Law + Policy

Green Energy

Much of the federal stimulus money dedicated to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is devoted to general construction, but a significant portion will benefit alternative energy initiatives. So far, here is how it breaks down:

$4 million to the Joint BioEnergy Institute (a partnership that includes the Berkeley Lab, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, and several universities) for biofuels research

From the Winter 2009 Food for Thought issue of California.

Toward a Common Wealth

If you’ve been paying attention to the economic news you’ve probably noticed pundits using an ecological metaphor: Green shoots are sprouting. It’s a nice image. First the blackened earth of economic collapse, then tender leaves of recovery pushing up from below. If they said instead that we were seeing the early signs of infection, that wouldn’t work so well. Economic growth is never portrayed as the vine that strangles, the multiplication of locusts—it’s always the heroic sprout. The metaphor must jibe with an assumption so fundamental that few stop to consider it: Growth is good.

From the Winter 2009 Food for Thought issue of California.

A System In Crisis

Could a major earthquake bring a Katrina-like catastrophe to the California Delta? Seismologists are convinced a big quake is overdue, with potential to bring down Delta levees, swamp its residents, and imperil a major source of drinking water for 25 million Californians.

From the Winter 2009 Food for Thought issue of California.

Political Scientist

Two years into his term, the chancellor speaks confidently about the initiative that he brought to Berkeley and that has drawn the largest public notice—to increase the number of underrepresented minorities on campus. Racial politics of course can be a minefield, a reality he acknowledges in his often careful choice of words, but his conviction that he knows what is needed is equally in evidence.

From the November December 2006 Life After Bush issue of California.

The Law: John Yoo’s war

The blunt, cruel reality is an obdurate horror. Whether the news is personal or touches everyone, there is first the terrible word. Killing waters have breached the wall. Jets have hit the towers. The news is too terrible to contemplate, but it affords no escape. It weighs on us in pure existence: This is true. And for good or ill, the terrible news demands a call to action. Paradoxically, that action may start with a new idea.

From the November December 2006 Life After Bush issue of California.

International: Losing minds

In Autumn 2003, Donald Rumsfeld asked his top advisors a now-famous question: “Are we capturing, killing or deterring, and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?”

From the November December 2006 Life After Bush issue of California.

Domestic: Unfinished business

During Dwight Eisenhower’s last years in office, one of his two top aides died; the other left Washington in disgrace. Ronald Reagan’s sixth year was mired in Iran-Contra; in their sixth years, Richard Nixon resigned and Bill Clinton was impeached.

From the November December 2006 Life After Bush issue of California.

Out of the Gate: All the President’s REMs

There was no doubt that working at The Daily Californian prepared a young newspaper reporter to get to the bottom of things. Anyone who could sit through a meeting of the Academic Senate and remain reasonably conscious was surely ready to dredge the depths of human activity. Turned loose on the real world in the mid-1970s, I found myself interviewing with the city editor of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, a wiry fellow who smoked cheap cigars down to the tip.

From the Spring 2010 Searchlight on Gray Areas issue of California.

A Great Aspiration

When Senatorial candidate Barack Obama entered the national stage in 2004 with a speech that passionately advocated for an end to the political thin-slicing of the American identity—red states, blue states, soccer moms, NASCAR dads, yuppies, buppies, bobos, and the like—a new term entered the lexicon: post-racial. Both in his message of hope and change and in the very fact of his campaign, Obama gave wings to the notion that race and ethnicity had ceased to be barriers to opportunity. It was something that people very much wanted to hear.

From the Fall 2009 Constant Change issue of California.

Pawning the Jewel

When State Senator Leland Yee ’70, a San Francisco Democrat, suggested last May that the state legislature and not the Board of Regents should have the final say over how the University of California system is run, there was plenty of snickering among the chattering class of newspaper editorialists, university leaders, and education experts.

From the Fall 2009 Constant Change issue of California.

Bureaucratic Maze

Abolhassan Astaneh won’t drive over the repaired portion of the MacArthur Maze until Caltrans proves it’s safe. The Berkeley professor of structural engineering has investigated disasters all over the world, including the collapse of the World Trade Center, and says that most of what you read about the successful reconstruction of the freeway interchange at the eastern end of the Bay Bridge is plain wrong.

From the September October 2007 Green Tech issue of California.

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