Category Archives: Academia

The New Official City of Berkeley Anthem™

Yep, there’s no more fitting anthem for the City of Berkeley, California, than this little video offering from Berkeley music vlogger 6VIDEO9.

For six years we toiled as the land use reporter for the late print edition of the Berkeley Daily Planet til shortly before the paper folded, laying off its paid journalists but still active as a website.

Despite it’s reputation as a city of the radical Left, Berkeley has a political system devoted to gentrification and the construction of massive apartments catering to upscale tenants, while less monumental erections serve as hives for UC Berkeley students, who are forced to pay their rent to corporations run by investment bankers, massive real estate holding companies, and the occasional UC Berkeley professor.

The reason the city allows the demolition of existing buildings is due in part to the city’s largest landowner — an owner exempt from property taxes and development fees — the University of California.

And the pressure comes from a decades-old decision to stop building student housing for undergrads, rendering students objects of corporate prey. And to cover the coast of soaring rents and ever-increasing tuition rates, they become prey for another clutch of predators, the banksters who force them into indentured servitude to cover the costs of their student loans.

The city government and its police, fire, ambulance, and other services depends in part on funds from it’s share of real estate taxes, and in part on funds from real estate development fees, which serve as the basis for the budget of the city planning department.

Oh, and it’s a former city planning executive who spun through the revolving door and emerged as a [shock!] real estate developer who is spearheading what will be the largest upscale apartment highrise of the 21st Century, with images of the ex-planner and his project featured prominently in the video.

Mayor Tom Bates is also included, his image shown under a Bates Hotel header. Bates is a developer-turned politician, and a former UC Berkeley football star who campaigns are mainly funded by folks from the real estate trade, from builders and owners to those who earn their money from commissions on building and land sales.

And with further ado [or adieu] the :

Stack o’ Dolla

Program note:

Is this the City You Want? Collective

Black Lives Matter, a public health issue raised

We’ve always had the greatest respect for the men and women who dedicate their lives to working in the public health field, where medicine is no longer isolated from the environmental conditions that lead to illness and human misery.

So we were pleasantly surprised to discover a very important discussion on Black Lives Matter and public health hosted by the UC Berkeley School of Public Health on 3 December [the video was just posted to the web by UC Berkeley Events.

While most medical practitioners confine their practices to individual patients, the public health practitioner casts a much wider net, look at how the interplay of disease vectors and community environmental conditions, both physical and social, interact to produce health outcomes.

While Berkeley and its university have earned the reputation of radicalism, the realty is something completely different, with a city government subordinated to the interests of gentrifying developers and the university enserfed to profit hungry corporate interests can catering to wealthy students from abroad.

Indeed, as we have noted before, driving while black is still a crime in good ol’ Berzerkeley.

And now, without further ado, a very important event that resulted in only a single small story in Bay Area news media:

Black Lives Matter: From Moment to Movement

Program notes:

December 3, 2015: Boots On the Ground Advocacy-in-Action Event #3.

Outrage against racialized police violence against African American men and women has crystallized into a movement that builds on existing health and social equity work. What’s the state of the movement here in California? What are the top policy “asks” in Sacramento and Washington, and how can public health activists plug in? Local activists and experts in the Black Lives Matter movement came together to discuss these issues and more.

Moderated by:
-Marc Philpart of PolicyLink
-Pastor Michael McBride of The Way Christian Center
-Rosa Cabrera-Aqeel of PICO California
-Devonte Jackson of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration
-Cat Brooks of the Onyx Organizing Committee
-Andrew Sudler of the UC Berkeley School of Public Health

This event was hosted by the Advocacy Initiative of the UC Berkeley School of Public Health and PolicyLink, and sponsored by The California Endowment, California HealthCare Foundation, SPH Office of Diversity Services, Multicultural Health in Action, and the Asian and Pacific Islander Women’s Circle.

Big Oil, Berkeley, and the politics of power

The latest edition of The Empire Files, Bay Area journalist Abby Martin’s teleSUR English series focuses on the bloody history of Big Oil and its control of the American political process.

Her guests are journalists Antonia Juhasz and Greg Palast, who have devoted their energies to reporting on the hidden agendas of the petroleum industry.

Juhasz has reported extensively on the 20 April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the catastrophic BP offshore well blowout that has wrought incalculable damage to the Gulf of Mexico. Of particular note is that the Obama administration allowed a damage settlement vastly lower than mandated under existing laws.

And that brings us to Palast’s contention that Standard Oil-related companies and the Koch Brothers own the Republicans, BP and Shell own the Democrats, a claim we suggest is fully justified by the evidence.

Pay very close attention to Palast’s deconstruction of the $500 million BP grant to a consortium headed by UC Berkeley under the aegis of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory [though he says, in an apparent and natural mixup, that it was Lawrence Livermore that got the cash]. We would also note that Berkeley’s main partner in the largest corporate academic grant in history was the University of Illinois, the state from which Obama launched his political career.

It was scientists from the UC-run national lab who promised the public that microbes would eat up the oil spilled by BP in the Gulf of Mexico — a claim which subsequent evidence has proved utter false — with National Public Radio serving as BP’s shill, reporting on the claims as fact without ever mentioning that the scientists making the claims were BP-funded.

No wonder Palast calls the broadcaster National Petroleum Radio. . .

During our time reporting for the Berkeley Daily Planet, we devoted extensive coverage to that BP grant, a story otherwise given short shrift by mainstream media.

From teleSUR English:

The Empire Files: The Tyranny of Big Oil

Program notes:

The oil industry is a powerhouse with control over land, resources, politics and more. In this episode of The Empire Files, Abby Martin uncovers big oil’s strong-arm reach–its growth, its crimes, its power and its impunity.

Featuring interviews with two investigative journalists who have covered oil disasters on-the-ground — Antonia Juhasz, author of “Black Tide: The Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill”, and Greg Palast, author of “Vulture’s Picnic: In Pursuit of Petroleum Pig, Power Pirates, and High-Finance Carnivores.”

Mexico’s long history of murdered students

Elena Poniatowska is acknowledged as perhaps Mexico’s greatest living writer, a fearless journalist.

Born in Paris 82 years ago to a European father and a Mexican mother, she was nine when her family moved to Mexico, where she has lived ever since, helping to found one of the nation’s leading newspapers — La Jornada —  as well as its first feminist magazine.

Among her many honors, she is the recipient of the Cervantes Prize, the premiere literary honor in the Spanish-speaking world.

Perhaps her best-know work is La noche de Tlatelolco, the night of Tlatelolco, named after the plaza in Mexico City where hundreds of students were gunned down by Mexican soldiers during the 1958 Olympics. [For a look at declassified U.S. government documents on the massacre, the National Security Archive’s collection is a good starting point.]

In this Democracy Now! interview by host Amy Goodman, Poniatowska covers a range of topics, most notably the 43 students of the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers College of Ayotzinapa who vanished [previously] after a violent encounters with authorities on the night of 26 September 2014.

From Democracy Now!:

Mexican Writer Elena Poniatowska on the Missing 43 Students, 1968 Massacre & U.S.-Backed Drug War

From the transcript:

AMY GOODMAN: You wrote the book The Night [of] Tlatelolco about the Tlatelolco massacre of 1968. It was right before the Olympics, and students were gunned down in Mexico City. Now Mexico is embroiled in another massacre, in Ayotzinapa, the students of the rural teachers’ college, 43 young men, still not clear what happened to them. And you have been focusing on this. What do you think—how must this be investigated to find out the truth about what has happened to them?

ELENA PONIATOWSKA: I think that, first of all, these young students, these young—they were—well, they were students because they wanted to become teachers. Many of them wanted to be bilingual. They were very poor, of course. Ayotzinapa is in a state, Iguala, which is a state which has been rejected all the time by the government, because two leaders or two men were considered like Emiliano Zapata—Lucio Cabañas and Genaro Vázquez Rojas. They were both teachers. Of course, after they were so disappointed by the government, they became guerrilleros, or guerrilla leaders—I don’t know how you say it in English. And so the state is hated by the government. And besides, it’s been run by very corrupt, very, very corrupt governors. So, of course, the students, they can—sometimes they take advantage of buses, and they take what they think belongs to them.

But the students are young people. I think young people are the hope of Mexico, the hope of any country. Young people are the hope also of all the Americas, of Latin America. And instead of being taken into account and protected, they are murdered, they are killed. I don’t know. Maybe the fathers of these students, they tell you not to say that. They say that you have to say that they’re only disappeared. But after so—after more than a year, how can you say they’re disappeared? And I think the army has a lot to do into this—the Mexican army, of course. And I think the government is responsible for this.

Readers and viewers deceived by ‘native ads’

Whether it’s called advertorial or native advertising, the intent is clear: To fool the reader and viewer into believing that the integrity of a news medium extends to a story within the body of that medium’s news content.

That peculiar phrase native advertising places the persuasive product of corporate word-and-image smiths as a subversive place-stealer gone native — that is, presenting itself as if it were the product of journalists rather than corporate hacks.

And judging by a new study, it would seem that the breach of Chinese Wall separating news from flackery has been conclusively breached.

From the University of Georgia, via Newswise [emphasis added]:

Despite Growth, Native Advertising Is Still Difficult for Consumers to Recognize

  • Fewer than 1 in 5 users recognized native advertisements as ads

Nathaniel J. Evans, left, and Bartosz W. Wojdynski of the University of Georgia conducted two experiments using online news articles to examine the differences that the language and positioning of the disclosure labels make in determining whether consumers recognize sponsored articles as advertising content.

The appearance of online editorial content and native, or paid, advertising is blurred in the minds of consumers, according to a research study from the University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

What distinguishes native advertising from display advertising is that native ads are designed to look like they belong as part of the editorial content and can, at times, be hard to tell apart from the publisher’s content. Publishers use disclosure labels, or elements that identify these articles as promotional content, to distinguish these articles from regular editorial content.

In the study, published in the December Journal of Advertising, Bartosz W. Wojdynski and Nathaniel J. Evans, both assistant professors in the Grady College, conducted two experiments using online news articles to examine the differences that the language and positioning of the disclosure labels make in determining whether consumers recognize sponsored articles as advertising content.

In the first study, only 17 of 242 viewers, or 7 percent, identified the content as advertising, and in the second eye-tracking study, only 17 percent identified the articles as advertising.

“I think that many publishers and advertisers assume that just because they put a label on the content, consumers will automatically understand that the article they’re reading is a paid advertisement,” Wojdynski said. “These results show that’s not the case at all, although the design of the disclosure label can make a big difference.”

The first study invited subjects to read online content featuring two stories: one that was editorial content and one that was a native ad featuring a quote from the executive of a fictitious company. Twelve versions of the second story were presented, all with varying disclosure label language—“advertising,” “sponsored by,” “brand voice” and “presented by”—and different positions for the disclosure label—on the top, middle and bottom of the article page.

The study found that readers were seven times more likely to identify as advertising those articles that used “advertising” or “sponsored content” in the disclosure label compared with those that used terms like “brand voice” or “presented by.”

The second study used eye tracking to determine the best position for disclosure labels within native advertising articles. When a native advertisement disclosure was at the top of the page, only 40 percent of the viewers looked at it, but when the disclosure was in the middle of the page, 90 percent looked at the label. Sixty percent of the viewers noticed advertisement labels at the bottom of a page.

These findings are surprising in light of the Federal Trade Commission’s recommendations that native ads in print include a disclosure label at the top of the content. In fact, both studies found that readers were more likely to correctly identify articles as paid advertising when the disclosure label was positioned in the middle of the story page.

Native advertising is a growing industry. According to statistics from Business Insider Intelligence, spending on online native advertisements is expected to be $7.9 billion in 2015 and could eclipse $21 billion by 2018. Native advertising is now even progressing beyond just words and pictures to also include 360 degree video recently introduced in the New York Times in conjunction with the paper’s other virtual reality offerings.

“You are always going to see changes in advertising,” Evans said. “The media landscape will always outpace our complete understanding of it.”

Consumers have become good at ignoring traditional display ads online. Since native ads look like regular online content, there is a higher, positive value. However, this presents a slippery slope for advertisers and online news publishers, who need to maintain trust and credibility with their readers.

“We think that it’s important for the advertisers, as well as the publishers, to be as transparent as possible so the reader doesn’t feel they are being tricked,” Evans said. “Being forthcoming is really important.”

Currently there are no clear guidelines for native advertising online as there are for native print ads regulated by the FTC.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how audience recognition of native ads changes over the next couple of years as the novelty of these ads wears off and people become more attuned to how disclosure practices are going to influence the way people respond,” Wojdynski added.

“Advertisers, publishers and PR agencies are increasingly involved with producing this content, so they will all have a stake in this model working long term. The question is how to get it to work the best where the publishers don’t have to worry about consumers leaving them because they feel deceived by some of the content.”

The study, “Going Native: Effects of Disclosure Position and Language on the Recognition and Evaluation of Online Native Advertising,” is available at

John Oliver nailed it back in August with this Last Week Tonight with John Oliver segment:

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Native Advertising

Program note:

The line between editorial content and advertising in news media is blurrier and blurrier. That’s not bullshit. It’s repurposed bovine waste.

And now for something completely different. . .

Would you believe crowd-sourced time lapse photography?

That’s just what researchers at the University of Washington have accomplished, combining photos of famous landmarks found on the Internet combined with sophisticated programming to create time lapse videos.

Here are some examples of their work, which we find absolutely fascinating, especially the sequence on a vanishing glacier.

Here are some examples of their work, via From researcher Ricardo Martin Brualla [and you can set display resolution at up to 2160p!]:

3D Time-lapse Reconstruction from Internet Photos [ICCV’15]

Program notes:

Video of upcoming our ICCV’15 paper, “3D Time-lapse Reconstruction from Internet Photos,” Ricardo Martin-Brualla, David Gallup & Steve Seitz, University of Washington & Google Inc.



Given an Internet photo collection of a landmark, we compute a 3D time-lapse video sequence where a virtual camera moves continuously in time and space. While previous work assumed a static camera, the addition of camera motion during the time-lapse creates a very compelling impression of parallax. Achieving this goal, however, requires addressing multiple technical challenges, including solving for time-varying depth maps, regularizing 3D point color profiles over time, and reconstructing high quality, hole-free images at every frame from the projected profiles. Our results show photorealistic time-lapses of skylines and natural scenes over many years, with dramatic parallax effects.

See more time-lapses from our previous project “Time-lapse Mining from Internet Photos” here.

A more detailed explanation is available here [PDF].

H/T to PetaPixel.

Quote of the day: Debunking Sigmund Freud

From Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, Professor of Comparative Literature and French at the University of Washington in Seattle and historian and critic of psychoanalysis, writing in the London Review of Books:

Freud was an inveterate liar who would not hesitate for a moment to rewrite reality if that allowed him to get out of trouble. This observation, evidently, goes far beyond simple biography. Indeed, unlike modern experimental sciences, psychoanalysis rests on ‘observations’ which, because of medical confidentiality, are not available to other researchers (unless they become patient-analysts themselves) and which, by the same token, cannot give rise to a consensus based on the possibility of replicating the experiment (except through the cloning of analysts). It is therefore absolutely crucial in psychoanalysis that the witness who reports these ‘observations’ – the analyst – is credible. As Lacan candidly recognised, this is what likens psychoanalysis to a pre-modern practice such as alchemy, which required ‘purity of the soul of the operator’. But then, if we can no longer believe in the purity of Freud’s soul, what remains of psychoanalysis? It is no accident that psychoanalysts cry out in indignation whenever Freud’s integrity is cast in doubt, even at the trivial level of his escapades with his sister-in-law: without consensus on the person of the arch-witness, the whole edifice crumbles.