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Take another piece of our hearts. "Jawzilla's" jaw. Tuesday at the Sequoia Apartments.
Ted Friedman
Take another piece of our hearts. "Jawzilla's" jaw. Tuesday at the Sequoia Apartments.


Berkeley Earthquake Late Wednesday Was 2.3 Magnitude

By Sasha Lekach (BCN)
Thursday December 01, 2011 - 10:46:00 AM

A 2.3-magnitude earthquake struck just outside Berkeley late Wednesday night, followed by a 1.8-magnitude aftershock this morning, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The earthquake shook the area 1-mile east-northeast of Berkeley at 11:10 p.m., according to the USGS.  

The quake had about a 6-mile depth.  

The aftershock was recorded at 12:52 a.m., according to the USGS.  

Many Berkeley residents said they did not feel the temblor, unlike when a series of earthquakes in October shook the East Bay from a Berkeley epicenter.

Flash: Berkeley Firefighters Believe Sequoia Fire Started in Elevator Room, Was "Accidental", Not Intentionally Set

From Mary Kay Clunies-Ross
Wednesday November 30, 2011 - 03:53:00 PM

On Friday, November 18, 2011, at 8:48 p.m., Berkeley Firefighters responded to a reported structure fire at 2441 Haste Street in Berkeley. The fire eventually went to five alarms to control the incident. This fire resulted in total destruction of the 39-unit, four-story apartment building.

Berkeley Fire Department Fire Investigators are in the process of concluding their investigation and believe all indicators point towards the fire starting in the elevator machine room in the basement. At this time, they believe this fire originated in and around the elevator machinery. They believe this fire is accidental in nature and was not intentionally set. 

The onsite investigation phase is complete, and a final report will be completed and available within the next several weeks.

New: Curbing Corporate Power: The Next Step for the Movement to Slow Climate Change

By Carol Polsgrove
Thursday December 01, 2011 - 04:32:00 PM
Demonstrators in Asheville, NC, protest the Royal Bank of Canada's investments in tar sands and the Keystone XL pipeline. Six of the demonstrators were arrested at the Bank of America, one of the targets of the demonstration.
Carol Polsgrove
Demonstrators in Asheville, NC, protest the Royal Bank of Canada's investments in tar sands and the Keystone XL pipeline. Six of the demonstrators were arrested at the Bank of America, one of the targets of the demonstration.
The day after Bill McKibben spoke in Asheville, demonstrators gather downtown to call on banks to invest in solar and wind power instead of fossil fuels.
Carol Polsgrove
The day after Bill McKibben spoke in Asheville, demonstrators gather downtown to call on banks to invest in solar and wind power instead of fossil fuels.
A man dressed like a banker gets to carry the banker-snowman prop.
Carol Polsgrove
A man dressed like a banker gets to carry the banker-snowman prop.
A call for offshore wind turbines instead of coal from mountaintop removal.
Carol Polsgrove
A call for offshore wind turbines instead of coal from mountaintop removal.

Following up on the White House demonstrations to stop the Keystone XL pipeline, Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org , is already hard at work on the next stage of the movement to rein in reliance on fossil fuels.

On a three-state speaking tour, he is calling for a constitutional amendment to undo the damage the Supreme Court did when it declared corporations as persons and campaign contributions as speech. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent more money last election cycle than the Democratic and Republican national committees combined—and 97 per cent of that went to climate deniers, he told an audience in Asheville, N.C., on Nov. 30. The climate change movement has to figure out how to break “the corporate power dominating our political lives.” 

Energy companies with huge reserves in fossil fuels have a long-term financial incentive to keep the current system in place. “Exxon made more money last quarter than any company in the history of money.” That, he said, is because Exxon and the other fossil fuel companies don’t have to account for the waste they pour into the atmosphere. What we have to do is curb the “power of the fossil fuel industry to prevent change.” 

Taking a page from Occupy Wall Street’s strategy book, proponents of an amendment to strip corporations of personhood will occupy federal courts across the country on January 20, 2012. Courts in San Francisco and San Jose are on the list. 

The idea of pushing through a constitutional amendment in time to make difference is daunting. Time is running out on the effort to slow climate change. People across the globe are already suffering devastating floods, storms, fire, and drought. 

The world’s people know the urgency of action, as is spelled out by a new digest of polling data featured in a Council of Foreign Relations blog on the same day McKibben spoke in Asheville. 

In his rundown of what the numbers mean, Stewart M. Patrick, senior fellow and director of the Council’s Program on International Institutions and Global Governance, said, “Publics around the world—including in the United States—believe that global warming is an urgent problem and want their governments to make it a higher priority, by taking vigorous national and multilateral actions to confront it.” 

The problem now, worldwide, is how to make governments responsive to the will of the people. 

Carol Polsgrove is author of Divided Minds: Intellectuals and the Civil Rights Movement and professor emerita, Indiana University School of Journalism.

"Killer Crane" Killing Our Past or Building Our Future? (News Analysis)

By Ted Friedman
Tuesday November 29, 2011 - 10:13:00 PM
Taking a bite out of time. "Jawzilla"--first bite. Tuesday morning at Sequoia, Telegraph and Haste.
Ted Friedman
Taking a bite out of time. "Jawzilla"--first bite. Tuesday morning at Sequoia, Telegraph and Haste.
Take another piece of our hearts. "Jawzilla's" jaw. Tuesday at the Sequoia Apartments.
Ted Friedman
Take another piece of our hearts. "Jawzilla's" jaw. Tuesday at the Sequoia Apartments.
Making way for our futures? Jawzilla--big gulp.
Ted Friedman
Making way for our futures? Jawzilla--big gulp.
Desolation row?  Tuesday sunset at Sequoia apartments. "Jawzilla" is hibernating before another day of destruction. Vacant lot is Berkeley Inn site.
Ted Friedman
Desolation row? Tuesday sunset at Sequoia apartments. "Jawzilla" is hibernating before another day of destruction. Vacant lot is Berkeley Inn site.

The Killer Crane that is chomping our heritage at the nearly century-old Sequoia Apartments, which burned last Friday, is owned by a demolition company that bills itself, "clearing the way to the future." 

It now remains unclear what the future will hold for Haste at Telegraph, which is seen by many as a Berkeley landmark itself—Berkeley's center. Indeed we so named the area in a Planet Piece ("Finding Berkeley's Center," Dec 23, 2008). 

The Sequoia had an eleventh-hour stay, Monday, while City fire and Insurance investigators poured over the remains for cause of the fire, but early Tuesday, the crane began its reign of destruction. 

A shivering crowd showed up at 8 a.m. Tuesday and watched in horror as the killer crane swung into position to destroy the Sequoia, using its jaws to grasp pivotal sections of the building and tear them down. 

As we huddled in a dark, foggy, cold morning mist, the combination of crane and "jaw" formed a veritable Jawzilla, a punitive weapon of mass destruction. 

Using its camera eyes, and manipulated from a cab by the crane's operator, who seemed, at times, to be playing with a giant toy, Jawzilla took its toll, all the while spitting water to quell the dust it stirred up. 

There were ahs and ohs from the crowd as Jawzilla seemed to falter at first, having trouble realizing its potential for ruination; but once a slow, killing rhythm was established, the conquering contraption began its systematic course of mayhem. 

Have no doubt, this was a heartbreaking scene, as the beautiful old landmark was scarred beyond recognition. And when large chunks of the building were dislodged, plunging to the ground with the clamor of falling bricks, swirling dust, and gushing water, the scene turned scary. 

Rubble built up on the sidewalk below, protected by plywood, like the ruins of Nazi Germany. 

The scene was so dispiriting it was difficult to see any upside to the downside. 

But there is an upside. 

Often criticized for allowing the Berkeley Inn (burned to the ground, 1985) site to go undeveloped for 26 years, the city of Berkeley has been quick to respond, to the plight of the already struggling lower Telegraph business area. Pleas to save the Sequoia by the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, which made an 11th hour appeal to the city on the Sequoia's behalf, gave way to "public safety." 

The city's quick action has made it possible (at the Sequoia's expense) for a walkway connecting Haste to Channing, presently blocked, to be restored in no more than two weeks (perhaps less), in time for the Telegraph Ave. Holiday Street Fair, Dec. 16-24, which always increases foot traffic in local businesses. 

Moreover, there are signs that things could improve at the Cody site, which has been undergoing a lengthy, if routine, retrofit. 

Across the street at the Berkeley Inn site, its owner has reportedly commissioned yet another round of architect plans for a building at the site. 

According to reliable sources, the owners of Intermezzo, and Raleigh's intend to restore the left-standing businesses, as soon as possible. 

Nothing to get worked up over, just the glimmer of hope. And possibly the ghost of a chance that Telegraph and Haste can stem its decline and once more be Berkeley's center. 

It was erroneously reported here that the first floor of the Sequoia would be spared. 

All that will remain of the building according to Fredo Pena, the demolition crew-chief, is a "wall," at ground level. 

The wall is the facades of the popular Raleigh's pub and the Intermezzo cafe and coffee shop, which were not destroyed by the fire. 

According to Pena, the demolition crew chief , it will take three to five more days to knock down the Sequoia. A walkway connecting Haste to Channing, which has been blocked since the fire, will be complete when the sequoia site is safe to passersby, according to Pena. 

That will take two weeks maximum, said Pena Tuesday. 

The Killer Crane will be back to deal out more mass destruction Wednesday. 


Don't expect Ted Friedman, a 40 year resident of the South side, only three blocks from Teley and Haste, to have anything but hate for "Jawzilla."

Suit Says Police Used Excessive Force at UC Berkeley Protest

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Tuesday November 29, 2011 - 09:58:00 PM

Students and community members filed a lawsuit in federal court today alleging that police used excessive force against them during an "Occupy Cal" protest at the University of California at Berkeley on Nov. 9. 

Attorney Ronald Cruz of the group By Any Means Necessary said 24 plaintiffs are named in the suit but he expects that number to increase because he believes many people suffered at the hands of police during the protest, which involved hundreds of people. 

Cruz said the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, seeks unspecified general and punitive damages for the physical and emotional injuries the protesters suffered. 

Named as defendants are UC Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau, other senior university administrators, UC Berkeley Police Chief Mitchell Celaya, Alameda County Sheriff Chief Gregory Ahern, Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan and several police officers. 

Cruz said the 41-page complaint includes detailed accounts of peaceful protesters being clubbed in the face, yanked by their hair, forcefully jabbed in their chests, stomachs, and groins, and beaten while lying on the ground. 

Cruz said police continued to beat protesters even after they destroyed the protesters' tents. 

UC Berkeley spokeswoman Janet Gilmore said university officials can't comment on the lawsuit's allegations because they haven't yet seen the suit. 

Gilmore said there are several investigations into police officers' actions during the protest and university officials "are looking forward to the outcome" of those probes.

Protesters Return to Frank Ogawa Plaza--Former Berkeley Mayoral Candidate Sets Up His Teepee.

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Wednesday November 30, 2011 - 09:37:00 AM

Occupy Oakland protesters returned to Frank Ogawa Plaza in front of Oakland City Hall today, but on a smaller scale than before. 

About 30 protesters rallied at the plaza at noon today and at 2 p.m. they erected a teepee on the side of the plaza while a small group of Oakland police officers and security guards watched. 

Assistant to the city administrator Arturo Sanchez said the city has granted the protesters a permit to set up the teepee but they must take it down at 10 p.m. every night. The protesters can then erect it again at 6 a.m. every morning, he said. 

J. Kirk Boyd, a University of California at Berkeley law professor who's a legal adviser for Occupy Wall Street protesters throughout the Bay Area, said the protesters plan to hold a vigil at Frank Ogawa Plaza around the clock 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

Asked if the protesters will take down the teepee every night, Boyd said, "For the time being." 

He said the protesters plan to take down the teepee tonight but declined to say if they will take it down every night. 

The vigil is on a much smaller scale than the encampment that previously was set up in the plaza. That encampment reached a peak of about 200 tents before Oakland police closed it down two weeks ago. 

Boyd said the teepee is "symbolic" and the vigil shows that the protesters "will be here for people who worry every night if their kids will be able to go to college or whether they will have health care." 

He said, "We will have people here around the clock." 

Phil Horne of Occupy Oakland said, "This is a demonstration that doesn't involve sleeping out or dwellings." 

He said protesters are "building coalitions and reaching out to people." 

Horne said protesters will fight home foreclosures and will occupy banks. 

Among the protesters today was former Berkeley mayoral candidate Zachary Running Wolf, who recently spent seven consecutive days perched in a tree in Frank Ogawa Plaza. 

Running Wolf said he now takes turns with seven other protesters so that one person is in the tree at all times. 

"We've been in the tree for 17 days," he said. 

Running Wolf previously participated in a long-running tree-sitting protest in a grove of oak trees near the football stadium at the University of California at Berkeley. That protest attempted to stop the building of a student recreation center but the construction work eventually went forward and is now nearly complete. 



New: We Came to See it Fall, But Sequoia OutStood Us: The Games We All Played While Gawkiing

By Ted Friedman
Monday November 28, 2011 - 10:30:00 PM
These two behemoths will dismantle the Sequoia Tuesday. In the foreground is the crane; in the background, the jaw.
Ted Friedman
These two behemoths will dismantle the Sequoia Tuesday. In the foreground is the crane; in the background, the jaw.
Sequoia-gawkers Monday alongside Amoeba. "Brick-entrepeneur," hoping to earn $1,000 for Sequoia's bricks is extreme right.
Ted Friedman
Sequoia-gawkers Monday alongside Amoeba. "Brick-entrepeneur," hoping to earn $1,000 for Sequoia's bricks is extreme right.
Machine abuse? This demolition man is about to jam "jaw" with a serious-looking weapon
Ted Friedman
Machine abuse? This demolition man is about to jam "jaw" with a serious-looking weapon

We came to see it fall, but stayed to see it outlast us.
City Officials reported the Sequoia would be "demolished" Monday morning, but a few things interfered on the way to demolishment.

The Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, in a tautly-written letter to Berkeley's new city manager, Christine Daniel, argued that the Sequoia has a unique heritage that must be preserved.

But preservation apparently gave way to the city's argument favoring "public safety." 

So we all showed up to see the corpse collapse. We is reporters and videographers from KGO AM, Ch.4 TV, Ch.2 TV, the Daily Cal, a gaggle of gawkers from nowhere in particular, and last, but not least, this Planet reporter. 

A small but spirited group of on-lookers and media, hovered over the scene, just for the sight of the Sequoia coming down. 

But the reality of the situation was more important than expectations. For one thing, only part of the Sequoia is being (surgically) removed. Floors, four and three will go, according to a source in the city manager's office, but floor one, and the ground floor will stand. Officials at the site confirm this. 

Although this is small solace for the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, there will at least be something left of the Sequoia. 

Still, there we were for the show, until after several interviews with the demolition crew-chief, and anyone else who would talk to us, it became obvious by noon that dismantlement (my term) was on hold until Tuesday at 8a.m. 

We could hardly complain because while "Waiting for Godot," we had learned all about tearing down an historic Berkeley building (1916) brick-by-brick. Blowing something up--that, we could understand--but lopping off its head without having the lower floors collapse, that was difficult to understand. 

First, we learned (on-lookers were also quite interested in all this), you had to transport the "jaw," a contraption with a jaw that apparently snapped, around the block where it would be somehow, perhaps beaten, (there was outright bea

As the morning wore on, and we resorted to interviewing each other (I was interviewed twice), I interviewed a homeless man with a pickup truck, who said he had swung a deal with the city for the Sequoia bricks. He said he expected to make $1,000 on some of the bricks, but that he didn't need to sell more than some. 

"So the re-cycled bricks would be a re-birth of the Sequoia," I said. 

"You could say that," he said. 

Back on the planet, part of the Sequoia is coming down tomorrow and I wouldn't miss it for anything. 

Who knows, maybe the brick entrepreneur will prevail and the Sequoia's better half will be re-cycled. 


When not on the disaster scene, Ted Friedman, reports from the Southside on crime, homelessness, and drug abuse.

Flash: U.C. Berkeley Faculty Senate Registers 10-1 Vote Condemning Administration Response to Occupy Berkeley Protesters

Monday November 28, 2011 - 05:27:00 PM

The Berkeley Division of the University of California Faculty Senate endorsed, by a 10-1 margin (336-34), a group of four resolutions expressing, with varying degrees of specificity, their lack of confidence in the way Berkeley administrators have handled student protests.

Three U.C. Berkeley executives, Chancellor Robert Birgenau and two of his subordinates, attempted an explanation of their actions on November 9, when students and faculty were clubbed by police. They were greeted with stony silence by the faculty members in the front of the International House auditorium where the meeting was held, and with audible snickers from the students in the back of the room.

Professor Judith Butler, one of the sponsors of the original no-confidence resolution, moved the acceptance of her motion plus three more which had been submitted by other faculty members.

Updated: U.C. Regents Finish Meeting Interrupted by Protesters

By Dan McMenamin (BCN)
Monday November 28, 2011 - 06:49:00 PM

A University of California Board of Regents meeting held via teleconference at four UC campuses wrapped up this afternoon after being briefly interrupted by protesters who criticized recent police actions in Davis and Berkeley and rising tuition costs. 

The meeting, which had originally been scheduled earlier for this month, was postponed until today because of "credible intelligence" that violence was possible at the meeting, which was to take place in San Francisco, university officials said. 

The perceived threat followed criticism that UC Berkeley police were overly aggressive and beat protesters with batons when responding to "Occupy Cal" protests on Nov. 9. The outrage over police tactics grew when several students were pepper sprayed while peacefully protesting at UC Davis on Nov. 18. 

Today's meeting was held via teleconference, with UC staff and students speaking at the Davis, Los Angeles, Merced and San Francisco Mission Bay campuses. 

No proposed tuition hikes were on the agenda, but some regents addressed the recent incidents at Davis and Berkeley and student concerns about rising costs. 

Board of Regents chair Sherry Lansing said she was "personally shocked and appalled" at the police actions and said the meeting was held jointly at the four campuses "to give the UC community an even greater opportunity to be heard." 

But Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is on the board, said before the meeting started that holding it by phone was "awkward at best" and "not ideal." 

UC President Mark Yudof said at the start of the meeting that he is calling for the partial restoration of funding for the system in the state Legislature's next budget negotiations, saying the state has reduced its contribution to the UC system by nearly a billion dollars in the past few years. 

About 150 people at the four campuses signed up to speak during the public comment period, many of whom criticized university police, tuition hikes, and the corporate backgrounds of some of the regents. 

Charlie Eaton, financial secretary for United Auto Workers Local 2865, which represents about 12,000 UC teaching assistants and other staff, was one of about two dozen speakers at the San Francisco meeting, telling the regents "The buck stops with you ... and it's time for you to pay." 

Lansing said at the end of the two-hour public comment period that she "would like to continue this dialogue" with students with a tour of various UC campuses with some of the regents. 

However, that sentiment did not satisfy the protesters at the San Francisco meeting, who started prolonged chants, prompting the regents to take a recess at 11:40 a.m. 

While most of the regents left, Newsom stayed and joined protesters who then held a "People's Regents Meeting" in the room, during which they called on Yudof to resign, as well as the chancellors at Berkeley and Davis, and proposed new ways of appointing regents. 

Newsom said the protesters "restored my faith and confidence in this state and country" since "there were not a lot of people showing up at these meetings" until the Occupy movements started spreading across the country in recent months. 

Newsom eventually joined the rest of the regents in a separate room this afternoon to finish the meeting, which included a discussion of alternative funding sources beyond tuition from students and taxpayer support and approval of an expenditure plan for the upcoming budgetary year.

Press Release:

An Open Letter to UC Berkeley Students, Faculty, Administration & Regents from the UC Berkeley Police Officers’ Association

From Mary Jo Rossi
Monday November 28, 2011 - 05:48:00 PM

It is our hope that this letter will help open the door to a better understanding between UC Berkeley police and the University community. 

The UC Berkeley Police Officers’ Association, representing approximately 64 campus police officers, understands your frustration over massive tuition hikes and budget cuts, and we fully support your right to peacefully protest to bring about change.  

It was not our decision to engage campus protesters on November 9th. We are now faced with “managing” the results of years of poor budget planning. Please know we are not your enemy. 

A video clip gone viral does not depict the full story or the facts leading up to an actual incident. Multiple dispersal requests were given in the days and hours before the tent removal operation. Not caught on most videos were scenes of protesters hitting, pushing, grabbing officers’ batons, fighting back with backpacks and skateboards. 

The UC Berkeley Police Officers’ Association supports a full investigation of the events that took place on November 9th, as well as a full review of University policing policies. That being said, we do not abrogate responsibility for the events on November 9th.  

UC Berkeley police officers want to better serve students and faculty members and we welcome ideas for how we can have a better discourse to avoid future confrontations. We are open to all suggestions on ways we can improve our ability to better protect and serve the UC Berkeley community. 

As your campus police, we also have safety concerns that we ask you to consider. 

Society has changed significantly since 1964 when peaceful UC Berkeley student protesters organized a 10-hour sit-in in Sproul Hall and 10,000 students held a police car at bay – spawning change and the birth of our nation’s Free Speech Movement. 

However proud we can all be of UC Berkeley’s contribution to free speech in America, no one can deny this: Our society in 2011 has become an extremely more violent place to live and to protect. No one understands the effects of this violence more than those of us in law enforcement. 

Disgruntled citizens in this day and age express their frustrations in far more violent ways – with knives, with guns and sometimes by killing innocent bystanders. Peaceful protests can, in an instant, turn into violent rioting, ending in destruction of property or worse – the loss of lives. Police officers and innocent citizens everywhere are being injured, and in some instances, killed. 

In the back of every police officer’s mind is this: How can I control this incident so it does not escalate into a seriously violent, potentially life-threatening event for all involved? 

While students were calling the protest “non-violent,” the events on November 9th were anything but nonviolent. In previous student Occupy protests, protesters hit police officers with chairs, bricks, spitting, and using homemade plywood shields as weapons – with documented injuries to officers.  

At a moment’s notice, the November 9th protest at UC Berkeley could have turned even more violent than it did, much like the Occupy protests in neighboring Oakland. 

Please understand that by no means are we interested in making excuses. We are only hoping that you will understand and consider the frustrations we experience daily as public safety officers sworn to uphold the law. It is our job to keep protests from escalating into violent events where lives could be endangered.  

We sincerely ask for your help in doing this. 

Like you, we have been victims to budget cuts that affect our children and our families in real ways. We, too, hold on to the dream of being able to afford to send our children and grandchildren to a four-year university. Like you, we understand and fully support the need for change and a redirection of priorities. 

To students and faculty: As 10,000 students surrounded a police car on campus in 1964, protesters passed the hat to help pay for repairs to the police car as a show of respect. Please peacefully respect the rules we are required to enforce – for all our safety and protection. Please respect the requests of our officers as we try to do our jobs. 

To the University Administration and Regents: Please don’t ask us to enforce your policies then refuse to stand by us when we do. Your students, your faculty and your police – we need you to provide real leadership. 

We openly and honestly ask the UC Berkeley community for the opportunity to move forward together, peacefully and without further incident – in better understanding of one another. Thank you for listening.

Demolition at Fire-Damaged Berkeley Building Starts Today

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Monday November 28, 2011 - 05:48:00 PM

Demolition work is expected to begin today on the top two floors of a four-story apartment building near the University of California at Berkeley that was badly damaged in a five-alarm fire earlier this month, the head of a local merchants' group said. 

Roland Peterson, president of the Telegraph Property and Business Management Corp., said cranes are in place to begin work at the 39-unit Sequoia Apartments building at the corner of Telegraph Avenue and Haste Street. 

City of Berkeley spokeswoman Mary Kay Clunies-Ross confirmed that the city issued a demolition permit to the building's owners late Wednesday. The owners couldn't immediately be reached for comment today. 

Peterson said the demolition work is expected to be completed by next Monday. 

Clunies-Ross said that after the top two floors are demolished, the bottom two floors will be braced while a decision is made on what to do with them. 

The fire was reported at 8:48 p.m. on Nov. 18 and wasn't contained until after 3 a.m. the next day. It wasn't completely extinguished until Nov. 21. 

No one was injured in the blaze, which Berkeley Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong said caused more than $2 million in structural damage and the loss of more than $500,000 in contents. All 68 of the building's residents have been accounted for, Clunies-Ross said. 

In addition to the apartment units, the building, which was red-tagged by city officials, housed Cafe Intermezzo and Raleigh's Bar and Grill, which remain closed. 

The restaurant Thai Noodle II, which is located next door, is also closed because of concerns that customers and pedestrians could be injured by falling bricks. 

Peterson said his understanding is that pedestrians will be able to return to that block once the building is deemed safe again. 

He said, "The quicker the demolition work is done, the better." 

Peterson said the decision to demolish the top two floors of the building "is a very good move and a very necessary move." 


Dozens Speak Out at U.C. Regents' Meeting

By Dan McMenamin (Bay City News Service}
Monday November 28, 2011 - 05:20:00 PM

Dozens of University of California students, employees and others spoke at a Board of Regents meeting held via teleconference at four UC campuses today, sharply criticizing recent police actions in Davis and Berkeley, as well as rising tuition costs. 

The meeting, which had initially been scheduled for earlier this month, was postponed until today because of "credible intelligence" that violence was possible at the previous meeting, which was to take place in San Francisco, university officials said. 

The perceived threat followed criticism that UC Berkeley police were overly aggressive in responding to "Occupy Cal" protests on Nov. 9. The outrage over police tactics grew when several students were pepper-sprayed while peacefully protesting at UC Davis on Nov. 18. 

Today's meeting was held via teleconference, with UC staff and students speaking at four campuses -- Davis, Los Angeles, Merced and UC San Francisco's Mission Bay campus. 

Board of Regents chair Sherry Lansing said she was "personally shocked and appalled" at the police actions and said the meeting was held jointly at the four campuses "to give the UC community an even greater opportunity to be heard." 

But Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is on the board, said before the meeting started that holding it by phone was "awkward at best" and "not ideal." 

UC President Mark Yudof said at the start of the meeting that he is calling for the partial restoration of funding for the system in the state Legislature's next budget negotiations. 

"State disinvestment has placed a tremendous strain on the university," reducing the state's contribution to the UC system from $3.2 billion to $2.3 billion over the past few years, Yudof said. 

Newsom said state cuts have led to the doubling of tuition at UC campuses since 2008-09. 

About 150 people at the four campuses signed up to speak during a nearly two-hour public comment period, many of whom criticized university police, tuition hikes and the corporate backgrounds of some of the regents. 

Charlie Eaton, financial secretary for United Auto Workers Local 2865, which represents about 12,000 UC teaching assistants, tutors and other staff, was one of about two dozen people to speak at the San Francisco campus. 

Eaton criticized what he called "the actions of the financial and corporate elite on the board" to raise tuition costs. 

He said police then responded to protesters at universities by "having us beaten, having us pepper sprayed and having us arrested." 

"The buck stops with you ... and it's time for you to pay," Eaton said. 

Other speakers criticized an independent commission proposed by the regents to look into the Davis incident that would be led by former Los Angeles and New York police Chief William Bratton, who is already contracted to work with the UC administration. 

Yudof said, "I don't see any conflict problem" and said "we will get to the bottom of the difficulties at Davis." 

Lansing said at the end of the public comment period that she "would like to continue this dialogue" with a tour of various UC campuses by some of the regents. 

"We hear you, and we share your concerns," she said. 

The crowd at the San Francisco meeting tried to prolong the public comment period with chants, and the regents took a recess at 11:40 a.m. 

Today's agenda also includes a discussion on alternate funding sources beyond tuition from students and taxpayer support. 


Copyright © 2011 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited. 


CUCFA Letter to President Yudof Opposing Decision to Hire Bratton

From Robert Meister, President, Council of UC Faculty Associations
Sunday November 27, 2011 - 09:39:00 PM

This evening, The Council of UC Faculty Associations (CUCFA) sent the following letter to President Yudof in response to his decision to hire the Kroll Security Group, and its Chairman William Bratton, to to conduct an investigation of police violence at UC Davis.

Dear President Yudof,

The Council of University of California Faculty Associations (CUCFA) protests your decision to hire the Kroll Security Group, and its Chairman William Bratton, to conduct what you call an independent investigation of police violence at UC Davis. We take no position here on Mr. Bratton’s personal qualifications; our objection is to the conflicts of interest of Kroll Security itself, which is already a major contractor with UC on security matters. According to its website, Kroll’s services are not confined to securing databases and facilities from attacks by criminals and terrorists. It also protects many global financial institutions and other multinationals against threats to “operations” that may come from public criticism and direct political action.

By deepening UC’s links to Kroll, you would be illustrating the kinds of connection between public higher education and Wall Street that the Occupy UC movement is protesting. Kroll’s parent company, Altegrity, provides data-mining, intelligence and on-the-ground security to financial institutions and governments seeking to head off and defeat both private sabotage and public protest. In addition, Altegrity’s parent company, Providence Private Equity, is a major global investor in for-profit higher education companies that benefit from the decline of publicly funded higher education. 

We already know that Kroll has provided security services to at least three UC campuses for the past several years. This in itself would disqualify Mr. Bratton from participating in the investigation you propose, even if the role of Kroll and its affiliated companies in defending the financial sector against OWS did not raise further questions about its pro-Wall Street and pro-privatization bias. 

A truly independent investigation that would allow UC to provide a credible response to the events at Davis (and the other campuses) needs to address several questions that would not be seriously considered if you hire Kroll. 

• What was your role and that of UC General Counsel in the events at Davis? Did you, as a distinguished first amendment scholar, tell chancellors and campus police chiefs that protests (especially protests against UC’s own policies) are “part of the DNA of this University” that should not be addressed using the same techniques that UC has developed (likely with the help of Kroll) to deal with terrorists, shooters, and cyber-saboteurs? (Even if you have been a zealous defender of the rising student movement to restore public higher education, such a conclusion would not be credible coming from an investigation tainted by Kroll’s conflicts of interest outlined above.) 

• What was and is the role of Kroll in helping banks and public institutions (including UC) investigate and defeat movements such as OWS and their campus counterparts? Is Kroll now acting as a liaison between universities, city governments and the Department of Homeland Security in defending the financial sector against protests occurring on what used to be considered public spaces? Are protests against Wall Street in such spaces now considered a threat to the security of the nation, the city and the public university? (The growing securitization of public space has been a major obstacle to first amendment activity since 9-11.) 

• How much money has UC and its individual campuses paid to Kroll for security services? Were these contracts issued as sole source contracts or was there open bidding? Were Kroll’s services confined to protecting, for example, the privacy and integrity of data systems and faculty and staff conducting animal research or did they extended to what Kroll’s website calls “organizational threats” arising from “the dynamic and sometimes conflicting needs of the entire campus population”? (This could be a description of the student protests that you rightly regard as “central to our history” as a university.) 

• What led to the issuance of false and misleading statements by University of California officials (Chancellors and their assistants, spokespeople, and police chiefs) in the aftermath of police violence at Berkeley and Davis? Did you encourage these efforts at spin control? (Dishonest statements seriously damage the university as an institution devoted to truth and protect only the individuals whose decisions are in question.) 

The broader issue is how protest can be part of what you characterized as “our university’s DNA” when the right to protest is not formally recognized within the university’s own codes of student and faculty conduct. It could be and should be. The CSU student code states explicitly that “[n]othing in this Code may conflict with Education Code Section 66301 that prohibits disciplinary action against students based on behavior protected by the first amendment.” If such language were included in the UC code of conduct, students would have a clear first amendment defense against disciplinary action arising from peaceful political protest—and there would be strong grounds for questioning the legality of a police order to disperse a peaceful protest from a public site on a public university campus. The explicit incorporation of constitutional limits on UC’s power to break up demonstrations that threaten its march toward privatization would go a long way toward recovering UC as a public, rather than a private, space. We urge you to see that the UC codes of conduct are amended to parallel those in place at CSU. 

Events at Davis and the other campuses have shown the University of California in a negative light, and we agree strongly with the need for an independent investigation. We believe, however, that your appointment of Kroll to investigate the university’s response to last week’s protest could itself become a basis for new protests, and that you should ask Speaker Pérez (or someone unaffiliated with the University) to appoint a genuinely independent committee with representatives from student, faculty, staff and civil liberties groups. Such a committee should be given a specific charge to investigate and report on all of the questions set forth above. 

Robert Meister, President, Council of UC Faculty Associations

New: Ford Mustang Flips-Out After Bizarre Collision With Beemer at Channing Way and Telegraph

By Ted Friedman
Saturday November 26, 2011 - 04:59:00 PM
Saturday, 11a.m. moments after Mustang (center) flips out after grazing maroon car (right) which was reportedly emerging from parking space at Channing and Telegraph. Man in wheel chair, center comes to aid of Mustang Driver.
Ted Friedman
Saturday, 11a.m. moments after Mustang (center) flips out after grazing maroon car (right) which was reportedly emerging from parking space at Channing and Telegraph. Man in wheel chair, center comes to aid of Mustang Driver.
Damage to both cars. Rory, out of the shot, is out of the mustang and on walk on Channing in front of Dollar Chinese
Ted Friedman
Damage to both cars. Rory, out of the shot, is out of the mustang and on walk on Channing in front of Dollar Chinese
Inside the Mustang, after Rory was pulled out.
Ted Friedman
Inside the Mustang, after Rory was pulled out.

Writing a new chapter in physics, a Ford Mustang convertible, traveling under 30mph hit a BMW leaving the curb, and then launched into the air and landed, upside-down, on its rag-roof. It happened Saturday, just before noon at Channing Way and Telegraph.

Although both drivers were taken to the hospital, they were not seriously injured, according to rescue workers at the scene.

The driver of the Mustang was wrenched from under his steering wheel by a good-samaritan street vendor, who rushed over from his Teley street stand. 

This was the second time the good samaritan had been involved with flipped Mustangs, he said. Known as "Doc," because he fixes things, he tinkered just right with a jammed steering wheel releasing it so the Mustang driver could squeeze out of the car, Doc said. 

In 2004, Doc saw another Mustang flip, only this time he was involved in the accident, he said. "I sat in the car with the other guy and watched his broken leg bleed," Doc said. "We both should have died." 

The driver of the BMW was hauled off on a gurney, but only because, a paramedic wanted to protect the man's vertebrae, he said, "like in the NFL." 

The driver of the Mustang walked away from his steed on his own. He was offered a chair from Chinese Express, formerly a dollar-restaurant--now $1.85. The restaurant also donated napkins, which did a pretty good job of mopping the blood from the Mustang driver's knees. 

On-lookers, including eight Berkeley policeman, marveled at the scene. What caused the horse to flip, the crowd wondered.? At least one of the on-lookers claimed to have seen a flipped Mustang before. "Even at twenty miles per hour, a car can flip," he said. 

That on-looker was a cop, who said that, with a previous police department, he had flipped his squad car when he rear-ended a perp. "I was only doing 20mph," he said. 

A Medhead, with a Phd. in Physics offered an explanation, which involved, gross vehicle weight, car body composition, velocity, and a twist of fate. But he wrapped it all up into the "ramp effect," theory. Medheads can be found at the notorious Caffe Mediterraneum on Telegraph. 

According to this typical Med-style coffee-house jive, the wheel of the Tang churned a trail through the front left fender of the Beemer, which served as a "ramp."--launching the horse. An accompanying photo from the point of view of the Beemer's fender, seems to support the ramp effect theory. 

Now that the mystery of the flip is explained, we can move on to assigning guilt, even though the real culprit was fate. According to "Patchman," a patch vendor at Teley and Channing, with a spot-on view of the crash, the Beemer pulled into traffic from a parked position without signaling or checking its rear mirror. 

"People may not realize that you have to signal when leaving a parking space," Patchman said. 

A Telegraph Avenue business owner called the car accident, "insult to injury," after the recent Sequoia Apartments fire closed sections of Telegraph and clobbered Teley businesses. A block of Channing was closed Saturday for nearly two hours and Telegraph was flooded with squad cars, a paramedic's unit, and an ambulance.  



Ted Friedman neither passed nor failed physics. He avoided it. Now he's back on his South side beat, where he relies on the kindness of physicists and other intellectuals.

Flash: U.C. Berkeley Faculty Scheduled to Vote on UCPD Violence on Monday Afternoon--But They've Lost Their Email Access

By Richard Brenneman
Saturday November 26, 2011 - 11:10:00 AM

The UC Berkeley Academic Senate is scheduled to vote Monday on a resolution condemning the use of violence against students exercising their First Amendment rights.

From the meeting announcement:

Monday, November 28, 2011 – 3:00pm – 5:00pm
A special meeting of the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate will be held in the Chevron Auditorium of the International House (2299 Piedmont Avenue). The Notice of Meeting and the resolution to be presented can be downloaded by clicking here.

We will be meeting to deliberate and reach conclusions upon a specific topic: The role of protest at Berkeley, the protests of November 2011 and events surrounding them including police and administration responses, and related policies.
In addition to the initial resolution, three others have since been introduced, and we’ll reprint them all.

But UC Berkeley’s email system suddenly shuts down

But before we do, we’ll like to call your attention to an email we’ve just received revealing that a critical mode of discussion used by the faculty members has conveniently broken down over the weekend.

Here’s what one faculty member reports:

The Berkeley email is disabled this weekend, at a critical time of organization and discussion leading to a special meeting of the Academic Senate on Monday. Those using berkeley.edu addresses are out of email from the morning after their Thanksgiving dinners (Friday morning) until the Monday when the Academic Senate meeting takes place. The meeting is intended “to deliberate and reach conclusions upon a specific topic: The role of protest at Berkeley, the protests of November 2011 and events surrounding them including police and administration responses, and related policies.” Some see this meeting as potentially leading to a vote of no-confidence in the Chancellor, Robert Birgeneau. In my personal experience, this kind of outage is not accidental.  


And here’s the notice faculty members receive when they try to log onto the campus email system: 





Posted by Technisource ~ ee
On 11/25/2011 at 4:00 pm PST
Modified on 11/25/2011 at 4:06 pm PST
Modified by IST Service Desk ~br
Posted in Unscheduled Outage
Date Submitted: Friday, November 25th, 2011
Outage Start/End Time: 0953
Groups Impacted: All CalMail users
Equipment: CalMail  

Description: A key component of the CalMail system has experienced a serious hardware failure that will prevent all account holders from logging in. Email messages within mailboxes are protected and incoming mail is being deferred. The database that maintains account holder information has been corrupted and must be rebuilt. That process is lengthy and will require extended downtime. Calmail expected to be available Monday morning, November 28. Please check back to the system status page for the latest information as updates become available.



If nothing else, an email outage at a time when many faculty members are out of town for the holidays on the long weekend before a crucial vote by the Academic Senate is curious indeed. If nothing else, it makes organizing much more difficult before a vote in which the administration has a great deal at stake. 



Now for the resolutions. . . 



The first resolution, and a note from the authors

(Revised) Resolution proposed by: Wendy Brown, Professor, Political Science; Barrie Thorne, Professor, Gender and Women’s Studies/Sociology; Judith Butler, Professor, Rhetoric.  

Whereas, Non-violent political protest engages fundamental rights of free assembly and free speech, and 

Whereas, November 9th efforts by protestors to set up and remain in a temporary encampment near Sproul Hall constitutes non-violent political protest, and Whereas, These non-violent actions were met with a brutal and dangerous police response (see, e.g., http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buovLQ9qyWQ&feature=share), a response authorized in advance as well as retroactively justified by Chancellor Birgeneau, Executive Vice Chancellor Breslauer and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs LeGrande, and 

Whereas, This is the third time in two years that such police violence has been unleashed upon protesters at Berkeley, with resulting bodily injuries to protestors, student and faculty outrage, a series of expensive lawsuits against the university, a tarnished university image, and a severely compromised climate for free expression on campus; 

Therefore be it resolved that the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate: 

1. Opposes all violent police responses to non-violent protest, whether that protest is lawful or not. 

2. Condemns the UC Berkeley administration’s authorization of violent responses to nonviolent protests over the past two years. 

3. Demands that Chancellor Birgeneau, Executive Vice Chancellor Breslauer, and Vice Chancellor LeGrande take responsibility for and repudiate such policing as it occurred over the past two years. 

4. Demands that these administrators develop, follow and enforce university policy to respond non-violently to non-violent protests, to secure student welfare amidst these protests, and to minimize the deployment of force and foster free expression and assembly on campus. 



And here’s the note sent by the authors after the original resolution was first posted: 





Dear Academic Senate Colleagues,  

We write as authors of the “Senate Resolution on Administrative Authorization and Justification of Police Violence Against Non-Violent Campus Protestors” that triggered the call for a special meeting of the Academic Senate on Monday, November 28, 2011. 

We formulated this resolution in the immediate aftermath of police violence against UC protestors on November 9th. Since that time, we have learned that our resolution is being misconstrued in two important ways. First, some have misread the resolution as unqualifiedly defending the Occupy Cal encampment and as arguing that students have the right to pitch tents on campus whenever and wherever they like. Second, some have misread the resolution as proposing a blanket “no-confidence” vote on three administrators, effectively soliciting their resignations. 

Neither of these positions or effects was our intention. Rather, we are concerned about a pattern of violent police responses to non-violent protests (three instances in two years) on our campus, and we are calling on the Senate to bring such responses to an immediate end. 

On the first matter, let us simply clarify: The resolution has no position on when and whether tents and encampments may be permitted on campus but does maintain that tents are non-violent. 

On the second matter, we have chosen to exercise our authorial prerogative to amend the proposed resolution. The “Whereas” clauses remain unchanged but we have revised the “Resolved” clause as follows: 

Therefore be it resolved that the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate: 

1. Opposes all violent police responses to non-violent protest, whether that protest is lawful or not. 

2. Condemns the UC Berkeley administration’s authorization of violent responses to nonviolent protests over the past two years. 

3. Demands that Chancellor Birgeneau, Executive Vice Chancellor Breslauer, and Vice Chancellor LeGrande take responsibility for and repudiate such policing as it occurred over the past two years. 

4. Demands that these administrators develop, follow and enforce university policy to respond non-violently to non-violent protests, to secure student welfare amidst these protests, and to minimize the deployment of force and foster free expression and assembly on campus. 



The second resolution

Resolution proposed by: Brian A. Barsky, Professor, Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, and Jonathan Simon, Professor, Law.  

Whereas, The “right of the people peaceably to assemble” is enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States; 

Whereas, Section 9(a) of Article 9 of the California Constitution establishes that“the University of California constitutes a public trust”; 

Whereas, Demonstrations consisting of both explicit and symbolic speech are a fundamental part of the public discourse in modern democracies and have been an important part of many social movements both nationally and internationally; 

Whereas, Police violence has been repeatedly perpetrated against peaceful demonstrators on the Berkeley campus;[For example, at and around Wheeler Hall (on November 20, 2009, December 11, 2009, and March 3, 2011), Tolman Hall (on September 22, 2011), and Sproul Hall (on November 9, 2011).] 

Whereas, The repeated incidents of police violence suggest that the Administration and the UCPD and may have adopted a policy of preemptive use of force against peaceful demonstrators whom they anticipate may engage in acts of civil disobedience; and 

Whereas, The Administration and UCPD appear to have not followed the recommendation of the June 14, 2010 Report of the Police Review Board (“Brazil report”) to clarify the proper lines of authority and approach to non-violent civil disobedience on the Berkeley campus despite this confusion having been identified in the Report as a possible source of unnecessary violence; 

Be it therefore RESOLVED, that: 

1. It is the sense of the faculty that the physical safety of campus community members (including police officers), and respect for their rights of political expression, dictate that police should not be deployed preemptively with riot weapons and tactics in response to non-violent demonstrations. 

2. The faculty calls upon the Administration to implement the recommendations of the June 14, 2010 Report of the Police Review Board (“Brazil report”). 

3. The faculty calls upon the Administration to immediately clarify the division of civilian and police authority over response to campus demonstrations including requests for mutual aid to outside police forces. 

4. The faculty calls upon the Administration to make public the specific conditions under which it is prepared to authorize UCPD (as well as other forces operating under mutual aid) to use weapons and forceful tactics, including but not limited to batons, pepper spray, and pressure point grips, against demonstrators engaged in non-violent actions including linking arms and other forms of passive resistance to arrest. 

5. The faculty calls upon the Administration to announce that it will not authorize the use of such forceful tactics to prevent or preempt the formation of any “unlawful assembly” that is composed in substantial part of students, faculty, or staff, and remains peaceful and non-violent. 

6. The faculty recommends that if a demonstration turns into an unlawful assembly (for example, an occupation of a building) then the Administration should engage in dialogue, communication, and negotiation as the primary and preferred approach. 

7. The faculty recommends that if and when arrests are deemed necessary to restore core university functions, the Administration not authorize the routine use of batons, pepper spray or other weapons and forceful tactics without specific need to respond to violence by arrestees. 

8. The faculty recommends that following any incident in which forcible methods were used that the Chancellor should convene a public meeting with a minimum of delay to explain the rationale of the decision to employ them. 

9. The Academic Senate shall establish a Senate Committee on Demonstrations and Student Actions composed solely of faculty members to consult with the Administration, UCPD and students. 



The third resolution

Resolution proposed by: David Hollinger, Professor, History, and Thomas Laqueur, Professor, History.  

The Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate of the University of Californiahereby condemns the over-reaction of police to demonstrations on our campus on November 9; formally alerts the Chancellor and those who report to him that this incident has greatly diminished confidence in the Campus’s leadership; calls upon the Chancellor to institute special training for police forces employed on campus to deal with acts of political expression and civil disobedience in the University and, more generally, to immediately implement the recommendations of the Police Review Board (The Brazil Report) as issued on June 14, 2010. 



The fourth resolution

Resolution proposed by: Kurt C. Organista, Professor, Social Welfare  

Whereas, nonviolent political protest engages fundamental rights of free assembly and free speech, and Whereas, the campus has established time, place, and manner guidelines by which it encourages such activities, and Whereas, protesters may sometimes engage in political noncooperation which includes acts of civil disobedience – including the deliberate, open and peaceful violation of particular laws, decrees, regulations, and 

Whereas, there is a clear chain of command ending with the Chancellor, which implements training and deployment of police to respond appropriately to protests, and Whereas, campuses should exercise restraint in responding to peaceful protests and seek to resolve the situation through dialogue, and 

Whereas, we are outraged by the brutal and dangerous police responses against members of the University community at UC Berkeley and other campuses, Therefore be it Resolved that the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate 

1) calls upon the Chancellor, EVCP, and Chief of Police to officially apologize to the campus community for the behavior of the UCPD on Nov.9, 2011 

2) calls for immediate revision of policies and practices to minimize the danger of excessive use of force by the police, and to better train the police to employ nonviolent law enforcement that respects the rights of nonviolent protesters 

3) affirms its support for the right of free speech and peaceful protest by all members of the University community 

4) affirms its strong opposition to the State’s disinvestment in higher education, which is at the root of the student protests. 



All of the documents are posted online here as PDFs. 


"Knit-In" at Occupy Berkeley Site to Make Warm Clothing for Protesters

By Erika Heidecker (BCN)
Saturday November 26, 2011 - 09:15:00 AM

Some crafty Occupy Berkeley members are showing solidarity with their Occupy brethren in cold-weather areas by holding a "knit-in at the sit-in" today.

Organizers are inviting the public to join them as they knit and crochet hats, mittens and scarves to send to cold-weather encampments that are facing dropping temperatures and snow as winter approaches.

The knit-in will be held at noon, rain or shine, at Civic Center Park at Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Center Street. 

Participants are asked to bring their own yarn and needles, however local stores, including Piedmont Yarn and Apparel, have donated some supplies for those who need them. 

The knit-in's organizer, Maxina Ventura, was busy occupying Berkeley this evening but her son, Andy Pollyak, 15, who will be joining his mother at the knit-in, said they expect a large turnout.  

Interested knitters who are unable to attend the knit-in are invited to drop off handmade items along with a photo, name or note, at Occupy Berkeley in a bag marked "Max". 

Participants can also send their hand-knitted goods directly to Occupy Berkeley c/o Maxina Ventura at 2399 E. 14th St. No. 24, San Leandro, CA 94577. 

Andronico's Telegraph Berkeley Store Is Closing

By Bay City News
Saturday November 26, 2011 - 09:11:00 AM

Andronico's, the supermarket chain that opened its first store in Berkeley in the 1920s, announced today that it will close its Telegraph Avenue store in Berkeley.

The store was called "Park and Shop" when it opened, but the name was later changed to reflect family ownership.

The closure is related to the chain's restructuring after it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this August, according to a representative for the markets.

Five stores will remain open and "will receive the company's full attention" as part of a capital improvement plan expected to begin early next year, according to a statement released on behalf of the company. 

"The closing of the Telegraph Avenue store became necessary because the property would have been too difficult to bring up to the standards that our customers expect and deserve," said Bill Andronico, a third-generation member of the market's founding family. 

Andronico said that the chain is now financially stable following the sale of the company to Renovo Capital. 

"We have completed a difficult restructuring process, and I am pleased that we have been able to save the business and in the process preserve 375 jobs," he said. 

Andronico's will continue to operate its two stores in Berkeley on Shattuck Avenue and Solano Avenue, and stores in San Francisco, San Anselmo and Los Altos. 

"We have embarked on an ambitious program of significantly improving merchandising and stock conditions now that we are healthy again," Chief Operating Officer Justin Jackson said. 

Over the next year, capital improvements will be made at the remaining locations, Jackson said, to "greatly enhance the categories and shopping experience our customers expect in this unique marketplace."

Press Release: Faculty Senate to Take up No-Confidence Resolution

By Public Affairs, UC Berkeley
Wednesday November 23, 2011 - 09:40:00 PM

The Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate has scheduled a special meeting to take up a series of resolutions prompted by the Nov. 9 campus confrontation between police and Occupy Cal protesters.  

Forty-seven Berkeley faculty members initially asked for the meeting to vote on a resolution of no-confidence in Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Harry Le Grande. 

Separate resolutions offered by other faculty since then call on the UC Berkeley administration to immediately implement recommendations made by the campus Police Review Board in the wake of 2009′s takeover of Wheeler Hall, to better train police “to employ nonviolent law enforcement that respects the rights of nonviolent protesters” and to set explicit limits on the use of police force in response to nonviolent protests involving Berkeley students. 

“This is how the faculty gets together to deliberate on significant issues,” said Senate Chair Bob Jacobsen, “and I encourage faculty to come and take part.” 

The resolutions, as well as other details of the special meeting, are posted on the Academic Senate website. The session is set for Monday, Nov. 28, from 3 to 5 p.m. in the Chevron Auditorium at International House.

Sequoia Fire Investigation Ongoing;
Businesses Open, Temporary Traffic Routes

By Steven Finacom
Wednesday November 23, 2011 - 12:01:00 PM
Barriers remain up around the fire-damaged Sequoia Apartments at Telegraph and Haste.
Steven Finacom
Barriers remain up around the fire-damaged Sequoia Apartments at Telegraph and Haste.
Storefronts in the building were boarded up on Tuesday.
Steven Finacom
Storefronts in the building were boarded up on Tuesday.
Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong gives his card to a resident displaced from the building.
Steven Finacom
Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong gives his card to a resident displaced from the building.
Temporary traffic arrangements divert vehicles south on Telegraph from Haste.   There’s a new signal southbound at Dwight, and cars continue across the intersection into a temporary southbound lane which passes the Dwight “island” and merges with the two regular southbound lanes of Telegraph, just north of Blake Street.
Steven Finacom
Temporary traffic arrangements divert vehicles south on Telegraph from Haste. There’s a new signal southbound at Dwight, and cars continue across the intersection into a temporary southbound lane which passes the Dwight “island” and merges with the two regular southbound lanes of Telegraph, just north of Blake Street.

The future of the fire-damaged Sequoia Apartments at Haste and Telegraph remained uncertain today, as crews worked to board up the ground floor storefronts and a fire investigation remained ongoing. All but one Telegraph Avenue business on the blocks adjacent to the fire is open, and all the open businesses can be reached by pedestrians.

The historic 96 year old building, a visual icon of the Telegraph district, looked much as it did on Saturday after the Friday night fire was largely extinguished, with a missing roof and many of the windows gone, while others looked incongruously normal with blinds closed behind the glass. 

Pieces of fire debris, including charred fragments of wood, lined Haste downhill from the building, where water had flooded along the street during the fire-fighting efforts. 

Early Wednesday morning I briefly talked to Berkeley Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong, who came by to take a look at the building. I asked him about the status of the structure. He said that the “building owner is supposed to work on getting a permit” and portions of “the upper floors are what needs to come down.” The owner has a structural engineer, he said, who should be submitting plans to the City. 

The City’s investigation of the fire origins has not yet been completed. The Fire Department is waiting, Dong said, to get access to portions of the structure that are still off limits. Fire investigators want to look at one area in particular. “The area of interest is in the basement”, he said. 

A full list of building residents has not yet been compiled, but Dong said the City has no indication at present that anyone is unaccounted for. The City had one report of a missing resident, but that individual turned up via a Facebook posting after the fire. 

Dong said that the Fire Department would also like to talk to residents so they can get firsthand accounts of what was happening with the fire in the building in its early stages Friday night. He encouraged all residents to contact the Red Cross and / or the City. 

While we were talking, a displaced resident of the building came by to look. He identified himself as Tyler, and said he had been in the elevator when the fire began to spread. “It got hot, it filled up with smoke,” he said, before heading off up Haste, holding a paper cup of coffee. He said he was staying with friends in central Berkeley. 

Circulation and Shopping 

Most of Telegraph Avenue between Haste and Channing remains off-limits to vehicles and pedestrians, although it is possible from the Channing end of the block to reach all the businesses on both sides of the north half of the street, including Rasputin’s Records. The only un-burnt business that can’t be reached is Thai Noodle II which is in the shadow of the north wall of the Sequoia and remains closed. 

On the block between Haste and Dwight the sidewalks are primarily open, except in front of the old, vacant, Cody’s building, and all the businesses including Moe’s Books and Amoeba Records can be reached from Dwight. 

The City has posted an update on Telegraph access and shopping It notes that the Telegraph Avenue Holiday Street Faire, a long standing Berkeley tradition, is still scheduled to take place as planned on December 16, 17, 18, 22, and 24, from 11 am to 6 p.m. Usually the popular street fair closes the four blocks of Telegraph north of Dwight and some 200 arts and crafts vendors set up a double row of booths. 

Pedestrians are currently unable to walk on Telegraph between Channing and Haste, or go down Haste from Telegraph, meaning they must divert up to Bowditch, or down Dwight to Dana and go around on those streets to Channing. Dong said that Telegraph between Haste and Channing would remain closed to through pedestrian traffic for the time being. 

Late Tuesday when I walked home, I saw an uncomfortable situation at the intersection. A unshaven man dressed in black pants and turtleneck was standing at the barriers shouting abruptly at pedestrians and bicyclists that they could not go north on Telegraph. He had no visible identification, and most passersby seemed startled to be so accosted. I asked him who he was. He said he worked for a company, “UPS” (although it could have been URS) involved with the building clean-up. 

Wednesday morning the situation seemed more organized. Uniformed City staff were out along the barriers monitoring traffic and directing pedestrians. 

A temporary traffic arrangement has been put in place. Haste Street is now open above Telegraph. Traffic coming westbound on Haste must turn left onto Telegraph at Haste, a situation that allows southbound traffic on Telegraph north of Dwight for the first time since one-way streets were put in place in the 1970s. 

When the southbound traffic reaches Dwight, temporary stoplights allow vehicles to cross Dwight. One of the northbound lanes has been converted with orange barriers into a temporary southbound lane, so vehicles heading south then merge into the two regular southbound traffic lanes on Telegraph. 

This arrangement may ease traffic tangles north of Dwight, but as I watched cars navigate the new system early on Wednesday morning, I saw another problem developing. Most vehicles headed down Haste are aiming westbound to reach Shattuck Avenue. 

Every single car I saw that found itself on the Telegraph detour drove south of Dwight, then immediately crossed over both southbound lanes of Telegraph and made an abrupt right turn onto Blake Street. Most of them did this without any signaling. 

The drivers are probably assuming they can go down Blake to reach Shattuck, or perhaps double back to Haste. However, Blake has a diagonal barrier at Fulton, so these cars will be diverted further south, to Parker Street. The end result, while the temporary traffic arrangement is in place, will probably be a steady stream of stop and go traffic and confused drivers on Blake, Fulton, and Parker through the residential Le Conte neighborhood. 

If you are seeking to reach a destination in the immediate Telegraph business district by car, a good course is probably to approach via College Avenue or Shattuck Avenue, and then take Channing, Durant, or Bancroft to Telegraph. The City is encouraging shoppers to head for the Sather Gate Garage, just west of Telegraph, which can be reached eastbound on Durant, or from either direction on Channing.

Five Who Survived

By Ted Friedman
Wednesday November 23, 2011 - 11:44:00 AM
Five who survived.
Ted Friedman
Five who survived.

Five students who survived Friday's blaze at the Sequoia apartments at Telegraph and Haste returned to the site Tuesday to see if they could re-enter the building to rescue a hamster named Tango. 

They could not [enter], and Tango is missing. 

The students believe everyone else got out of the burning building alive, although one woman had to leap into the arms of friends from a fire escape ladder that would not descend, according to the students. The woman was not hurt, they said. 

The Berkeley Fire Department's investigation into survivors may have been hampered by the lack of a tenants list, which burned in the fire, according to the students, Alexandria Lujan, Fabian Collazo, Jessica Watson, Hwa-Rim Lee, and Victor Palacioj. 

.As reported Saturday in the Planet, city officials have been unable to establish "whether all the occupants of the building got out."  

Phone questions, Wednesday, to police and fire about missing persons have not yet been answered. 

The students' last night in the building was to have been what one called a "pre-thanksgiving dinner. We were looking forward to pie and champagne for dessert, when the fire started," one said. "We never had that dessert." 

The students believe the fire started in the building's basement. They reported that a resident tried to extinguish flames with a pillow, but decided to leave the fire-fighting to pros. 

The students recalled that their building had what they called a "safety inspection" two days prior to the fire, in which batteries were replaced in individual smoke detectors, but that some of the detectors didn't work, even after the inspection. 

The building fire alarm worked just fine, though, the students reported. 

They were happy in the building in a one-bedroom apartment for which they paid $1,250 a month. 

One of the students estimated her losses to be $29,000. The hamster was priceless. The students said they are being assisted by the university's student advocates office, where an attorney is advising them on legal action to win compensation for their losses. They said that the Sequoia's owner has told them his insurance doesn't cover them. 

One of the students said she had just purchased a new MacBook which was lost in the fire. 

They are staying with friends but have been offered up to two months of student housing by the university. 

Signs posted in nearby businesses give the following number (510) 981-7368 to call if you were displaced by the Sequoia fire. 

Meanwhile conditions in the Sequoia neighborhood have improved. Amoeba opened Monday, and it is possible to walk from Dwight to Haste, and by late afternoon cars were allowed to turn left at Haste and Telegraph (directed the wrong-way, South, on Telegraph, which was one-way North). Cars had previously been blocked from this block, and from Haste. 

Although clever placement of barriers allows shoppers to reach businesses next door to the Sequoia, it is not yet possible to walk the block between Haste and Channing--disrupting North-South foot traffic on Telegraph. 


Ted Friedman reports for the Planet from the South side.

Forty-Seven Berkeley Faculty Members Sponsor No Confidence Resolution Against Birgeneau: Meeting to Take Place Monday Afternoon

From the U.C. Berkeley Academic Senate Website
Wednesday November 23, 2011 - 06:00:00 PM

Monday, November 28, 2011, 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Chevron Auditorium, International House, 2299 Piedmont Avenue
Summary of Business 

A special meeting of the Berkeley Division was requested by forty-seven
members of the Division: Elizabeth Abel, Professor, English; Kathryn
Abrams, Herma Hill Kay Distinguished Professor of Law, Law; Patricia
Baquedano-Lopez, Associate Professor, Education; Brian A. Barsky,
Professor, Computer Science; Patricia Berger, Associate Professor, History
of Art; Deborah Blocker, Associate Professor, French; Jean-Paul Bourdier,
Professor, Architecture; Natalia Brizuela, Associate Professor, Spanish and
Portuguese; Wendy Brown, Class of 1936 First Professor, Political Science;
Judith Butler, Professor, Rhetoric; T.J. Clarke, Professor Emeritus, History
of Art; Lawrence Cohen, Professor, Anthropology; Robert Dudley,
Professor, Integrative Biology; Wayne M. Getz, Professor, Environmental
Science, Policy and Management; Cecil Giscome, Professor, English; Peter
Glazer, Associate Professor and Chair, Theater, Dance and Performance
Studies; Suzanne Guerlac, Professor, French; Yoko Hasegawa, Associate
Professor, East Asian Languages and Cultures; Lyn Hejinian, Professor,
English; Leslea Hlusko, Associate Professor, Integrative Biology; You-tien
Hsing, Professor, Geography; Jean Lave, Professor Emerita, Education;
Zeus Leonardo, Associate Professor, Education; Gregory Levine, Associate
Professor, History of Art; John H. Lie, Professor, Sociology; Michael L.
Lucey, Bernie H. Williams Professor of Comparative Literature and
Professor, French; Colleen Lye, Associate Professor, English; Samer
Madanat, Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering; Brent D.
Mishler, Professor, Integrative Biology; Rasmus Nielsen, Professor,
Integrative Biology; Richard B. Norgard, Professor, Energy and Resources;
Michael O’Hare, Professor, Public Policy; Nancy Peluso, Professor,
Environmental Science, Policy and Management; Daniel Perlstein,
Associate Professor, Education; Paul Rabinow, Professor, Anthropology;
Juana Maria Rodriguez, Associate Professor, Gender and Women’s
Studies; Leslie Salzinger, Associate Professor, Gender and Women’s
Studies; Susan Schweik, Professor, English; Ellen L. Sims, Professor,
Integrative Biology; Jeffrey Skoller, Associate Professor, Film and Media
Studies; Sandra Smith, Associate Professor, Sociology; Shannon Steen,
Associate Professor, Theater, Dance and Performance Studies; Estelle
Taricia, Associate Professor, Spanish and Portuguese; Barrie Thorne,
Professor and Interim Chair, Gender and Women’s Studies, and Professor,
Sociology; James Vernon, Professor, History; Sophie Volpp, Associate
Professor, East Asian Languages and Cultures/Comparative Literature;
Richard A. Walker, Professor, Geography. 

The special meeting of the Berkeley Division is scheduled for Monday,
November 28, 2011 from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. in Chevron Auditorium,
International House. In accordance with Division Bylaw 5(B), this notice
of meeting is being sent to the members of the Berkeley Division at least
five days of instruction prior to the meeting. 

The forty-seven members of the Division who requested the special
meeting propose one resolution as the business for the meeting. The
resolution is noticed in the order of business that follows this summary. 

Gary Holland
Berkeley Division 


I. Business
Consideration of the following resolution. 

Resolution proposed by: Wendy Brown, Professor, Political Science; Barrie
Thorne, Professor, Gender and Women’s Studies/Sociology; Judith Butler,
Professor, Rhetoric.* 

Whereas, Non-violent political protest engages fundamental rights of free
assembly and free speech, and 

Whereas, November 9th efforts by protestors to set up and remain in a
temporary encampment near Sproul Hall constitutes non-violent political
protest, and 

Whereas, These non-violent actions were met with a brutal and dangerous police
response (see, e.g.,
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buovLQ9qyWQ&feature=share), a
response authorized in advance as well as retroactively justified by Chancellor
Birgeneau, Executive Vice Chancellor Breslauer and Vice Chancellor for Student
Affairs LeGrand, and 

Whereas, This is the third time in two years that such police violence has been
unleashed upon protesters at Berkeley, with resulting bodily injuries to
protestors, student and faculty outrage, a series of expensive lawsuits against the
university, a tarnished university image, and a severely compromised climate for
free expression on campus; 

Therefore be it Resolved that the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate has
lost confidence in the ability of Chancellor Birgeneau, EVC Breslauer and VC
LeGrande to respond appropriately to non-violent campus protests, to secure
student welfare amidst these protests, to minimize the deployment of force and
to respect freedom of speech and assembly on the Berkeley campus. 

II. Other matters authorized by unanimous consent of the voting members

* Corrected November 18, 2011.

Press Release: President Yudof Launches Initiatives to Address Policing and Protests

From Steve Montiel, University of California Office of the President
Wednesday November 23, 2011 - 09:42:00 AM

University of California President Mark G. Yudof moved on two fronts today (Tuesday, Nov. 22) to address policing issues in the wake of the pepper spraying of UC Davis students and other incidents involving law enforcement officers and protesters. 

Acting in response to a written request from UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi, Yudof agreed to conduct a thorough review of the events of Nov. 18 on the Davis campus. 

As a first step, Yudof reached out to former Los Angeles police chief William J. Bratton to undertake an independent fact-finding of the pepper spray incident and report back the results to him within 30 days. 

Bratton, who also led the New York City police department, now heads the New York-based Kroll consulting company as chairman. He also is a renowned expert in progressive community policing. 

“My intent,” Yudof said, “is to provide the Chancellor and the entire University of California community with an independent, unvarnished report about what happened at Davis.” 

Assembly Speaker John A. Perez also had made a request to President Yudof and UC Regents Chair Sherry Lansing for an independent investigation. 

Under the plan, Bratton’s report also will be presented to an advisory panel that Yudof is forming, again at Katehi’s request. The panel will consist of a cross-section of students, faculty, staff and other UC community members. 

The advisory panel, whose members will be announced at a later date, will review the report and make recommendations to Chancellor Katehi on steps that should be taken to ensure the safety of peaceful protesters on campus. She will present her implementation plan to President Yudof. 

On a second track, Yudof appointed UC General Counsel Charles Robinson and UC Berkeley School of Law Dean Christopher Edley Jr. to lead a system-wide examination of police protocols and policies as they apply to protests at all 10 UC campuses. 

This effort will include visits to campuses for discussions with students, faculty and staff, and consultation with an array of experts. 

The review is expected to result in recommended best practices for policing protests across the 10 UC campuses. 

“With these actions,” Yudof said, “we are moving forward to identify what needs to be done to ensure the safety of students and others who engage in non-violent protests on UC campuses. The right to peaceful protest on all of our campuses must be protected.”

Fire-Damaged Sequoia Building Part of Berkeley's Heritage

By Steven Finacom
Wednesday November 23, 2011 - 07:57:00 AM
The Sequoia Building this week, after the fire.   Part of the interior, and almost all of the distinctive brick façade of the 1915 edifice, remains.
Steven Finacom
The Sequoia Building this week, after the fire. Part of the interior, and almost all of the distinctive brick façade of the 1915 edifice, remains.
An undated photos, probably from the early 1960s, shows the Sequoia with the Cinema Guild theatre marquee visible at far left, on the commercial façade.
Courtesy, Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association
An undated photos, probably from the early 1960s, shows the Sequoia with the Cinema Guild theatre marquee visible at far left, on the commercial façade.
The brick exterior of the Sequoia includes patterned brick and tile insets and an ornate cornice.
Steven Finacom
The brick exterior of the Sequoia includes patterned brick and tile insets and an ornate cornice.

Telegraph Avenue’s Sequoia Apartments building, seriously damaged in a fire on Friday, November 18, 2011, is a stately and historic edifice that helped define the character of Telegraph Avenue in both the early 20th century and in the 1960s.

Constructed in 1915, the 96-year-old, 39-apartment, building was part of an early 20th century development boom that transformed Telegraph Avenue into a bustling business and residential district.

When the Sequoia was built, Berkeley was one of most populous cities in California, riding a wave of suburb development and urbanization that had started with the construction of streetcar lines around the turn of the century, and accelerated after the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire. 

Upper Telegraph Avenue in the 19th century was still dotted with private homes, vacant lots, and non-commercial buildings including churches. But by the time the Sequoia Building was constructed the street was becoming a more solidly developed business district north from Dwight Way to Sather Gate on the University campus. Residences were moved to side streets or demolished, and one to five-story commercial and apartment buildings began to rise, side by side. 

The Sequoia was one of several masonry, mid-rise, housing over commercial, buildings constructed on Telegraph Avenue in this era. Today, five remain: the Granada at Bancroft and Telegraph; the Cambridge at Durant and Telegraph; the Palazzo mid-block on Telegraph just north of the Sequoia; the Sequoia itself; the Chandler Apartments at Dwight and Telegraph. 

In addition to these apartment buildings Telegraph Avenue boasted two substantial early 20th century hotels—the Carlton, which still stands at Durant and Telegraph, and the Berkeley Inn, across from the Sequoia on what is now a vacant lot on the northeast corner of Telegraph and Dwight. 

Although these buildings were always small in number, they have an outsized presence on Telegraph Avenue. They physically frame the four blocks north of Dwight and give the street both an urban and an early 20th century commercial district feel. 

In the era when the Sequoia Apartments were built streetcars still ran on Telegraph, the commercial district extended north of Bancroft one block to Allston Way and Sather Gate, and the district adjoining Telegraph was a mixed residential community of single family homes, apartments, and private student living groups. 

Benjamin Ide Wheeler was still President of the University of California while another prominent college president, Woodrow Wilson, was President of the United States. Women had had the vote in California for just half a decade, and women students at Cal still had to have their housing approved by the Dean of Women. Apartment living for students was still somewhat unusual; most lived in rooming or boarding houses, fraternities and sororities, or at home with their own families.  

The Sequoia was constructed at a reported cost of $600,000 and designed by an Oakland firm, Richardson & Beverell (the spelling of the second name is uncertain). Oakland based Sommarstrom Bros., which seems to have built extensively in the East Bay in that era, was the contractor. 

The building is architecturally unusual. Most of the exterior is sheathed in cream-colored bricks, unlike the darker red, buff, or burnt clinker bricks more common in that era, at least amongst Berkeley buildings. The off-white walls are set off by colored bricks and tiles in decorative motifs, including an “x” pattern under the cornice. 

The Haste Street façade included what historian Betty Marvin described in a 1979 historical analysis as two “shovel-gables” rising above the traditional cornice. The most architecturally similar building in Berkeley is the Danbert Apartments, constructed at College and Derby in 1915, the year before the Sequoia.  

Marvin characterized the Sequoia as having a “pueblo style” feel. Anthony Bruce, the Executive Director of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA) also notes a Prairie Style and German Arts & Crafts influence in the architecture. 

The building originally had a profusion of stonework around the main entrance and commercial storefronts, including marble front stairs to the grand residential entrance on Haste Street. The storefronts themselves have been renovated and altered several times. Original apartment windows—presumably wood sashes--were replaced sometime prior to the 1960s with aluminum frames. 

In its first decades, the Telegraph commercial frontage of the Sequoia had four separate storefronts with neighborhood businesses, including the A-1 Meat market, Hagstrom’s Food Store and the Garden Spot Market. In 1953 Hagstrom’s closed and was replaced with what Marvin called “one of the earlier outposts of Telegraph Avenue as bohemian-intellectual playground”, the Berkeley Cinema Guild.  

Showing classic, art, and foreign films the small theatre organized by Edward Landberg had a second screen—the Studio—added in the rear in 1957. Landberg recruited—and briefly married—Pauline Kael who was then doing unpaid film reviews for KPFA. She became deeply involved with the theater and wrote program notes for the movies at the Cinema Guild. “Locals grew accustomed to seeing her up on a ladder changing the Guild’s marquee, a hip flask filled with Wild Turkey dangling from a belt loop”, recent Kael biographer Brian Kellow wrote. 

In 1965 she went on from Berkeley to the New Yorker and became the most influential film critic in the country. In a recent commentary on Kellow’s book for the New York Times Sunday Book Review, Frank Rich wrote “such was the power of Kael’s voluminous writing about movies that she transformed the sensibility and standards of mainstream pop culture criticism in America — mostly for the better…” 

The Studio/Guild closed on Telegraph in 1967. By that point Telegraph’s bohemian era was over and the Counter Culture had taken over. The Sequoia Building—situated across the street from the intellectual mecca of the new Cody’s Books, and half a block below the future People’s Park—would stand at the center of Berkeley’s political, cultural, and social ferment.  

Along with the other commercial buildings of Telegraph, big and small, it formed a physical backdrop and frame for the nationally significant “street scene” of Telegraph in the ‘60s and 70s. The Sequoia had at its doorstep the pioneering Civil Rights movement “shop ins” at the Lucky’s market diagonally across the street (where Amoeba Records is now located), innumerable protest marches and demonstrations, police battling protestors along Telegraph, and the appearance of Telegraph’s arts and crafts vendors that lend the street a colorful character to this day. 

Mario’s La Fiesta Restaurant moved into the corner storefront, the Garden Spot market hung on for some time—it was essentially a convenience store when I came to Berkeley—and, eventually, most of the Telegraph street frontage of the building was renovated in the 1980s to house Café Intermezzo, noted for its salads, and Raleigh’s.  

The two new eateries and the older one next door made this block of Telegraph a quick dining destination for students, alumni and locals, and the building became notable, once again, to a new generation that knew nothing of the Cinema Guild or streetcar tracks on “Telly”. 

(This article is greatly indebted to Betty Marvin’s 1979 research on the Sequoia Building for the State Historical Resources Inventory.) 

(Steven Finacom writes frequently on Berkeley history for local publications. He is the current President of the Berkeley Historical Society and Vice President of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA), and is an advocate, with BAHA, of the reconstruction / rehabilitation of the historic Sequoia Apartments Building).



Yudof Gets It Wrong Again

By Becky O'Malley
Wednesday November 23, 2011 - 11:07:00 AM

The University of California bureaucracy is all over the Occupy scandal, now that it’s gone viral. Seldom have I experienced such a fast response to my online opinions—but University of California President Mark Yudof seems to have hopped to, with alacrity. Unfortunately, he's only made things worse.

Last Wednesday I predicted that U.C. administrators would continue their longstanding tradition of trying stupid repressive measures against students exercising free speech. Right on cue, the dumb cops at U.C. Davis on Friday assaulted passive non-violent students with pepper spray—on camera yet. 

So on Saturday I posted that video, along with my considered judgment that Yudof and the Berkeley and Davis chancellors should all quit or be fired for permitting this outrage on their watch: “Either these three highly paid executives approved of what happened and planned it that way, or they've lost control of the jack-booted thugs who work for them. Either way, they've failed, disgracefully, at their jobs.” Strong language, right? 

So Sunday Yudof came out with—well, not quite an abject apology for dereliction of duty, but close. He was Shocked, Shocked: 

“I am appalled by images of University of California students being doused with pepper spray and jabbed with police batons on our campuses.” 

And he was Going to Take Steps: 

“I intend to do everything in my power as President of this university to protect the rights of our students, faculty and staff to engage in non-violent protest.” 

This is an incremental improvement over Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau, who made this stupid statement when his police force assaulted student and faculty protesters: “It is unfortunate that some protesters chose to obstruct the police by linking arms and forming a human chain to prevent the police from gaining access to the tents. This is not non-violent civil disobedience.” I suppose the history of the civil rights movement in the United States wasn’t part of his education in Canada. 

Yudof’s statement was also better than Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi’s first response to what happened on her campus—she said she was planning to form a task force. Later she suspended the police chief and the two cops who were caught on video. Even later she shed copious tears over the incident (not necessarily crocodile, because she could see her career in jeopardy) though of course not as many tears as the pepper-sprayed students shed. 

Modesty compels me to admit that it wasn’t just my opinions that caused these three blind mice to figure out that they’ve got problems. In fact, most likely they never heard from me, but as the saying goes, The Whole World Was Watching. Two notable voices: James Fallows in the Atlantic Monthly and Phillip Gourevitch in the New Yorker, both quickly online, presumably soon in print, not to mention Glen Greenwald, Matt Tabbibi and a host of bloggers around the world. 

There have been equally disgusting actions by police against Occupiers in other cities: New York, Seattle, Oakland, L.A and many smaller places. But somehow it’s even more shocking to see force used against the very young, neatly dressed and earnest undergraduates at the clean bucolic Davis campus. It’s possible to say that a percentage of the in-your-face New Yorkers asked for it, but those Davis kids never did. 

One might expect, history to the contrary not withstanding, that the well-educated, sophisticated internationally active University of California administrators, who manage billion-dollar budgets, would know better. What’s wrong with them? 

I got a clue when I idly typed “Where does Mark Yudof live?” into a Google search and came up with a long saga of his quest for the ideal home since he started his $800,000-plus-per-year job a couple of years ago. Steve Fainaru on the Bay Citizen website did a brilliant job of tracking down the facts and laying them out. 

Briefly, very briefly, when Yudof and his wife arrived a couple of years ago they declined to live in the charming, historic Blake House, which has been the traditional residence of the University of California presidents. Instead, they rented an ugly 10,000 sq.ft. McMansion in the Oakland hills, added an elevator, air conditioning and other Texas-style embellishments, then got into a pissing match with the owner, moved into the Claremont Hotel for some weeks, and finally into another McMansion, this time through the tunnel in Lafayette. Steve’s estimate was that the whole episode added up to about $600,000 in sunk costs by the time his story ran in August of 2010—and there’s surely been more since. 

The standard operating procedure these days seems to be to pay enough to University of California administrators so that they can afford what can only be described as vulgar ostentation. And all of this lavish spending is on top of Yudof’s regular $800K compensation package, which puts him well into the proverbial 1% category. Is it any wonder that he doesn’t relate to the grievances of the 99% percenter students? 

Now the latest outrage: very late yesterday U.C. President Yudof’s press office announced that he’s Taken More Steps. He’s picked three people to lead investigations into what went wrong at Berkeley and Davis. 

Who are they? Former Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton, UC General Counsel Charles Robinson and UC Berkeley School of Law Dean Christopher Edley Jr. 

Surely he jests. 

Let’s take Robinson first. All we really need to know about him is that his compensation package is close to a half-million dollars, give or take a hundred thousand, and that he would lead U.C.’s defense should pepper-sprayed protesters decide to sue, which seems very likely. Unbiased? No. 

Which leave Bratton and Edley. Bill Bratton and Christopher Edley? He really must be joking with these two. 

Bratton is lauded in the press release as “a renowned expert in progressive community policing.” Tell that to the Brits. He was recently touted as an advisor to embattled Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron after the summer riots, but an interview with him in the Daily Telegraph annoyed enough people that he probably won’t get a real job there after all. 

Sample quote from the Telegraph interview: 

“To be effective, a police force should have ‘a lot of arrows in the quiver,’ said Mr Bratton, advocating a doctrine of ‘escalating force’ where weapons including rubber bullets, Tasers, pepper spray and water cannon were all available to commanders.” 

Then there’s Edley. He’s been roundly criticized for his staunch support of John Yoo, still on the Berkeley law school faculty despite being the infamous defender of torturing prisoners. 

Among his critics is Economics Professor Brad DeLong, whose blog is one of the two or three best discussions of progressive politics available these days. I look forward with relish to Professor DeLong’s discussion of the Yudof choices in this context. 

From yesterday’s press release: 

“My intent,” Yudof said, “is to provide the Chancellor and the entire University of California community with an independent, unvarnished report about what happened at Davis.” 

Oh sure. If he really wants “an independent, unvarnished report”, these are not the reporters to choose. Varnishing, in fact, is undoubtedly the job description. 

I could give President Yudof a very long list of better choices—former San Jose Police Chief Joseph McNamara? California Attorney General Kamala Harris?—but he probably doesn’t plan to ask me. I still think he should resign. 


More on this: 











The Editor's Back Fence

Best City Council Story Ever

Wednesday November 30, 2011 - 08:40:00 AM

Thanks to Richard Brenneman for this terrific link! We think we live in Bezerkeley, but we'll never top this one.

And a Happy Thanksgiving to You

Wednesday November 23, 2011 - 12:50:00 PM

The master sets the tone: "A lot more to say about this — but I’m needed in the kitchen to chop vegetables."--Paul Krugman's blog today. Me too.

But an apology is owed to architect Kirk Petersen--I accidentally published one of his informal and private emails exploring the idea of reconstruction instead of demolition for the Sequoia building, which had been forwarded to me by the recipient, thinking it was a Letter to the Editor. I did think it was an intelligent observation, and I hope he takes me up on my invitation to write a formal commentary on the subject when he has time. 

More good articles are in the hopper, but I might have to wait until Friday to post them. Keep checking this space for updates.


Odd Bodkins: Dodo

By Dan O'Neill
Wednesday November 30, 2011 - 09:34:00 AM


Dan O'Neill


Odd Bodkins: My Surreal Period

By Dan O'Neill
Saturday November 26, 2011 - 10:16:00 AM


Dan O'Neill


Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Saturday November 26, 2011 - 09:43:00 AM

Eids; Why the Super Committee Was Doomed; U.C. Berkeley Police;Resignation Vs. Moratorium;The Super Commitee's Failure; A Thought about Needed Change 

In the 'decline of Telegraph' article, Eids electronics was listed as closed. I haven't been to Tele in months, but find no obits for the store online. It also just occurred to me that the magnet stores for Telegraph were Blake's, Cody's and Moe's. With 2 out of 3 down, Tele's decline isn't surprising. The demise of the book business + crime levels did Tele.
Fred Albrecht
Why the Super Committee Was Doomed
The deficit-cutting super committee was merely a charade to show the public that Congress was doing something about the deficit. It was doomed to fail. The October 2011 Rasmussen 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. To the public, the failure of the super committee to compromise is just another symbol of a failed government. Its failure may result in another downgrade of the U.S. credit rating, possible double-dip recession, increased market instability, a lost decade of economic growth, and a 10 percent cut in defense and non-defense spending. Who is at fault? The voters will let us know at the next election.
Ralph E. Stone 



U.C. Berkeley Police 


U.C. Berkeley campus police procedures are vetted by UC Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau.
UCPD reports to and takes direction from UC Berkeley office of the Chancellor.
Words come cheap: apologies and excuses.
Deeds count.
Sack, fire, oust UC Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau

Milan Moravec 



Resignation Vs. Moratorium 

If all the University of California chancellors resigned simultaneously, that would still leave pepper (OC) spray, carotid holds, hog-tying, and blunt-end baton strikes available for the next bored police officer who loses patience with student protests.

If 75,000 petitioners have called for the resignation of Chancellor Linda Katehi, then surely 75,000 would sign a petition for a moratorium on the use of pepper spray on non-violent student protesters, a more effective course.

Special Agent Thomas W. W. Ward, the head of the FBI's Less-Than-Lethal Weapons Program at the time of the 1991 study authorizing pepper spray's FBI use was fired for taking bribes from a peppergas manufacturer. Even the compromised 1991 study concluded that pepper spray can cause "[m]utagenic effects, carcinogenic effects, sensitization, cardiovascular and pulmonary toxicity, neurotoxicity, as well as possible human fatalities. There is a risk in using this product on a large and varied population".

Apologies and resignations are not the point. The point would seem to be to get toxic materials out of the hands of those who would use them for sport.

Carol Denney 


The Super Commitee's Failure 

The Congressional Supercommittee failed to reach an agreement last week,but the deficit that George Bush gave us has to be put under control to save our social security net!

We are lucky to have three strong Federal advocates who have Berkeley within their spheres.

Although as a retired scholar and a journalist whose concerns include reasonable threats from the Third World, (Note: The word "reasonable" comes into my vocabulary here.) the United States is over-armed for the threat out there externally, but, at the same time, the political stance found in our community itself is askew.

Definitely the Defense Department should be on the negotiation table in order to preserve our governmental entitlements.

Geoffrey Cook 


A Thought about Needed Change 

Can we have a Thanksgiving for the nation as a whole where all who have means will give their best day's earnings to those who have nothing? How strong our indifference must be when our unfortunate neighbor goes hungry and we look the other way! How can we enjoy ten main dishes topped with five varieties of pies and cakes while our neighbor eats beans and white bread? We are born with empathy, but we can be trained by our political party or by our ideology not to follow our heart. On the other hand, when we share without expectation of return a light goes on in our spirit.

We are all travelers upon the earth, passing through. Let us use opportunities like Thanksgiving Day to make the lot of less fortunate travelers a little easier. 

Romila khanna 


New: What Occupy is About: An Opinion

By Thomas Lord
Monday November 28, 2011 - 05:47:00 PM

Occupy is about mass organizing to directly address big, structural problems that create intolerable inequities and injustices.

Occupy focuses on a malevolent concentration of political and economic power in a relatively small elite who seem to exercise their power so as to increase those inequities and injustices.

Occupy attempts to organize resistance under a "big tent", improvising and using techniques of Real Democracy. 

An encampment is sometimes a symbolic and practical hub for mass organization. It can help mass organization as for example on November 2, 2011, Oakland CA. 

On the other hand, a camp may be forced by necessity and common decency to spend nearly all or even "more than all" of its energy on the immediate survival and wellness needs of its members. 

When a camp does that -- turns inward that way -- it doesn't have anything left over to work on mass organizing against a defective concentration of power. It's too busy keeping its members alive and mostly civil. It's not really doing the "Occupy thing", at that point. 

A camp that is turned inward, working on the survival of its campers, also tends to punish non-camper supporters. Every gift from a supporter goes towards the immediate survival and wellness needs of the campers and, even more ... if there is anything left over then the number of needy campers is likely to grow. The reward for trying to help solve the problem is a bigger problem. 

So, not only can't an inwardly turned camp directly help the Occupy movement, it also eventually alienates its outside supporters and collapses under the weight of its own unmet needs. 

The tensions arise from that conflict between the inward humanitarian mission of camp and the outward political mission. 


Berkeley, There Will Be No Santa Claus.

From Jacquelyn McCormick, Coordinator, Berkeley Budget SOS
Saturday November 26, 2011 - 04:55:00 PM

While citizens of Berkeley are nestled snug in their beds, City Councilmembers are dreaming, not of sugar plums, but of ways to fund the City’s failing infrastructure.

At several recent Council workshops, the demise and needs of our parks, marina, pools, storm drains, sewers and streets were discussed in detail. To date there has been no mention of City buildings (except that Old City Hall is a death trap if there is a significant earthquake, so Council is pondering a new location) – although rebuilding the solid waste transfer station and recycling center was briefly mentioned last spring.

Mid-December should reveal the “total” capital project dollars that are needed for all the necessary improvements but it is looking as though that number is close to $600million. That works out to approximately $5,300 per resident, including students. Couple that with the $253 million debt for employee benefits related liabilities – most owed to CALPERS and you end up with close to $850million in unfunded liabilities, or a whopping $7,500 per resident. And we call it unfunded because, sadly, it is. Unless significant budgetary changes are made, there is no money to fund any of this and Berkeley taxpayers and the City treasury are tapped out. 

So in practicality what does this mean? Capital improvement investment has decreased from 10% of our budget to 4% over the past 20 years while salaries and benefits have increased from 64% of the budget to 80%. Where is the money going to come from to fix the stuff that is broken or, more accurately, what are we going to do without?  

Streets: Our streets are given a rating of 58 in the Metropolitan Transportation Commission report. This places Berkeley in the lowest quartile – out of 98 Bay Area cities, 80 ranked higher. The city is making an effort of prioritizing repairs of the city arterials and their feeders, but it would cost $43million to get all our streets to a rating of 80. Have you driven down the newly repaved four block section of Milvia, by the high school and city hall? What a pleasure! However, if you happen to live and drive through our residential streets, especially the smaller outliers, get accustomed to dodging those potholes or rumbling over the patchwork – if you happen to travel by bike, should you lose your focus, you’re doomed. 

Parks and Waterfront: We love our parks, so much so that in 1986 Measure L was passed which requires that these amenities be funded to maintain their condition and services. Then in 1991, we voted to approve a dedicated park tax but, it did not have an escalator, so the money that it provided is now inadequate. Simply, our parks have been neglected to the point where there are safety issues and some areas may be closed. The $78million of capital required bring them “up to snuff” is due, primarily, to the fact that they have not been maintained and there were pictures provided in the meetings that prove it. Some say it is demolition by neglect. 

Pools: The pool issue has been ongoing for years and it will take $22.5 million to improve and/or rebuild what is currently open for use. Willard Pool was closed and buried in dirt because the city would not spend $78,000 to keep it open for the summer, and many residents considered this in retaliation for the defeat of the pools Bond Measure C. All those kids who relied and looked forward to a long-standing summer tradition are now hosed. Literally. The only water they will get in their neighborhood is that which comes from their own personal garden hose – if they are lucky enough to have one. 

Storm drains aka “Watershed Management”: South Berkeley consistently floods, culverts are collapsing, creeks are overflowing and the city has earmarked only $700,000 during this fiscal year for “emergency repairs”. The Watershed Plan that was put forth in October is one, quite frankly, that most Berkelyans would embrace – it truly reflects Berkeley values. It is based on new scientific methods of capturing and slowly releasing overflow, creating permeable surfaces to capture and slow runoff and goes far to ensure that what Berkeley releases does not end up in the Bay. A good thing! The problem – it will cost $250million to get it done and this will compete with all the other infrastructure needs. 

Berkeley’s Social Safety Net Services. Last, but certainly not least. We are talking about services for seniors, the blind, youth, jobs, employment training, housings, homeless, addiction, and health – services for Berkeleyans who are in need, services that reflect our Berkeley values. From a high of almost $10million three years ago, social service contribution has decreased to approximately $7.5million – a level below 2006. In the current budget cycle, senior services were decreased by 57%, housing development and rehab by 27% and employment training decreased by 21%. 

So what do we do?  

The easiest, but unacceptable, course for Council would be: package the infrastructure needs in a nice box covered with flowery speak, (something like: Do you as Berkeleyans want to save the Bay?) tie it all up with a big bow, stick it on the ballot and hope that it passes. Or if recent tax measure failure in San Francisco is any indication of the mood of the voter – good luck getting any new revenue! 

The hardest but most responsible way, is to look at the underlying reasons for Berkeley’s neglect of its infrastructure and its failure to plan wisely. We need to figure out why and make the necessary changes or, quite soon, all we can expect from our city in services and infrastructure is a lump of coal. And it isn’t because Berkeley’s citizens have misbehaved.

Why, Why Occupy?

By Kevin Gorman
Saturday November 26, 2011 - 10:39:00 AM

I’m a student at UC Berkeley - and lately, an Occupier. In the last month, I have seen hundreds of people from many different backgrounds sitting down in the public sphere and talking about what they think is going wrong in our country right now. It has been inspiring to see such a diverse group of people coming together hoping to make the world a better place.

I’ve also found myself on the wrong side of police barricades more times than I ever imagined happening. I've seen peaceful protesters in Oakland tear-gassed and shot with 'non-lethal' weapons. I've seen peaceful students on Sproul Plaza beaten viciously. The scenes I have seen – both the good and the bad – are not unique to the bay area, they've been repeated in dozens of other cities across the country. 

Why occupy? 

I have been frequently asked by friends what the Occupy movement is about, or what we want. These questions are not easily answerable and I’m not sure that it is actually possible to answer them. The movement is decentralized - everyone is present for their own reasons. The most universal feeling I have found among Occupiers is a deep-rooted sense that there is something dreadfully wrong in our country today. I share this feeling and I am sure that many of you do too - even those of you who are currently ambivalent about the Occupy movement. 

I do not think that a lack of focus or goals is a major problem for the movement at this point - and I definitely don’t think it’s a valid reason to not support the movement right now. I am always hesitant to just directly quote someone else to explain my own ideas, but I think Robert Reich’s recent speech on Sproul Plaza brought this point home incredibly well - “Every social movement in the last half-century or more, it started with moral outrage…and the actual lessons, the specific demands for specific changes, came later.” 

Occupy is a very very young movement. Occupy Wall Street began less than two months ago. We are gaining astounding momentum. This is the very beginning of something, not the end. A few hundred students were attacked by the UCPD a couple weeks ago - and a week later 10,000 angry people came out. I do not believe that it would be possible for any movement this young with this explosive growth to have an explicit set of goals in the absence of top down direction - and I do not believe that a movement with top down direction is what America needs right now. 

Well, why do you occupy? 

I think that a lot of the issues brought up in the public discussion around Occupy are critically important. Many of them are issues I’ve been concerned with for a long time. That said, even though I’ve been concerned with them for a long time, they’ve never previously motivated me to take to the streets. 

So why am I doing so now? 

On the morning of the 25th, Occupy Oakland’s camp in Frank Ogawa Plaza was violently attacked by a coalition of eighteen law enforcement agencies. Tear gas, batons, and stun grenades were used against nonviolent and nonresistant protesters. 

I read about the morning raid that afternoon, but I had problems believing it. I did not understand how the events as described could have happened in the United states, let alone in the bay area. In retrospect the stories seem entirely believable, but at the time I just could not wrap my head the idea that a peaceful protest in the United States in 2011 could be attacked in such a fashion. I decided that I wanted to go to future events, and began trying to figure out what I should bring to future events to minimize the chance I would experience serious harm (and to increase the chance I could help out other people present.) 

While I was in the process of planning out what I would bring to future events, I began to see news and social media reports that the Oakland Police Department was teargassing protesters again. I also got in touch with a friend who was present who confirmed that tear gas had already been used despite the protest being almost entirely peaceful. Reading about something in the media is very different from having it described to you by someone you know and trust. 

While I was talking with my friend, I began to get angry - almost unbelievably angry, angrier than I had ever been before. I had no idea what I could do or what I should do, but I felt like I absolutely had to do something. I do not mean that I had an abstract desire to do something, I mean that I am literally unsure if I would have been capable of staying home that night. 

I ended up running half the way to Oakland before remembering that the buses would still be going. When I got there it quickly became apparent that the descriptions I had read at home were accurate: a peaceful protest in downtown Oakland had been attacked with gas, flashbangs, and rubber bullets by police officers. The actions of the police that night were unjustifiable by any conceivable standard, and I am still shocked by them. 

My friends and I all came out of that night without experiencing permanent physical harm. This is not true of everyone who was present. This is not true of everyone who was present. Scott Olsen, a former marine, was shot in the head with a tear gas canister from very short range. His skull fractured and he spent weeks in the ICU. He will probably experience significant permanent disability. If I saw Scott Olsen that night I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but I definitely saw some of the other people from the group he was with. One of my most lasting memories of the night was a Navy veteran in uniform standing completely calmly holding a flag just a few feet from the barricades. Although I didn’t see it in person (I was running away) he continued to stand his ground after he was tear gassed - you can see a video of it here:  

A couple weeks later, there was a protest on Sproul Plaza, the historic center of the free speech movement. During the protest, students erected a handful of tents. That night, around 220 police officers in full riot gear showed up to dismantle the miniature tent city, and proceeded to beat with incredible force many students and professors, hospitalizing several people. There was no violence against the police that night, and no illegal action except for the erection of tents. I was present that night, and I will stand with every ounce of integrity and credibility I have and say that there was no hidden off-video justification for the police attacks that day. There is no missing context that will make them intelligible. I saw in person the full context to the attacks, and it makes them more horrifying, not less. (There’s a video of one of the daytime incidents here: 

The police response I have consistently seen to Occupy protests has been one of the most disgusting things I have seen in my life but it has a very comforting flip side: Occupy is growing. In the face of brutal and unjustified violence, more and more people are coming out to support us. For every person sidelined by injury or arrest five step forward. 

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. You and I both know this. You and I have both known this for a long time. Occupy is the first populist movement fighting against these problems in many, many decades. I honestly believe that the current movement is the best chance we have had to create meaningful change in at least forty years. We have the support of the people and we’re growing, even in the face of outrageous violence. The time to strike is now. 

I hate to draw on the emotion captured by previous movements, but Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young summed up well why I go to Occupy events: 

What if you knew her 

And found her dead on the ground 

How can you run when you know? 

I don’t know how to run anymore. 

Please, stand with me. 

New: Thoughts on the Sequoia Apartments

By Kirk E.Peterson
Friday November 25, 2011 - 05:22:00 PM

Without my knowledge the Daily Planet published a paragraph I wrote regarding the treatment of what's left of the Sequoia. It was not a big deal, there was certainly no malfeasance, and they've apologized nicely. My words were clear and are now part of the internet's parallel internet universe. So I am now expanding on what I said, in the hope of provoking some discussion. Please consider the following: 

- Following the 1906 earthquake the Ferry Building was declared a hazard by the Army Corps of Engineers. Nearly a century later it finally got a full retrofit, and we can all enjoy it today. 

- Steel (or iron) reinforcing is sometimes found in buildings built while the memory of the 1906 earth quake were still fresh. A simple and cheap pachometer test could determine if such reinforcing is present in the masonry walls of the Sequoia Apartments.  

- Bracing and shoring the remaining walls could be less costly than demolishing the whole thing and carting it off to some landfill. Any future building will need new exterior walls - the greenest thing would be to recycle the ones that are already there. Once stabilized they are likely to be more durable than contemporary construction. A new structure located on the site is likely to have much the same massing and function. It will need fire-rated exterior walls, and brick is one such rated material.  

- A new 'penthouse' floor could be found to have little impact on the structure vis-a-vis historic preservation. A new building in the old skin might even receive a negative declaration(lack of red flags for environmental review). 

A rehab/reconstruction project would not trigger the typical lengthy and expensive project review to which all new projects are subjected. The applicant could save the $100 grand or so that a time consuming EIR process can cost. 

- Many of us enjoy a sense of history. This is not the same as nostalgia - I like living now thank you. I like many historic buildings because they are beautiful or interesting. Their beauty is often a function of when they were designed and built, but their oldness per se is generally not a visible characteristic. 

- Any structure that already exists, be it historic or beautiful or not, is probably 'green', and rehabbing a building for sustainability is cheaper than starting from scratch. The carbon footprint of vintage structures was made long ago. Most older buildings can have a long future if simply maintained. 

- I am currently designing a new building to be built on the empty lot across Telegraph Avenue from the Sequoia Apartments. I would love to use the colored brick, marble, and terra cotta that architects got to use a century ago. Modern economic constraints preclude that, but it would be nice to keep what's there. We could recreate the long lost Berkeley Inn: it would be hard to argue against its handsome design, but we're choosing to do something less conventional and more in the spirit of the new Southside Plan. 

- It would be great to see the Sequoia being rehabbed right away. Such an approach would result in the least disruption in the life of Telegraph Avenue. The current Anna Head Dorm project will hopefully be done before too long. The project I'm working on will result in enough disruption in the neighborhood. A recycled Sequoia project could be completed before its new neighbor begins its own disruption of the neighborhood. 

- Construction financing is very difficult to obtain these days. Perhaps the insurer of the losses at the Sequoia can be the source of reconstruction funding. 

It may be that the Sequoia will disappear. If that is the case I hope its disappearance will be the result of a well informed and inclusive decision making process. I have not spoken with any City employees or the Building's owner, or tried to. They have enough to do regarding this unfortunate situation, without being bothered some more. Nonetheless I thinks it's appropriate for a reasonably knowledgeable person who is both pro-preservation and pro-development to speak up.  

New: Alarming News! Trees in Strawberry Canyon to be Clearcut for UC Berkeley, Lawrence Lab

By Lesley Emmington, for Save Strawberry Canyon savestrawberrycanyon.org
Thursday November 24, 2011 - 08:13:00 AM

Up in the Berkeley Hills, the cutting of some 50 trees will begin tomorrow morning, the day after Thanksgiving. The tree cutting is the initial step to clear the hillside landscape for the construction of a massive "supercomputer" structure. It is the University of California's (UC) Computational Research and Theory Facility (CRT), a 130,000 GSF facility built for the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) in contract with the Department of Energy (DOE). The site is located above Hearst Avenue and, then, above the steep curve of Cyclotron Road where it meets the LBNL security gates. CRT promises to become a dominant presence spanning across the Canyon ridge, in an unstable area that has suffered over 40 landslides, contaminating Strawberry Creek's watershed and further destabilizing the hills. 

CRT was originally announced in 2007. Since then Save Strawberry Canyon (SSC) has been challenging the project in federal court, maintaining that valuable canyon landscapes would be further diminished and that it is perilous to build such a structure at this location. Early last week the court denied the 4 year long suit effort, concluding that full federal environmental review was not necessary. Last Friday an internal LBNL memo announced the commencement of work to cut the 50 trees. 

At a time when state and national dollars are disappearing, it is worth asking: can UC and LBNL/DOE afford to build this project at this location? Furthermore, can they/we afford to gamble with the safety risks intrinsic to this site?  

To build CRT (cost est. in 2008 $112,000,000) on the steep hillside (2 ft horizontal for 1 ft drop) it is predictable to cost from 30 to 50 percent more than if built on flat, solid land. The soils under the CRT footprint are known to consist of culluvial materials — loose, fine grain soil deposits. Such soils mandate that 30,000 cubic yards be removed from the 45 degree slope! and then replaced with new soil!! It can be estimated that this calls for 3,000 truck round-trips, first carrying at most 10 cubic yards away (est. travel to site, last half mile being very steep), then, again, 3,000 round-trips to haul in replacement dirt. Building on this site, where Cyclotron Road is cut away below, will entail major excavation, compaction, stabilization of the hillsides with concrete webbing, and the drilling of piers deep enough to reach through the new compacted earth to a base of some stability. Still, it may not be certain that the consitions are stable. It is an incredible undertaking demanding major financial resources. 

Intertwined with the fact that it is an extravagant waste of dollars to build CRT on this unstable ridge, it is of further concern that the site is 400 feet from the Hayward Fault. To the east, the Wildcat Canyon Fault runs at a parallel to the Hayward Fault behind the UC Botanical Gardens. The canyons and hillsides are a geologic setting defined by fault fissures, volcanic rocks, unconsolidated soils, and deposits of deep water pools, and streams. The four shocks felt this last month occurred on an epicenter of the Hayward Fault less than a mile to the south of the site. It should bring UC to a construction stand-still, reminded that a major event of a magnitude 6.8 to 7.0, or more, is predicted to occur at any time. 

CRT will become another major construction project on the UC upland proprieties, including the Stadium, the Stadium Sport Fields in Strawberry Canyon, Switching Station #6, Hazard Waste Facility, General Purpose Lab, BELLA, etc. It can be said that an industrial complex is being further compounded (with many of the streams and Strawberry Creek now in pipes). But, just thinking of the next couple of months: doesn't it defy all construction rules to begin removing the 50 trees from such a vulnerable site as the heavy rains begin? And, doesn't it defy logic to begin construction of this "anchor" project when LBNL is about to announce a Second Campus site?

There Should Be a Moratorium on the Use of Pepper Spray

By Carol Denney
Wednesday November 23, 2011 - 11:18:00 AM

If all the University of California chancellors resigned simultaneously, that would still leave pepper (OC) spray, carotid holds, hog-tying, and blunt-end baton strikes available for the next bored police officer who loses patience with student protests. 

If 75,000 petitioners have called for the resignation of Chancellor Linda Katehi, then surely 75,000 would sign a petition for a moratorium on the use of pepper spray on non-violent student protesters, a more effective course. 

Special Agent Thomas W. W. Ward, the head of the FBI's Less-Than-Lethal Weapons Program at the time of the 1991 study authorizing pepper spray's FBI use was fired for taking bribes from a peppergas manufacturer. Even the compromised 1991 study concluded that pepper spray can cause "[m]utagenic effects, carcinogenic effects, sensitization, cardiovascular and pulmonary toxicity, neurotoxicity, as well as possible human fatalities. There is a risk in using this product on a large and varied population". 

Apologies and resignations are not the point. The point would seem to be to get toxic materials out of the hands of those who would use them for sport.


On Mental Illness: It Takes Courage

By Jack Bragen
Wednesday November 30, 2011 - 09:57:00 AM

People with mental illnesses are often very brave and courageous people because we have to be. We are up against the “package deal” of mental illness which includes a number of elements that are altogether frightening. And to face these elements requires fortitude. 

It takes a courageous person to deal with the mere fact of mental illness and to not be in denial about it, or about its repercussions. 

People with mental illness may have to face a lifetime of being medicated; this fact by itself is daunting—additionally there are the side effects of medications. It would be nice to look forward to a day when I don’t have to deal with the physical side effects of medications, which can be very uncomfortable, but that day may never come. We must look forward to an old age in which the medication may no longer work to keep us functioning, in which some of the long-term side effects of medication have happened to us, and an old age in which we may have to live in an institution. 

It takes courage to try medications that haven’t been tested enough and that have awful side effects and in the process of this to become a human guinea pig. Clozaril is a favorite of many psychiatrists when other medications don’t work well enough. It has a one percent rate of causing agranulocytosis, which is a depletion of the white blood cells. Biweekly blood tests are required because of this potentially fatal side effect. Another medication can cause an extremely severe rash which causes the skin to come off, also potentially fatal. 

Many of us must face life without having the insulation of a good income. We may be up against some harsh facts of life when older, one of them being not having enough money to live independently. Not being able to afford good medical care is another daunting reality that must be faced. 

The fear of relapsing and going back into the hospital is for real and must be faced. To wake up in a psychiatric ward and realize that you’re back at square one, and must recover all over again from a psychotic episode, is a hard fact. To be subject to the supervision of treatment professionals in the mental health system, some of whom are flunkies, can be upsetting. 

Being forced through lack of income to live in a bad neighborhood can demand bravery on a long term basis. However, it can take courage to move out of a bad neighborhood, because it could be more comfortable to do nothing about one’s plight. In the same vein, it can take courage to invite successes into one’s life after past failures. 

I’ve been laughed at many times in my life. Yet, that doesn’t stop me from continuing to try. People judge others based on assumptions without bothering to gather facts. It hurts to be the butt of people’s jokes; I endure that without being discouraged, and without lashing out. Some of the time, this ridicule is merely imagined, but some of the time very real. 

It takes courage to acknowledge inconvenient or unflattering truths. The alternative is to have realities that aren’t dealt with and to suffer consequences. I once knew a woman who believed that the best way to deter an intruder was by having an open door. Men in her apartment complex just walked in to her apartment at will. I believe she was afraid to displease people by locking them out. 

If someone has a mental illness, they are up against some difficult realities. Dealing with these realities and possibly surmounting them as problems requires a brave person and it requires effort. The alternative is to live in denial of these realities, and in the process allow the whims of others and the randomness of unconscious fate to control one’s destiny.

* * *
Just to let you know, a year’s worth of these columns in the form of an e-book is available to those with a Kindle device and to those who have downloaded free software that allows reading Kindle format items on your PC. The title of the e-book is “Jack Bragen’s Essays on Mental Illness,” and I have provided below a link to the purchase page. It costs 7.50 and it is about36,000 words long.

Here’s the link to the book:

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

By Dorothy Bryant
Wednesday November 30, 2011 - 09:21:00 AM

He was one of those idealists who, struck by some compelling idea, immediately become entirely obsessed by it forever. They are quite incapable of mastering it, but believe in it passionately, and so their whole life passes afterwards, as it were, in the last agonies under the weight of a heavy stone which has fallen upon them and half-crushed them —from “The Devils”, by Fyodor Dostoevsky 

I actually read “The Devils” first around 1970, when it seemed as though the nation had tipped, and characters from Dostoevsky were sliding, by the thousands, to the Bay Area, mostly into Berkeley. At political meetings, anti-war meetings, bookstore readings (remember when there seemed to be one every night in our one of our then-many bookstores?) the speaker would be interrupted by some young or not so young, passionate, sincere, only slightly-scruffy idealist, demanding or offering “real” answers to—something. Occasionally, at talks by very well known writers or politicians, a passionate questioner who became a long-winded orator had to be escorted out. I grew to dread the question period whenever I did a reading. Spotting one of those all too familiar faces, I learned to be blind to their wagging hands, call on someone with a less urgent expression, then quickly “run out of time” for questions. 

By the early 1980s these conspicuous “idealists” were gradually disappearing, giving up on Berkeley as the answer to their questions. Maybe like Dostoevsky characters, they passed rest of their lives “in the last agonies under the weight of a heavy stone” of the ideas that had possessed them. But not all of them. One of them, I remember, came back to claim some property he’d left in the south Berkeley house next door to ours, where he’d rented a room from the previous owner. We didn’t recognize him, with his double-breasted suit, clean-shaven rosy cheeks, and short hair. “What are you doing now?” we asked. He shrugged. “I’ve taken over my father’s bank.” 

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

Wild Neighbors: Los Machos Furtivos

By Joe Eaton
Saturday November 26, 2011 - 09:18:00 AM
Red-sided garter snake: deceptive pheromones.
Zooplan (Wikimedia Commons)
Red-sided garter snake: deceptive pheromones.
Typical male western marsh harrier: not in drag.
Boldings (Wikimedia Commons)
Typical male western marsh harrier: not in drag.

Hot news from Europe: in a population of western marsh harriers (Circus aeruginosus) in France, 40 percent of the males are crossdressers . Typical males of this hawk species, a close relative of our northern harrier, have overall streaky-brown plumage. Females have whitish heads and shoulders, and so do female-mimicking males. Typical males don’t seem to recognize the mimics as rivals. Audrey Sternalski, Francois Mougeot, and Vincent Bretagnolle report in Biology Letters that typical males attack decoys with their own kind of plumage at a higher rate than those with female-mimic plumage. What the mimics get out of it is access to the mates—up to three, depending on available resources—of territory-holding typical males. 

Welcome to the club, Circus aeruginosus. There’s a lot of this kind of thing going on. In animals as disparate as cuttlefish, toadfish, lizards, and sandpipers, some males use their resemblance to females to outcompete other males for mating opportunities. With some, the deception is opportunistic and temporary; for others, a lifelong commitment. They’ve been variously called jacks, she-males, sneakers, streakers, scroungers, satellite males, cuckolders, parasitic spawners, and machos furtivos. 

In his groundbreaking Descent of Man, Charles Darwin identified two evolutionary paths for male reproductive success. One involves size, brute force, and/or weaponry: males that can physically dominate or damage rivals mate with more females and bequeath more of their genes to future generations. That’s the trajectory leading to the bull elephant seal and the silverback gorilla. The other path invokes female preference for good-looking males, selecting for brilliant plumage or elaborate courtship displays as signals of robust health. 

The evolution and persistence of female-mimicking males and other sneaker variations suggests a third way for sexual selection: alternative reproductive strategies that coexist with male reliance on brawn or beauty. To paraphrase Ecclesiastes, the battle is not always to the strong, but the race is sometimes to the swift (and sneaky). 

One creature is able to switch its resemblance to the opposite sex on and off. Giant cuttlefish (Sepia apama), relatives of the octopus and squid, gather in breeding swarms off the coast of South Australia, where large males attempt to monopolize the attentions of females. All cuttlefish can vary their appearance by expanding and contracting specialized skin cells called photophores. According to Mark D. Norman, Julian Finn, and Tom Tregenza, small males assuming typical female patterns and body shapes shadowed mating pairs. If the mate-guarding male was distracted, the interloper resumed a male-distinctive pattern and attempted to mate with the female, often successfully. The authors speculate that this kind of “dynamic sexual mimicry” may have driven the cephalopods’ remarkable ability to change their shapes and colors. 

Red-sided garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis) may be a borderline case. These snakes spend the winter in mass hibernacula in Manitoba. When they emerge in the spring, males seek out females, recognizing them by their pheromones. Up to a hundred males may surround a single female in a “mating ball.” Back in the 1980s, Robert T. Mason and David Crews of the University of Texas discovered that some of the males were producing female-like pheromones. These she-males, as the authors dubbed them, had higher testosterone levels than other males but were not otherwise physically distinctive. Mason and Crews speculated that the female mimics were able to work their way into a better position in the mating ball by confusing other males. Later research suggests that pheromonal mimicry in the garter snake, like the deceptive visual patterns of the cuttlefish, may be a transitory phase rather than a lifelong trait. 

More than any other group of animals, the bony fish have gone in for alternative reproductive strategies in a big way. Parasitic spawning has been documented in 13 fish families. It’s most common among salmonids (salmon and trout), wrasses (tropical reef fish), and cichlids (freshwater fish of African and South American lakes and rivers), but also occurs in blennies, bluegill sunfish, and desert pupfish. 

One of our local piscine celebrities, the plainfin midshipman (Porichthys notatus), perhaps better known as the humming toadfish of Sausalito, has two types of males. Type I males defend territories, vocalize to attract females, fertilize their eggs and defend the clutch until hatching. Type IIs are smaller and non-territorial; their only vocalization is a grunt similar to the female’s. A Type II male hangs around the nest of a Type I until a female enters, then either sneaks in for a quick fertilization or broadcasts his sperm from the nest entrance. Any eggs the Type II manages to fertilize are cared for by the Type I as if they were his own progeny, which makes the Type II a cuckoo-like reproductive parasite. Type II’s invest more than Type I’s in sperm production: a Type II’s testes make up 8.3 percent of its body weight, as opposed to 1.2 percent in Type I’s. 

In coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch), parasitic-spawning males are called jacks. They’re smaller than typical males and spend less time in the ocean before returning to their natal streams. Unlike Type I midshipmen, typical (“hooknose”) male coho will attack these small competitors. At Lagunitas Creek in Marin County, UC Davis fish biologist Peter Moyle watched as a hooknose male “grabbed a jack between its jaws and lifted it out of the water with a shaking motion.” But enough jacks fertilize enough eggs to perpetuate the phenotype. 

Complicated enough for you? A few creatures—crustaceans, fish, reptiles, birds—feature three types of male, each with its own reproductive strategy. More on that next week. 

Senior Power … “Age insists that I be dull as a further disability.” [Florida Scott-Maxwell at 83. The Measure of My Days.]

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Saturday November 26, 2011 - 09:27:00 AM

Disability, impairment, handicap. They’re different. While old age is not a disability, the weakening of the body’s resources exacerbates the impact of debilitating trauma or chronic disease that is likely to accompany old age. 

One third of disabled Americans are age 65 or older. The most common definition of disability is the inability to participate in socially expected activities. Disability among older people is measured by the ability for self-care. It represents any restriction on performance of or lack of ability (resulting from an impairment) to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a person of the same age, culture, and education. Older people with disabilities also include those who acquired an impairment at birth, in childhood, or in middle age. 

Impairment is any loss or abnormality of anatomic structure of physiological function at the organ level. When the degree of functional limitation is sufficient, the difficulty or inability to perform daily living activities leads to disability. 

Handicap occurs at the societal level when conditions are imposed upon the person through disadvantageous social norms and policy that limit the individual’s fulfillment of expected social tasks.  

National surveys report varying numbers of people with disabilities because the surveys have measured disability differently. Laws differ on whether a disability should be defined in terms of an impairment, limitation, or handicap. They reflect the objectives of the program rather than any general or coherent concept of disability. Among people age 64+, disability is often measured by limitations in such activities of daily living as eating, dressing, going outdoors, or shopping. For people of “working age” (18-64), disability is measured by the ability to work for pay and or keep house.  

Legislation may provide opportunities for people with disabilities, e.g. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires access and freedom from discrimination. 

Others compensate for the inability of people with disabilities to compete with able-bodied people in the market place by providing alternative financial support, e.g. the Social Security Act. Another group provides care for those unable to care for themselves, e.g. Developmental Disabilities Assistance and the Older Americans Act (OAA). Two laws compensate for injuries, regardless of the abilities of individuals to work for pay or to care for themselves, e.g. workers’ compensation and veterans’ service-related pensions. 


From middle age onwards, women are more likely than men in the same age group to experience disabilities, a particular concern for women because, as they grow older, they are more likely to have a disability and less likely to have family resources to help them cope. But why, then, do women have higher rates of morbidity and disability but lower mortality than men? Those higher morbidity rates reflect not only physical differences between men and women but also social and psychological factors. 

Women are more susceptible to chronic debilitating diseases than are men but are protected from acute lethal diseases by hormonal differences. It also appears that women are more likely to admit disability and to allow their behavior to be affected by health problems. The leading causes of disability among middle-aged and older women are arthritis, osteoporosis, and hypertension. Senility and vision and hearing impairments are also major causes of disability among older women.  

The U.S. Census Bureau collects data for the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). Estimates of the prevalence of disability among older people range from 1.3 million to 2.2 million. (NHIS) data indicate that twenty million Americans have an impairment that limits their activities. 56% are women. 15% of women over age 84 experience two or more limitations of daily activity.  


Assumptions abound. The older the person with a disability is, the lower the service provider’s expectations for adaptation, decision-making, learning, rehabilitation, or an improved quality of life. Rehabilitation services for older persons are limited. Few mental health practitioners serve older people. “Care planners,” case managers and social workers may assume dependency on the part of their clients and that “family members” are somewhere in the picture.  

Housing, transportation and personal care services are major issues for disabled persons. Paratransit is much more important to them than accessible public transportation. The assurance that they can remain in their homes, despite their disabilities or with increasing disabilities, removes many of the uncertainties of old age. Integration of services and housing can provide this assurance. Senior citizen housing complexes provide a ready market for efficient delivery of such services as in-home aides, physical therapy, congregate meals, case management, counseling, and transportation. Railings on both sides of every floor in senior housing, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, etc. are essential elements that may be ignored by planners. 

Housing managers and social service providers should work together. As needs change, the level of service provided through the residence should change so that people do not have to change their residence to receive care.  

As the number of older people increases, the need for in-home aides/care-givers will also increase. Steps should be taken (1) to upgrade this occupation (it is not a profession) and (2) to assure respect for clients’ rights. Training, job security and adequate pay are needed for the aides; client empowerment is needed by the service recipients. The disability rights movement has pioneered models for recipient control over the personal care provided by aides.  

Until lately, the mostly-women who are expected to provide care have been uncertified and unorganized. A national movement is growing with the purpose of developing standards of care. Professional organizations are forming throughout the country to lobby on behalf of personal care providers, e.g. the Direct Care Alliance. A current and significant issue with which they are concerned is the need to maintain and improve Social Security for workers.  

The disability rights movement and the aging network should recognize their common interests in behalf of people with disabilities. Mutual goals include consumer empowerment, an end to ageism, accessible services and housing, respect for the individuality and independence of people with disabilities. As the population of people with disabilities ages, even greater convergence is needed.  


“Local Groups Serving People with Disabilities” is the title of a free handout available from the Berkeley Public Library. The two-page annotated list consists of information derived from the Library’s BIN. (Berkeley Information Network.) If you rely on the branch van for your library needs, request the persons staffing the van to bring you a copy next visit.  

The responsibilities of the City of Berkeley's Disability Compliance Program are to oversee the City’s efforts to comply with all applicable federal, state and local laws and to ensure that people with disabilities have access to City programs and services. It is based in the Department of Public Works. Berkeley’s Disability Compliance Program and the Commission on Disability (COD) can be reached at: TEL: 510-981-6342; TTY: 981-6345; FAX: 981-6340. Email: pchurch@ci.berkeley.ca.us 

There is some mutuality in the concerns and memberships of the COD and the Commission on Aging (COA). Berkeley’s nine-member COD is “Charged with actively promoting the total integration and participation of persons with disabilities into all areas of economic, political, and community life. Membership shall be made up primarily of persons who have disabilities.” At present, there are two COD vacancies, appointments of Councilmembers Capitelli (District 5) and Wozniak (District 8). The COD meets on the second Wednesday at 6:30 P.M. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Avenue. It is, however, essential that one check the City online community calendar to verify. 

Occasionally one hears or sees an inadvertent reference to the disabled commission or to the aging commission, e.g. a Planet article titled “Appointee removed from disabled commission.” (Karen Craig, a disabled senior citizen-member of the Berkeley Commission on Disability, who had served as chair, vice chair, and outreach subcommittee chair, had been removed from the Commission by District 1 Councilmember Maio, who had appointed her to it!)  

The COA is charged with identifying the needs of the aging, creating awareness of these needs, and encouraging improved standards of services to the aging. Council shall appoint one of its members as liaison; I was unable to learn her/his name. At present, there is one COA vacancy, appointment of District 2 Councilmember Moore. The COA meets on the third Wednesday at 1:30 P.M. at the South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis Street. It is, however, essential that one check the City online community calendar to verify. 



On November 22, 2011 the Justice Department announced an agreement with Upshur County, Texas to improve access to all aspects of civic life for people with disabilities. The agreement was reached under Project Civic Access (PCA), the Department’s initiative to ensure that cities, towns and counties throughout the country comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

Older people who go to an emergency room in pain are less likely to get medication for it than younger people with similar levels of distress, a new analysis has found. A seven-year, nationwide study that included data on more than 88,000 emergency room found that 49 percent of patients age 75+ were given pain medication, compared with slightly more than 65 percent of those under age 75. Elderly people who were cognitively impaired or otherwise unable to report pain were not included in the analysis, so that does not explain the finding. [Annals of Emergency Medicine, Oct. 2011.] 

The 12 members of the Congressional "supercommittee" could not find common ground to reduce the federal deficit. This means that $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts over 9 years will begin in 2013. Medicare cuts are included, but are limited to 2% reductions in the rate of increase in provider payment rates. Social Security and Medicaid are not affected. Cuts in such discretionary programs as the Older Americans Act, Senior Corps, Section 202 housing, and energy assistance could have a major impact on seniors in need. 

Sixty-five year old Donald Berwick, M.D., Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the first Medicare chief eligible to be enrolled in the program, has resigned effective December second. A pediatrician before becoming a Harvard professor, Berwick will be replaced by his principal deputy, sixty-year old Marilyn Tavenner, formerly Virginia’s top health care official, a nurse by training who has been at Medicare since early 2010. Forty-two GOP senators asked President Obama to withdraw his nomination of Berwick, whose three-part aim for the health care system includes providing a better overall experience for individual patients, improving the health of such population groups as seniors and African-Americans, and lowering costs through efficiency.  

In a June 2011 Bellevue, Washington religious summit about end-of-life choice, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops gathered to affirm its uncompromising opposition to aid in dying for the terminally ill. Their five-page document, To Live Each Day with Dignity, was a statement on physician-assisted suicide. Compassion & Choices released a statement, Dogma vs. Dignity; An Open Letter to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, to the media. 


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

Monday, Nov. 28, 2011. 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. 


Friday, Dec. 2. 4:30 P.M. UCB COLLOQUIA IN THE MUSICOLOGIES. Morrison Hall. Holley Replogle-Wong (UC Berkeley) "Tempering the Singing Diva: Hollywood Film Sopranos and the 'Middlebrow Voice'". Free 

Saturday, Dec. 3. Noon-1 P.M. UC,B University Chamber Orchestra. Hertz Concert Hall. Mozart "Overture to Don Giovanni" - Miriam Anderson, conductor. Stravinsky "Pulcinella Suite" - Garrett Wellenstein, conductor. Schubert "Symphony No. 5" - Melissa Panlasigui, conductor. Free. Event email contact: m.panlasigui@gmail.com 

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.  

Wednesday, Dec. 7. 12:15-1 P.M. Music for the holiday season. UC,B Music Department Noon concert. Hertz Concert Hall. University Chorus and Chamber Chorus
Matthew Oltman, guest director. Free. 510-642-4864.  

Wednesday, Dec. 7. 6-8 P.M. Lawyer in the Library. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free. 510-526-3720.  

Monday, Dec. 12. 12 Noon. Senior Center Lecture - J-Sei Center Center - 1710 Carleton Street, Berkeley "Fall Prevention" Speaker: Andrew Teran - Bay Area Vital Link. To place a reservation for the lecture and/or lunch at 11:30 A.M., call 510-883-1106. 

Monday, Dec. 12. 7:00 P.M. Swedish Folk Music with Mark and Jennie Walstrom. Their instruments include the Swedish Säckpipa (bagpipe) and Nyckelharpa (key fiddle). Tonight’s music will center on the Swedish winter holidays. Kensington Library, 61Arlington Avenue Free. 510-524-3043. 

Wednesday, Dec. 14 6:30-8 P.M. Drop-In Poetry Writing Workshop. Albany Library 1247 Marin Av. Free. 510-526-3720.  

Wednesday, Dec. 14. 6:30 P.M. Berkeley Commission on Disability. Meets at North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Avenue. Check the City online community calendar to verify or call the Center, 510-981-5190. 

Monday, Dec. 19. 7 P.M. Book Club. Josephine Tey’s Daughter of Time. 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. 

Wednesday, Dec. 21. 1:30 P.M. Berkeley Commission on Aging. Meets at South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis Street. Check the City online community calendar to verify or call the Center, 510-981-5170. 

Wednesday, Dec. 21. 7 – 8 P.M. The Adult Evening Book Group will read Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. In his old age, Jacob Janowski reflects on the tragedy that forced him from his projected life as a veterinarian and his subsequent adventures with a circus traveling through Depression-era America. Rosalie Gonzales facilitates the discussion. Come to one meeting, or all meetings. Albany branch of the Alameda County library, 1247 Marin Av. Books are available at the Library. 510-526-3720 x 16. 

Wednesday, Dec. 28. Great Books Discussion Group. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Holiday lunch and selection discussion. 510-526-3720 x 16. 

















New: The Public Eye: Thanksgiving Politics: Top Ten Reasons to be Thankful

By Bob Burnett
Wednesday November 23, 2011 - 09:43:00 PM

Despite the dreadful recession, a broken political system, and other woes, Americans have many reasons to be thankful. Here is my top ten list: 

10. Rick Perry isn’t going to be President: My Texas friends had warned me about Perry. “He’s even worse than Dubya!” they said. So when Perry entered the Republican race for President, I gritted my teeth, expecting that “Governor Haircut” would unite Tea Party loonies and Wall Street reactionaries. Instead he made one misstep after another, flamed out, and took down Michele Bachman, too. 

9. We’re leaving Iraq: Last month, President Obama announced that by the end of the year all US troops will have left Iraq. While we will continue to have “advisors” in Iraq, and a massive US embassy in Baghdad, the dreadful war that began in March 2003 has ended. Now, if we’d only withdraw all of our troops from Afghanistan, we’d have even more to be thankful for. 

8. Republicans didn’t dismantle Medicare and Social Security: Despite the most conservative House of Representatives in memory, and the GOP’s dogmatic willingness to shut down the government, Democrats were able to protect Medicare and Social Security (and stifle the repeal of affordable healthcare). That’s the good news; the bad news is that more than half of America’s 14 million unemployed are no longer receiving benefits – and Republicans refuse to do anything about this catastrophe. 

7. In the Middle East, millions successfully protested for Democracy: Although Arab Spring started in December 2010, it came to the attention of most Americans in February, when nonviolent protests in Egypt toppled the Mubarak government. Arab Spring continues and has provided impetus for Occupy Wall Street in the US. 

6. Workers mobilized to protect collective bargaining: In February, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker proposed a state budget that severely restricted the collective bargaining rights of state workers. Voters in Wisconsin mobilized to protect workers’ rights. The movement spread to other states. On November 8th, voters in Ohio defeated a measure to restrict collective bargaining. 

5. Progressives changed the dialogue: When 2011 began, conservatives dominated political discourse. Washington politicians ignored the jobs crisis, a feckless war in Afghanistan, global climate change, and other daunting problems. Instead they focused on “fiscal austerity,” the claim the US is going broke. This culminated in the debt-ceiling crisis that ended August 2nd with passage of byzantine compromise legislation. As a consequence, voters lost confidence in Washington, the Tea Party movement waned, and progressives were able to change the dialogue. Americans came to believe that the real problem with US politics is that corporations and the richest 1 percent have too much power. 

4. Women defended their reproductive rights: Although elected on the promise they would create jobs and reduce the Federal deficit, Congressional Republicans instead launched a war on women, particularly reproductive health services. GOP conservatives steadfastly pursued a misogynistic campaign to defund healthcare for women; for example, by defunding Title X to deny family planning services to the poor. Women fought back and blocked most cuts. On November 8th, voters in Mississippi rejected a draconian personhood amendment

3. Elizabeth Warren entered politics: Although she had been on the political fringes, as chair of the TARP oversight panel and advocate for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Elizabeth Warren kept her day job as a Harvard Law School professor. In September Warren entered the 2012 Massachusetts Senate race against incumbent Republican Scott Brown. This heartened progressives because Warren is an articulate spokesperson for populism and a passionate defender of the American social contract. 

2. President Obama tabled the Keystone pipeline decision: 2011 hasn’t been a good year for environmentalists. The House Republican majority has attacked the reality of global climate change, attempted to defund the EPA, and passed legislation that would roll back most health and safety standards. Then, in September, President Obama rescinded proposed EPA smog standards. That’s why many environmentalists regarded the State Department approval of the Keystone Pipeline extension as the final straw. On November 7th thousands of anti-Keystone protesters surrounded the White House. Three days later the President announced he would defer the Keystone decision until after the 2012 elections. 

1. Occupy Wall Street galvanized the left: On September 17th, protesters convened in Zuccotti Park in the heart of New York City’s financial district. Although the ongoing protests have many facets, they’re an expression of grassroots discontent with the economy in general, particularly the historic level of inequality – the OWS rallying cry is, “We are the 99 percent.” 

2010 was the year of the Tea Party – a synthetic movement manufactured by a few wealthy conservatives. 2011 has become the year of Occupy Wall Street, and other protests, that grew organically from the discontent of average Americans – the 99 percent. They’ve found their voice and that’s a lot to be thankful for. 

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

On Mental Illness:Remembering to Give Thanks

By Jack Bragen
Wednesday November 23, 2011 - 05:58:00 PM

If I stop myself from complaining for a little while and realize that I am fortunate in life, there are numerous things that come to mind that I ought to be grateful about. 

Although I have a lifelong battle with mental illness, my lot is more comfortable and privileged than that of most people on Earth. I am lucky, as a person with severe mental illness, that I have retained my civil rights and that I am not subject to long term incarceration. I am lucky that medications have been discovered that allow me to live a relatively normal existence. I am fortunate that the U.S. has public benefits for disabled people so that I do not have to work to survive. 

I am fortunate that I have a caring family that provides me with help when I am in need. I am lucky to have a kind and caring psychiatrist and also a fantastic family practice doctor both of whom are paid with my Medicare and Medi-Cal. I am lucky that my teeth continue not to have problems, since it would be difficult to pay for dental work. 

I am glad that I don’t have to go hungry; something that many people on Earth must endure. 

I am lucky to live in an oasis of common sense, in which I don’t have to deal with violence, and I am not forced to live with abuse. I am fortunate that my apartment has a new air conditioner; it allowed me to get through the summer. 

I am blessed to be married to my wife, who is the love of my life and who is very patient with my problems. I am fortunate my physical health continues to be good. 

I am glad to live in a country that has freedom of speech, so that I don’t have to be afraid of punishment in retaliation for expressing myself. I am fortunate to be a published author, fortunate that the Daily Planet continues to publish my writing, and that people are interested in what I have to say. 

I believe we are all lucky that President Obama is currently in office and not a Neanderthal-minded Republican. And we are all fortunate to live in a country that allows its citizens to have basic liberties. And we are lucky that we even have a holiday such as Thanksgiving, in which excess food is the rule and not starvation. 

I am lucky that I continue to have all of my mental faculties after experiencing several devastating psychotic episodes. I am fortunate that I have been given talent. I am lucky that I am still alive in the first place, after experiencing situations in which I could have died. 

Thank you, Universe, God, or Whatever Created Me, and thank you, the reader. 

Arts & Events

Don't Miss This in the Holidays

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Wednesday November 30, 2011 - 09:30:00 AM

With Thanksgiving and Black Friday fading into oblivion— the Lord be praised — life may now return to normal so that we can give full attention to the many seasonal events lined up for our holiday pleasure: 

What better way than to celebrate our very own Frederica von Stade, Alameda's beloved opera star, who will be honored at a special performance at Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness St., S.F. this Sat., Dec. 3rd at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $50 - $100, but well worth such a happy occasion.

"The Great Charles Dicken's Christmas Fair" with playhouses and winding lanes of Victorian London — through Dec. 18. Cow Palace Exhibition Hall. (800) 510-1558.

Berkeley Artisans Holiday Open Studios (more than 100 artists and galleries will be open to the public through Dec. 18). berkeleyartisans.com for information.

"The Christmas Ballet" This Smuin Ballet Extravaganza draws from holiday traditions around the world. Through Dec. 24. Lesher Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic Center Drive, Walnut Creek. (925) 943-7469.

"The Soldier's Tale," based on Igor Stravinsky's 1918 musical. Through Dec. 18. Aurora Theatre, Berkeley. (510) 843-4822.

"A Christmas Carol", by Charles Dickens (the best Christmas Carol Ever). A.C.T., S. F., (415) 749-2228.

"On the Air" (broadcasting from Pier 29), starring Geoff Hoyle and Duffy Bishop. Teatro Zinzanni. (415 ) 438-2668.

"Dazzling Holiday Lights", Free events, near Peet's Coffee, Fourth Street. Through Dec. 18, 12 - 4 p.m. Live music.

Handel's Messiah, Philharmonic Baroque Orchestra, Sat. 10, 7 p.m. Zellerbach Hall (510) 642-9988.

"Let Us Break Bread Together", Oakland Symphony, Michael Morgan, Director and guest appearance by Joan Baez. Sun. Dec. 11, 4 p.m. Paramount Theatre.
(800) 745-3000,

Pacific BoyChoirs, "Annual Harmonies of the Season", featuring Benjamin Britten's glorious ceremony of choirs. Sat. Dec. 10. First Congregational Church in Berkeley.
www. pacificboy.org.

America's Children's Holiday Parade, Sat. Dec. 3., 2 p.m. Downtown Oakland. www.kblx.com.

"Jack London Square Lights Up for the Holidays." Dec. 2nd, 5 - 7 p.m.

"The Wild Bride", presented by Kneehigh Theatre, Berkeley Rep. (510) 647-2949.

"Holiday Jazz & Wine Stroll," Dec. 9, 5 - 9 p.m. rockridgedistrict.com.

Eduardo Fernandez, guitar. Sat. Dec. 10th, 8 p.m; Marine's Memorial Theatre, S.F., (415) 392-2545.

"The Glass Menagerie", Tennessee William's Centennial Year. Marin Theatre Company, Mill Valley. Through Dec. 18. (415) 388-5208.

Christian Zacharias, piano. Friday, Dec. 9, 8 p.m. Herbst Theatre, S.F. (415) 392-2545.

Temescal Holiday Labyrinth, Telegraph Avenue at 49th St., Dec. 4, noon to 9 p.m Rain date Dec. 18th.

"Kwanzaa," Oakland City Center, Dec. 14, Noon - 1 p.m.

O.k., friends — surely you'll find one or two of the above events a good way to start off the holidays!

Farnaz Shandravan's Art Gallery Opens in Uptown Oakland

By Ken Bullock
Wednesday November 30, 2011 - 09:15:00 AM

A prominent feature of the art of the past century has been the juxtaposition of unlike objects, radically different motifs, stylistic elements, materials ... Dada and Russian Formalism (with its "Defamiliarization") brought this to the fore; Surrealism canonized it. 

An artist's studio in Uptown Oakland, opening as a gallery this Friday, will be showing works that display this kind of juxtaposition, not so much a relic of the old avant-garde as with an intensely personal feeling and meaning. 

Farnaz Shadravan, who has exhibited around the Bay Area and in Tehran, where she grew up, will be displaying her unusual pieces in different media, work that subjects banal, everyday objects to intensive workmanship in order to release a profound spiritual element, in the most personal sense—"spiritual" not being a codeword or substitute for religious feeling, so much as a reaction to its loss, and to the fate of human beings, sometimes their fate in mass, that such profound sentiment once bore witness to in the greatest works of art. 

There're four bathtubs, "almost for self-baptism! but I'm going to run it dry this time ..."—each engraved with one of the four Angels of the Apocalypse from Albrecht Durer's great woodcut. "I make some works low, so people can kneel to see them. I've put cushion before my light boxes." The light boxes illuminate photographs; in the case of one, x-ray film showing a human bone and a row of bullets facing it. 

The theme of prayer or meditation runs throughout ... There are bones intricately carved with prayers. "When Iraq invaded Iran, I had a dream—and when I woke up knew I had to carve prayers in human bone. I started looking for bones, found them—and carved them." 

The prayers are both Islamic and Christian—the Lord's Prayer and Psalm 23. 

Shadravan talks about a struggle over losing her faith: "I used to pray three times a day. Somehow, I lost that practice." The American custom of putting things to remember on refrigerator doors with magnets was strange to her. "I put magnets with prayers onto my own refrigerator door. Then one day I found a [detached] refrigerator door and drilled a prayer on it" She has a series of nine of these doors, some of which will be on display. 

"It all became something religious; I wanted to remember religion. My work became my prayer, making these these doors almost like meditation to a Gregorian chant." 

Another unusual, common element, something unique to her art-making: the carving and engraving comes from her profession. Shadravan uses dental drills to work bone like scrimshaw, cut shapes and words into refrigerator doors. "I majored in art, minored in chemistry, then went to dental school ... I keep going back and forth between two different worlds. I do a lot of root canals, and do my best so people won't feel anything. Then I do my art so people feel something!" 

The beginnings of her artwork go back to early school memories. "When I was about 10, the principal of my school called me to her office and asked if she could buy something I made. I gave it to her. That went on at art school, with the teachers approaching me, too, including the San Francisco Art Institute. After a year there, an instructor came to me and said, 'We have nothing here left to teach you; you know what you're doing.' " 

Her father's street light factory was an inspiration, too. "After school—elementary school—I'd get picked up and taken to my father's factory. I was bored in school but came alive when I went there. It was my heaven! Everything was done there, the casting ... I had a dream of having a place like the factory, to make things ... " 

(About 30 years ago, her father left his factory, also to become a visual artist.) 

Shadravan sold her house, at one point, so she could work just one day a week as a dentist during the 18 months she carved the "Durer-Shadravan tubs." She also previously opened a gallery, in the Mission District in San Francisco. "For the same length of time, a year and a half; maybe that's my tolerance level." 

Her earliest works on display will be oil paintings dating from 1999, one with her grandmother's marriage contract. 

Shadravan's next project will be dedicated to the ancient Iranian city of Isfahan—and to Walt Whitman. 

Shadravan's Art Gallery, 2515 Telegraph Avenue (near 25th Street), Uptown Oakland ("In the Art Murmur district"). Opening Friday, December 2, 6-10; Saturday, 1-6. (Facebook page under "Shadravan's".)

Theater: Another Slew of Reviews:'Shoot O'Malley Twice' (Virago); 'Annie' (Berkeley Playhouse); 'The Soldier's Tale' (Aurora); 'Rumi x 7' (Golden Thread).

By Ken Bullock
Saturday November 26, 2011 - 10:47:00 AM

—'Shoot O'Malley Twice' (Virago Theatre Company) Since this review is running in the Planet, a note of disclosure—and reassurance—is in order at the start. The title of Jon Brooks' (who has written for the Mime Troupe) amusing play, about betting on "shooting fingers" while the Giants and Dodgers are betraying New York and Brooklyn by moving to the West Coast, refers to Walter O'Malley, owner of the Dodgers, object of such distain by the Brooklyn Faithful that—the saying goes—if you had Hitler, Stalin and Walter O'Malley together in a room and your gun had only two bullets, what would you do? "Shoot O'Malley Twice!" 

That exposition finished, it's a pleasure to state further that Virago, based in Alameda, has done their usual, thorough job of mounting this premiere of an engaging evocation of late 50s NYC, where Billy Future awaits his challengers in "shooting fingers," the slightly mysterious Association overseeing that the contestants follow the rules of the old children's game—no staring, squinting, just flash the fingers, scored odd or even ... Issues of Second Sight, psychic vision and Predestination are tossed around a lot—even some of the too-common vague speculation on Relativity, Quantum and String Theories, as well as a few anachronistic "predictions," mercifully brief here. What's good is the set-up, the crew and their tart talk, the offbeat comedy of their seriousness at betting and adjudicating such a street corner kids' sport ... 

It gets more interesting and even more cockeyed when the out-of-town wonder, The Savannah Kid, comes to challenge Billy, a rather different figure than expected, overwrought with confidence over a strange sense of mission. Clever use of very simple, well-crafted lighting and sound effects—and a burlesque/stage magic gimmick—add a great deal to the slightly outre'—slightly goofy—atmosphere. Angela Dant has directed her cast of nine very well, with particularly good performances from Christy Crowley and Dorian Lockett. 

Last performances this Friday and Saturday at 8, StageWerx 446, 446 Valencia Street (the former location of Intersection For the Arts), San Francisco. Wine and cheese reception after Saturday's closing show. $15-$25. (510) 865-6237; viragotheatre.org 

* * * * * 

—"I think I'm going to like it here!" An orphan girl, taken up by a billionaire for a two-week stay at his mansion, and the search for herlong-errant parents ... Pure nostalgia from the comics of one Depression for the audiences today, watching Occupy encampments busted up. 

'Annie,' the musical, has seldom been done so well as Berkeley Playhouse manages onstage at their Julia Morgan Center home. Everyone in the cast of 30 or so performs well—and that includes the choruses, both youth and adult, as the girls in the orphans' home, servants at Daddy Warbucks' estate, passersby on the streets of Midtown or down-and-outers at a riverside Hooverville ... All are liable to burst into song, step out in dance, flip with acrobatics. 

The ensemble is the driving force of the show's tempo and tone; the featured players stand out against this moving backdrop. Nandi Drayton (in alternation with Samantha Anne Martin) as Annie is a shrewd little optimist, who knows how to say things and get them done; Joe Kady eschews Daddy Warbucks' usual skinhead look, presenting him as a gruff businessman with a heart of precious metal; Melinda Meeng plays Daddy's secretary Grace Farrell with the same charisma she's displayed in 'Once On This Island' for the Playhouse and as the Tooth Fairy in Shotgun's 'God's Ear.' Rana Weber cuts a slatternly swath as Miss Hannigan of the Girls Home. Reggie D. White as Rooster sings and dances up as storm, as does Sophia Rose Morris as the Star-To-Be. Paul Loper and Pauli N. Amornkul are two more—among others—adding tone to foreground and back in this sparkling cast. 

The designers—Martin Flynn (scenic), Wes Crain (costumes), Molly-Stewart-Cohen (lights), Brendan Aanes (sound) and Megan Lush (props) deserve credit, too, for this family pleaser—some gags eliciting laughter from the kids, a few references catching the adults attention, much else appealing to both. Director Mina Morita has put it all together with music director Jonathan Fadner and Dane Paul Andres' exceptional choreography. 

Weekends (including matinees) through December 4 at Julia Morgan Center, 2640 College Avenue. $17-$35. 845-8542; berkeleyplayhouse.org 

* * * * * 

—On my desk is a print of Jean Cocteau's color drawing of the opening scene of Stravinsky and Ramuz's 'The Soldier's Tale,' showing the strange lepidopterist with his net, talking the soldier out of his fiddle. 

The Aurora's unusual production of this stage piece from 1918—which was intended from the start "to be read, played and danced"—plays the Russian folk parable out as a fairytale ... A fairytale starring a puppet, manipulated by a dancer, who performs the part of the sick princess cured by the soldier-puppet, wordlessly, by dancing. 

Peter Callendar narrates the Tale excellently, speaking dialogue for the soldier, while Joan Mankin—first seen at the back of the stage off to the side of the violinist and clarinetist, with a horned goat mask turned around on her head like a backwards baseball cap—essays the part of the Devil—and all the roles the Devil plays, starting with the lepidopterist conning the soldier, returning home on leave, out of his fiddle, in exchange for a book that foretells the stock market ... and "with two weeks' pay ... Somehow or other, lost the way." 

Muriel Maffre, former principal with the San Francisco Ballet—who pitched the staging idea to Aurora artistic director Tom Ross (the two co-directed)—both handily manipulates the four foot tall soldier puppet as his (almost) constant companion, and beautifully dances the role of the princess. 

Also collaborating are Mary Chun of Earplay as pianist and music director, percussionist Kevin Neuhoff (principal timpanist with Berkeley Symphony), alternating violinists Terrie Baune and Gloria Justin, and alternating clarinetists Jeff Anderle (of Redshift and the Paul Dresher Ensemble) and Peter Josheff (also of the Dresher Ensemble and an Earplay original). Jonathan Khuner of Berkeley Opera arranged the score, using concert suite material Stravinsky scored for a chamber quartet (down from a septet), and Donald pippin of Pocket Opera supplied the translation, which has Pippin's signature wit and anachronistic flourishes all over it. 

Benjamin Pierce's set design, using a translucent curtain with outlines of buildings, a village in the distance, lit by Jim Cave's light design, Fumiko Bielefeldt's costumes and props by Mia Baxter and Seren Helday all add immensely to the atmospherics of this at times feather-light creation ... 

Perhaps it's a bit too light, missing something that would ground it a little more, what with a puppet at the center and a tale for a narrative, in a theater where the audience is used to seeing—theater. 'The Soldier's Tale' is highly enjoyable, though in this form a bit too indirect, which slows the dynamics—both musical and storytelling—down. Maybe there's not quite enough contrast between the different elements of the production. 

The cast and the musicians perform well; high points are the dancing—both Maffre's loose-limbed movements as the princess and a very different, grotesquely funny capering by Mankin when the fiddler does to the Devil what many new and amateur violinists do to their unwitting listeners when they practice. The dancing also brings out the multi-disciplinary contrasts of the piece, like in an opera or a masque. 

It's a departure for the Aurora—and one that's a perfect alternative to the usual—no need naming names!—holiday shows reworked every year by so many companies. 

Wednesdays through Sundays at different times; 2081 Addison (near Shattuck); $10-$55. 843-4822; auroratheatre.org 

* * * * * 

—There's the fortune cookie Rumi, the New Age version of "Confucius Say," spouting vague cliches that could be from anywhere, anytime—and then there's the great Persian lyric poet—and the Rumi of the tales in The Masnavi, "the Quran in Persian" (as poet Jami called it), his magnum opus, a kind of verse epic in all moods of the diversity, inner and outer, of medieval Islam. 

Hafiz Karmali, who staged the medieval parable 'Island of Animals' for Golden Thread and the Afghan Coalition a few years back, put on his adaptation of seven stories from The Masnavi last weekend as 'Rumi x 7,' theater-in-the-round, a one-ring circus of delights, at the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California in downtown Oakland, inaugurating Golden Thread's project, Islam 101, performances over the next three years at different locations to educate about and explore the legacy of Islam as a worldwide cultural and spiritual movement, "as an Abrahamic religion, the third dimension ... in what's been heretofore called the Judeo-Christian tradition." 

His ensemble included practitioners of the circus arts, musicians, dancers—often all three in one performer—pitching their wares from Rumi in a variety of styles, from slapstick (and just plain shtick) to a little Commedia Del'Arte, silent movie comedy to whirling dervish dance (the observance Rumi introduced to his Sufi order), acrobatics to—the stunner—a New Orleans funeral march to celebrate Rumi's wake, which the poet declared in advance to be a joyous occasion. 

The exuberant cast included Jamie Coventry, Aylin Guvenc, Rachel L. Jacobs, Mahsa Matin, Aliah Najmabadi, Maruf Noyoft and Wiley Naman Strasser. The production team was Jim Cave, Taylor Gonzalez, Jamayla Kiswani, Wan-Yin Tang, Junelle-Johannah Taguas, Ninva Warda and Daniel Yelen. 

(In fact, Golden Thread hopes to reprise 'Rumi x 7' on and/or around December 17—the anniversary of the poet's death in Anatolia, 1273, the day he's traditionally celebrated, in San Francisco. Check goldenthread.org for updates on showtimes and location.) 

Ralph Waldo Emerson adapted from a German translation the opening of The Masnavi, "The Song of the Reed" (performed in 'Rumi x 7'), which he called "The Flute" (and mistakenly attributed to a later Persian poet, Hilali): 

"Hark what, now loud, now low, the pining flute complains,/Without tongue, yellow-cheeked, full of winds that wail and sigh;/Saying, Sweetheart! the old mystery remains,—/If I am I; thou, thou; or thou art I?"

New: Neil Marcus: Fantastic Spastic

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Wednesday November 23, 2011 - 09:44:00 PM

I have a dear friend and neighbor, Neil Marcus, a playwright, poet and actor, who describes himself as a "fantastic spastic, creatively endowed with disability." As a perfectly healthy eight-year old growing up in Ojai, he was stricken with dystonia, a rare neurological disorder in which powerful involuntary muscle spasms twist and jerk the body into unusual postures. Neil is affected with "generalized dystonia", the most severe and painful form of this disorder. It denies his ability to speak, stand and walk and/or control sudden and sometimes bizarre movements. 

But this hasn't stopped him. Far from it. The author of a play, "Storm Reading", Neil's writings have been published in newsletters, newspapers and magazines. He's been a recipient of the United Nations Award for Excellence in playwriting, with this play performed at Santa Barbara's Access Theatre, as well as at Stanford, in Washington and New York. The actor Michael Douglas took keen interest in Neil and arranged for a production of his play in Hollywood. He also appeared in a television production of "ER", a drama which paralleled his own disorder. Maria Shriver came to his home to interview him for a segment of her television program. 

After a five week Los Angeles run at the Tiffany Theatre, "Storm Reading" was hailed by members of the L.A. Drama Critics Circle, voted one of Los Angeles' top ten plays of 1993 by the L.A. Village View and the Drama-Lounge Magazine's Award for Best Production, Best Ensemble and Best Direction. 

In discussing his disability, Neil states " It is the experience of being different. People are curious about us. They wonder where we come from, where we've been and where we're going." Well, they needn't worry. Neil gets around just fine (i.e., going to Berlin for a Disability Conference.) 

This past Wednesday evening, our resident playwright showed a movie he had produced to an audience in the Berkeley Town House Lounge. His partner, Petra Kruppers, a Disability Culture Activist and an Associate Professor of English Theatre and Dance at Bryant University in Rhode Island, also appeared in the film. 

Neil's next performance will be at the San Francisco Institute of Art on December 2nd. 

A long time resident of the Berkeley Town House and a well known figure in Berkeley, Neil gets around in his motorized wheelchair, greeting friends with a raised thumb and always with that sly, devilish smile on his face. So, never, ever feel sorry for this remarkable guy. He doesn't ask for your sympathy -- just your admiration!