Full Text

The image on the left shows The Whirlpool Galaxy in 2009. The image on the right highlights the supernova as it appeared on July 8, 2011. The image was taken through Chabot’s 36-inch reflector telescope.  The supernova’s name is currently designated as SN 2011dh.
From Conrad Jung, Chabot Space & Science Center
The image on the left shows The Whirlpool Galaxy in 2009. The image on the right highlights the supernova as it appeared on July 8, 2011. The image was taken through Chabot’s 36-inch reflector telescope. The supernova’s name is currently designated as SN 2011dh.


Around & About Music: Faye Carol at Yoshi's San Francisco Tonight at 8

By Ken Bullock
Tuesday July 26, 2011 - 11:44:00 AM

Miss Faye Carol, the pride of Berkeley, will be singing and swinging with her quartet--Berkeley High graduate Howard Wiley, saxophone; Marco Casasola, piano; Marcus Shelby, bass; Geechie Taylor, drums--at Yoshi's San Francisco, 1330 Fillmore, today at 8 pm--$10-$20. (415) 655-5600; yoshis.com

Mylar Balloons Spark Two Berkeley Power Outages

By Rachel Purdy (BCN
Monday July 25, 2011 - 10:11:00 AM

Power was restored at about 5:15 a.m. to about 1,000 PG&E customers in Berkeley who have been without power since just before midnight, a PG&E spokeswoman said.  

The loss of service was separate from an outage that left 5,800 Berkeley customers without electricity around 5 p.m. Sunday, which was caused after Mylar balloons became tangled in power lines, PG&E spokeswoman Janna Morris said.  

However, the Mylar balloons are responsible for the recent outage, Morris said.  

"We ask those using Mylar balloons to celebrate indoors and not around power and utility equipment. Metallic balloons can do a significant amount of damage, causing the increase of a power outage to customers," she said.  

If a metallic balloon does get caught in a power line, customers are urged not to retrieve it and to call PG&E and report the problem immediately.  

This morning's outage primarily affected customers in the city's North Berkeley neighborhood including customers along Curtis and Delaware streets, between Bancroft Way and McGee Avenue and on Gilman Street.  

Power was restored to 5,800 PG&E customers throughout Sunday night, Morris said.

Translating Code: Deciphering the Real Republican Agenda (Commentary)

By The Occasional Curmudgeon
Saturday July 23, 2011 - 10:56:00 AM

First, we are a civilized people. We are, after all, Berkeleyans. We abhor violence and have institutionalized and elevated the pursuit of peace to the level of religion. We led the resistance to Bush’s invasion of Iraq, and our Congressional district’s representative—herself a resident of Our Fair City—was the only one of more than 400 House members to vote against U.S. action in Afghanistan immediately after 9/11. So we would never raise a hand against another human being, not even in self defense. We are, after all, Berkeleyans…. 

But I want you join me for a moment in a little exercise, a mind game, if you will. I’m going to say two words, and you tell me your galvanic reaction—what fantasy comes immediately to mind. Okay, don’t restrain yourself, here we go: 

“Mitch McConnell.” 

Whoa there, Bunky, I can see your blood pressure rising, your face is flushed, your jaw clinched—and you’ve balled your hands up into fists. Now be honest: just for a second, didn’t you fantasize slapping that smug, insulting little thug around? Swiping those wire-framed glasses off his apple-slice of a nose? Teaching this sarcastic, hypocritical pendejo some humility? Come on, now, you did, didn’t you? 

Take some deep breaths and let the impulse to beat the living crap out of ol’ Mitch and his four or five fleshy chins pass. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re a sensitive, fair-minded person, and your reaction is understandable. The important thing is you didn’t act on it, and it doesn’t mean you’re latently violent, just human. And a Berkeleyan. 

Ironically, though, the Senate minority leader can be lauded for one gesture: his honesty in revealing a major component of the Republican agenda. We may be fighting two unnecessary wars, some 24 million people effectively may be out of work (and many will never work again in their chosen careers), the country may be going to hell in a hand basket, but Mitch’s overriding mission is to do everything he and his Republican henchmen can to scuttle Barak Obama’s presidency. He alludes to it in almost every public appearance. This represents the triumph of ideology (and possibly, racism) over common sense and the best interests of the country and its citizens. Harrah! 

Which brings us to the current (alleged) debate on raising the nation’s debt limit before the world’s largest borrower defaults on its loans, shutting down the gubbiment at the end of the month, and where the other component of the Republican agenda comes into play. This is the single-minded, arms-linked obstinacy of the Republicans to terminate George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest [Bushspeak] ‘Mericans that Obama wants to use as a means of raising desperately needed revenue to pay down the huge deficit mostly run up by GWB and his cohorts during their eight dreadful years of warmongering and wrecking the country. McConnell and his Republican counterpart in the House of Representatives, Speaker John Boehner, have consistently stated that any form of tax increase is “off the table” and that the solution to the debt dilemma is to “reduce spending.”  

This has become a mantra for the Republicans, most likely orchestrated by anti-government sociopath Grover Norquist, purveyor of no-tax-increase pledges, destroyer of moderate Republican careers, speaker of catty little epithets like wanting to get government small enough to drown in the bathtub, who sets the Republican’s agenda at his weekly K Street strategy meetings. Now the party line, it is recited in lock-step repetition by every Republican pundit who manages to get in front of a video camera, e.g., Rep. Peter Roslean (R-Ill.), in a July 11 appearance on the PBS “News Hour”, observing that it was mandatory that Obama “change the trajectory of spending in Washington, D.C.” 

What kind of spending? Defense allocations? War spending? Stimulus payments to oil companies racking up the highest profits in corporate history? Nope, for the Republicans, “reducing spending” is code for “eliminating social programs.” To put it another way, the Republicans have been waiting 70 years for an opportunity to dismantle Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal social programs, especially Social Security and, since the 1960s, Medicare and its state-administered equivalent for the poor, Medicaid. With the blood-soaked ground prepared for them by Bush/Cheney and an ultimatum looming at the end of the month that could have dire economic circumstances—namely, shoving an already feeble economy off a cliff into world depression—now they have their chance, a tailor-made situation to back Obama right to the wall. It’s a gamble, to be sure, but the Republicans are banking on the premise that, hard up against an election year, and given the choice between throwing the country to wolves or cutting the left’s beloved social-support programs to the bone, the President will cave.  

So far, despite some posturing and what has become the trademark Obama inspired speech, it looks like he may. Rumors abound that in the secret meetings the President has convened with the Republican leadership, Obama has placed Social Security and Medicare on the carving board and agreed there will be no tax increases. The fact that Obama is even willing to negotiate is a mystery, since it should be obvious by now that he’s unlikely to get anything meaningful from the Republicans in Congress. Was he listening when McConnell opined that his party’s objective was to devote all its energies to ensuring his failure? Even Obama’s mentor Abraham Lincoln, deep into a civil war the North was losing, is reported to have said that consensus can be paralyzing and that, beyond a certain point, one must act.  

The President’s reluctance to stand by his principles and deliver on his campaign promises was never more apparent than this week when he abandoned Elizabeth Warren, his original choice to head the nascent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, charged principally to be a watchdog on the kind of post Glass-Steagall bank speculation that brought us mortgage-backed securities, which the banks knew would fail, then simultaneously betted against with hedge funds and reaped billions in profits when the economy deep-sixed in 2008 as a result. (Not bad…you sell securities made up of bundled junk mortgages for inflated prices, then hedge against them with a division in your own brokerage, so you get paid both ways.)  

Formerly a professor in the Harvard Law School, steel-trap bright, gutsy, and an outspoken defender of consumer rights, Warren is feared and virulently despised by both Wall Street and the Republicans (who have treated her with open hostility in Congressional hearings) and probably wouldn’t have made it through her confirmation hearing anyway. Nevertheless, Obama could have appointed her via executive order and put real teeth into the CFPB. Now we’ll have a mainstream Democrat in charge, and the agency will probably become a pawn for the right. Obama’s refusal to defend his own disciples (Warren had been a member of his inaugural advisory team, subsequently tapped to put the CFPB together, and was initially anointed to run it) is further indication that he is unlikely to stand fast against evisceration of social programs and support for the poor.  

Hope we can believe in? Sure sounded nice in ’08…. 

For the good of all of us, I sincerely hope I’m wrong. Maybe Obama has something up his sleeve. Maybe he will get a concession or two out of the Republicans and save social support programs. Maybe the Republicans will come to realize how immensely unpopular they’re becoming in the eyes of the voters with their draconian policies and obstructionism and come to the bargaining table in earnest. Maybe Obama will bring the troops home early from Afghanistan, cancel the contracts for the 250,000 government contractors (i.e., mercenaries) also there, and save us taxpayers $2 billion a week. Maybe the wealthiest Americans and the representatives they own in Congress will suddenly suffer a pang of conscience, realize there are few places on the planet where they could have accomplished what they have here, and agree to ante up some bucks to keep the country afloat.  

And maybe I can fly by flapping my arms. But ya’ gotta’ believe, Bunky, ya’ gotta’ believe. Now go break into a closed state park and take a nice, soothing walk in the woods. 



The “Occasional Curmudgeon” is Berkeley writer David Esler

Hancock and Skinner Are Backing Stealth Pro-Developer Bills (News Analysis)

By Zelda Bronstein
Wednesday July 20, 2011 - 11:38:00 AM

A major casualty of the newspaper industry’s decline is the coverage of local affairs, especially those having to do with governance. Elections and political scandal still get some attention, but most drawn-out legislative processes are at best under-reported, especially when they’re unfolding in Sacramento. Case in point: the local press has ignored two development-oriented bills that have been making their way through the State legislature since mid-February—AB 710, the Infill Development and Sustainable Community Act of 2011, introduced by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner; and SB 310, the Transit Priority Project Program, introduced by State Senator Loni Hancock. Both bills curtail local democracy; for that reason alone, they merit scrutiny. With the legislature just adjourned for its summer recess, this is an opportune moment to give them a look. 

SB 310, Transit Priority Project Program (Hancock) 

Building on earlier legislation, including AB 3152, the Transit Village Development Planning Act of 1994 (introduced by Hancock’s husband, then-Assemblyman, now Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates), SB 310 fosters so-called transit villages—dense, mixed-use developments near transit stations—by facilitating the creation of infrastructure finance districts (IFDs) that can issue bonds to pay for such districts. Like redevelopment agencies, IFDs use property tax increment financing to pay off the bonds, diverting property tax increment revenues from other local governments for 30 years (though IFDs cannot divert property tax increment revenues from schools). 

Existing law authorizes the legislative body of a city or county to create infrastructure financing districts by ordinance, as long as 2/3 of the voters in the proposed district favor the idea. It also authorizes the legislative body to issue bonds to finance the infrastructure facilities, again as long as 2/3 of the voters approval. SB 310 eliminates voter approval to form and to bond a IFD. 

The Senate’s legislative analyst remarked that “with the removal of the voting requirement[,] the measure is creating more of a redevelopment type agency without the requirement of making a finding of blight.” The League of California Cities has not taken a position on SB 310, but it comments that the bill and others are being put forward just as redevelopment agencies are in jeopardy of elimination and California cities and counties are searching for new sources of revenue. The League supports redevelopment agencies but warns that infrastructure financing districts are “a largely untested tool” that will “not offset the potential loss of redevelopment” funds. 

Bypassing the electorate is only one of the favors that SB 310 holds out to developers. It also allows an IFD to reimburse developers for “any permit expenses pursuant to [the Transit Priority Project Program at hand].” In addition, SB 310 authorizes “participating developers to build an increased height of a minimum of three stories”—presumably meaning three stories above whatever is permitted by existing zoning—“within a zone in which building of three stories or more are authorized.” That provision appears to be relevant to major changes in the housing element of Berkeley’s general plan that were quietly approved by the council on October 19, 2010. These changes encourage densification, as they say in planning circles, around BART stations, including North Berkeley BART. The housing element’s new language says: 

Consider adjusting zoning to allow for greater residential and specified commercial uses along certain transit corrdiors and in proximity to the Downtown, Berkeley Ashby and North Berkeley BART stations. 

Note that all of the current zoning around North Berkeley BART station allows three stories. If Hancock’s bill passes, people living near that station could well see six-story mixed-use developments going up in their neighborhood 

SB 310 has other “made for Berkeley” aspects. To qualify for the economic subsidies, a builder’s project must meet over a dozen conditions. The list reads as if it had been lifted right out of Measure R, which appeared on the city’s ballot last November, and which included Bates’ “Green Pathway” vision—more precisely, greenwashing scam—for downtown Berkeley: provide onsite bicycle parking, car sharing if the city or county has a car sharing program; unbundled parking; transit passes for 10 years as part of the rent or condo fees if transit passes are available from local providers; recycling facilities for tenants’ bottles, cans, paper and plastic containers; prevailing wages to construction workers for residential projects over 100 units; and open space onsite or payment into a fund established for local open space. 

SB 310 limits the fee that developers could pay in lieu of providing open space to ten cents a square foot—an amazingly low figure: the in-lieu fee for a six-story, 60,000 square foot building would be a mere $6,000. No developer would think twice about paying the fee and forgettting about providing open space. 

To receive a public subsidy under SB 310, a developer must also provide 20% affordable units in rental or owner-occupied housing for low- or moderate-income households or pay a fee equivalent to the cost to provide affordable units elsewhere within the city’s or county’s jurisdiction. The sweetener here is that SB 310 allows an infrastructure financing district to reimburse a developer for the cost of building such housing. Note that moderate-income in Alameda County is legally defined as a four-person household with an annual income of over $100,000. 

SB 310 has been endorsed by AFL-CIO, the Natural Resource Defense Council, BART, the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, Transform, the Santa Clara Transportation Authority and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, on which Hancock’s husband Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates sits. The MTC’s Legislation Committee recommended the bill to its parent body, saying that it “would offer developers a guaranteed [!] density bonus, access to a streamlined local permit process of 90 days and potential reimbursement of permit expenses to encourage development that expands the supply of affordable housing near public transit.” 

On June 20, the Senate passed SB 310 by a vote of 22-17. It’s now in the Assembly. 

AB 710, The Infill Development and Sustainable Community Act of 2011 (Skinner) 

Skinner’s bill, introduced on February 17, three days after SB 310, has the State encroaching on a matter customarily overseen by local jurisdictions—parking. SB 710 reduces minimum parking requirements for developments within a half-mile of transit, capping those requirements at one space per residential unit and one space per 1,000 square feet of commercial development. Builders could build more parking if they chose to do so, but why would they? Parking is expensive to build; hence AB 710 significantly lowers the cost of development. 

Indeed, supporters argue that Skinner’s bill deserves support precisely because it will encourage infill construction and transit-oriented development (TOD). The legislation has been endorsed by the Greenbelt Alliance, MTC, the Natural Resources Defense Council, BART, SPUR, TransForm, the United State Green Building Council, and a new organization, California Infill Builders Asssociation, among others. 

Interestingly, Skinner’s bill is opposed by some groups that in the past have championed TOD, infill development and smart growth—most notably, Public Advocates and the Southern California Association of Nonprofit Housing (SCANPH). They say that AB 710 does nothing for—when it doesn’t actually harm—the low-income people who are the greatest users of public transit. SCANPH cites a recent study by the Boston-based Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy that found that 

merely focusing on increasing the quantity of homes—without including long-term policies for ensuring that some of those additional homes will be affordable to an area’s workforce and core transit riders can lead to higher housing prices, more car ownership, and less transit use… 

In other words, absent specific legal protections against displacement, TOD, infill and smart growth spur gentrification. 

Moreover, SCANPH says AB 710 poses a direct threat to affordable housing. It cites another of the bill’s opponents, the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, which argues that in reducing parking requirements, the bill “may take away a bargaining chip that affordable housing advocates use to extract more affordable housing from market-rate developers.” Under current law (SB 1818), builders “who add more low-income or senior housing to their projects may be eligible either to build more units than applicable land use laws allow and/or receive a reduction in their parking requirements.” SCNAPH and CRLA fear that AB 710 will eliminate the parking reduction incentive in SB 1818’s density bonus program. 

Those fears are addressed in a white paper authored by UCLA Professor Donald Shoup and two others entitled “AB 710 Will Reduce the Cost and Increase the Supply of Affordable Housing.” The three argue—unpersuasively, in my view—that “parking is often so expensive that its cost, not the allowed density, becomes the most effective constraint on building new units”—and that consequently affordable housing developers might not be able to build more units, even if they were allowed to reduce the amount of parking.The paper is posted on the website of the California Infill Builders Association, a group started last November whose founders and current board of directors include Berkeley-based developer Patrick Kennedy. 

On June 2, the State Assembly approved AB 710 by a vote of 76-0. It’s now in the Senate. 

Where’s the Accountability? 

Both of these bills have potentially major impacts on Berkeley land use and neighborhoods. Yet to my knowledge, neither of their sponsors has seen fit to consult, much less inform, her local constituents, about the legislation she is proposing. Amusingly (?), the latest press release on our state senator’s website says that on July 14, she introduced a bill to amend the California Constitution, SCA 15, “The Taxpayer Right to Vote Act,” which will allow a majority of the legislature to introduce a tax measure on the ballot for approval by a majority of the voters. Nice idea, but apparently Hancock’s solicitude for voter oversight doesn’t extend to the funding of transit villages. 





Water Mains Break in Berkeley and Richmond Soon after Quake

By Steven Finacom
Wednesday July 20, 2011 - 12:59:00 PM
EBMUD Water Line Bursts in Point Richmond, Swallows Wig Wag.
Tom Butt
EBMUD Water Line Bursts in Point Richmond, Swallows Wig Wag.
A water main break on La Loma Avenue in Berkeley cut off water to a number of Berkeley Hills households on Saturday.
Steven Finacom
A water main break on La Loma Avenue in Berkeley cut off water to a number of Berkeley Hills households on Saturday.

Not long after the 3:51 a.m. earthquake on Saturday morning, which was centered in Berkeley, a couple of water mains broke in the urban East Bay. Caused by the earthquake, or coincidence? East Bay Municipal District workers at both sites said it was just old cast iron pipe, but the timing suggested that ground movement might have been a factor in the breaks. 

A water main break on La Loma Avenue in Berkeley cut off water to a number of Berkeley Hills households on Saturday a little after 4 a.m. The break was on the east side of the long 1300 block of La Loma, somewhat uphill from the steep curve above Shasta Road. EBMUD staff on the scene said it appeared to be a six inch line that had broken. They were preparing to replace it with a plastic sleeve in order to restore service; the pit they dug to find the break was was as deep as a standing man. Reaching the break was complicated by the challenge of digging through the concrete, rather than asphalt, street paving. 

In Point Richmond, the break caused a sinkhole to form, tilting the cherished railroad “Wig Wag” sign. An observer on the scene by about 8 a.m. said that by that time water had already filled gutters all around the site. No prediction as yet about how long it will take to repair the damage to sunken streets… 


(Tom Butt contributed to this story.)

Updated: Berkeley Hit by 3.4 Quake

Wednesday July 20, 2011 - 09:12:00 AM

A 3.4-magnitude earthquake shook Alameda County on Saturday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The tremor, at 3:51 a.m, centered on an area described by the USGS as two miles southeast of Berkeley and three miles northeast of Emeryville, which placed it in Berkeley's Southside neighborhood, adjacent to U.C.'s Clark Kerr Campus and close to the Hayward fault, which runs through Memorial Stadium, now under construction.

The quake had a depth of 4 miles, according to the USGS.

View Larger Map 

View Larger Map

Is Berkeley A Hilton for the Homeless?

By Ted Friedman
Wednesday July 20, 2011 - 12:23:00 PM
The Traveling ART SHOW,  from Santa Monica sets up at Cody's. The artists ducked out of the pic, but not before reporting on the homeless scene in S.M. Their travel-gear can be seen in the hump on the right.
Ted Friedman
The Traveling ART SHOW, from Santa Monica sets up at Cody's. The artists ducked out of the pic, but not before reporting on the homeless scene in S.M. Their travel-gear can be seen in the hump on the right.
A boy and his dog and his girl and his bike and his kissing-friend dog. His girl's dog wants to be a fireman.--
Ted Friedman
A boy and his dog and his girl and his bike and his kissing-friend dog. His girl's dog wants to be a fireman.--
A recent gathering of our street kids on Telegraph, late afternoon; the young woman in the blue hat is a "street beauty- queen" from Santa Cruz, who alternates with Berkeley. Spiderman is incognito.
Ted Friedman
A recent gathering of our street kids on Telegraph, late afternoon; the young woman in the blue hat is a "street beauty- queen" from Santa Cruz, who alternates with Berkeley. Spiderman is incognito.

Whether Berkeley continues to be a Hilton to the homeless or, instead, a Roach Motel ("the roaches check in but they do not check out!") may be little affected by a sit-lie ordinance, according to the street kids themselves. 

That is, if a stalled sit-lie ordinance emerges. If it does, and if it is adopted, little will change, according to as many as 20 interviews I've conducted recently with "street tramps" as they call themselves. Berkeley is so attractive that it will continue to draw, according to my sources, those who refer to themselves as "street tramps," or "tramp kids." 

The difference between tramps, hobos, and bums is not clear to everyone. But most sources slice it thus: a hobo is a man who travels to find work; a tramp is a man who travels but refuses to work; and a bum is a man who won't travel and won't work. 

I was a bum for thirty years, thinly disguised. I mention this to alert my readers to my pro-street-tramp bias. These kids travel. And this romantic reporter, with ties to the street, digs what they do. 

So what's so damnably attractive about Berkeley? You might as well ask yourself why you live here. Surely it's more than your rent-controlled apartment, which you suspect keeps you from moving to Southern France, or Paris. Dream on. 

Could it be the free food and support services? The support services are well-funded, according to their directors, with both private and federal grants, but Berkeley Mental Health, and especially its street outreach programs have been drastically cut by an eviscerated city budget. Routine (street) mental health crisis-intervention has become rare, according to an official at BMH, who doesn't want to be named. 

Free food is so good and plentiful that according to "Tennessee," 32, a drop-out carpenter from Portland, he's gained weight. He only expected to pass through but after a month, he's finding Berkeley irresistible. I directed him to my homeless campsite from the 80s, and he loves it there. 

Food comes from Food Not Bombs, daily, in People's Park, and from local churches, who serve at their churches or deliver to the park. Berkeleyans are constantly dropping off food and clothes to the park, and some of my homeless friends dress more elegantly than I—thanks to "street-score." I recently donated hundreds of pennies to the Hate Man foundation. What can you donate? 

They sleep in local parks, under bushes, or under roofs at churches, according to the kids; I see them descending from encampments in the hills. When I was homeless in the eighties, that was off-limits, but according to a source at The University, funding no longer supports foot patrols in the hills. 

The price is right at Berkeley's Hilton to the homeless. 

But should you even be supporting these street-tramp-bums? Aren't we enabling them in an ill-advised life-style choice? Where would they work in this economy, which is forecast to outlast the decade? 

Three years ago, the Telegraph property owners—working with U.C.—hung banners on Teley light poles commemorating Berkeley's Nobel laureates, and businesses put photos in their windows memorializing the Sixties—to bring new feet to the street. 

While throwing its resources at sit-lie, the businessmen may be overlooking an important tourist draw. 

Our Street kids. 

To some vocal supporters of the stalled sit-lie ordinance, Telegraph would do just fine without its colorful, often drunk and disorderly street performers. When Mike Diehl, a community organizer with B.O.S.S., presided over a recent People's Park planning meeting, he observed that the park was a world tourist draw—all the more reason for kids to sober and clean up when on Telegraph. 

Some Teley businessmen (I could name them) are vehemently anti-the-kids, claiming their absence could only boost sales. 

But tourists, reviewing Teley on-line, are more accepting, preferring the kids to boring 

me-too shops (no names here, either). As one recently posted about Teley: "during the day it offers some incredible people watching. You have to step over the homeless, who themselves are by far pretty nice." Even when being stepped-over! 

They're not only "pretty nice," they're goddamned adorable as my accompanying photos try to show. 

Carol Denney, a local poet, song-writer-activist, was the first to note—in the Planet—that our street kids are an asset. Now I'll prove it. C.W. Nevius, pro-sit-lie in the Chronicle, has admitted that even though San Francisco's sit-lie ordinance, which inspires Berkeley's, is working—business is down. 

Has no one googled "Slum Tourism" and found that tourists like to see the down and outters? 

Proponents of sit-lie cite Santa Monica for dispelling the homeless. But according to the "traveling Street artists," (see accompanying photo), who avoid being photographed, street kids just don't like the mall-scene that dominates S.M. 

According to the kids, they try to keep their travel options open, leaving when something like a festival elsewhere beckons. They come by road (hitching rides in Oregon is popular, and you see them along Interstate 5), rail, or space capsule. But some are crazy about Berkeley and have made Berkeley their home, as have Grinch and Butterfly (pregnant), Tennessee, and countless others. 

What will the kids do if a sit-lie ordinance is passed and enforced (probably selectively to root out troublemakers, who are approximately eight percent of the homeless population)? A few said they would disobey such an ordinance until I informed them of the consequences. The others say, they love Berkeley so much, they would just—stand-up. 

Now there's an elegant solution. 

Why do they choose "the life?" According to a New York Times five-part homeless series last year, the economy and family tensions play a major role. 

But you may prefer your analysis from rock stars like Neil Young: "You, who are on the road must have a code that you can live by; and so become yourself because the past 

Is just a good-bye." 

Finding your code to become yourself. When was the last time you put yourself to the test? 

Ted Friedman, 72, has again managed to cross the boundaries between himself and his South side "sources." Although reported from the Southside, this piece was written from Ashland, Oregon, where Friedman interviewed the homeless on I-5, and more in Ashland.

My recent Oakland mini-vacation: Getting back to "There"

By Jane Stillwater
Monday July 18, 2011 - 12:40:00 PM
The Washington Inn is quaint, centrally located and affordable.
Jane Stillwater
The Washington Inn is quaint, centrally located and affordable.
Jane Stillwater
The Legendary Palace
Jane Stillwater
The Legendary Palace
The Geronimo Pratt Memorial in DeFremary Park
Jane Stillwater
The Geronimo Pratt Memorial in DeFremary Park

I used to be able to travel the world on the cheap by squeezing all my pennies until the eagle screamed, searching for discount airfares and deals, making various work-for-travel arrangements and embedding with the military. But not any more. Not since the economy tanked and the price of gasoline went up. Unless I win the lottery bigtime pretty soon, these former travel options are pretty much out. Now I have to do my traveling much closer to home. 

And you can't get much closer to Berkeley than Oakland. 

"Oakland?" you might say. "Oakland? Didn't Gertrude Stein already establish that there is no 'There' there?" Well, I'm thinking that perhaps things may have changed since 1932. So I set out to prove Gertrude Stein wrong. 

Plus if I can no longer afford to jet off to Paris or Baghdad or Buenos Aires any more, then Oakland will just have to do. 

Plus you don't have to spend multiple hours in the sky and waiting around airports to get to Oakland. You can get there from Berkeley in less than 15 minutes by subway. 

The first step in my plan to tour Oakland was to find a hotel. Bingo! The Washington Inn was quaint, centrally located and affordable. They gave me the senior rate. They had one of those lovely old-fashioned hand-carved hardwood bars right there in the lobby. "This hotel was built in 1913," said the barkeep. But the rooms were modern and clean and the location was perfect. I checked in. They had wi-fi. 

"Where's a good place to eat?" I asked the bartender while admiring his bar.  

"Breads of India and Le Cheval are right down the street. And we're around the corner from all kinds of foodie destinations such as the Housewives' Market, Old Town Oakland, Jack London Square...." 

I ended up eating in nearby Chinatown, at the Legendary Palace -- which was having a wedding banquet upstairs, thus allowing me a bird's-eye view of the wedding party and all the guests as they came in, dressed to the nines. 

Then there was the MOCHA children's museum a block away from the Washington Inn and the Oakland Museum within walking distance and the Convention Center across the street and the Tribune building two blocks to the north and the federal building complex two blocks west and Jack London Square with its view of the water and Amtrak station and Everett & Jones Barbecue six blocks to the south and, three blocks away, a place in Chinatown called "Angel Feet" that does reflexology. 

And there's a new free shuttle bus that makes a loop from the downtown to Jack London Square to Lake Merritt to Chinatown and then back to my hotel.  

So I wandered around all afternoon and evening and then went back to the hotel and watched HBO and slept and had leftover chow fun for breakfast and wandered around some more and it really did feel like I was on vacation. 

"Are you going to the Geronimo Pratt memorial?" someone stopped to ask me. "In DeFremary Park this afternoon?" I'm there! Pratt was one of the first victims framed by the infamous CONINTELPRO during the 1960s. Our government money in action. Pratt spent 27 years in prison before he was proved innocent, seven of those years in solitary confinement. His only crime was being a Black Panther. 

Since I used to do occasional volunteer jobs at the Berkeley Black Panther headquarters on south Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley back in 1968 and had gone to visit Huey Newton in jail and been to his trial, I just had to do this. So I street-hiked over to 18th Street and Adeline, expecting the worst -- bitter African-Americans who had been given yet another bad deal by the powers that be and wanted revenge. But there was none of that! This memorial was a happy celebration of the life of one brave man who had stood up and fought for justice against all odds. 

The memorial was attended by a whole bunch of people who had known Black Panthers or had been members of the Black Panther Party back in the day -- and they were all just really glad to see me, glad that I came. A bunch of us sat out under the park's big old shade trees and reminisced about injustice in the old days -- and injustice now. 

Then someone handed me a flier about the current Pelican Bay prison hunger strike. "Conditions there are bad. Prisoners are tired of being treated like animals and are dead serious about demanding reform. They plan to strike until death if need be. Please spread the word." Back in the 1960s and 1970s we had injustices at Soledad and Attica prisons. And now we've got injustices at Pelican Bay. 

Plus I hear that they are starting CONINTELPRO up again. 

Then I jumped on AC Transit's No. 26 bus, transferred to the F, and came back home to Berkeley. It was a perfect mini-vacation -- and all for less than one hundred bucks. 

I had a great time, got away from home, didn't spend much money, ate well, wallowed in multi-culturalism and nostalgia, came home inspired and refreshed -- and discovered that there actually is a "There" over in Oakland these days. 

Next time I may take a mini-vacation to San Francisco. Or even to Berkeley. Who needs Paris or Baghdad?



Fair Weather and Foul on the Berkeley Arts Horizon

By Becky O'Malley
Wednesday July 20, 2011 - 12:09:00 PM

Last night’s Berkeley City Council meeting started off with a genuine warm fuzzy moment. My old friends Russ Ellis and Julie Shearer were lauded and given a richly deserved award for their many, many contributions to the arts in Berkeley. A couple of highlights: Russ, a retired UC Vice President, has been an avid supporter of the Young Musicians’ Program, a UC-based program which provides extra encouragement and excellent teaching on a full scholarship basis for gifted music students, many of whom come from underserved communities. Julie is a performer and a composer, especially in the area of musical theater.

They’re both singers too— Julie was an early member of the celebrated Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir. I’ve been privileged to hear the classy recording Russ made as a young crooner before the demands of making a living overtook him. And much later in life he was part of a distinguished local group of music-makers whose celebrated members included Professor Troy Duster and Federal Judge Thelton Henderson.

Russ and Julie typify the devotion to the arts that many Berkeleyans exhibit. Another example of what Berkeley at its best can do for the arts is the Berkeley Arts Festival, now in its 20th season of stone-soup productions by the indefatigable Bonnie Hughes. Bonnie has managed, time after time, to beg and borrow unused downtown storefronts for exhibit and performance spaces, benefiting all at the same time the festival’s (always sensational and always paid) performers, the downtown businesses and most of all audience members. She gets a lot of amenities contributed, sometimes gets modest funding from the city of Berkeley, and always seems to turn a few drops of water into a lot of wine. A short unsolicited tribute to the Berkeley Arts Festival by one of the participating painters appears in this issue, and we've given the schedule a free display ad as a thank you for 20 years of pleasure.

There’s another arts story this week that’s not so heartwarming, however. Professional musicians who have survived the somewhat rigorous jurying process for performing at the Solano Stroll received a letter this week from Allen Cain, Executive Director and Events Manager of the Solano Avenue Association, which said in part:

“We simply cannot afford to pay for entertainment this year. ... We simply lack the resources....As a result, moving forward – we are suspending entertainer pay…We do recommend you pass the hat, which can be lucrative – especially when you tell the public you are performing for free and rely on their generosity! What are we asking from you? We are asking you to perform for free. It’s just that simple." 

Some of the musicians affected forwarded the letter to the Planet, along with their responses. A couple of them: 

From Carol Ginsburg, Business Manager, Ellis Island Old World Folk Band: 

“Ellis Island Band is very disappointed in your decision not to pay the performers to play at Solano Stroll this year. It is really discriminatory to musicians not to be paid for their services. All other merchants are paid and not expected to give away their wares. How did the merchants association come to this decision? If musicians perform for free how likely is it that paying a fee will ever be reinstated? “Our band has played over 25 Strolls and although we rarely got other jobs from the publicity, we were ok to play for the small fee offered by the SAA. Our fans enjoy coming to the Stroll to hear our music. It takes a considerable amount of preparation to set up for the Stroll, hauling equipment and instruments through the street barriers, then doing the whole thing in reverse when we finish, not to mention the actual playing time and travel expenses for those who drive here from a distance. Our band is not willing to do this for the Solano Avenue Association without being compensated for our services." 

And from Carol Denney, a fiddler, on behalf of the band she’s with, Failure to Disperse, here’s a letter to Cain and the association board: 


“I discussed the matter as best I could with my band, and we feel as though we've been put in a very hard position. We went through the application process with the understanding that we were applying for a paid slot, and while we don't want to offend you or the Board, we also don't want to offend our colleagues in the Ellis Island Band or any other musicians who are baffled or offended at suddenly being expected to play for free—not for a benefit, but for a group of merchants in one of the most lucrative commercial districts.”  

The Solano Avenue Association is being penny wise and pound foolish if it really goes through with this decision. The number of vacant storefronts along Solano these days attests to hard times, but if there’s any reason for Berkeleyans to go to the Stroll, it’s the entertainment. From their own website posting about the event: 

“You will hear the best in local music, dance and other performances and absolutely stunning costumes from all over the globe!” 

Well, not if only musicians who’ll work for free are on the bill. Free music usually means over-amped under-skilled garage bands in dirty t-shirts and jeans. There are plenty of these available, but quality acoustic entertainers like Failure to Disperse and Ellis Island don’t need to play for free. There’s no reason for would-be shoppers to come out on a hot September Sunday to hear nothing but noise. 

Solano merchants have been unrealistic for quite a few years now, and it’s starting to catch up with them. In the whole 8 years we were trying to support the Planet with advertising revenue, most of them absolutely refused to advertise, saying that their location, for which they paid high rents, was how they attracted customers. 

It wasn’t just the Planet. Crackerjack sales people who worked for other publications reported hearing the same response. But now many of the merchants who refused to advertise are gone, ant those who are left will soon follow if they don’t pony up for a reasonable amount of self promotion, including paying the musicians who have worked to build their customer base at the Stroll. 

The cities of Berkeley and Albany are both sponsors of the Solano Stroll with thousands of dollars of cash and in-kind financial contributions, including police, fire department and public works employee overtime provided in generous amounts. As far as we can determine, none of these public employees have been asked to work for free, or even to contribute part of their time. If times are really as tough as Cain claims, it might be appropriate for these cities and the Solano Avenue Association to review the whole budget for the event, not just the modest stipends paid to musicians. 

The Editor's Back Fence

Students Present Re-Districting Proposal Despite Mayoral Harassment

By Becky O'Malley
Wednesday July 20, 2011 - 02:02:00 PM

A not-so-nice moment about 20 minutes into last night's Berkeley City Council meeting, which I watched online, came when a serious and charming group of young people attempted to present a council redistricting formula which they'd created in less than a week during the council's pre-meeting public comment time, which is limited to 5 speakers on a subject not on the council agenda. 

For reasons not easy to understand, Mayor Tom Bates thought that they were commenting on another proposal, an agenda item from Councilmember Gordon Wozniak, extending the deadline for submitting redistricting proposals in order to give U.C. students now on vacation a chance to submit their proposals, which might or might not result in a bid for a student super-majority district. 

Bates gave a credible imitation of the old guys who yell "Get off my lawn, you damn kids", who can be seen in many irreverent YouTube videos. The young people retired in good grace, and made their comments during the Wozniak item instead,even though most of them don't even go to UC and were not promoting a student district per se. 

If you want to know what they actually proposed, Frances Dinkelspiel Robert Mills at Berkeleyside.com has a good account.  

Wozniak's item, which in its original form would have delayed redistricting until after the next council race, was modified by the council in their final vote so that redistricting can proceed faster in the fall, while still giving a bit more drafting time to U.C. students if they want it. 



Cartoon Page: Odd Bodkins, BOUNCE

Tuesday July 19, 2011 - 11:22:00 PM


Dan O'Neill



Joseph Young


Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday July 22, 2011 - 10:21:00 AM

BerkeleyBizarre; Medicaid; Paris is Burning: an Open Letter to Alameda Labor Council, AFL-CIO; 



I emailed the city asking what happened to the bus bench at Dwight and Telegraph. (People like me really need that bench when waiting for the bus.) This is the response I got: 

“Dear Ms. Gans, 

The City requested that the bus bench on Telegraph at Dwight be temporarily removed for several months in order to interrupt illicit behavior that was happening at that location. Berkeley Police and other City staff are monitoring the situation and will request that AC Transit reinstall the bench once it has been determined that doing so will not contribute to antisocial or illegal behavior in the area. We apologize for the inconvenience, and hope to restore the bench as soon as we can. 


Kara Vuicich, AICP
Associate Planner
City of Berkeley Transportation Division, Public Works Dept.” 


* * * 



I am sure many of you have been getting emails from our Congresspersons, Senate and House, asking us to sign on to letters &/or petitions which they will be giving to the President in person. This is a good effort, and I've signed everyone which has come my way.  


But there is a very serious flaw in these letters and petitions. Almost all of them tell President Obama not to cut Social Security or Medicare Good! But there is a very serious and dangerous omission. With the exceptions of Bernie Sanders and Dennis Kucinich. they do not include Medicaid in the list to tell Obama not to cut. This is a very unfortunate omission for at least 2 reasons: 


1) Medicaid is protection for the most needy in our society: the disabled, those from other countries who were not here long enough to accumulate requisite points, the sickest 

And poorest. 

2) By omitting this from the list, it can be seen as a "Green Light" to end Medicaid entirely. 


I have handled this by signing the letters and petitions and then calling the Congressional offices to point out and protest the omission. I also called Sanders and Kucinich to say thanks for including Medicaid. 


Please check out the 2 following articles, and do all you can to see that there are no cuts to any of the triumvirate: Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid. 






Thank you for your consideration and help. 


Sydney Vilen 


* * * 



Republicans and their simple-minded pledges: GOP presidential candidates have to sign the anti-tax pledge to Grover Norquist, the anti-abortion pro-life pledge to the religious fundamentalists, and now, the new marriage pledge. Is this what America needs - a non-thinking ninny of a president indebted to extremists?  

Every elected official already takes an oath of office which takes precedence over any political or religious pledge.  

There is also the Tea Party's "Contract from America" pledge for Republican presidential candidates to sign. It's like Republicans live in an abstract world not the real world.  

Politicians owe their allegiance to the American people and Constitution and not some quasi-religious or political faction. 

Ron Lowe  


* * * 


Paris is Burning: an Open Letter to Alameda Labor Council, AFL-CIO 


I'll be marching in Oakland on Friday with you and many other progressive minded people to demand major economic and social reforms. But I am nervous if it will be nothing more than a vague protest that is lacking in specific demands. March for good jobs? Of course. But where will these jobs come from? How about demanding a massive WPA program along with other specific proposal to create good jobs? About marching in solidarity for health care? What program is being advanced? Medicare for All I hope? And achieving Wall Street Accountability? Absolutely. How about making recommendations that include criminal indictments? And what budget and tax proposals should be made? Will we be demanding an income tax that is truly progressive and a tax on profit that is really equitable? Shouldn't we also demand massive reductions in defense spending, which will make available domestically hundreds of billions of dollars annually? 


I am delighted that the Alameda Labor Council is organizing and sponsoring this important political event on Friday. By bringing disparate individuals and groups together for the Friday event, it facilitates our ability to work together. But if we don't propose and demand very specific steps that should be taken, we might be doing no more than achieving a feel good experience that creates the illusion that we are accomplishing something. I think we agree that Paris is burning. Let's work to extinguish the fire so that we can rebuild and build together a much, much better society. 


Harry Brill






Berkeley School Construction Bond Oversight

By Stephanie Allan, Co-Chair, Construction Bond Oversight Committee (on behalf of the committee)
Monday July 18, 2011 - 11:01:00 AM

On June 29, 2011, a reader commentary appeared regarding the expenditures of BUSD bond monies. The commentary contained a number of inaccuracies and, as Co-Chair of the Construction Bond Oversight Committee (CBOC), I’d like to correct them. For your readers’ information, the CBOC is constitutionally mandated, under the California State Constitution, Article 13A, section1, subdivision (b)(3), and is part of the California State Education Code. Such committees have broad independent authority to audit and oversee expenditures of what are called Prop. 39 bonds, which is what Berkeley voters approved last November. These committees are required as a condition of issuing bonds under Prop. 39. 

Our Committee has seven voting members, including an architect, attorney, facilities director (for another school district) and a structural engineer. Membership qualifications are specified in the enabling legislation. All our meetings are governed under the Brown Act and are properly noticed. The School Board has decided that oversight of the remainder of Measure AA and Measure A monies, the last two construction bonds, will also be assigned to the CBOC. 

At this time, the District has sufficient classrooms for the current enrollment. However, some high school students are housed in portables while the plans to replace the portables with permanent construction have been submitted to the State Architect for approval. Secondly, there is the ongoing need to upgrade and rehabilitate classrooms to meet changing educational needs. The District would be derelict if it did not have an ongoing program of doing this to meet student needs. Thirdly, there are projected enrollment increases that require some additional elementary classrooms. 

In regards to District funding for a charter school, charter schools are the law. Districts are required to use public funds to house charter schools. Whatever one’s opinion is of this legislation, the answer lies in Sacramento, not in Berkeley. Most of the Realm charter school students live in Berkeley. For those who don’t, the District is allowed to go back and assess the charter school for the costs of providing operational costs for out-of-district students. The District is doing this. The bond funds assigned to the charter school are for construction, for a District owned building. And I want to reiterate, BUSD has no alternative, under current law, but to provide facilities for charter schools. 

The issues about specific projects “NEVER mentioned” in Measure AA is a bit disingenuous. Measure AA was a bond requiring two-thirds approval by voters, a very high bar. In exchange for that, a district is allowed limited flexibility in spending the funds on construction projects with the authors of the enabling legislation recognizing changing needs over the life of the bond. 

For example, storm or fire damage or breakdowns of major mechanical systems can and have unexpectedly changed priorities. However, all monies must be spent within the confines of the bond, i.e., on construction, remodeling, upgrading or rehabilitation. All decisions regarding Measures A and AA funds were publicly discussed, overseen by the Citizens Construction Advisory Committee and subject to public hearings at the School Board level. To suggest anything else is inaccurate. 

Also, state law requires that all bond expenditures are subject to an independent audit to guarantee they are being spent properly. All BUSD bond monies were audited, certified and the audits are a matter of public record. To say otherwise is inaccurate. 

The allegation that the seismic upgrades of our schools don’t meet Field Act certification, the law governing such upgrades, is inaccurate. All work done on the District's pre-K, middle school, high schools and adult school meet the Field Act and, in many cases, exceed it. Berkeley has been recognized statewide as being one of the first and one of the few districts to have completed all seismic upgrades at all facilities used by students. 

However, it is true we have one building that, while it does meet the Field Act requirements, it does not meet the District's higher standard for seismic safety. That is the Old Gym at Berkeley High. The District does not use it for classes any more because of seismic concerns and other problems. It is scheduled to be torn down and replaced with a facility that will provide needed classrooms for BHS (currently being met by portables on the south of BHS's campus), a new gym and will be a clean, safe building for students to use. The funds to do that are in the Measure I bond passed in November 2010. 

Additionally, there are funds to complete sports fields, add cafeteria space at the middle school level, upgrade our technological infrastructure, do solar installations, replace a 100+ year old building used by the District’s maintenance staff as well as upgrade mechanical systems and add high school science lab classrooms. 

Berkeley voters have supported these programs, starting in 1992, overwhelmingly, demonstrating their confidence in the School Board’s leadership of these construction programs. Our City’s students have some of the best and safest facilities in the state. And Berkeley taxpayers have monitored and overseen those bond expenditures from the start. Inaccurate, inflammatory rhetoric cannot change those facts and does not serve public discourse in these matters.

Press Release: Protest Filed to Save California Watersheds From Dangerous Fracking
Drilling Poised to Move Forward Without Thorough Environmental Review

From Matt Vespa, Center for Biological Diversity, and Jason Pitt, Sierra Club,
Monday July 18, 2011 - 11:07:00 AM

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club and Los Padres ForestWatch filed a formal protest today to stop the Bureau of Land Management from leasing out 2,600 acres of environmentally sensitive land in Monterey and Fresno counties for oil and gas development. The leasing of this federal mining-estate land comes without a thorough examination of the effects drilling will have on California’s landscapes, wildlife and watersheds. 

“By turning a blind eye to the dangers of fracking, BLM is putting Monterey’s water quality in serious jeopardy,” said Matt Vespa, an attorney at the Center. “These sensitive areas ought to be protected, not turned into industrial zones.” 

“Thorough environmental review must be completed before any drilling takes place,” said Rita Dalessio of Sierra Club’s Ventana Chapter conservation committee. “We need to protect our water, air and communities from this potentially harmful drilling. Natural gas drilling should not come with the sacrifice of our beautiful California landscapes and certainly not our health." 

Future gas drilling would likely involve high-pressure hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” a highly controversial and dangerous drilling method linked to water contamination in other parts of the country. Recent reports show fracking has resulted in more than 1,000 documented cases of groundwater contamination, either through the leaking of fracking fluids and methane into groundwater or via aboveground spills of contaminated wastewater. 

Oil and gas development also results in the release of significant amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Although there are many cost-effective means to control methane leakage, the Bureau of Land Management refused to consider any of these measures to reduce greenhouse gas pollution resulting from the proposed lease sale. 

Despite these risks, areas proposed for leasing include designated watershed areas in Monterey and habitat for endangered and threatened species such as the San Joaquin kit fox and blunt-nosed leopard lizard.

Musicians Will Eat Anything You Feed Them

By Carol Denney
Wednesday July 20, 2011 - 12:37:00 PM

The musicians selected to play for the Solano Stroll through an application process that began back in April have just been told that this year they are expected to play for free.  

It’s understandable that most musicians will agree to this arrangement; they are loath to offend the organizers who presented them with this equation at the last minute for fear of losing future gigs. They don’t want to look selfish or petty, especially since the money was never much to write home about. 

But they would do well to note that this request is being made on behalf of one of the wealthiest commercial districts in the East Bay. And that police from both Albany and Berkeley are getting overtime for their security work. And that the organizers, while perhaps paid less this year, are still getting paid. 

Tough times do require sacrifice, but that sacrifice should be shared. It is not an exaggeration to suggest that a Solano Stroll without live music would be a very different event.  

Most musicians are familiar with playing for free – for worthy causes, benefits, and so forth. But the merchants of Solano Avenue, it would be safe to suggest, are not most people’s idea of a primary charity. This is the group some of whom objected to a Goodwill store locating on Solano for fear that it would attract the wrong crowd. 

This year’s Stroll theme, “Unsung heroes,” ought to inspire some community leaders and members to find a creative way to compensate the musicians who all too often are expected to play for hours outdoors in the often chaotic setting of street fairs for a pittance. Musicians rarely expect much; but they do deserve something.

Hal Carstad Was Quite a Man

By Carol Ann Amour
Monday July 18, 2011 - 08:23:00 AM

I am new to the Berkeley area. I moved here from the Midwest in November and knew no one excepting my daughter, her husband, and their new twins. How to meet people? How to get connected? How to find meaningful experiences? 

When I moved to Tokyo in the seventies, I had time on my side. If I didn’t make connections right away, no harm. What didn’t happen this week, might happen next. When I moved to the Netherlands in the eighties, time was once again my friend. But this move, I do not have time to waste. I’m almost seventy and who knows if I’ll even be here tomorrow. 

So I was delighted when I happened upon BFUU, the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists. The Fellowship is small but growing. There are quite a few older members, but more and more families and younger people are showing up. Most importantly, I felt welcomed the minute I walked in the door. 

And, I am impressed with the amount of social justice work that goes on at BFUU. The Fellowship does not just stand at the corner of Cedar and Bonita to serve its members and friends. It is home to the Conscientious Projector Series that draws attendees from the entire Bay area. Authors and activists are frequent speakers. The Open Mic with social justice, music, and poetry is held on the second Friday of every month. There are classes in Healthy Living, Tappercize!, Tai Chi Qi Gong, and writing 

A social justice theatre troupe has formed. Core Connexions meets every Wednesday evening. The collection plate on the first Sunday of every month is shared with a cause or program that meets human need. Be it people hurting in Haiti, El Salvador, Japan, or Berkeley, BFUU not only cares, but helps. 

I told myself I wasn’t going to join anything in the first year that I lived in Berkeley. But, BFUU is too good to miss and time, as I said, is definitely not on my side. So I’ve not only joined, but jumped in with both feet and am more involved, perhaps, than any reasonable person ought to be. One of the things I’m working on right now is the Hal Carlstad Social Justice Awards Dinner. There will be amazing food catered by new friend Chris Planellas. There will be speeches, and music, and even a theatrical presentation. 

Hal had left this earth before I got a chance to meet him, but I am learning that he was an amazing man. A retired science teacher I can see that he also did not believe in letting any moss grow on him. He was ready and willing to work for Social Justice and did so until the day he died. He stood against war, he stood against nuclear power, he stood against the death penalty, he stood against the destruction of our natural world. And he was arrested over 150 times in the process. 

I have met his life partner Cynthia Johnson, though, and have been impressed with the way that she and others have continued his legacy with their hard work. I am the widow of an amazing Ojibwe social and political activist and can definitely relate to her commitment to honoring Hal’s life and their beliefs through continuing the work. 

This shindig is being held partly to honor and remember Hal, but also to see that work for social justice continues strong in Berkeley. At this dinner several social justice activists will be honored including Susan Crane who is currently in Dublin Federal Prison for her courageous witness at the Trident Nuclear Submarine Base in Washington, Karen Pickett from Earth First, anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan and Carolyn Scarr who is head of the Ecumenical Peace Institute. 

If you are interested in finding out more about this event, and, perhaps, attending on July 22nd, contact the BFUU office Tuesday through Friday at 510-841-4824. Proceeds from the fundraiser will help to refurbish Fellowship Hall so that it can continue to serve the community.


My Commonplace Book (a diary of excerpts copied from printed books, with comments added by the reader.)

By Dorothy Bryant
Monday July 18, 2011 - 11:09:00 AM

“You’re born naked, and the rest is drag.” 

Ru Paul, drag queen
Although I retain a life-long aversion to the male drag queen—a misogynist parody of the female as invented by (some) men—I credit Ru Paul with a profound insight.

As the only furless, featherless animals—not assigned species-specific clothing by nature—we have, throughout history, created body coverings, not only to keep us warm, but to express status, rank, power, function, pretensions, impostures—and sexual allure often combined with oppression, like foot-binding in ancient China. The western equivalent, 4-inch-spike-heeled shoes (toes crammed into a point bearing total tipped body weight) still come in and out of fashion, despite common knowledge that high heels cripple, hamper—even endanger—movement, deform foot and ankle bones, and even vertebrae. Remember the female disguises of Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in “Some Like It Hot”? All you have to do to get a cheap laugh is to put “sexy” female garb on males, then enjoy (?) how funny—oppressive and demeaning—it is. Never mind that it might be “chosen freely” by a woman. Such a complicated social choice is never free. 

So, a drag queen might be making a statement that is more complicated than the giggling/ogling audience realizes. 

If high heels were meant to be a limitation posing as a beauty enhancement, pants have been traditionally the badge of male authority, denied to western feminists who began agitating for them in the late 1800s. (“Try climbing a flight of stairs, carrying a baby, and wearing a proper, ankle-length dress,” they argued, unsuccessfully.) 

As late as 1966 I drove my daughter and her girlfriends to an East Bay movie matinee. They were refused admittance because two of them were wearing pants. About 1970, having won tenure at Contra Costa College, I showed up to teach wearing dressy black pants with a demure white turtle-neck. Someone must have called the dean, who dashed the half- mile across campus and showed up in my classroom, aghast at my “improper” attire. When I asked him why my pants seemed less “proper” than the mini-skirts fashionable at that time, he caved in and retreated. The next day a dozen more women teachers—obviously just waiting for someone to break the unwritten female faculty dress code—showed up in pants. (I’m not bragging, and I’m not advocating tasteless rebellion: you don’t wear a bathing suit to a funeral.) 

Today’s women may actually have more freedom than men in choosing attire. (Guys, try showing up to work in a skirt on a hot day, and you’ll see what I mean.) 

(Send the Berkeley Daily Planet a page from your own Commonplace Book)

The Public Eye: Lost in Space: The Decline of the American Spirit

By Bob Burnett
Monday July 18, 2011 - 08:14:00 AM

Fifty years after Alan Shepard became America’s first astronaut, the US launched its last space shuttle, marking the end of our space program. And a new low for the American spirit. 

”Space: the final frontier… to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.” The opening lines of Star Trek captured the attitude of sixties-era Americans – we were divided on other issues but united in support of our space program. If you ask many Americans: “What was the United States’ greatest moment?” many will answer: “July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon.” 

To understand the grip that the concept of Space: the final frontier had on the American imagination, it’s important to remember where we were at the end of World War II. Americans celebrated victory over the Axis powers, but the reality was that the US state of war didn’t end: a cold war with the USSR replaced the “hot” war with Germany and Japan. During the next twelve years, Americans had little role to play in the cold war, except to prepare for the nuclear war that, for many anxious years, seemed inevitable. 

Then on October 4, 1957, the USSR launched Sputnik and the space race began. The US effort stumbled under President Eisenhower but then captured the American imagination after President Kennedy’s May 25, 1961 speech where he challenged the US to “catch up and overtake” the USSR in the space race and to land an American on the moon before the end of the decade. 

Kennedy’s inspired challenge leveraged four facets of the American character. First, we were fascinated with outer space. The rocket era had begun with the 1944 bombing of London by German guided missiles – V1 and V2 flying bombs. Comic book astronauts, Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, were firmly lodged in US popular culture; in 1949, “Captain Video” appeared on TV, followed by “Space Patrol,” and then “Star Trek.” In 1950, the film “Destination Moon” was a hit; followed by ”Forbidden Planet,” “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and “Star Wars.” 

Second, Americans believed in ambitious national projects. There was general acceptance of the narrative of the Benevolent Community, “Where neighbors and friends roll up their sleeves and pitch in for the common good.” In the thirties Americans mobilized to end The Great Depression, in the forties to win World War II, and in the fifties to win the space race. 

Third, Americans believed that it was important for our children to get a good education. We valued scientists and engineers. During the heart of the space race teenagers dreamed of working in high technology. 

Fourth, there was robust US optimism, a shared “can do” spirit; the notion that when Americans set our minds to a task we could accomplish anything. 

The end of the US space program marks a shift in the American spirit. Obviously, we are no longer fascinated by space – our attraction was never the same after Armstrong’s moonwalk. What’s more important is that somewhere during the past fifty years we lost our belief in the benevolent community and our confidence in ambitious national projects. President Ronald Reagan convinced many Americans that “Government is the problem,” and denigrated large-scale Federal efforts as “social engineering.” Reagan marginalized the space program. 

One of the benefits of the early days of the space race was that it gave every American a role to play; as was the case during World War II, it created an ethic of shared sacrifice. Reagan’s conservative philosophy thwarted this. In place of the benevolent community he substituted blind faith in the free market. The notion of common good was subverted to the maxim “what’s in it for me?” 

Armed with this new cynicism, parents no longer encouraged their children to go to school with the aim of ultimately giving back to the community. Where in the fifties and sixties students imagined becoming engineers and teachers, in the eighties and nineties students dreamed of becoming investment bankers and property developers. A bright mathematics student who in an earlier era thought about contributing to the space program now imagined a lucrative job on Wall Street, fabricating an exotic derivative. 

American optimism receded. Polls indicate that a strong majority of Americans feel the US is now headed in the wrong direction; many suspect that our best days are behind us. 

Nonetheless, the United States remains a great nation with many strengths including resilience. The space program is dead, but that doesn’t mean our spirit has to go down with it. 

What’s needed is inspirational leadership. America needs to resurrect the benevolent community and take on a new challenge. The Great Seal of the United States bears the dictum, “E Pluribus Unum,” Out of many, one. That’s the historic spirit of America that is needed now more than ever. 

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

Eclectic Rant: From Eugenics to the Holocaust

By Ralph E. Stone & Judi Iranyi
Monday July 18, 2011 - 12:03:00 PM
Some dictators don't know where to stop (created by J.N. Darling, 1876-1962)
Some dictators don't know where to stop (created by J.N. Darling, 1876-1962)

In his book, Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill, author Robert Whitaker discusses a pseudoscientific theory called eugenics. According to this theory, the gene pool was being polluted by the mentally ill, that the severely mentally ill were carriers of defective "germ plasm" and thus, were a threat to the health of American society. The mentally ill were described as a degenerate strain of humanity, social wastage that bred at alarming rates and burdened normal Americans with their upkeep. In some states, the mentally ill were prohibited from marrying, forcibly committed to asylums, and in many states sterilized against their will. American eugenicists encouraged Nazi Germany in its massive sterilization of the mentally ill, a program that led to the crematoriums of the Holocaust. 

Below is our synopsis of Whitaker's discussion of eugenics. It is disturbing. It may well dispel some of the myths about the origins of the Holocaust. 

In 1889, Charles Darwin published his On the Origin of Species, which basically posited that evolution was a struggle for survival where only the fit survived. While Darwin did not address humankind's beginnings, Sir Francis Galton, a cousin of Darwin, saw from Darwin's study that humans were not a fixed species, but had evolved. Thus, future change in humans was inevitable. Farmers, for example, were able to breed more desirable plants and hardier, meatier domestic animals through breeding practices. By applying such practices to humans, Galton reasoned, the race of men could be improved by weeding out the undesirables. 

Galton coined the word "eugenics,", which is derived from the Greek word for "well-born." It is a purported science with an aim of improving the human stock by giving the more suitable races the means of prevailing speedily over the less suitable races. Eugenics divided humans into two classes: the eugenic and the cacogenic or poorly born.  

Eugenics did not get much traction in England, but it did so in the United States. The U.S. eugenics movement was funded by Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and Mary Harriman, the widow of railroad magnate Edward Harriman, and was hailed by graduates of Harvard, Yale, and other Ivy League Universities. 

In the mid-1880s, more than 5 million Irish and Germans immigrated to the U,S, followed by a second wave of a million per year in the early twentieth century. The "ruling class" -- the WASPs -- realized that these immigrants were predominately non-protestant and less white. And they tended to have more children than those born here. That meant the haves would end footing the bill for the havenots. This showed up in the asylum population. According to the U.S. Census, in 1850, there were 15,610 insane in a total population of 21 million, or one in 1,345. By 1880, there were 91,997 people in a total population of 50 million, or one in 554 people. Forty percent in asylums were foreign born. Ergo it must be the foreign born who were carrying the "germ plasm." Eugenics was the answer. In order to stop the spread of "defectives," the U.S. spent less money on the care of the mentally ill, enacted laws prohibiting them from marrying, put them in asylums, and sterilized them against their will. The purported scientific justification for sterilization was that insanity was inherited and therefore, sterilization was necessary to stop its spread. 

Eugenics became a force in the U.S. in 1921 when the American Museum of Natural History hosted the Second International Congress of Eugenics, financed in part by the Carnegie Institution and the Rockefeller Foundation. Museum President Henry Fairfield Osborn, a nephew of J.P. Morgan, opened the session by stating that it was time for science "to enlighten government of the spread and multiplication of worthless members of society." Speakers from Johns Hopkins, Princeton, Harvard, Columbia, and Cornell, MIT, and NYU participated. Talks included "The Jewish Problem," the dangers of "Negro-White Intermixture," and the "Pedigrees of Pauper Stocks." Exhibits and charts from the Congress were put on display in the U.S. Capitol. After the Congress, a eugenics society was formed with the purpose of lessening the number of degenerates, delinquents, and defectives supported in public institutions.  

The American Eugenics Society (AES) was incorporated in 1926. The primary purpose of the AES was to promote sterilization. They did this by placing pamphlets and textbooks in schools and sterilization campaigns. From 1907 to 1927 about 8,000 eugenic sterilizations were performed. Oliver Wendall Holmes writing for the majority (8-1) in Buck v. Bell, 244 U.S. 200 (1927) ruled that sterilization was constitutional. Holmes said: "experience has shown that heredity plays an important part in the transmission of insanity, imbecility, etc." Lousy science became the basis for bad law. By the end of 1945, 45,127 Americans had been sterilized under sterilization laws. 

After the Supreme Court decision, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland passed sterilization laws. In 1925, Adolph Hitler, in Mein Kampf, praised eugenics as the science that would rebuild the nation after World War I. Hitlers concept of a "master race" -- an Aryan race or pure race -- was not far removed from eugenics concept of the "well-born." In 1925, the Rockefeller Foundation gave $2.5 million to the Psychiatric Institute in Munich , which became became Germany's leading center for eugenic research. It also gave money to the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Genetics and Eugenics in Berlin. 

After Hitler came to power in 1933, Germany passed comprehensive sterilization legislation. Over the next six years, Germany sterilized 375,000 of its citizens. 

In the U.S,, the idea that the mentally ill and other "misfits" were useless to society and that the state killing of them might even be acceptable. Later, in 1940, Nazi Germany embraced this idea with a vengeance by killing its mentally ill with "proper gasses." One practical reason for killing the mentally ill was that it freed up hospital beds for the wounded as Germany had invaded Poland. More than 70,000 mental patients were gassed. Hitler ended the gassing of the mentally ill in 1941, the gas chambers were dismantled and sent to concentration camps where they were reassembled and used for the killing of Jews and "others devoid of value." 

After the war and the horror of the concentration camps were revealed, attention slowly became focused on the dismal conditions of U.S. mental institutions. Some called them American concentration camps.  

The AES's membership dropped considerably after WWII. In 1972, the AES was renamed the Society for the Study of Social Biology. 

I see vestiges of eugenics-thinking in post-WWII U.S. in the treatment of African-Americans, Jews, homosexuals, undocumented immigrants, and Muslims. I see a trace of racism in the criticism of President Obama. I see a "blame the victim" mentality. Doesn't it seem like the safety nets for the poor, mentally ill, disabled, elderly, and displaced are among the first programs to be cut at budget crunch time while at the same time we won't approve taxing the rich more. The "well born" get richer while the havenots fall by the wayside.

Senior Power: Life Story

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Monday July 18, 2011 - 08:07:00 AM

Joanna Kim-Selby is the president/executive director of the East Bay Korean-American Senior Service Center, located at 1723 Telegraph Avenue in Oakland, California 94612. Telephone (510) 763-0736 (Korean), -1879 (English). It is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 A.M. to 3 P.M. Lunch is served daily at 12 noon under provisions of The Older Americans Act. The Center is a non-profit 501c3 organization. A fuller account appears on pages 8-9 of UCB Resource Center on Aging’s June 2011 Engaging Aging e-Newsletter.  

It must have been 1996 when I first met Joanna. We were both appointees to the Alameda County Advisory Commission on Aging, part of the Area Agency on Aging’s responsibilities, and on which she served from 1996 to 2004, including a term as its president.  


This column occasionally features a senior citizen whose life exemplifies admirable personal endeavors in behalf of elders. I had Joanna in mind for this feature, and asked her for some what-where-when data. Later, I received an autobiography that is an account of struggles, hardships, and life-changing triumph. I decided to forgo most of my conventional narrative and to include Joanna Kim-Selby’s “story” in her own words, slightly edited: 

“I was born to Chang chong Kim, who was educated at Imperial University, Tokyo, and Jin Ok Lee. (In Korea women keep their maiden name). In 1929, when my parents were married in Korea, their weddingwas the talk of the town. My father wore a morning coat, and my mother wore a white wedding gown. A veterinarian, he later turned to medicine. Despite her grandfather’s forbidding it, my mother attended a mission school, sneaking out with her mother's protection. In those days women were not educated outside of the home. They were expected to manage the household and servants, learn to cook fancy Korean dishes, and to write Korean characters-- not the Chinese characters that belonged to males. My mother's mother was very strict about my mother's upbringing. She was not allowed to laugh out loud – “a female's laugh should never go out of the room.” And she should wear bosun(like Japanese tabi socks) even in the sweltering summer.  

My father was born to Mu-Kyong Kim, a tradesman, and Sung-nyo Cho. He was the second son so he did not have to succeed my grandfather caring for all the elders, his elder brother’s duty. My grandfather was rich so he could send my father to Japan to be educated during the Japanese occupation of Korea. Because he was a veterinarian, he was hired by the Japanese government to train young men as veterinarians. I recall that he was teaching in an agricultural college, constantly holding seminars on cows, horses, pigs, chicken, eggs, etc. My father used to make kasutera(sponge cake) with lots of eggs in a special aluminum oven. 

World War II commenced when I was in second grade. We learned Japanese. I never knew how to write or read Korean characters. The Korean War broke out in 1950. South Korea's defense was so weak there were no street fights in Seoul, which the Communists took without bloodshed. I had just enrolled in Ewha Women’s University. They called all Ewha University students, and we were thoroughly brain washed, telling us to head for the North and there was plenty of food and shelter waiting. I had to hide behind a big chest for a couple of months. The Reds were looking for me for their propaganda. I was caught and had to work for them while we were constantly under air raids by the U.N. forces.  

U.N. forces finally took over Seoul in September 1950. We were told to get out of Seoul and boarded a flat car with a couple of suit cases, not knowing where it was heading. In Pusan we were homeless. We cooked food on campfire in the streets. When an MP chased us we simply picked up our half-cooked rice and moved. At least our family was together. My sister contracted TB and was no longer able to walk. She died at age fifty-nine, having worked to earn her living despite her disability. 

I graduated from college in 1953 in Seoul, which was in ruins. I was very fortunate to be hired by the Women's Bureau. In 1957 I met my husband, who worked at the Catholic Relief Service. We were married the following year. I arrived in the U.S. on August 15, 1958 in Long Beach via ship and then flew to Oakland where he grew up.  

Now I had to learn the language, culture, customs, etc. It was a lonely life without friends or relatives. I was so naive to follow a man. But I could not fail-- I worked hard for this marriage and became accustomed to U.S. ways. After one year, my Korean was crumbling. When the melody of the Korean folk song Arirangwas played, I felt nostalgia and yet I could not recall what song it was! 

In 1963 I got a temporary job in the Internal Revenue Service by passing a civil service exam. It was a heavenly feeling that I could function in the U.S. although it was really hard work. Having a job I felt I accomplished something here. In 1965 I had a daughter; she lives in San Diego. I am 79 years old.” 


Joanna has been a delegate to the last two White House Conferences on Aging. In 2005 she represented the California Commission on Aging. Currently she serves on the Board of Directors of the Congress of California Seniors. Her accomplishments as a member of the California Senior Legislature are numerous. As only one example, she recognized the need for the CSL to advocate for requiring installation of grab bars in hotel and motel bathrooms and brought this before her colleagues. AB2536 became Executive Order, effective in 2006.  

In 2007, four persons nominated Joanna for a California Senior Leaders Award, recognizing her twenty-plus years of volunteer service devoted to improving the lives of California seniors and Korean immigrants. She has served on the boards of the California Commission on Aging and the Older Women’s League (OWL,) and is a past president of OWL-California. 

Joanna has been a leader and driving force at the East Bay Korean American Senior Service Center. She coordinates programs and bilingual services to help newly arrived Koreans adjust to life in the United States. In 2003 Joanna Kim-Selby received the Medal of Honor from the president of the Republic of Korea. 



The benefits Social Security pays many Americans are earned as the result of lifetimes of hard work. It is the largest part of income for most recipients. For almost 80% of them, it is half or more; for 60%, it is more than half; for 30% it is all their income. A majority are women. The average benefit is $1100 a month. This successful, self-funded program becomes more vital every day and should not be part of any debt-reduction deal-making. Urge President Obama and members of Congress (1) not to sacrifice the security of current and future retirees, and (2) to take Social Security off the bargaining table. The debt must be addressed, but not at the expense of senior citizens. President Obama told us when he was a Presidential candidate that he would not cut Social Security benefits, including the COLA. Call him now at (202) 456-1111 and tell him to keep that promise! 

Over 5 million seniors aged 60+ struggle with one of the most basic needs of life--food. Sometimes they must choose between paying for food or medicine. Now Congress wants to cut food programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Email Congress.  


MARK YOUR CALENDAR: July, August, September 2011, Call to confirm, date, time and place.  

Readers are welcome to share news of future events that may interest boomers and seniors. Daytime, free, and Bay Area events are preferred. 

Wednesday, July 20 1:30 P.M. BerkeleyCommission on Aging. Meets at South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis. Confirm (510) 981-5178. 

Sunday, July 24 4 P.M. Patti Deuter, piano concert. BerkeleyArts Festival, 2133 University Ave. Free. Continues daily. Website: http://berkeleyartsfestival.com/  

July 26, August 2 and 9: Noon: Jerry Kuderna, concert
July 30: 4 P.M. Rachel Durling/James Carmichael, violin, piano
August 14: 4 P.M. India Cooke/Bill Crossman, violin, piano 

Monday, July 25 7 P.M. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. Book Club: Seeing, by Jose Saramago. Each meeting starts with a poem selected and read by a member, with a brief discussion following. New members always welcome. Free. (510) 524-3043.  

Monday, July 25 10:30 A.M. San Francisco Gray Panthers. Next door to Orpheum Theater box office, in the downtown direction. 1182 Market St, at Hyde and 8th Sts., Room 203. Book Club. (415) 552-8800. e-mail: graypanther-sf@sbcglobal.net, web: http://graypantherssf.igc.org/ Wheelchair-accessible. 

Tuesday, July 26 7 – 8 P.M. El CerritoLibrary, 6510 Stockton Ave. Book Discussion Group: Chronicle of a Death Foretold. Feel free to come to one or all discussions. (510) 526-7512. 

Tuesday, July 26 3-4 P.M. Berkeley Public Library, Central. 2090 Kittredge. Tea and Cookies. A book club for people who want to share the books they have read (510)981-6100. 

Wednesday, July 27 1:30-2:30 Alameda County Library, Albany branch. 1247 Marin Ave. Great Books Discussion Group. Caesar and Cleopatra by George Bernard Shaw. Facilitated discussion. Come to one meeting, or all meetings. Books are available at the Library. Parking! 526-3720 x 16. 

Wednesday, July 27 1 P.M. Gray Panthers of Berkeley. North Berkeley Senior Center. 1901 Hearst. (510) 548-9696. 

Wednesdays, beginning in August 10:30-12 noon Parkinson's Yoga & the Art of Moving. Jewish Community Center East Bay – Oakland Branch, 5811 Racine St. (58th & Telegraph). $120./month. (925) 566-4181. 

Monday, August 1 7 P.M. "Castoffs" - Knitting Group. Kensington Library. An evening of knitting, show and tell and yarn exchange. All levels are welcome and some help will be provided. Free. 510) 524-3043.  

Wednesday, August 3 10 A.M.-noon North Berkeley Senior Center Advisory Council meeting. Public invited. Call to confirm (510) 981-5190. 

Wednesday, August 3 6-8 P.M. Albany branch of the Alameda County Library. Lawyer in the Library. Free 15 minute consultation with an attorney. Advance registration required. Sign up in person at the Reference desk or call (510) 526-3720 x 5.  

Thursday, August 4 1:30 PM to 2:45 PM Emergency Preparedness. Albany branch of the Alameda County library. Speaker Colleen Campbell, Senior Injury Prevention Coordinator, will discuss materials and lead a discussion on benefits of being prepared. Free program for older adults, caregivers and service providers. No reservations required. (510) 526-3720 x16.  

Saturday, August 6 11 A.M. – Noon. End of Life Planning Workshop. Berkeley Public Library West branch, 1125 University Av. Learn basics of wills, trusts, powers of attorney, advanced health care directives. (510) 981-6270. 

Wednesday, August 7 6-8 P.M. Albany branch of the Alameda County Library. Lawyer in the Library. Advance registration required. Sign up in person at the Reference desk or call (510) 526-3720 ext. 5. Free. 

Monday, August 8 7 P.M. Musical Performance by The Hot Frittatas. Kensington Library. This event is sponsored by the Contra Costa County Library Summer Reading Festival. Free. (510) 524-3043. 

Wednesday, August 10 10 A.M – 2 P.M. 10th Annual Healthy Aging Fair Festival. Chabot College, 25555 Hesperian Boulevard, Hayward. Free lunch. Raffle prizes. Entertainment. Free shuttle from South Hayward BART. (510) 577-3532, 3540. Sign up at your senior center for free bus service. In Berkeley, contact Deborah Jordan (510) 981-5170 for information. 

Saturdays, August 13 & 14 1:30 P.M. music; 2 P.M. show. SF Mime Troupe's 2010: The Musical. Live Oak Park Live Oak Community Center in Live Oak Park, 1301 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA. ASL interpreter on site on August 14. Outdoors. Free. (510) 227-7110. AC bus #18 stops nearby. 

Wednesday, August 17 1:30 P.M. BerkeleyCommission on Aging. South Berkeley Senior Center. Call to confirm (510) 981-5178.  

Saturday, August 20 11 A.M. Landlord /Tenant Counseling. Central Berkeley Public Library. Also Sept. 17.  

Tuesday, August 23 3-4 P.M. Berkeley Public Library, Central. Tea and Cookies. A book club for people who want to share the books they have read. (510)981-6100. 

Tuesday, August 23 7 – 8 P.M. El Cerrito Library book discussion group meets the 4th Tuesday of each month: “The Glass Room.” Feel free to come to one or all discussions. (510) 526-7512. 

Wednesday, August 24 1:30-2:30 P.M. Alameda County Library, Albany branch. Great Books Discussion Group. Eliot's The Hollow Men and The Waste Land. Facilitated discussion. Come to one meeting, or all meetings. Books are available at the Library. Parking! 526-3720 x 16. 

Monday, August 29 7 P.M. Book Club:Dubliners by James Joyce. Kensington Lirary, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington, CA. Joyce declared Dubliners to be a chapter in the moral history of Ireland. This is a collection of 15 tales that offers vivid, tightly focused observations of the lives of Dublin's poorer classes. Free. (510) 524-3043.  

Monday, August 29 10:30 A.M. San Francisco Gray Panthers. Book Club. (415) 552-8800. e-mail: graypanther-sf@sbcglobal.net, web: http://graypantherssf.igc.org/  

Wednesday, Sept. 7 Noon. UC,B Music Dept. Hertz Hall. Noon Concert Series will resume with Joe Neeman, violin and Miles Graber, piano, performing works by Bartok and Sarasate.  

Wednesday, Sept. 7 10 A.M.-Noon North Berkeley Senior Center Advisory Council meeting. Public invited. (510) 981-5190. 

Saturday, Sept. 13 10 A.M. – 3 P.M. 34th Annual Health Fair. Allen Temple Baptist Church, 8501 International Blvd., Oakland. Free health screenings. (510)544-8910. 

Friday, Sept. 16 10 A.M. – 1 P.M. 14th Annual Senior Resource Fair. Presented by San Leandro Senior Services. San Leandro Senior Community Center, 13909 East 14 St. (510) 577-3462. 

Saturdays, Sept. 17 & 18 1:30 P.M. music; 2 P.M. show. SF Mime Troupe's 2010: The Musical. Willard Park, Berkeley, CA. Outdoors. Free.  

Saturday, Sept. 17 11 A.M. Landlord /Tenant Counseling. Central Berkeley Public Library.  

Wednesday, Sept. 21 1:30 P.M. BerkeleyCommission on Aging. South Berkeley Senior Center. Call to confirm (510) 981-5178.  

Tuesday, Sept 27 3 P.M. Tea & Cookies Book Club. Central Berkeley Public Library. 

Tuesday, Sept. 27 7 – 8 P.M. El Cerrito Library book discussion group. Feel free to come to one or all discussions. Let the Great World Spin. (510) 526-7512. 

Wednesday, Sept. 28 1:30-2:30 P.M. Alameda County Library, Albany branch. Great Books Discussion Group. Morrison's Song of Solomon. Facilitated discussion. Come to one meeting, or all meetings. Books are available at the Library. Parking! (510) 526-3720 x 16. 

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





On Mental Illness: Getting Through a Mental "Cold"

By Jack Bragen
Monday July 18, 2011 - 08:20:00 AM

As the reader by now probably knows, I suffer from some type of psychotic disorder. Because my disorder is chronic and severe, I get symptoms of it despite being well-medicated. Sometimes, I experience a mini-episode, not severe enough to be called a mild relapse, but instead, at the level of seriousness of a bad cold. 

A friend, who was chronically mentally ill, in a strange twist of the mind, compared his illness to that of another person, saying that he didn’t have the insight that someone else did about his condition. And this, by his own word, meant that he was truly ill. He said to me that someone retaining more insight about her or his condition would contract a mental “cold” rather than being truly ill. 

(At the time, I found it odd that a person could have the insight of the fact of lacking insight. I will have more to say about this in a future column.) 

A person has a mental cold when their brain is having a flare-up but their mind is essentially intact. A “nano” episode, as I’m calling it, means that the sufferer might need to cut back on activities, temporarily increase medication (if a doctor orders this), make sure and get adequate sleep, and give more “chill time” to oneself. It will also help to avoid unnecessary conflicts with people. 

If I am dealing with the equivalent of a cold, rather than a significant relapse, the intensity of the symptoms will not be very severe. (Even mild symptoms can mean a substantial amount of discomfort, however.) As a person who suffers delusions, these erroneous thoughts must not be numerous enough or severe enough that I have begun acting on them. If I have begun acting on my delusions, then I have crossed a line and entered the territory of a significant relapse. My cold has become pneumonia. 

Concurrent with some amount of delusions, in a nano episode, there is an emotional component in which I become more vulnerable to getting angry, upset or stressed out. My normal insulation against painful emotions (that I have cultivated with meditation) may be thinned out temporarily, or even absent. I might find myself to be stuck on a roller coaster of painful feelings. Although I don’t get physical, my wife isn’t happy being around me while I get angry. However, she realizes that I am having an emotional reaction to my paranoia, and I am not truly the verbal bully who I appear to be. 

Persons with mental illness can teach themselves strategies for compensating for the brain’s problems. Some of these strategies are cognitive corrections, while others may be social. For example, teaching oneself not to act on certain thoughts and impulses, ones that most people may not experience in the first place, is a social correction. Teaching oneself how to identify and negate delusions (ones that the medication has only partly alleviated) and even teaching the mind how to do this automatically, is an example of a cognitive compensation. 

Living with a severe mental illness is a continuous challenge, including those times when a person is essentially doing well. A person must deal with the day to day maintenance of controlling the condition. The alternative to this is to be hyper dependent on the mental health treatment system, and to constantly have the therapist fixing you on the inside—not a very good choice. 

Arts & Events

A Quick Review of a Berkeley Arts Festival Concert

By M. Louise Stanley
Tuesday July 19, 2011 - 07:42:00 PM

.So I went to one of the concerts tonight in the Berkeley Arts Festival... Jerry Kuderna, a pianist who played some wonderful Debussy etudes, very modern, percussive and bombastic, new to me. He talked about Debussy's process and sources and how hearing Stravinsky for the first time, Debussy was inspired to take more risks. He was very passionate and entertaining. He also premiered a piece by Alden Jenks who was present. 

The audience seemed to be regulars to the festival and friends of the musician. The space is an empty store front at the top of University Ave. I swear, if you were walking down the street, a stranger from out of town, and stumbled on one of the concerts, you'd want to move here. A very Berkeley experience. It made me appreciate the wealth of art there is in the Bay Area. It's easy to take it for granted, made me want to go to more live performances. Funky venue (we artists painted the walls, hung the show and lit it). Ceiling is falling down, white muslin is covering some walls but it all adds to the ambience. I feel very proud to be part of it. All our work fits the location and venue, good backdrops for the music. It was / is very cool. Bonnie Hughes has been running this festival for 20+ yrs. and knows how to put together a venue that is intimate and casual and very hip. 

M. Louise Stanley is one of the artists in the show.