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Definitely not the usual scene at Tiffany & Co
Steve Leibel / stevelimages.com
Definitely not the usual scene at Tiffany & Co


Press Release: 86 Year Old Woman With Dementia Located

From Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, BPD
Friday October 14, 2011 - 09:34:00 AM

A City of Berkeley Police Department (BPD) patrol officer located Mary Souza, the 86 year old woman who had wandered away from her assisted living facility last evening at about 7:00 p.m. The facility is in the 2600 block of Shattuck Avenue. Many members of BPD had been continually searching for her since last night, at one point using the services of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) Search and Rescue tracking dogs. 

The BPD officer spotted her at 9:35 a.m. this morning (October 14, 2011) at Stanford and San Pablo Avenue, just over the border into the City of Oakland. The officer was able to immediately recognize her from the flyers and photographs that officers had been using as references. Ms. Souza appears unharmed.

Press Release: Community Help Needed to Find 86 Year Old with Dementia (Press Release)

From Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, BPD
Friday October 14, 2011 - 08:15:00 AM

The City of Berkeley Police Department (BPD) needs the community’s help in finding a missing woman, Mary Souza, who is at risk due to age and dementia. 

On Thursday evening, October 13, 2011 at about 8:00 p.m., a staff member from an assisted living facility located in the 2600 block of Shattuck Avenue called BPD to report that one of their residents was missing. The last time staff had seen Mary Souza was approximately 7:00 p.m. Although Ms. Souza uses a walker for mobility assistance, she left it behind and is ambulatory without it. The staff does not believe that Ms. Souza had any money with her when she left. Ms. Souza does know her name and has wandered off before, most recently two months ago during which time she was found in Downtown Berkeley. 

Members of the BPD have been investigating and searching for Mary Souza continuously since she was discovered missing. BPD Officers have searched the sorrounding neighborhoods on foot, gone to her previous address in Oakland, checked local hospitals, Coroner’s office, transit systems and sent Missing Person at Risk Alert fliers and information to all neighboring agencies in addition to contacting those agencies to share this information: 

Missing Person: 

Mary Souza 

Born - October 19, 1924  

White Woman Adult  

5’2” tall, 

120 lbs  

white curly hair  

Possibly wearing a red jacket and black pants. 

BPD has enlisted the help of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) Search and Rescue Team who has sent six team members including two (2) tracking dogs and handlers to aid in finding Mary Souza. The teams are in the process of tracking in the downtown Berkeley area and the areas around the care facility. If anyone belives they have seen Mary Souza earlier this evening, this morning or spots her, please call BPD immediately at (510)981-5900 and mention the missing Person.

Plans for Berkeley's West Campus to be Presented Tuesday: City Council Chambers, Charter High School, BUSD Offices (News Analysis)

By Kristin Leimkuhler, West Campus Neighbors and Merchants Alliance (WestNEMA)westnema@yahoo.com
Thursday October 13, 2011 - 09:55:00 AM

As currently planned by the City of Berkeley and the Berkeley Unified School District, the neighborhood surrounding the 7.3 acre location on University Avenue, BUSD's "West Campus", will undergo major changes in the next few years. The Berkeley City Council meetings will move to the West Campus site, to be shared with the BUSD administration and the Revolutionary Education and Learning Movement (REALM) charter high school. 

To begin with, the long awaited new School District Administrative Headquarters, located in the 3 story classroom building on Bonar Street is close to accepting its first staff following the winter holidays.

In addition, REALM will be unveiling plans for a high school campus to be located in 2 buildings at the site, and will probably utilize additional classrooms to be located either in the District’s building or in portable structures to be located on the playing field. The school is intended to begin using the facility in the year 2012/13 and is expected to work toward a population of 400 students onsite.

REALM plans on occupying the building that fronts University Avenue, making what is currently the breezeway into a lobby and entrance for the school, and also occupying—in a phased in plan— the old shop building which lies next to the swimming pool. They are currently trying to figure out the lunch time facilities for the students, who are all expected to stay on campus during the entire school day, although it is not intended to be a physically fenced off campus. The existing Cafeteria building is planned to be converted into the new City Hall Chambers (see below). REALM will also be using the Boys Gym, but the non-functional plumbing in there will not be repaired at this time.

Because charter schools do not always succeed, the school district is trying to ensure that the classroom and workspaces being designed could also serve a BUSD program for middle and high schoolers that might emphasize more hands-on learning in afterschool programs. The architects for the REALM project (HMC) along with the project manager from Turner Construction will also be on hand at the Tuesday night Community Meeting. The site Committee currently includes myself and Thomas (TJ) Towey as the community representatives. Darlene Percoats of the Childhood Education Center (preschool located on the site) is also on the Site Committee.

City Council Chambers and School Board Room to move to West Campus Cafeteria!

The most surprising change at this site is the relocation of the City Council chambers to a small building located on Addison Street, directly across the street from 3 single family homes. While the high school searches for a cafeteria, the kitchen facilities in this building will be abandoned or ripped out of what is currently the Cafeteria Building, and it will soon be transformed into a reasonable facsimile of the existing Council Chambers. There are many problems with this design, not the least of which is that it puts the major hub for public expression in Berkeley, California, smack across the street from residences on Addison and Browning Streets, and hidden from our main arteries. (The REALM school design will make the breezeway unusable by the general public for access from University Avenue).

This is compounded by the fact that a large auditorium which could be a far more suitable environment for public meetings practically adjoins the cafeteria, and is located directly on University Avenue. However, no plans for renovating the existing Auditorium solely as a public meeting space have been explored. In a previous version of the site plan for the School District headquarters, the Auditorium was incorporated into the District offices, but that plan involved taking a good chunk of the level floor and transforming that into workspaces. The cost of that design ran approximately $3-4 million. The current budget estimate I have heard for making the cafeteria into a suitable meeting hall is around $1.4 million, but it is hard to imagine this being the permanent seat of public discourse in our City.

Apparently the City Council has yet to vote on moving the site for Council meetings to this location, but approximately $500,000 was to be allocated for the project in the City Manager's budget. [For more details, see this Berkeley Daily Planet editorial which appeared n May. 2011 ]

The neighborhood surrounding the old West Campus High School will soon be transformed by an influx of school district employees, high school youth, their parents and teachers, and the lively public participation (and occasional media circus) that Berkeley's public meetings bring!

Please come to the meeting and learn more firsthand about these projects. All of the architectural teams and developers will be on hand to present their plans and take questions, a rare opportunity. 


AGENDA for Community Meeting, October 18, 2011

6:30 PM – 8:00 PM

West Campus Gym

1. Greetings and Introductions
2. Overview
3. BUSD Administration Building Project
4. BUSD Board Room/City Council Project
5. REALM Charter School Project
6. Keeping in Contact 

Day 5: Occupy Berkeley Prepares for Big Action Downtown Saturday

by Ted Friedman
Thursday October 13, 2011 - 03:08:00 PM
Emerging from its tarp last night, General assembly discusses Saturday Noon Rally
Ted Friedman
Emerging from its tarp last night, General assembly discusses Saturday Noon Rally
Moving out from under the tarp, but still on the BA Plaza last night. Urban Strider is left in black coat
Ted Friedman
Moving out from under the tarp, but still on the BA Plaza last night. Urban Strider is left in black coat
Chalk it up to Delacour, who launched Occupy Berkeley from People's Park. After chalking last night, he left
Ted Friedman
Chalk it up to Delacour, who launched Occupy Berkeley from People's Park. After chalking last night, he left

Occupy Berkeley may offer some surprises for its second week which launches Saturday at noon at Bank of America Civic Plaza--followed later by its seventh general assembly, a forum in participatory democracy.

The surprises are still kicking around in committees, and now sub-committees, and new committees. And then there are surprises that just happen spontaneously. 

A march was proposed for Saturday, but after objections to the route came out of general assembly, the march route is being re-considered. 

A general assembly participant proposed occupying the lobby of BA to demand they build a new, state-of-the-art homeless shelter in Berkeley. In the following discussion, the proposal changed to include amendments such as switching to the entrance way ("less aggressive for this stage of the protest"). 

Someone noted that Chase, across the street, was a bigger villain than BA, and was just steps away. Someone else commented that shelters are spurned by the homeless anyway. 

Some action against Chase or BA might might occur, but not inside. Someone reported from Occupy San Francisco that a bank was forced to close for several hours when its entrance was blocked. 

Russell Bates noted that those who propose an action should consider the consequences and that it would be "unwise" to propose an action that the proposer did not participate in. 

An ass-on-the-line discussion ensued. This is not the first time the subject of arrest has arisen. It has already been "decided" that arrest be optional and instructions have come from participants for avoiding arrest. 

One speaker differentiated between being cited and released for a minor offense versus being jailed, and being unavailable for further protest. 

Participants have voiced their fears of being arrested, but concluded, they would do it if necessary. As one said in a recent GA, "if you're not here to get arrested, why are you here?" 

She was opposed by another, who disagreed. 

Micah M. White, founder of the national anti-Wall Street protest, was seen in the GA the night before last with his wife (but didn't speak). His wife is reportedly a visiting scholar at the university. He had kicked off Saturday's protest—proposing occupying on campus, or at Chez Panisse. He said he was living on the affluent North side. 

Maybe he'll have some surprises. 

The Daily Planet will continue these daily dispatches at least through the week. Click in.  

Ted Friedman has been temporarily assigned to the protest beat, downtown, but he's keeping an eye on his South side neighborhood where the tree-sit in People's Park is reportedly drawing attention from passersby who stop to listen to "the poet in the tree." 

Hundreds of Protesters "Occupy Walnut Creek"

By Laura Dixon (BCN)
Thursday October 13, 2011 - 02:02:00 PM
Protesters line Main Street across from BofA
Steve Leibel / stevelimages.com
Protesters line Main Street across from BofA
The crowd in front of BofA
Steve Leibel / stevelimages.com
The crowd in front of BofA
Definitely not the usual scene at Tiffany & Co
Steve Leibel / stevelimages.com
Definitely not the usual scene at Tiffany & Co

Occupy Wall Street made its way to Walnut Creek Wednesday afternoon, when about 300 people rallied in solidarity with the now nation-wide movement.

From 4 p.m. until around 6:30 p.m., protestors from Walnut Creek and surrounding towns lined the sidewalk at the intersection of Main Street and Mount Diablo Boulevard, standing in front of a Bank of America branch, a Tiffany and Co. store and a handful of upscale eateries. 

Local residents of all ages and from various political groups, labor unions and student organizations turned out at the peaceful demonstration, many bearing signs and American flags and wearing nametags that read "99%". 

About half a dozen police officers stood along the sidewalks monitoring the event, but as of 6 p.m., police said there had not been any arrests or confrontations with demonstrators. 

"Occupy Walnut Creek" organizers said word of the event spread quickly over the past week via email, Facebook and phone calls. 

Organizer Ken Richard admitted he was surprised by the large turnout Wednesday afternoon, and now hopes even more people will attend next Wednesday's "Occupy Walnut Creek" rally, set for the same time and location. 

Richard added that although Walnut Creek is largely seen as an upper-middle-class city, locals are "compassionate and care about America's unemployed, underemployed, and (those) living in poverty." 

Standing on the sidewalk nearby, 82-year-old Bobbe Huetter of Walnut Creek said she decided to join the rally Wednesday after hearing about it on the radio. 

Dozens of other protesters today drove in from neighboring Contra Costa County towns.  

Regardless of their hometowns, several attendees shared common stories about the effect the Great Recession has had on their lives. 

One protestor, 59-year-old Gary Walls of Martinez, said he retired early from his decades-long union job as a carpenter when the recession drained the area of jobs two years ago. 

"I think it's a very American thing (protesters) are doing...we're trying to get America back in shape," he said Wednesday, holding a sign topped with an American flag that read, "Eliminate Corporate Greed". 

Instead of a sign, Randall Baker, 26, of Martinez carried a 24-pack of bottled water, distributing bottles to protestors this afternoon and returning to his car, where he'd stowed eight more packs, to hand out more. 

"I know it's hot, and I don't want anyone passing out," said Baker, who is unemployed. 

Organizers said they are already gearing up for next week's protest and plan to attend larger "Occupy" rallies in San Francisco and in Oakland this weekend.

Day 4:As Berkeley Anti-Wall Street Protest Aligns With National Occupation Movement, Some Locals Feeling Squeezed

By Ted Friedman
Wednesday October 12, 2011 - 12:24:00 PM
Female facilitator, center and seated, for the 6 p.m. general assembly of Berkeley anti-Wall Street protest at BA Plaza last night. Russell Bates to her left. Michael M. a blur, is right with long hair and beard. Note the flow chart at left. This update on reports and proposals guides the protest. All important note-taker is to facilitator's right
Ted Friedman
Female facilitator, center and seated, for the 6 p.m. general assembly of Berkeley anti-Wall Street protest at BA Plaza last night. Russell Bates to her left. Michael M. a blur, is right with long hair and beard. Note the flow chart at left. This update on reports and proposals guides the protest. All important note-taker is to facilitator's right
Under the tarp last night at BA Plaza, but rain stayed away. Two facilitator (don't call them leaders) at right
Ted Friedman
Under the tarp last night at BA Plaza, but rain stayed away. Two facilitator (don't call them leaders) at right
Protester behind the "tax me" sign is Barry Shapiro, a local writer, artist, and trainer. He says he is wearing one of two suits he owns and that he just returned from a meeting with his "tax man" where he learned he made a "ton of money" this year and wants his taxes raised. A professional facilitator, he contributed to general assembly dialogue (facilitator to facilitator)
Ted Friedman
Protester behind the "tax me" sign is Barry Shapiro, a local writer, artist, and trainer. He says he is wearing one of two suits he owns and that he just returned from a meeting with his "tax man" where he learned he made a "ton of money" this year and wants his taxes raised. A professional facilitator, he contributed to general assembly dialogue (facilitator to facilitator)
It's official, Occupy Berkeley.Org is the name of Berkeley Anti-Wall Street protest--but How Berkeley is it?
Ted Friedman
It's official, Occupy Berkeley.Org is the name of Berkeley Anti-Wall Street protest--but How Berkeley is it?

It looks official; the Berkeley branch of the anti-Wall Street movement has branded itself "Occupy Berkeley"--a marketing concept to make it convenient to find your local Bank of America. Now you can pick the occupation movement nearest you.

And some, but not all veterans of Berkeley's often fractious activist community are feeling squeezed out.

Aware of this, one of the founders of Occupy Berkeley, who continues to oppose the idea that he is a leader, vows to give the locals a voice. But to influence "Occupy," you must know and play by the (franchise) rules, the non-leader says. 

"Occupy" has a rhythm and flow of its own--new to Berkeley radicals, some of whom, like Larry Vigilari, a People's Park activist, and Russell Bates (of Occupy's health and safety committee) welcome it for its efficiency. 

Bates may be the only protester occupying Bank of America Plaza around the clock. He reported that ten occupied BA plaza overnight from Monday to Tuesday. Every “general assembly” (daily meeting) includes an appeal for supplies and participants who will sleep-in. 

In a significant development, Lupe Fiasco, a star hip-hop artist, who appeared at the Occupy Oakland protest and at the Fox Theater has offered to fund Occupy Oakland. 

He called one of the Occupy Berkeley protesters during the general assembly, saying, "get any supplies you need, and I'll pick up the bill." 

Both Michael M. and Mike Delacour (Delacour kick-started the BA action last week from the People's Park stage), while supporting the national opposition to Wall Street, worry about the lack of local influence. Delacour, who returned from Sacramento to attend last night's 6 p.m. general assembly, favors what he calls a "self-deterministic" dialectic over the "consensus" approach of Occupy Berkeley. 

Another Michael M. (not Delacour) is suspicious of the motives and wisdom of Adbuster Magazine's Micah M. White, founder of the national anti-Wall Street movement, whom Michael M. thinks is naive about the culture of Berkeley. Michael M. is particularly critical of White's appearance at what was to have been a Delacour-led planning meeting Saturday at BA, in which White ignited the protest ahead of Delacour's schedule. 

According to Michael M. "Doesn't White know that occupying the Oxford Street campus area would have brought down the university police? And White's idea to occupy the Northside median on Shattuck to protest Chez Panisse was insane. The whole thing was a charade." 

White's "charade" ideas never got off the ground, though, perhaps because they lacked the consensus of White's own consensus politics. 

The official call to align with the national Occupy movement and not to align with unions, the Communist Party, the Black Panthers, etc. was read by Liz Faustate, a Cal student, who emphasized that Occupy welcomes the support of such groups but "they must come to us and join our protest; we will not go to them." 

But does this mean Occupy Berkeley will not align with Berkeley causes? Time will tell. 

Any Berkeley activists who want to recommend their causes to Occupy Berkeley will need to attend the 6 p.m. general assembly meetings, and make a proposal briefly, after being recognized by the "facilitator." There is a different facilitator each day. 

Facilitators (there are five or six at present) form a facilitator's committee, open to all protesters. 

Let's call this new generation of movement leaders facilitators. Now will someone please tell me what is the difference between a leader and a facilitator? 

The Planet will be doing weekly wrap-up pieces over the weekends. In the meantime, follow our daily updates. 


Ted Friedman will be covering Occupy Berkeley until "Hell freezes over."

Why No Demands? Occupy Wall Street is a Rebellion, Not a Protest. (News Analysis)

By Michael Levitin (New America Media)
Wednesday October 12, 2011 - 03:23:00 PM

Let’s get something straight: this movement has issued no demands. It is not a protest. It’s an occupation. Rebellions don’t have demands.

As we wrote in the editorial that appeared in the second edition of The Occupied Wall Street Journal on Saturday: “We are speaking to each other, and listening. This occupation is first about participation.” 

That said, take a look at the largest support base that has thrown its muscle behind Occupy Wall Street during the past week—organized labor—and the direction of this movement becomes somewhat clearer. 

America’s unions have been so sidelined and mismanaged in recent years that Tea Partiers last winter thought they could run them off the cliff altogether. The workers’ revolt in Wisconsin showed that wasn’t about to happen—and what we’re seeing now in Manhattan is further proof that labor is retooling, its ambitions sharpened and emboldened by the participatory assembly in Liberty Park. 

“The occupation movement [in America] was started by labor in Madison when they occupied the capital, and that has given labor the go-ahead to do more, to become more active, more militant, and to support things like this,” said Jackie Di Salvo, who teaches English at Baruch College and is a member of the Professional Staff Congress, a union of faculty and staff representing 18 colleges in the CUNY system. 

Since Occupy Wall Street began more than three weeks ago, Di Salvo has been instrumental reaching out to organized labor and gaining institutional support; the unions that have endorsed the movement are many, and they are growing. National Nurses United. United Federation of Teachers. 

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. The American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees. Laborers’ International Union of North America. Amalgamated Transit Union. United Steelworkers. Industrial Workers of the World. Transport Workers Union Local 100. The list goes on. 

What we saw last Wednesday, Oct. 5, when 30,000 people filled Foley Square before marching en masse to Liberty Square, was the unions’ first visible show of solidarity with the occupation, and it counted. Alongside thousands of students (with many teachers) who engaged in a citywide walkout that afternoon, their voices added power to the call resonating across the nation: that big finance and big politics need to gear up for a big change. 

Cementing that support, two days later AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka visited Liberty Square where he stated his support and his union federation’s unanimous decision to back Occupy Wall Street. Feeling betrayed by free trade agreements that hobbled domestic manufacturing (under Clinton) and a false promise to allow workers to unionize via “card check” (under Obama), organized labor has been on the ropes; the assault on pensions and collective bargaining diminished it further. 

What Trumka’s endorsement of the occupation means is that unions, with millions of members and a formidable political apparatus, now have the green light to make noise. The responsibility is on their shoulders along with ours to grow this movement nationally. 

As we wrote in the latest OWS Journal: 

“The exhausted political machines and their PR slicks are already seeking leaders to elevate, messages to claim, talking points to move on. They, more than anyone, will attempt to seize and shape this moment. But how can they run out in front of something that is in front of them? They cannot. For Wall Street and Washington, the demand is not on them to give us something that isn’t theirs to give. It’s ours. It’s on us. We aren’t going anywhere. We just got here.” 

The occupation, which has now spread to more than 100 cities across America, grew from the desire to reshape a criminal and bankrupt financial-political landscape that favors the 1% over the 99%. Where precisely is this movement going? Perhaps that isn’t as important as the question about where it’s not going. 

Said Di Salvo: “We’re not going to settle for one reform demand that can be conceded and then lets us shut down the movement—no one demand could meet the goals that have been set by this group for readjusting the balance of power in this country. 

“The other place we’re not going is we’re not going to go into electoral politics, weighed down into waiting for the next election when everything will be okay. We’re going to keep engaging in direct action, the marching, the occupation.” 

Labor’s traditional power is mobilizing bodies in the street and in the ballot box. How much they’re engaging in support for the movement—and how much they’re becoming it—has yet to be seen. The next date to circle on your calendar: this Saturday, Oct. 15, when new encampments and occupations spring up across the nation, and across the world. Some are calling it a global day of revolution. One that will, it appears, be televised. 

Michael Levitin is the managing editor of The Occupied Wall Street Journal, and former assistant news editor at the San Francisco Public Press. He was a Berlin freelance correspondent for Newsweek, the Daily Telegraph, the L.A. Times and others.

Bon Appetit

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Wednesday October 12, 2011 - 03:20:00 PM

After studying me critically, in ill- disguised disgust, my Kaiser doctor recently ordered me in stern tones to go on a diet. O.k., so that's easy for her to say -- she weighs all of 95 pounds, soaking wet. I know she would strenuously object to the many times a week I go out for breakfast/lunch with friends and neighbors. But, what the heck, this is one of life's pleasures. And there are so many great restaurants in Berkeley and the bay area where one can hang out (and pig out). 

To name just a few, there's Le Bateau Ivre/The Drunken Boat, a short walk from my apartment. I could, of course, order a healthy, nutritious salad, but generally settle for waffles and sour cream. Nearby on Telegraph and Dwight Way is Ann's Kitchen and Restaurant with an imaginative and reasonably priced menu. If a big fat, juicy hamburger is your idea of heaven, try Bongo Burger, across from Peet's Coffee on Dwight Way. Try the fried onion rings or french fries. Then there's Home Cafe at Sacramento Street, if you're willing to stand outside and wait for a table. Another popular restaurant Fat Apples on Martin Luther King, Jr. Way, offering a great soup/salad luncheon. You haven't lived until you're tried their rhubarb pie! 

Another pleasant and unique restaurant is Sam's Log Cabin in Albany. Their speciality is mouth-watering egg dishes and good beer and ale beverages. The ambience and informality is worth the few miles getting there. A long time favorite is Saul's Restaurant on Shattuck Avenue; it was exceptionally busy during the recent Jewish High Holidays. I've also been known to dine at McDonald's when I'm strapped for money, which is most of the time. 

If none of these eateries strike your fancy, there's always Peet's Coffee, both on Telegraph and Walnut Streets, though they offer only scones and sweet pastries. But, oh, their coffee is so good. 

So, dear friends, forget calories. Bon Appetit!

Flash: Power Outage Closes Downtown Berkeley BART Station

By Bay City News
Tuesday October 11, 2011 - 05:21:00 PM

BART has closed the Downtown Berkeley station after a PG&E power outage was reported, a utility spokeswoman said. 

The outage was reported shortly before 4 p.m. and is affecting 1,150 customers, spokeswoman Tamar Sarkissian said. 

Trains are running through the Downtown Berkeley station but are not stopping there, according to a Bart employee. 

The closure has caused delays for trains heading in the Fremont, Richmond, Millbrae and San Francisco directions, according to BART. 

No estimated time was available for when power would be restored.

Day 3: "Occupy Berkeley" Emerging as Berkeley Version of Anti-Wall Street Movement

By Ted Friedman
Tuesday October 11, 2011 - 04:45:00 PM
As rain returned, forcing protesters to huddle under a tarp, you can't tell from this photo, but the crowd for night three of Berkeley's anti-Wall Street protest reached nearly fifty
Ted Friedman
As rain returned, forcing protesters to huddle under a tarp, you can't tell from this photo, but the crowd for night three of Berkeley's anti-Wall Street protest reached nearly fifty
Under the tarp last night at "general assembly" for anti-Wall Street protest
Ted Friedman
Under the tarp last night at "general assembly" for anti-Wall Street protest

What do you do when your demo is overshadowed by San Francisco's and Oakland's, if not more than 240 anti-Wall Street protests across the nation?

If you are clever young activists, you brand yourself, and that is exactly what Berkeley's version of the growing national movement is trying to do. And doesn't Berkeley have a few moves when it comes to protest?

"Occupy Berkeley," is the first branding step. Pending approval by the protest's communication committee (the protest is governed by committees open to all--even provocateurs.)  

According to "Sister, our movement is nascent and growing." 

Occupy Berkeley is the moniker for a planned rally and protest Saturday at noon at Bank of America Civic Plaza, Shattuck and Center. The rally/protest will be followed by a "general assembly," at 2:30 p.m. 

Some of the issues which may be resolved Saturday include a move across the street from BA to Chase at Liberty Plaza and the downtown BART entrance/exit, whether to be arrested (probably optional), protest related actions off site, and the nagging problem of attracting more occupiers (over-nighters). 

Russell Bates, a wizened Berkeley radical and Cop Watcher, who has been occupying BA Plaza overnight, said six others defied a persistent October rain and six more were "in and out” of the overnight occupation. Establishing overnight shifts is under committee review. 

According to Alex Neil, communications committee member, an outreach to local schools is planned for this afternoon, and this could lead to a demographic change in the protest, which is now a mix of young and not young, a demographic different from the Manhattan protest. 

And just for the record, this protest is officially leaderless. When the issue of going on KPFA to spread the word was discussed, Neil noted that no one was able to represent or speak for the group. 

Those who-are-not-running the protest are still bristling at being compared to Mario Savio ("the two Savios") and I am appealing to Planet readers to provide a term I can use for them. Hint: they don't like "key persons" either. Persons of interest makes them sound like perps. The new activists? I give up. 

The Planet will be doing a weekly wrap-up piece over the weekend. In the meantime, follow our daily updates.

Protestors Begin Day Two of "Occupy Oakland" Demonstration

By Hannah Albarazi (BCN)
Tuesday October 11, 2011 - 01:02:00 PM

"Occupy Oakland" demonstrators who converged on Frank Ogawa Plaza on Monday afternoon remained camped out in front of Oakland City Hall this morning.
Dozens of tents dotted the lawn, and about 75 people gathered under a large tarp at the camp to discuss logistical plans for the open-ended protest.
A homeless protester who gave his name only as Adam explained that there is no one in charge of the movement or the camp. He said that about 1,000 people attended Monday night's general assembly. 

Another general assembly is planned for this afternoon. 

According to Lolo Schiener, an unemployed 27-year-old Berkeley resident with a master's degree in speech pathology, the group has been receiving a steady stream of donations that will allow them to continue occupying the plaza. 

"We have a lot of food," she said. "A lot of people have been donating food and money." 

The group has also been giving food to the homeless and those who ask for it. 

As with similar occupations occurring across the Bay Area and the nation, the amorphous movement has attracted many different types of demonstrators. 

Some protesters had signs, two of which read, "We do not consent to corporate oligarchy," and "Bail out schools, not banks." 

Schiener explained that heated debates are occurring at the camp on myriad topics, from "houselessness" to the Black Panthers to police brutality. 

Although Adam said a police K-9 unit had patrolled the camp around 3 a.m., there were no police in sight as of 11:30 a.m. 

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan addressed the camp this morning and condoned the occupation but asked that campers not urinate on plaza's large oak tree, because she said it has shallow roots. 

Glover, Mayors of Oakland, Berkeley and Richmond to Speak at "Jobs not Cuts" Rally on Saturday

By Zipporah Collins
Tuesday October 11, 2011 - 04:14:00 PM

Actor and activist Danny Glover has accepted an invitation to speak at a “Jobs Not Cuts” march and rally in Oakland on Saturday, October 15.

In addition to Glover, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, and community leaders will add their voices to the public outcry for government to invest in jobs and stop cutting needed programs for the poor and middle class. 

Demonstrators will gather at Laney College at 1:00 pm on Saturday and march at 2:30 to a rally at Frank Ogawa Plaza at 3:30. On the way, they will stop at the Federal Building to symbolically nail a list of economic demands to Congress’s door. They want investment in jobs, clean energy, education, and infrastructure, protection of Social Security and Medicare, war dollars brought home, fair-share taxation of the wealthy, and a speculation tax on Wall Street. 

Bay Area labor unions, MoveOn, and numerous anti-war, environment, civic, and community groups have united in organizing the demonstration (for the growing list of endorsers, see www.jobs-not-cuts.org). 

As the march enters Ogawa Plaza it will connect with Occupy Oakland demonstrators protesting the reckless speculation and greed of the financial institutions that crashed the economy and cost millions of people their savings and livelihood. Occupy Oakland is one of many groups protesting at financial districts across the country. 

Meanwhile 12 members of Congress—the “super committee”—are meeting to decide on a national budget and deficit plan to send to Congress by November 23 for an up-or-down vote. Bay Area workers, citizens, and activists who take to the streets for “Jobs Not Cuts” Saturday hope to send a clear message to the committee and all of Congress that these politicians need to act for the benefit of the 99% of Americans, not the wealthiest 1%.

Day Two: As Occupy Wall Street Movement Builds in Berkeley, How Berkeley Will it Be?

By Ted Friedman
Monday October 10, 2011 - 01:04:00 PM
Second night facilitator at Wall Street protest prepares instructional chart with hand signals for "general assembly."
Ted Friedman
Second night facilitator at Wall Street protest prepares instructional chart with hand signals for "general assembly."
Second night at Wall street protest. "Sister," in center holding notes, announces that "strongly recommending" no smoking is not good enough for her and she might have to drop out of the over-night "occupation."
Ted Friedman
Second night at Wall street protest. "Sister," in center holding notes, announces that "strongly recommending" no smoking is not good enough for her and she might have to drop out of the over-night "occupation."
These young socialists (they brought a small socialist lending library) at lower left, look on at second night of Wall Street protest at Bank of America downtown. National Lawyers' Guild phone number is lower middle
Ted Friedman
These young socialists (they brought a small socialist lending library) at lower left, look on at second night of Wall Street protest at Bank of America downtown. National Lawyers' Guild phone number is lower middle
Second night of Wall Street protest. A protester signs the  "stack" (speaker's list).
Ted Friedman
Second night of Wall Street protest. A protester signs the "stack" (speaker's list).

Day two of the national Occupy Wall Street Movement presently encamped (by night) in the Bank of America Civic Plaza at Shattuck and Center streets was a planning session which will determine the course of the protest.  

And already, some Berkeleyans are bristling under the yoke of a national movement with protocols originating in successful revolutions in the middle east--and masterminded by Micah M. White a senior editor at Adbusters, Vancouver, B.C., an anti-consumerist magazine, founded in 1989.  

Some veteran Berkeley protesters are wondering whether they are throwing in with a McDonald's franchise in which you do it McDonald's way.  

Others welcome the efficiency of such techniques as a "general assembly participatory democracy, stacks (speaker's list), and hand signals," which speed the development of an infrastructure and an agenda.  

The adbusting White spoke Saturday at B.A. Plaza, welcoming Berkeley to his national (going international) movement.  

Protesters, new to protesting, and veterans alike have become more fluent with new jargon and techniques in just the second day of the protest.  

Issues addressed by the [apparently] leaderless group, which prefers to keep its goals open, and is still discussing where the protest will encamp indefinitely (the protest could last "until Hell freezes over"), included plans for maintaining the occupying over-night sleep-ins, police relations, committees formation, anti-smoking, anti-drugs, public relations, logistics, and the discussion process itself.  

There was a call Sunday for more over-nighters (eight slept-over the previous night), possibly in shifts, and funds were quickly raised among the general assembly for the protest's communications committee.  

Sunday's protest drew more than fifty, down somewhat from the opening event the previous day.  

The Planet is presently covering the action daily. Stay tuned for updates.

Occupy Oakland Starts Today at 4 at Oakland City Hall

By Scott Morris (BCN)
Monday October 10, 2011 - 01:19:00 PM

The wave of protests that began with "Occupy Wall Street" in September is continuing to expand in the Bay Area, and activists plan to begin camping out in Oakland's Frank Ogawa Plaza this afternoon. 

Protesters announced online that "Occupy Oakland" will begin at 4 p.m. when they will gather in outside Oakland's City Hall, creating an encampment in the spirit of similar protests throughout the nation. 

The protests are intended to draw attention to the widening gap between rich and poor in the U.S. and widespread unemployment. 

As of early this morning, more than 850 people had said on Facebook that they would attend the beginning of Occupy Oakland. 

The Oakland demonstration comes on the heels of a similar demonstration in front of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. A march in support of "Occupy SF" drew hundreds to San Francisco's Financial District on Wednesday afternoon. 

That night, police ordered the protesters' tents, tables and other gear taken down and removed protesters' equipment from the sidewalk. 

Protesters, however, have continued to occupy the area in front of the Federal Reserve building, waving signs, playing drums and approaching passersby despite police warnings that permits would be required to continue camping on the sidewalk. 

One protester who was smoking marijuana was arrested this morning, witnesses said. 

CONTACT: www.occupyoakland.org

Berkeley Meeting Introduces Ashby Village

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Monday October 10, 2011 - 12:58:00 PM

Having frequently heard about Ashby Village, I had only the vaguest notion of what it actually is. But this past week, during an informal discussion group at the Berkeley Town House, lead by Andra Lichtenstein, we were provided details on the history and growth of this organization. (With over 30 years of experience in public and private sectors with a focus on community health centers, and as Planning and Development Director of Lifelong Medical Care, Andra is well qualified to describe the virtues of this very admirable organization.) 

Ashby Village is a community based network of people over age 50 living in the greater Bay Area, providing service referrals and resources to its members, making it possible for them to remain in their homes and neighborhoods. The concept began in Boston's Beacon Hill neighborhood in 2001. More than 56 villages now exist in the United States, with another 120 or so in development. As the longevity unfolds, senior villages will become one of the distinctive and social inventions of our time. 

Among the services offered to help people remain independent are help with grocery shopping, walking dogs, transportation and medical appointments, minor household repairs, and exercise and relaxation classes. Membership in Ashby Village is available to residents of Berkeley, Albany, El Cerrito, Kensington and Emeryville. Annual membership fees are listed on their website: www.ashbyvillage.org. A program currently being developed will make membership available to those with limited incomes. 

In 2006, the New York Times published an article about Beacon Hill Village in Boston, the most recognized models of the Village concept. It sparked conversation among Berkeley neighbors who wanted their own aging to be different from that of their parents' generation. Thus, in 2010 Ashby Village was launched and within one short year it now has 161 members, with only one full-time employee, Andy Gaines, who supervises a myriad of committees and activities and home-based volunteer services. 

Without question, Ashby Village offers a welcome safety net and peace of mind, an alternative to a retirement community or assisted living facility.

New: Berkeley Dodges End of the World, Joins National Anti-Wall Street Revolution Saturday at Bank of America Plaza Downtown

By Ted Friedman
Saturday October 08, 2011 - 10:21:00 PM
Bo-Peter Laanen, 20, a Cal poly-sci major is second from left in foreground. His techniques moved the crowd from the planning stage to an all-night camp-in Saturday at Bank of America Plaza downtown
Ted Friedman
Bo-Peter Laanen, 20, a Cal poly-sci major is second from left in foreground. His techniques moved the crowd from the planning stage to an all-night camp-in Saturday at Bank of America Plaza downtown
These people thought they were attending a planning meeting for an anti Wall Street protest, but before they could say boo, they had joined "the revolution."
Ted Friedman
These people thought they were attending a planning meeting for an anti Wall Street protest, but before they could say boo, they had joined "the revolution."
At BA Plaza, 8:30 p.m. Saturday as more than 20 anti Wall Street protesters continue their "General Assembly" discussions. Police relations, and food are being discussed. Ten volunteered to spend the night
Ted Friedman
At BA Plaza, 8:30 p.m. Saturday as more than 20 anti Wall Street protesters continue their "General Assembly" discussions. Police relations, and food are being discussed. Ten volunteered to spend the night
Michael Delacour on People's Park stage Thursday exhorting food line to revolt against Wall Street
Ted Friedman
Michael Delacour on People's Park stage Thursday exhorting food line to revolt against Wall Street

As Wall Street protests spread across America from Manhattan—to Boston, Hartford, Savannah, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Huntsville, Birmingham, Mobile. Columbus, Ga., Chicago, San Diego, among others—Berkeley, which recently survived the end of the world while awaiting "the revolution," joined one Saturday afternoon at the Bank of America Plaza at Center and Shattuck. 

Berkeley almost missed "the revolution." 

But thanks to heads up community organizing by a People's Park founder, Michael Delacour, 73, Berkeley is back in the game--with an initial crowd of more than one-hundred enthusiastic protesters, which is sure to grow. 

A process dubbed "general assembly," ably led by student leaders from the university moved a usually fractious mob to action. While avoiding the pitfalls of drafting demands, or writing a position paper, the crowd was unified enough, after a mere two hours of recitative consensus, to enlist more than ten volunteers to camp-in at the plaza to begin at 6p.m. and continue until "Hell freezes over," as one of the organizers put it. 

What began as a planning session became the beginning of a vibrant protest, with established protocols, and the prospects of long life. 

Russell Bates, of Cop Watch, a veteran Berkeley radical, could not believe his eyes. Looking to the heavens, he proclaimed, "Grandfather, I'm coming to join you" 

Delacour, earlier in the week, exhorting a group of People's Park users to protest, intoned, "if not now, when." 

When came sooner than anyone, including Delacour, could have expected. 

What spontaneously became a fully-formed protest had been billed as a "planning meeting." for a Wall Street protest scheduled for October 15 to give protestors time to collect their platforms and agendas. Instead at least two student leaders, who met with Delacour Wednesday after a small planning session in front of Bank of America on Telegraph, moved the crowd efficiently and swiftly to action. 

The demo is on, and it has no closing date, according to the organizers. "We're prepared to stay here until hell freezes over, one of the organizers said. 

How did the students do it? They used a process they called "general assembly," which they characterized as governmental. Here's how it works. Speakers speak briefly in a recitative oratory somewhere between rhythmic poetry and call and response. Speakers were limited (no more than three pro, three con). A speaker speaks his terse rhythmic message in tweets; the crowd repeats the words—a type of "active listening." 

They ought to patent the process, before donating it to Congress. You've got to see this to believe it. 

General assembly broke a log-jam over whether to stage the protest at downtown BA or Provo (lately AKA Martin Luther King Civic Center) Park. "Let's stay here for now, and if we grow, we can always branch out," it was agreed. 

The recitative style of oratory, which most speakers quickly adopted (it threw off Delacour, who has been known to ramble) was a major component of the successful event. 

Delacour was grass-rooting most of the week. He has interrupted his grieving for his wife, who died under mysterious circumstances more than four months ago, to lead the revolt. Earlier this week he took to the People's Park stage to exhort a motley band of People's Park regulars, lined up for free food, to join an anti-Wall Street protest. 

Delacour's appeal in the rain to a park food-line was met with indifference and shrugs. 

One woman called out, "I believe in alcohol," as some snickered. 

Delacour returned a day later to press his case, but this time with a brief appeal in which he offered to hold a demonstration under terms set by the crowd. "You pick the location for the protest," he offered. "It's your demonstration." 

Then he went to the end of the food line to get his Food Not Bombs feast. While in line, he discoursed on his relationship with his dead wife. 

This is a chance of a lifetime of community organizing for Delacour, and he seemed to be approaching his opportunity with great care. 

Wednesday he presided over a public planning committee meeting in front of Bank of America on Telegraph Avenue, which was attended by twenty, including eight students. For Delacour, whose People's Park organizing in the sixties relied on uniting with students, the symbolic student presence was a harbinger of a town-student action, and he glowed with satisfaction from the potential for sizable student involvement. 

Delacour's hopes, viewed by his detractors, as "crazy" came to fruition. 

"The students at the planning meeting told me, they can draw four-hundred students," Delacour said Thursday. Students may have fallen short of 400 (I counted fifteen), but the ones who turned out were choice. 

The new Mario Savios are John Holzinger, 20, from Pasadena, and Bo-Peter Laanen, 20, a Scandinavian. Both are Cal Political Science majors. Remember those names. 


Ted Friedman started out reporting this story from South side, but wound up off-beat downtown.

U.S. Prosecutors Announce Crackdown on Medical Marijuana Stores

By Julia Cheever (Bay City News Service)
Friday October 07, 2011 - 10:25:00 AM

Federal prosecutors in California announced a full-court-press crackdown on the state's commercial marijuana industry today, saying they will not allow large-scale, for-profit enterprises in the name of medical marijuana. 

The federal law enforcement effort was announced in a news conference in Sacramento by the four regional U.S. attorneys in the state, including Melinda Haag, the U.S. attorney for Northern California. 

California's voter-approved Compassionate Use Act of 1996 allows seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana with a doctor's permission, but federal laws criminalizing marijuana make no exception for state laws. 

The U.S. prosecutors said they will target large commercial enterprises and not individual patients. 

U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner of Sacramento said, "Large commercial operations cloak their money-making activities in the guise of helping sick people when they are in fact helping themselves." 

Wagner said, "Our interest is in enforcing federal criminal law, not prosecuting seriously ill sick people and those who are caring for them." 

The four U.S. attorneys said their enforcement actions will include civil forfeiture lawsuits against properties used in marijuana growing, warning letters to owners of property where marijuana is sold and criminal prosecutions. 

Haag said her office will begin by concentrating on marijuana dispensaries near schools and parks. 

"Marijuana stores operating in proximity to schools, parks and other areas where children are present send the wrong message to those in our society who are the most impressionable," Haag said. 

"In addition, the huge profits generated by these stores, and the value of their inventory, present a danger that the stores will become a magnet for crime, which jeopardizes the safety of nearby children," she said. 

Haag said that while Northern California enforcement will begin with stores near schools and parks, "we will almost certainly be taking action against others." 

"None are immune from action by the federal government," Haag said. 

Lynette Shaw, executive director of the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana in Fairfax, said the landlord of her dispensary received a "threatening and ominous" letter from Haag on Sept. 29. 

"It's very scary for us. We don't know what's going to happen," Shaw said. 

She said she believes her landlord doesn't want to evict the group, but that the landlord is consulting a lawyer about his options. 

The dispensary is 50 yards from Peri Park, Shaw said. But she said she believes the organization's presence has "absolutely not" harmed children and has in fact helped because it has reduced the number of street dealers of marijuana. 

The Marin Alliance received a use permit from Fairfax in 1997 and is the longest-standing medical marijuana dispensary in the state, Shaw said.  

She said the permit now has 53 conditions and said the alliance has "abided by every rule." 

Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group, called the crackdown "a full frontal assault on medical cannabis." 

ASA Chief Council Joseph Elford said, "Aggressive tactics like these are a completely inappropriate use of prosecutorial discretion by the Obama Administration." 

Dale Gieringer, coordinator of the California branch of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said, "With the federal budget on empty, the economy in disarray, our prisons overflowing, and prohibition-related violence raging across the border, it's an outrageous misuse of federal resources to wage war on marijuana dispensaries." 

Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole said in a statement from Washington, D.C., that the Justice Department "will not focus our investigative and prosecutorial resources on individual patients with serious illnesses like cancer or their immediate caregivers." 

But "the actions taken today in California by our U.S. attorneys and their law enforcement partners are consistent with the department's commitment to enforcing existing federal laws," Cole said. 

California was the first state in the nation to enact a medical marijuana law. Fifteen other states now have similar laws, according to NORML.



Planning More of Those Robot Apartments for Berkeley

By Becky O'Malley
Wednesday October 12, 2011 - 02:29:00 PM
Pretty much none of these buildings are where the consultants think they are.
Pretty much none of these buildings are where the consultants think they are.

Much to my surprise, last week’s New Yorker cover seemed to be devoted to Berkeley’s in-the-works new Downtown Area Plan.

Thanks to sometime Planet contributor Tom Lord, we’ve learned that cover artist Eric Drooker, who lives in downtown Berkeley, seems to have been riffing on an animation he did to go with a film version of Alan Ginzberg’s Howl—the sinister figure at the top of the skyscrapers is Ginzberg’s Moloch:

"Moloch whose Soul is electricity and banks!"
"Moloch whose Poverty is the specter of Genius"
"Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen"
"Moloch whose name is the Mind. Robot apartments"

Drooker’s visual imagery reprises Fritz Lang's 1927 expressionist film, Metropolis.

Oh sure, you say. Well, I had the misfortune to watch as much as I could stand of yesterday’s city council workshop on “development fees”, and let me tell you, it was all about building robot apartments with souls of electricity and banks. 

A fancy-shmancy report from expensive consultants was presented to council, distinguished especially by a seriously goofy map of the downtown that had all the major existing buildings wildly displaced. If that’s the quality of the work that the consultant does, there’s not much point in reading the rest of the report, is there? 

What was the goal of this enterprise? Some—perhaps all—of the councilmembers seemed to feel that they needed to give lip service to the concept of creating affordable housing. Sentimental Berkeley appears to cherish its token low income residents, who are rapidly being priced out of the market, but in fact what’s been built here for as long as I can remember, with a few exceptions, has been luxury dorms for UC’s increasingly affluent students. As fees rise, the students who need affordable housing can’t afford UC Berkeley anyhow, so no one is building for them. 

Key to potential developer profits from building big downtown is SB 310, a bill passed by State Senator Loni Hancock, the spouse of Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, which designates large swaths of central Berkeley, anything near BART for starters, as Transit Villages, which enable builders to bypass local zoning in many instances. 

A detailed analysis by former Berkeley Planning Commission Chair Zelda Bronstein in these pages in July noted that 310 could be construed to “ reimburse developers for ‘any permit expenses pursuant to [the Transit Priority Project Program at hand].’ In addition, SB 310 authorizes ‘participating developers to build an increased height of a minimum of three stories’—presumably meaning three stories above whatever is permitted by existing zoning—‘within a zone in which building of three stories or more are authorized.” 

Yesterday’s discussion was just the opening salvo in a major campaign to radically alter the face of Berkeley for private profit. A very modest goal which several councilmembers might support would be to extract enough extra cash from such developments to build at least a token amount of low income housing, but judging from the tone of yesterday’s discussion even that didn’t seem to be guaranteed. 

We hope to provide a more detailed presentation of what’s proposed and what’s happening on this front in the next few weeks. Given the economy, not much construction is likely to be financed in the near future, but if things ever pick up these decisions will set the stage for what will be built around here for many years. 

The Editor's Back Fence

Local Business in the News

Thursday October 13, 2011 - 10:53:00 PM

Richard Brenneman reports on his blog about a local company, Amyris. 

Things don't look too good there.

Make Your Voice Heard Again in the Sierra Club--Join Now to Vote in December Election

Thursday October 13, 2011 - 03:00:00 PM

Are you one of those Berkeleyans who’d like to say that “the Sierra Club speaks for me?” But perhaps are you a past member who, like David Brower, resigned when the club took a position that you thought was a mistake?

Many of us were disillusioned when the local arm of the Sierra Club allowed its good name to be used by notorious developer Sam Zell’s corporation in Berkeley’s hotly contested and widely criticized Measure R election.

Now’s your chance to try again to set the club on the right path by choosing who will fill the 5 open positions on the Sierra Club S.F. Bay Chapter’s Northern Alameda County (NAC) Group Executive Committee—but you have to act now.

According to the organization’s web site, Oct. 15 is the date by which you need to be a member in the club’s database to vote in the election. 

The election itself isn’t until December, which gives you plenty of time to figure out which candidates to vote for. 

You can register for a Fall Special $15 membership fee, which includes a free backpack, here, or call 415-977-5653 to register by phone. It's a good deal—do it now.

This Is the Weekend Issue: Good until Monday

Sunday October 09, 2011 - 01:21:00 PM

We're trying this week to use the issue with Friday's date all through the weekend for consistency. If you have time, keep checking for updates. The issue with Monday's date will appear midday. 


Also, the editorial until further notice will be kept up until it's replaced by a new one.


Cartoon Page: BOUNCE:

By Joseph Young
Wednesday October 12, 2011 - 02:24:00 PM


Cartoon Page: Odd Bodkins: Perfect Happiness

Dan O'Neill
Wednesday October 12, 2011 - 02:08:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday October 13, 2011 - 01:07:00 PM

Rossmann Piece on Skinner/Hancock Bad Votes; Tax the Rich Demo, Monday, 5:30pm  

Rossmann Piece on Skinner/Hancock Bad Votes 

Antonio Rossmann provides an excellent backroom analysis of the anti-environmental bills AB 292 and SB 900 that were just signed into law by Jerry Brown. But why does he let our local representatives who supported these bills--Skinner voted for both, Hancock for AB 292--off the hook? I'm not persuaded by his twofold explanation: they were pressured by the Democratic Party leadership, and they've embraced the jobs at any price line. But Rossmann also tells us that Assemblymember Jared Huffman of Marin and Sonoma Counties voted No. Skinner and Hancock could have done so as well, without in any way risking their seats. 

Zelda Bronstein 

* * * 

tax the rich demo, Monday, 5:30pm  

This coming Monday, Oct. 17, 5:30-6:30 pm , we're having our fifth demonstration in North Berkeley demanding higher taxes for the super-rich and big corporations. Our demonstration is held near the top of Solano Avenue, by the Oaks Theater on one side and the Chase Bank on the other. A key objective of our demonstration is to legitimize street protests and to encourage those who pass by to join us. Public reaction on Solano has been so far very encouraging. Not least, we are building community. For those who are interested, we will afterward OCCUPY the nearby Chinese restaurant, King Tsin, for dinner, conversation, and fun. We hope you can join us on Monday. 

Harry Brill

Letters to the Editor

Wednesday October 12, 2011 - 03:34:00 PM

Each day I wait to see relief on the faces of people who are hoping to get their needs for survival met by other kind people but at the end of the day most of them are still desperate and depressed. I always thought life is lived now first and that today's needs are more important than needs of the unseen tomorrow. Our readers of the U.S. Constitution remind us of the unseen tomorrow by ignoring today for the one-third of the U.S. that lives in poverty. Ask those about tomorrow whose child went to sleep without food. Ask those about tomorrow whose child is undernourished and sick. Will the child keep alive without help until tomorrow? Well, the wearer knows where the shoe pinches. People who sit in Congress or govern the country may not have ever missed a meal in their lives. They may never have gaped in bewilderment at the sky. 

I can imagine the urgency of stabilizing the economy and creating a congenial atmosphere for the lucky few. But what about the low-income people in our country? Who will worry about whether the benefits of a stable economy trickle down to them? 

When I was translating the Bible for a church during my college years in India, I learned that true believers do unto other needy people as they would wish done to them if they were down and out. I was so impressed with the Christian church practicing kindness to their less fortunate neighbors, sacrificing their best for the betterment of others. Worldly fortunes will stay here in the world but the example of helping others will become an eternal inspiration. Sometimes when we are busy thinking about ourselves, we forget to feel for others. I hope rich and powerful people in our country will remember the poor and the needy as they urge the nation forward. 

Romila Khanna

AB 292 and SB 900: Both Bad for the Environment;
Why Did Skinner and Hancock Vote for Them?

By Antonio Rossmann
Tuesday October 11, 2011 - 09:58:00 AM

Enactment of these two bills represent the culmination of a perfect storm, which runs the risk of repetition often in the days ahead. But first explanation of what they are.

SB 292 was the special interest bill to facilitate approval of a new NFL stadium in downtown Los Angeles. The project proponent is AEG Enterprises, Philip Anschutz' empire that includes many of the world's major sports and entertainment stadia, and ownership of several professional sports teams in hockey, basketball, and soccer. AEG claims they need special treatment under CEQA in order to bring an NFL team to Los Angeles; the asserted fear is that a lengthy CEQA lawsuit would delay the arrival of a team they acquire from elsewhere, leaving that team stranded in its present location. AEG also claimed discrimination because two years ago the Legislature gave a competing Southern California promoter categorical exemption from CEQA. AEG built a political consensus for its project and CEQA exception by touting the tens of thousands of jobs that would be created by stadium construction. 

It is noteworthy that the competing promoter has had his blanket CEQA exemption for two years, premised on the creation of immediate jobs at his site, and none (nor a football team) have been created there. It also bears observation that short of Chevron and Apple, AEG more than any other corporate entity in America has financial capability to assume the risk of stadium construction, and legal ability to marshal the law firms to defeat a meritless or competitor-motivated CEQA case. AEG appeals, however, to a defining and bipartisan theme of our political generation: all reward must remain private, all risk becomes socialized. 

Claiming that it was not asking for a blanket exemption, AEG negotiated with the Assembly Speaker's office the terms of SB 292: any CEQA case would have to be filed directly in the Court of Appeal rather than Superior Court. This process would thereby potentially shorten legal review by essentially depriving challengers of a guaranteed appeal on the merits, because appeals from decisions of the Court of Appeal can be summarily denied without hearing by the California Supreme Court. This process also meant that in this one case the Court of Appeal would be expected to set aside all of its appellate tasks to act in this instance as a trial court, for the sole benefit of AEG's project. 

Complementing these unfortunate features, SB 292 has some positive elements. It does impose some project approval conditions that are intended to minimize greenhouse gas emissions from the new stadium project; whether these are feasible or enforceable remains to be seen if the project does move forward. The bill also requires the approval agency to maintain a contemporaneous public record and submit that record immediately to the reviewing court with only copying costs charged to the petitioner. (One can argue that existing California law has always required the agency to maintain its record contemporaneously, and then to submit it to the court upon payment of solely copying costs, but in recent year truculent cities and developers have made a game of racking up both time and expense for doing what the law already requires, and demanding in some cases that CEQA petitioners pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for record preparation before a CEQA case can be tried.) 

SB 292's terms were introduced in the Legislature seven days before the end of session. The tactic used was "gut and amend" of an existing Senate measure in the Assembly, thereby precluding all but the most perfunctory of hearings on one day's notice in both houses of the Legislature. Once approved by the Assembly as gutted and amended, it went to the floor of the Senate for concurrence vote. As expected, Governor Brown (who became quite critical of CEQA as mayor of Oakland, despite his strong support for the law in his initial gubernatorial terms) signed the bill, with much fanfare at the proposed Los Angeles stadium site. 

But SB 292 left an immediate legacy of even greater potential harm. Once it was voted out of the Assembly, the Senate President Pro Tem performed a similar gut and amend in his chamber on another Assembly measure, AB 900, and copied the AB 292 format to be applied statewide in major projects selected by the Governor. Thus, instead of confining the CEQA trial to one Court of Appeal case and to one known project, AB 900 makes trial courts out of all the Courts of Appeal in the state for any number of projects, and of equal moment, is not tied to any specific project known at this time. Instead, the projects eligible for this special treatment are chosen by the Governor, with the proviso that his selection is not subject to judicial review. The Governor signed this bill concurrently with SB 292. 

AB 900 resulted from a process even more foul than that of SB 292. AB 900 was introduced on the next to last day of the legislative session, given a perfunctory hearing in the Senate, and then rushed off the floors of both houses, all in under 24 hours. As a consequence, the only "participants" in this measure were those who secretly negotiated it; even less opportunity was provided for critical or considered review, or to have AB 900's flaws exposed or corrected before such rapid enactment. If the accepted legislative process had played out over several months, the entire land-use regulatory, environmental, and development communities could have addressed CEQA revisions with a more rational and beneficial outcome. 

As the Daily Planet's editor reports, our Assembly Member voted for both of these measures, and our Senator voted for the more significant and flawed one, AB 900. These votes can be explained on two levels. The first is that of following party leadership on pain of disciplinary action; on the Assembly side, the Speaker has not hesitated to punish Democratic dissenters, in one case actually threatening to terminate the staff of Pasadena's representative for supporting the efforts of newspapers to uncover the chamber's internal expense account. The Speaker believed he had negotiated a stadium bill that was less drastic than a complete override of CEQA. On the Senate side, the President Pro Tem has made no secret of his personal priority to keep the Sacramento Kings in that town, and so exploited one of the basic arguments against the stadium SB 292 (it singles out one project for favorable treatment) to expand the opportunity for equal treatment for what may emerge as his own professional sports stadium. 

(What is is about stadia, be they at Cal or Staples Center or in the Natomas floodplain, that causes our officials and leaders to lose their heads? Do not the University and State of California have better priorities?) 

The larger explanation for these bills lies in successful exploitation of our current economy to stoke unsound fears that environmental protection must be sacrificed to restore economic opportunity. "Jobs" has replaced "national security" as the talismanic codeword to justify the waiver of protections that most citizens support and that time and again have been shown in dispassionate analyses NOT to stand in the way of economic progress. In Washington this banner is carried by the minority party; in California it finds large support in the majority party. Even a generally progressive Governor Brown (and hence his staff) envision "CEQA reform" as a priority for state legislation. But we must remind these leaders that if AEG wanted to create jobs in downtown Los Angeles without SB 292, it has ample financial and legal resources both to play fair and to exact fairness from others in the land-use review, without asking the state to remove the last measure of private risk standing in the way of its private enrichment. 

The proper response, then, calls for a comprehensive public review of CEQA procedures, not the private deal-brokering that stained the end of the current legislative session. That will require our local legislators to vote their constituents' values in the coming session, and stand up for a better outcome. The good news is that an example was set in the concluded session, by Assembly Member Jared Huffman of Marin and Sonoma Counties, who properly objected to a foul process and a foul result. In the coming year Berkeley's representatives should not let Huffman stand alone, and make clear to the administration and their party leadership that we can do better. 

In the meantime, we should observe how 292 and 900 play out. Perhaps the NFL will yet decline to let LA steal another city's team. Perhaps no project will qualify for SB 900's exemptions, and the measure will sunset in 2014 never having been exercised. And let's not discount a constitutional challenge: the Court of Appeal's original jurisdiction is defined by the State Constitution, which includes the courts' discretion to decline to hear a case on the merits. Can the Legislature tell the courts how to conduct that business, any more than the courts can tell the Legislature how to do theirs? But perhaps the ultimate irony would be an affirmative answer to both questions, with a judicial decree that the Legislature can no longer proceed under "gut and amend" as it did this year. 

Antonio Rossmann has practiced CEQA law for nearly 40 years, including some of its landmark appellate decisions. He also teaches that subject at UC Berkeley School of Law. 


Local Activists Join New National Movement to “Take Back the American Dream”

By Ken A. Epstein
Tuesday October 11, 2011 - 04:17:00 PM
Van Jones
Van Jones
Gaby Pacheco
Gaby Pacheco
Nelini Stamp
Nelini Stamp
Justin Ruben
Justin Ruben

Twenty-three- year old Nelini Stamp became an activist at the age of 17 when her family was evicted from their apartment in New York City. She is one of the young generation of organizers who responded quickly to the call of the Occupy Wall Street protests.

“I went down there and didn’t realize it was going to change my life,” said Stamp, who is a member of the Working Families Party. “I started sleeping on cardboard (and began) pressuring labor organizations and community organizations to come on down and check it out.”

“We don’t need demands,” she explained in response to mainstream press criticisms. “If we tell them demands, it’s saying they have the power. And we have the power because we have strength in numbers.”

Stamp was among the 2,0000 veteran and newly emerging leaders from around the country who came together recently in Washington, DC to spark what they hope will become a national coalition and movement to “ Take Back the American Dream” from bankers, corporate CEOs and the lobbyist-owned politicians who have turned that dream into a nightmare. 

“Something is happening” in the country, something the Occupy Wall Street protesters represent, a turning point, said Van Jones, a leader of the coalition who became nationally prominent for his work in the Bay Area for green jobs for urban youth. 

“You knew at some point there was going to be a pain threshold that ordinary people would hit,” said Jones, predicting a rising wave of protests and new progressive candidates in races across the country. “You are going to continue to see the sleeping giant stand up…They had the Arab spring. Welcome to the American autumn.” 

The new coalition came out of the national “Take Back the American Dream” conference held Oct. 3 – Oct. 5 at the Washington Hilton. Prime movers include Jones, who heads Rebuild the Dream, designed to serve as the “hub” or support group for the coalition. Jones, now based in the Los Angeles area, served briefly as Obama’s “Green Czar” before he was sabotaged by attacks from Fox television and Glenn Beck. 

Other key players are MoveOn.org, a non-profit advocacy group with 5 million members that pioneered the use of the Internet to raise millions of dollars for progressive candidates; and Campaign for America’s Future, a progressive public policy think tank, whose board includes leaders of the AFL-CIO, The Nation magazine and the NAACP. 

The 10-point program, Contract for the American Dream, reflects a focus on the country’s immediate and desperate economic, health and social needs: Tax Wall Street speculation, rebuild the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, expand Medicare so it is available to all, invest in public education, strengthen Social Security, invest in green technology, create decent paying jobs, end the wars and rebuild the country and strengthen democracy. 

The 10 demands are product of tens of thousands of ideas submitted last summer. Over 130,000 people participated in submitting and ranking proposals. Nearly 1,600 house meetings were held, reaching into every Congressional district in the country, to evaluate and finalize the contract, according to Justin Ruben, MoveOn’s executive director. 

Underscoring the demands is one the coalition’s basic messages, Ruben said: “America is not broke – our democracy and our economy have been hijacked by the wealthy few.” 

“This is the newest force in America,” he said, calling for nationwide demonstrations on Nov. 17. “We’re going to draw a line in the sand saying we will not accept yet another budget agreement that cuts everything but the handouts for the rich.” 

According to Robert Borosage, Co-Director of Campaign for America’s Future, we need to understand that because this calamity was man-made, we ourselves can solve it. “We need a politics that is disruptive, that challenges this order. If ordinary people do extraordinary things, we can win.” 

Among the 70 labor, environmental, political, human rights and other groups that already joined as partners in the American Dream movement are the Sierra Club, AFSCME, Planned Parenthood, Change to Win, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Common Cause, Code Pink, Communication Workers of America (CWA), Ella Baker Center of Human Rights in Oakland, the Hip Hop Caucus, Peace Action and Youth Speaks. 

The strategy is not to require groups to change what they do or believe but to bring them together under a single banner, as Jones explained. People are already fighting back, he said. “The only question is whether we are going to fight together or continue fighting alone.” 

By developing a coalition that allows for independent action on the part of its partner groups, this month’s founding conference managed to avoid the furious battles over strategy, priorities and beliefs that so frequently derail attempts to build unity. 

Some critical observers have questioned whether this group will in fact be a smoke screen to lure young people and other disillusioned Americans into supporting the Democratic Party and Barack Obama.  

On the opposite side, others raise concerns that the organization might undermine the president, already the target of unrelenting attacks, giving aid and comfort to those who are seeking a Republican presidential victory in 2012. 

According to Jones and the other leaders the American Dream movement, neither of these criticism are true. The 2008 campaign slogan never was “Yes, he can,” but “Yes, we can,” Neither the president nor any of the elected officials can turn around the situation by themselves. 

“We finally have a people-powered, people-owned independent political movement. It’s not based on any political party and not beholden to any political party (or leader),” said Jones at the closing of the conference. “ Something bigger is at stake,” he said. “We have to rescue America: middle class, working class and poor folks. 

“Outside the context of a mass movement Washington is helpless to oppose” the threat to liberty from economic and corporate power, he said. “Bankers have flooded (Washington) with 20,000 lobbyists, who have more influence than 300 million Americans.” 

Richard Trumka, a third generation coal miner and head of the AFL-CIO, brought the assembly to its feet when he called for making job creation a national priority. 

“Work isn’t just what supports your family,” he said. “It’s what defines us, it’s who we are, it’s how we contribute to the world. It’s our legacy. 

“The harm (of joblessness) is deep, and it’s long lasting. We, the people, are angry, and who can blame us? (But) where will our anger go, toward hatred and extremism? Or toward building a future for everyone?” 

Many participants appeared to be deeply moved by what they saw and heard at the conference.  

“I was one of those people who (previously) was quite discouraged,” said East Bay resident Judy Pope, a member of the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club. “I’m 65, and everything I care about is under extreme threat. 

“I’m very encouraged to come here and see a lot of young people and people of color doing a lot of phenomenal things,” she said. “It seems that we might be coming together.” 

One of the young activists who spoke at the conference was Gaby Pacheco, 25, who organizes youth in Southern Florida into the national United We Dream Network to fight for the Dream Act, a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to attend university. 

Born in Ecuador, she came to the U.S. with her parents when she was seven years old. Though a college graduate in special education, her undocumented status means she still is unable to teach and pursue a career providing music therapy for autistic children. 

To support the Dream Act, she and three others last year walked 1,500 miles from Miami to Washington, DC, taking their arguments to members of Congress. 

As a result of her outspoken leadership, federal immigration (ICE) police raided her home. 

Because I started speaking, they selectively came after my family,” she said. “Immigration rounded up all of us. I remember seeing my parents and two sisters taken away in a white van. We have lived in the United States for 20 years, but my dad was put on an ankle bracelet.” 

Determined and not intimidated, she proudly says her organization has already stopped 125 deportations this year. “I think there is hope,” even though the deportations are worse now than they were under Bush, she said. 

“We’re going back to President Obama to say `follow through – you can be our friend,’” said Pacheco. “There’s a lot still to do to push our elected officials and President Obama.”

New: Occupy Berkeley Report

By Steve Martinot
Sunday October 09, 2011 - 03:11:00 PM

The Berkeley occupation, joining some 900 other cities, has begun. Though the original call was for people to come to the B of A grounds at Center and Shattuck to plan an occupation, which would then begin on Saturday, Oct. 15, 100 people showed up, and the decision was made to begin right away. 

The process was inspiring, at least to me. The people, upon arriving at the assemblage, all had different thoughts about what was to transpire, about how to understand the corporate enemy, and with little common conception of what to do first, where to do it, or how. Slowly, over the course of a few hours, those issues were resolved. It was slow, but only those who think that time is money would be frustrated by the rate of speed of the process. What the assemblage sought for most was an understanding in common. 

The procedure was one of consensus, traditionally a difficult process for a large group. Consensus works best for small groups of a dozen or twenty. But for this assemblage, knowing that this had worked in OccupySF, and in OccupyWallSt, and other places, consensus was the means, and it worked. 

The decisions made were first, to start the occupation on that day, Saturday, October 8, which meant that a number of people came forward and said that they would camp out there starting tonight; second, to make it an occupation in the sense that all the others were; third, that the General Assembly for this occupation would meet every day at 6 pm, and be composed of those who were there, acting to support the encampment and the occupation; and finally, that the General Assembly would be the direction and guidance of the occupation, and that all committees and activities would be responsible to it as a decision making body. 

Each of these decisions emerged out of serious oppositions and choices. Whether to start right away raised the issue that it would only be a few people to start, and thus risked creating a great vulnerability. But various resources were offered that strengthened the feeling toward action. The issue whether this should be an "official" occupation, a true "sister" encampment to all the others raised the debate over whether it should be at the B of A or at MLK park, opposite City Hall. Those who volunteered to be the first campers chose the B of A. The issue of the General Assembly meeting each day at 6 was easily resolved. And people took a break to return at 6 that very day to compose the first GA. 

I was amazed and heartened at the ability of the assemblage to come together, even from moments when it was evenly divided pro and con on an issue, and arrive at a consensus. This happened a number of times. People took seriously the notion that process is important, and in fact, primary. 

The first GA (at 6 pm) was composed of about 30 people, almost all of whom had been at the noon assemblage. It addressed the issue of whether consensus worked or not, the question of facilitation, the question of respect for difference, the question of organizing committees to take care of tactical considerations, and proposals on process and organization. The meeting continued after I left at around 7 pm. 

One aspect of these assemblages is particularly noteworthy, and that is the use of the "people's mike" – in place of the electronic technology by which we have become used to speaking to groups. With the people's mike, those who can hear the speaker repeat what the speaker says, so the those who can't hear the speaker can hear the repetition, which is louder because spoken by many in unison. This puts the speaker in a position of speaking only short phrases, and pausing while the assemblage repeats his/her words for those more distant. It means that the speaker can be (and really has to be) more circumspect, more concise, more directly to the point. It is also edifying for the speaker to hear his/her own words in echo. And harangues become very difficult, if not impossible. Things become clearer when one has to slow down, which the "people's mike" requires. As each person is recognzed by the facilitator, s/he says "mike check" to get the attention of those nearby, who then repeat "mike check," and then function as the people's mike for what the person then has to say. 

It is truly wonderful how slowing things down this way really speeds them up. 

Late breaking item: about 6 people slept at the encampment last night (Saturday, oct. 8), divided between activist and some homeless who have been sleeping on that corner for certain lengths of time. Everyone slept well, and there is plenty food there for them. Everyone should get down there when and if they can.

New: Hancock's Senate Bill 555 Release is Wrong: Berkeley's Solar Program Went Up in Flames

By Nigel Guest
Saturday October 08, 2011 - 10:43:00 PM

Loni Hancock's press release for this bill that you published is seriously flawed. I wrote [the following commentary about the Berkeley Solar Program]for the (Berkeley) Council of neighborhood Associations' August, 2011 newsletter.

The key problems are:

1) The Federal Housing Financing Authority has ruled that solar property tax liens cannot be accepted for properties with "conforming" mortgage loans.

2) The BerkeleyFirst solar financing scheme was not a success. It was a disaster. Only 13 people went through with it, and, after the FHFA ruling, the City abandoned it. 

Mayor Tom Bates speaking about the solar financing program at the City Council meeting of September 16, 2008: 

“I want to compliment the staff on the ingenuity and the creativity that has brought us to this day … This could be the most important contribution we’ve made in turning around global warming, because it can provide the opportunity for people to have affordable solar for their homes and businesses, and do so over a long time at a low rate of interest. It’s not for everybody. But it certainly is an exciting prospect. The world is sort of watching us to see how we do it”. 

In 2008, Mayor Tom Bates recommended that the City Council approve the BerkeleyFirst residential solar program, which they did. I was one of the very few participants in the program. The basic idea was that homeowners would install electrical-generating panels on their roofs, with no batteries, and sell excess power to PG&E, or pay for any net consumption as usual (mainly during winter). The federal government gave a 30% tax rebate, the State then gave about 18% cash to the installer, and the City was willing to finance everything except the state rebate, and add it to your property taxes at an interest rate of 7.75% for 20 years. 

Some people balked at the interest rate, but l already had a mortgage, like most homeowners, conventional refinancing to cover the cost of the solar installation would have forced me into jumbo-lite territory, with stringent qualification requirements and high interest rates. So I thought the interest rate was reasonable, especially as it was possible that the whole of the additional property tax could be deducted from federal tax. My own house was not a very favorable location, as the roof is heavily shaded, but imaginative contractors found solutions that were not absurdly expensive, so in 2008 I went ahead. 

Then my troubles began. The City planned to add a tax lien to each affected property to secure the loans, and issue bonds to recover their money. They described the tax liens as “just like the lien for the taxes you pay to Alameda County”. I'm a born skeptic, and went down to the County Recorders' Office to check this. There is no County Tax Lien, unless you're in default, so the new City lien would stick out like a sore thumb. My standard (conforming) California mortgage contract states that that any tax lien must be paid off immediately. I confronted the City with this, and got pure evasiveness for an answer. The City had subcontracted all financial arrangements to a company called Renewable Funding, LLC. They were charged with answering questions, and did so in as vague and obfuscating manner as possible. 

Meanwhile, the City project manager sat back and appeared to be using commitment-delete software on the few emails that she sent. I contacted my mortgage lender, who said over the phone that the new lien was no problem. However, they would not commit to this in writing. I then posed the question to the City: What if I refinance or sell, so that I am dealing with a new mortgage lender? I got no sensible answer, and the City obviously hadn't done its homework on this issue. The problem was that if my lender, or a new lender, insisted that the lien be paid off, the City wanted all future interest payments for 20 years, which was absurd. When I challenged them on this, they claimed that it was a condition of their contract with the holders of their future bond holders. This became their standard answer to any difficult question. By the time I had obtained my loan, I had exchanged over 300 email messages with the City and Renewable Funding, and found out very little. 

The next thorn became the date when the City would pay me. They refused to guarantee this, which could have left me owing the solar installer a substantial sum of money for some time. Luckily, the installer was patient. 

The final major issues were the administrative fees that I would be charged for the loan, and the dates and amounts of the additional property tax payments. Quite basic, wouldn't you think? However, the standard documentation was so unclear and self-contradictory that I insisted on, and got, a detailed breakdown from the City Director of Finance. 

By then, I had discovered that the whole scheme, including the incredibly complex financing plan was developed by Cisco DeVries, former Chief of Staff of Mayor Tom Bates – and now President of Renewable Funding. Mr. Devries had used his political contacts to set up the BerkeleyFirst financing system, and had approached several other cities as well. 

The initial pilot scheme, for $1 million, was supposed to accommodate 40 homeowners. In fact only 13 completed the program. Last year, the Federal Housing Finance Agency ruled that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should not accept new “conforming loans” with tax liens like Berkeley's on the property, although they grandfathered in existing liens, like mine. This killed BerkeleyFirst, and other similar programs. Belatedly, City management addressed the problems with mortgage lenders, and the Council waived the pre-payment penalty on future interest, so now refinancers and sellers can simply pay off their solar loans in the normal manner. 

Unfortunately, this program is yet one more example of the City having good intentions, but lacking the ability to think through the problems, and develop real solutions.

A Nurse's Viewpoint

By Berit Block, RN
Friday October 07, 2011 - 08:12:00 AM

I have been a Registered Nurse at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center for over 29 years. I love my job. I started at age 24 when it was Merritt Hospital and have worked there through various mergers and labor disputes and strikes. We, as Registered Nurses, have worked very hard through the years for a contract that protects our patients and offers us fair working conditions and upholds our work as a profession. Our contract is upheld by nurses working in other facilities as a Gold Standard. What is happening now, as we are negotiating our contract is unprecedented. Never, in almost 30 years have I experienced what we are now going through. We are asking for language in the contract for better murse-patient staffing ratios and it should be noted that California is one of the only states that has a law that mandates nurse-patient ratios to protect the patients. These have already decreased the number of deaths and poor outcomes in the state. We, as CNA members, are only asking that our previous contract be upheld. We are not asking for anything new, not even a cost of living pay raise. We only want NO TAKEAWAYS. 

The number and type of takeaways proposed by the hospital are unfair and outrageous. They are proposing elimination of all positions less than 4 days a week. There are many nurses working less than 4 or 5 days a week and their benefits are pro rated. Every nurse currently is required to work every other weekend until they have been employed for 15 years. Our previous contract allowed nurses to work every third weekend after 15 years of service and then eliminated the requirement after 20 years of service. Sutter wants every nurse, regardless of years of service, to work every other weekend. Sutter is proposing elimination of ALL sick pay, stating that SDI will kick in after the 8th day of illness. In addition they are proposing cutting back on maternity leave. They are proposing elimination of all 12 hour positions and cutting back on the hours that non-benefited nurses can work. They are proposing large cuts in hourly pay. These are just a few of the more than 72 takeaways that Sutter has offered us! It feels a bit more than trimming the fat. It appears to be more of a union busting technique as the number and type of takeaways are so over the top. 

There have been many figures in the media about how much money nurses make. We are a profession. There are a few nurses who are in a specialty that requires them to be on call and these nurses have the potential to make a lot of money as they usually make half of their hourly wage while they are waiting to be called in. However, this is a time where you are literally waiting for the phone to ring and you do not have total freedom to be any where or do anything you want while you are on call. These are usually high risk areas and are vital should a patient come in needing emergent care. Nurses otherwise make a good salary but if you look at the breakdown in terms of pay per patient the perception changes a bit. If you have 4 patients that you are responsible for and you make $60 an hour, which is average for an experienced nurse, you are talking about $15 an hour per patient. This is for skilled nursing for acute patients such as those out of surgery or medically ill enough to need to be hospitalized with frequent assessments and treatment changes. I know babysitters that get paid more per child and who well deserve it. We are highly trained professionals and are at the bedside 24/7. The figure that you quoted, $130,000, cannot be made hourly by the average nurse and perhaps if you included all of the health care insurance and other benefits might come close but I think it is a stretch. It is a disservice to Nurses to quote that figure since it leads the public to erroneously conclude that we make a huge amount of money per hour and in this depressed economy may not give us support at a time when we need it for ourselves and our patients. 

Sutter Health, a not-for-profit hospital, in 2010 made a "surplus" of $878,000,000. Yes millions!! And this surplus was made by Alta Bates Summit Medical Center only, not all of the hospitals in the Sutter chain. This "surplus" was made while upholding our contract. The very same contract that we are trying to negotiate to keep now. Nothing new for us, just the same contract that still allowed the corporation to collect this huge "surplus". [Sutter executive] Pat Frey received a 43% raise and now makes at least 4 million dollars a year. Who knows how much more he will make when the figures for the 2011 "surplus" are in. Sutter donated 1 million dollars to keep the Sacramento Kings in Sacramento. This is not a corporation that seems to be in financial distress. The term CORPORATE GREED comes to my mind. 

The employees of Sutter Health from the nurses, housekeepers, lab technicians and all the others who keep the hospital running have made that profit, as have the health care consumers. When our negotiations first began and it became clear where we were headed, I felt very disrespected in my mind about how little Sutter seemed to respect my work and that of my colleagues and all the others that work in the hospital. Who did they think made the profit for them? What gets me through this difficult time are the patients. They are why we are here and do what we do. We know we make a difference in people's lives, be it teaching, performing tests, giving reassurance, improving the health or quality of life, or even saving a life. The patients are why we do what we do. We will continue to offer excellent care and are even willing to strike so that we can continue to advocate for them and mandate the highest standards possible for their protection and for our profession.


Dispatches From the Edge: Libya & Afghanistan: The Price of Getting it Wrong

By Conn Hallinan
Thursday October 13, 2011 - 01:05:00 PM

“In 1979, when Soviet troops swept into Afghanistan, an angry Jimmy Carter organized an unofficial alliance to give the Soviets ‘their Vietnam’ (which Afghanistan became).” New York Times, 11/9/11 

The writer of the above paragraph is Marvin Kalb, a former network correspondent, Harvard professor emeritus, co-author “Haunting legacy: Vietnam and the American Presidency from Ford to Obama.” 

It is false history. 

As Paul Jay of the Real News (and before him, the French publication Le Nouvel Observateur) discovered, the Carter administration made the decision to intervene in an Afghan civil war fully six months before the Soviet invasion. In a July 1979 “finding” the White House authorized U.S. military and intelligence agencies to supply the anti-communist mujahideen fighters with money and supplies. 

The “finding” was the beginning of “Operation Cyclone,” a clandestine plan aimed at luring the Soviets into invading Afghanistan. From a relatively modest $23 million down payment, Cyclone turned into a multi-billion behemoth—the most expensive intelligence operation in U.S. history—and one that eventually forced the Soviets to withdraw. 

Cynics might shrug and respond that isn’t truth always the first casualty of war? Except in this case the casualties are still coming in as the U.S. marks its 10th year occupying Afghanistan. And when one totes up the collateral damage from that July 1979 memo, which led to the eventual victory of the Taliban, it chills the soul. 

When the mujahideen went home, they took the war with them, to Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Central Asia, North Africa, and a host of other places. They also permanently altered the skyline silhouette of New York City. In the annals of disastrous “blowbacks”—unintended consequences flowing from a policy or event—U.S. support for overthrowing the Afghan government and supporting the mujahideen has little competition. 

Ancient history? 

On Mar. 18, President Obama told the U.S. Congress that U.S. involvement in the war in Libya would be a matter of “days not weeks.” It turns out, lots of days, 227 and counting. 

“It’s really quite interesting how resilient and fierce they’ve been,” U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Ralph J. Jodice II told the New York Times. “We’re all surprised by the tenacity of the pro-Qaddafi forces.” 

Besides the rather creepy use of the word “interesting” to describe people you are trying to blow up with 500-pound bombs and Hellfire missiles, the key word in the general’s statement is “surprised.” Aside from destruction, about the only truth of war is surprise. As Field Marshall Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, Prussian Army chief of staff, and one of the great military minds of the 19th century, once noted, “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” 

It appears that when the President made those comments, he had been listening to generals, always a very bad idea. President Johnson listened to generals in Vietnam, and they told him some variation of what our current generals obviously told Obama: Piece of cake. We’ll bomb the bejesus out of these Arabs, and in a few days they’ll turn tail and run for the sand dunes. 

Except they didn’t. 

In the long run the combination of bombing, ground support by British Special Forces, and the unpopularity of the regime will eventually defeat the pro-Qaddafi forces, but because this has turned into a war of some 34-plus weeks, there is going to be some very serious blowback. 

For starters, take the 20,000 mobile ground to air missiles, most of which have gone missing. There are two basic kinds that someone—we haven’t the foggiest idea who—has gotten their hands on. 

The SA-24 “Grinch”, or Igla-S, is a very dangerous character. It has a range of some three miles, a powerful warhead, and a guidance system that lets it find targets at night. It is similar to the U.S. Stinger that so distressed the Soviets in Afghanistan. Introduced in 1983, it can hit a plane at 11,000 feet. It can also down drones and cruise missiles, and helicopters are toast. 

The other ground-to-air is the older Russian SA-7 “Grail,” or Strela-2, originally deployed in the 1968, but upgraded in 1972. It has an infrared detection system—it homes in on an aircraft’s engine heat—and the upgraded model has a filter for screening out decoy flares. The SA-7 is similar, but considerably superior, to the U.S. Redeye. The SA-7 has a range of a little over two miles and can reach up to 16,000 feet. 

“We are talking about some 20,000 surface-to-air missiles in all of Libya,” according to Peter Bouckaert, Human Rights emergencies director, who says that “ in every city we arrive, the first thing to disappear are the surface-to-air missiles.” According to Bouckaert, “They could turn all of North Africa into a no-fly zone.” 

One prediction: Niger has recently been using helicopters to attack the Tuareg-led Movement of Nigeriens for Justice in the Sahara. Tuaregs are demanding compensation for rich deposits of uranium that French companies are currently mining, and the Niger government has responded with military force. The Qaddafi government supported the Tuaregs in their fight with Niger, and supplied them with weapons. Want to make a bet that the Tuaregs end up with some of those missiles and that the Niger military is about to lose some helicopters? 

And the fall of Qaddafi may not end the fighting. Libya is a complex place with strong crosscurrents of tribe and ethnicity. For instance, it is unlikely that the Berbers in the south will accept continued domination by the Arab north. 


As for false history: journalism, as the old saw goes, is history’s first draft. According to the mainstream media, the U.S. and NATO got into the Libyan civil war to protect civilians, and indeed, one of the reasons the war has gone on so long is that NATO is reluctant to attack targets in Qaddafi strongholds, like Sirte, because such attacks might result in civilian casualties. 

Which makes it hard to explain the Agence France Presse story entitled “NATO, NTC [National Transitional Council] deadlier than Kadhafi diehards: Sirte escapees.” 

Sirte, Libya (AFP) Oct. 6, 2011-Fine words from NATO and Libyan new regime fighters about protecting civilians means little to the furious residents of Sirte, whose homes are destroyed and relatives killed in the battle to capture Moamer Kadhafi’s hometown. 

“Why is NATO bombing us?” asks Faraj Mussam, whose blue minivan was carrying his family of eight jammed in beside mattresses and suitcases as they fled the city this week.” 

According to the AFP story, the greatest danger civilians face in Sirte is from NATO bombs and shelling by NTC forces outside the city. A Red Cross official told AFP that there are still tens of thousands of residents in Sirte—it was a city of 100,000 before the February revolution—and they are under constant danger from artillery and bombs. 

“When asked if NATO was fulfilling its mission to protect civilians, one aid worker, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak publicly, replied: ‘It wouldn’t seem so.’ 

“ ‘There’s a lot of indiscriminate fire,’ he said, adding that many of the Sirte residents and doctors he had spoken to had complained of the deadly results of NATO air strikes.” 

According to AFP, NTC soldiers say that firing artillery and rockets into Sirte doesn’t endanger civilians because they are all gone. It is a contention aid workers heatedly dispute. 

The UN resolution that authorized the NATO intervention was supposedly aimed at protecting Libyan civilians. It quickly morphed from saving lives to regime change, and somehow the “protect civilians” only seems to apply to those who are on one side of the civil war. Sooner or later that narrative is going to come out, and the next time “protecting civilians” comes up in the UN, it is unlikely to get serious consideration. 

More than 30 years ago the U.S. intervened in the Afghan civil war in order to goad our Cold War enemy into a fatal mistake (and then lied about it). We are still paying for that policy. 

Eight months ago the U.S. and its allies engineered an intervention in Libya’s civil war behind the cover of protecting civilians, a rationale that is increasingly being challenged by events in that country. 

What the “blowback” from the Libyan War is still unclear, it might be a bad idea to invest a lot of your money in commercial air travel, particularly anywhere in Africa, the Middle East or Central Asia. Qaddafi’s days may be numbered, but those SA-24s and SA-7s are going to be around for a long time. 

Read Conn Hallinan at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress. com and middleempireseries.wordpress.com 


Senior Power: Happy Birthday, Betty Dukes

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Thursday October 13, 2011 - 01:55:00 PM

Sex and gender are frequently-considered factors in employment. Sex is the biological status of the person; gender is the cultural notion of what it is to be a woman or a man, girl or boy. “Gender” has become standard usage, as if some people are unable to say the S word. 

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Equal Employment Opportunity prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. An employer who intentionally deprives a member of one or more of these classes from equal employment opportunities, is committing an unlawful act. It is very difficult for an employee to prove that the discrimination was intentional. 

In sex-and-age claims of discrimination in employment made by midlife and older women, plaintiffs are likely to hold professional, specialty or managerial positions. This might mean that midlife and older professional women are the most likely to be discriminated against based on their sex-and-age. Or, it might mean that professional women are the most likely to complain and to have the resources to pursue legal redress. 

Practices often challenged are those in which the employee either lost her job or lost a promotion. Facts may be relatively straightforward, e.g. an older woman is pushed out for “poor performance” after years of good evaluations, or a midlife woman is passed over for promotion in favor of a younger man. 

Midlife and older women may face discrimination on the basis of physical appearance, e.g. when employers prefer “attractive” women for jobs and equate women’s attractiveness with youth. In general, plaintiffs fare poorly when challenging defendants’ discrimination against women, especially older women, on the basis of physical appearance. This may be due in part to courts’ difficulty in understanding the combined effects of sex-and-age discrimination and how such discrimination can play out in stereotypes about physical attractiveness. Many age-related disabilities are caused by diseases that disproportionately affect older women, e.g. osteoporosis. 

In certain situations plaintiffs may have claims under some combination of three statutes: Title VII, ADEA, and ADA.  

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) forbids employment discrimination against anyone over the age of forty in the United States. In Kimel v. Florida Bd. of Regents, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the ADEA did not apply to employment practices of state governments. Note, however, that the EEOC states on its web site that the ADEA does apply to state and local governments. 

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a law that was enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1990, later amended with changes effective January 1, 2009. The ADA is a wide-ranging civil rights law that prohibits, under certain circumstances, discrimination based on disability. It affords similar protections against discrimination to Americans with disabilities as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin, and other characteristics illegal. Disability is defined by the ADA as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity." The determination of whether any particular condition is considered a disability is made on a case by case basis, which has its drawbacks. Certain specific conditions are excluded as disabilities, e.g. current substance abuse and visual impairment correctable by prescription lenses. 


Midlife and older women may face employment discrimination solely because of their age, solely because of their sex, because of their age and sex separately (e.g. where an employer discriminates against older people in hiring decisions and also against women in pay) and because of the combination of their age-and-sex, e.g. when an employer will hire younger women or older men, but not older women.  

Rollins v. TechSouth, Inc. is a common scenario. Plaintiff presented evidence that could support a combined sex-and-age claim-- her supervisor’s comment that he didn’t like working with older women and that she looked good for her age, and evidence that she had been replaced by a younger man. But the court evaluated her claims of sex-and-age discrimination as completely distinct from one another. In most decisions, sex discrimination and age discrimination claims are treated as distinct and separate claims. Some courts recognize that older women make up a discrete protected subclass under relevant antidiscrimination laws. (I’m just not aware of any.) Cases refusing to recognize older women as a protected subclass have counterparts in the race-and-sex area. 

Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., a sexual discrimination lawsuit, was the largest civil rights class action in United States history. It charged Wal-Mart with discriminating against women in promotions, pay, and job assignments in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The case started in 2000. Fifty+ years old Betty Dukes, a Wal-Mart worker in California, filed a sex discrimination claim against her employer. She has been compared to Rosa Parks. 

Dukes claimed that, despite six years of hard work and excellent performance reviews, she was denied the training she needed to advance to a higher salaried position. Wal-Mart's position was that Dukes clashed with a female Wal-Mart supervisor and was disciplined for admittedly returning late from lunch breaks. In 2007, the case received district court class action certification, which was disputed by Wal-Mart. In 2009, the Ninth Circuit granted Wal-Mart's petition for rehearing on the class action certification; as a result, the December 2007 Ninth Circuit opinion was no longer effective. 

The U.S. Supreme Court in June 2011 rejected an effort on behalf of as many as one million female workers to sue Wal-Mart for discrimination, ruling in Wal-Mart's favor, saying the plaintiffs did not have enough in common to constitute a class. Filed in 2001, the suit aimed to cover every woman who worked at the retailer’s Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club’s stores at any point since December 1998, including those not hired until years after the suit was filed. The justices said the lawyers pressing the case failed to point to a common corporate policy that led to gender discrimination against workers at thousands of stores across the country. The court ruled unanimously that, because of the variability of plaintiffs' circumstances, the class action could not proceed as comprised and that it could not proceed as any kind of class action suit. 


Girls and women who step out of the role society assigns them can expect to become engulfed in a delay, divide, discredit syndrome. If a woman is emotionally and financially able to respond to discrimination based on her sex/gender, whether in academe, government, the public sector or home, she must survive while the defendant's firm of attorneys delays the investigation and trial. The defendant is often able to divide other victims and potential members of the class. If a plaintiff is able to get into court, she and any witnesses are subject to discredit. Myths and assumptions surround these heroes for the rest of their lives. Motivations may be endlessly attributed. Potential employers are especially wary of workers who are plaintiffs in class action suits. Many plaintiffs and witnesses who are former Wal-Mart employees have had trouble finding jobs. 

In September 2011, three months after winning dismissal of the gender-bias case from the U.S. Supreme Court, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer and private employer, unveiled a multibillion-dollar “women’s initiative.” The plan includes buying $20 billion of products from U.S. female-owned businesses in the next five years, training women to work in factories and retail worldwide, and providing $100+ million in grants to non-profit organizations aiding women. “We’re stepping up our efforts to help educate, source from and open markets for women around the world,” declared CEO Mike Duke. National Organization for Women (NOW) President Terry O'Neill, on ABC World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer, spoke about Wal-Mart’s multibillion-dollar initiative to purchase products from women-owned businesses: "I'm completely underwhelmed. This is a company that has systematically discriminated against women. And they think they can evade responsibilities, simply by a PR stunt."  

“The Wal-Mart public-relations machine is spinning overtime on this,” commented Wall Street Strategies analyst Brian Sozzi. “They are doing their best job to try and get out in front of any potential future lawsuits, while at the same time appear better in the cases remaining.” A Wal-Mart company spokesperson declared that increased support for women-owned suppliers was not related to the lawsuit. 

Wal-Mart may still face smaller gender discrimination lawsuits in lower courts and claims with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). 

When Betty Dukes charged female sex-discrimination in employment class action, she was middle-aged. Now she is a senior citizen.  


Featherstone, Liza. (1969- ). Selling Women Short: The Landmark Battle for Workers' Rights at Wal-Mart. 2004. Contends that Wal-Mart's success is based not only on its inexpensive merchandise or its popularity but also on bad labor practices. She repeated this charge in an article in The Nation

DeBeauvoir, Simone (1908-1986). The Coming of Age. 1970. 

“As a personal experience old age is as much a women’s concern as a man’s—even more so, indeed, since women live longer. But when there is speculation upon the subject, it is considered primarily in terms of men. In the first place, because the struggle for power concerns only the stronger sex.” 

Sontag, Susan (1933-2004). “The Double Standard of Aging,” Saturday Review Sept. 23, 1972, volume 55, pp. 29-38. Reprinted in, among other sources, The other within us: feminist explorations of women and aging, edited by Marilyn Pearsall. 1997.  


Older Americans are working longer. The labor force participation among those over age 65 has gone up dramatically in recent years. In 2010, more than 17% of those over 65 were in the labor force, up from around 11% in 1985. According to a 2011 analysis from the Urban Institute, adults age 50 and over comprised 31% of the labor force in 2010, up from 20 percent in 1995. 

Open enrollment for Medicare Part D prescription drug plans starts on Oct. 15 and ends Dec. 7. Visit the National Council on Aging at My Medicare Matters.org for guidance, as well as details on two programs that can make Medicare more affordable for low-income seniors. If you don’t use a computer, call 1-800-Medicare. Note: The 2012 Medicare & You official U.S. government Medicare handbook is being distributed; it is also online. The chart starting on page 147 is the best source of Prescription Drug Plans information. 

A new study finds that dietary supplements may harm older women. Researchers say that iron, vitamin B6 and others might increase the risk of death. The full report was published in the Oct. 10 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. And I’ll add magnesium. Brown University researchers report that the percentage of nursing home residents in the United States who receive a seasonal flu shot is lower than the national goal, and that the rate is lower for blacks than for whites. Both are online at October 5 and 10, 2011 HealthDay. 


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


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)! Reserve by visiting the Mastick Office or calling 510-747-7506. 

Friday, Oct. 14. 12:15 P.M. Free. Berkeley Brass Quintet concert. UC,B Hertz Hall. 


Saturday, Oct. 15. 11 A.M. Landlord/Tenant Counseling. Central Berkeley Public Library. 510-2090 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 unless you would like to go “green” and redesign beads already in your possession. 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 October 17. 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM Albany YMCA/Albany Library Brown Bag Lunch Speaker's Forum: Fred Setterberg, Lunch Bucket Paradise has been described as "postwar dreams of a working-class California suburb, and the struggles—comic, tragic, and triumphant—of those who came of age in that time and place.”Contact Ronnie Davis 510-526-3720 x16 rdavis@aclibrary.org 

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 speak. 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 Avenue, Alameda. 510-747-7506. 

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 P.M. Berkeley Gray Panthers meets at North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst, corner of MLK. Free. 510-548-9696. 

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. http://ossmc.givezooks.com/events/dementia-care-without-drugs-a-better-approach. 

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. 


Tuesday November 1. 12:00 PM - 2:00 PM League of Women Voters. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Contact: Ronnie Davis 510-526-3720 X16 The League of Women Voters invites you to join them. 

Wednesday, November 2. 1 P.M. Mastick Book Club members review Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. One Day by David Nicholls will be reviewed. 510-747-7506, -7510. Free. 

Wednesday, November 2. 6-8 P.M Lawyer in the Library. Free. Albany Library. 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-0660 

Wednesday, Nov 2. 7 P.M. Democracy For America Meetup – Pizza 6:30 P.M., Presentation at 7:00 P.M. Rockridge Library, 5433 College Ave, Oakland. . Cindy Young, Statewide Campaign Coordinator for the California Single Payer Coalition, will explain how the California Universal Health Care Act, SB810 will affect you and how to support its passage. Co-sponsored with the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club. Contact Nancy M. Friedman at nmf123@pacbell.net 

Thursday, November 3. 1:30 P.M. SOCIAL SECURITY & MEDICARE. Albany branch of the Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720. Free workshop. Speaker Mariaelena Lemus from the Social Security Administration. For older adults, family members, service providers. Reservations not required. Continuing into December, program will be presented throughout the Alameda County Library system; for a list of dates and locations, check the Alameda County Library system website. Older Adult Services at 510-745-1491. 

Thursday, Nov. 3. 6 P.M. Lawyers in the Library at South branch, Berkeley. 1901 Russell. 510-981-6260. 

Friday, Nov. 4. 6 P.M. Legal Assistance for Seniors’ 35th Anniversary Gala. Oakland Marriott City Center Ballroom, 1001 Broadway. 510-832-3040.  

Wednesday, Nov. 9. 6:30-8 P.M. Drop-in poetry writing workshop. Free. Albany Library. 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-0660. 

Saturday, Nov. 12. 12 Noon. Beef Bowl Anime Club Meeting for adults. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Contact: Ronnie Davis(510) 526-3720 x16. 

Monday, Nov. 14. 12 Noon. J-Sei Center, 1710 Carleton St., Berkeley. Monday Senior Center Lecture. “Do You Have The Right Insurance?” Speaker: Darrell Doi – CLTC Financial Advisor/Long Term Care Specialist. To place a reservation for the lecture and/or lunch at 11:30am, call 510-883-1106. 

Monday, Nov. 14. 12:30 -1:30 P.M. Albany YMCA/Albany Library Brown Bag Lunch Speaker’s Forum: Bob Lewis, Birds of the Bay Trail . Bob will illustrate this talk with images of birds seen along the Bay shoreline and will discuss identification, migration, feeding habits and nesting. Contact: Ronnie Davis 510-526-3720 x16.  

Tuesday, November 15. 1 P.M. Falls Prevention Discussion Group. Join Tina Maria Scott, Community Health Outreach Worker, with the Senior Injury Prevention Program—Senior Injury Prevention Project, for a Falls Prevention Discussion Group. Focus will be on factors that cause falls. Areas that will be discussed are Changing Behaviors, Nutrition & Medication Management, Fitness, and Home Safety Checklist by way of “Show & Tell”. Participants will receive a Falls Prevention Manual and other useful information that is easy to read. 

Tuesday, November 15. Annual National Memory Screening Day. http:///www.nationalmemoryscreening.org  

Saturday, Nov. 19. 10 A.M. – 4 P.M. Friends of the Albany Library Book Sale. 1247 Marin Av. Please do not bring donations the week prior to the sale. Contact: Ronnie Davis 510-526-3720 x16 rdavis@aclibrary.org Also Sunday, Nov. 20 from 11-4 P.M.
Thursday, November 23. 1:30 – 2:30 P.M. Free. Albany Library. 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-0660. Great Books Discussion Group: John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley 


The Poetry of Money: a New Irregular Personal Column

By R.M. Ryan
Wednesday October 12, 2011 - 03:43:00 PM

I worked in the sales, research, and management departments of a major regional brokerage firm for over twenty-five years. I left as a Senior Vice President to become a private money manger in 2005.

While I never literally worked on Wall Street, I lived in the air of that synecdoche.

I learned quite early in the game that, if I wanted to survive, I had to pick and choose very carefully among the investments offered to me and my clients. Many of them—such as, for instance, most tax shelters back in the 1980's and numerous mortgage-backed products—were financial poison.

Once you hung around a while, it got to be fairly easy to spot the bad products—the first test was simple: crappy investments usually had the largest commissions for the brokers. 

After The Large Commission Rule comes what I call The-Too-Good-To-Be-True Rule.  

If, for example, you heard that a bond filled with mortgages from places like Manteca was rated triple A, the same rating then given to Treasury Bonds, which are backed by the full faith and credit of the whole and entire United States, you could be forgiven for being suspicious. 

The third test was the Why-Am-I-Hearing-About-This? Corollary. 

This one applies to most of us Little People. It can be restated this way: if this is the real, inside story, then why am I, way out here, hearing about it? 

The fourth and final test was Miss Soley’s Observation. Miss Soley was my fourth-grade teacher, and she would make those of us who didn’t have our homework completed on time explain to the entire class why we were late.  

“See,” she told us after we listened to ever more colorful stories, “how much longer it takes to tell a lie than simply to tell the truth.” 

Miss Soley’s Observation would have kept many investors away from Enron. 

The Wall Street I saw ingested clients, the clients' money, and the clients' brokers the way a blue whale eats its way through a swarm of krill.  

In 1977, when I was applying for jobs in the investment business, I met very few people who’d been in the industry for more than two or three years, and most of the clients were long gone, wiped out in the Crash of 1974.

At the same time, Wall Street can be a great place to invest your money if you're careful and sensible (and follow models like those of Warren Buffett). If, however, you're not careful, you will most certainly get your purse and your pocket picked.

The little people of Wall Street (today that would probably mean those who make less than $500,000 a year) are minutely regulated to keep the crooks out, but major players like, for instance, the one-time CEO of Merrill Lynch, Stan O'Neal, are pretty much free to do anything they want to with total impunity.

In O'Neal's day, just a few years ago, major firms like Merrill Lynch operated with leverage of over thirty to one. Can you imagine the danger in that approach? It’s sort of like speeding down the left side of a two-lane road and telling yourself that this is the fastest way to a destination.

I suspect that the real purpose of suicidal risks like this was to insure Stan O'Neal's pay check. When he left Merrill in pretty much total collapse, he walked away with, I believe, 160 million dollars.

Which brings me to my larger point.

Our country is being ruined by a group I would call The Corporatists. These are men and woman using giant and often storied companies to pay themselves gargantuan salaries. They don't care about shareholders or employees or much of anything else besides those salaries. Most of them will be at the helms of their companies for just a few years and in that time will take as much money as possible.

Look at GM. I’d say it was pretty much got out of the car business by the late 1960’s. It just kept changing the sheet metal on the same vehicle. This isn’t the car business; this is the fashion business. Suburbans are perfect examples of this—pretty much the same car year after year with various grill and dashboard styles.

The management of GM was interested in maintaining fat profit margins to pay themselves. Compare this to Toyota or Honda or to one of the few American companies that just kept on innovating—Apple.

This is also why GM's stock has been such a disaster. In the long run, investors figure this stuff out.

Innovation and genuine client satisfaction are difficult and, in the short run, often expensive, In the long run, however, they are the tools of building formidable businesses.

By hiring both Republicans and Democrats, The Corporatists have divided and conquered us. We’re so busy—Progressives against Tea Baggers—that we don’t see the real destruction going on right in front of us. 

If The Corporatists aren’t stopped, our economic system is going to look like the forests in Haiti. 

According to The New York Times, R. M. Ryan’s is one of the poets working “at the juncture of rapture and rupture.” He is the author of two books of poetry—Vaudeville in the Dark and Goldilocks in Later Life. He also published a novel—The Golden Rules—and is now finishing a screenplay based on that novel. For over ten years, Ryan wrote the quarterly investment commentary for his investment firm. 


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

by Dorothy Bryant
Tuesday October 11, 2011 - 01:04:00 PM

The advantage of the melting pot is that it undermines tribalism. One gains a distance from one’s own national folly. Fashionable present-day multiculturalism, with its naïve call for ethnic pride, sounds to me like an attempt to restore me to precisely that state of mind my parents ran away from in Europe. The American culture is a strange concoction prepared and cooked by each individual in his own kitchen. It ought not to come in a package with a label and a fake list of wholesome, all-natural ingredients.

—Charles Simic, poet, NY Times Book Review, 12/20/03 

When Simic wrote this, nearly a decade ago, I read it with relief, as a sign that we were coming to the end of a period of manufactured “multiculturalism,” when many hyphenated-Americans were asserting their “ethnic pride”— and trying to force their version of it on others of their ethnic group. 

I hoped the change meant that acquaintances who had suddenly become super Italian-American, would stop accusing me (as one stated in a review) of “concealing my Italian identity” under a WASP name. (In other words, I use my husband’s name; I’d say you could accuse me of being, at worst, old-fashioned.) 

Another accusing question asked by these newly super-ethnic Italian-Americans was why I did not write on “Italian-American subjects,” meaning why I touched only here and there, as needed for the story, on my family experience, instead of churning out the standard IMMIGRANT SAGA. I patiently smiled and said, “Since I am an Italian-American, everything I feel compelled to write about becomes, by definition, an Italian-American subject.” It seemed more polite than saying, “ Nobody tells me what to write.” 


Many defenses of “multiculturalism” are boring and silly. But they can also be sinister. We must not tolerate oppressive, sometimes barbaric, traditions (inflicted mostly on middle-eastern women.) Examples include not only the forced veiling of women’s heads, or whole bodies, but the horror of female genital mutilation that, only a few years ago, I was told was actually being inflicted on some African immigrants in Oakland. (I hope that was just an urban legend.) 


What Simic called the “undermining of tribalism” is great gift to recent immigrants and perhaps an even greater gift to less recent ones. We Americans can be grateful that our parents left behind their “national folly,” while contributing their national treasures and talents into the “melting pot,” so that all of us can choose wholesome flavors from everywhere in the world. 


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

It’s the Water, Stupid: The Perils of Clearcutting

By Bob Burnett
Friday October 07, 2011 - 08:47:00 AM

When you fly to the west coast, you usually pass over the Sierra Nevada mountain range. On a clear day you’ll notice the surrounding forests are irregular; they’ve been “checkerboarded.” Millions of acres have been logged and ”clearcut.” While problematic on many levels, clearcutting imperils the drinking water for 45 million Americans. 

Clearcutting is a logging technique where all trees in a given area are cut down. The valuable timber is hauled away and the residue, the “slash pile,” is burned. Then the ground is scraped and sprayed with herbicides to suppress native vegetation. The area is replanted with one species, typically pine. In recent years, this process has been rebranded as “even-age” timber management. 

In California, clearcutting is only permitted on private land and usually occurs on property owned by Sierra Pacific Industries – the largest private landowner in the state holding over 1.7 million acres. Since 1990 Sierra Pacific has received permission from the California Forestry Board to clearcut over a quarter million acres. 

In 2000, the California legislature debated a bill that would have banned all clearcutting because of concerns about its environmental impact. Democratic Governor Gray Davis killed the law by declaring he would only sign legislation “that was the result of compromise between environmentalists and loggers.” (Sierra Pacific made significant contributions to Davis’ campaign and on July 13, 1999, hosted a fundraiser that raised $129,000 for the Governor.) 

Clearcutting has two major consequences. First, it impacts biodiversity. Replacing native trees and plants with a solitary species, pine, may simplify logging but it disrupts the habitat for plants and animals. Clearcutting fractures the fragile forest ecology causing species to migrate and, in some cases, disappear. And, wherever there is clearcutting there are roads for logging trucks; these roads also impact the environment directly by the introduction of polluting vehicles or indirectly by increasing the number of landslides. 

Second, clearcutting has a savage impact on water resources. 60 percent of California’s water supply comes from watersheds in the Sierra Nevada – 15 percent comes from the Colorado River and the remaining 25 percent from groundwater. The logging practices of Sierra Pacific have three impacts.  

The initial clearing process leaves the Sierra Nevada topsoil exposed and vulnerable. Winter rains often carry the best soil away, clogging streams and damaging habitat far away from the logging site. That’s the problem at Battle Creek a stream that descends from Mount Lassen in California’s Shasta County. The US Bureau of Reclamation is overseeing a $128 million project to revive the Battle Creek Salmon population; five dams are being removed and four others modified so steelhead and winter- and spring-run salmon can return to their spawning habitat. Tragically that same habitat is threatened by erosion resulting from upstream Sierra Pacific clearcutting, authorized by the California Department of Forestry. California doesn’t require loggers to monitor water quality and the agency charged with overseeing fish habitat, California Department of Fish and Game, has been decimated by budget cuts. 

The second impact of clearcutting is alteration of the rate of rainwater absorption. In a natural forest, native tree root systems trap and filter rainwater; as a result water percolates slowly through the soil, gradually recharging streams and aquifers over California’s dry months. In “even-age” forests, this process is altered and water is primarily distributed when it’s not needed. In the summer there is less stream water and this negatively affects fish habitat as well as plants and animals on adjacent properties. 

The third impact is from the introduction of herbicides. Each year an average of 200,000 pounds of herbicides are used to domesticate California private forests. Until recently, the most commonly used herbicide was Altrazine. In 2004, the European Union banned Altrazine “because of its persistent groundwater contamination.” US researchers are alarmed by Altrazine’s effects as an endocrine disruptor and its epidemiological connection to low male sperm count. (Health problems from aerial herbicide spraying have been reported in Triangle Lake, Oregon where most residents have tested positive for atrazine in their urine.) Recently, Altrazine has been replaced by Roundup, the most widely used US herbicide. The European Union classed Glyphosate, Roundup's main ingredient, as "dangerous for the environment" and "toxic for aquatic organisms". 

In 2006, the Union of Concerned Scientists reported on Global Warming and California’s Water Supply: “By the end of the century, if global warming emissions continue unabated, statewide annual average temperatures are expected to rise into the higher warming range (8-10.5°f). This temperature rise will lead to more precipitation falling as rain instead of snow, and the snow that does fall will melt earlier, thus decreasing the spring snowpack in the Sierra Nevada by as much as 90 percent… spring stream flow could decline up to 30 percent.” 

There are many signs that California’s water supply is imperiled by global climate change. Clearcutting increases the probability that the Sierra Nevada watershed will be furthered diminished or rendered unfit for consumption. It’s time for Governor Brown and the Legislature to ban clearcutting in all circumstances. 

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

On Mental Illness: Smoking, Obesity and Type II Diabetes

By Jack Bragen
Sunday October 09, 2011 - 01:19:00 PM

Far too many persons with mental illness literally “drop dead” at too young an age. In many instances, our deaths are the result of preventable health issues that most un-afflicted people address by middle age. The mental health treatment system is failing to provide preventative maintenance to a population which is very vulnerable to premature illness and death through heart disease, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and emphysema. If the assumption is that persons with mental illness have less competence compared to the mainstream population, then it becomes the responsibility of mental health caregivers to help regulate the diet, smoking and exercise level of their clientele. 

The lives of persons with mental illness are not to be considered trivial because of our lack of position in society or because we don’t come across as being as attractive, brilliant, charismatic or fit as others. I’m saying that our lives should be considered just as valuable as those of non-afflicted persons. This means that a crime is being committed. We are being allowed to die because it is convenient for the mental health caregivers to overlook our physical health issues. 

Neglect for our physical health issues is one of many instances in which persons with mental illness aren’t taken seriously, even though we have serious issues which are genuine and which can create real suffering and death. In past columns I have mentioned that the psychiatric medications cause weight gain and diabetes. I have also said that these medications make it harder to get physical exercise because of the sedating effects. This means that a lot of attention had better be paid to the diet of the psychiatric consumer. Excessive eating must absolutely be avoided. Nutritional foods must be consumed, and “junk food” must be kept at a minimum. It is the responsibility of the mental health treatment system to facilitate these good eating habits by educating people. 

Quitting smoking may be out of reach for many persons with mental illness, due to the sheer strength of the smoking addiction and due to the fact that it is thought to be mentally somewhat therapeutic. (This is not a recommendation for smoking.) Gradually creating good eating habits plus moderate exercise may be the only remaining areas where persons with mental illness still have some “wiggle room,” in our battle against poor health. 

Good eating habits can be phased into gradually, and if so, will have a better chance of being sustained. A person can start by adding a handful of green beans or green peas to one’s pot of macaroni and cheese. A person can switch to ordering one hamburger at a drive thru, instead of two or three. A person can buy a couple of frozen entrees instead of a freezer full. These are changes that won’t “rock the boat” as much concerning one’s comfort level and thus will have a greater likelihood of being sustained. 

There was the story of a board of directors meeting of a large tobacco company. A newcomer started to smoke, and was ridiculed for it. A board member at the meeting said that smoking is for “White trash and n___.” This gives you an idea of how much the tobacco producers believe in their product. 

The same sort of hypocrisy might exist in parts of the mental health treatment system. A mental health treatment venue might provide hamburgers and pizza for their lunches, which sedate the consumers by filling their stomachs; making it easer for them to be managed in the afternoon. Meanwhile, the lunches the therapists eat might consist of some concoction that has kidney beans, brown rice and tofu. Who will die first? 

Meanwhile, the medications that persons with mental illness are essentially required to take cause diabetes and extreme weight gain. All of the well-known atypical antipsychotic medications are known for raising blood sugar and increasing weight. Most mental health treatment venues have switched to these newer medications. This is because they are less likely (compared to the older generation of medications) to cause uncomfortable side-effects, and less likely to cause “tardive dyskenisia,” (a crippling, irreversible and disfiguring movement in the upper body). 

Because psychiatric drugs create obesity and diabetes, drug companies stand to gain even more profits by sales of insulin, high blood pressure medications, and blood thinners. This makes a person question if there could be some conspiracy in which people’s bodies are being harmed for the sake of profit. Whether or not this is too farfetched, it seems that taking one medication leads to taking another, and so on. The scientific community needs to devote some attention to creating psychiatric and other medications that do not cause chronic and deadly health problems. 


Arts & Events

Around & About Theater: Ragged Wing Ensemble--Innana's Descent--free performances & celebration

By Ken Bullock
Wednesday October 12, 2011 - 03:13:00 PM

Ragged Wing Ensemble, the East Bay's plucky little physical theater troupe, will stage Innana's Descent--the story of the Mesopotamian queen of Heaven & Earth, goddess of love, entering the underworld--as 'a celebration of the darkening of days" from this weekend through October 30, Saturdays and Sundays, 1-5, at Codornices Park, 1301 Euclid (near the Berkeley Art Center; just east of Live Oak Park) with interactive art installations and continuous performances all afternoon--and a special Halloween show, October 31, 5-8 p. m. Free. raggedwing.org