News & Notes 

A local grazing critic conducts his own study; and don't write off "the Movement" just yet.

When cows attack: As we reported last autumn ("Head 'Em Up, Move 'Em Out!," November 14, 2001), the practice of allowing cattle to graze East Bay Regional Park District land has been the subject of a major neighborhood beef. Supporters say grazing is a boon to local ranchers as well as a natural, pesticide-free fire-control method, since cows chow down on many invasive plant species considered fire risks. Critics say cows simply trample the greenery, muddy the streams, eat everything in sight, and may be helping displace endangered local species that need a shady, verdant habitat to survive, such as the red-legged frog. The Alameda Creek Alliance and the Berkeley office of the Center for Biological Diversity challenged the district's grazing practices in court four years ago, but lost after the judge forbade them from submitting expert testimony on grazing's impact from outside the East Bay. Unfortunately, there were no local studies. "[The judge] limited us to what was in the park district's record, and of course there was none because the park had never conducted a review," says Jeff Miller of the Center for Biological Diversity.

Now both sides have gathered plenty of paperwork. Last year, the district produced its own study under the auspices of its Grazing Task Force, which recommended minor changes such as more fences in sensitive areas and fixing some trails. Last month, the Center for Biological Diversity issued a riposte, which included a list of more than 150 peer-reviewed scientific papers showing the impact of grazing in the Western United States. And a less scientific but more local study arrived at the same time thanks to the Friends of Sycamore Valley, better known as park-lover Greg Schneider. This one-man anti-grazing lobby released a hefty 366-page report showing what cows have done to his neighborhood park, Sycamore Valley Open Space. Schneider's report includes some of the five thousand photos he has taken showing the park's loss of vegetation and the prevalence of cow pies. It also includes testimony from park users who have been harassed by testy bovines, including the sad tale of a Danville man who claims that a cow butted him so hard that he flew ten feet into the air and landed in a nearby pond. Schneider also contends that the district is skirting the law because, by his calculation, sixty-nine percent of the district's parks have not performed Environmental Impact Reviews to assess the effects of grazing.

While Schneider is not an ecologist or a biologist, he says it's easy to see that something's wrong, and that the changes he's witnessed in Sycamore Valley are easily extrapolated to the district's other parks. "They can talk all they want and say how it's not damaging, but it's pretty hard to dispute the photographs," he says of his report. The Center for Biological Diversity is looking into another legal challenge, and Miller says that even though Schneider's study doesn't purport to be scientific, it will be invaluable in showing how grazing changed the face of Sycamore Valley. "He basically did the park district's EIR for them," says Miller.

Socialists in Berkeley? More than 300 members, activists, and fellow travelers associated with the International Socialist Organization showed up at a crowded UCB lecture hall last Saturday to hear Greg Palast, author of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. Palast's smooth shtick, drawn from his detailed investigations of the unfortunate imbroglio that left Bush junior in charge, had packed the pews of Berkeley's St. John the Worker church the night before with a 700-strong audience. Lest anyone argue the far left has withered and died, his reception suggests otherwise.

Palast recounted how he discovered and reported for the BBC on the little voter-scrubbing program of Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, which allegedly disenfranchised some 57,700-odd reputed felons. Palast pointed at his laptop, reading that one of those scrubbed from the rolls was one "Thomas Cooper who was convicted in, ummm, 2007! Katherine Harris the time traveler," he quipped. "Of the 57,700, at least 92 percent were not criminals and 54 percent were guilty of being black. Let's see now. George Bush won by 500 votes." Palast's voice trailed off rather deliberately at that point.

Ahmed Shawki, editor of the International Socialist Review, capped off the evening's events with some suitably dissident warnings about life during wartime. From revolutionary John Reed, he quoted: "There is never a war overseas that is not paid for without a war at home." And from that pillar of radical thought George Carlin, he added: "During a war, never trust anything the government says."

And, yes, just in case you were wondering, the eighteen-to-eighty-year-old audience really did stand up and sing the Internationale -- well, most of it anyway.

Reeducating Nina: 7 Days was shocked, simply shocked, to see Berkeley High School alumna Marie Hartman -- better known under her porn name, Nina Hartley -- turn up recently at a SoCal temple with her new fiancé. No, we weren't shocked to see her as the guest lecturer at a place of worship. (So what if she's done 300, 400, maybe 500 porn films over the past two decades?) We were stunned to hear she had a new fiancé. His name is Ernest Greene, whom some of our more horny readers might know as the editor of Hustler's Taboo magazine.

As Hartley's legion of fans already know, Nina has spent most of her acting career in a high-profile three-way marriage with Berkeley photographer David Carr and local free-speech activist Bobby Lilly. Of course, California doesn't recognize three-way marriages, let alone same-sex ones, so on paper Hartley was only legally bound to Carr. Just four years ago, the trio headlined the Family Synergy conference promoting the benefits of multiperson marriages.

Porn's self-described socialist was quoted in Adult Video News as saying during her recent appearance at Temple Beth Ami, "I did have a three-way relationship for about twenty years. It was good in theory, but in practice it didn't work." She then announced she was going to marry Greene.

Before she walks down the aisle again, though, she'll need to finalize her divorce from Carr. Hartley filed for divorce in Alameda County Superior Court in July citing irreconcilable differences. Carr is contesting the divorce, arguing there is a "reasonable possibility of reconciliation."

You can't fault a guy for trying.

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