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Tree-Sit Resumes to Protect People's Park Trees as University Fells Nearby Tree, Threatens to Buzz-Saw Tree Hosting the Sit

By Ted Friedman
Thursday September 29, 2011 - 08:49:00 AM
Littlebird, behind a mask, carries on a People's Park tradition as cops threaten his perch.
Ted Friedman
Littlebird, behind a mask, carries on a People's Park tradition as cops threaten his perch.
Re-born tree-sit organizer, Running Wolf, holds the ashes of People's Park's latest tree assault victims. University the perpetrators.
Ted Friedman
Re-born tree-sit organizer, Running Wolf, holds the ashes of People's Park's latest tree assault victims. University the perpetrators.

At last, a new plot twist in the apparently on-going saga of People's Park tree sits.

This sit is all about protecting trees themselves. See there's actually a connection here, unlike past sits, which claimed Ohlone indians owned the park, if not "all of the known world."

It's all been staged before--two years ago. But not with such intricate plot twists.

Sit3 (it's a franchise now) began late Tuesday, less than ten hours before the university felled two small trees they said were impinging on nearby trees. Even the tree-sit host tree is a target. As the police have said in the past, the tree sit host tree was sick and had to be euthanized with a buzz-saw.

According to the latest sitter, Littlebird, 29, from Portland, Oregon, the police have wasted no time telling Littlebird that he's nesting on borrowed time. 

Event organizer, Zachary Running Wolf Brown, 48, is worked up over the loss of the trees and the threats to the host tree. He may be as worked up as he was two years ago when the university went after and destroyed four acacias (Planet: January 07, 2009) in the park. Despite Running Wolf's best efforts to save them. 

Subsequent tree-sits in the park have come to violent ends. I asked Littlebird if he was aware of the troubled history of tree-sits in People's park. "A little," he said. I gave him more. "Isn't that platform too small?" It was smaller than the one Amy Blue plunged from earlier this month. (Planet: Sep 7, 201). Littlebird said he'd "ordered" a larger one and Running Wolf promises a replacement. 

In the meantime, "I'm tied down right now," he said. Littlebird has experience from tree-sitting at demos in Oregon, he said. 

Running Wolf calls him "solid." When Amy Blue and Moon Shadow, fell from the last tree-sit tree, Running wolf blamed the tree-sitters' youth and lack of experience. It's different this time. 

It's always different, but it begins to sound the same. 

I called Amy Blue in Santa Rosa last week to see how she was doing after breaking her back when she fell from a limb early in the morning in September. She's recuperating at her parents' home, she said, and would return to Berkeley in three months. 

Her injuries are worse than I reported. In addition to two fractured vertebrae, she has a broken collar bone and ruptured spleen, she said. 

She acknowledged she had been negligent the night of her fall by not tying herself in as Running Wolf had instructed, but she blamed cops who shined flashlights up at her, she said. "I was changing limbs when I fell to avoid the lights in my eyes, so the cause of my fall was a combination of them and me." 

She reported as well that university police--"playing good cop and bad cop-- threatened me with outing my trans-gendered identity if I didn't tell them how to find Moon Shadow", she said. 

"They told me they had busted my boyfriend (a third sitter had gone up the tree the day before), and when I cried, they stuck their camera in my face to capture the tears." 

i stumbled onto the latest tree-sit after getting a call from Running Wolf at 10:30 a.m. 

Before I could get to what I am calling camp protest, a permanent protest site, at the North east corner of the park, not far from two large student dorms, I noticed that Hate Man had been dislodged. 

Hate Man said that he'd had to move when the tree-cutters from the university (see photos) lopped off two trees. He seemed barely concerned for the trees, being more concerned over the fact that tree sitters were back. 

Hate Man, an award-winning hater, has a special over-the-top hate for the tree-sit. The tree-sit attracts police and helicopters, he feels. 

The re-born tree-sit bears a good resemblance to the acacia protest two years ago, after which arborists differed over the condition of the felled trees. Running Wolf claims to know that the university is just looking fro an excuse to go after the host tree-sit tree. 

"Prove it," we said. He's working on it. Meanwhile, the tree-sit is re-forming. 


Ted Friedman reports for the Planet on the South side and its most expensive property, People's Park. 






Bake Sale Generates Debate, Peaceful Protests

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Wednesday September 28, 2011 - 10:47:00 AM

A bake sale by Berkeley College Republicans yesterday that was aimed at satirizing race-based admissions generated heated debates and counter-protests but no major problems. 

Andy Nevis, the executive director of the student Republican group at the University of California at Berkeley, said the "Increase Diversity Bake Sale," in which the recommended prices were based on race and gender, highlights their opposition to state Senate Bill 185. 

The bill, which was approved by the state Legislature and now sits on Gov. Jerry Brown's desk, would allow the university to consider race, gender, ethnicity and other factors in graduate and undergraduate admissions.  

Nevis said it's appropriate for admissions officials to consider factors other than applicants' test scores and grades, such as low-income backgrounds and challenging circumstances, in making admissions decisions. But he said university officials shouldn't base admissions decisions on race. 

"No one should get a preference based on their race or ethnicity," he said. 

But Yvette Felarca of By Any Means Necessary said the activist group held a counter-demonstration near the Berkeley College Republicans' table on Sproul Plaza in the heart of the campus "because we wanted to represent the proud voice of students who are unequivocally for affirmative action and equal opportunity and integrating the University of California system." 

Felarca said UC officials should change their current admissions policies because she believes they are race-based in that "they favor white privilege" by relying heavily on standardized tests that she thinks "are racially- and economically biased" to favor white students at the expense of black and Latino students. 

Only about 3 percent of the freshmen who entered UC Berkeley this fall are black and only about 12 percent are Latino, she said, accusing university officials of having "a conscious policy of seclusion and discrimination" against students of those races. 

The bake sale by Berkeley College Republicans called for goods to be sold at varying prices depending on students' race and gender.  

The price was $2 for whites, $1.50 for Asian-Americans, $1 for Latinos and Hispanics, 75 cents for blacks and 25 cents for Native Americans. Women received a 25-cent discount from the price for their race. 

Francisco Loayza, a senior from Modesto who serves as the group's treasurer, said the group didn't enforce those prices due to discrimination laws but most customers paid them voluntarily. 

"There was a lot of positive reaction" to the sale, Loayza said. 

Nevis said, "There were a few heated discussions" between the Republican group and those who objected to the bake sale but there weren't any problems. About 150 people who belong to the Black Student Union and other organizations that support affirmative action, most of whom were dressed in black, protested the bake sale by silently lying on their backs in the middle of Sproul Plaza for about an hour starting at noon. 

Several people who opposed the bake sale carried signs that said, "Bake Sale Republicans Have Too Much Dough." 

Another group that opposed the bake sale held a "Conscious Cupcakes" giveaway in which they handed out their own goods for free. 

Members of the group carried signs that said "Free Food" and "Free Hugs."

Baked Goods and Arguments Retailed on Sproul Plaza

By Steven Finacom
Wednesday September 28, 2011 - 10:20:00 AM
The “bake sale” table was a crowded center of discussion and debate much of the day.
Steven Finacom
The “bake sale” table was a crowded center of discussion and debate much of the day.
UC Berkeley's College Republicans spiced up their campus yesterday with a controversial "bake sale".
Steven Finacom
UC Berkeley's College Republicans spiced up their campus yesterday with a controversial "bake sale".
Counter demonstrators offered “Free Baked Goods, Even for Berkeley College Republicans”.
Steven Finacom
Counter demonstrators offered “Free Baked Goods, Even for Berkeley College Republicans”.
Odd looking baked items showed up in the counter demonstration.
Steven Finacom
Odd looking baked items showed up in the counter demonstration.
The arrival of the Berkeley College Republicans table in the mid-morning on Sproul Plaza was the cue for a media swarm, looking for visual.
Steven Finacom
The arrival of the Berkeley College Republicans table in the mid-morning on Sproul Plaza was the cue for a media swarm, looking for visual.
The College Republican “price list” offering the same items at different prices, based on race and ethnicity.
Steven Finacom
The College Republican “price list” offering the same items at different prices, based on race and ethnicity.
Some of the controversial cupcakes.
Steven Finacom
Some of the controversial cupcakes.
One creative pair of counter demonstrators in wizard attire called for “Socio-magical justice now!”
Steven Finacom
One creative pair of counter demonstrators in wizard attire called for “Socio-magical justice now!”
The “Harry Potter” counter demonstrators, complete with capes and dragon, talked with passersby.
Steven Finacom
The “Harry Potter” counter demonstrators, complete with capes and dragon, talked with passersby.
They also hoisted their own satirical sign, with its own price list for baked goods, based on the various social strata of wizards in the “Harry Potter” books.
Steven Finacom
They also hoisted their own satirical sign, with its own price list for baked goods, based on the various social strata of wizards in the “Harry Potter” books.
Another group of counter-demonstrators carried hoops, inviting passersby to jump through them “before claiming discount baked goods.”
Steven Finacom
Another group of counter-demonstrators carried hoops, inviting passersby to jump through them “before claiming discount baked goods.”
Berkeley College Republicans president Shawn Lewis talked with student journalists the mid-afternoon.
Steven Finacom
Berkeley College Republicans president Shawn Lewis talked with student journalists the mid-afternoon.
An impromptu sign wall displayed scrawled sentiments, and some non-sequiturs.
Steven Finacom
An impromptu sign wall displayed scrawled sentiments, and some non-sequiturs.
The Berkeley College Republicans passed out this statement in defense of their “bake sale”.
Steven Finacom
The Berkeley College Republicans passed out this statement in defense of their “bake sale”.
Counterdemonstrators, who staged a large rally at the lunch hour, hand this handout in response.
Steven Finacom
Counterdemonstrators, who staged a large rally at the lunch hour, hand this handout in response.

Demonstrations come and go on the UC Berkeley campus. They’re sometimes amusing, periodically profound, occasionally irritating. For half a century they’ve been a fixture of Sproul Plaza and have become so commonplace that most don’t attract extensive attention. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011, was different primarily in that the Berkeley College Republicans re-discovered, as student groups periodically do, a key to attracting mainstream media attention. Do something controversial in public. 

This is the conundrum of campus—and, truth be told, community—life in a place like Berkeley. However strong your cause, however well you can articulate its arguments, it’s likely that most of the press won’t pay much attention unless there’s a simplistic message and enticing background visuals. 

But if you make some emphatic declaration, and are fortunate enough to have someone yell at you in return, well, then the cameras swarm. In a way, today the Berkeley College Republicans had their own “Code Pink” statement. 

When I arrived at work early this morning there were already three or four TV news vans parked near Sproul Hall, and a number of cameramen roaming in search of a filmable moment that would make 5 or 15 seconds worth of superficial sense on TV. 

Mid-morning, when I took a break from work, I walked through Sproul Plaza. The College Republicans had established their first table, southwest of the Savio Steps, but decided to relocate it to the north end of the Plaza closer to Sather Gate. Table, signs, and a big blue plastic container, presumably containing the baked goods, were lugged across the plaza. The cameras and reporters spotted a target and circled. 

There were about 15 individuals who appeared to be part of the College Republicans around the table at that point, nearly outnumbered by the media. A few UC Police observed from the lawn terraces adjacent to Sproul Hall. 

The students set up their tables and started putting up signs. An arc of camera people eagerly taking pictures of each new sign as it appeared faced them. A few curious students stopped to watch, but it was still largely a demonstrators and media event. (Tip to a couple of the Berkeley College Republicans. If you are going to protest being unfairly typecast as WASPy white males, it might be best to leave the Ralph Lauren, monogrammed shirts, and blue blazer at home when demonstrating.) 

Late in the morning, as I left the office for a lunch meeting, things were much more yeasty. There was now a solid donut of spectators and arguers around the pastry sale table, and plenty of other people nearby, some talking, some watching, some with signs of their own. 

There were at least four counter-demonstrations going on. The first—and perhaps most expected—appeared to be a contingent from the Revolutionary Communist Party, an organization that shows up on campus handing out literature and glomming on to larger protests as the opportunity permits, but doesn’t seem to attract much real student attention. 

An older demonstrator thrust into my hand a postcard with some of the sayings of Bob Avakian, the party Chairman. Oh, yes. Warmed over Maoism will solve all the World’s problems. Not even the Communist Chinese leadership believes that these days. 

The other counter demonstrations appeared to involve actual Cal students, creatively reacting to the student Republicans, and were much more interesting. 

First, there were students giving out free pastry in a sort of subversive bake non-sale. The contrast between their offerings and the College Republican pastry was marked. The Republican cupcakes looked like rejects from the Safeway birthday bakery section—imperfectly but heavily frosted, in bright, garish, colors. 

The counter demonstrators were handing out pieces of more organic-looking muffins, cakes, and bread. There was one free tray of something that looked an awful lot like the illegitimate offspring of a bran muffin and a hockey puck. It wasn’t getting too many takers, despite the apparent sympathizers and the friendly distributors. 

Second, several individuals held plastic hoops, labeled with signs. One read “Hurdle: Poverty! Jump through hoop before claiming discount baked goods.” A second read “Obstacle: Prejudice and Stereotypes” with the same subtext, and the third said “Obstacle: Underfunded Schools. Jump through hoop…” 

Next, a couple of costumed men complete with an inflated dragon and capes hoisted signs advertising “magical baked goods”, “Increase Hogwarts Diversity”, and “Socio-Magical Justice Now”. 

Although the silliest in appearance, this was perhaps the most trenchant counter-commentary. In the “Harry Potter” novels, revolt is raised by a group of magicians who want to install authoritarian order and bring back the Good Old Days—much as if today’s Tea Partiers were suddenly gifted with both superhuman powers and an evil leader intent on world domination. The bad magicians attempt to subjugating intelligent non-humans, expel those who aren’t “pure blood” from the best schools, and revere the rich. Starting to sound familiar? 

The Harry Potter demonstrators had their own bake sale price list, one-upping the College Republicans satire, in Harry Potter terminology and currency. “Pure Bloods” could buy baked goods for 2 galleons, while the cost for lesser “Half-Bloods” was cheaper. “Squibs” (those unfortunate enough to be born into magical families, but without powers of their own) and “Muggles” (non-magical humans) had low prices, and at the bottom of the list were “Berkeley College Republicans” who got “5 sickles off” for their purchases. 

My earlier distaste at the manufactured demonstration circus softened a bit during the few minutes I watched both the creative counter demonstrations and the overall panorama. There was a lot of reasonable talking going on. I didn’t hear too many raised voices, and college-age people were stopping to look and discuss. Even across the bake sale table itself there was actual conversation, not simply posturing and shouting. 

Being away at work, and at a lunchtime meeting, I missed the mid-day demonstration (which you can read about on the websites noted below). When I came back by in the afternoon on a break, for a brief look, the largest crowds and the “breaking news!” helicopters had departed. 

Someone or group had put up a signboard wall near the College Republican table, inviting individuals to add their thoughts as “Free Anonymous Speech”. 

“Welcome to reality”, one person had scrawled. “I disagree with your opinion but I’m not going to call you a racist,” another wrote. “I hate loud protesters (this is much better)”. “Only The Love is Real” was carefully lettered next to a much larger scrawl, ‘Shut the F-ck Up!” “Taxation = Theft” was countered with “The greatest privilege is not having to THINK about your privilege.” 

On the back of the boards someone had written, “Liberals take over buildings = heroes.” “BCR sells cookies = affront to freedom everywhere!!” “BCR = racists” and “Ignorance is Bliss” were nearby. 

Individuals were now more confrontational than the morning. Instead of cross talk there was back talk, and harangues had started to replace exposition. Overall, though, the event was subsiding. By late afternoon, most of the crowd had faded away, and the College Republicans had packed up their tables. 

Locally, extensive coverage of the day’s events can be found at the Daily Californian website:  

The Berkeleyside website had additional photos and descriptions of the noontime events. 

Official University coverage of the day is here:

Flash: Berkeley City Manager Phil Kamlarz
to Retire on November 30

By Becky O'Malley
Monday September 26, 2011 - 10:38:00 PM

Berkeley City Manager Phil Kamlarz will retire at the end of November after 36 years as a City of Berkeley employee. He has been City Manager for 8 years, succeeding Weldon Rucker, under whom he served as Deputy City Manager. It has been widely rumored that the baton will again be passed to a City Hall insider, in this case to Deputy City Manager Christine Daniel. 

In his letter of resignation, which was distributed to Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and the City Council at 6 p.m. after a special closed council meeting to discuss pending litigation, Kamlarz said this: 

“I would especially like to recognize Christine Daniel as someone who embodies all the qualities necessary to lead the organization and address the challenges that are facing all cities, not only the City of Berkeley, in the upcoming years. “ 

The Berkeley City Council, however, could also decide to open the position for applications and to conduct a search for competitive candidates. 

Daniel's 2010 gross salary in her current job was listed in the Mercury News database of public employee salaries as $195,111. 

According to Contra Costa Times columnist Dan Borenstein, by the end of 2011 Kamlarz would have been making about $260,000—but because of the way employee compensation has been structured by the Berkeley city administration, when he retires he will take home a pension of $280,000 a year, or roughly 108 percent of his salary. He started working for the city as an associate accountant in the library department at a salary of $12,720 a year, Borenstein reported. 

Commenting on the Kamlarz announcement, Councilmember Kriss Worthington praised the manager’s “passion for racial and gender equality, which was reflected in the people he hired.” 

If appointed, Daniel would be the first woman to serve as Berkeley’s City Manager. 


Comments? Write to opinion@berkeleydailyplanet.com. If you sign your real name to your comment we'll publish it. Please include a phone number (not for publication) so that we can verify authorship. 

Report on Berkeley City Employee Costs, Proposed Savings and Action Plan Released:
An Updated Comparison of 12 Greater Bay Area Cities

Tuesday September 27, 2011 - 11:03:00 AM

The Berkeley Budget SOS organization has prepared and forwarded to the Berkeley City Council a report and updated analysis of costs for city employee salaries, benefits and overtime/other cash payments for 12 Bay Area cities, including the City of Berkeley. It is based on the Public Employees Database (PED) and data provided directly to Berkeley Budget SOS by City of Berkeley staff.

According to the report, in all categories Berkeley ranks significantly above the 12 city average, and in some cases is the highest of all cities in the survey.

The analysis estimates that the City of Berkeley could realize annual recurring savings of $68 Million to $100 Million if the aggregate of employee costs were reduced to that of the regional average.

As a means of achieving this goal Berkeley Budget SOS proposes the implementation of a 10-Point Action Plan.

The full text of the report can be seen here.

UC Berkeley Groups Debate Affirmative Action at Campus Bake Sale

By Hannah Albarazi1 (BCN)
Tuesday September 27, 2011 - 04:58:00 PM

Republican students at UC Berkeley are holding a controversial "Increase Diversity Bake Sale" on campus today to highlight their opposition to state Senate Bill 185.  

The bill, which was approved by the state Legislature and now sits on Gov. Jerry Brown's desk, would allow the university to consider race, gender, ethnicity and other factors in graduate and undergraduate admissions.  

The Republican group's initial plan called for the baked goods to be sold at varying prices depending on students' race and gender.  

Salih Muhammad, who was with a group protesting the bake sale and supporting affirmative action this morning, explained that he is "outraged by the poor climate at UC Berkeley regarding issues of marginalized communities." 

Ronald Cruz, organizer with the group BAMN pointed out that since Proposition 209 passed in 1996, there has been a significant drop in the number of students of color admitted to UC Berkeley.

Alta Bates Summit, Nurses' Union Dispute Responsibility for Patient's Death after Replacement Administers Wrong Medication

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Tuesday September 27, 2011 - 07:35:00 AM

Hospital officials and union leaders traded blame yesterday for the death of a patient at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland early Saturday due to a medical error by a replacement nurse. 

Oakland police, who haven't yet released the patient's name, said they went to the hospital at 4:05 a.m. Saturday to investigate a reported patient death. 

They said a preliminary investigation revealed the victim had been given a lethal dosage of non-prescribed medication, police said. 

The patient who died had been receiving treatment at the hospital since July, police said. 

Martha Kuhl, a registered nurse at Children's Hospital Oakland who is on the board of directors for the California Nurses Association, said yesterday that that Alta Bates Summit administrators had barred regularly-employed nurses from returning to work Friday after a one-day strike by 23,000 nurses at Sutter, Kaiser Permanente and Children's hospitals on Thursday. 

Children's Hospital also locked out nurses who tried to return to work on Friday but Kaiser allowed 17,000 regular nurses to come back to their jobs on Friday she said. 

The lockouts at Alta Bates Summit and Children's Hospital are expected to end on Tuesday morning, Kuhl said. 

Kuhl said the union is calling on the California Department of Public Health to carefully examine conditions in Sutter hospitals that have locked out RNs. 

Kuhl said the Nurses Association asked the Department of Public Health on Friday, the day before the patient died, to conduct a formal investigation in response to reports that replacement nurses used during the lockout lacked the appropriate clinical competencies and certifications necessary for safe patient care. 

But Alta Bates spokeswoman Carolyn Kemp said the patient's death "was a tragic accident" and "it's unfortunate and sad that the union would exploit the tragic death of a patient to further its own bargaining purposes." 

Kemp said the replacement nurses at the hospital "are registered, highly trained and qualified, and they undergo extensive screening and orientation before they come to work here or at any hospital." 

Kemp added, "We use the same process and rigorous criteria for the large complement of nurses required by the strike that we use for day-to-day replacement of our own nurses." 

C. Duane Dauner, the president and chief executive of the California Hospital Association, which represents hospital operators and health care systems, said, "It is inappropriate and irresponsible for the California Nurses Association to exploit this tragedy to further their union agenda." 

Dauner said, "This is the same union that has taken nurses away from patient bedsides more than 100 times during the past three years." 

He said, "When the nurses union calls a strike, hospitals cannot simply send their patients home and close the doors" because patients need care around the clock every day. 

Dauner said, "The only option is for hospitals to hire temporary replacement nurses." 

He asked, "If the union believes the use of licensed replacement nurses is a threat to public safety, why have they chosen to pursue a pattern of waging strikes on a routine basis?"

"Parking Day" Comes to Berkeley

By Steven Finacom
Tuesday September 27, 2011 - 08:30:00 AM
The Nina Haft & Company dance group organized a series of performances at Allston and Shattuck on Park(ing) Day, against a backdrop of recycled art.
Steven Finacom
The Nina Haft & Company dance group organized a series of performances at Allston and Shattuck on Park(ing) Day, against a backdrop of recycled art.
The second Downtown Berkeley location was on Center Street,
              organized by UC landscape architecture and environmental planning students.
Steven Finacom
The second Downtown Berkeley location was on Center Street, organized by UC landscape architecture and environmental planning students.
The Shattuck performances took place against a rumbling backdrop of AC Transit buses.
Steven Finacom
The Shattuck performances took place against a rumbling backdrop of AC Transit buses.
On Center Street the backdrop was the vacant UC Printing Plant, scheduled to become a renovated UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.
Steven Finacom
On Center Street the backdrop was the vacant UC Printing Plant, scheduled to become a renovated UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.

“Park(ing) Day” came to Berkeley on September 16, 2011. The annual worldwide event originated in San Francisco in 2005 when the Rebar design studio temporarily turned a parking space into a mini-park, with turf, seating, and a boxed tree. It was a statement about creating “temporary public spaces” where the car is dominant, and/or urban outdoor space is scarce. 

The idea caught fire and now it’s repeated annually around the world, with groups encouraged to come up with their own installations. In 2011 there were hundreds of installations, most concentrated in North America and Western Europe, but others scattered far and wide from New Zealand to South Africa to China. 

According to the Park(ing) day website, “the mission of PARK(ing) Day is to call attention to the need for more urban open space, to generate critical debate around how public space is created and allocated, and to improve the quality of urban human habitat … at least until the meter runs out!” 

There were several temporary parklets locally on Friday the 16th. I visited two, after work, in Downtown Berkeley. 

One was on Center Street, sponsored by the UC Berkeley student ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architects) chapter. It followed something of the model of the original Park(ing) Day—a couple of meter spaces were partially surrounded by salvaged white picket fencing, and some couches were set out. 

The installation was the north side of Center Street below Oxford, adjacent to the old UC Printing Plant—the future Berkeley Art Museum site. Although there were a number of students there, it all looked a bit forlorn. 

That side of Center doesn’t get much foot traffic, and several of the adjacent parking spaces were vacant when I went by, lessening the contrast of a tiny “people space” in the midst of automobiles. It actually looked not so much like a special project, but a more commonplace scene around parts of Berkeley—some old furniture dragged out by the curb, and people hanging out. 

(I was sympathetic to this installation, though, having an alumnus of the UC landscape architecture program in the family. Efforts like these are projects above and beyond the demanding student workload, and I don’t doubt that several students worked long and hard—and late at night—to plan and organize their parklet). 

A few blocks south on Shattuck Avenue at Allston, Nina Haft & Company—an “Oakland based contemporary dance group known for their cultural commentary and site specific works”, according to their website—turned three parking spaces into a dance stage. 

During the day several groups, including Berkeley High students, were scheduled to perform. When I passed by, two woman were dancing, and there were others waiting to perform—at least I assumed the bagpiper in the kilt was a performer, not just a guy wandering Downtown Berkeley. 

A green sheet had been laid down on the asphalt as a dance floor, flanked by grey plastic garbage cans were filled with abstract flower arrangements, clusters of blown up white plastic bags tied to the end of white sticks. 

Sounds odd, but it was actually rather effective, especially with the early evening sun making the bag-blossoms glow. A crowd had gathered to watch the performance, as buses rumbled by behind. 

The Downtown temporary spaces were an interesting diversion from the standard street scene, and might be viewed in various ways. On the one hand, they provided something of an informal foretaste of opportunities to create people spaces along Downtown streets. 

The City’s as-yet-unfunded SOSIP (Streetscape and Open Space Improvement Program) for the Downtown might produce some tangible permanent improvements along these lines. 

On the other hand, if the Downtown “vision” of the City Council majority is carried out to its fullest extent, there will be several thousand more residents in the Downtown, but nothing much in the way of substantial, useable, park areas. 

In that case, sidewalk interventions and parklets will be an attractive garnish, but not a substitute for real, adequately sized, active open spaces. 

There was at least one more parklet in Berkeley that I didn’t see, near Dwight and San Pablo (organized by Alta Planning + Design), and others in Emeryville and Oakland. 

The Park(ing) Day website is at http://parkingday.org/

Green Schoolyards: Creating A Greener Generation©

By Stevanne Auerbach, PhD
Monday September 26, 2011 - 10:44:00 PM

"Every school a garden, every child a gardener, every plant a learning experience"—Kid Grow Australia

The typical schoolyard of unappealing, hard, grey, uneven, and usually broken asphalt fosters little interaction or playfulness and does nothing to connect children with nature, play, or learning. In addition there is great concern about the substantial rise in child obesity and diabetes throughout the country and the amount of time children are bound up by electronics, and not in contact with nature. It’s vital that we help kids to be better informed and more aware of the food they eat, to get them outdoors, and be more active.

Gardening is about all of this plus it fosters imagination and optimism. The idea that you plant a tiny seed and it turns into a plant is magical in itself. Last week a new light appeared that is prominently working to shift drab grey to bright green and moving towards creating a new generation that is closer attuned to nature and the environment.

Engaging Our Grounds, the first International Green Schoolyard Conference in the United States was held September 16-18, 2011 with events held in San Francisco and Berkeley, California. The three-day conference brought together a world of designers, architects, landscape architects, teachers, administrators, parents, publishers, and gardening experts to share and learn about programs already thriving as models in Australia, Canada, England, Germany, Japan, Sweden, and here in the Bay Area. The sponsors for the event included Bay Tree Design—a landscape architecture and planning firm, based in Berkeley; the San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance—a non-profit, focused on San Francisco schools; and Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR)/New Village Press—a green building non-profit and publisher. Several dozen exhibitors provided valuable information and resource materials on the event’s opening night in San Francisco. 

As the conference website promised (www.greenschoolyards.org), “the green schoolyard movement is growing rapidly and flourishing around the world. Schools near and far are reimagining their grounds, replacing their extensive paved surfaces with a vibrant mosaic of outdoor learning and play opportunities. Schools in many different countries are leaders in this field, finding innovative ways to weave curricula into their landscapes, diversify their recreational offerings, enhance their local ecology, and reflect their unique location and cultural context.” The results are exciting and well worth heeding. 

As conference director Sharon Danks writes in her book, Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation (New Village Press, Nov. 2010), “Ecological schoolyards are outdoor learning environments that teach ecological principles through the design of the schoolyard landscape. They can substantially improve the appearance of school grounds while creating hands-on resources that allow teachers to lead exciting “fieldtrips” without ever leaving school property.” Danks’ research and her book inspired this conference—which showcased this ecological schoolyard philosophy, and brought speakers in from around the world to share their perspectives with conference participants—just as Danks does in the pages of her book. Ecological schoolyards foster participation of students, teachers, parents and many others who work together to transform unappealing schoolyards into thriving places for growing vegetables and flowers and providing interdisciplinary lessons. 

At the conference, participants shared information, resources, ideas; toured local groundbreaking school grounds; and were inspired to bring new ideas back to their own communities. Outstanding presentations focused on what each of the presenters has done to convert traditional unimaginative schoolyards into thriving, dynamic places that inspire and educate children. Extensive reports with many examples of successful transformations of schools were presented by experienced and dedicated speakers that included: 

· Dr. Peter Åkerblom, Movium & Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (Uppsala, Sweden) 

· Cam Collyer, Evergreen (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) 

· Manfred Dietzen, Grün macht Schule (Berlin, Germany) 

· Mary Jackson and Julie Mountain, Learning through Landscapes (Winchester, England) 

· Dr. Ko Senda, Environment Design Institute (Tokyo, Japan) 

· Bernard Spiegal, Playlink (London, England) 

· Birgit Teichmann, Teichmann Landschafts Architekten (Berlin, Germany) 


During the conference the entire group visited four unique schoolyards in San Francisco that have undergone dramatic changes over the last decade transforming traditional paved urban schoolyards into exciting outdoor learning and play spaces. Tour sites on Saturday included: Tule Elk Park Child Development Center, Commodore Sloat Elementary School, Sherman Elementary School and Alice Fong Yu Alternative School. Conference participants also visited three inspiring sites in Berkeley on Sunday, including the outstanding Edible Schoolyard, the City of Berkeley’s creative Adventure Playground, and Rosa Parks Elementary School’s wonderful community based green schoolyard. 

Green gardens and play spaces are part of a long-standing tradition that involves nature as an integral part of education. Natural learning was proposed by John Dewey, Henry David Thoreau, and most recently, Richard Louv (author, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder). Richard Louv in an interview in Grist.org with David Roberts stated, “Interesting research is linking nature to healthy child development. In all the studies—prisoners in prisons, patients in the infirmaries—those who have a view of a natural landscape heal faster. Now they’re observing kids playing on natural playgrounds, as opposed to concrete playgrounds. On a natural playground, children think more creatively and are much more likely to invent their own games and play more cooperatively.” 

Louv continued, “There’s research on attention deficit disorder at the University of Illinois, ongoing studies showing that a little bit of exposure to nature decreases ADD symptoms—even in kids as young as five. The researchers suggest adding nature therapy to the other two traditional therapies: behavioral modification and medications such as Ritalin and other stimulants. I would also turn it around and ask: Could it be that at least some of the huge increase in ADD has something to do with the fact we took nature away from kids?” 

As the San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance (SFGSA) notes, “reclaiming a piece of neglected play yard and transforming it into an ecologically rich school garden is among the most beneficial activities that parents, teachers, and children can undertake together.” School gardens have been shown to improve academic achievement, promote healthier lifestyle, increase responsibility for the environment, encourage community and social development and provide a sense of place with appreciate for the natural world. For the past ten years, SFGSA has been working to create school gardens and green schoolyards in San Francisco’s schools, and has played a key role in helping the schools to connect their gardens to the schools’ curricula. 

There are several books (referenced below) that provide all the tools that the school community needs to build productive and engaging school grounds that will continue to inspire and nurture students and families for years to come. 

Today both schools and parents have a unique opportunity—and an increasing responsibility—to cultivate an awareness of our finite resources, to reinforce values of environmental stewardship, to help students understand concepts of nutrition and health, and to connect children to the natural world. What better way to do this than by engaging young people, their families, and teachers in the wondrous outdoor classroom that is their very own school garden? Additionally, adding a kitchen for preparing the food they grow themselves engages children in better understanding of their healthy eating.  

These projects are inexpensive to produce if everyone participates in the process and have long lasting benefits. Certainly every schoolyard could begin by simply creating an area for raised garden beds, simple gardens can start, and schools can find new ways to connect to local community gardens. Transformation can begin in a small way and grow. 

For example, Kid Grow, Garden Links to Learning, which covers schools throughout Australia, is represented by Helen Tyas Tunggal of Learnscapes Planning and Design in New South Wales, Australia (www.learnscapes.org) who shares her work, spanning a decade with Shelly Woodrow, with ten steps for successful gardens: 

1. Build team and research 

2. Assess and select site 

3. Measure and design 

4. Set out garden 

5. Build structures 

6. Prepare soil 

7. Plant and label 

8. Tend and record 

9. Celebrate and share 

10.Keep it all going 


Another innovative initiative is being fostered by Whole Foods who has launched the Whole Kids Foundation School Garden Grant program and raised over $ 1 million to grow school gardens. There are pilot programs underway in Enright Park Community Garden in the East Liberty neighborhood of Pittsburgh; and another garden in a once abandoned baseball diamond in the heart of Baltimore, The Meadow is now a thriving community garden and agricultural learning center created and maintained by the Mid-Atlantic Region of Whole Foods Market. Whole Foods feels strongly that “Learning about the process of growing food helps children develop a deep understanding of the connection between healthy eating and a healthy body. School gardens offer an opportunity to integrate math, science and health curriculum into a dynamic, interactive setting. They also provide a base of knowledge that allows children to take an active role in healthy food choices.” 

The next step? Take a good look at the schoolyard in your own community. Ask, “Does this place foster children’s well being, good health, fitness and green awareness?” Then do whatever you can to get involved in whatever way you can to help change it into a growing place for the next greener generation. We can do it! 


Resources for more information:  









Conference Director, Sharon Danks, is the author of Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation(New Village Press, Nov. 2010). The book includes valuable design ideas for schoolyard transformation in a colorful book (over 500 photos) that brings together examples from North America, Scandinavia, Japan, and Great Britain and demonstrates diverse natural outdoor teaching environments that support hands-on learning in science, math, language, and art in important ways that nurture healthy imagination and socialization. Sharon Danks is an environmental planner and co-founder of Bay Tree Design, inc., a landscape architecture and planning firm in Berkeley, California, specializing in the design of green schoolyards and school gardens. 


Another excellent resource book, How to Grow a School Garden: A Complete Guide for Parents and Teachers (Timber Press) offered by conference co-hosts Arden Bucklin-Sporer and Rachel Kathleen Pringle, provides the basics on how to build school gardens and to develop programs. It covers concept, planning, fund-raising, organizing, designing the space, preparing the site, working with parents and schools, teaching in the garden, planting, harvesting, and even cooking, with kid-friendly recipes and year-round activities. Packed with strategies, to-do lists, sample letters, detailed lesson plans, and tricks of the trade from decades of experience developing school garden programs for grades K-8, this hands-on approach will make school garden projects accessible, inexpensive, and sustainable. The authors, Arden Bucklin-Sporer, the executive director of the SFGSA and Rachel Kathleen Pringle, programs manager for the SFGSA have been actively involved as garden educators and coordinators of public school gardens in San Francisco. 


Exhibitors at Conference included




























International Resources 



www.ngia.com.au (Kid Grow Australia) 






Additional Resources 

www.kidsgardening.org National Gardening Association 1100 Dorset Street, South Burlington, VT 05403 



WholeFoods Foundation School GardenGrants Program www.wholekidsfoundation.org/gardengrants-application.php 




© 2011 Stevanne Auerbach, PhD stevanneauerbach@gmail.com 

Patient at Alta Bates Summit Dies from Lethal Dose Allegedly Given by Temporary Nurse

By Bay City News
Monday September 26, 2011 - 11:13:00 AM

Police are investigating the death of a patient at an Oakland hospital who appears to have been given a lethal dose of medication by a replacement nurse. 

Officers went to Alta Bates Summit Medical Center at 4:05 a.m. Saturday to investigate a reported patient death, according to the Oakland Police Department. 

A preliminary investigation revealed the victim had been given a lethal dosage of non-prescribed medication, police said. 

The California Nurses Association issued a statement claiming that Summit Hospital administrators had barred regularly employed nurses from returning to work at the Oakland Summit and Berkeley Alta Bates campuses Friday after a one-day strike by 23,000 nurses at Sutter, Kaiser Permanente and Children's hospitals on Thursday. 

"We are calling on the Department of Public Health to carefully examine conditions in Sutter hospitals that have locked out RNs," CNA legislative director Bonnie Castillo said in a statement. 

A group of nurses planned to hold a candlelight vigil at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center last night at 7 p.m. The hospital is located at 350 Hawthorne St. 

The patient who died had been receiving treatment at the hospital since July, police said. 

The name of the victim was being withheld pending an ongoing investigation by the police department's major crimes division and the Alameda County coroner's bureau. 

Anyone with information regarding the case is urged to contact the Oakland Police Department at (510) 238-3821.

Unofficial Mayor of Telegraph Released from Jail Saturday

by Ted Friedman
Monday September 26, 2011 - 11:34:00 AM

The unofficial mayor of Telegraph, who was busted last week for interfering with a cop outside Caffe Mediterraneum was back on the ave late Saturday after the Alameda County district attorney refused to charge him with resisting arrest. 

The charge could have carried a sentence of six months to a year in jail; the whole beef stemmed from a question of university police jurisdiction. 

Don't call the mayor mayor, though, as I did in my last piece on him, and he doesn't like the "good samaritan" moniker, either. 

Good samaritan was what I have called him ever since he broke up a chain whipping in People's Park in May and for countless other rumbles he prevented. 

So I asked him, if he wasn't mayor of Teley or a good samaritan, how should I refer to him. "Just call me Ray," he said, looking and sounding like Gary Cooper. "No one elected me mayor," he pointed out, and "all them Samaritans weren't so good." 

As usual, his tip (he's been one of my most reliable tipsters on Teley crime) panned out. According to Wiki, in biblical accounts of Samaria (northern Israel, then) "northern Israel was a sinful kingdom and was divinely punished for its idolatry and iniquity by being destroyed by the Assyrians in 720 BC." 

Ray has told me he would like to study for the ministry and has always known more about the Bible than me--which is not hard. 

I had reported Sep. 22 that something he said to a university cop had led to the cop's jumping Ray from behind and driving him to the walk where he was arrested and handcuffed. That account was based on the eyewitness of several medheads at tables outside the Med. 

But the key event in the brouhaha was never pinned down--what words were exchanged between Ray and the policeman? All eyewitnesses heard was, 

Ray telling the cop "officer, you're out of your jurisdiction." 

Ray gives this account: "the officer was hassling a friend of mine for drugs, and I told him he was out his jurisdiction; he told me that I was too close; and then he shoved me in the chest. He didn't have to shove me that way. Why did he have to shove me? he said I was being detained, and when I slipped off my backpack to leave it with a friend and walked away a little, he jumped me from behind, dropping me to the ground. On the walk, I was resisting his force; he was driving his knee into my back." 

An eyewitness said he heard the officer say, "stop resisting." 

After the incident and when at least four other officers had arrived, a witness reported that the arresting officer walked at least two blocks away from the scene.The witness reported that the officer seemed upset. 

A source at UCPD said that although UCPD does not have jurisdiction except on university property an officer is permitted to investigate crimes in progress witnessed by them even if not on university property. 

Ray, who is usually right, is only right up to a point. The officer was out of his jurisdiction, as Ray pointed out, but not beyond his authority. 

"Were you joking with him," I asked. Ray clenched his jaw. "I was very serious," he replied. 

Ray then told how he had been involved in an incident with the same officer two years ago, charged with resisting arrest, represented himself in court and won his case. 

This time he plans to sue the university, he said, noting that he has a previously broken rib that was re-injured as the arresting officer drove his knee into Ray's back. Ray uses his back in heavy lifting on the odd jobs he takes to support himself. He is homeless, and had recently to vacate a shed near the avenue. 

"They took an x-ray of my ribs at Santa Rita, (county jail) but I don't have the results," he said 

"I don't want no pro bono attorney; I want a lawyer who wants "to make some money,"he said. 

The UCPD arresting officer could not be reached for comment. 



Ted Friedman covers South side crime for the Planet. He's berkboy@twitter.com. 








Early Rain on Telegraph Stroll

By Ted Friedman
Monday September 26, 2011 - 07:47:00 AM
We're so outta here. We're going to Beaverton, Oregon; notice the glistening walk
Ted Friedman
We're so outta here. We're going to Beaverton, Oregon; notice the glistening walk
Real live D.J. at Annapurna during Cafe Stroll on Telegraph Avenue Sunday
Ted Friedman
Real live D.J. at Annapurna during Cafe Stroll on Telegraph Avenue Sunday

A little unexpected September rain sprinkled a stroll on Telegraph avenue Sunday.

It wasn't a stroll--the way Solano stroll is--and it wasn't a music festival, but as event organizer Al Geyer, 63, put it, "there'll be a little strolling and a little music, and a little strolling into businesses; the street will not be closed." 

Even in the face of a Cal Performances free concert, and the Folsom Street fair in San Francisco, Geyer was hoping to promote a crowd of vendors and strollers and performing musicians. But the rain transformed his dreams into wet towels. 

Maybe it won't matter to Geyer whether this rainfall set any records (it didn't), but that street vendors didn't show up and neither did the crowds. It rained steadily for the morning and well into the afternoon, but only slicked the streets (see accompanying photo). 

I spoke Saturday with a street family bound for Beaverton, Oregon, who wanted to know when we had our first rain. "At least by November," I said, "but you never know." 

You never know happened Sunday, and I met up again with the kids Sunday, and we joked about my forecast. 

There is usually a bad weather plan B and this time the fix was simple. Just move indoors. Caffe Mediterraneum accommodated at least two musical acts. The vendor not-scene had no fix. By late afternoon the sun emerged and at least one street act performed outside Berkeley Hats. 

The "world" may not have come to Telegraph Sunday as the cafe music stroll publicity blared it would, but Telegraph showed the whole world that when its boulevard is slicked by rain it's a first-class street

UC Berkeley Graduates Detained in Iran Expected to Return to U.S. Today

By Bay City News
Sunday September 25, 2011 - 11:13:00 AM

Two University of California at Berkeley graduates who were detained in Iran on espionage charges for more than two years are expected to return to the United States today, after spending three days in Oman following their release from Iran. 

Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, both 29, released written statements from Oman Saturday before boarding a plane bound for New York with their families. 

"We are eager to go home at last," Fattal said, who was joined on his flight home by his mother and father, Laura and Jacob Fattal, and his brother, Alex Fattal.  

Bauer's family boarded the plane with him as well, including his mother and father, Cindy Hickey and Al Bauer, and his fiancie, Sarah Shourd, 33, who was arrested with Bauer and Fattal but released last year. 

"Getting off the plane that brought us [to Oman] three days ago was the most incredible experience of our lives. We will never forget the excitement of seeing our loved ones waiting for us at the foot of the plane," Bauer said. 

Bauer, Fattal and 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. 

But the hikers and their families said they aren't spies but instead were detained after they accidentally crossed an unmarked border into Iran. 

Iran released Shourd last September because she was in poor health. Shourd announced in May that she would not return to Iran for a trial because she is suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Shourd and family members of Bauer and Fattal greeted the two men in Muscat, Oman, when they arrived there after being released and flown out of Iran.

Nurses at Alta Bates in Berkeley and Other Hospitals Told to Stay Away Until Thursday

By Sara Gaiser (BCN)
Friday September 23, 2011 - 04:05:00 PM

A nursing strike at Bay Area hospitals is over today, but participating nurses at Sutter hospitals and Children's Hospital in Oakland have been told they cannot report back to work before Tuesday, officials said today. 

The California Nurses Association is calling the action by the hospitals a punitive lockout, but hospital officials denied the charge, saying they had to sign five-day contracts with nursing staffing companies that provided temporary nurses for the strike. 

Thursday's one-day strike involved an estimated 23,000 nurses at Sutter Health hospitals, Children's Hospital in Oakland and Kaiser Permanente. Contract negotiations are in progress at many of the affected hospitals, including those in the Sutter chain, but Kaiser nurses went out on strike in sympathy. 

Today, Kaiser nurses are back at work, but Sutter and Children's Hospital say they will continue to use temporary staff through Tuesday, when contracts with staffing companies expire. Erin Goldsmith, a spokeswoman at Children's Hospital, said the union knew in advance that this would be the case. 

"It's not a lockout, a lockout means that no members of a union are allowed into the hospital," Goldsmith said. "Nurses that chose to cross the picket lines are allowed into the hospital." 

"We had to contract with our nurse replacement agency for a total of five days," Goldsmith added. "We had to give them five days for the replacement nurses to provide a good incentive for them to come." 

Of the approximately 700 nurses at Children's Hospital, around 125 crossed the picket line to work during the strike, Goldsmith said. The remaining 575 nurses will not be able to work until Tuesday, although many may not have been scheduled to work before then anyway. The hospital has hired around 120 contract nurses. 

Union spokesman Charles Idelson called the claim that the hospitals had to contract for five days "ludicrous," and pointed to the fact that Kaiser was able to return the nurses to work after just one day. 

Idelson said the willingness of the hospitals to spend large amounts of money on contract nurses belied their claims in contract negotiations that they needed to save money. 

"It's obviously an unwarranted and unnecessary lockout," he said. "It certainly reflects the mentality of Sutter and Children's. It's indicative of the way Sutter has treated their communities and their employees and patients for years." 

At Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, nearly 40 percent of the hospital's 1800 nurses chose to cross the picket lines, hospital spokeswoman Carolyn Kemp said. The hospital has contracted with 500 temporary nurses through Tuesday. 

"We didn't choose for [nurses] to not come in to care for their patients, so we had to do whatever we can to care for our patients," Kemp said. "We have excellent nurses on a regular basis here and we compensate them with excellent compensation and benefits, so I think the whole thing is unfortunate. We'll welcome them back on Tuesday." 

Unions have said the hospitals are seeking to roll back RN rights and limit nurses' input regarding patient care, in addition to cutting benefits. 

Sutter hospitals have countered by noting that nurses in the chain are "among the highest compensated in the country," with the average nurse there earning a $136,000 salary.

Two Arrested During Protests on UC Berkeley Campus

By Patricia Decker (BCN)
Friday September 23, 2011 - 12:17:00 PM

Two people were arrested on the University of California at Berkeley campus Thursday night during protests of the UC system's proposed plan to hike tuition by as much as $10,000 per year.

Students and other demonstrators gathered at noon in Sproul Plaza to express their frustration over the university's plan to require more money from students because of wavering funding support from Sacramento. 

Some 60 sixty protestors later occupied Tolman Hall, which is located on the northern edge of campus near the UC Chancellor's House. 

Both people who were arrested were not students, campus police Lt. Marc DeCoulode said this morning. 

One person was arrested after a confrontation between demonstrators and campus police in which an officer became penned in by students blocking the building's doors. 

DeCoulode said that the protestors allegedly grabbed the officer's gun belt and removed the magazine from her service weapon. At that point, officers used pepper spray on the demonstrators in self-defense, according to DeCoulode. 

The second arrest occurred as demonstrators exited the campus building at about 9:30 p.m. DeCoulode said the person arrested had attacked an officer from behind. 

Callie Maidhof, a UC Berkeley doctoral student speaking for "Resistance Social," the group that organized Thursday's protest, recounted the events differently.  

The protestors inside Tolman Hall were in the building's lobby at about 9 p.m. and Maidhof said that she and others noticed police lining up outside the glass doors. 

"People started panicking and were trying to leave, but police officers were pushing the doors shut and wouldn't let us leave," she said. 

About half of the 60 people were able to leave, but she said in the confusion that one person ended up in a chokehold and was screaming "please stop hurting me" before he was arrested on suspicion of obstruction and battery against a police officer. 

"They were shouting 'Leave, the building is closed,' but they were standing in front of the building with their sticks," Maidhof said. "I was terrified. If I moved toward them, they would hold up their stick menacingly." 

According to DeCoulode, police never told students that they needed to exit the building. 

"There may have been some confusion during the scuffle," DeCoulode said. 

He said that people outside Tolman Hall had been throwing rocks, pieces of concrete and chairs at officers and at the doors so officers blocked the building's exit "in part for (the safety of the people inside) and for the officers' safety." 

One officer was hit in the head with a large piece of hard rubber -- a traffic cone base -- and sought medical treatment at a hospital, DeCoulode said. 

Campus police requested aid from the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, which coordinated the resources for the request, he said. Officers from nearby UC campuses in San Francisco and Davis also responded, as well as Oakland police officers. 

DeCoulode said campus police monitored the area for several hours after the protestors vacated the building and that they would remain vigilant today. 

Last week, the UC Board of Regents met in San Francisco to weigh a proposal on how to close a budget deficit projected to grow to $2.5 billion over the next four years. 

The university is seeking renewed assurance from the state that it will provide long-term funding to address $1.5 billion of that deficit. The remaining $1 billion in solutions would be provided through expansion of funding streams -- such as corporate sponsorships -- and through implementing academic efficiencies. 

If the state does not increase funding it provides to the UC system, the $1.5 billion would come from a 16 percent annual tuition hike for the next four years, according to the proposal. 

Otherwise, the gap would be patched from a combination of tuition hikes and state funding, depending on how much the Legislature pledges to provide. 

Fall Budget and Fee Protests Begin at UC Berkeley

By Steven Finacom
Friday September 23, 2011 - 12:05:00 AM
Steven Finacom
Steven Finacom
Steven Finacom
Steven Finacom
Steven Finacom
Steven Finacom
Steven Finacom
Steven Finacom

Student, staff, and community demonstrators kicked off a fall season of budget cut and fee increase protest at the UC Berkeley campus on Thursday, September 22, 2011, with a modest but spirited noontime rally, followed by a march through campus and occupation of classrooms.

At day’s end some of the group was gathered, watched by campus police, in part of Tolman Hall, the sprawling Education / Psychology building in the northwest corner of the campus along Hearst Avenue.

I watched part of the Sproul Plaza demonstration and march that fell during my lunch hour. An array of speakers focused on placing the campus protests in the context of national efforts to stop budget cuts, protect labor rights, and reverse growing economic inequality in the United States.

I arrived when Professor of Geography Dick Walker was speaking. “This is not a pay for play institution”, he told the crowd. “It is a public institution.” 

“If high administrators and high faculty don’t think their salaries are good enough, let them go somewhere else”, he said, drawing some of the loudest applause of the mid-day. “We have to restore our public purpose.”

“This is a political question. It is not going to be solved by a technical fix. It ‘s not going to be solved by a political fix.” 

“You are absolutely the moral compass of this institution”, he told the crowd, that appeared to be largely students. “It’s always been the students who have led the way. You have to do it again.”  

“Defend the great idea of public education”, Walker concluded. 

There were perhaps 300-400 people who were part of the rally or were standing on the fringes watching. Sign-carrying protestors formed a line across the Savio Steps in front of Sproul Hall. “Stop the war on students and workers”, “Chop from the top”, “It’s easier to buy a gun than to pay for my education”, “Say No to ‘Cost Effective’,” and “Dare to struggle, Don’t be afraid,” read some of the hand-lettered signs. 

UC Police watched from the edges of Sproul Plaza, but stayed back from the steps. One woman in the crowd showed me a blue and gold card police officers had been handing out; it promulgated a series of protest rules, ranging from “Free expression is encouraged but must not, interfere with the University operation, teaching and other’s rights to expression and may not damage/impede University property”, to “People may not…climb on or rappel from University buildings or trees…” to “Do not grab, rattle, lean on, move or otherwise disturb physical barricades or barricade tape.” 

“Physical resistance and assaultive behavior will not be tolerated and will be prosecuted”, the card warned. 

“These protests are not the problem. They are the beginning of the solution”, said the next rally speaker, a Kaiser nurse, who tied the campus demonstrations in with local labor struggles; nurses were out on strike at East Bay hospitals the same day. 

“The UC system was built on a fundamental principle of access to higher education regardless of income”, he said. “Like Kaiser, this institution seems to have lost its core values.” 

“The message you have at UC Berkeley is you are not alone.” “You must be steadfast in your determination to organized.” “You are engaged in a struggle which is a nationwide attack on workers from the Right”, he concluded. 

“Your cause is righteous.” 

“What we’re facing right now in the UC campus is a systemic issue”, said undergraduate Gabriel Cortez. “I want to keep the excitement going, this excitement for community solidarity on the UC campus.” 

He read a poem around the theme of protest. “Protest like you can’t call in sick…Protest like that Cal Dining T-shirt isn’t a fashion statement…protest like you’re willing to shatter your apathy and use the splinters for picket signs…” 

“Protest like this is your birthday song…” 

Another speaker called out to the passing students who eddied around the ragged back edge of the crowd. “All you people walking by, if you think that a lucrative career is going to save you from paying almost $30,000 a year for a public education…” 

“This is a problem that we hold in common,” said a woman who was introducing speakers. “We’re under attack by a single entity, that is wealth for wealth’s sake.” 

Molly Noble, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, told the crowd about the protests that grew in that state as a Republican governor and legislature cut budgets and labor rights. “This is a moment that teaches everyone”, she said. “This is your school, and this is our country. We have the power to decide.” 

The final speaker, student Andrea Barrera, said, “I am here on my own behalf to say I’ve had enough of the fee increases, layoffs, departmental cuts…” “It is clear that the people who are in control (of the University) now have no idea what they are doing. We should take control.” 

Some of the sign-carriers on the steps had signs indicating they were from San Francisco State University. As the last speakers were talking, a new group filed across the back of the steps. Numbering about fifteen, they had cloths or scarves tied around their faces.  

They all carried vertical signs similar in shape to police officer riot shields, colorfully emblazoned with book titles, from “Limits to Capital” and James Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time”, to Ursula Le Guin’s “The Dispossessed”, and Ralph Ellison’s “The Invisible Man”.  

As the march through campus got underway, this group formed a tight line across the front of the crowd. This was a new tactic; usually campus protest marches are led with a cloth or paper banner carried by two people. This march front made a fairly effective simulacrum of an advancing police line; people ahead stepped aside, because the “shields” were held edge to edge, forming a near solid wall. 

The march went north through Sather Gate and Dwinelle Plaza, pausing briefly in front of California Hall, with police officers in ones and threes flanking it. The marchers turned down between California Hall and Moffitt Undergraduate Library and I turned back. 

I did not count the numbers of marchers, but the group was smaller than the crowd at Sproul Plaza, probably under 200 individuals. 

Later in the afternoon some of the demonstrators occupied classrooms at Tolman Hall. Tolman is one of the two academic buildings closest to the residence of Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. 

The Daily Californian website has been providing a running account of events there on its live blog .  

As of about 8:00 pm on Thursday night the blog reported one incident of police using pepper spray, and one protester arrested. 

According to the Daily Cal: 

“As Tolman Hall's closing time -- 9:00 p.m. -- drew closer, protesters decided to leave the building. Around the closing time, scuffles occurred between the UCPD officers and protesters outside and inside the building. A protester was arrested inside the building and carried away by his arms and legs.” 

The protest is expected to resume at 10:00 this morning.

9/11 in the Comics

By Gar Smith
Friday September 23, 2011 - 08:26:00 AM

Commentary on the 9/11 Anniversary wasn't confined to the news pages and editorial section of our daily papers. It also flew smack into the middle of the Sunday comics. The various ways America's mainstream cartoonists addressed the anniversary tells us something about how the nation continues to process the trauma of that day. In most cases, the response was a retreat into unquestioning patriotism; in other cases, there was simply a sense of fatigue; in a few rare instances, there were surprising expressions of dissent. 

The San Francisco Chronicle set the tone in the September 11 Sunday comics by booting Doonesbury off its traditional keystone perch at the top of Page One. In its place, the Chron ran a large, single-panel from Blondie titled: "Never Forget." 


Sunday's 9/11 Blondie showed the Bumstead family, their neighbors and supporting characters gathered around an American flag flying on a pole in a suburban front yard. In the background, the mailman and Dag's greasy-spoon cook are saluting (indicating they once served in uniform) while everyone else holds their hands over their hearts — including Dagwood's boss, J.P. Dithers (clearly a draft-dodging, Capitalist chicken-hawk, like Dick Cheney). Many of the faces in the crowd wear expressions of sadness and incomprehension. Dagwood and the kids look stunned and empty-headed. Blondie, unaccountably, has her hands clasped in delight, as if she's looking at someone's adorable baby. The only other character wearing a smile is the Bumstead's dog, Daisy. (Perhaps she's admiring the pole.) 

The overall message reeks of Orwellian Doublethink, where "Never Forget" is actually understood to mean "Don't Try to Remember" and "Don't Ask Questions." 


The first line in Sunday's Doonesbury is "Don't turn it on, please." BD, the football-coach/amputee-war-vet turns his back on the TV coverage and reflects: "If you were there, you don't need to be reminded of what happened. We get to relive it every night. Go see 'Cowboys and Aliens' instead. Something that makes sense." 


Jeremy's parents have wrapped him up in a python-like group-hug. They look reverential; he looks uncomfortable. He asks impatiently: "Do we have to do this EVERY September 11th?" 

Wizard of Id 

Rodney and the King are floating towards the castle in a hot-air balloon. Rodney speaks admiringly of "Patriot's Day," where citizens gather "in schools, parks, community centers, places of worship" and, most importantly in "our hearts." The last panel shows the King's usually disrespectful rabble greeting him, not with stones, but with up-thrust candles. A flag flies at half-staff in the distance. 

Hagar the Horrible 

Hagar's son, Hamlet, asks: "Dad, what is a hero?" The red-bearded Viking explains that a hero is "loyal," "brave" (illustrated by Hagar's daughter Honi fighting a dragon) and "puts others first." And where are heroes found? "You can always find them in your heart and your memory," Hagar replies as he walks toward a sunset over a closing line that reads: "Remember our heroes! 9-11." 

Sally Forth 

Ted is sprawled on a sofa with Sally resting her head in his lap. They barely speak. "Quiet day," Sally says. They reach out and hold hands. "Sad day," they agree. And, in the last panel they simply say: "I love you, Ted." "I love you, too, Sal." 

Baby Blues 

The MacPhersons stand solemnly around baby Wren, who has assembled two mini-Twin Towers with wooden building blocks. No one speaks. 

Rhymes with Orange 

A simple line below the joke reads: "Remembering September 11 on the Tenth Anniversary." 


Lio and his father hold hands, standing against a solid black background with the words: "A toast to the memory of those who were lost ten years ago today.…" Lio is holding a mug of root-beer. His father is grasping a can of beer. 


Ray Billingsley offers up the Official Line as Curtis' father rolls out the clichés: "It was a day that would forever change America and the world." On 9/11 "terrorists coordinated attacks on American soil in an attempt to make us cower in submission." "What they didn't count on was that from the ashes, the people of America would arise stronger than ever!" And so: "We come together on this anniversary as a people, a nation, to remember those lost, that they didn't die in vain. That we may FOREVER remember." The last panel may — or may not — be ironic. It shows the entire Wilkins clan piled onto a sofa-chair in front of a TV set, staring, unblinking at the glowing box. 


This strip keeps it simple. The only commemoration is a small box at the bottom with two characters in firefighter garb and the message: "9-11. We all remember." 


At the end of his leash, Ozzie's pet mutt barks the word, "Heal." 

The Family Circus 

Little Jeffy is saying his bedtime prayers. After praying for his parents, siblings and relatives (who appear overhead in "thought balloons"), he pauses and adds another prayer. The final balloon shows a drawing of the Planet Earth 


Berkeley-linked Darrin Bell defiantly honors the First Amendment by taking near-heroic exception to the prevailing platitudes. He places Lemont Brown and BFF Susan Garcia on a rooftop. "What were you thinking about when you went to bed on 9/11?" Lemont asks. "I was praying I'd wake up… and it'd all be just a dream. What were you thinking…?" Lemont replies: "I was hoping we'd rise to the occasion and honor the dead, the survivors, and the heroes by failing to rebuild the Twin Towers, by curtailing our own civil liberties, by calling each other 'un-American,' by torturing prisoners, mocking the French, invading the wrong country, and having our airports inspect kids' and old peoples' underpants." Susan's response: "I don't think sarcasm's allowed on 9/11 day." 

The Elderberries 

The elderly denizens of the retirement home find a jigsaw puzzle with the New York City skyline. "At least 11 years old," one observes. "Looks like some pieces are missin'," says another. "Well, we'll just have to rebuild with what we have, I suppose." 

Apartment 3-G 

Paul drops down on one knee and proposes to Lu Ann. The crowd begins to chant "Yes, yes, yes!" The final panel reads: "Your friends at Apartment 3-G join you in honoring the memory of September 11th, after ten years." 

Beetle Bailey 

Beetle looks into a barrack's door and asks: "Where is everyone?" "They went to remember the victims of 9/11," says a fellow soldier who is emptying a trashcan. "I do that every day," he weeps. The rest of the strip is taken up with a drawing of smoke pouring from the Twin Towers and each of the strip's characters (including Sarge's dog) in tears. "All of us are suffering for the friends and families of those who were killed at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001." 

Barney Google 

Snuffy Smith is reading a newspaper headline about the Tenth Anniversary. In a string of touching poetry, he tells his nephew the "hole left in my heart by the victims of 9/11" is "deeper than ol' man Dowdy's pond, bigger than the rock on top of Mount Tippy-Top, tugs on you stronger than a big bass on yore fishin' pole… an' it lasts longer than ferever!!" 

Funky Winkerbean 

Two young passengers in a plane are flying into New York where their high school band is scheduled to perform at Carnegie Hall. "It doesn't really sink in," the young man says, "until you see that skyline." But the New York skyline outside the plane's window still includes the Twin Towers. The last panel is the grabber. It's ten years later, the young man is now the plane's pilot, the Twin Towers are gone, and the man's forlorn expression doesn't require words. 

Hi and Lois 

This strip stresses the positive with the message "Heroes wear many hats." Lois tells her children: "Today is a national day of service and remembrance." Each character grabs a fire hat, nurses' cap, a soldier's helmet and proclaims: "Hats off to our heroes. And remember to volunteer." 

Mallard Fillmore 

The strip's titular duck pens a pro-military note against a drawing of the burning towers: "On September 11, 2001, 11-year-old Aaron Byers' life changed forever… That we the day he decided to become a US Marine. Thank you, Aaron and all of the other boys and girls who've grown up to become our heroes." 

Arctic Circle 

Three penguins ask the question that must have confronted these comic-strip artists: "How do you pay tribute to something so monumental in a way that doesn't trialize it?" "You could try a minute's silence," says another character as he walks slowly away from his morning's work — an ice sculpture of two towers. 


The first panel features a US flag. The second panel shows Marvin's toy fire-engine. The last six panels show Marvin building a replica of the twin towers with colored blocks. 

Mary Worth 

Mary calls a friend in New York and leaves a message on her answering machine: "I want you to know I'm thinking of you… and that Michael's looking down from heaven, sending you love and watching over you… his dear mother!" 

Mother Goose & Grimm 

To the left, a quartet of firemen is approaching a fire hydrant to attach a hose; to the right, Grimm and a posse of other dogs. Grimm speaks: "It's the anniversary of 9/11…. Please, you first." 



Using Feudal Succession to Keep Berkeley Twee

By Becky O'Malley
Thursday September 29, 2011 - 11:32:00 AM

It’s one of those tedious on-the-one-hand on-the-other-hand kind of things. Berkeley City Manager Phil Kamlarz is retiring (with a pension uncomfortably close to $300k per year) and he’d like to put his thumb on the scale when the question of the successor to his powerful position is weighed by the Berkeley City Council. Is this good?

In theory, I’ve always been in favor of hiring from within an organization when at all possible. It saves the expense of conducting a national search for a replacement administrator, and the decision-makers (the city council, in this case) are likely to know the virtues and deficiencies of the candidate from first-hand experience.

But in this case, it seems like just another example of how governance of Berkeleyans is looking more and more like feudalism instead of like a democracy. No one in recent memory has succeeded to office, either elected or appointed, without an active link to his or her predecessor. Outsiders just don’t have a chance. 

Let’s look first at the electeds. Governor Jerry Brown, to start at the top, is the son of a previous governor, which did him no harm the first time he ran for the office. State Senator Loni Hancock, the former Berkeley mayor, is the wife of previous Assemblymember and current Mayor Tom Bates, who was succeeded in his last office by his longtime aide Dion Aroner, who migrated to the Senate after she was term-limited out and was then succeeded by Hancock, who then hand-picked and endorsed Nancy Skinner, who had been a colleague on the Berkeley City Council with her. 

Whew! Sounds like the biblical Begats, doesn’t it? Even on the Berkeley City Council itself, two of the current members are former aides to councilmembers. (And we won’t even get into the activities of Aroner’s current lobbying firm, now an arm of the Safeway expansion effort…) 

This kind of manipulation doesn’t always produce bad results. Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who’s sharp as a tack and very good at her job, was handpicked and eased into office by her predecessor, former Berkeley councilmember Ron Dellums, who went on to become mayor of Oakland. But by and large, citizen candidates are at a serious disadvantage if they try to enter these exclusive clubs. 

Again in theory, Berkeley has a “weak mayor” charter. According to plan, the mayor should function simply as an at-large member of the council who also presides over meetings and appears in ceremonial contexts as needed. But Tom Bates, probably because of his experience wheeling and dealing in Sacramento, has managed to abrogate a fair amount of power to himself in his two terms as Berkeley mayor, notably by using the ploy of controlling the council’s agenda through a subcommittee which operates out of the limelight. And the City Manager has cooperated hand in glove with this strategy. 

This is not necessarily wrong, according to the city charter. The tradition of having a powerful manager and a relatively powerless elected body started with a reaction against political machines in the 1920s and 1930s, and it’s mostly been followed in Berkeley and other California cities of similar size since then. Berkeley’s current city council is unusually weak even by California standards, with the majority (most votes are 7-2 or 6-3) voting at the behest of city staff and/or the mayor most of the time. The mayor occasionally intervenes on behalf of his favorite developers, but he also takes a lot of long and luxurious vacations as befits the retiree which he actually is. 

City Manager Kamlarz achieved his current position of eminence and ample compensation by operating under the radar and being Mister Nice Guy in public. On his watch, he and his fellow employees did well, very well, and citizens didn’t bother to find out why. 

He was famous, over his decades as Deputy City Manager, for “finding” money for councilmembers’ pet projects when there was a budget crunch. His strategy was pretty simple: his initial budgets just allocated funds to various areas which were never intended to be spent, and which could therefore be “found” when political exigencies required it. 

In my years on the Landmark Preservation Commission I wasted many a long hour discussing maintenance projects for key city properties that never actually happened. Restoring the fountain in MLK Civic Center Park and repairing the clubhouse in John Hinkle Park are just two examples. Members of other commissions have told me about similar phantom projects which never materialized, and were probably never intended to. 

Two of our four branch libraries experienced “demolition by neglect” with this strategy. General fund money which should have gone to repair them in years of relative economic stability wasn’t spent when it was available. Instead, managerial sleight of hand substituted expensive rebuilding funded by a bond issue approved in a ballot measure now generally conceded, by those who bother to try to understand it, as having been deceptively worded by the city administration. Oh well… 

There’s no question that Kamlarz is indeed a Nice Guy. I was among those who applauded his appointment eight years ago because I genuinely liked him. As a good liberal, he’s taken excellent care of his city employee colleagues over the years. 

But now I think that Berkeley doesn’t need more of the same, especially when unfunded employee pension liabilities threaten to sink the ship in the coming years. As much as I would like to applaud the symbolism of his choice of Deputy City Manager Christine Daniel to be Berkeley’s first female city manager, that’s not nearly enough to guarantee her the job. City Attorney Zach Cowan, appointed directly by the city manager, slid into succeeding his boss Manuela Albuquerque on skids greased by Kamlarz, and he’s been almost as bad as she was, which is quite an achievement. (See discussion of sneaky library bond issue ballot measure language, above.) Predictably, the Bates PR engine is already on board with the Kamlarz choice. 

Nonetheless, it’s highly unlikely that enough public sentiment will materialize to demand an open search for the next manager. Most of the time, it’s the hired staff that runs the show in Berkeley, not the electeds, and except for a few chronic malcontents citizens are loathe to complain. Why should they? This is the land of the lotus eaters. If you have a lovely view home in the hills, Berkeley’s signature great eats and the income to pay for it all, why kvetch? Too bad about the swimming pools, but there's always the Claremont... 

(I’ve toyed with the idea of producing and selling a bumper sticker that says “Keep Berkeley Twee.” I know that one like “Keep Austin Weird” would never fly here. Despite the so-last-millenium Bezerkeley hype in some of the retrograde press, we’ve been way too cozy in recent years.) 

The Editor's Back Fence

Yet Another Schedule Update

Sunday September 25, 2011 - 12:21:00 PM

Some days not much happens, so we've decided only to publish "new issues" when there's a critical mass of new stories. That won't necessarily be every day, especially on weekends. This current issue covers both Saturday and Sunday, for example, though it has Saturday's date, September 24.

And there are now four (4) ways to check for what you've missed: scrolling back day by day with the "Previous Issue" button at the top left of the page; getting a list of stories with lede paragraphs by using "The Week" button; getting complete stories in a list with the "Full Text" button; and using the links on the lower righthand side of the home page. 

Complaints or compliments. as always, can be sent to opinion@berkeleydailyplanet.com. 


Speak Out on Issues for Tuesday's Berkeley City Council Meeting

By Becky O'Malley
Saturday September 24, 2011 - 04:23:00 PM

As a resident of District 8, I received the following (slightly abridged) communication from my councilmember, Gordon Wozniak:

At its Sept 27th meeting the Berkeley City Council will consider a number of important issues. For residents who are unable to attend the Council meeting, but wish to provide input to the Council, Councilmember Wozniak has posted five agenda issues on the Open Town Hall website.:

Should the Berkeley City Council adopt a Resolution authorizing dollar amounts for the following relocation payments referenced in Section 13.84.070 of the revised ordinance: 1) per diem payments of $120 for a single person household, $135 for a two-person household and $166 per day for a household of three or more persons; 2) dislocation allowance of $400; 3) fixed payment for moving costs of $300; 4) fixed payment for storage costs of $200; and 5) reimbursement for pet boarding costs up to a maximum of $50 per day for dogs and $20 per day for cats?

Should the City Council refer to the City Manager consideration of establishing an ordinance like LA's to limit harassment?

Should the City Council refer to the City Manager consideration of the establishment of a DUI ordinance similar to one in Oakley, CA where those convicted of a DUI must pay for all city expenses due to their DUI crime?

Should the City Council Support the United Farm Workers Petition to End the Secure Communities Program?

Should the City Council refer to the Planning Commission a Zoning Ordinance amendment to allow automobile dealers to become a legal conforming use on South Shattuck Ave, including the ability to lease or purchase additional property if necessary?

If you have anything to say on any of these issues, you're invited to send your signed opinions of any length to opinion@berkeleydailyplanet.com 

(You could also join the Open Town Hall website and post your opinion there according to the site's rules.)

New Feature: "The Week" Button

Friday September 23, 2011 - 08:26:00 AM

Under the new Planet schedule, we start entering each day's news every morning in a new issue. After that, new articles are added to the issue all day long.

To find out what happened yesterday and in the last seven days, click on "The Week" button to find links to all articles posted in the past week. The "Full Text" button makes it possible to scroll back through a week's worth of complete articles.  

Of course, the "Previous Issue" button still works if you want to look back day by day. Other buttons on that line (Opinion, Columnists, News, Arts & Events) let you scroll back through a full week of links by category.


Cartoon Page: BOUNCE: Internet Gnomes

By Joseph Young
Wednesday September 28, 2011 - 10:09:00 PM


Cartoon Page: Bake-sale vs. Buffet

By Gar Smith
Wednesday September 28, 2011 - 02:42:00 PM
A Bake-sale vs. a Buffet
Gar Smith
A Bake-sale vs. a Buffet


Cartoon Page: Odd Bodkins: The Miracle

Dan O'Neill
Wednesday September 28, 2011 - 02:21:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Public Comment

Letters: Mental Illness Column; Pension of City Manager; What is the Peak Democracy Open Town Hall Costing Us?

Thursday September 29, 2011 - 12:42:00 PM

Mental Illness Column 

Mr. Bragen, I wish I could shake your hand sir!!! You hit the nail on the head in your article On Mental Illness: Cigarettes, Coffee and Metabolic. Syndrome, 

My 24 year old; 365 lbs., 2 packs of cigarettes smoking a day habit; diabetic son is a diagnosed schizophrenic. 

Just 7 years ago he was a well-adjusted, athletic, first year student attending Southern AR University. I’m sure you know the rest of the story. Fast forward to 2011 and my son weights all of 365+ lbs. (depending on the scale he is using that day) with dreams of going back to school, of driving again, etc. It is a catch 22; my son needs the medication to stave off the voices but the consequences that come with that is a huge girth, depression (on top of being schizophrenic) and overall poor health. 

I get frustrated as a parent to change what is wrong with the system but I haven’t found many others who share my feeling. 

Thank you for the insightful article. 

Stephanie Copeland
Little Rock, AR

Pension of City Manager 

Am I the only one who is shocked that the city gives a pension of almost $300,000 a year, higher than base salary, to a retiree? There oughta be a law. No wonder municipalities are going bankrupt... 

Jean-Luc Szpakowski 

What is the Peak Democracy Open Town Hall Costing Us? 


"What is the Peak Democracy Website that does not allow public debate costing us? Voting yes or no to poorly worded statements is not democracy--does not allow to discuss details of the wording or ask questions. Check out the pricing on the site. 

Is the city of Berkeley paying these fees?" Why not set up a Facebook Page instead? Then place the money saved into a program to hire Youth Workers for the summer jobs program? 

Mary Rose Kaczorowski

Press Release: UC Students Stand for Diversity, Reject Affirmative Action Bake Sale, Push for SB185

From Darius L. Kemp, Director of Organizing and Communications
Monday September 26, 2011 - 11:06:00 PM

UC students on 10 UC campuses are organizing a day of action on Tuesday September 27th to call Governor Brown to express their support for Senate Bill 185. The UCSA Day of Action for SB 185 will be one of the largest call-in days for SB 185 with a goal of over 1,100 calls to the Governor. In response to our day of action, the Berkeley College Republicans have organized a deeply offensive “Bake Sale,” which misrepresents SB 185 and does nothing to further a constructive dialogue or positive campus climate.

“SB 185 allows the UC and CSU to consider race, ethnicity, gender and other relevant factors during the admissions process. Having knowledge of an individual applicant’s racial or ethnic background will allow the University to have a more accurate understanding of a person’s background and make a more informed admission decision. UC students strongly support this bill, and will be taking action to let the Governor know that we expect him to sign it,” says Claudia Magana, UCSA President.  

SB 185 does not mandate quotas nor does it allow individuals of different ethnic groups to be held to different standards and does not mandate quotas or repeal Prop 209. UC already has a “holistic” admissions policy, in which many factors are considered beyond GPA and SAT scores. All admits to UC have to meet a minimum GPA and SAT requirement, but beyond that the admissions officers make a holistic assessment of the student’s past performance and potential based on many factors. UCSA believes that race is a factor that should be considered when seeking to understand an applicant's background and experiences. 

The UC Student Association rejects the actions of UC Berkeley’s College Republican organization and believes that their proposed “Bake Sale” does not further a productive dialogue and only serves to harm the campus climate. “We welcome all students to participate in dialogue about the best ways for us to increase diversity and ensure that our University is accessible to all Californians. Still, we hope that such dialogue can occur without being purposefully offensive to specific groups on our campuses.” says, Joey Freeman, External Affairs Vice President at UC Berkeley.  

“We believe that the UC has a special responsibility as a public institution to be accessible to all Californians and reflect the diversity of the state. SB 185 is an important step in the right direction. In part because of the extensive institutional racism that persists in our state and nation, it is critical that our University is aware of the race of applicants, in order to fully understand and contextualize an individual’s background and experiences,” says Claudia Magana, UC Student Association President.  

Comments? Write to opinion@berkeleydailyplanet.com. If you sign your real name to your comment we'll publish it. Please include a phone number (not for publication) so that we can verify authorship.

Why the Berkeley College Republicans are Wrong

By Thomas Lord
Monday September 26, 2011 - 08:02:00 AM

The Berkeley College Republicans have taken a strong stance against a proposed law that would allow, among other things, race to be taken into consideration during the admissions process. They say on a Facebook event page: "The Berkeley College Republicans firmly believe measuring any admit's merit based on race is intrinsically racist."

In this note I'll show that their belief is wrong. Not only is the use of race in admissions not intrinsically racist - the failure to consider race and other similar factors is intrinsically racist. This is not some subjective interpretation of histories of oppression. This is not some radical ideological interpretation of "fairness". Rather, I'll point out some ways in which if race is not considered, some minority students who are objectively more qualified are likely to be turned away in favor of white students who are objectively less qualified. 

Background: The Bake Sale and the Bill 

The College Republicans have stirred up some press attention by holding a "racial diversity bakesale" to protest California Senate Bill 185. 

The senate bill, which sits on Governor Jerry Brown's desk awaiting signature or veto, would allow the University of California admissions offices to consider an applicant's "race, gender, ethnicity, national origin, geographic origin, and household income, along with other relevant factors, in undergraduate and graduate admissions, so long as no preference is given." 

The Republican students organized a satirical bake sale, offering goods at higher prices to whites, lower prices to minorities and women. In short, they argue that any use of race or gender in admissions is tantamount to a racial preference. 

On campus and in the press there is debate about whether the bake sale is "offensive". This misses the point entirely: 

Background: What Does Standardized Testing Measure? 

One measure of a student's merit for admission is an SAT score. It has long been observed that, on average, whites perform better than, for example, blacks on this test. 

Part of the explanation for the better performance of whites is surely that, on average, whites are more likely to have economic advantage and have better K-12 educational opportunities. The question arises, though: is that the only reason for the differences in average scores? Or is the test itself inherently racially biased in some way that has nothing to do with student merit? 

Inside Higher Ed reported on a study published by the Harvard Educational Review in 2010. The study examines the question: do black students tend to get worse SAT scores than white students of equal academic achievement and merit? 

The study found that, yes, SATs tend to give lower scores to black students than white students of equal achievement and merit. 

Here is how Inside Higher Ed describes it: "The new paper in fact is based on a study that set out to replicate one of the last major studies to do so -- a paper published in the Harvard Educational Review in 2003, strongly attacked by the College Board -- and the new paper confirms those results (but using more recent SAT exams). [....] 

"The focus of both studies is on questions that show "differential item functioning," known by its acronym DIF. A DIF question is one on which students "matched by proficiency" and other factors have variable scores, predictably by race, on selected questions. A DIF question has notable differences between black and white (or, in theory, other subsets of students) whose educational background and skill set suggest that they should get similar scores. The 2003 study and this year's found no DIF issues in the mathematics section. 

"But what Freedle found in 2003 has now been confirmed independently by the new study: that some kinds of verbal questions have a DIF for black and white students. On some of the easier verbal questions, the two studies found that a DIF favored white students. On some of the most difficult verbal questions, the DIF favored black students. [....] 

"While the studies found gains for both black and white students on parts of the SAT, the white advantage is larger such that the studies suggest scores for black students are being held down by the way the test is scored and that a shift to favor the more difficult questions would benefit black test-takers." 

The study they are describing hits close to home: 

"The new study is based on data for students who enrolled at the University of California system across several administrations of the SAT [....]" 

Note carefully what is being said about the DIF on verbal portions of the SAT: white students tend to get higher scores than black students of comparable academic merit. Ponder that for a minute. 

Considering Race to Reduce Racial Bias 

An admissions officer is confronted by a variety of objective and subjective facts about an applicant. Applications include objective facts like test scores, transcripts, and grade point averages. Subjectively, they include recommendations, personal statements and so forth. This data is used to filter through applications and determine who should be sent application letters. 

The two studies from the Harvard Education Review tell us that, at least in the case of verbal SAT scores, scores can not be meaningfully compared without considering the races of the applicants

In fact, to ignore race when considering a lower or higher verbal SAT score is to build a pro-white bias into admissions, giving white students a preference over black students of equal merit. 

We might hope that, ultimately, the College Board will improve the SAT test and its scoring methods to eliminate this racial bias - but that is not likely to happen anytime soon. In fact, it might not even be possible: no culturally neutral verbal test has yet been invented. 

If the UC system is prohibited from considering race when, for example, interpreting verbal SAT scores admissions will not be color blind - it will simply be skewed in favor of whites. If someone wants to hold a bakesale reflecting the status quo that SB185 seeks to correct, it's whites who should get the unfair discount. 

Thomas Lord lives in Berkeley.

Perry's Claim to Fame

By Ron Lowe
Monday September 26, 2011 - 04:01:00 PM

A quick snapshot of Rick Perry, leading contender as the Republican presidential nominee. 139 countries (72% of the countries in the world) have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. What is Rick Perry's claim to fame? Perry has presided over 234 executions, a record number, while governor of Texas. 

In Mr. Perry's September 8 speech he said we should dismantle government: this from the man who is running for the highest government office in the land. 

Wildfires have consumed 3.6 million acres in Texas, and so what has Gov. Perry been doing? He cut funding by 75% for volunteer firefighters who are the first responders to 90% of the wildfires in Texas. Are you sure you would want Mr. Perry as president?

Join "Tax the Rich" Demonstration in Berkeley on Monday Evening

By Julia Ross
Sunday September 25, 2011 - 10:56:00 AM

One Monday, September 26, at 6:00 pm, there will be another gathering in Berkeley in front of the closed Oaks Theater on Solano Ave. to demonstrate to Tax The Rich. Please join us. Bring a "Tax The Rich" sign if you can. Our numbers are growing, as are the thousands that are camped out on Wall Street in New York City. 

To save Social Security the rich must pay into it on ALL of their earned income just like you do. Right now they can earn millions and only contribute to a cap of earnings of $106,000.00! If they paid a fair share Social Security would be solvent forever. 

Julia Ross is a trust and estate planning attorney in Berkeley

Response to "Laura's Law in A Nutshell"

By Jack Bragen
Sunday September 25, 2011 - 11:05:00 AM

Court-ordered, intensive, outpatient treatment. What would this look like in practice? Well, a couple of beefy guys would restrain a psychiatric patient, and a nurse would shoot antipsychotic medication into the person’s ass. It would not be a pretty sight. The side effects of the medication come later. Will the workers have the time to remain on site for the next twelve hours to monitor side effects? Doubtful. If the person is having muscle spasms or rigidity, or perhaps neuroleptic malignant syndrome, who do they call for help? Who will answer when they call? 

What would it look like if we tried to “help” the homeless people that way? Well, a group of enforcers would have to go out on the streets to find homeless people, or maybe they would be found at the soup kitchens, these people would be pinned down, and they would be shot in the ass with a big dose of antipsychotic medication. By the way, the person might not also be given food, shelter and medical attention, urgently needed by homeless people. Instead they can go hungry and cold while the antipsychotic medication is going to work on them. Side effects won’t bother them, will they? Is the term; “rational decisions” defined in this law? Who decides if someone is making “rational decisions”? Is it a “rational decision” to join the Army and fight for your country? Is it a “rational decision” to marry your high school sweetheart? Maybe those people should get treatment. Is the only possible “rational decision” under this law: “Yes I need medication and I will submit to any treatment passively that you want to give me”? That’s a fairly limited definition of rational decision making. 

180 days isn’t a very long time, is it? Well, that works out to six months. That’s a half a year of being physically restrained and shot up with medication, which will likely be on a weekly basis. What legal offenses are there that provide six months in jail? Or maybe six months of house arrest? Such a sentence is usually reserved for significant crimes. What “crime” is this person guilty of? Not taking their medication?  

What about us mentally ill people who are behaving well? Is there any guarantee that we will be left alone by the medication enforcers? Or will we be required to pass a “wellness check” every week? What if we have some type of ambitions in life, and don’t have time to do the wellness check every week? What if we are not complying exactly to all prescriptions because one of them is creating undue discomfort, and we haven’t yet met with our doctor to get it changed? What if us “well” mentally ill people don’t need a mental health social worker on our backs on a constant basis? Sometimes we like to forget that we are a mental patient. Just for a day maybe. 

How else will the people be found to shoot up with medications, other than with such a monitoring system? And what about Laura Wilcox? My heart goes out to her family. Restraining the lives of all mentally ill persons will not bring her back. Far more people get shot in Oakland or Richmond, or New York City on a constant basis by criminals who are not mentally ill. Mentally ill people are responsible for relatively few deaths, and the lives that are taken are often our own. When hope is taken away by Laura’s Law, there may be more suicides. 

Before Laura’s Law, laws were already in place to help mentally ill people who have deteriorated. These laws protected our civil rights while allowing timely intervention. In fact, when someone is in crisis and wants to go to the hospital, often there is not sufficient bed space or the person may not have adequate health coverage. Implementation of this law would take essential money away from programs that empower mentally ill people who are doing well, such as help with getting jobs or with meeting our daily needs, or perhaps a drop in center that gives people hope that there is something more than being medicated for us on the horizon. 

A correspondent of my column says the following: 

“The legal ability to force medical treatment exists. When that medical treatment involves physical health, it is rarely employed, and highly protected from misuse. When it involves mental health treatment force has evolved to almost the prevailing model, and few if any protections exist against it. 

“When the two models coincide, are equal in every legal aspect, I will support them, so long as they are not, I cannot. 

…“The greatest fear I have is the absence of protections against force in the area of mental health. The offer to "choose" voluntary over involuntary is itself an act of force: "You choose voluntary, or I force involuntary" is force.” 

--Harold A. Maio, retired Mental Health Editor


Eclectic Rant: Response to Jack Bragen

By Ralph Stone
Thursday September 29, 2011 - 12:42:00 PM

This is somewhat of a response to Jack Bragen's article, "Response to Laura's Law In A Nutshell." Mr. Bragen is responding to my September 22 article, "Laura's Law in a Nutshell."

I am not sure Mr. Bragen fully understands Laura's Law.

First of all, I believe a large percentage of California's chronic homeless are mentally ill and would be well served by implementation of Laura's Law. Laura's Law could be viewed as an alternative to institutionalization, jail, or a continued life on the streets. Is it the final answer? No. But New York's experience with Kendra's Law, model for Laura's Law, resulted in 74 percent fewer homeless; 83 percent fewer arrests; 49 percent less alcohol abuse; and 48 percent less drug abuse, and it has been a resounding success in Nevada County.  

How do the mentally ill come to the attention of the authorities? Not as Mr. Bragen suggests. The police do not go out en masse and round up the mentally ill. Usually, the mentally ill come to the attention of the authorities through so called "quality of life" crimes like public intoxication, disorderly conduct, as victims of crime, or as perpetrators of crime as, for example, was the case with Laura Wilcox, shot to death by a mental patient who resisted his family's attempt to seek treatment.  

Perhaps, Mr. Bragen has confused Laura's Law with Cal. Health & Welfare Code Section 5150. Under Section 1550, when any person, as a result of mental disorder, is a danger to others, or to himself or herself, or gravely disabled, a peace officer, member of the attending staff, of an evaluation facility designated by the county, designated members of a mobile crisis team, or other professional person designated by the county may, upon probably cause, take, or cause to be taken, the person into custody and place him or her in a facility designated by the county and approved by the State Department of Mental Health as a facility for 72-hour treatment and evaluation. Any involuntary hold beyond 72 hours would have to be court ordered. 

The rights of the mentally ill are well protected. There is a court appearance and representation by counsel. By assuring timely and effective intervention for the disabling medical condition of severe mental illness, assisted outpatient treatment could restore the capacity of the mentally ill to exercise civil liberties and reduce the likelihood of the loss of liberty or life as a result of arrest, incarceration, hospitalization, victimization, suicide, and other common outcomes of non-treatment.  

While we as a society must safeguard the civil rights of the unfortunate, we also have an obligation to care for those who are unable to care for themselves. Laura's Law provides such safeguards.

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

By Dorothy Bryant
Wednesday September 28, 2011 - 11:31:00 AM

A fine artistic production expresses the vision, the conviction, and the insistent presence of one person. It is best when it is undiluted by artistic cooperation, when it is not characterized by any of the seven (or more) deadly virtues: fair-minded, well-balanced, accommodating, unassertive, cooperative, and so forth. —from A Life, by Elia Kazan (1909-2003), Distinguished actor/director 

If Elia Kazan were talking about writing novels and short stories, I could agree completely; my writing is mine, my stubbornly-held vision, not to be diluted by the well-intentioned messing up of group creation. 

But Kazan was a stage and film director. My experience writing for local theater (as co-founder of Aurora Theatre Company, for which I wrote 4 or 5 plays) does not support Kazan’s dictatorial view of creating a production. In fact, his attitude seems to come out of one of those corny old movies about how a maniac director bullies the actors to tears, and brings out the performance of their lives. 

Hanging out at rehearsals of my plays at Aurora and elsewhere, I learned that actors—who make great sacrifices for little or no pay, while working at full-time jobs to support their families—do their best work, give their finest, most intelligent performances, when they are respected, consulted as professionals who are capable of giving valuable suggestions and eager cooperation to improve the entire production. 

Kazan might say I just proved his point. He’s the one who made the big time, right?  

True, none of the actors I worked with became rich and famous. Few artists ever do. Their only reward is the joy of the work itself, performed often under difficult conditions; their only serious disappointment being unable to work. Their tragedy—like dancers—reaching the point of wisdom and intuition high enough to do their best work, as their bodies age them out of the big, demanding roles.  

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




On Mental Illness: Cigarettes, Coffee and Metabolic Syndrome

By Jack Bragen
Tuesday September 27, 2011 - 11:01:00 AM

There is a statistic that says the lifespan of persons with severe mental illness is twenty to thirty years less than average. Being a person with mental illness carries with it a number of severe health risks. Additionally, we are less likely to receive lifesaving medical treatments. Physicians may not be as aggressive about treating our health problems. 

The additional health problems we face, to begin with, stem from the medications we must take. Most psychiatric medications cause weight gain, whether they are mood stabilizers, antidepressants, or antipsychotic medications. Numerous medications cause Type II Diabetes. These include especially Risperdal and Zyprexa, two medications which are the mainstay of many doctors’ antipsychotic inventory. 

A close relative gained over a hundred pounds when put on medications, and eventually became diabetic. 

It is ironic and unfortunate that persons with mental illness, by doing what we are supposed to be doing, which is taking our medication, are in the process endangering our long-term physical health. It is something we have very little choice about, since the alternative to taking the medications that cause health problems is to be noncompliant and suffer an acute relapse of mental illness as a result. People with mental illness make huge sacrifices in the name of recovery as well as in the name of being a good sport. 

Smoking and lack of exercise are two more ways that persons with mental illness are endangered. Unfortunately, the medication makes it a lot harder for us to move our bodies, whether this is for exercise or for physical work. People may see us sitting around a lot: this is because many of the medications make it very hard to move. 

Smoking is significantly harder to quit for a person with mental illness compared to a non afflicted person. Frequently tobacco has a therapeutic effect for some mental illnesses. This has been proven by scientific research. Quitting smoking can be extremely uncomfortable and can be destabilizing for some persons with mental illness. Those who have quit smoking know that this is no easy feat. Putting the mental illness on the plate at the same time as quitting smoking can make it out of some people’s reach. (The author of this column went cold turkey for a week and went back to it after watching someone smoking an electronic cigarette.) 

Persons with mental illness may find it harder to give up the comfort of food. This is partly because many medications increase appetite as wall as blocking the sensation of being full. This is also true because lack of food is often a trigger for becoming unstable. 

Many physicians are not as aggressive at treating the ailments of those with mental illnesses. Persons with mental illness are less likely to receive a lifesaving coronary bypass. Physicians instead may try to be reassuring toward us. Our lives may not appear as valuable to a doctor compared to those who are earning a six-figure or more salary. Persons with mental illness must give up a lot of things that most people would not consider relinquishing. We must often give up on a long lifespan, on owning a house, often on having a rewarding career, and we must give up on being a slim and trim member of the “jet set.” We ought to be respected for these sacrifices and ought not to be condescended upon for it.

Setting Limits With Obama

By Bob Burnett
Saturday September 24, 2011 - 04:03:00 PM

Barack Obama has been a disappointment but in 2012 Americans will either vote for him or a Republican Neanderthal. To stay in the White House Obama will need our support. That’s an opportunity to set limits, to make specific demands. Here are four suggestions.

Jobs: In the most recent New York times/CBS News poll 59 percent of respondents were most concerned about the economy and jobs. President Obama must focus on his jobs plan because every American who wants to work should be able to find a decent job with a living wage. 

In his September 8th speech to Congress, Obama said our jobs’ 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." He detailed a plan that would restore part of the social compact. That’s a good start, but Obama has to feature this throughout his Presidential campaign. 

Economic Fairness: After the economy and jobs, voters are most concerned about the Federal budget deficit and the national debt. They want action taken to fix these problems, and restore the economy, but they are not willing to diminish entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security. 

In his September 19th speech, President Obama laid out a detailed plan to address these problems and restore economic fairness, Living Within our Means and Investing in the Future. He asked Congress to let the Bush tax rates for millionaires expire and reform estate tax laws. Obama argued that millionaires should pay more taxes and proposed the “Buffet rule,” where no millionaire would pay an effective tax rate lower than a middle class taxpayer. Finally, the President proposed changes in the corporate tax system, elimination of subsidies and closure of loopholes, 

Obama will ensure that tax increases are considered by the Joint Select Committee of Congress determining the next round of budget cuts. He promised to veto any plan that does not include tax hikes for millionaires and corporations. 

Most readers probably agree that, at a minimum, Obama has to fight for jobs and economic fairness. After that there’s a long list of possible “Do this or else you lose our support” items. Two stand out: bringing our troops home and preparing for global climate change. 

Bring Home US Troops: Only 2 percent of voters feel the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are vital concerns. Recent polls indicated that 58 percent of respondents feel the US should no longer be involved in Afghanistan. 

In his December 1, 2009, speech defining his Afghanistan policy, President Obama took the political middle ground by sending 30 thousand more troops, expending an additional $30 billion, and setting a withdrawal deadline of July 2011. Then he backtracked. On June 22, 2011 the President declared the U.S. will withdraw 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan “by the end of 2011,” and the 33,000 “surge” troops he approved in December 2009 will leave Afghanistan by the end of summer 2012. 

Writing in the LOS ANGELES TIMES, economists Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz recently observed that 10 years of the “war” on terror, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, have cost more then $2.5 trillion. “Now, the war's huge deficits are shaping the economic debate, and…are likely to continue to compromise America's investments in its future for decades.” 

It’s time for Obama to declare that the US has largely accomplished our goals in Afghanistan and Iraq, we cannot afford to continue, and bring the troops home. 

Global Climate Change: Because of tough economic times, amelioration of Global Climate Change has ceased to be a high priority issue for many voters. Nonetheless, it continues to be the most serious long-term threat to our nation and future generations. Recently, President Obama acknowledged this reality, “But I don’t think there’s any doubt that unless we are able to move forward in a serious way on clean energy, that we’re putting our children and our grandchildren at risk.” 

However, on September 2nd, Obama backtracked on EPA rules to limit smog pollution. And on August 26th, the State Department released a report on the Tar Sands pipeline stating it would not cause “significant environmental problems.” 

If Obama truly believes that Global Climate Change is real and failure to move forward on clean energy is “putting our children and grandchildren at risk” then he should kill the Tar Sands pipeline. 

The bottom line: The barbarians are at the gates, but that doesn’t mean we should give Barack Obama a blank check. The President needs tough love. Progressives must set limits with Obama or he will take our support for granted. 

Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. He can be reached at bburnett@sonic.net 


Arts & Events

Eye From the Aisle: Lucrezia Borgia at SF Opera—Star Vehicle for a Celestial Soprano

By John A. McMullen II
Thursday September 29, 2011 - 08:53:00 AM
Michael Fabiano (Gennaro) and Renée Fleming (Lucrezia Borgia)
Cory Weaver
Michael Fabiano (Gennaro) and Renée Fleming (Lucrezia Borgia)

Donizetti, one of the big three Bel Canto composers, liked to write about technicolor, edgy, and dangerous women: Anne Boleyn, Walter Scott’s tragic Bride of Lammermoor, and that purveyor of poison and daughter of a Pope, Lucretia Borgia.  

Bel Cantos are the old-timey operas where plot and acting are secondary to the virtuosity of the singer, and they were tradionally written as star vehicles. 

Reneé Fleming is a name people recognize even if they don’t go to opera, and San Francisco Opera has the incredible fortune to present this star in Lucrezia Borgiaplaying for five more dates through October 11. 

Ms. Fleming’s trills, runs, dazzling control, and effortless precision left my mouth agape.  

Add to this the sensuous presence of a young hunk with a tenor that washes over you and makes you glow. Michael Fabiano makes a stunning SF Opera debut as Gennaro with a shock of blond hair dressed as Phoebus Apollo with a bare chest and sculpted pectorals. 

Gennaro has an instant connection with Lucrezia of the Ashton Kutcher/Demi Moore variety, but after a few more lines about his mother abandoning him and the look on her face, we all recognize she’s his long-lost mom; if, of course, she just tells him, the opera is over. So her husband the Duke swears jealous revenge on him, he pines for her then curses her toying with his affections, his friends inveigh against her, all the while she’s running around furiously trying to protect him while withholding this secret.  

There are many great voices including the basso Duke played by Vitali Kowaljow and Daniel Montenegro as Rustighello. East Bay favorite Igor Viera plays Lucrezia’s loyal henchman Gubetta, and is featured in a duet with Ms. Fleming. Viera recently appeared in Berkeley West Edge Opera’s Don Giovanni, and played Mercutio under this critic’s direction in Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet for that company a few seasons ago. 

The sets are fantastico as always at the SFO, and take us to Renaissance Venice. A muscular bull statue over the Borgia name plaque gives a priapic energy to the setting, and provides a plot foil via an act of vandalism and a pun. Light shines through the bricks of the structures; steam and up-light from a trapdoor with lots of side and back-light peek between the buildings like a De Chirico painting but with much nighttime chiaroscuro. Coupled with the looming pallazzi, they set the mood and paint an artistic scenic picture, but one which has the drawback of lulling us when paired with the sweet melodies. Oddly the music seems often at odds with the text and situation, being lighthearted when the moment is tense, etc. For about ten minutes late in the first act, even the snoring of the guy next to me didn’t wake me up. 

Director and production designer John Pascoe displays his artistry in the initial scene with masterful sweeping stage movement of the multitude, but then seems to abandon the staging of duets and smaller scenes to a “park and bark” stand-over-there-and-sing fashion. Often the chorus was late in entrances and exits on opening night. His costume designs are lovely and appropriate, but not particularly innovative, except for the provocative costumes lavished on Gennaro. I wondered if the grand orchestra’s gorgeous sound, coaxed by the baton of Ricardo Frizza, had rehearsed much with the singers for they seemed to sometimes drown out their pianissimo, and once a duo lost their place.  

Outstanding ovations were heard for lovely, cherubic-faced Elizabeth DeShong in the breeches role of Maffio Orsini, bosom buddy of Gennaro. She is believable as a diminutive, scrappy young man, and her mezzo is powerful and compelling with great access to the lower notes (the part is generally sung by a contralto). Her acting is superb in her scenes with Fabiano who is also an excellent actor, and they throw in a little gender-back-bending-switcheroo that had the audience gasping. 

This is the first time I’ve seen Ms. Fleming sing; she seems to be of the old school as first a singer and very secondarily an actress, or maybe that’s just the tradition of bel canto where the energy is put into the ornamentation rather than the histrionics. Sometimes it was as if June Cleaver was playing Lucrezia, but she cuts loose in the bloody finale and sends the audience home moved.  

Noteworthy: Ms. Fleming was a Fulbright Scholar, trained at Eastman School of Music and Juillard, and had to choose between being a big band jazz singer or opera, singing jazz at night to pay for school. 

It’s a chance to see one of the Celestial Lyric Sopranos of Opera, and revel in the joy that is the San Francisco Opera. So if you have the price of admission, it’s one you’ll thank yourself for the memory. 

Lucrezia Borgia by Gaetano Donizetti 

Directed and designed by John Pascoe, conducted by Ricardo Frizza 

San Francisco Opera 

Sep 29, Oct 2, 5, 8, 11 

www.sfopera.com (415) 864-3330 

Editor's Note: Standing room tickets are available the day of the performance for $10, and sometimes there are also student ($25) and senior($30) rush tickets at the box office after 11 a.m. if the performance is not sold out. Call 415- 864-3330 to check, the earlier the better. 



John A. McMullen II is a member of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle, American Theatre Critics Associations, and Stage Directors and Choreographers Society. EJ Dunne edits.

Opera Review: Gounod's Romeo et Juliette at Livermore Valley Opera

By Ken Bullock
Wednesday September 28, 2011 - 10:08:00 AM

Charles Gounod--best-known for his Faust--had a different sense of adapting Shakespeare to opera than Verdi. It's closer to Delacroix's renderings of Hamlet. In Romeo et Juliette, now at Livermore Valley Opera, the sprawling action and passion is concentrated into a few scenes of melodic, lyrical grace.  

The LVO production, first of their 20th season, has a genuine sense of accomplishment about it, with a good cast--soprano Christie Hageman proving a particularly fine Juliette, tenor Christian Reinert a dashing Romeo--and among an excellent supporting troupe, Jennifer Panara excels in the pants role of Stephano, Romeo's add-on pageboy--with splendid orchestration under the baton of artistic director Alex Katzman, and the right combination of set (Jean Francois Revon), lighting (Kevin Bautch) and Hannah Phillips-Ryan's costumes. Bill Murray's stage direction keeps the dramatic line well-delineated, completely in the spirit of the piece, not Shakespeare but a kind of operatic rhapsody to his play and its theme. 

This level of collaboration makes the Balcony Scene an event, and lends depth to Act III, when out of a more than half-comic brawl, touched off by Stephano's insults, Juliette's cousin Tybalt (Ernest Alvarez) kills Romeo's kinsman Mercutio (Roberto Perlas Gomez), only to be slain by Romeo. Here the ensemble and chorus prove decisive, musically and dramatically. 

At the end of Act IV, Juliette's "Poison" aria, with Hageman singing gloriously, late in the proceedings, becomes the high point in a show where much is engrossing, affecting. 

Gounod, teacher to Bizet, praised by Berlioz and Ravel, is one of the quieter originals in opera history, represented in contemporary repertoire by only two of his many operas--and for those who whistle in the shower, the theme to a piano piece, "Funeral March for a Marionette," which became intro music for TV's Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Romeo et Juliette, in LVO's excellent production, gives compelling reason to explore more of this half-remembered master's treasures--after savoring this one in particular. 

Livermore Valley Opera at the Bankhead Theater, 2400 First Street, Livermore. Saturday, October 1, 8 p. m.; Sunday, October 2, 2 p. m. (925) 373-6800; livermoreperformingarts.org

Film Review: Raul Ruiz's Mysteries of Lisbon at Shattuck Cinemas

By Ken Bullock
Wednesday September 28, 2011 - 10:01:00 AM

Raul Ruiz's extraordinary and original films have been shown at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley, notably a retrospective during the San Francisco Film Festival in 1984, and a program of short films, with Ruiz's appearance, in the 90s. Time Regained, his 1999 adaptation of Proust's final novel, with Catherine Deneuve, Emmanuelle beart and John Malkovitch, among others, is maybe his best-known work, one hailed on release as high among postwar masterpieces.  

And now, Mysteries of Lisbon, a limpid yet intricate epic of late 18th-early 19th century Portugal and France (with scenes of Brazil and the Portuguese islands off Africa), from Camilo Castelo Branco's almost Dickensian--or Balzacian--novel of the period, opens Friday at Shattuck Cinemas in Berkeley and the Embarcadero Cinmeas in San Francisco, barely a month after Ruiz's death in Paris at 70 was announced. 

Ruiz has fashioned a masterpiece that keeps extending itself out of the stories-within-stories told by the dramatis personae of Castelo Branco's story, ostensibly over the paternity of the main character, a foundling at a boarding school in Lisbon, Joao ("John Doe"), taken under the wing of Father Dinis, who declares he knew the boy's father. 

Spare, quiet, finely etched scenes of rooms within old palaces and simpler dwellings or in the streets and out in the countryside give way to the upsurge of often hysterically funny tales, flashbacks that prove as much the mythical key-without-a-door to the Family Romance of all Lisbon than to the question of Joao's identity. There's some parallel here to Wojcek Has' 1964 Chinese box puzzle of tales, Saragossa Manuscript, but Ruiz is after something else, a kind of overflow--and indeed, by the end of the film, Joao and the audience are swamped with the widening response to the original question of where the boy came from--happily for the audience, more precipitously for the now young man, who sometimes follows the dazzling plot or plots as enacted in his toy theater. 

Ruiz long hypothesized a single shot as being a whole film in itself, or giving rise to a new film besides the one its found in, and there are moments in Mysteries of Lisbon that serve as proofs of his conjecture. 

One: when Joao and the priest (whose own past life gradually comes into question) are walking through a neighborhood to an appointment, a little boy rushes up out of a park who insists he has something to show to Joao. Without a cut or camera movement, the shot shows Joao, told to go see by Father Dinis--in profile, very close in the foreground, staring off to the left of the screen--taken by the little boy back into the park beyond Dinis' visage ... a gibbet, half-noticed by the audience, stands there; the little boy points up to one of the men hanging from it and says: That's my father. Summoned back by the unwavering priest, Joao's tagged after by the little boy, who asks: Don't you want to play with me?  

(Stark mortality versus the fantasies and games of childhood--a perennial theme of Ruiz's.) 

Ruiz, who was Salvador Allende's film advisor, fled to Paris with Pinochet's coup, where he took up a career characterized at first by scores of innovative super low-budget films for European TV, then art house pictures with international stars and unusual, humorous yet philosophically and politically-shaded stories, leaves an unknown number of movies (at least in the neighborhood of 120), plays (he wrote 100 before he was 21) and scores of books of fiction and aesthetic theory. He was one of the most vital and inventive--and, finally, humorous and humane--artistic thinkers of our time, a true poet-creator of works that aren't so much new, fantastic worlds as unusually imaginative perspectives on and expansions of both the world we have in common and the individual's life within.

Book Review: Heart of a Soldier

Reviewed by Dorothy Snodgrass
Wednesday September 28, 2011 - 10:25:00 AM

This September marked the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 World Trade Center attack, the worst attack in American history! Who can forget the horrific images of the burning Towers, people jumping out of windows, and dazed workers who managed to escape the building, soot-covered but uninjured, running through the rubble covering the ground? 

But sometimes from the ashes of tragedy comes an extraordinary, even magical story that inspires, offers hope and helps heal even the deepest wounds. James B. Stewart, New York Times reporter and author of the splendid book, "Heart of a Soldier" tells such a story -- one of love and friendship, danger and courage, redemption and heroism. 

Susan Greer, a middle-aged and divorced widow, had just about given up on love and romance when she met a stranger, who, oddly enough was jogging in his bare feet. Little did she dream that she would meet and marry the man of her dreams. 

Born in Britain on the eve of World War 11, Rick Rescorda became an American citizen and a much decorated soldier. His extraordinary life is woven into the military conflicts of his time, from the battlefields of colonial Africa to some of the deadliest battles of Vietnam. Surviving them all with great courage and style, Rescorda seemed invincible. A large, gruff bear of a man, Rick, after returning to the U.S. worked as Head of Security for the Morgan Stanley Company on the sixty first floor of the Center. 

At 8:30 a.m. that morning there was a loud explosion and a huge blast shook the building. It was then that Rescorda took control. Speaking through a bull horn, he issued these orders: "Be still," he said quietly. "Be silent. Be calm." O.k, everyone, the northeast staircase is clear. Let's move. Stay calm. Watch your partner." Speaking to Susan, who was watching at home on television, he said, "If something should happen to me, I want you to know that I have never been happier. You made my life." He then proceeded to safely evacuate 2,700 employees out of the World Trade Center's South Tower, went back and began climbing the stairs, looking for stragglers. It's no accident that of the 2,700 Morgan Stanley employees, only six died. Rescorda was one, having gone back to make sure others got out. 

At a memorial service for Rick, a eulogist stated, "Most of us know how he died, how he ignored orders to stay put and ordered a complete evacuation; how he was gasping on the stair wells, how he insisted on going back up. The last words he was quoted as saying, 'Today is a day to be proud of being an American.'" 

Grieving for her husband and their all too brief time together, Susan composed this poem: 

Six months have passed since that fateful day When evil took you away. I asked over and over why you couldn't stay. But God and the Universe had their way. A new mission you had to take in the course of this horrible wake. I honor your life and your death. To the end of time and with each breath. Together our love is forever.

Free Speech Day Is October 1! Two Unique Ways to Celebrate

By Gar Smith
Tuesday September 27, 2011 - 04:44:00 PM

As the raging debates over a student Republican "bake sale" in Sproul Plaza demonstrate, the exercise of free speech is alive and well on the UC Berkeley campus. But there was a time when staging any kind of student demonstration intended to influence a governor's vote on a pending bill would have been illegal. 

In 1964, the Free Speech Movement changed all that. After an activist was arrested for soliciting funds to protect civil rights in the South, a police car was driven on campus to haul him off to jail. Instead, students spontaneously sat down around the car, bringing "the law" to a dead halt and kick-starting what became a national campaign for student liberty. After months of struggle (culminating in the occupation of Sproul Hall and the mass-arrest and imprisonment of hundreds of students), "the arc of history" finally bent towards justice and students established as fact that their First Amendment rights did not stop at the boundaries of the University. 

On September 17, 1985, the State of California officially honored this keynote victory at the dawn of the Revolutionary Sixties by declaring October 1 "Free Speech Day" in perpetuity. 

The Resolution read in part: 

WHEREAS, The expression of diverse points of view is basic to the principle of learning in public institutions of higher education and 

WHEREA,S The Free Speech Movement began at the University of California at Berkeley in October of 1964 as a response by students to the curtailment of their First Amendment rights by the university, and 

WHEREAS, The peaceful protest by students, which later received the support of the academic senate, resulting in a lifting of the University of California's ban on the advocating of political activity or soliciting funds for a non-university cause… 

WHEREAS, In response to criticisms that originated in the Free Speech Movement, University of California policy now explicitly protects the rights of free expression, speech, assembly, worship, and distribution and sale of noncommercial literature incidental to the exercise of these freedoms on university grounds, and… 

WHEREAS, The changes brought about by the Free Speech Movement at the University of California have served as a model for the advancement of First Amendment rights on campuses throughout the nation…, and 

WHEREAS, The Free Speech Movement emerged from the civil rights movement and with it spawned the Third Word Student Strike and the anti-war movement…, and 

WHEREAS, These movements have resulted in programs and departments such as ethnic studies, women's studies, peace and conflict studies and student-initiated seminars..., 

Therefore, be it Resolved … that October 1, 1985, and each October 1 thereafter, is hereby designated Free Speech Day. 

This October 1, FSM Day will be celebrated by members of the original FSM struggle. On Saturday, scores of FSM vets from Berkeley and around the country will be gathering in the Redwood Gardens Community Room for conversation and a potluck (5:30-9:30PM, 2951 Derby Street, at the south end of the Clark Kerr Campus). While seating is limited, the public is invited. Admission is $5 (sliding scale). 

(Note: There is parking on both sides of Derby Street and in adjacent neighborhoods. After parking, go to the awning and up some stone steps, walk to your right a few steps and you will see a sign directing you to the entrance of the Redwood Gardens Community Room.) 

For more information on the event and this history of the Free Speech Movement, please visit the Free Speech Movement Archives online at www.fsm-a.org. 


Ralph Nader to Speak on Saturday 

October 1 also marks the First Annual Peter Miguel Camejo Commemorative Lecture. Peter Camejo was a fiery activist from Berkeley's Sixties who went on to become the Green Party candidate for California governor in 2003 and was Ralph Nader's running mate in the 2004 presidential race. 

Nader's appearance is part of a fund-raising drive to raise funds to complete a documentary on Camejo's life. "Peter Camejo: A Red-Green Life," is a joint-production by the California Civil Rights Association and the AMA Foundation. Admission to the event (3-5PM at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar Street) is $10 but "no one will be turned away for lack of funds." 

For more information, contact Sharon Peterson (925) 639-1774 or shalynne@pacbell.net 

Gar Smith is a Berkeley resident and a veteran of the Free Speech Movement.

"Jobs Not Cuts" Rally in Oakland October 15

By Zipporah Collins
Tuesday September 27, 2011 - 04:15:00 PM

A coalition of workers, educators, students, seniors, environmentalists, peace activists, religious progressives, and other social justice activists from throughout the Bay Area plan to march and rally for jobs, not budget cuts, and other people-serving actions in Oakland on Saturday, Oct. 15. 

They will gather at 1:00 p.m. at Laney College, following the Public Safety Summit there organized by Mayor Jean Quan. Then the crowd will march to the Federal Building and Frank Ogawa Plaza to present the “Jobs Not Cuts” agenda. 

At the Federal Building, demonstrators will nail a list of urgently needed actions to the federal government’s door. Actually, they’ll bring the door with them. 

“People are tired of being ignored by Washington,” said Charles Davidson, Coordinator of the MoveOn.org East Bay Council, the principal sponsor of the demonstration. “We need to show the White House, Congress, and both political parties that we’re fed up with government of, by, and for the wealthy. It’s time for policies to benefit ‘the other 98% of us.’ Our future is in jeopardy.” 

MoveOn.org and Rebuild the Dream are organizing similar events across the nation in October to make the voices of ordinary Americans heard. More than 80 organizations have joined the movement (see http://contract.rebuildthedream.com). MoveOn has over five million supporters nationally and 50,000 in the East Bay. 

From thousands of grassroots ideas, MoveOn/Rebuild the Dream developed a 10-point agenda for government actions to turn the country around. It calls for 

• A large-scale jobs program for building and maintaining America’s infrastructure 

• Protection of workers’ rights and wages 

• Full funding of quality public education 

• Support for 21st century clean, renewable energy and protection of the environment 

• A “Medicare-for-all” universal health care plan 

• Strengthening Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid 

• Getting corporations out of politics 

To fund these actions, the movement calls on Congress to 

• End the wars and cut the Pentagon budget 

• Tax corporations and wealthy individuals their fair share 

• Tax Wall Street speculation 

“We’ve made our sacrifices,” Davidson said. “Now they need to make theirs.” 

The Alameda County, San Francisco, and South Bay Labor Councils and many other community groups have endorsed the event. Groups are urged to publicize the rally to their members and to encourage others to endorse and spread the word. 

There will be music and spoken word performances at the rally. Headliners will be announced as they confirm. 

For more details, to volunteer, or to endorse the demonstration, visit www.jobs-not-cuts.org or send email to MoveOnEastBay@gmail.com. 


Despite Rain, the Show Goes On at Free Cal Performances Day

By Steven Finacom
Monday September 26, 2011 - 07:45:00 AM
Cal students in the Bare Troupe group performed show tunes at Sather Gate. They were among several student singing groups featured during the day.
Andy Liu
Cal students in the Bare Troupe group performed show tunes at Sather Gate. They were among several student singing groups featured during the day.
Cal students in the Bare Troupe group performed show tunes at Sather Gate. They were among several student singing groups featured during the day.
Steven Finacom
Cal students in the Bare Troupe group performed show tunes at Sather Gate. They were among several student singing groups featured during the day.
Lines were long outside many of the venues but umbrellas closed up as the drizzling rain diminished.
Steven Finacom
Lines were long outside many of the venues but umbrellas closed up as the drizzling rain diminished.
The Pi Clown comedy troupe performed in front of hundreds of adults and children in Pauley Ballroom at Cal Performance's Free for All day in Berkeley.
Andy Liu
The Pi Clown comedy troupe performed in front of hundreds of adults and children in Pauley Ballroom at Cal Performance's Free for All day in Berkeley.
Balloons marked the best routes from venue to venue through the Berkeley campus.
Steve Finacom
Balloons marked the best routes from venue to venue through the Berkeley campus.
The Men’s and Women’s Chorale Ensembles joined forces for a Sproul Plaza performance.
Steve Finacom
The Men’s and Women’s Chorale Ensembles joined forces for a Sproul Plaza performance.
There were elements of both cacophony and musical precociousness in the “Instrument Petting Zoo” for children on the third floor of the Student Union.
Steve Finacom
There were elements of both cacophony and musical precociousness in the “Instrument Petting Zoo” for children on the third floor of the Student Union.
Perfect Fifth, another Cal student group, had an enthusiastic set of younger fans in the breezeway between the Music Department buildings.
Steve Finacom
Perfect Fifth, another Cal student group, had an enthusiastic set of younger fans in the breezeway between the Music Department buildings.
Lower Sproul Plaza in front of Zellerbach Hall was filled with a large performance tent and food, information, and entertainment booths, providing shelter from the morning rain.
Steven Finacom
Lower Sproul Plaza in front of Zellerbach Hall was filled with a large performance tent and food, information, and entertainment booths, providing shelter from the morning rain.
We ran into Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington who happily showed off his autographed copy of the autobiography of actress Jane Lynch. She spoke in Pauley Ballroom.
Steven Finacom
We ran into Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington who happily showed off his autographed copy of the autobiography of actress Jane Lynch. She spoke in Pauley Ballroom.
Two spectators waited in vain for an outdoor dance performance in the Eucalyptus Grove. It was apparently cancelled because of the rain.
Steven Finacom
Two spectators waited in vain for an outdoor dance performance in the Eucalyptus Grove. It was apparently cancelled because of the rain.
As the afternoon wore on, weary attendees took a break in front of Zellerbach Hall, while others lined up under the portico to buy tickets to upcoming Cal Performances events. Pairs of tickets were discounted 25% for those who had signed up in advance on the Cal Performances website.
Steven Finacom
As the afternoon wore on, weary attendees took a break in front of Zellerbach Hall, while others lined up under the portico to buy tickets to upcoming Cal Performances events. Pairs of tickets were discounted 25% for those who had signed up in advance on the Cal Performances website.

The first rain storm of the season dampened the morning of the second annual Cal Performances “Free For All” on the UC Berkeley campus and drove many of the attendees and some of the shows inside. But by mid-afternoon the sun was coming out and thousands of spectators had made their way to dozens of free events spread out over several concert halls, auditoriums, and plazas.

The all day, second annual, September 25, 2011 event showcased performances from Gamelan Sari Raras to African music and dance, to Cal spirit songs and improvisational clowning. No tickets were needed, and seating was first come, first served.  

The program was open to the general public, and it appeared that thousands responded. Walking about the campus and pausing to look at many of the events we ran into Cal students, staff, alumni, Berkeley townspeople, and visitors from as far away as San Jose. Here’s a photo essay of just a fraction of the performances and sights on Sunday.

Berkeley Arts Festival Concerts this week

Monday September 26, 2011 - 07:43:00 AM

Thursday, September 29, 8 pm Mark Miller/Henry Kaiser/Allen Whitman, drums, guitar, bass Improvisation $10-$20 

Friday, September 30, 12 pm Jerry Kuderna, pianist Lunchtime concert donations 

Friday, September 30, 8 pm Sarah Cahill, pianist plays Mamoru Fujieda's "Patterns of Plants", with the composer in attendance. $10-$20 

Saturday, October 1, 8 pm ElectroPoetic Coffee NSAA-voice, poetry; Ross Hammond-guitar; Tom Monson-drums $10-$20 

for more info check: www.berkeleyartsfestival.com

Farmageddon: America's War Against Small Farmers

Reviewed by Gar Smith
Sunday September 25, 2011 - 11:55:00 AM
The film "Farmageddon" is screening at SF's Roxie Theatre and the Rafael Theatre in San Rafael--see review below in "Arts & Events".
The film "Farmageddon" is screening at SF's Roxie Theatre and the Rafael Theatre in San Rafael--see review below in "Arts & Events".

Farmageddon is screening at SF's Roxie Theatre and the Rafael Theatre in San Rafael

The first-person stories related in Kristin Canty's new documentary, Farmageddon, may sound like people recounting the post-trauma shock of a drug-raid but these "perps" are not pot-growers or drug-smugglers, they are family farmers and members of organic produce buying clubs. 

"I was at the top of the stairs and I saw a man with a gun pointed up at me. All I could see was a black hat and a black jacket. I stood there thinking this was a serial killer." 

"They seized $64,000 worth of food and equipment. They terrorized the children. They took the farmer away in handcuffs." 

"They showed up at 5:30 in the morning in the middle of a blizzard and they had 42 armed federal agents and USDA officials and they cleared out our entire barn." 

Kristin Canty's well-crafted documentary manages to fit more than 30 interviews into a taut, engaging, and ultimately enraging, 90-minute film. Among those interviewed is David Rana of Berkeley's Three Stone Hearth food coop, the operators of Organic Pastures, a grass-fed dairy operation in Fresno, and the owner of Rawesome Foods in Venice, California. Farmageddon takes the big-picture message of the award-winning documentary Food Inc. and brings it closer to home — into the lives of small farmers victimized by government raids. 

Canty, a first-time filmmaker, says she was driven to tell this story after seeing her four-year-old son's "untreatable" allergies disappear once she started feeding him glasses of raw milk (rich with healthy natural bacteria and enzymes). This lead to a search for healthier foods — meat, cheese, eggs and produce. In the process of meeting local farmers and food-coop members, Canty began to hear stories about dairy farms and organic-food-buying clubs that had been disrupted by heavy-handed attacks staged by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and state enforcers. 

Farmageddon explains that there are "two competing food systems" in the US — Big Ag and Small Farms — and the shows how the Federal laws created to help large corporate businesses now are being used to harass and destroy the healthy competition from small sustainable farmers. 

Under the banner of "food safety," burdensome new Federal fees and regulations are being instituted that will drive many small food producers out of business. Proposed laws would give USDA expanded powers to conduct raids on small farms. In chilling detail, Farmageddon documents repeated instances of government agencies resorting to surveillance, intimidation, search warrants, criminal investigations of innocent farmers, confiscations, destruction of property, media distortions and outright lies. 


Pasture-raised vs. Pasteurized 

The pretext for the government's assault on the Homeland, is a "war on raw milk," ostensibly being waged "to protect the public." (This bizarre enforcement obsession seems tragically misplaced given that more than two-thirds of the US population now suffers from obesity, diabetes and heart disease — preventable diseases largely linked to the consumption of processed, industrialized foods.) 

But the supposed risks of consuming natural raw milk from grass-fed cows appear to be wildly inflated. Canty reveals how "raw milk," a human food staple that has been consumed for thousands of years, was demonized with the rise of the "pasteurization" process. (Ironically, pasteurization was popularized in the wake of a deadly mass-poisoning that was triggered not by small traditional dairy farmers but by the industrialized milk production of the mid-1800s. The milk that caused a mass-poisoning came from dairy cows crammed into dirty sheds next to a beer factory. Because their milk had a sickly hue, the owners of the company ordered that the milk be "whitened" —with chalk and flour.) 

But if "protecting the public" is the goal, one organic farmer asks, why is it that the government's armed SWAT teams aren't raiding the large, industrialized meat and dairy operations where most food contamination typically arises? If "preventative action" to protect public health is the goal, why are the same government agencies promoting the use of herbicides, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, irradiation, genetically modified organisms and cloning? 

The simple answer is that food laws are largely written to meet the needs of powerful industry lobbyists. Under the banner of "food safety," new regulations and fees are being instituted that could prove such a burden that many small food producers will be driven out of business. As one grower tells Canty: "The people who have the money are the packers and the slaughterhouses and the feedlots and that's who controls the beef industry and that's also who controls the USDA." 

Small farmers complain that filling out the same paperwork required to run a sprawling, industrialized multi-billion-dollar corporate operation can require as much time as farming itself. One beleaguered farmer tells Canty, the paperwork can leave a small, independent grower with "no time left for farming." A seller of organic greens tells Canty that she had to fill out a three-inch stack of forms to win organic certification and adds "I'd like to see chemical farmers forced to deal with this baloney and tell their customers what kind of chemicals are on the food that they are consuming." 

The War on Terra-ism 

Farmageddon visits the home of Larry and Linda Faillace, two Vermont shepherds whose organically raised sheep were placed under quarantine by the USDA, which claimed (falsely, as it turned out) that the animals were suspected carriers of "Mad Sheep Disease." A state official warned the Faillaces that, if they made any complaints or went to the media, "We'll put you out of business. And don't think we haven't done it before." 

Canty visits Steve Smith, New York dairy farmer (and former NASA climate scientist), whose organic yogurt was seized during a raid by state agents. Smith observes ruefully that "the only farm crop that's regulated more than milk is marijuana." 

In Ohio, Jackie Stauer and her children were held at gunpoint for six hours in while a SWAT team of 11 armed police ransacked their home, seizing computers and records. The charge: failure to obtain a "food establishment" permit, even though the organic food at issue was only intended for family consumption. 

In Venice, Rawesome Foods, a private food-buyers club with an unblemished 12-year history, was targeted by SWAT team raid that included agents from the FDA, FBI, California Department of Food and Agriculture, the local health department and a half-dozen sheriffs. Rawsome's workers were lined up against a fence and frisked. Surveillance videos show officers brandishing their weapons at the unarmed employees. Rawesome, which sells raw milk, has been hit with repeated raids. Most recently on August 2, 2011, when the owner, James Stewart, was charged with "conspiracy to commit a crime" and held on $123,000 bail. He was then denied bail. 

The Battle for the Bottle 

California and New York are two of 28 states that permit sales of raw milk. But even in states where it is legal, it is a crime to sell raw milk over state lines. Under this law, a mother in Maryland becomes a criminal if she drives over state lines to buy organic raw milk in Pennsylvania. Like the pasteurization laws, this is a regulation that favors large producers of processed milk. 

When the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund sued FDA over the rule banning the sale of raw milk over state lines, the FDA argued for the dismissal of the suit on the basis that: 

"There is no absolute right to consume or feed children any particular food" and, "There is no generalized right to bodily and physical health." 

As D. Gary Cox, General Counsel of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund tells Canty: "Consumers have a fundamental, inalienable right, to produce and consume food of their own choice. And a consumer has a fundamental right to enter into a one-on-one contract with a farmer or even an agricultural producer to obtain the food that the consumer wants." 

Instead of promoting and protecting consumer choice, the US allows the corporate Food Industry to spend billions of dollars a year on ads that encourage adults and children to eat fast foods (and then instructs them to buy anti-acids to deal with heartburn and "acid-reflux"). But when a family decides to opt for locally grown, organic foods, they risk being placed under a veil of suspicion and suddenly — "freedom to choose" becomes a deviant act. 

One of the last voices in Canty's well-argued documentary that of Libertarian Texas Rep. Ron Paul who clearly spells out the problem and proposes a remedy. Speaking of the country's big dairy and meat industries, Paul says: "These big companies aren't capitalists. They don't believe in free markets as much as small farmers and small business people do, because they're competitive and they work hard." What's needed to change the situation "is that people are going to have to become so outraged that they get the attention of Congress." 

Farmageddon's revolutionary call is perfectly summed up in a quote from Founding Father (and organic farmer) Thomas Jefferson: 

"Was the government to prescribe to us our medicine and diet, our bodies would be in such keeping as our souls are now." 

Gar Smith is a Project Censored Award-winning journalist, Editor Emeritus of Earth Island Journaland co-founder of Environmentalists Against War. He lives in Berkeley.

Architecture, Dance, Music in Berkeley This Weekend

By Steven Finacom
Friday September 23, 2011 - 10:38:00 AM

Dance, music, historic architecture and culture in general are on tap in Berkeley for this weekend, September 24-25, 2011.

On Saturday evening there’s a special chance to see the interior of the National Landmark First Church of Christ, Scientist, and hear from an author with a new book about the architect, Bernard Maybeck. Maybeck’s granddaughter will also be there to share family stories.

Sunday, the creative impulses of Cal Performances scatter and sparkle around the UC Berkeley campus in the second annual “Free for All,” with a day of gratis performances in several indoor and outdoor venues. 

Maybeck Talk 

Saturday evening, September 24, at 7:30 p.m., Mark A. Wilson will speak about Bernard Maybeck, and show slides from his new book about Berkeley’s most famous designer, with photographs by Joel Puliatti. Bernard Maybeck: Architect of Elegance (Gibbs Smith, 2011) is an extensively illustrated, large format, volume of Maybeck history and heritage. 

The central star of the show, of course, is Maybeck’s church building, where the lecture will be held. It’s a century old, and the evening light should be glowing through the mauve windows of the main sanctuary. 

There will be a reception and book signing after the event. Copies of the Wilson will be for sale, along with other local architectural tomes. Tickets are $15 at the door, 2619 Dwight Way at Bowditch. 

The event is co-sponsored by the Friends of First Church and the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association. 

Cal Campus Performance “Free for All” 

The UC Berkeley campus looks like it will be bursting with vocal and instrumental music and dance on Sunday. The second annual edition of this event, organized by the performing arts program spreads both University and community performing arts groups around the campus in Zellerbach Hall, Pauley Ballroom, Lower Sproul Plaza, Wheeler Auditorium, Hertz Hall, Sather Gate, Faculty Glade, and the Eucalyptus Grove. 

The program starts at 11 am and continues until 6:00, and the Cal Performances website promises, along with the performances, “instrument petting zoo, demonstrations, CD signings with the artists, and plenty of good things to eat.” 

You can see the detailed schedule on the Cal Performances website at this address. 


Some of the highlights.  

At 10:30 the California Marching Band performs an opening fanfare on Lower Sproul Plaza. The Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet plays there later, at 2:00.  

Five student-singing groups give consecutive performances, on the hour, at Sather Gate, while the UC Jazz Ensembles perform at noon in Wheeler Auditorium. Hertz Hall has the American Bach Soloists, as well as East Bay pianist Sarah Cahill.  

The Department of Music stages a Balinese Gamelan performance in Faculty Glade at noon, and the Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies debuts various performances in the Eucalyptus Grove at 10:50, 12:50, 3:50, and 5:20. 

There’s the New Century Chamber Orchestra in Zellerbach Hall, along with the Berkeley Symphony Wind Ensemble and the AXIS Dance Company. 

All for free, and all open to both the campus community and the general public. 

(Steven Finacom is the Vice-President of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association.)