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A display on Sproul Plaza featured found objects, flowers, and foliage, as did similar displays during the height of the “OccupyCal” activities last Fall.
Steven Finacom
A display on Sproul Plaza featured found objects, flowers, and foliage, as did similar displays during the height of the “OccupyCal” activities last Fall.


Occupy Cal Shoot Re-Sprouts on Sproul

By Steven Finacom
Monday January 09, 2012 - 11:13:00 PM
Four people appeared today (January 9) and painstakingly crafted a new mandela on the Free Speech Monument on Sproul Plaza.
Steven Finacom
Four people appeared today (January 9) and painstakingly crafted a new mandela on the Free Speech Monument on Sproul Plaza.
A display on Sproul Plaza featured found objects, flowers, and foliage, as did similar displays during the height of the “OccupyCal” activities last Fall.
Steven Finacom
A display on Sproul Plaza featured found objects, flowers, and foliage, as did similar displays during the height of the “OccupyCal” activities last Fall.
By early December the daily OccupyCal encampment was dwindling in size, although a variety of displays and discussions remained on the Savio Steps.
Steven Finacom
By early December the daily OccupyCal encampment was dwindling in size, although a variety of displays and discussions remained on the Savio Steps.
One makeshift tent formed of branches and fabric stood next to the Savio Steps in this December 2 view.
Steven Finacom
One makeshift tent formed of branches and fabric stood next to the Savio Steps in this December 2 view.
Several banners, including this one, were hung from an oak tree on the other side of the Steps.
Steven Finacom
Several banners, including this one, were hung from an oak tree on the other side of the Steps.
After the December 11 UC clearance of the encampment, only a few physical objects remained including hearts attached to Sather Gate.
Steven Finacom
After the December 11 UC clearance of the encampment, only a few physical objects remained including hearts attached to Sather Gate.
On December 15—four days after the Steps were cleared—this cryptic message in pink tape had been added to Sproul Plaza.  It was later removed.
Steven Finacom
On December 15—four days after the Steps were cleared—this cryptic message in pink tape had been added to Sproul Plaza. It was later removed.

Is “OccupyCal” sprouting anew? The Fall encampment on the Savio Steps in front of Sproul Hall was quietly cleared by the University in mid-December, as Finals approached. There was little press attention, save a short Daily Cal article, in contrast to the much-publicized and Sturm und Drang evictions of Occupy encampments in Oakland, San Francisco, and Downtown Berkeley. 

Since then, the steps and Sproul Plaza have been visibly clear of encampment and Occupy emblems. 

But today (January 9, 2012) a multicolored shoot of revival may have emerged. In the afternoon, four individuals began creating a new ephemeral mandela around the Free Speech Monument in Sproul Plaza. Last Fall, the monument became something of an artistic icon or shrine of OccupyCal, featuring a changing display of intricately laid out found objects. 

When last seen, though, in December, it was a small pile of moldering vegetation that was swept away with the broader “clean-up” of the Savio Steps and encampment. 

Today’s guerrilla artists laid out a central star, several smaller figures, and an outer border of vivid yellow gingko tree leaves, including the word “evolve”. When I stopped to talk to them on my way home after work, one said he’d been out of town for a month, but was now back and wanted to resume the modest displays, which are made of found objects, ranging from bottle caps to flower petals. In today’s display, banana peels were arranged around a follower made of lawn clippings and Lily of the Nile blossoms and marguerite blossoms. 

I asked if this meant that the Sproul “General Assemblies” and occupation would also resume? They didn’t know. 

But the “OccupyCal” Twitter feed also came alive today as well, by coincidence or not, with an announcement of a “General Assembly” at 6:00 pm to “start planning for spring actions”. Later, there was a note saying that 11 people had arrived for the evening meeting. 

During the holidays there were comparatively few Twitter postings, most of them having to do not with campus activity but with mentions of various OccupyOakland actions and other activities outside Berkeley. 

The “OccupyCal” website also has some updates hinting at Spring activities, including a “Bay Area Convergence” organizing meeting announced for January 21 off campus, to come up with five activities to implement somewhere in the Bay Area in the Spring. 

Otherwise, OccupyCal, like most Cal students, seems to have largely taken a winter break from intense activities. 

As finals and colder weather approached last fall, the number of people regularly on the steps—particularly those staying over night—had severely dwindled from the peak November protests. 

The visible face of OccupyCal had changed from a daily mass of active discussion and sit in to one makeshift structure constructed of branches, some banners hung in an oak tree adjacent to the Steps, a couple of small tents, and changing displays of signs and found objects on the steps. 

In the weeks immediately preceding the clearing, on my walks past the steps, I had noticed a low-key interplay between the demonstrators and campus police. Unlike the scenes in November, when lines of police clad in riot gear faced chanting crowds, the December interactions were more in the nature of one or two police officers chatting with one or two Occupiers, or watching from a distance. 

The University’s clearance of the steps on the weekend of December 10/11 (described in a Daily Cal article linked to below) may have actually been a blessing in disguise for the campus movement. There were few daily participants left and fewer students apparent as the semester came to an end. 

The removal of the remaining encampment provided the OccupyCal organizers with an opportunity to take a break from trying to sustain a presence when almost all students would be away from campus, and the primary pedestrians on Sproul would be daily dog walkers, tourists, and those UC staff (like yours truly) with campus jobs whose hours don’t change with when classes end. 

After the remains were swept up and the Steps washed on December 11, only a few pink cardboard hearts remained, transferred by someone from the Steps to Sather Gate. A few days later, a cryptic “Ready?” spelled out in pink tape appeared on Sproul Plaza, with an arrow point to the Steps and Sproul Hall. Other than that, by my observation, the fall stage of the outdoor occupation was largely done. 

What will come with the Spring? I don’t know, and I suspect that the OccupyCal participants don’t really know either. The Savio Steps are a big and enticing stage, but one wonders whether the encampment will return in something akin to its fall form, or morph into something entirely new? 

And, although the stage is large, the potential actors are many. Not only are there the OccupyCal participants themselves, but displaced OccupyOakland and OccupyBerkeley stalwarts, the Cal student body at large, and the official University community, which is not united. 

Two campus groups—the Academic Senate, and the UC Police officers themselves—carved cracks in the campus monolith in the Fall, the first with resolutions adopted 336 to 34 on November 28 condemning some of the campus response during the demonstrations, and the second with an open letter in which police officers stated, in part, “we are not your enemy” and asked “UC Administration and Regents: Please don’t ask us to enforce your polices then refuse to stand by us when we do.” 

How all these factors play out in the spring is anyone’s guess. But if today’s art appearance is any indication, some form of OccupyCal may grow anew as the semester begins. 

Steven Finacom has been keeping a periodic eye on the physical manifestations of the OccupyCal movement since last Fall. 






UC Police open letter on Occupy demonstrations, posted on Berkeleyside website: 


'Confession' of Accused CIA Spy Reveals Link to US Videogame Maker

By Gar Smith
Tuesday January 10, 2012 - 09:58:00 AM

Amir Mirzai Hekmati, a US citizen of Iranian descent and a former Marine, has been sentenced to death by a court in Tehran for spying. According to Iranian press reports, Hekmati was found guilty of "co-operating with a hostile nation, membership of [sic] the CIA and trying to implicate Iran in terrorism."

Although the story broke big in the mainstream press this week, Hekmati's alleged videotaped "confession" was actually broadcast -- in its entirety, with Hekmati speaking Arabic Farsi-- on Iranian television on December 18, 2011. While staged confessions are always suspect, in the videos, Hekmati looks relaxed and healthy and he speaks quietly, in calm, measured tones. 

Although Hekmati's videotaped "confession" was broadcast nearly a month ago, it is virtually impossible to penetrate the Western media's info-barrier to discover what he actually "confessed to." A Google name search only produces links to stories from the BBC and US news agencies – none of which contain the details of Hekmati's supposed confession. Even a Google search for Hekmati's name linked with the Fars News Agency (which broadcast the taped "confession") also leads to the same dead-end. Curiously, the Google search yields no matches for Fars -- only the same links to the BBC and Western media. 

It is only by going directly to the websites of Fars and the Tehran Times that one can track down the actual content of Hekmati's videotaped testimony. That is what this Planet reporter did. 

One of the most surprising revelations in Hekmati's online tell-all was his admission that, in addition to training at the Pentagon's Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, he also spent time working for Kuma/War, a US-based videogame company that specializes in combat simulations. Kuma/War has reportedly worked under contract for the US Army but, in the transcript of his taped statement, Hekmati also claims that, in addition to its Pentagon contracts, Kuma/War received funding from the CIA. 

Confessions of an Arrested American

On December 12, 2011, the Fars News Agency 
reported that the Iranian Intelligence Ministry has "arrested an agent of the CIA in Iran immediately after he started his spying activities inside the country." FNA went on to report: "The arrested spy has been born in Arizona of US and has a track record of ten years of training as a professional spy. Amir Mirza Hekmati was employed by the US Army's intelligence section in August 2001. In his confession that was broadcasted [sic] by Iranian TV on Sunday night, Hekmati explained his secret mission in Iran." 

The following is excerpted from Hekmati's broadcast interview: 

"I was graduated from high school in 2001 and decided to enter the US Army. It was in August 2001 that I wore the US Army uniform and underwent different military trainings of the army….

"When they realized that I know a little Persian and a little Arabic, they told me: 'We want to send you to a university to learn Arabic language.' I studied the opinions of Iraqi officials regarding the US and the presence of US military in Iraq. Our goal was to pinpoint those Iraqi officials who were inclined toward the US and do something that, in case of outbreak of any incident, they support US military. After sending our reports to US Army's intelligence department, security and intelligence officials held secret meetings with Iraqi officials and tried to establish closer ties with those officials." 

Hekmati then describes how, after several months in Iraq, he joined the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). He worked with the Cyber Security program. 

"After DARPA, I was recruited by Kuma Games Company, a computer games company which received money from CIA to design and make special films and computer games to change the public opinion's mindset in the Middle East and distribute them among Middle East residents free of charge. The goal of Kuma Games was to convince the people of the world and Iraq that what the US does in Iraq and other countries is good and acceptable." 


In July 2006, Hekmati claimed, he was approached by a woman who told him that she was a "government official." She actually worked for the CIA. 

"After her contact, I successfully passed the psychological and medical tests, as well as lie detection tests before the same CIA agent contacted me and told me that I had to wait for their call. I was contacted by BAE Systems and I was informed that I had to return to Iraq as an intelligence analyst. I learnt how to use secret systems and methods for gathering information from different places and individuals. During this period, CIA was trying to find a suitable cover-up for my important mission." [Note: BAE Systems, Inc. is one of the top 10 US defense companies, with more than 39,000 employees.] 

Hekmati stated that he was summoned to the Washington Hotel in the capital where a CIA agent informed him that he was to go to Iran to undertake an intelligence project. 

"The CIA agent, by giving detailed information, prepared me for my big mission, while assuring me that, given the cover-up provided for me, I would not face any problem in the way of conducting my mission." 


Hekmati claimed that he was to become a source for Islamic Republic of Iran's Intelligence Ministry. He would provide the ministry with coordinated information and would receive payment for his services before returning to US. 


"I was given access to the most secret data systems for gathering the required information before being sent to US Bagram Base in Afghanistan [where the CIA is known to maintain operations.] I had a series of flights from Bagram, including a flight to Dubai where I stayed for two days and then I came to Tehran by plane afterwards."  

According to Hekmati's statement, the CIA's plan was that he was to provide Iran's Intelligence Ministry with a series of deliveries of "apparently important classified information" in hopes that the Iranians would take the bait, putting him in position to serve as a double agent. "However," Hakmati concluded, "Iranian officials found out the truth. They dismantled the CIA spy network in Iran by finding out about my mission." 


First Video of Confessions of American-born CIA Spy Amir Mirzaei Hekmati 

Source: Lenziran.com 


The World of Kuma War 

Excerpts from the Kuma War Website 

"Kuma War is a series of playable recreations of real events in the War on Terror. Nearly 100 playable missions bring our soldiers' heroic stories to life, and you can get them all right now, for free. Stop watching the news and get in the game!" 

Kuma War Episode 108 

Relive Muammar Gaddafi's final take-down and the Libyan rebels' triumph with this brand new multiplayer mission! Above the streets of Sirte, a Predator drone and jets help force Gaddafi to flee the burning city and into the hands of the Libyan rebels. When the smoke clears, the former leader lays dead.  

About Kuma Reality Games 

"Kuma\War is a free online war game that uses cutting-edge game technology to accurately reconstruct real-war events from the news. Kuma\War is a first- and third-person squad-based war game. It is the first PC video game to bring the tactical FPS (shooter) into the 21st century by modeling missions on actual real-world events. Each month, players get new single player and multiplayer games (missions), to reflect unfolding events around the world. 

"Armed with identical weapons in a realistic re-creation of various locations, you'll experience some of fiercest engagements in the most hostile territories in the world. A vast database of intelligence accompanies Kuma\War online games: satellite photos, political context, event details and the weaponry, tactics and forces involved. You'll also get exclusive video news shows and insight from a decorated team of military veterans. 

"Kuma Reality Games builds re-creations of real-world events using advanced gaming tools. Many of the new missions are being developed in cooperation with the US military and soldiers returning from Operation Iraqi Freedom. Kuma Reality Games, headquartered in New York, New York is a privately held company. 

"At Kuma, we are very sensitive and respectful of American and coalition soldiers and the sacrifices they are making every day. We hope that by telling their stories with such a powerful medium that we enable the American public to gain a better appreciation of the conflicts and the dangers they face." 

CIA-Funded Video Game Propaganda? 

Writing in the GameZone website on January 9, Vito Gesualdi addressed the former soldier's arrest and death sentence: "American officials maintain that Hekmati was simply visiting relatives, though it's his purported confession which is raising eyebrows -- Hekmati admitting to working on the first-person shooter Kuma\War, claiming that the game is funded by the CIA and operates as modern-day propaganda meant to sway the attitudes of youths in Iran and other middle-eastern countries in favor of United States military actions...." 

Gesualdi though it odd that, while Kuma's press releases boast of "19 million users, with an additional 250,000 new players signing on each month," Kuma\War "seems to have been largely invisible here in the States -- a surprising turn given "the wealth of technological advanced shooters we have access to (Battlefield, Modern Warfare)." 

This raises a question for Gesualdi: "So who is playing Kuma\War? Given that the first language option on the Kuma Games website (aside from the default English) is Arabic, we have our suspicions." 

War Propaganda and Video Games 

The Kuma/War connection did not go unnoticed by the Kavkaz Center (an international Islamic pro-Chechen news service). In a December 21, 2011 commentary, Kavkaz wrote: 

"Kuma Games was receiving money from the CIA to (produce) and design and distribute for free special movies and games with the aim of manipulating public opinion in the Middle East, Hekmati said. The goal of the company in question was to convince the people of Iran and the people of the entire world that whatever the US does in other countries is a good measure." 

Kavkaz noted that "Kuma Games has worked under contract for the US government (in 2006 it was announced that the company produced a training game for the American army), but information about the connection with the secret services have not previously received. Representatives of Kuma Games have not yet commented on Hekmati's statement." 

By its very nature, the content of Kuma/War offerings is polarizing and guaranteed to inflame passions regarding the conflict zones depicted in the games. One game that prompted a surge of anger was a "reality-based" game released last spring. As Kavkaz noted, the game Kuma/War 2, included a mission in which the player was invited "to 'kill' Osama bin Laden (martyr, Insha'Allah)." 

Kuma/War has also outraged Iranians with a release called "Battlefield 3," As Kavkaz notes, "This shooter has caused resentment of local authorities due to the fact that part of its action takes place on the streets of Tehran." 

It is fair to wonder how Americans might react to an Iranian videogame that involved heroic members of Iran's Republican Guard gunning down Americans in the simulated streets of New York. Recently, Behrouz Minai, the head of the Iranian National Center for Computer Games announced that the NCCG was preparing to release a game designed to serve as "a response to the Battlefield 3." 

Americans can relax. Times Square will not be in the crosshairs of this "reality-based shooter." In the Iranian version of Kuma/War, the plan is to depict the Iranian army attacking Tel Aviv. Minai explained that his game-designers decided to target Israeli city because such a virtual attack would "anger the Zionist rulers in the US more than an attack on Washington." 


Gar Smith is a Berkeley-based reporter and co-founder of Environmentalists Against War (www.envirosagainstwar.org). 

Updated: Family Says Berkeley City Clerk Died from "A Terrible Accident"

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Monday January 09, 2012 - 11:09:00 PM

Berkeley City Clerk Deanna Despain died early Saturday morning as a result of "a terrible accident" at her home in Oakland, according to a statement issued today by her family and Berkeley City Manager Christine Daniel. 

Despain, 37, was found dead inside her home in the 4100 block of Lyman Street in Oakland just before 2 a.m. Saturday, Oakland police spokeswoman Johnna Watson said. 

Oakland police initially said Despain's death was suspicious but Watson said that's no longer the case. 

However, Watson refused to provide further information about Despain's death, saying it's still under investigation. 

Daniel said in a memo to city of Berkeley employees that, "Her family has shared with us that although it is too soon to expect an official report, the Oakland Police Department and the Alameda Coroner's Office have told them that her death was a result of a terrible accident." 

Daniel said, "This was very sudden, and our hearts are with her family as they come to terms with this unexpected tragedy." 

Daniel said, "This is a heartbreaking loss for Deanna's family, as well as all of us at the city. She was an incredible human being and an excellent city clerk who worked incredibly hard, cared deeply about good government, her profession and her staff. 

Daniel added, "Most of all, she loved her friends and her family. To her husband and daughter especially, she is irreplaceable." 

Despain became Berkeley's Acting City Clerk in June 2008, succeeding Pamyla Means, and was officially appointed City Clerk on May 17, 2009. 

Before becoming Acting City Clerk, Despain served the city starting in September 2004 as the records manager, assistant city clerk and deputy city clerk. 

Despain attended the University of Utah and Salt Lake Community College, according to a resolution that the City Council passed when it appointed her City Clerk. 

As clerk, Despain was responsible for preparing agendas for city meetings, overseeing elections, managing records for the city and processing appointments to boards and committees. 

Mayor Tom Bates said, "It's really sad to hear the news because she was such a valuable employee and was truly liked in city politics. She had a pleasing way of getting along with people." 

Bates said Despain "was an excellent clerk and was skilled in untangling and interpreting the complicated resolutions passed by the City Council." 

He said, "The city's staff is in shock and in mourning" after hearing about her death. 

Bates said it's especially sad that Despain's daughter, who is less than a year old, will grow up without her.

Just Another Day in The Hood
(First Person)

By Ted Friedman
Monday January 09, 2012 - 09:47:00 AM
Occupy People's Park?
Ted Friedman
Occupy People's Park?
University police say tent must go, so tent comes down.
Ted Friedman
University police say tent must go, so tent comes down.
Last load at site of Sequoia Apartments fire. Work to re-open Raleigh's and Intermezzo can now begin.
Ted Friedman
Last load at site of Sequoia Apartments fire. Work to re-open Raleigh's and Intermezzo can now begin.
As last Sequoia rubble is removed behind Raleigh's doorway, work will begin to re-open what is now nothing.
Ted Friedman
As last Sequoia rubble is removed behind Raleigh's doorway, work will begin to re-open what is now nothing.
Once sumptuous Raleigh's reduced to hole in the wall after Sequoia Apartments fire. Now work to bring it back in some form or other will begin. View from Haste and Telegraph.
Ted Friedman
Once sumptuous Raleigh's reduced to hole in the wall after Sequoia Apartments fire. Now work to bring it back in some form or other will begin. View from Haste and Telegraph.

Just another day in the hood, Berkeley's South-side—my Lake Woebegone. 

The last pile of putrid rubble from the Sequoia fire, en route to a concrete-lined Nevada dump which accommodates waste so toxic California won't take it, awaited one final photo-op. 

On the way to shoot the last remains of the Sequoia, I skirted People's Park where I noticed something bizarre in the park—even for the goof-ball arena it has become—a single tent. 

Pitching a tent, at any time, in the park is illegal. The tent was a few feet from the sign prohibiting the tent. 

The tent was more than illegal. After a hundred Occupy tents in Civic Center Park were evicted weeks ago, and tent encampments at Cal's Sproul Plaza were also booted—tent-pitching in Berkeley become persona-non-tent. 

But the People's Park tent- pitcher had not a clue. I know. I talked to the tentist, and she was as clueless as you get, from a life of harried homelessness. 

Tent-girl turned out to be a petite young traveling woman, last encamped at Occupy Oakland. She wore the expressionless face of a depressive, and resisted my humor, in what was to be for me a day of not drawing a laugh—and worse. 

I'm always kidding around with my sources, but I couldn't even get a smile, from the sad young woman. 

Before leaving, I checked my park facts with the posted rules sign. Yep—no tents, which I relayed to her. "You'll probably just get a warning," I re-assured her, and she re-assured me she was keeping the tent up, once she finished erecting it, which I was interrupting. 

Her tent bore an Occupy poster, but she said she was not occupying the park. 

I was off for the Ave., and the Sequoia. On the way, I eyeballed the fishbowl of the Caffe Mediterraneum (that's when you press your nose to the Med door-glass, looking for inside action). The Med was dead. 

Emerging from Bongo Burger, adjoining the park, I saw, first, the university police squad car, and then two officers near the tent. The officers will never know that I delivered the first warning to tent-girl, because they not only didn't like my jokes—they despised me. 

I despised me. Nothing sucks like a failed comedian, which I know all too well from my failed night-club comedy career back in the late 70s. 

Tent-girl had left her tent unattended while she went to the other end of the park, as a diminutive veteran Berkeley Cop-Watch videographer aimed his tiny camera at the imposing cops like a pea-shooter. 

I tried, unsuccessfully, to crack up the cop-watcher, whom I've known since 1976, but when he's on watch, he's at some sexual point of no return. Did the cops associate me with the "menacing" voyeur? 

"Good afternoon," officers, I soothed. I'm a reporter from…. "Is the girl leaving?" 

":Ask our public information officer; we can't talk to you." 

I hate the PIO gambit, and should not have said, "I can get my own public info right here." 

Do you have a press card," they asked. I came close to saying, "I don't need no stinking badge" (like your stinking badge?). I left out the joke, as I looked into their cold-cold eyes. 

"I know the drill," I said. "You can't talk because you don't want to get fired and lose your pension." 

This was a joke requiring an explanation—the worst kind of joke, and really just irony, a poor relative to humor. 

"I knew you would be difficult," one of the two officers said. 

"Difficult?"I asked, "How am I being difficult?" 

"You're arguing with me," the wise-guy said. 

"Sir," I said gravely, "I taught argumentation at the university [Hawaii, 1967-70], and I could teach you a few things about argument." 

That cut it. 

The whole screwed-embroilment was like my "Expletives Fly in Panoramic Hills" yarn (Planet: May 18, 2011) in which I snark-assed threatened to slug a citizen, who messed with me on a shoot in the hills. 

Anyone who has read my cops 'n robbers pieces in the Planet will know that I dig joking with, and "schmoozing" cops. Were these cops unschmoozable? 

"Would you answer my questions if I were from Ch 4?" 

"Of course," said the officer. 

"Do you live in Berkeley?" I asked; "Oops I know I'll have to ask the PIO that question," I added. "I ask because, you should be reading the local paper." 

"I'm an Oakland Tribune reader," the cop said. 

"It shows," I, fortunately, failed to retort. 

Berkeley police, including the chief, read me. What was wrong with these university cops?Tent-girl packed up her tent and left. I returned to the Ave., vowing to either get some better jokes or stop effing with my stolid police sources. 

Ted Friedman, sometimes off-beat, always finds something to report from his sizzling South-side beat. 





Press Release: Realty Notes from All Over: Developer Bails, Berkeley Blamed, Ross-for-Less Building Sold for $8.425 Million

From Adriana Aceves, Marketing, Retail West Inc.
Tuesday January 10, 2012 - 11:32:00 PM

"After over three years of vacancy the former Ross Dress for Less building located at 2190 Shattuck Ave. on the corner of Shattuck & Allston has been sold to a new ownership group, Somera Sansome Partners based out of San Francisco. Retail West Inc.’s Matt Holmes and Dean Copans represented both the buyer and seller in this transaction that sold for $8,425,000. According to Holmes, "The building went vacant at the outset of the recent recession and there had been considerable interest from an out of state developer to try and assemble the entire block in an effort to create a quasi San Francisco Center styled type of urban retail project with both hotel and large promotional retailers. The market decline killed that ambitious project and than [sic] two subsequent deals died at the hands of the city of Berkeley with their zoning and planning oversight." Holmes added that this has been a classic case of utopian urban planning versus the realities of a tough market and limited retail playing field.' A single tenant retailer is in negotiations to occupy the street level and the developers are intending to create a second story large format class A office space on the upper floor."

Updated: Berkeley City Clerk Dies Over Weekend in Unexplained Circumstances

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN) and Planet
Monday January 09, 2012 - 01:54:00 PM

Berkeley City Clerk Deanna Despain died over the weekend, city spokeswoman Mary Kay Clunies-Ross confirmed today. 

Despain was reportedly found dead at her home in Oakland on Saturday night after falling downstairs.  

According to City Hall sources who asked not to be quoted, the fall is believed to have been accidental.  

Clunies-Ross said Despain's death was "very unexpected" but she didn't immediately have more details. 

Despain, 37, became Berkeley's acting city clerk in June 2008, succeeding Pamyla Means, and was officially appointed as city clerk on May 17, 2009. 

Before becoming acting city clerk, Despain had served the city starting in September 2004 as the records manager, assistant city clerk and deputy city clerk. 

Despain attended the University of Utah and Salt Lake Community College, according to the City Council's resolution that was passed when she was appointed. 

The Alameda County Coroner's Office said that there was a press hold on information at this time, and the Oakland police spokesperson did not return calls.

Cal Football Team Schedules Friday Night Game in New Berkeley Stadium

By Steven Finacom
Thursday January 05, 2012 - 12:00:00 PM

After a year away playing in San Francisco and an extensive renovation / rebuild of Memorial Stadium is complete, Cal football will be returning to Berkeley this fall. The Department of Intercollegiate Athletics has just released the game schedule. It contains one big surprise, and some twists on tradition including a Friday night game in Berkeley.

Big Game in October

The surprise is that the Big Game—the traditional end of season rivalry match with Stanford that alternates between the two campuses—will be played this year in Berkeley on October 20, a whopping four conference games before the end of the season. 

The season announcement, which can be found at the web link below, contains an extensive question and answer section addressing this change from tradition. It notes that Cal and Stanford voted against the proposed schedule, but were overruled by other Pac-12 teams.  

The reason for the early game, the announcement says, is that a twelve game season, and the decision to hold a Pac-12 championship game on the last weekend in November or the first weekend in December, would push the Big Game either to November 17, or to Thanksgiving weekend if it was to remain of the last games of the season.  

Neither Cal nor Stanford wanted a Thanksgiving Friday Big Game since many of the traditional activities of Big Game week—not to mention the student fans—would disappear over the holiday. 

Both schools lobbied for a November 17 date instead, but were overruled by the other conference schools because “other dates for conference games would be significantly impacted.” (All the other traditional conference rivalries remained at or near the end of the season, however.) 

“I am very disappointed that these challenges have resulted in the moving of our rivalry game with Stanford—one of the longest standing traditions in all of college football—away from its proper place and time in the rhythm of the football season”, Cal Athletic Director Sandy Barbour is quoted as saying in the statement. 

“We do not expect this 2012 scenario to be the norm, but an exception. The 2013 and other future schedules have not yet been approved by the conference, and Cal will do its best to help ensure the Big Game will be scheduled as close to the end of the season as possible.” 

(Interestingly, although I agree it would be hard to imagine this working in today’s world, there would actually be a historical precedent for a Thanksgiving weekend game. In its early years the Big Game was played on Thanksgiving Day itself, often in San Francisco. The lyrics to the Cal song “Stanford Jonah” originally began “What shall we do to the Stanfordites on Thanksgiving Day? We’ll celebrate our victory, after we play…” Thanksgiving was later genericized to “on that great day”.) 

When the Big Game news was announced in a blurb on the SFGate website earlier today, the comments proved almost uniformly negative. As one anonymous commenter said “this must be what the ancient Mayans had in mind when the predicted the ‘end of the world’ in 2012.” Another noted, “this is like moving the hanky panky first and following up with the foreplay.” 

Friday Football November 2 

Both Cal and Stanford traditionalists may be miffed by the mid-season scheduling, which will deprive whichever team is having a poor season of the highly valued chance to, at the last minute, knock the other out of the rankings or a coveted bowl game. 

However, from the standpoint of Berkeley residents whether they follow college football or not, the bigger schedule change is the implementation of a Friday night game in Berkeley against Washington on November 2. 

“A number of logistical challenges certainly exist” the website announcement acknowledges. It will be a regular work and class day on campus and a Stadium full of fans (if they can get off work early, that is) will be pouring into Berkeley during the late afternoon and rush hour for what is expected to be “an early evening kickoff.”  

“Cal Athletics is already working collaboratively with the academic and administrative leadership on campus to find a solution that will accommodate the needs of students, faculty, staff, football fans and neighbors who live in the surrounding community, particularly to minimize traffic concerns.” 

Cal is obligated to play one home Friday night game every two years. There will be none in Berkeley in 2013, but one in the 2014 or 2015 seasons. 

Entire schedule 

The 2012 schedule overall includes seven home games in Berkeley. They included Nevada (September 1), Southern Utah (September 8), a two week away game break, Arizona State (September 29), UCLA (October 6), away at Washington State, Stanford (October 20), away at Utah, then two final home games against Washington (November 2) and Oregon (November 10), and a regular season ending away game at Oregon State. 

One would anticipate from past experience that UCLA, Stanford, Washington and Oregon would all pack Memorial Stadium to, or close to, capacity, and the Arizona State crowd might be fairly large, too. The Nevada and Southern Utah contests might not figure to draw capacity crowds, but by being early in the season when Cal fans are optimistic and during usually fair weather, they might still draw well, regardless of opponent. 

No start times are announced, due to the tyranny of TV, which dictates last minute tweaks of the schedule. 

The full schedule is below.  

2012 Cal Football Schedule 


Sat Sept. 1 Nevada Berkeley 

Sat Sept. 8 Southern Utah Berkeley 

Sat Sept. 15 at Ohio State Columbus, Ohio 

Sat Sept. 22 at USC Los Angeles, Calif. 

Sat Sept. 29 Arizona State Berkeley 

Sat Oct. 6 UCLA* Berkeley 

Sat Oct. 13 at Washington State Pullman, Wash. 

Sat Oct. 20 Stanford Berkeley 

Sat Oct. 27 at Utah Salt Lake City, Utah 

Fri Nov. 2 Washington Berkeley 

Sat Nov. 10 Oregon Berkeley 

Sat Nov. 17 at Oregon State Corvallis, Ore. 


Home games (in bold) at Memorial Stadium 





Updated: Berkeley Police Action Reported on 4th between Jones and Page

Saturday January 07, 2012 - 04:58:00 PM

On Saturday night a reader called in a report of multiple police cars headed north and an ambulance speeding south. Berkeley Police confirmed police action regarding a traffic incident near 6th and Page, and radio reports tracked a suspect, described as a Black female suspect over 200 pounds of unknown height on 4th between Jones and Page, southbound in a white Cadillac at about 5 p.m.

Berkeley Food and Housing Project: Working to Keep Up with the Need

By Lydia Gans
Friday January 06, 2012 - 01:08:00 PM

The Berkeley Food and Housing Project (BFHP), which has been feeding and housing poor and homeless people since 1970 is finding its resources increasingly stretched. Since the economic crisis began to unfold there has been a steady increase in the number of people needing services. 

The food program, long called Quarter Meal, provides sit down or take out meals weekdays at Trinity Methodist church on Bancroft. According to BFHP director Terrie Light, “Since May of this year the amount of people coming in for our feeding program went up over 20%. Comparing this year to last year, every month, there's been 20% to 30% difference. Some weeks were pretty alarming, so many people snaking out of the building around the corner coming in for a hot meal.” 

The pressure on the mens and womens overnight shelters is ever more intense requiring a new approach to the shelter program as well as increased services, staff, and funding. In the past, the shelter meant in by a specified time in the evening, out by 8 in the morning. A person could be sure of a bed up to some maximum number of days, usually 30 days. It was assumed that whatever problems forced them to stay in the shelter could be solved in time to get them out. Advice, help in the form of case management was available. The expectation was if they wanted housing and they really hustled, with help they should be able to find something in that time. But with the economic crisis, things began to change. 

Terrie Light explains, “some of our donations were shrinking and we saw people coming into the agency that were first time homeless”. This increase in the need for services “is an indicator that people are on the edge.” Having to choose between rent and food is causing more and more people to fall into homelessness. “Every night now the shelters are full. Zero vacancies, emergency beds are full. Often put out cots and they get full.” Many homeless people are sleeping in their cars or in the street. 

The overriding need of the clients coming to BFHP is getting into affordable housing. Some have lost their jobs or have reduced incomes. A federal Homeless Prevention Rapid Rehousing Program (HPRP) has kept families in Alameda county from becoming homeless but the program ends this June. This will mean a new influx of people needing help. 

A large number of the clients are not working. They are people on fixed incomes, seniors, disabled or medically fragile and on SSI or various entitlement programs for which funding is being cut. At the same time rents in the area are going up. As a result a large proportion of the program resources are now devoted to finding affordable housing. “We're really focused now on helping people find housing.” Terrie Light says. “So we have housing specialists that actually go talk to land lords, drive people to apartments, help them fill out applications, to advocate with landlords for deals or work for part of their rent.” Connie Green is the shelter supervisor at the men's shelter. She talked about the difficulties. Rents in the single room hotels (SRO's) which used to be the least expensive are all going up. “We had a landlord who had over 500 units between August and September has 6 units now. The cheapest being a studio at 1150 a month.” And landlords hesitate to rent to people with fixed incomes. This landlord told her that he would never rent to anybody with a subsidized income. “He said 'why rent so somebody with low income. If something comes up there's an emergency they're going to buy food before they pay the rent.'” 

It has also become clear that 30 nights in an overnight shelter is not enough. Besides taking longer just to find new housing, clients need information and help in accessing other resources so now the project needs more staff to provide client services. The focus of the program has changed. Connie Green explained “This was typically a 30 day shelter and it's changed into an interim housing model.” A person can stay longer if he or she is seriously looking for housing and works with a case manager. There is a housing clinic available at Trinity all day long. If a person is jobless, they are referred to an employment program. Connie Green mentions Rubicon, or St. Vincent de Paul for example. “If you've successfully done that and brought in a resume and a cover letter and a name of a job coach who we can collaborate with you can stay longer.” The women's center also has case workers to help women become independent and allows them to stay longer if necessary. For people who are mentally challenged case workers try to get them into living situations where they can get the assistance they need. 

Last Spring the project started a special program for veterans. Terrie Light tells of applying to the veterans administration for funding noting that statistics show that California has 20% of the nation's homeless veterans, many of them, living in the Bay Area. Given the history of the anti war movement here, “I have a feeling”, she says, “we have more vets that aren't identifying as vets because this is Berkeley. So we need to do things to let vets know we're welcoming them. … Our program is called Welcome Home Berkeley. ... Kriss Worthington said at dedication how this was healing for the city to be able to reach out to vets.” 

The program is housed in the the veteran's building but it is separate from the men's shelter. It is in an enclosed section almost like a small apartment with a kitchen, living room and bunks for 12 vets. They have access there all day. “This is where they live. Because they're all former military they're a military unit and it's interesting how they work together, and cooperate and support each other in their search for independence. So most of the men there are looking for work, one has gone back to college at UC and the initial 12 that we started with in May already have had 6 move out into housing.” 

I dropped in one afternoon and found three of the vets there. All lost their housing because they were not able to keep up their rent. They are trying to find work. And all three are applying for their veterans benefits, a process which is taking an inordinately long time. Raymond Jackson served in the Navy during the Vietnam era. When he got out he went back to his job a U.C. but he is no longer working. “I'm 64 years old,” he says, “and things happen. I'm working on getting a pension from the Navy. … it takes a while, like a year to process.” Willie Robinson is applying for his benefits “for a lot of injuries”. He was denied three months ago and now is in the appeal process. 

Patrick Lewis entered the military in 1980 and spent 16 years, primarily in Saudi Arabia. He is 45 years old, was a diesel mechanic in the military and is looking for work. And he is applying to the VA for disability benefits for PTSD. He explains that “the occupation of Saudi Arabia lasted for so long a lot of people were never recognized for the disabilities they came back to the states with.” He launches into a description of the process of applying for benefits. “... the building on 14th and Clay streets in Oakland. (You start) on the 11th floor where you initially pick (a)veteran's personnel that's going to represent you – then you go to the 12th floor where they pull all your records to find out if you have a case that should be pursued - (you wait) - then go to 3rd floor they take a look to see if you have a legitimate claim - (you wait) may have to send back east, to find out your records to verify you were in conflict. “I produced all my military records, that I was fired on while in the war situation, etc. I'm still waiting.” It's been almost a year and, like the others, he's worried that his allotted time in the shelter will run out and he could again be homeless. 

Running the many BFHP programs takes a large and dedicated staff. Terrie Light talks about staffing. The “increase of services requires more staffing - not just checking into shelter and getting a towel and a couple of sheets. Helping people find housing, figure out what to do with their children. How to get a job and all things to help them in their homelessness. We give our staff oodles of training ... We have a whole component of training for staff – new employee orientation, to case management training to housing case management.” They have over 60 people, half full time and the rest part time and on-call. 

“And we have had to do fund raising to do that”, she adds. “A lot (comes) from the city of Berkeley – we're the biggest grantee of the city of Berkeley - we work with a lot of different parts of the city. We get quite a bit of federal money, some through the city and some directly, a modest amount of county money and absolutely no state money. About 30% comes from private donations and foundations.” 

Future of an Illusion: How Berkeley Were We In 2011?

By Ted Friedman
Friday January 06, 2012 - 10:40:00 AM
Ho-hum. Sometimes we lose sight of our Berkeley blessings. Telegraph Holiday Crafts fair, 2011.
Ted Friedman
Ho-hum. Sometimes we lose sight of our Berkeley blessings. Telegraph Holiday Crafts fair, 2011.
Hot-air balloons break-away at Occupy Cal.
Ted Friedman
Hot-air balloons break-away at Occupy Cal.
How Berkeley? Visitors to a Telegraph street fair.
Ted Friedman
How Berkeley? Visitors to a Telegraph street fair.
Flipped-out Mustang on Channing.
Ted Friedman
Flipped-out Mustang on Channing.
Cranes over Memorial Stadium.
Ted Friedman
Cranes over Memorial Stadium.
Clearing in People's Park in May left a lot that was destroyed last week. Such clearing is routine.
Ted Friedman
Clearing in People's Park in May left a lot that was destroyed last week. Such clearing is routine.
Back in People's Park  on a mound of mulch.
Ted Friedman
Back in People's Park on a mound of mulch.

I'm ceding Freud "Future of an Illusion," in return for “How Berkeley Were We," free of Freudian analysis. The "How Berkeley Were We" question is fraught with deep inner conflict and lexical complexities. 

"How Berkeley Were We" refers to the defunct (since 2008) "How Berkeley Can You Be?" parade, which had been held on University Avenue since 1995. A How Occupy Berkeley Can You Be event at Civic center Park, sponsored by Occupy Berkeley never happened on October 30 as planned. 

With the final possibility of a revival of the goofy, world-renowned spectacle foreclosed, we are left with a void of signification that would test a Freudian analyst. 

So come with me, as I unravel the question of what does it mean to be "Berkeley," and explicate the "How Berkeley Were We" question. 

First difficulty first. What means it to be Berkeley? I could go Hamlet here, with existential angst—instead, I'll just wade right in, if I'm not already wading in it. To be—or, of course, to not be—Berkeley simply means to be on the streets, and interacting with fellow Berkeleyans. 

You may know that Berkeley is a great walking town, but did you know that it is also a great talking town? And you needn't be homeless to be on the streets. Just being on the streets of Berkeley, and open to interactions with its denizens, is basic Berkeley. 

For a piece last May, I went to the Berkeley street the day Bin Ladin was offed, and learned the Berkeley street (Telegraph) tops a blow-hard touting his book. 

In stores, with clerks and owners, in coffee houses, just about anywhere in town that Berkeleyans gather—talk is not cheap. It's informed, or wacky, but it's choice. 

We were talking Berkeley, as we gawked at the Sequoia fire scene and, concocted our urban legends last month. Occupy Berkeley was a typical Berkeley meet-and-beat, in which MLK Park and BA Plaza produced a continuing encounter with civic rhetoric. 

Each event we attend binds us. 

When a Ford Mustang flips out on Channing or two thousand students Occupy Sproul Plaza in November, we show up as Berkeleyans to play our parts—because Berkeleyans are always seeing how Berkeley they can be. 

Two hundred Berkelyans who reportedly attended Lawrence Lessig's analysis of income inequality, in November at the Hillside club became a community forum on government reform—just the sort of scene we had at Cody's author events. 

Robert Reich's Mario Savio lecture at Sproul Plaza was a vast community learn-in—an intellectual rock-out. 

After tediously asking, "Where's the Berkeley in Occupy Berkeley?" this reporter found Berkeley indelibly etched in that perspicacious ragtag movement. OB initially resisted the charms of Berkeley's old lefties, while trying to adhere to Occupy Wall street protocols—but finally rolled over. 

Perhaps a glorious love child for a grand new age, will emerge from that union. 

If you stopped by OB, you were quite Berkeley last year. If you spoke, you had to. You couldn't help it. You're so Berkeley. Then you were hooked. 

If you attended a city council meeting, you are in a special category—Berkeley pol- geek, or nutso, panting in the wings, awaiting your "big scene." 

We thought the idea of a sit-lie ordinance, kicked around all year, might happen some day, but stopped obsessing about it when the Occupy movement reminded us that we are being played by high finance and its hired politicians. 

We had thought we must defend the rights of the street kids. But that was before we learned we are all street kids. And we proved it by hanging out on the street in the street theater nights of the OB general assembly. 

The Occupy Berkeley general assembly, while initially serving up "newspeak" from Back East soon enough transformed into a Berkeley head trip. 

And just when we thought the revolution was at hand (even though the end of the world fizzled), the university expectedly rolled into People's Park with a bulldozer two days before the end of the year. 

We were shocked, shocked! Shocked that, after a year of paranoia in the park over the perceived intentions of the university to re-take the park, the university would fuel the paranoia. 

The university moved strategically, catching Berkeleyans off-guard. After a year of tree-sits (three) in the park to protest the university's treatment of park trees and plants 

and huffing and puffing, park regulars seemed out-maneuvered by their own wolf-crying. 

On the Cafe Med mezzanine, scene of many 60's People's Park planning meetings, a group calling itself, "People's Park Forever," deliberated Wednesday about suing the university and challenging its ownership of the park. 

Without much decided, Park Forever disbanded, when attendees had to leave for further rounds of Berkeley activist meetings. 

How Berkeley was that? 


Ted Friedman gives thanks for a year in which he was privileged to spin Berkeley. 














Howard A. Bern, Founding Father in the Field of Endocrinology

By Alan Bern
Friday January 06, 2012 - 01:16:00 PM

Howard A. Bern, Professor (Emeritus) of Integrative Biology and Research Endocrinologist, Cancer Research Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley, died at his home, after a nine-month bout with cancer, in Berkeley, California, January 3, 2012, at the age of 91. With his colleague and friend Aubrey Gorbman, former zoology professor and department chairman at the University of Washington, Bern co-authored the definitive volume, A Textbook of Comparative Endocrinology (Wiley), in 1962, which, according to colleague and friend Stacia A. Sower, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of New Hampshire, “contained concepts that were key to the development of the emerging field of comparative endocrinology and guided the thinking and careers of a vast number of scientists around the world.” Sower describes Bern as “one of the most truly great scientists I have ever known. He is a giant and one of the founding fathers in our field of comparative endocrinology and he is the founding father of the field of endocrine disruptors.” 

Bern was honored with the Distinguished Teaching Award in 1972 and the Berkeley Citation in 1990 at the University of California, Berkeley. He was elected on merit as a Member of the National Academy of Sciences, and as a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences; he was also a member of the Indian National Science Academy, the National Society of Science, Arts, and Letters of Naples, Italy, and the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (Italy), in addition to numerous other American and foreign associations and institutions. Bern received honorary doctorates around the world, including the University of Rouen (France), Yokohama City, Japan, and Toho University, Japan. In 1988 the American Society of Zoologists held a special Symposium, "Evolving Concepts in Chemical Mediation," in honor of Professor Howard A. Bern, and in 1990 the California Legislature cited him in the Assembly Members Resolution No. 966 commending Professor Howard A. Bern. In 2001 the Howard A. Bern Distinguished Lecture in Comparative Endocrinology was inaugurated by the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology. 

Bern was the author or co-author of around 600 scientific papers, and he is co-editor of seven books from Progress in Comparative Endocrinology (with W.S. Hoar, Academic Press) to Applications of Endocrinology to Pacific Rim Aquaculture (with E. Chang and T Hirano, Elsevier) and Neurosecretion and the Biology of Neuropeptides (with H. Kobayashi and A. Urano, Japanese Scientific Societies Press). Teacher of over forty-six Ph.D. students, thirty-six M.A. students, thousands of undergraduates, and more than ninety postdoctoral fellows and visiting professors, Professor Bern had a national and international reputation beyond compare among biologists. 

Bern’s greatest commitment was to his students and their development. His laboratories embraced diversity in all respects beginning in the late 1940s, long before our current view of diversity was formed. Diversity was never an area of controversy for Bern, as it was a fundamental premise of the inquiring environment. It extended to his supporting students arrested for their political actions as in the case of the Free Speech Movement, which he also supported strongly. Students from every U.S. ethnic group and from all parts of the world worked in his labs. As Bern wrote about creative teaching, “I consider creative teaching to lie primarily in the area of individual contact… A one-to-one relationship is indeed of value to the less motivated students, encouraging those of diverse backgrounds to identify with the idea of independent study and to enter domains (academic, professional) that they may have originally considered not open to them. These students often become indistinguishable from those who are initially certain of the paths they wish to follow. In both instances, professor and student learn from each other; it is a two-way interaction. An association becomes a friendship, often lasting far beyond the student's tenure in the professor's laboratory. The differences between professor and student that derive from age, gender, economic status, ethnicity, experience, philosophy, etc., assure that both will be exposed to new ideas and attitudes.” Bern was mentor to dozens of students and for this was nominated for the National Science Foundation Presidential Mentoring award in 2005, a nomination which meant as much to him as any of the awards he received. Many of his former students wrote letters supporting his candidacy for this prestigious award. University of Florida zoologist Louis Guillette, a protégé, wrote of him: “He taught me that one’s legacy to science is not the work that you do, but the people you leave behind.... When a National Academy of Sciences member tells you that a scientist’s biggest legacy is helping young people succeed, it truly means something.” 

Bern was born in Montreal, Canada, on January 30, 1920, and lived with his family in Los Angeles, California, beginning in 1933, for whom he was a primary breadwinner during the Great Depression beginning at the age of fourteen. He received his B.A. in 1941 and his Ph.D. in 1948 from the University of California, Los Angeles. He served in the Military (Medical Department) in the Pacific during WWII (1942-6). He began as an Instructor in the Zoology Department at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1948, and spent the rest of his career there. 

Bern is survived by his wife of 65 years, Estelle; a sister, Judy Brooker of Palm Springs, California; a brother, Gordon Bern of Laguna Hills, California; two children, Lauren Bern (John Bell) of Madison, Wisconsin, and Alan Bern (Alice Abarbanel) of Berkeley, California; six grandchildren, Jesse Bell Bern, Jake Bern, Emma Bell Bern, Ben Bell Bern, Amanda Abarbanel-Rice, and Allison Bell Bern; and two great grandchildren, Ezra Colton Abarbanel and Ariel Zeiler Abarbanel. 

Donations may be made in memory of Professor Howard A. Bern to Doctors without Borders, https://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/donate/ or call their office at (212) 763-5779.



Secret Funders Back Campaigns in Iowa--and Even in Berkeley

By Becky O'Malley
Thursday January 05, 2012 - 12:00:00 PM

The hilarious mind-boggling Republican presidential primaries are providing a bang-up opening to the silly season. Who would have thought that the party of Dwight Eisenhower and Robert Taft, sober and sincere fellows who ceremoniously duked it out on my grandparents’ 13-inch round TV screen, would come to this? Who are these people anyhow? And what’s become of the Real Republicans—are they being held hostage by the Koch Brothers in some undisclosed location? 

The many-billionaire Kochs, like their protégé Texas Governor Rick Perry, are dead stupid—but unlike Perry they were born rich and stupid. Now that Perry’s coherence problems have proved to be too much even for the Republican primary electorate, they might have to put their money elsewhere. Their first favorite, Herman Cain, was smarter, but not as smart as he thought he was, so he’s gone too. 

The Kochs’ main asset—that would be money, money, money—seems to have changed the odds in Iowa. The attack ads on Newt Gingrich, who proved to be too much even for conservative money-men to swallow, brought him down. They were financed by one or more Super-Pacs, the new predators spawned by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision removing limits on individual contributions to independent groups. 

But even with expensive third-party attacks on Newt, Mitt Romney—who’s not a Real Republican of the old school but can play one on TV—wasn’t able to improve on his modest one-voter-in-four base of supporters. The rest of the votes went to assorted self-styled conservatives beloved of the Tea Party and other ideological groups. 

These have been able to funnel many unmarked bills into the primaries, earmarked for any candidate still breathing who is willing to espouse their antediluvian tenets. In Iowa, the winner turned out to be Santorum. He’s the most charismatically challenged of the bunch, but at least he doesn’t seem to have a secret mistress lurking in his background. 

The new breed of Super-Pacs have already radically changed politics. The best window on how they work is provided by comedian Stephen Colbert’s Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, which is both a parody and a genuine fully functioning Super Pac which does idiotic things with its cash. 

Donations to Super Pacs are reported infrequently, if at all, unlike donations directly to candidates. They can come from corporations of all stripes, as well as from wealthy individuals who want to keep their identities secret. And the mischief they’re doing in the Republican primary will be multiplied in the 2012 general election at all levels of government. 

But it can’t happen here, can it? Does California law allow corporate money to be funneled indiscriminately into our elections? Yes, it does. 

Case in point (and this might surprise you if you haven’t been reading the Planet for long): in October of 2010 a glossy mailer touting Berkeley Ballot Measure R, a pro-development initiative, was sent to Berkeley voters before the November election. It prominently featured the name and logo of the Sierra Club, so the unwary recipient (most of us) would never know that it was actually paid for by Chicago billionaire Sam Zell’s Equity Residential Corporation, which had already bought up the lion’s share of new downtown Berkeley apartment rentals and wants to build even more of them. Full details can be found here

Berkeley’s relatively strong campaign regulations revealed (to those who knew how to do the research online or read the Planet) who funded this mailer, just a month before the election, but that doesn’t happen everywhere in California. And the information about who paid for it should have been on the piece itself in the first place, which Berkeley law doesn’t require. 

If “good guys” like the Sierra Club can be suckered by corporate cash, you can bet that the bad guys will also be available for purchase at election time. Now, however, there’s a new proposal to put a stop to the practice of concealing fiscal sponsorship of campaign propaganda of all kinds. 

Common Cause is launching its campaign for the California DISCLOSE Act on Sunday. 

From the invitation to the kickoff event: “The California DISCLOSE Act (Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections, AB 1148) will require disclosure of who is funding political TV, radio, print, and slate mailers on the ads themselves. It will stop corporations and special interests from hiding who is paying for ads.”

The California Clean Money Campaign website describes the proposed act this way: 

“AB 1148, the California DISCLOSE Act, would fight back against unlimited hidden spending on campaigns by letting voters know who REALLY is paying for political ads — on the ads themselves. Authored by Assemblymember Julia Brownley and sponsored by the California Clean Money Campaign, AB 1148 would amend the Political Reform Act of 1974.
“California DISCLOSE Act Provisions:
  • Requires the three largest funders of political ads to be clearly identified with their names and logos — on the ads themselves, so voters know who is actually paying for them.
  • Applies to all television ads, radio ads, print ads, mass mailers, and websites for or against state and local ballot measures, and to independent expenditures for and against candidates. It applies whether ads are paid for by corporations, unions, or millionaires.
  • Tells voters where to find the details — Requires ads to list a website with greater disclosure and a link to the Secretary of State's website
  • Will "pierce through" hidden funders by requiring political ads to report their three largest actual contributors, no matter how many committees or groups their contributions pass through.
  • Applies to slate mailers: Requires slate mailers to show when ads are paid for by independent expenditures.
  • Requires candidates to appear and say they "approve this message", just like federal candidates.
  • Tells voters where to find the details — Requires ads to list a website with greater disclosure and a link to the Secretary of State's website
  • Will "pierce through" hidden funders by requiring political ads to report their three largest actual contributors, no matter how many committees or groups their contributions pass through.
  • Applies to slate mailers: Requires slate mailers to show when ads are paid for by independent expenditures.
  • Requires candidates to appear and say they "approve this message", just like federal candidates.”
If this sounds good to you, and you’d like to join the effort, the Common Cause kickoff event will take place this Sunday, January 8, from 2:00-4:00 pm, at the San Francisco Main Library. Expected to attend are Tom Ammiano, Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Fiona Ma, Supervisor John Avalos, and Senator Mark Leno. 

It’s co-sponsored by California Clean Money Campaign, Bernal Heights Democratic Club, Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, the League of Women Voters of SF, Potrero Hill Democratic Club, California Common Cause, San Francisco for Democracy, San Francisco Green Party and the San Francisco Living Wage Coalition, with others to be announced. 

Invitees are asked to RSVP and register. If you have questions, or want more information, call Helen Grieco at (415) 531 1774. 





The Editor's Back Fence

Berkeley in Other News: "Berkeley city manager ... retiring with bigger pension than salary".

Saturday January 07, 2012 - 04:49:00 PM

There's an amazing article about Berkeley's ex-manager in the San Jose Mercury, by Daniel Borenstein. Many facts and figures, a real eyeopener... 

Click on the link, read the piece, and send your opinion to opinion@berkeleydailyplanet.com.

Redevelopment: Good or Bad? Tell Us What You Think

Friday January 06, 2012 - 10:10:00 AM

A controversial analysis of the role of redevelopment in funding housing for low-income Californians which first appeared on the IndyMedia news wire is posted in this issue. It raises a number of important issues, though some readers might dispute its conclusions.

Another opinion which takes a negative view of the role of redevelopment in housing was posted by Tenderloin Housing director Randy Shaw on the Beyond Chron site.

Redevelopment has also been used for many other kinds of projects both good and bad. For example, the Planet received this comment from Richmond Councilman Tom Butt: 


Yesterday, the California Supreme Court upheld legislation passed earlier this year abolishing redevelopment agencies in California. Hamstrung by a Republican minority that will not touch California’s current tax scheme and facing reduction of funding for schools and social welfare programs, the Democratically controlled legislature decided to rob the cities. Redevelopment is a 65-year-old program that allows cities to undertake capital projects and finance them with future taxes from the resulting increase in property values. Richmond would likely still look like the devastated shell left over from the WWII boom if it weren’t for redevelopment. Probably the best example is Marina Bay, including the Ford Building rehabilitation, all made possible by redevelopment. As Marina Bay matured, its tax increment funds were tapped for projects all over Richmond, such as the recent Macdonald Avenue improvements. Since 20% of redevelopment funds must be used for low-cost housing, much of what has been built in Richmond was paid for or subsidized by redevelopment.

All of those opportunities will now go away, with the money siphoned off to Sacramento to keep the State afloat.
We'd like to see a frank discussion of whether redevelopment has been good or bad for California, along with suggestions for what needs to be changed if the legislature revives it in some form.

If you have something to say on this topic, please send an email comment of any length, signed by your real name, to
redevelopment @berkeleydailyplanet.com

and we'll post it. 




Odd Bodkins: Ten Megatons (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Tuesday January 10, 2012 - 10:18:00 AM


Dan O'Neill


Bounce: Joe: Final Awk (Cartoon)

By Joseph Young
Tuesday January 10, 2012 - 10:23:00 AM


Joseph Young


Odd Bodkins: Supply Side Economics (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Wednesday January 04, 2012 - 01:31:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Public Comment

MIC CHECK?!?! State Run Political Campaigns?

By Thomas Lord
Tuesday January 10, 2012 - 09:40:00 AM

Imagine opening up your copy of the Constitution one day and finding these words:

Federal, State and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own contributions and expenditures, for the purpose of influencing in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure.

Federal, State and local government shall require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed.

On January 7th, Occupy Berkeley's ruling authority, its General Assembly, somehow came to endorse an upcoming protest called "Occupy the Courts". The protest is in response to the Citizens United decision which overturned federal limits on independent electioneering expenditures by corporations. 

On January 20th, the Occupy the Courts organizers hope to "occupy" federal courthouses around the country. 

Occupy Berkeley did not invent or plan this particular protest, they merely seem to endorse it, for some reason. The action at courthouses was masterminded by an organization calling itself Move to Amend

According to their website, Move to Amend calls for a constitutional amendment that would give federal, state, and local governments authority to regulate, limit, or even prohibit any and all campaign contributions and expenditures. The amendment text above is part of their proposal. 

While these powers are common features in repressive regimes around the world, here in the U.S. the Citizens United decision has only added to the many ways in which government cannot suppress political activity. Move to Amend's proposed amendment apparently wants to close that gap and ensure that elected officials can fully control campaign spending. 

Move to Amend is funded and backed by the Liberty Tree Foundation, a Wisconsin-based not-for-profit organization that, with no apparent ironic intent, describes itself as "building a foundation for a democratic revolution." 

The Liberty Tree Foundation was chartered in 2004. Their website cites no legislative or legal victories among their accomplishments but they have built a network of regional affiliates. They accept monetary donations at their web sites.

New: REDEVELOPMENT FORUM: The Facts behind the Hype

By Jim Mellander
Thursday January 12, 2012 - 10:16:00 AM

Redevelopment has been sold to the public nationwide as a virtual panacea for numerous urban ills. The California Redevelopment Association website features pictures of happy children frolicking in a presumably redeveloped urban area. Although this idyllic image is charming, adults need to address quality of life issues in a mature way. There are many desirable societal goals for which redevelopment is touted as the road to achieving these goals. This brief letter will discuss some of the hard facts behind the hype surrounding redevelopment. 

Blighted areas in urban settings are one of the ills redevelopment is expected to correct. In order to qualify for redevelopment an area must be declared “blighted”. State law is sufficiently vague and elastic to allow such areas as parkland, new residential areas, professional baseball stadiums, oil fields, shopping centers, orange groves, open desert and dry riverbeds to be declared as blighted. 

A city park in Lancaster was determined to be blighted and paved over to make space for Costco. In order to build a test track for a major automobile manufacturer, California City declared open desert land to be blighted. In Orange County, a public health facility was declared blighted and the property turned over to a BMW dealership. The extremely wealthy southern California gated-community of Indian Wells has several redevelopment areas despite an average six-figure income of its residents. 

Redevelopment agencies received enormous revenue from the increased property tax in the redevelopment area as a result of the property improvements financed by public bonds issued by the redevelopment agency. Over 10% of total property tax revenues in the state have been diverted to these redevelopment agencies – this is big business cloaked with the power of government, used for the benefit of the few, at the expense of the many. In the meantime, schools and other public services have suffered from the diversion of these funds away from general funding streams. In order to offset this loss, school districts have won their own property tax diversions from cities, in the form of the Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund (ERAF) further pressuring municipal budgets. 

From a purely financial standpoint, such increase in property values could be justified if it had resulted in increased prosperity for the citizenry – a rising tide floats all boats. The report “Subsidizing Redevelopment in California” found that redevelopment activities did not result in any net economic growth or increase in property taxes, and, in fact, that redevelopment was being subsidized by funds diverted from schools, the state, and special districts. The California Redevelopment Agency (CRA) initially fully cooperated with this study. However, when the conclusion was reached the CRA blasted the report and tried to have it buried. Per capita income growth in California cities with redevelopment agencies generally has slightly lagged behind comparable cities without redevelopment, exactly the opposite of what would be expected if redevelopment was a successful tool for economic growth. 

Politicians and other special interest groups will tout the relatively few successes of redevelopment as indicators of its value to the community. Certainly, those who directly benefit from this largess are understandably perturbed by the pending demise of the California redevelopment establishment. Aside from the workers in redevelopment agencies and those who have received subsidies, politically connected developers enjoy favorable loans in sweetheart deals. 

Statewide, 37% of all redevelopment funds are spent for debt service on bonds, 25% for actual development, 6% for land acquisition, and 12% for administration (i.e. redevelopment staff salaries). By law, 20% of all redevelopment funds must be spent on "low cost" housing, but only 3% is actually being spent directly on housing. 

More troubling to many people than the financial issues are the property rights violations inherent in the power of eminent domain, often aggressively used by redevelopment agencies to clear out uncooperative property owners in the way of the agency’s vision of “progress”. 

The Bill of Rights specifies that the purpose of eminent domain is for public use: "Nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation." Redevelopment has redefined “public use” to include privately owned shopping centers, auto malls, movie theaters and big banks. The CRA bragged in an article in its monthly Redevelopment Journal titled "Eminent Domain Helps Citizens" that "Wells Fargo Bank was one of the existing tenants of the Los Altos Shopping Center (Long Beach) helped by eminent domain." 

In a letter of this length, it is only possible to skim the surface of the financial and ethical problems surrounding the redevelopment establishment. Interested readers are invited to search the web for the document: “Redevelopment – The Unknown Government”, from which many of the facts and figures cited above have been used.


By Richard Thompson
Tuesday January 10, 2012 - 11:20:00 PM

Laud Governor Brown's initiative in dissolving The Centre City Development Board, among others, which was but the San Diego City Council Writ Large. 

Attack board members who were in on the deal to build the bridge across Harbor Drive to Petco Park which took 10 years, and cost $30 million. That pedestrian meant so much graft to insiders for such a very long while. 

Consider the Broadway Pier which isn't used because 1) the so-called Mexico Riviera cruise ship business has fallen off because of violent crime, and 2) it costs twice as much— $100,000 per night — to rent the new bridge (while it still costs $50,000 to rent the old bridge overnight). 

San Diego City Council seeks to avoid controversy in the first place, and indictment by State of California AG Kamala Harris in the second place, as its members troll for campaign contributions. If parks are good for cities, why is planning so contentious? Westfield Group is making money at other malls in San Diego, but it is losing money at Horton Plaza Mall — there is no cheap nearby parking — so it wants out from under the lease. The way to do that is to present a design plan for a Horton Plaza Park. But why has the historic Horton fountain been a rat-infested ruin for several years already if the Council / Agency is so terrific? 

Governor Jerry Brown is right to want to abolish the city development districts throughout the state. Former Governor Pete Wilson — who always kept his word — now represents the fat cats' interests as shown by his support for the Mayor-headed San Diego City Council's over-hasty approval of such development projects as the Horton Plaza "Park." 

Conrad Prebys has joined a small cadre of San Diego philanthropists making substantial donations to local San Diego organizations. His largest gifts have supported the arts, San Diego Zoo, medical research and Scripps Health. I think he is a wonderful man. Prebys is truly to be compared with my distant relative Ellen Browning Scripps. Presbys is the least selfish person I know, and I thank him for the UC San Diego Concert Hall, plus the polar bear exhibit, and the proposed three big cat exhibits at the Zoo, with all my heart. 

A day doesn't dawn when California's Senior Senator Dianne Feinstein and her multi-billionnaire husband Dick Blum don't take additional millions of dollars from the public trough (Blum's investment company owns $700,000,000 in for-profit college shares — while he serves on the UC Regents). . Marty Block, even though he was chair of the House Higher Education Committe — he's now running for state senate — didn't mention skyrocketing tuition at the county Democratic convention which I attended — nor the trillion dollars in debt carried by college students nationwide. The reason was that Ashford University was a sponsor of the county Democratic convention (the CEO of Ashford took $9,000,000,000 in stock options in 2009). UC San Diego Chancellor Fox recently joined the board of Ashford's parent company. 

Many other people in the state are corrupt, too. 

The state convention of the Democratic Party will be held February 10 through 12, 2012 at the San Diego Convention Center. Development Boards are corrupt. Everyone attending the convention should echo that message. 

More and more independents will abandon both Republicans and Democratics by the time of the General Election. Governor Brown should abandon his attempt to put the excise tax on the ballot. Read Eugene Burdick's Ninth Wave, a novel about surfing and politics.

Press Release: ZOA Praises U.S. Cong. Brad Sherman For Call To UC Berkeley: Reconsider Award To Former UN Official And Israel-Basher [sic] Mary Robinson

From the Zionist Organization of America
Tuesday January 10, 2012 - 08:24:00 AM

NEW YORK, January 10, 2012-- The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) strongly praised U.S. Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) today for urging the University of California, Berkeley to reconsider its decision to give Mary Robinson, formerly the president of Ireland and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, its "2012 Public Health Hero" award. Congressman Sherman stated that his recommendation was based on Robinson's "record of bias and animus against Israel." 

In a letter to Berkeley Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau on January 4, 2012, Congressman Sherman expressed many concerns about the way in which Ms. Robinson carried out her responsibilities as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, including the following: 

· "Under Robinson's leadership, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued wildly skewed reports on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, unfairly painting Israel as the aggressor and the Palestinian Arabs as innocent victims." 

· "Robinson blamed Israel for the outbreak of Palestinian violence during the Second Intifada." 

· "When Robinson allowed the Durban process to be hijacked by anti-Semites and those who deny Israel's right to exist, she betrayed her responsibilities as High Commissioner and enabled enormous undeserved damage to Israel's international image." 

· "Robinson's' stewardship of the infamous Durban Conference allowed hostility toward Israel to proliferate on the global arena. . . . A conference convened to combat the scourge of racism became an arena for some of the most anti-Israel, anti-Jewish voices in modern history." 

· "Rather than use her leadership in a constructive and objective way, Robinson adopted the narrative of Israel's most vitriolic enemies." 

Congressman Sherman informed the Chancellor: "As a Representative from California, I believe that the University of California, Berkeley, a public institution with a global reputation of excellence and quality, should be upholding that reputation by honoring someone untainted by such a record of bias and animus against Israel" (emphasis added). 

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, "The ZOA applauds our great friend, U.S. Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA), for urging UC Berkeley not to honor Mary Robinson because of her disgraceful and shameful record on Israel. Congressman Sherman has been a leader in ensuring that our colleges and universities respond effectively to campus anti-Semitism, including vicious Israel-bashing that demonizes and delegitimizes Israel. We are grateful to Congressman Sherman for speaking out against UC Berkeley's poor choice in deciding to honor Mary Robinson, and urge the university to act on the Congressman's advice and rescind the decision." 

About the ZOA 

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) is the oldest and one of the largest pro-Israel organizations in the United States. With offices around the country and in Israel, the ZOA educates the public, elected officials, the media, and college/high school students about the truth of the ongoing Arab war against Israel. The ZOA works to strengthen U.S.-Israel relations through educational activities, public affairs programs and our work on Capitol Hill, and to combat anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias in the media, in textbooks, in schools and on college campuses. Under the leadership of such presidents as Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, Rabbis Abba Hillel Silver and Stephen Wise, and current President Morton A. Klein, the ZOA has been - and continues to be - on the front lines of Jewish activism. The ZOA is a 501(c) (3) non-partisan organization. www.zoa.org.

Ending Redevelopment Hits Not-for-Profit Housing Developers

By Lynda Carson
Sunday January 01, 2012 - 09:44:00 AM

In a significant win for students and schools throughout California, a court ruling in the last week of 2011 gives support to the state's ability to grab funds from local redevelopment agencies to fund the current state budget, with a billion dollars of that funding going towards schools and public safety, according to Governor Jerry Brown.

The unanimous December 29, 2011, California Supreme Court ruling in support of a state law passed last summer to abolish redevelopment agencies throughout California has so-called nonprofit housing developers shedding tears, as more than 400 redevelopment agencies will close their doors after February 1, 2012, as a result of the court ruling.

Wealthy so-called nonprofit affordable housing developers in California promote their projects as being beneficial to the poor while seeking subsidies from redevelopment agencies for their projects. In reality, their projects discriminate against the poor with minimum income requirements. The 501c3 charity nonprofit housers have become very wealthy from their so-called affordable housing schemes, that have exploited the poor.

The demise of California's redevelopment agencies mean that future neighborhood gentrification and urban renewal projects involving nonprofit housing developers in Oakland that would have displaced the poor, may now be placed on hold as a result. Additionally, Oakland's Victory Court plan for an Oakland A's Stadium is no longer a viable option since it also depended on the Oakland Redevelopment Agency for funding, and the threat of displacing many low-income people and small businesses, has been diminished.

As public housing projects for the poor continue to be underfunded resulting in blighted conditions and over 120,000 demolished public housing units in recent years, the so-called affordable housing industry thrives and has developed hundreds of so-called affordable housing projects throughout California that discriminate against the poor with their minimum income requirements, and are funded by local redevelopment agencies (RDAs).

In yesterdays latest headline release to be found on the Affordable Housing Finance website, the affordable housing industry is astounded and shocked that the state Supreme Court ruled that the state can abolish more than 400 RDAs, in a move that could thwart affordable housing development across California. Shamus Roller, executive director of Housing California said, "Today was a huge blow for anyone in California that struggles to pay rent or lives in unsafe conditions."

Shamus Roller failed to mention that many so-called affordable housing projects have been displacing the poor from their housing in California, or that so-called affordable housing developments discriminate against the poor with their minimum income requirements.

For instance, in Oakland several 501c3 charity nonprofit housing developers including Bridge Housing and the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC) have already been involved in gentrification projects in Oakland that have displaced hundreds of poor low-income families from their longtime public housing. Future so-called affordable housing gentrification projects that may displace the poor from their public housing, may not be as easy to finance without the assistance of redevelopment agency funding in Oakland, and elsewhere.

Currently in Berkeley, families in 75 public housing town-homes face displacement from their housing in a so-called affordable housing scheme involving some out of state billionaires, that want to buy and privatize Berkeley's public housing.

As another example, in recent years over $60 million in affordable housing funds originally meant to assist the poor, was instead diverted to fund Oakland's Uptown Project as a subsidy to build 2,000 luxury housing units for Forest City Enterprises and it's billionaire owners, including 900 condominiums, and 1,200 luxury apartments as envisioned in the original $500 million development plan.

Forest City Enterprises stands to make a fortune from the wealthy people that are interested in moving to downtown Oakland, as part of Jerry Brown's (old) 10 K Plan that was designed to displace the poor from downtown Oakland, in an effort to replace them with wealthy shoppers living in luxury housing.

The Oakland city deal to subsidize the luxury condo's for Forest City Enterprises with the $60 million in affordable housing funds had the full blessing of the local nonprofit housing developers that belonged to the East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO). Many poor people and local businesses in the area were displaced by the Uptown Project, as a direct result of the nonprofit housing developers that supported the Uptown Project.

Affordable Housing Projects Discriminate Against The Poor

So-called affordable housing projects being run and operated by 501c3 charity nonprofit housing developers have minimum income requirements that discriminate against the poor, unless the poor have a Section 8 voucher or the equivalent kind of subsidy from some other housing program.

When comparing so-called affordable housing with public housing, people with no income at all are allowed to reside in public housing including the elderly and disabled, and most public housing projects do not have minimum income requirements for the poor to reside there.

As the local public housing projects are facing more budget cuts from the federal government and are shutting down, or are being sold off to billionaires and wealthy 501c3 charity nonprofit housing developers, the public housing projects are rapidly being converted into privatized so-called affordable housing projects. Affordable housing projects that discriminate against the poor.

The wealthy 501c3 charity nonprofit housing developers are trying to promote their so-called affordable housing projects as something that is good, and have done a good job at hoodwinking society into believing that affordable housing is good for the poor.

Minimum Income Requirements For The Poor

At Los Medanos Village in Pittsburg, Resources for Community Development (RCD), a local Berkeley 501c3 charity nonprofit housing developer discriminates against the poor at this affordable housing project and others it has developed, but advertises that there are no "minimum income requirements" for the poor people that have Section 8 vouchers.

As another example on how the poor are discriminated against in so-called affordable housing projects, local Oakland 501c3 charity nonprofit housing developer EBALDC demands that poor people on a fixed income such as social security or a pension, must earn at least 1.6 times the amount of monthly rent being charged in their so-called affordable housing projects. Those with other income must earn 2 times the monthly rent, and there is no minimum income requirement for those with Section 8 vouchers or similiar subsidies.

Another 501c3 charity nonprofit housing developer called "EAH" in Marin County, demands that a single person that wants to move into it's so-called affordable housing development called Farley Place, must earn a minimum of $31,000, but advertises that there is no minimum income requirement for poor people with Section 8 vouchers.

Bridge Housing Corporation, is one of California's largest so-called nonprofit housing developers. During 2010, at their housing development project called Ironhorse Central Station, Bridge Housing demanded that a single tenant must have a minimum income stretching between $15,326 - $18,750 annually, and in another instance in Tier 5 of the same project, Bridge Housing was demanding that an individual must have a minimum income of $26,091 - $31,250.

During 2008, the John Stewart Company was involved in a major lawsuit filed by the residents of the California Hotel in Oakland, after the John Stewart Company and Oakland Community Housing, Inc. (OCHI), threatened to unlawfully cut off their water and utilities in an attempt to unlawfully evict the poor from the historic hotel, and force them from their housing.

A judge had to grant a restraining order to stop these two so-called 501c3 charity nonprofit housing organizations from unlawfully dumping the poor onto the cold streets of Oakland. At the time, OCHI wanted to dump the poor from their housing in the California Hotel, so that OCHI could replace them with higher income tenants that would be subsidized by the City of Oakland, and some homeless programs.

As the wealthy so-called 501c3 charity nonprofit housing developers are shedding crocodile tears at the loss of local redevelopment funding to finance their so-called affordable housing schemes, the executives in the nonprofit housing industry continue to grab excessive salaries and wage compensation for themselves. They are living in luxury, despite all the major budget cuts occurring in the federal housing programs during recent years, including the latest loss of funding for their projects from local redevelopment agencies.

The Poverty Industry In The East Bay...A few 501c3 Charity, Nonprofit Developers' Salaries & Compensation

As the federal and state budget cuts devastate programs that are meant to assist the poor, it should be noted that as the income for the poor, elderly, and disabled drastically decreases due to budget cuts, at the same time the salaries and wage compensation for the executives in the so-called 501c3 Charity nonprofit housing sector, have skyrocketed to obscene levels.

The more that the housing programs being operated by the nonprofit housing sector are being shredded by federal and state budget cuts, the more in salaries and wage compensation that the executives have been grabbing for themselves, and the higher the rents are becoming for the low-income renters.

It is an obscene situation, and the executives in the so-called 501c3 charity nonprofit housing industry should all roll back their salaries and wage compensation to levels below $80,000 a year, as a way to compensate for all the budget cuts taking place in the housing programs, in an effort to lower the rents being charged to the poor.

Salaries & Wage Compensation

In Oakland, 990 tax filings reveal that the salaries and compensation have been steadily rising at a rapid pace for the non profit affordable housing sector, including key staff employees working for the Oakland based non profit housing organization, East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC).

EBALDC claims that it's mission is to develop affordable housing and community facilities, including integrated services focused on tenants and neighborhood residents, with an emphasis on Asian and Pacific Islander communities and the diverse low income populations of the East Bay.

Records show that in 2009, Executive Director of EBALDC, Lynette Jung Lee, earned as much $140,536 that year, including an additional $5,942 in other compensation from EBALDC.

In contrast, records also reveal that during FY 2007 - 2008, EBALDC only paid Lynette Jung Lee $87,265 plus other compensation of $3,055, meaning that in 2009 Lynette Jung Lee's compensation from EBALDC skyrocketed by more than $50,000 in a single year. Since then, Lynette Jung Lee has retired and been replaced by Jeremy Liu, as the Executive Director of EBALDC.

To have increased the salary of Lynette Jung Lee by $50,000 or more in a single year during FY 2009, that means that at least 1,000 poor low-income households in the EBALDC Empire may have had to contribute a minimum of $50 out of their rent payments, just to cover the cost of a $50,000 salary increase.

During 2009, La Netha Oliver, Director of Human Resources for EBALDC earned $80,221, plus an additional $8,184 in other compensation, but in FY 2007 - 2008 she only earned $68,547 plus $1,227 in other compensation, meaning that her compensation increased by around $18,000 in a year.

The records also reveal that in 2009, Carlos Castellanos, Director of Real Estate Development for EBALDC, had earned $91,280, plus $11,228 in other compensation, but in FY 2007-2008 Castellanos only earned $71,865 plus $2,415 in other compensation, meaning that his wages jumped by around $28,000 in around a year.

Additionally, in 2009, Don Piyathaisere, EBALDC's Chief Financial Officer earned $98,265, plus an additional $8,472 in other compensation. However, records show that in FY 2007 -2008, Piyathaisere earned $91,138 annually plus an additional $2,236 in other compensation, meaning that in one year his compensation leaped more than $12,000. Since then, Piyathaisere has been replaced by Peter Sopka as the Chief Financial Officer for EBALDC.

Records also reveal that Mary Hennessy, Chief Operations Officer for EBALDC is raking in $129,220 annually, plus $8,134 in other compensation, and that the wages of Charise Fong, Director of Economic Development for EBALDC, have risen in 2009 to $81,828, plus $308 in other compensation, from $69,751 annually plus $2,099 in other compensation, during FY 2007 - 2008, meaning her compensation jumped to around an extra $10,000 in a year.

In total contrast to the huge leaps in salaries and compensation for the top staff at EBALDC, records reveal that during FY 2006 - 2007, Lynette Jung Lee was the top wage earner at EBALDC, pulling in a mere $87,156 annually, with no extra compensation.

The Poverty Industry & Some More Local & So-Called East Bay Affordable Housing Developers

Eden Housing, Inc.: Salaries & Compensation

From 7/1/2008 through 6/30/2009, Linda Mandolini, Executive Director, was paid $162,393 plus $14,368 in other compensation and works only around 28 hours per week. Jan E. Peters, Chief Operating Officer, was paid $136,500 plus $13,177 in other compensation. Terese Mcnamee, CFO, was paid $133,743 plus $6,167 in other compensation. Andrea Papanastassiou, Director of Development, was paid $131,455 plus $6,618 in other compensation.

Satellite Housing

From 10/1/2008 through 9/30/2009, Ryan Chao, Executive Director, was paid $163,893 plus $6,377 in other compensation. During 10/1/2007 through 9/30/2008, Arion Chao, Executive Director, was paid $167,000, and Joyce Boyd, Director of Finance, was paid $81,760, and Miriam Benavides, was paid $85,000, and Analisa Anthony, Director of Property Management, was paid $87,550, and Dori Kojima, Director of Housing Development, was paid $92,000, and Patricia Osage, Dir. Res. SVCS, was paid $80,000.

Resources for Community Development (RCD)

From 7/1/2008 through 6/30/2009, Dan Sawsilak - Executive Director, was paid $112,900 plus $9,814 in other compensation, and Peter Poon, Finance Director, was paid $69,505 plus $1,362 in other compensation. From 7/1/2007 through 6/30/2008, Deni Adaniya, Senior Project Manager was paid $90,000, and Eric Knect, Asset Manager was paid $73,438, and Kate Mckean, Controller, was paid $70,825, and Elizabeth Eckstein, Director of Fund Development was paid $68,542, and Peter Poon, Finance Director, was paid $65,840.

Affordable Housing Associates (AHA)

From 7/1/2009 - 6/30/2010, Susan Friedland, Executive Director of AHA, was paid $133,731, and a year earlier was paid $130,393. From 7/1/2007 through 6/30/2008, Susan Friedland was paid $116,660, and Leland Chin, Finance Manager was paid $76,514, and Teresa Clarke, Construction Manager was paid $84,413, and Kevin Zwick, Director of Development was paid $84,460, and Eve Stewart, Project Manager was paid $67,000, and Angela Cavanaugh, Director of Property Management was paid $68,000.

EAH Inc. (EAH Housing) (Marin County)

From 7/1/09 through 6/30/2010, Stephen Lucas, was paid $182,197 plus $6,951 in other compensation, and Peggy Franklin was paid $331,371 plus $12,460 in other compensation, and Matt Steinle was paid $162,410 plus $9,453, and Mary Murtagh was paid $254,030 plus $10,733 in other compensation, and Laura Hall was paid $186,136 plus $6,951 in other compensation, and Kevin Carney was paid $135,667 plus $6,951 in other compensation, and Cathy Macy was paid $132,931 plus $6,951 in other compensation, and Alvin Bonnet was paid $122,471 plus $8,669 in other compensation.

Bridge Housing (San Francisco)

From 1/1/2008 through 12/31/2009, Carol Galante was paid $203,860, and Lydia Tan was paid $316,611, and Susan Johnson was paid $255,001, and D. Valentine was paid $231,615, and Ann Silverberg was paid $173,319, and Rebecca Hiebasko was paid $271,683, and Brad Wiblin was paid $212,823, and Tom Earley was paid $224,432, and Corinne Morrison was paid $178,312, and Thomas Casey was paid $163,939, and James Valva was paid $165,097 (Husband of Officer, Susan Johnson), and Kim Nash-Patchen was paid $157,054, and Elizabeth Nahas-Wilson (The daughter of Director Ron Nahas) was paid $127,979 plus $29,075 in other compensation.

Lynda Carson may be reached at tenantsrule@yahoo.com

New: REDEVELOPMENT FORUM: A View from 50 Years Later

By Christopher Adams
Saturday January 07, 2012 - 05:02:00 PM

When I was studying architecture at Stanford in the late 1950s, one of my teachers was an enthusiastic proponent of redevelopment law, which was then very new. We studied about two projects being planned in San Francisco: Diamond Heights and the Western Addition.

Diamond Heights was an undeveloped area of steep ravines and ridges south of Twin Peaks and Noe Valey. The land had been divided into hundreds of lots along unbuilt streets laid out on paper in a gridiron plan which matched the built parts of the city to the north. The terrain was so steep that the streets could not be built, suggesting that the engineers making the plan had never actually seen the site. Apparently neither had many of the owners, because the lots had been sold to hundreds of different people. Redevelopment law allowed the city to condemn and purchase the lots so they could be re-platted on a street pattern which followed natural topography. From an architecture and urbanistic standpoint the results are banal to say the least: this is not a part of the city that gets featured on postcards or in movies. One is reminded, again, of how depressing much post-war "modernism" was. However, redevelopment gave the city the legal means to correct the planning errors of an earlier generation, and unlike most redevelopment projects no one was dislocated except the wild creatures that had lived there.

Western Addition was another matter. This area, west of Van Ness and roughly aligned along Geary had survived the fire which consumed most of downtown San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake. It consisted of tall Victorian row houses in decrepit condition and largely occupied by very poor and often minority families. When some of us students demurred that the architecture was interesting, our teacher rebuked us with stories of rats, filth, etc. Soon after the land was cleared, but, except for the widening of Geary to expressway dimensions, the old street grid was retained. Some good low income (and low rise) housing was built and a lot of awful projects as well. Two non-residential projects stand out, the cathedral and the Japan Center. Neither is great architecture (My cousin always referred to the cathedral as "Holy Maytag") but they both fill a need. The entire area forever lost the qualities that make so many San Francisco neighborhoods appealing. I can't help but wonder what would have happened if it had been left as is. I suspect that as the enthusiasm for "modern" declined, the Victorians would have found buyers, and the area would have gentrified like so many other parts of the city, ultimately, of course, at the expense of the poor and minorities but not so abruptly. 

In my last year another professor assigned us a studio project to plan the redevelopment of South Park in the south of Market neighborhood of San Francisco. He was not a redevelopment enthusiast, but the department chair wanted us to study redevelopment again, so we did. The site was a mixture of light industry and decayed housing, built post earthquake and not picturesque, surrounding a long and narrow oval park, I am sorry to say that no one in the class retained the park or anything else. As I recall, my design was a cluster of factory buildings (one story) with curving concrete slab roofs so popular at the time. Fortunately, South Park was not redeveloped to my plan or anyone else's. The park is still there, surrounded by a quite nice mix of housing, restaurants, and professional offices, with new interesting architecture and old renovated buildings.

Echo Chamber Narrative

By Thomas Lord
Friday January 06, 2012 - 01:17:00 PM

Your recent editorial advocates electioneering transparency and the promising sounding California DISCLOSE Act -- worthy causes and thanks for shining a spotlight on them.

I have my doubts, though, when you invoke the popular narrative that it was Super PAC negative advertising that brought down Newt Gingrich in Iowa. To be sure, that is Gingrich's claim. Certainly, the national news pundits have accepted that narrative and repeat it as gospel truth. I don't buy it, though, and I'm not sure why anyone would.

Negative ads appeared around the time that Gingrich began falling in the polls. That's about all we really know. The question of correlation vs. causation hangs unanswered.

If big money didn't hurt Gingrich in Iowa, what might have? 

Perhaps a simpler explanation for Gingrich's fall is that he ran a lazy campaign, relying more on TV exposure than on driving a borrowed truck around Iowa meeting people. On TV, the only audience feedback Gingrich receives is from the imagined audience in his head. Playing to that audience, in the weeks leading up to the caucus, Gingrich turned up the volume on his wordy, condescending Smartest-Guy-In-The-Room act. In so doing, he trashed his own brand. 

Gingrich's prior rise in the polls coincided with his challenging Obama (and just about anyone else) to "anytime, anywhere, Lincoln-Douglas style debates". He peppered his speeches with smart-sounding references to the Newt-brand history of the republic. For a brief couple of weeks, his campaign was driven by his threat to out-argue and out-knowledge anyone and everyone, especially the well spoken incumbent. 

For those who suspected that Obama got elected on the basis of pretty words covering bad ideas, the notion of an equally well or better spoken conservative candidate had some appeal. 

Yet as the caucus drew nearer, Gingrich put his argumentation on full, fool display. He spoke about repealing child labor laws while managing to insult poor people everywhere. He criticized the courts, this time promising to start a full blown constitutional crisis by having judges arrested and hauled before congress. To display his foreign policy prowess and love of Israel he referred to "an invented Palestinian people" who apparently other Arabs should take in to spare us all a lot of fuss. 

At the heart of all of those gaffs are popular conservative sentiments: less employment regulation, cultural endorsement of hard work, demand for a conservative-leaning judiciary, and strong support for Israel. Its hard to imagine how he could touch on those topics and get in trouble yet get in trouble he did. 

It was the way he said things. Each time he tried to say something shocking ("repeal child labor laws") he said it so poorly that later he was seen "clarifying" his position. He was constantly getting tripped up on his own words and his own inflated sense of genius, and then getting called out on it. Instead of more Gingrich, we got a lot of Newt explaining what Newt really meant when Newt last went off. 

The "great debator," thus -- without even a real audience or debate partner -- lost the debate before it even happened. Nobody seeing those clips on the nightly news or the net could seriously believe any more that this supposed scholar could out talk the incumbent. 

Meanwhile, while Gingrich fought the ghosts in his head under the studio lights, his real Iowa competition - Rick Santorum - tried something radical in Iowa. He canvassed the state. He met people. He spoke in small forums earnestly and interactively. Santorum went into Iowa as a weak speaker who usually does quite poorly on television. He worked Iowa the old fashioned way. From underneath his nervous patter and sweater vest emerged a serious and engaged candidate willing to articulate his views with relatively little bluff, bluster, or bull. 

Campaign transparency is an important issue. I'm all for it. Still, let's not assume that big money trumps all else in electioneering. Gingrich may find it convenient to blame his loss on anything but himself but we don't have to join him in that. He defeated himself the old fashioned way, fair and square.

It's Slim Pickings for a Presidential Choice in November

By Jack Bragen
Friday January 06, 2012 - 11:31:00 AM

Democratic as well as semiconscious Republican voters will have a difficult choice for President in 2012, because they may feel that there isn’t much to choose from. It is the more conscious of the Republicans who traditionally have voted Democrat in the past and have thus brought Democratic candidates into office. Part of this formula involves a percentage of Democratic voters who will defect to the Republican candidate, necessitating the swaying back to Democrat of some of the Republicans. 

Obama, by attempting to pander to the demands of the Republicans, hasn’t made any friends. Instead of that, he is perceived as weak and lacking in leadership. And he has lost the support of much of his Liberal Democratic base. By trying to please both the Republicans and Democrats at once, Obama has miscalculated. Candidates will get into office through either a tough conservative or a strong liberal stance. No one will get into office through being a heavily diluted candidate who doesn’t stand for anything. 

Now, the Republicans are talking about the “mystery candidate” who is going to enter the race. Let’s hope that such a person isn’t choosing this timing so that he or she could opt out of most of the debating. These early debates enabled the voters to rule out support of an incompetent candidate. If Sarah Palin wanted to enter the presidential race, now would be the time she would do so; her fellow republicans are losing momentum, and less stamina is required of a candidate entering the race later. This is beside the fact that there will be fewer debates and much less scrutiny for Palin to deal with, which would have revealed her for what she is: unqualified. 

Sarah Palin, however, lost a lot of her popularity through resigning from her job as Governor. So maybe we’re looking at Donald Trump entering the arena. Trump, while he has been fortunate in various business enterprises, is not suitable to be President. And in his case, my explanation of timing is still applicable: He has avoided considerable debating as well as scrutiny. Trump would be a disaster as President, and might be the only one out of the bunch who would lose to Barack Obama. 

Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich is crying foul over Mitt Romney’s “negative campaign.” It is completely bogus for a candidate to attempt to impose a rule that everyone be positive, and to expect one’s opponent to follow such a rule. This is especially so if there is a lot of material available for a negative campaign due to all the bad things there are about Newt. As House Speaker, Gingrich shares culpability alongside President Obama for the lack of progress we have experienced in the last three years. 

Like I said, voters will have a tough choice in November between a slew of candidates who all seem to share the same mediocrity and a lack of leadership. I still think Hillary Clinton ought to run.

January Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Wednesday January 04, 2012 - 12:44:00 PM

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

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

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

This is a Very Good Deal. Go for it! 


DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: Cyber War: Reality or Hype?

By Conn Hallinan
Tuesday January 10, 2012 - 09:51:00 AM

During his confirmation hearings this past June, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned the Senate, “The next Pearl Harbor we confront could very well be a cyber attack that cripples our grid, our security systems, our financial systems, our governmental systems.” It was powerful imagery: a mighty fleet reduced to smoking ruin, an expansionist Asian power at the nation’s doorstep. 

But is “cyber war” really a threat? Can cyber war actually “cripple” the U.S., and who might these computer terrorists be? Or is the language just sturm und drang spun up by a coalition of major arms manufacturers, the Pentagon, and Internet security firms, allied with China bashers aimed at launching a new Cold War in Asia? 

The language is sobering. Former White House Security Aide Richard Clarke, author of “Cyberwar”, conjures up an apocalyptic future of paralyzed U.S. cities, subways crashing, planes “literally falling out of the sky,” and thousands dead. Retired Admiral and Bush administration National Intelligence Director, Mike McConnell grimly warns “The United States is fighting a cyber war today and we are losing.” 

Much of this rhetoric is aimed at China. According to U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, the Chinese government has launched a “predatory” campaign of “cyber theft” that has reached an “intolerable level.” U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) charges that a “significant portion” of “cyber attacks” on U.S. companies “emanate from China.” Former CIA and National Security Agency director Michael Hayden told Congress, “I stand back in awe of the breadth, depth, sophistication, and persistence of the Chinese espionage effort against the United States of America.” 

China has been accused of hacking into the Pentagon, the International Monetary Fund, the French government, the CIA, and stealing information from major U.S. arms maker Boeing, and the Japanese firm Mitsubishi. The latter builds the American high performance fighter, the F-15. 

The Pentagon has even developed a policy strategy that considers major cyber attacks to be acts of war, triggering what could be a military response. “If you shut down our power grid,” one Defense official told the Wall Street Journal, “maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks.” 

But consider the sources for all this scare talk: Clarke is the chair of a firm that consults on cyber security, and McConnell is the executive vice-president of defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Both are currently doing business with the Pentagon. 

Arms giants like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, and other munitions manufactures are moving heavily into the cyber security market. In 2010, Boeing snapped up Argon ST and Narus, two cyber security firms with an estimated value of $2.4 billion. Raytheon bought Applied Signal Technology, General Dynamics absorbed Network Connectivity Solutions, and Britain’s major arms firm, BAE, purchased Norkom and ETI. 

“There is a feeding frenzy right now to provide products and services to meet the demands of governments, law enforcement and the military,” says Ron Deibert, director of the Canada Center for Global Security Studies. 

There are big bucks at stake. Between the Defense Department and Homeland Security, the U.S. will spend some $10.5 billion for cyber security by 2015. The Pentagon’s new Cyber Command is slated to have a staff of 10,000, and according to Northrop executive Kent Schneider, the market for cyber arms and security in the U.S. is $100 billion. 

But is cyber war everything it is cracked up to be, and is the U.S. really way behind the curve in the scramble to develop cyber weapons? 

According to investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, in his New Yorker article “The Online Threat,” the potential for cyber mayhem has “been exaggerated” and the Defense Department and cyber security firms have blurred the line between cyber espionage and cyber war. The former is the kind of thing that goes on, day in and day out, between governments and industry, except its medium is the Internet. The latter is an attack on another country’s ability to wage war, defend itself, or run its basic infrastructure. 

Most experts say the end-of-the-world scenarios drawn up by people like Clarke are largely fiction. How could an enemy shut down the U.S. national power grid when there is no such thing? A cyber attack would have to disrupt more than 100 separate power systems throughout the nation to crash the U.S. grid. 

Most financial institutions are also protected. The one example of a successful cyber attack in that area was an apparent North Korean cyber assault this past march on the South Korean bank Nonghyup that crashed the institution’s computers. But an investigation found that the bank had been extremely remiss in changing passwords or controlling access to its computers. According to Peter Sommer, author of “Reducing Systems Cybersecurity Risk,” the cyber threat to banks “is a bit of nonsense.” 

However, given that many Americans rely on computers, cell phones, I-Pads, smart phones and the like, any hint that an “enemy” could disrupt access to those devices is likely to get attention. Throw in some scary scenarios and a cunning enemy—China—and it’s pretty easy to make people nervous. 

But contrary to McConnell’s statement, the U.S. is more advanced in computers than other countries in the world, and the charge that the U.S. is behind the curve sounds suspiciously like the “bomber gap” with the Russians in the ‘50s and the “missile gap” in the 1960s. Both were illusions that had more to do with U.S. presidential elections and arms industry lobbying than anything in the real world. 

The focus on the China threat certainly fits the Obama administration’s recent “strategic pivot” toward Africa and Asia. China draws significant resources from Africa, including oil, gas, copper, and iron ore, and Beijing is beginning to reassert itself in south and east Asia. The U.S. now has a separate military command for Africa—Africom—and the White House recently excluded U.S. military forces in the Asia theatre from any cutbacks. Washington is also deploying U.S. Marines in Australia. As U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the National Defense University this past August, “We know we face some long-term challenges about how we are going to cope with what the rise of China means.” 

But James Lewis, an expert on Chinese cyber espionage, told Hersh that the Chinese have no intention of attacking U.S. financial services since they own a considerable portion of them. According to Lewis, “current Chinese officials” told him “a cyber-war attack would do as much economic harm to us as to you.” The U.S. is China’s largest trading partner and Beijing holds over a trillion dollars in U.S. securities. 

There is also a certain irony to the accusations aimed at China. According to the New York Times, the U.S.—and Israel—designed the “Stuxnet” virus that has infected some 30,000 computers in Iran and set back Teheran’s nuclear program. The virus has also turned up in China, Pakistan, and Indonesia. In terms of cyber war, the U.S. is ahead of the curve, not behind. 

What all this scare talk has done is allow the U.S. military to muscle its way into cyber security in a way that could potentially allow it to monitor virtually everything on the Internet, including personal computers and email. In fact, the military has resisted a push to insure cyber security through the use of encryption because that would prevent the Pentagon from tapping into Internet traffic. 

Does China really pose a threat to the U.S.? There is no question that China-based computers have hacked into a variety of governmental agencies and private companies (as have Russians, Israelis, Americans, French, Taiwanese, South Koreans, etc.—in short everyone spies on everyone), but few observers think that China has any intention of going to war with the much more powerful U.S. 

However, Beijing makes a handy bug-a-boo. One four-star admiral told Hersh that in arguing against budget cuts, the military “needs an enemy and it’s settled on China.” It would not be the first time that ploy was used. 

If the Pentagon’s push is successful, it could result in an almost total loss of privacy for most Americans, as well as the creation of a vast and expensive new security bureaucracy. Give a government the power to monitor the Internet, says Sommers, and it will do it. In this electronic field of dreams, if we build it, they will use it. 

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

New: Wild Neighbors: Another Round of the Name Game

By Joe Eaton
Tuesday January 10, 2012 - 11:15:00 PM
Common California aster: now it's a Symphyotrichum.
Gordon Leppig and Andrea Pickart, via Wikimedia Commons.
Common California aster: now it's a Symphyotrichum.

The taxonomists are at it again, reshuffling the natural order. This is not in itself a bad thing. Science keeps clarifying the evolutionary relationships among plants and animals, and their scientific names—the classic Latin or Latinoid binomials—are altered accordingly. For amateurs, though, it can be annoying. 

Case in point: last year the American Ornithologists’ Union, the College of Cardinals of serious bird study, reclassified a bunch of wood warblers. Wood warblers make up a New World songbird family known as the Parulidae, after the genus Parula, which includes two species, the northern parula and tropical parula. Dendroica, another genus in the family, included a number of species in North America and the Caribbean, including such familiars as the yellow-rumped and Townsend’s warblers. 

However, genetic studies indicated that neither Parula nor Dendroica deserved separate rank as a genus. Both were closely related to the genus Setophaga, which used to contain only one species, the American redstart. Presto! All the Dendroicas and Parulas are now Setophagas. Parula ceases to exist as a genus. So is the family now Setophagidae? No, that would be too logical. It’s still Parulidae. 

This makes more of a difference than non-birders might think. “Dendroica” was a meaningful term, in a loose way; it’s not unusual to refer to a yellow, green, and/or streaky warbler as “some kind of dendroica,” especially in the fall when there are a lot of migrants in cryptic subadult plumage. It may be a small loss, but it’s a loss nonetheless. 

But this is small potatoes compared with the renaming of the vascular plants in the new edition of the Jepson Manual, the definitive botanical reference for California. Plant people use a lot of Latin. I once heard a landscape architect and his mostly Spanish-speaking crew communicating in a mix of broken English, pidgin Spanish, and botanical Latin. Well, the vocabulary is going to have to expand. 

The changes in the new Jepson are too numerous to cover exhaustively here. Many of them are at the genus level, and replace old familiar names with polysyllabic neologisms. Take Aster. According to Jepson, there are no true Asters in California. What we’re accustomed to calling Asters are now Oreostemma, Symphyotrichum, Eucephalus, Eurybia, Seriocarpus, Almutaster, or Ionactis. There may still be Asters somewhere in the world, but I wouldn’t count on it. Aster eatonii, named after one of the New England Eatons to whom I am apparently not related, is rechristened Symphyotrichum bracteolatum

The gilias get similar treatment: some of them are now in Linanthus or Navarretia, while others have become Saltugilia, Aliciella, or Lathrocasis. Most of the previous linanthuses—attractive white-to-pink flowers in the phlox family—were moved to Leptosiphon. The pea relatives formerly known as Lotus wind up in Acmispon, with a few in Hosackia. Lithocarpus, the tanoak, becomes Notholithocarpus. Madia, the tarweed genus, is split into Anisocarpus, Hemizonella, Harmonia, Jensia, and Kyhosia

Notice how few of the new times trip lightly off the tongue. Notholithocarpus?! 

A personal favorite: Trillium rivale, the brook wakerobin, becomes Pseudotrillium rivale. Why the suggestion of spuriousness here? It still looks like a perfectly good trillium. 

If the Jepson people made any higher-level changes (family and up), I don’t want to know about it. Having finally taken a plant taxonomy course a couple of years ago, I’d rather not have to ask Merritt College for my money back.

THE PUBLIC EYE: 2012: Will the Left Support Obama?

By Bob Burnett
Friday January 06, 2012 - 10:27:00 AM

January 1st marked the beginning of the transformative year predicted by the Mayan Calendar. Whether or not you believe that on December 21st a cataclysmic event will occur, you can agree that on November 6th there will be a monumental Presidential election to determine whether US democracy survives. An election the left can impact if they decide to support Barrack Obama and Democrats in general. 

Unless you were a member of the 1 percent, 2011 was a dreadful year. For the 99 percent the past twelve months proved the United States are far from united and the American social contract is broken – the economy does not work for the benefit of all the people and the political system is deadlocked. 

Most of the 99 percent agree the root cause of this failure is the increased power of corporations in American society. The most recent evolution of capitalism, multinational corporate capitalism, is at odds with democracy. Global corporations don’t want to be restricted by the common-sense rules and obligations that democracies require in order to survive. The 1 percent wants the US government to operate as a plutocracy where the corporate CEOs and the wealthy call the shots. In contrast the 99 percent wants the government to operate as a democracy for the common good. 

For the thirty years since Ronald Reagan took office there has been a widening gap been the right and the left. 2011 saw this become an insurmountable chasm. The year began with an extreme faction of the right, Tea Party Republicans, seizing control of the GOP majority in the House of Representatives. Republicans ignored the jobs crisis, a feckless war in Afghanistan, global climate change, and other daunting problems, and dogmatically focused on “fiscal austerity,” their claim the US is going broke because government is cause of all our problems. As a consequence, Washington ground to a halt and the common good of the 99 percent was ignored. 

The left responded with the Occupy Wall Street movement. On September 17th, protesters convened in the heart of New York City’s financial district and similar protests blossomed throughout the country. Occupy Wall Street is an ongoing expression of grassroots discontent with the US economy and political process. The majority of Americans, the 99 percent, have shifted focus from the budget deficit to jobs and economic justice. They’re upset about the extreme economic inequality where, for example, the 1 percent have an average family income of $1,137,684 while the bottom 90 percent have a family income of $31,244. (OWS says the ratio of CEO pay to average worker pay is 475:1.) 

Because it is an election year, 2012 will see the ideological battle between the left and right conducted across the length and breadth of America. In this contest the left, the 99 percent, has superior numbers. The October Time magazine poll asked respondents if they agreed with the positions advocated by Occupy Wall Street and discovered extraordinary concurrence. 86 percent agreed that, "Wall Street and its lobbyists have too much influence in Washington." 79 percent agreed that, "The gap between rich and poor in the United States has grown too large.” 

On the other hand, the right, the 1 percent has much more money. Humongous multinational corporations have bought the Republican Party. Recently Mother Jones reported that corporations are gearing up to spend billions more to buy the 2012 election. In the run up to the January 3rd Iowa Republican caucuses millions of dollars were already being spent on right-wing negative “independent expenditure” TV ads. 

Voters in the mythical middle will determine the November 6th outcome; those who either haven’t been paying attention or are confused. These are the same folks who tell pollster they agree with the objectives of Occupy Wall Street but aren’t sure about the movement. 

Republicans will spend millions of dollars to convince these undecided voters that Government is the problem and Barack Obama is the socialist devil that caused everything bad to happen. Democrats will also run ads but they won’t have as much money as Republicans because the GOP has sold out to corporations. If Democrats are to prevail they will have to out organize Republicans. 

In 2008 Barack Obama easily out organized Republican presidential candidate John McCain because Dems were riding a great wave of hope. In 2012 that wave is gone, but the left is energized by Occupy Wall Street. However, the most ardent supporters of Occupy Wall Street show no inclination to be involved in the conventional political process. Writer Sarah Jaffe recently listed Seven likely OWS actions in 2012 and only one involved supporting a Democratic candidate – Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown. 

The left has legitimate issues with Barack Obama and his Party, but commonsense suggests that Democrats are the only political alternative to a Republican Party that has been taken over by corporations and only listens to the 1 percent,. Occupy Wall Street organizers, and leftists in general need to funnel their energy and experience into the regular political process. The stakes are too high to do otherwise. The 2012 election will determine whether our Democracy will survive. 

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

ECLECTIC RANT: Obama’s Broken Promise on Gitmo’s Tenth Anniversary

By Ralph E. Stone
Friday January 06, 2012 - 02:12:00 PM

January 11, 2012 marks the tenth anniversary of the Guantanamo Bay prison, an extrajudicial detainment and interrogation facility of the United States located within Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba. After the Justice Department advised that the Guantanamo prison could be considered outside U.S. legal jurisdiction, the first twenty captives arrived at Guantanamo on January 11, 2002. Guantanamo has become a place of prisoner mistreatment and even torture, and indefinite detention, an international embarrassment. Unfortunately, President Obama has broken his promise to close the prison for suspected terrorists. 

Actually, Guantanamo is just one of many prisons holding terrorists. Other prisons across the U.S. hold convicted terrorists. According to the New York Times, as of October 1, 2011, the Bureau of Prisons was holding 362 prisoners convicted of terrorism-related crimes, 269 with a connection to international terrorism, and an additional 93 inmates with a connection to domestic terrorism. Clearly, there are federal prisons within the U.S. capable of safely holding suspected of terrorism. 

At one time, the U.S. paid a bounty for the capture of supposed terrorists. Consider the case of Mohammed el Gorani, a teenager from Chad, who was in Pakistan looking for work. One day he was praying at a mosque. All of sudden soldiers surrounded the mosque. Because he was a foreigner, he was taken to prison where he interrogated about his relationship with al-Qaida and the Taliban, names he had never heard of. He was beaten and tortured. The Pakistani guards told him to say he was al-Qaida and if he did so, he would be released. He obliged. All of a sudden he was in U.S. custody and ended up at Guantanamo’s Camp X-ray, which was nothing more than fenses with no walls or roof, nothing to protect prisoners from the sun or rain. He was interrogated every night and endured torture. Finally in 2004, civilian lawyers were allowed to visit prisoners. Because el Gorani was a minor, he was chosen as a client. At a trial four years later, the judge ordered his release. In June 2009, a military plane dropped him at N’Djamena airport in Chad. He needed medical treatment as a result of his mistreatment at Guantanamo. A full account of Mohammed el Gorani’s ordeal can be found at Diary by Mohammed el Gorani and Jérôme Tubiana 

el Gorani’s plight is not unusual. According to the Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas as many as 46 children have entered Guantanamo as children. 

According to The Justice Campaign, the following torture techniques were used at Guantanamo: sexual assault/humiliation; sleep deprivation; sensory deprivation; solitary confinement/isolation; mock executions; forced medications; use of dogs to scare detainees; temperature extremes; sensory bombardment (noise); watching others being tortured; and various psychological techniques to induce regression, psychic disintegration, and feelings of helplessness that lower detainees’ defenses. 

In addition to the military prison at Guantanamo, the base also included CIA “black sites” where renditions or extrajudicial, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to overseas locations where torture was used. These abductees often ended up at Guantanamo’s Camp Seven, a special prison used to hold these “high value” detainees previously held in these black sites around the world. 

On June 29, 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 548 U.S. 557 (2006), that detainees were entitled to the minimal protections listed under Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. Following this decision, on July 7, 2006, the Department of Defense issued an internal memo stating that prisoners would in the future be entitled to protection under Common Article 3. 

Two years later, in Boumediene v. Bush, 553 U.S. 723 (2008), the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision ruled that by virtue of its complete jurisdiction and control, the U.S. maintains "de facto" sovereignty over this territory and therefore, aliens detained as enemy combatants there are entitled to the writ of habeas corpus protection of Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution. 

A writ of habeas corpus by the way is a judicial mandate to a prison official ordering that an inmate be brought to the court so it can be determined whether or not that person is imprisoned lawfully and whether or not he should be released from custody. 

But since July 2010, the very conservative D.C. Court of Appeals, where Guanatanamo cases are heard, has denied every writ of habeous corpus petition on appeal. Thus, what the Supreme Court gave to Guantanamo prisoners in Boumediene, the D.C. Court of Appeals has basically taken away. 

On January 22, 2009, the White House announced that Obama had signed an order to suspend the proceedings of the Guantanamo military commission for 120 days and that the detention facility would be shut down within the year. However, on January 29, 2009, a military judge at Guantanamo rejected the White House request in the case of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, creating a challenge for the administration as it reviewed how the U.S. puts Guantanamo detainees on trial. 

On May 20, 2009, in response to Obama’s announcement, the U.S. Senate passed an amendment to the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2009 (H.R. 2346) by a 90-6 vote to block funds needed for the transfer or release of prisoners held at the Guantanamo. In spite of the U.S. Senate action, President Obama issued a Presidential memorandum dated December 15, 2009, ordering the preparation of the Thomson Correctional Center, Thomson, Illinois so as to enable the transfer of Guantanamo prisoners there. 

On January 7, 2011, President Obama signed the 2011 Defense Authorization Bill which contained provisions preventing the transfer of Guantanamo prisoners to the mainland or to other foreign countries, which stopped the closure of the detention facility. Obama could have vetoed the Bill on principle, but chose not to. Instead, he strongly objected to the clauses and stated that he would work with Congress to oppose the measures. 

To date, there is little evidence that Obama has attempted to sway Congress to allow the closure of Guantanamo prison. In fact, Obama failed to veto the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA), which includes a provision that requires the military to hold foreign-born terrorism suspects indefinttely without trial, bans transfers from Guantanamo, and also lets the military hold U.S. citizens for indefinite detention. 

Guantanamo has 171 prisoners, some of whom have been imprisoned for eight years. Eighty-eight of these prisoners have been cleared for release, but it is not clear that will happen after NDAA. 

And military tribunals are very slow, and detention at Guantanamo is costly -- $800,000 per inmate a year compared to $25,000 in a federal prison. 

President Obama voiced his concerns regarding certain provisions of the NDAA, stating, "My Administration will aggressively seek to mitigate those concerns through the design of implementation procedures and other authorities available to me as Chief Executive and Commander in Chief, will oppose any attempt to extend or expand them in the future, and will seek the repeal of any provisions that undermine the policies and values that have guided my Administration throughout my time in office." Yet, he could have taken a principled stand by vetoing NDAA, but did not. Instead, by signing NDAA, he ensured that this morally reprehensible and costly symbol of detainee abuse will remain open indefinitely. 

Until the Guantanamo prison is closed, let us not hear the Obama administration or any member of Congress or any candidate for office criticize other countries for human rights abuses. 



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

By Dorothy Bryant
Friday January 06, 2012 - 11:25:00 AM

The life of a thinking man is a series of retractions.

William Godwin (1756-1836)

Journalist, novelist , philosopher

You have learned something, and that always feels, at first, as if you had lost something.

From Major Barbara

by George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

Playwright, essayist

These quotations complement each other, both of them stressing the flexibility essential to real thinking. The person who takes a position that he holds firmly for the rest of his life may be sensible and consistent in his thinking, but, then again, he may just be stuck. I think it was Emerson who gave us, “a petty consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.” 

One problem in abandoning a position when you have seen beyond it (as Shaw’s clever villain Undershaft points out—Shaw always gives the bad guys the best lines) is that the shift shakes the very ground you stand on. But, as Godwin reminds us, retracting, changing your mind, may be the opposite of addled thinking; in fact, it may be the true sign of clear thinking—strenuous, often uncomfortable, humiliating, and sometimes soaked in grief. 

This mixture of grief and loss is often the price of learning, of growth—the essential, ongoing process of being human. 

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

SENIOR POWER… It’s about Closure

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Friday January 06, 2012 - 11:34:00 AM

Do you have a Donate Life California Registry ID in your wallet? Go to www.donateLIFEcalifornia.org Do you have an Advance Health Care Directive (California version)? Do you have a sticker on your driver’s license to indicate your willingness to have your body parts used in behalf of others after your death? Right now 21,000+ Californians are waiting for an organ transplant — 21% of the more than 100,000 people waiting across our country. One third will die while waiting. 

Prior to 2004, no Registry had existed for those who wished to give consent to be an organ and/or tissue donor. Historically, while signing a donor card and placing the pink dot on your license served as an important symbol of your intent, it did not place you on any list or Registry. Donate Life California allows you to express your commitment to becoming an organ, eye and tissue donor. The Registry guarantees your plans will be carried out when you die. These are all your death-related considerations.  

1.8 million seniors died in the U.S. in 2008. The autopsy rate was highest for those aged 15-24, and lowest for those aged 65+. Post-mortem exams were performed on just 2 percent. The rate is even lower — less than 1 percent — for elders who died in nursing homes or care facilities. 


Investigative journalism is at risk. Many news organizations now see it as a luxury. ProPublica is an independent, non-profit that produces investigative journalism in the public interest, focusing on important stories of “moral force,” on exploitation of the weak by the strong, and on the failures of those with power. 

Death investigations in the U.S. are often carried out in settings that bear little resemblance to the high-tech morgues shown on television. In TV crime dramas and detective novels, every suspicious death is investigated by a highly trained medical professional, equipped with sophisticated 21st century technology. The reality in America’s morgues is quite different. 

There are two basic kinds of autopsy: the forensic autopsy and the medical autopsy. (Necropsy applies particularly to non-human bodies.) 

A forensic autopsy is one performed to satisfy the law. In most Western nations, an autopsy must be performed if a person died in suspicious circumstances, was unexpectedly found dead, died without having recently seen a physician who can attest to a cause of natural death, or is suspected of having had a disease that possibly threatens the public's health. In these circumstances, the state requires an autopsy and does not need permission from the deceased's relatives, if any, to perform one. If murder is suspected, the autopsy is required to establish the cause of death, to determine if the findings support the suspected crime, and to provide as much evidence as possible about how, when, and where such a crime might have occurred. 

A medical autopsy is performed when physicians are already satisfied that someone died a natural death. Pathologists then use the autopsy to investigate the details of that natural death. Most medical autopsies require the consent of the immediate family, which normally includes permission for the pathologists to take and to preserve organs and specimens of use to medical science. 

Valuable medical information can be learned from a post-mortem examination. Legionnaire's disease, for example, was discovered as a result of autopsies, and improved safety standards have resulted from the examination of the bodies of crash victims. 


The Elder Death Review Teams Act was entered into Chapter 301 California law in 2001. It authorized counties to establish an interagency elder death review team to help local agencies identify and review suspicious elder deaths and to facilitate communications among people who perform autopsies and people involved in the investigation or reporting of elder abuse or neglect. It specified that county elder death review teams shall be comprised of certain public and private entities and the procedures for the sharing or disclosure of information by elder death review teams.  

The Alameda County Elder Death Review Team contact is Dena Aindow, Elder Abuse Consultant, Alameda County District Attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit. 510-383-8600. It is my understanding that the Alameda County elder death review happens as part of general death reviews. Aindow has approached Adult Protective Services about working together to develop a more formal death review team. Elder death reviews in Alameda County used to be done within the work of the domestic violence death review team. Solano County has a formal elder death review team that works with the coroner's office there.  

The Alameda County Sheriff-Coroner is located at 480 4th St., Oakland 94612; her/his phone number is 510-268-7300. “Specially trained forensic investigators are said to be on duty 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, to respond to the needs of public safety organizations, hospitals and/or private citizens in handling and investigating deaths falling under the jurisdiction of the Coroner.” 

What would happen if every Berkeley Daily Planet Senior Power column reader were to communicate to these and other individuals and agencies etc. the need to innovate/ activate an Alameda County Elder Death Review Team?  


When a death occurs under suspicious circumstances, the investigation into its cause is overseen by a coroner, who is often an elected official with no medical background, or by a medical examiner, usually a doctor who specializes in forensic pathology. ProPublica, in partnership with PBS Frontline and National Public Radio, surveyed almost 70 of the largest coroner and medical examiner systems in the U.S. in an in-depth look at the nation’s 2,300 coroner and medical examiner offices and found a dysfunctional system that literally buries its mistakes. 

In state after state, reporters found autopsies conducted by doctors who lacked certification and training. An increasing number of the 2.5 million Americans who die each year go to the grave without being examined at all. Erroneous death certificates and faulty reporting practices are partially responsible for so few senior deaths being investigated. But another factor is resistance on the part of many coroners and medical examiners to look into these cases. 

Coroner and medical examiner systems vary widely from state to state and even county to county. Death investigation in America consists of a complicated patchwork of systems. California, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York all rely on county coroners and some county medical examiners. There are 16 centralized systems run by chief medical examiners (Oregon, Utah, Alaska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and all of New England), decentralized systems with a coroner in every county; and hybrid mixtures of both.  

Competent autopsies are beneficial, and needed, in a wide range of circumstances. 

There are no national standards and little oversight. Nationwide investigation has found that there is no federal oversight of death investigators or the offices in which they work. 

Forensic pathologists, “The Death Detectives”, specialize in determining the causes of sudden, unexpected or violent deaths. But experts say the U.S. is facing a critical shortage of these professionals. In some states, the only requirement for the job is to be at least 18 years of age. The U.S. started maintaining vital records in 1900 and by the mid-1930s all states were collecting mortality data. How valuable and accurate is this information?  

In 2012, advocacy efforts will continue to secure passage of two important reauthorizations. The Older Americans Act which currently includes funding for elder abuse and long-term care ombudsman programs and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) which currently includes funding for the Training and Services to End Violence Against Women in Later Life Grant. Advocacy will also be focused on securing passage of the Elder Abuse Victims Act (H.R.2564, S.462), the National Silver Alert Act (H.R.112, S.1263), and the Senior Financial Empowerment Act (S.465). The Elder Justice Coalition will continue to help get additional states to apply for background check grants. Advocacy will also focus on having elder justice raised as an issue by both national parties in the 2012 Presidential campaign.  


Remember Gabriel Heatter who began “There’s good news tonight.”? 

"Sexual satisfaction in women increases with age" (Eurekalert [American Association for the Advancement of Science], Jan. 3, 2012). 

"Pot (marijuana) smoking not tied to middle-age mental decline," by Amy Norton (Reuters Health, Jan. 4, 2012). 

"Mid-lane driving helps older adults stay safe" (Eurekalert [American Association for the Advancement of Science], Jan. 4, 2012). 


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.  

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

Monday, Jan 9. 6:30 P.M. “Castoffs” Knitting Group. All levels are welcome and some help will be provided. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av.. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Tuesday, Jan. 10. 10 A.M. – 12:30 P.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. Creative Writing Workshop. Carrie Pickett, instructor, for the art and craft of writing. Enjoy weekly writing assignments, peer critique and discussion, and 

lectures on poetry and literature. Estimated cost per person is $150 (approximately $8 to $10 per week) depending on the number of participants. 510-747-7510. 

Tuesday, Jan. 10. 1 P.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. 

Come be inspired, find ways to beat cravings, find specific tools to make healthier food choices with Neta O’Leary Sundberg, Certified Health coach and Yoga teacher. 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. 10:30 A.M. New Member Orientation & YOU! Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. The New Member Orientation is a must if you are new to Alameda, recently retired, or expecting your parents for an extended visit! This Orientation offers a guided-tour to introduce you to the Center, an information packet outlining the various activities, programs, and services, and a coupon to enjoy a complimentary lunch provided by Bay Area Community Services (BACS)! Make a reservation by visiting the Mastick Office or calling 747-7506.  

Thursday, Jan. 12. 1 P.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. Improve circulation in your hands and body, loosen stiff joints in the shoulders, arms, and wrists, and stimulate the mind. Join the Mercy Retirement Community Drumming Circle. A free musical experience. 510-747-7510. 

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. 

Fridays, Jan. 13 and Feb. 17. 9:30 A.M. – 11:30 A.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. Improve Creating Your Personal Learning Network. Join Mike McMahon, Volunteer, to learn to use the Internet and tools like Twitter and YouTube. 510-747-7510. 

Tuesday, Jan. 17. 9:30 A.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. Mastick Non-Fiction Book Club. “In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin” by Erik Larson and/or “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy: A Righteous Gentile vs. the Third Reich” by Eric Metaxas. 510-747-7510. See also Feb. 21.  

Wednesday, Jan. 18. 1 P.M. Berkeley Commission on Aging. South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis. 510-981-5170. 

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. 

Fridays, Jan. 20, 27, Feb. 3 and 10. 10 A.M. – 11 A.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. Folk Dancing with Maureen Atkins, Instructor. No experience or partner necessary. $16 per person for four sessions. 510-747-7510. 

Saturday, Jan. 21. 10 A.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. Monoprint Processes. Join Heidi Guibord, volunteer instructor. A beginner’s look at Monoprint with the opportunity to make cards and decorations. Consider bringing items 

with interesting textures (e.g., leaves, ribbons) to class. $10 supplies fee. 510-747-7510. 

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 A.M. – 11:30 A.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. 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 is needed. 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. 

Wednesdays, beginning January 25. 9:30 A.M. – 11 A.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. San Francisco History and Highlights. Join Eric Hill, Volunteer Instructor for San Francisco History and Highlights. Explore the Spanish San Francisco, Mexican Period, Indians, Gold Rush, Silver Boom, Earthquakes, Barbary Coast, World Fair, Monarch the Bear, and much more! Free. 510-747-7510. 

Wednesday, Jan. 25. 12:15-1 P.M. Michael Goldberg, guitar: Noon Concert Series.  

UCB Hertz Concert Hall. Sponsor: Department of Music Faculty recital. Luis de Narvaez: Three Fantasias. Turina: Sevillana Bach: Suite in E Major (BWV 1006a). Ponce: Sonatina Meridional. Tickets not required. 510-642-4864 

Wednesday, Jan. 25. 1-2 P.M. Israeli Chamber Project Concert. Jewish Community Center. Berkeley Branch, 1414 Walnut St. Free. RSVP online. 510-848-0237  

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

Wednesday, Jan. 25. 1:30 P.M. Gray Panthers. North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. 510-981-5190. 

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. 

Monday, Jan. 30. 7 P.M. Ellis Island Old World Folk Band Performance. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. Old World and New World repertoire emphasizing the transition that took place when Jews came to America at the beginning of the last century. Tunes from the Yiddish theater and radio featuring vocals made popular by the Barry Sisters, who were the queens of 1940s Yiddish Swing. As a pioneer in the revival of klezmer, lively and soulful Eastern European Jewish music, the Band has been honored with awards from Berkeley, Albany, and Alameda. Free. 510-524-3043 

Tuesday, Jan. 31. 1 P.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. FDIC Insurance Primer John Jacobs, Vice President of Bank of Alameda, will provide an Insurance Primer. Learn what the current FDIC Insurance limits are and whether you are investing your money properly. Free. 510-747-7510. 


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

Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012. 1:3-3 P.M. Fred Setterberg will discuss his book, Lunch Bucket Paradise, a true-life novel about growing up in blue-collar suburbia in 1950s and 60s East Bay. Albany Library, 1247 Martin Avenue. Free. 510-526-3720. This is a program in the Alameda County Library’s Older Adults Services series; for dates and branches throughout the county, call 510-745-1491. 

Monday, Feb. 13. 7 P.M. Author talk. Songwriter poet Marisa Handler will speak about her writing, her songs and her poetry. Her memoir, Loyal to the Sky: Notes from an Activist won a 2008 Nautilus Gold Award for world-changing books. It combines a fascinating inside look at the burgeoning global justice movement with the story of 

her own coming of age. Born in apartheid South Africa, Handler emigrated to Southern California when she was twelve. Her gradual realization that injustice existed even in this more open, democratic society spurred a commitment to activism that would take her to Israel, India, Nepal, Ecuador, Peru, and all over the United States. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av. Free. 510-524-3043.  

Tuesday, February 21. 9:30 A.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. Mastick Non-Fiction Book Club. members will review “Stormy Weather: The Life of Lena Horne” by James Gavin and/or “Paul Newman: A Life” by Shawn Levy. 510-747-7510. 

Friday, Feb. 24. 9 A.M.-4 P.M. Annual convention. United Seniors of Oakland and Alameda County. 510-729-0852. www.usoac.org

Arts & Events

Carnage: Welcome to Our Humble Home; Grab Your Forks!

Review by Gar Smith
Tuesday January 10, 2012 - 10:51:00 AM

Carnage opens at Berkeley's Shattuck Cinema on January 13.

Roman Polanski's latest film could best be described as a comedy of manners — really bad manners.

If you liked "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe?" (another film-to-play translation featuring a quartet of quarreling couples), this Big Screen sparring match may be just your cup of tease. 

Carnage offers a rich serving of class warfare with clashing egos and gender battles thrown in as side dishes. Meet the contenders: Penelope Longstreet (Jodie Foster) is a liberal human rights campaigner with one co-authored book to her credit and another "in the works." Her husband, Michael (John C. Reilly), is an under-achieving wholesaler. Alan Cowan (Christoph Waltz) is a smug, high-powered businessman and his wife Nancy (Kate Winslet) is his match as a strong-willed woman who has just about had it with his self-important nattering on an ever-present cell phone. 

Except for the panoramic playground scene that begins and ends the film, all of the action takes place inside the Longstreet's New York apartment where Michael and Penelope have agreed to meet Alan and Nancy Cowan to discuss a playground dust-up between their two boys. 

The initial "meet-nice" façade of civility between the two wildly dissimilar couples soon reaches a critical mass as a cyclotronic collision of egos and parental defenses spirals totally beyond control, triggering a hilarious, flaring meltdown. This is a game of double-team emotional racquet-ball where the living room becomes a court. 

Part of the pleasure in watching Carnage is that, while it begins quietly, in even tones and polite (if distracted and brittle) conversation, you know there's a social train wreck waiting around the next bend. And every time someone has had enough and tries to make a dash for the door, you know they aren't going to make that escape — no way, no how. 

The script (based on Yasmina Reza's London hit, "God of Carnage") relishes in chronicling the ongoing war of words. It begins as a convert war in which a single, telling choice of words — or the timing, tone or inflection in which a phrase is wrapped — can become a conversational casus belli

Initially, the battle rages between individuals, then it escalates to a battle between "nations" (the two sparing couples), followed by surprising alliances between the two men against the women, then a confederacy of the women against the men and, finally, Total War where everyone is fair game. 

A film of a play is a special kind of cinema. Because the action does not take place in movie space or in movie time, it becomes impossible to suspend disbelief. These characters exist within the walled parameters of a stage play — confined, in this case, to the Longstreet's cramped and meticulously art-filled living room with only occasional forays into the bathroom or the hallway. And the story is told in real time. 

It is understood going in that we are not expected to believe that we are seeing "real people" engaged in a "spontaneous" story. We know these are famous, award-winning actors. We know they are "playing roles." So the pleasure in viewing Carnage comes, not so much from the skill of the playwright (which is outstanding) as much as from the performances of the actors chosen to play the four iconic characters. 

Watching Carnage is more akin to listening to a jazz quartet of brilliant musicians "playing the playwright's score" and reaching heights of collective harmony. Polanski spent several weeks with his actors working together in rehearsal (a rare occurrence in contemporary filmmaking). The result was worth the effort. The ensemble of Winslet, Foster, Waltz and Foster jams and rocks. And, as you would have with a jazz performance, each actor is given opportunities to "solo" that make you want to jump to your feet and applaud. But you won't be able to, because you're most likely to be doubled over with laughter or jammed into your seat-cushions cringing in tense horror at some protagonist's raw emotional anguish. 

In Carnage, nothing is left standing in the carpeted battlefield of the Longstreet's living room. Tea is spilled; leftovers and handbags are flung; Nancy will upchuck; and even the cell phone will meet its own deserved fate. 

Special Note: Don't leave the theater before the very last frame of the credit scroll. The film ends, as it begins, with the camera trained on the public playground. But this time, the slow, wordless tableau that Polanski allows to unfold puts the squabbles of the parents into an amusing and humbling perspective. One more thing: keep your eye on the dog in the park. With exquisite timing, he gets to make the final point.

Eye from the Aisle: Don Reed “Kipling Hotel” Luke-Warm-Up @ Berkeley Marsh

By John A. McMullen II
Tuesday January 10, 2012 - 10:18:00 AM
Don Reed “Kipling Hotel"
Ric Omphroy
Don Reed “Kipling Hotel"

Don Reed’s solo East 14th comedy/storytelling played to raves last year, and garnered award nominations. I didn’t see it. I did see the opening of KIPLING HOTEL at The Marsh in Berkeley last Saturday night, and there are no raves or nominations in the offing for this outing. It was the sort of jokey storytelling that the sort-of-funny guy tells when holding forth in the kitchen at the party where everyone laughs for his effort and because they are a little tipsy. There were polite chuckles and occasional hearty laughs. But I noted three people in adjacent rows close to the stage were falling asleep. 

Mr. Reed is agile, expressive, an accomplished mimic of the characters he has encountered, as well as an impressive dancer and entertaining singer, all of which add to his stories about LA in the 80’s. However, his stories are only mildly humorous. While this was opening night, Mr. Reed stumbled over many of his lines and cut off the end of many punch lines. The spin and inflection of the words is an important part of comedy, and having a mastery of every sentence and moment is essential. It was more akin to attending a rehearsal with a week to go.  

His stories are about working in an elder hotel for his room and board while attending UCLA while having a second job as a male stripper. Perhaps his previous long-running success in East 14th had more funny-juice—it was about fleeing from his Jehovah’s Witness stepdad to live with his real dad on East 14th in Oakland—and his dad turns out to be a pimp. 

Only the most ingenious of storytellers can hold forth effectively for longer than one act, and Mr. Reed’s material lasts fully for two acts with an intermission; this reviewer could only abide the first act. 

There was an announcement in the promo that Don Reed is scheduled for an upcoming Fox TV special. 

In the preshow intro the artistic director pointedly encouraged the audience to visit the newly opened bar at the Marsh; perhaps that would have helped, but this reviewer is lately a teetotaler. The bar is a nice convenience though, and there is a forthcoming menu promised, so the Marsh may be a place to spend the entire evening in the future. But if you plan on seeing Mr. Reed’s KIPLING HOTEL, I’d give it week or so to improve. 

John A. McMullen II is a member of SFBATCC, ATCA, and SDC. E J Dunne edits. 

PS Don’t look here for stars, thumbs up/down, or Like/Don’t Like. Eye from the Aisle feels that snapshot opinions without explicit and articulated reasons are unfair to the artist.

Admission Impossible: Tom Cruise Rocks

Review by Gar Smith
Friday January 06, 2012 - 01:14:00 PM

I'll admit it. I'm haunted by The Ghost Protocol, the latest in the Tom Cruise/Ethan Hunt sequel from the Mission Impossible franchise. 

Thanks to the kinetic bravado and imaginative staging of Bay Area director Brad Bird, this MI is one of the best. The storyline is strictly Mission Improbable but with a concept so over-the-top from the get-go, who's going to get bent out of shape when things get silly. 

F'rinstance: Early in this saga, the MI Team crew is told that they have 4 hours to "infiltrate the Kremlin" and steal nuclear launch codes. Cut to next scene: Cruise and Simon Pegg are inexplicably striding confidently into the Kremlin tricked out as top generals in Russian army uniforms, their pockets filled with fake IDs and custom-tailored spy tools. Cruise has a false face; his attaché case is filled with an expanding wall-to-ceiling 3-D imaging screen that perfectly fits a corridor they haven't even seen. "Don't bother to ask," the filmmakers practically seem to yell, "Just go with it!" 

MI is film fodder for everyone who misses the old Roger-Moore Era James Bond Flicks. In patented Bond fashion, this film starts off with a Big Stunt – a running escape with a rooftop plunge, a mid-air falling shoot-out and an unexpected casual assassination. And then we are off to a series of exotic locations and an onslaught of extraordinary set-pieces (Watch the Kremlin get demolished; watch San Francisco come within seconds of nuclear annihilation). 

Although the MI team's covert quartet is stripped of most of their support (having been falsely blamed for the aforementioned demolition of the Kremlin), they have no problem zipping around the world from Moscow to Mumbai to Dubai. And whenever they need some devilishly clever spy-tool (like the battery-powered Spiderman gloves that allow Cruise/Hunt to arm-wrestle his way up the outside of the world's tallest building in Dubai) these appear magically without even the recrudescence of an Agent Q to introduce and explain them. 

Mercifully, this sequel is almost free of one of the MI's "signature" moments – the never-quite-convincing peeling-off of the fake faces. Unless I missed something (which is quite possible because there is so much happening on the screen from start to finish), there were only two "face-lifts" in the entire film -- one executed by Cruise's Ethan Hunt and the other trick "pulled off" by the villain, the dastardly Kurt Hendricks – a middle-aged, hyper-Darwinian who believes in "improving" the world by bringing on a nuclear apocalypse. 

In one beautifully executed scene, Cruise strides out of the Kremlin in his guise as a Russian general and pulls off his fake face, rips off his uniform, flips it around into a new jacket and stalks off completely transformed right before our eyes. Takes about 5 seconds. No CGI required. 

In addition to the scenes of Cruise/Hunt jumping out of the world's tallest building -- the 160-story, 2,275-foot-tall Burj Dubai -- and swinging through the air on cables, there are other equally awesome visuals. 

The detonation of the Kremlin, for example, doesn't stop with the destruction of the target building. Oh no, the initial explosions lead to a series of subsequent blasts that pursue Cruise/Hunt across a Russian plaza (like that stone pursuing Indiana Jones), tossing cars into the air behind him as the explosions erupt ever closer – until one finally appears to blast him about six rows into the front rows of the theater. 

Then there is a Dubai sandstorm that sweeps in (with visual echoes of the 9-11 demolition cloud) to engulf the city as Hunt chases a fleeing felon on foot and then by car (finding his path trough the blinding sand guided with nothing more than a glowing GPS unit clenched inches in front of his face). 

And the amazingly choreographed Final Confrontation between Hero-and-Villain. This time the showdown is staged in an immense automated high-rise parking garage in Dubai where cars are moved about – up, down and sideways – on immense, constantly moving, robotic spatulas. 

This "Ultimate Face-off" features another bit of hackneyed silliness that crops up in too many of these super-spy confections. When it comes to mano-a-mano time, the Evil Villain (who is usually an older, sedentary sot) suddenly turns out to be a powerful karate master capable of lashing out with devastating kicks and bone-crushing right-crosses that send our hero crashing to the floor. And it's not enough to have the hero and villain simply duke it out, Director Bird also has them struggling for possession of a metal attaché case that is constantly slipping away or falling out of one set of hands into another – the metal case almost becomes a third party to the brawl, with a will of its own. 

Ultimately, when the villain is dramatically vanquished, his downfall involves a stunt that rivals the kind of jaw-dropping stunt-work usually reserved for Hong Kong kung fu epics. In this case, the villain not only falls 30 feet down a shaft, he crashes halfway through the rear window of a car – and then rolls off and continues to fall another 40 feet before smacking back-first onto a cement floor below. 

But wait, we aren't finished. Now Agent Hunt needs to get his hands on the attaché case, which now lies nearly 100 feet below on the concrete floor of the parking garage. What does he do? He could take the elevator, but that would be too slow. So he commanders a car, straps on his seat belt, revs his engine and drives the car off the floor and nose-dives the car into the basement of the garage. Glorioski! 

Cruise's fellow actors all add to the mayhem and merriment. Jeremy Remmer is relaxed and engagingly amusing as a covert agent with secrets of his own. Paula Patton is all-business -- or all-bosoms, as the situation requires. (She's the only member of the team to take a bullet and she doesn't let it slow her down.) Britain's Simon Pegg, however, is perhaps a bit too annoyingly askew and he winds up on the far-end of the Comic-Cute curve. 

But major plaudits to Cruise. Despite the ridicule he has had to endure because of his Scientology beliefs and his reputed preference for inhabiting closets, it's long past time to give Cruise his due. So here it is: 

Tom Cruise has proven himself to be the best stunt actor in America. He is our Jackie Chan. Cruise runs like a banshee, vaults over railings like a ninja and side-slides over cars like a human Frisbee. And when it comes to Big Payoff stunts – whether it's getting a rib broken by an explosion that blasts him off his feet or flinging himself out of a high-rise a mile in the sky – Cruise pulls off the kind of derring-do that would have caused Douglas Fairbanks to wet his pants. 

So stand aside, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis and Chuck Norris. The word on the street (and the proof on the screen) is: "Bond is back." And his name is "Bond. Tom Bond."

Around & About: Performing Arts Adult Ed. Classes led by Marion Fay--Theater & Music Appreciation

By Ken Bullock
Friday January 06, 2012 - 12:21:00 PM

Marion Fay's truly engaging adult education classes in theater and music appreciation resume this week at the Northbrae Community Church, near the top of Solano Avenue and the tunnel. The classes are affiliated with Albany Adult School. 

Theater classes, for which there are three sections meeting at different times, will see Ghost Light, Tony Taccone's play about George Moscone, directed by Jonathan Moscone, at Berkeley Rep, as well as plays about Moliere & Mark Rothko, & other productions at the Aurora & Ashby Stage, all at discount prices. Directors and actors will visit the class to speak & answer questions. 

Music Appreciation classes--no background in music necessary--meet Thursday mornings, featuring visits by composers, conductors and musicians associated with the Berkeley & San Francisco Symphonies, & trips to classical music events. 

For information and to register online, visit: adulted.ausdk12.org

Hipsters: From Russia with Jazz Opens January 13

Reviewed By Gar Smith
Friday January 06, 2012 - 10:33:00 AM

Hipsters, the first Russian musical in 50 years, has won a slew of Nikas (the Russian "Oscar") and has been an audience favorite at film festivals around the world. Hipsters (Stilyagi, in Russian) is set in Moscow in 1959, a time when owning an Elvis Presley LP can get a kid busted. As one character warns, "You can get 10 years in jail for kowtowing to Western lifestyles." 

Valery Todorovsky's Hipsters is a strange beast of a film. Hipsters bristles with great direction and energetic cinematography but the film is populated by some really bizarre characters. Students of Soviet cinema will derive special enjoyment from Todorovsky's movie. As the film notes point out: 'Retro-musical scenes alternate with sequences in which the director presents with witty hyperbole, the state of mind and lifestyle of various segments of the Soviet population. The cinematography often parodies past cinematic styles of Soviet realism and propaganda films." 

(A personal aside: Perhaps I have some previously undetected phobia but, while watching the film, I found myself thinking: "Some Russian actors have Really Wide Mouths." The young women, especially. Watching a trio of red-lipped ladies singing into a shared microphone and bobbing their heads at the camera in tight focus, I felt like a vulnerable guppy about to be devoured by a school of lipsticked piranhas.) 

But let's get back to the movie. 

Mels (played by Anton Shagin, Russia's answer to Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a sheltered Komsomol Communist Youth Organizer who has been recruited to crack down on young rebels who have adopted Western dress and secretly bopping the night away to decadent American culture. Mels (his name stands for Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin) and his posse of Komsomol commandos patrol the night looking to raid hipster dens. Armed with scissors, they are ready to enforce Party Values by making sure the long-hairs come a-cropper. 

Predictably, Mels meets a Hipster lass named Poliya and falls for her. She red-stamps a kiss on his cheek and he's a goner. Poliya (Oksana Akinshina) goes by the Western name "Poly," so Mels shortens his name to "Mel," begs to learn how to dance Fifties bop steps and becomes a jazz-infected Hipster who winds up with a six-inch-tall pompadour that would make TinTin green with envy. 

When he drops his bland Komosol garb for bright, tight pants, a blazing blazer, pastel shirts and wicked painted Hipster neckties, Mels suffers the taunts of neighbors and former friends. But nobody tries to arrest him. Although the film shows the Hipsters being attacked as "depraved monkeys" in the pages of Pravda, they seem to be tolerated. Maybe that's because, while Mel is a working-class schlub who has to haul goods on his back to earn the kopeks to buy his fancy dancing boots, many of these "rebels" are clearly the children of privilege. 

Fred (Maksim Matveev), the Hipsters' Chris Isaak-like leader lives in an opulent high-rise apartment with his wealthy, well-connected parents. (His father, a powerful Party official, secretly supports Fred's excesses and confesses that he, too, liked to "boogie" when he was young.) And when these Hipsters go out to get down, they head for a block of downtown Moscow with a swinging hot-spot called "Broadway," whose gold-framed entryways are controlled by uniformed guards. Our "rebels" are always assured of entry because Fred is there to flash his "reservation" – a palm-load of Soviet currency. 

In a further act of defiance, Mel buys a saxophone on the black market. The previous owner, a down-and-out musician, warns that the State only accepts accordions and fiddles as "safe" instruments: owning a saxophone is tantamount to owning "a concealed weapon." And then he breaks into song while a barroom of boozers join in, swinging their beer mugs. 

Thanks to the magic of movie musicals, Mel picks up the sax, toots out his first stuttering attempt at a song, and immediately blossoms into an accomplished jazz saxophonist. This leads to a wonderful film moment. Mel is sitting alone, playing "Summertime," as the camera drifts across the room to discover another saxophonist smiling back and joining in. As the camera continues to swing about the small room, it passes behind the shadow of Mel's back and, when it emerges, the Russian and American hipster have been transported to the roof of a skyscraper in the heart of Manhattan. But it's not just a generic rendition of the Big Apple that spins below in all its glittering brilliance; this is the New York City of 1955. There are no Twin Towers in the background but there is a large illuminated billboard advertising a performance by jazz singer Sarah Vaughn! 

Mel and Ploy fall in love (abetted by a hooded "free-market" enabler who haunts the alleyway ready to sell anything from saxophones, to Charlie Parker albums, to keys to a low-rent love-nest). There will be a baby but that will bring another surprise. And there will be more songs and rooms filling with young people dancing madly. 

Mel will be called before an assembly of his Komsomol comrades and stripped of his Party identity in a chilling scene with an amphitheater of hundreds of identically dressed youngsters singing about the need to maintain "the chains" and banging their desktops in unison for emphasis. 

The final ten minutes consists of a single seen that begins with Mel, resplendent in his hipster outfit and towering pompadour, walking alone on a vast, empty Moscow street that stretches for blocks. As he walks (and begins to sing), he is slowly joined by small groups of Goths and hippies who materialize on the sidelines. The camera dances in and out and among the crowd until, in the last seconds, it pulls above the mob, turns 180 degrees and looks back down the barren streets -- which are somehow now filled with about 15,000 people dancing and singing the chorus of closing song: "Go play!" This finale is predictable, cornball, cliché and absolutely breathtaking. 

But beyond the demonstrable joy of the closing scene, one might be left to ponder the overall message. Is the greatest accomplishment of the human spirit to be found in exercising the freedom to dress in chains and wear your died hair in spikes? Certainly the desire to serve the community of humankind deserves as much respect as the desire to set oneself apart as an individual. Especially when this "declaration of individuality" involves adopting the shared trappings of shared "outlaw" lifestyle. 

You can share that debate for after the film. Hipsters is an experience worth seeking out. Besides, if you don't see this film, you might have to wait another 50 years before you see the next musical from Moscow.

Don't Miss This: Post-Holiday

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Friday January 06, 2012 - 11:35:00 AM

If like me, you're totally fed up with the long holiday season, join the club! What once was a magical Christmas for children, the event can now be summed up in dollar signs! Commercialism at its worst! Nevertheless, we may still find several ways of celebration with the many activities offered in the New Year. 

Let's start with the fantastically rich Chinese opera company, Shen Yun, playing now through January 8 at the San Francisco Opera House. (888) 633-6999. 

For lovers of ballet, the Smuin Ballet will present a dynamic show, "Swipe", set to music by Prokofiev, April 26-May 6 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, S.F. On April 12-22, also at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Lines Ballet will perform the alluring Schererezade "Arabian Nights" story. 

The Oakland Ballet Company will perform May 18-20 at the Malonga Caseuelourd Center for the Arts in a fresh spin on the legacy of the Ballets Russes, with a stage version of Stravinsky's "Pulcinella. 

Batsheva Dance Company will perform in February, again at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. 

Michael Tilson Thomas will direct the S.F. Symphony Thursday, 12, 8 p.m.; Friday, Jan 13 at 8 p.m. and Sat. Jan.14 at 8 p.m. with Frederica von Stade narrating Debussy's, "Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian." John Harbison's operatic treatment of F. Scott Fitzerald's "The Great Gatsby" comes to Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in February. 

The S.F. Chronicle invites you and a guest to special screening on Monday, Jan. 9 of "Joyful Noise" . (www.joyfulnoisethemovieccom). 

Movie addicts should enjoy "Hyde Park on the Hudson," with actor Bill Murray giving a remarkable portrayal of Franklin D. Roosevelt, chomping on his cigar, during a busy weekend in 1943. 

Berkeley Repertory Theatre's latest production, "Ghost Light" inspired by the 1978 assassination of Mayor George Moscone, previews this Friday. 

Roger Waters re-creates a Pink Floyd original 1980 arena rock show May 11 at AT&T Park. 

If you don't mind traveling to San Jose, Neil Diamond will perform August 7 at HP Pavilion, reclaiming his legacy of shameless schmaltz.  

Not overlooking art, Andy Warhol's Foundation for the Visual Arts shows the most personal side of the pop maven's output at the Berkeley Art Museum, 2627 Bancroft Way, Jan. 27-May 20. (510) 642) 0808. 

The Martha Graham Dance Company will perform in the near future; no date has been given. The above cultural events will, we hope, get your New Year off to a great start!