Category Archives: Politics

And now for something very different. . .


And very NSFW, unless your colleagues swear a lot.

An awful lot. . .

Movie theaters have become prime plums for greedy developers.

Here in Berkeley, a former city planner is spearheading a plan that will destroy one of Berkeley’s few remaining theaters, the Landmark Cinemas, replacing them with a much smaller venue based on the false representation that the theaters were losing money [the Landmark chain says not so]. But when you stand to make a fortune from a massive high-rise luxury housing project, why let fact get in the way, right?

In London another movie theater is set for the chop to make way for a train station, this time in Soho, in the heart of London’s entertainment district.

But in Old Blighty, the Curzon Cinema‘s fans are mobilized. They’re pissed, and they don’t mind telling you.

From Curzon Cinemas:

Save Curzon Soho: Curse for Curzon

Program notes:

Curzon Soho is under threat! Developers want to demolish it to make way for a train station. Time to get angry! We want to see your best film-inspired swearing. Join the campaign and send us your video response using #CurseforCurzon #SaveCurzonSoho.
Sign the official petition here http://bit.ly/savecurzonsoho

Quote of the day: American infrastrucal collapse


Journalist and author Elizabeth Drew, writing for the New York Review of Books:

The near-total failure of our political institutions to invest for the future, eschewing what doesn’t yield the quick payoff, political and physical, has left us with hopelessly clogged traffic, at risk of being on a bridge that collapses, or on a train that flies off defective rails, or with rusted pipes carrying our drinking water. Broadband is our new interstate highway system, but not everyone has access to it—a division largely based on class. Depending on the measurement used, the United States ranks from fourteenth to thirtieth among all nations in its investments in infrastructure. The wealthiest nation on earth is nowhere near the top.

Congress’s approval last December of a five-year bill to spend $305 billion to improve the nation’s highway system occasioned much self-congratulation that the lawmakers actually got something done. But with an increase in the gasoline tax politically off-limits, the means for paying for it are dubious and uncertain. This was the longest-term highway bill passed since 1998 and the thirty-fifth extension of an authorization of highway construction since 2005. Some of the extensions of the highway program approved by Congress lasted for only three months. The previous extension was for just over three weeks. Such practices don’t allow for much planning of the construction or repair of highways and bridges and mass transit systems.

 Our political myopia has put us in actual physical danger as we go about the mundane business of getting about. We let essential structures and facilities deteriorate or go unbuilt. A politician is more likely get in trouble with constituents for spending federal money than for not spending federal money. Moreover, as a rule Washington politicians, whether in office for two or four or six years, aren’t keen on spending for something that doesn’t have a near-term payoff—perhaps a structure that they can dedicate and even get their names inscribed on.

And now for something completely different. . .


Lenin’s Tomb, the most famous monument of the Soviet era is one that can’t be explained in terms of orthodox Marxism.

After all, a philosophy that rejects life after death has no need of carefully embalmed corpses.

But there it is, a architectural anomaly next to the Kremlin Wall, housing a carefully preserved by a process that remains a state secret in the post-Soviet era.

What, then, is it all about?

Historian J. Arch Getty offers his own sometimes humorous take in the UCLA Academic Senate’s 119th Faculty Research Lecture.

Getty is a professor affiliated with UCLA’s International Institute’s Center for European and Russian Studies, and has served as a research fellow at the Russian State Humanities University in Moscow and as a senior visiting scholar at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

He has written several books on Soviet era, and is currently writing a text on the history on the treatment of the dead in Russian history.

From University of California Television:

Dead Man Talking: Lenin’s Body and Russian Politics

Program notes:

Arch Getty explores the intriguing details surrounding Lenin’s body, which was embalmed shortly after his death in 1924 and has been on public display ever since in a mausoleum on Moscow’s Red Square. Getty is a Distinguished Professor in the UCLA Department of History.

Chart of the day II: Students more eager for protest


From The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2015 [PDF], the annual survey of America’s first year college students, from the University of California, Los Angeles’s Cooperative Institutional Research Program:

BLOG Protest

Blood on the border: Homeland security run amok


From being a relatively minor federal law enforcement before 9/11, the Border Patrol has been radically re-envisioned and empowered Borders and Customs, a militarized forced equipped with the latest in technology and more than doubled in size to a force of more than 21,000 armed agents.

In this investigation conducted by a Berkeley-based journalism center, MSNBC, and Mexican broadcaster Telemundo, we get a unique look at the actions U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the largest law enforcement agency in the Department of Homeland Security, boasting more than 60,000 employees,

The focus is seen from the viewpoints of those who have been the subjects of violence from the agency’s 21,000 armed agents, as well as by those who have been charged with overseeing the agency and investigating its actions.

Alonzo Pena, Deputy Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement from 2009 until the following year, and had spent 24 years as a special agent for other federal law enforcement agencies, describes the mindset succinctly: “They think they are the policemen of the world,” proudly declaring themselves La Máquina Verde, the Mean Green Machine,fighting alien invaders.

They live by the motto “When I bleed, my blood is green” Substitute blue for green and the words are the same as esnl heard many, many times during our years as a reporter. We suspect they also employ a rationale we’ve heard repeatedly from police at all levels of government: “Better to be judged by twelve [the size of the jury in most U.S. criminal courts] that carried by six [pallbearers in the typical funeral],” a rationale all too often accepted by their bosses, though less so since phones started coming out with built-in video cameras.

And when it comes to shooting brown people, they seem find it just as easy a do cops farther north of the border.

The report focus on men and women who have been the victims of agent violence, including rape and murder. Their numbers include unarmed criminals and alleged criminals, shot in the back while fleeing — an action strictly against agency policy — and Native American youths, shot on their own land.

One was a sixteen-year-old Mexican youth, shot in the back by an agent who fired through border fence and killed the boy on a Mexican street.

James Tomsheck, deputy commissioner for internal affairs for Customs and Border Protection from 2006 to 2014, came to the agency from a distinguished 30 years in the Secret Service. He describes an agency with a history  of protecting agents they know to have acted wrongly, then lying about the crimes they have committed. “I believe there is a culture of holding only themselves accountable, and interfering with outside agencies who attempt to hold Border Patrol personnel accountable for their actions.”

Tomsheck looked at 28 fatalities inflicted between January 2010 and June 2014 that he deemed merited further investigation, including seven he deemed high suspicious. None was prosecuted.

His frankness may have cost him his job under the new “reform” director brought in because of the results from Tomsheck’s findings.

It’s an important report, well worth your time.

From Noticias Telemundo:

Border Patrol Shooting | Noticias | Noticias Telemundo

Program notes from Reveal, the renamed website of Berkeley’s Center for Investigative Reporting:

Paralleling a decade of growth, the U.S. Border Patrol has seen a rise in corruption and a troubling trend of the use of deadly force. Amid a national debate around police use of force, The Center for Investigative Reporting, in collaboration with Telemundo and MSNBC, spent seven months investigating deadly force by Border Patrol agents and how these incidents are handled by its parent agency, U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Highlighting specific shootings involving agents and how a hiring surge that began more than a decade ago contributed to these issues, the investigation charted several incidents along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona and Texas.

Among those interviewed were victims, speaking publicly for the first time, of a brutal assault, rape and attempted murder by a Border Patrol agent in South Texas. Reporting from Washington, D.C., and West Virginia, correspondent José Díaz-Balart got an exclusive first look at a new Border Patrol training tool: a use-of-force simulator used to prepare agents to respond appropriately to threats. Along with interviews of former high-ranking officials, some speaking publicly about inside details for the first time, the investigation offered new insights into how the U.S. government has failed to hold the agency accountable.

Headline of the day II: The Dude no longer abides


A screencap of the London Daily Mail teaser for this story:

BLOG Dude

David Horsey: She’s feeling the Bern


From the editorial cartoonist of the Los Angeles Times:

BLOG Berned

And it’s not just young white women, as the New York Times notes in a report from Orangeburg, South Carolina:

When Helen Duley was asked whom she would be voting for in the South Carolina primary, she answered as if the very question were absurd.

“What I’m seeing is a bunch of confusion, hearsay and foolishness,” said Ms. Duley, 60, a retired nursing assistant who is African-American, shortly after finishing breakfast here at the downtown McDonald’s. “What I also see is a veteran who’s already been in the White House eight years. A veteran: Hillary Clinton.”

But that was late January. Interviewed again on Tuesday as Mrs. Clinton’s rival, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, was surging toward an overwhelming victory in the New Hampshire Democratic primary, Ms. Duley found herself suddenly intrigued by a candidate she barely knew. “It makes me feel good,” she said, chuckling, “that young people are listening to the elderly people.” Ms. Duley now said she was an undecided voter and planned to do some homework on Mr. Sanders, despite respect for Mrs. Clinton that spans nearly a quarter-century.

UPDATE: Similar thoughts to those running through David Horsey’s mind as he drew occurred to Joel Pett, editorial cartoonist of the Lexington Herald-Leader:

BLOG Pett