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More than 200 people took part in a silent protest this afternoon outside Sproul Hall to protest a veto against the UC Berkeley Israel divestment bill which urges the university to withdraw funding from two companies providing military weapons to the Israeli Army. The Associated Students of the University of California will vote tonight on whether to override the veto.
Riya Bhattacharjee
More than 200 people took part in a silent protest this afternoon outside Sproul Hall to protest a veto against the UC Berkeley Israel divestment bill which urges the university to withdraw funding from two companies providing military weapons to the Israeli Army. The Associated Students of the University of California will vote tonight on whether to override the veto.


Flash: UC Berkeley Israel Divestment Bill Supporters Hold Silent Protest At Sproul Hall

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday April 14, 2010 - 06:53:00 PM
The NorCal Friends of Sabeel join the silent protest Wednesday, Sabeel describes itself as "an international peace movement initiated by Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land who seek a just peace based on two states-Palestine and Israel-as defined by international law and existing United Nations resolutions."
By Riya Bhattacharjee
The NorCal Friends of Sabeel join the silent protest Wednesday, Sabeel describes itself as "an international peace movement initiated by Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land who seek a just peace based on two states-Palestine and Israel-as defined by international law and existing United Nations resolutions."

More than 200 people took part in a silent protest this afternoon outside Sproul Hall to protest a veto of the UC Berkeley Israel divestment bill which urges the university to withdraw funding from two companies providing military weapons to the Israeli Army.  

The Associated Students of the University of California senate will vote tonight on whether to override the veto.  

Organized by the Berkeley campus group Students for Justice in Palestine, the rally sought to send a direct, pointed message to ASUC President Will Smelko, who vetoed the bill approved by a 16-4 vote last month.  

Over the past few weeks, opponents of the bill, including pro-Israel groups, have been lobbying the senators to uphold Smelko’s veto. Even as the protesters gathered outside Sproul to make a statement, J Street, which calls itself “the political home of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement,” sent out an e-mail blast urging the senators not to overide the veto.  

“Our support for the president’s veto is rooted in our belief that the bill does not advance the cause of real peace and security for Palestinians and Israelis. Specifically, the bill fails to express support for Israel’s right to exist as a democratic home for the Jewish people and for a two-state resolution to the conflict,” their letter said. “...In this vein, we oppose, for instance, the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement which supports the right of return of Palestinian refugees to Israel and fails to draw a clear distinction between opposition to the post-1967 occupation and opposition to the existence of the state of Israel itself as the democratic home of the Jewish people. Even if it was not the intent of the students who drafted this bill, its passage is now being seized on by the global BDS movement as a victory in its broader campaign.”  

Rally participants, however, refused to be unnerved by any kind of pressure. One SJP organizer said that all 200 “Divest from War Crime 4-14-10” rally T-shirts had been used up within minutes of the event starting.  

SJP spokesperson and UC Berkeley senior Ali Glenesk said that diverse community groups were taking part in the rally.  

“There are faces I don’t even know,” she said. “There’s been a lot of pressure on the senators from pro-Israel groups, but hopefully they will do the right thing.”  

ASUC senate candidate Waseem Salahi said that the veto silenced the democratic voice of students.  

“Students are outraged” Salahi says, “It’s disappointing because [President Smelko] has never been well versed in the issues, nor does it seem that he has taken any effort to be, but yet he has the audacity to silence the students who worked tirelessly to create this bill. He claims that we need to put the ‘unity’ of campus students ahead of denouncing war crimes, but his veto did not ‘unify’ the campus in any way. He simply alienated the hundreds of supporters who worked tirelessly to put the bill into effect.”  

Advance copies of a speech titled “You Will Not Be Alone” expected to be given by Prof Judith Butler at the campus tonight were flying about the Internet hours before the ASUC meeting. 

“You will be speaking in unison with others, and you will, actually, be making a step toward the realization of peace—the principles of non-violence and co-habitation that alone can serve as the foundation of peace,” Butler wrote for her speech. 

SJP’s formal response to Smelko’s veto is available at www.calsjp.org . In part it says, “We ... Are disapointed that Smelko has chosen to be on the wrong side of history, to be remembered as the president who vetoed a bill against war crimes.”  


Flash: Planning Commission Discusses Shorter Plan Tonight

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday April 14, 2010 - 06:50:00 PM

The Berkeley Planning Commission will discuss an abbreviated version of the Downtown Area Plan tonight, Wednesday.  

The plan incorporates changes suggested by Mayor Tom Bates to the Berkeley City Council’s original downtown plan in February and will be placed on the November ballot following council approval. 

The Berkeley City Council on Feb. 23 voted unanimously to rescind its original downtown plan which was referended last year.  

It also voted 8-1—with councilmember Jesse Arreguin the only dissenting vote—to ask City Manager Phil Kamlarz to return with a set of recommendations they could vote on.  

State law requires the Planning Commission to review the plan and make a recommendation on area plans and general plan amendments.  

A public hearing has been scheduled for an April 28 Planning Commission meeting, following which council will have to take action by the end of July. 

According to the city’s Planning Director Dan Marks, the new abbreviated plan has been shrunk from the rescinded plan’s 150 pages to 20 in order to include only the key pieces on the ballot. 

Marks’ report to the Planning Commission says that the “council requested that the Downtown Area Plan” document be significantly reduced in size and focus on goals, policy and key implementation measures” to “allow voters to reasonably judge the plan.”  

Marks said that although he wasn’t present when the council discussed this, it was his “understanding that the council felt 150 pages was an excess.” 

The shorter plan consists mainly of goals and policies and leaves out the bulk of the implementation measures which were present in the original downtown plan.  

According to Marks, “it includes only those implementing provisions that the council specifically indicated it wished to see clearly articulated in the new downtown plan.” 

The new plan includes stronger requirements for all new construction—such as affordable housing and open space, a voluntary green pathway that would give developers incentives in exchange of public benefits and limits to highrises and buffer zones surrounding the downtown.  

Marks said that the implementation measures would not be entirely forgotten because “no plan is complete without implementation.” 

“Once the voters approve the plan, the implementation measures can always be brought back,” he said. 

But not everybody agreed with this explanation. Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who along with Arreguin worked on the referendum campaign, said that if a plan is “just glittering generalities, it’s not really doing anything.” 

“Most of the controversy is about details—the devil is in the details,” he said. “Nobody on the City Council said anything about chopping the plan. It’s an insult to voters’ intelligence. Berkeley voters are very smart. They can read and talk with friends to discuss things—I don’t think you have to baby Berkeley voters.” 

Arreguin said that although the referendum campaign’s members had not yet arrived at a formal position about the abbreviated version, the plan still did not address some of their main concerns: heights, public benefits and protection of neighbors. 

“The plan needs a lot more work,” he said. “It’s trying to hide the fact that it allows for buildings up to 18 stories by saying that the heights are equal to current heights downtown.” 

Worthington said he was disappointed that the new plan chose to overlook hundreds of hours of work carried out by the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee and the Planning Commission. 

“We can just name it ‘I love the downtown’ and put it on the ballot,” he said. “This watered down version doesn’t accomplish much. People can just referend it again.” 


The meeting will take place at 7:00 PM at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Avenue. Presentation of the new plan and discussion by commissioners will be the last item on the agenda.  


New: New Downtown Plan Will Go Before the Berkeley Planning Commission

Tuesday April 13, 2010 - 09:28:00 PM

Included in the packet for the Berkeley Planning Commission meeting scheduled for Wednesday, April 14, 1s the April 7 draft of a downtown plan for Berkeley. This one is shorter than the previous one--according to the introduction from Planning Director Dan Marks that's to make it easier for the voters to read, because it's going on the ballot in November. 

The meeting will take place at 7:00 PM at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Avenue. Presentation of the new plan and discussion by commissioners will be the last item on the agenda. 

New: Berkeley High Jacket Wins Columbia Scholastic Award

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday April 13, 2010 - 08:56:00 PM
Berkeley High School Jacket reporters interview State Schools Chief Jack O'Connell at a meeting on campus last year for their newspaper's online video segment.
By Riya Bhattacharjee/File Photo
Berkeley High School Jacket reporters interview State Schools Chief Jack O'Connell at a meeting on campus last year for their newspaper's online video segment.

Berkeley High School’s The Jacket Online is among 10 high school newspaper websites to win the 2010 Columbia Scholastic Press Association’s Gold Crown Award.  

Regarded as the CSPA’s highest honor in high school journalism 

(cspa.columbia.edu/docs/contests-and-critiques/crown-awards/recipients/2010-scholastic-crown.html), the Gold Crowns have been awarded to middle and high school newspapers, magazines and yearbooks since 1982.  

The Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA) is affiliated with Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, which “administers many professional awards in order to uphold standards of excellence in the media,” including the prestigious Pulitzer Prize which was announced Monday. 

This year’s competition drew applications from more than 1,558 publications and entries were evaluated at Columbia University in February by a panel of judges. 

Berkeley High School Communication Arts and Science teacher Dharini Rasiah guided the revamping of the Jacket website after taking over as the paper’s faculty adviser at the start of the school year in 2009. 

The new website is easier to navigate, gets updated regularly and features video segments by the paper’s first multimedia editors Danielle Escobar and Alec Mutter, who are responsible for assigning and creating video content. 

“Congratulations goes to the entire editorial board, with special kudos to the web editors Evan Cohen and Connor Nielson,” Rasiah said Tuesday. “I really want to stress that we got the award because of our video and multimedia segments. My job is making sure they are online—it’s really the kids who do all the work, I just provide support. 

Nielson said that while rebuilding the site from scratch, the web editors wanted to design something "more progressive and user friendly." 

The current Jacket website has Flash elements and uses the Drupal content management system.  

It has the same categories as the print version—news, opinion, features, sports and entertainment—but what sets it apart from other school newspaper websites is the multimedia content. 

“That’s the big thing,” Rasiah said. “It’s really useful to go to that segment to see Berkeley High School in live action.” 

Students get class credit for working at the Jacket, spending the same number of hours as they would in any other course. 

“Of course the editors are constantly working,” Rasiah said laughing. “The staff provide the writing, but the editors do all the editing.” 

Jacket editor-in-chief Charlotte Wayne said she heard about the award from her friend, the editor-in-chief of the Piedmont High School newspaper, and decided to apply. 

"It was very exciting to win because it is the first year we did a real website and the first year we did multimedia," Wayne said. "I think we were mainly judged on content and the tools we used." 

Wayne, who will be going to Stanford University in the fall, and hopes to write for The Stanford Daily, is currently in the process of training a new editorial board for next year, 

Currently there are 132 students on the Jacket staff, the biggest in the paper’s history. 

“I raised the cap several times to allow many more students to join,” Rasiah said. “We have bigger ideas for the website—we want to have writers for website-only articles in the future. We are going to use the website more.” 

The Jacket is not new to awards. In 2000, the Jacket staff received the Journalist of the Year award from the Northern California Society of Professional Journalists, making it the first non-professional winner in that category. 

The paper created headlines in the fall of 1999, when with Rasiah’s help, student reporters Megan Greenwell and Iliana Montauk broke a story about how local businessman Lakireddy Bali Reddy was bringing young women from India and exploiting them as sex slaves. 

Rasiah, who joined Berkeley High as a video teacher in 1997, had just completed her graduate thesis at UC Berkeley on indentured servitude in South Asian communities, researching how people became subject to unfair labor practices when they were flown in from foreign countries to work by their employers. 

“In my own research I was investigating the story myself,” she said. “Around here it was well known that Lakireddy was bringing women from India to sell them into the sex trade. I had sources who gave me first hand information. And I gave the reporters the information.” 

Rasiah also ran a South Asian Girls Club at Berkeley High and persuaded some of its members who were connected to the Lakireddy family to give anonymous interviews to the reporters. 

“It was [former Berkeley High teacher] Rick Ayers who tipped the reporters off about the story,” Rasiah said. “A girl of high school age died across the street from Berkeley High School and Ayers asked the students to question why she wasn’t in school. That was the question that got Lakireddy into so much trouble.” 

Ayers then sent the student reporters to Rasiah, who helped them with the research.  

Although most of the mainstream media had already reported on the death of the young woman from carbon monoxide poisoning in a Berkeley apartment complex, it was Rasiah’s research which helped to connect the dots about how Reddy and his family were importing young women from India to work as sex slaves.  

Reddy was prosecuted for his crimes. 

The Jacket, which is produced twice a month and is about 16 pages long in print, continues to report on important local stories, including city government and politics. 

In 2008, the Jacket reported that it was struggling financially, which led to a flurry of donations, including a big chunk of money— $6,000—from proceeds raised during the performance of the play Yellowjackets at the Berkeley Rep. 

Rasiah said the paper was doing fine at the moment. 



New: Berkeley High Starts Search for New Principal

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Monday April 12, 2010 - 10:58:00 PM

It’s going to be a busy summer for Berkeley High School. The school’s principal, Jim Slemp, is set to retire in June, and Berkeley Unified School District kicked off a search for his replacement this week. 

In a report to District Superintendent Bill Huyett—which is expected to come before the Berkeley Board of Education Wednesday—Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Lisa van Thillo said advertisements for the position had already been posted. 

“Berkeley High School is our only comprehensive high school and as such is the flagship of the District,” van Thillo said in her report. “The selection of a new principal is important to the district and the community. Involving faculty, staff, parents, administrators and students in the hiring process will help us be selective as well as transparent. It will also help the new principal begin his or her position on a positive note.” 

Slemp’s announcement to retire caught many people by surprise, including his staff and students.  

Most of them were sorry to see him go, especially since he had brought about a remarkable change in a public school which until his arrival seven years ago had been characterized as a place where arson, fights and other disciplinary issues were rampant. Every new principal had a difficult time staying for a long time at the administrative helm. 

Slemp’s decision was welcomed by his critics, most of whom clashed with him over a proposal to reduce instructional time for the school’s science labs. 

The district’s Human Resources department is recommending that the district conduct two panels for the interview process: technical and community. 

The technical panel will comprise of administrative, certificated and classified staff and it will be responsible for assessing specific administrative skills.  

The community panel, on the other hand, will gauge skills related to community and interpersonal relations. 

Van Thillo noted in her report that “because Berkeley has so many active parents and community groups, it may be difficult to limit the number of people serving on the interview panel.” 

She outlined a public process in the report and requested the school board to give directions about the composition of the community panel, which will not exceed a total of 10 members.  

The superintendent or his designee will conduct staff and community input sessions to receive feedback about the qualities the public want to see in a new principal. 

The panel will refer to this while interviewing candidates. 


School and Community Meetings 

April 19 from 8 – 9:30 a.m. 

Certificated and Classified Academic Choice, Electives, and office staff. 

April 26 from 8 – 9:30 a.m. 

Certificated and Classified from BIHS and Small Schools and other staff. 

April 27 from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. and again from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. 

Parent and Community meetings. 

This information will be posted, published and distributed over the next two weeks. 


Interview Panels 

The technical panel has been formed to address issues related to the supervision of instruction, learning modalities, curriculum development, budget management and employee evaluation.  

The recommendation from school district staff is to pick the ten panel members from the different unions in the district as well as the Director of Personnel Services Pasqual Scuderi. 

Assistant Superintendent Neil Smith will facilitate this panel. 

The community panel will address interpersonal relations, attitudes about students, leadership, decision making, and school safety.  

The ten-member panel will be representatives selected by various parent and community groups.  

According to the district’s recommendation, the members will be picked from Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action, the BHS Parent Teacher and Student Association, the Berkeley High School Site Governance Council, the Berkeley Development Group and the Vision 2020 citywide equity task force among others.  

There will also be a school board member present on the panel and it will be moderated by Superintendent Huyett. 

If the district doesn’t find the initial panel to be diverse enough, then it may seek new members. 

Scores from each panel and a writing test will be combined and tallied to determine the candidates for the final interview, according to van Thillo, who will oversee the process. 



Updated: UC Berkeley Student Arrested For Battery After Police Car Crash

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Monday April 12, 2010 - 06:54:00 PM

A UC Berkeley student present at the scene of a collision between a Berkeley police car and a car full of teenagers early Sunday morning was arrested “for challenging an officer for a fight and refusing to leave the crime scene,” a Berkeley Police Department public information officer said Monday.  

The student, however, is alleging that he was beaten up by Berkeley Police Department officers without any reason.  

In an e-mail to the Planet Monday, UC Berkeley undergraduate Evan Cox alleged that he and his friend were physically abused by Berkeley city police officers simply because they walked up to the accident scene and asked questions.  

BPD spokesperson Lt. Andrew Greenwood said the student could file a complaint with the Berkeley Police Department’s Internal Affairs bureau which handles officer misconduct.  

On Sunday, April 11, the Berkeley Police Department reported that a Berkeley police officer driving a patrol car was injured in a collision with another car full of teenagers.  

The officer was going west on Haste Street at about 1:20 a.m. when a white sedan with five teenagers driving north allegedly ran a red light at Telegraph Avenue and T-boned the officer’s car, police said.  

The sedan crashed into a power pole following the collision and the patrol car hit the corner of a building located at the northwest corner of Telegraph and Haste.  

Both cars were totaled on impact, and the officer escaped with neck and back pain. The officer, a 20-year veteran whose name was not released, was taken to a local hospital and discharged after several hours.  

The teenagers in the sedan were not hurt and police don’t believe that the car’s 17-year-old driver had been under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  

The driver was not arrested and the California Highway Patrol is currently investigating the crash, Greenwood said.  

Cox said that he did not witness the actual accident because it took place directly behind him. He said that when he turned around, he saw that the traffic light on Telegraph for pedestrians was green and switched to “yellow a couple of seconds” later.  

“Many others claimed the officer had run the red light,” he said.  

Greenwood said that anyone who saw anything related to the accident should contact the California Highway Patrol, which is the investigating agency any time a police officer is involved in a car accident.  

Cox said that as he “moved in to make sure if anyone was hurt” with his friend Gabriella Calvo, BPD Sergeant Hong, who arrived at the scene “dressed in jeans and a windbreaker began pushing Gabriella away.”  

“Unsure of who this man was, I approached him and told him there was no need to put his hands on the woman, took her by the arm and began to walk away,” Cox said. “I was then grabbed on the arm and assaulted by Hong, who twisted it in a possible attempt to subdue me.”  

Cox said that he ran briefly, then turned around to say he was not running any more and “asked why they were doing this.”  

“At this point, an officer running straight at me struck me in the face causing my nose to bleed excessively,” he said. “I was tackled by two other officers and beaten in the legs and back with a baton and arrested after not laying a finger on anyone.”  

Cox said in his e-mail that “this aspect of the story has not been mentioned yet and I feel it is necessary for the community to know about these unacceptable and deplorable actions taken by BPD.”  

Greenwood said that BPD officers arrived at the scene of the collision to find a group of people standing close to the scene, yelling obscenities at the police officers who were trying to move people away from the scene.  

He said that when officers warned the crowd to step away, most of them complied except for two people.  

“One of them (Cox) took a fighting stance against the officers and raised his arms,” he said. “As the officers took ahold of the person, he took off running. Two officers ran after him and when they caught up to him he struggled.”  

Greenwood said that Cox refused to respond to orders to stop resisting arrest and ultimately was forced into handcuffs and brought to the Berkeley police station.  

Cox, a 21-year-old Oxnard resident, was cited for resisting arrest, battery on a police officer and interference with a police officer and released.  

“The case will go to the District Attorney who may or may not decide to charge him (Cox), Greenwood said.  

Cox said that he and his friend Gabriella had been some of the first people to be at the scene of the accident.  

“I was just making sure people were OK,” he said. “Sgt. Hong had barely started telling us to comply, at which point he started pushing Gabby away.”  

Cox said that later when the police got ahold of him, he had struggled a bit. “I was really angry and kept saying ‘why are you doing this?’” he said.  

Christina Slores, a third year UC Berkeley student who lives in an apartment located at the intersection where the crash took place, called the Planet to say that she had witnessed Berkeley police harassing Cox and Calvo. 

“I heard the crash and was at the scene within five minutes of it,” she said. “I saw a guy, whom I later came to know was Evan, standing across the street. I didn’t think he was hostile towards the officers. All of a sudden I saw an officer push him and he kind of instinctively pushed the officer forward. He probably realized he had done something wrong and started running. Three or four police officers started chasing him. The thing that got me angry was that the officers pushed him for no apparent reason. That could have been me, standing there, getting treated like that.” 

Cox said he was planning to press charges against the Berkeley police officers and would try to get his charges dropped.  





Updated: Opposing Groups Get Ready for UC Berkeley Israel Divestment Bill Showdown

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday April 09, 2010 - 06:55:00 PM
Notable supporters of the UC Berkeley Israel divestment bill include Archbishop Desmond Tutu. UC Berkeley Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture Daniel Boyarin, UC Berkeley Professor of Hebrew and Jewish Studies Chana Kronfeld; founder of Shomer Shalom Institute for Jewish Nonviolence, Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb and Hedy Epstein, an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor. Students for Justice in Palestine, above, display Tutu's speech during a silent rally supporting the bill Wednesday
By Riya Bhattacharjee
Notable supporters of the UC Berkeley Israel divestment bill include Archbishop Desmond Tutu. UC Berkeley Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture Daniel Boyarin, UC Berkeley Professor of Hebrew and Jewish Studies Chana Kronfeld; founder of Shomer Shalom Institute for Jewish Nonviolence, Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb and Hedy Epstein, an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor. Students for Justice in Palestine, above, display Tutu's speech during a silent rally supporting the bill Wednesday
By Riya Bhattacharjee

Supporters and opponents of Israeli government policies are getting ready for the UC Berkeley Israel divestment bill showdown Wednesday, with luminaries including South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu joining the list of divestment endorsers.  

Student senators are expected to vote April 14 on whether to override their president’s veto on the bill, which encourages the university to stop investing in companies doing business with Israel. 

The bill also ensures that no student senate funds are invested in the two companies—General Electric and United Technologies— who provide the Israeli military with weapons.  

Although a 16-4 vote of the Associated Students of the University of California cleared the bill March 18, it was struck down by ASUC President Will Smelko a week later.  

Smelko said he disagreed with the narrow focus of the bill. “No matter what I do, large groups of people are going to be very mad and upset..” he said. 

Emily Carlton, one of the ASUC senators who voted for the bill, said that the senate bylaws allow the president to veto any bill passed by the senate, and the senate can then override it with a two-thirds vote.  

“Clearly, the bylaws are flawed,” Carlton said. “However, I am not sure that this was foreseeable, since I don’t think the ASUC has ever faced such a controversial bill—at least not that I have heard about. Essentially, [Smelko] vetoed it on the basis of it being divisive of the student body, and said that the ASUC is not meant to divide people.” 

The passage of the bill sparked immediate controversy, with opponents of the bill trying their best to dissuade the ASUC to change its mind through letters and e-mail campaigns. 

While the bill is titled “UC Divestment From War Crimes,” it focuses on the Middle East conflict and decries human rights violations by the Israeli Army in Gaza and the West Bank. 

Its critics have denounced the singling out of Israel as unfair, anti-Jewish, and even anti-Semitic, given that war crimes and human rights violations take place in other countries as well. 

The senators who support the bill say that Israel was used as a case study to shed light on the problems going on there.  

They have pointed to divestment bills passed by the senate in the past to oppose the South African Apartheid and the genocide in Sudan, but Smelko dismissed those instances as being different. 

Pro-Israel groups flooded Smelko and UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s office with e-mails urging them to withdraw the bill, and one Israeli advocacy group StandWithUs even took credit for the campaign in an email to those who support their position. 

“A large percentage of you wrote impressive letters to UC Berkeley opposing the Student Senate divestment resolution,” the letter said. “We have hundreds of copies of your letters. As a result of everyone’s efforts, including an incredibly dedicated group of Berkeley students, the president of the Student Senate (Will Smelko) vetoed the divestment bill. Please send him a note of thanks, at president@asuc.org” 

The StandWithUs e-mail said the bill was “orchestrated by UC Berkeley student group Students for Justice in Palestine.  

“If [Smelko’s veto] is overturned, this is the first time a divestment bill will be upheld in a large, public US institution,” it said. 

Meanwhile, former Daily Planet reporter Richard Brenneman reported on his blog that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) recently kicked off a campaign to take over student government on the Berkeley campus. 

There is plenty happening on the other end of the spectrum as well.  

A group of local Jews are doing their best to encourage the senators not to take back their votes. 

A letter circulated to the Jewish community asks them to “stand up for justice” and sign an advertisement in the UC Berkeley student newspaper, The Daily Californian, to support the divestment vote. 

Sixteen “brave senators voted for a measure calling for UC to divest from companies that profit from and enable Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land, Israel’s illegal settlements, Israel’s illegal wall, and Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes,” the letter says. “Unfortunately, right-wing pro-Israel activists sent a flood of e-mails to the student president's office. He vetoed the bill six days later.” 

The letter warns that although only 14 votes are needed to override the veto, four of the original 16 senators are members of the president’s political party, Student Action,’ “and they are under enormous pressure to switch their votes.” 

Part of the text of the ad reads: 

“We are Jews and we yearn for a future in which Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace and safety, with dignity and human rights for all, when Palestinians will be free from oppression, and when Israelis will be free from being ordered to assume a uniform to enforce that oppression ... Please do not be dissuaded by the misleading arguments of some of our Jewish brothers and sisters intended to weaken your resolve. This is an historic moment in which the ASUC can contribute to our dreams for our children— Jewish, Muslim, and Christian alike.” 

On Tuesday, a press release from Students for Justice in Palestine said that 263 Jews from the Bay Area, Israel and around the world had signed a political advertisement supporting the student senate bill, which appeared in Tuesday’s print edition of the UC Berkeley student newspaper The Daily Californian. 

Notable signatories include UC Berkeley Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture Daniel Boyarin, UC Berkeley Professor of Hebrew and Jewish Studies Chana Kronfeld; founder of Shomer Shalom Institute for Jewish Nonviolence, Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb and Hedy Epstein, an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor.  

The Daily Cal ad comes right after the announcement by Nobel Peace Prize Winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu that he supports the divestment bill, saying “I have been to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and I have witnessed the racially segregated roads and housing that reminded me so much of the conditions we experienced in South Africa under the racist system of Apartheid.” 

Students for Justice in Palestine will be holding a silent protest in front of Sproul Hall at noon Wednesday to oppose the veto. 

An e-mail from Jewish Voice for Peace charged that "the bill's opponents have been waging a fierce campaign of misinformation, including a closed door meeting with the Israeli Consulate General where student senators were actually told that massive Jewish criticism of Israeli human rights violations is a cultural pathology." The e-mail talked about rumors of Harvard professor and bill opponent Alan Dershowitz arriving on campus Wednesday. 

Carlton, who is getting ready to vote again on Wednesday, said that “the bill just encourages UC to divest, it doesn’t actually do anything.”  

Carlton, who is getting ready to vote again on Wednesday, said that “the bill just encourages UC to divest, it doesn’t actually do anything.” 

“Mainly, it will send a message to other universities,” she said. We have already been contacted by a student leader at Oberlin College who heard about it and wanted to do the same thing. That is where the effectiveness lies.” 


The ASUC meeting is scheduled to take place Wednesday, April 14, at 7 p.m, in the senate chambers, 400 Eshelman Hall on the UC Berkeley campus. 



New: Artists Connected With Berkeley Rep Recognized by the Pulitzers

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Monday April 12, 2010 - 07:22:00 PM

The Berkeley Rep said Monday that two artists associated with the theater were recognized for their work when the Pulitzer Prize for Drama was announced today. 

Tom Kitt—the orchestrator and arranger of American Idiot, a one-act stage musical adaptation of punk rock band Green Day’s album of the same name—won this year’s Pulitzer along with his collaborator Brian Yorkey for their work in the critically-acclaimed musical Next to Normal, Berkeley Rep spokesperson Terence Keane said. 

Next to Normal is about a suburban mother’s struggle with mental illness. 

The Pulitzer committee also recognized Sarah Ruhl as a finalist for this year’s prize for In the Next Room (or the vibrator play), a comedy set in the 1880s. The script for In the Next Room was commissioned by Berkeley Rep. It premiered at the theater before going on to Broadway. 

“Our congratulations go out to Tom and Sarah for their fine work,” Keane said. “We’re proud that we have the opportunity to work with America’s top artists.”

New: Defendent's Friend is Reluctant Witness at Berkeley Student Murder Trial

By Bay City News
Monday April 12, 2010 - 03:43:00 PM

A friend of a man accused of murdering University of California at Berkeley student Christopher Wootton near campus two years ago is testifying today as a reluctant prosecution witness in the case. 

Christopher Wilcox, under questioning by prosecutor Connie Campbell, said he came to court because he was subpoenaed Saturday night after his band's show. 

Wilcox said he didn't return recent phone calls from Campbell's investigator because "I lost my phone," saying, "I've been hard to get ahold of." 

Campbell told jurors in her opening statement in the case last month that Wilcox was with 22-year-old Andrew Hoeft-Edenfield in the early morning hours of May 3, 2008, when she alleges Hoeft-Edenfield stabbed to death 21-year-old Christopher Wootton in the parking lot of a sorority house near campus. 

Campbell said the stabbing occurred after Wootton and his friends got into a drunken shouting match with Hoeft-Edenfield and his friends. 

Hoeft-Edenfield's attorney, Yolanda Huang, told jurors that she will ask them to deliver a not-guilty verdict at the end of the case because she believes Hoeft-Edenfield acted in self-defense after he was outnumbered and surrounded by Wootton and a large group of Wootton's friends. 

Asked by Campbell today if he was in court to support  

Hoeft-Edenfield, Wilcox said, "Yes ma'am." 

Asked if he threw a subpoena into a trash can when he was served in 2008, Wilcox said, "I'm not sure." 

Wootton, who was from Bellflower in Southern California, was only a few weeks away from graduating with honors in nuclear engineering when he was killed. 


New: ACLU Letter Alleges Abuse of UC Disciplinary Procedures

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday April 09, 2010 - 05:48:00 PM

The American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau April 6 objecting to the university’s handling of student misconduct charges following a Dec. 11 protest outside the chancellor’s house. 

Triggered by what it said were extremely restrictive suspension conditions imposed on students in the aftermath of the protest, the letter calls attention to problems in the university’s disciplinary procedures, particularly in the context of UC Berkeley students Zach Bowin and Angela Miller. 

In a nine-page letter to the chancellor and Academic Senate Chair Christopher Kutz, the two governing entities of the campus, ACLU staff attorney Julia Mass detailed how the interim suspensions imposed on Bowin and Miller stood out as examples of abuse of university authority and violation of the students’ constitutional rights. 

Mass asked the university to “immediately take steps to change its policies and procedures to address these concerns.” 

According to Bowin and Miller’s attorney, UC Berkeley Law School lecturer Steve Rosenbaum, Kutz sent an e-mail reply to the ACLU saying he wanted Berkeley’s Code of Conduct to be the “gold standard” for student conduct codes. 

On Wednesday, the Student Affairs Committee of the Academic Senate conducted proceedings involving the student suspensions. 

Rosenbaum called it “a good sign.” 

Bowin and Miller were two of eight protesters arrested following a demonstration outside the chancellor’s house against budget cuts, fee hikes and furloughs. 

The chancellor and his wife said they were frightened when windows, lights and planters were smashed, and incendiary objects were thrown at the building.  

The protesters 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.  

Although the District Attorney’s office later dismissed the charges, Bowin and Miller were placed on interim suspension for their participation in an on-campus demonstration.  

The ACLU letter charged “that while the charges against them, if proven, would certainly warrant disciplinary action, the interim suspensions were issued without a pre-suspension hearing and without regard for the purpose and limits of interim suspensions.” 

According to the ACLU, although the interim suspensions received by Bowin and Miller included charges, there were no specific facts or evidence in support of them. 

Both students missed final examinations and were banned from entering any part of the Berkeley campus or communicating with any member of the university community, about any subject, on or off campus, whether in person, on the telephone, or by e-mail. 

For Miller, who lived in student housing, the suspension also meant immediate eviction from her university-leased co-op apartment “prior to any opportunity to respond to the charges against her.” 

Bowin testified at one of his hearings that he thought “he was joining a peaceful protest and did not commit or approve of any acts of violence.” 

Citing the “limited information” available and his excellent student record, the hearing panel dismissed his charges entirely in February. Although he was very quickly let back on campus, Miller’s story was a different one altogether. 

The panel report indicated that her “commitment to [her studies] was not clear, and concluded that her failure to show remorse did not fit with her claims to be anti vandalism and violence. 

Miller still has charges pending against her and can come onto campus only for classes.  

She can arrive 15 minutes ahead of time and leave 15 minutes after class and is not allowed to go to libraries, cafes or events on campus. 

Rosenbaum said Miller received additional charges from the university in mid-February for violating her interim suspension because she attended an on-campus student conduct forum. 

Miller’s conduct hearing has been set for May 7 at the earliest. 

“Part of that is because we filed a grievance on her behalf because the university was unfairly applying its own policy,” Rosenbaum said, adding that the conditions of interim suspension were overly broad and tantamount to punishment. 

Campus Counsel Mark Smith said that although he couldn’t comment about individual student cases or complaints about disciplinary procedures because of the ongoing student conduct process, he “would be looking at some of the cases and planned to re-write the Student Conduct Code in the forthcoming months.” 

“I’ll be looking at suggestions and case references made in the ACLU letter,” he said. “I certainly don’t agree with a lot of the complaints, but we always think there is room for improvement.” 

“They say that, but what are they doing about it?” Rosenbaum responded. 

Smith said the April 6 letter was the first time the ACLU had contacted the university about their concerns regarding the suspensions. 

“We have certainly had correspondence with the students’ lawyers about some of the same concerns,” he said. 

Rosenbaum said that ACLU staff attorney Michael Risher had contacted the university right after the December incident to express concern that, in the absence of specific evidence surrounding the case, the actions taken by UC police might have violated the protesters’ constitutional rights.  

“They have been weighing in since then,” Rosenbaum said. “Once the ACLU speaks, people listen.” 




Panoramic Hill Neighbors Settle Memorial Stadium Lawsuit with UC

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday April 08, 2010 - 09:09:00 AM

A lawsuit filed by a Berkeley neighborhood group over UC Berkeley’s controversial Memorial Stadium expansion project has been settled out of court.  

The lawsuit, originally filed by the City of Berkeley, the Panoramic Hill Association and the California Oak Foundation in fall of 2006 against the University of California, challenged the seven projects included in the Southeast Campus Integrated Projects.  

Although the City of Berkeley, which was concerned about a massive parking garage proposed in the Integrated Projects, dropped out of the lawsuit mid-way after receiving a set of assurances to its concerns from the university in July 2008, Panoramic Hill Association and the California Oak Foundation battled on.  

But on Tuesday, Michael Kelly, president of the Panoramic Hill Association, said his organization had reached an agreement with the university “that involves the use of the stadium in the future.”  

Kelly said that as mandated in the agreement, both PHA and UC Berkeley were working on a joint statement which would be released over the next couple of days.  

“There were a lot of different issues in the lawsuit involving impacts on the neighborhood, impacts on the city,” Kelly said. “We will address everything in the statement.”  

UC Berkeley also declined to make any comments as of Tuesday.  

“The settlement was just completed and we are currently working with PHA on a joint statement that will detail the provisions and impacts of the agreement,” said university spokesperson Dan Mogulof.  

According to an email sent to the lawyers of the California Oak Foundation by PHA’s attorney Michael R. Lozeau, the settlement agreement does not alter the existing Superior Court judgment regarding the Memorial Stadium project or the foundation’s pending appeal.  

However, the email says that the lawsuit “does resolve PHA’s pending [attorney] fee claim, and includes conditions regarding future events, stadium operations, an emergency vehicle on Panoramic Hill, complaint system, noise analyses, and various procedural interactions between PHA and the university.”  

Kelly said provisions such as no amplified music concerts or NFL events at Memorial Stadium had already been specified in the project’s environmental report.  

According to the settlement agreement, UC Berkeley has agreed to pay PHA’s attorney’s fees amounting to $75,000. Both parties have also agreed to waive claims of certain other costs.  

Steven Volker, the attorney representing the California Oak Foundation, sent a letter to Lozeau and the university’s lawyer Charles Olson saying that he objected to one of the settlement’s provisions which he felt might detract from any subsequent ruling in the continuing appeal.  

Volker asked both attorneys to confirm that the settlement “has no effect on California Oaks’ separate lawsuit and appeal in the California Appellate Court.”  

“... If California Oaks’ legal challenges are sustained in whole or in part by that court or by the California Supreme Court, then such judicial resolution of those challenges will constitute the ‘final judicial determination’ of the validity of these projects and approvals,” not the agreement signed by the university and the Panoramic Hill Association, Volker’s letter said.  

The lawyers for the parties to the recent settlement assured Volker in an e-mail that the agreement would have no effect on the California Oak Foundation’s case and the pending appeal.  

Meanwhile, Stand UP for Berkeley! (SUBF!) and the Council of Neighborhood Associations (CNA)—comprised of Berkeley residents and Panoramic Hill neighbors—filed a new lawsuit in February challenging what they said were a list of substantial changes to the stadium construction project released by the university in December.  

They also objected to an “addendum” to the Environmental Impact Report, which they contend can only be approved when the changes proposed don’t have any significant environmental impact.  

“We sued saying that these changes clearly do have significant impact,” said Nigel Guest, a Panoramic Hill resident who is on the steering committee for Stand UP for Berkeley!  

Guest said that the university was proposing to completely remodel Witter Field in Strawberry Canyon which is an environmentally sensitive area.  

It is also planning to lower the playing field by two feet for better views from certain stadium seats which would involve “a very large earth moving exercise," he said.  

Guest said that an addendum was not subject to formal public comment. He said that the appellants wanted to see the addendum replaced with a “supplement,” which is a much lengthier document and requires public comment.  

When asked about what he though of the settlement agreement, Guest, who is a member of the Panoramic Hill Association, said “it stinks.”  

“All the negotiations were conducted in total secrecy,” he said. “I only found out about them by accident. I wasn’t informed by the board. The PHA has given up its right to take legal action against UC, which is why I joined Stand UP for Berkeley!”  

SUFB! and CNA are suing over an amendment to the state's Local Government Omnibus Act, which exempts Memorial Stadium and other state historic structures from legal restrictions on building across earthquake faults.  

Memorial Stadium straddles the Hayward Fault. 

The university succeeded in convincing lawmakers to add this amendment to the Omnibus Bill, which has traditionally included only non-controversial subjects.  

UC has defended its action by saying the provision would only apply to retrofitting existing structures, and not to new construction.  

However, critics of the Memorial Stadium project say that it is more than just a retrofit project.  

The UC Regents approved $321 million for the 87-year-old Memorial Stadium renovation and retrofit in January which is expected to be completed by the beginning of the 2012 football season.  

Seventy percent of construction costs are directly tied to retrofitting and code compliance, Mogulof said. 

The stadium will be closed during UC Berkeley’s 2011 football season when Cal will play at another venue.  

Alternate locations proposed by the university include the Oakland Colosseum, Candlestick Park and AT&T Park. 

Mogulof said that the project will be funded mainly by sales of long-term rights to 3,000 of the approximately 60,000 seats in the renovated stadium. 

This is being done through the university’s Endowment Seating Program, he said, acknowledging that it is something more common in professional football stadiums.  

A March 30 article in the San Francisco Chronicle by David Downs underscored the precarious financial position the intercollegiate athletic department is currently in. It is presently being heavily subsidized by the university. 

“Intercollegiate athletics will be responsible to pay off the debt over the next 30 years,” Mogulof said. “Their funding will be enhanced with revenue from the Endowment Seating Program. We expect the project will place no burden on intercollegiate athletics because revenue from the renovated stadium is expected to exceed the project’s total costs.” 

The university has already sold 60 percent of the seats, raising $150 million. 

"We are way ahead in our financial model even in the current economy,” Mogulof said. 

He said most of the people who were buying the seats were individual donors. 

"We have sold 60 percent of the seats 30 months before the stadium will open," he said, comparing it with other public university endowment seating programs which have been less successful this year. 

Guest said that the appellants were challenging the amendment on constitutional grounds because they are furious it was slipped into a local government Omnibus Bill.  

“And it has nothing to do with local government,” Guest said.  

Guest and SUFB! member Hank Gehman met on Tuesday with Assemblymember Roger Niello(R-Fair Oaks) in Sacramento, who is proposing to convert the amendment into a single-subject bill to comply with conditions outlined by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger when he signed off on it in October.  

Concerned about the modifications to Alquist-Priolo, the main earthquake protection statute in the state which regulates and prevents building on earthquake faults, the governor asked the proponents of the amendment 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.  

However, Guest said that he didn’t think the language in the proposed bill was addressing the governor’s concerns. “I think it’s being done to void out our lawsuit,” he said. “We are trying to get Niello to amend the bill.”  

The proposed bill is scheduled to come up for a first committee hearing next week.  


California Democracy Act Fails to Collect Enough Signatures for November Ballot

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday April 08, 2010 - 08:57:00 AM

The California Democracy Act hasn't gathered enough signatures to guarantee a place on the November ballot, an e-mail message from campaign volunteers announced Wednesday. 

Titled “the campaign for the California Democracy Act thanks you,” the e-mail informed supporters that the first version of the 

California Democracy Act had been withdrawn. 

Written by UC Berkeley professor George Lakoff, the Democracy Act sought to have all legislative actions on revenue and budget decided by a majority vote.  

California is the only state in the nation to give a 34 percent minority of its state lawmakers direct control over all such legislation—which some say is responsible for the current fiscal crisis. 

Lakoff sent his own message to supporters, telling them that he had submitted a second “more detailed” version to the Attorney General’s office, for which signatures would need to be gathered by June 24. 

“Our job is not over,” Lakoff said. “The citizens of our state need to know that this is the only state in America whose legislature is completely under minority rule. They need to know that an overwhelming majority of our legislators [67 percent] are acting responsibly and are not to blame for the legislative dysfunction. They need to know that it is the ultra-conservative minority, acting out their ideology, that is to blame.” 

The campaign e-mail also told recipients that the April 8 “sorting party” for the Democracy Act in Concord had been canceled. 

“You are the first to receive this announcement, since you are the volunteers who gathered those signatures,” it said. “Although it is disappointing after all your hard work to discover that we have come up short, we hope that you feel as good as we do about what we’ve accomplished.” 

The e-mail detailed how a five-month-old grassroots level organization was able to start an “educational and promotional” effort by discussing various issues with voters, collecting tens of thousands of signatures.  

“Many learned about the 2/3 rules for the first time,” it said. “We’ve personally learned that the measure is supported by a huge percentage of voters when we told them about it and asked them to sign.” 

More than 10,000 students marched to Sacramento March 22 to lobby lawmakers in the Capitol. The 10-campus University of California and the California State University system are both facing enormous deficits and fee hikes because of the state budget cuts. 

“We were poised for success when the clock ran out,” said the e-mail from field coordinator Ellis Goldberg and campaign manager Chandra Friese, urging people to consider other initiatives geared toward changing California governance. 

In the past, initiatives which have raised over a million dollars and carried out more than a year of planning have failed to qualify for the ballot. 

In general, only one in five campaigns qualify for the ballot through the initiative process. 


Councilmember Moore Named Chair of NBJC Board

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday April 08, 2010 - 12:01:00 PM

The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) announced Wednesday that it had named Berkeley Councilmember Darryl Moore as the chair of its board of directors. 

A civil rights organization dedicated to empowering Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, NBJC seeks to eradicate racism and homophobia.  

Moore is a management analyst for the Oakland Housing Authority and serves as a board member of the West Berkeley Foundation and the East Bay Community Scholarship Foundation. 

Moore was elected to the Peralta Community College Board of Trustees in 2000, becoming the first openly gay African-American elected to office in the East Bay.  

He has also served on the Board of the West Berkeley Foundation, the Berkeley Public Library Foundation, YMCA and Berkeley Youth Alternatives. 

“Councilman Moore is an asset to his community in Berkeley and a respected leader in the LGBT community,” said Sharon J. Lettman, NBJC’s President and CEO. “We look forward to his contributions as a member of the National Black Justice Coalitions’s board of directors. NBJC is focused on elevating and empowering the voices of invisible Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, and we think Councilman Moore’s insights and leadership will be what we need to guide NBJC in this new decade and beyond.” 

After moving to Berkeley in 1997, Moore worked as an Aide to Councilmember Kriss Worthington.  

He went on to work for the City of Berkeley’s Department of Public Works as a Senior Management Analyst, working in budget, capital projects and fiscal planning. 

“The work of the National Black Justice Coalition is critical as the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Equal Rights Movement is growing significantly,” said Moore. “I’m excited about working with Sharon and my colleagues on the board of directors to move NBJC forward and significantly improve the lives of Black LGBT people in America and throughout the world.”  


Updated: Friends, Family Shocked By Death of Berkeley High Students

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday April 08, 2010 - 09:50:00 AM
Berkeley High School students Prentice Gray and Kyle Strang were killed in an auto accident in Richmond last week.
Berkeley High School students Prentice Gray and Kyle Strang were killed in an auto accident in Richmond last week.

For Berkeley High School students Prentice Gray and Kyle Strang, the end of their incredible friendship came too soon. 

Both boys, who called each other brothers, died instantly in a car crash in Richmond last Wednesday afternoon, shocking family, friends and those who knew them closely over the years. 

Gray graduated in 2009 and was taking an year off from school to work while Strang was expected to graduate in 2011. 

Richmond police spokesperson Sgt. Bisa French said the accident happened around 12:45 p.m. March 31, when Strang’s car, a Dodge sedan, lost control while speeding north on Richmond Parkway, crossed over the raised center median and collided head-on into a school bus.  

“Both of them were killed on the spot,” French said. “There were no kids on the bus and the bus driver was not hurt. We are in the process of reconstructing the accident right now.” 

The road was closed in both directions for more than five hours as police investigated the accident. 

French said the Richmond Police and Fire departments and ambulances responded immediately to the scene and found the Dodge to be completely damaged. 

“The vehicle was completely smashed under the bus,” she said. “It was stuck underneath it. They had to lift the bus off the car to get to the people inside it.” 

French said that so far there was no indication that drugs or alcohol had been involved in the accident. Toxicology reports are expected in two weeks. 

The bus belonged to a Richmond company called First Student and was not affiliated to the Contra Costa Unified School District, French said 

“Prentice’s mom called me at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday and told me that there was an accident and Prentice and Kyle had passed away,” said Dustin Michaels, who was in Gray’s class at Berkeley High and is close to his family. “I was going to meet with them later that night, but they died. I know they didn’t deserve to die. They were both like brothers to me. Prentice and Kyle were always together and they loved each other and we loved them back.” 

Strang’s uncle, landscape architect Ron Lutsko, said the accident appeared to be a “classic case of a young and inexperienced driver losing control of the vehicle.” 

“They had dropped the family cat off at the vet, were heading to an auto repair shop, driving north on Richmond Parkway, and lost control, jumping the divider and hitting the southbound bus head on,” Lutsko said. “It appears that they died instantly. Kyle and Prentice were both very happy, on upward swings in their personal evolution, connected to a wide community of friends and family, and their lives ended on a high note.” 

Son of Craig Strang and Sharleen Harty, Strang was born and raised in Berkeley. He became Bar Mitzvah at Lawrence Hall of Science where his father is associate director.  

A straight A and B student, Strang wanted to live in Israel and become a writer. 

Lutsko said Strang’s weekends were spent playing baseball in the Little League, where he was pitcher and second baseman. 

Quick to make friends, Strang developed a wide circle centered around his passion for his community, baseball, mixed martial arts and his small school at Berkeley High, Communication, Arts and Sciences. 

CAS teacher Dharini Rasiah said she was devastated by the news. Berkeley High is closed this week for spring break, but students and teachers have been going over to support the families of both boys over the last couple of days. 

“Kyle was fiercely loyal to his family, friends and classmates,” Lutsko said. “Everyone who knew him understood that he was always happy to be there at a moment’s notice. He had a particularly deep connection to his cousins.”  

In addition to his immediate family, Strang is survived by his many aunts, uncles and cousins. 

“Kyle was the most motivated, amazing, honest, and truly real person I have ever known,” said Allie McCoy, one of Strang’s best friends at Berkeley High. “He was always there to listen and give great advice. He was so funny—his laugh kills me inside when I hear it in videos now.” 

Gray’s friends said that his death was especially hard for his family because his father Prentice Gray Sr. had passed away in 2003.  

Gray lived in South Berkeley with his 13-year-old sister Amri who is a student at King Middle School and mother Irma. 

Michaels said Strang, a junior at Berkeley High, lived right across the street from Gray. 

“He (Strang) was a really good kid, very social,” said Michaels. “He was a cool guy and liked going to parties and meeting people—a regular 16-year-old. I spent a lot of time hanging out with both of them and I’ll miss them a lot.” 

A member of the Albany Junior League, Strang’s Facebook page showcases the usual mix of high school humor and interests—including funny YouTube videos—as well as pride in his Jewish heritage. 

Condolence messages from friends and family started pouring into both the students’ Facebook walls right after the news started spreading.  

“Rest In Peace to my brothers Kyle Strang and Prentice Theodore Gray. I love yall. you will be missed,” wrote one Berkeley High alum on Strang’s wall. 

Berkeley High student Tommy Nguyen offered a mixtape, while others scribbled memories of the two boys. 

Gray’s Facebook page is typical of a high school teenager’s, where he professes his love for homemade chocolate chip cookies, ice cream sandwiches, Jay Z, hot showers, the beach, Harry Potter, the Golden State Warriors, Tiger Woods and Jackie Chang. 

A profile of Gray for Farm Fresh Produce, where he worked, says: 

“Prentice T. Gray, is one of the coolest people you’ll ever meet. Raised in South Berkeley by his loving mother and supporting family, he has been able to help his peers with many hard situations “ 

Berkeley High English teacher Susannah Bell, who taught Gray for four years at Community Partnerships Academy, described him as “a profoundly intelligent, uproariously funny, deeply caring person who had probably the most fun-loving spirit I have ever encountered.”  

“Not a day went by that he didn’t bring a smile to my face,” Bell said. “On his last day of high school, I told him he was the face of CPA, and I still believe that. He was. He gave so much love to 

those he was close to, and even those he barely knew. He cherished his mother, Irma, who raised him alone after his father passed when Prentice was in middle school. He helped care for his little sister and his baby cousin. He delivered fresh vegetables to those who would otherwise have no access to them. He provided a shoulder to cry on for his many best friends on countless occasions. I say ‘best’ friends because that’s how 

Prentice was. He treated everyone like a best friend, and meant it. He gave of himself that much. I loved him, and I will never forget him.” 

Lily Owens, a close friend of Gray’s from Berkeley High, remembered some of their earlier days together. 

“I met Prentice Gray in my freshman year of high school but we didn’t become close until sophomore year,” she said. “We had biology together and slowly our friendship grew to doing group projects, going out to lunch with each other and having scary movie nights at our friend Chelsa’s house. Whether we were sitting next to each other in class sharing ear phones, drawing all over my arms, getting chicken sandwiches for lunch on school days, or listening to him make fun of everyone in the class there was never a dull moment with Prentice.” 

Owens described Gray as “one of the greatest friends that I have ever had.”  

“He made my life so much better and I love him more than he will know,” she said. “There won’t be a day that goes by that I won’t think of him and all of the amazing times that we had together. I'll miss his jokes, his laugh, and his ‘brown eyes’ that we always laughed about.” 

Owens said that the last time she saw Gray was last Saturday.  

“We didn’t even do anything, we stood outside my house for half an hour and laughed and talked but I’m so grateful that I got to have that moment,” she said. 

Gray, Owens said, had recently quit his job and was looking for a new one. 

“He told me he wanted to go back to school because he wanted to do something and go somewhere later on,” she said.  

LaShanté Churchwell, Owens’ surrogate sister, said she had met Gray for a brief period but remembered him as “the sweetest high school kid I’ve ever met.” 

“Prentice started new with everyone.” she said. “No pre-judgements, no if’s and’s or but’s about who they were, who they knew or what they did in life.”  




Updated: A Candlelight Vigil Mourns Prentice and Kyle

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday April 08, 2010 - 09:42:00 AM
A candlelight vigil for Kyle Strang and Prentice Gray was held in West Berkeley last Friday.
By Mark Coplan
A candlelight vigil for Kyle Strang and Prentice Gray was held in West Berkeley last Friday.

A candlelight vigil for Kyle Strang, who died in a car accident in Richmond March 31 was held at the park next to Strang's house on Acton Street and University Avenue last Friday.  

Friends and family of both Strang and Prentice Gray, a Berkeley High graduate who was in the passenger seat when the accident happened, gathered in a circle inside the park, sheltering their candles against the cold April winds with their palms. Some leaned against each other, others hugged. A lot of people cried quietly and held hands. Most of Strang's classmates from Berkeley High School showed up, and by 8 p.m., there were more than 200 people at the park. Some of Strang's friends sang his favorite songs. The vigil celebrated the lives of two extraordinary young men who cherished their friendships more than anything else. Strang and Gray were remembered for being good students and dedicated community members,for their warm smiles and generous hugs, for their ability to reach out to anyone at a moment's notice, but most important, for being "true friends."  

“Some of us have been coming to Kyle and Prentice's place since we were kids – they were neighbors,” said one Berkeley High graduate as she walked toward the park with her friends. “They spent a lot of time at each other's house.” 

The tree-lined neighborhood in West Berkeley where both boys lived with their mothers was quiet Friday night. The front door of Strang's house had been left slightly ajar, to allow the steady stream of visitors who have been dropping by over the last few days to enter. 

Berkeley Unified School District spokesperson Mark Coplan said that a lot of members of the Berkeley High community were still finding out about the tragic accident because most of them were away on spring break. 

“I spoke with Berkeley High teacher Phil Halpern who is away on vacation, and he told me Kyle had been like a son to him,” Coplan said. “Phil will be back at the school Monday. He's very unhappy he couldn't be at the vigil today.” 

Berkeley High teacher Dharini Rasiah, who teaches at Communication Arts & Sciences, the small school Strang belonged to, said she was completely devastated. 

"Kyle was completely passionate about everything he did in his life, from his video projects for my class to wanting to live and work in Israel after high school," Rasiah said. "He truly cared about others and wanted the best for everyone. I was always struck by how open and thoughtful he was. He communicated well. Our entire CAS community at Berkeley High is devastated. I will miss him terribly." 

Family and friends of Strang attended his funeral Sunday, April 4, at theTemple Emanu-el in San Francisco. Strang's family would like tax-deductible donations, in Strang's name, to be made to his school, Communication Arts and Science (CAS).  

Funeral services for Gray was held Wednesday, April 7 at Fouche Hudson's funeral home in North Oakland.  


Interview: New Owners of the Oaks Theater

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday April 08, 2010 - 09:39:00 AM

It might take five men from India to save Berkeley’s historic Oaks Theater.  

Bhaskar Molakalapalli, Srini Vejalla, Satish Rayapudi, Satya Penmetsa and Rama Sagiraji have more than complicated last names in common—they share a vision for the future of cinema which they hope will turn the Oaks Theater around. 

As joint partners of Merriment Media Works, the company which leased the Oaks from Berkeley Realtor John Gordon recently, the five have a lot to do to reinvent the 1920’s Art Deco cinema into an attractive destination once again. In a recent email interview with the Planet, they explained a little about how they would go about doing it. 


Daily Planet: Why did you decide to lease the Oaks Theater? 

Merriment Media: We have experience in showing movies in India and we also distribute Indian movies in the United States. So we decided to enter into the movie theater business in the Bay Area. We have screened some Indian movies at our partner theater Serra Theaters in Milpitas which received tremendous response. So we decided to expand our business—we did some research on demographics in the Bay Area and singled out Berkeley as a potential candidate for art, foreign as well as English movies. 

Daily Planet: What can you do for Oaks that the former management could not? 

Merriment Media: Good question. Previously people in the East Bay got a chance to watch only a few foreign language films but predominantly second run English movies at Oaks. Our idea is to screen first run and second run English movies as well as art and foreign language films. Our main idea is to bring Asian and Indian movies to Oaks. Our research shows the Oaks’ neighborhood has a diverse culture which encourages good foreign language movies. 

We want to mix English as well as foreign language films with English subtitles so that East Bay movie-goers can get the ultimate experience. 

Daily Planet: Tell us about your plans for the new theater. 

Merriment Media: We are planning to improve the ambiance of the theater by making some small modifications with the City of Berkeley’s approval. We are currently in the planning stage. We are also trying to bring in a few Asian, Indian and other foreign language films which have received good reviews in other parts of the U.S. We are planning to use digital projection which makes watching movies a wonderful experience. 

Daily Planet: We heard you are interested in bringing dinner and drinks to Oaks? 

Merriment Media: Yes, we do have plans to introduce dinner and drinks while watching movies. We have studied how favorably people are responding to this concept—from Southern California to Washington to Illinois. It can be called the reinvention of the movie-going experience. But our idea is just in the preliminary stage and will have to go through all kinds of formalities first. 

Daily Planet: Can you tell us a bit about your experience in the movie theater industry? 

Merriment Media: We buy Asian and Indian movies for theaters all over the United States and screen them. Some of the theaters are our partners. As a result, we have pretty good experience in dealing with foreign films. Right now we have a partnership with Serra Theaters in Milpitas which mainly shows Indian movies. 

Daily Planet: Are you excited to come to Berkeley? Are you worried about the city’s stringent zoning laws or neighborhood opposition? 

Merriment Media: Yes, we are very excited to come to Berkeley The city has historically encouraged foreign films. It has a world renowned university which caters to students all over the world, diverse neighborhoods and a melting pot of cultures. From what we have heard, the Oaks’ neighborhood is simply excellent. 

Daily Planet: Would you like to hear from the community? 

Merriment Media: We are aware that the local community wanted to save the Oaks’ Theater. We are proud that we are meeting their interests and demands. We hope Berkeley residents, especially those living in the Thousand Oaks neighborhood, will encourage good films as they have done in the past irrespective of region or language so that we can bring some excellent art and foreign language films to the Oaks theater. We firmly believe that ‘for art there is no language.’ We would like to announce that we launched a new website www.BerkeleyOaks.com and we welcome everyone to visit it for movie schedules. We will be introducing a ‘feedback forum’ very soon, where people can share their thoughts and suggestions for the theater. Oaks will be managed by one of our partners, Rama Sagiraju. 




Berkeley Looks at New Medical Marijuana Regulations

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday April 08, 2010 - 09:22:00 AM
The Berkeley Medical Marijuana Commission is looking into new regulations for medical marijuana clubs in Berkeley. The Berkeley Cannabis Buyers Club at 3033 Ashby Avenue, above, is one of three establishments in Berkeley which will be affected by the changes.
By Riya Bhattacharjee
The Berkeley Medical Marijuana Commission is looking into new regulations for medical marijuana clubs in Berkeley. The Berkeley Cannabis Buyers Club at 3033 Ashby Avenue, above, is one of three establishments in Berkeley which will be affected by the changes.

Berkeley might soon start resembling the fictitious city of Agrestic featured in the hit TV series “Weeds,” where a widowed young mother bakes pot cookies at home to make ends meet. 

Except, there would be nothing illegal about it. 

Berkeley’s Medical Cannabis Commission is considering a proposition that would allow all three of the city’s medical marijuana dispensaries to expand beyond retail space to grow cannabis and bake marijuana-laced cookies and brownies in residential and commercial properties 

If this sounds like a belated April Fool’s joke, it’s not. The commission is expected to bring the proposal before the Berkeley City Council on April 27. 

A related proposal from the commission would allow medical marijuana patient groups to grow cannabis or bake marijuana goods inside their homes or commercial spaces and sell them to medical marijuana clinics. 

The idea is not to turn Berkeley into “pot heaven,” but according to the Medical Cannabis Commission, regulate the quality of the grown and baked cannabis goods being sold at dispensaries throughout the city. 

The city is currently contemplating taxing medical cannabis clinics based on their square footage to increase revenue, a move some advocates of medical marijuana view as a bit extreme. 

However, most of them said Wednesday that they approved of the new regulations being proposed. 

“We definitely like it,” said Brad Senesac, director of communications for the Berkeley Patients Group, which is getting ready to move from its tiny space on San Pablo Avenue to the Scharffen Berger candy factory a few blocks away. “We think it will make things better—there will be more policies and procedures in place. Right now you have collectives of patients who grow or make marijuana goods but it’s not regulated by the city’s health department.” 

Most medical cannabis clubs in Berkeley work with specific vendors who have “quality spaces” to grow and develop marijuana products, but “we want more regulation,” Senesac said. “We want the products to be certified.” 

Senesac said the Berkeley Patients Group discussed the proposals with several other dispensaries as well as city officials. 

“With the small space we have right now, we don’t have a bakery or a commercial grow area,” he said. “We barely have room for a dispensary or social services.” 

The Berkeley Patients Group offers therapy, massages and free food and drink and sells products such as cannabis flowers, extracts, oils, chocolates, teas, lemonade and topical ointments. 

Councilmember Kriss Worthington, a staunch advocate of medical marijuana, said that new regulations would clear any ambiguity associated with vendors growing marijuana or selling goods made from it. 

Worthington said that although state Proposition 215 allowed people to grow small quantities of marijuana at home, “it’s a weird thing legally.” 

“The clubs have a permit to dispense it to their patients, but it’s sort of a gray area where the cannabis can be grown before coming to the dispensary,” he said. “We need to figure out a way to provide legal protection to the people who are providing it to the dispensary.” 

Meanwhile, Berkeley’s neighboring cities like Richmond and Walnut Creek are cracking down on cannabis clinics and imposing hefty fines on them.  





Student Arrested in Berkeley High Brawl; North Berkeley Crime Spree Alert

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday April 08, 2010 - 09:05:00 AM

A Berkeley Technology High School student was arrested for attacking a Berkeley High School safety officer during an on-campus fight Monday. 

According to Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Officer Jamie Perkins, about six female students were involved in a fight inside Berkeley High before 12:57 p.m. when some of the school’s safety officers tried to break it up. 

Perkins said she did not know the cause behind the fight. 

One of the students hit two of the officers, one of whom suffered minor injuries to his lip. 

The student, a 17-year-old B-Tech student, was arrested by Berkeley Police Department officers for battery on a school safety officer and trespassing. 

The other five, all minors in their late teens, were released to their parents. 

Berkeley High witnessed a rash of fights and attacks last month, one of them taking place when students attacked a safety officer in Martin Luther King jr. Civic Center Park. The school’s principal, Jim Slemp, is set to retire in June. 


Police Investigate North Berkeley Robbery Spree 

Berkeley police are investigating a series of armed robberies in North Berkeley. 

On Thursday, April 1, right before 10:16 p.m., there was an attempted robbery in the area of Walnut and Cedar streets. 

On Saturday, April 3, at approximately 8:00 p.m., there was an armed robbery in the area of LeConte and Euclid avenues. Thirty minutes later, another armed robbery occurred on the 1800 block of Euclid. 

No one was injured during these incidents. 

The suspects reportedly confront their victims with a gun and demand all their property.  

The Berkeley Police Department has asked the community to remain alert. 

Any one with any information on these crimes should contact the Berkeley Robbery Detail at 981-5742 or the BPD non-emergency number at 981-5900 or from their cell phone at 981-5911. If callers wish to remain anonymous they can call the Bay Area Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).  


Alta Bates Proposal to Close Cardiac Cath Center Alarms Patients

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday April 08, 2010 - 09:04:00 AM
Alta Bates Summit Medical Center is considering closing its cardiac cath lab. The proposal has alarmed patients.
By Riya Bhattacharjee
Alta Bates Summit Medical Center is considering closing its cardiac cath lab. The proposal has alarmed patients.

Alta Bates Summit Medical Center’s proposal to relocate its Cardiac Catheterization Lab from its Ashby Avenue campus to the Summit campus in Oakland has alarmed some longtime patients. 

Considered a lifeline for heart patients in Berkeley, Albany and El Cerrito, the cardiac cath lab program at Alta Bates has been a leader in coronary angioplasty—the process of opening blocked coronary arteries—for more than 20 years. 

But aging facilities and a decision by Kaiser Permanante to not renew its cardiac contract with Alta Bates beyond the 10-year period ending June 30 means that the hospital will have to make some hard choices this month. 

“We are closely examining the possibility of transferring some of the coronary procedures performed in cath lab—less than four a week—to the Summit campus,” said Alta Bates spokesperson Carolyn Kemp. “Regardless, we will maintain cardiac procedures including electrophysiology, ECHO cardiograms and cardiac implant procedures at Alta Bates.” 

Kemp said that without the “Kaiser volume,” Alta Bates will easily be able to relocate services from the “underused” cath lab to Summit. 

Upgrades to the cath lab is estimated to cost at least $2 million, money that Alta Bates parent company, Sutter Health, is not willing to spend. 

The news came as a shock to Berkeley resident Bob Hink, who had an angioplasty performed at the cath lab and is a former member of the Alta Bates Summit Foundation, the hospital’s philanthropic wing. 

“The last meeting I attended in February 2009, we were told that the foundation had $36 million,” Hink said. “And now they are saying they don’t have $2 million to fix the lab? It’s literally a matter of life and death.” 

Hink pointed to the case of a female basketball player at UC Berkeley, who had a heart attack in the middle of the Haas business school courts and was rushed to the Alta Bates cath lab within minutes. 

“She was revived—but would she have had the same outcome if she was taken to Summit?” he asked. “Would she still be walking around?” 

Hink said that Sutter Health was trying to convert Alta Bates into a “baby-making factory.” 

“There’s money in neonatal and ob-gyn, that’s why,” he said. 

Kemp acknowledged there would be changes to Alta Bates’ cardiovascular services because of Kaiser’s decision not to renew their contract. 

“Having said that, before we make any change in a service line, we undergo a thorough and thoughtful process,” she said. “It involves input from physicians, staff and administration—all to ensure appropriate individuals are involved. Excellent patient care has always been our goal.” 

Kemp stressed that the Summit campus is the designated cardiac center for Alameda and Contra Costa counties, with patients being transferred there from hospitals throughout the East Bay, including Eden, Alameda County Medical Center and Alameda Hospital.  

“Just as Kaiser selected our Summit campus as the location for their cardiac program, other medical centers seek the specialized care offered at Summit,” she said. 

Hink said he was worried about losing the amazing group of doctors, nurses and technicians at the cath lab. 

“It’s not going to come back,” he said. “It’s just going to go downhill from now on. We need the cath lab at Berkeley given that we have heart attacks on campus. If someone has a heart attack at the Memorial Stadium at 5 p.m., it will take five minutes to get to Alta Bates but with Summit, you have to go all the way to Oakland. This whole thing is ridiculous.” 

Although Kemp could not specify how many people would be laid off if the lab closed down she said Alta Bates’ goal is “to minimize job losses through attrition, retraining employees for new position, placement services and elimination of registry.” 

Don Goldmacher, who has been visiting the cath lab for the last 20 years, echoed Hink’s concern about how transferring patients to the Summit campus could prove fatal. 

“They are depriving us of an acute hospital facility,” said Goldmacher, a physician who lives nine blocks away from the Ashby campus. “It’s very upsetting.” 

The Philips cath lab at Alta Bates provides more than 200 emergency procedures every year, of which 150 are people who are already admitted in the hospital. The other 40 or 50 show up at the emergency room. 

According to an e-mail from Alta Bates cath lab director Dr. Robert Greene to Hink’s wife, tax attorney Jane Sterzinger, emergency coronary angioplasty has significantly reduced the death rate of the hospital’s heart attack patients. 

Greene said the hospital’s “door-to-balloon times” were consistently better than the national average, with more than 75 percent of the patients having a door-to-balloon time of less than 90 minutes. 

“As you know our cardiac cath lab facilities are failing and are unable to be repaired,” Greene’s e-mail said. “They are in need immediate replacement. Our hospital administrators do not have the funds at this time and will not commit to future funding.” 

Green warned that “if our cath lab is not replaced, all Alta Bates patients with unstable cardiac conditions will have to be transferred to the Oakland campus. All of these patients—including patients having a heart attack—will require summoning an ambulance to transfer them. At the Summit campus they will need to be reassessed by medical specialists using up critical time and resources.” 

Greene pointed out to an analysis by Dr. Ratnaji Nallamothu, which showed that of 4,278 patients transferred from one hospital to the other for emergency angioplasty, only four percent had a door-to-balloon time under 90 minutes. 

“It is well known, the shorter time to treatment—”[also known as] the golden hour”—the better the outcome,” Greene said. “The loss of our cardiac cath lab will lead to longer treatment times and the mortality rate of our patients may increase." 

Greene declined to be interviewed for the story because of ongoing discussions about the issue with hospital administration and staff. 

When asked whether he would visit Summit in the event the cath lab closed down, Goldmacher said, “Where are the other hospitals? Show me the other hospitals.” 

Goldmacher said he was very disturbed that Sutter was consolidating hospitals all over the Bay Area. He said he had complained about the proposed closure of the cath lab to the Berkeley Health Commission and the City Council, but it had been in vain. 

“If people don’t wake up now, no amount of healthcare reform will keep healthcare from being destroyed in our own city,” Hink said.  



Janet Stork, Head of School, The Berkeley School, December 1, 1954 – April 5, 2010

Friday April 09, 2010 - 05:29:00 PM

Janet Stork, well-known educational researcher and independent school administrator, died of cancer at age 55, at home in Kensington, California, on April 5, 2010. She is survived by her children, Andrew and Catie Birnberg of Berkeley; her father, Gilbert Stork of New York; and her siblings, Diana Stork of Boston and Linda and Philip Stork of Portland, as well as several nieces and nephews. Her mother, Winifred Stewart Stork, predeceased her. 


Janet was born on December 1, 1954, the third of Gilbert and Winifred Stork’s four children. Her father is the Eugene Higgins Professor of Chemistry Emeritus at Columbia University. Janet grew up in an intellectually focused home, and received her B.A. in Child Study from Tufts University, where she studied with David Henry Feldman and Sylvia Feinburg. She went on for her M.A. in Education from Teachers College, and was a Ph.D candidate in Applied Child Development at Tufts. 


Fueled by tremendous energy and passion for education, Janet began her career as an early childhood and elementary teacher, moving into administration at schools such as the Eliot Pearson Children's School at Tufts University and the Dalton School in N.Y. Janet was the driving force behind the creation of the Morriss Center School’s high school program in Bridgehampton, New York. She was a foundational contributor to Project Zero at Harvard University, working closely with Howard Gardner and others throughout her career on a variety of subjects such as assessment, documentation, and curricula based on the framework of multiple intelligences. A sought-after speaker who presented at numerous national and international conferences pertaining to teaching, curriculum design, and child development, Janet co-authored several scholarly articles about curriculum and teaching. She also wrote for children’s public television programs and served as a design consultant for schools. 


Her last position (2006-2009) was as Head of School at The Berkeley School, formerly Berkeley Montessori School, where she led a cultural shift from a strict Montessori pedagogy to a more research-based program that drew from the best of current educational research and practice. After stepping down for medical reasons in October, 2009, she continued to inspire the school community from her home until her death. 


Her colleague from Project Zero, Mara Krechevsky, observed that "Janet Stork was an outstanding educational leader, critical and creative thinker, and researcher who traveled easily between the worlds of educational theory and practice, finding innovative and creative ways to bridge the two. As someone grounded in the research side of the field, I greatly admired Janet's ability to make the newest findings in educational research relevant and accessible to teachers. Early on, Janet identified key implications of the Reggio approach for instruction and assessment, not just for American early childhood education, but for education at all levels."  


A celebration of Janet’s life is planned for Wednesday, April 14, 2010, 6:30 p.m. at the Freight and Salvage Coffeehouse, 2020 Addison Street in Berkeley. The family will hold a similar event on the East Coast at a later date. 



New: Officer Injured in Crash with Car Full of Teenagers

By Bay City News
Monday April 12, 2010 - 03:40:00 PM

A Berkeley police officer was injured in a collision with another vehicle full of teenagers early Sunday, a sergeant said. 

The officer was traveling west on Haste Street at about 1:20 a.m. when a white sedan with five teenagers inside allegedly ran a red light at Telegraph Avenue and T-boned the officer's car, Berkeley police Sgt. Mary Kusmiss said. 

The white sedan hit a power pole after the collision and the patrol car hit the corner of a building at the northeast corner of Telegraph Avenue and Haste Street, Kusmiss said. 

Both cars were totaled, and the officer, a 20-year veteran, experienced neck and back pain. He was taken to an area hospital and released several hours later, according to Kusmiss. 

No one in the sedan was hurt, and the 17-year-old driver was not believed to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, Kusmiss said. 

She added that everyone involved was lucky that no one was seriously injured and said the crash could have been much worse. 

"We're pleased that there were not more serious injuries to either the officer or the teenagers," Kusmiss said. 

The driver of the sedan was not cited or arrested, she said. The California Highway Patrol is investigating the crash. 



Spreading Rumors, or Why Gossip Counts

By Becky O'Malley
Thursday April 08, 2010 - 08:48:00 AM

A reader writes: “for once I don't like what I hear of the Planet. Especially with Citizens United passing the Supremes, I think truth-telling is going to be as rare as hens' teeth, and our media megachurch shoul not encourage rumor & gossip.” She was complaining about the inclusion this week of a rumor that someone’s hoping to start a new Berkeley paper in the informal “Editor’s Back Fence” column. She has a point, but sometimes rumors are the leading edge of real information.  

The Latin poet Ovid in his Metamorphoses describes the House of Rumor thus: “Crowds fill the entryway, a fickle mob that comes and goes; and rumors everywhere, thousands of fabrications mixed with fact, wander the premises, while false reports flit all about. Some fill their idle ears with others’ words, and some go bearing tales elsewhere, while everywhere the fictions grow, as everyone adds on to what he’s heard.” (Charles Martin translation). 

That could be a description of much of what passes for news on the internet these days—and what has always passed for news in some quarters. Certainly rumors and gossip need to be clearly identified as what they are and no more. Where there’s a serious subject under discussion it’s better to investigate fully before publishing.  

But no one’s harmed by spotlighting a rumor (gleaned from a forwarded email sent out under the name of a reliable person) that discussions of starting a new Berkeley paper seem to be taking place. Perhaps since the idea is out in the open it will be easier to get factual information about actual plans, which our readers would like to know about. 

On the other hand, the report in a local news source that recent accident victims might have been speeding made me uncomfortable. This opinion was attributed to a police officer, true, but from the report it appeared that the only way the officer knew how fast the driver was going was that “witnesses said” so. Given that grieving families are involved, it might have been better if police could have said that they clocked the speed of the vehicle. If they didn’t really measure the speed, it might have been wiser to omit speculation which cast aspersions on a victim from a funeral report. But that’s a judgment call which could be argued either way. 

Another case in point: a rumor has reached my ears that a fellow councilmember blew the whistle on Councilmember Darryl Moore for his aide Ryan Lau’s unpermitted construction.  

That’s one I know is completely false, because the original call to the Planet which started it all off came from an acquaintance who’s in the construction business himself. He happened to have passed by Lau’s house and concluded that rules which he follows on his own jobs were being ignored. I got two different citizen activists who know their stuff to check out the permits for the address before I asked Fred Dodsworth to write the story up.  

Two lessons here: it would have been wrong to print a passerby’s gossipy report that the project was illegal without checking, and it would also be wrong to let the rumor that one councilmember was out to “get” a colleague go uncontradicted. 

In a small town (and Berkeley is a small town, or more properly a collection of small towns) news and gossip are hard to sort out. Inept reporters often object to being told about rumors, preferring to write stories from “clean” contacts with official spokespersons and tidy press releases, but they miss a lot that way. People with an axe to grind sometimes try to plant false rumors, of course, so as my grandmother used to say, it’s wise to “consider the source.” It’s just that official sources often have a bigger stake in the game. 

This is particularly true where planning and building departments are concerned, since in both Berkeley and Oakland project fees pay salaries, and when the projects dry up budgets do too. It’s not called the “Planning and Development Department” for nothing. It’s not in a planning department’s best interest to nix any ongoing project. 

When there’s a public perception of unfairness, rumors grow and spread. That’s why the persistent rumors that the same city building officials who ignore transgressions by well-connected city officials can be persuaded to harass smalltime owners of buildings on sites coveted by big builders have been taken seriously, even though proof is very hard to find.  

A few examples, widely talked about but hard to confirm: The Drayage, which passed inspection after inspection for years, and then suddenly was out of compliance and rapidly demolished; Iceland, whose cooling system had functioned just fine for years before a developer got an option on the property; the Bengal Basin Institute, one of whose tenants has a letter in this issue complaining of unfair enforcement.  

In a small town it’s not hard to notice when some citizens are treated more equally than others, and it makes citizens like Fred Dodsworth mad. Because his son had a bad experience with city enforcers, Fred asked to tell the story about the Lau property in a non-traditional personal voice, even though he’s an experienced professional journalist. Remembering the 60s mantra that the personal is political I approved his concept.  

If it’s institutions which are viewed as getting special favors, the public gets even madder. Suspicion that the University of California used heavy-handed manipulation of the political process in Sacramento to wiggle out from under the Alquist Priolo earthquake safety law has many stadium-area residents seething.  

Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion. Inevitably as rumor mixes with fact cynicism about the way the political process works increases. 

The reserved parking spaces for councilmembers in the park behind city hall are a typical bone of contention. It’s petty, sure, but when drivers have an increasingly hard time parking downtown they ask why councilmembers can’t just park in a downtown garage like everyone else, and then they start inventing conspiracies.  

Small encounters where those who should know better seem to be flouting the law produce big resentments. I was crossing at College and Durant yesterday with a friend who was pushing her new baby in a stroller. She was in the crosswalk, with a green light, when a little parking enforcement vehicle whipped around the corner, almost running her down.  

Many fellow pedestrians observed this. “I saw that,” one commented.  

You can be sure that the cynicism quotient among the observers increased by many percentage points, even though no one was actually injured by the parking officer’s reckless driving. If you asked, witnesses would probably say that they thought complaining about the driver was pointless. As it might be. 

All in all, facts are still facts, but perception counts too. When it’s widely believed that something might be going on, it’s just possible that it is, which is why sometimes reporting rumors is a way to approach the truth. 


The Editor's Back Fence


Odd Bodkins

By Dan O'Neill
Wednesday April 07, 2010 - 11:05:00 PM

Click on the image in order to see it magnified.

Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Wednesday April 07, 2010 - 11:03:00 PM

The Tea Party Movement Examined 

The Tea Party movement. Who's in charge? Living in the same town as Mark Mekler, founder of the Tea Party movement, gives me a little more insight on this subject than most people. 

The Tea Party is hardly a grassroots or non-partisan group as it is financed and directed nationally by Republican PAC's Freedom Works and Americans for Prosperity. The Tea Party is essentially an arm of the GOP. 

The Tea Party cult is primarily composed of older white, conservative, anti-everything Republicans. The Tea Party has shown itself to be partners with Sarah Palin, Fox News and "hate radio" gurus Glen Beck, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh. The ranks are filled with anti-abortionists, anti-immigrationists, anti-tax and anti-gay activists who are bent on pushing their extreme views on all Americans. 

Tea Party patriots, what an oxymoron! Patriots only if you believe white domination and white privilege is right. Don't get caught up in Tea Party hypocrisy. 

When Medicare came before Congress in 1965, conservatives warned it would lead to (gasp) socialism. Ronald Reagan threatened that if we didn't stop Medicare, we would one day be telling our grandchildren what it was like to live in America when men were free. Conservatives ranted and raved that Medicare would be the demise of American freedom. 

Medicare was passed and the sky did not fall. 

Flash forward to 2010 and health care reform. History seems to be repeating itself, this time with Fox News, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, the Tea Party fringe and virtually every Republican in Congress warning us of dire consequences if every American has access to health care. It already seems otherwise. 

No one seems to care or notice if the truth is constantly being bent and broken by Sarah Palin, the GOP and Tea Party extremes. Have we become a nation of Chicken Littles? 


Ron Lowe 

Nevada City, CA 


* * * 

Refuse Fee Collections in the Dump 

Berkeleyans have actively embraced recycling, one of many expressions of local action to improve the environment. Significant reduction of our collective refuse stream would naturally call for a significant redesign of our collection program, since the greater our success at recycling, the less refuse needs to be collected. This redesign should have been built into our refuse and recycling program so that as usage decreased, the program would adapt appropriately. 

Instead of reevaluating the program and making the necessary adaptation to our success, in July 2009 the Council approved a 32% fee increase to commercial and residential refuse fees and transfer fees. No changes were made to the poorly managed program, running a shortfall of $5.5 million at the time.  

Residents and commercial property owners offered numerous suggestions on cost containment and making the program greener -- supposedly one of City Government's top values. Council proceeded with their preconceived plan, disregarding community input as usual. Result: Berkeleyans said enough is enough, quietly exchanging their refuse containers for smaller ones. Despite the massive fee increases the refuse revenues have plummeted. 

The City plans to double down on its mistakes by raising refuse and recycling fees further. Watch for another under-the-radar Prop 218 increase. Remember, silence equals consent, so the City will run this play option again. They boast about having worked with the stakeholders--unions, staff and the Zero Waste Commission. The main stakeholders, taxpayers and the community at large, are left out of the discussion. Once again your suggestions to manage cost will be ignored. 

The Ecology Center will continue to increase its carbon footprint, picking up from one side of the street and then driving their trucks back along the same street a second time, to pick up from the other side. This is wasteful on so many levels! More exhaust is spewed into our air, more fuel is consumed, unnecessary wear on tires, brakes, vehicles and streets -- to name but a few of the many inefficiencies. It's time for the City to talk to their primary stakeholder and seek viable alternatives, such as contracting this service out to Waste Management as other cities have done. We need a viable service, one that doesn’t require constant massive fee hikes, PERS fund increases, and gratuitous truck-miles driven through our city. 

Marie Bowman 

* * * 

The Lau Fiasco 

I beg to disagree that Mr. Ryan Lau, being a first time homeowner, would not know Berkeley’s zoning and permitting process. On the contrary, as a member of the powerful zoning adjustment board, he is expected to know or be familiar with the nuances of Berkeley’s permitting process. He sits on a board that deals with zoning and permitting issues in Berkeley. So, how can he just ignore the very same process that he is supposed to oversee? There is no other explanation for Mr. Lau’s act but a deliberate attempt to circumvent the permitting process, maybe thinking that he can get away with it. Too bad, he got caught! Thanks to Mr. Fred Dodsworth and the Daily Berkeley Planet for exposing such abuse of public thrust.  

The irony of it, the same zoning adjustment board penalized our landlord by citing him with zoning violation based on a new requirement they passed 18 months after our landlord’s house was built even with approved building and zoning permits and signed off.  

It is also unbelievable that even Mr. Lau’s boss, my current Council Member Moore is willing to forget about it, and hopes that “he meets all the requirements of the city process and it will be the end of the incident”. Why is it that for Mr. Lau the whole incident can be forgotten, but for a common person like our landlord, it is a never ending process and the iron hands of City officials were very much evident in the way they have treated our landlord and the tenants. Not only did they evicted us from our house, jeopardized the operation and activities of our non-profit IIBB and non-denominational temple but worst of all, kept the keys of the buildings as if the City owns the property. 

A person of your employ breaks the law and the comments we read from you were “Lau is a great guy… it was poor judgement…” Come on, who are you trying to fool here. 

Indeed, truly, Berzerkely! 


Rosalie Say 


Re:New Group Tackles Offending Newsracks in Berkeley,April 1.  

Kudos to the Bay Area News Group (BANG) for 

taking the time and making the investment to clean up news racks on city sidewalks. Too many are ugly messes. With many trade and real estate freebies going out of business, it also makes sense to downsize some of the SuperUnits boxes and provide more sidewalk space But, according to the article, the Planet's old racks will be restored and re-installed. Why? The Berkeley Daily Planet is now a net-only "newspaper". Restoring and re-installing its boxes doesn't make sense.  

Barbara Witte 


Protect the Public  

Every time I read the news, there seems to be yet another layer of American families and small businesses succumbing to the devastation caused by the greed of Wall Street and big banks. Reckless behavior--whether through unprincipled lending or manipulation of toxic assets--has marked the modus operandi of the financial institutions that dominate the private sector. I'm appalled that it is they who have garnered government relief rather than the families and small businesses they have damaged. The Senate must vote to ensure that the perpetrators of these abuses be held accountable and that new regulations be instituted to protect the public. No more unconscionable 

bonuses, sweetheart deals, or loopholes! If our financial system is not completely overhauled, and an effective consumer protection watchdog put in place, there will be far more devastation in the years to come. The time for change is now! 

Elizabeth Claman 



AS OF TODAY, FOR SEVEN YEARS We citizens, but mostly our ruling class carelessly threw hundreds and thousands of billions of dollars into the deserts and quicksands and quagmires of IRAQ, AFGHANISTAN, PAKISTAN, IRAN, and the like; then Congress and the President expect the citizens to applaud when they toss a paltry, measly couple tens of billions at the U.S. joblessness dilemma. I just don’t get it; give me a break.  

The Bush family and their circle, a veritable pack-of-thieves managed to create two crises: the financial meltdown and the 9/11 demolition of three giant well-engineered steel-frame buildings, where blame was instantly assigned to “enemies” they had for years prepared to attack. Why are they, monsters that they are, not facing war-crimes and other charges? 


Terry Cochrell 



Great Editorial  

The late Israel Shahak used to say that the Hebrew language press in Israel was more revealing than the sanitized English editions. Many Jews, like my partner of twenty two years, do not agree with the Likudnik fanatics who tried to silence you. 

She's very critical of the Christian Zionist armageddon nuts whom Mother Jones exposed at length in 2001 or 2002, summer issue. 

At this point I may emulate her and vote for Kucinich. The conservative and Objectivist movements have been completely taken by fundies who probably think that Netanyahu is soft on Arabs. Ron Paul is still ok here but then there's his anti-abortion and "god" hangups. 

Most libertarians are narcissists and solipsists whichis why Rand kicked them into the garbage. 

The Naomi Klein letter on divestment was welcome too. 

Glad these punks have not intimidated you. I wrote a letter in your defense to the Express but they won't publish it and I need to go back to my boycott of them.  

The economic self-serving nature of the Express's coverage of the BDP is self-evident. 


Michael P. Hardesty 



The KPFA News Department Does Bad Journalism Over the GM “Resignation” 

and Uses its Airwaves to Promote Internal Factionalism 

The KPFA General Manager was fired over a financial matter (“dispute”), we are told by the KPFA News Department. Although the cause of her dismissal is supposed to be confidential information, it was widely known that she had failed to deposit a huge endowment check for over a year, losing money for the station. 

So the report is not hard to believe. 

However, the firing was done in closed sessions at the Local Station Board and the Pacifica National Board. It seems her supporters on the LSB improperly leaked the information to another supporter, who sent out a letter early in February trying to enlist help in pressing for a reversal. 

The dismissal was finally officially announced on March 4th, and the very next day, the KPFA News announced it twice, in a biased “news item” deploring the event, which was clearly an editorial, but unidentified as such. 

March 31st, I heard one more such announcement; there may have been more. 

The announcements were a partisan spin, making a case that the dismissal was unfair, factional, and supported by many paid (“unionized”) staff, not mentioning that a large part of the unpaid staff were not supporters of Rijio. 74 people, mostly of the unpaid, volunteer staff who are 75% of the total staff, had signed a Statement of No Confidence a year and a half ago, asking that she not be chosen as General Manager. 

Shortly after, she was so chosen, by an Executive Director on her last day, and 21 mostly listeners sent a letter, as did other individuals, asking for a rescindment of this appointment. 

Under Ms.Rijio’s managership features of democratic governance at KPFA, so necessary to a community radio station, and mandated by KPFA’s bylaws, were undermined and eliminated. 

The news item presented no other view, as most news items do, and as an item on KPFA governance requires, since any other reporting on it will be nonexistent – unlike reporting on other public affairs. 

It is not acceptable for a faction which has control of the airwaves to use them unilaterally to broadcast only their attacks on KPFA governance, without fairness and balance. Yet this happens repeatedly. 

Attacks on KPFA democracy run counter to the health of the station, since democracy needs an informed electorate, not a propagandized one. 

Mara Rivera 


Stubbs on BRT 

Like most Berkeley residents who believe in transparent government that represents the will of the majority, as opposed to leaders like Mayor Bates who believe that elected leaders should impose their visions, and the visions of their wealthy cronies, onto the people, I despise Mayor Bates. He displays ongoing contempt for collaboration with the citizenry as a whole, repeatly manipulating political process in Berkeley in a manner that , as Councilperson Worthington recently observed when Bates manipulated the BRT discussion to take place near midnight, disrespects the people. 

It is an ongoing shock to me that Bates got re-elected, suggesting to me that the local citizenry fell down on the job. How can it be that Berkeley has a mayor with such contempt for transparent government? 

As a guiding principle, if Mayor Bates likes something, I assume it is bad for Berkeley, although, probably, good for some rich and/or influential people who hang out with Bates at cocktail parties. 

I am mindful that the Berkeley Daily Planet is now relying on free citizen journalism and I am grateful that Mr. Stubbs offered Planet readers his report about the BRT shenanigans taking place, with Bates and the council suppressing public participation in the process. I assume Mr. Stubbs was working for free, since Planet publishers told us last week that, given their tax witholding theft, they can't pay people to write for them. 

But Mr. Stubbs, in my humble opinion, took his reporting too far when he tells us that he could 'tell' what Mayor Bates wanted to say. Stubbs says that Bates clearly wanted to say certain things but Bates did not say them. And then Stubbs proceeded to tell us what it was that Stubbs was sure Bates wanted to say. That is not really reporting the facts. That is Stubbs reporting his speculation. 

Don't get me wrong. I have only contempt for Mayor Bates and how he conducts the business of this city, with what sure looks to me like his complete disregard for democratic participation. I am sure Stubbs' speculation regarding what Bates wanted to say but did not is more reliable than anything our smarmy Mayor does say. I do not believe our mayor can be trusted to speak the truth to the public or in public. But Stubbs went too far when he presents his, which is to say Stubbs' projections of Tom Bates thoughts. 

Perhaps citizens of Berkeley might consider adopting my approach to any pubic statements Bates makes or are attributed to him in the media: I distrust everything he says. But when reporting on a public meeting, I don't think the Planet should have to stoop to fictional speculation posing as citizen journalism. Even citizen journalism should, um, stick to the facts. 


Tree Fitzpatrick 

New: The Dire State of the University of California Pension Fund

By the Berkeley Faculty Association
Monday April 12, 2010 - 05:20:00 PM

A new report from the Berkeley Faculty Association calls attention to the enormous unfunded liabilities facing the University of California Retirement Plan (UCRP) - estimated to reach $18 billion by 2013 if no action is taken. The long term financial viability of UCRP is now in question and the future pensions of current employees are at risk. 

The pension deficit is the result of years of neglect, after the state and the university stopped making regular employer contributions in the early 1990s. It was made worse by the financial crisis of 2008-09. In addition, two-thirds of UC salaries are paid by Federal and other non-state funds, and these contributions have been missing as well. 

The University is restarting its contributions on April 15th, 2010 and will be gradually ramping up its share over the coming years. But the state so far refuses to contribute its rightful share – unlike its role in the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS). 

"It is good news that the university now recognizes its responsibility to make regular employer contributions to UCRS," said Professor Christine Rosen, co-author of the report, "but the current plan is a recipe for disaster." 

One problem is that the university is ramping up its contributions too slowly. "Each dollar we don't pay in now increases the need for more future contributions," said Rosen. 

Another problem is that the university will be asking employees to contribute a larger percentage of their salaries than ever before and is pushing the financial responsibility for contributions back on departments and research units, most of which do not have the funds. The result will be severe layoffs and program cuts. 

And, finally, UC students are paying for the restart through fee increases. 

The problem started with the recession and fiscal crisis of the early 1990s, when the state began looking for ways to cut expenditures. Then the stock market took off, and it seemed like easy money. "Letting the markets take care of the pension fund sounded like a great idea back in the boom years," said Professor Richard Walker, Vice-Chair of the BFA, "but it was part of the delusional thinking that drove bubble finance. The university was (and still is) not immune to such illusions." 

Now, in the midst of an even worse crisis, the state is refusing to pick up its share of the employer contribution, forcing UC to generate all the funds for the restart of the employer contribution by itself. The pension fund mess is thus just another facet of the overall fiscal crisis and political impasses of the state of California. 

Professor Rosen observed, "For too long Californians have been incited to maximize their short term gain, without taking into account their long term interests. They have been encouraged to equate taxes with evil and to see state government as a bureaucracy filled with paper pushers throttling the free market. People have lost the ability to see the connection between the state, taxes, and the many public services they enjoy - including this superb university. We’ve got to change this." 

BFA is working to alert the faculty at the university about the pension crisis, and it will do everything possible to educate people about the good UC does and how important public funding is to its survival. 

This commentary was issued as a press release by the Berkeley Faculty Association, a voluntary representative organization of University of California, Berkeley faculty and affiliate of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). For more information, go to ucbfa.org  

Singling out Israel is the right thing to do

By Yaman Salahi
Thursday April 08, 2010 - 09:26:00 PM

Two weeks ago, UC Berkeley's student senate made a historic 16-4 decision to divest from General Electric and United Technologies, two American companies that profit from the Israeli occupation. A week later, the student body president vetoed the bill, citing its “focus on a specific country,” Israel. His veto echoed identical claims by Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, that “in a world filled with human rights abuses across Africa, Asia and the Americas, the UC Berkeley students vote to single out Israel for censure is hypocritical.”  

As the international movement calling for Palestinian freedom and urging boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel grows, this particular defense will likely become more pronounced. Thus, it merits a response so that its troubling implications for people who organize for justice and human rights can be cast aside once and for all. So: what does it mean to "single out Israel," and is it really “hypocritical” to do so? 

Under one meaning, it is unclear how anyone could ever do, say, or think anything pertaining to Israel without necessarily "singling out" Israel. Anytime one talks about Israel one must, by definition, "single out" Israel -- whether cognitively or linguistically. In that sense, "singling out" means focusing in some way on its actions. For example, for decades the US Congress "singled out" Israel to receive the largest share of the United States' foreign aid budget, amounting over the past half-century to more than all aid to sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean combined. [1] 

Under another meaning, the critic might be claiming that divestment "singles out" Israel unfairly. In order to assess that claim, one must look at the merits of criticisms toward Israeli policy to see if they are fair. What are these criticisms? Namely, that Israel repeatedly engages in gross violations of human rights and international law. The evidence for such claims comes from sources as numerous, varied, and reputable as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Committee on the Red Cross, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, B'Tselem, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, the Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, the United Nations Commissioner on Human Rights, Reporters Without Borders, the European Union, and finally, the United Nations General Assembly. In the face of such evidence, any claim that there is no basis on which to fairly "single out" Israel requires a remarkable amount of self-delusion or deliberate ignorance. 

Under a third meaning, the critic could be saying that "singling out" Israel for criticism is unfair because while Israel is under scrutiny, other human rights violators are off the hook. But is it really true that those who report on Israel never hold other violators to task for their actions? In addition to extensive documentation of Israeli human rights abuses, every single organization above, without exception, has also documented and investigated claims about other parties. Some even have reports about nearly every country in the world. These organizations are not above criticism or scrutiny, but they also do not have reputations for dishonesty. While these organizations are routinely cited when discussing human rights violations in Darfur, Tibet, Sri Lanka, Burma, Russia, and China, just to name a few – it is only their criticism of Israel that is deemed “unfair,” “biased,” or “one-sided.” Who, then, is “singling out” Israel, and why? 

There are certainly anti-Semites who criticize Israel because they are racist, but these marginal people simply do not characterize those organizations mentioned above, the Palestinian people, or those of us in the international movement to boycott Israel for its long-standing human rights abuses. Indeed, refusing to address fair claims because of the occasional unfair accuser removes the anti-Semites from the margins and sacrifices the entire system of rights and the majority who support it at their altar.  

Under a final meaning, the critic could be claiming that "singling out" Israel for divestment is unfair, because divestment does not target every other country that also violates human rights. This argument is disingenuous. On its face, it appears to advocate for greater action on more human rights issues. In practice, however, it is deployed in order to silence those who would call for greater action in the face of Israeli war crimes and other violations of Palestinian rights under international law. Indeed, many of those who argue that divestment “singles out” Israel have no similar reservations when applying economic and political pressure to other countries and conflicts, such as Darfur.  

As Naomi Klein has written, divestment is not a dogma: it's a tactic. Up against powerful state and corporate actors, civil society must focus its energies for collective actions such as boycott or divestment to succeed. Such was the case when companies that enabled the South African apartheid regime were targeted for divestment. A similar campaign succeeded regarding Darfur, and today another campaign is underway against Sri Lanka for its continuing oppression of the Tamil people. In all three cases those nations were or are singled out for divestment while at the same time other injustices loomed in the world. To do so made tactical sense while re-inforcing the principle that companies are legitimate targets for boycott and divestment wherever they are integral actors in a system of oppression. When all other measures fail, consumers and investors have one last recourse: to chose to spend and invest their money elsewhere. For many around the world, this is the best way to intervene against Israel’s systematized racism and oppression of the Palestinian people. 

Those who believe that confronting Israel is unfair are themselves relying on an unacceptable double standard, "singling out" Israel, so to speak, as the one country expressly permitted to wantonly attack and persecute its minority citizens and subjects while the rest of the world passively watches. However, there can be only one universal standard of human rights. Privileging one state or actor over all others to remove it from accountability creates double standards that undermine the integrity of social justice activism all over the world. No one who chooses to engage in war crimes, colonization or human rights violations should expect the complicity of people around the world. Today, more than ever, is the time to single out Israel for criticism and boycott – not because it is the only purveyor of injustice in the world, or even necessarily the worst – but because no other international institution has succeeded in stopping the injustices against the Palestinians that continue to unfold before our eyes and in the full light of history. 


[1]“In fact, from 1949 through 1997, the total of U.S. aid to all of the countries of sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean combined was $64,127,500,000—considerably less than the $71,077,600,000 Israel received in the same 1949 through 1997 time period. According to the Population Reference Bureau of Washington, DC, in mid-1999 the sub-Saharan and Latin American and Caribbean countries have a combined population of 1.142 billion people, while Israel’s mid-1999 population is 6.1 million people.“ Washington Report on Middle East Affairs  


Yaman Salahi, a UC Berkeley alumnus and member of Students for Justice in Palestine, is currently a student at Yale Law School. 







Pools Bond Floats Special Interest Groups, Sinking Viable Alternatives and Berkeley Values

by Marie Bowman
Thursday April 08, 2010 - 08:05:00 PM

Berkeley’s pool bond will be on the June 8th ballot. It proposes to replace the indoor warm pool at the Berkeley High School (without identifying a new location), renovate the West Campus and Willard pools, and construct a multi-purpose (competition) pool at King, at a construction cost of $22,500,000 PLUS annual maintenance of $3,500,000 indexed to the highest rate of inflation. 

We Berkeleyans like to swim, and we generously support our city, schools and community recreational facilities.

    We approved $20 million dollars in new taxes last November. We currently subsidize every warm pool swim by $20 and each regular swim by $10. So let’s make reasonable choices that benefit everyone, including swimmers. 

    It’s the new pool construction -- by far the largest share of this bond -- that doesn’t make sense. The greenest facilities are the ones already built; demolition and construction burn fossil fuels, choke landfills and waste resources. Rehabilitating existing pools would require only 1/3 the cost of building new.  

    The BHS warm pool, as part of a nationally landmarked district, should be reused and not demolished. If rehab is off the table, let’s give those swimmers passes to either the YMCA’s two warm pools or UC’s community program for the disabled, which operates a warm pool. Just like

      BUSD uses the YMCA warm pool for its own disabled students.
    Memberships to these existing warm pool programs in Berkeley would be less than 1% of the bond’s maintenance cost, let alone the enormous construction cost.  

    The YMCA and UC pools meet the needs of nearly all warm water pool swimmers: children, adults, pregnant, obese, arthritic, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, in accordance with the Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA), the world’s largest certifying organization for aquatic fitness programming. The AEA does not recommend the use of pools above 86 degrees except for limited functions, as there is a risk of overheating, stroke or heart attack.  

    So who should be using a pool at 92 degrees, like the bond would replace? Very Few. And those few, can swim in the YMCA pools as they have in the past, when the BHS warm pool (more accurately, hot pool) has undergone repairs or during school closures. 

    If Berkeley needs an additional warm water pool, should it be at the proposed 2,250 square feet, an Olympic sized pool, kept at an energy-consumptive 92 degrees? If you answer yes to that question, why not make it a regional pool, sharing the costs as we did in the development of the Gilman sports fields? Palo Alto did just that. In 2007, Palo Alto’s warm pool received $5,274,346 from public and private partners. City taxpayers only paid $40,356.  

    As for the need to build a new competitive pool, one already exists at Berkeley High School, and Willard formerly served as one for middle school swimmers. In the 50’s, our Civic leaders envisioned City and School recreational facilities would be shared. In the 70’s Berkeleyans approved Measure Y, a ballot measure which reaffirmed our rights to use school recreational facilities for recreation, outside school activity times. Nationally, all other school districts let the public use their pools during non school usage. Public funding equals public use.  

    Why can’t the middle school competitive swimmers use the BHS pool? It’s the very pool they will use in high school, and getting used to it now will give them a competitive edge then. Additionally, the Willard pool was designed as a competitive pool. Rehabbing Willard to once again be a competitive pool would reduce the overall cost by approximately $2,500,000. 

    Our financials are already stretched too thin. Berkeley’s unemployment is at a 10 year high of 11.3%. Berkeley municipal debt is skyrocketing--$4 million this year, $15 million next year. Council proposes to raise fees to bridge the gap. The BUSD will be asking us to support a capital bond measure of $208,000,000 and a maintenance bond of about of $45,000,000 this November. Federal, State and County governments will also be issuing new fees and taxes. 

    The City and BUSD need to rethink their priorities: 

    Maintenance for this bond has grown by 380%.  

    Our parks, recreation and waterfront programs are being reduced by 25% over the next two years due to staff increases, PERS obligations and loss of State funding, yet the maintenance fee on this bond represents a 38% recreational tax hike for just pools. Our parks and recreation programs benefit everyone. Is it fair that they get a huge cut and that the pools get the lion’s share of our recreational tax dollars? The City still hasn’t acted responsible to prioritize our essential services first--services that are critically viable to our community’s very existence. This measure needs to be re-written to better serve Berkeley’s needs. 

    Let’s keep Berkeley swimming with better, greener, sustainable alternatives. A legacy we can be proud of. Vote No.  

UC Berkeley Plans to Destroy Smyth-Fernwald

by Kevin Moore
Wednesday April 07, 2010 - 09:12:00 PM

Like yourself, I am also a strong proponent of protecting and restoring our natural environment…the streams, rivers, shoreline, hills, meadows, green open spaces and the wildlife upon which we here in the Bay Area all rely, not only for the pleasure and beauty they provide, but for their ecological necessity. I am familiar with your concerns in these areas, and am therefore writing this to you to make absolutely sure that you are aware of a situation taking place at this present time. I hope that you will agree that it is crucial that something be done to save a local environmental and architectural treasure in our community. 

This is regarding a parcel of land in the south Berkeley Hills known as Smyth-Fernwald. It is located at the highest point of Dwight Way at the far northwest corner of Claremont Canyon. It is bordered on the east by Fernwald Road, and on the west by Hillside Ave. The northern border is defined by a lush gulley through which the lovely and fragile Hamilton Creek runs. In the 1890s, the original owner, William Henry Smyth, named his property “Fernwald”, the German word for “faraway woods.” On these grounds stands the stately “Smyth House,” the Julia Morgan- enhanced residence of the original owner. The house currently sits empty, as does an adjacent structure owned by the University, which most recently housed a per-school. Nearby, a charming children’s garden still appears healthy and attended to. There is a small functional temporary office building on the property, and the 50+ student/family dormitories that are located east of Fernwald Road are currently occupied. The land was bequeathed by the owner to the University in 1926. For the full comprehensive history of this property (with photos) I urge you to go here . At the time the property changed hands, the Berkeley Gazette wrote the following: “The grounds, with their great trees, a splendid marine view, and beautified by a fern-clad gulch, are among the most picturesque in the East Bay District.” 

I am a wildlife photographer, and have been coming to Smyth-Fernwald for years to photograph birds, which are my specialty. I can attest to the fact that this fairly unknown parcel of land is an absolute treasure, not only in its beauty, but in it’s ecological importance. Sixty three trees of various species provide an incredibly rich habitat for wildlife. In the twilight hours I have observed deer grazing in the lower meadow. I have, and continue to regularly photograph and document over 20 species of birds which inhabit this property either all year or seasonally. This is an amazingly large and diverse number of bird species for an area of this size. Several of the trees are very old, large and magnificent in their stature. Some have obviously been around since the 1890s.  

Quite tragically, I have good reason to believe that these trees, as well as the rest of the property (including Smyth House) are about to be demolished by the University. I have spoken with passing University employees who have indicated this to be the case. Damage has already occurred to these grounds, and it is clear that a process of systematic destruction has now begun. The damage to which I refer is a 200 foot long eyesore of a trench which has been dug by heavy machinery, deeply into the front meadow section of the property. The digging took place on March 15th through the 17th. A chain link fence was placed to surround the trench. I ask you to please refer to my before & after photos . (please note: all photos, including wildlife, were taken exclusively at Smyth-Fernwald.) I was recently informed that the purpose of this trench is to provide for the placement of “seismic measuring” devices. The Smyth-Fernwald property does in fact sit directly on the Hayward fault.  

This is reminiscent of the motions the University went through before cutting down the oak grove at Memorial Stadium.  

The trench, most certainly, is for show only, and a pretense to complying with environmental law. It is merely a precursor to the destruction about to take place. With an army of highly paid attorneys, and with the assistance and enabling of a corrupt Berkeley mayor and his cronies, a belligerent University knows it can skirt Alquist-Priolo to do whatever it wants wherever it wants. As last year’s destruction of the Memorial oak grove so clearly demonstrated, the University is concerned neither with our environment nor our safety. It is a corporation concerned only with its profit margins. Smyth-Fernwald, with its absolutely stunning views of the Bay, is prime real estate. UC knows this, and has proven time & time again that it is perfectly willing to demolish our historical buildings, chainsaw our natural green spaces and bulldoze our ecosystem, to replace them with money generating structures that benefit UC only. 

Smyth-Fernwald is an aesthetic, architectural and environmental jewel that provides rich wildlife habitat, and supports an environmentally fragile creek. Its loss would be tragic and irreversible. It is an area that should rightfully be protected and turned over to the public trust. Berkeley cannot withstand yet another assault on the integrity of its natural beauty and vulnerable ecosystem. Something must be done immediately. Perhaps a law suite can be filed. Would this be possible? I am writing to you to elicit your concern, your support and your knowledge and ideas. We need to come together and act now to save this rare and precious parcel of land. If you can, please contact me as soon as possible at kmoore4u@yahoo.com. Spread the word. Time is of the essence. I will be most grateful for any help, direction or suggestions you can provide. 


Kevin Moore  



Yelling Smoke in a Crowded Theater

by Carol Denney
Wednesday April 07, 2010 - 07:58:00 PM

An actor lit up a cigarette near me at a recent stage performance in Berkeley, and I nearly bolted. I felt the same panic I’ve had to field for years as people without respiratory difficulties assume that their smoking won’t matter to those of us whose physiological reactions are immediate, debilitating, and sometimes deadly.  

I was relieved when the cigarette was quickly put out, and even more relieved when the first few rows of theater patrons joined me in furiously fanning the smoke away with their programs. I was too concerned that it would happen again to notice what happened in the scene, worried about how to explain my disappearance to my companions without disrupting the show, and wondering how this could be happening in the state that led the way in nonsmokers’ rights.  

Local theaters which use smoking to convey characterization, atmosphere, or theatrical plot twists, are doing so legally; California law allows smoking in performances despite the danger to the audience members, theater workers, and performers.  

Although it’s common knowledge that there’s no safe dose of secondhand smoke, and though the vascular damage it does is measurable within minutes in even healthy adults, theater directors will tell you with a straight face that only real cigarettes create the desired theatrical effect.  

The “performance” loophole is famously exploited in some states by bar owners who announce that each evening is a performance and all customers are performers. But most of the nation not only welcomes protections against secondhand smoke, the 17% drop in heart attacks which follow the first year of smoking restrictions is hard to dismiss.  

No community this serious about its theater, this passionate about its plays would abandon its commitment if local theaters adopted a smokefree policy. It isn’t simply that people with respiratory and vascular challenges shouldn’t need to put their lives at risk to enjoy a performance--¬it’s a workplace, after all, for theater staff and performers.  

I spent years playing music in smoke-filled clubs and I’m shocked to discover that it isn’t just casino workers who have been left out of California’s current restrictions on workplace smoking. I’m a cancer survivor thankful most performance spaces no longer force employees to endure the effects of secondhand smoke.  

Let’s invite our talented local theater troupes to adopt smokefree policies. A creative stage director can make a performance convincing without relying on deadly smoke, just as surely as no one would think of using a real gun in a stage play, and for the same reason. Count on us to adjust to appropriate alternatives. We can suspend our disbelief a lot easier than we can hold our breath. 

Unemployed Laborers Misdirect Frustration and Anger at Richmond Mayor

By Jeff Ritterman, Vice Mayor of Richmond
Thursday April 08, 2010 - 06:28:00 PM

At the April 6 Richmond City Council meeting a stream of unemployed laborers and labor leaders vented their anger and frustration on Mayor Gayle McLaughlin. They blamed the mayor for their unemployed status. They were aided and abetted by some in the audience and some on the dais who were clearly motivated by their own political agendas and not the plight of the workers. 

The reason given for turning their anger on the mayor was their claim that the mayor had voted against their interests in the past. It didn’t seem to matter much to the unemployed that often they had the facts wrong. This, we know due to some diligent detective work by Councilmember Butt who looked up the minutes and agendas from past meetings showing that some of the specific claims against the mayor were erroneous. 

When this was pointed out, the laborers and labor leaders made dubious and hard to substantiate claims that there is a “perception” out there of the mayor being against job creation. I have worked with the mayor to try and secure funding for CyberTran International ,  

a company working on an innovative electric ultra-light rail personalized transit system. If we are fortunate enough to obtain funding, CyberTran could make Richmond a manufacturing center for the light rail system of the future. The hard work we are putting into this effort, unknown to the public, flies in the face of claims of the mayor being against job creation. 

Some of the unemployed workers had been laid off when the Chevron Expansion was put on hold. This, of course, had nothing at all to do with the mayor. Work at Chevron was halted by an order of the court in response to a lawsuit brought by a number of environmental groups against both Chevron and the city. A number of parties including Attorney General Jerry Brown, members of the city council, and lawyers for the building trades have tried in vain to resolve that situation and it remains in the courts as of this writing. The situation has become even more complicated as Chevron, like all refiners, finds themselves in a world of excess refining capacity. Not necessarily a time the oil giant wants to invest in refinery upgrades and expansion. The company is currently restructuring its downstream (i.e. refining) operations and has not made any public statement about their current plans for the Richmond Refinery except to let us know that they do not plan to close it any time soon. 

The anger and frustration of the unemployed workers is of course understandable. But, blaming the mayor is the wrong response. There is simply no vote the mayor or anyone else on the city council has ever taken which caused the workers plight. The real causes are harder to face and the solutions much more complex than the labor leaders want to face.  

What are the causes of the unemployed worker’s plight? Take a look at practically anything you have purchased recently. My coat with the London Fog label was made in Vietnam. Do you own a pair of shoes, a piece of clothing or an appliance made in this country? Many of the jobs of the unemployed are now in China, Vietnam and elsewhere overseas. Corporations have adopted a way of doing business where maximizing short term profit drives everything, even if the longterm consequences are devastating to our economy and our environment. 

When I grew up, we were the envy of the world with a strong manufacturing base and a large and growing middle class. Generally, only one parent (usually the father) worked and made enough money to support his family. Most families saw their standard of living increase yearly. One salary would be enough to take the family on a two week summer vacation and to pay for the kids to get a college education. 

What changed and why? Sometime in the 1970’s and accelerating during Reagan’s presidency, those at the top decided they were due a greater percentage of the national income and wealth. Through a series of tax measures, deregulation and the pursuit of profit at all costs, we have lost our middle class society. The very wealthiest among us have run away from the pack (see graph). CEO’s who once made 50 times the amount of rank and file workers, now make more than 500 or 1000 times as much. While the salaries of most have stayed stagnant over the last three decades despite great advances in productivity, the top 0.1% have seen their incomes move into the stratosphere. 

Not only have we seen this enormous shift in income distribution, we have also seen a complete rewriting of the tax laws to favor the rich. If you don’t believe me check out the recently published report by Wealth for the Common Good entitled “Shifting Responsibility How 50 Years of Tax Cuts Benefited the Wealthiest Americans" by Chuck Collins, Alison Goldberg, and Sam Pizzigati. 


Here are some of the key findings: 

• Between 1960 to 2004, the top 0.1 percent of U.S. taxpayers — the wealthiest one in one thousand — have seen the share of their income paid in total federal taxes drop from 60 to 33.6 percent. 

• America’s highest income-earners — the top 400 — have seen the share of their income they pay in federal income tax alone plummet from 51.2 percent in 1955 to 16.6 percent in 2007, the most recent year with top 400 statistics available. 

• If the top 400 of 2007 paid as much of their incomes in personal income tax as the top 400 of 1955, the federal treasury would have collected $47.7 billion more in revenue from just these 400 taxpayers. 

• In 2007, if the top 0.1 percent of taxpayers — Americans with incomes that averaged $7,126,395 — had paid total federal taxes at the same rate as the top 0.1 percent paid these taxes in 1960, the federal treasury would have collected an additional $281.2 billion in revenue. 

This redistribution of wealth and power is at the heart of our current economic meltdown and the root cause of Richmond’s unemployment. The redistribution has been accompanied by an ethic favoring greed and personal accumulation with a devaluing of community and the public sector.  

Look at all of the things that we need to rebuild in this country---our schools, our bridges, our levees, our roads. Our homes and businesses need to be solarized and weatherized. There is plenty of work to be done, but no money for it. As wealth and power has shifted to the wealthiest, and their taxes (including corporate taxes) have dropped to half of what they were, money is going into luxury items for the wealthy like yachts (there’s a waiting list), but none is left to rebuild the things which are of most importance to most of us.  

Attacking the mayor may help blow off some steam as individuals try and cope with an economy in shambles, but it does nothing to solve the situation and only makes things worse by confusing people. It’s really analogous to our international situation. As a nation we were hurt, angered and frustrated by 911. Rather than make an accurate assessment of the problem and come up with a real solution, our leaders cynically manipulated us with a series of lies and distortions. What did we do? We attacked Iraq, a country which had nothing to do with 911. Now we still find ourselves in that quagmire. The carnage continues. Both sides suffer unnecessary and tragic loss of life and limb. Our national treasury gets depleted and we have nothing to show for the sacrifices of our young men and women. 

The same is true of our economic meltdown. Attacking the mayor won’t fix anything. The mayor is not the problem. At the same time, the real suffering of the unemployed is being manipulated by those who find it in their own political interests to attack the mayor to advance their own agendas. 

Let’s step back from the abyss. Let’s stop the scapegoating and work together to face the harsh realties in which we find ourselves. 



Discovering Simón Bolivar

By Ralph E. Stone
Friday April 02, 2010 - 10:24:00 PM

In 2007 and 2008, my wife and I traveled to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela -- where Simón Bolivar is revered as a national hero, the country's liberator from Spain. We were, therefore, cautioned never to show disrespect for Bolivar. Hugo Rafael Chávez Frias, the current president of Venezuela, frequently links himself to this legendary figure to gain popular support for his programs both at home and abroad. But who exactly is Simón Bolivar?  

Simón Bolivar was born in Caracas, Venezuela in 1783. At age 16, he was sent abroad to continue his education in Spain and France where he was introduced to the progressive works of Rousseau and Voltaire. He married Spaniard Maria Teresa and returned to Venezuela. Unfortunately, Maria Teresa died 8 months later of yellow fever. He never married again but had many lovers, including Manuela Saenz affectionately known as Manuleta, whom he met in 1822 and who was with him until a few days before he died. After Maria Teresa's death, he returned to France and met with the leaders of the French Revolution. Bolivar then traveled to the United States to witness the U.S. after the American Revolution. He returned to Caracas filled with revolutionary ideas and quickly joined pro-independence groups. Bolivar's military career began under Francisco de Miranda. When Miranda was captured by the Spanish in 1812, Bolivar took command.  

Over the next decade, Bolivar commanded the independence forces in numerous battles, including the key battle of Carabobo, which brought independence for Venezuela. Bolivar also brought independence from Spanish rule to the entire northwest of South America, creating the Gran Colombia in what today comprises Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. Because his central government could not govern such a large land mass with its racial and regional differences, his Gran Colombia lasted just a decade. Disillusioned and in bad health, Bolivar resigned the presidency of Gran Colombia in early 1830. He died in December 1830 at age 47, in Santa Marta, Colombia, while on his way to Europe. Ironically, the newly independent Venezuela banned Bolivar from his homeland for twelve years until 1842, when his remains were finally brought from Santa Marta to Caracas and entombed in the "catedral." In 1876, his remains were transferred to the "Panteon Nacional." 

During our brief stays in Caracas, Venezuela's capital city, we did a mini-tour of Bolivariana, which began at the Plaza Bolivar. By the way, every Venezuelan city has a Plaza Bolivar. The federal district (Caracas) and the capital cities of Venezuela's twenty-two states such as Merida, Coro, Barinas, Guanare, capital cities we visited, have a statue of Bolivar on a horse. Other major cities have a statue of Bolivar unhorsed and smaller towns have a bust of Bolivar in their Plaza Bolivar.  

We visited Bolivar's birthplace ("Casa Natal de Bolivar"), the Bolivar museum next door where I was asked to remove my cap out of respect ("Museo Bolivariana"), the nearby cathedral where he was baptized and where his wife and family lie, and the "Panteon Nacional" containing his body and those of other eminent Venezuelans. 

Last year, we took a road trip along the coast from Cartagena, Colombia to visit Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, the hacienda where Bolivar spent his last days before he died. Spaniard Joaquin de Mier, the owner of the hacienda, a supporter of Colombia’s independence, invited Bolivar to stay and rest until his departure for Europe. The hacienda grounds contain massive central structure ("Altar de la Patria"), the Museo Bolivariana, and a 22-hectare garden. 

Hugo Chávez envisions a modern day "Bolivarian Revolution," a Latin American political block with a socialist bent as an alternative to United States hegemony. Chávez has been generous with his foreign aids to Latin America and the Caribbean in an effort to blunt U.S.-backed economic policies in Latin America. His efforts have garnered some support among the growing number of Latin America’s left-leaning governments. 

Only time will tell whether Chávez's "Bolivarian Revolution" will succeed. In the meantime, many Venezuelans want Chávez to tend to problems on the home front such as government corruption, inefficiency, and mismanagement; the deteriorating health and education programs; the troubled economy; crime, human rights violations, and media censorship. I join the Venezuelans in their fear that the “socialist revolutionary” has morphed into a dictator for life. 

Did you know that there is a statue of Simón Bolivar on a horse in San Francisco's United Nations Plaza? It is a 1984 "Gift from Venezuela to the People of San Francisco." 

Bus Rapid Transit: The Majority Supports and the Minority Distorts

By Charles Siegel
Wednesday April 07, 2010 - 10:23:00 PM

In late January, the federal government allocated $15 million to AC Transit's proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project Of all the Small Starts projects funded for 2011, this is the only one rated “high," which means it is the most cost-effective of all those projects. This sign of support from the Obama administration shows we can expect more federal funding in the future. 


The city of Oakland has been pushing to have BRT include pedestrian improvements along the route, such as wider sidewalks and bulb-outs at crossings. Oakland hopes that BRT with pedestrian improvements will be a key to revitalizing the corridor economically, and AC Transit has agreed to pursue a separate source of federal funding for these improvements, which will provide funding for pedestrian improvements in Berkeley also. 


Berkeley's voters showed their overwhelming support of BRT in 2008 when 77 % voted no on KK, which was put on the ballot by the same people who continue to organize against BRT in Berkeley. 


Despite all this support, there is a noisy minority in Berkeley who oppose BRT and who have been spreading distortions about it. 


A recent opinion piece in the Daily Planet claimed that "AC Transit revealed only days before the March 23 meeting that certain restrictions on their federal funding mean that the dedicated bus lane aspect of the proposal cannot be dropped or selectively modified down without triggering the need for a re-study." 


I have asked AC Transit planners about this, and they have confirmed that it is not true. The op-ed writer apparently was confused because AC recently asked cities to include all possible variations of the build alternative in their LPA. Shifting from the build alternative that is in the FEIR to a different build alternative that is not in the FEIR would require supplemental study. But removing dedicated lanes and shifting from the build alternative in the FEIR to the RapidBus Plus or No-Build alternative, which are also in the FEIR, would not require supplemental study. 


The noisy minority claim to represent the people of Berkeley for two reasons. 


First, the noisy minority says that nearby neighborhood groups are against BRT. At every hearing, you can expect at least one person to say: "I went to a neighborhood meeting, and people were against BRT." 


But neighborhood groups generally attract residents who want to protect their own self-interest. No doubt, there are more idealistic people living in the neighborhoods, but they are more likely to join environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, which supports this BRT project. 


The vote on Measure KK tells us what the real majority of neighborhood residents believe. The same neighborhood residents who now oppose BRT also campaigned for Measure KK, but even in precincts immediately adjacent to the BRT route, 68% voted no on KK. Look beyond the neighborhood group members to all the voters, and you will see that those neighborhoods support BRT by a margin of more than two-to-one. 


Second, the noisy minority says that large numbers of people turn out at city meetings to oppose BRT. In fact, it seems that a small core of organizers are stirring up this opposition to BRT. 


For example, shortly before the Planning Commission hearing on Bus Rapid Transit, a Telegraph Ave. business sent email to its customers saying they should oppose BRT because “Even the environmental report indicates that traffic will increase beyond any standard threshold in no less than 30 locations in Berkeley during commute hours.” 


This claim is completely false. The DEIR says clearly that BRT will not cause a significant degradation of level of service at any intersection in Berkeley. 


The email had a number of other blatant falsehoods, but we cannot blame this business for them, because the email also said that these are “the facts as they have been presented to us by local concerned citizens.” 


Anyone who follows local politics knows that it is easier to organize against a proposed change than to organize for it. If "concerned citizens" use scare tactics among those who are immediately impacted, they will have no trouble getting a few dozen people out to speak at a city meeting on any issue. 


But a few dozen people do not make a majority. If you want to know what the majority thinks, you should put an issue on the ballot. The majority of Berkeley voters care about the environment, and they showed their overwhelming support for BRT when this issue was on the ballot and 77% voted against Measure KK. 



Charles Siegel is a Berkeley resident and environmental activist. 


The Public Eye: The Next Civil War

By Bob Burnett
Thursday April 08, 2010 - 10:53:00 AM

The Civil War ranks as the most costly of US wars, with 625,000 deaths and a comparable number of injuries. Now the Republican Party is stoking the fires of insurrection and for thousands of right-wing zealots a new civil war seems a political necessity. As increasing numbers of Democratic politicians are threatened, how long will it be before domestic terrorists use their weapons? 

The first Civil War was precipitated by a dispute regarding slavery and states’ rights. It was inflamed by volatile rhetoric and widespread use of guns. 

The looming civil war reincarnates the debate about states’ rights. Immediately after President Obama signed Healthcare Reform into law, several state Attorney Generals filed lawsuits arguing the Federal government violated the Constitution. 

Rather than slavery, the new civil war is being waged over the necessity to guarantee human rights for all Americans – whether or not every citizen deserves healthcare. Many Republicans feel this is not a legitimate use of government power, that it infringes on the sacred “free market.”  

In the run up to the first Civil War, passions were inflamed by fiery rhetoric from secessionist politicians such as Jefferson Davis. The impending civil war is being fed by mass-media personalities, such as Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, who routinely feed their listeners blatant falsehoods. The success of these demagogues was revealed in a March 23rd Louis Harris poll of Republicans: 67 percent “believe that Obama is a socialist.” 57 percent “believe that Obama is a Muslim.” 45 percent believe that Obama “was not born in the United States and so is not eligible to be president." 38 percent of Republicans say the President is "doing many of the things that Hitler did.” And, 24 percent believe Obama "may be the Antichrist." 

Coupled with these skewed beliefs is increasingly strident rhetoric from Republican leaders. House minority leader John Boehner compared healthcare reform to “Armageddon” and declared the GOP to the Party of “Hell no.” This refrain was picked up Senator John McCain and former Governor Sarah Palin, who added, “Freedom is a god-given right worth fighting for.” 

There’s little doubt that the use of inflammatory language has increased the ratings of the Fox News Channel, which is now the highest rated cable channel, and “the highest rated basic channel in primetime.” Fox commentators such as Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly regularly contend the US “is headed into socialism” and compare President Obama to Hitler. On March 23rd, prominent conservative David Frum, a former George W. Bush speechwriter, appearing on ABC Nightline observed, “Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us and now we’re discovering we work for Fox.” 


Beck and his new Fox News associate, Sarah Palin, have appropriated the rhetoric used by the Militia movement, language that suggests violence may be required to “save” America. 


Since Barack Obama became President there has been an unprecedented run on guns fomented by a right-wing rumor that Obama was going to restrict gun ownership. As documented in the Spring Report of the Southern Poverty Law Center, there has also been an explosive growth of hate and militia groups. “An astonishing 363 new Patriot groups appeared in 2009 – a 244% jump.” (On March 29th, nine members of one of these groups the Hutaree were charged with conspiring to kill police officers.) 


The Republican Party’s embrace of militant extremism follows a grim logic. The GOP is losing members; a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll found that only 24 percent of respondents self-identified as Republicans – versus 34 percent for Democrats and 38 percent for Independents. Grasping for support, the GOP has abandoned traditional conservative ideology and allowed its message to be highjacked. 


Unfortunately, the Republican Party lacks a leader with the gravitas to speak out against the escalating violence of its supporters. Elected Republicans such a Boehner, McCain, McConnell, and Steele are much less influential than are conservative media figures such as Beck, Limbaugh, O’Reilly, and Palin. As a result, as Fox News becomes even more outrageous, and violence against Democrats escalates, GOP leaders either claim to be powerless to stop it or argue the mainstream media has exaggerated the problem. 


Meanwhile, a second civil war is brewing. Considering the volatile mixture of inflammatory rhetoric, weapons usage, and growth of militia groups, it appears likely there will be a tragic event: an assault on a Democratic politician, the burning of a congressional office, or another bombing of a Federal office building. 


In 1860, the onset of the Civil War could have been averted. Dispassionate observers saw that the Confederacy did not have the resources required to defeat the Union. In 2010, the impending Civil War should be averted. Right-wing zealots are a minority and do not have the resources to commandeer America. Nonetheless, they can cause needless bloodshed. 


What will it take for voices of reason to rise up within the Republican Party? How long will it be before a major Republican leader speaks out against domestic terrorism and urges the GOP to return to reason and reconciliation? 


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

Community Reporter: Landmarks Preservation Commission Reviews Libraries, "Green Pathway"

By Steven Finacom
Thursday April 08, 2010 - 11:04:00 AM
Commissioners were given this drawing showing the proposed rear addition to the North Berkeley Branch Library.  The addition is in the center.  The row of low, square, windows would open into the ground level community room.  The vertical stack of four, square, windows on the right would open into a new stairwell.  The large panels of glass to left and right of the new addition would be curtain walls connecting the addition to the original building.
Commissioners were given this drawing showing the proposed rear addition to the North Berkeley Branch Library. The addition is in the center. The row of low, square, windows would open into the ground level community room. The vertical stack of four, square, windows on the right would open into a new stairwell. The large panels of glass to left and right of the new addition would be curtain walls connecting the addition to the original building.
Kathleen Malstrom from Architectural Resources Group presented the design revisions to the Landmarks Preservation Commission.  Architect Doug Tom seated on far right.
Steven Finacom
Kathleen Malstrom from Architectural Resources Group presented the design revisions to the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Architect Doug Tom seated on far right.
The new addition would remove the trees along the rear of the Library and extend out across the lawn towards Josephine Street, in the foreground.
Steven Finacom
The new addition would remove the trees along the rear of the Library and extend out across the lawn towards Josephine Street, in the foreground.

A relatively short action agenda turned into a much longer meeting April 1, 2010, as the Landmarks Preservation Commission delved for the second month into the design details of a renovation and expansion of the North Berkeley branch library. 

The Berkeley Public Library is planning to renovate the existing library, remove two extensions on the rear, and construct a new two-story rear addition, partially sunken into the ground, along Josephine Street. 

Kathleen Malstrom from Architectural Resources Group made the formal presentation of the revised design and most of the discussion with the Commission, with architect Doug Tom from Tom Eliot Fisch occasionally adding a comment. 

Malstrom reviewed a list of recommendations the design team felt the LPC had made at its last meeting, and noted changes made in response. In particular, the design team had eliminated a proposed asymmetrically angled portion of the new rear elevation, while leaving a small section of the new second floor uniformly cantilevered and extending about 18 inches beyond the lower level.  

Roof heights of different elements had also been slightly adjusted on the rear elevation. The plans continue to show that the new addition would be visually connected to the existing building by two small glass curtain walls, one fronting a teen room on the south, the other a staff workspace on the north side of the new addition. 

The exterior of the addition is proposed to be board form concrete up to the “water table” level of the old building. New windows will be clear, not tinted, glass. The elevator tower at the southwest corner of the new addition will have a trellis on it to support vines. “There’s some real tradition for vine covered walls”, said Malstrom.  

“We spent an awful long time on the program and how the inside of the building would work”, she added. “We (the designers) fought madly to keep the elevator and the bathrooms away from the façade”, but the program dictated they go on the rear elevation of the new structure.  

The result was a rear façade with two elements—an elevator and stair tower and bathroom walls on the right, as one faces the building from Josephine Street, and a new community room and other spaces on the left. “Any attempt to make this a symmetrical façade would not work—it would be more contrived”, said Malstrom. 

Commission members were mixed in their reaction to the new plans. 

Some Commissioners asked if the internal program of the Library could be arranged in a different way so the new rear exterior would look different. “We tried all kinds of arrangements”, Malstrom said. “We didn’t want to see the bathroom and the elevator on the street side.” “Yes, the program dictates a lot. It’s been a real challenge to make this work in the area we had.” 

“I really don’t want to step on your toes, but what we’re interested in is what the building looks like. It looks like a building that is being pushed around by the program”, Parsons responded. 

“We feel it’s an asymmetrical solution”, Malstrom said. “It could be rendered in a more symmetrical way on the outside but it would look a little dishonest. I don’t think we’re trying to put a wrapper around this building.” 

Commissioner Steven Winkel agreed that the rear did not need to be symmetrical, and “I’m really troubled that we’re (the Commission) pushing the building towards being banal.” “I don’t mind the asymmetry, I think it’s actually to be desired…the asymmetry is the correct solution.” 

Commissioner Carrie Olson said “I don’t have a problem with it being asymmetrical providing it (visually) recedes. And I don’t see anything that makes it recede.” She suggested that the proposed cantilever be eliminated on the rear façade, bringing the community room level out to the same plane as the second floor above.  

“I think this has come a long way”, said Commissioner Austene Hall. But “I don’t quite understand the cantilever either. Now I’m not sure why it’s there.” She expressed concern about large windows projecting too much light at the surrounding residential neighborhood. 

“One of the horrors all around Berkeley is the use of containers as building space”, said Commissioner Anne Wagley. “And to me that top space (on the rear façade) looks like a container stacked on the building.” She supported eliminating the cantilever.  

“We could look at that”, Malstrom said.  

“I love the (existing) building”, said Commissioner Antoinette Pietras. “When I look at the (proposed) addition, it’s whoa!” “I’m going to vote for a darker color”, she added. 

“The whole cantilever thing is sort of an artifact at present”, Chair Parsons added. “I just don’t know if it’s serving any purpose. Now it looks like a box that’s hung over nothing. It conjures up a construction trailer. It conjures up a skybox.” 

“Whatever happens to the building is going to live or die by the details”, Parsons added. “These things are going to be super important. This is a civic building”. He urged that the design team look at ways to make the addition walls appear thicker and detail the windows better. 

“This is a building that people really love, that people really care about tremendously.” 

Commissioner Christopher Linvill urged “balance” for the new addition. “I firmly believe there’s no reason for it to be unbalanced”, he said. “But I’m not suggesting we have to achieve symmetry.” 

“There’s no point in doing anything if it doesn’t work for the program,” Commissioner Miriam Ng said.  

Commissioners also discussed whether the rear stairwell should have windows. Some thought yes, others no, and various approaches were argued. 

Discussion also involved proposed colors for the building exterior. Malstrom said the building was originally peach colored; “it was very light”. The design team is proposing that both the old and new portions of the building be repainted in a uniform light color, with lighter tones on the decorative details of the main façade.  

“Having the light color is a horror to me”, said Commissioner Olson; she had previously advocated for keeping the dark Karl Kardel color design for the exterior.  

“If there’s a consensus that what is there now is preferred, we are not wedded to making the building light”, Malstrom said. 

Olson also criticized the Library and its consultants for providing meeting packet materials that did not match the designs presented at the meeting. “Getting a packet with a building that we’re not now looking at is really not OK”, she said. Chair Parsons told the consultants, “What we’re struggling with is that we don’t have the documentation of what you’re talking about.” 

Consultants apologized, citing the tight schedule for the project. Malstrom also noted, in response to a comment by Olson that boards showing the actual materials proposed would be presented to the Commission at future meetings. 


Claremont library 

The Commission also heard a short presentation about the Claremont Branch Library. The building is a 1924 structure also designed by James Plachek, with a much later addition. 

Consultants said that renovation plans would add very little to the exterior footprint of the building—which already occupies most of its site—but would remove the front entry steps and “infill the (front) porch, grabbing the porch for part of the building”. The extended enclosed porch would provide a reading nook. The bricks of the current steps would be used to build planters and a new, code compliant, handicapped entrance ramp would be constructed. 

All the interior shelving would be refurbished, and the current plan is to repair and retain the existing windows. Shear walls for seismic reinforcement would be hidden within the existing walls, resulting in shelves about ½ inch shallower than the existing shelving. 

Commissioners made few comments, and generally seemed supportive of the plans. However, “I think the loss of that existing entry looking like an entry is profound” said Commissioner Olson. 

Downtown planning 

Commission Secretary Jay Claiborne said in reference to the City Council’s new Downtown Plan the LPC could raise issues and take the initiative to present them to the Council. He noted the Transportation Commission had done that. 

He said that under the Mayor’s new “Green Pathway” imitative that is part of the proposed Downtown Plan, “the LPC may be asked to predetermine historic status of projects within a certain number of days.” This would be different than the process spelled out in the Landmarks Ordinance for considering the historic status of a building through landmark initiation. 

That issue raised concern with some Commission members who compared it to the “Request for Determination” in the Mayor’s proposed revisions to the Landmarks Ordinance that had been defeated by Berkeley voters in 2008.  

“A ‘request for determination’ is an alteration to the Landmarks Ordinance,” said Commissioner Wagley. “I very strongly think the details of this request for determination must be approved by the LPC.”  

“It was presented to me as a way to get the LPC and the public out of the way”, said Commissioner Hall.  

Wagley asked that the Commission write a letter asking the Council if it was amending the Landmark Preservation Ordinance and, if a new Downtown Plan covering historic resources is being created, would it require CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) review? 

Subcommittee reports  

Commissioners also heard a number of subcommittee reports about issues discussed at the March meeting. Members felt they had been relatively successful working out the details of paint colors and signage for the exterior of the new “Burgermeister” corner storefront—opened last month at 2237 Shattuck Avenue—but expressed frustration about the Berkeley Bike Station at 2208-2210 Shattuck, which will occupy three commercial storefronts in the Shattuck Hotel building. 

At the March LPC meeting some Commissioners were irritated at some of the signage proposals for the new Bikestation. Between meetings, however, their ire shifted somewhat to City signage regulations which some felt were unreasonably limiting the storefront signage displays for the new facility. 

Shortening lists 

The Commission also did, at the request of the Secretary, some housekeeping, eliminating a number of obsolete subcommittees and properties listed on the agenda as “potential initiations” dating back as far as 1998.  

Subcommittees are frequently set up by the Commission so three to four members can go look in detail at a particular project or issue in between the formal meetings, and report back to the larger body. Potential initiation listings are intended to give some informal public notice of historic properties in which Commissioners have interest, but which haven’t been formally nominated for landmark status. 

The number of subcommittees was cut from 21 to 11. The number of “potential initiations” was reduced from 35 identified properties to about 18.  

(Disclosure: the writer of this piece commented to the Commission on the North Berkeley Library design, expressing concern about the asymmetry and modern design character of the proposed addition.) 

Senior Power: Choosing a Geriatrician

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Friday April 09, 2010 - 10:55:00 AM

“Beware of the young doctor and the old barber.” 

Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790) 

Geriatrics is the medical study of the physiology and pathology of old age; a geriatrician is an M.D. whose sub-specialty is care for people 65 and older. Gerontology is the scientific study of the biological, social and psychological aspects of aging. Geriatrician is to geriatrics as Gerontologist is to gerontology.  


It was Gail Sheehy who deduced that “Beyond the age of 21, apart from medical people who are interested only in our gradual decay, we are left to fend for ourselves on the way downstream to senescence, at which point we are picked up again by the gerontologists.” (Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life.) My conclusion: Beware the focus group and the surveyor who do not pay… cash. 


Geriatricians have been calling for inclusion of geriatric curriculum in the mainstream of American medical education. There are currently approximately 890 geriatricians in California, or one geriatrician per 4,000 Californians 65+ years of age.  


How does one go about locating an accessible geriatrician? Assuming one has a referral and an HMO (health maintenance organization) and so forth. It shouldn’t be necessary to take a yellow pages approach. It should be possible to learn in advance any physician’s credentials. Shoulda-coulda-woulda.  

One approach is to Google the American Medical Association: search its online “Doctor Finder for Patients” by physician specialty-- click on Geriatrics (a sub-specialty,) then state and city. There are 4 listed in Berkeley—interestingly, all are non-AMA members. None in Albany and Emeryville. The Alameda-Contra Costa Medical Association’s “Find a Physician” lists geriatric subspecialists. I suggest www.wellness.com/find/geriatrician and www.healthgrades.com/directory_search/physician/profiles/  

For specific education, experience, and other information about a physician, try to locate her/his website, and don’t hesitate to phone the office and ask for the website’s location.  



Can you identify these senior citizens? (Answers at the end of Column):  


1. This labor rights activist retired from Herrick Hospital cooking to 

advocate for affordable senior housing, especially Section 8 rentals, and was active in the Strawberry Creek Lodge Tenants’ Association._______ 

2. In 1971 this activist, following forced retirement at age 65, convened the 

Gray Panthers to advocate for seniors’ rights. ____________________ 

3. 79 year old Berkeley resident Rosita Dolores Alverio, better known 

as_____________, was presented with an award by the National Osteoporosis Foundation for her work raising awareness.  

4. Although regarded by some as an “office worker,” she began ringing the 

UC, Berkeley Sather Tower bells in 1923 and continued until retirement 50 years later. _______________________________________ 

5. The former Berkeley mayor (1994-1902) who issued an Older  

Americans Month Proclamation. _______________________________ 




Recently I visited 2 especially interesting sites. On March 25 I was at the Albany Senior Center for the Seniors’ Resource Fair, the best I’ve attended, possibly one of the reasons savvy seniors ‘shop around’ among senior centers. And on the 29th, I visited Strawberry Creek Lodge affordable and low-income senior housing to interview seniors for an upcoming SENIOR POWER column. Strawberry is a unique ambience. The Lodgers are collegial people who publish their own Tenants’ Association newsletter. Bicycles abound, and a City CarShare vehicle was parked in the lot. Meals optional. Bulletin boards everywhere, freely accessible to all. The front door ‘greeter’ is watchful and helpful.  




For your consideration:  

“New Resources on Aging” is a great online newsletter from the Resource Center on Aging, University of California at Berkeley. To subscribe: ddriver@berkeley.edu ; put “subscribe newsletter” on the subject line.  




When: April 11-17, 2010 

What: National Library Week observed nationally  

Where: Fill out Berkeley Public Library Customer Satisfaction survey at any Info or Reference Desk or www.surveymonkey.com/s/JYBDVWC .  

For more info: (510) 981-6100. 


When: Opening April 11. Regular hours, Thursday-Saturday. 1-4 PM  

What: “WPA 75th Anniversary in Berkeley” exhibit  

Where: Berkeley History Center, 1931 Center St. 

For more info: (510) 848-0181  




1. Helen Corbin Lima (1917-2005). 2. Margaret “Maggie” Eliza Kuhn (1905-1995). 

3.Rita Moreno. 4. Margaret Murdock (1894-1985). 5. Shirley Dean 


Helen Rippier Wheeler can be reached at pen136@dslextreme.com  



Arts & Events

Around and About

By Ken Bullock
Thursday April 08, 2010 - 09:58:00 AM

Personal picks from the Bay Area arts menu:  

Rough & Tumble, who presented a spirited version of Andy Bayiotes' 43 Plays for 43 Presidents a couple years ago, commissioned the playwright for A History of Human Stupidity (is it a sequel?), the results of which will be premiered this Thursday through April 25 at LaVal's Subterranean, Northside, on Euclid. Called "an intellectual vaudeville in three acts and a roast," the show features original music by saxophonist-composer Phillip Greenlief, who'll play in situ. $16-$20; 499-0356; www.randt.org  


Galatean Players, who've presented Rosie the Riveter on shipboard, are doing it again with Mr. Roberts, aboard the USS Red Oak Victory, ongoing--Fridays through Sundays (with matinees and evening shows) until April 18, in the old Kaiser Shipyard on the Richmond waterfront. $15-$20. (925) 676-5705; galateanplayers.com  


Charles Hamilton, who directed the Berkeley High Jazz Program and bands for 28 years, touring the world with his students to much acclaim, will celebrate the release of his first CD, MR.. HAMUDAH, Tuesday night (April 13) at 8 at Yoshi's-Jack London Square. 

Playing the gig will be the current edition of Charles Hamilton & Beyond, a septet of alumni including members of the Hieroglyphics and Mingus Amungus: Mark Wright, trumpet; Mike Aaberg, piano; Josh Jones, drums; Joshi Marshall, sax; Miles Perkins, bass; Mosheh Milon, percussion--led by Hamilton on trombone--with special guest artsts Leah Wollenberg, electric violin and Elena Pinderhughes, flute. Several of the players are Downbeat Poll winners. 

Yoshi's, 510 Embarcadero, just north of Broadway, Oakland. 

238-9200; www.yoshis.com 


Headlines have featured politicians faced with the jug; now there's a gubenatorial candidate playing one! 

Artist Lowell Darling, who ran for Governor in 1977, the election period Prop. 13 passed, is hitting the trail again--which includes blowing a jug with Smooth Toad, as well as (presumably) kissing babies, at a benefit for his run. Darling promises, if elected, to do nothing as Governor until the legislature reduces the 2/3 vote needed to pass new taxes to a simple majority 

7:30 p. m. Saturday, April 10, Rhythmix Cultural Center, 2513 Blanding, Alameda (near the Fruitvale Bridge). Admission: sliding scale, starting at $10. 

Smooth Toad--whom you well may have heard on Subterranean Shakespeare's Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits CD--consists of Blake Street Hawkeyes co-founder Bob Ernst (the Guinness Book recordholder in 1987 for a solo performance over 24 hours) on harmonica and vocals, fiddler Hal Hughes and poet G. P. Skratz on guitar, &c. Sitting in will be Mime Trouper Ed Holmes on toy percussion and Kevin Moore, lead guitar. Smooth Toad recently backed Ernst in his wailing staged reading of King Lear for SubShakes; the wind blew, the cheeks crack'd. 

Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits by

Reviewed by Dorothy Bryant
Thursday April 08, 2010 - 05:28:00 PM

Biographies of explorers and politicians fill us in on background, motivation, and influences we might not otherwise know. But biographies of artists are generally useless. The fact that Flaubert lived reclusively with his doting mother tells us nothing about the source of the cool poetic prose he developed to dissect complacent French provincial life; the dramatic love affair of Chopin and George Sand (for which that much abused woman usually gets a bad rap) gives us no insight into the sources of his music; the wondrous use of color in the paintings of Gauguin came, not because of his self-mythologizing, free-loading pedophilia (the Tahitian maidens were usually about 14) but in spite of his total lack of redeeming qualities. Artistic production is a mystery, emerging from a secret inner core only minimally affected by outside events. There are exceptions. Sometimes world events and the artist’s inner drive combine to feed one another, the history inspiring the artist, and the artist affecting the perception, if rarely the direction, of that history, as in the creation of historical novels.

The photography of Dorothea Lange is an example of this fruitful collision of inner and outer worlds. Author Linda Gordon starts with a disclaimer: she is a historian, not a biographer. Ideally, biographers should all be historians as well, and vice versa. But forced to choose, I would say that, in this case, a historian’s broad knowledge is more needed than details of Lange’s heritage or of photographic technique—because Lange’s life and accomplishment were very much driven by dramatic mid-20th century events. 

Dorothea Nutzhorn was born in Hoboken, in 1895, to upper-middle class, socially prominent parents whose grandparents had immigrated from Germany. A bout with polio at age seven left her with a limp, but her father’s disappearance in 1907 made a greater change in her life. It probably created the silence (no diaries, no letters kept, virtually no written record) of her first twenty years. Gordon cites some evidence that the father’s desertion was more complicated than Dorothea ever let on—he seems to have been caught embezzling a large sum, went underground using an assumed name, and managed to stay out of prison—evidently with occasional financial help from his wife, who immediately moved, with Dorothea and brother Martin, to Grandmother Sophie’s home in New York City. Her mother instantly got a well-paying job as a librarian. Status, contacts, and money seem to have remained secure on her mother’s side of the family, since Gordon says nothing about impoverishment after the father’s disappearance. And living in New York City opened a wider world to young Dorothea. 

Her schooling with bright, studious Jews inspired her only to skip classes and wander the streets (until very recently urban children went everywhere on foot.) The confidence she gained may have been what impelled her as a teen-ager to walk into Genthe’s studio, cold, ask for a job, and become one of his many young short-term assistants coming and going. After Genthe she worked for other photographers. In 1918, at age 23, she and a girlfriend decided to travel “around the world,” and got as far as San Francisco before losing their money. That was when she dropped her father’s name, took her mother’s maiden name, and became Dorothea Lange. 

Gordon’s skill and knowledge as a historian get us through this undocumented first third of Lange’s life. Forced to fall back on phrases like “Dorothea must have noticed . . . could have seen . . . might have . . . “and so on, she makes good use of her research background as a historian. (A rare slip is her describing Dorothea as needing to lose her fear of wandering “San Francisco’s Mission District.” Gordon has apparently misused the term when referring to a few blocks of skid row south of Market. The actual Mission District—bordered by Twin Peaks on the west, Potrero Hill on the east, Market Street on the north, and Bernal Heights on the south—was, when Lange arrived, a quiet, clean, mixed residential/industrial neighborhood of European immigrant families, with barely a sprinkle of Hispanics who later became the majority. I can’t imagine that a young woman who had wandered New York streets would have felt uneasy after a five minute glance at the Mission District streets on which I spent my 1930s childhood.) 

Gordon is a bit casual mentioning the $3000 (a huge sum in 1918) Lange borrowed from unnamed “friends” she had presumably just met, so that she could open a portrait studio in a fashionable downtown location that also housed an art gallery. She became an instant, lifelong friend of Imogene Cunningham, and an instant success as portrait photographer to the “merchant princes,” of San Francisco—mostly the San Francisco Jewish families renowned for their benevolence, social consciousness, and good taste. Not to belittle Lange’s talent and energy, surely her class contacts were part of a network that helped establish her, and to bring well-known artist Maynard Dixon—20 years older, divorced, one daughter—down from the gallery above to meet her. They married in 1920.  

In this marriage Lange was following the approved path to “success” for a woman with creative talent: marry a man acknowledged as superior to her in his art, and serve his needs. (Marriage to man equal or inferior in accomplishment might prove fatal to marriage—it was and is rare to find a Leonard Woolfe willing to subordinate his ambitions to Virginia’s, or a George Henry Lewes devoting himself to fostering the work of George Elliot.) Perhaps, as Gordon implies, what this marriage had going for it was that Lange gained attention as being a worthy companion to a “real” artist. She still spoke as if she shared the common opinion that photography was questionable as an “art,” or more than questionable, just an image manufactured by machine. Whether she still believed that is doubtful.  

The marriage produced two sons and lasted, withering slowly, for fifteen years. Gordon presents Maynard Dixon as a lover of old California landscape (he was born in Fresno) and an idealizer of traditional, dying Indian culture in posters, murals, drawings, and paintings. But his work, as the Great Depression hit the country, gives hints that he could have nudged Dorothea in the direction her photography would take. Examples: shortly after 1930 Dixon sketched and painted “Bindle Stiffs” and “Noplace to Go” (depicting migrants also referred to as “fruit tramps”) and “Forgotten Man,” an all too familiar view (then as today) of a street person sitting slumped on a curb. 

What finally ended Lange’s first marriage was the arrival on the scene of UC Professor Paul Taylor with some New Deal grants and commissions to document the conditions of displaced rural farmers. Taylor first contacted Lange for permission to use one of her photos. Attraction was instant, and by 1935 both had divorced to marry each other. For the next five years, with Berkeley as home base, she traveled with Taylor, both documenting rural agricultural conditions for the Farm Security Administration, Taylor in written reports, Lange in photographs, doing her most well-known work, including, of course, the world famous “Migrant Mother.”  

This era ended when Pearl Harbor plunged the USA into World War II. The Office of War Information hired Lange to photo-document the internment of west coast Japanese Americans. Fortune magazine commissioned a series of photos of the Richmond Shipyards. In 1945 Lange was one of the photographers hired by the OWI to document the San Francisco conference founding the United Nations. 

That year marked, not only the end of the war, but the first downturn in Lange’s health, starting with bleeding ulcers. It also marked the beginning of Cold War right-wing red-baiting, with the FBI starting files on anyone with “subversive” interest in the problems of poor workers. Academics like Taylor wrestled with their conscience and their family’s economic needs—then usually signed meaningless but highly symbolic Loyalty Oaths. Lange’s decade of respected photo-documentation of poor and working class people was suddenly out of step with the time. 

During the next 20 years of declining, but occasionally rebounding health, Lange helped found Aperture, which continues to publish a periodical and fine books devoted to photography. Life Magazine commissioned a series on Mormons in Utah, one on County Clare, Ireland. In the 1950s, she, with Pirkle Jones, photographed the flooding of the Berryessa Valley to build the Monticello Dam and sent their photo essay “Death of a Valley,” to Life Magazine, which wouldn’t touch this politically incorrect take on dams and “progress.” She went along, cameras in tow, when Taylor was sent as a consultant on agrarian reform: Indonesia, Vietnam, Pakistan, Korea, then—retired from UC— to a brief teaching stint in Egypt, in 1963, by that time an ordeal for Lange, who, at 68, was very ill and weak.  

Gordon does not present a rose-colored view of the parenting of this so-called “blended” family (each had two sons from their former marriages; Dixon’s daughter by his first wife had long been alienated from Dorothea). As parents, Dorothea and Paul and Maynard seem to have been, not abusive, but simply in denial of the existence of children having any claim, let alone effect, on their single, roving life-style. Whenever Paul and Dorothea took off, traveling for months on end, they left the four boys in various foster homes. (Maynard never provided a home, let alone a penny of child support.) These long absences must have contrasted ironically with ceremonial festive Christmas celebrations, elaborately planned, executed, and enjoyed by Dorothea. Readers might remain unimpressed, as were the Taylor/Dixon/Lange children. Interviewed by Gordon in their old age, Dorothea’s sons were still bitter about being dumped in the homes of strangers—bitter toward her, of course, not toward Paul Taylor or Maynard Dixon. Responsibilities of fatherhood, it seems, were, and often still are, seen as limited to conception, like wild male animals who disappear after mating. But the double standard doesn’t explain or excuse the failure of these parents to devise a better solution to child care during their field work. Hiring a good full-time care-giver-housekeeper to keep the children in their Berkeley home and schools couldn’t have cost more than farming them out, especially during the Depression. 

The most interesting thread that weaves through this book is the infuriating trouble stemming from politics and government bureaucracy. Most admirers of Lange need to be reminded of these political frustrations, and Gordon does an excellent job of nailing them. Here are only a few examples: 

1. She was required to send all negatives of her famous farm worker photos to be processed and stored in Washington D. C., and no amount of arguing would convince the head of the Farm Security Administration that her judgment on what to print and how to print it was better than his, nor that he should not punch holes in the negatives he rejected! 

2. The Office of War Information hired Lange to photograph the internment of Japanese-Americans—no doubt as evidence that this horror was being done nicely. The photos she produced disappeared, were hidden in secret files, not even available to her until shortly before her death. My guess (judging from my experience here at the time) is that, by the time she turned them in, the whole country had come slightly to their senses and were eager to hide, erase, forget this blight on our history. (In 2006 Gordon co-edited, with Gary Okihiro, the book Impounded, using many of Lange’s photos of the Japanese-American community.) 

3. Taylor’s post-war overseas consulting on “agrarian reform” consulting was a cold-war façade, a PR job. It was clear to both Paul and Dorothea that if he recommended the farming co-operatives that might truly help these third-world farmers, he would become a liability to the government, branded as “communist” by right wing McCarthyites. As if to underline their false position, Dorothea, for the first time in her life, encountered children who threw rocks at her as soon as they saw her camera—or perhaps as soon as they recognized her as American. 

4. Racism ruled in local and national government. Southern legislators forbade images of blacks and whites together. In California, the effect of her famous, oft-reprinted images of white migrant workers (like the images in Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath) was to wipe out the true history of plantation-migrant agriculture in this state, performed mostly by Mexicans, Filipinos, Punjabis, and some blacks, under conditions no better than what white dust-bowl refugees faced when they came here. 


According to Gordon, Dorothea Lange’s work was unknown at her death “except among photographers.” I am happy to be able to disagree with this statement. In the weeks before Lange’s death in 1965, she struggled to finish one more task: to prepare her one-woman show for the New York Museum of Modern Art. An unknown photographer is not invited to exhibit at the MOMA, following a select few photographers like Ansel Adams. Certainly, her present world-wide fame had to wait until the Civil Rights Movement began shredding the repressive politics of the 1950s. But her work had to have been admired by a number of people, to justify a show at MOMA. She knew she wouldn’t live to see it; she just wanted to live long enough to make sure they got it right. 

In addition to all the stories and facts I have barely touched, there are over 100 photos reproduced in this book. Linda Gordon has done a fine job of presenting Dorothea Lange as “America’s preeminent photographer of democracy.”  

Lange herself once described what she did by saying, “Art is a by-product of an act of total attention.” 



Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits by Linda Gordon, W. W. Norton, 536 pages $35. 


You can see photos by Dorothea Lange and her colleagues during the “75th Anniversary of the WPA in Berkeley” exhibit at: 

Berkeley History Center 

1931 Center, 848 0181 

opening April 11. 







Architecture Review: “Trader Joe’s” Reconsidered

By Christopher Adams
Wednesday April 07, 2010 - 11:30:00 PM
The residential floors of the building are divided by narrow light wells that will limit natural light and views of the sky for several units.
Steve Finacom
The residential floors of the building are divided by narrow light wells that will limit natural light and views of the sky for several units.
Tenants in the new "Trader Joe's" building will often be left in the dark. At mid-day, sun makes its way into the southern-facing, 16 foot wide, light well along University Avenue, but at other times much of the space will be in shade. <a href = "http://berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2010-04-08/article/34982" target="_blank" > Review: </a>
Steven Finacom
Tenants in the new "Trader Joe's" building will often be left in the dark. At mid-day, sun makes its way into the southern-facing, 16 foot wide, light well along University Avenue, but at other times much of the space will be in shade. Review:
The architectural character of the development changes along Martin Luther King, Jr. Way from a neo-classical or Spanish Revival style on the left, to an oversized Craftsman motif on the right.
Steve Finacom
The architectural character of the development changes along Martin Luther King, Jr. Way from a neo-classical or Spanish Revival style on the left, to an oversized Craftsman motif on the right.

The “Trader Joe’s” project at the intersection of Martin Luther King and University Ave is almost complete. The building façade is draped with a NOW RENTING banner, and workers are planting trees. In a few months the project’s 148 apartments should be occupied, 22 of them by people who are eligible to pay less than market rents. Some of the new tenants will look out their windows across University Ave to the civic center park and the tower of Old City Hall; some will look over the trees and low bungalows of the pleasant residential areas stretching along Ohlone Park. But for some, in as many as 33 apartments, their only view will be a wall on the other side of a light shaft and less sun than an immigrant in New York’s Lower East Side might have enjoyed 100 years ago.  

Soon the zoning files, all 4,303 pages of them, can be sent out for microfiche. It has been almost eight years since the developers presented an application for 176 apartment units plus a floor of retail, six months later increasing their proposal to retail plus 191 apartments, and finally accepting a floor of retail plus 148 apartments. During the run-up to approval of this project the Planet’s headlines usually described it as “controversial.” Opponents focused on traffic and parking impacts, on the shadows the building would cast on the adjacent neighbors, and on the high number of apartment units it would contain. After all was said and done, there are 37 more apartments than the developers would have been permitted under regular city zoning, had they not received special approvals from the Zoning Adjustments Board and, on appeal, from the City Council. The developers and their defenders in the community and on the Council justified the project’s new retail as a boost to downtown and justified the high housing density because 22 apartments would be made available to low-income tenants. It’s too early to judge the traffic and parking impacts or to see if the retail benefits the city. But it’s not too early to evaluate the building as a piece of architecture and a place to live, which is what I want to do.  

The Trader Joe’s project (known by the name of its major retail tenant) fills the entire block frontage on the west side of Martin Luther King from University Ave. to Berkeley Way. Below grade is a basement for parking. The ground floor will be devoted to the Trader Joe’a grocery store, another retail tenant, and additional parking. Above this podium are two four-story apartment buildings. The southern building on University Ave. and along about two-thirds of the Martin Luther King frontage is decorated in a Spanish colonial style. The ground floor base has been covered with brick and colored tiles. The apartment building above has walls of bright ochre stucco interspersed with pink bas-relief panels under the windows. The northern apartment building and the ground floor base below it depart completely from the Spanish theme. This part of the building is a kind of neo-Craftsman style, with shingled or timbered walls and projecting eaves with heavy timber brackets.  

Little in the official or journalistic record of the lengthy city approval process focuses on the architecture of the project, but one can speculate that the Spanish colonial motifs of the University Ave. building are intended to echo older buildings in downtown, such as the Shattuck Hotel and the Corder Building (home of CVS Pharmacy) south of it. Not unexpectedly there are also echoes of the recent Gaia building, which was designed by the Trader Joe’s architect. Possibly for budgetary reasons the facades of the completed structure have been modified from the drawings submitted during the approval process. The depth of the “reverse pilasters” between apartment windows has been reduced and the windows themselves have been set in the same plane as the stucco; both changes attenuate the sense of a masonry wall which the Spanish colonial style demands. In addition, the color scheme is more Mardi Gras than Mediterranean. Nonetheless, the overall scale of this portion of the building successfully and gracefully reminds us of other downtown buildings, both old and new.  

Unfortunately, things go awry as one moves north. Presumably the Craftsman-style motifs are intended to respond to the architecture of the bungalows in the residential neighborhood to the north and along Berkeley Way. The street facades of the project’s north building are broken up by projecting bays, roof dormers, and a variation in materials between stucco, shingles and vertical boards. But, alas, the original Craftsman-style in Berkeley and elsewhere was almost always used for one- or, at most, two-story houses. Bulked up to the scale of Trader Joe’s it looks like a hippopotamus in a tutu.  

On the west side of the northern building, where the project is immediately adjacent to existing single family homes, the apparent height is reduced by recessing the fifth floor; however, as a look at a drawing submitted during the approval process showed, the scale of the building remains overwhelming. The tall Victorian right next door is overshadowed, and even more so are the Craftsman-style cottages further down Berkeley Way. From the street a tall redwood softens this abrupt transition in scale, but for the residents of these adjacent homes, there is no such relief. While the west wall of the Trader Joe’s project which is adjacent to these existing homes is a floor lower than the rest of the project, its shingled surface is unrelieved by any of the decorative elements used along the street façades—still a hippopotamus but without her tutu.  

The real architectural problems, however, begin inside the building, which most of us will never see. Once the bright ochre stucco fades a bit, the building will also fade into our consciousness as we wait in traffic (perhaps a bit longer than we like) for the light to change at Martin Luther King. Those running into Trader Joe’s for their supply of Two-Buck-Chuck will hardly look up at the oversize Craftsman brackets. But 148 households will encounter the daily reality of these apartments. Thirty-six of them will live in apartments that face into the light wells which bisect the southern Spanish colonial style building. The light wells are 16 feet wide, a dimension such that 24 of these apartments will not be able to see anything except the wall on the other side, a view consisting of the windows of their neighbors but without the bas reliefs that decorate the street facades. From at least 18 of these apartments the tenants will not be able to see the sky, except by sticking their heads out a window.  

No apartments in the northern Craftsman-style building will have only a light well view, but nine bedrooms divided among six apartments will look out 10 feet to blank walls; the bedrooms of four other apartments will look upon a blank wall five and a half feet away. Because of the overhanging roof it is doubtful that any occupant of these rooms will ever see the sky, even by craning out the window. At no time, even at the summer solstice, will direct sun reach these windows. It is unlikely enough daylight will enter at any time of year to permit the occupants to read or perform most routine tasks without turning on the lights.  

I know members of the Zoning Adjustments Board and the City Council serve long hours in meetings, and if they are conscientious, they must try to read reams of paper ahead of time. During the approval process for a project such as Trader Joe’s they are badgered by community activists who are pushing all sorts of agendas, almost none of which include architecture, unless it is the preservation of old architecture. But one could wish that someone on ZAB or the Council had thought not just about the people who live in the neighborhood now but those who will come to live there. If someone had looked carefully at the plans and then asked him or herself, “Could I live in such an apartment, without ever seeing the sun and sky?” would the project have been approved? In the name of boosting retail and creating more cheap rentals, our city has come close to creating a twenty-first century tenement.  

When our daughter was six, we took her and the teenage daughter of friends to New York City for a visit. The very modest hotel where we stayed had no suites so we stayed in two separate rooms; theirs opened to a light shaft with the window facing a graffiti-sprayed wall about 8 feet away. “What is this,” our daughter said on entering, “Westside Story?” I thought about that trip when looking at the almost finished Trader Joe’s. Our daughter, now a graduate student, would certainly qualify for one of the low income units in this new building, whose inclusion formed much of the justification for the enormous density bonus. If she remembered her New York trip, she might find it looks like “Westside Story,” without, so far, the graffiti.  


Christopher Adams is an architect and city planner and long-time Berkeley resident. 

Film Review:2012: Time for Change

by Gar Smith
Thursday April 08, 2010 - 09:02:00 PM

Last summer, the blockbuster disaster flick, 2012 asked the question: “How would the governments of our planet prepare 6 billion people for the end of the Earth?” Hollywood’s answer? “They Wouldn’t.” 

2012: Time for Change, is an eco-sequel that challenges this recipe for disaster. Time for Change sees the Mayan Calendar’s prediction of imminent doom as an opportunity for transformation, not trauma.  

The film’s “agent evocateur,” New Age journalist Daniel Pinchbeck, guides viewers through his personal encounters with psychedelics (from ingesting iboga in Gabon to downing ayahuasca in Brazil) and spends the better part of the film criss-crossing the globe to interview a host of 2010 positivists — shamans, scientists, inventors, yogis, permaculturists, Native Americans and Berkeley’s own Richard Register. Celebrities Sting, David Lynch and Ellen Page also chime in with Sting praising ayahuasca and yoga, Page celebrating the earthly joys of shoveling goat-shit, and Lynch (predictably) talking up the benefits of Transendental Meditation. (Too bad the filmmakers weren’t able to fit in an interview with John Cusack.) 

The film’s first order of business is dealing with the Mayan and Hopi myths that echo the Old Testament stories of human wickedness swept away by a holy flood. Both the Hopi and Mayan lore forwarned that 2012 would be a date of high danger. Scientist Michio Kaku observes that 2012 could see a Solar Maximum that could dissolve the electronic glue that holds modern society together. A radical economist predicts 2012 will see the collapse of the world economy, triggering food riots, a US tax rebellion and civil war. 

In the near-term, of course, we face hunger, war, and climate change. Canadian Maud Barlow also warns that “water is the next oil” — a precious resource that already is being claimed by corporations and Oilman T. Boone Pickens admits to buying up water rights in Texas and explains: “Do you charge for air? Well, of course not. They say you shouldn’t sell water. Well, OK. You just watch what happens.”  

The belief that Jesus will return or that benign aliens in UFOs will save are cop-outs, the filmmakers argue. There is no “personal sovereignty” when we forfeit our sense of responsibility for our own time and our own actions. Terence McKenna, author of Mind and Time, Spirit and Matter, puts it squarely: “Western civilization, at this time, is a loaded gun pointed at the head of this planet.” But, as Sting points out, “apocalypse” doesn’t mean disaster or oblivion; it means “uncovering.” And Time for Change reminds us that one of the things we need to uncover is the simple lesson: We are a part of nature; not apart from nature. 

A yoga instructor argues that the Western body is literally “uptight” — constrained in a “linear monoculture” of posture. (It’s time to get your curve on.) Sting reflects on finding comfort in difficulty yoga poses.: “That’s when we make progress. When we put ourselves out of the comfort zone.” 

2012 revisits the genius of Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller, the “daVinci of the 20th Century,” who showed the practical opportunities of a world designed to do “more with less.” Thinking outside the box produced alternatives like the geodesic dome and Fuller’s speedy, gymnastically maneuverable Dymaxion car (30 mpg; 120 mph). The clip of Bucky’s car in motion has to be seen to be believed.  

Richard Register, founder of EcoCity Builders, decries the lack of attention to cities, “the biggest thing that human beings create.” Capitalism’s definition of health: “grow, grow, grow, grow!” Possible to save 80-90% of US energy by redesigning our cities along more compact European models. Rooftop gardens in New York could grow 80% of the Big Apple’s produce. Register laments that his visionary plan for an Berkeley EcoCity was rejected “because it would mean major changes in land-use patterns.” Interviewed atop the Gaia Building., Register concludes: “It’s up to people, deep in their hearts, to say: ‘I want to build a different world and I’m willing to face some serious change.’ “ 

Innovator John Todd explains how he uses plants to clean sewage without electricity or chemicals: “When you assemble17 kingdoms of life, you’ve actually created an eco-machine that’s intelligent. It’s got behind it, hundreds of millions of years of practice.“ And Paul Stamets expounds on how mushrooms can help save the planet by breaking down oil, chemicals and pollutants to clean and restore habitat in as quickly as three months. Mycellium has a network like the Internet. 

Pinchbeck visits the lab of inventor Ryan Wartena who uses LA tap water to generate the electricity that powers his scooter and marvels at how the Internet has terminally torpedoed the corporate suppression of alternative technologies. Today an inventor can post a demonstration of a :free-energy” device on YouTube and the next day 30 million people can start building their own version. These “open source” solutions to survival could replace hierarchical, corporate systems that now dominate our lives.  

Social transformation is not easily accomplished because is it difficult to grasp emotionally and intellectually. In addition, as one interviewee puts it: “If you can’t monetize it, it drops out of capitalist monetization.” An economist advises Pinchbeck that we can’t solve environmental or social problems within the current economic system based, as it is, on bank debt and endless borrowing. “It’s a monoculture and monocultures are not very reliable, stable systems. One unexpected thing and the whole system falls apart.” 

Patriarchal societies are inevitably identified with monocultures of “centralizing currencies” and interest rates that provide a way of “extracting resources to the top.” What’s needed is a “diversity of financial tools” that reward actions that benefit health or the environment. One remarkable example is the Japanese fiyakipo — a time-based credit currency that recognizes the value of voluntary community service and rewards cooperation instead of competition.  

Just as there was an Agricultural Revolution, an Industrial Age and an Information Age, Pinchbeck predicts the arrival of a transformative Age of Wisdom. In sympathy with this hope, several interviewees praise the Sixties as the first phase of an “initiatory process” for the modern psyche: the first step in breaking away from egocentric, profit-driven materialism. What’s now needed is a profound shift in how we conducting ourselves on this planet — replacing the rituals of an “unsustainable suicide culture” with lives that respect the needs of others.  


2012: Time for Change opens April 9 for a three-day Special Advance Screening at the Landmark Lumiere Theatre in San Francisco. 

For more information, see: www.2012timeforchange.com  

Artist's Preview: "Andy Warhol: Good for the Jews"

by Josh Kornbluth
Thursday April 08, 2010 - 10:50:00 AM

Well, I'm back from Washington D.C., where I had a fabulous time doing the world-premiere run of Andy Warhol: Good for the Jews? It wasn't easy balancing a grueling performance schedule with my frequent late-night meetings with Nancy Pelosi, as I helped the Speaker navigate the health-care bill through a bitterly divided House -- but that's a small price to pay for democracy. I also had a chance to visit the National Portrait Gallery, and let me just say this: If how I feel about Millard Fillmore is wrong, then I guess I don't want to be right. 

Now I'm back at home in the Bay Area, chain-drinking Peet's coffee and devouring books with titles like Sigmund Freud and the Jewish Mystical Tradition. This is because I have become hopelessly addicted to all things Jewish and Warhol-related. So you can expect that during my upcoming West Coast premiere run of Andy Warhol: Good for the Jews? -- beginning previews on Thursday, April 8, at The Jewish Theatre San Francisco, and opening on Sunday evening, April 11 -- there will be some brand-new stuff in the show. In fact, if you happened to catch my presentation of a very early version of this piece at the Contemporary Jewish Museum last year, you can expect to see a significantly transformed show at The Jewish Theatre -- new stories, new structure, and way more Jewishness and Warholocity than ever before.  

But I still have the same fabulous collaborators: director David Dower, designer Alex Nichols, composer Marco d'Ambrosio, and producer Jonny Reinis (with a magical assist from guest dramaturg Mame Hunt). Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles -- and yet I can confidently say that we are all quite neurotic. The result of our combined labors is a theater piece that -- even in its newborn state -- I can tell I will greatly enjoy performing for a long, long time. It gets both quite silly and also very serious, as I grapple at midlife with aspects of my identity, upbringing, and beliefs that I never expected to address, in either my life or my work. 

The story, in brief: In 1980 Andy Warhol -- he of the Campbell's soup cans and the 15 minutes of fame -- presented 10 new portraits of famous 20th-century Jews. These works were received with uncommon vitriol by many critics, but were generally adored on the "synagogue circuit." Thirty years later the Contemporary Jewish Museum (in association with the Jewish Museum of New York) brought them back, in an exhibit that also provided lots of context regarding the portraits' creation and reception. The CJM hired me to do a (for me) brief public presentation offering my initial responses to the exhibit. And now, with Andy Warhol: Good for the Jews?, I can tell the full story of the profound and exhilarating effect this experience had (and is still having) on me, a very assimilated American Jew raised by extremely secular (okay, Communist) parents. 

If you do get a chance to see the show, I'd love to get your feedback, as I'm sure this complex piece will continue to evolve. The Jewish Theatre (formerly known as A Traveling Jewish Theatre -- sadly, they rejected my alternative suggestion of "A Sedentary Jewish Theatre") is lovely and intimate, and is within blocks of many fine Mission District tacquerias. Wow, it's so great to be back home -- I hope to see you soon! 


Music Review: Carneiro Ends BSO Season on High Note

by Ken Bullock
Thursday April 08, 2010 - 09:52:00 AM

Berkeley Symphony's season closer on April 1 was a triumph, both for the orchestra and for Joana Carneiro, completing her first season as music director. 

A triumph for the orchestra for their playing, one of their best concerts ever in terms of execution. "They're getting tighter and tighter!" Carneiro enthused afterwards. 

For Carneiro, a triumph in programming that was both subtle and audacious, intensive and extensive. 

The opener, Jorg Widmann's “Con Brio” , in its West Coast premiere, took gestures and hallmarks from Beethoven's style, extending, parodying, even burlesquing them with unusual instrumental techniques, including offbeat pizzicato and the use of (special fiberglass) sticks on the metal sides of the tympani that have the effect of "a mouse with long fingernails, running around in a dryer." 

Nonetheless, these seemingly unBeethovenic sounds created a marvelous effect in a piece from a unique and very musical ear, celebrating the great composer while accelerating his "stylemes" into the space age. Carneiro conducted Beethoven's Fifth at her guest concert in 2008. Earlier this season, she essayed the Eroica. Widmann's gamey, adventuresome piece proved a spirited denouement. 

(Widmann's music has been performed by Kent Nagano with Berkeley Akademie; Widmann will join Nagano and the Akademie as guest artist and on clarinet for his own composition this May 20.) 

The only drawback to opening with “Con Brio”--"With Spirit"--was a possible restlessness provoked by it in the audience, not all of whom seemed to settle down and fully absorb the gorgeous presentation of Samuel Barber's setting of "Knoxville 1915," a prose poem from James Agee's A Death in the Family. Soprano Jessica Rivera, artist in residence, sang it rapturously. "Nobody alive sings Barber like Jessica," Carneiro later remarked. "The dry and exalted noise of the locusts from all the air at once enchants my eardrums." Lushly orchestrated, it was a different way of looking back from Widmann's humorous, anti-sentimental excursion. 

And finally, Brahm's First Symphony, also deeply indebted to Beethoven, with which the composer struggled for years in order to emerge from his great predecessor's shadow. It opens with signs of the tumult and profundity of the struggle, soaring to identity with the sublime, even the divine. 

But the Symphony's playing showed no sign of struggle, only deep engagement. "We're like a new orchestra now!" one player exulted afterwards. That newness, that particular form of engagement is Carneiro's own commitment to the music--to the whole spectrum of orchestral music and its conversation with its own history and with the audience. 

Theater Review: “The Apple Tree” at the Masquers Playhouse

By John A. McMullen II
Thursday April 08, 2010 - 05:24:00 PM

The 1960’s quirky musical is by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick who wrote “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Fiorello.” It’s composed of three not-so-connected scenarios taken from three masterfully written short stories. The first act is based on Mark Twain's “The Diary of Adam and Eve”; the second act is based on Frank R. Stockton's “The Lady or the Tiger” and the third act is based on Jules Feiffer's “Passionella,” a Cinderella tale of a charwoman’s transformation into a movie star, “…but just for the hours between Huntley and Brinkley and the Late, Late Show.” Definitely 1960’s. It doesn’t have any songs you come out whistling, but all tunes are pleasing to the ear.  

The first act falls flat in the acting department and is only rescued by the near-professional singing of Shay Oglesby-Smith and Coley Grundman, two regular performers at the theatre. When they sing, they are natural, in control, and very honest. Coley’s tenor has developed some wonderfully mellifluous baritone notes, and Shay flawlessly blends highs and lows in a voice made for musical theatre.  

When they speak, it falls into the abyss of “musical theatre acting.” Every intention is sweet and de-emphasizes conflict, syllables are drawn out, and, in trying to be childlike in the garden, the acting approaches the style seen onstage at your kid’s middle-school. The wryness of Mark Twain worked well in the dialogue on Broadway because of the NYC smart-alecky-ness of Alan Alda and Barbara Harris and the savvy and cosmopolitan direction of Mike Nichols. The lines with comedic potential are glossed over. They aren’t funny lines to the untutored eye, but New Yorker comic strip funny is hidden in most of them. (“Old theatre riddle: “What’s the difference between a comic and a comedian?” Answer: “A comic says funny things; a comedian says things funny.”) Having the ear for the right inflection and playing the most inane situation like it was a matter of serious personal consequence is what made “Seinfeld” funny. The naming of animals is their first conflict. Adam has generic names: swimmer, growler, flyer. Eve has a more finely tuned talent for names which she proudly flaunts. Adam carries a fish in. She calls it a pickerel. She wants him to put the pickerel back in the pond. (The very word pickle anything is funny; remember “The Sunshine Boys” dialogue in which they expound on the catalogue of funny words? Pickle, chicken, anything with a ‘k’ in it, etc?) Her superiority with words, this curvy new-comer to his domain who is trying to run the show, is all comic fodder. To be clearer, we need the sensibility of all Jewish comics from the Borscht Belt to Second City, from Jack Benny and George Burns to (well, just name almost any comic: Woody Allen, Ben Stiller, John Stewart). You don’t have to be Jewish (Alda isn’t); just acquire the ironic attitude. Besides, Adam and Eve were Jewish, no?  

I was surprised that this wryness wasn’t employed. Let the dictionary prevail to explain what I mean by “wry”: “1. Dryly humorous, often with a touch of irony; 2. Temporarily twisted in an expression of distaste or displeasure: made a wry face; 3. Abnormally twisted or bent to one side; crooked: a wry nose; 4. Being at variance with what is right, proper, or suitable; perverse.” I’ve seen both of the leads embody this naturalistic, carping comic mode in other productions, and even later smaller roles in the second act. 

And they were clothed. Adam in pajamas, Eve in a plain skirt. Now the one thing we know about them is that they were seriously au naturel until…well, you know the story. There was another Genesis comedy on Broadway about this time: Arthur Miller’s only comedy, “Creation of the World and Other Business.” They wore body suits with genitalia sketched-on in Magic Marker which was a sight gag from the get-go. Some imagination—or wholesale borrowing of this device or similar—was sorely needed here. And how ‘bout a little sexual tension with serious distinctions of said tension before and after apple-eating?  

DC Scarpelli—who is a master do-it-all theatrician—looked very much the Snake in his scaly, flashy, colorful shirt, shaved head, and arch attitude. He could have used more direction or license in being a much more “know-it-all” and emphasize the hierarchy of this three-some. Hey, the ol’ Snake did bring knowledge to humankind, right? Adam is the man—and thus the dummy and low-man on the totem pole—just like in all the TV commercials. Eve is naturally superior, and we all know that it would be a better world if she were in charge—again another lesson from the TV. But an outrageously dressed, affected, fey probably gay man—well, on TV that character is the arbiter of fashion, intellect and behavior on TV, and surely it has been so in theatre world for centuries, so that should be played to the hilt and ridden all the way home.  

And there, I think may be the rub. It’s long been my contention that community theatre directors need more training to guide the extensive talent in the community theatre scene. Director Robert Love, who is the Managing Director and who keeps this truly community theatre together by his spirit and his long-time hard work, directed the show. My guess is that he put together a great cast, and turned them loose and gave them permission to express themselves, and in the second act, it worked wonderfully. Plays are like children: some need a strong, demanding hand while others need to grow on their own.  

On the other hand, the ability to attract, cast, keep together and keep happy a large cast of performers who aren’t getting paid is a lesson that is hard to teach. And therein Love is a master. And it shows in Act Two. This ranks among the top two or three acts of pure, joyful entertainment I’ve experienced there. 

Scarpelli plays the narrator in both scenes, and a couple of other characters; each is completely embodied, realized and delineated from one another. His pace and rhythms engage you, you understand every moment and intention, AND he did the sets! The wheeled-on mini-flats with two-dimensional graphics are perfectly apt for these plays; the photo-shop extravaganza allows us to use our imagination to enter their world rather than any attempt at realism (realism doesn’t work on the stage anyway unless you have an ACT budget and venue). They are done with graphic perfection, and when he makes the movie star poster of Michelle Pond’s “Passionella” character, he has the good sense to use her face—which reminds one of a Barbara Stanwyck or Joan Crawford—and it is a really professional and impressive visual.  

Kudos, too, in bringing more color to the stage! Though in Point Richmond, the actors have generally been white, but Pamela Drummer-Williams is a terrific BBW Princess in “Lady and Tiger,” running from soft high notes to sexy blues belting with easy confidence and natural humor. She and her great big bald white-guy inamorato Michael O’Brien—the loyal captain who is not royal—blend well and believably in a doomed romance. Their duets don’t always blend but they are honest in their expression and Michael has some great high notes. O’Brien adds a nice touch by applying simple Maori-type face tattoos to make him more exotic and believable; a little touch goes a long way. The leads in the other scenes are recycled into the chorus and bit-parts so the singing ensemble is very harmonious. Carina Salazar is a youngster full of talent, pizzazz, and sex appeal who catches the eye in small cameos and will hopefully return to the Masquers.  

Michelle Pond has the title lead in “Passionella” and looks the part. She understands the lightheartedness of the character, and plays it with the right amount of fairy tale frivolity. She has a great belt, and though her high notes wavered, her character never does. Coley Grundman embodies the Bob Dylan-like rock star who brings her love and artistic enlightenment with a dead-pan take that could have served him well in the first act.  

The panoply of wigs injects the proper comic touch. Princess Barbara’s costume is fantastic and vivid in color, texture, and jewelry, and the rest of the costumes are a good journeyman job. The lighting of Renee Echavez should have been more fully considered, often throwing shadows and unwanted illumination that shake us out of our suspension of disbelief rather than usher us into the onstage world. Kris Bell knows how to choreograph for non-dancers and moves the ensemble easily about the stage.  

The new seats in the theatre are wide and comfortable, and there doesn’t seem to be a bad seat in the 88-seat house. At $20, it’s a worthwhile night of entertainment that will leave you smiling and recounting the moments. Through May 1. Info at www.masquers.org  


John A. McMullen II got his MFA at Carnegie Mellon U. Professional School of Directing under Tony winner Mel Shapiro, and has been on the faculty of CCSF and Los Medanos, as well as directing in the Bay Area for years. This is his first review. 



Artist's Preview: 30 Yrs of New Work Now at La Pena

By Doug Minkler
Wednesday April 07, 2010 - 10:34:00 PM
Doug Minkler

My art show, 30 Yrs of New Work, is now at La Pena. The reception is scheduled for Saturday April 17th, 4 - 6 p.m. I hope that I will see you then, if not, the work will be on exhibit for one month between April 2 and May 1. There will be several just-completed posters as well as several prints from the 60's and 70's that have never been shown. (I guess I should have titled the show 40 Years of New Work.) The viewing hours for the show at the Cafe and Lobby areas are:  

Wednesday & Thursday: 5:30 - 9:30 p.m. 

Fridays: 11 a.m. - 10:30 p.m. 

Saturdays: 11 a.m. - 10:30 p.m. 

Sundays: 11 a.m. - 9:30 p.m. 


Here’s a short introduction/bio to the 60's and 70's draft-dodging, union-organizing section of the show : 

Most of the art I created in the 60's did not reflect my developing political consciousness, but, while attending Foothill Community College, in 1969, I did receive an award for a ceramic bust depicting a Napalm-burned sculpture of my head, complete with my singed draft card. I dropped out of Foothill in protest to the unfair practice of allowing upper and middle class students a free pass out of the war while forcing working class young people into military service in Vietnam.  

Some of the work shown here was created in the 70's at California State University, East Bay (formerly, Hayward State) where I studied art for a year and a half. One semester short of graduating, I felt compelled to focus on art full-time so I dropped out of college and used my student loan money to continue my art education through self-directed "home-schooling." After the student loan money ran out, I began a variety of industrial jobs to support my family and purchase art supplies for my paintings. I soon found myself fighting for worker rights by participating in contract negotiations, union organizing and strikes. In 1979, after eight years of industrial work, and its concomitant exposure to toxic chemicals, I returned to the art department at Hayward State to complete my BA degree in the hope of getting a job teaching art. I only had two remaining courses: Advanced Painting and Advanced Printmaking. The instructor for the painting class (after delivering a passionate lecture about artistic freedom) informed me that my work was propaganda--not art--and it had no place in the university. The instructor for the printmaking class told me that if he gave me credit for the work I was proposing for my independent study credits, his non-citizen status in the U.S. would be put at risk. I dropped out of college for the third and last time. 

In 1972, despite my non-student status, Gordon Hollar, my former Foothill College art instructor, was kind enough to provide me with a silk-screen and squeegee, along with excellent printing instruction. My first silk-screen posters, shown here, were inspired by both the Vietnam anti-war movement and the factory organizing work in which I was involved. The lessons from my 60's and 70's draft dogging and union-organizing days continues to guide my work today. 

Local New Deal is Focus of History Exhibit Opening Sunday

By Steven Finacom
Thursday April 08, 2010 - 11:27:00 AM
A new building to house the University of California Press and UC printing operations was one of the local facilities funded by the New Deal in Berkeley.  The “WPA Moderne” structure still stands at Oxford and Center Streets on the east edge of Downtown Berkeley.  Now vacant it is presently slated for renovation as part of a new home for the Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive.
A new building to house the University of California Press and UC printing operations was one of the local facilities funded by the New Deal in Berkeley. The “WPA Moderne” structure still stands at Oxford and Center Streets on the east edge of Downtown Berkeley. Now vacant it is presently slated for renovation as part of a new home for the Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive.
Steven Finacom

Seventy-five years ago Congress was finishing up a landmark piece of legislation, a far-reaching jobs program proposed by President Franklin Roosevelt to combat the enormous unemployment caused by the Great Depression. Notable Federal programs including the Works Progress Administration (WPA) date from that time. Although Berkeley was largely still a Republican town then—locals had twice voted for Herbert Hoover for President—that didn’t prove an obstacle to benefitting from Roosevelt’s New Deal. Local facilities from the North Berkeley Public Library to the Berkeley Rose Garden to street improvements and street tree plantings throughout the city were funded by the New Deal, and often built by workers paid directly through New Deal programs like the WPA.
This Sunday, April 11, 2010 the Berkeley Historical Society opens a new exhibit on the local history of the WPA. A free program, with refreshments, runs from 3-5 in the afternoon. 

The exhibit is curated by Harvey Smith of “California’s Living New Deal Project”, which endeavors to trace and document the legacy of the New Deal. Smith has assembled text and photographs—both present day, and period—showcasing the tangible effect of the WPA and other New Deal programs in Berkeley. 

The New Deal made its way into many aspects of American life, but was most tangibly expressed through the buildings, parks, and other public facilities it funded across the country. From sewer systems to soaring sculptures, many New Deal-funded facilities remain in operation today. 

“The underlying theme is Berkeley as an example of what was done throughout the U.S.”, Smith says. “Berkeley may have a little more or a little less than other cities, but it is also typical of the infrastructure and programs done during the New Deal.” 


“I hope to illustrate the effectiveness of reaching Main Street with progressive and comprehensive public policy,” he adds. He includes in the exhibit period photographs by Rondal Partridge and Dorothea Lange—both of them notable locals—as well as illustrations and blueprints of art and structures built in Berkeley by the New Deal. 

“All of these sites are very much alive for me”, Smith says. “Being a long-time resident of Berkeley and having raised two sons here, I have memories and experiences attached to each site. We all use them but rarely do we group them together than think of them as a whole.” 

The exhibit opening takes place at the Berkeley History Center in the Veterans Memorial Building, 1931 Center Street, Berkeley. The building is two blocks west of the Downtown Berkeley BART station, and opposite Martin Luther King, Jr. Civic Center Park.  

“Depression era” refreshments will be served, Smith will give a short talk introducing the exhibit, and the Berkeley Historical Society will also hold a brief Annual Meeting on Sunday. 

The free exhibit can also be viewed on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 1-4 pm. It’s convenient to the Saturday Berkeley Farmer’s Market on Center Street, and events in the park. Call BHS at 848-0181 to confirm the Center will be open on the afternoon you plan to visit. The exhibit continues through September 18. 

For more information on the California Living New Deal Project, see their website at livingnewdeal.berkeley.edu It includes not only period photographs but a great interactive map showing the multitude of New Deal projects in the Bay Area and throughout the state.