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Jordan Blames "Anarchists and Provocateurs' for Oakland Violence

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Thursday November 03, 2011 - 05:54:00 PM

Chief Howard Jordan blamed what he described as "anarchists and provocateurs" for causing a confrontation with police at a vacant building early today that resulted in more than 80 people getting arrested. 

Jordan said the protests on Wednesday that occurred during a general strike organized by Occupy Oakland and other groups were "primarily peaceful" but at 11 p.m. he got word that about 200 people had taken over a building at 16th Street and Broadway that had formerly housed the Traveler's Aid Society, which had provided services to the homeless but had lost its funding. 

Speaking to reporters at the city's emergency operations center, Jordan said he formulated a plan to roust the protesters from the building because he was concerned that they would set the building on fire and cause structural damage. 

But he said when Oakland police, who were assisted by officers from other law enforcement agencies, stormed the building protesters started fires to try to prevent them from entering and pelted them with rocks, bottles and incendiary devices. 

About 100 protesters had shields and formed a skirmish line to square off with police, Jordan said. 

However, police were eventually able to enter the building after midnight and arrest many of the protesters, Jordan said. 

Three Oakland police officers received minor injuries, including an officer who was bitten by one of the protesters, he said. 

Five protesters also were injured, according to Jordan. He said there is a report that one of the injured protesters might have lost consciousness but that has not been confirmed. 

Most of the protesters were arrested on misdemeanor charges of unlawful assembly and failure to disperse but one protester was arrested for a felony vandalism charge. 

City of Oakland spokeswoman Karen Boyd said a small group of protesters also vandalized buildings late last night near where Occupy Oakland protesters have pitched tents for more than three weeks. 

She said graffiti was spray-painted on many buildings and there were 18 broken windows on businesses in the area. 

Mayor Jean Quan said on Wednesday afternoon small groups of protesters vandalized six businesses downtown, mostly banks plus a Whole Foods store. 

Quan said she believes the city's response to the general strike protests, which included marching to the Port of Oakland and shutting it down temporarily, was largely successful despite the violence. 

"We were trying to balance the right to protest and keep people safe and I think we did that," Quan said. 

She said she believes those who created problems were only "a small and isolated group." 

Quan also said she's encouraged that some Occupy Oakland protesters reached out to her office to share information about those who were acting violently. 

Occupy Oakland members previously had declined Quan's offers to talk with her. 

She said, "That communication must remain" and she wants to talk with Occupy Oakland people. 

But when Quan was asked how she planned to reach a peaceful resolution with Occupy Oakland who are still camping out in the plaza in front of city hall, she said, "I don't know" and "I wish I knew." 

But she said, "We have an opening now" in which she can talk to the group. 

City Administrator Deanna Santana said Fire Department officials found several violations of city health and safety regulations when they inspected the Occupy Oakland encampment recently and they were "met with some hostility" when they tried to address the problem. 

Santana said city officials are still calculating all of their costs in responding to the Occupy Oakland and encampment the past three weeks but last week alone there were $700,000 in extra police expenses. 

Several Occupy Oakland members said at a meeting today that they disapprove of the violence that occurred late last night. 

At Tully's Coffee at 14th Street and Broadway, which had several windows broken, an Occupy Oakland member posted a sign that said, "We're Sorry. This Does Not Represent Us."

Berkeley Woman Who Prompts Chinese Government to Care for Female Orphans is 2011 Purpose Prize Winner

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Thursday November 03, 2011 - 09:16:00 AM

In 1996, Berkeley resident Jenny Bowen was stunned by a New York Times photo of a starving child in a Chinese welfare institution. Within eighteen months, she had adopted a girl child from Guangzhou, once known to the Western world as Canton. After a year of loving care, the twenty-month old girl was healthy. Later, she adopted another girl. Bowen’s daughters attend Berkeley High School and Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School.

Flash forward two years. These experiences have led Bowen to launch an organization to transform radically the way China cares for its 800,000 orphans (a government statistic that is probably neither valid nor reliable.) The Half the Sky Foundation is among the first United States-based NGOs [Nongovernmental Organizations] to partner with the Chinese government. A pilot program was set up in two provinces: Jaingsu (Jiang Zhu) and An Hu (Anhui). Now, she is advising Beijing on investing $300 million to build three hundred model orphanages, and in the next five years Berkeley-based (715 Hearst Avenue) the Foundation will help to train all of China’s orphanage workers.

Her efforts will be recognized on December 1 when she will be one of five winners of San Francisco's Civic Ventures' Purpose Prizes.

Five $100,000 Purpose Prizes are being awarded to Americans who are making an extraordinary impact in their Encore Careers. Five social entrepreneurs over sixty years of age will each receive $100,000 for using their experience and passion to make an extraordinary impact on some of society’s biggest challenges. Now in its sixth year, the $17 million program is the nation’s only large-scale investment in social innovators in the second half of life. This year, for the first time, one of the five prizes – The Purpose Prize for Intergenerational Innovation, which Bowen will receive -- will be sponsored by AARP. The $100,000 will be used, she says, for “challenge” fund-raising with the Chinese government. 

“The goal of the Half the Sky Foundation is to ensure that every one of China's orphans has a caring adult in her life,” declared Jenny Bowen as we talked recently. She aptly refers to China’s orphans with a feminine gender descriptor! (She avoided discussion of “boomer” and “feminist.”) 

The influx of healthy infant girls into China's welfare institutions began in the 1980s when China introduced strict family planning policies in order to control its burgeoning population. Traditional, especially rural, Chinese families' preference for boys collided with population controls. Healthy girls were abandoned. In recent years, China's floating population of migrant workers has meant an increase in the number of boys as well as girls abandoned by birth parents. Rising health costs have contributed to an influx of children who have medical needs that poor families can not meet.  

I asked Bowen about how she found a way to partner with the Chinese government to transform the care of 800,000 orphans, ninety-five percent of whom are girls. She “started small…reached out… persistence… patience.” Word got out. She met with the Minister of Civil Affairs. In partnership with China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs, the Foundation is embarking on a groundbreaking Integrated National Training Plan which, within five years, will make the HTSF approach the mandated national standard of care for all children in the welfare system. 

Wang Zhenyao, former director-general of the welfare department at the Ministry of Civil Affairs, was one of the first officials to back Jenny Bowen, “who just cared about the children and never stopped.” He is now director of the new Beijing Normal University One Foundation Philanthropy Research Institute and of the China Institute for Social Policy. He holds an M.P.A. from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a Ph.D. from Beijing University. From Chinese news and magazines, it appears that Wang Zhenyao, unlike most China officials, is outspoken, opens up to outside media and is working hard for the people.  

Bowen believes that the program succeeded because the children were loved.  

Today, the Half the Sky Foundation operates in fifty-one cities in the People’s Republic of China, providing infant care, preschool programs, free medical services for disabled children and financial support for foster families caring for AIDS orphans. Care for more than 60,000 orphans has been improved. 




Jenny Bowen was born in San Francisco. She majored in creative writing at San Francisco State College (now University.) As a Bay Area independent filmmaker, her filmography included the TV movie You Belong to Me Forever, Street Music (1981), shot in the Tenderloin and her first prize winner, and The Wizard of Loneliness (1988). 

Sixty-six year old Bowen, Half the Sky Foundation founder and CEO, is having an encore career. In 2007 she was awarded the American Chamber of Commerce’s Women of Influence Entrepreneur of the Year Award in Hong Kong, and in 2008, the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship. She serves on China’s National Committee for Orphans and Disabled Children and on the Expert Consultative Committee for Beijing Normal University’s Philanthropy Research Institute.  

San Francisco’s Civic Ventures is a think tank on boomers, work and social purpose. The organization introduced the concept of encore careers that combine meaning, continued income and social impact. The Purpose Prize, funded by the Atlantic Philanthropies and the John Templeton Foundation, is a program of Civic Ventures. 

On December first, Purpose Prize fellows will be recognized at the 2011 awards ceremony in Sausalito. Approximately three hundred attendees of the invitation-only ceremony will hear from Purpose Prize judges, including NBC’s Jane Pauley and Sherry Lansing, CEO of The Sherry Lansing Foundation and former chair of Paramount Pictures’ Motion Picture Group. 


Half the sky is a portion of the Chinese adage, “Women hold up half the sky,” which is a Mao Tse-Tung (1893-1976) quote. It has been appropriated by at least two movements. First, is the Half the Sky Foundation, emphasizing the fact that almost all of the healthy babies abandoned in China are girls. Second, is Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, a 2009 book by Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas D. Kristof? 












Vandalism, Fires Prompt Oakland Arrests

By Sasha Lekach (BCN)
Thursday November 03, 2011 - 09:30:00 AM

After a mostly peaceful day of demonstrations at Occupy Oakland's general strike, incidents Wednesday night and Thursday morning became more violent as protesters clashed with police. 

City officials said police responded to a group of protesters who had broken into and occupied a downtown building and set several fires late Wednesday night. 

The Occupy Oakland Twitter feed identified the building as the empty Traveler's Aid Society building located at 520 16th Street. 

Officials said protesters began hurling rocks, explosives, bottles and flaming objects at officers. Dozens of protesters wielding shields were surrounded and arrested. 

Just before midnight the Police Department issued its first order to the crowd to clear the area around the occupied building. Police said they continued to be attacked with rocks, lit flares, roman candles and bottles.  

Tear gas and bean bag rounds were fired into the crowd around 12:10 a.m. 

Officials said the operation was kept separate from a group of peaceful protesters who remained at Frank Ogawa Plaza. 

Protesters had cleared the occupied building by 2:10 a.m., officials said. 

Police lines surrounded Frank Ogawa Plaza, but police activity never reached the Occupy Oakland encampment. 

Officials also reported there was also a lot of vandalism on private and city buildings. The city's Public Works Agency was scheduled to board up the 16th Street building and other damaged buildings in the Civic Center area. 

The Tully's coffee shop at Frank Ogawa Plaza had broken windows and along Broadway graffiti had been sprayed on most buildings by 2 a.m. this morning. Many other areas had been vandalized overnight.

Oakland's General Strikers Occupy Oscar Grant Plaza

Wednesday November 02, 2011 - 05:05:00 PM
Mike O'Malley

Mid-afternoon today the renamed "Oscar Grant Plaza" in front of Oakland City Hall demonstrated the remarkable variety of Occupy Oakland supporters who responded to the call for a general strike. Everyone from librarians to geeks to hiphoppers seemed to have shown up (and some who might have filled all three categories.) There, then, everything was remarkably peaceful--and few police were to be seen. Plans for this evening called for a march on the Port of Oakland. 

Reportedly, the Port had already been partly shut down by independent action on the part of ILWU longshoremen, but a sizeable community picket would give the union the right to officially vote not to cross the line when the evening shift change took place.

Oakland Whole Foods Closes after Vandalism

By Bay City News
Wednesday November 02, 2011 - 01:14:00 PM

Whole Foods in Oakland is shutting down for the day after windows were smashed and paint was thrown on the storefront during protests related to the Occupy Oakland's general strike today, a Whole Foods spokeswoman said. 

The word "strike" was painted in large letters across the front windows of the store, located at 230 Bay Place off of Grand Avenue, shortly before 3 p.m. today, an employee at a 7-Eleven across the street said. 

Rumors had spread on Facebook and Twitter earlier today that Whole Foods employees would be penalized for participating in today's protests. 

"That's totally false," Whole Foods spokeswoman Jennifer Marples said. "Team members were totally supported in going, and were not going to lose their job if they supported the Occupy Oakland protests."  

"All the team members were spoken to and everyone was supported and no one was going to lose their jobs as a result," Marples said. 

She said no one was hurt during the vandalism, which occurred during one of many marches through the streets of Oakland today.

Parents Taking Children to Oakland General Strike Today

By Hannah Albarazi (BCN)
Wednesday November 02, 2011 - 01:08:00 PM

Hundreds of parents, students and teachers are participating in the general strike in Oakland today.  

A group of families was expected to meet at noon and again at 3 p.m. today outside the main branch of the Oakland Public Library, said Kevin Christensen, an Oakland parent helping to organize the event. 

Christensen, an avid supporter of the Occupy Oakland movement, hopes that the presence of children and families will discourage violence at the general strike. He plans to bring his 3-year-old daughter. 

Christensen said he spent 22 hours in jail last week for 'failure to disperse at the scene of a riot' after police raided the encampment at Frank Ogawa Plaza. 

Amanda Cooper, of Oakland, is also among those planning take her children to the protest. 

"As a parent, I am concerned about opportunities for my children," Cooper said. "If we continue to have unemployment levels this high, there's less chance for young people and children. There's hopelessness." 

Hundreds of East Bay teachers are also participating in today's rallies. 

Troy Flint, spokesman for the Oakland Unified School District, said Tuesday that 268 teachers have requested leave for today.  

Flint said this morning that it appears that even more than that will be absent, but that all schools will remain open. 

Many teachers plan to gather at the state building at 4 p.m., said Fred Glass, spokesman for the California Federation of Teachers, which supports the Occupy movement. 

"There are cuts to education, and no one but Occupy Oakland is talking about these problems. It severely impacts our ability to deliver education to students," Glass said. 

The California Federation of Teachers supports raising taxes for the wealthy, tighter regulation of banks, reforming home foreclosure rules, and enacting a speculation tax to fund education, Glass said. 

"Reinvest in our public infrastructure," he said. "It's the 1 percent that has the ability to do that, but have been shifting investments offshore. We don't have tax money coming in from property, income and corporate taxes like we once had from working Americans." 

The Oakland Education Association endorsed the Occupy Oakland general strike and is urging members to attend the protest and hold teach-ins on the history of general strikes, OEA president Betty Olson-Jones said.

Wells Fargo Oakland Branch Closed for General Strike

By Hannah Albarazi
Wednesday November 02, 2011 - 12:57:00 PM

One Wells Fargo branch has been shut down because of the general strike in Oakland today.  

"We have closed one store today at 14th and Broadway," Wells Fargo spokeswoman Holly Rockwood said.  

That branch, located in the heart of downtown, did not open its doors at all today, she said.  

Wells Fargo has nine branches in Oakland and the decision to close the one branch was a result of the proximity of demonstrators to the store, Rockwood said.  

"We are deeply committed to the city of Oakland and are one of the top private employers in the city. We contributed to 120 nonprofits in 2010," Rockwood said.  

Occupy Oakland protesters had threatened to march on financial institutions that didn't close today.  

"We are open to discussing issues with Occupy Oakland leaders in the community," Rockwood said.

Flash: Occupy Oakland Blocks 14th and Broadway

By Bay City News
Wednesday November 02, 2011 - 09:57:00 AM

Protesters have begun to gather in downtown Oakland this morning as the general strike organized by Occupy Oakland gets under way. As of 9:30 a.m., protesters had filled the intersection of 14th Street and Broadway, and cars could not get through. The manager of a Rite Aid at that intersection said the store's doors were shut because of the protest but that the store would reopen later today.

Debit Fees and Deceit: Bank of America's Fake 'Grassroots Campaign' Exposed

By Gar Smith
Wednesday November 02, 2011 - 09:57:00 AM

When the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 was signed, the country's financial giants knew it posed a threat to a host of "transaction fees" that helped banks and credit card companies rack up $16 billion in profits in 2010. (By some estimates, the reform legislation was expected to cut "fee revenue" by $8 billion.) But the Big Banks and Card Companies had already prepared an elaborate response that included the introduction of new fees and the creation of a front group designed to sabotage the law — by pretending to spearhead a consumer friendly "reform campaign" involving a popular Internet activism site. 

It was predictable that the new monthly fees the Bank of America (BofA), Chase, Citi and others slapped on debit cards would cause customers to erupt in fury. Evidence uncovered by The Planet suggests that the imposition of these slap-in-the-face fees actually may have been part of an elaborate, collective corporate strategy to foment an upswell of consumer anger that could then be channeled — via Internet-based activism — into a "popular mainstream movement" to overturn the reform legislation. 

However, the banks appear to have badly misjudged the mood of the public. As a result, the country is now witnessing the start of what appears to be a long-overdue mass-exodus from commercial banks into small, locally owned banks, savings and loans and credit unions. 

By the closing days of October, the consumer revolt had caused BofA and its ilk to publicly reverse its position on debit card fees. This is not the way the Big Banks and Card Players hoped this would pan out. 

BofA's Stealth Campaign to Undercut Wall Street Reform 

The Planet has discovered that the Bank of America is part of a large but low-profile financial industry campaign designed to strike at the perceived heart of the problem — the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (WSRA) and, most specifically, its Durbin Amendment. It was the Durbin Amendment that capped the "swipe fee" on debit cards to between 7-12 cents (thereby cutting bank and credit card company "transaction fee" profits by an estimated 80%). Note: the Durbin Amendment only applies to companies with more than $10 billion in assets. (Only three of the country's 7,000-plus credit unions have $10 billion in assets.) 

When "Dodd-Frank" went into effect on October 1, the financial industry was ready. The banks threatened to tighten the noose on credit, impose higher interest rates for borrowers, apply new fees and introduce a $50 spending cap on every debit card transaction. They also went to work on an Internet-based stealth campaign to trick the public into helping them overthrow the Durbin Amendment. 

In mid-October, a new sign-on campaign popped up on the popular online petition site, CapWiz. An email alert was directed to hundreds of thousands of online activists. The message began on sympathetic, consumer-friendly note: "Across America," it declared, "we're seeing higher fees, the end of free checking and disappearing rewards — without a penny of savings at the cash register." 

"Fortunately," the campaign announcement continued, "some members of Congress are standing up for consumers" by introducing legislation to "reverse the harm" being visited on debit card users. The CapWiz appeal called on activists to urge their elected representatives to co-sponsor a proposed remedy — repeal of the Durbin Amendment. 

Given the national uproar triggered by BofA's announcement of a $5 monthly fee on the use of its debit cards, the campaign's stated goal was designed to have a broad appeal — i.e., "to prevent higher debit card fees." Similarly, the mass-mailing was perfectly timed to coincide with the growing swell of consumer anger over newly announced "monthly fees" for the use of debit cards. 

"Let's join together and make our voices heard," the CapWiz posting read. "Don't make us pay. Don't let the merchants shift their costs to you…. Fight against giant retailers." 

Given the consumer-versus-merchants tone, it might come as a surprise to learn that the campaign was actually created by a corporate front group — one that includes the same banks and credit card companies that imposed the fees in the first place. 

Ignore the Little Man behind the Curtain 

The Dump Durbin campaign was posted by the Electronic Payment Coalition (EPC) whose spokesperson, Trish Wexler, sympathetically bemoaned "this unfortunate situation for consumers — playing out in the form of higher costs to own and use a debit card." 

On its CapWiz petition, the EPC claims that its members include "credit unions, banks, and payment card networks" whose shared goal is to protect "consumer choice…." But a little online research reveals that EPC's 60-plus members include the Bank of America, Barclays Bank, Capital One Financial Corporation, Citi, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and the world's largest credit-card companies, MasterCard and Visa. 

The Planet contacted CapWiz (which is owned by the London-based news company, The Economist Group) for comment. We pointed out that what initially looks like a consumer friendly campaign was actually backed by "the same big banks that are currently dunning customers with onerous new fees." The Planet wanted to know if, armed with this information, CapWiz would be taking steps to assure that users were not unwittingly "hoodwinked into helping promote the interests of profit-hungry banking and credit/debit card companies." 

The initial response from a representative of CQ Roll Call (which oversees CapWiz operations from a headquarters in Washington, DC) was curt and evasive: "I recommend you direct your questions to the owners of the campaign." 

In a follow-up letter, The Planet asked if CapWiz has any "policies regarding misrepresentation by corporate Astroturf front groups using CapWiz." We asked whether there were any "mechanisms for users to report abuses" and whether CapWiz had the ability to "correct or remove misleading campaigns." 

In a noncommittal response, CQ Roll Call replied in an email: "We require clients to follow acceptable Internet practices, policies and standards." Attached to the email was a copy of the company's policy on "Use of Site(s)." While it states that all liability for "content errors" rests exclusively with the client, the policy does go on to state that CQ Roll Call "shall have the right to immediately terminate the Agreement for Clients use in violation of this Section." As of press time, the Durbin campaign was still posted and active. 

It may be that CapWiz is not the kind of grassroots resource many users take it to be. Two clues: (1) The CapWiz url reads: http://corporate.cqrollcall.com. (2) The Website boasts that, as "the pioneer and market leader of online advocacy," CQ Roll Call delivers the "legislative intelligence" needed to manage and mobilize campaigns. "When it comes to grassroots mobilization, congressional relationship management, and PAC management," CQ Roll Call states, "we can help…." 

What the Durbin Amendment Does 

The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was intended, in part, to put a lid on a host of controversial banking fees. One of the most onerous was the so-called "overdraft protection" fee that covered charges to credit card accounts that lacked sufficient funds. In some cases, a customer buying a $10 pizza could wind up paying a back $35 for overdraft "protection." According to Bloomberg, 185 million Americans routinely exceed their debit card limits and wind up making "protection" payments. 

In the month before the WSRA went into effect, BofA did away with overdraft protection for its debit-card users and, in order to make up for lost revenue, announced it was introducing a $5 monthly debit card use fee. 

The Durbin Amendment caps debit interchange fees at 21 cents plus 0.05% of the cost of the transaction (a rate that is still considered to be quite favorable to the financial industry). Previously, if a shopper made a $10 credit card purchase, the merchant would receive $9.80 and send 20 cents to a credit card firm. Under Durbin, merchants can take the entire $10 and charge the 20-cent transaction fee to the customer. 

The amendment also introduced new competition into a sphere of commerce that had been dominated by the duopoly of MasterCard and Visa. Thanks to the WSRA, customers are no longer forced to use the STAR network and can opt for less costly competitors like PULSE and NYCE. 

Because of their shared stranglehold on merchant exchange fees, MasterCard and Visa have been able to jack up the charges for their "processing" services far beyond the actual costs of managing the transactions. In Europe, where anti-trust laws are more robust, "swipe fees" are much lower than in the US. 

The banks and credit card empires justify their high fees by arguing that they are required to cover the costs of "fraud protection efforts." In Europe, credit and debit cards are protected with "chip-and-PIN" technology, which significantly lowers the risk of fraud. Jamie Henry, a WalMart payment services director, claims US financial corporations have blocked the adoption of such fraud-protection tools because making transactions safer would remove the industry's main argument for continuing to impose high fees. 

BofA's Next Dirty Trick 

On October 18, BofA posted a third-quarter profit of $6.2 billion. Yet, despite making billions in profits, the Bank of America has not paid any federal taxes in the last two years. In 2010, BofA actually claimed a $1 billion "tax benefit" from the IRS. 

How did they manage this? By claiming a pre-tax loss of $5.4 billion. (BofA is able to show a "loss" on its US operations in part because it hides much of its profits in overseas havens that remain beyond the reach of US tax laws.) 

But that is not to say that BofA is all that stable financially. It turns out that BofA's holding company, BAC, is saddled with a moldering pile of "troubled financial derivatives" that it picked up when it acquired Countryside (an empire of fraudulent loans) and Merrill Lynch. BAC is in bad straits these days, with credit rating agencies downgrading its worth, due in large part to this mass of toxic financial assets. 

BofA's solution to its looming problems is to arrange a "transfer" of its "bad derivatives" from its holding company to its public entity, the Bank of America. Why is this helpful? Because the Bank of America is federally insured and the holding company isn't. In essence, BofA hopes to transform its private debt into a public debt. 

The Federal Reserve has supported this plan. The administrators of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), however, vigorously opposed the planned transfer, which could leave US taxpayers exposed to billions of dollars of potential risk. (For a detailed analysis, see "Not with a Bang, but a Whimper: Bank of America's Death Rattle," by William K. Black. Currently posted on commondreams.org.) 

Need another reason to move your money out of BofA? Here's one: BofA is the only major US lender lacking an A3 or higher rating from the US Comptroller of the Currency. If you haven't done it already, now's the time to join the national http://moveyourmoneyproject.org "Move your Money" campaign on November 5. 

Gar Smith is a Berkeley-based writer and the winner of several Project Censored Awards

Letter from Athens: OXI = No! Occupy the Acropolis!

From a Greek Academic
Tuesday November 01, 2011 - 09:08:00 PM
Even in Athens, demonstrators have occupied a (famous) public place, protesting what they call "occupation" of their country by foreign interests.
Even in Athens, demonstrators have occupied a (famous) public place, protesting what they call "occupation" of their country by foreign interests.

On Friday, October 28th, at the national Greek aniversary of OXI [that is, NO], taking its name from the answer given to the Italian Ambassador carryng Mussolini's demand that the borders of Greece should open to the Italian army in 28.10.1940, which marked the entrance of Greece to the 2nd WW, all over Greece the official parades were taken over by the people, who chased away the representatives of the government and paraded themselves in most cities.  

In Salonica, where there was the central military parade to take place [at the other cities it was high-school students' parades], the President of the Republic left protesting because of the "behaviour" of thousands of people and the military parade was abandoned, for the first time in Greek history after the 2nd WW. A 5-years old child sat at the President's of the Republic chair, and the schools and people paraded before him! At Heraclion people chased away the officials and resistance veterans sat at their chairs with the school children paraded before them. 

At Athens, where nobody was able to approach the Education Ministress and the parade went on "as usual" under Draconian police measures, some schools paraded waving black handkerchiefs before her, while others turned their faces away as soon as they approached her [and in the city of Trikala the schoolchildren turned their backs away from the officials, each school as it was arriving before them]. But I suppose that you will have seen some of those events... 

What you haven't seen is that while all these were happening at the morning of 28.10.2011 a group of artists, authors and academics smuggled a big OXI sign into Acropolis, wrapped up round the body of an excellent theater actress under a very large coat. And we managed to demonstrate for more than half-an-hour in Acropolis itself! We managed to do it because every and all policemen were at the parades' battlegrounds at Syntagma and everywhere in Attiki and none managed to climb Acropolis in time. I'm sending you 3 You-tube address with very short films and 3 photograps. At the films the main slogan heard is: NO at 1940, NO again by us today, the occupation will be kicked out of Greece again.  

The first of the 2 songs heard is a 19th-century-song sung by the Cretan rebels at the various rebellions against the Turkish occupation, calling for armed resistance, which we sung at all the illegal demonstrations in Athens and Salonica during the 2 last years of the Military Junta and I hadn't sung or heard sung since. The second is the Greek National Anthem "Ode to Freedom", written by a great 18th-19th century poet, Dionysios Solomos, who was also a Garibaldist, about the 1821-1825 war for National Independence, which I had also not sung since the end of the dictatorship, some more than 30 years ago...  

Could you further on this material to friends? My left artists-authors-academics group would greatly appreciate it!

Occupy Berkeley, Why So Quiet? (News Analysis)

By Zaineb Mohammed (New America Media)
Tuesday November 01, 2011 - 04:52:00 PM

Police tear-gassing crowds. Reports of protestors throwing bottles at cops. A local arm of a widespread movement garnering national attention. These aren’t new to the Bay Area, but back in the 1960’s it was Berkeley, not Oakland, where the action was.

Occupy Oakland (and to a lesser extent Occupy San Francisco) have dominated the news this week, but Occupy Berkeley, which began October 8, has yet to make waves. City officials reportedly have said they have no immediate plans to break up the protest on the corner of Shattuck Avenue and Center Street, or the small campsite down the street at MLK Jr. Civic Center Park. With a crowd of around 30 people each night for its general assemblies, the movement is dwarfed by the thousands who gather at Occupy Oakland. In fact, when Berkeley students and protestors at other Occupy movements are asked about it, the response is generally ignorance -- “There’s an Occupy Berkeley?” 

So why is the city and college that ignited the mass protests of the '60s barely a blip on the radar now? 

Aside from a handful of committed students, Cal has been largely uninvolved in Berkeley’s version of the national movement. Students had a variety of reasons for not attending the protests, ranging from too much schoolwork, to dissatisfaction with the movement’s disorganization. 

“Unfortunately it’s not the '60s –- there is wide support, but the students are pre-occupied with midterms,” said Larry Silver, a Berkeley resident who has been attending the general assemblies since they began. Bo-Peter Laanen, one of the student organizers, offered his insights: “There’s nothing pressuring students. A lot of them don’t realize after they graduate there won’t be jobs for them.” 

However, some students did express anxiety about finding jobs after graduation. But for them their concern only motivated them to work harder in school – not to protest the harsh economic times. Senior Bryce Thornberg mentioned the pressure at Berkeley to get a job that makes money. And Alex Taitague, a junior, expressed a desire to get his money’s worth out of Berkeley, “I’m already going to this school. I have to get the most out of the system before I can reform it.” 

And for another segment of the Berkeley population, the political will is there, but personal circumstances prevent participation. Ruben Canedo, a 5th year undergrad, commented, “A lot of students, they’ve got to work two or three jobs to send money home for food and rent. Just because you don’t see their physical attendance, that doesn’t mean they’re not in support.” 

The demands and pressures on students today are one key difference impacting scant student involvement in the Occupy movement versus the robust participation in protests during the '60s. 

Peter Dale Scott, a professor at Berkeley from the 1960’s until the 1990’s and one of the first anti-war speakers on campus, commented that during that time, “a lot of students were thrown out of university for their activities, but it wouldn’t represent the same catastrophic loss that it would now.” 

With the average undergraduate student budget (for residents) at $31,534, increasing rent prices in Berkeley, and harsh economic times causing students to need to send money back home – the economic pressures on students are significantly higher. 

Jeffrey Lustig, a professor emeritus at Sacramento State and a UC Berkeley student during the 1960’s, who was significantly involved in the free speech movement, commented on the degree to which obligations facing students have changed: “I thought nothing about quitting school for a year and painting houses in SF and hitchhiking around the country. But the pressure on students these days is much more intense.” 

In addition, many students see the campus as simply being a far less radical place than the stereotype of Berkeley suggests, partly because of fee increases, which have increased focus on making money post-college. 

Sophomore Jenna Pinkham, who has been attending the protests, spoke to a student in her math class who declared: “Why would I want to occupy? I want to be one of the 1 percent.” Mireille Nassif, a senior, gave a similarly telling impression of her classmates. ”They come in to become corporate products rather than to be part of a local movement.” 

Todd Gitlin, a current professor of Journalism and Sociology at Columbia who taught at Berkeley through the '80s and '90s, sees the current trend towards corporate culture as one that has been brewing for a while. He commented that as early as the 1990’s the atmosphere at Berkeley diverged from the tendency towards counterculture that was prevalent during the '60s, “The dominant tone was we’re lucky to be here, we are winners and we intend to remain winners. We don’t have time for diversion or hijinks.” 

It’s possible that if the Occupy Berkeley movement develops a clearer set of goals and demands, it could gain more traction, as students did express frustration with its lack of obvious objectives. But ultimately, Occupy Berkeley’s meager showing is a concrete sign that Berkeley’s role as a bastion of liberal radicalism has fallen hard since its glory days during the '60s. Gitlin declared, “Berkeley’s held on to this reputation for decades long after it was obsolete.”

Hundreds of Teachers Will Participate in Oakland General Strike on Wednesday

By Hannah ALbarazi (BCN)
Tuesday November 01, 2011 - 09:21:00 PM

Hundreds of teachers will be among thousands expected to participate in the general strike organized by Occupy Oakland on Wednesday.

Oakland Unified School District spokesman Troy Flint said teachers are being allowed to join the general strike as long as they provide prior notice to their supervisors so that proper supervision can be arranged for students.

"We support many of the ideals contained in the Occupy Oakland movement," Flint said. "We believe public education, and other social services are underfunded. It's impacting kids and families in a negative way." 

Flint said 268 requests for leave were made by teachers in the district -- about 10 times the average number for a single day. Substitutes will be arranged to supervise students in the teachers' absence, Flint said. 

He said students are expected to report for school as usual and that absences will be considered unexcused. Students will have an opportunity to engage and learn about the social movement in the classroom and after school, Flint said. 

The entire staffs of at least two schools -- Bridges Academy and Maxwell High -- are planning to honor the one-day strike. 

Oakland city workers who want to participate in the strike have been asked to request approval from their supervisors and use leave or a floating furlough day, or take time off without pay -- sick leave won't apply. 

City of Oakland spokeswoman Karen Boyd said today that despite the general strike, "The city of Oakland is open for business, and we urge businesses to stay open." 

She said Oakland police "will facilitate peaceful marches downtown and elsewhere" and "we anticipate that the marches will be peaceful." 

Joseph Haraburda, president and CEO of the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, said local businesses near the encampment in Frank Ogawa Plaza are struggling and regular customers have stopped showing up at some.  

"We're disappointed that the city has allowed the Occupy Oakland residents to reside in downtown Oakland and in the City Hall plaza," he said. 

He said the chamber is encouraging merchants to keep their stores open on Wednesday.  

"We can't close because of a rowdy crowd," he said. 

Sgt. Dom Arotzarena, of the Oakland Police Officers Association said all available Oakland police officers will be on duty on Wednesday and will not participate in the strike. 

The last general strike in Oakland was in 1946.  

Richard Walker, professor of geography and chair of the California Studies Center at the University of California at Berkeley, said that general strikes are very rare. 

"If anywhere in America is going to pull it off, it's here in the Bay Area," Walker said.  

He said many unions have shrinking and some union workers are prevented by contracts from walking off the job, so a union-sanctioned general strike may be difficult to achieve. However, he said, many public servants are likely to join in the protest on Wednesday. 

Walker said the response from students in the Bay Area is likely to be great, especially students at UC Berkeley. 

Several rallies and marches are planned Wednesday at 14th Street and Broadway. At 5 p.m., marchers will head to the Port of Oakland to try to shut it down.

Press Release: Labor Unions and Members to Join Occupy Oakland Day of Action; Labor to sponsor actions throughout the day, cook-out for all at City Hall

From California LABOR Federation
Tuesday November 01, 2011 - 07:50:00 PM

On Wednesday, November 2nd, Alameda County labor unions and members will be joining the Day of Action called by the Occupy Oakland General Assembly. Union members and the rest of the 99% will be participating in a massive city-wide mobilization to speak out in support of good jobs, protection from foreclosure and predatory banking practices, funding for quality public education and services, and a system where everyone, including the top 1% and the corporations, pays their fair share. 

Community and labor partners are hosting a noontime march and bank action, and the Alameda Labor Council will be sponsoring a cook-out for the entire Occupy Oakland community in Frank Ogawa Plaza from 4:30-8pm. Additionally, some local unions in the Bay Area will also be holding actions at their worksites to demonstrate their support for the Occupy movement. 

WHAT: Labor unions and members join the Occupy Oakland Day of Action 

WHEN: Noon- Bank march & action (meet at City Hall) 5pm- Mass mobilization at Occupy Oakland 4:30-8pm- Union-sponsored cook-out for all at City Hall 

WHERE: Oakland City Hall – 14th and Broadway

Press Release: Occupy Oakland Joins with Workers and Community Members to Call for a November 2nd General Strike and Mass Day of Action

Monday October 31, 2011 - 09:49:00 PM

Oakland, CA—On Monday October 31st, at 4:00 p.m., the Occupy Oakland Strike Assembly held a press conference regarding the General Strike and Mass Day of Action planned for November 2nd. Members of the Occupation as well as community, school, and labor representatives spoke in regard to the motivations and wide-reaching potential of the strike. The press conference was held at the intersection of Broadway and Telegraph, the epicenter of the 1946 Oakland General strike, the last general strike in the continental United States. 

Occupy Oakland is calling for work stoppage, school walkouts and for banks and corporations to close for the day of the General Strike. Since it is recognized that not all workers will be able to strike in their workplaces on November 2nd, Occupy Oakland welcomes any form of participation which workers deem appropriate. Workers are encouraged to join the mass day of actions before or after work, or during lunch hours. Further in support of workers and students, the Occupy Oakland Strike Assembly has unanimously agreed to picket and/or occupy any business or school, which disciplines employees or students in any way for participating in the November 2nd strike and day of action. 

Demonstrations for the General Strike will converge at three different times; 9:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m. at the intersection of 14th and Broadway. 

At 5 p.m. groups will converge at 14th and Broadway and march to the Port of Oakland to shut it down before the 7 p.m. night shift. "This is being done in order to blockade the flow of capital on the day of the General Strike, as well as to show solidarity with the Longshore workers in their struggle against EGT in Longview, Washington," said Oakland hip-hop artist and community organizer Boots Riley. 

EGT, an international grain exporter, is attempting to rupture Longshore jurisdiction. "The driving force behind EGT is Bunge LTD, a leading agribusiness and food company that has strong ties to Wall Street. This is but one example of Wall Street’s corporate attack on workers," stated Riley. 

Clarence Thomas, the national co-chair of Million Worker March Movement and a third generation Longshore worker, re-iterated the now famous message of the Occupy movement: "I stand in solidarity with the Occupy Oakland movement in its call for general strikes in the U.S. and around the world," he stated. "It is the workers who create value and wealth which the 1 percent hoards for themselves to the detriment of the 99 percent." 

Other speakers discussed the origins, the priorities, and the potential of the General Strike. 

The urgent move to call for a General Strike emerged as a response to the raiding of the camp and the police repression following the raids. Speaker Cat Brooks from the Onyx organizing committee stated: "The actions of the Oakland police department on Tuesday during the raid of the encampment and the way they dealt with peaceful protesters is typical of the brutality and force that the police execute daily in low income communities of color across the state and throughout the nation. It is because of the need for continued resistance to police repression that the Onyx organizing committee will join the general strike on Wednesday."  

The Occupy movement has been working to bring light to Oaklands' legacy of police brutality and the General Strike will highlight the continued resistance to police repression. At the same time as finances are directed towards police activity, schools, and libraries face the consequences of austerity measures. The day following the raid on the encampment, it was announced that 5 schools would be closing this year. In addition, currently 14 out of 18 libraries and 2 additional schools are being threatened with closure. Occupy Oakland stands in defense of schools and libraries and calls for a national response to reclaim public services and spaces. 

Speaker Loise Michel, who has been involved in the occupation since day one stated: "since the occupy movement began in mid September, people all over the nation, frustrated with the current economic system have shown their capabilities to reclaim space and self organize. Now the time has come for our resistance to expand out of the plazas and parks and into the streets, workplaces, and schools." Furthermore Michel stated, "We call on our comrades in the global occupation movement to join us in organizing general strikes and reclaim what is ours."  

The Occupy movement has now become a global struggle; following the General Strike and Mass day of Action, the movement will continue to fight a system built on inequality and corporate power through occupations, mass mobilizations, and other acts of resistance.  





Occupy Oakland Vandals are Nothing But Overgrown Overage Adolescents

By Becky O'Malley
Thursday November 03, 2011 - 05:40:00 PM

On Monday night, you might have thought that the fabled Millenium had finally arrived, only 11 years or so too late. At our front door, easy walking distance from the lavish displays on Russell near College, a generous sample of all branches of the human race appeared, all beautifully dressed and with perfect manners. Really Even the shambling teenage boys who knew in their hearts that they were too old for trick or treating, the ones who had no costumes, just funny hats or masks, even those boys said thank you and smiled beatifically. 

Even more amazing, and this is how you knew you were not in Kansas but in Berkeley, close to half of the young guests took the apples from the proffered platter instead of the M&Ms. Really. Some even opened their eyes wide and asked if those were real apples, and smiled gleefully when told that they were indeed apples. I am not lying here. Clearly, the Millenium is upon us. 

The family groups on the doorstep were thoroughly multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-age and multicultural, as well as numerous. Most of the little kids brought their moms and dads with them, and most were in groups of 8 or 10. Many of the younger moms were in great costumes too. 

Many visitors seemed particularly to favor dressing as people different from their own ancestry—one young African-descended mother was in perfect kimono, complete with wig. An Anglo boy was a convincing Fidel Castro, with beard and cigar (not lit). 

In the whole evening, from about 6 to about 9, I saw not a single rude person. All in all, a Model U.N., or what the U.N. aspired to be but never quite achieved. Languages overheard included at least two dialects of Chinese, Spanish both Mexican and Central American, Russian (from a babushka) and even the now-rare French. 

A couple of quick visits yesterday to the Occupy Oakland general strike sites seemed to to find an extension of the good humor of a Berkeley Halloween. Gemütlichkeit abounded. 

At the renamed Oscar Grant Plaza we chatted in the afternoon with the newly re-sited Occupyers and the protestors who’d showed up for the General Strike call. They seemed like a pleasant lot—we took some pictures to illustrate their cultural diversity. Some wore the predictable black-on-black with black kerchiefs, but there were also plenty of middle-aged women in glittery tee shirts and sensible walking shoes, as well as some fresh-faced girls in Mills College sweatshirts. 

African-Americans of all ages and genders were well represented, in at least their proportions in the Oakland population.. I spotted a contingent of Berkeleyans in wheelchairs that I knew from Arnieville, the wildly successful precursor of the recent Occupy actions which occupied a median strip on Adeline for a month last spring.  

Last night on our way south we stopped off for a half hour on Third Street near the Port of Oakland. A chain link fence closed off the street, and a steady stream of people carried signs was walking toward us. Again I was struck by their variety and by the almost festive atmosphere of the event. 

I asked a big Black guy who seemed to be telling walkers which way to turn what was going on. 

“We’ve shut down the Port for this shift,” he said, “and now everyone’s marching back to City Hall for an assembly.” 

“What do you do when you’re not doing this?” I asked. 

“Mostly I change Pampers,” he said. 

I suggested that it was nice for his kid to be able spend time with his dad. 

“Yeah,” he said, “but I’m tired of it. I’m a computer technician, but I got laid off—and I spent a lot of time when I was younger changing my grandma’s Pampers. ” 

He said his old boss was hopeful that some real work would turn up soon. Meanwhile, he was enjoying the strike. 

“There’s probably 30,000 people here,” he said enthusiastically . “The Raiders could come down and put on a whole football game with enough people to fill a stadium.” 

Most of the marchers appeared to be regular people like him, people who had jobs, or at least hopes of getting their old jobs back. They were on average younger than those who had assembled at City Hall in the afternoon—it was going to be about an hour walk back to the assembly. 

Off to one side I saw a small group of a different kind that had withdrawn from the stream, intense young white people, mostly male, with elaborate tattoos, piercings, dramatic haircuts and all-black outfits. They were sitting on the ground in a tight circle, and looked like they were having a meeting with some hot disputes going on. Some carried matching signs that featured Oscar Grant’s name. They were just about the only participants who weren’t mellow to the max, and they were a very small percentage of the total. 

So we got on 880 and went south. This morning I woke up to radio reports of vandalism and violence, which I would not have predicted based on most of what I saw yesterday, 

The National Lawyers’ Guild, of which I was once a member and may yet be, thinks the police over-reacted and didn’t use the correct crowd control techniques, and they’re probably right. Five of their non-participating observers, clearly identified as such, were arrested. On the other hand, plenty of—well, at least some—activists deliberately provoked retaliation. 

The Oakland (is it still Oakland?) Tribune/Mercury/CoCoTimes had a pretty fair report of what happened. It seems from this story that there were two distinct groups, one nonviolent and the other emphatically not, and the latter crowd played right into the hands of the police. Or maybe it was the other way round: they baited a trap, and the hapless cops fell into it. 

On Day One of Occupy Oakland a more or less reliable source told me that a subset of self-identified anarchists were hoping to “make trouble.” Later an Old Leftist hinted darkly that amidst Occupy’s disorganization “The Trots” might be taking over—presumably to create revolution in Oakland instead of waiting for the proletariat to act world-wide. The circle of surly young men in black that I’d seen at the Port gate were ideal candidates for provocateurs—they looked like they’d seen too many of their own trailers and wanted a leading role in the film. 

A friend suggests that they were just doing Halloween all over again: Let the sissies trick or treat early in the evening, and then smash a few pumpkins and turn over some outhouses when it’s well and truly dark. It’s too bad a few adolescents with over-active testosterone production were able to spoil what should have been a triumphant day for Occupy Oakland. They should spend less time admiring their own images in mirrors and more time talking to the people marching alongside them—they might learn something. 


The Editor's Back Fence

Updated: Department of Urban Legends, Earthquake Prediction Division

Monday October 31, 2011 - 09:26:00 AM

[RUMOR UPDATE: Some callers now believe they've traced the origin of the imminent earthquake legend to a staffer in the Office of the Mayor, not an assistant to a councilmember as originally reported. The Planet was given the name of the suspect and we've asked her if it's true. She has declined comment, saying she wants wanted to talk to her chief of staff first. If Since she doesn't didn't call back with her story, we'll just have to add her name to this story without it. here's the name we were given:

Sbeydeh Viveros-Banderas, Assistant to the Mayor, Scheduler and Constituent Services . According to the office website, she is the office manager and handles the Mayor's schedule. She also runs the Intern program and handles many constituent services.

We have been trying without success to get anyone in the Mayor's office or the city's public relations office to confirm or deny that Ms. Viveros-Banderas was the student who originally told the earthquake story in a class at San Francisco State. No one there seems to be answering the phone at the moment (about 4 on Monday).  

We have also been unable to reach Professor Genie Stowers at SF State sent us this statement aboutwhat seemed to be an the email from her which launched the big Berkeley flap: 

I have this statement to make about an email I sent out last week; I will not be making any other comments. 

Last week, I sent out an email to family and close friends and colleagues about recent earthquakes. My intent was to pass on a message that they should take the occurrence of these recent earthquakes as an opportunity to make sure their earthquake kits and other emergency measures were up to date. 

It is unfortunate that this email instead went viral and has caused great concern among many in the Berkeley area.  

This message was not intended to be a commentary on earthquake science, on City of Berkeley preparedness, or on anything else except that folks should get ready. The message was intended to be, preparedness is good. 

I apologize for what has happened and the concerns that it caused. It was a mistake and I regret that it happened.  

Genie Stowers

Over the weekend, just in time for Halloween, we received many copies of the following text from an email purportedly signed by a professor at San Francisco State:

“One of the students in my class tonight works in Berkeley City Hall (assistant to one of the city council members); the Berkeley City folks have been getting briefings by geologists (USGS?) on the swarm of earthquakes recently happening directly under Berkeley on the Hayward Fault. She told our class about the content of these briefings. 

“They have been told that what is particularly concerning to geologists is that these earthquakes have been so deep. And because of the type of fault it is, they can somehow tell that these smaller earthquakes (there was a 1.6 about an hour ago plus 2 or 3 in the past few week or so that have been 3.6 or above) build up pressure on the fault, not reduce it. 

“They are saying that because of these swarms they are predicting there is a 30% chance of an earthquake above a 6.0 magnitude on the Hayward Fault in the next two to three weeks. This is, of course, much higher and concentrated than other predictions have been. They have subsequently been working with their neighborhood groups to help ensure preparedness. So, to be ready, prepare with at least 3-5 days of water (1 gallon per person per day) and food for that period of time. I am going to update our earthquake preparedness kit tomorrow. Be prepared!” 

This just in: No one knows how to predict earthquakes with this kind specificity. NO ONE. There are abundant discussions of this on the internet, most particularly the summary at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earthquake_prediction

We have a call in for the professor—perhaps she can tell us who the mythical assistant who seems to be spreading this urban legend is. Or why she believed it. 

Meanwhile, we’re happy to announce once again the Department of Urban Legends’ annual offer to pay $100 to anyone who offers proof that any trick-or-treater was poisoned or otherwise harmed by a stranger. Doesn’t happen, never has happened. 





And now, here, straight from the horse's mouth this morning, is the City of Berkeley's official disclaimer of the earthquake:scare prediction: 









*****From:*Daniel, Christine  

*****Sent:*Monday, October 31, 2011 9:29 AM 

*****Subject:*Response to email re: Earthquake Preparedness 

Honorable Mayor and Councilmembers, this responds to inquiries we have received regarding an email that is circulating. Please feel free to share this information with anyone who is interested. Thanks. -Christine. 

We understand that after the earthquakes in the last couple of weeks, rumors have begun to circulate that City officials are meeting with representatives from the US Geological Survey (USGS) and it has been claimed that the USGS officials are predicting earthquakes. This is not accurate. The City of Berkeley has not been contacted by anyone from USGS in this regard, and in any event, the USGS does not predict earthquakes. As we all know, in the wake of disasters or even smaller earthquakes such as we have experienced recently, it is not unusual for misinformation to spread. However it is important to remember that while scientists all over the world are working to better understand earthquakes, no one has the ability to either predict them, nor to know whether small shakes are increasing or decreasing the pressure on a fault. 

What follows is a quote from the USGS website: 

///"Neither the USGS nor Caltech nor any other scientists have ever predicted a major earthquake. They do not know how, and they do not expect to know how any time in the foreseeable future. However based on scientific data, probabilities can be calculated for potential future earthquakes. For example, scientists estimate that over the next 30 years the probability of a major [earthquake] occurring in the San Francisco Bay area is 67% and 60% in Southern California."/ 

The USGS does not know if the small earthquakes that shake us frequently build up pressure or release pressure on a fault. For more information from the USGS: http://earthquake.usgs.gov/learn/faq/?categoryID=6_ 

While no one can predict an earthquake in the short term, we do know there is a high likelihood of a major earthquake on the Hayward Fault. The City of Berkeley, like all cities in the Bay Area, strongly urges its community members to maintain high levels of preparedness for all disasters. This includes three to five days worth of supplies, emergency plans for family, neighborhoods and pets, structural retrofits of buildings, and emergency education for everyone in the family. 

In addition, residents should know how the City will communicate disaster information. Whether we are warning residents of coming hazards or how to respond to current events, the City has several official modes of communicationthat it may use, including: 

·The Berkeley Emergency Notification System (BENS):http://www.cityofberkeley.info/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=25416_ 

·1610 AM (some warnings may be rebroadcast on other stations, including KPFA, 89.5) 

·_www.CityofBerkeley.info_ (emergency information will be posted on the home page)  

·Press releases and media briefings 

For specific information about how you can be ready for an earthquake, please visit_www.CityofBerkeley.info/getready  

*******Christine S. Daniel* 

*Deputy City Manager* 






Cartoon Page: Odd Bodkins: The Busy Man

Dan O'Neill
Tuesday November 01, 2011 - 09:50:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Cartoon Page: BOUNCE

By Joseph Young
Monday October 31, 2011 - 09:49:00 AM


Public Comment

Press Release: NLG Calls for Police Accountability After Another Violent and Disproportionate Attack on Occupy Oakland Demonstrators

From the National Lawyers' Guild
Thursday November 03, 2011 - 05:37:00 PM

On November 3, 2011, tens of thousands of Oaklanders participated in a historic General Strike to protest economic injustice and demand accountability for last week’s police brutality. The day was full of families, young and old, and people from all backgrounds marching, rallying, and engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience. After midnight, however, National Lawyers Guild (NLG) Legal Observers witnessed the Oakland Police Department (OPD), the Alameda County Sheriff Department, and other agencies acting under their direction, violently attack protesters for the second time in eight days. The NLG is now preparing legal action to enforce the court ordered Crowd Control Policy, stop the abuses and obtain redress for persons who have been unlawfully injured or arrested. 

In 2004, OPD adopted a comprehensive Crowd Control Policy drafted by NLG and ACLU attorneys in partial settlement of a lawsuit arising from OPD’s use of “less lethal” munitions to shoot antiwar demonstrators and longshoremen at the Port. The Policy was incorporated into United States District Court Judge Thelton Henderson’s settlement order, and as part of this court ordered settlement, the City of Oakland was required to ensure that every OPD officer and commander received ongoing training on the policy. 

However, for the second time in 10 days, OPD and other officers attacked activists with disproportionate force. The NLG has received reports of many serious injuries caused by law enforcement use of “less lethal” munitions, including tear gas, rubber bullets and “flash bang” grenades. Five NLG Legal Observers, clearly identified with neon green hats, were among the nearly 100 people arrested without legal justification. 

“Like we saw last Tuesday, the OPD actions in the late night hours violated numerous provisions of the Crowd Control Policy and the Constitutional rights of activists,” explained NLG’s San Francisco Bay Area chapter president Michael Flynn. “Our legal observers did not disobey any police orders and neither did many of the other arrestees.” 

“The Crowd Control Policy clearly prohibits shooting munitions into a crowd,” added NLG attorney Rachel Lederman. “While the police are allowed to use tear gas, they are supposed to use a minimum amount and only where other crowd control tactics have failed. It is not at all clear that less violent and less provocative measures would not have sufficed to achieve any legitimate law enforcement objectives last night.” 

The NLG filed a class action lawsuit for damages and injunctive relief against Oakland and Alameda County several months ago based on false arrests of Oscar Grant demonstrators and one NLG legal observer. That case is currently pending before U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson. 


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.

November Pepper Spray Times

Grace Underpressure
Tuesday November 01, 2011 - 09:56:00 PM

Editor's Note: The latest issue of the Pepper Spray Times is now available. 

You can view it absolutely free of charge by clicking here . You can print it out to give to your friends. 

Grace Underpressure has been producing it for many years now, even before the Berkeley Daily Planet started distributing it, most of the time without being paid, and now we'd like you to show your appreciation by using the button below to send her money.  

This is a Very Good Deal. Go for it! 

Occupy Solidarity!

By Paul Kealoha Blake
Tuesday November 01, 2011 - 08:51:00 PM

Here's a video exhortation to join tomorrow's Occupy Oakland action. 


Occupy Berkeley: Clarification

By Maxina Ventura
Tuesday November 01, 2011 - 08:55:00 PM

First, let me state that no one from Occupy Berkeley “represents” us, part of a worldwide, leaderless protest which seems to befuddle many. We are united in refusing to issue demands from the movement. 

However, I would like to clarify some things for readers. First, I am not homeless, nor was my home foreclosed upon. My children and I have been encamped here all along for many reasons, not the least of which is that we wish to see no one who wants housing to be denied this basic human right. 

To be sure, our encampment is a vibrant mix of people from all walks of life, and all ages, with regular visits from a 3 year-old, and other families coming by, young people in college, longtime activists, and we have people traveling from other occupations around the country (this weekend visits from people from Occupy Wall Street in NYC, and one from New Orleans, one from Portland, and many from all over California). Yes, our encampment includes many street people. No, such a mix of people is not likely to be an easy mix, but we’ve done it before, during our squatting movement in the 80’s when we squatted vacant houses and buildings, many owned by the city, and took over Civic Center Park and called it Loniville. It’s a shame we still need to be doing this to draw attention to ills in the world, but here we are. 

Our focus is on banks and corporations, and their consolidation of resources and power. But we are challenging everyone to look at our own lives and see our contributions to the terrible place the world is for billions of people. Lack of resources is not the issue; we have abundant resources but they are being hoarded and traded by an endlessly greedy few. Still, what in my life and what in your life is excess? Almost every one of us can make personal changes as we protest against the greed of the few. We see people coming out with their children to thank us, and people who lived the mainstream life society promotes, who have been dumped from their jobs and now compete with 20-somethings, not being hired. The emperor has dropped his shorts right off. We all see what’s going on around us. 

But if our kids have not been raised to know the importance of solidarity, all they’ll do is take those jobs at pay that does not meet many needs, and without what we think of as expected benefits, and society further pays to sweep up after greedy corporations which figure out how not to share their wealth, even with the employees who make that wealth possible. 

I challenge every parent out there to look your kids squarely in the eye, talk about the wealth you’ve amassed (your house being one of the forms of wealth, if you own it) if you are one of the working class, middle class, or wealthy class, and figure out how to live more equitably in the world. Are you going to move into a shared house or studio apartment once they are off living their adult lives, or are you going to invite them to continue living with you but sharing the burden of maintenance and other costs, all better using the resource of a house than having one elder having so much excess? Perhaps you’ll rent a room at a reasonable rent to people who need housing. Are your kids learning that they do NOT need separate bedrooms, an almost uniquely American tragedy of epic proportions, leading to vast resource inequalities on every level imaginable, and alienated kids shooting up their classmates and teachers? The whole world is shifting right now, before our eyes, and you either get on the ship or you will be leaving your kids to drown. 

While we have 2 bedrooms, by choice my three kids and I have always slept in one room. It’s like camping year round! But truly, we live more like people have always lived, and do live, worldwide, and ironically have a guest bedroom available at all times for traveling family, and friends, and others from our extended community. Why even liberal Americans have bought into the my-kid-needs-his-own-bedroom mantra pushed by developers and corporations selling things to fill up houses to keep people on the track of working long hours, avoiding family, someone will have to explain to me because, clearly, I don’t get it. I hear all these people around me bemoaning the long hours they are working to support a big house or apartment they rarely see. If you haven’t figured it out yet, your kids need you, not a big house. They need time with you, and nothing can replace that, or speed up the process of attachment between people. That old “quality time” line from the 80’s was corporations working to get you to accept separation from your kids. However you got pulled into it, you have to climb back out and maybe you can make it up to your kids by helping them, or others, with their kids. Yes, it is your responsibility. 

It’s not about trying to figure out how to keep going at this rat race, but how to remove yourself from it. That is some of the reason people have been slowing down and camping out. This is a Slow Movement, as I referred to it in a piece I wrote on consensus decision-making which you can read somewhere on the Occupy Oakland blog. Direct democracy is an uncommon concept in this country, but is powerful. 

We’ve picked up high schoolers’ trash and cleaned the decorative trash containers, and we are picking up the city’s slack in helping mentally imbalanced people. 

To support us, call the city to unlock bathrooms on the west side of City Hall, and get us water hook ups to improve sanitation, bring prepared healthy food, bowls, spoons, tents, tarps, blankets. 

Take back this world for all. 

Maxina Ventura, who lives in San Leandro, CA, is a former longtime Berkeley resident trying to find a way to live in Berkeley again.

The Palestinians and UNESCO

By R.G. Davis
Tuesday November 01, 2011 - 05:04:00 PM

The UN body for education, science and culture, UNESCO, backed the Palestinian request for membership. In the going, according to the Financial Times, "107 member countries voted for the Palestinians, rejecting US and Israel pressure. Only 14 countries voted against membership, while 52 abstained. France voted in favor, Germany voted against while Britain decided to abstain, China, India, Russia, and Brazil also backed the Palestinians while Canada sided with the US and Israel.”  

The USA usually funds UNESCO with $80 million a year, but "will not send a $60 million payment "(Wall Street Journal) Presumably they sent $20 million already. But there is a 1990 law passed by the freedom-loving US Congress "that automatically cuts funding for any agency that grants Palestinian authorities the same standing as member states.” 

Now it appears that there is a US “humanitarian” AIPAC-funded law that we didn't know about. I know a number of anti-Zionists, but they never mentioned that one. No matter, this is a great moment for Abbas and the Palestinians. 

When interviewed by a reporter, the Marxist geographer David Harvey said: "the Republican Party will do more damage to capitalism than the working class:" A wonderful observation, wherein the negative is just as good at puncturing the hubris of the capitalist state as the left faction. The UNESCO vote will be wonderful news in the Arab Countries and a warning to Arab Spring(ers) that the US can't be trusted. It is one of the better events exposing the Empire. 

Hamas gets 1000 prisoners for one captured (military term…”kidnapping” is wrong—it is “captured soldier”). Correctly stated 1000 Palestinian resistance fighters for one Israeli soldier. Plus the Abbas Fatah PLO faction that was put in place by Israel-US has bolted. 

Why did they go the route of nonviolent diplomatic gaming? The Financial Times reports this is nothing new, "The move to obtain recognition in UNESCO sets no new precedent. Other countries such as North and South Korea joined UN agencies when their applications for full membership were in dispute."(Editorial Nov. 1) 

The Wall Street Journal considered the maneuver an affront to US hegemony and Zionist Israelis – the process that has gotten the Palestinians less territory, fewer and fewer homes and more walled attackable territories. Susan Rice, our feminist representative to the UN, said that without direct talks, (that have disguised aggressive apartheid for 40 or was it 35 years) there will be no Palestinian State. 

The gibe is obvious, the jig is up, the ridiculous argument by the US that negotiations with the nUS as mediator will get anything for the Palestinians but dead bodies after missile and drone attacks is exposed. The US face is not bloodied—the Empire will remain, but the kids just kicked the shines of the Gargoyles. 

Abbas and Hamas have gained the day in different ways—hail to them even if they dispute each other. From out here in Empire-Disney-land it’s a double kick in the shins. 

An additional doublespeak in US foreign policy: Reagan took the US out of UNESCO and Bush put the US back in and revised the educational component. UNESCO operates in Afghanistan and does the educational work for the US. Another US war where billions were spent to kill but now without funding no more education for women. 

Bully, Bully, the Mask is off Halloween is (almost) over! 

Keep Neighborhoods Intact – Redistricting Berkeley

By Vincent Casalaina
Monday October 31, 2011 - 02:36:00 PM

When I looked at most of the plans that were put forward for redistricting Berkeley's Council districts, I was taken aback by the way the lines were drawn. I believe the most important thing to consider in redistricting is the preservation of neighborhoods (communities of interest) within Council districts. 

There is no question that Berkeley's population has grown dramatically in the last 10 years after years of steady decline. Even though the ordinance says we need to maintain the original district boundaries as much as possible, there have to be some major shifts in the Council district lines if we are going to maintain one person / one vote in Berkeley. That’s clear from all of the redistricting proposals put forward. 

The most intense growth has taken place in District 7 and District 4. Both of those districts need to lose population. Large swaths of those districts needed to move to other districts and the question was how to decide on a city wide basis what the rationale would be for the changes. What is the philosophy that will be used to divide up the City into Council districts? 

If you've lived in Berkeley for very long, it's relatively easy to identify communities of interest in Berkeley and to see how those communities of interest usually came into being around a particular problem be it land use, violence, or a shopping area that the community uses. In Berkeley, many of those communities of interest can be identified from the neighborhood associations that have grown up. 

When neighborhoods are split amongst several Council districts that leaves neighbors unable to coordinate their efforts to elect candidates that support their particular interests. 

Starting with that premise and the idea that major arterials (streets) often define the boundaries of those communities of interest, I developed a redistricting plan that would keep as many neighborhoods whole as possible and would include almost no strange bumps and twists. 

Here is my proposed map for redistricting Berkeley. It shows the blocks that are moved from one district to another outlined in red. You can see that they represent only a small proportion of the total blocks in the City. Almost all the blocks that moved are adjacent to major arterials and that the major arterials form the primary boundaries of all the districts. 


When you analyze my proposed map, you see that the most significant shift was to include the Northside student housing that had been in D7 (Worthington) and D8 (Wozniak) into D6 (Wengraf). It never made sense to have this arm of D7 and D8 stretch across campus just to pick up students. 

To balance that, the northern section of D6 (Wengraph) moved to D5 (Capitelli) (everything North of Marin and West of Grisley peak- using the arterials as the dividing line). 

D8 (Wozniack) also lost the East edge Willard to D7. This is one half of the change to put the Willard and LeConte neighborhoods in one district. 

To balance that D8 (Wozniak) added the Bateman neighborhood from D7 (Worthington) This change is similar to the plan submitted by the Bateman neighborhood themselves. The change is bounded on the North by Ashby, the East By College, the South by the Oakland Border and the West by Telegraph. 

D7 (Worthington) also gained most of the West edge of LeConte down to Shattuck from D3 (Anderson). This is the second half of the change to put the Willard and LeConte neighborhoods in one district. 

To balance that D3 (Anderson) added the Halcyon neighborhood from D7 (Worthington). This change is similar to the plan submitted by the Bateman neighborhood. Again, the neighborhood is kept whole and not broken up into random sections in order to meet the one person / one vote standard. 

D7 (Worthington) still needed to shed more residents and so most of the northern end of the district was shifted to D4 (Arreguin). 

D4 (Arreguin) needed to lose residents and gave up most of the south end of its district to D3 (Anderson). 

D4 (Arreguin) also gave up some residents to D1 (Maio), 2 (Moore) and 5 (Capitelli). As much as possible those changes followed the major arterials. 

It’s true that there is no student majority district, but students form a significant voting block in more Council districts under my proposal. They still have very significant numbers in D4 (Arreguin), D7 (Worthington) and D8 Wozniak. They have increased numbers in D3 (Anderson) and D6 (Wengraf). Their numbers remain essentially unchanged in D1 (Maio), D2 (Moore) and D5 (Capitelli). 


2010 actual
2010 Equal
2010 prop
2010 dev

Finally my track worksheet shows that the average deviation for my plan is .06% with the largest variation being 100 residents. 

I hope this plan will help you envision a City where neighborhoods are kept whole and the entire City can move forward together. 

For those who would like a more detailed explanation. I have a copy of my proposal map as a photoshop document that has a layer for each of the blocks moving from one Council district to another. I also have the full track block sheet that breaks down the changes by each census block that is moved. 

I'd be happy to send that along to anyone who'd like it. You can reach me at: ProBerk@aol.com 


I've put up the maps of additions/subractions for each of the Council Districts as a Power Point Presentation https://rcpt.yousendit.com/1271807626/8352cb735e3a544d33985dcd437a7546

Homeland Security and Local Police

By Maris Arnold
Sunday October 30, 2011 - 01:03:00 PM

One hears over and over that on Tues. 10/25 the police overreacted in their attempted eviction of Oakland's nonviolent Occupy Oakland encampment. I beg to differ. It was not an "over-reaction." What occurred was a well-planned exercise orchestrated by Homeland Security, coordinating 17 police jurisdictions. 

Such orchestrated manuevers have been put in place to squash people rising up to stop their multi-dimensional impoverishment under the global banking and corporate-ruled "new world order". Gloriously, Occupy Oakland wouldn't let itself be squashed. 

Homeland Security has been pouring money into local police departments. That's where all the lastest tricked out anti-"riot" gear and crowd control weaponry comes from, under the guise of fighting terrorists. To justify the $$$, police must bulk up their response ratio to any given number of perceived offenders and gratuitously use their array of weapons. 

That's why here in Berkeley when KPFA called the cops against a pregnant woman who was using their phone without permission, 12 cops showed up and hogtied her, something they learned how to do from their HS training. 

That's why at Occupy Oakland 10/25, there were 6 cops for every camp participant. The film clip of Scott Olsen getting his skull cracked shows a cop blithely tossing a gas cannister at him when he was already down. Gotta use it up! 

Apparently, local government officials have choosen to voice no opposition to HS money, if they want to hold onto their jobs. They could at least tell us, if they truly represented us.

Football is not Going Away--But the Warm Pool is Gone.

By Paul Lecky
Sunday October 30, 2011 - 12:37:00 PM

Your apparent belief that the only purpose behind the south of Bancroft renovation at BHS is to get a larger football field is incorrect. For example, the new building will house many classrooms and make room for a cozy softball field for the girls’ team. The process of the renovation was a long process with many public meetings and the input of the community. Also, despite the belief of many in our community, the obligation of BHS is to its students and not to maintain a warm pool for a relatively small group of non-students. The warm pool at BHS is gone.  

Your attack on football is equally uninformed. For better or worse, the football team provides purpose to many young men at BHS. In addition, Coach Sims has put an emphasis on academics that would make any concerned parent happy. Of course, football is a dangerous sport and the coaches attempt to minimize the danger by coaching appropriate techniques. However, football is not going away in the near future and acting as though it might should be left to proclamations from the Peace and Justice Commission. We need to keep working for a better educational environment for our high school boys so they have motivation and hopes beyond the football field. I believe Principal Scuderi and the administration and teachers at BHS (with a few unfortunate exceptions) are working hard to do so.  


By Ove Ofteness
Sunday October 30, 2011 - 12:26:00 PM

"Class warfare?"
They won't win this fight.
We've only begun to unite.
Grass roots and no mowers,
It's lawnless. We're growers.
There won't be a golf cart in sight.


Eclectic Rant: Did We Win the Iraq War?

By Ralph E. Stone
Tuesday November 01, 2011 - 05:04:00 PM

President Obama announced that all U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of the year. Was the “mission accomplished?” Did we win the war?  

I for one applaud President Obama's announcement. As of October 31, 2011, 4,482 Americans have died. We cannot continue to waste any more American lives. 

Our economy is in a shambles. Our deficit is $14.9 trillion and climbing.  

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in the U.S. -- seasonally adjusted -- is 9.1 percent. This figure does not include 2.8 million persons wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.  

A record 2.87 million properties got notices of default, auction or repossession in 2010. About 3 million homes have been repossessed since the housing boom ended in 2006. That number could balloon to about 6 million by 2013, when the housing market might absorb the bulk of distressed properties.  

As the final blow, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services announced that it lowered its long-term sovereign credit rating on the U.S. to "AA+" from "AAA". S&P lowered the rating because it does not believe the U.S., in the near term, will likely get its economic house in order. While S&P's downgrade is controversial, its assessment of the state of the U.S. economy and the lack of political will to act responsibly is accurate. This downgrade may effect credit card and mortgage rates and consumer loans. 

And as part of the latest budget deal, a bi-partisan, 12-member Congressional deficit "Super Committee" was established, which is supposed to deliver at least $1.2 trillion in across the board cuts or increases in income by November 23, 2011. The Committee's proposals must be voted on by December 23. If the Committee fails to produce a debt reduction plan, as much as $1.2 trillion in across the board cuts kick in evenly divided between defense and non-defense spending.  

Clearly, we cannot continue spending billions of dollars on the Iraq war, a figure that now exceeds $80 billion and climbing. Just think what the tradeoffs could have been in low-cost housing, education, healthcare, etc.  

Why are we leaving Iraq? The troops aren't being withdrawn because the U.S. wants them out. They're leaving because the Iraqi government refused to let them stay. Obama campaigned on ending the war in Iraq, but recently tried to extend it. A 2008 security deal between Washington and Iraq called for all American forces to leave Iraq by the end of the year, but the Obama administration -- worried about growing Iranian influence and Iraq's continuing political and security instability -- tried without success to convince the Iraqi government to permit a troop extension.  

Let's look at the beginnings of the Iraq war. To support our invasion and occupation of Iraq, the Bush administration duped the American people and the world by intentionally building a case for war with Iraq. They took advantage of the public's hysteria over the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon to authorize an invasion and occupation of Iraq with no evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or that Saddam Hussein had links to al-Qaeda. Remember Scott Ritter, a chief United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998, who publicly argued that Iraq possessed no significant WMDs. Similarly, Hans Martin Blix, the head of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission from March 2000 to June 2003, searched Iraq for WMD, ultimately finding none.  

Who can forget Secretary of State Colin Powell's 2003, infamous presentation before the United Nations to "prove" the urgency to invade Iraq. Powell claimed that Iraq harbored an al Qaeda network, despite evidence to the contrary. He showed photos of an alleged poison and explosives training camp in northeast Iraq operated by the al Qaeda even though this area was outside Iraqi control and even though U.S. intelligence agencies found no substantive collaboration between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Later, Powell acknowledged that much of his 2003 UN presentation was inaccurate. Hopefully Colin Powell will set the record straight in a tell-all memoir.  

In 2003, a draft of a so-called eighteenth UN resolution, which would have set a deadline to Iraq to comply with previous resolutions to account for all of Iraq's chemical and biological agents, even though the UN inspection teams found no evidence of such agents. The proposed resolution was withdrawn when the U.S. realized that it would be vetoed by the Security Council. Had that occurred, it would have become more difficult for the U.S. to invade Iraq and to then argue that the Security Council had authorized the invasion. On March 20, 2003, U.S. and British forces invaded Iraq. On September 16, 2004 Secretary-General of the UN Kofi Annan, speaking on the invasion, said, "I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN Charter. From our point of view, from the charter point of view, it [the invasion] was illegal." 

And remember the "Plame Affair," where Valerie Plame was outed as a covert CIA operative allegedly in retribution for her husband James C. Wilson's op-ed piece in the New York Times arguing that, in his State of the Union Address, President Bush misrepresented intelligence leading up to the invasion by suggesting without evidence that the Iraqi regime sought uranium to manufacture nuclear weapons. 

No WMD were ever found in Iraq. and on April 29, 2007, former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet admitted on 60 Minutes, "We could never verify that there was any Iraqi authority, direction and control, complicity with al Qaeda for 9/11 or any operational act against America, period."  

By early 2004, when it was clear that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction and the links to Al Qaeda were bogus, the mission suddenly changed to "we are fighting terrorists in Iraq so we won't have to fight them here." But there weren't any terrorists in Iraq before our invasion. Our invasion and continued occupation provided a magnet for terrorists from other countries and a fertile training ground for future terrorists.  

After five years of being totally wrong, Bush changed the mission again. Now we were in Iraq to bring democracy to the Middle East. Did we sow the seeds of democracy? True, Iraq has had elections, but its lauded democracy is tenuous at best. Elections do not necessarily mean democracy. Iraq has three large ethnic groups: the Kurds in the north; the Sunnis in the middle; and the Shiites, the most populous group, in the south. Given the ethnic and religious rivalry among these three groups and the ever presence of al Qaeda, there is little evidence that an Iraq democracy would last very long without a permanent U.S. military presence.  

Along the way, our moral compass went awry. Consider that on April 16, 2009, President Obama released four top secret memos that allowed the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) under the Bush administration to torture al Qaeda and other suspects held at Guantánamo and secret detention centers round the world. Remember the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse?  

And we all remember former Vice President Dick Cheney's comment that: "enhanced interrogation techniques" (a euphemism for torture) sanctioned by the Bush administration are not torture and dismissed criticism as "contrived indignation and phony moralizing." 

Regretably, President Obama issued executive orders giving the CIA authority to continue what are known as renditions or extrajudicial, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Uzbekistan, and elsewhere, where torture was used. Torture is torture whether it is done by Americans at Guantánamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, Afghanistan, or by proxy through our rendition program.  

In the immediate aftermath of September 11, the Bush administration pushed through the restrictive Patriot Act. The Act provided sweeping powers to government agencies to monitor the personal habits of not only those who had been identified as suspected terrorists, but anyone residing in the U.S. as well as U,S. citizens residing abroad. On May 26, 2011, President Obama signed a four-year extension of three key provisions in the Patriot Act:: roving wiretaps; searches of business records (the "library records provision"); and conducting surveillance of "lone wolves" — individuals suspected of terrorist-related activities not linked to terrorist groups. 

There are still 171 detainees at Guantánamo Bay being held without charges, many of whom have been held for years. In addition, 50 detainees are considered too dangerous to release, but cannot be tried because the evidence against them is too flimsy or was extracted from them by coercion, so would not hold up in court. Thus, these detainees will be held indefinitely without charges or trial. As Amnesty International declared, the U. S. has established a "a new gulag of prisons around the world beyond the reach of the law and decency."  

The nearly decade-long U.S. occupation of Iraq has been in vain. Our misadventure did not serve our national interests We are in economic shambles partly because of the Iraq war and it is debatable the war made us any safer. Because of Iraq, the U.S. standing in the world has plummeted.  

If we won the war, what did we win?

Wild Neighbors: The Spurious Comfort of Field Guides

By Joe Eaton
Tuesday November 01, 2011 - 04:57:00 PM

Brace yourselves, birders: here comes the sixth edition of the National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America. I haven’t laid hands on a copy myself, but advance word has it that the new version is 71 pages longer than the fifth edition, with 23 additional species accounts (mostly extralimital vagrants) and 300 new illustrations. Oh yes, and range maps for subspecies. That’s going to cause a lot of trouble.

At $27.95, most likely I’ll buy it when it hits the stores. I’ll probably also buy the rumored revision of David Sibley’s canonical bird guide; no details on that one yet. But I will do so with lowered expectations.

The thing about field guides is that they offer a handle on the natural world. They tell you that you can, after all, tell a hawk from a handsaw. The field marks, the behavioral cues, the breeding and wintering ranges and migration routes: they’re all in the book. All you have to do is pay attention. 

That’s a really seductive promise. I’m a sucker for field guides; I own guides to the wildlife and plants of places I’m never going to visit. Butterflies of the West Indies? Trees of New Zealand? Birds of Botswana? Used copies too—how can I resist? And I’m sure I can cram them into the bookshelves somehow. 

But very few of these books fulfill that promise. For some organisms, field sightings just aren’t enough. To use a mushroom guide effectively, you need to be able to make spore prints—especially if you plan to eat what you find. Some reptiles can only be identified to species by counting scales. Butterfly identification sometimes requires examining male genitalia under the microscope (“pulling tails,” as Nabokov put it.) Plant field guides often need to be supplemented by one of those 20-pound tomes with dichotomous keys, like the Jepson Manual, where identification hinges on a plant part you don’t have. 

The range maps in field guides can also be misleading. UC Davis 

entomologist Arthur Shapiro wrote an article a few years ago called “Your Field Guide is Lying to You,” and he has a point. Distributions of organisms, especially the less mobile ones, tend to be patchy and discontinuous. You’re not going to find your target species just anywhere in the color-coded portion of the map. 

Even with bird guides, the grandfathers of the genre, there are limits. Some birds are always going to elude precise identification. There will always be something that flies into a fog bank or drops down into a thicket before you can make out the critical field marks. There will always be anomalies: hybrids, strange pigmentation patterns or lack thereof. 

And some field marks are subtle in the extreme. Any birder who confidently identifies Empidonax flycatchers in the fall is kidding him/herself. The taxonomists are just making it worse. As genetic studies redefine species boundaries, we’re going to wind up with more and more near-identical but countable species. Not just species pairs: species clusters. What if there really are ten valid 

North American crossbill species that can’t be separated by appearance (they all look alike) or range (they’re nomadic), but only by voice? What do you do with a silent crossbill? That way lies madness. 

I am not trying to dissuade anyone from buying the new National Geographic guide, or the new Sibley, or whatever else is in the pipeline. Buy them, peruse them during the rainy winter, stuff them in your backpack. Just don’t turn to them for certainty.

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

By Dorothy Bryant
Tuesday November 01, 2011 - 07:54:00 PM

Even at their darkest, Shakespeare’s history plays have the built-in promise of a better future, of an ever more civilized England.

The Greek classics, on the other hand, have no such complacency. Among their incontrovertible principles are the beliefs that the human race was born to suffer and to inflict suffering; that empires rise only to fall; that self-knowledge, if it ever arrives, comes too late.
— Ben Brantley, drama critic (2004, from his NY Times review of a new production of a tragedy by Euripides) 

When I was young I thought it was unfair and false that Greek tragedies always, inevitably sent their well-intentioned heroes toward destruction and betrayal of their highest ideals. I preferred Shakespeare, whose characters might also end up as dead bodies littered across the stage, but there was always at least one person left to pick up the pieces and promise a better future. 

As the years have passed, I have become more “Greek.” Over and over again, I have seen that we betray principles and people that we prize; that we rarely even know, let alone do, what we should have done; that we frequently do what we should not have done. 

The quotation, “Those who do not know their history are condemned to repeat it,” mocks us. Sadly, those who know our history quite well must be aware of how we keep repeating the same mistakes, denying or ignoring what we should have learned by them. 











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

Are Male Baby Boomers Doomed To Become Lonely Seniors?
Why are women more psychologically prepared for old age?

By Ruth Rosen
Sunday October 30, 2011 - 12:37:00 PM

It’s not just the young in the Occupy Movement who fear for their futures. Many older people, who are marching with them, dread retirement, even if they hate their jobs. They fear social isolation, the loss of friends they enjoyed at work and the freedom of too much unstructured time. The good news is that women are already preparing for what is often called the "third chapter” of their lives. What’s sad is that men of the same age, for a variety of reasons, are largely unprepared and less likely to participate in activities that offer stimulation and friendship. 

So what is the first generation of women, who spent much of their lives working outside the home, doing that somehow eludes men? 

They are re-creating opportunities to explore their lives and finding ways to resurrect the world of women’s groups that gave them the confidence to reinvent their lives decades ago. 

Consider women’s book groups, which are hardly new. Even in the late-19th century, women’s book groups gave “ladies” a way to discuss social and political issues of the day. Oprah Winfrey popularized the current book club movement and they are proliferating with astonishing speed. Cafes host them; book stores sponsor them, friends create them; and the novels and nonfiction they read often conclude with a section of questions designed for groups, accompanied by an interview with the author. As Victoria Skurnick, a literary agent and former editor of the Book of the Month Club says, “There are some books that soar in popularity because so many book groups fall in love with them. Books have always sold well or badly on the presence or absence of word of mouth, and book groups take that fact and multiply it by six or eight or ten.” 

Most members are women and no one knows how many women meet monthly to discuss books. Whatever they read—religious texts, fiction or nonfiction—the groups provide an opportunity to discuss how the themes relate to their lives or what they think about the world around them. Lubricated with some wine and food, it is both a social and intellectual event that fosters friendships. 

It’s not that older men don’t read; they just tend to do it in isolation. The same is true about the tendency to avoid signing up for classes meant for educated adults. On many campuses, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute -- or something like it -- offers serious courses on everything from the Art of Bali to the New Arab Revolts. But the majority of the people who enroll are women. (It is the few men, however, who ask most of the questions and offer their comments.) 

Some of these retired women have even resurrected a new kind of women’s movement for women over 50. In the late '90s, Charlotte Frank and Christine Millen began conversations about their future with 10 friends in a New York City living room. Eventually, this group created a new national movement for women called the Transition Network (TNN). 

Today, TNN has chapters in 12 cities in the U.S. and attracts professional women who like its edgy rejection of themselves as “little old ladies." They sponsor small peer groups that meet in members’ homes, echoing the consciousness raising groups of the late 1960s and '70s. These are members who take feminism for granted. They’ve worked most of their lives, “and now, in the wake of widowhood, a lost job, or retirement, are seeking to reinvent their lives.” TNN also offers specialty groups for women who want to travel, see and discuss theater and films, socialize over exotic lunches, or become caregivers for other women in need.” 

In short, TNN is a national organization, “a relevant voice for women who continue to change the rules." 

These are only a few examples of what women are doing as their children leave home and their working years end. Google “women in transition” and you’ll find endless resources and groups devoted to helping women meet others as they reinvent their lives. Entrepreneurs know this is a growth industry and workshops for women in transition are popping up all over the country. 

So what are men doing? Some male (and female) intellectuals, scholars and writers joke that they don’t retire. And they’re partially right. But for men whose work was yoked to organizations, corporations, manufacturing, unions, and other institutions, the future often seems suddenly empty. Some play golf or cards or hunt with other guys; and there are groups of men who get together at a particular café, sometimes daily. Some take up cooking or gardening, and enjoy the domestic pleasures they never had time for before. But all too many sit home alone and experience too much social isolation. All too often, they depend on their wives to provide companionship. 

Google “men in transition” and you discover that there are, in fact, a growing number of groups aimed at men. But most of the organizations appear to be therapeutic, with counselors or religious organizations helping men with unemployment, alcoholism, post-prison, post-military life, or post-corporate life. Men have not created anything like the Transition Network, which encourages self-exploration and a self-conscious exploration of ideas and feelings. Nor are they like to do so. TNN fits the experiences of many women. Men are not the ones who created such a movement 40 years ago. (And the “men’s movement” of that era was small.) Given their history and socialization, men of this generation would likely find it alien, if not odd, to engage in such personal and vulnerable discussions at an older age. 

Instead, many suffer in silence. Their isolation is terribly sad, as well as an immense waste to society. Yet there are other ways men could counter the isolation of retirement. They have endless talents and could be tutoring young people in after-school programs in academic subjects and sports. I recently visited a high school where men were doing exactly that, tutoring kids in computer skills, math and science, and passing on their knowledge of how to build and sail boats, fix old cars, use tools, and write applications. Their faces glowed with excitement as they passed on their expertise. 

As more of the Baby Boomer generation retires, a growing number of businesses will cater to these transitions, just as they have throughout every cycle of the lives of the Baby Boom generation. Women are already way ahead of the curve, creating and participating in a vast network of activities that makes retirement more inviting, engaging and exciting. True, many of these activities have a class dimension; they have been created by middle-class educated women, so some participation requires a solid retirement nest; but many do not. 

Men need to have something that builds on their life experiences, and we all benefit if they do. Otherwise they will dread the looming horizon of the third chapter of their lives. 

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

Senior Power… “Always my best day of the week.” Part 2.

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Sunday October 30, 2011 - 01:04:00 PM

In order to run effectively, public and independent schools worldwide rely heavily on donations and on parents, grandparents and community members’ volunteering. Because most – not all -- old people are women, I was particularly interested in interviewing a male senior citizen who is a school volunteer. So I went to http://www.bpef-online.org/volunteer.

BPEF School Volunteers director Jill Coffey responded to my solicitation of a senior interviewee. “...We have many amazing volunteers, so if you need to connect with others--from any background or involved with any school program--please contact me. We love to honor volunteers' time and commitment with an opportunity to share their experiences in a public format. It's a great way to recognize volunteers while also recruiting new ones! Thank you for that opportunity.”

Shortly, I heard from school volunteer, Richard “Dick” Colton: “Jill Coffey gave me your contact info and said you’re looking for a BSV volunteer to interview -- preferably a senior male. Well, that's me for sure, 68, though I am not yet quite willing to settle for the descriptor “elder.” Oops, my bad. “I'm just starting my 7th year volunteering in a 4th grade class at Rosa Parks School. I spend the whole day on Wednesdays. Always my best day of the week.” 

Richard “Dick” Colton’s B.A. degree is from Wesleyan University, located in Middletown, a private secular liberal arts college founded in 1831, where his interdisciplinary major focused on the social sciences, economics, etc. . . . He completed most of the PhD work in history at UCB before changing course and going into the construction business. The Colton family lives in Berkeley and has three children and two grandchildren. 

Dick describes himself as a semi-retired building contractor, in which for years he did principally remodeling and residential construction. Among his present activities he has a small farm in Mendocino country where he grows olives for oil and grapes for winemaking. His other community volunteer activities have included driving for Meals on Wheels and doing home inspections for Rebuilding Together- Christmas in April, as well as working for his children’s sports teams in the Berkeley schools. He is currently on the BPEF board. The Berkeley Public Education Foundation & BPEF School Volunteers work to build community support of the schools.  

First, an introduction to Rosa Parks Elementary School, an Environmental Science Magnet school in Berkeley, California and where Dick volunteers each week. There are several Rosa Parks Elementary Schools in the United States. Rosa Louise McCauley Parks (1913–2005) was an African-American civil rights activist. On December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, this forty-two year old seamstress refused to obey a bus driver’s order that she give up her seat to a white passenger. Her civil disobedience had the effect of sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Although honored in later years, Parks suffered for her action, losing her job in a local department store.  

Every Wednesday Dick bikes from his home in north Berkeley 94707 to Rosa Parks Elementary School in southwest Berkeley 94720. He likes to arrive early and help out with his kids in the playground. The bell rings at 8:57 A. M., and they line up. The school pledge is a quote from Rosa Parks: “To this day I believe we are here on this planet earth to live, grow up, and do what we can to make this world a better place for all people to enjoy freedom.” Two students take turns bringing the boxes that contain breakfast to their classroom. Kate Kirkhuff was Dick’s classroom teacher for six years until her reassignment as the school literacy specialist. Torina Carter is his current teacher. There are twenty-seven students in their fourth grade class. 

Although students have their own individual desks, the day begins with their gathering around Dick, seated on his special stool on the rug, reading stories and poetry from his own books. Contemporary classics like Robert Louis Stevenson and Robert Frost … Memorable reading-listening experiences like these will be indelible in the lives of many fourth-grade age children.  

For the child who comes from a home where reading is an accepted and satisfying occupation, Dick becomes another member of the fellowship of literature. Reading with a child in the home also has a lifelong benefit-- Dick recently realized that one of his poetry books bears the bookplate of a young woman – his mother. His role in this classroom is similar to that of the parent — sharing and appreciating. But for the children whose lives are TV, the teacher’s role is difficult. Ways of using books and poetry to make an impact and a source of delight and satisfaction must be devised.  

During the remainder of the school day, and while their teacher focuses on teaching the elements of the fourth grade curriculum, Dick does a hundred small tasks in the classroom and assists individual students whom he judges need extra help. Based on his awareness of problems, he may identify students for one-on-one or two or three instruction. Reading and math are basics. Some students have not tested “up” to their potential. He tests them. He tells the students that the four favorite words he most likes to hear are “Will you help me?”  

There may be class visits to the West branch of the Berkeley Public Library and weekly classroom visits by specialist cooking and science instructors. Rosa Parks Elementary School has many volunteers. Dick didn’t choose his school – it was assigned to him. Clearly, he regards it as mutual good fortune. Mid-morning there’s a fifteen-minute recess. Dick joins his class in the cafeteria for lunch from 12:30-1:10 P.M. Dismissal is at 3:10 except Wednesday early dismissal at 2:20. Every child receives a “Wednesday’s envelope” with notices for her/his parents. Homework goes into the backpack too. 

After school, Dick Colton bikes to a local café to enjoy a cuppa or a caffe while correcting some of his students’ math homework. Wednesday – always his best day. 

Interested in volunteering in the Berkeley schools? As Dick’s experience shows, working with these young students can be some of the most fulfilling, rewarding work you can imagine. There is still a strong need for more volunteers, with more than sixty teacher requests for volunteers still unfilled, and numerous other opportunities to help with after school programs, writing programs, etc. For information, contact Jill Coffey, Berkeley Public Education Foundation’s director of volunteering, at 510-644-8833, or by e-mail to jillcoffey@berkeley.net. The Fall 2011 Orientation Schedule is at http://www.bpef-online.org/volunteer/volunteers/volunteer-orientations/ . The final 2011 orientation will take place on Monday, December 12 from 3:30-4:30 p.m. 


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 

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. 12:15-1 P.M. Noon Concert Series. UC,B Hertz Concert Hall. Free. University baroque Ensemble. Davitt Moroney, director. Music from Bach and Telemann. 510-642-4864. 

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. 

Monday, Nov. 14. 7 P.M. The Greek Isles-- History and Travel. Laura Bushman will talk about and present a slide show depicting the white washed villages overlooking the Aegean Sea. She will also address, briefly, the current economic condition in Greece.  

Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Avenue. Free. 510-524-3043. 

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. 








On Mental Illness: Opinions on the Subject of Partial Relapse

By Jack Bragen
Sunday October 30, 2011 - 12:44:00 PM

The content presented in the column (for this week), that follows below, consists of my opinions about a limited relapse into mental illness; I believe this to be knowledge and it arises from my personal experiences. Since I am not a doctor or mental health professional, if you need an expert opinion, you should go elsewhere.  

A person with a psychotic disorder (whether it is Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective, or the psychosis that happens to bipolar people during their “up” phase) must deal with an illness that seems to have a mind of its own and that has the tendency to sneak up on a person. If I look back to the distant past at my previous full-blown psychotic episodes, usually a traumatic event took place about three to six months before I partially “deteriorated.” This deterioration led to me discontinuing medication against medical advice--with disastrous results. It seems that adverse circumstances which generate extreme levels of stress can be a trigger for a delayed reaction, a psychotic reaction in which judgment is the first thing to go.  

One of the characteristics of being psychotic is the erroneous belief that one’s thoughts are accurate. Usually when a person is psychotic, they don’t know it. Once a person becomes aware that they have delusional thinking, usually the self-correction process begins. Being adequately medicated and getting sufficient food and sleep will pave the way for this self correction to take place. 

A partial relapse into psychosis is always better than a total relapse. If a person with schizophrenia is lucky enough to have a lifetime companion, such a companion can help with alerting this person that they are approaching the danger zone. 

If relying on a psychiatrist for that alerting service, keep in mind that the psychiatrist may not see a person often enough or over an adequate time span to become aware of the deterioration. A psychotic person may also be able to “con” or “snow” a doctor more readily than they could fool a spouse. A spouse of a person with mental illness knows more about their mate than does a doctor who may only see their patient a half hour every month. 

It can be difficult to get along with a person who is experiencing even low-level psychosis. Being argumentative can be a symptom. Some afflicted persons may become assaultive when more psychotic, while others remain nonviolent and might become verbally abusive.  

A partial relapse into psychosis is often characterized by increased anger, irritability, decreased appetite, and/or difficulty sleeping. In order to reverse course, in other words, back up from the low level psychosis, it is very helpful to have the insight that some of one’s thoughts were delusions, and to know which thoughts they were. At that point, the person with psychosis may or may not be able to correct their thinking without an adjustment in medication.  

“Reality checking” is another valuable tool to deal with partial psychosis. “Reality checking” consists of obtaining the actual facts and comparing them to one’s belief. Sometimes this involves asking a person about it who is in a position to know the truth. When “asking” for the facts, it must be assumed that the person being questioned isn’t lying.  

When mildly psychotic, a person can go in two differing directions: toward being increasingly psychotic; or toward correction of oneself and recovery.  

You may notice in this article that I talk both about a biochemical-organic component of mental illness, and a psychological-cognitive component. The ability of the human psyche to make changes in itself should not be dismissed, even if one believes in the biological model of mental illness.  

When a person suffering from psychosis experiences that “light bulb” coming on, the realization that oneself has been operating under delusions, it can make a huge difference. If the person is clinging to their delusions, and this can happen because of being emotionally attached to a belief, it is much harder for the person to “come back to reality.”  

The realization that oneself has been living in a partly delusional world can be a big relief, especially if one was imagining being in danger.  

When the conscious mind is engaged in cleaning up psychotic thinking, this can be a powerful augment to medication in battling psychosis. Neither medication by itself, nor self correction by itself is enough to deal with severe psychosis, which can be a sneaky, subtle and powerful adversary. 


* * * 


If you enjoy this column and want to support it, please consider buying my science fiction collection called: “Selected Short Fiction of Jack Bragen,” available for those who have either a kindle device, or kindle application on their PC. Also, in January I plan to release a compilation of a year’s worth of this column in Kindle book form that will also be available on Amazon.  


Here is the link to my science fiction collection: 




Also, feel free at any time to email me with your stories or comments at: 




Arts & Events

The Standing Ovation: When is It Right?

By Richard Reynolds
Tuesday November 01, 2011 - 09:25:00 PM

We’ve all been there.

The concert ends, the applause begins. A well-dressed woman up front (the chair of the board?) stands up. The other board members see her standing, and they stand up too.

Other audience members see people in front standing up, and they begin to stand as well. The conductor or soloist bows to the audience and exits stage right. By the time she returns, most of the audience is standing.

This is all wrong.

It misses the point.

A standing-ovation performance is one in which you are so excited at the end that the only possible action is to leap to your feet. If you have to think about it, forget it. The performance doesn’t deserve a standing ovation.

Bay Area audiences are way too ready to rise to their feet at the end of a performance. I have, on occasion, given in to the crowd and joined in when everyone around me has risen to his or her feet, but I do so grudgingly, and if I saw nothing exceptional about the performance, I will remain seated.

Last Thursday, when Johannes Moser performed the Shostakovich Cello Concerto No. 1 with the Berkeley Symphony, I didn’t have to think about it. Like most of the audience, I jumped to my feet before the last hair on his bow had snapped. Moser grabbed that concerto by the throat at the very beginning and never let go until he was finished.  

It was a tour de force. I suppose one could take issue with the way he nearly threw his bow into the air when completing a particularly energetic phrase, but it never felt like theatrics. He was immersed in the concerto throughout. 

And then what does he do? He puts aside all that drive and manic energy and delivers a rich, soulful rendition of the Sarabande from the First Bach Cello Suite—another standing-ovation performance, albeit of a completely different order. (There are occasions when a standing ovation is deserved not because the performance has ended with an exciting flourish, but because it was quietly soulful and emotionally rewarding throughout.) 

The performance that defined a standing-ovation performance for me took place some time in the sixties at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City. The concert featured Ravi Shankar and Alla Rakha. In the first half, they played a raga that lasted about an hour. A few people, apparently not having been ready for the length, didn’t come back for the second half. 

The raga they played in the second half must have lasted two hours, but it was engrossing from beginning to end, when Shankar and Rakha began challenging each other. Shankar would play a fast, complex pattern on the sitar. Rakha would pick up on that, reproduce the rhythm on the tabla, then give it a twist. 

Shankar would answer and raise Rakha $100, while introducing another nuance. This went on for maybe twenty minutes, the repeated patterns becoming shorter and shorter, until the rapid-fire back-and-forth was a blur. 

I leapt about four feet in the air when they finished. There was no choice—no way I could have remained seated. 

Other standing ovation performances that come to mind include Philharmonia Baroque’s rendition of Beethoven’s Ninth at First Congregational Church in Berkeley in April of 2006. It was the fourth movement that really grabbed me, when the chorus came in and made more sound than the orchestra. I had never heard it that way before, and it was revelatory. 

It’s always exciting in the fourth movement, when the chorus stands up and adds its voice to the production. But this was different, and all the more worth waiting for. This, combined with Nicholas McGegan’s brisk tempo, swept the performance to a rousing conclusion that brought me to my feet. 

Another memorable performance that comes to mind was Annie Sophie-Mutter playing Sophia Gubaidulina’s violin concerto, In tempus praesens, with the San Francisco Symphony in 2009. I came into Davies Hall with little idea what awaited me. The concerto proved to be a war between orchestra and soloist, between darkness and light. It’s a tremendously challenging violin part that pushes the limits of instrument and performer throughout, giving the soloist nary a moment’s rest. Only in the end does the violin triumph. And what a triumph it is—a triumph that called for, and received, a rousing standing ovation. 

And then there was blues guitarist Taj Majal at the Great American Music Hall some time in the seventies. I was so caught up in what he was doing that I would have licked his shoes for one more encore. (He played four or five, and I remained standing through all of them.) 

So next time you see a couple of people in the front of the hall slowly stand, followed by a slow crescendo of others, stop and think about it. And realize that if you have to think about it, it probably isn’t a performance deserving of a standing ovation. Save this special tribute for the rare occasions that demand one. 

Richard Reynolds is a French horn player and longtime member of the Berkeley Symphony, Fremont Symphony, and the Lamplighters Orchestra. He spent more than thirty years at Mother Jones magazine, mainly as communications director, before retiring last year. He also retired from the Berkeley Symphony at the beginning of the current season. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Salon, Saveur, Gastronomica, the San Francisco Symphony program book, and elsewhere.

Around & About Music: A Note on the Berkeley Symphony

By Ken Bullock
Wednesday November 02, 2011 - 01:01:00 PM

Last week's opening concert for the Berkeley Symphony's new season--and Joana Carneiro's third season as music director here--saw two contemporary pieces premiere, one played by the composer in memory of Harry Weininger (Gabriela Lena Frank's Vendaval), the other with the composer present (Enrico Chapela's Li Po, for orchestra and electronic soundtrack, after Jose Juan Tablada's modernist poem about the 8th century Chinese poet), as well as extraordinary renditions of Brahms' Third Symphony, occasioning great ovations from the audience, and virtuoso cellist Johannes Moser featured as soloist in Shostakovich's First Cello Concerto, which was met with shouts and a prolonged standing ovation, as well as a Bach piece as encore by the energetic and genial Moser. 

But just as exhilarating as the mix of music, old and brand new, and the virtuosity of an exceptional instrumentalist, was the performance of the orchestra itself, wending its way through Joana's brilliant programming of complements and contrasts. It's become almost a given that each new concert will reveal a new facet of the Symphony's playing not heard before, something different in section playing, a renewed sense of collaboration and musicianship ... 

"She's working us good, isn't she?" said one happy veteran of the string section after the concert. And that's the mark of the players' success and that of their conductor--the extraordinary growth of a sense of artistic community, reflected in the sound of an orchestra playing together in a way they never have before, making challenging works like the Brahms and Shostakovich their own.

Eye from the Aisle: Race, Rape, Truth, Mamet—90 compelling minutes at A.C.T.

By John A. McMullen II
Sunday October 30, 2011 - 12:31:00 PM
Anthony Fusco, Susan Heyward, Chris Butler, Kevin O’Rourke
Kevin Berne
Anthony Fusco, Susan Heyward, Chris Butler, Kevin O’Rourke

About 20 years ago, I was walking with my girlfriend down 2nd Avenue in NYC. I looked up and saw “Final Preview Tonight --Mamet’s OLEANNA.” They had two tickets left. It was about a college professor opening up to his working class student in private, mandated lectures with an undercurrent of intimacy and her cataclysmic reaction. William Macy and Rebecca Pidgeon on a spare set with her husband’s inflammatory words. At the end of the play, couples were shrieking at one another in the lobby and into the street.  

A few years before, I’d seen Speed-the-Plow with Joe Mantegna, Ron Silver, and Madonna. It was about a couple of “old whores”—that’s how Mamet has these movie producers refer to themselves. They are in it for the money instead of the art and will assume the position if they think it will benefit their career. Enter a hot, young office temp who can’t find the coffee. The older movie producer opens up to the young woman and gets manipulated and loses his balance; his underling saves his skin, points out his weakness, and replaces him as alpha dog. 

It’s only with this third go-round in using this tried-and-all-too-true formula in RACE now at A.C.T., that I recognized this plot pattern of female rage in the pursuit of retribution masquerading as justice and goaded by the weakness and hubris of the man in power. In this version, r-a-c-e is thrown into the mix. Change the “c” to a “p,” and we just raised the stakes. It’s about the rape of a black woman by a white man, something that doesn’t occur much these days according to DOJ statistics. Everybody gets caught up by a theatrical story about rape—Anatomy of a Murder, The Accused, Death Wish, Straw Dogs, Thelma & Louise, Extremities. I remember that in my grad directing workshop, we had to bring in “a scene that sustained tension” and 5 of 7 scenes were about rape.  

IN SHORT: Mamet has a cuttingly truthful if bleak view of our society now and of human nature generally. This play propels us like good movie—by which I mean that every second is rife with throbbing tension and seamlessly segues into the next. After all, he wrote the screenplays for The Postman Always Ring Twice, the Untouchables, and The Verdict. Ninety uninterrupted minutes at the ACT flew by. This one is not to be missed, with an extraordinary cast, and staging so simple in an expansive law office setting with subtle lighting change. The plot, the words, and the acting sweep you along. 

Two legal whores—idealism gone, in it for the money—one white, one black—think that between them they have their fingers on the pulse of our society and all its racial implications, and with their version of the truth about race they can shock and awe any client into hiring them or any jury into acquitting. 

Mamet knows how banal our society is, how prejudiced and suggestible our citizens are, how our adversarial justice system is riven with lies and manufactured evidence by both sides, about how money is everything. He knows that the attorney who is the best entertainer and who can misdirect the jury’s attention like a David Copperfield is the one who wins regardless of his client’s culpability, e.g., “If the glove don’t fit, you must acquit.” He knows that 400 years of institutionalized rape of black women during slavery without consequence will out (add the shame of being forced into prostitution by racism and economic desperation). He knows that the answer to the question, “What can a white man say to a black man about race?” is, tersely and simply, “Nothing.” He knows that black people distrust white people for very good and long-established reasons. He knows about the guilt of the whites and the shame of the blacks. Then he has the white lawyer pronounce and agree with all those principles, and proceed to violate all of them— to a woman, a black woman, in a way that is so subtly flirtatious that you cannot articulate what it is, but you just know—much to the credit of the writing and Anthony Fusco’s acting. 

Mamet lets you walk in the shoes of each of the characters in a world where betrayal and the struggle for power is the rule. Once the veneer is removed, “red in tooth and claw” is as palpable in the civility of a well-decorated office as it was on the plains of the Serengeti when we first set up shop there. 

The ensemble of Susan Heyward as the new hire, Chris Butler as the bullshit-proof African-American partner, and Kevin O’Rourke as the accused, guilt-ridden, rich white man is superb. The simple staging and directorial hand of Irene Fisher is unnoticeable, which is a high compliment. 

As a Law and Order: SVU aficionado, I wanted the DNA evidence: vaginal tearing, scratch-marks, bruising. Given the circumstances (which I won’t spoil), it is interesting that charges weren’t dismissed--but Mamet points out that the rules are different for the rich when it comes to prosecution and the press. But that’s just an afterthought. Throughout the play, the mind reels with the cascade of ideas, outspoken truths we all feel even if we’re ashamed of them, and rich language. But then I’m a Mamet-lover, regardless of his new-found Conservatism. 

RACE by David Mamet plays at American Conservatory Theatre through November 13. 

www.act-sf.org / 415.749.2228 

Directed by Irene Lewis. Chris Barreca (scenic designer), Cliff Caruthers (sound designer), Candice Donnelly (costume designer), Rui Rita (lighting designer), Kimberly Mark Webb (stage manager) 

WITH: Chris Butler (Henry Brown), Anthony Fusco (Jack Lawson), Susan Heyward (Susan), and Kevin O’Rourke (Charles Strickland) 


John A. McMullen is a member of SFBATCC, ATCA, SDC. Edited by E J Dunne.