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The J. R. on this memorial display on the wall of Don's Headquarters barber shop stands for "Junior", the name old friends and family called Berkeley murder victim Kenneth Warren.
M. H. O'Malley
The J. R. on this memorial display on the wall of Don's Headquarters barber shop stands for "Junior", the name old friends and family called Berkeley murder victim Kenneth Warren.


Press Release: Occupy Oakland Say Oakland Police Violate Their Own Policies

From Occupy Oakland Media Committee
Sunday January 29, 2012 - 07:52:00 AM

Yesterday, the Oakland Police deployed hundreds of officers in riot gear so as to prevent Occupy Oakland from putting a vacant building to better use. This is a building which has sat vacant for 6 years, and the city has no current plans for it. The Occupy Oakland GA passed a proposal calling for the space to be turned into a social center, convergence center and headquarters of the Occupy Oakland movement.

The police actions tonight cost the city of Oakland hundreds of thousands of dollars, and they repeatedly violated their own crowd control guidelines and protester’s civil rights.

With all the problems in our city, should preventing activists from putting a vacant building to better use be their highest priority? Was it worth the hundreds of thousands of dollars they spent? 

The OPD is facing receivership based on actions by police in the past, and they have apparently learned nothing since October. On October 25, Occupiers rushed to the aid of Scott Olsen who was shot in the head by police, and the good Samaritans who rushed to his aid had a grenade thrown at them by police. At 3:30pm this afternoon, OO medics yet again ran to the aid of injured protesters lying on the ground. Other occupiers ran forward and used shields to protect the medic and injured man. The police then repeatedly fired less lethal rounds at these people trying to protect and help an injured man. 

Around the same time, officers #419, #327, and others were swinging batons at protesters in a violation of OPD crowd control policy, which allows for pushing or jabbing with batons, but not the swinging of them. 

In the evening, police illegally kettled and arrested hundreds of protesters. Police can give notices to disperse, if a group is engaged in illegal activity. However, if the group disperses and reassembles somewhere else, they are required to give another notice to disperse. Tonight, they kettled a march in progress, and arrested hundreds for refusing to disperse. Contrary to their own policy, the OPD gave no option of leaving or instruction on how to depart. These arrests are completely illegal, and this will probably result in another class action lawsuit against the OPD, who have already cost Oakland $58 million in lawsuits over the past 10 years. 

OPD Crowd Control Policy: “If after a crowd disperses pursuant to a declaration of unlawful assembly and subsequently participants assemble at a different geographic location where the participants are engaged in non-violent and lawful First Amendment activity, such an assembly cannot be dispersed unless it has been determined that it is an unlawful assembly and the required official declaration has been adequately given.” 

“The announcements shall also specify adequate egress or escape routes. Whenever possible, a minimum of two escape/egress routes shall be identified and announced.” 

“When the only violation present is unlawful assembly, the crowd should be given an opportunity to disperse rather than face arrest." 

At least 4 journalists were arrested in this kettling. They include Susie Cagle, Kristen Hanes, Vivian Ho who were arrested and then released, and Gavin Aronsen who was taken to jail.  

One woman was in terrible pain from the cuffs. Dozens of fellow arrestees shouted at the OPD to check her cuffs. But, contrary to their own policy, the OPD refused and simply threw her in a paddy wagon. 

OPD Crowd Control Policy: "Officers should be cognizant that flex-cuffs may tighten when arrestees’ hands swell or move ... When arrestees complain of pain from overly tight flex cuffs, members shall examine the cuffs to ensure proper fit" 

Numerous protesters were injured: some shot with “less lethal” rounds, some affected by tear gas, and some beaten by police batons. There are no totals yet for the numbers of protesters injured. One 19 year old woman was taken to the hospital with internal bleeding after she was beaten by Officer #119. 

Cathy Jones, an attorney with the NLG gave the following statement to Occupy Oakland’s media team: “Through everything that has happened since September, from Occupy to the acceleration of "Bills" -- NDAA, SOPA, PIPA, ACTA -- never have I felt so helpless and enraged as I do tonight. These kids are heroes, and the rest of the country needs to open its collective eyes and grab what remains of its civil rights, because they are evaporating, quickly. Do you want to know what a police state looks like? Well, you sure as hell still do not know unless you were watching our citizen journalists.” 

Today, Occupy Oakland events continue all day with a festival in Oscar Grant (Frank Ogawa) Plaza. 

Occupy Oakland is an emerging social movement without leaders or spokespersons. It is in solidarity with occupations currently occurring around the world in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. Occupy Oakland Media is a committee of Occupy Oakland, established by the Occupy Oakland General Assembly. 

Oakland Police Say 200 Arrested During Occupy Actions

By Bay City News
Saturday January 28, 2012 - 11:11:00 PM

Police arrested around 200 Occupy Oakland protesters during a day of action Saturday that began with the protesters' attempt to take over a vacant building to establish a community center there. 

Police estimated that around 450 to 500 protesters marched from Frank Ogawa Plaza starting at around 1 p.m. and attempted to take over the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center near Lake Merritt.  

Occupy organizers said they planned to reappropriate the vacant building as a new home for Occupy Oakland. Once they reached their destination, organizers had planned to kick off a two-day "Oakland Rise-up Festival" to celebrate the establishment of the movement's new space. 

Police said protestors began tearing down perimeter fences at the center around 2:30 p.m., and were ordered to disperse at 2:50 p.m. 

Officers were allegedly pelted with bottles, metal pipe, rocks, spray cans, improvised explosive devices and burning flares, according to police. Police said they used smoke bombs and tear gas, and protestors at the scene reported officers using batons on individuals in the crowd.  

As of around 5 p.m., 19 people had been arrested and three police officers had been injured. One of those officers suffered a laceration to the face and two received injuries to their hands.  

By around 4 p.m., the bulk of the group had retreated to the plaza and regrouped. A second march set out from Frank Ogawa Plaza around 5:30 p.m. 

Most of the day's arrests were made outside of the YMCA at 2350 Broadway in Oakland after protesters allegedly attempted to force entry into the building, police said. 

Police surrounded the protestors and stated that they had failed to comply with multiple orders to disperse, and therefore were under arrest.  

A protestor broadcasting live video of the event said protestors were trying to escape through the YMCA after being surrounded by police, and not attempting to occupy it. A police spokesman said there was property damage to the YMCA but did not have details.  

A reporter for the San Francisco-based Mother Jones magazine, Gavin Aronsen, was among those arrested, according to the magazine. Aronsen said on his Twitter feed that he was released early this morning.  

Police also reported that simultaneously protesters broke into Oakland City Hall and vandalized exhibits.  

Protesters announced that they will continue the demonstration at 8 a.m. today, and plan to meet in Frank Ogawa Plaza to continue the activities already planned, including conferences and teach-ins.

Press Release: Audio of Oakland Press Conference with Mayor Jean Quan and Oakland City Officials

From Sgt. Christopher Bolton, Oakland Police Department and Harry Hamilton Oakland City Administrator’s Office
Saturday January 28, 2012 - 10:58:00 PM

A downloadable audio file of the press conference has been posted at http://bit.ly/wuOsp8.

Press Release: City Provides Update on Occupy Activities in Downtown Oakland – 10:30 pm

From Sgt. Christopher Bolton, Oakland Police Department and Harry Hamilton Oakland City Administrator’s Office
Saturday January 28, 2012 - 10:48:00 PM

Oakland, CA – At an 8:30 pm press briefing, Oakland officials provided updates on the Occupy activities in downtown Oakland. 

“Once again, a violent splinter group of the Occupy Movement is engaging in violent actions against Oakland,” said Oakland Mayor Jean Quan. “The Bay Area Occupy Movement has got to stop using Oakland as their playground.” 

Earlier today protesters unsuccessfully attempted to break into the historic Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, they charged a skirmish line at Oak Street and pelted officers with bottles, metal pipe, rocks, spray cans, improvised explosive devices and burning flares. Oakland Police Department deployed smoke, tear gas and beanbag projectiles. 

By 4 pm, an Occupy crowd of approximately 300 had returned to Frank Ogawa Plaza. After a brief respite, the group returned to the streets and marched through downtown Oakland. 

After ignoring a dispersal order, at approximately 6:30 pm, the arrest protesters invaded the YMCA and were arrested. 

Simultaneously, a different group of protesters burnt an American flag in front of Oakland City Hall before breaking into the historic building. Damage to exhibits has been reported. Officers will be making arrests onsite. “There is no excuse for the behavior we experienced this evening,” said Council President Larry Reid when responding to an inquiry about damage to City Hall.  

“From their own posts and their letter to the Mayor and City Council, the demonstrators’ stated intention was to provoke the police and engage in illegal activity,” said City Administrator Deanna J. Santana. 

As of this release, the total arrests are estimated at 200. Three police officers and one protester have been injured and three private vehicles have been vandalized. 

The City of Oakland has received mutual aid from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office and the cities of Fremont, Hayward, Berkeley, Pleasanton and Union City/Newark. 

The City has developed a variety of communication channels to keep the business community and the public informed of developments as they occur. This may include street closures or impacts to public transit. We encourage you to use the following: 


● We will post regular information updates on our web site: www.oaklandnet.com. 

● Oakland Police Department will distribute text/SMS and email alerts via Nixle public safety notification system. Visit www.nixle.com to register for these updates. 

● To receive alerts by email or wireless device, subscribe to the City of Oakland’s email/text updates system by entering your email address in the “Email Updates” section on the City’s home page, www.oaklandnet.com. If you would like to receive wireless alerts via mobile phone, be sure to check the “Send Wireless Alerts to this address” box and enter your mobile number and carrier. Once you’ve saved your subscriber preferences, be sure to select “Emergency Alerts for Merchants” or “Emergency Alerts for Residents.” 

● If you don’t have a computer, call 211 for information and/or updates. 

● To report any tips on Occupy activity, call the Oakland Police Department’s non-emergency line at (510) 777-3333 or send an email to opdtipline@gmail.com. 

A downloadable audio file of the press conference has been posted at http://bit.ly/wuOsp8.

Occupy Breaks into Oakland City Hall

By Bay City News
Saturday January 28, 2012 - 07:47:00 PM

Oakland City Hall was broken into by multiple people tonight during Occupy Oakland protests, according to police. 

Few details were available, although some reports from the scene indicate some protestors burned a city flag in front of the building. Police have since secured the building. 

The city hall incursion followed the detention and possible arrest of more than 100 people today in Occupy Oakland protests.  

At least 100 people were detained outside the YMCA at 2350 Broadway in Oakland after allegedly attempting to force entry into the building, according to Oakland police. 

Police surrounded the protestors and stated that they had failed to comply with multiple orders to disperse, and therefore were under arrest.  

A protestor broadcasting live video of the event said protestors were trying to escape through the YMCA after being surrounded by police, and not attempting to occupy it. A police spokesman said there was property damage to the YMCA but did not have details.  

Protestors and police also clashed earlier today when a crowd that police estimated at around 450 to 500 marched from Frank Ogawa Plaza and attempted to take over the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center.  

Occupy organizers said the plan today was to go to a vacant building that was to be their new home. Once they reach their destination, organizers had planned to kick off a two-day "Oakland Rise-up Festival" to celebrate the establishment of the movement's new space. 

Police said protestors began tearing down perimeter fences at the center around 2:30 p.m., and were ordered to disperse at 2:50 p.m. 

Officers were allegedly pelted with bottles, metal pipe, rocks, spray cans, improvised explosive devices and burning flares, according to police. Police said they used smoke bombs and tear gas, and protestors at the scene reported officers using batons on individuals in the crowd.  

As of around 5 p.m., 19 people had been arrested and three police officers had been injured. One of those officers suffered a laceration to the face and two received injuries to their hands.  

By around 4 p.m., the bulk of the group had retreated to the plaza and regrouped. A second march set out from Frank Ogawa Plaza around 5:30 p.m.

Press Release: Occupy Oakland Responds to Oakland Police Repression Tonight, Demands Accounting of Brutal Tactics, and End to Disinformation

From Jamie Omar Yassin, Occupy Oakland
Saturday January 28, 2012 - 08:41:00 PM

Occupy Oakland's building occupation, an act of constitutionally protected civil disobedience was disrupted by a brutal police response today. Protesters were met with baton strikes, shot with rubber bullets, and exposed to tear gas. Police immediately issued denials that tear gas was used, however, as many victims can attest, it was used freely and without regard to safety. 

Later, at least a hundred demonstrators were arrested, and many were also reported injured; we demand an accounting of their injuries 

Police justify their actions by claiming that protesters attacked them; there are no report of injuries. We demand that police produce evidence of their claims, or cease making them. 

Many protesters remain angered at police behavior and are massing at 14th bwy for a march in opposition of these brutal tactics at 8:45pm. Occupy isn't going to go away, we'll demand an accounting of city and police repression.

Updated: Oakland: At Least 100 People Detained Near YMCA in Occupy Protest

By Bay City News
Saturday January 28, 2012 - 07:54:00 PM

At least 100 people have been detained and face possible arrest outside the YMCA at 2350 Broadway in Oakland after allegedly attempting to force entry into the building, according to Oakland police. 

Police surrounded the protestors and stated that they had failed to comply with multiple orders to disperse, and therefore were under arrest.  

A protestor broadcasting live video of the event said protestors were trying to escape through the YMCA after being surrounded by police, and not attempting to occupy it. A police spokesman said there was property damage to the YMCA but did not have details.  

Protestors and police clashed earlier today when a crowd that police estimated at around 450 to 500 marched from Frank Ogawa Plaza and attempted to take over the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center.  

Occupy organizers said the plan today was to go to a vacant building that was to be their new home. Once they reach their destination, organizers had planned to kick off a two-day "Oakland Rise-up Festival" to celebrate the establishment of the movement's new space. 

Police said protestors began tearing down perimeter fences at the center around 2:30 p.m., and were ordered to disperse at 2:50 p.m. 

Officers were allegedly pelted with bottles, metal pipe, rocks, spray cans, improvised explosive devices and burning flares, according to police. Police said they used smoke bombs and tear gas, and protestors at the scene reported officers using batons on individuals in the crowd.  

As of around 5 p.m., 19 people had been arrested and three police officers had been injured. One of those officers suffered a laceration to the face and two received injuries to their hands.  

A police spokesman said he was not aware of any injuries to protestors.  

By around 4 p.m., the bulk of the group had retreated to the plaza and regrouped. A second march set out from Frank Ogawa Plaza around 5:30 p.m. 


CONTACT: City of Oakland spokeswoman Karen Boyd (510) 238-6365 

Copyright © 2012 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited. 


Oakland Protesters Prepare for Second Try to Enter Building

By Laura Dixon (BCN)
Saturday January 28, 2012 - 05:40:00 PM

Around 250 to 300 Occupy Oakland protestors have gathered at Frank Ogawa Plaza in Oakland to rest and reorganize following a failed attempt to take over a building this afternoon. 

While the scene at the plaza is currently peaceful, organizers have announced that the group will make another attempt to occupy another building this evening, and failing that will try to retake the plaza, the site of a long-running encampment. Marchers were preparing to set out as of about 5:15 p.m. 

Police in unmarked cars are monitoring the plaza, but there are currently no uniformed officers visible in the area. At least two tents have been erected in the plaza. 

Protestors and police clashed earlier today when a crowd that police estimated at around 450 to 500 marched from Frank Ogawa Plaza and attempted to take over the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center.  

Occupy organizers said the plan today was to go to a vacant building that was to be their new home. Once they reach their destination, organizers had planned to kick off a two-day "Oakland Rise-up Festival" to celebrate the establishment of the movement's new space. 

Police said protestors began tearing down perimeter fences at the center around 2:30 p.m., and were ordered to disperse at 2:50 p.m. 

Officers were allegedly pelted with bottles, metal pipe, rocks, spray cans, improvised explosive devices and burning flares, according to police. Police said they used smoke bombs and tear gas, and protestors at the scene reported officers using batons on individuals in the crowd.  

As of around 5 p.m., 19 people had been arrested and three police officers had been injured.  

By around 4 p.m., the bulk of the group had retreated to the plaza. Police have requested mutual aid from other law enforcement agencies. 

"Clearly there were some tactical mistakes today," said Sean Gallagher, 23, who was among those in the crowd. ... I think the goal of today to occupy a building was to give offices to working class people to organize."

Press Release: Update on Occupy Activities in Downtown Oakland – 4:30 pm

From Officer Johnna Watson, Oakland Police Department and Harry Hamilton, Oakland City Administrator’s Office
Saturday January 28, 2012 - 05:26:00 PM

Oakland--By 12 pm, a crowd of approximately 250 had gathered in Frank Ogawa Plaza for the Occupy rally. Just before 1:30 pm, the group started marching southbound on Broadway. As the group of approximately 450 marched, traffic disruptions occurred on downtown streets. At approximately 2:15 pm, some of the marchers entered the campus of Laney College. 

At 2:30 pm, marchers began tearing down perimeter fences around the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center. At approximately 2:50 pm, the first dispersal order was given as the crowd began destroying construction equipment and fencing. 

Officers were pelted with bottles, metal pipe, rocks, spray cans, improvised explosive devices and burning flares. Oakland Police Department deployed smoke and tear gas. 

By 4 pm, the bulk of the Occupy crowd of approximately 500 has returned to Frank Ogawa Plaza. 

As of this release, 19 protesters have been arrested. Most of the arrests were made on Oak Street when protesters ignored the dispersal order and assaulted officers. Three officers are confirmed to have been injured. 

Mutual aid has been requested. 

The City of Oakland welcomes peaceful forms of assembly and freedom of speech, but acts of violence, property destruction and overnight lodging will not be tolerated. The Oakland Police Department is also committed to facilitating peaceful forms of expression while protecting personal safety and property through ethical and constitutional policing. 

The City has developed a variety of communication channels to keep the business community and the public informed of developments as they occur. This may include street closures or impacts to public transit. We encourage you to use the following: 

● We will post regular information updates on our web site: www.oaklandnet.com. 

● Oakland Police Department will distribute text/SMS and email alerts via Nixle public safety notification system. Visit www.nixle.com to register for these updates. 

● To receive alerts by email or wireless device, subscribe to the City of Oakland’s email/text updates system by entering your email address in the “Email Updates” section on the City’s home page, www.oaklandnet.com. If you would like to receive wireless alerts via mobile phone, be sure to check the “Send Wireless Alerts to this address” box and enter your mobile number and carrier. Once you’ve saved your subscriber preferences, be sure to select “Emergency Alerts for Merchants” or “Emergency Alerts for Residents.” 

● If you don’t have a computer, call 211 for information and/or updates. 

● To report any tips on Occupy activity, call the Oakland Police Department’s non-emergency line at (510) 777-3333 or send an email to opdtipline@gmail.com.

Flash: Occupy Oakland Protest: Police Tear Gas, Threaten to Forcibly Remove Protesters

By Laura Dixon (BCN)
Saturday January 28, 2012 - 03:32:00 PM

Police tear gassed Occupy Oakland protesters this afternoon near Lake Merritt and warned them to leave an area where they had gathered or they would be forcibly removed.  

At about 3:45 p.m., the crowd still had not dispersed around the intersection of Jackson Street and 12th Street. 

Police declared the intersection an unlawful assembly area and began running toward protesters with their shields.  

Occupy Oakland organizers rallied at Frank Ogawa Plaza before they began marching earlier this afternoon. During the rally one of the organizers, Shake Anderson, said, "We are here to protect each other and to be civil disobedient. ... We're doing it to change the world, not just today but every day." 

The march started just after 1:30 p.m., with dozens of police nearby in riot gear.  

The protesters headed toward Laney College. Some people were wearing bandanas over their mouths and others were holding signs saying, "We are the 99%." A marching band dressed in pink and black tutus and neon pick tights also was in the crowd. 

Occupy organizers said the plan today was to go to a vacant building that was to be their new home. Once they reach their destination, organizers had planned to kick off a two-day "Oakland Rise-up Festival" to celebrate the establishment of the movement's new space. 

"Clearly there were some tactical mistakes today," said Sean Gallagher, 23, who was among those in the crowd. ... I think the goal of today to occupy a building was to give offices to working class people to organize." 

Police are advising motorists that they have closed streets in the area.

Berkeley Police Identify Victim of Last Night's Murder

By Becky O'Malley
Friday January 27, 2012 - 01:01:00 PM
The J. R. on this memorial display on the wall of Don's Headquarters barber shop stands for "Junior", the name old friends and family called Berkeley murder victim Kenneth Warren.
M. H. O'Malley
The J. R. on this memorial display on the wall of Don's Headquarters barber shop stands for "Junior", the name old friends and family called Berkeley murder victim Kenneth Warren.

Berkeley Police Lt. Dave Frankel has informed the Planet that the victim of the murder last night at the corner of Shattuck and Emerson has been identified as Kenneth Warren, who worked at Don's Headquarters, a popular neighborhood barber shop at the same location, as well as at the Port of Oakland.  

The shop is owned by Don Warren, reported in some online comments to be the uncle of the murder victim.  

Lt. Frankel said that Berkeley police officers are actively working on leads in the case, but are not ready to release information about suspects.

Video Report on Berkeley Murder Scene Last Night

By Florian Charread
Friday January 27, 2012 - 12:59:00 AM

[Editor's Note: Reader Florian Charread sent the Planet this video which he made last night at the scene of the shooting which took place at the corner of Emerson and Shattuck in Berkeley.]

Shooting aftermath-Berkeley from manaovisual on Vimeo

Flash: Man Shot and Killed on Emerson near Shattuck in Berkeley

By Becky O'Malley
Friday January 27, 2012 - 12:22:00 AM

A man was shot and killed on Emerson Street near Shattuck in Berkeley tonight. This account, author unknown, was forwarded to the Planet from the neighborhood watch group:

"My husband just finished talking to the police. We heard a group of shots (maybe 10?) and then a pause, then a few more shots (maybe 5?), then a pause, then another group of shots (maybe 10?). I went and called the police. My husband went to the window and saw a man with dark skin (maybe African American) get into a dark grey Honda (Accord?) and drive off heading east on Emerson without his headlights on. My husband walked outside and there was smoke in the air. We thought it was firecrackers and he was looking for a burn mark on the pavement or something to indicate firecrackers. He went back inside the house and got a flashlight and then saw bullet casings on the pavement but didn't see anyone injured. The police arrived and other neighbors came out. Other people came by and were screaming. Someone screamed, "Oh my god it was Donnie! Oh my god oh my god! No!" It was really terrifying as this was in the apartment building [near] our house. The paramedics came and did CPR on someone on the balcony of the apartment building. The victim was on the second floor. The paramedics took him away and we don't know if he was alive or dead. The police are now going door to door taking statements. I believe the officer used the word 'homicide.' "

Berkeley Police confirmed at midnight that the shooting did take place as reported, and that the victim has died. Comments on the Berkeleyside website indicate that the victim may have been the nephew of Don Warren, the owner of Don's HeadQuarters barber shop on Shattuck, a well-regarded fixture and a stabilizing influence in the neighborhood for decades, including the eight years when the Planet office was located next door. 

As of midnight , no suspect had been identified or captured by the police.

Police Respond to Berkeley Shooting on Thursday Night

By Erika Heidecker (BCN)
Thursday January 26, 2012 - 08:34:00 PM

Police are responding to a fatal shooting in Berkeley tonight, police said.

Officers responded to the 3000 block of Shattuck Avenue and found a male victim suffering from multiple gunshot wounds near an apartment building at the corner of Shattuck Avenue and Emerson Street, according to police Sgt. Mary Kusmiss.

The victim was taken to a trauma center where he was pronounced dead.

"The evidence suggests that this was not a random shooting," Kusmiss said.  

"This victim was the focus of the shooter's attention. We don't know why as of yet," she said. 

Kusmiss said officers are conducting a neighborhood canvass and community members have come forward with information. 

No suspect description was immediately available. 

Shattuck Avenue is closed between Ashby Avenue and Essex Street due to the ongoing investigation, Kusmiss said. 

This is Berkeley's first homicide of the year.

Free-Market Medicine—A Personal Account

by Michael Parenti
Friday January 27, 2012 - 12:36:00 AM

When I recently went to Alta Bates hospital for surgery, I discovered that legal procedures take precedence over medical ones. I had to sign intimidating statements about financial counseling, indemnity, patient responsibilities, consent to treatment, use of electronic technologies, and the like.

One of these documents committed me to the following: “The hospital pathologist is hereby authorized to use his/her discretion in disposing of any member, organ, or other tissue removed from my person during the procedure.” Any member? Any organ?

The next day I returned for the actual operation. While playing Frank Sinatra recordings, the surgeon went to work cutting open several layers of my abdomen in order to secure my intestines with a permanent mesh implant. Afterward I spent two hours in the recovery room. “I feel like I’ve been in a knife fight,” I told one nurse. “It’s called surgery,” she explained.

Then, while still pumped up with anesthetics and medications, I was rolled out into the street. The street? Yes, some few hours after surgery they send you home. In countries that have socialized medicine (there I said it), a van might be waiting with trained personnel to help you to your abode.

Not so in free-market America. Your presurgery agreement specifies in boldface that you must have “a responsible adult acquaintance” (as opposed to an irresponsible teenage stranger) take you home in a private vehicle. I kept thinking, what happens to those unfortunates who have no one to bundle them away? Do they languish endlessly in the hospital driveway until the nasty weather finishes them off? 

You are not allowed to call a taxi. Were a taxi driver to cause you any harm, you could hold the hospital legally responsible. Again it’s a matter of liability and lawyers, not health and doctors. 

One of the two friends who helped me up the steps to my house then went off to Walgreen’s to buy the powerful antibiotics I had to take every four hours for two days. I dislike how antibiotics destroy the “good bacteria” that our bodies produce, and how they help create dangerous strains of super-resistant bacteria. I kept thinking of a recent finding: excessive reliance on medical drugs kills more Americans than all illegal narcotics combined. 

So why did I have to take antibiotics? Because, as everyone kept telling me, hospitals are seriously unsafe places overrun with Staph infections and other super bugs. It’s a matter of self-protection. 

Two days after surgery I noticed a dark red discoloration on my lower abdomen indicating internal bleeding. I was supposed to get a follow-up call from a nurse who would check on how I was doing. But the call might never come because the staff was planning a walkout. “We have no contract,” one of them had told me when I was in the recovery room. So now the nurses are on strike---and I’m left on my own to divine what my internal bleeding is all about. What fun. 

Fortunately, it didn’t turn out that way. A nurse did call me despite the walkout. Yes, she said, it was internal bleeding, but it was to be expected. My surgeon called later in the day to confirm this opinion. Death was not yet knocking. 

A few days later, there were massive nurses strikes on both coasts. Among other things, the nurses were complaining about “being disrespected by a corporate hospital culture that demands sacrifices from patients and those who provide their care, but pays executives millions of dollars.” (New York Times, 16 December 2011). One cold-blooded management negotiator was quoted as saying, “We have the money. We just don’t have the will to give it to you” (ibid.). 

As for the doctors, both my surgeon and my general practitioner (GP) are among the victims, not the perpetrators, of today’s corporate medical system. My GP explained that it is an endless fight to get insurance companies to pay for services they supposedly cover. Feeling less like a doctor and more like a bill collector, my GP found he could no longer engage in endless telephone struggles with insurance companies. 

There are 1,500 medical insurance companies in America, all madly dedicated to maximizing profits by increasing premiums and withholding payments. The medical industry in toto is the nation’s largest and most profitable business, with an annual health bill of about $1 trillion. 

Along with the giant insurance and giant pharmaceutical companies, the greatest profiteers are the Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs), notorious for charging steep monthly payments while underpaying their staffs and requiring their doctors to spend less time with each patient, sometimes even withholding necessary treatment. 

I am without private insurance. And my Medicare goes just so far. Like many other doctors, my GP no longer accepts Medicare. For a number of years now, Medicare payments to physicians have remained relatively unchanged while costs of running a practice (staff, office space, insurance) have steadily increased. So now my GP’s patients have to pay in full upon every visit—which is not always easy to do. 

Our health system mirrors our class system. At the base of the pyramid are the very poor. Many of them suffer through long hours in emergency rooms only to be turned away with a useless or harmful prescription. No wonder “the United States has the worst record among industrialized nations in treating preventable deaths” (Healthcare-NOW! 1 December 2011). 

Too often the very poor get no care at all. They simply die of whatever illness assails them because they cannot afford treatment. An acquaintance of mine told me how her mother died of AIDS because she could not afford the medications that might have kept her alive. 

In Houston I once got talking with a limousine driver, a young African-American man, who remarked that both his parents had died of cancer without ever receiving any treatment. “They just died,” he said with a pain in his voice that I can still hear.  

Living just above the poor in the class pyramid are the embattled middle class. They watch medical coverage disappear while paying out costly amounts to the profit-driven insurance companies. I was able to get surgery at Alta Bates only because I am old enough to have Medicare and have enough disposable income to meet the co-payment. 

For my out-patient operation, the hospital charged Medicare $19,466. Of this, Medicare paid $2,527. And I was billed $644. The hospital then writes off the unpaid balance thus saving considerable sums in taxes (amounting to an indirect subsidy from the rest of us taxpayers). Had I no Medicare coverage, I would have had to pay the entire $19,466. 

I was informed by the hospital that the $19,466 charge covers only hospital costs for equipment, technicians, supplies, and room. So besides the $644, I will have to pay for any pathologists, surgical assistants, and anesthesiologists who performed additional services. I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. 

How much does my surgeon earn? Not much at all. He gets about $400 to $500 for everything, including my pre-op and post-op visits and the surgery itself, an exacting undertaking that requires skills of the highest sort. He also has to maintain insurance, an office, an assistant, and an increasing load of paperwork. 

My surgeon pointed out to me, “If you ask people how much I make on an operation like yours, they will say $4000 to $5000, and be wrong by a factor of ten.” He noted that in a recent speech President Obama criticized a surgeon for charging $30,000 to replace a knee cap. “The surgeon gets a minute fraction of that amount,” my doctor pointed out.  

To make matters worse, there is talk about cutting Medicare payments to physicians by 27 percent. If this happens, it is going to be increasingly difficult to find a surgeon who will take Medicare. Still worse, the private insurance companies will join in squeezing the physicians for still more profits. 

I was able to meet my payment ($644) not only because my operation was heavily subsidized by Medicare but because it was a one-day “ambulatory surgery.” I don’t know how I would fare if I had to undergo prolonged and extremely costly treatment. 

So much for life in the middle class. At the very top of the class pyramid are the 1%, those who don’t have to worry about any of this, the superrich who have money enough for all kinds of state-of-the-art treatments at the very finest therapeutic centers around the world, complete with luxury suites with gourmet menus. 

Among the medically privileged are members of Congress and the U.S. president. They pay nothing. They are treated at top-grade facilities. They enjoy, how shall we put it, socialized medicine. No conservative lawmakers have held fast to their free-market principles by refusing to accept this publicly funded, medical treatment. 

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, cheerfully announced that medical care is not a human right; it should be “market determined just like food and shelter.” Nobody has a higher opinion of John Mackey than I, and I think he is a greed-driven, union-busting bloodsucker. Nevertheless I will give him credit for candidly admitting his dedication to a dehumanized profit pathology. 

The U.S. medical system costs many times more than what is spent in socialized systems, but it delivers much less in the way of quality care and cure. That’s the way it is intended to be. The goal of any free-market service---be it utilities, housing, transportation, education, or health care---is not to maximize performance but to maximize profits often at the expense of performance. 

If profits are high, then the system is working just fine---for the 1%. But for us 99%, the profit lust is itself the heart of the problem. 

© Michael Parenti, 2011 -------------- Michael Parenti’s recent books include: The Face of Imperialism (2011); God and His Demons ( 2010); Contrary Notions: The Michael Parenti Reader (2007); The Assassination of Julius Caesar (2004). For further information, visit: www.MichaelParenti.org.

Fire Hits Great China Restaurant in Downtown Berkeley

By Scott Morris (BCN) and Planet
Thursday January 26, 2012 - 04:06:00 PM
Foster Goldstrom
Foster Goldstrom

A fire badly damaged a Chinese food restaurant on Kittredge near Oxford in downtown Berkeley on Wednesday night, Berkeley fire officials said. 

The fire started shortly after 9 p.m. in the Great China restaurant at 2115 Kittredge St., which shares a building with Razan's Organic Kitchen next door.  

The business is owned by the Yu family. Michael Yu was the founder, and the second generation, son James Yu, now participates in managing the business.  

According to Foster Goldstrom, a restaurant patron and family friend who visited the site this afternoon, James is a noted collector of West Coast wines, but his fine collection, which was stored in the building, was severely damaged by the fire. Goldstrom said the family estimated that rebuilding would take 6 months. Construction has already begun.  

Assistant Fire Capt. Jon Fitch, who was called in to investigate after the blaze was extinguished, said a cooking fire started in the kitchen of the Chinese restaurant and quickly spread. Fitch said Great China sustained $500,000 in damage to the building, and $200,000 in damage to its contents. 

"It definitely is shutting down based on the fire," Fitch said. 

Despite sharing a building with Great China, Razan's was not damaged by the flames, Fitch said. 

"There was no fire damage that I can see, I think they'll be able to open pretty quick," Fitch said. 

Both restaurants were evacuated during the fire, although there were not many customers in either at that hour. No one was injured. 

Press Release: Alameda County Bans Bags, Mandates Recycling

From Jeff Becerra, Stopwaste.org
Thursday January 26, 2012 - 10:20:00 AM

Yesterday the Alameda County Waste Management Authority (ACWMA) adopted two ordinances that will help the county achieve its long-term waste reduction goals. The first ordinance requires recycling of high market-value materials from larger businesses and multi-family properties. The second ordinance prohibits free distribution of single-use bags at check out in stores that sell packaged food. The initiatives are designed to reduce waste and litter, stimulate the local economy and create jobs. 

"Alameda County buries $100 million of resources every year," said Gary Wolff, P.E., Ph.D., StopWaste.Org's Executive Director. "Increased recycling can contribute greatly to the local economy by tapping into what would otherwise be sent to landfills." USEPA Administrator Lisa Jackson recently touted the multiple benefits of high recycling levels, calling the practice a simple, low-tech approach to a cleaner environment, and a homegrown jobs program that would employ millions of Americans. Up to 1,500 local jobs are expected to be created as a result of the Alameda County mandatory recycling ordinance. 

In addition to its economic benefits, recycling reduces greenhouse gas emissions significantly, which is why the State has adopted a mandatory recycling law to help implement its landmark climate change initiative (AB 32). The State law requires larger businesses (four cubic yards of garbage service per week and above) and multi-family properties of five units or more to obtain recycling service. The mandatory recycling ordinance adopted for Alameda County builds on the State's requirements by specifying which materials need to be recycled and by requiring that an adequate level of recycling service be obtained. 

The single-use bag ordinance will help reduce the number of bags going to landfill and decrease the problems caused by plastic bags at recycling processing centers and landfills. The ordinance bans single-use bags at check out at retailers selling packaged food countywide. Recycled content paper or reusable bags may be provided but only if the retailer charges a minimum price of $0.10 per bag. 

Setting restrictions on single-use bag distribution will help local jurisdictions meet their storm water permit and litter control requirements at lower costs and reduce environmentally harmful trash in storm drains and creeks. Despite voluntary efforts to promote reusable bags countywide for several years, plastic bags comprised 9.6 percent of litter collected during coastal cleanup days (based on 2008 data) in Alameda County. 

Both ordinances were identified as long-term waste reduction strategies in StopWaste.Org's 2010 Strategic Plan, which included a goal that by 2020 less than 10 percent of solid wastes landfilled should be materials that are easily recycled or composted. 

The ordinances are designed to capture the benefits of working together on a large scale while also preserving local control. Individual jurisdictions within the county are able to opt out of either ordinance by resolution of their governing board by March 2, 2012. 

FAQ's with detailed information on each of the proposed ordinances is available at www.stopwaste.org/news.

New: The Tea Party, Planning and Democracy(Part One)

By Zelda Bronstein
Wednesday January 25, 2012 - 10:08:00 AM

[Editor's Note: This is the first part of a two-part news analysis which explores some unexpected synergies between Tea Party protesters and progressive opponents of planning policies which are perceived as anti-democratic. Part 2 will appear on Friday.]

Most people regard meetings about regional planning, if they regard them at all, as soporific, PowerPointed affairs frequented by policy wonks. But on January 11, I attended a regional planning workshop in Dublin that was anything but dull. That’s because protesters from the East Bay Area Tea Party showed up along with some “fellow travelers” and nearly took the evening over. Their appearance was no surprise. 

For over a year, members of the Tea Party have descended on planning events around the country. The Dublin event, sponsored by the lead regional planning agencies in the Bay Area, the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), was the Alameda County installament of the second round of county-based Plan Bay Area public meetings [http://www.onebayarea.org/spotlight_12-11.htm] about the forthcoming Sustainable Communities Strategy/Regional Transportation Plan (SCS/RTP) mandated by the 2008 legislation, SB 375. The Tea Party also weighed in at the first round, held last May, as well as at all of the second round workshops that have been held so far. 

SB 375, signed by then-Governor Schwarzenegger, requires California to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. To that end, each of the state’s eighteen metropolitan planning organizations—in our case, ABAG plus MTC—must prepare a long-range plan that integrates its region’s transportation, housing and land use in ways that get people to drive less. In the Bay Area, as elsewhere in the country, this is called planning for “smart” growth and “sustainable” development. 

The Tea Party and its allies contend that such planning intends to force Americans out of their cars and their single-family homes with yards and garages and into mass transit and high-density housing, and to pursue a social justice agenda that discriminates against property rights and the middle class. 

They trace the origins of this campaign to an obscure 1992 United Nations document called Agenda 21. One of the two dozen or so dissidents milling in the big plaza outside the Dublin Civic Center handed me a leaflet with the headline: “Sounds like science fiction…or some conspiracy theory…but it isn’t” [ellipses in original]. Written by Santa Rosa resident and certified real estate appraiser Rosa Koire, the leaflet claims that “all the General Plans of [American] cities and counties” are permeated by Agenda 21 policies advocating government “control of all land use” and the disfranchisement of private property owners; “round[ing] up people off the land” and moving them into “islands of human habitation, close to employment centers and transportation”; and “a redistribution of wealth” that will lower Americans’ standard of living “so that people in poorer countries will have more.” On Wednesday evening, these claims were echoed by slogans called out through a bullhorn by founder of the East Bay Tea Party, Heather Gass, an Alamo realtor: “We don’t want race-based engineering here!” “They’re coming for your cars!” “We want equal justice, not social justice!” 

But what offends Tea Partiers isn’t only planners’ alleged goals; it’s also the way those goals are pursued—according to these critics, via an authoritarian process that treats ordinary citizens with contempt. “Politburo Planning,” read the big hand-lettered sign held by Pleasanton resident and registered nurse Tom Bacon as he stood in the Civic Center parking lot next to his American flag-bedecked, 1987 Ford three-quarter ton tow truck. A few yards away, the demonstrators in the plaza displayed smaller signs that said “ABAG/MTC don’t speak for me,” “This is a rigged meeting” and “We’re being railroaded.” 

The protesters at the Dublin meeting asserted that the workshops were packed with employees of public agencies and their non-profit “partners” such as Greenbelt Alliance, Urban Habitat and TransForm. As evidence of such favoritism, they pointed to the online registration procedure, starting with the registration form, which asks prospective attendees to choose among the following affiliations: Advocate: Business Interests; Advocate: Environmental Interests; Advocate: Public Health Interests; Advocate: Social Justice Interests; Concerned Individual; Elected Official; Public Sector Staff (government agency staff); Other; and Advocate: Reduced Role in Government. Noting that the Plan Bay Area website says that the workshops are filled, but that you can still register and be placed on a waitlist, they argued that when places open up, people who identify themselves as advocates for a reduced role in government are passed over. In Dublin, one of the dissenters told me that at the May workshop she attended, she “was the only citizen at the table.” The others, she said, were all “stakeholders from CalTrans, Greenbelt Alliance, MTC, and they were voting.” 

Confronted by unremitting shout-outs during the opening plenary, the attending officials—Alameda County Supervisor and MTC member Scott Haggerty, Union City Mayor and ABAG President Mark Green, MTC Planning Director Doug Kemsey and ABAG Planning Director Ken Kirkey—decided to hear comments of three minutes apiece from everyone who wished to speak. Most of the dissidents took advantage of that invitation. 

A few days later, I spoke with one of protesters, Castro Valley resident and Internet executive Mimi Steel. Steel, a property rights advocate, said she isn’t a member of the Tea Party but works with the organization, as well as with Koire’s Democrats Against UN Agenda 21. I asked her why she and her fellow dissenters didn’t go to the breakout sessions, where participants had an opportunity to indicate their top priorities for transportation investments and “complete communities.” 

“Because it didn’t matter,” she replied. “They’re going to do whatever they’re going to do, regardless of the public input.” Steel pointed out that SB 375 requires the regional agencies to do outreach. In her view, the way they do it—posing ambiguous questions and providing scant information about complicated issues—renders the public’s response meaningless. At the workshops last spring, she said, people were asked “how important is open space to you? What does that mean?” she said. “In relation to what? How much does it cost to procure open space?” 

The protesters also objected to arrogant facilitators who, they claim, quash politically incorrect participants. “Their objective,” Steel told me, “is to get the answer they want.” At best, she said, they use diversionary tactics, such as telling dissenters to write down their opinions or saying that they will deal with off-agenda issues later; at worst, they resort to humiliation. 

Steel referred me to a video filmed at one of the May workshops in which a participant opines that environmental mandates are driving businesses out of California and then politely but persistently asks if anything in the plan looks at planning’s impacts on businesses and jobs in the state. Instead of answering his question, the presiding facilitator compares him to her five-year-old daughter with whom she does time-outs. At her behest, the workshop attendees vote to move on. 

I didn’t see any such putdowns in Dublin (granted, I couldn’t be in all three workshop venues at once). If anything, officials’ willingness to let people in and hear people out fostered an atmosphere of receptiveness. Everyone who wanted to attend was admitted. According to ABAG staffer JoAnna Bullock, 146 people, including those placed on a waitlist, had registered for the workshop. Fifty-eight of those registered were no-shows; an unknown number of participants refused to sign in; and 45 others signed in as walk-ups. 

Despite the open door policy, the police presence inside and outside the Civic Center was disconcerting; the protesters were angry and loud, but they didn’t seem dangerous. Before the meeting, Dublin Police Lieutenant Steve Brown told the demonstrators who were occupying a small portion of the complex’s very spacious entry plaza to move over. On of them asked, “Is there inadequate room for anyone to pass?” Brown didn’t reply. 

That said, the evening ended on a note of conciliation, largely due to the poise, not to say the charm, with which Supervisor Haggerty moderated the comments session. After listening to two and a half hours of vociferous criticism, Haggerty said that what he’d “heard the most tonight” was “frustration,” but that if people wanted to be effective, they “need[ed] to drop the anger,” “not interrupt” and get organized. He urged the dissidents to send emails, attend MTC meetings and contact their local and state representatives. They responded with applause and thanks, saying that this was the first time in the Plan Bay Area process that they’d been allowed to voice their opinions, and that elected officials had actually listened to what they’d said. 

This video briefly depicts the protest outside the Dublin Civic Center before the beginning of the January 12 Plan Bay Area workshop and then records the entire public comment session in the council chamber. Thanks to Mimi Steel for providing the film. The video runs almost two and a half hours. People cited in the Planet story speak at the following moments:

1:26:07 Mimi Steel
1:39:13 Doug Buckwald
1:45:16 Heather Gass
1:47:58 Steve Finacom
2:18:35 Scott Haggerty

New: Two Arrested as Suspects in December Berkeley Shooting

By HannahAlbarazi/JeffShuttleworth (BCN)
Wednesday January 25, 2012 - 10:31:00 AM

Police arrested two teens suspected of injuring two people in a daytime shooting in Berkeley last month, police said. 

Berkeley police detectives arrested Tyrone Anthony Terrell, 18, of Berkeley and a 16-year-old male suspect in connection with the shooting, police said. 

On Dec. 23, 2011, two men were hospitalized with gunshot wounds after a shooting near the intersection of Sacramento and Woolsey streets at around 12:40 p.m., according to police. 

Berkeley police Lt. Andrew Greenwood said police received several calls at about 12:41 p.m. from residents in that area reporting that shots had been fired. 

When police arrived at the scene three minutes later they didn't find any victims or suspects, Greenwood said. 

A local hospital notified police a short time later that two male victims had been dropped off there suffering from gunshot wounds, he said. None of their wounds were considered life threatening and both victims were released from the hospital. 

Witnesses at the scene said the suspect or suspects fled up Woolsey Street so police did a house-by-house search of a two-block area but didn't find anyone, Greenwood said. 

Homicide detectives took over the investigation and identified the two suspects. Detectives sent a wanted bulletin within the Berkeley Police Department and neighboring agencies for both suspects, police said. 

On Jan. 13, a patrol officer spotted Terrell at the same intersection where the shooting had occurred in December.  

The patrol officer detained Terrell and booked him into the Berkeley Police Department jail, police said.  

Officers arrested the 16-year-old suspect the same day, police said. 

Police said this was not a random shooting, but that no motive has been established.

Press Release: Study Shows Restored Wetlands Rarely Equal Condition of Original Wetlands

By Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley Media Relations
Wednesday January 25, 2012 - 10:45:00 AM

Wetland restoration is a billion-dollar-a-year industry in the United States that aims to create ecosystems similar to those that disappeared over the past century. But a new analysis of restoration projects shows that restored wetlands seldom reach the quality of a natural wetland. 

“Once you degrade a wetland, it doesn’t recover its normal assemblage of plants or its rich stores of organic soil carbon, which both affect natural cycles of water and nutrients, for many years,” said David Moreno-Mateos, a University of California, Berkeley, postdoctoral fellow. “Even after 100 years, the restored wetland is still different from what was there before, and it may never recover.” 

Moreno-Mateos’s analysis calls into question a common mitigation strategy exploited by land developers: create a new wetland to replace a wetland that will be destroyed and the land put to other uses. At a time of accelerated climate change caused by increased carbon entering the atmosphere, carbon storage in wetlands is increasingly important, he said. 

“Wetlands accumulate a lot of carbon, so when you dry up a wetland for agricultural use or to build houses, you are just pouring this carbon into the atmosphere,” he said. “If we keep degrading or destroying wetlands, for example through the use of mitigation banks, it is going to take centuries to recover the carbon we are losing.” 

The study showed that wetlands tend to recover most slowly if they are in cold regions, if they are small – less than 100 contiguous hectares, or 250 acres, in area – or if they are disconnected from the ebb and flood of tides or river flows. 

“These context dependencies aren’t necessarily surprising, but this paper quantifies them in ways that could guide decisions about restoration, or about whether to damage wetlands in the first place,” said coauthor Mary Power, UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology. 

Moreno-Mateos, Power and their colleagues will publish their analysis in the Jan. 24 issue of PLoS (Public Library of Science) Biology. 

Wetlands provide many societal benefits, Moreno-Mateos noted, such as biodiversity conservation, fish production, water purification, erosion control and carbon storage. 

He found, however, that restored wetlands contained about 23 percent less carbon than untouched wetlands, while the variety of native plants was 26 percent lower, on average, after 50 to 100 years of restoration. While restored wetlands may look superficially similar – and the animal and insect populations may be similar, too – the plants take much longer to return to normal and establish the carbon resources in the soil that make for a healthy ecosystem. 

Moreno-Mateos noted that numerous studies have shown that specific wetlands recover slowly, but his meta-analysis “might be a proof that this is happening in most wetlands.” 

“To prevent this, preserve the wetland, don’t degrade the wetland,” he said. 

Moreno-Mateos, who obtained his Ph.D. while studying wetland restoration in Spain, conducted a meta-analysis of 124 wetland studies monitoring work at 621 wetlands around the world and comparing them with natural wetlands. Nearly 80 percent were in the United States and some were restored more than 100 years ago, reflecting of a long-standing American interest in restoration and a common belief that it’s possible to essentially recreate destroyed wetlands. Half of all wetlands in North America, Europe, China and Australia were lost during the 20th century, he said. S 

Though Moreno-Mateos found that, on average, restored wetlands are 25 percent less productive than natural wetlands, there was much variation. For example, wetlands in boreal and cold temperate forests tend to recover more slowly than do warm wetlands. One review of wetland restoration projects in New York state, for example, found that “after 55 years, barely 50 percent of the organic matter had accumulated on average in all these wetlands” compared to what was there before, he said. 

“Current thinking holds that many ecosystems just reach an alternative state that is different, and you never will recover the original,” he said. 

In future studies, he will explore whether the slower carbon accumulation is due to a slow recovery of the native plant community or invasion by non-native plants. 

Coauthors with Moreno-Mateos and Power are Francisco A. Comin of the Department of Conservation of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Restoration at the Pyrenean Institute of Ecology in Zaragoza, Spain; and Roxana Yockteng of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, France. Moreno-Mateos recently accepted a position as the restoration fellow at Stanford University’s Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve. 

The work was supported by the Spanish Ministry for Innovation and Science, the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology and the National Center for Earth Surface Dynamics of the U.S. National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center. 

Related information: 

New: Ghosts of the Past: Blake's Re-opening on Telegraph Avenue as Pappy's--a Happy, If Haunted, Reminder of Berkeley's Past

By Ted Friedman
Wednesday January 25, 2012 - 09:54:00 AM
Sleek new lookout at Pappy's, Saturday, retains Blake's view of the Avenue, but not from tables.
Ted Friedman
Sleek new lookout at Pappy's, Saturday, retains Blake's view of the Avenue, but not from tables.

Ghosts of Berkeley's Blake's past happily haunt us on Telegraph Avenue.

Don't expect a chronology here, but ever since I can remember, Larry Blake's on upper Teley, has been closing and re-opening. Re-opened once more as Pappy's Bar and Grill, Saturday, it is more Blake's than ever, thanks to "smart" Alex Popov, who runs Smart Alec's next door. 

I visited Blake's rathskeller in 1963, and, except for the absence of fraternity and sorority paddles and wooden booths, Pappy's downstairs den reminds me of 60s Blake's. Removal of the mezzanine upstairs is another throw-back, since the balcony was only around a few decades. 

If you thought Smart Alec's, next door, was intelligent, wait till you see Pappy's. Popov's smart half- block at Telegraph and Durant has made the whole neighborhood intellectual. 

Popov tells me he has dreamed of owning a sports bar and grill since 1997, when he tried to buy Kip's, another Berkeley nearby institution. Popov's dream-come-true, may enhance our own dreams. 

John Lineweaver, past president of Teley property owners, and owner of the Pappy's building is no chump either. Stepping in to stem noise, and other neighborhood complaints--when Blake's had morphed into a south of market noise machine--Lineweaver put strict noise controls on Pappy's. 

At the Pappy's pre-opening, Saturday, I asked Lineweaver if he was bothered by the music not emanating from the "rathskeller" downstairs. I had just emerged from the new downstairs den, where someone had requested by cell phone a "song," which re-iterated "chick-baby" so annoyingly--I just had to ask Lineweaver about it. 

"As long as I can't hear it upstairs [where he sat], I 'm happy," Lineweaver, a soft-spoken man, replied. 

These guys are smart. 

To say, I had anticipated Pappy's opening would be an understatement. But the re-opening was stalled by fire inspectors, according to Popov, and finally moved forward to Super Bowl weekend, a deadline it beat. I began snooping the site several weeks ago, even sneaking into the gated alley behind the building to peek in. 

My last visit to Blake's shortly before it closed, included blaring music from the mezzanine, and stale beer. When I heard the mezzanine would be gone at the new Blake's, and loud was out, I was cheered. 

Now for that beer. One sip of my "hefeweizen" pint threatened to rain on my parade. What to do? Sparingly sip the battery-acid brew, or take a chance. Elbowing my way over hunched shoulders at the bar to reach the bartender, I asked "Can I swap this out? I promise to not ask for another replacement." The next choice, Racer5, IPO Ale, was a winner, and free. I paid $5 for the replaced pint, a dollar less than Kip's. Beer problem solved. 

Pappy's solves a lot of problems. It restores pub life on the avenue, after the Sequoia fire took out Raleigh's, and it gives Berkeley yet another take on Blake's. It avoids drawing punks, and it might be a shot in the arm for the whole dispirited neighborhood. 

In my last visit to Raleigh's, I had been asked to leave the football game I was watching, if I didn't order beer or food. I left without getting my free Coke refill, vowing to not return, although I worried how I would survive without the onion rings. I understood the bartender's point, just disliked her manner. 

Based on my experiences, Saturday, and Sunday for the Niners game, I give Pappy's a ton of stars for good vibes. Everyone, from smart Alex to the bartender to the manager, Jessie Jones, to my favorite waitress,Tempest, were good folk. 

Wondering about the food? Here Popov faced a dilemma. What had made Smart Alec's food intelligent was precisely that it was not saturated-fat bar food. He had to bite the fat for Pappy's. 

While he was biting the fat, he brought three new food items to the avenue: tri-tip roast, and smoked-in-house turkey and chicken. Beef burgers, and pulled-pork patties (another first) are grilled over red oak chips--a first. Which one of these will kill you first? 

Pulled pork is the fattiest item, the tri-tip moderately fat. If you're worried about your health, you step next door for allegedly "healthy" foods. Popov covers your stomach. 

If you're unfulfilled by Smart Alec's salad, move to Pappy's for a heap of greens topped off with smoked meat or fowl. Looked worth drooling over. 

Best-of department: Pappy's has the best fries in town, based on my research. I'd tell you how it's done, but you can't do it at home anyway. 

Tempest, the gracious waitress, is handling on-line publicity, and plans are afoot to restore the former rathskeller to a fraternity-sorority hub, as it was in Blake's early years, according to her. 

Capacity seating (300 plus) was topped Saturday, just from word of mouth, according to Tempest, and on Sunday for the Niners game Pappy's was jammed. The 205 inch big screen projection TV, in the main room is another avenue first. 

Pappy's offered free food for its pre-opening, where the free tri-tip "sold" out. 

Popov is still putting the finishing touches on the sleek digs, such as tinting the windows for better viewing of the cyclopean screen. He might bring in more Cal memorabilia, but, as he told me, the Pappy's motif is not what Pappy's is all about. 

Perhaps Pappy's is about having a good-provider.



Handgun Violence Strikes Again: Another Senseless Shooting in a Berkeley Neighborhood

By Becky O'Malley
Friday January 27, 2012 - 12:49:00 PM

There’s bad news today in the Planet’s old neighborhood in south Berkeley. Kenny Warren, nephew of Don Warren who’s been running the very popular Don’s Headquarters barber shop on Shattuck for four decades, was gunned down last night as he stood on the balcony at a friend’s apartment on Emerson, around the corner from the shop.

The gunman is reported to have fired many many rounds of bullets, perhaps as many as 80, from a pair of automatic weapons, the super-lethal variety which make it possible for any fool, without need for target practice, to hit his mark with at least one bullet. Forty shell casings were recovered from the sidewalk alone.

We say “his” mark here because neighbor accounts suggest that the shooter, like his victim, was a young African-American man. This is sad but not surprising. 

Don’s shop is iconic in the African-American community. My son-in-law has gone there for years, as has my friend, a minister and professor who lives a block away, along with his two sons, now in their forties. 

“They never knew any other barber shop,” until they left home, their mother told me. \ 

And it’s not just the expert haircutting, though that counts too. Don is known to be a political junkie with an opinion on anything and everything, his TV constantly tuned to CNN and any other source of news available. 

My professor friend, says his wife, will sometimes sit there for a while just to listen to the repartee among barbers and patrons. In other words, it’s a classic Black barbershop of the old school, with all the rich cultural trappings made famous in novels and films. 

And as long-term tenants next door, we at the Planet always appreciated Don’s steady presence on the corner. He’s a no-nonsense kind of guy, so we were confident that no bad behavior would be tolerated, at least on our block. 

This kind of thing simply should not happen to a family like this. By all accounts Ken Warren, known to family and friends as Junior, was a good guy, no troublemaker at all. When he wasn’t barbering, he operated loading equipment at the Port of Oakland—he had five kids to support, so he worked hard. 

Some theories floating around suggest that the many shots point to a professional or gang-affiliated killing, but my professor friend's wife thinks that it’s just the opposite. She says that with automatic repeater weapons like these the most trivial beef easily escalates into a bloody murder—no particular intent needed. Often enough, it’s even a case of mistaken identity. 

You just have to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. This has given her plenty to worry about, as the mother of two sons, even though they’re past the most dangerous age range. 

Statistics abound, for all the good they do. The reason that the murder of Kenneth Warren, probably by another young Black man, is no surprise is that “homicides are devastating black teens and adults across the nation,” according Josh Sugarman, executive director of the Violence Policy Center in Washington, DC. 

On Wednesday the VPC released an analysis of FBI data from 2009,” Black Homicide Victimization in the United States, an Analysis of 2009 Homicide Data.” 

One of its conclusions: “The homicide rate for black victims in the United States was 17.90 per 100,000. In comparison, the overall national homicide rate was 4.76 per 100,000 and the national homicide rate for whites was 2.92 per 100,000.” 

And the study places the blame on, guess what, guns: “For homicides in which the weapon used could be identified, 82 percent of black victims (5,065 out of 6,156) were killed with guns. Of these, 74 percent (3,723 victims) were killed with handguns.” 

Sometimes people think handgun murders are caused by drugs or gangs, but most of the time that’s not true. Another conclusion: “For homicides involving black victims for which the circumstances could be identified, 71 percent (2,812 out of 3,937) were not related to the commission of any other felony. Of these, 54 percent (1,524 homicides) involved arguments between the victim and the offender. Thirteen percent (355 homicides) were reported to be gang-related.” 

That’s another way of saying that handgun homicides are mostly crimes of opportunity. Handguns just make it so damn easy for what 75 years ago might have been a fistfight to turn into slaughter. 

Blog commenters were ready to blame Kenneth Warren’s murder on the cannabis store around the corner, but it’s most likely not connected. Any small argument could have provoked a heedless murder. 

We stopped by Don’s this afternoon to pay our respects. He wasn’t there, but gathered on the sidewalk outside the barbershop next to the impromptu shrine which has been created as custom dictates, friends and neighbors were talking about their disbelief that a tragedy like this could even strike an upstanding family like the Warrens. 

One visitor was an off-duty City of Berkeley Traffic Control officer still in her uniform, who said she’d known “Junior” since he was two years old, and also his whole large extended family back to his grandfather. She emphasized the solidity of this family, and her shock that even they could be hit by handgun violence. 

In truth, I don’t know a single African-American family that has not been touched, in one of its branches, by senseless death attributable to this cause. The cities where most of them live are awash in guns, ready to tempt hot-headed youth to settle their differences the worst way possible. 

The VPC study reaches this conclusion: 

Blacks in the United States are disproportionately affected by homicide. For the year 2009, blacks represented 13 percent of the nation’s population, yet accounted for 47 percent of all homicide victims. 

“As noted at the beginning of this study, the devastation homicide inflicts on Black teens and adults is a national crisis, yet it is all too often ignored outside of affected communities. 

“For blacks, like all victims of homicide, guns—usually handguns—are far and away the number one murder tool. Successful efforts to reduce America’s black homicide toll, like America’s homicide toll as a whole, must put a focus on reducing access and exposure to firearms.” 

That’s a job for the whole community, Black, White or In-Between. Until we all can, by working together, get the automatic handguns off the streets in the cities where we live, we’ll go on losing promising young men like Ken Warren. And that’s a crying shame. 

PS: We received the following email from "a f thom45@sbcglobal.net" after this piece was posted: 

"very disturbing to read such strange inaccuracies regarding weapons in your article. An "automatic" is a machine gun, is not at all legal in California, and requires extensive permits in the states they are allowed. They are NOT classified as handguns, and do not even remotely resemble them in appearance." 

FYI: From Wikipedia: 

"An automatic firearm is a firearm that loads another round mechanically after the first round has been fired. 

"The term can be used to refer to semi-automatic firearms, which fire one shot per single pull of the trigger (like the .45 "automatic"), or fully automatic firearms, which will continue to load and fire ammunition until the trigger (or other activating device) is released, the ammunition is exhausted, or the firearm is jammed." 

In either case, a human pulls a trigger of some sort to start the firing. The fact that California laws don't adequately regulate semi-automatic firearms is something that needs to be remedied, unless, of course, we want to see even more people gunned down in cold blood. 


The Editor's Back Fence

Fund for Berkeley Murder Victim's Children Will Be Established

Saturday January 28, 2012 - 03:32:00 PM

Don Warren, uncle of Kenneth Warren, who was gunned down on Thursday night next door to Don's HeadQuarters barbershop in Berkeley, said today that a fund for the victim's five children is being established. Don asked anyone who would like to contribute to send an email with contact information to warren.fund@berkeleydailyplanet.com and they will be contacted when the fund has been set up, probably early next week. 

Ken Warren, who was divorced, supported his children by working two jobs, at the barbershop and at the Port of Oakland.

Funding Israel and Berkeley Law

Saturday January 28, 2012 - 10:32:00 AM

Anyone interested in Israel or high tech funding might want to take a look at this piece, which touts an upcoming conference sponsored by U.C. Berkeley's Law School to promote investment in Israeli technology companies.

THIS JUST IN! New Lab to Be Build on UC Berkeley's Richmond Property!

Tuesday January 24, 2012 - 11:31:00 AM

The giant whoop-de-doo over Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory's decision to expand its bioscience research to U.C. Berkeley's Richmond Field Station is mind-boggling. Front page headline in the metro daily! Dog Bites Man--Read It Here!

What's mysterious is why such a fuss was made in the first place with purported consideration of other sites, given that the university already owned this obviously perfect site. The only explanation that makes sense is that it's The Planners' Full Employment Stimulus Program, given that hundreds of thousands of dollars were expended on fancy video-enhanced bids that, rightfully, should never have had a chance.

What if—just what if—the powers that be at the two UC-related players had simply announced that "we own a lovely site down by the bay, and we're putting our new labs there"? Period.

Who could cavil? Just sayin'.


Odd Bodkins: Squishy (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Saturday January 28, 2012 - 11:18:00 AM


Dan O'Neill


Bounce: Chamaeleon Eyes.gif (Cartoon)

By Joseph Young
Saturday January 28, 2012 - 11:23:00 AM


Joseph Young


Public Comment

The Tea Party, Planning and Democracy, Part Two (News Analysis)

By Zelda Bronstein
Friday January 27, 2012 - 12:31:00 PM

[Editor's Note: This is the second part of a two part series. Part One can be found here.]

Progressive observers treat the Tea Party’s forays into land use planning as the work of paranoid reactionaries. The March-April 2011 issue of Mother Jones ran an article by Stephanie Mencimer that portrayed Tea Partiers as “nutters” whose opposition to increased density and mass transit is rooted in “a hostility to what it sees as elites” and a pro-sprawl, suburban lifestyle. Last December, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy’s Anthony Flint riffed off of Mencimer’s piece in a post on the Atlantic magazine’s “Urban Wonk” blog that decried Tea Party disruption of planning efforts from California to Maine to Florida.

The truth is more complicated. Pace Rosa Koire, to attack smart growth as part of an international plot guided by the U.N.’s Agenda 21 really is to espouse conspiracy theory. To denounce “human-caused global warming” as a myth, as does the East Bay Tea Party, is to indulge in perilous denial. But to claim that land use planning is often run by unresponsive elites is to tap reality. Flint himself intimated as much: “Some might wonder,” he wrote, “whether there’s some truth” to accusations that “planners have draped the public process with the trappings of citizen input, while in fact all the decisions to promote smart growth have been made.”

Some do more than wonder, and they’re not all members or even “fellow travelers” of the Tea Party—for example, longtime Berkeley community activist Doug Buckwald. Speaking at the Dublin open mike, Buckwald assailed Plan Bay Area for discriminating against dissenters from smart growth doctrine. He said that a friend had tried to register for a workshop online at 7:30 am the day that registration opened, only to be told that the meetings were filled, and that she would be placed on a waitlist. She never got a confirmation from MTC, but she did receive letters from Greenbelt Alliance urging her to sign up and hold the line against opponents to the process who were poised to flood into the meetings. 

You may be thinking, what’s wrong with that? Doesn’t Greenbelt Alliance have a right to mobilize people who share its views? Of course it does. The catch is that the organization is hardly a disinterested party: it receives funding through its ties to the regional agencies. Like other non-governmental non-profits, Greenbelt Alliance has partnered with a city or county—in its case, Contra Costa County—for a share of the $5 million dollar Sustainable Communities Program grant that the Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded MTC and ABAG last November. Some of the other non-profit partners are the Bay Area Council, the Non Profit Housing Association of Northern California, TransForm, Urban Habitat and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group Community Foundation. All of them have a direct financial stake in the SCS/RTP. 

Besides conflicts of monetary interest, the advocacy non-profits have an accountability problem. As non-governmental entities, they’re not answerable to the general public. To be sure, they see themselves as representing the greater good. Good intentions notwithstanding, citizens at large have no claim on these organizations. 

These legitimacy issues haunt the Plan Bay Area process. Not only did non-profits help draft the SCS/RTP; their staffers have also participated in the public workshops, voting on investment options in transportation and housing. As Lisa Vorderbrueggen reported in the Contra Costa Times, ABAG and MTC used staff from some of their non-profit partners to facilitate Plan Bay Area’s workshops last May. When a Greenbelt Alliance senior field representative “began delivering an overview of the One Bay Area Planning process” at the Contra Costa County event, someone yelled, “Is this a government meeting?” 

“In the public agencies’ defense,” Vorderbrueggen wrote, “they were trying to save money”: the Silicon Valley Leadership Group had gotten a Knight Foundation grant to pay for outreach, which is expensive. Nevertheless, she continued, “the public must have confidence that [the final SCS/RTP] is the result of broad input and not the work product of specific advocacy groups.” 

Accountability is an issue for the regional agencies themselves. As Buckwald observed, “the MTC is not a duly elected organization.” In fact, some of the commission’s members are not elected at all. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission comprises nine county supervisors, six city mayors or city councilmembers, and one representative apiece from the Bay Area Conservation and Development Commission, CalTrans, the Federal Department of Transportation and HUD. ABAG’s Executive Board consists of fifteen supervisors and twenty mayors or city councilmembers. None of these officials were elected to serve on a regional body. 

The way they conduct regional business distances them even further from the public. MTC and ABAG meetings take place during the day. The daytime schedule excludes working people, except those who are paid to be there, which is to say, the staff of public agencies and non-profit advocacy groups. In Fall 2010 I attended several morning meetings devoted to drafting the SCS/RTP goals; of the two or three dozen people in the room, a handful at most were citizens with no governmental or non-profit affiliation. 

To be sure, the regional agencies don’t always see eye to eye with the advocacy nonprofits on transportation, equity or other issues. And cities and counties push back against policies they consider onerous: check out the comments from many Bay Area jurisdictions on the first draft of the SCS/RTP . Criticisms notwithstanding, every letter avows the worthiness of SB 375’s goals. 

That’s only to be expected. Though regional officials repeatedly state that local compliance with the requirements of SCS/RTP will be voluntary, when pressed, they concede that only those jurisdictions that meet those requirements will be eligible to receive some of the millions of public funds that will be disbursed through MTC. 

What made the Dublin workshop unusual was that it was an official regional planning event attended by a large number of ordinary citizens, and that many if not most of those citizens challenged the premises of smart growth. The majority of the dissidents rested their case on a defense of property rights, “blind” justice, the private automobile and market fundamentalism or something close to it. As such, they could be readily written off as anti-government, anti-regulation and, most damning, anti-environment. 

Not so Berkeley resident Steve Finacom, who raised the most radical objection of the evening, when he questioned planners’ assumption that the more growth, the better. That assumption, he noted, conflicts with the view of the region’s pioneering generation of environmental activists, such as the founders of Save the Bay: population and development need to be limited to what the area’s natural resources (think water) can support without degrading the environment. 

Finacom was indirectly alluding to the planning profession’s close ties to the real estate industry. Unlike living organisms, property capital requires endless growth for its health. SB 375 “streamlines,” i.e., reduces, environmental regulations for housing built near transit; not coincidentally, one of the bill’s chief supporters was the California Building Industry Association. 

Of all the public comments I heard at the Dublin workshop, the one that got the biggest hand was Buckwald’s declaration that “this whole process should be shut down and started all over again with adequate public process from the start.” Let’s get real: MTC and ABAG are not going to re-boot Plan Bay Area. But they could—and should—do their best to make the rest of the process, as well as future planning for our region, more accountable to the public at large. 

For starters, they could apply the lessons of the Plan Bay Area experience. When citizens ask tough questions, they should get straight answers. Exactly how did MTC and ABAG decide that our region would have two million new residents in the next twenty-five years? Are green policies really driving businesses out of California? Does the SCS/RTP consider how environmental regulations are affecting business in our region? New development raises property values and often forces poor people out of their homes and low-rent businesses out of their spaces; how does the plan deal with the displacement threat? 

From the other side, when planners ask members of the public to evaluate “transportation trade-offs” or the qualities of “complete communities,” they should provide well-presented factual material that enables ordinary citizens to make informed choices. Instead of asking people who are registering for an official meeting to identify themselves as advocates of one thing or another, give them the option of stating an affiliation. Require public officials and employees of non-profit advocacy groups to state their affiliations, and print those affiliations on their name tags. Have employees of public agencies and their non-profit partners vote separately from the rest of the public, and record and publicize their votes separately as well. 

And how about holding meetings of ABAG’s Executive Board and MTC at night? 

These changes would make regional public process more open and more meaningful. But they’d have little or no effect on planners’ core belief that development is environmentally benign as long as it’s dense and close to transit. Challenging that belief and its formidable beneficiaries—I’m talking about real estate developers and the politicians whose campaigns they bankroll—will be much tougher than getting straight answers at planning workshops.

CNN Attempts to Defame Memory of Martin Luther King

By Jack Bragen
Saturday January 28, 2012 - 10:29:00 AM

An article by John Blake (a writer for CNN) attempts to create a controversy where there is none and to portray Martin Luther King Jr., as not being accepting of gay people. This is in line with CNN's tendency to be manipulative of public opinion and to do so through casting clouds of doubt in the absence of facts. 

This article lacks hard evidence of the opinion it is presenting, and instead uses hearsay of fellow commentators who are projected as being authorities on King. The article quotes an unverified magazine article in which Dr. King supposedly wrote something that could be construed as anti-gay. 

This is a situation of the corporate stockholders of CNN wishing to defame the memory of Martin Luther King Jr., in order to advance an evil political agenda. It is obvious to anyone that in 1958, most American people were not enlightened to the fact that homosexuality isn't a disease, it is a difference. If Martin Luther King in 1958 said something that could be construed as anti-gay, something we can't be certain of just by reading a CNN article, it could be interpreted several different ways. You could conclude that King was already pushing the envelope enough, and that to fight, in 1958, for the equality of gay people as well would hinder what he was trying to do. You could conclude, on the other hand, that King might not have been accurately quoted. The magazine editor could have easily changed the text of what King wrote. You could conclude that we have no way of knowing and you could wonder about CNN's motive for printing this article. It is a purely speculative article; it lacks facts to back up what it is implying, and it irrelevant to the remembrance of his message. 

Martin Luther King Jr. was strong and memorable leader in a way that is un-heard-of in our generation. In an age of things being dumbed-down, watered down, and put down through ambiguity and confusion, we apparently have no concept of the Civil Rights Movement. We also may have forgotten the deadliness and the perniciousness of the prejudice that existed prior to this movement. CNN's attempt at casting doubt on the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. is in line with the manipulation of the public by corporate entities that seems to define the current generation. 

As a Jew, as an intellectual and as a person with mental illness, I would not be able to exist in liberty today or write openly about my condition if it weren't for the Civil Rights Movement so aptly assisted and represented by Dr. King. 

The editors of CNN ought to be ashamed of themselves for their attempt to defame the memory of a man who may be the greatest American leader of the twentieth century.

New: Another Occupy Oakland March Attacked by Police.

By Marc Sapir
Saturday January 28, 2012 - 11:01:00 PM

Oakland, CA--Saturday, January 28, 2012, Sheila and I joined about 1,500 members of Occupy massed at 14th and Broadway in downtown Oakland. Occupy Oakland’s announced intention was to march to and occupy a long vacant building “somewhere” in the city to re-create a living, working, and coordinating center for this young “politics on the fly” movement for the rights of the 99%. As you probably know, previous occupations of public space from coast to coast have been destroyed and precluded by Government ordered police actions, making community development, collaboration and participatory mass democracy yet more difficult.  

The atmosphere was festive and gay, resembling what the counter culture of the 60s used to call a “be-in.” People of all ages, got up in all kinds of costumes, wheeling large platform dollies with furniture, mattresses, sleeping bags, grills, electronics, crates of canned foods, loaves of fresh bread and almost anything you can think of you might need in your new home, through the streets of the city. A drumming corp and a brass band separately did their thing. Within the march itself, music also blared from a powerful high quality sound system on a flatbed truck draped with young people. A famous recycled and refurbished AC Transit “Occupy” bus was ambushed out of the demo and occupied by the police. When one of the marchers’ platform dollies lost a wheel in a BART grating dozens of people came to the rescue, each picking up something from the load of materiale and carrying the stuff along the march. Sheila grabbed a box weighing about 15 pounds, which may have contained large plastic bags (at least according to its original printed label). We saw an old friend, Helen, in the drum group, pounding out a pulsing beat on a large drum strung from her waist. Young people smiled, swayed and danced their way snakelike through downtown until the march reached Laney College. There were also bicyclists, children in carriages pushed by parents, people of various ethnicities often in small social groups, and the always present minority of young anarchists with shields and masks.  

Slowly the police began to mass around the march perimeters. At Laney the march was blocked by a police line to the left and had to enter the campus; and when it tried to exit we found most of the ways off campus barred by battle ready police lines. Exiting at the Southeast edge of campus the march tried to track back toward downtown, only to be fenced in and blocked by chain link fencing and police lines. With nowhere to go the march stalled for a short while until, without provocation, Oakland’s finest began lobbing numerous (probably about 10) smoke/flash grenades into the dense crowd. People scattered briefly without any panicking and then reassembled. About 10 minutes after the smoke cleared, the police from a cruiser speaker declared an unlawful assembly and issued a disperse order. We left the demonstration, backtracking our way out at that point to avoid arrest or being beaten. However, the police apparently did not attack the full demonstration at that time (from what we later learned) and you’ll have to find out what then transpired from some other intrepid reporter. One of those, still among the crowd when we left was Mitch Jeserich (in his wheelchair), undaunted and apparently recording for his KPFA Letters and Politics program (Mondays-Fridays 10 a.m. at 94.1 FM the SF Bay Area).  

A 5 p.m. local newscast on Channel 7 (ABC) stated that police were forced to use grenades and teargas because an unruly crowd attacked them. If this happened it wasn’t while we were there. Although we were right in the middle of the crowd, we saw no attacks against the police, only the smoke grenade attack by the cops, although a few young men pushed down parts of the chain-link fences in a couple of places. From the way the crowd was blocked an uninvolved observer might well conclude that any confrontations were in response to the police decision to trap the march. The police and the ABC media coverage suggest that the aim of the 1%’s armed and responsive police was to create just enough chaos to: 1) prevent the Occupiers from reaching their objective location, 2) to justify some arrests, 3) provoke some skirmishes that would allow demonization of the 99% movement via the 1%’s wholly owned corporate capitalist media. We’ve all seen these tactics used against the Black and Latino communities and against immigrants.  

In a perhaps unrelated provocation a couple of counter pickets held a huge printed sign at the start of the march with the slogan: Occupy attacks Workers Rights. No one paid them any attention. Later I overheard one marcher tell another: “The media and politicians always claim we are costing the city all this money for the police. But why are they calling out hundreds of cops? We aren’t destroying anything or hurting anyone. We don’t want them spending public funds on cops to attack us and prevent public discourse either. They do it to protect the monopoly of power of the 1%.”

New: Self Immolations and Tibet

By Tenzin Dorjee
Thursday January 26, 2012 - 09:17:00 AM

The Mayan prophecy that the world will end in 2012 has spawned hundreds of books, films, plays and satires. Although the public fascination with apocalyptic stories does not necessarily translate into real belief, I admit to secretly subscribing to an alternative vision of a 2012 apocalypse—one where the world is cleansed of tyranny, colonialism, and totalitarianism.  

If the watershed events of the past year were any indication, we have reason to believe that in 2012 dictatorships everywhere will have a harder time withstanding the wave of resistance that is brewing in the streets, on the web, in the tea houses, and in people's minds.  

Barely three weeks into the year, we're seeing groundbreaking change in Burma, where hundreds of political prisoners have been released and Aung San Suu Kyi has gone from being a prisoner of the state to the nation's most esteemed stateswoman. As the structures of oppression fall—whether in neighboring Burma or in distant Tunisia— the democratic pressure on China intensifies.  

Tibetans are at the forefront of this revolutionary wave. In the last 11 months, 16 Tibetans have set fire to themselves in protest of Chinese rule, laying bare the colossal failure of China's colonial project in Tibet. The self-immolations—as overwhelming as they are underreported—are a flashpoint for the growing resistance movement in Tibet. Beijing is quickly learning that it can imprison Tibetans, but not their ideas, their words, or their dreams.  

In spite of China's pitch-black oppression, Tibetans are charging forward, armed with their nonviolent weaponry of political protest, economic noncooperation, civil disobedience, cultural renaissance and social innovation. And while we have been devastated by each incident of self-immolation, we have also been inspired by the unparalleled courage and sacrifice that motivated these acts. 

It was with a similar courage that a hundred years ago, on March 26, 1912, Tibetans formally declared war against Imperial China, effectively ending the Manchu invasion of Tibet. In 1913, the 13th Dalai Lama formally declared Tibetan independence.  

2012 marks a century since the collapse of the Manchu empire. My vision of apocalyptic change in China does not seem out of place at a time when people across the Chinese empire are restless for freedom from corruption, inequality, pollution, poverty and repression. The message from Tibet is clear: there is no turning back. I believe Tibetans will once again be ready to seize the moment and restore Tibet's independence, taking our rightful place in the global community of sovereign nations.  

My belief in this future is reaffirmed every day, not only by the tectonic political shifts that are changing the world beneath our feet, but also by my personal interactions with friends and strangers - sometimes at the most unexpected moments.  

A few days ago at the Kalachakra in Bodh Gaya, India, I saw a middle-aged woman with a familiar face walking past me. I caught her attention with a respectful nod and asked, "Achala, have we met before?"  

She smiled and replied in impeccable Lhasa dialect, "Not sure... but where are you from?" Answering that I was from New York but previously from Dharamsala, I asked where she was from.  

"Well, I'm from Lhasa," she replied courteously. With a Lhasa accent that strong, I thought to myself, it was almost unnecessary to name the place.  

"Oh, really?" I couldn't conceal my excitement at meeting someone from Tibet. "I must have seen you in Lhasa then; I was there in 2007 for a few days. I must have seen you in Bharkor Square."  

"Ah, that explains it," her eyes twinkled. I could tell that she felt extremely fortunate to be one of the few thousand Tibetans to cut through China's nightmarish political restrictions to attend the Kalachakra in India. As we parted, she held my hand tightly in a way older Tibetans do when saying farewell to close relatives. With a calm yet intense gaze, she said:  

"We will meet again. I think we will all meet again, very soon, back home."  

We both knew what she meant. I said, yes, we absolutely will.  

Tenzin Dorjee is the Executive Director of Students for a Free Tibet, a global grassroots network of students and activists working for Tibetan freedom. 

He and the group’s former Executive Director, Lhadon Tethong, along with Jigme Ugen, President of Minnesota Tibetan Youth Congress, will be speaking about the recent spate of self-immolations in Tibet at the following event: "TIBET BURNING : Resistance and Repression in Tibet Today" 

When: Friday, Jan 27 from 7PM
Where: UC Berkeley
(Evans Hall, Room # 60)

New: Jerusalem Concert by Children's Orchestra Cancelled by Israeli Government Action

By Samia Nasir Khoury
Tuesday January 24, 2012 - 09:20:00 AM

Friends and family who know me well know how I would love to hibernate in winter. I am just not a winter person, and I would never contemplate stepping out of the house on a rainy day, especially these days when my falls have become unpredictable. Last Sunday seemed to be a nice sunny day, but by noon it turned to be a very rainy and wet day. The Jerusalem children’s orchestra of the Edward Said National Conservatory was scheduled to perform at the Cultural Palace in Ramallah, and the next day at the National Theatre in Ramallah. I already made up my mind to go the next day to Jerusalem and avoid the drive through Kalandia where the road ends up more like a river when the heavy rains fall. But alas the last minute the concert in Jerusalem was cancelled because the children from the West Bank were not granted permits. 

For the love of my granddaughter Rand (11) who plays the cello with the orchestra, I was not going to hibernate on that dreadful Sunday afternoon. The children had spent the last three days at the music camp site in Birzeit training for that concert, and they did a marvelous job. As I listened to a lovely variety—Chopin, Sousa, Gershwin, Vivaldi and others—I could not but wonder, why would the Israeli authority prevent children ages 11-16 to get into Jerusalem. Are their violins, cellos , bassoons, or trumpets any threat to the security of Israel? Or is it one more harassing measure to deprive the children and the community from a little bit of pleasure? They grudge us even that much while they claim they are the centre of enlightenment and culture. 

Samia Nasir Khoury retired in 2003 after serving for 17 years as president of Rawdat El-Zuhur, a coeducational elementary school for the lower income community in East Jerusalem. She continues to serve as treasurer of the board of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in East Jerusalem and on the board of trustees of Birzeit University in Birzeit, Palestine. 

Samia was deeply involved with the YWCA, including serving as the national president of the YWCA of Jordan for two terms (as the Palestinian West Bank had been annexed to Jordan in 1950). When Jordan severed its ties with the West Bank in 1988, the YWCA of Palestine was reestablished, and she was its first president from 1991-96. Her breadth of international experience has also included addressing two UN NGO Forums: in New York in 1996, and in Athens in 2000.

Welcome Back Streicher!- The Alabama-Arizona Immigration Laws Recall 1935 Germany

By Jean Damu
Tuesday January 24, 2012 - 09:21:00 AM

Is Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, he who roams the nation promoting vicious anti-immigration laws and ordinances a latter day Julius Streicher? 

Oddly and bizarrely the old TV sitcom Welcome Back Kotter brings to mind similarities of Germany’s old Nuremburg laws, and the Kobach inspired new immigration laws in Alabama and Arizona. 

If television were reality (check that, television is reality) Kobach’s disturbing career would be scheduled as a remake of “Welcome back Kotter,” wherein Kotter returned to his high school alma mater as a teacher and took under his wing a motley assemblage of wayward students and mentored them toward near adulthood. 

In the reality version Kris Kobach has returned to his native Kansas after a stellar academic career at Harvard, Oxford and Yale Law. He has taken under his wing a motley assemblage of Nativist racists, often mistaken for Tea Party evangelicals, is mentoring them in formulating Nazi-reminiscent anti-immigration laws and therein resembles not at all the fuzzy, warm-hearted Kotter but rather the jack-booted, brown shirted Julius Streicher, “Jew baiter number one;” promulgator of the fascist Nuremburg Laws of 1935 and among the very few non-military Nazis executed for crimes against humanity by military tribunals at Nuremburg at the close of World War II. 

From 1923 until the fall of the Third Reich in 1945 Streicher was editor of the German tabloid Der Sturmer, (the Atttacker,) possibly the most racist tabloid ever to see the light of day during the 20th Century. The focus of Der Sturmers’ attacks were of course, the Jews. 

From his earliest adult days Streicher was a Hitler groupie. The same year he founded his racist rag Streicher acted as one of Hitler’s bodyguards during the failed Beer Hall putsch after which Hitler was imprisoned. 

Throughout the ensuing years Streicher’s role as editor of Der Sturmer, which often featured racist cartoons of baboonish portrayed Jewish men engaged in sex acts with Aryan looking women, his paper gave him the platform to advocate for greater Nazi bureaucratic efficiency in the legal crackdown on Jewish participation in everyday life. 

While the original Nuremburg Laws, announced at the Nazi Party rally in Nuremburg, served to criminalize sexual relations and contacts between Aryans and Jews, later additions to them, primarily by Joseph Goebbels addressed economic and everyday social relations. For instance, entering into a contract with a Jew became illegal. Renting to a Jew was illegal. Providing social services to Jews became illegal. Jews were relegated to their own schools Ultimately it became illegal for Jews to have money. The intent of all this naturally was to get Jews to leave Germany. 

True to his fascistic nature, for Streicher none of this was enough to get to the root of the so-called “Jew problem.” 

On September 16, 1936 the New York Times reported Streicher’s explicit remarks to newspapermen. The article sub-headlined “The Way to Solve the Problem Is to Exterminate Them,” reported, “The Nuremburg high-priest of Anti-Semitism (Streicher)…announced that in the last analysis, extermination is the only real solution to the Jewish problem. Mr. Streicher made it clear in his address that he was not discussing the question in regard to Germany alone…but of a world problem.” 

Streicher’s final solution policy was not adopted by the Nazi government until several years later, but intermediate steps adopted by Streicher and his followers included organizing brigades of trucks and wagons to gather up Jews and their belongings and dump them on the Czechoslovakia and Germany border in an attempt to cleanse Germany of Jews. 

Though the Nuremburg Laws were, we would like to think, far more extensive, invasive and racist than anything that could possibly be accepted anywhere in America in 2012, there is a disturbing overlap of key provisions of the laws; and the intent, to get the Jews in Germany and undocumented immigrants here, to “deport themselves”, is the same. 

Below are some key provisions of Alabama’s new immigration law. In parentheses we’ve added the word “Jew” to underline the commonality of Alabama and Nuremburg. 

  • One of the most controversial aspects of Alabama’s new immigration law is a requirement that public schools run checks on the immigration (citizenship) status of students in order to collect and track data (similar to the role IBM played in Germany collecting and tracking data on Jews.) However the law does not bar undocumented workers or their children (Jews) from attending schools.
  • prohibitions against most contracts entered into by most undocumented immigrants (Jews);
  • bars on undocumented immigrants (Jews) "business transactions" with the state;
  • criminalizing undocumented immigrants' (Jews) failure to carry registration documents (currently blocked by court challenge).
  • prohibitions against most contracts entered into by unauthorized immigrants (Jews);
  • One key, and controversial, aspect of Alabama's new immigration laws is a requirement that law enforcement officers make an attempt to determine the immigration status of individuals subject to arrest, detention or a traffic stop whenever "reasonable suspicion exists that a person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States.”
Backers of these laws claim the laws do not promote racial profiling but that makes no sense. The only reason an officer might suspect someone of being undocumented is that they looked Latino or Indian. There are hundreds of thousands of undocumented white people in the US but they rarely get stopped and carded because they are assumed to be US citizens. Racial profiling in reverse, if you will. 

But the real connection between the Nuremburg laws and the Alabama-Arizona laws are the sponsors themselves. We’ve already noted Streicher’s motivations in cleansing Germany of Jews. Alabama State Senator Scott Beason and Representative Micky Hammon were both quoted in a Syracuse University Law School blog as saying, “the goal of the new law is to force illegal immigrants out of the state of Alabama 

Also the US Department of Justice has filed a brief with the 11th circuit court of appeals saying the Alabama law not only is unconstitutional but is nothing more than an attempt to get undocumented workers “to deport themselves,” much as Streicher tried to do with his promotion of the Nuremburg Laws. 

Kobach’s role in all of this has been ample. In his role as chief legal consultant for the far-right FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform) Kobach engineered the formulation of the Alabama and Arizona immigration laws and has worked diligently to try to make those laws appeal proof. 

The Alabama-Arizona laws are the bookmark achievements of Kobach’s career to date but, he’s launched other attacks elsewhere with mixed results. 

On behalf of FAIR Kobach sued the state of Kansas for granting in-state tuition to undocumented students. That suit was dismissed for lack of evidence. He was more successful in California where his suit origninally prevailed but was later overturned by the California Supreme Court. 

Kobach also served as the lead attorney defending the city of Valley Park, Mo. in a federal case that challenged an ordinance sanctioning employers who hire the undocumented. After several appeals the ordinance was held to be legal. 

In Farmers Ranch, Texas,. Kobach led the city’s defense of its ordinances that prevented property owners from renting to undocumented workers. Those laws were also struck down. 

In appearance and intellect Kobach is no Striecher. He’s intellectual, talented and worldly. His studies at Oxford resulted in a treatise on the development of capitalism in South Africa. However, just as David Duke attempted to wrap the Ku Klux Klan within a buttoned downed, brief case carrying-pin stripped image a generation ago, Kobach is doing the same today for the far right with Nazi inspired immigration legislations. 

Supporters of Julius Streicher (yes, they still exist) argue he got a raw deal at the tribunals that had him hanged. Had he lived in the US, they say, he would have been protected by freedom of speech laws. They could be right and apparently a lot of people in Alabama and Arizona agree. 

Jean Damu is a member of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration. He can be reached at jdamu2@yahoo.com 








One Person, One Vote (Except in Berkeley)

By the Occasional Curmudgeon*
Tuesday January 24, 2012 - 08:32:00 AM

The Curmudgeon Light was shining on the side of the Campanile the other night, my signal from Planet Editor Becky O’Malley that she wanted me to check in after she’d gotten copies of some emails I’d sent to councilmembers.

“Write something satirical, Curmudge,” Becky ordered, referring to the stultifying subject of voter redistricting, the process of redrawing election districts that follows every decennial census. But how can you be funny about something like redistricting?  

It’s one of those wonkified inside-baseball subjects that few people understand, and so they either nod out or walk away, and before they know it, instead of Dennis Kucinich representing them, they’ve got a rabid Republican who’s proposing to take their Social Security and invest it in Enron…or worse, Pacific Gas & Explosions. This is underway right now in Cleveland, where the Repugs are controlling redistricting in such a way that liberal Democrat Kucinich may not only lose his seat in the House of Representatives but wind up residing in an entirely different district—represented by a Republican—without relocating. In their scorched-earth campaign to take ‘Merica back to the nineteenth century, the Repugs have adopted the tactic that if ya’ can’t beat ‘em, eliminate ‘em. 

Well, not here in good ol’ Berzerkeley, this island of fairness, compassion, and gentility, right? Certainly not among our esteemed city council, composed as it is of allegedly moderate and progressive members, right? Oh. Dowwww, wrong! [Homer-slap to Curmudge forehead.] 

It seems that a majority on the Council has seized on Berkeley’s mandatory reorganization of City Council districts to not only temporarily disenfranchise thousands of residents from voting in the 2012 Council election but as a means of possibly squeezing out the governing body’s two most liberal—and thus, “troublesome”—members, Kriss Worthington and Jesse Arreguin. For the full story on this, the Curmudge commends readers to Editor O’Malley’s report on last Tuesday night’s Council meeting and accompanying editorial in the January 17 Planet. (If you choose to read the editorial aloud, you may want to send the children out of the room, as our editor is, shall we say, a bit steamed about the Council’s behavior these days….) 

Briefly, as the 2010 census revealed an imbalance of residents among the growing population of the City’s eight Council districts, the City Charter requires the districts to be redrawn to ensure equal representation, that is, to meet the Charter requirement of “one person, one vote.” To achieve this, each district must be adjusted to accommodate 14,073 residents, and right now, four districts are short by a total of 4,295 residents, meaning that 4,295 voters must be allocated to different districts than the ones they’re currently living in.  

According to Worthington, six workable plans “on where to draw the lines” to equalize the districts before the 2013 elections were submitted to the Council. However District 8 Councilman Gordon Wozniak “has repeatedly proposed to delay redistricting because there is a [seventh] proposal submitted to create two 80-percent ‘student supermajority’ districts.” Worthington claims it would be “illegal” for the Council to adopt such a proposal because “it conflicts with the City Charter by not coming close to the 1986 boundaries,” not to mention that it would result in ejecting both him and Arreguin from their districts and, of course, the Council. 

Now, this proposal could have been placed on the ballot as an amendment to the Charter for voters to decide, but at the January 17 Council meeting, a majority of our revered solons chose to postpone redistricting until the Council could draft and pass its own Charter amendment accommodating the U.C. student population. And as we all know, the gears of government doth grind slowly, like maybe a couple of years in this case, meaning that more than 4,000 residents—including a couple thousand students—won’t have the opportunity to vote in the upcoming Council election. 

It so happens that the Curmudgeon Cave is located in Councilman Wozniak’s district, coincidentally exactly across the street from Worthington’s. When I learned of the possibility that even one Berkeley resident would be prevented from voting in the next Council election, I got angry and fired off those e-mails to every council member and Mayor Tom Bates. 

“So what comes next?” I fumed. “A poll tax? Means testing? Are we now the Deep South in the nineteenth century? This is ridiculous and un-American—not to mention, ‘un-Berkeley-like.’” 

Hard on the heels of my rant, I received Wozniak’s e-mail quoted verbatim in Becky’s January 17 Council report, presumably dispatched to all District 8 residents. Because Council elections are “staggered,” he explained, half of the seats come up for election every two years, i.e. four this year and the other four in 2014, “a routine process” that Wozniak termed “election deferral.” But what jumped out at me was his statement that this routine process “only affects voting for City Council for a small fraction of people.” 

Once again ignoring my better angels’ whispered advice never to respond in anger, I fired off an e-mail to Wozniak saying, among other things, “Why shouldn’t every legal resident of Berkeley have the right to vote in a council election, even one that’s staggered? I think an argument could be made that decisions of the City Council have a greater immediate impact on the lives of residents than those of any other level of government.” Wozniak responded, essentially reiterating his original boilerplate e-mail—a feeble attempt to educate silly me about the necessary machinations of government—and so it went until the matter was put to rest last Tuesday night with the Council’s majority decision to lay redistricting aside until the City Charter was amended.  

Redistricting was intended to ensure fairness in the election process; instead, political power brokers all over America have turned it into a blunt object to bludgeon their opponents. Wozniak has continued to protest that barring “a small fraction” of voters from weighing in on the 2012 Council election is not disenfranchisement. Sorry Councilman, but I just can’t wrap my little brain around that; it must have something to do with how I was raised by Depression- and WWII-sobered parents. Then there were those history and civics classes in public schools in a gritty Pennsylvania steel town in which we learned about the sacrifices that American colonists made, going to war against the most powerful monarchy on the planet just so they could choose their own leaders. 

But that was then, and this is now. Things change. Back then, we were fighting for democracy; today, apparently, it’s at the altar of oligarchy we worship. 

* The Occasional Curmudgeon is Berkeley writer David Esler.

There's More to Tobacco Story

By Carol Denney
Tuesday January 24, 2012 - 12:03:00 PM

Thank you for Gar Smith’s excellent and detailed review of Addiction Incorporated (Addiction Incorporated: The Other Insider 1-17-2012 ) at the Shattuck Cinemas.

The tobacco industry’s manipulation of the public, cigarette additives, and the scientific community is still going on, and this movie does a great job of telling whistleblower Victor DeNoble’s insider story of doing research at Philip Morris like the great suspense thriller it is.

But the film leaves out a big part of the tobacco story – the dogged, dedicated citizens, parents, public health professionals, policymakers, teachers, casino workers, truck drivers, musicians and others who continue to fight ordinance by ordinance, city council by city council, for clean air despite the billions the tobacco industry spends to try to thwart common sense public health policy. 

The film does a great job of covering Congressman Henry A. Waxman’s congressional hearings in the early 1990s where tobacco industry CEOs famously insisted that they did not think nicotine was an addictive substance, perjury soundly emphasized by insider documents revealing that they not only knew nicotine was addictive, but actively suppressed the findings. 

But the film curiously notes that public smoking rates began to reduce at that point, as though they tapered off naturally, or as though there was a magical turning point to addiction. 

Someday I hope the inspired and life-saving work of the school kids, the tenant groups, the ordinary citizens who patiently educated their peers and representatives is given its due, so that the larger story, the story of the quietest, most out-gunned, but most powerful grassroots movement on earth can also be told.

Happy New Year, Berkeley--The Chickens Have Come Home to Roost

By Jim Fousekis, Berkeley Budget SOS
Tuesday January 24, 2012 - 08:35:00 AM

For the last several years, Berkeley Budget SOS has attempted to focus our City government on the realities of Berkeley’s financial crisis; unfortunately, our pleas for fiscal reality and transparency have fallen on deaf ears. During 2011, most Berkeley City leaders appear to have remained deluded by the comments of Councilman Laurie Capitelli, who proclaimed “We are in better fiscal shape than virtually any other jurisdiction in the Bay Area and I would suggest even California”. The fallacy of that comment was repeatedly evident last year. The chickens have indeed come home to roost. 

Auditor Hogan’s Employee Benefits Report  

In late 2010 City Auditor Ann-Marie Hogan issued her “Employee Benefits: Tough Decisions Ahead” Report. Among other things, the report revealed that on an actuarial basis, the City owes more than $250 million in pension and benefits liabilities, mostly to CalPERS which administers our City employee pensions. Calling for increased transparency and communication of costs and liabilities to the public, the Report had a “report back” date of September of 2011 and full compliance by September of this 2012. Our City Manager specifically agreed with the Report and its prescribed timeline. Unfortunately, as far as the public knows, there has been no compliance with the Report. 

The City Stalls Its Response  

Last September, when a response to the Report was due, our citizens were told no response was forthcoming, presumably because of ongoing labor negotiations with the Police and Fire Unions, whose members benefit from some of the egregious practices criticized in Hogan’s Report, which she recommended should be eliminated or changed. Obviously, the Unions are in no rush to make any changes to the generous benefits given them by our City leaders. 

City Manager Kamlarz Retires With an Enormous Sick Leave Payout 

One of the significant items discussed in Auditor Hogan’s “Employee Benefits” Report was the City’s practice of allowing employees to accumulate sick leave, and upon retirement to obtain a large portion of that leave as a termination payment, usually at 50% for long term employees, and payable at the final salary rate rather than the salary rate at which it was accrued. In the private sector, generally, no such practice exists; sick leave is essentially meant to protect an employee when she or he is actually sick. The State of California also provides no such payout. Auditor Hogan recommended that the practice be eliminated or vastly reduced. Her overall concern was that “Benefit costs are expected to increase sharply over the next five years. This means that [even} if the City reduced salaries, costs could still rise. Benefit costs are less predictable, less controllable.”. So what do we learn one year after Auditor Hogan’s Report? City Manager Kamlarz retires with a $93,298 cash payment for sick leave, $42,382 for accrued vacation pay, $4,070 for longevity pay, and $ 7,687 in regular pay at retirement, a total last day check of $147,439. Added to this will be his monthly retirement payment of $20,785, or nearly $250,000 per year to start, and this amount will increase annually because of built-in “cost of living” increases. Mayor Bates frequently talks about the reduced employee count for Berkeley; but elimination of the sick leave benefit for the City Manager would have theoretically saved or created two entry level job, jobs badly needed by Berkeley residents and services badly needed by our community. Most important however is the bad example that this enormous sick payout sets for other employees while negotiations are ongoing with our Unions. Action should have been taken a year ago to eliminate sick leave payouts for all managerial employees in line with the Auditor’s recommendations and the City Manager especially should have set a good example. Recently, former Obama aide Rahm Emanuel took over as Mayor of Chicago. Facing a $600 million budget deficit, he is taking extraordinary steps to reduce that deficit. As he told Fortune Magazine, one of his key tenets is: “I’m not asking anybody down the line to do something we haven’t done upstairs.” In other words, “Lead by Example” is desperately wanted in Berkeley. 

Auditor Hogan’s Infrastructure Report  

In mid-November 2011, Auditor Hogan issued her “Failing Streets” Report, another nail in the coffin of financial stability for Berkeley. Noting the “economic struggles” our City faces, Auditor Hogan demonstrated how our failure to repair streets leads to a looming financial catastrophe: “Reconstruction of a failed street can be 32 times the cost of timely maintenance”, concluding that Berkeley streets have reached the point where “less costly maintenance is no longer effective”. 

The Lights Come on at the December 6 Workshop Featuring Our City’s Actuary 

The usual upbeat and rosy atmosphere at our City Council meetings was absent at the December 6 Workshop, “Pension Costs and Liabilities”, the last of a series of Workshops the Council held at year end. First, and most importantly, our outside Actuary cautioned that CalPERS was considering the reduction of its rate of return on its investments from the current assumed rate of return of 7.75%. Given that the S&P index was just above flat this last year, that many mutual funds barely had a 2-4% rate of return, and that even ace investor Warren Buffet had only a 6% return, it is very possible that the CalPERS assumed rate of return will be lowered, and, if so “it will have a considerable effect on the City’s rates because those rates will have to be increased”. Auditor Hogan told us in her November 2010 “Employee Benefits” Report that the City would be paying $41 million to CalPERS in 2016 and another $4 million to other retirement accounts, amounting to 12-15% of City revenue. If CalPERS reduces its assumed rate of return from 7.75%, the portion of our City’s revenues going towards pensions and benefits could be in the 15-20% range. Second, using the actual actuarial asset value of the CalPERS assets to estimate the future liabilities of the City, the City’s unfunded pension liabilities are well over $400 million. This is staggering number, threatening the financial future of Berkeley, as the Council mood reflected on December 6. 

The Forthcoming Budget Update, and the Need for Leadership. 

Next month a mid-year budget update will be provided to our City Council and Berkeley citizens by the new City Manager and it will certainly not be a pretty picture. For the future of our City, we need bold action and leadership, just like Rahm Emanuel is taking in Chicago. For me, the hour is late, very late. 






THE PUBLIC EYE: Obama’s Common Sense

By Bob Burnett
Friday January 27, 2012 - 06:11:00 PM


In January of 1776, Thomas Paine published his pamphlet Common Sense that galvanized colonist support for American independence. 236 years later, Barack Obama presented his own forceful version of common sense in his third State-of-the-Union address

Since last May Republican presidential candidates have engaged in the political equivalent of Demolition Derby; attacking each other, the President, and the necessity for a Federal government. As a consequence of their media circus, Barack Obama has been out of the limelight. His State-of-the-Union address was a dynamic reminder that among Washington politicians Obama remains the adult in the room. 

In recent history, the annual State-of-the-Union address has been used as an opportunity for the President to present a laundry list of items that he wants Congress to work on over the next year. But this Congress – because of Tea-Party obstructionists in the House of Representatives – is unlikely to pass little but the most essential legislation. So Obama delivered a more philosophical speech than is usual. He asked: how do we construct “an economy built to last?” An economy “where hard work pays off, and responsibility is rewarded?” 

The President gently reminded Congress that members of the Armed Forces “work together.” He repeatedly asked Congress to work more cooperatively with the executive branch, to pay attention to the US value of shared responsibility. 

Remembering his grandparents. Obama spoke of the American optimism after World War II. “They were contributing to … the basic American promise that if you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, and put a little away for retirement.” Obama paused to emphasize, “The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive… We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well while a growing number of Americans barely get by, or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.” Obama threw down the gauntlet: in the 2012 election he will stand with the 99 percent. 

The President repeatedly linked fairness to the health of the economy. “An economy built to last is one where we encourage the talent and ingenuity of every person in this country.” “An America built to last insists on responsibility from everybody.” 

Obama reserved his strongest rhetoric for a discussion of tax fairness. He pointed out that Billionaire “Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary.” “We need to change our tax code so that people like me, and an awful lot of members of Congress, pay our fair share of taxes.” “Tax reform should follow the Buffet Rule. If you make more that $1million a year, you should not pay less than 30 percent in taxes.” Obama distinguished his candidacy from those of Gingrich and Romney. 

Because of Obama’s insistence that American millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share in taxes, Republican presidential candidates have accused the President of being divisive, of fostering class warfare. In his State-of-the-Union address, Obama responded, “Now, you can call this class warfare all you want. But asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? Most American would call that common sense.” He linked common sense with defense of the 99 percent. 

Obama elaborated this populist theme. “Americans… know that this generation’s success is only possible because past generations felt a responsibility to each other, and to the future of their country, they know our way of life will only endure if we feel that same sense of shared responsibility… That’s an America built to last.” 

The President ended his state-of-the-union address with an emotional story about the Navy SEAL team that conducted the mission to get Osama bin Laden. “One of the young men involved in the raid later told me that he didn’t deserve credit for the mission. It only succeeded, he said, because every single member of that unit did their job… because you can’t charge up those stairs, into darkness and danger, unless you know that there’s somebody behind you, watching your back.” Obama finished with this common sense message: “No one built this country on their own. This nation is great because we built it together. This nation is great because we worked as team. This nation is great because we get each other’s backs.” 

Barack Obama’s memorable State-of-the-union address kicked off his 2012 campaign. The centerpiece will be common sense. “The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive… We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well while a growing number of Americans barely get by, or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”  

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

ECLECTIC RANT: Remembering Vietnam

By Ralph E. Stone
Friday January 27, 2012 - 06:00:00 PM

January 30th marks the forty-fourth anniversary of the beginning of the Tet Offensive, a defining event in the Vietnam War. I was a U.S. Army Transportation officer stationed in Vietnam during the 1968 Tet Offensive.  

General William Westmoreland commanded the U.S. military operations in the Vietnam War (1964–68), during the Tet Offensive. Tet by the way is the Vietnamese New Year. We on the ground knew that Westmoreland's highly publicized, overly optimistic assessments of the war were not true. We "won" every battle, but lost the war. The 1968 Tet Offensive, in which communist forces, having staged a diversion at the Battle of Khe Sanh, attacked cities and towns throughout South Vietnam. U.S. and South Vietnamese troops successfully fought off the attacks, and the communist forces took heavy losses, but the ferocity of the assault shook public confidence in Westmoreland's previous assurances about the state of the war.  

War is a spectacular show when watched from afar, but not so much up close. I remember the B-52 carpet bombing that shook the earth and I watched from a rooftop as our helicopter gunships strafed the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops. I could hear explosions throughout Saigon as the Viet Cong attacked police stations and other government buildings. The U.S. military used Korean and Australian civilian workers who were housed in unprotected housing throughout Saigon. Many were killed by the Viet Cong during the Tet Offensive.  

After 1,000 years of domination by China, Vietnam’s conflicts with the French and the U.S. were mere bumps in the road.  

I attended law school in Boston after the war at a time when the Boston/Cambridge area was a hotbed of anti-Vietnam activity. Many of my fellow classmates were attending law school to avoid the draft and often kiddingly called me Captain America whenever the New York Times reported on the war. 

In 2006, I visited Vietnam with my wife. Our itinerary took us to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), My Tho, Tay Ninh, Vinh Trang, Minh City, Hue, Hoi An, Halong Bay, and Hanoi. During the war, I did not appreciate what a beautiful country Vietnam is with its 2,000 mile coastline, jungles, beaches, and mountains and hills.  

Vietnam is now one of the fastest growing economies in Southeast Asia. The U.S. signed a bilateral trade agreement in 2001; the U.S. is the sixth largest investor in Vietnam. Yesterday's enemy is today's friend. 

We were greatly impressed by the excellent condition of Vietnam’s infrastructure, i.e., roads, bridges and public buildings. There was lots of construction going on around the country. Ho Chi Minh City's (still commonly called Saigon) population in 1967 was approximately 1.7 million; today the population totals about 9 million. Vietnam is worried that Ho Chi Minh city is reaching a population saturation point. 

And do the Vietnamese, especially in Hanoi and Saigon, have motorbikes? It seemed that every man, woman, and child had one. Motorbikes zoomed in and out of traffic and pedestrians seemed to be on the lowest rung on the traffic ladder.. Walk/don’t walk signs blink at most corners, but in Vietnam, their message was purely theoretical What to do if hit by a motorbike: (1) when you regain consciousness, get up, stop the bleeding, and check for broken bones; (2) brush of your clothes; (3) apologize profusely to the bike operator for being so callous as to get in his or her way and hope for forgiveness; (4) offer to pay for any damages to the motorbike; and (5) if your injuries so require, go to the hospital. Only half kidding. Advice on crossing a street: first follow a Vietnamese across the street, but after awhile you get the hang of it. 

While we were in Vietnam, an Agent Orange Conference was taking place. The U.S. military dumped 80 million litres of agent orange/dioxins in Vietnam. At least 2.1 million were victims of the toxins while another 4.8 million were indirectly affected. We saw photos of some of the victims in the War Remnants Museum in Saigoa. The dioxins effect those sprayed, and has caused birth defects in their children. Vietnamese victims were unsuccessful in obtaining compensation from the U.S. in a U.S. District Court. 

Each of our three guides asked us if this was our first trip to Vietnam. I told him that I was a Vietnam veteran, stationed in Saigon in 1967-68. Our Saigon guide told us that he was in the South Vietnam army and was stationed with the U.S. Marines in Danang. After the U.S. defeat, he tried twice to escape, but was caught both times. He spent 2-1/2 years in prison. He is now an independent tour guide. He then proceeded to point out some of the U.S. occupation sites, most of which have since been torn down to build office buildings and housing. Our Hue/Hoi An guide asked me if I had left any children behind. A bit of an indelicate question in front of my wife. I said no. Later we learned that he would have offered to assist me in finding these children if I had said yes. Our Hanoi/Halong Bay guide told us her father was in the North Vietnamese army and lost his leg in a landmine explosion. He still suffers pain. 

Our visit to Saigon’s War Remnants Museum was a sobering highlight of our trip. As stated in the Museum’s brochure: “The role of the unique museum . . . is to preserve and display exhibits on war crimes and aftermaths [of] foreign aggressive forces caused [to] Vietnamese people.” The photos are both gruesome and compelling. One section called “Requiem,” contains a collection of photos taken by 134 war reporters -- from 11 different countries -- killed during the Vietnam War. The Epilogue to this section states in part: “[A] war in which so many died for illusions, and foolish causes, and mad dreams.”  

Thirty years after the war, former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in his book In Retrospect: The Tragedies and Lessons of Vietnam admitted we were wrong about Vietnam. Will we ever get a similar admission or apology about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. I am not holding my breath. 

It seems a lot of Americans, French, and Australians come back to the scene of our misadventures. Vietnam even offers tours to important war sites, such as the DMZ, the Cu Chi tunnels, and the so called Hanoi Hilton where Senator Bill McCain spent seven years. It is now a museum with photos of the American prisoners and displays McCain’s flight suit.  

A group of French veterans of the Vietnam War -- remember France's defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 -- after learning that I too was a Vietnam veteran insisted on a group photo. There is an irony there someplace. 

While in Vietnam, we picked up an English translation of a book called The Sorrows of War by Bao Ninh, a veteran of North Vietnam’s Youth Brigade. Of the five hundred who went to war with the brigade in 1969, he is one of ten who survived. It has been compared to Erich Remarque’s All Quiet On the Western Front. A compelling read. 

Did we learn anything from the Vietnam War? Apparently not, given our misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. As George Hegel observed, "The one thing history undoubtedly teaches us is that people have never learned anything from History."


By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Friday January 27, 2012 - 06:13:00 PM

Food became a metaphor for life as M. F. K. Fisher learned and explained the arts of cooking and of eating. Her reputation as a writer about food and its importance in human life began in 1937 with publication of her first book, Serve It Forth. 

Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher (1908-1992) and her husband, American painter and writer George Dillwyn Parrish (1894-1941), were living in Switzerland when she gained notice as a gastronome-- a connoisseur of good food and drink, a gourmet.  

She came upon a painting that captured her imagination and became the basis for an essay, Sister Age, which is included in her book of the same title about aging, published when she was 75. Its cover is the portrait of Ursula von Ott, a forgotten German Swiss lady vintage 1767. When Fisher first saw it in a “drab little shop,” she knew: “I was going to write about growing old…I was going to learn from the picture. It was very clear to me, and I planned to think and study about the art of aging for several years, and then tell how to learn and practice it.” The woman in the painting came to symbolize for Fisher the “secret strength” of age, a lodestar to guide her way through her own difficult aging. A lodestar is a star, especially Polaris, that is used as a point of reference. 

Fisher was raised in Whittier, California, where her father published the local Whittier News. She spent much of her adult life in Europe. French became her second language. As a young widow in 1941, she published her second book, Consider the Oyster. Her final days were in Sonoma County.  

In a career spanning more than 60 years, Fisher wrote hundreds of stories for the New Yorker magazine, as well as books of essays and memoir. She produced the English translation of Brillat-Savarin's book The Physiology of Taste, travelogues, and a novel, Not Now But Now. While other food writers limited their writing to the particulars of individual dishes or expositions of the details of cuisine, she used food as a cultural metaphor. 

As the years passed, bringing arthritis, a weakened heart and Parkinson’s disease, she stopped driving her car, but she continued to write, cook and entertain. “I will not bow” she declared in an interview. “Absolutely not bow. I say, Brother Pain, come in and sit down, you and I are going to take this thing in hand. And I will not give in.” As a kind of proof, she completed the Sister Age book (1983 originally published in 1964), a collection of fifteen story-essays about aging. “Mrs. Teeters’ Tomato Jar” and “A Kitchen Allegory” are notable.  

“I took liberties with Saint Francis, who wrote songs to his brother the Sun, his sister the Moon. My book is about old age. I think it is something you must welcome, and I welcome it as a sister. And I am grateful. Other people have done much more and much better, but I‘m glad I’ve lived this life and I expect to be around for many others.” 

Fisher was 75 years old, living in Glen Ellen, and in poor health when an interview elicited these responses about what aging meant to her: 

“Do I think everyday about being old? Never never. I just now certain physical things that I must do that I didn’t do ten years ago. It’s not oppressive at all. It’s a condition and I accept it. What I regret is, it’s the last one I have to cope with… I will not let it depress me…” 

“These are things I can do now that I couldn’t do then… I can concentrate more, and I enjoy things in a way I never did before… I think the appreciation that I feel as an older woman – for instance, the color of that flower – is more intense than it was when I was younger. I like it very much.” 

“I’m not aiming for anything. I’m alive and live with as much enjoyment and dignity as I can… do it gracefully and pay my way if possible, as long as possible.”  


"3-fold risk of infection for elderly after emergency department visits" reports the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Jan. 23, 2012. 

Fifteen senior centers have won recognition in the 2011 Programs of Excellence Awards, sponsored by the National Council on Aging (NCOA)'s National Institute of Senior Centers (NISC). The awards spotlight innovative, creative, and replicable programs for older adults. More than 83 entries were submitted for seven categories, including creative arts, fundraising, health, and more. They have been compiled all into a guide for senior centers.  

"Historical, Generational Trauma Haunt Vietnamese Seniors in U.S.," by Vanessa White (New America Media, Jan. 21, 2012). This article is the second part of a series on this topic; there is a link to the first article: 

"Vietnamese Elders Struggle With Depression Years After War," by the same author (Jan. 18, 2012).  



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

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. Free. 510-747-7510. 

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. 

Saturday, Jan. 28. 10 A.M. – 3 P.M. Berkeley City College. Center Street. The College’s Global Studies Club and the Bay Area-wide Against Cuts organization will host a budget Conference, Teach-In and Organizing Session in the college’s atrium and auditorium. Attendees will plan and initiate local and regional organizing activities against statewide budget cuts. For details, www.againstcuts.org or e-mail Joan Berezin at jberezin@peralta.edu. 510-981-2852. 

Monday, Jan. 30. 6 P.M. Evening Computer Class at Central Berkeley Public Library. . Central Berkeley Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100.  

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, queens of 1940s Yiddish Swing. This award-winning band has pioneered the revival of klezmer, lively and soulful Eastern European Jewish music. Free. 510-524-3043 

Tuesday, Jan. 31. 1 P.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. 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+. 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); $14 per person fee for non-AARP members. Registration fee payable by check only, to AARP. 510-747-7510 

Wednesday, Feb. 1. 12 Noon. Playreaders at Central Berkeley Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100. Also Feb. 8, 15, 22 and 29. 

Wednesday, Feb. 1. 12:15 – 1 P.M. Nathan Noh, solo piano: Free Noon Concert Series. UC,B Music Dept. Hertz Concert Hall. Beethoven: Sonata in A-flat major, op. 110
Ravel: two movements from Miroirs Balakirev: Islamey. 510-642-4864 

Thursday, Feb. 2. 10 A.M. Computers for Beginners. Central Berkeley Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100. Also Feb. 9, 16 and 23, and March 1. 

Thursday, Feb. 2. 1:30-2:30 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. 

Thursday, Feb. 2. 7 P.M. Behind the Music of Bustan & Ben Goldberg. Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut, Berkeley. Come hear two of the movers and shakers behind the world-class music to be heard at this year’s Jewish Music Festival. Free. 510-848-0237. Also March 22.  

Friday, February 3. 3-4:30 P.M. UC,B 125 Morrison Hall. Free. Composition Colloquia: Kronos and Composers. The weekly Composer Colloquium at the Department of Music welcomes members of the Kronos Quartet (David Harrington, others to be announced) for a moderated session about commissioned works. 510-642-4864. 

Monday, Feb. 6. 6 P.M. Evening Computer Class. Central Berkeley Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100. Also Feb. 13 and 27. 

Wednesday, Feb. 8. 12:15-1 P.M. Michael Tan, cello; Miles Graber, piano. Andrea Wu, solo piano. Free Noon Concert Series. UC,B Music Dept. Hertz Concert Hall. 

Rachmaninoff: Vocalise Faure: Après un rêve Shostakovich: Cello Sonata, mvts. 2 and 4 Schumann: Sonata, op. 22 Prokofiev: Toccata, op. 11. 510-642-4864 

Thursday, Feb. 9. 6 PM. Lawyers in the Library. South branch, Berkeley Public Library, 1901 Russell. 981-6100. 

Monday, Feb. 13. 7 P.M. Author talk. Songwriter poet Marisa Handler will speak about her writing, songs and poetry. Her memoir, Loyal to the Sky: Notes from an Activist won a 2008 Nautilus Gold Award for world-changing books. Born in apartheid South Africa, Handler immigrated 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 throughout the United States. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av. Free. 510-524-3043.  

Wednesday, Feb. 15. 12:15-1 P.M. Free Noon Concert Series. Hertz Concert Hall. Recital: Jeffrey Syles, piano, with Axel Strauss, violin, and Jean-Michel Fontenau, cello. Mendelssohn: Piano Trio in C Minor Piazzola: two movements from Grand Tango. 510-642-4864 

Wednesday, Feb. 15. 7-8 P.M. Adult evening book group: E. L. Doctorow’s World’s Fair. Albany Branch, Alameda Country Library, 1247 Marin Ave. Free. 510-526-3720 

Thursday, Feb. 16. 6 P.M. Lawyers in the Library. West branch, Berkeley Public Library, 1125 University. 510-981-6270. 



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. 


Wednesday, Feb. 22. 12:15 – 1 P.M. Jazz x 2: Free Noon Concert Series. UC,B Music Dept. Hertz Concert Hall. UC Jazz All-stars, Ted Moore, Director. Berkeley Nu Jazz Collective, Myra Melford, Director. 510-642-4864 



Wednesday, Feb. 22. 12:30-1:30 P.M. Albany YMCA/Albany Library Brown Bag Lunch Speaker’s Forum. Albany Branch, Alameda Country Library, 1247 Marin Ave. Free. 510-526-3720 x 16. 


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


Wednesday, Feb. 29. 12:15-1 P.M. Gospel Chorus, Old Made New: Free Noon Concert Series. UC, B Music Dept. Highlights - University Gospel Chorus, D. Mark Wilson, director. Old Songs in New Clothes: Old hymns given new life and meaning in contemporary compositions by African American composers. 510-642-4864 


Wednesday, Feb. 29. 7:00 PM. Kensington Library Book Club. 61 Arlington Av. 

February's book is The Trial by Franz Kafka. The book group alternates classic and contemporary literature on a monthly basis. Each meeting starts with a poem selected and read by a member. 510-524-3043.  



Thursday, March 1. 10 A.M. Computers for Beginners. Central Berkeley Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100. \ 


Monday, March 26. 7 P.M. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av. Book Club.  

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peal Society by Mary Ann Shaffer. Each meeting starts with a poem selected and read by a member with a brief discussion following the reading. New members are always welcome. Free. 510-524-3043. 



DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: The U.S., Indonesia & The Times

By Conn Hallinan
Tuesday January 24, 2012 - 10:59:00 AM

Why is the New York Times concealing the key role that the United States played in the 1965 coup in Indonesia that ended up killing somewhere between 500,000 and 1 million people? In a story Jan. 19—“Indonesia Chips Away At the Enforced Silence Around a Dark History”—the Times writes that the coup was “one of the darkest periods in modern Indonesian history, and the least discussed, until now.” 

Indeed it is, but the Times is not only continuing to ignore U.S. involvement in planning and carrying out the coup, but apparently doesn’t even bother to read its own clip files from that time that reported the Johnson administration’s “delight with the news from Indonesia.” The newspaper also reported a cable by Secretary of State Dean Rusk supporting the “campaign against the communists” and assuring the leader of the coup, General Suharto, that the “U.S. government [is] generally sympathetic with, and admiring of, what the army is doing.” 

What the Indonesian Army was doing was raping and beheading communists, leftists, and trade unionists. Many people were savagely tortured to death by the military and its right-wing Muslim allies in the Nahdlatul Ulama and the Muhammadiyah. A number of those butchered were fingered by U.S. intelligence. 

According to a three-part series in the July 1999 Sydney Morning Herald, interviews with Indonesian political prisoners, and examinations of U.S. and Australian documents, “Western powers urged the Indonesian military commanders to seize upon the false claims of a coup attempt instigated bu the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), in order to carry out one of the greatest civilian massacres of the 20th century and establish a military dictatorship.” 

General Suharto claimed that the PKI was behind the assassination of six leading generals on the night of July 30, 1965, the incident that ignited the coup. But the Herald series included interviews with two of the men involved in the so-called July 30 putsch, both of who claim the PKI had nothing to do with the uprising. At the time, the PKI was part of a coalition government, had foresworn violence, and had an official policy of a “peaceful transition” to socialism. In fact, the organization made no attempt to mobilize its three million members to resist the coup. 

The U.S. made sure that very few of those communists—as well as the leaders of peasant, women, union, and youth organizations— survived the holocaust. According to U.S. National Security Archives published by George Washington University, U.S. intelligence agents fingered many of those people. Then U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia, Marshall Green, said that an Embassy list of top Communist leaders “is being used by the Indonesian security authorities that seem to lack even the simplest overt information on PKI leadership at the time…” 

The U.S. was well aware of the scale of the killings. In an April 15, 1966 telegram to Washington, the Embassy wrote, “We frankly do not know whether the real figure [of PKI killed] is closer to 100,000 or 1,000,000, but believe it wiser to err on the side of the lower estimates, especially when questioned by the press.” 

Besides helping the military track down and murder any leftists, the U.S. also supplied the right-wing Kap-Gestapu movement with money. Writing in a memo to then Assistant Secretary of State McGeorge Bundy, Green wrote “The chances of detection or subsequent revelation of our support in this instance are as minimal as any black bag operation can be.” 

States News Service reporter Kathy Kadane interviewed several former diplomats and intelligence agents and found that the list turned over to the Indonesian security forces had around 5,000 names on it. “It was really a big help to the Army,” former embassy political officer Robert J. Martens told Kadane. “They probably killed a lot of people, and I probably have a lot of blood on my hands, but that is not all bad. There is a time when you have to strike hard at a decisive moment.” 

At the time, Washington was beginning a major escalation of the Vietnam War, and the Johnson administration was fixated on its mythical domino theory that communists were about to take over Asia. The U.S. considered Indonesia to be a strategically important country, not only because it controlled important sea passages, but also because it was rich in raw materials in which U.S. corporations were heavily invested. These included Richfield and Mobil oil companies, Uniroyal, Union carbide, Eastern Airlines, Singer Sewing Machines, National Cash Register, and the Freeport McMorRan gold and copper mining company. 

At the time, Indonesian President Sukarno was one of the leaders of the “third force” movement, an alliance of nations that tried to keep itself aloof from the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The 1955 Bangdung Conference drew countries from throughout Asia and Africa to Indonesia to create an anti-colonialist, non-aligned movement. It also drew the ire of the U.S, which refused to send a representative to Bangdung. 

In the polarized world of the Cold War, non-alignment was not acceptable to Washington, and the U.S. began using a combination of diplomacy, military force and outright subversion to undermine countries like Indonesia and to bring them into alliances with the U.S. and its allies. The CIA encouraged separatist movements in the oil-rich provinces of Sumatra and Sulawesi. The British and the Australians were also up to their elbows in the 1965 coup, and France increased its trade with Indonesia following the massacre. 

The relations between Jakarta and Washington are long and sordid. The U.S. gave Indonesia the green light to invade and occupy East Timor, an act that resulted in the death of over 200,000 people, or one-third of the Timorese population, a kill ratio greater than Pol Pot’s genocidal mania in Cambodia. Washington is also supportive of Indonesia’s seizure of Irian Jaya (West Papua) and, rather than condemning the brutality of the occupation, has blamed much of the violence on the local natives. 

The Cold War is over, but not U.S. interests in Asia. The Obama administration is pouring military forces into the region and has made it clear that it intends to contest China’s growing influence in Asia and Southeast Asia. Here Indonesia is key. Some 80 percent of China’s energy supplies pass through Indonesian-controlled waters, and Indonesia is still a gold mine—literally in the case of Freeport McMoRan on Irian Jaya—of valuable resources. 

So once again, the U.S. is turning a blind eye to the brutal and repressive Indonesian military that doesn’t fight wars but is devilishly good at suppressing its own people and cornering many of those resources for itself. The recent decision by the White House to begin working with Kopassus—Indonesia’s equivalent of the Nazi SS—is a case in point. Kopassus has been implicated in torture and murder in Irian Jaya and played in key role in the 1999 sacking of East Timor that destroyed 70 percent of that country’s infrastructure following Timor’s independence vote. Over 1500 Timorese were killed and 250,000 kidnapped to Indonesian West Timor. 

It appears that Indonesians are beginning to speak up about the horrors of the 1965 coup. Books like Geoffrey Robinson’s “The Dark Side of Paradise” and Robert Lemelson’s documentary film, “40 Years of Silence: an Indonesian Tragedy,” are slowly wearing away at the history manufactured by the military dictatorship. 

But the U.S. has yet to come clean on its role in the 1965 horror, and the New York Times has apparently decided to continue that silence, perhaps because once again Indonesia is pivotal to Washington’s plans for Asia? 

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


New: WILD NEIGHBORS; The Short but Intense Life of the Tidewater Goby

By Joe Eaton
Wednesday January 25, 2012 - 09:47:00 AM
The endangered and California-endemic tidewater goby.
Josh Hull, US Fish & Wildlife Service (via Wikimedia Commons)
The endangered and California-endemic tidewater goby.

Watching a predator eat an endangered species is always awkward. Should you intervene? Yell, wave your arms, throw things? I went through that train of thought a couple of years ago as a great blue heron and a great egret ate their way through the California red-legged frog population of a small stock pond at Point Reyes. 

It happened again last month at Rodeo Lagoon in the Marin Headlands, again with a great blue heron and great egret that were noshing on small fish. I couldn’t get a good look at the prey as they went down the birds’ throats; they could have been threespine sticklebacks or prickly sculpins, both of which occur there. Odds are, though, they were tidewater gobies, federally listed as endangered in 1994. When biologists sampled the lagoon in 2005, 99 per cent of all the fish they caught were tidewater gobies. 

The total catch, if you’re wondering, was 9314 fish of all species, which would work out to 9220 tidewater gobies. That sounds like a healthy population for an endangered creature—but not if you consider the goby’s life history. It’s an annual creature; each generation of gobies hatches, feeds, mates, and dies within a year. 2005 happened to have been a boom year, ironically because algal blooms in the lagoon reduced dissolved oxygen to levels that other fish could not survive. 

These are eccentric little guys with an unconventional reproductive strategy. Among sexually dimorphic fish species, males are typically larger, more brightly colored, and more aggressive than females. This syndrome is reversed in the tidewater goby, where females wear the bright colors and compete for access to males. Female-female combat often involves “fin displays, tail-beating, charging, biting, jaw locking, and wrestling,” according to ichthyologist R. O. Swenson. 

Males dig spawning burrows in territories they defend from other males. Females defend the territory around their chosen male from other females. I can’t resist quoting Peter Moyle’s account in Inland Fishes of California: “A female tests the readiness of a male to mate by trying to enter the burrow or sticking her head into his mouth. One response is for the male to retreat into the burrow and plug the entrance with sand. Another is to let the female enter. Once a pair is in a burrow together, the male usually plugs the entrance with sand and the pair remains in the burrow together for 1-3 days.” Like a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the hotel room door, or, for those of us who were there then, a necktie on the doorknob of the dorm room. 

After the honeymoon, the female goby digs her way out, leaving behind fertilized eggs attached to the burrow wall. The male replugs the entrance and spends the next ten or so days fanning and rubbing the eggs until the fry hatch. When they do, they swim away to, as Moyle puts it, “join the plankton.” This is something many of us have done or at least considered at some point in our lives. 

Brackish stream-fed coastal lagoons from Del Norte County to San Diego are the tidewater gobies’ habitat of choice. Their numbers build up in summer while a sandbar separates their home lagoon from the ocean and drop in winter when the barrier is breached. The goby population in Santa Ynez Lagoon (Santa Barbara County) went from a peak of 11 million to a nadir of 11,000 in a single year. 

The fatal flaw in this adaptive strategy is that each lagoon’s population is on its own. Between a quarter and a half of the species’ known populations have been lost in the past century as a result of the diking and draining of estuarine wetlands, sediment buildup in lagoons, or permanent tidal breaching through jetty construction. Predators (including gobies of exotic Asian species) and pollutants also take a toll. By the most recent estimate, only 41 historic locations still have gobies. As local populations wink out, the likelihood of recolonizing vacant lagoons diminishes. Isolated populations diverge from each other genetically, fragmenting the species’ gene pool. 

Since 1994, environmentalists, lawyers, and bureaucrats have been wrangling over the extent of the protection to be given this small obscure fish. The most recent round went to the goby and its advocates last October, when the US Fish and Wildlife Service expanded the amount of protected habitat by 20 percent. This includes ten currently unoccupied lagoons, some in Marin and San Mateo counties. 

I’ve heard from folks like historical ecologist Robin Grossinger that there’s potential for restoring this species in parts of the East Bay as well. It would be good to have them back. The tidewater gobies isn’t charismatic or economically important, but it’s a fascinating product of evolution—a solution to the problem of being a fish in a marginal, unstable environment. “Life is good, whether stubbornly long or suddenly a mortal splendor: meteors are not needed less than mountains,” wrote Robinson Jeffers.

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

By Dorothy Bryant
Tuesday January 24, 2012 - 11:26:00 AM

“ . . . how much easier it is to let the mind, rather than the body, do the traveling. No tickets or schedules, no borders, no passports. Thought is the one thing that remains free no matter what changes outside the head.”
Not Now Voyager (2009), Lynne Sharon Schwartz, (contemporary writer) 

What a relief, reading and laughing my way through this anti-travel book—after years of being the most stay-at-home one of my friends—hating the routine of arranging tickets, rearranging accommodations, and all the rest of it. Probably I started my travels under-funded, and too late (over 30) for mishaps to feel like adventures. Somewhat insomniac in my own bed at home, I’d go through a whole trip with bleary eyes, a rumbling stomach, and a sense of being assaulted, rather than stimulated, by most new sights and impressions, (not to mention depressed by the conditions I saw in places highly recommended as “colorful” by friends.) 

Schwartz—who, I admit, had done quite a bit of traveling before she wrote this anti-travel book—legitimizes my staying put now, living out the old saying by that famous, richly-traveled stay-at-home, Emily Dickinson: “There is no frigate like a book.” 








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


Arts & Events

Press Release: Group Demands Mortgage Modification for Noted Author

From The Friends of Jane Powell
Saturday January 28, 2012 - 10:41:00 AM
Sunset House circa 1910
Sunset House circa 1910

The Friends of Jane Powell, a group organized to help the noted author of home renovation books and Planet contributing writer, is demanding her mortgage servicer GMAC negotiate and memorialize a reasonable modification of her home mortgage. In support of this effort the group will be holding a fund raising event at Jane’s historic home on February 12 at 2:00 pm. 

"I did everything you're supposed to do. I refinanced into a fixed rate loan in 2006. I stayed current on the payments, even after I was rejected for a modification in 2010 because GMAC said I couldn't afford even a modified payment. The banks' motto is ‘extend and pretend’- they stall by asking for more paperwork, hoping you'll just give up so they can foreclose." said Powell. 

Jane acquired Sunset House in the Fruitvale District of Oakland in 2002. This one-of-a kind Arts & Crafts treasure from 1905 was suffering from years of neglect. Due to its history and architecture, Sunset House was granted Mills Act protection. While this designation provides limited property tax relief, it also obligates the owner to make ongoing, expensive repairs. Adding to her financial duress is her ongoing battle with lymphoma, which has greatly increased her medical expenses. 

“We will not stand by and see Jane lose her home to a predatory lender. It is time for GMAC to step up and act responsibly,” said Friends member Ralph Kanz. 

Jane is best known for her many books including Bungalow Kitchens and Bungalow Bathrooms, and countless articles for Old House Journal, American Bungalow, and other publications. She has given lectures around the country and actively participated in local preservation efforts, including serving as President of Oakland Heritage Alliance. Her witty, informative, and passionate writing has made her an invaluable resource for the home preservation and restoration community.  

All those attending the February 12 fundraiser will have the opportunity to tour this unique historic house that was featured on the 1996 Arts & Crafts House Tour sponsored by Oakland Heritage Alliance and the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association and was the cover story of the November 2006 American Bungalow magazine. 

Hosted bar and hors d’oeuvres. Silent auction with objets d’art, consultations, autographed books, massages, and fine collectibles. Live entertainment including Sharon Knight with Celtic inspired music. Full details on Jane’s Blog: http://www.janepowell.org/restoration-comedy.html

Please RSVP to Robert Brokl / Alfred Crofts, (510) 655-3841, broklcrofts@earthlink.net.

New: AROUND & ABOUT MUSIC: Berkeley Symphony This Thursday: Debussy, Dutilleux, Shostakovich

By Ken Bullock
Tuesday January 24, 2012 - 12:03:00 PM

Berkeley Symphony, directed by Joana Carneiro, will perform another engaging program of modern orchestral music, featuring works of Debussy, Henry Dutilleux and Shostakovich, this Thursday at 8, preceded by a talk at 7:10, at Zellerbach Hall on the UC campus, near Bancroft and Telegraph. 

Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune by Debussy premiered in 1894, based on Mallarme's great poem, and is considered a symphonic poem. Pierre Boulez has referred to it as a turning point for modern orchestral music.  

Dutilleux's The Shadows of Time, premiered by the Boston Symphony in 1997, will feature soloists from Pacific Boychoir Academy. 

Shostokovich's Fifth Symphony was composed under extreme duress in the late-30s, after his critical derision over the opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk for its open modernism, and the downfall of one of his most powerful patrons. Withdrawing his Fourth Symphony during rehearsal, he substituted the Fifth, which condenses his style with maximum ambiguity, accommodating socialist realism interpretations as well as modernistic ones, generalizing his own struggle to one of every person of his time. "There are far more openings for new Shakespeares in today's world," he would say, 30 years later. The music quotes a song of his from a Pushkin poem and a personally significant passage from Bizet's Carmen. 

Carneiro has called Debussy's piece one of "dreaming and seduction" and mentioned Shostakovich as a favorite of hers. 

Last month's concert, excellently led by guest conductor Jayce Ogren, featured Lei Liang's Verge and a wonderful, dense rendering of Sibelius' Fifth Symphony, bookending Berkeley pianist Sarah Cahill's extraordinary interpretation of the late Bay Area composer Lou Harrison's too-seldom played Piano Concerto, using one of Harrison's own octave blocks in that vigorous piece, backed by an orchestra that sounds finer with every concert. 

$20-$60. 841-2800; berkeleysymphony.org


By Ken Bullock
Wednesday January 25, 2012 - 05:22:00 PM

Tom Stoppard's 'Arcadia' at Actors Ensemble; John O'Keefe at Theatre of Yugen, free, on Sunday Only; Ragged Wing Ensemble performs 'A Fool's Errand'  

Actors Ensemble of Berkeley appears to have a hit on its hands with the ambitious production of Tom Stoppard's 'Arcadia,' a cast of 30 directed by Robert Estes, which opened last weekend to enthusiastic crowds. Friday and Saturday nights at 8--with a Sunday matinee at 2 on February 12--through February 18, Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck (at Berryman). #12-$15. aeofberkeley.org 

John O'Keefe at Theatre of Yugen, free, on Sunday Only 

Playwright and performing artist John O'Keefe, co-founder of Berkeley's famed troupe the Blake Street Hawkeyes, will perform a collaborative piece O'Keefe is developing with Yuriko Doi, founder of Theatre of Yugen, which employs creation myths from both Japan and the Iroquois Nation. (I saw an earlier workshop of this piece, with Noh musicians and a Noh actor accompanying or paralleling O'Keefe performing part of his text, one of the most exciting things I've seen onstage the past few years.)
The show is free, on Sunday only--8 p. m. It will be part of the San Francisco Arts Festival later this year.
Theatre of Yugen, NOHspace, 2840 Mariposa near Harrison, Project Artaud, San Francisco's Mission-Potrero District.
Ragged Wing Ensemble performs 'A Fool's Errand'
Spunky Ragged Wing Ensemble, the East Bay's physical theater company, will perform 'A Fool's Errand,' directed by David Stein, chapter one of their ensemble collaborative tetralogy, The Fortune Project, for three shows only this weekend--Friday and Saturday at 8, Sunday at 5, at Envision Academy, the lovely old Julia Morgan-designed YWCA building at 1515 Webster, between 15th and 17th, in Downtown Oakland. $15-$30, sliding scale. brownpapertickets.com/event/219999

Don't Miss This

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Tuesday January 24, 2012 - 11:31:00 AM

Hooray and Hallelujah! The New York Times recently rated Oakland as one of the world's top tourist destinations in 2012 because of its stellar restaurants and bars. We knew that. For a year Bay Area Photographers have been documenting First Friday's diverse and eclectic audiences in a show, "Portraits from Oakland." This show can be seen through Feb. 18 at PHOTO, 473 25th Street, Oakland. (510) 847-2416. 

There are any number of excellent programs getting the New Year off to a promising start, such as those listed below. We might begin with the announcement of the handsome new Magnes Museum at 2121 Allston Way in Berkeley, now presenting a program on Jewish Art and Life. (510) 643-2526. 

The Oakland Symphony, under the direction of Michael Morgan, will perform "Carmina Burana" on Friday, January 27th at 8 p.m. at the Paramount Theatre. Don't miss this monumental choral work, one of the most popular pieces of music ever written. (1) 800-745-3000. 

"The Light on the Piazza" opens January 30th at the Willows Main Stage, 1975 Diamond Blvd., Concord. (925) 798-1300. "Mama Mia", the smash hit musical is playing at the Orpheum Theatre, Feb. 21 - March 4th. (1 - 888-746-1799. Jackie Evancho, eleven-year old soprano, will sing March 26, 7:30 p.m. at Davies Symphony Hall (415) 392-42000. 

For opera lovers, "Moby Dick" will be performed Sept. 7 - July 7 at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco (415) 864-3330. 

"2012 S.F. Sketchfest is playing now through February 4th at the Eureka and Castro Theatres. Sketchfest has evolved into one of the biggest comedy events in S.F. www.sketchfest.com. 

Brian Copeland in "The Waiting Period: Laughter in the Darkness", Jan. 27 and 28, 8:15 p.m. Walnut Creek. (925) 943-7469. 

Lunar New Year Celebration, "The Year of the Dragon," Jan. 29th, l2 - 4:30 p.m. Oakland Museum of California 1000 Oak Street museumca.org. 

East Bay Express Briefs, erotic short film competition, Feb. 16, Grand Lake Theatre, Oakland. 

Kitka and Svetlana Spajic, "To the Singers of Tales," Premiere Performances Jan. 27-29 at 8 p.m., at CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission Street, S.F. Kitka has earned international recognition for its unique and haunting sound. For tickets: 1-800-350-8850. 

East Bay Express "Progressive Opportunities Conference, Feb. 26, 10 a. m. - 6 p.m. "Building a Just and Sustainable Local Economy," David Brower Center, 250 Allston, Berkeley. (510) 870-3702. 

"Humor Abuse", Pickle Family. 90 minutes of nonstop hilarity. Through Feb. 5th. American Conservatory Theatre, S.F. (415) 749-2228. For you alcoholics, there's East Bay Brew Fest, Pyramid Ale House, 90l Gilman, Berkeley. $20 a ticket. "The Gondoliers, " Gilbert & Sullivan, Jan. 27-29, Walnut Creek (925) 943-7469. 

Hopefully the above events will get your 2012 off to a great start.