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Judy Davis, above, overlooks a 35-piece nativity scene created by Ester Cajero of the Jemez Pueblo in New Mexico, one of her 250 crèches on display at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church this weekend.
Michael Howerton
Judy Davis, above, overlooks a 35-piece nativity scene created by Ester Cajero of the Jemez Pueblo in New Mexico, one of her 250 crèches on display at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church this weekend.


No Charges Yet Against UC Protesters

Bay City News
Monday December 14, 2009 - 03:54:00 PM

Alameda County Assistant District Attorney Marty Brown said today that his office is still reviewing evidence against protesters who were arrested in connection with violence at the home of University of California at Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau Friday night. 

Brown said no one has been charged yet and that a decision on filing charges probably won’t be made for several weeks. 

UC Berkeley officials said eight people were arrested Friday on charges including assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer, threatening a public education official, rioting, attempted arson of an occupied building and vandalism in connection with the attack at Birgeneau’s home on the north side of campus. 

The eight people were part of a group of up to 70 protesters who stormed Birgeneau’s home and smashed planters, windows and lights, according to the school’s website. 

UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said only two of the eight people arrested are students. 

Earlier Friday, 66 protesters who had been occupying Wheeler Hall for several days were arrested for misdemeanor trespassing or resisting arrest. 

The demonstration was part of an ongoing protest of UC’s plans to increase undergraduate fees by 32 percent for the next academic year.

City Council to Reconsider Iceland Landmark Designation at Jan. 19 Hearing

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday December 15, 2009 - 10:25:00 AM

Berkeley is getting ready for another landmark brawl. The City Council voted last month to settle a lawsuit filed by the owners of Berkeley Iceland which challenged the building’s landmark status. 

As a result of the settlement agreement, the council will hold a public hearing Jan. 19 and reconsider the landmark designation. 

The 67-year-old ice rink on Milvia and Derby streets closed in March 2007 due to flagging business and high maintenance costs, following which the Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission designated it a city landmark. 

Iceland’s owners, East Bay Iceland, Inc., appealed the decision but failed to persuade the City Council that the landmark status undermined the building's allure for developers. 

In Octobers 2007, East Bay Iceland signed an agreement with the city in which the company waived its rights to challenge the landmark status in order to give a group of community members the opportunity to raise money to buy the rink and re-open it. 

Although Tom Killilea and his non-profit Save Berkeley Iceland signed an exclusive contract with East Bay Iceland in March 2008 to purchase the rink for $6.25 million, the group was not able to raise the money by the one-year deadline. 

East Bay Iceland sued the city in October, charging that the economic impact of the landmark designation had been severe, preventing the sale of the property for an economically viable use, resulting in it sitting idle for over two years and turning it into “an unproductive eyesore and target of vandalism.” 

The lawsuit alleges that there was “no substantial evidence” to support the designation based on “historical architectural style” beyond the building’s eastern facade, and that the rest of the building served primarily “utilitarian purposes.” 

The lawsuit also singles out other features, such as the building’s berms, wings and rink as not worthy of landmark status, an argument with which Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission Vice Chair Carrie Olson disagreed. 

The lawsuit also contends that the “application and designation of the entire structure—both by LPC and City Council—was based on numerous inaccurate representations, unrealistic expectations, baseless statements or exaggerations but not any substantial evidence supporting findings that such a designation met the criteria of the 'Landmarks Preservation Ordinance.' ” 

“When we landmarked it," Olson said, "we landmarked Berkeley Iceland. We landmarked its history and culture as well as its architectural value.” 

Olson said the building’s berms had been especially noteworthy because they provided insulation, a novel use. 

“We had a long discussion on the berms and the way they were built,” she said, dismissing the lawsuit’s contention that the berms were simply “cut and fill” against the foundation to create “banked seating.” 

East Bay Iceland said in its lawsuit that Save Berkeley Iceland did little to update the owners about the group's progress and in December 2008 was informed by its real estate broker that the group did not intend to extend the contract—as permitted in the agreement—or purchase the property. 

According to East Bay Iceland, neither Save Berkeley Iceland nor “any other preservation group could raise the funding needed for acquisition, rehabilitation and operation of the property.” 

But Killilea told the Daily Planet Monday that efforts to buy Berkeley Iceland were far from dead. 

He said that although the group had been able to raise a decent downpayment, it had struggled with donations in light of the recent recession. 

Killilea said that after the contract with East Bay Iceland expired, the group had asked for an extension and a chance to renegotiate, but had not heard back. 

“The next thing, we got a note from their lawyer saying that the contract had expired,” he said.  

Calls to Miller Starr Regalia, the law firm representing East Bay Iceland, were not returned by press time. 

“We have been quiet because we have been working with a number of large donors,” said Killilea, who co-wrote the landmark application for Iceland along with Elizabeth Grassetti. “Until we have a couple of millions pledged, we don’t want to waste anyone’s time.” 

Save Berkeley Iceland, Killilea said, was currently working with the city to get a $5 million state parks grant through Proposition 84. 

City Attorney Zach Cowan said that right before East Bay Iceland filed the lawsuit against the city in the fall, the company proposed the idea of a settlement agreement 

“The council decided they wanted a chance to reconsider the decision,” Cowan said. “It’s easier to reconsider it than fight about it. The circumstances have changed—Save Berkeley Iceland tried to buy the rink but weren’t able to. A different set of facts can lead to a different set of decisions.” 

At its Nov. 9 closed executive session meeting, the Berkeley City Council voted 7-0 to approve the settlement agreement, with councilmembers Kriss Worthington and Jesse Arreguin abstaining. 

Worthington contended that there was significant historic and cultural evidence present to justify the landmarking. 

“There are skaters who went to the Olympics who have practiced here,” Worthington said, referring to Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi. “Of course it’s historic.” 

Cowan said that at the Jan. 19 meeting, the council could choose to “designate it as a landmark or not designate it as a landmark or do a less inclusive designation.” 

He said the council would be making the final decision on the landmark status and that the issue would not be referred back to the Landmarks Preservation Commission. 

Olson pointed out that there was nothing in the city’s landmarks ordinance that allowed the council to “un-landmark a landmark.” 

“They will have to find it unworthy of landmarking, and I would be really surprised if this wasn’t sent back to us,” she said. “It calls into question the integrity of the commission. I have never heard of anything like this in 35 years of the ordinance. It’s jaw-dropping.” 

City Council to Gauge Soft-Story Ordinance, Pools Ballot Measure and Energy Upgrade Program

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday December 15, 2009 - 10:23:00 AM

The Berkeley City Council is rushing to take care of unfinished business at its Tuesday meeting before breaking for winter recess Dec. 16. 

On the list is enforcement of the city’s soft-story ordinance, a recommendation for the pools ballot measure and whether to join CaliforniaFIRST, a statewide property-based energy financing program modeled on the Berkeley FIRST pilot program which concluded this month. 


Soft-story ordinance enforcement 

Ever wondered whether your house will survive the next major earthquake? You may finally get an answer. 

The City of Berkeley is considering beefing up stricter enforcement of its existing soft-story ordinance, which requires owners of seismically unsafe buildings to inform tenants about the risks.  

Soft-story buildings are usually more vulnerable during earthquakes. 

There are approximately 400 soft-story buildings in Berkeley, of which 320 were especially vulnerable in earthquakes because of their wood frame structure. As of spring 2009, 31 have been retrofitted.  

According to a report by the city’s Disaster and Fire Safety Commission, the majority of soft-story building owners in Berkeley are violating the ordinance by not posting warning signs about the structures.  

A May 2009 survey by Disaster and Fire Safety Commissioner John Caner of the city’s list of “Potentially Hazardous Story Buildings” in the Willard neighborhood found that just two of the 15 buildings had warning signs posted, and one of those was a flimsy paper sign attached with putty at in inconspicuous location in the building. 

The commission is requesting that the city mandate that all city departments and agencies check for warning signs on soft-story buildings and levy fines on landlords who continue to disregard the law. 

The commission also wants the city to amend the existing ordinance which would require building owners to notify prospective tenants about the earthquake risks through flyers and web postings.  

The amended ordinance would also require tenants, before signing a lease, to sign a disclosure form acknowledging they are aware of the seismic hazards. 

A report from city Planning Director Dan Marks asks the City Council to give city staff time to consider the commission’s recommendation and return with proposals for how to address the problem given limited resources. 

Marks says that additional resources might be required for a “more aggressive effort” at seeking compliance. 

According to city officials, the proposed enforcement is expected to be followed by a requirement asking owners of soft-story buildings to retrofit their property. 


Pools ballot measure for June 2010 

The City Council is expected to recommend Tuesday whether a Mello-Roos Community Facilities District or a bond measure should be used to raise funds for the citywide pools project in the June 2010 election. The project aims to renovate, repair or replace some of the city’s existing pools. 

The council approved the citywide pools master plan at its Nov. 17 meeting, which included the relocation of the warm water pool from the Berkeley High School Old Gym, slated for demolition in 2011, to the West Campus. 

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said that if the Berkeley Unified School District decided to put bond measures on the November 2010 ballot, the city would have to place the pools bond on the June 2010 ballot.  

The school district will let the council know by January whether it plans to have any bond measures on the November 2010 ballot.  

Some city councilmembers expressed reservations as to whether voters would approve the pools ballot measure in the June election given the dismal economy and traditionally low voter turnout during that period. UC Berkeley students, who usually vote for taxes and bonds, will also be away on summer vacation at that time. 

The council passed a motion at its November meeting to carry out a voter survey to gauge whether the measure would get the required two-thirds vote to pass. 


CaliforniaFIRST program 

The Berkeley City Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the CaliforniaFIRST program, following which it will vote on whether the city should take part in it. 

Modeled on the Berkeley FIRST pilot program, which came to an end this month, CaliforniaFIRST “presents an opportunity to increase the scale of the property-based clean energy financing model and to relieve Berkeley and other cities of having to administer such a program on a city-by-city basis,” according to a report prepared by city Planning Director Dan Marks. 

The report says that the program is consistent with Berkeley’s Climate Action Plan and ongoing efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions. 

Started by California Communities, CaliforniaFIRST gives homeowners in participating cities and counties an opportunity to finance renewable energy, energy efficiency and water efficiency by taking out loans repayable through assessments levied on property taxes. 

If a property owner takes part in the program, the improvements will be financed by bonds issued by California Communities. 

The pilot program aims to “quickly reach a minimum of $25 million in projects through a pooled bond approach, resulting in a better bond rating and lower interest rate than a Berkeley-only program,” according to the report. 

The program is expected to be launched in June 2010, following which a broader program will be unveiled that proposes to finance $330 million worth of projects within three years. 

According to the report, a preliminary assessment of the Berkeley FIRST program found that one of the main reasons property owners chose not to take part in it was because of its relatively high interest rate.  

City staff are expected to present a more comprehensive assessment of the Berkeley FIRST program to council in May 2010. 

The report says that “Alameda County and at least one incorporated city within it must adopt a resolution joining CaliforniaFIRST by Jan. 18, 2010 in order for legal validation of several program components to proceed.” 

According to the report, although at least one other city in the county is working to adopt a resolution within the specified timeline, “there is no guarantee that any of them will pass.” 

Therefore city staff is recommending that the council vote on whether to approve the program at Tuesday’s meeting. 

The report acknowledges that although certain details of the program, including the interest rate and administrative costs for participating property owners, have not been established as yet, and that “ideally, all details would be specified before the city made a commitment to participate,” the deadline for the “funding opportunity necessitates a commitment prior to understanding all details.”  

The City Council is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. today (Tuesday, Dec. 15) at the Council Chambers, Old City Hall, 2134 MLK Jr. Way.

State Approves Expansion of Oakland Enterprise Zone Into West Berkeley

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Monday December 14, 2009 - 02:44:00 PM

The final hurdle for creating enterprise zones in West Berkeley has cleared, paving the way for more than 1,000 local businesses to receive tax credits. 

Berkeley’s Economic Development Manager Michael Caplan said the California Department of Housing and Community Development Department announced Dec. 1 that it had approved the expansion of the Oakland Enterprise Zone into West Berkeley, a little over two months after the Berkeley City Council voted in favor of it. 

The Oakland City Council has also approved the plan. 

Berkeley’s primary motivation to pass the proposal was to keep Bayer Healthcare, the city’s largest private-sector employer, from leaving town. The company had threatened to outsource some of its manufacturing, a move city officials feared would lead to the pharmaceutical giant eventually shutting down its Aquatic Park campus entirely. 

As a result, Berkeley agreed to give Bayer $10 million in tax breaks for over two years, including a reduction in PG&E bills, as part of the enterprise zone, in return for which the company will remain in Berkeley and invest $100 million in the facility. 

Both parties described the deal as a “win-win.” 

Bayer will also qualify to receive about $36,000 in tax credits for each new employee hired who meets particular requirements. Cities issue a hiring tax credit voucher to businesses in its enterprise zones for each qualified employee they hire.  

But some Berkeley councilmembers are skeptical about whether the enterprise zone would create new jobs as promised and whether the zones would actually initiate economic development or simply cater to corporate interests. 

Caplan said the expansion would include “the area from San Pablo Avenue to the I-80 freeway from the Oakland-Emeryville border to Albany, including all addresses on both sides of San Pablo Avenue.” 

“Inclusion in the enterprise zone means that over 1,100 West Berkeley businesses—from large manufacturing companies to small neighborhood restaurants—will be eligible to claim state tax credits that can reduce their state obligation by thousands of dollars,” Caplan said in an e-mail message. “Businesses located in the enterprise zone are automatically eligible for zone benefits, no certification is required.”   

The two main benefits of an enterprise zone are: 

• A hiring credit of up to $37,440 per eligible employee hired after the area is designated an enterprise zone. Eligible persons include the unemployed, disabled, veterans and individuals receiving public assistance.  

• State sales tax credits on purchases of $20 million per year for qualified equipment and machinery parts.     

More information on this and other benefits of enterprise zone can be found at: http://EZoakland.com.

UC Berkeley Alums Detained In Iran Will Stand Trial

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Monday December 14, 2009 - 01:27:00 PM

Three UC Berkeley alums detained in Iran since July 31 will stand trial, according to Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, U.S. media reported Monday. 

According to CNN, Mottaki told Iran’s Fars News Agency Dec. 14 that Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal, who are being held on espionage charges after illegally straying into Iran from Kurdish Iraq, will be put on trial under the country’s judiciary. 

The detainees’ families have maintained that the trio crossed to Iran accidentally and have asked Iranian authorities to release them. 

Bauer, 27, and Shourd, 31, are freelance journalists and Fattal, 27, is involved with a sustainable living project at the Aprovecho Research Center in Cottage Grove, Ore., the families have said.  

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also appealed to the Iranian government for a swift release of the hikers, calling the charges unfounded. 

In the absence of U.S. diplomatic relations with Iran since 1979, Swiss diplomats have met with the hikers twice in prison. 

Students at UC Berkeley have been holding vigils for the hikers on campus and more than 4,700 people have signed a petition asking for their release. 

Several prominent dignitaries, including actress Mia Farrow, activist Gloria Steinem, billionaire businessman Richard Branson, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. signed a petition which was sent to Iran’s United Nations mission asking that it be forwarded to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, CNN reported. 

CNN said that Ahmadinejad had said that he had no control over the situation and that it was being handled entirely by the country’s judiciary system. He added that the act of crossing over the border by American citizens was an “illegal entry,” which would be “considered a crime everywhere,” but also stressed that he could ask that the judiciary expedite the process and consider the case with “maximum leniency,” CNN reported.

Eight Protesters Arrested After Attack On UC Berkeley Chancellor's House

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Saturday December 12, 2009 - 12:19:00 PM

Eight people were arrested after protesters stormed UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s house on the north side of campus around 11 p.m. Friday, smashing windows, lights and planters. 

A statement released by UC Berkeley Saturday morning said the group, which was made up of about 40 to 70 people, shouted “No justice, no peace,” and “threw incendiary objects at the house, which could have caused a major fire."  

UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof said the group also threw garbage on the porch. He said the chancellor, who had been sleeping, was awakened by his wife, that they called UC police and when officers showed up, the crowd dispersed.  

Police arrested eight people and took them to Santa Rita Jail.  

They were charged with rioting, threatening an education official, attempted burglary, attempted arson of an occupied building, felony vandalism, and assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer.  

University officials said they thought that at least two of the eight arrested were UC Berkeley students.  

The attack at the chancellor’s residence, known as University House, came after a four-day “open occupation” of UC Berkeley’s Wheeler Hall, which protesters said had been aimed at “opening the university."  

UC Berkeley police arrested 66 students and other protesters early Friday morning. UC Berkeley officials said they believed that an unauthorized concert was going to take place in the building which “threatened to compromise the ability to conduct final exams." 

At the university’s request, students who did not have outstanding warrants against them were cited and released Friday.  

Denouncing the violent actions at his house, Chancellor Birgeneau said in a statement that, "These are criminals, not activists. The attack at our home was extraordinarily frightening and violent. My wife and I genuinely feared for our lives. The people involved in this action will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. I want to emphasize that they represent an extreme minority of our students. I urge the community and protesters to find more productive ways to express their points of view. The resort to life-endangering violence is never acceptable on our campus. I call upon the majority of the group who have been expressing their point of view in nonviolent ways to condemn the actions of these few individuals."  

Mogulof said nobody was injured in the incident. 

“Although the protesters tried to break through the windows, they were only able to shatter them,” he said. 

The university released an approximate timeline of the Dec. 11 event which showed that the protesters had gathered at 7 p.m. on the south side of Wheeler Hall. In the beginning there were only 10 people, but the number grew to about 50 by 8:22 p.m., with another 30 walking north through Sather Gate. 

About eight minutes later, the group grew to about 100 and marched along the west side of Wheeler. At 8:42 p.m. university officials called the chancellor to let him know that the group might head to his residence.  

The group marched north toward Hearst and at 8:53 p.m. arrived at Casa Zimbabwe. At this point the Berkeley Police Department met with UCPD and assumed responsibility for the event. 

UCPD then returned to the UC Berkeley campus and patrolled buildings to determine whether students were planning another takeover. 

At 11:05 p.m. UCPD and BPD received calls of “a large loud group in the Ridge-Euclid area knocking over garbage cans and newspaper machines.” Callers described them as “rioters,” but didn’t mention any torches. At 11:13 p.m., UCPD received a call from the chancellor who said that a large group had gathered outside University House and was “attempting to force entry.” 

When UCPD arrived at the scene they reported “things on fire being thrown at their cars.” 

The UC Berkeley students arrested at the scene were Zachary Bowin, 21, of Berkeley and Angela Miller, 20, of Oakland. 

Also arrested were Julia Litmancleper, 20, of San Francisco, who identified himself as a UC Davis student; John Friesen, 25, of Fullerton, who was also arrested at Wheeler Hall Friday morning; Donnell Allen, 41, San Francisco; David Morse, 41, of Oakland; Laura Thatcher, 21, of Rolling Hills Estates; and James Carwil, 34, of Brooklyn, New York. 

When asked whether the protesters had made any demands, Mogulof said the group "didn't come to talk, they came to attack the house."  

Although protests outside the chancellor's house are not uncommon, Mogulof said this particular incident "didn't just cross a red line, it leapt across it."  

"This is what it looks like when a student group gets hijacked by extremist and violent elements," he said. "They need to make a choice, because we are going to identify them and remove them from the community."  

Mogulof strongly condemned the incident, saying that student activism had taken a "quantum leap," by endangering the lives of university officials. "We are very lucky that nobody was hurt," he said.  

Flash: Some Wheeler Hall Protesters Released After Arrest

Riya Bhattacharjee and Raymond Barglow
Friday December 11, 2009 - 01:36:00 PM
UC Berkeley Executive Director of Public Affairs Dan Mogulof answers questions from protesters during Friday's noon rally outside California Hall.
Raymond Barglow
UC Berkeley Executive Director of Public Affairs Dan Mogulof answers questions from protesters during Friday's noon rally outside California Hall.

Sixty-one of the 66 protesters who were arrested at Wheeler Hall Friday morning are expected to be cited and released from Santa Rita jail by the end of the day, UC Berkeley officials said around 3 p.m. Friday, Dec. 11.  

Campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said that of the 66, only eight had bail requirements because “they had previously been cited for similar actions on campus.” Mogulof said university officials had requested that bail requirements be dropped for those among the eight who were eligible and didn’t have outstanding warrants and other criminal issues.  

Three were cited and released, but four could not be released without bail because they are out of state, Mogulof said. Bail has been set at $1,500.  

The fifth was on felony probation and could not be released either. Mogulof said it’s possible that there is a “no bail” condition on his probation record. None of them are UC Berkeley students.  

Students rallied outside UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s office at California Hall around noon to protest the arrests.  

Mogulof told the Daily Planet that Friday morning’s arrests “went down very quietly because most of the protesters had been sleeping.”  

The ACLU of Northern California sent a letter today to the Chief of UC Berkeley police Mitch Celaya, as well as to UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau inquiring why some protesters had been taken to Santa Rita jail to be held in custody, rather than being issued citations.  

The letter, from ACLU staff attorney Michael Risher, urges them to make sure that campus police “are deciding whether to make custodial arrests based on proper facts, and not based on any intent to chill or prevent constitutionally protected expressive activities or to retaliate against demonstrators for their speech.”  

Risher said that ACLU was concerned that the actions taken by UC police might violate the protesters’ constitutional rights.  

“We do not know the details surrounding today’s arrests, but it is troubling that so many demonstrators who seem likely to have committed nothing more than misdemeanors are nonetheless being jailed,” Risher’s letter said.  

About a 100 people showed up for the half-hour rally today afternoon, following which about 50 surrounded Mogulof to talk about the arrests for 45 minutes.  

The students asked Mogulof why the university had allowed the students to stay at Wheeler until now and whether the university plans to work with them to set up talks.  

Mogulof asked the students to set up a date and time for discussions with university officials.  

When asked about the reason behind the arrests, Mogulof said the administration had been alarmed by the activists’ announcement of a hip-hop party that had been advertised as lasting “until the cops kicked the doors in.”   

Mogulof said that when a representative from campus administration went to talk to the protesters at Wheeler to ask them whether they would reconsider their decision, their designated intermediary said they "didn't see any way they would come down from it."  

However, Jeremy Bernes, a graduate student in English, took exception to Mogulof’s account.  

“We did want to hold the party, but I’m sure that [our designated intermediary] conveyed the sentiment that all of us [in Wheeler] had expressed: We would guarantee that Wheeler would be clean and functional by 6 a.m., well before final exams on Saturday morning.”  

Mogulof told the Planet that had there been such a guarantee, things might have had a different outcome.  

Mogulof told the Planet that although there had been no damage to Wheeler Hall, the protesters had left parts of it in a mess.  

“We are working on cleaning up the place and setting up the tables,” he said. “We believe we can hold finals there tomorrow as scheduled.”  

Finals are scheduled to go on until Dec. 19, after which the campus will go on winter break.  

When asked why the police had picked the wee hours of the morning to make the arrests, Mogulof told the crowd he didn’t have an explanation for that.  

Mogulof agreed that better communication was necessary between the university administration and the protesters. In response to calls for transparency in UC’s budget, Mogulof said the university is planning to release detailed figures soon.  

Students said the musical performance scheduled for this evening would be held at another location, but that participants would meet at Wheeler at 7 p.m. before going to the event.  

Boots Riley of the Coup is among the scheduled performers.

Flash: UC Police Arrest 66 Protesters at Wheeler Hall

By Riya Bhattacharjee and Raymond Barglow
Friday December 11, 2009 - 12:32:00 PM
UCPD keep watch outside Wheeler Hall. Police are only allowing authorized faculty and staff to enter the building where protesters were arrested today morning.
Ray Barglow
UCPD keep watch outside Wheeler Hall. Police are only allowing authorized faculty and staff to enter the building where protesters were arrested today morning.

This morning (Friday) at about 4:30 AM UC police entered Wheeler Hall and began arresting activists who were staying there overnight as part of continuing protests against budget cuts and fee hikes.   

Protesters have been staging an “open occupation” at Wheeler since Monday, holding talks, discussions, hip hop performances and other events as part of their effort to create an open university that is not only for the people, but by the people.  

At least 66 were arrested and taken to Santa Rita Jail. They are expected to be released sometime today.   

Campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said the reason for the arrests was that the demonstrators were going to hold a hip-hop party this evening that would go on indefinitely into tomorrow morning.  

But the demonstrators and their supporters said that they had received assurances from the police earlier in the week that they would be allowed to remain in Wheeler, so they believed that this police action was entirely unnecessary and illegitimate.   

The “open university,” its supporters said, was entirely peaceful, non-disruptive of normal activities going on in Wheeler Hall, and hence an exercise in free speech.   

At the very least, said those who were gathering in front of Wheeler at mid-morning today prior to a scheduled rally at noon, there could have been negotiations with the administration about the planned party and other “open university” activities.   

UC Berkeley sent out a press release at 10:35 a.m. saying that at least 66 trespassing students and other protesters had been arrested Friday morning, the same day the group was set to hold an unauthorized concert inside a classroom building. 

The press release said that protesters were arrested without incident at 4:40 a.m. for misdemeanor trespassing inside Wheeler Hall and transported to Santa Rita jail. 

The university said the group included “approximately 41 individuals believed to be UC Berkeley students and 24 individuals not affiliated with the campus.” 

Another individual seeking to cause a disruption outside Wheeler Hall was also arrested, bringing the total arrest count to 66. 

The statement said that “the protesters, who have maintained an illegal, though largely non-disruptive, 24-hour presence inside Wheeler Hall since Monday, claimed to be doing so in the name of “opening the university.” 

It said that since entering Wheeler Hall Monday, the protesters set up information tables inside the building, laid up food and refreshments, posted banners, strummed guitars, watched movies, played late-night music and declared the building an “open university.” 

The statement said that “earlier in the week, they appeared to be taking steps to ensure that their activities would not conflict with classroom review sessions underway inside the building.” 

Later in the week, “the group began publicizing plans for an unauthorized all-night concert featuring guest artists and a DJ—an event that threatened to disrupt final examinations that are scheduled to take place in that same building tomorrow,” the statement said. 

Although campus staff talked to event organizers about the issue, the statement said, “the protesters vowed to go forward.” 

Publicity materials distributed by the group stated that the concert would start Friday night and go on till 8 a.m. Saturday and 

until “the cops kick in the doors.” 

Final examinations are scheduled to begin inside Wheeler Hall at 9 a.m. Saturday. 

“Once the group refused to reconsider plans to hold an unauthorized all-night concert in an academic building, we had to take steps to ensure that finals could go forward,” said Dan Mogulof, campus spokesman. “Our primary responsibility is to the campus’s core academic mission and the 35,000 students who are not participating in the protest.” 

Business hours for Wheeler Hall, which has one of the largest number of classrooms on campus, is until 10 p.m. daily. 

The statement from UC Berkeley said that the trespassers—ranging from a dozen to several dozen at any given time this week—were not authorized to hold events or sleep overnight in the building, and were cautioned by police that their actions could lead to arrest and student conduct code penalties. 

Friday’s arrests come in the wake of the Nov. 20 Wheeler Hall occupation, arrests and allegations of police brutality which was documented by scores of people on their cameras and cell phones. More than a 100 UC Berkeley professors signed a letter condemning the action. The UC Berkeley administration promised to set up an independent review panel to investigate the allegations of police force. 

On Friday, campus police and security personnel were keeping watch outside Wheeler, barring anyone except authorized faculty and staff from entering. 

The university said that classroom review sessions which were scheduled to take place at Wheeler would instead take place at a nearby building as indicated on fliers posted outside. 

UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau issued a statement expressing his appreciation to the UC Police Department, “for the very patient and professional way in which they handled this week's events at Wheeler Hall. They managed several days and nights of occupation with foremost concern for the safety of our campus community and early this morning helped bring about a peaceful end to the takeover of Wheeler Hall in a timely way so that final exams can proceed as scheduled tomorrow.” 


BART Awards $492 Million Oakland Airport Connector Contract

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:07:00 PM

After months of debate, BART’s board of directors joined the Port of Oakland in awarding a contract for the construction of an Oakland Airport connector.  

The $492 million contract was awarded to California-based Flatiron-Parsons Joint Venture. 

BART issued a statement Thursday afternoon following the board's morning meeting, calling the 7-1 decision to build the 3.1-mile automated people-mover (APM) a “historic vote.” 

Critics have complained that the project is too expensive to build and too expensive to ride. The initial estimate for the project was $552 million, but it is now expected to cost $60 million less, according to BART. The lowest bid was selected for the project. 

“The struggling Bay Area economy just received a big boost thanks to the BART board, whose historic vote today also means BART customers will finally have a swift, world-class train-to-plane connection between the Coliseum BART Station and the Oakland Airport,” a BART statement said.  

The board also voted to award the operation and maintenance contract to Doppelmayr Cable Car, Inc. 

The project is expected to use $70 million in federal stimulus funds and create as many as 5,000 jobs during the three-and-a-half-year construction phase, which is scheduled to begin in mid-2010. 

Project opponents argued that there were other transit operators in dire need of the funds and criticized BART for taking out a loan to fill the funding gap. BART will rely on fare revenues to back the loan.  

When finished, the connector will replace the AirBART buses, which take between 12 to 30 minutes to reach the Coliseum Airport depending on traffic on Hegenberger Road. Fares will run $12 for a round trip. 

AirBART, which charges $6 for a roundtrip ticket, shuttled approximately 85,000 riders per month in 2008. But BART says the buses would be inadequate to handle increased ridership over the years, which is expected to reach 10,000 passengers a day by 2020.  

According to BART, the APMs, which look similar to the AirBART connectors at San Francisco International Airport, will arrive at the Coliseum BART station every 4.5 minutes and transport passengers to the airport in eight minutes and 12 seconds. 

The project won the support of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, ACTIA, the Oakland City Council, and the Port of Oakland. 

“This is a historic day for the Bay Area economy and BART,” Board President Thomas Blalock said in a statement. “Once completed, it will provide the East Bay with a system that will swiftly transport people between BART and the airport and cause millions of air travelers to wonder how they could have ever lived without it.” 

Board member Carole Ward Allen said, “We couldn’t be building this project at a better time, because Oakland currently has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state.”   

To get an idea about what the new airport connector will look like, see the BART website: www.bart.gov/news/barttv/?&cat=27&id=652. 


Call for Submissions

Thursday December 10, 2009 - 11:37:00 AM

The Daily Planet invites readers to submit essays, articles, photos, cartoons and poetry for its annual year-end reader contribution issue. Send your submissions to holiday@berkeleydailyplanet.com by 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 18.

St. Clement’s Hosts Presentation of Nativity Scenes from Around the World

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:08:00 AM
Judy Davis, above, overlooks a 35-piece nativity scene created by Ester Cajero of the Jemez Pueblo in New Mexico, one of her 250 crèches on display at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church this weekend.
Michael Howerton
Judy Davis, above, overlooks a 35-piece nativity scene created by Ester Cajero of the Jemez Pueblo in New Mexico, one of her 250 crèches on display at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church this weekend.
Twenty-three angels are part of a nativity tree made by Eugenia of Taobate, San Paulo, Brazil.
Michael Howerton
Twenty-three angels are part of a nativity tree made by Eugenia of Taobate, San Paulo, Brazil.

About 250 Nativity crèche scenes from 81 countries will be exhibited at St. Clements Episcopal Church this weekend to benefit the Alameda County Food Bank. 

The exhibit, at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church (2837 Claremont Blvd.) starts with a reception Friday evening and runs thrugh Sunday.  

The scenes, from the collection of Judy and Bob Davis, range from those with figures of less than an inch in height—one of the smallest is in a walnut shell—to one with 18-inch clay camels carrying riders. 

Judy spoke of how the Davis’ remarkable collection started. 

“I grew up in the Methodist Church; I never had a nativity scene. In 1966, I thought it was time to have one! I bought the first in Mexico and set it up. In 1980, we went to the Passion Play in Obergammerau aObergammerau and bought a hand-carved scene there. We collected wherever my husband went for business, with me accompanying him. The majority of our collection has been purchased in the countries of origin.” 

The Christmas season displays—always as benefits for food banks—were first mounted in 1997 and have continued every third year. 

This year will be the last; the Davises hope to place their collection, or a portion of it, somewhere as a gift. “One friend donated a collection to Loyola University in Chicago. The University of Dayton has some in their Marian Library,” Judy noted. “I’m a founding director of the Friends of the Creche, with over 400 memberships nationwide. We have a gathering yearly and a convention every other year.” 

The origin of creche scenes is traditionally attributed to Francis of Assisi. 

“What I like about them,” Judy said, “Is their real basis in folk art. Each person in each country portrays the lifestyle of the holy family and the three kings as wearing their own garb—serapes or ponchos on Joseph in Mexico or Peru—or bringing different gifts—turquoise, rugs and pots from the Southwest, kava sticks from Samoa.”

Omnibus Bill’s Stadium Exemption Angers Berkeley Citizens

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:10:00 AM

Some Berkeley city officials and residents are outraged that, despite questions raised by legislative staff in Sacramento, the University of California was able to convince lawmakers to add an amendment exempting Memorial Stadium on the Berkeley campus and other state historic structures from legal restrictions on building across earthquake faults to the state’s Omnibus Bill, which traditionally contains only non-controversial provisions.  

District 4 Councilmember Jesse Arreguin contends that the “implied rule of an omnibus bill is that it can only include changes that are non-controversial.” 

Opponents claim that the amendment poses a threat to the safety of Berkeley residents and are furious that it was passed in the face of pending litigation against the proposed projects at Memorial Stadium. 

Arreguin on Monday proposed an agenda item for the Dec. 15 City Council meeting requesting Berkeley City Manager Phil Kamlarz to report on Berkeley’s involvement in SB113, also known as the Local Government Omni-bus Act of 2009, which  

was signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Oct. 11, 2009. 

Every year the State Senate Committee on Local Government introduces an omnibus bill—also known as a “clean-up bill”—as a money-saving way to streamline local government law. 

But a lawsuit by the Panoramic Hill Association, a neighborhood group that has sued the university for proposing to build on the Hayward Fault, makes the amendment controversial, Arreguin said, and thus inappropriate for inclusion in the Omnibus Act. 

“It directly affects the whole purpose of the lawsuit and the parties of the lawsuit,” he said. The suit is currently waiting to go before the state appellate court. 

UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof defended the university’s decision to request the amendment. 

“It really depends on how you define controversy,” Mogulof said. “We rarely see anything in the state or the city that’s non-controversial. There’s little controversy over a project that desires to spend private funds to make a seismically unsafe structure safe.” 

Mogulof added that the provision would only apply to retrofitting existing structures, and not to new construction. 

The Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zoning Act prohibits new projects in defined earthquake fault zones, but allows for an “alteration or addition” to a project “if the value of the alteration or addition does not exceed 50 percent of the value of the structure.” 

The retrofitting and expansion of Memorial Stadium has been the subject of at least four lawsuits and a tree-sit which made national headlines. 

Because these projects fall within an earthquake fault zone, the provisions of Alquist-Priolo would apply to them without the amendment. The amendment also seems to apply to other state historic structures, though exactly how is still unclear. 

Mogulof said that construction on Memorial Stadium itself would begin after the UC regents voted on approving it in January. The adjoining Student High Performance Athletic Center, which is being built on the former site of the stadium’s oak grove, does not benefit from the amendment because it would not straddle an active fault and does not connect to the stadium, he said. 

Arreguin’s memo says that the university requested that the Senate Local Government Committee pass the amendment to “specifically enable the university to move forward with” the Memorial Stadium projects. 

Campus officials started planning seismic and disability-access improvements after a 1998 seismic study gave it a “poor rating.” 

In her proposal to the committee, UC’s Senior Legislative Director Happy Chastain wrote that the university believes that Alquist-Priolo “is vague regarding exemptions for state entities.”  

She said that there was ambiguity in how the act applied to retrofiting Memorial Stadium.  

“Statutory clarity needs to be provided to avoid future litigation,” her proposal said. “Because of the historic nature of the stadium, we expect diverging opinions regarding the value of the stadium and whether the cost of the improvements will exceed 50 percent of the stadium’s existing value. For public health and safety reasons, the seismically and accessibility deficient stadium needs to be retrofitted and the proposed amendment would eliminate any delay in implementing the retrofit resulting from expected litigation resulting from a valuation determination.” 

Chastain, who did not return calls for comment, said in her proposal that she had contacted the Department of Parks and Recreation and the State Historic Preservation Office, who were reviewing the language.  

She said that the Building Standards Commission, the Sierra Club and League of Conservation Voters had not expressed concerns about the exemption. 

But in a May 13 letter to Chastain, Peter Detweiler, Chief of Staff for the Senate Local Government Committee, wrote: after “thinking about your request, I am not sure that it’s going to survive the review process ... Our motto is ‘if it’s not consensus, it’s not omnibus. If anyone raises an eyebrow, even if they don’t object to the substance, the request doesn’t go into the committee’s omnibus bill. Sometimes a reviewer will say, gee, that’s a fine idea but it deserves more attention than getting stuck into an omnibus bill. Compared to the other items in SB 113, your request looks more substantive.” 

He said in the letter that he intended to send the proposed amendment to more than 125 reviewers for comment. 

He added that if the amendment had been a separate bill, as a policy committee consultant he would have wanted information on how many buildings are already on the state Register of Historic Resources, and of those, how many were owned by the state, in order to determine where the amendment might apply. 

“We don’t know what we are exempting,” Detweiler wrote. “I don’t want you to be surprised or disappointed if someone objects (or even raises an eyebrow).” 

When reached Wednesday, Detweiler said Chastain had not gotten back to him about whether the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) had reviewed the language in the amendment. 

“When I reached SHPO, they didn’t express any opinion about the language because I didn’t ask them about it,” he said. Detweiler said he had received an approximate list of buildings on the National Register from Chastain but didn’t have it anymore. 

He said that barring one legislative staff member, none of the reviewers—including lobbyists, legislative analysts and staff—had objected to the amendment as the bill was moving forward. 

Chastain’s proposal also implied that the university had informed neighbors of the Memorial Stadium about the amendment but does not directly state that she did so. Michael Kelly, president of the Panoramic Hill Association, denied that neighbors had been informed. 

“That would be us and we didn’t hear from anyone,” Kelly said. “I am suspicious about who they reached out to about this. They are demolishing the entire stadium except for the exterior walls and calling it a retrofit. That’s not a retrofit.” 

Arreguin said that various state agencies and Berkeley residents did not become aware of the amendment until it was passed by the legislature. 

“The stadium projects have been very controversial and were even subject to a lawsuit by the city,” Arreguin said in his memo to Kamlarz. “Given the controversy it is inappropriate for this amendment to have been included in an omnibus bill, and there is a lack of transparency in the manner in which this amendment was introduced.” 

Detweiler said that Lynn Suter, the city of Berkeley’s lobbyist in Sacramento, had told him that the city of Berkeley had “no objection” to the amendment. 

“If this is true, it raises important questions about whether the city was aware of the university’s request,” Arreguin said. “Did the city express a position on the bill? If so, how was the position determined? And who expressed the position on behalf of the city?” 

Detweiler said that Senator Loni Hancock’s office had not objected to the amendment either. 

Suter’s office said she was in Cambodia and could not be reached for comment. Mayor Tom Bates and Senator Loni Hancock are on vacation in Vietnam and calls to their staff and the Berkeley City Manager’s office were not returned by press time.  

Arreguin complained that even though the committee staffers were concerned about the controversial nature of the provision, UC Berkeley and the city of Berkeley contended that it was non-controversial. 

“My big question is, why was the council not informed?” Arreguin asked. “The university’s proposed project could put the public in danger. Most important, this amendment is not limited to the Memorial Stadium, it has implications for the whole state.” 

Former Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean, who has been closely following the issue, said that she was very unhappy about the lack of a proper public process. 

“How can you take a project that had four separate lawsuits and one lawsuit pending and say it is not controversial?” she asked. 

“Not only are there safety risks in the stadium, there are safety risks for the city—we are the first responders to anything that would happen. This represents what is wrong with university and city relations.” 

Dean said that the council should have been asked to review the amendment. 

Berkeley resident Doug Buckwald said that he had asked his local representative, Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, who voted to pass the bill, to conduct a thorough investigation into the issue. 

“This is not about stealing a loaf of bread or six packs from the corner grocery store,” Buckwald said. “Democracy has been stolen from us. It’s a serious violation of public trust, a clear abuse of the legislative process.” 

A Nov. 13 internal e-mail between Skinner’s legislative director Liz Mooney and her senior field representative Maha Ibrahim, after the bill was passed, shows that Mooney had not been aware of the pending lawsuits. 

“This is the first I have heard of any lawsuit,” Mooney said in response to Ibrahim’s question about how to tackle questions from the public on the amendment and pending litigation by Panoramic Hill. 

Calls to Skinner’s officer were not returned by press time. 

Arreguin said that Schwarzenegger expressed hesitation before signing off on SB 113 in October because of the modification to Alquist-Priolo. 

In a signing statement, the governor mentioned that the proponents of the amendment had made a commitment to send a letter from UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau to both Hancock and Skinner stating that the university will “seismically retrofit the California Memorial Stadium” as required by law.  

The governor added that UC Berkeley would also have to introduce a bill in January which would satisfy concerns from his Office of Planning and Research, the Department of Conservation and the Seismic Safety Commission.  

Schwarzenegger also directed his staff to work with the legislature to make any changes to SB 113 that were necessary to address his administration’s commitment to the “safety and well being of the citizens of California.” 

Arreguin said a copy of the letter could be sent to lawmakers as early as next Tuesday. 

“We will be keeping a close eye on Sacramento to see what legislation gets introduced in January,” he said. “Meanwhile we are waiting for some answers from the city.” 

City Council Amends Noise Law, Sends Off Coat Hangers to Congress

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:11:00 AM

At its Tuesday meeting, the Berkeley City Council made some amendments to the city’s revised noise ordinance, remanded a city landmark back to the Landmarks Preservation Com-mission and sent off coat hangers to Congress to oppose the controversial Stupak-Pitts Amendment to Health Reform. 


Noise ordinance 

After listening to concerns from the public, the council made amendments to the city’s revised noise ordinance. It rescinded its first reading from Nov. 17 and readopted it with two changes proposed by Councilmember Jesse Arreguin.  

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, who is on vacation, was absent from the meeting. 

The city’s updated noise ordinance loosens sound limits for music venues and clubs which get the right permits but also makes enforcement easier. 

Arreguin said that he was concerned about a section of the changed ordinance which gave city staff the discretion to determine whether it’s infeasible for the person violating the ordinance to mitigate the problem.  

Arreguin’s amendments give people the right to appeal staff’s decision to the city manager within 30 days. 

Councilmember Gordon Wozniak said he would like the city to address noise violations on weekends, when the city’s noise control officer is not at work, as well as dealing with repeat offenders. 


University Ave. landmark appeal 

The council remanded the Landmark Preservation Commission’s decision to designate the Mobilized Women of Berkeley building at 1007 University Avenue as a city landmark in August. 

Built in 1949 by P. L. Coates, the building features architecture influenced by the design Bernard Maybeck did for the Mobilized Women of Berkeley’s 1938 building at 1001 University. 

Originally used as a community center and thrift shop, the building has been occupied by the East Bay Association of Mentally Retarded (later known as the Association for Retarded Citizens) and Amsterdam Art. 

In landmarking the building, the commission noted its historic, cultural and educational value, including the fact that it was a living testament of the role women played in providing services to needy citizens often overlooked by public agencies. 

But local architect David Tractenberg, who spoke on behalf of the building’s owners, said that the applicant made “every effort to convince people that Maybeck was the architect.” 

“It’s intentionally misleading,” he said. “It’s praise for a building next door (1001) that doesn’t exist anymore. We know the LPC plays an important role, but this kind of sloppy action damages its reputation.” 

Councilmember Arreguin stepped in to say that there was evidence available to suggest that Maybeck was involved in the conceptual design. 

“It’s very confusing,” said Councilmember Wozniak. “The report is mixing up 1001 and 1007. I think if the LPC corrects the errors, it’s worthy of the landmarking.” 

“I think the merits of the building should stand on its own, not because there’s some vague association with Bernard Maybeck,” said Councilmember Susan Wengraf. 

Landmarks Commission Chair Gary Parsons told the council that the whole issue came down to the commission’s use of two words”—”direct association” with Maybeck. 

“Those two words have taken the focus away from Mobilized Women,” said Parsons. “It’s turning the whole thing into a tempest in a teacup, maybe even a red herring.” 


Telegraph Ave. laundromat 

City Attorney Zach Cowan announced at Tuesday’s meeting that the Berkeley City Council had approved a settlement agreement on a potential lawsuit from the owners of a Telegraph Ave. laundromat. 

The city’s Planning Department admitted to issuing an erroneous use permit to San Diego-based laundromat chain PWS, which started construction of a laundromat on the first floor of a condo complex at 3075 Telegraph Ave. When the condo owners objected because of safety and quality-of-life reasons, the city issued a stop-work order. 

Both PWS and the condo owners threatened to sue the city.  

According to the settlement agreement with PWS, the company would have to file an application with the city’s zoning department within five days in exchange for which the city would pay them $16,000 to make up for lost time. 

“Perhaps I am just naive, but I am struggling with what seems to be a pattern of either favoritism or outright discrimination,” said Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, who lives directly above the laundromat. 

Ali said that his lawyer had threatened the city of Berkeley with a lawsuit over the development, but had never heard back from anyone. 

“I am concerned about the potential fairness of a public hearing, when the corporation is now being paid to stay put, and the citizens have to continue paying legal fees out of their own pockets to coerce the city into following its own laws,” he said. “You are saying sue us, and perhaps we will follow the very laws we claim to uphold.” 

Ali said that although PWS had failed to submit an application within the five-day period, Cowan had said that they would still be receiving the $16,000 check. 

Cowan told the council that PWS had filed the application Thursday. 

Councilmember Kriss Worthington requested council to discuss the issue in executive session Dec. 15. 

“PWS violated the agreement,” Worthington told the Planet after the meeting. “Why should we pay them the money for failing to keep their end of the bargain? Should there be no penalties? You are rewarding the Goliath and not the David—is that fair?” 

Stupak-Pitts amendment 

Except for Councilmember Gordon Wozniak, who called coat hangers an “inappropriate” gesture to oppose an amendment to the Federal Health Reform Act which would impose tight restrictions on abortions offered through the public option and bar anyone receiving a federal subsidy from purchasing a health insurance plan that covers abortion, the Berkeley City Council supported the action. 

The Stupak-Pitts amendment was considered necessary to win support for the overall health bill from opponents of abortion. 

Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who introduced the item, called Stupak-Pitts the greatest threat to a woman’s fundamental right to choose since he had been in office. Worthington said the coat hanger would accompany a letter sent to the 20 congressional representatives who usually voted pro-choice who had voted for the Stupak-Pitts Amendment. 

“The City of Berkeley is sending you this coat hanger as a symbol of the horrible pain and suffering endured by women as a result of years of anti-choice policies imposed by our government,” the letter stated. “We have never sent a coat hanger to anyone before. We are taking this unusual but important step to emphasize the importance of this message.  

“We strongly support health care reform but it is unconscionable that this should come at the expense of a woman’s reproductive rights. A policy which sacrifices women’s rights and protections cannot be labeled ‘reform.’ Please reconsider your vote and do everything possible to ensure that the health care bill that comes out of the conference committee does not take us back to an era of coat hangers and back- alley abortions.” 

UC Berkeley Protesters Return to Wheeler Hall

By Raymond Barglow, Special to the Planet
Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:11:00 AM
Protesters took over UC’s Wheeler Hall again this week and unfurled a giant banner from the balcony.
Raymond Barglow
Protesters took over UC’s Wheeler Hall again this week and unfurled a giant banner from the balcony.

Having barricaded themselves in Wheeler Hall on Nov. 20, on the last day of a three-day strike, UC Berkeley students who oppose cuts to public education in California returned to Wheeler Monday night, Dec. 7.  

But this time the activists said that they were appropriating the space for educational purposes. Their avowed intention this week is to show that the university should rightfully be governed and run by those whom it directly affects: the students who learn in it, the faculty who teach in it, and the staff who provide services and maintenance.  

This campus community has “shown the world that we can shut this university down,” the protest announcement says. “Now, we show that we can run our public university the way it should be—by the public.” The current aim is to transform Wheeler Hall into a “24-hour open university,” enlivening a week on campus that has traditionally been called “dead week”—a time at the end of the school term when students prepare to take their final examinations and hand in their term papers.  

This most recent action began on the steps of Wheeler at 2:30 p.m. That evening, Professor Meister from UC Santa Cruz addressed the students in Wheeler auditorium. He talked about the way that UC is representing its financial situation to the world, “The administration is telling us that the problem is so big, so determined by global factors, that nothing can be done.”  

Meister says, though, that research he and other faculty have done into university finances indicates that the crisis has been manufactured by the UC Regents themselves, and that there is no assurance that revenue from the hikes in student fees will be used to restore classes, jobs, or services that have recently been eliminated.  

According to Meister, UC is adopting the pricing model of private universities: education will be a commodity purchasable on the market like any other. But what this means, in Meister’s view, is that UC’s Master Plan will abandon its commitment to affordability. The university has never fully lived up to that commitment, he points out, but now it proposes to repudiate it entirely. Only students who are wealthy enough to pay for their own education will receive one, Meister says. As at Stanford, so at UC.  

Meister sees a possible solution in the raising of taxes on California’s highest income earners. The barrier to doing this, he says, is political: “Those 2 to 3 percent of the population run things in California. They are also the people who contribute disproportionally to political campaigns, and they are represented on the Board of Regents.  

Meister issued a challenge to advocates of public higher education, asking them to democratize the regents, to make the university’s finances transparent, and to restore public trust that the university will serve all Californians.  

Following Meister’s talk, those inside Wheeler auditorium were ordered by UC police to leave. The group discussed whether or not to comply with this demand, and voted to stay. A widely shared sentiment was that “This building is really our building—it should serve those of us being educated, not the police or the administration—so we should be able to remain here.”  

Not everyone agrees with this conception of the autonomy of the learning community. Brian Pujanauski, who has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from UC, objects that “Even with the drastic cuts made by the state government, the UC system still receives a great deal of money from the state, and it’s foolish to think that the state should have no say in how that money is spent.”  

Protesters make the case, however, that a university community that exercises a measure of self-determination serves the public interest better than the Board of Regents does. They say, moreover, that higher education is most likely to yield independently-thinking, creative citizens if it is self-motivated and participatory. 

Near midnight on Monday, the police backed down on their threat to take action against the students, and so about 70 of them bedded down for the night in the space that they are calling an “open university.”  

As the week goes on, the “open university” continues to offer lectures by teachers such as Professors Michael Cohen (African American studies) and Steven Lee (English) and review sessions for final exams, along with poetry readings, dance lesions, and discussions of political affairs and other subjects. 

Since the beginning of the “open university” on Monday, the protesters say they have taken good care of the premises, sweeping up debris and keeping Wheeler Auditorium accessible and clean. The UC police have ceased threatening to cite or arrest them for remaining in the building after normal operating hours. 

The campus activists invite the entire university community to share this space with them, and they intend to hold it open 24 hours a day, Monday through Friday of this week. 

Instant Runoff Voting Machines Approved for Alameda County

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:12:00 AM

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen approved the use of instant runoff voting equipment in Alameda County Friday, Dec. 4, clearing the way for its use in Berkeley, Oakland and San Leandro for the November 2010 elections.   

IRV gives voters the option to rank their first, second, and third choice of candidates, eliminating the need for runoffs  

All three cities have approved IRV, or ranked-choice voting, for municipal elections, on the condition that the county comes up with an approved electronic counting system.   

Bowen’s approval was necessary before the end of the year in order for IRV to be used in next year’s election.   

Alameda County contracted with Colorado- and California-based Sequoia Voting Systems, which manufactured the nation’s first lever-based mechanical voting equipment in the 1890s, for the IRV technology.   

Bowen hired Florida-based consulting firm Freeman, Craft, McGregor Group to test the IRV technology, including the system’s ability to accurately record, tabulate and report votes in ranked-choice voting elections, using the RCV rules which have been successfully used in San Francisco.   

The IRV machinery has received mixed reviews from East Bay politicians up for reelection next year, with some calling the system “unfriendly” to incumbents and others contending that it will be difficult for immigrants with limited knowledge of English to navigate the system.   

However, proponents of IRV have said that it will help new candidates and increase minority voter participation.  

Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who in 2004 sponsored a voter-approved initiative to make the city switch to IRV, said the new system would save tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars.  

The City of Berkeley has spent more than $1 million on runoff elections since 1986, money Worthington said could have instead been used for public safety, public works and youth.  

Worthington said the Berkeley City Council would soon vote on how much money the city would be spending toward educating citizens about IRV.  

“It depends on whether San Leandro and Oakland support it,” he said. “If all three cities are part of it, then it will be a lot easier.”  

Worthington added that city officials were still working on sorting out “red tape and strings of implementation.”  

He attempted to explain the IRV system in layman’s terms:  

“When you vote, you can say my first choice is candidate A, second choice is Yogi Berra and third choice is Minnie Mouse,” he said. “You only get to vote for three people. If the first choice gets dropped your vote will transfer to Yogi Berra. If the second choice gets dropped, your vote will transfer to the third person.”  

Under the current system, if no candidate gets 50 percent of the votes, a brand new election is held and there is a run-off between the top two vote-getters.  

District 4 Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, who is up for reelection next year, told the Planet that he supported IRV.  

Other councilmembers who are up for reelection next year are District 1 Councilmember Linda Maio, District 7 Councilmember Kriss Worthington, District 8 Councilmember Gordon Wozniak and Berkeley City Auditor Ann Marie Hogan.  

“It will save city a lot of money in the long run,” Arreguin said. “It’s been done throughout the world very successfully and people have got used to the process. Why spend thousands of dollars in doing a special election when you can resolve elections expeditiously? It’s good governance.”  

Arreguin said that IRV gave grassroots-level candidates a greater voice. “It’s a far more democratic process,” he said. “The voters asked for it. It’s taken us five years to get it, but it will be a big improvement.”  

Arreguin said that the city could save between $100,000 to $300,000 if IRV was implemented next year.  

Steven Hill, director of the Political Reform Program for New America Foundation, said voter education plans have already been drafted by the Alameda County registrar of voters, “who has said he is ready to run the election for Berkeley, Oakland and San Leandro.”  

“All logistical and legal hurdles have been overcome, and the voters of these three cities who voted overwhelmingly in favor of using IRV will have their mandate fulfilled,” Hill said. “Berkeley, Oakland and San Leandro voters will be able to rank their candidates and elect majority winners in a single November election when voter turnout is highest. At the same time, these cities will realize significant cost savings as they eliminate an unnecessary, expensive and low-turnout June election.”  

But Judy Belcher of the Oakland IRV Implementation Group, warned that there was mounting political pressure to prevent the Oakland City Council from approving money for the IRV educational campaign.  

Belcher said that that former state Sen. Don Perata, who is running for mayor of Oakland next year, is leading a campaign against IRV.  

“IRV means we won’t have a June election, we will have a November election,” Belcher said. “A shorter campaign benefits him (Perata).”  

Belcher said IRV would give Perata’s opponent in the 2010 mayoral elections, Oakland city Councilmember Jean Quan, more time to campaign, and therefore “more time to raise money.”  

Documents posted on the secretary of state’s website detail the conditions the IRV system must meet in order to be approved for use.  

Court Orders South Berkeley Problem House Boarded Up

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:13:00 AM

Responding to a motion filed by City Attorney Zach Cowan, a judge last week ordered a longtime South Berkeley problem property to be boarded up. 

On Wednesday, Dec. 2, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith ruled that 1610 Oregon St., a house belonging to Lenora Moore, must be secured and remain closed for one year, beginning 30 days from the date the notice of closure is posted on the property.  

The house has been the subject of numerous complaints and lawsuits by neighbors and the city, alleging that drug activity has taken place on its premises.  

Cowan, who represented the city in Judge Smith’s courtroom, said the city made the motion after Berkeley police, looking for evidence in a burglary case, served a search warrant at the property on Oct. 2 and found drugs and drug paraphernalia at the site. He said the building was currently occupied by Moore and various family members.  

Cowan said the court order was not an eviction notice since Moore owned the property. 

“They will just have to pack up and go somewhere else,” he said. 

Moore and her granddaughter showed up at Wednesday’s hearing, according to Cowan, and proceedings were over within 15 minutes. 

“The Moores agreed to a court judgment in April 2009,” Cowan said, “under which their house was adjucated to be a nuisance, and prohibited from carrying out any kind of drug activity.” 

But that decision was violated when police officers found syringes loaded with heroine and cocaine inside the house during the October search, Cowan said, following which the City of Berkeley filed a Nov. 16 motion requesting that the house be boarded up. 

“It wasn’t just rolled up cigarette paper,” Cowan said. “It was more than that.” 

The motion said Moore lives at the house with “numerous members of her family and their associates, most of whom are known drug users and dealers”and that the Berkeley Police Department “consistently receives calls regarding unlawful drug and criminal activity at and around [the house].” 

In 1992, 31 of Moore’s neighbors filed a small claims lawsuit against her alleging that she had allowed her home to become a “focal point for the sale and distribution of narcotics.” 

Although Moore appealed, she lost and was ordered to pay $155,000 to neighbors. She later filed for bankruptcy and never paid the settlement.  

Moore was sued once again in 2006 and the courts ordered her to pay $70,000 to neighbors. 

Although neighbors did not show up at the hearing because they feared retribution, most were relieved by the judge’s decision.  

Cowan said former Mayor Shirley Dean, who worked to resolve the problem as mayor, had shown up in court with her husband to speak on behalf of the neighbors. 

Dean could not be reached for comment by deadline. 

In an April 2006 commentary in the Daily Planet, Dean said that in 2000, the City Council had asked city staff to help Moore and her husband by providing them with services. 

“We were able to get the property repaired and cleaned up for a while, but it didn’t last,” she wrote. “The situation on Oregon Street represents the failure of our city to provide the protections that are rightfully and normally expected by residents anywhere and any place. When a city fails to provide those protections, it is undeniable that that neighborhood and its residents feel as if and are, in fact, being treated as if they were disposable. In this case, the record screams with accounts of murders, shootings, two small-claims processes, two appeals of those small-claims judgments that were upheld in favor of the neighbors by Superior Court judges, police actions, drug dealing and possession arrests. There is absolutely no doubt that 1610 is a problem. In the most recent court appeal, the owner of the property herself legally admitted that her property did indeed constitute a nuisance!”  

“I sure hope this means the city will take responsibility for public safety issues and public nuisance issues instead of placing the burden on neighbors,” said one neighbor, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “[The city] wouldn’t do anything for a long time. They asked us to deal with it.” 

Osha Neumann, a Berkeley attorney who provided assistance to Moore when her neighbors filed a small-claims action, called the whole thing a “sad, difficult situation.” 

“The allegation was that the house was the center of a lot of drug activity,” Neumann said. “It was extremely complicated to figure out how much was actually related to her. She had a large extended family. There were several people who were always in and out of that place.” 

Neumann said Moore came to him while she was serving as the chair of the Ashby Flea Market. He recalled that Moore’s husband was disabled. 

“She raised a lot of issues,” Neumann said. “She was a grandmother who tried to deal with a complicated situation. It was tragic all around. There was no social solution to the issue.”

AC Transit to Consider Revised Service Cuts

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:14:00 AM

AC Transit’s Board of Directors may vote on whether to reduce bus service by 8.4 percent at its Dec. 16 meeting in the light of a severe budget deficit expected to reach $57 million by June. 

According to a recent memo sent to the board by AC Transit’s General Manager Rick Fernandez, the board “may adopt, modify, reject, or defer any of the changes proposed” at that meeting. 

The memo said that service changes are likely to go into effect in March 2010.  

On Nov. 18, a Revised Service Adjustments Plan was presented to the board, which restores nearly half of the service hours originally proposed to be slashed. 

Many of the restored hours are in the form of increased frequency and operating schedules. Significant routing revisions have also been proposed in some cases. 

Implementation of the revised plan depends on the allocation of $35 million of Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program funds from the district’s Bus Rapid Transit project. 

AC transit is estimated to save $9.6 million annually by implementing the draft 2009 Revised Service Adjustments plan, as a result of anticipated fare revenues. 

The plan does not call for bus driver layoffs. However, 12 temporary service employees and three temporary janitors will be getting pink slips. 

Berkeley’s service cuts fall under the plans for Northern Alameda County, which includes Albany, Emeryville, Oakland, Alameda and Piedmont. 

The board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 16, 6 p.m. at AC Transit headquarters, 1600 Franklin St., Oakland.

Charges Dropped Against Marine Recruitment Center Protester

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:15:00 AM

The Alameda County district attorney’s office Monday dropped charges against anti-war activist Stephanie Tang pertaining to her involvement in demonstrations two years ago outside downtown Berkeley’s Marine Recruitment Center. 

The protests surrounding the Marine Recruitment Center took place in 2008, with anti-war activists vociferously often clashing with Berkeley police while urging military recruiters to leave Berkeley. 

Tang was scheduled to appear in court Monday at 9 a.m. for a hearing in a criminal misdemeanor case charging that she had obstructed a police officer. 

Tang was represented by attorney Walter Riley at the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in Oakland, where friends, supporters and even Berkeley Councilmember Max Anderson showed up to speak in her defense. 

Tang said Alameda County Superior Court Judge Carol Brosanahan called Riley into her private chambers and told him that the DA had reduced the charges to a non-criminal infraction and a $200 fine. 

“I accepted that infraction because it was for disturbing the peace,” Tang said. “There’s no criminality attached to it.” 

On Feb. 2, 2008, Tang led a group of protesters in an anti-military recruitment march in Berkeley, which soon escalated, leading to skirmishes with Berkeley police. 

According to a police report, Tang was trying to help World Can’t Wait member Raphael Schiller, who had been detained by police for illegally using a loudspeaker, when she pulled an officer’s arm and wrapped her leg around him in order to “impede his movement.” 

The police report said Tang was deliberately trying to “incite a riot.” 

Tang, who has taken part in protests against the Marine Recruitment Center as well as against UC Berkeley law professor John Yoo, one of the authors of the Bush administration torture memos, said that she was clubbed by police officers during the protest, causing injuries that she said required treatment at a hospital.  

“They even came charging into the hospital room asking me for a statement,” she said. “The police claimed I was very physical, very violent and even asked the DA to issue a stay-away order to keep me away from downtown Berkeley, but that was not granted.” 

Although Tang was not arrested at the time of the protest, the Alameda County district attorney later charged her with one misdemeanor count of obstruction of a police officer. 

“I am happy we won,” Tang said. “It’s a genuine victory for everyone who understands that what’s truly criminal is not protesting against the war, but the war itself.”

Police Looking for Three Shooting Suspects

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:15:00 AM

Berkeley police are still looking for a two suspects in recent shootings.  

Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Andrew Frankel said a man shot another man in the arm in the parking lot of the downtown Berkeley Walgreens at 2801 Adeline St. at 11:09 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6. Frankel said the man’s injuries were not life-threatening.  

Frankel said the suspect is still at large and that the case is still under investigation.  

“That is all we are sharing about the case at this point in time,” Frankel said.  

Police are also still looking for two suspects involved in a robbery and shooting in the Elmwood district more than a week ago. 

According to Berkeley Police Department Lieutenant Andrew Greenwood, an unidentified suspect attempted to rob a 62-year-old male pedestrian in the 2700 block of Russell Street at 6:19 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 29. 

The suspect shot the victim once, striking him in the lower torso, Greenwood said. The suspect then fled from the scene, and was “possibly driven away from the area in a late model silver or light-colored ‘crossover’ utility vehicle,” resembling a Mercedes Benz or BMW. 

Greenwood said a Berkeley patrol officer, who was within three blocks of the incident, heard the shot and began to investigate. 

A witness then flagged down the officer and pointed out the victim, who was then treated by the Berkeley Fire Department and transported to a local hospital, where he was treated for non-life-threatening gunshot wounds.  

The suspect’s vehicle was last seen turning west onto Ashby Avenue from Piedmont. 

According to Greenwood, the first suspect was described as an Asian male in his late teens to early 20s, between 5 feet 5 to 10 inches in height, thin to medium build with a clean-shaven round face, short dark hair, a hooded jacket, baggy pants, and armed with a pistol. 

The second suspect was described as a female of “an unknown race,” with long dark hair, driving the getaway vehicle. 

The Berkeley Police Department are asking for the community’s help with this investigation. Anyone who may have any information regarding this crime is urged to call the BPD Homicide Detail at 981-5741 or the BPD non-emergency number at 981-5900. 

The Bay Area Crime Stoppers is offering a reward of up to $2,000 for information leading to the apprehension of the suspects in this case. The Bay Area Crime Stoppers tip line is 800-222-TIPS (8477). Callers can remain anonymous if they wish.

Longfellow Arts and Music Classes at Risk

By Paul Gackle
Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:16:00 AM
The Longfellow Middle School Jazz Band, one of the at-risk classes, rehearses for the Winter Arts Fest.
Paul Gackle
The Longfellow Middle School Jazz Band, one of the at-risk classes, rehearses for the Winter Arts Fest.

A hip, jazzed-up version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” blared out of the classroom. Layers of sound—clarinets, saxophone, trombone, piano and drums—harmonized almost perfectly in the familiar Christmas tune. The Longfellow Middle School Jazz Band, a collection of sixth, seventh and eighth graders, was rehearsing for the last time before their big Winter Arts Fest performance tonight (Thursday). They were excited, some a little nervous. But as the kids tuned up for the show, most were completely unaware that it could very well be the band’s final performance. 

For over a decade, Longfellow Arts and Technology Middle School has offered a unique set of performance arts classes as part of their after-school enrichment program, attracting students from all across Berkeley. But this year a perfect storm of variables has left a shortfall in the program’s budget, putting some of Longfellow’s one-of-a-kind classes, like the Jazz Band, at risk of being cut in January. Now, as midnight approaches, a group of parents are racing to raise the funds needed to save the classes. 

“If we get together and make our sentiments known, maybe the funds can be found,” said Mimi Chin, one of the parents who is leading the campaign. 

Soon after the state budget passed last spring, it became apparent that some of the most popular classes offered in Longfellow’s after-school program were in jeopardy. 

First, the program cycled out of a five-year federal grant that had brought in roughly $50,000 a year. Then, they received a cutback in state grant money because of an after- school attendance shortfall (a point that is currently being appealed). And finally, cutbacks in the state budget that trickled down to Longfellow forced the PTA and the school governance council to spend money typically allocated to the after-school program to plug holes elsewhere. All in all, Longfellow's after-school program lost over a third of its spending money this year.  

Emily Nathan, program supervisor of Berkeley L.E.A.R.N.S After-School Programs and the budget manager of every after-school program in the Berkeley Unified School District, said she only had room to cover the basic ingredients of an after-school program at Longfellow this year. The program will continue to provide students with after-school tutoring, a variety of athletic opportunities and an array of enrichment classes from drama to drawing, but two classes that have helped make the school’s program special, the most expensive classes—jazz band and steel drums—will be sliced later this winter if additional money isn’t raised. The Dance Club is on the chopping block for next year. 

“There is not a lot of extra money to play with. This year’s budget covers the skeleton of the program,” said Nathan. “Our main focus is still academic support. We can’t have a jazz band and no homework center.” 

For almost 15 years, Jeff Narell has provided kids without any musical experience the opportunity to learn how to play an instrument in his steel drums class. Steel drums, or steel pans, is a form of music that originated in the Western Caribbean; panists create a full range of beats, rhythms, pitches and melodies by pounding on recycled oil drums in an assemble, like a percussion orchestra. At Longfellow, the kids get to choose songs—anything from Michael Jackson to TV show tunes—and Narrell arranges them into percussion melodies for the band to play.  

“Kids who don’t have the money or training to take part in the other musical offerings at the school take my class,” Narell said. “Most of these kids have never played before and then they are out there performing in only a few months. To lose that, I’ll find another school where I can teach, but a lot of these kids will be deprived of their only musical experience.” 

For students who do have experience playing instruments, the Longfellow jazz band can be a stepping stone toward careers in music. Graduates of the Longfellow band have a tradition of going on to play at Berkeley High School, which has one of the country’s most renowned high school jazz programs. From there, some have received scholarships to attend world-class music schools, like the Manhattan School of Music and the Berklee College of Music. Eventually, many will play locally enriching the live music experience in the Bay Area.  

“This will really hurt Berkeley High and the Bay Area music scene,” said Ajayi “Lumumba” Jackson, instructor of the Longfellow Jazz Band and a well-respected Bay Area jazz musician. “This school is a cornerstone in the Bay Area musical heritage.” 

The quality of Longfellow’s after school performance arts program is a reflection of the vision and dedication of Tina Lewis, the program’s coordinator from 1999 through last June. Lewis said one reason why she’s promoted performance arts is because they often provide students who tend not to do well in regular classes with another resource for learning.  

“My belief is that arts can support students in an academic way,” she said. “Often times these kids are disenfranchised by the learning process. They think, ‘I can’t do this.’ Over and over again it’s been proven that music can stimulate brain activity. People who participate in music tend to learn. Art is education.” 

Last spring, when it became apparent that funding for some of the arts classes would be cut, Lewis rallied a group of parents to form a sub-committee of the PTA dedicated to fundraising. Parents wrote a grant proposal to the Haas Foundation and sent out letters to over 200 local businesses seeking donations. And they decided to make the Winter Arts Fest, the arts enrichment program’s annual showcase, a fundraiser this year.  

The show starts at 6:30 p.m., Thursday December 10 and will feature performances by the Chamber Ensemble, the Dance club, the Drama club, the Steel Drum Band and the Jazz Band. Attendees will also have the chance to do some Christmas shopping at the gift sale or win a number of prizes in the raffle. The arts committee is seeking monetary donations from those who can’t make it out to the performance, but still want to support the program.  

The committee needs to raise another $8,000 to continue Jazz band and Steel drums in January, but they will need even more to offer them again next year. Ajayi Jackson said saving the classes will require philanthropy from those who want to protect Berkeley’s tradition of producing rich cultural art.  

“We need community support. There are so many jazz lovers in the city of Berkeley who must want to help these children out. We need their help to enrich these kids,” he said.

Berkeley City College Hosts Another Meeting In Opposition to Budget Cuts

By Raymond Barglow, Special to the Planet
Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:17:00 AM
BCC Global Studies Program Coordinator Joan Berezin, De Anza instructor and Peralta Community College Trustee Nicky Gonzalez Yuen, Galileo High School teacher Kristy Morrison and BCC Multimedia Arts Co-Chair Joe Doyle at Saturday’s meeting at Berkeley City College.
Raymond Barglow
BCC Global Studies Program Coordinator Joan Berezin, De Anza instructor and Peralta Community College Trustee Nicky Gonzalez Yuen, Galileo High School teacher Kristy Morrison and BCC Multimedia Arts Co-Chair Joe Doyle at Saturday’s meeting at Berkeley City College.

A meeting and lunch were held Saturday at Berkeley City College as a follow-up to an early November meeting at which several hundred representatives of California schools gathered to organize against cutbacks to public education.  

Participants agreed that even though the protest has the breadth of a social movement and draws support from every sector of education from pre-kindergarten through the university, and including adult education, it has not yet achieved the depth of a social movement in terms of numbers and unity.  

Participants reported that successful organizing has been going on at their local campuses. They also reported that energy for fighting the cuts has somewhat ebbed as the school term winds down and students concentrate on their studies. 

Organizer Joan Berezin, Global Studies Program coordinator at BCC, said she is hopeful that the movement will grow in the new year, and she sees unity as the key to success. 

“Each sector of public education is kept in its own little box,” Berezin said, “and then often one sector is pitted against the other, scrambling for meager funds. If we want to fight the cuts in education, we need to bridge the divide.” The current plan, she said, is to “organize an all-education march, from kindergarten through university, from 5-year-olds to grandmothers, on March 4, 2010, in Sacramento and Los Angeles.”  

“Most people have little idea the way the cutbacks have affected students,” said Kristy Morrison, a participant at both BCC meetings and a teacher at San Francisco’s Galileo High School. She cited her own experience as an example: “I have 46 students in one class, 41 in another. Parents are losing their jobs, grades are going down—students don’t see that they are valued at all. I tell them ‘education is power,’ but I feel like I’m lying to them. Even if they work hard, they won’t be able to afford a four-year college. In the past, many students from low-income families could begin inexpensively at a community college and then transfer to a four-year college. But now even that pathway is blocked.” 

One of the issues debated by organizers was the appropriate target for protest actions. At the University of California, research into university finances by UC professors has shown that the administration has much better alternatives available than cutting classes and staff and raising fees. Hence, the organizers argued that when UC President Mark Yudof counseled the protestors to take their complaints to Sacramento, he was deflecting attention from the poor quality of leadership that his own administration has provided. 

In California’s community college system, on the other hand, some of the protest organizers said there is not much administrative/bureaucratic “fat” that can be removed in order to restore funding for valid educational purposes. For example, no one in the community college system receives an income comparable to those of the high-paid administrators at UC. Nicky Gonzalez Yuen, a teacher at De Anza College and a Peralta Community College Trustee, who was present at the BCC lunch, said, “Nothing is going to really change until we change the state budgeting process and we do away with minority decision making in the Legislature. Until that happens, we are screwed.” 

Berezin didn’t disregard the need for major changes of this kind, but said current focus is on the statewide actions planned for March 4. 

“Local actions just don’t get the coverage, they don’t get the clout,” she said. “We need a massive education demonstration.”  

“If we do not fight, you will not even recognize community colleges five years from now,” said BCC Multimedia Arts co-chair Joe Doyle.

BART to Hold Hearing on Police Chief Search

Bay City News
Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:18:00 AM

BART Director Carol Ward Allen says the transit agency will hold a public hearing Dec. 17 to get input from the public on the criteria they think should be used in hiring a new police chief.  

Ward Allen, who chairs BART’s Police Department Review Committee, said at Thursday’s board meeting that Bob Murray and Associates of Roseville is helping BART search for a new chief.  

The consulting firm also helped in San Francisco’s search for a new police chief.  

Current BART police Chief Gary Gee, who was criticized for his handling of the transit agency’s Police Department in the wake of the fatal shooting of unarmed passenger Oscar Grant III at the hands of former Officer Johannes Mehserle on Jan. 1, announced in August that he would retire at the end of the year.  

Gee then immediately went on medical leave.  

BART’s Police Department is currently headed by Commander Maria White, who is now acting chief.  

BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger said at the meeting, “One question very much under discussion is strengthening the role of the board in the selection process.”  

Current rules call for Dugger to hire the new chief, but several board members have said recently that they think the board should be more involved.  

The recruitment process for a new police chief is scheduled to end Feb. 1.  

Bob Murray and Associates is to submit its recommended finalists for the job the week of March 1 and BART will conduct interviews later that month.  

The selection is scheduled to be made the week of March 29 and the new chief is to start work April 26.  

The public hearing will be at the Joseph Bort MetroCenter at 101 Eighth St. in Oakland at 6 p.m. on Dec. 17.  

Ward Allen said the purpose of the hearing is to give the public a chance to discuss “the issues and challenges for the new chief.”  

A Paean for Ruth Stout

By Shirley Barker, Special to the Planet
Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:19:00 AM

There seems to be an epidemic of broken bones at the moment. Consider the following. A slipped on a piece of paper, fractured elbow. B slipped on a tour in southeast Asia, broke hip. C slipped on a bag of onions defrosting on a grocery floor, fractured pelvis. D forgot to keep hydrated, fainted and broke ankle. E—well, you get the picture. Even the New York Times recently reported an incident in a concert, which had to be halted while a tripper was removed by stretcher. Then there are the open heart surgeries for people who have climbed, bicycled (indoors and out), and walked every day for years, everywhere. Could it be that we are exercising too much, not allowing our bodies to recuperate, to do that most un-American activity of all, rest? 

It is refreshing to offset this depressing litany with a look at the long life of Ruth Stout, famous for her no-work system of organic gardening. Ruth’s brother Rex was an author popular with aficionados of detective fiction. His sleuth, Nero Wolfe, grew orchids, and Stout himself took an active interest in his sister’s horticulture. Ruth became renowned for her theory and practice that digging is a complete waste of time and energy. Provided one gives one’s garden a sufficiently deep mulch, constantly renewed, digging is simply unnecessary. 

When I first heard about it, since I spend an enormous amount of time and energy devising ways to make my life simple and lazy, this notion greatly appealed to me. Like all quick fixes, it is not as easy as it sounds. Still, Ruth’s horticultural output was impressive, and her books on the subject are great fun to read, for she was certainly capable of a dig, usually aimed at a “so-called” (her words) expert. 

Ruth often mentions her use of salt hay for mulching, an East Coast term that might pose a problem for West Coast gardeners because as with all common plant names, it could mean any kind of grass. It is probably Spartina patens, which grows intertidally on Atlantic coasts and was used extensively in colonial times for fodder and mulch. Alfalfa hay or timothy grass are good substitutes, often available from local race tracks and stables when bales fall from delivery trucks or are spoiled by bad weather. Their green color signals abundant nitrogen, just the thing for our clay soils leached of this essential nutrient by winter rains.  

In her No-Work Garden Book (a Rodale Press publication available in Berkeley’s public library) written when she was 86, her garden had been reduced to 40 by 60 feet, providing enough vegetables for three adults and numerous guests. She never bought a vegetable, freezing what she did not give away. In the book she appears in several photographs, a picture of health, forking 8 inches of fluffy hay over the garden, or pulling a rhubarb stalk as big as an umbrella, roaring with laughter, wearing the obligatory pretty cotton dress, which she would no doubt exchange for one of her brother’s old shirts and pants as soon as the photographer has left. 

When it is time to sow seeds, she rakes the hay aside and presses the seed into the soft earth. When the seedlings are big enough, she draws the mulch lightly around them. Apart from harvesting, that seems to be it. The 8-inch mound of hay soon rots down to 3 inches, is constantly replenished, and so it constantly nourishes the ground. Ruth does not mention this, but one great by-product of this method is that the earth is far less contaminated than it is when we dig and grovel in it. 

She says she mulches her garden with anything that rots. Yet when she uses leaves and corn stalks to anchor them, and so forth, she still tops it all off with plenty of hay. Last summer, mindful of this sensible approach, I pulled some California poppy stalks that had turned brown and dry, and tossed them aside until I had found a place to mulch with them. Before I could do so, my duck had made a nest of them and laid her daily egg in it. Perhaps she enjoyed their summery fragrance as much as I did. 

I could not at first see how to mulch my baby carrots, turnips and onions, grown in patches, until I realized that they must in future be sown in rows, with banks of hay between them. Meanwhile, I’ve put some hay around the perimeter of these areas, as a protective barrier. Garlic and favas, peas and collards are big enough even when young to be grown in patches rather than rows, and have already absorbed one layer of hay. Provided the mulch is thick enough, weeds will not appear. 

Ruth herself makes modifications when common sense suggests them. She can be withering about any less than sensible horticultural and culinary antics of her readers. Commenting on the woman who mulched with residue from juicing carrots for seven people, she asks, “What’s so hard about chewing?” She delighted in her raw Spanish onion sandwiches and soybeans and parsnips eaten straight from the garden.  

There’s a section at the end of the book, by Richard Clemence, as though she still can not shake off the “expert.” He exemplifies for me one of two kinds of gardeners, the hortatory, leaving me riddled with guilt and inadequacy. Ruth is the other kind, the inspirational. May I pass on her introductory words so suitable for all of us, fractured or intact? “I rarely do any work after 1 p.m.” By work, she meant writing. Rex died when he was 89. Ruth lived on, until 96.

News Analysis: The Human Face of Education Budget Cuts

By David Bacon
Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:18:00 AM

Los Angeles, CA—Cesar Cota was the first in his family to attend college.  

“Now it’s hard to achieve my dream,” he says, “because the state put higher fees on us, and cut services and classes.”  

Cota, a student at Los Angeles City College, was encouraged by the internship program of the Los Angeles College Faculty Guild to describe the human cost of budget cuts in the community college system. 

David Robinson, who’s worked since he was 14, hoped he’d get automotive mechanic training and a good job at the end of it. “But by cutting these programs and raising fees,” he says, “you’re cutting opportunity for a lot of people who need it.” 

Another endangered student is Tina Vinaja, a mother of three teenagers whose husband took a weekend job to help pay her tuition hikes.  

Monica Mejia, a single mom, wants to get out of the low-wage trap. “Without community college,” she says, “I’ll end up getting paid minimum wage. I can’t afford the fee hikes. I can barely make ends meet now.” 

Los Angeles City College even suspended its sports programs for a year. The school had a legendary basketball program that gave low-income students a pathway out of poverty. JaQay Carlyle says city college basketball sent him to UC Davis and on to law school. 

These students make up a small part of the picture of suffering engendered by the economic crisis in California’s community college system. According to Marty Hittelman, president of the California Federation of Teachers, and a former community college instructor, the system will turn away over 250,000 students this year alone. “Where can they go?” he asks. “UC? CSU? The workforce? None is a viable option—for both economic and political reasons.”  

California has a 12 percent unemployment rate, one of the nation’s highest. UC enrollment plunged by 2300 students this fall, and the regents plan 10 percent tuition hikes in each of the next two years. UC fees have gone up 215 percent since 2000, and CSU fees 280 percent. Community college fees, once non-existent, rose 30 percent just last year. The state universities dropped 40,000 students this year alone. 

“As a result,” Hittelman says, “hundreds of thousands of students enrolled in California community colleges are unable to get the classes they need, and thousands of temporary faculty are without classes to teach. So, as in the universities, the student returns for paying higher fees are increased class size and fewer available classes.” 

Brenna Fluitt will face an especially difficult situation because of class cuts. Fluitt is a homeless student at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo. “I’m not the only one,” she says. “I see others on the campus a lot, although to most people, we tend to be kind of invisible.” 

Fluitt’s been on the streets for three years. Part of what keeps her there is anxiety itself, which is so serious that she’s classified as a disabled student. Clearly budget cuts produce even more anxiety. The two programs she depends on to keep in school, DSPS and EOPS, are both facing cuts. 

“The reality is that people who need these services won’t be able to get them,” she predicts. 

While she often says that homeless life doesn’t bother her, she sometimes lets the reality reveal itself. “I’m sick and tired of being homeless,” she declares. “The cops harass you here, and it’s a very expensive community to live in.” 

Fluitt sees education as her pathway to a good job, permanent housing, and a life off the streets. Right now, though, she lives in a van. She gets her mail at her parents’ home, while other homeless students receive theirs at two local agencies that offer mail-receiving services to people who don’t have a fixed address. “I need school,” she explains. “Before I started, I felt I had a label on my forehead saying ‘I’m homeless.’ I just wanted to be by myself, and stay in the car.” 

Fluitt wants to study accounting and knows that she could make a living with an AA degree if she can get through the next two years at Cuesta. “I like math and I’m good at it,” she says, “and I find computer science easy for me as well.” But when she went to get her classes this fall, she couldn’t pre-register and had to add them as she could get them.  

She was lucky. Many other students found themselves turned away from overflowing classrooms. “I don’t know what classes they’ll cut next,” she says. “One class I need is only given this fall, and they’re cutting it next spring. I don’t know if I’ll be able to get what I need.” 

That insecurity is shared with teachers and classified workers as well. Emily Haraldson, a freeway flyer who teaches art history, found herself without one of her two jobs when the fall semester began. She got her first position as an instructor at Mount San Antonio College near Los Angeles in 2004, after getting her degree at Cal State Northridge. That gave her two classes. Then, in 2005, she got another three classes at Glendale Community College. 

She tried working at the Carnegie Museum in Oxnard three years ago, but living in Los Angeles, curating in Oxnard, and teaching in Walnut led to putting 20,000 miles a year on her car. And she found that part-time community college positions, for all their problems, pay a lot better than museums. 

This summer she got a letter from her department chair at Mount San Antonio College, noting that the college “was cutting 5 percent off the top,” and telling her she might not get as many classes as she wanted. After sending her schedule in to her supervisor, however, she was told there were no classes available for her at all. 

“That cut my income by a third right away,” she says. “We fell a month behind on our mortgage, so we don’t eat out, go to movies or rent DVDs. I didn’t buy new clothes for my two boys and don’t have the money for preschool for the youngest.” Fortunately, Haraldson’s husband is a musician with a steady gig. That helped make up for the lack of preschool, and even more important, for the lack of money. “As it is, we’re considering selling my car,” she notes. 

Haraldson sees students suffering the consequences as well. “At Glendale, I’ve had students begging to get into my classes. We can only accept 3-5 over our cap, and it’s next to impossible to accommodate everybody.” 

It’s hard to envision a future as a teacher in these circumstances, she says. “Teaching will always be part of my life—I’m called to do it. But I may not be doing it here. Full-time jobs are next to impossible to find, and now adjunct jobs are getting cut. Still, I can’t complain. A lot of other people have it worse off.” 

One of them might be Karen Schadel, an administrative assistant to the dean of social sciences at Yuba College in Marysville, a farm town in the Sacramento River Valley. Schadel has not only done that job for 14 years, she practically invented it, or “massaged it,” as she puts it. “I schedule 200 classes every semester,” she explains. “I work with 15 full faculty members, and over 30 part-time instructors. The relations you form in this job are very strong. Now I’ve been told this job can be done by a secretary.” 

Schadel says the decision to eliminate jobs was very sudden. District administration announced they were cutting the positions of 56 classified employees and two managers. The Board of Trustees “rubberstamped” the decision on October 14, she says. 

These positions account for 590 years of service. There won’t be a cashier, or an interpreter for disabled students, or a science lab technician. The transfer center career counselor, who’s been there for 24 years and is fighting cancer, will be gone. The athletic facilities maintenance person, with 35 years, will be eliminated, along with three custodians. “This place is already dirty, and without them, it will be filthy,” she predicts. “And if you call to get something cleaned, there won’t be anyone to answer the phone.” 

The district has eliminated 56 units of classes this semester and cut 59 units last semester, a process called “schedule compression.” 

Increasing the frustration, the district has refused to release any budget informmation in negotiations with Schadel’s union, the California School Employees Association. “They tell us we don’t need to see it,” Schadel fumes. And while the state only mandates a 5 percent reserve, the district is insisting on upping that to 7 percent. “They’re balancing their budget on classified employees,” she declares. “I don’t feel any confidence in their ability to make good decisions. If they won’t show us the budget numbers, how do we know they’re telling us the truth about the need to do all this?” 

Susan Downing, the campus operation specialist for the college site located on nearby Beale Air Force Base, has similar doubts. “They’re laying off all the staff that provide the services to a thousand students here,” she says. “When I asked them what the plan was for continuing, they said there was none.” 

That could lead to elimination of the program itself, since the district has a memorandum of understanding with the military specifying the kinds of services it will provide to the currently enlisted personnel, their families, veterans, and other civilians who take courses at the base. Some soldiers even take classes online, while they’re serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The district pays nothing for the buildings and facilities it uses on base. 

“I’m 57 years old, and I’ve been doing this job for 22 years,” Downing says. “I have no retirement rights, so I’ll be put on the street. My husband is a veteran disabled since 1990, and I survived cancer a year ago. It took all we had. Economically, this will put us in a very bad position. They’re not only breaking our hearts with this, but they’re breaking our spirit.” 

While Schadel will be able to bump a less senior employee, she has no guarantee that the second job won’t be eliminated as well. “Bumping someone out makes me feel crummy to begin with,” she says. “But my husband is disabled, and if that job goes away, we’ll lose our house and car. Everything is up in the air right now. I’m a wreck. You can’t talk to anyone for five minutes around here without them breaking down and crying. Morale is below zero.” 

That describes pretty well the feelings of community college teachers, workers and students throughout California. It is the human cost of budget cuts.

Downtown Berkeley Offers Many Holiday Activities

Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:29:00 AM

As more and more people discover that the answer to expensive air fares and high gas prices is staying closer to home, the Downtown Berkeley Association (DBA) made things easier for Berkeleyans this week by coming up with a list of fun things you could do this holiday season without ever having to leave the city. 

Stay local, advises the DBA. Go to the movies, window-shop on College Avenue, stroll through downtown and finally get that $1 ice cream cone at John’s—the options are endless.  

The DBA is calling it a “staycation,” an idea that has been around for ever but was officially christened when the recession reared its frugal head a couple of years ago. 

“If you’ll be in town for the holidays, for a ‘staycation’ with family and friends, remember that there’s always something going on downtown,” said DBA Operations Manager Deborah Badhia in an e-mail Monday. “Enjoy a walk through Berkeley neighborhoods on your way to a weekend brunch, an afternoon movie or a late night dinner and show.” 


Weekend Brunch 

• Au Coquelet 


Saturdays and Sundays, 7 a.m.-2 a.m. 


• Bistro Liaison 


Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. 


• La Note 


Saturdays and Sundays, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. 

• The Sunny Side Café 


Saturdays and Sundays, all day! 


• Venus 


Saturdays and Sundays, 8 a.m.-2:15 p.m. 


Live Music and Late Night Out 

• Anna’s Jazz Island 


Music for all ages, Saturdays, 5 p.m.-1 a.m.  


• Beckett’s of Berkeley 


Live Music, Saturdays and Sundays, 10 p.m.-2 a.m. 


• Bobby G’s Pizzeria 


Music, Saturdays, 8:30-10:30 p.m. 




Open nightly until 11:30 p.m. or midnight 


• Freight and Salvage Coffee House 


West Coast Live, Saturdays, 10 a.m.-noon, Live Music on Weekends 


• Jupiter 


Live outdooor music, Saturdays 12 p.m.-1:30 a.m., Sundays 1 p.m.-midnight 


• Lot 68 Bar and Café at the Shattuck Cinema 

The Shattuck Cinema invites you to relax after the movies! 

• Meridian International Sports Bar 


Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. 


• Shattuck Down Low 


Live and DJ dance music, Saturdays and Sundays, 8 p.m.-2 a.m. 



• Aurora Theatre 


Matinee and evening shows, Saturdays and Sundays, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. 

The Coverlettes Cover Christmas, Dec. 15-27, 8 p.m. 


• Berkeley Repertory Theatre 


Matinee and evening shows, Saturdays and Sundays, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. 

Sunday Samplers, free classes, Jan. 10 and April 4, 2010, 1 p.m. 


Family Friendly Activities 

• Amanda’s Restaurant 


Game Hour, Sundays, 3-4 p.m. 


• Berkeley Farmers’ Market 


Produce, music, food on Center Street, Saturdays, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. 


• Holiday Crafts Fair 

Dec. 5,12,19, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. 

• Museum of Berkeley History 

Saturdays, 1-4 p.m. 


• Berkeley Public Library 


Wild About Books, age 3 and up, first Saturdays, 10:30 a.m. 


• Games of Berkeley 


Game sessions, Saturdays, 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 5 p.m.; Sundays, 11:30 a.m., 1p.m. 


• Habitot Children’s Museum 


Singing, Art, Exhibits. Saturdays and Sundays, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. 


• Half Price Books 


Saturdays and Sundays, open until 11 p.m. 


• Pegasus Books 


Saturdays until 10:45 p.m., Sundays until 10 p.m. 


• Pie in the Sky 


Gourmet pastries and pies  



• Landmarks’ Shattuck Cinema and California Theatre 


Matinee and evening films 


• United Artists Cinema 


Matinee and evening films, Saturdays and Sundays 



Homeless Suffer in Cold Weather

By Becky O'Malley
Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:23:00 AM

Baby, it’s cold outside! Ask the regulars who spare-change in your neighborhood shopping area (you do know them by name, don’t you?) and you’ll find they are anxious about where they’re going to be able to sleep as the temperature drops. Many of Berkeley’s beggars are comfortable enough “sleeping rough,” as they say in Britain, except in weather like we’ve been having this week, when it’s just too cold to sleep on the ground.  

The statistics aren’t in yet, but it seems obvious that recent cuts in Alameda County’s General Assistance (welfare) program, as documented by reader correspondents in this issue, will push even more people out of cheap rooms and into the streets. Shelter beds are expensive to operate and not nearly numerous enough.  

A sizeable percentage of those who are labeled “homeless” are people with mental health problems. Even when housing is available, many just aren’t able to connect with the logistics of renting a place to stay on a permanent basis. So when those who have managed to get a room, often with a roommate or two, are turned out because their income from GA has dropped, they haven’t got a good handle on how to get back into housing. 

Then there are the regular people who have lost their homes to foreclosure, often because they’ve lost their jobs in the current recession. The EDD lists the unemployment rate for Alameda County in October at 11.5 percent, and that’s probably subject to the usual exclusion of people who are so down and out they don’t even bother looking for a job. Unemployed people who have been foreclosed on often need to pay rent that’s even more than the house payments which they also couldn’t pay, just to get a place to live, and they end up on the street or in a shelter. 

The estimable organizations that struggle to offer shelter to needy clients are stepping up their requests for donations. We get at least two or three press releases every day from groups which are trying to expand their funding to cope with an increased case load. We can’t do a story on each and every one of these, but if you’ve ever contributed to such an organization, you should be aware that they need you now more than ever. 

Against this background of ever more need for places for people to live, a couple of recent court cases cast doubt on the continued ability of cities to require inclusion of affordable housing as a condition on building permits issued to market-rate speculators. One appeals court decision said that Los Angeles couldn’t mandate developer Geoffrey Palmer to build inclusionary units, and the other struck down in-lieu fees paid by housing developers in the city of Patterson which were supposed to go toward building low-income units. These decisions knock into a cocked hat Berkeley’s justification for allowing more and more expensive housing to be built downtown on the theory that affordable housing will trickle down from such projects.  

Other cities in the urban East Bay, Oakland for example, have never even bothered enacting such requirements. Mayor Dellums proposed one about a year ago, but it’s gone nowhere and now probably never will. 

If we’re ever going to make sure that all Americans are decently housed we’re going to have to start from scratch to figure out how to do it right. The ability of for-profit developers to game the system and avoid providing any low-cost units seems endless, so dedicated low-income housing looks like a better bet. However, programs which purport to stimulate investment in such projects by giving tax breaks are also notoriously gamed by investors. Public housing projects are plagued by shoddy construction, which results in buildings which self-destruct just about the time the tax incentives time out. And even technically non-profit developers game the system on occasion. 

In many ways this looks a lot like the current debate over health care. Ever more complicated and confusing oblique incentives to get what we need are proposed, when anyone with any sense knows that single payer—where the government calls the shots—is what will work.  

The provision of decent housing for all segments of society in many civilized modern countries is just assumed to be the government’s job. Of course, governments everywhere don’t do the job equally well. Britain’s first set of council houses and France’s skyscraper suburbs turned out to be just as nasty as St. Louis’s now-demolished Pruitt-Igoe project, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Attractive sustainable housing for low-income citizens has been taken for granted in Scandinavia and the Low Countries, though even they are not without problems. 

It’s often believed that work-force housing and low-income or affordable housing are the same thing. In Berkeley one of the reasons we need affordable work-force housing is simply that our dominant employer, the University of California, doesn’t pay its workers enough to live on, or at least to live anywhere close to the job site. Service workers in particular aren’t paid well enough to live in Berkeley. That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s the city of Berkeley’s obligation to provide inexpensive housing for UC’s underpaid staff.  

On Wednesday night the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Berkeley Chapter 3299 staged a march to the home of Vice Chancellor George Breslauer in Rockridge. An organizer told me that the Berkeley campus had taken the most drastic cuts in the lowest paid staff—custodians, kitchen workers, gardeners and similar positions—and that he suspected it was because modest wage increases had been successfully negotiated in the most recent contract.  

The university should be required to accept its responsibility for providing its workers with a living wage. It’s time for the citizens of Berkeley to stop trying to subsidize housing for UC employees—we have enough other people on the streets here with no jobs at all to take care of at the moment. 



While we’re on the subject of Berkeley citizens, we’d like to note with gratitude that several Berkeleyans who are aware of the nature of the harassment of BDP advertisers became alarmed by the increasingly belligerent tactics and consequences of that campaign and thought a statement was necessary to clarify the issues from their perspective, express what they feel is a community consensus, and reassure besieged advertisers. They have no website or formal affiliation, so they asked the Planet to post their statement with signatures they are in the process of collecting. We have done so at www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/openletter. We deeply appreciate their support. 

Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:24:00 AM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

As part of our campaign against the general assistance cuts in Alameda County that the Board of Supervisors voted for last June, 3–2, we from the BOSS Community Organizing Team are planning to go to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting, Dec. 10 at 9:30 a.m. at 1221 Oak St. between 12th and 13th, near Lake Merritt, to speak to the issue of the GA cuts at the public comment. This is their last meeting of 2009. We are asking others to come join us. Some of the cuts—$40 for medical costs, $82 for shared housing—are already taking place, and next year they plan to implement the three month cutoff for the 7000 folks considered “employable” at a time when folks on unemployment keep getting extended as there are no jobs to be found in this economy. 

Michael Diehl 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

To Jerry Sullinger, who is vexed to discover “treesitter wood chips” at Anna Head, for him a new low in town-gown relations...Jerry, thousands of citizens of Berkeley and environs, and the vast majority of Cal students, are delighted that the oak grove has been reduced to chips and a student/athlete facility is replacing it. And at only $5 a bushel, we all can buy enough to make into wonderful little mementos to give to fellow Cal fans at Christmas. 

To Charlotte Honigmann-Smith, who wonders why Caryl Churchill’s “Seven Jewish Children” doesn’t express what she wants, and wonders about Ms. Churchill’s dramatic skills...Charlotte, Caryl Churchill was expressing what she wanted to say, not what you wanted; and she is not only a remarkably skillful playwright, she is an important playwright. 

Michael Stephens  

Point Richmond 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

My name is Jasmine Dominguez and I’m a student worker at the Central and North branch libraries. I love helping to organize and clean the libraries because I know those are two qualities patrons look for in a library. I love seeing new faces in the teen section because my generation doesn’t read enough and/or doesn’t take education as seriously as they should.  

The best things that the Berkeley Public Libraries provide, other than infinite information and free Internet access, are the after school and summer programs for adolescents. After school is when we’re all vulnerable to reckless procrastination and trivial drama that comes along with middle/high school, but having something to do with our free time that we’re actually interested in is the grandest gift anyone can give us. Teens don’t need big, fancy chairs and expensive computers to be attracted to the library, we just need to know someone cares and doesn’t think we’re all obnoxious troublemakers. As long as there is a library, and old fashioned teachers, we will utilize it. 

I also think it’s great that the library hires teens because we don’t have as many job opportunities as adults do. Most jobs want experience and time that we don’t have yet. Personally, I’ve applied for about five hundred jobs over the past two years, not including youth employment programs, and I haven’t been called back by one yet! This job is very important to me because I’m seventeen and I need to start taking care of myself and helping my family with finances. This job allows me to do both without cutting into my study time. A lot of teens my age are in the same situation, some worse, so this job is like a godsend. I’m excited to be able to put this job on my resume because I’ve been doing a lot of clerical work, which will help me when I start one of my choice careers, and even before when I’m looking for a job to pay for further schooling. 

Jasmine Dominguez 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am not afraid of going downtown, but I do feel sadness when I go there. No one can convince me it has been economically healthy, even before the recent downturn. 

I have lived here in the hills a long time, happily shopping at Hinks, Penneys and local shoe stores. Now they have long been gone and I have to drive out of town for clothing and shoes. There still are some restaurants and a few hardware, drug and copy shops, and most fortunately we still have the Public Library, the YMCA, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Osher Lifelong Learning classes, and now Freight and Salvage. 

Someday my husband and I may have to consider moving out of the house we built in the late sixties to a more manageable apartment or condominium (Horrors!!! Really? And why not?). Our first choice would be that it be in Berkeley’s downtown. This is why I support the Downtown Area Plan as adopted by the City Council in July 2009, and regret the Referendum against it.  

Perhaps one can criticize how the plan started, but it is the result of a four year effort by a community group of dedicated citizens. The review by the Planning Commission and the City Council was required to be part of the process from the beginning, and it is not surprising they made some changes to the Plan. 

  I’m hoping Berkeley will be able to grow with more affordable housing in its downtown and improved transportation throughout the city, so we can achieve the goals of Measure G with more environmentally sustainable policies. 

Helene Vilett 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Delayed by a meeting elsewhere, I arrived—much out of character—late for the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s Dec. 3 evening meeting at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Someone had agreed to drop me off there. But as we drove down Hearst Avenue beside the building’s south wall, I was surprised to see that the LPC’s usual meeting room was still dark. Then I saw the crowd waiting in the building’s front plaza. 

When I stepped onto the curb one of the standees quipped, “John, your entourage awaits you.” 

The problem: No building-staff person was there to unlock the doors and let people in. The commission’s secretary tried to reach someone by phone who could, but to no avail. Commissioners, citizens, and applicants kept on waiting in the cold. 

Finally the commissioners gathered together, standing right in front of the locked doors, and held an abbreviated meeting. But that alfresco session has subsequently been ruled invalid. And a regular (indoor) LPC meeting has now been scheduled for Dec. 17, to start at the oddly unusual time of 5 pm. It will include hearings on controversial projects at 1512 La Loma Ave. and 2525 Telegraph Ave. 

John English 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Are we well served that the former DAPAC commissioners continue to shape the destiny of our downtown? They breeze into city council and commission seats, they educate us via many column inches allocated by this newspaper and mentor our opinions by having theirs elevated. 

I have been a slow student of the DAPAC majority’s way of seeing downtown. For I am very disappointed that the Toyo Ito design for the UC Art Museum has been discarded. In this opinion I differ from that of Patricia Dacey, one of the esteemed former commissioners quoted by the Planet on Nov. 19, “I felt that the design was an arrogant imposition on the context of our existing downtown,” she said. “It related to nothing around it—it just screamed ‘look at me.’” I doubt that this sentiment is limited to Ms. Dacey among the commissioners who shaped our downtown plan. 

In my opinion an art museum is one of the building types supposed to say “look at me.” The design is judged a failure if it does not. Buildings which “say” nothing but are context sensitive certainly fare better in a place like our town. This formula is thoroughly grasped by our perceptive local developers who understand us far better than we want to understand ourselves. 

Those of us who wait decade after decade for a building of international interest to happen in Berkeley will probably not live to see one. There shall be no magnet for architecture tourists, except to those who fancy the—very—old stuff. To see the architecture now playing on the world stage we must continue to expend much carbon and journey to the likes of San Francisco, Tokyo, L.A. 

What of it, we’ve got a downtown plan which looks lovingly toward the past. Why can’t I be happy? 

Bruce Wicinas 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Your hyphenated, wordy apologist for mismanagement at Oakland’s City Hall recently concluded a column about the income-tax misfeasances of Mayor Dellums by saying “That’s not the journalism I practice.” 

Given the writer’s history of crafting alibis for Dellums and the nepotist Ms. Edgerly, we can define in two sentences the kind of journalism he does practice: “I don’t care if a politician is corrupt, greedy, lazy, incompetent, absent or disrespectful of the law. If a politician is African-American, they’re never wrong.” 

This isn’t journalism; it’s racism. 

David Altschul 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Reducing carbon emissions doesn’t actually happen in Copenhagen, it happens when you decide you can take the bus instead of drive. We don’t need to wait for regulations to begin changing how we live. Seriously, we need to start now really making an effort to care for the future. Do you know where the bus lines are near your house? Can we plan public transit from the perspective that it is how you, and your customers, will be getting around? Will you think every time you would use your car; can I bike, bus, walk, carpool, avoid the trip, combine trips, offer a ride to someone else? Vacation locally. Put on a sweater instead of turning on the heat. Creatively conserve. Our actions do affect others on the other side of the earth. We can live well without consuming so much. Simplify and be happier. Try. Try. Try to drive less. Please. 

T. Compost 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The statistics are frightening! Alzheimer’s advocates call it a “looming avalanche.” A new report projectsthat dementia will double every 20 years and that the condition will affect 115 million by 2050. As many as 5.2 million Americans are currently living with the disease. In 2000 there were an estimated 411,000 new cases. That number is expected to increase to 454,000 new cases a year by 2010 and 615,000 new cases a year by 2030. 

       Much more troubling in this ominous scenario is a recent report published by the Alzheimer’s Association that roughly 10 million baby boomers will develop Alzheimer’s disease. That means roughly one out of every eight baby boomers will have the disease in coming years! 

       So, given this grim picture, I, like many other people, ask “Could this happen to me? How will I know if I’m a victim?” For whatever help it is, the Alzheimer’s Association has offered a list of 10 warning signs of dementia: (1) Abnormal forgetting; (2) Trouble doing tasks; (3) Language problems; (4) Loss of initiative; (5) Poor Judgment; (6) Problems with abstract thinking; (7) Misplacing things; (8) Changes in Behavior; (9) Personality changes; (10) Disorientation. 

       After reading that women are nearly twice as likely as men to develop AIzheimer’s, I’ve become very paranoid of late, often referring to these warning signs of dementia, wondering if I’m not showing some of those symptoms. But then I take comfort in the fact that many of us lose our keys and occasionally forget important appointments. I really don’t believe I’ve had changes in personality, nor am I disoriented—at least not that I know of. Nevertheless, I’m haunted by the thought that some day I may, just possibly may, be a victim of this cruel disease! 

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Now that another war escalation has begun thereby clarifying where the Democrats and Obama are, I would like to be one of the first to use the phrase: “Obama the Boma,” since it is likely those who voted for Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader will start using the less effective saying “I told you so.” Those of us who voted against hope, noted the Democratic party’s historic relationship to AIPAC (let Israel kill all Palestinians); Wall Street (Geithner and Summers) previously and currently responsible for delivering billions to the investment gamblers, stock brokers, bond holders, bankers; the Clinton’s foreign policy as in Honduras (supporting another South American coup), plus an expanded and continuous militaristic policy as headlined in the English capitalist press: “Obama’s troop surge mirrors Bush on Iraq” (FT, Dec 2nd 2009: p.3) 

In his contribution to the useless debate, Obama stated each soldier will cost one million dollars a year thereby spending 30 billion dollars for the expanding occupation. As an ex-student I am lucky to have graduated before taxpayer funds for public education have been sent to Wall Street, the War Industry and the grotesque Military (in charge of US foreign policy).  

RGDavis Ph.D. 

San Francisco 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have been thinking about the holiday season and our emphasis on marketing. The real meaning of the season is to have faith in the Creator who gave us bountiful gifts. We can share our gratitude for life with those who are less fortunate than us. Many people around us are poor. Many live without heat in the winter and without assurance of two meals a day. We have secret Santa gift exchanges but seldom include the homeless in our exchange circle. The real celebration will start not by promoting businesses and stimulating them to sell more products but by including the sick and the homeless in our holiday plans. 

Romila Khanna 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am greatly concerned by the ongoing violence against women in Darfur and throughout Sudan. I am determined to elevate this issue within my community and for policymakers. 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is an international campaign running from Nov. 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, to Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day. 

I feel obligated to speak out for survivors of rape, violence and displacement in Darfur and Sudan whose courageous voices often cannot be heard. 

I am writing letters to my members of Congress and asking them to join the chorus of concerned citizens on a legislative level and affirm that women’s rights are human rights. 

I will continue my advocacy to end violence against women in Darfur and around the world and urge my friends and family to do the same. 

Phillip Gibson 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

What would happen if we legalized all drugs which would only be dispensed under medical supervision at a much lower cost? After a few months, poppy fields would be eradicated in Afghanistan and instead fragrant fruit trees would be planted with fruit exported to other countries which would provide a healthy living for the farmers. The Taliban would run out of money and leave towns. The exhorbitant amount of money we spend on drug enforcement and prisons could be used for drug prevention and rehabilitation. There would be plenty of money left for schools, poor, homeless people and health care. Most of all there would be no need for wars and weapons as all wars are based on greed and drugs. What an ideal world this would be! 

Andree Julian 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Medicare for All will build on a very successful, popular program that we already have in place. We must be brave enough to stand up to the “insurance” companies, companies that don’t even resemble the ‘gather one’s money to spread the risk’ insurance companies of years ago, like Blue Cross. It takes guts and courage to exercise power against the powerful. Please do so. Medicare for All. Now. 

Mary Burmester 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The point of health care reform, which is universal health care, is to take the health care system out of the hands of the insurance companies. In addition to that, it is now clear that putting capital money interests before the welfare of citizens results in wrongful illness and deaths. 

Glen Kohler 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In 2007, 3.4 million Medicare recipients fell into the “doughnut hole” responsible for covering their entire drug costs, but also required them to pay their Medicare Part D premiums. 

Nearly 20 percent of Medicare recipients delayed or did not fill a medical prescription because costs were too high. And Medicare Part D coverage gaps are a big part of the problem. 

Bruce Wexler 

San Pablo 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have read and re-read President Obama’s speech on Dec. 2 at West Point announcing his strategy for Afghanistan and I fail to see any strategy in it.  The speech follows classic form. President Obama reviews eight years starting with Sept. 11, 2001, details his plans, answers potential objections and ends with a patriotic peroration. It was well written, well reasoned and although Obama’s delivery was sincere it was neither passionate nor arousing thus prompting my suspicion that deep down the president was not at all sure his plans would work. My view of the speech may be biased because I am absolutely opposed to sending more troops; I want the president to order the young men and women who are there home. 

  In the end, the speech does not actually elaborate an honest-to-goodness military strategy which means that Obama’s strategy must be something other than military.  

  The core elements of his strategy, he said, were “…a military effort to create conditions for a transition; a civilian surge that reinforces positive action; and an effective partnership with Pakistan”. The first is rotten—we’ve been trying for over eight years. The second element is vague and the third is wishful thinking. 

  The word “strategy” evolved from “stratagem” which, in the 16th century, meant a trick to surprise the enemy (Oxford Concise Dictionary of English Etymology). Obama’s speech lays out an un-surprising stratagem, not a strategy.  I hope the trick works, but I doubt it will. 

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

The midterm elections are going to be a nightmare of negative reaction from progressive voters. Many of us feel so disenfranchised and defrauded. The Public Option is the core value of any progressive voter. That and the freedom of a woman to choose. But you already know all this. 

Victor Miller 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is time to provide quality, affordable, health care—insurance reform for all Americans. While Medicare needs audit and investigators to eliminate fraud—as do our banks, brokerage houses, etc. Medicare equalizes or improves comparison health between USA and other developed countries. It’s time.  

Sheila Leonard 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Over the past few weeks much media attention has been directed to the Copenhagen Conference on climate change that will be useless even if every “emission controlling” action gets roaringly approved. First simple point on this is that growing populations will thwart projected goals unless fuel burning is maintained at present levels restricting the fulfilling of the needs of the next generation; rather doubtful such restriction on energy will develop. But climate change is being triggered by much more than vehicle and power plant emissions as soot has just gotten a major National Research Council report on soot’s effects on climate change and health. 

But the bigger problem is that no one at the conference understands the law. What law? Nature’s Law of Conservation of Energy that says releasing heat energy from trapped chemical energy in fossil fuels and from trapped nuclear energy in atoms has to accumulate in a our enclosed biosphere. Heat energy, what thermometers measure, is the motion of molecules and atoms in the biosphere, and they can not escape the biosphere due to the Law of Gravity. So the glaciers, sea ice and permafrost are melting away even as Anti-GW people with the recent hacking of weather data files in England try to claim temperature data have been doctored and meaningless. The Snows of Kilimanjaro are gone as are many glaciers in the Northern Rockies. 

To get control of the climate crisis—I call it that because no one has any meaningful proposals on getting control of that heat energy—we can turn to our massive ever-mounting messes of organic wastes and sewage solids and make them a resource for generating some renewable energy and removing some energy and carbon from recycling in the biosphere. A process called pyrolysis can be applied to these messes to stop them from being allowed to biodegrade to reemit GHGs and to destroy germs, toxics and drugs in the messes greatly reducing costs and pollution problems in handling the messes. The process forms inert charcoal removing recycling carbon and energy from the biosphere as the process is remaking coal. And while energy has to be put in, that can come from a renewable fuel expelled out in the pyrolysis process. 

I have outlined this pyrolysis process in previous letters to the Planet and in many blog comments such as the Green, Inc, NYTimes blog. I urge readers to get attention to this sustainability action of turning our waste messes into a resource. Now a company, First Power Limited, in Great Britain has started running such a program although it proposes to burn the charcoal formed. Much of it should be buried to remove some energy and carbon from their overloads already affecting the biosphere. Perhaps Berkeley might want to find out about getting this company to set up a plant for it.  

James Singmaster 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

We do not need a bail out for the insurance companies. We don’t need to forced to buy their faulty, worthless products at ever increasing costs. We need access to real health care. Medicare for all is the only way to do this simply and swiftly. Sixty percent of all U.S. citizens want this and are willing to pay taxes to achieve it. 

Julie Keitges

Letters in Response to New York Times Article On the Campaign Against the Daily Planet

Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:24:00 AM

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m delighted to see that the New York Times ran an article on how a small band of thugs has attempted to kill a very rare and endangered species—a local independent newspaper—by intimidating its advertisers and smearing its owners for providing an equally rare public forum. That kind of coverage garnered letters of support for the Planet from around the world.  

I am equally impressed that the San Francisco Chronicle has not bothered to report on what is happening to a sister newspaper ten miles away. Its failure to do so speaks volumes about the journalistic integrity of what is left of our local Hearst media property.  

Gray Brechin 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

I understand that your Jewish readers made a decision to stop publishing ads in your paper. 

The reason, so I heard, is because your newspaper published letters to the editor that contained hate-speech against Israel. 

With all due respect for freedom of speech, you don’t have to publish hate letters that every lepper with a dripping nose sends to you editors! 

I strongly support the Jewish community of Berkeley’s decision to launch an ad boycott against your paper, until you start screening out letters that contain hate speech! 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding the New York Times article concerning anti-semitism and the Daily Planet, it is my view with high probability that Becky O’Malley is anti-semitic, whether she agrees to this or not. Of this I am quite convinced as are many other Berkeley residents who regularly read the Daily Planet. The evidence for this assertion is her track record of predominately printing pro-Palestinian over pro-Israel articles, editorials and letters. The basic thrust of the Daily Planet vis a vis what it prints has been to demonize and marginalize Israel. This is biased reporting and truly smacks of anti-semitism because there is no clear evidence that Ms. O’Malley understands the very nature of the conflict between these two peoples. Historical context is essential to grasping the essence of this conflict. Israel is an occupier only as a consequence of uncontrollable events in a war that they did not start. Of all the self-serving editorials printed by the Daily Planet in support of Ms. O’Malley and the Daily Planet’s anti-Israel position (I counted 21) there was only one that addressed the truth at least at it related to the core issue: Israel vs Palestine, and that was the one by Larry Waldman who succinctly laid out the underpinnings of the conflict and deftly listed how it could be swiftly resolved. The ball, Daily Planet, has always been in the Palestinian’s court. If the Palestinians put down their weapons, there will be peace, plain and simple. If Israel puts down its weapons, there will be no more Israel. What part about “peace” don’t you understand? 

Barry Gustin, MD, MPH 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding the Daily Planet’s support of the Palestinian cause: 

“You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot help the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer. You cannot further the brotherhood of man by encouraging class hatred. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot build character and courage by taking away man’s initiative and independence. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.”—Abraham Lincoln, Circa 1861. 

Palestine should take a lesson from Israel. 

Barry Gustin, MD, MPH 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

I read about your dispute with Israeli activists in the Times, and I wanted to encourage you to stay the course. I am in Texas—originally from NY—so I am not familiar with your newspaper, but it takes guts to stand up to these people, and you have shown a good bit of courage. I believe in balanced coverage, so I am opposed to them attacking anyone who is not 100% supportive of Israel all the time. 

Thank you for giving me hope. 

Michael Aratingi 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

This letter is in reponse to the NY Times article as wellas to the other letters in response. Many of these letters conflate criticism of Israel with racial prejudice against Jews or “anti-semtism. This is really a false issue and there are clear, bright lines between the two. Human rights icon Natan Sharansky points to three “D”s to help identify when legitimate criticism crosses over to anti-Semitism: Double Standard, Delegitimization and Demonization. The Berkeley Daily Planet has regularly printed items that have crossed all three lines. 

Usually when I hear a person say,”all criticism of Israel is anti-semitism,” a moment later, they say something very anti-semitic but with a mention of “Israel” at the same time. Being opposed to the state of Israel politically also doesn’t provide one with a “free pass” for racism or bigotry against Jews either. Much of what the Berkeley Daily Planet prints about Israel is simply factually wrong and certainly telling lies to delegitimize Israel isn’t the “free speech” which we all treasure. So perhaps all anti-zonists are not anti-semites but certainly all anti-semites are anti-zionist. Will the Berkeley Daily Planet ever learn to discern the distinction? 

Rfael Moshe 


Editors, Daily Planet: 

As an Israeli psychologist who cares about the future of your children and mine, I must protest your preoccupation with Jewish matters instead of fighting world hunger, enslavement of women, and planet pollution. No, you are not Anti-semites. You are historical pawns, misguided by your own intellectual masturbation. When it comes to Jews, you are no different from countless idiots in human history who were preoccupied with the Jews instead of “Tikun Olam.” 

Hey, you won’t hear from me again unless you ask for it... someone handed me a copy of your Berkeley Daily Planet an hour ago and asked my opinion about the opinion letters on your page 11. I had to respond because many of my students over the years transferred to UC Berkley. I am sad to say that I feel that I had no impact on their values no matter how hard I tried to get them to focus on their lives instead of the Jews’. I guess intellectual masturbation about Jews is a powerful pass-time in Academia everywhere—while the planet is dying. Shame on you all! 

Dr. Eli Kinarthy 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

What has happened to your paper—attacks by ultra rightwing Zionists on freedom of the press—has been going on for a number of years with Don Deane’s The Costal Post. Not only have advertisers been called to stop their advertising in The Coastal Post, but town councils of various Marin cities have been lobbied to cut the paper’s distribution points. 

It is heartening to see so many Jews coming out about this, for it’s a real plague on a functioning democracy. 

Idea: Why don’t your two papers get together and do a joint investigative piece on just who is providing the money for the attacks?  

On whose payroll are Sinkinson and Gertz? 

William Dgloz 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was delighted to read all the letters of support from around the country in the aftermath of the NYTimes article. It’s nice to know that Americans are becoming increasingly aware—and resentful—that the information we receive about the Israel/Palestine situation is highly censored due to—mostly successful—efforts by the Zionist Lobby. The letter I loved the most, though—because it suggests a simple but effective action plan—was that of Bill Colohan, who said there should be a word for a “serial anti-Semitism accuser” and that that word should be “Gertz.” Great idea, with these changes. Make it a verb and make the word “zoro.” It goes great with “Zionist” and looks and sounds almost like “zero,” so it’s easy to remember and fun to use, as in “Hey, did you see? The BDP got so totally zoroed, they were written up in the New York Times!” Or, “After the ZL [Zionist Lobby] finishes zoroing the SF Jewish Film Festival, will there be any movies left worth seeing?” That “zoro” faintly echoes “Zorro,” the source of John Gertz’s very comfortable living, is just an added perk. 

Columnist Dan Savage managed to turn Senator Rick Santorum’s name into a common noun for a substance I will not mention in a family newspaper. Rick Santorum lost his bid for re-election. Connected? We’ll never know but we can hope the new definition helped. This serial-anti-Semitism-accusation-thing is also long overdue for a bit of ridicule. It’s my suspicion that the entire world population is tired of having to look solemn and guilty every time the word “Jew,” “Israel,” “Holocaust,” or “anti-Semitism” is uttered. If you’re tired of it, try counteracting with a hearty “zoro!”—and if it does indeed make you feel better, pass it on. 

Joanna Graham 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Have you been “Zoro’d” yet? It’s easy. First you write the truth about how the Israelis dump all over the Palestinians in an effort to steal their land and declare themselves an Israeli state. Second you send it out to as many newspapers as you can knowing that most of them have already been Zoro’d and they won’t print it anyway. Now after a few real newspapers like the Daily Planet publish your freedom of expression under the lost art of free speech, being Zoro’d is a slam dunk. Soon your advertisers start to disappear if you are a newspaper or you can get real bad press on the internet and if you’re really lucky you can lose all your Zionist friends because you have been labeled as a racist and Zoro’d. While one cannot yell “fire” in a crowded theater, one can write about world events as he or she sees them or reply to letters written in the local paper; yes, the newspaper has a right to publish one’s opinion or not without fear of reprisal. 

By the way if you are interested in being Zoro’d you can find out the details by reading the New York Times article at this website. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/28/business/media/28paper.html?_r=1&sq=berkeley%20daily%20planet&st=cse&scp=1&pagewanted=all. 

You can also be “Sink’d.” Like the USS Liberty almost was in the 67 massacre. “Never Forget.” 

Thank you Becky for printing the feelings of the people without fear of being Zoro’d or Sink’d. 

Ozzie Graham 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

From faraway Australia please stand firm against the brickbats you are receiving from vested, loud and offensive Jewish groups or people. 

As a Jew I am appalled by the tactics of these people. Free speech is ok when it’s on their terms—and only then! 

Don’t be cowed and keep up the good fight. 

Jeff Loewenstein 





The Daily Planet’s response to the New York Times article, including significant information the story did not include, is on our website, www.berkeleydailyplanet.com.

Maybe We Should Bark

By Kathie Zatkin
Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:25:00 AM

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors decided to cut General Assistance (G.A.). Currently, a full “grant” is $336. Beginning Jan. 1, Alameda County Social Services is directed to cut $84 if living with a roommate—and who on GA isn’t?—cut $40 more if not receiving Medi-Cal; cut an additional $231 if rent is more than GA grant; requiring landlords to sign a W-9 IRS form and penalizing recipient up to $231 if landlord fails to sign the form. 

However, the supervisors who authorized these cuts, albeit reluctantly, tried to justify their decision by saying that recipients who lose their housing as a result of these cuts will be given a shelter bed. A shelter bed in exchange for what was permanent housing? Shelter beds are time-limited. The cost of a shelter bed is approximately $800-$900/month vs. the maximum monthly grant of $336. Is this being “fiscally prudent”? There are not enough shelter beds even now…But wait, there’s more. 

Due process requires that recipients are entitled to notice and a fair hearing prior to the cut. Where are these hearings held? On Edgewater Drive in Oakland, not very accessible even if you are not on GA. If a recipient loses permanent housing as a result of the cut, the recipient is entitled to receive the full grant amount but this is not stated on the notice. 

And, after January 2010, recipients can only receive GA for three months out of a year if deemed employable. On Dec. 2 the state Supreme Court declined to review a September lower-court ruling, upholding both the three month limit and the decision to classify GA recipients as employable even if they are unlikely to find a job. Again, theoretically, employment training should be available, but a referral to a theoretical site is all that is required before the cut. There is no funding for these theoretical training sites. See the Alameda County General Assistance Regulations Revised Regulations: Sept. 15, 2009, particularly Sections 9-1-8 .4 Rent and Shelter Costs. Fiscal watchdogs will want to take note of 9-2-0 CHASS Program and Other Shelter Referrals, particularly Secs. 4., .5. , .6 in their entirety.  

Why should we bark? It is my understanding that the Alameda County Board of Supervisors found the money to keep the Alameda County Animal Shelter open. 


Kathie Zatkin works for the Alameda County Network of Mental Health Clients but wrote this independently. “I just am very committed to the principle of full disclosure,” she says.

BOCA Supports REALM Public Charter School 

Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:26:00 AM

The Berkeley Unified School District has the largest racial achievement gaps of any school district in the State of California. While Berkeley schools have worked exceptionally well for a segment of the population, catapulting many students on to top tier colleges where they excel as leaders throughout their lives, many others don’t make it past the tenth grade. With the best of our collective efforts, our results are still tragically below acceptable standards. In a school of 3,300, there is only one African-American male taking an AP class. One. Our research, using data from the CA Department of Education, has shown us that less than 30 percent of black and Latino students who enter as ninth graders graduate from the Berkeley schools eligible to apply to attend the UC/CSU colleges.  

To tackle this challenge, prominent members of the Berkeley community recently came together to express a formal commitment to ending the decades-long history of inequality still plaguing our schools. The 2020 Vision was formally endorsed in a joint resolution passed by the City Council and School Board in June 2008. During a rare joint assembly of the School Board and City Council, on Nov.r 3, 2009, the consensus demonstrated by our local officials and many members of the community who support the Vision was encouraging.  

This means that the 2020 Vision must quickly move from vision to action with practical and effective solutions. These solutions will not be popular with everyone—some will find that they conflict with personal “sacred cows” that they have long held dear, and others will resist the reallocation of resources necessary to refocus our attention upon those most in need. However, new alternatives and opportunities must be provided now for students who are being left behind in the current system.  

We believe that one of these opportunities is the establishment of the REALM public charter school in Berkeley. While we need to continue—and accelerate—our city-wide efforts to improve the quality of our existing schools, we believe that African-American and Latino families, as well as other families in Berkeley, need to have additional secondary schooling options for their children and REALM could be an excellent option for them.  

Historically, middle and upper-class families have often enrolled their children in private schools or moved out of their neighborhoods altogether when they were dissatisfied with their local public schools. Lower-income families, however, typically lacked these options and were left to the mercy of their local schools, no matter how poorly these schools served their children.  

Despite the popularity of public charter schools in many low-income communities of color throughout the country, some misinformed local critics have tried to lump these public schools into a single category, labeling them as part of a right-wing conspiracy to privatize education or, using outlandish rhetoric even by Berkeley standards. The fact is that the thousands of public charter schools that exist throughout the country are extremely diverse in their goals, populations, and performance. The REALM public charter school, as with all public schools, must be evaluated on its individual merits and vision. Its mission to serve the least advantaged children in Berkeley is fully in accord with the noblest aims and historic legacy of the Civil Rights Movement.  

REALM will focus on critical thinking, the use of advanced technology, and high academic standards to provide opportunities for students to prepare themselves for college as well as 21st century careers. REALM will ultimately include grades 6-12 and thus provide an alternative for families who do not feel that their children will be successful in our larger middle schools or within the walls of the 3,300-student Berkeley High School.  

REALM’s primary organizers and supporters include BOCA, parents of color and faith leaders, all of whom are people who have been working on issues of equity in Berkeley for many years and most of whom have children who currently attend—or have attended—Berkeley’s public schools. Pedro Noguera’s book Unfinished Business, provides a good summary of the history of these struggles. Many of the people connected with this—parents and guardians, educators and activists—are still here, have not given up, and are now organizing for this public charter school as well as the larger 2020 Vision that encompasses it. In countless listening sessions with hundreds of parents, we continue to hear their frustration with inaction, rhetoric without results, and their deep concern that folks with no real stake in their children’s lives are the ones making decisions for them.  

We enthusiastically support REALM and the 2020 Vision because our intention is not to abandon the Berkeley schools, but rather keep our community focused on achieving better results for our kids, thereby providing opportunities and options for families who would otherwise have none.  

In sum, we believe that the employment of public charter schools like REALM will add to the educational momentum of high achievement and pioneering reform Berkeley is known for. Given the depth of the achievement gap in Berkeley though, we believe it is critical and necessary to explore all academic options for our families who feel the full deleterious effects of that gap daily. We believe this to be a state of emergency for our parents; our parents believe this to be a state of emergency for their children; our children believe this to be a state of emergency for their futures. We can no longer wait.  



This letter was signed by Rabbi Menachem; Creditor Pastor Kelly Woods; Rabbi Yoel Kahn; Congregation Netivot Shalom Covenant Worship Center; Congregation Beth-El; Pastor Sarah Isakson; Rev. Odette Lockwood-Stewart; Pastor Leslie White; Lutheran Church of the Cross; Epworth United Methodist Church; St. Paul AME Church; Rev. Michael Smith; Pastor Matt Crocker; Pastor Michael McBride; McGee Ave Baptist Church; Church Without Walls; The Way Christian Center; Pastor Kim Smith; Father Bernie Campbell; Trinity United Methodist Church; Holy Spirit/Newman Hall Catholic Parish. Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action (BOCA) represents 18 faith congregations in Berkeley and over 10,000 diverse families.

Repairing the Reputation of Berkeley’s Largest Park

By Amber Rich
Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:27:00 AM

Until recently, if highway 580 commuters glanced eastward toward Berkeley, they saw a collage of green shoreline with dilapidated, graffiti laden buildings, and a strip of flat water on the backdrop of an industrial landscape. This view has started to change in recent years and will continue to change for the better in coming months. 

The Berkeley community has a long and often tumultuous history with its largest park. Flanked by a traditionally industrial area and highway 580, since its birth in the 1930s Aquatic Park has often been forgotten, and fallen into a state of disrepair. The 1930s through the 1960s were exciting times for the park, with active sailing programs and community members enjoying its waters. In the mid ’60s, concerned citizens were able to stop a developer who wanted to fill in the lagoons to create an industrial/business park. However, by the ’80s, community involvement had started to slow down and as the ’90s rolled around, many buildings stood empty and the neglected shoreline collected trash from the neighboring highway. Crime became a problem and rumors began to circulate that the park was “closed.” Finally, new life was brought to the park with construction of Dreamland for Kids Playground in 2000, the opening of the Berkeley Pedestrian Bridge in 2002, and the leasing of park buildings to local nonprofit organizations in following years. 

Though crime and drug use have greatly subsided, Aquatic Park still suffers from its old reputation. While covering the recent tragedy that took place at the southern end of the park, news outlets from the East Bay to Fresno referenced drug use, prostitution, and other negative activities while setting the scene for the story. As it turns out, it was a very unfortunate series of events that lead the horrible crime to the park, but it had nothing to do with the park or its activities. 

Aquatic Park has come a long way from where it was only ten years ago. Aquatic Park is now home to a handful of nonprofit organizations and bustles with joggers, cyclists, disc golfers, dog walkers, bird watchers, and boaters on sunny afternoons. Newly installed way-finding signs lead the community to the park from San Pablo Avenue and the Fourth Street Shopping District. The old boathouse at 80-84 Bolivar Drive is now inhabited by Waterside Workshops and Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program (BORP). Waterside Workshops is a nonprofit organization that consists of a community bicycle shop, a wooden boat shop, a youth education program, and soon, a small café. BORP provides an adaptive cycling program for people with physical disabilities and provides community members with the opportunity to ride in the park and on the adjoining Bay Trail. In the coming year, the two organizations will be working together to provide an adaptive boating program, and will install one of the first docks in the Bay Area that will be fully accessible to people with physical disabilities. Last year, the organizations jointly received a $200,000 grant from the Stewardship Council to renovate the old boathouse and improve the park infrastructure. Many other nonprofits are dotted along the shoreline and provide services including habitat restoration, community rowing and paddling, and waterskiing. 

The community will have an opportunity to enjoy the progress of Berkeley’s Aquatic Park during Waterside Workshops 4th Annual Holiday Event and Toy-Making Workshop on Sunday, December 13th from 1-5pm. Bring your family to make wooden toys from sustainably sourced materials, enter a raffle for 1 of 25 kids bikes that will be given away, or just sit in the Waterside courtyard and enjoy the parade of brightly colored migratory birds on the waterway. This is a free event with a suggested $5 donation to support the organization’s efforts in Aquatic Park. For more information, please go to www.watersideworkshops.org or call (510) 644- 2577. 


Amber Rich is the executive director of Waterside Workshops in Aquatic Park.

An Open Letter to Obama

By David Z. Weinstein
Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:27:00 AM

I would like to offer two suggestions for today’s job summit you are hosting at the White House. I think that it is President Franklin Roosevelt who we should all look to for inspiration during this great recession for his clarity of thinking and resoluteness of values in bringing the economy out of the great depression for the average American not Wall Street that got us there then as now. 

First, I think the government should step forward in protecting homeowners from mortgage rate adjustments that are coming due on millions of mortgages. Rates can skyrocket, making payments impossible for millions of American families and forcing them into foreclosure, which is devastating to the families, a loss to the banks and mortgage companies and terrible for the economy. 

Please do not be swayed by the moral hazard argument in this instance. Recent studies show that over eighty percent of these mortgages and other sub-prime ones were deceptive. The moral hazard is to let the banks and mortgage companies get away with this. 

These rate adjustments o should be less than one percent, I believe, and holders should be offered the opportunity to adjust their rates and payments lower under the existing government plans as well as others yet to be implemented. 

Second, I firmly believe that we need a Green New Deal to facilitate this country becoming energy independent, create hundreds of thousands of green collar jobs, and to protect against the clear and present dangers of global warming. 

Building a smart, national energy grid is a indispensable step in creating a green energy economy. To fund the build-out of the national grid, I propose a two cent fee for every share traded every day on the major exchanges. In addition I propose a one dollar surcharge on each one hundred shares of share options exchanged. This surcharge would apply short sales. There would also be a four dollar a month fee on every security trading account. 

These fees and surcharges on Wall Street speculation would in no way affect the economy, as this speculation does not create jobs. It would not appreciably decrease this speculation in any case, I believe, as the price to trade shares is at an historical low. 

But this funding mechanism to create the backbone of the smart, national energy grid would create tremendous wealth in the economy through well-paying jobs in scientific research, engineering, construction, maintenance and management. It would help make us the leader in the green economy, and, as you have pointed out, whoever leads in the green economy will be the economic leader of tomorrow. 



David Z. Weinstein is a Berkeley resident.  

Reforming the Democratic Party?

By Harry Brill
Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:28:00 AM

It is already apparent that any health bill approved by Congress will provide fewer benefits at a higher cost than health systems in any other industrialized nation. Although it is clear that the considerable clout of the pharmaceutical and insurance industries frustrate our ability to achieve a progressive health care law, we nevertheless need to know more about how political power intervenes to the advantage of corporations. Keep in mind that the health care issue serves as only one example of the high success rate achieved by business. But though we cannot stop corporations from trying, we can influence the conduct of legislative bodies. In crafting a political strategy also keep in mind that gains are made not only after we achieve our objectives. Working toward what we seek to accomplish begins the process of reshaping our social and political environment.  

Direct action strategies, although very important, will not generally succeed unless they set in motion a process that reforms how Congress conducts its business and creates a political atmosphere favorable to electing a substantial number of progressive candidates It is important to understand that the Democratic Party is the majority party only nominally. There is another more significant majority that has political clout. In the House, it is made up of a coalition of Republicans, who vote as a block, plus conservative Democrats—so called “blue dogs”—which make up over 20 percent of the Democrats.  

The blame for this abysmal state of affairs rests in part on the Obama Administration. The conservative Rahm Emanuel, who President Obama awarded the important post as Chief of Staff, identified, recruited, and funded conservative candidates seeking congressional seats.  

In contrast, Bill Durston, a liberal congressional candidate in California, who supports single payer, received no campaign funds from the Democratic Party except a miserly $2100 on Nov. 3, just a day before election. Durston ran against a right wing Republican in what was predicted as a very close election. But clearly, Rahm Emmanuel and other conservative leaders in the Democratic Party preferred a reactionary Republican to a very liberal Democrat.  

We can learn something from Franklin D. Roosevelt who believed that unlike the Republicans the Democratic Party should be a party of liberals. FDR really meant it. In the 1938 congressional election, Roosevelt actively campaigned against five conservative Democrats. He was vilified in the press for attempting to conduct a “purge.” Unlike President Obama, he was not afraid of making enemies in high places. There is no way around this. After complaining in a speech about the danger of government by organized money, he stated, “They are unanimous in their hate of me—and I welcome their hatred”  

Still, we should go one step further than Roosevelt and quite a few more than Obama. To defeat conservatives in the Democratic or Republican party, we should nurture and support candidates that are not affiliated with either party, whether they run as independents or third party candidates. Failing to do that robs us of any leverage because the party leadership realizes we have nowhere else to go. The proposal being made here is not to permanently desert the Democratic Party. Rather, our commitment should be conditional to assure that the Party pays more attention to progressives than to the corporate community.  

In the Bay Area there are several Democratic Party clubs doing very useful work on issues and in supporting progressive candidates in the primaries. But there is a serious shortcoming. If a local Democratic Party organization supports a non-Democrat over a Democratic Party candidate, its charter could be revoked. So Goliath continues to enjoy an important advantage because David is deprived of a sling shot. But there is nothing to stop members of Democratic Party clubs from working outside their clubs on behalf of progressive candidates. We also have to figure out how to undermine the institutional bribery that influences voting patterns in the House and Senate. The Washington D.C. based institute, Public Citizen, found that since 1998, 43 percent of all members of Congress who left office returned as lobbyists.  

The current laws on the books prohibit members of congress and staff from taking lobbying jobs immediately after they leave Congress. But as the record shows, these weak laws have been easily circumvented. Vigorous efforts have to be made to continually expose the problem to the public. It is imperative that we undertake a major educational campaign that challenges the immoral and outrageous conduct of legislators. Second, we must demand an air tight law that is legally binding which prohibits ex-members of Congress from accepting lobbying jobs. Meanwhile, any candidate running for office should in exchange for our support be willing to make such a pledge. This may all seem very stringent. But remember, we’re talking about building a democracy and not securing jobs for public officials at the expense of the public. We have to demand much more than we do now. Let us not succumb to a poverty of low expectations. 


Harry Brill is an El Cerrito resident. 



Undercurrents: Obama’s Afghan Policy Is Not a Betrayal, Though a Progressive Alternative Is Needed

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:20:00 AM

The President, he’s got his war 

And folks don’t know just what it’s for. 

—From the Vietnam-era song 

“Compared to What” 


When Richard Nixon won the presidency in 1968, in part on a promise to end the war in Vietnam, it was hard to find many on the American left who were surprised when the actual implementation of that plan contained a dramatic escalation—the aerial bombing of North Vietnam and U.S. military incursions into Cambodia—and four more years of carnage. Mr. Nixon, after all, was by no means the candidate of the political left, and the left held no illusions about his presidency. 

Forty years later, the election of President Barack Obama was nothing if not an exercise in progressive illusion. Why else would one feel that sense of betrayal among progressives following Mr. Oba-ma’s Dec. 1 speech at West Point, accouncing his intention to engage 30,000 more American troops in the war in Afghanistan on top of the 32,000 already deployed? 

This progressive disillusionment would not appear to have emanated from any special disingenuousness on the part of Mr. Obama during last year’s campaign. The president—as candidate—certainly presented as blank a slate as politically possible, allowing the electorate to fill it in with its own causes and colors. That’s simply smart politics. But anyone who paid any attention during the campaign would have known that while Mr. Obama was a legendarily early detractor to the war effort in Iraq, it was my impression that he said often enough that he did so to a certain degree because Iraq took America’s attention from where he felt the real terrorist threat emanated—Afghanistan. 

Why the surprise, then, that Mr. Obama followed through on that premise to escalate the Afghani war? 

That’s a question too difficult to answer in the context of a single column, and not necessary to resolve for the issue at hand. What is important for progressives to understand and acknowledge at this point is that Mr. Obama’s newly announced war measures, I believe, are not a betrayal of principles or a breaking of promises on the part of the president, but represent, rather, an inevitable divergence of the moderate-liberal-progressive national coalition that drove the Bush administration out of office. 

The two overarching mandates of the American presidency—and of any American president who occupies the office—are to protect and preserve the U.S. Constitution, and to defend the national security. 

Sometimes those two mandates come into direct and actual conflict, so that one could reasonably argue—President Abraham Lincoln certainly did—that Mr. Lincoln’s suspension of the right of habeus corpus—a fundamental Constitutional pillar—was necessary in the midst of Civil War to preserve the authority of any provision of the Constitution over the entire territory of the United States as that territory existed antebellum. 

More often, though, the official definition of national security appears more nebulous, a moving target subject to the political inclinations of those doing the defining. Thus, the nation’s first president—George Washington—warned against the nation entangling itself in foreign wars, and for long periods during the next 150 years, it was more often than not conservative policy that the country was best protected by erecting a Fortress America that depended on two vast oceans to keep foreign invaders away. 

The doctrine of American national safety through isolationism began to die in the 1940s with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the German U-boat scares up and down the East Coast, and ended completely with the invention of nuclear weapons deliverable by long-range missiles. But while World War II-era Japan and Nazi Germany actually attacked American home bases or states and Cold War-era Soviet Russia was certainly capable of it, the national security cover thereafter grew larger as the world grew smaller. Although not one of North Korea, North Vietnam, or Iraq possessed the capability of a mounting a military attack on the American mainland or even American-declared territories, American national security was invoked to justify American invasion of all three of those nations. 

But while the North Korean, North Vietnamese, or Iraqi threats to America had to be explained on the basis of geopolitics or economic interests, the 2001 al Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon involved direct and immediate loss of human life and property. While al Qaeda posed and poses no threat of invasion along the lines of Axis Japan or Nazi Germany, or long-range nuclear annihilation as did Soviet Russia, there can be no doubt that the nation must protect itself and its citizens against such attacks. 

Where progressives must draw the line with Mr. Obama is not over the issue of whether or not he should mount such a defense, but over the nature of what that defense ought to be. 

It is tempting to argue that a considerable purpose of the Obama Afghani strategy is to help secure Mr. Obama’s re-election and the consolidation of the Democratic majority in the national legislature. That is strongly suggested in the core goals and timetables of the president’s strategy. 

The core of that strategy was introduced in the middle of Mr. Obama’s West Point speech. “[A]s commander-in-chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan,” the president said. “After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home. These are the resources that we need to seize the initiative, while building the Afghan capacity that can allow for a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan.” 

Mr. Obama went on to further define his strategic Afghani goals. 

“Our overarching goal [is] to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda in Af-ghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future,” he said. “To meet that goal, we will pursue the following objectives within Afghanistan. We must deny al Qaeda a safe haven. We must reverse the Taliban’s momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government. And we must strengthen the capacity of Afghan-istan’s security forces and government so that they can take lead responsibility for Afghanistan’s future.” 

That would be difficult enough, but thereafter, Mr. Obama introduced a bit of circular logic. Saying that American military escalation in Afghanistan should be matched in some manner by forces of members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the president concluded that “taken together, these additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011.” 

In other words, the introduction of more troops into Afghanistan will allow the United States and its military allies to get its troops out of Afghanistan faster. 

Certainly, an intelligent use of U.S.-NATO military forces could serve to disrupt al Qaeda bases and operation for some years to come, ensuring the nation’s security for a time. But that is not a solution that offers any semblance of permanence, only a sort of putting off of problems until a later date. And while saying that “the days of a blank check are over” and “we have no interest in occupying your country,” Mr. Obama gave no explanation as to why “July of 2011” should constitute some magic date upon which such a troop withdrawal ought to begin. It takes only a quick glance at the calendar to determine that the beginning of troop withdrawal in the summer of 2011 would mean the significant reduction of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan just in time for the spring, 2012 presidential primaries and fall national election. 

While these little facts ought to be mentioned, they ought not to be the main thrust of the progressive criticism of Mr. Obama’s Afghanistan gambit. 

Most progressives believe that America’s security can be established by non-military means, by using the nation’s wealth and technological capabilities to raise the economic standards of the rest of the world while allowing them to maintain their independence, culture and institutions. That’s a worthy goal. But it is difficult to win the trust and support of people in a nation we are in the process of invading. And it would be foolish to the point of insanity to believe that the operatives of organizations like al Qaeda would—under the present circumstances—allow a nonmilitary American presence in nations like Afghanistan and Pakistan without putting that presence under some form of violent attack. 

Electoral considerations aside, Mr. Obama seeks to solve that dilemma—in the short run, at any rate—by the use of limited military force in Afghanistan. If progressives wish to provide a serious counter argument, they must develop a credible proposal as to what American security and national and world interests ought to be in countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan, and how those interests can be advanced in ways other than at the point of a gun. 

The Public Eye: Afghanistan or Bust

By Bob Burnett
Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:22:00 AM

rom a political perspective, President Obama’s forceful Dec. 1 speech on the war in Afghanistan ensured the war will not be a major issue in the 2010 mid-term elections and guaranteed it will be a bone of contention in the 2012 presidential elections. The conflict is now Obama’s war. 

The speech was notable both for what it said and didn’t say. Because “the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated” the president will send 30,000 additional troops, thereby bringing the U.S. total to 100,000. These soldiers will deploy “in the first part of 2010.” However, Obama specified a timeline for U.S. involvement: in mid-2011 we will begin a phased withdrawal. 

To complement the troop increase, the United States will try to work more effectively with Afghanistan and Pakistan. Many of those who oppose the president’s escalation base their assessment on the weak Afghan government. Obama acknowledged this risk, referring to the “fraud” in the recent Afghan presidential election and promising “the days of providing a blank check are over.” 

Rather than focus on providing democracy for Afghanistan—an objective many observers regard as unrealistic—President Obama spoke repeatedly of the necessity to provide “improved security.” He appeared to endorse the enclave strategy: the United States now recognizes that Afghanistan is a Balkanized country; therefore our new objective is to ensure that some regions of the country have adequate security—become safe havens for women and progressive elements. “We will support Afghan ministries, governors, and local leaders that combat corruption and deliver for the people. We expect those who are ineffective or corrupt to be held accountable.” 

Obama emphasized the necessity for an increased number of competent Afghan security forces. There are roughly 190,000 members of the Afghan army and police. What Obama didn’t say is that his military advisers want to raise the number of Afghan security forces to 400,000 (240,000 would be in the army—generally regarded as a competent group). 

Eighteen months from now, we’ll be able to judge the effectiveness of Obama’s Afghanistan strategy by the number of security forces; levels of safety within certain enclaves, such as Kabul and Kandahar; and the perceived level of corruption—Afghanistan is currently rated 176 of 180 in the Global Rank for Corruption. 

The president didn’t talk about opium, Afghanistan’s cash crop that generates about $3 billion per year. It’s rumored that the United States will expand its program that pays Afghan farmers to not grow opium. By mid-2011 there will have to be an answer to the opium problem. 

The third leg of Obama’s strategy is Pakistan, where there’s a fragile government sitting on a vulnerable nuclear arsenal: “We know that al Qaeda and other extremists seek nuclear weapons.” Given Pakistani sensitivity, the president spoke only a few carefully chosen words about the new U.S. strategy: “We will strengthen Pakistan’s capacity to target those groups that threaten our countries and have made it clear that we cannot tolerate a safe haven for terrorists whose location is known and whose intentions are clear.” This suggests that the Pakistan army will have more U.S. military “advisers” and there will be more drone attacks in the lawless areas harboring al Qaeda and Taliban forces. 

The U.S. objectives in Pakistan differ from those in Afghanistan. Eighteen months from now, we’ll be able to judge the effectiveness of Obama’s Pakistan strategy by the levels of safety within the country—particularly the border areas; Pakistan’s Global Rank for Corruption, currently 134; and the percentage of Pakistanis who say their country is headed in the right direction, only 18 percent think it is. 

Currently, 500 al Qaeda operatives are said to be in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Eighteen months from now, that number should be drastically reduced. 

In terms of U.S. politics, the president’s speech isn’t likely to change much in the next few months. If you are a liberal, you won’t be happy that Obama is upping the ante in Afghanistan; on the other hand, you’re likely to vote for your local Democrat in 2010. If you are a conservative, you won’t be happy that Obama specified a timeline for U.S. involvement; on the other hand, you’re likely to vote for your local Republican in 2010. 

If you are an independent, you probably were impressed with the president’s closing words: “I refuse to set goals that go beyond our responsibility, our means, or our interests ... We simply cannot afford to ignore the price of these wars ... As we end the war in Iraq and transition to Afghan responsibility, we must rebuild our strength here at home.” If you are an independent, when you vote in 2010 you won’t be thinking about Afghanistan, you will be worried about the economy and the deficit. Given these concerns your vote is likely to reflect your level of confidence that the President and his party are moving the country in the right direction. If you are an independent, Obama’s Dec. 1 speech may have heightened your level of confidence in the president. But you will watch the economy and reserve judgment. 


Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. He can be reached at bobburnett@comcast.net.

Green Neighbors: The Street-Tree Symphony Is Well Underway

By Ron Sullivan
Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:41:00 AM
A young and slightly tipsy Chinese pistache looks incredibly optimistic on a gray day.
Ron Sullivan
A young and slightly tipsy Chinese pistache looks incredibly optimistic on a gray day.

Just as it’s getting cold and nasty out, I see the third movement in the street-tree symphony is well underway: Chinese pistache trees are resounding with color. After the young tupelos’ blast and the short, single-note fanfare of ginkgoes, their fiery crescendo will give way to the sustained theme of sweetgum for the rest of the winter; hopefully before I run this metaphor completely into the ground. 

The Chinese pistache, Pistachia chinensis (big surprise), was introduced to the West by the legendary British plant hunter Ernest H. “Chinese” Wilson. It would be a stretch to say he discovered it, since the Chinese were well aware of its existence and virtues. In his memoir A Naturalist in Western China, which we happen to have in the house because Joe is a sucker for books whose titles start with A (or The) Naturalist in …, Wilson writes that his Szechwanese hosts called it huang-lien shu, cooked and ate its young shoots, and used its logs, especially those with a natural fork, as the rudderposts of boats. 

Aside from its sheer gorgeousness, it’s valued in California as rootstock onto which the commercial pistachio, P. vera, is grafted. 

Wilson, a native of Chipping Campden, went to China in 1899 in the service of Veitch and Sons Nurseries. The elder Veitch had warned him: “My boy, stick to one thing you are after and do not spend time and money wandering about. Probably almost every individual plant in China has now been introduced into Europe.”  

Dead wrong. Wilson returned to England with 35 Wardian cases’ worth of plant material, including many species new to “Western” science. Among the 1,500 Chinese plants he brought into the horticultural trade are royal lily, paperbark maple and kiwifruit. Later forays for Boston’s Arnold Arboretum took him to India, Australia, New Zealand, the American tropics and East Africa. After all that, Wilson died young, in a motor vehicle accident near Worcester, Massachusetts. 

Lately, Chinese scientists have called Chinese pistache “a superior species for biomass energy with high oil content in seeds.” This might be homie boosterism; I don’t know. The seeds are really small; there are lots of them but only on female trees and usually in significant quantities only after the trees are 15 to 20 years old. They’re in the berries that turn blue when ripe—look for them now, because they contrast with the remaining foliage—and birds eat them.  

Beware of picking them, however. They have the same potential for skin irritation as the rest of the Anacardiaceae family. Relatives include P. terebinthus (formerly a source of turpentine), and P. lentiscus and P. cabulica, both sources of mastic, an edible resin used as chewing gum (which one masticates, see) and a flavoring agent. 

Chinese pistache is considered invasive in Texas, probably because of those bird-dispersed seeds. The California Invasive Plants Council started looking hard at the species in 2006 but, as far as I know, hasn’t listed it yet, though it’s “established” in Butte, El Dorado, Sacramento, Yolo, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties. Oddly enough, it’s not considered invasive in Florida.

About the House: A Little Green Legislative Update

By Matt Cantor
Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:45:00 AM

Well, we’re moving along. It’s taken far too long, but things are looking up, and those things are photovoltaic solar panels. 

About six weeks ago, Conan the (not quite) Republican, signed into law two bills that will surely change things a lot in this state, and PG&E is none too happy about it. They fought that legislation hard. On their side, they successfully thwarted the passage of two additional bills that would have made things better still, but let’s count our winnings before we lick our wounds, or at least before we mix our metaphors. If you’ll bear with me, I’ll give you a complete tally of the good, the bad and the indifferently greening of California. 

The first and most important bill passage was AB 920. The bill was supported by Environmental California (those people who keep coming to my door asking for money; looks like they done spent that money pretty darned well) and brought to the legislature by a young assemblymember from District 6 named Jared Huffman. Huffman, a former World Champion USA volleyball star and former director of Marin Municipal Utilities District (a publicly appointed position he held for 12 years) is having a good career, and it just got a lot better. This is the stuff that governorships are made of. 

The bill is very complex, and even reading the Legislative Counsel’s Digest made me want to climb under my desk and hide, but it appears as if, assuming one completes a course in economics from Yale, that as of Jan. 1, 2011, your electrical provider will be required to pay you back for extra electricity that you generate, just as if you were one of those big, nasty electrical generating facilities.  

The German government has been doing this for years, and those of you who have been reading your birdcage lining for some time will remember that the German government was, several years back, paying its citizenry at a rate roughly eight times their own cost for power generated on their roofs. This created a real solar fever, and solar panels were flying off the shelf at about nine times that of ours. In a country one third our population, that means their sales were essentially 27 times that of ours on a per capita basis. Clearly, allowing people to make money by generating power is a major inducement (duh!), and something our environmental community has been fighting for, lo, these many years. 

The specifics of how one will be paid (time of use issues, etc.) is not clear. The devil is always in the details and nothing in my reading has yet shown me precisely how these calculations will be made. What was clear was that the legislation intends to treat homeowner-earners the same as all other earners of solar power, and this seems quite a good thing from my substantial distance. 

The second bill to pass was SB 32. Germany keeps coming up in my research because the German people have taken green very seriously and for a very long time. It’s also good to remember that Germany is the number one export economy in the world, so, apparently, being green doesn’t mean you can’t make lots of money. I suspect it does require a more level distribution of wealth and this is also true for Germany. SB 32 is the grandchild of the German Renewable Energy Sources Act, which helped to define a “feed-in tariff” (which is what SB 32 is).  

A feed-in tariff is a set of economic mechanisms designed to encourage the development of environmentally friendly energy generation and use. The European Commission has said that “well-adapted feed-in tariff regimes are generally the most efficient and effective support schemes for promoting renewable electricity.”  

Using mechanisms known as “tariff degressions,” energy rates are initially mandated at a higher rate for various green energy sources (photovoltaic, wind, wave, etc.) to compensate for the start-up costs and gradually decrease as the source becomes more economically viable and able to compete on its own. 

In short, this new bill will adjust rates for various green providers so that they can begin to compete and pay for their equipment over a course of years (20 keeps coming up at number, but this is a graduated system in which new green generators are encouraged to start standing on their own as early as possible). 

So bully for Gloria Negrete McLeod (who authored this legislation), our state senator from Chino and a great grandmother of 15! 

Sadly, Senate Bill 14 was vetoed by the Governator. This bill, authored by Senator Joe Simitian of the 11th district, among others, would have required that energy service providers (ESPs, no joke; doncha love it?), publicly owned utilities (POUs) and investor-owned utilities (IOUs; you can’t write this stuff) buy at least 33 percent of their energy from renewable sources (wind, geothermal, solar) by 2020.  

Now, the current standard demands that by the end of next year, we reach 20 percent and with another 10 years to go another 13 percent. It’s a sorry condition in which we can’t manage to make a set of improvements as meager as this in another whole decade. How many more glaciers will have melted by this time? Where will sea level be? It’s clear that the United States is lagging far behind the E.U., which just this last year voted to stop manufacturing all incandescent lighting, as well as most of the remaining industrialized world with respect to these vital metrics. Assemblymember Paul Krekorian’s AB64, a companion to SB 14, was also vetoed by Arnold at the same time. The bill is essentially the same as SB14. 

I’m really quite thrilled to see these first two bills going through because it means several things. First, it means that there is no reason not to buy, allowing for some delays in income, a photovoltaic solar generating system of any size for your home. Previously, I have been inclined to tell my clients that buying a system that is too large would be nice for PG&E but not so nice for you. This will no longer be true as soon as AB 920 is in force just over a year from now. It is also likely to mean that you’ll be able to make a fair amount of money off whatever you don’t use yourself since you will be generating at peak-income time (midday) and using power mostly at low-rate time (evening). For those of you who read from a distance and have those air conditioning machines we, in Berkeley, read about, you’ll use a fair amount of current running those darned things, but, aside from these, most people should be able to earn at a much higher rate than the price they buy at. This is how you pay and will therefore be how you will earn, if the legislators have done their job properly. 

Another thing that this will mean is that there will be more power generated on larger scales than what you and I can provide as induced by the new rules in both AB920 and SB32. We will certainly be seeing strip malls and Home Depots covered with solar panels, and, perhaps, lots of wind turbines atop local hillsides. Where money can be made, someone, probably lots of someones, will show up to make that money, and while the 33 percent mandate of our two failed bills may not be there to push us forward, the alternate mechanisms in our two triumphant bills may do much to produce the same result. 

Lastly, as more panels sell, we are likely to see more competition in all parts of the market including installation costs as well as equipment cost. Is it time for you to take a second look at the cost of solar on your roof? If you’re a commercial building owner, it is time to talk to your financial planner about investing more in your own building and energy future? I think you know how I’d answer the question.

Arts & Events

Arts Calendar

Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:39:00 AM



“Greenhouse Britain” Works by Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison, pioneers in the eco-art movement. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at Kala Gallery, 2990 San Pablo Ave. 841-7000. www.kala.org 


Kara Maria, artist, in conjunction with the exhibition “Metaphysical Abstraction” at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St. Cost is $5. 644-6893. www.berkeleyartcenter.org 

Zeus Leonardo dicusses “Race, Whiteness and Education” at 5:30 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585. www.universitypressbooks.com 

Anselm Berrigan reads from his new collection of poetry “Free Cell” at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 


Berkeley High School Orchestra/Band Benefit Concert and Silent Auction at 6:30 p.m. in the Community Theater, Berkeley High School. 

College of Alameda Jazz Ensemble Annual Holiday Concert at 7 p.m. at College of Alameda F Building Student Lounge, 555 Ralph Appezzato Memorial Parkway, Alameda, just past the Webster Tube from downtown Oakland. Free. 748-2213. 

Tony Lindsay “In the Spirit of Giving” with the Emery High School Jazz Band at 7:30 p.m. Ex'pression College, 6601 Shellmound St. Emeryville. Tickets are $50 and up. 601-4997. 

Nell Robinson at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Benny Watson Trio Jazz Singers’ Soiree at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

John Craigie, Valerie Orth, Cyndi Harvell at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Adrian Gormley Jazz Ensemble at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 



Aurora Theatre “Fat Pig” through Dec. 13, at 2081 Addison St. Tickets are $15-$55. 843-4822. auroratheatre.org 

Berkeley Black Repertory Group Theater “Sparkle: The Stage Play” Thurs.-Fri. at 8 p.m., Sat. at 2 and 8 p.m., Sun. at 4 p.m. at 3201 Adeline St., through Dec. 20. Tickets are $10-$45. 652-2120. 

Berkeley Rep”Aurélia’s Oratorio” at 2015 Addison St., through Jan. 24. Tickets are $33-$71. 647-2949. berkeleyrep.org 

Bill Santiago’s “The Immculate Big Bang” at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $10-$12. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Impact Theatre “Large Animal Games” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. at La Val’s Subterranean, 1834 Euclid Ave., through Dec. 12. Tickets are $12-$20. impacttheatre.com 

Masquers Playhouse “The Rocky Horror Show” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2:30 p.m. at 105 Park Place, Point Richmond, and runs through Dec. 12. Tickets are $18. 232-4031. www.masquers.org 

Shotgun Players “The Threepenny Opera” Thurs.-sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at The Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave., through Jan. 17. Tickets are $18-$30. 841-6500. www.shotgunplayers.org 

“The Stone Wife” Fri. and Sat at 8 p.m. and Sun. at 6 p.m. at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave., through Dec. 20. Tickets at the door are $15-$20. 415-730-2901. 


“Folk Art Nativity Scenes” An exhibition of over 250 native folk art nativity scenes from North and South America, Africa, Asia and Europe. Preview party to benefit the Alameda County Food Bank at 5 p.m. at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church, 2837 Claremont Blvd. Cost is $15. Also on view, at no charge, Sat. from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sun. from noon to 4 p.m. 843-2678. www.stclementsberkeley.org 

“The Warm & Fuzzy Show” Featuring selected works by Arabella Proffer-Vendetta, Chad Frick, Chiami Sekine, Chrystal Chan, Jamie Fales, Johnny Thylacine, Michelle Waters and Yvette Buigues. Opening reception at 7 p.m. at Eclectix Gallery, 10082 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. www.eclectix.com 

“A Long Way from the Cabbage Patch” Opening reception at 6 p.m. at Art@TheOakbook art gallery, 423 Water St., Oakland. Show runs through Jan. 9. 282-2139. www.theoakbook.com        


Poetry Flash with John Balaban and Chana Bloch at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St. in Live Oak Park. Cost is $5, free for BAC members. 644-6893. 

Jeanne Lupton and Abby Bogomolny read their poetry at 7 p.m. at Nefeli Caffe, 1854 Euclid Ave., a little north of Hearst, as part of the Last Word Reading Series. 841-6374. 

Fred Moten and Steve Dickinson read their poetry at 7:30 p.m. at Nahl Hall, CCA Oakland Campus, 5212 Broadway, at College Ave. 


Berkeley Ballet Theater “The Nutcracker” at 7 p.m., Sat. at 2 and 7 p.m. and Sun. at 2 p.m., through Dec. 20, at the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts at 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $24. 843-4689. berkeleyballet.org  

The Christmas Revels, Fri. at 7:30 p.m., Sat. and Sun. at 1 and 5 p.m. at Scottish Rite Theater, 1547 Lakeside Drive, Oakland, through Dec. 20. Tickets are $12-$50. 452-8800. calrevels@calrevels.org 

Nicolas Bearde Holiday Show at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

“Rise Up” benefit concert for the Laney College CalWORKs Program, which helps low-income families rise up from poverty to self-sufficiency through community college education at 7:30 p.m. at Rose Street House of Music, 1839 Rose St. Suggested donation $10-$99, $5-$9 for low income. Details of performers at www.rosestreetmusic.com 

Baguette Quartette at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Tom Russell at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $22.50-$23.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Silver Kittens at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995.  

The New Up, the Soft White Sixties, L’avventura at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082.  

Guns for San Sebastian at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  

Tanya Stephens at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $15-$20. 548-1159.  



Los Amiguitos de La Peña with Colibrí at 10:30 a.m. at La Peña. Cost is $5 for adults, $4 for children. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

The Snow Queen Puppet Show Sat. and Sun. at 2, 4 and 6 p.m. at at Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland. Cost is $7. 296-4433.  

“The Star Dances” A dance interpretation of the planets, guided by astromoner Bethany Cobb at 1 p.m. at Lawrence Hall of Science, Centennial Drive. For information call 233-5550. 


“RED” Berkeley Art Center Member Showcase Opening reception at 3 p.m. at Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St. in Live Oak Park. Exhibition runs to Jan. 24. 644-6893. 

“Past, Present and Future” Group art show. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at Expressions Gallery, 2035 Ashby Ave. 644-4930.  

“50 Years of Collecting Asian Art” with Jospeh Fischer from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Giorgi Gallery, 2911 Claremont Ave. 848-1228. giorgigallery.com 

“Bay Area Artists’ Collection” annual holiday 2D fine arts exhibit. Reception at 2 p.m. at Prescott-Joseph Center for Community Enhancement, 920 Peralta St., off 10th St., West Oakland. Exhibition runs to Jan. 22. 208-5651. 

“Iu Mien at Peralta Hacienda” Exhibit Opening with the traditions of the Mien people and their gardens and embroidery, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Oakland Antonio Peralta House, 2465 34th Ave., Oakland. www.peraltahacienda.org 


Lucia Chiavola Birnbaum and Joan Clair discuss themes from a new anthology “She Is Everywhere” a 2 p.m. at Starr King School for the Ministry, 2441 Le Conte Ave. 845-6232. 

Ruby Roth reads from “That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals: A Book About Vegans, Vegetarians, and All Living Things” at 1 p.m. at Café Gratitude, 1730 Shattuck Ave. at Virginia. 725-4418. 

Benefit Extravaganza for Rebecca’s Books with Voices Of Our youth, devorah major, Al Young, Jack Hirschman and many others from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 3268 Adeline St. 852-4768. 

Joe Quirk talks about “Exult” at 7 p.m. at Books Inc., 1760 4th St. 525-7777. 


Cantare Con Vivo “Peace on Earth” music and dinner at 5 and 7:30 p.m. at Merritt College Student Lounge, 12500 Campus Drive, Oakland. Cost is $50. www.cantareconvico.org 

Navidad en Guatemala with Ana Nitmar at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $12-$15. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Schola Cantorum San Francisco “¡Noe, Noe! Canciones para Navidad” A Renaissance Choral Celebration at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way. Tickets are $10-$25. 528-1725. www.sfems.org 

The Kensington Symphony Orchestra Traditional music and opera excerpts at 8 p.m. at Unitarian-Universalist Church. 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. Suggested donation$12-$15. Children free. 524-9912. Kensingtonsymphonyorchestra.org 

Berkeley Ballet Theater “The Nutcracker” Sat. at 2 and 7 p.m. and Sun. at 2 p.m., through Dec. 20, at the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts at 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $24. 843-4689. berkeleyballet.org  

Pulama’s Hawaiian Holiday Concert at 8 p.m. at BFUU 1924 Cedar St. Cost is $10-$12 www.brownpapertickets.com   

“Rise Up” benefit concert for the severely cut Laney College CalWORKs Program, which helps low-income families rise up from poverty to self-sufficiency through community college education at 7:30 p.m. at Rose Street House of Music, 1839 Rose St. Suggested donation $10-$99, $5-$9 for low income. Details of performers at www.rosestreetmusic.com 

Ed Reed & His Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Sister I-Live, Queen Makedah at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Geoff Muldaur & the Texas Sheiks with Jim Kweskin, traditional music of the 20s and 30s, at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Roger Brown Blues Band at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995. 

Larry Stefl Jazz Quartet at 9:30 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. Cost is 3.. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

LT3 at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Todd Sickafoose’s Tiny Resistors at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $10. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Marcus Shelby Trio at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 



The Sippy Cups at Ashkenaz at 3 p.m. Cost is $4-$6. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 


“Women Writing Women’s Lives” Berkeley authors Gloria Bowles and Kathleen Weaver discuss their experiences writing women’s biography and autobiography at 7 p.m. at The Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Tickets are $5-$10. 949-3227. 

“Bareed Mista3jil” Staged reading of queer Arab women’s stories a 4:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $10-$25, no one turned away. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Joel ben Izzy, the traveling Jewish story teller, tells Chanukah tales at 3 p.m. at Netivot Shalom, 1316 University Ave. Proceeds benefit Easy Does It Emergency Services. Tickets are $7-$10 for children, $10-$18 for adults. www.brownpapertickets.com 

Richard P. Blair and Kathleen P. Goodwin introduce thier book of photographs “Point Reyes Visions” at 7 p.m. at Books Inc., 1760 4th St. 525-7777. 


Christmas Concert with Nanette McGuinness, Kathleen Moss, Pual Murray and St. Andrew’s Handbells and Chamber Choir at 2:30 p.m. at First Church of Christ, Scientist, 2619 Dwight. Donations will be used to restore the 1953 Austin Organ. 665-5988. 

“The Christmas Spirituals and Carols of the World” with The Lucy Kinchen Chorale at 3 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church of Oakland, 2619 Broadway, Oakland. 444-3555. www.firstchurchoakland.org 

San Francisco Choral Artists “Old Chestnuts, New Fire!” at 4 p.m. at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 114 Montecito, Oakland. Tickets are $14-$30. 415-979-5779. www.brownpapertickets.com 

Cypress String Quartet at 4 p.m. at Crowden Music Center, 1475 Rose St. Tickets are $15. 559-6910. www.crowden.org 

Voci Women's Vocal Ensemble “Voices in Peace IX: The Greenest Branch” Mostly Medieval Marian music with Romantic and Twentieth-Century offshoots at 4 p.m. at Lake Merritt United Methodist Church, 1330 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland. Tickets are $17-$20, free for children under 12. 531-8714. www.vocisings.com 

Oakland East Bay Symphony “Let Us Break Bread Together” at 4 p.m. at Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, at 20th St., Oakland. Tickets are $10-$40. 800-745-3000. www.oebs.org  

Mack Rucks Sextet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Sonic Safari Swing Band at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995. 

Café Bellie at 7:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Belly dance lesson at 6:30 p.m. Cost is $8. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

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

Jenny Schienman at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 



Stagebridge’s Student Showcases featuring an evening of improv plus selections from “A Chorus Line” at 6:30 p.m. at The Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. Suggested $5-$10. 444-4755. www.stagebridge.org 


Subterranean Shakespeare “The Bronte Cycle Part 2” staged reading at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley Unitarian Fellowship, 1924 Cedar at Bonita. Tickets are $8. 276-3871. 

Carol Peel discusses her work at 12:30 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave., at Masonic. 526-3720. 

Poetry Express with Ethel Mays at 7 p.m. at Priya Restaurant, 2072 San Pablo Ave. 644-3977. 


Swedish Folk Music with Mark and Jennie Walstrom at 7 p.m. at at Kensington Library, 61Arlington Avenue, Kensington. Free. 524-3043. 

SoVoSo Holiday Seasonings Family Concert at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s, 510 Embarcadero West, Oakland. Tickets are $10-$16. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

Classical at the Freight with Gloria Justen & Friends at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage Coffee House. Cost is $8.50-$9.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Midnite, reggae, at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $25-$28. 548-1159.  



Aurora Theatre “The Coverlettes Cover Christmas” Mon.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 7 p.m. through Dec. 27 at 2081 Addison St. Tickets are $25-$28. 843-4822. www.auroratheatre.org 


Sasha Abramsky on “Inside Obama’s Brain” at 7 p.m. at Books Inc., 1760 Fourth St. 525-7777. 


Arlington Community Church Bell Choir at 7 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. Free, children 3 and up welcome. 524-3043. 

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

Singers’ Open Mic with Ellen Hoffman at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $5. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Club of Cowtown at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Faye Carol and her quartet featuring Sista Kee at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. For ticket information call 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



West African Highlife Band Kwanzaa concert at noon at 12th and Broadway, Oakland.  

Cançonièr “Now is Yool Cominge” Festive Music of the Middle Ages at 7:30 p.m at Music Sources, 1000 The Alameda, at Marin. Tickets are $15-$20. 528-1685. 

Pacific Boychoir and Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra at Yoshi’s at 510 Embarcadero, West Oakland. For ticket information call 849-8180. 

Pomegranates & Figs: Alicia Svigal’s Klexmer Fiddle Express, a festival of Jewish music, at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $22.50-$23.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Schumann’s Humans Quartet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

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

Strange Angels Blues Band at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995. 

Balkan Folk Dance at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Lessons at 7 p.m. Cost is $7. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Borinquen at 8 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159.  



“Treasured Memories Lost” by the 4th grade at Malcolm X school, at 12:45 and 7 p.m. 1731 Prince St. RSVP to 644-6313. 

Wilde Irish Productions “A Joycean Christmas” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. at The Gaia Arts Center, 2116 Allston Way. Tickets are $25. 644-9940. www.wildeirish.org 


“One Time” Visual images of the poetry of Brian Jones by Jim Doukas at 8 p.m. at at 7:30 p.m. at Joyce Gordon Gallery, 406 14th St., Oakland. 465-8928. 


Frank Wilderson discusses “Ingognegro: A Memoir” a graphic novel exploring race and self-image in America at 7 p.m. at Books Inc., 1760 Fourth St. 525-7777. 


Joyful Noise Choir and Angels Choir Christmas Concert at 7 p.m. at First United Methodist Church of Richmond, 201 Martina St., Point Richmond. 236-0527. 

Pacific Boychoir and Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra at Yoshi’s at 510 Embarcadero, West Oakland. For ticket information call 849-8180. 

Mama Crow Band with Genie at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $TBA. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Pomegranates & Figs: Alicia Svigal’s Klexmer Fiddle Express, a festival of Jewish music, at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $22.50-$23.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Gillian Harwin Group at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Howard Barken, guitar, Vince Wallace, tenor saxophone, at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995. 

Dave Gleason and The Golden Cadillacs, The Bye Bye Blackbirds, East Bay Grease at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

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



Aurora Theatre “The Coverlettes Cover Christmas” Mon.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 7 p.m. through Dec. 27 at 2081 Addison St. Tickets are $25-$28. 843-4822. www.auroratheatre.orgBerkeley Black Repertory Group Theater “Sparkle: The Stage Play” Thurs.-Fri. at 8 p.m., Sat. at 2 and 8 p.m., Sun. at 4 p.m. at 3201 Adeline St., through Dec. 20. Tickets are $10-$45. 652-2120. 

Berkeley Rep”Aurélia’s Oratorio” at 2015 Addison St., through Jan. 24. Tickets are $33-$71. 647-2949. berkeleyrep.org 

“Garage Door Nativity” A unique take on the Christmas narrative told without spoken words. Fri.-Sun. at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way, at Dana. Tickets are $5-$10. For reservations call 848-3696. 

Heretic Entertainment “It’s A Bloomin’ Twofer 2” two one-act musicals, “Boozical” and “Happy Pants” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck Ave. Tickets are $15. www.hereticnow.com  

“Reality Playthings” experiments in experience at 8 p.m. at Temescal Arts Center, 511 48th St., Oakland. fmore@eroplay.com 

Shotgun Players “The Threepenny Opera” Thurs.-sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at The Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave., through Jan. 17. Tickets are $18-$30. 841-6500. www.shotgunplayers.org 

“The Stone Wife” Fri. and Sat at 8 p.m. and Sun. at 6 p.m. at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave., through Dec. 20. Tickets at the door are $15-$20. 415-730-2901. 

Wilde Irish Productions “A Joycean Christmas” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. at The Gaia Arts Center, 2116 Allston Way. Tickets are $25. 644-9940. www.wildeirish.org 


“The Greater Circulation” A film by Antero Alli based on Rilke’s “Requiem for a Friend” at 8 p.m. at Grace North church, 2138 Cedar St. Cost is $6-$10 sliding scale. www.verticalpool.com 


“A Christmas Carol” Solo reading by Martin Harris at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant. Donation $5-$10. Dinner available with reservation 848-7800. 

Steve Arnston and Mary-Marcia Casoly read their poetry at 7 p.m. at Expressions Gallery, 2035 Ashby Ave. 644-4930. www.expressionsgallrey.org 


Berkeley Ballet Theater “The Nutcracker” at 7 p.m., Sat. at 2 and 7 p.m. and Sun. at 2 p.m., through Dec. 20, at the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts at 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $24. 843-4689. berkeleyballet.org  

The Dynamic Miss Faye Carol & Her Trio Holiday Show at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $15. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

The Women’s Antique Vocal Ensemble “O Holy Night” at 8 p.m. at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 2300 Bancroft Way. Tickets are $5-$15. 233-1479. www.wavewomen.org 

Buddhist Benefit Concert: Another Way to Celebrate the Season of Giving at 7:30 p.m. at Art House Gallery, 2905 Shattuck ave. donation $10 and up. 472-3170. 

John Santos & his Sextet at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $14-$16. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Mike Gendinning CD release party at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995. 

Lutan Fyah with Quinto Sol, reggae, at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $15-$20. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Christmas Jug Band at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $22.50-$23.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Albino Band, Socket, benefit for Cal Reichenbach’s shoulder surgery, at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $6. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

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

Ezra Gale Trio at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 



Los Amiguitos de La Peña with Bonnie Lockhart & Fran Avni at 10:30 a.m. at La Peña. Cost is $5 for adults, $4 for children. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

The Snow Queen Puppet Show Sat. and Sun. at 2, 4 and 6 p.m. at at Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland. Cost is $7. 296-4433.  


Voci Women’s Vocal Ensemble “Voices in Peace IX: The Greenest Branch” Mostly Medieval Marian music with Romantic and Twentieth-Century offshoots at 4 p.m. at Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. Tickets are $17-$20, free for children under 12. 531-8714. www.vocisings.com 

Berkeley Ballet Theater “The Nutcracker” Sat. at 2 and 7 p.m. and Sun. at 2 p.m., through Dec. 20, at the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts at 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $24. 843-4689. berkeleyballet.org  

5th Annual Holiday Caroling with Terrance Kelly and Ellen Hoffman at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Hot Fritattas at 2 p.m. at Down Home Music, 10341 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 525-2129. 

Proyecto Lando Afro-Peruvian music and jazz at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $12-$14. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Zydeco Flames at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun/Zydeco dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Al Stewart at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $28.50-$29.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Hot Club of San Francisco “Cool Yule” at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

The Lost Cats Jazz at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995. 

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

Pomegranate, Patrick Winningham Band, J. Russo at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Caroline Chung Combo at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 



Berkeley Community Chorus Schubert’s Schubert Mass in E flat major and Mendelssohn’s Verleih uns Frieden at 4:30 p.m. at St. Joseph the Worker Church, 1640 Addison St. bcco.org  

Grupo Falso Baiano, featuring Ana Carbatti, at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Mamadou & Vanessa, African, at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Trumpetsupergroup at 4:30 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Freight Holiday Revue at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Mark Holzinger and Friends at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995. 

The Sugar Plum Fairy Returns to Berkeley

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:33:00 AM

The little angels in our Nutcracker are our 7- and 8-year-old students,” said Berkeley Ballet Theater Artistic Director Emerita Sally Streets. “It’s nice for young audience members to see someone their own age up on stage.” 

Streets choreograph-ed the theater’s Nutcracker—onstage this weekend and next at the Julia Morgan Theater on College Ave-nue—with her son, Robert Nichols, 25 years ago.  

Berkeley Ballet Theater’s performances are family-friendly in many ways, from showtimes—matinees (often sold out) at 2, evenings at 7—to the intimate venue of the Julia Morgan Theater. “There’s a warm feeling in the audience—and there’s not a bad seat; none is far from the stage,” said Streets. 

There’s also that “Berkeley slant” of social awareness to the story that Streets and Nichols tipped in, as Susan Weber, BBT’s associate artistic director, put it: the children in the story, taken from E. T. A. Hoffmann for Tchaikowsky’s ballet, “are homeless, cuddling in the cold, outside a well-to-do-party. The little girl has a dream of the fantastic events of the ballet—or is it a dream?” 

Streets recalled the early days of their unique version of what’s become the Christmas classic of dance. 

“It was built piecemeal,” she said. “We worked together. It’s got a helping message. The scenario was my son’s; it started as a small production he took into the schools for Young Audiences. We kept adding onto it. We had a small company then, of semiprofessional dancers. There were no children in it at first. As we enlarged, we used the children from the school in the production. It started to become what it is today in the 1990s. And we continue to change something each year. New costumes, new variations. Shepherdesses and little lambs have been added to the scenario. We have extra kids this year, so two little black sheep have been incorporated into the dance.” 

Streets originally made all the costumes for the show. She also recalled local architect and artist David Ludwig painting scenery backdrops on silk, “which packed up easily.” Ludwig also served on the BBT board—and even danced the part of Drosselmeyer. 

“It’s a very accessible ballet,” Streets commented. “It’s not too long—and moves right along. There’re always a lot of children in the audience.”  

The school and company website (www.berkeleyballet.org) features preballet classes, with parental participation; classes for children and adults, as well as the youth company, to give young dancers group production experience. “We pride ourselves on our young dancers doing all the parts,” Streets said. “The advanced students take the lead roles. It gives them wonderful professional experience.”  

Weber noted the cast ages run from seven years old through high school, and that “mostly male guest artists, from well-known Bay Area companies,” are often incorporated into the production. 

She also mentioned BBT’s excitement over their new artistic director, Ilona McHugh. “She was with American Ballet Theatre, and has had a tremendous performing career, with worldwide touring experience. That level of professional experience is wonderful for our students.” 

The motto on BBT’s website reads, “Where all may dance.” 



Presented by Berkeley Ballet Theater at 2 and 7 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 20 at Julia Morgan Theater, 2640 College Ave. $24. 830-9524. www.berkeleyballet.org.

Shotgun Stages Bertolt Brecht’s ‘Threepenny Opera’

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:34:00 AM

Leave it to the Shotgun Players to program The Threepenny Opera, Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s Weimar German cabaret musical, fitfully updated to ’70s punkishness, in place of a feel-good holiday show—though, amid high spirits, the attractively evil characters triumph over the more banal forces of order (or is it really due to the banality of order that they triumph?). 

Sprawling over a great junk sculpture set by Nina Ball, with a septet pumping out Kurt Weill’s fabled score, the 15 players, grand or grimy in Mark Koss’s costumery, take on revolving roles as the crooks, beggars, cops and whores vying for their share of the gutter and whatever filthy lucre can be filched or scraped off the cobblestones of London—an 18th- century London in John Gay’s original Beggar’s Opera. Brecht’s original was set during Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee; Shotgun’s is set during Elizabeth II’s silver anniversary, 1977.  

There is, in fact, a Yuletide tie-in with Brecht’s concept: gangster Mack the Knife (Jeff Wood), a perverse Son of Man, takes Poverty (Kelsey Venter, full of juice, as Polly) as his bride in a stable (which the Shotgun production renders as a bank), an inverted holy family of money culture in a burglarized crêche scene.  

Later, after a rhyme and song begging forgiveness of mankind (adroitly pickpocketed by Brecht from François Villon), a happy ending is provided when Macheath is snatched from the gallows (here, The Chair—did England ever have one?) and given a title and income, any messy crucified martyrdom dispensed with by the ascension of Capital as the Kingdom on Earth. Everything’s upside down, just as Brecht saw it in bourgeois life: whatever’s held sacred contradicted by what is, in fact, done: an endless stream of appropriations and betrayals, sweetened or soured by song, the lyrics explaining what you must do to get on in the world. 

The songs provide the brightest moments of highlighting. The ensemble joins in with Erica Chong Shuch’s choreography, Cynical witticisms get tossed off like clockwork: “What’s the first thing a married woman sets about doing? She gets a divorce!”  

Shotgun’s rounded up a diverse cast, including Christopher White of mugwumpin and El Beh, who’s worked with Woman’s Will, both troupers playing in the background. To the fore, the women hold the palm, at least they did opening night, especially when Polly and Lucy (Rebecca Pingee), daughters of the founder of the Beggars Union (Dave Garrett’s Peachum) and of the Chief of Police (Danny Wolohan as Tiger Brown, Macheath’s old army buddy), respectively, find they are both hitched to Macky Messer, and team up for the “Jealousy Duet”and in whatever flask-guzzling pious proclamations Mrs. Peachum (Bekka Fink) sings or declaims.  

The exhilaration of both principals and support was palpable opening night. And director Susannah Martin seemed the logical pick to pilot such a show after guiding very good productions of Harold Pinter’s Old Times for TheatreFIRST and Bernard Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession for Shotgun. (Brecht wrote with admiration of Shaw as a playwright who was both political and humorous.) 

In this production, Shotgun has cast its nets wide. On opening night, the show as a whole didn’t quite cohere but revealed in bits and pieces something of the urbane feel of the original, a volatile compound of the extremes of bourgeouis high culture (opera) and the gutter (torch songs) gone clubbing together. 

The haunting, penetrating, cutting double edge—no wonder charming Macheath closes his deals with a shiv—of Threepenny’s relentless message and its perverse glamour hasn’t set in yet. With the exception of Mrs. Peachum’s songs, the musical numbers—however well-sung or played—seldom have the necessary twist; the poetry’s missing. There’s a lot of fiddling with microphone stands and mics; a lot of effects seem flat—or ingenuous, in this very knowing “musical comedy.” The translation of the dialogue by Robert MacDonald and the song lyrics by Jeremy Sams, which has replaced the old American version, based on versions by composer Marc Blitzstein (a student of Weill) and others, is sometimes awkwardly academic, which doesn’t always help. 

But doing Brecht ain’t easy, even his earlier, less programmatic work, like Threepenny. I remember a conversation a couple years back with Russian actor-director Oleg Liptsin (who will be performing Gogol’s The Nose at the Berkeley City Club in mid-January). Oleg said there seems to be a worldwide question mark in recent times regarding how Brecht can be staged, after a long spell of his influence, through the 1970s here and into the ’80s in the UK. 

Talking with some of the performers after the show, I could feel their sense of commitment. They quoted a few things their director had said about their task. Now that it’s up and running, in front of an audience, Shotgun’s Threepenny Opera should grow and gain in focus. 

Even if Brecht’s theater per se—which went on to Epic Theater, to the so-called “alienation effect” and other milestones in dramaturgy—draws a blank from present-day theaterfolk, there are always the great songs (and Brecht’s poems) to relish, which can only be done by singing them—or hearing them sung—night after night. Which is exactly what makes great theater, when the living moment sinks in and resurfaces with time. 



Presented by the Shotgun Players at 8 p.m. Thursday–Saturday and at 5 p.m. Sunday through Jan. 17. Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. $18-$30. 841-6500. www.shotgunplayers.org.

Around the East Bay

Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:35:00 AM



John O’Keefe’s The Bronte Cycle, Part 1 was performed Monday night by an enthusiastic Subterranean Shakespeare cast of nine, directed by Diane Jackson, in a delightful, absorbing staged reading, which creatively worked the room at the Unitarian Fellowship on Cedar at Bonita. The reading was accompanied by Hal Hughes on violin, with the playwright present. A dense yet lithe saga of the inner and outer lives of the three Bronte sisters and their brother Branwell, anointed with humor, Part 2 picks up when the sisters decide to become authors by jointly publishing their poetry. Directed by SubShakes founder Stanley Spenger, part 2 runs this Monday evening at 7 p.m. $8. 276-3817. 




Paluma, the Bay Area-based Hawaiian music duo that brings together beautiful vocal harmonies and slack-key guitar, will celebrate the release of its new CD, “The Song Within the Song,” Saturday with music, hula dancing and special guests at the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar St. Show begins at 8 p.m., doors open at 7:30. Admission is $10 advance at www.brownpapertickets.com, $12 at door. For more information, www.pulamamusic.com, or 526-8099.

Celebrating Half a Century of Celebrating Black Authors

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:37:00 AM

Blanche Richardson recalled the “biggest ever” book signing of “the hundreds and hundreds of authors” who have come to Marcus Book Stores over the past 50 years: Muhammed Ali appeared at her family’s Oakland store five years ago. 

“It looked like the United Nations around there,” she said. “There was a line four deep, from the bookstore, back around the corner and down to the BART station for six hours. Ali was funny and gracious. He had everybody sit on his lap and take a picture with him. He has Parkinson’s, and was only supposed to be there two hours.” 

Ali’s appearance is just one moment, however thronged, in a long history of African American cultural and political activity centered around “the oldest independent Black bookstore in the country,” which features “Books By and about Black People Everywhere.” Richardson reeled off a list of names of those who read or spoke at the stores, or just dropped by, that constituted an index for a course in Black Studies—as the stores themselves provide “a hub for the community.” 

Speaking with great affection of her late father, Julian Richardson, who co-founded the stores with her mother, Raye Richardson, Blanche Richardson recalled his irrepressible sense of humor, leading him to invite visiting Muslim leader Malcolm X “down to the corner barbecue joint for some pork chops.” Malcolm laughed, and politely declined. 

“Dad passed in August 2000,” Richardson said. “And after 9/11, we really wished he was there! So witty and insightful; he was really something. He did a lot of political work, a lot with black youth. Cornel West, Nikki Giovanni, people like that, would come by to see him, get grounded—certainly to find out about the history.” 

She recalled what Willie Brown, then mayor of San Francisco, said at her father’s funeral.  

“He wasn’t supposed to speak,” she said. “My mother had him sitting up onstage, with a group she called ‘the elders’—the long-winded preachers and politicians, looking good, sitting up there, not saying anything! Very smart. But Willie couldn’t stop himself. He jumped up, went to the mic, and said he’d first met my father when Willie was in law school, and had spent his life trying to impress my dad—‘and it never happened!’ All the other elders looked envious when Willie was speaking: ‘I wish I’d done that!’” 

Going through the “boxes and boxes” of papers in his office, Richardson found “jewels,” letters from James Baldwin, African heads of state, plus notes he’d saved that she sent to him. “We lived together, but still wrote to each other constantly,” she said.  

In the last box, she found the hand-tooled leather-covered graduation program from Tuskegee Institute, where her parents had met and fallen in love. 

“It was in perfect shape, with parchment pages sewn together, and a picture of Booker T. Washington—he was still there, and spoke at the commencement, along with Carter G. Woodson, the father of Black History,” she said. “My mom was on a scholarship; her job was to take care of George Washington Carver—who was a nut! Threw biscuits at her ... Ralph Ellison was a classmate ... I thought, what else could my parents have become?” 

When the Richardsons moved to San Francisco after the Second World War, a man Richardson’s father had met on a “scouting trip” to the city offered to put the young family up.  

“It was Maya Angelou’s stepfather,” she said. “Our family lived with them a while.”  

In 1946, the Richardsons established a printing shop in the Fillmore. “Dad had learned lithography at Tuskegee.”  

The printing business did jobs for Black businesses and churches, “but my parents’ passion was for the Black literature that had gone out of print.” They began to reprint those books, the first being Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey, which found its way into the shop window—and subsequently, into the name of the bookstore that almost inevitably followed. 

The San Francisco store moved around over the years, mostly due to the Redevelopment Agency. The biggest location was at Van Ness and McAllister, “with the bookstore, offices and rooms where community organizations met. It was a landmark for visitors from around the world.”  

When the State Offices Building was planned for that site, the Redevelopment Agency offered the Richardsons the store’s present location at 1712 Fillmore St., the site of Jimbo’s Bop City jazz club. Members of the family still live in the stories above today.  

“We have a picture of Duke Ellington sitting in our living room. That spirit’s still living. It imbues the building. Everybody feels it,” Richardson said, adding that by the mid- to late-‘70s, with “black people forced out of San Francisco by redevelopment, it was no longer a self-sustaining community.”  

Marcus Book Stores followed the exodus, opening an East Bay store, first in Berkeley, later at the present Oakland location, 3900 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. “It became the moneymaker.” 

The Richardson children grew up learning the business and still run the stores. Raye Richardson “had a big part in founding the first Black Studies Department anywhere, at SF State. When the mass arrests took place during the strikes there, my parents put the house up to bail those arrested out. Mom eventually became chair of the department for 20 years or so, before she retired, the first emeritus of Ethnic Studies.” 

Today, the stores are still vigorous, though under the same cloud as other independent and specialty stores.  

“The chain stores took us down first—we wound up with four Barnes & Nobles surrounding us—then Amazon,” Richardson said. “Now B&N’s withdrawing; we’ll see how that impacts business. They took out about half the independents in the Bay Area, which has the highest concentration in the country—and about 80 percent of black bookstores nationwide.” 

Marcus Book Stores continue to “carry everything we can afford to carry, from history to cookbooks to children’s books,” she said. “If we didn’t—if we weren’t here—the publishers wouldn’t publish them; there’d be no outlet to sell. There’d be no contracts for Black authors. Who would tell our story?” 



3900 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way, Oakland 


Rebecca’s Books Hosts Benefit Extravaganza

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:38:00 AM

Rebecca’s Books, the warm, homey shop specializing in poetry, but with much more than poetry books inside, will be holding a benefit extravaganza from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. this Saturday at its Adeline Street store—just north of Alcatraz and a few steps from popular destinations like The Vault and Sweet Adeline’s.  

The event will feature Voices of Our Youth, the poets-musicians of the Wordwind Chorus (Lewis Jordan, Brian Auerbach and Q. R. Hand) and more than two dozen poets and writers, including former State of California Poet Laureate Al Young; former San Francisco Laureates devorah major and Jack Hirschman; Alameda city Poet Laureate Mary Rudge; Opal Palmer Adisa; Jack and Adele Foley; Kirk Lumpkin and the Word Music Continuum; Mamacoatl’ Avotcja; Val Serrant; and many more.  

Sam Dyke, co-founder of the neighboring People’s Bazaar in the 1970s, who has chaired the local merchants association and helped in planning the annual Juneteenth celebration, spoke about his neighbor, Mary Ann Braithwaite of Rebecca’s, the significance of her shop in the community, and surviving a difficult economy, difficult even during the holidays. 

“Rebecca’s is such a great addition to the community; there is no other. A small store like this is special, offering its own little niche, worthy of support. It’s important to rally around an outlet like this in tough economic times like these. When the economy has a cold, here we catch pneumonia! But it’s a great shopping district, with many amenities, quite desirable. We won’t go away; we’ll be hanging in there—and then some!” 

“I’m at ‘then some’!” Braithwaite exclaimed. 

“But we want Rebecca’s to flourish,” Dyke went on, “Young people are getting turned on to the spoken word. They need to read poetry for examples of what they can produce, what’s the body to it. Unfortunately, they can’t afford books. But we’re not here to get rich; that’s not what was intended. This is being done with love, with your passion, my passion. Something to help the community.” 

Braithwaite, who opened Rebecca’s (named after her mother; family photos line the walls) in October 2007, said “I know people still read. And they come in here. I understand about Amazon. And about the economy. But I don’t blame everything on that. I need people to come in, to do their Christmas shopping here. It’s not just a poetry store, or a black-owned business. I’m just me. And there’s something for everybody.” 

Besides the unique selection of poetry books, of CDs, cards and artwork, Braithwaite mentioned the Kwanzaa items for sale: Kinaras, candles, posters and mats.  

Famed Oakland artist Woody Johnson brought in some of the artwork when Braithwaite opened. The late poet Reginald Lockett, another old friend, helped her select the handpicked stock of poetry books. 

Rebecca’s has featured an unusual run of events, different from the typical readings on the circuit of chainstores. At 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 17, Maria Espinoza will read from her novel of two women’s voices, mother and daughter, Dying Unfinished. And from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19, Read To Succeed Literacy Project will present The Night Before Christmas Party, to celebrate the joy of reading, with a Kwanzaa celebration at 1—and Santa reading “The Night Before Christmas” at 1:30. Rebecca’s will offer a 20 percent discount during the celebration. 

Braithwaite was upbeat about the present—and the future. She’d like to expand Polly’s Room, the children’s room named for her mother’s childhood nickname, “but I’m going to need some help, some ideas from people.” 

“I just mean to stay here,” Braithwaite concluded. “I have a wonderful, understanding landlord, Ryan Ripsteen. I can’t see moving anywhere else. I wouldn’t be happy. I like this neighborhood. I feel safe and comfortable here; needed and wanted.”  



3268 Adeline St. 852-4768.  

Admission for the benefit is on a sliding scale, from $3 to $20.

Moving Pictures: Buster Keaton’s ‘Sherlock Jr.’: Brilliant Film Comedy, Criticism

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:39:00 AM
Buster Keaton prepares to enter the movie screen in Sherlock Jr.
Buster Keaton prepares to enter the movie screen in Sherlock Jr.

If The General (1927), Buster Keaton’s best-known work, shows the great comedian’s more classical side, with its steady narrative arc and character-driven gags subordinated to plot, Sherlock Jr. (1924) gives us the modernist Keaton, acutely award of cinema as a construct, of the role of fantasy in the movies, and of the curious nature of three-dimensional reality as represented in a two-dimensional medium.  

It is a film in which Keaton essentially steps aside for a moment and stands with his audience, examining film itself before taking us by the hand and leading us through the looking glass of the screen. Keaton’s movie is, as Walter Kerr said, “simultaneously brilliant film comedy and brilliant film criticism.” 

Sherlock Jr. shows at 7 p.m. this Saturday at the Castro Theater as part of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival’s annual winter event. The day also includes screenings of Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness at 11:30 a.m.; the U.S. premiere of the original, uncut version of Abel Gance’s J’accuse at 2 p.m.; and at 9:15 p.m., West of Zanzibar, one of several collaborations between the great Lon Chaney and director Tod Browning, best known today as the man who gave us Freaks. 

Sherlock Jr. opens with Buster as a movie theater projectionist who dreams of being a great detective. But when a rival frames Buster for stealing a watch from his best girl’s father, Buster is unable to unravel the crime to prove his innocence. He returns to the movie theater, dejected and forlorn, and after setting the reels in motion for a movie called Hearts and Pearls, he falls asleep.  

Thus far the film retains the classical form of the great silent comedies, and though he closes the film in a conventional manner as well, it is at this point that Keaton jumps the rails and turns Sherlock Jr. into one of the most inventive and modernist of silent films, a comedic rumination on the nature of the medium.  

  As Buster falls asleep, we enter his dreams as a series of dissolves show the characters on the screen in Hearts and Pearls transforming into the people of Buster’s own melodrama—his rival, his girl, her father. Then a meticulous double-exposure shows us a ghostly Buster leaving the body of the real Buster and descending to the theater where he vaults onto the stage and into the screen only to be firmly ejected by his rival.  

So he tries another tack and approaches the screen from the side. But the film plays tricks with him, cutting quickly from one scene to another, leaving Buster sitting in the middle of traffic, now stranded in the ocean, now surrounded by lions, now upside down in a snow bank. He has left the real world for the reel world and has quickly found himself lost in the unique, fragmented language of film. 

Throughout the sequence, the figure of Buster remains constant as the scene shifts behind him. It was not only a feat of imagination, it was a tremendous achievement in special effects. Cameramen and directors watched the film repeatedly in a vain attempt to divine Keaton’s technique. 

Once Keaton places his character in this world, allowing him to pass through the screen, all cinematic rules are out the window. What follows is a madcap series of tricks and illusions as Buster, now transformed into Sherlock Jr., is able to pass through anything. He walks through a mirror; opens a safe and steps through it into the street; leaps through a window and is instantly transformed into an old woman; even dives through his assistant’s stomach when cornered in an alley and simply disappears.  

And there’s much more: A masterly display of trick billiard shots; dangerous stunts that see Keaton riding atop the handlebars of a driverless motorcycle; a daring run across the top of a moving train where Keaton leaps for a water tower as the train disappears beneath him, the water slamming him to the tracks (Keaton only found out years later that he had broken his neck during that scene); and the surrealistic image of Keaton piloting his car across a lake, one hand on the steering wheel, using the car’s convertible top as a sail as he attempts to guide the sinking vehicle back to shore.  

In Buster’s dream, he, as Sherlock Jr., the “crime-crushing criminologist,” solves the crime and rescues the girl.  

But meanwhile, as Buster dreams, his girl has easily solved the mystery and proven his innocence, returning to the projection booth to offer apologies. Buster of course is not prepared for the next step and must peek at the action on the screen for cues as to how to hold and kiss his girl. But once again, the language of cinema intercedes as the happy couple on the screen quickly dissolves from a kiss to bouncing babies on their knees, leaving Buster scratching his head, baffled once again.

Golden Thread Breaks Ground with International Skype Play

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday December 10, 2009 - 11:08:00 AM

A male writer wants his girlfriend’s opinion of a story he’s written. The writer is in the States; the woman in question is living in Cairo. The text could be obliquely about their relationship, or at least his attitude about relationships, with Arab women in particular. What are her thoughts? “Be frank, even brutal,” he says. The writer—and lover—is asking for it. 

The audience for Yussef Al-Guindi’s acerbicly funny dialogue, The Review, which premiered at Theatre Artaud during Golden Thread’s ReOrient Forum: Middle East Center Stage last weekend, never saw or heard more than a few tossed-off snippets of Ratib’s story. But they did get the impact of Shadeeyah’s review of story, storyteller—and of his “storytelling” in general—through their hilariously contentious dialogue across borders and time zones. 

But this wasn’t a parody of Love Letters, actors reading from lecterns or sitting across the stage from each other to coyly mimic distance. 

In what could be the first live international theater presentation using the Internet, actors James Asher in San Francisco and Zeinab Magdy in Cairo wrangled face-to-face over Skype, half a world away from each other. And the disparities of distance and culture were writ bold in the stunning immediacy of voice and image. 

“Why are all your stories about the same thing, an Arab woman and an Arab guy, usually a nebbish?” Shadeeyah starts in. Before the end of the call and the play, they’ve delved into sex, politics and culture.  

“For somebody raised in America, you have a very Middle Eastern view of women! Please don’t dress up your male fantasies in political guise,” she snaps. And he: “In America, the personal is political! For the record, Americans don’t like politics in art. They feel they’re getting preached at.” He refers to his story as a stealthy game, “cleverly putting in what I intend to say, and they think it says nothing!”  

The time difference accents the night and day of their sensibilities. Natib in his bathrobe finally stands up from his laptop to argue hysterically with the enormous projection (in every sense of the word) of Shadeeyah’s face on a screen upstage, his body about the size of her visage. 

A lively conversation over the Internet followed. The playwright, in Cairo, remarked he’d written The Review with an audience seated before a proscenium stage in mind: “but now, on the Internet, with audiences in both places, it’s in the round!” Directors Hafiz Karmali (San Francisco) and Dina Amin (Cairo) spoke about their differences of interpretation. “Yussef has it in the script,” joked Karmali. “It’s all about couples!” 

Golden Thread hopes to put the groundbreaking production on YouTube, and maybe to have it streamed over the Internet to reproduce the theatricality of the long-distance interchange. Meanwhile, there’s still another weekend of ReOrient’s tenth anniversary celebration at Thick House on Potrero Hill, with nine short plays in two series. For information call (415) 626-4061 or see www.goldenthread.org.

Moving Pictures: Great End-of-Year DVD Releases for the Cinephile

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday December 10, 2009 - 10:46:00 AM

Wings of Desire (1987)  

Wim Wenders’ evocative and mysterious Wings of Desire (1987) has been released by Criterion in a two-disc, director-approved edition, with many extra features and a commentary track by the director.  

This is one of those films where every ingredient plays a vital role. Wenders’ camera movement is delicate and eloquent; Henri Alekan’s photography is somber yet romantic; Jürgen Knieper’s score is visceral in its impact; Peter Handke’s interior monologues bring the disparate thoughts of Berlin’s residents into a unified tapestry of sound and emotion; and Peter Falk’s role as a one-time angel who gave up eternity for a shot at life on earth grounds the film in earthly pleasures while providing a spark of self-referential humor.  

But the most important and powerful aspect of Wings of Desire is the warm, benevolent gaze of Bruno Ganz as the guardian angel who longs to join the material world. Etched in Alekan’s black and white photography, it is a face of compassion and empathy, able to share in the sorrow and joy of those he watches over. And when he finally crosses over, in a burst of color and sensory data—cold frost, the taste of his own blood, the vitality and breathlessness of a brisk walk along city streets—it is a face of almost childlike wonder.  

127 minutes. $39.95. www.criterion.com. 


The Exiles (1961)  

Kent Mackenzie’s The Exiles covers one night in the lives of young Native Americans living in Los Angeles’ Bunker Hill district. Mackenzie began interviewing a group of Indians in Los Angeles in 1956 and secured their support in producing an independent film that would provide a realistic portrayal of their community’s daily life. The film was completed in 1961 but has rarely been seen until its restoration by the UCLA Film and Television Archive and its subsequent theatrical release by Milestone.  

The Exiles follows a group of young Native American men as they essentially forsake their women for a night on the town, meeting up with friends at bars, cavorting with other women, venturing into the hills for drinking, drumming and fighting. They make their way along a circuit of Indian hangouts, small oases in a white man’s city where they can be together and, hopefully, left alone to be themselves. Meanwhile, a lonely wife goes to the movies and finally returns to the home of a friend so that she doesn’t have to sleep alone. In the morning she watches as her husband and his friends finally stumble home drunk through the streets of Bunker Hill.  

The rough, gritty, low-budget aesthetic recalls Shadows, John Cassavetes’ first film, set in New York. Both films feel loose and improvised, giving the impression of an authentic depiction of a place and time. And both focus attention on the cities themselves, using the urban landscapes as contexts for the lives of the characters, while also providing a sort of snapshot of a city at a particular point in time.  

Milestone is a small company that picks and chooses its material, often sinking much of the company’s resources into a single theatrical and DVD release. The company is responsible for making some rare and important films available to the movie-going public, including I Am Cuba and Killer of Sheep—an impressive streak of significant releases that continues with The Exiles.  

72 minutes. $29.95. www.exilesfilm.com. www.milestonefilms.com.  


Avant-Garde 3 (1922-1955)  

Kino has released the third in its series of avant-garde films, this newest edition containing 20 films produced between 1922 and 1955. These collections feature rare but valuable films that demonstrate the outer reaches of cinema, a seemingly boundless medium in the hands of artists making films with no consideration for the commercial market—art for art’s sake. Avant-Garde 3 draws from the collections of Raymond Rohauer and George Eastman House in an effort “to illuminate the degree to which cinema’s evolution has been influenced by those filmmakers who occupy its periphery.”  

In addition to its historical value, Avant-Garde 3, like its predecessors, provides a fascinating, eccentric and eclectic viewing experience. The films range in length from two minutes to 65 minutes and in subject matter from Edgar Allan Poe adaptations to home movies.  

$29.95. www.kino.com.  


How to be a Woman and How to be a Man (1950s)  

A series of 1950s short educational films provides an instructive glance at who we once were and what we thought our children should be—and how they should be taught what they should be.  

These films from Kino can be seen in several ways. At the simplest level, they’re entertaining, both on their own merits and as a time capsule of film production techniques and acting styles. But one cannot help but ask questions as well. For instance, do these films represent a progressive embrace of a new medium, designed to tackle tough topics in a way teacher-student and parent-child interactions could not? Or do they mark the beginning of the abnegation of these duties, of a tendency to let the screen—first film and later television—to impart the lessons of adulthood? It’s a strange lesson indeed, to remove person-to-person contact from instruction in person-to-person conduct.  

$19.95 each. www.kino.com.  


Golden Age of Television (1950s)  

Before television became what it is, it was something much, much different. Nowadays, TV shows are shot, filmed, edited and distributed like movies, packaged and sent out for broadcast. But in its early days, television was primarily a live medium. A live show today is an anomaly, an experiment largely looked upon as an act of either bravery or folly. But in the 1950s, shows were broadcast live as a matter of course, and the later practice of distributing a tape or film would seem a counterintuitive—if not cowardly—use of a medium which at its live, unfettered best could achieve a tremendous sense of immediacy, of art and entertainment produced in the here and now.  

Criterion’s Golden Age of Television showcases some of the best examples of live television in the form of eight plays produced between 1953 and 1958, all of which were drawn from a curated 1980s PBS series also titled The Golden Age of Television. The three-disc set features Kinescope broadcasts of Marty, Patterns, No Time for Sergeants, A Wind from the South, Bang the Drum Slowly, Requiem for a Heavyweight, The Comedian and Days of Wine and Roses. Extra features include commentaries by directors John Frankenheimer, Delbert Mann, Ralph Nelson and Daniel Petrie; liner notes for each program; an essay by curator Ron Simon; and interviews with cast and crew.  

485 minutes. $49.95. www.criterion.com.  


Gaumont Treasures 1897–1913 

Kino has released another in its series of historical film collections. Following on such impressive and important releases as The Movies Begin and the Thomas Edison collection, the company has put together a three-disc set called Gaumont Treasures 1897–1913, compiling more than 75 films from the early French studio, the Gaumont Film Company.  

Each disc is devoted to one of Gaumont’s esteemed artistic directors. Disc one features the work of Alice Guy, whose contribution to the evolution of the art form places her among the ranks of Edwin Porter and her fellow countrymen George Melies and the Lumiere Brothers. The 60 films on this disc range in length from a few seconds to two and three reels and include early experiments in sound and hand-coloring.  

Disc two features the work of Louis Feuillade, best known for Les Vampires and as an early mentor to Abel Gance. Though Feuillade made nearly 800 films for Gaumont, relatively few survive. This collection of 13 films includes his work in a range of genres, including comedy, tragedy, fantasy, social commentary and historical epic.  

Disc three showcases the work of Leonce Perret, a man who had a profound impact on the advancement of French cinema but whose work is largely unknown in the United States. This set contains two films, the 43-minute Mystery of the Rocks of Kador, and the 124-minute Child of Paris, in which Perret demonstrated a mastery of the form that critic Georges Sadoul claimed was more expert and refined than that of the celebrated D.W. Griffith.  

$79.95. www.kino.com. 


Warner Archive Collection 

We’re more than a decade into the age of DVD, an age that has seen public interest in cinema’s century of history soar to new levels. And yet there are so many films—even renowned films—that have never made it to home video. Sometimes the legal rights can’t be negotiated, but more often than not the reason is simple supply-and-demand; the market simply doesn’t justify the expense of producing and marketing a DVD version of every film in a studio’s vaults.  

But now the studios are finally finding a way to unleash the potential of the digital age to air these long-lost artifacts.  

This year Warner Bros. launched a new series of DVD releases called Warner Archive. It is essentially a publish-on-demand model. The company’s website lists 500 Warner films—most old, some recent, many obscure—that can be published and sent on demand. There are no extra features, no fancy packaging, just bare-bones editions of films that might otherwise never see the light of day.  

And soon enough, as digital downloading or streaming of films becomes commonplace and the production, packaging, marketing and distribution of DVDs is no longer necessary, it is likely that hundreds of thousands of rarely screened films may become available—films that may never find a sizable audience, but all of which will certainly be sought out, each by its own core group of devotees.  

A sampling of review copies of Warner Archive films ranging from television show adaptations, silent films and sound films from the 1930s and 1940s shows adequate transfers at minimum and quality transfers overall. These are solid, respectful presentations that do justice to these films and make them finally available despite the whims of the marketplace.  

Prices vary. www.warnerarchive.com. 

Community Calendar

Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:21:00 AM


Walkers Age 50+ Waterfront Bird Walk meet at 9 a.m. at Sea Breeze Deli, 598 University Ave. Dress for all weather, bring binoculars if you have them. Pre-registration required. Call 524-9122. 

Berkeley Historical Society “A Bouquet of Boutique Hotels” Visit three local hotels all decorated for the holidays, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. For reservations and starting point call 848-0181. 

Berkeley School Volunteers, New Volunteer Orientation from 10 to 11 a.m. at 1835 Allston Way. Bring a photo ID and two references to the orientation. Returning volunteers do not need to attend. For further information 644-8833. 

East Bay Mac Users Group with Joe Bauder on holiday gift ideas at 7 p.m. at Expression College for Digital Arts, 6601 Shellmound St., Emeryville. ebmug.org 

Babies and Toddlers Storytime at 10:15 and 11:15 a.m. at the Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. 524-3043. 

“Thinking Grande!” a documentary about a Mexican immigrant with big dreams, at 7:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $10. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Holiday Night Market from 5 to 10 p.m. at Jack London Square. www.jacklondonsquare.com 

Red Cross Blood Drive from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Oakland Federal Bldg., Conference room H, 1301 Clay St., Oakland. To schedule an appointment go to www.helpsavealife.org 

Community Yoga Class: Gentle Yoga, Thurs. at 10 a.m. at James Kenney Parks and Recreation Center, 8th St. and Virginia. Cost is $6. Mats provided. 207-4501. 


City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Ms. Janice King on “Mae West—Diamond Lill” Luncheon at 11:45 a.m. for $15, speech at 12:30 p.m., at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant St. For information and reservations call 527-2173.  

Solstice Celebration in Song An evening of participatory singing, at 7:15 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, small assembly room, 2345 Channing Way. All welcome. Suggested donation $15-$20. betsy@betsyrosemusic.org 

Climate Change Vigil Join us for a candlelight vigil and bike ride to demand action, not just words, at the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen at 5:45 p.m. at the Downtown Berkeley BART, followed by bike ride through Berkeley at 6:15 p.m. www.350.org/node/13250 

West County Reads Bookraiser with Santa, Jean Paul the magician and Asheba in concert from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at 6927 Stockton Ave., El Cerrito. Bring a new or gently used book to donate to West County Reads. 528-5350. 

ACCI Holiday Arts Celebration and sale from 4 to 8 p.m. at 1652 Shattuck Ave. 843-2527. www.accigallery.com 

Holiday Night Market from 5 to 10 p.m. at Jack London Square. www.jacklondonsquare.com 

The Bubble Lady with bubble tricks for the whole family at 11 a.m. at Studio Grow, 1235 10th St. Cost is $9. 526-9888. 

Kol Hadash Chanukah Celebration Potluck at 6:30 p.m. at Albany Community Center, 1249 Marin Ave. For potluck assignments see www.kolhadash.org 

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 


Holiday Pancake Breakfast from 9 to 11 a.m. at El Cerrito Community Center, 7007 Moeser Lane, El Cerrito. Hosted by the Recreation Department and includes a visit from Santa and a holiday marionette show appropriate for all ages. Tickets are $8. Donation barrels will be available to support the El Cerrito/Richmond Fire and Police Holiday Toy Program. For tickets call 559-7000. 

“Folk Art Nativity Scenes” An exhibition of over 250 native folk art nativity scenes from North and South America, Africa, Asia and Europe. Sat. from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sun. from noon to 4 p.m. 843-2678. www.stclementsberkeley.org 

Berkeley Farmers’ Market Holiday Fair, with music, crafts and organic produce and lunches, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Civic Center Park, Center St. at Martin Luther King, Jr. Way. www.ecologycenter.org 

Telegraph Avenue Holiday Street Fair Sat. and Sun. from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., with music, street artists, merchants and community groups, on Telegraph between Bancroft and Dwight. 

Small Critter Adoption and Toy Making Fair Learn how to make toys for your pet bunny, guinea pig, hamster, rat or mouse, or for shelter animals, from 1 to 4 p.m. at RabbitEars, 377 Colusa Ave., Kensington. 525-6155. www.rabbitears.org 

Berkeley Artisans Open Studios Sat. and Sun. from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.. Fo map see www.berkeleyartisans.com 

Latke and Beer Fest with Jewish music and activities for children Sat. and Sun. from noon to 4 p.m. at Saul’s Deli, 1475 Shattuck Ave. 848-3354. 

Holidays at Dunsmuir Walk back in time through a beautifully decorated mansion, enjoy live holiday music, have breakfast with Father Christmas at 2960 Peralta Oaks Court, Oakland. Weekends though Dec. 20. For details see www.dunsmuir.org 

“Iu Mien at Peralta Hacienda” Exhibit Opening with the traditions of the Mien people and their gardens and embroidery from 2 to 4 p.m. at Oakland Antonio Peralta House, 2465 34th Ave., Oakland. www.peraltahacienda.org 

Jingletown Holiday Art Walk Sat. and Sun. from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. between the Park and Fruitvale Street bridges bordered by the estuary separating Oakland from the island of Alameda. www.jingletown.org 

Candy Cottages Family workshop from 1 to 3 p.m. at Museum of Children’s Art, 538 9th St., Oakland. Cost is $3-$7. 465-8770. www.mocha.org  

Santa on Solano Sat. and Sun. from noon to 4 p.m. at Albany Chamber of Commerce, 1108 Solano Ave. 527-5358. 

Friends of Faith Fancher Holiday Celebration with entertainment and silent auction, from 4 to 7 p.m. at 95 Castle Park Way, Oakland. Cost is $100. www.faithfancher.org 

Close the Farm Say goodnight to the animals from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Little Farm, Tilden Park. 544-2233. 

West County Reads Bookraiser with Santa at 10 a.m. at 6927 Stockton Ave., El Cerrito. Bring a new or gently used book to donate to West County Reads. 528-5350. 

CPR/First Aid Class from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at El Cerrito Fire Station 72, 1520 Arlington Blvd. in El Cerrito. Space is limited & pre- registration is required. Fee $48. Priority registration is given to El Cerrito & Kensington residents. For more information, contact the El Cerrito Fire Department at 215-4450. 

The East Bay Chapter of The Great War Society meets to discuss “US Nurses in WWI” by Jolie Velazquez at 10:30 a.m. in the Albany Veterans Bldg, 1325 Portland Ave. Albany. All welcome. 527-7118. 

Public Option or Single Payer Health Care: Which is better for more people while saving money? Discussion at 2 p.m. at Sacramento Senior Homes Community Room, 1501 Blake St. at Sacramento. Free. 647-3624. 

“Who Killed the Electric Car?” A documentary film by Chris Paine, followed by discussion, at 10:30 a.m. at the Rialto Cerito Cinema, 10070 San Pablo Ave. 292-0853. 

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.  

Fairytale Weekend at Playland-Not-At-The-Beach Sat. and Sun. from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 10979 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. Cost is $10-$15. 932-8966. www.playland-not-at-the-beach.org 


Joel ben Izzy Tells Chanukah Tales at 3 p.m. at Netivot Shalom, 1316 University Ave. Proceeds benefit Easy Does It Emergency Services which provides crucial assistance to the Berkeley disability community. Tickets are sliding scale children $7-$10 and adults $10-$18 available at the door or online www.brownpapertickets.com 

Holiday Decorations - Naturally Create wreaths, garlands and other seasonal decorations using natural materials, from noon to 3:30 pm. at Tilden Nature Center. Bring clippers, a large, flat box, and a bag lunch. Not appropriate for children under eight. Cost is $25-$51. Registration required. 1-888-327-2757. 

Waterside Workshops Holiday Event and Toy-Making Workshop Come on down to our workshop for hands-on activities, make your own wooden toy, live local music, food, and fun for people of all ages, from 1 to 5 p.m. at 84 Bolivar Drive, in Berkeley’s Aquatic Park. Suggested donation $5. 644-2577. www.watersideworkshops.org 

Hanging Around Art Family workshop to make ornaments and decorations from 1 to 3 p.m. at Museum of Children’s Art, 538 9th St., Oakland. Cost is $3-$7. 465-8770. www.mocha.org  

Holiday Tree Trim with craft projects for chidren age 5 and up from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043. 

Ornament Making and sing-along from 1 to 3 p.m. at Expressions Gallery, 2035 Ashby Ave. 644-4930. www.expressionsgallrey.org 

Chanukah Community Celebration Candle lighting, a Chanukah sing-along, and a feast of Jewish music ranging from Ladino to Hebrew to original compositions based on Jewish folk songs at 7:30 p.m. at Julia Morgan Theater, 2640 College Ave. Cost is $15. www.juliamorgan.org 

Community Celebration of Light: Making Hanukah Meaningful from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Jewish Community Center of the East Bay, 1414 Walnut St. 848-0237. prod.jcceastbay.org 

“The Magic Continues” Alameda Holiday Home Tour from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.   $30 in advance, $35 on day of tour. Benefit for Alameda Family Services. 629-6208. alamedaholidayhometour.info  

Community Menorah Lighting at 4 p.m. at the Bay Street Mall in Emeryville, at the Plaza, across from Barnes and Noble. Includes live music and activities for children. Sponsored by Chabad of the East Bay. 540-5824. www.chabadberkeley.org 

“Mountain Top Removal” A film and discussion on the coal industry in West Virginia at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship UU, 1924 Cedar at Bonita. Requested donation $5-$10. 841-4824.  

Fabulous Fungus Explore different ways to identify major mushroom families and learn what types of fungus grows in Tilden, from 2 to 3 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 544-2233. 

Old Time Radio East Bay Collectors and listeners gather to enjoy shows together at 4 p.m. at a private home in Berkeley. For more information please email DavidinBerkeley, at Yahoo. 

East Bay Atheists Annual Solstice Dinner at 1:30 p.m. at King Dong Chinese Restaurant, 2429 Shattuck Ave. 222-7580. eastbayatheists.org 

Personal Theology Seminars with Kendra Smith on “Cultivating Loving Kindness (Metta): a Traditional Buddhist Practice” at 10 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. 525-0302, ext. 306. 

Super Second Sunday at the Cooperative Grocery, with tea, cider and cookies, from 5 to 7 p.m. at 1450 67th St., at Hollis. www.thecog.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 Betty Cook on “Maps to Enlightenment” at 6 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 809-1000.  


“Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders” at 8 p.m. at Bay Street 16, 5614 Bay Street, Emeryville. Tickets are $12.50-$15. www.FathomEvents.com/ 


Women on Common Ground: Holiday Decorations Help make decorations from natural materials for the Women’s Daytime Drop-in Center, and for yourself, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. Bring a small pair of hand clippers. for ages 18 and up. Cost is $15-$17. Registration required. 1-888-327-2757.  

Ohlone Greenway Safety Improvements Meeting at 6:30 p.m. at El Cerrito Community Center-Garden Room, 7007 Moeser Lane, El Cerrito. Staff from the Public Works and Police Departments, as well as a representative from ADT, will be available to answer questions about the surveillance camera system. 215-4322. 

Green Party Holiday Party at 7 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. acgreenaprty@yahoo.com 

“Fundraising in Challenging Times” A free class for nonprofit and community based organizations, from 10:30 a.m. to noon in the Richmond Main Library’s Madeline F. Whittlesey Community Room, 325 Civic Center Plaza, Richmond. Register through the Foundation Center 415-397-0902. 

Free Drop-in Knitting Group from 3:15 to 5:15 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave., at Masonic. 526-3720. 

East Bay Track Club for ages 3-14 meets at 6 p.m. at the running track of Berkeley High School. For more information call Coach Walker at 776-7451. 


Tuesdays for the Birds Tranquil bird walks in local parklands, led by Bethany Facendini, from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. Today we will visit Tilden Nature Area. Bring water, field guides, binoculars or scopes. Call for meeting place and if you need to borrow binoculars. 544-3265. 

Open House Senior Center Holiday Party Older Adults are invited to come and enjoy holiday music, refreshments, excerpts from the Nutcracker performed by the El Cerrito Ballet Company, and a special visit from Santa & Mrs. Claus from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 6500 Stockton Ave. El Cerrito. Lunch reservations are required. Call 559-7677. 

Winter Computer Classes in Internet, Email, Word and PowerPoint Regisstration for the session beginning Jan. 11, at 10:30 a.m. at North Oakland Senior Center Computer Lab, 5714 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Oakland. Tuition is free. $5 materials fee. 597-5085. ovas.ousd.k12.ca.us 

“Unresolved Contradictions, Driving Forces For Revolution” new talk by Bob Avakian at 7p.m. at Revolution Books 2425 Channing Way. Free, donations appreciated. 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. 

Homework Help at the Albany Library for students in grades 2 - 6, Tues. and Thurs. from 3:15 to 5:15 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. Emphasis on math and writing skills. No registration is required. For more information, call 526-3720. 

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 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. 


Tilden Mini-Rangers Hiking, conservation and nature-based activities for ages 8-12. Dress to ramble and get dirty. Bring a snack. From 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. Cost is $6-$8, registration required. 1-888-EBPARKS. 

“Seasonal Seas” A documentary, part of the Blue Planet: Seas of Life series at 7:30 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Donation $5. www.Humanist Hall.org 

Red Cross Blood Services Volunteer Orientation from 6 to 8 p.m. at 6230 Claremont Ave., Oakland. Registration required. 594-5165. 

One-on-one Computer Training Sign up for a free 30 min session at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave., at Masonic. 526-3720, ext. 5. 

Family Sing Along at 4:40 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave., at Masonic. 526-3720. 

Albany Adult Evening Book Group meet to discuss “The Life of Pi” at 7 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave., at Masonic. 526-3720. 

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. 

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


Berkeley Path Wanderers: StairMaster Without the Gym A vigorous pre-holiday calorie burner, fast paced with a lot of steps and great views. Includes the newly opened Northgate Path. Meet at 10 a.m. at Walnut St. adjacent to the Berryman Path. 520-3876. www.berkeleypaths.org 

Community Menorah Lighting with live music and activities for children at 5 p.m. at CB2, 1730 Fourth St. Sponsored by Chabad of the East Bay. 540-5824. www.chabadberkeley.org 

Climate Change, Agro-biodiversity and Food Security “The Value of Traditional Seeds in an Unstable World” at 7 p.m. at the Ecology Center, 2530 San Pablo Ave. Donations benefit the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in West Bengal, India. 548-4915. 

GRIP Greater Richmond Interfaith Program Open House & Video Preview from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 165 22nd St., Richmond. Holiday donations to end homelessness hunger during the recession can be made on-line at www.gripcommunity.org 

Babies and Toddlers Storytime at 10:15 and 11:15 a.m. at the Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. 524-3043. 

Simplicity Forum What did you learn in 2009 and what are you planning for 2010? At 6:30 p.m. at Claremont Branch Library, 2940 Benvenue at Ashby. 

Free Small Business Seminar “Successful Business Plans” from 2 to 5 p.m. at Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Register in advance at www.acsbdc.org 

Digestive Health at 5:30 p.m. at Whole Foods, Ashby at Telegraph aves. 512 -0448. 

Community Yoga Class: Gentle Yoga, Thurs. at 10 a.m. at James Kenney Parks and Recreation Center, 8th St. and Virginia. Cost is $6. Mats provided. 207-4501. 


City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Doug Long, Chief Curator of Natural Sciences, Oakland Museum on “The Fascinating World of Evolutionary Biology: Oakland Museum’s New Hotspot California” Luncheon at 11:45 a.m. for $15, speech at 12:30 p.m., at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant St. For information and reservations call 527-2173. www.citycommonsclub.org 

Say NO to War! Bring our troops home now! Come Rally for Peace! From 2 to 3 p.m. at the corner of Action and University. 841-4143. 

Not Jewish Enough? Hanukah Sheds New Light on This Question at 6:15 p.m. at Jewish Gateways, 409 Liberty St., El Cerrito. First-time participants, potluck contribution or $7, RSVP required. www.jewishgateways.org 

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 


2020 Vision for Berkeley’s Children and Youth Initiative Community Meeting at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Technology Academy auditorium, 2701 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Childcare provided. 845-7103. www.berkeleyalliance.org. 

Berkeley Farmers’ Market Holiday Fair, with music, crafts and organic produce and lunches, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Civic Center Park, Center St. at Martin Luther King, Jr. Way. www.ecologycenter.org 

Telegraph Avenue Holiday Street Fair Sat. and Sun. from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., with music, street artists, merchants and community groups, on Telegraph between Bancroft and Dwight. 

Santa on Solano Sat. and Sun. from noon to 4 p.m. at Albany Chamber of Commerce, 1108 Solano Ave. 527-5358. albanychamer.org 

Hanukah Celebration for Young Children at 10:30 a.m. at Jewish Gateways, 409 Liberty St., El Cerrito. Free for first-time participants, RSVP required. www.jewishgateways.org 

Berkeley Artisans Open Studios Sat. and Sun. from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.. Fo map see www.berkeleyartisans.com 

Holidays at Dunsmuir Walk back in time through a beautifully decorated mansion, enjoy live holiday music, have breakfast with Father Christmas at 2960 Peralta Oaks Court, Oakland. Weekends though Dec. 20. For details see www.dunsmuir.org 

Box It, Bag It, Wrap It Family workshop to make gift bags and wrapping paper, Sat. and Sun. from 1 to 3 p.m. at Museum of Children’s Art, 538 9th St., Oakland. Cost is $3-$7. 465-8770. www.mocha.org  

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. 

Red Cross Blood Drive from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Alameda Farmers’ market, Haight Ave. and Webster St., Alameda. To schedule an appointment go to www.helpsavealife.org 

Origami Workshop Learn how to make a variety of holiday stars, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave., at Masonic. 526-3720. 

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.  

Twas the Night Before Chirstmas Celebration at Playland-Not-At-The-Beach Sat. and Sun. from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 10979 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. Cost is $10-$15. 932-8966. www.playland-not-at-the-beach.org 


Women on Common Ground Winter Solstice Walk Join a hike to Wildcat Peak, returning to the Tiden Nature Center to a warm fire and hot cider, from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. For information call 544-2233. 

Winter Solstice Gathering Rain or shine at 4:05 p.m. at Cesar Chavez Park, Interim Solar Calendar, Berkeley Marina. www.solarcalendar.org 

Singing through the Dark A winter solstice ritual for women at 8 p.m. at Finnish Brotherhood Hall, 1970 Chestnut. Donstion $10. 464-4640. 

Art of the Winter-Tide for Young Children with crafts and a story at 11 a.m. at Kehilla Community Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave., Piedmont. 705-2849. 

Personal Theology Seminars with Jeremy Taylor on “Social Class, Dreams, and the Nature of Paradox” at 10 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. 525-0302, ext. 306. 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park Sat. 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 


Food Donations for the Homeless and Hungry From Dec. 14 to Dec. 23 please drop off food donations to Berkeley Food & Housing Project at 2362 Bancroft Way. Please, first contact Wanda Williams at 649-4965, ext. 506. wwilliams@bfhp.org 

Richmond/El Cerrito Fire and Police Holiday Toy Program New, unwrapped toys for all age groups will be collected through Dec. 14 at any El Cerrito, Kensington or Richmond Fire Station. For information call 215-4457.