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One of the protesters at yesterday's "Occupy Cal" demonstration...
Steven Finacom
One of the protesters at yesterday's "Occupy Cal" demonstration...


Fatal Shooting Near Occupy Oakland Apparently Unconnected

By Bay City News
Thursday November 10, 2011 - 09:15:00 PM

A man in his early 20s was fatally shot near the "Occupy Oakland" encampment in downtown Oakland this evening, a police spokeswoman said. 

Officers responded at 4:57 p.m. to the shooting at 14th Street and Broadway, directly in front of the protesters' encampment, although at this time there is no apparent connection between the shooting and the demonstration, police spokeswoman Johnna Watson said. 

"At this time it does not appear to be related," Watson said, but added that the shooting is still under investigation. 

Watson said no suspects are in custody and the victim had not been identified as of 7:30 p.m. 

Nyake Tarmoh, 31, a protester with the Occupy Oakland movement, said he witnessed the shooting while standing in line at the camp's food tent. Tarmoh said he saw six suspicious-looking males, between the ages of 15 and 22, walking around the camp and they appeared to be looking for someone. 

The suspects spotted the victim standing near portable toilets and they ran over, punched him and beat him while he was on the ground, according to Tarmoh. 

Tarmoh said the suspects became aware of the fact that some Occupy Oakland members were watching and stopped.  

The victim got up and was running away from the suspects when one male with dreadlocks and a black hooded sweatshirt pulled out a gun and shot him in the head, according to Tarmoh.  

Tarmoh said he saw two of the suspect run into a BART station, while the shooter ran down Broadway. 

He said camp medics rushed to give the victim first-aid before an ambulance arrived and took him to a hospital. 

Tarmoh also stressed that the shooting was not related to the encampment. "They are not part of the Oakland movement," he said. 

Occupy Oakland members had been planning to hold a party tonight to celebrate its one-month anniversary but have decided to cancel the festivities out of respect for the victim, protesters said. 

Barucha Peller, who is part of the Occupy Oakland encampment, said the shooting happened next to the camp, not in it. 

"The only direct Occupy Oakland involvement was in order to provide emergency first-aid services," she said.  

Motorist Drew Sowyrda was driving west on Telegraph Avenue on his way to the gym when, as he was passing 27th Street, he saw "cop cars driving faster than I've ever seen through the traffic." 

"Right at the junction of Broadway and Telegraph they stopped a white car and pulled out the driver at gunpoint," Sowyrda said. 

He said the male driver was handcuffed and put into a police car, and he overheard police explaining to two female passengers in the car that there had been a shooting. 

He said they began to block off Broadway at that point.  

BART spokesman Jim Allison said the 12th Street station in Oakland was temporarily closed this evening as police searched two trains for possible suspects. 

Some people ran into the station after the shooting and it was initially believed that they were suspects, Allison said. 

However, officials have since determined that those people were "probably just frightened" and wanted to get away, he said. 

The station reopened at around 5:25 p.m. 

Several city officials showed up at the scene after the shooting, including Police Chief Howard Jordan and City Council President Larry Reid, who was among council members who held a news conference Wednesday saying the encampment must go.  

After learning that Occupy Oakland medics had helped the person who was shot tonight, Reid said, "I appreciate their efforts to help save the life of the victim in this situation." 

Although many at the scene insist the shooting wasn't related to the encampment, Reid said it should be part of the larger conversation about the camp.  

"I think it puts us in a position of having to look at this problem in a more comprehensive manner," he said, saying that there were knife fights on 14th Street earlier this week.  

Early this afternoon, Mayor Jean Quan said that a plan to remove the encampment "has to be done thoughtfully" and "has to take time." 

Quan said she wants to "continue dialogue" with protesters who have been in Frank Ogawa Plaza for a month before the city takes any action. 

Chief Jordan told reporters earlier today that, "I'm not at liberty to announce if and when we'll take any action" to remove protesters from the plaza. 

City Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, who is one of the members urging the immediate removal of the encampment, said, "We're waiting for the mayor and her administration to deal with the situation but it gets worse and worse every day." 

De La Fuente said he thinks the longer the protesters are allowed to stay at the plaza the harder it will be to remove them. 

"More and more people are camping out in the plaza, not less," he said. 

Earlier today, the mayor's office released a statement saying that three to five electrical breakers had been tripped on Monday on 14th Street and the interior plaza bench areas. 

City officials said staff has not been able to check the light poles to see what tripped the breakers so they have not been reset. 

Tonight, the lights were still out and a number of protesters at the crime scene were angrily yelling, "Turn the lights on," saying that the darkness leads to more crime.  

Others lit candles all around the scene of the shooting, and one man sat cross-legged and meditating near the police tape.

Updated: Thirty-Nine Protesters Arrested Yesterday at UC Berkeley--Meeting at 6pm Today

By Scott Harris (BCN)
Thursday November 10, 2011 - 04:52:00 PM

Protesters in the burgeoning "Occupy Cal" movement at the University of California at Berkeley are continuing to congregate outside Sproul Hall on campus today after demonstrations on Wednesday drew thousands and resulted in dozens of arrests. 

As of 3:30 p.m. today, demonstrators remained on Sproul Plaza continuing to occupy the space and waiting for today's General Assembly meeting at 6 p.m., though no tents were pitched on the lawn outside of the administration building.  

Two UC Berkeley police officers were standing guard in the area where protesters tried to set up tents Wednesday, said Ramon Quintero, who was arrested during Wednesday's demonstrations. 

Quintero was one of 39 protesters arrested throughout the day Wednesday, in demonstrations that lasted well into the night. Quintero was arrested during initial confrontations between police and protesters during the afternoon, when police used clubs to break through lines of protesters who linked arms to protect several tents pitched on the lawn. 

Quintero said he moved to stand in front of the police because he saw a young girl he knew and was worried she would be hurt as police in riot gear moved in. 

He said he was worried she would not be prepared for the police response. "I've been here for three years and I know the UCPD are more violent than any police department I've seen in action," Quintero said. 

Quintero said he is currently a research fellow at the university, and received a degree from UC Berkeley in geography and ethnic studies in 2010. He said that the confrontation with police left him bruised and sore today, and that when police attempted to arrest him they tore his clothes off and ripped his hair. He said that he spent hours in a small holding jail used by the UC Berkeley police, and was released at about 2:30 a.m. today. 

He views the confrontations as an attempt to stifle free speech on campus. "Of course that has to be challenged, because we can't let people in power define what free speech is," Quintero said. 

Quintero said a total of six were arrested in his group, identified by UC Berkeley police as students Sonja Diaz, Zahinde Atli, Timothy Fisken, Zakary Habash, and one faculty member, English professor Celeste Langan. 

Throughout the night, 33 more were arrested as protesters continued pitching tents in the plaza, and police moved in to tear them down. Of the 39 arrested, 32 were students at the university, and six had no affiliation with the campus. 

Officials said that all of those arrested were charged with willfully obstructing, interfering, or delaying of police action, and all but one were cited with failure to leave an unlawful assembly. Two of those arrested were charged with battery on a police officer. 

Demonstrations started with picketing and "teach-outs" in the morning, followed by a rally and brief march at noon, and a general assembly meeting at 1:30 p.m., when protesters voted overwhelmingly to establish an encampment. Protesters were warned by an email from UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau on Monday that camping on campus property and occupying buildings would not be tolerated. 

At one point during the confrontations, Harry le Grande, vice chancellor of student affairs, addressed the crowd and told protesters they could gather in Sproul Plaza 24 hours a day for the week, but no tents, sleeping bags, or sleeping would be permitted. 

After a vote, protesters rejected the proposal, and continued attempting to establish a camp that police would later move in to tear down. 

A handful of protesters were still in the plaza early this morning, guarding a lone tent that still remained on the steps of Sproul Hall. Protesters have vowed to gather throughout the day, and to hold a general assembly meeting tonight at 6 p.m. 

Protesters have also called for a student strike on the UC Berkeley campus for Tuesday, and are planning protests to coincide with the UC Regents meeting at UCSF Mission Bay on Nov. 16 and 17 to protest proposed tuition and fee hikes, and to more generally protest cuts to public education throughout California.

Press Release: City of Berkeley Police did not Participate in Campus Actions re Occupy Cal

From Sgt. Mary C. Kusmiss,BPD Public Information Officer
Thursday November 10, 2011 - 10:45:00 AM

We are writing this as we have received inquiries, calls and emails and wanted to offer accurate information to those who have questions or inquired.

There has been some widespread confusion as to the law enforcement entities that were involved in the Occupy Cal events of last evening. Members of the City of Berkeley Police Department (BPD) were not part of any mutual aid or assistance last evening/night. We have received calls and emails about our presence there. Out of respect and policy, we defer to UCPD to speak to their jurisdiction, activities and what assistance they sought.

City of Berkeley Police department (BPD) did manage the protest/demonstration during a part of the afternoon of November 9, 2011 when the group of several hundred marched onto City of Berkeley streets which are our jurisdiction. Groups have often done this when protesting or demonstrating in the past. BPD had bike officers, motor officers, parking enforcement officers and patrol officers to maintain community safety, the safety of participants, officer safety and to monitor the group for any unlawful activity. There was much verbal energy but no arrests were made. It went fairly smoothly. BPD managed the march until the group returned to UC campus.

UC Berkeley Police Remove Tents, Protest Continues

By Erika Heidecker (BCN)
Wednesday November 09, 2011 - 11:46:00 PM

Police have dismantled an encampment at the University of California at Berkeley tonight and protesters continue to hold their ground. 

Officers in riot gear forced their way through a crowd of demonstrators who were chanting "peaceful protest" and "Who's university? Our university" at around 9:30 p.m.  

Protesters said more people were arrested tonight in the second confrontation with police. 

Earlier today, at around 3:40 p.m., dozens of police pushed their way through a human chain using their batons and began taking the tents down, leading to scuffles between police and protesters.  

Six people had been arrested as of 7 p.m. and protesters were reporting that some demonstrators were injured during the police raid. 

Shortly before 4 p.m., police withdrew and the protesters quickly reestablished an encampment. 

University officials told the protesters they could use the site as a gathering spot for the week but could not camp out. 

Protesters tonight continue to face off with police who are standing in front of Sproul Hall.

Flash: Video of UC Berkeley Police Beating Up "Occupy" Students

By Miles Matthews
Wednesday November 09, 2011 - 11:02:00 PM


Scenes from a Protest

By Ted Friedman
Thursday November 10, 2011 - 12:55:00 AM
Tents, to right of Sproul Hall entrance in Sproul Plaza, U.C., are what's left of a larger encampment which was raided earlier today. The tents and the banners on Spruoul Hall, to right, are in violation of UCB restrictions, according to a UCPD spokesman. Later there was a clash with police.
Ted Friedman
Tents, to right of Sproul Hall entrance in Sproul Plaza, U.C., are what's left of a larger encampment which was raided earlier today. The tents and the banners on Spruoul Hall, to right, are in violation of UCB restrictions, according to a UCPD spokesman. Later there was a clash with police.
Portion of a larger group (more than 500) before police clashed with a converging crowd
Ted Friedman
Portion of a larger group (more than 500) before police clashed with a converging crowd
Sproul Plaza earlier Wednesday. Crowd of more than 1,000 in distance. Expect confrontations over tents and banners as evening becomes morning
Ted Friedman
Sproul Plaza earlier Wednesday. Crowd of more than 1,000 in distance. Expect confrontations over tents and banners as evening becomes morning

“Occupy” Protests Come to UC Berkeley Campus

By Steven Finacom
Wednesday November 09, 2011 - 11:21:00 PM

A day designated to “Occupy Cal” included dawn to dusk protest activities on the UC Berkeley campus on Wednesday, including outdoor classes, a large noontime rally, a slightly smaller but still vigorous march to the Telegraph Avenue Bank of America, debate and establishment of a small tent occupation on campus, and a mid-afternoon confrontation with UC Police which resulted in removal of some of the tents and a few arrests.

As dusk fell and a full moon rose over the Berkeley Hills, three news helicopters thrummed above Sproul Plaza and hundreds milled about two tents set up after the afternoon occupation.

Most of the protest occurred quite close to my campus office so I was able to take a late lunch to watch part of the rally and march. Later, when shouting arose I stepped outside for a short mid-afternoon break to watch the tent confrontation, then returned after work to see what remained.

Two photo essays will be posted here, a combination of my pictures and other contributed pictures. The first essay traces the events of the day in roughly chronological sequence. The second shows the wide variety of protest signs that were hoisted during the demonstrations. 

My rough estimate was that the lunch hour Sproul Plaza crowd numbered over a thousand active participants, and perhaps as many curious and interested spectators. The short Southside march included hundreds, and perhaps three or four hundred reassembled on campus and were involved when the tent confrontation occurred. Evening saw several hundred participants and curious passersby in Sproul Plaza and on the Mario Savio Steps. 

The Telegraph marchers left the campus at Bancroft and Telegraph, moved down one block to Durant while Berkeley Police motorcycle officers stopped north and eastbound traffic, chanted in front of the entrances to the Bank of America branch, then turned eastbound up Durant before returning to the campus. 

Protest and rally activities then centered in the Sproul Plaza area, particularly around the northwest corner of Sproul Hall. 

Good event-by-event coverage of the protests can be found on the Daily Californian website and live blog, especially the on-going evening events as UC administrators met with the students. Go to http://www.dailycal.org/ for the most recent stories and for the live blog see http://www.dailycal.org/2011/11/09/live-blog-day-of-action-2/ 

The protestors are following some of the protocols of the rest of the “Occupy Movement” including no formal leaders, “General Assemblies” where speakers are heard and mass votes are taken, and crowd members repeating the sentences of speakers so what’s said can carry to the edges of the audience. Calls of “Mic Check!” are shouted out when someone is about to speak. 

The protestors voted to endorse two proposals at the afternoon General Assembly. They’re posted on Daily Cal website here

The UC Berkeley official NewsCenter also posted an on-going blog with updates on activities, which can be found here

See the sidebar of that blog for links to official statements by Chancellor Birgeneau and other campus leaders, and “messages” from the Graduate Assembly and the ASUC. 




Chronology of a Protest

By Steven Finacom
Thursday November 10, 2011 - 12:16:00 AM
In an especially Berkeley scene, UC Berkeley Police Prius patrol cars were lined up in the morning along Bancroft Way next to police vans and news vans.
Steven Finacom
In an especially Berkeley scene, UC Berkeley Police Prius patrol cars were lined up in the morning along Bancroft Way next to police vans and news vans.
The mid-day rally on Sproul Plaza attracted thousands, many of them with protest signs.  There were short speeches.
Steven Finacom
The mid-day rally on Sproul Plaza attracted thousands, many of them with protest signs. There were short speeches.
“Make Banks Pay” was a common sign at the rally, as speakers focused on the role of big financial institutions in the economic collapse.
Steven Finacom
“Make Banks Pay” was a common sign at the rally, as speakers focused on the role of big financial institutions in the economic collapse.
As protesters rallied, police temporarily stopped traffic on Bancroft to move an Alameda County Sheriff’s bus into position on Barrow Lane behind Sproul Hall.  These buses are typically brought to large protests where numerous arrests are possible.
Steven Finacom
As protesters rallied, police temporarily stopped traffic on Bancroft to move an Alameda County Sheriff’s bus into position on Barrow Lane behind Sproul Hall. These buses are typically brought to large protests where numerous arrests are possible.
Berkeley Police bicycle patrol waited for the march down Telegraph Avenue and attracted the attention of perennial Berkeley protestor, Zachery Running Wolf.
Steven Finacom
Berkeley Police bicycle patrol waited for the march down Telegraph Avenue and attracted the attention of perennial Berkeley protestor, Zachery Running Wolf.
A solitary homeless woman panhandled in front of the Telegraph Avenue branch of the Bank of America in the quiet minutes before the march began.
Steven Finacom
A solitary homeless woman panhandled in front of the Telegraph Avenue branch of the Bank of America in the quiet minutes before the march began.
The march out of Sproul Plaza briefly paused at the Bancroft Way edge, then surged down Telegraph with a fringe of photographers keeping pace in front.
Steven Finacom
The march out of Sproul Plaza briefly paused at the Bancroft Way edge, then surged down Telegraph with a fringe of photographers keeping pace in front.
A protestor wrapped “Caution” tape around the B of A façade.
Steven Finacom
A protestor wrapped “Caution” tape around the B of A façade.
The march arrived at Telegraph and Durant.  Marchers chanted in front of both bank entrances, while Berkeley Police stopped traffic.   The marchers then headed up Durant.
Steven Finacom
The march arrived at Telegraph and Durant. Marchers chanted in front of both bank entrances, while Berkeley Police stopped traffic. The marchers then headed up Durant.
Minutes after the protest passed, customers were back at the B of A ATM machines, which had been festooned with signs.
Steven Finacom
Minutes after the protest passed, customers were back at the B of A ATM machines, which had been festooned with signs.
After the march, many of the Occupy Cal protesters returned to Sproul Plaza where they gathered in small discussion groups, then convened a “General Assembly.”
Contributed Photo
After the march, many of the Occupy Cal protesters returned to Sproul Plaza where they gathered in small discussion groups, then convened a “General Assembly.”
The “General Assembly” voted to set up a tent encampment on the lawn in front of Sproul Hall.
Contributed Photo
The “General Assembly” voted to set up a tent encampment on the lawn in front of Sproul Hall.
Later in the afternoon UC Police and mutual aid reinforcements in riot gear moved out in force from Sproul Hall and formed a picket line along the northwest front, with protestors closely massed in front.
Steven Finacom
Later in the afternoon UC Police and mutual aid reinforcements in riot gear moved out in force from Sproul Hall and formed a picket line along the northwest front, with protestors closely massed in front.
Some police were armed with projectile weapons.
Steven Finacom
Some police were armed with projectile weapons.
Protestors formed a wall in front of the tents in an angle of the lawn, north of the Mario Savio Steps.
Steven Finacom
Protestors formed a wall in front of the tents in an angle of the lawn, north of the Mario Savio Steps.
The police extended their line around the corner and took apart some of the tents.  It was at this point that a number of arrests occurred.  There was considerable shouting and chanting, some jostling, and protestors pulled at least one of the tents over their heads and above the crowd to keep it away from the police.
Steven Finacom
The police extended their line around the corner and took apart some of the tents. It was at this point that a number of arrests occurred. There was considerable shouting and chanting, some jostling, and protestors pulled at least one of the tents over their heads and above the crowd to keep it away from the police.
Police carried fragments of the dismantled tents around to the basement of Sproul Hall while the crowd heckled and chanted.
Steven Finacom
Police carried fragments of the dismantled tents around to the basement of Sproul Hall while the crowd heckled and chanted.
One protestor who had previously been sitting on a windowsill of Sproul Hall was arrested.
Steven Finacom
One protestor who had previously been sitting on a windowsill of Sproul Hall was arrested.
After 5:00 pm, as dusk fell, two tents were reestablished on the lawn, as hundreds of protestors and spectators talked in small groups.  Only a few police were visible at that point.
Steven Finacom
After 5:00 pm, as dusk fell, two tents were reestablished on the lawn, as hundreds of protestors and spectators talked in small groups. Only a few police were visible at that point.
Protestors around the tents were interviewed by a press of media, and food supplies were stacked up.  One protestor appealed to the crowd to keep the area clean and neat.
Steven Finacom
Protestors around the tents were interviewed by a press of media, and food supplies were stacked up. One protestor appealed to the crowd to keep the area clean and neat.

A photo chronology of the November 9, 2011 “Occupy Cal” Day of Protest

Creative Cal Tuition Protest Signs

By Steven Finacom
Wednesday November 09, 2011 - 11:55:00 PM
A simple “SOS” appeal against the backdrop of Sproul Hall and the Sather Campanile.
Steven Finacom
A simple “SOS” appeal against the backdrop of Sproul Hall and the Sather Campanile.
A flyer put up on the tents.  “We Are Not Camping. This Is Our Permit”, against a backdrop of the Bill of Rights, highlighting “We’re assembly peaceably to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Steven Finacom
A flyer put up on the tents. “We Are Not Camping. This Is Our Permit”, against a backdrop of the Bill of Rights, highlighting “We’re assembly peaceably to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
“The Regents are the 1%.”
Steven Finacom
“The Regents are the 1%.”
“I Poo on the 1%”, held by a Cal parent and his baby.
Steven Finacom
“I Poo on the 1%”, held by a Cal parent and his baby.
A Cal blue and gold ship goes down in a sea of sharks.
Steven Finacom
A Cal blue and gold ship goes down in a sea of sharks.
Cal Associate Vice Chancellor for University Communications Claire Holmes circulated through the crowd passing out “Support Public Education” stickers, which many put on (some upside down).
Steven Finacom
Cal Associate Vice Chancellor for University Communications Claire Holmes circulated through the crowd passing out “Support Public Education” stickers, which many put on (some upside down).
“Arab Spring, Chilean Winter, Meet The American Fall.”
Steven Finacom
“Arab Spring, Chilean Winter, Meet The American Fall.”
“If I Had $ To Waste I Would Have Gone To Stanford.”
Steven Finacom
“If I Had $ To Waste I Would Have Gone To Stanford.”
A simple “Occupy.”
Steven Finacom
A simple “Occupy.”
“Companies should donate to education through their taxes.”
Steven Finacom
“Companies should donate to education through their taxes.”
“Berkeley Law: we object to the mismanagement of our University.”
Steven Finacom
“Berkeley Law: we object to the mismanagement of our University.”
“Education Shouldn’t Be A DEBT Sentence” and “UC Education Was Free!  It Still Should Be!”
Steven Finacom
“Education Shouldn’t Be A DEBT Sentence” and “UC Education Was Free! It Still Should Be!”
“81 % Fee Hike (is) The Death of Public Education.”
Steven Finacom
“81 % Fee Hike (is) The Death of Public Education.”
An outline of student tuition woes.
Steven Finacom
An outline of student tuition woes.
A multi slogan sign, including “Help The Suffering BEFORE the Privileged.”
Steven Finacom
A multi slogan sign, including “Help The Suffering BEFORE the Privileged.”
“ReFund Public Education” next to “Tents Are Free”.
Steven Finacom
“ReFund Public Education” next to “Tents Are Free”.
“$250,000 DEBT Is Not A Future.”
Steven Finacom
“$250,000 DEBT Is Not A Future.”
The flyers put up in advance of the protests, featuring a bear climbing the Sather Campanile.
Steven Finacom
The flyers put up in advance of the protests, featuring a bear climbing the Sather Campanile.
One of the protesters at yesterday's "Occupy Cal" demonstration...
Steven Finacom
One of the protesters at yesterday's "Occupy Cal" demonstration...
“We Should Do This More Often”, hoisted in the midst of the throng of ralliers.
Steven Finacom
“We Should Do This More Often”, hoisted in the midst of the throng of ralliers.

A sampling of the creative signs at the November 9, 2011, “Occupy Cal” Protest. Captions provide the text of the signs.

Open Letter to Chancellor Birgenau and Chief Celaya re Free Speech on Berkeley Campus

By Councimember Kriss Worthington
Wednesday November 09, 2011 - 04:31:00 PM

At the Home of the Free Speech Movement the UCPD appears to have suppressed Free Speech Again! Please join us in questioning this behavior and challenge the UCPD to respect the Free Speech Rights of Occupy Cal. 

Below is an email I sent to the UC Chancellor and Police Chief: 

Dear Chancellor Birgeneau and Chief Celaya, 

I wanted to bring to your attention that banners with Free Speech content appear to have been seized by UCPD in front of Sproul Plaza. The banner was not attached to any tent so should not be in any questionable legal territory as validly permitted. It is hard to imagine that such an act could occur at the exact location of Berkeley where the Free Speech Movement began. 

I respectfully request that you promptly inform your officers to STOP seizing banners that are legitimately in the hands of students and protesters. I also request that you return the banners that were inappropriately seized. You can imagine that the sense of irony will not be lost on the public, that the UCPD violated the Free Speech rights of protesters at this particular location. 

I understand that there are lot of people at the Occupy Cal event and that such an event can cause a lot of stress on you and officers. Nonetheless, in the United States and in Berkeley, we have clearly established parameters that allow posters and Free Speech banners. We request your prompt attention to this negative blotch on the UCPD on the very first day of Occupy Cal. 

These students have made a firm commitment to no violence and no vandalism . The University should be commending the thousands of students that are participating. For many, this could be their very first political protest of their life. They are protesting specifically for additional financing for the University of California. The University should support this enthusiasm and help encourage this to be an effective protest that helps the University and our country. 

It is unfortunate and unacceptable that the UCPD are vandalizing and removing free speech banners from the event. Please stop this behavior now. 

Thank you for your prompt attention to this important issue. 

Flash: UC Berkeley Police in Riot Gear Pull Down "Occupy Cal" Tents

By Scott Morris
Wednesday November 09, 2011 - 03:25:00 PM

Police have broken through a line of protesters on the University of California at Berkeley campus this afternoon and are taking down a half-dozen tents set up by the demonstrators. 

At least one protester has been arrested.  

The tents had been erected on the lawn in front of Sproul Hall after a noon rally and march to protest tuition and fee increases for university students and funding cuts to all levels of public education. 

The demonstration is intended to be in the style of "Occupy Wall Street," "Occupy Oakland" and similar protests, and participants planned to set up an encampment that would stand for at least a day.  

The protesters had set up the tents on the lawn after a 1:30 p.m. general assembly, and had linked arms and formed a circle around the tents to prevent police from removing the small encampment.  

However, around 3:40 p.m., dozens of police in riot gear pushed their way through the human chain using their batons and began taking the tents down. 

There were scuffles between the officers and protesters, and the crowd began chanting, "Stop beating students." 

Before police moved in, UC Berkeley police Lt. Eric Tejada reminded the demonstrators that camping is illegal there.  

"Remove your tents now," he said.  

On Monday, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau sent a letter to students, faculty and staff saying that while the university supports the principles behind the Occupy Wall Street movement, camping will not be allowed on campus. 

"Any activities such as pulling fire alarms, occupying buildings, setting up encampments, graffiti, or other destructive actions that disrupt with anyone's ability to conduct regular activities -- go to class, study, carry out their research, etc. -- will not be tolerated," the letter stated. 

Updated: UC Berkeley Students, Employees "Occupy Cal"

By Scott Morris BCN)
Wednesday November 09, 2011 - 03:22:00 PM

Students and University of California at Berkeley employees are setting up an encampment on the campus today to protest tuition and fee increases for university students and funding cuts to all levels of public education. 

The encampment will be in the style of "Occupy Wall Street," "Occupy Oakland" and other encampments across the world that have been established to bring attention to a broad range of economic and political issues. 

The camp is only anticipated to last two days, but some protest organizers said it could go on longer. Many other "Occupy" encampments have been set up indefinitely. 

Tanya Smith, president of the Berkeley chapter of UPTE-CWA 9119, a union of health care workers, researchers and technical employees, said her union supports the protests. 

"We passed a resolution supporting the Occupy movement and supporting their basic needs," Smith said.  

"At least a couple of members have talked about camping out," she said. "We want to help students with resources to the extent that we are able, we certainly will be around them and with them." 

The protests began with picket lines and "teach-outs" at several locations around the campus this morning. A rally began at Sproul Plaza at noon and was scheduled to be followed by a short march and a general assembly at 1:30 p.m. 

More than 800 people said on a Facebook page set up for "Occupy Cal" that they would be attending today's protest.  

Smith said protesters would likely discuss how long the camp will stay at today's general assembly. 

"I think some of those decisions will come up there. I don't think it's going to be ongoing but I'm not sure," Smith said. 

On Monday, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau sent a letter to students, faculty and staff saying that while the university supports the principles behind the Occupy Wall Street movement, camping will not be allowed on campus. 

"Any activities such as pulling fire alarms, occupying buildings, setting up encampments, graffiti, or other destructive actions that disrupt with anyone's ability to conduct regular activities -- go to class, study, carry out their research, etc. -- will not be tolerated," the letter stated. 

Smith said she objects to the characterization of an encampment as disruptive.  

"This is not intended to disturb anyone's education, it's intended to broaden education," she said. 

Protests are also planned for the Nov. 16 UC Regents meeting at UC San Francisco's Mission Bay campus.

Berkeley's Solar Calendar Rocks

By Gar Smith
Wednesday November 09, 2011 - 10:41:00 AM
East Bay Conservation Corps members work on maintaining the Solar Calendar.
Gar Smith
East Bay Conservation Corps members work on maintaining the Solar Calendar.
Gar Smith
Gar Smith

It was a beautiful late October day, ideal weather for enjoying the sweeping panorama from atop the hills north of the Berkeley Marina. It was a lovely day for soaking up the sun and inhaling great gasps of fresh Bay breeze. And it was also a perfect day for grabbing pick-axes, shovels and a hundred small boulders to gussy up the perimeter surrounding the César Chávez Memorial Solar Calendar. 

The Solar Calendar is a special site. Every Solstice and Equinox, it draws a crowd of students, environmentalists, activists, astronomers and Wiccans. In between, it draws curious stares from dog walkers and excited laughter from school children on field trips. 

The Solar Calendar (Note: Don't call it a "sundial") sits in the center of a grass-fringed summit, encircled by a mini-Stonehenge of earth-backed berms and four clusters of signs detailing various aspects of the life of United Farm Workers' leader César Chávez. Each of the four points of the compass is marked by a stone bearing one of the cardinal virtues epitomized by Chávez' life of service and sacrifice — Hope, Determination, Courage and Tolerance. 

In addition to providing one of the Bay Area's best scenic vantage points, the summit's celestial monument also puts visitors in the position of being at the virtual "helm of Spaceship Earth." Standing alongside the three-foot-tall stone gnomon as it casts a shadow across the face of the Meridian Calendar, visitors can mark the slow course of the planet as it moves eastward on its axis. Standing on this spot and watching the slow progress of the ever-moving shadow, visitors can feel as if they are "driving the planet" from this unique perch. (An illusion, of course, since none of us are Captains of this ship: we are all merely Passengers.) 

Berm, Baby, Berm! 

Santiago Casal, the visionary sociologist and designer who created the memorial — and who continues to nurture its ever-evolving transformations — was on hand to greet volunteers, which today included Karen Fox-Reynolds leading a delegation of students from the Marin School in Albany and nearly a dozen members of the East Bay Conservation Corps. "The Corps has been involved in the creation of the site since the very beginning," Casal says. 

Casal looks over the 1.5-acre site and sighs. "The berms seem to have become ground squirrel hotels," he says, "Not sure what to do about that." But quickly turning back to the day's work, he explains that volunteers will be "resetting some of the stones on the berms to achieve a greater esthetic and we will be lengthening the tail of the Calendar to accentuate the southern orientation and aerial image of the site." And, he adds, "new signage is in the works." 

By day's end, the eastern and southern berms will be enhanced with new stone walls with eight large boulders marking the site's coordinates. The smaller stones used to build the encircling berms were donated by American Soil and Stone while the soil used to back the new berms was donated by Brickyard Excavations. 

Armed with picks, shovels and strong backs, the Conservation Corps crew swarms over the site while down the hill, an earthmover is busy rebuilding the path that leads uphill to the site. Wiping his brow, one of the young Corps workers pauses to laugh and exclaims: "Man! I'm exercising muscles I didn't even know I had!" 

Overseeing the work is a beaming Bill Ritchie. A building coordinator with the City of Oakland, Richie works with members of the Neighborhood Service Department and has had a hand in the Chavez Memorial from the earliest days. Or, as Richie puts it: "When we were just piling dirt on top of dirt." Richie grew up cash-poor but in a resilient environment — his family home was small but there were chickens, goats and dogs in the backyard as well as a thriving food garden. These days, Richie admits he's concerned about social collapse. "We need to get back to the basics — back to the land," he says. He believes sites like this are part of the solution. 

James LaFemina, the site's stonemason (who prefers to go by the name "JL") explains that we will be "dry-stacking" the stone walls. No mortar is being used, so the trick is to find the one stone that fits near-perfectly into the niche that's been created by all the other stones previously placed. This is a "special spatial" puzzle where the "solution" does not pre-exist but happens spontaneously at the moment you find the perfect stone to drop into place. 

JL admits that he likes to finish his workdays by returning home, kicking back and filling out crossword puzzles. Finding the right word to complete a line or a block "is just as satisfying as placing the right stone," he smiles. 

JL instructs his apprentice masons to take care to place the stones with their colorful, weathered sides facing outward. "It can take 100 years to grow one square inch of lichen," he notes. He also alerts us to "the five minute rule": if you can't find a fit in five minutes, move on to a different part of the wall. We roll and rotate each of the 10-20-pound rocks, checking their shapes and size. It takes more than one trip to the wall to find a stone that fits. And we do our best to honor the lichen. 

A salute to some unsung heroes: The Solar Calendar's current crew of volunteer Stewards includes: Tory Brady, Kathy Churchill, Beck Cowles, Curtis Gray, Steve Haflich, Carlos Hill, Russell Nelson, Mojgan Saberi, Chuck Soper,Cathy Sponseller and Jim Shallenberger. For more information: http://solarcalendar.org 

From Port to Plaza and Back Again (First Person)

by Daniel Borgström
Wednesday November 09, 2011 - 09:28:00 AM

In the early morning hours of Tuesday, October 25th, police raided the encampment of Occupy Oakland. We'd gotten word that it was likely to occur this night, and, as I headed out to join my companions at the Plaza, I was thinking of an incident from local history--the police attack in the Port of Oakland on the morning of April 7, 2003. 

On that day antiwar demonstrators were picketing at the docks, peacefully protesting war profiteering by shipping companies, when police attacked. It was pretty brutal. Fifty-nine persons, including protesters, dock workers, and journalists were injured. Presumably the attack was intended as a message, something like: "Don't ever enter this port again! Don't even think of it!" 

Exactly five weeks later, on May 12th 2003, several hundred protesters marched back into the Port, with banners flying and band playing. We successfully shut it down. 

And that wasn't the end of it. The following year (2004), protesters commemorated the anniversary of the infamous attack by again returning to the Port, again shutting it down. Since then the Port has been picketed and shut down on several occasions, most recently in June 2010, to protest the Israeli attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. 

Some people do learn from history. But what about Mayor Jean Quan? --former Maoist, veteran of the student movement of the 1960's, and now, a liberal Democrat. With her experience as a former radical activist, she should've understood the dynamics. It seems that she did not. 

For our part, at the General Assembly of Occupy Oakland, we'd decided by consensus vote that we'd defend our camp as best we could. If driven out and scattered, we'd reassemble the next afternoon at 4 p.m. in front of the library. That was the plan. Sentries were posted at each corner of the Plaza. I shared a post with two others of the security team, and it was on our watch that the raid began. We first sighted the police at 2:20 a.m. After determining that they were staging for a raid, we sounded the alarm and woke the camp. "Everybody up! Everybody up!" 

More than two hours passed before the police actually made their move. Hundreds of them suddenly dashed out of the shadows, surrounded our camp, then halted. I glanced up at the clock on the Tribune Tower; it was 4:40 a.m. Police from 17 agencies. They just stood there for what seemed like a very long time, motionless, not moving, their Darth Vader helmets glittering ominously in the dim light. The very sight of such overwhelming numbers was absolutely terrifying. Shock and Awe. 

We scattered among the tents. Finally regaining our composure, we returned to the perimeter, linked arms, and began chanting, "Cops go home! Cops go home!" The riot police just stood there, still not moving. And we stood where we were, also not moving. I glanced at the people around me, nearly all were young, excepting myself and two or three others. About half of us were women. Twenty minutes passed. 

Eventually a loudspeaker crackled; the police were telling us to leave the Plaza. A few minutes later there was a loud explosion and a bright flash of light--a "flash bang," and the helmeted police advanced towards us, tearing down our barricade as they approached. 

This time our line didn't waver. We chanted to the police, "You are also the 99%!" and "We are fighting for you!" 

They pulled us apart, one by one. 105 were arrested, according to the police. Despite the scariness of it all, the police mostly acted with restraint. I wasn't hurt, nor were most of the people around me. As repression goes, it was gentle--if you discount a few injuries and the fact that they razed our tent city, destroying our equipment. Not to mention the sheer terror of the experience. 

While waiting to be hauled off to jail, we talked with our captors, and found that they didn't like Wall Street either. "We're following orders," they told us. We overheard one officer saying to another, "Why are we arresting these people? Haven't we got something better to be doing?" 

They kept us in jail for about fifteen hours. Some were held longer. Jail food was awful. Meanwhile, over a thousand people met at the library at 4 p.m., then marched to the jail where we were being detained and held a vigil, a very loud one. From inside the jail we could hear them, and it felt really great. From there they continued on to the Plaza which had been the site of our camp. That's when police got really violent. Tear gas in the streets, people clubbed, an Iraqi war veteran critically injured. 

The next evening, Wednesday October 26, we returned to the Plaza and held a General Assembly attended by upwards of three thousand people. Many left to defend Occupy SF, where a raid was reportedly about to begin (At the last minute it was called off). Those of us remaining at the Plaza voted (1,442 in favor, 34 opposed, and 73 abstaining) to call for a general strike on November 2nd. As we did so, I kept thinking of an aphorism from the French May '68 rebellion: "Be realistic--demand the impossible." Meanwhile, greetings were coming in from occupations around the country including Occupy Wall Street and even from Tahrir Square, the mother of all occupations. The world was watching us, and we knew it. 

"Oakland! Oakland!" we chanted, "The world is watching Oakland!" 

The response to the attack at the Port of Oakland back in 2003 had seemed really big at the time, but it was small compared to this. 

Our eviction from the Plaza, a project on which city officials must've spent a huge amount of taxpayer money, had lasted about thirty-six hours. 

Tents began to reappear. First one, eight or nine more the next day. Soon there were twenty, and by the end of the week most of the Plaza had been re-tented. All our tents, sleeping bags and other gear were destroyed by the raiders, but we're rebuilding. The Plaza is our base of operations, our citadel, our symbol of hope. But this is not classical warfare where survival ultimately depends on holding a key position, however important. If driven from the Plaza again, we will again regroup and reoccupy. 

--- --- --- DANIEL BORGSTRÖM was at the Port of Oakland on April 7, 2003 and has taken part in several Port actions since, most recently on Nov 2nd. He writes on progressive topics and his website is at: http://danielborgstrom.blogspot.com/

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) 










Berkeley's Booting Scheme Creates Maximum Problems, Minimum Revenue

By Becky O'Malley
Wednesday November 09, 2011 - 09:48:00 AM

Back to Berkeley, after the excitement in Oakland seems to have settled into a long slog, this week we have an example of the unintended consequences of the city management’s latest attempt to squeeze more moolah out of the citizenry.

You may remember that The Management, rubberstamped as usual by a complaisant group of electeds, has been sold Smart Boot, a computerized scheme for rapid collection of outstanding traffic tickets. Like many innovations which glom on to “Smart” branding, it’s a dumb idea which is looking dumber and dumber all the time.  

Case in point: we’re having some painting done by a friend who’s an excellent painting contractor as his day job, besides being a well-regarded acoustic bass jazz musician in the rest of his time. On Friday he needed to drop off some equipment at our house, so he parked his van, just for a few minutes, across our driveway.  

(No one ever puts a car in this driveway, because to get out you’d have to back into Ashby—and you’d better write your will first if you try that. Nevertheless, zoning requires us to maintain both the driveway and the garage which has never had a car in it since we’ve owned the house.) 

Guess what? That’s right, when he came out the van had been booted. Yes, Virginia, he had some unpaid traffic tickets, an occupational hazard of two professions which require unloading of either ladders or a bass at many stops. And no, he can’t transport these on a bicycle, in case the self-righteous among you are tempted to ask. 

However, he’d recently renewed his license, and he thought he’d paid all the tickets then. He called whatever number the booters gave him to ask about this, and whoever he talked to said cheerfully “yes, we make a lot of mistakes. You should talk to the city.” So he headed for City Hall. 

Catch 22: As you may be aware, The City is officially furloughed on many Fridays, including this one. So he had to leave the booted car in the driveway over the weekend, making it impossible for us to roll out the garbage cans in time for the Monday pickup. 

And that’s not the end of it. 

On Saturday night he had a gig in downtown Berkeley, for which he borrowed his wife’s car. (Oh, they also have teenagers to transport, especially the one who plays the cello, and that has caused them to get more tickets on that car.) 

Guess what? You got it, another boot job.  

And not only that, he reports that six or seven other cars were booted in the same block of Addison on Saturday night. That’s a few patrons of the fabled Berkeley Arts District who probably won’t be back any time soon. 

This is where the Puritans among you will pop their heads up and say, they all deserve it. They shouldn’t park illegally. If they do, they should pay their tickets right away, instead of putting it off until license renewal time. In fact, that’s just what my conscientious painter/musician friend said as he kicked himself.  

But not so fast—consider the social consequences. As a painting contractor, he’s providing jobs for three or four guys who would otherwise be unemployed, so when his business loses time and money over the boot incident it’s a net loss to society.  

As a musician, he’s attracting badly needed paying customers to downtown Berkeley and its various small businesses.  

As a parent, he’s raising two more musicians who seem likely to make a great contribution to the community, and as a husband he’s helped his his wife to get her degree from U.C. as an over-40 student, so that she now fills an important social service job.  

Balance all these social costs against the money raised for the public coffers by booting his vehicles. 

I don’t have complete figures, but the Smart Boot corporation gets $140 off the top from every transaction. The tickets themselves are now serviced by an out-of-town company which gets a piece of the action. All in all, I’d be surprised to hear that the City of Berkeley nets more than a couple of hundred dollars from each boot, while the average bootee probably pays close to $1000 to get his or her car back. 

Balance that against the city’s ongoing expenses. For example, there are currently 75 City of Berkeley retirees whose pensions exceed $100,000. The City Manager’s pension when he retires this year will be close to $300,000. The modest sums collected off the backs of hard-working people like my musician friend by the boot scheme are a drop in the bucket by comparison. 

Last year’s shortfall from uncollected parking tickets was only about $1.5 million. If that amount is collected under the Smart Boot scheme at a net gain to the city of only about $200 per boot, it will pay for no more than 15 of those 75 pricey pensions. 

And there will be 7500 outraged drivers with attendant social losses—is it really worth it? 

The Smart Boot system just started on October 18, but there’s undoubtedly already a good crop of horror stories as bad as, or worse than, what happened to my musician friend. If you have one, the Planet would like to hear from you.

The Editor's Back Fence

Blogging Occupy Cal

Thursday November 10, 2011 - 09:54:00 AM

For an account of what happened late last night and lots of pictures, see Steve Leibel's blog post with overview of events & a little editorializing ...

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


Cartoon Page: BOUNCE

By Joseph Young
Wednesday November 09, 2011 - 01:53:00 PM


Joseph Young


Cartoon Page: Odd Bodkins

By Dan O'Neill
Wednesday November 09, 2011 - 01:39:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Public Comment

About Ted's Position

By Thomas Lord
Wednesday November 09, 2011 - 11:38:00 PM

I was thinking about Ted's "occupy yourself!" rant. I'd seen some people take offense at it and at some of Ted's other takes on Occupy. I was thinking about what to say to those people. It's this:

Ted's bent here is just run of the mill cynical nihilism. There's a lot of that around here, particularly among people of a certain generation. They think: Grass roots revolutionary change is impossible, wrong-headed, and pitiful -- don't you know? Anything that smells vaguely like ideology is almost certainly meaningless. Uncle Ted will share his views on the absurdities and vacuousness of the whole affair... he's seen it all unfold before.

Which is a perfectly reasonable position for Ted to take, even if he's wrong. 

Remember that it is within living memory for many in Berkeley that, well, the revolution started more than 40 years ago. It even resulted in an apparently permanent occupation of People's Park. Yes, pretty words were spoken and parts were groovy but this was The Real Deal: the national guard used a helicopter to crop-dust parts of campus with tear gas; people were beaten; James Rector was shot to death in Berkeley, by the police, for no good reason, and Alan Blanchard blinded that same day by the same kind of buck shot fired from police rifles for the same absense of any good reason. 

Against the outrages, hopes ran high. Not only were similar protests happening around the nation but, indeed, around the world. "Same song all around the world," crowed Abbie Hoffman, back from some travels. 

Many organized factions competed for leadership, sometimes fighting among themselves and sometimes forming coalitions. Multiple flavors of marxists, hippies, multiple flavors of Black nationalists, and white liberals. Some militant, some not. 

Imposing yourself as leadership was easier back then. If you tied into a national organization, you had an easier time communicating with people in other cities (in those pre-Internet days). If you tied into those organizations, you had easier access to money and you had a shiny air of authority. Hell, just having decent access to a mimeograph machine (you might have heard of them) gave one a measure of authority and power. 

There wasn't much on TV back then so this revolution stuff was pretty stimulating! 

There were competing theories, then as now, about what was happening politically. There were those who it seemed were just there for the party and the free food and the hook-up opportunities. There was then, like today, no easy answer to "why are they doing this? this causing a ruckus and such?" 

For a while, the dissidents could believe that in spite of the organizational and ideological chaos, somehow it would all converge and things would Change with a capital C. It didn't. It kind of fell apart. 

Sure, some changes happened. But... 

It all turned very sour and people went their own ways and a lot, to this day, are rightly skeptical and cast a jaundiced eye over something like Occupy thinking "Yeah. Cute. Talk to me in a few years. I'll try not to say I told ya' so. That stuff never works." 

Says Ted: "Occupy Yourself! [....] The occupation is over," and in between he fills in a kind of darkly sarcastic parody of the old "change begins within" mantra. 

We feel your pain, Ted. 

Now Ted, take a deep breath and go back to the Med and get the stories you're great at getting. Give this one a rest. And here's why: 

Ted this isn't the same old same old. Things really are different this time. No, really. Stop chuckling. Geeze. 

See, all the bad ways in which things fell apart back then -- the impossibility of naive political organizing -- the harsh limitations of protest .... 

That's all in living memory. We're aware of that. We are familiar with those stories. We are not recapitulating those earlier days. We are taking them as informative background. 

The young people today are, to put it simply, cannier than the young people back then. And also in better touch with one another -- less need for "leaders". 

And you've got cynicism, Ted? Ha! You don't know cynicism. You're an amateur compared to the youth of today. You're a cynicism amateur compared to even me and I'm somewhere around half way between you and the youth of today. 

It's in spite of widespread recognition that, really, Occupy can't possibly work -- that it's absurd to even try .... 

It's in spite of knowing how similar efforts failed in the past.... 

People are choosing to, anyway, at least try. But try this time a little more cleverly. And clever we've been. 

There is power in that. There is power in a movement that leads people to attempt the absurd -- because its the best option they can see on the table. 

Counts vary, Ted, but how many 10s of thousands do you think came out to support the general strike and shut down the port of Oakland? And that was organized in a matter of days. It drew upon people from all walks of life. It was a direct and visceral convulsion of, yes, the middle class standing up in support of the protests and against the political and economic powers arrayed against the people. The general strike cowed the police and the city, Ted. Undeniably. 

People on all sides are comparing this to a labor action of 1946 - not a 1968 protest. Something, you ought to admit in the end, is bigger and better this time. 

The occupation is not over. It's barely just begun.

"Some things never change": Student Protests at UC Berkeley

By Jane Stillwater
Wednesday November 09, 2011 - 11:33:00 PM

On tonight's news, they featured various segments covering protests at Occupy Oakland, Occupy Los Angeles, Occupy Denver, Occupy Seattle, Occupy New York, Occupy Austin, Occupy Chicago, etc. And tonight I was also a part of "Occupy Cal". And the university police charged into a mass of student demonstrators like they were going after bank robbers or bad guys instead of just students protesting HUGE tuition hikes. And the students stood their ground on Sproul Plaza against great odds. 

The police seized tents and banners from the students -- and what do you know? The students seized them right back! 

And, later, when there was a lull in between various attacks on students, I had a chance to talk to some of the cops. "Are other local police forces involved in this operation -- or is it only the U.C. police?" 

"Just the university police, ma'am. Not the city police. But the chancellor stated that he would not allow tents to be erected on campus." And so the chancellor apparently chose to give an order to take the tents down. 

Bad choice. 

"I used to protest here at this very same spot back in the 1960s," I then told the boys in blue. 

"Some things never change," one cop replied. Well, guess what? Things had pretty damn well better change -- or else! 

Or else what? 

Or else there will be a hit-and-run type of protest movement from the rest of us 99% -- that will go on and on and on at different places daily all over America until things DO start to change. The corporatists don't have the money or the manpower to control all of us everywhere. A non-violent hit-and-run guerrilla protest movement? Yay. 

And I just heard that U.C. Santa Cruz students have also gone out on strike. 

And will a plaza or university or town square or bank near you be next? 

PS: U.C. students in Berkeley are very well-represented by their district's councilperson, Kriss Worthington, who was also on Sproul Plaza, backing his young constituents up. Here's what he told the Berkeley Daily Planet tonight: 

"At the home of the Free Speech Movement, the UCPD appears to have suppressed Free Speech again! Please join us in questioning this behavior and challenge the UCPD to respect the Free Speech Rights of Occupy Cal." 

Worthington then went on to admonish Chancellor Birgeneau and U.C. police chief Calaya for their violent actions against non-violent protestors. "I wanted to bring to your attention that banners with Free Speech content appear to have been seized by UCPD in front of Sproul Plaza. ...It is hard to imagine that such an act could occur at the exact location in Berkeley where the Free Speech Movement began." Worthington nailed it exactly. 

"You can imagine that the sense of irony will not be lost on the public, that the UCPD violated the Free Speech rights of protesters at this particular location. ...These students have made a firm commitment to no violence and no vandalism. The University should be commending the thousands of students that are participating. For many, this could be their very first political protest of their life. They are protesting specifically for additional financing for the University of California. The University should support this enthusiasm and help encourage this to be an effective protest that helps the University and our country." 

PPS: Of course it is unacceptable that police are violently shutting down freedom of speech at the very spot where the Berkeley Free Speech Movement was born. But even more unacceptable is the fact that free speech movements all over the United States are also being shut down -- here in America, in the Land of the Free. 

I mean, seriously. With Veterans Day almost upon us, we can only speculate why our heroic troops fought and died in foreign wars -- if the very Freedom that they fought so hard for abroad is being violently shut down right here at home.

Student Non-Violence Succeeds in Berkeley

By Gar Smith (Free Speech Movement Veteran)
Thursday November 10, 2011 - 10:42:00 AM

I have just finished watching some of the videos of the police attacking unarmed students on the UC Berkeley campus. The beatings are appalling. And the reappearance of "non-lethal" shotguns on campus inexcusable. (Question: Was the office who shot a demonstrator with a beanbag blast during the last campus incursion ever identified and held accountable?) But, in addition to seeing more evidence of deplorable police behavior, I also saw something new, remarkable and inspiring -- it was expressed in the decorum of the students. 

In a powerful demonstration of nonviolent resistance, they held their ground -- despite repeated body blows from police batons -- and continued to calmly protest.  

Instead of hurling obscenities, they tried to disarm the cops with reason. Many attempted to engage the police in "common ground" conversations. Chants directed at the police were positive -- "We are doing this for your children."  

I may be reading too much into the videos but it looked to me as though the calm, resolute, nonthreatening nature of the students helped lower the anger and apprehension in the frontline of cops. After the initial charge and blows failed to scatter the students, the cops seemed to take a second look and started to realize that these young people were not behaving like thugs and lawbreakers but looked more like their own sons and daughters.  

There was a lot of bravery on display during yesterday's confrontation, thanks to the students, no thanks to the armed police.

Call Yudof and Brown re Occupy Cal

By Mary Rose Kaczorowski
Thursday November 10, 2011 - 09:19:00 AM

CALL President Yudof and Gov. Jerry Brown—keep calling and emailing.

Tell them you are a resident of California (and where you live) and a taxpayer!
Tell them the beatings yesterday of peaceful Cal students gathered at Sproul Hall, the Home of the Free Speech Movement is immoral and that is not how we want our tax dollars to be used.
Tell them you will not support any Cal events or sporting events until the University supports students in their quest for an affordable education and stop the expansion of a corporate based privatized University that serves Corporations.

Please direct inquiries for the president's office to: 

Office of the President
University of California
1111 Franklin St., 12th Floor
Oakland, CA 94607

Email: president@ucop.edu 

Although President Yudof reads all correspondence sent to him, please be aware that such correspondence also may be read or answered by members of his staff or appropriate campus personnel. Please also note that the Office of the President retains copies of all correspondence sent to the president, and that all correspondence is considered a matter of public record and is, therefore, subject to disclosure under the California Public Records Act. 

Administrative office hours:
Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. 

You may contact Governor Jerry Brown by mail at: 

Mailing address: 

Governor Jerry Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814

Phone: (916) 445-2841 9am -5pm
Fax: (916) 558-3160 

email at http://govnews.ca.gov/gov39mail/mail.php


Thursday November 10, 2011 - 08:46:00 AM

Occupy Judaism is Not Jews for Jesus 

Occupy Judaism is NOT, under any circumstances, Jews for Jesus. We are a group of Jewish activists, including rabbis, rabbinical students and Jewish educators, who support Occupy Wall Street and who have organized Shabbat meals and High Holiday services at Zuccotti Park. 

Daniel Sieradski 

Editor's note:The error in the commentary we published has been corrected.

Occupy America

By Michael Parenti
Wednesday November 09, 2011 - 12:44:00 PM

Beginning with Occupy Wall Street in September 2011, a protest movement spread across the United States to 70 major cities and hundreds of other communities. Similar actions emerged in scores of other nations.

For the first two weeks, the corporate-owned mainstream media along with NPR did what they usually do with progressive protests: they ignored them. These were the same media that had given the Tea Party supporters saturation coverage for weeks on end, ordaining them “a major political force.”

The most common and effective mode of news repression is omission. By saying nothing or next to nothing about dissenting events, movements, candidates, or incidents, the media consign them to oblivion. When the Occupy movement spread across the country and could no longer be ignored, the media moved to the second manipulative method: trivialization and marginalization. 

So we heard that the protestors were unclear about what they were protesting and they were “far removed from the mainstream.” Media cameras focused on the clown who danced on Wall Street in full-blown circus costume, and the youths who pounded bongo drums: “a carnival atmosphere” “yongsters out on a spree,” with “no connection to the millions of middle Americans” who supposedly watched with puzzlement and alarm. 

Such coverage, again, was in sharp contrast to the respectful reportage accorded the Tea Party. House Majority Leader, the reactionary Republican Eric Cantor, described the Occupy movement as “growing mobs.” This is the same Cantor who hailed the Tea Party as an unexcelled affirmation of democracy. 

The big November 2 demonstration in Oakland that succeeded in closing the port was reported by many media outlets, almost all of whom focused on the violence against property committed by a few small groups. Many of those perpetrators were appearing for the first time at the Oakland site. Some were suspected of being undercover police provocateurs. Their actions seemed timed to overshadow the successful shutdown of the nation’s fourth largest port. 

Time and again, the media made the protestors the issue rather than the things they were protesting. The occupiers were falsely described as hippie holdovers and mindless youthful activists. In fact, there was a wide range of ages, socio-ethnic backgrounds, and lifestyles, from homeless to well-paid professionals, along with substantial numbers of labor union members. Far from being a jumble of confused loudmouths prone to violence, they held general assemblies, organized themselves into committees, and systematically took care of encampment questions, food, security, and sanitation. 

One unnoticed community protest was Occupy Walnut Creek. For those who don’t know, Walnut Creek is a comfortable conservative suburb in northern California (with no known record of revolutionary insurrections). Only one local TV station gave Occupy Walnut Creek brief attention, noting that about 400 people were participating, average age between 40 and 50, no clowns, no bongos. Participants admitted that they lived fairly prosperous lives but still felt a kinship with the millions of Americans who were enduring an economic battering. Here was a contingent of affluent but rebellious “middle Americans” yet Walnut Creek never got mentioned in the national media, as far as I know. 

The Occupy movement has promulgated a variety of messages. With a daring plunge into class realities, the occupiers talk of the 1% who are exploiting the 99%, a brilliant propaganda formula, simple to use, yet saying so much, now widely embraced even by some media commentators. The protestors carried signs condemning the republic’s terrible underemployment and the empire’s endless wars, the environmental abuses perpetrated by giant corporations, the tax loopholes enjoyed by oil companies, the growing inequality of incomes, and the banksters and other gangsters who feed so lavishly from the public trough. 

Some occupiers even denounced capitalism as a system and hailed socialism as a humane alternative. In all, the Occupy movement revealed an awareness of systemic politico-economic injustices not usually seen in U.S. protests. Remember, the initial and prime target was Wall Street, finance capital’s home base. 

The mainstream news outlets not only control opinions but even more so opinion visibility, which in turn allows them to limit the parameters of public discourse. This makes it all the more imperative for ordinary people to join together in demonstrations, hoping thereby to maximize the visibility and impact of their opinions. The goal is to break through the near monopoly of conservative orthodoxy maintained by the “liberal” media. 

So demonstrations are important. They have an energizing effect on would-be protestors, bringing together many who previously had thought themselves alone and voiceless. Demonstrations bring democracy into the streets. They highlight issues that have too long been buried. They mobilize numbers, giving a show of strength, reminding the plutocracy perched at the apex that the pyramid is rumbling. 

But demonstrations should evolve into other forms of action. This has already been happening with the Occupy movement. It is more than a demonstration because its protestors did not go home at the end of the day. In substantial numbers they remained downtown, putting their bodies on the line, imposing a discomfort on officialdom just by their numbers and presence. 

At a number of Occupy sites there have been civil disobedience actions, followed by arrests. In various cities the police have been unleashed with violent results that sometimes have backfired. In Oakland ex-Marine Scott Olsen was hit by a police teargas canister that busted his skull and left him hospitalized and unable to speak for a week. At best, he faces a long slow recovery. The day after Olsen was hit, hundreds of indignant new protestors joined the Occupy Oakland site. Police brutality incites a public reaction, often bringing more people out, just the opposite of what officials want. 

Where does this movement go? What is to be done? The answers are already arising from the actions of the 99%: 

--Discourage military recruitment and support conscientious objectors. Starve the empire of its legions. Organize massive tax resistance in protest of corrupt, wasteful, unlawful, and destructive Pentagon spending. 

--Transfer funds from corporate banks to credit unions and community banks. Support programs that assist the unemployed and the dispossessed. It was Giulio Tremonti, Italy’s embattled finance minister who declared: “Salvate il popolo, non le banche” (“Save the people, not the banks”). It would be nice to hear such sentiments emanating from the U.S. Treasury Department or the White House. 

--Coordinate actions with organized labor. Unions still are the 99%’s largest and best financed groups. Consider what was done in Oakland: occupiers joined with longshoremen, truckers, and other workers to close the port. Already there are plans for a general strike in various communities. Such actions improve greatly if organized labor is playing a role. 

--We need new electoral strategies, a viable third party, proportional representation, and even a new Constitution, one that establishes firm rules for an egalitarian democracy and is not a rigmarole designed to protect the moneyed class. The call for a constitutional convention (a perfectly legitimate procedure under the present U.S. Constitution) seems long overdo. 

--Perhaps most of all, we need ideological education regarding the relationship between wealth and power, the nature of capitalism, and the crimes of an unbridled profit-driven financial system. And again the occupiers seem to be moving in that direction: in early November 2011, people nationwide began gathering to join teach-ins on “How the 1% Crashed the Economy.” 

We need to explicitly invite the African-American, Latino, and Asian communities into the fight, reminding everyone that the Great Recession victimizes everyone but comes down especially hard on the ethnic poor. 

We need to educate ourselves regarding the beneficial realities of publicly owned nonprofit utilities, publicly directed environmental protections, public nonprofit medical services and hospitals, public libraries, schools, colleges, housing, and transportation--all those things that work so well in better known in some quarters as socialism. 

There is much to do. Still it is rather impressive how the battle is already being waged on so many fronts. Meanwhile the corporate media ignore the content of our protest while continuing to fulminate about the occupiers’ violent ways and lack of a precise agenda. 

Do not for one moment think that the top policymakers and plutocrats don’t care what you think. That is the only thing about you that wins their concern. They don’t care about the quality of the air you breathe or the water you drink, or how happy or unhappy or stressed and unhealthy or poor you might be. But they do want to know your thoughts about public affairs, if only to get a handle on your mind. Every day they launch waves of disinformation to bloat your brains, from the Pentagon to Fox News without stint. 

When the people liberate their own minds and take a hard clear look at what the 1% is doing and what the 99% should be doing, then serious stuff begins to happen. It is already happening. It may eventually fade away or it may create a new chapter in our history. Even if it does not achieve its major goals, the Occupy movement has already registered upon our rulers the anger and unhappiness of a populace betrayed. 

Michael Parenti’s most recent book is The Face of Imperialism. For further information about him, see www.michaelparenti.org.

KPFA, A Year Later – A Reflection

By Akio Tanaka
Wednesday November 09, 2011 - 09:41:00 AM

Between 2001 and 2006, there was a dramatic increase in Listener Support at KPFA due to the expanding economy and interest in the Iraq-Afghan War. KPFA added many paid staff during this period; however, between 2007 and 2010 Listener Support declined dramatically as the whole economy crashed. 

Payments to Pacifica were reduced to reflect the decline in Listener Support, but similar cuts to Salaries and Benefits were not made, and in the fall of 2010 KPFA faced insolvency. The Pacifica Foundation, which is fiscally responsible for the network of five stations, stepped in and made cuts in staffing. 

Initially, Pacifica offered voluntary severance to all employees. Seven people accepted the offer, and in the end, two people were laid off, Aimee Allison and Brian Edwards-Tiekert. Edwards-Tiekert had seniority bumping rights which he did not exercise until several months later. 

The layoffs were done in accordance with the union contract which says: “In cases where skill, ability, knowledge and job performance are all equal, or could be equal in the opinion of the Employer after reasonable orientation and training, seniority shall prevail”. 

Following was the seniority of the paid hosts of Public Affair shows in November of 2010: 

Kris Welch - Living Room & Saturday Talkies Host/Producer 

Philip Maldari - Sunday Show Host/Producer 

Dennis Bernstein - Flashpoints Host/Producer 

CS Soong - Against the Grain Host/Producer 

Davey D. - Hard Knock Radio Host/Producer 

Anita Johnson - Hard Knock Radio Host/Producer 

Sasha Lilley - Against the Grain Host/Producer 

Miguel Molina - Flashpoints Host/Producer 

Brian Edwards-Tiekert - Morning Show Host 

Mitch Jeserich - Letters & Politics Host/Producer 

Aimee Allison - Morning Show Host 

If one single show was to be cancelled based on seniority, it was going to be either the Morning Show or Letters & Politics; however, Communication Workers of America (CWA) claimed that the layoffs violated the terms of the union contract and filed three grievances with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and asked for an arbitrator to rule on reinstating Edwards-Tiekert and Allison to the Morning Show. These claims led many labor supporters to voice solidarity with the CWA and to believe that in fact there had been management misconduct. 

In February of 2011, Brian Edwards-Tiekert did exercise his bumping rights and returned as a part-time news reporter. In April, the NLRB issued an advice memo dismissing one of the three CWA grievances and CWA withdrew the two remaining grievances. In July, the arbitrator ruled against Allison’s reinstatement. 

Pacifica was vindicated on all counts associated with or having to do with labor issues. Unfortunately, as in any conflict, partisan rhetoric prevailed and continues. 

Some claimed that the layoffs were not necessary and that there had been union busting on the part of Pacifica. They also claimed that layoffs were politically motivated. 

Some claimed that Pacifica was trying to take over KPFA and make it an all-volunteer station. 

Some claimed that Pacifica was taking too much. Audited budget reports show that Payment to Pacifica is pegged to Listener Support, so if Listener Support goes down Payment to Pacifica goes down proportionately. 

Some tried to conflate professionalism with paid positions; however, being a paid staff does not confer competence, and it is generally agreed that there are many unpaid staff that are thoroughly professional. 

Some tried to cast the cuts as a management-union issue. KPFA is not a traditional corporation where management can make tradeoffs between wages and other expenses (e.g. dividends). At KPFA all the income goes to fixed expenses or Salaries and Benefits, so if the revenue goes down and there are no reserves, there must be cuts to staff. 

The reason this conflict arose is because there are real underlying differences at the station. 

One is historical. In 1997 CWA became the station union and the unpaid staff lost representation which exacerbated the divide between the paid staff and the unpaid staff. In 2003, in response to the attempted takeover of Pacifica by a group headed by Mary Frances Berry, new bylaws were put in place which called for a democratically elected Local Station Board. This understandably introduced an element of uncertainty for many of the established staff. 

Another has to do with assuring the income stream. Naturally, the station would like to see a steady source of income and one way to do this is to appeal to more affluent audience. Some are wary of shows which they fear offend some audiences or appeal exclusively to less affluent and/or narrower audiences. 

All this came to a head in the fall of 2010. While it is understandable that people want to keep their jobs and it is the union’s duty to help keep those jobs, the layoffs in 2010 were the consequence of the extraordinary boom and bust cycle of the preceding decade. 

KPFA must find a way to continue to raise adequate revenue and produce uncompromised progressive programming. 

One lesson from the recent boom and bust cycle is that the station should maintain a paid staffing level that is sustainable over the long term and not subject to economic ups and downs. As always, the most reliable way to keep an even income is to broaden the listener support. This can be best achieved by relentless efforts to produce good programming. Ever improving and relevant programming is bolstered by a strong apprenticeship program and lively, ongoing evaluation of programs. When a new person joins the station, whether a worker or a manager, the old timers must all extend a hand to help the new person become part of the KPFA family. 

Pacifica Executive Director Arlene Engelhardt and KPFA Interim General Manager Andrew Phillips and Interim Program Director Carrie Core all deserve our thanks for stepping into a very difficult situation and managing with dignity and generosity. 

Akio Tanaka is an Oakland resident and a member of the KPFA Local Station Board.

Occupy Yourself!

By Ted Friedman
Wednesday November 09, 2011 - 11:17:00 AM

Around the bay area, all the Occupy franchises are Occupy_______(add your city's name), but in some parts of the world, occupiers have gamed the name. 

Take, for instance, a franchise near New York's Zuccotti Park, Jews for Jesus calling themselves Occupy Judaism. And reportedly there's a group in Arizona which objects to the occupy brand and is calling itself un-occupy. Can you imagine calling a McDonald's un-McDonalds (although we've all been to a few of these). 

A sign near Boalt Hall recently read: Occupy Boalt Hall. Why couldn't you then occupy your church, or your kitchen? 

I asked one of the key Occupy Berkeley people about splinter chapters, and he said these spin-offs dilute the force of the protest. 

But what if that weren't so, and that feathers wouldn't be ruffled? 

Occupy yourself! 

You'll save on gas or bike tires and won't have to do any heavy lifting. 

All you need to do is figure out what's wrong with you that you have become one of ninety-nine percent, or, if you are part of the one percent earning over $375,000, what's up with that? 

Go figure. 

Are you not giving back because you feel that your money is your money and that you resent being asked to give any of it up? Do you feel $375,000 is barely adequate? 

Do you give to panhandlers, or do you secretly despise them for loafing on the walks? 

Are you greedy? What exactly is that—pigging out at an all-you-can-eat? Do you tend to have too much stuff? Have you misplaced gadgets because you can't keep track of them, or battery chargers? 

Is your home much bigger than your garage? Could you live comfortably in your garage if all your hoard were not in the way? 

Have you spent a lot on cars, jewelry or watches? Or do you "read" all those expensive watch ads in the New York Times and feel sorry that you can't afford one. Do you believe that $50,000 is too much for a car? Do you drive? 

Been to Vegas? Lied about winning? About losing? 

Are you a corporation? Why not? It has its advantages. Have you ever been sued? (One of the advantages). 

Did you know that most people are doing better than you (as you see it), and some are doing much worse, which you would rather not think about because you are too busy feeling sorry for yourself. 

When was the last time you loaned someone money? Did you get it back? 

Do you influence any politicians (family members excluded)? 

Would you prefer that the whole subject of money not come up? Why are you like that? 

Consider your background. 

Does the word Wall Street send chills up your spine? Do you like the feeling? Ever worked or applied for work there? Can you imagine yourself in an office on Wall Street with a bunch of financial reports on your desk? 

Have you ever read a financial report? Your bank account statement? The denomination of your currency? 

Do you consider yourself broke? But do you have a broker? Do you know what brokers do? 

Have you ever visited (perish-the-thought) Wall Street? Who paid for the visit? 

Subscribe to cable T.V.? Apped out? 

Are you unable to afford medical or dental treatment and prescription drugs, or do you have a cabinet full of "medicine"? You may count marijuana as a drug, a very expensive drug. 

Do you drink cheap wine, or do you believe it's worth hundreds of dollars for a good glass of wine? Would you spend for that? 

By now you should be identifying with either the ninety-nine percent or the one percent. 

What do you think made you that way? Fate, accident of birth, or your own achievements? 

Do you have advice on how to get into the one percent? Why don't you tell the world the secrets of your success? "Then they would no longer be secrets" is not an option. 

Nor is most people can't do what I did, unless you are a test pilot, a physicist, a pro athlete, or famous actor. 

Could someone write a book on your poverty that would arouse pity? Someone like Charles Dickens? 

Do you sometimes think that being in the one percent is a liability? Is this because you don't have enough money? 

What's the least amount of money you could live on? Your entire income is not the least. 

Are you uncomfortable being occupied, even though you are also the occupier? 

Would you donate to a foundation, except that you consider most of them corrupt? 

Do you feel uncomfortable in South Berkeley or downtown when you are well-dressed? 

Does this keep you on the North side, on Solano, or in the Elmwood? Do you shop in thrift stores because they have all the good stuff that someone else with more money than you picked out, or because you prefer the ambiance? 

Would you drive to a Crate and Barrel, but resent that you couldn't afford Neiman Marcus? 

Do you want to save the world or to just get it off your back? 

Do you feel that people pay too much attention or envy people of wealth? Would you take the envy with the wealth? 

By now you should more fully understand yourself. 

The occupation is over. 



Ted Friedman usually reports from the South side, but sometimes comments for the Planet, as well. He has been reporting on Occupy Berkeley since it began. 

Editor's note: See correction re Occupy Judaism in Letters. 






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.


Wild Neighbors: The Incredible Non-shrinking Birds

By Joe Eaton
Wednesday November 09, 2011 - 09:36:00 AM
Local white-crowned sparrow: getting larger?
Ingrid Taylar
Local white-crowned sparrow: getting larger?

Have you noticed that songbirds are getting bigger? Good. Neither had I. But it’s happening, according to an article by PRBO Conservation Science biologist Rae Goodman and colleagues recently published online by the journal Global Change Biology. (Has enough time elapsed that we don’t have to say “formerly Point Reyes Bird Observatory” any more? These people may have a branding problem; maybe they should hire another consultant, or try a contest.) The differences are subtle; we’re not talking about chicken-sized song sparrows. They are, however, measurable and consistent—and may be related to global warming, if in an unexpected way. 

The data Goodman et al analyzed came from long-term bird banding records at two locations: 40 years for the Palomarin Field Station down the road from Bolinas, 27 for the Coyote Creek Field Station near Alviso in the South Bay. Combining both data sets, wing length of banded birds has steadily increased at a rate of .024 to .084 percent per year. (I told you it was subtle.) Changes in body mass were not always significant, but when they were the trend was similar to wing length: .040 to .112 percent per year. 

It would be reasonable to wonder if the wing-length trend, at least, had something to do with migratory behavior. Apparently not: there was no difference between the rates of change in long-distance and short-distance migrant species, or between local breeders and those that nested north of the banding sites. 

Both trends came as a surprise. “It’s one of those moments where you ask, ‘What’s happening here?’’ said San Francisco State biologist Gretchen LeBuhn, a co-author. That’s mainly because they ran counter to other studies, most in Europe and the Middle East but one in Pennsylvania, that appeared to demonstrate size decreases in a similar range of bird species. And that result made sense in terms of Bergman’s Rule. 

Bergman’s Rule (note that it isn’t quite a law), named for the 19th-century German biologist Karl Georg Lucas Christian Bergmann, holds that within a given species of warm-blooded vertebrate, subspecies from cold climates tend to be larger-bodied than subspecies from warm climates. Why? The ratio of surface area to body weight decreases as body weight increases, so a large body loses proportionately less heat than a small one. The song sparrow provides a good illustration of Bergman’s Rule: the subspecies in the Aleutians is a relative monster, although still not chicken-sized. 

So the association between warmer climate and shrinking birds was intuitive. If natural selection had been favoring large-bodied individuals better able to survive the rigors of cold regions, warming would reduce the selection pressure. More runts would live to adulthood, breed, and pass along their small-body genes. They might even have an adaptive advantage over their large-bodied relatives, in which case the proportion of small-bodied individuals in the population would increase. It’s classic microevolution. 

But why would birds in the Bay Area, which is warming along with the rest of the state, buck the trend? Remember that climate change isn’t just a matter of the mercury rising. It also involves an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events: winter storms, floods, droughts. Maybe larger-bodied birds are able to build up larger fat reserves to see them through extreme climatic events. Maybe change is increasing the nutritional value of the birds’ food, either plants or plant-eating insects. 

That’s what the authors speculate, at least. Their article doesn’t address the wing-length increase at all. Maybe the trait is genetically linked with body mass. Maybe not. 

It would be nice to know what species are represented in these data sets. That information, unfortunately, is in a spreadsheet that I couldn’t persuade UC’s computers to open. All I can tell you from the article itself is that the seasonal highs were 45 species in spring at Palomarin and 38 in spring at Coyote Creek. The extent of overlap is unknown. 

I suspect the piece will fly below the radar of the climate change denialists. We shouldn’t be that surprised if not all the biological trends associated with global warming are in the same direction. Nobody ever said it would be simple.

Dispatches From the Edge: Playing With Fire In Korea

By Conn Hallinan
Wednesday November 09, 2011 - 10:35:00 AM

Why is the Obama Administration creating obstacles and throwing cold water on talks with North Korea, and why is it binding itself to right-wing South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, whose politics just took a shellacking in the recent race for mayor of Seoul?

The answer seems to be a convergence of U.S. concerns over the growing power of China, a desperate battle by American arms manufacturers to fend off military budget cuts, and a fantasy by President Lee of a uniting the Korean Peninsula under the banner of the South. 

Consider the following: 

The day after Stephen Bosworth, U.S. special envoy on North Korea, described two days of talks in Geneva between the Americans and North Koreans as “very positive and generally constructive,” U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta dismissed the possibility of a diplomatic breakthrough. “I guess the word skepticism would be in order at this time as to what may or may not happen in those discussions.” 

Panetta was in Seoul as part of a weeklong swing through Asia firming up U.S. alliances in the region. The Secretary not only blew off the talks, he threatened the use of atomic weapons. The U.S. he said “will insure a strong and effective nuclear umbrella over the ROK [Republic of Korea] so that Pyongyang never misjudges our will and capacity to respond decisively to nuclear aggression.” 

Unless it is raining, President Lee is a dangerous guy to whom to hand an umbrella. According to the Guardian (UK), a Wiki leak cable from the U.S. Embassy says “Lee’s more conservative advisors and supporters sees the current standoff as a genuine opportunity to push and further weaken the North, even if this might involve considerable brinkmanship.” 

According to Peter Lee in the Asia Times, “Lee’s dream” is of “unifying the entire peninsula and its population of 75 million under the banner of the democratic, capitalist South in alliance with the United States, replacing Japan as the primary U.S. security and economic partner, and confronting China with the prospect of a major pro-western power on its doorstep while reaching out to the sizable Korean minority in China’s northeastern provinces.” 

While at first glance Lee’s “dream” would seem more poppy-induced than policy driven, South Korean -U.S. joint maneuvers have war gamed scenarios that envision a North Korean collapse and a subsequent intervention by Washington and Seoul. In August of last year, an 11-day drill involving 56,000 South Koreans and 30,000 Americans—Ulchi Freedom Guardian— practiced exactly that. 

According to the Korea Times, Gen. Walter Sharp, commander of U.S. forces in Korea, the exercise was aimed at responding “to various types of internal instability in North Korea,” which is a rather different mission than the one that Panetta was talking about during his Seoul visit. 

And the North is not the only target in these exercises. 

During a visit to Italy in October, Panetta said, “We’re concerned about China. The most important thing we can do is to project our force into the Pacific—to have our carriers there, to have our fleet there, to be able to make very clear to China that we are going to protect international rights to be able to move across the oceans freely.” 

Coincidently, naval forces, with their $5 billion aircraft carriers, numerous support vessels, submarines, and high tech aircraft are expensive, big-ticket items that arms companies are fighting to keep in the military budget. 

The month before the Ulchi Freedom Guardian drill, the U.S. and South Korea carried out a major naval exercise in the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea that included the aircraft carrier George Washington Certainly China had no illusions about the objective of the war game. “In history, foreign invaders repeatedly took the Yellow Sea as an entrance to enter the heartland of Beijing and Tianjin,” said Maj. Gen. Luo Yuan, deputy secretary general of the Academy of Military Science. “The drill area is only 500 kilometers away from Beijing,” adding a metaphor from Mao that seems to lose something in the translation: “We will never allow others to keep snoring beside our bed.” 

It was the second time in less than a year that an American carrier had taken part in maneuvers in an area China considers a “military zone.” 

Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have continually put pre-conditions on any negotiations with the north, including ending Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program and accepting responsibility for the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan in September, 2010 that killed 46 sailors. 

This past January when Kim Jong-il said Pyongyang was “ready to meet anyone anytime anywhere,” U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said that before any talks, North Korea “needs to demonstrate its sincerity” by getting rid of its nuclear weapons and admitting to culpability in the Cheonan incident. 

A delegation to North Korea aimed at easing tensions, featuring former president Jimmy Carter, former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, former Irish president Mary Robinson and ex-Norwegian prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, was ignored by Washington and dismissed by South Korean Foreign minister Kim Sung-Hwan as a “purely personal” trip. 

According to Seoul, the Cheonan was sunk by a North Korean torpedo, but that conclusion is hardly a slam-dunk. The team of “international experts” that examined the evidence was handpicked by the South Korean military, and Russian and Chinese experts who examined the evidence are not convinced. Indeed, a poll commissioned by Seoul University’s Institute for Peace and Unification Studies found that only 32.5 percent of South Koreans were confident in the findings. 

North Korea is hardly going to unilaterally give up its nuclear weapons while its two major enemies are designing war games to “stabilize” Pyongyang in the advent of major unrest. The recent NATO bombing of Libya certainly caught the attention of the North Koreans, who essentially said that it would never have happened if the Gaddafi regime had not abandoned its efforts to develop nuclear weapons. Libya is “teaching the international community a grave lesson” an unnamed Foreign Ministry official told the Korean Central News, “The truth that one should have power to defend peace.” 

South Korean President Lee and the U.S. have put the onus for current standoff with North Korea on China. “I think China can do more to try to get North Korea to do the right thing,” argued Panetta, while Lee said he hoped that “China will continue to play an important role in denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula and leading North Korea to reform and openness.” 

According to the New York Times, President Obama told Chinese President Hu Jintao that unless Beijing took a “harder line” toward North Korea, the U.S. would increase its buildup of military forces in Northeast Asia. 

There is no question that Beijing has influence in Pyongyang—China is North Korea’s main trading partner—but the theory that the Chinese can simply dictate to the North Koreans is a myth. In any case, since China is convinced that the U.S. military buildup in Asia is directed at them, not impoverished North Korea, why would Beijing expend political capital to aid potential adversaries? 

The North Korean regime is an odd duck, with a system of succession more akin to the 12th century than the 21st, and a penchant for bombastic rhetoric. But is it a threat to other countries in the region? By the terms of a 1953 treaty, the U.S. would come to South Korea’s defense if the North attacked, and the Pyongyang government is well aware of what would happen to it in a confrontation with the U.S. 

If the U.S. is seriously interested in denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, it should ratchet down its joint war games with South Korea and stop threatening to use nuclear weapons on China’s doorstep. The U.S. may view North Korea’s nukes as destabilizing, but it was not Pyongyang that introduced nuclear weapons into the region, but the Americans. 

The six-party talks, which collapsed in April 2009, may or may not resolve the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula, but they are the only game in town. Instead of throwing up roadblocks, and casting its lot with the increasingly unpopular South Korean president, the Obama administration should be pressing to reopen the discussions as a way to dampen tensions in the region and bring the North Koreans to the table. 

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

Eclectic Rant: Time for the Super Committee to Bite the Bullet

By Ralph E. Stone
Wednesday November 09, 2011 - 10:27:00 AM

Maybe it is time for Americans to contact the members of the Super Committee to demand that its recommendations include raising taxes on the rich with that money to be used to provide relief for those Americans on the bottom of the economic pile, and no cuts in Medicare, Social Security, and other vital programs. A failure by the Super Committee to compromise will be just another symbol of a failed government. 

As we now know, the compromise debt ceiling law (“The Budget Control Act of 2011”) created a bi-partisan, 12-member special joint committee -- the “Super Committee” -- with the goal of achieving at least $1.5 trillion in budgetary savings over 10 years, from spending cuts or tax revenue. It will take seven of the twelve members to approve any recommendations. 

The special committee must report a bill with its recommendations by November 23, 2011. The recommendations would then have to be voted on by the full House and Senate under special rules. If the joint committee or Congress fail to act by December 23, 2011, the Act calls for automatic across-the-board cuts, split 50-50 between defense and non-defense spending.  

The Act also requires the House and Senate to vote on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, which would require a 2/3 majority in both houses. That vote must take place by December 31, 2011.  

The Super Committee could ask for an extension of time to report a bill with its recommendations 

The Super Committee members are: Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) Co-Chair; Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wa) Co-Chair; Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT); Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA); Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI); Rep. James Clybum (D-SC); Sen. John Kerry (D-MA); Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ); Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH); Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA); Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI); and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). 

According to a Bloomberg-Washington Post national poll conducted October 6-9, more than two-thirds of all Americans back higher taxes on the rich and an even larger number think Medicare and Social Security benefits should be left alone. And 53 percent of self-identified Republicans back an increase in taxes on households making more than $250,000. It should be noted that Hensarling, Kyl , Toomey, and Camp are on record as no-taxers, who along with the GOP presidential candidates and the Tea Party, seem at odds with the American people. 

Unfortunately, the Tea Party-supported members of Congress became beholden to the Tea Party platform, which in part means no new taxes even if the taxes are on the rich.. House members are up for election every two years. Thus, a vote for taxes on the rich by Republican members of the Super Committee would probably lose them Tea Party support in the next election..  

Thus, the chances of new taxes on the rich and closing tax loopholes will be difficult for the Republican members to support. Thus, across the board cuts will be the likely result, which will probably mean more reductions in the safety nets for the poor, unemployed, the elderly, and the sick. 

Many experts are warning of disastrous consequences if the Super Committee fails, including a repeat of last summer’s downgrade of the U.S. credit rating, a possible double-dip recession, increased market instability, a lost decade of economic growth, at least a 10 percent reduction in defense and non-defense discretionary spending (Medicare and Social Security are not discretionary spending), and a setback for any hope of future deficit reductions. 

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that just nine percent of likely U.S. Voters rate the job Congress is doing as good or excellent. Sixty-three percent view Congress’ job performance as poor. It is high time for Congress to raise its approval rating by finally working together to find a compromise solution to this country’s economic troubles. It begins with the Super Committee. I am as always hopeful, but not optimistic.

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.

Arts & Events

Around & About Music: Opera Lab's reading of Massenet's 'Sapho'; Greenlief, Kjaerkgaard, Perkis--and Empty cage--at Berkeley Arts Festival; Dazzling Divas at Bateau Ivre

By Ken Bullock
Wednesday November 09, 2011 - 11:30:00 AM

—Massenet's 'Sapho' will receive a staged reading by Opera Lab, its cast of singers accompanied by Robert Ashens, this Sunday at 3 at the Chapel of the Chimes, 4496 Piedmont Avenue in Oakland. Sung in French with explanatory commentary. Refreshments will be served. Free. Donations requested. Reservations (space limited): operalab@rocketmail.com

—Sunday night, Berkeley Arts Festival will feature the trio of Phillip Greenlief, tenor saxophone; Soren Kjaerkgaard, prepared piano; and Tim Perkis, electronics at 8, followed by Empty Cage--Jason Meers, saxophone & clarinet; Kris Tiner, trumpet; Ivan Johnson, bass; Paul Kikuchi, drums, at 9. $10. 2133 University Avenue by Ace Hardware (near Shattuck) berkeleyartsfestival.com
—The Dazzling Divas--Pamela Connelly, Kathleen Moss and Eliza O'Malley, accompanied by Hadley Mc Carroll--return to the Bateau Ivre next Wednsday, November 16, 7-9, with arias and duets from Puccini, Verdi, Bellini, Bizet and Delibes--plus a new trio from Mozart. No cover. 2629 Telegraph. 849-1100

Reviews: The Residents' Randy Rose at the Marsh; 'The Internationalist': Just Theater at Ashby Stage

By Ken Bullock
Wednesday November 09, 2011 - 12:08:00 PM

—An old bum in a trench coat and hat, a spray of white hair under the brim, steers his walker—smiley-face helium balloon floating above—through the audience towards the stage at The Marsh, Berkeley ... With the grudging help of a deadpan pianist, the arriviste starts to talk, then sing, croon, put on a show—a kind of manic geriatric cabaret, but not the type you see indoors, at least not on a stage; maybe in the mirror of a furnished room ... 

It's Randy Rose, lead singer for The Residents, the SF band shrouded in mystery over the past few decades, performing in clubs, museums, auditoriums where the audience can't see their faces. The Residents are presenting this show Randy wrote and performs, 'Sam's Enchanted Evening, A Dark & Dreamy Song Cycle'—a kind of homage to or impersonation of his old friend Sam, who's seen much better days, as well as worse—and tells us about them—as he in turn impersonates, does homage to the music he grew up, went to college and to war on, from Bo Diddley through Sinatra to the Rolling Stones, with plenty of everything else in between thrown in, blues to pop, lounge, protofunk, and back to rock. 

Jim Cave has directed Randy with contrapuntal sensitivity, bringing a completeness to Sam's meandering story of his life and transient loves—his one true love perhaps his Pontiac—as he grows up privileged and white in the South, hangs out listening to the blues and R&B, flunks out and takes it on the chin, sent to Vietnam. At first something of a lark, Southeast Asia goes black with his tale of once again being singled out, becoming a kind of Ishmael ... 

Meanwhile, he grimaces, gesticulates, exhorts the impassive pianist, prances stiffly, croons, shouts, spits out the songs that have traveled with him in a closet stadium show, sans band but nobly followed on the ivories by Residents faithful Joshua Raoul Brody, who gets to comp creatively to Sam's gruff delivery of the tunes. 

A little Grand Guignol before it's over, in true Residents fashion, as Sam hits the road—and the bottle—again. 

Thursdays & Fridays at 8, Saturday at 8:30 through November 26. 2120 Allston Way (near Shattuck). Thursdays, $15-$20; Fridays-Saturdays: $20-$35 (sliding scales). Reserved seating: $50. (415) 826-5750; themarsh.org 

* * * 

—Jet-lagged, sans travel guide and phrase book, business emissary Lowell gravitates towards a sign with his name on it, held up by a statuesque beauty in the airport—and right away finds himself doing a little dance of contrition, in Anne Washburn's 'The Internationalist,' staged by Just Theater, in its West Coast premiere at Ashby Stage. With Pay What You Can at the door, it's the best deal in town by a little company that consistently puts good work onstage. 

"Would you like a cigarette?" —"I don't smoke." —You could hold it ... " 

Rebounding off what he's told in English by the locals—"Yes, they have some English," his lovely contact tells him in perfect English ("more perfect than yours, maybe") ... "They're just not happy about it."—he finds himself gawking uncomfortably as they switch gears and race on in their own tongue. Throughout the play, Lowell—and the audience—will never be quite sure where he is, what he's hearing—or what's expected of him. And the emotional center he raggedly pursues seems just as elusive. 

His well-appointed contact turns out to be an office girl; the politics of the workplace are opaque—or obtuse. Neither business nor sightseeing nor fraternizing with the locals—or going native—seems to wash out that funny taste ... 

Romance in any sense of the word is provisional and nuanced, oddly self-conscious, in this unnamed land. Lowell's told of a scenic spot: "The Nazis loved this bar. It a great view ... and every now and then, the bartender would poison a Nazi!" 

Awkward and witty, the dialogue—in two tongues, much of it rattled off by the fluent cast (in seemingly a Central European blend—maybe more of coffee or tobacco than words)—and gestures, either oddly reserved or absurd, are made quite stageworthy by the excellent cast—Nick Sholley as Lowell; Alexandra Creighton as Sara, his first contact; Michael-Barrett Austin, Loren Bloom, Kalli Johnson and Harold Pierce as the arcane office staff, as well as various street people and ethnic "types"—all directed with finesse by Jonathan Spector. 

Spector also directed Washburn's 'I Have Loved Strangers' at the City Club a few years ago, a splendid production which featured some of the same company members onstage. 'The Internationalist' is not quite so absorbing; entertaining enough, but not as fleshed out, not as much of a play. Though amusing, the first half indulges in a variation of the English Speaker Abroad kind of humor, common enough in movies and on television the past couple of decades or so. The dialogue carries the show so far with its cockeyed wit, its signature. 

The play takes a markedly theatrical turn in the second half, with Lowell engaging in a frustrated, mean-spirited soliloquy, about cultures that win and lose, in the mirror while shaving—and hears Sara's fleeting voice begging the question ... After wandering sight-seeing (""The things they did to saints. The saints must have been really really annoying"), wading through chance meetings with locals, there's an encounter and odd conversation with a colleague in maybe the same scenic bar Sara told Lowell about, something as ambiguous—or more so—as a good scene in a spy movie, strange and droll, all under the fixed grin of the mustachioed bartender. 

The lingering almost-connection between Sara and Lowell's also ambiguous ... "You said, the other night at dinner that it would be a gift for me to speak to you truthfully," he reminds her. "I wanted you to be truthful then, at that moment," she replies, "but it wasn't a carte blanche." 

Swinging back and forth between moods, like the jetlag Lowell suffers from—and maybe a form of vertigo from an exasperated ego—'The Internationalist' offers one moment, seductively, a hint of romance, of escape—and the next, insouciantly, glibness and incomprehension, international business-as-unusual. 

Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby (across from Ashby BART). Thursdays-Saturdays at 8, Sundays at 5. Pay What You Can at the door; advance sales: sliding scale, $15-$30. 306-1184; justtheater.org

Around & About Theater: "Cracked Clown'--David A.Moss at the East Bay Media Center; 'Shoot O'Malley Twice'--Virago Theater; Gesture Vocabularies, lecture & video on mudras in Indian ritual & traditional theater at UCB

By Ken Bullock
Wednesday November 09, 2011 - 12:19:00 PM

—David Moss, a talented performer on Bay Area stages over the past decade and more, will reprise his show 'Cracked Clown' Friday & Saturday the 11th & 12th at 8 p. m., the same show that sold out here in August, at the East Bay Media Center, which has initiated a live performance series over the past few months. 1939 Addison, just west of Milvia, in the Berkeley Arts District. $12. 843-3646; eastbaymediacenter.com 

—Virago Theatre, co-founded by Berkeley residents, usually producing in Alameda, is staging the premiere of local playwright Jon Brooks' 'Shoot O'Malley Twice' at Stagewerx 446 in downtown San Francisco. Brooklyn Dodgers vs. NY Giants—for the last time—1957; Robert Moses, a psychic & the Savannah Kid. Directed by Angela Dant. 553 Sutter, just west of Powell. $15-$20. (510) 865-6237; viragotheatre.org 

—Gestural Vocabularies, a lecture with a 10-minute video of Kathakali performed, will be presented, free, at Dwinelle Hall #370 on the UC campus, Tuesday the 14th, 5-7 p. m. Kalamandalam M. P. Sankaram, former principal of the great Kathakali school, and Kunju Vasudevan, visting scholar at Butler University, will talk about the complex, grammatical gestural vocabularies of mudra, in Vedic ritual, Kootiyattam theater (dating from the 10th century) and the colorful, better-known Kathakali, which dates from the 17th century, texts from the Mahabhurata & Ramayana sung as non-speaking, heavily made-up & costumed actor-dancers move & gesture in mudras to drumming. 642-3608; berkeley.edu/events

Fred Frith at the Berkeley Arts Festival on Friday: 11.11.11 Cosmic Portal Transit Date!

Wednesday November 09, 2011 - 12:48:00 PM

Improvisations conjured by Fred Frith; roaming drunken shaman expelling high-end drugstore vibrations on a mystical pocket fm radio and guitar along with Theresa Wong; cave dwelling amateur magician and high priestess of the vocal disorder meet in trio for the first time with court jester and pianist, Søren Kjærgaard to channel anything, everything and sometimes nothing through spirited sonic outbreaks. 

Fred Frith (guitar), Theresa Wong (cello/voice) with special guest from Copenhagen, Denmark, Sren Kjrgaard (piano)2133 University Avenue 


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