Law + Policy

Behind The Great Firewall

They have closed off Tiananmen Square.

The huge portrait of Mao stares across an empty Square at the giant mausoleum to the south where the Chairman’s body is usually on display. Officially the Square has been blocked off because the President of Malaysia is visiting. But today is June 3, the anniversary of the 1989 uprising that left hundreds dead in Beijing—perhaps more, nobody really knows—and jolted all of China. Police are everywhere. The Square is ringed with soldiers.

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

5 Questions For:

RB: At its core Iran is a rational state. Every action it takes is well calculated, and rarely does emotion figure in. If, for instance, Iran were to induce Israel or the United States to strike its nuclear facilities, the decision would be made on a pure calculation of power—Iran wants the support of the Muslim world, and there’s no better way to get that support than being attacked by the West.

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

California: Dream Deferred

In the generation after World War II, California, always well-endowed in its climate and natural beauty, became an exemplar not only for its universities and its huge investment in schools, parks, roads, and water systems, but for the modern, professional government that the state established to oversee that investment. Those progressive social policies were enacted under both Republican and Democratic governors, and by legislators of both parties. Now, 40 years on, they seem almost quaint.

From the July August 2006 Indo Chic issue of California.

Waterworld

They blamed it on a beaver. Or perhaps it was a ground squirrel. Whatever it was, it brought quick trouble to Jones Tract early on a June morning in 2004, when the old levee failed and waters rushed through the breach. “A little burrowing animal is usually how it starts,” says Lisa Kirk, community activist of nearby Bethel Island, recalling the sunny day when Jones Tract disappeared. The tract, like dozens of surrounding islands scattered through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, was below sea level, kept dry by an old wall of peat and dirt. For decades it held.

From the Winter 2009 Food for Thought issue of California.

Meeting Locally, Acting Globally

One day last July, an unlikely pair stood ankle-deep in the upper reaches of Strawberry Creek. Titi, a lawyer from Nigeria, and Hernán, a geologist from Colombia were on either side of a small pool, sloshing around in rubber boots. “Keep going!” said Titi, holding a net just downstream of Hernán, who shuffled his feet in order to “disturb the substrate,” as the post-doc leading the exercise put it. The commotion kicked up silt and leaf litter, along with scores of tiny aquatic creatures that were carried by the current into Titi’s net.

From the Winter 2009 Food for Thought issue of California.

A Summer with Science

The first thing Edgar Ulu noticed was the smell. A junior at Thurgood Marshall High School in San Francisco, the 16-year-old had never been in a real laboratory before. Now he was donning safety goggles and a white lab coat five days a week. One of six student interns in this year’s Introductory College Level Experience in Microbiology (ICLEM) program, Ulu spent the summer studying biofuels alongside Ph.D.s and postdocs at the state-of-the-art Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) laboratory in Emeryville.

From the Winter 2009 Food for Thought issue of California.

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.

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