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Prelude to a clash. Berkeley police came through the Occupy Berkeley General Assembly meeting Wednesday nite with a list of homeless shelters. Earlier, they announced they would enforce park rules, which restrict camping in Civic Center Park. The encampment braced for an eviction at 10p.m.
Ted Friedman
Prelude to a clash. Berkeley police came through the Occupy Berkeley General Assembly meeting Wednesday nite with a list of homeless shelters. Earlier, they announced they would enforce park rules, which restrict camping in Civic Center Park. The encampment braced for an eviction at 10p.m.


Earthquake Hits Berkeley Tonight

By Bay City News
Thursday December 22, 2011 - 10:57:00 AM

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 2.7 shook Berkeley tonight, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. 

The quake struck at 9:18 p.m. and had a preliminary depth of 6.2 miles, the USGS said.

Updated: Impending Eviction at Occupy Berkeley on Hold, as Occupiers Scatter

By Ted Friedman
Thursday December 22, 2011 - 11:07:00 AM
Back to square one. Occupiers from Civic Center Park return to their origin late Wednesday, as Bank America Plaza fills with evicted tent city-become-village.
Ted Friedman
Back to square one. Occupiers from Civic Center Park return to their origin late Wednesday, as Bank America Plaza fills with evicted tent city-become-village.
From thick to thin near midnight Wednesday in Civic Center Park, as police warnings clear encampment.
By Ted Friedman
From thick to thin near midnight Wednesday in Civic Center Park, as police warnings clear encampment.
Getting out of Dodge. Campers in Civic Center packing it in, near midnight.
By Ted Friedman
Getting out of Dodge. Campers in Civic Center packing it in, near midnight.

Police said they'd enforce no-camping restrictions in Civic Center Park, but they didn't say when. Now cops are on hold, as MLK Park occupiers skedaddle. 

By midnight Wednesday, only a stubborn minority from the massive encampment remained. 

Late Wednesday, Occupy Berkeley relocated its information table to Bank America Civic Center Plaza, where half a dozen tents, shifted two blocks from MLK Park to join them. 

But by 5a.m., according to reports from a camper at the scene, Berkeley Police, "snuck up on us, kicked us off the plaza, and took our gear." According to a source at the scene, a veteran camper lost his second tent, and "is pissed." 

Police also shooed-off close to a dozen occupiers, who posted protest signs at the front of Bank of America. According to one of the protesters the protest signs were confiscated. Now he too is "pissed," saying he plans to enlist District 7 councilman, Kris Worthington to help with a violation of constitutional rights complaint.  

A march around MLK Park's perimeter, which was called for 10 p.m. by the O.B. general assembly, was a no-show. It was not the first time a GA-backed initiative had died of inertia. 

Near midnight, the once fat city had turned lean, with only stragglers remaining. 

An OB veteran of nearly two months said, "We’ve been cut off at the waist, so that now we can grow from the head." Many veterans of Berkeley's Occupation movement say they are ready for a new phase. 

Protestors who spent Wednesday building up steam for a stand-off with police that never came, kept the faith near midnight, exhorting gawkers to either "go to your apartments, or camp with us." Few stayed. 

Boasts from Occupying Oaklanders that their ranks would swell with fresh blood turned out to be bravado, as a scene that might have spun out of control was reigned in, perhaps by a scare-squad of Berkeley police bearing shelter info leaflets that no one took. 

Alan Wang, Channel 7, one of a gang of major media covering yet another Occupy eviction, contacted Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates at home sometime after 10 p.m. 

Bates held a brief (exclusive) interview with Wang near City Hall on Center Street, according to Wang, in which the mayor disclosed that cops would not be moving in for the time being. 

Wang spent much of the evening justifying media to surly protesters. 

Kris Worthington and Jesse Arreguin, Berkeley city councilmen, both of whom visited the besieged camp, Wednesday, lamented being out-of the-loop in the decision by BPD and the city manager, Christine Daniel, that formed Wednesday night's strategy. 

Bo-Peter Laanen, a U.C. political science junior and early OB leader, said that the decision to take up residence in the park had been a mistake. 

In an interview earlier, Laanen said the troubled camp had exposed societal problems that the 99% needed to learn about." 

Ted Friedman returned to his lukewarm apartment late Wednesday. 



















A You Tube Video Depicts Police Action Last Night

Thursday December 22, 2011 - 09:29:00 AM

Protesters uploaded this video to YouTube. 


Some Occupy Berkeley Campers Stay Despite Police Eviction Notice

By Sasha Lekach (BCN)
Thursday December 22, 2011 - 09:07:00 AM

After members of the "Occupy Berkeley" camp were served with a notice that police planned to evict people lodging at Civic Center Park after 10 p.m. Wednesday night, a group has remained in the area despite small bouts of police action this morning. 

A group of about 20 people are at the park and outside of a nearby Berkeley police station at Center Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Way, as of 3 a.m. this morning as seen in live stream footage from the area. 

A Berkeley patrol car was idling across the street of the group of protesters as of 2:30 a.m. 

Media reports indicate many of the campers voluntarily cleared tents by the 10 p.m. deadline, but protesters still at the scene early Thursday morning spoke about sporadic police raids at the park throughout the night. 

An Occupy videographer known as OakFoSho who has been at the encampment throughout the night said police took down a handful of tents in three separate "hit-and-run" raids since 6 p.m. 

Just after 2 a.m. one protester, who others called "Bo," exited the police station down the block from the park and said he had been cited for obstruction of justice and his camera was taken away as evidence. 

He had suffered a chin injury after what two other protesters brought into the station for questioning with Bo said was a "hit in the face" by police, for which Bo said was treated at the station. Although after his release he accepted Occupy-based medical assistance where volunteers bandaged his chin outside the station. 

The notice protesters were served, which is dated Dec. 20, 2011, says that Civic Center Park, where the camp has existed largely unchallenged for the past two months, is closed at 10 p.m. and that those persons in the park when it is closed will be subject to arrest. 

"Starting December 21, 2011, anyone found camping in this park will be required to remove their tent and other property being used for lodging here," the notice reads. 

Anyone who fails to remove his or her property used for lodging will also be subject to arrest, the notice reads.

Berkeley Occupiers Defiant Wednesday Night, as Berkeley Police March Into Camp to Distribute Shelter Information

By Ted Friedman
Wednesday December 21, 2011 - 05:30:00 PM
What the police will evict, if they do, Wednesday night in Occupy Berkeley.
Ted Friedman
What the police will evict, if they do, Wednesday night in Occupy Berkeley.
Prelude to a clash. Berkeley police came through the Occupy Berkeley General Assembly meeting Wednesday nite with a list of homeless shelters. Earlier, they announced they would enforce park rules, which restrict camping in Civic Center Park. The encampment braced for an eviction at 10p.m.
Ted Friedman
Prelude to a clash. Berkeley police came through the Occupy Berkeley General Assembly meeting Wednesday nite with a list of homeless shelters. Earlier, they announced they would enforce park rules, which restrict camping in Civic Center Park. The encampment braced for an eviction at 10p.m.
Michael Delacour proposes to Occupy Berkeley  general assembly  shutting down three blocks of Shattuck for the holidays. Wednesday night, as Occupiers face eviction.
Ted Friedman
Michael Delacour proposes to Occupy Berkeley general assembly shutting down three blocks of Shattuck for the holidays. Wednesday night, as Occupiers face eviction.
Police march on the periphery of Occupy Berkeley general assembly Wednesday night.
Ted Friedman
Police march on the periphery of Occupy Berkeley general assembly Wednesday night.
Inside the Occupy Berkeley camp Wednesday night, as campers from Oakland assert their defiance.
Ted Friedman
Inside the Occupy Berkeley camp Wednesday night, as campers from Oakland assert their defiance.
 "Make the better move." Across from Occupy Berkeley  Wednesday night, in front of the Berkeley Police department. This van could transport defiant occupiers to jail.
Ted Friedman
"Make the better move." Across from Occupy Berkeley Wednesday night, in front of the Berkeley Police department. This van could transport defiant occupiers to jail.

All day Wednesday occupiers in Civic Center Park prepared themselves for eviction. As the moment of truth approached, they used music, rhetoric, and solidarity to ready themselves.

They practiced maneuvers, gave interviews, and screwed up their courage for a confrontation with Berkeley Police, whom one occupier from Oakland called "pussies" compared to Oakland P.D. 

"At first, you choke on their gas," said one masked-man, "but then it gets to be sweet in your nostrils." 

Occupiers, who bragged to the OB general assembly Wed. night, that they would be joined by their occupier friends from Oakland—struck a common theme. We are willing to do whatever it takes to oppose police. 

A police van stood nearby, ready to facilitate protestors to "make the better move" to jail. 

As the general assembly convened in Civic Center Park, Berkeley police began a forceful stride at the Southeast end of the camp to pass out shelter information in prelude to a likely eviction of the camp, possibly at 10p.m. 

The OB general assembly, in a rare act of approved action, moved to stage a march on the walkways around MLK Park. The militant—self proclaimed radicals and anarchists—holding the encampment also agreed on the march, in yet another rare instance of consensus. 

The point of the march, as one occupier said, "is to let the cops take the camp, while we encircle it." 

As one of the occupiers, who had been in the camp since its founding almost two months ago put it, "this is the wildest general assembly ever—because the cops showed up." 

Part 1. Ted Friedman returns to the protest Wednesday Night to cover the possible eviction of the Occupy Berkeley, two-month old encampment, one of the longest surviving Occupy camps in the nation. 

Press Release: Berkeley Police Statement on the Situation at Occupy Berkeley Site

From Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, Public Information Officer, City of Berkeley Police Department
Wednesday December 21, 2011 - 05:27:00 PM

“The message has been consistent within the city that the City of Berkeley Police Department (BPD) officers have been monitoring the park for community, public safety and participant safety.” 

“City of Berkeley Police Officers (BPD) officers have continued to conduct daily checks and monitor Occupy Berkeley/encampment site for community, public safety and participant safety. BPD officers have been addressing any criminal behavior that they see. There have been 33 reported calls for BPD services related to Occupy Berkeley since October 23, 2011, 24 of which are classified as crimes. During some of the investigations at the scene, victims did not wish to cooperate with BPD officers. There are crimes and other incidents that may be unreported, thus are not documented by BPD. There has been an increase in calls for police services over time. There have been cases involving violence in the Occupy Berkeley encampment such as batteries, assault with deadly weapons, possession of dangerous weapons and an attempted rape.” 

“There has continued to be an increase in serious crimes and violence after the Dec. 15th flyers were passed out including an attempted rape last evening. The latest flyers are now providing warning that the law will be enforced. It speaks for itself. BPD would like the individuals in the park to follow the law voluntarily and the facts as to the encampment’s impact on community and participant safety is clear when reading the lists of crimes that have been occurring.” In addition to those crimes, BPD officers have issued 46 citations since December 15, 2011 for violations such as drinking in public, open containers of alcohol, smoking and other miscellaneous within the park.” 

“City of Berkeley Police Officers (BPD) officers have continued to conduct daily checks and monitor Occupy Berkeley/encampment site for community, public safety and participant safety. BPD officers have been addressing any criminal behavior that they see. There have been 33 reported calls for BPD services related to Occupy Berkeley since October 23, 2011, 24 of which are classified as crimes. During some of the investigations at the scene, victims did not wish to cooperate with BPD officers. There are crimes and other incidents that may be unreported, thus are not documented by BPD. There has been an increase in calls for police services over time. There have been cases involving violence in the Occupy Berkeley encampment such as batteries, assault with deadly weapons, possession of dangerous weapons and an attempted rape.”

Updated: Berkeley Police Threaten to Evict Occupy Berkeley Encampment Tonight--Councilmembers Not Consulted

Wednesday December 21, 2011 - 10:24:00 AM

It appears that Berkeley's city administrators plan to close down the Occupy Berkeley encampment tonight at 10, though they have not informed the public or councilmembers who have been visiting the encampment about their plans.

Last night (Tuesday) at 10 p.m. the Berkeley Police passed out this flyer to those in the Occupy Berkeley encampment, announcing their intention of evicting Occupiers tonight:



Berkeley Municipal Code ("BMC") § 6.32.020 prohibits being in a City park from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. This park is closed at 10:00 p.m. Starting December 21,2011, this law will be enforced. Persons in this park after 10:00 p.m. will be subject to arrest for violating BMC §6.32.020 and their property will be removed.

Penal Code § 647(e) prohibits lodging on City property without permission from the,City. No one has permission to lodge in this park. Persons who are camping in this park are violating Penal Code § 647(e).

Starting December 21, 2011, anyone found camping in this park will be required to remove their tent and other property being used for lodging here. Persons who fail to remove their tent and other property used for lodging in this park will be subject to arrest for violating Penal Code § 647(!) and their property will be removed."
On the reverse side of the flyer was a list of the city's homeless shelters. 

One of the protesters, who uses "B" as his name, sent this email message to protesters and supporters urging attendance at tonight's 6:00 General Assembly, which will be an opportunity for campers to decide how to react to any forceable eviction.: 

"Tomorrow's GA is probably the most important one ever please come if possible bring all friends and allies of #OB." 

It is not clear who made the decision to evict the protesters, or what the exact game plan for the eviction action might be. 

Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington told the Planet that "I didn't get any notice as a City Councilmember." Councilmember Susan Wengraf said "It's news to me."  

Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, who has authored a detailed proposal for how to deal with Occupy Berkeley, said that he is "very disappointed" that City Manager Chris Daniel and Police Chief Michael Meehan have not discussed whatever plan they might have for tonight's action with him, despite the fact that he met with Daniel yesterday. 

Daniel told the Planet today that "the statements we have issued speak for themselves" and would not comment any further on what the city's plans might be. The only statement on record from her office about the Occupy encampment is not listed under the city's press releases nor on its news page, but can be found here. It has no specific information about tonight's scenario.  

The Berkeley City Council will not meet until early January. 

The Berkeley Police Department's Public Information Officer, Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, told the Planet she had received no information about the police plan, and the city's media relations officer has not returned phone calls about it.

Berkeley Holiday Street Fair Survives Closure by Ghost of the Sequoia

By Ted Friedman
Sunday December 18, 2011 - 07:32:00 AM
Dali-esque. View from a tee-shirt tent across from the Sequoia rubble, as a worker sprays it down Saturday. The rubble consists of compressed walls, appliances, beams, floors, and animal bones.
Ted Friedman
Dali-esque. View from a tee-shirt tent across from the Sequoia rubble, as a worker sprays it down Saturday. The rubble consists of compressed walls, appliances, beams, floors, and animal bones.
Vendors diverted from Telegraph to Haste Street. Can you tell the vendors from the food stands? Vendors were moved too far from Teley, they complained Saturday, but by Sunday they were mollified.
Ted Friedman
Vendors diverted from Telegraph to Haste Street. Can you tell the vendors from the food stands? Vendors were moved too far from Teley, they complained Saturday, but by Sunday they were mollified.
Crowds returning to Telegraph, Saturday. Some of them were asking, "what happened across the street." Lost space for fair booths can be seen behind the fence.
Ted Friedman
Crowds returning to Telegraph, Saturday. Some of them were asking, "what happened across the street." Lost space for fair booths can be seen behind the fence.
Musicians across from Sequoia fire site, still reeking.
Ted Friedman
Musicians across from Sequoia fire site, still reeking.
Golden man with golden bike, golden helmet. He wishes us well, as fair ends Saturday night.
Ted Friedman
Golden man with golden bike, golden helmet. He wishes us well, as fair ends Saturday night.

After weeks of street and walkway closures, and toxic, stinking fumes, this weekend's Telegraph Holiday (street) Fair, a twenty-six year tradition, breathed life into a moribund business district. 

Stinking fumes were courtesy of the Sequoia Apartments fire, at Haste and Telegraph, the worst Berkeley fire since 1991's hills fire, and reminiscent of the 1985 Berkeley Inn fire. 

After breathing life into a moribund business district, the fair almost choked, when the event's organizer, Janet Klein, learned Friday that city officials might have to close two blocks of Telegraph during next-week's fair—a crippling blow. 

Losing a half-block of booths to Sequoia-site fences was harmful enough, but losing two blocks, that was killer, Klein told me Sunday. 

How could the fair be disrupted? Turns out that on-going city toxicity tests could soon clear the debris for removal. According to Klein, the demolition team is spending $7,000 daily for removal equipment, and is eager to begin debris removal. 

If debris removal had begun, it would have closed two Telegraph blocks for safety reasons, hobbling the fair, according to Klein, who is being briefed regularly by city officials. The four-block, two hundred booth sub-township, would have been chopped off at the middle. 

But the ghost of the Sequoia, which had been haunting the fair, went up in smoke again; the fair survives its latest threat. I was interviewing Klein when she got word the Fair was spared. The city's permit governing debris removal, apparently prevents contractors from interfering with regularly-scheduled public events. 

At least that is everyone's understanding for now, because, as Klein puts it, "no one, not us, the city, or the building owners, or the demolition team, knows what's going on." 

Klein gave the city high marks in supporting the fair, by "expediting," the opening of Telegraph sooner than anyone expected. 

And then the sun shone through a lingering, Smokey haze, bathing the fair in gold, as the first week neared its close. 

The fair was on a roll—for the time being. 

"The public has no idea how complex the fair is," Klein said. 

Eddie Munroe, who organized the fair in the eighties, said that by the time he quit, the fair had already become "complex." You get the idea that is not good. 

Klein said that organizing a fair used to be "easy-peasy, before economic down-turns effected our artists incomes. We lost many regulars, but picked up a lot of craftsmen without business licenses, who pay more for their booths. We have to go to their workshops, sometimes far away, to make sure they are doing their own work, a requirement, if we are to observe our permits." 

Klein spoke to me from her crafts booth, which sports a red-cross. Her small booth is the event's first aid station. "I had to be trained to use some of the first aid equipment I have here," she said. 

"We have more regulations all the time," Klein said. 

Klein is assisted by a staff of 12, one of whom, "the cookie girl," is charged with cookie distribution to vendors throughout the day. 

Disabilities rights regulations require that ramps be placed up and down the four-block fair; one staffer coordinates that, according to Klein. The ramps are stored in two local businesses. 

According to Munroe, who designed the first ramps when he was event organizer, the ramps also serve to provide access to local businesses from spaces between booths. 

One of Klein's biggest tasks is as marshal of Dodge, a sheriff of sorts, who is to the fair as the captain to his ship—ultimate authority over artists and craftsmen, not known for their establishmentarianism. 

Vendors cried foul Saturday, as barricades in front of Intermezzo and Raleigh's cost them their pre-paid spots. When they were relocated to Haste, then pushed East by food stands, tempers flared, and matters were not improved when some Haste street vendors reported lost sales, on one of the biggest profit days of the fair. 

Klein says that other Haste vendors did just fine. 

Street vendors always seem to have complaints, according to Eddie Munroe, who should know. He founded and helmed the fair from 1984-1992. 

According to a Haste-Street vendor, who said his sales were down "we're all adults; we should be able to get along. It's all politics. We'll work it out Sunday." 

And work it out they did Sunday, when the disgruntled vendors were awarded Telegraph locations in the early morning "lottery" for booth position. 

And they did get cookies all day. 

On to next weekend. 


Ted Friedman, who often reports for the Planet from South-side, never knew how much his holiday street fair meant to him until "they" tried to take it away.

St. John's Church Carols for Occupy Berkeley

By Mark Coplan
Tuesday December 20, 2011 - 12:00:00 PM

Members of St John's Presbyterian Church in Berkeley sang Christmas carols for Occupy Berkeley after church on Sunday (Dec. 18th). The group was led by Pastor Max Lynn and Music Director Todd Lolly in their annual caroling expedition, which usually focuses on senior residents homes, because they wanted to show support for the occupy movement. 

"We are the 99%, and we just want to show support, as well as appreciation for those who are making the time to stand up for all of us", stated Pastor Max, "we are with them every day in spirit". Pastor Max visited the site earlier in the week to plan the Sunday visit, and because he overheard a discussion about the need for more protein and even meat for the occupy kitchen, the group arrived with a couple of cooked hams, huge cans of tuna and other food supplies. While the kitchen bustled with new activity, others joined the carolers or stood around listening to the music eating ham or tuna sandwiches. 

St John's Presbyterian Church was one of the first sanctuary churches in the US, providing refuge for Salvadorian and Guatemalan political refugees, and is a More Light Church, welcoming and supporting the LGBTQ community and their right to worship, marry and preach the word of an inclusive God 

Mark Coplan is an Elder at St John's Presbyterian Church

Up-arming the Movies

By Gar Smith
Tuesday December 20, 2011 - 07:44:00 AM

I've been dismayed by the recent slew of movie posters advertising the new Sherlock Holmes sequel. Popping up on billboards and buses around the Bay Area, they show a smirking Sherlock and a blank-faced Watson brandishing handguns.  

Now call me old-fashioned, but I don't recall watching any of the original Holmes films in which Basil Rathbone walked around waving a pistol. Just when did Holmes decide to swap his meerschaum for a Mauser?  

A. Conan Doyle's Holmes used to rely on introspection, intelligence and dazzling powers of observation to solve crimes. Does anyone else find it disturbing that Doyle's "battle of wits" has been replaced by a Hollywood gun-battle of twits? Instead of "Elementary, Dr. Watson," Holmes' modern catchphrase would seem to be: "Hand me a new clip, Watson!" Now I'm gracious enough to forgive the filmmakers for the wardrobe decision to drop the deerstalker cap --but Holmes (as portrayed by Robert Downey Jr.) in drag? That's really lip-sticking it to us purists. In response to the encroaching pistolry and pyrotechnics in what passes for "modern cinema," my first thought was to call for a national campaign to ban weapons from our movie screens.  

If Hollywood directors can change their ways and show A-list actors to eschew on-screen smoking and start buckling their seatbelts before a car-chase, why not exercise a little restraint when it comes to the overbearing bearing of arms -- at least for the week of the High Holy Holidays?  

But since a Holiday Hollywood Handgun Ban looks unlikely, I've decided to take a different approach. Now that Doyle's dudes have been dolled up in Edwardian body armor, maybe it's time for the rest of us to join the trend and up-arm some other movie classics.  

Here are a few titles that occurred to me.  

Perhaps you can come up with others:  

Peter Pandemonium 

Mary Popguns 

Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang-Bang  

Gun-Slinging in the Rain 

To Blast a Mockingbird 

Machinegun Muppets Take Manhattan 

Hercule Poirot Goes Ballistic 

Dora the Explorer: Locked and Loaded  

E.T.: The Exterminating Terrestrial  

A Gunfight at the Opera (starring the Marksmen Brothers)  

Emeryville's Pixar Studios would be expected to join the fray with a holiday feature where Woody, Buzz and the gang return as a team of grenade-tossing mercenaries in Destroy Story.  

And, of course, Pixar's next Cars sequel would be called Tanks!

What Matters About Occupy Berkeley (News Analysis)

By Ted Friedman
Friday December 16, 2011 - 07:40:00 PM
Keeping the faith. At an Occupy Berkeley general assembly last month. They still show up at 6, all but Mondays, for G.A.
Ted Friedman
Keeping the faith. At an Occupy Berkeley general assembly last month. They still show up at 6, all but Mondays, for G.A.

In October, we reported that Occupy Berkeley was on a collision course with city officials ("Is Occupy Berkeley on a Collision Course With Berkeley?" Planet, Oct. 28). 

It was then an open question, but more than a month later, as enterprising reporters for mainstream media have reported overall high camp crime statistics (but compared to what?) and quoted "the usual suspects," the question is tightening. When will Occupy Berkeley end? 

The nascent history of the international Occupy movement is rife with encampment crackdowns—followed by mass evictions. More than a few stories in the Planet (not always mine) have hinted at possible city reversal of its open-arms response to OB. 

As some city officials, reportedly, distance themselves from OB, daily assistance in MLK Park, by outreach workers, and volunteers representing free clinics, and churches continues—an outpouring of Berkeley-citizen support. 

Official explanations for the evictions of Occupy protests around the nation cite crime, sanitation, and negative neighborhood impact—the same problems facing OB. 

Occupy Berkeley has absorbed evictees from both San Francisco and Oakland, driving away all-but-a-few Berkeley protesters who once camped in Civic Center Park, across the street from old Berkeley City Hall, the Berkeley Police Department, and Berkeley High School. 

In on-line discussions and in "working groups," some of which are closed to the public—unlike the general assembly, which is "come-on-down"—Occupy Berkeleyans are expressing dissatisfaction with the swelling tent city, which has stolen its kitchen and its good name. 

What to do? 

In twelve Planet articles since the inception of OB, the picture of a movement in conflict has emerged. There remains among OB, a steadfast contingent of camp supporters clinging to what is seen as the right of assembly and free speech in Civic Center, and another contingent favoring removing the OB brand from the park, essentially taking its marbles out of the troubled encampment's game. 

Which of OB's contingent groups will forge its future—if it has a future—remains to be worked out. But by whom? The general assembly, constipated from an open-mike discussion of pins and needles? Or working groups which form, then disappear? 

The Occupy movement began as a popular ideal—wage equity for all Americans, and a government independent of Wall Street's influence. Occupy's ideal swept the world, like history-changing political movements, and revolutions of the past. 

Geoffrey Nunnberg, a linguistics professor in U.C. Berkeley's School of Information, and a regular commentator on National Public Radio selected Occupy as "this years most significant word." (Dec. 7). 

Nunnberg's selection of Occupy as a word of significance may have its own significance—that Occupy has become embedded in public consciousness like "No taxation without representation" or"whatever." 

In fact, spin-offs, if not spoofs, of the Occupy movement are building fast. Occupy this. It is possible that, because of the multitude of word games made possible by the open accessibility of the word occupy that Occupy will become a laughing-stock, like "a chicken in every pot." 

Occupy Yourself, a commentary by yours truly (Planet: Nov 9), an intended humorous satire of consumerism and lust for wealth, was interpreted by a complaining reader as a put-down of Occupy. Was my "Occupy Yourself" piece humor-too-soon? 

According to the more than 500 Occupy yourself entries on-line (and a million and a half hits), my piece was too soon. In fact, my piece was archived fourteenth. By page forty-two of Google search page results—humor, ads, tee-shirts, and mugs join the pile-on. 

An Occupy Yourself Movement is announced on Google (search result page, 38), and Deepak Chopra weighs in (page 37) with spiritual advice for self-occupiers. Occupy-mania is only now beginning to ebb on-line, but it sure did go viral at first, like its sponsor organization, Occupy Wall Street. 

Cokie Roberts, a senior news analyst for NPR, recently reported Occupy's influence on legislative initiatives from Democrats in Congress. She is not alone. Time magazine which, Dec. 7, picked the Occupy Movement as the news story of the year, observed that President Obama was "echoing its [the movement's] message." 

Perhaps the Occupy Movement has made its mark—even if it never defined its mark. 

Occupys everywhere are in transition. A transition away from tents, kitchens, and toilets. A transition to international icon and realizable ideals. 

The challenge facing the Occupy Movement now is to keep its ideals alive, and to support leaders, who truly believe in these ideals, and who can be seen trying to achieve Occupy's ideals. 

Politically incorrect: "Remember the Alamo, Remember the Maine; Remember Pearl Harbor." 

Politically correct: Remember Occupy! 

Ted Friedman, known by some Berkeley occupiers as "uncle Ted," vows to "Remember Occupy," and might even be moved to actually do some more reporting on it.

Occupy Berkeley Health and Safety Plan

By Councilmember Jesse Arreguin
Thursday December 15, 2011 - 07:29:00 PM

To: Christine Daniel, Interim City Manager

Michael Meehan, Chief of Police

From: Councilmember Jesse Arreguín


Consider the proposed strategies to develop an Occupy Berkeley Health and Safety Plan for immediate implementation.


The Occupy Movement, which began in New York several months ago with the Occupy Wall Street protests, has spread to cities throughout the country, including Berkeley. The Occupy Movement’s aim is to raise awareness of economic inequality in the United States in which a small percentage of people benefit disproportionately at the expense of the majority. It also seeks to address economic inequality and many other inequitable features of our society by highlighting the causes of our current economic crisis due to the lack of accountability of banks and other corporations and the effect it has had on everyday Americans, from unemployment to foreclosures.

The goal of Occupy Wall Street, as stated in their “Declaration of the Occupation of New York City” is to take action, as well as support others in the taking of action, to exercise their legal right to peacefully assemble and occupy public space, and to create a process to address the problems we face and generate solutions accessible to everyone. Occupation has been the main form of direct action employed by the Occupy movement.

On November 8, 2011, the Berkeley City Council publicly endorsed the Occupy movement and its goals.

In solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement and with other encampments throughout the Bay Area, such as in Oakland, the Occupy Berkeley encampment was formed at the corner of Shattuck and Center Street on October 15, 2011.
Over the next few weeks as the encampment grew, it relocated to Civic Center Park.

Throughout the progression of the Occupy Movement, issues endemic to prolonged encampments have arisen, such as sanitation and public safety. There have been varying responses from other municipalities ranging from cooperation to mitigate impacts to forceful, and sometimes violent, eviction.

City staff have monitored and addressed problems at the Occupy Berkeley encampment as they have arisen. They have also maintained communication with people camping in Civic Center Park and have worked with them to address issues concerning public health and safety. However, the encampment has increased in size in the last several weeks, particularly after the disbandment of other Occupy encampments in nearby cities. Consequently, the volume of public safety and health issues has also increased.

Given the growth of the encampment over the past few weeks and the resulting public safety and health problems, the City should develop a new approach to enforce city laws to protect public health and safety, but consistent with the City’s longstanding values of compassion and social justice. Such an approach should recognize that with effective enforcement and cooperation, preserving health and safety in the Park and respecting the right to free speech and assembly are not mutually exclusive.

While City staff and the Berkeley Police Department have regularly patrolled the park and have worked with people who are camping to address health and safety issues, camping in the park as a form of political expression is a privilege and anyone who wishes to camp in the park should abide by city laws to maintain the safety of those in the Park and throughout the community. Clearly communicating and enforcing the laws by which all people who wish to use the park must abide will proactively address problems so that those problems do not rise to the level of an imminent threat to public safety, while still allowing all law-abiding individuals who wish to camp in the park to remain.


Create a safer and healthier environment at Civic Center Park while continuing to support the Occupy Movement consistent with City Council’s adopted support of the Occupy movement. 



Utilize effective enforcement in cooperation with Occupy Berkeley to decrease and prevent crime within and around the encampment, and to improve and maintain sanitary conditions of the Park. 



Many of the issues related to public health and safety stem from individuals ignoring park rules and city laws, such as the smoking, consumption of alcohol or drugs, littering, having dogs off leashes etc. The sense by some participants of the encampment is that many laws can be willfully ignored because of the perception of lax enforcement. Additionally, there is a sense that most of the serious violations are committed by problem participants that have come in from out of town and express an unwillingness to cooperate. Some of the problems resulting from the encampment include drinking in public, urination in public, assault and battery, carrying dangerous weapons, and drug use. All of these forms of behavior are completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated. The growing number of assaults and other illegal behavior poses a threat to public safety, which must be immediately addressed. By clear education and enforcement of city laws, we can send a message to people who are participating in the encampment that such behavior with not be tolerated and those individuals who consistently violate the law will not be allowed to return to Civic Center Park for a specified period of time.

The following laws and any other laws necessary to maintaining public health and safety must continue to be clearly communicated to all people camping in Civic Center Park and any violations will result in penalties and possible removal consistent with the Zero Tolerance Policy outlined below.

  • Possession of weapons
  • Assault and Battery
  • Theft
  • Smoking
  • Drinking in public and presence of open containers
  • Drug use and possession
  • Littering
  • Off leash dogs and not cleaning up after dogs
  • Excessive noise at late hours

The following Zero Tolerance Policy is designed to address these enforcement issues: 



  • All violations of the Law and park rules, with the exception of camping in the park overnight, shall be strictly enforced with appropriate citation or arrest.

  • Any individual at Civic Center Park who commits a serious or violent crime or repeatedly violates the Law subsequent to the Zero Tolerance Policy going into effect shall be ejected from the park and subject to a Stay Away Order for the duration of the Occupy encampment. A violation of the Stay Away Order shall result in immediate arrest.

  • Prior to the implementation of the Occupy Berkeley Safety Plan, a public announcement of this Zero Tolerance Policy should be clearly communicated with the participants of the Occupy Berkeley encampment, including the possibility of posting signage in the park informing all people who use and are camping in the park that any violation of these rules will result in citation, arrest or removal from the park.

Such a Zero Tolerance Policy will need a judicious use of our limited police resources. An increased police presence at strategic or sensitive times, as we already have done in cooperation with Berkeley High School during lunch and after school, will serve as a deterrent to many violations and will enable a more effective monitoring of the encampment to actively cite any violations and prohibit any habitual or serious offenders from coming back to the park. The City should consider asking the Host Ambassador’s to assist in monitoring at specific times of the day.

Since the inception of Occupy Berkeley at Civic Center Park, the City Manager’s office has cooperatively worked with Occupy Berkeley relating to public health issues, and communicated the City’s expectations. Additionally, the City Manager’s office has provided reasonable accommodations to help mitigate the impacts of the encampment, such as additional trash receptacles. Due to the recent surge in issues resulting from the growth of the encampment, however, clear expectations and standards must be made clear to all people camping in the park to ensure that they comply with appropriate city laws to protect health and safety or appropriate enforcement action will be taken.

An essential component of the Occupy Berkeley Health and Safety Plan should include extensive outreach to participants in need of shelter and/or services. This includes outreach by City staff and appropriate case workers to enter the encampment to offer homeless services and shelter.

City staff should also consider the idea of limiting the number of tents. Additionally, continued multiple violations of these laws and the Zero Tolerance Policy, an imminent threat to public safety or a failure of participants to maintain an acceptable level of public health at the Park may result in the City evaluating the removal of the encampment. 


Some people have asked why, if there has have been so many problems, doesn’t the City just remove the encampment?

Immediate physical removal of the encampment is not a viable option at this time. Given that Berkeley’s Occupy encampment is one of the last major encampments in the Bay Area, all eyes are now on Berkeley to see what we will do. We have seen how other cities have responded to encampments. Oakland, for example, has had a series of police actions to remove encampments after the initial eviction that involved excessive use of force. Oakland and San Francisco’s removal of their encampments only emboldened the occupiers to set up more camps and to occupy space even longer, complicating any resolution and increasing costs. 


Ultimately, the City Manager’s office and City staff should consider a reasonable date in which the encampment should transition to a daily demonstration or other forms of political assembly, consistent with city law limiting the use of city parks until 10 p.m. 


In keeping with Berkeley’s values as a compassionate and thoughtful city, we respect people’s right to political assembly; however, preserving public safety and public health is paramount. Any efforts to end the encampment should be a last resort after all reasonable efforts are exhausted and done in consultation and coordination to the extent possible with individuals camping in Civic Center Park. Any removal should not involve a large amount of police, unless critical to the preservation of public safety, and should not involve use of force or destruction of property. 



Jesse Arreguín, Councilmember, District 4 981-7140

Press Release: City Councilmember Arreguin Proposes Plan to Improve Health and Safety of Occupy Berkeley Encampment

From Anthony Sanchez
Thursday December 15, 2011 - 06:40:00 PM

Berkeley City Councilmember Jesse Arreguín submitted to Interim Berkeley City Manager Christine Daniel and Berkeley Chief of Police Michael Meehan this morning a Health and Safety Plan to address growing crime and public health issues at the ongoing Occupy Berkeley encampment.  

The Occupy Berkeley encampment, which was established on October 15, 2011 in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement, has grown considerably over the past few weeks, as individuals from other encampments that have been disbanded have come to Berkeley. With the growing number of people camping in Civic Center Park, health and safety problems have also increased. 

Because of the growing encampment and the need to immediately address these issues to protect public health and safety, Councilmember Arreguín has put forward this plan to increase city enforcement of city laws and to implement new tools to protect the safety of people in the park and in the surrounding community while allowing law-abiding participants to continue camping as a form of political expression. 

“I strongly support the Occupy movement and its calls for economic equality for the 99% and I have wholeheartedly supported the right of individuals to camp as a form of political expression. Nevertheless, recent criminal behavior in Civic Center Park poses a threat to the safety of people who are camping in the park and the surrounding community and it is critical that we act immediately to preserve public health and safety,” Arreguín said. 

“This plan makes it clear to those individuals who wish to participate in the encampment that certain city laws are important to preserve the safety of everyone and will be rigorously enforced. Most participants are law-abiding and have a deep respect for the community. However, this plan is directed at the 1% of the participants who, ironically, have no respect for our community, our laws, and the 99% they purport to represent. This plan provides for new enforcement tools to prevent problem individuals from coming back to the park.” 

“All eyes are on Berkeley now to see what we will do. In keeping with Berkeley’s values as a compassionate and thoughtful city, we respect people’s right to political assembly and we hold public health and safety as paramount. This plan rightly recognizes that both values are not mutually exclusive and that a safe and healthy Occupy Berkeley encampment for the time being is a goal worth not abandoning.” 

The Occupy Berkeley Health and Safety Plan proposes that Berkeley Police and City staff immediately enforce a number of city laws and implement a Zero Tolerance Policy, which will result in citations, arrest -if necessary- and removal from Civic Center Park through the use of administrative Stay Away Orders for people who repeatedly violate city laws or pose a threat to public safety. 

Councilmember Arreguin will be meeting with the City Manager’s office to discuss next steps in implementing this plan.

Training the Police: SWAT US 2011 (Sidebar)

From the Urban Shield web site
Thursday December 15, 2011 - 08:47:00 AM

During the 2011 Alameda County Sheriff's Office Urban Shield training exercise, SWAT and Tactical Response teams will participate in 29 individual events ranging from Search Warrant Service to Active Shooter/Immediate Action Team scenarios. Teams will arrive on Friday October 14, 2011, and will receive mission and safety briefings as well and an introduction to the latest technology to be used in the training scenarios. In addition, each team member is subjected to a medical assessment and firearms qualification at the Alameda County Regional Training Center Range Facility. 

The training events begin at 0600 hours Saturday, October 15, 2011, and culminate after four 12-hour operational periods, on Monday October 17, 2011, at 0600 hours. Teams are transported to the individual scenario sites located in five separate Area Commands, by vehicles driven by Alameda County Deputy Sheriff's familiar with both the teams themselves and the scenario route. 

Participating teams will be introduced to the latest in tactical medical treatment options and will receive updated information on treatment for any injuries or health issues as a result of the event. Ongoing medical evaluations will occur at Medical Mobile Medical Checkpoints located throughout the exercise for any medical issues that may arise with team members. 

Throughout the scenarios, teams are confronted with events averaging 1-hour-plus in duration, which are designed to test their training, preparation, and decision-making. Teams use technology provided to them for use during the scenarios and are debriefed after each scenario for their immediate feedback concerning the technology presented to them. 

This event is not limited to teams from our regional area, but is open to any team wishing to participate. A team from the Boston Police Department has participated in the event since its inception in 2007. In 2009, the French National Police "Research, Assistance, Intervention, and Dissuasion" (RAID) Team participated. Observers came from many international areas including from Bahrain and the State of Israel. In 2011, teams from Jordan, Bahrain and the State of Israel participated in the training scenarios. 

Urban Shield is a unique and vast tactical training exercise involving thousands of hours of planning and preparation. The event allows participating agencies a practical opportunity to evaluate their tactical team's level of preparedness and ability to perform a variety of intricate first-responder operations. The dual benefit of this event allows each agency to evaluate its own tactical capabilities while training together with EMS, Fire, and EOD to identify our ability to cope with large-scale events at a Regional level. This training event incorporates the National Incident Management System (NIMS) concept which has allowed many participating agencies to expose their personnel to NIMS is a "real time" training venue, enhancing and adding to their skill, knowledge and abilities in the use of this critical incident management tool. 


2011 Teams Being Confirmed Now! 

Urban Shield 2010 / SWAT / FIRE / EMS Participating Teams 

Alameda County Sheriff's Office 

Berkeley Police Department 

University of California Police Department, Berkeley 

California Department of Corrections 

California Highway Patrol 

Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office 

Federal Bureau of Investigation 

Fremont Police Department 

Hayward Police Department 

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 

Livermore Police Department 

Marin County Sheriff's Office 

Newark Police Department 

Oakland Police Department 

Palo Alto Police Department 

Redwood City Police Department 

Richmond Police Department 

Sacramento Police Department 

San Francisco Police Department 

San Francisco Sheriff's Department 

San Leandro Police Department 

San Mateo County Sheriff's Office 

Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office 

Sonoma County Sheriff's Office 

Sunnyvale Police Department 

Union City Police Department 


Israeli Special Police Force 

Jordanian Special Police Force 

The Kingdom of Bahrain National Police 

Urban Shield CA 2011 



I've Had It with These Masked Thugs (News Analysis)

By Gar Smith
Thursday December 15, 2011 - 08:41:00 AM

I don't know about you, but I'm getting fed up with these self-important gangs of masked, black-clad agitators running roughshod over our city streets. They've occupied parks, shut down roadways, vandalized private property, assaulted law-abiding citizens and left entire communities afraid to venture into financially struggling downtown business districts. They've wielded spray cans and left behind eyesores that have incensed the community.

I am speaking, of course, about the police. 

It's one thing if a group of political anarchists walks into a bank and spray-paints slogans on vaults and filing cabinets. It's another thing when police march into a peaceful tent encampment brandishing batons and pepper-spray. 

Question: What's the difference between a cop and an anarchist? 

Answer: An anarchist defaces files. A cop defiles faces. 

During a single Oakland night in early November, the violent misdeeds of these anarchists-with-badges shredded Constitutional rights, amassed a growing body count of innocent victims (including several combat veterans hospitalized with crippling injuries), and turned downtown Oakland into an urban No-Buy Zone. 

Meanwhile, in Seattle, a flurry of in-your-face police assaults left an 84-year-old woman blinded by a blast of pepper-spray. At the same time, a 19-year-old woman who screamed at police, "Don't hurt me! I'm pregnant!" was singled out for another blast of pepper-spray while a police officer took aim and kicked her in the stomach. She was rushed to a hospital where she subsequently suffered a miscarriage. (This appears to be the first police-related death attributable to the nationwide crackdown on the Occupy movement — it was, tragically, a literal "miscarriage of justice.") 

In theory, the police to exist to enforce laws. Increasingly, in post-911 America, the police seem to exult in defying laws. In many cities, the police now have more power than mayors, council members and judges. In November, despite a court ruling that Zuccotti Park was to remain open to the Occupy Wall Street campers, the NYPD refused to allow the demonstrators to re-enter the public park — an act of constabulary defiance that constituted obstruction of justice. 

In a pattern that has been seen in Occupied cities across the US — from Manhattan to Santa Cruz — local police have tried to stoke social tension and civil unrest by encouraging hungry, homeless, drug-addicted and violent individuals from other parts of their cities to relocate to the nearest "Occupy" site where, the police promise, they can expect free food, shelter and medical assistance. It would appear that the goal is not to improve public safety but to raise the potential for disputes and disruption that might contribute to discrediting the Occupy camps. 

Another tactic used in cities across America is for city officials to claim that encampments must be eradicated because they constitute a "health and safety hazard." This meme is then driven home by orchestrated "photo ops" featuring city workers who are ordered to don full-body hazmat suits and gas-masks before hosing down sidewalks and lawns with blasts of high-pressure steam. 

How Police Are Empowered to Violate the Constitution 

Another example of the Police Establishment's imperial power: local police enjoy the unique ability to suspend the US Constitution – on a whim! In a court of law, a judge needs to convene a hearing and weigh both sides of an argument before rendering a verdict. In the streets, a city police sergeant has the power to void the First Amendment simply by declaring a peaceful public gathering to be an "unlawful assembly." 

In the new United Police States of America (UPSA), you don't even need to commit a crime to become eligible for arrest, detention and/or physical abuse. Citizens swept up in police raids can be charged with nothing more than "resisting arrest." In a truly free country, any citizen would be perfectly within his or her rights to resist being arrested on that charge alone. Seriously, if the police can't be bothered to at least fabricate some trifling criminal pretext for an arrest, they shouldn't be allowed to bust someone for "resisting." Not only is resistance in the name of self-defense not a crime, it is recognized as a right under international law. (Resisting police-inflicted crime should not be a crime. Consider: If you thwart a pickpocket or chase away a burglar, you aren't charged with "resisting theft.") 

The Costs of Policing Occupations 

As far as the charge that Occupy Wall Street activities cost cities money that could better be spent on social services, let's take a look at one preliminary estimate for the City of Oakland. In mid-November, Oakland officials announced the "costs spent on responding to Occupy Oakland events" topped $2.4 million. But most of this money was doled out to pay for police who were either (1) standing watch over nonviolent assemblies, (2) challenging people trying to exercise their First Amendment rights or (3) pushing, beating and tear-gassing crowds provoked by the police presence. 

According to official city expense figures quoted by the ACLU, Oakland paid $1.04 million to the OPD, $1.09 million to city personnel, $500,000 to other police agencies in the form of "mutual aid," and $540,000 to VMA Security for a "30-day contract." The cost of "policing" would appear to far outweigh the city's costs for any "clean-ups" or "property damage." 

A 'Conflict of Interest' in Conflict 

Although it is seldom mentioned, it is a fundamental fact that the police have a "conflict of interest in conflict." As long as there is money to be made in police overtime, there will be a temptation to provoke situations that require overtime. 

And it's not just the local police that benefit from staring down and/or beating down protesters. In early November, when the OPD stormed through downtown streets amid a blizzard of tear-gas, Oakland's finest were backed up by at least 15 other police agencies including the California Highway Patrol, Alameda Country Sheriffs, and officers from police departments in Hayward, Berkeley and Gilroy (located about 75 miles south of Oakland). 

The same mutual-aid situation prevailed at UC Berkeley and UC Davis (where, in both cases, local campus cops were reinforced by Berkeley City police). It's a situation straight out of the old Buffalo Springfield song: "What a field-day for the heat. A thousand people in the street." 

Troubling Signs of an Emerging National Police State 

The nearly simultaneous timing of the police sweeps that cracked down on Occupy encampments across the nation suggested a level of national coordination. The paranoia turned out to be well founded. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan (who initially told the media that she had no knowledge of the coming police crackdown against people camped out in Frank Ogawa Plaza because she had been out of town) subsequently let slip during a BBC interview that she had been one of 18 big-city mayors contacted by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI for a conference call designed to coach the mayors in how to "handle" the Occupy protests. 

"Our system of government prohibits the creation of a federalized police force, and forbids federal or militarized involvement in municipal peacekeeping," notes Guardian reporter Naomi Wolf. Wolf herself was subjected to arrest after leaving a social event with her husband and walking down a Manhattan sidewalk during an Occupy protest. (A YouTube video shows Wolf, resplendent in an evening gown, being handcuffed and hustled into detention.) 

But Wolf was lucky. According to The New York Times, during a subsequent crackdown on peaceful protesters, NYPD's finest thugs "arrested, punched, whacked, shoved to the ground … reporters and photographers" trying to document the police violence. Reporters were ordered to raise their hands, threatened with detention, roughed up and arrested after being warned that in New York, "the greatest city in the world," it was no longer legal "to take pictures on the sidewalk." 

The NYPD did such a thorough job that their beating victims included a state Supreme Court justice and a New York City councilmember. Not to be outdone, police enforcers in Berkeley managed to bludgeon Poet Laureate Robert Hass while grabbing a university professor by the hair and throwing her to the ground. 

How Police Used UC Berkeley to Practice for Attack on Occupy Oakland 

UC Berkeley Chancellor Richard Birgeneau was rightly targeted for a vote of censure by his own faculty after police viciously attacked students and teachers with truncheons on the steps of Sproul Hall – the historic Mecca of Free Speech. But Birgeneau's complicity in police violence went even deeper. 

It was bad enough that Birgeneau responded to a 2009 student occupation of Wheeler Hall by allowing outside police agencies to invade the campus armed with batons, tear-gas canisters and rifles equipped to fire "bean-bag" bullets. It was inexcusable that the "investigation" of police abuses from that event failed to prevent the latest violence. But Birgeneau's most egregious crime has not yet been widely addressed. 

According to a remarkable article by Max Blumenthal (reposted online by Berkeley's Tikkun magazine), in October, Birgeneau invited the notorious Alameda Country Sheriff's Department and other police agencies onto the UC campus to hold a "mutual response" military training exercise in preparation for the November assault on the tent camps of Occupy Oakland. 

In Blumenthal's words, the little-publicized exercise -- dubbed "Urban Shield 2011" – "turned parts of the campus… into an urban battlefield." Following November's violent crackdown on Occupy Oakland's tent city in Frank Ogawa Plaza, Police Magazine reported that "law enforcement agencies" credited the Urban Shield's campus rehearsal for the "effective teamwork" that characterized their Oakland raids. 

In the US, it is a long-accepted practice that domestic military exercises are opened to the participation of troops from a small number of select allied nations. The same pattern now appears to have been extended to domestic police exercises as well. Blumenthal reports that the "mutual aid" exercise held on the Berkeley campus included a contingent of military police from Bahrain, "which had just crushed a largely non-violent democratic uprising by opening fire on protest camps," and a delegation of Israeli Border Police called the Yamam. According to Blumenthal's report, the Yamam is "known for its extra-judicial assassinations of Palestinian militant leaders." 

What Was the Cops-per-Vandals Arrest Ratio? 

While a great deal of justified criticism was directed at the damage wrought in downtown Oakland by the "black bloc" vandals who broke windows and sprayed slogans on the walls of banks, a significant question remains unanswered: How many of the 80 citizens arrested by the police during the night and early morning hours of November 2-3 were vandals? 

It is difficult to know. The Oakland Police Department's Weekly Crime Report (WCR) for October 31-November 6 does not list any arrests for vandalism -- although it does list one arrest for arson and two arrests for "Assault on Officer -- Other." (In fairness, the WCR notes helpfully that: "both reporting of crimes and data entry can be a month or more behind.") 

In 2003, Oakland's newest Police Chief Howard Jordan was caught on tape reflecting upon the ease with which police could infiltrate public demonstrations. "It's not that hard," Jordan said. "San Francisco does it. Seattle…." In addition to using infiltrators embedded inside crowds to gather "intelligence," Jordan also boasted these infiltrators could even "make them [the protestors] do what we want them to do!" (Local video-journalists have posted clips showing OPD officers caught participating in the demonstrations out-of-uniform.) 

This, of course, raises the possibility that the police (who, remember, have a "conflict of interest in conflict") could easily place "provocateurs" in the streets to encourage — or even instigate — acts of vandalism that could justify police violence. The release of the arrest figures for the OPD's generalized strike against people in the streets of Oakland might help remove some of these fears. A good number of solid arrests for vandalism, upheld by court hearings, would suggest that the police are "doing their job." On the other hand, a paucity of busts for significant crimes might suggest the police were mainly out to bust heads, not to bust criminals. 

The Planet has made repeated calls to the OPD's media department in an attempt to glean how many of the 80 arrests that followed the peaceful day-long General Strike were for crimes of violence, arson or vandalism. As of press time, the OPD had not responded to any of these calls. 

Are the Police Doing Their Job? 

Another case that questions the role of civic accountability occurred after an argument near the Occupy camp at Frank Ogawa Plaza erupted in gunfire that left one man dead. Mayor Quan responded by demanding that Occupy Oakland had a choice: it either had to take responsibility for controlling violence in the area or, if it failed to do so, Quan would be forced to remove the tents from the Plaza. 

It was an odd bargain. Put in a different context, it would be comparable to the mayor demanding that the residents of East Oakland accept responsibility for ridding the neighborhood of violent crime. And, if they failed to do so, the mayor would see to it that they would be driven from their homes. 

Quan seemed to have forgotten that it is the role of police to deal with violent crime. Instead, the onus was shifted to the civilian community while the cops were left free to "police" public protests. An essential point about the proper role of the police in a democratic society is now being reinforced by a new crowd-chant: "Who do you protect? Who do you serve?" 

The role of the police has mutated towards what Dick Cheney famously called "the dark side" with up-armored cops becoming increasingly indistinguishable from combat troops. One of the key reasons the US was forced to pull its troops out of Iraq by the end of this year was not Barack Obama's campaign vow to "bring the troops home." Rather, it was the Iraqi government's absolute refusal to guarantee "immunity from prosecution" for US troops who committed crimes inside the country. 

In this regard, the Iraqi government showed the kind of moral courage that seems to be absent in the United States where the police are rarely called before the courts to answer for crimes committed against the civilian populations they are supposed to be safeguarding. 

Recent events in Manhattan, Oakland, Portland, and other "Occupied" cities, have further underscored the fact that, in the UPSA, police are still largely "above the law." Think about it: in what other profession can you kill someone knowing in advance that your only sanction will be a paid vacation? (In police parlance, this is known as "paid administrative leave.") 

In a world where trigger-happy responses are not reined in (or worse, are actually encouraged), we are all existential prisoners of a police state and all its potential victims. This troubling state of affairs needs to be faced, addressed and corrected. Until the police are retrained, restrained and disarmed, many struggling Americans will have a hard time accepting them as part of the "99 percent." 

The sad fact is that, under these prevailing standards of indecency, any pistol-packing beat cop who feels stressed-out by the demands of the job -- and feels like indulging in some fully paid R&R -- might be tempted to gun down a random unarmed protester just to claim some of that precious "paid administrative leave." 

Or, as Dirty Harry might put it, if he were part of today's modern police militia: "Go ahead, punk. Make my holiday." 





University Officials, Legislators Call for Clearer Police Procedures During Protests in Berkeley and Elsewhere

By Scott Morris (BCN)
Wednesday December 14, 2011 - 10:15:00 PM

Legislators, university officials and civil rights leaders at a hearing in Sacramento today seemed in agreement that campus police in protest situations needed stricter standards of conduct, and potentially a statewide crowd control policy. 

The joint hearing of the State Assembly Higher Education Committee and the State Senate Education Committee was called in response to three conflicts between campus police and protesters in November. 

The first occurred Nov. 9, when Occupy Cal protesters at the University of California at Berkeley attempted to establish an encampment on Sproul Plaza. Police used batons to push through lines of protesters who had linked arms surrounding several tents. 

The second came during the Nov. 16 California State University Board of Trustees meeting where the board approved a 9 percent tuition hike for the CSU system. Protesters clashed with police outside of the building; a door to the building was shattered and four were arrested. 

The third occurred on Nov. 18 when a group of seated students blocking police from moving were pepper sprayed at an Occupy demonstration at the University of California at Davis. The incident grabbed international headlines when video of the incident posted to YouTube went viral, and resulted in the resignation of the UC Davis police chief. 

"Something is wrong when the students and teachers struggling to have their voices heard are answered with the spray of chemical weapons and the sting of batons," said Senate Education Committee chair Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach.  

"California is in the midst of an economic crisis and our citizenry are understandably frustrated," Lowenthal said. He said that while the hearing was only intended to address the issue of police oversight, he anticipated that without addressing budget shortfalls students' frustration would only be exacerbated. 

Students invited to speak at the hearing dismissed the idea that the three incidents in November were isolated, and said that the media attention on those incidents has only alerted campus and government officials to problems with police that have gone on for years. 

One student even called into question the account of the CSU Board of Trustees meeting related by the head of CSU police Nate Johnson. 

Johnson said that the conflicts between police and protesters broke out after outside agitators incited a mob to "take the building" confronting police and trying to storm into the meeting. 

He said that police responded with pepper spray after they were pepper sprayed by protesters, and that several officers suffered injuries including one with a laceration to the temple, and another with a laceration on the arm that required stitches. 

Johnson said that the agitators were not students but members of other Occupy groups or of another protest group called ReFund California. 

Charlie Eaton, financial secretary for the United Auto Workers student workers union, which represents 12,000 teaching assistants, academic readers and tutors said his union is one of the principal members of the ReFund California coalition. 

"Dr. Nate Johnson lied in his testimony today about what happened" during the Trustees meeting, Eaton said, and objected to Johnson's characterization of Refund California as "outside agitators."  

Eaton said that the public comment session of the Trustees meeting was cut short, and police forcibly ejected students from the meeting. He said that in the ensuing confrontation, it was a police baton that broke the door of the building, not protesters. 

"We've heard diametrically opposed testimony as to what went down," Lowenthal said, and implored CSU Chancellor Charles Reed to explore in greater detail what happened during the meeting. 

Reed was unable to attend today's hearing, sending CSU Executive Vice Chancellor Ben Quillian in his place. Quillian and Johnson spoke before the student panel, and praised the performance of their officers, who have not seen the same scrutiny that police on UC campuses have after the Davis and Berkeley incidents. 

UC President Mark Yudof said that he is waiting for a thorough review of the UC Davis pepper-spraying incident, and will conclude what policy changes need to be made after the review. 

"I certainly think that we need more definition for when to use force and when to not use force," Yudof said, adding that each UC campus may need a police review board.  

"I don't want to micromanage the campuses, but I do think we need to respond to this extraordinary circumstance," Yudof said. 

Yudof said that the results of investigations into the Davis incident will be coming in over the next several months, but for now he intends to clarify the chain of command and have student and administrative observers of police activity during all police actions at protests. 

Earlier, independent police auditor Barbara Attard, who has worked in Berkeley, San Jose and San Francisco, said that only UC Berkeley has civilian oversight of its police department and that each campus should have a similar body in place. 

She and American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney Michael Risher each called for stricter guidelines for use of force during protests, and clarification of the chain of command. 

Risher said that there is legal precedent that the use of pepper spray on seated demonstrators is unconstitutional.  

"Seated protesters do not pose a risk of health or safety, they haven't committed a serious crime, and they do not pose a risk of flight, they're sitting there, that's the whole problem," Risher said. 

Attard also wondered whether other law enforcement agencies responding to mutual aid requests were properly following procedures outlined by the organization requesting aid, such as Alameda County Sheriff's deputies at UC Berkeley. 

In an ongoing ACLU suit against the City of Oakland over actions the city has taken against Occupy Oakland demonstrations, attorneys for the City of Oakland have argued that mutual aid agencies responding to Oakland's calls for assistance were not required to follow Oakland's crowd control policy, accounting for some violations. 

In that suit, ACLU attorneys argued that the use of excessive force against non-violent protesters may prompt a chilling effect, keeping protesters away from voicing policy objections through protest. Risher repeated those concerns at today's hearing. 

"Is the tone of other jurisdictions use of force affecting the response of other agencies?" Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, whose district includes UC Berkeley, suggested during opening remarks. 

Attard said that mutual aid organizations should be following the requesting agency's procedures, and said that statewide standards would assist in that effort. "A statewide standard would make a lot of sense, I think," Attard said. 

Risher and Attard each placed an emphasis on the chain of command as well, and said orders and procedures should be very clear, with little individual discretion provided to the officers. They said the final authority should rest with the chancellor of the university. 

"Particularly when we're talking about the First Amendment, discretion is very dangerous because an officer may react to what's being said rather than potential illegal activity," Risher said. 

But UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi, under fire for the pepper spraying of seated protesters on her campus, said she did not order the use of force against protesters nor did she order the use of pepper spray. 

Despite that, Katehi said that she is ultimately accountable for the actions of the UC police. 

Katehi said that typically at UC Davis, the authority for dealing with the police department was delegated to a vice chancellor, but she said she did not know whether the vice chancellor authorized the use of force against protesters either. 

She said that she comes from an engineering and education background, and did not feel comfortable directing police actions, preferring to leave such decisions at the discretion of those with a background in law enforcement. 

"At this point I would suggest you are primarily the chancellor," Assembly Higher Education Committee Chair Marty Block, D-San Diego, said. He said that if Katehi did not feel comfortable dealing with law enforcement, she should seek training until she is comfortable. 

Katehi said that UC Davis is taking more drastic interim measures than other campuses in dealing with protesters, and that if protesters are non-violent there will be no police presence at demonstrations at all. 

Instead, Katehi said she has created a group of counselors who are experts in dealing with students that will mediate between campus administration and protesters until reviews of the recent incident are completed. 

"By no means will we bring the police into situations like we had in November," Katehi said. 

Eaton and other students vowed that protests would continue until the "bankers and millionaires" that are represented on the CSU Board of Trustees and the UC Regents "pay their fair share" and the legislature determined how to fund higher education. 

Students said they have tried lobbying and have only seen their tuition increase by thousands, and were prepared to take more drastic, though non-violent, measures.

U.C. Berkeley Announces New Aid Program for Middle Class

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Wednesday December 14, 2011 - 10:11:00 PM

Reacting to rising tuition costs and the state's high cost of living, University of California at Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau announced a new program today to make his campus more affordable for middle-class families. 

Birgeneau said the initiative, called the Berkeley Middle Class Access Plan, is the first program in the nation at a public university to extend comprehensive financial aid to middle-class families. 

Speaking at a news conference at the Haas Pavilion, Birgeneau said the plan targets families whose gross income ranges from $80,000 to $140,000 annually and caps the contribution parents make toward the total annual cost of a UC Berkeley student's education at 15 percent of their earnings. The grants will range from $3,000 to $16,000 a year. 

Total cost includes tuition, fees and expenses, such as room, board and books. 

Anne De Luca, the university's acting associate vice chancellor for admission and enrollment, said about 6,000 UC Berkeley students, representing about one-fourth of the campus's 25,885 undergraduate students, fall into that income category. 

She said between 1,000 and 2,000 students in that category now get some grant aid from the university and the new program will benefit more students and provide more assistance. 

Vice Chancellor Frank Yeary said the program "substantially increases the number of students who qualify for aid and students in this category who didn't get assistance this year should fill out forms to get assistance for the next academic year," which begins in the fall. 

Birgeneau said the university has always had a strong commitment to low-income families, which are defined as those who make less than $80,000 a year. He said 40 percent of UC Berkeley's students fall into that category and pay no tuition at all. 

But he said the university is seeing early signs that middle-income families who cannot access existing assistance programs are straining to meet college costs. 

A key factor is that tuition rates have doubled in the last six years and the salaries of middle-class families haven't kept pace, Birgeneau said. The current cost for a California resident who attends the university is $32,634, which includes $12,834 in tuition and fees. 

The state's ongoing budget crisis, which has resulted in less spending on higher education, has prompted the university to try to do more to help middle-income families, Birgeneau said. 

He said, "We need to do more to help the middle class. Our university has to be accessible to all Californians." 

Financial aid awarded through the new program will be for the 2012-13 school year, which begins in August, and is for domestic undergraduate students, including incoming freshmen.  

Campus budget officials estimate that the program will cost between $10 million and $12 million a year. 

They said they won't use state funds to pay for the program but instead will redirect expanded financial aid resources, philanthropy and revenue from the increased number of out-of-state students at the university. 

De Luca said the university is announcing the new program now because families usually discuss student finances during the winter break and the financial aid application process begins in early January. The forms are due in March. 

According to university officials, the Public Policy Institute of California reports that about half of all families in the state are in the middle-income bracket. 

But Birgeneau said another survey found that 80 percent of Californians believe that they are in the middle class, a finding that he says supports the need for the new program.

Visit Telegraph for Holiday Gifts

By Steven Finacom
Saturday December 17, 2011 - 10:37:00 AM

Sunny skies and sparkling gifts are available this weekend and next at the Telegraph Avenue Holiday Fair. The 28th annual edition of the arts and crafts event runs from 11 am to 6 pm Saturday and Sunday, and next Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, December 22 through 24th

More than two hundred vendors are signed up. Some are Telegraph regulars, but others only appear here for the holidays. 

You can find thousands of pieces of handmade jewelry, distinctive only-in-Berkeley clothing (how about a T-shirt with the Periodic Table information for Berkelium on it?), creative ceramics, one-of-a-kind house decorative items, and handmade soap that looks good enough to eat.  

The street fair runs from Dwight to Bancroft on Telegraph Avenue, with Channing, Durant, and Bancroft open as cross streets. Food vendor booths are on Haste Street, and there are also scores of restaurants, coffee shops, and other eateries nearby waiting for your business, along with Telegraph’s array of permanent stores, including Berkeley’s biggest concentration of bookstores. 

There’s ample nearby City-run parking in the Sather Gate Garage (approach on Channing or Durant, west of Telegraph) and with finals coming to an end and many UC staff and faculty going on vacation next week, UC lots are increasingly available for day shoppers. 

The website is at: http://www.telegraphfair.com/ 

Here’s an array of images from the first day of the Fair.



Occu-Puncture in Berkeley: Time to Occupy Everywhere

By Becky O'Malley
Friday December 16, 2011 - 01:59:00 PM

It’s becoming clear to most of us that the helium is slowly seeping out of the Occupy Berkeley balloon, which rose with great enthusiasm not that long ago. The movement has had enormous results, succeeding completely in the obvious goal of calling attention to the huge disparities between the super-rich and everyone else which are growing throughout the world. Now, however, it’s time to—sorry to use an overused slogan—move on to something else.

Berkeley Councilmember Jesse Arreguin has issued a lucid and intelligent summary of where Occupy Berkeley has been, along with an analyis of how the city of Berkeley should manage the settlement in Martin Luther King Civic Center Park in the near future. His document could serve as a model for other places which still have lingering Occupy encampments, but it probably won’t.

A quick crib sheet, for those who can’t be bothered to read three or four pages of print: As long as campers don’t break any other laws, the city will treat camping out as a form of protected speech, but that doesn’t mean campers can let their dogs run wild. (Arreguin’s use of the police-speak tag “zero tolerance” seems to have confused some commenters: it’s zero tolerance for repeat infractions of the stated rules, not zero tolerance for behavior explicitly defined as tolerable, i.e. camping.)

But he, correctly, doesn’t get into the question of whether camping out per se is still the best form of political expression. To understand that, supporters need to unwind the history of the Occupy actions to see what the next step should be. 

First, “Occupy Wall Street” was a brilliant bit of symbolic speech. It focused the attention of those who are hard to reach on what’s really going wrong with the world economy: the actions of the powerful members of the financial establishment who work in Wall Street and similar locales, inhabiting the slippery slope between mismanagement and outright chicanery. For good reason, OWS worked. And the “Wall Street” name was a critical element of the package. 

As soon as the movement started to spread, it became more diffuse, losing focus altogether at the blurry edges. As much as Occupy Oakland succeeded as a form of feel-good community-building, the location of the camp had not much to do with the locus of the problem. Okay, Ogawa Plaza (or its name-du-jour) is surrounded by looming corporate towers, but the corporations for which they were built have pretty much left the buildings. The city of Oakland is more sinned against than sinning, though when things got rough civic leaders paid much too much attention to the complaints of the city’s corporate-dominated Chamber of Commerce. 

Occupy Berkeley is even less relevant at this point The city’s councilmembers fell all over themselves to endorse the Occupy movement in early November, as Arreguin notes. There’s not much more they can do to alter the 99% wealth disparity, and what they can do is not obviously connected to the campers. 

It is true that great swaths of downtown Berkeley housing are now controlled by real estate corporations dominated by 1%ers like David Teece and Sam Zell. It’s also true that Berkeley’s Measure R, now being implemented in such a way as to extend the control of such corporations, was backed by a majority of the Berkeley City Council, with Arreguin one of its few opponents. But it’s doubtful—extremely doubtful—that current campers or their supporters are aware of this linkage, or that they’re formulating demands to end it. 

Many of the participants I’ve talked to in Oakland and Berkeley are conscious of a general feeling of annoyance tending toward outrage at the pickle we’re in, but they don’t have any clear analysis of what can be done about what they don’t like, or who could do it. This is not intended as a criticism, but it’s time for discussion of next steps and perhaps for some education of the enthusiasts. 

Camping out as a form of protest has a long tradition in the United States: Coxey’s Army, Hoovervilles, Resurrection City and recently in Berkeley, Arnieville. As a way of getting the public’s attention, settlements are effective, but they don’t solve the problems they highlight. 

And the tendency of camping protests to degenerate over time can’t be ignored. Resurrection City was the outgrowth of Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign, spearheaded by a young Jesse Jackson after King was assassinated. It started out with the best of intentions, but the stories I heard at the time, from friends who were there, were about incursions by “crazies”, people on the fringes of society looking for community but unable to sustain it. That’s what seems to be happening right now in the Occupy Berkeley camp. 

We can hope that the Occupy Berkeley balloon deflates in a dignified manner, if Arreguin’s recommendations are followed by the city manager and the police chief. It appears that among the campers there are a fair number of martyr-wanna-bes, people eager to go down in flames like Joan of Arc—but it should be the city’s goal not to hand them the matches. 

So what else is there to do now? 

Despite the large numbers of sincere people who took part, despite the tempting historic associations with the big general strike in the thirties, the action at the Port of Oakland alienated many working people. All that energy could better be directed against locations that are more closely associated with the 1%, in particular Banks, Banks, Banks, now on many street corners near you. Or Realtors, even more of those around, and many not totally candid in the way they pitched home purchases to people who couldn’t afford them. Most of these are not part of the 1%, but they’re enablers of the Funny Finance sector. 

The discussion/action groups (“Beer Committees”) now getting started among Occupy Berkeley supporters are a good idea. They make more sense than putting bodies on the line just to defend the right to camp anywhere you please. The groups could eventually come up with better alternatives, and at least those who take part will learn something. 

Another good idea, even simpler, comes from my friend Muriel, whose perspective has been enhanced since she’s moved from Berkeley to Richmond,VA, home of the national headquarters of the Daughters of the Confederacy. She suggests that everyone in the country who’s pissed off because 1% (actually .01%) of the population is amassing the lion’s share of the world’s wealth should simply stand outside for a half hour, wherever they are, at a designated time on a designated day. 

Even Tea Partiers, misguided though many of us might think them to be, should be allowed to participate. Many of them are broke too, even though they don’t understand why. 

If it’s dark, we might hold candles or flashlights. Signs would be okay. 

In fact, I’m going to be so bold as to suggest the day: the Martin Luther King, Jr., national holiday, the third Monday in January, this year January 16. And even the time: 5:15 Pacific Standard Time, which moves eastward to be 8:15 EST at the latest. It will be dark enough for candles, not too late anywhere to be unsafe. 

That’s it. Nothing more is needed organizationally for this clear reminder of what Occupy Wall Street has taught us—just tell your friends, and do it yourself. 

Occupy Everywhere on MLK Day. Pass it on. 

The Editor's Back Fence

Making a Mess Even Messier: Evicting Occupy Berkeley

By Becky O'Malley
Wednesday December 21, 2011 - 02:12:00 PM

Merry Xmas, Baby, from Aunt and Uncle Scrooge in Berkeley! If we believe the flyer distributed last night at the Occupy Berkeley encampment by Berkeley police, tonight’s the night for the big bust.

Let’s stipulate, for starters, that the site’s turned into an awful mess. No one I talk to would deny that anymore, even the most loyal supporters of the occupy concept. Something should certainly be done about it, and Councilmember Jesse Arreguin’s suggestions would be a good place to start.

But...how stupid is it that the city’s hired guns, the city manager and the police chief, don’t seem to have made the most desultory attempt to get buy-in from Berkeley citizens or the elected officials who have spent the most time working with the protesters?

Maybe someone, somewhere, in Berkeley’s city bureaucracy (oops, almost wrote autocracy) should have a chat with Robert Birgenau or Jean Quan before giving the police carte blanche to go full steam ahead.

There are many opportunities for things to go wrong tonight. Even though we’ve all got better things to do, it might be a good idea for anyone who is concerned with civic peace and civil liberties to observe whatever proceedings materialize at 10.

Hallelujah, Corporations

Thursday December 15, 2011 - 09:55:00 PM

Thanks to Marty Schiffenbauer for passing along this jolly seasonal ditty, Hallelujah Corporations! A musical tribute to corporate excess:  



Bounce: Good Vanities

By Joseph Young
Wednesday December 21, 2011 - 05:34:00 PM


Joseph Young


Odd Bodkins: Santa

By Dan O'Neill
Wednesday December 21, 2011 - 05:28:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Odd Bodkins: PoutingKitten

By Dan O'Neill
Friday December 16, 2011 - 12:05:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Public Comment

New: Occupy Berkeley: Where It is Now

By Thomas Lord
Wednesday December 21, 2011 - 12:27:00 PM

Here is part of what I want to say:

I don't regard the camp as having any remaining political legitimacy. It still has political significance, but not legitimacy.

Here is what I mean: 

The camp is *significant* because there are some people there with some real problems. 

The camp is significant because many of those real problems reflect problems of the larger society. The cycle of poverty, drug abuse, violence, and other crime effects us all. 

The camp did not create those problems. 

The camp can not cure those problems. 

But the camp is significant because it brought all those problems right into the center of town, right in the middle of town. Right in everyone's way. 

The camp brought those problems of poverty, violence and drugs right in the way of children and teenagers, of vets, and of families. The camp brought those problems right in the way of farmers and city council members, bankers and baristas. 

The camp is politically significant because the community is forced to end it -- while trying to wrestle as justly as possible with the ongoing problems of poverty, drug abuse, violence, and other crimes. 

But "significant" doesn't mean "legitimate". 

The camp lacks political legitimacy. 

What I mean by that is that camp offers no solution to the problems it has created. The camp offers no insight into how to solve those problems. Some elements of the camp seem to positively wallow and revel in these problems. 

The camp has no legitimacy because it doesn't ask the community for help -- it demands food and tells donors to fuck off. 

The camp has no legitimacy because it tells the police to fuck off but internally runs on might makes right. 

The camp has no legitimacy because it claims to be non-violent yet it covers up and therefore rewards violence in its own ranks. 

The camp claims to be against greed but then squanders its own precious resources on the selfish desires of a few. 

One must always say, up front, and loudly: I do not speak for Occupy. 

With that disclaimer, I will say this: 

That camp ain't Occupy. 

Later: what I think is Occupy. Hint: it might be you.

New: Bill Bahou and the Roxie Deli Need Your Help

By Donna Mickelson
Tuesday December 20, 2011 - 09:52:00 PM

As far as I can tell Bill Bahou, popular longtime owner of the neighborhood Roxie Deli in South Berkeley, is in the cross-hairs of both the Walgreens Corporation and—thanks to Walgreens' highly paid lawyers—Berkeley City bureaucracy. 

As part of a "battle of the beer and wine licenses" (ironically temporarily 'on hold' as this is written) Walgreens' lawyers found a way to harass and financially damage the "mayor of Ashby and Shattuck": They went to the City with a complaint that he had installed tables for in-store service and that he opens too early in the morning (5:30 a.m.), without benefit of a special permit. And the City took the bait. 

The tab for a "special permit"? $5,000! Is he "guilty"? Technically, perhaps. Would this have come up if Walgreens hadn't targeted Bahou? My guess is no. Is this a major hit for this small business? Definitely! $5,000 would be chump change for Walgreens, but between the fine and the loss of a small but significant chunk of his business, this could have a big impact on Bill. 

As of now, the beer and wine license issue is moot, since Walgreens has withdrawn their application for the time being. But Bill still faces bureaucratic hurdles and a $5000 fee for conditions that have existed for years at the Roxie with never a murmur of complaint or any problems for the neighborhood. (When told he needed a permit, he had gone to the City this year and paid $180 over the counter, but his permit was later withdrawn after someone higher up decided he needed the "special" $5000 type.) 

HOW TO HELP: One way is to go by the Roxie before January 9th and sign the petition to the City of Berkeley. It will likely be before the Council on January 31st, and the 9th is the deadline for submissions. 

Another is to call or email Council members, asking that the fee be waived on grounds of of both hardship and problems with the process. We think that if there's a strong show of support from local residents, the City Council will grant the waiver. 

PLEASE NOTE that this is the Roxie at Ashby and Shattuck, a separate business from the one on Dwight Way west of Telegraph..

New: Vandals Paste Gingrich Quote on Berkeley Rabbi's Home

By Rabbi Michael Lerner
Tuesday December 20, 2011 - 09:38:00 PM

Editor's Note: The Planet received this letter tonight (the first night of Chanukah) from Rabbi Lerner:

Challenged by interviewer Michael Krasny on the NPR affiliate KQED's Forum show Tuesday morning Dec. 20, 2011, to defend one part of Embracing Israel/Palestine (my claim that the path to peace requires a transformation of consciousness, and that Israel and Palestine not only could live together in peace but that there is no peace and justice for Israel without peace and justice for Palestine, so the best way to be both pro-Israel is to be pro-Palestine, and the best way to be pro-Palestine is to also be pro-Israel) I argued that the majority of both Israelis and Palestinians actually want peace but cannot believe that the other side wants it too. It is this depressive paranoid certainty that "the other" wants to destroy us that has been a central part of what keeps Israeli and Palestinians from finding the path to their common interests, just as it is a similar paranoid and pathogenic fantasy that keeps the US population willing to finance an inflated military which keeps in an ending state of hyper-alertness and makes it a ready tool for imperial ambitions of the wealthy. I also presented my psychological assessment of both sides and my view that consciousness transformation, though difficult, is both possible and absolutely necessary, both in Israel/Palestine and in the U.S.
The answer from the Jewish Right came tonight in the 4th attack on my house, this time on the first night of Chanukah (tonight, Dec. 20th). This one was relatively mild—two black-hooded men pasted signs on the outside of my house and garage saying "Palestine is an Arab fantasy." They were taking their clue from Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich who has tried to out-do his Republican opponents in the primaries by, among other things, showing that he can be even more extreme on Israel than anyone else. Thus the notion that Palestine is an "invented nation." 

It seems obvious to me that the attack, while responding to the NPR interview with me this morning, is part of the same attempt to terrorize me and my family as the past three assaults. As the police made clear to us the last time, the goal is not to destroy property as much as to remind us that they know where we live, and that we are not safe. Needless to say, in a world where Israeli right-wingers this past week burned a mosque and assaulted an IDF (Israeli army) post for allegedly being too pro-Arab, there is no way to be sure that all these warning shots at me are only meant to scare and do not suggest that worse may be coming if my book gets more attention. But of course I will not be intimidated, and we will continue to look for venues to speak about the book and to reach out to media to challenge the way they tend to present all Jews as standing behind Netanyahu, or at least to only quote those who do. And the best way you can help is to take my new book and talk about it to friends, neighbors, and create a study group in your neighborhood, your college or university, your church or synagogue, in which you read it carefully (and critically—because we at Tikkun don't seek "followers" but rather "comrades" to help us in the task of building a new consciousness, and that requires having the sophistication that only comes when one listens and reads critically and not as though I was "a guru" to be followed, but merely a teacher whose teachings need to be thought about seriously). [And once again, I forgive these psychological terrorists—I believe that they must be driven by great fear for our people and great inner pain, and I pray that they may recover from all the anger that leads them to project onto me the hatred that is eating away at their souls.] 

I thought, however, that you might be interested in reading the article by MJ Rosenberg whose columns we publish on our website www.tikkun.org. He takes on Newt Gingrich's perspcective and answers those who think that Palestine is just an Arab fantasy. 

One Invented Nation Or Two 

By MJ Rosenberg 

It is hard to believe that anyone who defends Israel's legitimacy as a state would buy into former Speaker Newt Gingrich's argument that Palestine is an "invented nation." 

The singular triumph of the Zionist movement is that it invented a state and a people — Israel and the Israelis — from scratch. The first Hebrew-speaking child in 1900 years, Ittamar Ben-Avi, was not born until 1882. His father, the brilliant linguist Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, created a modern language for him to speak by improvising from the language of the Bible. 

The founder of the Israeli state was Theodor Herzl (1860-1904), an assimilated Viennese writer who was convinced by the Dreyfus trial in France and the horrendous right-wing anti-Semitism that resulted from it that Jews had to get out of Europe. 

In 1897, he wrote the book that would essentially inaugurate the Zionist movement. It was called Der Judenstaat (meaning "the Jews' state" or "the Jewish State"), which was his proposal for moving the Jews out of Europe and into their own country. 

He didn't specify where the Jewish homeland should be. He was more concerned about quickly obtaining territory anywhere for Jews to seek refuge. 

Later he decided that Palestine made the most sense because that was where the Jewish people both began and exercised self-determination in ancient times and where there already was a small minority of Jews. But he also spoke of finding a place in Africa or the Americas if Palestine was unavailable. 

The reaction to Herzl's idea was primarily that he was a bit crazy. Jews committed to assimilation insisted that Jews were not a nation but a religious faith. Their nationalities were French, German, Polish, Iraqi, or American — not some imaginary Jewish nationality that had not existed for 1900 years. 

As late as 1943, during the worst days of the Holocaust, the American Jewish Committee — which adhered to the assimilationist view — resigned from the body created by American Jews to respond to the Nazi catastrophe over its "demand for the eventual establishment of a Jewish Commonwealth in Palestine." 

Seventy-plus years later, it is impossible to argue that the Israeli nation is not as authentic and worthy of recognition as any in the world (more authentic than some, in fact). 

The Hebrew language is spoken by millions of Jews and Palestinians. The Israeli culture is unique, bearing little resemblance to any other in the world. In fact, diaspora Jews have as little in common with Israelis as African-Americans have with Africans. 

Israelis are not just Jews who happen to live in Palestine, even though the concept of Israel-ness started just over a hundred years ago as nothing but an idea. They are Israelis, entitled to self-determination, peace and security in their own land. 

And the Palestinians are every bit as much a nation. If the ultimate definition of authentic nationhood is continuous residence in a land for thousands of years, the Palestinian claim to nationhood is ironclad. They never left Palestine (except for those who either emigrated or became refugees after the establishment of Israel). 

Those who deny that Palestinians have a nation base their case on two arguments, both of which are logically incoherent. The first is that Palestinians never exercised self-determination in Palestine; they were always governed by others from ancient times to the present day. 

The answer to this is: So what? 

Most nations in the world lacked self-determination for long periods of their history. The Polish nation existed between 1790 and 1918 even though the state was erased from the map — divided between Russia and Austro-Hungary. It achieved independence in 1918 only to again lose it to the Nazis and then the Soviets from 1939 until 1989. Would anyone today argue that the Polish nation was invented? 

The idea of it is ridiculous, especially when offered by Israelis or Americans (or Canadians, New Zealanders, Australians, etc.), whose national existence would have been unimaginable a few centuries ago. 

The second argument is that Palestinians never thought of themselves as Palestinians until Jews started moving into their territory, that Palestinian nationalism is a response to Zionism. 

Again, so what? 

When European Jews docked in Jaffa, Palestine in the early immigration waves of the late 19th century, there were Arabs waiting at the port. When the Jews purchased land, it was Arabs who had to move out. 

And if those Arabs didn't call themselves Palestinians until the Zionist movement began, neither did the Jews call themselves Israelis. Until 1948, they were just Jews. But each of the two peoples knew who they were and who the other was. 

The bottom line is that today the Palestinian nation is as authentic as the Israeli nation, and vice versa. Those who think either is going away are blinded by hatred. 

To put it simply, the first part of the phrase self-determination is the word self. Both nations have the absolute right to define themselves as two nations which, hopefully, will evolve into two states. The alternative is national catastrophe not for one nation, but for two. 

Why would Newt Gingrich care about that? 

(Foreign Policy Matters)

Oil Company Advertisements and the Propagation of Malaise

By Jack Bragen
Tuesday December 20, 2011 - 07:28:00 AM

In recent advertisements in their attempt to gain control of people’s opinions, the oil companies have reached a new level of brazenness. They have now come out and said, in a straightforward manner, that we ought to be in favor of more oil exploration and of the use of “oil sands” in Canada, which is actually a nicer way of saying “oil shale.” It would be a strip-mining of large areas of wilderness to get the oil contained in the rock. They would like to see the public approve of more offshore drilling. 

Their ads claim that they are on the forefront of solar and of other alternate forms of energy. This is like saying that the coyotes are on the forefront of the egg laying chickens nearby. 

When the oil companies do research of alternate, advanced forms of energy, it is only for the purpose of obtaining a patent that will block anyone in the future from using that technology. The oil companies oppose alternate forms of energy because they are a threat to their ability to continue profiting from oil. 

For example, this hasn’t happened, but let’s say someone invents a device that will conveniently and safely extract atomic energy from hydrogen fusion. This advancement will provide limitless, clean energy with minimal repercussions to the environment. Such an invention would spell the end of most other forms of energy. Furthermore, the supply of hydrogen can’t be regulated, controlled or sold for profit. This is because hydrogen can be easily extracted from water. Your middle school science teacher probably demonstrated it for you. Such an invention would spell the end of 99 percent of the profit generating activity of the oil and energy companies. 

In reality, the oil and energy companies oppose solar power, because you can not profit from something available to almost everyone, the sun. If you can climb a ladder, you should be able to set up your own solar panel on the roof. It won’t entirely eliminate your need for electricity or motor fuel, but it will put a dent in it. If people invested in solar across the US, we could eliminate the need to invade, or buy oil from, countries in the Middle East. 

The oil and energy companies want you to go into a mode of apathy and surrender. They do this by promoting the idea that you are helpless to do anything about the energy situation in the US, and it is hopeless to try anything. These emotions will prevent you from getting on that ladder and installing solar panels on your rooftop. One of their chief weapons that they use is to confuse your thought processes by bringing up alternate forms and claiming “We’re already working on it.” In fact, they are already working against it, and they need you to vote for the candidate who espouses more offshore drilling. 

When President Obama brings up “clean coal,” (a term which is an oxymoron intended to deceive people) it indicates that to an extent he is on the payroll of the energy giants. This might explain the three year delay in pulling the last of our troops from Iraq. US citizens need to move ahead despite the cold feet of Congress and the President. If there were another grassroots movement that resembled the “occupy” movement, only directed at energy independence, it might end the chokehold that big corporate energy has on all of us. It could all start with the good example of one concerned citizen.

Judging the Monterey Market: Another Point of View

By Ruchama Burrell
Tuesday December 20, 2011 - 09:35:00 PM

Mr. Rosenberg's remarks about the dispute between Monterey Market and its neighboring businesses ignores the history of laws against unfair competition and "loss leaders," that have been in place in California since 1933. It is illegal to sell items at below cost (including overhead and business expenses) in order to drive a competitor out of business. 

Unfortunately, the desire to drive someone out of business must be a "conscious purpose." Monterey Market may be selling items at below its cost in order to bring in more customers or to drive is competitors out of business. The former is legitimate and the latter illegal. No lawsuit is likely to be filed in order to find out the Market's intent. It is extremely difficult to prove "conscious intent." 

Even without such an intent, the resulting closing of nearby businesses is a serious issue. Selling below cost is commonly referred to as "predatory pricing." This gives a short term advantage to the buyer, but does long term harm to the economy and ultimately the customer, because selling below cost is unsustainable in the long run. Once the competitor is out of business, the predator can charge what it pleases. 

I don't know the facts, so I don't presume to judge whether Monterey Market's pricing is predatory; but I don't buy into the idea that any practice that lowers prices to consumers is a good thing. Business prosper better when they are located near other similar thriving businesses, even if they compete. That's why shopping centers were created. Empty store fronts are bad for business, and ultimately bad for the economy, including customers. 

Here's a link that gives a brief rundown on the issue of predatory pricing. 

Judging the Monterey Market

By Jordan Rosenberg
Tuesday December 20, 2011 - 07:42:00 AM

Monterey Market, primarily but not only a produce market, has been a Berkeley institution for decades. The produce is fresh, the varieties endless, the prices low. 

Nearby shops are complaining that Monterey has started selling "cheese, tea, lunchmeats, chocolate, wine, pies/cakes, and flowers - all at PREDATORY PRICING". The nearby shops are hurting, fear they may go out of business. They have begun a petition drive to protest these "unfair, competitive tactics". 

The nerve of Monterey! Selling better products at lower prices! It's UnAmerican! or UnBerkeleyian. 

This being Berkeley one may expect protests at the planning/zoning committee and a lawsuit. 

Monterey's competitors should ask themselves why their customers need them when those customers can buy better and cheaper at Monterey. Before going out of business I would ask myself if there might be something, goods or services, that I can supply and that Monterey cannot. Business prospers when customers do.

(More) Whistling in the Dark

By John Vinopal
Thursday December 15, 2011 - 10:44:00 AM

"The Berkeley Almanac" (1976) by Alfred Meyer provides additional data points to David Wilson's "Whistling in the Dark". Page 17 provides a percentage-wise breakdown of Berkeley's bicentennial year's expenses. Although there is no total budget provided, some multiplication suggests it may have been around $8.6m. (If 8.8% Community Agencies was $758k, see Pg 19.) 

Distribution of All 1976-1977 Revenue, By Percentage: 

14.9%: Employee Fringe & Fixed Expenses
11.6%: Capital Improvement
10.3%: Police
9.2%: Public Works
9.0%: Recreation, Parks & Community Services
8.8%: Community Agencies
8.7%: Support Departments
7.1%: Fire
6.8%: Public Health
4.5%: Housing
3.4%: Unallocated
3.3%: Library
2.4% Transportation

Support Departments is further broken down to: 

2.5% City Manager
2.3% Finance
0.8% Comprehensive Planning
0.8% Personnel 0.7% Legal
0.7% City Clerk
0.6% Auditor
0.4% Mayor and Council

Wine License Causes conflicted Loyalties in South Berkeley

By Jane Stillwater
Thursday December 15, 2011 - 10:40:00 AM

I have become very bothered, concerned and, well, torn in two directions lately because of the fact that my friendly neighborhood Walgreens store right across the street from me on Oregon and Adeline here in South Berkeley has apparently declared war on Bill Bahou, the kind-hearted owner of Roxie Deli, located at the corner of Shattuck and Ashby. 

Walgreens, apparently, is desperately trying to gain possession of the beer & wine license that is currently owned by Roxie Deli -- and this battle over the license is starting to get ugly. 

To me, this struggle is a great shame and complete disaster because I love the Roxie Deli and realize that its beer & wine license makes all the difference in the world to its owner who is running a good local business and is struggling to make ends meet. In addition, Bahou is a genuine good guy who has been known to do many kind deeds in the community in addition to serving really good food. Plus Bahou is also a long-time supporter of the fabulous Berkeley Daily Planet! 

But on the other hand, I also like the ease and convenience of having a Walgreens store situated right across the street from me, and would love to have Walgreens have a beer & wine license too -- but not at the expense of snatching it out of the hands of the nice guy who owns the Roxie.  

But first, before you also become all bothered, concerned and torn as well, here's a bit of background information on this latest range war in South Berkeley: Apparently our local Walgreens can't have a beer & wine license all their own because of some City of Berkeley ordinance that doesn't allow anyone with a prior license infraction to obtain a new one. And Walgreens does have an old prior -- but it is for an infraction committed by a Walgreens store in Southern California, not here. And now the Berkeley Walgreens can't get a license under Berkeley laws because of what had happened way down in SoCal. And so our local Walgreens has turned its attention toward the poor sweet innocent Roxie Deli. 

However, this issue does appear to be solvable -- with major legal warfare being successfully avoided. 

But in order to resolve this conflict amicably, we who are the neighbors of both stores and who are the ones who would most benefit from an amiable solution that would make both Walgreens and Roxie happy -- we ourselves need to ask the City of Berkeley to either change its laws in this matter so that what happens in SoCal stays in SoCal, or to amend said laws in order to let this new deal go through. 

So in order to avoid conflict between two of my most favorite stores in South Berkeley (besides, of course, the Berkeley Bowl), please call, e-mail or write to your Berkeley city council representative today and BEG him or her to change or rescind this law -- as it applies to Walgreen and Roxie. 

Then war will be averted and South Berkeley will at peace once again. Whew!


DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: Gingrich, The Times & Doomsday

By Conn Hallinan
Tuesday December 13, 2011 - 08:23:00 AM

In a recent New York Times article the newspaper’s senior science writer, William J. Broad, takes a dig at Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s obsession with the possibility of a “nightmarish of doomsday scenarios: a nuclear blast high above the United States that would instantly throw the United States in a dark age.”

The phenomenon that Gingrich refers to is an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), one side effect of a nuclear explosion. EMPs can destroy or disrupt virtually anything electrical, from computers to power grids. As the Times points out, Gingrich has used this potential threat to advocate bombing Iran and North Korea. “I favor taking out the Iranian and North Korean missiles on their sites,” he told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in 2009. Gingrich has also talked up the EMP “threat” on the campaign trail.

Broad dismisses EMPs as “a poorly understood phenomenon of the nuclear age” and quotes Missile Defense Agency spokesman Richard Lehner poo-pooing the damage from an EMP attack as “pretty theoretical.”

While the Times is correct in dismissing any Iranian or North Korean threat—neither country has missiles capable of reaching the U.S., Iran doesn’t have nuclear weapons, and both have never demonstrated a desire to commit national suicide—what Broad does not mention is that the effects of EMP are hardly “poorly understood”: the U.S. has an “E-bomb” in its arsenal. 

More than that, the Pentagon considered using it during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Asked directly if the U.S. was considering using an EMP weapon, then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld answered, “You never know.” 

The U.S. has known about the effects of EMPs since 1958, when a series of nuclear tests in the Pacific knocked out streetlights in Hawaii and radio reception in Australia for 18 hours. In large enough doses, EMPs can fry every electrical circuit in range, many of them permanently. One would essentially go from the 21st century to the 19th century in a few nanoseconds. 

The U.S. began researching how to use EMPs as weapons shortly after the Pacific tests, and, while the details are classified, the Livermore and Los Alamos national labs have apparently come up with a working version of an “E-bomb.” 

The principle is simple enough: a tube filled with explosives, wrapped with copper wire, encased in a metal shell. The copper wire is used to create a powerful magnetic field and when the explosives are fired, they compress the magnetic field to produce a powerful burst of electromagnetic energy called the “Compton effect.” 

A large enough device can generate up to two billion watts, about what Hoover Dam turns out in a day. 

The weapon is attached to a cruise missile. Any piloted craft would run the risk of frying its own electronics, because EMP waves can bounce off objects, like the ground, and be reflected back at the attack craft. 

Britain’s Matra Bae Dynamics has produced an artillery shell that generates an EMP wave and is capable of knocking out electrical systems for several square miles. 

The idea behind the “E-bomb” is that it would blind and disable any military force, but not inflict casualties (except if you are wearing a pacemaker or have electrical implants). “The electromagnetic pulse generator is emerging as one of the strongest contenders…to find effective weapons to defeat an enemy without causing loss of life,” writes David Fulghum, an EMP expert. 

But EMP waves would also paralyze ambulances, hospitals, power plants and water pumping systems, a specific violation of the Geneva Conventions. Article 54, for instance, explicitly forbids rendering “useless” any “drinking water installations.” 

There are ways to shield devices from EMPs, but they are expensive. So-called Faraday Cages intercept EMPs and redirect them into the ground, much like lightening rod. 

While the exact details of the U.S. “E-bomb” are classified, its existence is hardly a secret. Nor is the U.S. the only nation currently researching the uses of EMPs. Any country with a nuclear weapon—Great Britain, France, Russia, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea—is undoubtedly aware of its capabilities. 

The fact that the effects of EMPs are well known, and that the U.S.—and apparently a number of other nations—has weaponized the phenomena, make it all the more curious that the Times treated the issue so lightly and failed to mention the U.S. program. Indeed, Broad says, “many scientists consider it yesteryear’s concern.” 

That would certainly come as a surprise to the Livermore and Los Alamos National labs and the U.S. Air Force’s Research Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force base in New Mexico. There is also a test lab in Virginia. 

Any such weapon should certainly be illegal under the strictures of the Geneva Conventions. Like poison gas, EMPs do not distinguish between military and civilian and, as such, are illegal under Article 48 requiring that warring parties “shall at all times distinguish between civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives and accordingly shall direct their operation only against military objectives.” 

Gingrich’s apocalyptic views on EMPs are longstanding, but he also uses them as raw meat for the “bomb Teheran and Pyongyang” crowd, a cynical election ploy from one of the more cynical politicians to grace the current U.S. stage. 

But the “E-bomb” is real, and the general rule is, if you give the military a new toy, eventually they will want to test it in the real world. That world is filled with civilians— so-called “collaterals”— who will end up absorbing the brunt of this weapon. 

Isn’t that worth reporting? 

Conn Hallinan can be read at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com and middleempireseries.wordpress.com

THE PUBLIC EYE:2011: The Year Corporations Attacked Democracy

By Bob Burnett
Saturday December 17, 2011 - 10:56:00 AM

For eighty years, Americans have feared robots, worrying they might one day rule the world. In 2011 we realized our real enemies are not robots, but multinational corporations, who have declared war on democracy. 

In 1936 evil robots made their first film appearance in Flash Gordon. Since then they’ve haunted popular culture, because robots can be designed to perform human functions yet have no conscience – they are programmed to achieve their objectives no matter the consequences. This nightmare vision reached an apogee in the 1999 film the Matrix. The movie depicts a world where robots, the “sentinels,” run everything and humans have become an energy source. Robots maintain control by enveloping Americans in a simulated reality – we have no idea what’s happening to us. 

In 2011 multinational corporations ran most of the US but the average American didn’t realize this because corporations controlled our reality. 

Although the concept of a “corporation” is 400 years old, the modern US corporation evolved from an 1886 Supreme Court decision. Until the end of World War II most Americans did not work for corporations. Now the typical wage earner works in a corporate setting. 

Over the past 50 years, corporate power grew. In his 1961 farewell address, President Eisenhower warned, “we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence… by the military-industrial complex.” Ike should have alerted Americans to the threat of corporations, in general. 

The sixties and seventies saw a new era of global trade and the advent of multinational corporations. In 1981 Ronald Reagan became President and “Reaganomics” became the dominant ideology. At the forefront of this philosophy were three malignant notions: helping the rich get richer would inevitably help everyone else, “a rising tide lifts all boats;” markets were inherently self correcting and there was no need for government regulation; and the US did not need an economic strategy because of the “free” market. The Reagan administration viewed unfettered corporations as a vital component of a free market and deliberately unleashed a pernicious threat to democracy. 

Once Reagan came to power the number of Washington lobbyists grew from a few hundred to an estimated 40,000 – in 2009 Federal lobbyists expended $3.5 billion. Multinational corporations sponsor most lobbyists either directly or indirectly through organizations such as the United States Chamber of Commerce. 

Under Reagan, the Justice Department softened enforcement of the Sherman Antitrust Act and other statutes limiting the growth of corporations, in general, and monopolies in specific. As a consequence, five giant corporations now control most of the US media industry – and manipulate the reality of average citizens. 

Despite these changes, until recently most Americans were unaware of the threat posed by multinational corporations – unless their job had been shipped overseas or their cable provider dropped their favorite TV channel. Then three things combined to wake up the 99 percent. 

In September of 2008, the US walked to the edge of a profound financial crisis. In response Congress authorized a $700 Billion bailout and funds went to financial giants such as AIG, Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and Wells Fargo – the same corporations whose reckless policies had caused the crisis. Average Americans asked, “What about me? Where’s my bailout?” 

In January of 2010, the Supreme Court decided the Citizens United case and strengthened the notion that corporations have “personhood” and, therefore, enjoy the same rights as ordinary individuals, including the right of free speech. (For a compelling account of how the bizarre notion that corporations enjoy the same constitutional rights as human beings has evolved, see radio host Thom Hartmann’s book, Unequal Protection.) The Citizens United decision allowed corporations to spend unlimited funds in political contests. Members of the 99 percent bellowed, “Since when do corporations have the same rights that I have?” 

In November of 2010, because of their new political clout, corporations were able to shift control of the House of Representatives to Republicans. Since the GOP took over in January 2011, this has become the most corporation-friendly legislative body in American history. Republicans have consistently thwarted efforts to have multinational corporations – and their executives – pay their fair share. Republicans behavior has been so egregious that average Americans were outraged: “Why do corporations get special treatment when I can’t pay my bills?” (Mother Jones reports that corporations are gearing up to spend billions more to buy the 2012 election.) 

In the Matrix the hero, Neo, breaks out of his simulated reality and joins a band of human insurgents, who battle the evil robots to regain control of earth. Occupy Wall Street is an insurgent movement that strives to get average Americans to break out of their simulated reality and battle evil corporations. 

In 2011 our worst fears were realized. It’s not evil robots but instead multinational corporations that want to control the world and, in the process, destroy democracy. Like humanoid robots, corporations have no conscience – they are programmed to achieve their objectives no matter the consequences to humans or the planet. Now it’s up to the insurgency to save democracy. 

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

WILD NEIGHBORS: Alameda’s Turn (and Terns)

By Joe Eaton
Thursday December 15, 2011 - 10:49:00 AM

It’s been a long time coming, but the Alameda County Breeding Bird Atlas is finally available from Golden Gate Audubon. Based on intensive fieldwork in the 1990s, this book is a splendid addition to the shelf of Bay Area atlases. So far we have Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, and now Alameda. I believe a Solano project is in the works. A San Francisco atlas would be slender, but perhaps surprising. How about it, Audubon? 

The Alameda atlas has text by Bob Richmond, Helen Green, and David Rice; occurrence maps by Rusty Scalf, who has been documenting the spread of western bluebirds in Berkeley; and handsome paintings by Hans Peeters, a local artist who also illustrated the mammal, raptor, and owl guides in the UC Press California Natural History Guide series. 

The compilers used standard survey protocols to categorize the likelihood that birds are nesting, not just passing through. A singing male in suitable habitat during breeding season rates a “possible.” For “probable,” you would need observations of territorial defense, courtship, mating, or agitated behavior by presumed parent birds. “Confirmed” requires nest building, eggs or young in a nest, eggshells, adults carrying food, or, in the hand, physiological evidence of breeding like an enlarged brood patch. 

Surveys produced evidence of breeding for 175 bird species; four more were added after the atlas period. As always with these projects, there were a few surprises. Isolated breeding records for lesser scaup, redhead, pelagic cormorant, black-chinned hummingbird, purple martin, hermit thrush, cedar waxwing, yellow-breasted chat, yellow-headed blackbird, and pine siskin may have been one-off events. Alternatively, the chat record may represent the last stand of an almost-extirpated population that depended on dwindling riparian habitat. Some birds, like the reclusive sharp-shinned hawk, were found to be more abundant as breeders than expected. 

The atlas is not just a collection of maps: it’s a compendium of stories. Having birded the county for some years, I see it as a kind of family album. Here’s the Arctic tern that paired with a local Forster’s tern at the Hayward Regional Shoreline and produced several broods of confusing hybrid offspring. Here’s the triumphant return of the bald eagle as a breeding species, when a female hatched in Alaska and a male of unknown provenance set up housekeeping at Del Valle Reservoir. Here’s the whole saga of the California least terns at the former Alameda Naval Air Station.  

Here’s the lowdown on the ubiquitous Canada geese, all apparently descendants of hunting casualties introduced to Lake Merritt by naturalist Paul Covel in 1956. 

One of several appendices lists birds whose county ranges and populations have increased. It’s an impressive roster, including grebes, egrets, gulls, stilts, avocets, corvids, and nuthatches. Cooper’s and red-shouldered hawks have prospered in urban areas. Some songbirds have followed plantings of conifers (red-breasted and pygmy nuthatches, dark-eyed juncos) or palms (hooded oriole.) The recent crow boom is acknowledged, although not explained (“It is unknown why American Crow has increased noticeably in urban areas in recent years, because food sources have always been readily available there.”) 

Another appendix notes species of special concern whose breeding populations have been declining: some raptors, the clapper rail, and a number of songbirds with special habitat requirements. The loss of coastal wetlands and riparian zones is a recurring factor. 

Anyone with even a half-serious interest in local bird populations should have this book. It’s available at the Golden Gate Audubon office at 2530 San Pablo Avenue for $22 ($20 for Audubon members) and would make a fine holiday gift for the birders on your list.

ECLECTIC RANT: Is Water Fluoridation Safe?

By Ralph E. Stone
Saturday December 17, 2011 - 11:01:00 AM

Fluoride is the name given to a group of compounds that are composed of the naturally occurring element fluorine and one or more other elements. In the early 1940s, scientists discovered that people who lived where drinking water supplies had naturally occurring fluoride levels of approximately 1.0 part fluoride per million parts water (ppm) had fewer dental caries (cavities). More recent studies have supported this finding. Fluoride can prevent and even reverse tooth decay by enhancing remineralization, the process by which fluoride “rebuilds” tooth enamel that is beginning to decay. In 1945, Grand Rapids, Michigan adjusted the fluoride content of its water supply to 1 ppm and thus became the first city to implement community water fluoridation in a public water system. 

On January 7, 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Agency (HHS) announced a proposal recommending that water systems practicing fluoridation adjust their fluoride content to 0.7 mg/L ppm, as opposed to the previous temperature-dependent optimal levels ranging from 0.7 mg/L to 1.2 mg/L. www.cdc.gov/fluoridation/fact_sheets/cwf_qa.htm#5 

About 70 percent of community water systems in the U.S. are treated with fluoride. Water fluoridation is used in varying degrees in some countries, including Australia, Brazil, some parts of Canada, Chile, Ireland, Malaysia, and Vietnam, but Continental Europe largely does not fluoridate water. Some countries fluoridate salt. 

In California only about 30 percent of water systems are fluoridated, partly because of the high cost of fluoridating its highly complicated water systems. The California Department of Public Health provides a "California Statewide Fluoridation Table" www.cdph.ca.gov/certlic/drinkingwater/Documents/Fluoridation/PWS%20Statewide%20Fluoridation%20Table%202011.pdf showing the California water systems with fluoride. A state law passed in 1995 www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/waisgate?WAISdocID=98920013026+0+0+0&WAISaction=retrieve, mandated that if the money for equipment and initial maintenance costs are provided by sources other than the utility or its customers, water companies must build fluoridation systems. California has identified and prioritizes 150 cities for fluoridation but never funded the program. 

Fluoride is naturally found in low concentration in drinking water and food and the ocean contains between 1.2 and 1.5 ppm. Fluoridated toothpaste is another main source of fluoride. Other fluoride-containing dental products include gels, varnishes, pastes, and restorative materials. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulates toothpastes and other dental products but not fluoride in our water systems. Efforts have been made to get Congress to allow the FDA to regulate water additives, but such efforts have failed so far. 

The American Dental Association, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Medical Association, the U.S. Surgeon General, and the World Health Organization all support fluoridation. The CDC calls water fluoridation one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century. www.cdc.gov/fluoridation If fluoride is beneficial to health, then why is water fluoridation so controversial?  

Below are some "Myths & Facts: Possible responses to common anti-fluoride claims." www.ilikemyteeth.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Myths-and-Facts-Sheet-2.pdf  

* Opponents argue that fluoridation is a violation of the individual's right to informed consent to medication. Actually fluoride is not a medication. It is mineral naturally found in water and foods. The only question is what level of fluoridation should be added to the water supply. 

* We already can get fluoride in toothpaste, so why do we need it in our drinking water? The CDC reviewed this question in January 2011. After looking at all the ways we might get fluoride – including fluoride toothpaste – the CDC recommended continuing to fluoridate water at 0.7 ppm. Any less puts our teeth at risk. Fluoride toothpaste alone is insufficient, which is why pediatricians and dentists prescribe fluoride tablets to children in non-fluoridated areas. 

* Doesn't fluoridation cause fluorosis causing teeth to turn brown and pitted? Fluorosis is never caused by community water fluoridation because the concentrations are too low. Mild fluorosis – barely noticeable tiny white specs on one’s teeth – is more common, the result of higher-than-normal fluoride intake as a child. This condition, often noticeable only to dentists, is actually an indication of exceptionally strong teeth. Nevertheless, the CDC last year set the recommended level of fluoridation – 0.7 ppm – low enough to avoid even moderate fluorosis while still strengthening teeth. 

* Isn't fluoride especially toxic for small children? Actually, children who drink fluoridated water as their teeth grow will have stronger, more decay resistant teeth over their lifetime.  

* Is tooth decay still a problem in the United States? Tooth decay affects nearly 60 percent of children. Tooth decay causes problems that often last long into adulthood. For example, California children missed 874,000 school days in 2007 due to dental problems. 

* Does fluoridation cause cancer and other serious health problems? The National Cancer Institute has stated: “Many studies, in both humans and animals, have shown no association between fluoridated water and risk for cancer.” In 2006, a panel of the National Research Council—an arm of the National Academies of Science—found no convincing evidence of a causal link between fluoridation and cancer. And according to the American Council on Science and Health, “Historically, anti-fluoride activists have claimed, with no evidence, that fluoridation causes everything from cancer to mental disease.” 

* Is community water fluoridation too costly? No, according to the California Department of Health, the annual cost to fluoridate a community averages $.51 per person per year, depending on community size, labor costs, and type of chemicals and equipment used. This figure amounts to less than the cost of one filling. 

Fluoridation has been found to be safe by scientists and ruled proper by a California Court of Appeal in Hermine Beck v. City Council of Beverly Hills www.actionpa.org/fluoride/lawandcourts/ca-beverly-hills.html, which ruled in a landmark 1973 decision that adding fluoride to water supplies is "a reasonable and proper exercise of the police power in the interest of public health." However, even though scientists declared fluoride safe and effective, and the courts have ruled that adding fluoride to water systems legal, fluoridation is still controversial. For example, see the Fluoride Action Network website www.www.fluoridealert.org

MY COMMONPLACE BOOK: (a diary of excerpts copied from printed books, with comments added by the reader.)

by Dorothy Bryant
Saturday December 17, 2011 - 11:03:00 AM

He who despairs because of the news is a coward, but he who sees hope in the human condition is mad. Albert Camus, 1943, occupied France 

Camus wrote that sentence in his journal as he began dangerous underground work in France against the occupying Nazis. Under these conditions, his terse statement sounds like one of those dark jokes one makes in order to ease tension when engaged in activities that may bring capture, torture, and death at any moment. 

Today, in more “ordinary” times, this statement seems merely an echo of our passing thoughts as we scan the daily news in print or on TV. Do we ever pat ourselves on the back for maintaining this heroic balancing act? 

We should. Happy Holidays. 















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

SENIOR POWER… Whatever became of

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Thursday December 15, 2011 - 10:52:00 AM

As one ages, one wonders Whatever became of… 

Whatever became of pharmacies that deliver, The ERA, Shirley Dean, fragrant flowers, co-ops, the black metal newspaper boxes all over town, Torvill & Dean, Lux and Lifebuoy, nurses’ caps, hot pants… 


Let’s consider the Kensington Ladies and their Erotic Society. 

Erotic: 1. Of or concerning sexual love and desire; amatory. 2. Tending to arouse sexual desire. 3. Dominated by sexual love or desire . Erotica: Literature or art intended to arouse sexual desire. 

In 1984, Berkeley’s Ten Speed Press -- despite its no fiction, no women’s issues, no sex policies -- published Ladies’ Own Erotica: Tales, Recipes, and Other Mischiefs by Older Women. About it, I wrote: Kensington is an affluent community adjacent to Berkeley, California. The writers are a group of over age-40 ladies who dedicated their book affectionately to the memory of their “patron saint,” Judd Boynton, who introduced “…a group of unassuming women who can teach us men much.” 

The Kensington Ladies were a group of women over forty that included Elvira Pearson, Nell Port, Rose Solomon, Bernadette Vaughan, and instigator Sabina Sedgewick. Their erotica differed from Pleasures: Women Write Erotica. Published the same year by Doubleday and edited by Lonnie Garfield Barbach, it was a compilation of twentieth-century American women authors’ perceptions. Both are in the collections of the Berkeley Public Library. 

In 1996 MJF (a New York publisher, mostly of children’s books), by arrangement with Ten Speed Press, published Ladies' Own Erotica: Two Bestsellers from the Kensington Ladies' Erotica Society Together in One Volume, illustrated by Pat Adler. 

With publication of the Kensington Ladies’ Sex, Death & Other Distractions in 2002, the press declared “Sex book for seniors reveals Kensington's steamy side” and “Ladies first / Pioneering erotica writers club still at it after 26 years.” Previously considered “literature,” it’s become “fiction.” Also that year Ten Speed published The 50-Mile Rule, a guide to carrying out your extramarital affair. Comparing the K Ladies’ then-and-now, can be fun. If you’re interested, as I am not, I recommend Rose Solomon’s early (literature) and later (fiction) pieces, e.g. “Love is a many-gendered thing”. 

With all of us over sixty and a few over seventy, we are engaging in the hilarious struggle of growing old while still pursuing the joy of erotica in everyday life. Kensington Ladies came together in the late seventies at the instigation of Sabina Sedgewick. With her fortieth birthday fast approaching,… we fancied ourselves pioneers, staking a claim to a sexual life for older women. … with the publication of Ladies’ Own Erotica about to become a reality, all of us suddenly balked at parading our fantasies in front of our sons and daughters and mothers and fathers, let alone total strangers. We quickly adopted pseudonyms and impulsively decided to wear masks for our book jacket photo.” 

On March 29, 2008, SexTV (a documentary series) aired The Kensington Ladies' Erotica Society/Valeria Rzianina/A Naked Portrait: The Cowboy (#10.13) starring Elvira Pearson, Sabina Sedgewick, and Valeria Rzianina (see Sexy Art Gallery). 



Taking the Bite Out of Bed Bugs in Senior Housing is a workshop presented by two social workers at the Annual Conference on Aging & Vendor Expo by the Council of Senior Centers and Services of New York City, Inc., which “… serves as a social policy advocate and training and technical assistance resource for more than 200 community based senior service organizations serving over 300,000 elderly New Yorkers.” Other workshops include elder abuse, sex over 60, volunteers and interns, from cluttering to hoarding, and fundraising. 

'Tis the season to be wary of elder financial abuse. Seniors should be advised that the risk of falling victim to elder financial abuse is increasing. In a recent study, elderly women, especially those ages 80-89, were found to be nearly twice as likely to fall victim to financial abuse as men. They often lived alone and frequently required some level of assistance with either health care or home maintenance. Conversely, nearly 60 percent of perpetrators were found to be younger males ages 30-59. In almost all cases reported, financial abuse was achieved through deceit, threats and emotional manipulation of the elder. Some key considerations in avoiding such a situation include: 

  1. Stay active. Engage with others. Isolation increases opportunity for victimization. 

  2. Monitor your financial affairs Double check bank and credit card statements. Use direct deposit when possible and sign your own checks. 

  3. Stay organized. Know where your financial documents are (including wills, trusts, and power of attorney). Keep them safe and review annually. 

  4. Discuss benefits of appointing a Power of Attorney so that your directives can be adhered to even if you become incapable of stating them yourself.
  5. Be cautious in making financial decisions. Do not allow anyone to pressure you into making a hasty decision. Never give out bank account, social security or credit account numbers.
  6. Protect your passwords. Do not share banking, computer or ATM passwords with others, and notify company or bank if you notice any questionable charges or transactions.  


  7. Beware of telephone solicitations. It is not rude to hang up when an unknown caller tries to talk you into doing something you don't want to do. Hang up! Then call the National Do Not Call Registry at 1-888-382-1222.  


  8. Elder financial abuse can be committed by anyone, including caregivers or family members. Be wary if anyone pressures you to do something with your money or possessions that you are not sure you want to do (e.g. adding their name to your bank accounts or property titles). Be especially careful of someone who tries to keep you isolated from others, and call a trusted friend or family member or the police.  


  9. Know what to do if you suspect you are a victim of financial abuse. Put aside your fear or embarrassment and discuss your concerns with someone you trust.  




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

Saturday, Dec. 17. 11 A.M. Landlord/Tenant Counseling. Central Berkeley Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100. 

Saturday, Dec. 17. 12:30 P.M. San Francisco Gray Panthers Holiday Party. 1182 Market, Room 203. 415-552-8800. 

Saturday, Dec. 17. 3:30 P.M. The Knitting Hour. Berkeley Public Library West Branch, 1125 University. 510-981-6270. 

Monday, Dec. 19. 12:30 – 1:30 P.M. Albany YMCA/Albany Library brown Bag Lunch Speaker’s Forum: Matt Johanson discusses Yosemite Epics: Tales of Adventure from America’s Greatest Playground. At the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free. 510-526-3720. 

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. Facilitated 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. 

Thursday, Dec. 22. 12:30 P.M. Mastick Senior Center. Birthday Party Celebration All members celebrating a birthday in December are invited to join us in Dining Room 2 for cake, music, balloons, and good cheer. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. 510-747-7510. 

Thursday, Dec. 22. 6-8 P.M. Lawyers in the Library. Berkeley Public Library West Branch, 1125 University. 510-981-6270. 

Wednesday, Dec. 28. 1:30 P.M. East Bay Gray Panthers. 510-548-9696. Meets at North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. 

Wednesday, Dec. 28. 1:30 – 2:30 P.M. Great Books Discussion Group. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Holiday lunch and selection discussion. 510-526-3720 x 16. 


Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012. 1-2:30 P.M. Book Club members will read French Lessons by Ellen Sussman. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. Free. 510-747-7510. 

Tuesday, Jan 3. 12 Noon. League of Women Voters. Albany branch, Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free. 510-526-3720. 

Wednesday, Jan. 4. 9 A.M. – 1:30 P.M. AARP Driver Safety Refresher Course specifically designed for motorists age 50+. Taught in one-day. To qualify, you must have taken the standard course within the last 4 years. Preregistration is a must. There is a $12 per person fee for AARP members (AARP membership number required) and $14 per person fee for non-AARP members. Registration is payable by check ONLY made payable to AARP. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. 510-747-7510. 

Wednesday, Jan. 4. 12 noon. Playreaders at Central Berkeley Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100. See also Jan. 11, 18, 25. 

Wednesday, Jan 4. 6 P.M. Lawyer in the Library. Albany branch, Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free. 510-526-3720. Sign up in advance 

Thursday, Jan. 5. 10 A.M. Computers for Beginners. Central Berkeley Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100. See also Jan. 12, 19, 26. 

Monday, Jan. 9. 6 P.M. Evening Computer Class. Central Berkeley Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100. See also Jan. 16, 23 and 30. 

Tuesday, Jan. 10. 1 P.M. Sugar Blues or What? Come be inspired, find ways to beat cravings, find specific tools to make healthier choices with Neta O’Leary Sundberg, Certified Health coach-Yoga teacher. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. 510-747-7510. 

Tuesday, Jan. 10. 7 P.M. Poetry Night. Albany branch, Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free. 510-526-3720. 

Wednesday, Jan. 11. 12 noon. Playreaders. Central Berkeley Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100. See also Jan. 18, 25. 

Thursday, Jan. 12. 6 P.M. Lawyers in the library. Berkeley Public Library south branch. 1901 Russell. 510- 981-6100. 

Thursday, Jan. 12. 7 P.M. Café Literario. Berkeley Public Library west branch. 1125 University. Facilitated Spanish language book discussion. January title: La tabla de Flandes by Arturo Perez-Reverte. 510-981-6270. 

Friday, Jan. 13. 9:30 – 11:30 A.M. Creating Your Personal Learning Network. Learn to use the Internet and tools like Twitter and YouTube Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. 510-747-7510. Also Feb. 17. 

Wednesday, Jan. 18. 7 P.M. Adult Evening Book Group. Ian McEwan’s Atonement. Albany branch, Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free. 510-526-3720. 

Thursday, Jan. 19. 12 Noon. Learn what identity theft is, how to prevent it, and what you can do if you become a victim. This is one in a series of free financial education seminars taught by USE Credit Union. Central Berkeley Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100. 

Thursday, Jan. 19. 6 P.M. Lawyers in the Library. Berkeley Public Library west branch. 1125 University 510-981-6270. See also Jan. 26. 

Sunday, Jan. 22. 1:30 P.M. Book Intro Film: Romeo and Juliet. Discussion group participants read the play at home and then gather at Berkeley’s Central Library, 2090 Kittredge Street to view the film adaptation. Following the film, participants will discuss the play, the film and the adaptation process. Sponsored by the Friends of the Library, this free program offers adult and teen patrons the opportunity to discuss books, films and the art of adaptation. Participation is limited and registration is required. 510-981-6236. 

Monday, Jan. 23. 10:30 – 11:30 A.M. Learn to Create a YouTube Video Jeff Cambra, Alameda Currents producer, will share the basics of shooting a good video and how to get it uploaded to YouTube. No equipment or experience needed. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. 510-747-7510. 

Monday, Jan. 23. 12:30 P.M. YMCA/Albany Library Brown Bag Lunch. Speaker’s Forum: Fariba Nawa’s Opium Nation. Albany branch, Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free. 510-526-3720. 

Monday, Jan. 23. 7 P.M. Kensington Library Book Club. The Surrendered by Chang-rae Lee. 61 Arlington Av. Free. Book group meetings are usually held on the fourth Monday of every month in the library at 7:00 p.m. Each meeting starts with a poem selected and read by a member with a brief discussion following the reading. New members are always welcome. 510-524-3043. 

Tuesday, Jan. 24. 1 P.M. Doggie Communication 101. Does your dog pull you down the street? Not get enough exercise because you have mobility challenges? Growl or snap? Bark too much? Other annoying or worrisome behaviors? Bring your questions and join dog trainer Ruth Smiler. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. 510-747-7510. 

Wednesday, Jan. 25. 1:30 P.M. Great Books Discussion Group. Albany branch, Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free. 510-526-3720. 

Thursday, Jan. 26. 1:30 P.M. Music Appreciation Class. Join William Sturm, Volunteer Instructor. Piano recital and discussion about “The Classical Romantic: Johannes Brahms.” Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. 510-747-7510. 
















Arts & Events

AROUND AND ABOUT: Theater Review: 'The Wild Bride'--Kneehigh Theatre at Berkeley Rep

By Ken Bullock
Thursday December 15, 2011 - 10:41:00 AM

Under a slouch hat, the eyes of the guitarist shift; he grimaces as he sings Robert Johnson's Delta blues "Crossroads" under a tree with a mirror in its splayed branches, but no shade.  

Like Johnson's lyrics, Kneehigh Theatre's 'The Wild Bride' sports a mythic aura--the guitarist turns out to be the Devil (Stuart McLoughlin)--but only in order to vaudevillize itself. Everybody sings, dances, plays music, often narrating themselves or talking to the audience. There's something close to a Christmas Panto in this show, making it a very appropriate holiday show.  

Based on traditional folk-fairytales, the most famous version found in the Brothers Grimm, often called "Silverhands" (which Ragged Wing Ensemble did their own, inimitable take on not long ago, 'Handless'), Kneehigh's show is an engaging potpourri of storytelling theater shtick by a high-energy cast, well-directed by Kneehigh artistic director Emma Rice. The story, a flexible vehicle for a tightly staged production, details how the faithful daughter of a layabout farmer is coveted by the Devil, who tricks the father into making a deal to trade her away.  

But the Devil can't get a purchase on her goodness--so he has her mutilated, degraded, exiled to the wild, all to break down her innocent virtue. She's discovered stealing pears by an eccentric kilt-clad prince (Stuart Goodwin, also the father), who marries her--but is called away to war on the eve of the birth of their child. 

Three women take turns playing the protagonist in her different ages--The Girl (Audrey Brisson), The Wild (Patrycja Kujawska) and The Woman (Eva Magyar)--a hackneyed storytelling theater stunt, here cleanly rendered and fresh. The three performers bring their talents to both the sharing of the role and supporting the action--Brisson in wonderful singing voice, Kujawska playing violin, Magyar with superb movement ... 

Yet all are dynamos at movement and dance. Their charm suffuses the elasticity of the story, which has the off-the-cuff spontaneity of raconteurship, despite the intricate staging and production values--which would be even more effective in Kneehigh's usual haunts: barns and their big tent (The Refuge) in rural Cornwall. 

Ian Ross accompanies the action and songs--and the cast's playing--throughout on various instruments, the music ranging from familiar standards to Eastern European strains. 

There's nothing particularly new about what the company does--it's the impeccable way they put it together, performing seamlessly, yet with great immediacy, feeling and humor. 'The Wild Bride' is a wonderful theatrical entertainment for everyone and anyone. 

Tuesdays through Sundays, different times, through January 1. Roda Theatre 2015 Addison (near Shattuck). $14.50-$73. 647-2949; berkeleyrep.org

EYE FROM THE AISLE: Give yourself a Holiday Present with THE WILD BRIDE at REP

By John A. McMullen II
Thursday December 15, 2011 - 10:38:00 AM
Patrycja Kujawska and Stuart Goodwin
Patrycja Kujawska and Stuart Goodwin

If you wanted to tell a fairy tale on stage, what would you dream of? I’d want a bunch of actors all of whom could sing and dance and play instruments with expressive flexibility and astonishing appearances. 

I’d put a leafless Apple Tree in the middle of the stage so that the actors could climb up and sing from the branches. If we’re going to have an Apple Tree, we’d better have the Devil, too, in homage to the first fairy tale. Add a reprobate parent full of loving kindness, but too in love with the moonshine to see the Devil coming. I’d like to have real fire on stage, and maybe an axe like in Little RRH. Three women: a blonde, a brunette and a redhead; let them all play the same maid/nymph/woman. I read the real Brothers Grimm and they were truly gruesome, so let’s have some mayhem, maybe Shakespearean like in Titus.  

Music throughout. My favorite music is ‘30/’40’s Swing, so I’d like a lot of that. Thunder and lighting flashes for punctuation and to scare me a little. How about a talking painting? And sex—make it acrobatic, comic, and really erotic. Wait, one more thing: a diminutive vocalist whose voice is bigger than the house and who reaches down inside your chest and makes it vibrate with her tones. 

Now make it a touching allegory for the healing of childhood wounds. Maybe like Penn State type wounds (I’m an alum, so I can make the simile). One step further: since most old time marchen are paternalistic, let’s make this a feminist fairy tale. 

My after-the-fact dream has all this and more in the American premiere THE WILD BRIDE, a most extraordinary production, just now extended for 3 weeks at our Berkeley Rep. 

Emma Rice is a theatre magician and shaman. A couple of years ago, her Kneehigh Theatre company’s production of Brief Encounter at ACT had people actually boarding a projected passenger train the full size of the Geary proscenium. That tour de force set to English Musical Hall background in a caffe was dreamlike and did on stage what you mainly have to go to the movies to see. But THE WILD BRIDE is simple and theatre of imagination. 

When something has problems, I can go on and on with what’s wrong and what makes it that way. 

When something is this good, I can only say, GO! NOW! 

So give yourself a holiday present, if you can get a ticket, and take someone you love—they will remember your taking them to this when you’re both old, or older. And on your way out, say a little thank you that you live in Berkeley where you can see extraordinary productions like this.


adapted and directed by Emma Rice, text and lyrics by Carl Grose, Music by Stu Barker 

At BERKELEY REP through January 22. 


Etta Murfitt-Choreographer with additional dance Éva Magyar, Bill Mitchell-Scenic Design, Myriddin Wannell- Costume Design, Malcolm Rippeth-Lighting Design, Simon Baker-Sound Design, Paul Crewes-Producer, Sarah Wright, Props / Puppet Maker 


Audrey Brisson, The Girl 

Stuart Goodwin, The Father and The Prince 

Patrycja Kujawska, The Wild 

Éva Magyar, The Woman 

Stuart McLoughlin, The Devil 

Ian Ross, The Musician 

John A. McMullen II, MFA, SFBATCC, ATCA, SDC has lot of letters after his name instead of $ in the bank. 

E J Dunne edits.