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Quan "Very Saddened" by Violence at Oakland Protest

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Wednesday October 26, 2011 - 09:51:00 PM

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said today that she's "very saddened" by "Occupy Oakland" protests Tuesday night that turned violent. 

Speaking at a news conference at City Hall that was packed with reporters, Quan said, "We saw some of the best of the city and some of the worst." 

Quan said most protesters and police officers behaved well but she's asked police Chief Howard Jordan to investigate allegations that some officers used excessive force. 

The mayor said officers "took a lot of abuse" from protesters and Jordan said officers fired tear gas and bean bags after "they were assaulted with bottles, rocks and hazardous materials that were thrown at them" and some people disobeyed multiple orders to disperse. 

Jordan said "we regret" what he described as "an unfortunate incident" in which Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen, a 24-year-old Daly City man, was critically injured when he was hit in the head with a police projectile. 

According to his friends at Iraq War Veterans Against the War, Olsen is currently sedated at Highland Hospital in Oakland with a skull fracture and is waiting to be examined by a neurosurgeon. 

Jordan said his department is investigating the incident as if it were a level-one incident in which an officer used lethal force against someone. 

"It's at the top of our list and we are gathering footage and investigating whether or not it was justified," Jordan said. 

Jordan said Oakland police officers didn't use rubber bullets or wooden dowels during the protests but it's possible that other officers from other law enforcement agencies who were assisting them might have used such devices. 

Quan said Oakland banned the use of such devices after Oakland police used them in an anti-Iraq War protest in 2003 and other agencies that help the city under mutual aid agreements are supposed to abide by that policy. 

But she said, "We don't know if that happened." 

The massive demonstrations Tuesday night occurred about 12 hours after Oakland police and officers from other agencies removed protesters from the Occupy Oakland encampment that had been located in Frank Ogawa Plaza in front of City Hall since Oct. 10. 

Quan said she supported the encampment because it endorses protesters' goals of "getting some justice, some employment and a fair deal for average Americans." 

But she said she and other city leaders decided late last week that the encampment had to be removed because it was becoming unhealthy and dangerous. 

Quan said the city is using chemicals to clean up the encampment, which was littered with feces and debris, but the cleanup is taking longer than expected. 

City Administrator Deanna Santana said part of Frank Ogawa Plaza, which had been completely fenced off Tuesday morning, has been reopened and will remain open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. 

But Santana said, "We request that there be peaceful, non-violent assembly, no camping, no lodging and no fires." 

The San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, which is representing most of the approximately 115 protesters who were arrested Tuesday, issued a statement saying it "condemns" what it alleged were excessive uses of force and violations of the Oakland Police Department's crowd control policy. 

The lawyers' group said the department's "violent response to last night's peaceful march was unjustified." 

Carlos Villarreal, the group's executive director, said, "The National Lawyers Guild is committed to defending the demonstrators until all are released from custody and cleared of all the charges."

Oakland Fences Down Tonight

By Scott Morris(BCN)
Wednesday October 26, 2011 - 09:56:00 PM

The fences are coming down at Oakland's Frank Ogawa Plaza this evening while a general assembly meeting continues among "Occupy Oakland" protesters. 

At least 500 protesters gathered at the plaza to reclaim the site of their encampment, which was raided by police early Tuesday morning. 

The entire plaza was not barricaded this evening as it had been Tuesday night, but the grass area of the plaza was blocked by a chain-link fence. 

Many of the protesters jeered when a small group tried to take the fences down earlier this evening.  

"I see this as a trap," said a speaker at the meeting, pointing to the fence surrounding the grass area of the plaza. "They're hoping we walk right into this trap." 

At around 7 p.m. around 50 to 100 protesters succeed in tearing down sections of the fence on the opposite side of the plaza from where the meeting is taking place. 

The group entered the grassy area, which city officials earlier today said was in the process of being cleaned using chemicals. 

Tuesday night, police blocked the entire plaza including surrounding streets and kept the protesters from entering using tear gas, rubber bullets and smoke grenades. 

Compared to Tuesday night's demonstration, the police presence this evening is much less prevalent and the gathering has been peaceful.  

This evening, protesters sat in a circle in the amphitheater in front of City Hall to hold their general assembly meeting, as they did every night when the Oakland encampment occupied the plaza. 

Protesters at the meeting tonight announced that "Occupy Wall Street" -- the protest that inspired "Occupy Oakland" -- donated $20,000 to the Oakland demonstration. 

Speakers this evening urged protesters to keep the commitment to nonviolence. 

"The 99 percent should have a monopoly on peace," one speaker said.

Protesters Speak about Injured Veteran, Call for Citywide Strike

By Scott Morris (BCN)
Wednesday October 26, 2011 - 05:53:00 PM

Demonstrators at the "Occupy Oakland" general assembly meeting at Frank Ogawa Plaza tonight addressed the critical injury of Scott Olsen, a former Marine who served two tours in Iraq, which occurred during Tuesday night's demonstration. 

Iraq Veterans Against the War, a group Olsen worked with, said Olsen was injured when he was struck by a police projectile and suffered a fractured skill. 

Tuesday night, police blocked the entire plaza including surrounding streets and kept the protesters from entering using tear gas, rubber bullets and smoke grenades. 

In the southeast corner of the plaza tonight, candles surrounded a picture of Olsen after he had been injured. 

"The police did nothing," a speaker at the meeting said. "The police did not have an ambulance at hand." 

Abele Carpenter, a Friends of Olsen's, said earlier today that protesters transported him to the hospital. 

Protesters at tonight's general assembly meeting also addressed how to move forward given the recent events. 

"The whole world is watching Oakland," said the speaker who opened the discussion. 

The group called for a citywide strike on Nov. 2, where workers and students would leave their positions to join a march in downtown Oakland. 

The announcement drew cheers from the gathered crowd. 

Protesters also announced that the first planning meeting for the strike would be held Thursday at 5 p.m., prior to the general assembly at 6 p.m.

Memo Re How Berkeley Police Aided Oakland in Evicting Occupy Oakland

From the Office of the City Manager
Wednesday October 26, 2011 - 04:57:00 PM

We have received several inquiries regarding the City of Berkeley's response to the City of Oakland's request for Mutual Aid assistance with recent events in and around Frank Ogawa Plaza. 

The following are responses to the questions we have received. 

Question: Did Oakland ask the City for mutual aid? 

Response: The Oakland Police Department requested mutual aid through the Alameda County Mutual Aid Coordinator, who in turn requested mutual aid from various agencies within the county. The Alameda County Sheriff's Office is the Operational Area Mutual Aid Coordinating entity.

Question: What was the basis for the request? 

Response: Inability to address the situation with internal resources

Question: How many officers responded? 

Response: 1 Squad of 12 Officers, 2 Sergeants, 1 Lieutenant

Question: What was the level of involvement? 

Response: Outer perimeter and traffic control

Question: Were they involved in tear gassing demonstrators or use any other non-lethal force? 

Response: No

Press Release: The City of Berkeley Police Department’s (BPD) Involvement in Occupy Oakland Dispersal

From Sergeant Mary C. Kusmiss, BPD Public Information Officer
Wednesday October 26, 2011 - 03:10:00 PM

The Oakland Police Department (OPD) requested mutual aid through the Alameda County Mutual Aid Coordinator, who in turn requested mutual aid from various law enforcement agencies within the county. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) is the Operational Area Mutual Aid Coordinating entity. The basis of the request was that OPD was unable to address and manage the situation safely (and take care of the City of Oakland) with their internal resources. 


On the night of Tuesday, October 25, 2011, BPD sent one (1) squad of 12 BPD officers, 2 sergeants and a Lieutenant. Our level of involvement was minimal. We served as outer perimeter and traffic control. BPD officers were not involved in any use of tear gas or any other form of non-lethal force. 


Press Release: OCCUPY OAKLAND Regroups at 6:00 Tonight

From Kevin Seal
Wednesday October 26, 2011 - 03:04:00 PM

Occupy Oakland will reconvene tonight at 6:00 pm Pacific time to conduct its next General Assembly, at the corner of Broadway and 14th. We urge the public to join us tonight and help us build consensus. We are the 99%, and you are too. Please participate in true democracy. 

Occupy Oakland continues to be a movement of non-violent civil disobedience. We are peaceful protesters. Occupy Oakland, as a movement, uses nonviolent means to achieve its goals; the mayor's orders were to use primarily violent means, as demonstrated yesterday. 

During the 5 a.m. raid on the encampment, there were very young children in the camp. The use of such brutal force and chemical weapons in the area in which children were living is inexcusable. 

The hypocrisy of the Oakland city government has been made clear: Destroy the peaceful occupation for "health and safety" reasons, and then on the same day deploy chemical weapons against the peaceful demonstrators. Hungry people starving in the streets is the real health hazard. 

Police used extreme and brutal force: rubber bullets both in the morning and at night, as well as bean-bag bullets and excessive amounts of tear gas. Police are part of the 99%; we urge them to join us. It is important to remember that the police observed using excessive force were not from Oakland Police Department, but were from other jurisdictions, including Pleasanton, Santa Rosa, Palo Alto and San Ramon. Proof of rubber bullets: 

Protesters sustained several injuries at the hands of police, including Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen, who was sent to the emergency room after sustaining a head injury, seen here: 

Occupy Oakland is not finished, it has only begun. Our numbers will be larger than ever. 

About Occupy Oakland: Occupy Oakland is an emerging social movement without leaders or spokespeople. It is one of 1,570 occupations currently occurring around the world in solidarity with Occupy Wall St. For more information about the other occupations, see: http://www.occupytogether.org/

Iraq War Veteran Critically Injured by Police Projectile During "Occupy Oakland" Protests

By Scott Morris (BCN)
Wednesday October 26, 2011 - 12:45:00 PM

An Iraq War veteran was critically injured during "Occupy Oakland" protests Tuesday night when he was hit in the head with a police projectile, according to the group Iraq Veterans Against the War. 

Scott Olsen, 24, of Daly City, has been active in the "Occupy SF" and "Occupy Oakland" protests over the past several weeks, and attended large protests Tuesday night in response to the police removal of the protesters' encampment at Frank Ogawa Plaza. 

Olsen served two tours of duty in Iraq, and has since been involved in Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace, said Dottie Guy, Bay Area chapter president for Iraq Veterans Against the War. 

"Every time I saw him at the Occupy SF movement he's always been extremely pleasant," said Guy, who said she first met Olsen several weeks ago through her organization. 

He was discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps in 2010 and works in Daly City as a systems administrator, according to a news release issued by Iraq Veterans Against the War. 

The release stated that Olsen is currently sedated at Highland Hospital in Oakland with a skull fracture awaiting examination by a neurosurgeon. 

He was injured overnight as law enforcement personnel used tear gas, rubber bullets and smoke grenades attempting to break up an assembly outside Oakland's Frank Ogawa Plaza at 14th Street and Broadway. 

The protests began with a rally outside the Oakland Public Library at 14th and Madison streets at 4 p.m. Tuesday. Protesters rallied there after police removed their encampment in Frank Ogawa Plaza in an early-morning raid Tuesday. 

The group had been occupying the plaza to protest the gap between rich and poor, corporate greed, deadlocked politics, and a number of other issues. 

Protesters have vowed to return to Frank Ogawa Plaza tonight to continue the protest, and have said they intend to protest there every day until they retake the plaza. 


Police Brutality in Oakland-- Berkeley Police Present

Wednesday October 26, 2011 - 12:09:00 PM

Remarkable footage posted by several reporters on YouTube seems to show that some police in Oakland deliberately aimed projectiles at those aiding a wounded Occupy Oakland protester. The eviction was managed by Oakland police, but Berkeley police also took part in the assault on the Occupy protesters. Some of the videos can be seen below: 

Oakland Occupy Teargassed, Evicted

By Sasha Lekach (BCN)
Wednesday October 26, 2011 - 11:30:00 AM

Oakland police officers in riot gear used "less-than-lethal" munitions on about 300 protesters Tuesday night after a day of police raids and riots when "Occupy Oakland" campers were evicted from a city plaza, an Oakland police spokeswoman said.

During another protest Tuesday night many officers were assaulted, doused and hit with hazardous materials and hit with large rocks and bottles, police spokeswoman Cynthia Perkins said.

An Oakland police officer said officers in riot gear had bright blue paint thrown on them during the rallies Tuesday evening.

Perkins said this resulted in a declaration of an unlawful assembly and an order to disperse. To enforce dispersal officers used "less-than-lethal force tactics".

The protesters began rallying around 4 p.m. near the main branch of the Oakland Public Library at 14th and Madison streets. 

The rallies followed 79 arrests made Tuesday morning after 4:30 a.m. at the Occupy Oakland encampment when protesters were told to leave the plaza at Broadway and 14th Street during a police raid. 

Earlier Tuesday afternoon and evening tear gas was deployed on roughly a hundred protesters after law enforcement officials continued to issue orders to disperse. 

The "Occupy Oakland" demonstrators announced that they would return to the plaza every night at 6 p.m. to continue the protest. 

As of 5 a.m. this morning the plaza and nearby areas were relatively calm, with law enforcement and a sprinkling of protesters present. 

At a media briefing Tuesday night, interim Oakland police Chief Howard Jordan said there were more than 1,000 protesters at the height of the clashes. He said police action to remove the camp was based on health and public safety concerns. 

Another police media briefing is expected to take place this morning at a time and place that has yet to be announced, Perkins said.

Using Police In Oakland to Clear Out Occupy Was a Mistake (Commentary)

By Don Macleay
Tuesday October 25, 2011 - 09:58:00 PM

Using the police to clear out Occupy Oakland was exactly the wrong thing to do. 

Questions: 1. Where was the emergency? 2. Is it better now? 3. Was someone saved by this? 4. Is it somehow the fault of the protestors that there is so little trust in government? 5. Is there going to be better trust in government now? 6. Will the relations between Oakland and our police force improve now? 

What struck me most was the image of the police tearing up the signs and kicking the Occupy tent people’s stuff all over the plaza. I thought that the Police job was to arrest people and let Public Works clean up the encampment, not to do a violent victory dance over the defeat of those whose politics they oppose. 

I stuck my neck out in person, in public and on line telling the protestors to engage, to accept dialog, to back away from any confrontation and to carry ourselves with dignity out of respect for our fellow citizens and out of respect for the righteousness of our cause. 

It seems that the same message was needed inside our city government this week. No wonder that they never returned calls. And in the end, the police wracked more violence in a couple hours, destroyed more property and hurt more people that Occupy Oakland did in two weeks. Keep in mind, there was no riot, no emergency, no move made by the protestors other than to refuse to leave. It was the city of Oakland and the police that initiated the violence and chose its time. 

Many things could have been done instead, especially since there was no urgent problem. For one they could have given our offer to act as a go between a try. No calls returned. How was that any different from the folk at the General Assembly refusing to speak with the city? 

For every protestor arrested this morning, you can figure there are at least 1,000 who supported that cause and at least 100 of their community who will know the person taken away. You can add this number of people to the already existing resentment and distrust. You can add this to the history of bad relations between Oakland Police and Oakland. 

We had cops from the suburbs arresting our protestors, destroying poor people’s property, and relishing tearing up our signs and kicking our stuff around. No good will come of this. Maybe they could burn the books from the library tent and make a full show of it. 

Yesterday I was at the Snow Park part of the encampment and we donated a tarp and a big blue ball to the kid’s tent. My son picked that ball out for those kids from his own toys. This morning I told him what happened and that all people in the tents, the toys and the big blue ball are now gone, to be trashed by the police. He felt sorry for one of the kids for whom those were most of the toys he had. 

A number of the people in both encampments were living there before the protests started. Most of the big problems sited in the city’s memos already existed. Those people will now face jail, inadequate social services and all the situations that made them homeless and living in the Plaza in the first place. Those 6 children who lived in the camp will be badly hurt by all of this in ways that will leave a lasting effect. But in our city, some hippies smoking dope in the park protesting banks is an urgent situation worthy of high spending and violence to quash. The hundreds, maybe thousands of Oakland residents who reside nowhere is obviously not so urgent a problem. Now the two have met the police. 

When my 8 year old overheard adults talking about where the protests go from here he said: “what protests? now it is more like a war” and sure enough we have something of a war on the streets of Oakland tonight, a war provoked by unnecessary police intervention. 

A beautiful thing has been lost. Occupy Oakland had its problems, but it also had its promise. There were workshops, books, a children’s zone and some very good community bridge building going on. The place did not look or feel like a riot, it felt more like a festival. To quote Zennie “it was bone headed to refuse to talk to the city”. Zennie is also right on to say that efforts inside the protest were dealing with the problems that the city was complaining about. All of them, even opening up and inviting the city to come and talk at the General Assembly. Most of the stories in the press were gross exaggerations and half truths. Members of the community were also coming out with everything from port-a-potties, protest marchers and just plane willingness to speak with the protesters and promote solidarity and harmony. Also beautiful and totally justified is the anger expressed towards those who own our economy and the government that serves them and only them. 

A beautiful opportunity has also been lost. This Occupy Wall Street movement is a watershed in American politics. Oakland could have been the place where there could have been harmony and cooperation between our local government and this very justified protest movement. 

We have every reason in the world to be mad with Wall Street, the big Banks and the corrupt system of lobbyist based politics that Occupy Wall Street is pulling back the curtain on. 

Now we have every reason on earth to be mad at our local government. 


Flash: Protesters Back at Oakland Plaza; Ordered to Disperse for Third Time

By ScottMorris/JeffShuttleworth (BCN)
Tuesday October 25, 2011 - 09:31:00 PM

Police at Oakland's Frank Ogawa Plaza have issued an order to disperse to hundreds of protesters for the third time tonight.

After police deployed tear gas on protesters earlier tonight, temporarily scattering the crowd of "Occupy Oakland" protesters, the group has reconvened at the plaza and officers have started to use rubber bullets on unruly demonstrators. 

Police said that as of 8 p.m., no injuries had been reported. 

BART closed Oakland's 12th Street station because of tonight's protest. 

Protesters were ordered to leave the City Hall area for the first time at around 6 p.m. this evening and the crowd complied. The group briefly gathered at Snow Park, the smaller of two encampment sites that were broken up by police early this morning, to regroup after officers blocked off Broadway earlier this evening and ordered the protesters to disperse. 

Police presence was less prevalent at the smaller park and after a brief discussion, the group decided to continue the march and return to 14th Street and Broadway. 

Officers at Frank Ogawa Plaza again ordered the crowd to disperse before deploying tear gas and smoke grenades.  

After fleeing briefly, the group gathered near 19th Street and Broadway, before heading back to City Hall. 

Between 400 and 500 "Occupy Oakland" protesters began the march today at the main branch of the Oakland Public Library heading to Frank Ogawa Plaza with the aim of retaking the space they were evicted from early this morning. 

The protesters gathered outside the main branch of the library late this afternoon and vowed that Occupy Oakland protests will continue despite the arrest of a large group of people at an encampment outside City Hall this morning. 

Veteran activist Krystof Lopaur of No Justice No BART told the gathering on the steps of the library, which is located on 14th Street between Oak and Madison streets, that the plan was to start marching to Frank Ogawa Plaza, the site of the encampment.  

At around 5:20 p.m., the crowd began to make its way downtown.  

"We're going to reclaim what was already ours," Lopaur said, drawing loud cheers from the crowd. 

A large group of demonstrators stopped to rally near a police station at Seventh and Washington streets at around 6 p.m. Confrontations broke out between officers and protesters and the police deployed smoke grenades, which caused loud noises and filled the area with smoke. 

Shortly before that confrontation, small skirmishes broke out near Eighth and Washington streets. Some protesters threw paint on the officers and minor altercations occurred. At least two protesters were detained during that confrontation. 

Oakland police, as well as the Santa Clara County and Alameda County sheriff's departments and the California Highway Patrol, are at the scene. 

The Occupy Oakland encampment began on Oct. 10. City Administrator Deanna Santana said the city arrested people starting at 4:30 a.m. today because conditions had deteriorated and the city could no longer maintain public health and safety and crowd control. 

City officials said there were reports of sexual offenses, fighting, public drinking and intoxication and other problems at the encampment. 

Oakland police said 79 arrests were made in the Frank Ogawa Plaza area near 14th Street and Broadway and six additional arrests were made at Snow Park a few blocks away near the corner of 19th and Harrison streets. 

Carlos Villarreal, a spokesman for the National Lawyers Guild, which is representing many of the protesters, said he has been told that more than 100 people were arrested, mostly on misdemeanor charges. 

A speaker at the rally said several people were arrested on more serious felony charges, such as resisting arrest and battery on a police officer. 

Villarreal said two protesters suffered broken hands when they were arrested and one protestor was taken to a hospital with head injuries. 

Law enforcement officials have closed 14th Street between Oak Street and Frank Ogawa Plaza, while protesters march.

Police Arrest at Least 75 Protesters During "Occupy Oakland" Raid

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Tuesday October 25, 2011 - 01:13:00 PM

Police said at least 75 protesters were arrested when officers wearing riot gear raided the "Occupy Oakland" encampment in Frank Ogawa Plaza early this morning.

Speaking at a news conference at City Hall that began around 9:20 a.m., interim Police Chief Howard Jordan said police are still processing those arrested and that the arrest total will likely increase.

The arrests were mostly for misdemeanor offenses, including unlawful assembly and lodging, Jordan said.  

"I'm very pleased with the way things went," he said. "There were no injuries to the public or my officers." 

He said hundreds of officers from the Oakland Police Department and assisting agencies removed about 200 people from the plaza beginning around 4:30 a.m. 

Jordan said that before police moved in, they gave protesters the opportunity to leave on their own, and about 30 campers did.  

As police entered the camp, there were some confrontations and police used tear gas and nonlethal beanbag weapons.  

When asked why police had used tear gas, Jordan said, "We deployed it to effect an arrest because some officers were being pelted with rocks and bottles." 

He said the beanbag weapon was fired after someone threw a garbage can at police.  

Loud blasts were heard while the raid was under way, and Jordan said the noises came from M-80 and M-1000 firecrackers that protesters had hurled at officers.  

Jordan said the use of the tear gas and beanbag weapons will be investigated by the department's internal affairs unit, as is protocol.  

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan was not present at the news conference because she is in Washington, D.C., lobbying for federal funding for the Port of Oakland, City Administrator Deanna Santana said.  

Santana, when questioned about the cost of having so many police officers break up a peaceful demonstration when the city's budget is so tight, said there was no choice. 

"I have an obligation to maintain public safety and health, and I couldn't maintain those under these circumstances," she said.  

Jordan said some of the protesters came from all over the U.S. 

Two local men who had been living at the camp at Broadway and 14th Street said they were arrested shortly before 5 a.m. 

Speaking by cellphone from the back of a police van around 6 a.m., Brian Glasscock, a 20-year-old Oakland resident, said he saw people being tear-gassed, and that his tent had been ripped apart. 

The second man, 23-year-old Berkeley resident Davonte Gaskin, said he had been camping with Occupy Oakland for four days, and that police had used batons to dismantle his tent before arresting him for camping in the plaza. 

An Oakland resident who only gave her name as Kristina, 28, said she was tear-gassed and that people around her were hit by what she thought were rubber bullets. 

She said downtown Oakland was shut down this morning, and that protesters at a second Occupy Oakland camp at Snow Park at Lake Merritt expect to be raided by police. 

Police have since dismantled the Snow Park encampment.  

City officials said in a news release sent out this morning that Frank Ogawa Plaza had been "contained" by 5:30 a.m. and a cleanup operation was under way. 

The news release stated that within a week of when the Occupy Oakland camp materialized, the city began receiving reports of fire hazards, sanitation problems, noise and unsafe structures being set up in the plaza. 

By the second week, firefighters, police and paramedics were denied access to the camp and the city received a report that someone had been severely beaten, according to city officials. 

"Sanitation conditions worsened, with frequent instances of public urination and defecation, as well as improper food storage," the news release stated.  

An existing rat problem in the plaza grew worse, and reports of public intoxication, fighting and sexual offenses increased, according to the city. 

The city sent an eviction notice to protesters at Frank Ogawa Plaza last week, but most stayed put.  

City officials said this morning that once the plaza is cleared, "peaceful daytime assembly" will still be allowed between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., but no camping will be permitted. 

The 12th Street BART station was shut down during the raid but had reopened by 6:30 a.m. AC Transit bus service was disrupted in the downtown area and detours were set up. 

Several streets remained closed in the downtown area as of 10 a.m.

Oakland 12th Street BART Re-Opens

By Sasha Lekach (BCN)
Tuesday October 25, 2011 - 07:35:00 AM

After police enforced an eviction notice on protesters camped in downtown Oakland as part of "Occupy Oakland" this morning, transit through the area was affected. 

Riot police entered the camp at Frank Ogawa Plaza on Broadway and 14th Street just before 5 a.m. 

The 12th Street BART station had been shut down earlier this morning, but as of 6:30 a.m. the station is open with access only through the 11th Street entrance and exit, a BART official said. 

Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District bus service has been disrupted and there are detours in place throughout the downtown area. AC Transit has listed detoured bus lines on their website at www.actransit.org.

Downtown Oakland Workers Asked to Come Late

By Sasha Lekach (BCN)
Tuesday October 25, 2011 - 07:31:00 AM

City officials are advising downtown Oakland employers to consider having employees delay their arrival downtown this morning after police action at the "Occupy Oakland" encampment. 

City spokeswoman Karen Boyd said city employees are also advised to delay their arrival to work this morning after Oakland police officers and other authorities enforced an eviction notice on protesters in Frank Ogawa Plaza at Broadway and 14th Street. 

A number of arrests have been reported after police entered the camp just before 5 a.m. An official number of arrests has not been reported. 

As of 5:20 a.m. the plaza was contained, but authorities are still cleaning the area, Boyd said. 

A BART official said the 12th Street station is closed this morning with trains running through the station. The 19th Street station is open. 

Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District bus service has been disrupted and there are detours in place throughout the downtown area. AC Transit has listed detoured bus lines on their website at www.actransit.org.

Oakland Police Shut Down Occupy Oakland

By Sasha Lekach (BCN)
Tuesday October 25, 2011 - 07:31:00 AM

Oakland city officials said this morning police are enforcing a notice of violation issued last week to protesters at the downtown "Occupy Oakland" encampment. 

A livestream of footage from Frank Ogawa Plaza shows many police in riot gear surrounding the camp at Broadway and 14th Street. Other media footage has shown officers moving into the camp and making what appears to be arrests since 5 a.m. 

Footage from the area has also shown officers disassembling tents. 

Oakland City spokeswoman Karen Boyd wrote in a statement this morning that as of 4:30 a.m. the department began enforcing the "notice of violations and demand to cease violations" to people staying overnight in the plaza. A BART official said the 12th Street station is closed as of 5 a.m. with trains running through the station. The 19th Street station is open.

Occupy Berkeley's Growing Tent City Occupied Saturday at Civic Center by Peaceful Bay Area Teachers; But How Long Will Peaceful Vibes Last?

by Ted Friedman
Monday October 24, 2011 - 04:50:00 PM
Occupy Berkeley's encampment meeting Saturday in Civic Center Park before a "grade-in" to support the anti-Wall Street movement. Man seated at end of couch, to right, was hailed a hero for saving Friday's overnight tent occupation from a marauder
Ted Friedman
Occupy Berkeley's encampment meeting Saturday in Civic Center Park before a "grade-in" to support the anti-Wall Street movement. Man seated at end of couch, to right, was hailed a hero for saving Friday's overnight tent occupation from a marauder
Teacher at work at Saturday's teacher "grade-in" in at Civic Center Park to support Occupy Oakland
Ted Friedman
Teacher at work at Saturday's teacher "grade-in" in at Civic Center Park to support Occupy Oakland

A dozen bay area teachers, joining Occupy Berkeley, engaged in a peaceful "grade-in" Saturday at Berkeley's Martin Luther King Civic Center, but a growing tent city in the park could clash with the city if grounds maintenance problems are not solved. 

Occupy's tent city (now 18 tents) is presently blocking the city's lawn watering in the park, according to Russell Bates, a member of the protest's health and safety committee, who conducted a camp meeting prior to the grade-in. 

A defiant Bates refused to move the tent encampment (temporarily, and return) to give the city a chance to water. Saying that the artificial grass could not be protected anyway, Bates proclaimed "we won't move." 

The teacher grade-in was announced as a lawn watering party, as well, but Bates' pleas at general assemblies last week, to "bring your watering cans," was not heeded. 

The question of camping permits was met with a slogan heard often at planning meetings—"we don't need permission to occupy." 

An overnight camper was credited with driving off a marauder, who threatened to destroy the encampment the preceding night. The camp's savior is being hailed as a hero. 

At nearby Occupy Oakland, a camper who reportedly threatened others last week was himself beaten, and driven from the encampment at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, where a clash with police over a city-issued eviction notice looms. 

As of now, the Berkeley chapter of the international anti-Wall-Street protest is one of the Bay Area's most peaceful. To keep it that way, a member of the general assembly, which met for the first time at the park Sunday (6 p.m. nightly), proposed "that a zero tolerance for physical, psychological, or emotional violence be adopted by this assembly for all participants." 

Past general assemblies have endorsed a non-violent philosophy for the Berkeley branch of Occupy, USA. 

Saturday's grade-in was so peaceful, it was difficult to stifle a yawn. Most of the twenty teachers who showed up to grade papers were too busy sharing the suffering of paper grading to address the rape of the economy by Wall-Street. There were no speeches. 

Sponsored by the Oakland Education Association, and the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, the grade-in was an opportunity for the public to relive its school days and hang out with some cool teachers. 

Blair Mosner, from Berkeley High School, who organized the event, while expressing her dissatisfaction with corporate greed in the face of public deprivation, complained about education cuts, which threaten our schools. 

But most teachers told me they feel lucky to have the teaching jobs they do. Monica Lee, who has been trying to get a teaching job for four years, told of her frustrations over not getting a job. 

A partial list of teacher-participants follows: Blair Mosner, Berkeley High School; John Tobias, BHS, World History; John Fox, Foothill College, Sociology; Kamau Birago, De Anza College, sociology; Miles Murray—a facilitator at Occupy Berkeley—Castlemont High School, English, and Laura Calligan, Head-Royce Academy, Oakland, Spanish. 

A contingent from the Graduate Theological Union showed up with its own tent. 

Every teacher told stories that revealed a deep devotion to teaching. 


Ted Friedman has been lured downtown (away from People's Park and the Med) by an international protest movement.

1991 Firestorm Remembered At 20th Anniversary Ceremony

By Steven Finacom
Sunday October 23, 2011 - 10:51:00 PM
Oakland Interim Fire Chief Mark Hoffmann spoke at the 20th anniversary memorial for the 1991 Firestorm in the Oakland / Berkeley Hills.
Steven Finacom
Oakland Interim Fire Chief Mark Hoffmann spoke at the 20th anniversary memorial for the 1991 Firestorm in the Oakland / Berkeley Hills.
Mayor Jean Quan sat next to Congresswoman Barbara Lee at the ceremony.
Steven Finacom
Mayor Jean Quan sat next to Congresswoman Barbara Lee at the ceremony.
Firefighters from several jurisdictions attended the ceremony.
Steven Finacom
Firefighters from several jurisdictions attended the ceremony.
Berkeley Fire Chief Deborah Pryor spoke about the events of October 20, 1991, and the need for continued preparedness.
Steven Finacom
Berkeley Fire Chief Deborah Pryor spoke about the events of October 20, 1991, and the need for continued preparedness.
A color guard of Oakland Police and Firemen opened the ceremony.
Steven Finacom
A color guard of Oakland Police and Firemen opened the ceremony.
A ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the Berkeley Hills firestorm ended with a procession of fire engines from several jurisdictions.
Steven Finacom
A ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the Berkeley Hills firestorm ended with a procession of fire engines from several jurisdictions.
State Senator Loni Hancock arrived for the ceremony with her
              husband, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates.
Steven Finacom
State Senator Loni Hancock arrived for the ceremony with her husband, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates.
A short distance from the ceremony the fire hazard warning for the day was posted.
Steven Finacom
A short distance from the ceremony the fire hazard warning for the day was posted.
Above, in Hiller Highlands, there’s a matrix of grassland, rebuilt homes, and regrown trees.
Steven Finacom
Above, in Hiller Highlands, there’s a matrix of grassland, rebuilt homes, and regrown trees.
This eye-witness painting expressed the scene as the flames burned down the hill behind the Claremont Hotel.
Private collection
This eye-witness painting expressed the scene as the flames burned down the hill behind the Claremont Hotel.

Southeast Berkeley was full of fear and chaos October 20, 1991. People poured down Tunnel Road, evacuating from the fire above. Emergency vehicles chugged and sirened in the opposite direction. Homes along some of Berkeley’s most charmed streets—Alvarado Road, Vicente Road, Roble Road—were ablaze, along with hundreds of residences in Oakland. For hours, it looked as if the Claremont Hotel would become a gigantic torch. 

Twenty years later, Saturday, October 22, 2011, that affluent edge of Berkeley could not have been more tranquil. Dog walkers, recreational cyclists, and strollers populated the streets in the bright, warm, weather. There was a faint on-shore breeze, but mainly still, balmy, air. 

The brief business block of Domingo Avenue had its usual mid-morning chaos of Rick and Ann’s brunchers, Peetniks, and Bread Garden patrons. Across the street, tennis players practiced on the courts below the Claremont. 

The drivers going fast were presumably late for some petty appointment or excursion, not fleeing a fire.  

A 20th anniversary commemoration was held at the Gateway Emergency preparedness Exhibit Center in Oakland, where Hiller Drive dips down to meet Tunnel Road. It was a short event, heavy with dignitaries and memories, stories told by firefighters, residents, a woman who was just nine in 1991, and civic leaders. 

“That was the day that changed all of our lives and our neighborhoods and our country”, said Betty Ann Bruno, retired KTVU TV reporter, who made the introductions. 

“Everyone…literally has images of that day burned into his or her memory.” “That was the day that changed all of our lives and our neighbors and our community.” 

“This is also a day to mark the journey we have made since then”, she said. “History says that every 20 or 25 years the hills will burn. Well maybe this is the day to say maybe history won’t be repeated here…” 

Mayor Jean Quan 

“All of us have our memories”, said Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, the second speaker. “Many of you lost members of your families.” She recalled that she was “a much younger School Board member then”, waiting for news of whether the elementary schools in the fire zone had been destroyed. 

“What came out of that (the Firestorm) was a spirit, and a long series of reforms that we now take for granted”, she emphasized. “The way we buy insurance in California has changed”, FEMA procedures have been updated to include many of the lessons learned from the Firestorm and recovery.  

“How we build our homes in the hills” is different, the rebuilt areas have underground utilities, and “eventually we’re going to be able to take out some eucalyptus”, one of the introduced tree species blamed for the rapid spread of the fire. Oakland has a fire assessment district in the hills, and hazard abatement program. 

“We’re all working to change how we live in our hills”, Quan said. “These reforms, these changes, came out of the sacrifices and sad tragedy of 20 years ago.” “ 

She thanked representatives of several fire departments outside Oakland that had attending, standing in a long, blue, line along one of the walkway approaches to the memorial area. 

“Maybe we can convince Mother Nature not to have a big fire in Central Oakland”, she said.  

But, “we’re a city that has to be vigilant, it’s God’s price for living here” with an enviable climate, setting, scenery, and community threatened by natural disaster. “No, I didn’t arrange to have the little tremors” earlier in the week, she joked. 

In the aftermath of the Fire, “we learned to take care of each other”, Quan concluded. “I’m so proud to be Mayor of this city.” “We stood up and rebuilt.” 

By my count there were perhaps one hundred members of the audience and dignitaries, plus dozens of fire personnel from various departments. Many of the civilian attendees were middle aged or elderly, although there were some children and young adults. 

Behind the massed fire personnel a steep bluff rose, brown with dry grass, dotted over with green shrubbery, and topped by some of the rebuilt condominiums of Hiller Highlands. 

The memorial itself—a platform with a stone entrance, framed overhead in metal beams to resemble a half-built, or half destroyed, house—was surrounded by low plantings, bright with the fall gold of ginkgos, the purple spikes of Mexican bush sage, and the silver green of olives. 

At the base of the bluff, there was a sign announcing the memorial, posted below a slightly tilted, permanent, warning sign. “Fire Danger Today MODERATE. Be Fire Safe!” 

Beyond the speaker podium across the valley was a view of the Rockridge heights that had burned, now lined with vegetation and large, newer, houses and beyond that, the towers of San Francisco and Emeryville, and the Bay. 

It grew considerably warm on the open-air platform, below a bright, almost cloudless, sky. There was haze over the Bay in the distance, but no wind blew down the canyons. The roar of freeway traffic was a constant in the background. 

An intermittent stream of bicyclists passed by; some stopped and curiously watched a few minutes of the ceremony, before peddling off again up or down the steep hill. 

Mayor Tom Bates 

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates spoke next, telling essentially the same story he had recounted at a City Council meeting a few weeks before. Serving in the Legislature at the time of the Fire, he said, “we were all shocked at what we saw.” Fire units came from all over the State, but couldn’t communicate by radio with each other, there was “no command structure” for the whole operation, and “Berkeley firefighters had not trained on wildfires in the hills.” “It was a disaster”.  

“I was so livid I introduced legislation saying ‘we’re going to have one fire department’, and they all freaked out”, Bates recalled. Eventually, reforms included improving communications, getting universal connectors so one department could use another jurisdiction’s hydrants, and formation of on-going coordination bodies like the Hills Emergency Forum that involves several East Bay cities, entities, and districts. 

“They train together, they work together, and they ended up being one of the best firefighting units in the world”, Bates said of the local fire departments. 

“In looking back, I’m just so proud of the progress we made”, he concluded. “Hopefully we won’t have to go through this again, but if we have to, I feel like we’ll be ready.” 

Oakland Fire Chief 

Interim Fire Chief of Oakland, Mark Hoffmann, spoke next, telling the crowd “I know many of you individually and I rarely have a chance to thank you all together.” 

“There will fires in the future in this area” he emphasized. “We have done a lot of training, we have done a lot of preparation.” Personal equipment, hoses, and fire engines have been upgraded. “We are all on the same page” in terms of mutual response, he said. “We have inter-operability.” 

Hoffman recalled his personal experience of the fire twenty years ago. “I was so out of my element as a structure fire fighter”, he said. Now, Oakland regularly sends crews to help fight wildfires in Southern California and the Sierra foothills as part of interagency cooperation and training routine. 

He brought the gathering back to the personal nature of the tragedy. “We’re here because people lost their lives and lost their properties” twenty years ago. “I’d like to personally share my condolences with you.” 

“There WILL be another fire”, he emphasized again. “There will be another earthquake. And preparedness is the key.” 

He concluded by noting that an estimated two thirds of the people now living in the Oakland Hills weren’t residents there twenty years ago. “So please, choir in front of me, help carry the word.” “When the next one happens, and it will, hopefully it will be no where close to what we experienced 20 years ago” because of preparation and awareness. 

Berkeley’s Fire Chief 

“I remember the smell of smoke, and the smoke turning daylight into darkness”, Chief Deborah Prior of the Berkeley Fire Department told the crowd. In 1991 she was on the Berkeley force, but visiting her mother on a day off when the Fire started. 

Returning to Berkeley she joined an engine that was sent to relieve another crew that had been defending houses along Roble Road for hours. The first African-American woman to be Berkeley’s Chief, she said, “as a child, my grandmother was a housekeeper for several houses on Roble Court”, and she knew the area well. 

Since the fire, the local fire departments have worked hard to improve coordination, radio communication, wildland firefighting equipment and training, she said. Mutual aid agreements are in place that lift jurisdictional boundaries, so the nearest fire companies can respond to a wildfire emergency even if it’s across borders. 

“Strong community support” for disaster preparedness has continued, she added. She emphasized four on-going themes: vegetation management; community training and disaster preparedness; improved construction codes; more resources, such as emergency water supplies and specialized engines. Berkeley has, she said, 52 disaster equipment caches distributed through the City, with residents trained to use them. 

“Regardless of our accomplishments”, she concluded, “there is still room for improvement.” Pryor noted the need for one way or restricted parking on narrow streets in hazardous areas—I saw many of the firefighters in the audience nod at that—better regional planning, and further work on building code improvements. 

“We all play a key role in our own personal preparedness, and neighborhood readiness”, she emphasized. 

Fire Survivors 

A trio of 1991 Oakland Hills residents spoke next. 

“Those of us who survived the Fire and rebuilt find ourselves filled with strong surges of emotion”, said David Kessler, who lost his home, and has been active since in both recovery and education efforts. He wore to the ceremony a hat that was one of the few items he and his wife had taken from their home as they evacuated. 

Calling the area, “this beautiful corner of the Earth”, he talked about feelings of sadness, but also the pride survivors had in coping with the losses, pressuring insurance companies for equitable settlements, and rebuilding. We learned that by working together, we could do it”, he said. “And we have retained this lesson.” 

Echoing Hoffman and Pryor, Kessler stressed that “we know that continual vigilance in reducing dangerous fuels” is necessary. “We also know we cannot do it ourselves”, alone. “The good thing the Fire brought us was how good human beings can be”, he said. 

“Berkeley and Oakland have taken so many lessons from this experience to heart.” “Our goal in this conversation is not to dwell on the past but to keep these hills safe for generations to come.” 

“May those events of 1991 be the last time our hills are the scene of such an overwhelming tragedy”, he concluded.  

“This is a day of remembrance,” said Ken Benson, the former chair of the Oakland Wildfire Prevention Assessment District. He said that thirty-seven years ago his father, a fire battalion chief in Southern California, died after injuries in a fire. “Volunteerism and response is the call of a firefighter”, he said. 

Benson recalled a number of Hills residents who were instrumental in disaster recovery and setting up the assessment district. “There will be another fire, and there will always be a need for that activism that draws us to live in Oakland.” 

“It’s because I clear my property, and set an example for my neighborhood, it’s why we’re successful,” he said to illustrate why individual action is necessary. “If you live in the Oakland Hills, make sure you’re involved in the Oakland Hills.” 

The last speaker was Joanne Cuevas Ingram, who was nine years old when her mother told her “it’s time to go, we have to get out”, from their home as the fire approached. The sky was red. She looked for her favorite doll, she said, but couldn’t find it and grabbed a bag of school supplies.  

“As we inched down Hiller Drive, an entire grove of eucalyptus exploded in front of us”, she remembered. The car turned hot inside, despite the air conditioning.  

After they escaped the fire zone and drove west through Berkeley, “we saw people in fear running down Ashby and Telegraph Avenue. Everyone thought the fire would burn to the Bay.” 

“I reflect about community, about compassion and support,” she said, recalling the help her family was offered after the Fire. “The most important thing in your life is the strength of your relationships.” 


State Senator Loni Hancock, who was Mayor of Berkeley during the Fire, told the crowd “what an extraordinary group of people we have this day.” She recalled she was in Yosemite on the day of the Fire and was handed a note, “go home at once, Berkeley burning down.” 

She said this was a “day of realizing that those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it.” 

Hancock praised, in particular, then-Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi “who went right to bat” against insurance companies that were dragging fire area policyholders through delays or refusing to pay. She also thanked the fire fighters and presented a resolution from the local legislative delegation. 

She remembered “the people who lost their lives because of our lack of readiness, the chaos.” 

Earlier in the remembrances Bruno had noted a firefighter had once told her, “that day we did not win. The Fire eventually stopped because the wind did, and it turned on itself.” 

To conclude the ceremony, Hancock read the names of those who died in the Firestorm on October 20, 1991. Chief Hoffman then asked Pryor, Kessler, and Ingram to join him next to a silver bell set near the podium.  

The bell ceremony, he said, dates back hundreds of years as a firefighting tradition. Bells used to govern the lives of firefighters, summoning them to work, sending out alarms, ringing on the horse drawn apparatus as they raced to fires. Today, sirens substitute, but the bell is used to remember those who have passed. It’s a “shared experience”, Hoffman said.  

The bell is traditionally rung at memorials for firefighters, but today, Hoffman said, it would be run in the traditional “three times three” cadence in memory of all those who died in the 1991 firestorm, “because of the people in the community who helped to fight the fire.” 

As the ceremony concluded, a procession of fire trucks representing some of the agencies that had fought the Firestorm passed below the Exhibit Center. Led by an engine from Oakland, they included delegations from Berkeley, Emeryville, Alameda County and Fremont. They headed to the afternoon Preparedness Fair at Lake Temescal. 

I drove up Hiller Drive into the hills. I’d periodically gone to meetings there before the Fire, and remembered former residents and their 60s-Modern homes, how replaced on the same sites with 90’s Modern, some of them now beginning to show age and wear. At the Highlands Country Club the flags were flying at full staff.  

It was the middle of a warm fall day. There were no people on the streets and almost no cars moving. Few taller trees stand in the townhouse area. It’s mainly buildings and low plantings, facing the spectacular views, across the crown of the slope and wide streets with the familiar names of the Firestorm—the places where people fled, and some died as the flames, came rapidly over the ridge behind them—Schooner Hill and Windward Hill, Charing Cross Road, Spy Glass Hill, Grand View Drive. 

Higher up the slopes and ridges there are stands of eucalyptus, patchwork grass, and larger private homes. I returned down the other side of Hiller Highlands, passing the Kaiser School, the Bentley School, and the Firestorm Memorial Garden where the road runs into the top of Tunnel Road and the freeway approaches. 

Flowers were in bloom beside a bench and a handcrafted drinking fountain that is a memorial to Chief James M. Riley, Jr., the Oakland firefighter who died in the Firestorm. “Drink and Remember”, the pedestal reads. Not a soul was there.

Press Release: Raid on Occupy Oakland "Highly Probable" Tonight

From Kevin Seal
Monday October 24, 2011 - 04:53:00 PM

An Oakland city official has tipped off the Occupy Oakland protest group that a raid tonight is "highly probable." Such a raid would happen after midnight, and would most likely occur between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. 

Oakland officials have delivered notice to the protesters at Frank Ogawa Plaza and at Snow Park that the protesters are no longer allowed to stay overnight in the public parks. Today's announcement comes on the same day as Occupy Oakland's two-week birthday party, with cake and celebration planned for 5 p.m. tonight at the corner of Broadway and 14th. 

"Our goal is to facilitate individuals to remove their tents, cooking facilities, and belongings, and to leave cooperatively," wrote city administrator Deanna Santana in an update to Oakland city staff earlier today. "We do not anticipate that our efforts to facilitate the departure of overnight protesters will disrupt your work or require changes to your work schedule." 

The Occupy Oakland group has established significant infrastructure in the past 14 days. An occupation-run kitchen feeds the more than 400 protesters staying in the two parks, while workshops and organizational meetings happen throughout each day. A children's village is available for parents and their kids, and a number of structures are in place to serve the full occupation, including a library, a school and a first-aid center. 

About Occupy Oakland: Occupy Oakland is an emerging social movement without leaders or spokespeople. It is one of 1,570 occupations currently occurring around the world in solidarity with Occupy Wall St. For more information about the other occupations, see: http://www.occupytogether.org/

Press Release: Teachers at Berkeley's Realm Charter Schools Join Union

From Cathy Campbell
Monday October 24, 2011 - 09:02:00 AM

Berkeley, CA – The teachers at Realm Middle and High Schools became the first charter schools in Berkeley to receive union recognition last week when they were informed by California’s Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) that their request to join the Berkeley Federation of Teachers (BFT), an affiliate of the California Federation of Teachers, had been granted. 

“We are thrilled!” said Hillary Walker, a sixth grade Humanities teacher at Realm. "Based on its history of advocacy, support and collective bargaining, we felt that the BFT could help us negotiate a strong contract, emphasizing democratic participation that would be a model for other charter schools." 

Realm is a new charter school system that opened its doors in August 2011. Realm certificated staff sought out the BFT for union representation. Last summer the prospective teachers met with the BFT leadership and the California Federation of Teachers Organizing Department to answer questions and discuss options. 

“We are proud to represent teachers at Berkeley’s newest charter schools. We look forward to working together to negotiate a first contract that addresses charter teachers’ unique concerns while also maintaining the best conditions our teachers enjoy in the Berkeley Unified School District,” said Cathy Campbell, president of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers. 

Josh Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers (CFT), which represents teachers and staff at several charter schools across the state said: “Forming a union is about democracy, being respected and having your voice heard. We believe charter school teachers deserve the same rights in school decision making as teachers in traditional public schools and we look forward to working with the Realm teachers to obtain good, solid contracts.” 

The CFT represents 120,000 education professionals working at every level of the education system from ECE to the University; while the AFT has more than 3,000 local affiliates nationwide, 43 state affiliates, and more than 1.4 million members. 

The California Federation of Teachers is the statewide affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers. The CFT represents faculty and other school employees in public and private schools and colleges, from early childhood through higher education. 

For more information please visit www.cft.org.

More Aftershocks Today

By Sasha Lekach (Bay City News Service)
Saturday October 22, 2011 - 07:36:00 PM

Another aftershock with a 2.5 magnitude struck this morning, after two small quakes shook the East Bay this morning, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. 

The temblor shook 2 miles east-southeast of Berkeley at 12:45 a.m. with a 4.9 depth, according to the survey. 

Earlier this morning, a 2.8-magnitude quake struck at 12:06 a.m. and was followed by a 1.3-magnitude quake minutes later at 12:14 a.m. 

These aftershocks follow an earthquake Thursday at 2:41 p.m., which was recorded at 4.0 magnitude. A small 3.8-magnitude quake followed Thursday evening at 8:16 p.m., the USGS said.  

These earthquakes have been centered around Berkeley. 

Thursday's earthquake was along the Hayward Fault Line, according to the USGS.

Updated: Second Earthquake Strikes Berkeley Tonight: 3.8

By Bay City News Service
Thursday October 20, 2011 - 10:55:00 PM

The U.S. Geological Survey has downgraded tonight's earthquake from its original preliminary magnitude of 4.2, to 3.9 a short time later, and now experts report it was a 3.8-magnitude tremor. 

The quake struck at 8:16 p.m. and was centered about one mile east of Berkeley with a depth of 6 miles, the USGS said. 

BART officials said riders can expect 15-minute delays system-wide tonight. 

The transit agency stopped all trains when the quake occurred and began track inspection. No injuries or damage was reported, according to BART spokesman Jim Allison. 

The temblor created a large jolt in San Francisco, including the Civic Center area, Nob Hill, Richmond District, and Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, and was felt throughout the region including Danville, Santa Cruz, Palo Alto, Oakland and Berkeley. 

A 4.0-magnitude earthquake struck the area at 2:41 p.m. today. That quake was centered about two miles east-southeast of Berkeley, and had a depth of 6.1 miles, according to the USGS.  

After today's first quake, Keith Knudsen, deputy director of the USGS Earthquake Science Center in Menlo Park, said it was a standard Hayward Fault Line quake. 

He said the temblor was of the typical "strike-slip" variety, in which two sides of the fault slide horizontally, he said. 

Today's earthquakes occurred on the same day as the Great California ShakeOut, a statewide drill in which millions of Californians practiced ducking and covering at 10:20 a.m. today.  

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee today urged all Bay Area residents to visit www.72hours.org for emergency planning resources and tips.

Updated: Earthquake in Berkeley Now Estimated to be 3.9 Magnitude

Thursday October 20, 2011 - 02:46:00 PM

According to the U.S. Geological Service, a magnitude 4.2 3.9 4.0 earthquake rattled Berkeley today at 02:41:04 PM, with the epicenter located within blocks of the site where U.C. Berkeley's Memorial Stadium is currently being reconstructed. 

Location: 37.864°N, 122.249°W 

Depth: 9.8 km (6.1 miles) 


Distances: 2 km (2 miles) ESE (112°) from Berkeley, CA; 5 km (3 miles) NE (47°) from Emeryville, CA; 5 km (3 miles) NNW (341°) from Piedmont, CA; 8 km (5 miles) NNW (346°) from Oakland, CA 




This emailed report was received from the City of Berkeley Police Department (BPD) Public Information Officer (PIO) : 




The City of Berkeley Police D epartment (BPD) has received a minimal number of calls regarding ringing alarms from both community members and from various security /alarm companies monitoring services. House, business and car alarms tend to be activated as a result of earthquakes. No reports of damage or injury to this minute. BPD did a roll call directly following the quake to check the status of each of our Officers in the f ield /patrol and Parking Enforcement Officers and all were/are ok. They will report any damage , observations or injuries over the radio if located or flagged down as a result. Members of BPD f elt the quake in the Public Safety Building pretty strongly . The quake certainly got our attention and immediately raised our concern for the community . Sgt. MC Kusmiss
City of Berkeley Police Department Public Information Officer 



Berkeley City and BUSD Consider Moving Meetings to West Berkeley, Abandoning Old City Hall

By Steven Finacom
Thursday October 20, 2011 - 10:23:00 AM
The run down old cafeteria at West Campus. City and School District staff have been working on a plan to relocate City Council and BUSD Board meetings to this structure, at a cost of $2.1 million.
Steven Finacom
The run down old cafeteria at West Campus. City and School District staff have been working on a plan to relocate City Council and BUSD Board meetings to this structure, at a cost of $2.1 million.
BUSD Superintendent Bill Huyett and BUSD Maintenance Director Lew Jones answer questions at the October 19, 2011 community meeting where the relocation idea was first made public.
Steven Finacom
BUSD Superintendent Bill Huyett and BUSD Maintenance Director Lew Jones answer questions at the October 19, 2011 community meeting where the relocation idea was first made public.
About 40-45 community members and West Campus neighbors attended the meeting.
Steven Finacom
About 40-45 community members and West Campus neighbors attended the meeting.
After hearing numerous neighbor objections to the Council meeting room idea, Interim City Manager Christine Daniels and City Councilmember Darryl Moore huddled in private conversation.
Steven Finacom
After hearing numerous neighbor objections to the Council meeting room idea, Interim City Manager Christine Daniels and City Councilmember Darryl Moore huddled in private conversation.
The site plan for the West Campus projects, presented at the meeting. University Avenue is at the top. The prospective City Council meeting location is the small, grey, building at center right, just above the “Addison Street” label.
Steven Finacom
The site plan for the West Campus projects, presented at the meeting. University Avenue is at the top. The prospective City Council meeting location is the small, grey, building at center right, just above the “Addison Street” label.
Several modest homes sit on Addison Street directly across from the prospective City Council meeting location.
Steven Finacom
Several modest homes sit on Addison Street directly across from the prospective City Council meeting location.
Construction workers on the roof of the old cafeteria this week. BUSD representatives at the meeting said there is no construction going on at that building. The building in the rear is under construction for separate use.
Construction workers on the roof of the old cafeteria this week. BUSD representatives at the meeting said there is no construction going on at that building. The building in the rear is under construction for separate use.
The interior of the old cafeteria has been gutted down
              to the stud walls, and appears to contain construction materials for the BUSD office
              building project next door.
The interior of the old cafeteria has been gutted down to the stud walls, and appears to contain construction materials for the BUSD office building project next door.

If a proposal being developed by City and School District staff comes to fruition, a battered, vacant, one-story former cafeteria on a quiet residential side-street in West Berkeley may soon become Berkeley’s new City Council chambers—and meeting place for other City deliberative bodies, from the Rent Board to the School Board.

The project—estimated to cost $2.1 million—would trigger the essential abandonment of Berkeley’s 102 year old City Hall Downtown and the relocation of City Council and School Board meetings to the old cafeteria at “West Campus”, the School District property on University Avenue between Curtis and Bonar Streets.

The cafeteria, a dilapidated one-story structure, faces out on Addison Street between Bonar and Browning.

City and School District staff said at a community meeting Tuesday night (October 18,2011) that they have not yet presented the concept to either the School Board or the City Council for consideration.

Some of the neighbors of West Campus who spoke at the meeting characterized the meeting relocation proposal as “completely crazy”, “nuts”, ridiculous”, “not a good choice”, and “under the radar.” 

However, the project seems to be on a fast track. A School District contractor at the meeting told the audience that renovation of the cafeteria building for the proposed School Board and other meeting use is “currently getting ready to go” and would be put out to bid as early as next February or March. The Superintendent of Schools later tried to walk back that statement. 

Neighbors at the meeting, which was also attended by Councilmember Darryl Moore who represents the area, were generally skeptical about, or openly opposed to, the idea of bringing dozens of night-time City Council and other meetings a year to the small building which sits across from a row of single-story bungalows on a quiet Berkeley side street. 

The meeting had a broader purpose of updating neighbors of West Campus on School District plans for the property, including the relocation of BUSD administrative and other offices there, and the renovation of part of the site for the REALM Charter School, which currently operates elsewhere in West Berkeley. 

The extensive, and largely unoccupied, West Campus site includes the old academic, cafeteria, library, and auditorium buildings of what was once Burbank Junior High School, plus a day care center, one of the municipal swimming pools, a grass playing field, two gymnasiums, and a large parking lot. 

Construction is currently well under way on the BUSD office wing along Bonar Street, and school staff are expected to vacate current offices in old City Hall (The Maudelle Shirek Civic Center Building) on Martin Luther King, Jr. Way, Downtown, and move to their new quarters during winter break, or shortly thereafter. 

(The REALM Charter School construction plans are also well advanced, with the project intended to occupy part of the West Campus property along University Avenue in the 2012-13 academic year. REALM, BUSD representatives also said, would have some use of ground floor classrooms along Bonar Street, below the BUSD administrative offices.) 

The School Board / City Council meeting room proposal came up late on the agenda at the community meeting, which was held in one of the rundown gymnasiums at West Campus. 

A single piece of paper taped to the door identified the meeting site, which I found after circumnavigating the largely vacant campus. The room had abominable acoustics, and comments either boomed echoingly through the amplification system, or were barely audible, depending on who was speaking. 

About 45 community members perched on wooden bleachers, and perhaps a dozen BUSD staff and consultants were present. Berkeley’s incoming interim City Manager Christine Daniels and City Councilmember Darryl Moore also attended and spoke. No School Board members attended. 

From the audience comments and the sign-up sheets, it appeared that most of the audience members were residents of the immediate blocks surrounding the large West Campus site. 

The meeting room proposal, the presenters said, envision a $2.1 million dollar investment split between BUSD and City funds to convert the old cafeteria into a multipurpose meeting room, with bathrooms and a back area set aside as a “break room” and a kitchenette installed in the rear for City and BUSD staff attending meetings, and a broadcast room for Berkeley Community Television, which simulcasts Council and School Board meetings. 

The new space would essentially substitute for the current City Council Chambers in the Shirek Building, where the Berkeley City Council has regularly met for the past 102 years. 

Mauricio Davila who identified himself as a project manager for Turner Construction working on the West Campus site, told the audience “the Board Room (project at West Campus) right now is currently getting ready to go.” 

“We’re looking to order a contract, early 2012, late February or early March, construction beginning late March,” Davila said. “Budget is currently set at 1.2 million for the School District, and with an additional $900,000,” should the City choose to participate. 

Daniels said the existing Council Chamber in the Shirek building “is not seismically safe” and there are problems with accessibility for the disabled since the elevator is unreliable. She also said that the West Campus site would provide a bigger space so more people could get in to Council meetings, rather than being held in the hallways if the Council Chambers are filled to capacity. 

Huyett said the new room would provide about 192 seats. The capacity of the existing Council chamber is 125 seats, Daniels said. 

“The School District has had an interest in developing a Board room in the old cafeteria, and we have funded base improvements for that…” Huyett said. He likened the idea of the BUSD and Council renovating a meeting space together to the 49ers and Oakland Raiders football teams building a new stadium together, producing economies and benefits for both participants. 

When the School District proposal for the room was being developed, “the City expressed an interest in moving as well.” 

Huyett added that the renovated room would also be used for the BUSD student court, and “for staff development in the middle of the day, and we would also anticipate community use of this facility as well, going through our use permit process…” 

Huyett and Daniels emphasized that the meeting room proposal has not yet been presented to either the School Board or City Council. 

“We’ve had staff level, and I want to emphasize this, staff level discussion, about the possibilities of the City participating with us. Now this has not gone to approval stage yet. Neither the Board of Education, nor to the City Council,” Huyett said. 

“We don’t anticipate, the School District, for that action to be really done until January…” Huyett said, referring to a formal consideration of the idea by the School Board. 

“This has not come to the Council,” Daniels said. “The Council hasn’t seen the plans.” 

That was confirmed by Councilmember Moore who spoke from the audience. “The Council has had no discussion about this site for our meetings. This is the first time I’ve heard the public, others, talk about this site”, Moore said. 

“To have your feedback is critical to me, and I appreciate it”, he told the neighbors. 

Neighbor comments about the meeting room plan ranged from skeptical to outright opposition. 

“I think this is completely crazy”, said one neighbor from the bleachers. “I know you’re just ‘thinking about it’…but the idea of having hundreds of people come to a quiet residential street is absolutely nuts.” “I think you’ve got to look much harder at other solutions.” He was vigorously applauded by much of the audience. 

Kathy Harr, a neighborhood resident who is also an elected member of the Rent Board, said she was “really excited and enthused” about the school use of the West Campus site, but “that building is not a good choice” for a Council meeting space. “I think you will find that the number one concern in this neighborhood is mitigating traffic and parking.” 

Other neighbors added that Council meetings run late at night, often feature protests, rallies, and media trucks in front of the meeting location, and hundreds of people who come and go. “I anticipate large numbers of people” worried one neighbor, “large groups of people chanting. I don’t think a lot of people want that to happen.” 

The cafeteria site sits on a short, two-lane wide, block, across from four modest bungalow homes and around the corner from two other residential blocks. 

“All previous discussions have been about daytime use” of the West Campus property, a neighbor said. The meeting room use would be at night, and thus a concern. 

This was echoed later by Kathy Harr, who told me that the “neighborhood is very concerned about the Council meetings coming here, and the main reason is because they are at night.” 

She said she felt most of the neighbors were fine with day time school uses, the traditional history of the site, but “any night time activity” would be a problem for many on the residential blocks. “People in the neighborhood are VERY interested” in following the meeting room proposal, she added. 

Others expressed concern about the advisability of removing the existing cafeteria facility when the REALM school will eventually have hundreds of students on the site, no cafeteria, and a closed campus during lunch. 

“I wanted to say something about the symbolism of putting the seat of government in Berkeley on a little residential street, away from our downtown, our public transportation”, neighborhood resident business owner Kristen Kristin Leimkuhler said. She is also part of also leads the West Campus Neighbors and Merchants Alliance, a neighborhood group in the area. 

“I think it’s ridiculous, and I think it will impact the ability of citizens to come participate in their government as well. I’m really concerned about that.” 

Neighbors noted that the 52B, the “local” bus on University Avenue past the site, only passes three times an hour late at night. 

There is a parking lot at the West Campus site, between Curtis Street and Browning Street, which BUSD is planning to pave as part of the other projects. Huyett said it would accommodate 135 vehicles. 

Some neighbors said that the parking lot wouldn’t solve the problem of people trying to park as close to the meeting space and school buildings as possible. One neighbor noted that the on street spaces in front of the West Campus buildings fill up first. Huyett said that the City had the ability to restrict on-street parking, and noted he had personally gotten a “very expensive” ticket for parking in the neighborhood near the Trader Joe’s store on University Avenue. 

Others expressed concern about the increased traffic on residential Browning Street, where the parking lot entrance is located and worried about speeding cars—both present, and potential—on Curtis Street, Addison Street, and Browning, and the safety of people trying to cross University Avenue. Huyett said that the BUSD didn’t control street changes, but could talk to the City. 

“You have your right as citizens to lobby either your School Board member, or your City Council member” on the meeting room proposal, said Huyett. 

As neighbor comments mounted, he later added, “I do realize there are concerns and issues about location, and the appropriateness, and we’ll share all these notes with Board members.” 

“It’s not a decision yet. It’s a proposal that goes forward to the Board.” 

“This is really happening under the radar,” Leimkuhler said. “First you told us that the Board and Council haven’t acted on any decision. (But) Mauricio (Davila) told us there’s going to be a contract at the beginning of the year. That’s a very short window in which the decision is going to get made, and you’re going to start cranking on the construction.” 

“He’s just a construction guy, I’m a superintendent,” Huyett said in reference to Davila. 

A neighbor then asked if the cafeteria building was under construction. “It’s not currently under construction at this point, no”, Huyett said. 

“There’s definitely construction there”, a neighbor of the site later told me. 

When I looked myself at the cafeteria building it seemed clear some sort of demolition or construction work had taken place. The interior appeared to have been gutted of its finishes. Floor tiles were gone, along with wallboard, there were open stud walls supported with what looked like temporary bracing, and the hung ceiling was gone. 

Shop lights were festooned from the open rafters. Large metal louvers—possibly part of the school office building construction—were stacked in the middle of the room. 

A site visitor later supplied pictures from this week of men in hard hats on the roof of the cafeteria, where it appears stucco siding of a roof pop-up has been recently torn off. 

Neighbors noted that the West Campus site contains an unused auditorium at the corner of Bonar and University Avenue that is not part of any announced plans. 

“I don’t think you’ve looked carefully enough at other options” including the existing auditorium, said Leimkuhler “Has anyone done a financial assessment of the auditorium” and whether it would be feasible to renovate specifically for BUSD and City Council meetings, she asked? 

Daniels said, “I’m not familiar with that area” and deferred to Lew Jones, Maintenance Director for the School District. “It’s a more expensive solution”, Jones said. 

A neighbor who identified herself as Stacy said, “We would love to see the auditorium renovated, and then parking for it in the field where you can access it from University” Avenue. “We want a rocking community center. We don’t want traffic. Why can’t you just do it right?” 

Daniels said the City has tried a bond issue to renovate the Shirek building, but it did not pass. “We also tried to get Federal earmarks, and have not been successful,” she said. Renovating the current building is a “hugely expensive situation.” 

“We have been looking at a variety of other options for meeting space. It’s not easy to find some place that will seat 200 people that’s available on a regular basis.” 

“We’ve looked at the Brower Center, that didn’t work out”, she said. “We talked about the Adult School auditorium” on San Pablo Avenue, but there were “structural issues and renovation issues with that.” 

What about seeking some regular, but temporary, meeting space on the UC Campus, a neighbor asked? “It’s a fair question,” Daniels answered. 

When he commented at the end of the meeting, Councilmember Moore said that when he was a trustee of the Peralta Community College District and the building plans were finalized for Berkeley City College, a large auditorium was included. “The concept was that it could be used some day for a joint Council Chamber as well”, he told the crowd. 

“I appreciate hearing your comments and insights”, he said to the neighbors. As the meeting ended Moore huddled at one end of the room with Daniels for a brief, private, conversation. 

Daniels said at the Tuesday meeting, “I can’t bring all the places we’ve looked at to mind.” 

An anonymous City source later showed me a list of the facilities that had internally been evaluated as possible relocation sites for City Council meetings. 

The sites apparently rejected internally by City staff include the North Berkeley Senior Center (where several City Commissions currently meet), Berkeley City College (the location Moore mentioned), the Berkeley Adult School on San Pablo Avenue, the David Brower Center, and the Berkeley Community Theatre (where the Council has met, on occasion, when a large crowd is anticipated), Only one alternative site has apparently received some support from staff, Longfellow School on Sacramento Street. 

Relocating Council meetings to the West Campus Cafeteria might also trigger the relocation of other city bodies that currently meet in the Council Chambers, including the Rent Stabilization Board and, on occasion, the Planning Commission and the Zoning Adjustment Board. 

Would they move? “We haven’t heard. We’ve gotten nothing official, one way or the other”, Rent Board Chair Lisa Stephens told me. 

She characterized the possibility of moving the major City meeting place to West Campus as “terrible”, but said “I think they’re going to go ahead with whatever plans they’ve made.” 

When the BUSD administrative offices move, most of the Shirek Building will be vacant, except for the Council Chamber use. In recent weeks a number of individuals, including me, have asked City staff what is intended for that building after the School District moves out in a few months. 

The building will be “boarded up” is the direct response I got from one City department manager. Others have received similar responses. 


The School District has a webpage on West Campus projects here.

New: Occupy Berkeley Deliberates Reviving "How Berkeley Can You Be" Oct. 30; Calls for "Grade-in" and Lawn Watering Saturday--in Lieu of a March

by Ted Friedman
Friday October 21, 2011 - 01:05:00 PM

Next up for Occupy Berkeley, a teacher grade-in and lawn watering at Martin Luther King Center Park behind City Hall Saturday noon. No March is planned. The following week, Occupy will homage Berkeley's beloved (and not) How Berkeley Can You Be? with its own, "How Occupy Berkeley Can You Be?" 

Grade-ins, like Occupy, is a young grassroots organization, often sponsored by the Classroom Teachers Association, to alert the public to pay cuts to over-worked teachers. Teachers will be publicly grading papers while Occupy Berkeley tries to get an "A" for what an event organizer describes as "a day of education." 

It was a sight for sore eyes when Tuesday night's Occupy Berkeley planning session moved to revive Berkeley's beloved (sometimes derided ) How Berkeley Can You Be Parade as an event in Martin Luther King Civic Center Park, Sunday, Oct 30 (Halloween Eve), 3-7 p.m. 

The surprise move to revive How Berkeley leaves Occupy Berkeley's fledgling infrastructure--a slew of committees and contact lists--struggling to mount a How Berkeley event on a week's notice. 

According to a member of the facilitator's committee, events for the next two weeks will give protesters a chance to leaflet among the community and for the community "to learn about us." The learning process could be a two-way street. Especially if the usual zanies show up for How Berkeley next week. 

At the planning session (general assembly) Tuesday night at Bank America Plaza, downtown, the How Berkeley proposal competed with another proposal--"How Occupy Berkeley Can You Be." How Berkeley Can You Be seemed to be winning the hearts and minds of young protesters, many of whom would like to be Berkeley, but stagger under the ambiguity of it all. 

However, Wednesday night a How-Berkeley-Can-You-Be proposal was tabled in favor of "How Occupy Berkeley Can You Be." 

Despite debates over the naming of next Sunday's event, the protest is giving Berkeley's zany How Berkeley Can You Be (sans parade) a chance to do its thing once more--if news of the protest can only reach them. 

If the protest event fails to draw crowds on short notice next Sunday, it would not be the first time the popular event has been derailed. How Berkeley was first cancelled, in 2009, when a dip in the city's revenues forced it to remove its funding of the event. 

Numerous attempts to revive the parade have broken down. Occupy Berkeley's nod to the event is the latest attempt of Berkeley's anti-Wall Street protest, which is dwarfed by Oakland's and San Francisco's, to distinguish itself from protests around the world. 

For Berkeleyans (and those Montclairians brandishing lawn chairs) who have had two years without a parade, Sunday's event gives them one more--possibly last--chance to explore Berkeley ontology. 

And how Berkeley is it to join a revolution-in-the-making while asserting the Berkeley brand? 

Pledging itself to non-violence, Berkeley's me-too protest has eschewed a powerful media magnet Tuesday's and Wednesday's general assemblies, while spirited and more efficient than past ones, were also the smallest gatherings in ten days. 

Food support has dwindled at BA plaza, perhaps because the protest now maintains two sites. Civic Center park was added last Saturday; the overnight encampment in the park continues with (usually) ten overnighters. Three more tents have gone up, and the tent village is looking good-camper-civilized. 

Future disputes with the city of Berkeley's City Manager's Office loom over ground maintenance policies. The tent encampment interferes with the park's sprinkler system. 

Russell Bates of Occupy's Health and Safety committee appealed last night for Berkeleyans to show up at the park Saturday with watering cans. 

"Bottom-line," said Bates, "We are not moving out of the park." 

Meanwhile the continuing interface between Occupy and Berkeley's downtown homeless, with which it must co-exist, erupted Tuesday night into a confrontation between some angry Berkeleyans confronting the newly formed mediation committee--which, the previous night, had driven off a woman who was interfering. 

The confrontation between protesters and the newly formed mediation committee took place at the end of the general assembly Tuesday when committees caucused for the first time--rather than reconvening around town. 

Calling the mediation committee, "a gestapo," Michael M. (sixty-something) challenged a mediation committee member (twenty something) to prove he had the qualifications to deal with homeless persons with disabilities. The mediations committee point person agreed to contact Berkeley Mental Health--with which he was unfamiliar--to arrange a training. 

Two members of the Occupy Berkeley's communications committee were interviewed on KPFA Wednesday's "Flashpoint" show. 

Perhaps the Occupy Berkeley protest will go into the history books as an emerging populist struggle with a fresh approach to community organizing. 

Ted Friedman has been hearing this Petula Clark song in his head (about the protest): "When you're alone and life is making you lonely, you can always go downtown. When you've got worries, all the noise and the hurry seems to help, I know, downtown." The protest is downtown.

Berkeley City College Student Wins Norman Mailer Writing Award

Thursday October 20, 2011 - 03:09:00 PM

Editor's Note: The Norman Mailer Center and Writers Colony has announced that this year’s recipient of the National Community College Nonfiction Writing Award is Christopher Woodard of Berkeley City College. He'll get his award and a check for $5,000 at the Center’s third annual benefit gala on Tuesday, November 8 in New York City. Honorary Chair Tina Brown (Newsweek and The Daily Beast) and an advisory board of writers including Joan Didion, William Kennedy, Nobel Laureate Gunter Grass, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Gay Talese, and others will host a lively evening of cocktails, dinner, and an awards ceremony. The Planet is pleased to reprint the winning essay below: 


By Christopher Woodard 

It's December 31st 2009, and we still haven't decided what we're doing for New Year’s. I've spent the majority of the past week-and-a-half holed up in Nicole’s Honatsugi apartment reading novels I brought for the trip while she works ten-hour days teaching English at a language immersion school. On top of that, the majority of her free time has to be devoted to her grad-school applications as the deadlines loom. The rest of that free time is spent fretting about all the reasons she is certain she is wasting her time and her life. Timing my visit for the holidays is turning out to be ill-considered. 

She asks me if I've thought of what I'd like to do tonight. I’d like to tell her that not only do I have no idea, I don't know how I'd go about getting one; just because I play a lot of videogames and have seen a lot of Akira Kurosawa flicks does not make me knowledgeable about modern Japan's night life, and furthermore, isn’t she the one who’s been living here for four months? Instead I say no. 

Somewhere online she finds out about a Zojoji Temple near the Tokyo Tower that involves a ceremony where you write down a wish on a card and tie it to a balloon to be released into the air at the stroke of midnight. This sounds like a better idea to Nicole than my suggestion that we just stay in and watch a movie and fool around. She says that would be a waste of a New Year’s in Japan, that a friend of hers who has an apartment in the city is visiting the states for the holiday and she has the key. This apparently decides the matter; we will spend New Year’s in Tokyo. 


We finally exit the subway station in downtown Tokyo after a two-hour-long train trek and I see an Eiffel Tower knock-off a few blocks away that retains none of the original’s romantic charisma due to its gaudy construction-orange and white paint job necessitated by Civil Aeronautic Law. The French caught a break by building their observation tower fifty-one years before the standards of flight were formalized which, from a historical perspective, is just in the nick of time; two towers built for the same function and the mile-wide enchantment gap I figure is mostly a matter of timing. I stare at the charmless doppelganger and ask myself, where the hell am I? 

Realizing we have not accounted for food, Nicole suggests we eat our New Year’s dinner in a buffet-style Chinese restaurant in the base of the tower. Japan's Chinese cuisine is much the same as the kind back home. I wonder out loud if they actually eat any of this food in this particular style in China while Nicole orders some cheap red wine. It arrives, and to her tastes significantly above room temperature. 

She browses the overcrowded tower gift shop for souvenirs while I passively-anxiously wait outside. What little free time she has that we spend together seems to end up frequently in stores as she usually works past normal business hours. Unfortunately I have a particular distaste for any shopping experience and have trouble faking or copping to it. Before she heads into a store she asks if I mind. I say no. When done she apologizes and I say there is nothing to apologize for. 

We end up at a temple that, save for two Buddhist monks, is empty. This is a tip-off that we are at the wrong temple and we walk to a temple directly next to it which is indeed Zojoji. The situation should be humorous but is somehow instead aggravating. I try to recall if she was drinking earlier in the day before the Chinese-buffet wine. Back at the apartment, there is a giant grouping of empty wine bottles next to various knotted plastic convenience-store bags used for garbage as she can’t find a store that sells anything resembling a garbage bag in Japan. The number of empty bottles makes it hard to gauge if any new ones have appeared. I realize that it is a pointless question to consider; of course she’s been drinking. This is New Year’s Eve, this is Nicole. 

There are food stalls set-up all over the temple grounds and Nicole laments our decision to eat Chinese but finds herself still hungry enough to wait in line for some takoyaki which she tells me are octopus balls. Normally I would intentionally misinterpret her description as referring to the testicles of an octopus as opposed to the description of the food’s shape for the easy laugh but find myself unable to so instead, I nod as we wait in the fifteen-person deep line. 

Twenty minutes pass and we are now five away from the octopus balls. Nearby, a Japanese man shouts something with a voice of authoritative information. I hear some other English speakers attempt to interpret his message and it has something to do with balloons and a line. Too conditioned to not speak to strangers in a place with such a foreign language, I conveniently ignore that the people near me just spoke English and suggest to Nicole that if we want to participate in the balloon ceremony we may need to do so now. I don’t present the gentlemanly option—suggest she wait and get her food while I look into the matter—because I don’t have a cell phone and am scared of getting lost in downtown Tokyo with no means of contacting anyone about anything, only marginally aware that this rationalization marks me a coward. 

Nicole gives up her place in line as we try to find either a large group of people or a large group of balloons. We find the people in a large zigzag line of several hundred with the end tapered off. She finds an attendant and in halting Japanese tries to find out what the deal is: we arrived too late to participate in the balloon ceremony as the wishing cards were handed out about half an hour before we arrived at Zojoji. The Chinese-buffet dinner has come back to taunt us. Again. 

We are back in line for octopus balls, now thirty deep. At some point people have to cut through the line while heading to the temple, pushing Nicole back into me. Not having said much since learning about our conspicuously poor timing for events, I reach around her waist and pull her into me. It is the first intimate gesture we’ve had all day and as I feel the warmth of her stomach with my hands, her shoulders pressing back against my chest, her hair against my neck, things feel like they will be just fine. The line moves forward and she pulls away. I say nothing. 

We sit on a small stone wall supporting a garden bed while she eats her takoyaki. Feeling thirsty and chilly I get a Royal Milk Tea from a nearby vending machine and share it with her; the omnipresent vending machines in Japan are capable of providing hot beverages which have become my most consistent pleasure on this trip. An old man approaches us, he looks exactly like the animated caricatures of an elderly homeless person I’d seen in some Animes; under five feet tall, severely hunched with a large backpack, eyes seemingly forever closed because of his large ever-present smile. Nicole does her best to translate his slurred speech; the most we get from him is that he is fond of Americans because of an event from his past and that the police give him a hard time. There is innocuous warmth to the man, warmer than even my newly-precious Royal Milk Tea, and I find myself hoping he spends the rest of the evening with us. As I am about to ask Nicole if it would be socially awkward to give money to the man, he thanks us and shakes my hand to head off somewhere else. 


The countdown is near as we stand with the crowd, pressed against each other from the compaction of hundreds of people in a small temple courtyard. I do not put my arms around her. A large digital clock above the temple begins to count down from sixty. The Tokyo Tower, looming behind the temple, disappears into the starless night as its lights are shut off. No one starts counting down until the timer reaches ten. The true variety of nationalities present is revealed as no single coherent language emerges from the crowd, it is arrhythmic and garbled like the echo of Babel. Before 2009 ends I silently tell it to go fuck itself. 

The Tokyo Tower reappears with 2010 embedded vertically on its side in bright Time Square lights. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of wish balloons are released by those savvy enough to not eat dinner at a Chinese buffet-style restaurant, the translucent-white ovoids floating to a near-full moon with wish-affixed rope tails wagging behind them like hell-bent sperm. There are cheers and hugs and kisses. Nicole leans back with her head against my shoulder and looks at me. We kiss a kiss that feels more a formality than an expression. I think back to that time on a Brooklyn rooftop four years ago before we became what we are; near the East River’s edge with that perfect unobstructed view of the Manhattan Skyline outlined by fireworks, I was determined that I would kiss her at midnight. Instead I chickened out and kissed our mutual gay friend Tom. That may have been a better kiss. 

A monk begins ringing a giant bell in the courtyard. He is supposed to do this one hundred and eight times. We decide we do not need to see more than five. Before we descend into the subway I take a look back on that unfortunate victim of timing that is the Tokyo Tower and marvel how even with lights bright enough to obscure its romance-sapping paint job, it manages to not be in any way exciting. 

I sympathize. 


It takes us an hour to get to her friend’s apartment. It has not been heated in over a week and is colder than the cold evening we just came in from. We settle into the bed fully clothed and drained. Nicole has made it clear that fooling around in here isn’t going to happen as it would be inconsiderate to her friend. Though expectantly disappointed, I am happy to keep my clothes on for the consistent warmth. She decides to read her Murakami book about the Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subways. I tell her to enjoy it, happy New Year’s, good night and I love her. She reciprocates. 

As I fall asleep next to a woman I have wanted and loved for the better part of the decade, the totality of my adulthood thus far, I struggle with what would be on that wish card if we hadn’t stopped for that Chinese buffet-style dinner. So many evenings of jealous paranoias, of long playful talks, of stolen kisses and unexpected intimacies, of doubts and assertions, hopes and expectations, surprise phone calls and last minute drives, of devoted whispers and tender clutches; let all those end soon with few tears. 


Copyright 2011 © by Christopher Woodard 

Earthquake Advice

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Thursday October 20, 2011 - 02:55:00 PM

Having been warned by scientists that the Bay Area is due a sizable earthquake in the next 30 years, we're passing on valuable information [found on a postcard, author unknown] on what to do when that earthquake occurs.  


Conduct practice drills. Physically place yourself in safe locations. Like Wyoming. 

Ignore all warnings. This guarantees nothing bad will happen. Remember, mind over matter. 

Know the danger spots: unsecured bookshelves, fireplaces, your mother-in-law's house. 

Carry a portable phone at all times so you'll be able to call for help from underneath all the rubble. 


Panic! Whatever you do, panic! This world can always use some more fear, chaos and violence. 

Watch for falling objects, real estate and real estate prices. 


Take a drive, get in the way of emergency vehicles. 

Go through stoplights, give everyone the finger. You've just been through a very traumatic event. You have a right to act like a jerk. 

Help the economic recovery. Sell the rubble of your life as souvenirs to tourists. 

Throw a party for those who survived. The ruins, tires and sirens will provide a dramatic atmosphere, insuring a unique and memorable evening for all. 

Check for gas leaks with a lighted match. That way you'll explode, causing no further damage to anyone!

Press Release: Village Movement Takes Root among UC Berkeley’s Dynamic Elders

By Yasmin Anwar | UCB Media Relations
Thursday October 20, 2011 - 03:22:00 PM

Launched just over a year ago in the San Francisco Bay Area’s East Bay, the 170-member social network – driven in considerable part by expertise and membership from the University of California, Berkeley – is among the newest additions to the Village Movement, a nationwide, neighbor-helping-neighbor effort that has spread to more than 50 U.S. cities and communities.

“It’s about being engaged with a lot of really smart people and trying to figure out what we want our community to look like as we get older,” said Steve Lustig, former associate vice chancellor of health and human services at UC Berkeley, and an Ashby Village board member.

Next week (Oct. 24-26), the Village to Village Network, a national nonprofit organization that helps communities manage their villages, will host its annual conference in Oakland. An envoy of some two dozen Ashby Village members will attend. Speakers will include UC Berkeley social welfare professor Andrew Scharlach, whose research on aging-friendly communities has contributed to the Village Movement’s success. 

There are currently 65 villages in operation in the United States, and 115 being developed. Scharlach, director of UC Berkeley’s Center for Advanced Study of Aging Services, is launching a nationwide survey to identify the successes and failures of the Village Movement. He sees a hunger for an alternative to spending one’s older years in a retirement home, assisted living facility, with relatives or feeling isolated. Demographers project that by 2050, one in five Americans will be seniors and part of a wave they call the “Silver Tsunami.” 

“We’re all getting older and have seen our parents go through the aging process. We don’t yet have good structures in place, but we’re working on it,” Scharlach said. 

The grassroots Village Movement was started in 2002 by older academics and other professionals in Boston, Mass., who wanted as seniors to stay in their homes and neighborhoods, remain connected to like-minded people and have easy access to service providers. Their answer was to create Beacon Hill, a village that now boasts more than 350 members whose ages range from the low 50s to the high 90s. 

Ashby Village, launched in 2010 with $80,000 in membership fees and donations from charter members, is in its early youth. But its numbers have grown fast through such recruitment strategies as neighborhood “Living Room Chats” and the chance to be part of an exciting movement, something bigger than oneself. The annual fee is $750 for individuals and $1,200 per household. 

Calls to the Ashby Village switchboard range from the mundane to the extraordinary. Take Joan Cole, 82, a psychologist who taught social welfare at UC Berkeley. When dementia prevented her 89-year-old husband from completing his memoir, she asked Ashby Village for a volunteer. Michelle McGuiness, a young lawyer, showed up and created a video version. 

“He has a sense of completion,” Cole said of her husband. “It’s a miracle.” In addition, McGuiness is among several volunteers who spend “movie night” with Cole’s husband when Joan Cole attends her Thursday night Berkeley Broadway Singers chorus. 

“So everyone is happy, and I have peace of mind,” Cole said. 

Like UC Berkeley itself, Ashby Village tends to attract scholars who think outside the box. Not surprisingly, many members cut their teeth in the 1960s counterculture movement, and have been politically active and/or community-minded ever since. 

“A village takes on the culture of that community,” said Andy Gaines, executive director of Ashby Village and one of its two paid staff members. “Our members are very interested in creating aging in a different way and being part of an alternative movement.” 

With a corps of 60 trained volunteers, preferred service providers, and a highly active membership, Ashby Village – headquartered on Durant Avenue across from the Berkeley City Club – is among nine villages to each receive a $100,000 grant from the Archstone Foundation, a philanthropic organization focused on improving the quality of life for elderly Americans. 

"If villages are successful and sustainable, then together we will be pioneers in a movement that will be tailored to meet the needs of an aging population," said Joseph F. Prevratil, president and CEO of the Archstone Foundation. 

Gaines hopes to see membership double, and more volunteers and service providers added to meet the increased demand. In addition to a fall membership drive, the village continues to build relationships with organizations including the UC Berkeley Retirement Center, Lifelong Medical Care and Jewish Family and Children Services of the East Bay. 

At least one-third of Ashby Village members volunteer to help other members, which increases the sense of engagement the organization is striving for. 

“It’s when they’re giving or receiving help that people feel most connected,” said Lustig, 66, who is working on a strategic plan for Ashby Village with the help of village member William Webster, a UC Berkeley professor emeritus of civil and environmental engineering and former vice provost of academic planning and facilities. 

On Nov. 3, Ashby Village is hosting an event to foster even stronger connections with UC Berkeley. Efforts will include recruiting student volunteers and forging ties with the UC Berkeley Retirement Center, which serves some 14,000 individuals and their spouses, including 7,500 retired UC Berkeley staff, 1,000 faculty emeriti, 2,500 members of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the UC Office of the President. 

Patrick Cullinane, director of the UC Berkeley Retirement Center, reports that more than 600 new retirees became members of the center during the 2010-11 fiscal year, and that it is open to networking with organizations such as Ashby Village and The Berkeley Project, in which UC Berkeley students and city residents work together on public service efforts. 

Sondra Jensen, 69, came to UC Berkeley as a student in 1959, and went on to work in the campus’s human resources and housing and dining divisions. Since retiring a few years ago, the Ashby Village member and volunteer has built “Smooth Moves,” a business that helps elderly people downsize in preparation for moving from their homes to smaller places or retirement facilities. 

“We’ve met people who should have moved years ago,” she said. “Had they had Ashby Village, they may not have had to move, but they didn’t have that support.” 

She has yet to ask the village for personal help. However, with her husband recently disabled from a spinal cord injury, she anticipates a time will come when they will need both practical assistance and the camaraderie provided through their Ashby Village membership. 

Herb Strauss, 75, a UC Berkeley professor emeritus of chemistry, said he was grateful for his membership when he spent an entire day at Oakland’s Kaiser Permanente Hospital being evaluated for emergency surgery. His exhausted wife, Carolyn North, called for help, and volunteers sat with her during the surgery that evening, then drove her home. 

"Our kids are scattered around the country, so we're more isolated than we'd like to be," Strauss said. 

Even though her children are close by, Cole said she doesn’t want to “wear them out” by calling them each time her husband, who’s in hospice care, takes a fall. 

As for the future of Ashby Village, said Cole, “I want this to be here when my children grow old.” 



Andy Gaines, andy@ashbyvillage.org, (510) 204-9200
Steve Lustig, stevelustig45@gmail.com
Andrew Scharlach, scharlach@berkeley.edu
Joan Cole, joan@joanhcole.com
Herb Strauss, hls@berkeley.edu
Sondra Jensen, sjensen@berkeley.edu



The City Council and the School District Play Fast and Loose with Public Funds in Berkeley

By Becky O'Malley
Monday October 24, 2011 - 10:51:00 PM

While no one’s paying much attention, a substantial part of the last remaining open space in flatlands Berkeley is being reconfigured by the Berkeley Unified School District in collusion with bureaucrats working for the City of Berkeley. There has been almost no meaningful public discussion either of the goals of planned lavish and well-funded building projects or of the schedule for carrying them out. 

Our colleagues at the Berkeleyside website have done an excellent job of tracking the inexcusable decision of BUSD to summarily close Berkeley High’s Old Gym because of—this just in—structural problems. This sudden move left a variety of student athletes, including the football team, in the lurch.  

There are a number of related problems with this situation. In the first place, the gym has been transparently subjected to “demolition by neglect”, BUSD’s favorite construction planning strategy. The imminent loss of the warm pool, a lifesaver for many disabled members of the larger community, is simply inexcusable—with any decent planning providing such a facility could be a money-maker for the school district and the city, as is Palo Alto’s warm pool. Needless to say, promised replacements are not materializing—but we’re not surprised, are we? 

That said, the bad condition of the Old Gym is also no surprise to any reader of the Planet or anyone who has had any connection with the high school in the last ten years or so. It would have been possible for a well-run district to arrange beforehand to replace its function with minimal impact on students, but that didn’t happen. Again, all together now, this time in French (which my daughters learned well from Mr. Dillingham at Berkeley High): Quelle surprise! 

Then there are those who might question the major end goal of this whole disruptive project, which is to build a bigger and better football stadium on the Berkeley High campus. Recent studies about traumatic brain injuries suffered by many football players is causing many to question whether sponsoring this dangerous sport through the public education system is appropriate. Of course, like many of us, I do know a young man, a family friend, whose participation in the team was the main reason he stayed in school long enough to graduate. But the question deserves the kind of open and frank public discussion which it hasn’t gotten. 

And this story, bad as it is, pales in comparison to what seems to be going on completely under the radar at the prime BUSD West Campus location. We copped to it accidentally in May, listening to the side chat in a Berkeley City Council budget workshop, and revealed it in an editorial. At the time, one primary concern was that the Maudelle Shirek Old City Hall was participating in the Demolition by Neglect program. Another was whether West Campus, far from the civic center, was the right location for City Council meetings.  

In our May editorial, we said: 

“West Campus is relatively far from the action, and would probably impede rather than facilitate citizen attendance at meetings—but perhaps that’s the rationale behind what appears to be the current plan. At their next meeting on May 17th, the council has the opportunity to start a frank and open discussion of their impending move and the fate of the Maudelle Shirek Building, and they should do so.” 

Oh sure. Again, quelle surprise, nothing happened, at least not in public.  

So last week West Berkeley business owner and activist Kristin Leimkuhler alerted us and her neighbors to what was supposed to be a cozy little conclave to talk about plans for West Campus. Steve Finacom (seemingly the only reporter in attendance) managed to get a full story from comments made by participants representing both civic entities—and it’s a mess. A lotta shuckin’ ‘n’ jivin’ goin’ on, but no answers, and meanwhile Old City Hall seems to have gotten dramatically unsafe.  

And did you notice? Berkeley’s had maybe 8 or 16 earthquakes in the last couple of days, depending on whom you ask. We could lose the whole Berkeley City Council at one fell swoop if the Big One came at the wrong time. On the other hand, the council meets so infrequently these days that the probability is not high that they’d be there when it happened. (But we do need to get BUSD employees, who are now there every day, into a safer office building.) 

Finally, finally, Councilpersons Arreguin and Worthington are asking what’s going on. They’re trying to put an item on the consent calendar for the council’s November 8 meeting asking for a full report in no less than 60 days on whatever plans are contemplated for a new council meeting place. That timing puts the report dangerously close to the group’s long winter holiday (they seem to be on holiday most weeks lately), so don’t expect the report to be presented any time before spring, 

And that’s IF the council approves the item, which they might not. These two councilmembers don’t get much respect from their colleagues, most of whom are much more comfortable with backroom deals than with open public process.  

The school board isn’t any better. Based on Steve’s report, it seems quite likely that someone in what passes for facilities planning in the BUSD hierarchy is counting on the City of Berkeley to contribute close to $1 million of the $2.1 million dollar cost of turning the West Campus cafeteria into a meeting room for both the school board and the council. At least one quoted project manager said that contracts will be let in February or March for construction in March, by which time it’s highly unlikely that the Berkeley City Council will even have gotten their report. 

No school board members bothered to attend the Tuesday night meeting at West Campus. I happened to run into one of them at the Tuesday Farmers’ Market and I asked him if he was planning to go. He intimated that this really wasn’t his issue, and sure enough he wasn’t there.  

A major part of the problem is the grip the bond industry and its clients, developers and construction unions, have gotten on the public process. Berkeley already has a great deal of empty office space which could easily house the BUSD bureaucracy, but it’s new construction which feeds bond companies and the rest of the building industry. The Berkeley City Council could meet in the lovely new Berkeley City College auditorium, or even bargain with UC to use any of its many large halls as a tradeoff for the public service subsidy the city provides for the university. Yes, yes, we know that there are some “jobs” in building projects, but even in a period of unemployment it would be better for public funds to go directly to existing classroom teachers than, in large part, into the pockets of the bond finance corporations. 

We’ve never come out against a bond issue in the nine years we’ve been running editorials in the Planet. We believe strongly that it’s the duty of citizens to pay the tab for government. But when we see such slipshod planning and such complete disregard for public opinion on the part of both of the bodies charged with spending public money in the public interest, we understand why the swimming pool measure failed. 

We predict more voter rejection of similar measures down the line if this situation continues. Berkeley deserves—and should demand—better. 




The Editor's Back Fence

Opera Program Canned by NPR Because of Host's Occupy Participation

By Becky O'Malley
Tuesday October 25, 2011 - 01:17:00 PM

Here's something which really outrages me, both as an opera lover and as a journalist. Lisa Simeone is the host of the independently produced World of Opera radio series, live broadcasts of opera from around the country which have been distributed by National Public Radio. Evidently, she also took part in an Occupy action somewhere, sometime..

For the sin of having political opinions and acting on them, she (and her program) have been dropped from the NPR lineup, in spite of the fact that the show has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with politics.

And anyway, what if it did? But we won't even bring up that question, because this situation is bad enough. For full details, and to sign a petition to lily-livered NPR, consult the Fairness and Accuracy in Media website.  


Cartoon Page: Odd Bodkins: Jack

Dan O'Neill
Tuesday October 25, 2011 - 11:37:00 AM


Dan O'Neill


Cartoon Page: BOUNCE:

By Joseph Young
Thursday October 20, 2011 - 12:17:00 PM


Public Comment

New: Dealing Sensibly with Occupy Berkeley--Learning from Oakland's Mistakes

John Vinopal,Resident, District 4
Wednesday October 26, 2011 - 04:57:00 PM

As a nearby resident of Civic Center Park, I've cast a wary eye on the "Occupy Berkeley" encampment since it metastasized away from the B of A circle. Dated signs ("No Taxes For Star Wars") reinforce my impression that Berkeley has never not been Occupied and this just becomes an excuse to put up tents in the park. I figured the ardor would cool come the rains. Friends who grew up here suggested the sprinklers would put an end to it (as they recalled some of their high-school evenings concluding). All saw a risk of People's Park West and wondered how it might conclude or how bad it might get in the meanwhile. 

Well thank you Oakland for the clear instruction in how not to deal with the situation. An ombudsman kiosk, a line of port-a-potties and a case of rat poison would have been vastly cheaper in dollars and national reputation. What was City Hall thinking? What sort of magical thinking is required to forget the 2009 riots? 

It is profoundly dispiriting to read the official OPD press report of Oct 25 (8:05pm) which states that officers did not use flash-bag grenades. In the video posted on BDP, an officer can clearly be seen throwing one into a crowd of people (attending to an injured person no less). The midnight press release merely states "less than lethal munitions". Residents of Oakland should call for the ousting of Police Chief Batts. Oh right, he quit two weeks ago. Smart guy. 

So what should Berkeley do? My modest proposal is to allow tents in the two westward triangles next to the skate park. Allow no tents in the oval and enforce this with nightly sprinkler use. Expect to service the porta- potty more often. This will be far cheaper than the $100k Berkeley will spend on 50 beds for the Winter Homeless Shelter Program and sleep just as many.

Press Release: NLG Condemns Excessive Force Used by Oakland Police Against Occupy Demonstrators

From Rachel Lederman, Bobbie Stein, Michael Flynn
Wednesday October 26, 2011 - 12:14:00 PM

The National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter (NLGSF) condemns Oakland Police excessive force against Occupy demonstrators and violations of OPD Crowd Control Policy. 

The Oakland Police Department’s violent response to last night’s peaceful march was unjustified and their actions violated OPD’s own Crowd Management / Crowd Control Policy. That Policy, developed in collaboration with NLG and ACLU attorneys, was adopted by the City of Oakland as part of a federal court settlement, arising from the OPD’s 2003 violent clashes with longshoremen and anti-war demonstrators at the Port of Oakland. 

“The police violated just about every provision of their own Crowd Control Policy last night,” said Bobbie Stein, a NLGSF attorney. “Tear gas canisters and flash bang grenades were thrown directly at protesters. A man’s skull was fractured when he was hit by one of these objects. Demonstrators were shot with rubber bullets and shot-filled ‘bean bags’. All of this is prohibited under the Policy that we helped write and under which all OPD officers and commanders are required to be trained." 

The violent police action began at 4:30am yesterday when hundreds of officers moved in on sleeping demonstrators. They tore down the Occupy Oakland encampment and made 115 arrests. 

“The NLG is committed to defending the demonstrators until all are released from custody and cleared of all charges,” said NLGSF Executive Director Carlos Villarreal. 

"The City of Oakland is currently defending a federal civil rights suit filed by Guild attorneys due to their civil rights violations against Oscar Grant demonstrators last year. That litigation asks the court to enforce the Crowd Control Policy, which prohibits OPD from making unlawful mass arrests, from unwarranted use of chemical agents, and from shooting munitions into a crowd, all of which they did yesterday,” explained Rachel Lederman, another Guild attorney. “We are prepared to file additional lawsuits to force OPD to follow the Policy and to respect the people of Oakland’s right to dissent.” 

Occupy encampments are going on all across the country. In Los Angeles for example, demonstrators have had tents set up in front of City Hall for weeks, free of police interference. 

The NLGSF calls on Mayor Jean Quan and Oakland city government to end the police violence against protestors and to uphold free speech in Oakland. 

The National Lawyers Guild was founded in 1937 and is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. More information on the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter can be found at www.nlgsf.org. 558 Capp Street | San Francisco, CA 94110 US

Supporting the Occupy Movement

By Victoria Q. Legg
Wednesday October 26, 2011 - 10:57:00 AM

For all practical purposes I would be considered one of the 5% and yet I whole heartedly support the actions of the Occupy movement worldwide. My children are highly educated, underemployed and unlikely to ever own their own home unless I pass before becoming infirm or diagnosed with chronic disease. They are not alone.  

If people like myself fail to understand that our ultra comfortable and self centered way of life is unsustainable globally and locally, the world will become increasingly violent while people struggle to feed themselves and their children. There is enough food for everyone on earth but our "great" social experiment in capitalism denies many people food, shelter, education and health care. The gap between those who have and those who don't is spreading. How long will it take before I am one of the hungry? At the rate in which we consume the earth's resources, I am guessing not long. 

I admire the courage of the protestors for their passion in wanting to create a just world. I encourage them to become very determined to keep their vow of nonviolence and reverently hope the majority of Americans and others around the world speak their voice of support for a just society.

Why Were Berkeley Police Involved in Evicting Occupy Oakland?

By Barbara F Barbour
Wednesday October 26, 2011 - 10:49:00 AM

To:Tom Bates, Mayor; Laurie Capetelli, Council person; Michael K. Meehan, Chief of Police

Why were police from the City of Berkeley involved in the violence of and by the police of Oakland (and others) on the the people of Occupy Oakland?

I am a tax-paying Berkeley homeowner and am outraged that my tax dollars were used to destroy that encampment-or any others; the more so because an already reduced police force was further diminished to be pulled away from their jobs. But that is not the major issue; it is that of both provocative and violent police actions toward citizens protesting peacefully. 

I hope people are beginning to realize that this was a part of a national government (federally funded, yes?) anti-citizen attack on any protest relating to the the corporate-run government. 

Shame on Berkeley. Shame on Oakland. Shame on all of us that we have allowed this nation to slide so far toward a fascist regime.

Press Release: California Nurses Condemn Mayor Quan's Raid on Occupy Oakland

Wednesday October 26, 2011 - 09:48:00 AM

The California Nurses Association/National Nurses United today condemned the early morning police raid on the peaceful Occupy Oakland encampment, and criticized Oakland Mayor Jean Quan for joining the list of mayors employing repression against the occupy movement. 

According to press reports, police stormed the encampment near Oakland's City Hall well before dawn, with billy clubs and shotguns, uprooting tents and making multiple arrests. 

"This unwarranted attack on peaceful protesters places Oakland Mayor Jean Quan in shameful company with mayors like Chicago's Rahm Emanuel and other cities whose response to public expression of protest is repression rather than respect for the rights of free speech and assembly," said CNA Treasurer Martha Kuhl, an Oakland RN. 

CNA called on the city to drop all charges against those arrested in the raid, and encouraged protest calls be made to Mayor Quan at 510-238-3141. 

"Few cities have endured more pain and abandonment from the reckless behavior of Wall Street and the banks than Oakland. Mayor Quan should be supporting the occupy movement, not breaking up demonstrations," Kuhl said. 

California nurses have joined rallies and marches with Occupy Oakland actions, and set up nurses' humanitarian first aid stations in a number of cities, including San Francisco and San Diego, support activity that will continue despite the escalating police attacks on the occupy movement, said Kuhl. 

In Oakland, "we will support efforts of Occupy Oakland to rebuild and continue the protests," Kuhl said.

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday October 25, 2011 - 08:13:00 AM

Occupy Advice 

I thoroughly enjoyed Becky O'Malley's coverage of the Occupy sites she visited, and her elegant summation of factions, frictions, and flavors. I've played music at two Occupy sites, and support the energy, creativity, and collective spirit often in evidence. 

But the Occupy movement is not about tents or territory. My hope is that our flexibility, mobility, and creativity, will keep us from "claiming" any particular piece of square footage or descending into typically lopsided battles with police over tents and tarps. We are bigger than that. 

Carol Denney 

* * *

Press Release: NLG Demands Immediate Release of Occupy Oakland Arrestees

Contacts: Rachel Lederman 415-350-6496 Michael Flynn 510-866-4981 Carlos Villarreal 415-377-6961
Tuesday October 25, 2011 - 02:09:00 PM

The National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter (NLGSF) calls for the release of approximately 100 people who were arrested this morning in the police raid on Occupy Oakland. The NLGSF has learned that the arrestees are being illegally booked in Alameda County's Glenn Dyer Detention Facility in downtown Oakland and in Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.  

In a letter to Oakland and Alameda County's attorneys (pdf), NLGSF lawyer Rachel Lederman emphasized that the Guild is already suing Oakland and Alameda County over a previous mass arrest one year ago, at a protest over the sentence given Johannes Mehserle. Among other things that ongoing federal civil right class action lawsuit seeks an injunction to stop the Oakland Police from making mass arrests without probable cause to believe that each person has committed a crime; and to stop OPD and the Alameda County Sheriff's Department from incarcerating demonstrators for long periods of time in holding areas under inhumane conditions. The Mehserle demonstrators were held for up to 24 hours in holding cells not only lacking beds, but so crowded that everyone could not even sit down at the same time. The arrests last year did not result in any prosecutions. 

The mass arrests, use of excessive force, and prolonged incarceration today, like those in November, 2010, were contrary to law and policy and the NLGSF demands that the arrestees be released immediately.

The Clown with the Broken Leg

By Carol Denney
Tuesday October 25, 2011 - 08:08:00 AM

My grandparents came from Pennsylvania to live with us when I was little, dazzling us with schtick from their vaudeville days. Our meals became a riot of quick patter and music hall jokes. “The show must go on”, my grandfather used to say, “is what the ringmaster says to the clown with the broken leg.” 

I think of this when I play street fairs and someone lights up near the band. It’s a smokefree event or we wouldn’t have taken the gig, but the smoker knows he or she can give a blank look to anyone who objects and continue to smoke, exposing everyone. The organizers can’t do much about it, police have other priorities, and any musicians’ cumulative dose of secondhand smoke over the course of the day is considerable. 

The courtesy used to be to ask, “mind if I smoke?” before lighting up before tobacco products were labeled deadly, so expecting this courtesy today would not seem extreme. Those who speak up after the match is struck are consistently mischaracterized as extremists, as killjoys, as aggressive, even as violent, for objecting to something even the tobacco industry acknowledges is deadly. 

And then there’s what I call the tyranny of the green room, with its no laws, no rules implications, where musicians trying to avoid tobacco exposure have to learn not to breathe. 

My bandmates are instituting a protocol for this moment; the music stops. The band quits playing the minute any one of us is aware of secondhand smoke exposure, and will not start again until the it’s addressed. Secondhand smoke does immediate damage, even to healthy adults, and we refuse to become the attractive nuisance we become when smokers smoke near us, exposing everyone. 

If you love live music at a farmer’s market or a street fair, help us by speaking up before a tobacco addict gets as far as the lighter or the matches. Even smokefree venues are at risk from those who are confused, deliberately or otherwise, about the social contract. We want the show to go on, but no gig is worth dying for.


Saturday October 22, 2011 - 08:42:00 PM

Let Us Be the Source of Hope and Help  

The world around us impacts us every day. If we are sensitive to other people's needs, we start thinking of ways to extend our helping hands. The idea is not new that the community becomes our real source of help in difficult times but it takes effort to build this kind of community. If we stick with the selfish motive of acquiring more and more material wealth, we end up ignoring the cries of our suffering neighbors. Reaching out to one or two needy persons in our neighborhood makes a good beginning. Help can be extended through exchange of services or by providing needed groceries or clothing. The weather is changing. Some poor neighbors might need food; some might need sweaters or jackets. People with dire needs are being deleted from the list of significant citizens by policy makers in our states. Let us all, by building community, become a source of hope and sunshine for those who are neglected by our Congress. 

Romila Khanna

Possible New Council Chambers

By Councilmembers Jesse Arreguin and Kriss Worthington
Saturday October 22, 2011 - 09:20:00 PM


November 8, 2011

To: Honorable Mayor and Members of the City Council

From: Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, Councilmember Kriss Worthington

Subject: Possible New Council Chambers – Options and Accessibility


That the City Council request a report back to the Council in no less than 60 days on the proposal suggested to vacate Old City Hall and relocate the City Council Chambers to a new location. The report should analyze feasible alternate locations for a Council Chambers, issues of accessibility for the disabled, proximity to transit, adequate seating for large crowds, and connectivity to technology including television broadcasting. 

The report should also discuss the City’s plans for the future use of Old City Hall, including alternatives to securing and closing Old City Hall. 

The Council also requests that when the report is developed that it be calendared as an Action Item for discussion on a City Council agenda. 


The Berkeley Unified School District has decided to relocate its administrative headquarters from Old City Hall to West Campus, due in part to the fact that Old City Hall is seismically unsafe. There have also been reports that the School District may create a new Council Chambers at West Campus for the School District and City to jointly use and that the City will close Old City Hall and change its meeting location to a new City Council Chambers at West Campus also due to concerns about seismic safety. The idea about relocating our meetings toWest Campus has generated questions and concerns in the community. Where the City Council meets and how accessible the meeting space is, has a direct impact on the public’s access to participating in our government process. 

While funds have been earmarked in the budget, to date the City Council has not voted on whether to fund the construction of a new City Council Chambers or whether to move its meetings from Old City Hall. In order to make the most informed decision, the City Council should evaluate alternatives for potential relocation. This analysis should include (at least) the following issues: 

  • Access for persons with disabilities and wheel-chair users;
  • Access to public transportation;
  • The costs of constructing a new Chambers and/or renting meeting space at each
  • possible location;
  • Adequate seating for large crowds;
  • Connectivity to technology including television broadcasting.
The report should consider possible alternative uses for Old City Hall, if the City decides to move its meetings to a new location. Several non-profit organizations might temporarily use Old City Hall, as has been done with other buildings awaiting seismic retrofits. 

Before any decision is made on changing our meeting location, on spending city funds for theconstruction of a new Council Chambers or in deciding what to do with Old City Hall, the Council should seek public input before any of these decisions are made. 


The City budget already set aside $400,000 for a potential new Council Chambers and 100,000 for dealing with Old City Hall. 


Councilmember Jesse Arreguin 510-981-7170 

Councilmember Kriss Worthington 510-981-7140

Two Haiku for Yemen

By Gar Smith
Saturday October 22, 2011 - 07:43:00 PM

October 14
A coward's way of killing
Murders from afar

Yemen body count:
Saleh's volleys kill 18
US drones kill nine.

Letter: Arreguin and Worthington Submit Agenda Item re Council Move to West Campus

From Councilmember Jesse Arreguin
Thursday October 20, 2011 - 03:46:00 PM

I just read Steve Finacom's article [about plans to move the City Council meetings to West Campus] on the Planet website and I wanted to let you know about an item that [Councilmember] Kriss [Worthington] and I have submitted an item for an upcoming Council agenda about moving Council meetings to West Campus. In response to the fact that discussions have occurred between City staff and the School District on relocating our Council meetings from Old City Hall to a new Council Chambers at West Campus, and given the lack of information, and public discussion, Kriss and I have submitted the item for the November 8th Council agenda, asking the City Manager to provide a report on the West Campus plans, alternatives to West Campus, and discussion about what will happen with Old City Hall. The item asks that the report come back to the Council in no less than 60 days and that it be calendared for discussion. 

We are trying to get more information about the idea of moving to West Campus and closing Old City Hall, and have a public discussion about the issue, which has been largely absent so far. 

Councilmember Jesse Arreguin


Dispatches From The Edge: Pakistan: Reversing The Lens

By Conn Hallinan
Wednesday October 26, 2011 - 05:01:00 PM

Terrorism is not a statistic for us.”—Asif Ali Zardari, president of Pakistan

This is a Pakistani truism that few Americans understand. Since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, Pakistan has lost more than 35,000 people, the vast bulk of them civilians. While the U.S. has had slightly over 1800 soldiers killed in the past 10 years, Pakistan has lost over 5,000 soldiers and police. The number of suicide bombings in Pakistan has gone from one before 2001, to more than 335 since.

For most Americans, Pakistan is a two-faced “ally” playing a double game in Central Asia, all while siphoning off tens of billions of dollars in aid. For Pakistanis, the spillover from the Afghan war has cost Islamabad approximately of $100 billion. And this is in a country with a yearly GDP of around $175 billion, and whose resources have been deeply strained by two years of catastrophic flooding. 

Washington complains that its $20.7 billion in aid over the past nine years has bought it very little in the way of loyalty from Islamabad, while Pakistan points out that U.S. aid makes up less than 0.3 percent of Pakistan’s yearly GDP, what Zahid Hussain, author of a book on Islamic militants, says comes out to “the price of a six-inch personal-size pizza with no extra toppings from Pizza Hut” for each Pakistani. In any case, much of the civilian aid—the bulk, $14.2 billion, goes to the military—has yet to be disbursed. 

Both countries’ opinions of one another are almost mirror images: According to a U.S. poll, 74 percent of Americans do not consider Pakistan to be an ally, while the Pew Research Center found that six in 10 Pakistanis consider the Americans an “enemy,” and only 12 Percent have a favorable view of the U.S. 

How did this happen? In part the answer is mistakes and misjudgments by both countries that date back to the 1979-89 Russian occupation. But at its heart is an American strategy that not only runs counter to Pakistan’s interests, but will make ending the war in Afghanistan a far more painful procedure than it need be. 

If Pakistan is a victim in the long running war, it is not entirely an innocent one. Pakistan, along with the U.S., was an ally of the anti-Communist, right wing Mujahideen during the 1980s Afghan war. 

Pakistan’s interest in Afghanistan has always been multi-faceted. Islamabad is deeply worried that its traditional enemy, India, will gain a foothold in Afghanistan, thus essentially surrounding Pakistan. This is not exactly paranoid, as Pakistan has fought—and lost—three wars with India, and tensions between the two still remain high. 

Over the past six years, India has conducted 10 major military exercises along the Pakistani border, the latest—Viajyee Bhava (Be Victorious)—involved 20,000 troops and what New Delhi military spokesman S.D. Goswaim called “sustained massed mechanized maneuvers.” Pakistan is the only potential enemy in the region that “massed” armored formations could be aimed at. India has the world’s fourth largest army, Pakistan’s the 15th

By aligning itself with Washington during its Cold War competition with the Soviets in Afghanistan, Islamabad had the inside track to buy high performance American military hardware to help it offset India’s numerical superiority. Indeed, it did manage to purchase some F-16s fighter-bombers. 

But in Central Asia, what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. When Pakistan allied itself with the Taliban, India aligned itself with the Northern Alliance composed of Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras, who opposed the Pashtun-dominated Taliban. Pashtuns are a plurality in Afghanistan’s complex mix of ethnicities, and traditionally they dominated the Kabul government. 

Islamabad has always been deeply concerned about the Pashtuns, because the ethnic group makes up some 15 percent of Pakistan’s population, and Pashtuns do not recognize the colonial period border—the so-called Durand Line—that forms the current boundary between the two countries. A long-time fear of Islamabad is that Pakistani Pashtuns could ally themselves to Afghani Pashtuns and form a breakaway country that would fragment Pakistan. 

From Islamabad’s point of view, the American demand that it corral the Taliban and the Haqqani Group that operate from mountainous Northwest Frontier and Federally Administrated Tribal Areas of Pakistan might stir up Pashtun nationalism, one of those things that goes bump in the night for most Pakistanis. In any case, the task would be beyond the capabilities of the Pakistan military. In 2009, the Pakistani Army used two full divisions just to reclaim the Swat Valley from local militants, a battle that cost billions of dollars, generated two million refugees, and inflicted heavy casualties. 

Current U.S. strategy has exacerbated Pakistan’s problem by putting the Northern Alliance in power, excluding the Pashtuns from any meaningful participation, and targeting the ethnic group’s heartland in Southern and Eastern Afghanistan. According to Hussain, this has turned the war into a “Pashtun war,” and meant, “The Pashtuns in Pakistan would become…strongly allied with both al Qaeda and the Taliban.” 

The U.S has also remained silent while India moved aggressively into Afghanistan. On Oct. 4, Kabul and New Delhi inked a “strategic partnership” which, according to the New York Times, “paves the way for India to train and equip Afghan security forces.” The idea of India training Afghan troops is the equivalent of waving a red flag to see if the Pakistani bull will charge. 

One pretext for the agreement was the recent assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani, head of the Afghan High Peace Council, whom the Karzai government claims was killed by the Taliban under the direction of the Pakistani secret service, the ISI. But evidence linking the Taliban or Pakistan to the hit is not persuasive, and the Taliban and Haqqani Group—never shy about taking the credit for killing people—say they had nothing to do with it. 

Pakistan’s ISI certainly maintains a relationship with the Afghan-based Taliban and the Haqqani Group, but former Joint Chiefs of Staff head, Admiral Mike Mullen’s charge that the latter are a “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s ISI is simply false. The Haqqanis come from the powerful Zadran Gaum Pushtun tribe based in Paktia and Khost provinces in Afghanistan, and North Wazirstan in Pakistan’s Tribal Area. It was one of the most effective military groupings in the war with the Russians, and is certainly the most dangerous group of fighters in the current war. 

When their interests coincide the Haqqanis find common ground with Islamabad, but the idea that Pakistan can get anyone in that region to jump to attention reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the deeply engrained cultural and ethnic currents that have successfully rebuffed outsiders for thousands of years. And in the border region, the Pakistan Army is as much an outsider as is NATO. 

There a way out of this morass, but it will require a very different strategy than the one the U.S. is currently following, and one far more attuned to the lens through which most Pakistanis view the war in Afghanistan. 

First, the U.S. and its allies must stand down their military offensive—including the drone attacks—against the Taliban and Haqqani Group, and negotiate a ceasefire. 

Second, the U.S. must open immediate talks with the various insurgency groups and declare a plan for the withdrawal of all foreign troops. The Taliban—the Haqqanis say they will follow the organization’s lead—has indicated they will no longer insist on a withdrawal of troops before opening talks, but they do want a timetable. 

Third, recognition that any government in Kabul must reflect the ethnic make-up of the country. 

Fourth, Pakistan’s concerns over Indian influence need to be addressed, including the dangerous issue of Kashmir. President Obama ran on a platform that called for dealing with Kashmir, but subsequently dropped it at the insistence of New Delhi. The issue needs to be put back on the table. The next dust-up between Pakistan and India could go nuclear, which would be a catastrophe of immeasurable proportions. 

Pakistan and the U.S. may have profoundly different views of one another, but at least one issue they agree: slightly over 90 percent of Pakistanis would like U.S. troops to go home, and 62 percent of Americans want an immediate cut in U.S. forces. Common ground in this case seems to be based on a strong dose of common sense. 

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














Wild Neighbors:The Curse of Drosophila

By Joe Eaton
Tuesday October 25, 2011 - 10:51:00 AM
Drosophila melanogaster, lab hero and kitchen pest.
Thomas Wydra (Wikimedia Commons)
Drosophila melanogaster, lab hero and kitchen pest.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but I have a fruit fly problem. It’s recent—within the last month or so—and specific to the kitchen. This is a novel experience. We have Argentine ant invasions now and then, and a resident spider population, but never before fruit flies. So far they have me, as my father would say, buffaloed. 

I assume they’re the classic Drosophila melanogaster of genetic fame. I haven’t examined them that closely, though. They’re very small. They pay a lot of attention to fruit, ripe (to the human eye) or not, as well as anything else edible that’s left out on the counter, including such unfruitlike objects as a plate of brownies. 

We’ve gone through several stages of dealing with them, including denial. It didn’t take long before my inner Samuel L. Jackson emerged. Ron found a flyswatter (“The bug stops here,” it says) and that was gratifying for a while. Swatting didn’t make much of a dent in their numbers. Nor did sucking them into the vacuum cleaner, which was an awkward thing to have in the kitchen anyway. 

Ron set up a bunch of traps, with small quantities of vinegar in lab beakers and flasks we’d acquired from a retired chemist. Although the flies seemed interested, there were always more of them. We bought a fruit fly trap at Pastime, our hardware store of last resort: a colorful fruit-shaped plastic container that had to be filled with a special bait that smelled for all the world like vinegar. It seemed to work for a day or two; now they’re ignoring it. 

Preventive measures have been taken. Suspecting they might be breeding in the coffee grounds we saved for use in the garden, we dumped the grounds. We still have flies. I check all the unrefrigerated fruit daily, sequestering anything that’s beginning to ripen. We still have flies. The spiders have been useless; that’s gratitude for you. 

A web site apparently run by the state of California recommends luring the flies into no-exit containers with a piece of banana sprinkled with yeast. We’re willing in principle to try that as soon as we can get hold of a banana. The produce shelves at the soon-to-be-closed University Avenue Andronico’s had been stripped clean as of yesterday. Yes, they had no bananas. 

The fruit fly war has left me in no mood to appreciate D. melanogaster as an organism. Yes, I know that its oversized chromosomes, prolific reproduction, and adaptability to life in the lab have made it the model organism for modern genetics. I know about Morgan and the white-eyed mutant that started it all. I’ve read the books. I still don’t want them in my kitchen. 

What I do have to admire is the creativity that’s gone into the naming of fruit fly genetic mutations over the years. Fly geneticists have been having too much fun. For a sample, check out the fly page at the Curiosities of Biological Nomenclature web site (www.curioustaxonomy.net). Several are named for British baked goods, e.g. clootie dumpling and currant bun. The Methuselah and Indy (for “I’m not dead yet”) mutations prolong life. Lush mediates responses to alcohol. Cleopatra is lethal if asp is also present. Snafu mutants hatch out looking like normal flies but become progressively more abnormal as they develop. Others: armadillo, dachshund, dreadlocks, 18 wheeler, Genghis Khan, glass bottom boat, lame duck, okra, saxophone, shuttle craft, tango, and zipper

I’m also aware that the fruit fly radiation of the Hawai’ian Islands is one of the evolutionary wonders of the world. The founding flies that reached that remote archipelago have given rise to at least 500 species in eight lineages. Some 85 per cent of those are confined to a single island. The males in one group have evolved patterned wings and elaborate courtship displays. Another cluster of species have become parasites of spider eggs. Some Hawaiian Drosophilas are endangered. I wish them well. They’re in Hawai’i. They’re not in my kitchen. 

Maybe I’m approaching this wrong, though. Maybe what I should do is make my peace with the flies, find the microscope that’s somewhere in the storage unit, and watch the damn things mutate. 

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

By Dorothy Bryant
Tuesday October 25, 2011 - 08:27:00 AM

My politics are those of privacy and intellectual obsession. They look to Dante’s immemorial summons voiced by Ulysses: ”We are not formed to live come bruta, but to follow virtue and knowledge wherever these may lead, at whatever personal and social cost.” It may be that such a conviction is in certain regards pathological and self-indulgent . . . at the same time, (it) seems to me to justify man 

. . . all I hope for from any political regime is that it allows breathing space for such obsessions, breathing space for what may not be utilitarian or socially beneficial.” 

George Steiner (European/American writer, in every genre, in 4 languages) 

Anthropologists tell us that even the most primitive tribes, surviving precariously, manage to designate a story teller, a piper, a singer, a dancer, a rock carver or painter—or just a thinker—whose contemplative contribution exempts her or him from some of the endless, heavy chores necessary for physical survival of the group. I think of the prehistoric cave paintings produced by people who needed to invent the “paint” and to bring light into the cave—before they could begin to use the “breathing space” they had somehow set aside for the creation of images of their reality and their hopes. They obviously considered non-utilitarian art an essential component of their humanity. 

How do our values, with our “advanced” civilization of complexity and abundance, stack up next to theirs? 





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

Eclectic Rant: Visiting Auschwitz

By Ralph E. Stone & Judi Iranyi
Tuesday October 25, 2011 - 08:06:00 AM

We just returned from a tour of Central Europe. We visited Warsaw, Krakow, Budapest, Vienna, Bratislava, and Prague. On our drive from Warsaw to Krakow, we stopped at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oswiecim, renamed Auschwitz when the town and the surrounding area were incorporated within the Third Reich. 

We have seen newsreels of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps at the end of WW II and a number of movies depicting the horrors of the Holocaust. However, newsreels and movies did not really prepare us for an actual visit to the site of the largest mass murder in history. As many as 1.5 million were murdered at Auschwitz, mainly Polish Jews, but also Soviet prisoners-of-war, Gypsies, Czechs, Yugoslavs, French, Austrians, and Germans. 

First a little background on the beginnings of the Holocaust. In January 1942, a conference was held in the Berlin suburb of Wannesee, chaired by Reinhard Heydrich, acting under the orders of Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, to devise a solution to the “Jewish Question.” The result of the conference was Nazi Germany's plan and execution of the systematic murder of European Jews. Heinrich Himmler was the chief architect of the plan, and Adolf Hitler termed it "the final solution of the Jewish question." A surviving copy of the minutes of this meeting was found by the Allies in 1947, too late to serve as evidence during the first Nuremberg Trials. I recommend Conspiracy (TV-2001), a dramatic recreation of the Wannsee Conference, in which actor Kenneth Branaugh played Reinhard Heydrich. 

In 1940, the SS set up a concentration camp at KL Auschwitz because of overcrowding of the existing prisons in Silesia and because further arrests were anticipated. in Silesia and the rest of German-occupied Poland. Why Oswiecim? Because there already existed an abandoned pre-war Polish barracks in the town and the town was an important railway junction.  

IThe camp had 28 buildings housing between 13-16,000 people, reaching 20,000 in 1942.. In 1941, a second camp was built called KL Auschwitz II-Birkenau in the village of Brzezinka about 3 kilometers away. In 1942, KL Auschwitz-III was built iin Monowice near the German chemical plant IG-Farbenindustrie. And in the years 1942-1944 about 40 smaller camps were built in the vicinity of steelworks, mines, and factories, where prisoners were exploited as cheap labour. 

KL Auschwitz I and KL Auschwitz II-Birkennau are now maintained as museums open to the public. The Museums include some barracks, the main entrance gates to the camps, sentry watch towers, barbed wire fences, the remnants of four crematoria, gas chambers, and cremation pits and pyres, the special unloading platform where the deportees were selected to be exterminated or used as slave slave labor. 

Those deemed unfit for labor, including women and children were told they would be allowed to bathe. They undressed in the “shower” room. The doors were locked and Cyclon B was poured from special openings in the ceiling. After gold teeth fillings, rings, other jewelry, and all hair had been removed, the bodies were taken to the incinerators. The human hair was used by tailors for lining for clothes. A room full of human hair and some of the prisoners’ belongings are on display at Auschwitz. The human ashes were used as fertilizer. 

SS physicians conducted experiments of prisoners. Professor C. Clausberg tested women in an attempt to develop sterilization techniques to creat an efficient method for eliminating tfuture ”inferior” persons. Dr. Joseph Mengele experimented on twins and handicapped people. Prisoners were also used as unwilling subjects to test new medical or chemical substances. Toxic substances were rubbed into the skin and painful skin transplants were performed. Hundreds of prisoners died during the experiments or suffered severe physical damage or became permanently disabled. Despite ethical qualms, some of the Nazi research data was used by the Allies and others after the war.  

Above the main gate at Auschwitz where the prisoners passed each day after working 12 hours, was the cynical sign “Arbeit mach frei” (Work brings freedom). Most of the prisoners believed that they were being resettled. That’s why they often brought their most valuable possessions with them. In a small square by the kitchen, the camp orchestra made up of prisoners would play marches, mustering the thousands of prisoners so that they could be counted more efficiently by the SS. 

SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant Colonel) Rudolf Höss was the first commandant of Auschwitz.. He was hanged in 1947 following his trial at Warsaw. While awaiting execution Höss wrote his autobiography Death Dealer: the Memoirs of the SS Kommandant at Auschwitz. His memoirs became an important document attesting to the Holocaust. 

Höss wrote: “I am completely normal. Even while I was carrying out the task of extermination I led a normal family life and so on.” The commandant’s living quarters were a scant 150 yards away from the barbed wire enclosed concentration camp. We envision Höss, his wife Hedwig and their four children living a “normal” life a short distance from where over a million prisoners were being overworked, starved, and murdered. Just imagine Höss having dinner with his family after a tiring day of supervising the murder of prisoners. We wonder if they celebrated Christmas with a decorated tree and listened to Christmas music. . There has been much written about the banality of evil in connection with those involved in the Holocaust. Hannah Arendt, in a report in The New Yorker, covered the Otto Adolf Eichmann trial in Jerusalem. She wrote, "The deeds were monstrous, but the doer ... was quite ordinary, commonplace, and neither demonic nor monstrous." She further observed, "... the only specific characteristic one could detect in his [Eishmann’s] past as well as in his behavior during the trial and the preceding police examination was something entirely negative: it was not stupidity but a curious, quite authentic inability to think." 

On January 27, 1945, the Soviet army entered Auschwitz and liberated more than 7,000 remaining prisoners, who were mostly ill and dying. Poland then traded German occupation for Soviet occupation until 1989. when the independent Republic of Poland was formed. 

As a non-Jews, our visit to Auschwitz was sobering. we cannot imagine what a visit must be for a Jew, especially someone who has lost family members at Auschwitz or at another concentration camp.  

It is estimated that over 100 million people have been the victims of Genocide. As George Santayana wrote, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Perhaps, the Auschwitz museums will help us “remember the past” so “never again” will have meaning. We are hopeful but not optimistic.

The New American Revolution: Occupy Wall Street

By Bob Burnett
Saturday October 22, 2011 - 07:38:00 PM

While the organic Occupy Wall Street movement is similar to the spontaneous Arab Spring uprisings that began last December in Tunisia and Egypt, OWS is eerily reminiscent of the run up to the American revolutionary war.

Three ingredients fueled the original American Revolution. The first was egregious British taxation policy exacerbated by the fact that the colonies had no representation in Parliament. The second was the growth of liberalism and its concepts of natural rights and the social contract. Finally, Americans embraced the values of “republicanism” -- in its original form – which criticized both British corruption and the power of the English aristocracy.
For eighteenth-century American colonists, democracy was a novel idea, whose influence grew from 1763 onward and culminated with the publication of Tom Paine’s Common Sense

For twenty-first-century Americans, democracy is not a novel idea, but rather one that has been dormant since the sixties – when Americans realized that nobody was free until everybody was free. Since then a horrendous series of events –obscene tax cuts for the rich and powerful, a dreadful war with Iraq, and a catastrophic financial meltdown – have shredded the social contract and promoted grinding economic inequality, causing many Americans to wonder if our democracy can survive. That’s the fertile ground the seeds of the Occupy Wall Street, aka “Stand up for the 99 percent,” movement has fallen on: average Americans fear their families are being left behind while the most fortunate 1 percent grow wealthy. 

Thirty years ago during the Reagan presidency, conservative economic ideology began to dominate American political discourse with three malignant notions: helping the rich get richer would help everyone else, “a rising tide lifts all boats;” markets were inherently self correcting and therefore there was no need for government regulation; and the US did not need an economic strategy because that was a natural consequence of the free market. As a consequence of Reaganomics America’s working families were abandoned in favor of the rich. Inequality rose as middle class income and wealth declined. As CEO salaries soared, fewer families earned living wages. 99 percent of Americans were left out.  

At the onset of the revolutionary war, colonists were loyal to King George III. They wished to remain in the British Empire and asked the king to intervene with parliament on their behalf. When he instead declared them to be “in rebellion,” representatives of the original thirteen states adopted the Declaration of Independence. The declaration includes a laundry list of charges against the King: “The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.” 

At the onset of Occupy Wall Street, the 99 percent remain loyal to America. They’ve asked Washington to intervene in their behalf but nothing has happened – and some conservatives have declared them to be “in rebellion.” Now Occupy Wall Street has a laundry list of complaints about the government. 

To declare their independence in 1776, colonists had to let go of their belief the King would rescue them. To declare their independence in 2011, Americans have to let go of their belief that the present government will rescue them. And Americans must challenge the notion that democracy can work in an economy run by multinational capitalism – that we can expected fairness and humanity in a country where 1% of the population controls 40 percent of the nation’s wealth and earns 24 percent of total income.  

We must reframe our beliefs. Since the beginning of the United States there have been two competing positive myths. One features the “Triumphant individual…the little guy who works hard, takes risks, believes in himself, and eventually gains wealth, fame, and honor.” The other myth celebrates “The Benevolent Community… neighbors and friends who roll up their sleeves and pitch in for the common good.” 

Over the last thirty years, the “1 percent” usurped the myth of the Triumphant Individual and declared: “We did it on our own.” “We don’t need government, it gets in our way.” “The rest of you (99 percent) are envious; suck it up.” 

Now the “99 percent” must respond with a rousing defense of the Benevolent Community. Recently Massachusetts Senatorial Candidate Elizabeth Warren invoked this powerful imagery during a campaign address: “there is nobody in this country who got rich on his own…You built a factory out there? Good for you… you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.” 

Occupy Wall Street indicates that we’re inching towards revolution. We need a twenty-first century Declaration of Independence that addresses three difficult subjects: the size and power of multinational corporations; the wealth of the 1 percent; and the role of money in the American political process. Daunting challenges but not impossible if the 99 percent operate as a Benevolent Community. 

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

On Mental Illness: Children on Medication

By Jack Bragen
Saturday October 22, 2011 - 07:41:00 PM

Have you seen the television commercial that advertises a new medication for children with hyperactivity and attention deficit? The commercial shows a well-behaved, sedated little kid doing his homework and being an angelic little boy, while at the same time a list of possible side effects is being read over the sound portion of the commercial. If you’re paying any attention to those side effects, it sounds horrific. If you’re paying attention to the portrayal of the child, you ought to be horrified. No child should be that well-behaved; it’s not natural. 

The biological model of mental illness is just fine, if it is limited to the situations in which it is accurate. The drug companies are making huge profits by selling the medication concept to more Americans. If a child really needs medicine, they should have it. However, maybe other solutions could be explored first. 

I believe it is fairly rare for mental illness to have an onset at any age before seventeen or eighteen. The illnesses seem to take effect at that age when the brain makes a critical change into adulthood. The illnesses may also take effect in early twenties, which probably coincides with some other critical change in the maturity of the brain. As a child, I did not know or hear of any mentally ill kids. If they had what today is called ADHD, rather than being medicated, they would be put into a less advanced class, or might be subject to disciplinary actions. I’m not saying this is a great thing either. 

This column contains the opinions of a writer with mental illness. I am not a doctor, nor am I an expert on any subject. My opinion is that it is wrong to medicate every problem in society, and especially wrong to treat all childhood behavior problems with medication. I believe medicating a child ought to be a last resort, after everything else has been tried. (This is other than for a child who is suicidal; in that case I have no opinion except to consult a doctor.) 

When medication is introduced, just as with many substances that change behavior, you are inducing structural changes to the brain. The brain may adapt to the presence of the substance by creating more receptors of a certain type, or by shutting down certain receptors. Thus, if you want to withdraw the medication later, you may not be able to do that without causing the brain to go haywire from the withdrawal. When you begin medicating a person preemptively in childhood, you could be sentencing the child to an entire life of being dependent upon successively increasing amounts and types of medications. 

Mental illness is a real group of diseases affecting the human brain. I believe in treating mental illness with medicine. But before you do that, maybe you should establish that the person is too far gone for use of less drastic forms of intervention. In my case, medication was and is the only thing that could liberate me from a never ending affliction with very severe psychosis, and behavior to match. Medication is not a great thing; it is an evil thing that is often made necessary by some of the worst diseases that afflict humankind. .

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

By Dorothy Bryant
Thursday October 20, 2011 - 04:29:00 PM

For the memory of another is like a ship which one sees coming down a bay—the hull and the sails separating from the distance and from the outlying islands and capes—charged with freight and cutting open the waves, addressing itself in increasingly clear outlines to the impatient eyes on the waterfront; which, before it reaches the shore, grows ghostly and sinks in the sea; and one has to wait for the tides to cast on the beach, fragment by fragment, the awaited cargo.

—Glenway Wescott, novelist (1901-1987), from The Grandmothers 

I copied this passage about a decade after the death of someone very dear to me, when I was more and more saddened, not only by my original loss, but by the drifting away, falling away, of huge chunks of memory of him—words, images—reminders that I had been able to call up and dwell in for a few minutes, gaining a certain sad comfort. 

People speak of grief as if it has a certain “allotted” time, a “pull date” after which one “moves on.” Anyone who buys this has not yet suffered the death of someone close, even someone—and this is sometimes worse—with whom they were in constant conflict. 

Anyone who has experienced such a loss knows that this grief does not gradually evaporate. It changes, sinks, breaks up—the tides of life occasionally flinging up a piece that hits you when you least expect it. You never mention the pain of such blows, of course. Those who mean to comfort you, expect you—sometimes, it seems—require that you reward their attention by pretending that you have “moved on.” 










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

Senior Power… “Always my best day of the week.” Part 1.

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Thursday October 20, 2011 - 12:01:00 PM

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–1859), famous for his Democracy in America, wrote about Americans, “I have often admired the extreme skill they show in proposing a common object for the exertions of very many and in inducing them voluntarily to pursue it.”

The traditions of community service and citizen participation have long been at the heart of American civic culture, through town meetings, local school systems, political parties, hospital auxiliaries, and national and local organizations. Many Americans act on the need to give something back to their communities. There’s a good feeling that can come from commitment to an unpaid responsibility that impacts others positively. Some activities that are considered voluntary provide compensation or remuneration in kind.  

Volunteering is the practice of people working in behalf of others or a cause without payment for their time and services. It is usually considered an altruistic activity, intended to promote good or improve quality of life. People also volunteer for their own skill development, to meet others, to make contacts for possible employment, to have fun, and a variety of other reasons that might be considered self-serving. One’s skills and time enter into the give and get back equation. Volunteerism is the reliance on volunteers to perform social or educational work in communities, to maintain an institution, carry out a policy, or achieve an end. 

Work placement programs cannot handle the influx of elderly retirees seeking jobs. Now, more than ever, volunteers are needed. How come most senior citizen-volunteers are women? That’s easy – most people over the age of – say, sixty – are women. O K, so how come most men age 60+ do not volunteer in the same numbers? A cautionary tale applies to some older adults in some senior housing projects and senior centers. Beware role assignment by the would-be social worker who judges and screens [out] applicants. 

There’s a special-interest subpopulation of grandparents who are parenting again. But are they volunteers? Heard about Rent-A-Grandma, profiled in Entrepreneur Magazine? National Public Radio (NPR) reported “a new employment agency is recruiting women of a certain age for a job many working families desperately need to fill: someone to care for their children.” One listener responded that he doesn’t “think that this is an entirely bad idea. We have many older people, men and women who are unemployed and because of their age might not be employed again before their retirement age. At the same time, we have loads of people who have to work and need child care which is very expensive. Maybe it is a win-win for some?”  

The Berkeley Information Network -- the Berkeley Public Library’s BIN -- is a good place to start a search for almost anything anywhere. Go online. Keyword. The Library’s own application form for prospective volunteers is available online.  

Whether you are “an agency” or a prospective volunteer, check out the Volunteer Center of the East Bay.  


Senior citizens often volunteer their services in hospitals, senior centers and schools. 

Hospital volunteers typically work without regular pay in a variety of health care settings, usually under supervision of an employee. Hospitals often train and supervise volunteers through a non-profit auxiliary.  

Volunteers' services are important to the American health care system. Some people volunteer during high school or college, either out of curiosity about health-care occupations and professions or in order to satisfy community service requirements of some schools and courts. Others volunteer at later stages in their lives, particularly after retirement. The “candy striper” nickname derived from cutsey outfits worn by cutsey volunteers. The name and uniform are now less frequently used. Miss Cutsey has pretty much been replaced by Ms Older Woman in a smock. 

Recently, when I picked up a friend from day surgery, I noted not-young people staffing the hospital front desk. And when some fabulous fire fighter-paramedics brought me to the Alta Bates Hospital Emergency Department and we waited in the cold narthex, I heard a "mature" male voice say "I am a volunteer. I'll get you something to keep you warm." I wanted to interview someone like him for a Senior Power column about volunteers! 

Apparently my guy was an “ER Customer Service Liaison.” The Hospital’s Volunteer website provides an Adult Volunteer Application form that offers skills choices: accounting, computer data entry, foreign languages, training. Bottom line, the Public Relations Regional Manager was enthusiastic about my interest in interviewing senior citizens as volunteers in a hospital setting. But she insists on being present at all interviews. Mine are all one-on-one, and each subject is then provided with a pre-publication draft. 


Senior centers provide a perfect example of opportunity to volunteer in behalf of the good life for fellow senior citizens. Many retired seniors have training, bilingualism, or experience in areas that community senior centers need, e.g. education, medicine, management, technology, advocating. The welcoming greetings of senior citizens who are front desk volunteers and telephone responders are strategic to implementing the goals of many senior centers.  

Volunteers who deliver Meals on Wheels to the homebound additionally save the expense of paid drivers’ salaries. In these times, most salaried senior center-staffing is unjustified; turning off senior citizens who volunteer is inexcusable. A Berkeley senior center - Aging Services - Meals on Wheels application form titled “Volunteer Registration” is available online.  

Visit online or in person senior centers whose events are listed in the Mark Your Calendar section.  

I was interested in interviewing a senior center volunteer. A North Berkeley Senior Center gent turned me down (“… do not want to do anything that may cause a problem”); likewise, the director wouldn’t respond to my request for an interview location!  


Schools rely heavily on donations and on volunteer parents, grandparents and community members. In next week’s column Part Two, meet a Berkeley schools volunteer who explains why his weekly day in a unique elementary school is “Always my best day of the week.” 



Senior citizens also volunteer nationally and internationally, e.g.  


U.S. federal government program created under President Bill Clinton by the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993, later expanded under President George W. Bush. The work done by these groups ranges from public education to environmental clean-up. 

Experience Corps www.experiencecorps.org/

Americans older than 55 years tutor and mentor children in urban public schools across the country. San Francisco and Marin.  

Meals on Wheels Association of America (MOWAA) www.mowaa.org/ 

Provides home-delivered meals services to people in need. On October 3, 2011 Assistant Secretary for Aging Kathy Greenlee announced the award of $315,667 to the Meals on Wheels Association of America to establish a new National Resource Center on Nutrition and Aging. 

Peace Corps 

An American volunteer program run by the United States Government, as well as a government agency of the same name, in which Bessie ‘Miz Lillian’ Gordy Carter (18981983), mother of former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, was also known as a Peace Corps volunteer in India.  

Skilled Veterans Corps for Fukushima 

The Japanese government is promoting “purpose of life” for independent elders through senior citizens’ clubs and participation in volunteer organizations. Seventy-two year old Yasuteru Yamada decided it would be better to send men and women who have finished raising families, rather than younger workers whose lives could be cut short by extreme radiation exposure, to Fukushima. The Corps consists of 500+ seniors like grandmother Kazuko Sasaki.  


This is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening communities by making it easier for good people and good causes to connect, best known for its public Web service available at www.volunteermatch.org. The organization works with clients in technology, manufacturing, packaged goods, financial services, and others industries. 


MARK YOUR CALENDAR: Call to confirm, date, time and place. Readers are welcome to share news of events that may interest boomers, seniors and elders. Daytime, free, and Bay Area events preferred. pen136@dslextreme.com 


Sunday, Oct.23. 2-3 P.M. The Albany Library (Community Center Hall, 1237 Marin Av.) presents Laurie King, author of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. 510-526-3720. 

Mondays, Oct. 24, 26 and 31. 10A.M. – 12 Noon. Oliver Guinn, PhD 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, Clipper Card, route changes, and the 10-year AC Transit Fare Policy. Refreshments. Free. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., 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. 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, Oct. 26. 6:30 P.M The Jewish Community Center of the East Bay (1414 Walnut Street, Berkeley and 5811 Racine Street, Oakland) Planning meeting for Mitzvah Day on May 20. Do you know an organization that could benefit from a crew of volunteers? Would you like to be matched up with an existing volunteer site? Noah Zaves, the JCC's Program Coordinator, noahz@jcceastbay.orgwww.constantcontact.com

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

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

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

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

Thursday, Oct. 27 1- 3 P.M. Fall Dance Halloween Stomp. Come in costume, be eligible for “best costume award,” door prizes, refreshments. Volunteers free; others, $2.00 per person. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., 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. 

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

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, Nov. 1. 12 Noon – 2 P.M. League of Women Voters. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720 x 16. The League of Women Voters invites you to join them. 

Tuesday, Nov. 1. 6 P.M. Central Berkeley Public Library. 2090 Kittredge. Discussion: School violence-- myths and realities. 510-981-6100. 

Wednesday(s), Nov. 2 and 9. 9 A.M. – 1 P.M. AARP Driver Safety Program. Preregistration required. $12. for AARP members, $14. for others. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. Note: FREE for ALL Veterans in November.  

Wednesday, Nov. 2. 12 Noon. Playreaders. Central Berkeley Public Library. 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100. Also Nov. 9, 16, 23, and 30.  

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

Wednesday, Nov. 2. 1-2 P.M. Jewelry Making for Adults, with Yu Lan. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720 x 17.  

Wednesday, Nov. 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 P.M. Rockridge Library, 5433 College Ave., Oakland. Contact Nancy M. Friedman at nmf123@pacbell.net

Thursday, Nov. 3. 10 A.M. – 12 Noon. Literacy Reading Club. Practice English conversation. Albany Library, 1257 Marin Av. 510-745-1480. Also Nov. 10, 17. 

Thursday, November 3. 1:30 P.M. Albany branch of the Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720. SOCIAL SECURITY & MEDICARE. 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, November 3. 6 P.M. Lawyers in the Library at South Branch, Berkeley Public Library, 1901 Russell. 510-981-6260. Also, Nov. 10 and 30.  

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

Saturday, Nov. 5. Book Into Film: The Last Station. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6236 for required registration. 

Sunday, Nov. 6. 2 P.M. Performers’ showcase. At Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Participants from the weekly Playreaders program present scenes from classic and contemporary plays. 510-981-6241. 

Sunday, Nov. 6. 3-5 P.M. Cuban Music & Dance, refreshments. At Redwood Gardens, 2951 Derby Street, Berkeley. Benefit Performance for the Berkeley-Palma Soriano Cuban Sister-City Association. To support December solidarity brigade delegation to Cuba. Street parking. AC #49 (Counterclockwise) stops in front. Sliding scale donation $10-25.00, no one turned away for lack of funds. Contact: Dana Merryday 510-464-4615. 

Monday, Nov. 7. 9:30 – 11:30 A.M. Roger Baer, Volunteer Instructor, returns to teach his American Backgrounds 7-weeks course. Free. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. 510-747-7506 

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

Thursday, Nov. 10. 10 – 11:30 A.M. Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Group. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. 510-747-7506  

Thursday, Nov. 10. 10:30 A.M. New Member Orientation & YOU! Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. Complimentary lunch provided by Bay Area Community Services (BACS). Registration required. 510-747-7506.  

Saturday, Nov. 12. 12 Noon. Beef Bowl Anime Club meeting for adults. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720 x 16. 

Monday, Nov. 14, 11:30 A.M. & 12 Noon. J-Sei Center, 110 Carleton St., Berkeley. Lecture “Do You Have the Right Insurance?” Speaker: Darrell Doi-CLTC Financial Advisor. To place a reservation for the lecture and/or lunch, call 510-883-1106. 

Monday, Nov. 14. 12:30 P.M. – 1:30P.M. Brown Bag Lunch Speaker’s Forum: Bob Lewis, Birds of the Bay Trail cosponsored by Albany YMCAnd Albany library at 1257 Marin Av. 510-526-3720 x 16. 

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

Tuesday, Nov. 15. 1 P.M. Falls Prevention Discussion Group. Senior Injury Prevention Project. Participants will receive a Falls Prevention Manual and other useful, easy to read information. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. 510-747-7506 

Tuesday, Nov. 15. 7 P.M. Author Showcase. Annette Fuentes, investigative reporter and author of Lockdown High: When the Schoolhouse Becomes a Jailhouse, is an op ed contributor to USA Today. El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Avenue. 510-526-7512. 

Wednesday, Nov. 16. 11 A.M. Outreach Specialist Colleen Fawley (510-981-6160) will visit J-Sei Senior Center, 1710 Carleton Way, Berkeley, to answer questions and take requests for books and magazines available from the Berkeley Public Library in Japanese and English. 510-883-1106. 

Wednesday, Nov. 16. 7 – 8 P.M. Adult Evening Book Group. Facilitated discussion . Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av., 510-526-3720.  

Thursday, Nov 17. 10 A.M. – 12 Noon. Free dental consultation with Dr. Alfred Chongwill. By appointment only. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. 510-747-7506 

Thursday, Nov. 17. 12:30 P.M. Birthday Celebration. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. 510-747-7506 

Thursday, Nov. 17. 1:30 P.M. Volunteer Instructor William Sturm presents “Musical Grab-Bag” medley of pieces by composers discussed in the Music Appreciation Class for 2011. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. 510-747-7506 

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. 510-526-3720 x 16. Also Sunday, Nov. 20 11 A.M. – 4 P.M. 

Saturday, Nov. 19. 11 A.M. Landlord/Tenant Counseling. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6241. 


Wednesday, Nov. 23. 1:30-2:30 P.M. Great Books Discussion Group: John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720.  

Monday, Nov. 28. 2 – 3:30 P.M. “Vigee-LeBrun:Woman Artist in an Age of Revolution” presentation by Brigit Urmson. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. 510-747-7506. 


Arts & Events

Berkeley Symphony Opens On Thursday With Music By Chapela, Brahms, Shostakovich

By Ken Bullock
Wednesday October 26, 2011 - 10:00:00 AM

Berkeley Symphony, conducted by Joana Carneiro, opens the new season with music by Enrico Chapela, Brahms and Shostakovich, Thursday at 8, Zellerbach Auditorium. 

A piano tribute to civic leader Harry Weininger, written and performed by Gabriela Lena Frank, will open the program, followed by the Symphony with Chapela's Li Po, after the poem by Mexico's Jose Juan Tablada about the eighth century Chinese poet, for chamber orchestra and electronic soundtrack, Brahms' Third Symphony in F Major and Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No. 1 in E Flat, featuring 2002 Tchaikovsky Competition winner Johannes Moser.  

Chapela, who was born in Mexico City, 1974, premiered his commissioned piece Private Alleles, referring to the genome of Mexican mestizo and American Indian population, here last December. His music's influenced by jazz, rock and Latin popular music, as well as European classical music and contemporary composition and electronic music.  

Called "Brahms' Eroica" by Hans Richter, who conducted its premiere in 1883, the composer's Third Symphony employs his musical motto, F-A Flat-F, "Frei aber froh," Free But Happy, finished by the 50 year old bachelor 30 years after he, Schumann and Dietrich jointly composed a violin sonata following Joseph Joachim's motto, "Frei aber einsam," Free But Lonely. 

Shostakovich's Cello Concerto, from 1959, itself employs a motto, D-S-C-H, and quotes popular song and a lullaby the composer used in other pieces, as well as finding an "impulse" from his admiration for one of the other among the most difficult pieces for cello, Prokofiev's Sinfonia Concerto.  

Last week, Moser premiered Chapela's Magnetar, for electric cello, with the LA Philharmonic, led by Gustavo Dudamel. 

A post-concert dinner for the season's opening will honor Robert Commanday of Oakland, former music critic with the Chronicle and founder of the San Francisco Classical Voice. 

Concert tickets: $20-$60. 841-2800; berkeleysymphony.org

Around & About Music: Kent Nagano Conducts at Gala Celebrating Alden Gilchrist's 60th Anniversary at Calvary Presbyterian

By Ken Bullock
Wednesday October 26, 2011 - 09:53:00 AM

In his only West Coast appearance this season, former Berkeley Symphony music director and present emeritus conductor Kent Nagano will conduct the San Francisco Academy Orchestra at a gala concert to celebrate Alden Gilchrist's 60th anniversary as organist and music director at Calvary Presbyterian Church atop Pacific Heights in San Francisco, where Nagano has sung with the Chancel Choir, which will also perform, along with featured soloists, a jazz cycle by the Dave Scott Quartet and the Santa Rosa Children's Chorus, featuring music of Monteverdi, J. S. Bach, Mozart, Dvorak--and Gilchrist, Friday at 6 p. m, with a reception to follow. The community is invited, free of charge, but asked to RSVP: (415) 346-3832 x 60; gilchrist60@calvarypresbyterian.org  

Hoyt Smith of KDFC-fm will interview Gilchrist and Nagano onstage during the gala. 

Gilchrist attended UC Berkeley; a schoolmate was former Chronicle music critic and founder of the SF Classical Voice, Robert Commanday, who Gilchrist credits with getting him his first job as conductor. He was a composition student there of Roger Sessions. Gilchrist also studied with Olivier Messiaen at the Paris Conservatory.  

Attending the gala will be Gilchrist's first vocal student and longtime friend from Berkeley, Margot Blum Schevill, now a weaver, author and specialist in folk textiles, and widow of poet James Schevill. Gilchrist's student of many years, Carol Manke, will sing a cycle of four songs by Gilchrist composed last week. 

Nagano praised Gilchrist in the highest terms, speaking of his brilliance and vision, and of what he learned, observing Gilchrist conduct.  

Gilchrist also has led the group "which morphed into" the Berkeley Community Chorus.  

He's created SF CITY (Choral Instrumental Theatrical for Youth), now known as MUST (Music in Schools Today); taught English as a second language through learning song; brought jazz services to Calvary Presbyterian as well as integrating Bach's St. Matthew and St. John Passion into services, rather than performed as concert pieces; won compositional awards (the Prix de Paris as well as the James Phelan awards) and the San Francisco Opera Guild Award; toured the world accompanying tenor James Schwabacher and Europe three times with the Chancel Choir. 

Gilchrist said "I think the most complicated thing a human being can do is pick up a piece of music they've never seen before and sing it ... "

Brain Raves: Exposing The Power of Subliminal Messaging

Reviewed by Gar Smith
Tuesday October 25, 2011 - 10:53:00 AM
Media critic Noam Chomsky and film director Jeff Warrick.
Media critic Noam Chomsky and film director Jeff Warrick.
Even the movie poster contains three levels of subliminal messaging.
Even the movie poster contains three levels of subliminal messaging.

Programming the Nation opens at the Balboa Theater on October 28.

Jeff Warrick is a genial, affable fellow who looks like he might be a high school football coach but be forewarned: Warrick is a man with an obsession — and a mission. Instead of studying how to score goals against cunning adversaries, Warrick's goal is studying whether advertisers are using hidden, subliminal messages to score in the marketplace. Warrick's game plan is mapped out in a provocative and dazzling new documentary, Programming the Nation. If you have children, you should see this film. If you value democracy, you should see this film and invite your friends and neighbors along for the experience. (You'll have a lot to talk about over coffee afterwards.) 

A former advertising executive, Warrick decided to become a filmmaker and embarked on what turned out to be a seven-year quest to answer the question: "Are subliminal messages fact or folklore?" 

Warrick remains somewhat cagey in his approach to the subject and remains excruciatingly careful not to telegraph his conclusions. On one hand, Programming the Nation debunks one of the most widely cherished fantasies of subliminal folklore (hidden messages in rock music). But then it surges back with a torrent of documentation (ranging from secret memos to film clips) that suggests the dark art of subliminal messaging is more than a hollow urban legend — it continues to be a haloed tool of corporate legerdemain. 

This 105-minute documentary is packed with hundreds of examples of subliminal tricks applied to TV, film and print and it kicks off with a collection of more than 20 mind-tweaking clips culled from TV and movies — from Alfred Hitchcock and William Friedkin to Walt Disney. 

Visually, Warrick's flick is hyper-kinetic, the screen constantly bustling with overlays, "interference patterns" and, yes, subliminal messages. (In an interview with The Planet, Warrick admits to playfully placing scores of "hidden" messages but allowed "most" of them to run at a just-barely-perceptible 1/15th of a second.) 

The use of hidden messages and psychological propaganda is debated by more than 30 experts including Noam Chomsky, Amy Goodman, Dennis Kucinich and Bay Area ad-maverick and author Jerry Mander. Adding to the film's visual complexity, many of the interviews were filmed against a green screen, which allowed Warrick to superimpose additional images behind the speakers to illustrate their arguments in "reel time." 

Warrick reviews the roots of thought control, drawn from the work of Edward Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud. (The "father of modern advertising," Bernays’ theories were first put into wide practice by Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels and Germany's Nazi Party). Bernays identified four primordial triggers that could be used to control people's behavior and influence their purchasing decisions — Fear, Fight, Flight and Fornication. To these, modern advertisers have added a fifth, powerful lure: "More!" 

In order to prepare the ground for effective use of the "Four Fs," advertisers learned to rely on "reverse therapy." As one observer puts it: "You need to make people feel at risk in order to promote sales. Happy people don't buy stuff they don't need." 

"Is the purpose of the TV ad to make you an informed consumer?" Noam Chomsky asks rhetorically. Clearly not. "The purpose of the ad is to delude and deceive you with imagery so you'll be uninformed and make an irrational choice." 

"When you manipulate people," Congrssman Kucknich adds, "it's anti-democratic. What you're really trying to do is control people. People don't need to be controlled." 

Media Watch founder Ann Simonton warns that Madison Avenue "start[s] targeting children at 9 months. They've noted that, by two years old, they can achieve brand loyalty and recognition." [Note: On October 18, the American Academy of Pediatrics warned that children under the age of two should not be exposed to TV, because viewing can lead to sleep problems, developmental disorders and a delayed use of speech.] 

Warrick's film has enough Stunning Revelations to fill two documentaries. A few examples: The FCC has no authority to regulate advertisers; the Pentagon has used "psy-ops" techniques to influence the mass media (in violation of the 1948 Smith-Mundt Act that prohibits using propaganda techniques to target a domestic audience); some of today's most pervasive subliminal ads use images that promote sexual violence; serial killer Ted Bundy insisted that his murderous rampage targeting young women was stoked by TV advertising that he clearly perceived as promoting violence against women. 

My favorite revelation is much more lighthearted. In an interview with Warrick, Mark Mothersbaugh (a founding member of DEVO and a sound engineer who established himself as a "go-to guy" in the world of radio and TV advertising) admits to embedding subliminal messages in ads that he created for several corporate clients. He cites his animated TV ads for Hawaiian Punch. (You may recall the commercial: it featured a cartoon character in a Hawaiian shirt "punching" another character.) Mothersbaugh secretly poisoned the ad by including a sub-audible voice whispering "Sugar Is Bad for You" in the soundtrack. The statute of limitations must have run out by now because Mothersbaugh is shown openly laughing at the memory company executives enthusiastically applauding after the test screening. "They completely missed it!" Mothersbaugh chuckles with undiluted delight. 

In both research surveys and in Warrick's own person-in-the-street interviews, most Americans confess to a belief that subliminal messaging is real and is being used. But the threat is shrugged off as just another minor annoyance of modern life — like traffic jams and other peoples' cellphone conversations. However, if Americans knew specifically how they were being manipulated, the level of concern might be much greater. 

As Programming notes, much of the "news" we are exposed to is actually cleverly disguised corporate advertising and covert government propaganda created by PR firms and distributed to commercial news outlets in the form of Video News Releases. John Stewart and Steven Colbert aren't the only sources of "fake news" on TV: It's just that they are up-front about their antics. 

Thanks to the new technology of the Internet Age (specifically, the "freeze-frame" button on video and computer playback), subliminal messages are easier to spot than ever before. That's how the GOP was caught superimposing a subliminal message in an election ad attacking the Democrats. At the end of the ad, the words "Democrats" and "Bureaucrats" scroll slowing across a dark screen. Invisible to the naked eye, another word was flashed on the screen for 1/30th of a second. The word was "rats." 

When subliminal messages are used in an attempt to sway an election, that's a red flag that Orwell's Big Brother has taken up a permanent seat on the couch in front of your living room TV. 

Viewer advisory: The film includes an interview with James Vance, one of two teenagers who attempted suicide after hearing what they believed to be a message to "Do it!" hidden in a Judas Priest recording. Vance survived the shotgun blast to his head but the self-inflicted wound blew out the middle third of his face, leaving him horrifically maimed. The image may be disturbing to many viewers.

No Sugar-Coating for This Realistic ANNIE at Berkeley Playhouse

By John A. McMullen II
Tuesday October 25, 2011 - 11:20:00 AM
Ralph Granich

Berkeley Playhouse, the professional Children’s Musical Theatre at the Julia Morgan on College Ave., opens with ANNIE on October 29.  

It’s not your typical candy-coated Annie.  

Director Mina Morita follows the given circumstances in a realistic, naturalistic take on the play.  

“The writers put in a lot of political issues, child labor issues, and Hoovervilles where people gathered who’d lost their homes,” Ms. Morita said. “It’s about orphanages and a little girl’s search for her lost parents. At the heart it is her relationship with Daddy Warbucks, an industrialist and war-profiteer, who is all-business and has not tended to his humanity till he takes Annie in as a ‘press gimmick.’” 

Director Morita has never seen the play. Or the movie. “There’s a lot of cultural baggage related to the show that I haven’t been influenced by,” she shared in a phone interview. 

“From what I understand, the human issues are often covered up with ‘jokiness.’ The dirty, homeless people are presented as ironic rather than desperate. It seems like surface, shellacked, entitled people doing the show and glossing over the heart of it, when what it’s about is that out of the desperation one girl holds on to hope and that feeling spreads—all the way to the White House where she meets with FDR and gives him the idea for the New Deal.” 

Annie is double-cast and a main character is the famous comic mutt Sandy, who is played by a real canine named Goldie (pictured above). The Playhouse also casts Equity actors. 

“It’s a challenge to work with a dog, but it adds a layer as nothing else possibly could. But, for instance, when we were rehearsing sound cues the other night and introduced the police siren for the first time--Goldie started to howl!” 

To add to the challenges, the play is double-cast. Nandi Drayton and Samantha Martin alternate playing the title role. “Both casts are really talented, and each group has different strengths, so it was my job to get them on the same page. Each show will feel different since they bring their own styles.” 

Ms. Morita lately directed Alan Ayckbourn’s “Round and Round the Garden” at Shotgun Players, the last of the trilogy of “The Norman Conquests.” 

During the day, Ms. Morita is the new artistic associate at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, and is involved in planning for future seasons and supporting the artists there, as well as new play creation and development. She grew up in Long Island and Yonkers, graduated from Tisch School of the Arts, studied directing at Playwrights’ Horizons, and came to Berkeley about a decade ago. Ms. Morita is married to writer Adam Tolbert who is a curriculum developer at the Academy of Art 

Annie is based on the Harold Gray comic strip “Little Orphan Annie,” with music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin, and the book by Thomas Meehan. It was the first starring role for Sarah Jessica Parker who followed Andrea McArdle. 

ANNIE plays at the Julia Morgan Center for the Performing Arts, 2640 College Ave., in Berkeley through December 4, with musical direction by Jonathan Fadner and choreography by Dane Andres. 

For more info: www.berkeleyplayhouse.org

Don't Miss This Around Halloween

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Monday October 24, 2011 - 03:19:00 PM

With Halloween just a week away, you'd be wise to stock up on candy to hand out to those little Trick or Treaters when they come knocking at your door. You may not know that Pope Gregory III designated Nov. 1 as a time to honor saints and martyrs. The evening before was known as Halloween's Eve and then later Halloween. Obviously this holiday has little religious meaning today. 

If you're of a cowardly nature, you may prefer to turn off your porch lights and sit in the dark, in which case you can study and choose among the many events shown below. 

"4 Lads from Liverpool: A Tribute to the Beattles." John, George, Paul and Ringo return to S.F. Oct. 28 - 31, Marine's Memorial Theatre, 609 Sutter Street. (415) 771-6900 

West Edge Opera, Strauss' s "Ariadne", Oct. 30, Nov. 4 and 6, El Cerrito Performing Arts Theatre, 540 Ashby Ave., El Cerrito. (510) 841-1903. 

"Hair". "Thrilling, intense, unadulterated joy" (New York Times). Through Nov. 20. Golden Gate Theatre, (888) 746-1799. 

"Pissaro's People), a new exhibit including nearly 100 pieces of the master's works. S.F. Legion of Honor, Admission $10 - 15. Http:legionofhonor.famsf.org. 

"Dia de los Muertas," Gourmet Ghetto, Shattuck between Rose and Vine. Community affair, Mariachis,Aztec dancers, Wed. Nov. 2. www.gourmetghetto.org. 

"Cirque du Solelil, Totem", March 2, 2012, Taylor Street Bridge in San Jose, (cirdulsolelil.com). 

"Race," David Mamet's shock drama of sex, race, loyalty and betrayal. American Conservatory Theatre (415) 749-2228. 

Golden Gate Theatre of Dublin, Samuel Beckett's "Endgame and Watt" Zellerbach Playhouse, Nov. 17 - 2 0. (510) 642-9988. 

33rd Annual Celebration of Craftswomen, Fort Mason Center, Festival Pavilion, S.F. Nov. 11, 12 and 13. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Oakland East Bay Symphony, Michael Morgan, Conductor, Opening Night, Friday, Nov. 4 8 p.m. (800) 745-3000. 

San Francisco's Jewish Theatre, closing its doors after 34 years, Thursday - Sundays, through Nov. 13 at the Jewish Theatre, 470 Florida Street, S.F. $15 - 35. www.tjt-sf.org. 

The Official Blues Brothers Revue, Firehouse Art Center, 4444 Railroad Avenue, Pleasanton. Nov. 3, 4 and 5. (925) 931-4848. 

"Masters of Venice: Renaissance Painters of passion and Power," M. H. de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, $10 - 20. (415) 750-3660. 

Well, you can't say that this will be a dull Halloween! For the above information, I think I deserve a candy bar!

Around & About Theater: Central Works Premieres Brian Thorstenson's 'Embassy: A Domestic Diplomatic Comedy'

By Ken Bullock
Thursday October 20, 2011 - 04:27:00 PM

Billed as "Graham Greene Meets Liberace" and as a "shamelessly farcical mix of the personal and the political," Central Works--always a good bet for high theatrical values in staging with a low price in an intimate setting--is premiering Brian Thorstenson's Embassy, A Domestic Diplomatic Comedy at the City Club. Gary Graves directs Richard Frederick, Daniel Redmond, Olivia Rosaldo, Cole Alexander Smith and Jan Zvaifler, with costumes by Tammy Berlin and sound by Gregory Scharpen. (Central Works develops every play collaboratively with writer, director, company, and tech staff.)
Previews this Thursday and Friday at 8; opening on Saturday at 8, running Thursday-Sunday (Sundays at 5) through November 20. Sliding scale at door: $25-$14--& Pay What You Can, October 20, 21 & 27, November 3. Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant. 558-1381; centralworks.org