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Jakob Schiller: Julius and Carita Jenkins’ house on Ashby Avenue is always aglow during the holidays. They say it has become a bit of a neighborhood tradition. Julius said, “People are always asking us, ‘when are the lights going to go up?’” Carita said the display is also a way to celebrate her birthday, which happens to be on Christmas..
Jakob Schiller: Julius and Carita Jenkins’ house on Ashby Avenue is always aglow during the holidays. They say it has become a bit of a neighborhood tradition. Julius said, “People are always asking us, ‘when are the lights going to go up?’” Carita said the display is also a way to celebrate her birthday, which happens to be on Christmas..


ZAB Gives Green Light To San Pablo Ave. Condos By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Friday December 23, 2005

After years of wrangling, heated neighborhood opposition and repeated design revisions, the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) cleared the way Monday for a five-story condominium complex at 2700 San Pablo Ave. 

The special Monday meeting was called to consider an appeal by project-area neighbors of the Design Review Committee’s approval of revised project plans submitted by Curtis + Partners Development of San Francisco. 

The project, located at the corner of San Pablo Avenue and Carleton Street, will feature three levels of residential condos over four ground floor two-story live/work spaces and a purely commercial space. 

As first proposed, the project was in the hands of different developers and architects, and the intended use was apartments. Patrick Kennedy’s Panoramic Interests had partnered with the Rev. Gordon Choyce’s Jubilee Restoration, with Panoramic holding a 73 percent interest. 

The building began as a five-story, 63-unit project in March 1999, but was scrapped in the face of strong neighborhood opposition. Eight months later, the project was back with new architects who had scaled in back to 48 units in four stories. 

ZAB denied that project eight months later, on a 7-2 vote and Christopher Hudson, project manager for the building, refused to consider ZAB’s suggestions that he scale back the size of the structure. ZAB then rejected the building as too dense for the surrounding neighborhood. 

Finally, in July, 2002, the developers won city approval to build a scaled back four-story 35-unit project 

Kennedy and Choyce pulled the plug in August 2003 and put the project up for sale after Jubilee was unable to raise funds to buy out Kennedy’s interest and Hudson told reporters that Kennedy had decided to concentrate only on larger projects. 

The project was listed with Norheim & Yost, who handle many large scale transactions, especially in West Berkeley. Curtis + Partners bought the project with the approved permits for the scaled-back project in 2004, resubmitted the plans as a condo project and with a new architect and won approval from ZAB in December 2004. 

Curtis’s project is a 43,245-square-foot structure with 35 units, including the four live/work and one commercial spaces. 

By the time of Monday’s ZAB vote, the project had gone through at least five different design changes. 

Monday’s appeal from long-time project critics Julie DIckinson and Laurie Bright argued that ZAB should reconsider the project because its intended use had changed from apartments to condos and the designs had undergone significant changes. 

The greatest structural change was a move from an open glass-fronted building—which would have required steel frame construction—to a concrete-framed design that replace much of the glass with concrete sheer walls. 

ZAB member Dave Blake, who chaired Monday’s meeting in the absence of Chair Andy Katz, agreed with critics that the use permit should be reopened, calling the cement a “major modification ... it’s a different design.” 

David Snippen, vice chair of the Design Review Committee (DRC), told ZAB members that the glass-front design had been taken from the previously approved plans, which Curtis had told the committee needed to be changed because of economic considerations. 

“We asked for some means to lighten up the appearance along San Pablo Avenue,” Snippen said. “In that sense, we find to progress has been successful.” 

“There were legitimate reasons why they did it,” said ZAB and DRC member Bob Allen. “They addressed virtually all the items in the appeal to our satisfaction.” 

ZAB member Carrie Sprague disagreed, saying, “These were very major changes.” 

“I have all kinds of problems with the project,” said ZAB member Dean Metzger, who particularly objected to the fact that the building was considered to front on Carleton Street when the bulk of its mass is concentrated along San Pablo. 

“Those issues were already addressed,” said member Chris Tiedemann. “It’s not fair to the applicant or the public to go through items that are not subject to a hearing.” 

“It’s up to us to decide” if the issues merited a new hearing, said Blake sided with Sprague on the need for a new hearing, but lost in a 5-3 vote. Blake then sided with the majority on a vote to deny the appeal. 

For project critics—who weren’t allowed to address the board on the project—the last recourse is an appeal to the City Council, where similar projects have been given the green light. 

A permit to demolish an existing metal-framed former gas station on the site was approved on Sept. 29. Soil contaminated by the hazardous gasoline additive MTBE had been removed from the site a decade earlier.  


Suit Against Transportation Agency Moves Forward By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Friday December 23, 2005

A San Francisco federal jurist Wednesday denied a motion to dismiss a proposed racial discrimination class action lawsuit against the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). 

The litigation, backed by the Berkeley and Oakland city councils and Democratic legislators, alleges that the commission’s public transit funding policies are discriminatory against people of color. 

“Good, it was the only thing to do,” said Berkeley City Councilmember Dona Spring of Wednesday’s action by federal Magistrate Elizabeth D. LaPorte. 

“The judge has decided they want to hear this case, so that’s what we’re going to do,” said Randy Rentschler, MTC’s Director of Legislative and Public Affairs. 

The lawsuit alleges that MTC’s funding policies discriminate against people based on race. 

“CalTrain has three times the number of white riders that AC Transit buses, and the subsidy is almost five times greater,” said Richard Marcantonio, attorney for Public Advocates, Inc., the public interest law firm handling the case on behalf of bus riders, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192 and Communities for a Better Environment. 

The next step, following a late January pre-trial conference, will be a hearing on the issue of certifying the litigation as a class action on behalf of all AC transit riders, Marcantonio said. 

“This is an important lawsuit because they have been discriminating against transportation of people at the lower end of the economic spectrum,” said Spring. “This is an inequity, and it needs to be rectified.” 

Rentschler said the lawsuit is misdirected, “because the allocation of transportation funds is complex, and depends an array of state, federal statutes that are enormously complicated. 

“Even if their allegations are true—and I don’t believe they are—it’s not the result of any actions we have taken,” he said. 

The Berkeley City Council passed a resolution sponsored by members Kriss Worthington and Max Anderson on July 12 calling on the MTC to increase funding for AC Transit. 

That resolution noted that 80 percent of AC Transit bus riders are people of color, 70 percent come from very-low-income households and 60 percent lack any other means of commuting to jobs, schools, medical appointments and shopping. 

A joint letter to MTC chair Jon Rubin calling for greater equity in transit funding was also dispatched on Sept. 12 by East Bay Assemblymembers Loni Hancock, Wilma Chan and John Klehs, joined by State Sen. President Pro Tempore Don Perata, U.S. Rep Barbara Lee, Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson and Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia.  

“AC Transit funding has dropped precipitously over the last 20 years,” Marcantonio said. “Along with fare increases there have been funding shortages and service cuts.” 

Currently, he said, AC transit receives public subsidies of $2.78 per rider trop, compare to $6.14 for BART and $13.79 for CalTrain, “more than five times the subsidy for AC Transit riders.” 

While local governments are promoting infill development as an alternative to urban sprawl, the greatest subsidies are given the transit systems that bring in passengers from farthest away, Spring said. “Smart growth depends on public transit, yet we have less transportation today than we did 10, 15 and 20 years ago.” 

“Instead of suing us, we need to join together and go united to Sacramento and Washington, D.C. and to the local voters to make the case that if people are serious about increasing public transportation, they have to give more money,” Rentschler said. 

“Instead, we’ll be spending money on lawyers, which we think is a waste of money,” he added. 

Now that the lawsuit is going ahead, Marcantonio said one of the next steps will be the discovery process. “We’ve received around 800 pages of documents [from MTC] out of an estimated 60,000,” he said. 

Public Advocates, Inc. is a non-profit public interest civil rights law firm founded in 1971. 

“We’re one of the first of the public interest firms that was formed as a result of the civil rights movement,” Marcantonio said. The firm has won some notable victories, which are listed on their web site at www.publicadvocates.org.  

Voting Machine Certification Delays Raise Concerns By J. DOUGLAS ALLEN-TAYLOR

Friday December 23, 2005

Delays in the certification of electronic voting machines have suddenly thrown confusion into the fate of Alameda County’s scheduled elections. 

A new state law has mandated that any electronic voting machines used in California elections following the turn of the year must include an electronic “paper trail,” a hard copy in which the vote tally can be checked against the computerized tally automatically given by the voting machine. Since the Diebold electronic voting machines used in the November elections in Alameda County are not equipped with an electronic paper trail function, those machines cannot be used next year. 

Alameda County Supervisors had been scheduled to vote on the purchase of a new set of electronic voting machines with paper trail audit functions in mid-December. But a spokesperson for Board of Supervisors President Keith Carson said that supervisors have yet to receive information on the voting machines from the County Registrar of Voters office, and the date of a supervisors’ vote on the issue will not be held until January at the earliest. 

In addition, the California secretary of state has yet to certify new paper trail electronic voting machines manufactured by Diebold, and Alameda County does not even have the legal option of returning to the use of paper ballots for the June election, a system that was used for a couple of hundred years before the introduction of electronic voting machines. 

“We understand we are in a time crunch,” Carson Chief of Staff Rodney Brooks said. “We haven’t heard from the Secretary of State’s office as to what ‘Plan B’ is.” 

Alameda County Registrar of Voters Elaine Ginnold said that the county is “in the midst of the procurement process. We’re aiming to do this as fast as we can. I’m hoping that we will have a recommendation available to the Supervisors by the first of the year. But while we are in the middle of the procurement process, we can’t comment on it any further.” 

Shortly after the November election, the Registrar of Voters office held a public demonstration of electronic voting machines manufactured by four separate companies: Diebold, Sequoia, Hart, and Electronic Systems & Software (ES&S). At the time, Ginnold said that a county selection committee would rank the four machines and based upon that evaluation, the Alameda County Purchasing Office would then make a recommendation to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, which was scheduled to vote on the voting machine purchase in mid-December. 

But that procurement process has been held up, in part, by actions of the Secretary of State’s office. 

That office has yet to state certify the paper trail functions of three of the four machines being considered by Alameda County: Diebold, Sequoia, and Hart. Ginnold said that because one of the ES&S machines under consideration works with a paper-based system, no verified audit trail is necessary, and those machines are already state certified. 

In addition, early this week, the office of Secretary of State Bruce McPherson asked for additional federal source code certification for the Diebold machines involving a memory card function that had not been previously reviewed by the federal government. 

“Unresolved significant security concerns exist with respect to the memory card used,” McPherson wrote in a Dec. 20 letter to Diebold. “We require this additional review [by the federal government’s Independent Testing Authorities] before proceeding with further consideration of your application for certification in California.” 

Ginnold said that “theoretically, we could recommend purchase of a machine that has not yet been certified, but that recommendation would be worthless” unless and until such state certification comes through. And she added that if no paper trail audit electronic voting machines receive state certification, the county cannot return to the use of all paper ballots because of federal handicapped access laws. 

“Federal law requires that every polling place must have at least one station that can be used by all handicapped persons without any assistance,” Ginnold said. “In addition, the system in place must allow that person to independently verify their vote, and to be notified if they have made a possible mistake in marking their ballot, such as undervoting or overvoting.” 

Paper ballots, Ginnold noted, do not provide such access, verification, and notification for all classes of handicapped persons. 

“This has put us in a very difficult situation,” Ginnold said. “We’re not getting much guidance from the Secretary of State’s office.” 

Ginnold said that 17 California counties find themselves facing similar electronic voting machine certification problems. 


Fee Increases Impact Peralta Community Colleges By J. DOUGLAS ALLEN-TAYLOR

Friday December 23, 2005

A steep increase in statewide community college student fees is having a definite impact on the Peralta Community College system as a whole, but will probably be mitigated in Berkeley by the impending opening of the new Vista College campus, according to Peralta Board of Trustees Chair Linda Handy. 

That information comes in the wake of a recently-released California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office report noting that an $8-per-unit fee increase initiated last fall has led to a 1.33 percent decrease in community college enrollment throughout the state, a drop of 314,000 students. Tuition rates were raised by the state legislature from $18 per unit to $26 per unit. 

“If you raise tuition that much, you figure there’s going to be a fallout,” Handy said in a telephone interview. 

Handy said the district’s biggest concern is at the College of Alameda, where she said enrollment has had a “significant drop” since last year. 

“There are so many factors involved, it’s hard to pin it down to any one thing,” Handy said. “You have the cost of education, the course offerings, and the location of the college itself.” 

She said, however, that the statewide tuition raises was a factor. 

“This certainly didn’t help,” she said. 

Handy had no enrollment figures on hand for the College of Alameda or Peralta’s other four colleges—Vista, Laney, and Merritt—and the district and college offices were closed for the holiday break. 

But according to Handy, Vista College enrollment should not suffer from fee increases. The new Vista campus is currently under construction in downtown Berkeley, with the move over from the old college location scheduled for the end of the spring semester. 

“I haven’t heard any concerns regarding enrollment problems at Vista,” Handy said. “The new campus is going to be a big draw. In my opinion, enrollment is going to take off like a rocket. Everybody’s excited about it. I’d certainly go there.” 

Meanwhile, the state Chancellor’s Office study gave a grim picture of community college enrollment overall in the wake of the fee increases. 

“It is logical to conclude that the fee increases ... acted as an economic deterrent to students,” the report concluded. “The loss of older students has been significant. ... Almost one-quarter of all students in this age group stated their educational goal was to either ‘prepare for a new career,’ ‘update job skills,’ or ‘maintain certificate or license’... So the disproportionate loss of this group will have an effect on the ability of California’s existing labor force to both retrain for and advance in the future labor market.” 

The report also called the loss of first-time and returning students “even more troublesome.” 

The report noted that an analysis of community college student retention rates before and after the fee increases showed “no trend toward lower-income geographical areas having disproportionate declines in the number of community college attendees.” 

The report concluded that “this outcome points to the effectiveness of the statewide financial aid campaign which targeted these populations.”h


Friday December 23, 2005

Robber sought 

Berkeley police have issued an alert calling for the public’s help in apprehending a robber who has been targeting women in the southeast and northern sections of the city. 

Though none of his victims have actually seen a pistol, the bandit professes to be packing heat in a pocket. He targets people who have just made cash withdrawals from automatic teller machines. 

Acting Berkeley Police Public Information Officer Shira Warren described the suspect as an African American male with a large build who stands between 6’2” and 6’5” and often wears a black hooded sweatshirt and a matching baseball cap, sometimes worn with the bill backwards. 

The same individual is suspected to be the culprit of similar robberies in the Rockridge area of Oakland. 

Anyone with information on the case is asked to call the Berkeley police robbery division at 981-5742. 


Reward offered 

The City of Berkeley has issued a $5,000 reward for information leading to the whereabouts of Berkeley resident Wallace M. Richards III, who has been missing since the morning Nov. 12, when he was last seen dropping off some friends at their jobs in San Francisco. 

His car, a gold Mercedes C-240 was later recovered near San Lorenzo. 

Richards, 23, is 6’2” tall, weighs 235 pounds, and was last seen wearing a white T-shirt and a lightweight green and gray jacket, Officer Warren reports. 

Anyone with information is asked to call Berkeley police at 981-5741. 


Bus stop robbery 

UC Police have issued an alert about a strong-arm bandit who assaulted a man at a bus stop in the 2200 block of Piedmont Avenue about 10:20 p.m. Tuesday and demanded he surrender his laptop computer. 

When the young man resisted, a struggle ensued in which the victim received minor injuries but successfully managed to keep hold of the computer. 

The suspect then fled in a red SUV with a second man. 


Brandisher bust 

UC Berkeley police arrested a 25-year-old man shortly before 2 a.m. Sunday after hearing a Berkeley P.D. broadcast about a suspect who had been brandishing a knife in the 2100 block of Bancroft Way. 

Though the fellow had fled the scene before BPD arrived, university officers were able to locate him minutes later.i

Can Evo Morales Foster a World Coca Market? By MARCELO BALLVÉ Pacific News Service Pacific News Serive

Friday December 23, 2005

The resounding election victory in Bolivia of coca grower and indigenous leader Evo Morales clearly troubles U.S. drug warriors. But coca advocates and some Latin American media see an opportunity for “Mama Coca” to emerge as a legitimate economic resource for South America’s poorest nation.  

The U.S. style of fighting the drug war stresses plant eradication. As part of his left-leaning platform, Morales has vowed to decriminalize the harvest of the coca plant, which can be used to manufacture cocaine but has been grown and chewed traditionally in the Andean corridor for millennia.  

“It’s not at all far-fetched to imagine that China and Europe could be great markets for coca tea,” writes José Mirtenbaum, a sociologist and coca expert, in Bolivian alternative bimonthly El Juguete Rabioso.  

Mirtenbaum writes that even U.S. space agency NASA has experimented with coca gum to prevent dizziness in astronauts, and that coca has hundreds of possible applications—he cites high-chlorophyll toothpaste, pharmaceuticals, an alternative to chew tobacco, anti-diabetics and nutritional supplements. But stigmatization and prohibition have prevented Bolivian science from researching coca’s potential, Mirtenbaum says.  

For advocates, coca is the ginseng of the future. Their hope, and that of the highly organized cocaleros, as Bolivia’s coca growers are known, is that with their man Morales as its spokesman the leaf might finally clear the legal and political hurdles (and prejudices) that block the creation of a legitimate world coca market.  

Some call for an amendment to enshrine coca’s sacred status in Bolivia’s constitution, which will undergo revision.  

“Coca is Bolivia’s natural resource, just like gas, oil or water,” said Leonilda Zurita, president of a women coca producers’ federation, speaking at an international coca conference in Bolivia in November. “Therefore it ought to be protected in our constitution when we re-write it next year,” said Zurita, as quoted in The Narco News Bulletin Web site, which tracks the drug war in Latin America.  

Morales has sought to reassure the world he won’t harbor drug runners. But he also was emphatic in making the distinction between cocaine, made via an involved chemical processing of the leaf, and the plant, which is sacred in the Andes.  

“Coca is not cocaine,” Morales said. “The producer of coca leaf is not a drug trafficker and the consumer is not an addict, this must be clear.”  

Under the previous government of President Carlos Mesa (who resigned in June), Morales and the coca growers had already achieved a small-scale decriminalization of coca cultivation. Since October 2004, coca growers in the Chapare region, where Morales began his political career fighting U.S.-backed, militarized eradication programs, have been allowed to grow coca legally. Each grower was allowed a small, traditional plot called a cato (less than a half-acre).  

This was a huge victory, because until then, the government’s position (in line with Washington, D.C.’s) was that virtually all Chapare coca was being funneled to illegal trade. As part of the agreement, it was decided that a civilian-government commission would undertake an exhaustive study of the country’s legal coca market.  

Morales says he will push for the study to occur soon, and determine whether coca acreage needs to be expanded further. He also has promised a referendum to ask Bolivians how the coca issue should be managed. He says Bolivia will become an advocate for the decriminalization of coca leaf at the United Nations, whose drug conventions are the framework for global narcotics control.  

Elsewhere in the Andes, the alliance between coca and muscular Indian political movements is increasingly powerful, and could add regional muscle to the call for coca’s legitimization on a global scale.  

Humberto Cholango, of Ecuadorean indigenous movement Ecuarunari, congratulated Morales on his victory in an op-ed on Bolivian news Web site Bolpress.com. “(The result) is a blow to the U.S. government because it tried to ban the planting of coca in Bolivia,” Cholango writes.  

In Peru, nationalist Ollanta Humala is a strong contender ahead of April 2006 presidential elections. There are rumors that Humala has offered coca growers’ leader Nancy Obregón the vice presidential nod, according to The Narco News Bulletin. Humala has publicly offered room on his congressional slate to coca growers, who overwhelmingly support his candidacy.  

The coca decriminalization debate has echoed as far north as Mexico, a country convulsed by the open warring of cocaine cartels that manage the flow of cocaine northward to the United States.  

“The international prohibition on the international commerce of coca-derived products has no scientific foundation,” writes Ethan A. Nadelmann, director of the U.S.-based Drug Policy Alliance, in an op-ed series published by left-leaning Mexico City daily La Jornada.  

Nadelmann asks: “Is there an intermediate point between open prohibition, which has caused so much destruction, and a frank legalization that does not seem politically possible in the near future?”  

Bolivia’s immediate political future will answer that question.  


Where Are The Immigrants in Immigration Debate? By EDUARDO STANLEY Pacific News Service

Friday December 23, 2005

The House last week passed a highly punitive immigration bill, heightening the controversy over the issue of immigration reform. But even as the debate over immigration policy promises to be a divisive issue in the coming midterm elections, the voices of immigrants themselves are missing from the discussion.  

“We’re not participating,” says Claudia (not her real name), a Fresno resident and mother of one. “We don’t know whom to talk to about it.”  

“We are worried about what’s going to happen,” says Rosa (not her real name) of Madera, an agricultural worker and mother of four. To her, proposals in other bills for a new guest worker plan that leave out the nearly 11 million immigrants who are already here don’t make sense.  

“We know they want to bring workers, so what will happen to us?” she asks.  

Rosa, who has been in the United States for 15 years, says she hasn’t participated in the immigration debate because she doesn’t know how or where to voice her concerns. She’s also critical of activists who are supporting immigrants. “The people who know the laws don’t explain them to us,” she says. “We need more information.”  

Both women share a sense of frustration. For years they have worked hard to support their families, aware of their role in the economies of the two countries, yet knowing that no one will ask for their opinion, even when the policy being discussed will decide their own fate.  

“I talk about it at work and with my friends and family,” says José (not his real name) of Madera, a father of four children. “But in public it’s different because you’re afraid of the police. If something happens, they can deport you.”  

The bill recently approved by the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 239 to 182 tightens border enforcement, eases deportations and stiffens sanctions against businesses that hire undocumented immigrants. It calls for a 700 mile-long fence along parts of the U.S.-Mexico border.  

More drastic, it would convert almost 11 million immigrants into felons. The bill sponsored by Reps. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Peter King (R-NY), would penalize anyone—whether they are relatives, clergy or others—who helps an undocumented immigrant.  

The bill drew harsh criticism from numerous religious organizations, immigrant rights groups and Democrats, while President George W. Bush focused on pushing for a guest worker program to be included, without giving amnesty or legal regulation to those who already live and work in the country. Political analysts predict that the U.S. Senate will not approve the bill, but it will no doubt set the tone for the immigration debate in 2006.  

The immigrants interviewed by New America Media agree that an amnesty is the only way they could come out from under the shadows, where live in constant fear and shame. They see the importance of expressing their own views on immigration but, Claudia says, “The people who are proposing laws don’t ask us what we think either.”  

For José, the most important vehicle for immigrants’ voices is the ethnic media that serve them. They need to speak with journalists, he says, “so they know how we feel and can publish it.”  

Miguel Báez, editor of they Spanish-language newspaper Noticiero Semanal in Porterville, publishes immigrants’ perspectives on the debate in its Letters to the Editor section. “When we ask people, they say they don’t agree with a guest worker plan; they support amnesty,” he says. “Wherever you go, that’s what they say.”  

“Our audience doesn’t participate very much (in any political debate), not just about immigration issues,” says Carlos Ortíz of Radio Campesina in Bakersfield. “We come from a culture of very low political participation and from societies where politicians have failed the people.”  

Ortiz adds that Spanish-language media are also partly to blame. “As media outlets, we have the responsibility in the information process, but the majority of media are only interested in their ratings and how much money they’re making. They don’t inform the public or promote social participation,” he says, referring to new Spanish radio stations cropping up across the country.  

Many immigrants are not so quick to fault Spanish media. “Many immigrants in California’s Central Valley are indigenous people who don’t know how to read or write in Spanish,” explains Claudia.  

José adds that Spanish television doesn’t always reach populations of immigrant workers. “We work all day and when we get home, they’ve already aired (the evening news) and we are already asleep by the time they broadcast the late news.”  

The best way to stay informed, some say, is through community meetings.  

But Leonel Flores, a Fresno activist with the Union of Ex-Braceros and Immigrants in the Valley, says immigrants often don’t have a voice even within many of the organizations that claim to defend them.  

“Organizations don’t represent us well,” agrees Claudia. “But we need to demand more of them.”  

To make their voices heard, Flores stresses the need for immigrant rights groups to establish a common agenda and to put pressure on Congress, something he says they have not yet been able to accomplish.  

Some immigrants cite weak leadership by activists in immigrant rights. “I think this movement should be led by immigrants,” Flores says.  

Others are also self-critical. “Many people think activism is the responsibility of organizations, so they become disengaged and don’t participate,” says Claudia, who adds that immigrants should make a greater effort to be heard.  

“The economy of this country would not be the same without us,” she says. “It’s time they listened to us.”  


Eduardo Stanley hosts the bilingual “Nuestro Foro” weekly radio program on KFCF in Fresno, Calif.

Editorial Cartoon By JUSTIN DEFREITAS

Friday December 23, 2005

To view Justin DeFreitas’ latest editorial cartoon, please visit  

www.jfdefreitas.com To search for previous cartoons by date of publication, click on the Daily Planet Archive.



Letters to the Editor

Friday December 23, 2005


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Last Tuesday’s City Council meeting had a big surprise on its consent calendar. Without notice, funding was requested to start a 300-unit housing project plus commercial at the South Berkeley BART station. If the ite m had not been pulled we wouldn’t have seen Max Anderson and others glow over this wonderful opportunity, council would have passed it without discussion. 

When Councilmember Anderson was running for his office in 2004 his story was considerably different. I quote a published statement: 

“Redevelopment inflicted onto neighborhoods has caused many long-term problems and failed to achieve the immense promises made in city after city around the country. In recent years neighborhood initiated enterprise zones or economic development plans focused on neighborhood and community development have had mixed results. Some have been dramatic successes and some have duplicated the failures of forced government schemes. If the City of Berkeley seriously considers such efforts we must learn from the past and make sure we have an inclusive process that truly involves residents.”  

Quite a turnaround! If I were a District 3 resident I would feel betrayed.  

The next question is who funded Max Anderson’s campaign? Checkin g the city clerks record, the sources that gave the maximum to Max were Loni Hancock, Ali Kashani, SEIU union, Rob Browning and BCA. Loni Hancock’s support could be related as she recently got passed in Sacramento the “Transit Village” fast track legislat ion which is a kinder sounding “Redevelopment” act. 

Max has already served the required six months on the council, for a recall petition to be started. The community could begin such a move for the June or November election by collecting 2000 plus signat ures of District 3 registered voters or 25 percent. 

Check out the City Charter on Berkeley’s home page for details. It may be the only chance South Berkeley has to survive. 

Martha Nicoloff 

Co-Author, Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance 




E ditors, Daily Planet: 

I am by no means a blind flag-waver, but as a child my father taught me to treat the American flag with respect—to treat it with respect because it is a symbol of our nation. It is not about the flag, it is about the nation for whic h it stands. And very few things annoy me quite as much as seeing that flag misused.  

Such as what I have seen for the past several days at the Landscape Station of the Berkeley Post Office on upper Solano Avenue. Since at least Sunday, Dec. 18, the flag has flown, night and day, in the rain, half caught on the pole, and torn to shreds. When I first saw this on Sunday (and who knows how long it had been that way) I assumed it would be taken care of first thing Monday morning. Boy, was I wrong. It is now Wednesday evening, and that tattered flag still flies. 

I have no problem with people burning the flag as a form of free speech and/or political protest. I delight in seeing it flown on national holidays and on any other day of the year. These are the act s of thoughtful, caring, patriotic people. But I do have a problem with people treating it thoughtlessly. Not bothering to take it down at night (unless it is illuminated), leaving it up in the rain, taking it down and rolling it into a ball until the nex t use, dropping it on the ground. “In the old days” each flag came with instructions on its proper use—shouldn’t everyone who owns a flag know how to care for it? 

Waving the flag (and the whole concept of patriotism) has been hijacked by the Conservative s to such an extent that most Liberals and Progressives seem afraid to admit to any patriotic feelings for fear of being branded a conservative. However, most of us are patriotic, which is why we often so fiercely rail against what we see as abuses by the other side. And this is what makes it especially bad when this sort of neglect happens in a liberal/progressive community such as Berkeley, because it just plays right into the right-wing-conservative-red-state stereotype of us as a bunch of America hate rs. 

Let’s take back the flag. Let’s wave it proudly. And let’s take care of the ones we own. 

Nancy Koerner 

P.S. For those who may wonder, yes, I did go into the post office to inquire about the flag. The response was “What’s wrong with it?” Then I was g iven an 800 number to call to report it. As I said, it may still be hanging in tatters... 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It has been a year of hard struggle in our community and our nation: 

We continue to struggle against the “Trust Us, We’re Experts” argument(s) heard in the halls of city and national government. It is difficult to trust the so-called people in charge with decisions that have made or avoided making without consulting a preponderance of evidence. 

One thinks of the Iraqi o ccupation, the secret holding cells for interrogation, the cuts to services and aid to needy families, the tax-cuts to the rich Americans, the slackening of protections for the environment, the attacks on the First and Fourth amendments, the racial profil ing, the false claims that we are not surrendering anything when we (a) give up the power to plan our own city’s downtown, (b) give up the knowledge that what we carry out of our library is only between us and the bar code reader, or (c) listen to the news that our “leader” has been spying on innocent citizens in the name of fighting terrorism abroad. 

City services keep being cut. So do the diverse faces we need to see on commissions. We give up naming a post office after a local hero, but we badly need local heroes. 

We have a governor who is the embodiment of the Biblical injunction about the sins of the fathers, but who has neither learned nor evolved beyond a drunken frat-boy chuckle and an excuse that he should have listened to his wife. 

On the bri ghter side, we have much to be hopeful for: 

We have this local newspaper, bolstering our hope that occasionally the real news does get printed. 

We have local heroes. More coming up all the time. One thinks of the Berkeley High School history teacher who used his instinct and helped save several lives this fall. 

We have creativity, we have initiative, and we have bigger heroes on the national and international level. Malik Rahim. Cindy Sheehan. Father Roy Bourgeois. Anyuratta Mittal. Jose Bouvais. 

We c ontinue to commit ourselves, to re-commit ourselves to all that is good in us. We can do this singly and together. 

It is enough. 

Lynda Winslow 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Will transit villages, smart growth and other urban renewal and redeve lopment schemes succeed in reversing the ongoing trend of service cuts and fare increases imposed by public transit agencies? If there’s any hope of that happening in the foreseeable future why have Democratic legislators been so eager to allow illegal immigrants to have drivers licenses? So developers can continue building housing subdivisions and shopping malls that are inaccessible to citizens who don’t drive? 

Many of us claim that we’re “forced to drive” but it’s puzzling that in our free country we seem intellectually challenged when it comes to identifying those who are guilty of the coercion. California state courts agree that driving a private motor vehicle on a public roadway is not a fundamental right, but a privilege. Yet as fast as we could open new freeways to traffic we posted all the entrance ramps with signs reading “Pedestrians, bicycles and non-motorized vehicles prohibited.” And those words seem to accurately describe all the new urban and suburban development we’ve been getting since. 

Four times as many Americans (U.S. residents) have been killed in motor vehicle accidents as were killed in all our nation’s wars since the Revolution in 1776. 

It’s depressing to realize how many people can lose relatives (a.k.a. “loved ones”) in motor vehicle accidents and still not protest the lack of safer alternatives. With friends like that children don’t need enemies. Nature still provides all newcomers with a pair of legs for transportation. Do any clergymen, theologians or medical experts consi der our excessive reliance on automobiles to be a form of 


Instead of subsidizing urban renewal let’s amend state law to prohibit any new urban or suburban development that is not at least as accessible and functional for non-motorists as it is for those who drive. 

Art Weber 

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Recently, the subject of world peace was raised in these pages (Letters, Dec. 13) and since it is an important subject, I wanted to respond to t he ideas expressed.  

I doubt world peace can be legislated as suggested. Neither can political civility. It takes much hard work to solve these problems and those lofty goals won’t be easily attained without changing the way we think and act; not what so meone else thinks and someone else acts. Insisting people act responsible doesn’t work any more than bombing people into peace.  

Very few of us are willing or able to step up to the plate and change the destructive lifestyle and diet that characterizes the spiritual decay of modern man and fuels our descent into the abyss. We’d rather rely on doctors, lawyers, politicians and other so-called “experts” to improve our lives. These old dinosaurs have long lost their effectiveness, but they still linger. It’s time to cut them loose and set ourselves free! 

The food that we eat does not only feed our physical bodies, it feeds our spiritual ones. When we don’t eat right, we don’t act right. It’s the work that has to be done on an individual level that allows r eal change to take place on a larger level.  

Instead of working from the top down; through worn-out, failed political processes of the past; we should be working on ourselves as individuals. Remember, when all those people finally leave the sauna room (the remedy suggested by one of your readers), you’re still left to face yourself; a far more daunting task than another group therapy session. It’s not the sauna room where peace starts; it’s the kitchen.  


Michael Bauce 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

At the beginning of the 19th century La Nouvelle Orleans was a micro-model of new world culture. Ante bellum up-river plantation owners could stroll from the Pontalba building to the St. Louis Cathedral, to the Cabildo’s offices, get grocer ies at the French Market, enjoy musical evenings at the Opera House, a social evenings in the Quadroon Ballroom as well as by and sell black Africans  

  When post-bellum carpetbaggers gave up and went back north New Orleans sprang to life as a free-spirit ed place that would later, especially during prohibition, defined itself as a city of pleasure unlike any other.  

  The good times rolled along until the late 1950s when court ordered integration drove middle class whites to the suburbs.  

New Orleans the n began the transition to an American city in which its unique amalgam of cultures was marketed to the world.  

  I left in 1945 but over the years during visits home I witnessed a slow and heartbreaking transformation symbolized by two defining changes; T he Vieux Carre became the French Quarter and Mardi Gras became Carnival. The easy-going city of my youth, a nurturing easy-going mistress, had been prostituted, voluptuously made-over, alluring and phony. 

  My New Orleans had real Jazz funerals; I once wi tnessed three converging on the same intersection, each juicing and goosing the others. My New Orleans was integrated; Sociologist Joseph Ficther, S.J. of Tulane University published a study in the 1940s that concluded that no one in the city lived more t han a few dozen feet from a person belonging to a different racial designation. The Circle Theater on St. Bernard Avenue maintained a tri-color division: the ground floor was for whites, the mezzanine for Creoles, the balcony for Negroes. Thus, race was m ore a social than a biological attribute. Whites, Negroes and Creoles lived in close proximity but shared little; we were mixed but did not mix.  

  My New Orleans was gone long before Katrina. “This great city,” the phrase uttered by our 43rd president tw o weeks after Katrina from a cinematic stage with the 18th century façade of the St. Louis Cathedral soft-lit in the background, was actually a counterfeit. Greed had fashioned attributes of greatness from real relics. 

If governing powers rebuild New Orl eans it will be to renew the pursuit of profits. The city of my growing up, the old New Orleans where you enjoyed only those pleasures you created, is gone just as surely as Xi’an, Troy, Pompeii, and Timbuktu. 

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 




Ed itors, Daily Planet: 

The recent celebration of the 50th anniversary of Allen Ginsberg’s first public reading of “Howl” in San Francisco brought to mind the early efforts of the instigator of stand-up comedy/political satire, Mort Sahl. He not only started to boom out of San Francisco’s Hungry i Christmas of 1953, but actually got his start in future Free Speech territory. 

Before the UC campus spread to Bancroft Way, there was a club, The White Log Tavern, four doors down from Telegraph. It was there in 1952 that Sahl started calling out the McCarthy Era; this was a good three to five years before the likes of Second City, Lenny Bruce, Lord Buckley, etc. started to touch the national consciousness. Sahl in fact played New York and had a hit album before the end of 1955. 

Let’s think about a plaque outside the Bear’s Lair on the Bancroft side commemorating this great spurt in American history. A crucial addition to our Free Speech quadrant, no? 

Arnie Passman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A new study points out and confirms that recipients who received a big chunk of Bush’s tax cuts are the least likely to let loose of their loot. So much for the Republican claim of trickle down economics. The wealthy, people earning over $10 million, were found to be the least generous of wage-earners. This group is six times less likely to donate to charities than Americans who make $50,00 to $100,000 a year. The wealthy being chincy is a fitting example of greed trumping giving at the holiday season. 

Ron Lowe 

Nev ada City 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

“General Webster is right,” Mr. Bush’s text said. “And so long as I am commander in chief, our strategy in Iraq will be driven by the sober judgment of our military commanders on the ground.” 

Now let me paraphrase that in an imaginary quote from the head of our local cult of the personality: “The city attorney is right,” Mayor Bates said. “And so long as I am the commanding personality in this city, our strategy in the LRDP lawsuit (or substitute any other legal matter) will be driven by the sober judgment of our professionally trained attorneys on the case.” 

In other words, the people shall have no say, and the people’s government shall defer to the government’s “experts,” regardless of what the will of the people may be. 

Hey Democrats and other hypocrites, “They that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.” (Job 4:8, KJV.) God does not favor the Republicans except insofar as He is using them to punish the iniquity and hypocrisy of his chos en party that is pledged to care about the democratic rights of the people. My understanding is that God hates hypocrisy above all else and He will punish it regardless of the consequences. Integrity is the greatest of human virtues, and its absence is th e greatest of human vices, because it goes toward the corruption of the soul, which has a value far beyond anything in the realm of mind or body. 

On another note, Councilmember Max Anderson was quoted as saying that the decision of the Landmarks Commissi on on 1901 Otis Street did not “pass the smell test” and that the commission should apply proper “standards.” No, I am afraid it is the City Council that does not pass the smell test. The Landmarks Commission was obviously making a statement on the lack o f genuine standards applied by the Zoning Adjustment Board and by the City Council. We all know that these bodies have become bureaucratic institutions incapable of responding genuinely to any matter that is put before them. God bless the Landmarks Commission for trying to make a statement, and I hope all the citizens of Berkeley are not fooled for one minute by the spin doctors on the City Council or in the Planning Department or in the office of the City Manager. 

On yet another note, the acting Health Office for the City of Berkeley, Vicki Alexander, was immediately relieved of her duty for making a written statement supporting my appeal before the City Council concerning the proposed “renovation” at 2235 Derby Street. At the City Council meeting, the City Manager twice tried to put a spin on it, as though she was supporting him rather than my appeal by her statement, but apparently even he didn’t believe that, because he put pressure on Fred Medrano to have her relieved of her duty on the very day of the appeal, November 15. Moreover, he put pressure on her through Fred Medrano to recant her statement and tow the party line, which so far she has not done. She has indicated to me that she may show courage against corruption. God bless her and strengthe n her to resist the obvious tyranny of a petty dictator run amok, who does not respect the rule of law or the sincere opinion of any staff member who does. 

Now, do you begin to understand what kind of government we now have in this fair city? It is not i n essence distinguishable from a Stalinist dictatorship. Whatever the People’s Republic of Berkeley may have been in the past, it now combines both capitalism and communism, taking the very worst from each. 

By the way, we did get a huge concession from s taff in their recommendation to council. In their recommendation they acknowledged for the very first time that renovation debris must be placed in sufficient containers and not thrown haphazardly on the ground. Prior to the appeal, I had a heated phone c onversation with Dan Marks, in which he insisted just the opposite, on the grounds that no one in Berkeley obeys that particular section of the Berkeley Municipal Code. This concession is a victory for the people and a step toward the rule of law, but a s mall step. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. 

Peter J. Mutnickk

Column: Dispatches From the Edge: Israel and Palestine: Is There a Way Out? By Conn Hallinan

Friday December 23, 2005

In a 2002 Le Monde Diplomatique article titled “Constructing Catastrophe,” Israeli journalist Amon Kapeliouk challenged one of the central myths about the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. To wit: that Palestinian President Yasir Arafat was offered a great deal at the Camp David talks in July 2000, but turned it down and launched Intifada II.  

What is so damaging about the Camp David myth is that it perpetuates the fable that the Palestinian side of the peace equation is unreliable. It is at the core of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s argument that Israel has “no partner for peace,” and Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz’s comment that Israel “will have to wait for the next generation [of Palestinian leaders] for a peace agreement.” 

The “no partner” myth is the rationale behind the unilateralism the Sharon government has practiced over the past four years on everything from building the wall, to withdrawing from Gaza. It will also be at the center of the upcoming Israeli elections in March, which will go a long way towards determining whether there will be a peace agreement or another generation of war and reprisal. 

According to Kapeliouk, the Palestinians were wary about Camp David because Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak refused to lay out a pre-talk proposal. But because the Palestinians were also worried that if they refused to sign on, Barak and President Bill Clinton would paint them as obstructionists, they agreed to the negotiations. 

Sure enough, when the Palestinians got to Camp David they were handed an offer they could only refuse: Israeli sovereignty over the Haram al Sharif, Islam’s third holiest site; continued Israeli presence in the West Bank; no sharing of Jerusalem; and no plan for the 3.1 million Palestinian refugees. To top it off, Barak insisted nothing be written down. 

The Palestinians countered with a proposal to give up 9 percent of the West Bank, agree to Israeli sovereignty over settlements in East Jerusalem, and to find a solution to the refugee issue that “would not threaten Israeli demographic and security interests.” 

The Palestinians also wanted this in document form because they felt that by not insisting on specific language concerning the settlements, they had been burned in the 1993 Oslo Accords. At the time, the Palestinians assumed Oslo meant the settlements would be frozen until a final agreement was worked out. Instead, Israel doubled the settler population and built more than 40 new ones. 

The U.S.-Israeli response was “take it or leave it.” Arafat said no and for most Israelis and virtually all Americans (Europeans and the rest of the world never thought the Camp David proposals were fair), the Palestinians got tagged as the bad guys.  

Sharon and his new Kadima Party will run on this “bad guy/no partner” myth, particularly since Hamas did so well in the last round of Palestinian elections. His only serious opposition—Amir Peretz, the newly elected head of the Labor Party—will have to confront this myth.  

If there is anyone who has the credentials to do this, it is Peretz.  

He was one of the so-called “Eight,” the members of the Knesset who called for full withdrawal from the territories and a two-state solution back in 1988. He is also a long-time member of Peace Now. He told LaborStart last June, “I see the occupation as an immoral act,” and that the issue is “not a territorial question but one of morality,” adding, “when a nation rules for 38 years over another people, moral norms become twisted.” 

However, it appears that Labor will try to avoid getting into a slugging match with Sharon over security by focusing on “it’s the economy, stupid!”  

Yuri Tamir, a Labor Party politician close to Peretz, says the fight with Sharon is “not about policy toward the Palestinians—on which we largely agree—but about economic policy.” 

However, with the occupation costing $1.4 billion a year (not counting building the wall) there is simply no way to separate those issues. As former Knesset member Uri Avnery points out, the two are intertwined and Labor must link the growing economic inequities in Israel to the occupation. 

So far, Peretz supports Labor’s basic positions on the territories: keep the major settlements in the West Bank, deny Palestinians full sovereignty in economic, diplomatic and military affairs, and maintain control of a united Jerusalem. He also supports the wall, which is slowing strangling the possibility of a viable Palestinian state. These current positions are not likely to lead to peace. 

Unlike Sharon, however, he promises to negotiate with the Palestinians.  

Peretz’s election to head Labor has already driven the national dialogue to the left. No other major politician uses the words “occupation” and “morality” in the same sentence. He has also turned a spotlight on the neo-liberal economic policies of former Economic Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  

As the Labor Party’s first Sephardic leader, Peretz will directly challenge the lock Likud and the right-wing Shas Party has had on this population of poor and marginalized Israelis. As the leader of Histadrut, Israel’s trade union organization, he has campaigned for raising the minimum wage, guaranteeing trade union rights, and resisting the wave of privatization that has impoverished a growing number of Israelis. 

He also initiated a series of meetings with the Histadrut’s counterpart, the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions. 

Peretz says he wants to address the “strange situation” in Israel, “in which the lower classes and the working class tend to support the parties of the right, and the upper class tends to support the Left.” He says this not only prevents the Left from winning elections, “it has also caused the concept of peace to become an elitist product which is identified with factory owners and not factory workers.” 

It has been a long time since Labor has used this kind of language, and it has stirred hope among peace activists. Even a critic like University of Haifa professor, Ilan Pappas says, “A cool-headed assessment of Peretz’s politics should not preclude the kind of hope that attended Yitzhak Rabin’s second term as prime minister, when he joined the peace camp, despite his previous brutal policies in the Occupied Territories.”  

At the same time, Pappas warns that unless there is a willingness to negotiate seriously with the Palestinians, Israel may face “strong international pressure, of the kind that was directed against apartheid in South Africa in the form of sanctions, boycotts and disinvestments.” 

Such a campaign is already underway among a number of churches in the U.S., and Europe, and the EU recently proposed scaling back support for infrastructure work like roads and rail lines in the West Bank. The organization is also contemplating giving legal help to stop the demolition of Palestinian houses, and to meet with Palestinian leaders in East Jerusalem rather than Ramallah. 

There is much at stake in the upcoming election, for both Israelis and Palestinians. Polls predict a Sharon victory, but he is not in the best of health, and the election is three months away. According to Avnery, Peretz must seize the opportunity, and take the issue of peace head-on. “After so many sacrifices of blood and money,” he argues, “the public may be ripe for this.” 



Column: Undercurrents: A Call For Progressives to Reveal Their Defense Strategies By J. DOUGLAS ALLEN-TAYLOR

Friday December 23, 2005

Some weeks ago, in another forum, I warned about the potential trap laid for progressives by the entrance of Pennsylvania Congressmember Daniel Murtha into a leadership role—maybe the Congressional leadership role—in the anti-Iraq War ranks. 

“The Murtha gambit,” I wrote, “sets a dangerous precedent for what kind of person can take the lead in criticizing the nation on matters of war and security. It concedes that the only moral voice who can oppose a war is someone who supported and/or participated in a past war. … Murtha’s gambit may end up winning the battle for progressives (a quicker withdrawal from Iraq), but losing the larger war, the one being fought over the hearts and minds of the public about the role of the military in American life and world affairs. And so we may leave Iraq as we left Vietnam—with too many people in high places convinced we would have won had we only given the military a fighting chance and better strategies. These people will still be willing—and, perhaps, eager—to test that theory out in some other part of the world.” 

For that bit of heresy I got roundly criticized in some progressive and moderate circles, represented by one reader who said that “the analysis presented by [Mr. Allen-Taylor] suffers from left-wing infantilism. We need to agree with the statements of those who agree with us and stop being so damned pure or looking at motives and downsides. … What Murtha did was to change the entire debate in a way that is favorable to war opponents... It is up to us to seize the moment.” 

It is absolutely undeniable that Mr. Murtha’s entry into the Iraq war debate changed the terms of that debate entirely, and forever. Because he is a moderate-conservative, a Vietnam veteran with a long and unbroken history of support for the military rank-and-file, Mr. Murtha’s call for withdrawal made it politically easier for others to publicly join the anti-war ranks. That swelling chorus immediately forced President George Bush out of his protective closet, and in recent days we have been inundated with presidential speeches in which he has begun to publicly lay out the terms under which he believes the war in Iraq can end. It seems only a small crack, true, in the Bush Wall. But out of such small cracks, roaring floods eventually push their way. 

The question is, in what direction and to what end will the End-the-Iraq-War Flood eventually take us? What is the moment to be seized? 

Mr. Murtha, as he certainly should, is using the opening to advocate taking the U.S. military to a strategic point where he wants it to be. I’m badly paraphrasing, and I’m no military expert (and, so, you should check Mr. Murtha’s website and published speeches yourself for the details), but it seems to me that the Pennsylvania congressmember wants to pull U.S. military back to an encircling position in bases surrounding Iraqi population centers, leaving the fighting to “democratic” Iraqi military forces, and reserving U.S. troops only for possible quick re-entry under pre-determined breakdown conditions. 

Such a strategic withdrawal would almost certainly shift the balance of U.S. public opinion that is currently slightly against the Iraq war. Let’s not fool ourselves in these matters of life and death. The U.S. public ended its support for the Vietnam War not because it came to the conclusion that the war goals were wrong, but because—as a whole—it grew tired of U.S. casualties. It is the nagging, unrelenting daily roadside bomb attacks leading to steady U.S. casualties—not general concerns over the mess we are making in the Middle East—that is driving the polls away from war support. End the U.S. casualties—by whatever means—and see how quickly the names Tikrit and Najaf drop from the radar of American public opinion. And, at the same time, see how quickly the debate over the future shape and role of the military gets put on the back burner of public discussion.  

If progressives want to have some influence over what type of military defense replaces our current configuration once the Iraq War eventually ends—however it ends—then now is certainly the time to speak up. 

It is said that many Americans mistrust putting Democrats back into national office because they do not think Democrats have the fire-in-the-belly to use the military to defend the country and protect U.S. interests. You can put most of that down to right-wing political rhetoric; over and over in the past 30 years, mainstream national Democratic leaders have shown that they are just as willing to order to troops into battle as any Texas Republican. 

But what about that broad and unhomogeneous group of folks who call themselves progressives, who have not had their hands on national power for the most part, and who, therefore, have not had the actual responsibility to either pull the trigger or put the gun back into its case? 

Despite the anguish of the work to end the Iraq War and the other oddities and improprieties of the Bush administration, these have actually been easy days for progressives, in one sense. The Bush administration has made itself a nice target in many areas. The Iraq war, and how the Bush folks have fought it, have put the administration into a dilemma of its own construction: it cannot win the war with the number of troops currently on the ground (if, indeed, the war can be “won” by the U.S. side at all), it cannot attract enough new troops voluntarily because of the increasing unpopularity of the war, and it cannot reinstate the draft to swell the troop ranks because that, eventually, would completely drop the bottom out of national war support, as it did in Vietnam. In the past year or so progressives have had the opportunity to stick pins in the Bush War Machine at various hurtful points, delighting in the conservative squirming coming from Congressmember John Conyers’ call for a national draft, for example, not because progressives support such a draft, but because progressives know full well how unpopular a draft would be and that, therefore, a draft will never come to be under Bush.  

But now, to paraphrase the environmental lobby chief from “The American President,” it’s time for progressives to sit at the grownups table. To be more than mostly sideline players in American politics—holders of an occasional City Council or state assembly seat here or there—progressives have to answer the serious questions of these serious times. What should be the form and the role of the United States military forces in America and in the world? How should the United States be defended, and under what circumstances, in these times of terror? In private conversations and countless position papers, progressives have been discussing these issues for years. It’s time to bring that debate out to the general public and let those views be widely known, if they want to have the American public trust them with the ultimate reins of power. 


Commentary: Reflections On War By Harry Weininger

Friday December 23, 2005

War is the ultimate power available to a nation. Young men and women go to battle. They postpone their studies, interrupt careers, disrupt important plans, are separated from loved ones. What they will come back to is uncertain. They may never come back. Many are damaged physically, and mentally, for life. Yet all of these people, our young men and women, persevere in order to defend our society, culture, nation. To go freely, even if not enthusiastically, requires a clear and convincing sense of purpose, a compelling vision. Absent that sense of purpose, absent that vision, without a bullet-proof mandate, even the inconvenience of leaving school or work for a few months is too much – and it weakens the social order.  

The people making the decision to wage war must have overwhelming evidence, clearly and persuasively communicated, so that those who have to go know why they have to go, why they have to make that sacrifice. If the sacrifice is necessary, it must be based on a high degree of certainty.  

To execute a single individual requires a unanimous conviction by a jury, based on solid evidence beyond reasonable doubt – and it’s done with sorrow by much of the population and vehemently protested by many. Should the standard of proof be any less demanding when we as a nation go to war and put thousands in harm’s way?  

No legal structure exists that requires other government branches to use a judicial interpretation of what would be an adequate justification for war. The executive has a different mandate – protecting the nation – and therefore different standards and reaction times are required.  

Whether or not Congress has exercised its constitutional power to declare war, it’s the executive that wages war. And a critical tool for waging war is marshalling the enthusiasm and spirit of the people – presenting a credible rationale for war and the conviction that the cause is just, the conflict necessary, and the prospect for victory real.  

Regardless of military strength, a successful military action is very difficult to sustain if conflict at home consumes as much energy – or even more – than the conflict away. Although a country like ours cannot have complete consensus, we can engage in a national dialogue, conducted in a civil manner. It’s up to the executive to set the tone for a national dialogue – and to persuade the public that military action is in our national interest and, with support, will be successful. 

The concepts of reasonable doubt and hard evidence resonate throughout our culture. When effectively presented they can go a long way to engendering a winning spirit on the home front as well as on the battlefield.  


Harry Weininger is a Berkeley  


Commentary: Parking, Reputation Harm Downtown By CHRIS REGALIA

Friday December 23, 2005

I was watching the news last night and saw a piece on the plight caused by the recent rains and the inadequacy of the Berkeley sewer system. The piece pointed out that the systems can’t be fixed due to the drop in sales tax revenue Berkeley is experiencing.  

This reminded me of the article by Al Winslow in the Dec. 13 Daily Planet pointing to the 10 percent drop in sales tax revenues in the past year. In that article Mr. Winslow cites several reasons for the drop as proffered by city officials and consultants. What alarms me is not the drop itself, but the fact that everyone wants to look for answers that are outside of their control to free them of blame.  

The Internet is cited as the major reason, based on the fact that “almost everyone in Berkeley has access to the Internet.” Other reasons given are that the blocks are too long, cars use Shattuck as a thoroughfare, and there are too many property owners. While these might be fine excuses, they totally miss the obvious problems facing Berkeley. 

Most every community and resident in the San Francisco Bay Area has broad access to the Internet, but is every community experiencing as significant a drop in sales tax revenue? Perhaps that is a question that should have been asked.  

As far as I know the blocks have been the same length for decades, businesses generally benefit from being on thoroughfares and property owners generally will work cooperatively when there is a benefit to doing so. 

While I don’t profess to have all the answers, it would seem that the city should look to more practical solutions to the problem. I would suggest that one of the major problems facing Berkeley is parking. People will not come and shop unless there is convenient parking. As much as a city would like people to use public transportation, the majority of consumers are going to go where they can park because they don’t want to carry packages on public transit. If you do not want to face that reality you can expect to see your business erode. I would point to the thriving businesses in downtown Walnut Creek, where you will see that the city has provided not only ample parking, but also much of it is free. Berkeley on the other hand is hiring more parking enforcement officers. 

Another issue facing Berkeley is its anti-business reputation. Before I go too much further I must point out that I am an employee of Berkeley Honda, the subject of many letters to the editor of this paper. No matter what your opinion is of the situation at Berkeley Honda it still serves to clearly illustrate the point I wish to make about the anti-business reputation. That point has nothing to do with the issues facing the union or the owners, and everything to do with the city’s position in the dispute. As a supporter of Berkeley Honda I would have been thrilled (albeit shocked) if the city had chosen to support the owners. As a reasonable and common sense businessman I am flabbergasted at the city’s support of the “boycott.” Not because I think they are on the wrong side (which I do) but because they have forfeited their opportunity to play the role that city governments should play. The only position a government should take in a labor dispute, especially at the outset (and without all of the facts), would be to remain neutral. It is by not taking sides that allows a city to be an arbiter. Being an arbiter is the only way a city can best serve all of its constituencies, and all of the constituencies deserve to be served. There are many in this community who applaud the city’s “fortitude” in standing up for the cause of the union and against the owners, and that is fine. You may not like business, but without thriving businesses a city cannot survive. Absent a city government that encourages them, businesses will go elsewhere.  

I am not saying that settlement of the Berkeley Honda situation is the answer to Berkeley’s problems. What I am saying is it is a symptom of a much deeper problem. The city chose to take sides, and the dispute is now over six months old. While it is not entirely the fault of the city for the length of time the dispute has gone on, its support has certainly fanned the flames and emboldened the protesters to reduce the rhetoric to name calling and misrepresentations. What I do fault the city for is taking a position that eradicated any possibility of playing a role in ending the dispute. In the process it has furthered its reputation as an anti-business city. 

Take a drive through Emeryville or look at the development in Albany and you will see many businesses that Berkeley has discouraged and proudly done so. I drive through Emeryville and see millions of tax dollars that should be staying in Berkeley had the city leaders found ways to make business work. Fortitude is an admirable quality but is also politically expedient. When it comes to this issue it is easy to obtain and even easier to boast about. All you have to do is say “no” to business and put a bumper sticker on your car supporting the boycott of one of the largest tax revenue generators in the city.  

I have two questions for city leaders, how much does that fortitude really cost and how do you expect to pay for it? Based on the issues raised in the television reports of the rainstorm, the answer to the first question is “an awful lot”; based on Mr. Winslow’s article, the answer to the second question is “We have no clue.” 


Chris Regalia is an employee of Berkeley Honda. 


Commentary: A Vision For Berkeley’s Downtown By STEVE GELLER

Friday December 23, 2005

Berkeley has a reputation for wild-eyed radicalism, but when it comes to our downtown, we’re wildly conservative. We don’t like tall buildings. We want to preserve old buildings. We want to pave over downtown for places to park our cars. 

Monday night, I sat in on a discussion of the Downtown Area Plan at City Hall. Councilmember Dona Spring asked those present to give their concerns and visions, their images and concepts. Here’s what I got out of it. 

Downtown should be a place people want to come to, a place where they feel comfortable. Downtown should be a “commons” where we share good things and meet one-another. 

If people feel comfortable, they will spend money and downtown will prosper. 

Portland, Ore., Boulder, Co. and San Luis Obispo, Calif. all have pleasant and prosperous downtowns, because they have enlightened policies. None of those policies are particularly radical; they are not un-tried; they really do work. One can read about the enlightened policies on the cities’ websites. 

If we had wider sidewalks we could have more sidewalk cafes. We’ve got a good start on Center Street; maybe Center should be closed between Shattuck and Oxford. Hey, we could daylight Strawberry Creek, next to the Hotel Conference Center. A blue line already marks the spot. 

There are mixed opinions about tall buildings. Personally, I don’t think we need to limit the number of floors, but even a “green building” doesn’t make life better if it takes away sunshine; we don’t want downtown to be a dark canyon. 

We really ought to have public toilets. We could give a tax break to cover the cleaning costs. This might give work to some of the homeless folks. 

We could have fewer cars and plenty of parking. We could issue bus passes to all-day parkers, and free their spaces for shoppers and visitors. This was the recommendation of the Traffic Demand Management (TDM) study. We definitely do NOT need another such study. 

The parking we do have is mis-managed. People don’t know where it is, so they drive in circles, spewing pollution. Nights and weekends, there’s plenty of downtown parking, but people don’t know where that is. I’m told some commercial lots close evenings for lack of business. 

On-street parking is cheaper than garages; this encourages meter-feeding. Meters should be made more expensive, and the revenue spent on downtown improvements. Parking anywhere should never be free. 

A lot of working people really don’t need to park at all. Downtown businesses should issue transit passes to their employees. UC should not build those 1000 more parking spaces. It’s bad enough that UC wants to take over northeast downtown. 

I live up on College Ave. Coming and going from the meeting, I rode the AC Transit #51. Both times, the bus was full of UC students. The UC Berkeley Class Pass works great. 

Both times, the bus was surrounded by herds of honking cars, radiating road-rage and generating greenhouse gas. Walking to the bus stop, I passed the YMCA, which was filled with people pumping on exercise machines, having got to their gym by driving a car. 

My vision of downtown has people sharing shops, galleries, music venues and restaurants, seeing the sky, enjoying sunshine or the stars and getting about mostly by walking, biking or riding BART and the buses. I do this now. I like coming downtown. 


Steve Geller is a Berkeley resident.

Commentary: A Few Thoughts On Tookie and Arnold By MARC SAPIR

Friday December 23, 2005

I stood amidst a dense crowd of several thousand outside the East Gate of San Quentin on a Monday night and almost bumped into Sean Penn, the actor who played a death row inmate executed in Dead Man Walking, one of us. Beyond the usual death penalty witnesses, this was a relatively young crowd—diverse, spirited, communal, purposeful—until midnight passed us by and after a while a preacher man on the mic began preaching that Tookie would want us to avoid violence. Some of the crowd’s collective energy drained out, quieted by the preacher. The appropriation of Tookie had begun and he wasn’t even dead yet. Like all leaders before him, Tookie’s intentions, beliefs and legacy were now fair game for head hunters on every side of every question, ready to redefine Tookie in their own image.  

By 12:30, when Tookie’s death was announced, there was a palpable wave of despair; a few fists were raised, militant shouts of resistance arose, impotence in the face of the world’s greatest terrorist state. I stayed in the hope someone would do something dramatic to exorcise the state’s death dealing demons. A Native American guy on a wall held an American flag painted with a big swastika that he set on fire. It hardly burned. A woman below, for reasons I could not discern, grabbed the flag from him trying to extinguish the pitiful flame. The poor guy fell off the 6 foot wall he was on —not once but twice. Another Native American hugged the woman and calmed her anger. At the mic a more disciplined and well kempt Native American group chanted. Most people had slowly filtered out. I saw a tear in the corner of Sean Penn’s eye as he walked passed.  

After you’ve attended one execution event you feel impelled to come back, though you know the sad ritual. But at the end you don’t want to hear someone on a microphone feed you platitudes about how we need to keep fighting for a just criminal justice system. Or how Tookie lives in our hearts. You want to know what we are going to do next. You want action to end State violence and the ubiquitous media spin on our reality, both designed to further intimidate and pacify people. You want a real social revolution. No, not a protest, a rally, not even a riot. You want catharsis, peace, a total social collision against ruthless, raw, deceitful and selfish power, on the people’s terms.  

In this case, the governor signed a clemency denial letter that very pointedly denigrated not only Tookie William’s new found decency, his work ethic and contributions to society today, but also a cross section of the Black American heroes of the last 30 or 40 years. When Stan Williams was put to death early Tuesday morning, December 13, the United States, not in the person of George W Bush but of Arnold Schwarzenegger, sent a message to the African American community. It’s not only the Muslims and the undocumented we’re focused on hitting after Katrina, they as much as said. Arnold’s five-page letter specifically highlighted Tookie’s dedication of a book to Malcolm X (a murder victim, and convert to socialism), Geronimo Pratt (the Black Panther exonerated after 28 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit), George Jackson (who was never charged with a violent crime in his life despite Arnold’s libeling his memory), Leonard Peltier (a national Indian leader who was framed in the murder of provocateur FBI agents, as the original Judge’s call for a new trial makes clear), Asata Shakur (a government opponent whose re-capture has become a maniacal cause in Congress), Nelson Mandela (the most principled and supreme resister of Black oppression in the world), Mumia Abu Jamal (one of the brilliant analytical minds and mellifluous voices of our times, whose career as a leading journalist was abridged with intent to kill him legally by the Philadelphia power structure as it brought out of retirement the hanging racist judge, Szabo).  

Because the anti-clemency attack was not limited to Tookie, we all share a tremendous burden to vindicate Stan Williams, to expose the wanton criminal blood lust of the entire logical system that Arnold’s letter represents, and, if possible, to prove Stan’s innocence. Among all the hundreds of media outlets covering the execution across the nation, which newspapers, TV networks or radio stations shouted out the exposé of the blatant racism in Arnold’s labeling so many Black and Indian heroes as criminal elements. Presenting such internationally renowned political prisoners as Mandela and Peltier as evidence that Williams had not turned away from a life of violence will be Arnold’s legacy. Those key figures used their lives to fight for freedom for others, for us all, whether we be Black, or otherwise skin colored or ethnified.  

No one should forget this. It needs repeating as a mantra—today, in the 2006 elections, and in the unfolding struggle to defend and preserve democratic rights in the U.S. The system’s ruthlessness has again extended to the level of anti-historical psychological warfare where its front men and women are prepared to call humanity’s heroes past and present “terrorists and criminals,” to all but equate Mandela and George Jackson with Osama Bin Laden.  

The state did also execute Martin Luther King Jr. but did not then have the audacity to admit the crime. The book by Rev. King’s lawyer (An Act of State—The Execution of Martin Luther King by William F. Pepper, Verso 2003) provides clear proof that King’s assassination was achieved in a way that the actual assassins didn’t even know they had the backing of the 902nd Military Intelligence Group. This truth was adjudicated by Pepper in a civil court case in Memphis a few years back with the support of the King family. A jury of common Memphis people exonerated James Earl Ray and ruled the U.S. Government collaborated in the assassination. If MLK were alive today it is conceivable the government would find a way to label him a terrorist and put him to death legally. This is the state and situation we face. 

If the issues were really about violence and homeland security rather than political opposition to this system’s ruthlessness and its racism, Arnold’s speech writers would not have lied about George Jackson being a violent gang banger in that letter. They would not have dared to even mention Mandela whose principled refusal to betray the ANC’s armed wing kept him in prison, solidified the ANC’s unity and catapulted him to the presidency of South Africa after Apartheid.  

No, the state’s message was loud and clear. “If you resist our violence and terror you will be called the terrorist and we will kill you.” It is not violence per se that the elite and political classes fear. It is resistance and unity amidst the decline and fall of a class system and an empire already in total chaos, coming apart at its seams. Tookie, like Malcolm X and Martin King Jr., was slowly becoming the kind of leader that terrifies them. Alive or dead his example will be nurtured.  


Marc Sapir is a Berkeley resident. 

Commentary: While 39 Witnesses and the World Stood Watch By MATT WERNER

Friday December 23, 2005

Driving back to the East Bay from San Quentin Prison at 1:30 a.m., I feel nauseated. I just spent the last five hours with 2,500 people participating in a peaceful vigil for Stanley “Tookie” Williams. The steel slits of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge animate the image of the dark San Francisco Bay below like a zoetrope. One of the seventeen media witnesses to the execution is on the radio. He talks about how the first needle easily slid into Tookie’s arm, but how the second needle took over ten minutes to lodge properly in Tookie’s other arm. The reporter meticulously recounts Tookie’s protracted last minutes: a female voice shouted the death warrant, translucent chemicals pumped into Tookie’s veins, his head arched up, his fist in Black Power, his head down, his repose. 

I grimace, remembering the speaker at the protest outside the prison gates saying at midnight that sometimes lethal injections take fifteen, even twenty minutes to kill, and that we should all be calm and prayerful during that time. The reporter on the radio continues detailing the execution: the motionless people around him, the thickness of the glass that separated the execution chamber from the 39 execution witnesses. How it all resembled a normal medical procedure. I can’t listen any longer. 

Last month, I viewed miniature models of state-sponsored execution chambers at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. My stomach is now revolting as it had then; I open my car window for air. 

The reporter’s comparison of the execution to a medical procedure reminds me of how Americans are anesthesitized to violence today. Our society focuses on the meaningless details: how many cc’s of heart-attack-inducing drugs were pumped into Tookie, how many minutes he took to die, the ages of his victims, where he shot them, etc. 

We must instead take a wider viewpoint and look at crimes and acts of violence within their larger context. More-productive questions to ask are: Why is this violence occurring? What’s its origin, and how can we stop it? For, as Gandhi says, violence only begets more violence. It is hypocritical of California to lend itself to the evil it condemns: murder. Capital punishment is antithetical to the goal of reducing violence, in that it only creates more violence. 

A heavy burden weighs upon my conscience knowing that a small percentage of my tax dollars went to buy the needle to kill a five-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee. I detest the manifestly odious acts carried out in my name, with my money, by the capital punishment system, in the war in Iraq, by the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, and in the secret CIA prisons overseas reported in the Washington Post for which Vice President Dick Cheney is lobbying to legalize torture.  

I do not like the culture of violence in the United States where still a majority is for state-sponsored murder. Not until violence is delegitimized like slavery, will the United States live in peace. The system of capital punishment risks killing the innocent. As Surviving Justice, the recently published book I helped edit, points out: since the 1976 reintroduction of capital punishment, 120 inmates on death row nationwide have been exonerated. These exonerations, many based on DNA evidence, expose the most Kafkaesque of horrors—the risk of wrongful execution. To prevent this, California lawmakers will decide on Jan. 10, the fate of 647 death row inmates with Assembly Bill 1121, whether or not to impose a moratorium on the death penalty. 

I share much compassion for all those affected by violence—the victims, perpetrators, lawmakers, and people of California. I know that abolishing the death penalty will be one more step toward stopping the cycle of violence as Tookie tried to do with his redemptive 180 degree turn away from gang violence and toward youth outreach. Let us hope that Tookie’s is the final death our tax dollars support. 


Matt Werner is a senior at UC Berkeley. He helped edit Surviving Justice: America’s Wrongfully Convicted and Exonerated, recently published by McSweeney’s. 


On His Birthday, Mao Continues to Inspire Many Chinese By PUENG VONGS Pacific News Service

Friday December 23, 2005

Almost 30 years after the death of Mao Zedong, many are still trying to define the controversial leader of the People’s Republic of China. But like China, Mao defies simple classification. And his name still evokes deep respect among many Chinese.  

On Dec. 26, Beijing officials will honor the 112th anniversary of Mao’s birth. Commemoration ceremonies will begin in Tiananmen Square, the historic heart of China where Mao’s body still lays sealed in a glass case. Each day, people from throughout China stand in long lines to pay their respects. Outside the country, many Chinese around the world say Mao gave China back its dignity.  

When asked about Mao, Yun Shi, 31, who grew up in Shandong province and lives in Oakland, recalls the poet, hero and liberator who rescued Chinese from a “Century of Humiliation”—what Chinese call the 100 years of foreign domination of China since the British Opium Wars. In 1949, in founding the People’s Republic of China, “[Mao] announced in Tiananmen Square that the Chinese have stood up,” Shi says.  

Shi does not discount the controversial leader’s crimes. Her own family suffered at the hands of Mao. Her great aunt was one of thousands who were forcibly taken from their homes and who had their possessions seized by peasants during the Communist takeovers that Mao led before becoming chairman. She says while she may not agree with Mao’s tactics, she still believes in the principles of a fair society.  

Not all Chinese see Mao in a favorable light. In her book “Wild Swans,” Jung Chang chronicled the hardships her family endured as one of millions jailed or sent to the countryside for hard labor during Mao’s Cultural Revolution. In her recently released “Mao: the Unknown Story,” written with husband Jon Halliday, Chang uncovers a much darker side of Mao, much of it never before reported. The book states that battles during the Long March, an event during the Communist revolution that made Mao the stuff of legend, were invented, and shows Mao needlessly sacrificing hundreds of men to glorify himself. Chang chronicles how, in private, Mao said he hated peasants and frequently tortured and killed them in mass. Mao sold food for arms, exacerbating one of China’s worse famines. Chang and Halliday say Mao was responsible for up to 70 million deaths.  

After the book was released, Chinese came to Mao’s defense on Internet message boards, citing his contributions to China.  

Chang thinks Mao’s continued idolization in China is nothing less than ongoing “brainwashing.” “He is written in the constitution as the guiding force for China,” she says, “and it is also illegal to oppose Mao.” She says because Beijing withholds the truth about Mao, younger generations who did not live under him have no other choice than to accept a distorted view of the leader. “The regime is determined to perpetuate the myth of Mao,” Chang says.  

Ling-chi Wang, professor of ethnic studies at U.C. Berkeley, says that while Mao’s wrongdoings cannot be discounted, “Mao made an important contribution in Chinese history, as a leader who instilled a great sense of self-reliance and pride in the people.” Mao is still idolized in China, especially by the working class. “When Mao took over he divided the land among the peasants. At the time they were 80 percent of the population,” Wang says.  

In San Francisco, where Chinese make up 20 percent of the population and form the city’s single largest ethnic group, a restaurant in the Richmond district called Mao Zedong Village is a living homage to the leader. Its décor is meant to replicate an early Chinese peasant cottage like the one that Mao grew up in the village of Shaoshan in the Hunan province. Garlic hangs on the wall next to numerous portraits of Mao.  

Restaurant owner Tina Cheng, originally from Beijing, says she got the idea for the eatery after seeing diners pack similar restaurants in almost every major city on the Mainland. Like them, she serves Mao’s favorite dishes, like “Chairman Mao’s Red Cooked Pork Pot,” a rich, caramelized pork stew. Folklore says Mao loved the dish because his peasant family could have it only on special occasions. Cheng says she put a portrait of Mao on her menu because it symbolizes good luck. It appears to be working—Cheng plans to open other Mao restaurants in the Bay Area.  

In Los Angeles, Mao’s Kitchen restaurant is decorated with old posters of the Cultural Revolution. In karaoke houses nationwide, Chinese speakers can select traditional songs singing Mao’s praises to an updated techno and pop beat. Mao is also a kitsch favorite among designers. Canton-born New York designer Vivienne Tam sells T-shirts of Mao in pigtails and says she admires a leader who can dictate the fashion of a billion people.  

Lately, Beijing has been using Mao’s influence to advance its own agenda, says Chaohua Wang, editor of “One China, Many Paths,” and a dissident. “As discontent grew in the countryside over the growing disparity between rich and poor, in the late 1990s the government began to talk about Mao to comfort those who were complaining,” Chaohua says. Leaders like Chinese President Hu Jintao mimicked Mao, traveling to villages in the countryside, “and emphasized Mao’s achievements in making China strong.” The message that they delivered was different from Mao’s, however. Instead of speaking out against “class struggles” against capitalism, as Mao did, they emphasized a “harmonious society.”  

Indeed, these days Mao is becoming more intertwined with China’s spectacular rise. Shanghai-born Michael Xin, 42, a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley, is in awe of what his country has become. “It has gone from being one of the weakest countries to one of the strongest in a very short period of time.” And he says Mao partly gets a nod for laying the foundation.  

For Xin, the lasting impact of Mao’s formal teachings on Chinese is his most impressive legacy. Xin says he was once approached by a Taiwanese vice-president of an American high-tech company who told him that he owed his business success to Mao’s books on the “Sword” and “Practice” theories of dealing with conflict and motivating people.  

Xin says, “I went to search for it right away.”  


Pueng Vongs is an editor with New America Media, a collaboration of ethnic media in the United States.  


Landscapes of Point Molate By JOHN KENYON Special to the Planet

Friday December 23, 2005

Driving home on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge after a day at Stinson Beach or a stroll around the Point Reyes Station, few returning East Bay residents cast more than a tired glance at the long stretch of natural-looking shoreline ahead, glimpsed at best through the crowded steelwork of that strange “erector-set” bridge. 

Even among folks enterprising enough to have discovered the charms of Point Richmond, its magnificent bay views, toy downtown, and winding streets of restored Victorians, relatively few have taken the easy-to-miss 580 off-ramp, just before the bridge tollgates, to the Point Molate Road, that strange little-known five-mile stretch ending at a picturesque harbor on San Pablo Bay. 

Hardly more than half an hour from North Berkeley, the trip is well worth the effort. Not as pretty as Tilden, it makes up for that by what’s now called “industrial archeology.” The rusted rails of the Richmond Beltline that once served the Contra Costa Winery and the Standard Oil Refinery over the ridge, snake along the reedy shore, over a lagoon on an ancient trestle, round Point San Pablo and past the yacht harbor, to disappear behind the gates of Chevron. 

En route, two public destinations make this trip a potential family outing. Approaching Point Molate, a public beach park of the same name offers the usual picnic facilities along with splendid views across the bay to the undulating edge of Marin County. Nearing Point San Pablo and the little Brothers Islands with their handsomely restored Victorian lighthouse, now a celebrated B and B, a bumpy rural road takes you over the hill to Point San Pablo Yacht Harbor in its wooded cove. After the over-designed respectability of Richmond’s developer-named “Marina Bay” with its fancy railings and gated docks, it’s a joy to step down between friendly looking houseboats, and stroll along old wood gangways past touchable boats, lovingly restored or falling apart, some for serious fishing, some serving as funky live-aboards. There’s even a 1940s-vintage cafe, called, appropriately, “The Galley,” and immediately below it a dockside from where, if you book ahead for a visit, you can be taken by motor launch to the East Brothers Light Station. 

So make tracks soon to this hidden demi-paradise, before the developers, those prosaic bottom-liners who never saw a rusty hull they could love, come bursting out of the wings to change everything. The wooded promontory of Point Molate, long occupied by the U.S. Navy Fuel Depot, is now up for grabs, and unlikely to remain abandoned. Chevron has made a bid for it, but the chronically troubled City of Richmond seems fatally attracted to the instant glamor and fast returns of a hotel-casino-resort complex. Personally, I have always seen this remote scenic edge as a natural extension of residential Point Richmond, shared with the East Bay Regional Park District. But enough of visualizations, for here’s a chance to enjoy the fascinating old before it is swept way by the all-too-predictable new. 

My own involvement in this obscure shore began 33 years ago as a professional happenstance could never have designed. Employed as an architect-planner for Richmond’s Redevelopment Agency, I was borrowed, thanks to some unknown supporter, by the Planning Department to illustrate a study of the city’s coastline. As a displaced landscape painter, it was the closest thing to heaven I’ve ever been paid for! About three days a week, armed with camera and sketchbook, I cruised the water-edges of industrial Richmond in search of strong compositions that carried the message “gutsy but interesting.” At the end of 10th Street, alongside the grand old Ford Plant, I drew the River Lines tugs and the “Oregon Bear” in its pre-container dock. I recorded the Santa Fe channel with its fascinating yacht-repair yards, and tackled the splendid bay-panoramas from Point Richmond’s Potrero Hills. 

But in the end, my most precious find was Standard Avenue north of the bridge—the Point Molate Road! Technically, it was private, casually patrolled by Navy trucks, but at that happy time, security was minimal. Standard Oil’s great green hillsides were not yet fenced-off, and outside the Fuel Depot you could park almost anywhere. For three undisturbed sessions, I sat on the road-edge above Castro Point, and drew dense, disreputable Red Rock Marina, a confusion of sunken-barge breakwaters, floating cranes, and ancient motor cruisers in the shadow of the great writhing bridge. 

A mile north of Castro Point, the road passes right through the middle of the ex-Navy Fuel Depot. During the 1970s, lingering hereabouts to draw of photograph was strictly verboten, but today you might wish to stop and admire the brick castellated-listed-building surviving from the Contra Costa Winery, a sad casualty of Prohibition! 

While Point Molate’s striking landform is more conventionally scenic, I have grown to prefer, as subject matter, the melancholy stretch of flat shore immediately north. Hugging the reedy water-edge, narrow road and rusted tracks weave and cross, back and forth, before parting company at a lagoon, where the tracks pass single-mindedly over a derelict trestle, while the road goes obediently around. The great hills of Marin across the water, the East Brother lighthouse just offshore, white tanks on the nearby bluffs, and the ever-passing tugs and tankers, create a strangely romantic setting that begs for a human focus. Not too surprising that 30 years after my original sketches and photographs this novel landscape should finally become domesticated by a family “Picnic by the Tracks,” with eldest daughter, first grandchild and dog. 

Thus a body of work begun as part of a matter-of-fact planning survey has continued over the years to provide unending and novel subject matter. Not even Mill Valley or Tiburon possess such strange and special poetry. 


Painting By John Kenyon:  

Thirty years after the original studies on Page 12, the artist’s favorite location becomes the setting for a more personal painting.l

Arts: Aurora Closes Year With Porter Tunes By KEN BULLOCK Special to the Planet

Friday December 23, 2005

With a nice pun on the songwriter’s name and what bad girls and boys have to look forward to from Santa, A Little Cole in Your Stocking, Aurora Theatre’s Holidays Cabaret of Cole Porter tunes, could have gotten off to a rough start on Wednesday night’s opening when pianist Billy Philadelphia, of the popular husband and wife duo with singer Meg Mackay, was out sick. But bolstered by the artistry of Larry Dunlap at the keyboard, Mackay turned in a funny, touching and all-round fine evening of Porter tunes that touted both her own professionalism and sensitivity to the material. 

Running the Porterian gamut from Kiss Me Kate’s “I Hate Men” (featuring lines like “He may have hair upon his chest,/But, sister, so has Lassie!”) to the big romantic numbers of desire, longing and a deliciously self-conscious restraint, Mackay made contact, turning out 20 tunes and an encore, followed by a sing-a-long of “Jingle Bells,” in about an hour-and-a-half or so, all with a pacing that featured each discrete mood well-framed by Mackay’s delivery, mixing comedy with warmth, and Dunlap’s sure touch on piano. 

Beginning with “What Is This Thing Called Love?” (“I was a humdrum person/Leading a life apart”) then plunging into songs from Kiss Me Kate and others, Mackay demurely made the most of each, for the most part standing in place, though never still, relying on her fluid gestures and elastic facial expressions to add emphasis to phrases dreamily prolonged or tartly tossed off. 

Mackay’s something of a cut-up, even a clown, but one of the nice surprises—as well as genuine pleasures—of the evening was her success with the romantic numbers, a success the well-placed comic tunes help set up. From “Night And Day” and “In The Still Of The Night,” she gained strength and assurance, carrying over into her fine second set, peaking with great numbers that many singers coast on, performing broadly, like “Begin The Beguine” or “Just One Of Those Things” in which the wistful lines are drawn out and both singer and pianist play with the melody in an intricate tracery.  

Ending on “My Heart Belongs To Daddy,” a song that has belonged to one singer for six decades (a possession that’s survived a clever theft by Eartha Kitt), Mackay’s delivery gives the venerable Mary Martin vehicle her own comic spin and musical bounce, with Dunlap elegantly jumping right along. This almost sassy close turns quickly into an touching encore that may be Meg’s best, “Everytime We Say Goodbye” (”I die a little/ ... wonder why a little/Why the gods above me/Who must be in the know/Think so little of me/They allow you to go”).  

Three Christmas songs were sung (Porter didn’t write Christmas songs), “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” (Judy Garland’s number from Meet Me in St. Louis) and the sprightly “Mrs. Claus” with lyrics by the East Bay’s Nancy Schimmel (“Who spends Christmas Eve all alone?/ ... Who takes the stains from the old red jacket?/Who takes the reins when Santa can’t hack it?? ... Who has to put up with a saint?/ Mrs. Claus!”) and the Karen Carpenter tune, “Merry Christmas, Darling,” meant as a holiday card to Aurora’s Artistic Director Tom Ross, who collaborated with Mackay in a Carpenters Christmas show at The Marsh, performed with just a hint, an edge of the late singer’s style. 

Seasonal tunes shoehorned in or not, and despite the absence of crowd-pleaser Billy Philadelphia, A Little Cole in Your Stocking concluded its opening night as a thoroughly satisfying cabaret alternative to the usual holiday fare. 


A Little Cole in Your Stocking plays at the Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison St., Dec. 23, 28, 29 and 30. For information call 843-4822 or see www.auroratheatre.org. 

Arts Calendar

Friday December 23, 2005



Shotgun Players “Cabaret” Thurs. - Sun. at 8 p.m. at the Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. Through Jan. 29. 841-6500. www.shotgunplayers.org 


Cowpokes for Peace at 7 p.m. at A Cuppa Tea, 3202 College Ave., at Alcatraz. Fr ee, all ages. 420-0196.  

Holiday Sing-Along with Terrance Kelly at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $7. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Swingthing Holiday Gala at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Swing dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Dan Zemelman Trio at 9 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Ramon & Jessica and Mark Ray at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Kaputnik, Mike Glendinning at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $5. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Destani Wolf and members of O-Maya at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $5-$7. 548-1159.  

Joshi Marshal and Friends at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 

Mike Stern with Dennis Chambers, Victor Wooten & Bo b Francescini at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $22-$26. 238-9200.  



Razorblade, The Caribbean Groovers Steel Pan Band at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $11-$13. 525-5054.  

Gary Rowe, jazz piano, a t 9 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 

Clairdee at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $8-$16. 238-9200.  



The Rasatafarians, McAllan “Rocky” Bailey at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $16-$18. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Will Durst Big Fat Year End Kiss Off Comedy Show at 8 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $17. 925-798-1300. 

Trovatore, traditional Italian music, at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

The Michael Zilber Wayne Wallace Latin Big Band at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $14. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



Moshe Cohen and Unique Derique “Cirque Do Somethin’” at 1 p.m. through Dec. 30, at the Marsh, 2120 Allston Way. Tickets are $10-$15. 800-838-3006. www.themarsh.org 


Joe Craven and Rob Ickes, bluegrass, at noon and 1:30 p.m. at Lawrence Hall of Science, Centennial Drive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-5132. 

David Grisman Bluegrass Experience at 5 and 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $29.50-$30.50. 548-1761.  

Arturo Sandoval at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Sun. Cost is $22-$26. 238-9200.  

Jazzschool Tuesdays at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 

Larry Vuck ovich, solo jazz piano, at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 



Dana Smith and His Dog Lacy at noon and 1:30 p.m. at Lawrence Hall of Science, Centennial Drive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-5132. 


Berkeley Poetry Slam with host Charles Ellik and Three Blind Mice, at 8:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $5-$7. 841-2082 www.starryploughpub.com 


Ned Boynton Trio at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Wild Catahoulas at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10-$12. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Julio Bravo, salsa, at 9:30 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Dance lessons at 8 p.m. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159.  

Pete Caragher Quartet at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 



Asheba, Caribbean music, at noon and 1:30 p.m. at Lawrence Hall of Science, Centennial Drive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-5132. 


Traveling Jewish Theater “Dirt and Glory: Return of the Golem” at 8 p.m. at Berkeley Richmond Jewish Community Ce nter, 1414 Walnut St. Tickets are $10-$30. 415-522-0786. www.atjt.com 


Nomad Spoken Word Night at 7 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Word Beat Reading Series with Carol Dwinell and Daniel Johnson at 7 p.m. at Mediterraneum Caffe, 2475 Telegraph Ave. 526-5985. 


Mal Sharpe’s Big Money in Gumbo at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Brunette & The Highlights at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $5. 841-20 82.  

Debbie Poryes-Fels, solo jazz piano, at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Witches Brew Represent at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 



Magician Jay Alexander at noon and 1:30 p.m. at Lawrence Hall of Science, Centennial Drive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-5132. 


Shotgun Players “Cabaret” Thurs. - Sun. at 8 p.m. at the Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. Through Jan. 29. 841-6500.  


King Wawa and the Oneness Kingdom Band, a pre-celebration of Haitian Independence, at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $15. 849-2568.  

Tanaora Brasil at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $7. 841-JAZZ.  

Lucky Otis at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Swing dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $11-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Fre e Persons Quartet at 8 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave. 548-5198.  

Jennifer Lee Quartet, at 9 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Philip Rodriguez and Colin Carthen at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344.  

Nuclear Rabbit, all ages show, at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $6. 841-2082.  

Burial Year, Bafabegiya, Acts of Sedition at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St. Cost is $7. 525-9926. 

Arturo Sandoval at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Sun. Cost is $22-$26. 238-92 00.  



San Francisco Chamber Orchestra New Year’s Celebration in Memory of Edgar Braun at 8 p.m. at First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way. www.sfchamberorchestra.org 

Bobi Cespedes & Her Trio at 7 and 10 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Includes Cuban dinner. Call fordetails. 841-JAZZ. 

New Year’s Eve Party at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

New Year’s Eve Balkan Bash with Anoush, Edessa and Brass Menagerie at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $20. 525-5054.  

Jesus Diaz and Afro-Cuban All Stars at 9:30 p.m.at La Peña. Cost is $23-$25. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Johnny Steele’s Hilarity Hoedown and Jocularity Jamboree at 8 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College A ve. Tickets are $25-$30. 925-798-1300. 

Flamenco Fiesta with Yaelisa and Caminos Flamencos at Café de la Paz. Tickets are $45-$75. 843-0662. 

Lyrics Born, Inspector Double Negative & The Equal Positives at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cos t is $20-25. 548-1159.  

Beatropolis New Years Eve Party at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. Cost is $10 after 10 p.m. 848-8277. 

High Country, Dix Bruce & Jim Nunally at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $26.50-$27.50. 548-1761.  

Fourtet Jazz New Year’s Eve Party a t 10 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $7. 843-2473.  

Rhonda Benin & Soulful Strut at 9 p.m., Duncan James, solo jazz guitar, at 6 p.m., at Downtown. 649-3810. 

Raheem de Vaughn “Shang Hai” New Year’s celebration at 9 p.m. at 510 17th St., Oak land. Tickets are $75-$100.  

Jewdriver, Stigma 13, Second Class Citizens at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St.Cost is $6. 525-9926. 

Arturo Sandoval at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Sun. Cost is $22-$26. 238-9200. 



Tr aveling Jewish Theater “Dirt and Glory: Return of the Golem” at 2 p.m. at Berkeley Richmond Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. Tickets are $10-$30. 415-522-0786. www.atjt.com 


African Diaspora Cinema “Man by the Shore” at 2 p.m. at Parkway Theat er, 1834 Park Blvd., Oakland. Cost is $5. OurFilms@aol.com 



David K. Mathews Quartet at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $6-$10. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



“The Greek Stones Speak” Travel photography lecture with Don Lyons at 7 p.m. at Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave., Oakland. Free. 654-1548.  


Hot Club of San Francisco at 8 and 10 p.m. Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $10. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

Berkeley This Week

Friday December 23, 2005


Telegraph Avenue Holiday Street Fair between Dwight and Bancroft, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Also on Sat. 


Mini-Farmers in Tilden A farm exploration program, from 10 to 11 a.m. for ages 4-6 years, accompanied by an adult. We will explore the Little Farm, care for animals, do crafts and farm chores. Wear boots and dress to get dirty! Fee is $5-$7. Registration required. 525-2233. 

Kosher Movies and Kosher Chinese Food at 7 p.m. at Chabad of the East Bay 2643 College Ave. Cost is $10. Reservations required. 540-5824. 


Reduced City Services Today Call ahead to ensure programs or services you desire will be available. 981-CITY. www.cityofberkeley.info 

Flames, Flares and Explosions The science of fire at noon and 1:30 p.m. at Lawrence Hall of Science. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-5132. 


Reduced City Services Today Call ahead to ensure programs or services you desire will be available. 981-CITY. www.cityofberkeley.info 

Healthy Eating Habits Seminar at 7 p.m. at New Moon Opportunities, 378 Jayne Ave., Oakland Free, but registration required. 465-2524. 

Berkeley PC Users Group Problem solving and beginners meeting to answer questions about Windows computers. At 7 p.m. at 1145 Walnut St. corner of Eunice. All welcome, no charge. 527-2177.  


Reduced City Services Today Call ahead to ensure programs or services you desire will be available. 981-CITY. 

Walk Berkeley for Seniors meets at 9:30 a.m. at the Sea Breeze Market, just west of the I-80 overpass. 548-9840. 

Sleep Soundly Seminar at 7 p.m. at New Moon Opportunities, 378 Jayne Ave., Oakland Free, but registration required. 465-2524. 

Berkeley Peace Walk and Vigil at the Berkeley BART Station, corner of Shattuck and Center. Sing for Peace at 6:30 p.m. followed by Peace Walk at 7 p.m. www.geocities.com/ 



Reduced City Services Today Call ahead to ensure programs or services you desire will be available. 981-CITY. www.cityofberkeley.info 

Joel ben Izzy celebrates Hanukkah with games, stories and a dreidel design contest at 6:30 p.m. at Black Oak Books, 1491 Shattuck Ave. 483-0698. 

World of Plants Tours Thurs., Sat. and Sun. at 1:30 p.m. at the UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive. Cost is $5. 643-2755. http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu 


Reduced City Services Today Call ahead to ensure programs or services you desire will be available. 981-CITY. www.cityofberkeley.info 


Open the Little Farm Help greet the animals as we feed them, collect eggs and do morning chores at 9 a.m. at the Little Farm, Tilden Park. Dress to get dirty. 525-2233. 

Berkeley High Class of 1975 Reunion Party at 7 p.m. at the Doubletree, Berkeley Marina. mlc22@sbcglobal.net 

New Year’s Eve Balloon Drop at 4 p.m. (midnight Greenwich Mean Time) at Chabot Space & Science Center. Tickets required. 336-7373. 


Tibetan Buddhism “Introduction to Tibetan Healing Meditation and Yoga” at 3 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 843-6812.  


Free Small Business Counselling with SCORE, Service Core of Retired Executives at the Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. To make an appointment call 981-6244. 


Tibetan Buddhism with Sylvia Gretchen on “Healing Mind”at 8 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 843-6812.  


Learn How to Use Your GPS with Map Software with Jeff Caulfield of National Geographic at 7 p.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. 527-4140. 

Family Story Time at 7 p.m. at the Kensington Branch Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. Free, all ages welcome. 524-3043. 

Red Cross Blood Drive from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Kaiser Permanente, Dining Conference Room, 1950 Franklin St. To schedule an appointment call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE. www.BeADonor.com 

Berkeley Salon Discussion Group meets to discuss “New Years Revolutions” from 7 to 9 p.m. at the BRJCC, 1414 Walnut St. 527-1022. 

Free Handbuilding Ceramics Class 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at St. John’s Senior Center, 2727 College Ave. Materials and firing charges not included. 525-5497. 

Berkeley Camera Club meets at 7:30 p.m., at the Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. 548-3991. www.berkeleycameraclub.org 

“Ask the Social Worker” free consultations for older adults and their families from 10 a.m. to noon at BRJCC, 1414 Walnut St. To schedule an appointment call 558-7800, ext. 716. 

St. John’s Prime Timers meets at 9:30 a.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. 845-6830. 

“Faith, Doubt, and Inquiry” with Jack Petranker at 6:15 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 843-6812. www.nyingmainstitute.com 


Citizens Budget Review Commission meets Wed., Dec. 28, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7041.  

Civic Arts Commission meets Wed., Dec. 28, at 6:30 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Mary Ann Merker, 981-7533. 

About the House: Getting To Know Your Handyman By MATT CANTOR

Friday December 23, 2005

To the seasoned homeowner, few associations are as valued as those they share with their handyman (or handywoman). Finding these gems and keeping them around is no mean feat but worth every calorie you can muster. But it’s also important to understand some basic concepts about the care and feeding of handypersons. 

First and most important is to understand that a handyperson is not a general contractor. This is a person who can probably do a number of basic repairs without complex issues attached and should not be asked to do more than this despite the temptation to get your foundation replaced for half the cost. There are reasons that general contractors and other specialists charge what they do for many complex services and trying to circumvent this process can bring tears faster than the IRS (and that’s fast). 

Some of the jobs you might attempt with your handyperson include light plumbing (probably not re-piping your house but certainly replacing the washers in a faucet and maybe even the faucet itself), simple electrical jobs such as changing light fixtures and indoor painting where prep is minimal or not needed at all.  

Your handyperson should probably not be doing anything that would normally require a permit. This is hard to encapsulate into our short space but most cities limit this in dollar amount and a good rule of thumb is work that’s under $1,000. I tend not to want to see a handyman inside of an electrical panel but might allow for repair or addition of one circuit if they have good knowledge of this specialty. In general, things that pose a real threat, like electrical work and heating equipment, are best left to experts. 

There are, however, loads of tasks around the average house that handypeople are well suited for, but try and keep it simple. Here are a few:  

Caulking inside or out (make sure they buy the right caulk; there are differences and store employees can help); changing furnace filters; setting traps for pests; putting together shelving units and furniture; cleaning windows (lots of house cleaners don’t want to get on ladders); or fixing stuck windows and doors.  

Handypeople may also be suitable to lay insulation batting in your attic. Have your handyperson vacuum out your floor furnace (they can probably re-light the pilot if it goes out, too). Handypeople tend to be good at mechanical tasks like replacing locks or adjusting hinges. If your door rubs or the lock won’t engage, your handyguy or gal is likely well versed in such matters. You may also want your handyperson to do something so mundane as changing a light bulb that’s higher than your ladder (or your acrophobia) reaches. 

For larger or complex jobs, please consult a general contractor or a specialist such as an electrician or heating specialist. You also might find that a specialist who charges a whopping $100 an hour is going to be cheaper in the end than a handyperson who charges $30 an hour, due to their expertise and equipment. Sometimes cheap isn’t cheap. 

Since handypeople are often less experienced and savvy than their general contractor counterparts, there are a few things you should keep in mind. One is that these useful folk are often not too experienced in business affairs and may not lay out the timeline and cost projections with PowerPoint presentation. Some scribble hours down on napkins, although some have computers and receipt books.  

Take some time to talk about how things will work and expect your first date with your handywonk to be a learning experience. Keep it short and simple, sort of a test run, and then get the bill, pay it and leave it open-ended. If things were to your liking, call back and do another few items.  

Some handypeople are less than reliable or competent and it’s best to stay involved and find out early. Others are fantastic and may even be so good that they’re booked up for weeks in advance.  

It’s always better to wait for the one that is in demand. The restaurant with the long waiting line is probably better than the empty one.  

Remember that cost is a relative thing, as I’ve previously indicated, and a handyperson who charges $45 an hour might be a great deal while one that charges $20 might be a terrible deal. For your first date with your new handyperson, don’t fixate on price but see what the total bill looks like and how much you liked the work. Remember that showing up on time, keeping the place neat and being pleasant are all part of the equation. An irascible and perennially tardy worker is a pain and worth less than one that does the same job in a timely manner and with a smile. 

Some other issues regarding said handyperson might fall under the realm of personal liability. Since there is no licensing board to complain to and no bond to claim when things go wrong, you are more afloat with a handyperson. Check with your homeowner’s insurance company and see what they cover in the event that he or she gets hurt on the job or does something harmful to your property or possessions that they will not be able to cover. Talk to your accountant and see what the payment limits are for day labor or small repair and find out how it will be best to pay. How you pay may also affect your ability to seek recourse for problems you later discover. There are advantages on both sides of this issue so get some advise that considers your own circumstances.  

Lastly, have some fun and enjoy the fruits of this wonderful resource. I can drain the fun out of any subject with all the liabilities and inherent difficulties, but I don’t want you to miss the point that handypeople are a very practical commodity. In fact, sometimes they are so perfectly suited to your needs that it’s a wonder that you can book time with any of the good ones to save your life. 

Who’s my handyman? I’ll never tell. 


Ask Matt

Friday December 23, 2005

Dear Matt, 

I have recently dismantled an improvised system of outdoor power outlets installed by a previous owner of my house. What kinds of outdoor power outlets are safe, serviceable and economical to install?  

Martin Kramer 


Dear Martin, 

What a great question. I’m glad you dismantled the improvised power outlets and I’m glad you didn’t get shocked (I assume you’d have told me if it had happened). As far as economics, I don’t know if I can help much, since I’d recommend that a licensed electrician do the new installation, but here are a few suggestions as to what you’ll want installed. The first and most important thing is that these new outlets be “GFCI” or ground fault circuit interrupters (sometimes called GFIs). These can sense a person getting shocked and stop the flow of power. Amazing but true. These have been required in new construction (or remodeling) for quite a few years when outlets are installed in bathrooms, kitchens, basements, garages or outside. What all these places have in common is that you are more apt to be grounded—literally, connected to the ground either by touching it or by touching something that connects to the ground (such as a concrete slab or a pipe or a faucet). Outdoor outlets should be installed using outdoor-type wiring, junction boxes and special covers, especially for outlets.  

The covers I like the best have a large plastic shell with notches at the bottom. This allows you to plug something in, close the shell and leave it plugged in, protected from the rain. This is especially good for things like sump pumps, outdoor lighting devices and the like. 

The one cost-saving measure I can suggest is that you install outlets at the perimeter of your house where there is a crawl space or basement on the opposing side. This way, the wiring can be kept cheaper by running lower-cost wiring from interior junction boxes to the exterior wall and only the fancy exterior junction box or cover will be needed. You can probably put in several around your house for a few hundred dollars. If you need power further from the house it’s best for it to be buried in a PVC conduit with a firmly mounted post or wall for it to arrive at and connect to. Make sure the outlet is installed well above ground to stay dry. 

Best of luck, 

Matt Cantoro

Garden Variety: Last-Minute Gift Ideas For Your Favorite Gardener By RON SULLIVAN

Friday December 23, 2005

Those of us who do Christmas shopping can relax now. If it’s not done, tell everybody you’re celebrating the Magi this year and they’ll get their gifts on Jan. 6. Honest, it won’t make the Baby Jesus cry if you miss something at Macy’s or Wallyworld, if you sit down and nurse your bruises and skip another day of celebrating the War for Christmas. I won’t tell Bill O’Reilly on you.  

It’s not a good time to go messing in your garden, either, if the soil’s still soggy from all that rain. Berkeley clay resents being squished and stepped on and shoved around when it’s soggy—remember the way you felt after that last attempt to get your hands on this year’s Xbox? It bruises easily, and turns into impenetrable adobe when it finally dries out, and your plants won’t appreciate it either.  

So stop, take a deep breath, and elevate your feet. Partake of your favorite seasonal beverage. Contemplate stuffing or good wine; dream of a third round of latkes; if you must think of gardening at all, have a pleasant internal debate over where and whether to plant squash this year, or just how big a tomato variety you can get away with in your neighborhood. (The smaller ones do better with less summer heat and sun… Remember summer heat and sun? West of the hills, it’s tightly rationed.)  

It’s a prefect time to read the garden bulb and seed catalogues that have piled up beside the chair. But you do need to read with a skeptical eye, as unfashionable as those are this year, this season.  

It’s possible to get something from White Flower Farms or Burpee that grows up to look like the gorgeous photo in the book, but it’s hardly guaranteed no matter what the back page says. Most seed catalogues, like most general garden books, are put together with other climates in mind. They’re pitched at the East Coast, the Midwest, or some fantasyland off the coast of Bavaria—or at least England, from which so many of our garden gospels originated.  

Mediterranean-climate garden books will translate to California more easily, and some have been written for us in particular. The magnificent Plants and Landscapes for Summer-dry Climates of the San Francisco Bay Region, put together by editor Nora Harlow, designer Beth Hansen-winter, illustrator Richard Pembroke, and photographer Saxon Holt for the East Bay Municipal Utility District, comes to mind—and it’s a great last-minute gift for a gardener, come to think of it.  

So is another recent book that includes more of Holt’s gorgeous plant porn and Hansen-Winter’s inviting design, the new site guide San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum by Peter Dallman and Scot Medbury. You might have to call a few stores for this one, but it’s a good excuse to visit the arboretum. Give someone the gift of a stroll and a book and the pleasure of your company sometime next week; I can’t think of a better gift for any holiday. 




Ron Sullivan is a former professional gardener and arborist. Her “Garden Variety” column appears weekly in East Bay Home & Real Estate. Her column on East Bay trees appears twice-monthly in the Berkeley Daily Planet.

UC Regents Address Compensation Issue By J. DOUGLAS ALLEN-TAYLOR

Tuesday December 20, 2005

The UC Board of Regents moved this week to try to stem the bleeding in public confidence over its secret employee compensation packages. 

The board announced Monday the creation of a permanent Regents’ committee on compensation, initiating an independent audit going back 10 years and releasing the names of business, government, media, and education community members of a task force previously recommended by UC President Robert Dynes to look into the compensation issue. 

Both the task force and the auditors will report directly to the regents. 

“The regents recognize the University of California’s unique public trust,” Regents’ Chair Gerald Parsky said in a released statement. “While UC must maintain its ability to compete with top universities across the nation for outstanding researchers, teachers and administrators, we must do so in ways that are transparent and understandable to the public. These actions set us on the road to achieving those objectives.” 

The crisis began in mid-November after a series of articles appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle charging that many highly paid university employees were getting additional compensation packages not publicly reported by the university. 

The Chronicle reported that UC employees “received a total of $871 million in bonuses, administrative stipends, relocation packages and other forms of cash compensation last fiscal year,” with $599 million in such “extra compensation” going to 8,500 employees last year “who each got at least $20,000 over their regular salaries.” 

In response, a coalition of UC Berkeley and UCLA professors began circulating petitions calling for an independent investigation into the high-end compensation packages. 

In a telephone press conference Monday, Parsky said that the regents were “committed to public access to and awareness of all of the regents’ decision-making actions.” 

Parsky said the regents’ actions were designed to look both backwards and forwards, with the independent audit looking to see if the university has followed policy in compensation matters over the last 10 years, the task force reviewing present compensation policies and making recommendations for proposed changes, and the permanent regents compensation committee providing ongoing oversight. 

UC President Dynes said that he was “in full concurrence” with the regents’ actions, saying that while the university “must remain competitive” on the issue of salaries and compensation, “we are a public institution and a public trust. When there is less than total public confidence, we must regain total public confidence.” 

Dynes has already initiated an internal review by the university auditor of university academic hiring practices. 

As a first step in addressing the compensation problem, the regents have authorized a task force co-chaired by former California state Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg and Regent Joanne Kozberg to “review the current regents’ compensation policies and practices for faculty and senior managers, and recommend appropriate changes, if needed,” as well as to “review current disclosure policies and practices, and recommend appropriate changes to achieve the university’s responsibilities as a public institution while also protecting the personal privacy rights of university employees as required by law.” 

The task force was recommended last month by President Dynes. 

Named as additional task force members were former California State Senate and Assembly member Dede Alpert, UC Academic Council Chair Clifford Brunk, University of Michigan president emeritus James J. Duderstadt, Apple Oaks Partners, LLC managing partner B. Kipling (Kip) Hagopian, former San Jose Mercury News publisher Jay T. Harris, UC Regent Monica C. Lozano, and National Association of College and University Business Officers CEO and former Cornell University senior vice president James E. Morley, Jr. 

Last month, UC Berkeley Education and Public Policy Professor Bruce Fuller, one of the leaders of the professors’ petition movement calling for an independent investigation into the secret compensation packages, had said that task force co-chair Robert Hertzberg had asked the protesting professors to make recommendations to the task force, though Fuller said Hertzberg had not committed himself to placing any of those recommended names on the panel. 

Asked during this week’s press conference if the professors had made any recommendations or if any of those recommendations were named, task force co-chair Joanne Kozberg said that regents had held conversations with Fuller to “discuss the qualities of the persons that should appear on the task force,” and specifically noted that Academic Council Chair Brunk had been named to represent the professors’ interests. 

Fuller could not be reached for comment for this article. 

Parsky said that the independent audit of the university’s compensation practices over the past ten years will be handled by a special team from the university’s existing auditors, Price Waterhouse. 

In announcing the creation of a permanent regents compensation committee, Parsky said, “Committees on compensation issues are standard practice on most corporate and non-profit boards. It is our fiduciary responsibility to provide the same level of scrutiny and oversight over compensation matters at the University of California.” 




Bates Began Drive to Build Transit Villages By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Tuesday December 20, 2005

The plans for a transit village development for the west parking lot of the Ashby BART station owe a lot to Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates. Bates could rightly be called the father of the transit village, thanks to legislation he authored that was passed in California eleven years ago. 

The decade from 1980 to 1990 had seen a significant decline in the use of mass transit in all California metropolitan areas. AB 3121, the Transit Village Development Planning Act of 1994, created transit village development districts that include all land within a quarter-mile of an existing transit station. 

Designed to offer incentives for the use of public transportation and to create more affordable housing in inner cities, transit villages have blossomed across the country, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development played a major role in promoting the developments.  

Bates’s legislation requires a city or county planning agency to design the neighborhood centered around the mass transit facility so that “residents, workers, shoppers, and others find it convenient to patronize transit.” 

As outlined in his legislation, such plans should include: 

• A mix of housing types, including apartments, within the planning district. 

• Other land use, including a retail district oriented to the transit station and community, including daycare and libraries. 

• Attractively designed pedestrian and bicycle access to the transit district. 

• Rail transit that encourages intermodal services—that is, bus or paratransit to rail, etc.—rather than single-occupancy cars. 

• Demonstrable public benefits that include 13 specific findings, later described as conditions of blight. 

The categories include relief of traffic congestion, improvement of air quality, increased affordable housing stock, redevelopment of blighted or marginal inner-city neighborhoods, live-travel options for “transit-needy” groups, promotion of infill development and preservation of natural resources, promotion of a safe, attractive pedestrian-friendly neighborhood around stations, reduced need for more travel by providing goods and services at the station, promotion of job opportunities, cost savings through use of existing infrastructure, increased sales and property taxes, and reduced energy consumption. 

The need for all 13 findings was reduced in subsequent legislation in 2004 by former Assemblymember John Dutra (D-Fremont) to a requirement that only five of the 13 findings were needed to create a district. 

Transit villages created under the older, stricter law have been created in many California metropolitan areas, the East Bay included. Oakland’s Fruitvale Village is the most prominent example. 

Construction of the Richmond Transit Village is already partially complete, with 231 units of housing already built and another 300 planned. Construction on a new transit station to serve BART, Amtrak and AC Transit began on Oct. 28. 


Spousal support 

Former Berkeley Mayor Loni Hancock, Bates’s spouse and the current occupant of his old Assembly seat, is another major supporter of transit villages. 

Her Transit Village Development Planning Act, strongly supported by BART and AC Transit, becomes law with the dawn of the new year. 

While previously the creation of a transit village required the development of a specific plan by the city or county government offering the proposal, Hancock’s AB 691 changes the equation. 

Until terms of her legislation come into effect, local planning commissions can designate existing specific and redevelopment plans as plans for new transit villages by holding a noticed public hearing, followed by another hearing and vote by the city council or county board of supervisors. 

That provision was subject to criticism by the legislative analyst for the Senate Rules Committee, who noted that by short-cutting the planning process, “this bill limits public participation. While residents and landowners had a chance to participate in the adoption of the specific plan or redevelopment plan, they had no way of knowing that the plan would become a transit village plan.” 

The city does have a specific plan which includes the proposed transit village district—the South Shattuck Strategic Plan of 1997. 


Stalled legislation 

To those existing categories, one bill now stalled in the state legislature would have added another category of blight—lack of high density development within the district. 

That same proposal would have also broadened the definition and the geographical scope of the surrounding districts. 

The measure, Senate 521 California state Sen. Tom Torlakson (D-Antioch), appears to be headed for legislative limbo, said an aide to the senator. 

Under the terms of SB 521, transit villages could also become redevelopment areas if the area they encompass meet statutory findings of blight including such factors as residential overcrowding, high crime rates, excessive numbers of bars, liquor stores and “adult” businesses, lack of neighborhood-serving commercial business and high business vacancy rates. 

Mark Stivers, a Torlakson aide, said that while the bill is still technically alive, he doubts that the senator will bring it up for a vote. 

Because the tax-increment funding used to fund redevelopment projects means a loss of revenues to county governments, counties have registered strong opposition. 

Torlakson had resolved one key source of opposition: that by designation as redevelopment districts, transit villages would be granted the controversial powers of eminent domain. 

“He amended the bill so that the transit village districts wouldn’t have the power,” Stivers said. 

Supporters of the bill included BART, the Planning and Conservation League, the Bay Area Council and the California chapter of the American Planning Association. 

Another bill stalled in the state legislature, AB 986, was written by Assemblymember Alberto Torrico (D-Fremont), Dutra’s successor. 

That measure would have required the joint policy of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments to identify and prioritize regional transit oriented development zones in the San Francisco Bay area for submission to the state legislature by Jan. 1, 2007. 


The future 

The City Council last week approved the first step toward making the Ashby BART transit village a reality. Backed by Bates and City Councilmember Max Anderson, a grant application seeking $120,000 planning grant from the California Department of Transportation won the council’s endorsement. 

Funds from the grant would be used to create a community planning process that would lay out the general parameters of the development, which would then be provided to prospective developers interested in bidding on the project._

Peralta Trustees Elect New Officers By J. DOUGLAS ALLEN-TAYLOR

Tuesday December 20, 2005

Vista College Construction On Schedule  


The Peralta Community College District Board of Trustees moved into a new era this week with the election of trustee Linda Handy to the position of board president and Bill Withrow as vice president during the trustees’ regular meeting. 

In addition, trustees heard representatives of the Vista College construction project in Berkeley say that the project is on track, and the move to the new building is still scheduled to be made as scheduled at the end of the 2006 spring semester. Vista Project Manager Jeff Gee, vice president of Swinerton Management & Consulting Company said of the project, “It’s been a long journey, but the end is in sight.” 

Handy was unanimously elected to the board presidency to replace Bill Riley in the board’s annual officer elections. Withrow was also unanimously elected to replace Handy as vice president. 

Handy was elected to her trustee position in November 2002 over incumbent Brenda Knight in part because of community fiscal concerns about former Peralta Chancellor Ronald Temple. Following her election, Temple was ousted and replaced by current chancellor Elihu Harris. 

Withrow is part of the four-person trustee freshman class of 2004, which includes trustees Nicky González Yuen, Cy Gulassa, and Marcie Hodge—all elected last November after incumbent trustees chose not to run for re-election. Counting Handy’s 2002 election, that means that five of the seven Peralta trustees have been elected to the board in the past three years. 

These new board members have spearheaded increased fiscal oversight and controls within a district that was plagued with financial embarrassments during the Temple years. 

That increased oversight was reflected last week in Gee’s report to the trustees at last week’s meeting on change orders in the $65.9 million Vista construction project. Such change orders have been a continuing source of board controversy over the past year and has led to a number of new board policies of fiscal control. 

Gee reported that Swinerton had approved $1.09 million of the $2.2 million in change orders submitted by Vista project contractors, and called the change order figure “well within the standard of care within the design and construction industry.” 

Gee said that some of the unapproved $1 million in requested change orders had not been rejected by Swinerton but instead were still under additional review. 

He also said that he expected the total change order figure to end up between $2 million and $2.3 million. He said that the bulk of those change orders—$648,000—had been initiated by the district itself, while only $140,000 had been requested by project contractors. 

Past discussions of Vista construction change orders had often led to long and sometimes rancorous debates among trustees, many of them led by Berkeley trustee Nicky González Yuen, who has been one of the most vocal critics of many of Vista’s past construction change orders. But in a measure of how the temperature over the change order issue has lowered, trustees asked few questions of Gee at last week’s meeting, and Yuen asked none at all. 

Remembering Maybelle Reid Allen By J. DOUGLAS ALLEN-TAYLOR

Tuesday December 20, 2005

Maybelle Reid Allen, 85, passed away on Friday, Dec. 9, at her home of 66 years in Oakland, California. A native of Berkeley, California, Mrs. Allen was the descendant of African-American pioneers who migrated to California from the South before the Civil War, and was the 12th of 13 children of Thomas Reid Sr. and Virginia (Jennie) Parker Reid of Berkeley. 

She was the widow of Ernest Allen Sr., the appellant in the 1952-53 legal struggle that desegregated the Oakland Fire Department. Between them, Maybelle and Ernest Allen operated Supreme Market in the East Oakland flatlands, an economic and social anchor in the community for more than 40 years and one of the most successful and beloved Mom & Pop grocery stores in the history of the city. 

Mrs. Allen is survived by one sister, Hazel Huff of Phoenix, Arizona, three children, University of Massachusetts professor Ernest Allen Jr. of Amherst, Massachusetts, author and journalist Bonnie Allen of New York City, Berkeley Daily Planet reporter Jesse Douglas Allen-Taylor of Oakland, eight grandchildren, Malik Allen, Kamili Allen Samms, Antonio Allen, Paloma Allen-Davis, Fonta Allen, Zena Allen, Nile Taylor and Olabayo Allen Taylor, and three great-grandchildren, Aziza Allen, Gerald Polk and Desmond Allen Samms. 

Maybelle Reid Allen was a rock and an inspiration. She will be missed.

Holiday Volunteer Opportunities By Diana Talbert

Tuesday December 20, 2005

For those who like to observe holidays by helping others, the East Bay has traditionally offered a variety of opportunities. Two of the old stand-bys are listed below, but the Planet would like to hear about others by noon on Thursday for a story in our weekend issue. Send details to news@berkeleydailyplanet.com, or call 841-5600, ext. 102. 


St. Vincent de Paul Dining Room needs volunteers from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. daily, except Wednesdays, to help in kitchen and serving meals. Located at 675 23rd St., Oakland, between San Pablo Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Call 451-7676 to confirm. Enough volunteers have signed up for Christmas Day but more are needed other days. 

The Salvation Army is in need of toys and clothes for men, women, and children. This is an ongoing need but winter clothes/coats are in particular need now. Drop off at Salvation Army building at 601 Webster at 7th Street, Oakland. Call 451-4514.  

Man Killed on I-80 From Bay City News

Tuesday December 20, 2005

Scott Lofgren, a Berkeley off-duty emergency medical technician, was killed early Sunday morning in Albany after stopping to assist a driver involved in a solo-spinout on Interstate Highway 80, the California Highway Patrol reported. 

Lofgren, 43, had stopped to help Cassady Toles, 29, of San Pablo, who lost control of his 1999 BMW M3 while traveling eastbound on the highway near the Gilman Street exit at 2:50 a.m., the CHP reported. 

The BMW skidded off the highway and collided with a concrete bridge railing on the right-hand shoulder of the freeway. The CHP reported that Lofgren, after checking on the health of Toles, was setting up flares around the crash site when he was struck by another vehicle. 

The driver of that vehicle, 28-year-old Union City resident Danny Jackson Jr., reportedly attempted to slow his car down, but the wet weather caused his 1994 Infiniti Q45 to hydroplane and subsequently hit Lofgren, the CHP reported. 

Jackson’s car careened off the highway, also hitting the BMW and Lofgren’s Ford truck, the CHP reported. 

Lofgren was pronounced dead at around 3:40 a.m. as a result of his injuries, the CHP reported. 

Toles reportedly suffered minor injuries, according to the CHP. 

Though it was determined that Jackson had been drinking alcohol, the CHP reported that he was not under the influence at the time of the crash.


Tuesday December 20, 2005

Bears in the buff 

While technically a police matter, about 30 or so naked UC Berkeley students celebrated finals week with a nude run through the Moffitt Library Friday. The naked sprint has become a tradition at the university. 


Heist foiled 

Even a punch failed to convince a Berkeley woman to surrender her belongings Thursday afternoon in the 2200 block of Channing Way, and the frustrated robber made off by car, said acting Berkeley Police Public Information Officer Shira Warren. 


Gunman gets wallet 

A pair of bandits, one armed with a pistol, pulled their piece on a 23-year-old woman in the 1300 block of Rose Street about 8:15 p.m. Thursday and convinced her to surrender her wallet. 


Tie-dyed bandit 

A bandit in his 40s and wearing a tie-dyed T-shirt robbed a 55-year-old woman in the 1900 block of University Avenue shortly after 8 a.m. Friday. 

He reached into her pocket and extracted a $20 bill before fleeing on foot. 


Another heist 

A strong-arm bandit relieved a woman of her money outside the Wells Fargo branch in the 2900 block of College Avenue at 8:35 p.m. Friday. 


Another heist 

Another bandit relieved a 20-year-old woman of her purse as she walked along the 2000 block of Allston Way just before 1 a.m. Saturday. 


Witness calls 

A citizen who watched the forceful purse-snatch robbery of a 73-year-old Berkeley woman in the 2800 block of San Pablo Avenue called police to report the crime. The suspect had fled by the time officers arrived, said Officer Warren. 


Wallet taken 

The threats made by a menacing young man were enough to convince a Berkeley woman to surrender her wallet Thursday afternoon as she walked along the 2800 block of Benvenue Avenue. 


More threats 

Threats of violence were enough to persuade a 19-year-old woman to surrender her belongings after she was confronted by a 30-something thug in the 2500 block of Parker Street about 9:45 a.m. Sunday. 


BB attack 

A young bicyclist called police shortly after noon Sunday to report that a group of juveniles had shot at him with a BB-gun as he pedaled along the 1400 block of Sacramento Street Sunday. 


Another strong-arm 

A 23-year-old man told police that a strong-arm artist made off with his cash after confronting him in the 2000 block of Shattuck Avenue just before 3:30 p.m. Sunday. 


And another  

A bandit stole the cash of a 25-year-old woman walking in the 1800 block of Hearst Avenue just after 4 p.m. Sunday. 


Hot dog heist 

A 21-year--old woman who had been the victim of a strong-arm robber who took her computer bag and her hot dog in the 2400 block of Warring Street on Dec. 15 waited until Sunday to call police to report the crime. 


Noodle heist 

Some people steal cash, some steal cars, but the bandit who walked into the 7-Eleven at 1501 University Ave. at 11:30 p.m. Sunday was after something else—noodles. 

Not only that, but the 23-year-old bandit managed to get caught, leaving him with embarrassing explanations to offer his colleagues in crimes at the Santa Rita Jail, where noodle robbers lack the cachet of, say, bank robbers.

Fire Department Log By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Tuesday December 20, 2005


Berkeley firefighters Monday evening knocked down yet another suspicious fire in the 2900 block of Shattuck Avenue—this time at the Art of Living Center at 2905 Shattuck Ave. 

Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Revilla said the fire started on the outside of the building above a front display window and spread to the structure and into the roof space. 

Flames were quickly extinguished, causing about $15,000 in structural damage, Revilla said. 

Firefighters carefully moved artworks from displays in the front of the building to prevent damage, Revilla said. 

Wheelchairs of Berkeley, located next door at 2911 Shattuck, was struck by an arsonist on Dec. 17. The suspect in that case was arrested near the scene, so Revilla said there is probably no connection between the two fires.

Editorial Cartoon By JUSTIN DEFREITAS

Tuesday December 20, 2005

To view Justin DeFreitas’ latest editorial cartoon, please visit  

www.jfdefreitas.com To search for previous cartoons by date of publication, click on the Daily Planet Archive.


Letters to the Editor

Tuesday December 20, 2005


Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is amusing to watch the indignant UC professors protesting the larcenous bonus and other compensation packages of the school’s administration. It’s just one group of hogs trying to prevent another group interfering with their “fair share” of the public loot in the hog tray. The guy who actually earns the money these people fight over is again left to watch and pay.  

W. O. Locke 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

We settled in South Berkeley in 1969 and have, like our neighbors, struggled against neglect and broken promises, or, worse, threats of well-intentioned “improvements” that would have been more of the same-old-same-old, only worse. 

The most recent assaults, hypocrisy, and betrayals of our neighborhood by some elected officials aided by the few South Berkeley residents allied with them feel like reruns of 36-plus years of outrages enabled by muddle-headed rhetoric and general indifference throughout the rest of Berkeley. 

Nothing, we tell each other, can surprise us anymore. 

But we were pleasantly surprised by the Daily Planet’s Dec. 16 editorial and op-ed pages: Becky O’Malley’s editorial facing Shirley Dean’s commentary, two passionate, eloquent statements of informed, reality-based concern for South Berkeley as—wow!—really a part of Berkeley that matters. 

We are grateful to both writers and to the Daily Planet for its staunch, even heroic, commitment to the hard work of informing us and providing a forum for debate. 

A happy new year and many more to the Daily Planet and all who make it happen. 

Bob and Dorothy Bryant 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

All lights were green for me Wednesday morning. I woke up early and put on a pot of hot water. The fresh green tea is brewed just right today. I can tell it is going to be a great day. Green light. 

The lights remain green as I drop my wife at BART for her ride to work. A quick kiss and she is hurrying off to her new job. Green light.  

I drive over to the bagel shop and pick up my copy of the Berkeley Daily Planet. Green light. 

Sit down to read the latest from Susan Parker. Red light. 

Douglas Fahrendorf 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

What a mean-spirited, stupid, unfunny cartoon you ran Dec. 16! Loni Hancock has been one of our most outstanding legislative representatives in the more than 40 years I’ve lived in Berkeley. She is a hard-working, eloquent, and effective fighter for education, the environment, labor, health services, civil rights, and the other issues that Berkeley citizens care most about. Does she deserve DeFreitas’s ridicule for a perfectly apt anecdote that illustrated both Maudelle Shirek’s longstanding concern about the connection between overuse of salt and high blood pressure and Maudelle’s habit of speaking her mind in any situation? Puhleeeze! 

Zipporah Collins  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The letters objecting to the transit village planned for the Ashby BART parking lot all assume that it would be one huge building or one mega-complex of three-hundred units. This is not necessarily true: The transit village could be designed to look like the sort of traditional neighborhood that was on this site before BART bulldozed it.  

This would mean restoring the traditional street pattern by extending Essex, Prince, and Woolsey streets through the development area, dividing the area of the parking lot into four city blocks that fit in with the surrounding street system.  

These four blocks would have room for maybe 15 small apartment buildings, the same size as the Victorian apartment buildings that were built around Ashby/Adeline and Alcatraz/Adeline a century ago. These apartment buildings should be compatible with the historic architecture of the neighborhood.  

Each building should be designed differently, so the project looks like a traditional neighborhood that was built over time and blends in with the surrounding neighborhood. If all the buildings are designed to look the same, the project will look like a mega-complex that clashes with the surrounding neighborhood.  

Environmentalists support this sort of transit-oriented development because it reduces suburban sprawl and automobile dependency. If it is properly designed, the neighborhood could also support it, because it would replace a large, ugly parking lot with a human-scale neighborhood.  

I hope the developer thinks about how strongly the neighborhood is reacting against the idea of having one mega-complex on this site. I hope he realizes that some of this opposition would disappear if local residents see visualizations of the transit village designed as a traditional human-scale neighborhood that is compatible with its surroundings.  

Charles Siegel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

For those who don’t truly understand the “Putz” comment in Harry Gans’ Dec. 16 cartoon to the editor, it must be explained that a schmuck is a schmuck because he can’t help it, a prick is a prick because he wants to be, and a putz is a schmuck who’d like to be a prick. Any other interpretation is either bogus or hokum.  

Adding a medical marijuana dispensary to the ills of west Berkeley is about 360 degrees off the mark. Plus, there are in fact three additional dispensaries uptown, where property values always head toward high C. 

Also, the schmutz of West Berkeley, I believe, carries over into the rest of our fairytale town, born on the prevailing toxic refinery and I-80 winds, no? (This is how Mexican deep thinkers like John Ross say yes, no?) And is Berkeley like a mini L.A. as the air gets trapped below the hills? I’d really like to know what’s in the skies this side of Grizzly Peak.  

Arnie Passman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing to express my objection to the planned development of a 40,000-square-foot Safeway store with underground parking and condominium homes on top at 1500 Solano Ave. in Albany. 

This proposed development, which currently houses a 20,000-square-foot Safeway store and 80-space surface parking lot, happens to be on an already busy block of Solano Avenue across from two apartment houses and surrounded by densely settled single-family homes. 

I attended a recent meeting with Safeway’s developers Security Properties, Inc. (from Seattle) who spent less than one day reviewing the planned site. They spoke at length at how bringing in more people and cars would increase our neighborhood’s “vitality.” We are already a vital neighborhood. And our existing vitality would be seriously negatively impacted by an estimated 18-month construction period, the further congestion of street traffic, the increase in the number of residents by 100 or more people (without adequate parking provided for them or their visitors in the proposed garage), and nevermind the presence of a huge, overbearing and outsized store on our very pleasant main shopping street. 

This is not about “affordable” housing or NIMBY whining. It’s about Safeway making even more money regardless of the effects on the surrounding neighborhood. According to their 2005 Fact Book, their five-year goal is to capitalize on their real estate holdings and then provide bonuses to their executives for investments that give them a high rate of return. Thus, selling condos at $300-$600K will definitely provide Safeway’s bosses with a lot of extra pocket change. 

Safeway is already a bad neighbor. Concerns voiced by residents over noise, litter, vandalism and parking have not been addressed over the past decade. Why should Safeway be allowed to build something even bigger, with greater impact on the residents, when it can’t effectively manage its existing property? 

This particular store has been woefully inadequate in serving our neighborhood for several years. The products it carries—especially produce and meat—are not on par with the items available at nearby groceries like Andronico’s and Trader Joe’s. When this issue was brought up at the meeting held with Safeway and the developers in November, Safeway’s representative admitted that this store did not reflect the shopping habits or needs of the surrounding community. Many people at the meeting offered to work with Safeway to rectify this—I personally would welcome a makeover of the existing store, it needs a thorough cleaning and updating of its product lines. However, since November, we’ve heard nothing in return from the corporation. I guess it’s a lot more lucrative for Safeway to build a “big box” store and get juicy real estate bonuses for their executives, than work with what they’ve already got. 

Sarah Baughn 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Re your Dec. 16 story, “Planning Commissioners Tighten Yard Parking Ordinance,” the 1999 revisions to the Zoning Ordinance did not (as city staff claim) ban parking in required yards. Rather, the revisions deliberately clarified an existing ban. The old code defined a yard as open space “unoccupied and unobstructed from the ground upward”; the 1999 revisions added the phrase “by any portion of a building or structure, or by the presence of a parking space.” 

Except in very exceptional circumstances, the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) has never allowed parking in required front or rear yards. Staff has yet to offer a single example  

of an approved project that put new parking spaces in those locations except after a public hearing and as would be allowed pursuant to a use permit or administrative use permit under various provisions of the code. 

Also, while ZAB did tell the developer of the “flying house” project at 3045 Shattuck that she would have to find an off-site location for one of the required parking spaces (after neighbors pointed out that she had expanded the building’s footprint so far into the rear yard that there was not enough room left for the three parking spaces, landscaping, and walkways required by the code), it never relented on that issue. Instead, the developer reduced the commercial space from 1,500 to 1,149 square feet by re-labeling a portion of the first floor “owner storage,” allowing staff to waive one parking space under a loophole in the code. 

If neighbors had challenged the 3045 Shattuck permit in court we would likely have won, since the city’s approval of parking in the required rear yard was based on a specious legal argument (statuory construction in the face of clear and unambiguous language in the code). However, had we sued and won, the developer could simply have applied for a use permit to waive one or both of the remaining required parking spaces, making the project even worse for the neighborhood. Since filing suit would have cost at least $20,000, that seemed like a bad investment--especially since, after the ZAB decision, staff returned to enforcing the law as written, meaning that 3045 Shattuck has not set a precedent that would allow future bad projects. 

Robert Lauriston 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

He knows when you are sleeping. 

He knows when you’re awake. 

He knows if your are evil or good; ‘cause you’re in his database. 


We better watch out. 

We better beware. 

He’s taking our freedoms in a fog of fear. 

He’s the Pres-i-dent of the U-ni-ted States. 

Bruce Joffe 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Bush team’s tangled web of deception continues to unravel. Just as Secretary Rice was failing to put back in place the thread of outsourcing suspects to states notorious for legal torture comes the revelation that her boss authorized eavesdropping on hundreds of us. 

Shocking! Shocking! 

The New York Times tagged it “illegal” and “unnecessary.” 

The Los Angeles Times questioned why the president needed secret surveillance when he had the Patriot Act (so-called) and visa versa. 

The Washington Post declared it “gravely dangerous.” 

Our own senior Senator Dianne Feinstein was “astound[ed]” and GOP Senator Specter pronounced it “unacceptable.” 

I find this sample of reactions disingenuous, actually more shocking than the unraveling lies that caused them.   

A child can tell you that occupying the seat of power—initially on account of a single vote by an un-elected supreme—means nothing if you don’t show it. What’s the point of being “king of the hill” if you can’t keep an eye on your subjects? 

Marvin Chachere   

San Pablo  


Column: The Public Eye: The City and UC Berkeley: The Honeymoon is Over By Zelda Bronstein

Tuesday December 20, 2005

After only seven months, the ballyhooed “new partnership” between the City of Berkeley and the University of California appears to have hit the rocks. Last week Berkeley City Manager Phil Kamlarz sent UC Principal Planner Jennifer Lawrence a 19-page letter blasting the ethics and the legality of campus planners’ initial environmental reports on the massive development slated at and around Memorial Stadium. Prepared by Berkeley Planning Director Dan Marks, the letter says that the university’s descriptions of the proposed projects—the Student Athlete High Performance Center, the new Law and Business School academic commons, an 845-car garage and the stadium renovation and expansion—are so vague that the city cannot adequately comment on them.  

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Last May the city dropped its lawsuit over UC development and joined the university in an alliance that Chancellor Birgeneau and Mayor Bates hailed as a model for other California communities with UC institutions. Town and gown, they repeatedly assured us, had entered a new era of mutuality and cooperation.  

But this marriage was headed for trouble from the start. As so often happens, the two partners had disregarded some basic incompatibilities and rushed into a relationship that allowed one to dominate. After reading the litigation settlement agreement, you’d think that the university had sued the city, because the city made all the concessions. The council majority essentially surrendered the city’s legal right to plan and regulate development. The mayor has repeatedly contended that, given the university’s exemption from local zoning and planning laws, this is the best deal the city can get. Translation: If we want the university to work with us, we have to play by its rules.  

The problem is that the university’s rules are very different from the city’s. The city is governed by a democratically elected mayor and council who determine Berkeley’s land-use laws and policies based on recommendations from the planning commission, whose members they appoint. University officials, on the other hand, are appointed by and accountable to the Regents, not the public.  

The university is also internally undemocratic. UC administrators generally operate behind closed doors, without public notice or review. City officials, by contrast, are subject to California’s sunshine law, the Brown Act. It’s illegal for a quorum of any legislative or judicial city body to meet or take action in secret or without adequate public notice.  

The Brown Act, however, does not apply to city staff. Legally, staff can and do meet in secret. Consider, then, that the litigation settlement agreement lodges responsibility for preparing the new Downtown Area Plan (DAP) with the city and campus planning directors, instead of where it legally belongs, with the city’s planning commission. Every other area plan—West Berkeley, South Berkeley, Southside and the existing plan for downtown—was drafted by a broadly inclusive stakeholders’ group overseen by a planning commission subcommittee.  

The university’s disdain for open, community-based planning is scarcely news. But in the current push for UC expansion, city staff have also been sidelined. Clearly Phil Kamlarz and Dan Marks hadn’t been briefed, much less consulted, about the stadium area projects. And it’s not just UC officials who’ve left the city’s planning staff out of the loop. Marks and his colleagues have also been bypassed by Mayor Bates.  

E-mails exchanged by city and university staff last summer offer a rare inside glimpse of both UC maneuvering and Bates’ roguish style. On Aug. 23, UC Principal Planner Kerry O’Banion e-mailed Marks concerning the block bounded by Oxford, Center, Shattuck and Addison in downtown Berkeley. The east portion of the site is slated for a new University Art Museum, Pacific Film Archive and underground garage. On the western end, the university is planning a 12-story hotel and convention center to be developed by Richard Friedman’s Carpenter & Co. That portion is privately owned and thus subject to city law. In spring 2004, a citizens’ task force convened by the planning commission formulated guidelines for the hotel and conference center project. (I was a member of that task force.) 

“As you know,” O’Banion wrote to Marks, “we and the prospective hotel developers have been working with SMWM [a design firm] on an ‘urban design study’ of the hotel/museum block….The study will include suggested guidelines based to a considerable extent on the hotel task force report and the city’s downtown guidelines.” Nevertheless, he noted, “the hotel is a very sensitive issue for the city, given its scale and the mayor’s desire to exempt it from the downtown area plan. I would expect the last thing you need is for a study that describes the potential hotel project to be released to the public before you have the politics in place—particularly one that may create the impression the campus is trying to control the agenda….How ‘public’ the study becomes on the city side is an open question at this point, but we definitely do not want to prematurely ‘out’ the project.” 

O’Banion invited Marks to meet and discuss “how to position the study to serve both our interests.”  

Later that day, Marks forwarded O’Banion’s e-mail to Bates’ chief of staff, Cisco de Vries, along with a cover message. Marks wrote: “I don’t know how much contact Tom has with Friedman—but … I’m very concerned that (we) city staff have had no contact with the hotel developer in over a year. I hear thru my grapevine that Tom has told Friedman that he need not get caught up in the Downtown Plan—but I’m not sure that’s possible. I do know that if we want to try and bifurcate the hotel from the DAP, we have a lot of thinking to do—preferably with Friedman…[I]f Tom has made representations to them about process, we probably all do need to sit down together to discuss the process.”  

Apparently the meeting sought by O’Banion did take place, with Bates in attendance. Last week UC Capital Projects senior planner Kevin Hufferd announced that the university is seeking an architect for the UAM/PFA project. As reported by Richard Brenneman in the Dec. 9 Daily Planet: “Hufferd said Carpenter & Co. officials held meetings with Mayor Tom Bates, City Manager Phil Kamlarz and the city planning staff in the fall. He added that the mayor had also offered to place the hotel complex on a fast track for development independent of the Downtown Area Plan process mandated in the settlement of a city suit against the university earlier this year.”  

The first step in getting out of a bad relationship is to face the facts. Here are some hard ones. UC is proceeding with campus expansion exactly as it did before the settlement agreement—unilaterally. Mayor Bates’ shifty, Ron Gonzales-like behavior is reinforcing the university’s presumptuous attitude toward the larger community. Nothing in city law or policy authorizes the Berkeley mayor to cut backroom real estate deals, especially deals that violate city law or policy. The settlement agreement has actually weakened the city’s position vis-à-vis the university. It legally ties the city’s hands, even as it provides both UC administrators and the mayor with rhetorical cover for their imperious ways.  

These realities leave conscientious city officials with only one honorable course: Do what is necessary to nullify the agreement. Then pursue a relationship with UC that genuinely respects the rights and needs of Berkeley citizens. And tell the mayor that for any such relationship to work, he has to play by the rules—the city’s rules.  



Column: Why We Won’t Be Serving Meatballs for Christmas By Susan Parker

Tuesday December 20, 2005

For the past 12 years we have patched together a room for my husband that has become our command center, our corporate headquarters, our personal Ground Zero. This is where Ralph eats, sleeps, works, and goes about his daily business. 

We have gradually installed wheelchair accessible desks, rows of shelving, special lighting and electronic devices. We’ve covered the walls with Ralph’s favorite photographs, filled the shelves with his belongings, strung party lights around the perimeter and prayer flags in the doorways. 

We have added, added, and added but never taken away a single item. Ralph’s room is about to explode. 

Three years ago, a bedsore gone wild resulted in multiple surgeries and a doctor’s firm recommendation that Ralph remain prone as much as possible. 

So Ralph now runs our household while lying on his back in our former living room, a computer keyboard in front of his face, a mouthstick clenched tightly between his teeth. He no longer uses the desks that were custom-built for him when he spent most of his time upright in his wheelchair. Against the walls, makeshift shelves bend under the weight of too much stuff, some of it important, but most of it obsolete or unreachable. Ralph’s room cries out for a visit from Extreme Makeover Home Edition’s demolition crew. 

Recently, I studied his room from every angle. I consulted with friends, family members, and the various handymen who have helped us over the years. Everyone agreed the room needed an overhaul. Several people suggested I visit Ikea, where I could find inexpensive shelving and storage units requiring only a screwdriver and a brain the size of a pea in order to put them together. I possessed the necessary equipment. 

I went to Ikea. It was true, they had a plethora of furnishing options. They also had a lot of other stuff. Before I knew it I had a cartload of what-nots, things I didn’t really need, but wow, were they ever cheap! 

I came home sans shelves. I had to get more measurements. I took Ralph back to Ikea with me. We looked at furniture possibilities together, bought more stuff, but nothing for his room. We decided to tear out the old desks and shelving, paint the walls, and then make our purchases. 

Once we got home I realized we didn’t need half the items we had bought so I went back to Ikea again, this time to return the unnecessary acquisitions. I took a number and waited in line. I watched as a cheerful couple methodically returned the contents of an entire house. Finally, it was my turn. I gave back the too-wide bath mat, the oversized potholders, and the sheets I had bought that were the wrong size. I was too embarrassed to return the frozen Swedish meatballs. 

I came home, plugged the electric heater and oxygen machine into a wall outlet, and unintentionally fried some apparently essential wiring, resulting in major blown circuitry and imminent disaster. Ralph’s computer went down, his specialized mattress deflated, alarms went off, lights flickered, meatballs began to defrost, everything went dark. 

Using a flashlight and cell phone, I called an electrician. Seventeen hundred dollars later, Ralph’s bed re-inflated, the computer buzzed, the refrigerator hummed, lights glowed, TVs spoke. 

That night I dreamt I was sitting in the front seat of an AC Transit bus, destined for Ikea. Suddenly, the driver disappeared. I was the only rider to notice we were speeding out of control toward Emeryville. I struggled to disengage from my seat in order to take over the steering wheel, but I was stuck. I woke up in a cold sweat and had an instant epiphany: I didn’t have to go to Ikea for a fourth visit because we had given all our extra cash to the electrician! We couldn’t afford a can of paint, an Ikea storage system, or a single Swedish meatball. 

I could also forget about Christmas shopping. 

To be perfectly honest, I was relieved.

Bush’s Domestic Spying Is Old News By EARL OFARI HUTCHINSONPacific News Service

Tuesday December 20, 2005

The big puzzle is why anyone is shocked that President Bush eavesdropped on Americans. The National Security Agency for decades has routinely monitored the phone calls and telegrams of thousands of Americans. The rationale has always been the same, and B ush said it again in defending his spying, that it was done to protect Americans from foreign threat or attack.  

The named targets in the past were Muslim extremists, Communists, peace activists, black radicals, civil rights leaders and drug peddlers. Ev en before President Harry Truman established the NSA in a Cold War era directive in 1952, government cryptologists jumped in the domestic spy hunt with Operation Shamrock. That was a super-secret operation that forced private telegraphic companies to turn over the telegraphic correspondence of Americans to the government.  

The NSA kicked its spy campaign into high gear in the 1960s. The FBI demanded that the NSA monitor antiwar activists, civil rights leaders, and drug dealers. The Senate Select Committe e that investigated government domestic spying in 1976 pried open a tiny public window into the scope of NSA spying. But the agency slammed the window shut fast when it refused to cough up documents to the committee that would tell more about its surveillance of Americans. The NSA claimed that disclosure would compromise national security. The few feeble Congressional attempts over the years to probe NSA domestic spying have gone nowhere. Even though rumors swirled that NSA eyes were riveted on more than a few Americans, Congressional investigators showed no stomach to fight the NSA’s entrenched code of silence.  

There was a huge warning sign in 2002 that government agencies would jump deeper into the domestic spy business. President Bush scrapped the ol d 1970s guidelines that banned FBI spying on domestic organizations. His directive gave the FBI carte blanche authority to spy on and plant agents in churches, mosques and political groups, and ransack the Internet to hunt for potential subversives, witho ut the need or requirement to show probable cause of criminal wrongdoing. The revised Bush administration spy guidelines, along with the anti-terrorist provisions of the Patriot Act, also gave local agents even wider discretion to determine what groups or individuals they can investigate and what tactics they can use to investigate them. The FBI wasted little time in flexing its newfound intelligence muscle, mounting a secret campaign to monitor and harass Iraq war protesters in Washington D.C. and San Fr ancisco in October 2003.  

Another sign that government domestic spying was back in full swing came during Condoleezza Rice’s finger pointing at the FBI in her testimony before the 9/11 Commission in 2004. Rice blamed the FBI for allegedly failing to foll ow up on its investigation of Al-Qaeda operatives in the United States U.S. prior to the Sept. 11 terror attacks. That increased the clamor for an independent domestic spy agency. FBI Director Robert Mueller made an impassioned plea against a separate age ncy, and the reason was simple. Domestic spying was an established fact that the FBI and the NSA had long been engaged in it.  

The Sept. 11 terror attacks, and the heat Bush administration took for its towering intelligence lapses, gave Bush the excuse t o plunge even deeper into domestic spying. But Bush also recognized that if word got out about NSA domestic snooping, it would ignite a firestorm of protest.  

Fortunately it did. Despite Bush’s weak and self-serving excuse that it thwarted potential terr orist attacks, none of which is verifiable, the Supreme Court, the NSA’s own mandate and past executive orders explicitly bar domestic spying without court authorization. The exception is if there is a grave and imminent terror threat. That’s the shaky le gal dodge that Bush used to justify domestic spying.  

Bush and his defenders discount the monumental threat and damage that spying on Americans poses to civil liberties. But it can’t and shouldn’t be shrugged off. During the debate over the creation of a domestic spy agency in 2002, even proponents recognized the potential threat of such an agency to civil liberties. As a safeguard they recommended that the agency not have expanded wiretap and surveillance powers or law enforcement authority and that the Senate and House intelligence committees have strict oversight over its activities.  

These supposed fail-safe measures were hardly ironclad safeguards against abuses, but they understood that domestic spying is a civil liberties minefield that has blown up and wreaked havoc on American’s lives in the past. The FBI is the prime example. During the 1950s and 1960s, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover kicked FBI domestic spying into high gear. FBI agents compiled secret dossiers, illegally wiretapped, used undercover plants, and agent provocateurs, sent poison pen letters and staged black bag jobs against black activists and antiwar groups.  

Bush’s claim that domestic spying poses no risk to civil liberties is laughable. Congress should demand that Bush and the NSA come clean on domestic spying, and then promptly end it.  


Earl Ofari Hutchinson is author of "The Crisis of Black and Black."?e

Challenges Ahead for Africa’s First Elected Woman President By DONAL BROWN Pacific News Service

Tuesday December 20, 2005

A continent known for its subjugation of women welcomed its first elected female head of state when Liberians voted in Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in a Nov. 8 runoff. She will take office on Jan. 16. But despite her hard-won victory, African analysts say, the new president’s greatest challenges may lie ahead. 

Johnson-Sirleaf was in Washington, D.C., last week to meet with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on issues of security and development, and how to undo the country’s legacy of corruption, foreign exploitation and civil war. Johnson-Sirleaf has already met with officials of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in New York.  

Johnson-Sirleaf’s opponent, 39-year-old retired world-class soccer player George Weah, has refused to accept the election results and has declared himself the winner of the runoff. A coup attempt has already been put down. And while Johnson-Sirleaf is in Washington, she must rely heavily on the 15,000 troops of a multinational peacekeeping force still in Monrovia, the capital, to uphold her victory. 

Johnson-Sirleaf was born in Monrovia to descendants of ex-African slaves from the United States, who had returned to Africa. She earned the nickname “Iron Lady” for her courage in running against the vicious warlord and now-exiled former president Charles Taylor in 1997. Taylor won in an election considered tainted. 

Echoing the Liberians’ acceptance of Johnson-Sirleaf, African media reported widespread support for the new president. 

Notwithstanding her campaign button, “Ellen—She’s Our Man,” the 67-year-old Sirleaf made her female identity an issue in the campaign.  

As reported by Bolade Omonijo of OnlineNigeria.com, Johnson-Sirleaf was quoted as saying during her campaign, “Women are the ones who truly have heart to care and to serve, perhaps because of the role that nature has bestowed on us. A woman is naturally crafted to take care of the children and keep the home together, and our constitution is patterned toward selfless service.” 

Writing in Kenya’s East African, Charles Onyango-Obbo argues that nations plagued by war have turned to women who have distinguished themselves in national liberation struggles and taken over families in the absence of men. 

Onyango-Obbo pointed out that when men become targets in war, they hide out in the bush or go to refugee camps, where they line up with the rest for handouts. 

Women, on the other hand, maintain their ground and protect their children, scrounging for food. They take over at the expense of men. 

Onyango-Obbo cited Rwanda, where genocide killed nearly 1 million people in 1994. There is now 49 percent representation for women in Rwanda’s government, compared to a world average of 15.1 percent. In South Africa and Mozambique, women command 30 percent of the seats in parliament. In Uganda, women hold just over 28 percent of seats. 

Johnson-Sirleaf is frequently hailed as Africa’s first female ruler. Though not elected, Ethiopia’s Empress Zauditu ruled from 1917 to 1930. On the islands of Sao Tome and Principe, Maria do Carmo Silveira was appointed prime minister in June and Luisa Diogo was appointed prime minister of Mozambique last year. Including the three African countries, there are now only 10 countries with women heads of state worldwide. The others are New Zealand, Bangladesh, Germany, Ireland, Finland, Latvia and the Philippines. 

The Mail and Guardian reported that Pan African Parliament president Gertrude Mongella claimed that “gender equality is taking root in African leadership.” 

Mongella said that Johnson-Sirleaf’s election “demonstrates that Africa is on the way to realizing that women are as capable to lead as men are.” 

Indeed, Harvard-trained Johnson-Sirleaf made an issue of her education and government experience during the campaign, according to Omonijo from OnlineNigeria.com, arguing that now was not the time to turn the government over to her poorly educated opponent Weah. The country’s problems needed immediate attention by someone experienced rather than by someone learning on the job. 

Despite winning with 59.4 percent of the vote and offering to include her opposition in governance, an editorial from Liberia’s Front Page Africa says that Johnnson-Sirleaf faces fierce challenges from Weah and his supporters; from ex-combatants; and from a former anti-terrorist unit that is demanding to join her administration’s armed forces demobilization program that provides support to ex-soldiers to settle into civilian life.  

The infrastructure of the country was destroyed during the 14 years of civil war. Monrovia is still without water service. 

In the months ahead, Johnson-Sirleaf will need the support of her country, all of Africa and the world to face the formidable obstacles of rebuilding Liberia.  


Donal Brown monitors African media for New America Media.  

Commentary: Welcome to Berkeley, Casey Sheehan’s Mother By Alan Christie Swain

Tuesday December 20, 2005

Let’s all join together to welcome Berkeley newest citizen. Welcome Casey Sheehan’s mother. We honor your son, his sacrifice and the mother he made famous.  

United States Army Specialist Casey Sheehan of Vacaville was a full grown man of 20 when he volunteered for the Army. He had the right and the duty to make his own decisions. In fact, he re-enlisted in the army in 2004, some news reports indicate he wanted to make a career in the Army. Sadly, he was killed in Baghdad on April 4, 2004 after he volunteered for a mission to rescue other American troops that were under attack. Specialist Sheehan was most likely aware of the grand strategy for the war in Iraq, most American fighting men and women are, this is in plain contrast to the history of most other militaries around the world.  

In fact, the melding of moral force and military power has given the U.S. military a significant part of its fighting power from the Revolutionary War through to today. Only the cynical expenditure of American fighting men in a war of attrition in Vietnam shows what happens when that connection is broken. In fact, for many Americans, the campaign in Iraq has always had a moral aspect to it. Deposing a dangerous and brutal dictator who had invaded two neighboring countries and used chemical weapons on his own citizens is important by itself. But the campaign to introduce democratic rights to a nation of than 28 million and perhaps to a region of hundreds of millions more is the moral connection in this war for the U.S. military and the millions of Americans across this country that support it. 

Beyond the history and the strategy there is always the question of why. Why do soldiers risk their lives? Why do men, and women faced with horrific circumstances do their duty, and beyond their duty? Historians and researchers say that most soldiers do what they do for their comrades, for other soldiers. Soldiers in combat are part of a living thing greater than themselves and they know well each of the other members of the unit from the commanders to the lowest private. They also know that if they fail in their duty or give less than their full effort other members of the unit may well be killed. So, soldiers in combat do what they do for their country, for themselves, but mostly for the other men they know and rely on, whom they know would do the same for them. 

Casey Sheehan lost his life one day in Baghdad doing more than his duty for his country, for himself and for his buddies. It is a terrible tragedy that his mother is so convinced that he died for nothing. He was an example of the best America has to offer. He was, undoubtedly, a fine young American and any mother who could raise a son like that is very welcome in Berkeley. 


Alan Christie Swain is a UC Berkeley graduate student. 


Commentary: What Liquor Stores Do For Neighborhoods By THOMAS LORD

Tuesday December 20, 2005

In a recent to letter to the editor, Ted Vincent stakes out an interesting position about the South Berkeley liquor stores currently being pressured to change their way. I live less than a block from one of these stores and would like to take up the discussion he’s started. 

Ted argues: The troubled or troublesome liquor stores serve a vital function for the poorest of the poor, providing a walking-distance approximation of grocery stores. The owners tend to be kind (0 percent interest) lenders to their most needy customers. For all that, such stores would not be financially viable if they did not sell popular high-profit items like alcohol. 

I reply: The store near me, Black & White Liquors, is three blocks away from Berkeley Bowl and Walgreen’s. Food and household staples are available at those stores. The quality is higher and the price is lower. Berkeley Bowl sells beer at a lower price than Black & White. Black & White is also two blocks away from stores where cigarettes are less expensive. Therefore, Black & White’s unique commercial contributions to the neighborhood are (1) late-hours access; (2) hard alcohol; (3) (allegedly) short-term credit for needy customers; (4) the shopping experience of using a very tiny store rather than a relatively large one like Berkeley Bowl and Walgreen’s. 

That’s a mixed bag of offerings. I personally enjoy the small store experience and would enjoy the late hours access if they were from a store I felt comfortable supporting. I wholeheartedly agree that the credit system (whether or not Black & White actually participates) is (sadly) vital to many poor people and should not be run roughshod over and proprietors who offer that service are, in that small way, heroic. 

The reality, though, is far uglier. In the evening and late night hours Black & White, when its liquor license was intact, led to a number of ills. First, distinctly not poor people would speed down our 25 mph street quite recklessly at 40-plus mph. This would start in the after-supper hours when one would expect kids to be out playing on this otherwise quiet street and just get worse and worse as 2 a.m. approached. Second, a non-trivial subset of these patrons were quite messed up. I think the highlight of the past year in this regard was the woman trying to dowse the driver of the SUV that brought her with gasoline—evidently they had gotten into a drunken fight on their way to buy a last round of booze. The gasoline was a unique touch but a similar pattern played out on many occasions. Third, yes, poor people use the store and walk there. Yet since the liquor license has been suspended there has been to my eyes a distinct reduction in (apparently) poor people using neighboring buildings and lawns as a urinal or as the trash can in which to drop empty fifths and junk-food bags. Meanwhile, poor people who (for some reason) need to go there to buy a pint of expensive, low-quality milk on credit still have that option. (There’s only been one gunshot in the past few years so, by that metric, Black and White is doing well compared to some stores.) 

Ted frets about gentrification and calls for “subsidies” for mom and pop stores. What I have been told is that Black & White’s owner and proprietor is a major property owner in the area. As far as I can tell, his management of his property is stifling much needed development in the area. Your guess is as good as mine but I don’t think he’s suffering, liquor license or no, for want of subsidies. I think it would be an obscene insult to the poor to offer any. 

Public businesses are a public concern. Private rights of ownership and the opportunity to make profit are vital to our community. Yet when an owner exercises these private rights in a way that contradicts the public interest it is appropriate for the community to respond by exercising regulatory options. 

Ted, whatever the solution to chronic poverty is, I’m sure it does not involve cars speeding dangerously down otherwise quiet streets, perpetual littering and urination on people’s home’s and businesses, late night shouting matches between people on a bad drunken date, overpriced poor quality goods for sale on credit, occasional gunfire, the illegal wholesale purchase of bootleg liquor, and all of the other ills that have been visited upon our neighborhood. If resistance to those things is how you define “gentrification” then sign me up as a No. 1 gentrifier. 




Commentary: Library Patrons Can Sleep More Comfortably By Peter Teichner

Tuesday December 20, 2005

I haven’t read it yet, but I understand that the Patriot Act II has a provision that gives the FBI, and presumably other government domestic security organizations, easier access to patrons’ confidential library information.  

A few weeks ago I learned from a credible source that the Berkeley Public Library is destroying books and/or disposing of them without keeping a record of anything about their removal from the library system or even that they had once been in the Berkeley library. I don’t know if this methodology is a recent change instituted along with the RFID system, which, by the way, was brought in by the relatively new library director, Jackie Griffin, without public review.  

Ostensibly it is done for the reason that when books get worn out and are deemed not worthy of a new replacement they must be culled from library’s stock. But since no record is kept of the removal and all trace of the books are removed from the library tracking system there is no way of knowing which books have been removed, why they were removed or for that matter who ordered them removed/destroyed.  

This sounds so Orwellian I find it hard to believe. Assuming this to be true, it means that any book could be fair game and no one would be the wiser. It’s as if our history is being taken away in the dead of night like the “disappeared” in a U.S.-supported dictatorship. 

It seems to me that right here in Berkeley, nominal home of the Free Speech Movement where unfettered access to information has been enshrined, etc. a sea change has occurred in the public’s right to and their access to information- the foundation of our so-called democracy—and very few people are aware of it ... yet. 

The RFID (radio frequency identification system) will make it ever so much easier for the FBI or Homeland Security to tap into the Berkeley Library’s storehouse of library patrons’ personal information, such as their reading preferences—their revolutionary tendencies. The RFID was installed by a company called Checkpoint Systems.  

Thanks to Director Jackie Griffin and the Board of Library Trustees, Berkeley Library users can sleep better at night knowing their private library information will always be secure under the watchful eye of Checkpoint’s new vice president, Raymond D. Andrews, who previously served as controller of INVISTA, a subsidiary of Koch Industries, which is a huge oil conglomerate controlled by brothers Charles and David Koch, two of the country’s richest men and among the biggest backers of conservative and libertarian causes.  

If you’d like to let the Board of Library Trustees know what you think sign up for the public comment period, 3:50 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 21 at the South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis at Ashby. 


Peter Teichner is a Berkeley resident. 








Commentary: Somebody Turn Off The Faucet: Vote Every Day By WINSTON BURTON

Tuesday December 20, 2005

The day before Thanksgiving I was at an event where well meaning local dignitaries volunteered to help cook and serve dinner to homeless and poor people. As the sumptuous meal was coming to an end one of the dignitaries spoke to those eating and said, “I’m glad I could be here tonight and help out, I promise I’ll be back for Christmas too.” Someone yelled out, “Great, but what am I supposed to eat until then!” There was no laughter only silence.  

For over 17 years I have worked at a local non-profit agency that provides food, shelter, employment and training opportunities to homeless and disabled persons in Alameda County. In the past five years we have provided assistance to over 3,000 people annually. Not the same people every year! For many of the people we see it’s their first time being homeless, falling through the cracks and finding themselves with out the safety net they thought would protect them. While more people than ever are seeking assistance, resources to support them are shrinking, as less federal, state, and foundation funds are being made available. 

Lately I’ve noticed several trends emerging that are disturbing to me, and contradictory to the pursuit of the American Dream: 

• More intact families (mother and father with children), first time homeless, no addictions, willing and able to work, seeking shelter space—the ideal nuclear family in the American Dream.  

• More physically disabled persons, seeking shelter space—none or inadequate health care. 

• More single young adults under 25, seeking shelter space—our future workforce and taxpayers. 

• More senior adults over 55, seeking shelter space—golden years turning gray. 

This continuous increase in the number of people needing help reminds me of scooping water from an overflowing bathtub, but not turning off the faucet! To me, the biggest open faucet is in Washington D.C. We need to stop making so many people poor (bad policies), blaming them for their poverty (they’re addicted or lazy) and then ignoring them once their poor (welfare reform). I say we, because we vote the politicians in or out! Meanwhile our politicians, instead of waging a war on poverty, are attacking free speech, a women’s right to choose, the environment, and even the teaching of evolution. To turn off the faucet we’ve got to vote! 

I was somewhat encouraged by the results of the recent elections, but the coalition that came together seems fragile. Many people were voting against Arnold Schwarzenegger and his power move, not against his misguided policies. Besides, voting every four years and occasionally winning will not give poor people the relief they need in time. We need to vote everyday! Voting everyday means always being compassionate, an advocate for change, not committing or ignoring oppressive behavior, but also having the courage to interrupt those who do. 

Vote everyday. People need to eat everyday! 


Winston Burton works for Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS). 

Arts: The Genius of Aaron McGruder’s ‘The Boondocks’ By CHARLES JONES Pacific New Service

Tuesday December 20, 2005

Richard Pryor’s Comedic Legacy Lives On 


Five episodes into it, it already started. It actually started after the first episode: uppity Negroes nationwide downplayed the important intelligence and comedic genius that is Aaron McGruder’s animated series, The Boondocks (Sunday, 11 p.m. Cartoon Network)—all because of one word, NIGGA.  

What disturbs me most about situations like this is that a small group of black people feels that they have a right to police the entertainment of others.  

I’m tired of educated and financially well off black people assuming leadership roles in our assumed collective identity every time a black entertainer says or does something that they don’t like.  

It happened to Martin Lawrence when African-Americans protested depiction of black women in his hit show Martin (Remember Shanay-Nay—Martin’s super ghetto female neighbor and the comedians alter-ego). It happened to Cedric the Entertainer when he was accused of “cooning” on his short-lived Fox television series, and now it’s happening to Brother Aaron.  

What we are dealing with, with McGruder’s comic strip turned cartoon series, is more than simple ghetto philosophy or nigga-ism. It is the most poignant thought provoking and accurate depiction of Black People ever to grace the small screen.  

The Boondocks is the story of a grandfather who is raising his two grandsons due to the death of their parents and with their inheritance moves them to an affluent white community in the suburbs hoping to provide them a better future. Huey is an afro-wearing, pro-black pre-teen who speaks with a biting intelligence and thinks with a culturally conscious slant, and Riley is his corn-row braid-wearing future gangster rapper younger brother, who though nowhere near as conscious or book smart as Huey, more than makes up for it with his intimate knowledge of “the game” (street culture). Riley is a metaphor for today’s urban black youth more concerned with popular culture and trends than the struggle that it took to allow him to enjoy them.  

Grandpa is the embodiment of too many black grandparents nationwide who can’t enjoy the fruits of a long life’s labor because they have to raise their grandchildren.  

The late great Richard Pryor probably would have been proud to see that the style of comedy that he trademarked has evolved to the place that it has in state of the art animation. Black comedy is better than ever. We’re witnessing Richard Pryor’s influence play out in glorious fashion. Comics like Chris Rock, Bernie Mac, Dave Chappelle and dozens of other comedians not only make you laugh but make you think. Aaron McGruder is just as funny and just as brilliant as any other comic I just mentioned.  

The Boondocks displays the same pride in difference and makes the same lunge towards oneness that made Pryor’s comedy the standard to which all comedians aspire.  

Richard Pryor pioneered the art of ghetto character invention as a point of pride and introspection (characters such as Mud Bone) as opposed to a wise grin, foot shuffling hustler stereotypes that has predominated the black male image in Hollywood. I hope that Pryor was able to watch at least one episode of The Boondocks before he passed away, and too feel the tinge of pride knowing that it couldn’t have happened without him.  

Boondock’s is truly great, like Pryor’s comedy, not only because it is the funniest thing on television but because it doesn’t lose its social relevance—representing black people, warts and all, for the world to see.  

It might be too real for some, which is what I truly think bothers those that want Brother McGruder to tone it down or homogenize it because the Kente Kloth Klan (the Black KKK) can’t stand media depictions of black people that are not as educated as they, and because they feel their image is the “positive” image of black people. For them to commandeer my entertainment and media representation is audacious.  

The Boondocks is not the Cosby Show, but is what the Cosby Show would or should look like if it premiered in this millennium. So to all the uppity negroes nationwide that want to hate on McGruder’s genius—Nigga hush, the Boondocks is on.  


Charles Jones is an editor at YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia (www.youthoutlook.org), a project of Pacific News Service. a

Arts Calendar

Tuesday December 20, 2005



“The Drivetime” a cyber-fi film by Antero Alli at 7 p.m. at Blake’s, 2367 Telegraph. 464-4640. www.verticalpool.com  


Tell on on Tuesdays Storytelling at 7:30 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts. Cost is $8-$12 sliding scale. www.juiamorgan.org 


Sauce Piquante at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Ellen Hoffman with Singers’ Open Mic at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Mike Stern with Dennis Chambers, Victor Wooten & Bob Francescini at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Fri. Cost is $22-$26. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

Jazzschool Tuesdays at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 

Eric Shifrin, jazz piano, at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 



Berkeley Poetry Slam with host Charles Ellik and Three Blind Mice, at 8:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $5-$7. 841-2082 www.starryploughpub.com 


Music for the Spirit with Ron McKean, organ, at noon at First Presbyterian Church of Oakland, 2619 Broadway. 444-3555. 

“From the Darkness, Solace” A Winter Solstice event with musicians and video artists at 7 pm. at Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave. Donation $10-$20. 228-3207. 

“A Little Cole in Your Stocking” with Meg Mackay and Billy Philadelphia at 8 p.m. at Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison St. 

Calvin Keys Trio and Jam at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. 841-JAZZ. 

Ned Boynton Trio at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Whiskey Brothers, old time and bluegrass, at 9 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. 843-2473.  

Balkan Folkdance at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Lessons at 7 p.m. Cost is $7. 525-5054.  

Orquestra La Verdad at 9:30 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low. Dance lessons at 8 p.m. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159.  

Sonny Heinila Trio at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 

Freight Holiday Revue & Fundraiser at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $16.50-$17.50. 548-1761. 



Nomad Spoken Word Night at 7 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344.  

Word Beat Reading Series with Carol Hochberg and Jonathan Callard at 7 p.m. at Mediterraneum Caffe, 2475 Telegraph Ave. 526-5985. 


Si Perkoff & Max Perkoff at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $5. 841-JAZZ.  

Famous Last Words, The Bottomdwellers at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $5. 841-2082. 

Duncan James, solo jazz guitar, at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Otit.org at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 



Shotgun Players “Cabaret” Thurs. - Sun. at 8 p.m. at the Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. Through Jan. 29. 841-6500. www.shotgunplayers.org 


Cowpokes for Peace at 7 p.m. at A Cuppa Tea, 3202 College Ave., at Alcatraz. Free, all ages. 420-0196.  

Holiday Sing-Along with Terrance Kelly at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $7. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Swingthing Holiday Gala at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Swing dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Dan Zemelman Trio at 9 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Ramon & Jessica and Mark Ray at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Kaputnik, Mike Glendinning at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $5. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Destani Wolf and members of O-Maya at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $5-$7. 548-1159.  

Joshi Marshal and Friends at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 

Mike Stern with Dennis Chambers, Victor Wooten & Bob Francescini at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $22-$26. 238-9200.  



Razorblade, The Caribbean Groovers Steel Pan Band at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $11-$13. 525-5054.  

Gary Rowe, jazz piano, at 9 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 

Clairdee at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $8-$16. 238-9200.  



The Rasatafarians, McAllan “Rocky” Bailey at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $16-$18. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Will Durst Big Fat Year End Kiss Off Comedy Show at 8 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $17. 925-798-1300. 

Trovatore, traditional Italian music, at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

The Michael Zilber Wayne Wallace Latin Big Band at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $14. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



Moshe Cohen and Unique Derique “Cirque Do Somethin’” at 1 p.m. through Dec. 30, at the Marsh, 2120 Allston Way. Tickets are $10-$15. 800-838-3006. www.themarsh.org 


Joe Craven and Rob Ickes, bluegrass, at noon and 1:30 p.m. at Lawrence Hall of Science, Centennial Drive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-5132. 

David Grisman Bluegrass Experience at 5 and 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $29.50-$30.50. 548-1761.  

Arturo Sandoval at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Sun. Cost is $22-$26. 238-9200.  

Jazzschool Tuesdays at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 

Larry Vuckovich, solo jazz piano, at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 



Dana Smith and His Dog Lacy at noon and 1:30 p.m. at Lawrence Hall of Science, Centennial Drive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-5132. 


Berkeley Poetry Slam with host Charles Ellik and Three Blind Mice, at 8:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $5-$7. 841-2082 www.starryploughpub.com 


Ned Boynton Trio at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Wild Catahoulas at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10-$12. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Julio Bravo, salsa, at 9:30 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Dance lessons at 8 p.m. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159.  

Pete Caragher Quartet at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 



Asheba, Caribbean music, at noon and 1:30 p.m. at Lawrence Hall of Science, Centennial Drive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-5132. 


Traveling Jewish Theater “Dirt and Glory: Return of the Golem” at 8 p.m. at Berkeley Richmond Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. Tickets are $10-$30. 415-522-0786. www.atjt.com 


Nomad Spoken Word Night at 7 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Word Beat Reading Series with Carol Dwinell and Daniel Johnson at 7 p.m. at Mediterraneum Caffe, 2475 Telegraph Ave., near Dwight Way. 526-5985. 


Mal Sharpe’s Big Money in Gumbo at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Brunette & The Highlights at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $5. 841-2082 www.starryploughpub.com 

Debbie Poryes-Fels, solo jazz piano, at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Witches Brew Represent at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 

Cold of Winter Leavened By The Joy of Watching Graceful Merlins in Flight By JOE EATON Special to the Planet

Tuesday December 20, 2005

Winter, I have to admit, is not my favorite time of year: The cold and the dark have no appeal for me. (I may have been an emperor penguin in a past life). I begin to get seasonally affected around Halloween and it doesn’t really let up until Groundhog Day. But there are compensations. The waterfowl are back in force, and the winter complement of songbirds are here. And along with them come the merlins. If winter has a single redeeming feature, it’s the opportunity to watch a merlin at work, dogging a flock of shorebirds at the edge of the bay. 

It would be nice if there was some kind of association between the falcon and the wizard, but it seems unlikely. Ernest Choate’s Dictionary of North American Bird Names derives “merlin” from the Old English marlion, the falconer’s term for the female of the species. In the hierarchy of falconry, the merlin was the lady’s bird.  

Catherine the Great flew merlins, as did Mary Queen of Scots who at one point in her difficulties with Elizabeth I was in the custody of the royal falconer, Sir Ralph Sadler. Sadler allowed Mary out of her confinement for short hawking excursions. Trained merlins specialized in hunting larks; the quarry’s tendency to evade predators by flying straight up made for interesting contests. 

These small, dark falcons have a distinctive flight profile and hunting style. In their classic Hawks in Flight, Pete Dunne, David Sibley, and Clay Sutton comment that a merlin is to a kestrel what a Harley-Davidson is to a scooter. A merlin’s flight is strong and direct, with short, powerful wing strokes. They can be sneaky on the approach, hugging the treeline; at eastern hawkwatch sites, the typical response is “There went a merlin.” On the attack, they may fly low over the ground, tailchasing an individual target and climbing above it for the final stoop.  

At rest, merlins can be distinguished from kestrels by their more compact proportions and weaker facial pattern; the falcon mustache is present, but pencil-thin. They can also be mistaken for juvenile sharp-shinned hawks, with which young merlins sometimes associate during migrations; merlins have the characteristic falcon pointed-wing silhouette and narrower banding on the tail. 

Some years ago, there was a mockingbird in my South Berkeley neighborhood that had learned to imitate the sound a telephone makes when left off the hook. After enduring this for a couple of months, I came home one afternoon to find a merlin atop a tall conifer next door, methodically plucking something as falcons do—something resembling a mockingbird. And I never heard the phone-off-the-hook noise again.  

Although they’ll take other avian prey, including horned larks, pipits, and flickers, most of the merlins that winter in California are shorebird hunters. To a merlin, a mudflat between tides is a smorgasbord. Thirty years ago, Point Reyes Bird Observatory biologists Gary Page and D. F. Whitacre kept tabs on a female merlin at Bolinas Lagoon for an entire winter season. They estimated that she caught 264 sandpipers, along with a smattering of warblers, sparrows, and blackbirds, with a success rate of 12.8 percent on 343 observed hunts. Apart from birds, merlins hawk for large insects like butterflies and dragonflies, and catch the occasional small mammal.  

Most of the merlins we see around here are of the subspecies columbarius, or what Sibley calls the taiga form. (Sibley has an aversion to Latin, for some reason). It’s the middle-of-the-road merlin; there’s also the darker subspecies suckleyi, Sibley’s Pacific (black) merlin, which I’ve spotted a couple of times, and the rarer pale richardsoni, the prairie merlin. Richardsoni, as the common name suggests, breeds in the northern prairies, and has become a city bird in places like Edmonton and Saskatoon. Suckleyi comes from the wet coastal forests of mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island. But columbarius is, in fact, a bird of the taiga, the great boreal forest of North America; other forms inhabit the same zone from Siberia west to northern Europe. 

Taiga merlins tend to avoid the deep woods, hunting and nesting in edge environments: near treeline or alpine timberline, or around lakes, bogs, and regrowing burns. Where available, they’ll take over the old nests of crows and magpies, although tree cavities are sometimes used. After a brief aerobatic courtship, a merlin pair starts its family late in the northern spring, timed to take advantage of the annual crop of fledgling songbirds (which in turn depend on the spring flush of foliage-eating insects). 

It hasn’t received nearly as much press as the tropical rainforest, but the taiga is crucial habitat for North American birds. Over 300 species—ducks and gulls as well as raptors and songbirds—nest there, and 96, including the merlin, have more than half their breeding population in the boreal forest region. It’s an ecosystem under intense pressure. Canada, which contains most of the North American taiga, fells 2.5 million acres of forest per year, mostly in clearcuts. Forestry companies own almost a third of the Canadian taiga, and oil and gas interests are also active; only 6 per cent has any form of protection. And the whole boreal community—trees, insects, birds—is vulnerable to the effects of climate change. 

The loss of taiga habitat may already be affecting bird populations. Data from Audubon Society Christmas Bird Counts shows alarming declines in several boreal-nesting species, including the once-abundant rusty blackbird. The one taiga breeder that bucks the trend is the merlin. Although their numbers plunged during the DDT years, the small falcons have made a dramatic comeback; Count numbers from 1965 through 2002 document an increase of 3.3 per cent per year. Credit their adaptability, and probably a large measure of luck. Let’s hope it holds. 



Photograph by Mike Yip 

Merlins have the characteristic falcon pointed-wing silhouette and narrower banding on the tail. 

These small, dark falcons also have a distinctive flight profile and hunting style. 

Berkeley This Week

Tuesday December 20, 2005


Birdwalk on the MLK Shoreline from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. to see the shorebirds here for the winter. Binoculars available for loan. 525-2233. 

Berkeley Salon Discussion Group meets to discuss “Are Religious Holidays Obsolete?” from 7 to 9 p.m. at the BRJCC, 1414 Walnut St. 527-1022. 

American Red Cross Blood Services Volunteer Orientation from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Claremont Ave., Oakland office. 594-5165.  

Stress Less Seminar at 7 p.m. at New Moon Opportunities, 378 Jayne Ave., Oakland Free, but registration required. 465-2524. 

Tuesday Tilden Walkers Join a few slowpoke seniors at 9:30 a.m. in the parking lot near the Little Farm for an hour or two walk. 215-7672, 524-9992. 

Free Handbuilding Ceramics Class 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at St. John’s Senior Center, 2727 College Ave. Materials and firing charges not included. 525-5497. 

Berkeley Camera Club meets at 7:30 p.m., at the Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. 548-3991.  

Introduction to Buddhist Meditation at 7 p.m. at the Dzalandhara Buddhist Center in Berkeley. Cost is $7-$10. Call for directions. 559-8183.  

“Ask the Social Worker” free consultations for older adults and their families from 10 a.m. to noon at BRJCC, 1414 Walnut St. To schedule an appointment call 558-7800, ext. 716. 

St. John’s Prime Timers meets at 9:30 a.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. 845-6830. 


Mid-Day Meander in Tilden Celebrate the shortest day with great views. Meet at Inspiration Point in Tilden Park at 2:30 p.m. 525-2233. 

Gingerbread House Party from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Habitot, 2065 Kittredge St. Please bring a bag of candies for the decorations. 647-1111, ext. 14. 

Winter Solstice Gathering at 4 p.m. at Cesar Chavez Park, at the Interinm Solar Calendar. Dress warmly. www.solarcalendar.org 

Berkeley Communicators Toastmasters welcomes curious guests and new members at 7:15 a.m. at Au Coquelet Cafe, 2000 University Ave. at Milvia. 435-5863.  

Entrepreneurs Networking at 8 a.m. at A’Cuppa Tea, 3202 College Ave. at Alcatraz. Cost is $5. For more information contact JB, 562-9431.  

Walk Berkeley for Seniors meets every Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. at the Sea Breeze Market, just west of the I-80 overpass. Everyone is welcome, wear comfortable shoes and a warm hat. Heavy rain cancels. 548-9840. 

Fresh Produce Stand at San Pablo Park from 3 to 6:30 p.m. in the Frances Albrier Community Center. Sponsored by the Ecology Center’s Farm Fresh Choice. 848-1704.  

Berkeley Peace Walk and Vigil at 6:30 p.m. at the Berkeley BART Station. www.geocities.com/vigil4peace/vigil 


World of Plants Tours Thurs., Sat. and Sun. at 1:30 p.m. at the UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive. Cost is $5. 643-2755. http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu 

Sleep Soundly Seminar at 7 p.m. at New Moon Opportunities, 378 Jayne Ave., Oakland Free, but registration required. 465-2524. 


Telegraph Avenue Holiday Street Fair between Dwight and Bancroft, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Also on Sat. 


Mini-Farmers in Tilden A farm exploration program, from 10 to 11 a.m. for ages 4-6 years, accompanied by an adult. We will explore the Little Farm, care for animals, do crafts and farm chores. Wear boots and dress to get dirty! Fee is $5-$7. Registration required. 525-2233. 

Kosher Movies and Kosher Chinese Food at 7 p.m. at Chabad of the East Bay 2643 College Ave. Cost is $10. Reservations required. 540-5824. 


Reduced City Services Today Call ahead to ensure programs or services you desire will be available. 981-CITY. www.cityofberkeley.info 

Flames, Flares and Explosions The science of fire at noon and 1:30 p.m. at Lawrence Hall of Science, Centennial Drive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-5132. 


Reduced City Services Today Call ahead to ensure programs or services you desire will be available. 981-CITY. www.cityofberkeley.info 

Healthy Eating Habits Seminar at 7 p.m. at New Moon Opportunities, 378 Jayne Ave., Oakland Free, but registration required. 465-2524. 


Toy Drive Sponsored by University Veterinary Hospital Bring new, unopened toys for all ages to 810 University Ave., between 5th and 6th Sts, between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends to Dec. 24. 841-4412. 

Warm Coat Drive Donate a coat for distribution in the community, at Bay St., Emeryville. Sponsored by the Girl Scouts. www.onewarmcoat.org 

Magnes Museum Docent Training begins Jan. 8. Open to all who are interested in Jewish art and history. For information contact Faith Powell at 549-6950, ext. 333. 

Albany Berkeley Girls Softball League is looking for girls in grades 1-9 to play softball. To register, email registrar@abgsl.org ›



Editorial: Impeachment’s Back in Style By BECKY O'MALLEY

Friday December 23, 2005

Memory is physical as well as mental. If my memory serves me correctly, in a drawer somewhere in our house, perhaps in the bookshelf in our living room, we used to have (and perhaps still do) a fading yellowed copy of something headed “Bill of Impeachment.” I’m pretty sure it was from 1967 or thereabouts, and I’m pretty sure that John Conyers, the smart, dapper young congressman from Detroit, and Robert Drinan, the only Jesuit ever elected to Congress from Massachusetts or any other state, joined about 10 House colleagues in proposing impeaching Lyndon Johnson over his pursuit of the Vietnam War. That impeachment action came to naught, unless you count Johnson’s eventual decision not to run again. There have been other occasions in the intervening years when impeachment has been started, but only Bill Clinton ever faced an actual trial.  

In retrospect the crimes all of the culprits were accused of and probably committed were trivial compared to the current situation. Granted, the Vietnam War was a big mistake, but by and large it was an honest mistake. Granted, Nixon et al. were crooks, though they claimed not to be, but their crimes were limited in scope, and were carried out simply for crass political advantage. Clinton’s crime was two-fold: committing adultery in the White House and lying about it. But it was still small potatoes. 

By comparison, the crimes of which the current administration stands accused are major, and go to the very fabric of our political system. It’s not just that George W. Bush and his appointees have broken the law regarding domestic spying on Americans, which has happened before. What’s really shocking is that they refuse to lie about it. It’s not just that military operatives under Bush’s command have violated laws and treaties concerning torture, it’s that they admit it and are not ashamed. If Bill Clinton could be impeached for shady sex, surely overt unblushing defiance of the laws of the United States is an impeachable offense. Congressman Conyers, no longer young but still dapper and smart, has been crying for impeachment for some months now, and he’s starting to sound like the prophet Elijah. 

Thursday’s e-mail brought a mass Internet petition with Barbara Boxer’s name prominent, which implored Sen. Arlen Specter to investigate the Bush wiretaps. That’s a fine idea, but the administration’s defiance of law has now gotten to a level so serious that a run of the mill Senate investigation is not an adequate remedy. This can be gauged by the actions of judges both liberal and conservative this week: the resignation of one judge from the secret spying oversight tribunal, which has been emasculated by being ignored, and the decision by a conservative appeals panel not to transfer Jose Padilla from military to civil jurisdiction, thwarting a transparent administration effort to avoid judicial review of its tactics. Whatever opinions these assorted judges might have on substantive questions, they appear to agree that this country is supposed to be under the rule of law.  

This time of year many people in the East Bay, where we know from the rule of law and have fine representation in Congress by Boxer and Barbara Lee, will be dispersing to Whence We Came, other parts of the nation not necessarily so enlightened. This is an ideal opportunity to change the tone of discussion at holiday parties from “ain’t it awful” to “this is what we can do.” It’s becoming increasingly clear that the problem with this administration is not just one or two little lapses, but a pervasive contempt for constitutional law which can only be cured by removing George Bush from office.  

It really wouldn’t be that difficult to orchestrate a grass-roots movement from all over the country to do something about it. Not many members of Congress are as completely secure in their districts as Conyers and Lee, but many of the Democrats around the country are for all intents and purposes facing easy re-election campaigns. There are even some Republicans who still believe in the Constitution. More of them should be persuaded to get on the impeachment bandwagon.  

Face-to-face lobbying is the most effective, and representatives will be back home in their districts for the holidays. Go call on them, and ask your brother-in-law and your mother and your old roommate to come along. Quote Ben Franklin: “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.” It’s time to move this discussion from the Internet, where bloggers are mainly exhorting other dwellers in the blogosphere, into the real world.  





Editorial: Keeping the Home Lights Burning By BECKY O'MALLEY

Tuesday December 20, 2005

On Monday morning I made a mistake that I don’t often make. I listened to the radio broadcast of a press conference held by and for the current president of the United States. It was a profoundly depressing experience. Not only is the man a dolt, he’s a vicious, systematic dolt. 

He’s been chatting up the public for the last few days now, with a series of talks which seem to be aimed at counteracting the precipitous drop in his ratings in the polls. His plan for Iraq can be summed up in a word: “victory.” What would victory in Iraq mean? A stable democratic government seems to be what he’s dreaming about. Well, that’s something they’ve never had in that part of the world, and there’s no reason to think they’re going to start now or in the near future. If he’s really serious in thinking that U.S. troops will have to stay in the Middle East until Iraq becomes a settled constitutional democracy, it’s going to be a long winter, or a series of long winters.  

And in the meantime, the executive branch of the federal government at home thinks that it has carte blanche to ignore the many laws which were enacted to protect the civil liberties of American citizens. Let’s just trace the tortured logical chain one more time. The attacks on key U.S. targets in 2001 by 20 or so militants in the U.S. who had links to Osama bin Laden, a Saudi hiding out somewhere in Afghanistan, meant that the Bush administration was authorized to (1) take over the government of Afghanistan; (2) immediately violate the 1978 law which forbids eavesdropping on U.S. telephone conversations in the name of security without search warrants authorized by a court; (3) invade Iraq, using as cover a number of fabricated intelligence reports claiming that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons he didn’t have, and that he was a co-conspirator with Osama, for which there was no proof.  

And now, he’s claiming that the U.S. invasion of Iraq provides on-going justification for a whole series of assaults by the federal government on what we might call, in jest, the American Way of Life. Such assaults range from violating international law and treaties by torturing prisoners, to the aforementioned eavesdropping on phone calls, all the way down to harassing library patrons about the books they check out. (A correspondent forwarded a story from a small Massachusetts paper about a student who requested Mao’s Little Red Book through interlibrary loan for a paper he was writing and was visited at home by the Department of Homeland Security inquiring why he wanted it.)  

In the next two or three days, the Senate will be deciding whether or not to re-authorize the so-called Patriot Act (called by cynics the Scoundrel Act, remembering Dr. Johnson’s quip that patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels). Sensible people are trying everything they can think of to communicate their dislike for the Scoundrel Act to the swing voters in the Senate, a few weak-as-water Democrats like Joe Lieberman, who lag behind their own party in standing up to Bush, and some courageous Republicans like John McCain. The Daily Planet receives many little letters on such topics from well-meaning writers, some of them local people we know. These sound bites seem to emanate from some central Internet source, since they all have the same sentence at the end in square brackets authorizing publication. We don’t print them—we’re not a sound bite kind of paper, though there are plenty of papers which do insist on letters under 200 words. It’s not clear what good campaigns like this do, when we’re dealing with a president who boasts that he seldom reads more than one paper, and then only the headlines.  

But then, it’s not clear what good anything will do any more. Demonstrations? Been there, done that, no one’s watching. Tax refusal? This administration is scarcely bothering to collect taxes, just running up a huge tab for our children and grandchildren to pay off. Electoral politics? Is anyone running against Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic primary? Lowell Wiecker, a one-time Republican, is offering to run as an anti-war independent, but do independents ever win? And how many swing seats are there in Congress any more? Court challenges? To an administration which increasingly boasts that it’s outside the law? Here we’ve had a few small successes (charges dropped against Padilla, Supremes to take up Texas re-districting) but as the Bush administration tightens its control over the legal system these will become less effective.  

For the first time in my life I’m beginning to have some sympathy for the “good Germans” who watched helplessly as Hitler took over. I’ve always imagined what heroic deeds I would have performed if I’d been in their place. But before the opportunity for heroism comes up, there are hundreds of individual acts by an incipient Fascist regime which conspire to destroy a democratic system of government, the classic “death by a thousand cuts.” Where does resistance start, and where will it end? Shall we find out where torture apologist Professor John Yoo lives and throw tomatoes at his house? If we fight them in the libraries, can we avoid having to fight them at the barricades?  

It’s close to the winter solstice, and such dark and depressive thoughts could perhaps be attributed to Seasonal Affective Disorder. The best strategy might well be to eat, drink and be as merry as possible under the circumstances for the next couple of weeks, with the expectation that as the days get longer we’ll think of something. We do have before us at this time of the year as inspiration for perseverance the edifying story of the Hanukkah light kept burning against all odds. So keep those cards and letters coming, folks, and keep the lights on, and maybe 2006 will be the turnaround year. I certainly hope so.