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LeConte parent Carly Strouse and her son Marlow Buettner—wearing a Superman cape—rake mulch in the school’s new garden Friday.
Riya Bhattacharjee
LeConte parent Carly Strouse and her son Marlow Buettner—wearing a Superman cape—rake mulch in the school’s new garden Friday.


Prosecutors: Insufficient Evidence to Charge Foster Father in Hasanni Campbell Case

Bay City News
Monday August 31, 2009 - 02:59:00 PM

An Alameda County assistant district attorney said today that there is insufficient evidence to file murder charges against the foster father of missing 5-year-old boy Hasanni Campbell. 

However, Alameda County Assistant District Attorney Tom Rogers said the investigation into the disappearance of Hasanni is continuing. Hasanni, who has cerebral palsy, was reported missing on Aug. 10. 

The decision not to file charges against 38-year-old Louis Ross follows a decision on Monday not to charge 30-year-old Jennifer Campbell, who is Hasanni’s aunt and foster mother, with being an accessory to murder. 

Hasanni was reported missing from the parking lot of the Shuz of Rockridge shoe store in the 6000 block of College Avenue in Oakland about 4:15 p.m. on Aug. 10. Jennifer Campbell works at the store. 

Oakland police spokesman Jeff Thomason said Friday that police are no longer considering the disappearance a missing-persons case and instead are investigating it as a homicide.  

Oakland police plan to release a statement later today about the investigation. 

Thomason said in a statement Monday that the department “has been diligently investigating the Hasanni Campbell homicide case day and night since his disappearance.” 

He said the case is “very complex” but declined to provide details, saying that might compromise the investigation. 

Oakland attorney John Burris, who has consulted with Ross and Jennifer Campbell, said he thinks Rogers’ decision not to file any charges against Ross at this time is “terrific” and appropriate because he thinks there isn’t any evidence against Ross that would support a criminal conviction. 

Campbell, who is the sister of Hasanni’s mother, was arrested about 1:50 p.m. Friday at the Union City BART station. She was released from custody Monday afternoon. 

Ross was arrested at about 2:45 p.m. Friday at the home at 5997 Roxie Terrace in Fremont where he and Campbell lived with Hasanni and another child. 

Burris said Ross probably won’t be released from custody until later today. He said authorities transported him from Alameda County’s Santa Rita Jail in Dublin to the Wiley Manuel Courthouse in Oakland this morning where he would have been arraigned had charges been filed against him. 

Burris said he believes Oakland police seem to suspect Ross hasn’t told them the truth but he said there isn’t evidence to corroborate those suspicions. 

“There aren’t any independent witnesses and there is no physical evidence or DNA” pointing to Ross’s guilt, Burris said. 

“There’s nothing that tied him to his involvement in the disappearance of Hasanni,” he said. 

Burris said he thinks the decision by Oakland police to arrest Ross and Campbell “was wrong-headed” and “unfair to these two people.” 

He said he thinks the arrests were “a tactic to see if they would turn against each other but it was unsuccessful.” 

Burris said, “I hope the attention now turns to trying to find Hasanni and the people who possibly kidnapped him.” 

He said there is no proof that Hasanni is no longer alive.

Hassani Campbell’s Foster Mother Will Not Face Charges

Bay City News
Friday August 28, 2009 - 05:27:00 PM

An attorney who has consulted with the foster parents of 5-year-old Hasanni Campbell, who was reported missing three weeks ago and is now believed to have been murdered, said today that he’s “glad” that no charges are being filed against the foster mother. 

Oakland attorney John Burris said he’s not surprised that the Alameda County District Attorney’s office isn’t filing any charges against 30-year-old Jennifer Campbell, the boy’s foster mother and aunt, because he believes “there was no factual basis for her to be arrested.” 

Burris said being arrested was traumatic for Campbell, who is six months pregnant, and caused her “a great deal of emotional harm.”  

Campbell, who is the sister of Hasanni’s mother, was arrested about 1:50 p.m. Friday at the Union City BART station. She had tentatively been scheduled to be arraigned at 2 p.m. today in Alameda County Superior Court. 

But Assistant District Attorney Tom Rogers said Campbell will be released from custody later today because there’s insufficient evidence at this time to charge her as an accessory in the murder of Hasanni, whose body hasn’t been found. However, the investigation into the boy’s disappearance is continuing, Rogers said. 

The boy, who has cerebral palsy, was reported missing from the parking lot of the Shuz of Rockridge shoe store in the 6000 block of College Avenue in Oakland at about 4:15 p.m. on Aug. 10. 

Rogers said he’s still reviewing police reports to see if there’s enough evidence to file murder charges against the boy’s foster father, 38-year-old Louis Ross. 

If charges are filed, Ross will likely be arraigned in Alameda County Superior Court at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Rogers said. 

Ross was arrested at about 2:45 p.m. Friday at the home at 5997 Roxie Terrace in Fremont where he and Campbell lived with Hasanni and another child. 

Oakland police spokesman Jeff Thomason said Friday that police are no longer considering the case to be a missing-persons case and instead are investigating it as a homicide. 

Thomason couldn’t immediately be reached for comment today. 

Burris said he thinks that that the Oakland Police Department arrested Campbell as “a tactic to intimidate her to talk” and disclose incriminating evidence against Ross. 

He said, “She hadn’t done anything wrong but the police didn’t accept that.” 

Burris said he was in the process of finding a lawyer to represent Campbell in case she appeared in court, but that he won’t have to do so now that she is being released. 

However, he said he has found a lawyer to represent Ross in the event charges are filed against him.

UC Police Officers Describe Events That Led to Kidnapping Suspect's Arrest

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday August 28, 2009 - 07:00:00 PM
UC Berkeley police officers Lisa Campbell and Ally Jacobs describe their meeting with Phillip Garrido, the Antioch man suspected of kidnapping 11-year-old Jaycee Lee Dugard in South Lake Tahoe in 1991.
Riya Bhattacharjee
UC Berkeley police officers Lisa Campbell and Ally Jacobs describe their meeting with Phillip Garrido, the Antioch man suspected of kidnapping 11-year-old Jaycee Lee Dugard in South Lake Tahoe in 1991.
Phillip Garrido, 58, and Nancy Garrido, 55, are charged with kidnapping Jaycee Lee Dugard 18 years ago.
Phillip Garrido, 58, and Nancy Garrido, 55, are charged with kidnapping Jaycee Lee Dugard 18 years ago.

UC Berkeley police officers Friday gave a detailed account of their encounter with Phillip Garrido, the Antioch man accused of holding 29-year-old Jaycee Lee Dugard captive for 18 years on his property.  

Officer Lisa Campbell, UCPD's manager of special events, and UC Police Officer Ally Jacobs recounted during a 45-minute press conference at the Berkeley campus a chain of events that led to the capture of kidnapping suspect Phillip Garrido and his wife Nancy and freedom for Dugard, who was abducted in 1991 at the age of 11 while walking to a bus stop from her South Lake Tahoe home.  

Campbell said that on Monday, Aug. 24, she was approached by a man in the Special Events Office lobby who told her that he wanted to host some kind of religious event on campus that would reflect “God’s desire.”  

“The suspect came into my office with two young girls behind him,” Campbell said. “He started talking about his organization.”  

When Campbell asked the man how it related to UC, he was inconsistent in his answers, telling her that it involved the government and UC Berkeley and the FBI. When she asked for his name, the man willingly gave it to her.  

“I asked him if it was OK to schedule an appointment for 2 o’clock Tuesday, and he said that the event was going to change the world,” Campbell said. “My initial impression was that he was clearly unstable.”  

Campbell described the girls as quiet and subdued, wearing drab dresses which she described as “Little House on the Prairie meets robots or clones.”  

Suspicious about the man’s behavior, Campbell told Officer Jacobs that she was a little disturbed with the situation. She was especially concerned about the two children and bothered by the fact that they were not in school.  

When Jacobs ran the man’s name on the police dispatch, she discovered that Garrido was on federal parole for kidnapping and rape and was a registered sex offender.  

“Once I heard that, red flags went up,” Officer Jacobs said. “It was a little more than what we had bargained for.”  

Jacobs briefed her supervisor about the situation and, along with Campbell, met Garrido the next day at Campbell’s office.  

     “We didn’t want to alert him to the fact that we were looking for anthing criminal,” Jacobs said. “We asked him how we could help him and he opened his attaché case and pulled out this book about schizophrenia and the FBI.”  

Jacobs said the book was self-published by Garrido. “It was a bunch of letters—choppy, difficult to understand,” she said.  

Garrido’s younger daughter sat next to him while his older daughter stood, Jacobs said.  

“It was really hard to understand what he was talking about,” Jacobs said, “and then suddenly he threw out that ‘Thirty-three years ago I was arrested for kidnapping and rape, but I have learned about the Lord and Jesus.’ ”  

Jacobs said that she was a little taken aback that he had confessed his crime in front of the children.  

“I had a hard time paying attention and I focused on the two young ladies,” she said.  

When she asked Garrido who they were, he replied “These are my daughters,” and said that they were in the fourth and ninth grades and were being home schooled.  

Jacobs said she noticed that the two little girls were rather pale compared to Garrido—"Blonde hair, very pale, with bright blue eyes like their father, penetrating blue eyes. ... The younger daughter was looking into my eyes, penetrating my soul and she had a smile on her face,” she said.  

While the younger daughter seemed more interested in answering questions, Jacobs said, the older one was behaving like a “robot,” either looking at her father or the ceiling and giving rehearsed answers.  

“They were not behaving like normal 11- or 15-year-olds,” Jacobs said. “It was like their father was their world, their life.” It was, she said, almost like their “emotions were brainwashed,” adding that the children were “extremely submissive,”  

When Jacobs asked the younger daughter about the “tumor-like” bump under her brow, the officer said she was a little surprised at the way the girl responded. The girl said it was a “birth defect, could not be operated on, and she would have it for the rest of her life.”  

At that point, Jacobs said, her maternal instincts took over as her "police mode turned into mother mode.”  

Jacobs said she continued to quiz Garrido about their family life and found out that his wife was a teacher. At this point, the younger sister said they had a 28-year-old sister who lived with them.  

“The older sister said, without missing a beat, '29'” Jacobs said. Campbell said that she was searching for any proof that would help them detain Garrido but was unsuccessful. The two officers said that although they wanted to take the children aside and question them, they knew Garrido would not have allowed that. Jacobs said Garrido was shaking nervously throughout the meeting. 

“I am just looking at the younger daughter for some kind of sign, like ‘help me,’ if she could help me with her facial expression but I wasn’t reading anything from these kids,” Jacobs said 

They told Garrido that they would hand over his book to their supervisor, and he gave each of them a copy.  

Before leaving, Jacobs said, Garrido grabbed his older daughter and said, “I am so proud of my girls. They don’t know any curse words,”  

“We knew something was going on with those girls but didn’t have any proof," Officer Jacobs said. "It was just really frustrating.”  

Jacobs left a message with Garrido’s probation officer describing her concerns.  

When the parole officer called Jacobs Wednesday morning, Aug. 26, to find out what was going on, Jacobs mentioned the little girls.  

“He stops me when I said he brought in his two daughters,” she said. “He says he [Garrido] doesn’t have any two daughters, and my stomach is sick. I said he had two daughters, theyhad his blue eyes, they were calling him Daddy, and that I had no reason to believe that they were not his daughters. In fact they had talked about an older sister.”  

Jacobs said that after talking to the parole officer she decided she would tell Garrido that he could not come back on the UC campus on condition of his parole, and that “the matter had come to an end.”  

But a few hours later she got a call from the parole officer saying that the FBI was involved. “And that’s the last time I heard from them,” she said.  

Campbell, who joined UCPD in Jan. 2009, said that as the story started to unfold, “I was at a loss for words.”  

“I am grateful that we were at the place we were and that we were able to take the actions we took,” she said. I am in awe of how many lives have been affected, that these girls have a chance at life and that he’s behind bars.”  

Before joining UCPD in January, Campbell worked as a background investigator for the Los Angeles Police Department and with the juvenile court and corrections system in Chicago.  

Both officers said they had no second thoughts on how they had handled the situation.  

“I couldn’t believe it was something so huge. At that time it didn’t seem like it was something that was going to turn into something this big,” said Jacobs, who has been with UCPD since 2001. “I am glad that this horrible ordeal for Jaycee is over, sad that it took so long. This was a life-altering experience.”

Swanson's Office Denies Charges of 'Watering Down' BART Police Oversight Bill

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday August 28, 2009 - 05:50:00 PM

The attempt to pass state legislation authorizing a civilian oversight of the BART Police Department—which had already featured a political disagreement between BART Board member Lynette Sweet and Assembly Public Safety Committee Chair Tom Ammiano—took another turn this week when Oakland Assemblymember Sandré Swanson came under criticism for "watering down" provisions in the proposed BART police oversight bill at the request of police lobbyists. 

Swanson's office denied making any changes to the proposed legislation and said that the provision change in question was given to the Oakland legislator by BART Board officials, who told him that the legislation had been agreed to by all parties promoting the BART police review legislation. 

The various controversies are coming with less than two weeks left for the Legislature to move forward with a bill to authorize BART civilian police oversight this year. 

As reported in the Daily Planet this week, Ammiano and members of the BART Board's Police Department Review Committee had disagreed over whether to move forward with the BART police review bill authored by Ammiano or one agreed to unanimously this month by the BART Board. BART is moving forward with implementing citizen review of its police department in the wake of the controversy surrounding the shooting death of 21-year-old Oscar Grant last January by a since-retired BART police officer. State legislation is needed to implement any changes in BART's police review policies. 

On Thursday, the San Francisco Chronicle's City Insider column reported that Swanson had agreed to carry the BART legislation at the request of "BART officials," but said that the Oakland legislator had "stripped out the provision that would have given the BART Board a role in police discipline cases" at the request of "the Peace Officers Research Association of California, a powerful lobbying force in Sacramento" which the Chronicle said had indicated "it would oppose any attempts to give elected officials the ability to discipline officers." The Chronicle item added that "members of the BART Board said Thursday they're not happy with the change." 

But during a Friday telephone interview, Swanson Chief of Staff Larry Broussard said that the Chronicle account was not true. 

Broussard said that Swanson met with BART board members earlier this week and agreed to carry legislation authorizing BART police civilian oversight after being assured that the legislation "had the support of law enforcement officials, the BART Board, and the community." Broussard said that the language for the proposed legislation was forwarded to Swanson's office by the BART Board members, and that Swanson made no changes to the provisions. 

Broussard said that after Swanson received the proposed language, the Oakland assemblymember learned that a provision had been taken out of the original language before it had been sent to him. That stricken language, according to Broussard, authorized the BART Board to recommend "appropriate discipline" against a BART police officer in cases of police misconduct. 

Broussard would not give the names of the BART Board members who met with Swanson this week. 

Swanson's Chief of Staff said that Swanson was still willing to work with BART officials, community residents, and law enforcement officials towards the passage of a bill this year for BART police oversight, adding that the legislator would also work with Public Safety Chair Ammiano "with whom," Broussard said, Swanson "has a close working relationship." But Broussard added that all of the parties promoting an oversight bill had to "put aside their differences" and come up with one proposal if any bill had a chance for passage "this late in the legislative season." 

East Bay community leaders were reported to be holding several meetings this week with BART officials and legislative leaders in a furious lobbying effort to break the impasse.

Kidnap Victim Lived in Antioch Backyard for 18 Years

Bay City News
Friday August 28, 2009 - 04:32:00 PM
Phillip Craig Garrido, 58, and Nancy Garrido, 55.
Phillip Craig Garrido, 58, and Nancy Garrido, 55.

Jaycee Lee Dugard, who was kidnapped from South Lake Tahoe at age 11 in 1991, spent 18 years living in the backyard of an Antioch home, raising two daughters fathered by the man who kidnapped her, investigators said today.  

Dugard was abducted by a man and woman driving a gray car as she walked from her home to a bus stop on the morning of June 10, 1991. Her stepfather, Carl Probyn, witnessed the abduction. 

On Wednesday, more than 18 years later, Probyn received a call from Dugard’s mother, Terry Probyn, saying the FBI had told her that her daughter had been found.  

An Antioch couple, Phillip Craig Garrido, 58, and Nancy Garrido, 55, were arrested for the kidnapping.  

Investigators believe Dugard, now 29, lived in a tent complex that had been set up in the backyard of the Garridos’ home on Walnut Avenue in an unincorporated pocket of Antioch, El Dorado County Undersheriff Fred Kollar said at a news conference in Placerville today.  

Dugard went by the name “Allissa” and had two daughters fathered by Phillip Garrido, Kollar said. She is now 29 years old; her daughters are 11 and 15.  

The three lived in a series of tents and sheds set up in a “secret” area of the backyard that was hidden by a 6-foot fence covered with a tarp.  

Two of the outbuildings had electricity supplied by an extension cord, and one shed was soundproof and could only be opened from the outside, Kollar said. The backyard contained a rudimentary outhouse and shower, Kollar said.  

Dugard’s daughters have apparently never been to school and never visited a doctor, Kollar said.  

"They were in complete isolation,” Kollar said.  

Cheyvonne Molino, owner of JM Enterprises, a Pittsburg auto dismantling yard, said Phillip Garrido had brought his daughters to a sweet sixteen party Molino held for her own daughter on Tuesday. 

Molino said she has known Garrido for about 10 years through her business, which she owns with her husband, and that he regularly printed business cards for them.  

He had never mentioned a wife or daughters, she said.  

“We were kind of shocked when he said, ‘Is it OK if my daughter comes to your daughter’s birthday party?’” Molino said.  

She said the two girls appeared to be about 11 and 13 years old.  

“He came, he brought his girls, they stayed for a little bit,” she said. At one point, according to Molino, Garrido said something to the effect of, “This isn’t what they’re used to, so we’re going to go ahead and go.” 

Molino said Garrido would often stop by JM Enterprises, on Willow Pass Road, with bottles of water for customers and employees. He would hand out the water and tell people about a church he was starting; one day, he brought a guitar, she said.  

Garrido wouldn’t press people on religion; he would just tell them to enjoy the water and would say “Jesus loves you,” Molino said.  

Molino said the girls had been by the store and had told an employee they were home schooled and that there was a church in their basement.  

The case of missing Jaycee Dugard began to crack open on Tuesday, when a police officer at the University of California at Berkeley saw Garrido on campus with the two girls and found their interaction strange, Kollar said.  

He said Garrido was trying to pass out literature on the campus. 

The police officer checked Garrido’s background and found that he was on federal parole.  

On Wednesday, Garrido’s parole officer had him come to his Concord office, and Garrido showed up with Nancy Garrido, “Allissa” and the two girls. 

“Allissa” turned out to be Jaycee Dugard, Kollar said. 

The El Dorado County District Attorney’s office expects to file charges against the Garridos by noon Friday.  

Dugard’s mother flew up to the Bay Area this morning from Southern California and reunited with her daughter in Contra Costa County, Kollar said.  

The Garridos were booked into Contra Costa County jail late Wednesday night and were transferred to El Dorado County this morning. 

Nancy Garrido was booked on charges of kidnapping and conspiracy, according to Contra Costa County jail records. Her husband was booked on charges including kidnapping, conspiracy, rape and committing lewd acts with a minor. 

Both were being held in lieu of $1 million bail. 

Residents of Walnut Avenue today grappled with the news that their neighbors had been arrested for Dugard’s kidnapping. The couple’s gray, one-story home was cordoned off with police tape.  

Betty Unpingco has lived on the street for 10 years and said the Garridos moved in after she did. “We’re all shocked, scared that it can happen just a few doors down,” she said.  

She said she saw Phillip Garrido more than his wife, and that she didn’t know him well but that she had once bought business cards from him.  

Angela Crabaugh, whose son lives across the street from the Garridos, described Phillip Garrido as a religious fanatic who was trying to form his own church.  

“I just always thought he was very bizarre,” she said.  

Garrido published a blog, http://voicesrevealed.blogspot.com, in which he claimed to be able to control sound with his mind. In a post earlier this month, he wrote that he had “the ability to speak in the tongue of angels” and had hosted a demonstration of this ability at JM Enterprises. 

Molino said she didn’t know until today that her business had been mentioned on the blog, and was shocked to learn of the allegations against Garrido.  

Dugard was abducted on June 10, 1991, while walking to a bus stop near her South Lake Tahoe home wearing a pink windbreaker and pink stretch pants.  

As she walked, a gray late-model sedan made a U-turn, approached Jaycee and a woman described as about 30 years old with long, dark hair pulled her inside, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. A man was also seen in the car. 

The El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office has confiscated a car hidden in the backyard of the Garridos’ home that investigators believe may have been used in the abduction, Kollar said.  

At the time of the abduction, Phillip Garrido was on federal parole for a separate kidnapping, a federal prison official said.  

He was convicted of kidnapping in U.S. District Court in Nevada and was sentenced to 50 years in federal prison in March 1977, said Brad Murray, a correctional systems officer at the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kan. 

He was sent to Leavenworth where he stayed until he was transferred to Lompoc in 1986, Murray said. He was paroled from Lompoc in January 1988, but was placed in a halfway house in San Francisco from August to December 1988 because of a minor parole violation, according to Murray. 

Garrido was not in federal custody at the time of Dugard’s abduction, but was arrested again in April 1993 because of another parole violation, Murray said. 

After a month, Garrido was transferred to home supervision and was released from supervision in August 1993, Murray said. 

Contra Costa County sheriff’s spokesman Jimmy Lee said Garrido has been registered with the sheriff’s office as a sex offender since 1999. 

Carl Probyn is no longer together with Dugard’s mother but remains close to her, and this morning he was still high from receiving her phone call the day before.  

“I’m running around the house like I’ve had six cups of coffee,” he said. 

He said Terry Probyn spoke with her daughter briefly on the phone before flying to the Bay Area. 

“It was kind of short and sweet but my wife did say that she remembers everything,” he said.  

Kollar said today that Dugard appears to be doing well physically. 

“Living in the backyard for the past 18 years does take its toll but she was in good health,” he said. 

Kollar said Dugard was “relatively cooperative” and “relatively forthcoming.” 

Former El Dorado County sheriff’s deputy Rick Olson was one of the people involved in the initial investigation into Dugard’s disappearance, and he attended today’s news conference.  

He said he has thought about the case a lot over the years. 

“I always wondered if there was something else I could have done, a different question I could have asked,” he said.  

He learned that Dugard had been found from news reports on Wednesday night. “I’m shocked and speechless,” he said. “I didn’t think this day would come.” 

Foster Parents of Hasanni Campbell Arrested for Murder

Bay City News
Thursday August 27, 2009 - 01:51:00 PM

The foster parents of 5-year-old Hasanni Campbell have been arrested for murder, police Officer Jeff Thomason said. 

Louis Ross and Jennifer Campbell were arrested today in connection with the disappearance of Hasanni, who was reported missing on Aug. 10, Thomason said. 

Jennifer Campbell, Hasanni’s aunt, is in custody in Oakland, while Ross has been arrested and is en route to the city, according to Thomason. 

No further details about the arrests were immediately available, he said.

Man Gets 50 Years to Life for Shooting Near UC Campus

Bay City News
Friday August 28, 2009 - 04:30:00 PM

A Richmond man was sentenced today to 50 years to life in state prison for the shooting death of 23-year-old Wayne Drummond of Oakland near the University of California, Berkeley campus three years ago. 

Nicholas Beaudreaux, 23, was convicted July 7 of first-degree murder and attempted second-degree robbery for the Sept. 4, 2006, incident that claimed the life of Drummond. 

Prosecutor Tim Wellman told jurors in his closing argument in the case that the incident began shortly after midnight on Sept. 4, 2006, when Drummond got into a confrontation with Crowder outside Blakes on Telegraph at 2367 Telegraph Ave. 

Drummond, who grew up in Southern California but attended a junior college in the Bay Area, and Crowder had been friends but their relationship had soured in the weeks before the shooting, according to Wellman. 

Wellman said that for reasons that haven’t been made clear, Beaudreaux, who has known Crowder since they were in middle school together but didn’t know Drummond, injected himself into the confrontation and told Drummond, “I don’t know how to fight, but I know how to use this metal in my waist.” 

Witnesses testified that Beaudreaux then pulled out a gun, stuck it into Drummond’s neck and demanded Drummond’s wallet, Wellman said. 

Beaudreaux then shot Drummond while the two men struggled over control of the gun, according to Wellman. 

Wellman said Drummond’s friends and a Berkeley police officer who arrived a few moments later attended to Drummond while he was lying on a sidewalk but they didn’t take him to the hospital because they didn’t realize that he had had been shot since they didn’t see any blood. 

Instead, Drummond’s friends drove him to a friend’s room at the Alpha Omicron Pi sorority at 2311 Prospect St., near the UC Berkeley campus, where he collapsed and died shortly after 2:30 a.m. 

Beaudreaux and Crowder weren’t arrested until February 2008 because it took authorities a long time to develop sufficient evidence in the case. 

Crowder also was charged with murder in connection with Drummond’s death, as Berkeley police said they believed that he had directed Beaudreaux to shoot Drummond. 

But prosecutors allowed Crowder to plead guilty to the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter on June 15 in exchange for his testimony against Beaudreaux. 

On July 21, Alameda County Superior Court Judge C. Don Clay, who sentenced Beaudreaux today, placed Crowder on five years’ probation and released him from jail after he served only 18 months. 

Downtown Plan Referendum Qualifies for Ballot

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday August 27, 2009 - 12:47:00 PM

Mayor Hints at Possible Compromise 


Despite the best efforts of elected and appointed officials, aided by “smart growth” advocates, Berkeley’s highly controversial downtown plan is headed to the ballot box.  

That is, Mayor Tom Bates says, unless the council majority challenges the petitions in court or the petitioners are willing to accept compromises that the mayor hints he is willing to make. 

In a campaign marked by controversy and confrontation, an estimated 9,200 people signed petitions to hold a ballot-box referendum on the Downtown Area Plan, far more than the required 5,528. 

The campaign had been so intense that referendum foe and City Councilmember Susan Wengraf was even quoted in the St. Petersburg (Florida) Times, after she complained to a San Francisco Chronicle reporter that “Sometimes democracy can go too far.” 

Supporters of the referendum were gleefully repeating her quote late Friday afternoon as they turned in their petitions to City Clerk Deanna Despain. 

The Downtown Area Plan (DAP) began as part of a settlement agreement conceived after the city sued UC Berkeley over its Long Range Development Plan 2020, which revealed that the school plans 850,000 square feet of off-campus development in the city center. 

Mayor Tom Bates and his eight City Council colleagues each appointed two members to a citizen committee charged with formulating the elements of a new plan. Three appointees from the Planning Commission were also included, bringing the total to 21. 

A schism was evident from the first meetings of the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee (DAPAC), with the panel polarized, appropriately enough, between the mayor’s own two appointees.  

Bates picked Will Travis as chair, which raised some hackles from the start in a city where commissions and committees usually pick their own chairs. Travis heads the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, and emerged during the committee’s two years of work as a development-friendly bureaucrat. 

His opposition coalesced around the mayor’s second appointee, environmentalist Juliet Lamont, who ended up as the de facto leader of the majority faction—a group that wanted a range of community benefits in exchange for allowing more tall buildings in the city center. 

Travis’ views prevailed when Berkeley Planning Commission members got a chance to draft their own rewrite, and when it came time for a final decision, the City Council used a Chinese restaurant menu approach, picking items from both columns while effectively giving developers an out from DAPAC’s community- benefit requirements. 

One section that has drawn fire allows developers to skip the plan’s community benefits if their cost prevents the project from “penciling out.” Section 8.3 of the Land Use section of the council’s version directs city staff that “When establishing provisions for new fees and financing, consider how all fees and exactions may discourage development.” 

Councilmember Jesse Arreguín, who filled the council seat representing the downtown after the death of Dona Spring, was joined in his opposition by Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who represents the south of campus area, including the Telegraph Avenue District. 

Both were on hand Thursday afternoon as Despain’s staff began counting the petitions. 

“It’s incredible,” said Arreguín. “It was so difficult to get these signatures, not only because many people, including students and university employees, were out of town, but because of intense harassment and intimidation. This is a great day for democracy in Berkeley.” 

Arreguín said a successful referendum would offer citizens and public officials a chance to come up with a plan that more people can accept. 

Worthington said the drive’s success demonstrated that the public believes DAPAC’s plan was best for the city. 

He said the signature total was even more impressive, given that as many as 25,000 voters were out of town during the petition drive. 

“Most of all, he said, “Jesse has demonstrated laudatory leadership in standing up for his district, for affordable housing and for green values. This is a profound accomplishment.” 

By Friday, even the mayor was willing to admit that referendum backers had more than met their numbers, with Bates conceding that there are “apparently enough” signatures to block implementation of the plan. 

Bates said councilmembers have three alternatives: “There were defects in the wording of the petitions themselves, and the council could choose to challenge their validity in court. We could attempt to pass a compromise plan with modifications to satisfy [the petitioners], or we could send the original plan to the ballot for the voters to decide.”  

Arreguín said he didn’t know what the mayor meant when he claimed the referendum petitions had language errors. “Before we went to the voters we submitted the petition to both the city attorney and the city clerk for binding review, and both said it met the requirements of state law,” he said. 

Bates said he wasn’t certain what changes to the council’s version would satisfy petition campaign leaders, but that since the petitioners’ concerns involved lessening the downtown density called for in the original plan, he didn’t believe any compromise would require a new environmental impact report. 

Bates suggested that council deliberation in response to the petition drive could take place as early as the next council meeting, scheduled for Sept. 22, in either executive or open session. 

“I’m not sure what the council will do, but we’re committed to getting the best plan possible for the citizens of Berkeley,” Arreguín said. “The council can rescind their vote approving the plan and come up with something different, or they can submit it to the ballot.” 

Patti Dacey, a DAPAC member, planning commissioner and participant in the referendum drive, said the campaign had no formal leadership, elected or otherwise. 

“We’re just a whole bunch of citizens who were outraged and decided to do something about it.” 

Dacey said the drive included at least a hundred volunteers, some of whom worked in pairs because of harassment. 

“It actually became easier the more the thuggery became known,” she said. 

Not all the heated words came from referendum opponents, with Daily Planet Managing Editor Justin DeFreitas observing a supporter trying to drown out a referendum critic during a farmers’ market confrontation. 

The next step is for the Alameda County Registrar of Voters to verify signatures, a sampling process to determine that enough registered voters have signed to qualify the petition for the ballot. 

“We do a random sampling of either 3 percent of the signatures or 500 [signatures], whichever is greater,” said Cynthia Cornejo, Alameda County Deputy Registrar of Voters. If the sample shows the total count is sure to meet or exceed the required number, the referendum is ready for the voters. 

Petition backer Tom Hunt said the campaign used new software that allowed it to verify that each signer was a registered Berkeley voter, an indication that the drive more than met its quota. 

Once the verification is handed down—Oct. 2 being the statutory deadline—it’s up to the city to decide what to do next. If no compromise can be reached, the measure would go on the next general election ballot, unless the city opts for the costlier route of a special election. 

Arreguín said he, Worthington and other referendum volunteers will be meeting soon for a discussion of their next course of action. 



J. Douglas Allen Taylor contributed to this report.

Berkeley Schools Will Not Offer In-House Clinics For Swine Flu

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday August 27, 2009 - 12:49:00 PM

Berkeley Unified School District Superintendent Bill Huyett said Wednesday that the district will not be holding in-house H1N1 immunization camps at schools, contrary to reports that have been circulating in the press in the last few weeks. 

“I don’t know where that came from,” Huyett said. “The school district is not a provider of vaccinations. The students will get them from their healthcare provider or the city’s Public Health Division.” 

Huyett met with the city’s acting health officer, Dr. Janet Berreman, Tuesday to make a plan for tackling the fall flu season when Berkeley schools open on Sept. 2. 

Alameda County health officials said that it could be days, even months, before the H1N1 vaccine becomes available. 

Alameda County Public Health Department spokesperson Sherri Willis said that “almost everything related to swine flu vaccinations is in flux” right now. 

Willis said that clinical trials for the H1N1 vaccine started more than two weeks ago and are expected to continue for another two to four weeks. Once they are complete, the Centers for Disease Control will analyze the results and make recommendations about safety and dosage. 

“You have to remember, it’s a very new vaccine,” Willis said. “Vaccines are usually a year old. This one is only five months old.” 

Willis said between 85 million and 120 million doses of the vaccine could become available any time between October and January. 

“The state Department of Public Health has been told that large flu vaccine manufacturers will distribute the vaccine to private doctors, in addition to public health departments, hospitals, and other entities that get the seasonal flu vaccine,” Willis said. “That, too, is subject to change.” 

Willis said all that had been confirmed so far were the target groups for the H1N1 vaccinations: children aged six months to young adults up to the age of 24; staff in K-12 schools and child care centers; pregnant women; and anyone taking care of babies at home. 

Adults under the age of 65 with chronic conditions that increase the risk of complications of influenza will also be immunized against H1N1, as will healthcare workers and emergency sector personnel. 

“The target population could be half of the population of the United States,” Willis said.  

Willis said Alameda County has decided that every public health office will hold mass vaccinations for the target populations and for various other vulnerable populations, such as the homeless, the uninsured and the underinsured. 

“This plan should work if insured persons are able to get the vaccination from their private doctors,” Willis said. “Again, everything at this point is tentative.” 

Willis said if the CDC recommends two H1N1 flu shots instead of one, people will have to wait three to four weeks between shots. 

Berkeley Unified School District spokesperson Mark Coplan said parents had already been mailed a flyer with general information about the flu to help prepare them for the start of the school year Sept. 2. 

The message from the Berkeley Public Health Division says the city anticipates an “increased number of hospitalizations and flu-related deaths in the coming weeks.” City health officials also recommend testing and treatment for hospitalized and high-risk individuals, adding that the new virus could “change to cause more severe illness or more widespread disease in the fall or winter.” 

Willis said that, although the county’s H1N1 vaccination clinics will not be located in schools, the city of Berkeley could decide to hold them in its schools because the city has its own health department. 

But Huyett said there were no plans to have immunization at school. 

“All the advice we have given on the flu last spring is still in effect,” he said. “There is nothing new or different.” 

Huyett said the district would continue to carry out the “WHACK the flu” campaign with WHACK being the abbreviated version for washing, staying at home when sick, and some of the other precautions health officials were asking everyone to take to protect themselves from the flu. 

He said that schools would not be closed unless a large number of students remained absent and it was absolutely necessary to close them. 

“We will be doing ample handwashing, especially with kids,” Huyett said, adding that, although the district was considering alcohol-based hand sanitizers, the schools will stick to soap and water for the time being. 

Coplan said the district will be engaging in talks with the city’s health office to examine funding options for alcohol-based hand sanitizers. 

“That could cost up to $80,000,” Coplan said. “It’s fairly expensive. We might also ask PTAs and community members to donate them. We literally don’t have any money to spend right now.” 

Willis said that the California Department of Public Health recommends alcohol-based sanitizers as long as they are used with the proper precautions. 

State public health department guidelines for using alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be found at www.cdph.ca.gov/ HealthInfo/discond/Documents/CDPHHealthAlert8-13-09.pdf..

A Drought-Resistant Garden at LeConte

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday August 27, 2009 - 12:50:00 PM
LeConte parent Carly Strouse and her son Marlow Buettner—wearing a Superman cape—rake mulch in the school’s new garden Friday.
Riya Bhattacharjee
LeConte parent Carly Strouse and her son Marlow Buettner—wearing a Superman cape—rake mulch in the school’s new garden Friday.

When LeConte Elementary School students come back to school Sept. 2, they will have a brand new garden—one that is drought resistant, saves water and attracts plenty of butterflies. 

Last fall, a group of LeConte parents got together to redesign the school’s front yard, which had turned into quite an eyesore due to spotty maintenance. 

They decided to replace the overgrown weeds and a very high-maintenance water-soaking lawn with a low-maintenance garden that could also be used as an outdoor classroom. 

Help arrived in the form of volunteers, a large number of donated materials, a $2,500 donation from the LeConte Parent Teacher Association and a $5,000 grant from the home improvement chain Lowe’s. 

On Friday, parents, students and community members met outside the school to help plant the first saplings and lay down mulch. 

“It’s also called the ‘butterfly-hummingbird-bee, drought-resistant, water-conserving garden’,” said LeConte parent Jim Smith, referring to what the school hopes to achieve through the project. 

Smith, who is a professional landscaper, spent hundreds of hours planning and designing the project, even meeting with Berkeley Unified School District officials to figure out the best irrigation method. “We wanted to provide something that’s fun to look at,” Smith said. “Earlier we had a rectangular grass patch consisting of virtually nothing but dead grass. We wanted to bring in native plants—over 90 percent of plants are selected because they attract butterflies.” 

The butterfly is LeConte’s mascot, and the school has a Butterfly Garden right next to the new one on Russell and Ellsworth streets, which draws species such as the West Coast Lady, Cabbage White and Anise Swallowtail. 

Smith said that local butterfly expert Andy Liu, who lives in the neighborhood and has created several butterfly nurseries, researched what kinds of butterflies frequented the area before suggesting the plants. 

“We removed everything except two plants and a couple of the trees,” Smith said, looking around the neat little piece of land, which looked ready for planting. “When you walked by it before, you would go ‘Gee, it would take a lot of work to make it look good.’ It was hard work all right, but we are glad we did it.” 

Smith estimated material costs to be anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000. Most of the early foundation work was carried out with the help of laborers donated by three landscape companies—Scott Parker Landscapes Inc., Kavalski Garden Works and Brende & Lamb Tree & Shrub—owned by LeConte parents or families of school district employees. Berkeley Unified replaced one of the old trees with a Raywood Ash tree and donated the irrigation material and hauling equipment, which removed 15,000 pounds of soil and grass. 

Basia Lubicz, the LeConte PTA’s vice president of fundraising and grantwriting, said the school had applied for the Lowe’s Toolbox for Education grant in light of the state cuts to education funding. 

A desire to extend LeConte’s Farm and Gardening program gave rise to the idea of a drought-resistant teaching garden that would provide a “hands-on” experience for kids, said Lubicz as she donned her sun hat and started digging. 

“The district has to maintain the area, send the mow-and-blow guys, so we thought, ‘Why not save them some water and money?’” she said. 

Lubicz said the project also fit in with the East Bay Municipal Utility District’s goal to conserve water during a particularly challenging drought season. The school consulted with the agency during the planning process. 

LeConte parent Carly Strouse and her sons Gus and Marlow Buettner were the first to arrive to help lay down the mulch. 

As a couple of Lowe’s employees from the South San Francisco outlet joined her, wearing their signature red uniforms, things started moving faster, and soon a part of the garden had three new drought-resistant plants. 

“We want to help the school and the community,” said Strouse, raking the earth as Marlow jumped on the mulch. “It’s great to save water, and it’s a great learning tool.”

Homeowners’ Possessions Hamper Firefighters

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday August 27, 2009 - 12:51:00 PM

Firefighters waged a two-hour battle against heavy flames in the predawn hours Wednesday, battling to save a South Berkeley home after a neighbor had rescued one of its two occupants. 

Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong said the initial call to 911 operators reported screams coming from a home at 2127 Russell St. Moments later a second call reported heavy flames coming from the house. 

“On arrival, firefighters saw heavy flames showing on the home’s west and north sides and from the windows,” he said. 

The two homeowners were standing outside when trucks arrived, one just rescued from the home by a neighbor, he said. 

But when firefighters tried to enter the home, they found the doorways and windows blocked by large amounts of personal belongings. 

Unable to enter the home, firefighters could only pour water into the structure through windows and vents until one of the crew was able to force his way into a second-floor window. 

Once in the home, a firefighter later told Deputy Chief Dong, “it was like being nine feet tall,” walking on accumulated materials that were spread three feet deep through much of the home. 

Asked what the items consisted of, Dong replied, “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.” 

The fire was finally brought under control at about 5:30 a.m., after causing an estimated $250,000 in damage, he said. The only injury reported was to a fireman, after debris from the blaze landed in his open eyes. 

Once the fire was out, staff from the city’s Public Works Department arrived with a backhoe and several 30-cubic-yard trash containers to begin removing debris from the house. They were still there Wednesday afternoon, he said. 

Neighbors had repeatedly complained about the accumulation of material inside and outside the home, and Assistant City Manager Jim Hynes e-mailed neighbors early Wednesday afternoon to report that “staff from Health and Human Services, Environmental Health, Building and Safety, Fire and Police have all tried on multiple occasions to assist the homeowners to address the health and safety issues ... but without the permission of the homeowners, we were never able to enter the home.” 

The city had won a court-issued nuisance-abatement order that allowed municipal workers to remove debris from the exterior side and back yards, he reported. 

“We are saddened by what happened in your neighborhood, and once we get a report from BFD, we will do a careful review to see what, if anything, could have been done differently,” he wrote. 

Deputy Chief Dong said the cause of the blaze remains to be determined..

Passion for Community Revealed in Curl’s History of Co-ops

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday August 27, 2009 - 12:55:00 PM
Author and woodworker John Curl in his West Berkeley shop.
Richard Brenneman
Author and woodworker John Curl in his West Berkeley shop.

Though his hair has turned white, John Curl’s passion burns undiminished by the passage of nearly seven decades. 

“We can’t create a utopia,” he says. “But we can restructure the world so that competition and repression aren’t the bases on which we build our society.” 

While he’s well-known as a master woodworker, Curl’s also a wordsmith, and in his latest book, For All the People, he offers his vision of the tools for building a better world. 

The answers are spelled out in the subtitle: Uncovering the Hidden History of Cooperation, Cooperative Movements and Communalism in America. 

Just published by Oakland’s PM Press, his work has been hailed in a jacket note by noted alternative historian Howard Zinn, who writes, “It is indeed inspiring, in the face of all the misguided praise of ‘the market,’ to be reminded by John Curl’s new book of the noble history of cooperative work in the United States.” 

Curl, a 30-year member of Heartwood Cooperative Workshop—located in West Berkeley’s landmark Sawtooth Building—has devoted his life to exploring the world outside the boss–employee paradigm. 

And in that world, he says, lies hope for a world now ravaged by economic crisis, exploding population and the perils of global warming. 

“In the globalized corporate world, either you’re an employee or you’re marginalized, a ‘useless person,’ ” he said, and one of the consequences is perennial unemployment. “Capitalism can’t live without unemployment,” he said. “It needs enough to get people to compete ferociously for shitty jobs, but not so much that it provokes a dangerous response.” 

The vision that he wasn’t cut out for the role of the salaried worker came early, during his youth in New York in the 1950s and ’60s. 

“When I was young, people had started getting together to form group houses,” he said. “That’s when I first learned about cooperatives, about young people getting together. It’s a natural function of human beings, but our society leaves that just for people’s personal lives and organizes the economy around a command structure.” 

For most of his life—except for brief spells as a public-sector worker and as a fledging worker in a New Mexico sweatshop—Curl has worked in the cooperative sector. 

He was also a member of what was perhaps the first widely publicized commune of the 1960s, Drop City, an artists’ commune near Trinidad, Colorado. 

“In 1966 I headed west. I realized there was no life for me in New York that I wanted to be part of, and I was looking for a home, for a place where there was more community. I really wanted community,” he recalled. “I had heard about this commune in Colorado, and about the communal homes in San Francisco.” 

After a stop in Drop City, he headed for the City by the Bay, spending the summer in San Francisco before heading back to Colorado. 

While he still treasures his time in Colorado, “the main thing I got out of Drop City was that, in working with other people in an intentional community, people don’t leave their baggage at the door.” 

Though the commune ultimately suffered the schisms that wracked most of the 1,500 or more communes that started in the ’60s and early ’70s, he learned that “the intentionality of trying to create a social structure was wonderful. The one rule we had was that nobody was boss.” Evolving simultaneously with the communal movement were the first of the latter-day cooperatives. 

“The first ones I heard about were co-ops for books, and then food stores. By the time I got to the Bay Area in 1971, there were quite a few worker co-op groups.” 

Curl’s knowledge of woodworking drew him to one of Berkeley’s more eclectic cooperatives, the Bay Warehouse Collective, a large building on the north side of Gilman Street between Fifth and Sixth streets. 

John became a member of Bay Woodshop, while other participants created a print shop, an auto shop, a photo studio, a pottery studio and a theatrical troupe. “All the money went into a central kitty, and salaries were paid out of that. Unfortunately, we didn’t make very much money,” he said. 

Unable to meet the costs, the groups split up, and the warehouse closed in 1974. But the woodshop group remained intact, forming Heartwood, and the printers formed another lasting Berkeley institution, Inkworks. The car mechanics moved to Oakland. 

“Quite a few of us are still around,” Curl said. 

His book traces the history of the cooperative and communal movements in America, a social current that reaches back to the nation’s original inhabitants, and that accompanied the Pilgrims in the earliest years. Berkeley readers will find detailed histories of the much beloved and long lost Berkeley Co-op, of Pipe City in Oakland, and a surprising number of other ventures now mostly forgotten. 

Curl sees co-ops and communes as counterinstitutions to the corporations empowered by the Industrial Revolution.  

“The promise of machines and technology was the ability to create a good life for everyone. But the combination of technology and capitalism created something very different, where all the wealth created by industry is funneled into the hands of a very small elite.” 

Curl said the first cooperatives were part of a wave of social movements that emerged in the nation’s earliest years, with journeymen workers who were also visionaries calling for different ways to organize communities and the workplace. 

His book traces the colorful and fascinating history of American counterinstitutions, including phenomena such as Abolitionist communes, union cooperatives, and the brief period during the New Deal when the government aided the desperately unemployed who were in search of new ways to bring sustenance to their families. 

Does the current economic crisis also pose a new opportunity for cooperation? 

“It’s the only way to create more options for living at a time when people are unemployed and helpless or working at jobs they detest,” he said. 

The same vision that inspired Curl’s exploration of the world of the cooperative and the communal is now driving his fight to preserve the West Berkeley Plan. 

“Property owners have been keeping the land off the market to provoke a zoning crisis,” he said. 

“During the 1980s, when we wrote the West Berkeley Plan, we had an excellent local government led by a populist mayor, Loni Hancock. The city staff had been given the direction, ‘Let’s see if a community can plan itself.’ ”  

Now, he said, under Hancock’s spouse, Mayor Tom Bates, city government has sided with developers to break the consensus so carefully constructed two decades before. 

One of the central concerns of the earlier plan “had been the recognition that there were very vulnerable parts of the community, with the arts and crafts especially vulnerable. But the profit motive is the only force for economic development that excludes the community. Viewed through the profit motive, you’re not an individual; you’re labor.” 

As a leader of WEBAIC—West Berkeley Artisans and Industrial Companies— Curl has been fighting to preserve the sense of community protected in the existing plan. And if history is any judge, the development community has roused a formidable foe.

Citizen Oversight of BART Police Stalled by Conflict Between SF Legistlators

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday August 27, 2009 - 12:51:00 PM

The fate of civilian oversight of the Bay Area Rapid Transit Police Department is being decided—for this year, at least—in a contest of wills and purpose between two San Francisco officeholders with longtime credentials in progressive politics.  

While both BART Board of Directors member Lynette Sweet and California Assemblymember Tom Ammiano feel that there will be just “one shot” to bring passage of a BART police oversight plan by the Legislature in the wake of last January’s shooting death of Hayward resident Oscar Grant by a BART police officer, they disagree on when and how it will be possible. 

Sweet is urging the California state Legislature to pass enabling legislation this year to authorize a police civilian review plan unanimously passed by the BART Board earlier this month. But Ammiano, newly selected as the chair of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, where the proposed legislation must be heard, has doubts about the BART civilian oversight plan, and wants it strengthened before bringing it to the Legislature next year. 

Legislation is needed for BART to implement its oversight plan because the BART charter—originally set up by the Legislature—does not currently allow the civilian police oversight sought by the BART Board. 

While Sweet lives in San Francisco, the District 7 BART district she represents is the only board district that crosses into all three counties served by BART: San Francisco, Alameda, and Contra Costa. 

The conflict between the two San Francisco politicians came to a head at a sometimes inflammatory Monday morning press conference called by BART at the district’s Oakland headquarters, in which several local leaders blasted Ammiano’s position on the police oversight issue. 

Rev. Daniel Buford of the influential Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland said he believed that Ammiano was “playing chicken with justice in the Bay Area and the East Bay. Here is a representative who has had no shootings by BART in his district. Here is a representative who has not consulted with the committee that created the police citizen oversight process [or with] the local representative, Sandré Swanson. It seems to me that in all this rush to craft a bill with his name on it, his name on the bill is more important than justice for Oscar Grant … His ego is more important than justice for Oscar Grant.” Buford called Ammiano’s bill a “competing quagmire of irrelevancy” and said that it was time to “quit playing ‘Father Knows Best’ with the interests of the Black community and the East Bay.” 

San Francisco NAACP president, Reverend Amos Brown, said that Ammiano, who is gay, “must not become that which he hated. He and his community have hated being mean to gays and lesbians because of their lifestyle. I am one preacher who has stood up for the rights of gays and lesbians to live out their lives and to pursue happiness in this nation and in this Bay Area. And I’m just appealing to Mr. Ammiano to remember that Black Folks deserve the same justice and respect that gay and lesbian and transgender people deserve in this nation.” Brown said that the “time is now for this measure [on BART police oversight] to be passed in our Assembly and Senate.” 

Reached by telephone following the BART press conference, Ammiano press representative Quintin Mecke said he had listened to the audio of the conference and called the comments “extremely disappointing” and “somewhat disingenuous.” He said that the controversy “speaks to the challenge we’ve had in trying to work with BART on this issue.” Mecke said that Ammiano’s office has “put no obstacles” in the way of civilian oversight of the BART Police Department. “There’s nothing we’re doing that would obstruct that process. We’re trying to move it forward.” But more important, Mecke said, Ammiano’s office is “trying to get it done right.” 

Although Sweet sought at the press conference to downplay her differences with Ammiano over the BART police oversight issue, she said that she was “shocked” to find out that Ammiano planned to re-introduce his BART police oversight legislation next year rather than trying to push it through this year. Sweet added that “we don’t have the luxury of standing up on Jan. 1, 2010 [the anniversary of the Oscar Grant shooting death on the Fruitvale BART platform], and saying that we have accomplished nothing tangible this year.” 

The Monday press conference was emceed by BART Director Carole Ward Allen, who represents the area surrounding the Fruitvale BART Station and chaired the four-member BART Police Department Review Committee that wrote the proposed police oversight measure, but it has been Sweet who has been informing community members about the stalemate with Ammiano and urging them to confront him. 

While Sweet and Ammiano have been working on parallel tracks on the BART police oversight issue since the beginning of the year, the clash was not inevitable, and it first appeared that they were working in complementary fashion. 

In mid-January, only a couple of weeks after Grant’s death, Ammiano introduced AB312, a bill that would “Create an Office of Citizen Complaints (OCC) to review and investigate allegations of misconduct filed against peace officers in the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Police Department,” according to the official legislative analysis. 

Meanwhile, the BART board was forming its four member Police Department Review Committee (with Boardmembers Tom Radulovich and Joel Keller joining Sweet and Ward Allen on the panel) to formulate its own response to the Grant shooting. Working through the review committee, the BART board eventually commissioned two independent studies on police issues, one on the Grant shooting, and a second, larger study on the entire BART Police Department. In addition, the review committee began working on the proposed citizen police oversight measure. 

Sources familiar with the police committee activities have said that Sweet was the driving force in the committee on developing the proposal. 

Both Sweet and Ammiano’s press aide, Mecke, agree that work on Ammiano’s AB312 was halted at the request of the BART board and other BART officials in order to give BART the time to draw up a specific citizen police oversight measure. The BART Board of Directors unanimously passed that proposal at its August 13. 

But the passage left little time for implementing legislation to be passed by the California Assembly this year. Only fiscal-related bills are currently being heard in committee, and consideration at this late date of any new legislation would require a supermajority of the Legislature to approve. 

Sweet says that any action must be taken by the end of this week, or the BART police bill is dead for the year. 

Sweet said this week that an alternative to introducing new legislation would be for Ammiano to pull out the contents of his already-introduced SB312 and substitute the contents of the BART board’s proposal—a common legislative practice—but Ammiano has balked at doing so. 

Mecke said that there are two provisions of the BART proposal that trouble Ammiano; one that would allow BART’s two police unions to place one member—jointly—on the proposed citizen police oversight panel, and another saying that if the BART general manager and the BART police chief disagreed with a police personnel decision by the citizen oversight panel, a two-thirds vote by both the citizen oversight panel and the BART Board of Directors would be needed to overturn that executive decision.  

Mecke said that police representatives do not belong on a civilian oversight panel, noting that “it would no longer be civilian,” and said that Ammiano did not believe that the general manager and the police chief should be in the loop of police discipline in a citizen police oversight model. 

Questioned about the BART police review proposal at Monday’s press conference, Sweet noted that the proposal received unanimous support from the BART board, hinting that support for the police review proposal might collapse if substantial changes were made to the existing measure. 

In his telephone interview, Mecke also said that Ammiano wants to make sure that there is a “full public vetting” of the legislation before it is passed, something he says would not be possible if the bill were rushed through this year. 

The Sweet–Ammiano disagreement has continued, in part, because the two are not meeting over the BART police issue, even disagreeing over why no such meeting has been taking place. Ammiano, instead, has a meeting planned this week with BART Police Department Review Committee members Ward Allen and Keller, to try to work out the differences. While Sweet says that she has sought meetings with Ammiano over the issue, and he has refused to meet with her, Mecke said by telephone that the BART board contingent to this week’s meeting with Ammiano was decided by BART itself, not Ammiano. 

AC Transit to Begin Public Outreach On Proposed Bus Line Cuts

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday August 27, 2009 - 12:52:00 PM

AC Transit will begin its community outreach in Berkeley to publicize and explain the bus district’s planned December line cuts and adjustments, but long-promised maps outlining the extent of the changes have yet to be released to the public. 

District officials say the cuts are necessary in order to keep AC Transit solvent over the next several years, as well as to plug a $9.74 million shortfall in the 2009-10 fiscal year budget. The district will drop 905 hours of bus service per day across the two-county district, 458 hours on weekends, for an estimated annual savings of $18 million. 

While sections of some AC Transit lines are being cut out altogether, district officials say that some of the cuts will be mitigated by alterations to other lines in an effort to minimize the effect upon bus riders. 

For weeks, district officials have been promising to release maps of the complicated line changes, and last week AC Transit Services and Operations Manager Corey Lavigne—who is overseeing the proposed changes—said they would be posted on the district’s website on Wednesday. The maps had not been posted by Daily Planet press deadline. 

AC Transit has scheduled a public meeting for Tuesday, September 8, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center at 1901 Hearst Avenue in Berkeley, to discuss the proposed line cuts and changes. Public meetings will follow for the next 10 days in San Pablo, downtown Oakland, Alameda, Fremont, the Fruitvale section of Oakland, San Leandro, and Hayward. A complete list of the dates and locations of the outreach meetings is posted at http://www.actransit.org/news/articledetail.wu?articleid=bab11473 

Following the community outreach meetings, AC Transit is planning two public hearings at district board meetings to discuss the proposed changes, with a final board vote on the proposal currently scheduled for October.

UC Starts Year With 8 Percent Course Cut, Layoffs

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday August 27, 2009 - 12:53:00 PM

Budget cuts, furloughs, layoffs and course reductions dominated the UC Berkeley Chancellor’s Back-to-School briefing Wednesday, as students trooped back to school for the first day of fall classes. 

UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau announced during a press conference that despite all the bad news, the university was determined to soldier on to maintain its reputation as a world-class public university. 

Birgeneau said the university learned in late May that there would be an additional $80 million shortfall for the year starting July 1, bringing the total budget deficit to $150 million and sending campus officials scrambling to find new ways to address the cuts. 

“We had a budget plan we thought would work,” Birgeneau said, “but the news from Sacramento changed that.” Birgeneau said the cuts meant that the state was essentially providing zero dollars for 9,000 students. 

UC Berkeley’s budget cuts are its share of an $813 million reduction in state funding to the 10-campus UC system, which the Berkeley campus is hoping to overcome with a hike in student fees and tuition, layoffs, service reductions, and faculty and staff furloughs. 

A 9.3 percent hike in UC fees for undergraduate tuition and other expenses—including health insurance—means that California residents will now have to pay $9,748 for two semesters at the Berkeley campus. Tuition and all fees for non-residents, including health insurance, will be $32,417. 

The university has also cut administrative and service units by more than 20 percent while academic courses took an 8 percent cut. 

UC Berkeley Associate Vice Chancellor Susanna A. Castillo-Robson told the Daily Planet that campus officials would have a better idea about the course reductions in the next couple of weeks. 

Castillo-Robson said that, although cuts were primarily made in upper-division electives, some lower-division and service-type courses were eliminated as well, particularly secondary and lab sections. 

For example, the Physics Department eliminated smaller optional classes and combined two sections of the same course into one. 

The Earth and Planetary Science Department is teaching about half of the field trip–based classes that they have offered in the past and cut about 100 students each in courses such as “The Water Planet,” “Earthquakes in Your Backyard” and “Introduction to Oceans.” 

“I think given our situation we are doing very well,” Birgeneau said. “Our hope is to sustain the academic enterprises in the long run. We’ve had very few complaints from students so far, but it’s just the first day of classes. This is really a decision by the people of California. Do they want to see outstanding education or not?” 

Birgeneau said the furlough program would cut pay by 4 percent for lower-paid employees and 10 percent for those in the higher-pay bracket. 

“Unfortunately there will be some layoffs—we feel really bad about it,” Birgeneau said, adding that pink slips will be given “across the spectrum,” affecting everyone from senior to service employees. 

Faculty will not be laid off, but the university has instituted a hiring freeze, limiting the number of new hires to 10 new searches over the next two years. The overall size of UC Berkeley’s faculty will decrease by 100 over the next couple of years, Birgeneau said. 

Birgeneau said there was also some good news amid all the gloom and doom. The university saw only 35 students who have not yet registered for any course due to various delays. This compares with about 400 last year. 

“We have done our best to make cuts in line with our priorities, and protecting academic programs was our top priority,” said Vice Chancellor Nathan Brostrom. “Even where cuts to student services are unavoidable, we have worked hard to take them in a way that has the least impact on teaching and learning.” 

The university saw a staggering demand for financial aid from the current economic climate and fee increase, with more than 17,000 undergraduate and graduate students receiving $141 million in financial aid, an $11 million increase from last year. Students were able to take advantage of the state-funded Cal Grants, which survived the budget cuts, and the federal Pell Grants, which are meant to help applicants from low-income families. 

However, as more people continue to lose their jobs, the number of appeals filed by parents for financial aid has more than doubled. The campus is also making short-term emergency loans available so that students can buy books and take care of immediate needs. 

University officials estimate that more than 9,400 new students, including 4,300 freshmen, 2,250 transfer students and 2,900 graduate students, will register this fall, with another 1,150 freshmen and transfer students due in spring. 

Of the new students this fall 76 percent attended California public schools, while 7 percent are international students and 100 students are Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. 

The new freshman class is 42 percent Asian-American and Filipino, 31 percent Caucasian, 11 percent Latino, 2.5 percent African-American and .4 percent Native American. Thirty-one percent come from Bay Area counties, while 21 percent come from Los Angeles County, followed by 18 percent from other parts of Southern California, 11 percent from the rest of Northern California, 8 percent from the Central Valley and Inland Empire and 5 percent from out of state. 

Underrepresented minorities make up 15.2 percent. Women make up 55 percent of the freshman class and 27 percent of new students are the first generation in their family to earn a bachelor’s degree. The average GPA of the incoming class is 4.25. 

A silver lining has appeared in the form of fundraising and fellowships, with the campus raising $306 million in donations from alumni, parents and friends last year which will go toward research and scholarships, faculty chairs and funds, libraries, athletics, facilities and program support. 

UC Berkeley’s business and law schools have come with new initiatives to help needy students. The Haas School of Business launched a temporary MBA loan program that will provide up to $20,000 in loans to U.S. and international students ineligible for federal student loans. The UC Berkeley School of Law forgave an unlimited amount of law school debt and some undergraduate debt for alumni working for nonprofit interest groups or government agencies who earn less than $65,000. Earlier, the amount of debt to be excused was capped at $100,000 for alumni earning less than $58,000. 

The business school is also reimbursing loan payments for recent graduates who earn less than $80,000 a year and work in nonprofit and public service sectors. 


Police Blotter

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday August 27, 2009 - 12:54:00 PM

Daylight snatch 

A daylight robbery on Durant Avenue near the corner of Bowditch Street Thursday, Aug. 20, ended in the arrest of a 29-year-old suspect. 

According to UC Berkeley Police Chief Mitchell J. Celaya III, a woman had been walking along Durant when the suspect, identified as Andre Billock Coleman, tried to grab her purse. 

When she resisted, a struggle ensued, with the robber fleeing on foot with the purse. The woman wasn’t injured in the fracas. 

A campus police officer spotted a suspect matching the victim’s description of him, and made the arrest in the 2300 block of Bancroft Way, and incarceration followed after the victim made a positive ID. 


Second heist 

That same day, at 8:20 p.m., a pair of robbers came up to a pedestrian walking along Regent Street near Russell Street and shoved him to the ground, where they punched him in the head while demanding his wallet. 

Once the man surrender-ed his billfold, the robbers fled, heading south on Regent toward Ashby Avenue. 

A search by city police failed to turn up any sign of the suspects. Their victim didn’t sustain any serious injuries.

First Person: Chocoholics Anonymous

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Thursday August 27, 2009 - 12:56:00 PM

Hopelessly addicted to chocolate since early childhood, I take comfort in the knowledge that I’m not alone in this addiction. Au contraire! There are millions and millions of people out there afflicted with the same—shall we say, neurotic—obsession. Recognizing this as a serious mental health problem, I’ve come up with what I consider to be a brilliant proposal: that there be a Chocoholics Anonymous organization, similar to the effective and time honored Alcoholics Anonymous program. 

Never one to tackle vast projects with half-vast ideas, I’ve done considerable research on the subject. With the help of the Berkeley Public Library reference department, I’ve delved into medical and professional journals, such as the Mayo Clinic and Health & Wellness Resource Center bulletins. While I can’t now claim to be an expert on the historical and psychological aspects of chocolate, I’ve nevertheless come up with several interesting facts. For example, I learned that chocolate comes from the Theobrama cocoa tree and has been revered by Aztecs for hundreds of years. Among its compounds are phenytlethy-lamine and flavonoids called oligomeric procyanidins. I’ll bet you didn’t know that! 

For a more personal perspective of the subject, my own love of chocolate began when I was about 6 years old. Given a one-dollar weekly allowance, did I squander that princely sum on toys or games? No, siree. I would head for the corner grocery store and buy 20 Milky Way candy bars, then costing only five cents a bar. I generally finished those off in a couple of days. Later on, now a wage earner, I advanced to a more selective candy. I like to think that for years I practically supported the former See’s Candy Store on Shattuck Avenue. How I loved those dear, matronly ladies in their crisp white uniforms, who patiently waited while I painstakingly chose a pound of their delectable chocolates. No pre-wrapped packages for this kid! 

Next, candy box under my arm, I’d head for a nearby movie theater. What sheer joy it was to sit in a dark movie house, munching on creamy chocolates. Oh, but it  

wasn’t just candy alone that made life so blissful back in those days. What about the hot fudge sundaes at Edy’s Ice Cream Parlor, or the chocolate cream pie at Walker’s Pie Shop on Solano Avenue? 

From a careful reading of the Mayo Clinic and the Health and Wellness Resource Center bulletins, I now understand that this unnatural gorging on any and everything chocolate is emotional eating and that I, like others, turn to food for comfort. I further learned that fluctuating hormones in women may trigger chocolate cravings. (I can’t say how this works for men.) In summing up the above, Mayo asks, “Is chocolate your passion or your poison?” I’d have to say it’s the latter. 

That’s why I believe a Chocoholics Anonymous organization would offer much needed encouragement and support to all of those addicts (like myself) who turn to chocolate for comfort when facing a difficult problem. Bear in mind there are steps to control those cravings: Learn to recognize true hunger; Know your triggers; Look elsewhere for comfort; Don’t keep unhealthy food around; Snack healthy; Eat a balanced diet; Exercise Regularly and Get Adequate Rest. These steps were suggested by the Mayo Clinic, so should be viewed as valid hints. 

Having said probably far too much about chocolate addiction and confessing the shame I feel for years of self-indulgence, I’m pleased to state that I’ve now found a way to rationalize and control my consumption of chocolate. In a last ditch attempt to control my weight I’ve embarked on a regime of Slim Fast Diet drinks. My favorite flavor is “Rich chocolate royale.”



Death of a Prince

By Becky O'Malley
Thursday August 27, 2009 - 12:59:00 PM

The Internet yesterday was flooded with tributes to Teddy Kennedy. For many Americans he was the last surviving representative of a generation of liberals who believed that with steady work and good will all noble things were possible. It was a faith that was severely tried during the Reagan and Bush I and II administrations, and it was a bit shaken even under Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.  

The most appealing thing about Ted Kennedy is that he was no saint for most of his life. Or if he was a saint, he was one in the St. Augustine tradition, with plenty of sins to confess, which he openly did. He admitted that he was, from time to time, using an old-fashioned vocabulary, a womanizer, a glutton and a drunk. Translated into modern terms, he loved too much and too freely in all sorts of ways, and word got around. 

The first time I saw him, he was officiating at the grand opening of a tiny headquarters for his brother Jack’s presidential campaign in a former laundromat on Shattuck near Blake. He was a red-faced kid of 28 in 1960—my roomate’s boyfriend, Irish-American himself, refused to go to the event, saying that “if I wanted to see an Irish mug like that, I can just look in the mirror.” And in truth, young Kennedy did seem like beefy football-playing boys I knew in high school, rude, crude and nothing to write home about.  

When he ran for the Senate a couple of years later, there were more derogatory comments from every quarter. It was generally conceded that he’d done absolutely nothing to earn the honor, that he’d just been born into the right wealthy family at the right time and was running on his brother’s coattails. All of that was probably true. 

But there’s nothing like growing up in a big family with plenty of smart, high-achieving older siblings to teach humility, and in the end it was his extraordinary humility that distinguished Edward Kennedy among his peers in the Senate. From the beginning, he surrounded himself with the best and the brightest—his staff was famous for being the most competent policy wonks in Washington. A more pretentious fellow might have felt threatened with people like that on his staff, but Teddy accepted them with good grace. 

His concern was always for what’s patronizingly referred to as “the little guy,” people who have to make their way in the world with none of the advantages his own background provided. It seemed that he was always asking himself how he would make out without his family and his wealth, and concluding that it would indeed be hard.  

An old friend on the radio Wednesday spoke of Kennedy’s long bedridden period recovering from a plane crash. He said that the two of them had talked at great length at the time about the friend’s lengthy tuberculosis treatment as a child and his father’s difficulty in paying for it. It was at this time that Kennedy took up the crusade for health care for all Americans that was to dominate his career in the Senate.  

Even as he was becoming the most effective senator of his generation, he couldn’t stay out of trouble, of course. I was in Washington to do a story in the late ‘70s and was confined at my hotel for a weekend by an unheard-of foot-deep snowfall. A fellow magazine writer kept me company in the bar while we waited out the storm, a glamorous creature who went on to a television career. Her assignment was a profile of Teddy Kennedy, for which she’d done weeks of interviews with him, and she’d also gathered a lot of unprintable gossip with which we whiled away the hours. Much of this stuff never saw print, and probably just as well. Finding a solid second wife in the ‘90s helped him to clean up his act. 

It was easy enough to document Kennedy’s feet of clay, but what came to matter in the end was the man who grew to tower above them. We saw Shakespeare Santa Cruz’s stunning performance of Julius Caesar over the weekend, and many lines from the Bard’s expert dissection of the political human in that play illuminate Ted Kennedy’s life and career, like these:  


He doth bestride the narrow world  

Like a Colossus; and we petty men  

Walk under his huge legs…”  


A couple of lines from Mark Antony’s eulogy for Caesar capture Kennedy’s rare passion for helping ordinary people: 


“When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept; 

Ambition should be made of sterner stuff.” 


But unlike most of his peers, Kennedy never allowed personal ambitions to dominate his career.  

Even when he knew that his time was just about up, he carried on the work as usual, lending his enthusiastic support to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in his last months. Shakepeare also described that kind of courage: 


“Cowards die many times before their deaths; 

The valiant never taste of death but once. 

Of all the wonders that I yet have heard, 

It seems to me most strange that men should fear; 

Seeing that death, a necessary end, 

Will come when it will come.”  


Now that Sen. Kennedy’s time has finally come, it seems that the whole world is mourning him, even his colleagues with whom he sometimes disagreed. According to the poet, 


“When beggars die, there are no comets seen; 

The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.” 


But that’s one sentiment Ted Kennedy wouldn’t have approved of. In his view, he was no prince, no more important in the grand scheme of things than the beggars to whom his life was dedicated. Instead of blazing comets, the best memorial for Teddy would be to carry on the work he loved.  

Paul Hogarth of San Francisco’s BeyondChron.org has started a Facebook group dedicated to naming the significant public option portion of the pending health care bill after Kennedy. That might be a good place to start constructing a memorial in his honor. You can find the somewhat clumsily named group on Facebook as “Name the Public Option AFTER Ted Kennedy.” 

Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday August 27, 2009 - 01:00:00 PM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

If the City of Berkeley has the “green” agenda of pushing high urban density, it can easily do so by preventing developers from building within Berkeley city limits until the other East Bay cities served by BART match Berkeley’s population density. Berkeley has 9,823.3 people per square mile, while Hayward only 3,547. Berkeley also beats Oakland, San Leandro, Fremont, Albany, El Cerrito and Richmond for population density (statistics from Wikipedia). 

We have enough density in Berkeley, much of it unfortunately concentrated in the heads of the people who argue that more development here will improve anyone’s quality of life other than that of the developers, and of the city staff they bribe. 

A. Baldwin 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Berkeley ordinance requiring the independent press to clean and maintain its distribution boxes seems like overkill (of independent journalism). Couldn’t the mayor just clean up the boxes while he is cleaning them out? Then he’d leave both his smaller carbon footprint and fewer fingerprints as well. 

Julie Ross 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In response to Michael Freeman’s letter about the BART parking lot—I was also curious about the funding source, assuming it was a stimulus project because the signage there has a federal contract number. But after some digging, I found out it was not stimulus related, just normal federal support of public transportation. The project also was not a “million-dollar-plus” deal but apparently cost $187,000.  

Regardless, I agree that it is a complete waste of resources to repave that parking lot, even if the lot hadn’t been repaved in 20 years as their contact person said. I wouldn’t second guess a decision to repave made by a private company, but in this case, BART/Federal Transportation Administration pays for these projects with our tax dollars, and doing so makes them inherently less careful and than if they were spending out of their own pocket. 

Damian Bickett 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I don’t read many of your articles, but I found the one on Reza Valiyee very interesting because I live less than a block from those run-down and strangely “improved” properties on Derby Street. I had no idea that the same person owned those hideous vacant buildings on Shattuck. Isn’t there some way that the city could take them by eminent domain and sell them to someone who would do something useful with them? I was amazed to read that he actually thinks that BART would build another station so close to the existing stations. I will refrain from making comments about his sanity because I don’t want to risk being sued for libel.  

Mary Kazmer 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In response to last week’s speculative commentary by a well-dressed, educated African-American male who was arrested on a “bench warrant” in Berkeley while en route home from work, to set his mind at ease he should understand that the police are obligated by law to arrest him because a court ordered that he be arrested (presumably for failing to appear in court as promised). The decision to arrest is not properly a matter of police discretion. The African-American officer who followed through in making the arrest was doing his job truly, the way it is supposed to be done; the other officer apparently was not. Surely we do not need police officers deciding who they will and will not take into custody once a court “commands any peace officer in this State forthwith to arrest” the person named, which is how the court-ordered “bench” warrant is phrased. This man’s arrest was his own fault, not that of the police. Let us collectively scratch off the list one supposed incident of class- or race-based law enforcement.  

Edward Moore 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Cecil Brown’s commentary, “Racial Profiling and Swimming While Black,” describes outrageous behavior on the part of the University of California police. Not only did they demonstrate a clear act of racial profiling, their behavior was disrespectful and unprofessional in any number of ways: derisive, sarcastic, and going so far as to tell him to stay away from the pool even after he had irrefutably established his every right to be there. His experience highlights the need for disciplinary action against the officers involved and better training for the UC police force. 

However, I must take issue with Mr. Brown’s attacks on Lucia Whalen, the Harvard Magazine employee who phoned the police in the Gates case. While he takes her to task about not recognizing Professor Gates and states that “like many ‘educated’whites, she projected a racist template when she saw two black men out of their social space,” his account of her actions contain several inaccuracies, adding to the media disinformation that have led to Ms. Whalen being the target of death threats. If Mr. Brown had followed the initial reports of the outrageous treatment of Professor Gates, he would have known: 

1. Lucia Whalen didn’t recognize Professor Gates because she never SAW Prof. Gates. Nor did she claim to see him. She made the call at the behest of an elderly neighbor who said she’d seen two men force their way into the house. 

2. Lucia Whalen never identified either of the possible intruders by race. In her call to the police, the recording of which was made public, she stated that the older woman had seen two men force in a door, and that she was reporting it because of the possibility of some wrong-doing. She added that she didn’t know that the men were, in fact, intruders, rather that they might be residents. It was not until the dispatcher asked her the race of the men that she said that she wasn’t sure, but that one of the men “might be Hispanic” (the driver, who was not African-American) and that she had not seen the other one (Professor Gates). 

Mr. Brown’s should never have been so mistreated at Strawberry Canyon. Nor should he add to Lucia Whalen’s victimization by a 24-hour news cycle that substitutes surmise and speculation for evidence-gathering and fact-checking. 

Anne Hallinan 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a 30-year resident in Berkeley, I would like to make three points about Cecil Brown’s commentary: 

My personal experience is that many men who are poorly educated deeply resent people who are well educated, irrespective of the color of their skin.  

If I had been at the pool, I would not have given a second thought about Cecil being black. Of course, I also live in an area that is 50 percent African-American. On the other hand, if I had crossed paths with Cecil walking in my neighborhood late at night, I would have given him a wide berth. I have been mugged and harassed by black men, watched black youths jump my fence and vandalize my car and read countless Berkeley crime stats about blacks robbing, shooting and killing people. I have never been victimized by whites, Asians or Hispanics. Indeed, as long as most evening news about blacks is about black men making mayhem, my guess is that it is going to be difficult for many people to view black strangers in anything other than a negative light.  

I think Cecil is reinforcing racial profiling by making himself invisible at the pool. What has happened to the legacy of Dr. King? Cecil and several other UC Berkeley faculty people of color should visit the pool with video cameras. After the police show up, put the videos on TV and YouTube; hold protest marches to condemn the racism; get the Berkeley police department to reeducate their officers on racial issues; and reeducate the community on racism. 

Jeff White 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As it looks now, the proposed Swine Flu vaccine may be more dangerous than the swine flu.  

We are being told that it has the posssibility of killing “hundreds of thousands” as it runs it’s deadly course. However, so far it has remained a relatively mild disease, no different than any other flu epidemic. Worldwide, there have been 311 deaths from swine flu, with 70,893 reported. One might wonder why all the hoopla. 

The government has contracted with two corporations to produce the vaccine (Bater and Novartis) and they are now battling for the billions of dollars at stake. No matter what happens with the development of the swine flu, the ball is in play. The money will continue to flow. 

In addition, modern scientists who have been studying the virus have been debating whether this virus was genetically modified or not. It is known that scientists around the world are now developing and experimenting with genetically altered viruses in the laboratory. 

If they can create a virus that the human body has no acquired immune defense, they can also create the vaccine that everyone will need.  

One part of the vaccine, that is most suspect, is made from squalene oil, a substance implicated in autoimmune disorders. Coincidentally, Novartis’ scientists are the ones entrusted to conduct the safety tests and reports. It’s no t surprising that their results yielded no dangers whatsoever. 

If you are truly interested in your health, be suspect of corporate health claims. Take responsibility for your own health through diet and lifestyle. Your life may now depend on it. 

Michael Bauce 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Saturday, Aug. 15 my wife and I were at a table at the Farmers’ Market peacefully gathering signatures on the downtown referendum petition. Lo and behold, there suddenly appeared the mayor of Berkeley, Tom Bates, standing directly in front of us just two feet away and obstructing our contact with passersby. When we asked him to move, he replied petulantly saying he did not have to. He just would not budge even when the Farmers’ Market Manager came by telling him he would have to move. He blatantly refused to do so. Eventually, one of us challenged him by standing in front of him in the walkway. At this point having made a fool of himself, the mayor got the hint and moved to his anti-referendum table some l5 feet down the street. In his refusal to move, he had demonstrated the unmitigated gall of attempting to physically obstruct citizens on the street from signing a petition, just a block away from City Hall.  

Clearly he has no regard for the rules of the Farmers’ Market when he actually muscles in on a table where his opposition is gathering signatures against monstrous high-rise structures planned for downtown Berkeley. He has lost public respect. 

Since he does not hesitate to behave obnoxiously in public who knows what he is capable of doing in the privacy of his offices in City Hall. Indeed, he has the reputation of behaving this way while conducting public Council meetings. If that is how he treats the general public he can surely be expected to treat his associates as arrogantly. He and his wife State Senator Loni Hancock with their cohorts, Dorothy Walker and Terry Doran, will need to be watched carefully because they are in a position to do a great deal more affecting a great many. What he did is in fact the impeachable offense of interfering with a citizen’s right to petition. It continues his despicable reputation of stealing newspapers from news-stands a while ago that were supporting a candidate opposed to him.  

So much for free speech in the town of Berkeley. It needs to be defended constantly. 

The petition for the referendum was eventually signed by over nine thousand people. Only five thousand five hundred were needed. 

Alex Nicoloff and 

Martha Nicoloff, petitioner and co-author of the  

Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The article by your reporter Riya Bhattacharjee about the event at La Pena in support of the Cuban Five moves me to offer this statement about Cuba and the Cuban Five: 

Contrary to the accepted wisdom, I believe that U.S. policy toward Cuba is consistent, unrelenting, and driven by rational interests. The United States will continue to pursue a policy of embargo, encirclement, sabotage, and destabilization against Cuba until that country discards its publicly owned egalitarian economy and moves unequivocally to a free-market system that is open to capitalist investment and limitless private-profit accumulation.  

Cuba’s refusal to do this explains the mean-spirited approach that the U.S. has taken over the past half-century, including the U.S. government’s current harsh treatment of the Cuban Five. Here are five exceptionally intelligent, sensitive, admirable, dedicated, and democratically-minded men who committed no act of espionage or sabotage against the U.S. government, whose efforts were dedicated only to uncovering the terroristic practices perpetrated against Cuba by the rightwing Miami Cubans.  

For their valiant efforts against the terrorists and imperialists they have been given draconian sentences. I give them my heartfelt support and I urge everyone to join in support for the Cuban Five.  

Michael Parenti  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Arnie Passman, in his Aug. 20 commentary, made several errors of fact concerning the identification of perhaps the most famous anarchist revolutionary of all time. Passman, like most Americans, might be forgiven his ignorance of the bigger issues of the Spanish Civil War and Revolution, with its intricate alliances and betrayals. But when it comes to details, the slightest mistake looms larger than life. 

First there’s the correct spelling of the name: Buenaventura Durruti (not “Bueneventura Derutti”). Who was this man? Was he, as Passman relates off-handedly, a “revered Catalonian Trostkyist”? The short answer is No! Here are the corrected details: 

Revered? Definitely; his credentials among anarchists and other anti-state revolutionaries were impeccable. 

Catalonian? Not unless residency bestows some kind of automatic ethnicity; Durruti (the name itself is Basque) was born in Leon (Old Castile), his family moving to Catalonia when he was still a child. Catalonia has its own ethno-cultural history, with its own language and traditions; the term does not just refer to a geographical region of Spain. So unless he learned to speak Catalan or became involved in the political intrigues of the Catalan nationalist cause (which he did not), it makes little sense to refer to Durruti as Catalonian. 

Trotskyist? Not unless Passman inhabits a parallel universe. Durruti joined the anarcho-syndicalist industrial union National Confederation of Labor (CNT) in 1919, and remained a member until his untimely death in 1936. And from as early as 1930, his affinity group was part of the Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI), an anarchist caucus within the CNT. The Trotskyists in Spain were organized as the Bolshevik-Leninists—all dozen or so of them. The other group of anti-Stalinist Communists were the Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification (POUM), who eventually became the reluctant allies of the anarchists. 

After Durruti’s death, a group of anarchists who had become frustrated with the political shenanigans of the “influential militants” of the CNT-FAI created the Friends of Durruti group to remind anarchists of their revolutionary principles and try to combat the reformist and even counter-revolutionary trajectory of the CNT. Many historians have alleged that the FoD, by standing up for revolution, were some kind of Trotskyist or POUM-influenced group—despite a complete lack of evidence. The Friends of Durruti, despite their annoyance with, and radical criticisms of, the CNT, never relinquished their memberships. Perhaps Passman was thinking of the FoD and the slurs leveled at them, perhaps not. Regardless, I cannot let his triple error in mentioning Durruti slide without corrections. 

Lawrence Jarach 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

With school about to start, I want to encourage other retirees to spend time mentoring young children. In Berkeley, volunteer efforts, and other support for enrichment in the schools is organized by the Berkeley Public Education Foundation. The work that I do as a volunteer is as rewarding as any I have ever done, and I will tell you one story to let you know the kind of difference you can make. 

  Jane spent first grade in a full immersion class, but she wasn’t reading as well as expected so she was held back. She spent a second year in first grade in a class where I volunteer, but at first she was angry and not much interested in my help. Towards the end of the year her reading had come up to grade level, but she complained to me that math was too hard. I told her that I could make math easy for her, but would need to see where it got hard for her. She seemed to like the idea, and we sat spent nearly an hour using pattern blocks building different combinations of ten. This was a dramatic change in her attitude, and she was willing to try things that might hard. She asked to do math again the next day, and I could see that she could add but could not subtract, and didn’t have a mental picture that numbers can run forwards and backwards. I started her counting backwards from 100 by tens and fives and she made progress, but the school year was coming to an end and she really wasn’t ready for second grade in math. 

I asked Jane if she wanted to do more math in the new summer “BEARS” program. She was eager to continue, so four days a week for six weeks, I spent about an hour with Jane and a handful of other kids, working on their math skills. At first, Jane struggled, and was reduced to tears one day because I made it too hard. But we both persevered, and on the last two days of the summer program I gave her two work sheets that focused entirely on the subtraction that she couldn’t do at the beginning of the summer. One day she got 12 out of 14 correct, and the last day of summer school, she got all of the problems right!  

Jim McGrath 

Volunteer at LeConte School 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

The landmark Courthouse Athletic Club at 2935 Telegraph in Oakland is still threatened by a phantom high-end, market-rate condo project. Trammell Crow Residential, a Southern California-based developer, has been underwritten to the tune of $11.3 million and counting since 2005 by San Francisco-based Bank of the West. The condo project was approved in 2007, but only now—after the Oakland Housing Authority dropped out of the picture as a buyer for $9 million—is TCR finishing up their plans and applying for permits, including one for demolition. But, if demolition and site clean-up happens, including redwood removal, the 142 unit condo project will not happen—only a vacant, for sale lot. Just what Oakland doesn’t need. 

There are still some things the public can do. 

1. The site contains two stands of mature redwoods, which are protected trees in the city. Because of inadequate noticing, the public comment period has been extended until Sept. 22. Email or write Gay Luster in the City of Oakland’s Tree Division. gluster@oaklandnet.com. Gay Luster, Tree Division, 7101 Edgewater Dr., Oakland, Ca. 94621. A decision will be made soon thereafter, an appeal is possible by the developer or neighbors to the City Council. 

2. Bank of the West is experiencing financial problems as are many banks. It reported losses of $143.1 million for its second quarter of 2009; this after losses of $85 million the first quarter. The bank announced in May it was eliminating 300 to 400 jobs across their 19-state territory. If this project is typical for them, it illustrates why they’re doing so badly. Already out the $11.3 million, they’ve just contributed $330,000 to the city just for permits, with another $200,000 due before they get the green light. Then, their additional costs of demolition and site clean-up. 

Encourage the Bank to pull the plug and stop throwing good money after bad. Write to Michael Shepherd, President/CEO, Bank of the West, 180 Montgomery St., 25th Floor, San Francisco, Ca. 94104. Call or write to Allen Kirshchenbaum, Executive Vice-President and Division Manager, Real Estate Industries Division, 300 South Grand Ave., Los Angeles, Ca. 90071. (213) 972-0384, (213) 972-0616 (Fax). 

Robert Brokl 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you for your coverage of the protests about John Yoo being hired this semester to teach law at Boalt Hall in spite of the fact that he is prosecuted as a war criminal by other countries. I missed last Monday’s protest so I went on my own and stood in silence in front of Boalt Hall carrying a large sign “Waterboard John Yoo.” I received a lot of support from students and one professor told me he was against John Yoo being allowed to teach but did not approve of anyone being waterboarded. I do not approve of any form of torture but I believe that John Yoo is a coward as most torturers are and would faint at the thought of having his head placed in water. Having first hand experience of torture inflicted to Jews and Belgian citizens by the Nazis during World War II, I am appalled that in spite of his criminal record, John Yoo is allowed to teach. I am incensed that Dean Edley is hiring someone who wrote an ideological and legal base for torture. Any Berkeley person who has a social conscience should stand up and demand that John Yoo be disbarred and jailed for aiding atrocities and torture. 

Andree Julian 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Monday, Aug. 17, John Yoo resumed teaching at UC Law School. His class in Civil Procedure for second-year students started at 3:20. Prior to the beginning of class there was a press conference held just outside Boalt Hall with speakers who are students and former students at the law school, and from National Lawyers Guild, CodePink, National Accountability Network, Progressive Democrats of America, World Can’t Wait, Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute, and others. Some of the speeches were videotaped and I highly recommend them to readers, especially those by Dan Siegal, Sharon Adams, Ann Ginger, and Stephanie Tang. You can find the speeches at www.youtube.com/vicsadot. 

After the press conference many of those assembled for the protest went inside the buliding and up to Yoo’s classroom. Before the class started I went inside to meet Mr. Yoo. I stuck out my hand and introduced myself, but he didn’t shake my hand, and he already knew who I was. He said something along the lines of “I know who you are... you’re that woman who is bothering us at our house.” So I said “Are we bothering you? We don’t mean to be bothering you, we just want you to be prosecuted for advising the Bush administration that it’s legal to torture people.” Before we could continue our conversation a UC security person pushed me out of the room. The security person asked me if I wanted to be arrested and I said, “I want you to arrest him. He’s the criminal,” pointing to Yoo. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to tell Professor Yoo that we mean him no harm by protesting at his house. We simply want justice and accountability for him, and won’t rest easy until he is prosecuted for his illegal actions and the resulting torture of many who have died. Children have been tortured because he said it was legal.  

We continue to gather at John Yoo’s house on Grizzly Peak, Sunday afternoons from 4-6 p.m., beginning again on Sept. 6. Join us if you want to stand up against torture. 

Cynthia Papermaster 


Poisoning the Debate About Downtown

By Charles Siegel
Thursday August 27, 2009 - 01:02:00 PM

The downtown plan could have moved Berkeley toward a more cooperative approach to planning. Instead, it has stirred up antagonisms that will poison the debate about smart growth for many years to come. 

The DAPAC plan was a compromise forged during four years of meetings that included all factions in the city. If the Planning Commission and City Council had simply passed the DAPAC plan, it would have had broad support. Except for the small fringe who oppose everything, virtually everyone would have supported the DAPAC plan as a reasonable compromise.  

Instead, the planning commissioners allowed more high-rises than the DAPAC plan. They also dropped green building requirements; they say this is necessary to make it economically feasible to build high-rise housing downtown, but they do not mention that they also increased the parking requirement for housing beyond the DAPAC plan, which makes it less economically feasible to build rental housing downtown. 

The council stepped back a bit from the PC plan, but the council passed a plan that provoked a huge storm of protest and a referendum. Many people who would have backed the DAPAC plan were pushed into the opposition. 

In the most foolish and counterproductive move that I have seen during my decades of watching Berkeley politics, some planning commissioners and members of Livable Berkeley trailed the petitioners and disrupted their conversations with voters. It is a psychological truism that frustration causes aggression, and I expect that these frustrated petitioners will fight even more fiercely against development in the future. Supporters of the PC plan may have stopped one referendum, but they have embittered the debate over development permanently. 

To gauge the emotional reaction of these petitioners, the planning commissioners and councilmembers should imagine how they would feel if they were walking the streets talking one-on-one to constituents, and if someone followed them wherever they went and disrupted every conversation they had. After a couple of hours of being followed and disrupted, I expect they would consider the disrupters enemies for life. 

(Warning: I caution readers to keep this a thought-experiment and not to try it on Mayor Bates to see how he reacts.) 

Elected officials can back policies that appeal to a broad spectrum of voters. Or they can back policies that are offensive to large numbers of voters and then try to crush the opposition. 

Our city government chose the divisive strategy. I can predict the likely result by looking at two bits of recent Berkeley history. 

First, I predict that one ugly high-rise will be built, and the reaction against it will set back the cause of smart growth in Berkeley for decades. 

This has already happened. In the 1960s, the Great Western Building was built on Center and Shattuck, and it provoked such a strong reaction that NIMBYs dominated Berkeley’s development politics during the 1970s and 1980s. The Bank of America had been planning to build a large building across the street, but the anti-development reaction was so fierce that the bank built the one-story suburban building and parking lot that have blighted downtown ever since. 

Second, I predict that some frustrated petitioners may be angry enough to look for game-changer strategies to shake up the council. 

Something like this also has already happened. In the 1980s, the BCA dominated Berkeley politics, with eight of nine votes on the council, but it made the political mistake of building affordable housing on school sites. This antagonized people who had never been active in Berkeley politics before and who passed a district-election initiative that shook up the council and reduced the BCA’s influence to near zero. 

Today, the obvious game-changer would be a term-limit initiative. Term limits have passed virtually everywhere that they have been on the ballot, and I have no doubt that they would pass if they were on the Berkeley ballot in an election with a heavy turnout. 

I would not be surprised if some of the frustrated petitioners were already thinking about term limits for councilmembers as a way of unseating the Planning Commission appointees who trailed them. 

At this point, I think the best thing the council could do is to put the DAPAC plan on the ballot. Tell the voters that this is the compromise that was worked out during four years of negotiations among all factions in the city, and give the voters the choice of adopting this compromise plan instead of the divisive PC plan. 

Then the voters would have the opportunity to support a more cooperative, consensus-based approach to planning, rather than the narrow, antagonistic approach that is now poisoning the debate over smart growth downtown. 


Charles Siegel has been advocating smart growth in Berkeley for decades.

Thanks for the Thuggery

By Gale Garcia
Thursday August 27, 2009 - 01:03:00 PM

The referendum of the Berkeley Downtown Area Plan will go down in history for the assistance it received from the most unlikely of sources—its opponents.  

The thuggish behavior of those who showed up at every Farmer’s Market to dissuade people from signing the referendum made it difficult to gather signatures at the markets, but it also fired people up to fight back. Citizens who viewed or experienced the harassment began to acquire their own copies of the petition to circulate among their neighbors and friends.  

Planning Commission Chair David Stoloff (appointed by Mayor Tom Bates) was prominent among the harassers, as were Zoning Adjustments Board member Terry Doran, retired planner Dorothy Walker and, of course, Bates himself. Well-known members of “Livable Berkeley” obstructed petitioners with vigor, joined by unidentified young persons each wearing a similar smirk, which led me to wonder if this smirk is taught in developer school or perhaps in university urban planning departments.  

Then the full-page glossy arrived at people’s doors, featuring a photo of Bates, Loni Hancock and Nancy Skinner, and a whole passel of flat-out lies. It is difficult to imagine that these seasoned politicians believed this flyer was a good idea. Each is accustomed to winning elections with the help of a well-oiled machine in a carefully orchestrated campaign. Rather than having the intended effect, this hastily prepared hit-piece incensed people—all the more so because it was financed by the disgraced and discredited Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee.  

People who are confused about an issue are reluctant to sign petitions. The flyer served as a sure cure for confusion. All over town, concerned citizens started looking around for a place to sign our petition, just as signature-gatherers began to canvas the neighborhoods to avoid the harassers.  

Many neighbors were delighted that we appeared on their porches. It spared them the trouble of having to figure out how to find a petition. There are whole blocks of South Berkeley where residents of virtually every house on the block and entire extended families signed our petition with enthusiasm.   

About 5 percent of the people whom I asked to sign, and who were eligible to do so, said that they were on the other side of the issue (frequently wearing the aforementioned smirk). Another 5 to 10 percent would not sign due to insufficient information, although when I showed them the opinion pages of the August 13 Berkeley Daily Planet, many changed their minds. The remaining vast majority of individuals expressed dismay—from mild to very extreme—at the development that is taking place in Berkeley.  

All in all, the referendum served to invigorate and unite neighbors against the tyranny of Berkeley’s development-crazed City Council majority in a way that I don’t think has ever happened before.  

I’d like to thank all the signature-gatherers who worked so hard, many of whom found themselves collaborating with people they never thought they’d be working with (and enjoying it). But most of all, I’d like to thank Tom Bates and his team of harassers for making the last week of signature-gathering so easy, so much fun and such a stirring community endeavor. 


Gale Garcia helped to circulate the petition for a referendum of the downtown plan.

Dick Cheney, Enemy of Justice

By Jack Bragen
Thursday August 27, 2009 - 01:03:00 PM

A bad characteristic of the Bush-Cheney Administration, one of many, was the reliance on fear as a weapon to manipulate the American people. One would think that, now they are out of office, this would stop. However, Dick Cheney has other ideas. 

You can see it in people’s faces and you can feel it in the air: Americans are less fearful now that Obama is in charge. President Obama relies on inspiration and upon raising people’s awareness just as much as his predecessor relied on oppression, intimidation, and maintaining people’s ignorance. 

Most of us feel more hopeful and less frustrated now, even though many are still complaining. Having a president who isn’t Republican, and, on top of that, one who is African-American, is repugnant to ignorant white racists and other evil people who still live in the Stone Age. And this makes for a number of irate, badly behaved people whom we have seen storming the town hall meetings. And the one with the sourest grapes of all is the former vice president, Dick Cheney. 

Cheney is a broken record, stating that we need to torture people to protect ourselves from our enemies. He completely misses the point: We have become the enemy when we discard a civilized, ethical and fair way of behaving toward our fellow human beings. In Cheney’s warped mind, we will perish due to the terrorist threat if we don’t torture. When we torture, we have become no better than the terrorists, and the U.S., as we cherish it, ceases to exist. 

Sure, Cheney could argue that if you’re dead you can’t have freedom of speech and so on. Who was it in the beginning of the nation who said, “Give me liberty or give me death!”? These were brave words that were spoken to motivate people to fight for freedom, the thing Cheney wants to erode. 

Cheney will do everything in his power to sabotage the current administration. And by doing this, he sabotages our entire country. By pointing out every supposed weakness in the Obama Administration, he could give our supposed enemies a blueprint for attacking us. And this doesn’t seem to bother Mr. Cheney. 

If our CIA isn’t subject to law, which is apparently the status that Cheney wants for it, not only can they perform illegal and inhumane things to citizens of other countries in the name of protecting the U.S., they can also interfere with the lives of American citizens, including the essential dissenting people who provide a very important component of our system of checks and balances. Our CIA should not be above our laws because it would make them become a terrifying secret government. 

What is Cheney really afraid of? To me he resembles the evil emperor in the Star Wars movies who was always prepared to get you with some form of treachery. 

Cheney ought to back off and let our President do his job, for the good of the country. We afforded this respect to President Bush, and now the Republicans must do the same for us. It’s our turn now. 


Jack Bragen lives in Martinez. 

Why Are the Drug and Health Insurance Companies Smiling?

By Ralph E. Stone
Thursday August 27, 2009 - 01:04:00 PM

An important objective of meaningful health care reform is cost control. President Obama’s sweetheart deal with the drug companies and the dropping of a public option to provide meaningful competition to for-profit health insurance companies will not provide needed cost control. Given the way health care reform is heading, is it any wonder the drug and health insurance companies are smiling? 


Sweetheart drug deal 

Reportedly President Obama reached an agreement with the big drug companies to cut the price of medicine by $80 billion. Sounds like a lot. But consider that U.S. spending on prescription drugs for the next 10 years is projected to be $3.6 trillion. That’s a price reduction of only 2 percent. But the drug industry did not actually agree to cut prices. Instead, they agreed over ten years to reduce by $80 billion dollars the amount at which they would otherwise have raised drug prices. Thus, the agreement locks in a doubling of drug costs, projected to rise over the 10-year period from $250 billion a year to $500 billion a year, minus $80 billion. 

What did President Obama give in return for this $80 billion? Reportedly, Obama agreed not to bargain down prices for Medicare purchases and promised that the U.S. would not buy less-expensive drugs from Canada. What will that cost us? Well 13 European nations successfully regulate the price of drugs, reducing the average cost of name-brand prescription medicines by 35 percent to 55 percent. Obama gave up those possible savings for 2 percent. Similarly the Veterans Administration is able to using its bargaining power to lower the price it pays for patent medicine by 40 percent. Former President George W. Bush stopped Medicare from bargaining for similar discounts. Remarkably, Obama agreed to keep Bush’s costly no-bargaining ban for the next decade. The drug companies will be laughing all the way to the bank. Obama got snookered. Or did he? Regardless, Congress should not feel bound by Obama’s agreement with the drug companies. 


No public option is no option 

The insurance companies also love the way “reform” is going. With hints of a public option off the table, the insurance companies stand to make beaucoup profits. Under the proposed health plan, the government will require most uninsured Americans to buy health coverage. The young and healthy will be steered into the industry’s welcoming arms. With the lack of competition from a public option, private health insurance industry record profits can be expected to continue. (Profits at 10 of the country’s largest publicly traded health insurance companies rose 428 percent from 2000 to 2007.) And forget about nonprofit cooperatives providing competition to the drug companies. That’s like sending me into the ring against WBA heavyweight champion Nikolai Valuev. No contest. 

This additional business for the insurance companies will more than offset the cost of important new regulations that, among other things, will prevent insurers from denying coverage to applicants with pre-existing conditions or imposing lifetime limits on benefits. The old and the sick are on Medicare, and the poor will be on Medicaid, and the rest will be required to purchase private insurance without the option of a competing government-run plan. If you are a health insurance company, what’s not to like?  


Forget the Republicans 

The way health care reform is heading, more people will have coverage, but it will do little to reign in the spiraling cost of care. Giving consumers the choice of an efficient, nonprofit, government-run insurance plan would move us toward real cost control. Forget about Obama’s sweetheart deal with the drug companies. We have a Democrat-controlled Congress, so let’s forget the Republicans. President Obama must ignore the polls and the hecklers and take control of the details of a reform bill. He, along with Representative Nancy Pelosi and Senator Harry Reid, must begin to twist the arms of reluctant Democrats. Americans deserve a meaningful health- care reform plan now, not one the drug and health insurance companies favor. 


Ralph E. Stone is a retired Bay Area attorney.

The Limits of Healthcare Reform

By Marvin Chachere
Thursday August 27, 2009 - 01:22:00 PM

For 12 years, beginning in 1970, I was director of studies for international educational programs sponsored by UC Berkeley Extension at Oxford, Leningrad, Venice and elsewhere. On several occasions both in England and the Soviet Union, persons in my programs got sick.  

Upon arrival in Oxford, an elderly gentleman suffered a heart attack and was rushed to the Radcliffe Infirmary. After a week he spentin the hospital and two days of convalescence, I escorted him to Heathrow and made sure someone from my Berkeley office would be at San Francisco International Airport to meet him.  

In Kiev upon returning to our hotel after an all-day excursion, a young woman stepped off the bus and immediately passed out. Medical Emergency—a “vrach” (Russian for a first responding physician) and two nurses—was there within five minutes. The patient was quickly diagnosed with dehydration and just as quickly treated.  

No money changed hands in either case. In England the National Health Service (established in 1948) was available to sick persons on demand, no questions asked. At the Radcliffe Infirmary checking out was as unencumbered by paperwork as checking in had been; all the staff wanted to know about the elderly American heart-attack victim were facts related to his condition and care.  

Congressional leaders of both parties in both houses, pundits of every persuasion and even the president extol the capitalistic economic model. Competition stimulates efficiency and diminishes cost, and it is heresy, that is, un-American, to believe otherwise. Thus, the finance industry, auto makers and insurance companies must be saved—they are “…too big to fail.” President Obama and some congresspersons want “a public option,” public insurance that will compete with private insurance.  

Accordingly, the debate on healthcare reform, such as it is, assumes an unbreakable bond connecting care and cost. It is also confusing because, whereas there are exactly two sides to a debate, pro and con, in this matter there are about a dozen sides. Even the possibility of informal discussion seems futile because out-of-control partisan contentiousness fills the air, stifling rational discourse. Few town-hall meetings are productive, many are raucous and some feed the comedy circuit, their entertainment value usurping their informational purpose. In the end, a bewildering swirl of plans and criticisms tragically obscures the basic problem: real needs of real people with real ailments, from migraines and allergies to aneurisms and cancers, are not met.  

When it reconvenes next month, who knows what action, if any, Congress will take? The Republican minority seems united in its resolve to block any and every reform plan—Republicans can prosper only if Obama fails—while among Democrats there are as many plans as there are legislators willing to formulate them.  

Meanwhile, a clear majority of the unwashed masses, myself included, prefer a “single-payer system of universal healthcare.” The insurance and pharmaceutical industries are adamantly opposed and, unfortunately, the modus operandi in Congress places corporate interests above public interests.  

To escape the furor, I took a distant view and reflected on my experiences decades ago in foreign lands. The following immutable facts stood out. 

In this country we have one doctor for every 358 people, and we have one bed for every 304 people (in 7,567 hospitals). Almost everyone will make use of medical resources at one time or another, but medical resources, unlike water, food and clean air, are not needed by everyone, every day.  

Insurance does not relieve pain or cure illness. I know, I know: this is a trivial statement. But the insurance companies advertise their products with such compelling force as to overshadow this simple truth. They tell us that tens of millions die every year because they don’t have insurance; they want us to believe that buying insurance protects us from ailments. And we appear to accept these blatant absurdities. 

Pharmaceutical companies spend tens of millions of dollars every day in prime-time-TV advertisements for prescription drugs—“Ask your doctor if such and such is right for you!” I sometimes think they develop a new drug and afterward find or invent an ailment it can cure.  

Hospital advertisements mimic those for five-star motels and vacation resorts.  

I do not question the importance of insurance, but all insurance—life, auto, home and especially health—is rooted in a conundrum: out of myriads of purchases, insurance is the only product we buy that we truly hope we’ll never have to use. 

Finally, not only is our system out of step with those of other industrialized nations (we get half the benefit for twice the cost), but it is also absurd, idiotic and stupid to allow the nation’s medical needs to rest with companies whose main objectives are to generate and increase profits. 


Marvin Cachere is a resident of San Pablo.

Some Thoughts and Questions About the Health Care Debate

By Kathie Zatkin
Thursday August 27, 2009 - 01:22:00 PM

Why aren’t reporters asking the following questions of those they choose to interview? This in-cludes the predictable “public television” (e.g., News Hour, Bill Moyers’ Journal) programs.   

When did “health” care replace “medical” care? If it’s all about preventing diabetes, quitting smoking, getting more exercise and eating less, are physicians really needed? Has anyone investigated or even dared question the claims about the huge numbers of diseases that are caused by these conditions or “lifestyle choices”? If every illness is classified as a lifestyle choice, what are the consequences? It’s easy to use language like “taking responsibility for your own health,” but all too often this is said or written with a sneer and little compassion—just another justification to “tut, tut” divert resources to “health education outreach” rather than hands-on care. Should we pay for the former rather than the latter? Why is it so difficult to actually talk about the costs of medical care? “Diseases” seem to have been replaced by “conditions,” leading me to the realization that treatment for certain conditions is comparatively easy to access—even from an HMO. Which conditions? The ones that have a drug or medical device associated with them. For example, the publicity about sleep apnea, which seems to have increased now that Medicare pays for sleep studies, apnea devices, etc.  

Why did it so easily become acceptable to not even discus the single-payer option? Insurance companies already make decisions about what “conditions” are covered and how long certain persons will have to wait for payment and care, and how burdensome it will be to actually get care or treatment. While insurance companies may not mandate how much time a physician can spend with a patient, insurance companies do provide “guidelines.” Physicians’ records are monitored, and compensation is tied to physician compliance. The companies that are paid for performance programs are big business. (See for example, Crimson Services, Physician Analytics.) It seems obvious that we already ration care. Why not be honest with patients? At least that might bring some trust back to the doctor–patient relationship. I know it’s optional, but I would rather have my physician able to bill for time providing medical care to me than counseling me about end-of-life decisions.  

“Evidence-based practices” is now a heavily favored concept, presumably because to be evidence-based means that the research on which the evidence was based was free from bias. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, especially with the rise of public/private partnerships. For example, NIH (National Institutes of Health) and SAMHSA (Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration) studies often have corporate ties, but these ties are neither readily disclosed nor easy to trace. The partner may often be an “advocacy” group on behalf of the population or group “afflicted” with the disease or condition, but pharmaceutical companies and those with a large economic stake in treatment for the condition that the “evidence” supports receive large corporate donations to continue advocating on behalf of these practices. Cure is rare now, but treatment, pharmaceuticals for life, and guidelines calling for earlier treatment based on evidence of “possible” risks abound. 

Who benefits from our donations? 

In spite of the above paragraph, assuming the vaccines have been researched, tested, and found safe and effective without conflicts of interest affecting the results, shouldn’t we pay for all children to be vaccinated against contagious disease prior to entering school? Why not bring back public health clinics and make them once again accessible to and used by all? 

How much money have we as taxpayers given to Electronic Medical Record Conversion/Establishment? What corporations are benefitting from this? In addition to privacy concerns that have been raised, are there other downsides electronic medical records? 

With electronic medical records, physicians now must spend time allotted to the patient visit electronically inputting the (not yet completed) visit into the electronic chart. If your physician spends more time looking at his/her computer screen and inputting data than examining you or answering your questions, perhaps it is because she/he is struggling to keep up with pay-for-performance guidelines/economic incentives. See below. 

One can no longer receive a paper prescription and shop around for the best price because “everything must be done online;” consequently only one pharmacy can and must be listed. Will it be more difficult to correct an error in a medical record? Will medical errors really be reduced if physicians, nurses, etc. still lack adequate time to read the chart—in whatever form? (See Snyder L, Neubauer RL, for the American College of Physicians Ethics, Professionalism and Human Rights Committee. Pay-for-Performance Principles that Ensure the Promotion of Patient Centered Care—An Ethics Manifesto. Philadelphia: American College of Physicians; 2007: Position Paper. If you are a member of an HMO ask directly how your physicians’ medical group/ health plan/insurance company is implementing these “principles.”)  

Medical insurance is not a new concept; neither is auto or fire insurance. Insurers have long been associated with for-profit companies, so it should not be surprising that there is a disincentive to pay claims. But knowing this, I think we might want to ask if we want to be part of a system where we know we are subjecting ourselves to this risk.  

An aside, too many of us make our living depending on the suffering or misfortune of others—a subject rarely if ever addressed/thought about.  

I am pretty confident that I am not alone in having these questions and that others have important questions that we do not hear. I guess the reasons for this are obvious. People are afraid to question out of fear of ostracism or mischaracterization or reductionism and because no one wants to answer these questions. 


Kathie Zatkin is a Berkeley resident. 


The Bay Area’s August 29, 2005 is Coming

By Mike Bishop
Thursday August 27, 2009 - 01:24:00 PM

If television cameras had focused on the urban poor in New Orleans…before Katrina, I believe that the initial reaction to descriptions of poverty and poverty concentration would have been unsympathetic.” So writes Harvard scholar William Julius Wilson in More than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City. As we approach the fourth commemoration of the storm and flood, the nation has reverted to its pre-Katrina blindness to the poverty endemic to New Orleans—and to local Bay Area communities, whose conditions are ripe for just such wide scale disaster given our proximity to the ticking Hayward fault. 

Katrina was the steroid that continues to fuel the turbo-charged gentrification of New Orleans. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita displaced over 2,000,000 people in the gulf coast region. Government policies have prevented the return of a quarter of the New Orleans population, disproportionately affecting the African-American, working class community. Racial demographics in the city practically have flipped, which has statewide political implications. You can be sure that the 2000 census finding of 326,000 African-Americans (out of a city total of 484,000) will fall dramatically in 2010. 

How well has this class of people who have not returned, these internally displaced persons—estimated at 110,000—fared during the recession? It should be no surprise then that the National Economic & Social Rights Initiative has reported that the New Orleans homeless population is estimated at 12,000 people—1 in 26 people currently living in that city, compared to 1 in 149 in Berkeley—double the number before Hurricanes Katrina and Rita—and that in a survey conducted in 2008, 60% of these 12,000 homeless people stated they became homeless after Hurricane Katrina.  

The trend line does not look to change soon. The New Orleans City Council recently approved the demolition of nearly 4,500 units of public housing, and is replacing them with only 750 units of public housing in new “mixed-income developments.” And still to come: the prospect of eminent domain in Mid-City New Orleans, where the city will demolish homes—64 percent of residents there were African-American and 60 percent were renters—and replace public housing with two university hospitals. Can you say town-gown gone sour?  

The international community has focused more long-term energy on the unfolding human rights disaster in gulf coast redevelopment than our own political leaders. In May 2009 a UN official noted that the federal government was not ensuring the return of displaced persons to New Orleans and denounced the demolition of public housing there. Local leaders in New Orleans are calling for a commitment to build one-for-one replacement of the public housing that has been demolished, as well as a full audit of Housing Authority of New Orleans and HUD. Sound familiar Berkeley?  

Everyone has a right to return, and while government programs to date have not inspired much confidence among working class communities of color, there are models of programs that have worked. House Resolution 2269, the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act. It would create a minimum of 100,000 jobs for Gulf Coast residents and evacuees, increase employment in the gulf coast region, and build a skilled workforce for rebuilding and developing the lands, communities, and infrastructure impacted by hurricanes and flooding in that region.  

While there are 31 co-sponsors as of writing neither local powerful Democrats George Miller nor Lynn Woolsey have even scheduled hearings since the bill was referred to their committee more than 90 days ago. Nancy Pelosi is capable of setting a timeline for getting HR 2269 at least into committee hearings.  

The Bay Area Katrina Solidarity Network seeks ways to support hurricane sur 

vivors’ right of return to decent conditions: quality health care and education, good housing, and a living wage. KSN calls on all citizens of good will to take action this week and not forget the thousands of Americans who were displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and continue to suffer from its effects. Please join us in our on-line campaign (or in front of Nancy Pelosi’s office this Friday) to remind our local elected representatives that we demand justice for the most needy, not profits for the most greedy. In doing so, please consider following this same stance of solidarity with communities in the Bay Area facing similar injustices.  


Mike Bishop is an Oakland resident and a member of Bay Area Katrina Solidarity Network.

Countering Kéllia Ramares

By Virginia Browning
Thursday August 27, 2009 - 01:25:00 PM

Kéllia Ramares’ Commentary in the Planet Aug. 20 calls KPFA’s elections “silly” because “a tiny minority of listeners get totally worked up about” them but notes they “do not yield democratic results.” 

She goes on to lament the cost of the elections. 

In fact, under new national leadership, board meeting costs have been drastically cut. Ballot-mailing costs have been kept quite low while more information is included in voter packets. For a network that brings in many millions of listener dollars, the cost of listener-participation is relatively low.  

“Listener democracy” has never actually worked at Pacifica because it hasn’t been allowed. This year, for the first time, the Pacifica stations have actively promoted elections on-air, with violators sanctioned for such as the disinformation or neglect of previous years. Yes, the previous elections were a waste of energy for many of us (not few) who worked hard, only to have our efforts thwarted by reporting one-sided news about them on the air and on Pacifica’s websites and list serves.  

Where there’s a still a loophole a rat will enter, and even before the first on-air candidate event last Saturday, the wily critters began their onslaught of obfuscation, outright lies, whatever it takes to make sure their few chosen luminaries remain in charge.  

I believe some of those fighting to prevent “listener democracy” at Pacifica are doing it because they genuinely believe they must do everything and anything to avert the worst. They know they are lying. “Fair elections” is laughable to them.  

Most who have followed events from the beginning and have really considered things carefully realize, however, that despite “democracy’s” potential for abuse, the potential is worse without at least trying it.  

Why on earth should a radio station be run “democratically?” This is a question I have wanted discussed openly for years, such as in one of the townhall meetings mandated to be organized by this local station board, but which have not been.  

If you’re promoting, instead, professional management—is KPFA “professional?” 

It’s easy to find KPFA staff members, asked about their upcoming staff election, who “don’t want to get involved.” Has management encouraged them to feel their positions are secure? Or do they feel secure only if they appear to toe the line for a minority of staff members convinced only they know what’s best at all times. What’s inhibiting staff from working in a collaborative manner? Are there regular staff meetings, or is that considered by staff (cued by management) to be another little frill?  

“Democracy” is not a simple fix. There is undoubtedly justifiable fear of a sudden loss of livelihood by paid staff. I don’t remember having heard any board members, in the many years I’ve attended Local Station Board (LSB) meetings, threatening to ax people outright, though I don’t doubt some of the more thoughtless members have done so. Board members are elected by a progressive membership. This being so, there is at least as much potential for large-context visionaries to be there as in a self-selected model. Suggestions to real problems, for example, of some news people who may be burned out and unable to do more than read wire, have included a more open training program for community volunteers.  

This year, “Listener Democracy,” now that it’s finally started working nationally, is being disingenuously touted even by those who prevented it last time. If you think they mean it, check opposing information and VOTE! 


Virginia Browning is a Berkeley resident.

KPFA: Lords and Ladies vs. The Peasants

By Daniel Borgstrom
Thursday August 27, 2009 - 01:48:00 PM

KPFA listeners remember 1999 as the year of the Lockout and the massive response. 10,000 people marched through the streets of Berkeley chanting “Save KPFA!” “Save Pacifica!” That dramatic moment was followed by a decade of board meetings, mostly held inside the dark chambers of the Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse. And yet, basic issues are still not settled, their resolution still up for grabs. 

I missed the French revolution, but I wonder if the lengthy parliamentary struggles which ensued were anything like this? The Bastille was stormed in a day, but what followed were meetings, meetings and more meetings. A huge amount of parliamentary stuff. That’s probably what all revolutions are like, including the one at KPFA/Pacifica. 

The upheaval of ‘99 began, as many revolutions have, with a split within the power elite. A headstrong monarch quarrels with her courtiers, throws them out of the palace, locks the gate, and calls in mercenary troops--rent-a-cops. The disenfranchised nobility, acting out of sheer desperation, ally themselves with dissidents, appeal to the rabble, and call for mass insurrection, which, to the astonishment of everyone, succeeds. The intolerable monarch goes into exile, leaving the kingdom to the rebels--a motley assemblage of commoners, nobility and bureaucrats from the old regime--all of whom profess enduring loyalty to the revolution. 

At first there is wild jubilation, dancing in the streets, and a huge amount of good feeling. All the worthy people are sisters and brothers, in a splendid state of living happily ever after, and the lords and ladies graciously tolerate the situation, putting a good face on it. The trouble is that this very ungracious mob expects to have a say in the running of the new regime. So the lords and ladies are now faced with the problem of getting this horde of loud, smelly, cantankerous, meddlesome peasants to leave the castle, go back to tilling the lands, and give up any idea of involving themselves in governance. 

The revolution at KPFA/Pacifica has been no exception to this pattern. There were negotiations and compromises; nevertheless, the outcome was a radically new system, instituted in a set of bylaws establishing a listener democracy. Listener members became voters, choosing their representatives to oversee the network. In radio governance, this is a revolutionary concept, though in the eyes of the bluebloods it is absolutely revolting. 

One can sympathize with the plight and outrage of the once proud aristocrats who wound up sitting on boards shoulder to shoulder with unwashed peasants who even had the audacity to bring their supporters to meetings. In an open letter of 2004, a rising KPFA princess derisively referred to this audience of listeners as “the grey-haired 40 people who come to every LSB meeting with such regularity that you could save seats in advance for them all.” Ranting on about the supposed unworkablity of listener democracy, she declared, “I do think the bylaws are a disaster.” 

This particular princess, Sasha Lilley, who happened also to be a progressive, hosted a popular KPFA radio show, often interviewing interesting guests, analyzing how the exploiters exploit the exploited and keep them down. She loves the people and hates their oppressors, but she clearly doesn’t want the people in her castle. 

Another advocate for the downtrodden is Attorney Sherry Gendelman, who’d spoken eloquently for the insurrectionists. But she hadn’t really meant to empower them. It appears that she hadn’t wanted an elected board, though she didn’t say so openly. “I was in favor of the election, but not for every seat on the board,” Lady Gendelman told the Daily Californian. “I was afraid that the election would not produce people who were what was needed. If that was so, we needed some members to be selected in the same fashion that old board members were. My suggestion was turned down, though.” 

Such statements, though rarely voiced openly, expressed the resistance to listener democracy from the beginning. KPFA and other Pacifica stations remained in the hands of cliques of insiders who joined together in an unholy alliance, dominating the national office. The decade after ‘99 saw a slow return to a regime with too much power in the hands of too few people--a self serving power elite, rigorously defending the status quo to the detriment of the network. 

Nor has this elite ruled wisely. Key management jobs go to cronies. Financial problems, like the non-payment of rent at WBAI in New York, are overlooked or even hidden until they become economic crises. Magical thinking, just as in the days of Merlin, seems to dominate. 

But disenchantment among the commoners with the gross mismanagement of the network has finally resulted in changes. There is now, as of this year, a new Pacifica National Board (PNB), unique in that it managed to select two competent and courageous people who took decisive action during the crisis at WBAI. That was just this spring. 

The new PNB and national office are attempting, with notable success at WBAI, to steer the network towards financial stability--hardly a radical concept. They also replaced several officials, reassigning one to a position allowing maximum use of his considerable skills, but even this is perceived as a threat to the status quo. What really outrages the lords and ladies is a strengthening of the electoral process, requiring the stations to actively and comprehensively promote the election on the air. with sanctions for some of the loopholes and outright disinformation allowed in previous years. 

This summer’s Pacifica elections will decide the future of the network. The bluebloods have recruited a slate, the “Concerned Listeners,” to do their bidding. Opposing them are three slates of uncommon commoners and an independent. Listener democracy is what’s at stake in this election, and through it, the survival of Pacifica. It’s up to us peasants to vote in our own interest. 


Daniel Borgstrom is a gray-haired KPFA listener.

Fair and Truthful and Unbiased? You Decide

By Richard Phelps
Thursday August 27, 2009 - 01:46:00 PM

Was Donald Goldmacher’s commentary on the KPFA election fair, truthful and unbiased? Or did he conveniently leave out many crucial facts? You decide. 

Donald Goldmacher starts off his commentary trying to establish himself as some sort of election crusader. Where was his comment in 2007 when his CL/KPFA Management Group allies ran all 22 candidate oral statements, carts, on the air one after the other, with Concerned Listener (CL) candidate Sherry Gendelman’s ‘Always First’? The quote below is from Casey Peters’ National Election Supervisor (NES) report for the 2007 election. Lemlem Rijio and Sasha Lilley are members of the CL/KPFA Management Group. 

“An unexpected problem arose at KPFA where candidate carts were bundled in large groups playing for several minutes at a time. This was done rather than the traditional broadcast of carts individually, dispersed among other sorts of programming. Some candidates contended that the bundles always started with management’s favored candidate and that listeners tuned out after the first couple of carts were aired. I spoke with KPFA’s Interim General Manager Lemlem Rijio and Interim Program Director Sasha Lilley, and both agreed to de-bundle the carts and to broadcast them individually as other stations do. However, in practice they refused to conform to a direct order from the National Election Supervisor. The bundling continued, putting some candidates at a distinct disadvantage. The one candidate whose cart aired first in the bundle garnered the most first place votes by far in the KPFA Listener Sponsor vote count.” 

Dan Siegel’s candidate statement was ordered changed by the National Election Supervisor to avoid defamation lawsuits. Dan Siegel’s statement accused Pacifica’s new leadership of “ethnic cleansing”. As far as I know no one has been murdered, which is what ethnic cleansing is about. Due to continued failures at some stations some employees of Pacifica and its stations were recently replaced. WBAI had lost hundreds of thousand of dollars a year for several years, when that happens management gets replaced regardless of race, gender etc. Some of those replaced were African-American. What Goldmacher, Siegel and their Concerned Listener (CL) allies conveniently forget to tell you is that the African-American General Managers (2), Chief Financial Officer and Program Director that were replaced were all replaced by African-American men or women! There has been no reduction in racial balance and there has been an increase in the gender parity. Why would Goldmacher and his CL allies leave out this important fact? 

With regard to candidate statements being removed, let’s look at Dan Siegel’s history. In 2007 Siegel was Interim Executive Director (IED) and Foundation Counsel for a Pacifica National Board (PNB) majority controlled by CL and their allies in collusion to maintain their power at the expense of democracy, financial responsibility, the bylaws and transparency. 

During the 2007 KPFA election Siegel, as IED, outside of his authority under the Bylaws, took down seven (7) candidate statements that were a political criticism of the CL/KPFA Management Group. Everything in the seven statements was true. Not one accusation has ever been factually refuted! In addition to taking the statements off the web site for several days, Siegel posted a letter condemning them without giving one example of something that was untrue or defamatory. Siegel attacked them since they gave facts contrary to the CL’s distorted reporting of KPFA and Local Station Board history. The CL/KPFA Management Group doesn’t want the listener/subscribers, voters, to know what they have really been doing. 

The current NES took Siegel’s candidate statement down and asked him to remove his untrue and defamatory accusation of “ethnic cleansing”. The NES is the sole person allowed to deal with election violations under Pacifica Bylaws. Siegel’s amended statement is posted with all the rest. When the CL and their allies lost the majority at the PNB meeting in January 2009, Siegel immediately resigned as Foundation Counsel and viciously attacked the new majority at that public meeting. Siegel then gets on the CL race card bandwagon and joins their slate and accuses CL’s opponents of “ethnic cleansing”. Are Siegel’s 2007 attack on others for political criticism of CL and their allies and his 2009 candidate statement wrongfully accusing CL opponents of “ethnic cleansing” conduct consistent with Pacifica values? 

In 2006 and 2007 the KPFA/CL Management Group refused to allow any election information, candidate carts, debates etc., to be on the air for three to four weeks after the ballots were mailed out. CL mailed its slate mailer to arrive with the ballots during the on air election blackout. The election on air blackout gave CL a major unfair advantage. Management said that it was because of the fund drive and yet other stations run candidate info during their fund drives. Where was Goldmacher’s comment on this manipulation? There are many more examples and not enough space to cover them. 

Conn Hallinan received 20-25 minutes of prime time name recognition exposure in June 2009 after the beginning of the election process. Conn is currently on the LSB and knew the election rules. The KPFA/CL Management Group had Sherry Gendelman on the air shortly before an election when she was a candidate. From working in radio I know the economic and name recognition value of prime time air. The minor penalty Conn will get doesn’t level the playing field for the 20-25 minutes of prime time exposure he received from his allies at the station.  

Goldmacher’s commentary is just another example of the CL’s attempt to manipulate the truth to manipulate the election. If you vote for Goldmacher or any CL candidates you will get more of this dishonesty on your Local Station Board. Please vote if you are a member, and vote for people with a track record of speaking the truth. Dishonesty is inconsistent with the Pacifica Mission. 


Richard Phelps, www.PeoplesRadio.net candidate for the Local Station Board, and former Chair of the Local Station Board. 

Let’s Get Real About Community Media

By Tracy Rosenberg
Thursday August 27, 2009 - 01:41:00 PM

It’s 2009, and the first community radio station in the country, KPFA, born right here in Berkeley in 1949, is entering its election cycle once again. And I feel sick.  

Ten years ago, for better or worse, I upended my life and camped on Martin Luther King Jr. Way for the better part of three weeks. I joined a motley crew of Telegraph Avenue street kids, long-time Bay Area activists, filmmakers, students, artists and musicians to occupy the sidewalk in front of an atrocity: a community institution walled off from the community by a bunch of insiders who thought they owned it.  

They didn’t. We the people did.  

Today I became aware of legal papers filed against the Pacifica Foundation. Again. 

Another blow against an idea that I love and believe in with all my heart: that communication rights belong to all of us, not just the elite and privileged.  

I looked at these papers filed by Concerned Listener plaintiff Sherry Gendelman and then I went to the website this Concerned Listeners group put up and what did I see there?  

The Free Speech Radio logo of 1999.  

Let me say this very clearly: Not in my name.  

Not in my name: These repeated lawsuits about control and power.  

Not in my name: Calling the police into a place of pacifism to arrest and assault a young woman, as happened last summer to a long-time volunteer producer.  

Not in my name: A Concerned Listeners slate of 10 candidates that is 70 percent male, 70 percent white and 100 percent over the age of 50.  

Reasonable people can disagree over issues of policy. And it may be that some people allied with Concerned Listeners mean well.  

But the fact of the matter is that community media can’t afford to be pummeled to death by lawsuits.  

Community media can’t afford to call in the police to intimidate workers when managers feel flouted.  

Community media can’t afford to be governed by one generation that dominates the election process with expensive slate mailers and prestigious endorsements based on professional ties younger and poorer people don’t have.  

If what happened in 1999 mattered to you, if you understand there is no reaching out to younger people without offering them seats at the table, if you’re appalled at the indiscriminate use of police, then Concerned Listeners is not for you.  

There is an alternative. Independents for Community Radio (ICR) is an affinity group of activists and organizers from a new generation working with dissident incumbents for renewal at KPFA.  

I spend my days (and sometimes my nights and weekends, too) fighting for independent media because I know it can and does change the world when unheard voices get heard.  

But that cannot happen where is constant destructive litigation. That cannot happen when vulnerable people feel the threat of police intervention. That cannot happen when the established block the way of the up and coming.  

Independents for Community Radio (ICR) will bring a fresh spirit, some youthful energy, independent media experience, and a commitment to openness and inclusiveness to KPFA.  

It’s time for a change.  


Tracy Rosenberg is the executive director of Media Alliance and a KPFA Local Board Member. 


(On July 22, 2009, Sherry Gendelman (the top vote-getter for the Concerned Listener slate in 2007), filed suit against the Pacifica Foundation in Alameda County Superior Court as one of four plaintiffs. The suit concerns the removal of a national board member from the Washington, D.C. area. National board members are required to serve locally for one year prior to going on to the national board. The person in question had only served for eight months. On July 24, Alameda County Superior Court declined the request for injunctive relief and did not force the seating of Campbell Johnson on the Pacfica National Board.)  



Dispatches from the Edge: Of Bases, Big Bombs and Earthquakes

By Conn Hallinan
Thursday August 27, 2009 - 12:57:00 PM

Behind the uproar over a U.S.–Co-lombia base deal is a growing disquiet throughout South America that Washington is trying to counter that continent’s leftward tack, directly intervene in Bogotá’s long-running civil war, and reassert itself in a part of the globe that it formerly dominated. 

The brouhaha started when conservative Colombian President Alvaro Uribe announced that seven Colombian bases would be leased to the United States, and the number of U.S. military personnel would be expanded from 800 to 1,400. The United States had formerly been based in Manta, Ecuador, but lost its lease following the election of leftist Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa.  

What has South Americans worried is an ominous shift in Plan Colombia, a $6 billion anti-drug initiative, which has poured enormous amounts of money into Bogotá’s military. Colombia’s army has a close relationship with right-wing death squads and was recently implicated in the murder of innocent civilians whom it claimed were Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) soldiers.  

The White House’s version of Plan Colombia, begun under President Clinton, is smaller than that of President George W. Bush—$518 million as opposed to $545 million—but gives Colombia’s military slightly more. Counterinsurgency operations are at the heart of the plan. Specifically, the United States will be allowed to engage not simply in “counter narcotics” activity, but “counter terrorism” operations that permit gathering intelligence on the FARC. 

According to the country’s largest daily, El Tiempo, that intelligence will be shared with the Colombian military. 

“Instead of diminishing the U.S. military role in Colombia and perhaps boosting social and economic aid, the Obama administration has intensified U.S. intervention in the South American nation’s internal armed conflict,” writes Gary Leech in the Colombia Journal. 

Leech, author of “Beyond Bogotá: Diary of a Drug War Journalist,” has spent almost a decade reporting and traveling in Colombia. 

The base plan has been widely denounced by virtually every country in South America. Brazil’s President Lula da Silva said he “didn’t like the idea of an American base in the region”; Chilean President Michelle Bachelet called the move “disquieting”; and Argentine President Christina Fernandez said the plan was “belligerent.” Even Spain has asked Washington for an explanation.  

Others were considerably sharper. Evo Morales of Bolivia called it a “threat to democracy,” Ecuador’s Correa termed it a “provocation,” and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez said the “winds of war were beginning to blow across Latin America.” 

The only support Uribe received was from the conservative president of Peru, Alan Garcia.  

At a meeting in Quito, Ecuador, the 12-member Union of South American Nations asked for a meeting in Argentina with Obama and Uribe to discuss the bases. 

The base agreement has even stirred unrest in Bogotá. A clause in the pact gives U.S. personnel immunity from Colombian laws. “Immunity for United States soldiers is not in any way justified,” Jose Gregorio Hernandez, the former head of Colombia’s constitutional court told Agence France Presse.  

Brazil is also concerned about Washington’s reactivation of the Fourth Fleet, which will give the United States a powerful naval arm in the waters off South America. Brazil’s newly discovered oil fields are 100 miles off shore. “What worries Brazil is a strong military presence whose aim and capability seem to go way beyond what might be needed in Colombia,” Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorin told Folha de San Paulo.  

American support for the 1964 Brazilian military coup, during which da Silva was imprisoned, is still fresh in most Brazilians’ minds. Chile has similar memories. During the 1972 American-supported military coup against the Allende government, Bachelet was jailed and tortured, and her father was tortured to death. 

While Latin America has come a long way from the days when provoking the colossus of the north was a risky business, the recent coup in Honduras, Washington’s support for a right-wing independence movement in eastern Bolivia, and the apparent escalation of the civil war in Colombia have stirred uncomfortable memories. As the Los Angeles Times put it in an Aug. 11 editorial, “South America isn’t afraid of Colombia, it’s afraid of the U.S.” 


One ominous development in the ongoing tension between the United States and Iran is the stepped up production of the Massive Ordinance Penetrator (MOP), a 30,000-pound behemoth packing a 5,300-pound warhead and capable of taking out targets 200 feet below ground. The MOP is six times larger than the U.S. 5,000-pound “bunker buster.” 

According to Ken Katzman, a military expert on the Middle East for the Congressional Research Service, the MOP—designed by Boeing for the B2 stealth bomber—“is intended, at the very least, to give the president the option of conducting a strike to knock out Iran’s main uranium enrichment capabilities.” 

The Obama administration asked Congress to shift $68 million from the Pentagon’s budget to produce four MOPs for deployment in 2010, three years ahead of schedule. 

The decision to ramp up the MOP came shortly before the White House began consulting with allies about stiffening sanctions on Teheran, including cutting off gasoline and refined oil products. Iran has lots of oil and gas, but not enough refinery capacity to meet its domestic needs. An embargo on gasoline would have a serious impact on the struggling Iranian economy. 

Exactly how a gasoline embargo would work is not clear, nor is there a buy-in at this point by China and Russia, both of whom supply Teheran with finished oil products. An embargo would have to be enforced with U.S. naval forces, which could push the Iranians into trying to close the strategic Straits of Hormuz though which much of the world’s oil supply passes. 

The Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, giving Obama the power to enforce an embargo, is working its way through the Senate, and the House is considering a similar bill. It would impose sanctions on any country that sold petroleum products to Iran, including freezing their financing and shipping insurance. 

While the Israeli government claims that Iran is on the verge of amassing enough enriched fuel to construct a bomb, the U.S. State Department says that Iran is not likely to have enough enriched uranium until 2013. U.S. intelligence chief Dennis Blair says there is no evidence Teheran has made the decision to build a bomb.  

The incoming director of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, also said he didn’t see “any evidence” that Teheran was trying to build nuclear arms.  

The Pentagon has been markedly unenthusiastic about a military strike, although, in a recent commentary in the Wall Street Journal, retired Air Force General Charles Wald, former deputy commander of U.S. forces in Europe, said, “Should diplomatic and economic pressure fail, a U.S. military strike against Iran is a technically feasible and credible option.” 

Wald argues that the U.S. Navy could blockade Iran’s ports—considered an act of war under international law—and, failing that, launch a “devastating attack on Iranian nuclear and military facilities.” The MOP, the most powerful non-nuclear weapon in the U.S. arsenal, would undoubtedly figure heavily in such an attack. 

The Obama administration has given Iran until the end of September to begin negotiations over its enrichment program, although that doesn’t appear to be a hard deadline. 

Dangerous talk out there. 


North Korea’s foreign ministry called for a “specific and reserved form of dialogue” on nuclear issues, but, to date, the Obama administration has given the proposal a cold shoulder. A “senior State Department official” told Agence France Presse that the North Korean proposal “fails to meet” demands by the United States and the UN. “We have a (six-party) framework, and the North Koreans need to recommit to denuclearization through that framework,” the official said. 

The six-party talks involving Japan, China, the U.S., Russia, and both Koreas were derailed when the Bush Administration—pushed by Japan and South Korea—kept altering the ground rules. 

But upcoming elections in Japan might alter the region’s chemistry and lessen some of the tension between Tokyo and Pyongyang. 

Yukio Hatoyama, leader of Japan’s Democratic Party, is polling far ahead of right-wing nationalist and current Prime Minister Taro Aso. “As a result of the failure of the Iraq War and the financial crisis, the era of the U.S.-led globalism is coming to an end, and we are moving away from a unipolar world led by the U.S. toward an era of multipolarity,” Hatoyama told the Financial Times. 

The question is, will the Obama administration take advantage of an important opening by the reclusive regime in Pyongyang?  


In Lebanon, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt has jumped ship, declaring his party “neutral” in the standoff between the Hezbollah-led, pro-Syrian “March 8” coalition and the pro-U.S., French “March 14” coalition of Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri. Jumblatt accused March 14 of being “sectarian and tribal.” 

Jumblatt has aligned himself with President Michel Suleiman, who has tried to remain neutral in Lebanon’s complex mélange of political forces. Jumblatt’s move was seen as part of the overall thaw in relations between Europe, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. 

The March 14 coalition has now lost its majority in the 128-member Leb-anese parliament. Jumblatt’s Druze party controls 11 seats.  

It is not clear what this means for Lebanon’s foreign policy, given that Jumblatt is one of the most anti-Syrian politicians in Lebanon. One immediate effect may be a stiffening of relations between Beirut and Tel Aviv. When Israel recently complained that Hezbollah was rearming in violation of a UN ceasefire resolution, the Lebanese Foreign Ministry replied that Hezbollah was an “internal matter” for Lebanon and none of Israel’s business.

Undercurrents: How Public Opinion Gets Swayed in an Election

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday August 27, 2009 - 12:58:00 PM

If you’re interested in a textbook example of how public opinion gets swayed and massaged in a political campaign, you don’t have to go any further than the opening item in Sunday’s (Phil) Matier & (Andy) Ross column in the San Francisco Chronicle (“Perata Had Hand In Oakland’s Police Chief Pick”). 

As you may remember, except for complaints from Dellums supporters who wanted Ron Davis of East Palo Alto for the job, Mr. Dellums won widespread praise for his recent selection of Long Beach Police Chief Anthony Batts as Oakland’s new chief. As I wrote last week, even longtime Dellums critic Bob Gammon of the East Bay Express wrote about how, with the Batts pick, Mr. Dellums “had his mojo back.” 

At least according to Mr. Matier and Mr. Ross, however, it was former state Sen. Don Perata, not Mr. Dellums, who was the key player in the Batts selection, easing his way with the powerful Oakland Police Officers Association (OPOA) police union. 

“When word arrived in Long Beach that Batts was one of the finalists,” Mr. Matier and Mr. Ross wrote, “a former city councilman down there suggested he might want to pitch a call to the ex-state Senate leader—seeing as how there’s a good chance Perata will be Oakland’s next mayor. The two talked, and Perata called Oakland Police Officers Association leaders and suggested they check Batts out. They did, and came back with two thumbs up.” 

The beauty of this item—from the standpoint of Mr. Matier, Mr. Ross, and Mr. Perata—is that it is difficult, if not, impossible to either prove or disprove the first part of the narrative. 

Since no name is given by the Chronicle columnists, for example, for the “former city councilmember” from Long Beach to verify the story that they supposedly initiated the Batts-Perata contact, how would you verify that story with the councilmember? You might try to verify that part of the story with Mr. Batts himself, but given that any answer he gives would either tarnish the reputation of Mr. Dellums—under whom he must work for the next year and a half—or of Mr. Perata—whom he might have to work under after the next mayoral election—Mr. Batts is most likely to make no comment at all. Since he doesn’t have to comment on the story, why should he get in the middle of that mess?  

It is, of course, possible that the second parts of the Matier & Ross item is factually correct, and that Mr. Perata met with Mr. Batts and thereafter contacted OPOA and suggested they check Mr. Batts out, and that sometime afterwards, OPOA gave the Long Beach Police Chief their endorsement. But to believe that it was the Perata contact with OPOA that caused OPOA to “check Batts out,” you have to believe that it never occurred to the folks at the police union to vet the finalists for the Chief of the Oakland Police Department until Mr. Perata called them up and suggested it. That strains belief. It is far more likely—in fact, almost certain—that OPOA—which, after all, is made up of a profession of people that “check people out” for a living—sounded out and rated all of the OPD chief finalists without any prompting. 

Why, then, the need for Mr. Matier and Mr. Ross to put Mr. Perata’s name in the mix? 

Two reasons come to mind. 

First, it is a virtual death knell for a politician to be too long out of the public eye in the runup to a run for public office. That was the fate of Perata protégé Wilma Chan in 2008 when she ran for Mr. Perata’s old Oakland-Berkeley Senate seat in the June Democratic primary against Loni Hancock. Ms. Hancock was then the incumbent Assemblymember from Berkeley, with the ability to get her name and face in the news whenever she wanted. Ms. Chan, on the other hand, was termed out of her Oakland Assembly seat in 2006. She was something of a superstar during her three-term assembly run, gaining a reputation as a prolific bill-writer and passer, rising to the position of Majority Leader and generally generating positive press in those years. But Ms. Chan pretty much dropped out of sight after her run in the Assembly ended, and in the two years between 2006 and 2008 scrambled around to generate publicity any way she could. At one point, she even joined, for a time, Peralta College District’s ill-fated Measure A Oversight Committee, presumably as a way to keep herself in the public eye. While Ms. Hancock may have beaten Ms. Chan for the Senate seat even if Ms. Chan had still been in the Assembly, it is certain that Ms. Chan’s absence from the media contributed to the large margin of her defeat. 

Mr. Perata is well aware of the out-of-sight-out-of-mind syndrome, and the need to find ways to get himself on television and in the papers from time to time until the Oakland mayoral race swings into full gear at the beginning of next year. The Matier & Ross item mentioning the former state Senator has all the earmarks of that type of effort. 

The second reason that may be behind the Chronicle column is the thinness of Mr. Perata’s resumé when it comes to his past record of delivering benefits to the city of which he wants to be mayor. 

Mr. Perata is best known—fairly or unfairly—for lining the pockets of himself, his family, his political allies, and his major political supporters in the many years he represented Oakland, first on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, then in the California State Assembly, and finally in the California State Senate. But even his strongest supporters have to stretch when it comes to things Mr. Perata did for Oakland itself, and its citizens. 

Last April Chronicle East Bay columnist Chip Johnson, who later did an on-paper happy-dance while declaring that there was “nothing standing between former state Sen. Don Perata and the Oakland mayor’s office but time, opportunity and blue skies,” gave his assessment of Mr. Perata’s mayoral qualifications in an April 24, 2009 column (“Bobb, Perata would each make good Oakland mayor,” April 24). 

“Perata’s strength [is] as a hometown guy whose political career is based on the support he’s received from residents in Oakland and across the East Bay,” Mr. Johnson wrote. “[T]he 63-year-old, is a legendary campaigner, a committed door-to-door canvasser and one of the best fundraisers in the entire state.”  

Mr. Johnson then quoted longtime Oakland political consultant Larry Tramutola on Mr. Perata’s qualifications. 

“He can make things happen in the city of Oakland and he’s got a reputation as a guy who gets things done,” Mr. Johnson quoted Mr. Tramutola as saying. “For Perata, it’s all about Oakland, everything he’s done (as an elected official) has been done to make life better in Oakland. He loves this city, and he believes in it.” 

This was the point where it would have been appropriate for either Mr. Johnson or Mr. Tramutola to list exactly what Mr. Perata has actually done “to make life better in Oakland,” but they passed on the opportunity. 

Mr. Johnson did the same in his “blue skies” column on Mr. Perata (“With Probe Over, Perata Primed To Lead Oakland,” May 29), writing of the former state Senator’s qualifications that “Perata was elected to the state Legislature in 1996 and served as Senate leader from 2004 to 2008, when term limits forced him to retire. In Sacramento he proved a tough, effective lawmaker and a prodigious political fund-raiser, and for a time he was the most powerful Democrat in California.” Again, words like “tough” and “effective,” but effective at what, and what exactly did Mr. Perata do for Oakland? Again, on this, Mr. Johnson was silent. 

But perhaps what is most interesting is what Mr. Perata himself has to say about his own accomplishments during his years representing Oakland in various governmental bodies. 

In his March 31 column in which he wrote of Mr. Perata’s announcement to run for mayor of Oakland (“Dellums Presence As Risky As His Performance”), Mr. Johnson quoted Mr. Perata as saying, in support of his mayoral run, that “People know what I’ve done to ban assault weapons and other things I’ve done…” 

Two things stand out in Mr. Perata’s comment. The first is that, while Mr. Perata’s SB23 assault weapons bill did some good things, he has always overpromoted it as “banning” assault weapons. Assault weapons were already banned in California prior to Mr. Perata’s bill (from the Senate Analysis of SB23 “Existing law, the Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989, generally prohibits the sale, manufacture, distribution, transport, import, possession, or lending of assault weapons in California. Violations of the Act are generally a felony; possession is punishable as a misdemeanor/felony (with an ‘exception’ punishable as an infraction”). What Mr. Perata’s SB23 did was good work—but not the groundbreaking work he touts—in clarifying the definitions of those weapons, and enhancing penalties. 

But second, while those clarifications and sentence enhancements in Mr. Perata’s SB23 were good, they did not end—and perhaps did not even slow down—the use of assault weapons in California, and especially in Oakland. The use of such weapons still abound in Oakland, with the sound of automatic weapons firing echoing through too many of the city’s streets on too many nights, and too many bodies falling as a result. 

This has all the earmarks of a politician making a big splash on a high-publicity issue, but not staying around to do the dirty work to make sure the task is completed. That seems to be the hallmark of Mr. Perata’s career in public service. (There was that Oakland gun buyback thing the Senator sponsored back in early 2008, of course, but that got such bad publicity over revelations that it was more benefiting to out-of-city gun dealers who were turning in old weapons for cash, Mr. Perata seems to have dropped that from his list of accomplishments.) 

Thus the need for Mr. Perata to pad his resumé in the runup to the 2010 Oakland mayoral contest, and to shoulder in on another man’s accomplishment, Mr. Dellums’ widely-praised selection of Mr. Batts as Oakland’s new police chief. 

Is that how the Perata-Batts item got posted to the Matier & Ross column? In all fairness, I present no more proof than was presented for the assertions in the Matier & Ross column itself. Me, I’m only speculating. 

Wild Neighbors: Spiketails and Meadowhawks: Dragons of the Air

By Joe Eaton
Thursday August 27, 2009 - 01:30:00 PM
Blue-eyed dragonfly: a male Pacific spiketail.
George Doerksen
Blue-eyed dragonfly: a male Pacific spiketail.

Dragonflies enliven the doldrums of August. Wherever there’s still or slowly flowing water, you can see them and their smaller relatives, the damselflies, patrolling for food or mates. (Dragonflies spread their wings out when at rest, while most damselflies fold them over their backs).  

I’m happy to report that I saw my first Pacific spiketail at the UC Botanical Garden’s lily pond last week: a large, black-and-yellow-banded dragonfly with blue eyes. Blue eyes! There were also a couple of red meadowhawks and enamel-blue damselflies. 

These members of the order Odonata have an important place in the human consciousness. Part of it is pure esthetics: the vivid colors-flaming scarlets, metallic blues and greens-and agile flight. They’ve inspired artists, eastern and western; dragonfly motifs were popular in the Arts and Crafts movement, and in the current Craftsman revival. Some cultures have seen them as spirits of the dead. 

When I was growing up in the South we called them skeeter hawks (accurate enough, since adults prey heavily on mosquitos) and darning needles (no, they won’t sew your lips shut). To some of the older folks they were bee butchers and snake doctors, although it was never really clear what a dragonfly could do for an ailing snake. The blue-tailed fly of folksong fame may have been a dragonfly. 

Harmless to humans, dragonflies in both their life stages are voracious little monsters, superbly adapted predators. Adults, with their enormous compound eyes, can rotate their heads to scan for prey in all directions. They have excellent color vision and can see ultraviolet and polarized light. The first two pairs of legs, studded with spines, form a basket for snagging smaller insects from the air and delivering them to the serrated jaws. 

Those gauzy wings are braced by a network of veins. They’re tougher than they look: some species undertake long-distance migrations, even crossing the Gulf of Mexico. Dragonflies were among the first creatures to take to the air. Some early forms were enormous: the ancient Meganeuropsis, with the wingspan of an eagle, may have been at the upper limit of possible insect size. (The giant ants of Them would been way too big to breathe as insects do, let alone fly to Los Angeles.) 

Adult dragonflies only live for a few weeks, so finding a mate is a priority. Males typically stake out territories over water and wait for females to show up. Courtship is perfunctory, but copulation takes a while. The male clasps the female behind her head with his forceps-like epiproct, and mating pairs fly around in tandem until the female is ready to lay her eggs. 

She may scatter the eggs over the surface of the water or inject them into plant stems through a stinger-like ovipositor. Some damselflies submerge to lay their eggs a foot or more underwater. Female dragonflies in search of an egg-laying site have been known to mistake a shiny car for a pond. 

The gargoyle-like dragonfly nymph was described by entomologist Alexander Klots as “one of the most grotesque of living creatures, as well as one of the most rapacious.” Often the top predators of their habitats, their victims are mainly other aquatic insects but may include small fish and tadpoles. The nymph’s weapon is its lower lip, equipped with claws, which it can shoot out for a third of its body length in a hundredth of a second. Even their respiration is bizarre: they breathe through gills in their rear ends, and can expel water to travel by jet propulsion. 

After a year or more as the terror of the pond (up to eight years in some species), dragonfly nymphs leave the water for a perch on a plant stem and the transformation begins. This may take place at night, or early in the morning, before hungry birds are up. Gulping air helps split the larval skin, and the winged adult slowly climbs out. Until its wings harden, it’s helpless, incapable of flight; losing its grip would be fatal.  

Present in most freshwater ecosystems, dragonflies and damselflies range from the tropics to Alaskan bogs. California has 64 dragonfly species, in seven families, and over a hundred species of damselflies; some occur nowhere else. They’re vulnerable to habitat loss: 15 percent of North America’s dragonflies are considered at risk of extinction. 

But they have their fans and defenders. There’s a national group, the Dragonfly Society of the Americas, whose members adopted a set of standardized common names a few years ago (with felicitous results: ebony boghaunter, saffron-winged meadowhawk, stygian shadowdragon.) Kathy Biggs and Tim Manolis have published excellent field guides to the California species. 

Although dragonflying may never rival birding in popularity, they have their undeniable appeal. And it’s good to know that even in city parks you can find something as exotic-sounding as a flame skimmer or a blue dasher.

About the House: Words of Advice When Dealing With a Neighbor

By Matt Cantor
Thursday August 27, 2009 - 01:29:00 PM

Everyone’s different. Now, isn’t that a novel comment? OK, so it isn’t a fresh idea but it’s true. My wife and I are different. I’ll bet you and your partner, spouse or closest friend are pretty different too, but, by the grace of some deity, alien influence or, maybe, the Constitution, we manage to get along or at least act out some version of concord in our daily affairs. 

That said, people often have a great deal of trouble working things out with their neighbors. Perhaps someone forgets to put the playdough back in the container soon enough or, one day, they park across your driveway. There are so many slippery slopes and, all too frequently, human misunderstanding unravels it’s diamond-back coils and away we go. If not for this, we would be without lawyers. 

I spent a few hours with a lovely couple in Berkeley recently and they shared not one but two such tales of woe and I will begin with these. Mind you, these are very nice people so it’s a valuable lesson in commerce that one can be good-willed but still fail to achieve harmony when it is actually within our grasp (and this, of course, will be my posit). 

The first tale was that of a property that they own but do not occupy in a neighboring town. The house has a shared driveway and a split but common garage at the rear. Now, I’d like to say at the outset that these shared driveways exist in strict contrast to the American way of doing business, which seems to me to be something along the lines of “this is mine, that is yours, please stay on your side and we’ll get along just fine.” (Corporate wealth has grown handsomely by this inflexibility.) 

Shared driveways are often the source of contention and require assiduous adherence to an agreed-upon code else steam begins to build up and soon things explode. In any event, this was not their problem because the tenants were pretty even-tempered and did what they were asked without a lot of yelling. The problem was with the building.  

When your neighbor does not keep their property in good order, it may be unsightly and unpleasant but it generally remains an aesthetic issue (though it may affect property values—we’ll come back to this later), but when your neighbor’s building is falling apart and it’s attached to your building, it’s another matter. This was the case with our friends. The owner of the adjacent property had failed to replace the roof in a timely manner and the building was leaking on the neighbor’s side. As is not uncommon this was affecting both parts of the building and was a focus of distress for our friends.  

Unsure what to do, they performed some interior repairs in order to assure that the building would not collapse. This work was, to some extent centered on the shared wall along the middle of the building. The neighbor, when confronted with the leak and it’s extenuations, countered that the repairs performed by that very nice couple was the real source of trouble and, by the way, you’re also ugly and your kids are stupid. In short, things broke down.  

They have not wanted to hear more guff from this woman and so have been steaming and crying alternately in the privacy of their own home. And then there’s the lost sleep. Now this is not a large building and the cost of a roof over the neighboring section is probably hundreds and not even a thousand dollars. Faced with this, my first suggestion was that they consider whether it might be worthwhile to simply offer to replace the roof on the remaining portion of the building. Now there are legal issues to consider and I don’t want to underplay the potential liability in working on the property of someone who has already showed some viperous tendencies.  

However, the building isn’t getting any dryer or stronger and it’s certainly not creeping over to their side of the property line. I think that we often negate or turn a blind eye on ameliorative options when in conflict. What if, instead, we say, “How much money is it worth it to me to see this problem disappear?” You can bet that if they get into litigation with this woman, it will be many times what the roof would cost and many more sleepless, angry nights. And the cost of those may be far higher than anything money can approximate.  

The other situation these folks were faced with involved their actual next-door neighbor. The fence between them (often at the center of neighborly disputes) had, in places, begun to fall down and the neighbor, fearing excessive costs (I presume), proceeded, on their own steam, to take down the rest of the fence and begin replacement. That was two years ago, so you may have some idea how this story goes.  

At this point, the tale is about hair-pulling exasperation and involved minute, excruciating detail about the pouring of posts and stick-by-stick, millimeter progress. Being a very nice couple, they didn’t want to press the neighbor, or say untoward things, so they are, instead, boiling and brooding. My advice to all who find themselves reflected in this description is to pick the more politic of your team and send them forth ASAP to seek resolution. Don’t brood. 

In this case, I suggested that the neighbor be asked to complete the project within a fixed period of time or relinquish their role and allow an outside contractor to finish the project. Set a date and stick to it as much as can be done without bloodshed. Smile and offer a handshake at all junctures but make sure you are moving toward a satisfactory state, else you endanger your relationship with yourself. That’s what really happens a lot of the time. We get frustrated because of our inaction and then end up adding this to the balance sheet we hold against the neighbor (or with whomever you’re on the playing field). Some call this passive-aggression but names don’t matter. My point is that it’s best to proceed toward some sort of resolution as quickly as possible if you can’t simply forget about it altogether. 

Similarly, my advise in this case included exploration of the notion that these folks might simply offer to pay for the fence, if progress was not adequately forthcoming. Not that this is the optimum in fairness, but fairness isn’t always the razor of efficacy. If you really want the heartache to go away, consider all options. Murder is usually off the table but paying to get the thing done, even when you might not consider it your duty, should be considered if it works. It’s all about your level of hurt. 

Another similar case from just this last week went something like this. The house I inspected was nothing less than a showplace, a grand dame of a house on a street of similarly estimable estates in our neighboring town of Piedmont. The owners had spent buckets of money installing extraordinary art works in the form of gates, railings, fountains and streams, not to mention an addition and rehab of majestic beauty and quality. Then you look to the left and there’s this huge shingled wall that makes you wonder if you’re at the wrong address. Peeling paint, shingle beyond mere weathering; to put it simply, a mess. 

It’s just about all you see on one whole side of the property and aesthetically trounces on all that idyllic scenery that our homeowner has worked day and night to create. So, what did I say? Yes, I suggested that they seriously consider offering to reshingle that side of the house. The owner of this sadly neglected home is probably hurting for cash or is, perhaps, simply insouciant.  

It’s easy to focus on the problem of the neighbor but it’s important to not lose sight of the objective and to see all options (remember, except murder; say it three times), including offering to pay to get it done. Remember to include compassion in the mix. Offering to pay may create resentment if it’s not done with eloquence and an ounce or two of face-saving. Take all the blame and share none and if you’re lucky, it might be the best deal you ever got.

Arts & Events

Arts Calendar

Thursday August 27, 2009 - 01:29:00 PM



Kala Residency Projects Part II New work by Nicholle Maury, Yasuaki Onishi, and Ali Richards. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at Kala Art institute, 2990 San Pablo Ave. www.kala.org 


Eddy Zheng discusses “Other: Asian & Pacific Islanders Prisoners’ Anthology” at 7 p.m. at Revolution Books, 2425 Channing Way. 848-1196. 


Eek-A-Mouse, reggae, at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $15-$18. 525-5054.  

Freight Fiddle Summit with Alasdair Fraser, Liz Carroll, and Darol Anger at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage, 2020 Addison. Cost is $22.50-$23.50. 548-1761.  

Wayne de la Cruz B-3 & The Big Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ.  

Walty, Big Nasty at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $7. 841-2082.  

Speak the Music at 8:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $8. 849-2568.  

Charles Wheal at 8:30 p.m. at Bobby G’s Pizzeria, 2072 University Ave. 665-8866. 

Kat 010 at 7 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 



Aurora Theatre “Awake and Sing!” through Sept. 27, at 2081 Addison St. Tickets are $15-$55. 843-4822 or visit auroratheatre.org.  

Central Works “Machiavelli’s The Prince” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave., through Sept. 19. Tickets are $14-$25. www.centralworks.org 

Galatean Players Ensemble Theatre “Rivets” A musical based on Rosie the Riveter and Richmond’s Kaiser Shipyards, Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 3 p.m. on board the SS Red Oak Victory, 1337 Canal Blvd., Berth 6A, Richmond, through Sept. 27. Tickets are $15-$20. Rosies, WW2 Veterans and uniformed soldiers, free. 925-676-5705. galateanplayers.com 

Masquers Playhouse “Loot” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2:30 p.m. at 105 Park Place, Point Richmond, and runs through Sept. 26. Tickets are $18. 232-4031. www.masquers.org 


“Somewhere in Between” New works by Laura Borchet. Opening reception at 7 p.m. at Eclectix Gallery, 10082 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. Also “The Tattoon Show” tattoo and cartoon art. Exhibitions run to Oct. 4. www.eclectix.com 


Emmyryss Wren at Friday Night Poetry at 7 p.m. at Expressions Gallery, 2035 Ashby Ave. www.expressionsgallery.org 


Natasha Miller, vocal jazz, at noon at the Kaiser Center Roof Garden, on top of the parking garage, 300 Lakeside Drive, Oakland. Free. www.KaiserCenterRoofGarden.com 

Domestics Unlimited/Theater Arts Music, comedy, food, artwork at 6 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Cost is $13. www.brownpapertickets.com  

Euphonia, folk music, at 8 p.m. at 33 Revolutions Cafe,10086 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 898-1836. www.33revolutions.com 

Pellejo Seco at 9:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $10-$13. 849-2568.  

Anna de Leon & Her Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ.  

Mama Hagglin, Coup de Ska, The Real Tom Thunder at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $7-$10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Helladelics, Greek roots band, at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15. 845-5373.  

David Grisman Quintet, Greg Liszt & the Deadly Gentlemen at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage, 2020 Addison. Cost is $26.50-$27.50. 548-1761.  

Starry Plough Tribute Night with Children of the Damned, Modern Day Cowboy, Speak of the Devil at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $10. 841-2082.  

Shelley Doty and Green & Root, and Julie Wolf at 8 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave. Suggested donation $10-$15. www.womengig.com 

Steve Carter Trio at 5 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Supertaster at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Bluestate Band at 8:30 p.m. at Bobby G’s Pizzeria, 2072 University Ave. 665-8866. 



Storybook Boxes Puppet Fair Sat. and Sun. from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland. www.fairyland.org  


Shotgun Players “The Farm” Sat. and Sun. at 4 p.m. at John Hinkel Park, Southhampton Ave., through Sept 13. Suggested donation $10. 841-6500.  


Cherie Raciti “Small Abstract Reliefs” on display Sat. and Sun from 1 to 5 p.m. at Garage Gallery, 3110 Wheeler St. through Sept. 13. www.berkeleyoutlet.com 

“Never Can Say Goodbye” Group show. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at Guerilla Cafe, 1620 Shattuck Ave. 845-2233.  


Berkeley Downtown Music Festival with Zoyres Eastern European Ferment at 10 a.m., Squirrelly Stringband at 11:30 a.m. and Aux Cajunals at 1:30 p.m. at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market, Center St. at MLK Jr. Way. www.ecologycenter.org 

Freight and Salvage Grand Opening Open House from noon to 5 p.m. with workshops, perfromances and building tours, at 2020 Addison St.  

Tango No. 9, music and dancing at 8 p.m. at Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. Free. 981-6241. 

Fanny Ara & Meli Rivera, Celtic and Flamenco, at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $14-$16. 849-2568.  

Ed Reed & His All-Star Quartet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ.  

Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Swing dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $12-$15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Michael Jackson Tribute Part II with Kev Choice Ensemble at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $10. 548-1159.  

Ramblin Jack Elliott, Rick Didia & Aireene Espiritu at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage, 2020 Addison. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761.  

Moment’s Notice improvised dance, theater and music at 8 p.m. at Western Sky Studio, in the Sawtooth Building, 2525 8th St. Tickets are $8-$15.  

María Volonté, Argentine tango,at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $20. 845-5373.  

Catholic Radio, Farewell Typewriter, The Tenderloins at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082.  

DiiGin at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Steve Malerbi Band at 8:30 p.m. at Bobby G’s Pizzeria, 2072 University Ave. Cost is $14. 665-8866. 



Billy & Lloyd’s Greasy Sunday at Ashkenaz at 3 p.m. Cost is $4-$6. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 


Tony Argento re-lives Cowboy Poetry Classics at 7 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $12-$14. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Egyptology Lecture “The Joint Expedition to Malqata - the Palace of Amenhotep III” with Dr. Diana Craig-Patch, Metropolitan Museum of Art at 2:30 p.m. at Barrows Hall, Room 20, Barrow Lane and Bancroft Way, UC campus. 415-664-4767. 


Last Sundays Fest with Phenomenauts, Custard Pie, Amaya and others, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Telegraph Ave. from Dwight to Bancroft. 

The Best Of Blasphemy CD Release Party Motordude Zydeco, Sylvia Herold, Chuck Erwin, Tony Marcus Swing Trio, The Funky Nixons, Rick Dougherty, Carol Denney and others at 6 p.m. at The White Horse Inn 6551 Telegraph Ave. Benefit for The Pacific Center. Clergy costume contest, raffle, and heavenly door prizes. Cost is $10. 925-376-6135. 

robert temple with Rafael Herrera from 4 to 6 p.m. at Annie's Hall, 1613 Derby St. Cost is $12, children $5. 654-2329. 

Scanlon Music Fund Benefit Concert with Sheila Scanlon Wilkins, Cara Bradbury, Rick Shinozaki, Rob Watson and others at 2 p.m. at St. Augustine Church, 400 Alcatraz Ave, Oakland. Tickets are $20. 653-8631. 

Larry Vuckovich Latin Jazz Quartet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ.  

The Saddle Cats at 5 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Royal Society Jazz Orchestra Vintage ‘20s and ‘30s dancing, at 6 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $20. 525-5054.  

Chelle! and friends, Creole music from New Orleans, at 4:30 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15. 845-5373.  

Bluegrass Blow-Out with Laurie Lewis & Tom Rozum, Bluegrass Intention Kathy Kallick Band at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage, 2020 Addison. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761.  



Brenda Hillman reads from “Practical Water” at 5:30 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585.  

Mary Mackey reads from “The Wido’s War” a novel is set in 1853 against the backdrop of the approaching Civil War, at 7 p.m. at Diesel Bookstore, 5433 College Ave., Oakland. 


Ray Abshire at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun/Zydeco dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $12. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 



Cine Cubano Film Fest “Memorias del Subdesarrollo” at 7:30 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $7-$10. 849-2568.  


Wednesday Noon Concert with Ernest Ting-Ta Yen, violin, Kelly Jenkins, flute, and Miles Graber, piano at Hertz Hall, UC campus. Free. 642-4864.  

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

The Qadim Ensemble, mystical music of the Near East at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $13-$17. 525-5054. 



“Somewhere in Between” New works by Laura Borchet. Opening reception at 7 p.m. at Eclectix Gallery, 10082 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. Also “The Tattoon Show” tattoo and cartoon art. Exhibitions run to Oct. 4. www.eclectix.com 

“Inspiration form the Bay and Beyond” Artwork by Anthony Holdsworth, Diane Abt, Rebecca Haseltine and Charles Rhone. Opening reception at 4:30 p.m. at MTC, 101 8th St., Oakland. Exhibition runs to Sept. 25.  

“Isaura: A Life in Focus” Photographs on the Afro-Brazilian dancer, at Berkeley Pubic Library, 2090 Kittredge St. Exhibit runs to Sept. 30. 981-6240. 

“Up Against the Wall: Berkeley Posters from the 1960s” at the Berkeley Historical Society, Veterans Memorial Building, 1931 Center St. Exhibit runs to Sept. 26. 848-0181. 

“Metamorphosis” Paintings by Laila Espinoza at Albany Community Center, 1249 Marin Ave. Exhibition runs to Oct. 4. 524-2943. 

“A New Page: Painting in the 4th Dimension: Bedri Baykam” Opneing reception at 6 p.m. at Alphonse Berber Gallery, 2546 Bancroft Way. Exhibition runs through Oct. 17. alphonseberber.com 


Frederick Aldama in Conversation with Marcial Gonzalez on “Your Brain on Latino Comics: From Gus Arriola to Los Bros Hernandez” at 5:30 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585.  

Poetry Flash with C.S. Giscombe and Kit Robinson at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 525-5476. 

Poetry at the Albany Library with Lynne Knight and Carolyn Miller at 7 p.m. at 1247 Marin Ave., Albany. 526-3720. 


A Night of Entertainment Benefiting the Street Level Health Project, Afro-Peruvian, Bolivian, Mongolian, traditional Peruvian, and Aztec music and dance, at 8 p.m. at La Peña, 3105 Shattuck Ave. 533-9906. www.streetlevelhealth.org 

“Stomping the Blues” at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Blues dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Meldrum, featuring Gene Hoglan, at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $10. 841-2082.  

The Deep at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  



Aurora Theatre “Awake and Sing!” through Sept. 27, at 2081 Addison St. Tickets are $15-$55. 843-4822.  

Berkeley Rep “American Idiot” at 2025 Addison St., through Oct. 11. Tickets are $32-$86. www.berkeleyrep.org 

Central Works “Machiavelli’s The Prince” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave., through Sept. 19. Tickets are $14-$25. www.centralworks.org 

Galatean Players Ensemble Theatre “Rivets” A musical based on Rosie the Riveter and Richmond’s Kaiser Shipyards, Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 3 p.m. on board the SS Red Oak Victory, 1337 Canal Blvd., Berth 6A, Richmond, through Sept. 27. Tickets are $15-$20. Rosies, WW2 Veterans and uniformed soldiers, free. 925-676-5705.  

Masquers Playhouse “Loot” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2:30 p.m. at 105 Park Place, Point Richmond, and runs through Sept. 26. Tickets are $18. 232-4031.  

Woodminster Summer Musicals “Brigadoon” at 8 p.m. at Woodminster Amphitheater in Joaquin Miller Park, 3300 Joachin Miller Rd., Oakland, through Sept. 13. Tickets are $25-$40. 531-9597.  


“Surface Strata” Paintings by Chris Trueman, Kevin Scianni, Alison Rash, Maichael Cutlip, Joshua Dildine, Jay Merryweather, and Eric Ward. Opening reception at 5:30 p.m. at Joyce Gordon Gallery, 406 14th St., Oakland. Exhibition runs to Oct. 31. 465-8928. 

”Heads and Tails” paintings by Julia Alvarado and and *JoAnn Biagini:* “New Work” mixed media by JoAnn Biagini. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at Mercury 20 Gallery, 25 Grand Ave., Oakland. 701-4620. w 

Robert Rickard, metal wall art at Christensen Heller Gallery, 5829 College Ave., Oakland, through Nov. 1. 655-5952.  

“You Are Here” Art about person and place and “In Memorium: Women’s Lives Taken by Violence” Group show. Opening reception at 7 p.m. at Frank Bette Center for the Arts, 1601 Paru St., Alameda. 523-6957. 


La Gran Noche de la Música Argentina with Marcelo Ledesma at 8:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $16-$18. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Quinn Deveaux & the Blue Beat Band at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10, $8 with bike. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Reptiles Reunion with David Gans, at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $10. 841-2082.  

Todd Shipley at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  



Babes in Toyland Puppet Show at 11 a.m. and 2 and 4 p.m. at at Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland. 296-4433. activeartsttheatre.org 


Shotgun Players “The Farm” Sat. and Sun. at 4 p.m. at John Hinkel Park, Southhampton Ave., through Sept 13. Suggested donation $10. 841-5600. www.shotgunplayers.org 

Stone Soup Improv Comedy at 8 p.m. at Temescal Arts Center, 511 48th St. at Telegraph, Oakland. Cost is $7-$10. www.stonesoupimprov.com 


Julie Alvarado:* *Heads and Tails*: paintings and *JoAnn Biagini:* *New Work*: mixed media Artists’ Talk: Saturday, September 5 at **1pm*** at Mercury 20 Gallery, 25 Grand Ave., Oakland. 701-4620.  


Saturday Afternoon Gallery Acoustic featuring Boundless Gratitude from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Frank Bette Center for the Arts,1601 Paru St., corner of Lincoln, Alameda. Open mic signups at 1:30 p.m., music starts at 2 p.m. frankbettecenter.org 

Baba Ken & West African Highlife Band at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. African dance lesson at 9 p.m. Cost is $10-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Ritmojito at 9:30 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $3. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

Paul Manousos at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Boatclub, Headslide, The American Professionals at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $6. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 



Ladybug Picnic at Ashkenaz at 3 p.m. Cost is $4-$6. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 


“Light on Lake Merritt” Digital photography by Laura Sutta, through Oct. 31 L’Amyx Tea Bar, 4179 Piedmont Ave., Oakland. 


José Saavedra and Walter Morciglio present their new album “Conversos,” contemporary Puerto Rican poetry put to song at 8 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $8. 849-2568.  

George Cole, swing, jazz, Americana, at 7:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

John Allen Cassady and Violet Monday, music and stories at 8 p.m. at Art House Gallery, 2905 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $5-$10. 472-3170. 




Machiavellian Dealings at Central Works

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday August 27, 2009 - 01:27:00 PM
Richard Frederick and Michael Navarra in Central Works’  Machiavelli’s The Prince
Eduardo Solér
Richard Frederick and Michael Navarra in Central Works’ Machiavelli’s The Prince

A copy of Leonardo’s “Battle of Anghieri” adorns the wall, its howling tangle of warriors and horses breaking the calm of the sparely appointed office where two men in suits will meet—a reunion, after many years, between student and teacher. 

Student and teacher: the now newly invested Duke of Florence welcoming his old master, an intellectual and diplomat, back from exile on his nearby farm—Lorenzo II, grandson of Il Magnifico, and Niccolo Machiavelli. 

The play by Central Works cofounder Gary Graves has an intriguing premise: What if Machiavelli had been able to present his little book, The Prince, to Lorenzo, to whom it’s dedicated, as he intended? In the drawing room of the Berkeley City Club, the chamber theater where Central Works is in residence, Machiavelli makes his pitch, putting before his old student the political ideas he’s come up with in his years of forced contemplation, after his time as public official in Florence. 

The relationship between the two is established, in and out of the other topics discussed, by reminiscence, mutual sympathy (Macchiavelli describes his torture at the hands of the Medici’s prison warders in the aftermath of an assassination attempt; Lorenzo’s concern is palpable), a shared concern over the decline of Florence, the city-state both love, and overtures each begins to make to the other—thoughts about working together, constantly deferred. 

They also describe to each other the changes in thought, even in character, each has undergone through hard experience: Machiavelli, former secretary of the Florentine Republic (one of the “sensitive issues” the new Duke has to bring—and clear—up), has realized in his thinking what sounds like what will later be called “Realpolitik;” Lorenzo, the good soldier, has grown disgusted with slaughter, with bloodlust, and wishes to embrace the good, the reasonable, and to become a man of peace. 

(This last theme alone has led, fleshed out, to great plays, including those about warriors in Japan’s Noh Theater.) 

The two clash over their new, if hard-won, realizations of how the world should be, how men of state should operate, each surprised and disappointed by the other. 

They each make it abundantly clear, in monologues that bring out the actors’ finer features, what brought them to where they stand: Lorenzo, the glimpse of carnage in a church after the sack of a town; Machiavelli, the frustrations of republican rule that broke down over the bickering self-interest of merchants, a tragic love for an Italy torn apart by invading armies, years at loose ends in banishment, reading, thinking, writing ... 

Richard Frederick, who sparkled as a Freud-inspired character in Central Works’ recent production of Christopher Chen’s The Window Age, plays another intellectual here, Machiavelli the doting teacher, the humble petitioner, dying to be back in the corridors of power. And Michael Navarra is at his best here, of the three roles he’s essayed so far with Central Works, as the genteel, sensitive yet forceful Lorenzo. 

The little touches by the production team that add up to the full picture have the excellent taste we’ve come to expect from Central Works: Greg Scharpen’s sound design, gilding voice and movement with strings and distant echoes; Tammy Berlin’s effective costuming, that naturalizes the anachronism; Gary Graves’ sensitive lighting, as well as little moments accented by his direction. 

The play itself, though constantly bringing up theatrically interesting, if unplayed-out, motifs and motives, tends to slide into a contemporary version of the old Anglo-Saxon depiction of Machiavelli the cynical sidekick of despots, the “Machiavel” who introduces Marlowe’s remarkable, rarely staged, Jew of Malta, the boogeyman of moral relativity, predecessor to Talleyrand, Metternich, a kind of proto-Kissinger.  

A populist intellectual transformed into a wannabe “Kissing-Bundy” (as Jules Feiffer dubbed a humorous Frankenstein made up of the parts of ravening, hawkish executive advisors), lecturing on ruthlessness to a fearless commander changed into a pious CEO promises good theater; the display of Machiavelli’s exhortations to Lorenzo to be the strongman that will save the Italy both love (a Caesarian tradition from Dante’s Il Veltro—The Greyhound—to Mussolini as Il Duce) stirs things up—but the dust settles back into what’s too schematic, like a screen or teleplay. 

This is particularly apparent when Lorenzo, alone after spurning his old teacher, sneaks a peek at the school theme book containing Machiavelli’s masterpiece. A genuinely humorous touch, showing the opposite of the speeches that proceed it, this gesture becomes confused with a kind of complacency, a smile of complicity on the audience’s part: “It always ends up like that!” 

Machiavelli himself was a great playwright of comedies. If the reversals in character were played up a little more for laughs, the real ironies of action, the intellect and “public service” might emerge more when all’s said and done. 

The contradictions and virtues of Machiavelli run deep, as modern philosophers and politicos have discovered. Antonio Gramsci wrote a political classic, “The Modern Prince,” in his notebooks in Mussolini’s prisons, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty began his essay in Signs: “How could he have been understood? He writes against good feelings in politics, but he is also against violence. Since he has the nerve to speak of virtue at the very moment he is sorely wounding ordinary morality, he disconcerts the believers in Law as he does those who believe that the State is the Law. For he describes that knot of collective life in which pure morality can be cruel and pure politics requires something like a morality. We would put up with a cynic who denies values or an innocent who sacrifices action. We do not like this difficult thinker without idols.” 

Machiavelli, above all against the solipsism of the compulsively moral, developed his thought—finally, the same train of thought, meditating on reality and its possibilities—in the Discourses on Livy, dealing with republics, and in The Prince, addressing executive authority. 

These and closely related themes lie barely below the surface in the public ferment—and governmental torpor—at the end of the Obama administration’s first summer.  

Theater used to be the mirror for the issues, the staging of the terms of public debate. Central Works, with the clean lines of its intimate productions, its collaborative method of fashioning a new play, and its low prices (including a sliding scale and pay-what-you-can evenings), provides a perfect forum to provoke such discussions, more than many bigger institutions among our local theaters.  

There’s much of importance that’s raised in the dialogue and speeches of Macchiavelli’s The Prince. It could provide the springboard to really start talking about realities—Macchiavelli’s legacy—rather than mouth old cliches, as in the poor spectacles we follow in the media. 



Presented by Central Works presents at 8 p.m. Thursday–Saturday and 5 p.m. Sunday through Sept. 19 at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 durant Ave. $14-$25. 558-1381. www. centralworks.com.

‘Loot’ Takes Comic Turn at Masquers in Richmond

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday August 27, 2009 - 01:25:00 PM

We can’t accept the evidence of a ghost. The problems it poses would be insuperable.” There’s no ghost, but there is a load of equally questionable evidence, though hard to say what it could prove, in Joe Orton’s Loot, that catastrophically funny play now on stage at the Masquers Playhouse in Point Richmond. 

Opening with an open casket and an ebullient and scheming nurse, Fay (Lyndsy Kail)—who changes garb from stark white to sleek black during the proceedings, from caretaker to mourner—Loot follows the wild misadventures of Fay, widower McLeavy (Peter Pinfield), sullen son Hal (Aaron Martinsen) and mortician’s assistant Dennis (Drew Ledbetter), dogged by Water Board Inspector Truscott (Jim Fye) and Constable Meadows (Matt Stevens), as a bank heist somehow collides with viewing and burial, leaving nothing and nobody unscathed. 

The ridiculous becomes the absurd—or is it the other way around?—in a vertiginous tsunami of questions, answers, explanations, not all speaking to the same point. Somewhere along the way, it’s been said Orton played back the worst of middle-class cliches, upside-down, as dialogue.  

Fay schemes to marry the bereaved McLeavy. Hal and Dennis, romantically attached, seek to conceal their ill-gotten gains from a heist. Truscott strolls through, protesting his authority’s but a fluid thing, a perambulating send-up of Chesterton or Priestley. Verbally—sometimes physically—the cast caroms off each other. Bank job or bank shot? Eight ball in the side pocket? Who’s keeping score? 

As the plot thickens like gravy, reason becomes a device to comfort—or taunt—the more reasonable amid the splintering of sense: “You’ve lost nothing: you’ve begun the day with a dead wife, and you’ve ended it with a dead wife.” 

There’s a certain amount of door and coffin-lid slamming, plus waltzing with a shrouded cadaver, but Orton isn’t Feydeau with macabre fixin’s. Here’s where most shows break down, since the doomed author—“Oscar Wilde of the Welfare State,” as director Jessica Holt refers to him—doesn’t offer up farce so much as ultra-farce, not burlesque but meta-burlesque, not camp but hyper-camp.  

It takes titanic energy and cruel fortitude to keep up with the twists and turns of Orton’s simultaneous spinning and unraveling of plot. 

Luckily, the cast is pretty funny, and three of the mainstays attack with appropriate demeanor, deadpan with high spirits, determined to see it through to the unlikely conclusion: Kail, Martinsen and Fye.  

The direction stumbles a little, both by playing it as regular farce, and by allowing (or instructing) the actors to mug, slowing down the tempo, which ideally increases with every stumblingblock encountered. The mugging and posing is most damaging to Ledbetter; the second act commences with less energy than when the curtain’s first raised. Orton should defy entropy, not to mention fatigue, exhaustion. 

The closest thing to this hybrid eccentric we’ve had in The States may be the burlesque melodramas of the ’20s-’30s, capped by Dracula, or the “absurdist” spoofs and “tragicomedies” of Orton’s own ’60s. 

From a stray glass eye to a lurching coffin, Orton gleefully juggles his stock-in-trade, egging on the strange to pass judgment on the more ordinary: “I’m an honest man!” McLeavy protests. “You’ll have to mend your ways, then,” he’s admonished. 

Greg Scharpen provides a well-wrought soundtrack of sorts, for something that is, in its own way, a live movie, but scattered across the cutting room floor.  



8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Sept. 26 and 2:30 p.m. Sundays (Aug.30, Sept. 13 and 20) at Masquers Playhouse, 105 Park Place, Point Richmond. $18. 232-4031. www.masquers.org.

Anna Leads a Busy Weekend at Downtown’s Jazz Island

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday August 27, 2009 - 01:27:00 PM

Music is the way I interpret the world,” said Anna De Leon of Anna’s Jazz Island. “That’s been true my whole life. And it’s how I view my place in the world, too.” 

Anna’s personal philosophy is reflected by her intimate club in downtown Berkeley, and in particular by the bookings for this weekend, which feature pianist Larry Vuckovich and his Latin Jazz Quartet (Sunday), classic jazz balladeer Ed Reed and his All-Star Quartet (Saturday)—and Anna herself, singing “less-sung ballads and not-ballads” with her Trio (Friday). 

The eclectic mix, night after night, is nothing new, as patrons of Jazz Island or her two previous Berkeley venues can attest.  

“I grew up in the first desegregated housing project in L.A.,” Anna recalled, “And was part of the community sing every Monday night from the age of 6. I heard all this music: country, blues, jazz ... and a church met there, so there was a choir in the project. It was very multicultural, after the war. You develop big ears that way. I was very lucky.” 

She’ll be working with Shota Osabe on piano; Ruth Davies, bass and Dave Rokeach, drums. Of Osabe’s accompaniment, Anna said, “It’s interesting to play with somebody not American. Shota doesn’t differentiate so strongly between country, blues, jazz ... That affects me in that I can sing all those kinds of songs, so I’ll be singing lots of them, mostly heartfelt ballads—and not-ballads!—with interesting changes I don’t get to sing that often. ‘An Occasional Man,’ ‘Tennessee Waltz,’ ‘I Hear Music’ ... Most piano players are not so comfortable with those songs.”  

Not long ago, Anna recorded an album with the great Kenny Barron on piano, the liner notes by the dean of jazz critics, Nat Hentoff, who wrote, “A rather rare phenomenon in jazz, she is a club owner who, to say the least, identifies with the musicians. Her sound and phrasing are so intimately evocative that her music will stay in your mind.” 

Of Ed Reed, Anna said “Ed really is a treasure, so unusual. He’s in his 80s and now there’re articles about him, CDs, more gigs ... it’s a shame the world didn’t know about him the last 40 years.” She spoke of singing with him at New Bridge, a residential treatment facility. “Music flows in and out of him, but he devotes equal time to his counseling work. I’ve sung at New Bridge for Bread & Roses, and suggested we’d have a great evening if he joined me. It was a Sunday evening, in front of several hundred people. He sang some, I sang some; we did a couple duets. It was magnificent. And then Ed said to the audience, ‘I’ll see you tomorrow!’ He works there; they know him as a counselor!”  

Reed’s club act is polished and upbeat. Every other Tuesday evening, he does something different at the Cheese Board on Shattuck in North Berkeley, “covering all these charts, including obscure songs” pianist Brian Cooke puts together for Reed’s trio there, including bassist Robb Fisher, an adventuresome ongoing session for Reed and the other singers, including Anna, who stop by to sing a guest number or two, or join Reed in a duet. 

Nat Hentoff wrote of Reed’s singing, “He uses space as an inner musical instrument.” 

At Anna’s, Reed will be accompanied by Larry Dunlap on piano; Jessica Jones, tenor saxophone; Dan Feiszli, bass; and on drums the producer of his two CDs, radio personality Bud Spangler. 

“Larry’s a genius, just a great player—fun, warm, a fantastic musician,” Anna said of Vuckovich, a native of Montenegro in former Yugoslavia, where he was classically trained, hearing jazz on American Armed Forces Radio during the Second World War and after. He came to San Francisco at 14 in 1951, studying with pianist Vince Guaraldi, playing with alto saxophonist John Handy, accompanying singer Mel Torme’—and working with singer-lyricist Jon Hendricks for 25 years with Hendricks’ Evolution of the Blues show. 

“Like Handy, his audience is not here,” Anna said, “It’s all over the world, and because of his recordings. Larry’s the most treasured Latin keyboard player in the Bay Area. He’s played with all the truly great players in that genre. That’s why everybody wants to work with him. And these are phenomenal musicians!” 

Vuckovich will be accompanied by Hector Lugo on percussion; Buca Necak, bass; and Paul von Vonnigan, drums. 


Friday: Anna De Leon and Her Trio 

Saturday: Ed Reed and His All-Star Quartet 

Sunday: Larry Vuckovich Latin Jazz Quartet  

Shows start at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. $14. www.annasjazzisland.com. 841-JAZZ.

Puppet Shows at Children’s Fairyland

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday August 27, 2009 - 01:28:00 PM

Bruce Sedley—“Skipper Sedley” and “Sir Sedley” of Bay Area TV during the 1950s and ’60s—will make a rare appearance Saturday with his puppet, King (or Professor) Fuddle, at Children’s Fairyland, by Lake Merritt in Oakland, where he’ll present the millionth Magic Key for the theme park’s Talking Storybooks, an invention of his own in the late ’50s, to one of Fairyland’s young visitors. 

Sedley will be attending the 53rd annual Puppet Fair, put on by the San Francisco Bay Area Puppeteers Guild, an organization closely associated with Fairyland, featuring an exhibit, “50 Years’ Worth of Puppets,” opening at 10 a.m. and performances from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Sedley and King Fuddle appearing at 2:30 Saturday. 

The Puppet Fair will include a crafts workshop for making a simple puppet to take home, and a “Puppet Petting Zoo.” Randal Metz, puppeteer at Fairyland’s Open Book Puppet Theater—who started there as a boy, 40 years ago, trained by his predecessor, Lewis Mahlmann—commented, “We throw all the puppets out on a carpet, then the kids—and parents—pick them up and act out stories with the puppets and each other.” 

Lewis Mahlmann, 82, now retired, but who still builds for puppet theater, will perform “For Whom the Trolls Bell,” tabletop puppetry, in the chapel at 11:30. Other puppeteers will perform every half hour, including Metz’s Puppet Company performing Mahlmann’s “Aesop’s Fables,” Nick Barone Puppets with “The Little Mermaid,” Magical Moonshine Puppets, and Fairyland Puppet Theater with “The Fisherman and His Wife” on Saturday; on Sunday, Fratello Marionettes with “Vaudeville Follies” and Blake Maxam and Vagabond Puppets presenting “The Dragon Who Wasn’t,” from a story by Frank Oz of The Muppets, who first performed when he was 18. 

Oz was a teenage member of the Puppeteers Guild, before getting discovered by Jim Henson, founder of The Muppets. “A lot of great puppeteers came out of Oakland,” Metz said. 

Metz, artistic director of the Fairyland Puppet Theater and its historian, has put out a book, Storybook Strings, available at the park, on 50 years of puppet shows there, with press photos. His book on Fairyland’s 60 years is being edited for publication.  

“Fairyland was the first theme park for children,” Metz said. “There’s a book on the history of theme parks, with timelines and the 20 most important dates,” Metz said, “and Fairyland has three listed: its founding, in 1950; then the Magic Key and the Talking Storybooks; and the puppet theater, in 1956. 

In 1948, Oakland nursery owner Arthur Navlet spoke to the Lake Merritt Breakfast Club, a business improvement association, about a storybook theme park for children. The Breakfast Club, Oakland citizens and the City raised $50,000, engaging architect William Russell Everitt to design the charming, eccentric sets out of Mother Goose and other children’s classics for the 10-acre site. Fairyland opened on September 2, 1950, with costumed guides for the young visitors, who paid nine to fourteen cents, depending on their age, for admission. 

Walt Disney, who would create a couple theme parks of his own, visited in 1955, later hiring a Fairyland executive and a puppeteer when Disneyland opened in Anaheim. 

Crucial to the development and recognition of Fairyland were three men, William Penn Mott, Jr., Oakland’s chief of Parks and Recreation, who Bruce Sedley called Fairyland’s genius, and Burton Weber, Information Executive for Park and Rec., who joined forces with Bruce Sedley to publicize Fairyland, its innovative settings and programs. 

Mott was later appointed head of California State Parks by Ronald Reagan, afterwards becoming chief of the Oakland Zoo, hiring Randal Metz as puppeteer for the Baby Zoo.. When Reagan became President, he appointed Mott director of National Parks. 

Metz praised Mott’s contributions to Fairyland and to Oakland parks, then recalled the last time he saw him: “He was visiting Fairyland—’Just looking around,’ he said to me—smiling at every set. He died later that day.” 

Sedley, who grew up in Berkeley, had been a radio announcer and disc jockey on local stations, including KROW in Oakland (now KABL), at one point replacing Don Sherwood, later famous for his morning program on KSFO, in a wake-up show, “Nick & Noodnick.” Other KROW talent included Phyllis Diller and Rod McKuen. Coming up with a character voice, Prof. Fuddle, an always-wrong weather forecaster, Sedley developed Fuddle as a puppet, learned ventriloquism, and as Skipper Sedley hosted Popeye cartoons on KRON-TV in the late 50s, and as Sir Sedley, Three Stooges programs on KTVU-TV, back in Oakland. 

Professor Fuddle became King Fuddle of Fairyland. Sir Sedley would make appearances wearing his Train of Thought Hat, with a toy train running around its brim and a dangling microphone made of a potato masher (so kids could ask the hat questions) and a coat of chain mail, made from paperclips his young viewers sent him. 

Sedley publicized Fairyland. He also came up with a recording tape loop for the Talking Storybooks, turned on with a key children could keep for future visits. This was adapted for the San Francisco Zoo with a plastic elephant key, prototype for many other zoos around the country. Eventually, Sedley invented the disposable magnetic card key for hotel room doors, first used for security purposes at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, 1968. 

Sedley now lives in Hong Kong. He’ll have King Fuddle with him Saturday at Fairyland, and wear his paperclip chainmail suit and the Train of Thought Hat. (Sedley’s website is: www.sedleyandfriends.com) 

Professional puppetry in the Bay Area goes back well before the Second World War, with major contributions to the art by actor and painter Ralph Chesse, later TV’s Brother Buzz, who was WPA liaison for the Bay Area, and performed Shakespeare marionette plays at the TreasureIsland World’s Fair in the 1930s. After the war, according to Metz, the craft slowly started up again, with puppeteers meeting in private homes. “They bonded over the Puppet Fair at Fairyland,” said Metz, an annual event since its 1956 inception. 

Michael Nelson, president of the Guild, spoke of puppetry being on an upswing, how it’s more often employed now in theater and opera—Berkeley Opera used puppets last year. “The Muppets brought puppets back into the public eye,” Nelson said, “But because of Sesame Street, there’s a perception puppets are only for kids. Jim Henson wasn’t like that! But puppeteers who perform for adults have to maketheir own way. There’s been the Puppet Love adult puppet festival in the Berkeley area every few years—and shows at the Altered Barbie Festival in San Francisco and an aphrodisiac factory in Napa!. Art galleries and different venues feature puppetry as art-for-art’s sake. Whether for kids or adults, it’s a serious art form.” 

After discussing theatrical use of puppets in the Bay Area—including by The Independent Eye theater company, co-producer with the Shotgun Players of Ragnarok at John Hinkel Park a few summers back, whose co-founder Conrad Bishop is a Guild officer and the important contributions puppetry made to theater and opera (including Japanese Kabuki, puppet opera in 18th century France and the origins of modern theater with Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi), Randal Metz laughed and said, “Puppets can get away with anything! When I was ten and my parents were divorcing, puppetry became my way of being able to say what I wanted to say—and nobody ever knew it was me!” 



10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Children’s Fairyland, 669 Bellevue Ave., Oakland. $7, age 1 and up. 238-6876. www.fairyland.org. (Saturday only: To see Bruce Sedley’s appearance, adults coming without children should call in advance: 452-2259. Fairyland rules normally prohibit entry of adults without children—and vice versa.)

An ‘Articulate Enthusiast’

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday August 27, 2009 - 01:29:00 PM

Lifelong Learning” is the slogan, the motto of Berkeley Adult School, which starts up anew with enrollment on Sept. 8. Its teachers can bring an astonishing wealth of life experience to their courses, and not always what their academic or professional background might indicate. Perhaps this is something fundamental to a program aimed at students looking to renew old interests, refresh longtime preoccupations—or discover new pursuits—during or after their own vocational commitments. 

I’ve met a few of these remarkable people in the course of reviewing theater, covering performing arts activities—finding out about their teaching, and something of their own lifetime pursuits.  

I met playwright James Keller, who’s taught at the North Berkeley Senior Center for Berkeley Adult School about a dozen years, when an actress I’d reviewed contacted me about a very short run of an original play at the Berkeley City Club, too short to get a review in print before the show closed. Would I consider sitting in on a tech or dress rehearsal and writing about it? 

I was amused by the little company’s name—Poor Players—and impressed by what I saw: a four-person cast, ranging over two or more generations, playing yet another version of that old chestnut of a theme, the Middle American dysfunctional family. I didn’t grasp, until more than midway through the rehearsal, the ironic significance of the play’s title: Leave of Absence. 

It was the story of parents and a son, of the dislocation of relationship. How the wife and mother—and later, the son’s wife—try to patch together the frayed wires of communication. And how the aging mother starts, quite literally, to wander, gripped by dementia. 

“I wouldn’t have been able to embark on my cycle of 12 plays about old age, of which Leave of Absence is one, except for the time I’ve spent with seniors,” Keller said. “I couldn’t have done it without knowing them. It’s a wonderful dividend I didn’t anticipate.” 

So lifelong learning works both ways—and in more ways than one. “I’m a student, too, just a little ways further down the road,” Keller said.  

Keller is the author of about 50 plays and adaptations, just under half of them produced—not a bad average for an independent playwright. In the Bay Area, he’s best-known for his association with the late stage director, Albert Takazakis during the 1980s and ’90s, primarily at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco, but often traveling for productions. “I lived out of a suitcase, visited 33 states ... but I was being paid to work with Mozart and Chekhov!” 

At The Magic, he read plays under consideration as well, recommending Sharon & Billy, by Alan Bowne, which outran the Sam Shepard plays the theater had become famous for. He also “bluepenciled” Shepard’s Lie of the Mind for staging. “Albert didn’t care for Shepard. But I insisted, and he directed it very successfully.” Later, he got a call from the famed Arena Theatre in Washington, DC. “They called it a totally different experience than the New York production and asked, ‘Can we use your version?’” But there was no compensation budgeted for it. “To this day, I really don’t know if they did, in fact, use it or not!” 

Keller’s adaptations of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya and Heinrich von Kleist’s great comedy The Broken Jug were staged at Marin Theatre Company; his adaptation of Eduardo de Filippo’s Saturday Sunday Monday was put on by ACT. He adapted a play of his as a children’s opera for San Francisco Opera; it toured successfully for years. 

He recalls a moment during preproduction for his play, Mozart’s Journey to Prague, directed by Takazakis at The Magic: “We hadn’t been able to cast for Mozart! Then a young actress came in to read for one of the female roles. When she started to speak, Albert and I looked at each other—and cast her as Mozart.  

She was wonderful. And the love scene with Costanza was particularly good!” 

Keller was born in Sydney, Australia, “but taken as an armbaby” out to the country, to the Murray River, the border between Victoria and New South Wales. “I’m totally a border person—and a river person; drenched in the river!” Mark Twain had once been through there by train, awakened in the middle of the night to cross the platform in his nightshirt to change to another train. “There was a rivalry between the two states; the rail gauges didn’t match!” 

At 15, he went to live with his grandmother in Sydney, who wanted him to work for the attorney general’s office, as his late uncle had, after whom he was named. “I was no longer around anyone my own age.” After a couple of years, he decided he didn’t want to be a civil servant—“though I’d met some wonderful people, who said, ‘Read Samuel Beckett! Listen to Billie Holiday!’”—and embarked for Europe by ship on his 18th birthday. Due to the Suez Crisis, his ship rounded the Cape of Good Hope, entered the Mediterranean at Gibraltar, “and I saw Africa and Europe in the same moment.” 

In London, he studied acting, “but I never got off on applause; I learned a lot about theater, though.” With a job in the British Museum, he spent lunch hours there—“and my passionate obsession with Egypt and Greece came to life there.” At 23, he began to focus on writing plays, with the famous Peggy Ramsay as literary agent. He became friends with well-known British and American theater folk, including critic John Lahr and actress Betsy Blair, with her husband, film director Karel Reisz. But two options at the Royal Shakespeare Company were dropped; other opportunities never quite panned out. 

Urged to go to America, he visited in 1981—and returned, permanently, in 1984, because “I fell in love.” After 14 years in the UK, he eventually got a Green Card, became a citizen, even began to write plays in idiomatic American—“It took 10 years; I went through three separate Englishes!” 

On a return trip to Britain, a play of his won an Arts Council prize. “Every time I win a prize, the play’s never performed!” 

Keller had taught at the International Film School in London’s Covent Garden (“talking to students from 25 countries about film—a fun way to pay the rent”), and would teach poetry occasionally in the Bay Area. His introduction to Berkeley Adult School he calls “an accident.” But it took: “At peak, I taught four, five classes a week. On Shakespeare, I covered every possible aspect—on stage, film, in the Sonnets ... I’ve always been fascinated with the interconnection of the arts, so brought in visual material.” Eventually, he wrote a book as syllabus, Call the Muses Home, “from cave painting to I Love Lucy; I finally laid out my personal vision as autodidact, what I’ve done through the years. I’m not a teacher, I just articulate my enthusiasm. If I don’t feel it, I don’t touch it. And I’m not a scholar, but a thieving magpie. I take what I need, leave the rest. That’s how I’ve always been.” 

For the fall semester at Berkeley Adult School, Keller’s offering a Tuesday-Thursday afternoon course in film noir, 19 films from 1939 to the mid-’60s that “show the triumph of shadows, both literally and metaphorically”—and a Tuesday morning class, “Exploring Don Quixote,” Cervantes’ novel plus five adaptations, including Orson Welles’ film, Grigory Kozintsev’s Russian movie and Graham Green’s Monsieur Quixote with Alec Guinness. 

Keller said the real rewards of teaching can be subtle. Like hearing that two of his students were complimented at Anghor Wat by a guide for knowing the Hindu gods—and they replied, “It’s because of our teacher!” Another student, hearing of Keller’s disappointment at missing a Renaissance chapel under restoration during an Italian vacation, made a model of it, “with photos of the frescos inside in scale, and a sign, ‘Open for Keller’!” 

“I’m humbled by these people,” Keller said, “by their little acts of kindness. I do feel what I teach has made a difference in their lives. My friend told me, ‘It gives them the possibility of closure.’” 

About the House: Words of Advice When Dealing With a Neighbor

By Matt Cantor
Thursday August 27, 2009 - 01:29:00 PM

Everyone’s different. Now, isn’t that a novel comment? OK, so it isn’t a fresh idea but it’s true. My wife and I are different. I’ll bet you and your partner, spouse or closest friend are pretty different too, but, by the grace of some deity, alien influence or, maybe, the Constitution, we manage to get along or at least act out some version of concord in our daily affairs. 

That said, people often have a great deal of trouble working things out with their neighbors. Perhaps someone forgets to put the playdough back in the container soon enough or, one day, they park across your driveway. There are so many slippery slopes and, all too frequently, human misunderstanding unravels it’s diamond-back coils and away we go. If not for this, we would be without lawyers. 

I spent a few hours with a lovely couple in Berkeley recently and they shared not one but two such tales of woe and I will begin with these. Mind you, these are very nice people so it’s a valuable lesson in commerce that one can be good-willed but still fail to achieve harmony when it is actually within our grasp (and this, of course, will be my posit). 

The first tale was that of a property that they own but do not occupy in a neighboring town. The house has a shared driveway and a split but common garage at the rear. Now, I’d like to say at the outset that these shared driveways exist in strict contrast to the American way of doing business, which seems to me to be something along the lines of “this is mine, that is yours, please stay on your side and we’ll get along just fine.” (Corporate wealth has grown handsomely by this inflexibility.) 

Shared driveways are often the source of contention and require assiduous adherence to an agreed-upon code else steam begins to build up and soon things explode. In any event, this was not their problem because the tenants were pretty even-tempered and did what they were asked without a lot of yelling. The problem was with the building.  

When your neighbor does not keep their property in good order, it may be unsightly and unpleasant but it generally remains an aesthetic issue (though it may affect property values—we’ll come back to this later), but when your neighbor’s building is falling apart and it’s attached to your building, it’s another matter. This was the case with our friends. The owner of the adjacent property had failed to replace the roof in a timely manner and the building was leaking on the neighbor’s side. As is not uncommon this was affecting both parts of the building and was a focus of distress for our friends.  

Unsure what to do, they performed some interior repairs in order to assure that the building would not collapse. This work was, to some extent centered on the shared wall along the middle of the building. The neighbor, when confronted with the leak and it’s extenuations, countered that the repairs performed by that very nice couple was the real source of trouble and, by the way, you’re also ugly and your kids are stupid. In short, things broke down.  

They have not wanted to hear more guff from this woman and so have been steaming and crying alternately in the privacy of their own home. And then there’s the lost sleep. Now this is not a large building and the cost of a roof over the neighboring section is probably hundreds and not even a thousand dollars. Faced with this, my first suggestion was that they consider whether it might be worthwhile to simply offer to replace the roof on the remaining portion of the building. Now there are legal issues to consider and I don’t want to underplay the potential liability in working on the property of someone who has already showed some viperous tendencies.  

However, the building isn’t getting any dryer or stronger and it’s certainly not creeping over to their side of the property line. I think that we often negate or turn a blind eye on ameliorative options when in conflict. What if, instead, we say, “How much money is it worth it to me to see this problem disappear?” You can bet that if they get into litigation with this woman, it will be many times what the roof would cost and many more sleepless, angry nights. And the cost of those may be far higher than anything money can approximate.  

The other situation these folks were faced with involved their actual next-door neighbor. The fence between them (often at the center of neighborly disputes) had, in places, begun to fall down and the neighbor, fearing excessive costs (I presume), proceeded, on their own steam, to take down the rest of the fence and begin replacement. That was two years ago, so you may have some idea how this story goes.  

At this point, the tale is about hair-pulling exasperation and involved minute, excruciating detail about the pouring of posts and stick-by-stick, millimeter progress. Being a very nice couple, they didn’t want to press the neighbor, or say untoward things, so they are, instead, boiling and brooding. My advice to all who find themselves reflected in this description is to pick the more politic of your team and send them forth ASAP to seek resolution. Don’t brood. 

In this case, I suggested that the neighbor be asked to complete the project within a fixed period of time or relinquish their role and allow an outside contractor to finish the project. Set a date and stick to it as much as can be done without bloodshed. Smile and offer a handshake at all junctures but make sure you are moving toward a satisfactory state, else you endanger your relationship with yourself. That’s what really happens a lot of the time. We get frustrated because of our inaction and then end up adding this to the balance sheet we hold against the neighbor (or with whomever you’re on the playing field). Some call this passive-aggression but names don’t matter. My point is that it’s best to proceed toward some sort of resolution as quickly as possible if you can’t simply forget about it altogether. 

Similarly, my advise in this case included exploration of the notion that these folks might simply offer to pay for the fence, if progress was not adequately forthcoming. Not that this is the optimum in fairness, but fairness isn’t always the razor of efficacy. If you really want the heartache to go away, consider all options. Murder is usually off the table but paying to get the thing done, even when you might not consider it your duty, should be considered if it works. It’s all about your level of hurt. 

Another similar case from just this last week went something like this. The house I inspected was nothing less than a showplace, a grand dame of a house on a street of similarly estimable estates in our neighboring town of Piedmont. The owners had spent buckets of money installing extraordinary art works in the form of gates, railings, fountains and streams, not to mention an addition and rehab of majestic beauty and quality. Then you look to the left and there’s this huge shingled wall that makes you wonder if you’re at the wrong address. Peeling paint, shingle beyond mere weathering; to put it simply, a mess. 

It’s just about all you see on one whole side of the property and aesthetically trounces on all that idyllic scenery that our homeowner has worked day and night to create. So, what did I say? Yes, I suggested that they seriously consider offering to reshingle that side of the house. The owner of this sadly neglected home is probably hurting for cash or is, perhaps, simply insouciant.  

It’s easy to focus on the problem of the neighbor but it’s important to not lose sight of the objective and to see all options (remember, except murder; say it three times), including offering to pay to get it done. Remember to include compassion in the mix. Offering to pay may create resentment if it’s not done with eloquence and an ounce or two of face-saving. Take all the blame and share none and if you’re lucky, it might be the best deal you ever got.

Community Calendar

Thursday August 27, 2009 - 01:01:00 PM


Tilden Explorers An after-school nature adventure program for 5-7 year olds. We will learn about animal adaptation from 3:15 to 4:15 p.m. Cost is $6-$8, registration required. 1-888-EBPARKS. 

ACCI Seconds Sale Thurs.-Sat. from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sun. from noon to 5 p.m. at 1652 Shattuck Ave. 843-2527. 

“Other: Asian & Pacific Islanders Prisoners’ Anthology” A discussion with author Eddy Zheng at 7 p.m. at Revolution Books, 2425 Channing Way. 848-1196. 

Kids Nature Night Out with games, crafts and nature walks from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. For ages 5-12. Cost is $10-$12. 1-888-327-2qp757. 

Community Women’s Orchestra Rehearsals begin near Lake Merritt in Oakland. For details see www.communitywomensorchestra.org 

Homework Help Program at the Richmond Public Library Tues. and Thurs. from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at 325 Civic Center Plaza. For more information or to enroll, call 620-6557. 

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. 


“Trouble the Water” A documentary of Hurricane Katrina shot by residents of the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Friends Church, 1600 Sacramento St. Discussion follows. 524-4122. www.berkeleyfriendschurch.org 

Circle Dancing, simple folk dancing with instruction. 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. 

Stand With Us Stand for Peace Stand with Israel vigil every Friday from noon to 1 p.m. at Bancroft and Telegraph. www.sfvoiceforisrael.org 


Walkathon to Benefit Fight Against Cervical Cancer in Africa starting at 10 a.m. at the Pergola at Lake Merritt. Sponsored by Prevention International: No Cervical Cancer. To sign up see www.pincc.org 

Trails Challenge Hike: Traversing Tilden Join an invigorating 5-mile hike led by naturalist Bethany Facendini from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Bring water, lunch and sturdy boots, swimsuit and towel. For meeting place call 544-2233. 

Walking Tour of Jack London Waterfront Meet at 10 a.m. at the corner of Broadway and Embarcadero. Tour lasts 90 minutes. Reservations can be made by calling 238-3234.  

East Bay Evolution Bike Tour A tour along Oakland’s waterfront to meet culinary artisans and taste their creations, from noon to 4 p.m. Cost is $40. RSVP to 654-6346. www.hesternet.net/events 

Plant Families of California: A Medicinal Perspective from 12:30 to 6 p.m. at Blue Wind Botanical Medicinal Clinic, 823 32nd St., Apt. B, Oakland. Cost is $40. To register call 428-1810. 

Freight and Salvage Grand Opening Open House from noon to 5 p.m. with workshops, perfromances and building tours, at 2020 Addison St. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Hands-On Drip Irrigation Installation Learn how to plan and install a drip irrigation system. Bring gloves and lunch. Cost is $20-$25. RSVP required. 548-2220, ext. 239. 

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. 

“Deepening the Dialogue” A community forum on emotional and health services for African American families from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Malcolm X Elementary school, 1731 Prince St. Registration begins at 9 a.m. Limited childcare provided. RSVP to 985-0500. www.goalsforwomen.com 

Project Peace East Bay’s Day of Peace from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Berkeley’s University Village, 1125 Jackson St. helping run the “No Matter What you Speak, You are Welcome” International Fall Festival and Potluck. Those who wish to volunteer may register at http://dayofpeace-fbnews.eventbrite.com 

Walking Tour- Stroll Along a Transformed Shoreline in at MLK Jr. Shoreline Park from 10 a.m. to noon. Meet at Arrowhead Marsh Parking Lot. Bring binoculars. Cost is $10-$15. Sponsored by The Oakland Heritage Alliance. 763-9218. 

Children’s Clothing Swap from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Berkeley Covenant Church, 1632 Hopkins St. Cost is $5 and at least one bag of clothes to swap or $7 for expectant mothers. Proceeds and extra clothes will be donated to local charities. Infant to size 12 kids welcome. Bring good quality, clean clothes like you would want to find. laileenf@gmail.com 

Floral Design Class with Devon Gaster from 1 to 3 p.m. at Expressions Gallery, 2035 Ashby Ave. Cost is $25. www.expressionsgallery.org 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden Sat. at 2 p.m. and Sun. at 11 a.m. and 2 pm. Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Tilden Park. Call to confirm. 841-8732.  

Lawn Bowling on the green at the corner of Acton St. and Bancroft Way every Wed. and Sat. at 10 a.m. for ages 12 and up. Wear flat soled shoes, no heels. Free lessons. 841-2174.  


Immigration Community Action A forum with elected officials sponsored by Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action at 1:30 p.m. at St. Joseph the Worker Church Hall, 2123 Jefferson Ave. www.berkeleyboca.org 

Wonders of Watershed Learn about the intricacies of the waterways in your neighborhood through interactive games and crafts, from 11 a.m. to noon at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 544-2233. 

Walking Tour- Oakland Point & The West Oakland Marsh Meet at 10 in front of the Southern Pacific Train Station, 16th and Wood Streets. Sponsored by The Oakland Heritage Alliance. Cost is $10-$15. 763-9218. 

Flutter By Butterflies Tour the butterfly garden, at 2:30 p.m. and help with a gardening project to improve their habitat at 3 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 544-2233. 

“Single Payer Health Care, Not War” meeting at 7 p.m. at the Art House, 2905 Shattuck.  

“A Health Care Worker’s Persepective” on the health care reform debate at 6:30 p.m. at Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. 658-1448. 

Free Sailboat Rides from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Cal Sailing Club, Berkeley Marina. Wear warm, waterproof clothing and bring a change of clothes in case you get wet. Children 5 and over welcome with parent or guardian. www.cal-sailing.org 

Social Action Summer Forum “Current Events in the Middle East” with Dr. Stephen Zunes, Prof, USF, at 10 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. 525-0302, ext. 306. 

Tibetan Buddhism with Sylvia Gretchen on “Liberation Psychology” at 6 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 809-1000.  


KPFA Radio Election Forum with candidates for the local station board at 7 p.m. at Lutheran Church of the Cross, 1744 University Ave. just a few blocks west of the Berkeley BART station on University Ave. kpfa.org 

Drop-in Knitting Group Work on your own project or make pet blankets and children’s hats for donation. Yarn, needles and instruction provided. From 3:30 to 5 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave., Albany. 536-3720. 

Community Yoga Class 10 a.m. at James Kenney Parks and Rec. Center at Virginia and 8th. Seniors and beginners welcome. Cost is $6. 207-4501. 


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 the Carquinez Strait, Bull Valley Staging Area. Bring water, field guides, binoculars or scopes. Call for meeting place and if you need to borrow binoculars. 544-2233. 

Morris Dance Workshop at 7:30 p.m. at Grace North Church, 2138 Cedar St. No experience necessary, all welcome. www.berkeley-morris.org 

Family Storytime for pre-schoolers and up, at 7 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. 524-3043. 

“Exploring Central Baja California: Hiking, Kayaking, Mountina Biking and more” at 7 p.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. 527-4140. 

Young People’s Symphony Orchestra Auditions for ages 12-21 from 4 to p.m. For application and information see www.ypsomusic.net 

27 Days of Change: Practice Period begins Sept. 1 at 2584 Martin Luther King Jr Way. Free. Registration required. register@ 


“Revolution: Why It Is Necessary” The online launch of a film of a talk by Bob Avakian at 7 p.m. at Revolution Books, 2425 Channing Way. 848-1196. 

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 

Homework Help Program at the Richmond Public Library Tues. and Thurs. from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at 325 Civic Center Plaza. For more information or to enroll, call 620-6557. 

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., Sat. and Sun. 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. Share your digital images, slides and prints and learn what other photographers are doing. Monthly field trips. 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 offer ongoing classes in exercise and creative arts, and always welcome new members over 50. 845-6830. 

Bridge for beginners from 12:30 to 2:15 p.m., all others 12:30 to 4 p.m. Sing-A-Long at 2:30 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-5190. 


Berkeley Path Wanderers Self-Guided Walk: Thousand Oaks Meet at 10 a.m. at North Berkeley BART station. Recommended route is Jen English’s 2007 Fall Harvest walk. See website for route and other info. 520-3876. www.berkeleypaths.org 

Walking Tour of Old Oakland around Preservation Park to see Victorian architecture. Meet at 10 a.m. in front of Preservation Park at 13th St. and MLK, Jr. Way. Tour lasts 90 minutes. Reservations can be made by calling 238-3234. www.oaklandnet.com/walkingtours 

Help a Mother Out Donations of diapers, underware and socks can be brought to SadieDey's Cafe, 4210 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, from 5 to 7 p.m. www.helpamotherout.org 

Red Cross Blood Services Volunteer Orientation from 10 a.m. to noon at 6230 Claremont Ave., Oakland. Registration required. 594-5165. blackstoneA@usa.redcross.org 

“Out of Balance” A documentary on ExxonMobile’s impact onclimate change, at 7:30 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Donation $5. www.Humanist Hall.org 

“The Biofield: The Flame of Life and a Key Link Between Science and Spirituality” illustrated discussion with Beverly Rubik on the energy that surrounds all organisms at 7:30 p.m. Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alamed. 526-3805.  

Square Dancer Program begins with a free introductory session at 7:30 p.m. at Montclair Women's Center, 1650 Mountain Blvd., Oakland. No partner required. dseberski@aol.com 

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.geocities.com/ 


Teen Chess Club from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the North Branch Library, 1170 The Alameda at Hopkins. 981-6133. 

Berkeley CopWatch Drop-in office hours from 6 to 8 p.m. at 2022 Blake St. 548-0425. 


“Redefining Our Relationships: Guidelines for Responsible, Open Relationships” A workshop with Wendy-O Matik at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 

Young People’s Symphony Orchestra Auditions for ages 12-21 from 4 to p.m. For application and information see www.ypsomusic.net 

Red Cross Blood Drive from noon to 6 p.m. at 2402 Central Ave. To schedule an appointment go to www.helpsavealife.org 

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. 

Fitness Class for 55+ at 9:15 a.m. at Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. 848-0237. 


Golden Gate Audubon Society Field Trip to Jewel Lake in Tilden Park Meet at 8:30 a.m. at the parking lot at the north end of Central Park Dr. for a one-mile, two-hour-plus stroll through this lush riparian area. Leader Phila Rogers 848-9156. www.goldengateaudubon.org 

Kensington First Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. with art, music and refreshements from the merchants of Colusa Circle and The Arlington. 525-6155. 

Meditation I: practice of the body at 7 p.m. at Center for Transformative Change, 2584 Martin Luther King Jr Way. Cost is free-$45. To register call 888-976-2426. 

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. 

Stand With Us Stand for Peace Stand with Israel vigil every Friday from noon to 1 p.m. at Bancroft and Telegraph. www.sfvoiceforisrael.org 

Berkeley Chess Club meets every Fri. at 7 p.m. at the Hillside School, 1581 Le Roy Ave. 843-0150. 


Walking Tour of Oakland City Center Meet at 10 a.m. in front Oakland City Hall at Frank Ogawa Plaza. Tour lasts 90 minutes. Reservations can be made by calling 238-3234. 

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. 

Poultry Pals Come get to know our neighborhood birds at the Little Farm from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at Tilden Park. 544-2233.  

Meet the Spirit of the Rabbit through shamanic journeying with Suzanne Savage from 1 to 5 p.m. at Rabbit Ears, 377 Colusa Ave. Kensington. Advance registration required. 525-6155. 

Whacky Weekend at Playland-Not-At-The-Beach Sat. through Mon., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 10979 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. Costs is $10-$15. 932-8966. www.playland-not-at-the-beach.org 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden Sat. at 2 p.m. and Sun. at 11 a.m. and 2 pm. Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Tilden Park. Call to confirm. 841-8732. www.nativeplants.org 

Lawn Bowling on the green at the corner of Acton St. and Bancroft Way every Wed. and Sat. at 10 a.m. for ages 12 and up. Wear flat soled shoes, no heels. Free lessons. 841-2174.  

Open Shop at Berkeley Boathouse from 1 to 5 p.m. at at 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. Take part in constructing a wooden boat or help out with other maritime projects. No experience necessary. First time is free, cost is $10 per day. 644-2577. www.watersideworkshops.org 


Friends of Five Creeks’ Picnic on the Creek from 3 to 6 p.m. at Codornices Creek and the Ohlone Greenway, opposite 1200 Masonic, on the Berkeley-Albany border. Free; drinks and snacks provided. Bring finger foods, musical instruments, games for the big grassy area. 848-9358. www.fivecreeks.org 

510 Butter Churnng Party Help mix up some fresh butter to spread on toast with jam, and learn all about milk and its cultured concoctions, from 10 a.m. to noon at The Little Farm, Tilden Park. 544-2233. 

Cows and Culture Learn how they hae been an integral part of human civilizations for thousands of years, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. at the Little Farm, Tilden Park. 544-2233. 

Single Payer Health Care Not War Planning meetings at 4:20 at People Park. for more information call 390-0830. peoplespark.org 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park Sat. at 2 p.m. and Sun. at 11 a.m. and 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 

Tibetan Buddhism with Dave Abercrombie on “Putting Knowledge to Work” at 6 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 809-1000. www.nyingmainstitute.com 

Sew Your Own Open Studio Come learn to use our industrial and domestic machines, or work on your own projects, from 2 to 6 p.m. at 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. Also on Thurs. from 2 to 6 p.m. Cost is $5 per hour. 644-2577. www.watersideworkshops.org