Full Text

This crane  about to pounce on the Med will soon swing around--yes, it swings around like an old circus ride--to threaten People's Park habitues, who say it portends a university take-over of the park. It is part of construction for a Cal student dormitory. According to the university the Anna Head West Student Housing project will provide housing for 160 sophomores and apartments for 264 upper division students; it's estimated to be ready for students by fall 2012. In the meantime, ask not for whom the crane turns, it turns for thee.
Ted Friedman
This crane about to pounce on the Med will soon swing around--yes, it swings around like an old circus ride--to threaten People's Park habitues, who say it portends a university take-over of the park. It is part of construction for a Cal student dormitory. According to the university the Anna Head West Student Housing project will provide housing for 160 sophomores and apartments for 264 upper division students; it's estimated to be ready for students by fall 2012. In the meantime, ask not for whom the crane turns, it turns for thee.


Press Release: Berkeley High Crew Qualifies for National Championship Competition; Men’s Lightweight Four Team Earns Medal at Regional Championships

From Rick Jaffe
Monday May 09, 2011 - 06:55:00 PM

Berkeley High Crew Men’s Lightweight 4+ boat won the bronze medal at the USRowing Southwest Junior Championship Regatta. All medal winning squads earn a berth to compete at the USRowing Youth Nationals. The National Championship is scheduled to take place in early June at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. 

“Our boat had a great race over a very tough field,” said Berkeley High Crew Head Coach Chris Dadd. “Teams from this Region have won National Championships over the past several seasons. We had a strategy that paid off and we rowed our best races of the weekend when needed, in the final. We are excited to head to Oak Ridge for a rematch and to see how we fare against boats from across the country.” 

As the only public high school competing in the Southwest region, the Berkeley High rowers compete against much larger club teams and private schools that recruit athletes from a broad range of students. Of the 16 Berkeley High boats competing over the weekend, two advanced to the finals for their event and one earned a medal. 

Since 2000, Berkeley High Crew has qualified for the Nationals 7 times. Last year, the Men’s Lightweight Four also reached National Competition. 

24 teams from across California and Arizona raced in 33 different events at the Regatta, which was held May 7 – 8 on Lake Natoma in Rancho Cordova, CA. 

About Berkeley High Crew 

Berkeley High Crew, the only public school crew team in the western United States, is a non-profit organization established to promote the sport of competitive rowing and is open to all young men and women at Berkeley High School. Founded in 1967, Berkeley High Crew is committed to the personal, athletic, ethical and academic excellence of each rower as an individual and as a member of a competitive rowing team.

Press Release: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Names Six Finalists for Possible Second Campus Location

From Jon R. Weiner, Manager, Communications & Media Relations , Lawrence Berkeley National Lab
Monday May 09, 2011 - 02:02:00 PM

Following an extensive evaluation, the University of California, manager of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), today released a list of six potential sites for the Lab’s proposed second campus. 

The University of California received more than 20 responses when a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) was released earlier this year. The proposed second campus is an effort to consolidate existing laboratory programs that are currently in leased spaces spread throughout the Bay Area, and to provide the Lab long-term cost savings. 

After careful evaluation of the merits of each submittal, the sites being considered further are: 

  • · Alameda Point, in the city of Alameda;
  • · Berkeley Aquatic Park West, located in West Berkeley;
  • · Brooklyn Basin, located in Oakland;
  • · Emeryville/Berkeley, (includes properties currently occupied by the Lab in Emeryville and West Berkeley);
  • · Golden Gate Fields, spanning the cities of Berkeley and Albany;
  • · Richmond Field Station, a site currently owned by the University of California.
“We had tremendous response to our call for qualifications,” says Berkeley Lab Director Paul Alivisatos. “We really want to thank all the cities and developers that presented their ideas. The large number of visionary responses created by so many communities in the East Bay is an impressive reminder of the value that our region places on science in service of society. And now that we have identified our top candidates, we look forward to working with them as we move closer to selecting a preferred site.” 

Site finalists were chosen based on their ability to meet multiple criteria in the RFQ including a location within 20 to 25 minutes of the original campus, land capacity to accommodate potential future growth, and easy access to public transportation and other amenities. 

Most of Berkeley Lab’s 4,200 employees work at its main site, but about 20 percent of them are dispersed in leased facilities around the East Bay, including at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) in Emeryville, the Joint Genome Institute (JGI) in Walnut Creek, and the Lab's life science facilities in Berkeley. 

If this project were to move forward, a second campus would provide substantial scientific benefits by allowing researchers, presently scattered throughout the various off-lab sites, to interact more directly with each other and with faculty and students from throughout the UC system. 

While the University’s original intent was to identify a preferred site by this summer, it became clear during this very competitive process that the next steps of due diligence, site inspections, and negotiations will extend that timeline. 

A decision on a preferred site will likely occur in late November with occupancy scheduled for mid-2016. 

# # # 

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory addresses the world’s most urgent scientific challenges by advancing sustainable energy, protecting human health, creating new materials, and revealing the origin and fate of the universe. Founded in 1931, Berkeley Lab’s scientific expertise has been recognized with 12 Nobel prizes. The University of California manages Berkeley Lab for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. For more, visit www.lbl.gov.

Budget Cuts Injure the Laboring Poor

By Eric Berkowitz
Wednesday May 04, 2011 - 12:44:00 PM

The state and federal budget crises are bringing deep cuts to government-sponsored public assistance. Many of California’s most needy, including a disproportionate number of children, are facing profound reductions in aid. CalWORKs, which provides day care assistance to working families with minor children, faces the largest cuts in 25 years. And day care for 11- and 12-year old kids of working parents stands to be slashed entirely.

Wrenching as they are, many feel these cuts are justified. Anecdotal stories often circulate about purported welfare cheats squandering the public’s money in casinos, at strip clubs, and on drugs. For example, Sacramento-based CalWatchDog recently accused day care recipients of “sponging” off of the state. A self-described conservative blogger called all welfare recipients “lazy good-for-nothing moochers” who take “extravagant vacations in Hawaii.” Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, wants CalWORKs parents to be tested for drugs. If the parents fail, then the kids would be cut off. 

As all taxpayers find their wallets a little thinner each month, the temptation grows to view public assistance recipients as undeserving. 

But such stories are usually false. Today’s welfare recipients are often the laboring poor -- single mothers working long hours at low-wage jobs. When their kids are cut out of childcare many of them must choose between leaving their children alone or quitting their jobs. 

Far from being cheats, these women are heroes. Here are some of their stories. They are not unique: 

After being homeless for six months, Keisha Pitts, 38, found a job as a customer service representative for a Fresno insurance company, where she earns $12.75 per hour. With five children, that does not come close to paying the bills. 

CalWORKs allows Ms. Pitts to work and go to night school to obtain a BA in business. Her plan was to find better work and get off public assistance entirely. But now she may have to quit and go on food stamps. “I’ve moved five steps forward; now I am being moved 10 steps back,” she said. 

Keyra Stafford, 31, is studying to get her BA and then hopes to study nursing. She also works full time, for $12 per hour, assisting disabled adults. Childcare for her kids costs about $1,000 per month. Now, “I have to quit school or quit work,” she said. “I thought the idea was to get people away from government services,” she added. Instead, the cuts “are pushing me into a corner of depending more on government services.” 

Yvette Morones, 47, had never been on public assistance before her daughter was born seven years ago. She waited until she had a job paying $33,000 per year before she had her child. “What I did not realize,” she said, “was how much childcare costs. At $125 per week, I can’t afford it.” CalWORKs filled the gap. 

Now, she is considering sending her child to live with her mother in another town. That is the only way for her to keep her job. “Am I supposed to sacrifice my time with my daughter because I cannot afford to put her in good day care?” she asked. The answer from the legislature is yes. 

Finally, Sharon Esquivel, 54, has provided lunches and day care out of her Fresno house for 21 years. The parents cannot afford it without CalWORKs subsidies of $500 to $700 per month. CalWORKs has not paid Esquivel for four months. Even if those bills are paid, the CalWORKs cuts set to go into effect in July will close her child care business. “I love my kids,” she said. “If I don’t feed them, they don’t eat. Where will they get their milk?” 

As accusations fly against those on public assistance, we should remember that many of the people we are abandoning make valuable long-term contributions to society. When they are forced out of their jobs and onto food stamps or other emergency aid, the costs to everyone will be even higher. 

Eric Berkowitz is a San Francisco attorney who volunteers at Bay Area Legal Aid, as well as other legal aid groups. The women discussed in this article are not clients of Bay Area Legal Aid.

Dispatches From The Edge: The Great Game’s New Clothes (Column)

By Conn Hallinan
Thursday May 05, 2011 - 04:36:00 PM

According to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Leon Panetta, the U.S. never informed Pakistan about the operation to assassinate al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Ladin because it thought the Pakistanis could “jeopardize the mission” by tipping off the target. 

Maybe, and maybe not. This is, after all, the ground over which the 19th century “Great Game” was played, the essence of which was obfuscation. What you thought you saw or knew was not necessarily what was. 

The “official” story is that three CIA helicopters—one for backup—took off from Jalalabad, Afghanistan and flew almost 200 miles to Abbottabad, most of it through Pakistani airspace. Pakistan scrambled jets, but the choppers still managed to land, spend 40 minutes on the ground, and get away. 

Is it possible the helicopters really did dodge Pakistani radar? During the Cold War a West German pilot flew undetected through the teeth of the Soviet air defense system and landed his plane in Red Square, so yes. Choppers are slow, but these were stealth varieties and fairly quiet. But at top speed, the Blackhawks would have needed about an hour each way, plus the 40 minutes on the ground. That is a long time to remain undetected, particularly in a town hosting three regiments of the Pakistani Army, plus the Kakul Military Academy, the country’s equivalent of West Point. Abbottabad is also 35 miles from the capital, Islamabad, and the region is ringed with anti-aircraft sites. 

Still, it is possible, except there is an alternative scenario that not only avoids magical thinking about what choppers can do, but better fits the politics of the moment: that Pakistan’s Directorate of Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) knew where Bin Ladin was and fingered him, estimating that his death would accelerate negotiations with the Taliban. Why now? Because for the first time in this long war, U.S. and Pakistani interests coincide. 

Gen. Hammad Gul, former head of the ISI, told the Financial Times on May 3 that the ISI knew where he was, but regarded him as “inactive.” Writing in the May 5 Guardian (UK), author Tariq Ali says that a “senior” ISI official told him back in 2006 that the spy organization knew where bin Ladin was, but had no intention of arresting him because he was “The goose that laid the golden egg.” In short, the hunt for the al-Qaeda leader helped keep the U.S. aid spigot open. 

Indeed, bin Ladin may have been under house arrest, which would explain the absence of trained bodyguards. By not allowing the al-Qaeda leader a private militia, the ISI forced him to rely on it for protection. And if they then dropped a dime on him, they knew he would be an easy target. As to why he was killed, not captured, neither the U.S. nor Pakistan wanted him alive, the former because of the judicial nightmare his incarceration would involve, the latter because dead men tell no tales. 

As for the denials: the last thing the ISI wants is to be associated with the hit, since it could end up making the organization a target for Pakistan’s home-grown Taliban. If the ISI knew, so did the Army, though not necessarily at all levels. Did the Army turn a blind eye to the U.S. choppers? Who knows? 

What we do know for certain is that there is a shift in Pakistan and the U.S. with regards to the Afghan war. 

On the U.S. side, the war is going badly, and American military and intelligence agencies are openly warring with one another. In December the U.S. intelligence community released a study indicating that progress was minimal and that the 2009 surge of 30,000 troops had produced only tactical successes: “There remains no clear path toward defeating the insurgency.” The Pentagon counter-attacked in late April with a report that the surge had been “a strategic defeat for the Taliban,” and that the military was making “tangible progress in some really key areas.” 

It is not an analysis agreed with by our NATO allies, most of which are desperate to get their troops out of what they view as a deepening quagmire. A recent WikiLeak cable quotes Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Union, saying “No one believes in Afghanistan anymore. But we will give it 2010 to see results.” He went on to say Europe was only going along “out of deference to the United States.” Translation: NATO support is falling apart. 

Recent shifts by the Administration seem to signal that the White House is backing away from the surge and looking for ways to wind down the war. The shift of Gen. David Petraeus to the CIA removes the major U.S. booster of the current counterinsurgency strategy, and moving Panetta to the Defense Department puts a savvy political infighter with strong Democratic Party credentials into the heart of Pentagon. Democrats are overwhelmingly opposed to the war but could never get a hearing from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, a Republican. 

The last major civilian supporter of the war is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but Gates, her main ally, will soon be gone, as will Admiral Mike Mullen, head of the Joints Chiefs of Staff. The shuffle at the top is hardly a “night of the long knives,” but the White House has essentially eliminated or sidelined those in the administration who pushed for a robust war and long-term occupation. 

A surge of sanity? Well, at least some careful poll reading. According to the Associated Press, six in 10 Americans want out of the war. Among Democrats 73 percent want to be out in a year, and a USA Today/Gallup Poll found that 72 percent of Americans want Congress to address an accelerated withdrawal. With the war now costing $8 billion a month, these numbers are hardly a surprise. 

Pakistanhas long been frustrated with the U.S.’s reluctance to talk to the Taliban, and, from Islamabad’s perspective, the war is largely being carried out at their expense. Pakistan has suffered tens of thousands of civilian and military casualties in what most Pakistanis see as an American war, and the country is literally up in arms over the drone attacks. 

The Pakistani Army has been deployed in Swat, South Waziristan, and Bajaur, and the U.S. is pressing it to invade North Waziristan. One Pakistani grumbled to the Guardian (UK), “What do they [the U.S.] want us to do? Declare war on our whole country?” For the 30 million Pashtuns in the northwest regions, the Pakistani Army is foreign in language and culture, and Islamabad knows that it will eventually be seen as an outside occupier. 

A poll by the New America Foundation and Terror Free Tomorrow of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in Pakistan’s northwest—home and refuge to many of the insurgents fighting in Afghanistan—found some 80 percent oppose the U.S. war on terror, almost nine in every 10 people oppose U.S. attacks on the Taliban, and three quarters oppose the drone attacks. 

The bottom line is that Pakistan simply cannot afford to continue the war, particularly as they are still trying to dig themselves out from under last year’s massive floods. 

In April, Pakistan’s top military, intelligence and political leadership decamped to Kabul to meet with the government of Harmid Karzai. The outcome of the talks is secret, but they appear to have emboldened the parties to press the U.S. to start talking. According to Ahmed Rashid, author of “Taliban” and “Descent into Chaos,” the White House is moving “the fledgling peace process forward” and will “push to broker an end to the war.” This includes dropping “its preconditions that the Taliban sever links with al-Qaeda and accept the Afghan constitution before holding face-to-face talks.” 

Given that in 2008 the Taliban agreed to not allow any “outside” forces in the country and pledged not to pose a danger to any other country, including those in the West, this demand has already been met. As for the constitution, since it excluded the Taliban it will have to be re-negotiated in any case. 

While there appears to be a convergence of interests among the major parties, negotiations promise to be a thorny business. 

The Pentagon will resist a major troop drawdown. There is also opposition in Afghanistan, where Tajik, Uzbek, and Hazara minorities are deeply suspicious of the Taliban. The Karzai government also appears split on the talks, although recent cabinet shuffles have removed some of the more anti-Pakistan leaders. 

Then there is the Taliban, which is hardly a centralized organization, especially since U.S. drone attacks and night raids have effectively removed more experienced Taliban leaders, leaving younger and more radical fighters in charge. Can Taliban leader Mullah Omar deliver his troops? That is not a given. 

Both other insurgent groups—the Haqqani Group and Hizb-i-Islami—have indicated they are open to negotiations, but the Americans will have a hard time sitting down with the Haqqanis. The group has been implicated in the deaths of numerous U.S. and coalition forces. To leave the Haqqani Group out, however, will derail the whole process. 

The U.S. would like to exclude Iran, but as Rashid points out, “No peace process in Afghanistan can succeed without Iran’s full participation.” And then there is India. Pakistan sees Indian involvement in Afghanistan as part of New Delhi’s strategy to surround Pakistan, and India accuses Pakistan of harboring terrorists who attack Indian-controlled Kashmir and launched the horrendous 2008 attack on Mumbai that killed 166 people. 

Murphy’s Law suggests that things are more likely to end in chaos than reasoned diplomacy. But self-interest is a powerful motivator, and all parties, including India, stands to gain something by ending the war. India very much wants to see the 1,050-mile TAPI pipeline built, as it will carry gas from Turkmenistan, through Afghanistan and Pakistan, to Fazilka, India. 

A lot is at stake, and if getting the peace process going involved taking out Osama bin Ladin. Well, in the cynical world of the “Great Game,” to make an omelet, you have to break eggs. 

Back in the Victorian era the British Army marched off singing a song: 

“We don’t want to fight but by jingo if we do/ 

We’ve got the ships, we’ve got the men, and we’ve got the money too” 

But in the 21st century most our allies’ armies don’t want to fight, ships are useless in Afghanistan, there aren’t enough men, and everyone is broke. 

For 33 years the people of Afghanistan have been bombed, burned, shot, tortured and turned into refugees. For at least the moment the pieces are aligned to bring this awful war to an end. It is time to close the book on the “Great Game” and bring the troops home. 

Read Conn Hallinan at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com 



If It Isn't Patronage, What Is It? (Opinion)

By Bradley Wiedmaier
Thursday May 05, 2011 - 04:28:00 PM

The Berkeley Library Management, has spent over two years falsely presenting South Branch Library as a disintegrating "cinder block" building. Actually nothing is further from the truth. It is a reinforced concrete, post and beam structure, which has been seismically tested. The alternating glass and concrete block infill are not the structure. The false presentation of the concrete block as the menace of disintegrating "cinder block" was deployed to rule out renovation. 

The Library has tracked new construction for only the west side branches. The wealthier foothill branches will be getting new library additions, with inspired renovated branches. The West Side will get in South Branch an uninspired rebuild that has none of the textural richness of community history that renovation and expansion would provide. The wealthy neighborhoods will get the latest updated features combined with their heritage. South Branch will get only an uninteresting pedestrian stand-in rather than the community re-enforcement that North Branch and Elmwood will receive. If one wants to charge racism, there is more of a case with this clear differentiation. 

The preservation community raised the issues of reuse years ago. The Library management plowed ahead with their staged and proponent packed community meetings. The early Noll and Tam Report which strongly supported renovation was shelved. The Library needed to change the narrative and started implying that anyone supporting the less costly new library renovation schemes with threatening the safety of library patrons, based on the false, crumbling "cinder block" fiction. And now they are implying the other side with being racist, with no basis. 

Where all new construction runs twice to three times the cost and budget, likewise the commissions will be twice to three times the size as those for more efficient less costly renovation. Also it is more labor intensive to render an inspired renovation and expansion than the bulldozed clean slate, slam bang, one dimensional fast and dirty new job. That extra labor and intensive care cuts into design and contractor profits. These are the reasons that renovation is being slandered and blocked. 

Local community architects have not been involved at South Branch. An award winning Berkeley designed building will be replaced by a San Francisco architect's design. These outsiders have received an inordinate amount of commissions in San Francisco beyond their reputation, and their disappointing design is reflected in the mundane proposal. 

All of this though is secondary to the cover up of the Berkeley Library Management change of Library Program through proposed construction changes, rather than presenting the proposed program changes to the public for approval. Reference desks have been combined with other library services. Books have been de-emphasized in proportion to building size. Where one extra foot of bookshelf was the hidden request in the Library's instruction to the architect's, this will actually mean vast decrease in the book proportion relative to library building size. This was all internal and hidden from the public. 

Is it racism or is it commissions for the friends of the Library? Why shouldn't the west side receive what the foot hills are getting? Enough of the B.S. charges of racism and smoke screens which in reality undercut the authentic fight against racism. Those who cry wolf and undercut legitimate anti-Racist efforts are no friends of that fight or libraries.

New: Another Rate Hike for East Bay MUD -- What Are the Options? (News Analysis)

By Stuart Flashman
Wednesday May 04, 2011 - 05:25:00 PM

Once again, East Bay MUD’s more than two million water customers in the East Bay are facing a rate hike. This time, the staff proposal is for a six percent across-the-board increase in water rates. EBMUD’s explanation is, essentially, that we customers have been too good at saving water. As a consequence, the water district has been getting less revenue, while its costs haven’t decreased accordingly. 

There’s some truth to this explanation. Many of EBMUD’s costs are relatively independent of water use. For example, the costs for maintaining EBMUD’s reservoirs, treatment plants, and pipelines stay pretty much the same regardless of whether we’re using water like crazy or letting our lawns turn brown. Also, the interest costs on EBMUD’s capital improvement bonds don’t change regardless of water use, nor does the cost of salaries and benefits for EBMUD’s employees. Some of EBMUD’s costs do reflect water use; for example electrical costs for pumping and the costs for chemicals used in treatment, but overall, much of EBMUD’s costs are fixed. Since East Bay MUD’s charges for water on a per-gallon basis, and especially because EBMUD’s “inclined block” rate structure means that when you use more water, your per-gallon rate goes up, when people save water, their water bills go down,. That’s good for the homeowner, but bad for EBMUD’s finances. 

That being said, there are many possible ways to deal with this beyond the across-the-board increase EBMUD staff has proposed. Here are a few of them: 

1) Shift more of the bill to a fixed-cost element (i.e., a monthly fixed administrative fee) -- essentially a component reflecting fixed costs. That would give more income stability, but would decrease the effectiveness of the pricing message in EBMUD’s current rate structure. In essence, it would tell customers, “Use as much water as you want. We don’t care.” 

2) Do what staff proposes -- raise all rates by a fixed percentage across the board. This is a relatively regressive approach, because everyone gets penalized equally regardless of water use, and there's no way to avoid an increase. 

3) Raise rates, but with a higher rate of increase for the upper tiers of the rate structure. This would be a more progressive approach. It would shift the extra cost onto the heavier users. The risk/downside (as it were) is that the higher rates would send a stronger message to high-water-users to decrease their use. To the extent they did, the revenue problem could come back or even get worse. On the other hand, however, if usage decreased significantly over the long-term, capital improvement costs and associated bond interest charges would also decrease, decreasing the revenue need. 

4) Shift the rate tiers lower, so that maintaining the same water use would put you into a higher tier and increase your water bill. If you wanted to keep your bill low, you’d need to find ways to save even more water. This would have the advantage of providing a continuing incentive for customers to shift towards higher and higher conservation. It would also give customers a way to avoid an increased water bill. One way to adjust the tiers and stabilize income would be to base them on district-wide average use -- e.g., the lowest tier could be for use less that 50% of average use; the next tier, from 50% to 150% of average use; and the third, and highest tier, more than 150% of average use. (EBMUD could also add back the fourth "water waster" tier, starting at, say twice the average use. That tier was eliminated after the last drought ended. It was VERY unpopular East of the Hills, and in Piedmont.) If average use decreased, the tiers would "float" downward. This would guarantee a stable income flow, but would make the tiers less stable, and some people might find it demoralizing -- kind of like running on a treadmill; you keep going faster, but you don't gain any ground. 

Each of these approaches has its pluses and minuses, but each sends a message to customers that goes beyond EBMUD’s current mantra of, “We need more money.” 

Stuart Flashman is an Oakland attorney specializing in environmental, land use, and natural resources law. He was an East Bay MUD board member from 1990 to 1994, and served as board president in 1994.

Press Release: U.S. Boat to Gaza - West presents Saxophonist Gilad Atzmon in concert and talk

Thursday May 05, 2011 - 04:31:00 PM

U.S. Boat to Gaza - West presents Gilad Atzmon in concert and talk in a benefit for the Bay Area's flotilla passengers who will be onboard The Audacity of Hope. 

You'll meet them as they get ready to go on the "Freedom Flotilla - Stay Human" to break Israel's illegal naval blockade, an awesomely courageous revolutionary liberatory, even world-history-making action. 

Atzmon is a worldwide-renowned jazz saxophonist par excellence. He was born and raised in Israel. After serving in the Israeli military he became an expat and lives in London. He also holds a PhD in philosophy and is a prolific writer and speaker on Israel-Palestine. 

Please join Gilad, his pianist Daniel Raynaud, and the passengers May 10, 2011 4:30pm at the Lake Merritt United Methodist Church, 1330 Lakeshore Avenue, Oakland, CA 94606 

Donation: $15 at the door 

Nearby after-party at 7:15pm (to be announced at the event) 

or more information call: (510) 834-1834 or Email at: contact@ustogazawest.org www.ustogazawest.org

City Council Moves Branch Library Demolitions Forward, Sets Hearings

By Steven Finacom
Wednesday April 27, 2011 - 08:34:00 AM

In an early morning extension of their April 26 meeting the Berkeley Council moved forward with controversial plans to demolish and rebuild the South and West Berkeley branch libraries.  

However, in somewhat of a surprise turn, at the suggestion of Councilmember Kriss Worthington, the Council stripped at least one controversial element from the proposals. 

Some Council members also verbally clashed with members of the audience who had waited for up to five hours for the item to come up, with debate during the public testimony period erupting between at least two Council members and public speakers. 

Four of the Council members—Anderson, Capitelli, Maio and Moore—had earlier gone down to the front steps of old City Hall to participate in a pep rally by library demolition / rebuild supporters. The first three spoke, essentially telling the small crowd of demolition supporters that they agreed with the goals of the rally. 

Then they returned upstairs to participate in the meeting that had the “quasi-judicial” function of reviewing the zoning amendments and use permit proposals pertaining to the South and West branch libraries. 

While it finally approved the zoning amendment that would make it easier to build the proposed new branch library structures, the Council added, on Worthington’s motion with Wengraf’s second, a qualification that "This ordinance shall apply only to the four neighborhood branch library projects funded by Measure FF." 

Previous language would have applied the standards to all five Berkeley Public Library sites and continued the relaxed zoning standards into perpetuity. The wording change limits the zoning alterations to only the four projects the City proposes to fund with bond money from the voter approved Measure FF in 2008. 

Two concerns which the amendment apparently addressed were that the zoning changes as originally proposed would apply to the library sites in perpetuity, beyond the currently planned renovations, and would also loosen the development review procedures not only for the four branch library sites but also the historic Central Library, in the Downtown area where a majority of the Council has promoted intense new development and tall buildings. 

Under the wording of Worthington’s motion the relaxed zoning standards would “sunset” after the currently proposed branch renovations or rebuilds are done. No major projects are currently proposed for the Central Library. 

On the other two library items on the agenda, however, the Council majority apparently stuck with the plan to proceed with demolition of the South and West branches by setting public hearings on the Zoning Adjustments Board and Landmarks Preservation Commission actions, rather than remanding the agenda items back to the two Commissions. 

Worthingtonmade a motion to hold new public hearings on the two items to “wipe out any mistakes or any illegal things that were done…and then the City can address this and follow all the procedures as scrupulously as humanly possible.” The motion failed for lack of a second. 

However the Council then voted to set public hearings on the demolition of the South and West branch libraries. 

Before the vote, Councilmember Maio commented, “I don't understand where people who are opposing moving ahead on these libraries think we're going to go…It's time to look to the future. If there were mistakes made or there was somehow people felt that they were misled, is that a reason to have no libraries of modern construction for the children, seniors, disabled, people in West Berkeley? I don't think so.” 

“And I really have to say I don't understand the continued opposition to our libraries, which are our treasures. I simply don't get it.” 

Judith Epstein from Concerned Library Users, which has sued the City over the use of Measure FF funds and the zoning amendment, came to the podium during the public comment session following the vote to speak to Maio’s remarks. 

“Councilmember Maio, you mischaracterized what the opposition to the use of Measure FF money for demolitions is”, Epstein said. “If it is something that as you say you truly do not understand, I would be more than happy to discuss it with you.” 

“I have seen your writings. I understand what you are saying. I don't understand the motive,” Maio retorted. 

As Epstein started to answer, Councilmember Wozniak interrupted with a motion to adjourn the meeting in the middle of her public comment time.  

“Could we please have courtesy for everyone?” said Worthington. 

“The motives are that the voters passed Measure FF based on the language of renovation,” Epstein said. “Measure FF passed by 750 votes and it may not have passed at all had you used the language of demolition. The voters have the right to be informed about what their money is being used for and what projects to support.” 

“In the same election, Measure LL failed; 56% of the voters voted against Measure LL which would have weakened our landmarks ordinance. These are precisely the voters that would have voted against Measure FF had it specified demolitions. And I do remain open to talking to you,” Epstein concluded. 

Before the vote and this exchange, the Council heard public testimony from several individuals who spoke to concerns about the zoning amendment and the proposed branch library demolitions. The Council limited public comment on all three items under consideration to three minutes, total, per audience member. 

“It’s a late hour,” said Mayor Bates, explaining the testimony restrictions. 

“You were the one who scheduled it late,” someone in the audience said. 

It was about midnight when the Council decided to take the public testimony on three agenda items together: the zoning amendment that would change the zoning for Berkeley’s five public library sites to enable development there to proceed with a use permit, not variances; the decision of the Zoning Adjustments Board to grant use permits for the South and West branch demolitions and rebuilds; the decisions of the Landmarks Preservation Commission not to suspend the demolition permit for the West Branch (a City of Berkeley Structure of Merit) or initiate the South Branch (a landmark eligible historic structure) for landmark consideration. 

“The correct remedy is actually to remand these issues back to the original bodies,” said Judith Epstein, who was the first speaker. “I'll explain why.” 

“The city attorney has consistently enforced a policy requiring the recusal of any member of a quasi-judicial body who expresses an opinion about a land use matter before voting on it. Carole Kennerly was required to recuse herself from her temporary appointment to LPC [Landmarks Preservation Commission] because on March 2nd she sent a letter to the Planning Commission saying, and these are her words, ‘I strongly support the demolition and renovation plans for the south and west branch libraries.’ These were exactly the issues she was to vote on.” 

“That letter was referred to the city manager by Councilmember Anderson in your presence so you were all aware of it. You were all aware of the very strong opinion that she had expressed. The error to appoint Ms. Kennerly may have been unintentional but the process was tainted. Ms. Kennerly was an active participant in the LPC ZAB decision and she made some of the motions.” 

(Kennerly was a one-meeting replacement appointee to the Landmarks Preservation Commission at the April 14 meeting when the LPC, in a marathon five-public hearing joint session with the Zoning Adjustments Board, acted on the Library demolition proposals.) 

Lori Kossowsky spoke next. She told the council that that Max Anderson, her councilmember, had called her in what she described as an undisclosed ex-parte discussion on an issue that would later come before the Council.  

Andersonwas “really yelling at me about the people who filed the lawsuit and he just went on and on and I am not part of the lawsuit. He was bullying me…”  

“Bullying!” Anderson said from the dais. 

“Yeah, when you don’t let me get a word in edgewise, that’s what it’s called,” Kossowsky retorted. “You’re not supposed to be interrupting me” during public testimony, she added. 

Anderson, Kossowsky said, “would not stop” when he called her to complain about the lawsuit.  

“I have trusted Max and have been proud to have him as my representative, but this was uncalled for…and not provoked. And it’s been clear that you have already made up your mind from the library projects because of this phone call.” 

“I hope Max and the other people who show poor behavior will tell the truth about what is really happening regarding the libraries…Please, I am asking that all the lies and bullying from those who disagree with the lawsuit stop immediately.” 

“Thank you, next please,” said Mayor Bates. 

Christopher Lien, from the Le Conte neighborhood (one neighborhood east of the South Branch library) came to the podium to describe a neighborhood meeting at which “everyone who showed up spoke about the library issue.”  

“It’s something that really resonated in our neighborhood and is something that is creating a lot of interest and a lot of concern. Our primary concern is that we feel that we were lied to. The language on the library bond, Measure FF, makes it very clear that it is for renovation.” 

“The citizens in Le Conte, and other neighborhoods as well, expected that if they voted for this funding, this 26 million, that those libraries would be preserved as much as possible and that you would be preserving and protecting those historic features. Demolition of the south branch and the west branch are clearly outside the scope of this bond measure, and so the bond funds should not be used for demolition.” 

“I remember when I lived on Julia Street” said the next speaker “and my son was ten years old, walking over to the south branch library many times.” 

“And I am concerned about the demolition funds and where they come from because we know the general fund is very constrained as we heard many times tonight.”  

(Councilmember Worthington had previously mentioned that the City Manager had found general fund money to pay for demolishing the two library buildings. This would allow the City to avoid spending Measure FF funds on the actual demolition, but the bond monies would still be applied to constructing new buildings on the cleared sites). 

“And I remember when we lined up here last June for things that were being cut, Willard Pool, and I am just very afraid that if a million dollars, or whatever it takes to demolition the south and the west branch, will come out of these restricted funds and we're all concerned for the kids of the city and the programs that wouldn't be there, and so we really need to be wise in our use of funds.” 

“And certainly the refurbishing of both the south and the west branch is an option, and you doesn't have to be concerned with the money from the $26 million (Measure FF money). I'm sure there's plenty of funds there to do what needs to be done to have fine libraries for the children, and us adults, too, who love to read in the future.” 

“Under the Zoning Adjustments Board decision, the treatment of the library branches will be separate but not equal,” with the South and West branches suffering, said Gene Bernardi, the next speaker. Her father was an architect with the famed Bay Area firm of Wurster, Bernardi, and Emmons. 

She praised the Todd Jersey alternative plans submitted by Concerned Library Users for renovating the historic portions of the South and West branch libraries and constructing new additions, and criticized the overall character and “ticky tacky intrusions” in the City’s design for an all-new West Branch Library. 

Peter Warfield, from the Library Users Association group, objected to the “greasing of the skids, essentially, for the demolition of two libraries…like some of the other speakers, I suggest you send the decision of ZAB and LPC back.” 

(Disclosure: the author has written extensively on the library issues, including both news stories and opinion pieces, in the past year. He does not believe Measure FF allowed demolitions. He is not a member of Concerned Library Users.)

America’s Killing Sprees Define Who We Are As A People (An Investigative Commentary)

By Gar Smith
Wednesday May 04, 2011 - 01:15:00 PM

When President Barack Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden, his demeanor was properly restrained. It is hard to imagine George W. Bush issuing a similar pronouncement without cracking a grin and making a disparaging remark. The killing of bin Laden, Obama reflected, said much about America: “We will be true to the values that make us who we are.”

Sadly, the media showed too many Americans greeting the news of bin Laden’s death with fist-pumping elation. Raucous, shouting mobs gathered outside the White House and at New York’s “Ground Zero” to wave US flags and chant “USA! USA!” — as if the cold-blooded execution of an unarmed man in a Pakistan suburb was somehow on par with winning the Superbowl. 

These public demonstrations also served to tell the world something about “who we are as a people.” (Note: The assault was carried out by highly trained Navy SEALs. Had Hellfire missiles been used, the attack on bin Laden’s compound would likely have killed many of the women and 23 children reportedly living inside.) 

Bin Laden’s demise is clearly one of the biggest news stories of the year. But as it continues to play out over the next few weeks — dominating the print media and broadcast news — there are other stories that will be ignored. Here are a few stories the White House will be happy to see lost in the “Fog of Media.” 

Another US War Crime Caught on Film 

In the second week of April 11, the Iranian news network, PressTV, aired amateur video footage that showed American troops in Iraq firing live ammunition at unarmed prisoners during a riot in a US detention facility in January 2005. The footage (shows US forces using “disproportionate force” against prisoners at the US detention facility at Camp Bucca. (According to Pentagon estimates, the US military held around 20,000 Iraqis in detention in 2008 — some 17,000 at Camp Bucca near Basra in southern Iraq and more than 3,000 at Camp Cropper in Baghdad.) 

The Pentagon reportedly tried to cover up the bloodshed, saying the riot happened after the prisoners rebelled during a search for contraband. The American Civil Liberties Union later revealed that the riot was actually sparked after US troops desecrated a copy of the Holy Qur'an. Four prisoners were shot dead and five others wounded during the violence. 

The video shows heavily armed US soldiers gathered in a protected roadway with fenced-off barracks on either side. The soldiers are seen firing live rounds at prisoners confined in wooden barracks set off behind tall chain-link fences. Some of the soldiers appear to toss grenades into the compound. The soldiers are relaxed and casual. They can be heard laughing as prisoners are hit. One supervising officer is filmed as he pauses to advise the soldiers that the prisoners are armed with nothing more than “dirt balls” but the officer does nothing to stop the men from attacking the unarmed detainees. Here is the video: 


Congress and the Pentagon should be investigating this incident. But, because the media is lost in the Rapture of the “Osama Is Dead” newscycle, this is unlikely to happen. 

NATO Has Become a Terrorist Organization 

On May 1, 2011, NATO bombs fell on Libyan leader Muammar el-Gaddafi's Tripoli headquarters. A Libyan government spokesman denounced the attack as a failed assassination attempt and the charge was echoed by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin who accused the West of plotting to "execute" Gaddafi. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates denied the charge, saying the US considered Gaddafi's offices “legitimate targets." Gates told the media. "We are not targeting [Gaddafi] specifically, but we do consider command-and-control targets to be legitimate targets wherever we find them." 

Up to that point, the only "legitimate" targets of the NATO-led air campaign had been Libyan government air defenses, supply depots and ground forces. This “mission creep” about what constituted “command-and-control” assets might explain NATO's air strike on the Tripoli headquarters of Libyan TV. The assault temporarily knocked the country’s main TV station off the air but how this helped promote NATO’s mission of “protecting the civilian population” was not made clear. 

Three days later, NATO upped the ante by dropping bombs on the home of one of Gaddafi’s sons, killing 29-year-old Saif al-Arab Gaddafi and three of his children. The Libyan leader, who was in the building on a family visit with this wife, was considered the actual target of the attack. It was difficult to see how the building, a one-story villa in a residential section of Tripoli, could have qualified as a “command-and-control” center. 

Washington’s Assassination Rap-Sheet 

One of the reasons the US is a target of hatred in many countries is that Washington has racked up a long history of political assassinations around the world. What seems to have changed, with the attacks in Tripoli and Abbottabad is that the US is now conducting these formerly covet operations in public. 

On December 22, 1974, Seymour Hersh became the first mainstream journalist to pry open the vault that hid America’s history of assassinations. Hersh’s exposé in The New York Times described the government's "family jewels" — a trove of secret assassination operations conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency over several decades. Some of the more notable victims included Patrice Lumumba of the Congo, Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, the Diem brothers of Vietnam and General Rene Schneider of Chile. Under President John F. Kennedy, the CIA made numerous attempts on the life of Cuba’s Fidel Castro -- even working with the Mafia at one point. 

In 1976, following the revelations of the Senate’s Church Committee hearings, President Gerald Ford issued Executive Order 11905, which was designed to put an end to US-sanctioned assassinations of foreign leaders. In 1981, President Reagan replaced Ford's ban with his own Executive Order 12333, which began to move the bar on what was banned. 

In 1986, Reagan ordered air strikes on Gaddafi's tent-home in Libya. This assault -- which could honestly be described as a terrorist attack — missed Gaddafi but US bombs did succeed in killing Gaddafi's adopted daughter and, according to some reports, 40 other children. 

Shifting Definitions of ‘Permissible Assassination’ 

Two years after Reagan’s attack, George H.W. Bush "reinterpreted" the law banning politicide in order to target Panamanian leader (and former CIA asset) Manuel Noriega. The new understanding was that the assassination prohibition did not apply if a foreign leader were killed as an "unintended consequence" of US military action. 

When it became the younger Bush's turn to control the weapons of the assassin's trade, the rationale for taking out a fellow foreign leader shifted once again. George W.’s team of White House lawyers conveniently concluded that America's decision to directly target Saddam Hussein for death was “legal” — despite the long-standing rules of the Geneva Convention and the existing presidential ban on assassinating foreign leaders. Bush’s lawyers chose to rely on an interpretation of international human rights law that permits the targeting of “military commanders" in a “time of war.” 

Under this ruling, if President Saddam Hussein were to surrender in return for an end to military action, it would then be illegal to kill him. This could explain why the Bush White House refused to negotiate with Saddam and why the Obama White House has ignored Gaddafi's repeated offers of a cease-fire and a negotiated end to the conflict. 

Blowback from the New Assassination Protocol 

When President Gerald Ford declared his ban on further assassinations of heads of state, he did so largely out of fear that any continuation of US assassination plans might trigger retaliatory attacks directed at an American president. It was a reasonable fear. 

But now, NATO's wanton breach of international law has blown that locked door wide open. Under the Geneva Convention, armies are supposed to make every effort to minimize civilian casualties when in pursuit of military victory. But NATO's attempts to kill Gaddafi by attacking buildings occupied by scores of employees and innocent bystanders — and destroying the homes and lives of his children -- has set a dangerous new standard. 

Thanks to NATO’s Libyan air strikes, the current US president — and other leaders of the NATO coalition — must now consider themselves legitimate targets for similar, retaliatory attacks. The bombing the Libyan leader's official residence was the equivalent of attacking the White House. 

An equal application of the "Saddam Hussein Exemption" means that Barack Obama now has become a legitimate target for foreign military assassins. Following NATO's lead, Libyan forces (or sympathetic foreign intelligence agents or freelance terrorists) now can claim justification for killing members of Obama's family — including, God forbide, Michelle, Sasha and Malia. 

Applying America's shifting definition of what constitutes a "justifiable assassination" also means that 10 Downing Street — the residence of British Prime Minister David Cameron, his wife, Samantha and their three children — also becomes a legitimate target. Similarly, the Elysee Palace -- the command center for French President Nicholas Sarkozy as well as the official residence he shares with his wife Carla Bruni — now stands as a legitimate target for retaliation — by Libyan government forces, their proxies, or sympathetic agents. 

This leaves raises a portentous judicial challenge: Is it possible to hold NATO and its leaders accountable, under the auspices of the International Criminal Court, for the commission of war crimes and the violation of international law? 

The Secret US/UK/French Plot Targeting Libya  

Another story that risks behind left behind in the dust of history involves a little-known military exercise called Southern Mistral. This “war game” mobilized strategists and troops from France, Britain and the US for a joint assault on an unnamed country labeled “Southland.” The outline of the attack plan suggests that the NATO attack on Libya was initially mapped out on November 2 — more than four months before the launch of Operation Odyssey Dawn — and was not a response to Libya’s brutal suppression of a spontaneous civilian uprising. 

After reviewing the planning documents on a French military Website, Michel Chossudovsky, director of Canadian media organizaton, Global Research, concluded: “The war on Libya, as well as the armed insurrection, were planned months prior to the Arab protest movement.” 

“Military operations of this size and magnitude are never improvised,” Chossudovsky wrote on April 23, 2011. “The war on Libya as well as the armed insurrection were planned months prior to the Arab protest movement. We were led to believe that the protest movement in Egypt and Tunisia had spread to Libya. The insurrection in Libya was presented as a spontaneous response to a wave of pro-democracy activism which had swept the Arab World. In turn, we were led to believe that ‘the international community’ decided in response to these unfolding events, to ‘protect the lives of civilians’ and refer the matter to the United Nations Security Council. The media then reported that it was only once the UN Security Council had adopted Resolution 1973, that the US and NATO member countries took the decision to intervene militarily in Libya under the ‘No-Fly Zone.’" 

In fact, UN Security Council Resolution 1973 (authorizing military action against Libya’s government) was already “on the drawing board,” months before there was any evidence of a “pro-democracy” uprising in eastern Libya. 

According to the officialSouthern Mistral 2011 War Games Scenario, a “Franco-British (humanitarian) air operation against SOUTHLAND was to be carried out pursuant to … UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION NO: 3003." The war games were scheduled to start on March 21, 2011. But the war games never took place because the assembled military forces “went live” with the actual attack on Libya on March 19 — two days prior to the scheduled date in the “imaginary” war game. 

The Southern Mistral planning documents outlined the following scenario: 

FRANCE:Makes the decision to show its determination to SOUTHLAND (under United Nations Security council resolution no. 3003). 

UNITED-KINGDOM:Allied country as determined in the bilateral agreement. The United Kingdom supports France through the deployment of its air assets. 

Six Royal Air Force Tornado GR4s, one tanker Vickers VC-10 and one Boeing E3D will be deployed together with French Air force Mirage 2000Ds, 2000Ns and 2000Cs operating with a fleet of around thirty aircraft including helicopters, Boeing tankers and AWACs radar aircraft…. An Air Operations Cell deployed at Nancy air base (BA 133) will follow in real time all the air missions and reproduce the air raids. (www.southern-mistral.cdaoa.fr/GB/) 

Under the war games scenario, Security Council Resolution 3003 was proposed by France, whereas "the real life" UN Security Council Resolution 1973 was proposed by France, the UK and Lebanon. 

Operation Southern Mistral has also drawn the attention of Congressmember Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio). "While war games are not uncommon,” Kucinich has written, “the similarities between 'Southern Mistral' and 'Operation Odyssey Dawn' highlight just how many unanswered questions remain regarding our own military planning for Libya. We don't know how long the attack on Libya has been in preparation, but Congress must find out.” 

On March 29, 2011, Kucinich circulated a Dear Colleague letter related to an amendment calling for a congressional cut-off of funds for the war in Libya. “I want to call to your attention to the stark lack of information provided to Congress and the American people about the war,” Kucinich wrote. ”Last night the President said it took one month to put together a response to the situation in Libya. During that time, the President consulted with 28 member nations of NATO, 22 member nations of the Arab League and 15 members of the UN Security Council, ten of whom approved the resolution. There was also time for extensive coordination with France and Great Britain. The President had time to consult with the international community, but had no time to come to the United States Congress? 

“There is no question that the Administration should have followed the Constitution and received the approval of Congress before starting a war. Consulting with a few members is not the same thing as following the Constitutional requirements of Article 1, Section 8. Further complicating the Administration's failure to come to Congress prior to ordering an attack is the fact that our primary partners in the war against Libya — France and Great Britain — had, according to a French military website, planned certain war games which now may have significance. 

“On November 2, 2010 France and Great Britain signed a mutual defense treaty, which paved the way for joint participation in a military exercise called 'Southern Mistral'. The 'Southern Mistral' war games called for Great Britain-French air strikes against an unnamed dictator of a fictional country, Southland…. On March 19, 2011, the United States joined France and Great Britain in an air attack against Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1973. Scheduling a joint military exercise that ends up resembling real military action could be seen as remarkable planning by the French and British, but it also highlights questions regarding the United States' role in planning for the war…. 

“We don’t know who the rebels really represent and how they became armed, but Congress must find out. With so many unknowns, Congress' only path to protect both the Constitution and the institution of government of the people is to cut off funds for the war in Libya. A cutoff of funds would require the President to follow the Constitutional process with respect to going to war…. 

Otherwise, we will have given our tacit consent to a policy that undercuts Congress' constitutionally-mandated role as a coequal branch of government. Moreover, since the Founders established Congress under Article 1 and the Executive under Article 2, Congress is first among equals, unless we refuse to be.” 

So the question returns to the definition of “who we are as a people.” 

Are we citizens of a country that acts under Constitutional law or are we a nation that glories in our ability to invade any country that our leaders choose and gathers to cheer as our leaders send armadas to cross sovereign territories half-a-world away to openly murder foreign leaders we have targeted for death? 

Are we a nation that celebrates the Pentagon’s ability to steer drone aircraft from the safety of control rooms in Nevada that rain Hellfire missiles on village homes in Pakistan? Do we cheer the NATO bombs that target despots and wind up killing their sons, brothers and grandchildren? Do we wave our flag in the face of the world and call it “victory” when we shoot our unarmed enemies in cold-blood, gun down their women and kill their sons? 

Gar Smith is the co-founder of Environmentalists Against War and the winner of multiple Project Censored Awards. This article represents the author’s opinions and does not necessarily reflect the positions of members of the EAW board.

Going Hungry in Berkeley for Ethnic Studies

By Jonah Most (NAM)
Wednesday May 04, 2011 - 12:28:00 PM

Hungry students and their supporters sit for the seventh day in front of University of California at Berkeley’s California Hall, after a futile meeting with University Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. The students asked Birgeneau yesterday to reinstate fired ethnic-studies staff members. 

“We're still here, we're still fighting and basically, we're not going anywhere," said a weary-looking, third-year Native American studies major, Zoila Lara-Cea. 

They are protesting cuts resulting from a comprehensive audit of university operations conducted by the consulting firm Bain and Company. The auditors recommended trimming two-and-a-half staff positions from the Ethnic Studies Department. 

Even though cuts are distributed university-wide, “people of color are targeted first,” asserted third-year ethnic studies student Edward Rivero. 

“This institution is very white-dominated,” added Luzilda Carrillo, a fifth-year student majoring in integrative biology and anthropology. 

Over the years, students and faculty in the ethnic studies department have grown accustomed to protesting. Present at the current demonstration were several professors, who had advocated for the department’s creation in the late 1960s. 

As a UC student, Harvey Dong, now an ethnic studies lecturer, participated in the 1969 Third World Liberation Front, a movement that lead to the creation of the department, which became a model for similar programs nationwide. 

At the time, Dong and fellow students sought the creation of an entire Third World College devoted to the study of marginalized groups, but settled for a department. 

Professor Emeritus Carlos Muños, also present at the protest, benefited from Dong’s actions and became the first chair of Chicano Studies at California State University, Los Angeles. 

Spearheading this new field, Muños and Dong recalled their responsibility to respond to a basic gap in college curriculums. 

A Mexican American, Muños said he remembers “being a graduate student and not being able to find books on ourselves.” He added, “At that time we were an invisible people in this country.” 

While ethnic studies have since matured, Muños said students must continue to fight for the survival of the field. 

“We have to go out of our way to legitimize ourselves,” he said. “Students have had to struggle on our behalf.” 

At UC Berkeley, cuts will mean reduced office hours and unanswered phones. The history and psychology departments face similar cuts. 

However, Carleen Sanchez, vice president of the National Association for Ethnic Studies, said that the protest represents a broader cause. 

“Ethnic studies are under assault,” she stated in a phone interview. 

“Administrators do not recognize the importance of ethnic studies,” Sanchez continued. “Given our origins in civil rights, I think that that type of direct action and individual sacrifice is part of our history.” She emphasized, “A hunger strike is not silly.” 

Sanchez cited a law signed last May by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer that bans classes “designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group,” or which “advocate ethnic solidarity instead of treatment of pupils as individuals from K-12 classrooms.” 

At Berkeley, though, protesters may have to remain patient. Claire Buss, two-time hunger striker who hadn’t eaten in 176 hours when interviewed for this story said she can wait. 

“I’m feeling great,” she said. “I could go forever.” 

The students plan to continue their protest throughout this week.

Small Merchants versus the Monterey Market Monster

By Gar Smith
Wednesday May 04, 2011 - 08:36:00 AM
On an average Saturday, the Monterey Market’s sales can reportedly top $150,000. Now, the new owners hope to increase profits by adding meats, cheeses, pizza and brewed coffee — the same items offered by small, specialty shops on the same block. Mahmoud, the neighborhood’s beloved flower vendor, fears the Monterey Market’s plans to become “a Walmart” that will destroy small, established businesses.
Gar Smith
On an average Saturday, the Monterey Market’s sales can reportedly top $150,000. Now, the new owners hope to increase profits by adding meats, cheeses, pizza and brewed coffee — the same items offered by small, specialty shops on the same block. Mahmoud, the neighborhood’s beloved flower vendor, fears the Monterey Market’s plans to become “a Walmart” that will destroy small, established businesses.

The North Berkeley neighborhood used to cherish the Monterey Market. One of the market’s die-hard fans, Lisa Brenneis, was even moved to make a prize-winning documentary called “Eat at Bill’s” about the pioneering produce store. (The New York Times hailed the film as “a heartfelt and loving homage to [Bill Fujimoto], his produce, and his devotion to helping sustain America's newly-blossoming agrarian entrepreneurs.”) But when Bill and Judy Fujimoto, the long-established owners, retired from the market a few years back, the love affair between the business and the residents began to sour.

This week, a leaflet appeared that served to draw the growing rift into the public eye. Circulated by local storeowners and concerned residents, the broadside explains that the problem “all started with Mahmoud.” Mahmoud, a flower vendor who worked the curb alongside the Market’s northern flank, was the first victim of the Market’s new owners. 

As the leaflet explains: “For seven years Mahmoud had sold fresh, beautiful flowers at reasonable prices from his sidewalk stand on Hopkins Street. With his warm smile and artists’s eye, Mahmoud is like the heart of the neighborhood. But, in 2009, Monterey Market started saturation marketing of dirt-cheap flowers. Mahmound’s sales dropped 70%.” 

And the problem didn’t end with Mahmoud’s flower-stand. Under the new owners, the Monterey Market has been slowly evolving to compete with nearly every other existing storeowner in the Hopkins/California/Monterey corridor. The Market has started expanding its offerings of cheeses, wines and baked goods at cut-rate prices that have damaged sales at nearby Country Cheese Coffee Market, Magnanis, Hopkins Street Bakers and Monterey Liquors. And not the Market has, for the first time, begun stocking an array of plants, putting it in competition with Freshly Cut, a small business located directly across the street. 

These expansionary practices and predatory pricing have eroded the earnings of long-established small business that have defined this unique North Berkeley neighborhood. “For decades, the Market flourished, too, without preying on surround shops,” the leaflet reads. “We all want to keep Hopkins Street bustling, not pitted with empty storefronts.” 

The leaflet’s proposed solution is a twist on a familiar adage: “Don’t just buy local. Buy small.” You can still buy your produce at the Monterey Market, the handbill advises, but don’t forget to “support your specialty shops.” 

The leaflet is described as the work of “an informal alliance of neighbots, customers and merchants, including Monterey Fish, Gioia Pizzeria, Hopkins Laundrette, Storey Framing, Magnani’s, Country Cheese Coffee Market, Monterey Liquors, Freshly Cut and Mahmoud’s Flowers.” More information is available by contacting Tom at (510) 832-3400.

Berkeley Street Tops Chris Hedges With Ho-hum and Grave Respect for the Dishonored Dead (News Analysis)

By Ted Friedman
Wednesday May 04, 2011 - 10:12:00 AM

Berkeley's Telegraph Avenue responded Monday to U.S. killing of Bin Laden with a big ho-hum and grave respect for the dishonored dead. Mon. evening, Chris Hedges, a leading critic of U.S. government policies covered much of the street's ground. 

Many street people surveyed were less than ten years old when the World Trade Center crashed in 2001. Also interviewed were shop clerks, businessmen, and passers-by. They were all asked to comment on the death of Bin Laden 

Monday evening Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize winning former journalist turned best-selling author and minister to progressives, sermonized at Berkeley's First Congregational Church on the theme of the United State's morally bankrupt policies. 

Six hundred Berkeleyans, riding a wave of high-mindedness at the Hedges KPFA benefit witnessed a pep talk on dissent and civil disobedience. But with civil disobedience regularly enacted on the avenue and in People's Park does Berkeley, of all places, need the tip? 

A few of the KPFA faithful hissed their disapproval of "the killing of Bin Laden." 

The Berkeley street had 'stolen' Hedges script earlier in the day, adding spiritual notes of its own. 

Along with the ho-hum came doses of spiritual wisdom and deep political analysis, as Berkelyans--some of whom only spend their working lives here--mouthed off. Some even permitted being named. 

9:15a: Caffe Med: a no-name-please-man, who said his years in Berkeley "were stacking up" posed two questions on Bid Laden's death. "Why now"? And "Why so long, given he was living in the suburbs of Islamabad"?  

9:30a: Craig Becker, 59.and owner of the Med--"Good riddance," sounding the first note of a recurring theme. 

9:45a: Louis Cuneo, 62, founder of the Berkeley Poetry Festival, compared Bin Laden to Manuel Noriega, a rogue agent of U.S. imperialism. "Bin Laden was a good U.S. operative who went astray," according to Cuneo. Hedges said the U.S. had given Bin Laden his voice and training. 

10:45a: At the flower shop outside Cody building. Richard, owner of Lhasa Karnak, founded 1970. "I didn't like the bestial demo outside the White House, but I'm glad Osama's gone. Fuck him." He added "a chinese curse. May you live in interesting times." 

10:50a: Chevy, pharmacist at Walgreen's, Telegraph, "now Bill Maher can ask Trump whether Bin Laden is really dead. Trump says, "I don't know, where's his birth certificate?" 

11:02a: Cafe Milano students were grinding for finals during "dead week." 

11:10: street girl: "Who? Oh him; he deserved it." 

11:13a: Focus, "can you spare a dollar?" Bin Laden question again. And again, "can you spare a dollar." And once more, just to see if the repeated question was still working. 

11:17a: Reprint Mint, a clerk; "I got a phone message from my girlfriend telling me Osama was dead, but I couldn't remember who he was." 

11:40a: Robert, 64, a van camper: "Bin Laden could have been a force for good in the middle east. It's sad." 

11:50: Man in the park, "If he's committed sins, that's between him and his god." 

11:53a: In the park, "I'd like to see the body, No matter what your views, you treat his death with respect." 

12p: Kelly in the park, "we should show respect for the dead." 

12:34p: a south side mailman. "Postal Service is on high alert for possible bombs in mail, anthrax, etc. Do I worry? It's a lottery." 

1:05p: Bob Kurtz, Collectors Realm 3 on Teley. "I'm as Berkeley as it gets, born 1939 in Berkeley and I say U.S. out of middle east; mandate electric cars." 

2:03p: Comma Toes in park, "Don't blame me!" 

2:20p: Naja at Med, "I'm tired of the whole thing; it interrupted my TV program." 

3:15p: Brandon, barista at Med, "Osama's an American Hero." Say what? "I'll just leave that one hanging." 

10:10p: after Hedges and back at the Med to follow up on Brandon's hero comment. 

Brandon, an English major at Cal, is a starring barista at the Med. He said that Obama was on a trajectory to match Hitler in books, song, and opera, noting that both Hitler and Bin Laden had their own songs; "Osama Bin Laden, we're going to get you sooner or later," and "Springtime For Hitler," by Mel Brooks. 

Later just got sooner. No celebration intended. It is Springtime, though. 



Ted Friedman has embedded himself in Berkeley's South Sde..


By Steven Finacom
Wednesday May 04, 2011 - 02:22:00 PM
Project organizer Tim Pine, left, speaks before the official opening of the nursery structure.
Steven Finacom
Project organizer Tim Pine, left, speaks before the official opening of the nursery structure.
Student Katherine Blair ceremonially cut the ribbon to open the facility.
Steven Finacom
Student Katherine Blair ceremonially cut the ribbon to open the facility.
Student David Pon (right) led volunteers in planting natives in the demonstration plot behind Giannini Hall.
Steven Finacom
Student David Pon (right) led volunteers in planting natives in the demonstration plot behind Giannini Hall.
Volunteers and guests gathered inside amidst racks of native plant seedings.
Steven Finacom
Volunteers and guests gathered inside amidst racks of native plant seedings.

UC students, faculty, and staff gathered at the lunch hour on Berkeley’s warmest day of the year so far to inaugurate a green seedling—a new “Strawberry Creek Native Plant Nursery and Garden” on the campus. They dined on watermelon and strawberries, planted a few symbolic natives, and basked in the accomplishment of a small but significant environmental milestone for the campus.  

Adjacent to Giannini Hall and within the College of Natural Resources complex, the modest wooden structure roofed with shade cloth is intended to nurture native plants to be used along the Strawberry Creek watershed on campus and also serve as a locus for teaching about natives and ecological restoration. A plot of ground adjacent to the structure has also been prepared as a demonstration garden for native plants. 

“This is a very auspicious occasion”, said Tim Pine from the Environmental Health and Safety program (EH & S) on the campus who emceed the event. “There’s been a very vibrant and passionate movement to preserve and restore Strawberry Creek on campus.” 

Except for two small stretches, Strawberry Creek is above ground and lined with riparian plantings as its two branches wind through the approximately 200 acre campus. It’s the longest stretch of Berkeley’s most prominent creek above ground within the City limits. 

The campus stretch of the Creek was originally lined with native, riparian, landscape, later replaced in many areas with imported ornamentals and non-native plantings of California coastal redwoods. 

Pine traced the origins of the modern effort to restore the Creek to the 1980s work of Robert Charbonneau, then a Cal graduate student. He prepared a Strawberry Creek Management Plan which “focused on water quality and preventing discharge” into the Creek.. 

“He saw a creek in decline and in need of some TLC”, said Pine. “We’ve got Creek water quality to a pretty good spot right now.” “We started realizing we had a little time to focus on the habitat, the riparian corridors.” 

In and after the middle of the 20th century ivy, a popular landscaping material, was planted, then spread, becoming the primary ground cover along much of the Creek. EH & S staff, including Karl Hans, started organizing volunteer parties to pull ivy from the Creek banks, an effort joined by many student volunteers. 

Once the ivy was pulled, however, the question was what would be put there? “Now what do you do?” said Pine. “Heal the ills of the last century as quickly as possible. We thought we could grow plants.” “We decided we needed a more formal effort to bring these areas back”, said Pine.  

Initially plants to put along the Creek were grown by individuals, in their home gardens and even on their office windowsills, said Pine. 

Those efforts led to the current project, funded in part by the a grant from the Green Initiative Fund (TGIF) on campus. The Fund was established by a vote of students in the 2006-07 year, taxing themselves five dollars per semester to pay for innovative campus programs focused on sustainability and the environment. 

The funds helped pay for the lathe house structure and demonstration garden area which, Pine emphasized, needed to be on the central campus to attract the time and interest of busy undergraduate students. The structure was constructed primarily with volunteer labor. It took nearly three years “to the day” Pine said from the project proposal to completion of the facility. 

Pine gave credit to two past students from a campus group called Engineers for a Sustainable World for helping to get the project underway. “Engineers. They wanted to write the grant with me. Take that, biologists!” said Pine, to laughter. 

According to the grant, “This project is driven by four purposes: to maintain a seed stock for restoring the creek's riparian zone with native plants, to preserve species endemic to Strawberry Creek whose existence are threatened by the spread of invasive species, to provide ecosystem services to the campus landscape, and to serve as an effective site for environmental education.” 

Pine also credited faculty from the College of Natural Resources, campus staff from Facilities Services including Campus Landscape Architect Jim Horner and head inspector Joel Wishnoff and grounds supervisor Theron Klos, and several students for their key roles in planning the new facility, getting it approved, and constructing it. 

Pine especially acknowledged Greg Haet, head of EH & S, for “instilling in our group that achieving mere compliance isn’t doing the job for us” and encouraging the campus to “go beyond the stuff we have to do simply because it’s the law”. In this case, the philosophy led to an active program to restore the riparian landscape, rather than just cleaning up and monitoring the water quality. 

“This structure was just a glimmer in our eyes for a long time”, added Karl Hans from EH & S who worked on the construction of the facility. “Nothing like this is going to happen without a champion like Tim.” 

When it was time to open the structure, Pine called on one of the student participants to cut the “ribbon” holding the doors closed, explaining that in his family there is a tradition that the youngest person takes the lead in any ceremonial occasion—since they’re likely to be alive the longest to remember it. 

After the opening, student David Pon led a group of volunteers in planting natives in the demonstration plot nearby. 

The trend of facilities like this—which might be thought of as a micro or hyper-local nursery movement—focuses on growing native plants from a very specific geographical and biotic area to use in replanting that same territory. 

For more information on the TGIF fund: http://enviro.berkeley.edu/node/2546

Attention Young Eco-Activists: Brower Youth Awards Applications Due May 16
And There’s a New Book that Will Help You Green Your Scene

By Gar Smith
Wednesday May 04, 2011 - 01:23:00 PM

If you know — or are — a budding, up-and-coming young environmentalist, Earth Island Institute has just published an essential tool that you might want to pass along to your local Green Teen. 

The Young Activist’s Guide to Building a Green Movement and Changing the World is Earth Island’s first book. This 217-page handbook of essential action strategies was written by Sharon J. Smith, EII’s program advisor for the annual Brower Youth Awards. In keeping with the local vibe, the book was published by Berkeley’s own Ten Speed Press. 

Here in one book is a trove of practical tips on how to grow-the-grassroots by planning a solid campaign, recruiting committed supporters, raising necessary funds, attracting positive media coverage, lobbying sympathetic politicians and finally, making change happen by passing revolutionary legislation. 

Environmental activist and champion tree-sitter Julia Butterfly Hill writes in her foreward that the Guide has “the power to support you in changing your life and changing the world” and invites young people to “enjoy the journey and celebrate the victory that happens every single time you choose to care.” Author Smith further waves the banner of optimistic activism by noting “we are on the verge of some of the most significant societal changes in human history. We have to be. We can’t continue on our current path any longer.” 

The Young Activist’s Guide teaches and inspires by example, focusing on the successful campaigns mounted by more than a dozen winners of the Brower Youth Award (www.broweryouthawards.org) — founded in 2000 in honor of Berkeley’s David Ross Brower, the legendary “Archdruid” of the modern environmental movement who headed the Sierra Club, founded Friends of the Earth and, in 1982, created Earth Island Institute (now housed in the Dave Brower Center in downtown Berkeley). 

BYA Application Deadline Is Looming  

The book couldn’t be more timely. The deadline for this year’s applications to the 12th annual Brower Youth Awards is fast approaching. Applications must be received by 9pm Pacific Standard Time on May 16. The competition is open to young activists ages 13-22. Each winner will receive a $3,000 grant, an all-expenses-paid trip to the awards ceremonies in San Francisco, beaucoup media coverage and a promise of “year-round support.” 

Applications can be filled out online at www.thebyas.org. For more information on the awards, you can call Anisha Desai at (510) 859-9144, email bya@earthisland.org, or visit www.broweryouthawards.org/apply. 

To make the process more inviting, Earth Island is hosting a Webinar on May 11 to prep prospective applicants on the history of the BYAs while providing useful tips on how to “submit the best application possible.” The May 11 Webinar will be held at 1pm PST. To join in, go to www.readytalk.com and dial 1-866-740-1260 toll-free and use the access code 8599141. 

Gar Smith was the Art Director and a Contributing Writer at Friends of the Earth and is Editor Emeritus of Earth Island Journal.

Press Release: Public Hearing on Use Permits for the West Branch and South Branch Library Projects

From Alan Bern
Wednesday May 04, 2011 - 01:15:00 PM

City Council has set a public hearing to take public comment on the ZAB issued Use Permits for a NEW South Branch Library at 1901 Russell Street and a NEW West Branch Library at 1125 University Avenue. 

The public hearing will be held during the Regular Council meeting of Tuesday, May 17, 2011, at the Maudelle Shirek Building, 2134 Martin Luther King, Jr., Way, 2nd floor Council chambers. 

The agenda, staff report and start time for this meeting will be available online 11 days prior to this meeting at: www.cityofberkeley.info/citycouncil 

Plans and other application materials for these projects are at: www.cityofberkeley.info/zoningapplications 

For more information about the Branch Improvement Program, including services during the temporary branch closures, please visit www.berkeleypubliclibrary.org/branchimprovements or call 510-981-6195.

Berkeley Bloomed On Native Plants Garden Tour

By Steven Finacom
Monday May 02, 2011 - 12:47:00 PM
On Shasta Road at the widely admired Fleming Garden—which the tour called “the leading native plant garden in private ownership in California”—a naturalistic stream cascaded down a hillside of lupine, ferns, and poppies overlooking a meadow of native grasses and wildflowers.   Gardener Luke Hass identified the plantings for visitors.
All Photos by Steven Finacom
On Shasta Road at the widely admired Fleming Garden—which the tour called “the leading native plant garden in private ownership in California”—a naturalistic stream cascaded down a hillside of lupine, ferns, and poppies overlooking a meadow of native grasses and wildflowers. Gardener Luke Hass identified the plantings for visitors.
In her California Street garden Margaret Norman explained the workings of rainwater and gray water collection systems that nourish a small wetlands patch.  Girl Scouts set up a table to sell cookies in front of another tour garden.   Central Coast Wilds Ecological Concerns sold native plants from a tent at the Schoolhouse Creek Commons adjacent to the Berkeley Adult School on Virginia Street.
In her California Street garden Margaret Norman explained the workings of rainwater and gray water collection systems that nourish a small wetlands patch. Girl Scouts set up a table to sell cookies in front of another tour garden. Central Coast Wilds Ecological Concerns sold native plants from a tent at the Schoolhouse Creek Commons adjacent to the Berkeley Adult School on Virginia Street.
A lushly growing driveway framed the approach to one Berkeley backyard with its old, freestanding, one car garage.  Garden details elsewhere included a bell-hung gate, multiple varieties of wisteria in bloom, vivid poppies, a bicycle wheel incorporated into a chicken coop, and a fern filled grotto.
A lushly growing driveway framed the approach to one Berkeley backyard with its old, freestanding, one car garage. Garden details elsewhere included a bell-hung gate, multiple varieties of wisteria in bloom, vivid poppies, a bicycle wheel incorporated into a chicken coop, and a fern filled grotto.
Creative garden structures abounded, from a garden studio in a fern filled redwood grove, to a tiny turquoise “think tank”, to a wide-windowed view retreat perched high on a flowering hillside.
Creative garden structures abounded, from a garden studio in a fern filled redwood grove, to a tiny turquoise “think tank”, to a wide-windowed view retreat perched high on a flowering hillside.
Tour goers—and one tour dog—took rest breaks in the balmy spring weather.
Tour goers—and one tour dog—took rest breaks in the balmy spring weather.

Garden-perfect weather arrived on Sunday, May 1, 2011 to frame the seventh “Bringing Back the Natives” tour.

Extending from Martinez to Fremont, West Berkeley to Clayton, the annual event allows tour-goers to peak inside gardens that emphasize plantings of native California, and Bay Area, species and talk to landscape professionals and home gardeners.

Several Berkeley sites, from re-landscaped front yards in the lowlands to hillside redwood groves behind historic homes, were featured among the more than 50 sites on the tour. Hundreds came out for the free event.  

The gardens did not have to be natives only, although some were. Others featured a mix of natives and exotic ornamentals. 

Here are some photos from the sunny day. 

If you would like to go on the tour in future years, check the website for further updates. The tour is free, but voluntary donations are accepted.  





Revolution and Resurrection Stalk Berkeley's First Congo after Osama Killing

By Becky O'Malley
Wednesday May 04, 2011 - 12:12:00 PM

There was a message on my machine on Monday: “I’m just sort of stunned by the news, and I wouldn’t mind having a friend’s take on it. I feel some…relief, frankly.”

Well, yes. Full confession: I haven’t gotten back to her yet, because I don’t know exactly what to say. I find myself having heretical ideas, hard to process, harder to disclose.

On Monday night I went to hear Christopher Hedges speak for the benefit of KPFA (and to flog his latest book) at First Congo, thinking that with his background as a New York Times reporter on the Middle East he might shed some new light on the killing of Osama bin Laden. His talk (sermon, really) caused me to question all my beliefs—and not in a good way. 

He mentioned the bin Laden killing only once, at the beginning, and a couple of KPFA-ers immediately hissed, clearly disapproving, as per the usual script, of what the U.S. had done. No wonder my friend, who’s lived in Berkeley even longer than I have and is a dedicated café aficionado, felt a bit of trepidation about expressing her sense of relief at the Osama bin Laden killing in just any old arena. 

And the rest of the Hedges presentation, which came across as a peculiar combination of Nostradamus and John Knox, provoked my usual heretical reaction to any kind of orthodoxy, even my own brand. I even began to wonder if political assassination, which I’ve staunchly opposed since I found out about what happened to Patrice Lumumba in the 60s, might not occasionally serve a worthwhile purpose. 

Today is my granddaughter’s ninth birthday. Eight years ago, when she was a baby in a stroller and her cousins were little girls, our whole family marched together down Market Street in a vain attempt to head off G.W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. Unlike the whole Bush administration, Tony Blair, most everyone at the New York Times (though not Chris Hedges) and just about everyone in the U.S. Congress (except Barbara Lee) we and all of our fellow marchers knew the war effort was doomed to failure. Eight years later, Iraq is a mess, as we predicted, even though Barack Obama (whose name was jeered by many in the Hedges audience) seems to be—very slowly—extricating the United States from the arena. 

Radical idea: maybe if G.W.B. had simply ordered the assassination of Saddam Hussein in 2002, how many lives, both American and Iraqi, both combatant and civilian, might have been saved? 

And extrapolating from that heterodox thought: what if the inept Bush administration had been able to find and assassinate Osama bin Laden right after 9/11/2001? Could we have avoided the pointless and costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan altogether? And now that he’s finally dead, could that enable the Americans to withdraw from Afghanistan? 

Just sayin’… 

I’ve also been trying to figure out what in the Hedges talk put me and my companion firmly out of sorts. 

First, I think it was his prosodies. He read his whole speech, start to finish, and he delivered relatively commonplace sentiments in dramatic measured cadences seemingly learned by listening to old Martin Luther King speeches hundreds of times. What works for an African American minister steeped in the traditions of the southern Black church just doesn’t sound the same when spoken in a recognizably preppy Northeastern White dialect by a bespectacled White guy in a button-down oxford shirt and khakis. 

P.K., I said to myself before he’d read six sentences, and in fact later in the speech he confirmed that he was indeed a Preacher’s Kid, son of a battling Presbyterian minister. Since one of my best friends is a Preacher’s Kid, she’s briefed me on how that upbringing can warp your perception of your place in the world if you’re not careful—can create a kind of messianic fervor even in those who have given up religion per se. 

Later Hedges mentioned that although he was what many would consider an atheist, he’d—confusingly—just had his baby baptized by Father Dan Berrigan. I yield to no one in my fondness for crazy old Irish Catholic radicals, but Berriganesque sentiments, dramatic calls for rebellion, just sound silly to me coming from such an obvious prep school boy. The real Irish (I’m not one) do it better. 

The speech strung together a river of quotes gleaned from Hedges’ obviously lavish education and subsequent fellowships: Harvard Divinity School (or was it seminary?), Niemann Fellow etc. according to Wikipedia. I’m not a fan of class warfare exactly, but I do think that those who have obviously already availed themselves of all the privileges of the privileged classes need to tread lightly when urging others to reject them out of hand. 

Since Hedges was born in 1956, he missed almost everything about the 60s counterculture except the FSM attitude, also available on recordings for those who missed it. But when asked about the era in the question period, he allowed as how he is not a big fan, that he disapproves of the way that counterculture “forced itself on the labor movement.” 

Huh? As someone who was politically active in those days, I can testify that the first and most important thing “forced” on the kicking-and-screaming labor movement was the futility of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. In Michigan anti-war activists had a prolonged struggle with the majority of UAW members who controlled the state government in those days and who firmly supported the war-mongering Democratic administration of Lyndon Johnson, warts and all, though a resolute but small minority of union activists knew better. And the craft unions in the old AFL needed to be “forced” to accept integration in those days, even in northern states like Michigan. 

The KPFAishers interrupted the speaker with applause on numerous occasions. They gave him a standing ovation at the end. The most enthusiastic cheers, the most obvious frissons of delight, came when he added a formulaic denunciation of “even the Democratic party” to his litany of institutions that must be smashed in the imminent revolution. 

Oh, come on, guys. If taking your marbles and going home were a winning strategy, Ralph Nader would still be president. 

The First Congregational Church on Monday night was still hung with Easter Alleluia banners. And the last word uttered by the speaker, coming off of a short question period, was right on message, a declamatory exultation: “Resurrection!” 

Those of us educated in the Christian tradition, even in this post-Christian era, still remember the Easter story, the whole story. Believers assert that Christ rose again on Easter. But in order to get to the point of Resurrection, he first had to go through Crucifixion, to die in order to be reborn. 

But if you don’t believe in the Resurrection story, as many in the audience don’t, one would assume, it makes very little sense to volunteer to sacrifice yourself on the political altar as Christopher (the name means “Christ-bearer”) Hedges seemed to be advising. Just slogging away in the political vineyards, to use another Christian metaphor, seems like a much more effective strategy to achieve meaningful and long-lasting change. 

And now, how about that assassination question? I could go through a whole Golden Bough trip to explain where I ended up and why, but let’s not. 


Cartoon Page: Odd Bodkins, BOUNCE

Tuesday May 03, 2011 - 09:44:00 PM


Dan O'Neill



Joseph Young


Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Wednesday May 04, 2011 - 07:30:00 AM

Schacht is Wrong; Priorities: Open Letter to Planning Director Dan Marks; Dear Christopher Adams, Blaine Beckwith, and Planet readers; Justice; Not Dead Yet; What Happened to the Old South Branch?It Was Replaced in 1961 

Schacht is Wrong 

Linda Schacht demonstrates an insensitivity to people of color in using our struggles for her own political purposes. No, the results of the library lawsuit are not racist. I saw the Concerned Library Users alternative designs for the libraries, as printed in the Planet. They show great respect for South and West Berkeley in this beautiful work. If only the City of Berkeley had as much respect for less affluent communities. 

I think it’s terrible the way that Schacht and her companions have tried to create an issue of race when there was none. Maybe that’s what being racist really is. 

Lenny Chen 

* * * 

Priorities: Open Letter to Planning Director Dan Marks 

Berkeley's Edible Gardens Initiative is far more important to me than the servicing the needs of bankrupt, corrupt out of town developers like Sam Zell or corrupt in town would be developers and dope dealers like Mark Rhoades. 

Please see that this becomes a priority on your list before the rest of the country realizes what a fraud is Berkeley's much vaunted socially responsible reputation. Jesus, even San Francisco is more responsive to these issues than Berkeley! 

Fred Dodsworth 

* * * 

Dear Christopher Adams, Blaine Beckwith, and Planet readers: 

Perhaps I can help. I am a west Berkeley resident. I live half a block from the West Berkeley branch. And because there are lots of things about it that could be improved , I voted to improve it 

I did not vote to demolish it. 

Carol Denney 

* * * 


Our country celebrates the "justice of finally retaliating for 9-11" by our murder of Osama Bin Laden. 

How can this event have any effect on so-called terrorism when the reasons behind Bin Laden's attack on the U.S. have not changed? We continue to invade other countries physically or threateningly, and apparently continue to convince most Americans that these are humanitarian methods to instigate a healing Democracy in these troubled regions. 

Trillions of our American dollars, have been spent, since 9-11, in pursuit of Bin Laden and other terrorists. Our continuing questionable military actions, disguised as merciful, have impoverished our own communities. In a resulting scarcity for many of us, including our returning military, I would rather celebrate our country's respect for political truth and responsibility to its own citizens. 

Gerta Farber 

* * * 

Not Dead Yet 

What a difference a day makes. Bold headlines point out that Osama bin Laden is dead. Don't breathe too easily yet; seething just beneath the surface in America is a serious problem. Fringe and splinter groups galore, not the least of which, anti-abortionists, anti-immigrationists and the anti-gay forces, who have all huddled under the big tent of the Tea Party. They espouse an ideology that is not unlike Osama bin Laden’s: hate, hypocrisy and intolerance. 

Ron Lowe 

* * * 

What Happened to the Old South Branch?  

I love the paper -- grew up in south Berkeley at the intersection of Alcatraz and Adeline streets in the Alcatraz Apartments at 3315 Adeline, Berkeley 3, California and phone number in the hallway was Piedmont 2217!! The south Berkeley branch library was pure heaven for me and served as a place to permit me to experience the wonder of reading and dreaming. I've been following the debates regarding tearing down and rebuilding and am wondering if the present library is the same one that served south Berkeley many years ago when I was there. I've tried to research this on line but haven't had any luck -- would you happen to know? Thanks for the paper -- love it and have missed the Berkeley attitude -- I'm in Texas now and moved from the Oakland area in 1961 --- was too busy raising 6 kids to participate in all the protests that give the city its personality -- I've been accused of being part of that scene with my attitudes!! Thanks for any light or history you can shed on the library.

Pat Fleming Shade Gautier 

* * * 

It Was Replaced in 1961 

The current South Berkeley Library was built around 1961, and is located at Russell and Grove (now MLK Jr. Way) across from the Grove playground...It's a "mid-century Modern" architectural design, with concrete / cinderblock walls and a sort of pyramidal wooden ceiling in the main reading room. 

The library you visited was probably the original one, a couple blocks south of Ashby? It's a Spanish style structure. I think it is now used as a community health center. 

The Ashby BART station now, of course, puts a big hole in that neighborhood especially in the triangle between Ashby / Grove / Adeline, but most of the older buildings west of Grove are still intact. 

Steve Finacom

Library Obstruction. If It’s Not Racism, What is It?

By Christopher Adams
Friday April 29, 2011 - 08:05:00 AM

There is always a risk in politics that arguments get personal and hurtful. But there is a difference between small town politics and national politics. Donald Trump can say false and abhorrent things about the President; nasty criticism is part of our national political tradition, and a thick skin is part of the job description for a national politician. At the small town level, not so much. The Planet editor is right to call to task those who made what to her ears were accusations of racism against opponents of the current plans for demolishing the South and West branch libraries and building new ones. And yet to someone who has followed the library’s plans for many years, it is hard not to wonder what can motivate the opponents other than something as irrational and emotional as racism. The closest national dispute that comes to mind is the opposition to building an Islamic Center near the site of the World Trade Center. 

In that case the opponents of the Islamic Center tried to use New York’s historic preservation laws to prevent demolition of a building on the site of the proposed center that was previously ignored. No one, including the NYC Landmarks Commission, was fooled, and the opponents have now become overt in their blatantly religious and ethnic prejudice. Here in Berkeley opponents of the replacement libraries for the South and West branches first clothed themselves in historic preservation, a particularly odd position in the case of the West Branch, whose “historic” façade has been hidden for almost 40 years. Failing to get more than two votes for their position before Berkeley’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, they now have started a lawsuit based on accusations that the Measure FF ballot language, which provided the bond money for the four branch libraries, was somehow deceptive. The only effect that this will have is to force a stop to the South and West branch projects while a court battle ensues, something that could keep South and West Berkeley without adequate libraries for years or perhaps forever. I don’t say it is racism, but I am at a loss to figure out what motivation these people have. 

Continuing this argument the Planet editor then suggests that “If there’s any history of racism to be uncovered in this discussion, historians might ask why the existing South and West branch buildings were allowed to deteriorate …That was the true racism…” 

This is a serious charge, and playing “historian” I will try to answer. 

The South Branch was opened in 1961and was the first new library building in Berkeley since the North Branch was built in 1936. Its modernist residential style was applauded at the time, but the building has not held up well. The concrete floor slabs with hidden heating pipes, much used in the 1960s, cannot be cut; the low wooden ceilings have no attic space above them. Thus there is simply no space for installing computer and electrical conduits to fit the library for current needs. The floor plan of the library is too crowded with additional bookshelves and equipment to meet the codes for disabled access which have been adopted since the 1960s. The concrete block walls, something of a 1960s cliché, turn out to be seismically dangerous. The aforementioned wooden ceilings are inadequately attached to these walls, adding more seismic danger. After the building was complete Berkeley received a grant to open a Tool Lending Library, which was site specific to South Berkeley. It is housed in temporary, trailer-like structures outside the main building which take up any expansion room on the branch’s small site. 

Within its limited resources for maintenance and capital improvements the library has tried to make the South Branch work. It is false to suggest that the library staff or its governing trustees allowed it to deteriorate, and it verges on libel to suggest that they were motivated by racism. If the Planet editor had attended any of the eight meetings held with the community to discuss plans for the new building, she would know that options which preserved all or parts of the existing building were very carefully examined and ultimately rejected. But neither she nor the lawsuit opponents to its replacement ever attended any meetings as far as I can tell. 

The history of West is very different. The West Branch was built in 1923 and expanded in 1973. In the process of expansion its façade was covered over with what everyone now agrees was a mistaken attempt at modernism. In 2003 the library staff and trustees commissioned a complete renovation of West, including a restoration of its original façade, in the hopes that it would be funded by a state bond issue. The plan was in many ways similar to the sketches now being presented by opponents of the library branch replacements, and it was estimated to cost over $14 million. The plan had to be shelved when the state money did not materialize. Based on cost estimation techniques used by UC and other public institutions I calculate that the 2003 estimate would be $19 million today, or almost three quarters of the entire amount of the Measure FF bonds. Because the architect who produced the sketches claims otherwise, it is worth examining some more history. In the case of the Richmond plunge, which the Planet editor cites, this architect apparently obtained the commission by alleging his plan would cost only $3 million, significantly less than other plans then being considered. The final cost to Richmond with his plan: $8 million. I don’t think the library staff and its trustees should be risking our bond money on this kind of a gamble. 

I regret that the Planet editor thinks the opponents of the South and West branch library replacements have been unjustly accused of racism. I am appalled that she then accuses the library staff and trustees of the same thing, without as far as I can tell having paid any attention to what has been going on for the last several years. I am totally sympathetic to the residents of South and West Berkeley, who have been paying attention and want their new branch libraries now. 


Christopher Adams is an architect and city planner and a former president of the Berkeley Public Library Foundation and Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association .

Open Letter in Response to Chris Adams

By Susan Dinkelspiel Cerny
Wednesday May 04, 2011 - 07:21:00 AM

Dear Chris,

I am completely taken aback by statements in your Berkeley Daily Planet opinion piece: 

“And yet to someone who has followed the library’s plans for many years, it is hard not to wonder what can motivate the opponents other than something as irrational and emotional as racism.” 

I know this isn’t true. 

Those of you who are promoting and repeating this obviously false opinion are using a form of bullying and hatred that undermines free speech. Opponents of the library board’s preferred plans for the South and West branch libraries have a legitimate right of to be heard and not be subject to false, intimidating and potentially dangerous statements that are intentionally aimed at pitting people against one another. 

In addition, your comparison of Berkeley’s library issue with the “…blatantly religious and ethnic prejudice” of the Islamic Center in NY just makes your argument even more egregious and wrong. 

The issue of what projects Bond Measure FF were to fund seem to be at the core of the question. Maybe it is time that we all find out how explicit a bond measure’s language needs to be as there is also a problem with some school bond measures. And since there doesn't seem to be agreement in this regard, maybe it is time that the courts make a legal ruling that settles the debate about how close to the language of a bond measure the resulting building projects must be, to conform to the promises made to the citizens that voted for it. Such a ruling would benefit not just Berkeley, but other cities in the state as well. 

Susan Cerny is the former President of Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association and former Chair of the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Deceiving the Electorate May Backfire

By Gale Garcia
Tuesday May 03, 2011 - 01:17:00 PM

The campaign against Concerned Library Users, the group who sued the City of Berkeley over illegal use of Measure FF Library bond funding, has reached a new low. Columnist Chip Johnson wrote an amazing hit-piece in the San Francisco Chronicle on April 29, titled “Shadowy group acts to block new library” which discredits those who seek to prevent bond financing from being misused. 

I quote one paragraph from Mr. Johnson’s article:  

“When the council looked at the bond measure in the spring of 2008 the staff reports that led them all said we would have to demolish the south (library) branch,” said Berkeley City Attorney Zach Cowan. “Our position is that the intent of (Measure) FF allows us to pay for both demolition and rebuilding.” 

Mr. Cowan seems to be suggesting that the mere existence of the staff reports – seen by few, if any, of the voters – allows City officials to use Measure FF funding as the staff reports specify rather than as the voters approved. The staff reports are completely irrelevant to the election of 2008. Voters would have assumed that the ballot language actually meant something. The ballot and campaign language not only carefully avoided the terms “demolish” or “replace”, but repeatedly and consistently claimed there would be restoration of the branch libraries’ historic features. 

Measure LL, the Mayor’s revised “Landmarks” Ordinance, was also on the ballot in November 2008. Residents who care about preserving Berkeley were energized vigorously to fight Measure LL and would certainly have linked Measure FF with LL if the terms “demolish” or “replace” had been used about the branch libraries. I have not a scintilla of doubt that Measure FF would have failed miserably if its writers had been truthful about their intentions to replace, rather than renovate, the libraries in the flatlands. 

In fact, in 2007 and early 2008 there had been a grassroots effort to preserve the South Branch Library by a group of nearby residents called “Save our Library” (SOL). They circulated a petition to preserve and improve the building that was signed by over 600 people and was submitted to the City Council on April 1, 2008. 

A member of SOL wrote in an article called “Save South Branch Library” that appeared in the June 2008 Council of Neighborhood Associations newsletter: “We presented these signatures to the Trustees (of the Library) on August 1, 2007, and have yet to hear any response from them . . . Instead, the Trustees have redoubled their efforts, spending more public funds to further their dreams of a brand-new building, while ignoring our efforts for a children- and community-friendly space. Most recently, they have gone to the City Council to request funds to replace South Branch Library rather than improve it”. 

So in 2007 and 2008 the grassroots effort was to preserve and improve the existing South Branch Library. Rather than listening to the real community, the Board of Library Trustees conducted a sham “community process” and continued to pursue its own goal of a brand new building. Measure FF was placed on the ballot, failing in every way to inform the voters of the real intentions of Library and City officials. Now they want to demolish the flatland libraries. Frankly, it sounds to me like they were asking for a lawsuit. 

In another interesting segment of the Johnson hit-piece, Council member Max Anderson is quoted listing a variety of statistics about this shadowy and anonymous, yet “all-Caucasian” group of plaintiffs. According to Johnson, Mr. Anderson suggests that these individuals should “step into the public light and let people know who they are and what they’re [sic] intentions are”. Why? So that they too can receive the shocking viciousness and bullying that Judith Epstein has received? It should be clear by now that concern about ballot deception is a primary motive of the group. 

It is sad that lawsuits are one of the few ways to get the attention of the Machine. Berkeley has become a truth-free zone. I predict many more lawsuits, referenda and initiatives, unless members of the Machine wake up. Treating the populace like sources of revenue to be manipulated with lies, and then defamed when they resist, can lead to unintended consequences. 


The Library Controversy

By Barbara Gilbert
Friday April 29, 2011 - 08:29:00 AM

Berkeleyans may be confused and dismayed, as am I, by the escalating rhetoric about demolition of the West and South Branch libraries.

I re-reviewed Measure FF to see if library branch demolition is permitted. The short answer is absolutely not and I urge readers to read the stark reality for themselves at :


The voters clearly approved only renovation and improvements, the measure was sold on this basis, and FF may well have failed if library demolition was an option. 

The sorry conclusion I reach is there has been incompetence or deception or both on the part of library insiders and other City staff, now made much worse by vicious attacks on demolition opponents. 

Incompetence. The physical condition and ultimate requirements for all the branches should have been determined prior to floating a bond measure. If there was any uncertainty, then the City Attorney should and could have added two simple words to Measure FF--"or demolish"--to allow for that possibility. 

Deception. Some residents believe that there was active deception on the part of bond and demolition proponents who feared that the measure would fail if demolition was mentioned. At the same election, voters showed their strong support for preservation by defeating Measure LL which would have weakened historic preservation rules in the City.

Why Cuts to Public Health Must be Reconsidered

By Vivian Lee
Monday May 02, 2011 - 04:20:00 PM

With the State's persistent budget crisis and the dwindling economy, the city of Berkeley has been grappling with an budget deficit of $12.5 million for the 2012 fiscal year. The projected $3 million budget on the Department of Public Health, announced in the recent Berkeley City Council meetings, has especially caused a heavy hit, as many employees were let go in the past several weeks, leading to an entire restructuring of the department structure to make up for the losses. While it has been the case, in fiscal crises, that public health services are among the first places to incur cuts, we must reconsider the tremendous value of public health all the more during these down-trodden times. 

As a UCSF Master's student completing my community health nursing rotation at the Department of Public Health for the past four weeks, it has been disheartening to see the drastic effects that the budget cuts have been having on the department. While my colleagues and I were warmly welcomed by the staff on the first day of our rotation, there was an unmistakeable tinge of sadness pervading the department, as staff were saying farewell to numerous coworkers whose positions were cut due to the recent budget decisions. The remaining staff shouldered a long list of public health programs that they now managed in order to fill the roles of their former coworkers. Each program provides services to tens and thousands of Berkeley residents, ranging from immunization and communicable disease control to nutrition and case management services for low-income families, pregnant women and children. Targeting those with special needs, including pregnant women, infants, children, elders, the homeless, and the disabled, these programs cater to the most needy and undeserved of Berkeley's inhabitants. As much as the staff try to make up for the cuts, we will inevitably see repercussions in the quality and quantity of time and resources allocated to these essential programs. 

Study after study has shown the cost-saving and life-saving benefits of public health programs. Investing in prevention reduces the burden of disease in the long run and decreases the amount of health care dollars spent. As a significant portion of health care costs are spent on chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, public health measures such as childhood obesity prevention programs will not only mitigate suffering and illness, but also save the nation significant amounts of money. 

We know the tremendous impact that public health has had in tackling all the areas of our community that influence health, such as sanitation, nutrition, transportation, safety, disaster preparedness, housing, education and safety. Public health initiatives such as mandating seat-belt use, raising taxes on cigarettes, and immunization requirements have significantly impacted the health and welfare of the public. Persistent health disparities manifesting itself in greater incidence of asthma and cardiovascular disease in low socioeconomic communities are being tackled through multi-pronged public health interventions. 

As the number of Americans that do not have health insurance is increasing and the economy continues to dwindle, we need to invest in and protect public programs that address the health of the entire community. Public health should not be the first on the chopping board, but rather the last to go. Let us not spend all of our taxpayer dollars on emergency room visits and other critical care services, but protect preventative and population-health services, which, while saving money, can also improve quality of life and prevent illness before it needs critical attention. Preserving public health programs will help us collectively rise from these economic downtimes more healthy as a whole community. Anticipating the upcoming health care reform as well as the City of Berkeley's ongoing council meetings that will conclude the budget process in June, I hope that decision makers will think twice before making drastic cuts to much needed public health services. 

Vivian Lee is a Master's in Nursing student at UCSF.


The Public Eye: Swimming From Alcatraz

By Bob Burnett
Monday May 02, 2011 - 04:03:00 PM

To celebrate turning 70, I swam from Alcatraz to San Francisco. Splashing one and half miles through icy water gave me time to reflect on six similarities between my trek, life in general, and US politics. 

Life can be a challenge. It’s vital to set ambitious personal goals. After graduating from Stanford, I undertook vocational challenges, first learning how to program computers and then how to manage technical projects. 

Americans feel uncertain about the future because the United States lacks a clearly stated challenge that we all have a part in. Seventy years ago, our goal was to win World War II. Fifty years ago, President Kennedy challenged America to win the space race with Russia. In each case, we understood both what the challenge was and the fact that every citizen had a role to play. 

Thirty years ago, President Reagan inspired Americans with his homily, “it’s morning in America,” but didn’t issue a challenge. Instead, Reagan weakened and divided us with three destructive beliefs: the US is “exceptional” and that’s our God-given status; the “free” market should determine what is best for America – “government is the problem;” and, giving preference to the rich and powerful would benefit all citizens – “a rising tide lifts all boats.” 

Ten years ago, after 9/11, President Bush didn’t challenge Americans to participate in his “war” on terror. Instead we were advised to “go shopping.” 

You have to prepare. In early January, I decided to challenge Alcatraz and, over the next three months, I logged more than one hundred miles swimming laps in preparation. 

In Outliers Malcolm Gladwell postulates, “The key to success in any field is… a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.” That correlates with my experience learning to write computer software and manage technology. It takes hard work, over an extended period of time, to accomplish an important life objective. 

Americans aren’t afraid of hard work, but they haven’t been given a significant challenge for fifty years. In his State of the Union address President Obama recognized this, saying “This is our generation’s Sputnik moment” and calling for new innovation, such as clean energy technology. Obama was right, but Americans didn’t take it on as a collective challenge. 

At some point, you have to jump into the water. After the boat carried me out to Alcatraz, I had to leap into the freezing (52 degrees) Bay. 

Sooner or later adults have to leave home, get a job, and take on other life challenges. It was a big jump to get my first job as a computer scientist and, years later, an even bigger jump to leave my comfortable IBM management position and become an executive at a tiny startup, Cisco Systems. 

Now Americans have to leap into the water. Unfortunately we’ve been enervated by the Reagan/Bush conservative ideology. Our initiative has been sapped by the vapid conservative assurance that we don’t need to change or make sacrifices; we’re special just the way we are; God loves us even though we’re indolent. 

It helps to know which way the tide is running. The organizer of my Alcatraz swim studied the San Francisco Bay tides and knew we should arrive off the island by 8:30AM to take advantage of an outbound current. 

In the world of Information Technology, success stems from reading the shifting technical tides. When I joined IBM, the computer world was organized around the mainframe. I left to go to Cisco because I believed the paradigm had shifted and information would be distributed around the Internet. 

World tides have shifted. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, twenty years ago, it was no longer necessary for America to spend billions on defense and security but we kept doing it. Most advanced nations have shifted away from coal and oil but we use them for 63 percent of our energy. It’s not only that the US is frozen in inaction but that we’re actually swimming against the tide. 

In the final analysis, it’s a team effort. As I slogged through the chilly Bay water, I was accompanied by other swimmers and a small flotilla of boats and kayaks. As an individual I have responded to challenges, but I’ve always had a strong support team. 

The wrongheaded Reagan/Bush conservative ideology has lulled Americans into complacency with the promise of “nanny capitalism,” the notion that the market will take care of us, as long as we get out of the way. In the process, it’s driven us apart; caused us to forget that democracy requires a team effort. 

It’s never too late to rise to a challenge. At age 70 I completed the swim from Alcatraz. 

It’s certainly not too late for the United States to rise to its challenge. Together Americans can do remarkable things; we can shake off our torpor and build a new future. After all, once you jump in and start swimming, the water’s not as cold as it seems. 

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

Wild Neighbors: Smarter than the Average Bird?

By Joe Eaton
Tuesday May 03, 2011 - 08:33:00 PM
Fledgling American crow (left) pestering mother.
Ingrid Taylar, via Wikimedia Commons.
Fledgling American crow (left) pestering mother.

Is intelligence a factor in how well birds adapt to urban environments? A recent study by a team of European biologists addressed that question, in a way, although the results are less interesting than the media coverage might suggest. 

The researchers, led by Alexei Maklakov and Simone Immler of Uppsala University’s Department of Animal Ecology, used relative brain size as a proxy for intelligence. That makes sense: there’s clearly a correlation among birds as well as mammals. Big-brained corvids and parrots are more behaviorally flexible than, say, chickens. To quote the abstract: “We provide the first evidence for the intuitive yet untested hypothesis that relative brain size is a key factor predisposing animals to successful establishment in cities…[We] show that passerine species that succeed in colonizing at least one of 12 European cities are more likely to belong to big-brained lineages than species avoiding these urban areas.” 

Of the 82 species of birds included in the study, corvids—the carrion crow, jackdaw, and Eurasian magpie—were among the most successful urban adapters. The Eurasian wren and nuthatch and the great, blue, and long-tailed tits, also relatively large-brained species, rounded out the top ten. Blue tits were the birds that learned to prise the caps off milk bottles and drink the cream at the top. (That’s not unlike the mix in my neighborhood, substituting American crow and western scrub-jay for the corvids, chestnut-backed chickadee and oak titmouse for the tits, Bewick’s wren for Eurasian wren, and red-breasted nuthatch for Eurasian nuthatch.) 

Smaller-brained city avoiders included two buntings related to the North American sparrows, two Old World warblers, and an Old World flycatcher. The warblers and flycatcher have no close New World relatives. Only songbirds were considered, which leaves out ubiquitous urban species like pigeons and occasional city-dwellers like woodpeckers and hawks. 

Some species, like the barn swallow, did better in urban settings than brain size would have predicted. Maklakov told a reporter that swallows couldn’t be considered true “urban adapters” and were “lucky enough to find niches in urban habitats that are by coincidence a pretty good approximation of their original habitat.” That strikes me as a bit of a rhetorical straddle. 

I haven’t read the actual article, which the journal Biological Letters has sequestered behind a paywall. So I don’t know whether 

the authors compared brain size and urban success within lineages of birds—among the corvids, for example. I recall seeing a lot of crows (carrion and hooded) and jackdaws in European cities, but far fewer Eurasian jays, which seem to be furtive, human-avoidant birds. In California, American crows and to a lesser extent western scrub-jays, yellow-billed magpies, and common ravens have made themselves at home in cities; Steller’s jays, not so much. 

Or take the New World tyrant flycatchers. Why are black phoebes and eastern phoebes more comfortable around people than eastern and western wood-pewees? Western bluebirds have been colonizing the Berkeley flatlands in the last few years; Rusty Scalf has identified three currently active nests. Are they larger-brained than related thrushes? 

To move beyond the passerines, how about hawks? Berkeley has a thriving breeding population of Cooper’s hawks, but only a couple of pairs of sharp-shinned hawks. Allen Fish of the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory says sharp-shins are more partial to conifers as nesting habitat, but conifers aren’t exactly scarce here. 

It’s also important to remember that large brains aren’t everything. 

Although some crow species have become successful urbanites, others are hanging by a thread. The Hawai’ian crow, for one, is extinct in the wild. You’d think it would have found a niche cleaning up after luaus, but a one-two punch of habitat destruction and persecution by ranchers and farmers did it in.

Senior Power: DNR

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Tuesday May 03, 2011 - 08:39:00 PM

DNR can stand for a lot of things-- Department of Natural Resources, a House M.D. TV episode, Daily News Record, digital noise reduction… . Better familiarize yourself with its senior power significance:DO NOT RESUSCITATE

I have a homemade DNR notice on my apartment door. Firefighters/paramedics have naively asked me to put one on every door – I would if I could, for there are neighbors who assume they are protected in this respect! Even a DNR notice does not guarantee avoiding ending up on a ventilator or in the intensive care unit. I have also made clear with my primary care physician my DNR preference. It was part of our Advance Directive Discussion.  

About seven in ten Americans die with a DNR order instructing healthcare workers not to use life-prolonging treatment if their heart or breathing stops. But other situations not necessarily covered in DNR orders may also be worth considering. A new report shows DNR patients have a higher chance of dying following some surgical procedures. Ending up on a ventilator or in the intensive care unit is a possibility. DNR patients also had slightly more complications, such as stroke or pneumonia, but the outcomes depended on the type of surgery. The patient might prefer pain medication such as morphine to surgery. Overall, nearly a fourth of the DNR patients died in the month following their surgery -- about three times as many as in the comparison group. That difference remained even after taking into account that DNR patients are usually sicker to begin with. [Archives of Surgery, April 18, 2011.] 


AHCD stands for Advance Health Care Directive. In an AHCD you can define in advance what medical treatment you prefer and who you want to speak for you, assuming you possess trusted, nearby family members. It is often difficult for people to think about the care and treatment they want, or do not want, in the event that they are incapable of making their own health care decisions. You may unexpectedly be in a position where you cannot speak for yourself -- such as an accident or severe illness -- and be unable to make treatment decisions. An AHCD allows you to appoint an agent who has power of attorney to make care and treatment decisions on your behalf, and to give instructions about your health care wishes. AHCD forms are available online. 

The advance health care directive is also known as a living will, personal directive, advance directive, or advance decision A living will is one form of advance directive, leaving instructions for treatment. Another form authorizes a specific type of power of attorney or health care proxy, where someone is appointed by the individual to make decisions in their behalf when they are incapacitated. One may also have a combination. People should complete both documents in order to provide the most comprehensive guidance regarding their care. An example of a combination document in the United States is the Five Wishes advance directive. 

Five Wishes was originally introduced in 1996 as a Florida-only document,combining a living will and health care power of attorney in addition to addressing matters of comfort care and spirituality. A national version of Five Wishes was introduced in 1998. Five Wishes is available in 26 languages and in Braille. An online version called Five Wishes Online was introduced in April 2011 allowing users to complete the document using an online interface. 


POLST stands for Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment. A Physician Order Sheet is based on the person’s current medical condition and wishes. Your physician should provide you with a copy for you to record them. For example, Section A: No defibrillator (including automated external defibrillators) should be used on a person who has chosen “Do Not Attempt Resuscitation/DNR (Allow Natural Death).” You and your physician should review your POLST periodically. 



Attention Disabled Person Parking Placard-holders: Up to date placards good for two additional years are usually distributed by mail in April. If you have not received yours, it is time to look into it! 

California State Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) introduced legislation in March to strengthen the state ombudsman. "Senate Bill 345 works to provide more independent and cost-effective advocacy for seniors living in long-term care facilities who are among the most vulnerable citizens of California. … Our long-term care residents and local ombudsmen look to the state long-term care ombudsman for leadership. The bill will create the autonomy necessary for ombudsmen to fulfill their duties effectively." The state's long-term care ombudsman’s duties include investigating long-term care resident complaints, protecting the legal rights of residents, and publicizing issues of importance to residents. Currently, the state ombudsman is a politically-appointed position overseen by the Department of Aging, leading to concerns regarding the ombudsman's freedom to speak out on issues affecting long-term care residents. In 2009 (latest available data), 33,991 new cases were opened in California; 159,334 in the United States and District of Columbia. 

Grassroots organizations such as the Older Women’s and the Old Women’s Project are playing a key role in formulating national policies on aging, and in preserving the concerns of mid-life, older, and disadvantaged women. The median income in the U.S. for men over 65 is $29,171. The median income for women over 65 is $15,615. Globally, old women are the poorest of the poor. The OWL addresses the economics of women’s aging as well as other issues of social policy.  

Some academics estimate that one-third of the entire U.S. prison population will be more than 55 years old by 2030. The total number of elderly inmates is predicted to increase between four and seven times in the next 20 years, the fastest growing prisoner age group. The amount spent every year on corrections, which goes to keeping one in every 100 adult Americans behind bars, accounts for about seven percent of state budgets. ["US counts the cost of keeping elderly in jail," by Michael Stothard. Financial Times, London, UK, April 25, 2011].  

Doctors with specialties in aging are in short supply. Their shortage will worsen as the population ages in coming decades, a new report published this month in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society concludes. As the proportion of old adults spikes from 12 percent to a projected 20 percent by 2030, caring for 70 million people 65 and older and 10 million 85 and older will be a challenge. Fewer than 320 physicians entered geriatric medicine fellowship training from 2004 to 2008. At present, 80 percent of pediatric patients see pediatricians, while 80 percent of geriatric patients see primary care doctors or internists. Do as I do: see an internist who is a geriatrician!  

The California Senate Human Services Committee has approved a measure to reduce the time it takes for those required by law – police, bankers, physicians -- to report suspected elder abuse. Currently they may be kept on hold for lengthy periods when phoning in required alerts regarding San Diego County elders. The unanimous bipartisan vote sends the bill to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Legislation would permit reports to be submitted through a confidential Internet system. Several states, including Texas and Ohio, have implemented an Internet-based reporting system. The San Diego County District Attorney’s office receives on average about 845 calls monthly from those who suspect elder abuse or, in some cases, self-neglect because the person cannot take care of themselves or their finances. [San Diego Union-Tribune, April 26, 2011. Bill targets on-hold times for reporting elder abuseby Michael Gardner] 

Wednesday, May 412 noon – 1 PM. Albany Branch, Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free. 1-on-1 Computer tutoring half hour computer tutoring, registration required: (510) 526-3720 x 16. (Also on Wednesdays, May 11, 18, 25) 

Wednesday, May 4Noon. Central Berkeley Public Library. Free. Playreaders. Information: (510)981-6100. (Also Wednesdays, 11, 18, 25)  

Thursday, May 510 AM. Central Berkeley Public Library. Free. Computer for Beginners. Information: (510)981-6100. Information: (510)981-6100. (Also Thursdays, May 10, 19, 26) 

Thursday, May 51:30-3 PM. Albany Branch, Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free. Has parking lot (510 526-3720). Tips for Protection and Prevention. A free workshop by Legal Assistance for Seniors (LAS). No reservations required; refreshments. Wheelchair accessible. More information and other Alameda County Library branches’ dates for this program, at Library Senior Services (510) 745-1491.  

Saturday, May 7 2 PM. Central Berkeley Public Library. Free. Local Places…Sacred Spaces presents “Berkeley Partners for Parks,” a talk and slide show by the Berkeley Path Wanderers. Information and to confirm it is without charge: (510)981-6100. 

Thursday, May 12 6 PM South Berkeley Pubic Library. Free. Lawyers in the Library. Information: (510)981-6100. 

Helen Rippier Wheeler can be reached at pen136@dslextreme.com. Please, no email attachments or phone calls. 



On Mental Illness: Employment Revisited

By Jack Bragen
Tuesday May 03, 2011 - 09:03:00 PM

Having a job, as I have said in past columns, is a source of self-esteem for people in general, and more so for persons with mental illness. It is an indication of competence, one of survival skill, and it is an indication that a person has for the time being mastered the disability aspect of their mental health issues. A person can program as many thoughts of self worth into oneself as possible, it does not replace the sensation of taking a paycheck to the bank. Before I met my wife, I dabbled in responding to personal ads. It turned out that, in the world of singles, being disabled and unemployed was a deal-breaker. Without employment, I never got past the stage of talking to someone on the phone. 

I also responded to personal ads at another time when I was self-employed, and the deal breaker didn’t come until much later, (and was related to issues other than disability). It doesn’t matter to most people if there is something “wrong” with you, such as a mental illness, as long as you can hold down employment. Work, perhaps unfairly, is a universal source of a person being valued. 

Classism exists. When a person with mental illness gets a job sweeping floors and cleaning toilets, a job which many practitioners in the mental health treatment system think is suitable employment for us, we soon discover that such a job is no “chick magnet,” or “dude magnet” and that such a job doesn’t get us any respect. When I supported myself delivering pizza, I couldn’t get a date. Being employed at a job that’s at the bottom rung brings less respect than being unemployed. And yet, there are some “low functioning” persons with mental illness who seem to be thrilled with such a job. 

A lack of confidence was sometimes a negative factor in my work attempts. Another was my erroneous belief that I ought to be comfortable. A third factor was the low level paranoia I experienced that made me nervous or fearful. I sometimes had difficulty relating to coworkers and employers. When I was more successful, I managed well with coworkers and employers, and was able to bond with them to an extent. If I wasn’t fearful in a work situation, it would probably work for me. 

My level of efficiency was rarely a factor for keeping or not keeping a job. Apparently, if I was happy at work, it meant that my boss would be happy. If I had a chronic slowness due to the medication, it was counteracted by my attention to detail and my quality of work. 

Concerning the belief that I ought to be comfortable, it means a lack of hardening. When I was in my twenties, I was involved in a cult group that valued peace, serenity, and continuous happiness. My participation in this group wrecked my ability to endure the difficulties of work. Instead of trying to learn to constantly be happy, a person is better off learning not to be afraid to feel painful emotions that inevitably occur. If a person isn’t afraid to feel something, it makes them equipped for the difficulties of life, and for the meaningful and painful losses that everyone must endure. 

For now, I choose not to attempt regular employment, and would rather spend my productive time writing. Since I am aware of the factors that would contribute to success in a job, it increases my chances of succeeding once hired. As a “high functioning” person with a mental illness, I am similar to many of those in my position: I can work some of the time, in some work situations yet must be careful in how I approach it. Too many work hours, or a work situation which is too demanding, could push me toward excessive strain. When that happens, a safety mechanism that my subconscious mind has adopted would lead me to quitting the job in an unbecoming manner. I used to quit jobs like this a lot, when I initially overestimated myself. 

Because of being on Social Security, any job I get must pay almost nothing so that my benefits remain intact, or it must pay a lot and have medical benefits. Anything in between these extremes leaves me worse off than remaining unemployed. Social Security personnel claim that there are work incentives. They can repeat this lie until it becomes a mantra. Working jeopardizes the benefits and yanks out from under you the Social Security safety net. This situation encourages staying at home and becoming an artist, a writer, or, if you can handle it, going back to school and getting a college degree. 

I plan to cover this subject more in future issues. Your stories about employment, or other subjects, are welcome. I can be reached care of the Planet, or directly at bragenkjack@yahoo.com.

Pepper Spray Times

Grace Underpressure
Tuesday May 03, 2011 - 09:49:00 PM

Editor's Note: The latest issue of the Pepper Spray Times is now available. 

You can view it absolutely free of charge by clicking here . You can print it out to give to your friends. 

Grace Underpressure has been producing it for many years now, even before the Berkeley Daily Planet started distributing it, most of the time without being paid, and now we'd like you to show your appreciation by using the button below to send her money.  

This is a Very Good Deal. Go for it! 

First Person: A Trip to Hanford

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Tuesday May 03, 2011 - 09:13:00 PM

Never let it be said that the Oakland Museum lacks imagination when planning trips for the year. Case in point: last week's delightful tour, "Hanford: San Joaquin's Prettiest and Best Preserved Downtown." Credit for the success of these programs rightfully goes to Helen Tryon, who for the past several decades has come up with innovative one-day, two-day, or longer trips, such as the recent "Return to Death Valley" and the "Hudson Valley" tour. 

On Tuesday, April 25th, twenty eight Museum members met at the Museum at 8 a.m., checked their luggage and then boarded the Sierra Pacific coach, with the always courteous assistance of the driver, Pete Mitchell, who must hold a record for the many trips he's taken, both for the Museum and the U.C. Retirees's Association. Sitting in front seats were Anne Curran, Mary Lou Ciranni, and Marlynn Dykstra, the latter being responsible for the tedious task of arranging hotel reservations, restaurants and counting noses. Driving up Interstate 5, not the most scenic highway in the country, we headed for Hanford, passing lush green farm lands, flowering trees and grazing cattle. 

Living up to its reputation, Hanford is indeed a pretty town, established in 1877, and named for its founder, James Madison Hanford, a man not given to great modesty, naming the town for himself. Our first stop after lunch was a visit to China Alley and Taoist Temple, once inhabited by the Chinese who labored for the railroad and then remained in the area to do farm work. We next visited the Carnegie Library, dating back to 1905. Riding around Courthouse Square on "Freddie the Friendly Firetruck" we were given a lengthy history of Hanford and the opportunity to admire its charming homes with neat white picket fences and beautiful flowers. 

Dinner that evening was at Harris Ranch. We were disappointed not to see (and smell) acres and acres of cattle which evidently has now have been moved to Texas for reasons unknown. Our rooms at the Ranch were quite elegant and dinner at the Harris Restaurant was, of course, superb -- fillets, rib eye steaks, pot roasts, etc. After our lengthy bus trip everyone was happy to hit the sack for a well deserved night's sleep. 

The next morning we were taken to the Clark Center for Japanese Art & Culture, where we saw the exquisite work of Fukami, the foremost Japanese artist of our time, in a show entitled "Purity of Form." In keeping with Japanese culture we were asked to take off our shoes. We then visited a large Bonsai Garden where a docent explained how the Bonsais are shaped into their unique forms. 

After lunch at Hanford's most popular restaurant, the Superior Dairy, famous for its obscene triple deck sundaes, we boarded the bus at 1:15 and headed for home, arriving at the Museum about 6:30, none the worse for the wear and all agreeing that this had been another fabulous Museum trip.

Thoughts on the Beatification of Pope John Paul II

By Ralph E. Stone
Wednesday May 04, 2011 - 07:25:00 AM

Author's note: Some caveats before I begin. I am not a Roman Catholic and I am very skeptical of the whole concept of sainthood, the miracles in support thereof, and papal infallibility.  

The beatification of the late Polish-born Pope John Paul II was held on Sunday. When I think of the late John Paul II, I remember his tepid response to child abuse by priests, showing more concern with the effect the scandal was having on the Church rather than the effect on the children. Sure priests betrayed their vows, but he showed little concern about betrayals of the trust that a child has for their priest. 

And I remember the 1997 letter from the Vatican (www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/18/vatican-irish-bishops-child-abuse) warning Ireland's Catholic bishops not to report all child-abuse cases to the police. Many have described the letter as the "smoking gun" showing that the church enforced a worldwide culture of covering up crimes by pedophile priests. The letter was signed by the late Archbishop Luciano Storero, Pope John Paul II's diplomat to Ireland. 

I also remember Sinead O'Connor on Saturday Night Live when she tore a photo of Pope John Paul II (www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYw8JR1N90o). And her March 2010 open letter to Pope Benedict (www.catholicabusesurvivorsni.com/?p=29) criticizing the Catholic Church's role in, and initial coverup of, the child abuse in Ireland.  

The number of pedophile priests and their victims are hard to come by as the Church has not been altogether forthcoming with information. Consider, however, that the number of pedophile priests in the Catholic Church in the U.S. is extrapolated to be as high as 10,969. The percentage of pedophile priests is 20 to 200 times higher than found in the secular population. By looking at the figures concerning other countries you can see the extent of the problem: 4,392 priests accused of pedophilia in the U.S.; 1,700 priests accused of sexual abuse on little children, orgies and use of drugs in Brazil; 107 priests and clergymen convicted in Australia of abuse with minors; 800 clergymen accused of more than 14,000 cases of abuses in Ireland. Plus, hundreds of cases in Holland, Poland, Croatia, France, England, and Mexico. Up to now, in the U.S., more than $3 billion has been paid in financial compensation. More than one billion for financial compensation has been asked by the survivors of Ireland’s industrial schools. And it seems that every day there is a new accusation of abuse or a new court case filed against a pedophile priest. Most, if not all, of the allegations of pedophilia happened on Pope John Paul II's watch. 

I recommend The Boys of St. Vincent, a 1992 film directed by John N. Smith for the National Film Board of Canada. It is a two part docudrama based on real events that took place at the Mount Cashel Orphanage in St. John's, Newfoundland, one of a number of child sexual abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church. This film was followed in 1993 by The Boys of St. Vincent: 15 Years Later when the various boys involved The Boys of St. Vincent are brought in to testify against the brothers. 

There are about 10,000 Roman Catholic Saints. How does one become a Roman Catholic saint? Canonization, the process the Roman Catholic Church uses to name a saint, has only been used since the tenth century. For hundreds of years, starting with the first martyrs of the early Church, saints were chosen by public acclaim, which seems a more democratic way to recognize saints. Gradually, the bishops and finally the Vatican took over authority for approving saints. 

In 1983, Pope John Paul II made sweeping changes in the canonization procedure. The process begins at least five years after the death of a Catholic whom people regard as holy. Usually, the local bishop investigates the candidate's life and writings for heroic virtue (or martyrdom) and orthodoxy of doctrine. Then a panel of theologians at the Vatican evaluates the candidate. After approval by the panel and cardinals of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the pope proclaims the candidate "venerable." 

The next step, beatification, requires evidence of one miracle (except in the case of martyrs). Since miracles are considered proof that the person is in heaven and can intercede for us, the miracle must take place after the candidate's death and as a result of a specific petition to the candidate. (Pity the poor protestants who have no saints to intercede for them.) Pope John Paul's miracle concerns a 49-year-old French nun, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Parkinson’s disease in 2001 and whose order prayed to John Paul II after his death in 2005 for help. Didn't members of the order pray for her before John Paul's death? Who is to say that the prayer to John Paul II was the one heard by God and not the earlier, more direct ones? 

As mentioned above, ordinarily permission to open an investigation is given five years after the death of the person being investigated. By rushing through the beatification of Pope John Paul II, his predecessor and friend, Pope Benedict has shown how silly the whole idea and process of ‘making saints’ is. The beatification of John Paul II makes the Church seem more and more like a good old boys' club where connections and privilege count.  

In my opinion, whatever else Pope John Paul II accomplished during his papacy is completely overshadowed by the widespread abuse of children by priests and the initial Church coverup. Obviously, the Church disagrees with his beatification. What faith can anyone have in a Church that says it stands by the teachings of Jesus, yet violates his Biblical mandate stated in Mark 10:14: “Let the children come to me; do not try to stop them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

Arts & Events

Don't Miss This!

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Tuesday May 03, 2011 - 09:22:00 PM

As one of the reported 2 billion television viewers watching the Royal Wedding last Friday, I can only say what a lovely, dignified affair it was. Seeing a smiling Kate and William exchange wedding vows in Westminster Abbey is a memory I'll long cherish. But enough of that -- it's time to return to reality on this side of the Pond and consider what's going on in the Bay Area this month. 

May is obviously going to be a busy, busy month with all kinds of activities and cultural events. I'll start off by noting that May 18th marks the 100th Anniversary of Gustave Mahler's death. It's no surprise then that Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony will reprise two of Mahler's greatest works -- his Symphony No. 2 (the "Resurrection) on May 7 and 8. On May 6 it will be the glorious Symphony No. 9. Performances will be at Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Avenue. Tickets are $15 - $150. (415) 864-6000. 

On Friday, May 13 at 8 p.m., Michael Morgan, Music Director of the Oakland East Bay Symphony, presents "Street Scene", the Kurt Weill/Langston Hughes musical at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland. Tickets start at $20. (800) 745-3000. 

Hugh Jackman, that handsome devil from Australia, is performing in a one-man show at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco next Tuesday through May 5th. Tickets are $40 - $150. (888) 746-1799. 

Cole Porter's "Silk Stockings", a musical version of the film "Ninotchka" previews Wednesday, May 6th, opens May 7th and runs through May 22nd at the Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson Street, S.F. Tickets are $24 - $44. (415) 255-8207. 

Tango, the Dance of Love, featuring 12 dancers in Luis Bravo's "Forever Tango", direct from Argentina, will be performed at the Lecher Center for Arts in Walnut Creek at 8 p.m. Thursday, May 5th and Friday, May 6th at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets are $39 - 69. 1601 Civic Drive at Locust Street. (1-925-943-7469.) 

"Seven Deadly Sins", a rarely performed Kurt Weill/Bertold Brecht musical, plays at Cal State East Bay's Theatre in Hayward at 8 p.m. May 6-7 and 2 p.m. May 8th.
Tickets are $15.00. (510) 883-3118. 

"The Lady With all the Answers," a one-woman show with Kerri Shawn as Ann Landers will show on Thursday - Saturday, 8:15 p.m. and 2 p.m. Sundays through May 15th at the Lesher Arts Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek. Tickets are $45. (1-925) 943-7469. 

The Cinco de Mayo Festival holds a parade On May 7, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the City Hall Plaza, 777 B Street, Hayward, near the downtown Hayward Bart Station. 

The San Francisco Bead and Design Show will be held at the Hyatt Regency at the San Francisco Airport on May 6-8, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Beads, jewelry, gemstones, art, clothing and antiquities. (530) 274-2222. 

An Hawaiian May Day Festival will be the attraction at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton on Saturday, May 7th and Sunday, May 8th, at 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.$10 per person. (650) 355-6451 

Never say there's little excitement in the Bay Area in the merry, merry month of May!

Druid at Zellerbach with "Cripple"

By Ken Bullock
Tuesday May 03, 2011 - 09:07:00 PM

Druid, the Irish theater company from Galway -- surely one of the finest English-language troupes anywhere -- open their production of Martin McDonagh's The Cripple of Inishmaan Wednesday, May 4, at Zellerbach Playhouse on the UC campus. McDonagh's now best-known here for Pillowman and The Lieutenant of Inishmore, both produced by Berkeley Rep in recent years, and perhaps his Oscar-nominated film, In Bruges. Wilde Irish staged a spirited Cripple of Inishmaan a few years back at the City Club. 

Druid put on Playboy of the Western World and Shadow of the Glen from their cycle of J. M. Synge's plays at the Roda Theatre in 2008 and Enda Walsh's The Walworth Farce at Zellerbach Playhouse in 2009, both shows among the best theater onstage here in memory. Garry Hynes, co-founder of Druid, who directed the Synge plays, is also the director of The Cripple, was among the very first to stage McDonagh's plays, and worked closely with him on the Druid production of The Beauty Queen of Leenane (produced by the Rep in 1999), for which Hynes became the first woman to win a Tony Award for direction. 

The Cripple is set in the Aran Islands (where Synge realized his theater writing as well) in 1934, when news of an American film crew shooting a documentary--Robert Flaherty's Man of Aran (Flaherty famous for Nanook of the North)--turns the provincial island society upside-down. 

Druid's production of Synge's plays accented his uncompromising humor in a way few stagings do. McDonagh is known for his black humor ... On being asked by the Planet in 2008 about the humor of another play Hynes had directed, she replied "The humor in it is the humor of the human situation; you have to create the situation for the humor to make sense." (The preview with Hynes' remarks on Irish theater is in the issue of October 2, 2008.) 

Irish theater has been, since the Irish Renaissance of the late 19th-early 20th centuries, the English-language theater probably closest to European and other non-Anglo-Saxon theaters of the world, exerting an influence on folk, popular and civic theaters almost everywhere. Any visit by Druid would be an occasion; staging a show by McDonagh, a contemporary playwright who's already found an American audience, should be a real event--at prices cheaper than a trip to Dublin, London or the Continent ... even New York! 

May 4-14, 8 p. m. nightly (except Monday, May 9), with 2 p. m.matinees Saturdays and Sunday (the 8th), at Zellerbach Playhouse, near Bancroft Way and . Tickets: $68 (contact box office for discount/rush availability). 642-9988; calperfs.berkeley.edu

Press Release: Free Poetry and Song Night on May 20 to Oppose Anti-Sitting Law Proposal

From Elisa Della Piana and Carol Denney
Tuesday May 03, 2011 - 05:16:00 PM

Art House Gallery and Cultural Center presents a free night of poetry and song in opposition to Berkeley’s proposed anti-sitting law on Friday, May 20th, 2011, 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm (doors open 6:30 pm), sponsored by the Stand Up for the Right to Sit Down Coalition and The Revolutionary Poets Brigade. 

Enjoy an evening of engaged poets and songwriters featuring Dee Allen, Lincoln Bergman, Ava Bird, Carol Denney, Gary Hicks, Eliot Kenin, Arnie Passman, Dottie Payne, Andrea Pritchett, Miguel Robles, Lynn Sugayan, Julia Vinograd, Eleanor Walden, and other special guests. 

Members of Stand Up for the Right to Sit Down include the Homeless Action Center, YEAH!, Youth Spirit Artworks, Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS), Berkeley Food and Housing Project, Street Spirit, the Pepper Spray Times, and the East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC). The Revolutionary Poets Brigade is an international group of poets[1] who came together in 2009 to put their words in the service of struggles in motion. 

“A sitting law would make it criminal for Girl Scouts to sit on a chair to sell cookies; for elderly people to sit and rest on a walk; for kids to sit on the sidewalk to tie their shoes.” said Elisa Della-Piana, director of the East Bay Community Law Center's Neighborhood Justice Clinic.  

“Why on earth would we be so foolish as to spend tax payer dollars trying to pass and enforce an ineffective anti-sitting ordinance in these desperate economic times? We know what works in solving the challenges of homelessness--housing, services and jobs!” commented Sally Hindman, director of Youth Spirit Artworks.  

“The sad thing is that we are all in favor of finding ways to revitalize our public streets, but these measures end up dividing us into people who care about the civil rights and human rights of homeless people and the people who care about the survival of our valued local businesses,” said Terrie Light, Executive Director of Berkeley Emergency Food and Housing Project. 

ALSO: Stand Up for the Right to Sit Down Coalition will be hosting the world’s first Chair-a-pillar on Sunday, May 22nd, 12:00 noon, at the Downtown Berkeley Bart Station. Bring your own chair and sit down with the Stand Up for the Right to Sit Down Coalition. 


Elisa Della-Piana, Director East Bay Community Law Center Neighborhood Justice Clinic, 510-548-4064 x 365, edellapiana@ebclc.org , and/or Carol Denney, Pepper Spray Times, 510-548-1512, cdenney@igc.org 

Art House Gallery and Cultural Center, 2905 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, CA 94705, 510-472-3170. The event is free; donations welcome. 

[1] The Brigade: Melba L. Abela, Dee Allen, Roy Arad, Jorge Argueta, Amiri Baraka, Tahar Bekri, Lincoln Bergman, Judith Ayn Bernhard, Boadiba, Joshua Glen Boylan, Kristine Brown, Ferruccio Brugnaro, Georges Castera, Yolanda Catzalco, Sasha Pimentel Chacon, Rosa Chavez, Neeli Cherkovski, Marco Cinque, Bobby Coleman, Francis Combes, Carla Badillo Coronado, Igor Costanzo, Najwan Darwish, Carol Denney, Diane di Prima, Sharon Doubiago, Nguyen Qui Duc, Aja Couchois Duncan, Tarek Eltayeb, Agneta Falk, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Edward Frank, Pedro Oscar Godinez, Stephen Gray, Richard Gross, Gary Hicks, Jack Hirschman, Sabah Mohsen Jasim, Ziba Karbassi, Linda King, Mark Kockinos, John Landry, Denize Lauture, Mark Lipman, Anna Lombardo, Jessica Loos, Ignatius T. Mabasa, devorah major, Rosermary Manno, Alberto Masala, Maram al-Masri, Sarah Menefee, Janice Mirikitani, Chrissy Moore, Alejandro Murguia, Majid Naficy, Taslima Nasrin, Cletus Nelson Nwadike, Francisco Orrego, Sarah Page, Dottie Payne, Fernando Rendon, Miguel Robles, Luis J. Rodrigues, Ernest Rosenthal, Sandro Sardella, Matt Sedillo, Aharon Shabtai, Arthus Sheridan, Maketa Smith-Gorves, Doreen Stock, Ambre Tamblyn, Jon Michael Turner, Lauro Vazquez, Antonieta Villamil, Michael Warr, Cathleen Williams. 

Press Release: Berkeley Symphony "I'm a Performer" Family Concerts Invite Community Members to Play Alongside the Orchestra This Saturday Morning

From Jenny Lee
Tuesday May 03, 2011 - 09:40:00 AM

On Saturday, May 7, Berkeley Symphony will perform two “I’m a Performer” family concerts at Malcolm X Elementary School in Berkeley. This year, the Symphony is inviting the public for a one-of-a-kind experience of performing side-by-side with the orchestra musicians. The concerts, a complement to Berkeley Symphony’s award-winning Music in the Schools program (MITS), will be conducted by Education Director Ming Luke, and will feature an excerpt from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony as well as one of the orchestra’s favorite songs, I am a Fine Musician.  

“Music is all about forming connections with our community, and what better way to do this than to invite the public to play with us!” said Luke. “The family concert is a great opportunity to bring everyone together, to showcase the talent and artistic strength we have in the community of Berkeley.” 

In true community spirit, the performance is open to community members of all ages, instrumentalists and singers alike. And to help the community prepare for the concert, the Symphony has created a family concert page from which music scores can be downloaded. Individuals who do not play or own an instrument can join the chorus to sing the famous “Ode to Joy” in the final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Online tutorials featuring students of the MITS program, orchestra musicians, and other community members will also be available later this week. Those who are interested to participate are encouraged to register online and purchase tickets in advance.  

Berkeley Symphony’s Music in the Schools program, an eighteen-year partnership with the Berkeley Unified School District, currently serves over 4,000 students in all eleven BUSD elementary schools each year, providing them a year-long, interactive introduction to symphonic music. Recognized by the League of American Orchestras as one of the top education programs in the country, MITS helps students fulfill the California Performing Arts Content Standards and provides new ways of learning. It runs from fall to spring and includes on-campus concerts, classroom visits, and springtime “I’m a Performer” concerts, in which participating classes perform with Berkeley Symphony as their very own “back-up band.” For more information about MITS, please visit, http://www.berkeleysymphony.org/mep.htm.  

Program Information  

Berkeley Symphony  

Date & Times: Saturday, May 7, 10 a.m. & 11:30 a.m. 

Location: Malcolm X Elementary School Auditorium  

(1731 Prince Street, Berkeley) 

Performers: Ming Luke, conductor 

Berkeley Symphony 

You and your family and friends 

Program: Beethoven / excerpt from the Ninth Symphony 

I am a Fine Musician  

Tickets: $10 for adults, $5 for students (18 & under) 

Online https://tickets.berkeleysymphony.org 

or by phone (510) 841-2800 x1 

Additional Information & Registration:http://berkeleysymphony.org/programs/family_concert.htm