Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hoist By Their Own Petard

It's silly that the denizens of Berkeley, CA, voted to make the place a "nuclear free zone", even though they grant waivers to the local university, home of Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. It's even more silly when their smug, so-much-better-than-thou little scheme blows up in their faces:

Berkeley's public library will face a showdown with the city's Peace and Justice Commission tonight over whether a service contract for the book check-out system violates the city's nuclear-free ordinance.

The dispute centers on a five-year, $63,000 contract the library wants to sign with 3M, an international technology company based in Minnesota, to service five scanner machines library patrons use to check out books.

But 3M, a company with operations in 60 countries, refused to sign Berkeley's nuclear-free disclosure form as required by the Nuclear Free Berkeley Act passed by voters in 1986.

As a result, the library's self-checkout machines have not been serviced in about six months. Library officials say 3M is the only company authorized by the manufacturer to fix the machines, which were purchased in 2004.

The library asked the Peace and Justice Commission for a waiver, but at its Jan. 5 meeting the commission voted 7-1, with two abstentions, to reject the request. The library is now appealing the decision to the City Council.

For starters, I have difficulty understanding the purpose of a city's Peace and Justice Commission. It just sounds too much like South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, the purpose of which was to air out the truth hidden by decades of apartheid. Berkeley sounds a bit too--what's the word here? Arrogant?

And they're going to let the library falter because a company won't sign a form bowing to Berkeley's crazy political philosophies. Brilliant! I hope there's more of this.


allen (in Michigan) said...

The word I'd use is "self-indulgent". Arrogance is a component of self-indulgence so I'm not disagreeing, just pointing out that arrogance doesn't explain this worthless, yet power-wielding committee.

The other word I'd use to describe the committee is "irresponsible".

I'm sure the committee members don't expect any blow-back from their decisions. The committee members don't have any personal responsibility for the results of their decisions nor, I suspect, do they have any expectations of negative response except from those who are beneath contempt like big corporations.

Once the heat is off they'll cut a quiet deal. All this "peace and justice" stuff is fun but no one, not least of which themselves, takes the committee seriously. But for purposes of public consumption they'll put their dedication to peace and justice on display.

Erica said...

I hope they continue in this vein.

What, do they actually think 3M is going to be taken low by a measly $63,000 contract? That's probably less than their office coffee budget.

But of course, the Ministry of Peace there is "speaking truth to power" and damn the consequences of such a noble act.

(Of course "power" is defined as "a completely harmless group or corporation who has neither the time nor inclination to respond to my histrionics in any way." Put a real "power" in front of them and they'll preemptively surrender and start organizing sensitivity classes so we all know how not to make the power angry.)

PeggyU said...

What the hell is a "nuclear free zone", anyway? When we bought our first house (which we have kept as a rental), there was an official looking sign on one side of the property near the road that read "Nuclear Free Zone". I thought it was kinda funny ... I guess we would not have been allowed to drop any warheads on the lawn to destroy the weeds. Anyhow, one morning the sign was no longer there. The pole was missing and the ground had been filled in, so I don't think it was the work of vandals. Does that mean we are now free to store plutonium in our rental if we can't find a tenant?

Ellen K said...

What would be true justice would be if 3M made a huge nanotechnology breakthrough and decided to give the bulk of research funding to another less strident university research department. At some point, they will make such egregious financial mistakes that the university will no longer be able to sustain their arrogance. And the world will laugh.

Darren said...

This isn't the university, this is the City of Berkeley!

The university is granted nuke waivers by the commission--as if they had any authority over a state university anyway.

David said...

I wonder about the companies that *have* signed the Berkeley form. It's difficult for me to imagine any large company agreeing to such terms without a detailed review, and for most of the contracts, the amount at stake would seem to small to bother with such a review. I'd bet that in many if not most cases, the form was signed by a sales rep who did not really have authority to do so but just wanted to get his deal done and get paid.

Ellen K said...

Darren, how many large companies are now hiring in Berkley? How many of their graduates are able to stay in their hometown to pursue their livelihoods? At some point there won't be any businesses left to tax. What will the liberals do then? (in my head the song, "What do the Simple Folk Do?" cropped into my head. I am sure there is a reason...I will work on appropriate lyrics...)