No to torture

From the ACLU:

Over a decade, the American people have demanded to know about post-9/11 torture conducted in our names. Today, we finally have some answers.

The Senate just released its summary report detailing widespread and illegal CIA torture during the Bush years. Over a hundred people were abused and tortured by the CIA and its contractors, often in secret prisons, set up in countries such as Poland, Romania and Thailand.

We have long known that the Bush administration’s torture program was authorized at the highest levels, including the White House, the Department of Justice, the CIA, and the Department of Defense.

We now also know that the CIA misled the public, Congress, and other oversight agencies about the scope and extent of its torture and the significance of the information obtained through torture.

In our system, no one should be above the law or beyond its reach, no matter how senior the official. Now that we have additional evidence of the wrongs committed in our name, we must demand accountability.

Ask Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to conduct an independent investigation of the torture program: sign the ACLU petition.

US queen

I shouldn’t be surprised by the NYT‘s continuous attempts to belittle Sanders. The main media are systematically avoiding to cover his ideas and program, including those media that pride themselves on providing depth in their reports. His belief in a social democracy based on open rational discussions of the proper role of the financial, health, military, and education sectors is apparently considered dangerous. Not that opinion writers and pundits are enamored of Clinton. But she can be trusted to support the type of capitalist forces that provide the bread and butter of media. She does that not least by working hard on important moral and social issues that cost very little or nothing to the public treasury or corporations. It doesn’t matter that these capitalist forces are out of control. She is an adequate and time-tried instrument, much better than the right and extreme right can provide. The last example of an article managing to avoid discussion of Sanders, except to mention his “crusade against income inequality,” was this morning’s post by Charles Blow where he manages to disparage Clinton while going along with the program by calling her the queen.

Palestisraeli hopes

More attacks in east Jerusalem, this one in Pisgat Ze’ev. Two teen-agers attacked a young Israeli (same age? on a bicycle) with knives, one of them was hit by a car while escaping and was hospitalized. The other one was shot dead by security forces. Security forces. A scandal ensued this morning in Israel: Abbas named the first boy as having been killed by Israeli forces and was accused of incitment. As if the Israeli Parliament memorializing Rehavam Zeevi, an ultra-right leader who was murdered in 2001, did not bear the lion of Judah’s share of responsibility in the recent events. The tracing of this responsibility back via the thousand of little cuts is impossible even to historians. To take one example: what weight does the physical appearance of Pisgat Ze’ev, its large boulevards and housing complexes, the Jerusalem light rail that crosses it, its modernity, have on Palestinian hopes and understanding of the conflict and their chances of ever seeing some semblance of justice that will always come too late? From Shu`afat to Pisgav Ze’ev: an abyss.

Who says?

Who says: We can’t have a Shakespeare Santa Cruz on UCSC campus, with performances in the glen?
Who says: We can’t have a Science Illustration Program at UCSC?
Who says: We can’t have a Journalism major at UCSC?
Who says: Who says?

Who says?

Iraq: a mistake

In today’s NYT opinion page, Thomas Friedman does his best to drown the fish, I mean to turn the agressive, cynical US adventure in Iraq he applauded in 2002-3 into yet one part of a larger attempt to transform the whole Middle East politically. This is an idea he has come to see as misguided. He is almost on the same page as David Brooks who a couple days ago defended the thesis that mistakes were made because intelligence was faulty or partial. No reason therefore not to re-elect the Democrats and Republicans who voted for the Iraq war: they were just misguided by faulty intelligence. No kidding. No recognition of the lies that hundreds of thousand of people demonstrated against in late 2002 and early 2003, no acknowledgment that this whole political class (except some experts who knew something about those countries) failed the country in this ill-thought adventure, no admission that the media, beginning with the NYT, played the enabler’s role in the tragic story. His final words:

We’ve spent more than a decade of lives and treasure trying to “fight terrorism” to fix a part of the world that can’t be fixed from the outside. It has been a waste. I wish it had worked. The world would be better for it. But it didn’t.

He is not yet prepared to admit it was a criminal act built on a lie he helped spread.

blessed isles

Where is grandpa?
Gone on the water, far away, for a long time
He doesn’t answer calls.
What is dead?
Are we dead? or living
the flip of a sign, gone fishing,
the catching of striped bass on the Er island,
the rustling and blooming of trees at the little house.


From Poems new and collected, by Wisława Szymborska (Harcourt: 1998), a centerfold thought for my hard-thinking friends, titled:

An opinion on the question of pornography

There’s nothing more debauched than thinking.
This sort of wantonness runs wild like a wind-borne weed
on a plot laid out for daisies.

Nothing’s sacred for those who think.
Calling things brazenly by name,
risqué analyses, salacious syntheses,
frenzied, rakish chases after the bare facts,
the filthy fingering of touchy subjects,
discussion in heat–––it’s music to their ears.

In broad daylight or under cover of night
they form circles, triangles, or pairs.
The partners’ age or sex are unimportant.
Their eyes glitter, their cheeks are flushed.
Friend leads friend astray.
Degenerate daughters corrupt their fathers.
A brother pimps for his little sister.

They prefer the fruits
from the forbidden tree of knowledge
to the pink buttocks found in glossy magazines–––
all that ultimately simple-hearted smut.
The books they relish have no pictures.
What variety they have lies in certain phrases
marked with a thumbnail or a crayon.

It’s shocking, the positions,
the unchecked simplicity with which
one mind contrives to fertilize another!
Such positions the Kama Sutra itself doesn’t know.

During these trysts of theirs, the only thing that’s steamy is the
People sit on their chairs and move their lips.
Everyone crosses only his own legs
so that one foot is resting on the floor
while the other dangles freely in midair.
Only now and then does somebody get up,
go to the window,
and through a crack in the curtains
take a peep out at the street.

waste +

The site chosen for a waste recycling yard north of the UCSC farm (see my previous post) is at odds with the 2005 Long Range Development Plan (LRDP). The Mitigated Negative Declaration of March 2015 purports to fit {“be tiered to”) the 2005 LRDP. It contradicts its letter and spirit.

Section 3.4 of this March 2015 Office of Physical Planning report (page 13) on the consistency of the recycling yard project with the 2005 LRDP begins by asserting that the addition of institutional support space by the project is within the scope of the plan. Soon, however, it recognizes the annoying fact that

The proposed 6.1-acre site for the Recycling Yard is designated Site Research and Support (SRS) (approximately 3.2 acres) and Protected Landscape (PL) (approximately 2.9 acres). The proposed recycling yard is not consistent with either of these land use designations.

It then breezily contends that

A minor LRDP amendment to change the land use designation of 3.7 acres of the site to Campus Support would be required. This would include 1.6 acre of PL lands and 2.1 acres of SRS lands. The remainder of the 6.1 acre site would be used for a new access road and storm water detention areas, which are consistent with the PL and SRS land use designations. The potential environmental effects of the LRDP amendment are analyzed in this Initial Study in Section 6.10, Land Use and Planning. Existing and proposed LRDP land use designations for the Project sites are shown in Figures 3-3 and 3-4.

This is not a minor LRDP amendment. On the contrary, it is a major break with the spirit and the letter of the LRDP. The 2005 LRDP, carrying on a unique vision of the founders of the campus that continues to have a great positive impact on everyone’s life at UCSC, made a crystal clear decision not to allow any building in any Protected Landscape area, and above all in the Great Meadow, which the map below indicates goes right to the Farm and the Arboretum. Here is the key passage from page 69 of the 2005-2020 LRDP document:


The natural landscape of UC Santa Cruz has been recognized from the campus’s inception as a unique asset that distinguishes UCSC from other universities. In addition to the 420 acres in the CNR, approximately 505 acres of land have been designated in this LRDP as Protected Landscape in order to maintain special campus landscapes for their scenic value and to maintain special vegetation and wildlife continuity zones. To the extent feasible, Protected Landscape will be retained in an undeveloped state as the campus grows. Any development within Protected Landscape will not impinge on its overall character.

The meadows south of the developed center of the campus will be maintained as undisturbed grassland. In these meadows, no building will be allowed. Agricultural research that maintains the visual quality of the lower meadows may be allowed.

It wouldn’t be a minor amendment to build the recycling yard facility in that part of the Great Meadow. Below, the land-use map for the campus up to 2020, from page 66 of the revised edition of the 2005 LRDP. The whole Great Meadow is designated Protected Landscape (PL). The “Village”, farm, Arboretum + are designated SRS (Site Research and Support).


The Great Meadow, including its southern reaches, should not be used for a waste recycling facility. If this facility needs to be built—absent a large, scaled up facility for the whole region—another site must be found (Campus Support area?).

To sum up: the notion of building a waste recycling facility in the Great Meadow (a 20,000gsf+ building and road) contradicts the 2005 LRDP plan and the original spirit of the place as defined by the original builders. As recognized by the LRDP, the farm and the arboretum are of a different nature entirely, especially the farm with its light wood buildings.

Additional note: on my daily passages near the site, I have noticed there are now more containers than a few months ago. Is this part of a “degrading” and physical as well as psychological preparation of the site for construction? I append a picture taken on April 24, 2015, of the site where this large facility is planned (nearly 20,000gsf and 35′ high in part):

zero waste @ UCSC

This summer, to meet its 2020 goal of zero waste, UCSC plans to begin building a recycling yard north of the farm to compost organic matter and sort waste. The project is detailed in the March 9, 2015 Draft Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration prepared by the Office of Physical Planning & Construction. The deadline given for public comments is confusing. Page 6 of the document says that comments must be made by 5:00PM on Friday, April 9, 2015. But April 9, 2015 is a Thursday. Does it mean Friday April 10? The local Sentinel paper had a short article on March 27, 2015. An informative essay on the regional aspects of this question was published in a March 2014 article by Good Times.

I have two questions. The main one is about UCSC’s rush to build a relatively small and expensive facility in 2016 to meet a 2020 deadline of zero waste (meaning 95% diversion), when a more effective, cooperative, scaled up, and less costly solution could be a regional facility for the region from Santa Cruz to Watsonville?

The basic facts as I understand them are:

  1. 40% of landfill waste, both at UCSC and in the region facilities, is organic waste (food debris + green waste). When it is dumped in a landfill, it becomes a major emitter of green house gases, especially methane. It is important to separate it, techniques and machines exist to do that efficiently and produce clean, rich compost rapidly, and there is a market for the end product.
  2. The goal of zero waste by 2020 (95% diversion) given by UCSC and UCOP is the same as that of California’s AB 32. This bill has the effect of urging the city of Santa Cruz, the county, Watsonville, and other local agencies, to look for a regional solution together because of scale and cost. One of the main reasons for the push, as I wrote above, is the considerable emission of methane in unsorted landfill.
  3. The cost for the UCSC project would be $5 million. According to the Good Times article, the public works operations manager for the city of Santa Cruz, Mary Arman, speaks of a minimum project cost of $1.5 million and makes it clear that for treatment of organic debris, the cost would be high and volume is critical.

The region therefore is working on the same issue that UCSC faces. Since a solution is being discussed actively regionally, it would behoove UCSC to explore the options in cooperation with local agencies rather than go solo on this project. I would prefer to see the regional options discussed and factored in. It is possible that a future composting facility in the region would not suit UCSC’s need because of its distance, and incurred costs, including transportation. Still, it makes sense to see UCSC get or remain involved in a full deliberation of the regional possibilities. For water, another essential good, UCSC could have developed its own water system, yet decided to rely on the city’s facilities. Can’t it continue to do the same for waste?

My second reaction concerns the location of the UCSC project. It is at the bottom of a beautiful meadow used by many cyclists and walkers. It is right north of the CASFS Farm, with its appropriate small buildings, and near the Arboretum. The pictures taken in the 3/2015 Draft Initial Study are taken from far and do not give me a good sense of the impact this road, yard and building(s?) would have on visitors and bicycle users. The project is judged to have little aesthetic impact (page 26 of the Draft Initial Study document). On the contrary, it seems to me that the project will have a major negative scenic impact.


  1. 3/2015 Draft Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration;
  2. A page from the UCSC sustainability office: 7/31/2012 Landfill & Solid Waste Task Force Report;
  3. The short article from the Sentinel, 3/27/15;
  4. The longer article on composting solutions for the Santa Cruz area from Good Times, 3/2014.


Israeli PM Netanyahu came and went. He spoke to AIPAC and to a sycophantic Congress. He was invited by Boehner et al. Both could see many immediate advantages in snubbing the White House.  More disturbingly, many in Washington and Israel have chosen the war path regarding Iran and the Palestinians, who are the big unspoken part of this recent hoopla. Ever since Obama, at the beginning of his first mandate, exhibited some signs of being serious about negotiations toward final resolution talks with Palestinians on the basis of UN resolution 242, there was no love lost between the administration in Washington and the Israeli right. The PM’s short-term goal is to exploit the Israeli very conservative and understandable feeling regarding security and defense of the country. He will continue the same policy he has been elected to do. The advantages of this short-term policy include above all the freeze of any kind of negotiations with Palestinians, who are lumped together with what he portrays as the barbaric enemies in the neighborhood. There are good reasons for the fear, if not for the fear-mongering, as Iran has been a declared enemy since 1979 (an undeclared one since WW II) and can be easily portrayed as fanatically opposed to Israel. PM Netanyahu is tapping into this broadly shared concern.

The long-term goal for Israel’s present government is to delay the normalization of US relations with Iran. The problem is that it is very difficult to imagine any semblance of order, let alone peaceful resolution of festering conflicts, occur in the region without a normalization of relations with Iran. The US and Iran in fact share many interests and have good reason to cooperate with each other regarding Russia, Afghanistan, Iraq (especially about the jihadist and sunni militancy and territorial gains), Turkey (the Kurdish question), and especially Syria and Lebanon, as well as the Persian Gulf. Nothing in these areas can be done without Iran. In effect, and for quite a while, Iran has been helping the US with the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, for instance in the present attempt by the Iraqi government to recover control of territory in the north and northeast of the country. Yet, the sanctions against Iran have been just short of all-out war. The recent theatrics in Washington show how difficult it is to attempt to find some diplomatic path once the logic of war is on, no matter the obvious costs in the past.

This recalculation of US interests in the region is deeply unsettling to the present government of Israel. In 2002-3, the government led by Sharon was happy to be on the side of those in and out of the US government who were successful in pushing for the Iraq war .  The net effect of that on-going, undefined war (war on terrorism) was to dismember and weaken Iraq to such a point that its direct enemy and competitor, Iran, could simply sit and wait to become by default the most important state in the region. Seen from the Israeli government’s point of view, this very negative consequence of a terrible mistake it applauded at the time can only be corrected by more war against Iran. Economic and military war to slow down and cripple at all costs the obvious demographic, political, and military power of that country. In fact, it is likely that a non-theocratic, democratic Iran would continue to claim the right to enrich nuclear fuel for civil needs. It is not in the short- or long-term interests of the US to go along with the war logic that the Israeli PM and his de facto allies in Washington would like to pursue no matter the consequences. It doesn’t seem to be in the long-term interests of Israel either. The leadership of Israel must know it when they talk to Chinese or Indian leaders who surely have a very different take on the future role of Iran in the region if only because of their rapidly increasing needs for oil and gas.

On the rhetoric ploys: they are becoming dangerously thin even for Washington, and the tactical advantage PM Netanyahu is drawing from the present Washington’s landscape risks creating more division. It will increase the number of people for whom the Israeli PM’s claim regarding the cruel history of Jews as ground for today’s policies is wearing thin. This history can hardly continue to justify Israel’s silently tolerated nuclear-weapon status (non signatory to the NPT), its bullying of the Palestinians, its refusal to have any kind of significant negotiations with them, and now its interference in US affairs.

Gildas Hamel