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Press Release: Public Meetings Planned for AC Transit Redistricting Process

From Clarence Johnson, AC Transit Media Affairs Manager
Monday October 03, 2011 - 01:08:00 PM

Federal and state laws require the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District to adjust its ward boundaries every 10 years in order to equalize populations following the completion of the federal census.  

To aid in the redistricting process, the agency’s Redistricting Committee and staff have developed proposals that will be vetted at a series of outreach meetings. Community members, elected officials and interested parties are encouraged to attend the meetings and offer their views and recommendations.  

The meetings will be held on the following days and locations: 




October 17, 2011 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. 

Hayward City Hall 

777 B Street, Conference Room 2A 


October 20, 2011 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. 

Bayfair Mall Community Room 

15555 E. 14th Street 

(Upper level near escalator, use Entrance 3) 

San Leandro 

October 24, 2011 from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. 

North Berkeley Senior Center 

1901 Hearst Avenue 


October 27, 2011 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. 

AC Transit General Offices 

2nd Floor Board Room, 1600 Franklin Street 



At these meetings, the proposed boundary configurations – with descriptions, maps and demographics – will be displayed for public comment. Persons who are unable to attend the meetings can find the entire redistricting plans on the District’s website at www.actransit.org (click on “Ward Redistricting”).  

The public can also offer input and request additional information about the process and the proposed plans by emailing districtsecretary@actransit.org. The District’s wards also are available via the web at www.redrawca.org (click on “See Local Lines” and select Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District). At this site, the public can draw communities of interest, draft plans and submit them to the District Secretary. 

The deadline to submit comments on the initial redistricting plans is October 28, 2011.  







Does Signing a Petition Give Parents a Voice in Schools?

By David Bacon
Monday October 03, 2011 - 12:19:00 PM

Parent trigger laws, according to their proponents, give parents power. Gregory McGinity, managing director of policy for the Broad Education Foundation, calls them "a way for parents' voices to be heard."

Sounds good. But is the parent trigger concept a way to put parents in charge of their kids' education, or is it part of a political agenda that will rob parents of even more control? While hardly anyone argues that parents don't want, and don't deserve, a voice in their children's schools, many educators, and even parents themselves, doubt that parent trigger laws increase their involvement.

Many teachers believe parent trigger laws are a way for charter schools to gain a bigger share of the education system. For McGinity, that's not a bad idea. The Broad Foundation promotes the proliferation of charter schools, which he says simply offer parents "a different way for a school to operate." Teachers, however, are alarmed. They see the expansion of a privatized education system, and view parent trigger laws as a means for rushing the process forward.

Their concerns illustrate the big stakes behind passing and implementing these laws. Several very conservative players in national education reform have made parent trigger proposals a key part of their agenda. As they're introduced in state after state, California's experience is being watched closely. 

California's parent trigger law, SBX5 4, called the Parent Empowerment Act, was introduced by former State Senator Gloria Romero, and passed in an extraordinary session of the legislature. California was rushing to qualify its application for Federal Race to the Top funds, and proponents said the law would help its chances. In the end, the state did not qualify, but the law stayed on the books. The California version of parent trigger says that if the parents of 51% of a public school's students sign a petition (the "trigger"), they can decide to fire the principal, or bring in an entirely new staff, or close the school, or have it taken over by a charter school operator. 

While the California law specifies four options, the parent trigger process is closely related to the establishment of charter schools, which do not guarantee parent control. Using the trigger, "you get one shot and that's it, because once that charter is formed, that charter dictates how it will operate," John Rogers, associate professor of urban schooling at UCLA, told NBC's Education Nation. "[Parents] have fewer rights in the context of a charter than they would at a public school." 

Prominent Democrats, among them Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (a former field rep for United Teachers Los Angeles), spoke for the bill, although the votes to pass it came mostly from Republicans. Teachers unions lobbied against it, while a chorus of mainstream media hailed it. Patrick Range McDonald of the LA Weekly claimed it was the product of "minority parents and fierce reformers, who seemed to materialize from thin air." 

Not quite. While some grassroots parents undoubtedly did support the bill, it was the product of powerful political figures, backed by the wealthy foundations that shape much of the country's debate over education reform. SBX5 4 was written by the Los Angeles Parents Union, started in 2006 by the Green Dot charter school company. The LAPU was headed by political operative Ben Austin, who then started another organization, Parent Revolution, to promote and implement the parent trigger law. At its birth, Parent Revolution had a $1 million budget supplied by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wasserman Foundation, the Eli Broad Foundation, the Hewlett-Packard Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation. 

Austin, recently replaced by Governor Jerry Brown on the state Board of Education, is Parent Revolution's executive director. He was an aide in the Clinton White House, and deputy to Los Angeles' former Republican Mayor Richard Riorden. PR's organizing director is Pat DeTemple, a lawyer who worked for Service Employees Local 1199 on the east coast, for the United Farm Workers before that, and was an organizer for President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign. 

Taking Aim: Compton, California 

When the law passed, Parent Revolution sent organizers into southeast Los Angeles, one of the nation's poorest communities, with some of its lowest-scoring schools. At first, they concentrated on parents at Willard Elementary School, in the Compton School District. 

Compton, where most families are African American and Latino, has huge budget problems, as do most working-class communities in the state. As of May, California had a $25 billion budget deficit. State spending on K-12 education was cut by more than $1,000 per student (13.1 percent) between 2007-08 and 2010-11 - a total education budget loss of $18 billion. Over half the state's schools reduced instructional days, two thirds slashed summer school, and three-quarters of its high schools increased class sizes. A year ago districts sent teachers and classified employees 23,000 layoff notices, and most recipients never went back to their classrooms. This spring thousands more pink slips went out. Some may be rescinded by the fall. Many won't be. 

In the current recession Compton's problems have grown to crisis proportions. Last summer its unemployment rate hit 22% while the state was at 12%. Job loss undermines the tax base funding schools and social services. According to Carolyn Ritchie, president of the Compton Council of Classified Employees, AFT Local 6119, this year its school district faced a potential shortfall of $6.5 million, and last June had to lay off employees. "Because they have to submit a budget to the county office of education for the next three years," she explains, "the Board of Trustees convened a committee of unions, teachers, classifieds, parents and principals, and held a series of meetings. They came up with eight options, some of which did involve school closures." 

When Willard parents heard from PR organizers that the school might close, principal Mario Marcos sent a letter home with students, explaining the budget options. "No decision has been made regarding closing any of our schools in the district," he emphasized. Parent Revolution then moved its petition drive to nearby McKinley. 

McKinley has an Academic Performance Index score of 684, one of the lowest in the Compton Unified School District. "A woman named Rosemary came to my door," recalls parent Carla Garcia. "She said she wanted to make changes to improve and beautify McKinley. There was a place on the form that asked about our concerns, so I signed and circled safety. I've been worried that the school gates are sometimes left open, and children might wander out, or other people come in." Garcia's daughter Ayalett is in Ms. Williams' first grade class, and Lynette is in Mr. Tellez' 3rd grade class. She's had kids at McKinley since 2000. 

Parent trigger proponents argue that the petition process lets parents decide how their school should be changed. But the petition Garcia signed didn't offer a choice of the four options in the law, because it must specify only one. Parent Revolution staff wrote the McKinley petition, before the process of contacting parents had begun. At the start of two inches of legal language in dense small print at the top of the page, it says it would "transform McKinley Elementary School under the RESTART MODEL, to be reopened under Celerity Educational Group, a Charter Management Organization (CMO)." 

Celerity has four campuses in Los Angeles, and in 2008-9 total revenue of $11,028,959, with expenses of $9,329,906. While its bylaws state "employees may join and be represented" by unions (a right guaranteed by state and federal law), another section says job duties, discipline "and all other work basis will be negotiated in individual at will agreements." At-will employment allows employers to terminate employees or change their conditions "at will." Right away parents were divided over whether or not they favored a charter conversion. Some, like Garcia, felt misled. "They never said this was a petition for a charter school," she charges. "I don't want that for McKinley." She eventually withdrew her signature. 

Parent Caroll Turner, however, was so impressed by Celerity she enrolled her daughter at one of its schools. "I don't think McKinley is a good school," she said. Turner came to Compton recently from Tyler, Texas. Before arriving she tried to talk with district staff about where to enroll her daughter. "They didn't tell me McKinley was a failing school," she said. "When I found out, I wanted to change that. Every child has a right to a good education." Other parents had mixed feelings about charters. Lilia Buenrostro, with a son in 3rd grade, works part time in the cafeteria and volunteers after school. She went to McKinley herself as a child. "I'm not against charter schools," she explains. "But why don't they organize one from scratch? I don't want them to do it at McKinley. I want McKinley to stay public." 

"I don't oppose charters either," says Ritchie. She has one teenage son in a local charter, and one in public school. "What I don't like is the process they used to get signatures. I don't want to see public schools become charter schools, but my main concern that that we have an open process. As a parent myself, I'd be furious if I didn't have any say." 

That became the second source of division among McKinley parents. Organizers employed a strategy like that used by unions facing hostile employers. "We knew we'd be in for a fight in Compton," explained DeTemple, Parent Revolution's lead organizer. His crew had no list of parents to work from, so they went door to door, he says, with surveys to identify them. "We knew our petition would be challenged, regardless of the number of parents who signed, and that would go on for a long time." To resolve those challenges in time to bring Celerity in for the following fall term, they wanted to get their petition filed by December. 

Organizers visited people individually, and then held house meetings for small groups of parents. They didn't try to organize large, open meetings to which all parents, much less teachers and staff, could come and debate their course of action. As a result, many parents felt excluded. 

Victor Varelas, an Ecuadorian immigrant, and former labor and student activist, was one of those parents who believed the school didn't pay adequate attention to families. He points to the benches in front where parents wait to pick up their children. "Why isn't there some cover from the sun or rain?" he asks. "On street sweeping days they get tickets for parking in front while they walk their kids to class. A $51 fine is a lot for families in this neighborhood. The school promises to do something about it but nothing changes." 

That's not what organizers discussed with him, though. "They said a charter school would get the API up to 800," he recalls. Varelas put four children through Compton schools, including McKinley, and now has four grandchildren there. He went to the children's open house, met with their teachers, and checked their work. Like many parents, he worried that a bad score meant a bad school. That's what the mainstream media and the standardized testing industry claim. But it's hard to explain the connection. "665 means education is bad. 800 means it's good," he says. It was even less clear what Celerity Schools would do better than McKinley. 

In the meantime, Varelas says, "they also told parents that the school would close, at every meeting. Some parents were scared there'd be no school at all for their children." Finally he grew uncomfortable with the process. "They'd always have these small meetings, where often there were more staff than parents. Other parents began coming to me, asking why they were holding meetings without telling everyone. The staff was always in charge at every meeting." Finally, on the morning of the press conference where the petition was turned in, Varelas left the campaign. 

Petitions were submitted, allegedly from parents of 256 of McKinley's 415 students. From the beginning, however, questions swirled around the signatures and the way they were gathered. On January 19 district human relations officer Alejandro Flores sent a letter to all the parents who'd signed, asking them to come to the school on January 26 or 27 to verify their signatures. Flores' letter was criticized strongly by Parent Revolution and its allies. Spanish-language media focused attention on its requirement that parents show a drivers' license or photo ID to validate their signatures. Commentators said it would make undocumented parents worry that their immigration status might be questioned. 

Parent Revolution set up a table outside the school on the verification days, urging parents to boycott the signature checking. Only a few more than 50 came in. Courts halted the verification process, and months of legal wrangling ensued. Finally, in mid-May, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Anthony Mohr invalidated the petition because many signatures had no dates showing when parents had signed. Without dates, the district argued, it couldn't be sure the student in question was enrolled at the time, or was under the care of the person signing. 

Then, on May 25, the L.A. County Office of Education gave Celerity permission to open a charter school at the Church of the Redeemer, two blocks from McKinley. In December, at the time that Parent Revolution filed the trigger petition, Celerity had also independently applied for a separate charter in the McKinley neighborhood. The Compton district turned it down, although its staff recommended approval. The County Office of Education ultimately overruled the board. Parent Revolution hailed the announcement of the charter's approval as a victory, and Austin told a press conference ""the parents of McKinley ... have won that fight." 

Pulling for a Trigger in Buffalo 

While the McKinley drama was playing out in Compton, in mid-May parents in Buffalo NY pulled kids out of schools for half a day, protesting a two-tier school system. White students are concentrated in three high-quality college-prep high schools, while the high school graduation rate is only 25% for young African American men in Buffalo's majority-Black district. 

The action was organized by the District Parent Coordinating Council. It was strongly supported by Buffalo ReformED, an upstate education reform group that wants to implement a local parent trigger law patterned on California's. Buffalo ReformED is very openly pro-charter, but unlike Parent Revolution, which declares itself pro-union, it is very critical of the Buffalo Federation of Teachers. 

Buffalo ReformED is funded in part by the Oishei Foundation, set up by John R. Oishei, founder of Trico Corporation, whose factories making windshield wipers became Buffalo's largest private sector employer. The reform group notes on its website that 8000 students in Western New York attend 16 charter schools, with waiting lines to get in. More charters would "foster a partnership between parents, teachers and students to create an environment in which parents can be more involved, teachers are given the freedom to innovate and students are provided the structure they need to learn," the group says. 

A detailed paper on the teachers' union contract, however, makes clear that Buffalo ReformED sees the union as a main obstacle. "The Contract," writes director Hannya Boulos, "hinders any effort to provide extra assistance to students outside regular school hours, limits professional development, and limits instruction time, creating a culture that allows for teachers and administrators to do the bare minimum ... the Federation is securing their rights at the expense of students and parents." Boulos concludes that the contract's job protections, including seniority, job definitions, tenure and others "collectively contribute to poor student achievement, and a failing school system. This contract marginalizes the needs of students to a dangerous point." 

Implementing a parent trigger law in that context, therefore, would produce petitions to bring in charter companies to take over public schools. If Boutros' goals are achieved, that would drastically affect teachers' conditions and their union. 

Other national groups also propose parent trigger laws as part of agendas that favor charter schools, eliminating teacher tenure, and restricting teachers unions. A major one is the Heartland Institute, a libertarian think tank based in Chicago that has fought tobacco regulation and legislation to address climate change. It is part of a constellation of libertarian and conservative groups that includes the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, and the American Legislative Exchange Council. It's funded by the right wing Sarah Scaife and John M. Olin Foundations, as well as Exxon Mobil, Phillip Morris and the Walton Family Foundation. 

Heartland in the Heartland 

The Heartland Institute has been at the forefront of promoting parent trigger laws to legislators, Tea Party groups, and school reform advocates across the country, according to communications director Jim Lakely. Last year Heartland published The Parent Trigger: A Model for Transforming Education, by Joseph L. Bast, Bruno Behrend, Ben Boychuk, and Marc Oestreich. "Conservatives and libertarians should support the Parent Trigger because it could allow parents to choose charters or even vouchers," the paper urges. 

After Ohio's first-term Republican Governor John Kasich announced he was including it in his budget proposal, Osterreich, Heartland's legislative analyst, enthused: "It is clear that the traditional union model of reform - more money, more teachers - has failed Ohio. Gov. Kasich's announcement of a Parent Trigger breathes life back into a dying system by empowering parents to tackle school problems in the most democratic and localized way imaginable." 

In March Governor Kasich signed Senate Bill 5, restricting the bargaining rights of 350,000 Ohio public employees, including teachers, in the face of massive protest. He cited an alleged $8 billion deficit to justify it, the same rationale he used to cut the education budget. That will have a devastating impact on Ohio schools. When legislators started to pull back from including the trigger measure in the budget as well, it was amended to cover only Columbus City Schools, and the budget then passed. 

In New Jersey Heartland works with Republican Sen. Joseph Kyrillos, who introduced a parent trigger bill in January that would allow only three options - replacing a schools staff, handing it over to a charter operator, and one additional option not found in California - giving parents vouchers they could use for any other school, public or private. After the bill failed to move, Heartland Institute organized a forum, featuring the senator, for an audience of other legislators, and business and government leaders. Kyrillos, managing partner in a real estate firm, also introduced a bill to end tenure for teachers and set up a merit pay system. 

Mississippi's parent trigger law, supported by both Republicans and Democrats, is even more restrictive, allowing only charter school conversion. Other bills are in the wings in Indiana, West Virginia and Georgia, where Heartland also plays a major role. Missouri's trigger bill, HB 393, died when the legislature adjourned in May without passing it, and Colorado's died in a Senate committee. Two bills were introduced in Pennsylvania in 2009, but also failed. In Iowa, North Carolina, North Dakota, Michigan, Maine, Utah, and Maryland media reports indicate that bills are still being considered. 

In almost every state, severe budget crises are leading to the layoff of teachers and larger class sizes. At the same time, a wave of Republican governors and legislators are insisting that deficits must lead to budget cuts, without any increase in taxes. There is no way this cannot result in a deterioration of the school system. For conservative think tanks like Heartland Institute, this is all part of a larger agenda for shifting wealth back into private hands, and shrinking the section of government that provides services like education. They oppose measures to make public schools more effective, especially smaller class sizes, because districts would need more money, and have to hire more teachers to implement them. They justify the cuts by saying, as Oestreich does, that more money and more teachers have failed. He presents parent trigger laws as a substitute for more funding, and because they move schools out of the public system. 

Foundations closer to Democrats prefer to keep such a program at arm's length. But they accept as a given the wave of restrictions on the funding that schools require. They make no call for the one thing that would help public schools beyond question - higher taxes producing more resources for every student. The common ground among liberal and conservative education reformers, therefore, is that if students don't learn, teachers must be at fault. Schools can be improved, the argument goes, without spending more money, if the bad teachers are weeded out, and newer, younger and better teachers take their place, or if schools are turned over to more efficient and innovative private operators. 

Broad Foundation's Gregory McGinity says, "A significant increase in education spending is not something schools can count on. You have to make sure the funds are getting to the right place." According to Broad's senior advisor Dan Katzir, "Asking whether 'charters' are a solution to America's public education's woes is like asking whether medicine is a solution for illness. Only the right 'type' of medicine, under the right conditions, will make a difference. But when it does, it can make all the difference in the world." 

Other reform think tanks go further, even when it seems to contradict the goal of better teachers in more effective classes. Students First, the project started by Michelle Rhee after she resigned as school superintendent in Washington DC, opposes reduced class sizes and more educated teachers. "Small class sizes and required higher pay for higher degrees may have marginal beneÞts, but the evidence of their effect on student achievement is weak," she says in her Policy Agenda. Parent trigger is a major part of that agenda. 

One reason the Heartland report likes parent trigger laws is that liberals, it argues, will support them, in addition to "the center-right coalition" it sees as the source of "most reform proposals based on empowering parents." But there are even more powerful tools the Institute and its allies are prepared to use if they have the political power to do so. In Detroit, a parent trigger process was not needed to advance the wholesale transformation of public schools. 

In March of 2009, Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm appointed Robert Bobb Emergency Financial Manager of Detroit Public Schools. Bobb's salary is being supplemented by the Broad Foundation, where he's a Fellow. For the next year he fought with the Detroit school board, which won a court decision backing its control over academic affairs. After the 2010 election, however, the incoming Republican legislature quickly passed a new Emergency Manager law, allowing Republican Governor Rick Snyder to appoint managers with almost total power over cities and school districts in financial trouble. That gave Bobb full financial and academic control of the district. 

By 2010 50,139 Detroit students (36%) already attended charters. Bobb then closed 59 schools, reconstituted 39, and contracted out 1,429 payroll positions (13% of the workforce). Nevertheless, the district deficit rose from $139 to $332 million. His 5-year deficit elimination plan in response will increase high school class sizes to 60 students, and close 70 of the 142 remaining schools in the district by 2013. 

As Michelle Rhee's Students First agenda states dryly, "New governance models have emerged to allow real reform to take place." 

Connecticut Takes a Different Road 

In Connecticut, however, another alternative emerged in the negotiations over a parent trigger bill, introduced in its state legislature in February 2010. The original proposal was made in a group of reforms put forward by the legislature's Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, strongly supported by the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now. ConnCAN has focused its energy on opening charter schools and a "money follows the child" scheme to make school districts give charters the state average per-pupil funding for each charter student. Recently ConnCAN launched an initiative, 50CAN, to spread its program to the rest of the country. Its recently-resigned director, Alex Johnson, praised "the brilliance of the parent trigger concept [of the California law] as a tool for activating parents in support of charter school conversions in the LA school district ... [because it] creates a value proposition that offers an immediate, direct benefit to those [parents] who join the campaign." 

After negotiations, however, Connecticut's resulting law created a different program to support parent engagement. Under it, all schools that have not made adequate yearly progress in mathematics and reading must form a School Governance Council. A school board can also voluntarily establish one for any school. 

Parents elect seven members, and teachers five. The council members then choose two other community leaders. The principal may appoint a non-voting member, and high school students can elect two others, also non-voting. The councils review the school's achievement data, its draft budget, and advise on hiring, program and operations. The council must develop a parent involvement policy and a school-parent compact, and must survey parents every year. It does not, however, have authority over matters governed by a union contract between teachers and a district. 

After three years, if the school doesn't improve, the council can recommend reconstitution to the local board of education. If the board doesn't agree, the state Education Commissioner decides. Options include the Federal models of firing the principal, replacing the entire staff, and charter conversion, and state models creating "CommPACT" and "innovation" schools. 

"We wanted parent involvement in a meaningful way," says Connecticut AFT head Sharon Palmer. "The parent trigger process didn't provide that. Our goal was better bonding between parents and teachers, and a process where parents could take ownership." Although there was little trust between parent groups and teachers at the start, she says, in the end most agreed, 

This approach is similar to one Julie Woestehoff, executive director of Parents United for Responsible Education, says took place in Chicago, when the Chicago Public Schools established Local School Councils in 1989. "These elected, parent-majority bodies make critical decisions about school programs, budgets, and leadership at most CPS schools," she says. "They are the engine for local site management, accountability, and participation." However, according to Woestehoff, the councils were undermined first by a "business- and politician-driven movement" under Mayor Richard Daley, and later by Education Secretary Arne Duncan when he headed Chicago schools. 

Like Woestehoff, many education activists believe other alternatives offer more parental control than parent trigger laws. Steve Peha, president of Teaching That Makes Sense, says, "More choices doesn't always mean better choices. The [California parent trigger] law seems to encourage a dangerous polarization of an important issue ... Why not vote to 'improve' a failing school and then take direct responsibility for contributing to that improvement? With more than 50% of any parent community behind improvement (as opposed to restructuring or closure), a school could make immediate and significant gains on many fronts." 

Judith Browne-Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, asserts, "Signing a petition to close a school does not engage parents in a dialogue, visioning or powerful decision-making ... It's short-sighted and underestimates the power of communities to make systemic change. Additionally, it runs a serious chance of abuse and racial polarization where intentions behind the petition may not be just about academics." 

Perhaps responding to similar doubts, Austin claims that in the future, Parent Revolution's campaigns in California may not actually result in the formal filing of petitions. "The most transformative use," he says, "is not to use it at all. Parents can organize to bargain, by using the petition to say, 'we tried to change through traditional routes, and now we have the power to fire you, so you have to sit down and negotiate.'" DeTemple adds that "we're trying to build parent chapters, and we expect them to ally with teachers and administrators, using the petition as leverage with the district." Neither would specify a school or district in which this use was taking place, however. 

The Los Angeles Times, which is viewed today with extreme hostility by UTLA and most teachers, suggested another modification. "It makes more sense for the parent petition to have the power to force major transformation, but for the local school board to make the actual decision on which option should prevail." But when the legislature held hearings on modifying the California law to include teachers in the petition process as well as parents, the even more union-hostile Orange County Register fumed "These proposed rules protect bad schools and take power away from parents and give it back to the unions." 

In July the California State Board of Education adopted new regulations for the process. They require posting a sample petition on a website, public disclosure of financial support, including the payment of full-time staff, for groups circulating petitions, and forbid paying for signatures. Signatures will be verified by comparing them to existing school records. The regulations still don't require public meetings of parents, however. According to the California Teachers Association, which supported the new regulations, other state laws still require that any charter conversion have the support of a majority of teachers at the affected school, but the new regulations are silent on that issue. 

At McKinley, meanwhile, PTA president Cynthia Martinez thinks the school should be given a chance. "The educational level is not where it should be, but it's gone up over the last two years," she believes, and credits the change to Principal Robinson. "A school isn't something you can change from one day to another." 

But there's still no cover over the bench where parents wait. They still get citations when they park in front to drop kids off. Education quality aside, you can imagine a mother holding a $51 ticket deciding that the next time that petition comes around, she'll sign. 

This article first appeared on Rethinking Schools, Fall 2011  

For more articles and images, see http://dbacon.igc.org

Dr. Toy's Best Toys

By Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D.
Monday October 03, 2011 - 11:25:00 AM

“Hot” is not what makes toys great, because “hot” gets cold fast. What is more important is play value of the toy, appropriateness for child’s age, interests and abilities plus the child’s ability to be playful, and engage with the right toy that best matches the child. Dr. Toy reminds parents and teachers that “play is children’s work” and should be respected and understood by all adults. We should be thinking: “What products or ‘tools for play’ can we obtain to provide wholesome experiences for children and plenty of positive play interactions?” 

Let’s start Gift Suggestions with Dr Toy’s Ten Best Basic Toys every child should play with anytime: 


  1. BALL—available in all sizes and shapes so find the one your child can pick up and play with most easily
  2. BOARD GAME- many different ones are excellent and fun for child and whole family to play with
  3. CAR- and other transportation toys like a truck or train engage child in role playing and active play.
  4. CONSTRUCTION TOY- wonderful diversity of construction toys from plastic, metal to wood each provide skill building and logical thinking and great for eye hand coordination and imagination
  5. CRAYONS –colorful crayons help the child learn colors and discover their artist within as they explore what they can do with self expression
  6. DOLL- choices abound as your child enjoy friendship, communication, sharing secrets, learning to dress and undress, and further develop socially and emotionally.
  7. PUPPET-perfect for reading books aloud and for role playing anytime.
  8. PUZZLE- excellent for learning to match, discovery and manipulation skills.
  9. TELEPHONE- the right choice for communication and language development.
  10. WOODEN BLOCKS-basic tools for building and stacking as child wishes.

Dr Toy selects Best Products in different categories to support children’s learning, variety of skills, physical activity, and creativity. See Dr Toy’s Guide www.drtoy.com for more details on these products and others selected throughout the year including Best Classic, Vacation, Green Best Picks, and other great play products. The winning products include socially responsible, innovative toys, games, books, videos, audiotapes, software, CDs, DVDs, crafts, and other children's products. 

Dr. Auerbach believes, "parents need help to get a head start locating new, diversified products that children will enjoy using while they increase learning skills, enhance instruction, and expand creativity.” 

To help make choices for appealing and worthwhile gifts here are Dr. Toy’s winners matched to skills. 



  • Active Play – Alpha Toys (Alphabeasts), Carrera (Porto Corsa Racing), Constructive Eating (Three Garden Utensils), Fisher-Price (Big Action Construction Site), Funrise Toys (Tonka Strong Arm Cement Mixer), Funtastic/QuickSmart (QuickSmart Scramble Bug), Green Toys (Flatbed Truck & Race Car), Gryphon House (Budding Chef), iStar Entertainment (FyrFlyz), Jennara Productions (Miss Barbara's Pirate Adventure), Manhattan Toy (Quadrilla Twist & Rail Set), Metro Design (48" Play Wheel), MGA (Little Tikes Cozy Truck), Spin Master (Air Hogs Hyperactive), uKloo Kids (uKloo Treasure Hunt), Wishbone Design (Wishbone Flip), WowToyz (3D Dinosaur Puzzles).
  • Construction Play – Citiblocs(Little Builder Rattle Blocs), Fat Brain Toy (Tobbles ), Fisher-Price (Big Action Construction Site), HABA (Animal Upon Animal), Innovation First Labs (Hexbug Nano Hive Habitat), Laser Pegs Ventures (3D Lite Board), LEGO Systems (Ninjago: Fire Temple), Yoshiritsu (Hamacron Constructor).
  • Creativity & Art – Colorforms (Original Colorforms Set), Fat Brain Toy (Tobbles), Giddy Up! (Movie Make Up), Int'l Playthings (Glamology Enhancing Pack 4), Learning Materials (Coloraturo), Little Kids (Bend & Build Foamstructure), Patch Products (Design 'N' Doodle Silly Zoo), ThinkFun (Cartoon It!), Tiny Green Bee (Crunch a Color™), Wild Republic (Nuts & Bolts).
  • Creativity & Music – APA Animation Prod. (Sookie & Finn), Copy-Kids (Eat Fruits & Vegetables), Maestro Classics (My Name Is Handel), Music Intelligence Proj. (Tuneables:I Love Music!), MusiGo (Going Places), QuaverMusic.com (Quaver's Marvelous World of Music), Right Road Prod. (Right Road for Kids! Episode 1: You Are Special!), Rock 'N Learn (Sight Words), Sockeye Media (Nursery Rhyme Singing Time), Whistlefritz (Las Estaciones).
  • Technology – ClickN Kids (Looney Tunes ClickN READ), Cognitive Kid (Ansel & Clair's Adven.-Africa), Gund (Peek-A-Boo Bear), Hasbro (Cookie, My Playful Pup), Learning Journey (ABC WordPad), Smart Bomb Interactive (National Geographic Animal Jam), SmartLab Toys (Recon 6.0 Programmable Rover), Super Duper® Pub (Funzee Everyday Go-Togethers Software), Visions of the Millenium (Tell Me What Am I – Animal), VTech (2-in-1 Discovery Table), Your Baby Can (Your Child Can Discover!).
  • Language/Learning/Math & Reading Readiness – Abligio Books (Best Multiplication Workbook EVER!), Alpha Toys (Alphabeasts), Bailiwick Press (Cahoots ), BrillKids Int'l (Little Reader Deluxe), Critical Thinking (Crypto Mind Benders: Famous Quotes), Discover w/Dr. Cool (Break Open Real Geodes), Griddly Games (Oversight), Kids II (Sensory Plush Pals), Klutz (Guide to the Galaxy), K'NEX (Classic K'NEXosaurus Rex), Leo Marshall Designs (LeCardo), Lucky Cat Prod (Math Park).
  • Puzzles & Logical Thinking Games – b. dazzle (Temple in Paradise), Bloco Toys (Primates of the World Collection), Blue Orange (Fastrack), Cepia (DaGeDar), Continuum Games (Barnyard Stampede), FoxMind Canada (Fauna), Fun and Function (Social (e)Motion), Gamewright (Mermaid Beach), GaZima Games (Stomple), INI (Dabble), Lindergaff (Synonyms), Non-Trivial Quest (Non-Trivial Quest), POOF-Slinky (Our America Game), Pressman Toy (Ultimate Mastermind), Techno Source (Tetris Link), University Games (Kids Battle the Grown Ups), USAOPOLY (Telestrations).
  • Social & Dramatic Play – ALEX (Ready, Set, Tell Time!), Alpha Toys (Alphabeasts), Aeromax (My 1st Career Gear Assortment), B. by Battat (Car Go CarGo), Berjuan Toys (Breast Milk Baby Doll), Corolle Dolls (Bébé Amour), Chicco (Lemmy My First Puppy), Fashion Angels (Fashion Design Projector Set), Giddy Up! (Movie Make Up), Golly Gee-pers! (Table Manners Cards), Int'l Playthings (Glamology Enhancing Pack 4), MGA (Mini Lalaloopsy Treehouse), Ragananda (Ragananda Doll), Royal Council (Every Kindness Counts), Zing Toys (IckeeStikeez).
  • Socially Responsible Products – ALEX (Ready, Set, Tell Time!), b. dazzle (Temple in Paradise), Berjuan Toys (Breast Milk Baby Doll), Connor's Science Universe (Crystal Explosion), DuneCraft (Rainforest Biosphere), Giddy Up! (Movie Make Up), Golly Gee-pers! (Table Manners Cards), Int'l Playthings (Glamology Enhancing Pack 4), Royal Council (Every Kindness Counts), Tiny Green Bee (Crunch a Color), Worry Chest System (Worry Chest System).

Dr Toy’s Ten Best Toys-2011 



  • Citiblocs (Little Builder Rattle Blocs),
  • Fisher-Price (Big Action Construction Site),
  • Green Toys (Flatbed Truck & Race Car),
  • nnovation First Labs (Hexbug Nano Hive Habitat),
  • Star Entertainment (FyrFlyz),
  • Laser Pegs Ventures(3D Lite Board)
  • LEGO Systems (Ninjago: Fire Temple )
  • Little Tikes/MGA(Little Tikes Cozy Truck),
  • Spin Master (Air Hogs Hyperactive)
  • oshiritsu (Hamacron Constructor).

*Dr Toy’s Best Toys Awards 

"Dr. Toy's 100 Best Children's Products" was developed by noted child development authority, Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D. (a.k.a. "Dr. Toy") as a service to consumers who desire to purchase safe, affordable, educationally oriented, and stimulating toys and products for children. Dr. Auerbach introduced “Dr. Toy's Guide” when she saw the need for more year-round resources for consumers to identify and choose the most appropriate, safe and engaging learning and developmental products for all children. Dr. Toy’s Guide www.drtoy.com was the first website about toys. Her book, Dr Toy’s Smart Play/Smart Toys: How to Raise a Child with a High P.Q. (Play Quotient) for parents, and others who care about children. In addition to her "100 Best Children’s Products," Dr. Toy awards for the “Best Classic,” the “Best Green,” and the “Best Vacation. “ All award winners are carefully chosen from among many hundreds that Dr. Auerbach reviews at toy fairs, in catalogs, and through many sources. She uses extensive criteria that she has developed over many years. For more information, go to http://www.drtoy.com. 

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 



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

This is the Weekend Issue

Saturday October 01, 2011 - 01:33:00 PM

As is often the case in sleepy Berkeley, there's not much news this weekend. Most likely this issue will be up until Monday, if you're wondering. 

New stories will be added if anything happens.

Bill Gutting CEQA Passed in Sacramento, Signed by Brown--
Skinner and Hancock Voted Yes

By Becky O'Malley
Friday September 30, 2011 - 08:33:00 AM

Reader Roger Marquis sent me the link to a broadcast by environmental lawyer Gary Patton on KUSP in Santa Cruz.

It's about a blatant attempt to gut CEQA which had been passed by California Democrats in Sacramento and when he wrote was on Jerry Brown's desk. Roger said:

"I haven't read anything (yet) about how our representatives voted on AB900, the latest attack on CEQA. Here's the story on Gary Patton's Land Use Report.

Wish we had something like this here in the East Bay."

Here's what happened after the Patton broadcast aired on September 12:

Brown signed AB 900, along with SB 292, whose implementation was required for AB 900's implementation. State Representative Nancy Skinner voted for both these awful bills; State Senator Loni Hancock voted yes on 900 and no on 292.  

Let them know what you think about these pro-corporate votes.


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

Who has the Right to Remove Benches At Bus Stops? A Bus Stop Bench Story

By Lydia Gans
Monday October 03, 2011 - 12:51:00 PM

Berkeley's civic leaders have a reputation for making profound declarations on national and global politics but when it comes to decisions regarding quality of life issues of people right here in Berkeley they seem to be incompetent or uncaring. Much can be said about the treatment of people who are poor and homeless or mentally ill but even in small matters one might wonder how decisions are made about what and for whose benefit. My experience is an example.

I live in a senior residence near Dwight and Telegraph and enjoy the shops and restaurants as well as the street life along the Avenue. I also appreciate the easy access to downtown Berkeley on the #1 and the #1R bus which I use almost daily to go to the library and the YMCA. AC Transit is a boon – buses run fast and frequently, but no matter how efficient the system is, riders must always expect to have a wait. That's why benches are placed at bus stops. That's why there was a bench at the bus stop on the corner in front of Peet's on Dwight and Telegraph. On July 10 that bench was removed. That was extremely disturbing. 

I am not young (I'm the same age as Rita Moreno) and have some problems which make it difficult to walk or stand for a long time. Not being able to sit while waiting for the bus is painful for me. And certainly I am not the only senior or disabled person who needs that bench. I immediately emailed the city. This was their reply; “The City requested that the bus bench on Telegraph at Dwight be temporarily removed for several months in order to interrupt illicit behavior that was happening at that location. Berkeley Police and other City staff are monitoring the situation and will request that AC Transit reinstall the bench once it has been determined that doing so will not contribute to antisocial or illegal behavior in the area. We apologize for the inconvenience, and hope to restore the bench as soon as we can.” I find it hard to envision what kind of “illicit or antisocial behavior” can happen on an uncomfortable steel ribbed two seater perched on the edge of the sidewalk! 

My pleas to City hall got nowhere. I was told by the city manager that the TBID had requested the removal. I couldn't' find any way to reach the TBID or Roland Peterson on line so I went to Craig Becker at the Med. He told me he wasn't aware that the TBID had said that but he admitted that they really didn't like benches very much because some people would just sit there “all day long”. It seems to me that benches are intended for sitting! 

The process here is getting increasingly convoluted. I emailed the city manager and got this reply. “Benches are public amenities and the more the better except whe certain individuals privatize this public amenity. We removed the ones at haste and telegraph because an individual insisted on using them to display and sell books. Check with Roland Petersen on the TBID position. Sorry for the inconvenience and hopefully we'll bring it back soon.” This is unacceptable several reasons. At issue is the bus stop corner on Dwight, not Haste where the vendors are located and it obviously is not a place for a bench. I immediately let him know that. That was a week ago. 

Furthermore, his referring me to Roland Peterson makes me wonder who calls the shots around here. Does the TBID, which represents business property owners tell the city what to do. Does Mr. Hynes ask Mr Peterson what amenities the public, that is the people who live here, shall have? And does all this mean we have to worry about the city removing more benches? “Sorry for the inconvenience” won't do it. Do we the people have to organize a demonstration to get results?

Laura's Law Revisited: Response to Ralph Stone

By Jack Bragen
Saturday October 01, 2011 - 09:13:00 AM

First of all, please give me credit for my ability to understand this issue. It is not that I don’t understand, I simply do not agree. 

Secondly: I question the accuracy of your statistics and they have been given without a qualifying context. By this I mean that you haven’t given the “who, what ,where and when” and also in what category these statistics have been gathered. I seriously doubt that there are 74 percent fewer homeless in New York. 48 percent less drug abuse? Unbelievable. Among what category of people, where, what time period and so on have these unbelievable statistics been created? Can you provide a link to a page that would have all of the details of this study? Because so far, you have stated something that is without context and seems improbable. 

Third: Laura’s Law does not specify how the subjects will come to the attention of those who enforce it. That means that the ugly scenario of enforcers going into people’s homes could still happen, even though it may not have been done in the pilot programs. 

Fourth: The homeless need food, medical care, housing, jobs and a purpose to life. Forcing psychiatric treatment on people will not solve the problems of the homeless. 

Fifth: I question the accuracy of your statement that our rights will be protected, and I question the circumstances, and even the existence of such a court appearance. 

Having a court appearance, one in which the counsel’s paycheck is generated by the same corrupt court system, is no guarantee of people’s rights being protected. Few people in their right mind resort to using a public defender if they can possibly afford better counsel. 

And no, I am not confusing Laura’s Law with preexisting laws. Laura’s Law will launch an entirely new and oppressive system of enforcement. 

Huge numbers of people commit infractions to the law, such as drunk in public; most of them do not require psychiatric treatment. When our society across the board medicates all of those who are considered a problem, it’s not mental health being dispensed, it is use of psychiatric drugs as a form of mass punishment. 

Mr. Stone, I don’t think you fully understand the ramifications that will be created by widespread use of this law. 

Tom Friedman Tries to Scapegoat Baby Boomers -- He Should Remember That We Helped Forge American Prosperity

By Ruth Rosen
Friday September 30, 2011 - 01:18:00 PM

Baby Boomers, who have now morphed into “young seniors,” certainly did not contribute to the economic decline of America. On the contrary, this huge demographic bulge—as we have moved through our highly-publicized life cycle-- helped create the country’s consumerist prosperity with our teenage allowances and middle age purchases.

Yet running through the debate on the national debt is the subterranean belief that “young seniors,” once known as Baby Boomers, are stealing from future generations by having too many hip replacements and using up too much medical care to stay healthy and active. 

Just recently, for example, /New York Times/ columnist Tom Friedman, as he wandered through the streets of Greece, wrote (www.nytimes.com) with Athenian authority that Baby Boomers were responsible for this country’s huge debt. Just because Eric Cantor and seventy-eight million other people fit into the rather vague category (1946-1964) of the Baby Boomer generation doesn’t mean that a particular generation caused the housing bubble, or turned our nation into one gigantic gambling casino. 

Yes, Virginia, there truly are people who daily bet against the economic health of the nation. 

This is hardly the first time that Tom Friedman has seemed delusional. He supported the Iraq war because he somehow believed that President George W. Bush would fight the war in Tom’s way, for Tom’s beliefs, for Tom’s goals. What was he thinking—or smoking? Now he wants us to applaud as he substitutes ‘generational clash” for the former “clash of civilizations,” which he has decided is the real struggle our nation faces in the future. 

Let’s get real. If Friedman accuses Baby Boomers of “behaving badly,” is he still fighting the cultural wars? If so, he’s right that some boomers have largely been responsible for expanding democracy by fighting for the human rights and legal equality of racial minorities, women, gays and lesbians and disabled. Did we dance and smoke too much? I’m not sure. But we didn’t drink nearly as much as the “greatest generation” and many of us have spent our lives fighting for the common good, especially the preservation and health of the planet. 

But if Friedman is accusing the baby boom generation of creating the debt that will burden the next generation, he ought to resign from the Times with dignity, before his analyses get him laughed off the Sunday morning talk shows. 

Unfortunately, Friedman is not alone in believing that the Baby Boom is responsible for the nation’s economic decline. True, President Bill Clinton, another Boomer, helped create the financial crisis by deregulating the financial industry. And true, some Boomers in the financial industry turned the country into a gigantic casino, while the corporate sector has outsourced America’s skills to workers in other countries. Also true, George W. Bush nearly bankrupted the country with two wars and tax cuts for the wealthy. 

But is this part of Boomer culture, or what market fundamentalists have accomplished since President Ronald Reagan first dabbled in what his vice-president once called “voodoo economics?” And Ronald Reagan was no Boomer. 

Surely, Tom Friedman must read his colleagues Paul Krugman and Robert Reich and know that those who created the housing bubble and the madness of the subprime mortgages, who outsourced jobs, crushed unions, have tried to dismantle government, destroy public education, erode health care for the poor, do not represent the views of a particular generation. They represent the ideological insanity of right-wing Republicans, market fundamentalists, who are holding our country hostage to their belief in markets, as opposed to the health and welfare of the common good. Indeed, as ardent fans of Ayn Rand, they don’t believe in a common good. Greed is good. Self interest is what makes the country great. 

If right-wing Republicans get their way, and refuse to raise revenue, we may indeed leave a tattered America, including an immense debt to the next generation. But this horrific burden is the result of right-wing Republicans who have given incompetent CEOs millions of dollars in bonuses and but refused to cut the taxes of the wealthy. 

Baby Boomers are not the problem. There has been no generational cry to dismantle government, public education, keep the financial industry unregulated, outsource jobs or keep profits hidden out of the country, or any refusal to tax the wealth. It is not Baby Boomers who prowl the corridors of power as they search for ways to eradicate Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. 

Oh, that we were so powerful. The truth is so much more complicated 

Friedman’s problem is that he confuses generational clash with the clash between classes. Is the Baby Boomer generation responsible for the lack of progressive taxation that created and maintained a broad middle class until the 1980s, when “greed became good?” Who created the insane idea that the rich need tax cuts while the poor need to pay their fair share? 

There is a simple and clear way to avoid burdening the next generation with debt. It’s called taxes. It’s our dues to the common good. Students today are shocked to learn that the much-publicized prosperity of the 1950s was achieved when the very wealthy paid as much as 90% in taxes. They are unaware that the wealth of this nation depended on making things, not simply betting for or against a particular stock or commodity or the failure of this bank or that insurance company. 

I realize it’s old fashioned to talk about class struggle, but the reality—which Friedman misses with his muddle-headed analysis---is that the wealthy have successfully waged class warfare against those who used to be proud members of unions and enjoy the security of a middle class life. Now unions have been crushed with concessions by businesses that operate in a global economy and in an atmosphere of greed. 

Nor does Friedman even mention the impact of a global economy. Does he also believe that Baby Boomers all over Europe are responsible for the growing economic crisis in the European Union? 

The idea of a “generational clash” is bogus and Tom Friedman should be ashamed of such a simplistic and unsubstantiated analysis. But these are the pundits that our newspaper of record pays to explain the world to us, which is why we look elsewhere for intelligent and penetrating journalism. 

/Ruth Rosen, Professor Emerita of History at U.C. Davis, is a former columnist for The Los Angeles Times and The San Francisco Chronicle. She is currently a visiting scholar at the Center for the Study of Right-Wing Studies at U.C. Berkeley and the author, most recently, of The World Split: How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America, 2006.

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.


On Mental Illness: The Expectation of Employment

By Jack Bragen
Monday October 03, 2011 - 01:04:00 PM

Most persons who have severe mental illness would like to work, if they possibly can. We are often prevented from working by the barriers against us in society and not just by the disability. Having a severe mental illness is a perfectly legitimate reason for not having a job. It would not be accurate to call us bums or freeloaders, any more than someone who suffers blindness or a broken back. While our disability is invisible, it is just as real as a person’s disability that is plainly visible, such as a missing limb. 

Many persons with mental disabilities, when not employed, have a lot of guilt over it. And this is not necessary. Often the persons who are hardest on us are us. The belief that we ought to be employed, while not accurate, can be at the level of obsession. It can create life situations that lead to a relapse of the illness. 

It adds to our problems when family members chime in on our job predicament and criticize us for failed work attempts. It is not supportive to lay guilt and blame on someone for not succeeding in a situation where that person may have tried their best, and had already supplied him or her self with an adequate amount of anguish over their “failure.” 

Just as someone with a physical disability can work at a job in which the disability doesn’t interfere, there are some jobs that a person with a psychiatric disability can readily maintain. Physical work that requires fast movement is often off the table due to the slowing effect of the medication. Skilled work in a situation in which there is little or no immediate pressure has often been a fit for me. However, it is hard to find this in a job; usually employers create a situation in which they can get as much production from each employee as possible. Thus, in my twenties I was good at electronics but often could not handle the job situations. I often tried to do electronic repair as a self employed technician, but this was rarely profitable. 

A lot of persons with mental illness are thrilled to even work at a “bottom of the barrel” job such as sweeping floors. I once did such jobs and have had my fill. It would be nice if “real” professional employment somehow became available to more people with chronic mental illness. However, among those with a severe form and an early onset of illness, professional employment is relatively rare. 

This is not to discount that there are persons with mental illness for whom work isn’t a problem. They may or may not disclose their diagnosis at work. However, the difficulties I am discussing in this article may not exist for them, or may have been overcome years ago. Employment should be embarked upon with an open mind to the idea that it may not turn out to be difficult, or a person may be more than equal to the difficulties. 

I was able to work at various jobs and earn a modicum of pay during my young adulthood. I eventually developed a case of burnout. I attribute part of this to my fighting against the restraining effects of antipsychotic medication. Antipsychotic medication has quite a depressing and slowing effect that ordinarily would make someone unable to work at a competitive rate. I tried to compensate for this by increasing my effort level. The result was that I was able to hold down some of the jobs at which I was hired, but later developed the burnout that I mentioned. 

At some point in life, a person with mental illness may be forced to apply for Social Security in order to have money to live on. I know that there are a lot of middle-class and wealthy people who complain about SSI recipients living off of their tax money and not having to work, as they do. We live in a society in which those who lack the ability to survive are taken care of rather than left to die. Telling us to “go get a job,” comes from a hard nosed attitude that lacks understanding. 

I believe that persons with a disability, if they can, ought to find some way of contributing to society rather than simply taking up space. For example, I have a relative who does volunteer work when not employed. Even babysitting for other family members, I believe, is a good enough thing to do, as opposed to sitting around in front of the television or getting drunk with buddies. In my view it doesn’t matter if one’s venture is intended to make a profit, or not. Either way, one can do something that is useful to oneself and others rather than being a blob. And I believe that most persons with psychiatric disabilities feel the same way as I do; that they ought to do something useful with their time. 

I don’t believe that a requirement to earn our own way in life would be relevant for most people with a major mental illness. We ought to stop comparing ourselves to this standard. And we ought not be looked down upon or condescended upon for having a disability. We deserve the same respect as anyone else does, and that includes respect from ourselves. 

As always, I welcome your comments and stories which can be sent care of The Planet, or directly to me at bragenkjack@yahoo.com. Also, please note my science fiction short story e-book for Kindle, “Selected Short Fiction of Jack Bragen” which is currently available on Amazon, and my blog, at bragenjack.blogspot.com which has recipes, commentary and fiction.

The Public Eye: There is No Political Middle Ground

By Bob Burnett
Friday September 30, 2011 - 10:09:00 AM

The defining characterisitic of the 112th Congress has been extreme Republican partisanship, an unprecedented willingness to hold the Federal government hostage until conservative demands are satisfied. The GOP tactic has disrupted the US and demolished the myth of a middle ground in American politics. 

There are four explanations for the Republican rejection of bipartisanship. The first is political. Republican legislators have been indoctrinated to believe that if they do not toe the conservative Party line, radical “Tea Party” activists will campaign against them in the next election. As a consequence, many Republican politicians are afraid to compromise less they lose office. 

Cultural differences provide a second explanation for Republican political rigidity. Since the 2000 election, the United States has become more polarized and the differences between Blue and Red areas have increased. Even in a Blue state, such as California, gerrymandering has created Congressional districts that are deeply Red. Across the US, public sentiment differs dramatically in Blue and Red districts. Blue and Red districts have widely different information silos. Blues listen to Rachel Maddow and Reds hang on every word Rush Limbaugh utters. As a consequence of these cultural differences there are two radically different perceptions of “reality.” Republicans don’t appreciate a Democratic policy position because they never hear it discussed seriously; the conventional “wisdom” in Red districts is dramatically different from that in Blue districts. There is a huge communication failure. 

Republican dogmatism reinforces their negative worldview. UC Professor George Lakoff’s classic Moral Politics postulates that Democrats see the world in positive terms – the “nurturant parent” model – and value collaboration and empathy. In contrast Republicans adhere to the “strict father” worldview, where life is dangerous and citizens must take a defensive stance and organize hierarchically. Republicans regard compromise as a sign of weakness; they consider President Obama a wimp who doesn’t understand how perilous the US situation is. 

Finally, in recent years Democrats and Republicans have developed conflicting perspectives on core American values. On April 13, President Obama gave a succinct summary of historic American values: “we are all connected,” “each one of us deserves some basic measure of security,” “We believe…that through government, we should do together what we cannot do as well for ourselves,” [we value] “fairness…shared responsibility and shared sacrifice.” Most Republicans no longer believe Democracy is based upon empathy; they no longer accept the axiom, “we are all connected.” As a consequence, Republicans do not share the Founders’ vision of the basic American social compact. In their “patriotism” each of us stands alone. 

Despite increasing levels of partisanship, Washington pundits continue to believe in a hallowed political middle ground inhabited by “independents”and high-minded politicians from both Parties. Many advocate bipartisanship as a way of attracting this mythical group. But recent polling evidence indicates this is a fantasy: Americans are either Democrats or Republicans or turned off. 

A recent Pew Research Survey divided registered voters into three groups: “mostly Republican” 25 percent, “mostly Independent” 35 percent, and “mostly Democratic” 40 percent –there’s another group of possible voters,10 percent of the eligible population, who Pew labels as “bystanders” because they don’t vote. However, the mostly Independent group are actually Democrats and Republicans who, for whatever reason, eschew Party labels. 10 percent are “Libertarians” who vote Republican. 11 percent are “disaffected.” Amd the remaining 14 percent Pew calls “Post-Moderns,” “moderates but liberal on social issues,” who vote Democratic. 

An earlier Pew Poll studied Independents in more depth and divided them into five distinct groups (100 percent). “The Disengaged (17% of independent voters), which is disproportionately comprised of women, young people and minorities… are essentially political bystanders.” Two groups favor Democrats: “Shadow Democrats” 21percent and “Doubting Democrats” 20 percent. Two groups favor Republicans “Shadow Republicans” 26 percent and “Disaffecteds” 16 percent. 

What the Pew polls make clear is that people who call themselves Independents often do so because they are disgusted by the politicians in their native Party, or by Washington in general, but their underlying values and worldview are either Democratic or Republican. Republican leaning Independents may not like House Speaker John Boehner but they prefer the Republican stance. Democratic leaning Independents may be dissatisfied with President Obama but they prefer the Democratic stance. 

In his memorable keynote address at the 2004 Democratic convention, Barack Obama said, “There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America, there’s the United States of America.” Obama believes this and therefore has tried to invoke bipartisanship and govern by principled negotiation. It hasn’t worked because it doesn’t reflect political reality. 

In contemporary America there is no room for bipartisanship. We are solidly divided between Democrats and Republican who exist in their own, quite different, realities. Regardless of what Washington pundits say, there is no political middle ground; if you are not a Democrat or a Republican then you are turned off – you believe the political process has failed, America has failed. 

The bottom line is clear. Obama has to abandon his instinct for bipartisanship and principled negotiation and acknowledge his position as leader of the Democratic Party. The President has to be partisan. 

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

Senior Power… My Generation’s War

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Friday September 30, 2011 - 09:53:00 AM

The War, Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s monumental 2007 television production, has recently been shown again. The War follows 40+ persons from 1941 to 1945, focusing on the citizens of four American communities. The book companion to the series is The War; An Intimate History, 1941-1945, by Geoffrey C. Ward and Burns. The words and photographs of two of the men who appear throughout -- Quentin C. Aanenson of Minnesota and Eugene Bondourant Sledge of Alabama – are particularly poignant, especially episode five –“FUBAR -- fucked up beyond all repair.” 

In 1994 I chanced upon a brief television interview of Aanenson describing A Fighter Pilot’s Story, a VHS production he had created. I was so impressed with this compassionate man that I asked the editor of The Library Journal, for which I reviewed videos and books, to consider it for LJ Reviews. My review began: 

“Using personal photos, combat film, period music and correspondence, 73-year old Aanenson created this masterwork to explain his World War II combat experience to his family. The ‘story’ is of a 20-year old Army Air Corps enlistee as he learned to fly the P-47 Thunderbolt, met his future spouse, was commissioned, and flew European missions. This touching first-person narrative conveys the emotional and physical transformation wrought by the brutality of war. A young man ‘nearly lost all hope.’ ” 

Aanenson, now an elder, appeared again, in The War, as both a narrator and fighter pilot. The production team wisely used his military footage and personal films, diary entries and letters to convey the tragic story of one man's war from a very personal viewpoint. For pilot Quentin Aanenson, combat brought moments of intense anguish. He remembered one mission when his plane's machine gun fire sent the bodies of German soldiers flying. "When I got back home to the base in Normandy and landed, I got sick," he says. "I had to think about what I had done… that didn't change my resolve for the next day. I went out and did it again and again and again and again." Aanenson died in 2008 (cancer). 


Eugene Bondourant Sledge was Sledgehammer to his fellow rifle company Marines, and he was E. B. Sledge as author of With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa. Sledge prefaced his book, “My Pacific war experiences have haunted me, and it has been a burden to retain this story. …I’m fulfilling an obligation I have long felt to my companions in the lst Marine Division, who suffered so much for our country. None came out unscathed.” 

Today not many Americans can comprehend (let alone pronounce) what happened in places called Bouganville, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, Morotai, Noumea, Palau, Pavuvu, Peleliu, Okinawa (other than The Teahouse of the August Moon perhaps), Tarawa. Sledge took the reader into “the abyss of Pelelui” and on to “the bloody muddy month of May on Okinawa” that almost drove him insane. Fifty years later he still had nightmares. Supposed to take three or four days, it lasted almost two months, one of the worst slaughters of Marines in the Pacific. 

“As I looked at the stains on the coral, I recalled some of the eloquent phrases of politicians and newsmen about how ‘gallant’ it is for a man to ‘shed his blood for his country’ and ‘to give his life’s blood as a sacrifice,’ and so on. The words seemed so ridiculous. Only the flies benefited… None of us would ever be the same after what we had endured. To some degree that is true, of course, of all human experience. But something in me died at Peleliu. Perhaps it was a childish innocence that accepts as faith the claim that man is basically good. Possibly I lost faith that politicians in high places who do not have to endure war’s savagery will ever stop blundering and sending others to endure it.” Sledge died in 2001 (cancer). 

After World War II, I began to reject that giving their lives phrase. I say taking their lives, and I get a questioning look. 


I was living in the Unites States during World War II, contemporary with these then-young heroes. Three of my friends had already enlisted. One, a Nisei, stationed in cold Minnesota was teaching Japanese language to soldiers. Another was shipped overseas in the depths of the Queen Elizabeth and stationed on General Eisenhower’s clerical staff, diving into a rain-filled fox hole during nightly air-raids. The third, with an incredibly high IQ, was assigned to type and transport. They used their GI Bills: Hisako, now retired, earned an M.S.; Justine attended college but dropped out; Dorothy, a retired PhD professor, is a nursing home resident (cancer.) I sent soap and stockings to my English Red Cross club counterpart, evacuated from London, already losing her hearing in the bombings, and she squeezed handwriting onto both sides of scraps of paper. We became lifelong friends until her death in 1985 (cancer). 

The RMS Queen Elizabeth was launched in 1938 with luxury accommodations for 2,283. During her World War II career, the “grey ghost” ferried service personnel across the Atlantic without convoy, zigzagging every 7 minutes, with no air-conditioning and very little ventilation, usually in 6 days. On most voyages as a converted troop ship, she carried between 13,000 and 15,000 persons, with lifeboat accommodations for 8,000. 

On one trip in 1944, 500 WAACs (later, the Women’s Army Corps) and 18,000 men were crammed onboard. An enlistee recalled “To conserve fresh water, we washed with salt water, and I bunked with the four other women officers in a former bathroom, on the bottom underneath four hammocks. … arrived about a week later in Scotland to the news that the European invasion had begun.” Thirty of these women were assigned to the 5th Army Airways Communications System to provide air traffic control for the 8th Air Force. 





From the Berkeley City Council, September 20, 2011. Item #52 Action Calendar: 

“…. Staff has received complaints from the taxi using public about, and also witnessed, a variety of issues related to taxi operations. … Such situations include: smoking in the vehicle, refusal of short fares, reckless driving, obstructing traffic, failure to yield to pedestrians, aggressive behavior, unpermitted use of residential streets for vehicle maintenance and storage, owners allowing unpermitted drivers to operate vehicles, owners allowing drivers to operate unpermitted vehicles, offensive treatment of female customers and female pedestrians.” [sic] This suggests that there have been no complaints regarding offensive treatment of aged customers, which is not the case. 

Census data show seniors continue to suffer in silence. New data from the U.S. Census Bureau show that the overall number of older adults living in poverty has increased. Even more significant is the number of seniors who have experienced an increase in economic 

Insecurity or those simply living on the edge. Seniors with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level rose from 33.7% to 34.6% since 2009. 

Coming soon: a national strategy on Alzheimer’s. People concerned about AD and its effect on families, the health care system and the country as a whole have lobbied for years for a national action plan. Advocates celebrated in December 2010, when Congress passed the National Alzheimer’s Project Act, aimed at developing such a plan, although the bill had no budget appropriation; President Obama signed it into law in January. 



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


Wednesday, Oct. 5. 9 A.M. – 1:30 P.M. AARP Driver Safety Refresher Course. 

Designed for motorists who are 50+, taught in one-day. To be eligible, you must have taken the standard course within the last 4 years. Preregistration required. $12 per person fee for AARP members; $14 per person fee for non-AARP members. MastickSenior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. 510-747-7506. 

Wednesday, Oct. 5. 10:30 A.M. Mastick Senior Center. 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. Balance Your Walk with the Alexander Technique. Lenka Fejt, certified teacher. This 6-part workshop on the Alexander Technique has begun. Prepaid fee of $60. 510-747-7506. Also Oct. 12. 

Wednesday, Oct. 5. 12 Noon – 1 P.M. Playreaders. Meets weekly on Wednesdays to read great plays aloud, changing parts frequently. Intended for adult participants. Central Berkeley Public Library. 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100. Also Oct. 12,19, and 26. 

Wednesday, Oct. 5. 12:15 P.M. – 1 P.M. Noon Concert Series Performing Arts - UC,B Hertz Concert Hall. Felicia Chen, soprano; Daniel Alley, piano. Jason Yu, piano. Tickets not required. 510-642-4864. 

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

Thursday, Oct. 6. 10 A.M. – 1 P.M. Lavender Seniors of the East Bay’s Annual Aging in Place Symposium & Resource Fair for Older Adults. Marina Community Center, 15301 Wicks Blvd., San Leandro. Refreshments, entertainment. Free. Dan Ashbrook at 510-667-9655 Ext 1. Email dan@lavenderseniors.org

Thursday, Oct. 6, 12:15 P.M. – 1 P.M. West Edge Opera presents highlights from their upcoming production of Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100. 

Thursday, Oct. 6. 6 P.M. Lawyers in the Library. Berkeley Public Library South branch. 1901 Russell. 510-981-6100. Also Oct. 13. 

Mondays, Oct. 10, 17, 24. 11:10 A.M. – 1 P.M. Introduction to Video Production. Learn video camera, script writing, storyboarding, basic lighting and sound. Produce a newscast and a short documentary. No experience required. Equipment provided. Graduate to the advanced class on October 31, 1:00 P.M.-3:00 P.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. 510-747-7506. 

Monday, October 10. 7 P.M. Kensington Library’s Knitting Club – “The Castoffs.” 61 Arlington Av. All levels are welcome and some help will be provided. Free. Contact: Louise O’Dea, 524-3043, lodea@ccclib.org

Tuesday, Oct. 11. 1 P.M. Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) 

Marilyn Ababio and Dorothy Ridley, POLST representatives inform about POLST, a form that spells out the medical treatment you desire during the end of your life + question and answer period. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. 510-747-7506. 

Tuesday, Oct. 11. 7 P.M. Latin American Music, with. Rafael Manriquez and Ingrid Rubis. Kensington Library, 61Arlington Avenue. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Wednesday, Oct. 12. 12:15 P.M. – 1 P.M. Noon Concert Series Performing Arts - UC,B Hertz Concert Hall. Andrea Wu, piano. Tickets not required. 510-642-4864. 

Wednesday, Oct. 12. 6:30 P.M. – 8 P.M. Drop-In Poetry Writing Workshops. Free. Albany branch of the Alameda County library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720. 

Thursday, Oct. 13. 10 A.M. Computers for Beginners. Central Berkeley Public Library. 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100. Also Oct. 20 and 27. 

Thursday, Oct. 13. 10:30 A.M. New Member Orientation & YOU! Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. Guided tour outlining the various activities, programs, and services, and a coupon to enjoy a complimentary lunch provided by Bay Area Community Services (BACS)! Make a reservation by visiting the Mastick Office or calling 510-747-7506. 

Saturday, Oct. 15. 11 A.M. Landlord/Tenant Counseling. Central Berkeley Public Library. 2090 Kittredge. 510- 981-6100. 

Monday, Oct. 17. 9:30 A.M.- 12:30 P.M. Beaded Jewelry Making. Rose O’Neill, Custom Jewelry Designer. Beads and tools will be supplied. Limited to 10 students. $15 per person. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. 510-747-7506. (Also Mondays, Nov 21 and Dec 19.) 

Monday, Oct. 17. 2 P.M.-3:30 P.M. Queue Rolo, M.A., M.S., Museum Studies, SFSU, will present “W.A.Leidesdorff: America’s 1st Black Millionaire.” Free for OLLI and Mastick Senior Center members. MastickSenior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. 510-747-7506. 

Tuesday, Oct. 18. 12:30 P.M. San Francisco Gray Panthers General Meeting: Program to be announced. Location: Fireside Room, Unitarian Center, 1187 Franklin St. at Geary, # 38 bus. 415-552-8800. graypanther-sf@sbcglobal.net, http://graypantherssf.igc.org/ 

Wednesday, Oct. 19. 12:15 P.M. – 1 P.M. Noon Concert Series Performing Arts - UC,B Hertz Concert Hall. University Gospel Chorus - Another Day's Journey. Tickets not required. 510-642-4864. 

Wednesday, Oct. 19. 1:30 P.M. Alameda County Library San Lorenzo branch, 395 Paseo Grande. 510-670-6283. Social Security Administration Public Affairs Specialist Mariaelena Lemus will address older adults’ questions and present information specifically for them. Program repeats at other branches through December. No reservations required. Free. Library Older Adult Services at 510-745-1491. 

Wednesday, Oct. 19. 7 P.M. – 8 P.M. The Bookeeper’s Apprentice, by Laurie R. King. Book discussion. Alameda County Library Albany Branch, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720. (On Sunday, Oct. 23 @ 2 PM, the author will read and talk. Albany Community Center.) 

Thursday, Oct. 20. 6 P.M. Lawyers in the Library. Berkeley Public Library West branch. 1125 University. 510-981-6270. Also Oct. 27. 

Sunday, Oct. 23. 2 P.M. – 3 P.M. The Albany Library (1247 Marin Av.) presents Laurie King, the author of Albany Reads book, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. Community Center Hall. 510-526-3720.
Mondays, Oct. 24, 26 and 31. 10A.M. – 12 Noon. Oliver Guinn, Ph.D Economics, returns to teach “Our Damaged Economy: The Financial Meltdown and Economic Inequality.” Free. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. 510-747-7506. 

Monday, Oct. 24. 7 P.M. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av. Book Club. Pudd’nhead Wilson, Mark Twain’s most overt treatment of the moral and societal implictions of slavery in America. Free. Contact: Louise O’Dea, 524-3043, lodea@ccclib.org. 

Tuesday, Oct. 25. 1 P.M. AC Transit and YOU! Representatives from United Seniors of Oakland and Alameda County will inform about the Regional Transit Connection (RTC) Discount Card Program and the Clipper Card, route changes, and the 10-year AC Transit Fare Policy. Refreshments. Free. MastickSenior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. 510-747-7506. 

Tuesday, Oct. 25. 3 - 4 P.M. Tea and Cookies. Central Berkeley Public Library. A book club for people who want to share the books they have read. Central Berkeley Public Library. 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100. 

Wednesday, Oct. 26. 12:15 P.M. – 1 P.M. Noon Concert Series Performing Arts - UC,B Hertz Concert Hall. Tony Lin, piano. Tickets not required. 510-642-4864. 

Wednesday, Oct. 26. 1:30-2:30 P.M. Alameda County Library Albany branch. 1247 Marin Av. Great Books Discussion Group. Roman Fever, Edith Wharton short story. Facilitated discussion. Books available at the Library. Parking! 510-526-3720 x 16. 

Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 26/Sacramento and 27/South San Francisco, 2011

"Dementia Care Without Drugs - A Better Approach for Long-term Care Facilities" symposia about misuse of psychotropic drugs as treatment for dementia, difficulty in managing dementia treatment, and non-pharmacological approaches to care. CANHR staff attorney Tony Chicotel presentation, "Stop Drugging Our Elders!" California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform http://www.canhr.org. 415-974-5171. Fax 415-777-2904. 

Thursday, Oct. 27. 12:30 P.M. Celebrating a birthday in October? Cake, music, 

balloons, and good cheer. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. . 510-747-7506. 

Thursday, Oct. 27 1 P.M.- 3 P.M. Fall Dance…Halloween Stomp. Come in costume 

to be eligible for “best costume award”, enjoy door prizes, and refreshments. Volunteers enter free with volunteer badge. Cost is $2.00 per person. . Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. 510-747-7506. 

Thursday, Oct. 27 1:30 P.M. Music Appreciation with William Sturm, Volunteer Instructor. Piano recital and discussion on “The Sceptered Isle: Music of England”. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. 510-747-7506. 

Saturday, Oct. 29. 12:15 P.M. Halloween Bingo Bash. Patrons will receive a free Halloween dauber (ink marker) compliments of Center Advisory Board and Bingo Committee. Doors open at 10:00 a.m. with the first game at 12:15 P.M. 18 years of age+ are welcome. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av. 510-747-7506. 



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.

Arts & Events

BAY AREA CHILDREN’S THEATRE brings MAGIC SCHOOL BUS to life at Freight and Salvage thru Oct 23

By John A. McMullen
Sunday October 02, 2011 - 10:53:00 AM
Kyle Payne, Matt Ono, Jacqueline Goalwin, Brian Conway, Calia Johnson, Catherine Gloria, Jessica Payne
Joshua Posamentier
Kyle Payne, Matt Ono, Jacqueline Goalwin, Brian Conway, Calia Johnson, Catherine Gloria, Jessica Payne

Hop aboard The Magic School Bus Live as they explore “The Climate Challenge” with Ms. Frizzle and her curious class.

Based on the latest book in the popular Magic School Bus series by Joanna Cole & Bruce Degen, this energetic new musical follows the adventures of everyone’s favorite Magic School Bus characters—endearingly awkward Arnold, petite powerhouse Wanda, spunky Keesha, and their classmates—as they travel with their exuberant teacher from the polar ice to the tropics and from the ocean to the upper atmosphere to investigate why the world is getting warmer, why we should care, and what to do about it.  

Catch this Bay Area premiere now to see Ms. Frizzle and her students sing up a storm and dance along with their beloved resident reptile, Liz (the Lizard), before their bus takes off for a national tour to more than 20 states, in association with Maximum Entertainment Productions (MEP). 

The show is directed by Tracy Ward and written by Doug Cooney and Scott Elmegreen, with music and lyrics by Scott Elmegreen. 

Co-produced by the Bay Area Children’s Theatre (BACT) and Oregon Children’s Theatre at 

Freight & Salvage 2020 Addison Street, Berkeley  

Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m., October 1 - 23 

http://www.bactheatre.org/ (510) 296-4433 

Tracy Ward (director) focuses on new works for the American theater. Ward worked with BACT on its two national tours of Strega Nona, in association with MEP (2009 and 2010). Recent productions include: The Horses by Brian Thorstenson at AlterTheatre, The Shaker Chair by Adam Bock at Shotgun Players/Encore Theater, JUANA, a new opera by Carla Lucero at Theatre Artaud, and the critically acclaimed, award-winning production of Hunter Gatherers by Peter Nachtrieb.  

Doug Cooney (playwright) In 2009, NOBODY'S PERFECT, his youth musical based on the novel co-written with actress Marlee Matlin, received a national tour through the Kennedy Center. IMAGINE ME, a musical, was produced at South Coast Rep in 2008. His play, THE FINAL TOUR, was developed at the Sundance Theatre Labs 2003 with director Moises Kaufmann. His musicals, THE VERY PERSISTENT GAPPERS OF FRIP and THE LEGEND OF ALEX, premiered at the Mark Taper Forum’s P.L.A.Y. and toured Los Angeles County. THE BELOVED DEARLY was produced by Lincoln Center Institute in a production directed by Elizabeth Swados. 

Scott Elmegreen (playwright, composer, and lyricist) is a playwright, composer, lyricist, and novelist whose work has premiered on Broadway, television, and in film, as well as off-Broadway, regionally, and internationally. Recent projects include the Emmy Award-nominated COLIN QUINN LONG STORY SHORT, directed by Jerry Seinfeld (original compositions; Helen Hayes Theatre, HBO special, national tour), AWESOME ALLIE: FIRST KID ASTRONAUT, COLLEGE THE MUSICAL (NYMF Award for Excellence in Writing, pub. Dramatic Publishing), VOTE FOR ME: A MUSICAL DEBATE (New York Musical Theatre Festival, commissioned by Aged in Wood productions), STRAIGHT (developed by Tony Award-winning producer Andy Sandberg), and THUCYDIDES (Samuel French Off Off Broadway Festival Winner, pub. Samuel French). Elmegreen’s original music is featured in PILED HIGHER AND DEEPER THE MOVIE, based on the popular webcomic, PhD Comics. He has scored and orchestrated numerous plays, including WHAT I TOOK IN MY HAND (Ontological-Hysteric Incubator, Brick Theatre), DAGUERREOTYPE (Abingdon Theatre), WE CAN'T REACH YOU, HARTFORD (Fringe First Nomination), Joyce Carol Oates' TONE CLUSTERS (Fringe Report Award - Best Play), and 'S WONDERFUL: THE NEW GERSHWIN MUSICAL (orchestrations; national tour). 

Nina Meehan’s BAY AREA CHILDREN’S THEATRE strives to encourage young people to explore literature, language, and the arts by producing stage adaptations of great children’s books, create touring productions for young audiences nationwide and to reach out to children who might not otherwise experience live theatre with free tickets and touring productions at local schools, libraries and community centers. 


Don't Miss This in October

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Saturday October 01, 2011 - 09:08:00 AM

I believe it's safe to state that October is everyone's favorite month of the year, with red leaves falling from liquid amber trees and glorious sunsets. You my not know, however, that October derived its name from the Latin "Octo", meaning 10th month of the year in the Julian and Gregorian calendars. Having provided readers with this fascinating information, we now list some of the unique cultural and educational events taking place this month.  

5th Annual Armenian Bazaar and Food Festival, Friday, Oct. 7th, 5:30 - Midnight; Saturday, Oct. 8th, 7 p.m. - midnight. Authentic Armenian food, dance, music and culture. St. Vartan Armenian Apostolic Church, 650 Spruce St., Oakland. http://www.stvartanoakland.org/.

Greek Food Festival, Oct. 7, 8 & 9. Resurrection Greek Orthodox Church of Castro Valley, 20104 Center St., Castro Valley. Come dance and feed with us. Free admission. www.Greek Festival.me

"Chess", the musical, Oct. 3 - 30th. The Bay Area's Musical Event of the Year; "one of the best rock scores ever" (Time Magazine). Willows Theatre, 1 975 Diamond Blvd. Concord. Tickets (95) 798-1300. www.willowstheatre.org.

Northern California Renaissance Faire, through Oct. 16. Casa de Fruta, Pacheco Pass, Hollister. Find your fantasy; Bacchanal, Masquerade, etc. www.norcalenfare.com.

"Little Shop of Horrors," Oct. l4 -Nov. 13, Contra Costa Musical Theatre, 1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek. "You'll be screaming with laughter." (925) 943-SHOW.

El Campanile Theatre, Laurence Juber, Two-time Grammy Winner, Sat. Oct. 8th, 8 p.m. and "Hotel California: A Salute to the Eagles" Sat. Oct. 22, 8 p.m. 602 West Second Street, Antioch, Ca. www.ElCampaniTheatre.com.

Berkeley Shot Gun Players, "Phaedra", Adam Bock's red hot adaptation. Through Oct. 23, at the Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. (510) 841-6500 or www.shotgunplayers.org.

"Hanging Georgia," a new play about Georgia O'Keefe's emergence as a star in the art world and her romance and marriage to Albert Stieglitz. Oct. 7th at the Thick House, 1695 18th St., S.F. (510) 436-5085 or www.theatrefirst.com.

"Full of Words", premiere of Marc Brew's new play about disabled dancers performing in a wheelchair. Brew's international dance career ended when a car crash left him paralyzed. Oct. 7 -9, Malonga Casequelourd Center for the Arts, 1428 Alice Street, Oak. (510) 652-0110 o www.brownpapertickets.com.

"There's No Business Like Show Business," ("God Bless America: A Salute to Irving Berlin") Bankhead Theatre, Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center, 2400 First Street, Livermore, Sun. Oct. 9th, 2 p.m. (925-373-800, or www.livermoreperformingarts.org.

So never say that October is dull, uneventful month -- certainly not with all of the above enticing events!

Sarah Palin: You Betcha!

Film review by Gar Smith
Friday September 30, 2011 - 09:46:00 AM

Opens Friday at the Sundance Kabuki in San Francisco and in Berkeley at the Elmwood.

If you don't have $25 to spend on Joe McGinniss' new book, The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin, you might want to get a quick-read in the form of the new British documentary, Sarah Palin: You Betcha! But, fair warning, you just might find yourself wishing the movie screen came equipped with a fast-forward button. 

This 91-minute film from Britain's Channel 4 TV follows reporter Nick Broomfield (decked out in a costume of full-Alaska hunter's garb) as he stomps through the snows of Wassila in a fruitless, three-month attempt to gain an interview with the former beauty queen, former mayor and former vice-presidential candidate. 

It's pretty slow going for the first half of this gossip-fueled film. (Broomfield's efforts will remind viewers why Michael Moore is so much more effective and persuasive as a filmmaker.) Initially, the documentary tells us more about Wasilla than about its former half-term mayor. Wasilla, with a population of 8,000 has 77 churches, 2,800 gun-owning members of the NRA and is the "meth capital of Alaska." 

After failing to secure an interview with Palin, Broomfield knocks on the doors of some of her old Wasilla high school classmates and the following dialogue ensues: 

Local resident, pointing out the window of a moving car: "She grew up in that house." 

Broomfield: "Wow! She grew up in that house?" 

Broomfield to a former classmate: "Was she really Sarah Baracuda?" 

Answer: "No." 

Broomfield to another classmate; "Was Palin was a good basketball player?" 

The camera zooms in for the dramatic pay-off: "She was… average." 

Broomfield manages an interview with Palin's parents who reveal that "she was very competitive" and "her faith was very important to her." And he finds "a friend" who recalls how Palin expressed her belief that "Jesus would return to Earth." (Not exactly an Earth-shaking revelation, given Palin's membership in the Assembly of God. Church.) 

Broomfield complains that people in the small town of Wasilla are "afraid to talk." So he travels all the way to Alexandria, Egypt to interview one former classmate who is not afraid to speak out. But her major contribution to "unmasking the Palin Mystery" is to observe that, if you were a member of The Assembly of God, "To go against Sarah would be to go against your church." 

This is pretty thin gruel, journalistically. Because Broomfield was able to score only a few, really good interviews, the first half of You Betcha! is padded with rehashes of Palin's early days. We get videos of Palin playing high school basketball with the Wasilla Warriors. We get Palin parading in a bathing suit as part of the Miss Wasilla Beauty Pageant (she placed third but won "Miss Congeniality"). And there is the famous video of the "witchcraft" service where Sarah stands on stage with her head bowed as an African preacher "exorcizes" her and prays to God to "bring finances her way in the name of Jesus." 

And we get to watch the YouTube Trove of Palin's Greatest Gaffes -- from Katie Couric's "gothca" questions (e.g., "What newspapers do you read?") to Charlie Gibson's unanswered invitation to explain "the Bush Doctrine." 

Things start to get interesting when Former Friends (a large and ever-growing cohort, both in Wasilla and beyond) recall Palin's depression after Obama's election. 

"She really thought she was going to win," one Wasillan recalls. Palin wasn't planning on having to return to Wasilla to work as a mere governor. She was reportedly so depressed that, instead of paying attention to energy policy and health issues, Palin started spending her afternoons watching daytime soaps while scarfing down Taco Bell crunch-wraps. As a result, Broomfield claims, when winter came, "some people froze to death in their homes." 

There is a nasty overtone to the film's narration that is exacerbated by an excess of gratuitous imagery (a string of still photos selected to make Palin look angry, tired, miffed, rattled; a clip of the green-skinned witch from "The Wizard of Oz"). One almost starts to feel some sympathy for Palin. 

Broomfield digs up charges of Palin's plastic surgery and tries to gain "a fresh perspective" by setting up an interview with daughter Brsitol Palin's "baby daddy," Levi Johnston. It doesn't pan out because Johnston's "manager" wants more that a mere $500 to deliver "new grizzly, unrevealed secrets about Sarah" including details on drug use and "boyfriends and girlfriends of Sarah and Todd." (In this exchange, as in others, Broomfield is forced to relay the interviews via subtitles because he only managed to catch the dialogue over a phone.) 

Just past the midway mark, the documentary starts to serve up the best it has to offer—a set of interviews with a half-dozen former Palin intimates. 

Palin's Deputy Mayor recalls how "she uses people and then throws them under the bus." 

A member of Palin's council remembers how the mayor would conduct hearings "chewing gum like a 12-year-old" and would cut off the comments of anyone she didn't like. 

Palin's former campaign manager describes his disappointment upon discovering that "once she won," Palin had no real interest in the mayor's job: she was frequently oblivious during city meetings, transfixed by her two Blackberries. Worse, he now sees Palin as a sociopath, someone with "no loyalty, no compassion." 

The McCain staffer responsible for nominating Palin to fill the VP slot on the GOP presidential campaign ticket, now says (via yet another subtitled phone conversation) that he regrets the decision. Calling Palin uneducated, dishonest and "extremely divisive," he says his finds the possibility that someone like Palin could wind up as president, "spine-chilling." 

Like McGinniss' book, You Betcha! prowls the outer limits of rumor and innuendo but still makes a strong case that, to many of those closest to her, Palin is someone who is controlling, suspicious, and vengeful. She "blames others for her own failures." She has a "dysfunctional psyche" and attacks "perceived enemies." She used the mayor's office to fire enemies and conduct vendettas, including the Troopergate scandal, in which she attempted to force the firing of a former relative from his state job. When the "top cop" she hired (to replace the police chief she previously fired) refused to reopen the case, she fired him. 

Broomfield reveals the existence of an informal team of pro-Palin Wasilla enforcers called the "Flying Monkeys" (another reference to "The Wizard of Oz") who would track down and threaten Palin's detractors. He interviews several residents who claim they were targeted for abuse, including one who says he was slandered on Facebook and subjected to death threats. 

One of Broomfield's first really good questions goes to the pastor of a church that was run out of Sarah Palin's Wasilla after he was deemed too tolerant of homosexuals. "What makes her scary?" Broomfield asks. The pastor replies: "She has no hesitancy about using violence against evil," so she would have no qualms about "triggering a nuclear war. She believes she is the Anointed One." 

Like Michael Moore's Roger and Me, You Betcha! ends in a fruitless pursuit of an interview. The only two "one-on-one" interviews Broomfield captures occur during brief encounters at various Palin's book-signing appearances. The documentary ultimately concludes with Palin's appearance before a large crowd in Oklahoma. Broomfield's footage is filmed from a great distance and the sound-quality is poor. The "audience questions" are all pre-selected and numbered for Palin's convenience but Broomfield can't resist one last stunt. He stands up to shout out an unscripted question — knowing that this act will get him tossed from the hall (as backup cameras capture his expulsion). 

Unless you're already a fan of Broomfield's nerdy UK on-air schtick, You Betcha! may leave you hungry for a big slab of Michael Moore. But, after a good deal of initial wheel-spinning in the snows of Wasilla, the film eventually does manage to capture a compelling portrait of the woman behind the wink, the ego behind the smirk. And it's pretty damn scary. 

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.