Full Text



Another Earthquake Near Berkeley on Saturday Afternoon

From usgs.gov
Saturday November 05, 2011 - 11:20:00 PM

View Larger Map Magnitude: 3.2 

Date-Time: Saturday, November 05, 2011 at 02:52:18 PM at epicenter 

Location: 37.849°N, 122.236°W 

Depth: 6.4 km (4.0 miles) 


  • 3 km (2 miles) N (352°) from Piedmont, CA
  • 4 km (3 miles) SE (127°) from Berkeley, CA/
  • 5 km (3 miles) ENE (72°) from Emeryville, CA;
  • 6 km (4 miles) N (353°) from Oakland, CA

After Closing Port of Oakland, Occupy Berkeley Faces Problems Back Home (News Analysis)

By Ted Friedman
Friday November 04, 2011 - 01:42:00 PM
A tent in Southwest encampment in MLK Park, which is not aligned with Occupy Berkeley, and thinks it's "snooty"
Ted Friedman
A tent in Southwest encampment in MLK Park, which is not aligned with Occupy Berkeley, and thinks it's "snooty"
View of an Occupy Berkeley tent in Martin Luther King Civic Center Park last week
Ted Friedman
View of an Occupy Berkeley tent in Martin Luther King Civic Center Park last week
Is it a hex or are two members of the facilitator's committee being chewed out Tuesday by Michael M., a longtime Berkeley resident, who has attended every Occupy Berkeley general assembly since its inception nearly a month ago.
Ted Friedman
Is it a hex or are two members of the facilitator's committee being chewed out Tuesday by Michael M., a longtime Berkeley resident, who has attended every Occupy Berkeley general assembly since its inception nearly a month ago.
Berkeley High students at lunch-time near MLK Park. Southeast tent encampment, a troubled annex to Occupy Berkeley seems to loom over them; the city manager's office might be concerned
Ted Friedman
Berkeley High students at lunch-time near MLK Park. Southeast tent encampment, a troubled annex to Occupy Berkeley seems to loom over them; the city manager's office might be concerned

Back from marching with Occupy Oakland's successful march to close the Port of Oakland Wednesday—where it flew an Occupy Berkeley flag made the night before—Occupy Berkeley returns to a troubled encampment. Wednesday's planning meeting ("general assembly") in MLK Civic Center Park was cancelled so that Occupy Berkeley could join its big brother in Oakland. 

When Occupy Berkeley comes home, it will return to problems plaguing the protest almost from its beginnings. 


Although the exact number of "violent" incidents may be no more than five or six in two weeks, the subject of violence or the threat of it, is a regular topic in the planning sessions where overnight "security" has been requested from the very beginning of the overnight occupations—first at Bank of America Plaza, and now in MLK Park. 

Adopted resolutions in the 6 p.m. planning sessions have repeatedly called for a non-violent protest. 

Raven, who occupies a sound-booth tent in the center of the park, appealed this week for more support for breaking up fights in a tent encampment at the Southeast corner of the park, across from Berkeley High. In an emotional plea for help, Raven described a raucous brawl in which two campers had their two dogs "ripped off." 

Interviewed the following day, a resident of the often troubled Southeast encampment reported that the incident for which Raven sought support had been peacefully resolved (eventually) and the missing dogs were returned. 

According to Raven, Berkeley Mayor, Tom Bates, visited Raven's tent last week where he took a picture, and shook Raven's hand, "complimenting" him "for being nonviolent." 

An Occupy Berkeley woman, told this week, of spending more than two hours "mediating" a domestic dispute in the nearby Southwest encampment. She said a police car was parked nearby. (Another occupier pointed out that police cannot respond to domestic disputes unless called). 

Thursday evening, Larry Silver (camp maintenance from the beginning), complaining about a "dog-mauling," Wednesday, near the camp, for which the police had to be called, said "this is destroying us." 

Some members of the Southwest encampment complain that they feel unwelcome at the Occupy camp, characterizing it as "snooty." 


According to Krisss Worthington, district 7 city councilmember, the encampment is in a grace period before the city council debates Tuesday its response to the civic center occupation. According to Worthington, he and two other councilmen who support the occupation would probably be outvoted by more conservative councilmembers. "They have five votes to our three," he said this week when visiting the occupiers. 

"If the council delays a vote Tuesday on the protest, and they've delayed before, the city manager's office may have more influence over the park," Worthington speculated. 

In the meantime, according to Worthington, Berkeley Police Chief, Michael K. Meehan has told Worthington the police are taking a watch-and-see attitude. 

Jim Hynes, an assistant to the city manager, last week delivered "directives" on park regulations to the encampment. 

While Occupy Berkeley has grown to nearly thirty tents, most of the campers are not connected to the protest, but have seized the opportunity to set-up tents nearby the protest encampment. Campers interviewed in the Southeast encampment support the protest, but only a few attend the nightly planning sessions.  

As we reported last week, the encampment is in violation of several directives. A source, other than Hynes, in the city manager's office voiced additional possible concerns, such as the encampment's location in the middle of an historic district and proximity to Berkeley High, where students, on school lunch-break, populate a median which is within feet of the troubled Southeast encampment. 

Perhaps as a goodwill gesture, the city manager's office has restored water and electricity to the park. But should the juice be cut—as it has been—the encampment will be solar-powered by the newly formed technical work group, which is a man named G.S. Khalsa. 


Sunday's scheduled "How (Occupy) Berkeley Can You Be?" didn't happen. How Berkeley is that? A sound booth in Raven's tent was ready to amplify the proceedings, had there been any. 

Although weekly planning sessions have attracted new occupiers, attendees average 15-25 nightly, and there has not been a major action since Oct. 15, when more than two-hundred Berkeleyans marched throughout downtown Berkeley to join with anti-Wall Street protests around the world. 

A teacher grade-in last Saturday drew mostly a handful of teachers. 

Russell Bates announced at Tuesday's planning session, that he would propose, Friday, an action at local banks for Sunday. 


Facilitating techniques used by an array of nightly facilitators, have been under attack from the first week of the protest, when it became obvious that facilitators were using techniques from the New York City occupy, including the "general assembly mike check," which requires short-burst comments strung together for a statement. 

Mike (Delacour) doesn't do mike check, but he did organize an early, local version, of Occupy Berkeley, and has been openly critical of Occupy Berkeley's process and, like many Berkeleyans, has joined Occupy Oakland where the general strike Delacour had proposed for Berkeley was watched by "the whole world." 

Delacour's general strike proposal was rejected by the Occupy Berkeley general assembly weeks ago. 

A man who one night "blocked" all proposals, lobbied a key facilitator Tuesday night, recommending using facilitating techniques, from Starbucks, Green Peace, and other Occupy chapters. 

Michael M., a veteran occupier and throwback to Berkeley's freak heritage, delivered a diatribe against the process at Tuesday's facilitator's meeting, charging that "the process emulates the corporate board meetings we despise." Arguing for "an issues oriented open mike;" M accused the facilitators of elitism, and squelching free speech. "The current process lacks vision and inspiration," he thundered. 

Although each facilitator tries to improve the process, the process always seems to stand in the way of progress. 


The same issues re-surface each meeting, like a computer bug. Issues over journalists, and photographers, how to control personal inter-group verbal attacks, and process issues that seemed resolved—have become planning session soap opera. 

Berkeley's general assemblies are becoming déjà vu all over again, according to some critics of the process—which includes more than a few facilitators themselves. 

At the end of Tuesday evening's general assembly, a young woman new to the group, asked, "What do you want; what do each of you want out of this; what's your next move?" 

At first there was an attempt to re-direct or divert her question, but eventually the young woman was given more time.Good thing, because that young woman had just pushed Occupy Berkeley's hot button. You could see in the faces of group members 

Ted Friedman is way off his South side beat.

Hundreds Pack Emotional Oakland Council Meeting on Occupy Oakland

By Melissa McRobbie (BCN)
Friday November 04, 2011 - 03:35:00 PM

Supporters of the Occupy Oakland movement and some of its detractors packed an emotional Oakland City Council meeting to discuss the city's response to the protests. 

The council was considering a resolution by Councilwoman Nancy Nadel in support of the "Occupy" movement that called on the city to "unequivocally embrace" the protesters' First Amendment rights to assemble and called on Mayor Jean Quan to collaborate with the protesters to ensure their and the public's safety. 

After the council heard hours of comment from the public, Nadel said she would not yet put the resolution before the council for a vote because her fellow council members wanted to think more about it. 

"We don't have the votes tonight for this resolution," she said.  

Nadel said some of the sanitation problems associated with the encampment in Frank Ogawa Plaza outside City Hall are unpleasant, but those problems exist elsewhere in the city and shouldn't be swept under the rug.  

"We have to deal with the real, real problem of financial inequity in our country," she said.  

Quan spoke at the conclusion of the meeting, urging residents to attack economic inequality by taking action to help the city's struggling neighborhoods like East Oakland.  

"The movement is not downtown here in this plaza alone," she said.  

She also said she has been having trouble communicating with protesters in the encampment.  

"How can we have discussion if we don't have some kind of liaison?" Quan asked. 

During the meeting, which got under way shortly after 6 p.m. and lasted for five hours, exchanges between city officials and speakers were so tense at times that some speakers were escorted from the room by police.  

Council president Larry Reid struggled to maintain order, especially while interim Police Chief Howard Jordan was attempting to speak over protesters' jeers.  

"If you keep yelling, I will ask you to leave," Reid told the crowd. "Let us be respectful of our disagreements with one another." 

At other points, Occupy Oakland supporters shushed each other. Many of the more than 100 speakers to address the council lauded Wednesday's peaceful march in which thousands of demonstrators streamed from downtown to the Port of Oakland and shut it down.  

A number of speakers criticized a slide show presentation made by Arturo Sanchez, assistant to the city administrator, that showed images of the damage to businesses but no photos of peaceful protesters.  

"Where was the beauty?" speaker Octavio Carrasco asked. "Where was the sharing? Where were the people coming together?" 

Several speakers referred to "tens of thousands" of protesters who participated in the march and said estimates that there were only about 5,000 were far too low.  

"What we have is not a local phenomenon," said Jackie Cabasso, executive director of the Western States Legal Foundation. "It is a national and international phenomenon." 

Many were upset about a small minority of protesters who vandalized businesses in the downtown area. 

Speaker Max Allstadt said that group is hurting the larger movement.  

"They are damaging other people's right to free speech," Allstadt said.  

He said he himself was arrested overnight during a confrontation with police but was not involved in the vandalism. 

"I just got out of jail an hour ago," he told the council.  

There was outrage over the Police Department's use of force -- which has included tear gas and beanbag weapons -- and several mentions of Scott Olsen, the Iraq War veteran who was injured by a police projectile. 

Protesters claim rubber bullets were also deployed, but Oakland police have said their department did not use them. 

The crowd hissed at Chief Jordan when he said, "My officers showed great restraint."  

They also loudly booed Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce president Joseph Haraburda when he said Frank Ogawa Plaza should be cleared to protect local businesses.  

"We've got to make change now," Haraburda said.  

City Administrator Deanna Santana gave a presentation in which she said the number of tents in the plaza has grown to about 165.  

"Frank Ogawa Plaza is not a campsite," she said. 

Councilwoman Pat Kernighan said that she, along with many residents and business owners, is concerned that problems related to Occupy Oakland are reversing progress the city has made in terms of economic development.  

"This set us back like 15 years," she said. "We're desperately trying to create jobs in the city because we have 20 percent unemployment ... what I'm asking you to realize is there's serious collateral damage to this city."  

Meet the Diablo Canyon PeaceWalkers in Berkeley Today

By Gar Smith
Friday November 04, 2011 - 03:20:00 PM

On October 22, a determined group of activists began a two-week interfaith peace walk from the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant near San Luis Obispo to the Bay Area. "With the tragedy of Fukushima in our hearts," they explained, "we will walk 15-18 miles a day looking into the safety of land and people along our route, the still-present danger of nuclear weapons, the poisonous nuclear fuel cycle and how to end the nuclear nightmare in California and worldwide."

With uncanny timing, the marchers reached Oakland on November 3, just in time to join the Occupy Oakland General Strike.

Louise Dunlap, one of the walk organizers, explained the genesis of the Sacred Sites Peacewalk for a Nuclear Free Future: "The Diablo Canyon plant defiled a site sacred to the Chumash people, and native lands still bear the brunt of toxic mining and waste disposal that mark the nuclear industry." Fittingly, she noted, the march was designed to conclude at another Sacred Site, Vallejo's Sogorea Te/Glen Cove, "an Indigenous sacred site of true power" that was recently the focus of a 109-day vigil to protect it from development. 

The 16-day march — which included Native elders, anti-nuclear activists, Buddhist monks, Japanese citizens affected by the Fukushima nuclear plant meltdowns — was sponsored by the San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace, Indian People Organizing for Change, organizers of the Shellmound Walks in the Bay Area and the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Order.

This Friday, November 4, members of the Sacred Sites PeaceWalk will participate in a welcoming “Potluck Dinner, Speak Out, & Discussion” at the Berkeley Fellowship Unitarian Universalists hall. (BFUU's Social Justice Committee generously provided over-night shelter space for the PeaceWalk participants from November 4 to 5.) The Potluck begins at 6PM. Fellowship Hall is wheelchair accessible and is located at 1924 Cedar at Bonita (between MLK and Shattuck). http://www.bfuu.org/ 510-841-4824 

The PeaceWalk Schedule 

10/22 (Sat) Diablo Canyon gates (Avila)-San Luis Obispo 

10/23 (Sun) San Luis Obispo-Morro Bay 

10/24 (Mon) Santa Margarita-Paso Robles 

10/25 (Tues) Paso Robles-Camp Roberts* 

10/26 (Wed) Soledad - Gonzales 

10/27 (Thurs) Salinas-Watsonville 

10/28 (Fri) rest day in Santa Cruz 

10/29 (Sat) Walk in Santa Cruz 

10/30 (Sun) Santa Cruz-San Jose 

10/31 (Mon) San Jose-Mission San Jose 

11/1 (Tues) Mission San Jose-Livermore 

11/2 (Wed) Livermore-Hayward 

11/3 (Thurs) Hayward-Oakland 

11/4 (Fri) Oakland-Berkeley 

11/5 (Sat) Berkeley-Richmond/El Sobrante 

11/6 (Sun) El Sobrante-Sogorea Te (Vallejo) 








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

New: Thoughts on Oakland

Sunday November 06, 2011 - 12:41:00 PM

Here's a link to an excellent blog entry on last week's events in Oakland by hip-hop's Davey D, followed by some excellent comments from readers, forwarded by reader Joseph Anderson. 

Thoughts on Occupy Oakland’s Historic General Strike: Celebration & Sobering Lessons

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

New: The Berkeley Bowl Parking Lot Saga

By M. Sarah Klise
Sunday November 06, 2011 - 12:38:00 PM

Berkeley Bowl West has three parking lots: one underground, one adjacent to the store, and one across Heinz Avenue on the old Hustead's Tow lot. The store opened 2 years ago with the first 2 lots, the third (tow yard) was purchased later and immediately relieved the burden of employee and costumer cars on our neighborhood streets. You might remember that the City of Berkeley did not require the Bowl to provide employee parking. This lot boasts over 150 spaces and is very well-used.

Fast forward to today, when the Bowl ownership wants to demolish a warehouse also on this parking site and rehab another warehouse for wholesale and retail usage. Their application is before the City currently. 

The City Staff recommends the warehouse changes but also suggests moving the parking lot entrance from Heinz and putting it on 8th Street, a mixed-use residential street. This move is apparently in response to a complaint about jaywalkers, who cross Heinz, midblock and outside the crosswalk to come and go from the lot to the store. A proposed fence would close off the entire Heinz Street side of this lot, forcing carts and cars down 8th Street. 

The exact location of the proposed in/out entrance on 8th Street, is 75 ft from the corner of Heinz Avenue, placing it across the street from Ed Jones Co and 2 residential homes, with 6 children.  

Why should neighbors and small businesses be forced to bear the burden of traffic associated with large-scale development? An entrance to a parking lot on a residential street would never have been allowed as part of the initial Bowl approval process and it shouldn’t be permitted now. 

The neighborhood AND the Bowl ownership are against moving the parking lot entrance to 8th Street.  

Please attend the Zoning Adjustments Board Meeting (ZAB) next week. 

WHEN: Thursday, November 10th, 2011 -- 7:00 PM WHERE: Council Chambers 2134 MLK Way, 2nd Floor

New: They Can Take
poem for Occupy

by Carol Denney
Sunday November 06, 2011 - 06:27:00 PM

they can take all of our houses
those of us who have houses
they can take all of our jobs
those of us who have jobs


they can take all of our money
those of us who have money
they can describe us as mobs
a bunch of undisciplined slobs

but we’ve learned to live with our neighbors
we’ve learned to live in the street
with nothing at all to protect us
sharing whatever we eat
we recognize that we’re brothers and sisters
and family to hold and to love
now and forever today and together
on earth under heavens above

we’re made of music and starlight
we’re made of colors and song
we’re born to dance on the planet together
beautiful graceful and strong
they can fill up all the prisons
shut down the schools and parks
they can keep warm with their money
we can keep warm with our hearts

somewhere they’re counting their money
money that used to be ours
piling it up in their savings
money that used to be ours
shaking their heads as we’re kicked to the curb
but insisting they’re feeling our pain
taking our keys on the way out the door
and they’ll do it again and again

but we’ve learned the smallest among us
the most beaten impoverished soul
is a wealth and a fountain of beauty
and crucial to making us whole
there isn’t one of us we’ll leave behind
as we remake the world that we know
this isn’t work this is dancing together
and singing and making it so

General Strike in Oakland: The Past Seeds the Present

By Judy Gumbo Albert / The Rag Blog
Friday November 04, 2011 - 03:28:00 PM

I felt very much at home at Occupy Oakland’s General Strike yesterday after I heard a young rapper with butt-length dreds and saggy blue jeans remind the crowd that Oakland was the birthplace of the Black Panther Party. He pumped his fist in the air and yelled “Power to the People,” then, just like the Panthers did, admonished the cheering crowd to “watch out for provocateurs.” 

I recognized a younger me in a group of women in red t-shirts who taught the crowd to stretch our arms in front of our bodies in a self-defense stance of “No!” Just as Wolfe Lowenthal taught karate in Lincoln Park that summer of 1968. Like Wolfe, the stance these women took was militant and gentle, unlike Wolfe, they complemented “No” with a new stance: “Yes!” 

I saw Weathermen in the Black Bloc anarchists who broke away and trashed, and Summer of Love hippies in the beatitude of those who sat on straw mats meditating or practicing yoga. I smelled the ‘60s in the marijuana offered to me by a smiley young African-American teen who sat behind me. 

Abbie Hoffman would have been delighted at the General Strike’s free store vibe where food, posters, clothes, and supplies were freely given with the attitude that everyone can share; we’re all in this together. To me, a 1960s radical and original Yippie, the slogan: “Occupy” is brilliant. It prompts you to take direct action, unlike asking those in power to “Stop the War.” 

The male-dominated, media-seeking leadership of my day has been replaced by a gender neutral, democratic process of consensus that does not defer to celebrity. I’m delighted. Anyone can choose -- or choose not -- to speak to the crowd. Or to the media. 

When someone speaks for attribution, they open with the caveat: I speak for myself, not for Occupy. Even Jean Quan, Mayor of Oakland, was not accorded the privilege of speaking -- she arrived after the speaker’s list was full. 

I wrote my Ph.D. thesis in the 1970s and came up with what I thought was a new concept. I got it from the Vietnamese. The best English translation was: “fecundated in a new context.” The verb may sound obscene, but fecundate translates as nourish or fertilize. 

It’s been my experience that history is not a straight line. My generation of radicals should not and must not take credit for Occupy. What we did is plant seeds which have been fertilized and nourished by the massive social inequities of today. I felt those seeds flower at Occupy Oakland’s General Strike. 

Judy Gumbo Albert is an original Yippie, along with Abbie and Anita Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and Nancy Kurshan, Paul Krassner, and Judy’s late husband Stew Albert. Judy has remarried, lives in Berkeley, California, and is currently writing her memoir, Yippie Girl. She can be found at www.yippiegirl.com. Read more articles by Judy Gumbo Albert on The Rag Blog.

Free Speech Must Be for All, Even Panhandlers

By Richard Salzman
Friday November 04, 2011 - 02:07:00 PM

In our local media it was reported that in the City of Arcata CA, even the Mayor was out in support of the "Occupy Wall St." protesters. This provokes me to point out that while many in Arcata support the right of these "Occupiers" to hold up their signs with any number of statements and demands, if one of them dares to include a request for donations on one of those signs, they will be in violation of that city's Anti-Panhandling Ordinance--over which, as covered on the NCJ's Blog I am currently suing the City of Arcata in State Court. If we wish to support free speech for Tea Party Members and Wall Street Occupiers alike, we need also then tolerate free speech by panhandlers. 

Richard Salzman is a founding member of Humboldt Civil Liberties Defense Fund in Arcata, California. 


Press Release: Berkeley Copwatch Demands No Berkeley Mutual Aid to Shut Down Oakland Protests!

From Berkeley Copwatch
Sunday November 06, 2011 - 10:20:00 PM

The people of the Berkeley have a unique opportunity to let their voice be heard and to stand up for those who protest this unjust system. Demand that the Council modify Mutual Aid agreements to ensure that BPD is not used to stop the exercise of free speech. 

We can demand: 

a) That our police will only respond where a credible/demonstrable threat to the health or safety of the people of that area exists and the resources of the host city are inadequate to manage it. Mutual aid in times of natural or other types of disasters would qualify for such assistance. 

b) That Berkeley officers must abide by the policies of our department and be accountable to the policies of BPD OVER those policies of the host city. Whatever is not permitted by Berkeley policies will not be required or permitted by our officers in a host city. 

Despite what Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Sgt. Mary Kusmiss has said publicly, on the morning of the raid of Occupy Oakland, Berkeley police were equipped with less-lethal munitions and did assist in suppressing free speech in Oakland. They were not simply doing “traffic control”. 

Copwatch wants to know what BPD Chief Meehan intends to do about officers who: 

1) Cover badges and have no # on helmut (in violation of PC section 830.10) 2) Use crowd control devices for patrol purposes 3) Violate the department’s policy on the rights of civilians to observe police activity 


City Council @ 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way (across from Occupy Berkeley!)

A Modest Proposal for the 1%

By Wendy Schlesinger
Friday November 04, 2011 - 03:32:00 PM

Concrete proposals are needed for the 1% to step up to the plate rather than feed at the trough, now that they have been identified (as part of the problem). 

Here is a modest proposal for the 1% to become part of the solution to free up enterprise and build the capital of good will through good works that pay off big time: 

I am specifically thinking of the 1% replicating the few programs that exist across the nation that take disadvantaged youth and offer them educational enrichment in a structured program with tutors, Saturday school, counseling, good nutrition and the promise of an all expenses paid college education, starting with paid private high school, if the kids can stick with the program. Each 1% family can make this offer to all of the children in 99 families. 

I have seen the immense success of programs such as Making Waves, largely centered in the poorer neighborhoods of Contra Costa County (such asRichmond) CA and I know that one man on the East Coast originated the concept and also had great success with it. 

While the 1% helps these children from 99 families, they can also hire professionals to provide job training, forestall foreclosure, and otherwise help the parents and grown children as needed. Unemployment will decline, and the public good will increase, as will good will in general.

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.


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

By Dorothy Bryant
Sunday November 06, 2011 - 10:17:00 PM

There are no friends; only moments of friendship.—from the journals of Jules Renard (1864—1910) 

Read in one way, this statement judges people untrustworthy, incapable of friendship except during fleeting moments. 

Or, on the contrary, the message may be that we should give up judging people, and, instead, concentrate on actions, ”moments of friendship,” specific acts of decency, support, integrity, morality. These acts—these moments of friendship—come to us all the time, sometimes from people we’ve known all our lives, sometimes from casual acquaintances, sometimes indirectly, from complete strangers. 




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

Senior Power… In the loop

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Friday November 04, 2011 - 02:21:00 PM

It’s a “hearing aid that cuts out all the clatter” according to the New York Times, and it’s called a hearing loop. The technology, already widely adopted in northern Europe, has been installed in stores, banks, museums, subway stations and other public spaces as well as in homes.  

Loops have been installed at hundreds of places in the United States, including the Grand Rapids Airport, Michigan State University basketball arena, Stevens Point public library, Yankee Stadium ticket windows, the SoHo Apple store, Ellis Island, Metropolitan Museum of Art and American Museum of Natural History. And at least one senior center. 

People who have felt excluded are suddenly back in the conversation. The hearing loss rate in older adults has climbed to more than 60 percent according to one national survey, and nearly two-thirds of Americans age 70 and older have hearing loss. (American Association for the Advancement of Science, February 28, 2011). “A hearing loop, typically installed on the floor around the periphery of a room, is a thin strand of copper wire radiating electromagnetic signals that can be picked up by a tiny receiver already built into most hearing aids and cochlear implants. When the receiver is turned on, the hearing aid receives only the sounds coming directly from a microphone, not the background cacophy.” 

The basic technology, an induction loop, relays signals from a telephone to a tiny receiver called a telecoil, or t-coil, that can be attached to a hearing aid. As telecoils became standard parts of hearing aids in Britain and Scandinavia, they were also used to receive signals from loops connected to microphones in halls, stores, taxicabs, etc. Telecoils have traditionally sold as an option accessory, at an extra cost of $50.00 instead of being included automatically with a hearing aid. But today, telecoils are built into two-thirds of the hearing aids on the market.  

Ten years ago, when I began to lose it, I was seventy-five years old. No family history, whatsoever. After a few years, I acknowledged that the problem was not other people’s, the TV or whatever, and that Medicare does not fund hearing aids, although it does pay an otolarlyngologist. I was accused of “abandoning” the students when I had to discontinue teaching Strong Women, an adult school class that I had introduced at the senior center. More to this “impairment” than I had assumed. 

Scientific American (2010).Hearingloop.org creator, David Myers, in the Association for Psycholgical Science Observer (2011), Hearing Review (2010), and Sound and Communications (2010.) Eloquent first-person stories from musician Richard Einhorn, after experiencing a Kennedy Center hearing loop, and from Denise Portis. California audiologist Bill Diles, who describes how his installation of more than 1800 home TV room loops has benefited his patients and his practice.In Women magazine, writer Terri Dougherty describes people's responses to audiologist Juliette Sterkens' "Loop Wisconsin" initiative.American Academy of Audiology president, Dr. Patricia Kricos, on "Looping America," in the Academy's magazine, Audiology Today (2010). 

“A hearing aid that cuts out all the clatter.” John Tierney, New York Times, October 23, 2011. 



Current issues of several San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley newspapers, including the Berkeley Daily Planet, are available for onsite reading at the Berkeley Public Library’s 2nd floor Reference desk (not Periodicals on the 3rd floor). 

On Oct. 17, 2011 United States Senator Diane Feinstein, who is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, wrote: “…President Obama's Fiscal Year 2012 budget proposal requests more than $2 billion for Older Americans Act programs, a 5% increase over Fiscal Year 2011 funding.” Her Washington, D.C. office phone is (202) 224-3841. 

Harmful cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are being seriously considered by the super-secret "super committee." Super committee members are reportedly ready to shrink Social Security retirement and disability benefits by reducing the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) and are proposing to carve a big chunk out of Medicare, placing a higher burden on seniors to pay for increasing health care cuts. A Medicare cut would also be imposed on health care providers, meaning that fewer doctors would want to care for seniors. The Social Security COLA change would most negatively affect older women, who could lose income equal to a month's worth of groceries each year. A poll taken by both Democratic and Republican pollsters in September 2011 showed that voters overwhelmingly oppose cuts to Social Security and Medicare as a way to reduce the deficit. By a 50 point margin, they oppose including cuts to these programs as part of a possible super committee plan. Opposition to these cuts remains strong across party lines, as 82 percent of Democrats, 73 percent of Independents and 58 percent of Republicans oppose these cuts. Amajority of polled voters -- even among Republicans -- say that taxes must be increased on the highest income earners instead of cuts to Social Security and Medicare as a way to reduce the deficit. 

Who's supporting the Older Americans Act? As of October 25, 2011, several members of Congress have shown their commitment to protecting and strengthening the Older Americans Act (OAA) as part of the One Away campaign. Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), and Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) have shared or will soon share public statements about how OAA programs are vital to the lives of seniors.  

The 2011 California legislative session has come to a close. The Legislature passed numerous bills and sent them to the Governor for his signature or veto. Those signed into law by Governor Brown include:AB 138 (Beall) – Elder Economic Security Index; service plans. Requires the California Department of Aging and Area Agencies on Aging to utilize the Elder Economic Security Standard Index to assess and address the economic needs of older adults when developing service plans.AB 588 (Perez, Manuel) – Domestic violence; rental housing. Provides greater protection to victims of domestic violence by increasing the time period in which a victim may obtain early termination of a residential lease after issuance of a domestic violence court order or police report.SB 48 (Leno) – Sexual orientation; educational materials. Adds lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans to the list of groups of people whose role and contributions must be included in social science instruction and accurately portrayed in public school instructional materials, and prohibits sexual orientation from being adversely reflected in educational materials.SB 930 (Evans) – IHSS; administrative requirements. Removes the requirements that In-Home Supportive Services recipients provide fingerprint images and that provider timesheets include spaces for provider and recipient fingerprints. 

Despite high vaccination rates, senior citizens also account for 90 percent of flu-related hospitalizations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Flu and pneumonia are the seventh­-leading cause of death in the United States among persons age 65+. Some physicians and pharmacies are offering patients age 65+ a shot that packs four times the amount of dead flu virus to which the body can react. The elderly can choose the standard vaccine or the high-dose shot, manufactured by French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur, proven in clinical trials to get a stronger immune response. CDC’s standing message now is that everyone age 6 months+ should get a flu shot. Like the standard shot, the high-dose version is made of three flu strains deemed most likely to make people ill in that season. Sanofi reports that the higher dose of antigens also results in more reactions to the flu shot: slightly more local side effects, a bit more redness and tenderness around the shot area, a bit more fever.  

Older adults represent 12% of the U.S. population, but make up 35% ofall fraud victims. 

Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) has received a contract to create the country’s first LGBT senior center -- the SAGE Center, opening in January 2012. It will offer a comprehensive array of services aimed at the thousands of LGBT older adults living in New York City. But see also: "Gay Retirement Havens Run Into Financial Difficulty," by Dan Frosch (New York Times, October 28, 2011).  

Because of state budget cuts, California’s 274 adult day health care centers, including 10 in San Francisco and 23 more in Bay Area counties, are scheduled to lose their Medi-Cal financing and related federal matching funds at the end of November. One San Francisco center closed earlier this year and another one plans to shut in November. "Budget Cuts Erase a Daily Lifeline for the Elderly and Disabled," by Katharine Mieszkowski (New York Times, October 28, 2011). 


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

Friday, Nov. 4. 1 P.M. Area Agency on Aging Focus Group. At the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst, corner MLK. Free. #25 AC bus stops at the NBSC. 510-577-3540, 981-5190. 

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 

Monday, Nov, 7. 7 P.M. "Castoffs" - Knitting Group at the Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Tuesday, Nov. 8. 3 P.M. The San Francisco Guitar Quartet. Free. At the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst, corner MLK. #25 AC bus stops at the Center. 510-981-5190. 

Wednesday, Nov. 9. 12:15 – 1 P.M. UC,B Hertz Concert Hall, free. Solo Cello, Rio Vander Stahl. Peteris Vasks: Gramata Cellam - The Book for Solo Cello. Popper: Requiem for Three Cellos and Piano. Villa-Lobos: Bachianas Brasileiras No. 1 (Intro). 510-642-4864. 

Wednesday, Nov. 9. 12 Noon. Playreaders. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6236. Free. Also Nov. 16, 23 and 30. 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. 12:15-1 P.M. 

The Nocturne. Faculty Recital: Louise Bidwell, Piano. Nocturnes by J. Field, Chopin, C. Schumann, M. Szymanowska, and Fanny Mendelssohn. Free. UC,B Hertz Concert Hall, free. 510-642-4864. 

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. 

Sunday, Nov. 20. 1:30P.M. Book Into Film. An Education. From a chapter of Lynn Barber’s 2009 memoir of the same title. Central Berkeley Public Library. 2090 Kittredge. Free, but registration is required. 510-6148. Tuesday, Nov. 22. 3 P.M. Tea and Cookies. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6236.  

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.  

Wednesday, Nov. 23. 1:30 P.M. Gray Panthers’ monthly meeting. At the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. Free. 510-981-5190, 548-9696. 

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. 

Monday, Nov. 28. 7 P.M. Book Club. Silas Marner by George Eliot . Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. Free event. 510-524-3043. Each meeting starts with a poem selected and read by a member with a brief discussion following the reading. New members are always welcome. 

Wednesday, Nov. 30. 12:15-1 P.M. Gamelan Music of Java and Bali. Performed by classes directed by Midiyanto and I Dewa Putu Berata, with Ben Brinner and Lisa Gold. UC,B Hertz Concert Hall. Free. 510-642-4864. 


Monday, Dec. 5. 6:30 P.M. "Castoffs" Knitting Group. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. Free. 510-524-3043. An evening of knitting, show and tell and yarn exchange. All levels welcome. Some help will be provided.  

Monday, Dec. 19. 7 P.M. Book Club. Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. Tey is known as the mystery writer for those who don’t like mysteries! Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. Free event. 510-524-3043. Each meeting starts with a poem selected and read by a member with a brief discussion following the reading. New members are always welcome. 

The Public Eye: A New Declaration of Independence

By Bob Burnett
Friday November 04, 2011 - 01:56:00 PM

The preamble of the United States Declaration of Independence declares: “…whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter and abolish it, and to institute new Government.” Occupy Wall Street is an assertion by 99 percent of Americans that our government denies us “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” The movement should create a new Declaration of Independence.

In the eighteenth century, the momentum for the American Revolution was fueled by egregious British taxation policy. Initially, colonists were loyal to King George III and asked him to intervene with parliament on their behalf. When George instead declared them to be “in rebellion,” representatives of the original thirteen states adopted the Declaration of Independence.

Momentum for the current American Revolution, Occupy Wall Street, has been fueled by egregious fiscal policy that has worked for the benefit of the wealthiest 1 percent and to the detriment of everyone else. At the onset of Occupy Wall Street, the 99 percent remain loyal to America. They’ve asked Washington to intervene in their behalf. Some conservatives have declared them to be “in rebellion.” This sets the stage for a new Declaration of Independence. 

The problem for Occupy Wall Street is focus. By the time the original Declaration of Independence was signed, American colonists had one objective: leave the British Empire and create a democracy. In contrast, Occupy Wall Street has a laundry list of demands ranging from job creation to abolishing the electoral college. 

Nonetheless, Occupy Wall Street is driven by a unifying vision, the perception that the US system is broken. Unfair. That it works for the benefit of the 1 percent but not the other 99 percent. In this sense the current situation is like that in 1776 where our British overlords denied that, “all men are created equal…endowed…with certain unalienable rights…Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”  

The challenge for Occupy Wall Street is to channel widespread discontent into a focused set of objectives that restores democratic process and drastically reduces economic inequality. First there must be a succinct problem statement, such as The United States has shifted from democracy to plutocracy. Control of the government is no longer in the hands of the people, the 99 percent, but instead is in the hands of the rich, the 1 percent. Democracy must be resurrected. 

Next, there has to be a concise set of objectives. Here are three suggestions. 

1. Limit the scope of capitalism. The global economy is ruled by multinational corporations and governed by an ideology that believes corporations are special “people” without souls, motivated solely by greed, and doing whatever it takes to maximize profit. Because corporations are not democratic, the existence of humongous multinational companies threatens the democracies they operate in. 

Occupy Wall Street has proposed actions to limit the power of capitalism: Repeal corporate “personhood.” Break up monopolies (including the “too-big-to-fail” banks.) Limit the political power of corporations. Clearly, the 99 percent will no longer allow capitalism to pervert democracy. 

2. Promote economic equality. Economist Nouriel Roubini observed that at the level of economic inequality currently gripping the US, the average citizen’s ability to participate in democracy is restricted and the American economy, dependent upon consumer spending, is debilitated. The 99 percent feel they have worked hard and played by the rules but are sliding backwards and now have less opportunity, security, and political power. 

Economist Robert Reich proposed taxing the rich: raising the top marginal tax rate to 70 percent and levying “a 2 percent annual surtax on all fortunes over $7 million.” Reich and others have proposed a tax on all financial transactions. Warren Buffett and others have suggested that all income be taxed as ordinary income. Clearly, a fair economy requires that the 99 percent have a much bigger slice of US wealth. 

3. Reduce the role of money in the American political process. The core problem is that the 1 percent use money to abuse the system. They are able to create tax loopholes because they are wealthy. They have political clout because they have great resources. In effect, the US has recreated the ancient plutocratic system where rich people were given more votes than the poor. 

Occupy Wall Street has proposed actions to take money out of our political process: Limit the political power of corporations. Repeal the “Citizens United” Supreme Court decision. Drastically restrict the roll of lobbyists in Washington. Enact comprehensive campaign reform. Take political ads off the airwaves. Clearly, the 99 percent will not have political power until the playing field is leveled. 

Thomas Jefferson believed that the United States would have to reinvent itself periodically; that in order for democracy to continue to flourish fundamental changes would be required to deal with new circumstances. That’s where we are now: Occupy Wall Street indicates the need for a new Declaration of Independence and a new form of government. 

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

On Mental Illness: The Causes

By Jack Bragen
Friday November 04, 2011 - 02:04:00 PM

A statistic says medication helps a third of people with schizophrenic symptoms, while a third remain ill and are not helped by medication, and the remaining third of people get well without needing medication. The exact causes of mental illnesses are still not fully understood. However, we do know it runs in families, genetics plays a large role, and the parents are not usually to blame for the illnesses of their offspring. 

Some instances of mental illness are triggered by having a sane reaction to an insane situation. If someone lives among an absurd level of violence, and their consciousness can’t tolerate it, they might create psychosis or some other type of disorder in an attempt to shield their consciousness from the horror. If you want to see an example of this, look up the movie “K-Pax” which came out just before the 9-11 attack. Kevin Spacey plays a psychiatric patient who invents a profound extraterrestrial presence to deal with horrible events that happened earlier in life. 

However, one can’t say that living under harsh or violent conditions is the sole cause of mental illness, since many people grow up among such conditions, and instead of becoming psychotic, become hardened to the conditions of their environment. 

Although the exact causes of mental illnesses are not known, we can usually rule out blaming the parents for the illnesses of their children. When parents are extremely abusive it tends to produce a different category of mental illness than “regular” bipolar, schizophrenia, or depression. For example, multiple personality disorder, also known as Adult Disassociative Disorder (not the same thing as schizophrenia) can be induced by childhood trauma. When parents have done something terribly wrong, the illnesses produced are very different, and can not be traced to a biochemical disorder. Counseling rather than medication becomes the primary way of treating such a person. 

. Finding a person to blame for one’s illness, whether it is the parents, oneself, or someone else, is usually destructive, counterproductive and will not help matters get better. Rather than finding a person to blame, one should focus on what will help the person with mental illness do better in the present and future. 

Students in high school who are “pre-schizophrenic” may have difficulty socializing with peers. It is not uncommon for persons with mental illnesses to have a history of being bullied in public school. Rather than the bullying being the cause of the mental illness, it is more likely to be a symptom of the illness to come. The student that gets bullied is often less adept at conforming to the social norms and at defending their self against the aggressions of other kids. They are seen as a good target for the abuse of more aggressive kids. The kid who gets bullied may lack the same defenses, originally, that peers have; this could be an early symptom of future mental illness. This bullying is usually not traumatic enough to by itself create a lifelong mental illness. 

Persons who lived in the NAZI concentration camps had problems afterward but didn’t necessarily develop the mental illnesses that we are more familiar with, such as Schizophrenia. People go through all manner of hardships, extreme suffering and adverse conditions without developing schizophrenia. 

If schizophrenia is truly a medical disease, and I believe it is, it is not necessarily brought on by a harsh environment. Some physical diseases are caused by environmental factors, such as emphysema from smoking, skin cancer from excessive sunlight, and type II Diabetes from excessive weight. Some diseases are caused by damage that occurs to the fetus before a person is born. Other diseases are unrelated to environment. Alzheimer’s, anything bacteriological, from Syphilis to Salmonella, and hereditary illnesses such as Hemophilia and Sickle Cell Anemia, can all afflict people regardless of the conditions in which they were raised. 

By categorizing mental illnesses as medical illnesses, we can see that it is usually pointless to try to figure out what someone’s parents did wrong to produce mentally ill offspring. 

On the other hand, there are some categories of mental illness specifically related to environment, such as PTSD and possibly multiple personality disorder. A number of the soldiers who fought in Iraq are coming back with PTSD, and need mental health treatment. One wonders how people dealt with the traumas of fighting in WWII, or perhaps the Civil War. Maybe the human organism is more sensitive than it was, as evolution tries to move the human species away from its warlike tendencies.

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

A Slew of Reviews: Plays Around & About Over the Past Couple of Weeks

By Ken Bullock
Sunday November 06, 2011 - 09:20:00 AM

Embassy, Central Works at the City Club; The Rep: How to Write a New Book for the Bible; Actors Ensemble: Doubt; Cal Performances presents John Malkovich in The Infernal Comedy and Toni Morrison's Desdemona;ACT stages Mamet's Race; Ragged Wing Ensemble's triumphant Inanna's Descent. 

The past couple weeks have been unusually busy in the performing arts--busier than the period right after Labor Day, traditionally the super-busy start of the Fall season. Here are a few of the plays, some ongoing, that were on the boards ... or in the parks: 

Embassy, by Brian Thorstenson: Central Works at Berkeley City Club 

"Chi-chi Ma-an!" The cry goes up from one costumed character chasing another in a rout of masqueraded shapes running in, out and around in circles, out and and back in the two doors of the Berkeley City Club's salon room that houses Central Works' theatrical home, resolving into a conga line for Carnival in an American Embassy on some Caribbean island state ... truly a door-slammer of a farce, perfect for Hallowe'en season, especially if you're reflecting on our foreign policy. Trick or Treat! 

A perfect farce, in fact, silly yet pointed, the equal at least or better than any revival recently of the classic French variety or English and American knock-offs (though LaBiche, even Italian Straw Hat, Genet's favorite and maybe the greatest, hasn't been done for awhile). Gary Graves' direction of a stellar cast that works perfectly--or is that imperfectly?--together beats almost every other type of comedy onstage lately, too, from screwball to sketch ... "Graham Greene meets Liberace!" the advert slogan for the show, is no overstatement. 

The deliciously daffy farceurs are Richard Frederick, Daniel Redmond, Olivia Rosaldo, Cole Alexander Smith and Jan Zvaifler, directed with zest by Gary Graves, playing a bevy of dingbats, from the island's presidential advisor to the US ambassador and his wife to a befuddled intelligence operative to the patois-slinging maid, a local ... But nobody's what they seem--or maybe not what they don't seem, either, as not only bodies and words revolve around, but plot, identity, notions of policy, who's wearing what for Carnival ... 

Distracted double agents, bat guano fortunes and illegal lightbulbs offshore, intricate coded messages that maybe mean nothing--and on the other hand, the stunning revelation (sound designer Gregory Scharpen complicit in this) that "Love Will Keep Us Together" is one of last century's great ethnic cross-over musical numbers ... ask the Captain and Tennille--er, the ambassador and his wife ... 

A farce that culminates at a Carnival pre-party demands a great costumer, and Tammy Berlin has draped her zanies in glorious weirdness for their lilting sprint around the premises. 

As always, Central Works delivers more theatricality per square inch than many much bigger, better funded institutions do in stadium-sized venues--or over whole seasons. And they're particularly funny with this one! 

Thursdays through Saturdays at 8; Sundays at 5--and Saturdays after November 5 at 5 p. m. as well as 8, through November 20. Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant. $24 in advance; sliding scale at the door: $25-$14. Pay What You can, Thursday November 3. 558-1381; centralworks.org 

* * * 

Bill Cain's How to Write a New Book for the Bible, world premiere at Berkeley Rep, directed by Kent Nicholson, co-produced by Seattle Rep 

"Don't listen to her; she's dead!" says Bill, the narrator of the play, standing in for/as playwright Bill Cain, after introducing his mother in this sketch-y, wayward comic drama about her final illness, and how he and his older brother (a Vietnam vet) do and don't take care of her and each other--and especially, in Cain's view, how a writer experiences and relates the experience of mortality in someone so close. 

Cain has received much attention in the Bay Area and elsewhere in the country for two previous plays, Equivocation, a comedy about Shakespeare combined with the tragic story of a Jesuit condemned to death in Jacobean England; and 9 Circles, the saga of an Iraq War vet, accused of killing civilians. Both were staged over the past year at Marin Theatre Company, 9 Circles also directed--and very well--by Kent Nicholson. 

The plays are all different in theme, even in attack. One similarity is the wildly shifting focus of the playwright, in How to Write ... signaled by the narration of the actor standing in for the author, the other actors' reactions and the rapid swings between serious and funny, even silly, episodes, pronouncements and actions. 

Nicholson and the cast--in particular, Linda Gehringen as Mary Cain (Tyler Pierce plays Bill, Aaron Blakely his brother Paul)--acquit themselves well enough, delivering a story that goes back and forth between arch narration framing the action and sometimes even more arch action, seeming to contradict or burst the frame of the narration ... but they can't overcome the author's motor-mouthed over-delivery, while grasping at straws (or is it catching flies?), trying to simulate the spontaneous structures of experience, memory and relating either or both ... without something informing the action as a whole besides a kind of faux-improvisational whimsicality, alternating with jolts of sentimentalism over genuinely sobering events of the sort that most of us find ourselves going through. 

"You always have to have a structure--even if you have to improvise one! Otherwise, you're just noodling, thinking that you're improvising," said free jazz saxophonist and composer John Tchicai, veteran of Coltrane's Ascension sessions in 1965, just a few years back. The problem with Bill Cain's plays isn't a lack of ideas--in the sense of a glut of concepts, rather than real ideas--but in the insouciant way he fiddles, constantly distracted, with them, rather than developing his thoughts--thoughts about thoughts and how to stage them--into theater, rather than spreading them all out on the stage and telling us whatever comes to mind. 

Berkeley Rep Thrust Stage, Tuesdays through Sundays, different times, through November 20. 2025 Addison, near Shattuck. $14.50-$73 (discounts available). 647-2949; berkeleyrep.org 

* * * 

John Patrick Shanley's Doubt at Actors Ensemble of Berkeley 

For those who've seen the movie with Meryl Streep, the stage version of Doubt--which won Shanley the Pulitzer--may come as a surprise. Taut, with only four characters, three of them creatures of the Church, institutionalized--albeit in different ways--in their manner of expression, Doubt explores a fictional episode of what has become the principal controversy, worldwide, surrounding Roman Catholicism in recent decades--child abuse and molestation by the celibate clergy. 

But Doubt backdates its tale well before the more contemporary explosion of that controversy, setting it just before the beginning of our present era, in the early 60s, the time of Vatican II, the Ecumenical Council, when a fresh breeze seemed to be blowing through the cloisters, just as youthfulness and change seemed to be captivating the secular world at large. 

The sociology of the play--the times, including another controversy: racial integration of schools and communities--would make it interesting enough. But Shanley's relentless, to the point in his depiction of change and those who distrust it, embodied in a mother superior at a parochial school, a young nun in love with teaching and her students--and a priest, barely older, a seemingly inspirational figure to his charges, who preaches a sermon on doubt at the start of the play, directly to the audience. 

Shanley, who made his reputation with offbeat comedies for stage (Danny & the Deep Blue Sea, Savage in Limbo) and screen (Moonstruck, Joe Vs. the Volcano), usually set in his native Bronx and exploiting his sharp ear for the local patois, opts for drama instead--but never abandons comedy, though it becomes an almost dire form of humor, with the mother superior calmly reeling out her hoary pronouncements, platitudes, resentments and suspicions like a deadpan comedienne. 

It's a play with real dramaturgy, unrelenting, remarkable for the scene of the interview between the mother superior and a student's mother, the mother superior delivering--and hearing--harsh news ... the student's mother seeming even more vibrant and alive after what's taken place so far between the three clerical characters, all restrained by Church strictures and training, as well as an increasing atmosphere of suspicion and second-guessing--and the very end, when Shanley remains uncompromising, ambiguous, not pandering to the expectations of the audience or of our time, but not abandoning his characters in their humanity. 

Donna Davis, the well-known local acting teacher, who leads her Drama Workshop at Live Oak Theater, directed Richard Aiello, Phyllis Anderson, Kathleen Davis and Margaret Gudmundsson as the ensemble of this drama. The cast is at its best when the two younger characters are most vulnerable, though not completely able to express it, and the older two are leveling with each other over the future of the student in question--and whether or not he's been corrupted. Where the clerical characters run into problems is when they--often inadvertently; opening night jitters that have probably evaporated--were broad in gesture and speech ... underacting appears as big as Kabuki in roles like these; any kind of agitation or unselfconscious gesture belies their role and setting. 

Costumes are by Margery Moore; Bob Gudmundsson and the director share the credit for the excellent, spare set, apt symbol of the action that takes place on it. 

Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck (at Berryman) in Live Oak Park, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 (with a Sunday matinee at 2 on November 13) through November 19. $12-$15. 841-5580; aeofberkeley.org 

* * * 

John Malkovich in The Infernal Comedy 

Confessing his Austrian-accented English resembles that of the former governor of California, serial killer and author Jack Unterweger is back from the dead--to push his new book ... 

After an orchestral introduction by Musica Angelica baroque orchestra, conducted by Adrian Kelly, Unterweger--who in real life was sentenced to life imprisonment for killing a girl, released 15 years later by the president of Austria for his presumed rehabilitation and popular success at writing, undertaken while in prison, and promptly began murdering women again--played by John Malkovich (who improvises somewhat and also co-directed), explains the orchestra was his manager's idea; that he doesn't have the strength for classical music. He also introduces the two (splendid) sopranos who appear onstage apparently off-cue, Louise Frido and Martene Grimson, who will sing of abandonment, passion gone wrong and shame--and be subject to Unterweger's close-up scrutiny, very much the callow fan, and his eventual strangling of the women with their bras, his m. o. as killer. 

"Confessions of a Serial Killer," the subtitle of this infernal--yes!--comedy ... Malkovich, thwarted in his desire to play Unterweger in a movie he could produced, joined forces with writer-director Michael Sturminger and music director Martin Haselboeck to mount this odd semi-farce, parody of an author's tour--of hell. With pieces both orchestral and operatic from Vivaldi, Mozart, Beethoven, von Weber and others, much of the performance, sans intermission, is spent in the strange counterpoint of Unterweger's railing at his manager and the production company or telling his story--minus any real confession ("BUY MY BOOK" if you want to know the truth ... though he admits there's maybe no truth to tell, once he committed suicide the night of his second conviction)--and his dazed, amazed witnessing of the sopranos singing of the sublimity of the emotions that have accompanied his crimes in such catastrophic but banal fashion. 

Malkovich demonstrates not only his particular skill and presence as a stage actor, his eyes going hollow when he stares, open-mouthed at the lovely singers, walking with hesitant, measured tread towards them and seeming to search for childlike solace in their presence ... he also shows his understanding of how much of that prowess to dedicate to a hybrid thing like The Infernal Comedy. It's not quite a solo performance or character monologue, not a vaudeville exactly, certainly not a play ... 

But comedy it is, and somehow the audience is in on the joke, collaborator and collateral victim of the sado-masochistic Unterweger, co-dependent of the media who gave life to the freed prisoner and form to his deadly obsessions, after allowing him to realize his dream of celebrity and freedom. 

Malkovich seems pleased in almost a feline way with his new collaborators, and is already touring a new piece with music (Mozart's) and singers he's staged with them, in which he plays Casanova. 

There's a CNN documentary on Malkovich, much of it around the making and touring of The Infernal Comedy, which can be found online, as the whole script can be, too, and more, at the website: theinfernalcomedy.org 

He even fields a version of the question: why would he want to play a role like the oddball villains for which he's best-known on the commercial screen, those which typecast him ... The star's half-ironic response: those roles only represent a handful of his many performances, and they are from movies which coincidentally made millions of dollars. 

Infernal comedian, indeed. No wonder he excelled in the wry, deadly comedy "biopic" Klimt, by Raul Ruiz, sadly butchered in its American release by the producer. This is an actor whose sense of humor carries over to his character--and back again. That's taking on a role! 

* * * 

Toni Morrison's Desdemona, directed by Peter Sellars, at Zellerbach Playhouse, Cal Performances 

Apparently originating in part from director Peter Sellars' remark to Toni Morrison that he wouldn't like to stage Othello because it's "too thin" (would he say the same of Verdi's opera?)--the character of Desdemona in particular--this stage piece sets out to explore, to paradoxically "flesh out" the tragic heroine's back story, internal life, relation to her African nurse and black soldier husband (and murderer) in the form of long monologues, a kind of ventriloquism (skilfully performed by Tina Benko, who plays the title role) when Desdemona recalls her conversations with Othello, and her recounting the story of her maid Barbary (mentioned briefly in the original) and reacting to her presence (a remarkable, mostly sung performance by Malian singer extraordinaire Rokia Traore', her chorus and musicians), all taking part post mortem, a kind of healing session--or talk show?--in the afterlife, revising Shakespeare into something more postcolonial, more "out in the open" ... 

Sellars, for his part as director, creates a very spare, flexible set, with microphones for Benko and Traore' as well as playing areas, mostly for performers crouching, sitting or lolling on the boards, framed by empty bottles and jars, lit by fluorescent tubes lying on the stage, all festooned with lightbulbs hanging down or stuck in the bottles and jars. 

A disadvantage to the staging in its spareness and restraint is the way it magnifies the expressions and gestures Benko makes, sometimes looking like Method Acting mugging ... 

And it clashes with the script: passages become overwrought by their over-loquaciousness as framed by the spare staging and overshadowed by recalling the great outbursts and silences of the original tragedy. Things wryly go from exquisite to absurd in a second or two when Desdemona mentions a lizard shedding its skin, how that lizard--overdescribed and overdetermined, like most of the performance--changed her life ... 

Since the modern rediscovery of Shakespeare--by Lessing in Germany during the late 18th century--and the questioning about meaning and how to stage his plays in a very different era, there have been many conjectures about the theatrical value of The Bard's works. In the 1920s, Gordon Craig visited Symbolist playwright Maurice Maeterlinck--whose plays influenced Wilde, Strindberg, Chekhov, Pirandello, Beckett (to name a few)--to discuss the production of Hamlet Craig planned in Moscow with Stanislavsky. Maeterlinck pronounced the play unstageable. (T. S. Eliot would later agree, citing the disparity between Hamlet's exalted sense of his mother and her fall from grace, versus the rather ordinary woman spectators see onstage, declaring the play an artistic failure.) Craig agreed--and went on to adapt the story as something in Hamlet's mind, scenes appearing out of the mist of consciousness and dissolving before the audience's eyes onstage ... incomprehension led to a great reinterpretation, great theater. 

There were reasons, stylistic and dramaturgical reasons, for the incongruities in Shakespeare's tragedies, some of them explained by his adherence to Mannerism, the style of Marlowe and Michelangelo used to realize their effects. 

But Morrison's inability to grasp Shakespeare's artistic--and very human--reasoning, albeit of another time, hasn't produced a new perspective, only a reduction of Shakespeare's poetic art to a rather banal--"bourgeois," as I heard one European actor present say--discussion of the same, a discussion lacking imagination as much as it's overwhelmed by its own verbal expression. 

Morrison should've stuck to her metier and written it out as fiction, employing the imagination of the reader. As for Shakespeare, what Melville said of his art while preparing to write Moby-Dick remains one of the great intuitions of what those great seeming gaps, those silences mean--and accomplish: 

"And if I magnify Shakespeare, it is not so much for what he did do as for what he did not do, or refrained from doing. For in this world of lies, Truth is forced to fly like a scared white doe in the woodlands, and only by cunning glimpses will she reveal herself ... " 

(Cal Performances has been bringing a wealth of international stagework to Berkeley, and in any case should be congratulated for producing, within a few weeks, John Malkovich's The Infernal Comedy, Desdemona, and the upcoming shows of Samuel Beckett's greatest play, Endgame, and his work of fiction Watt adapted to the stage by Dublin's Gate Theatre--the very place where the teenaged Orson Welles cut his teeth for stagework, later casting the Gate's cofounder, Micheal MacLiammor, as Iago in Welles' film of Othello.) 


* * * 

David Mamet's Race at ACT 

Against a backdrop of shelved legal tomes that would rival the Great Wall of China, a supplicant seeks legal assistance. he's middle-aged, white, rich, says he's committed no crime--but needs the help of this particular firm, after having been turned down by another--because, as it unravels, one of the partners and an associate are black. 

And the partners, with seeming callousness, even brutality, attempt to disabuse the potential client of his misconceptions of guilt and innocence in the legal system, much to the alternating consternation and distain of their black female associate. 

(The alleged crime is sexual assault in a hotel--surprisingly, Mamet wrote Race well before the infamous Strauss-kahn affair in New York.) 

So begins David Mamet's Race, in ACT's West Coast premiere, excellently cast (Chris Butler, Anthony Fusco, Kevin O'Rourke and Susan Heyward--ACT's Fusco particularly strong) and directed (by Irene Lewis), proof that Mamet, who's famously undergone a swerve to the Right, hasn't lost his sense of play construction or talent in dialogue in favor of writing diatribes. 

It's a funny talent in dialogue, though, and it always has been. Stylized almost perversely to give the audience the sense of realism, his dialogue is in many ways like a Strindbergian Monologue--that ploy canonized by Eugene O'Neill for American theater in which the actor seems to be delivering a speech to another, silent performer, but is really soliloquizing, sometimes in pure exposition, to the spectators--really spoken by the author, but parcelled out piecemeal to the actors. Heyward's character, in fact, from the beginning seems to be there to ask questions, make inferences and accusations, until her linchpin role's revealed, so what's explained glibly to her can be absorbed by the audience. 

And it's Mamet in his role as Wise Guy, a common enough Chicago figure, though updated through middle age to Wise Man, explaining not just how things happen on the street, but in life itself, despite what we all know and want to happen ... 

(This's one reason that--despite his evident fascination with the subject and friendship with magician-card mechanic Ricky Jay, that Mamet's plays and movie scripts about con games seemed contrived, somehow, a substitute for metaphysics, something to explain in conspiracy theory fashion why we're all here, a bunch of marks, on the hot seat, waiting for things to go our way, though they never will ... This tack is related to the False Naive, where the author proves to the reader or spectator that he's smarter than the characters ... Strangely, Mamet, son of a union organizer, said he never talked to a conservative till he was over 50--and that conservative was his new rabbi, a Bush supporter.) 

In fact the woman associate is a kind of made-up role, a device to make the white lawyer suffer what he so glibly explains his client must see and overcome to be free--the guilt over his own guilt, or lack thereof ... 

So in the end, Race becomes a melodrama--but it's nonetheless theatrical, its dialogue ricocheting off the walls of the set--and taking the characters along for both the ride and its deflection into musing about what just happened--a genuinely theatrical impulse, the connection between thought and action. 

Through November 13, Tuesday through Sunday, various times, Geary Theatre, Geary near Mason, San Francisco. $10-$85. (415) 749-2228; act-sf.org 

* * * 

--A quick note of congratulations--and admiration--for Ragged Wing Ensemble, the plucky little local physical/gestural theater troupe, which has scored a remarkable success in staging their second year of a free, autumnal-Hallowe'en show in Codornices Park, across from the Rose Garden. 

Last year it was Persephone's Roots--and as explained by cofounder Anna Shneiderman, they were unprepared for the big turnout back then. This year, with Inanna's Descent, Ragged Wing took up the reconstituted Sumerian predecessor to the Persephone and other winter-underworld myths and created a show that spread all over the park, with installations the characters appear in (an aerialist with a string of lights was particularly striking during the one evening show on Hallowe'en, closing night) and the play itself, moving like a pageant uphill, full of the kind of anachronizing humor--similar in its own way to the hip comedy of "Fractured Fairytales," that cartoon show of yore--in which the characters eself-consciously comment on their own actions, their "status": "I'm the bombshell in this story!" announces goddess Inanna at one point; at one of the shrine-installations, there's a tape playing of Inanna's voice messages, of her partying friends calling to see when she'll be back from hell ... The troupe pulled this kind of running gag most memorably in their vaudevillized version of Aeschylus' tragedies, So Many Ways to Kill a Man. 

Three shows a day the past few weekends, several hundred visitors a day--heady stuff for a small, dedicated theater company in an era supposedly impervious to theater. And the donations, says Shneiderman, are about what ticket sales often come to at scheduled runs of their plays in dedicated theater spaces. 

Ragged Wing's worth seeing anytime, whatever the show. But there's a great community feel to these outdoor events. Hallowe'en night, the closing celebration around the firepit in Codornices Park was more like a community singalong than the aftermath of a play--and those singing along had just been the audience for Inanna's Descent, spectators for the installation/shrines--and participants with the cast and support team in celebrating the installations and performance. 


Around & About Music: Berkeley Chamber Concerts presents SF Guitar Quartet

By Ken Bullock
Friday November 04, 2011 - 03:26:00 PM

The San Francisco Guitar Quartet--Mark Simons, David Duenas, Patrick O'Connell and John Mendle--will play Telemann's Concerto for Four Guitars, two mazurkas by Karol Szymanowski, Suite of Six Trios by Phillip Houghton, At the Sound by John Lennon andother contemporary pieces, 8 p. m. Tuesday, November 8 at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant, followed by a wine and cheese reception to meet the artists. &12.50-$25. 525-5211 (Berkeley Chamber Concerts); 878-7800 (City Club parking & dining); berkeleychamberconcerts.org

Around & About Theater & Fine Art: Exhibit & Auction of Paintings of Noh Theater to Benefit Japanes Performing Arts, Earthquake-Tsunami Victims

By Ken Bullock
Friday November 04, 2011 - 03:25:00 PM

An exhibit and silent auction of paintings depicting the extraordinary costumed and masked performers of Noh theater, the Japanese classical dance-drama tragedy, by Hideki Noh and other painters will be held at Yoshi's, San Francisco, from noon till 4 this Sunday, featuring an address by Japanese Consul-General Hiroshi Inomata, commentary on the paintings by excellent Hosho School Noh actor Masayuki Fujii, choral music by the Forest Choir--including Ainu folksongs (the aboriginal people of Japan) and Buddhist sutras, and a Kyogen comedy--the complement to Noh tragedy, resembling Chaucer's tales in stylized movement--by Theatre of Yugen. Proceeds will go to the promotion of classical Japanese performing arts in America and to the Japanese Red Cross for earthquake and tsunami victims.  

Yoshi's, 1330 Fillmore (near Geary), San Francisco. $10-$25. (800) 838-3006; brownpapertickets.com

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.