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Santa Cruz's La Bahia looks out over the coast.
Santa Cruz's La Bahia looks out over the coast.


BART Arrests Demonstrators, Closes Stations

By Scott Morris (BCN)
Monday August 22, 2011 - 05:28:00 PM

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) Police arrested at least 30 to 40 demonstrators during protests that originated at the Civic Center BART station and then led police back and forth through downtown San Francisco, drawing traffic to a standstill and closing two BART stations at several points throughout the evening. 

A few dozen protesters gathered on the Civic Center BART platform at 5 p.m. BART quickly closed the station when protests began, arresting several protesters that raised their voices, declaring it was illegal to protest on the BART platform. 

The protesters chose the platform to gather because Charles Hill was killed there by a BART police officer on July 3, after Hill allegedly attacked the officer with a knife. The shooting set off a string of protests that have shut down San Francisco BART stations three times since then.  

After being ordered to leave the station, demonstrators moved to the street, joining with other protesters already there, and 50-60 started marching east on Market Street. They blocked traffic, yelling "No justice, no peace!" and "Hey BART, what do you say, how many kids did you kill today?"  

Police on foot escorted the protesters on either side, directing traffic with motorcycles in front of the march, and police cars in the rear. 

When protesters arrived at the Ferry Building at Embarcadero Plaza, they demanded to be let into the building. Police blocked protesters from entering, while employees peered out at the unruly mob. Some demonstrators wore masks, others carried signs against censorship and police brutality, and two even protested naked. 

Shortly after, protesters turned around to march back west on Market Street. The protest grew as they marched, and at certain points there were more than 100 demonstrators.  

They marched to United Nations Plaza, outside the Civic Center BART station, where they briefly gathered in the plaza around a portable radio playing dance music. A handful of protesters then blocked Market Street outside the plaza, between Seventh and Eighth streets.  

Police then announced the demonstration on Market Street was illegal, as it blocked traffic in both directions, even holding up a San Francisco Municipal Railway train proceeding west on Market Street. 

Police made several arrests as they tried to push the crowd back onto the sidewalk. Protesters set off firecrackers and pushed police lines, but were eventually corralled back onto the sidewalk. 

Protesters then took off east again, this time running at times to stay ahead of police, lighting smoke bombs and throwing them into the street, and overturning garbage cans. 

Protesters darted in and out of the streets, running to avoid police, before reconvening and marching nearly to Montgomery Street. They turned around before reaching Montgomery Street, heading back west. 

At the corner of Market and Fourth streets, police attempted to disrupt protesters by forming a line and demanding protesters return to the sidewalk. At least one protester was arrested, held down by several police as he lay on his stomach in the middle of the busy intersection. Protesters were scattered between the corners, yelling at police that held them on the sidewalk. 

A group of about 40 protesters reconvened west of the police lines and started marching west on Market Street again, blocking traffic without a police escort. More demonstrators used garbage cans to block traffic and threw firecrackers into the street. 

At Grove Street the demonstrators turned right, and some shouted that they were marching to City Hall. But police formed a line at Larkin Street, and used batons to force protesters onto the sidewalk, knocking several to the pavement. 

About 40 protesters and some members of the media were detained in an encirclement of police on Grove Street between Market Street and Larkin Street. As of 9 p.m., police were still in the process of making arrests. 

The protests forced the closure of the Civic Center and Powell Street stations at several points throughout the evening. Civic Center was closed for a total of two hours and 36 minutes and Powell Street for a total of one hour and 38 minutes, according to BART. 

Tonight marks the third time since July 11 that protests caused station closures during rush hour in San Francisco. 

On July 11, the group No Justice, No BART organized a protest in response to the BART police shooting of Hill. During that demonstration, protesters blocked train doors to prevent them from leaving the station, resulting in the closure of three San Francisco BART stations. 

On Aug. 11, BART said it had intelligence that another more disruptive protest was being planned and shut down cellphone service in several stations to prevent protesters from communicating in stations and tunnels.  

That protest failed to materialize, leading BART spokesman Linton Johnson to declare the precaution was successful in disrupting the protest. 

But blocking cellphone service has drawn more attention to BART. Civil rights groups have blasted BART for the unusual tactic, calling it illegal and unconstitutional. 

The hacker protest group "Anonymous" reacted angrily, and called on their loose collective of members to hack BART websites, flood BART offices with emails, faxes and phone calls, and called for another protest on Aug. 15. 

That protest shut down all four downtown San Francisco BART stations, leaving commuters trapped outside of locked gates. 

BART has continued to defend the decision to block cellphone service, most recently in a letter to BART customers Saturday explaining the service disruptions and stressing that stopping cellphone service was necessary to ensure safety on the platform. 

BART's defense has not stopped criticism of the agency, however. Today the National Lawyers Guild released its own statement condemning BART's actions as unconstitutional.  

"The BART decision to terminate cellphone service during public protests is an unconstitutional prior restraint on free speech precisely designed to censor criticism of the deadly use of force by BART police," the statement said.

Press Release: Andronico’s Markets Negotiating with Investor Group

From EON: Enhanced Online News
Monday August 22, 2011 - 05:12:00 PM

One of the Bay Area’s best known family-owned specialty supermarkets today announced it is in discussions with a private investor group to preserve jobs for 400 employees and to ensure its historic markets continue to serve future generations of shoppers. 

“This is a bittersweet moment in our history”

Andronico’s Community Markets founded in 1929 on Berkeley's Solano Avenue, is in negotiations with Renovo Capital to obtain Debtor-in-Possession financing and sell the company to the investor group, as part of today’s Chapter 11 filing in the Oakland division of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California. 

“This is a bittersweet moment in our history,” said Bill Andronico, Andronico’s CEO and a member of the third generation of the family that owns the markets. “We have struggled mightily to keep going, but the combination of the economic downturn and a broken balance sheet was too heavy a burden. The good news is that this deal preserves our markets and keeps our employees working.” 

The 82-year-old Andronico’s markets have struggled in recent years after an aggressive expansion program in which it took on significant debt to develop stores in Danville, Walnut Creek and Emeryville in the late 1990s and early 2000s. These stores are now closed, but Andronico said he was unable to get its bank lenders to restructure their claims and the remaining stores were saddled with too heavy a debt to continue under family ownership. 

Currently, Andronico’s operates in seven locations: four stores in Berkeley and markets in San Francisco, Los Altos and San Anselmo. 

Founded by Greek immigrant Frank Andronico in 1929, the family began with a vision of providing the best quality products with the excellent customer service of a neighborhood grocer. In fact, Andronico even let his neighborhood customers name the store – “Park and Shop” – which remained as the name of the markets until 1986. 

Today, the Andronico’s name is synonymous with freshness, extensive and unique product offerings, and friendly, helpful customer service. Its continued innovations with specialty products and presentation have made the markets stand out in a highly competitive business. 

During both good and challenging economic times, these tenets have guided the Company’s strategic decision making. In 2010 Andronico’s encountered a daunting retail environment, and replaced nearly all of its executive management team with a core group of experienced industry veterans from Whole Foods Market and Safeway. The new team began the work to stabilize the business but the lack of resources did not allow for a full recovery. 

Andronico’s commitment to excellence and value, along with its unique combination of offerings, led to numerous awards, including the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade’s “Retailer of the Year,” National Grocers’ Association “Best of Show Finalist,” and the San Francisco Chronicle's “Reader's Choice for Best Grocery Store.” 


Editor's Note: It has long been customary in the newspaper business to re-write press releases and present the information as if it were original reporting. We don't do that--if we don't have a reporter available for a breaking story on which we receive a release, we give you the press release itself verbatim, clearly labelled as such of course.

BART Defends Cellphone Service Disruption, Plans Wednesday Discussion

By Scott Morris (BCN)
Sunday August 21, 2011 - 09:38:00 PM

With the threat of another disruptive protest looming, BART officials issued a letter to BART customers Saturday defending BART's decision to interrupt cellphone service to prevent a protest on Aug. 11, and announcing that the issue would be discussed at a board meeting Wednesday. 

Interim General Manager Sherwood Wakeman and board of directors President Bob Franklin signed the letter, which gave BART customers a broad overview of this summer's events, which began with the BART police shooting of Charles Hill on July 3. 

A week later, on July 11, a group gathered on the platform at Civic Center station, where Hill was shot, and disrupted service by blocking train doors, climbing on top of trains, and moving from station to station to stop trains from leaving. 

In response, BART closed three San Francisco BART stations and commuters were forced to make other travel arrangements. BART's letter said that 96 trains were disrupted at the height of rush hour. 

The protests were organized by a group called "No Justice, No BART" which formed after the Jan.1, 2009 BART police shooting of Oscar Grant in Oakland. 

In August, BART announced on its website that it had obtained information that another protest was being planned for Civic Center station on Aug. 11. According to Saturday's letter, the demonstration was being planned as a surprise, with different color-coded groups coordinating activities to disrupt the trains via cellphones. 

"The overall information about the planned protest led BART to conclude that the planned action constituted a serious and imminent threat to the safety of BART passengers and personnel and the safe operation of the BART system, at a level that could far exceed the protest of July 11," the letter said. 

To prevent protesters from coordinating, BART suspended cellphone service in BART stations and tunnels beginning at 4 p.m. Aug. 11. The protests never materialized, leading some BART officials to declare the precaution was successful. 

But the move set off a flurry of criticism and a fresh round of protests. Public statements from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union compared BART's strategy to those employed by repressive regimes in Egypt and Libya, where cellphone and Internet disruption is a standard practice in abating protests. 

In addition, the loosely organized hacker protest group "Anonymous" reacted strongly to BART's strategy, calling for a new protest and hacking the BART website myBART.org, releasing some customers' personal information to the Internet. 

The Anonymous-organized protest on Aug. 15 again met on the Civic Center platform and prevented trains from leaving the station, which led to the closure of all four downtown San Francisco BART stations. 

The same day, the Northern California ACLU released another statement, declaring BART's decision to shut down cellphone service unconstitutional, and the Federal Communications Commission released a statement saying it was gathering information about the unusual strategy to determine if any regulations had been broken. 

Within BART itself there has been controversy about whether disrupting cellphone service was an appropriate measure. Board member Lynette Sweet said on Tuesday that she thinks the board should have been consulted before such a decision was reached, and said Wakeman himself lacks accountability. 

"What we ended up doing is giving these same people another reason to come back and protest us," Sweet said. 

On Wednesday, another BART website was hacked and personal information of BART police officers was released to the Internet. While Anonymous lacks an official head or spokesperson, Twitter accounts and other websites speaking for the group have denied responsibility for the latest leak, and some have condemned it. 

Still, the group functions without any formal registration or membership, so anyone who chooses to call themselves Anonymous can do so. One Twitter account clarified this aspect of the group by saying, "Anonymous is not unanimous." 

Anonymous has called for a second protest on Monday at 5 p.m., and as of 11 a.m. today, 215 people said they would be attending on a Facebook page announcing the action, even more than said they would be attending last week's protest. 

The page said the protest would again meet on the platform at the Civic Center BART station. 

BART officials have said that protests are permitted outside the faregates in BART stations, but that any protest in paid areas would be illegal. While BART has not shut down cell service since Aug. 11, BART officials have maintained that the move was legal and has not ruled out that they would again take that step during future protests. 

The BART board of directors is scheduled to discuss the issue during a special meeting on Wednesday at BART's headquarters in Oakland, and has invited any concerned members of the public to attend.

Caltopia Brings 30,000 to Berkeley Campus

By Rachel Purdy (BCN)
Sunday August 21, 2011 - 11:51:00 AM

An estimated 30,000 students and supporters of the University of California at Berkeley are expected to attend Caltopia IX, one of the nation's largest experiential college lifestyle festivals, starting this morning. 

More than 100 local and national sponsors and exhibitors will offer free services, products or programs at the two-day festival that is taking place at the UC-Berkeley Recreational Sports Facility. 

Among this year's exhibitors are the American Institute for Foreign Study, BART, Contiki Vacations, Groove Yoga, Peace Corps, Skull Candy, Slurpee, T-Mobile and Wells Fargo. 

Caltopia IX, which is hosted by Cal Recreational Sports, will offer giveaways including up to $5,000 in prizes for treasure hunters who "check-in" at various booths through the social media site Foursquare. The festival's Facebook fan page will also stream live photos of people who pose at one of its ten themed photo stations. 

Considered an annual rite of passage for Cal students and the campus community, attendees are encouraged to bring a sense of adventure, an appetite for delicious food samples, and enough energy to haul away a ton of swag. 

Caltopia IX will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and Monday at the UC-Berkeley Recreational Sports Facility, located at 2301 Bancroft Way in Berkeley.

Berkeley Hikers Get 8 Year Sentence in Iran

By Erika Heidecker and JeffShuttleworth (BCN)
Saturday August 20, 2011 - 04:08:00 PM

Two University of California at Berkeley graduates who have been detained in Iran on espionage charges for two years were sentenced to 8 years in prison, according to their supporters' website. 

Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, both 29, and a third UC Berkeley graduate, Sarah Shourd, were arrested on July 31, 2009, after embarking on a hike in Iraq's Kurdistan region near the Iranian border. 

Iran has accused them of espionage, but the hikers and their families say they are not spies but instead were detained after they accidentally crossed an unmarked border into Iran. 

Iran released Shourd, 32, who is engaged to Bauer, last September because she was in poor health.  

Iranian authorities held a four-hour hearing for Bauer and Fattal on July 31 during which the two men again testified as to their innocence, and their attorney had an opportunity to present their defense, according to a statement issued by the men's families. 

At that time, the families said the attorney for Bauer and Fattal, Masoud Shafii, told them that Bauer and Fattal "both appeared to be well and in good spirits." 

Supporters of the detained hikers have expressed their disappointment and anger over the decision on Facebook and Twitter this morning. 

Many of the responders said that they had not given up hope that the two men will be released despite the sentence. 

"Never give up hope," one supporter posted on the Free the Hikers Facebook page. "Working together we will get Shane & Josh home and it's not going to be in 8 years. Lace up the boots and let's get back to work." 

Amigo: A Tale from America’s Forgotten War

Reviewed by Gar Smith
Thursday August 18, 2011 - 05:31:00 PM

The respected indie director John Sayles (Return of the Secaucus 7, Brother from Another Planet, Matewan, Lone Star) has written and directed a potent and poetic film about the personal struggles of people trapped on both sides of the all-but-forgotten Philippine-American war. 

Sayles decided to focus a story around this 1900 guerilla war while working on his latest novel, A Moment in the Sun (published by McSweeney’s in May). Working with a largely Philippine crew, Sayles filmed Amigo entirely on location on the island of Bohol, northwest of Mindanao, and finished all the post-production at studios in Luzon. The result is a film that looks and feels fresh, real and live-in. The Philippine Secretary of Education has praised the film for “portraying the real-life drama of ordinary Filipinos” caught in the crossfire of war. The fact that Amigo was filmed in English, Spanish and Tagalog adds more authenticity to its message. 

As Sayles points out in his essay “In Search of the Philippine-American War Film” (see accompanying article), “no armed conflict in the modern era has received less cinematic treatment than the Philippine-American war.” But even in its earliest days, Sayles notes, cinema was being used as a propaganda device to promote America’s burgeoning experiments with imperial war. (One 1899 film called “Capture of the Trenches at Candaba,” was actually filmed in New Jersey with African-Americans hired to portray the Filipino “savages” routed by America’s might. The filmmakers figured most Americans wouldn’t know what a real Filipino looked like. They were right.) 

Amigo takes its title from nickname adopted by Rafael Dacanay, the wise and principled leader of a village occupied by US troops. Dacanay (movingly portrayed by the beloved Philippine screen star Joel Torre, who also co-produced the film) tries to protect his people by finding negotiating space between the irreconcilable demands of the foreign troops and the guerilla fighters. 

The film makes subtle use of parallel scenes to propel the story. In the garrisoned village, Lieutenant Compton (Garret Dillahunt) reads an order warning that fraternizing with the enemy is forbidden while, in the mountains, a dictum from General Aguinaldo warns that cooperating with the invaders will bring retribution. As the US troops approach their first deadly skirmish in the mountains, there is a parallel scene of a cockfight being staged in the village. As order begins to break down among the occupying troops lodged inside the village, rebels hunkered in their mountain caves complain about their own leaders and start to question each other. We see racial stereotyping exercised on both sides of the battle lines. 

There are echoes of future wars. The soldiers (many of them poor and uneducated farm kids) call their Chinese workers “Coolies” and categorize the local Filipinos as “goo-goos.” (In Vietnam, this derogatory term would evolve into “gooks.”) Most notoriously, we are shown the origins of the Bush-Cheney-Yoo practice of American-style “water-boarding.” In the Philippines, captives had water forced down their throats through bamboo pipes — like geese being stuffed with foie gras. Once their stomachs were sufficiently distended, US interrogators would stomp on their bellies. In a written memoir, one soldier boasted that he could send a plume of water six feet into the air. 

We see a perfect example of media manipulation in the form of Padre Hidalgo, an opportunist who is able to steer events because he is the only one available to translate (or intentionally mistranslate) conversations between the US military and the village leaders. Big Brother arrives in the form of telegraph lines that link the villages to US military leaders in Manila. Intelligence is gathered in the sticks and piped hundreds of miles to Central Command. And, like today’s Internet, this novel communications system was hacked (literally) by Indigenous resisters who climbed the wooden poles on a weekly basis and easily snipped the wire lines. 

Sayles, of course, is a master screenwriter. Some lines seem to Sayle out and hang in the air, as when Padre Hidalgo, a duplicitous Spanish priest, tells Lieutenant Compton: “I warn you: the moral path is not the most obvious.” Or when Dacanay fears for his son (who has fled to join the resistance) and is forced to acknowledge the hard truth that “the revolution burns any fuel it is fed.” 

Amigo is filled with a trove of small scenes that play beautifully. The idle chatter of the Americans reveals their ignorance, vulnerability and longing to be back home. A soldier’s wistful courtship of a young village girl who cannot understand his words is poignant. The recurring comic commentary of two Chinese laborers helps to frame the cultural divides between the occupiers and the occupied. In one scene (intentionally reminiscent of Shakespeare’s grave-diggers) the Chinese workers are digging a latrine to bury their wastes. “Why do the White Ghosts not use the fields? What a waste of good shit!” 

The longer the Americans stay with the villagers, the more acclimated they become. They relax and begin to enjoy the natural rhythms of the rural life and honor the local traditions. This turn of events is beneficial for the troops and the villagers but it is anathema to the “war ethic,” personified in Amigo by Colonel Hardacre (Chris Cooper) as a hard-charging Indian fighter impatient to roust the rebels at all costs. 

“The gloves are coming off, gentlemen,” he instructs the garrison. “We are done with the carrot… it is time to employ the stick.” 

Gazing angrily at the relaxed attitudes of the soldiers who have been guarding the village, Hardacre sneers: “You’re getting pretty comfortable here.” “I have to live with these people,” Compton replies. “No, Lieutenant,” Hardacre screams, “You gotta make war on these people.” 

And all the futility of America’s foreign wars ensues — detentions, torture, pillage, the slaughter of livestock, the execution of civilian leaders. And because the US “won” the war, the US wrote the history books — in the Philippines and at home — assuring that the lies and brutalities of this war were safely buried. Sayles is to be commended for a film that exhumes the ghosts and pays homage to the human suffering on all sides of this terrible war. 

Advisories: The film contains scenes of roosters in combat and pigs disembowled, but the images are not gratuitous. And, in the opinion of this reviewer, the film’s conclusion is flawed by a terrible editing decision that “telegraphs” a conclusion and an unsatisfying fade-out that sacrifices authenticity for cinematic artifice. 


Note: The film’s lead actor, Philippine superstar Joel Torre, will appear at a benefit screening for Bindlestiff Studio to be held at San Francisco State University on August 20. For information and tickets, contact http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/191964 

In Search of the Philippine-American War Film

By John Sayles (from www.amigomovie.com)
Thursday August 18, 2011 - 05:33:00 PM

Perhaps no armed conflict in the modern era has received less cinematic treatment than the Philippine-American War. When one thinks of the number of movies inspired by individual American gunslingers or gangsters- Jesse James, Billy the Kid, John Dillinger, for example, have graced the screen dozens of times- this dearth seems hard to explain. The Fil-Am war ran ‘officially’ from 1899 to 1902 (though armed hostilities continued at least till the beginning of WWI) and at least a million Filipinos died violently or through related starvation and disease during its course. When the history of Philippine-American relations is examined, however, this cinematic silence becomes more understandable. 

The Philippine conflict was not the romantic ‘splendid little war’ that Americans were presented in the coverage of their Cuban campaign against the Spanish. By the time hostilities broke out north of Manila in early 1899, both the Hearst and Pulitzer newspapers were in financial trouble, having over-expanded and overspent to increase circulation during the glory days of Teddy Roosevelt at San Juan Hill. The surprising rise of Roosevelt’s star had effectively blocked the political ambitions of his jealous rival William Randolph Hearst, leaving ‘boy Willie’ with no personal agenda at stake in the war in the Pacific. 

The duplicitous, bait-and-switch nature of the McKinley administration’s decision to ‘keep’ the Philippines after the Spanish surrender gave rise in the States to the Anti-Imperialist League and much public debate about the morality of the conflict, and none of the superstar correspondents of the day -- Richard Harding Davis, Stephen Crane, James Creelman -- chose to travel there to immortalize the fight with their prose. 

With the beginning of the ‘American era’ in the Philippines, control of public education in the islands was taken from the Catholic religious orders and expanded to serve a much larger (and poorer) percentage of the population. The teachers were American, the textbooks were in English, and in the ‘jingo’ spirit of the day, the uglier aspects of the transition from Spanish to American rule were glossed over or ignored entirely. Generations of Filipino schoolchildren learned of the Treaty of Paris, where the US ‘bought’ the Philippines from defeated Spain, as if picking up an option on a pro basketball player, and nothing about the grueling, vicious guerilla war that followed it. 

Textbooks in America tended to leave the Philippines out entirely. 

Movies were in their infancy in 1899, limited to short ‘views’ which were often projected on the curtain as part of a live vaudeville show. Notable from this era are a handful of ‘actualities’ (we’d now call them documentaries) that purported to show battle scenes from the early, conventional-war period of the fighting. Advance of the Kansas Volunteers at Caloocan and Capture of the Trenches at Candaba (both 1899) are each about a minute long, depict successful American actions, and were filmed in New Jersey with African-Americans portraying the Philippine ‘insurrectos’. 

Thomas Edison and his imitators had learned in Cuba how impossible their bulky cameras were to maintain in the tropics, and the American public had no idea what a Filipino looked like (by the end of the official war, American cartoonists usually drew them as coal-black, frizzy haired savages in grass skirts), so the idea of staging events with bogus stand-ins met little resistance. 

And then long periods of neglect. 

By the time the silent movies had grown to feature length, the horrors of the First World War had superseded this colonial adventure in the American mind, and period war films from the new dream factory of Hollywood tended to deal with the earlier dramas of the Civil War, Revolution of 1776, and the endless winning of the West. The Philippine film industry was relatively small at this time, and many of the features backed by wealthy Spaniards who had remained in-country, and scrupulously avoided subject matter with overtly political content. As the country and the industry democratized (under the watchful American occupiers) and sound was added to the mix, new themes began to be explored. 

Two Filipino films have been based on the life of Macario Sakay, an early Katipunero who became one of the last violent holdouts for independence, declaring the Tagalog Republic in 1904 and fighting a guerilla war against the Americans in Cavite and Batangas. He was lured out of hiding to negotiate surrender with amnesty, arrested, and hanged by the Americans in 1907. 

The first, Sakay (1937) directed by Lamberto Avellana and starring Leopoldo Salcedo and Arsenia Francisco, is one of those tantalizing works that may have been lost forever (I’ve seen a poster but never heard of a print still existing). It’s intriguing to wonder what the treatment might have been during the beginning of the Commonwealth period. As period films often tells us as much about the period they were made in as the period they are set in, Raymond Red’s 1993 Sakay is bound to be a very different movie, both in political awareness and the fact that it is an early Filipino ‘indie’ made with much passion and little budget. Though director Red has bemoaned the effects of the disparity between his movie’s ambition and the means he had to make it, this was a production that helped spark a new wave of Filipino filmmakers to try working outside the mainstream system. 

Pinoy film burst into life at the end of World War Two, developing its own studios and star system in the Hollywood mold, popular entertainment made by and for Filipinos. And though the textbooks maintained the US government-approved version of the Fil-Am war and the revisionist historians of the 60’s were not yet active, folk history is hard to suppress. Bayani sa Pasong Tirad (1947), starring Jose Padilla Jr. and Tessie Quintana, eulogized Gregorio del Pilar, the ‘boy general’ whose romantic and military exploits cry out for the big screen. A much more TV-quickie version of the young hero’s last sacrifice, Tirad Pass: the Story of General Gregorio del Pilar (1997) was directed by Carlo Caperas and starred Romnick Sarmento as the titular hero and Joel Torre as General Emilio Aguinaldo. 

By the end of the ‘50’s, taking advantage of the relatively low costs and concentration of English- speaking talent, there was a move to make ‘B-movies’ for the American market in the Philippines. One of the first of these was The Day of the Trumpet (1958), produced by Cirio Santiago and directed by the legendary Eddie Romero, and featuring some actual American actors in the featured roles. These were B-movie stalwarts John Agar and Richard Arlen, supported by Filipino star Pancho Magalona, and the movie succeeded in gaining US distribution (as Cavalry Command) in 1963. It concerns a cavalry detachment sent to occupy a village in the boondocks, which do their best to win the hearts and minds of the hostile locals. Romero later broke out of the rut of horror and chicks-in-chains flicks he had become stuck in with his well-received Ganito kami noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon (1976) made solely for a Filipino audience and featuring Christopher de Leon and former Miss Universe Gloria Diaz. De Leon plays a Candide-like village youth sent to the big city of Manila around the turn of the century, who survives the war with both Spain and the Americans to discover something of what it means to be Filipino. 

Most highly regarded of the Filipino films treating the US war is Peque Gallaga’s VirginForest (1985), which deals with the treacherous capture of the revolutionary Supremo Aguinaldo by American officers and Macabebe renegades. Shot in Atimonan, Quezon, with sensuous cinematography by Conrado Balthazar and music by Jaime Fabregas, the movie blends historical drama with the sexploitation so dominant in Filipino cinema of that era (most likely the condition for getting it produced). Featuring Sarsi Emmanuel as the allegorically and graphically violated virgin, it is a Heart of Darkness-type journey into human perversity and betrayal. Nothing epitomized the hypocrisy of the American campaign than this event that officially ended it, a breach of honor that roused Mark Twain to pen some of his most controversial public essays. 

The only American film I’ve encountered that deals with the conflict is The Real Glory (1937). Brought to the screen by man’s-man director Henry Hathaway, this seems like a spin-off of the better known and more lavishly produced Gunga Din, released in the same year. Set in Mindinao in 1906, it ostensibly deals with the formation of the Philippine Constabulary, with the Americans teaching the good (Christian) natives to defend themselves against the bad (Muslim) natives. It stars Gary Cooper, David Niven (as an American- maybe he was under studio contract) and Broderick Crawford, and was filmed in California with nary a Filipino in the cast. In fact, the evil ‘Datu’ (equivalent to Italian immigrant Eduardo Cianelli’s ‘Guru’ in Gunga Din) is played, with great skill and much make-up, by Vladimir Sokaloff, a veteran of the prestigious Moscow Art Theater. Perhaps the producers, faced with the shortage of exotic settings to place American rather than British soldiers in (the British being the undisputed champions of imperialism) summoned up the forgotten war in desperation. 

Hollywood’s fidelity to historical accuracy is notoriously weak, but film producers assume, correctly, that Americans’ knowledge of that history is even weaker. Popular movies, for better or worse, often replace recorded facts with a kind of mythic history that people accept (and often prefer) as truth.

About the Philippine-American War

From AmigoMovie.com
Thursday August 18, 2011 - 05:35:00 PM

AMIGOis set in a very specific time and place- northern Luzon (the largest island in the Philippines) in the year 1900. The situation we find in the movie is the result of a series of events: 

Tensions between Filipinos and their Spanish colonial rulers had been deteriorating for decades. The Philippines had become a dumping ground for the least effective and most opportunistic Spanish priests and bureaucrats, just as a generation of very well-educated Filipinos (often called ‘illustrados’) came ready to take their rightful place in the hierarchy of the Church and the government. They were denied entry to these positions on grounds that were clearly racist and imperialist. 

At the same time, both Church and government were squeezing the poorer rural people, stealing their land, imposing high taxes and returning little in the way of services, and forcing them to work in the polo, an imposed, unpaid period of work, every year. The laboring and educated classes finally came together in a revolt against Spanish rule in 1896, with Andres Bonifacio leading Filipinos in tearing up their cedulas (government required identity papers, needed to travel even short distances) and in an armed rebellion. An early factional battle between Bonifacio and the Cavite native Emilio Aguinaldo resulted in Bonifacio’s execution and Aguinaldo assuming command as supremo of all revolutionary forces. 

Despite regional and personal rivalries, the Filipinos were able to fight the better-armed Spanish forces (and their trained Filipino troops) to something akin to a “draw”, agreeing on the truce of Biak na Bato. Aguinaldo and his most important followers accepted a sum of money to call off the fight and go into exile (mostly in Hong Kong) and the Spanish colonial government agreed to implement certain reforms. Neither side was confident the other would uphold the bargain. 

In 1898, partly due to the machinations of a ‘yellow press’ seeking to sell newspapers by provoking a war, the United States declared war on Spain, vowing to drive them out of their last major colony in the Western hemisphere, Cuba. In the first violent act of that war, the American fleet under Admiral Thomas Dewey cornered the Spanish Pacific fleet in the Battle of Manila Bay, sinking most of the ships in less than an hour. 

Since Manila was the main port of entry for Spanish soldiers and supplies, the Philippine insurrectos (revolutionaries) saw the perfect opportunity to renew their fight. Encouraged and armed by the Americans, Emilio Aguinaldo and his ever-growing army of Filipinos quickly defeated the Spanish forces all over Luzon and other islands, and the imperialists retreated back into the walled city of Manila. 

The Americans quickly defeated the Spanish in Cuba. But in the debate before their war with Spain was declared, a Congressional bill was passed forbidding the US to annex Cuba as a territory. Senator Teller, sponsor of the legislation, may have been more concerned about Cuban cane sugar ruining the market for the beet sugar produced in his home state of Colorado than the rights of the Cubans to govern themselves, but the jingos and expansionists had been stopped. However, other Spanish possessions such as Guam, Puerto Rico and the Philippines were not covered in the bill (quite possibly because Teller and his fellow Congressmen had never heard of them) and as the pressure to ‘gain’ something in the war mounted, eyes began turning towards the Philippines. 

When American ground forces, with their naval support and artillery, arrived in Luzon, a secret deal was struck with the Spanish, and in a one-day ‘mock battle’ the American forces marched through Filipino trench positions and into the walled city of Manila, accepting the Spanish surrender and raising the Stars and Stripes- not the Philippine Republic’s new flag- over the city. Armed Filipinos were warned to stay out of the Intramuros. 

Aguinaldo and his followers, though suspicious, at first believed that the Americans intended to act as allies and leave the island to its people. A congress met in Malolos, a constitution was drawn up, a government was formed- and the first Philippine Republic came into existence. 

But the Americans had a different idea. Negotiating with the Spanish, and hoping to put a veneer of legality on a military takeover, they ‘bought’ the islands from Spain for twenty million dollars, sealing the deal with the Treaty of Paris. The debate in the U.S. over ratification of the treaty was split between the ‘anti-Imperialists’: 

“This Treaty will make us a vulgar, commonplace empire, controlling subject races and vassal states, in which one class must forever rule and other classes must forever obey.”  

-- Senator George Frisbie Hoar 

and the ‘expansionists’: 

“Providence has given the United States the duty of extending Christian civilization. We come as ministering angels, not despots.” 

-- Senator Knute Nelson 

By early 1899, relations between American and Filipino troops facing each other (in a ring around Manila) had deteriorated, and finally a shooting war broke out between them (breaking out, not coincidentally, the day before the American Congress was set to vote on ratification of the Treaty with Spain and what to ‘do’ with the liberated islands). 

In the initial months of the war, the Filipinos tried to overrun the Americans with conventional tactics and sheer numbers, but were no match to the superior weaponry and training of the Americans (the Filipinos, among other things, had almost no artillery). Suffering huge casualties, by 1900 Aguinaldo had switched to guerilla tactics, ambushing and retreating both north and south of Manila as the Americans pressed forward. 

By 1901, when AMIGO takes place, the Americans had sent two flying columns of troops north, to try to capture Aguinaldo himself and force him to declare the war over and concede the colonization of the Philippines. 

As the American forces gained ground, they often garrisoned the towns they had taken, leaving small forces to guard them against a return by the elusive guerilla bands. The heads of these small towns and cities were put in an extremely difficult situation- they had to serve their constituents and keep them safe, which meant keeping the Americans happy, but they also had to, sometimes out of choice and often not, help smuggle food and information to the nearby rebel forces in the surrounding jungle -- an impossible job. Hundreds were accused of betrayal by one side or the other (often both) and executed. 

The parallels to recent American military activities are inescapable, and do not stop there- the cover of a 1902 copy of LIFE yielded the depiction of a tactic American soldiers learned from the Macabebes, an ethnic group hostile to the Tagalog majority, called the “water cure”: 

[The “water cure”] is a “treatment” that consisted of spread-eagling a prisoner on his back, forcing his mouth open with a bamboo stick and pouring gallons of water down his throat. Helpless, the insurrecto was pumped with water until his stomach was near the bursting point. Then he was questioned. If he refused to answer — which happened surprisingly often — an American soldier stood or kneeled on is belly, forcing the water out. One report by a U.S. soldier told how “a good heavy man” jumped on a prisoner’s belly “sending a gush of water from his mouth into the air as high as six feet.” This cure was repeated until the prisoner talked or died. Roughly half the insurrectos given the cure survived. How many Filipinos were killed by torture is not known, but the extent of the practice is well documented by a letter sent home by a soldier who bragged of inflicting the water cure on 160 Filipinos, 134 of whom died. 

-- From “Destroy All Goo-Goos: America’s Forgotten War”
by Thomas Metzer,Loompanics 1999 

Eventually General Aguinaldo and the other republican military leaders were captured or surrendered, and the United States annexed the Philippines (as well as Guam and Puerto Rico) as a territory. Though it must be noted that they brought a much more democratic style of education to the islands, they also controlled the writing of history, and the story of the Philippine Republic and its desperate struggle to survive was suppressed. Generations of Filipinos grew up without knowing of the role of their own countrymen in the fight for independence. 

Never comfortable with the identity or responsibilities of imperialism, Americans also were taught little of the war, and it remains one of the least known and dramatized (especially in movies) conflicts in U.S. history. Soldiers who volunteered to ‘free the Cuban people from oppression’ found themselves fighting against Filipinos to deny them of freedom- a change of purpose that puzzled and dismayed more than a few. 

The Philippines and the United States now share a great deal of history and culture, but until recently the beginnings of that long, complex relationship was virtually unexplored. As the United States’ first military foray beyond the Americas as a world power, the Philippine-American war is worthy of closer examination.

Updated: How to Avoid BofA’s Debit Card Clutches

By Gar Smith
Thursday August 18, 2011 - 05:38:00 PM

When I activated my EDD debit card I choose to have the money automatically deposited in my Wells Fargo checking account. B of A deposits the money in my checking account, end of transaction. Please correct your article and inform readers how easy it is to bypass B of A.

-- letter from Planet reader Kevin Clarke

Acting on Planet reader Kevin Clarke’s email, we headed out to the nearest Berkeley Bank of America branch on Shattuck near Vine.
The bank reps insisted that they were unable to set up a transfer deposit to my existing account (at a local Credit Union). I was told that I would have to arrange a direct deposit by contacting the EDD directly. When I pulled out a copy of Kevin Clarke's note, I was informed that Clarke’s transfer must have happened because Mr. Clarke “was already a Bank of America customer." 

I was also told that I needed to wait for the EDD to mail a PIN before I could activate the new card. (This turned out to be incorrect. A BofA agent contacted by phone explained that the last six digits of the 16-digit Debit Card number can be used in lieu of a PIN.) 

When I mentioned that the Debit Card program looked like “a great marketing opportunity” for BofA to gain new customers, I was told the only reason BofA was involved was because "EDD is a customer of the Bank.” (EDD would probably rank as one of BofA’s biggest customers, since EDD paid out $22.9 billion in unemployment checks in 2010.) 

Since contacting EDD by phone is near-impossible, I clicked onto EDD’s Website. There I found a host of information on the EDD Debit Card program that is otherwise unavailable. According to the Website, EDD began “transitioning” its 1.2 million “customers” to the Debit Card in July and has been issuing EDD/BofA cards at the feverish pace of around 22,500 cards each day. 

Scrolling down EDD’s list of FAQs, there is a heading called “Debit Card Options and Activating the Card.” Subsumed within this section is a smaller headline that reads “Direct Deposit Transfers.” And here one finds the simple, straightforward, one-sentence statement that should have been included in the BofA’s mass mailings. It reads: “You do not need a checking or savings account with Bank of America to set up a direct deposit transfer to your own bank account with another banking institution.” [Emphasis in the original.] 

How to Transfer Funds to a Personal Account 

The only line on the EDD/BofA mailing that refers to transferring benefits says nothing about personal or existing accounts outside the BofA. It does, however, provide a number for “live customer service” (1-866-692-9374). This leads (naturally) to a recording. But this is where you can begin to activate your BofA card by typing in the number on the Debit Card and the last four digits of your Social Security number. 

There is no mention in the long, pre-recorded spiel about requesting the direct-deposit of funds in any other banks. It isn’t until the fifth and final option that callers are given the opportunity to speak live to a BofA representative. 

The Bank’s representative explained that direct-deposit transfers of funds can not be done by phone. It would be necessary to go online to www.bankofamerica.com/eddcard. “But you will need to have Internet Explorer since that is the only browser supported by Bank of America.” (Microsoft and BofA? Nice match.) It turns out that Firefox works just fine. 

After identifying your Debit Card by entering the 16-digit number and a new 7-digit alphanumeric PIN, a search will turn up a link to “Transfer Funds.” This leads to the “Manage Transfer-To-Accounts” page. From there it’s just another click to the “Add a new Transfer-To-Account.” Enter the 10-digit “routing number” for your personal bank and your account number. Now all you need do is give the Bank of America your personal email address and you’re done. 

Just follow these simple instructions and anyone can wrestle their way out of the clutches of the BofA. 

Editor's Note: Good luck. 

Privatizing Unemployment: Bank of America’s Sacramento Coup

By Gar Smith
Tuesday August 16, 2011 - 11:18:00 AM

In a letter dated August 9, California’s Employment Development Department (EDD) announced it was discontinuing the practice of mailing unemployment claim checks to EDD recipients. Instead, the letter explained, the EDD was introducing “electronic benefit payments” that could be tapped via an EDD Debit Card. 

EDD cited only one argument for the change: “You will no longer be waiting for checks in the mail.” 

What the EDD’s letter did not fully explain was that, under the new system, in order for the state’s 2.2 million unemployed to retain access their all-important EDD checks, they must first agree to become customers of Bank of America. 

Many people take pride in not entrusting their money to corporate financial behemoths like Bank of America (BofA), preferring to store their savings in local banks and federally protected credit unions. The reasons have everything to do with BofA’s history and practices. BofA currently is the subject of a class-action lawsuit stemming from its alleged mishandling of home foreclosures and separate lawsuits claiming predatory lending practices. 

The Bank of America is emblematic of the reigning kleptocracy that has come to define the prevailing domestic and global financial model. In 2010, the Charlotte-based BofA reported $10.4 billion in revenues and (for the second year in a row) paid no taxes. By claiming $2.2 billion in losses and invoking a $12.4 billion “goodwill impairment,” BofA actually qualified for a $1 billion “tax benefit” payment from the IRS. (BofA might not have run up such huge losses if it hadn’t doled out $2.2 million in campaign contributions to politicians and their PACs. But, in fairness, if it hadn’t been for those political payoffs, BofA might not have received a $45 billion government bailout, courtesy of the US taxpayers.) 

“Bank of America takes its role as a corporate citizen very seriously, and pays taxes in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations,” BofA’s Jerry Dubrowski maintains. But the DC-based activist group US Uncut calls BofA an “aggressive tax dodger” and raises the obvious question: “We pay our taxes. Why don’t they?” One answer to this question is strategic: Unlike the average taxpayer, BofA maintains 115 offshore tax havens around the world in the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Hong Kong, Ireland, Luxembourg, Singapore, the US Virgin Islands and elsewhere.) 

Invasion of Privacy: Your Money or Your Meds 

Activating the new EDD/BofA Debit Card requires that users establish a new account with BofA and, in the process, provide the bank with a host of personal information items not required by EDD. According to an enclosed US Consumer Privacy Notice, before EDD clients can claim their benefits, they must first provide BofA with “Social Security number and employment information,” “credit information,” and “medical information.” 

“We collect your personal information… when you open an account or perform transactions,” BofA states. “We also collect your personal information from others.” 

If you don’t want BofA to be calling you at home with commercial offers, you have to take the proactive step of asking to be placed on the bank’s Do Not Call list. Even that may not fully protect you since, as BofA notes: “We do not solicit via phone numbers listed on the state of federal Do Not Call lists, unless the law permits.” [Emphasis added.] Residents of California are specifically assured: “We will limit sharing among our companies to the extent required by California law.” [Again, emphasis added.] And, if you call BofA to complain, bear in mind that “If you communicate with us by telephone, we may monitor or record the call.” And you better remember this because, as the Agreement, notes “We need not remind you of our recording or monitoring before each call.” 

BofA lists eight “reasons we can share your personal information.” These include: “For marketing purposes,” “For joint marketing,” “For our affiliates’ everyday business purposes — information about your transactions and experiences.” 

Can you limit this “sharing” of personal information? In a word, “No.” 

Thanks to the EDD deal, BofA promises to “begin sharing your information 45 days from the date we sent this notice.” And even when “you are no longer our customer, we continue to share your information as described in this notice.” 

The EDD’s New ‘Agreement’: User Fees for BofA 

EDD Debit Card users must agree to allow BofA and other “financial companies” to “share customers’ personal information.” BofA’s “financial affiliates” include: Merrill Lynch, Fleet Credit Card Services, US Trust and General Fidelity Life Insurance Company. BofA’s contract also requires that customers’ personal information can be shared with a host of “nonaffiliates,” broadly defined as including “retailers, travel companies and membership organizations [and] other companies such as nonprofit organizations.” 

Although unemployment claims in California max out at 99 weeks (less two years), the EDD mailing instructs the out-of-work that: “You should keep you card for the three-year period for which it is valid.” 

The EDD letter that accompanies the unsolicited BofA Visa Debit Card instructs recipients to “Activate Your Card Immediately” and recommends that desperate job seekers “Read your California Employment Development Department Debit Card Deposit Agreement.” On closer inspection, however, it turns out that this document was not written or printed by the EDD. It was written and printed by BofA [“Effective Date November 1, 2010”]. 

The eight-page Agreement spells out (in a blur of small, narrow type) further BofA “benefits” — including a section on “Bank Fees.” Yep, under the EDD-BofA deal, the unemployed are now liable to paying “user fees” to the BofA. “Bank fees associated with your Card are listed in the Fee Schedule. These fees are imposed by us and retained by us,” BofA stipulates. “Fees will be taken from the balance of your [EDD] Account as they apply.” 

The Agreement gives the BofA the right to “cancel your right to use your Card at any time.” So dismiss any thoughts that the Debit Card is a device designed to further the social support mission of the EDD. The BofA Agreement is very clear: “Your card remains our property.” 

Most people already have an account at a preferred bank, savings and loan or Federal Credit Union. Most people will be out-of-luck. 

Not only has the EDD decreed that job-seekers must sign up with the BofA, the Agreement specifies that any attempt to use the new EDD card at any non-BofA ATM will soon be costing you $1 per transaction. And BofA will be collecting those fees directly from the money set aside for your EDD claim. 

Although the Debit Card arrives in an envelope bearing the name of the EDD, the enclosed cover letter bears a discrete BofA logo. The letter makes it clear that the overall goal is not to assist the unemployed so much as to promote consumerism. 

“Your unemployment and state disability insurance benefit payments will be faster, easier and more secure,” the BofA cover letter begins. But the very next sentence commands: “Make purchases everywhere Visa® debit cards are accepted” including “grocery stores, gas stations, medical offices, utility payments, restaurants, retail stores, phone payments, online payments.” 

The cover letter contains only seven sentences devoted to “Important Information from the California EDD.” The last sentence reads: “It is advisable to keep your card for at least three years after it has been issued.” There is no explanation why this is advisable. 

From Sacramento to Possum Hollow, Tennessee 

How did it come to pass that a State agency entrusted with assisting the unemployed has struck a deal that would force millions of desperate Californians into the arms of a private bank? Staff at the Berkeley Cooperative Federal Credit Union at the corner of Shattuck and Ashby were caught by surprise when shown the EDD/BofA documents. “Can they do that?” one accounting officer asked in disbelief before rushing off to photocopy the letters. 

The firewall that is supposed to separate Bank and State has clearly been breached in this instance, allowing a widely distrusted and criticized banking monolith to force California’s unemployed into becoming corporate vassals in exchange for access to benefits that previously came from Sacramento—without fees or invasions of privacy. 

It is especially vexing that Sacramento has allowed BofA to parade its wares under the banner of the EDD. This indignity is underscored by a comparison between two return addresses. The August 9 letter advising of the coming change arrived in an envelope mailed from EDD’s Sacramento address. However, the return address on the envelope containing the bank’s Visa Debit Card and Agreement reads: “EDD, State of California, PO Box 8488, Gray, TN 37615-8488.” 

The Planet could find no listings for a Bank of America facility in Gray, Tennessee. Phone calls to EDD’s Sacramento office went unanswered. A Google search for the Tennessee address does pinpoint a specific site. On Google Earth, it appears as a pinpoint in a stretch of woods off Possum Hollow Road that is identified as the home of the “US Army National Guard Recruiting.” At this point the trail runs cold. 

It’s time to put some heat on Sacramento and demand to know who is responsible for creating the EDD’s ghost operations in Gray, Tennessee. And who decided the State should act as a business partner and recruiting agent for a profiteering, private, commercial bank. 

Gar Smith is a Berkeley-based writer and the winner of a half-dozen Project Censored Awards.

Under Fire, BART Spokesman Defends Decision to Block Cellphone Access to Prevent Protest

By Scott Morris (BCN)
Wednesday August 17, 2011 - 08:36:00 AM

In a press conference yesterday, BART spokesman Linton Johnson again defended the agency's decision to halt cellphone service in several San Francisco BART stations for several hours Thursday. 

Following another protest Monday that closed all downtown San Francisco BART stations, Johnson defended the agency's position despite mounting criticism that the move was illegal, as well as the announcement of a Federal Communications Commission investigation. 

Johnson said that the decision to turn off cellphone service in the BART stations was legal, and speculated that the move prevented disruptive protests Thursday like the ones that BART dealt with Monday and on July 11 in response to the BART police shooting of Charles Hill on July 3. 

"The result was a flawless commute, but now we're defending that decision," Johnson said. 

He said that the 1969 Supreme Court decision Brandenburg v. Ohio allowed BART to disable cellphone service under very specific circumstances. He quoted directly from the decision, and said that free speech may only be impeded under the rare circumstances that it is "directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action." 

BART did not shut off cellphone service in its stations during protests Monday night, because the protests announced Thursday met the circumstances of that decision, but the information gathered about Monday's protest did not, Johnson said. 

Johnson said the intelligence gathered regarding the planned protest Thursday, which was organized quietly so as not to attract a large police presence, implied that protesters planned an organized disruption using different teams at different stations coordinating by cellphones to disrupt the evening commute. 

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California sent a public letter to BART officials and the FCC Monday stating that the decision by BART violated fundamental civil liberties and was unconstitutional. 

The letter cited the same Supreme Court decision that Johnson did, but said that Thursday's announced protests did not meet those criteria. "Speech does not lose its protection merely because it may lead indirectly to disruption," the letter read. 

"BART's decision was in effect an effort by a government entity to silence its critics," the letter said. "BART's effort to avoid disruption by entirely shutting down all speech transmitted through wireless devices was unconstitutional." 

Michael Risher, a staff attorney with the Northern California ACLU, said that he and other ACLU officials met with BART Chief of Police Kenton Rainey Monday to discuss the ACLU's concerns. He said that no conclusions were reached but that the ACLU will continue to talk to BART officials to pursue a policy change. 

"Our position is that BART needs to have a policy that restricts when they can do something like this to truly extraordinary circumstances," Risher said. He said that while the ACLU is not currently seeking to file a lawsuit, that all options are open to ensure that BART does not restrict communications during future protests. 

"Our major concern is to make sure this doesn't happen again," he said. "We don't want this to become a precedent that other government entities can shut down communications efforts." He said that if BART did shut off communications during Monday's protest, it could have prompted more drastic action by the ACLU. 

While BART decided not to shut down cell service Monday, BART officials said before the protest that the tactic was still under consideration and did not rule out that they would take that step during Monday's protest or in the future. 

A statement released by the Electronic Frontier foundation, or EFF, last week charged that interrupting cellphone service to disrupt the protest violated federal law and FCC regulations. 

The EFF compared BART's actions to those by governments fighting massive protests in Egypt, Syria and Libya, where shutting down Internet or cellphone service to prevent demonstrators from communicating is a regularly employed tactic. 

Monday, the FCC released a statement that they would be investigating BART's cellphone block to determine if any legal action will be taken. 

"We are continuing to collect information about BART's actions and will be taking steps to hear from stakeholders about the important issues those actions raised, including protecting public safety and ensuring the availability of communications networks," FCC spokesman Neil Grace said. 

BART has also come under fire from within. BART board member Lynette Sweet said that the BART Board of Directors was not consulted in the decision, but that as policy makers, they would be held accountable. 

"We're the ones that are going to be held accountable for these decisions," Sweet said. 

Johnson said today that the decision to cut cellphone service did not need to come from the board. "This is a staff matter," he said. 

Johnson said the decision was made by BART interim general manager Sherwood Wakeman, who served as general counsel to BART for 30 years until retiring in 2007 and who was appointed interim general manager earlier this year. Sweet said that Wakeman should have consulted the board before making such a decision. "Had that been done, I think there would have been enough input from the board to realize that this might not be the way to go," she said. 

Sweet said Wakeman's temporary position makes him less accountable than someone who had not come out of retirement to take the job. "What's the worst we could do to Sherwood? Ask him to re-retire?" Sweet said. 

"What we ended up doing is giving these same people another reason to come back and protest us," Sweet said. 

Monday's protests were a direct response to the decision to block cellphone service, according to statements from the hacker protest group "Anonymous," which organized the demonstration and also hacked the BART marketing website myBART.org Sunday, posting subscribers' personal information on the Internet. 

As of today, myBART.org remains down, and Johnson was unable to give a specific estimate as to when the site would be reactivated, saying that it would only be restored when BART felt comfortable that they could ensure the safety of its customers.

Berkeley's Drop-In Center: A Client-Run Help Center

By Lydia Gans
Tuesday August 16, 2011 - 01:43:00 PM

It wasn't so very long ago when people with mental illnesses were generally stigmatized by society and subjected to all sorts of tortures in the name of treatment. People who were powerless, the poor and people of color were particularly victimized by the mental health system. Eventually they revolted. In 1985 they formed the Coalition for Alternatives in Mental Health, also known as the Berkeley Drop-in Center in west Berkeley. Originally on Oregon street they are now located at 3234 Adeline street near Alcatraz. 

This modest store front is far more than just a place where people can come inside and socialize and have a bite to eat. The Drop-in Center offers a broad array of services by and for people dealing with drugs and alcohol or mental illness. Here people with limited resources help each other deal with the life issues they are facing as they strive to get stability in their lives 

The mission statement reads; “The Drop-in Center is a multi-purpose community center run by and for past and present mental health clients and persons undergoing significant emotional distress. The Center is a safe, informal place for people to meet and socialize, share peer and group support, take part in recreational activities, and get help in obtaining basic survival and other life needs. The mission of the Center is to empower mental health clients and thus help them improve the quality of their lives by providing them with a support network.” 

The center is open to everyone who needs support services. Each person coming in asked to register to become a member. There are about 2000 members. Every year on the first of July the membership list is updated. Staff person Catherine De Bose explains that every client is registered as a new client no matter how long they have been a member. They are asked four basic questions; “Where you are with alcohol and other drugs? Do you have chemical dependency? Do you have mental health issues? What is your financial status?” 

Members can drop in at any time to get help with immediate needs such as mail and message services and computer access, transportation help, to participate in support groups and NA meetings or anger management class. “We have things in place to address whatever issue they might have, says De Bose. “Drugs and alcohol, homelessness, mental health issues, life issues. We have members who come in and just talk about life stuff.” 

For specific issues requiring more attention members can make appointments with a staff person who can work out a solution or provide a referral. The five full time staff people are members with connections and long experience in the community they serve. In line with their egalitarian principles they don't have titles, but all are called coordinators. They can act as advocates to help a member get SSI, General Assistance or other financial benefits. Often people need help with the paperwork or an appeal or, De Bose says, “they just need somebody to go with them, to give support.” A staff person can help members with money management, and provide payee services. And they can act as peer counselors or give a member a referral for professional help. 

The over-arching issue is homelessness which is increasing, particularly among this more vulnerable population. Many of the members and staff have themselves experienced periods of homelessness. To deal with this the Center has housing coordinators who are constantly searching for affordable housing and vacancies in supportive housing units throughout the area. Staff member Emmet Hutson, reports that “I find housing for people with low income is getting harder and harder. Most programs are full or have long waiting lists. For a person on SSI it's difficult to pay 7 or 8 hundred dollars a month when you only get 8 or 9 hundred dollars. Even the SRO's (hotels) are 5 to 7 hundred. But we are finding people housing. We're working very diligently in every area of the fair market, the real estate market to find housing for our people. Most of the people that come here want to stay in the Berkeley area. Berkeley is out for the most part because of the high rent. A lot live in Oakland and surrounding areas. That's the most important thing that this center is concentrating on is finding housing for the homeless. … Another difficulty that we have is not only the income situation but a lot of our people have mental health issues and it's hard to keep them housed once they're housed without help because people take advantage of them. It's been hard for us to break through subsidized housing.” 

In addition to the coordinators there are eight former clients who have been volunteering and are receiving stipends. Jeff Ingram is a volunteer who helps people use computers. When he came to the Center some years ago a staff person here suggested he take advantage of the free computer skills training programs offered directly across the street at Inter-City Services (ICS). He took classes there for two years. He says he realized that it would take a lot longer to “really get trained” but he learned enough to come back and show clients how to use the computer for job search, resumes, setting up email access and such. He is homeless as are many of the members. 

Cindy Foscarini is another volunteer. She takes care of the mail, does general office work, “whatever staff wants me to do”, she says. “I've been a client for 11 years or so. ... At first (it was) a place to hang out. I started helping out because I wanted to give back.” She is also working to upgrade her skills. “I want to get certified in WORD program at ICS”. 

The Center is not a large space and it is impressive how many activities and how many people it accommodates. There are several small offices and rooms for private conversation, an area with computers, a room with comfortable furniture for resting quietly, a multi-purpose room for meetings or movies, and a patio for parties and occasional barbecues. Every day they see over a hundred people. 

“We pretty much serve everybody that comes in the door”, says Catherine De Bose. “A lot are coming from homelessness, drugs and alcohol or mental health issues. It's hard to get everything together at once.”

Nancy Pelosi: "Workers are people too!"

By Jane Stillwater
Wednesday August 17, 2011 - 11:51:00 AM
Jane Stillwater
Jane Stillwater
Jane Stillwater

When I was in Minneapolis in June, I was fortunate enough to attend the kick-off event for this summer's "Speakout for Good Jobs Now" tour, sponsored by the Progressive Congress Action Fund, wherein various members of the progressive caucus of the U.S. Congress spoke to their constituents regarding the desperate need for creating more jobs in America. At this first event, Rep. Alan Grayson and Rep. Raul Grijalva fired us all up.

And so when the Speakout tour arrived in Oakland this week, I really wanted to go to this event too. And Reps. Grijalva, Mike Honda and Barbara Lee would be speaking this time. Doesn't get much better than that. 

At the Acts Full Gospel Church on 66th Avenue in East Oakland where the event was being held, the parking lot was jammed but I found a space. Inside, perhaps 700 people were already in attendance. I was late. And the warm-up speaker was already asking everyone to stand up if they had been laid off, were jobless, had college loans they couldn't pay, couldn't even get into college, who had no health insurance, whose home was threatened with foreclosure or had already been foreclosed upon, who had lost their benefits, who felt that their Social Security was threatened, was currently on unemployment, etc. Almost everyone there stood up. 

Then the speaker asked everyone to stand up who thought that the current Republican-dominated Congress was doing anything to help all us Americans -- not just helping rich people. Two people stood up. 

Then Barbara Lee spoke about how she was fighting as hard as she could to get Americans more jobs. Yay Barbara Lee! 

Then Nancy Pelosi spoke too -- and said all the right things about how progressive she was and how hard she too was working in Congress for us. We all applauded. And then she made one little slip. Should I forgive her for that? Can't yet decide. 

Pelosi said, "They claim that corporations are people? Well, workers are people too!" Too? 

Guess what, Nancy. "Corporations are NOT people." Never have been and never will be. Repeat after me.

Checking Out of Berkeley's Hilton to the Homeless

By Ted Friedman
Tuesday August 16, 2011 - 01:51:00 PM

I was in People's Park Saturday, researching a piece on informal Berkeley street communities, when a teenager named Hilton told me her aunt had driven her all the way to Berkeley from Southern California to "dump" her in People's Park.

Okay, so Berkeley is a Hilton to Homeless street tramps and other vagabonds. (Planet: Jul 20, 2011). But what if you were dumped in People's Park--lobby to the Hilton--and wanted to work your way out. How good is Berkeley at that? 

She was crying and in need of shoes and a coat for the evening. Not to mention a bed. She landed in the middle of a park community of good-guys and a free meal (barbecued chicken) so good even Hate-Man was eating it, and he's a picky eater. 

Between tears, Hilton told of her troubled past and of the aunt with three kids, who dumped her. 

Was she pissed? "Just hurt," she cried. 

That was Saturday. I saw her Sunday and she told me what had happened to her since she was dumped in the park. She was still shaken from being dumped Saturday, but had made friends, one of whom shared his sleeping site with her. Even though grateful for having landed in People's Park, she told of having a drunk "get in my face." 

We agreed to pursue together, Monday, her options for improving her situation. When I met up with her Monday she said she was having trouble keeping food down and thought she was losing weight. At 5' 8'' and 140 pounds, blonde, and youthfully healthy, she still seemed a teenager although she said she was actually 26. 

She showed me a picture from her wallet of a beautiful blonde five-year-old girl she said was her daughter, who was living with her ex-husband's grandparents in Southern California. She declined to be photographed. 

After a breakfast at the Caffe Mediterraneum in which she could only nibble at some rye-toast and drink a Coke, we headed for a drop-in homeless outreach center with women's showers in Berkeley's Veteran's Memorial Building on Center. Hilton said she had not showered in three days and that her clothes were "all clingy." 

On the way, Hilton said that she had been to a women's shelter, earlier, at Dwight and Shattuck, but that all the beds for the night were booked. Boona Cheema, Director of BO.S.S. (Building Our Self-Sufficiency)—a drug rehabilitation and homeless outreach 

program—had directed us to a drop-in center to apply for an array of services and programs. 

Hilton said the park was "great," and that if she had to be dumped, she was glad it was there; but she didn't want to stay there. She had first seen the park six months ago when her aunt, who often drove to Willits, California in Mendocino, County had stopped off at the Park to "score some weed." 

"I've been clean and sober, six months," she said, but someone gave me some champagne last night and I threw up. "Maybe that's why I'm not feeling so good." 

We did not immediately find our way into the drop-in center, which is in the rear of the veteran's building near a courtyard. Once inside we saw a small men's shelter, women's showers and a cluster of open offices; a few clients milled about. After introducing, Hilton to a gracious man at what seemed to be a sign-in desk, I talked to a client, who was close to finding an apartment through something called the "shelter plus program." 

Hilton was then interviewed by an "intake person," while I talked to the good-natured soon-to-be-renter, who said he was 56, and had a mental disability. "Don't we all," I observed. 

There were four signs tacked about: (1) "Expect to be accepted for who you are;" (2) "In a world where you can be anything, be yourself" (now there's an idea!); (3) "if you never stick your neck out, you'll never get your head above the crowd;" this showed some stately giraffes, and (4) "attitude is everything." Like the giraffes, I felt uplifted. 

Hilton emerged from her interview, saying she had answered a lot of questions, but had not learned what would become of it. She said that she was told she would need $600 dollars to apply for housing assistance, and that she didn't think the intake person liked her. Although she does not resemble Paris Hilton, Hilton does look upscale, with her flowing blonde hair, stylish sweater, and skirt. I explained that she needed the $600 to prove she could pay a rental deposit. 

We were given the 800 number for the women's shelter and directed to a community health clinic where Hilton could be treated for her stomach problems, but she later soured on going there, even though I explained it was free. 

On the way back to Telegraph and the Park, we stopped off at the Berkeley Public Library, where Hilton scored a library card (now she's a Berkeleyan) and I offered to show her around the library, even though I no longer know where everything is because of a remodeling project in progress. Hilton said they offer library maps, and I apologized for treating her "like a complete idiot"—with my hapless library tour. 

Hilton gave me more information about herself on the way back to Telegraph. She said she'd been a stay-at-home-mom for nine years; that her mother was a "crack-head whore", now jailed; that her ex-husband was an electrician, employed and stable. 

Her father had beaten her and she was made a ward of the court and had had a good foster home until she became older. "Foster parents, like them young, she said, and easy to handle." 

Hilton wound up with her aunt after helping the aunt escape her abusive uncle. The aunt earned a good living by street-scamming for change, using her attractive kids as props. When Hilton interceded on behalf of the kids, her aunt dumped her. 

The aunt often "commuted" to Mendocino County where she would pool her resources with Mendocino "hippies" to rent space in campgrounds. Hilton accompanied her aunt. 

"That was how I was living." she said. 

"On our last camping trip, we were invaded by guys with guns blazing. One dude was killed. The kids and I fled into the woods." 

Hilton hopes to be a counselor to troubled youth in resident programs, but only has an eleventh-grade education. 

Before we parted at the Med and Hilton headed for the park she's trying to run away from, we agreed to stay in touch. 


Ted Friedman's education was in Journalism, but he did take a 2-hour course in Social Work so he could graduate in four years.

St. Augustine in Oakland

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Wednesday August 17, 2011 - 12:49:00 PM

When driving along Telegraph Avenue on your way to downtown Oakland, you've undoubtedly passed St. Augustine's church at 19th Street dozens of times. With its tall, narrow steeple and brilliant rust color, it's been called "Oakland's Little Red Church" and has been a place of worship since 1893. It is the second oldest Episcopal church in continued use in Oakland. 

A short distance away is another St. Augustine's, this a Catholic church on Alcatraz Avenue. In 2000, because of financial difficulty and low membership the parish nearly closed. But Bishop John Cummings, who had been a member of the school and parish from birth, showed his faith in St. Augustine's with a subsidy which would be re-evaluated in 2004. In 2004, Father Mark Wiesner arrived as pastor. His preaching and energy drew many new members. By 2006, mass attendance had jumped to 402, making St. Augustine's one of Oakland's fastest growing parishes. The most difficult event of 2004 was the closing of the school. In 2007, the St. Vincent de Paul organization opened a food pantry and continued to feed the homeless who came to their door. 

But now, let's get back to St. Augustine himself. Born November 13 in 354, died August 28, 430, this wordy chap had quotes for everything under the sun, a few of which are shown below: "Give me chastity and continence, but not yet." (My favorite quote!) "God loves each of us as if there were only one of us." 

"A thing is not necessarily true because badly uttered, nor false because spoken magnificently." "Beauty is indeed a good gift of God, but that the good may not think is a great good, God dispenses it even to the wicked." 

You'll have to agree that Augie was one smart saint!



Let's Hear It for the California Coastal Commission, Still Working After All These Years

By Becky O'Malley
Wednesday August 17, 2011 - 11:41:00 AM

Anyone who’s in doubt about the role and the value of governmental regulation should have been at last week’s meeting of the California Coastal Commission in Watsonville last week.  

I happened in on it more or less by accident. Visiting in Santa Cruz, I’d been listening to the local “listener supported” radio station, KUSP, and I noticed a huge number of prime time ads from one “Barry Swenson, Builder”. Yes, yes, I know that in public broadcasting they like to call them by some euphemistic name I can’t remember at the moment, but they’re ads, pure and simple, and they cost money. 

These ads utilized the full-dress green-washing vocabulary to tout the company’s support for a beachfront hotel-building project, and boasted that if approved it would provide jobs with union-scale wages. Curious about what kind of deal would merit such big-time promotion, I asked around, and discovered that backers were hoping to tear down the historic and charming (if old and dilapidated) La Bahia building, a Spanish style relic of the twenties that had been a beach area landmark since our extended family settled in Santa Cruz County more than 40 years ago.  

I learned that the current owners were the Canfield corporation, also the owners of the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, and that La Bahia had been subjected to “demolition by neglect” for many years. I also found out that the reason for the big ad push was that the Coastal Commission was scheduled to take up the request of the owners and the Barry Swenson development company to change the regulations about what could be built in this locale on behalf of the proposed project, a mammoth luxury condominium hotel which would rise to seven stories, blocking the ocean view of people who lived behind it on “Beach Hill” and also the view of the ridgeline from the beach. 

I have a nostalgic affection for the California Coastal Commission, because covering the newly fledged commission was perhaps my first assignment as a novice reporter. Last week, we’d entertained visitors from France, who couldn’t stop exclaiming over the beauty and pristine condition of the California coast, and the commission gets all the credit. 

Here’s what it’s all about, from the Commission’s website: 

“The mission of the Coastal Commission is to: 

"Protect, conserve, restore, and enhance environmental and human-based resources of the California coast and ocean for environmentally sustainable and prudent use by current and future generations. 

"The California Coastal Commission was established by voter initiative in 1972 (Proposition 20) and later made permanent by the Legislature through adoption of the California Coastal Act of 1976

"The Coastal Commission, in partnership with coastal cities and counties, plans and regulates the use of land and water in the coastal zone. Development activities, which are broadly defined by the Coastal Act to include (among others) construction of buildings, divisions of land, and activities that change the intensity of use of land or public access to coastal waters, generally require a coastal permit from either the Coastal Commission or the local government.” 

On the agenda last week was a change in what’s called the Local Coastal Program (LCP) for the Central Coast. LCPs contain the ground rules for future development and protection of coastal resources in the 75 coastal cities and counties. “The LCPs specify appropriate location, type, and scale of new or changed uses of land and water,” according to the website.  

To a newcomer, the proposed change to the LCP in question, covering only the La Bahia site, looked a lot like what’s usually called spot zoning, which is usually considered a bad idea. So I went to the meeting to find out whether the commission would cave.  

The public hearing was a day-long spectacle, held in Watsonville’s huge, characterless city council building erected with FEMA money in the wake of the 1989 earthquake. It reminded me of nothing so much as a scene from The Music Man, one of those where the adept promoter is trying to sell a bill of phony goods to a crowd of eager small-town boosters.  

The boosters were out in force, wearing computer-printed shocking pink stickers that said things like “I SUPPORT LA BAHIA”. Eavesdropping on conversations and buttonholing sticker-wearers, I gathered that the large majority of them were either employees of the would-be development organizations or people who hoped for future contracts with a new hotel. Among them were members of the octopus-like Coonerty family, whose tentacles include the mayor of the city of Santa Cruz plus his father, who sits on the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors and his sister, the manager of the family-owned (and excellent) Bookshop Santa Cruz, all three in evidence at the hearing. 

Opponents were much fewer and much lower-key, holding only a few signs which appeared to have been made at the last minute from paper plates. But they had clearly divided the territory—each speaker who opposed the changed regulation spoke intelligently to a different point, so that all important bases were covered. One surprise was that two labor union organizations, the Hotel and Restaurant Employees (HERE) and the Santa Cruz County Labor Council, spoke in opposition, despite that fact that promoters were promising “union-scale jobs” and “local hiring”—evidently the unions just didn’t believe promoters were telling the truth. 

Much hay was made about the assertion that what Santa Cruz needs is a Really Really Big Hotel to protect coastal access for—who, exactly? The proposed hotel would definitely have improved access for well-off would-be patrons who might complain that Santa Cruz has an inadequate supply of pricey accommodations, but it wouldn’t do much for the low-end beach lovers who now flock there from inland areas on day trips.  

Backers did offer to contribute $200,000 to state park campsite maintenance to serve the little guys. Whoop-de-do. Commissioners were not impressed. 

And did the commission cave at the end of this long day? Reader, they didn’t cave. 

In fact, as each commissioner gave the final speech explaining his or her vote, I was profoundly impressed by their intelligence and their grasp of the facts, by the clear indication that they’d actually read and internalized the data provided. This is a revelation to a long-time observer of the Berkeley City Council, where deliberators often don’t even seem to know what the agenda item is, let alone to have read their packets.  

Best Performance by a California Coastal Commissioner: Mark Stone, now a Santa Cruz County supervisor from the inland Scotts Valley district. He’s a lawyer and sometime law professor, and it showed. He clearly dissected exactly what’s wrong in principle with changing regulations for special cases, as well as why the proposed mega-hotel would be bad for the area. Going against the booster parade took a lot of nerve—in fact, it was a classic Profile in Courage, and the sharp knives are already out for him in the pathetic Santa Cruz newspaper. He’s just announced that he’s running for the state assembly—it’s hard to know if this vote will help or hurt him. 

Runner-Up for Best Performance: one Steve Blank, whose bio on the commission website pegs him as a serial entrepreneur and a professor at the UC Berkeley Haas business school. His star achievement was quizzing Santa Cruz Mayor Ryan Coonerty on why the hotel needed to have so many rooms, and finally worming out of the young mayor a fact that hadn’t been obvious in the day’s testimony: What the boosters really want to build is a convention center, not just a new hotel, and convention hotels have a minimum room requirement. 

If you don’t follow civic boosterism, you might not be aware that convention centers rival sports arenas as classic boondoggles, where the builders walk away with wheelbarrows full of cash and the localities, as often as not, end up with unused white elephants. There’s just no reason to amend the LCP to make a dubiously viable convention center possible, and the majority of commissioners figured this out. 

One bit of bad news: four commissioners voted the wrong way. All were connected, one way or another, with the building industry, and all four demonstrated a sub-par understanding of the matter before them and lack of respect for the importance of protecting the fragile coastal environment.  

Commissioners are appointed in a variety of ways: some through the state legislature, others by the governor. What to worry about for the future, if you care about the California coast: Three of the four bad voters were appointed recently by new-old Governor Jerry Brown. Better keep an eye on him—but then, that’s nothing new, is it? 









Cartoon Page: Odd Bodkins, BOUNCE

Thursday August 18, 2011 - 04:54:00 PM


Dan O'Neill



Joseph Young


Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Wednesday August 17, 2011 - 12:51:00 PM

Approaching Anniversary; Perry Exposed; Foggy Day; Immigration 

Approaching Anniversary 

Although 10 years have passed since that horrifying suicidal attack on the World Trade Towers, I still grieve for the lives lost. But I also think of my good friend and neighbor, Don Gunn, who had a passion for Point Reyes. He authored a very readable and detailed book, "More to the Point.", describing his favorite spots. He drove there every almost every day to clear brush and debris. But now, suffering from terminal cancer, he was no longer able to make the drive. He therefore wished to bid farewell to his favorite spots and colleagues at the Bear Valley Visitors Center and the Chimney Rock So, early that morning we set out for the point. I was in tears at the news of the Tower's attack. but Don could think only of his beloved Center. I had noticed a revolver on Don's desk, but fortunately he did not use it. 

So, each in our own way, we mourned for the tragic events of that never to be forgotten day! 

Dorothy M. Snodgrass 

* * * 

Perry Exposed 

Shedding a little light on Texas Governor Rick Perry and newest Republican to join the GOP presidential fray: Until recently Perry has dismissed talk that he would seek the GOP nomination. In fact, quoted in Newsweek, Gov. Perry insisted he would not run for president under any circumstances. Now, here's a man of his word. Compared to Perry, George W. Bush was a raving liberal. Both play to the same base, mostly white fundamentalist and evangelical social conservatives. Perry is a hard-line anti-abortionist who wants to teach creationism in schools (that earth is 6000 years old). Would kids laugh at a president like this! Until 1989, Republican Governor Rick Perry was a Democrat ... While in office, Perry has signed into law a measure that allows undocumented college students qualify for in-state-tuition. By all measures, Perry's tenure as governor has been disastrous for the state. The high school dropout rate has climbed to nearly 30 percent, more than one-quarter of Texans have no health insurance and Lone Star Staters pay some of the highest utility and homeowners' insurance rates in the country. By all means, let's let Rick Perry do for the nation what he's done for Texas. 

Ron Lowe 

* * * 

Foggy Day 

I'm taking liberty with that familiar Gershwin melody. Opening the drapes of my sixth floor window each morning, I'm thrilled to see heavy fog -- fog so dense it blocks out the Campanile and east bay hills. Having spent my childhood in South Bend, Indiana, I recall all too well its unbearably high temperatures and humidity. I'd wake up each morning with soaked hair and pillow case. Taking a shower didn't help as I' d never dry off. (South Bend is located in the St. Joseph Valley, thus accounting for its miserable weather.) There were only two air conditioned places in that town -- Walgreen's Pharmacy and the radio station where I worked. Leaving my job at 5 p.m., stepping outside was like walking into an open furnace. It was then I decided to move westward, to my beloved Berkeley. It was a move I've never regretted! 

NOTE: Two letters in one day is too much of a good thing. 

Dorothy Snodgrass 


* * * 



The "press release" by the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights referring to the DHS program as "Dragnet" did not deserve a front page position where at least semi-objective news is expected. Editorials and so-called "press releases" that support illegal immigration are fine, but please put them where they will not be confused with legitimate reporting. 

Robert Gable

We Can All Save KPFA Together

By Akio Tanaka
Wednesday August 17, 2011 - 11:47:00 AM

The crisis that KPFA faced in the fall of 2010 was insolvency.

Between 2001 and 2006, there was a dramatic increase in listener support due to the expanding economy and interest in the Iraq-Afghan War. KPFA added many paid staff during this same period; however, between 2007 and 2010 listener support declined dramatically as the whole economy crashed. 

Payments to Pacifica were reduced to reflect the decline in listener support and Pacifica had major layoffs, but KPFA management did not make similar cuts to salaries and benefits even as listener support declined between 2007 and 2010. It is understandable that the previous management would be reluctant to lay people off, but in 2008 the station went into deficit spending and was in danger of bankruptcy. So, finally the Pacifica Foundation, which is fiscally responsible for the network of five stations, stepped in and made cuts in staffing.  

Instead of acknowledging that Pacifica had carried out the thankless but necessary task of cutting expenses, some of the paid staff affiliated with the Communication Workers of America (CWA) claimed that layoffs were not necessary and that there had been union busting on the part of Pacifica. They alarmed many paid staff by claiming there was a political hit list of people to be laid off. The ‘hit list’ was the union seniority list. 

What Pacifica actually did was to offer voluntary severance to all employees. Seven people took the deal, and in the end, two people were laid off, Aimee Allison and Brian Edwards-Tiekert. Edwards-Tiekert had the option to exercise his seniority bumping rights. 

The layoffs followed the union contract which says: “In cases where skill, ability, knowledge and job performance are all equal, or could be equal in the opinion of the Employer after reasonable orientation and training, seniority shall prevail”, but CWA claimed the layoffs violated the terms of the union contract and filed three grievances with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and asked for an arbiter to rule on reinstating Edwards-Tiekert and Allison to the Morning Show. These claims led many labor supporters to voice solidarity with the CWA. 

Over the next several months, two anonymous websites, SaveKPFA and KPFAworker, waged a campaign to vilify Pacifica Executive Director, Arlene Engelhardt. 

In February, Edwards-Tiekert exercised his bumping rights and returned as a P/T news reporter. In April, the NLRB issued an advice memo dismissing one of the three CWA grievances and CWA then withdrew the two remaining grievances. In July, the arbiter ruled against Allison’s reinstatement. 

Pacifica was vindicated on all counts associated with or having to do with labor issues. 

KPFA has a solid line-up of Al-Jazeera English at 6am, Democracy Now! at the prime commute time of 7am, and Morning Mix at 8am, hosted by both volunteers and staff who stepped up to help the station during these financially difficult times. 

Most importantly, the station is on the road back to financial stability. 

However, the people who tried to vilify Arlene Engelhardt are now trying to recall Tracy Rosenberg from the local station board. 

Rosenberg saw that KPFA was on a path to a fiscal train wreck and carried out her fiduciary duty as a member of the National Finance Committee in trying to save both KPFA and Pacifica from financial ruin. She also tried to help publicize the new Morning Mix show. Both actions served the interest of KPFA and the Foundation. 

It is understandable that with the political division KPFA has experienced over the past several years that any layoff produces controversy, but we should all remember that the ideals and goals we share are far stronger than our differences. And the people need KPFA and Pacifica more than ever before. 

Arlene Engelhardt and Tracy Rosenberg both helped save KPFA. 

We can all save KPFA together by each of us making a generous donation and working together. Go to www.kpfa.org and make a donation or become a new member.

Amplified Music Permits in Residential Neighborhoods Produce Amplified Problems for Neighbors

By Cynthia Hallock
Tuesday August 16, 2011 - 10:11:00 PM

I think the public is unaware that the City of Berkeley is profiting by issuing amplified outdoor music permits for large annual private parties in R1 residential areas, even if the neighbors in closest proximity object. 

The public health staff is responsible for monitoring the sound levels at these parties but are closed on weekends and have nothing to do with these noisy events that they are encouraging. They take no responsibility for damages to neighbors cars, property, or supervising underage drinking, parking issues, etc. Party hosts are also not required to notify or get permission from the victimized neighborhood residents. 

I live in the very dense San Pablo Park neighborhood. Even though the park is right around the corner from the proposed annual private party at 1308 Derby Street (for this coming Saturday, August 20th, from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm.), they are not utilizing the more appropriate park location. I am very concerned when these large scale amplified events are taking place in the residential neighborhoods. 

To make matters worse, home sellers are required by law to disclose chronic noise nuisances, which lower our property values.The city just hosted the sound amplified Olympic Day at San Pablo Park on the 4th which is approximately two weeks apart from my neighbors event. There seams to be no limit as to how many of these amplified sound permits the city can issue. 

I think it's time for the silent majority of Berkeley residents to speak up against permits for large, loud, private parties in single family neighborhoods, before the city makes the quiet enjoyment of our homes on a sunny day, a thing of the past. 

This letter was sent to Manuel M. Ramirez, Director, Environmental Health, and Eric Brenman, Secretary, Peace and Justice Commission, Department of Health Services, City of Berkeley:  

To: Manuel M. Ramirez and Eric Brenman 

Re: Amplified music permits in residential neighborhoods produce amplified problems for neighbors 

As a long time Berkeley resident, I value the quality of life in our neighborhoods and want to protect it. 

I am writing this to you because I am objecting to having my neighbor, Robert Harbin aka -"Red", (directly across the street from me @ 1308 Derby Street), be issued an amplified music permit for his annual private outdoor party, (Saturday August 20th), this year, because of the noise and the size of the crowd it attracts to our very dense R1 residential area. 

Not only was the noise level of last years party just too much, but the city is overlooking the fact that the San Pablo park is only 50 feet away. Is there any reason that this event can not take place in one of our city parks? Especially, when San Pablo park is right around the corner from us. 

I understand that the city's public health staff have discretion in measuring sound levels and responding to noise complaints. I also understand that they are boosting city revenues by issuing amplified music permits in residential neighborhoods. Environmental Health has a lot of freedom but do they have a right to excuse our R1 "quiet enjoyment" noise ordinances for parties for profit? I believe this permit process is tipped in favor of applicants instead of protecting the rights of close proximity residents. 

Amplified music permits are not good for the community and neighborly relations. What value is it to the neighbors to host an individuals private party? 

My experience is that amplified music permits are actually promoting loud, unruly public nuisance gatherings. They hamper our quality of life by bringing noise, trash, parking issues and congestion to the area. If the neighbors custom and practice is to have loud parties then it is our legal duty as home owners to disclose this fact when we sell. Loud parties decrease our home values in an already depressed market. 

Who is going to measure sound decibels and respond to complaints for the noise ordinance to be enforced? Weekend events are enforced by the police department as the environmental health offices are closed. But ironically the police department are not issued noise meters. It is the city's staff responsibility to mitigate the neighbors problems, but at the time of a weekend event they don't have anything to do with it. 

Do you think the current procedure of calling the police to report excessive noise or suggesting one neighbor sue the other is a way to create a harmonious neighborhood or does it just jeopardize our relationship as a community? 

Another fact that should be considered is the frequency of loud, heavily attended events in the San Pablo Park neighborhood during good weather. 

While I am in favor of community events at the park, I am very concerned when these popular amplified events are taking place in the residential neighborhoods. 

San Pablo Park Events: 9th Annual Summer Kick Off and Bike Rodeo - on Saturday, May 7th from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 pm Olympic Day - on August 4 from 10 am to 2:30 pm Martial Arts Tournament - on September 24 from 9 am to 4:00 pm 

Now my neighbor wants to move the same kind of highly attended, yearly events to our residential neighborhood. Saturday, August 20th is another one of our best weather days added to the annual list of must have loud amplified events approximately two weeks after the city's big, Olympic Day. This is unconscionable as it makes our neighborhood less livable. 

In conclusion, we need to balance our community life with our quality of life. Encouraging an annual loud private party constitutes a chronic nuisance that negatively impacts the value of the properties immediately adjacent. It is a detriment to the health, safety, peace, morals, comfort and general welfare of the neighborhood. Please consider the good of the entire community and work towards solutions that ENHANCE the San Pablo Park neighborhood. 

If this permit is to be issued, please move the event to a more appropriate location. If it is for the neighborhood's benefit as claimed, then why is it not taking place at San Pablo Park, which is easier to monitor and more equipped to accommodate the quantity of people, parking and noise level? 

Thank you for your attention to this matter and please route to applicable departments. 


Cynthia Hallock

UC Planning Students Express Their Opinions on Berkeley Issues

Tuesday August 16, 2011 - 10:01:00 PM

Editor’s Note: These opinion essays were written as a class assignment in U.C. Berkeley’s City Planning 110, taught by Ricardo G. Huerta Nino, a graduate student at the Goldman School of Public Policy. They are published as submitted to the Planet by the authors, who are undergraduates at UCB.  


“To [tea] or not to [tea]: this is the question.” While this line is not exactly how William Shakespeare envision the beginning of one of his most famous soliloquy to be used, it is precisely applicable to the discussion the city council had last month, as the A’cuppa Tea owners filed a request for a conditional use permit in order to move into a vacant store slot in the Elmwood Business District, originally zoned for personal and household services. After a long and tedious discussion, the city council upheld the pervious ruling that the Zoning Adjustment Board had approved, and they granted a conditional use permit that rezone the vacant storefront into a quick service restaurant.  

Given that the basic goal of a conditional use permit is to permit a full range of land uses required for a community to function, the Zoning Adjustment Board, and subsequently the city council, reached a decision without considering the Elmwood neighborhood’s best interest. By doing so, they failed to properly consider whether A’cuppa Tea had any significant neighborhood or local merchant backing to approve the project, and they overlooked the domination that would be created by one type of use, quick service restaurants, in the district.  

In order for a conditional use permit on a property to be considered, it must have public support within the community. Meaning that if an owner cannot show that they have attained a significant amount of support within a neighborhood, they are seldom granted a permit. This case is no different as the owners failed to contact, much less gain the approval of, the Elmwood Merchants Association or the Claremont Elmwood Neighborhood Association, two of the largest and most influential groups within this community. Instead, the owners took the backdoor approach of gathering petition signatures from thier existing costumers, and later, they claimed that since their existing establishment, located two blocks away just outside the Elmwood community, was near the proposed move that those same costumers would still frequent their business. While in theory this may be true, it still doesn’t overshadow that fact that the majority of the Elmwood neighborhood was, and still is, clearly against this move.  

Additionally, the Zoning Board was a bit careless in its attempts to fill empty storefronts that it discounted certain factors that could potentially by detrimental to the community. It completely ignored established quotas within the Elmwood Business District that would prevent the domination of a certain type of use. With six existing coffee/tea shop within the two-block radius, the addition of another shop serving the same function makes no sense at all. The threat of an over saturation of competition should really not be overlooked, as it has the potential to undercut surrounding shop’s profit due to the limited clientele. It is for this reason precisely why quotas in the district are in place, and why they must be enforced. This became extremely apparent in the recent relocation of the Far Leaves Tea shop out of the Elmwood community. If business of the same function as A’cuppa Tea leaving the area isn’t a clear indication that the need for another shop is extremely unnecessary, then what is? What is it going to take for the city council to realize the mistake they made? Will it take one or two cafés to relocate or file bankruptcy in order for the city council to acknowledge their error?  

While allowing a teashop now might seem like not a significant issue, this ruling could potentially lead to a waterfall of more similar use permit issuance that would transform this local business district to a one-dimensional use district, leading to the demise of a perfectly functional community. Surely, if it were up to the Elmwood neighborhood, there is no question that they would choose the latter option of the opening quote, “not to tea.”  


——Jorge Covarrubias  


Berkeley’s general plan outlines seven main goals that serve as guidelines for public decision making. In this brief outline, the general plan calls for many things; however, not many are mentioned twice – the call for Berkeley to be disaster ready is. Berkeley’s unfortunate location right next to the Hayward fault and unfortunate soil stratigraphy is, simply put, a disaster just waiting to happen. The way in which the Berkeley general plan mentions earthquakes and the risks involved are outrageously outdated.  

The most recent study by the USGS predicting the probabilities of a large magnitude, above 6.7, earthquake in the Bay Area was done in 2008. The study revealed that the probability of an earthquake of 6.7 magnitude or larger is 63% over the next 30 years – with a 31% chance of that earthquake happening on the Hayward fault. Not so great for Berkeley. In addition to the high probability of a large earthquake in the region and the direct damage caused by the shaking, there is also the issue of liquefaction – essentially the complete loss of strength in soil. The USGS released a map detailing the liquefaction susceptibility of soil in the Bay Area on a scale of very low to very high. Coincidentally, Berkeley is in the very high or high zones.  

As a undergraduate at UC Berkeley pursuing a degree in civil engineering, I have noticed a few things that don’t mesh well with those probabilities. In my 3 years of living in Berkeley near the UC Berkeley campus, I have noticed a good number of signs warning residents that the buildings they live in are not earthquake safe. Should they even be allowed to rent out rooms in a building like that? What good does it do to inform renters about a potentially life threatening issue and then do nothing to remedy it? Things like the signs are fairly obvious, but there are also plenty of structurally unsound designs in many other buildings around campus. For instance, my apartment building doesn’t have a sign warning me about its inability to survive an earthquake but I still wouldn’t expect it to stand. Due to our proximity to the Hayward fault, you can expect the strongest waves to come off in the North-South direction. My building has a giant parking lot on the first floor so it starts out with a lower shear strength capacity than a regular building. Then of course – for the two walls that would resist the earthquake motion – they put a large garage door in one, and another entrance in the other further reducing the already low shear strength. Not the best from a structural standpoint.  

Recently, advances in civil engineering have allowed us to be able to design for earthquakes in the USGS predicted range; however, it is definitely a valid argument that these retrofits are not cheap. It would be impossible to force seismic retrofits on every building in the city of Berkeley; instead information about the expected seismic performance of buildings as well as the studies done by the USGS should be made publicly available. The residents should be allowed to make an informed decision as to whether the benefits of a seismic retrofit outweigh the risks. Of course there are repercussions to simply informing people that their residences are not seismically safe. Robert Seed, a professor in geotechnical engineering at UC Berkeley, loves to bring up the question whether or not he should go up to people and inform them that their house will collapse in an earthquake. He doesn’t. His reason is that people would rather sue him for lowering their property values than thank him for the warning. Is this the type of city we want Berkeley to be? Nowhere in the general plan does the Berkeley general plan mention retaining high property values. That’s an issue of private property rights. But are those private property rights equivalent to the significant damages and loss of life that would be caused during an earthquake? Likely not.  


Berkeley’s general plan outlines seven main goals that serve as guidelines for public decision making. In this brief outline, the general plan calls for many things; however, not many are mentioned twice – the call for Berkeley to be disaster ready is. Berkeley’s unfortunate location right next to the Hayward fault and unfortunate soil stratigraphy is, simply put, a disaster just waiting to happen. The way in which the Berkeley general plan mentions earthquakes and the risks involved are outrageously outdated.  

The most recent study by the USGS predicting the probabilities of a large magnitude, above 6.7, earthquake in the Bay Area was done in 2008. The study revealed that the probability of an earthquake of 6.7 magnitude or larger is 63% over the next 30 years – with a 31% chance of that earthquake happening on the Hayward fault. Not so great for Berkeley. In addition to the high probability of a large earthquake in the region and the direct damage caused by the shaking, there is also the issue of liquefaction – essentially the complete loss of strength in soil. The USGS released a map detailing the liquefaction susceptibility of soil in the Bay Area on a scale of very low to very high. Coincidentally, Berkeley is in the very high or high zones.  

As a undergraduate at UC Berkeley pursuing a degree in civil engineering, I have noticed a few things that don’t mesh well with those probabilities. In my 3 years of living in Berkeley near the UC Berkeley campus, I have noticed a good number of signs warning residents that the buildings they live in are not earthquake safe. Should they even be allowed to rent out rooms in a building like that? What good does it do to inform renters about a potentially life threatening issue and then do nothing to remedy it? Things like the signs are fairly obvious, but there are also plenty of structurally unsound designs in many other buildings around campus. For instance, my apartment building doesn’t have a sign warning me about its inability to survive an earthquake but I still wouldn’t expect it to stand. Due to our proximity to the Hayward fault, you can expect the strongest waves to come off in the North-South direction. My building has a giant parking lot on the first floor so it starts out with a lower shear strength capacity than a regular building. Then of course – for the two walls that would resist the earthquake motion – they put a large garage door in one, and another entrance in the other further reducing the already low shear strength. Not the best from a structural standpoint.  

Recently, advances in civil engineering have allowed us to be able to design for earthquakes in the USGS predicted range; however, it is definitely a valid argument that these retrofits are not cheap. It would be impossible to force seismic retrofits on every building in the city of Berkeley; instead information about the expected seismic performance of buildings as well as the studies done by the USGS should be made publicly available. The residents should be allowed to make an informed decision as to whether the benefits of a seismic retrofit outweigh the risks. Of course there are repercussions to simply informing people that their residences are not seismically safe. Robert Seed, a professor in geotechnical engineering at UC Berkeley, loves to bring up the question whether or not he should go up to people and inform them that their house will collapse in an earthquake. He doesn’t. His reason is that people would rather sue him for lowering their property values than thank him for the warning. Is this the type of city we want Berkeley to be? Nowhere in the general plan does the Berkeley general plan mention retaining high property values. That’s an issue of private property rights. But are those private property rights equivalent to the significant damages and loss of life that would be caused during an earthquake? Likely not.  

—Forrest Zhang  


Being a resident of Berkeley, I note that the introduction of a new “lifestyle” store by Safeway arouses wide concern. Some people welcome the program with applause; others strongly oppose it, so this issue should be well taken into consideration from different perspectives.  

The Drive-In Culture and Suburban Business Model  

In the plan, Safeway will demolish their existing store and adjacent gas station at 6310 College Avenue at Rockridge Community and will be replaced by a new “lifestyle” store, which includes a two-storey structure, with ground-floor retail spaces, a restaurant and a parking garage.  

The creation of drive-in culture and the rise of suburbanization in the United States are inextricable. Suburban communities were established as early as the late 19th century and grew rapidly during the post-war period. Throughout the history, the government has made auto-oriented suburbs possible through different policies and tools, such as the highway system, education system and the federal housing loans, zoning and traffic engineering. Not surprisingly, merchants soon adapted to the suburban shift and created a unique suburban business model. The supermarket chains later were engaged in place-making behavior of their own.  

Feasibility of the Model?  

Nowadays, supermarkets in the United States has an iconic image of a large lot located away from the city center and comprised of an enormous one-storey square building surrounded by tons of parking space. Motor vehicles restructured the everyday life of all Americans. Supermarkets that we understand today, were created in a suburb, and hence inherit suburban characteristics.  

Then it comes to the question: is the suburban (business) model feasible and practical throughout the States? In respect of the new plan of Safeway, most opponents express their worries about its size and scale, and criticize that this suburban (business) model should not be applied in an urban setting, like Rockridge Community.  

As a matter of fact, people in Alameda County still heavily depend on motorized vehicles for their livelihood. In order to ensure Safeway’s business success, it is understandably that Safeway applies their “suburban” business model into Oakland. Geographically, the Rockridge Community is located at the border of City of Berkeley and City of Oakland. It is a unique community, which characterizes by a mixture of urban and suburban settings. At one side of the community, the residential area towards to hillside resembled a suburban living, while the residential area toward downtown direction is an urban mixed-used setting surrounded by public-transit networks. In the light of two settings, Safeway will need to strike a balance between the two settings.  

Safeway’s effort in fitting into the Rockridge Community  

In 2009, Safeway first introduced its plan, however, it was “widely criticized for an unimaginative suburban design.” It seems that the plan was impracticable and ironic.  

Based on the business model of suburban setting, Safeway modified its plan and comes back in July 2011 with a new design. Here are some of Safeway’s major changes:  

(a) Provision of parking areas  

AlamedaCountyhas a heavy reliance on private motorized vehicle. According to US Census 2000, over 80% of the workers at 16 years and over go to work by car, truck, or van. Some residents criticized about the insufficiency of the parking space, as there is a shortage of parking spaces in the existing parking structure.  

In view of this, the Safeway modified its suburban business model and provide underground parking garage instead of huge parking lots, to fit into a more urban community. That means the structure can accommodate more drivers while making room for other things, including more and higher-quality open spaces. Parking garages is always good because they can keep cars cool in the summer and dry when it rains or snows.  

(b) Improvement of local transportation network  

To ease the problem of clogged roads and to improve transportation option, Safeway takes initiatives to mingle into the Rockridge Community and works with local authorities to improve the local transportation network. For example, (1) the 51 bus lane will be improved by adding bus bulb-out, bus shelter and additional nearby seating; (2) Increasing area’s pedestrian and bicycle network through measures adding pedestrian bulb-out and various bicycle facilities.  

Obviously, building up a new structure of the suburban business model by Safeway is one of the changes to the way of life at the Rockridge Community. People hold different attitudes towards the changes.  

To further decrease motor traffic, Safeway is attempting to provide offering commuter benefits for employees and other incentives to encourage public transportation.  

Upon the modification of the plan, Safeway make efforts to mingle into the community. If done well, the new model can serve the community that provides parking spaces and improve the transportation network within the Rockridge Community.  

From the opinion stated above, I think the pros outweigh the cons. I support this Safeway’s plan.  

—June Lai  

Why We Should Support the Rockridge Safeway Plan  


Our President once said, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time.”  

I am a City and Regional Planning student at UC Berkeley, as well as a loyal customer of the Rockridge Safeway store. Safeway is currently seeking to redevelop the store to a three-story structure, including an expanded Safeway store with a greater variety of merchandize, a retail-lined walk-street, a roof top garden, restaurants and underground parking. Vocal neighbors have been complaining about the plan; but I don’t see their point.  

The enlarged store and added businesses will serve current customers better while attracting new customers. Research findings indicate a very low Retail Food Environment Index in Oakland. In other words, citizens have to either travel a long distance for a grocery chain or purchase their food at a higher price and lower variety at local markets. The new Safeway, apart from adding merchandize choices to current departments, will introduce bakery, pharmacy, and service meat, and seafood departments.  

Critics blame the greater variety for competing with local stores, but who would resist against a lower price with more choices brought by a grocery chain? What’s more, in our market-based economy, whoever can please customers wins. Why should we sacrifice customer’s needs just because of the few corner stores?  

The redeveloped site will bring more revenue to our money-thirsty city not at the expense of citizens. With only 9% of the general fund revenue of Oakland sales tax revenue, the problem of retail leakage in Oakland has been jeopardizing the city budget as Oakland citizens travel to other cities, like Emeryville, for shopping. For example, although Emeryville has only 1/40 of Oakland’s population, it receives 1/10 of Oakland’s sales tax revenue. Apart from benefitting the community by employment, a mouth-watering $350,000 increase in property tax and a $52,000 increase in sales tax will go to the city of Oakland.  

The project has received criticism regarding its huge size, yet smaller size means less tax revenue to the city. This may not be appealing to everyone, but more revenue means more spending on public services and infrastructures. The city will have the foundation to recruit more police officers to fight crime, renovate the old public schools for our kids, and repave the bumpy roads that everyone drives on. Why should we sacrifice Oakland citizens’ needs just because of its larger size on the same site? Might want to finish with a statement of what you’re trying to say instead of asking a question.  

The project helps develop Rockridge as a regional center with ideas of Smart Growth, the adaptive city theory as well as sustainable development principles, which city planners and environmentalists highly anticipate. The construction of ground-level retail shops facing the street and underground parking with minimal driveway cuts will make the new site very pedestrian friendly. While the site has close proximity to Rockridge BART and major bus lines, the new urban design will also offer a nice walk from BART to Safeway with the help of current pedestrian-friendly design along College Avenue.  

These conforms with Smart Growth and adaptive city theory, which advocates compact and transit-oriented development, as well as the adaptive city theory, which advocate compact pedestrian-friendly environments, with the urban design elements like benches and bus shelters, to be built next to a railway station. What’s more, the utilization of natural light, energy efficient appliances, as well as the “oasis” – the roof top garden – respond to principles of sustainable development as well in our current world that loves being green.  

Some critics see traffic congestion as a major problem of the site. However, Safeway is already applying contemporary city planning principles that advocate walking and transit use. As a matter of responsibility, we should blame the city of Berkeley and Oakland for applying excessive traffic calming measures on most streets and Caltrans for not expanding Ashby Avenue, instead of blaming a business that have no right to alter road infrastructures. Why should we sacrifice possibly the East Bay’s needs for a regional center just because of a few more cars?  

I see the Safeway plan as a benefit for customers, a resource for the city, and an invigoration for city planners and our future. Similar plans like the North Berkeley Safeway redevelopment plan has already passed. Why are we still resistant to new changes without looking further?  

Changes make you wise. I believe all of us are too.  

—Ming Kit Cheung  

I am writing today to argue that bicycles should be charged for using the road in Berkeley. I am not trying to price bicycles off the road. I am merely suggesting that planners and bicycle advocacy groups take a rational and quantitative approach on what kind of bicycle access Berkeley is to allow, and how the cost of doing so should be borne. The approach I suggest is based on the idea of opportunity cost – where bicycles are a car could be – and the idea that pricing should be based on the amount of space a bicycle or car takes up on the road. This idea of opportunity cost follows in the history of planning as optimization, where the objective is to maximize the total social welfare and equity between different groups.  

Bicyclists, through their use of the road, have a responsibility to foot some of the costs of using the road, as do motorists, and pedestrians – yes, pedestrians. Roads must be financed, and although this comes from the city in a general sense, motorists are responsible for footing part of the cost. Pedestrians indirectly pay for roads through sales taxes and property taxes that everyone pays. Cars foot numerous taxes for the right to be on the road. The Vehicle License Free can be viewed as a property tax on vehicles and is based on the value of the vehicle when acquired. (California DMV). It goes towards the cities and counties and is deposited in the Local Safety and Protection Account, Local Revenue Account or the Motor Vehicle License Fee Account in the Transportation Tax fund. Motorists also pay a use tax, generally assessed at the same rate as sales tax in the registered owner’s county of residence. VLF is set at 1.15 percent and in the state of California, use tax comes to 9.25%. On an low end car with base cost $20,000, this amounts to more than $2000 in taxes.  

Cyclists may point out they are happy to pay the same tax on the value of their bicycle, not a car. However, consider again the argument of opportunity cost, what replaces a bicycle is a car.  

Making bicycles pay for using the road may seem absurd – they are small and portable, and are merely sharing roads temporarily with cars. But think about it – whenever we add a bike lane, whenever we allow bicycles into the traffic, we are really taking away space from cars. Bicycles gain while cars lose.  

But what if we really want more bicycles on the road? Bicycles have positive externalities – they encourage a healthy lifestyle and have zero emissions.  

Bicycles have positive externalities and these social benefits should be taken into account in the pricing. But there should be a systematic way of assigning a price to these benefits. One way of deciding how much to money to attribute to the increase in fitness from riding a bicycle is to look at the savings in Medicare for a person who cycles regularly. Also, to increase bicycle usage and foster a less car-dependent culture, tax rebates or monetary incentives can be given to bicyclists.  

Note that it would be unfair to give bicycles money for not causing emissions. The cost of environmental pollution is priced into the tax on gasoline, not the road tax. This makes sense because emissions are proportional to gasoline usage. I say that environmental pollution is priced into the tax on gasoline because the road taxes are going to the Local Transportation Fund and do not seem like an environmental pollution charge. If the cost of pollution has been partially included in road tax, then bicycles are not responsible for that portion of the charge.  

What about cyclists who already own a car? I argue that they should not be made to apy extra because, because the opportunity cost of taking their car is taking their bike. They have already paid for the right to be on the road. If they could simultaneously take both their car and bike on the road, then they ought to pay extra.  

This idea of charging bicycles is not crazy. Recent years have seen the idea of charging bicyclists some kind of registration fee being floated by various lawmakers. Paula Reeves of the state Department of Transportation said that transportation officials have been requested by legislators to look into the idea of establishing such a program,  

But attempts to levy charges on bicyclists have traditionally met with much opposition. See New Jersey, where even a $10 registration charge was met with great resistance from bicycle advocacy groups and eventually disbanded. However, one place it does work is UC Davis, where there are 15,000 to 20,000 bikes on campus daily. Mandatory registration at $8 "works for us. I think it's a valuable tool to manage a large number of bicycles," said David Takemoto-Weerts, bicycle program coordinator at the University of California-Davis. Perhaps we should take a leaf out of UC Davis’ book.  

It may seem as though I am advocating pricing bicycles out of the road. I am not. Cyclists should be given rebates for the positive externalities they create. Cities are more than entitled to additional rebates to achieve a desired level of bicycle usage. Thus far the discussion of bicycle usage has been simply a clashing of opinions and rights. John Forester, in his article “Bounded Rationality and the Politics of Muddling Through”, characterizes such a problem as due to actors in different groups (cyclists, motorists, city officials) having different allegiances, loyalties and interests of their own. Under these circumstances, he recommends that parties bargain with each other and adjust policies incrementally. Although I foresee a lot of opposition, this pricing plan is a first step towards a rational discussion of what areas to bargain on, and I hope that through this dialogue we may reach a conclusion.  


—Joanne Chiew

President Obama's Lack of an Energy Policy

By Jack Bragen
Wednesday August 17, 2011 - 12:31:00 PM

It is frustrating to watch President Obama floundering in office, when he could be taking some simple steps to make his presidency a better one; in the process it would also make life better for most people. Obama went into office with the promise of hope. Do you remember the T-shirt logo of his profile with the word “hope” underneath? 

Hope would be an energy policy which would change the course we are on as a country. If we created a massive program to put solar energy cells on top of every building that gets exposed to sunlight, imagine the number of jobs that would be created in manufacturing. The second part of this is to create a massive subsidy of electric cars. 

By doing these two things, we could stop using oil from the Middle East, and we would no longer need to have an expensive military presence there. The money we currently fork over for all the oil we’re purchasing could be used for other things. The strain on the economy created by paying for these expensive wars would cease. The issue of global warming would finally begin to be dealt with. 

The rationale at present for not enacting a massive solar program is apparently that solar cells and electric cars are both fairly expensive. Nuclear power is another very expensive way to produce electricity, yet that is being promoted as a major part of the solution. This is despite the fact that we may still not have a good way to dispose of the spent fuel rods. The difference, I believe, is that you can charge money for the electricity generated by atomic energy, while in the case of solar, if it is being generated on one’s own rooftop, it would be hard for the massive energy companies to profit from it. And I believe that’s why my suggestion of “solarizing” the country will never be followed. 

Way back in 1976, Jimmy Carter believed that it was a priority that we end our dependence on foreign oil. This message is apparently being suppressed by the news media. Imagine the position we would be in, had we heeded Carter’s message. 

Rather than the US being destroyed in some massive holocaust, we are being nickeled and dimed to death. It is still an inconvenient truth that we are headed for a substantial climatic change if we continue relying on fossil fuels. And what is the president doing about this? He has put in place higher requirements for fuel economy of cars. However, this is not as bold of a change as is needed. 

I still believe we would have been better off with Hillary Clinton in office. I hope she resigns from the Obama administration and runs against Obama in the primary once again. The truth doesn’t disappear in the process of hiding or obfuscating it. 

I question whether at present the office of President of the United States is truly autonomous or if it is largely being controlled by corporate, money, and power interests that drown out any of the needs of the general public. President Obama is not representing the needs of the people, except for those people who have the most money. He could be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I do not perceive his performance as being much better than that of the previous horrendous character.


Shadow Warriors: Movin’ On Up

By Conn Hallinan
Wednesday August 17, 2011 - 01:23:00 PM

For decades the U.S. military has waged clandestine war on virtually every continent on the globe, but, for the first time, high-ranking Special Operations Forces (SOF) officers are moving out of the shadows and into the command mainstream. Their emergence suggests the U.S. is embarking on a military sea change that will replace massive deployments, like Iraq and Afghanistan, with stealthy night raids, secret assassinations, and death-dealing drones. Its implications for civilian control of foreign policy promises to be profound. 

Early this month, Vice Adm. Robert Harward—a former commander of the SEALs—the Navy’s elite SOF that recently killed al-Qaeda leader Osma bin Laden—was appointed deputy commander of Central Command, the military region that embraces the Middle East and Central Asia. Another SEAL commander, Vice Adm. Joseph Kernan, took over the number two spot in Southern Command, which covers Latin America and the Caribbean. 

The Obama Administration has been particularly enamored of SOFs, and, according to reporters Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post, is in the process of doubling the number of countries where such units are active from 60 to 120. U.S. Special Operations Command spokesman Col. Tim Nye told Nick Turse of Salon that SOF forces would soon be deployed in 60 percent of the world’s nations: “We do a lot of traveling.” 

Indeed they do. U.S. Special Operations Command (SOC) admits to having forces in virtually every country in the Middle East, Central Asia, as well as many in Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America. But true to its penchant for secrecy, SOC is reluctant to disclose every country to which its forces are deployed. “We’re obviously going to have some places where it’s not advantageous for us to list where were at,” Nye told Turse. 

SOF forces have almost doubled in the past two decades, from some 37,000 to close to 60,000, and major increases are planned in the future. Their budget has jumped from $2.3 billion to $9.8 billion over the last 10 years 

These Special Forces include the Navy’s SEALs, the Marines Special Operations teams, the Army’s Delta Force, the Air Force’s Blue Light and Air Commandos, plus Rangers and Green Berets. There is also the CIA, which runs the clandestine drone war in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. 

It is increasingly difficult to distinguish civilian from military operatives. Leon Panetta, former director of the CIA, is now Defense Secretary, while Afghanistan commander Gen. David Petraeus—an expert on counterinsurgency and counter terror operations—is taking over the CIA. Both have worked closely with SOF units, particularly Petraeus, who vastly increased the number of “night raids” in Iraq and Afghanistan. The raids are aimed at decapitating insurgent leadership, but have caused widespread outrage in both countries. 

The raids are based on intelligence that many times comes from local warlords trying to eliminate their enemies or competition. And, since the raids are carried out under a cloak of secrecy, it is almost impossible to investigate them when things go wrong. 

A recent CIA analysis of civilian casualties from the organization’s drone war in Pakistan contends that attacks since May 2010 have killed more than 600 insurgents and not a single civilian. But a report by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism at City University in Londonfound “credible evidence” that at least 45 non-combatants were killed during this period. Pakistani figures are far higher. 

Those higher numbers, according to Dennis C. Blair, retired admiral and director of national intelligence from 2009 to 2010, “are widely believed [in Pakistan] and, Blair points out, “our reliance on high-tech strikes that pose no risk to our soldiers is bitterly resented.” 

Rather than re-examining the policy of night raids and the use of armed drones, however, those tactics are being expanded to places like Yemen, Somalia, and Libya. The question is, who’s next? 

Latin Americais one candidate. 

A recent WikiLeak release demonstrates that there was close coordination between right wing, separatist groups in eastern Bolivia—where much of that country’s natural gas reserves are located—and the U.S. Embassy. The cables indicate that the U.S. Embassy met with dissident generals, who agreed to stand aside in case of a right-wing coup against the left-leaning government of Evo Morales. The coup was thwarted, but Bolivia expelled American Ambassador Philip Goldberg over U.S. meddling in its domestic politics. 

The U.S. has a long and sordid history of supporting Latin American coups—at times engineering them— and many in the region are tense over the recent re-establishment of the U.S. Fourth Fleet. The latter, a Cold War artifact, will patrol 30 countries in the region. Given the Obama administration’s support for the post-2009 coup government in Honduras, its ongoing hostility to the Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, and now the WikiLeak revelations about Bolivia, the idea of appointing a “shadow warrior” the number two leader in South Command is likely to concern governments in the region. 

SOFs have become almost a parallel military. In 2002, Special Operations were given the right to create their own task forces, separate from military formations like Central and Southern Command. In 2011 they got the okay to control their budgets, training and equipment, independent of the departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. If one reaches for an historical analogy, the Praetorian Guard of Rome’s emperors comes to mind. 

There is a cult-like quality about SOFs that the media and Hollywood has done much to nurture: Special Forces are tough, independent, competent and virtually indestructible. The gushy New Yorker magazine story about SEAL Team Six, “Getting Bin Laden,” is a case in point. According to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, the story will be made into a movie-for-TV and released just before the 2012 elections. 

There is a telling moment in that story that captures the combination of bravado and arrogance that permeates SOF units. An unidentified “senior Defense Department official” told author Nicholas Schmidle that the bin Laden mission was just “one of almost two thousand missions that have been conducted over the last couple of years, night after night.” And then adds that these raids were routine, no big thing, “like mowing the lawn.” 

But war is never like “mowing the lawn,” as 38 American and Afghan SOFs found out the night of Aug. 6 when their U.S. CH-47 “Chinook” helicopter flew into a carefully laid ambush just south of the Afghan capital of Kabul. 

“It was a trap that was set by a Taliban commander,” a “senior Afghan government official” told Agence France Presse. According to the official, the Taliban commander, Qari Tahir, put out a phony story that a Taliban meeting was taking place. When Army Rangers went in to attack the “meeting,” they found the Taliban dug in and waiting. Within minutes the Rangers were pinned down and forced to send for help. 

The Taliban had spent several years practicing for just such an event in the Korengal Valley that borders Pakistan. According to a 2009 Washington Post story—“Taliban Surprising U.S. Forces With Improved Tactics”—the Valley is a training ground to learn how to gauge the response time for U.S. artillery, air strikes and helicopter assaults. “They know exactly how long it takes before…they have to break contact and pull back,” a Pentagon officer told the Post

“The Taliban knew which route the helicopter would take,” said the Afghan official, because “that is the only route, so they took position on either side of the valley on mountains and as the helicopter approached, they attacked it with rockets.” According to Wired, the insurgents apparently used an “improvised rocket-assisted rocket,” essentially a rocket-propelled grenade with a bigger warhead. 

As soon as the chopper was down, the Taliban broke off the attack and vanished. According to the U.S., many of those Taliban were later killed in a bombing raid, but believing what the military says these days about Afghanistan is a profound leap of faith. 

SOFs are not invulnerable, nor are they a solution to the dangerous world we live in. And the qualities that make them effective— stealth and secrecy—are in fundamental conflict with a civilian controlled armed forces, one of the cornerstones of our democracy. 

As Adm. Eric Olson, former head of Special Operations, recently said at the Aspen Institute’s Security Forum, having Special Forces in 120 countries “depends on our ability to not talk about it,” and what the military most wanted was “to get back into the shadows.” 

Which is precisely the problem.

The Public Eye: One, Two, Three, What Are Liberals Fighting For?

By Bob Burnett
Tuesday August 16, 2011 - 01:32:00 PM

These are hard times. The weather’s bad and the economy awful. Obama has lost his mojo and 14 million Americans are unemployed. Many Liberals are discouraged and fearful about the 2012 election. But there’s plenty of time to reenergize, so long as Liberals remember who we are and what we are fighting for. 

Liberals are the largest group of registered voters. The most recent Pew Research poll on political preference indicates that 16 percent of registered voters are “solid Liberals” who support “across-the-board Liberal positions.” (This compares with 11 percent of registered voters who are “Staunch Conservatives” labeled as “Highly engaged Tea Party supporters.”) 

The Democratic Party has millions more potential voters than does the Republican Party. Pew Research reports that supporters of the Democratic Party are 40 percent of registered voters: solid Liberals – 16 percent, “Hard-pressed Democrats” – 15 percent, and “New Coalition Democrats” – 9 percent. In contrast, Republicans are 25 percent of registered voters: the Tea Party radicals plus 14 percent who are “Main Street Republicans. The Pew poll sees the 2011 US political world as 40 percent Democratic, 35 percent Independent, and 25 percent Democratic. Moreover, 14 percent of Independents are characterized as “Post Moderns,” “Moderates, but Liberal on social issues.” Liberals should be able to mobilize a majority of registered voters – Democrats plus Post Modern Independents. 

Liberals believe the US economy should work for everyone, not just millionaires and billionaires. Our challenge is to get this message across to American voters. 

The 2012 election will feature two dramatically different narratives. The Republican message is: “Government is the problem. Reduce taxes and government and the economy will magically blossom.” Liberals need a strong counter message, such as that of Van Jones’ Rebuild the Dream movement. Rebuild the Dream proposes a new social contract with 10 elements: Invest in America's infrastructure. Create 21st-Century energy jobs. Invest in public education. Offer Medicare for all. Make work pay. Secure Social Security. Return to fairer tax rates. End the wars and invest at home. Tax Wall Street speculation. Strengthen democracy – by ensuring fair elections. 

Liberals care about the welfare of average Americans and staunch conservatives do not. Recently, activist Carl Pope compared Tea Party radicals to the Taliban, “…just as the Taliban, when they took over Afghanistan in 1994, had an agenda entirely disconnected from the welfare of the average Afghan, the dominant strand of conservative thinking in Washington today couldn't care less what happens to the average American.” 

Liberals believe America’s strength is its diversity: E Pluribus Unum, “Out of many, one.” We believe in justice and fair treatment for all Americans, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual preference, or religious affiliation. That differentiates Liberals from staunch conservatives – who are Christian and White – and means that we can form alliances with many groups. 

The Pew Research poll notes a fundamental difference between “solid Liberals” and the other two groups that lean Democratic – “Hard-pressed Democrats” and “New coalition Democrats”: “both of these last two groups are highly religious and socially conservative.” To the extent that cultural issues – such as abortion and homosexuality – dominate political discourse, these groups can be peeled away from the Democratic bloc to vote Republican. In his classic, What’s the Matter With Kansas? journalist Tom Frank detailed how Republicans redirect economic discontent to explosive cultural issues. In 2012, “moral purity” will be a major Republican theme – particularly if messianic Texas Governor Rick Perry becomes the GOP candidate. The Liberal challenge is to ensure that jobs and economic fairness become the dominant political themes, not “How can we make the US a Christian nation?” 

Liberals believe in holding politicians accountable, starting with President Obama. Recently labor organizer Amy Dean observed, “[In 2012] Our role cannot once again be to simply elect the lesser of two evils. It must instead be demanding - as a condition of our enthusiasm, our financial donations and our ground forces in any campaign - a massive investment in jobs.” As the largest group of registered voters, it’s time for Liberals to use our strength to get tough with President Obama and other Democratic politicians. 

In summary, Liberals are the largest group of registered voters. In 2012 we should be able to mobilize a strong majority of voters. Liberals have a strong message: we believe the US economy should work for everyone; we care about the welfare of average Americans. We believe America’s strength is its diversity; we believe in justice and fair treatment for all Americans. These are hard times, but there’s too much at stake for Liberals to wallow in discontent. 

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

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

By Dorothy Bryant
Tuesday August 16, 2011 - 10:11:00 PM

“According to Dr. Bruno Bettelheim, who seems to have an unusual gift for handling autistic children, the cause of ‘autism’ is that the child is convinced . . . that its parents wish it did not exist.”

—copied from A Certain World (1970) the commonplace book of W. H. Auden (1907-1973), famed poet

Mention Bettelheim’s name now, and, at most, you might hear a vague reference to his Freudian (plagiarized) book about fairy tales (that and his other dozen or so other books are no longer to be found at the Berkeley Public Library). No mention of his numberless articles and syndicated newspaper columns advising mothers on how to undo brain damage they had inflicted on their children by unconscious rejection. Certainly, the University of Chicago would not welcome questions about his “Orthogenic” boarding school based there, claiming “cures” for mental disorders that continue to mystify medical/psychiatric authorities. Nor would prestigious foundations want to publish the total in dollars of the many grants they awarded to him. And, please, don’t bother Woody Allen with questions about the cameo appearance of Bettelheim as emblematic psychiatrist in Zelig (1983). 

Bettelheim’s death in 1990 released a tsunami of articles and books exposing his non-existent European degrees and experience (all “lost” as he and other Jews escaped the Nazis); his statistics of falsified results and often brutal “treatment” of children in his “Orthogenic” school; the inflated account of his few pre-war months in a concentration camp before he bought his way out and headed for America—where an Austrian accent went a long way toward enhancing the illusion of therapeutic expertise. 

How did he get away with it for 50 years? And why was he virtually forgotten within a few months of his death? Don’t bother to question the prestigious foundations that gave him huge grants, nor the surviving psychologists and teachers who parroted his theories for so many years. All have suffered mass amnesia—Bruno Who? 

But some of us are old enough to remember the misery of blame he added to the life of a friend or two struggling to care for a child afflicted with the mysterious mental disability called autism. 

Auden’s statement should be read as a warning that a clever con man can fool even the best minds of a century. 

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

Eclectic Rant:Once Upon A Time in Syria

By Ralph E. Stone
Tuesday August 16, 2011 - 01:17:00 PM

In 1999, we visited Syria as well as Jordan, Israel, and Baalbeck in Lebanon. We arrived in Syria on the eve of the Israeli elections. The majority of Arabs and Israelis probably agreed that the prospects for peace in the region improved immeasurably with the election of Ehud Barak as Israel's prime minister. Even our Syrian guide was cautiously optimistic. Our guide did note that Barak was a highly decorated war hero with the decorations earned at the expense of the Arabs. The deep animosities, however, were palpable. Looking back, peace was not to be. 

While we were in Syria, Hafez al-Assad, a member of the Ba'ath Party, was president. He came to complete power in a bloodless intra-party coup in 1970 and held dictatorial power with a combination of ruthless suppression and guile.  

During our visit, rumors were rampant that Hafez was in poor health and there was concern about who would succeed him. His oldest son Basil was supposedly set to succeed him, but he had died in an automobile accident. At the time of our visit, Bashar, his quiet, eye-doctor son, was seen as the likely successor. Hafez died in 2000, and Bashar did succeed him. 

Bashar's brother, Maher al-Assad, heads the Syrian Army’s elite Fourth Division and Republican Guard, while wielding great influence in Syria's powerful intelligence services 

In February 1982, Hafez ordered the Syrian army to bombard the town of Hama in order to quell a revolt by the Muslim Brotherhood. In what became known as the Hama massacre, an estimated 17,000 to 40,000 people were killed, including about 1,000 soldiers. The attack has been described as among the single deadliest acts by any Arab government against its own people in the modern Middle East. The vast majority of the victims were civilians. In the fifth-month of the present-day uprising, Bashar Assad is now bombarding Hama. Like father, like son. 

Hafez Assad's image was everywhere. You couldn't turn around without seeing his photo or a statue of him. Many Syrians had his photo hanging in their cars. His image was stenciled on bridges and overpasses. Oftentimes, you would see photos of Assad, his dead son Basil, and Bashar together. Syrians jokingly -- quietly of course -- referred to them as the Syrian trinity -- father, son, and holy ghost. 

Syria was and still is, relatively prosperous. It has large fertile areas vigorously farmed. The stores were fully stocked with consumer goods. Fresh fruit and vegetable stands were evident. At that time, Syria had recently discovered oil. We saw much construction around the country. The roads were well-maintained. We found the people friendly and, except at the borders, saw little signs of police or military. 

We had a very knowledgeable, attentive guide, who majored in American literature, of all things. He answered our questions about the Muslim religion, and regional politics from the Syrian point of view. Our guide was somewhat interested in Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses, which was still a cause célèbre in the Arab world. As you remember, a fatwa was issued against him by Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini for what was perceived as an irreverent depiction of the prophet Muhammad (Mahound in the book). I promised to send him a copy, which I did in a plain brown wrapping. I always wondered whether he got the book and if he did, whether he read it.  

We saw very few Americans in Syria, but the French were everywhere. Remember, Syria was under French control from 1925 until 1936. The few Americans we saw were on so-called Bible tours. 

We saw veiled women in traditional garb, Bedouin women, and women in trendy western clothes. Our Syrian trip took us to Damascus, Homs, Aleppo, and the desert city of Palmyra. Damascus highlights included the Citadel, Omayyad Mosque, mausuleum of Saladin, the main covered market, and St. Paul's chapel (reputedly Paul was lowered out a window in a basket to escape the Jews).  

From Damascus we traveled to Maaloula where villagers still use Aramic, the dialect spoken by Jesus. The Crac des Chevaliers (Castle of the Knights), built by the Crusaders between 1150 and 1250 was spectacular. (Believe it or not, the Arabs didn't think much of the Crusaders.) We visited the covered souks (bazaars) in Aleppo.  

We took an excursion to the Basilica of St. Simon. St. Simon demonstrated his Christian faith by sitting on top of pillars of various heights for 36 years.  

We then visited the desert oasis of Palmyra, the center of a powerful early civilization that controlled all trade between the Roman and Persian worlds. On the way, we stopped at a Bedouin tent/home and visited with the two wives and children.of a shepherd who was off tending his flock.  

My wife even bought a Bedouin dress, which in Syria looked okay on Bedouins, but back home seemed somewhat bizarre to wear except at a costume party. She eventually cut it up and made pillow covers. 

We all know now that Muslims are not all alike. Divisions exist. The power struggle between Ali, the last of the four Companions of Muhammad and his son-in-law, and the Omayyad dynasty in Damascus. Ali lost. Sunnis are the followers of Mu'awiya, the Omayyad leader. The Shiites only recognize the successors of Ali. The Sunnis and Shiites later divided into subgroups of religious thought. Today, Syria's population is 74 percent Sunni Muslim whereas the Assad regime is Alawite, an offshoot of Shiite Islam. The best-armed and best-trained divisions of the Syrian army are Alawite. This adds fire to the current anti-government protests. 

We took a side trip to the Lebanese city of Baalbeck to visit its spectacular Acropolis and temples. Syria had a large contingent of troops in Lebanon. They were evident all along the route to Baalbeck. Baalbeck was also a Hezbollah (Party of God) stronghold, which at the time regularly attacked northern Israel. We stumbled on a Hezbollah exhibit at the Baalbeck site. The exhibit had little diaramas showing Israeli "atrocities" against the Arabs and assorted anti-Israeli literature. We were heartily welcomed by the Hezbellah followers and urged to look at the exhibit. Needless to say, we felt very uncomfortable examining the exhibit and kept quiet throughout the visit.  

Hezbollah received much support from Iran. We saw many photos of the Ayatollah Khomeini along the road to Baalbeck.  

Until our visit, we didn't appreciate how small the countries in that region are. From the top of the Golan Heights, you can see Lebanon and Syria. Syria, Jordan, Israel, Egypt, Turkey, and Iraq are literally short drives from each other. 

Should the House of Assad fall, I wonder what the resulting Syrian government's relations will be with Lebanon, Hezbollah, and Israel.

Where the Birds Are, or Were

By Joe Eaton
Wednesday August 17, 2011 - 07:52:00 AM

Ever-reliable Princeton University Press, which may have one of the best natural-history publishing program in academia, has a new and somewhat different product out: The Atlas of Birds: Diversity, Behavior, and Conservation by Mike Unwin (press.princeton.edu/titles/9416.html.) Not an identification guide, the Atlas is a handsomely packaged compendium of information about birds, from their prehistoric origins to their mixed prospects in the modern world. 

Unwin, a British writer, has done an impressive job of pulling together a great deal of information from disparate sources and structuring it in an accessible way. Novice birders will find it a useful introduction to birdlife; the more experienced should learn a thing or two as well. 

An introductory section covers avian evolution, albeit in a necessarily simplified fashion, and the basic traits of feathers and flight. Then comes a global survey of habitats and species distribution, with double-page maps for endemism and diversity. The most speciose countries, it turns out, are Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Indonesia, all in the 1500-1821 range. The most species-poor include Belarus, Western Sahara, and Kyrgyzstan, each with fewer than 250. China, Madagascar, the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, and New Zealand have the highest proportions of endemic species. Each continent gets its own survey, with Important Bird Areas identified by BirdLife International mapped. 

The taxonomy chapter shows the size and global distribution of each avian order, groups on the level of the waterfowl or the songbirds. Here Unwin reflects recent thinking about the status of oddballs like the hoatzin, sandgrouse, and tropicbirds. That’s followed by a treatment of form, function, and behavior: adaptations for flight and feeding, the senses, courtship and nesting, sociality, migration and other movements. 

There’s a section on avian-human interactions: birds as food sources, pets, hunting partners, feather and guano producers, cultural icons, environmental indicators, nuisances and pests, and, of course, objects of the birder’s desire. Who would have thought the South had a higher percentage of admitted birdwatchers (33) than the West (21)? Note that this is “birdwatchers,” not “birders.” In any case, I suspect Texas and Florida contribute disproportionately to the Southern lead. 

After that, the inevitable depressing part, dealing with extinction, endangerment, and a catalogue of threats: habitat loss, pollution, legal and illegal hunting, the pet trade, competing alien species, commercial fishing, and global warming. (I’d really like to know which 12 species are threatened by renewable-energy development.) That’s balanced by case studies of conservation successes, with profiles of BirdLife International and some of its country-level affiliates, conservation campaigns like the Ramsar Convention on wetlands, species-specific projects, and habitat protection and restoration efforts. 

This is a lot of ground to cover, and it’s generally covered well. The maps, charts, and other graphics are for the most part exemplary, although there’s a caption error in the range map of the house sparrow in the “Alien Invasion” pages. Likewise the illustrations (but why use a Cuban postage stamp to depict the moa? Aren’t Charles R. Knight’s paintings in the public domain by now?) 

Not least, the Atlas is a mother lode of avian trivia. If you want to know the most frequently mentioned birds in Shakespeare’s plays, here’s the list. The dove leads with 60 references, followed by the goose, eagle, crow, and owl; the relatively obscure chough, a personal favorite, gets a respectable 16. Here also is the history of the pigeon post, the geography of the H5N1 bird flu, the chronology of the California condor captive-breeding program, and much more. Well done! 

Senior Power:Keirō no hi

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Tuesday August 16, 2011 - 01:22:00 PM

Japan provides some examples of positive ageism. There’s a national holiday called Respect for the Aged Day… Keirō no hi … celebrated annually to honor elderly citizens. Some social scientists have said that Japan has a gerontocracy in which the elders rule by virtue of their age. This is an exaggeration, but the leaders in business, education, religion, and other institutions do tend to be older. Including elected government officials.  

A national holiday since 1966, Respect for the Aged Day is held on a September Monday, due to the Happy Monday SystemHappī Mandē Seido… Modifications to Japanese law moved a number of national holidays to Mondays, creating three-day weekends for those who have five-day work weeks. Similar legislation in the United States is contained in the Uniform Monday Holiday Act (Pub.L. 90-363).  

In a 1985 publication, an American gerontologist declared that most older people in Japan were respected and honored because of their age. He contended that this respect was evident in several traditional customs, e.g. special seats reserved for the elderly on buses and trains. This is not uncommon abroad, although the degree of enforcement certainly varies! 

Respect for the Aged Day is also a way to honor longevity. Japanese people have always been some of the longest living. But this too is changing as more and more people add meat and other Western foods to their diets. City living may cut lifespan due to pollution and stress. As Japan's society ages and nursing homes become more popular, being old may not be so special.  

Japan’s Respect for the Aged Day is more serious than the United States’ Grandparents’ Day. Neighborhood volunteers distribute free bento boxed lunches to elderly people. Smaller villages hold keirokai shows in which young people and school children prepare dances and songs for a special ceremony. Attendees are treated to lunch, tea, and sweets... In some locations, the keirokai ceremony used to be held for those 60 years old and over, but with so many people over age 60, the qualifying age to attend is now 65. Keirokai is also celebrated in parts of Canada and the United States. 

As Japanese people get older and older, traditions are changing; respect and honor for older persons has been waning as the culture has become more Westernized. The gradual drift away from Japan's once tightly-knit community bonds results in increased isolation. But there is a deep-seated reluctance to interfere in the lives of others, even those living nearby. Lonely elderly are an urgent social problem. Reporter Yuko Takeo has described the need for Japan to prevent the elderly from dying alone. (Reuters, Aug. 3, 2011). Last year, 4.6 million elderly lived alone across Japan; between 2003 and 2010, the number of those who died at home rose 61 percent, from 1,364 to 2,194, according to the Bureau of Social Welfare and Public Health in Tokyo.  

Resentment has been growing against senior power and against the duties of caring for infirm parents, which, in Japan, as everywhere, is largely assigned to women. Most men make limited contributions to family care-giving. The practice of living in extended families, where older members care for children, is less and less common. Concern for the welfare of the elderly has come to the forefront in the aftermath of tsunami and earthquakes. 

Japan has the oldest population in the developed world, with the proportion of people age 65+ exceeding 20 percent in 2005, and projected to rise to 40 percent by 2050.Average life expectancy edged over 81 years in 2008—while fertility remained very low—at just under 1.27 births per woman. According to recent (June 2011) demographic data, almost one quarter of Japanese are age 65+. The demographic imbalance between the active and inactive population is not eased by immigration, which as of 2008, was close to zero. Pension Crediting for Caregivers, long life, low fertility, and minimal immigration place a heavy strain on pension finance, which will increase in the future. 




Only half of seniors aged 65+ have access to public transportation. The National Council on Aging reports that millions of seniors struggle to find a way to get to doctors’ appointments, the grocery store, and their local senior center. More than half of all non-drivers aged 65+ remain at home because they lack transportation options. 21% of persons aged 65+ do not drive; that number increases to 40% among Hispanic, African American, and Asian seniors. 

CalPERS (California Public Employees Retirement System) has reviewed 2,250 retirement payments and determined that 329, including those of former Bell officials Robert Rizzo and Angela Spaccia, need to be cut. 

Ninety-eight year old Sensei Keiko Fukudaof San Francisco has become the first woman to earn a 10th degree black belt in judo. Only three others (all men living in Japan) have this martial arts highest ranking.  


MARK YOUR CALENDAR: August and September 2011. Be sure to confirm. 

Readers are welcome to share by email news of future events that may interest boomers and seniors. Daytime, free, and Bay Area events preferred. pen136@dslextreme.com.  

Mondays & Thursdays - 12 Noon – 1 P.M. Older Adult Kosher Lunch. Jewish Community Center of the East Bay. 1414 Walnut Street, Berkeley;| 5811 Racine Street, Oakland. $7 Seniors, $10 General. (510) 848-0237. 

Wednesdays 10:30 A.M. – 12 Noon Parkinson's Yoga & the Art of Moving. JCC East Bay - Oakland Branch, 5811 Racine Street (58th & Telegraph). $120/month Call Carol @ 925-566-4181. 

Wednesday, August 17 - 1:30 P.M. BerkeleyCommission on Aging. South Berkeley Senior Center. 2939 Ellis @ Ashby. (510) 981-5170. Call to confirm (510) 981-5178. 

Saturday, August 20 - 11 A.M. Landlord /Tenant Counseling. Central Berkeley Public Library. 2090 Kittredge. (510)981-6100. Also Sept. 17.  

Tuesday, August 23 - 10 A.M. Mastick Senior Center. 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. (510) 747-7510. Overview on reverse mortgages. ECHO non-profit counseling organization presentation.  

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 CerritoLibrary. 6510 Stockton Avenue. 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 - 10 A.M. Dr. Alicia Perez discusses Balance & Dizziness.. Tips to Reduce Falls. Mastick Senior Center. 

Wednesday, August 24 - 1 P.M. Berkeley Gray Panthers meets at North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. (510) 981-5190. 

Wednesday, August 24 - 1:30-2:30 P.M. Alameda County Library, Albany branch. 1247 Marin Ave. 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. 510-526-3720 

Thursday, August 25 – 1:30 P.M. Mastick Senior Center Music Appreciation Class. 

Join William Sturm, Volunteer. Recital featuring “Norwegian Romantic: Agathe Backer-Grondahl”. The class discussion and recital will be of music by a Norwegian woman composer. 

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/  

Monday, August 29 - 7 P.M. Book Club:Dubliners by James Joyce. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 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.  

Tuesday, August 30 - 1 P.M. - Seminar on funerals and memorialization. Greer Family Mortuary’s Andrew Slakey. Mastick Senior Center. 

Wednesday, August 31 - 2-3:30 P.M. Find your ancestors. Become a genealogical super sleuth at the Central Berkeley Public Library 3rd floor Electronic Classroom for an introduction to Ancestry.com, an online resource that offers searchable census tracts, immigration records, photos and more. 




Tuesdays, beginning Sept. 6 – 10 A.M.-12:30 P.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. Creative writing class. Fee class.  

Tuesday, Sept. 6 - 7 P.M. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av. “Castoffs” Knitting Group. Enjoy an evening of knitting, show and tell, and yarn exchange. All levels are welcome and some help will be provided. Free. (510) 524-3043. 

Wednesdays, Sept. 7 and 14 – 9 A.M.-1 P.M. Mastick Senior Center. AARP Driver Safety Program refresher course designed for motorists who are 50+. Preregistration required. $12 per person for AARP members, $14 per person for non-AARP members. Registration is payable by check ONLY made payable to AARP. 

Wednesday, Sept. 7 - 10 A.M.-Noon North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. Advisory Council meeting. Public invited. (510) 981-5190. (Note: City Council July 19, 2011 agenda item #10 on Consent Calendar re Berkeley senior centers’ advisory councils.)  

Wednesdays, Sept. 7, 14, 21, 28 & Oct. 5, 12 - 10:30 A.M. Mastick Senior Center. Balance Your Walk with the Alexander Technique. Lenka Fejt, certified teacher, will begin a six-part workshop on the Alexander Technique. Prepaid registration fee of $60. required. 

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 through Nov. 3 – 2 P.M.– 4 P.M. Alameda Adult School instructors provide computer instruction at Mastick Senior Center. Note: Tuesday morning class 9:00 A.M.-11:00 A.M. Register at the Adult School, 2250 Central Avenue, Rm 160 or on-line at www.alameda-adult-school.org.  

Wednesday, Sept. 7 - 6-8 P.M. Alameda County Library, Albany branch. 1247 Marin Ave. Lawyer in the Library. Free 15 minute consultation with an attorney. Sign up in person at the Reference desk or call (510) 526-3720 ext. 5 during library hours. 

Thursday, Sept. 8 - 6-7:45 P.M. Berkeley Public Library, South branch. 1901 Russell St. Lawyer in the Library. Free legal advice and help with questions. In-person sign-ups only; sign-ups begin at 5pm. Names pulled by lottery at 6 P.M. 

Friday, Sept 9 - 1 P.M. – 3 P.M. Mid-Autumn Festival. At the North Berkeley Senior Center. (510) 981-5190.  

Fridays, beginning Sept. 9 Impariamo L’Italiano at Mastick Senior Center. Donatella Zepplin, Instructor. Sign up in the Mastick Office or call (510) 747-7506. 

10 A.M. - 11 A.M. Beginning Italian. 11 A.M. – 12 Noon. Intermediate Italian.  

Tuesday, Sept. 13 - 9:30 A.M. to 12:30 P.M. Mastick Senior Center. Jewelry 

Making with Rose O’Neill. Beads and tools will be supplied. Class is limited to 10 

students. Cost is $15 per person. Sign up in the Mastick Office or call 747-7506. 

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. 

Beginning Wednesday, Sept. 14 - 1 P.M. Mastick Senior Center Cultural Events class includes two Berkeley Repertory Theatre performances. $70 per person for the term does not include admission to cultural exhibits (discounted tickets are available). Minimum enrollment of 15 required. To reserve a seat, visit the Office or call (510) 747-7506. 

Thursdays, beginning Sept. 15 - 10 A.M. – 11:30 A.M. Mastick Senior Center Computer Basic Skills class. Nancy D’Amico, Volunteer Instructor. Sign up in advance in the Mastick Office. 

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. 

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

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. (415) 285-1717 

Wednesday, Sept. 21 - 1:30 P.M. Berkeley Commission on Aging meets in a senior center, probably North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst, cor MLK. #25 AC bus stops at the NBSC. Phone to confirm location (510) 981-5190. 

Tuesday, Sept. 27 - 1 P.M. Mastick Senior Center. Informative presentation on “Getting the Most From Your Doctor’s Visit.” Lecture by Patient Advocate Linda Garvin, RN, MSN. Register in the Mastick Office or call (510) 747-7506. To learn more about Linda Garvin go to www.patientadvocatebayarea.com 

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. 6510 Stockton. 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. 1247 Marin Av. 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. 




On Mental Illness: Dealing with the Recession

By Jack Bragen
Tuesday August 16, 2011 - 01:30:00 PM

Despite what people might think, persons with mental illness are often more sensitive than the average person, and are more affected by adverse circumstances. This does not mean that we lack bravery. It just means that if there is a “hump” to get over, the emotional stress of this can sometimes trigger acute symptoms of our illnesses. For example, a person with a mental illness may have an “episode” triggered by the death of a family member. A breakup of a relationship can also sometimes trigger an episode, if the person with mental illness was exceedingly attached. (This does not address the aspect of how healthy or how mutual the relationship was or wasn’t.)  

The above examples are mostly about loss. However, other examples of stressors include losing a job, a threatening situation with criminals or police, or various national disasters. Any situation which a person with mental illness perceives as either threatening or devastating can potentially make that person’s symptoms worsen temporarily. In my case, the earthquake that happened in 1989, while it didn’t cause me to have a full-blown psychotic episode, it destabilized me just enough that I quit a good full time job doing television repair (that to begin with I was barely hanging onto.) Transitioning from peace to war, which I saw happen about ten years ago, triggered numerous mentally ill persons to have major episodes of their symptoms.  

However, today I am talking about the economic trouble and its effect on persons with mental illness; since it seems to affect every human being on our planet Earth.  

Most persons with mental illness do not live extravagantly on their social security benefits. (For now, I am not referring to persons with mental illness who are steadily employed.) For us to face further cuts in our benefits could be a frightening prospect. The idea of a worldwide “calamity” taking place as a result of the economic difficulties now in progress, is yet another very frightening idea. Many persons with mental illness whose problem is that of delusions could be triggered into psychosis by something really happening that resembles the material of many people’s delusions. Some of us may panic and go out to seek a job even though we may be impaired by medication and may be unaccustomed to the difficulties of work.  

I interviewed a friend who suffers from clinical depression for this week’s column. He agreed with me that it is frightening to look at receiving even less money to live on from the government with the prospect that we will not have enough money to cover even the basics. He believes we are somewhat in a position of helplessness because we may be unable to simply obtain a job to make ends meet. He reminded me that we already experienced cuts in benefits in recent years, and this was painful. And how does our population compete with the influences on government officials of the mega corporations, the giant oil companies, and the super rich—is there no representation for us? That was a question my friend asked. My response was that seniors are a significant block of votes; yet we have little or no influence beyond that, upon the decisions made by government officials. National Alliance for the Mentally Ill is an organization of the parents of persons with mental illnesses, and this may be our best bet for having a lobby that influences the government.  

For some persons with schizophrenia, the frightening aspect of a worldwide economic problem, as well as the prospect of having cuts in benefits could be a trigger to have a repeat episode of severe psychosis. Persons with major mental illness often have effectively less protection in our minds against traumatic or difficult events. In the process of trying to cope, we may, against our own wishes, revert to the symptoms of the illness as a makeshift shield. In the process of this, we produce a relapse. 

It is important for all persons with mental illness to take care of ourselves in any way possible, and to take care of one another during the economic and social challenges that we face. This can mean something as simple as sitting down for a cup of instant coffee, or giving someone a kind remark.  










Arts & Events

Berkeley's Jesus Jungle to Host "Prime-Time" Jane

By Ted Friedman
Wednesday August 17, 2011 - 11:58:00 AM

Jane Fonda, 73, always was "bigger than Jesus" to her fans and now that she's big with Jesus, she's bigger—than ever. Fonda "converted" to Christianity in 2002. Fonda followers speculate this conversion led to her divorce from Ted Turner.

Fonda Breezes (she copped a '74 Oscar for Bree Daniels in Klute) into Berkeley Wednesday evening to plug her new book, Prime Time, at the 1st Congregational Church in the heart of South side's Jesus Jungle, a neighborhood of two blocks and five block-hogging churches bounded on the North by Bancroft Way and on the South by Haste Street—West of Telegraph Avenue.

Fonda will be sermonizing on aging, exercise, and self-reflection. Her last book promo at Cody's, Telegraph, five years ago, although standing-room-only, was less churchly. But it was free. At First Congregational—sponsored by KPFA—it is $15, for those even fortunate enough to get in. 

The money benefits KPFA and book sales proceeds go to Jane Fonda's charities. 

These churchy book-tour events are a painful reminder of the loss of often raucous Cody's Books author talks on Telegraph, where anything could happen. You never knew which Telegraph character would disrupt the evening—often hilariously. 

Now running from the grave in "Prime Time," which might be more accurately referred to as, "The Late Show." Fonda is making the most of act 3 of her life, discoursing on diet, exercise, and sex over 70 ("slow and easy," as she told Jay Leno Aug. 12). 

She was here in January for a first taste of Chez Panisse. Call it a last supper for a super-star. Premiere Magazine ranked her as #32 on a list of the Greatest Movie Stars of All Time in their Stars in Our Constellation feature (2005). 

Fonda reportedly lived in Berkeley's Elmwood briefly in the early seventies when Berkeley was still the destination for cultural, intellectual, and artistic superstars looking for radical chic. And when it comes to radical chic you can't get more chic than Fonda whose Barbarella poster sold beside Brando, Dean, and Monroe in head shops and poster shops which proliferated in North Beach, the Haight-Ashberry, and Berkeley's Telegraph avenue. 

But at the Re-print Mint on Telegraph Avenue, a historic poster shop, a ten-year employee said she hasn't seen one in ten years. Nor have there been requests. Al Geyer at Annapurna head shop, founded 1969, who has seen his fair share of Barbarella posters, does not stock one, and Rasputin's doesn't know. 

Fonda continues, however—way-post Barbarella—to sell books, films, and feminism. She has said in recent interviews that she no longer accepts patriarchy after years of attachments to mentor figures, substituting for her indifferent father, Henry. 

Say what you will about Fonda's politics, Hanoi Jane or angel on the far-left, her political activism continues to be cutting-edge. And when Fonda adopts a cause, she puts her feet on the ground, if not in her mouth (which her critics have charged). 

Fonda went to Seattle, Washington, in 1970 to support a group of Native Americans. 

In December 2002 Fonda visited Israel and the West Bank as part of a tour focusing on stopping violence against women. She demonstrated with Women in Black against Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip outside the residence of Israel's Prime Minister. She later visited Jewish and Arab doctors and patients at a Jerusalem hospital, followed by visits to Ramallah to see a physical rehabilitation center, and a Palestinian refugee camp, according to Wikipedia. 

Unlike a Cody's reading Fonda's church appearance will have more than the usual security, according to Ken Preston at KPFA. 

Looking back to the Fonda appearance at Cody's in 2005, the Planet offers these observations from Ace Backwards, Berkeley's homeless critic ("what can they do to me, take away my sleeping bag?"). 

"Tonight, Jane Fonda was appearing at Cody’s Books on the Ave plugging her latest book. People were lined up in the store as she sat at a table signing books. People were looking at her and gawking and pointing and giggling like she was an exotic zoo animal for public inspection. Weird. “Its Jane Fonda! Can I pet her!” She looked like a handsome, dull, glazed, well-preserved, middle-aged housewife. No Barbarella suit tonight. The people in the crowd were mostly graying, affluent-looking Boomers. I guess the Boomer Generation has done boomed. In Berkeley you’re doomed to endless succession of ’60s retreads coming to town to tell their exciting stories of those exciting days of the ’60s. What exciting days they were." 

Stay tuned as we update this piece to include any new excitement Wednesday evening, even though Ace Backwards considers it a yawner. 



Even from the South-side, Ted Friedman is a Fonda watcher; and fan of her films and brilliant Hanoi guerilla protest, for which no apologies are necessary. 











Theater Review: Reduction of Force--Central Works at the Berkeley City Club

By Ken Bullock
Tuesday August 16, 2011 - 09:15:00 PM

"My name is Anita, and I am an executive secretary. Hi everybody!" Jan Zvaifler opens Central Works' collaborative premiere of Patricia Milton's Reduction in Force, with Anita's avowal of her devotion to her career in the personal financials industry--and though she agrees the system is corrupt, she "could never join" critics of it "in any actionable way.' But the crunch is on in the world of finance--and the fun, at least for us spectators, is just beginning ... 

A seasoned secretary and single mother, Anita finds her head on the block when her young and "hot" boss, Gabby Deeds (Kendra Lee Oberhauser), lets it be known--through a slip of the tongue while deciding whether or not to invest in tropical storm futures and the resultant human misery--that she's considering taking on as a "mentee" ("I'm the mentor; you're the mentee!") Mitch Brinkman (John Patrick Moore), a young "executive runner," or errand boy to another exec Gabby's had an affair with (playing "Tough Cop," complete with cuffs), an avowed ass-kisser ("one of my most vibrant assets") and two-faced maneuverer. An eccentric dance, or three-legged race, begins at once as each endeavors to convince mercurial Gabby of their greater merits--and the other's obvious debits--while from the corridor outside, shrieks, weeping and angry sputtering signal the passage of former employees being escorted out of the building by security, as a crowd of spurned job hunters make their presence known from without ... 

Patricia Milton, in collaboration with director Gary Graves, the cast and crew, has come up with a farce--turning into a frenetic doorslammer--with a barrage of satiric dialogue and one-liners ("... the huge fraud settlements to pay when a Congressman gets caught with a cash bribe in his freezer--where does that come from?"), based partly on her own "downsizing" experience, partly on a canny resume' of statements and stories about the fiscal slide in general. Icarus, Gabby's firm, gets its name from the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission Report of last February: "Too many of these [financial] institutions acted recklessly, taking on too much risk, with too little capital ... Like Icarus, they never feared flying ever closer to the sun." 

It's fast and funny, with constant hilarious reversals. Jan Zvaifler turns in yet another fine performance, this time in a kind of role--sort of a straight-woman at times to the unconscious burlesque comedians around her--different from much that she's played with the company she co-founded. John Patrick Moore's perfect as her adversary and co-dependent; deadpanning lies, exaggerations and the absurd truth is Mitch's m. o. ... Revealing he has an MFA, not an MBA, that he's an actor (!), reverses Anita's attack engines. She smiles. "Have I seen you in anything?" No feature films, just something as obscure as porn--corporate training industrials. 

Kendra Lee Oberhauser, as the brassy, hellbent-for-leather (not to mention handcuffs) Gabby, is also in top form, gleefully hypocritical, willing to turn on a dime, leaving whoever she promised whatever to in the dust ... self-described bold, predatory even, yet ultimately clueless. 

As ever, Central Works milks the intimate environs of the City Club where they've been resident for years, every square inch of its floor space creatively utilized by the characters in their manic leapfrogging for position, one-upmanship and earbending. And--as usual--Gregory Scharpen's sound design adds much to that environment, in this case translating the old card parlor into the ethereal office suites of executive scheming and wheeling-dealing. 

Two more weekends remain to catch the show. Central Works has always staged new plays, collaboratively produced, with genuine artistic values--often greater than many of the bigger, ostensibly professional theaters--in an intimate setting at the most reasonable prices for audiences. And they're at the height of their powers, never more accomplished, never more entertaining. 

Central Works, Reduction in Force--Thursdays through Saturdays, 8 p. m., Sunday at 5 through August 28, Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant (near Bowditch), $24 (online), sliding scale at the door: $25-$14. 558-1381; centralworks.org 



Eye from the Aisle:THE FINAL SCENE at Thick House promises much, delivers less

By John A. McMullen II
Tuesday August 16, 2011 - 01:38:00 PM
Jennifer Weil as “Gretchen Manning”
Eric Chazankin
Jennifer Weil as “Gretchen Manning”

Gene Abravaya has written, directed, and even plays a minor role in a play about the last days on camera of a famous soap opera star. THE FINAL SCENE, now playing at Thick House in SF, starts with a serious monologue played with easy realism by one of my favorites, Michael Ray Wisely. It then builds with good natured quips, the kind of banter that in good comedies builds to some big laugh lines. Those big laugh lines never materialize, and after a while the audience grows less responsive. The actors start out with believable behavioral acting, but even that starts to slip late in the first act, when they begin to push as the material grows thin. There is some physical comedy—one of those farcical chase scenes with mayhem in mind—that is staged so lamely as to pop the bubble of credulity and make you want to look away. The climax of the first act—a punch—is phony, and everything sags after that. Into the second act, the tone grows bickeringly contentious, resolves into recriminations, then wanes into a soliloquy of maudlin reverie.  

The set, however, is wonderful. 

But I neither snoozed nor longed to get home to Google the price of gold—which happens far too frequently at the theatre. I was mildly entertained even after the initial hopeful jocularity ebbed away.  

The scenes are interspersed with each character stepping into the spotlight to have an interchange with an unseen documentary film maker at the back of the house, so that we, the audience, are sort of monkey-in-the-middle like the format of “Chorus Line.” It breaks it up nicely and engages us. The characters are varied and recognizable. It’s just that the writing raises our expectations and leaves us hoping for more: its change of tone affects us like the air being slowly let out of a balloon.  

There is some engaging quality about each actor but I’ll restrict this review to pointing out two performances that struck me as particularly promising. Nora Summers has one of those walk-ons that are so difficult to play, on no more for maybe six minutes total, but plays it so convincingly in total honest response to the other actors, and has that glow that makes your eye go to her, that I would be intrigued to see her in more productions. Julia Hoff plays a sort of Goth tough girl stage manager with a parti-colored coif and the unlikely name of Shelley Fabares; she acts with a cinematic realism which is particularly effective in a studio production. 

The set is almost worth the twenty five simoleons admission in this barren economy. A perfect soap opera living room with bay window, wainscoting, hearth, foyer, and scones, it tickles the eye and raises the hopes in the pre-set. Credited to Paul Gilger who designed ILM Studios and a raft of sets for everyone from Madonna to the Super Bowl (which made me want to hear the story about how he got involved in the production). Andrew Renquist designed the sound: the pre-show sound is amusing since it seemed to be theme songs from soaps, and the show features a wacky sound engineer that keeps making musical jokes. Eddy Hansen‘s lighting is subtle and appropriate with flawless cueing and transitions, and is bright enough to keep us awake. The costumes by Pamela Enz match the realism and quality of the sets, and favored the ladies who were bedecked quite stylishly befitting their roles; the only noticeable flaw was the male lead’s mismatched suit pants–which is sort of a metaphor for the production.  

THE FINAL SCENE was brought down from Solano County where it premiered at the Sixth Street Theatre in Santa Rosa, and several of the actors are from there. A former New Yorker, Abravaya worked his way up from prompter to associate producer on the network soap opera “As the World Turns” from 1974 to 1979. Then he moved to Los Angeles to work in television production where he worked on situation comedies like “Family Ties,” “Facts of Life” and “The Jeffersons.” Abravaya is the managing director of the Spreckels Performing Arts Center in Rohnert. THE FINAL SCENE is produced by Wildecard Productions, which is the production company of lead actress Jennifer Weil. 

The FINAL SCENE plays at Thick House at 1695 18th St. near DeHaro in San Francisco through September 10. 

Produced by WildeCard Productions in association with Spreckels Performing Arts Center. 

Info/Tickets at http://www.the-final-scene.com 

WITH: Michael Ray Wisely*, Nick Sholley*, Jennifer Weil*, Eric Burke, Harry Duke, Julia Hoff, Freddie Lambert, Rebekah Patti, and Nora Summers. (*AEA) 

John A. McMullen II is a member of SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle, American Theatre Critics Association, the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, and holds an MFA in directing from Carnegie Mellon University and an MA in drama from San Francisco State. Editing by E J Dunne.

Hot Tip for This Weekend

By John McMullen
Tuesday August 16, 2011 - 01:47:00 PM

Earlier this year I saw BattleStache Studio perform truly witty sketch comedy interwoven with very polished short films. Their madness is inspired, and when they perform, I’m there. 

They are doing it again in SF and Berkeley this weekend, so go and laugh-yao. 

This time is a unified effort with Oaktown Indie Mayhem, and it’s a send-up of awards ceremonies—which seem rife with satiric possibilities. 

If you want to read my last rave, click here

Friday, August 12 at Shotwell Studios, 3252 19th St, San Francisco 

Saturday August 13 at Subterranean Art House, 2179 Bancroft Way. Berkeley 

Show times: 8pm. 

Donations ranging between $12 and $15, but anything can get you into the show. 



Around & About Theater: 'Mrs. Pat's House'--Jovelyn Richards at La Pena

By Ken Bullock
Tuesday August 16, 2011 - 09:13:00 PM

Jovelyn Richards, storyteller extraordinaire, who first brought her original style of performance with live music to the East Bay with Come Home, her tale of of African-American World War II vets and their families in Arkansas a couple years back, will be staging Mrs. Pat's House, her story about a black bordello in the Midwest during the Depression, the women it housed and how they made their way to it, its patrons and hangers-on who sought refuge of different sorts, the conversations and encounters that went on there and the community around it helped by the madam and her ladies, at La Pena Cultural Center in Berkeley Thursday through Sunday nights this weekend. 

Jovelyn, now living back in the area, performed earlier this year at the Merlin Theatre in Budapest during her residency in Hungary. She's been associated with KPFA's "Women's Magazine" and featured in her own weekly on-the-air commentary, Jovelyn's World. 

With humor and insight, Jovelyn plays the characters, recounts the tales, fronts her band and presides over the music, dances and songs that accompany her narrative performance. With the band, costumery, and Stephanie Anne Johnson's stagecraft as director and lighting designer, Mrs. Pat's House ends up shuttling, minute by minute, between story, stand-up comedy, a spirited theatrical and a down-to-it party. 

Jovelyn Richards at La Pena Cultural Center, Friday-Saturday, 8 p. m., Sunday at 7--3105 Shattuck (two blocks east of Ashby BART). $12 advance, $15 at door. 849-2568; lapena.org 


Around & About: Poetry ... Benefit for S. Clay Wilson with poets Luis Garcia, Richard Krech, Clive Matson & A. D. Winans at Art House gallery

By Ken Bullock
Tuesday August 16, 2011 - 09:10:00 PM

Poets Luis Garcia, Richard Krech, Clive Matson and A. D. Winans will read from their poetry at a benefit for underground comic book artist and writer S. Clay Wilson, a familiar presence on the Bay Area scene since the 60s, who suffered severe brain damage from a catastrophic fall—this Sunday, 7-10 p. m., at Art House Gallery, 2905 Shattuck. Donations requested. Signed copies of S. Clay Wilson's art available. 472-3170, berkeleyarthouse.wordpress.com & sclaywilsontrust.com 

clamoring whateverest haiku

By Arnie Passman
Wednesday August 17, 2011 - 12:44:00 PM

people who cannot stop

saying whatever are

dumbed to repeat it