resorts to the most naked forms of repression to hold on to power, which, as you can see with the rise of the security and surveillance state, we are moving towards.

And so what you have in a pre-revolutionary society, which I think we’re in, is a kind of invisible revolution, whereby the state, the ideology of the state, in this case capitalism, the fiction of American democracy, larger and larger numbers of people–and I think we are also seeing this across the political spectrum–wake up and understand the hollowness of the language that’s used to describe their own economic, political, and social reality.

What’s important is that in this process you need to present an alternative vision, an alternative language, so that people can orient themselves toward something. Otherwise, any kind of eruption is nihilistic. Without that kind of vision, ultimately it doesn’t represent any kind of a threat to the ruling elite, because it doesn’t drive towards something. And I think that, you know, opinion polls point this out in terms of, like, the approval rating of Congress, which is below 10 percent, the utter disgust at the inability of the centers of power to respond to the most basic concerns and needs of the citizenry. All of that is there.

Voices From Robben Island: Mandela’s prison


A 1994 documentary for BBC by the Schadeberg Movie Company, the film features Nelson Mandela and other South African revolutionaries imprisoned in the infamous Robben Island prison by the apartheid regime.

Mandela was imprisoned there from 1964 to 1982.

The prison finally closed in 1996, and today serves as a museum.

Via Journeyman Pictures:

Voices From Robben Island

Program notes:

Voices from Robben Island: A definitive documentary on what many consider to be the most infamous island of the 20th century.

For downloads and more information visit: http://www.journeyman.tv/?lid=56141 – private

Jurgen Schadeberg and the BBC teamed up to create this definitive documentary on possibly the most infamous island in 20th Century world history. In an age in which the freedom of the individual has arisen this island has become symbolic of the many fights that have taken, and continue to take place.

This film looks at the Island’s 400-year history through the eyes of people incarcerated there. From those lepers and lunatics that were first locked up in the 17th century to their most infamous inmates Mandela, Sisulu, Mbeki, Kathrada, Mlangeni — the freedom fighters against Apartheid South Africa.

‘Voices of Robben Island’ reveals the great courage of some of its prisoners through the personal accounts of individuals such as Nelson Mandela and Mbeki. The result is not simply a moving character led film, but a piece of history in itself.

Midnight in Berkeley with the fog rolling in


From the Berkeley Hills via the webcam at the Lawrence Hall of Science:

BLOG Fog

Student homelessness, a growing reality


Under a neoliberal political regime, America’s public schools are suffering, with a majority of students in many schools coming from families living in poverty.

In this segment from The Real News Network, producer Jessica Desvarieux talks to two people who know a lot about poverty in schools, focusing on the growing numbers of children who have no homes at all.

From the transcript:

There are now 1.2 million homeless students in the United States. That’s an increase of 10 percent from last year, according to the National Center for Homeless Education, and that’s up 72 percent from the start of the recession in 2008. Some states, like North Carolina, have been particularly hit hard.

Joining us to discuss child homelessness in North Carolina are Annabelle Suddreth and Tazra Mitchell. Annabelle is the executive director of A Child’s Place, a nonprofit organization based in Charlotte, North Carolina, that works to erase the impact of homelessness on children and their education. And Tazra Mitchell is joining us from North Carolina as well. She joined the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center in August 2011 serving as a public policy analyst whose policy interests include fiscal policy.

From The Real News Network:

U.S. Student Homelessness Up 10% Since Last Year

Highest increases of homeless children seen in states like North Carolina where austerity policies predominate

From the transcript:

MITCHELL: Our legislative session began in January. And within the first two weeks they passed a radical restructuring of our unemployment insurance system that really helps folks make make ends meet as they struggle to find work, find a job, and gain a foothold on the economic ladder. So any child [incompr.] any child who lives in a household with an unemployed parent, they’ll suffer as a result of this restructuring, because it drastically reduced benefits. And as a result [incompr.] more than $700 million from the federal government in benefits that could go to the long-term unemployed in North Carolina.

They also, like you said, passed a series of tax cuts that on average will shift taxes away from higher-income people towards low-income people. Part of that tax plan was not destroying the state’s earned income tax credit, which is really one of the state’s most powerful antipoverty tools in the state. It goes to families who work but who earn low wages. And it really helps parents avoid raising their children in poverty.

They also eliminated the child care independent tax credit.

Really, the tax plan that they passed gives a huge windfall to the wealthy and profitable businesses at the expense of lower-income and moderate-income people. It also drains available revenues that the state can use to invest in programs that help children. As such, they passed a budget right after this tax plan that really puts North Carolina on a path to mediocrity. We just don’t think that it will move the state in the right direction.

Evening in Berkeley: After the rain, winds


From The View, the online camera of the Lawrence Hall of Science in the Berkeley Hills overlooking San Francisco Bay:

BLOG LHS