Thursday, May 17, 2007

Plan B(erkeley)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like an interesting proposal. The city of Berkeley should be able to pass generally applicable restrictions on public behavior (i.e., severely limiting outdoor smoking) that have the effect of making the homeless leave Berkeley for lifestyle reasons.

If the Berkeley homeless are "smoked out," where would they migrate next? What cities would cater to the "smokin' homeless"? Remember that most of the homeless of Berkeley are not indigenous. Rather, they migrate here because Berkeley is a "destination city" for street people.

5/17/2007 2:27 AM  
Blogger Tom Fletcher said...

Riddle me this, if you're homeless and get cited for smoking... so what? What's Berkeley going to do? Garnish your wages? Put a lien on your shopping cart? Empty the change out of your sock? Beyond a cop forcing you to waste one cigarette (which you might be able to relight later unless it's crushed), I'm not sure what the sanction is.

Maybe Berkeley's visionary city council knows something about the behavior of the homeless that I don't.

Other various insanities:

1. Many students smoke. They'll now run the risk of being cited. Most apartments don't allow you to smoke in them, now you can't smoke outside them... so... is there going to be rampant lawlessness, or a bunch of irritable grad students?

2. Berkeley made marijuana enforcement its lowest priority... so, if I get caught smoking a joint on Telegraph, I can instead point to the guy smoking down the block, and the cop is supposed to go chase down the smoker?

3. This does nothing to reduce the non-smoking homeless population. In fact, it may just lead to an in-migration of non-smoking homeless to take the spots of the smoking homeless now forced out.

Ah, Berkeley.

In other news, Berkeley's city attorney was named one of California's top female litigators for winning the Sea Scouts case before the California Supreme Court.

5/17/2007 1:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sheer idiocy.

People who support this are the same people whose capacity for empathy is so low that they feel personally offended by the mere sight of someone else's poverty. Is it right to criminalize someone for their mere existence, something which causes us to feel uncomfortable because maybe for a brief moment we're forced to look at suffering in its eye?

And yes, there are REAL sanctions for these so-called "quality of life" offenses. If you have enough citations build up, they turn into criminal charges, warrants are issued, and your ass is hauled into jail because, god forbid, you had the audacity to shit, smoke, and sleep, just like everyone else, cept you don't have a home to do it in.

5/17/2007 3:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom, to respond to a few of your points...

1. Is it so bad to enforce this against students as well? Personally, I don't like having cigarette smoke (or any other smoke, for that matter) wafting through the open windows of my apartment, or having to walk through a cloud of smoke to get to a building entrance.

2. Presumably (and this is a big presumption, because I don't know the details of Berkeley's no-smoking laws) the no-smoking rule is enforced against any smoking, be it cigarette, cigar, or marijuana. So they're not prioritizing cigarette laws, they're prioritizing laws which limit the locations one can smoke at.

5/17/2007 5:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check out Brian Leiter's Law School Reports Blog ( for a report on visiting professors for next term at a handful of top law schools. It appears that the following four Boalt professors will be visiting Harvard Law School next semester: David Sklansky, Pamela Samuelson, Jesse Fried, Aaron Edlin. I wonder whether HLS is serious about recruiting these guys or gal. Apparently, Jesse Fried will also be visiting Columbia Law School next academic year.

5/17/2007 6:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

5:38, is it really that big of a deal? I'm a non-smoker and I don't like having to deal with smoke but I do. I am blown away by how intolerant people can get about smoking sometimes. It's really not that big of a deal and I find the anti-smoking crusade a bit over-the-top at times.

5/17/2007 8:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This proposal is absolutely idiotic and it will mainly punish Cal students. Parking a $1.50 and you can't smoke outside? I'm sure the bums give a crap about THAT measure.

How about we make defecation on the street illegal? Or vagrancy? Or does that make too much sense for a mayor who got caught stealing student papers? I've seen bums going to the bathroom (and doing other unseemly, personal things) in broad daylight, and no-one does anything about it. But Heaven help a student who walks his dog and doesn't pick up the dog crap!

Berkeley would be a festering dump if it wasn't for the student population. Yet everything the city does attacks the students, not the bums. Instead of forcing me to spend even more money, why don't you force the bums to GET A JOB?!

5/17/2007 8:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want to smoke a joint on Telegraph with Tom Fletcher.

5/17/2007 8:55 PM  
Blogger Tom Fletcher said...

8:55, only if we plant a cigarette smoker on each of the four blocks around us.

5/17/2007 9:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whatever it takes.

5/17/2007 10:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not familiar with Freid or Edlin, but losing David Sklansky and Pamela Samuelson would be really tragic.

I wonder what their reasons would be for wanting to leave Boalt (of course, this is mere speculation because we don't know if they really are thinking about leaving). It's possible that no matter how great of a place Boalt is, the prestige, resources, and location (for those crazies who don't love the Bay Area) of Harvard will trump other considerations. But I can't help but wonder if there is a lack of morale, collegiality, etc. amongst the faculty.

5/18/2007 9:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

why are the federalists and their "non-federalist" friends so over represented on this blog?

5/18/2007 11:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Harvard is so large that it annually churns through dozens of visitors who have no intent of leaving their regular jobs. Let's hope that's the case here.

5/18/2007 11:38 AM  
Blogger Tom Fletcher said...

There are so many reasons 11:10. Pick the one you like the best.

1. After Al Gore invented the internet, people who love old documents went techno-crazy and took it over. The only way to get a Blogger account now is to swear fealty to a musty old Constitution. Anyone who subscribes to Mother Jones or farther left is automatically denied the ability to post on the internet, anywhere.

2. They're not overrepresented. There are more federalists and "non-federalists" than you think.

3. Because a blog isn't a place of public accommodation, because a lack of respect for the text of a law is not a protected class, and becase of the right to freely associate (or not associate) with whom people please.

4. Try Bud Dry (R).

There might be more reasons. In fact, I know there are because I haven't even started talking about Freemasons, the Knights Templar, or Opus Dei. But I hope that among the four up there, your question's been answered.

5/18/2007 4:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am pretty sure the homeless problem would go away if you stopped providing a pretty decent annual salary for taking cans out of dumpsters, allowing homeless to squat on lawns, prohibiting store owners from removing homeless people who sleep on their doorstep, etc.

But honestly, I'd rather one wacko lib town have 99% of them and save the rest of the East Bay.

The .50 per hour is robbery, however.

5/19/2007 11:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In theory, it's great that by getting $$ for bottles and cans homeless people can make some cash and do a good service as well. However, homeless people always take the bottles and cans out of recycling bins, which would be recycled anyway. And they do it at the crack of dawn, before the trash trucks come through. It's really annoying to hear homeless people yelling and clinking bottles and cans at 6:30am.

5/19/2007 2:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, it is so annoying while I am laying in my cozy warm bed when I am awakened by those darned homeless people who've been up all night trying to make a living.

5/19/2007 4:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I knew there would be a response like the one 4:00 left.

Look, it's unreasonable to allow homeless people to do whatever they want simply because they're homeless and we feel bad for them. Are people supposed to be allowed to annoy whoever the hell they want simply because they're trying to make a living?

These folks are clearly physically and mentally able enough to get up at 6am, collect bottles from recycling bins, argue (quite loudly) amongst themselves, and redeem the bottles for money. There is no reason why they couldn't get a job.

5/19/2007 6:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

6:25 is clearly ignorant of social realities.

Here's a question: Why would a person willingly engage in the degrading act of rooting through other people's garbage for tin cans to haul around in shopping carts all night, all for a few bucks, if they had other viable employment options?

People don't live in dire poverty because it's fun or easy, or because they enjoy harrassing oblivious, over-entitled law students like ourselves while they try to sleep.

Seriously. I can't believe anyone would begrudge someone for taking their tin cans at night.

5/19/2007 6:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It bugs me too that they take bottles and cans out of recycling bins. From what I understand, (well, at least from what I've heard) that money funds curbside recycling. I think its great if homeless people find cans that would not otherwise be recycled, but I don't think its right for them to steal from a recycling progam.
I would prefer that money go to a program that reduces landfill waste rather than an individual homeless person, but that's just me.

5/19/2007 7:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cry me a river 6:55PM.

The reality is that there ARE jobs to be had. They might not be glamorous, they might not be located in Berkeley, but if someone is able enough to collect bottles and cans and cash them in for money, they are able to perform a variety of jobs that are out there. I won't deny that other factors, such as mental illness and drug addiction may prevent someone from finding and holding a job, but there are plenty of shelters and other social services out there where people can seek help. Do you think those kids selling hemp jewelry and harassing people for money on Telegraph Ave. have no other viable employment options?

And why do you think law students are "over-entitled?" I'm sorry, but I'm not going to feel guilty about the family I was born into. I pay my taxes, volunteer for a variety of causes, donate to charity, and contribute to society through my career. I have no reason to feel guilty about my situation.

5/19/2007 10:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is nice to get a chuckle every now and then from reading the right-wing commenters on this blog. You guys are CLOWNS!

5/20/2007 1:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't it wonderful how each of us is so entrenched in our respective position that we cannot have a productive conversation? So much for good "liberal" education...

5/20/2007 9:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To all of the bleeding hearts and clowns out there,

Part of the problem with this discussion about Berkeley's homeless is that there are really 2 different groups, each of which should ideally be dealt with differently.

Group 1: Crazy/worthless/pitiable vagabonds: These are the people who migrate to Berkeley like swallows because its a relatively nice place to live for the homeless. These people have mental problems or are just older career homeless people. This is the group that needs to be shipped off somewhere. No matter what social services that are provided to these people no progress will be made. In the immortal words of the twilight zone we need to send them to, "The corn fields"

Group 2: Spoiled/drug addled/hippy/ kids. These homeless can be identified by names like moonstrike and bowzer. They are generally in their 20's, have skateboards, the occasional dog, make flowers out of woven leaves, smoke lots of pot, live in trees, and crash random berkeley parties. These "homeless" are really just the rebellious kids of wealthy parent who try to live the artsy life of a hobo on the streets of Berkeley. While this makes them more culpable in my book for the burden that they place on the rest of us than the homeless in group 1, it also means that they are much more apt to be rehabilitated. Thus, this group should just be harrased by the law and made abjectly misearable until they go home to mommy and get a real job.

Ps. In case you can't tell my political leanings fall right in line with Dennis Kucinich.

5/20/2007 9:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear 10:24,

I'd like to see how you'd fare one night on the streets. Maybe all those layers of smugness and self-congratulation will keep you warm?

5/20/2007 10:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

10:10AM, I don't see how your suggestion is productive. I don't think anyone "supports" homelessness or thinks that it's not rough.

Do I think it's a good thing that there are homeless people? No.
Do I think the gov't should do more to get crazy homeless people off the street? Yes.
Do I get annoyed when someone keeps me awake between the hours of 6 and 6:30am? Forgive my sense of "entitlement," but yes.

I really don't see why any of this makes me a bad person, and moreover I don't see what good would come of anyone spending a night on the streets. Do you suggest people join a gang to get a first-hand glimpse of gang violence? Enlist in the Army so they can see what it's really like to be a soldier before they form an opinion on the war?

5/20/2007 10:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear 10:24,

I was actually being facetious. I thought that would be obvious. But anyway, the point is that homelessness is not a lifestyle choice, which you implied in your earlier post. No one would choose that kind of suffering, and to suggest otherwise is both callous and ignorant. I was also aiming to convey that a small dose of empathy might help your misguided politics. I know that I for one learned more from each one of my homeless clients at EBCLC than I learned in all of law school. Furthermore, any person who has the most basic involvement in direct service work will tell you that there simply are not “plenty of shelters and social services out there” for anyone who wants help. Subsidized housing like Section 8 has decade-long waiting lists and Bay Area shelters are notoriously overcrowded and full. It is nearly impossible for a disabled homeless person to get on SSI.

Also, I don’t think I ever suggested that a person “supports” homelessness. What does irk me; however, are people like you who treat the homeless like vermin who need to be extinguished. We are talking about human beings, not rats. It seems like you need the reminder. Homelessness is a profound and devastating reality with complex roots. Issuing criminal citations for acts of living will do nothing but aggravate the problem.


5/20/2007 9:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear 10:10,

I do not want our dear homeless friends to be "extinguished." I merely want them to 1) stop harassing me on the streets for money, and 2) stop waking me up with their crazy yelling and bottle-clanking at 6:30am. In fact, I want anyone -- homeless or not -- to stop doing these things.

People do have some choice in their lifestyle. We can't assume that just because someone is living a shitty life that it's not their choice, or that they have no control over it. I don't doubt that they got handed a raw deal in life, and I'm not arguing that many other factors out of their control are in play, but that doesn't mean they have free rein to annoy or harass everyone else.

Also, your choice of words to describe certain behaviors -- "acts of living" -- is interesting. I have no problem with people engaging in "acts of living" so long as it doesn't interfere with my "acts of living," which in this case includes sleeping or walking down the sidewalk without being harassed.

All the Best,

5/20/2007 10:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

---"I know that I for one learned more from each one of my homeless clients at EBCLC than I learned in all of law school." ---

Must be a Stanfurd grad.

5/23/2007 6:36 PM  

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