The Week

 

News

Updated: Families Say Release of Hikers is "Best Day of Our Lives"

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Wednesday September 21, 2011 - 03:25:00 PM

Two University of California at Berkeley graduates who have been detained in Iran on espionage charges for more than two years were finally released today, according to their families.

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 accused all three of them of espionage and last month Bauer and Fattal were sentenced to eight years in prison. -more-


Flash: Two UC Berkeley Graduates Released in Iran

By Bay City News
Wednesday September 21, 2011 - 07:49:00 AM

Iran's official Press TV has reported that two U.S. hikers who have been detained in Iran since 2009 were released early this morning. -more-


Berkeley's Public Housing Units May Be Bought by Billionaire (Analysis)

By Lynda Carson
Wednesday September 21, 2011 - 03:31:00 PM

In another step to privatize Berkeley's 75 occupied public housing town-homes, billionaire Stephen M. Ross, CEO and founder of The Related Companies, and 95% owner of the Miami Dolphins, is in talks with the Berkeley Housing Authority (BHA) to buy Berkeley's occupied public housing units, through one of his companies. -more-


Press Release: Negotiations at Bayer’s bio-tech plant in Berkeley break down: Company refuses to protect jobs after taking taxpayer subsidies

From Craig Merrilees, ILWU
Monday September 19, 2011 - 05:37:00 PM

Four hundred workers at the Bayer Pharmaceutical plant in Berkeley, California are asking the company to honor promises made two years ago when executives accepted taxpayer subsidies in exchange for providing good-paying jobs.

Workers have been talking with the company since July 25, 2011, seeking guarantees that the company won’t get rid of good-paying jobs after getting a taxpayer bailout. Community concerns increased this spring when Bayer announced it was closing a nearby plant in Emeryville because they were outsourcing 400 jobs to a lower-cost facility overseas.

“It’s wrong for companies to take subsidies, promise good jobs to the community, then outsource those jobs after they’ve taken so much from taxpayers,” said Donal Mahon, a former Bayer veteran employee who is now helping workers negotiate a contract to protect good jobs and secure safer staffing levels at the Berkeley plant. -more-


New Thousand Oaks Urns Dedicated

By Steven Finacom
Monday September 19, 2011 - 09:22:00 AM
Elizabeth Sklut and Trish Hawthorne, co-coordinators of the urn restoration project, led the dedication ceremony.

The first two replica historic urns to grace the Thousand Oaks subdivision were dedicated before an appreciative crowd in Berkeley’s Great Stoneface Park on Saturday, September 10, 2011. -more-


Opinion

Editorials

What's the News Today, and Why?

By Becky O'Malley
Wednesday September 21, 2011 - 02:26:00 PM

The eternal paradox about what is commonly called journalism is why so many people who commit it manage not to see what’s going on before their eyes, even as a reasonable number of others, in and out of journalism, do.

Ever wonder about what’s happening in the global economy? Well, here it is, a summary which could fit on the back of an envelope, and it’s even perversely funny:

“Quarterly GDP data don’t, on the whole, tend to make the person studying them laugh out loud. The most recent set, however, are an exception, despite the fact that the general picture is of unrelieved and spreading economic gloom. Instead of the surge of rebounding growth which historically accompanies successful exit from a recession, we have the UK’s disappointing 0.2 per cent growth, the US’s anaemic 0.3 per cent and the glum eurozone average figure of 0.2 per cent. That number includes the surprising and alarming German 0.1 per cent, the desperately poor French 0 per cent and then, wait for it, the agreeably frisky Belgian 0.7 per cent. Why is that, if you’ve been following the story, laugh-aloud funny? Because Belgium doesn’t have a government. Thanks to political stalemate in Brussels, it hasn’t had one for 15 months. No government means none of the stuff all the other governments are doing: no cuts and no ‘austerity’ packages. In the absence of anyone with a mandate to slash and burn, Belgian public sector spending is puttering along much as it always was; hence the continuing growth of their economy. It turns out that from the economic point of view, in the current crisis, no government is better than any government – any existing government.”

(From an opinion article by John Lanchester in a recent London Review of Books.)

That paragraph alone is worth column inch after column inch of sententious pieces in the American press attempting to convey what the hell the U.S. Congress is up to—yes, even in the New York Times, most of whose staffers appear not to read what Professor Paul Krugman writes on their own op-ed page. We’d be better off without this current Congress, wouldn’t we, so why not just say so? This is not an endorsement, by the way, of the Tea Party anti-government ideology, just a glum statement of observable fact. -more-


The Editor's Back Fence

It's a New Schedule for the Planet

By Becky O'Malley
Wednesday September 21, 2011 - 07:49:00 AM

If you haven't looked at berkeleydailyplanet.com for a few days, you might be surprised to find that for the past week we've been launching a new "issue" almost daily, on an irregular basis as copy is submitted. One benefit of this plan is that you can read our sometimes lengthy, sometimes challenging pieces thoroughly on the day we put them online. Several readers have told us that the long, long Wednesday issues can be too much of a good thing, so that they never get around to reading everything.

As always, you can read previous issues, including the several which have appeared this week, by clicking backwards using the "Previous Issue" button on the top left side of the page.

Here are some easy links to get to this week’s issues, if you haven't yet tried the "previous" button.:

9-20-11

9-18-11

9-17-11

9-16-11


And as you read these pieces, you should always be aware that comments long and short can be submitted to opinion@berkeleydailyplanet.com. Long ones will be posted as "commentaries", short ones grouped under Letters. We do require you to sign your real name unless you can give us a good reason for believing that real, serious harm would come to you if you do so. -more-


Keep Those Comments Coming under the Planet's New Schedule

By Becky O'Malley
Tuesday September 20, 2011 - 12:05:00 PM

If you haven't looked at berkeleydailyplanet.com for a few days, you might be surprised to find that for the past week we've been launching a new "issue" almost daily, on an irregular basis as copy is submitted. One benefit of this plan is that you can read our sometimes lengthy, sometimes challenging pieces thoroughly on the day we put them online. Several readers have told us that the long, long Wednesday issues can be too much of a good thing, so that they never get around to reading everything.

As always, you can read previous issues, including the several which have appeared this week, by clicking backwards using the "Previous Issue" button on the top left side of the page.

And as you read these pieces, you should always be aware that comments long and short can be submitted to opinion@berkeleydailyplanet.com. Long ones will be posted as "commentaries", short ones grouped under Letters. We do require you to sign your real name unless you can give us a good reason for believing that real, serious harm would come to you if you do so. -more-


A New Schedule: PLEASE READ

By Becky O'Malley
Monday September 19, 2011 - 10:15:00 AM

A bonus contribution from regular columnist Conn Hallinan has inspired us to move to a new form of daily publication. Instead of doing a weekly roundup issue on Wednesdays, as we've done for about a year, we're going to create a new "issue" as soon as we have something new to post, including comments of all kinds. If you only check out the Planet infrequently, you'll be able to see what you've missed since your last visit by clicking the "Previous Issue" button at the top of the page as many times as you need to get back to what you last saw. Since we started this practice, there have been three "new issues". Try clicking back through the "previous issue" button to see them--it's not hard. -more-


A New Schedule: PLEASE READ

By Becky O'Malley
Saturday September 17, 2011 - 08:50:00 AM

A bonus contribution from regular columnist Conn Hallinan has inspired us to move to a new form of daily publication. Instead of doing a weekly roundup issue on Wednesdays, as we've done for about a year, we're going to create a new "issue" as soon as we have something new to post, including comments of all kinds. If you only check out the Planet infrequently, you'll be able to see what you've missed since your last visit by clicking the "Previous Issue" button at the top of the page as many times as you need to get back to what you last saw. To comment on this change or on anything else, just write us by clicking on opinion@berkeleydailyplanet.com. -more-


A New Schedule: PLEASE READ

By Becky O'Malley
Friday September 16, 2011 - 10:19:00 AM

A bonus contribution from regular columnist Conn Hallinan has inspired us to move to a new form of daily publication. Instead of doing a weekly roundup issue on Wednesdays, as we've done for about a year, we're going to create a new "issue" as soon as we have something new to post, including comments of all kinds. If you only check out the Planet infrequently, you'll be able to see what you've missed since your last visit by clicking the "Previous Issue" button at the top of the page as many times as you need to get back to what you last saw. To comment on this change or on anything else, just write us by clicking on opinion@berkeleydailyplanet.com. -more-


Cartoons

Cartoon Page: Odd Bodkins, BOUNCE

Wednesday September 21, 2011 - 04:17:00 PM

Public Comment

City Stalls Its Response to Report about Unfunded Liabilities

By James Fousekis
Wednesday September 21, 2011 - 03:14:00 PM

Last November 16, 2010, almost 11 months ago, City Auditor Ann-Marie Hogan issued a report “Employee Benefits: Tough Decisions Ahead” that concluded it was critical that Berkeley manage its liabilities to ensure long-term fiscal stability. As part of the report, Hogan requested that the City Manager report back on or before September 27, 2011 on the adoption status of her recommendations and no later than September 2012 on full implementation status of her recommendations. -more-


Death Panel Machine

By Bruce Joffe
Wednesday September 21, 2011 - 03:31:00 PM

The world's most powerful computer was given a friendly name, "Watson." Sherlock Holmes' assistant, Alexander Graham Bell's assistant, it's a helpful name. -more-


Is Arreguin's "Vacancy Registration Fee" a Solution to Downtown Berkeley Problems?

By Thomas Lord
Tuesday September 20, 2011 - 11:42:00 AM

Berkeleyside is reporting on an idea put forward by Jesse Arreguin to impose a fee on vacant retail store fronts. They write:

"Arreguin thinks that Berkeley could minimize the number of vacant storefronts by charging landlords a fee when buildings lie fallow for an extended period of time. He will ask the City Council tonight to send a directive to the city manager’s office to study the issue."

As Arreguin seems to know, a simple "vacancy tax" would be illegal under California law. Municipalities may impose fees only for the actual cost of services or facilities provided by the City specifically to that property owner on account of the vacancy. The idea of a straightforward penalty for not renting out a vacant spot has been dreamed of time and again in many cities, and it always stalls on this basic point. Vacancy is a "by right" use which municipalities are prohibited from penalizing. -more-


A New Paradigm for Downtown Berkeley's Retail Spaces?

By Thomas Lord
Tuesday September 20, 2011 - 11:49:00 AM

In their article about a proposed vacancy fee for retail spaces, Berkeleyside presents some insights from Michael Korman of Korman and Ng. They write:

"Those kinds of businesses don’t exist in Berkeley. Instead, most of the retail space for rent is in older buildings where the space tends to be very deep. The stores were designed that way because decades ago store owners needed a lot of storage space in the back to keep their goods. Nowadays, store owners don’t need a store 50 feet deep because they can get goods delivered overnight, said Korman. They mostly just want the six feet of window space fronting the street. But they still have to pay for the larger and deeper space."

Mr. Korman has brilliantly cut to the heart of the matter, and this is a good starting point for developing public policy. To his insight about the changed nature of retail we can add observations about the changing nature of high tech businesses and culture businesses, and the restrictions imposed by Berkeley's zoning of commercial districts:

A 50 foot deep space in a desirable urban commercial district may no longer be suitable for typical retail use, but it would be ideal as an office space for many kinds of Internet-based high tech companies. Companies that run web sites or develop "apps" for smart phones start comfortably in spaces of this size and some can stay that size for long periods of time. They need space for desks and chairs and a network connection. Preferably, because these businesses often seek to attract young professionals, these offices should be located in stimulating urban environments - like Berkeley. The catch is that in our retail districts, zoning rules typically don't allow retail spaces to be converted to use by businesses that don't maintain a storefront open to the public. -more-


Letters

Sunday September 18, 2011 - 05:58:00 PM

New Clicking; Palestinian Statehood; My Thinking; Greek Debt -more-


An Explanation of My Withdrawal from Cal

Ruby Pipes
Monday September 19, 2011 - 07:58:00 AM

When I received my notification of acceptance from University of California, Berkeley I cried. I called my father and he wept. There was screaming and cheering and days of telling everyone I could about my incredible good fortune. As if I had won the lottery. I mean, really, I’d been accepted into the best public university in the world. Best in the world. Me: a two-time community college drop-out. Me: the girl who drank through her junior year of high school. Me: small-town kid from Washington state who was considered a success because she hadn’t gotten pregnant or addicted to methamphetamines yet. Everyone got a phone call. “Ruby’s going to Berkeley!” There wasn’t a discussion, just working out the details so that I could get down there and start studying. My dad tapped into IRAs and life savings. We filled out all the forms we had to for the financial aid package that would double my debt within a year. It was worth it. It was Cal. I stayed up at night reading about courses I could take, surfing the internet for virtual tours of the campus. Over and over I found myself watching Mario Savio’s infamous December speech on the steps of Sproul Hall. I’d make friends and family watch, too, and explain matter-of-factly, “I’m going to stand on those steps. I’m going to go down there and changing the world.” -more-


Communicating with BART

By Thomas Lord
Sunday September 18, 2011 - 06:01:00 PM

A relative of mine is a young fellow we call "The Professor" on account of his status as a grad student in economics. Lately The Professor has begun making his case against corporatism including but not limited to the horrible state of the world financial system.

Today news reached his mid-western school of protests on Wall Street. According the Wall Street Journal a group convened for the radical cause of "[drawing] attention to the role powerful financial matters play in damaging the U.S. economy." The protest was colorful and mildly eccentric. It was photogenic and provided a pleasant scene to amuse the bored police officers looking on. No one was harmed and no dinner reservations were lost. Attention was drawn to how the economy is powerfully financial and it matters.

The Professor wondered allowed, "Can't we do any better than this?"

From the other coast I sent word his way. Here is what I had to say:

Dear Professor,

That's pretty abstract to have much mass appeal, isn't it? Their goal is to "draw attention to the role powerful financial matters play in damaging the U.S. economy?" Man, that is some hard hitting bad-ass talk, right there. And what exactly is the credible threat of a successful protest on Wall Street -- the bad guys have to walk an extra block to catch a cab?

For the past several weeks in San Francisco protests have, for some hours during the evening commute, managed to mostly shut down one of the major BART stations. Initially, it was a demand that BART's transit police stop killing passengers and, in fact, disband. That demand stands. Then one of the protests didn't materialize but... where it was expected, BART turned off cell phone service in that station (to thwart "flash mobs"). As a consequence the next protest was especially well attended, successfully shutting down a station, with the added demand to "never do that cell phone thing again, asshats!" -more-


Letters

Saturday September 17, 2011 - 10:05:00 AM

MOCHA and Eaton -more-


Richmond Council Fails to Pass Sustainable Marijuana Ordinance

By Tom Butt, Richmond City Council
Saturday September 17, 2011 - 09:26:00 AM

There are clearly different shades of green on the Richmond City Council.

There are those greens who believe global climate change is truly a crisis that we must address at every level of government – and quickly. Then there are those for whom the green of cannabis eclipses the more global meaning of green. And finally, there is the green of money – lots of it – including tens of thousands of dollars from the cannabis industry that has found its way into some council members’ campaign coffers.

Failing to pass the sustainable marijuana ordinance was a disappointment for me. The Richmond City Council has been “high” on marijuana for some time, paving the way for three licenses that are now in the application stage. At least a couple of Council members want to increase that to four, on the theory that if three is good, four is better. At least one councilmember touts marijuana dispensaries as veritable police substations, making areas of Richmond in the vicinity of a dispensary the safest of all.

Now, I really don’t care who smokes weed or why they do it, other than minors, but I remain skeptical about the hypocritical institutionalizing of an industry that characterizes itself as the epitome of healthy living and natural holistic medicine when it is really mostly about money – lots of it.

I introduced the “green” marijuana ordinance after reading a paper, “Energy Up in Smoke, The Carbon Footprint of Indoor Cannabis Production,” (April 5, 2011) by Evan Mills, Ph.D. a long-time energy analyst and Staff Scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, University of California. -more-


Letters

Saturday September 17, 2011 - 09:16:00 AM

9/11, Another View -more-


Oakland Children's Art Museum's Ban on Palestinian Works is Futile

By Joanna Graham
Friday September 16, 2011 - 10:32:00 AM

In summer 2005, Berkeley resident John Gertz confirmed to a Daily Planet reporter the rumors that he had indeed packed the Peace and Justice Commission with persons who could be depended on not to criticize Israel.“What I have observed is that a lot of people were sick of the commission being run by the lunatic left and some brave people came forward to put a stop to it,” he said.

Although I was at the time aware of widespread censorship activities by the Jewish lobby, I was naively shocked to learn that the same processes were at work in liberal Berkeley, the home of the Free Speech Movement, a city where people frequently and publicly debate each other over everything possibly debatable. -more-


Richmond Council Fails to Pass Marijuana Ordinance

By Tom Butt, Richmond City Councilmember
Saturday September 17, 2011 - 09:21:00 AM

There are clearly different shades of green on the Richmond City Council. -more-


Columns

Wild Neighbors: Post-Communist Birds

By Joe Eaton
Wednesday September 21, 2011 - 03:07:00 PM
Eurasian Jay in Berlin: a post-Cold War winner.

Earlier this year I reported on a study out of Finland that contended that, in Europe at least, passerine (songbird) species with relatively larger brains made out better in urban areas than did smaller-brained species. Winners included corvids (crows and magpies), tits (relatives of the North American chickadees), nuthatches, and wrens. Buntings, Old World warblers, and Old Word flycatchers were among the small-brained city avoiders. -more-


The Public Eye: Job Wars: Republicans Strike Back

By Bob Burnett
Monday September 19, 2011 - 09:14:00 AM

One week after President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress and proposed the American Jobs Act, House Speaker John Boehner responded for the Republicans. Not with a plan to address the US jobs’ crisis, but with conservative talking points that indicate how difficult it will be to pass meaningful legislation.

The Problem: The two Parties disagree on the origin of the crisis. In his September 8th address Obama indicated the crisis resulted from erosion of America’s social compact: “[belief] in a country where everyone gets a fair shake and does their fair share -- where if you stepped up, did your job, and were loyal to your company, that loyalty would be rewarded with a decent salary and good benefits.”

In contrast, in his September 15th response Speaker Boehner blamed the Federal government, “there’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the economy that leads to a lot of bad decisions in Washington, D.C.” “Private-sector job creators of all sizes have been… slammed by uncertainty from the constant threat of new taxes, out-of-control spending, and unnecessary regulation.” “Job creators in America are essentially on strike.”

Neither side admitted the real problem, the American economy is broken. A healthy economy depends upon steady consumption by working Americans. But starting with Ronald Reagan, Republican ideologues have assumed that rich folks buying yachts and vacation homes would catalyze the consumer economy. This didn’t happened. In 2011 average Americans aren’t consuming because they either don’t have the money or are saving it because they are fearful. Republican dogma fractured the US economy and caused massive unemployment. -more-


Senior Power… Where's the Lavender Soap?

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Monday September 19, 2011 - 08:56:00 AM

Nearly two-thirds of Americans age 70+ have hearing loss. According to a study led by Johns Hopkins and National Institute on Aging researchers, persons of the black race seem to have a protective effect against this loss. And older or male subjects were more likely to have hearing loss or more severe hearing loss than younger or female subjects. It is believed to be the first nationally representative survey of older adults on this often ignored and under-reported condition. Past studies have strongly linked hearing loss to such other health problems as cognitive decline, dementia, and poorer physical function. . Relatively little is known about risk factors that drive hearing loss. [Feb. 28, 2011 Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences] -more-


On Mental Illness: Permission to Be Happy

By Jack Bragen
Saturday September 17, 2011 - 10:01:00 AM

The truism: “life is what happens while you’re waiting,” is very applicable to people who are struggling to recover from mental illness. Frequently, people are unhappy because they believe they should not be happy. A lot of people believe that before they can be happy they need to fix their perceived adverse life circumstances. This is not always true. This partial erroneous belief is present in the minds of people at large and not just those who have a mental illness. Abe Lincoln said: “Most people are about as happy as they make up their mind to be.” -more-


Dispatches From the Edge: Of Kabul & Tet & Generals

By Conn Hallinan
Friday September 16, 2011 - 10:12:00 AM

“Now we can see [success in Vietnam] clearly, like the light at the end of a tunnel” -more-


Arts & Events

Theater Review: Remember the Ladies: Poor Players at Unitarian Fellowship and Live Oak Theater

By Ken Bullock
Wednesday September 21, 2011 - 03:08:00 PM

"It's showtime!" declares the young waitress polishing a wine glass. "The restaurant is a theater. The meal's a play. And I'm the actress!" -more-


Around & About Music: Fall Free For All; Inga Swearingen's Swedish Farm Jazz

By Ken Bullock
Wednesday September 21, 2011 - 03:08:00 PM

--The second Fall Free For All, a remarkable free seven hour slew of music, theater and dance performances around the UC campus, put on by Cal Performances, will be held this Sunday from 11-6, featuring such performers as the New Century Chamber Orchestra, Berkeley Symphony Wind Ensemble, American Bach Soloists, Fratelli marionettes (to St-Saens music), Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet, UC Jazz Faculty, Sarah Cahill, Kirka vocal ensemble, C.K. Ladzekpo & African Music & Dance Ensemble, Los Cenzontles Mexican Music & Dance, SF Opera Adler Fellows, Axis Dance, BATS Improv, UC Departments of Music, Theater, Dance and Performance Studies--and more ... at locations from Sather Gate, Pauley Ballroom, Lower Sproul Plaza, Wheeler Auditorium, Hertz Hall, the Eucalyptus Grove, the Faculty Glade .. Free, no tickets required, food available. Information and schedule: calperformances.org/community/community -more-


Theater Review: Rita Moreno: Life Without Makeup at Berkeley Rep

By Ken Bullock
Wednesday September 21, 2011 - 03:12:00 PM

Theater Review: Golden Thread Premieres Night Over Erzinga

By Ken Bullock
Wednesday September 21, 2011 - 03:24:00 PM

Architecture Review: Flashy Architecture and Bad Urbanism at the Berkeley Art Museum

By Charles Siegel
Sunday September 18, 2011 - 06:21:00 PM

The architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro have unveiled their design for the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) on Oxford Street between Center and Addison. They were required to keep the old UC Printing Plant, and they have added a blob-shaped building coated with zinc.

The new addition is in the avant-gardist style that has been typical of museums since Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum opened in Bilbao in 1997. The Guggenheim looks like abstract art of the 1920s and is coated with titanium. It does not work very well as a museum - some visitors say it gives them vertigo - but it was so new, so different, and so shiny that it drew large numbers of gaping tourists to Bilbao.

Avant-garde architects are like teenagers who dye their hair purple to be different from everyone else, who consider themselves very original but obviously are just imitating the cool kids in their clique. Likewise, the designers of BAM/PFA consider its zinc facade very original but obviously are just imitating Gehry’s titanium.

The inept urbanism of BAM/PFA is much worse than its flashy “blobitecture.” Because the goal is to create a sculptural icon, this sort of design focuses on itself and ignores its urban context. -more-


Don't Miss This

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Monday September 19, 2011 - 09:47:00 AM

Ah, yes, "the days grow short when you reach September" (Kurt Weill's beautiful "September Song", sung by Walter Huston in 1938.) So, while one "doesn't have time for the waiting game", we're happy to say that this September and October offers several memorable and very enjoyable events, as listed below: -more-


Theatre Review: Eye from the Aisle: A DELICATE BALANCE by Edward Albee--if your hair is gray, do not hesitate to get a ticket while they last.

by John A. McMullen II
Monday September 19, 2011 - 10:04:00 AM
Ken Grantham as Tobias and Jamie Jones as Claire.

The Aurora Theatre, in its commitment to a theatre of ideas and the eloquence in drama that explores them, has selected A DELICATE BALANCE by Edward Albee. -more-