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A large metal framework adorned with an image-boosting icon is the only structure erected to date at the site of the now-removed oak grove along the western wall of UC Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium.
Richard Brenneman
A large metal framework adorned with an image-boosting icon is the only structure erected to date at the site of the now-removed oak grove along the western wall of UC Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium.


UC Berkeley Professor to Head White House Council of Economic Advisers

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Monday November 24, 2008 - 04:11:00 PM

President-elect Barack Obama announced Monday that he had chosen Christina Romer, a professor of economics at UC Berkeley and a resident of Oakland, to head the White House Council of Economic Advisers.  

Romer will join Timothy F. Geithner—whom Obama nominated as Treasury secretary—and former president of Harvard University Lawrence H. Summers —who will head the White House Economic Council—to become one of the key members of the president-elect’s new economic team. 

The Council of Economic Advisers is comprised of three members who recommend policy options to the president. 

As chair of the CEA, Romer, along with the director of the National Economic Council, will play an important role in creating the president’s policy plans. 

Calling the current economic climate a “crisis of historic proportions,” Obama introduced his new economic team at a press conference in Chicago Monday morning, describing Romer as both a leading macroeconomist and a leading economic historian, "perhaps best known for her work on America’s recovery from the Great Depression and the robust economic expansion that followed.” 

Romer has also served as co-director of the National Bureau of Economic Research Monetary Economics program since 2003 and is a member of the Bureau’s Business Cycle Dating Committee, which is responsible for officially determining when a recession has started and ended, experience Obama said would come in handy when she advised him on the challenges of the current economy. 

The president-elect also mentioned Romer’s groundbreaking research on topics the new administration was likely to confront, ranging from tax policy to recessions, and said that her “clear-eyed, independent analyses have received praise from both conservative and liberal thinkers alike.” 

Romer is the Class of 1957-Garff B. Wilson Professor of Economics at UC Berkeley, where she teaches economic history and macroeconomics, and has served as vice president and a member of the executive committee of the American Economic Association. 

Before joining the university’s faculty in 1988 and getting promoted to full professor in 1993, Romer received her Ph.D from M.I.T. in 1985 and was an assistant professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University from 1985 to 1988. 

Her research interests listed on the UC Berkeley website include the effects of fiscal policy, identification of monetary shocks, the determinants of American macroeconomic policy changes in short-run fluctuations over the 20th century and causes of the Great Depression. 

A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award at the UC Berkeley, Romer is the recipient of several awards and fellowships, including the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship and the National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator Award, and an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship.  

“This is a superb appointment,” said Maurice Obstfeld, a UC Berkeley economics professor and an expert on monetary and international economics, in a statement released by the university. “Given the economic challenges we are facing, the country need a top macroeconomist heading the CEA. I can think of no one more qualified than Christy Romer.” 

UC Berkeley professors who have chaired the CEA in previous years include Laura Tyson who headed the council during the Clinton administration from 1993 to 1996 and Janet Yellen, who served as chair from 1997 to 1999, and is now president of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank. 

In an e-mail to colleagues, Gérard Roland, chair of UC Berkeley’s economics department, wrote: “These are exceptional times where economists can do so much to help protect the livelihoods of millions of people.”  

Romer, along with her husband David, who is the Herman Royer Professor in Political Economy at UC Berkeley, have studied the history of the U.S. monetary policy from the Great Depression to today and have also provided consultation for the Obama campaign, including writing talking points for one of his speeches on the economy. 

Troubled Golden Gate Fields Owner Hires Leading Bankruptcy Lawyers

By Richard Brenneman
Monday November 24, 2008 - 01:06:00 PM

Magna Entertainment, the endangered parent of Albany’s Golden Gate Fields, has hired a bankruptcy lawyer and is surviving on week-to-week loans. 

But even closure of the track and the subsequent loss of revenues wouldn’t hurt the city as badly as in past years, said Albany Mayor Robert Lieber. 

While track revenues contribute between 2 and 4 percent of the revenues of the city’s general fund, Albany’s Target store contributes an even greater percentage, he said. And while the city’s school district receives an even larger share, those revenues come from parcel tax revenues which are independent of track proceeds, Lieber said. 

Known on the stock tickers as MECA, the Magna Entertainment is a spinoff of Canadian Frank Stronach’s auto parts firm Magna International and is the nation’s largest owner and operating of horse racing tracks. 

In addition to the Albany track, Magna owns Santa Anita Park in Southern California, Portland Meadows in Oregon, Laurel Park and Pimlico in Maryland, Lone Star Park in Texas, Remington Park in Oklahoma, The Meadows in Pennsylvania, Gulfstream Park in Florida and the Magna Racino in Stronach’s native Austria. 

The company also owns an off-track betting system, and holds major interests in a television distribution system and a horse racing network as well as AmTote International, which provides number-crunching services for tracks. 

The entertainment spinoff, created at the demand of shareholders of the parent company because of its consistent losses, has fallen on hard times that reflect trends in the horse racing industry, which is slowly transforming from the Sport of Kings to plaything of paupers. 

In February, NASDAQ told the company to take action or it would delist the shares by summer since that had fallen below the market’s dollar-a-share minimum. 

Magna complied, and in early July announced a reverse stock split, with each new share formed from 20 shares of the old issue. By that time, prices of the older shares had dropped to as low as 41 cents. 

The newly consolidated shares continued to follow the decline of their predecessors, and by the close of the market Thursday were trading at $1.39, a fraction of their one-time high of $35.20 and once again approaching NASDAQ’s delisting price. 

The company did receive one bit of good news this month when Maryland voters approved a ballot measure that would allow installation of 15,000 slot machines at five still-undetermined locations in that state. But the Maryland election was the only glimmer of good news on Magna’s horizon, after a brief surge in stock prices before the election, shares resumed their steady descent. 

Magna’s efforts to use some of the land surrounding its tracks have also come up short, with voters in nearby Dixon dealing a fatal blow 19 months ago when they voted down MECA’s plan to build a high tech television-friendly track adjacent to the rural Sacramento Valley farm town that would have featured what Magna CEO Michael Neuman described as a “California fair type facility ... together with mixed use retail.”  

The company took a $5 million write-down on the Dixon site in their six-month financial report released in August. The property remains on the market. 

More bad new came this month, starting with Magna's Nov. 3 announcement that a deal to sell land it bought in 2002 as a site for a subsequently abandoned planned race track had fallen through after the buyer backed out of a $16.5 million deal. 

Two days later, MECA announced third quarter losses of $48.4 million, bring the year’s total losses through Sept. 30 to $116.1 million, compared to $70.8 million for the same period of 2007. 

One major source of losses was the discontinuation of the company’s Magna Racino operations—MECA’s first venture to combine tracks and slot machines. The company took a $29.2 million loss on the Racinos. 

“Although MEC has a strong asset base, we remain burdened with far too much debt and interest expense,” Stronach said in a statement released with the report. The only bright spot for Stronach’s California operations is an increasein revenues of $3.1 million from Golden Gate Fields—but only because of a 10-day expansion of the track’s racing schedule. Average daily revenues at the track actually declined slightly. 

That same report included the announcement that Magna “has engaged Miller Buckfire & Co., LLC ... to review and evaluate various strategic alternatives including additional asset sales, financing and balancing sheet restructuring opportunities.” 

In other words, Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection—the firm’s specialty. 

Even more bad news came Monday, when Magna announced it that it had only been able to obtain an 11-day extension of the company’s revolving credit line with the Bank of Montreal. 

Horse racing has fallen on hard times, and attendance at tracks has dwindled—another concern for Albany, which collects revenues from bets placed at the track itself but not from the far larger number of wagers off-track. 

As one solution to Magna’s declining revenues, Stronach’s company has partnered with Los Angeles mall developer Rick Caruso. 

A proposal to build one of Caruso’s “lifestyle centers” at Golden Gate was torpedoed by Albany voters, despite Caruso’s promises that the venture would bring at least $2 million a year of new revenues into city coffers. 

While the Albany plan foundered, the Santa Anita mall had been moving forward with what Caruso’s company calls “825,000 square feet of one-of-a-kind shopping, dining and community space” located in “24 acres of richly landscaped plazas.” 

According to Caruso’s web site, that opening is now slated for Fall 2010. 

But Lieber said that date is now in dispute, given a July ruling by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant. 

“Their whole EIR was thrown out,” he said, referring to the environmental impact report required by state law which must examine a whole spectrum of physical and cultural impacts arising from creation of major construction-related projects. 

Chalfant’s 59-page ruling was slightly narrower than an outright dismissal of the document. He found the EIR deficient on 11 specific grounds, including traffic mitigation and air quality, and ordered the Arcadia City Council to set aside its earlier approval of the document and recirculate a revised document that addresses the deficiencies he cited. 

School Board Bids Adieu To Director Joaquin Rivera

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Monday November 24, 2008 - 01:06:00 PM

The Berkeley Unified School District bade farewell to the longest-serving member on the current Berkeley Board of Education amidst a lot of happy memories, applause and laughter at a public meeting in the City Hall chambers last Wednesday. 

Joaquin Rivera stepped down from his role as a school board director after 12 years, following his decision earlier this year not to run for re-election. 

Community leader and activist Beatriz Leyva-Cutler—who won one of the two school board seats in the Nov. 4 election—will replace Rivera at the next school board meeting on Dec. 10. 

Rivera, who teaches chemistry at Skyline College, was first elected to the board in November 1996 and went on to be reelected in 2000 and 2004, serving a total of three terms on the board. 

A graduate of the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez, Rivera received his masters in Chemistry from UC Berkeley in 1990. 

He has served as school board president on three occasions, the most recent being last year, and has also been a delegate to the California School Boards Association. 

School board members and Berkeley Unified Superintendent Bill Huyett thanked Rivera at the meeting for his work on improving student achievement in the Berkeley public schools and for leaving the district in a better shape financially and fiscally than before. 

School board President John Selawsky described him as a “solid” board director who always steered his peers toward the right track. 

“I prefer to stay in denial that this is going to be your last meeting,” said school board member Shirley Issel, who has served along with Rivera since 1998. “You have taught me a lot about how to be a good board member and have made enormous contributions. I will miss you.” 

Rivera said that although he had debated running for a fourth term, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s decision to cut state education funds made him change his mind. 

“I thought I have been there done that, maybe again in the future, but right now I want to enjoy,” he said, thanking his colleagues and all three superintendents he had worked with over the last decade. 

“It’s been 12 good years,” he said. “During my tenure I have had the opportunity to work with some great people and three wonderful superintendents, Jack McLaughlin, Michele Lawrence and Bill Huyett. I know Bill is going to be great for Berkeley. I have had the opportunity to work with great school board members such as Pamela Doolan, Lloyd Lee and Miriam Rokeach and members of this board.” 

McLaughlin was present at the meeting Wednesday when the board presented Rivera with a resolution honoring his achievements. 

Rivera said that during his time on the school board, he had been successful in his efforts to create a single plan for student achievement and desegregating the district. 

“I am not going to be watching the school board meetings on TV but I might turn up in my robe with a wine glass in hand to watch you guys in action,” he said smiling, adding that he would be chipping in to help when the district was ready to introduce bond measures to Berkeley voters in a couple of years. 

“I have some regrets that I didn’t have a better relationship with the unions. I think it’s a two-way thing. Since I am leaving now, I can tell the unions that this is a very good board. We have to play with the cards given to us by Sacramento. Sacramento doesn’t give us a lot of money and we should be screaming at them more often.” 

Rivera also thanked his family for standing behind him like a rock during his stint in the district, especially his husband, who has been with Rivera for most of the 12 years he was on the board. 

At the last school board meeting on Nov. 12, Rivera expressed his disappointment at the passing of Prop. 8 in California, which took away the right for gay couples to marry. 

“Personally it touches me very closely,” he said at the meeting last Wednesday. 

“At this point my marriage may or may not be valid. This is really a civil rights struggle. It is like having to sit at the back of the bus or having to drink water from a different fountain because of who you are. I know the board has always been very supportive and hopefully it will be supportive of these struggles.” 


With Measure KK Defeated, Opponents And Proponents Battle Over Whether It Means Berkeley Residents Endorsed BRT

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Sunday November 23, 2008 - 10:15:00 AM

The overwhelming defeat of Berkeley Measure KK in the November 4 election has resulted in a dramatic--and completely understandable--reversal of opinion about the meaning of the measure by at least some of its proponents and opponents. 

Measure KK proponents said at an AC Transit Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) workshop Wednesday night that despite the defeat of the measure, they would continue their opposition to BRT's bus-lane set-aside along Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, in part because they did not believe defeat of Measure KK meant that Berkeley residents support BRT. 

AC Transit District is proposing to establish bus-only lanes along Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley as part of the district's ambitious proposal to set up a Bus Rapid Transit line from downtown San Leandro through downtown Oakland to downtown Berkeley, along the route currently taken by the district's 1 and 1R lines. 

Meanwhile, AC Transit officials have released a proposed timeline that has completion of the Environmental Impact Report process by the 3rd quarter of 2010, final design for BRT by the 1st quarter of 2011, beginning of construction by the 2nd quarter of 2012, with completion of the project tentatively scheduled for the spring of 2015. But the project still has to complete a complicated approval process involving winning federal funding grants, approval by city councils in Berkeley, San Leandro, and Oakland as and final project approval by the AC Transit board. 

On Wednesday night, AC Transit Board President Chris Peeples said several times that the board should not be considered a "rubber stamp" for the BRT project, which was begun in the planning process by AC Transit before any current member was elected to the board. 

Two weeks ago, Berkeley voters defeated on a 76.7 % No to 23.3 % Yes vote a citizen-sponsored measure to create an ordinance requiring voter approval for any proposal in Berkeley to establish transit-only street lanes within the city. 

In practical terms, while passage of Measure KK would have effectively dealt a death blow to the bus-lane set-aside portion of BRT, defeat of the measure only ensures that AC Transit can go forward with negotiations with the City of Berkeley over the proposal. AC Transit officials say that while BRT is an AC Transit proposal, "the cities own the streets," and must give approval for any substantial alteration of street right-of-ways. 

During the campaign, many Measure KK proponents said that the measure was specifically designed to halt AC Transit District's proposal to establish bus-only lanes along Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, part of the district's ambitious proposal to set up a Bus Rapid Transit line between downtown San Leandro, downtown Oakland, and downtown Berkeley. 

While some Measure KK opponents said during the campaign that the measure was a referendum on BRT, many others said their opposition was based on their belief that the measure would set bad governing policy. In the "Why Vote No On Measure KK" page of the No On Measure KK committee website, BRT is never mentioned, in fact, with the organization instead charging that the measure would block Berkeley's advancement towards reducing greenhouse emissions. The site also points out Measure KK's added costs, charging that "each new ballot measure mandated by Measure KK could cost the city up to $1.2 million, including the cost of an additional required planning study. That's a lot of money in a city our size, money that could be better spent on things like education, healthcare, public safety, or actually improving transit and protecting our environment." 

But during presentations at a special AC Transit Board BRT workshop on Wednesday, proponents and opponents abruptly switched fields, with Measure KK proponents now telling AC Transit officials that the Measure KK defeat was no indication of BRT sentiment in Berkeley because the defeat was caused solely by deceptive advertising fueled by campaign money brought in by outside interests. 

"I wanted to come tonight so that (AC Transit) did not think you had a mandate from that election that went on in Berkeley," Berkeley resident Martha Jones said during the meeting's public comment section. Jones then held up a blown-up version of one of the more famous campaign mailers of the November, 2008 season, a "No On KK" brochure that featured a poignant full-color photo of a polar bear stranded on a small ice-floe in the middle of an ocean, an attempt to link Measure KK with anti-public-transit sentiments leading to global warming. 

"People voted [against Measure KK] because they thought they were saving the polar bears," she said. "Only 28 people gave money to 'No On KK' and you will find that it is mostly people who have contracts with you."  

Noting that one large "No On KK" donation came from New York and another from Cambridge, Massachusetts, she added "it's not nice to have these interlopers coming into my city and dropping this big money to influence elections." 

And another KK proponent, resident and community activist Gail Garcia, added that "despite the failure of Measure KK, there is huge opposition to BRT in Berkeley. The money [to oppose KK] largely came from the ABC Company, the U.S. distributor of the hated Van Hool buses, and falsehoods. Falsehoods, falsehoods that the local branch of the Sierra Club was willing to propagate. So money and lies defeated Measure KK." The Sierra Club was one of Measure KK's opponents. 

Garcia added that "opposition to BRT in Berkeley will continue to grow because the more they learn about it, the less they like it." 

And Mary Oram, treasurer of the Advocates for Voter Approved Transit, a pro KK committee, said that the financial contributions for the two sides was a good estimate of the relative level of local feeling about BRT and KK. Oram estimated that "7 percent of the [anti-KK money] came from individuals, the rest came from special interest groups and companies that would benefit from BRT if it was ever put in. All of the [pro KK] money came from individuals and community associations in Berkeley." 

Oram's husband, George Oram, added that the BRT proposal does not provide along Telegraph Avenue "any service that has been asked for or endorsed by the bus riders on Telegraph Avenue or the residents on Telegraph Avenue or the merchants on Telegraph Avenue, and we believe we're going to stop you." 

Meanwhile, some Measure KK opponents are now saying that AC Transit should move forward with the planning and approval process for BRT in Berkeley because of the overwhelming support for the project demonstrated in the Measure KK vote. 

Berkeley resident Alan Tobey, treasurer of the No On KK campaign, who describes himself as "unapologetically responsible for the polar bear," said that even though KK "literally didn't [propose opposition to BRT], its campaign was pitched as the way to stop BRT on Telegraph Avenue. So the campaign literature and the many meetings I attended, the pitch was to vote for KK was to vote against the BRT project. We've learned that 77 percent of Berkeley residents disagreed with that proposition and said at this point we have no problem with BRT so far." 

City Council Splits on Cell Phone Antennas

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 09:53:00 AM

In the latest round of Berkeley’s battles over cellphone towers, Berkeley City Council split the difference Tuesday night, voting to hold a Dec. 16 hearing on an appeal from Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) approval of a Verizon Wireless application for a 10-antenna facility on top of the French Hotel on Shattuck Avenue, but holding over any action on a similar citizen appeal of ZAB approval of a T-Mobil eight-antenna request for 1725 University Ave. 

More significant, however, was the revelation during Tuesday night’s council deliberations that the city had entered into a written agreement with Verizon over the French Hotel facility last May that at least one councilmember now claims was never approved by council, and that he has never seen. 

As cell phone usage has exploded in the past several years, increasing the number of applications for new cell phone antenna facilities throughout Berkeley, the city has witnessed a number of protests and appeals by citizens opposed to adding new antennas in their neighborhoods. The ability of ZAB and the council to deny such applications has been limited by the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996, but city powers have been changed by a recent United States 9th Circuit Court of Appeal ruling. 

Berkeley is in the process of making alterations to its Wireless Telecommunication Facilities Ordinance to conform to the new circuit court ruling. 

But the big surprise at Tuesday’s meeting was an assertion by acting City Attorney Zach Cowan that failure by the city to act on the Verizon application—one way or another—might jeopardize an existing agreement between the city and Verizon that settled an earlier lawsuit against Berkeley by the telecommunications giant. 

That brought an immediate protest from Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who said, “I’ve never seen” the agreement, and asked for a City Attorney report on any settlement meetings or written agreement between Berkeley and Verizon. 

Cowan said that the agreement came before council during a special closed session meeting last May 19—a Monday meeting that Worthington said he had been unable to attend because of prior commitments—and the agenda for that closed session meeting includes an item listed as “Conference with Legal Counsel-Existing Litigation; Government Code section 54956.9(a):Verizon v. City of Berkeley; USDC Case No. C07 4034 SBA.” 

However, that didn’t clear up the confusion. 

After Worthington said that the Verizon agreement had never been disclosed to the public—a requirement of California’s open government Brown Act—Cowan argued that the agreement came under a Brown Act exception because that precludes the release of closed meeting actions “when no final decision has been made.” Copies of the agreement were not part of the Verizon appeal record for Tuesday’s Council meeting. The problem with that argument, as Worthington later pointed out to constituents and reporters following the meeting, is that if no final decision was made on the agreement, it has no legal standing, and can’t be used as a reason for speeding up a Council decision on the Verizon application. 

Worthington said he was opposed to the concept of the city having “secret agreements” that were not later made available to the public. 

Cowan told councilmembers that the Verizon agreement had already been released to the Berkeley Planning Commission (reported in the Planet on November 13.) He added following the council debate that he now believed public disclosure in this matter was proper, and would make the agreement available to the public. 

The two appeals sparked a heated debate between Councilmembers Max Anderson--who is opposed to the approval of new mobile antennas--and Gordon Wozniak, who is in support. There is currently a citizen lawsuit challenging approval of an antenna installation on South Shattuck in Anderson’s district. 

Anderson told councilmembers that the applications and appeals “continue to put us in the awkward situation of trying to adhere to pressures to uphold federal laws that protect the most greedy elements of our society” referring to the telecommunications companies “while trying to uphold our own precautionary principle. It makes us look like flakes who don’t believe in our own principles.” 

Wozniak countered that “while I’m sure the companies want to maximize their profits, the reason they are putting up these new facilities is because there’s a growing demand for cellphones. If you want to get rid of cellphones, you should convince people to burn them.”  

Worthington added that he believed the legal issues over the federal Telecommunications Act have generally been settled, and that he didn’t “want to spend tens of thousands of public dollars on quixotic legal challenges.” 

If the council does not act on the T-Mobil University Avenue appeal by the first meeting in January, the ZAB approval of the application will automatically go into effect. Cowan also said that while any changes in Berkeley’s Wireless Telecommunication Facilities Ordinance would apply to the two applications and appeals if the law is passed before the council rules on the appeals—something which appears impossible for the Verizon Dec. 16 hearing and possible only if council eventually calls for a hearing on the T-Mobil appeal—Cowan said he did not believe the proposed ordinance changes would have any effect on the merits of the two applications. 

Berkeley Says Goodbye to Betty Olds, Arreguin to be Sworn in Wednesday

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 09:54:00 AM

Betty Olds, Berkeley’s oldest and prickliest City councilmember, served at her last City Council meeting Tuesday night, entering to a standing ovation in a packed council chambers amid cheers of “Yay, Betty!” A mayoral proclamation set aside the day in her honor, and a long string of friends and constituents came to the microphone to pay tribute before the meeting was ceremonially gaveled to a close.  

Olds’ term technically ends on Nov. 30, but the next council meeting won’t be until Dec. 8. 

Jesse Arreguin, who at 24 will be Berkeley’s youngest councilmember, is scheduled to be sworn in on Wednesday, November 26, to fill deceased Councilmember Dona Spring’s expired term, and is expected to take his seat for the first time at the December 8 meeting.  

“I’m sad to be leaving,” Olds said in her final words from the City Council dais, “but if anyone thinks it’s easy to sit up here to make decisions, they don’t know anything about it.” 

The 88-year-old outgoing Olds was elected to her District 6 Council seat in 1992 after stints on the Zoning Adjustments Board and Rent Stabilization Board. She told Councilmembers and audience members Tuesday night that she had “outlasted four mayors and five city managers. Only Linda [Maio] was here [on the council] when I got here. That shows you women are the strongest.”  

Maio was first elected to Berkeley City Council the same year as Olds. 

Olds is being replaced in her District 6 seat by longtime aide Susan Wengraf, who was elected in this month’s voting. Her term will start on December 1. 

Two years ago, Olds made national headlines when she was one of three older women (also including Save the Bay founder Sylvia McLaughlin and former Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean) to climb into the branches of an 80 foot tree to join protesters trying to save a grove of live oaks near the UC Berkeley stadium. 

The action was indicative of Olds’ championing of environmental causes during her time on Council. She was also a tireless protector of Berkeley’s animals, whether they were domestic or wildlife. 

Olds was also famous for what have come to be known as “Bettyisms,” pithy, quotable statements that delighted reporters and council spectators but often skewered political opponents. 

One audience member Tuesday night offered one of the more memorable, recalling that once during a council discussion about an overpopulation of deer in the city hills, Olds suggested solving the problem by “starting with sterilizing all of the males.” The audience member said it was never apparent whether Olds was talking about deer or some of the male opponents to thinning out the deer population, but added that as a protective measure, “half of the audience that night crossed their legs.” 

Olds offered no new Bettyisms on Tuesday, but instead read from an old Herb Caen column she found while cleaning out her desk. The column described a man running against a woman for a City Council seat who declared that one of the problems in the city he aimed to correct was the fact that “we don’t have enough balls to keep things rolling.” “I don’t have any balls,” Olds quoted the woman candidate retorting in the Caen column, “but I’ve got all my marbles, which obviously you don’t.” Though the Missouri-native Olds didn’t make the anecdote up, it’s clearly something she might have if Caen hadn’t written it down first. 

Councilmembers and several audience members paid brief tribute to Olds, but perhaps the most appropriate words were given by fellow Councilmember Laurie Capitelli. After one audience member said that Olds always answered constituent calls and “never said no,” Capitelli said that if Olds never said no to constituents, “then I guess you saved them all for us [City Councilmembers]”, acknowledging the fact that Olds was famous for speaking her own mind on the council and often taking positions that were contrary to the general flow. But Capitelli added that because Olds “can say no in such a gracious way,” it left no permanent bad feelings. 

Arreguin told the Planet that Alameda County Registrar of Voters Dave McDonald promised him that his election would be certified next Tuesday, or Wednesday at the latest, which would pave the way for the swearing-in ceremony, to take place in the Redwood Room on the 6th floor of the Berkeley City Hall at 5 p.m. He said he’s anxious to take office because his district has been without representation for months since Spring’s death.

Tree-Sitters Get a Day in Court, Cal Bears to Move to Interim Venue

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 09:55:00 AM
A large metal framework adorned with an image-boosting icon is the only structure erected to date at the site of the now-removed oak grove along the western wall of UC Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium.
Richard Brenneman
A large metal framework adorned with an image-boosting icon is the only structure erected to date at the site of the now-removed oak grove along the western wall of UC Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium.

Berkeley’s tree-sitters faced another day in court this week, and UC Regents were plotting the fate of Memorial Stadium and an interim venue for the Cal Bears. 

UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof said Wednesday the work at the stadium will require finding a temporary home for the Cal Bears, with the only question being whether the move will be for one season or two. 

“Based on current planning, it looks now like no more than one year,” he said. 

While construction of the new high-tech gym and office complex now under way immediately west of the stadium will provide new quarters for facilities now housed inside the stadium, work on the stadium itself means at least one season in an alternate venue. 

Meanwhile, an appeal challenging the stadium plans is still under way. 

On a second legal front, three of the activists who occupied the now-vanished grove outside the Berkeley stadium appeared before Alameda County Superior Court Judge Marshall Whitley. Six others avoided trial by entering guilty pleas to contempt-of-court charges after reaching a deal with the university and prosecutors. 

In exchange for the pleas, the university agreed not to seek legal costs or jail time from the six, while the defendants agreed to perform 50 hours each of community service, said attorney William Simpich. 

Among the six who had their fees waived were two of the last three tree sitters to surrender to campus police when the university completed its demolition of the grove Sept. 9. 

They are Armando Resendez, also known as Mando, 20, and Ernesto Trevino (Droog) who was the youngest tree-sitter at 18. Others who made the no-fees deal were Gabrielle Silverman (Millipede), Matthew Marks, Tristan Anderson (Cricket) and Amanda Tierney, otherwise known as “Dumpster Muffin.” 

Three defendants decided to argue their cases, but Judge Whitley found them all guilty during trials Monday. 

Zachary RunningWolf, the first treesitter to ascend the branches outside the grove on Big Game Day 2006, and Kingman Lim, who was arrested after hanging a protest banner from the stadium walls, were given five day jail sentences along with Michael Schuck (better known by his treesitter names Fresh and Shem), but the judge allowed them to be considered as served concurrently with jail terms previously imposed. 

The last treesitter to descend, Raul Colocho, 27, otherwise known as Huck or Huckleberry, and fellow treesitter Drew Beres still have pending legal issues, which may be resolved in a court hearing in March. 

Beres contends he shouldn’t be charged in the case, since he was already convicted on another charge arising from the same incident. 

Simpich said it was unlikely any of the three would do additional jail time, considering that all three have spent previous time behind bars for their actions at the grove. Most of the treesitters had been arrested multiple times, and RunningWolf still faces another criminal case in the near future, the attorney added said. 

“We’re are going to fight over attorney fees, though,” Simpich said. 

Michael R. Goldstein, who has been handling the cases for the UC Office of the President, said the university has already won judgments of between $5,000 and $10,000 against defendants in other grove cases to help recoup some of the legal fees the university has spent. 

Five more cases are pending where the university is seeking fees, he said.  


Regents to decide 

The Grounds and Buildings Committee of the UC Board of Regents was meeting in secret session Wednesday afternoon at the Daily Planet’s deadline, considering what the agenda described only as “Discussion of Seismic Plans for Individual Structures Subject to Litigation.” 

A lawsuit initially filed by the City of Berkeley, stadium neighbors and environmentalists had challenged sought to stop construction at the stadium, including the Student Athlete High Performance Center now being built where the grove once stood. 

A ruling by Superior Court Judge Barbara J. Miller largely sided with the university, and her earlier order barring construction at the grove expired, allowing the university’s contract arborists to level the grove and evict the last of the treesitters. 

The four-level high tech gym and office complex is the first of three planned construction phases at the stadium itself, and those projects are in turn part of a large set of construction plans collectively known as SCIP, the Southeast Campus Integrated Projects. 

Mogulof said he had no information about a report published in Wednesday’s San Francisco Chronicle which said regents would discuss the use of Candlestick Park as a venue for the Bears’ “away” season. 

Once the home of both the San Francisco Giants baseball teams and the 49ers football teams, the Giants have since moved on, leaving Saturdays potentially open for college games while the NFL pro team plays on Sundays. A city official quoted by the Chronicle acknowledged that negotiations have been held with the school. 

Meanwhile, the lawsuit challenging the SCIP plans is still on appeal, though the city has dropped out. 

A retrofit is needed, university officials say, both to bring the aging stadium up to modern earthquake codes and to provide locker rooms for women athletes. 

University plans also call for upgrading seating and adding exclusive new amenities in an elevated section to be built over the stadium’s western wall.  

In another stadium-related move, university officials finally agreed to give a group of Native Americans the stump of Grandmother Oak, the largest and most venerable of the trees chainsawed at the site of the former grove. 

The hand-over was made Monday, said Matthew Taylor, an activist who was himself arrested at the grove and who has been documenting the history of the protest.

Software Problems Leave Thousands of Peralta Students Without Financial Aid

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 09:55:00 AM

A serious glitch in the Peralta Community College District’s new student financial aid software has caused checks for thousands of students to be delayed, with a resolution of the problem apparently not yet in sight. 

Peralta students have held demonstrations at several district board meetings concerning the situation, and district trustees have declared the continuing problem a “financial crisis” and “unacceptable.” 

There have been estimates by some district officials that the problem could affect as many as 5,000 financial aid checks that are due to students but not yet paid for the fall semester. And some students have not been paid on applications they put in as early as last spring. 

Because Peralta’s community colleges cater in part to an older demographic than state universities or the UC system, many of the district’s students are working adults and parents who rely upon financial aid to supplement their income. 

The problem is affecting students at all four of Peralta’s colleges: Berkeley City, Laney, Merritt, and College of Alameda. 

The problem may have been exacerbated by the fact that Peralta failed to renew the contract of Internet Technology head Gary Perkins last July, leaving the district’s IT department to be run by Chief Financial Officer Tom Smith, with no one overseeing the problem with a specific computer technology background. 

“I’m very disappointed with the district’s plan for conversion to the new software system and our lack of foresight in foreseeing possible problems,” board president Cy Gulassa said by telephone this week. “And I’m concerned for the welfare of our students as well as the reputation of the district’s four colleges.” 

And trustee Linda Handy, who served as chair of the board’s Internet Technology Committee before it was disbanded this year, called it a “horrible situation that is putting tremendous stress on students. I’ve been saying for the last six years that ‘the sky is falling’ (concerning Peralta’s internet technology problems). Well, now it’s down on our heads.” 

District officials say the problem began when Peralta moved from its old Legacy financial aid computer software this fall to the Regent system. The system is designed not just to issue checks, but to cross-check student applications to verify the identity of the student and to ensure that the student is actually enrolled in class and is financially eligible for aid. In addition, Peralta’s system is complicated by the fact that students apply for aid at individual colleges rather than districtwide--legally allowing for a larger amount of federal and state aid--and that the computer system must reconcile slight differences between the processes of the colleges. 

With the Regent software unable to handle the applications, Peralta staff has been reduced to manually doing the cross-checking and verification and handwriting the checks, a time-consuming process which has allowed some 3,000 checks to be written this semester, but which has not been fast enough to completely reduce the backlog. 

Gulassa said the old Legacy system that Regent replaced “was at least satisfactory. We had problems, but never of this magnitude.” 

“We keep being told that the problem is resolved and the system is now working,” Handy said. “Last Thursday in the Student Services meeting we were told that it was fixed, and we thought the checks would go out by computer the next day. They didn’t. It’s really distressing.”

Phoenix Project Seeks Democratization of UC Regents

By Kristin McFarland
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 09:56:00 AM

At the Phoenix Project for UC Democracy kickoff Tuesday night, panelists discussed the possibilities for democratizing of the UC Regents and creating a powerful enough constituency to effect changes. 

The Phoenix Project was created as a statewide coalition of student activist organizations and community members working together to create transparency, accountability and democracy within the university administration. 

“We are such an enormous, diverse system that I think it’s necessary for our regents to be elected in order to accurately represent the UC community,” Associated Students of UC (ASUC) Senator Christina Oatfield said. 

Eighteen of the 26 regents are now appointed by the governor for 12-year terms. The regents appoint one student representative who serves a one-year term. The remaining seats are filled by ex officio members, including the governor, lieutenant governor, speaker of the Assembly, superintendent of public instruction, president and vice president of the Alumni Associations of UC, and the UC president. 

Democratization efforts—which will require a constitutional amendment—began shortly after the university’s inception in 1868, revived in the 1960s, when the senate ratification became a requirement, and started again in the 1990s, when the Committee for a Responsible University sought a democratization initiative on the 1994 ballot. 

Tuesday night’s panel focused not only on the need for democratization, but also on the logistics of how to accomplish that goal. Student panelists pointed to the decisions made behind closed doors and the university’s unwillingness to even converse with activists or opponents. 

“The issue isn’t that we’re not doing enough to be heard,” said panelist and Berkeley City Councilmember-elect Jesse Arreguin. “The issue is that the university isn’t listening.” 

Oatfield told the audience about the university’s role in closed-session student government meetings, in which administrators discuss the need to “frame” issues so that people will be less upset by a controversial decision. According to Oatfield, the university works harder to frame an issue than to deal with an issue itself.  

“It’s a constant battle to deal with the UC administration,” Arreguin said, recalling his own student committee days at UC Berkeley, when the university refused to listen to opponents of its parking and transportation policies. 

“The question that I still don’t know the answer to is whether we have the chance to succeed,” said panelist Charles Schwartz, professor emeritus of the Department of Physics, and an active leader of the 1994 ballot initiative. 

Schwartz pointed out that the movement needs not only to propose a democratic model, but also to organize a constituency of voters. 

The current system was justified by the source of the money, Schwartz said. When the university was created, the state provided most of the money and therefore appointed the people to manage that money. 

But now, according to Schwartz, citing his independent research, the ever-increasing student fees now cover 100 percent of actual undergraduate education costs. The university claims that fees cover only 30 percent of the “cost of education,” but under its model, that cost includes not only undergraduate education, but also graduate education and faculty research.  

In reality, Schwartz says, no state money now goes to undergraduate education: The students pay for that themselves. 

Schwartz proposes that the regents be appointed or elected in proportion to the sources of the money. He calculates that eight regents should be elected by the students and parents who pay the fees. 

“We can succeed to the extent that we can project this to the world,” said Ignacio Chapela, associate professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. 

Chapela pointed to the controversial 1998 $25 million deal between Novartis and his college, of which he was an active critic. According to Chapela, faculty was notified of the deal 30 minutes before it was announced and had no say in the decision. Although Chapela and other faculty challenged the deal and drew national attention to it, no changes were made to the original agreement. 

“People don’t realize that what we did was open a tiny little window into the oppression that happens at the university every day,” Chapela said. “What’s happening here that one must open an expensive lawsuit and risk one’s career just to open the books a little bit?” 

Chapela argued that the university has absolutely no transparency, is completely shielded from public scrutiny and answerable to no one. To overcome that, the project must gain significant public support and force the university to listen. 

“It has to be a systematic change, a really big picture change,” said student panelist and activist Marcela Sadlowski. “It needs to be taken from the students and the community to the streets of California so we can change the constitution.” 

The Phoenix Project will hold a statewide summit in Berkeley Jan. 19-20, concurrent with UC Regents’ meeting on the Berkeley campus. 

BP Lab Building On Hold, Computer Lab Funds Revised

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 09:57:00 AM

Plans for a $159 million biofuel and alternative energy lab in the Berkeley hills have been put on hold by UC President Mark Yudoff while the project is sent back to the drawing board. 

Yudoff and UC Regents Committee on Grounds and Buildings (CGB) Chair Leslie Tang Schilling have signed a letter which decertifies the environmental impact report and rescinds the regents’ approval of architectural plans for the Helios Building. 

That high-tech structure at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) is to be the site of much of the research conducted under the $500 million Energy Biosciences Institute, a controversial crops-into-fuel program funded by British petroleum giant BP. 

The CGB is scheduled to vote Tuesday on funding for a second new building planned for the lab, covering interest costs during construction of the already approved Computational Research and Theory (CRT) building. 

Yudoff’s letter on the Helios Building said that a redesign is needed “to address geotechnical issues identified subsequent to ... approval of the project.” 

But Stephan Volker, the attorney who represents Berkeley preservationists who have sued to block the project, said the university’s approval of the project before thorough engineering tests were conducted shows that “once again, the university has put the project approval cart before the environmental horse.” 

LBNL spokesperson Lynn Yarris said that new plans currently under way will call for a lower-profile design than the one regents had approved, one that “would be better matched to the topography” of the site overlooking Strawberry Canyon. 

“It will be shorter but longer,” he said, and less visible from most viewpoints. 

Yarris said conceptual drawings will be presented to the public at a scoping session to gather comments for a new environmental impact report (EIR), with the meeting to be held sometime next month. 

The target date for a new draft EIR is sometime in March, with construction to start in Spring 2009. “It will take three years to complete,” Yarris said. 

The new design is expected to cost more than the $198.2 million approved by the regents in May—though how much is uncertain, given the current volatility of the construction materials market, the lab official said. 

Yarris said cost increases would be offset by long-term benefits arising from a more cost-effective design. 


Computer building 

A second LBNL project also facing a legal challenge is up for reconsideration at Tuesday’s meeting of the UC Board of Regents in San Francisco. 

The CGB is scheduled to vote for a second time on approving external funds for the CRT building, which will be built at the opposite, northwestern end of the lab complex from the Helios Building. 

An action opposing that project has been filed by Alameda attorney Michael Lozeau. 

Approval of the $113 million building in May included a provision that costs of funding debt incurred to cover construction costs would come from lab operating funds. 

The revised approval before the CGB Tuesday added a proviso declaring that “LBNL operating funds are not guaranteed funds, and that their availability depends on Congressional appropriations” and federal Department of Energy (DOE) decisions. 

The revisions would allow the UC president to arrange for loans with interest-only payments during construction and allow the executive to ”create a contingency funding strategy to pay the debt service for the external funding” in event the cash isn’t available from lab operating funds. 

One unresolved issue is whether or not the DOE will house a supercomputer facility inside the new structure, calling into question a major potential funding source. 

Relocating the federal department’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center from its current location in a former bank building in downtown Oakland had been cited as a major reason for building the CRT facility. 

But while the DOE professes “great interest” in relocating to the CRT, in a March memorandum, federal officials “made clear that DOE was not making any present commitment,” according to the proposal CGB is set to vote on Tuesday. 

The proposal before the committee creates a plan to cover the $8.7 million in debt service costs during construction. 

The plaintiff in both lawsuits is Save Strawberry Canyon, a non-profit whose members includes Berkeley residents Sylvia McLaughlin, Lesley Emmington, Janice Thomas and Hank Gehman. Former mayor Shirley Dean is listed as the group’s legal agent on its filings with the California Secretary of State. 

Both actions contend that the regents acted improperly when they certified environmental impact reports on the projects and approved funding for buildings critics contend are located in an environmentally sensitive landscape that contains threatened species and faces the risk of serious damage from earthquakes along the Hayward Fault. 

UC Police Investigate Campus Israeli-Palestinian Altercation

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 09:57:00 AM

The UC Berkeley Police Department is investigating a fight that erupted Thursday evening between a group of current and former UC Berkeley students after a Palestinian flag was hung over a balcony overlooking a pro-Israel concert on campus. 

Lt. Adan Tejada of the UC police said that the UCPD received a report of an altercation on the second-floor balcony of Eshelman Hall, above Lower Sproul Plaza, at 5:45 p.m. on Nov. 13, but by the time the officers responded, the fight had already stopped. 

He said that a number of witnesses identified at least five students involved in a fight, which he said broke out, according to eyewitness testimony, when some Palestinian students hung a Palestinian flag over the railing of the balcony to protest what they alleged were anti-Palestinian lyrics performed during a concert for Israeli Liberation Week. 

According to Tejada, some of the people attending the concert went up to get the flag off the balcony, which led to pushing and shoving. The exact details of what happened at that point are still under investigation, he said. 

“We were not able to make any arrests because no one was fighting when the police arrived,” he said, adding that supporters on both sides asked police to charge members from the opposing side with battery. 

Two students and one former student were cited for battery, authorities said, and several witness statements were taken. UCPD has not released the names of the students involved in the incident pending investigation. Once the investigation is complete, the case will be referred to the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office. 

“We are looking at things that were said during the investigation right now,” Tejada said, adding that this could provide clues as to whether the incident was a hate crime or not. 

He said that the alleged statements made during the incident were still under investigation and could not be released. 

Tejada said that there was little possibility that the incident was connected to acts of vandalism that occurred on campus last month, when pro-Israel posters at a UC Berkeley bus stop outside Eshelman Hall were defaced with anti-Israel graffiti. 

Although UC police have not stepped up security measures on campus after the incident, he said, university officials and student groups were doing extensive outreach to unite students across campus. 

“I think it’s safe to say that over many years we have seen flare-ups between Israeli and Palestinian students on campus and we have always encouraged them to resolve ongoing disagreements in a non-violent way and will continue to ask them to do so,” he said. 

Two student groups on campus—the Zionist Freedom Alliance and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP)— sent out press releases following Thursday’s events which contained conflicting accounts of the incident and statements defending their actions. 

The e-mail from the Zionist Freedom Alliance stated that the group was “deeply concerned by the latest in a series of attacks on Jewish and pro-Israel students at UC Berkeley perpetrated by members of Students for Justice in Palestine.” 

It charged that around 6 p.m. on Thursday, members of Students for Justice in Palestine disrupted a hip-hop concert organized by the alliance celebrating the Jewish connection to Israel and attacked students who had asked them to stop the disturbance. 

According to the e-mail, three members of Students for Justice in Palestine “illegally draped large Palestinian flags behind the stage of the concert, a part of Israel Liberation Week,” which was followed by Yehuda De Sa, one of the performers, UC Berkeley alumnus Gabe Weiner, and current Associated Students of the University of California Senator John Moghtader “walking to the balcony from which the flags were hanging" and asking "the students to remove the flags as they misrepresented the concert’s message.” 

The e-mail charged that members of SJP reacted with hostility to the request and that current SJP leader Husam Zakharia “instigated a physical altercation by striking Weiner on the head,” which was followed by Weiner and De Sa trying to defend themselves” and Moghtader—who was standing away from the scuffle—making a successful effort to break up the fight. 

The alliance also wrote that members of SJP shouted “anti-Semitic epithets referencing the Holocaust throughout the ordeal.” 

In their press release, the Students for Justice in Palestine dismissed all the allegations put forward by the Zionist Freedom Alliance. 

Calling the incident “a violent attack on three Arab Palestinian students,” the e-mail said that dozens of witnesses had testified that “three organizers for the Zionist Freedom Alliance attacked one male and two female Arab students who stood nearby the event holding a Palestinian flag,” which according to the SJP had been a “silent statement” against offensive anti-Arab remarks at the concert. 

The e-mail further alleged that shortly after the flags were displayed, the “assailants” angrily rushed into Eshelman Hall disturbing several meetings to reach the second floor balcony and upon arriving, pushed the protesters aside and took their flags away. 

It claimed that in the process, one of the protesters was knocked against the balcony railing, which was followed by a scuffle leading to one male and one female Arab student being hit several times, within minutes of which the perpetrators began to rush away. 

The group also wrote that throughout the incident the “assailants and their supporters” were overheard making remarks such as “we’re about to take care of some f***ing Palestinians,” and “you Arab dogs, we will kill you.” 

UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof said Monday that university officials had written an open letter to the campus community outlining how the campus was responding to the incident and laying out possible resources for students in the event something similar happened in the future. 

Signed by Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, ASUC President Roxanne Winston and vice chancellors Gibor Basri and Harry LeGrande, the letter condemns Thursday’s actions, acknowledging that it was the result of a “dispute between students with differing views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” It states that although Berkeley is passionate about embracing debate, free speech and political activism, it was important to hold them in a reasoned and civil way. 

“Physical assault and violence are never acceptable,” the officials wrote, adding that the campus administration was making attempts to address the current situation along with student groups, who were holding forums, town halls and other civil dialogue—including this week’s Peace Not Prejudice events—to alleviate tensions. 

The letter also directed students to turn to resources such as the ASUC Student Advocate, the Office of Campus Climate and Compliance, Office of the Dean of Students and the Gender Equity Resource Center when provoked. 

An Equity and Inclusion division, headed by Basri, will be part of a long-term strategy for improving campus climate, authorities said. 

“The vibrancy of Berkeley’s intellectual environment is made possible by our rich diversity,” the letter concluded. “Let us use this opportunity to help lead the way away from bigotry and hate towards a flourishing multicultural society.” 

New Ruling Offers Brighter Future For Oakland’s California Hotel

By Kristin McFarland
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 09:58:00 AM

A new court ruling granting further independence to the California Hotel has given its residents hope for a bright future. 

On Oct. 29, Alameda County Superior Court judge Richard Keller upheld an injunction in place since late July. The restraining order prevents building owner Oakland Community Housing Inc. (OCHI) from shutting off the hotel’s utilities and evicting the tenants. 

In an even greater victory for tenants, Judge Keller granted many new powers to court-appointed trustee Anne Omura, executive director of the Eviction Defense Center in Oakland. Omura, named trustee in September, has been collecting the tenants’ rent to pay the utility bills and keep the hotel running.  

Omura now has the power to hire a management company that will provide security, repairs and a business plan for the hotel. Additionally, Omura will be able to rent out all 150 rooms in the hotel once they are up to code, creating the potential for the hotel to generate enough money to stand on its own. 

“I’m going to do everything in my power to help the tenants out,” Omura said. 

As a first step toward improving the hotel, Omura has used the money left over from paying the utility bills to hire the Jay-Phares Corporation (JPC), an Oakland-based property management and consulting firm, to run and rehabilitate the hotel. 

“This is a good victory for the tenants because they’ve been running the place themselves,” said John Murcko, attorney for the hotel’s residents. Since July, the residents of the hotel have been working security shifts, cleaning the hotel and self-organizing to keep their home intact. The management company will relieve the tenants of those responsibilities. 

“Our business is to create safe, habitable properties,” said John Jay, executive vice president and chief operating officer of JPC. The company specializes in the “rehabilitation and redevelopment of core urban properties, typically in communities with high percentages of minority populations, and often with significant social problems.” 

JPC’s first action was the implementation of professional nighttime security, provided by an affiliate company of JPC. 

“Currently, the building has not been secured, and as a result, there has been a lot of illicit activity,” Jay said. “We’ve quieted it down now and there have been no further incidents.” 

Jay, Omura and Murcko all stress that 24-hour security is an imperative need for the hotel’s future, both to keep the residents safe and to keep the neighborhood’s troubles on the streets and out of the hotel. For now, however, the hotel can only afford nighttime security, which is an improvement, but not the optimal situation. 

JPC has also brought in contractors, plumbers and a property manager to ensure that the building is safe for the existing residents. Jay said the company will work to make the occupied rooms pest-free and in good repair before improving the rest of the hotel. 

“Our first priority is the existing tenants, getting them in clean, safe apartments,” Omura said.  

In the future, the release of the unrented apartments, many empty and unprofitable since 2007, could allow the hotel to generate enough money from rent to support itself independently. But the unoccupied rooms must meet safety codes before they can be leased out, and the occupied rooms must receive the first attention. 

Funds remain a prime concern for the maintenance of the hotel and could prohibit the recovery of the empty rooms. Estimates have been made for the repair of broken windows, plumbing, elevators and sprinklers. The ‘wishlist’ of improvements also includes 24-hour security, repairs to all of the rooms and improvement of the retail spaces on the building’s ground floor. 

“There’s been a lot of skepticism that it can be turned around, but we’re going to give it our best shot,” Jay said. 

To ensure that the building is receiving sufficient funds, JPC will conduct a ‘census’ of existing tenants to make sure that all are eligible for low-income housing, have signed a lease and are paying their rent. 

Additionally, JPC hopes to lease retail space on the ground floor of the hotel to independent, women- or minority-owned, and non-profit businesses to generate further income. The company is willing to support low-capital ventures run by dedicated people who are willing to work hard, Jay said. 

“Make it up, believe in it, do it,” Jay said. “That’s what life is all about.” 

In that spirit, the advocates of the hotel continue working to keep it alive. 

Jay points to the original building of Merritt College in Oakland, a building in “far worse shape” than the California Hotel and managed by JPC during its transitional stage, as an example of potential rejuvenation. The Merritt College building now houses the north campus of the Children’s Hospital and Research Center of Oakland and the North Oakland Senior Center. 

“Predecessors say it’s impossible, but I don’t believe it,” Jay said. “If we are frugal and patient, we can generate enough income to rehabilitate [the hotel] and rejuvenate it and sustain it as low-income housing.” 

For John Murcko, the primary goal for the hotel is to keep it operating for the 12 years that remain of the 30 agreed upon when grants were given to make the hotel into low-income housing. 

“Right now, we want to ensure that the people who are there can stay for another 12 years,” Murcko said. 

“The hotel needs to be supported because it’s the right thing to do and it’s the legally required thing to do,” Jay said. 

The next hearing on the California Hotel will be held in the Alameda Superior Courthouse in Hayward on Monday, Jan. 12. 

New Analysis: Why the Prop. 8 Protests Matter

By By Paul Hogarth
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 10:52:00 AM

I didn’t join the street protests against Proposition 8 right after it passed. My gut reaction was: “Where were all these people when we had the chance to defeat it?” But “No on 8” ran a terrible campaign that would not have effectively used more volunteers, and it’s possible that many had tried to get involved. Now the state Supreme Court will decide what to do about Prop. 8, and City Attorney Dennis Herrera has put on a strong case to have it overruled. But that doesn’t mean the court will do the right thing; even the best legal arguments can lose. A mass movement of peaceful protest is crucial at building the political momentum to attain marriage equality—which can convince the Court it’s okay to overturn the “will of the voters.” Social movements rely too much on lawyers and politicians to make progress—without effectively using the masses of people who want to help. Now people are angry, and this weekend we saw mass protests across the country. It’s now time for everyday people to get involved. 

As Barbara Ehrenreich once argued, Roe v. Wade didn’t just happen because a majority of Supreme Court justices decided women have the right to choose. It was after a mass movement worked hard for many years to make that politically possible. While we like to believe the best legal arguments always win in court, judges are—at the end of the day—politically connected lawyers who wear robes. As much as Dennis Herrera’s lawsuit is well written and legally sound, it’s still a leap of faith for the state Supreme Court to override a popular majority in the last election. And citizen action—if done effectively—can go a long way to give them the political courage to do the right thing. 

Public outrage at Prop. 8’s passage has not just been a few angry protests in the Castro, or righteous indignation at churches. People who never thought of themselves as “activists” have suddenly been spurred into action—and they’re using the same tools the Obama campaign used to win the presidency. For example, my friend Trent started a Facebook group called “Californians Ready to Repeal Prop. 8.” He expected a few hundred people to join, but in less than a week the group had over 200,000 members. Efforts are afoot to collect signatures for a statewide proposition—in 2010, or sooner if we have a special election. 

This viral activism is in stark contrast to the “No on 8” campaign—where people relied on political leaders who failed us in waging a statewide effort. My first involvement with “No on 8” was in July, right after the San Francisco Pride parade. The campaign had just collected thousands of postcards at Pride, and our task was to call these people and recruit them to volunteer. But a lot of people come to SF Pride from across the state, and all the volunteer activities were in San Francisco. It was a lot to ask someone who lives in Monterey or Santa Rosa to come table at a farmers’ market in San Francisco for a day. 

I asked the campaign why they couldn’t just get people to do “No on 8” activities in their own communities. They didn’t have to wait until the campaign could afford to open offices in other parts of the state. Online groups like MoveOn have perfected the model of using the Internet to connect like-minded activists to each other—and get them to meet in “offline” locations to push their political cause. My suggestion was ignored. Now we see spontaneous efforts—organized online via social networks, without any “leaders”—to lay the groundwork for a future Proposition campaign to restore marriage equality. 

Nov. 15 was a massive “Day of Protest” against Prop. 8, and we predictably had a huge rally in San Francisco. But we also had nearly 2,000 people in Sacramento, 12,000 in Los Angeles, a whopping 20,000 in San Diego, 2,500 in Santa Rosa, and over 1,000 in Downtown Ventura. And it wasn’t just a statewide action—12,000 took to the streets in Seattle, 5,000 in Boston, thousands in Chicago, 1,000 in Albuquerque and even a rally in Peoria. Prop. 8 hit a nerve felt past California’s boundaries: during a presidential election that gave millions hope, one of our bluest states voted to take away peoples’ fundamental rights. People are upset, and want to get involved. 

Now Prop. 8’s fate is in the hands of our state Supreme Court—who must decide if the greater good (equal protection under law) is worth telling 52 percent of California voters they can’t eliminate marriage rights. Peaceful protests can give the judges the resolve to do the right thing. Unlike George W. Bush—who said he didn’t “listen to focus groups” after 2 million people across the world marched against the Iraq War on a single day—I believe that our justices will take these protests seriously. Which is why they matter so much. 


This article was originally posted on BeyondChron.org.

UC Berkeley Students Call on Obama to Enact Dream Act

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 09:58:00 AM

UC Berkeley students joined the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights, and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) last week to launch a national campaign urging President-elect Barack Obama to enact the federal Dream Act, which would legalize federal financial aid and open a path of citizenship for undocumented immigrant college students across the nation, who are otherwise entrapped in complicated paperwork. 

Held at the MLK Student Union on campus, the Nov. 13 event—which was organized by BAMN and co-sponsored by Rising Immigrant Scholars through Education, the Latino Business Students Association, the gender and women’s studies and Spanish and Portuguese studies departments at the university and the Chancellor’s Student Opportunity Fund—started with a group of undocumented students from around the Bay Area testifying about their struggles in the absence of federal financial aid. 

Calls to Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s office for comment were not returned, but a campus spokesperson confirmed that the chancellor supports the Dream Act. Birgeneau wrote an op-ed piece in support of the act for the UC Berkeley student newspaper, The Daily Californian, on Nov. 5. 

In California, undocumented students have the right to attend a public university but are not allowed to apply for financial aid, something Thursday’s participants said they would aggressively push for once the new president is sworn in. 

BAMN activists also called upon UC Berkeley to become a sanctuary campus and welcome African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and other minority and immigrant communities. 

“We want to make the era of change and hope real,” said BAMN organizer Yuvette Felarca, who also teaches at Malcolm X Elementary School in Berkeley. “When we see the nation elect the first black president and yet we see that the percentage of blacks and Latinos on campuses like UC Berkeley and UCLA is so low, we need to make a change.” 

Shanta Driver, national chairperson for BAMN, asked students to seize this important moment in history to start a new kind of civil rights movement which would oppose racism and bring equal opportunities to all. 

“Over the last few weeks we have seen a real change in America and it has presented us with an opportunity to leave our mark on our nation,” she said to applause from the audience. “If it’s possible for America, with such a strong and deep history of racism to do this, then anything is possible. We need to resolve deep social problems and engage in a real debate and discussion on racism.” 

She said that Obama should enact the Dream Act within his first 100 days in office. 

“If the people who worked for Obama’s victory decide after inauguration day that their work is over, it won’t happen,” Driver said. “We have to continue to be leaders of the movement that put him in power.” 

Driver added that if the Dream Act failed under Obama, then generations of young people would ask, “If a black president couldn’t do it, then who can?” 

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed SB 1301, which incorporates the California Dream Act, on Sept. 30, citing a staggering state economy. Thousands of students who had mobilized in support of the bill were disappointed by his decision. 

“The governor said that although he shared the authors’ goal of making affordable education available to all California students, given the precarious fiscal condition the state is facing right now, it would not be prudent to place additional demands on our limited financial aid resources as specified in this bill,” said Francisco Castillo, a spokesperson for Schwarzenegger. 

Castillo added that the governor supported a local bill which allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition. 

Gabriella, a UC Berkeley undocumented student from El Salvador who has been in the U.S. since October 2005, said that even with in-state tuition, it is difficult to make ends meet 

“The reason my dad brought me here is because he wanted me to have a better life,” she said. “But my transition to UC Berkeley has been very different than that of the other students. My dad earns less than $10,000 a year. I couldn’t get enough scholarship money to live on campus so I am living with my best friend’s sister in Davis. I have to commute three to four hours every day.” 

Gabriella—who wants to go to law school—said that when she started out as a sophomore at her high school in California, she didn’t speak English and never imagined going to a community college, let alone UC Berkeley. 

“Right now I can’t get a job because I don’t have a Social Security number and residence,” she said. “Sometimes I have to skip meals in order to pay for the shuttle. I had to sacrifice many things to be at UC Berkeley. Usually people have gym, clubs or homework sessions after class, but I can’t go to any of those. My future is pretty uncertain and if the situation doesn’t change I might have to drop out. I have hope that the Dream Act might get passed one day.” 

Zaira, another undocumented student at the university, echoed her thoughts. 

“It’s hard to describe the life of an undocumented student on campus,” she said. “We act the same as the other students but our efforts are not reciprocated by the education system. All undocumented students are equal and deserve the same rights. There’s no reason why we should get the leftovers of education. I want to ask those opposing the Dream Act to give me one reason why it shouldn’t be made a reality.” 

Berkeley Teachers Union Demands Contract Renewal

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 09:59:00 AM

Berkeley teachers rallied at 21 school sites throughout the city Tuesday, citing an urgent desire for an agreement on working hours, wages, health benefits and other contract provisions. 

Called “A Day of Teacher Action,” teachers waved posters and handed out flyers to passersby informing them of the 141-day delay in their contract renewal with the Berkeley Unified School District, something they charged was becoming a big distraction in their teaching and interactions with students. 

Cathy Campbell, president of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, said that although the union was aware of the economic constraints on the district, it wanted district officials to come to a swift and amiable agreement. 

Berkeley Unified Superintendent Bill Huyett said that although the district had yet to renew its contract with the union, it was still honoring the terms of the old contract. 

“We don’t make comments on on-going negotiations,” he said. “But I want to assure everybody that the old contract is still valid. The Berkeley Federation of Teachers is a very progressive organization and we always want to listen to their ideas. They are an important part of BUSD.” 

BFT’S contract, which was last renewed in May 2005 for three years, expired on June 30. 

“Most of the terms of the contract continue, but there is still a lot of uncertainty,” Campbell said. “We have an agreement for wages for 2008-09 but not for 2009-10. It’s mostly an issue of capacity. The contract has to be productive and timely—the longer it takes the more diversion it creates.” 

Some teachers said they were frustrated with the district’s lack of preparation during bargaining sessions, which they claimed often took time away from classrooms and resulted in unproductive workdays. 

Dale Long, a preschool teacher at King Child Development Center who is also on the union’s negotiating team, said that he often had to sacrifice time that could otherwise be spent with students because of unproductive negotiations. 

“We go prepared on a regular proposal but the district is ill-prepared to make counter proposals,” said Long, who was handing out flyers at the Derby Street farmers market late Tuesday afternoon. “The last session was four and a half hours long. The district spent three of those four and a half hours preparing for something they should have prepared for hours before the negotiations. It’s very frustrating because I have to take off from work sometimes and I feel I am doing the children a disservice.” 

Long acknowledged that although the district had made some progress during the course of their discussions with the union, the negotiations took a step backward when it was time to talk about a revenue-sharing formula, which would ensure that when the district receives a revenue boost, the teachers would be entitled to their fair share. 

“It worked well on our last contract,” he said. Cynthia Allman, a first grade teacher at Malcolm X Elementary School, agreed. 

“We know times are really tough so we are asking for a continuance of the revenue-sharing formula, so that when the district gets its money we can get our fair share,” she said. “We want to make sure the district is protected as well. We don’t want them to commit to something they don’t have.” 

Allman, who stood on Ashby Avenue along with several other teachers waving posters with “141” written on them as early as 8 a.m., said she was encouraged by the way the community had reacted to the demonstrations. 

Everyone is worried about the economy and the state budget,” she said, “but it still makes me wonder if the district really values our work.” 

Mary Wrenn, a teacher at Willard Middle School in Berkeley, said that teachers were beginning to feel the economic pinch as well. 

“We are really anxious to reach an agreement especially because these are such hard economic times,” Wrenn, who rallied before and after school hours, said. 

Berkeley Board of Education member Karen Hemphill said she was hopeful the district would be able to create a multi-year contract. 

“I understand the teachers are a little frustrated but we have the unusual situation of five union agreements opening up at the same time,” she said. “I think that’s a part of the reason why things are a little slow.” 

Hemphill said that more and more unions and school districts were looking at revenue sharing formulas in the face of a fluctuating economic scenario. 

“If we receive more money we will look into sharing with the union but we can’t promise anything now because if we don’t have any money, we can’t possibly share, Hemphill said. “It’s becoming more and more difficult now, especially with the proposed mid-year budget cuts.” 

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently proposed mid-year cuts to education funds which would leave Berkeley Unified with a $3.5 million deficit. 

Campbell said the next bargaining session was set for Monday, and then again a week later. “I don’t know what to expect but I am hopeful it will be a productive session,” she said.

Intervention Sought for Willard Student Involved in Trash Can Fires

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 09:59:00 AM

A student at Willard Middle School in Berkeley has admitted to starting some of the trash can fires at the school more than three weeks ago and will take part in intervention services. 

Berkeley Fire Department Deputy Chief Gil Dong said that the student’s name and age were being withheld since he is a juvenile. 

Berkeley fire officials responded to a fire alarm activation on Oct. 22 and on arrival found a small trash can fire being extinguished by school authorities. 

A total of three small trash can fires were reported, and two of them had started in restrooms located inside the school, Dong said, resulting in smoke but no injuries. 

School authorities interviewed several students in the weeks following the incident to get an idea about who could have been involved in the incident and finally identified one student, Dong said. 

“A fire investigator and a person-in-charge from the Juvenile Firesetter Program met with school officials and learned that the student had admitted to starting several of the fires, not all,” he said. “We don’t know what his motives were. We have recommended that our intervention officers meet with the child’s family to make sure they are willing to participate in the program. The final meeting has not taken place yet. We are trying to use intervention methods to change the student’s behavior.” 

Calls to Willard principal Robert Ithurburn and Berkeley Unified School District spokesperson Mark Coplan for comment were not returned by deadline. 

AC Transit Will Purchase More Van Hools

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 10:01:00 AM
A Van Hool bus runs down Telegraph Avenue where a rapid transit system is proposed.
Michael Howerton
A Van Hool bus runs down Telegraph Avenue where a rapid transit system is proposed.

The AC Transit Board of Directors moved quickly on one of its most controversial projects following this month’s electoral victories, approving a new round of Van Hool bus purchases at last Wednesday’s board meeting. 

In the Nov. 4 voting, Alameda and Contra Costa county voters approved Measure VV—assuring continuation of AC Transit’s $48 per year supplemental parcel tax—while Berkeley voters rejected Measure KK, an attempt to put the brakes on AC Transit’s proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Telegraph Avenue lane-setaside in that city. In addition, board president Chris Peeples (at large) and Boardmember Greg Harper (Ward 2—Emeryville, Piedmont, and portions of Berkeley and Oakland) fought off electoral challenges, winning new four-year terms on the board. A third board incumbent, Joe Wallace (Ward 1—El Sobrante, San Pablo, Richmond, El Cerrito, Albany, and Kensington and a portion of Berkeley) was unopposed for re-election. 

In a complicated action that left board members at times appearing visibly exasperated and confused, the AC Transit board last week approved General Manager Rick Fernandez’s recommendation to purchase nine more 60-foot “articulated” Van Hool buses as well as authorize a contract for a prototype 45-foot “suburban style” bus from Van Hool that could eventually mean the purchase of as many of 40 new buses from the Belgian manufacturer. The “suburban style” 45-footers are intended to be used primarily on AC Transit’s cross-bay route between the East Bay and San Francisco. 

The purchase of the 60-foot Van Hool double “artix”—probably the most controversial bus in AC Transit’s fleet—had originally come before the board last May in a General Manager request for the purchase of 19 buses. But board members balked at the request at the time, asking that the staff justify the district’s need for that many 60-footers in its fleet. 

AC Transit Special Projects Manager Stuart Thompson and Procurement and Materials Director Charlie Kalb’s memo for Wednesday’s board meeting requesting reconsideration of the 19 bus purchase detailed no justification for the purchase in response to the board’s concerns, instead stating simply that “a compelling need still exists to purchase 19 articulated buses to complete the fleet composition plan and replace aging buses.” 

But by the time the board was meeting on Wednesday, General Manager Fernandez had dropped 10 buses from the request for the 60-foot Van Hools, saying that the district’s needs for higher-capacity buses could be partially met by the proposed new 45-foot “suburban-style” buses Fernandez wants Van Hool to build for AC Transit. Since the 45-foot “suburban” Van Hools are not yet in existence, the district was proposing that Van Hool first produce a prototype of the proposed new buses before final district approval of a contract. 

Fernandez said that AC Transit put out a fequest for proposals (RFP) for the new 45-foot suburban contract last June to 11 domestic and international bus manufacturers, but that only three manufacturers (Van Hool, Motor Coach Industries, and Bluebird) attended a July pre-proposal conference, and only Van Hool ultimately submitted a bid. 

However, the General Manager’s memo on the RFP for last Wednesday’s meeting, which read in part that “in May 2008, the Board authorized the General Manager to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the purchase of 45-foot low entry suburban style commuter buses,” appears to contradict the action actually taken by the board at the May 14 meeting. The online AC Transit minutes for that meeting read “MOTION: HARPER/ORTIZ to approve Resolution No. 08-035 adopting the AC Transit Fleet Composition Plan (2008 Revision) to include 40 45-foot suburban buses.” Staff’s original recommendation had been for 45-foot buses, but the inclusion of a 40-foot option had been put in the board action at the board’s request in order to provide more options for the purchase. 

It is unclear what effect staff’s limiting of the RFP to 45-foot buses alone may have had on the ultimate result of Van Hool being the only company to bid on the suburban RFP. 

Meanwhile, at one confusing point in last Wednesday’s board meeting, Fernandez had board members considering the 60-foot purchase and 45-foot prototype proposal simultaneously, with no exact designation of the number of new suburbans to be eventually requested from Van Hool, as well as a third agenda item in which the district was seeking “between $9 million and $50 million” of special state transportation money which district staff could be used for the purchase of additional buses. The back-and-forth discussion finally became so confusing that it caused an irritated Board President Chris Peeples to declare that the state financial request had nothing to do with the current bus purchases, and called for a separate vote on each issue. 

Eventually, board members approved the purchase of the nine 60-foot Van Hool articulated buses on a 5-1-1 vote (Harper voting no and outgoing board member Rebecca Kaplan—newly elected to the Oakland City Council—abstaining) and authorizing the 45-foot suburban prototype and contract negotiations for up to 40 of the buses on a unanimous vote. 

Late last June, on a 2-4-1 vote (Chris Peeples and Jeff Davis yes, Greg Harper, Elsa Ortiz, Rocky Fernandez, and Rebecca Kaplan no, Joe Wallace abstaining), the seven-member board voted to reject going directly back to Van Hool for the new 60 footers, instead calling for the contract for the 19 new buses to be up for competitive bidding. AC Transit staff apparently never put the 60-foot contract up for bid, and on Wednesday, Fernandez argued against such an action as he had last June, saying that “if we put off the procurement of the buses to do another bid, Van Hool will probably win the contract because their price is lower, but the delay in letting out the contract [to put out the new bid] will ultimately raise that price.”  

In explaining his no vote on the additional 60-footers, Harper explained that “what bothers me is we’re doing this on the fly. What I and Rebecca [Kaplan]had asked for last May was a complete re-evaluation of our fleet plan. We’re not getting that.” 

UC Berkeley Students Become Ambassadors of Peace

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 10:02:00 AM

In Behrampada, a slum in Mumbai, India, the fight for water starts as early as five in the morning. 

Water, if not the source of all problems in this predominantly Muslim community located a stone’s throw away from Bandra West—home to some of the city’s elite and Bollywood’s best—accounts for a major part of it. 

When Ayse Ercumen, a graduate student at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health, landed in Behrampada during the summer to conduct the Safe Water for a Safe World project, she was blown away—not by the squalor, the stench or the staggering expanse of the slums, but by the stark poverty which is so easily associated with India, but cannot be explained until you actually set your eyes upon it. 

Ercumen was one of four students from the International House at UC Berkeley to travel to places as far-flung as Kosovo, India and Cambodia to carry out Davis Projects for Peace, made possible by a $1 million grant from Kathryn Wasserman Davis, who met her late husband Ambassador Shelby Cullom Davis when they were living at the I-House New York in 1931. 

On Oct. 12, I-House residents in Berkeley released four doves to honor each of the four winners and celebrate their efforts to bring peace into the world, whether by bridging the gap between Cambodian and Vietnamese children, teaching computer skills to Romas or simply telling a 5-year-old in one of Asia’s largest slums that dipping a dirty finger in a bucket of drinking water could kill him. 

A 2004 report from the World Health Organization indicates that annually there are 1.8 million deaths from diarrhea, and approximately half a million of these occur in India, a fact which Ercumen, who is originally from Turkey, finds simply astonishing. 

“There is a disproportionately large portion of diarrheal deaths in India,” she said during an interview with the Planet at the I-House on a recent Sunday. “It has one-fourth of the world’s diarrheal deaths, even though its population is not one-fourth of the world’s. The importance of our project lies in the immensity of the problems we chose to tackle. In a world where two million people, mostly children, die every year from easily preventable enteric diseases, any step to try to provide adequate water, sanitation and hygiene to those who do not have access to it is a valuable endeavor.” 

The Safe Water for a Safe World project was modeled on Haath Mein Sehat (health in your hands), an initiative started by UC Berkeley graduate student Ashley Murray to educate slum dwellers about issues such as sanitation, hygiene and water testing. 

Although Ercumen was living in an apartment in Dadar, home to the city’s upper-middle-class, she almost always spent her time inside one of Behrampada’s tiny squatters, learning her way in the dark, wet, narrow, maze-like alleys and witnessing for the first time its hundreds of thousands of inhabitants, heaps of garbage and open sewers, where children often defecate because they don’t know any better. 

“It would not be an exaggeration to say that we were living in the slum,” she said smiling. “You often hear about them, you read about them, and I am from Istanbul, so I am not unfamiliar with them, but I think there’s a difference. What I saw in Mumbai was beyond my expectations just because of its sheer dimensions. The first thing you notice is the abundance of people and the lack of space. The next thing is the sanitation.” 

Private and public latrines dot Behrampada’s square mile-long stretch and are shared by the 175,000 or so people who live there. 

The private ones charge around 1 rupee (around 2 cents), are fairly clean and come with water, and the public restrooms are free. “You don’t pay, you don’t get water and they are dirty,” said Ercumen, wrinkling her nose at the memory. “You bring your own water.” 

Most houses, she said, now have taps in front of their building but at times arguments break out between families who share a tapabout who can get to it first to collect water. 

“Water is not the heart of the problem,” Ercumen said. “The quality of water is.” 

In Behrampada, there is no round-the-clock, water pressure on the pipes, so residents start rationing water in matkas (earthen pots), drums, jugs, mugs, buckets, bottles, cans—pretty much anything they have—between 5 and 9 a.m., which Ercumen said was one of the main problems. 

“Since there is no continuous water pressure in the pipes, you get negative pressure, and you suck up whatever is surrounding the pipe,” she said. “Half of the time it’s stuff from the sewage lines or fecal matter which makes the quality of water bad. Also the fact that the people collect the water so early in the morning and store it the entire day makes it more susceptible to get contaminated inside the container.” 

Most of the samples Ercumen collected from the houses in Behrampada showed contamination in the stored water, she said. 

Teaching a bunch of toddlers and their families—most of them uneducated—about boiling drinking water, disease transmission and personal hygiene was a Herculean task for Ercumen, given the language barrier and the fact that she got diarrhea herself during her stay there, but the experience helped her became a stronger person. 

“It was extremely hot and then the monsoons started, and it was extremely wet, and there were times when I didn’t want to do it anymore, but at other times It was so gratifying that I just wanted to keep doing it,” she said. 

Around the same time Ercumen was battling cultural differences to save the residents of Behrampada from an endemic, UC Berkeley Integrated Biology senior Sina Akhavan was trying to give Roma children in Kosovo a chance to build a career for themselves in the near future. 

A passion for Flamenco music led Akhavan, who is of Iranian descent, to spend his summer in Preoce, working on Project Sastimasa with Voice of Roma, a non-profit based in Sebastapol. 

“I thought to myself, how can I contribute? and I realized that teaching Romas English and computer skills was one way,” he said, sitting inside the historic Great Hall at the I-House right before the dove-release ceremony. 

Arriving in Preoce—a small Roma village near Pristina, Kosovo’s capital—a month after the country declared its independence in February, Akhavan, a native of Redondo Beach, said he was struck by how fast people aged over there. 

“The environment is toxic,” he said. “Some of these communities are built on top of a lead mine. The government doesn’t collect trash in the Roma enclaves of the town. So people just throw trash right outside their houses or burn it.” 

But the garbage and the smoke were nothing compared to the political tension in the air, Akhavan said, which kept the Romas from leaving certain pockets of the village and driving freely on the streets or playing loud music in their cars for fear of attracting the Albanians. 

About 90 percent of Romas are unemployed and most survive on humanitarian aid, he said, which was enough to buy flour, but not adequate to buy sugar or water.  

A lucky few get around 60 euros every month from family members who have migrated to Germany or Italy. 

“It’s a minimum remittance economy,” he said. “That’s where the project came in. We wanted to teach them English and how to use computers, not to work with the Albanians or Serbs but rather the various international organizations such as the United Nations and the European Union.” 

Akhavan said that it angered him when people referred to Romas as gypsies. 

“It’s a myth,” he said. “They have no representation and no support. Nobody supports their cause. I want to demystify the belief that they are magical people. They are people who need international help.” 

Donated laptops, a make-shift classroom and elementary school English texts brought the program to an exciting start. 

However, teaching 3- to 28-year-olds Microsoft Word and Powerpoint proved to be a bit of a challenge for Akhavan and the other volunteers in the project, especially since younger students were often distracted at night after going through a grueling schedule at school the whole day. 

Another problem was the power failures which kept happening every three hours, interrupting lessons and forcing the teachers to hold classes by candle or cellphone light. 

A typical day in Preoce would start with kids screaming, dogs barking and roosters crowing, Akhavan said, followed by lots of Turkish coffee. 

“Everywhere I looked there would be kids running around barefoot,” he said. “I was invited to people’s homes again and again and again. It’s like its own world. A few dozen houses but enough people and enough drama for it to be fun.” 

Project Sastimasa is still alive in Preoce today and Akhavan plans to pay his students a visit soon. 

“When I left I was able to see a sliver of hope appear before my students,” he said. “In a reality of gross unemployment and dire poverty, hopelessness, like a pandemic, spreads and affects almost all. But this opportunity brought, in some small way—a chance at hope, a chance at a better quality of life.” 

For more information on the I-House Davis Projects for Peace visit: ihouse.berkeley.edu/a/news/DavisPeaceProjects.html. 

Police Charge Suspect in Derby Street Murders

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 10:03:00 AM

Berkeley police Tuesday arrested an already-jailed South Berkeley man for the two Sept. 18 murders in the 1400 block of Derby Street. 

The suspect, 24-year-old Desmen Riashem Lankford, was already in custody following an Oct. 9 arrest on parole violation and weapons possession charges. 

Berkeley Police spokesperson Officer Andrew Frankel said the weapon in that case was subsequently found to have been used to kill Kelvin Earl Davis, a 23-year-old Berkeley man, who was found mortally wounded along the curbside, and 42-year-old Oakland resident Kevin Antoine Parker, whose body was discovered slumped nearby behind the wheel of his wrecked car. 

Tuesday’s arrest was the second time Lankford has been booked on murder charges. On June 24, 2003, he was booked by Berkeley police after leading them on a foot chase that ended in a back yard near his home in the 1400 block of Alcatraz Avenue. 

Lankford was taken into custody then at Berkeley City Jail on suspicion of the murder of Ronald Easiley, a 19-year-old continuation school student who was gunned down on the previous Jan. 14 on Harmon Street in Berkeley. 

Officer Frankel said he didn’t know what had happened to Lankford after the earlier arrest. 

The double murder on Derby Street led to a third shooting, the wounding of a woman who lived across the street from a makeshift shrine erected after the killings. She survived her injuries. 

Frankel declined to give further details about the latest arrest, beyond acknowledging that “we believe that an additional suspect or suspects are outstanding.” 

He asked anyone with information about the crime to call BPD’s Homicide Detail at 981-5741. Those with information who would prefer anonymity may relay it through Bay Area Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477. 

Double Stabbing, Burned Cars

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 10:04:00 AM

An argument over alcohol at the Marina Liquor store on 1265 University Ave. late on the night of Nov. 13 resulted in two Berkeley residents being stabbed, authorities said. 

The Berkeley Police Department received a 911 call from the liquor store’s clerk at 11:49 p.m. who reported a stabbing. 

According to police, the clerk said that, the suspect, Richard Allan Jacobs of Richmond, who is disabled and uses a wheelchair, got “enraged” after the clerk refused to sell him more alcohol since he seemed already intoxicated. 

At that moment, another customer, a 52-year-old Berkeley resident, stepped in to calm the argument and Jacobs unleashed his anger on him, stabbing him in the stomach. 

The man struck Jacobs in the head with a bottle. An acquaintance of Jacobs, a 58-year-old Berkeley woman who also uses a wheelchair, became involved and tried to make peace, but Jacobs stabbed her too. 

Sgt. Mary Kusmiss of the Berkeley Police Department said that Berkeley police officers responded to the scene within seconds of the clerk’s call and arrested Jacobs who was still at the store. 

The Berkeley Fire Department also responded to the incident with three ambulances and a fire engine at 11:50 p.m. 

Kusmiss said that the suspect and the two victims had been drinking at the time the stabbings took place. 

“This incident was clearly fueled by alcohol,” she said. “BPD deals with incidents and crime daily in which there is an alcohol related component—fights and arguments in which suspects or victims or both have been drinking. The clerk was doing the appropriate responsible thing by refusing to sell to an obviously intoxicated Jacobs." 

The male victim underwent emergency surgery but is expected to survive, Kusmiss said. The woman was treated for a stab wound to the leg. 

Jacobs, 55, was booked into Santa Rita County Jail for two counts of assault with a deadly weapon. 


Arson fires 

At 12:47 a.m. Nov. 14, the Berkeley Fire Department received a report of vehicles burning close to a building on the 1800 block of Fairview Avenue, Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong said. 

Dong said that when fire department officials reached the location, they saw that the fire had caused severe damage to three vehicles. 

Two of the vehicles were total losses, he said, and the electrical system had been damaged in the third. 

A large crowd had gathered on the site of the incident by the time authorities arrived, Dong said, adding that the fires seemed extremely suspicious. 

Officer Andrew Frankel of the Berkeley Police Department said Tuesday that investigations had revealed that the burn patterns appeared inconsistent with that of an engine fire which might lead the BPD to believe that it was arson. 

Frankel said that the fire started with a red Ford Mustang and spread to a Nissan parked next to it, from which it expanded to a power line connected to a building on the 1800 block, which melted and landed on a Honda. 

When the power line fell, Frankel said, the building lost power. 

The red Mustang belonged to an Oakland resident, authorities said, and the two other cars belonged to residents of that particular block. 

“The officers did a neighborhood canvas but nobody reported seeing anything suspicious in the area,” Frankel said. “The matter is still being investigated.” 


Police Blotter

By Ali Winston
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 10:04:00 AM

Random attack 

A man was attacked without provocation by a stranger on Telegraph Avenue on Nov. 13. Shortly before noon, the victim was punched by a tall man in his 20s, of medium build, with tattooed arms and wearing a white T-shirt and black cap. The assailant fled immediately afterwards, according to Berkeley police spokesman Officer Andrew Frankel. 


Phone robbery 

A 34-year-old woman had her phone snatched on Nov. 15 after she was sprayed in the eyes by a young woman Saturday morning, according to Frankel. The woman was standing with a 56-year-old man on the corner of 6th Street and Hearst Avenue when they were approached by three strangers: a woman in her mid-20s, a second assailant of unknown description, and a tall, heavyset man with dreadlocks and wearing eyeglasses, a white shirt and blue jeans.  

The 34-year-old was asked by the other lady if she could use her phone. When she declined, the other woman sprayed her in the eyes with perfume and grabbed her phone. The three robbers ran eastbound on Hearst Avenue.  


Arrest after confrontation 

Around 11:16 p.m. on Nov. 16, a woman was approached on the 1400 block of Oregon Street by a man who pulled a handgun and demanded the woman’s money, Frankel said. After she handed over her cash, the woman went into the apartment of her friend and told him of the incident. The man went outside and confronted the robber. The argument turned physical: the man disarmed Romero Butticci, 30, of Berkeley, and called the Berkeley police, who took Butticci into custody. He is charged with counts of armed robbery and battery. 


Horse trainer killed 

A horse trainer at Golden Gate Fields was killed on Nov. 17 after a startled horse toppled over and crushed him, according to Berkeley police. Ignacio Ramirez, 58, of Hayward, took the horse out of the barn for exercise when the horse spooked, reared up, and fell, crushing Ramirez beneath it. He was pronounced dead at the scene. 


Gunpoint robbery 

An 18-year-old man was robbed at gunpoint by three youths on Milvia and Stuart streets on Nov. 17, according to Frankel. After getting off a bus at Shattuck and Stuart streets around 6:30 p.m., the 18-year old was accosted by three young men, one of them brandishing a weapon.  

The man with the gun ordered the 18-year-old to the ground, while another robber rifled through his pockets, taking cash and a cell phone. The three suspects fled east on Stuart. They are described as being between the age of 18 and 19. One wore a black peacoat and had his hair cut in a fade. Another wore a burgundy nylon jacket, while the last suspect wore a gold grill over his upper teeth, is about 6-feet-1-inch tall and wore a gray hooded sweatshirt.  


More Bad News for UCB’s Partner in Ethanol Refinery

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 10:06:00 AM

Despite a wave of bankruptcies and canceled or stalled refinery construction, the ethanol industry got some good news this week. But there was especially bad news for one company with financial ties to UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. 

Pacific Ethanol, which is partnered with the federally funded Joint Bioenergy Institute (JBEI) to build a new ethanol refinery, announced Monday that it had been forced to re-state its financial results for the quarter ending Sept. 30 by claiming an additional $14.3 million “impairment charge” on top of a previously reported $26.6 million sum. 

Both result from the company’s decision to halt construction of a plant in the Imperial Valley. The new costs come on top of other losses caused by high corn prices, and take the company’s quarterly losses to $69.2 million. 

The company had delayed the previously scheduled release of its quarterly statement to recalculate its balance sheet. 

While the company had reported a $28,000 profit for the first nine months of 2007, during the same period this year Pacific Ethanol reports losing $112.7 million. 

The company’s stock was trading at 62 cents a share Wednesday afternoon, its lowest rate for the past year and well below an all-time high in the $32 range three years ago.  

JBEI, which is headed by UC Berkeley/LBNL bioengineer Jay Keasling, is one of two major crops-into-fuel programs now under way under the UC Berkeley banner. Other JBEI partners include other UCB energy labs and UC Davis. 

JBEI was funded by a $135 million grant from the federal Department of Energy, and the federal agency has put up $24.3 million for a Pacific Ethanol plant in Oregon that would transform plant fibers—rather than sugars—into ethanol. 

The second program is the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI), a $500 million program based at the lab and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. EBI’s proposed headquarters, the yet-to-be-built Helios Building at the lab, has been placed on hold by the university pending a redesign. 

The good news for ethanol producers comes in the form of a new federal regulation which raises the amount of ethanol targeted for use in the American gasoline supply from this year’s 7.76 percent requirement to the 2009 figure of 10.21 percent. 

The new requirement will raise ethanol consumption from 9 billion gallons to 11.1 billion. 

But the ethanol industry remains in turmoil, with the Des Moines Register reporting Wednesday that at least 16 plants are in various stages of bankputcy proceedings—including five in Ohio, which has the largest concentration of crop-to-fuel facilities.

Bread Workshop to Re-Open for Dinner Over Christmas

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 10:07:00 AM

The Bread Workshop on 1398 University Ave. received an approval from the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board last week to expand into a quick-service restaurant which will serve wine and beer. 

The bakery, which makes bread and distributes it to local restaurants, caters small events and offers sandwiches in its lunch menu, hopes to start serving dinner as soon as Christmas, owner William Briscoe said. 

Briscoe said that the need to introduce wine and beer arose when the dinner crowd started dwindling about a year ago, the last time he had introduced a dinner menu to his customers. 

“We had previously opened up for dinner but didn’t get enough customers,” he said. “We tried to do it for a year but our customers left when they weren’t able to get any beer or wine. So we had to close down dinner last November. I am looking forward to opening up for dinner again. We have been in the neighborhood for 20 years and know that a lot of customers will enjoy it.” 

After starting out as a wholesale business at 1250 Addison St., the Bread Workshop moved to its University Avenue location four years ago and has always operated as a locally owned community-oriented sustainable business. 

It was ranked as one of the top ten greenest restaurants in the Bay Area by the environmental group Thimmakka, given its penchant for either donating or recycling 95 percent of its waste products. 

The bakery also caters to PTA and school districts. The new permit will allow the restaurant to stay open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., an hour later than its current schedule. 

You Write the Daily Planet

Thursday November 20, 2008 - 09:56:00 AM

It’s time to submit your essays, poems, stories, artwork and photographs for the Planet’s annual holiday reader contribution issue, which will be published on Dec. 23 (that’s right—a Tuesday!). Send your submissions, no longer than 1,000 words, to holiday@berkeleydailyplanet.com. Deadline is 5 p.m. on Mon., Dec. 15.  

• • • 

Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, the Planet will publish on Wednesday next week.

First Person: Little Lectures Everywhere

By Martha Dickey
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 10:02:00 AM

One day last June I was driving down Shattuck Avenue through Berkeley. Sun splashed through the sycamore trees as I followed the arrows through the University Avenue intersection. 

I was a bit distracted, thinking about the rapist still at large, who, in the previous week had broken into several women’s houses in broad daylight. E-mails on our community listserv had passed along advice from the Berkeley police to close and lock our windows, even when we were home in the daytime, for our own protection. 

One of the victims lived right around here, I was thinking as I absently drove into a parking lane. As I maneuvered back into traffic in the vicinity of the Gratitude Café, I noticed a shape on the median island that appeared to be darting behind a tree. My mind made a wild connection: Could it be the rapist? Had I by some incredible coincidence spotted him running from his latest victim? 

The whirling lights that appeared in my rearview mirror seemed to confirm my suspicion. I pulled over to let the police car pass and to watch the dramatic arrest as it unfolded. But the police car did not pass. It pulled behind me and stopped. Lights still whirling, the policeman got out and walked toward my car, gradually becoming one enormous shiny button in my side-view mirror. Probably he was going to caution me to lock my car doors and keep my window closed even while I was inside my car. I cranked the window down and squinted up at him. “Anything wrong, officer?” I said. 

“You didn’t yield to that pedestrian in the crosswalk,” he said. 

“Are you sure?” I said, confused. Was he referring to the fugitive rapist in the median? 

“Yes,” he said, as the sun splashed off his badge and into my eyes, momentarily blinding me. “We were positioned at the corner watching.” 

We? I thought, turning to look. Sure enough there was a second police cruiser parked near the intersection waiting to trap the next unwitting violator. Apparently they didn’t want to risk missing one transgressor while they were citing another. 

I signed the citation (not admitting guilt, he assured me) and pulled back into traffic. Wisely, he claimed not to know what the amount of the fine would be and said that I would receive that information in the mail. “What Are You Grateful For?” mocked the sign on the Gratitude Café. 

To regain perspective, I went to the Berkeley Marina to observe the world turning on summer solstice expressed by the sundial at Caesar Chavez Park. I noticed that since I’d been up there last, words had mysteriously appeared on the rocks encircling the site where Native Americans had once gathered. Once silent as Stonehenge, the stones now spoke. “Hope,” one said. “Determination” encouraged another. Was this Chavez’s philosophy that some anonymous moralist had distilled for me, I wondered? Or had God done some ten-commandments-style emblazoning while no one was looking? Feeling a little violated, I climbed down from the mountaintop and returned home to wait for the traffic summons to arrive. 

Months passed, and I began to believe that the policeman was just trying to put a good scare into me and that there might not be any further action. Tentatively, I began to feel hope, then determination, and finally, gratitude. 

Also, I had acquired wisdom. I became hyper-respectful of Berkeley’s crosswalks that appear so unpredictably in the middle of selected blocks unrelated to any traffic signal. I began to drive haltingly, braking every few seconds, just in case. 

I graciously yielded the righteous-of-way to everything between the sacred white lines; even those riding bicycles. Why, I thought, maybe that police officer had prevented me from running over a pedestrian, or smashing into that bicyclist weaving through traffic like she was leading a pack of environmentalists. 

Then, sometime before Halloween it appeared innocuously in my mailbox in the jumble of catalogs and credit card offers. The plain slip of paper gave me the choice of appearing in court to present my version of the incident—versus that of possibly four police officers who were positioned at the intersection for the sole purpose of apprehending me—or mailing in a check for $159 to atone for my transgression. 

My gratitude vanished much quicker than it had materialized. Seething, I wrote the check, trying to console myself that my $159 would contribute, along with our incredibly high property taxes, to the maintenance of the ever-vigilant Berkeley police force—protecting the vulnerable, even if they happened to be rapists. 

Halloween’s twilight was appropriately crisp and hazy. My husband and I relished the drive through the streets of Albany that evening on our way to dinner during the hour when miniature ghosts, goblins and Baracks skipped through the darkening streets. Jack-o’-Lanterns simple and elaborate glowed from doorsteps. Under a crimson-leafed maple next to their front door, someone had stacked four pumpkins, each carved with a letter perfect enough for a printer’s font: together they spelled H-O-P-E. 

The next day I received another e-mail message from the Berkeley police reminding me, for my own protection, to keep my windows closed and locked at all times. After a hiatus, it seems the rapist (still at large) is back molesting single women in their homes on sunny afternoons as the earth moves in its weary path toward the winter solstice. I have a message of my own, but it would require too many pumpkins. 



First Person: Taps for the Abraham Lincoln Brigade

By Don Santina
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 10:07:00 AM

“You fought in Spain.” When the underground leader, Victor Lazlo, spoke this immortal line to Rick Blaine in the 1942 film classic Casablanca, he was acknowledging that the cynical nightclub owner played by Humphrey Bogart had already stood up to the Nazis and could be counted on to stand up again. Rick was one of the good guys. 

On March 21, we squeezed into in the packed Friday night emergency room of Oakland Kaiser Hospital with Ted Veltfort, another one of the good guys. He had fallen earlier in the day and was having trouble breathing. In panic, his wife Leonore had run up to Shattuck Avenue and flagged down a taxi to take him to the hospital instead of calling 911 for an ambulance. Ironically, Ted had driven an ambulance for the Spanish Republic during the civil war. His father never forgave him for following his political beliefs to Spain in 1937. 

After almost two hours, the ER doctor told us that Ted had pneumonia and they were keeping him at least overnight. Before we left, I told the doctor to take special care of him because he was one of the last veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade who had fought in Spain before World War II. She looked at me blankly. 

“You have to get well for the monument,” I said to Ted before we left. “It’s a week from Sunday.” He nodded. 

The battle for the Spanish Republic from 1936 to 1939 is regarded by many historians as the first battle of World War II. Five months after free elections, the fledgling democratic government of Spain was attacked by a clique of army officers who had support of troops from Fascist Italy and airpower from Nazi Germany. When the democracies of Europe and the United States declared a policy of nonintervention, the desperate Spanish government put out a call for international volunteers. Young men and women from all over the world poured into Spain to defend the republic. 

Approximately 2,800 of these volunteers came from the United States to form the Abraham Lincoln Battalion, later known as the Lincoln Brigade. They came from all walks of life: seamen, students, dock workers, ranch hands, carpenters, nurses, teachers. They were multi-racial: the Brigade was the first integrated American military unit and the first to have an African-American commander, Oliver Law. They fought major battles with the fascists in the Jarama Valley, at Brunete, Aragon, Teruel, and the Ebro River, often against overwhelming odds and with heavy casualties. Those odds worsened daily as the Nazi air force and fascist artillery pounded the blockaded and beleaguered republic. After three years of bloody battles, the republic was defeated and the international volunteers were withdrawn. 

Eight hundred volunteers of the Lincoln Brigade did not return home. 

“No man ever entered the earth more honorably than those who died in Spain,” Ernest Hemingway proclaimed, but as the war correspondent Martha Gellhorn noted just as accurately, “There were no rewards in Spain. They were fighting for us all, against the combined forces of European fascism. They deserved our thanks and respect, and they got neither.” 

Back home the Lincolns were subjected to years of harassment from their own government. But while they were being blacklisted and hounded out of their jobs during the epoch when Joe McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover were riding roughshod over the Bill of Rights, the veterans stood firm on their political convictions and remained active participants in the struggles for peace and justice—demonstrating that same idealist spirit that drew them to the cause of Spain. 

Richard Bermack, the Berkeley photographer and author of The Frontlines of Social Change: Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, noted that while doing the book, “I realized that you can keep your own ideals, though it’s not an easy thing to do at all. The point of the book is to show that none of them left the struggle.”  

There were about a hundred veterans left in August 2000 when the late San Francisco supervisor, Sue Bierman, introduced a resolution to the board to honor the Abraham Lincoln Brigade with a monument on the waterfront. The waterfront was chosen because it was the site of the historic 1934 Strike which changed labor relations on the West Coast forever. A number of participants in the strike became volunteers in Spain and returned to the Bay Area not only to work on the docks but also to become actively involved in civil rights and antiwar activities, including shutting down the shipment of goods to apartheid South Africa. The monument resolution passed the Board of Supervisors unanimously. 

Eight years later, on Sunday, March 30, 2008, the first American government-sanctioned monument to the Abraham Lincoln Brigade was dedicated with much fanfare on San Francisco’s Embarcadero. The monument, designed by Ann Chamberlain and Walter Hood, sits on a grassy area not far from the historic Ferry Building and Harry Bridges Plaza. The dockworkers are gone now, along with the cargo hooks, conveyors, and the low rumble of idling engines of cross-country trucks waiting to be loaded. Stevedores, seamen and strike breakers have been replaced by joggers, bicyclists and tourists. 

“Our monument is to remember a group of people who stood up to take a stand,” Peter Carroll, the historian, stated to the hundreds of people who gathered for the event. Carroll is the author of The Odyssey of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade: Americans in the Spanish Civil War.  

Eleven veterans were there for the ceremonies. Among them were Abe Osheroff, whose car was firebombed while he was helping rebuild churches in Mississippi during the Klan’s reign of terror in the 1960s; Dave Smith, who survived the Jarama Valley bloodbath, but lost a piece of his shoulder in a later battle—he could not return to his job as a machinist so he became a high school teacher and union activist; Nate Thornton, an out-of-work carpenter who joined the Brigade with his father, and longtime Berkeley resident Hilda Roberts, a combat nurse who also served in the Pacific during WWII and ultimately—as a silent antiwar witness with Women in Black.  

At the dedication, Abe Osheroff said that “the stuff we’re made of never goes away, with or without a monument because the bastards will never cease their evil, and the decent human beings will never stop their struggle.” 

Abe died a week later. Ted Veltfort never made it out of the hospital; he died there on April 7; Dave Smith within a few months at a union hospice in Berkeley. Milt Wolff, the last commander of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain, died in January. There are only about 24 Lincolns left now, and soon they too will pass into history.  

Dolores Ibarruri, the fiery spokesperson of the Republic also know as “La Pasionaria,” spoke these words of farewell as the Lincoln Battalion and the International Brigades left Spain in 1938: 

“You can go with pride. You are history. You are legend. You are the heroic example of the solidarity and the universality of democracy…We will not forget you; and when the olive tree of peace puts forth its leaves, entwined with the laurels of the Spanish Republic’s victory, come back!” 

Salud, brigadistas. 


Don Santina is a cultural historian who wrote the monument resolution that Sue Bierman introduced to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He lives in Oakland and can be reached at lindey89@aol.com. 



Party’s Over—Time to Get Back to Work

By Becky O’Malley
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 10:08:00 AM

As the economic news goes daily from bad to worse, Obamamania continues unabated. The explosion of national good humor which started in the East Bay at about 6 o’clock on election night is still resonating in all the small encounters of daily life. When I went to the lab at Kaiser this week, I saw once again a technician whose cubicle was decorated pre-election with the handsome Shepard Fairey portrait of Barack which was everywhere this fall. The last time I saw her, she was cluck-clucking about John McCain’s links to the S&L crisis. This time, she was all smiles and jokes about the outcome, as were all her colleagues in the lab—and the election was a couple of weeks ago. In the waiting room, a stout grandmother with 2-year-old in tow sported an updated version of the ubiquitious Obama T-shirts, this one with the whole new first family on the front. In front of the Paramount on Friday night, a T-shirt vendor was fast selling out his inventory of new and improved post-election Obama models to well-dressed Oakland Symphony patrons. 

I’m barely old enough to remember the similar burst of admiration and euphoria which greeted the arrival of the Kennedy family in the White House. Some of the ingredients were the same. The Kennedys too were handsome and stylish, a welcome change from the more-than-somewhat stodgy Eisenhowers. But the Eisenhower family and his administration were generally civil and approximately literate, seldom accused of being mean or nasty. Jack Kennedy offered change, just as Barack Obama did, but all he needed to promise then was to “get the country moving again,” which he did. 

The difference now, among other things, is that Obama’s election was preceded by at least eight years of a presidency which was a continuing embarrassment from its very first day. We went with similarly crazy friends to G.W. Bush’s first inauguation to protest the way he and his Supreme Court cronies stole that election, and it’s been only downhill since then.  

Many of us were not much happier with the prior Clinton administration. We knew at the time that his much-ballyhooed deregulation was a recipe for disaster, though we didn’t know how long it would take to wreak its havoc. And Bill Clinton’s lurid sex scandals were nothing to be proud of either.  

The Messianic qualities of Barack Obama’s emergence on the national scene are somewhat unnerving. You have to keep reminding yourself that although he’s a graceful, intelligent, articulate and (praise the lord) literate youngish man with a charming family, he’s bound to have some flaws, which will only appear over time.  

World literature and mythology are full of images of death and resurrection: the Golden Bough, the Phoenix and more. The United States of America and its reputation in the world have been so beaten and battered in the last half-century, with just a short break in Jimmy Carter’s mostly honorable single term, that anyone respectable is bound to look like a savior, like the phoenix arising from the ashes.  

If you add Richard Nixon and GHW Bush’s terms to those of Bill and GW, it’s been a long drought around here. In the words of the song (and the title of the book) “Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me.” When the symbolic significance of Obama’s African ancestry is added to the mix, it’s an irresistible combination, bound to induce euphoria. 

That’s why it’s incumbent on those of us who are mightily impressed with Barack Obama and his whole family to keep our critical faculties intact. Despite good intentions and personal integrity, John Kennedy took the country in some unfortunate policy directions. The disastrous Vietnam war had its roots in the Kennedy administration.  

A cloud on this week’s sunny horizon is the lurking presence of Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers, two of the villains in the Clinton economic debacle. Bob Scheer in his syndicated column at truthdig.com does a good job of skewering them, and Obama supporters everywhere should suggest to their hero that much better advice is available.  

Rahm Emmanuel, chosen for Obama’s chief of staff, is both good news and bad news. He’s smart and competent, but he used his brains and muscle to push Clinton’s dreadful welfare reform policies. His father seems to have worked with the Israeli terrorist group Irgun in his youth, and just caused a flap with racist-appearing anti-Arab remarks quoted in the Israeli press, though Rahm apologized for him later. Perhaps the son is wiser than the father, but let’s wait and watch. 

On the other hand, the list of excellent advisers that Obama has assembled is very long, so a few bad apples probably won’t spoil the whole bunch. But—to mix in one more metaphor—it’s time for the rose-colored glasses to come off. 

One more good news footnote: For Californians, the passage of Proposition 8 marred an otherwise triumphant election day, but the swift legal response backed by everyone from the NAACP to the ACLU looks like it has an excellent chance of getting that bad vote overturned on constitutional grounds. And for Berkeleyans, more good news seems to be that only four people in our whole city contributed to the Yes on 8 campaign, as compared to hundreds in the No on 8 column. A reader asked us to print the names of the foolish four, but that’s not really needed. They know who they are, and history is not on their side. 



Band of Pirates

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 10:08:00 AM

I Voted...

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 10:07:00 AM

Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday November 20, 2008 - 10:09:00 AM




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I want to add my voice to those who protested the censorship at the Windows Gallery. This exhibition was a part of the nationwide protest exhibitions which, under the title “Art and Democracy,” organized many exhibitions of political art. I have been working with this enterprise and, as far as I know, the only show that was censored was here in Berkeley, the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement. In a country where one and all are carrying and using deadly weapons, it does seem important to let people—including children—know what they do and how they kill. Our Civic Arts Commission, which approved the ridiculous sculpture on the Pedestrian Bridge, should know better than to ban an exhibition which might have added to our discourse of bearing arms. 

Peter Selz 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am responding to some statements in this paper about the “Art in Democracy” exhibit, originally scheduled for the Addison Street Windows Gallery. 

The show was canceled by Art Hazelwood, the organizer, not by the city. 

The guidelines for the Windows Gallery are simple, and are made explicitly clear to artists when they apply for an exhibit, months prior to the opening. Mr. Hazelwood had a choice: agree to the guidelines, or decline to exhibit. In an e-mail to the curator in January, 2008 he wrote “I think we can fill the windows without sex, violence or guns.” 

In October, Mr. Hazelwood and the curator met to verify the images he had selected, and they concurred that four of the works clearly failed to meet the criteria for inclusion in the Gallery. Mr. Hazelwood agreed to show the remaining posters, self-censoring his own exhibit in accordance with the guidelines. A few days later he flip-flopped. He canceled the exhibition just days before it was scheduled to open, breaching his contract with the city.  

Recently, in a public meeting, Mr. Hazelwood admitted his agreement to the guidelines was a commitment he fully intended to break. Then he and his associates went to the media with invented issues of free speech and censorship. I believe Mr. Hazelwood and his coterie carefully planned this misrepresentation in order to set up the city and gain publicity.  

Joel Teller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Addison Street Windows Curator Carol Brighton is to be congratulated for her efforts. Her intellectual forebear Thomas Bowdler would undoubtedly be proud of her. 

Guns are just the tip of the iceberg. Swords, knives, baseball bats, fists, civilian airplanes, even rope deserve a place on Ms. Brighton’s proscribed list.  

Ms. Brighton and Ms. Merker ought to turn over the names of artists manque such as Doug Minkler and Jos Sances to the Department of Homeland Security for a thorough investigation of their un-American art. Gitmo is still open, at least for the next 70 days or so. 

Ms. Merker and Ms. Brighton undoubtedly have the wholehearted support of Mayor Bates, personally experienced as he is in suppressing the free-speech rights of Berkeley residents. 

Shankar Ramamoorthy 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

In honor of the election of Barack Obama I believe we should start a new dance craze called “The Obama.” It should be jazzy, classy and upbeat. I believe it will catch on. 

We have the Macarena, the Jitterbug, the Charleston, the Two Step, Swing, the Tango, the Waltz, the Polka, etc. I am open to suggestions as to what form the dance “The Obama” should take.  

Possibilities for “The Obama” are: 

1. Democratic version: Two steps forward, one step back (not everything goes as you plan or hope), swing or circle to the left, always to the left. Have the audacity to hope for the best. 

2. Republican version: Two steps back, never forward, always swing or turn to your right. Hope the craze never catches on. 

3. The Independent voter version: Do not participate. Never take the dance floor. Be a wallflower.  

4. The Green Party version: Expend as much energy as humanly possible. Try to harness that energy and put it to good use. 

5. The Libertarian version: Dance freely with no structure whatsoever. Try hard to keep in tempo with the beat but don’t fret the structure or rigidity of the dance. Express yourself with no concern about what effect you are having on others. 

6. The Sarah Palin version: Dosado and pander to the right. Never Alemende left. Don’t bother learning how to dance, just do it. Dance as if God is directing your every step. 

Paul M. Schwartz 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Daniella Thompson writes in her interesting Nov. 13 article on William Henry Smyth and his Fernwald property that the Smyth House was “built in 1889 by realtor Joseph L. Scotchler, a leading Berkeley Republican...”  

Property records and newspaper articles are essential research tools, but they do not necessarily tell the whole, or most accurate, story. 

Years ago while researching, in my UC staff capacity, the history of the California Schools for the Deaf and Blind campus in Berkeley, I came across a fascinating photograph of the school site, now the Clark Kerr campus. 

The photograph, identified as taken in 1874, looked from the vicinity of what is now Garber Street northeast across the fields, showing the Deaf School campus and, beyond it on an otherwise open hillside, a white Victorian house with adjacent barn and plantings.  

The photograph must date from before January 1875, when the main stone edifice on the school campus burned. 

The hillside house in the photograph is so similar to Smyth House in massing, siting, and details such as placement of chimneys and windows, that I have thought it most probably shows the earlier incarnation of what is now Smyth House. If that is the case it’s far older than 1889, dating to the early 1870s at least.  

I thought I also might offer a helpful bit of additional detail on the origins of the Fernwald dormitories. During World War II, many fraternities in Berkeley shut down for the duration, and were rented to women who made up the majority of the Cal student population from the fall of 1943 through the spring of 1945.  

When the war ended the fraternities notified their women residents that they would have to leave. The construction of the Fernwald residence halls for women was one of the results. Later, they became co-educational, with separate buildings for men and women students and, still later, were converted to the family student apartments that remain there today.  

Margaret Dewell, my old supervisor at the University’s Housing Office, who was at Cal in that period, always recalled with pride the speed with which the campus responded to that sudden housing crisis at the end of the War. She referred to the Fernwald dormitories as “90-day wonders,” since they were constructed in about three months. 

Because of his gift of property that became the Fernwald residence halls, William Smyth’s name is now inscribed with those of individuals such as Phoebe Hearst, Jane Sather, and the Haas family, on the University’s memorial wall honoring “Builders of Berkeley” near the north entrance to Doe Library. 

Steven Finacom 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding Judith Segard Hunt’s Nov. 13 letter demanding that people using senior BART tickets pay double during rush hour: I qualify for these tickets, and use them every morning on my way to the part-time job in Oakland that keeps me from living on the street and starving to death. Does Ms. Hunt think that all the seniors who so inconvenience her by riding BART during rush hour are on their way to the golf course? If so, than I can only hope and pray that she finds herself in the same position when her time comes. For shame! 

Michael Stephens 

Point Richmond 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The election results showed a solid pro-transit majority in Berkeley. Over 70 percent supported AC Transit’s Measure VV, 

and over 75 percent voted no on Berkeley’s anti-BRT Measure KK. If the Belgian manufacturer of Van Hool buses really did contribute to these campaigns, I’d like to think the result was better-informed voters. 

While Berkeley was considering KK, the city of Cleveland implemented a new BRT, with proof of payment (POP), hybrid buses and bus-only lanes.  

Now that we know that a majority of us want better bus service, it’s time to stop fooling around; we should ignore the endless minority misinformation campaigns and start planning for a BRT that will both give us car-free transportation and make a real contribution to the fight against global warming. Berkeley cannot claim to have a real Climate Action Plan unless Berkeley is planning for BRT—with bus-only lanes. 

We should negotiate reasonable compromises on the bus-only lanes. They don’t have to be everywhere. Some sections can be bus-only just during the rush hours. AC Transit should implement POP on the Rapid lines now. If Van Hool can’t supply hybrid buses for BRT, AC Transit should get them from Orion. AC Transit should stop sending people on junkets to Belgium and start sending observers to New York City (which runs Orions) and of course to see Cleveland’s BRT. I may visit Cleveland myself this spring. 

Steve Geller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It seems to me that 9,900 people who care for Telegraph Avenue voted for this and that 29,000 people who thought they were saving polar bears voted against it. 

It is very uncertain that carbon or pollution would be saved by BRT. The traffic back-ups that result will cause a good deal of pollution. Bus ridership will decrease because local service will be eliminated so there will be fewer buses spitting diesel into the air. This is a blessing for greenies but not for most bus users. 

We’ve got to face the fact that AC Transit is doing it for the money and prestige of having a BRT system. Our mayor is trying to amass green credentials in hopes of a job in the Obama administration. I do hope he gets one, it will save us a lot of trouble. 

No one is fooling anyone about the ridership on buses from Oakland to Berkeley. The route parallels BART for longer distances, and the true ridership is on the local that serves the people who live on Telegraph. 

We have ridden and studied the situation and if ever there was a tempest in a teapot, this is it.  

We’ve also got to face the fact that successful BRTs add lanes for traffic and the web is full of examples of huge traffic jams caused by BRTs that reduce lanes for cars. These sure cause pollution and carbon. 

Even though GM may well disappear, cars are here to stay, our towns are designed for them, and many of us, including me, cannot walk well enough any more to get to a bus. We need our car. 

George Oram 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Did you participate in the Coastal Cleanup in September? Thousands of volunteers came out to help pick up trash along California’s beaches and waterways as part of a global effort. 

Unfortunately, the recent rains flushed a fresh load of styrofoam cups, plastic bags, cigarette butts, and other non-degradable trash down into the storm sewers, and out into the bay. The streets and sidewalks of Berkeley, like most other cities in the world, are littered with plastic trash. Although most plastic waste ends up in landfills, the fraction which does wind up as litter constitutes a major pollution problem. Much of this litter will wash out into the Pacific ocean to join a huge floating plastic garbage patch, and it will remain there indefinitely. Plastic does not biodegrade, and therefore it is critical that we find ways to reduce and eventually eliminate plastic litter. Otherwise future generations will inherit a world choked by our carelessly discarded coffee cups and soda straws. 

What to do? Each of us must play a role. Make sure your trash doesn’t wind up on the sidewalk or in the gutter. Don’t overfill trash cans. Pick up some litter every day. Don’t throw cigarette butts on the ground. Avoid creating plastic trash by looking for ways to avoid using throw-away items. When you go out for meal, support the many restaurants listed on GreenMyCuisine.com that use compostable containers. Encourage your favorite eateries to participate. If each of us does a little, we can all accomplish a lot. 

Jim Meador 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is absolutely critical that impeachment hearings start now for Cheney and Bush. Do not let Bush pardon himself, Cheney, and everyone else pre-emptively, before they have even been charged with crimes against the Constitution. The evidence is too strong to ignore—and we at least need hearings to get the truth and justice! 

Cynthia Papermaster 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Darren Main is mistaken; he leaps to the conclusion that demonstrations opposing the Mormons’ funding of Proposition 8 are the same as opposing the Mormon religion, and that such demonstrations disrupt services. 

The Nov. 9 demonstration at the Oakland Mormon Temple did not disrupt services, had nothing to do with religion, and had everything to do with politics and equal rights. 

The Mormons’ history of persecution for, among other things, its unorthodox view of marriage, is a history of an unconventional minority group finally finding acceptance and the freedom to worship as they please. Using that strength to fund an effort to rob a protected class of its fundamental rights is entirely separate from worship, and should be opposed from both within the church and from the outside community. 

Those who participated in funding Proposition 8 need to see the faces and the outrage of those they have wronged; gay people who live in a second-class status, and straight people who find this not only specifically objectionable, but who worry that churches will continue to use their tax-free dollars to target others. 

There is nothing wrong with Darren Main’s suggestion that everyone try to be respectful. But there is nothing disrespectful in standing outside someone’s church with a sign promoting equal rights, and taking care to make sure one chooses inclusive, pro-equal rights businesses to patronize in the community. 

Carol Denney 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It seems strange that no one is talking about putting a measure to repeal Proposition 8 on the next ballot. The outcome was close enough to suggest the outcome rests on vagaries of turnout. If it is on the ballot every single election, the chances go up for overturning this misery. 

Another thing to consider is the out of state money that will pour in to defeat this effort. That money will bring jobs and profits to our local media industry. Furthermore, a continuous effort will eventually exhaust the resources of the opposition. 

By all means, work for repeal through courts. However, it wouldn’t hurt to pursue all avenues of relief. Besides, when the pro-Prop. 8 advocates say, “Why don’t you respect the will of the people,” one can reply, “We do. That’s why it’s on the ballot.” 

Thomas Laxar 

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Now that Proposition 8 was overwhelmingly approved by California voters, many protesting voices are belatedly heard. It would seem many opponents were shocked by the huge number of voters, especially in the Hispanic and African American communities, who oppose gay marriage. And now opponents are angry and hurt. But they should not have been surprised. In fact, both Obama and McCain campaigned as opponents of gay marriage. According to Mayor Willie Brown, the pro-Proposition 8 campaign very successfully used audio of Barack Obama expressing his opposition to gay marriage in robocalls to likely African American voters. Perhaps gay marriage supporters shouldn’t support candidates who oppose gay marriage. If gay marriage supporters had thrown their support to a pro-gay marriage candidate like Ralph Nader, perhaps the Democrats wouldn’t have taken the pro-gay marriage vote for granted.  

Nathaniel Hardin 

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding David Bacon’s Nov. 13 piece: To publish a lengthy commentary on the subject of illegal immigration that does not once mention the word “illegal” shows how loony the left is becoming. The first stage of insanity is denial. 

James Riley 

New York, NY 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Marc Sapir ludicrously clams that the Jewish people who returned to their homeland “lay waste” to the land. Of course, the Jews took a land that was mostly waste and developed it into a modern country—to the benefit of both Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel. And of course Israel did this despite multiple attempts by surrounding Arab countries to destroy it, and while integrating millions of refugees not only from Europe but also from Arab lands. 

If Sapir wants to see a member of a society that actually has seized land and subjugated the indigenous people, he merely has to look in the mirror—or doesn’t he realize that all of us are living on land that once belonged to the Ohlone and the Miwok? How does he think that this area came to be part of the United States? And, of course, those of us who are not Native American do not have our historical, cultural and religious roots in this area. 

When Sapir voluntarily turns over his own home to the descendants of the Native Americans that once lived in the area, then he can stand on his moral pedestal and demand that others living halfway around the world do the same. Until then, he’s just a hypocrite. 

Michael Harris 

San Rafael 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Your paper is so biased against Israel and the Jewish people that it is painful for me to read. You never put issues into long-term historical perspective (such as noting the continual attacks by Arab neighbors throughout Israel’s history as well as the sanctuary that Israel has provided for millions of refugees and victims of genocide).  

The British mandate as well as the United Nations gave the Jewish people back a portion their homeland and gave the Arab people a much larger portion of land called Transjordan. Israel was immediately surrounded and attacked in 1948 and many times thereafter. The Jewish people fought back and won those wars of aggression. Land was taken by the victor to ensure security at its borders. Israel did not ask for the 1967 nor the 1973 wars against it. Jordan is a Palestinian State. The West Bank and Gaza can become an independent Arab state if they would stop attacking Israel and negotiate for peace.  

Your paper makes everything one-sided. Since when does a warring conflict not involve missteps on both sides? How about calling for an end to Arab aggression? Call for an end to Hamas and Hezbollah openly calling for the complete destruction of Israel? Show me the peace advocates representing the Arab side? To live in peace, the Arab Palestinians must be working for peace as well. Both sides must work hard. Your paper is blinded by anti-Semitism, for you can only see the bad aggressive Jews in this situation. Jews are tired of being victims. I am tired of your anti-Semitic, biased and hateful editorials and news articles.  

There are 15 Arab countries within an hours drive from Israel. Let them open their doors to the suffering Palestinians. They have vast amounts of land to share. If they truly cared about their brothers’ suffering, let them provide land and resources to the Palestinians. The people have made a viable country out of a land with few resources. The Arab people could do the same if they stopped warring with Israel and helped one another create a good life for their people. Destroying Israel is not going to bring prosperity or a stable government to the Palestinians. Working for a positive society based on gender and sexual equality, democracy and peace will truly help the Palestinians have a viable existence. That said, shame on you for your very evident bias and anti-Semitism.  

Gail Taback 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Eating my Wheaties or whatever while working my way through the intricacies of the Maio-Browning/Kennedy dealings over the past several years, I mostly felt mildly intrigued, even amused. I did drop my spoon, though, when I came to the sentence including such phrases as “homeowners’ association,” “pending ‘major suit,’” and “alleged ‘shoddy workmanship’” with respect to 1805 University Ave. Have we not been here before? Didn’t the roof leak, the mold invade, the tenants sue with respect to that other Kennedy property, the Gaia building, which, as a different article in the same issue of the Planet, probably incidentally placed on the facing page, divulges, has been recently cited as a public nuisance? One bad building could be an accident. Lemons happen. Two bad buildings strongly indicate a developer who cuts his corners a little too close. No matter which side one takes on the very Berkeley issue of cell phone antennas, one thing should be clear to all: Unless you thrive on problems and lawsuits, don’t move into a building built by developer Patrick Kennedy. 

Joanna Graham 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In their meeting in Chicago on Monday, President-elect Obama and Sen. McCain spoke convincingly of working together for the good of the country. 

But the recent campaign has been marked by attacks that were unusually personal, vindictive, and false. These attacks have agitated the fears and hatreds of the small portion of the country, which has phobias about non-whites, and in general those they see as being Others. This includes attendees who were heard shouting, “Kill him” during Sen. McCain’s campaign rallies. 

Sen. McCain bears the liability for fueling these warped feelings by allowing his supporters to believe that Obama is a Muslim (and there is nothing wrong with being a Muslim), that he was secretly educated at a terrorist madrassa, that he will ruin America with socialism, and so on. 

Sen. McCain has a responsibility to the country he loves to undo the harm done by his campaign’s corrosive statements. 

He can do this fairly readily by publicly and repeatedly saying that he believes President-elect Obama is a good Christian. (Again, this should not be necessary, as it is not a requirement for any national office, but it would be helpful even so.) It would be even more effective if McCain could honestly say that he and Obama had prayed together for the future of this country. 

Sen. McCain could also say that he believes President-elect Obama’s education was one that he found to be normal and healthy. And that he believes he and Obama will work together as respectful partners to solve our common economic and other problems. 

It would be highly useful for Sen. McCain to say how much he deplores all violent notions, such as the skinhead assassination plot recently foiled by the FBI. He could state categorically that he has full confidence in Obama now that he is president-elect and that he strongly believes that all thoughts and plans of violence are misguided, wrongheaded, and un-American. 

The intemperate rhetoric of Sen. McCain’s campaign has sowed the wind. It appears to be time for the senator to calm that wind, so that we do not all reap its whirlwind. 

Gov. Palin could also be instrumental in the same way by undoing the rhetorical excesses of her campaign. 

These proposed actions would be well received by the nation and would redound greatly to the credit of those who took part in them. 

Brad Belden 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Voters across America have just rejected the Republican anti-government philosophy by electing Barack Obama and sending more Democrats to Congress and to the state Legislature. It is time for Republicans to respect the will of the people. 

Republican legislators in Sacramento want a cuts-only budget and are using the two-thirds rule to prevent any tax increases. This rule is enabling a minority of legislators in Sacramento to dictate our tax policies. It is preventing us from solving our budget problems in a manner consistent with the wishes of the majority of voters. California is one of just three states with a two-thirds rule—the others are Arkansas and Rhode Island. Even deeply conservative states like Utah and Texas do not have a two-thirds rule. 

A cuts-only budget will make our economic crisis far worse, leading to massive job losses. That will actually make the budget deficit worse, as tax revenues will drop further. Even Gov. Schwarzenegger recognizes the need to find new revenues. Schools will close and teachers will be fired in the middle of the school year. Thousands will lose access to health care if the Republicans prevail. 

Majority rule is a basic principle of American democracy. If it’s good enough for the Founding Fathers it’s good enough for California. The two-thirds rule is allowing Republicans to obstruct solutions to this crisis. It makes California ungovernable and must be changed. 

Leonard Conly 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding my previous letter to the editor, published last week, entitled “Where is the compassion?” I’d like to retract one statement where I said, “Where the poor and the homeless would be hungry, the people in the hills would be gorging on Thanksgiving.” 

What I would like to say is that I have friends in the Berkeley Hills and one of them bailed my camera out of the pawn shop. I had gotten in debt when I was making a documentary on Tent City. My statement was an unwarranted generalization, which probably applies to some in the hills but not all. People are individuals and no doubt there are not a few hill people who donate to free food for the homeless, especially on the holidays. 

Another matter that upsets me is that SSI does not really allow people to adequately pay for their food if they are paying rent, unless they have federally funded Section 8 housing. I have been fighting with the Berkeley Housing Authority over what I think is misuse of funds. People who live in Berkeley are welcome to call me at 540-6772 to voice your concerns and maybe we can get some real change. Thank you very much. 

Diane Arsanis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Acorn Woodpeckers (Melanerpes formicivorus) are handsome, noisy and very charming birds that live in oak woodlands in California. They have extended family groups and in the spring, summer and autumn, they gather insects for themselves and to feed their young. They also gather and store acorns for a winter food supply. In recent years, much of their traditional oak tree woodland habitat in central Contra Costa County has been invaded by humans and transformed into housing developments. 

Since the Acorn Woodpeckers have been losing their traditional oak granary-trees to human “progress,” and being smart and inventive creatures, they have turned to using parts of houses as places to store their acorns for winter. 

Rossmoor residents are primed to start killing Acorn Woodpeckers in a fruitless attempt to discourage new generations of birds from drilling holes in houses. 

Instead of trying to kill off the woodpeckers, the residents of Rossmoor could provide some alternative acorn storage facilities, such as erecting some nice new un-chemically-treated telephone poles. Also, they could consider replacing part of their golf course with some native oak tree woodland. They could also protect vulnerable wood areas of their houses with metal trim. 

James K. Sayre 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

People, like me, who read the Daily Planet, seem to be mostly college grads who write forcefully with good vocabularies. Here’s a vocabulary question for all of us college grads, as our country goes into a swirling, maelstrom, economic toilet: What are “hedge funds,” “derivatives,” “investment banks vs. regular banks,” “liquidity,” “leveraging,” and 50 more terms which I, and I suspect, most of us who claim to be educated, have no comprehension of?! Seems like in the future, our children, who we hope and pray will be able to go to college, should be required to take a course in American capitalism, which is based on the laissez-faire market. Then, with hope, they might be able to anticipate another collapse and prevent it. Even, perhaps, they might have enough foresight and guts to change the system. They will be able to bring America into an era of true democracy where class warfare results in some victories for the middle and lower classes.  

Robert Blau 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The latest regulation from those nice folks who brought us the Van Hool buses: “Strollers must be folded up or rolled to the back of the bus.” 

No one who actually rides the buses could ever expect to see this regulation enforced. The typical stroller is loaded down with all the stuff one has to carry, along with the baby (in fact, there is often no room for the baby in the stroller). The aisles in the Van Hools are not wide enough to allow strollers to reach the rear sections, and some drivers do no allow anyone except disabled passengers to enter by the rear door. 

People who use strollers and push carts struggle to get onto the bus wherever and however they can. Sometimes the only place they can actually get to is the front of the bus. Their fellow riders and the best drivers do what they can to work around them. It makes no sense to heap new regulations on people who are already doing the best they can. 

Marcella Murphy 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

If our country is to return to the rule of law then there cannot be allowed a failure to apply that standard of law to those who have acted in a criminal fashion for the past eight years. The United States can never even begin to repair its image to the world unless the criminals who seized power through a corrupt Supreme Court and then maintained that power via election theft are brought to justice! 

Allen Michaan 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Is anyone opting for the narrow trains of Rapid Transit Monorail on Sacramento Street and University Avenue as the more centrally located alternatives to the noisy bus gas guzzlers planned far too far east on Telegraph Avenue? Shouldn’t our PUBLIC transportation system be a system that serves our residents, thus be more centrally located? Hasn’t anyone been on the quiet monorail in Disneyland, Oregon other places in the world? Shouldn’t we meet our social justice policies for South West and North West Berkeley and opt for environmental justice policies of cleaner, quieter transport? 

Have a look at where our local public schools are located—far more are close to Sacramento Street and University Avenue than Telegraph Avenue which has Le Conte and Willard. Sacramento Street is wide and could accommodate a monorail with less impacts on businesses and require less infrastructure construction and modifications. Regional transit passes would allow riders to transfer to the North Berkeley BART and in one stop they would be in downtown Berkeley or two stops north the BART Del Norte Transit Center where there is bus service east to Martinez, Fairfield, Sacramento, Davis, etc., northward to Vallejo, Napa, etc., and across the bay to the Marin County Transit Hub with connections to Santa Rosa, Eureka, and even the Pacific coast on Highway 1. 

Likewise University Avenue could have a center monorail from the train station to the UC Crescent or even from a ferryboat depot and satellite parking with transfers from small transports from the hills. 

Must we be such dummies that we go along with the Van Hool Bus Transit Company (also known as AC Transit) self-serving plans to introduce more petrol guzzlers? Is it true that on Measure VV, that the out of state ABC Company, the agent for Van Hool Buses sponsored the campaign? How much return on their investment for Proposition VV will they gain because we want good public transit be more rider friendly—especially for seniors, disabled and families with children and babies in strollers? 

Measure KK to require voter approval for lane removal was an excellent opener to get us thinking and talking with our neighbors on what do we want and what would be best for the needs of our community. How much money was used for KK and how much for the No on KK? 

And how do the comparisons on reducing car trips to take children to and from schools factor out for the monorail alternative compared to the Rapid Bus plans at present for climate action projections? 

Anamaria Sanchez Romero 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The bus vs. car debate goes around in circles. Russ Tilleman points out in the Nov. 13 edition of the Daily Planet that buses are gas guzzlers, that a bus with four people gets half the passengers per mile of a driver only Toyota Prius. On the other hand, bus advocates say people who won’t take the clumsy monsters are just lazy, that public transit worked back before GM and the oil companies destroyed the system. 

But back when transit worked we didn’t need to travel as much. Now we seem driven to drive. The shrink is in Orinda, the pre-school that the kid absolutely must attend is in Alameda, the favorite family restaurant is way out Geary Boulevard in San Francisco fog, the health care we have makes us go to Contra Costa for radiation and to San Mateo for brain surgery. And where we once were happy with jug wine we now rush to San Rafael at word that Posh Wines, Inc. is selling Abyssinian champagne for 20 percent off. 

Ted Vincent 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Voters flocked to the polls for Barack Obama, many believing his administration will respect marginalized communities when shaping foreign policy, and thereby change the United States’ status as a bully among nations. But we warn that the appointment of Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff may nullify Obama’s mandate for change. Emanuel’s appointment is a signal that Palestinians’ voices still fall on deaf ears in the United States—although they commemorated 60 years of ruthless occupation this year. 

The United Jewish Communities’ director praised Emanuel as “coming from good Irgun stock.” This sends a threatening message to Palestinians and the world, because the Irgun was a Zionist terrorist organization that massacred civilians! Emanuel continues his family’s commitment to Israel’s military brutality—he supports the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and supported Israel’s 2006 bombing of Lebanon, silencing voices of opposition before Congress. In 2005, he voted to permanently adopt the Patriot Act, showing his support for repressive policies at home as well as abroad. He voted to start, and continually fund, the Iraq war. 

The Obama/Biden website (http://origin.barackobama.com/issues/foreign_policy/#onisrael) indicates their plan to continue giving a blank check to Israel. As anti-Zionist Jews, we state that denouncing Israeli apartheid is not anti-Jewish, but fundamental to an honest path to peace and justice. Obama has stated that political movements on the ground must be hailed by Washington; we call all progressive movements to hold Obama’s administration accountable to their stated ideals by working in solidarity with Palestinian people for justice in their land. 

Brooke Lober 

Greg Hom 

International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Bay Area Chapter 


EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous letter from this organization, published in the Oct. 23 edition, was signed by Rebecca Tumposky, whose name was inadvertently omitted because of an editing error. 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The aftershock of the earth moving election of the 44th president of the United States is turning out to be as momentous as the event itself, albeit without the jubilation.  

Barack Obama campaigned as a man of the people and the people have not been silent about what they expect him to do: Leave Iraq, fix the economy, close Guantanamo, outlaw torture, stop warrantless wiretapping, enact universal medical care, reform immigration policy, and on and on and on. The dominant media reports breathlessly about who’ll get appointed or not get appointed to this or that cabinet post and when and how this or that should be done or not done, and on and on and on. 

Everyone—supporters, opponents and uncommitted—is offering advice. For example, the Washington Post solicited “Some thoughts on what Obama’s top priority should be” and published over a dozen proffered by people of various ilks including Linda Chavez (Reagan celeb), Carly Fiorina (failed HP exec), Ted Turner (rich maverick). By way of contrast, Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize novelist, advised “Brother Obama” to “keep happy and free and relaxed.” 

If each bit of advice were a drop of water the last two weeks would have drowned Obama’s administration eight weeks before the inauguration. 

How does The Man himself handle this flood? Well, he was quick to choose a chief of staff (gatekeeper) and his first post-election press conference concerned the economic crisis. It was memorable only for a staged photo of himself flanked by 10 notables on his left and an equal number on his right of whom the most outstanding were the tallest, Paul Volker (former Treasury secretary) and the shortest, Robert Reich (former Labor secretary). 

Last Sunday Barack and Michelle Obama sat down before Steve Kroft for a full “60 Minutes” interview and when it was over one conclusion was overwhelming: Whether he will be a good president or a bad one, whether he’ll be successful, transforming or what, this man is in full possession of himself, as is his wife. He has mastered the lesson of Socrates: More than any public figure alive today, Barack Obama knows himself.  

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I think it’s wonderful that the banks and mortgage companies and other financial institutions are getting a money boost to bail them out of the holes they’ve dug for themselves. All those years of ripping us off and they still couldn’t rake in enough profit to pay those million-dollar salaries to their CEOs. 

When I applied for my annual $340 Renters’ Credit from the State Tax Board, which I usually depend on to buy something that I can’t ordinarily afford like, say, a warm jacket or a pair of shoes (I survive on a government disability check). I was told that the great State of California doesn’t have enough loot in its budget to issue the Renters’ Credit checks. No warm jacket for you! 

How about a bailout for us? I noticed that during all the political hoo-ha this election year I heard no mention made of the poor. A few campaigners paid lip service to the middle class and even the working poor (is there a difference?) but those of us hanging by our fingernails to the lowest rung of the socio-economic ladder are apparently going to be left still twisting in the winds of change which will be blowing through the New America. 

The poor are still here and we’re not about to turn to the wall and die, as many of our politicians seem to fervently wish. We hung on all through the Reagan years, didn’t we? Maybe some of us still have hope, hope that things will somehow get better for ourselves and our families. Hope that somehow, someday, there will be a bailout for us. Don’t these idiot politicians realize that 99 percent of whatever bailout we might receive will go directly back into the economy rather than some bank in Switzerland? 

What’s happening in this country is absurd. To allow the giant money-machines to further perpetuate their sleazy scams on the public is ridiculous. To subsidize them is just nuts. A bloodthirsty feeding frenzy seems the inevitable result of such madness. Hopefully they’ll devour each other and make room for a real plan. 

Aggie Max 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Congress apparently is considering another rebate to the taxpayers so that they can again buy Asian goods, hardly doing anything for America’s economy. Jobs are what stimulates the economy, and jobs are needed most by people laid off in construction with many workers chewing up dwindling unemployment funds. So we need a program of refurbishing or rebuilding some of the rundown old public housing complexes. For $10 billion a year for few years, 200,000 people can be put to work at $45,000 a year; 100,000 directly at the complexes and 100,000 in supplying new flooring, new plumbing, new doors and windows, new electrical wiring systems, etc. These workers will then be spending to generate other jobs in consumer goods, and services as well as for basic food and clothing putting perhaps another 50,000-plus back to work. They will be off unemployment payments and will be paying some taxes including some back to unemployment fund, and the companies contracted for the work will be spending on their operations and paying taxes. I urge readers to contact their congresspersons to call for jobs programs to recover our economy. And forget the rebate that will mainly help Asian economies.  

James Singmaster 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Last November UC Berkeley Chief of Police Celaya gave orders to frame a protester with autism for literally terrorist actions: a fictional chemical attack sending a squad of officers to the ER. One officer was allegedly disfigured; perhaps even at death’s door. Colluding in the fraud were UC Berkeley detective (and former UCB football player) Wade McAdams, officers Ruffin, Hernandez, Micelli, Zoe Garlick and Sean Aranas. The Autistic was going to face intense felony charges; he was going jail for 10 years. Twisted vengeance for mere participation at the oak grove. Some readers may recall the story as the UC’s propagandist Nathan Bromstrom made sure almost every Bay Area newspaper printed (on paper and online) the lie along with the full name of The Autistic. 

Last November, ADA Robert Graff, working under the guidance of Alameda County DA Tom Orloff, began creating the legal script in which to frame The Autistic. 

Fifty-one weeks later, both the UC and the DA’s office failed. The lie was too bold to sustain; certainly the disfigured person couldn’t be faked. The graver injuries vanished; seven felony counts turned into five. Also, The Autistic was carrying a recording device while interacting with police officers: gotcha. Felonies crumbled into soft excuses for misdemeanors (dull typical tree sit ground crew stuff). The Autistic who was to lose a decade of his life to prison isn’t going to see one day in jail. 

That protester was me. For almost a year the UC and the DA’s office had been trying to not only destroy my reputation and life, but also degrade what few legal protections autistics have in the criminal system. They tried to argue that people with my specific diagnosis (Asperger’s) are psychotically violent. They didn’t release any tapes of my arrest, as they all featured cops beating the daylights out of me. With my camera and YouTube account (Oaks4Peace), I escaped Graff and Celaya’s bizarre and stupid scheme against me. But what of others in the autistic community? Awkward and naïve to the criminal system, we are increasingly becoming scapegoats for the police and DA. Please help protect our community by contacting the DA’s office (272-6222), UC Berkeley Police (643-9597), and demand they cease the autism witchhunt. For more information contact the Autism Spectrum Liberation Front (autismliberation@yahoo.com). 

Nathan Pitts 

How George Bush Helped the Grassroots Movement

By Jack Bragen
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 10:55:00 AM

George Bush and Dick Cheney don’t mind being perceived as villains. Their value system does not prioritize popularity. They both seem to operate from a mysterious agenda that includes their vision of how they think the world ought to be. 

Because of his behavior, Bush has provoked the outrage and anger of billions of people across the globe. While in the process of carrying out his plans, he may not have quite understood how many people became unhappy with him and to what extent. In the final months of his last term, the mean sarcasm that characterized Bush, and that made it easier to despise him, has softened. In his post election interviews, he acted as if he was not such a mean man after all. This is hard to buy after all we’ve gone through with him. 

And it won’t erase the fact that Bush will be remembered as one of our worst presidents. People in the United States and around the world are rejoicing not just about Obama’s election, but also about Bush’s upcoming exit from office. 

The damage he has done is immense, to our worldwide standing, to the fabric of our Constitution, to our national security, and to our economy, as well as to the lives of millions. It will take decades to heal the damage of Bush. In some instances, the damage wreaked will never heal. 

Bush has an easygoing manner and an understandable way of speaking; for many he is a likeable man, and that supported his election and re-election. I have nothing personally against the man, especially since he has provided me with a lot of material to write about, even if it has all been Bush bashes. However, his actions and his policies while in office have been utterly rotten and a disaster. Nothing can erase this; not a softening of his sarcasm, or any type of doublespeak. 

The “good” that emerges from the “bad” is that during his two terms, Bush has indirectly mobilized millions of people to get involved in the political process and in the salvation of our species. For many conscientious persons, his outrageous actions have been a motivator to act and to oppose him. It took such an outrageous leader to mobilize many citizens who wouldn’t otherwise get involved. 

Bush’s awfulness has set the stage for Obama’s ensuing election. Bush screwed up so badly that the people needed to vote for someone qualified to bail us out—even though that person turned out to be African American. An African American person who is the most qualified would be harder to elect under other, less dire circumstances. 

Obama’s election to the presidency is like a miracle, and it is a restoration of hope. I remember feeling the same way upon Bill Clinton’s election some 16 years ago. 

Our goal, in part, should be to oppose the sabotage that the Republican Party will inevitably try, and which has already begun as I write this. We should also put pressure on the members of Congress to do their job, and to not continue to be mired in the shortsightedness, selfishness and spinelessness that has characterized them. 


Jack Bragen is a Martinez resident. 

What We Don’t Know About Changing UC’s Admission Standards

By Doug Ose
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 11:07:00 AM

The University of California Board of Regents is considering a set of sweeping changes to the UC system’s admissions criteria. Among the proposed changes is the elimination of SAT Subject Tests as an admissions requirement. Unlike the more comprehensive SAT, subject tests are focused on one of 20 different academic areas ranging from physics and chemistry to languages and fine art.  

Critics of subject tests argue for maintaining high academic standards and promoting diversity. A closer look tells a different story, one the regents and the UC Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS), which proposed the changes, aren’t talking about. 

A September 2008 report from the National Association for College Admission Counseling noted that, “there are tests that, at many institutions, are more predictive of first-year and overall grades in college and more closely linked to the high school curriculum, including the College Board’s AP exams and Subject Tests.” Eliminating subject tests in light of this research defies common sense. 

Further confounding common sense is a 2001 report by University of California researchers who studied some 80,000 student records and concluded that SAT Subject Tests combined with high school grades were among the best predictors of college success.  

Some call subject tests a “barrier” to admission in the UC system. What we’re not told is the main reason cited for getting rid of them is that some students don’t know the tests are required. This staggeringly simplistic rationale raises legitimate questions about the wisdom of the regents’ willingness to consider admitting to the UC system students who cannot understand the most fundamental step of entering college which is to apply for it. The answer is for UC to better communicate its admissions requirements, not eliminate them. 

Diversity is also used as an argument for eliminating subject tests. The facts show that subject tests play a critical role in admitting thousands of deserving minority students. Data compiled by the College Board, which administers SAT Subject Tests, shows that 10,010 students were admitted to the UC system in 2007 as a direct result of subject tests. These students had marginal scores on their SATs yet scored 700 or more on their subject tests, demonstrating tremendous knowledge and merit.  

Among these students last year were more than 4,800 children of Hispanic, Mexican-American, or other Latino heritage, and more than 3,700 students from Asian, Asian-American or Pacific Island backgrounds. To say that eliminating subject tests will improve diversity simply does not hold water. 

Another goal of the proposed changes is the desire for a “more holistic admissions system.” However, eliminating empirical measures like SAT Subject Tests could produce disastrous results. A “more holistic” admissions program is underway at UCLA with potentially illegal fallout amid allegations of violating Proposition 209, which banned race-based admissions to California’s public colleges.  

Professor Timothy Groseclose resigned from UCLA’s Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Relations with Schools in August citing evidence that, “strongly suggests that UCLA is cheating on admissions,” and claiming the committee is engaged in a “cover-up” to prevent disclosure of illegal activity. Why would the Board of Regents even contemplate changes that invite similar mischief at other campuses? A system-wide scandal of this nature would plunge UC into chaos and degrade its reputation.  

Changes to the UC admissions standards affect the lives of thousands of students, the integrity of the institution and will have an impact for years to come. Revising these standards demands thoughtful deliberation, not the approach of UC regent and former Paramount Studios CEO Sherry Lansing who confessed during the Sept. 18 regents meeting, “I became a regent to get the SATs eliminated.” If this is the new standard for determining admissions to the UC system, we all have reason to be concerned for the future of the University of California and its legacy of excellence. 

For more information and ways to help please go to www.saveucstandards.com. 


Doug Ose is a former U.S. Congressman, representing California’s District 3.

Ask Your Doctor

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 11:07:00 AM

Having reflected on the matter for quite some time, I’ve reached the conclusion that watching evening television news may very well be injurious to one’s health. I base this conclusion, not on scientific data, but rather on the Power of Suggestion theory. 

Settling down in a comfortable chair with a glass of sherry, as I do every evening for the ABC news at 5:30, I brace myself for the inevitable deluge of drug commercials, claiming to be a cure for every ailment known to man and God—all followed with the command, “Ask Your Doctor.” 

Now I consider myself to be in fairly good health, but I must confess that some of these commercials raise questions in my mind. To begin with, I, like many people, have bothersome allergies. So I pay attention to the commercial that shows a bumble bee hopping from one flower to another and then to a second commercial boasting that their drug “blocks leukotrienes, an underlying cause of indoor and outdoor allergy symptoms.” Ah, but then follows a warning of possible side effects—stomach pain, intestinal upset, heartburn, tiredness, fever, stuffy nose, upper respiratory infection, dizziness, headache and rash.” Forget that! I’ll just go on sneezing and keep a box of Kleenex handy. 

Next come two commercials on medications to fight osteoporosis. First, there’s the one with adorable Sally Field claiming earnestly that she’s been able to reverse her osteoporosis with a once a month drug, remarking that “I have just this one body and this one life.” Who can argue with that? But I’m quite taken with a second commercial which shows an elegant, aristocratic woman—an “on-the-go woman”—proclaiming the wonders of a once a year intravenous injection. That really gets my attention, as I like to think of myself as an “on-the-go-woman” (although I don’t always know where I’m going.) And the side effects of this one aren’t too severe; flu-like symptoms, fever, muscle or joint pain. I jot down the name of this drug. 

Another commercial that really rings a bell deals with a bladder control problem, the “gotta go feeling.” Just one of these pills works all day and night. I write down the name of this drug also, but then am dismayed by the side effects—dry mouth, headache, constipation, stomach pain and, worst, of all a warning not to drive a car. Putting delicacy aside, I think I’ll just go on wetting my knickers! 

Next we’re treated to a commercial advising us on how to lower cholesterol, suggesting that statins work mainly with the liver, while these tablets work in the digestive track. I’m not sure that I have a cholesterol problem, which is just as well as the side effects on this one are ominous; swelling of the face, lips, tongue, rash and hives, nausea, depression and gallstones! 

Now comes a drug commercial for people with poor leg circulation, putting them at risk of a heart attack or stroke. This condition we’re told is called P.A.D., resulting in blood clots, restricting blood flow to your heart. At this point, I’m getting a little depressed—even more so when I read the possible side effects, which include unexplained confusion, gastrointestinal bleeding, diarrhea, etc., etc.! 

Getting close to the end of the news broadcast (and they do squeeze in some news), comes a commercial addressing the problem of asthma (or COPD). This is a medication that helps lung function, but, oh, dear, the possible effects of this drug are absolutely blood-curdling! To name a few, there’s pneumonia, cataracts or glaucoma, thrush in the mouth ( pray tell, what is that?) and the chance of death! 

Given the above distressing litany of drug commercials, I believe you will agree with me that watching evening broadcasts may indeed be injurious to one’s health. I therefore suggest that you turn to CNN or C-Span, both of which are mercifully free of such commercials. 


Dorothy Snodgrass is a Berkeley resident. 

The Mexican Drug Trade: Supply and Demand

By Ralph E. Stone
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 11:07:00 AM

My wife and I were observing the Mexico Independence Day celebration in Guanajuato, Mexico, on Sept. 16, when we learned that terrorists lobbed three grenades into a group of celebrants in Morelia, the capital of the nearby state of Michoacan. Eight people were killed and hundreds were wounded. This was a new tactic for the drug cartels—indiscriminate violence. Later, it was reported that nine bodies were found dumped in Tijuana, where in the past few months, almost 50 have been murdered related to the drug trade. The Mexican “war on drugs” has resulted in increased drug-related deaths and abductions of judges, police, witnesses, journalists, and now innocent citizens. More than 7,000 deaths have occurred in the last three years, about 4,000 in this year alone. There is a growing perception among Mexicans that the government is losing the war against these well-armed drug cartels. 

Why the increased violence? Because the Mexican drug cartels—the Sinaloa Cartel and the Gulf Cartel—have largely wrested control of the drug trade from the Colombian producers and have developed their own production of heroin and methamphetamine (speed). The cartels have actually expanded production into northern California federal and state parklands. The United Nations estimates that these Mexican cartels control about $14.2 billion a year in cocaine, heroin, marijuana, speed, and other illicit drugs. Mexico is the transit point for 70 to 90 percent of cocaine entering the United States.  

And it is estimated that 90 percent of the weapons used in the Mexican drug war are bought or supplied from the United States. The illicit drugs flow north and the weapons flow south. 

Until recently, the United States assistance to Mexico’s “war on drugs’ paled in comparison to the funding for the failed Plan Colombia counter-drug program. We gave Colombia some $380 million in 2007. However, in June 2008, the Mérida Initiative was passed into law, providing $465 worth of assistance for Central America and Mexico. About $400 million of this U.S. aid is scheduled to go to Mexico in the form of surveillance aircraft, border-security equipment, and advanced technology for communications, eavesdropping and other forms of surveillance to support Mexico’s crackdown on narcotics trafficking and organized crime. The aid includes a strong human rights component. These human rights conditions require the Secretary of State to report to Congress Mexico’s progress in addressing human rights issues, including the use of torture by law enforcement officials and prosecution for personnel implicated in violations. However, there has been a delay in releasing the aid package to Mexico. 

Unfortunately, like the failed Plan Colombia, the Mérida Initiative focuses exclusively on security forces and supply-side interdiction without going to the root causes of the bilateral drug trade. Faced with a growing demand, the aid package includes no aid to promote crop conversion, contains no performance goals, and nothing for anti-gun-running or money laundering programs. 

The high demand for illicit drugs in the United States—60 percent of the world’s total—fuels the Mexican drug trade. About 20 million Americans over the age of 12 reported use of drugs in 2005, and an estimated 22.2 million persons aged 12 or older were classified with substance dependence or abuse, according to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (2005). Twenty-one percent of 8th graders, 38 percent of 10th graders and 50 percent of 12th graders have tried an illicit drug in their lifetimes, according to the Monitoring the Future study in 2005. This means half of students have tried an illicit drug by the time they finish high school. Illicit drugs exact an enormous toll on society, taking 52,000 lives annually and draining the economy of $160 billion a year. Everyone pays the toll in the form of higher healthcare costs, dangerous neighborhoods, and an overcrowded criminal justice system.  

The Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment (SAPT) Block Grant is the cornerstone of the states’ substance abuse prevention and treatment systems; it accounts for approximately 40 percent of all public funds spent by state substance abuse agencies for substance abuse prevention activities and treatment services. The program is administered by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Center for Substance Abuse Prevention and Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. To reduce the presence of illicit drugs, drug-related organized crime, and the adverse effects of drug and alcohol abuse in society requires a comprehensive strategy involving federal, state, and local governments. This approach would include international cooperation, diplomatic initiatives, drug law enforcement, and sanctions, treatment, prevention, education, and recovery support services as well as research to identify and promote the strategies to reduce demand and supply. 

Unfortunately, President Bush’s fiscal year 2009 budget plan slashed $198 million from the SAMHSA and calls for elimination of the Recovery Community Support Programs and the STOP Underage Drinking program. The budget also calls for spending $10 million less on the Drug Free Communities program, a major funding source for many community anti-drug coalitions. The Center for Substance Abuse Treatment’s budget would fall by $63 million, while the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention would have $36 million less to spend next year if Bush’s plan is approved. The Center for Mental Health Services would be slashed by $126 million. 

The Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities (SDFSC) national programs budget would increase from $137.7 million in 2008 to $282 million in FY09 under the plan, including $10 million for research-based drug prevention or school safety programs, $77.8 million for grants to school districts for comprehensive, community-wide “Safe Schools/Healthy Students” drug and violence prevention projects, and $11.8 million for school-based drug testing for students. However, the SDFSC state grants program was once again targeted for reduction, with Bush calling for cutting the school-based prevention program from $295 million in 2008 to $100 million in 2009.  

After reviewing the U.S.’s funding policy, our committment to drug prevention is heavily weighted on the supply side, while funds for addressing U.S. drug demand is largely underfunded. This seems a short-sighted view. As long as there is a demand for illicit drugs, there will be a supply, Given the current financial debacle this country faces, I would not expect any major increases in the fiscal year 2009 budget for substance abuse and treatment. Meanwhile, the Mexican government continues its uphill battle against the drug cartels. The Mexican drug trade is yet another challenge facing the Barack Obama presidency. 


Ralph E. Stone is a retired Bay Area attorney. 

Honk for a New Deal

By Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 11:15:00 AM

For seven years now, Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace (LMNOP) has held a weekly antiwar demonstration at the Lake in Oakland, becoming part of the regular Sunday scene along with the geese, pelicans, and boats on the water. We’ve been calling for an end to war and other manifestations of Mad-Cowboy Disease. Now, with the election of Barack Obama, we’ll have a government that just might listen to us, so we feel it’s more important than ever to continue our Sunday walks at Lake Merritt. 

We hope to see a new course for our country, at least as progressive an agenda as was instituted back in the 1930s under President Roosevelt. This may seem like a huge dream, but the present crises necessitate coordinated action on a host of problems. 

The damage and repair list includes ecological, economic, and human rights issues such as global warming, the income gap, corporate crime, and home foreclosures; the need for renewable energy, health care, re-regulation, media reform, enforcement of anti-trust laws, and repeal of the Patriot Act, just to name a few items. 

Meanwhile, the United States is fighting multiple wars, creating more terrorists. 

These are complex issues that require well-thought-out strategies. They go far beyond cleaning up the Bush mess; our country has been going in the wrong direction for decades, on a disastrous course mass-marketed by Reagan, maintained by Clinton, and finally run at full speed by Bush. 

Nothing will substantially change if progressives go home and leave matters in the hands of a “savior,” as our new president is often portrayed. The election of Obama is a political opening for us—as the elections of Lincoln and Roosevelt were for previous generations. The labor movement pressured Roosevelt, and the abolitionists pressured Lincoln. 

During the 1930s, it was pressure from the labor movement, along with economic necessity, that persuaded Roosevelt to institute the New Deal. During the Civil War, it was pressure from the abolitionist movement, along with military and diplomatic necessity, that persuaded President Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. 

Barack Obama seems to recognize that common, everyday people can exert a powerful force for change. During a debate last January, he was asked which of the Democratic candidates Martin Luther King would have endorsed. None of us, Obama replied, and explained that King would call upon the American people to hold the winner accountable. “Change does not happen from the top down,” Obama said. “It happens from the bottom up.” 

However literally Obama meant that, words and symbols take on a life of their own; it’s up to us to accept the challenge of his response, and to put such pressure on President Obama. 

Our weekly walk is in a visible part of town, bordering busy streets around the lake. We’ve had international coverage, in Japanese and Swedish newspapers, as well as the New York Times. We’re also in a very real sense our own media, reaching out directly to the community around us—motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, picnickers, and even boaters on the lake—who give us an encouraging response. 

Please join us any Sunday in calling for peace and a progressive agenda. We meet at 3 p.m. at the Colonnade, between Lakeshore and Grand near the library branch. 


Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace (LMNOP): Daniel Borgström, Oakland; Beth Wagner, Oakland; Mark Boynton, Alameda; Marin Sanders, Livermore; Nancy Harrington, Oakland; Pat Maginnis, Oakland; David Baker, Alameda. 

Proposition 8 Cartoon: How Dare You

By Mondrae Johnson
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 11:08:00 AM

I have just three words (as a starter) for Justin DeFreitas’ African-African phobic, racist cartoon depicting all African Americans as separatists who only care about themselves and not the plight of others: How dare you!  

However, an article in the Nov. 16 San Francisco Chronicle summed it up better than I could ever have done. Read this article for enlightenment. It is well-stated, gets to the point,and expresses my feelings to a tee. I would only add this comment for DeFreitas:  

Please tell me the dates, times and periods (in the United States) that homosexuals were spit on, beaten, hung from trees, murdered and tortured for small infractions like drinking out of the same water fountain as a white person or swimming in the same pool (in which all the water was drained) or “reckless-eyeballing” a white woman? If you were a black man it could mean the end for that person.  

Also, Emmett Till was dragged from his home in the deep south and murdered, hung, you name it. His little body was so mutilated, it was unrecognizable in the casket. No, you cannot equate homosexual activities with the plight of African-Americans. This is why your argument was rejected! We are insulted and offended by your ignorance and by your insistence that we are somehow mixed up in your sexual preference argument.  

Furthermore, as stated in the Chronicle article, you don’t know how I voted and more so, it isn’t your friggin business! I voted my conscience and it is no concern of yours. To lump all African-Americans into a group and label us ugly names only shows that your ugly, racist head is rearing itself again. You can’t help yourself! For all we know, your forefathers did some of the lynchings. We really don’t know!  

Also, look at the statistics of the vote. African-Americans were not the only ones who voted for or against Proposition 8. In fact, I know that most of the Chinese-Americans in my neighborhood voted yes on 8. However, we didn’t see them denigrated and disgraced in your lop-sided cartoon. People like you (your ancestors) have hated black people for far too long now. Whites also tortured the Japanese, destroyed their property, rounded them up and put them in concentration camps, and murdered them on a whim! 

I am afraid the United States is turning into one big hoorah-rah! Anything goes! Next, we’ll see lynch mobs again on the streets. Furthermore, so many other races have been disrespected by people with your same attitude. Hell, the Chinese built the railroad system in this country many years ago, only to be expelled from the United States after the work was done.  

Finally, even though Berkeley, San Francisco and other Bay Area locations prides itself on its liberalism, I am finding this not to be the case. I think Berkeley residents are more racist and accusatory than people in many parts of the south. I’ve even seen comments from readers in your paper such as: the reason for the crime is because of all the lower socio-economically-disadvantaged blacks moving into our neighborhoods. So, I guess that excludes the middle- to upper-class blacks that move to your neighborhoods? Or, do people judge us by our looks, what we wear, you know the drill.  

I was thoroughly disgusted by DeFreitas’ cartoon. DeFreitas: How dare you! 


Mondrae Johnson is a Sacramento resident. 

Fairness and Climate Change Demand MTC Attention

By Richard A. Marcantonio
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 11:08:00 AM

These pages have hosted vigorous discussion about AC Transit bus service. But they have largely been silent on the critical role of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the nine-county regional transportation funding and planning agency that holds the purse strings for AC Transit. MTC’s funding decisions should treat all communities equitably and address the effects of catastrophic climate change. With the agency soon to adopt a $200 billion Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), it deserves far closer public scrutiny than it has received. 

For many years, MTC has chosen to fund costly freeway and rail capital expansion projects by systematically shifting public funds away from transit operating needs. This has come at the expense of maintaining existing urban bus service. 

The result has been a shortage of operating funding, leading to repeated service cuts and fare hikes for AC Transit riders. This hurts our most vulnerable neighbors and communities. Nearly 80 percent of AC Transit’s riders are people of color. More than 60 percent (including seniors, people with disabilities and low-income families) are “transit-dependent,” meaning they rely on buses to reach essential destinations like jobs, schools, health-care services, recreation, and places of worship. And 15 percent of AC Transit’s riders are youth, for whom AC Transit buses have replaced the now-defunct yellow school bus. 

AC Transit was once a world-class bus system. Since 1986, however, it has lost 30 percent of its service. 

Recognizing the importance of the issue, and the central role MTC plays in starving bus service, we filed a federal civil rights class action lawsuit, Darensburg v. MTC, that went to trial last month. Our contention is simple: MTC should fully fund operating expenses for existing bus service before it diverts scarce public dollars to costly expansion projects. 

Our case challenges three practices by which MTC builds a structural operating deficit into AC Transit’s budget, causing it to cut service and raise fares to unaffordable levels. 

First, MTC’s “regional transit expansion program” puts nearly 95 percent of its funding into expanding rail service, and less than 5 percent into bus projects. For example, MTC has included in its expansion program (known as Res. 3434) costly projects for BART and Caltrain. To get a sense of the relative cost-effectiveness of those investments, just one mile of new BART track from Fremont to Warm Springs will cost more than $400 million. With that sum, AC Transit could operate vastly expanded service for ten years. However MTC chose to exclude seven of the eight routes on which AC Transit proposed to operate enhanced bus service. 

Second, we are challenging MTC’s funding policies on how much state and federal funding a transit operator can receive, and for what purposes. For instance, MTC policy directs nearly all of the federal “formula” funds to capital use, though the funds could be used to meet a significant portion of transit operating budgets instead. And it allows large sources of state and federal funds to be used for expansion, though they could better be used to modernize the capital infrastructure of existing transit networks. (This decision does not affect only bus service. BART has a $6 billion shortfall to replace its aging cars and tracks over the next 25 years.) 

Finally, we are challenging MTC’s policy in its last four Regional Transportation Plans on so-called “uncommitted” funds. In the RTP, MTC identifies shortfalls between the funding each transit operator needs just to maintain its existing service levels and the funding the transit operator has. Those shortfalls have two components, capital and operating. Yet MTC funds only capital shortfalls, not operating shortfalls. Unfunded operating shortfalls can cause immediate service cuts, which AC Transit has suffered from consistently for 15 years. 

Over the same period, MTC has told the public that “uncommitted” funds can be used only for capital purposes. At trial, however, it was forced to admit the truth: that a significant portion of AC Transit’s operating needs—over $40 million a year—can be funded out of “uncommitted” RTP funds. 

These decisions also have a powerful effect on the environment. At the same time that our suit has focused on MTC’s deficiencies from a civil rights perspective, the California Attorney General has found that some of the same practices contribute to worsening the effects of climate change. AB 32 requires California to reduce its GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Fifty percent of the Bay Area’s GHG emissions result from transportation, primarily auto trips. In a strongly worded Oct. 1 letter to MTC, the attorney general noted that MTC has grandfathered some $29 billion in freeway projects into the new 2009 RTP that have not been shown to help meet California GHG reduction goals. The letter concludes: 

“If low-performing ‘committed’ projects were eliminated where feasible to do so, funding would be available to cover transit shortfalls, particularly for BART, Muni, and AC Transit, which together carry 80 percent of the transit riders in the Bay Area. If these shortfalls are not addressed, or if they are addressed through fare increases, as recently proposed, ridership may fall, with a concomitant increase in GHG emissions.” 

A newly-formed regional interfaith group known as Genesis has taken up the challenge of holding MTC accountable for promoting funding equity and GHG reduction by sufficiently funding current and increased AC Transit service. At an MTC meeting on Nov. 3, Gabrielle Miller of Genesis urged the “review, with community input and collaboration, of all MTC projects,” adding: “Only by doing this will we be able to achieve the environmental protection and transportation equality that we at Genesis demand of this region.” 

Equal access to every kind of opportunity depends on transportation, usually meaning bus service for low-income families, senior citizens, people with disabilities and people of color. The effects of global climate change must be altered. MTC can address both by fully funding AC Transit. It should be required to do so in the new Regional Transportation Plan slated for adoption in March 2009. 


Richard A. Marcantonio is an attorney with Public Advocates Inc. in San Francisco.

In Support of the Addison Street Windows Gallery Criteria

By Stephanie Anne Johnson
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 11:08:00 AM

The conversation going on about whether or not there should be criteria that excludes the use of guns for art work placed in the Addison Street Windows exhibition is very delicate. But now that the conversation has moved from the Civic Arts Commission meetings to the public sphere in the form of flyers and newspaper articles, I feel that it is time that I add my voice. I have served on the commission for the past year and a half and during that time I have had the privilege of learning an enormous amount of information about the ways that a city commission works. I have a newfound appreciation for those who serve in public office, their roles, responsibilities and the challenges of reaching consensus in a city with a progressive history and outlook.  

Publicly funded spaces have a different mandate than those which are privately owned. On-going exhibitions free of any type of consideration, or restriction based on size, theme, content or material are very rare outside of the “virtual” displays on the Internet. The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of galleries, museums and art exhibition spaces have in place some criteria, either clear and stated or covert. The selection process and curatorial decisions of these institutions are not done publicly, usually not informed by public input. In museums or galleries, one has a choice to visit and view art that might be considered controversial. Publicly displayed art doesn’t allow the viewer to have this choice. I believe that public art should not be focused solely on individual artists and their work. As an art form connected to public awareness and appreciation, public art’s capacity to educate, inspire curiosity, promote new ideas, support community involvement and provide a pleasurable experience should be in the fore ground of our conversations. As such, the focus is on the effect of the work on the larger mass of public viewers.  

As an African American parent of a young child who attends a Berkeley public school, it is my responsibility to provide a safe environment in our home, monitor and interpret the imagery presented on the streets so that she is buffered from sexism, racism and commercialism (among other “isms”). As we know, young children are deeply affected by the images around them and the world they live in. Until they reach a certain age, it is hard for them not to take on physical and psychic damage because they have not developed the ability to analyze and deconstruct what they are seeing. As a professor of art in the state university system, I have the opposite task; to encourage my students to create work that questions their world, to help them to critically analyze the images they see in the media, and to assist them in resisting the negative, destructive “isms” they see in any form, anywhere. Many of my college students are learning visual literacy and the impact of image and the underlying message that is being “sold.” It is my hope that the development of these tools will be a lifelong process that will inspire them to become active artists, productive local and global citizens, family members and participants in community building. As a parent and a professor, I am acutely aware of these two groups; minors who are sheltered in certain ways due to their vulnerability and young people who are entering the world as adults for the first time. 

Though I agree with those citizens and colleagues who question censorship in any form, I want to highlight the role of location and context in the Addison Street Windows display debate. Framed as “censorship,” I feel that the criteria is thoughtful and appropriate in light of two factors. The Addison Street Windows are two blocks from Berkeley High School and because of this location they operate as a public gallery. Our high school students are up against an unprecedented level of violence in their daily lives. This violence comes at them in a variety of forms ranging from shooting on the street to the violence in Iraq as a result of the United States occupation. A significant number of high school students in Berkeley and surrounding cities have been affected by the gun violence involving friends, family members, and associates who have been killed or injured as a result of being shot. Often, the students make altars as public displays of grief. A sense of anxiety and fear has been triggered in young people (and all of us) even for those who have not been directly affected. Parents worry about their children walking or biking to the neighborhood schools, students worry about being beaten up or shot as they walk to the corner store. There is an overall environment of apprehension in the city of Berkeley because the level of violence has increased to an unprecedented level. And Berkeley as a city is not alone, this is indicative of a national and international trend. The depiction of guns and the violence that is implied either metaphorically or physically could re-trigger the psychological wounds inflicted upon our young citizens so we need to be extremely thoughtful about their display in The Addison Street Windows space and the ways we approach a discussion of violence. When art is public is presented in a venue such as the Addison Street Windows, there is no structure in place for analysis about the images to help young people who may need guidance in understanding the work. For the record, I am not anti political art. On the contrary, I have gotten into trouble a number of times for my work being “too political." Therefore, I understand, support and applaud most political artwork as an essential safeguard against the tide of “art for art’s sake” and its associated commercialism. It is the location of the Addison Street Windows and the context of violence faced by our young people that are primary considerations in my support of the current Addison Street Windows criteria. 

Finally, do we want to extend the conversation about this particular venue into the foreseeable future? What kinds of compromises can be made to insure that our cultural ethos as an arts community is maintained at the same time that we pay attention to the needs of young people and other passersby? Though I appreciate the debate and discussion about this particular venue, I came to the Civic Arts Commission with a number of plans in mind. At this point in history both personally and nationally resources and time are precious commodities and I would very much like to turn my attention back to those ideas; the creation of city, community, campus and community art partnerships, the creation of art opportunities for the young people in Berkeley, and the active inclusion of communities of color, working class and poor people in art projects that renew, empower, and beautify all parts of my beloved city of Berkeley. Thank you for this opportunity to express my opinion. 


Professor Stephanie Anne Johnson is co-chair and service learning coordinator for the Visual and Public Art Department at California State University, Monterey Bay and represents Berkeley's District 2 on the Civic Arts Commission.  


The Public Eye: A Call for a National Economic Recovery Act

By Arthur Blaustein
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 10:05:00 AM

Make no mistake about it, this election was won on bread and butter economic issues. While John McCain and Sarah Palin focused on the rhetoric of patriotism, “trickle-down” economics, “staying the course” on Bush’s tax cuts and family values; they also embraced the very economic policies that both undermine the middle class and subvert the security of American family life. 

American families voted with their feet and pocket books. They wanted less pious rhetoric, and more policies geared toward a healthy economy, secure jobs, decent health care, affordable housing, quality public education, renewable energy and a sustainable environment. Barack Obama understood that. 

What the election results told us is we need a president who understands and believes in coherent, comprehensive and equitable policies that promote sustainable and healthy economic growth. What we need is a leader who in his First Hundred Days in office will deal effectively with the housing crisis and demand legislative oversight and accountability of those financial, insurance and other corporations that have been, or will be, bailed out. 

The first thing that President-elect Obama should do is to begin to restore the confidence of the American people by demonstrating that he is willing to provide leadership; that he is willing to take immediate and bold policy initiatives to put the economy back on the right track. Toward this end he should call a meeting as soon as possible with Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, and Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House. At this meeting he should propose that they call Congress back into a special session to consider emergency legislation: the National Economic Recovery Act of 2008. 

The legislation would include: 

• Investment in alternative energy development and new green-collar jobs. 

• An extension of unemployment benefits. 

• Expansion of the Food Stamp program. 

• Re-negotiation of mortgage terms for those about to lose their homes. 

• An increase in the Community Economic Development discretionary budget to $250 million a year so that community economic development corporations (CDCs) can create more business and employment opportunities in economically distressed neighborhoods and communities that have been hit hardest by the sub-prime loan crisis. 

And most important: 

• A major economic stimulus package that would provide $250 billion in direct assistance to states and local governments for infrastructure development. This kind of direct federal spending for community and economic development would be far more productive than rebate checks. It will create jobs and crucial investments where it counts and is needed. 

It is the smartest investment we can make as a nation. Just think about some recent events: a bridge in Minneapolis collapsing; the electric grids failing last summer; Hurricane Katrina hitting New Orleans; commuter traffic logjams; and a sewage system breaking down in Honolulu are but a few examples of our outdated and crumbling infrastructure. In communities across our nation, our schools, mass transit systems, water and sewer plants, hospitals, bridges, levees, railway beds, ports and subways are in disrepair. If we are to participate in an increasingly competitive international economy we must rehabilitate our infrastructure. 

It is entirely possible that the Democratic congressional leadership is convinced that it would take more time to put together a coherent and comprehensive package—or that the lame-duck Bush administration would block it. If that is the case President-elect Obama should tell the American people that this legislation would be his first order of business immediately following the inauguration in January. That is the kind of leadership we need.The tasks before us will not be easy but the sooner we begin, the better. 


Professor Arthur Blaustein was chairman of the President’s National Advisory Council on Economic Opportunity during the Carter administration and was appointed to the board of the National Endowment for the Humanities by Bill Clinton. He teaches urban studies, politics and community economic development at the University of California, and his most recent books are Make a Difference: America’s Guide to Volunteering and Community Service and The American Promise. This article was origionally posted on BeyondChron.org.

Dispatches From The Edge: Latin America, the Crisis, and Mr. Monroe

By Conn Hallinan
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 10:53:00 AM

When the Mexican dictator Porfiero Diaz said the great tragedy of Mexico was that it was so far from God and so near to the United States, the comment summed up the long and tortured relationship between the Colossus of the North and Latin America.  

Starting with the Monroe Doctrine in 1823, the United States has routinely dictated the hemisphere’s political and commercial life and, on a score of occasions, overthrown governments it found inimical to its interests.  

But the world has suddenly turned upside down. 

From a collection of countries servicing U.S. interests, South America now boosts the third largest trade organization in the world, Mercursor, which includes Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Venezuela. Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador have associate status, and Mexico is an “observer.” This so-called “southern common market” accounts for 50 percent of Latin America’s gross domestic product, 59 percent of its landmass, and 43 percent of its population.  

The continent also recently formed the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), which includes 12 nations, along with observers from Mexico and Central America. 

This new found independence that will be sorely tested in the coming months as most of the world goes through an economic meltdown. In the past if Washington sneezed, South America came down with pneumonia. Will the continent’s increasing integration help it avoid the worst of the global financial crisis? Or will the current economic conflagration derail South America’s growing autonomy, allowing the United States to again dominate the life of region?  

The worldwide economic crisis will certainly have an impact on South America. Currency values from Brasilia to Mexico City have fallen, and at one point Brazil shut down its stock market to staunch the hemorrhaging. At the same time, most of the countries in Latin America are in a better position to weather the storm than the United States, Europe, and Japan, where banks play a larger role in the economic structure. 

“No one can avoid the events of the past few weeks,” says Riordan Roett, director of Johns Hopkins Western Hemisphere Studies Program, “but we are seeing some countries better insulated than other countries.” 

Brazil’s foreign exchange reserves, for instance, amount to more than $216 billion, which should cover the country’s need for export credit until “the most acute stage” of the crisis is over, says Brazilian Finance Minister, Guido Mantega. 

And because the government of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has reduced poverty, thus expanding its internal market, the country is in a better position to weather the storm. “Brazil is not immune to the crisis,” says Mantega, “but this affects the countries with problems in their banks more, and countries like Brazil less.” 

Argentina also has a substantial reserve in its central bank—$47 billion—and is hinting that it will delay replaying its $6.7 billion debt to western creditors until it can negotiate better terms.  

Venezuela has reserves of $30 billion, the largest per capita total on the continent, says Martin Saatdjian of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but the government is being careful. It is considering a “minor devaluation” of the Bolivar, Venezuela’s currency, and “austerity spending for the next fiscal year” if the crisis “deepens and the price of oil drops,” says Saatdjian. 

Caracas is spreading its oil wealth throughout the continent, which has cushioned the impact of the economic downturn. The fact that Venezuela purchased almost one-third of Argentina’s debt in 2005 has helped Buenos Aires build a rainy day fund. 

Venezuela and Brazil are leading an initiative to form The Bank of the South (BancoSur), which would pool a portion of participating countries reserves. The idea is to replace the International Monetary Fund, and its onerous insistence of cutting social services and infrastructure programs as a condition for its loans. BancoSur would have a more development-friendly approach. Besides Brazil and Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Paraguay, and Uruguay have signaled their interest in joining.  

Starting in the late 1990s, South America began diversifying its contacts with the rest of the world, in particular resource hungry China. Beijing buys Chilean copper, Cuban nickel and cobalt, Brazilian and Uruguayan soy, and Venezuelan, Ecuadorian and Bolivian oil and gas.  

Trade between Latin America and China was $102.6 billion in 2007, and the Chinese currently plan to invest up to $100 billion over the next five years. Brazil, Chile and Argentina have $28 billion in two-way trade with China, and China is investing heavily in Chilean copper and Venezuelan, Bolivian and Ecuadorian oil and gas. Beijing is currently negotiating a free trade agreement with Peru. Almost one-half of China’s foreign investment goes to Latin America. 

While China’s economy is slumping, that term is relative. It is still growing at 9 percent, and the Chinese government is pumping $586 billion into their economy to keep growth from falling any lower.  

Russia and Iran have also become major players in Latin America. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, accompanied by business leaders, just finished a tour of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, and the Russians are helping to develop oil fields in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. Iran’s President Mamoudd Ahmadinejad has been welcomed in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua, and Iran’s Chamber of Commerce announced Oct. 20 that joint commercial councils with South and Central America would soon be established. 

The U.S., on the other hand, is saddled with the legacy of its “Washington Consensus” policy of wide-open markets. The neo-liberal strategy led to ruinous debt in Latin America, a yawning gulf between rich and poor, and financial catastrophes like the 2001 Argentine collapse that impoverished half that country’s population. 

The wreckage wrought by the “Washington Consensus” and International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) enforced austerity sparked an economic and political revolt in Latin America that is still gaining steam. 

Brazil and Argentina paid off their IMF debts and concentrated on building infrastructure and alleviating poverty. The result has been a steady growth rate of more than 4 percent, which, according to Citibank forecasts, will fall next year, but probably not more than a percentage point. In contrast, U.S. and European growth rates are projected to drop to 1.5 percent, or even to zero. 

Latin America is “a better built boat,” says the World Bank’s chief economist for the region, Augusto de la Torre. 

Political independence is on the agenda as well.  

In 2003, no major country on the continent backed the U.S. war in Iraq. In 2005 South America rejected a U.S.-led Free Trade for the Americas plan. And while Washington is hostile to left-led governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador, the rest of the continent has rallied behind them.  

When U.S. sponsored right-wingers overthrew the government of Hugo Chavez in 2001, a massive outpouring of resistance and widespread condemnation by other countries in the region reversed the coup, the first time that has happened in Latin America.  

And again, when right-wingers staged a “civil coup” in Bolivia last month, virtually every nation in Latin America backed the left-wing government of Evo Morales government. “We won’t tolerate a rupture in the constitutional order in Bolivia,” warned Marco Aurelio Garcia, Brazilian President Luiz Igacio Lula de Silva’s foreign policy advisor.  

UNASUR declared its “full and firm support for the constitutional government of President Evo Morales.” 

Rather than looking north, countries like Brazil are increasingly developing south-south relations. In 2003, Brazil, India, and South Africa formed the IBSA alliance, which met recently in New Delhi to discuss a joint approach to the current economic crisis, as well as the issues of food security and energy prices. Between them, the countries represent 1.3 billion people and three of the most dynamic economies in the developing outside of China. Trade between the three is projected to top $15 billion by 2010.  

“Developing countries need to learn from the crisis,” says Lula da Silva, and “to construct a new world economic order.” 

The economic crisis has accelerated these moves toward breaking the strangle hold the U.S. has had on the world of finance. “There is a new reality,” says United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki Moon, “new centers of power and leadership in Asia, Latin America and across the newly developing world.” 

German Finance Minister Peer Steinbruck was blunter: “The U.S. will lose its status as the superpower of the world’s financial system. This world will become multi-polar … the world will never be the same.” 

However, it is unlikely that the United States will stand idly aside as Latin America frees itself from the shadow of the Monroe Doctrine. For instance, Washington has recently made a number of moves that have heightened its military profile on the continent. The Bush administration has reactivated its Latin American Fourth Fleet and, according to the magazine Cambio, the United States is developing a major military base at Palanquero, Colombia. 

But beset by economic crisis and bogged down in two unwinnable wars, the colossus of the north no longer wields the clout it once had. “In the past, the door for talks with the United States on any issue had to remain open. We had no choice,” a Brazilian diplomat told Southern Pulse. “Now we can close it if we want.”

Undercurrents: Bus Rapid Transit Demands Greater Public Discussion

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 10:53:00 AM

One of the most important single development decisions that inner East Bay residents can make in the next several years surrounds AC Transit agency’s proposed Bus Rapid Transit system (BRT). Unfortunately, to date only a handful of officials and residents have been paying close attention to the project. That’s got to change. 

AC Transit is proposing running a high-speed bus line from downtown San Leandro through downtown Oakland to downtown Berkeley using the East 14th Street-International Boulevard-Telegraph Avenue route currently operating the 1 and 1R lines. The best-known-and most controversial-aspect of the BRT proposal is to dedicate bus-only lanes in the center of the streets along the route, but other portions of the proposal include modified coordination with traffic lights to eliminate as many red light stops as possible for the BRT buses, as well as the setting up of awning-style partially covered bus stops where tickets can be purchased, allowing “proof of payment” boarding at the front and back of the buses to speed up service by eliminating front-door delays while passengers pay at the fare box, 

In many ways, BRT is set up to function as a sort of light-rail-lite, with buses substituting for trains and dedicated, bus-only center lanes functioning like light light-rail lines without the major expense of putting in rails. 

I fell in love with light-rail some years ago during the time I was working in San Jose and used it frequently to get from the downtown area to the city’s northside civic center, and several times expressed the hope in writing that such a system could be imported to the inner East Bay as a component of our public transportation system. However, I confess that I was initially skeptical when I first saw AC Transit’s BRT proposal. 

There were several reasons for this skepticism. 

The first is that however AC Transit touts the light-rail like qualities of BRT, including speed and proof-of-payment boarding, buses can never duplicate the ease-of-riding that you experience on rail. That was exacerbated by the announced intention by AC Transit to use the 60 foot articulated Van Hools as the backbone of the BRT fleet. Because I’ve never ridden any other articulated bus (the two-portion buses with the accordion-type connection in the middle) other than Van Hools, I cannot say for sure that the problem is with the Van Hool artix in particular or articulated buses in general. In this case, however, it doesn’t matter. In my opinion, the Van Hool articulated buses give the worst ride of any bus I’ve ever ridden, the exact opposite of what I was looking for in light-rail, and something I feel would turn potential new riders away from the BRT system rather than attract them, which would be needed to make it successful. 

A second concern I have with AC Transit’s proposed BRT is that in some key ways, it duplicates the area’s existing high-speed public transit line: BART. AC Transit proposes BRT to run between either the downtown San Leandro or Bayfair BART stations and the downtown Berkeley BART station. Although BRT would directly serve important major transportation corridors that BART does not—all of East 14th in San Leandro, most of International Boulevard in Oakland, and all of the Telegraph Avenue route—its three downtown service points—San Leandro, Oakland, and Berkeley—are all in direct competition with BART. 

God knows that BART is an imperfect system, designed primarily for inter-city travel (between, say, Concord and San Francisco) than inner-city travel within Berkeley or Oakland. However, BART is already in place and is neither going away nor going to add any inner-city routes, and so, if we are to look at our transportation needs as a whole rather than AC Transit’s particular needs or wants, a more prudent way to spend any available transportation dollars would be to find ways for AC Transit buses to complement—rather than compete with—the BART line. That would mean buttressing up the AC Transit feeder lines between BART and major inner East Bay street corridors, something which has become more and more neglected as AC Transit has run into financial difficulties. (As an example, while BART runs until midnight, the AC Transit line that connects the BART Coliseum Station and my neighborhood—near International and Allen Temple Church—stops running at 7 p.m. There is no way to get from BART to my house after 7 unless you have driven and parked in the parking lot, can call someone to pick you up, catch a $5 cab, or risk walking in the dark along some of Oakland’s most dangerous streets). 

Another pressing public transportation need not addressed by AC Transit’s proposed BRT is connecting neighborhoods with Oakland and Berkeley’s successful neighborhood commercial centers, such as the Laurel, Grand Avenue-Lakeshore, College Avenue, Piedmont Avenue, Fourth Street, and Solano Avenue. Many of these neighborhood commercial centers have reached capacity not because of lack of demand, but because they simply have no place to accommodate more traffic and parking. A major AC Transit expansion that begins in cooperation with local governments to connect more shoppers with these neighborhood commercial centers would generate additional retail tax revenue for the cities—particularly Oakland, which is in desperate need of such—which could in turn be passed on in part to AC Transit to buck up its own dwindling financial resources. 

Another concern I have with BRT—or any new AC Transit initiative at this time, for that matter—is AC Transit’s current cavalier manner of doing business, which I’ve outlined in detail in a number of columns and Berkeley Daily Planet news articles. I am not ready to declare that this is the result of malfeasance, as some of my friends and newspaper colleagues have done. But as a working journalist who has covered councils, boards, and commissions throughout the Bay Area for several years, it is my feeling that the current AC Transit administration—aided by the board—operates far too loosely with facts and finances for my taste, or my trust, with General Manager Rick Fernandez far too often pulling statistics or strategic reasoning off the top of his head when questioned at board meetings, rather than putting these down on paper in staff reports as they should be, and too often the board going along and not exercising its proper oversight responsibility. Again, I’m not ready to declare this malfeasance, only a sort of mom-and-pop culture of fiscal and administrative looseness that has grown up out years of being out of major scrutiny by either the press or the general public. 

All that being said, there are major reasons why I do not think the inner East Bay public or the three city councils that represent citizens along the proposed BRT line should outright reject BRT. 

When it was first formed by the California legislature in 1957, BART consisted of representatives of five counties (Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, Marin, and San Mateo) and was intended to create a high-speed electric train loop that circled the rim of the bay. The difference between that proposed system and what we have today would have been the inclusion of a connection between San Rafael and San Francisco and San Rafael and Richmond, paralleling the routes of the Golden Gate and San Rafael-Richmond bridges, as well as a southern loop connecting San Mateo and Hayward. No-one in 1957 could envision the Silicon Valley boom out of the orchards and farmland of the Santa Clara Valley, but even a decade later, when BART was actually built, government, development, and transportation visionaries could have been able to see the value of extending the original proposed southwestern terminus down to San Jose, and then back up the eastern bayshore through Hayward and north. 

Had the BART lines been built in that manner in the 1960s, when the price of land right-of-way purchase was exponentially cheaper than now and government funds were more easily had, and if the lines and stations had been configured to accommodate more trains at a time, we would have mitigated some of the Bay Area’s most pressing traffic difficulties of the last 30 years, particularly those connecting the Bay Area with Silicon Valley. Extending BART lines north and south now—and across the bay at its northern point—makes eminent transportation and public policy sense today and eventually, we will almost certainly do it. But the tax dollar and political costs are going to be huge, and far more difficult than if we had done so in the 1960s.  

And that is why we cannot take AC Transit’s BRT off the table, despite its many flaws. At some point, we are going to have to bring back light rail travel to the inner East Bay. We must do so in order to accommodate travel in an increasingly-dense Bay Area in the 22nd century and beyond. Whether such a system is run by AC Transit, by another existing agency, or some new creation or transportation hybrid is beside the current point. BRT’s most controversial aspect—its dedicated bus lanes—will be a major component of that light rail system. If we do not dedicate bus lanes today—to eventually be turned into light rail tracks at some future point—we will have to do it tomorrow, with escalated political problems, economic dislocations and discomfort, and tax costs that will dwarf anything the current BRT proposal could possibly imagine. 

What is most important, the federal money is available now for BRT. At some future point, when we have come to recognize the need, that money may no longer be there. 

This is not meant to overlook or dismiss my concerns—or the concerns of others—-about the BRT proposal in its current form. For one thing, I do not think BRT needs to be wedded to the Telegraph Avenue portion of the line. A major case could be made that for many reasons-including a thoroughfare that is ready-made for dedicated bus lanes and a direct connection to the booming Emeryville retail centers—the northern spur of BRT might more properly run down San Pablo Avenue rather than Telegraph, thence up University to downtown Berkeley. In fact, the kind of residential-retail infill that BRT is supposed to enhance makes far more sense along San Pablo than it does along Telegraph. 

But that is only one suggestion. 

My major point is that while the BRT proposal has major flaws—and while the government-corporate culture at AC Transit itself has problems which desperately need correcting—BRT needs the benefit of a longer view, and a wider discussion base, than it has currently been getting. This is an argument for a greater public and government involvement in the BRT process in order to reform the proposal and make it work. This won’t be the last chance for inner-city public transportation upgrade in the inner East Bay, but if we miss this chance, we or our children will be kicking ourselves and themselves in years to come.

Wild Neighbors: Rossmoor, Spare Those Woodpeckers!

By Joe Eaton
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 10:54:00 AM
An acorn woodpecker and a colony’s granary tree.
Ron Sullivan
An acorn woodpecker and a colony’s granary tree.

I have no idea how what kind of readership the Daily Planet has in Rossmoor. For whatever it’s worth, though, here’s my two cents on the acorn woodpecker controversy. You may recall that the Rossmoor homeowner’s association has obtained a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permit to execute 50 of the local woodpeckers for malicious destruction of property, namely drilling acorn-storage holes in human residences. 

I’ve been observing acorn woodpeckers in the Bay Area for years, from the Stanford campus to Point Reyes, and have always found these noisy, conspicuous birds engaging. “This sociable woodpecker impresses one as an exceptionally jolly bird,” writes ornithologist Alexander Skutch, “and certainly it is one of the most amusing to watch.”  

More is known about the acorn’s behavior than that of other woodpecker species. UC biologist Walter Koenig, author of Population Ecology of the Cooperatively Breeding Acorn Woodpecker, has monitored the birds at the Hastings Reservation in the Carmel Valley for over 30 years. Remarkable findings have emerged from this research. 

An acorn woodpecker’s world revolves around its granary: usually a tree, sometimes a series of fence posts, a telephone pole, or a building. One group used the radiator of a car. Pines or sycamores are preferred to oaks as storage trees. The quantity of storage space can be mind-boggling: W. Leon Dawson counted 50,000 acorns in one ponderosa pine near Santa Barbara. At the Hastings site, Koenig calculated an average storage rate of 325 acorns per bird per year. 

Few of the stored acorns go to waste. They constitute more than half the woodpecker’s diet for most of the year, supplemented by flying insects, ants, and tree sap. Hatchlings are fed a mix of insects and broken-up acorns, with older chicks receiving proportionately more acorns.  

Each granary is controlled by a breeding group. At its most complex, the family unit may include up to seven co-breeding males, either brothers or a father and his sons; up to three joint-nesting females, sisters or mother and daughters; and up to 10 non-breeding helpers, hatched in previous years, who incubate the eggs, feed the nestlings, and aid in territorial defense. A group may contain as many as 13 individuals.  

It’s not just one big happy family. Breeding males compete for mating opportunities, and females vie to have their own eggs incubated in the nest they share. The first egg laid may be tossed out or eaten by a sibling; perhaps as a result, females often begin with a nonviable “runt” egg. DNA fingerprinting studies suggest inbreeding is extremely rare. If a group loses all its breeders of one sex, their place is taken by a coalition of siblings who had been non-breeding helpers in another family, usually after a prolonged “power struggle” among candidates for the vacancy. 

The origins of this system are not fully understood. Although group size would be advantageous in defending the granary, acorn woodpeckers in Central and South America live in groups but—perhaps because resources are more dependable—don’t store food.  

The full spectrum of group-nesting behavior may emerge only in the most densely populated parts of the acorn woodpecker’s range, like central California. The woodpeckers occur only where two or more oak species grow. Koenig’s study site has five common and two less common oaks. The more species of oaks in an area, the more stable the woodpecker population from year to year. There’s a kind of insurance at work: acorn production, in a one- or two-year cycle depending on the species, is synchronous over a wide area. If canyon live oaks have a bad year, California black oaks may take up the slack. 

A general failure of the acorn crop can have devastating effects. As last season’s food stores dwindle, conflict increases within the group and the birds begin to disperse, the least dominant leaving first. In the worst years, the granary and its surrounding territory may be abandoned. 

A few years back I asked Walter Koenig how Sudden Oak Death Syndrome could impact the acorn woodpecker. “I don’t really know what it could mean for the woodpeckers,” he said, “but as a worst case scenario, if it wiped out coast live oaks, black oaks, and tanbark oaks, we’re talking a considerable decrease in oak species diversity throughout the state (and potentially beyond), which, give that their populations are highly dependent on oak species diversity, would most likely restrict their range significantly.” 

The acorn woodpecker is not on the endangered species list, or any of the less formal watch lists, yet. But that could change if the SOD pathogen spreads. It’s not a good time for indiscriminate killing. Let’s hope whoever is in charge at Rossmoor gives nonlethal control methods more of a chance. See the Lindsay Museum’s web site (www. wildlife-museum.org/wildlife/solutions/woodpecker) for options. 



About the Hous: Freeing Aesthetics from the Constraints of Economics

By Matt Cantor
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 10:58:00 AM

If the terriers and bariffs are torn down, this economy will grow.—G.W. Bush (Heck if I know what a bariff is but if the terriers get torn down, I’m moving to Canada—M.C.) 


From high atop North America (if you accept the Mercator Projection), the Royal Bank of Canada tracks consumer confidence with their program “Consumer Attitudes and Spending by Household” (amusingly acronymed C.A.S.H.) These ratings have plummeted from nearly 70 percent in September ‘08 to about 35 percent this November. In other words, they’ve crashed. Perhaps more than the various stock markets—none of which I understand—the perceived safety or prudence of spending has fallen dramatically this year, foreshadowing a Christmas season that will have Target missing its mark and Amazon up the creek without a blowgun.  

I can’t say that I’m entirely unhappy about all these happenings any more than I’m entirely unhappy about recently high gas prices. I think that our consumer cult(ure) is unhealthy on several levels, including those of our spiritual life (not religious or even theistic … just spiritual), the health of the planet and the health of our true economy (working people producing good and vital services). Spending is the not the basis of either a healthy economy or a healthy personal life. We all know this but we tend to forget, so I’m here to act, once again, as an annoying but a relatively benign reminder. 

Americans don’t save. Using credit cards they can’t afford, they try to impress people they don’t like by buying things they don’t need. The instability of our economy started at home and that’s where it continues to crumble. The housing crisis is certainly as good an example of misguided spending as any and it is clearly near the core of the current economic crisis. While home ownership is a very desirable thing when it’s within our means, when it’s beyond our means, it’s beyond our means. Selling someone a mortgage they can’t afford to keep up is a crime that should be punishable by business failure. Don’t get me started—well, that ship would seem to have sailed, so my apologies. 

The other day I met a young woman who impressed me very much. Her name is Hyland. She does own a home and she has paid the mortgage. She bought her house on the other side of the tracks, as it were, and she’s just fine with that. It’s part of living within her means, which she does uncommonly well. The house is sparse and clean and I was so envious at this alone that it was actually physically painful in much the way that one yearns for ice cream or youth or the ability to undo a really nasty faux pas. Her house is full of color and light and not too much of anything else. Without spending a lot of money, she has achieved a kind of perfection. 

Her attic is one of those that cannot be called a proper living space for reasons including ceiling height, floor strength and proper ingress (stairway.) But it is lively, being neatly arrayed with a score of clear totes containing the archive of her life. Things that would have been piled up in my home (and yours, perhaps?) are filed away and labeled with amusing cards in the front that make it easy to see what each contains. Clearly, she has not voided her life of all memorabilia but she has wrangled them in such a way as to allow for breath, space and clarity.  

This allows her living room, kitchen, the bedroom and bath to be nearly empty of extra stuff. These rooms feature thoughtfully chosen textures and colors, bits of ancient memory in the form of a deliberately remaindered bit of linoleum (evoking history almost reverentially) and various delicious bits of wonder culled from the salvage yards. These include common vessels of glass (I share this love of glass) and cans with labels from 70 years ago. 

She commissioned her long-time friend Brian to construct several pieces of very simple built-in furniture, each cleverly designed to serve exactly as needed. None look fancy or ostentatious but each seems as though it belonged there from the time that this very simple 800-to-900-square-foot house was built.  

Color and light are emphasized in each small item and nothing is fancy. In other words, Hyland made no purchases to please the neighbors or a buyer. She was filling specific needs and providing stewardship of a craftsman and a friend.  

Hyland is not afraid of color, and what a blessing this is. There is color everywhere and it’s so very refreshing. (How I ache from looking at white, white, white.) The front is a scheme of two colors, the back a different pair. Each room has its own set of colors and each evokes its own feeling. Again, there are very few objects/furnishings and there is plenty of room to dance, to plop down on the floor or to start a project. 

Now, Hyland is not without her many bits of salvage and discovery. The basement—thank goodness for basements—is filled with tools and art objects. There’s an enormous wooden mold for a ship’s propeller, for example, probably from the Kaiser Richmond shipyards of WWII. She somehow obtained several massive chests of drawers of the kind used in industry for parts storage. Opening one revealed a nutcracker. I imagine that the others contain marbles, upholstery tools, pink-pearl erasers and paint brushes. 

While seeming lavish and, sensually, almost opulent, this home contains virtually nothing bought new at any store in recent years. The luxury comes from space, color, light and order; from a joy found in ordinary immemoria. An old toy, some beaded-board planks lining a wall, an ancient jar. 

With this aesthetic, Hyland is pretty recession-proof. Yes, she does need to pay the mortgage, but she’s not working her life away. She doesn’t make a financier’s earnings and doesn’t need to. She earns a living by selling houses, doing graphic design and editing copy—and she has time and has crafted a life for herself that leaves me somewhat dumbfounded. (And I don’t generally lack for words as you, dear reader, can attest. If you’d like to join me in admiring her home, you can see bits of it at hylandbaron.com.)  

So back to my initial point. With respect to our houses, there are many things we can do to avoid going bankrupt whilst making these places serve us. First is to give up on doing it the way the Joneses do. Leave the granite in the ground (I hear some of it’s radioactive, anyway). The green cost of shipping granite across the sea is untenable and it’s also becoming so common that Formica is starting to carry the shock of the new by comparison.  

Second: Visit the salvage yards. Once you’ve begun to see what’s missing in your space, see if something used can fill the bill. If it needs alteration, you can invest in the local economy by hiring a craftsperson to shape, install and paint something that’s one quarter the cost of new. You can give Kermit a run for his greenness when you use something old, as you will be combating dozens of significant ways in which the manufacture of new goods is ravaging this planet (deforestation, shipping and manufacturing CO2, land filling, to name just a few.)  

A client of mine, Lara, a scientist, mother and homeowner, is currently rehabbing much of her house. She has elected to reuse her cabinets, feeling that they are still perfectly adequate. She also plans to not to install a new one as she builds out a new kitchen. Why not? Her current dishwasher idles in mechanical indolence below the counter where hand-washed dishes rest in a disk rack. She is making reasonable choices based on actual need-how refreshing!  

If you must buy new, consider where things are made (shipping being a major element in the destructive impact of each new thing, especially if it is weighty.) Consider that what makes a space wonderful may be less a function of what you put into it than what you take out of it; and less a function of money than of good fundamental design.  

For those acquiring new homes, My friend, realtor Leif Jenssen, likes to cite that it’s best to wait a year or so before doing any major remodeling simply because it will take that long to begin to discern the real deficiencies in the new place. Also, it can take a year to figure out where you spend most of your time, where it’s too dark, and so forth.  

The recession isn’t likely to leave us any time soon and the value of your home—if you’re lucky (lucky?) enough to own one—may remain static or even drop in the coming years. Further, many will have to make do with smaller incomes and all of us would be wise to save more and spend less.  

Hyland’s lesson—which she lives but does not preach—is that happiness, aesthetic gratification and sensible home maintenance need not break the bank. In fact, none of these things can be found at the bank. They are obtained through the interest and engagement of active minds and eager hearts. 

Arts & Events

Arts Calendar

Thursday November 20, 2008 - 10:12:00 AM



“The Theater of Insects” Photographs by Jo Whaley. Reception at 6 p.m., lecture and slides at 7 p.m. at UC Graduate School of Journalism, North Gate Hall UC campus. 


International Latino Film Festival “Cuba, el valor de una utopia” at 6 p.m. “Matar a Todos”/”Kill Them All” at 8:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $5-$7 each film. 849-2568.  


Anna Deavere Smith “We Are What We Say” at 4 p.m. at Berkeley Art Museum Theater, 2621 Durant Ave., access via sculpture garden. Sponsored by Townsend Center for the Humanities. 643-9670. 

Linda Williams and Kristen Whissel discuss their new books on film “Screening Sex” and “Picturing American Modernity” at 5:30 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585.  

Poetry Flash with Michael McGriff and Andrew Grace at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087 


“Fall Forward 2008” Mills College Repertory Dance Concert Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. at Lisser Hall, Mills College, 5000 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland. Tickets are $12-$15. 430-2175. 

Bay Area Classical Harmonies “Incarnation: Advent and Christmas Music of Eastern Orthodox Traditions” at 7:30 p.m. at Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascension, 4700 Lincoln Ave., Oakland. Suggested donation $20. www.bayareabach.org 

The Rubber Souldiers, The Rowan Brothers, David Gans at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

The Rova, Nels Cline Celestial Septet at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Kelly Park & Friends at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Tim Mooney at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

Dogwood Speaks, Alex Lee, The Knockout Brothers, progressive fink and hip hop, at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Dave Ridnell & Friends, Brazilian jazz, at 7:30 p.m. at 33 Revolutions, 10086 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 898-1836. 

Adrian Gormley Jazz Ensemble at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

McCoy Tyner Trio featuring Mac Ribot at 8 and 10 p.m., through Sun. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $20-$35. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



Aurora Theatre “The Devil’s Disciple” Wed.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 and 7 p.m. at 2081 Addison St. through Dec. 7. Tickets are $40-$42. 843-4822. www.auroratheatre.org 

Actors Ensemble of Berkeley “Doctor Faustus” Fri. and Sat at 8 p.m. at Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck Ave., at Berryman, through Nov. 22. Tickets are $10-$12. 649-5999. www.aeofberkeley.org 

Berkeley Rep “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” at 8 p.m. at the Roda Theater, 2015 Addison St, through Dec. 14. Tickets are $13.50-$71. 647-2949. b 

Berkeley Rep “The Arabian Nights” Tues.-Sun. at the Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison St., through Jan. 4. Tickets are $27-$71. 647-2949. berkeleyrep.org 

Central Works “Blessed Unrest” by Paul Hawken, Thurs, Fri, Sat at 8 p.m., Sun at 5 p.m. at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. through Nov. 23. Tickets are $14-$25. 558-1381. centralworks.org 

Contra Costa Civic Theater “Greater Tuna” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at 951 Pomona Ave., El Cerrito, through Dec. 7. 524-9132. www.ccct.org  

Impact Theatre “Tallgrass Gothic” Thurs.-Sat at 8 p.m. at La Val’s Subterranean, to Dec. 20. Tickets are $10-$17. 464-4468. impacttheatre.com 

Masquers Playhouse “Do I Hear a Waltz?” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2:30 p.m. at 105 Park Place, Pt. Richmond, through Dec. 20. Tickets are $20. 232-4031. www.masquers.org 

UC Dept. of Theater “Top Girls” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Durham Studio Theater, UC campus. Tickets are $10-$15. 642-8827. 


“The Gift of Art” group show of smaller works in various mediums. Reception at 6 p.m. at Cecile Moochnek Gallery, 1809-D Fourth St.  

“Pistils & Petals: The Art of Flowers” Group show. Opening reception at Jan Rae Communiy Art Gallery, Women’s Cancer Resource Center, 5741 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. 601-4040, ext. 111. www.wcrc.org 


International Latino Film Festival “Utopía 79” at 6 p.m. “Calle Santa Fe” at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $5-$7 each film. 849-2568.  

Movie Classic “Singin’ in the Rain” at 8 p.m. at Paramount Theater, 2025 Broadway. Tickets are $5. 625-8497. 

The Films of Robert Aldrich “Vera Cruz” at 6:30 p.m. and “The Last Sunsert” at 8:45 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 


Leslie Carol Roberts reads from “The Entire Earth and Sky: Views on Antartica” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

The Berkeley Poetry Review’s monthly reading series presents “The Beat Generation” at 7 p.m. in 330 Wheeler Hall, UC campus.  


Bay Area Classical Harmonies “From Constantinople to Tblisi: An Armenian Legacy” at 7:30 p.m. at St. Vartan Armenian Church, 650 Spruce St., Oakland. Tickets are $15-$35. 868-0695. www.bayareabach.org 

“Music of War for Harpsichord and Organ” at 8 p.m. at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, 1501 Washington Ave., Albany. Donation $10. 525-1716. 

San Francisco City Chorus at 8 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way. Tickets are $20-$25. www.sfcitychorus.org 

Marcus Shelby Quartet at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $12-$18. 845-5373.  

Mads Tolling Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ.  

Sila & The Afrofunk Experience at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is tba. 525-5054.  

Monica Pascal at 8 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

Sean Johnson and the Wild Lotus Band from New Orleans “Calling the Spirits - An Evening of Mystical Mantra Music” at 8 p.m. at Sacred Space at Rudramandir, 830 Bancroft Way, at 6th. TIckets are $15-$20. 486-8700. 

Ellis Paul at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $19.50-$20.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Izabella, 2Me at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $10. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Jerry Kennedy, acoustic soul, at 7:30 p.m. at 33 Revolutions, 10086 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 898-1836. 

Rhonda Benin at 9 p.m. at Maxwell’s, 341 13th St., Oakland. Cost is $15. 839-6169. 

Nathan Clevenger Trio at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Voetsek, Mind of Asian, Lack of Interest at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $8. 525-9926. 

GG Tenaka Band at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Soul Magic, roots, rock, reggae at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $10. 548-1159.  



Los Amiguitos de La Peña with Gary Lapow at 10:30 a.m. at La Peña. Cost is $5 for adults, $4 for children. 849-2568.  

“Coppelia, the Doll with the Porcelain Eyes” a puppet show at 11 a.m., 2 and 4 p.m. at Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland. Cost is $6. 452-2259.  

The Bubble Lady at 11 a.m. at Studio Grow, 1235 10th St. Cost is $7. 526-9888. 


“Art from the Heart” Reception at 2 p.m. at NIAD Center for Art and Disabilities, 551 23rd St., Richmond. Exhibition runs through Dec. 19. 620-0290. www.niadart.org 


“Literary Works on Trial” with David Green, Exec. Dir. of the First Amendment Project at 3 p.m. at African American Museum and Library, 659 14th St., Oakland. 637-0200. 

Peter Glazer, co-editor, reads from James Neugass’s “War Is Beautiful: An American Ambulance Driver in the Spanish American Civil War” at 4 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 


The Interdenominational Community Choir at 4 p.m. at the 75th Anniversary Gala of St. Paul AME Church Berkeley, 2024 Ashby Ave. 848-2050. 

San Francisco Taiko Dojo International Taiko Festival at 7 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $38-$49. 642-9988.  

“Fall Forward 2008” Mills College Repertory Dance Concert at 8 p.m. at Lisser Hall, Mills College, 5000 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland. Tickets are $12-$15. 430-2175. 

“Works in the Works 2008” dance performance series by Choreographers’ Performance Alliance Sat. and Sun. at 7:30 p.m. at Eighth Street Studio, 2525 Eighth St. Tickets are $10 at the door. 527-5115. 

Garrett McLean, violin, Jenness Hartley, viola, Ting Chen, ‘cello, Marvin Sanders, flute, perform music of Bach, Haydn, and Mozart. Nov 22 at 8 p.m. at Giorgi Gallery, 2911 Claremont Ave. Cost is $10. 848-1228. www.giorgigallery.com 

Afsaneh Art and Culture Society “Miriam’s Well” Sacred dance, music and poetry at 8:30 p.m. at Julia Morgan Theater, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $24-$28. 848-2192. 

Rhythm & Muse spoken word and music open mic series features singer/songwriter Olmec at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St. behind Live Oak Park. 644-6893.  

The Function at 9:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $7-$8. 849-2568.  

Ed Reed & His Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ.  

Mark St.Mary Lousiana Blues & Zydeco Band at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

All Ones, jam band, at 7:30 p.m. at 33 Revolutions, 10086 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 898-1836. 

Woody Guthrie Tribute with Country Joe McDonald at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $20.50-$21.50. 548-1761.  

The German Projekt at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15. 845-5373.  

Gaucho Gypsy Swing Music at 9:30 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $5. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

Midnight Train at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  

Dave Matthews Blues Band at 8:30 p.m. at Royal Oak Pub, 135 Park Place, Pt. Richmond. 232-5678. 

Gooferman, The Fuxedos, Party of Ten at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $10. 841-2082.  

McCoy Tyner Trio featuring Mac Ribot at 8 and 10 p.m., through Sun. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $20-$35. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

Stitches, Bodies, The Forgotten, Wild Weekend at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $7. 525-9926. 



Asheba at Ashkenaz at 3 p.m. Cost is $4-$6. 525-5054.  


“Tellabration” Celebrate National Storytelling Day with Randy Rutherford and others at 3:30 p.m. at Arts First Oakland, 2501 Harrison St., Oakland. Tickets are $10. 444-4755. www.stagebridge.org 

“Inside/Outside: The Great Wall of China” a conversation with Michael Meyer and David Spindler at 3 p.m. in the Berkeley Art Museum Theater. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 


The Prometheus Orchestra at 3 p.m. at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church, 114 Montecito Ave., Oakland. Free. www.stpaulsoakland.org 

“Kafka Fragments” Music of Gyorgy Kurtág at 7 p.m. at Zellerbach Playhouse, UC campus. Tickets are $68. 642-9988. www.calperformances.net 

University of California Alumni Chorus “Voices of Light/The Passion of Joan of Arc” An oratorio with silent film at 7:30 p.m. at Hertz Hall, UC campus. Tickets are $6-$15. 

“Works in the Works 2008” dance performance series by Choreographers’ Performance Alliance at 7:30 p.m. at Eighth Street Studio, 2525 Eighth St. Tickets are $10 at the door. 527-5115.  

Family Fall Concert “Music & Dance” with San Francisco Chamber Orchestra and San Francisco Ballet School Training Program at noon at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. Free.  

Annabelle Chvostek at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Thangs Taken: Rethinking Thanksgiving with music, poetry and film at 7 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $8-$25, sliding scale. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Tammy Pilisuk & Friends at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

San Francisco Taiko Dojo International Taiko Festival at 3 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $38-$49. 642-9988. www.calperformances.net 

Birol Topaloglu with George Chittenden, Lisa Liepman and Ruth Sali Shopov at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $12-$15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Johannes Wallmann Quintet at 4:30 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 



Aurora Theatre Company Script Club discusses Miller’s “The Crucible” and Shaw’s “The Devil’s Disciple” at 7:30 p.m. at 2081 Addison St. Free. 843-4822. www.auroratheatre.org 

“Public Art and Media: From Spectacle to Political” with Anne Pasternak at 7:30 p.m. at 160 Kroeber Hall, UC campus. Sponsored by Berkeley Center for New Media. 642-0635. atc.berkeley.edu 

Poetry Express Theme night on “water” at 7 p.m. at Priya Restaurant, 2072 San Pablo Ave. 644-3977. 


“Kafka Fragments” Music of Gyorgy Kurtág at 8 p.m. at Zellerbach Playhouse, UC campus. Tickets are $68. 642-9988. www.calperformances.net 

Acoustic Mandolin Ensemble traditional Italian music, at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave. 548-5198.  

Classical at the Freight with Michael Taddei & Friends at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage Coffee House. Cost is $8.50-$9.50. 548-1761.  

Downtown Jam Session with Glen Pearson at 7 p.m. at Ed Kelly Hall, Oakland Public Conservatory of Music, 1616 Franklin St., Oakland. Cost is $5. www.opcmucsic.org 

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



“Canyon Cinema: The Life and Times of an Independent Film Distributor” with Scott MacDonald at 7:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808.  


Tom Rigney & Flambeau at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $9. 525-5054.  

Randy Craig Trio at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  



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


Tangonero at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Tango dance lesson at 7:30 p.m. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

La Verdad at 9:30 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Salsa dance lessons at 8:30 p.m. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159.  





Aurora Theatre “The Devil’s Disciple” Wed.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 and 7 p.m. at 2081 Addison St. through Dec. 7. Tickets are $40-$42. 843-4822. www.auroratheatre.org 

Berkeley Rep “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” at 8 p.m. at the Roda Theater, 2015 Addison St, through Dec. 14. Tickets are $13.50-$71. 647-2949. berkeleyrep.org 

Berkeley Rep “The Arabian Nights” Tues.-Sun. at the Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison St., through Jan. 4. Tickets are $27-$71. 647-2949. berkeleyrep.org 

Contra Costa Civic Theater “Greater Tuna” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at 951 Pomona Ave., El Cerrito, through Dec. 7. 524-9132. www.ccct.org  

Impact Theatre “Tallgrass Gothic” Thurs.-Sat at 8 p.m. at La Val’s Subterranean, to Dec. 20. Tickets are $10-$17. 464-4468. impacttheatre.com 

Masquers Playhouse “Do I Hear a Waltz?” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2:30 p.m. at 105 Park Place, Pt. Richmond, through Dec. 20. Tickets are $20. 232-4031. www.masquers.org 








Melissa Rivera in a birthday tribute to Silvio Rodriguez at 8:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $12. 849-2568.  

Golden Dragon Acrobats at 8 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $24-$46. 642-9988.  

Moodswing Orchestra at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Blame Sally at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $19.50-$20.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Loose Ends at 9 p.m. at Maxwell’s, 341 13th St., Oakland. Cost is $15. 839-6169. 

Pomegranate, The Patrick Winningham Band at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Jerry Kennedy, acoustic soul, at 7:30 p.m. at 33 Revolutions, 10086 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 898-1836. 

Nine Wives at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Jinx Jones Trio at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Eric Benet at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Sun. Cost is $26-$30. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



“Coppelia, the Doll with the Porcelain Eyes” a puppet show at 11 a.m., 2 and 4 p.m. at Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland. Cost is $6. 452-2259. www.fairyland.org 


“Out of Darkness” A show of Winter Solstice altars at Oakopolis, 447 25th St., Oakland. 663-6920.  


“Our Hospitality” A Buster Keaton film for all ages at 3 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 


Golden Dragon Acrobats at 8 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $24-$46. 642-9988. www.calperformances.net 

Yancie Taylor Jazztet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Glen Washington, reggae, at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $20. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Laurie Lewis, Tom Rozum & Friends at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $19.50-$20.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

The Luke Thomas Trio at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

The Melatones, Spidermeow, Dave Gorssman at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Hatchet, Fog of War, Witchaven at 7 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $8. 525-9926. 



Chamber Music Sundaes, featuring San Francisco Symphony musicians and friends, at 3 p.m. at St John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. Tickets are $20-$25 at the door. 415-753-2792. www.chambermusicsundaes.org  

Golden Dragon Acrobats at 3 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $24-$46. 642-9988. www.calperformances.net 

Jane Lenoir & Calvin Keys Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Mahea Uchiyama, at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Irish Christmas at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $22.50-$23.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 



‘Do I Hear a Waltz?’ at Masquers Playhouse

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 10:49:00 AM

Leona Samish, an American secretary (played by Alison Peltz), bursts into song (“Someone Woke Up”) as she finds herself on vacation in Venice, so excited she falls into the canal—“but only up to here!”—continuing her dance around the Pensione Fioria veranda, holding her dripping shoes high. 

Do I Hear a Waltz?, the Rodgers and Sondheim musical from 1965, with book by Arthur Laurents from his play The Time of the Cuckoo (Summertime, the Katherine Hepburn movie, was also based on it), is playing at the Masquers Playhouse, directed by Dennis Lickteig in his maiden run for the Pt. Richmond company. Lickteig asks the question in the program: why is this musical so little done, so little known? A reasonable answer he provides is that the later ’60s brought different concerns to entertainment in general. And Do I Hear a Waltz? is very much of its time, in a pleasing way. 

A gaggle of tourists are roosting at the pensione: the Middle American enthusiasts, the McIlhennys (Anna Albanese and Scott Alexander Ayres); a Guggenheim fellow “trying to be a painter” (William Giammona as Eddie Yeager), who wants to go home, while his wife (Beverley Viljeon as Jennifer) doesn’t; and by turns pixie-ish, spunky and suspicious Leona (the adjectives also describe Peltz’s performance), who hopes to have an experience, maybe an affair—but most of all, to be loved. Senora Fioria (Ellen Brooks, veteran of both the old Mime Troupe’s Commedia and Theatre of Yugen’s Japanese comedy and tragedy) chides her for her pickiness, like a starving child, offered ravioli and demanding a beefsteak: “Miss Samish, eat the ravioli!” 

Fioria becomes the counter-moralist (and the most chic-ly dressed, in Maria Graham’s costumes), later proclaiming “I can forgive bad behavior from agony, not from morality!” When Eddie and Jennifer argue (Eddie later tells Jennifer he wants to go home to avoid temptation by the real women in Italy!), Jennifer goes off to a movie—and Eddie climbs into a gondola with Fioria, raising the bubbly Leona’s eyebrows. 

Leona finds some masculine solace in the form of shopkeeper Renato (Paul Macari). Their dalliance overcomes obstacles and Leona’s compulsive suspicion (Renato later tells her the only thing she received without suspicion was a thing, an expensive necklace), at least until Leona, lit by martinis, lets loose on all and sundry, breaking up the idyll, Renato finally pronouncing her “too complicated,” though with sympathy, more than Leona can muster for herself. 

There’s whimsicality and wit, and that self-awareness of American callowness those times bore. There’s charm and some clever (Giammona, a Lamplighter, singing a tongue-twister, “Bargaining,” or joining in with a flirtacious Fioria and a hilariously incomprehensible maid, played by Diane Ratto, in an English lesson, “No Understand”) and some tuneful (“Moon in my Window,” passed between the women, ending in a trio, or Macari singing “I am not a dream come true—but stay!”) Rodgers numbers with Sondheim lyrics, the title song an achieved hit in its time. 

It all takes place on John Hull’s set, overlooking the Gran Canal, lit by Renee Echavez, with Joanne Gabel leading a quintet in the pit and choreography by Jayne Zaban. Sylas Cooper alternates with Christopher Urquhart as boy-on-the-street Mauro and Nick Hauser is Renato’s gentlemanly son, Vito.  

It’s sprightly and entertaining, and as Lickteig notes, it “cleverly flips the conventions of the musical comedy romance.” Saying, “They don’t make ‘em like that anymore” usually refers to prewar classics or the most popular stuff of the late ‘40s-early ‘50s. It can be said of the knowing fare of the early-mid ‘60s, too. Do I Hear a Waltz? is a refreshing look back at Americans abroad—“wash and wear Americans” as Fioria sings—looking at themselves in the mirror.  


Presented by Masquers Playhouse at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 2:30 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 20. $20. 105 Park Place, Point Richmond. 232-4031. www.masquers.org.

Aurora Presents Bernard Shaw’s ‘Devil’s Disciple’

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 10:49:00 AM

A small, spartan New Hampshire town during the Revolutionary War—directly in line of the march of British redcoats from Canada, aiming to meet Howe’s army moving north from New York, to cut New England off from the other colonies—is the scene of a father’s amended will being read, where Dick Dudgeon (Gabriel Marin), self-styled Devil’s Disciple (title character in Bernard Shaw’s 1897 play at the Aurora), finds himself master of his ramrod-stiff Puritan mother’s (Trish Mulholland) house, as he is oldest son and she but a woman, meeting with her exit-line curse (better than living with her blessing, Dick will later declare) as she storms out, leaving him with only the illegitimate daughter (Tara Tomicevic) of an uncle just hanged by the British as an example to rebels. 

Dick is shunned as naysayer, a role he takes on with zest, though the extent of his evil seems to be the wearing of his convictions, if not his heart, on his sleeve. His smile seems twisted quizzically rather than cunningly; more whimsical than calculated, he allows himself to be arrested for treason in place of the local Calvinist minister (Soren Oliver) when redcoats come into the house where he’s sitting at tea with the minister’s wife. 

Here’s where Shaw’s magnificent comic sense sparks a few satirical blazes. The minister’s upright young wife (Stacy Ross as Judith), who fancies herself as hating Dick, finds her passions mysteriously reversed after he walks away, calmly in custody, and her husband, whom she expects to rush to effect his release, instead hurries away into hiding, without the tender (if wry) kiss that Dick, pretending to be the minister, had impishly bestowed on her. Later, this 180-degree turn will rotate another 90, as Judith will resent Dick for not going to the gallows loving her! 

(It’s a very early indication of the somehow levelheaded, yet comic, genius of Shaw that captivated Brecht when he was preparing his own political theater of discernment: the very different actions two characters take, faced with the same situation-actions opposite what their roles would seem to dictate.) 

What seems scurrying, self-serving cowardice turns out to be a hurried plan of action on behalf of all, accomplished offstage and revealed only at the climax, while Shaw hilariously sends up the conventions of romantic comedy in the shadow of the noose—a fact not lost on the first reviewer of the play, Shaw’s original commercial success and his only play set in America (where it had its premiere in New York). Again, the dramatist—usually styled a follower of Ibsen, but well aware of other trends—helped show the way to 20th century Modernism by taking Oscar Wilde’s dictum of The Mask another step in a new social comedy which wasn’t Wilde’s comedy of manners in a mirror, as well as using his fellow Dubliner’s sense of an actor speaking a bon mot epigrammatically, a little bit out of character and situation, to comment on the proceedings onstage and in the world. Brecht noticed that too. 

Adroit with the bon mots is British commander “Gentlemanly” Johnny Burgoyne (“But my friends call me General,” he intones), played with appropriate deadpan by David Warren Keith, knowing he is already defeated by the colonials, but telling his second-in-command that the true enemy of the English soldier is the War Office, reassuring him that “History, sir, will tell lies as usual.” 

The play ends with a handshake and an invitation to lunch, after much travail and amid hoopla. Barbara Oliver, Aurora’s founder, has directed one of the better Bernard Shaw productions in otherwise arid years of his works being wrenched around into other comic conventions. Her actor son Soren and costumer daughter Anna join her and a well-cast company and well-chosen production team for a little Election Year Spirit of 1777. 



Presented by the Auorora Theatre at 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday and at 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 7. $40-$42. 843-4822. www.auroratheatre.org.

Berkeley Rep Stages August Wilson’s ‘Joe Turner’

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 10:50:00 AM


Around the table of an African-American boardinghouse in the Hill District of Pittsburg during the early years of the 20th century are the faces of people of all ages in transit, in transition or just looking for something, a milieu drama of what folks do differently, facing the rigors of a common situation of discrimination and uprootedness. They’re in August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, directed by Delroy Lindo on Berkeley Rep’s Roda Stage, in association with the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, the Rep’s first Wilson show. 

Jeremy (Don Guillory) is a young laborer from the rural South, looking for a place to play his guitar and a woman to keep him company while he wanders to “see all the places.” Bynum (Brent Jennings)—a “heebie-jeebie” man who binds people with his song—is looking for his Shining Man who showed him the meaning of life one day on the road. 

Joining them are Molly Cunningham (Erica Peeples), who, it turns out, is looking for a man to spend his money on her, though she declared she loves nobody but her mother; Mattie Campbell (Tiffany Michelle Thompson), looking to make sense of things after her man just walked away in search of something else; and Herald Loomis (Teagle F. Bougere), the role Lindo originated, hovering mysteriously about in heavy coat and hat with the crown pushed up and brim pulled down, who arrives with his daughter (Nia Renee Warren or Inglish Amore Hills), searching for the wife who left years before when he was forced into a work gang, rounded up by the semi-mythic Joe Turner of the title, a governor’s brother, whose name Bynum keeps intoning in snatches of a blues. 

Only their host Seth Holly (Barry Shebaka Henley) and his wife Bertha (Kim Staunton) aren’t wandering in spirit. Seth is the son of a Free Man who built the house and taught him to make pots and pans—though he’s chafing at the bit, looking for someone to back a manufacturing concern. And Rutherford Selig (Dan Hiatt), who takes his wares on the roads to sell, wanders, but only to bring back those he’s found.  

Loomis, haunted and diffident, finally tells his story, urged on by Bynum—and later acts out his vision of “bone people” from underwater, who surface and walk on the waves, while Loomis witnesses and finds he cannot stand. His passion erupts as the others happily celebrate a “Juba” dance.  

Readers and spectators of Wilson’s other plays—especially his lifework, completed just before his untimely death, a sequence of Pittsburgh Hill District dramas covering every decade of black life last century—will find much that’s familiar, both in the structure of action and in the hints and more explicit references to and appearances of folklore and spiritual wisdom, historical events and fictional characters that wend their way through his series of tableaux. The “bone people,” for instance—and at one point, Loomis shoots Bynum a look and says, “Now I know who you are, one of those bone people!”—are the spirits of slaves buried at sea on the infamous Passage from Africa, evoked as an initiatory ritual to “the city of bones” in Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean, and in other moments in other plays. 

Wilson started out a poet, and there’s something of the esoteric knowing of the poet in his weaving of themes and events, of serving as voice for the unrepresented, telling them parables of their history. 

The cast is a very good one, professional actors in the realest sense, dedicated to their characters and the story. They lend their aura to what is always an interesting, if not always gripping, telling.  

Part of that is in the direction. Lindo, who worked with Wilson as an actor in productions of his plays, directed the successful Blue Door for The Rep, a flexible, lyrical memory play with a cast of two. With a more formal production, as well as a bigger cast and broader historical and metaphysical themes, the solid portrayals of the actors in ensemble don’t seem to add up to more than the sum of their parts, don’t “bind together” in the heat of the big moments that arise suddenly from much expository (as well as humorous and touching) dialogue. 

But part of the flatness, the vestigial sense in much of what’s said and done, comes from the somewhat academic, schematic formalism of the play itself, something that seems to dog other plays in Wilson’s admirable project, an inability to overcome or fuse the stolid form with the fluid events and sometimes furtive shape of untold stories, folk history confronting the harshness of a society with a “fix” on the major social means of transmission. Wilson calls Joe Turner a blues play; the astringent taste of the blues crops up here and there. But it doesn’t premeate the action, or serve to reveal it. 


Through Dec. 14. $13.50 - $71. at the Roda Theater, 2015 Addison St. 647-2949. www.berkeleyrep.org. 

About the Hous: Freeing Aesthetics from the Constraints of Economics

By Matt Cantor
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 10:58:00 AM

If the terriers and bariffs are torn down, this economy will grow.—G.W. Bush (Heck if I know what a bariff is but if the terriers get torn down, I’m moving to Canada—M.C.) 


From high atop North America (if you accept the Mercator Projection), the Royal Bank of Canada tracks consumer confidence with their program “Consumer Attitudes and Spending by Household” (amusingly acronymed C.A.S.H.) These ratings have plummeted from nearly 70 percent in September ‘08 to about 35 percent this November. In other words, they’ve crashed. Perhaps more than the various stock markets—none of which I understand—the perceived safety or prudence of spending has fallen dramatically this year, foreshadowing a Christmas season that will have Target missing its mark and Amazon up the creek without a blowgun.  

I can’t say that I’m entirely unhappy about all these happenings any more than I’m entirely unhappy about recently high gas prices. I think that our consumer cult(ure) is unhealthy on several levels, including those of our spiritual life (not religious or even theistic … just spiritual), the health of the planet and the health of our true economy (working people producing good and vital services). Spending is the not the basis of either a healthy economy or a healthy personal life. We all know this but we tend to forget, so I’m here to act, once again, as an annoying but a relatively benign reminder. 

Americans don’t save. Using credit cards they can’t afford, they try to impress people they don’t like by buying things they don’t need. The instability of our economy started at home and that’s where it continues to crumble. The housing crisis is certainly as good an example of misguided spending as any and it is clearly near the core of the current economic crisis. While home ownership is a very desirable thing when it’s within our means, when it’s beyond our means, it’s beyond our means. Selling someone a mortgage they can’t afford to keep up is a crime that should be punishable by business failure. Don’t get me started—well, that ship would seem to have sailed, so my apologies. 

The other day I met a young woman who impressed me very much. Her name is Hyland. She does own a home and she has paid the mortgage. She bought her house on the other side of the tracks, as it were, and she’s just fine with that. It’s part of living within her means, which she does uncommonly well. The house is sparse and clean and I was so envious at this alone that it was actually physically painful in much the way that one yearns for ice cream or youth or the ability to undo a really nasty faux pas. Her house is full of color and light and not too much of anything else. Without spending a lot of money, she has achieved a kind of perfection. 

Her attic is one of those that cannot be called a proper living space for reasons including ceiling height, floor strength and proper ingress (stairway.) But it is lively, being neatly arrayed with a score of clear totes containing the archive of her life. Things that would have been piled up in my home (and yours, perhaps?) are filed away and labeled with amusing cards in the front that make it easy to see what each contains. Clearly, she has not voided her life of all memorabilia but she has wrangled them in such a way as to allow for breath, space and clarity.  

This allows her living room, kitchen, the bedroom and bath to be nearly empty of extra stuff. These rooms feature thoughtfully chosen textures and colors, bits of ancient memory in the form of a deliberately remaindered bit of linoleum (evoking history almost reverentially) and various delicious bits of wonder culled from the salvage yards. These include common vessels of glass (I share this love of glass) and cans with labels from 70 years ago. 

She commissioned her long-time friend Brian to construct several pieces of very simple built-in furniture, each cleverly designed to serve exactly as needed. None look fancy or ostentatious but each seems as though it belonged there from the time that this very simple 800-to-900-square-foot house was built.  

Color and light are emphasized in each small item and nothing is fancy. In other words, Hyland made no purchases to please the neighbors or a buyer. She was filling specific needs and providing stewardship of a craftsman and a friend.  

Hyland is not afraid of color, and what a blessing this is. There is color everywhere and it’s so very refreshing. (How I ache from looking at white, white, white.) The front is a scheme of two colors, the back a different pair. Each room has its own set of colors and each evokes its own feeling. Again, there are very few objects/furnishings and there is plenty of room to dance, to plop down on the floor or to start a project. 

Now, Hyland is not without her many bits of salvage and discovery. The basement—thank goodness for basements—is filled with tools and art objects. There’s an enormous wooden mold for a ship’s propeller, for example, probably from the Kaiser Richmond shipyards of WWII. She somehow obtained several massive chests of drawers of the kind used in industry for parts storage. Opening one revealed a nutcracker. I imagine that the others contain marbles, upholstery tools, pink-pearl erasers and paint brushes. 

While seeming lavish and, sensually, almost opulent, this home contains virtually nothing bought new at any store in recent years. The luxury comes from space, color, light and order; from a joy found in ordinary immemoria. An old toy, some beaded-board planks lining a wall, an ancient jar. 

With this aesthetic, Hyland is pretty recession-proof. Yes, she does need to pay the mortgage, but she’s not working her life away. She doesn’t make a financier’s earnings and doesn’t need to. She earns a living by selling houses, doing graphic design and editing copy—and she has time and has crafted a life for herself that leaves me somewhat dumbfounded. (And I don’t generally lack for words as you, dear reader, can attest. If you’d like to join me in admiring her home, you can see bits of it at hylandbaron.com.)  

So back to my initial point. With respect to our houses, there are many things we can do to avoid going bankrupt whilst making these places serve us. First is to give up on doing it the way the Joneses do. Leave the granite in the ground (I hear some of it’s radioactive, anyway). The green cost of shipping granite across the sea is untenable and it’s also becoming so common that Formica is starting to carry the shock of the new by comparison.  

Second: Visit the salvage yards. Once you’ve begun to see what’s missing in your space, see if something used can fill the bill. If it needs alteration, you can invest in the local economy by hiring a craftsperson to shape, install and paint something that’s one quarter the cost of new. You can give Kermit a run for his greenness when you use something old, as you will be combating dozens of significant ways in which the manufacture of new goods is ravaging this planet (deforestation, shipping and manufacturing CO2, land filling, to name just a few.)  

A client of mine, Lara, a scientist, mother and homeowner, is currently rehabbing much of her house. She has elected to reuse her cabinets, feeling that they are still perfectly adequate. She also plans to not to install a new one as she builds out a new kitchen. Why not? Her current dishwasher idles in mechanical indolence below the counter where hand-washed dishes rest in a disk rack. She is making reasonable choices based on actual need-how refreshing!  

If you must buy new, consider where things are made (shipping being a major element in the destructive impact of each new thing, especially if it is weighty.) Consider that what makes a space wonderful may be less a function of what you put into it than what you take out of it; and less a function of money than of good fundamental design.  

For those acquiring new homes, My friend, realtor Leif Jenssen, likes to cite that it’s best to wait a year or so before doing any major remodeling simply because it will take that long to begin to discern the real deficiencies in the new place. Also, it can take a year to figure out where you spend most of your time, where it’s too dark, and so forth.  

The recession isn’t likely to leave us any time soon and the value of your home—if you’re lucky (lucky?) enough to own one—may remain static or even drop in the coming years. Further, many will have to make do with smaller incomes and all of us would be wise to save more and spend less.  

Hyland’s lesson—which she lives but does not preach—is that happiness, aesthetic gratification and sensible home maintenance need not break the bank. In fact, none of these things can be found at the bank. They are obtained through the interest and engagement of active minds and eager hearts. 

Community Calendar

Thursday November 20, 2008 - 10:05:00 AM


Green Gathering V + Sustainability Summit on ways to make Berkeley sustainable at 4 p.m. at Bancroft Hotel, 2680 Bancroft Way. Tickets are $35. To register see www.ecologycenter.org/GGSS 

“Sustainability and the Living Roof at the Cal Academy of Sciences” with Dr. Frank Almeda at 12:30 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak Sts. 238-2200. www.museumca.org 

“Closer to Home: Eating from Local Foodsheds” A panel discussion on the opportunities and challenges of eating locally grown food from the perspectives of public health, food access, school food service, and regional farmland vitality, at 7 p.m. at 112 Wurster Hall, near the intersection of College Avenue and Bancroft Way, UC Campus. http://enviro.berkeley.edu/amr/foodsheds 

Tilden Tots Join a nature adventure program for 3 and 4 year olds, each accompanied by an adult (grandparents welcome)! We’ll look for signs of animals, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. Cost is $6-$8. Registration required. 1-888-327-2757. 

Tilden Explorers An after-school nature adventure program for 5-7 year olds. We will learn about the mammals that live in Tilden Park from 3:15 to 4:15 p.m. Cost is $6-$8. Registration required. 1-888-327-2757. 

“Save Our Sandhill Cranes” A talk by Gary Ivey, researcher on cranes in the Pacific Flyway, and Mike Eaton, crane habitat conservation expert at 7 p.m. at the Oakland Zoo, Marian Zimmer Auditorium. Cost is $5-$20. amy@oaklandzoo.org 

“It Came from Berkeley” A slide show and talk by Dave Weinstein at 7 pm. at El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Ave., El Cerrito. 526-7512. 

LeConte Neighborhood Association meets at 7 p.m. at Mudraker’s Cafe, Telegraph and Stuart. To submit agenda items or get information contact karlreeh@aol.com 

Easy Does It Board of Directors Meeting at 6:30 p.m. at 1636 University Ave. 845-5513. 

Circle of Concern Vigil meets on West Lawn of UC campus across from Addison and Oxford, Thurs. at noon and Sun. at 1 p.m. to oppose UC weapons labs contracts. 848-8055. 

Baby & Toddler Storytime at 10:15 and 11:15 a.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043.  

Three Beats for Nothing South Mostly ancient part music for fun and practice meets every Thurs. at 10 a.m. at the South Berkeley Senior Center, Ellis at Ashby. 655-8863. asiecker@sbcglobal 

Fitness Class for 55+ at 9:15 a.m. at Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. 848-0237. 

Avatar Metaphysical Toastmasters Club at 6:45 p.m. at Spud’s Pizza , 3290 Adeline at Alcatraz. namaste@avatar.freetoasthost.info  


City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Paolo Gianturco, photographer, writer on “Women Who Light the Dark” Luncheon at 11:45 a.m. for $14.50, speech at 12:30 p.m., at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant St. For information and reservations call 524-7468. www.citycommonsclub.org 

Tilden Tots Join a nature adventure program for 3 and 4 year olds, each accompanied by an adult (grandparents welcome)! We’ll look for signs of animals, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. Cost is $6-$8. Registration required. 1-888-327-2757. 

“The Price of Fire” with Ben Dangl on the new social movement in Bolivia at 7 p.m. at AK Press, 674-A 23rd. St., Oakland. 208-1700. www.akpress.org 

Demonstrate for Peace! Bring your signs and determination to bring our troops home now at 2 p.m. at Acton and University aves. Sponsored by Berkeley-East Bay Gray Panthers and Strawberry Creek Lodge Tenants Association and the Iraq Moratorium. 841-4143. 

New Deal Film Festival Artists at Work “Housing, Farm and Rural Electrical Cooperatives of the 1930s” at 1 p.m. at North Oakland Senior Center, 5714 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Oakland. Sponsored by the Berkeley-East Bay Gray Panthers. 548-9696. 

Red Cross Blood Drive from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Children’s Hospital, Outpatient Center basement, 747 52nd St., Oakland. To schedule an appointment go to www.BeADonor.com 

Kol Hadash Humanistic (non-theistic) Judaism Shabbat service at 7:30 p.m. at the Albany Community Center, 1249 Marin Ave. Please bring finger dessert or snack to share for the Oneg, and non-perishable food for the needy. 428-1492. 

Berkeley Women in Black weekly vigil from noon to 1 p.m. at Bancroft and Telegraph. Our focus is human rights in Palestine. 548-6310. 

Three Beats for Nothing Mostly ancient part music for fun and practice meets every Fri. at 10 a.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, Hearst at MLK. 655-8863.  


St. Paul AME Church Berkeley 75th Year Anniversary Gala with the The Interdenominational Community Choir at 4 p.m. at 2024 Ashby Ave. 848-2050. 

Berkeley Historical Society Walking Tour of Aquatic Park from 10 a.m. to noon. Cost is $8-$10. For reservations and starting point call 848-0181. 

Cerrito Creek Work Party Help Friends of Five Creeks plant natives on Cerrito Creek at Albany Hill. Meet at 10 a.m. at Creekside Park, south end of Santa Clara Ave. (internet maps 3499 Santa Clara; AC Transit 72 or 52L). Wear clothes that can get dirty and shoes with good traction. 848-9358. www.fivecreeks.org 

Reptile Rendevous Learn about the reptiles that live in Tilden Park, and meet some up close, from 2 to 3 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center. 525-2233. 

East Bay Baby Fair with information on pregnancy, birth and parenting, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Albany Veterans Memorial Building, 1325 Portland Ave., Albany. www.eastbaybabyfair.com 

Emeryville Marina Sunset Walk Meet at 3 p.m. for an hour walk through the Marina, with quiet views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, on paved trail, wheel chair accessible. Optional early dinner after walk at the Emery Market. Meet at the back of Chevy’s Restaurant, by picnic tables. 234-8949. 

Demonstration of Mayan Backstrap Weaving with Celia Sántiz Ruiz and Maria Gutierrez, members of the Jolom Mayaetik weaving cooperative in Chiapas, Mexico, at 5 p.m. at Talavera Ceramics, 1801 University Ave., at Grant. 665-6038. 

Health & Science Festival with hands-on activities for children and families from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Hall of Health, 2230 Shattuck Ave., lower level. Cost is $5. Children under three free. 705-8527. 

Math and Science Classes from the Lawrence Hall of Science for families with children in kindergarten through fifth grade from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at Richmond Public Library, 325 Civic Center Plaza, Richmond. Free. 620-6557. 

Santa Paws Benefit for Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society Have your pet photographed with Santa from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Redhound, 5523 College Ave., Oakland, and Sun. from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Dog Bone Alley, 1342 Park St., Alameda. Cost is $30. 845-7735, ext.13. cshelby@berkeleyhumane.org 

Origami Workshop with Nga Trinh for all ages, at 2 p.m. at the North Branch, Berkeley Public Library, 1170 The Alameda at Hopkins. 981-6250. 

“Rebel Shamans: Indigenous Women Confront Empire” with Max Dashu of the Suppressed Histories Archives at 7 p.m. at Redwood Gardens Community Room, 2951 Derby St. Donation $15-$20, sliding scale. www.suppressedhistories.net 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden Sat. and Sun. at 2 pm. Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Tilden Park. Call to confirm. 841-8732.  

The Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club provides free instruction every Wed. and Sat. at 10:30 a.m. at 2270 Acton St. 841-2174.  

Car Wash Benefit for Options Recovery Services of Berkeley, held every Sat. from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Lutheran Church, 1744 University Ave. 666-9552. 


Memorial for Peter Camejo at 2 p.m. at International House, 2299 Piedmont Ave. 831-246-1888. 

Thangs Taken: Rethinking Thanksgiving with music, poetry and film at 7 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $8-$25, sliding scale. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Tilden Mini-Gardeners Explore the wonderful world of gardens for ages 5-8 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. Cost is $6-$8. Registration required. 1-888-327-2757. 

Mayan Woman Weavers with Celia Sántiz Ruiz and Marla Gutierrez on the Jolom Mayaetik weaving cooperative in Chiapas, Mexico, at 2 p.m. at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. 843-8724. 

Working with Wool Watch as the spinning wheel turns wool into yarn, try a drop spindle and create a felted holiday ornament, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

“Tellabration” Celebrate National Storytelling Day with Randy Rutherford and others at 3:30 p.m. at Arts First Oakland, 2501 Harrison St., Oakland. Tickets are $10. 444-4755. www.stagebridge.org 

SOA Watch Candlelight Vigil Against Torture in memory of the six martyred Jesuits and their housekeeper and her daughter and thousands of unnamed others in El Salvador at 5 p.m. at St. Joseph the Worker, 1640 Addison St. Please bring a candle. 499-0537. 

Tour of the Berkeley City Club from 1 to 4 p.m. at 2315 Durant St. Offered by the non-profit Landmark Heritage Foundation. Free, but donations accepted. 848-7800. 

“Garden Inspired Holiday Decoration” with Leslie Piels and Ann Leyhe at 4 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

“Where Do We Go From Here?” Ecumenical Peace Institute’s Autumn Gathering with Byron Williams, pastor of the Ressurection Community Church, at 6 p.m. at Redwood Gardens, 2951 Derby St. Suggested donation $15-$35, includes dinner. RSVP to 655-1162. www.epicalc.org 

“Getting Unblocked” with Ann Wise Cornell at 10 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. 525-0302, ext. 306. 

Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace Peace walk around the lake every Sun. Meet at 3 p.m. at the colonnade at the NE end of the lake. 763-8712. lmno4p.org 

Tibetan Buddhism with Judy Rasmussen on “Gratitude for the Simple Life” at 6 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 809-1000. www.nyingmainstitute.com 

Increase Your Social and Moral Intelligence: Read a Play! Bagel and coffee brunch sponsored by Kol Hadash, Jewish Humanistic congregation at 10 a.m. at the Albany Community Center, 1249 Marin Ave. Suggestion donation $5. To register email info@kolhadash.org  

Jewish PJ Party For Very Young Children Songs, puppets, bubbles, snacks, crafts for children up to age 5 and their parents, Jewish or just curious at 10:30 a.m. at Jewish Gateways. To RSVP email rabbibridget@ 


Sew Your Own Open Studio Come learn to use our industrial and domestic machines, or work on your own projects, from 4 to 8 p.m. at 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. Also on Fri. from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Cost is $5 per hour. 644-2577. www.watersideworkshops.org 


“Voices of Dissent: Activism & American Democracy” Local filmmaker Karil Daniels will introduce her film and lead the discussion afterwards at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalist, 1924 Cedar at Bonita, Berkeley Donations appreciated. Wheel chair access. 

“Dark Energy Rules the Universe (and Why the Dinosaurs Don’t)” A talk by Dr. Eric Linder, Director of the Institute for Nuclear and Particle Astrophysics at Berkeley Lab at 5:30 p.m. at Berkeley Repertory Theater, Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison St. Free. 486-7292 

Kensington Library Book Club meets to discuss “Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole at 7 p.m. at 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. 524-3043. 

East Bay Track Club for girls and boys ages 3-15 meets Mon. at 6 p.m. at Berkeley High School track field. Free. 776-7451. 

World Affairs/Politics Discussion Group, for people 60 years and over, meets at 9:45 a.m. at Albany Senior Center, 846 Masonic Ave, Albany. Cost is $3.  

Berkeley CopWatch organizational meeting at 8 p.m. at 2022 Blake St. Join us to work on current issues around police misconduct. Volunteers needed. For information call 548-0425. 

Dragonboating Year round classes at the Berkeley Marina, Dock M. Meets Mon, Wed., Thurs. at 6 p.m. Sat. at 10:30 a.m. For details see www.dragonmax.org 

Free Boatbuilding Classes for Youth Mon.-Wed. from 3 to 7 p.m. at Berkeley Boathouse, 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. Classes cover woodworking, boatbuilding, and boat repair. 644-2577. www.watersideworkshops.org 


Tuesdays for the Birds Tranquil bird walks in local parklands, led by Bethany Facendini, from 7 to 9:30 a.m. Today we will visit Point Pinole Regional Shoreline. Call for meeting place and if you need to borrow binoculars. 525-2233. 

Tilden Explorers An after-school nature adventure program for 5-7 year olds. We will learn about the mammals that live in Tilden Park from 3:15 to 4:15 p.m. Cost is $6-$8. Registration required. 1-888-327-2757. 

Hike at Lake Chabot Reservoir Meet at 4 p.m. at boat house for an hour walk, on paved trail, wheel chair accessible. Optional dinner after hike. 351-6247. 

“A Primer on Global Climate Change” A presentation by the League of Women Voters of Berkeley, Albany and Emeryville, at 12:15 p.m. in the Edith Stone Room of the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave., Albany. 843-8824. 

Pacific Boychoir Academy Open House to learn about the academic and music program from 9 to 10:30 a.m. at 410 Alcatraz Ave. Please RSVP to 652-4722. www.pacificboychoiracademy.org 

Berkeley PC Problem Solving Meeting at 7 p.m. at 1145 Walnut St., corner Eunice. meldancing@comcast.net 

Family Storytime at 7 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043.  

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. 

End the Occupation Vigil every Tues. at noon at Oakland Federal Bldg., 1301 Clay St. www.epicalc.org 

Street Level Cycles Community Bike Program Come use our tools as well as receive help with performing repairs free of charge. Youth classes available. Tues., Thurs., and Sat. from 2 to 6 p.m. at at 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. 644-2577. www.watersideworkshops.org 

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

St. John’s Prime Timers meets at 9:30 a.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. We always welcome new members over 50. 845-6830. 

Sing-A-Long Group from 2 to 3 p.m. at the Albany Senior Center, 846 Masonic Ave., Albany. 524-9122. 

Caribbean Rhythms Dance Class begins at 5:30 p.m. at Redwood Gardens, 2951 Derby St., and meets every Tues. eve. Donations accepted for Community Rhythms Scholarship Fund. 548-9840. 

Ceramics Class Learn hand building techniques to make decorative and functional items, Tues. at 9:30 a.m. at St. John's Senior Center, 2727 College Ave. Free, materials and firing charges only. 525-5497. 

Yarn Wranglers Come knit and crochet at 6:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344.  


Golden Gate Birding Walk at Lake Merritt and Lakeside Park with Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey. Meet at 9:30 a.m. at the large spherical cage near Nature Center at Perkins and Bellevue. 549-2839. www.goldengateaudubon.org 

“Health for Sale” A documentary on Big Pharma and their policies and actions at 7:30 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Donation $5. www.Humanist Hall.org 

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. 548-9840. 

Theraputic Recreation at the Berkeley Warm Pool, Wed. at 3:30 p.m. and Sat. at 10 a.m. at the Berkeley Warm Pool, 2245 Milvia St. Cost is $4-$5. Bring a towel. 632-9369. 

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. 


Teen Chess Club from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the North Branch Library, 1170 The Alameda at Hopkins. 981-6133. 

Morning Meditation Every Mon., Wed., and Fri. at 7:45 a.m. at Rudramandir, 830 Bancroft Way at 6th. 486-8700. 


Annual Food Not Bombs Thanksgiving Dinner from 5 to 8 p.m. at at Ashkenaz. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Vegan Thanksgiving Potluck An East Bay tradition for 35 years, from 4 p.m. on in North Berkeley. To RSVP call 562-9934. 

Community Thanksgiving Dinner at 1 p.m. at Lake Merritt United Methodist Church, 1330 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland. Volunteers needed. 465-4793. 


“Back to the Jurassic” Dinosaur activities all weekend at the Lawrence Hall of Science, Centennial Drive below Grizzly Peak. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Cost is $6-$11. 642-5132. www.lawrencehallofscience.org 

Circle Dancing Simple folk dancing in a circle, no experience or partners needed. Potluck at 7 p.m., Dancing at 8 p.m. at Hillside Community Church, 1422 Navellier St., El Cerrito. Donation of $5 requested. 528-4253. www.circledancing.com 

Berkeley Women in Black weekly vigil from noon to 1 p.m. at Bancroft and Telegraph. Our focus is human rights in Palestine. 548-6310. 




3rd Annual Arts & Crafts Benefit Show and Sale of antiques and new items in the Arts & Crafts style from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Cost is $5, $20 for 10 a.m. opening. www.HillsideClub.org  

Womyn of Color Arts and Crafts Show, Sat. and Sun. from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Berkeley Open Studios Sat and Sun. from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Dec. 21. 845-2612. www.berkeleyartisans.com 

Artisan Faire Handcrafts and artwork from 40 local artists in the East Bay. from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Claremont, 41 Tunnel Rd. Free.  

Close the Farm Help us close the Little Farm and tuck in the animals for the night, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. at Tilden Little Farm, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

Mini-Farmers in Tilden A farm exploration program, from 10 to 11:30 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 $6-$8. Registration required. 1-888-EBPARKS. 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden Sat. and Sun. at 2 pm. Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Tilden Park. Call to confirm. 841-8732. www.nativeplants.org 

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

The Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club provides free instruction every Wed. and Sat. at 10:30 a.m. at 2270 Acton St. 841-2174.  

Oakland Artisans Marketplace Sat. from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sun. from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Jack London Square. 238-4948. 

Car Wash Benefit for Options Recovery Services of Berkeley, held every Sat. from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Lutheran Church, 1744 University Ave. 666-9552. 


Little Farm Goat Hike Join a short hike with the Little Farm goats as we explore the historic connections between humans and our ungulate friends. For ages 6 and up, at 10:30 a.m. at Tilden Little Farm, Tilden Park 525-2233. 

Children’s Holiday Tea with children’s authors and ilustrators at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. Seatings at 2:30 and 3 p.m. Tickets are $30 for adutlts, $20 children 12 and under. 848-7800. 

“Scientific Revolutions and Religion: The Copernican Revolution” with Bill Garrett, Prof. of Religion and Philosophy, JFK Univ., at 10 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. 525-0302, ext. 306. 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park Sat. and Sun. at 2 p.m. Call to confirm. 841-8732. www.nativeplants.org 

Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace Peace walk around the lake every Sun. Meet at 3 p.m. at the colonnade at the NE end of the lake. 763-8712. lmno4p.org 

Berkeley Chess Club meets every Sun. at 7 p.m. at the Hillside School, 1581 Le Roy Ave. 843-0150. 

Tibetan Buddhism with Jack Petranker on “Dealing with Uncertainty” at 6 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 809-1000. www.nyingmainstitute.com 


Design Review Committee meets Thurs., Nov. 20, at 7:30 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7415.  

Fair Campaign Practices Commission meets Thurs., Nov. 20, at 7:30 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-6950.  

Transportation Commission meets Thurs., Nov. 20, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7010. 


Help Low-wage Families with Their Taxes United Way’s Earn it! Keep It! Save It! needs Bay Area volunteers for its 7th annual free tax program. No previous experience necessary. Sign up at www.earnitkeepitsaveit.org