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. -more-
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.
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. -more-
Just another day in the hood, Berkeley's South-side—my Lake Woebegone. -more-
Press Release: Realty Notes from All Over: Developer Bails, Berkeley Blamed, Ross-for-Less Building Sold for $8.425 Million
"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." -more-
Berkeley City Clerk Deanna Despain died over the weekend, city spokeswoman Mary Kay Clunies-Ross confirmed today. -more-
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. -more-
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. -more-
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. -more-
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. -more-
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.” -more-
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? -more-
The Editor's Back Fence
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: -more-
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.-more-
Federal, State and local government shall require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed.
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. -more-
Laud Governor Brown's initiative in dissolving The Centre City Development Board, among others, which was but the San Diego City Council Writ Large. -more-
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
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." -more-
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.
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. -more-
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? -more-
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. -more-
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. -more-
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. -more-
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. -more-
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. -more-
January 11, 2012 marks the tenth anniversary of the Guantanamo Bay prison, an extrajudicial
MY COMMONPLACE BOOK: (a diary of excerpts copied from printed books, with comments added by the reader.)
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)
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. -more-
Arts & Events
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. -more-
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. -more-
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. -more-
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. -more-
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." -more-
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. -more-