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Fire This Morning at Berkeley Iceland: A Neighbor's Reaction

By Jane Stillwater
Monday October 17, 2011 - 04:41:00 PM

There were at least six fire trucks clustered outside of Berkeley's Iceland on Milvia Street at 6:00 am this morning. What caused the fire and how much damage did it do? I asked around. "The building itself is basically indestructible," commented one bystander who appeared to have insider knowledge regarding Iceland, "so no basic damage was done. However, some rubber mats were set on fire and so the smell of burning rubber has permeated the building." 

"Do you know what caused the fire?" I asked. 

"Sure there was some sort of homeless encampment inside and apparently one of the homeless got careless with matches." I was surprised. It seems like breaking into Iceland would be a daunting task. "Actually, it is," the bystander replied, "but somehow they manage to do it anyway. There have been homeless people living inside of Iceland for at least the last four and a half years." 

After the fire trucks had gone, I peeked into one of the graffiti-smeared front windows and saw immediately that the bystander had been right. There was garbage and junk strewn around everywhere. The place looked like it had been hit by a small tornado. 

Because I live just across the street from Iceland, at Savo Island Cooperative Homes, the thought of having Iceland continue to remain vacant indefinitely worries me very much because our own housing property, which is not made out of concrete like Iceland, is very vulnerable to fires. 

"Sports Basement is trying to get permits to build a store here," continued the bystander, "and I think they will be a good neighbor, and will offer lots of interesting classes to the community as well as just selling sports equipment." Plus I have heard that "Save Berkeley Iceland" is also trying to re-open the place as a skating rink. 

As a resident living in direct proximity to Iceland, however, frankly I don't care who opens it again or who takes it over. I just want it to stop being an empty hazardous eyesore.

Hikers Freed in Iran to Speak Tonight at Occupy Oakland

By Dan McMenamin (BCN)
Monday October 17, 2011 - 04:37:00 PM

The three University of California at Berkeley graduates who were imprisoned in Iran on espionage charges are expected to attend an "Occupy Oakland" rally this evening. 

Sarah Shourd, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal are expected to speak at 5 p.m. at the amphitheater on the north side of 14th Street just west of Broadway, where Occupy Oakland demonstrators have been holding general assemblies since last week in solidarity with New York's "Occupy Wall Street" protests. 

Shourd, 33, and Bauer and Fattal, both 29, were arrested on July 31, 2009, after embarking on a hike in Iraq's Kurdistan region near the Iranian border. Iran accused the trio of espionage but released Shourd in September 2010 because she was in poor health. 

Bauer and Fattal were sentenced in August to eight years in prison, but were released on Sept. 21 following negotiations spearheaded by Oman. 

According to the Occupy Oakland website, the three hikers will talk about the connections that can be drawn between what they went through in Iran and the situation in U.S. prisons, as well as the hunger strikes taking place in California prisons. 

The website states that this will be the first time the three will be speaking together publicly since their release. 

Across the Bay, protesters in San Francisco plan to take action today with a march that will start at 5 p.m. at Justin Herman Plaza. 

The group's website, www.occupysf.com, says the march is "for basic human rights." 

The site states, "With many basic human needs and rights not being met its (sic) time for the people to take back what is rightfully theirs." 

The march comes after a violent Sunday night in which San Francisco police fitted in riot gear arrested five protesters who had set up tents in Justin Herman Plaza. 

Police told the demonstrators that city laws prevented encampment there. When protesters refused to remove the tents, officers removed them and placed them into Department of Public Works trucks and vans. 

Four protesters were arrested for in the roadway illegally and resisting arrest, while the fifth was arrested for battery on a police officer, police said. 

San Francisco Board of Supervisors President and mayoral candidate David Chiu released a statement about the confrontation, saying "Both the Occupy SF protesters and the San Francisco Police Department need to redouble their efforts to avoid confrontations like the ones we saw last night." 

Chiu said, "As long as the Occupy SF protesters are obeying the law, the city should respect their rights of peaceful assembly and free speech." 

The anti-Wall Street protests that started in New York City in September have spread nationwide, with other Bay Area Occupy groups gathering in Berkeley, Richmond, Walnut Creek, Santa Rosa, San Rafael and other cities. 

The groups cite an economic disparity between the richest 1 percent of the population and the remaining 99 percent, and are calling for increased regulation of banks and Wall Street investment firms, among other changes.

Occupy Berkeley: The Video

By Paul Kealoha Blake
Sunday October 16, 2011 - 09:49:00 PM

Scenes from Saturday's march in downtown Berkeley: 

We Too. Berkeley Piles onto International $$$ Protests

By Ted Friedman
Saturday October 15, 2011 - 10:53:00 PM
John, a facilitator, gives rousing call to action Saturday before Occupy Berkeley marches to Civic Center Park
Ted Friedman
John, a facilitator, gives rousing call to action Saturday before Occupy Berkeley marches to Civic Center Park
Occupy Berkeley returns from Civic Center (Provo) Park to Bank of America Civic Plaza
Ted Friedman
Occupy Berkeley returns from Civic Center (Provo) Park to Bank of America Civic Plaza
Divinity students from Graduate Theological Union add a moral element to Saturday's Occupy Berkeley rally and march
Ted Friedman
Divinity students from Graduate Theological Union add a moral element to Saturday's Occupy Berkeley rally and march
Occupy Berkeley arrives in Provo Park facing Old City Hall. Overnight encampment will move from Bank of America Plaza to park to accomodate an anticipated swelling in the ranks as movement grows
Ted Friedman
Occupy Berkeley arrives in Provo Park facing Old City Hall. Overnight encampment will move from Bank of America Plaza to park to accomodate an anticipated swelling in the ranks as movement grows

Piling onto the international movement against alleged financial oppression proved irresistible to more than 200 Berkeleyans Saturday, as they joined fellow protesters from New Zealand, Alaska, London, Frankfurt, Washington, New York, and even timid Tokyo in an international day of rage against financial institutions.

Sometimes it's not all about Berkeley and this was a day for international solidarity. 

Chanting such slogans as, "life's a bitch, tax the rich," and (to onlookers and passing cars), "you are the ninety-nine percent," the group responded to a rallying speech by John, a facilitator, by marching to Martin Luther King Civic Center Park and back to Bank America Plaza on Shattuck. 

[This park is known to Berkeley old timers as Provo Park, informally re-named in the 1960s for “a Dutch counterculture movement in the mid-1960s that focused on provoking violent responses from authorities using non-violent bait”, according to Wikipedia.] 

Police were as mellow as the protesters, who the night before had taken a vow of non-violence. No more than four police looked on, although several cops on bikes cruised the event. Keeping out of the streets and skirting the ongoing Berkeley Farmers’ Market, protesters went out of their way to keep it cool. 

Those who had encamped overnight in BA Civic Plaza plan to spend tonight in Provo Park. The move had been discussed last week at "general assembly" planning sessions. The last scheduled event of the day was a gathering across the street from the park, where a previously scheduled concert was taking place, on the steps of Old City Hall at 2:30. 

According to City Councilmember Kriss Worthington, District 7, the city wants to avoid a police crackdown in the park. The city relocated "previous users" of the park to make room for the protesters, according to Worthington. 

March peace monitors had attended a morning "training" by the National Lawyers Guild. 

First stop for Occupy movement movers was Chase, across the street from BA, and then they turned right on Allston to Milvia, where marchers passed the farmers’ market. 

Passing Provo Park across from Old City Hall before turning right on Milvia, marchers headed for University Avenue, as they chanted "whose streets, our streets," and "corporate greed has got to go." 

At University, the protesters chanted their way to Shattuck where they paused to condemn Citibank on their right, passed BA and re-circled their way back to the park via Allston where they briefly convened for more protesting. They re-convened at BA Plaza, returning on Center Street. The mood of the marchers was exuberant. 

Back at BA, the protesters convened their seventh general assembly in as many days—an exercise in consensus politics. Protesters new to Occupy Berkeley were trained in the protocols of a movement general assembly. 

Max Anderson, City Councilmber, District 3, spoke on the contributions of past Berkeley movements to the present one. Later, Anderson had a proposal for the new movement—"that the city move its investments from financial institutions like Chase, Citicorp, and BA to credit unions." 

John, a member of the facilitators’ committee (its members do not use their last names and want to keep the protest leaderless) had earlier acknowledged in his call to march such contributions, saying "let us revive the spirit that once radiated from the streets of Berkeley. A spirit of revolution, a spirit of change, a spirit of activism. 

A spirit that occupied this town and the minds of its citizens, and now has a chance to re-occupy this city." 

Kriss Worthington referred to the young radicals as a "new wave of activism." Acknowledging that Occupy is not just about youth and that grey-beards were also well represented, Worthington added that the movement was not age-based, managing to cover all bases. 

Although the day was devoted to international solidarity against "corporate greed," 

it proved once more that Berkeley has its own voice—a reinvigorated voice. 

We will soon post an inside-story wrap-up of a tumultuous week in the life of a new Berkeley movement. Click back to us for that. 



Ted Friedman has been temporarily re-assigned from South side to downtown, but keeps an eye on his beat. The latest tree-sit (the third) ended Friday at 12:30 p.m. when after several hours of of negotiations, a UCPD officer talked Littlebird out of the tree. More later.

New: Berkeley has Long term Chronic Problems with its Storm Drain System --and Lacks Funds to Fix Them

By Thomas Lord
Saturday October 15, 2011 - 08:48:00 AM

On October 25, the Berkeley City Council will meet in special session to receive the 2011 Watershed Management Plan from the Public Works Department. The full report is available on the City's web site in the agenda for the special session.

The always-evolving report is the city's comprehensive overview of the state of Berkeley's watershed. It explains that "The mission of the Watershed Management Plan (WMP) is to promote a healthier balance between the urban environment and the natural ecosystem, including the San Francisco Bay." The report aims to help guide city efforts to protect water quality, reduce urban flooding, preserve natural waterways and habitat, and re-use rainwater as a resource.

There is much to digest in the weighty report (100 pages plus another 86 pages of appendices). There is far too much to simply summarize here. Nevertheless, we found off the bat a few facts we think our readers will be glad know:

The city's storm drain pipe infrastructure comprises nearly "100 miles of buried pipelines, and their attendant appurtenances."

Much of that infrastructure is "over 80 years old and well past its useful life expectancy.

Under the federal Clean Water Act, the state issues conditional permits to cities that discharge stormwater into the San Francisco Bay. The conditions of Berkeley's Municipal Regional Stormwater permit (MRP) include requirements for new "trash capture" features - designed to prevent trash from reaching the bay - by 2014 (with requirements for further improvements expected subsequently). It is unclear where the money will come from for this, although Berkeley is initially participating in a $5 million dollar pilot study funded by the Federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This study will cover only a few test-case trash capture devices. The city's experience with these test devices will help determine which technology to commit to across the entire system. 

The MRP notwithstanding, the age of Berkeley's storm drains presents problems all its own. 

One example is the Potter Basin, a watershed that encompasses nearly everything south of University. 

The city's computational model predicts areas of "chronic nuisance flooding" in Potter Basin and these models accord well with experience. The model predicts problem spots already known to exist such as Fulton at Derby, College at Dwight, MLK between Russell and Woolsey, and San Pablo between Ward and Murray. 

The study notes: "Thus 10-year frequency storms in combination with high tides will cause flooding in the Potter watershed [as far upland as Woolsey near Adeline].

The estimated cost to upgrade the decrepit system while installing larger pipes is nearly 53 million dollars - and that's just for the Potter Basin, not all of Berkeley. 

Meanwhile, the Public Works Department's budget is being cut in the face of a projected deficit of $3M to $4M in 2012. 

Apparently the residents of Berkeley have got themselves a serious fixer-upper: lots of historic charm but skyrocketing expenses to keep it from falling apart. 

This piece also appears in The Berkeley Brief, a new print newsletter edited and distributed by the author.

Day 6: Will Saturday's Demo Put Berkeley 0n U.S. Map of Anti-Wall Street Protests?

By Ted Friedman
Friday October 14, 2011 - 01:20:00 PM
John Holzinger, 20, with mike, a facilitator, who later previewed his Saturday speech. "Sister" back to camera was facilitator for the meeting. "Urban strider" to right has been trying to get the occupiers to recognize the rights of indigenous peoples
Ted Friedman
John Holzinger, 20, with mike, a facilitator, who later previewed his Saturday speech. "Sister" back to camera was facilitator for the meeting. "Urban strider" to right has been trying to get the occupiers to recognize the rights of indigenous peoples
Newly appointed treasurer for Occupy Berkeley will secure donations-in-a-jar that are paying the protest's bills. No one has heard from the star hip-hopper who offered to pay for "everything." Perhaps the check is in the mail
Ted Friedman
Newly appointed treasurer for Occupy Berkeley will secure donations-in-a-jar that are paying the protest's bills. No one has heard from the star hip-hopper who offered to pay for "everything." Perhaps the check is in the mail

With anti-Wall Street protests in large cities hogging headlines, will the now tiny "Occupy Berkeley" action bolster Berkeley's radical image—or bury it—as the legendary revolution-to-come happens without a major role for Berkeley? 

After six days of planning meetings (general assemblies), committee and sub-committee meetings—all aiming for a rally and protest Saturday at noon at Bank of America Plaza downtown—Berkeley's role in the national anti-Wall Street movement may sink or swim. 

Channel 2, television, covered last night's planning meeting. Later, two appointees from Occupy Berkeley's communications committee appealed for the support of U.C. Berkeley students at 9:20 p.m. last night on student-run KALX (90.7 F.M.) immediately after the Cal-USC football game. This was a time-slot in which students would have tuned in to get the final score. 

In a genuine example of the participatory democracy for which Occupy Berkeley will be known, John Holzinger, 20, a demo "facilitator" read the "proclamation" he plans to deliver Saturday. He requested, and got, abundant feedback, including a one-minute "evaluation" from a member of Berkeley's Avatar Metaphysical Toastmasters public speaking club. 

And still the route for a planned protest march which will depart from BA Plaza across from the downtown Bart station Saturday has not been finalized. At last night's general assembly (open planning meetings), a participant called out, "We're sick of Telegraph being trashed." 

Discussion last night focused on philosophies of non-violence, peace, and violence, and a proposal to enlist and deploy march monitors (to keep things peaceful) passed, along with an "agreement" that the march would be non-violent. 

"Don't assume police will be violent," a participant advised. 

Whether or not to apply for a march permit stalled when someone pointed out it was too late for that. Another commentator noted, "occupation requires no permit." 

A facilitator, Bo-Peter Laanen, 20, a Cal political science major, announced there would be a "training" with the National Lawyer's Guild to advise protesters before Saturday's march. 

Michael M., who remembers when Berkeleyans were freaks, and throughout six days of meetings has advocated incorporating Berkeley concerns into the Berkeley branch of the national anti-Wall Street movement, suggested that occupiers contact city councilmembers. But a responder said that politicians should be excluded because they would only co-opt the occupation. 

Elizabeth, one of the overnight occupiers at the BA Plaza, reporting from the food committee which is being funded by donations-in-a-bottle on site, said that the bagel's cream cheese and lox from Noah's (discount to the protest) were so good that demonstrators might want to come for the food. 

Early rains forced the general assembly under a tarp two days ago, impinging on an encampment of homeless Berkeleyans, but as spring weather returned and the assembly moved towards the sidewalk, some of the homeless have returned. 

One of the homeless on-lookers, Rene Daugherty, offered this advice to the nascent movement. "Protest is not about getting people to agree, but about getting your ideas across." 

Daugherty attributed this advice to his "friend," Huey P. Newton. 


Ted Friedman has been reassigned to the downtown protest, but is keeping an eye on his South side beat.

Occupy Richmond Launched

By Laura Dixon (BCN)
Friday October 14, 2011 - 11:02:00 AM

The now nationwide Occupy Wall Street movement that has sprung up throughout the Bay Area in recent weeks kicked off in Richmond yesterday afternoon, with the support of city leaders and police.  

About six dozen people gathered in Downtown Richmond late yesterday afternoon to take part in a peaceful, Occupy Wall Street-inspired demonstration, holding signs, chanting and sharing personal stories about the effect corporate America has had on their lives. 

Occupy Richmond organizer Bryan Drayton, owner of nonprofit bicycle organization Richmond Spokes, said today's rally in downtown Richmond -- which could last through Saturday if attendees decide to camp out -- is meant to give Richmond residents a platform to vent their frustrations and discuss constructive plans for the community. 

From 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., about a dozen local residents, including self-described activists and one city council member, took turns at the microphone to voice their grievances against corporate America and the effect it has had on their lives -- from facing foreclosure and mountains of student loan debt to unemployment. 

"Sallie Mae is a gold digger...she's taking all our money, she's keeping us enslaved...and I'm fed up with that," said Jessica Tovar, a Richmond resident who works with a local nonprofit, Communities for a Better Environment.  

Many of those who spoke at the event targeted Chevron, whose corporate offices are located in Richmond.  

"That money doesn't go to the city of Richmond...it's not going to our schools," Tovar said. 

Several people in the crowd, including Richmond City Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles, nodded their heads in agreement as Tovar spoke. 

Beckles also addressed the crowd of demonstrators, and said she was proud of the local event and hopes for an even larger turnout at any future Occupy Richmond rallies. 

"In a community like this that is predominantly black and Latino, we should have more people here," she said. 

Drayton said that he and several other local residents decided to plan the event at the last minute while attending an Occupy Oakland event earlier this week. 

Mayor Gayle McLaughlin also voiced her support for the rally and for the entire Occupy Wall Street movement. 

"It's something we have been promoting in Richmond for a long time," she said. "We've been working to stand against corporate domination, which is why myself and a couple other council members won our elections without taking one penny of corporate donations." 

Richmond police officers were also supportive of the rally, and escorted the group of about three dozen attendees who marched about 15 blocks from 11th Street to Richmond's Civic Center. 

Capt. Mark Gagan said officers monitored the rally to "make sure (attendees) have the ability to assemble peacefully," and would allow participants to camp on city property during the event.

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%.



Occupying Berkeley and Oakland on a Fine Saturday in October

By Becky O'Malley
Sunday October 16, 2011 - 08:16:00 PM

Both Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland for generations have celebrated what’s called “the marching season”, a time of the year beginning around Easter when various groups stage parades to commemorate dates and causes that they consider significant. Here in the United States, October has often been our “marching season”—some of the best protests decrying the first (or was it the second?) Gulf War were in October, as I recall.

This year is no exception. Yesterday’s various Occupy events in Berkeley and the rest of the East Bay, though serious in purpose, had an almost festive air consistent with the fine weather and earnest camaraderie of the participants. If you kept moving, it was possible to enjoy a good cross section of the available color at various locales. 

Occupy Berkeley had been grouping and re-grouping with ever-changing times and locales for almost a week. Checking in at the plaza in front of the downtown Bank of America at noon, the time and place announced on at least one Internet venue, we discovered that one contingent was already on the move, but about a hundred people were still there listening to speakers with a variety of axes to grind. Spotted in the crowd were one Berkeley City Councilmember (the ever vigilant Kriss Worthington), two former Daily Planet reporters hung with cameras, one former law school classmate who said she was just back from the 50th anniversary celebration of either SNCC or the Freedom Riders or both, and a good assortment of fresh-faced young folk who looked like they were students.  

Noteworthy: most of the young were of European descent, even though close to half of the UC Berkeley student body could be considered Asian or Asian-American. I saw no young African-Americans, though a few of their elders were there, including reportedly Berkeley Councilmember Max Anderson. (I missed him.) 

A posted sign announced that there would be a rally of some sort in Civic Center Park at 2:30, so I ducked out for a bit to have coffee with a friend at the Farmer’s Market next to the park. We’ve been to a variety of events like these over the years, most notably going to D.C. in a vicious sleet storm to protest G.W. Bush’s theft of his first “election”—fat lot of good that did. But we were game to keep up the effort by joining the next event, though the title of Phil Ochs’ song (I Ain’t Marching Any More) lingers in memory. 

And thanks to modern modes of transport I even made it to Oakland by 3:30, just in time to hear Danny Glover working the crowd up to a fine frenzy. It was an odd assortment of edgy youth and grizzled age, obviously happy to be there together on such a fine day. The Occupy contingent, who had been there for a couple of days, were joined by Danny and assorted politicians, union leaders and their troops who walked over from a long-planned “Jobs not Cuts” rally at Laney College which was coincidentally timed to back Obama’s American Jobs Act.  

It was a pretty big crowd, probably in the thousands, as well as I could tell from my vantage point at the northwest side of what is now called Ogawa Plaza, a concrete amphitheatre which replaces the green triangle which used to be in front of the Oakland City Hall. Like many jolly Oakland events, the mix here was thoroughly, emphatically and enthusiastically multi-racial and multi-ethnic. 

The first person I knew that I ran into was the other friend with whom I went to the Bush inaugural fiasco—talk about addictive personalities, all three of us. Several others there I recognized as Berkeleyans who have not yet joined any of the Occupy Berkeley events—people who tend to self-identify more with Democratic Party power brokers than with the raggle-taggle band who have been the most persistent participants in the Occupy arena.  

I spotted a woman rumored to have once been a member of Line of March, an Oakland based Maoist organization founded in 1970, chumming up with a now-rightish Berkeley Democratic politician. Fashions come and go, but the avant-garde remains the same. 

As I was leaving I came across an old acquaintance, a union organizer and for a long time a stalwart of the old left, though of late a leader of the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club instead. He said he’d been putting together the union rally for at least six weeks, but had been working especially hard in the last couple of days reconciling the two strains which came together that day at Ogawa Plaza.  

“Oh, so you were representing The Establishment this time?” I teased.  

“You have to get the right dialectic between spontaneity and structure,” he said, only half joking. He said that he’d spent a long time in the encampment the night before, and “when you’re dealing with a group of anarchists it’s easy for a few Trots to take over.” 

Note for younger readers: that would be Trotskyists, though what that epithet means in the modern context is not easy to decipher. Per Wikipedia, Trotsky’s “politics differed sharply from those of Stalinism, most prominently in opposing Socialism in One Country, which he argued was a break with proletarian internationalism, and in his belief in what he argued was a more authentic dictatorship of the proletariat based on working-class self-emancipation and mass democracy, rather than the unaccountable bureaucracy he saw as having developed after Lenin's death.” 

Hmm, yes. Well, we came back in the evening to check out an enthusiastic report from a center-left-leaning friend about the excellent organization and spirit which she saw when she visited the camp that afternoon.  

We got there just in time to observe the nightly meeting—not sure if it was a “General Assembly” or just notes to inhabitants. This nascent revolution, everywhere, is currently more about process than about product, but the Oakland process wasn’t as elegantly choreographed as its Berkeley or Wall Street counterparts. There were no Trotskyist leanings, in fact no leanings of any kind, in evidence. 

In Oakland there was a real loudspeaker instead of the call-and-response substitute made famous by Occupy Wall Street and imitated to indifferent effect in Berkeley. It echoed back from the concrete bleachers, and anyone who had anything to say lined up and waited for a turn at the mike. Most of what we heard in three-quarters of an hour was announcements: a lot about conflict resolution, food, medical aid and the like.  

There was only one “proposal” on the agenda for discussion—from the DJs who were planning to put on a big dance party for the inhabitants that evening. They wanted the quiet hour deadline, normally midnight, to be pushed out to 2 a.m. in honor of the party. 

A few half-hearted speakers spoke pro and con. Straw votes based on a show of hands were requested, though they were hard to count in the dark. Finally the woman who’d held the microphone for most of the time we were there announced that the proposal had failed because it didn’t get 90% support, which seemed to be that night’s version of consensus, notably hard to achieve.  

There were no other proposals made before we left. A request for adoption of a list of demands never made it to the agenda, but was scheduled for a committee meeting on Sunday. 

The camp last night, coupled with today’s reports of the dedication of the Martin Luther King memorial, reminded me of Resurrection City, an encampment of poor people and friends set up in D.C. in May of 1968, an outgrowth of Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign for an Economic Bill of Rights for the nation’s poor, which he was working on when he was assassinated. That one lasted for not much more than a month before it was shut down by the authorities. The Economic Bill of Rights was never passed. 

Some press reports say that 1400 cities around the world took up the Occupy banner over the weekend, so maybe this time the outcome will be different. Or perhaps, though the parties might be better, the consequences will be the same. We’ll have to wait and see. Poor people all over the world are in a lot more trouble than they were in 1968, a year when we thought there was plenty of trouble to go around.  

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.


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

Press Release: March and Rally for "Jobs Not Cuts" in Oakland Today

From the Wellstone Democratic Club
Saturday October 15, 2011 - 11:17:00 AM

October 15, 2011
Jobs Not Cuts
Work Not War
Saturday, October 15th
March and Rally
Gather at Laney College at 1PM
Lake Merritt BART
Join the rebellion of the 99% to force the 1% to do their part in supporting the common good. It's time. Let's all march together.
Join With:
Danny Glover
Jean Quan, Mayor of Oakland
Tom Bates, Mayor of Berkeley
Gayle McLaughlin, Mayor of Richmond
Josie Camacho, Alameda Labor Council
Support the Contract to Rebuild the American Dream:
Meet at Laney College at 1PM (Lake Merritt BART)
March to
Frank Ogawa Plaza (12th St. BART)
for a short rally with compelling speakers
this is a BART to BART march
cosponsored by: Alameda and San Francisco Labor Councils, MoveON,Oakland Rising,Global Exchange,Peace Action West, Oakland Education Association, Code Pink, New Priorities Campaign, Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, US Labor Against the War, Sierra Club - East Bay, among many others
for more information:
Please volunteer to be a monitor or help with the tasks of the march and rally. Please arrive at Laney College by 11:30AM

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.”


On Mental Illness: Stereotypes and Stigma

By Jack Bragen
Sunday October 16, 2011 - 05:51:00 PM

Society has an unfriendly perception of persons with mental illnesses. Persons with mental illness are thought to be murderers, sociopaths, and wild people who are out of control. This is usually not accurate. Television news does a good job of making people believe that persons with mental illness do most of the violent crimes in society; but this is not so. Only a small percentage of violent acts are perpetrated by persons with mental illness, and most mentally ill people are not violent. Most violence in society is probably due to domestic issues, the narcotics trade, and also gang activity. Most criminals aren’t mentally ill; they are criminals, a fairly distinct category of people. Most persons with mental illness are gentler than the average person, and many would choose death for themselves long before hurting another person. 

Persons with mental illness are thought to be freaky and sick people; abnormal, unwashed, and a crude and inferior breed of people—almost subhuman. Even a Zen practitioner in an article in a popular meditation magazine said: “It is hard to have compassion for such people.” (When I read that, a statement which I believe was bigoted, I was outraged because of its illustrious and supposedly evolved source.) 

In fact, persons with mental illness aren’t freaks; we are actual human beings with feelings. We want the same things for ourselves that nearly everyone wants. Yet, many of those good things in life, which non-afflicted people take for granted, for us are out of reach. 

When someone disrespects us or treats us with condescension, we are impacted. When this happens repeatedly on a daily basis, it becomes ingrained into our psyches. We may eventually become the drooling circus act who people believe us to be. 

Misconceptions about persons with mental illness run parallel to misconceptions that existed up until recently concerning African American people, other non Caucasian people, Gay people and Lesbian people. If your memory is long enough, the negative stereotypes that society has about persons with mental illness are pretty much the same falsehoods that existed decades ago concerning other minority groups. However, in society today, it is still socially acceptable to have disdain, false superiority and dislike toward persons with mental illness. 

Persons with mental illness are vulnerable. In the jails and prisons we become victims of some of the worst abuse. Outside of jail, criminals often prey on us as easy victims. In mainstream society, we are the butt of people’s jokes and are socially excluded. In treatment venues, our perspective and our worth are often invalidated. Family who are more successful may not tell their peers even of our existence. Businesspersons may hire us for only the most demeaning of jobs. 

Persons with mental illness may be the last minority. And we, too, are waiting for the day when all people are treated with dignity and respect.

The Public Eye: Who Killed the US Economy? Accounting Parasites

By Bob Burnett
Friday October 14, 2011 - 10:57:00 AM

As the US Economy stagnates and 14 million Americans remain unemployed, Washington politicians play familiar blame games. Republicans believe our problems stem from too much government and claim the economy would right itself if there were fewer taxes and regulations. Democrats assert the economy failed because of faulty government that permitted egregious corporate behavior and promoted economic inequality. But the real culprit lies deep within the bowels of modern corporations: parasitic accountants who have subverted America’s entrepreneurial spirit and jeopardized the common good. 

In FORBES magazine, management consultant Steve Denning noted that DELL Computer, because of nearsighted financial advice, gave itself away to its Taiwanese supplier: “ASUSTeK came to Dell with an interesting value proposition: ‘We’ve been doing a good job making [circuit] boards. Why don’t you let us make the motherboard for you?’ …Dell accepted the proposal because from a perspective of making money, it made sense: Dell’s revenues were unaffected and its profits improved significantly… ASUSTeK took over the motherboard, the assembly of the computer, the management of the supply chain and the design of the computer. In each case Dell accepted the proposal because from a perspective of making money, it made sense: Dell’s revenues were unaffected and its profits improved significantly. However, the next time ASUSTeK came back, it wasn’t to talk to Dell. It was to talk to Best Buy and other retailers to tell them that they could offer them their own brand or any brand PC for 20% lower cost.” 

Like most American corporate accountants, DELL’s financial people had a simplistic, narrow objective: do whatever would improve the current quarter’s bottom line. Because accountants don’t have a strategic perspective, DELL’s number crunchers didn’t realize the cumulative debilitating impact of the ASUSTeK transactions. Denning observed, “Decades of outsourcing manufacturing have left U.S. industry without the means to invent the next generation of high-tech products that are key to rebuilding its economy.” Parasitic accountants have neutered our entrepreneurs. 

But it’s not only high-tech companies that are infected by these parasites; American corporations from all sectors have been hypnotized by the promise of short-term profits. It’s the conventional “wisdom” that accountants and executives are taught in business school. This dysfunctional perspective is reinforced by contemporary corporate monoculture where employees live in a bubble, log obscene hours, and vacation with their co-workers. As a consequence giant corporations are dogmatically insular with their own warped code of ethics and worldview. 

Corporate accountants dogmatic focus on profitability drives out humanity. There is no room for entrepreneurial creativity, much less the wellbeing of the larger community or the “common good.” 

This parasitic perspective caused commercial lenders to issue sub-prime mortgages beginning in the late nineties and continuing until the housing credit bubble burst in 2007. In 2005 the majority of housing loans made by lenders such as Countrywide Financial and Washington Mutual were “interest only” back by little or no documentation – so called NINJA loans. Accountants advised financial-industry executives they could improve profitability by selling sub-prime (adjustable rate) mortgages and bundling them into mortgage-backed securities. Later the same parasites told executives they could further improve profitability by decreasing the loan documentation requirements. 

In one industry after another we find examples where nearsighted pursuit of profits has trumped common sense and devastated the common good. Most California private timberland is owned by Sierra Pacific Industries that advocates clearcutting where all trees in a given area are cut down, the valuable timber hauled away, the residue burned, and the ground scraped bare and sprayed with herbicides. This process makes more money for SIERRA PACIFIC but it passes on environmental damage to the public and drastically diminishes the amount and quality of the watershed. 

Most public utilities have a similar narrow focus on profits at the expense of the common good. For example, TECO Energy operates the massively polluting Big Bend power plant in Apollo Beach, Florida, because it has low operating costs due to its construction before modern standards for pollution control. 

The advent of accounting parasites is the ultimate triumph of the nerd: hundreds of thousands of corporate finance people who care more about numbers than they do humanity. A culture of parasites who think nothing of firing workers, or stripping them of their benefits, in the name of profitability, 

Accounting parasites have neutered our entrepreneurs, sucked the humanity out of corporate culture and ruined the economy. They don’t understand that the US consumer economy will not function properly unless there is full employment. 

Fixing the US economy doesn’t mean replacing capitalism with socialism – that would bring another set of equally dire problems. The solution first requires taking parasitic accountants out of the corporate driver seat and replacing them with entrepreneurs – like the late Steve Jobs. And second, replacing the current corporate ethics and the relentless emphasis on profitability, with values that consider both workers and the environment; an ethical system that recognizes the American economy won’t function unless we all have a stake in it. 

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

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)

Arts & Events

Open Houses for LBNL Campus at Golden Gate Fields

By Zelda Bronstein
Monday October 17, 2011 - 04:51:00 PM

Meet the developers, view their latest (revised) proposal for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's second campus, tell them what you think.

Meetings will take place at the racetrack from 4-7 pm. on the following dates: 

  • Monday, October 17, "The New Plan for LBNL at GGF incorporating recent public input;"
  • Monday, October 24, Landscape Design;
  • Tuesday, November 1, the "sustainability model for LBNL at GGF will be explained by the project technical design team."

For more information, go to www.LBNLatGGF.com 


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