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Suspect Shot by Berkeley Officer in Castro Valley

By Erika Heidecker (BCN)
Wednesday February 08, 2012 - 08:00:00 PM

A Berkeley police officer shot a man in Castro Valley after the suspect pinned another officer between two cars, according to an Alameda County Sheriff's Office spokesman. 

The shooting occurred at around 5 p.m. near Center Street and Grove Way, Alameda County sheriff's Sgt. J.D. Nelson said. 

At least two Berkeley police officers were attempting to take a suspect into custody when the man pinned one of the officers between his vehicle and the officers' unmarked car, Nelson said. 

Nelson said that was when another officer shot the suspect.  

The suspect was taken to Eden Medical Center and his condition was not immediately known, Nelson said. 

The officer who was pinned between the vehicles was taken to a hospital with serious hand and leg injuries that are not considered life-threatening, Nelson said. 

Nelson said he did not know why the officers were pursuing the suspect.

Press Release: Center for Investigative Reporting, The Bay Citizen Announce a Joint Memorandum of Understanding to Pursue Merger

From Sara Ying Rounsaville, San Francisco Foundation
Tuesday February 07, 2012 - 10:55:00 AM

Combination will provide highest quality nonprofit journalism and investigative reporting locally, regionally, and globally

The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) and the Bay Area News Project (BANP), which operates The Bay Citizen, announced today that they have entered into a memorandum of understanding to pursue a potential merger. The agreement was unanimously approved by the boards of directors of both nonprofit organizations.The conceived merger will bring together The Bay Citizen, an award-winning nonprofit news organization focused on covering the San Francisco and Bay Area, and CIR, the nation's oldest nonprofit investigative news organization, which operates California Watch. The merger will create a more sustainable foundation for their shared missions: to provide high-quality journalism that is essential to an informed and engaged democracy. The proposed merger will bring together the collective expertise, reputations, and innovative talents of both organizations. 

A transition team comprised of members of both organizations will conduct a thoughtful, thorough review process and will make recommendations about integration, which will be subject to approval by both boards. 

The combined organization will have a board of directors that will include an equal number of voting members from both of the current Boards. Phil Bronstein, current President of the CIR Board, will serve as the Executive Chair of the merged organization and Robert J. Rosenthal, Executive Director of CIR, will be the Executive Director of the merged entity. 

Rosenthal will be in charge of editorial and overall strategies and will be responsible for its day-to-day operations. Bronstein also will focus on overall strategy, as well as audience engagement, board functions, fundraising and overseeing a variety of approaches to support the nonprofit. 

Together, Bronstein and Rosenthal will work with the Board and the merged organization to assure that it is at the forefront of creating unique, high-quality accountability journalism on multiple platforms. A crucial focus of the strategy will be to engage the Bay Area community in the organization's new form of accountability journalism. 

"This is an opportunity to take accountability journalism to an even higher level," said Rosenthal. "We will now be able to combine all the strengths of CIR and The Bay Citizen and have an outstanding team of journalists focused on the Bay Area. With California Watch, CIR does stories that have made a difference in the lives of people throughout California. We bring CIR stories to national and international audiences. The Bay Citizen has brought voice to local politics, community issues, and Bay Area news in an innovative manner. We will now be able to bring our combined strategies for engagement and accountability journalism to a region of the country that can best embrace it. Because it's the Bay Area, stories we do here will be of interest to audiences across the country and around the world." 

The Bay Citizen is a nonprofit, nonpartisan member-supported news organization that provides in-depth original reporting on Bay Area issues including public policy, education, the arts and cultural affairs, health and science, the environment, and more, online at baycitizen.org as well as in print in The New York Times Bay Area report on Fridays and Sundays. 

Phil Bronstein said, "I've been a journalist in the Bay Area my entire adult life and have deep roots and affection for the extraordinary and unique culture here. There is more innovation, activism, and civic involvement in this region than anywhere in the country. This is the basis for engaging people where we all live. With our unified nonprofit model, we can bring together combined talent, technology, investigative power and creative skills to serve the public in dynamic ways." 

Jeffrey Ubben, Chair of the Board of The Bay Citizen, expressed his support for the new entity. "The Bay Citizen and the Center for Investigative Reporting are each stellar news organizations. We look forward to working out the details and joining forces. Together, we will draw on the vision and talents of each of our high-caliber staffs, and ultimately become stronger and more effective than the sum of our parts. This merger bodes well for an informed and engaged Bay Area." 

Brian Kelley, Interim CEO of The Bay Citizen, acknowledged the recent transitions in leadership preceding this announcement. "The Bay Citizen was the vision of the late civic leader, Warren Hellman. He appointed Lisa Frazier, who in less than three years catapulted the organization from an idea to an award-winning news force. This new direction builds on the creative and generous initiative of Mr. Hellman and the excellent execution by Ms. Frazier." 

"The Bay Citizen was started as an experiment in journalism," said Susan Hirsch, a founding member of The Bay Citizen's Board of Directors and the philanthropic advisor to the late Warren Hellman. "My earliest discussion with Warren centered on the need to find innovative and creative ways to investigate and report the news. We believe the future of the free press is to be found in collaboration and cooperation between news outlets with differing strengths and this belief has led us to discussions with the Center for Investigative Reporting. From the beginning, The Bay Citizen has been committed to high quality journalism, progressive use of technology, and a strong business model. This potential merger is another step on that path." 

The transition team plans to spend approximately 30 days working out the details of the merged entity, including staffing, board membership, and location(s). The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including notifying the California Attorney General. About the Center for Investigative Reporting 

Founded in 1977, the Center for Investigative Reporting is the nation's oldest nonprofit investigative news organization, producing unique, high-quality reporting that has impact and is relevant to people's lives. CIR's newest venture, California Watch, is the largest investigative team in the state. The organization's stories appear in hundreds of news outlets including NPR News, PBS Frontline, PBS NEWSHOUR, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Sacramento Bee, The Daily Beast, MinnPost and American Public Media's Marketplace. CIR stories have received numerous journalism awards including the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Silver Baton, George Polk Award, Emmy Award, and Investigative Reporters and Editors Award. Its reports have sparked state and federal hearings and legislation, United Nations resolutions, public interest lawsuits and changes in corporate policies. For more information, please visit www.centerforinvestigativereporting.org and www.californiawatch.org . 

About The Bay Citizen 

The Bay Citizen is a nonprofit, nonpartisan member-supported news organization that provides in-depth original reporting on Bay Area issues including public policy, education, the arts and cultural affairs, health and science, the environment, and more. The Bay Citizen's news can be found online at www.baycitizen.org as well as in print in The New York Times Bay Area report on Fridays and Sundays. For more information, please visit www.baycitizen.org . 

Sara Ying Rounsaville is affiliated with the San Francisco Foundation.

Flash: Proposition 8 Ruled Unconstitutional by 9th Circuit

By Julia Cheever (BCN)
Tuesday February 07, 2012 - 10:55:00 AM

A federal appeals court in San Francisco today ruled that Proposition 8, California's ban on same-sex marriage, is unconstitutional. 

The 2-1 ruling was issued this morning by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a civil rights lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco by two same-sex couples in 2009. 

Proposition 8 was approved by state voters in 2008. Its sponsors appealed to the 9th Circuit after U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled in 2010 that the measure was unconstitutional. 

Today's decision can be appealed further to an expanded 11-judge panel of the 9th Circuit and to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Press Release: Final Report Confirms that Berkeley Fire Was Accidental

From Mary Kay Clunies-Ross
Monday February 06, 2012 - 04:29:00 PM

The Berkeley Fire Department finalized the investigation report for the 2441 Haste “Sequoia Apartment” fire, which confirms the initial findings that the fire ignited accidentally in the building’s elevator mechanical room. 

The report is a “origin and cause” report, which means that its scope is to 1) determine whether the fire was started deliberately or accidentally and 2) by what means the fire started. 

“It is my opinion this fire originated in and around the steel compartment where the elevator resisters (were) located,” the report, written by Fire Marshal John Fitch, stated (page 6 and 7). “There were no visible signs of significant burn patterns within the electrical mechanical room except for the immediate area in and around the area where the elevator resisters were located… I observed no indications which led me to believe this fire was intentionally set.” 

All debris from the fire has since been removed from the site, and all streets and sidewalks have been reopened. 

On Friday, November 18, 2011, Berkeley Firefighters responded to a reported structure fire at 2441 Haste Street in Berkeley. The first call came in on Friday, Nov. 18, at 8:48 p.m., and the 5th alarm was requested at 9:32 p.m. Mutual aid was provided to Berkeley by the cities of Oakland, Albany, Alameda City, and Alameda County Fire Departments. Additional command support was provided by Albany, Alameda County, Livermore/Pleasanton, Oakland, Moraga-Orinda, San Ramon Valley, and El Cerrito Fire Departments and Paramedic Plus. 

The fire resulted in total destruction of the 39-unit, four-story apartment building. It smoldered through the weekend and was declared extinguished on the afternoon of Monday, November 21. 

The Berkeley Fire Department worked closely with the Berkeley Police Department, Rent Stabilization Board, the American Red Cross, and the University of California-Berkeley to account for all the tenants. They verified on Wednesday, November 23, that all 68 tenants were accounted for and safe. 

Staff from the American Red Cross, City of Berkeley, the Rent Stabilization Board, the University of California, Berkeley worked together to secure temporary housing for the displaced residents. In addition, the Small Business Administration opened up an office to help affected tenants and business owners apply for low-interest federal disaster loans.

Berkeley Mayor Bates is Running--Again

Thursday February 02, 2012 - 10:01:00 PM

With no fanfare, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates,73, slipped in under the radar on Monday and filed a form kicking off his campaign to become a candidate for a fourth term--the "Campaign Intention Statement" of the "Re-Elect Mayor Tom Bates Committee."

He's already served one two-year and two four-year terms, so if he wins another four-year term, he'll have been mayor of Berkeley for a total of fourteen years.

His wife Loni Hancock, now running for yet another term as State Senator from the district which includes Berkeley, preceded him in the Berkeley mayor's office. This time the mayor's race will be decided by ranked choice voting, but as yet no other candidates have appeared to be willing to challenge the formidable power of the well-oiled Bates-Hancock apparatus, which last week knocked Oakland Assemblymember Sandre Swanson out of the race for the Senate seat.

The New Battle for Berkeley's People's Park

By Ted Friedman
Friday February 03, 2012 - 10:19:00 AM
Before the ambulance came, Monday, near Peoples Park's Camp-Hate.  "Sunshine," an itinerate, who has been recently spending most of her time in People's Park, telling police she was beaten and robbed of $40. People's Park Advisory board meeting was near-by.
Ted Friedman
Before the ambulance came, Monday, near Peoples Park's Camp-Hate. "Sunshine," an itinerate, who has been recently spending most of her time in People's Park, telling police she was beaten and robbed of $40. People's Park Advisory board meeting was near-by.

Craig Becker, owner of Berkeley's legendary Caffe Mediterraneum, popped in on an impromptu meeting of the People's Park Advisory Board in the park, Monday. He is well on his way to becoming, a park activist, a category, he often disparages. But he's trapped in the new battle for People's Park, and can't extricate himself. 

Becker was, as usual, up to his eyeballs in People's Park politics. In recent weeks, he had circulated a petition-letter supporting UC Berkeley’s unannounced mulching of park flora last month, which removed years of cherished community gardening. 

He had, only moments before, put the finishing touches on yet another letter, this one a riposte to the Daily Californian, which had seemed to criticize the university for being insensitive to People’s Park's past, and for not telling anyone it was poised to swoop down on the park. 

Becker, president of a Telegraph Avenue property-owners association, doesn't need prior notice from the university, he writes. "That is not our issue." 

Christine Shaff, university communications director for Facilities Services, the university department responsible for an all-day operation, December 28, which bulldozed the park's west end, responded, last Friday, to false reports recently that the operation had begun at 4 a.m. 

The operation began at 7 a.m., she insisted. "Seven a.m. is the beginning of our work day," she said. "We had to use non-university grounds keepers, because our staff doesn't perform eight-hour shifts in a single location." 

Park activists had seen a conspiracy in the sub-contractor angle. 

Park activists smelled a rat when the university blamed the park rats for what some activists referred to, in a press release (Jan. 13) as "indiscriminate vandalism." 

The historic berms, or mounds, at the northwest and southwest park quadrants were lopped off because rats hid in them, Shaff said. Remains of the 1969 university asphalt parking lot destroyed by protestors are entombed beneath the berms. 

Other park artifacts such as the vine-covered pergola were hide-outs for rats, she claimed.  

Leaky hoses were also repaired, she said. New trash cans, and afternoon trash pick-ups may also help control the park's rat problems, according to Shaff. 

Characterizing the alleged "raid," as "all about maintenance," she conceded the following three reasons for the action: 

(1) Becker's Letter, Aug. 9, which called for many of the park changes accomplished Dec. 28; 

(2) the need for UCPD to have clearer views of drug dealers hiding in overgrown bushes, cacti, and vines; 

(3) the projected fall opening of a $70 million, 424-bed student dorm overlooking the park's drug-dealing west end. 

Additional lighting is underway, Shaff reported. "Less than ten" new lights will be added. They will be no brighter than existing ones, she promised. 

Becker and his Teley property owner supporters believe the stripping of the west end of the park was a "first baby step" towards improvements, and has changed his long-standing opposition to the university's park policies. He now praises the university for acting in December. 

Becker had a modest park proposal at Monday's meet. Drawing on a 2008 university-financed marketing report, which he feels the university was remiss in not implementing sooner, he suggested implementing the report's recommendation to create four corner "entrances" to the park. 

Becker selected the Park's northwest corner, as a starting point. "It's hardly inviting, or welcoming as it stands." he said. Asked whether a new entrance might endanger the historic Council Grove, site of 1969 planning meetings, Becker seemed upset. 

He, and his fellow Telegraph Avenue property owners , are fed up with the sacred park history argument, often used, they say, by "park activists," to halt progress. Referring to Council Grove, as "just a pile of dirt," Becker revised his hasty response with, "Council Grove could be preserved, even featured, in plans to make the NW park corner an attractive gateway to the park." 

Other proposals at the ad hoc meeting included solving the half-century of troubled drainage in the park, which causes a recurring swamp in the center. The ground under us Monday was still soggy after rains last week. The park’s bathroom, and children's playground area need upgrading. Other ideas: a People's Park Arch; restoring the peace-sign log sculpture. 

Michael Delacour, a park founder, in 1969, and the longest continuous park activist—still active after all these years, gave another one of his famous speeches, this one a history of the park's restrooms. No one knows the park like Delacour, who still works in the park regularly. 

The People's Park Advisory Board, a university adjunct, has been hibernating since last fall—at least—since no one can remember when last it met. Becker's letter to the DC blames the advisory board's hiatus on a "cadre of activists, who zealously protect the status quo." 

While not a cadre, Becker heads an organization of Telegraph property owners, which has been increasingly active in the new battle for hearts and minds in People's Park. 

According to Becker, moderate advisory board members, "who felt significant changes needed to be made in the park—resigned…in frustration." 

Becker's 800 word letter to the Daily Cal comes from long- smoldering disgust with what he characterizes as the park's unsanitary, unsafe, anti-social, and unwelcoming conditions. 

"Many commercial district's throughout the country have pleasant parks….People's Park is an anomaly that is anything but pleasant for the average citizen," the letter complains. 

During Monday's meeting, the usual non-average citizens, who are the park's prime visitors (and stayers) lolled nearby. While the park advisors-in-waiting advised each other (no university representatives attended), a typical scene unfolded in the North east corner. 

"Sunshine," a long-time street person on the South side, was being once more rescued by her friends at Berkeley Fire, paramedics, and Berkeley Police. She seemed beaten, and bruised—dispirited, having been robbed of $40, she said. 

As she was assisted into an ambulance, she waved goodbye to the cop who had rescued her. 

Delacour was shivering in the cold. He had learned of the meeting at the last minute, and rushed over from his nearby apartment. Michael Reagan (no son of Governor Ronald, who sparked the 1969 riots ), a member of the official park advisory board, had called the meeting. 

He said the meeting was unofficial. 

The People's Park Defense Committee is sponsoring, Saturday Feb. 4, a "benefit fundraiser, for a volunteer activist park." The all-acoustic show will feature Antioquia, Mana + Family, Andrea Pritchett, Phoenix, and Food Not Bombs. 

The event is scheduled for 6-10 p.m., at the Art House Gallery and Cultural Center, 2905 Shattuck Avenue (between Ashby and Russell). Donation: $10.

Philosopher, Portrait and Place: Bishop Berkeley Goes Back on the Wall

By Steven Finacom
Sunday February 05, 2012 - 05:19:00 PM
“Our” Bishop Berkeley, the 1873 portrait, now hangs in Doe Library on the UC Berkeley campus.
Steven Finacom
“Our” Bishop Berkeley, the 1873 portrait, now hangs in Doe Library on the UC Berkeley campus.
The painting hangs, at right, on the west wall of the monumental Heyns Room of Doe Library.  “Washington Rallying The Troops At Monmouth” by Emmanuel Leutze hangs at the far end of the room.  (Steven Finacom)
Steven Finacom
The painting hangs, at right, on the west wall of the monumental Heyns Room of Doe Library. “Washington Rallying The Troops At Monmouth” by Emmanuel Leutze hangs at the far end of the room. (Steven Finacom)
The painting was uncrated in the monumental Heyns Room on January 13, 2012.  For a few minutes, George Berkeley leaned to the left.
Steven Finacom
The painting was uncrated in the monumental Heyns Room on January 13, 2012. For a few minutes, George Berkeley leaned to the left.
After fasteners were installed, the painting was cranked up the wall, guided by two installers on ladders.
Steven Finacom
After fasteners were installed, the painting was cranked up the wall, guided by two installers on ladders.
“The Bermuda Group”, painted by John Smibert from 1729 to 1731, belongs to the Yale University Art Gallery.   Dean Berkeley is at left.  His wife, Anne, sits at center right, holding their son, Henry.   John Smibert, the painter, is at the far left.  John Weir used the image of Berkeley in this painting as the basis for his portrait of George Berkeley.
Yale University Art Gallery
“The Bermuda Group”, painted by John Smibert from 1729 to 1731, belongs to the Yale University Art Gallery. Dean Berkeley is at left. His wife, Anne, sits at center right, holding their son, Henry. John Smibert, the painter, is at the far left. John Weir used the image of Berkeley in this painting as the basis for his portrait of George Berkeley.
Emanuel Leutze’s mural, “Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way” was painted in the United States Capitol in 1862, and expresses the modified, mid-19th century, interpretation of George Berkeley’s prophetic words.   Below the main painting there’s a depiction of the San Francisco Bay, seen through the Golden Gate.
Courtesy, Architect of the Capitol, United States Government.
Emanuel Leutze’s mural, “Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way” was painted in the United States Capitol in 1862, and expresses the modified, mid-19th century, interpretation of George Berkeley’s prophetic words. Below the main painting there’s a depiction of the San Francisco Bay, seen through the Golden Gate.
The official seal of the City of Berkeley remains this drawing of Bishop Berkeley, with the pertinent quote from his poem inscribed below.
The official seal of the City of Berkeley remains this drawing of Bishop Berkeley, with the pertinent quote from his poem inscribed below.
Whitehall, the home of George Berkeley and Anne Berkeley in Middletown, Rhode Island from 1729 to 1731.  They lived here while Berkeley tried unsuccessfully to realize his vision of creating a college in the New World.  The house is now maintained as a museum, with a different “philosopher in residence” each summer.
Steven Finacom
Whitehall, the home of George Berkeley and Anne Berkeley in Middletown, Rhode Island from 1729 to 1731. They lived here while Berkeley tried unsuccessfully to realize his vision of creating a college in the New World. The house is now maintained as a museum, with a different “philosopher in residence” each summer.
The ground floor room at Whitehall that may have been George Berkeley’s study in America.
Steven Finacom
The ground floor room at Whitehall that may have been George Berkeley’s study in America.

There’s a story that when George Berkeley, the future philosopher, was a student he decided to see what it was like to approach death. He hung himself, arranging to have a friend cut him down and revive him after he lost consciousness. 

Although the tale may well not be true, it’s exemplary of the curiosity and unorthodox thinking that history associates with the man who is still known, more than 250 years after his actual death, as a scholar and philosopher, strikingly original thinker, and humane churchman in what was a brutal age. 

Berkeley is now hung again, as large as life, but only in portrait form on the campus that is his namesake. 

An oil painting of George Berkeley painted in 1873 by John Weir was hoisted into place on the west wall of the ornate and monumental Heyns Room in Doe Memorial Library on campus on Friday, January 13, 2012. After some 15 years in storage that will be his new, long-term, home courtesy of the University Library. 

I had a small role in this—I suggested that the portrait be brought to the Library, as part of Doe’s Centennial celebration—but the credit for execution justly goes to University Librarian Tom Leonard and Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive Director Larry Rinder and their staffs, who liked the suggestion and carried it through to reality. 

The hope is that the presence of George Berkeley, overlooking his eponymous earthly realm, will help future generations passing through the campus appreciate where the institution came from and how it connects to the past. 

An Appropriate Name 

There’s a bit of a backstory that I’d like to tell of how the painting came back on public view, where it came from, and why it’s important. But first I’d like to affirm how suitable it was that our town and campus were named for George Berkeley. 

As news circulates about the portrait, it’s possible you’ll read differently. Journalists and bloggers often look for the quirky / funny side of an issue, and this is tailor made for them. Often when people write about George Berkeley in connection to our town, they seek to make fun of it, and / or him. A bishop? Namesake of secular / Godless Berkeley? Really? The “when a tree falls in the forest…” man? And he’s a dead white European guy, too, fronting for a multicultural town. What were they thinking? The meme will go on. 

I differ. “Berkeley” was and is a profoundly appropriate identity for our campus and community.  

George Berkeley was a serious scholar in an age when it was hard and rare to get an academic education. He explored philosophy, and also tried his best to do good, including attempting to start a college. When it was very easy for a bishop to simply live large off income and title, he took his religious role seriously, spending much of his time and clerical authority to serve the desperate poor in Ireland, then a particularly troubled land.  

He came up with ideas and concepts people still think about and debate. He thought and wrote about natural and unseen worlds and the nature of existence in ways that still have relevance. He traveled, had a big family, lived on both sides of the ocean, was apparently open minded and curious, held high office in one religion but got along well with those from other faiths and traditions, loved music and reading, and did some weird things, too. 

Anything in that list so far that doesn’t seem to express modern Berkeley well? And he still ended up living a full, rich, life apparently admired by most everyone who left a record of encountering him. One striking thing about George Berkeley—or so his contemporaries and biographers have said—is that no one who knew him seems to have written a seriously unkind word about him. The classic quote about him, from contemporary Alexander Pope, hails him with “every virtue under heaven.” 

Honestly, who should the campus have been named for nearly 150 years ago—a 19th century robber baron? (There is local precedent for that, of course--Stanford.) Someone who once owned a piece of land here and thus had their name connected to it? A Roman Catholic Saint (see St. Mary’s)? Some momentarily popular puffed up mid-19th century political, literary, or military figure that no one would remember today if not for the name? 

It’s fine to joke about things, but over time as I’ve learned more about George Berkeley I have less and less patience for those who are content to glibly dismiss or typecast him or make fun of the name. 

Several years ago I briefly visited Middletown and Newport, Rhode Island, where George Berkeley lived for about two and a half years while vainly awaiting the funds for his college project (Berkeley is well remembered there—there’s even an annual dinner held each year on January 23, the anniversary of when he sailed into Newport harbor from England.) I went to several of the places associated with Berkeley, and even had a chance to stay overnight in his home, a red-painted wooden house he dubbed “Whitehall”, out in the countryside. 

On a sunny, quiet, fall morning I sat in what had probably been his study—and now contains a small library of Berkeleyania—and leaf through accounts of his American sojourn. He was the highest ranking European churchman to ever visit the English colonies in North America, but he acted not as a pompous prelate but rather as a friendly scholar, curious about the colonies and their people and interested in what he could learn from, and teach, them. 

Rhode Island was a refreshing center of diversity, Newport in particular. It housed the first permanent Jewish community in North America (the Touro Synagogue), the first lending library open to public subscription (the Redwood Library), and a jostling but still mutually accommodating mix of Catholics, mainstream Protestants of various leanings, Puritans, Anglicans, freethinkers.  

Berkeley periodically preached from the elevated pulpit of Trinity Church in Newport and, his contemporaries recalled, the church was filled to hear the thoughts of this curious English divine. Even Quakers—who usually disdained conventional religious establishments—came and stood in the aisles of the sanctuary to listen to his sermons. Later, Berkeley and his wife would bury one of their young children in the churchyard there, just before sailing back to England.  

As I read more about him there, and saw the places connected with him, I became very comfortable with the idea that “our” Berkeley was named for this man. 

How Our Name Came About 

The story of the naming of Berkeley, California (and the campus) has been told elsewhere, so here’s just an abbreviated account.  

Within a dozen years of the Gold Rush the private College of California—founded primarily by New England Congregationists—had accumulated enough land in the unnamed hinterland north of Oakland that the College Trustees decided they could consecrate their site to education. They did so in April, 1860.  

Six years later, while subdividing land for sale adjacent to the still unoccupied campus site, the Trustees were urgently in need of a name to help market the property. Trustee Frederick Billings supplied one in May, 1866, when he stood by Founders’ Rock on campus and looked out to the Golden Gate, musing “Westward the course of empire takes its way…” The authorship of that line was well known to the educated Trustees, and they thought the name “Berkeley” would work well for their new campus site. 

The College of California never had the means to move from its original home in Oakland to “Berkeley”, but in 1868 the property was turned over to the State of California as part of the establishment of the University of California. A few years later UC moved to new buildings in Berkeley. As a town grew up around the campus, the name “Berkeley” came into common usage, and it was formally adopted for the entire community (supplanting the earlier name of what’s now west Berkeley, “Ocean view”) when the community incorporated in 1878. 

(The name “Berkeley” wasn’t the only one in the running. A number of other suggestions had been made, including “Peralta” and “Billings”, but all were rejected. And “Berkeley” did not yet adorn a major educational establishment in 1866, although it might have. When he visited the colonies George Berkeley had advised the men who would later found “King’s College” in New York City. After the American Revolution threw off the British monarchy, the college leaders there were casting about for a more popular name. There was the suggestion that the institution be renamed “Berkeley College”; instead, they went with “Columbia University”. Lucky for us, or we would all be living in New York and paying Manhattan prices.) 

Origins of the Painting 

Now let’s get back to the painting itself. The UC portrait of George Berkeley was painted in 1873 by John Weir, who worked at Yale University. Yale had in its collection a famed 18th century group portrait by artist John Smibert. Showing George Berkeley and his coterie. This was the “Bermuda Group” painting (more, later, about that odd name).  

The idea for having a painting of Berkeley, here at Berkeley, seems to have been crystalized by Daniel Coit Gilman the second President of UC.  

In April, 1873, Gilman was in Connecticut and crossed paths with Frederick Billings, the man who had, as we’ve seen above, memorably suggested the name “Berkeley” for the future campus site. “You asked me if a copy of Smebert ‘s(sic) portrait of Bishop Berkeley…could be procured for the University”, Billings wrote to Gilman. “The question was a felicitous suggestion. It made known to me how, in a very appropriate way, I could give a little proof of my great interest in the institution which may be said to have grown out of the College of California, with whose history I was identified through all its struggles from the very beginning.” 

“It is most fit that he who gave the name of the good Bishop to the site of the University”, Billings went on, “should have the privilege of placing his portrait in the University Halls.” Billings agreed to pay to have the portrait painted.  

Gilman acted with apparent alacrity. That same month he was writing to Weir, asking him to paint the portrait or find someone else who could do it equally well. The fee would be up to $500 from Billings, Gilman said, and the University would expect the portrait to arrive on the West Coast in time for a July 15 opening of the Berkeley campus. 

Weir executed the work and had it done within a couple of months—by June 10, at the latest, when it was put on temporary display in the Yale Art Gallery. Then, in July, it was shipped by train from East to West. Here it was mounted in an elaborate redwood and gilt frame Gilman had fabricated probably, one guesses, in San Francisco. 

On July 16, 1873, the young University celebrated the first Commencement exercises to be held at the Berkeley campus. Governor Newton Booth spoke, along with students Nathan Newmark and Frank Otis (later, Mayor of Alameda).  

President Gilman delivered an address, and the painting was officially presented to the University by William Ingraham Kip, first Protestant Episcopal Bishop of California. Appropriately a spiritual cousin of Bishop Berkeley—and the first Episcopalian Bishop to actually reach the West Coast, just as Berkeley had been, in his time, the highest church official to come to the East Coast from England—welcomed the portrait of the philosopher to California. 

Interestingly, that Commencement and presentation was held in old North Hall, which stood about where the Bancroft Library rises today. A few dozen feet west of the North Hall site is the Heyns Room in Doe Library, where the portrait now hangs. So Berkeley’s portrait has, by coincidence, returned to close to the same spot where it was first formally received on campus 139 years ago. 

Episodic Display 

That’s how Berkeley came to Berkeley, full color, and life sized. Gilman told Weir in a letter that the painting “will be for a long time ‘or it may be for ages’ a central figure in our University halls.” But the placement of the painting was not so certain.  

The exact tracing of its display career throughout the corridors of the campus is faded by history and incomplete records, but it seems most likely that the painting would have first hung in one of the University’s two original buildings, either South Hall or North Hall, where it had been presented. 

In 1881 the campus built its first freestanding library structure—Bacon Hall—that also included an art gallery space. The painting was probably moved there, since in the 1920s there’s an archival mention that it was moved from the Bacon collection to California Hall, which then housed both classrooms and administrative offices for the University.  

In 1929 it may have gone into temporary storage in the basement of California Hall, later to re-emerge in the early 1930s back upstairs in one of the main corridors. By the early 1950s it was back in storage for some reason, this time in Hearst Gymnasium, and sometime thereafter—maybe the 1960s, but definitely by the 1970s—it was out again, moved to the stairwell of University House, the residence of the Chancellor on the campus. University House was, then as now, an official private residence but also doubled as a campus center for receptions and events, so Berkeley was probably exposed to quite a number of visitors over the years. 

And there it stayed until a major renovation and refurbishment of that building in the mid-1990s, when it was transferred to the collection of the Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive for its most recent (and, hopefully, last) extended period in storage Finally, on January 13, 2012 during the last days of the quiet intersession period it was carefully trucked to Doe Library and hung on the west wall of the monumental Heyns Reading Room. 

Doe Centennial 

I wasn’t really aware of the portrait several years ago when I organized an exhibit at the Berkeley Historical Society on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of Berkeley’s death (the demise of the Bishop, that is, not the city). I then got a call from Charles Burress, who was writing for the San Francisco Chronicle. He was trying to get permission to view the University’s portrait of Bishop Berkeley. 

Portrait? I said. Yes, Burress said. The Museum provided a black and white photograph, but wasn’t able, for various reasons, to let him see the actual picture, which was in secure storage.  

Years passed, but I kept the portrait in mind. With changing times—and the fragility of a 19th century artifact—it wouldn’t be realistic for it to hang in some indefensible space on campus. It could, conceivably, have gone back in California Hall where it once hung, but that building is now access controlled (a security guard sits at the entrance) so it wouldn’t really be public, in the best sense. 

Then, in September 2010, an opportunity to actually see the portrait arose. The Australian descendants of Bishop Berkeley’s brother, Robert (George himself has no living descendants today) were coming to town and Philosophy Department and Visitor Center representatives were preparing to host them.  

They should see the portrait, I suggested. And the BAM / PFA, graciously arranged to bring it out of storage for a day where the Berkeley family could view it; earlier in the same trip they had visited Newport, Middletown, and Berkeley’s Whitehall. Here the painting was propped against a concrete corridor wall in the BAM for the inspection, which the living Berkeley’s much enjoyed. 

Then back to storage. But not too long thereafter I was asked to join a committee planning for the 2011-12 Centennial Celebration of Doe Library. When the committee met, University Librarian Tom Leonard purposefully opened up the floor to any and all ideas, and I tossed out several, including the idea of hanging the portrait in Doe. The group discussed it, people liked it, and Leonard approved. 

So did, fortunately, the Berkeley Art Museum administration, which has custody of the portrait. Like the other painting hanging in Doe Library—“Washington Rallying the Troops at Monmouth”—the portrait of Bishop Berkeley was a physically large and unwieldy work that the BAM didn’t have the room to permanently display in either its current building, or its future structure. But they still recognized the two paintings as having value and interest and historical resonance, and displaying them in the Library was a good fit. 

It was even historically appropriate. As I noted above, one of the places the portrait once hung on campus in earlier years was Bacon Hall, which did double duty as library and art gallery for the campus. 

The Genesis of Our Painting 

Now, how did Weir decide to paint this particular image once he had the commission from Gilman and Billings? He based it, perhaps at Gilman’s suggestion, on that famed painting of George Berkeley from the early 18th century that I talked about earlier. That work—popularly called the “Bermuda Group”—depicted Berkeley, his wife and son, and various friends, on the eve of their departure for the New World to found a new college. Berkeley originally intended the institution to be in Bermuda; hence the name. 

The painter of the Bermuda Group was John Smibert (aka Smybert, or Smebert) who was a young Scottish artist who came along with Berkeley on the expectation that he would teach architecture at the new college. Instead—since the college idea fell flat—Smibert married a colonial and settled down in Boston, staying there when Berkeley went back to England.  

While the teaching job hadn’t materialized, it all seems to have worked out in the end for Smilbert. He became a notable portrait artist in New England at a time when fine artists were few and far between on this side of the Atlantic. From what I’ve read, he merits at least a fat footnote in American art history. 

In any case, Smibert painted the Bermuda Group, it was seen by many people, and remained part of his estate when he died in the 18th century. By the beginning of the 19th century the painting had come into the hands of one Issac Lothrop (sic), who then gave it to Yale University in 1808.  

Yale was a sensible place for the group portrait of Berkeley and his friends to reside. Berkeley had visited Yale during his American sojourn and left assets to the New Haven college, including books (really rare on this side of the Atlantic at that time) and his own house—“Whitehall”—in Middletown, Rhode Island. Yale would even create a “Berkeley College” residential campus in the 1930s. 

The painting presumably would have been viewable at Yale in the mid-19th century, when Daniel Coit Gilman, that future UC President, graduated from Yale (in 1852) and soon thereafter (1856) served as Librarian of Yale College, then a member of the faculty at the Sheffield Scientific School, a branch of Yale that he had helped plan and establish. 

From there Gilman came west to Berkeley, where he was well positioned to suggest both the idea of a new Berkeley portrait to Billings and—when the Billings made the offer to pay for it—subsequently suggest that the Smibert painting be the model for the new rendering by Weir. 

So Weir did, adding his own take. If you look at the two paintings, you’ll see that Weir seems to have scrupulously copied the pose, position, clothing and head of Smibert’s Berkeley, but made some other alterations.  

Gilman told Weir by letter that he wanted a “worthy work” and trusted Weir to produce one. “I am delighted to learn that you are to give an artistic treatment to the Berkeley portrait and not make a literal transcript of it”, Gilman later wrote to Weir on May 28, 1873, presumably referring to the Bermuda Group as the artistic source. “It was just like you to think of making a picture out of a relic and your way of going forward shows the advantage of asking an artist instead of a photographer for advice.” 

Weir’s way was to move Berkeley from standing at a table, his hand on a book, to standing next to a column with a book cradled in his arms (University Librarian Leonard puckishly points out that Berkeley has his finger stuck in the book—he needs a bookmark). On the column Weir painted the line that inspired Billings, “Westward the course of empire…” (Gilman had mused to Weir that perhaps the words could go on the frame, but concluded that Weir’s approach of incorporating them into the painting itself was more successful.) 

Berkeley, Leutze, and Velezquez 

There are two more coincidental connections about UC’s Berkeley portrait that are worth mentioning because they help shed light on what is perhaps the most persistent mis-interpretation of George Berkeley over the years—that he was anticipating or hoping for the military and political establishment of the British Empire, with all of its associations, from glorious to unfortunate. 

Berkeley did write “Westward the course of empire takes its way…” but Berkeley scholars seem to generally believe he was dreaming about the growth of a new, more vibrant, humane, and enlightened civilization in the New World that would replace and rectify the errors of old, decadent, Europe.  

Berkeley’s own age was very troubled. He had plenty of evidence of apparent civilizational decline. England, not yet a world power, had only recently been dismembered by civil war, and only recently put back together. Continental wars, some involving England, were an almost annual occurrence, and despotism and economic inequality and malfeasance was everywhere.  

In 1720 England was particularly shaken by what became known as the “South Sea Bubble”, a financial collapse brought on by shady dealings and frenzied speculation in the stock of companies proposing to import from the “South Seas” (meaning the South Atlantic and South America). Thousands of investors, prudent and foolish, lost their money and the country got a glaring look at the consequences of corruption and unregulated greed. 

This was the context in which Berkeley began to dream of civilization starting anew in the Americas, where England had a small fringe of colonies along the Eastern Seaboard. Hence his poem which called for “a rise of empire and the arts” in the New World where “the good and great inspiring Epic (would) rage” and the “noblest minds and hearts” would prevail. 

This concept was not original to Berkeley, but he was the one who, in what became popular literature—his poem—translated it to the Americas. Scholar Peter Freese wrote in a paper analyzing the poem and its context, “Berkeley evokes the notion of the westward movement of culture by having the ‘disgusted Muse’ emigrate from a corrupt Europe where the lack of ‘glorious Theme(s)’ has put her out of work, into the ‘distant lands’ of America, there to await “a better time” and “subjects worthy (of) Fame.”  

But, once it crossed the seas and marinated for several decades, Berkeley’s rather benign concept—which Freese called “an Irish bishop’s Christian vision of the impending completion of divinely ordained world history”—became a rather more fraught and toxified concept. Americans in the 19th century, pushing westwards across the North American continent, shoving European powers aside, subjugating or killing natives and—eventually—arrived on the shores of the Pacific, where they gazed out at the economic and political potential of dominating Asia.  

There was a word—two words, rather—for their sense of purpose. Manifest Destiny.  

Americans, in the era the College of California and the University of California were founded, became fond of quoting “Westward the course of Empire…” (sometimes mis-translated as “star of Empire”) to evoke the supposed inevitability of the United States ruling the New World and dominating the Old.  

And few did more to popularize that misconception of George Berkeley’s poetic phrase than Emmanuel Leutze. Just about 150 years ago, as the Civil War began, Leutze, a German-born painter known for his popular and patriotic subjects, began a commission in the unfinished United States Capitol Building.  

His painting showed an idealized group of trans-continental settlers—complete with coonskin caps, rifles, Conestoga wagons, intrepid wives and children (and one African-American man)—toiling up a precipitous mountainside and, from the summit, gazing westward at a golden promised land…California. (There’s even, below the main painting, a smaller image showing the unbridged entrance to the Golden Gate from offshore in the Pacific. If you peek past the headlands, you can probably see the site of our Berkeley.) 

Entitling his Capital painting “Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way”, Leutze expressed in glorious graphic form what had become the popular (mis) interpretation of Berkeley’s words.  

Leutze is also well known for his “Washington Crossing the Delaware” painting, but that work had a lesser-known companion piece, “Washington Rallying The Troops At Monmouth.” The Monmouth painting eventually came, by way of an eccentric donor, into the hands of the University of California.  

And, like the University’s George Berkeley painting, it was hung, taken down, stored, moved around, and finally deposited (in the 1990s) in a semi-permanent location at the south end of the Heyns Room of Doe Library, one of the few places on campus large enough to accommodate the vast canvas. 

And there it hangs today, now joined just to the northwest by George Berkeley. There is irony in the juxtaposition. At Berkeley the campus, Berkeley the philosopher can gaze across at one of the major paintings of a man who did as much as anyone to change the meaning of George Berkeley’s words that inspired the campus name. 

Finally…George Berkeley’s portrait is not the first to hang on the wall of the Heyns Room in that particular spot. For a period in the mid-20th century the University of California possessed, on loan, a collection of full-sized reproductions of works by the 18th century Spanish artist, Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez. They were later returned to Spain. 

After looking at a grainy black and white photo of the Heyns Room with its walls lined with those portraits, I think that the picture that hung in George Berkeley’s present spot was a portrait of King Philip IV of Spain, painted between 1624-27. (The original is in the Prado, in Madrid). Velázquez was Philip’s court painter.  

During Philip’s reign, the Spanish Empire was as large as it ever got, but was already headed for decline. So George Berkeley, appropriately enough, now takes the place of a portrait of a monarch who presided over the beginning of the end of one of those European empires that would drive Berkeley to despair—and to look to the New World—a century later. 

(Steven Finacom is the current President of the Berkeley—California—Historical Society and writes frequently for the Planet on historical and feature topics.) 



(Almost every historical account builds considerably on the earlier work of others, and it’s important to acknowledge their contributions. For information about the origins of the Weir portrait I’m indebted to the research of Betsy Fahlman, a Professor of Art History at the Arizona State. She generously shared her research resources with the Berkeley campus when the hanging of the painting was being planned. Ira Jacknis, a researcher in the Hearst Museum of Anthropology on campus has been indefatigable in his pursuit of research on the history of campus art collections, and has uncovered most of the early history of the Weir painting as it moved about the campus. And German scholar of American Studies, Peter Freese, wrote an insightful paper,“Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way”: The Translato-Concept in Popular American Writing and Painting”, published in 1996, that details the transmutation of Berkeley’s vision; you can find a full version in the JSTOR on-line archive. 


UC Newscenter article about hanging of the painting: http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2012/02/02/bishop-berkeley-doe/ 

FAQ about Bishop Berkeley and the Berkeley campus portrait: http://doe100.berkeley.edu/george_berkeley_faq.html 

Website of the International Berkeley Society, a good gateway to historical and philosophical information about George Berkeley: http://georgeberkeley.tamu.edu/

Berkeley's (Most?) Beautiful Tree

By Steven Finacom
Sunday February 05, 2012 - 05:06:00 PM
Steven Finacom
Steven Finacom
Steven Finacom
Steven Finacom
Steven Finacom
Steven Finacom

I’m wary of saying something is “the best” or “the only” or “the oldest”, because it’s usually not possible to know for sure. 

But I think that it might be reasonable to say that, for a week or two each year, this flowering magnolia in North Berkeley is the most beautiful tree in town, at least among those visible from the public right of way. Many readers will recognize it—it’s at 1525 Walnut, on the block south of Vine and Walnut Square. 

With seven main branches, it forms a glorious dome in front of an older house converted to offices. The flowers are almost pure white, with the slightest yellow blush. 

As of this writing—Saturday, February 4, 2012—the blossoms are opening, but still slightly cupped, and only a scattering of petals have fallen to the ground. 

It doesn't seem quite right to say it's a harbinger of spring, since we've hardly had any winter this year, and these magnolias can, in our climate, start blooming as early as December. But it's still a wonderful sight on a walk.

Anti-Anxiety Hints

By Jack Bragen
Friday February 03, 2012 - 11:11:00 AM

Do you ever wonder about the butterflies in your stomach?

Do you wonder if that tightness in your chest, that queasy feeling in your abdomen, and, let's admit it, that worry, is a problem that others suffer from, too? Are you anxious? Do you feel something that you have identified as angst? Do you seem to have these fearful emotions for no apparent reason? Do you find that these painful emotions are almost unbearable? You are not alone. 

Millions of Americans with or without a mental health diagnosis suffer from chronic anxiety. Sometimes it is impossible to pinpoint exactly the issue that is being worried about. Many people seek relief through the pharmaceutical route. Drugs like Klonopin, Valium, and Xanax provide temporary relief, although they are controlled substances and can be habit-forming. Anti anxiety agents such as these, while they may provide short-term relief, don't do anything toward solving the underlying problem: Your mind is generating fear. 

Sometimes cognitive methods can offer another choice. 

Most popular trademarks of cognitive therapy (or cognitive techniques) have roots in Buddhist concepts, if not practices. Neuro-Linguistic-Programming and the "Living Love" methods (introduced by the late Ken Keyes Jr.) involve getting very specific about the exact "programming" that needs to be changed. (The term, "programming" refers to various patterns of thoughts and emotions that are keeping you stuck.) However, I believe this type of "reprogramming" often is not necessary. Oddly enough, getting completely specific about the direct cause of an emotion doesn't always hit the nail on the head. 

If using cognitive methods, I believe that it isn't always necessary to address the specific fears that your brain is using to generate the anxiety. In some instances, the specific fears that are being used to generate the discomfort are not central to the actual issue. The issue, for example, could be that you are somehow "rewarded" for having a bad mood every day. Or, it could be that the anxiety is causing you to slow down and rest, when otherwise you would be overexerting yourself and not getting enough quietness. The actual issue could simply be that you are overly sensitized to discomfort, and you should create a thicker skin. Or, you could be accustomed to a certain level of suffering in your life, and going too far above or below this level is threatening to you. So, you see, there can be a number of reasons for your subconscious to furnish fear, and the actual thing being feared may be secondary to the real issue. Anxiety could have a type of "usefulness" in your life. However, if you analyzed it enough, you could substitute something else for the function that the anxiety is serving. 

There are people, however, who would fall apart if subjected to a significant level of analysis. These are individuals for whom therapy would open a Pandora's Box of problems. They are better off not analyzing what is under the hood and can do okay in life sweeping their problems under a rug. Some people who are like this are paradoxically very successful in their careers. For these individuals, anti anxiety medication can serve a very important purpose. 

And there may be those who have a major psychiatric condition and for whom the anxiety is caused by yet another brain malfunction. For these people, the personality may be healthy but the brain that is supposed to carry this personality has problems. 

Cognitive methods for lowering the anxiety level can include but are not limited to: exploration of the fears to discover the exact architecture of the fear structure; reframing and/or changing the perception of the anxious feelings; focusing on the breath; reordering of consciousness. 

Numerous methods other than medications can be used to get relief from a painful emotion. The human organ of thought between your ears has countless unused capacities. And for those who have tried numerous techniques and haven't succeeded at conquering their anxiety, there is no shame in consuming anti anxiety medication. The author of this article takes a substantial dosage of a milder anti anxiety agent, and supplements this with meditative methods. 

Lastly, there is no usefulness in comparing yourself to others in terms of anxiety. Some people may feel anxious and it isn't an indication of weakness. Instead of seeing anxiousness as a weakness, you could view it as a sign of being a more complex and thoughtful person. 

Flash: Berkeley Mayor Bates is Running--Again

Thursday February 02, 2012 - 10:20:00 PM

With no fanfare, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates,73, slipped in under the radar on Monday and filed a form kicking off his campaign to become a candidate for a fourth term--the "Campaign Intention Statement" of the "Re-Elect Mayor Tom Bates Committee."

He's already served one two-year and two four-year terms, so if he wins another four-year term, he'll have been mayor of Berkeley for a total of fourteen years.

His wife Loni Hancock, now running for yet another term as State Senator from the district which includes Berkeley, preceded him in the Berkeley mayor's office. This time the Mayor's race will be decided by ranked choice voting, but as yet no other candidates have appeared to be willing to challenge the formidable power of the well-oiled Bates-Hancock apparatus, which last week knocked Oakland Assemblymember Sandre Swanson out of the race for the Senate seat.

Press Release: Berkeley Police Confirm Skateboarder's Death

From Sgt. Mary C. Kusmiss S-6 BPD Public Information Officer
Wednesday February 01, 2012 - 10:14:00 PM

The City of Berkeley Police Department (BPD) has received word from the Alameda County Coroner’s Office that the 18 year old skateboarder passed away at 4:10 p.m. The young man, Tyler DeMartini was a Berkeley resident. Members of BPD extend their condolences to the DeMartini family. 

On the evening of January 30, 2012 at about 7:05 p.m., BPD received calls regarding a collision involving a skateboarder and a car, a Prius, at Marin Avenue and Tulare. City of Berkeley Fire Department (BFD) paramedics transported the skateboarder to a local trauma center. The skateboarder was seriously injured in the collision and according to trauma physicians was in "grave" condition. Because DeMartini was 18, he was not required by CA. Vehicle Code to wear a helmet. (17 and younger) Due to the seriousness of the collision, BPD's FAIT (Fatal Accident Investigation Team) was called in to take over the investigation. The FAIT team, members of BPD's Traffic Bureau, investigates serious and fatal collisions and have extensive training in many disciplines related to collision, diagramming and reconstruction. 

As a result of the preliminary investigation, Traffic investigators report that DeMartini was westbound on Marin Avenue. The 54 year old male, also a Berkeley Resident was eastbound on Marin Avenue, negotiating a right hand turn/southbound left hand/northbound turn onto Tulare when the two collided. Alcohol beverage consumption was not a factor in this collision and the driver consented to a blood draw at the scene in the interest of the most thorough investigation. The driver stopped immediately and was very upset by the incident. 

Although difficult to share, the BPD preliminary collision investigation has determined the PCF - Primary Collision Factor as “a pedestrian in the roadway.” Skateboarders are considered pedestrians in the CA. Vehicle Code. Pedestrian on Roadway CVC 21956. (a) No pedestrian may walk upon any roadway outside of a business or residence district otherwise than close to his or her left-hand edge of the roadway.

Updated: Death of Berkeley Skateboarder Reported

By Bay City News and Planet
Wednesday February 01, 2012 - 05:43:00 PM

The Patch website is reporting that Tyler De Martini, the 18-year-old Berkeley skateboarder who was struck by a car while skateboarding down Marin in Berkeley Monday evening, died this afternoon. 

According to police, it was an accidental crash. The skateboarder was in "grave" condition Tuesday after being hit by a Toyota Prius driven by a 54-year-old Berkeley man around 7:05 p.m., police said. The teen was taken to a hospital with serious injuries, according to police. The collision occurred when the driver was heading east on Marin Avenue and about to turn left onto Tulare Avenue, police said. The skateboarder was riding west on Marin Avenue when the two collided. Police said alcohol does not appear to be factor in the accident and the driver was not arrested.

Berkeley Council Declares House a Public Nuisance

Tuesday January 31, 2012 - 09:58:00 PM

The Berkeley City Council, in a vote where several councilmembers chose to abstain, passed a resolution declaring a drastically expanded house at 2133 Parker a public nuisance.  

The owner had increased the number of bedrooms to 19 and added a fourth floor with a door opening on to an unfenced roof.  

Police have been called on several occasions because of neighbors' complaints about wild parties and excessive noise. 

The resolution required that in order to abate the nuisance the owner must reduce the number of bedrooms to 7, in compliance with the area's zoning. Another requirement, to remove the fourth floor, also a zoning violation, was proposed by Councilmember Arreguin, but was withdrawn by the maker after other councilmembers expressed doubts about whether that requirement would pass muster in a lawsuit. 

Councilmembers Maio, Wengraf, Capitelli and Bates abstained, saying that they feared the owner would sue the city, apparently because of mistakes made by the city's Planning Department in approving the changes to the house in the first place. They favored a competing resolution, introduced by Capitelli, to take no action at this time and wait for further problematic behavior to occur before considering whether the house was indeed a public nuisance. 

Yes votes were recorded by Councilmembers Wozniak, Arreguin, Worthington, Moore and Anderson, the maker of the motion to pass the resolution, in whose district the house is located.

Press Release: City Council Stands With Berkeley Tibetan American Community

From:Tenzin Paldron (PhD Student, UC Berkeley Department of Rhetoric) and Noah Sochet (Berkeley Peace and : 51Justice Commissioner)
Tuesday January 31, 2012 - 09:38:00 PM

The City Council of the City of Berkeley today unanimously passed a resolution recognizing the immeasurable sacrifice of Tibetan monks and nuns who have self-immolated in protest of Chinese political suppression. The resolution calls on the Obama Administration to insist that China immediately end excessive security measures on Tibetan monasteries and lay communities in the region, and allow members of the media and international independent fact-finding delegations to visit the affected Tibetan-inhabited areas in Western China and the Tibetan Autonomous Region. 

Representatives from the Tibetan Association of Northern California, the Tibetan Youth Congress and Students for a Free Tibet joined with commissioners from the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission and Berkeley activists Tuesday night to urge the council to to pass the resolution. “The self-immolations in Tibet have actually renewed hope and sparked a mass movement of Tibetans calling for freedom and the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet, and we know this will not easily be extinguished” says Yangchen Chagzoetsang, a member of the Berkeley Tibetan community who spoke before the council, adding, “Tibetans are more dedicated than ever to making our voices heard and to resisting Chinese oppression”.  

Since the first reported Tibetan self-immolation in February 2009, 17 Tibetans have self-immolated, 16 of them in the past year. The New York Times, citing findings by Human Rights Watch, reports a striking correlation between the immolations and sharp increases in Chinese security: “the increase in government spending on security has contributed to provocative policing techniques such as monastery blockades and the mass detentions of monks that have repeatedly contributed to local discontent and unrest.” 

The resolution, the first of its kind in the country, states in part that “the City Council of the City of Berkeley, in affirmation of the shared belief in protest and civic engagement of the people of the City of Berkeley, and in recognition of the Berkeley Tibetan-American community, recognizes these acts of self-immolation as a reflection of the extremely repressive conditions to which the Tibetan people are subjected.” The resolution notes that “self-immolation has presented a critical means of political expression in atmospheres of severe political and social repression” citing the Arab Spring and anti-Vietnam War movement. 

The City of Berkeley has a storied history of principled stands taken by City Council, including notable resolutions against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and against military recruiting in city schools.

Berkeley City Council Will Study Not Renewing Wells Fargo Contract

Tuesday January 31, 2012 - 08:00:00 PM

The Berkeley City Council at its meeting tonight has agreed unanimously to request that the City Manager evaluate and report back to the City Council no later than May 1, 2012 regarding:

1. The fiscal and operational impacts of not renewing the city's with Wells Fargo Bank and contracting with an alternative bank, including but not limited to Community Banks, membership-based Credit Unions or Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) for city banking services.  

2. Information on alternatives to banking with Wells Fargo, including but not limited to Community Banks, membership-based Credit Unions or Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI), and ensure that any new banking contract is with an entity that is that is capable of fully meeting the City’s banking needs.  

3. City banking and investment practices to ensure that public funds are invested in responsible financial institutions that support our community and a city banking policy that gives preference to banks that support community reinvestment goals such as stabilizing the housing market, loans to local homeowners and businesses, the establishment of local branches in low income communities, and local employment opportunities. 

The sponsors were Councilmembers Moore and Arreguin.

Press Release: Reward Offered For Information About City of Berkeley's First Homicide of 2012

From Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, Berkeley Police Information Officer
Monday January 30, 2012 - 05:05:00 PM

The City of Berkeley is offering a $15,000 reward, and Bay Area Crime Stoppers (BACS) is offering an additional $2,000 reward, for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect or suspects responsible for the City of Berkeley’s first homicide of 2012.

On Thursday, January 26, 2012 at about 6:50 p.m., the City of Berkeley Police Department (BPD) got a flurry of calls from community members reporting gunshots in the area of Shattuck and Ashby Avenues, Shattuck and Emerson and around Essex Streets. Officers found Kenneth Allen Warren, 35, of Hercules who had sustained gunshots wounds and was on Emerson Street east of Shattuck Avenue. City of Berkeley Fire Department (BFD) Paramedics transported Warren to a local Hospital’s Trauma Center where he was pronounced dead by physicians there.  

BPD Homicide detectives and a complement of other BPD personnel began the investigation immediately, and have been working throughout the weekend. The crime is being investigated as a homicide. Thus far, BPD has not made any arrests or confirmed a possible motive in the case. BPD does not believe that this was a random shooting. 

BPD is urging anyone who may know anything about this homicide to call the BPD Homicide detail at (510) 981-5741 or the 24 hour BPD non emergency number of (510) 981-5900. If a community member wishes to remain anonymous, he/she is encouraged to call the Bay Area Crimes Stoppers (BACS) at (800)-222-TIPS (8477). Any information may be critical to solving this crime. Sometimes the smallest or seemingly insignificant detail can be the key to arresting the suspect or suspects in any crime

Estimated 400 Arrests Made in Day of Occupy Oakland Action

By Bay City News
Monday January 30, 2012 - 09:47:00 AM

Oakland police arrested an estimated 400 people Saturday during a day of protests that began with an attempt to take over a vacant building and ended with mass arrests and a break-in and vandalism at City Hall.  

Protestors that broke into City Hall Saturday evening broke an interior window in a hearing room, tipped over and damaged a historic model of City Hall, destroyed a case holding a model of Frank Ogawa Plaza, broke into the fire sprinkler and elevator closet, stole flags and burned one flag in front of the building, according to City Administrator Deanna J. Santana.  

In addition, public works staff are working to remove "offensive" graffiti in Frank Ogawa Plaza, removing debris from City Hall and the plaza area and fixing a damaged sprinkler system, Santana said. 

"While City Hall sustained damage, we anticipate that all city offices will be open for regular business tomorrow," Santana said. 

The attack on city hall occurred while police were busy arresting several hundred protestors outside the YMCA at 2350 Broadway in Oakland.  

Police alleged protestors were trying to break into the building and had ignored a dispersal order issued around 6:30 p.m. Protestors said they were trying to escape through the building from police, who had surrounded the group.  

The mass arrests followed a day of conflict that began when a group estimated by police at around 450 to 500 protestors marched from Frank Ogawa Plaza starting at around 1 p.m.  

The group allegedly attempted to take over the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center near Lake Merritt, which organizers said they planned to reappropriate 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, beanbag projectiles and tear gas, and protestors at the scene reported officers using batons on individuals in the crowd. 

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. with the stated goal of making another attempt at taking over a building, although the targeted location was never publicly identified. 

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.  

Three police officers were injured in Saturday's events, and two protestors have reported injuries, according to Police Chief Howard Jordan. 

Jordan said the department received 1,176 calls for service during the response to the Occupy protests, including 482 calls to 911.  

A number of agencies provided assistance to Oakland police on Saturday, including the California Highway Patrol, Sheriff's departments from Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Francisco and Marin counties, and police from the cities of Fremont, Hayward, Berkeley, Pleasanton, San Francisco and Union City/Newark, and the University of California at Berkeley.

New: Skateboarder in 'Grave' Condition after Colliding with a Car in Berkeley

By Khalida Sarwar (BCN)
Tuesday January 31, 2012 - 05:26:00 PM

An 18-year-old skateboarder is in "grave" condition today after being struck by a car in Berkeley on Monday evening, police said today. 

The collision happened at Marin and Tulare avenues at about 7:05 p.m. The teen was taken to a hospital with serious injuries, according to police.

Press Release: Berkeley High School Info Night for Incoming 9th Graders – Feb 1

From Berkeley Unified School District website
Tuesday January 31, 2012 - 11:14:00 PM

The Berkeley High School Info night for incoming 9th graders and their parents/guardians is being held February 1 at 7:00pm in the Community Theater (on the northside of the BHS campus on Allston Way). This is a must for any student entering BHS for the 2012-13 school year, both current and prospective BUSD students. Applications for Fall 2012 admission to BHS for students not currently attending a BUSD school are due the week of February 21-24. Much more information is available here.

Bone Marrow Match Needed by Chinese-American Woman

By Megan Hosterman
Tuesday January 31, 2012 - 09:40:00 PM

Janet Liang is a 25 year old, UCLA grad who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and was diagnosed with Acute Leukemia in December. She only has 2 months to live unless she finds a bone marrow donor quickly (see her video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=po9rZXNM5Tc ). Janet is Chinese-American, so people of Asian descent are more likely to be a match, but we want to encourage everyone to register. Registering is easy, fast, and free at marrow.org. Her website is www.helpingjanet.com and her facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/#!/helpingjanet.

Road Scholar Adventures (First Person)

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Monday January 30, 2012 - 09:44:00 AM

Taking early retirement from my job at U.C.'s Boalt Hall School of Law, where I was a lowly administrative assistant, clearly wasn't the smartest move I've ever made. Suddenly I had all this loose time on my hands, driving me absolutely bananas! Not to worry-- thanks to the good Lord above, a friend passed on her Elderhostel Road Adventure catalog, so now I can fill those empty hours with dozens of Road Scholar programs. Should you not be familiar with Elderhostel, this is a not-for-profit educational program dating back to 1975, with President James Moses responsible for its remarkable success. It offers more than 7,000 learning adventures in all 50 states and 150 countries around the world, as can be seen in the bulky catalogs sent regularly throughout the year. There's also an Adventures Afloat Catalog. To date I've taken more than 31 programs, some domestic , some international. To say which programs I enjoyed the most is almost impossible. I've attended three or four New York City programs. One focused on the Fifth Avenue Museum Mile at the Metropolitan Museum. I also had lunch at a restaurant in one of the Twin Towers, little dreaming of the horrific attack of 9/11. 

Another enjoyable program was the one in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a lovely, lovely city where my friend Claire Lichtenstein lives. Her father, Saul, owned and operated Saul's Deli on Shattuck Avenue, still one of Berkeley's favorite restaurants. As a great admirer of Jimmy Carter, I visited the Carter Presidential Museum in Atlanta, Georgia, gaining even more respect for this man. 

Another memorable program was the one in New Orleans, where I saw the Street Car Named Desire and Tennessee Williams' home. 

Of the International programs, I would have to say the one in Italy was the most thrilling -- Milan, Verona and Venice. I'll never forget the magical afternoon I spent in the San Marco Plaza, sipping a glass of wine while listening to an orchestra play, strangely enough, "I Had It May Way." 

Without doubt, Venice has to be the most beautiful city in the world! 

The program in Great Britain was also most enjoyable. By sheer chance I arrived just in time for the opening of the Edinburgh Festival and Tattoo, with plays and concerts going on all day. This one wore me out! 

In July of this year I plan to attend the Aspen Music Festival in the lovely Victorian town of Aspen. There I'll have the privilege of listening to the world's most accomplished musicians, with lectures and evening concerts going on for six days. 

In summing up my rewarding experience with Road Scholar and Elderhostel, I can only say that no other organization offers more great moments of discovery, awe, joy and friendship. I would, therefore, urge you all to sign up for a program and see for yourself the sheer pleasure and riches Road Scholar offers.

Our Tax The Rich Rallies--An Instant Protest Success (First Person)

By Harry Brill
Monday January 30, 2012 - 09:39:00 AM

In early September, Evelyn Glaubman, who is a local artist, expressed her outrage to several of us about the unjustifiably low taxes paid by the rich and major corporations. She made a bunch of nicely designed posters and proposed that we publicize our concerns on Solano Avenue. None of us needed convincing. On September 12th, ten indignant protesters, mainly senior citizens, descended on Solano, by the closed Oak Theater on one side of the street and the Chase Bank on the other. We held up our signs, gave out leaflets, and engaged in conversations with people walking by. 

To our delight, we were an instant success. Many drivers honked their horns in approval and some pedestrians even thanked us for what we were doing. We have held these rallies in the same location every week since. Although the number of those who attend from one week to another fluctuates, just two weeks ago, which is about four months since these rallies began, we reached 120 protesters. 

The widespread view that until the Occupy movement there has been little or no interest in such issues as inequitable taxes is incorrect. Our first and very successful rally began five days before the first Occupy event. What we quickly learned is that many people share our indignation but don't know quite what to do about it. They do want to express themselves collectively but are uncomfortable with engaging in illegal action and confrontational politics. We were able to meet their needs to protest without breaking the law. 

As someone who has been involved in confrontational politics for many decades, I am convinced that militant direct action is frequently necessary to achieve progressive political objectives. But what strategies to best employ should be mainly influenced by what our goals are. Some important achievements can also be made by conventional means. That applies to what the Tax The Rich Rallies are trying to accomplish. 

Our major goal is to contribute toward building a majority movement, which obviously requires that large numbers of people who have not participated join us. We also want people to feel comfortable on the street because the street is among the best venue for attracting others and for attracting attention. Our posters, leaflets, and our very important one-on-one conversations with others in the neighborhood are directed toward building our numbers. Also, several of us take the responsibility of not just talking to those we want to involve but by engaging in brief conversations with as many protesters as we can during our demonstrations. We even introduce people to each other. And very important, we offer live music performed by first rate musicians who call themselves the Occupella group. Their music is not only thoroughly enjoyable. It is also inspirational. These approaches along with others help us attract newcomers. 

By becoming a weekly fixture on Solano Avenue, we find that those in this neighborhood have become accustomed to us. In fact, some neighborhood residents, and those coming to Solano to dine at one of the street's many restaurants, join us on their own and even request that we add them to our mailing list. While playing a political role, they are also very much enjoying the social dimension. Together we have created a community on the streets.  

So far we have been involving more and more people and we are serving an important educational function. But that is not all. A very important proposed initiative to permanently increase taxes for ONLY those earning over a million dollars has been proposed by the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) along with other unions and community organizations. Unfortunately, Governor Brown is proposing a competing ballot measure that would raise less money, would be temporary, and worse of all, includes increasing the regressive sales tax. Unbelievably, Brown justified including a higher sales tax "because I thought we ought to have a balanced program". 

Along with other progressive organizations, we will attempt to obtain a majority vote on the proposed millionaires tax referendum in California. Simultaneously, we will use this opportunity to build a populist organization that will continue to work against inequality in our society. Win, lose, or draw, we will develop our skills, increase our self-confidence, develop an even closer sense of community among ourselves, and build close relationships with other organizations. We are already off to a good start. 

If you haven't already, we hope you will participate in our Tax The Rich Rallies. We rally every Monday, 4:30-5:30pm toward the top of Solano by the closed Oak Theater and the Chase bank. If you would like to be on our mailing list, please write to: harry.brill@sbcglobal.net 




Occupy Oakland: the View from Berkeley

By Becky O'Malley
Friday February 03, 2012 - 09:12:00 AM

You gotta love Berkeley.

There we were, sitting outside at the Farmers’ Market despite the cold foggy weather, enjoying cappuccini from Blue Bottle and biscotti from Phoenix Pastrificio after buying our organic Brussels sprouts produced by Swanton Farms with United Farm Workers union labor, discussing the future of Occupy Oakland. Before going to the market, I’d posted an excellent thoughtful essay on the topic from my old friend Osha Neumann, which raised many points that people like us need to think about.

And then, as sometimes happens with al fresco coffee conversations, a passerby chimed in.

“Me, I’m the 98%,” he asserted.

What’s the 98%?

“There’s the 1% who have all the money, the 98% like me who work for a living, and the 1% who don’t need to work and just want to make trouble.” (Paraphrased: no notebook at hand to transcribe exactly.)

I looked over his physical presentation. His claim to working class status checked out.

AT&T logo jacket? Check. Communications Workers of America arm patch? Check? Tools dangling from belt? Check. Watch cap? Check. Handlebar mustache? Check. And I remembered seeing him park his motorcycle as we came in.

He told us he was a telephone lineman, recently transferred to the night shift as an alternative to a pay cut, who has been employed for many years by the company which has answered to a long succession of corporate acronyms. He had a bunch of sarcastic translations of these various initials, all of them too colorful for a family publication like this one.

He’s resentful, deeply resentful, about what the latest claimants to the Occupy Oakland name have done, supposedly on his behalf. 

It’s not, he said, that he doesn’t know that working people like him are getting screwed by the system. He appreciated Occupy Wall Street. But he’s contemptuous of those who seem to think that running amok in the streets of Oakland will fix anything,. 

He knows better. And he persuaded me to agree—not that it was hard for him to do. 

It’s time, and past time, for people who seriously want to do something about economic inequity to disavow the tactics of the self-centered young white men (with occasional women) who form what’s commonly known as the Black Bloc. 

The Black Bloc, sometimes self-styled anarchists, seem to think that it’s mucho macho to smash children’s art exhibits and break windows of small businesses This just in: it’s not. It’s the action of cowardly bullies. 

These guys, dressed all in black with their faces covered, remind me of nothing so much as the Ku Klux Klan, who dressed instead in white and wore pointed hoods instead of ski masks, but also claimed to speak for the common folk in their heyday. The KKK came from the right flank while the Black Bloc seems to come from the left, but at a distance they’re approximately indistinguishable. 

There’s even an argument, made by some who remember Cointelpro, that among their number might be agents provocateurs, planted there by opponents in order to make Occupy look bad. Others have wondered aloud who paid for the Black Bloc’s expense-appearing battle gear: big new metal trash cans cut in half, battering shields made of new corrugated metal and new wood, two-way radios etc. 

And what to make of their claim that they’re praiseworthy because all they’re trying to do is take back public space? There’s a logical error in this whole line of chat, and it applies to more than just the Black Bloc. 

What Occupiers, all of them, are actually doing is privatizing the public space, expropriating a public good for the exclusive use of a small part of the body politic for rhetorical purposes. The original Occupy Wall Street took a little-used park in a corner of Manhattan in order to dramatize economic inequity, and it worked, partly because of its shock value. No one was harmed, and a valid point was made, dramatically. 

But when this week’s demonstrators, whoever they were, declared their entitlement to a civic treasure currently shuttered because of a lack of public funds, they lost me, and I’ll wager a whole lot of other people too. It’s a crying shame that Oakland can’t afford to retrofit the beautiful Henry Kaiser building (which contains within it the Calvin Simmons Theater, named to commemorate the late beloved young African-American conductor of the Oakland Symphony) but that doesn’t mean that the building should become a de facto campground for a bunch of testosterone-poisoned whiteboys. 

And the sanctimonious whining heard from many others who claim to speak for the Occupy Oakland movement is equally annoying. A press release couched in parodic pseudo-scientific language put out by an academic-inflected committee calling itself the Occupy Oakland Research Group has the nerve to blame the victim, to chide the impoverished and beleaguered city of Oakland for problems not of its own choosing: 

From the release: “ ‘Oakland is spending millions to prevent Occupy from providing vital services to Oakland residents when they need it most. These funds should be used to prevent further cuts to schools and social services, instead of being wasted on the violent repression of activists and community members who are trying to fill in the gaps where local government has failed.’ said Sarah Thomason, member of Occupy Oakland Research Working Group and graduate student at University of California, Berkeley.” 

Well, yes, sure. But isn’t this a lot like the girl who murdered her parents and then asked the judge to have pity on her because she was an orphan? 

Oakland’s an easy mark, of course, because it still has a court-certified out-of-control police department which can be trusted to overreact at any provocation. No one would deny that the OPD once again over the weekend used excessive force against the latest round of demonstrators. 

But Oakland citizens who don’t like the actions either of the protesters or the police are caught between a rock and a hard place. They don’t want to see their public buildings trashed, though they certainly don’t want scarce funds wasted on preventing this from happening either, and they deplore violence from either camp. 

If you‘re looking for a critical mass of Malefactors of Great Wealth, Occupy Piedmont would make a lot more sense than Occupy Oakland. 

From the point of view of my new friend Pete and the rest of the 98%ers, Occupy AT&T would make a lot more sense than trying to move into some random publically-owned building. 

And whatever happened to non-violent protest? A disaffected Oakland activist told me that he’d tried to get the Occupy Oakland General Assembly to vote for a pledge of non-violence way back in November, but he was shouted down by the Black Bloc. People like him have been left with little choice in Oakland, so they’re just dropping out of the protest scene. 

Are there alternatives to watching a bunch of overgrown teenagers smashing stuff? 

Every Monday for many weeks there’s been a persistent non-violent demonstration advocating taxing the rich with no Occupy branding on Solano Avenue in Berkeley. There’s another one next Monday, starting at 4:30 in front of the defunct Oaks Theater. Something of the kind could work in Oakland if Occupy self-destructs. 

And there is an election coming in November. Since the loose agglomeration of activists who gathered under the banner of Occupy Oakland has gotten so far off the rails, there have been calls from many former supporters to shift gears into political action. 

Oakland voters, of course, already have a pretty good set of representatives, though they haven’t achieved nirvana yet, in particular Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee and Sandre Swanson. Some others—Jerry Brown, Dianne Feinstein, Jean Quan—get their share of criticism, but it’s not likely that better candidates could be found to replace them. 

The Republican Congress remains the biggest problem. There’s a bunch of plausible candidates for Congress from districts close to Oakland who could use some help for the upcoming election: Norman Solomon, running in the June primary to fill a safely Democratic seat in Marin; Ari Bera, from the Sacramento area, who has a good chance of beating a Republican in November, and Jerry McNerney, a pretty fair Democratic incumbent out toward Tracy whose district boundaries have shifted enough to make him nervous, 

Anyone who wants to make a difference could join one of these congressional campaigns. Can’t hurt, might help. 

Will the assets of the fabulously wealthy .01%, the real culprits in this picture, be redistributed any time soon, even if these guys win? Probably not. 

But would re-electing Obama and ending the Republican grip on Congress keep things from getting worse? I know it’s boring, but it’s worth a try. 

The Editor's Back Fence

Swanson (Oakland) Defers to Hancock (Berkeley) : He Will Not Run for State Senate--So She's In

Monday January 30, 2012 - 08:51:00 PM

Senator Loni Hancock (Berkeley) has announced in an email blast to her mailing list that she will not face any opposition in her quest for re-election to the California State Senate. 

She sent this letter on Monday night to supporters and others: 

"Last week was a whirlwind, but first let me say - Thank You!  

"With your help we were successful at the Democratic Caucus pre-endorsement meeting with over 85% of the delegates voting to endorse me. I'm moved that my fellow Democrats want to see me continue to take on the big issues – ending the death penalty and putting money back into classrooms, tackling California’s foreclosure crisis, closing tax loopholes for mega-corporations and creating jobs by improving our local infrastructure. 

"Furthermore, Assemblymember Sandre Swanson has decided that he will not be running against me for State Senate. I look forward to working with him and our entire Democratic team to tackle the challenges that we face – raising revenues to break the cycle of cuts to our schools and social safety net, electing 27 Democrats to the State Senate and, of course, ensuring that our President returns for another four years! 

"Your steadfast support has made this possible. I can't tell you how deeply I appreciate your help. 

"Thank you, thank you, 


Lisa Vorderbrueggen in the Contra Costa Times reported Oakland Assemblymember Sandre Swanson's withdrawal from the Senate race thus: 

"NOTHING TO SEE HERE: Termed-out Oakland Assemblyman Sandre Swanson dropped his bid against state Sen. Loni Hancock, of Berkeley, averting a nasty primary fight between the two popular politicians.  

"He even endorsed her. 

"Swanson told my colleague Josh Richman that his decision on Tuesday had nothing whatsoever to do with Hancock's overwhelming win a couple of days earlier at the Democratic Party's pre-endorsement conference. 

"OK. Sure." 

That's just how things are done around here, isn't it? 

New: Rumor Mill: Two Rumors Rejected by Berkeley Police

Thursday February 02, 2012 - 05:31:00 PM

Berkeley Police Information Officer Sgt. Mary Kusmiss today issued press releases denying two rumors which have been published elsewhere. She said that a recent Berkeley murder is NOT connected with a recent Vallejo murder in any way, and that there has NOT been a hold-up of any Wells Fargo bank in Berkeley. Neither rumor was published in the Planet.


Odd Bodkins: God Invented Republicans (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Friday February 03, 2012 - 10:43:00 AM


Dan O'Neill


Public Comment

Zelda Bronstein's Tea Party Articles as Seen from Pittsburg

By George Lee
Friday February 03, 2012 - 11:07:00 AM

Zelda writes a fair minded series of articles. She and The Tea Party can agree - follow the money! Yes, NGO's and regular folks should have a say - and they should be held accountable to scrutiny - who do they represent? Who stands to gain financially? What about those left out by virtue of full time jobs, no transportation, etc. And so should the money backed agencies, and support groups. 

Oakland's "block housing" is not what people want - I know - I live in Pittsburg where my neighbors, of all ethnicities, have fled from Oakland and San Francisco's deadly streets. Yes we have problems, but the people here have respect and those who are left after the WallStreeters' foreclosures still have pride and a neighborhood the can call home - not a ghetto of Government planning Czars - of whatever agency or mandate they stand behind!

Bio-Lab by the Bay

By M. L. Tina Stevens, PhD, Director, Alliance for Humane Biotechnology and Eric Hoffman Biotechnology Policy Campaigner Friends of the Earth
Friday February 03, 2012 - 10:52:00 AM

Recent news coverage highlights possible benefits the expanded Lawrence Berkeley National Lab could bring the city of Richmond (“Richmond chosen as site for Berkeley lab’s second campus,” CCT 1/26/12.) But Richmond residents have reason for concern. Much of the research to be conducted at the lab will use a new, insufficiently regulated, potentially dangerous emerging technology -- synthetic biology. http://www.humanebiotech.com/theissues/syntheticbiology.html 

Synthetic biology is an extreme form of genetic engineering where biotechnicians attempt to program and write DNA in new ways to create self-replicating organisms never before found in nature. The risks this research poses to worker safety, public health, and the environment are poorly studied and poorly regulated. While the synthetic biology industry trumpets this technology’s promise for manufacturing biofuels and new pharmaceuticals, the technology is inherently risky and its claims for ushering in a “green” future are suspect.

Synthetic biology research could make existing diseases more infectious, lead to the accidental release of synthetic organisms that could disrupt local ecosystems, and expose workers to organisms with unknown risks to human health. Laboratory accidents occur too frequently for complacence. The lack of adequate bio-containment and safety protocols within existing labs has been associated with serious illness and death. http://www.humanebiotech.com/theissues/biotechsafety.html

The hazards of synthetic biology – compounded by the siting of the lab on an earthquake prone low-lying piece of land abutting the San Francisco Bay – make transparency, accountability, and citizen-involved regulatory oversight non-negotiable, especially in a densely populated urban community that has long endured public health peril for industry benefit.

The lab’s work in Richmond has global implications. The campus likely will host private synthetic biology companies working to commercialize synthetic organisms to ferment fuels, medicines, and plant-based plastics. These organisms need to eat. Their food comes largely from sugars found in plants. Early indications are that large-scale harvesting of these sugars will harm communities in the Global South. Emeryville synthetic biology company Amyris, for example, has set up shop in Brazil to access cheap sugarcane, ignoring the sugarcane industry’s troubled record of modern day slavery and environmental degradation. The impact of this maneuver on people living in the region, on their land and water access, on community rights and on the health of the environment remain inadequately addressed by those standing to profit lavishly. Surely, this is not the clean, green future proffered by lab proponents.

In nearby Berkeley on March 29, a coalition of local, national and international organizations concerned by the health and environmental risks of synthetic biology will host an evening public symposium, “Unmasking the Bio Lab and Synthetic Biology: Health, Justice, and Communities at Risk.” Residents of Richmond and the Bay Area who want to learn more about what it means to welcome to their shores what is likely to become the world’s largest synthetic biology lab are invited to attend.

Social Justice Symposium Tomorrow To Discuss Occupy and Activism

By Lance Dwyer
Friday February 03, 2012 - 10:47:00 AM

Bay Area activism has proven once again that it can withstand government resistance, police brutality and a little bit of winter’s rain and cold. 

Just as UC Berkeley administrators in the 1960s eventually came to the realization that the Free Speech Movement would not be silenced, officials like Oakland Mayor Jean Quan are slowly learning that the Occupy movement will continue to persevere as well. 

The evidence of its longevity and sustainability can be seen through the thousands of UC Berkeley students marching the streets in November in response to the brutal beatings inflicted against fellow students by campus police. It can be seen through the Port Shutdown on Dec. 12 that resulted in an estimated loss of $8 million in revenue for the Oakland port alone. It can be seen in the occupation of an empty building in Oakland in late January; a building organizers plan to use to provide social services. 

These powerful demonstrations collectively highlight the proud tradition of peaceful resistance in the Bay Area; a tradition that has transcended time and ingrained itself into the local culture. There is perhaps no greater indication of the Bay Area’s activist reputation than the international recognition of Occupy Oakland as a leading voice in the direction of the broader movement. 

The rich history and renowned tradition of activism in the Bay Area will be celebrated through a special cross-generational conversation on Saturday Feb. 4 at the First Presbyterian Church in Berkeley between UC Santa Cruz professor and Free Speech Movement co leader Bettina Aptheker and Occupy Oakland activist Myriah Sierra. 

The two women, who are set apart by discipline, generation and cause while still deeply connected through their respective places in the living history of Bay Area activism, will come together as part of the afternoon keynote presentation at the Social Justice Symposium (SJS).  

In light of the recent and ongoing successes made by the Occupy movement, this year’s symposium will offer a unique opportunity to stand on the historical foundation that Aptheker represents, as activists will come together to seek an answer to the age old reocurring question that plagues virtually every movement: “what’s next?”. 

Anyone interested in attending the Social Justice Symposium can register for free at http://socialwelfare.berkeley.edu/sjs 


Lance Dwyer is a resident of Berkeley and Masters of Social Welfare Student at UC Berkeley.

New: Occupy Oakland: Are We Being Childish?

By Osha Neumann
Tuesday January 31, 2012 - 01:09:00 PM

“The Bay Area Occupy Movement has got to stop using Oakland as their playground,” said Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, speaking at a press conference Saturday evening after a day of demonstrations called by Occupy Oakland that saw approximately 400 arrests, multiple injuries, and numerous confrontations with police. She ticked off the damage that had been done when a group of protesters broke into City Hall, overturning a scale model of the building, vandalizing a children's art exhibit, and burning an American flag. The next day in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, she returned to her talking point: "It's like a tantrum . . . They're treating us like a playground." 

For the first time since October when the Oakland police violently evicted the occupation from Frank Ogawa Plaza after renaming it in honor of Oscar Grant, Mayor Quan, her protesting days behind her, looked genuinely comfortable in the role of champion of law and order. It was as if by trashing City Hall, Occupy had done her a favor. She was the adult, genuinely concerned with the well-being of the city. We were children, playing childish games, oblivious to the serious real-world consequences of our actions. 

Occupy’s response to the mayor’s scolding was predictable. On KPFA the next day, Marie, speaking as a representative of the movement, was unapologetic. “The war in the streets is a visible manifestation of the invisible war on the poor . . . the violence of the capitalist system.” In a statement put out by the Occupy Oakland media committee, Cathy Jones, an attorney with the National Lawyers Guild, is quoted as saying: “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.” She agrees with Mayor Quan that those of us who were in the forefront in the confronting the police were "kids," but for her they were “heroic.” For Mayor Quan they were just bratty. 

Power always represents itself as adult, rationale and in control. The socially sanctioned definition of what it is to be adult includes the ability to be compliant with the self-repression required of an obedient and productive member of society. Since those of us in opposition have no desire to be obedient and less to be productive cogs in the machine, it's no wonder we fall into the role of defiant children. 

It may be inevitable that in the confrontation between radical movements and the systems they oppose there are echoes of the conflict between child and adult. We who march in the streets in defiance of the orders of the police have legitimate reason to rage against the system. It in no way negates the legitimacy of that rage to say that it may also have an "infantile" component.  

Occupy is not a monolith. On Saturday within the motley of demonstrators one group stood out. They were the "kids" with the black bandannas and hoodies. Some carried makeshift shields constructed from segments of plastic trash cans painted black with peace signs spray-painted in white on the front. Some carried impressive movable barricades composed of rectangular sheets of strong corrugated steel, screwed to wooden frames to which handles had been attached so that three or four people could hunker behind them and push them into lines of police. It was this group that was in the forefront in the attempt to pull down the chain-link fence around the Kaiser Convention Center. A takeover of that center had been announced as the goal of the demonstration. Thwarted in that effort, the group got into a confrontation with a line of police blocking Oak Street south of the intersection with 12th. This black block of anarchist youth tends to identify with insurrectionist anarchism. They are our militants who will be the first to challenge the police, and who proudly proclaim their disrespect for property rights. I imagine that for them the rest of us appear as somewhat compromised and a bit timid, for we are unwilling to go as far as they in our commitment to the revolution. Here something of the dynamic between child and adult reemerges as a political division within the movement. We who do not come to demonstrations dressed in black become the model of a not quite legitimate "maturity;" the purest revolutionary energies are represented by those who reject this maturity, as a fraud -- the heroic kids. 

Jean Quan's insinuates that we act like children. I say “we”, old as I am, because the black bloc is part of us, we cannot disown them. Infuriating as her charge may be, I think it contains something worth looking at. Her version of being grown-up is compromised. If to be a grownup means to live forever within the confines of the system, let us all be Peter Pans. But in our righteous rejection of her version of adulthood there lies a danger. The danger is that without being aware of it, we are unable truly to imagine winning; that we remain heroic "kids," endlessly reenacting a drama in which we are abused by the authorities. (It might be worthwhile looking at whether we get a masochistic pleasure in being fucked over by them.) 

At 7:37 PM on Saturday, I was relaxing at home when I got a text message from the Occupy Oakland alert system: "People have broken into City Hall. Standoff with police. Support needed.” I got into my car and drove downtown. By the time I arrived, the police had surrounded the building. I walked in an unguarded side door and caught a glimpse of a hallway strewn with overturned wastebaskets before a squad of police arrived and demanded that I leave. 

Outside in the plaza people were milling about. I overheard someone say that the tires of a Channel 5 television truck had been slashed and an unsuccessful effort had been made to pull the camera from the shoulder of a cameraman. An ambulance pulled up on 12th St., its lights flashing. Photographers swarmed around it as paramedics wheeled up a gurney and loaded an injured person into the back. I heard someone shout, “This is what the police did.” A newspaper the next day reported that the person on the gurney was a pregnant woman who'd been jabbed in the spleen by the police. I hope she does not lose her spleen. I hope she does not lose her child. If we are playing games, they are dangerous games. 

After the ambulance left, a woman dressed in black took a bullhorn, stood at the top of the steps at the edge of the plaza and shouted: "Mike check. Who wants to go on a Fuck the Police March?” A good part of the crowd ignored her, but a number of fists shot into the air, and there were shouts of approval. A group of about150 people started to move into the intersection at 14th and Telegraph. 

It is at this point that my attention was drawn to a boy who walked out into the street to join the group assembling for the march. He looked to be between eight and ten years old. His wore a gas mask that completely concealed his face and a metal helmet. From his belt hung a pair of leather gloves. The gas mask was odd, because there was only one police officer in the area and he was sitting nonchalantly on his motorcycle. None of the other demonstrators were wearing gas masks. The boy didn't swagger, nor did he show any signs of timidity. He was holding a small digital camera and taking photographs. I looked around to see whether there was an adult with him, but he appeared to be completely alone. What was he doing there? Where were his parents? Why was nobody paying any attention to him? 

My old man's heart went out to that boy. I was tired after marching, around half a day. I felt a bit intimidated by the unwillingness I sensed in the boy’s manner to be treated as a child. The Fuck the Police march was about to take off. I didn’t do what I wanted to do -- go over and talk to him. He was a child, trying to act like an adult, and in many ways pulling it off, while the adults around him were playing their dangerous games in the playground of the revolution. I say this not to disparage, as Jean Quan does, for all revolutions should among other things be play, release. And joy. 

Later, when I got home, I had another thought, tangentially related in my mind to the problem posed for me by the little boy and that big girl, Jean Quan, with her playground analogy. We need to solve the conundrum of how to be a movement that proclaims at the same time "Freedom now," and "Freedom not quite yet" We need to be a movement that, while remaining militant, demonstrates clearly it has overcome its self absorption, and can reach out to those who have lived a lot of life, suffered and managed against all odds to preserve some dignity, who have remained afloat in a sea of troubles, who care for the young, the old and the sick, for neighbors families and friends. On Saturday, I looked around as we marched through the streets. We were, a few gray hairs excepted, overwhelmingly young. We were primarily, though by no means exclusively white. We did not look much like a cross-section of the blighted neighborhoods of Oakland where an ever present struggle is taking place against poverty and hopelessness, where foreclosed houses stand empty, and the unemployed idle on the corner under the watchful eye of the police. 

I believe we need to be a movement against repression that can be self regulating. We need a movement that comes to its own definition of maturity. How could Saturday have been different if we were such a movement? The goal of taking over the Kaiser Center for community use was admirable, even brilliant, but in the end the point of what was billed as "Move-in day” got lost in meaningless rumbles with the police and the trashing of City Hall. What if, instead of a group within Occupy picking a target and then calling for a day of action, we had initiated a campaign to make that building available for community use? We could have gone out into the neighborhoods, held meetings, where we would discuss whether people liked the idea of occupying the building and what they would like to see happen in the space. With our numbers swelled and diversified by those we had organized, we could make demands to the mayor and the city council in the name of the people. We could legitimately say our movement represented the 99%. Those whom we had been organized would speak eloquently. If we succeeded and were given the space for the community, it would be a great victory. If, as is more likely, our eloquence fell on deaf ears, then we could have our day of action; we would bring thousands into the streets, we would march on the Center, we would not have to conceal the location of our target till the last moment. Perhaps during the night a clandestine group would have broken into the building. We would ring the building in great numbers. Now would be the time for militancy, for tearing down fences, for breaking through police lines, as well as perhaps for nonviolent sit-ins. 

This scenario might not be acceptable to insurrectionist anarchists who do not wish to make any demands on government. No doubt, it is open to criticism. I admit it's an example of backstreet movement driving. But I think if we could more effectively combine organizing and militancy it would be much more difficult to make the case that we were treating Oakland like our playground. Those who really treat this country like their playground are the1%. And somewhere in the mix of organizing and action that I imagine, I see a place for that little boy. I see a movement that would look after him, and gently tell him “It’s okay to take off your gas mask.” Come with us. 

Press Release: Oakland Council to Make Deeper Cuts to Vital City Services While Maintaining Enormous Funding Level for Largely Outside Agitator Police Force--Initial Occupy Research Survey Results Show that Occupy Served The People.

From Sarah Thomason and Yvonne Yen Liu, Occupy Oakland Research Working Group
Tuesday January 31, 2012 - 04:47:00 PM

As the Oakland City Council prepares to approve more layoffs and make even deeper cuts to already less-than minimal City services, Occupy Research released initial survey results that show the Occupy Movement provided food, healthcare, and other social services to Oakland residents in three months.

“Oakland is spending millions to prevent Occupy from providing vital services to Oakland residents when they need it most. These funds should be used to prevent further cuts to schools and social services, instead of being wasted on the violent repression of activists and community members who are trying to fill in the gaps where local government has failed.” said Sarah Thomason, member of Occupy Oakland Research Working Group and graduate student at University of California, Berkeley.

Over the past four years, Oakland has slashed $97 million from its General Purpose Fund, and $34.2 from other sources, cutting transitional kindergarten and adult education programs, reducing library services by one day each week, eliminating the senior shuttle and elderly nutrition programs, among other cuts, and laying off 277 City workers.

Initial survey results from Occupy Research show that: 

  • Three quarters of the respondents obtained food through Occupy Oakland
  • Almost half of Oakland’s Occupiers are Oakland residents
  • 95% of Occupy Oakland participants are from the Bay Area
  • Occupy Oakland’s medics have provided basic healthcare for almost a quarter of those surveyed
  • Occupy Oakland provides literacy programs, film-screenings, book discussion groups, and offers access to dozens of free workshops.

Meanwhile, the City continues to spend $155 million each year, 40% of the City’s general purpose fund, on Oakland’s true outside agitators, the Oakland Police Department. Most of this spending has no positive impact on the city’s local economy because 93% of Oakland’s police officers lived outside of the city.

As of January 23, 2012, the City spent an additional $3 million or $50,000 a week to have 100 officers--20% of the city’s total patrol force--on hand at Oscar Grant Plaza.

According to an email obtained by KTVU from Oakland Police Chief Jordan to Mayor Quan’s office, the crime rate in Oakland fell 19% in the last week of October when the Occupy movement was violently evicted from Oscar Grant Plaza and organizers abused by the police, including Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen. “Not sure how you want to share this good news,” wrote Jordan. “It may be counter to our statement that the Occupy movement is negatively impacting crime in Oakland.”

“Instead of spending millions to police the people, the city should be paying attention to the real outside agitators: the Oakland Police Department. Only 7% of OPD live in our city and yet they abuse our residents when we try to care for our community. It is the police and the interests of the 1% that the city officials should be concerned about,” said Yvonne Yen Liu, a policy researcher at a nonprofit think tank and a member of the Occupy Oakland Research Working Group. 

The Occupy Oakland Research Working Group is an independent research committee of volunteers dedicated to the self-determination of local communities. 

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this email only reflect those of the authors and are not official view of Occupy Oakland or the GA unless specifically indicated.

Response to Zelda Bronstein's The Tea Party, Planning and Democrac

By Jake Robinson, Concerned Citizens for Rutherford County, Murfreesboro, TN
Monday January 30, 2012 - 10:53:00 AM

I found her article to be balanced. I am conservative and yes, one of "those" tea party nut jobs...

Recently, my "google alerts" went off and warned me about our County's plan to finalize a two-year process (of public input and comment) for our 25 year Comprehensive Plan.

I researched and was appalled at the draconian (I know, it's my opinion) nature of the sweeping changes headed our way. I read the Comprehensive Plan (CP) thoroughly at least 3 times and gathered my wits and performed deep-research.

I think you are on to something when you challenge your government's agencies to prove where the growth numbers are coming from. 

I have a google alert set up for "Comprehensive Plans" and I get 8 to 10 articles everyday in my inbox from all across the country from small to large cities and counties all talking about revamping their CP. And every single one of them ALL claim a huge population growth the coming 2 decades or so and they describe it as a crisis to be dealt with. 

Just where are all these people coming from? We can't always have growth everywhere at once (other than organic .96% fertility growth as listed by the CIA's own estimate) Our county was no exception. We were told at the rate of growth we would "consume" almost the entire county's parcels with developed land... prime farmland would disappear and open space would be a thing of the past. When you viewed the consultant's "before and after" figures and graphic it would cause anyone to scream, "We have to do something about this!" 

Which is what many on the Planning Commission (11 members) and the Steering Committee (15 appointed members) did... 

One problem. After we formed a citizen-task force to challenge the notion of a new CP, one of our crack "codes-aware" members spotted a huge glaring math anomaly. I'll call him Rick. Rick worked in the biggest city in our county in the planning department for several years. Rick was the planning director for a part of those years and actually wrote the 1984 zoning ordinances that are in place today. Our county government quickly borrowed his work and implemented a similar version the same year. Rick went on to become a successful real estate developer and continues to do this along with running his HOA management business. Rick has plenty of zoning "street cred". 

Rick found the following glaring anomaly: 

In 2008, the CP claimed, our unincorporated area of the county (outside the four incorporated cities in our county) had "consumed" 50,100 acres up to this point. The population "consuming" this land was 83,633 - or 34% by population (of the entire county) of the rural area. By the year 2035 (the target of our CP) we would/should grow to have an extra 55,762 people that have moved there.  

Now, using a bit of logic - how much land should this group of people use up based on the numbers? Fewer people than what we have now so it would make sense that we would also consume a lower number of acres. 

The CP estimates we will "develop" 201,000 acres! How can this happen? How can we use three times more (an extra 150,000 acres) land than we used with MORE people? 

2008: 50,100 acres used by 83,633 people 

2035: 201,000 acres used by 55,762 people 

Here's how. Parsons-Brinckerhoff may have the answer. Does this company sound familiar? It should, as they are the consultants that raised the cost of California's high speed rail project from $40 Billion to $100 Billion! And recently a couple of high level execs departed - only Parsons and the Governor still think this is a good way to spend your taxpayer money. But wait, Parsons-Brinckerhoff says the numbers will still work - only if you triple the ridership estimates (which most experts say is untenable) 

Parsons-Brinckerhoff has a way of fudging numbers. They have also dug-in deep with Boston's Big Dig which we all know is a deep debacle... 

Back to our issue in Rutherford County, TN. Mark, the owner of an engineering firm that uses county zoning regs on a daily basis, who is a member of the Steering Committee for our CP noticed this large mathematical departure from common sense and asked the Parsons-Brinckerhoff employee how these numbers were ascertained.  

PB uses a computer modeling system called CommunityVIZ and this program can purportedly predict growth and present compelling graphics to tell the story. This employee explained that if you estimate a constant growth rate each year, let's say 4.5% (Our growth rate has been very strong over the last decade) and the computer wants to "consume" 4.5% of the land that should be developed in the next year, the computer will find the adjacent parcel (next to existing developed parcels) and 'grey" the next parcel out. However, if the amount of the parcel needed calculated at 4.5% were say, 5 acres, then CommunityVIZ would take the next parcel, no matter how big the parcel is... In other words, the next adjacent parcel may be 20 acres or even 100 acres... even if the amount needed was 5 acres the software program shows the full 100 acres "eaten up" and turned grey on the graphic. The program has no way to subdivide at the parcel level.  

This is absurd and reflects a built-in compounding error that will obviously showed skewed results... Perfect for the "we-have-to-stop-evil-sprawl-at-any-cost" type Sustainable Everything planner. Infact, the further away from the center of the county you go the bigger the parcels tend to be since they are out in rural farmland which exacerbates the problem even more. 

So, if I were in the Bay Area, I would pay very close attention to the numbers and challenge every mathematical relationship down to the formula used by the software.  

I also became suspicious when I set up my google alert on "Parsons-Brinckerhoff". I studied their website, as well as receive daily articles about PB and all of their projects making headlines around the world. First, they are a multi-national firm of 150+ offices on six continents and over 14,000 employees. I noticed they were working on this $40 Billion to $100 Billion rail project in California and they recently won the bid for a $50 Billion high-speed rail project in the UK.  

Why would such a large company with super lucrative rail projects want to take a measly $249,635 fee to craft our rinky-dink county Comprehensive Plan? 

Follow the small money to the big money. You see, my county is part of a 5-county Metropolitan Planning Organization - authorized by the federal government to spend Federal Funds on transportation projects - very similar to the MTC and their "board members". Ours is made up of 21 city and county mayors, the Tennessee Governor, and two other Org members... My county mayor was at the Chair when the 2010 "Master Transportation Plan 2035" was rolled out complete with Lite Rail, Rapid Bus Transit and 1,127 miles of bike path (which alone was estimated at $800 MM).  

So, now I am getting a bigger picture... The lite rail project is valued around $6 Billion for our smallish version compared to other big metro areas. However, if you cruise over to the US High Speed Rail Association's website and check out their "interactive map" of the nation's proposed high-speed rail network you will see two different lines running right through Nashville, TN.  

The St. Louis to Nashville (then running right through our county and Murfreesboro, TN) to Chattanooga then terminating in Atlanta, makes it clear to me that Parsons-Brinckerhoff is like a pedophile grooming a teenage boy - getting us ready to embrace "smart growth"+"sustainable development" complete with "High Density, Mixed Use, Walkable, Liveable, Less-Auto-Dependent Communities" complete with Complete Streets. Make sure you downzone most of our unincorporated rural areas from the current allowed density of 3 units/acre down to 1 unit/acre creating a 'no-man's land' that developers will not touch for love or money. Make sure you allow developers to "concentrate population growth' in "nodes" and in the "urban fringe zone" as to create enough population density to demonstrate to the DOT a favorable scenario for TOD (Transit-oriented Development). Hmmm, can you say "Lite Rail" then chase it with High Speed Billion Dollar Bullet Trains? 

I can. 

I is a vivid vision for the future of Parsons-Brinckerhoff. Get these podunk county planners to glom-on to the hip-planning trend of "Sustainable Everything" and our county can purchase a lottery ticket for $249,635 and play the numbers for that future payoff that only the big boys like PB can deliver... 

Any wonder why a small-time citizen like me speculates about losing my rights as an individual property owner? It's all in the plan... the comprehensive plan... 

[I have quickly organized a task force and have successfully delayed the final vote to make our plan gain the force of law. We are a long way from prevailing but everyday I discover more stench from the plan and we believe we will have a successful outcome for citizens who want transparency and common sense planning that is tailored to our way of life and not some International Planning Carpetbagger like Parsons-Brinckerhoff.] 

I can back every assertion I have made with URLs and my county's plan. I have documented every claim and can provide the proof. This issue is being played out all across America with varying degrees of scale. It is my intent to shed additional light on the subject so when planners and city/county fathers start hawking the awesome sauce of "smart growth" people - the citizens - take note and become aware of the threat they face. 

I have listed my youtube channel below that hosts a 70 minute formal presentation from our "Town Hall" meeting and a 7 minute "expose' video that sheds the light of truth on how devious our planning director can be... 

Join our FB page at:

We are fighting the property rights-stripping trend of "Sustainable Development", "Smart Growth" and Agenda 21.

To learn more visit our Youtube Channel and view several videos on what we are facing:

New: 90% Smokefree is a Contradiction in Terms

By Carol Denney
Tuesday January 31, 2012 - 09:48:00 PM

90% Smokefree is a Contradiction in Terms, by Carol Denney 

Jaehak Yu's article in the Daily Californian covering a "smoking analysis" on the City Council agenda is more revealing that one might think. 

Two years ago an effort to protect people in multi-unit housing* from secondhand smoke was watered down to pointlessness in the name of compromise. 

Representatives of the Rent Stabilization Board insisted in the Subcommittee on Multi-Unit Housing and Tobacco that tobacco industry mythology well-known to be fallacious to health professionals and researchers be the basis for policy, reducing the proposed policy to the comic level of proposing smoking sections. 

Embarrassed health professionals abandoned the effort rather than make Berkeley the laughingstock of the public health community. When the smokefree housing effort was initiated recently, the Rent Stabilization Board was back in the mix. 

The irony is that Senator Padilla's California Senate Bill 332, which is now law, was designed to be educational for people like landlords and those on the Rent Stabilization Board who clearly don't realize that "80% smokefree" or "90% smokefree" slogans are contradictions in terms. Your air is either smokefree or it isn't; there is no safe dose of secondhand smoke. 

Berkeley residents need to watch closely as this "analysis" takes shape. The idea that Padilla's bill need Berkeley-specific refinements is cover for the fallacy that a waterfall of evictions follows smokefree housing regulations, a myth for which there is no basis in fact. 

If history is at all instructive, the current smokefree multi-unit housing effort will hit the same rocks it did in 2010 unless those without public health backgrounds realize that compromise, so useful in most political arenas, is not something one can do with an air contaminant so toxic that it does measurable damage within twenty minutes. 

Consider for a moment, whether you would take out a boat that was 80% or 90% leak-free. It may seem at first glance that you are safer in the latter, but in fact, either way, you're at the bottom of the bay. 

*(condos, apartments; places with shared walls and thus shared air)

Smart Growth: Another View

By Charles Siegel
Monday January 30, 2012 - 09:42:00 AM

In her two articles about regional planning for smart growth, Zelda Bronstein repeatedly claims that the planning is undemocratic. She sympathizes with Tea Party members who have disrupted planning meetings and who gave the biggest round of applause one evening to a Berkeley extremist who is well known for disrupting city meetings.  


She quotes with approval one Tea Party member who explained that she did not go to breakout sessions because "they’re going to do whatever they’re going to do, regardless of the public input" and other Tea-party members who held signs that said “ABAG/MTC don’t speak for me,” “This is a rigged meeting” and “We’re being railroaded.”  


She concludes that these regional agencies should make "future planning for our region, more accountable to the public at large." 


Yet she also writes: "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." 


In other words, regional agencies are planning for smart growth because they are following a law that was passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor. That sounds democratic to me: the law was passed by elected officials who are "accountable to the public at large." 


The Tea Party is a minority of the Republican Party and a small minority of the State of California. The Tea Party has outsized influence because it gets funding from the Koch Brothers and other fossil fuel interests. The Tea Party and its Berkeley supporters are not "accountable" to anyone and certainly do not represent "the public at large." When the legislature required regional planning agencies to consult with the public, they obviously did not intend for SB 375's smart-growth mandate to be nullified by a noisy, disruptive minority who are in favor of sprawl and who deny climate science.  


Democracy is not threatened by regional agencies that are following a law passed by the elected legislators of California. 


Democracy is threatened by extremists who disrupt public meetings and try to prevent government from functioning when it tries to carry out a law that they do not like. 


Charles Siegel

CEDAW Principles Becoming City of Berkeley Law

By Rita Maran
Monday January 30, 2012 - 09:37:00 AM

Here's rare good news, rare indeed these days, about a truly worthwhile piece of new legislation that's about to be born in the City of Berkeley. The City Council will give the final YES on women's human rights becoming law in Berkeley this Tuesday 31 January 2012, when it formally approves the passage into Berkeley law of the safeguards and protections of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). CEDAW-related legislation is already in force in the city across the Bay; San Francisco was the first city in the US to establish new law based on CEDAW principles, making Berkeley the second city in the US to be taking this historic step. 

What this new law will offer is a well-recognized and globally-respected set of enforceable guidelines already in force in 187 United Nations members countries that have ratified CEDAW. While the US has not yet ratified the treaty, despite great efforts over the years by Senator Barbara Boxer and then-Senator Joe Biden to bring the US to the CEDAW sign-up table in the Senate, the Berkeley Municipal Code will (to quote the Berkeley language) "promote equal access to and equity in health care, economic development, educational opportunities, and employment for women." (See Chapter 13.20 of the Berkeley Municipal Code; www.ci.berkeley.ca.gov). At least as important, the new law will also address the terrible "continuing and critical problem of violence against women." Making the new law actually bring about improvements to women's and girls' lives will take the combined efforts of a wide range of well-informed women's rights grass-roots activists, lawyers, faith groups, medical practitioners, social workers, and more. We are on the way in Berkeley! 

As United Nations Association-USA East Bay Vice President for Advocacy, and as a Commissioner on the Berkeley Peace & Justice Commission, I want to express my great appreciation for the efforts of Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Berkeley City Council Members and staff, Peace & Justice Commissioners, and countless others who have persevered for decades in pushing for women's human rights across the board. No applause, please. Just add your shoulder to the wheel alongside the shoulders of the many women already there.


THE PUBLIC EYE: Is Obama a Failed President?

By Bob Burnett
Friday February 03, 2012 - 09:47:00 AM

The outcome of the 2012 Presidential election will depend upon voters’ perception of the US economy and the jobs market. Republicans have labeled Obama a failed president claiming he could have done more to create jobs. In the GOP response to Obama’s State-of-the-Union, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels said, "The President did not cause the economic and fiscal crises that continue in America tonight. But he was elected on a promise to fix them, and he cannot claim that the last three years have made things anything but worse.” 

The Great Recession began in 2007, although most Americans didn’t notice until the fall of 2008. In his State-of-the-Union address President Obama recalled: “In the six months before I took office, we lost nearly 4 million jobs. And we lost another 4 million before our policies were in full effect.” He continued: “Those are the facts. But so are these: In the last 22 months, businesses have created more than 3 million jobs. Last year, they created the most jobs since 2005. American manufacturers are hiring again, creating jobs for the first time since the late 1990s.” 

There’s little dispute the economy is gaining strength. In the last quarter of 2011, the US Gross Domestic Product grew by an annualized rate of 2.8 percent. The good news is that we gained 200,000 jobs in December and the US has had 22 straight months of job increases. The bad news is that we are still down 6 million jobs from the peak pre-recession unemployment of 146 million. The unemployment rate has dipped to 8.5 percent and there are 13.1 million unemployed. (Another 8.1 million work part time and there are 945,000 discouraged workers.) 

In his State-of-the-Union address, President Obama spoke of an American economy “built to last” and suggested the US manufacturing sector will be reborn thereby creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs. That prediction is shared by the Boston Consulting Group in their recent report, “Made in America, Again.” 

Liberal economist Paul Krugman recently provided a more skeptical economic perspective, “…the state of the economy remains terrible. Three years after President Obama’s inauguration and two and a half years since the official end of the recession, unemployment remains painfully high. But there are reasons to think that we’re finally on the (slow) road to better times. And we wouldn’t be on that road if Mr. Obama had given in to Republican demands that he slash spending, or the Federal Reserve had given in to Republican demands that it tighten money.” 

On the other hand, Republicans paint the economy black, the color of Governor Daniels message. Ignoring the fact that employment fell under George Bush and then rose under Barack Obama, Daniels disparaged Obama’s job-creation efforts: “The late Steve Jobs - what a fitting name he had - created more of them than all those stimulus dollars the President borrowed and blew.” USA Today fact checked Daniels remarks: “Jobs at or for Apple pale in comparison to estimates for jobs created by the stimulus legislation… Under the stimulus, meanwhile, up to 3.6 million more persons were working than would have been the case without the law, at its peak in the third quarter of 2010.” 

In their zeal to brand Obama a failed president, Republicans don’t want to compare him to George W. Bush but rather to Ronald Reagan. James Pethokoukis, a columnist for the right-wing American Enterprise Institute, compared the Obama Recovery to the Reagan Recovery in the eighties and concluded, “The Obama Recovery stinks” because the economy isn’t improving fast enough to make up for years of lost growth. Liberal columnist Joe Weisenthal responded, “The conditions behind the Great Recession were far worse than anything Reagan inherited, and Obama has pulled off a recovery with less of a sustained growth in Federal Government spending.” 

If this level of economic analysis makes your eyes glaze over and prompts you to reach for your favorite beverage, welcome to the American electorate. Nonetheless, you’ll soon have to make a choice between Barack Obama and (probably) Mitt Romney. In the process you’ll be bombarded by ads with widely differing assessments of the economy and what the President did or didn’t do. Over and over Republicans will call Obama a failed President. 

When you encounter Republican propaganda, remember this: not only did Republican ideology cause the Great Recession, since then Republicans have done everything they could to thwart the US recovery. The GOP made the decision to block Obama on all fronts, betting that a failed economy would improve their chances in 2012. They haven’t been part of the solution but rather contributors to the problem. 

Given Republican treachery it’s a miracle the US economy shows any life. To the extent that it does, credit Barack Obama. He’s not a failed President; he’s succeeded despite perfidious Republican obstruction. 

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

ECLECTIC RANT: Collection Agency Picked On the Wrong Lou Correa

By Ralph E. Stone
Friday February 03, 2012 - 09:50:00 AM

Last year, California State Senator Lou Correa (D-Orange County) was sued for a $4,000 debt owed by an unrelated “Luis Correa,” and learned of the lawsuit only after his wages had been garnished. Sear's billing department had handed the original debt off to LVNV Funding LLC, a debt-collection clearinghouse, which in turn hired the Brachfield Law Group to collect the actual debt. Brachfield sent numerous letters to Luis Correa that went unanswered. The company then apparently decided to stick it to Lou Correa instead. The senator sent numerous letters to Sears and Brachfield explaining they had the wrong Correa. Those letters went unanswered, too. Then came the order to garnish the senator's wages. 

Senator Correa shared his horror story with his Senate seat mate Mark Leno, the San Francisco Democrat, who drafted Senate Bill 890, "The Fair Debt Buyers Act," aimed at helping those in the same predicament as Senator Correa. 

Collection agencies and their attorneys file hundreds of thousands of lawsuits every year in California, many of which are filed against debt-free individuals such as Senator Correia with no connection to the original creditor. Incredibly, these lawsuits rarely include the information needed to prove the claim is legitimate, because current law doesn’t require it. Consequently, innocent Californians wind up with a judgment on their record or have their wages garnished because they were sued for someone else’s debt. 

SB 890 was introduced by Senator Leno in the 2011-2012 session, which, among other things, would prohibit a debt buyer from making any written statement in an attempt to collect a consumer debt unless the debt buyer has valid evidence in the form of business records that the debt buyer is the sole owner of the specific debt at issue, the amount of the debt, and the name of the creditor at the time the debt was charged off. This is a commonsense reform that will protect Californians.  

As a volunteer for Consumer Action and ABC-TV Channel 7, 7 On Your Side consumer hotline, and as a former attorney for the Federal Trade Commission, I can attest that many complaints concern the abusive tactics by debt collectors, especially during the current downturn in the economy. In fact, In 2010, the FTC, which enforces the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) , received over 33,000 complaints alleging that debt collectors attempted to collect a debt that the consumer did not owe at all or was larger than the amount the consumer actually owed. These errors are not always due to honest mistakes by collectors. Instead, they too often are the conscious decision made by many debt buying companies to save money by not bothering to obtain the necessary documentation about the alleged debt. They then sign documents they haven't read and use fake signatures to provide phony verification when the legitimacy of a debt is challenged by consumers under the FDCPA. In this way, debt buyers can enhance their profits at the expense of many innocent consumers who are harassed or even endure frivolous lawsuits by collection attorneys. 


Creditors sell or assign debts to collection companies because they simply don't have the time or resources to hunt down all of their severely overdue accounts. Collection agencies have cheap labor and a streamlined system to pursue such accounts. If a collection agency is successful at collecting the money on the account, they usually keep a percentage of what is collected as payment for their services. 

Sometimes original creditors sell debts in large portfolios to collection agencies. Several of these companies, called Junk Debt Buyers (JDBs), are now being traded on Wall Street. The companies do not spend much money at all for these debts, sometimes paying cents on the dollar. Even if the debt is not a large debt, they often hire attorneys to send out mass form letters to debtors on the attorney's letterhead in hopes of collecting. Thus, even if they get a small percentage of the debtors to pay, profits can be very lucrative. 

SB 890 would introduce commonsense reforms that will protect all Californians, and level the playing field for responsible collection agencies. On January 31, 2012, the State Senate passed SB 890. SB 890 now goes to the Assembly.

SENIOR POWER: Good News from Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Vermont

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Friday February 03, 2012 - 10:00:00 AM


The state is proposing building two or three assisted living centers for aging prison inmates with medical problems as part of a new master plan for the Department of Correction. The 400-page Corrections Master Plan obtained by the Boston Herald also proposes barring federal prisoners from Massachusetts prisons by 2020, handing sexually dangerous inmates to the Department of Mental Health, and building regional women's jails to alleviate overcrowding at the main state women's prison in Framingham. 

New Jersey 

For years, researchers have reported that nursing home ownership status is one of the factors related to quality care. Studies show that nonprofits do a better job of caring for patients. It is also known that staff members’ feelings about their jobs can play a significant mediating role. Studies have shown that in commercially operated homes, for instance, the certified nursing assistants who provide the bulk of the hands-on care are less satisfied with their jobs than those in nonprofits. Directors of nursing in commercial homes are also less satisfied and more likely to be planning to leave. In general, such homes are associated with higher staff turnover. 

Nearly 900 Registered Nurses working in almost 300 skilled nursing facilities in New Jersey were surveyed. Several characteristics that contributed to the nurses’ job satisfaction were found: their ability to help set the facility’s policies, their sense of having supportive managers, their feeling that they had adequate resources. The study showed that R.N.’s working in nonprofit nursing homes were significantly more satisfied with their jobs. 

New York 

Seniors across New York City breathed a sigh of relief to learn that Governor Andrew Cuomo did not propose a cut to Title XX funding that would have closed 105 senior centers, depriving 10,000 seniors of their local senior center beginning in April, 2012. There would have been 2.5 million less meals provided to seniors annually. A massive letter writing campaign, led by the Council of Senior Centers and Services (CSCS) culminated in 16,642 letters from seniors - in English, Spanish and Chinese - urging Governor Cuomo not to propose cutting Title XX again. For a list of the 105 senior centers that would close, copies of the letters, Title XX fact sheet and other information, go to www.cscs-ny.org 


A study of older adults in Oregon identified mixtures of nutrients that seem to protect the brain, as well as other food ingredients that may worsen brain shrinkage and cognitive decline. People whose diets supplied them with an abundance of vitamins B, C, D, and E consistently scored better on tests of mental performance and showed less brain shrinkage than peers with lesser intake of those nutrients. Diets high in trans fats -- known to harm the heart and blood vessels -- stood out as posing the most significant risk for brain shrinkage and loss of mental agility. Unlike previous studies, which have relied on questionnaires to estimate nutrient intake, the Oregon researchers directly measured levels in the blood, making evidence stronger, although not as definitive as a controlled clinical trial. Researchers at Oregon Health Sciences University and Oregon State University enlisted 104 of the women and men who had volunteered for the Oregon Brain Aging Study that began in 1989. Their average age was 87. All completed a battery of tests of memory and thinking skills, and 42 volunteers also had MRI scans to measure their brain volume.

Two nutrient patterns appeared to promote brain health: The BCDE pattern high in vitamins and antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables, and an omega-3 pattern high in the fatty acids found in fish. But the effect of omega-3 was only significant on one of the six tests of brain function after researchers took into account differences in blood pressure and depression, big risk factors for cognitive decline. The lack of a strong effect fits with a 2010 clinical trial in which fish oil supplements failed to slow the advance of Alzheimer's disease.
The B,C,D, E diet 


Good food sources 

Thiamin (B1) 

Whole grain cereals, legumes, nuts, lean pork, yeast 

Riboflavin (B2) 

Milk, eggs, nuts, fish, chicken, broccoli, spinach 

Folate (B9) 

Green leafy vegetables, citrus fruit juices, legumes 

Vitamin B12 

Shellfish, fish, lean beef, chicken, eggs, milk 

Vitamin C 

Citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, sweet peppers, broccoli 

Vitamin D 

Salmon, sardines, mackerel, eggs, milk 

Vitamin E 

Olive and other vegetable oils, nuts, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, avocados 


Various alternatives to assisted living and nursing homes that allow people to age-in- place, or at least age-in-place longer have been touted-- co-housing, shared housing, villages, Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs). The approaches and the economics vary, but the goals of independence and interdependence, which are not necessarily contradictory in old age, are much the same. People want community, but they also want privacy. Most try to maintain their own households for as long as they can.  

Volunteering and increased social interaction are known preventions that mean better health. A Montpelier, Vermont city program called the Reach Service Exchange Network began operation in the fall of 2010, powered by a grant of $1 million from the federal Administration on Aging. The network functions as a time bank. Montpelier residents of all ages join for $25. and get access to a site listing requests and offers: driving, pet care, reading aloud, help with grocery shopping, computer tutoring sessions, etc. All members provide services to the network. People of any age or level of ability can participate and contribute. Half of the 200 local people who have joined Reach are age 58+. The staff runs criminal background and sex-offense checks on each member and reviews the motor vehicle records of anyone who has volunteered to drive.  

As a group, Reach members currently contribute 300 hours of services each month. A member, for instance, has arranged to have another member vacuum and dust her apartment each week, which takes about 2 hours. Another lives nearby and shows up to shovel snow, often before dawn of her neighbor, who, in exchange, operates the Reach Network’s information table at the farmers’ market summer weekends and works at the guided tour desk at the restored state Capitol building Helping might earn hours used to get child care. 

But when the federal grant ends after 3 years, Montpelier keep Reach faces the same challenges as many elder care alternatives, including the much-touted village movement: It needs to raise money, if only for office space, Web site maintenance and at least a skeleton staff. And it needs to keep bringing in new members, including those who are younger and able-bodied. Its goal, in this small city of 7,500, is to attract 600 members who provide a collective 1,000 hours of service each month. 

Many of these experiments can keep older members in their homes when they need driving and dog-walking. As they age, a high proportion will eventually need help with the more basic activities of daily living — bathing, dressing, using a toilet. Few of these housing or community-building efforts are equipped to offer long-term care.  


California NEWS 

California is making sufficient headway in reducing numbers in overcrowded that the end of federal receivership "appears to be in sight.” But to get California prisons back under state control, the state will have to provide a credible plan by the end of April for tackling the other major problem in the prison system: An aging inmate population. A Human Rights Watch report issued in January, "Old Behind Bars: The Aging Prison Population in the United States" by Human Rights Watch, puts the California situation in national perspective. In 1990, California state prisoners age 55+ were a manageable 2.1 percent of the prison population. In 2009, they were 7.1 percent – taking up 38 percent of prison medical beds. By 2019, the state expects older prisoners to be 15 percent of the prison population. California either has to find a way to house frail, ill people behind bars – or review sentencing and release policies to figure out how reduce the growing population of older prisoners without risking public safety. In addition to normal prison security costs, the state has to deal with the ailments of the old – mobility impairments, hearing and vision loss, dementia, illnesses that are chronic, disabling and terminal. 

Pharmacists responsible for reviewing the medication of patients in California nursing homes routinely allowed inappropriate and potentially lethal prescriptions of antipsychotic medications, and failed to correct other potentially dangerous drug irregularities, according to recent state investigations. In 18 of 32 investigations conducted in California nursing homes between May 2010 and June 2011, pharmacists failed to red-flag cases in which residents were inappropriately prescribed powerful antipsychotic medications. They also overlooked or approved cases in which medications were prescribed at questionable levels or in unsafe combinations that could put patients at risk of seizures, accidents or even death, according to the public health department.  

Materials related to a new UC, B course, “Journalism for Social Change: Policy, Journalism & Child Welfare,” point out disparagingly that “The Federal Government currently spends $7.00 on the elderly for every $1.00 it spends on children.” 

Michael Parenti’s Page One “Free-Market Medicine—A Personal Account” (Berkeley Daily Planet, Friday, January 27, 2012) should be required reading for anyone who anticipates hospitalization and or surgery (and they can differ!), and for everyone age 65+. So few people recognize and acknowledge his experiences, that such articles should be compiled and widely distributed. \ 


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.  

Current-March 30, 2012. “Berkeley Women Vote: Celebrating California Suffrage 1911-2011.” An Exhibit at the Berkeley History Center, 1931 Center Street. 510-848-0181. 

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, thers 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. 

Tuesday, Feb. 7. 1 P.M. Mastick Book Club. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. Book Club members will review Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand: A Novel by Helen Simonson. 510-747-7506. See also March 6. 

Tuesday, Feb. 7. 1 P.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST). Join Marilyn Ababio and Dorothy Ridley, representatives, for a presentation on POLST. POLST is a form that spells out the medical treatment you desire during the end of your life. Topics to be addressed include: What does POLST do?; Who should have POLST?; Is POLST different from an Advance Health Care Directive?; Who can help me fill out a POLST form?; What do I do with my POLST form?; What if I want to change my POLST form?; as well as a question and answer period. 510-747-7506.  

Tuesdays, Feb. 8-April 25. 9 – 10:30 A.M. and Wednesdays, Feb. 8-April 25. 9-10:30 A.M. . Yoga. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. Benefits include stress reduction and relaxation. Each 12-week session is $48. Preregistration and payment is required. Contact the Mastick Office. 

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. 10:30 A.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. New Member Orientation & YOU! is a must if you are new to Alameda, recently retired, or expecting your parents for an extended visit! This A gided-tour to introduce you to the Center, an information packet outlining the various activities, programs, and services, and a coupon to enjoy a complimentary lunch provided by Bay Area Community Services (BACS)! Make a reservation. 510-747-7506. 

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

Saturday, Feb. 11. 12 Noon. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. Letter “L” for Love, Luck, or Lucky @ Love! Celebrate Valentine’s Day and try your luck at Mastick’s weekly fundraising Bingo game. Bingo participants will play a special game, the “Letter L” with the opportunity to win $50. Participants are encouraged to take part in the Valentine’s Day Table Decorating Contest. This program is sponsored by the Mastick Senior Center Advisory Board and Bingo Committee. 510-747-7506. 


Mondays, Feb. 13 and 27. 9:30-11:30 A.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. FREE—U.S. Foreign Policy. Roger Baer, Volunteer Instructor, will review the United State’srelationship with other nations of the world. Topics include:isolation, involvement, containment, nation building and humanitarian intervention, and more. Sign up. Call 510-747-7506. 

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.  

Tuesday, Feb. 14. 1-2:30 P.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. Multimedia Art Exhibit refreshments and Reception for artists exhibiting their works created in Mastick Senior Center classes (e.g., stained glass, creative writing, drawing, painting, ceramics, beaded jewelry design, graphic arts, etc.). In the Mastick Lobby through May 1. 510-747-7506. 

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. 1 P.M. . Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. Travel Opportunities Abound…Learn More., preview upcoming Extended Travel opportunities. At this time, we will also be gathering YOUR input for 2013 travel destinations. 510-747-7506. 

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. 

Friday, Feb. 17. 9:30-11:30 A.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. Creating Your Personal Learning Network. Join Mike McMahon, Volunteer, Learn to use the Internet and tools like Twitter. With the rise of social media tools like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, individuals can now create virtual learning classes on any topic of their choosing. Sign up. 510-747-7506. 

Tuesday, Feb. 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. 

Tuesday, Feb. 21. 12:30 P.M. San Francisco Gray Panthers General Meeting. Fireside Room, Unitarian Center, 1187 Franklin St. (at Geary). # 38 (not 38L) bus. 

Tuesday, Feb. 21. 1 P.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. Overview of Medicare Coverage and Options. A representative from the Health Insurance Counseling Advocacy Program (HICAP) will provide an overview of Medicare coverage and options including the Medicare Program (eligibility, costs, benefits, and recent changes); Medicare Supplement Plans (Medigap), Medical Advantage Plans and Medi-Cal; and provide information on Medicare’s Prescription Drug benefit. To attend this presentation, sign up in the office or call 510-747-7506. See also Feb. 28. 

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. 

Wednesday, Feb. 22. 1:30 P.M. Berkeley-East Bay Gray Panthers. North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst, corner MLK. 510-981-5190. Note: Gray Panthers Berkeley office is now located in the Center for Independent Living (CIL) building on Telegraph (between Dwight and Parker), 2539 Telegraph Ave, Suite B, Berkeley, CA 94704. Phone: 510-548-9696. 

Thursday, Feb. 23. 1:30 P.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. Music Appreciation Class. Join William Sturm, Volunteer Instructor, for a piano recital and discussion about “The Classical Romantic: Johannes Brahms.” Register in the Mastick Office or call 747-7506. Free. 

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

Friday, Feb. 24. 12:15 – 1 P.M. Chamber Music in C Major. Noon concert. Music Dept. event. Hertz Concert Hall: Mozart: String Quintet No. 3 in C major, K.515. Michael Hwang, Michaela Nachtigall, violins. Sally Jang, Melissa Panlasigui, violas. Cindy Hickox, cello. Beethoven: String Quartet in C major, op. 59 no. 3. Vivian Hou, Jason Wu, violins. Marissa Sakoda, viola. Michael Tan, cello. Tickets not required. 510-642-4864. 

Tuesday, Feb. 28. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. Low Income Assistance. A representative from the Health Insurance Counseling Advocacy Program (HICAP) will provide an overview on getting help with health care costs including the Medicare program, Medi-Cal, SSI, Medicare Savings Programs, and Low Income Subsidy (extra help) for prescription drugs. The eligibility and application process will be reviewed. To attend this presentation, sign up in the office or call 510-747-7506. 

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. 

Tuesday, March 6. 1 P.M. Mastick Book Club. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave. , Alameda. Book Club members will review House Rules by Jodi Picoult. 510-747-7506. 

Wednesday, March 7. 12:15-1 P.M. University Wind Ensemble: 59th Annual Free Noon Concert Series. Hertz Concert Hall. 510-642-4864. 

Wednesdays, March 7 and 14. 9 A.M. – 1 P.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave. , Alameda. AARP Driver Safety Program. Specifically designed for individuals 50 and older, this eight-hour course is taught in two, four-hour sessions over a two-day period. Preregistration required; cst is $12 per person for AARP members and $14 per person for non-AARP members. Registration is payable by check ONLY made payable to AARP. Sign up in the Mastick Office. 510-747-7506. 

Tuesday, March 13. 1:30 P.M. . Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. The America’s Cup: Racing the Wind. Douglas Borchert, J.D., SBC, underwriting counsel, columnist, will present “The America’s Cup: Racing the Wind.” The story of the America's Cup begins in the mid-19th century with the family of Colonel John Stevens and an invitation to the Crystal Palace Exhibition in London. Mr. Borchert will pick up the story from there and outline the fascinating history of the event. The San Francisco Bay will serve as the beautiful amphitheater for the 2013 pursuit of the Cup. Sign up in the Mastick Office or call 510-747-7506. This program is sponsored by the Mastick Senior Center Advisory Board. 

Wednesday, March 14. 12:15-1 P.M. University Baroque Ensemble: 59th Annual Free Noon Concert Series. Hertz Concert Hall. 510-642-4864. 

Wednesday, March 21. 12:15 – 1 P.M. Noon concert, UC, B. Music Department. Hertz Concert Hall. UC Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, David Milnes, director. Weber: Bassoon Concerto, Drew Gascon, soloist. Debussy: Nocturnes. Tickets not required. 510-642-4864. 

Friday, March 23. 12:15-1 P.M. Bustan Quartet. Free Noon Concert Series. Lecture/demonstration: Co-sponsored event: Highlights: Hertz Concert Hall. Visiting Israeli group demonstrates their work in crafting new means of musical expression from diverse resources. Tickets not required. 510-642-4864.  

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. 

Current-March 30. “Berkeley Women Vote: Celebrating California Suffrage 1911-2011.” An Exhibit at the Berkeley History Center, 1931 Center Street. 510-848-0181. 






WILD NEIGHBORS: Bird Atlases Lost and Found

By Joe Eaton
Friday February 03, 2012 - 09:59:00 AM

When the Alameda County Breeding Bird Atlas was published late last year, I wondered in print if anyone had undertaken, or was planning to undertake, a comparable project for San Francisco. It turns out that a San Francisco census was in fact completed some time ago, but the results have never been published. Thanks to a reliable source, I’ve seen the digital draft version. 

The data was collected in 1991 and 1992. A total of 103 avian species were documented, with 84 (81.6 percent) confirmed as breeding, 9 (8.7 percent) probable, and 10 (9.7 percent) possible. The mourning dove was the most widely distributed bird, followed closely by Anna’s hummingbird, American robin, and brown-headed cowbird. 

Since the city and county of San Francisco includes the Farallones Islands, the atlas covers such species as Leach’s and ashy storm-petrels, tufted puffin, Cassin’s and rhinoceros auklets, and common murre. San Francisco is also home to one of the Bay Area’s few coastal bank swallow colonies, the closest being the one at Ano Neuvo State Preserve in San Mateo County. Most of the state’s remaining colonies are along the Sacramento River. 

The compilers noted some interesting (in some cases ominous) trends. The sad story of the California quail, the state and city bird, is well known; they’ve almost been extirpated from San Francisco. Olive-sided flycatcher, Bewick’s wren, wrentit, and Hutton’s and warbling vireos were also declining. Common ravens were found in 55 percent of the atlas blocks; their distribution is almost certainly wider now. 

The draft also includes useful summaries of San Francisco’s ecological history (or historical ecology), plants, non-avian wildlife, natural communities, climate, geology, and geography. Before there was a city, there were grizzly bears, black bears, and mountain lions, and sea otters in the Bay. 

It would be good to have all this information available in print, even if the bird data is a little elderly. The Contra Costa and Alameda atlases both use survey data from the 1990s. I hope the San Francisco project has not been entirely abandoned. 

As it stands now, eleven California counties—Humboldt, Sonoma, Marin, Napa, Contra Costa, Alameda, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Monterey, Orange, and San Diego—have atlases in print. San Mateo’s is pretty basic—occurrence maps and raw observation data, but no text or illustrations. Santa Clara’s is telephone-book-sized. Some have outstanding art: Keith Hansen for Marin (and a couple of others), Dana Gardner for Contra Costa, Hans Peeters for Alameda, Sophie Webb for Napa. 

I have to admit that San Diego’s is the most impressive of the lot. It’s a hardback, with good photographs (by Tony Mercieca and others) of most of the covered species. And its coverage extends to wintering as well as breeding birds, which means that many species have two distribution maps. Winter coverage would be easier; you just have to see or hear the bird, as opposed to working through all the layers of certainty of nesting that the breeding survey requires. The winter reports also incorporate data from San Diego County’s six Christmas Bird Counts. 

A really splendid product, in short. Kudos to Philip Unitt, the project manager and lead author, and to the publisher, the San Diego Natural History Museum. An interactive version is available through Google Earth. 

When the Alameda County Breeding Bird Atlas was published late last year, I wondered in print if anyone had undertaken, or was planning to undertake, a comparable project for San Francisco. It turns out that a San Francisco census was in fact completed some time ago, but the results have never been published. Thanks to a reliable source, I’ve seen the digital draft version. 

The data was collected in 1991 and 1992. A total of 103 avian species were documented, with 84 (81.6 percent) confirmed as breeding, 9 (8.7 percent) probable, and 10 (9.7 percent) possible. The mourning dove was the most widely distributed bird, followed closely by Anna’s hummingbird, American robin, and brown-headed cowbird. 

Since the city and county of San Francisco includes the Farallones Islands, the atlas covers such species as Leach’s and ashy storm-petrels, tufted puffin, Cassin’s and rhinoceros auklets, and common murre. San Francisco is also home to one of the Bay Area’s few coastal bank swallow colonies, the closest being the one at Ano Neuvo State Preserve in San Mateo County. Most of the state’s remaining colonies are along the Sacramento River. 

The compilers noted some interesting (in some cases ominous) trends. The sad story of the California quail, the state and city bird, is well known; they’ve almost been extirpated from San Francisco. Olive-sided flycatcher, Bewick’s wren, wrentit, and Hutton’s and warbling vireos were also declining. Common ravens were found in 55 percent of the atlas blocks; their distribution is almost certainly wider now. 

The draft also includes useful summaries of San Francisco’s ecological history (or historical ecology), plants, non-avian wildlife, natural communities, climate, geology, and geography. Before there was a city, there were grizzly bears, black bears, and mountain lions, and sea otters in the Bay. 

It would be good to have all this information available in print, even if the bird data is a little elderly. The Contra Costa and Alameda atlases both use survey data from the 1990s. I hope the San Francisco project has not been entirely abandoned. 

As it stands now, eleven California counties—Humboldt, Sonoma, Marin, Napa, Contra Costa, Alameda, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Monterey, Orange, and San Diego—have atlases in print. San Mateo’s is pretty basic—occurrence maps and raw observation data, but no text or illustrations. Santa Clara’s is telephone-book-sized. Some have outstanding art: Keith Hansen for Marin (and a couple of others), Dana Gardner for Contra Costa, Hans Peeters for Alameda, Sophie Webb for Napa. 

I have to admit that San Diego’s is the most impressive of the lot. It’s a hardback, with good photographs (by Tony Mercieca and others) of most of the covered species. And its coverage extends to wintering as well as breeding birds, which means that many species have two distribution maps. Winter coverage would be easier; you just have to see or hear the bird, as opposed to working through all the layers of certainty of nesting that the breeding survey requires. The winter reports also incorporate data from San Diego County’s six Christmas Bird Counts. 

A really splendid product, in short. Kudos to Philip Unitt, the project manager and lead author, and to the publisher, the San Diego Natural History Museum. An interactive version is available through Google Earth.

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

By Dorothy Bryant
Friday February 03, 2012 - 11:34:00 AM

I give myself credit for having seen clearly in a number of important situations, in itself not so difficult . . . it is less a question of an exalted or shrewd intelligence than of good sense, goodwill, and a certain kind of courage to rise above the pressures of one’s environment . . . A French essayist has said, ”What is terrible when you seek the truth, is that you find it.” You find it, and then you are no longer free to follow the biases of your personal circle, or to accept fashionable clichés.Memoirs of a Revolutionary, Victor Serge (1890-1947)  

Serge took serious risks, in dangerous times and places. He paid a high price for speaking out and rejecting fashionable political clichés. He was imprisoned, tortured, ostracized: threatened by both the right wing and the left. 

Courageous people like him, directly or indirectly, make it possible for us to speak freely, honestly, and safely. We owe it to such heroes, wherever and whenever they lived, and we owe it to ourselves, to see through lies and speak the truth regardless of the comparatively feeble pressures of our environment. 










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

New: EATS, SHOOTS 'N" LEAVES: Berkeley Landlord Bankrolls Anti-Obama Ads

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday January 31, 2012 - 11:17:00 PM

UC Berkeley students who live in the Gaia Building, the Fine Arts Building, or any of the other properties that make Sam Zell the city’s largest private landlord may be happy to learn that some pennies of their rent checks are going to Karl Rove. 

Yep, Zell, who owns Equity Residential, the corporate owner of the Berkeley apartments, as well as the newspaper publishing Tribune Company, gave Rove’s American Crossroads super PAC a cool hundred grand last year, according to two reporters from one of Rove’s own papers, the Los Angeles Times

And that doesn’t include whatever else he might have given its nonprofit affiliate Crossroads GPS, which doesn’t even have to report any of its funding sources, write Melanie Mason and Tom Hamburger. 

More from the Washington Post‘s Dan Eggen and T.W. Farnam: 

American Crossroads, a fundraising juggernaut founded with the help of GOP political guru Karl Rove, reported raising $51 million in 2011 for its super PAC and nonprofit arms, with a goal of raising about $200 million more by November
As the Post reporters note, “American Crossroads has spent $10 million on television ads against the president.” 

But Berkeley renters should be getting used to Zell bankrolling election campaigns off their rent checks. After all, he spent a cool twenty-five grand on one Berkeley election less than two years ago, as the Berkeley Daily Planet reported at the time. 

Richard Brenneman is a former Berkeley Daily Planet staff reporter. His blog can be found at richardbrenneman.wordpress.com

Dispatches From The Edge:Israel’s War On Democracy (and why Americans should care)

By Conn Hallinan
Tuesday January 31, 2012 - 08:00:00 PM

From its birth more than 60 years ago, Israel has always presented itself as “an oasis of democracy in a sea of despotism,” an outpost of pluralism surrounded by tyranny. While that equality never fully applied to the country’s Arab citizens, Israel was, for the most part an open society. But today political rights are under siege by right-wing legislators, militant settlers, and a growing religious divide in the Israeli army, all of which threaten to silence internal opposition to the policies of the government of Benjamin Netanyahu. Since that may include a war with Iran—and the probable involvement of the U.S. in such a conflict—the move to stifle dissent should be a major concern for Americans. 

The U.S. media has reported on growing tensions between Israeli women and the ultra-orthodox Haredim over the latter’s demand for sexual segregation of schools, public transport, and public life. But while orthodox Jews spitting on eight-year old girls for being “immodestly dressed” has garnered the headlines, the most serious threats to democratic rights have gone largely unreported, including a host of proposed or enacted laws. Some of these include

*A law that allows Jewish communities to bar Arab families from living among them. Arabs make up about 20 percent of the population. 

*A law that makes it illegal to advocate an academic, cultural or economic boycott of Israel, including settler communities. 

*A law that would limit the power of the Supreme Court. 

*A law that bars any state institutions, including schools and theaters—from commemorating the “Nakba,” or “catastrophe,” the term Palestinians use to describe the loss of their lands in the 1948 war that established Israel. 

*A law that prohibits Palestinians from living with their Israeli spouses within Israel proper and denies them citizenship. 

*A law that drops Arabic as an official language. 

*A law that requires anyone obtaining a driver’s license to swear loyalty to the state. 

*A law that would limit the number of petitions non-governmental organizations, including peace and human rights groups, could file before the Supreme Court. 

*A law that forces human rights and peace groups to limit the money they can receive from abroad, and forces them to go through burdensome registration requirements. 

Tzipi Livni, former foreign secretary and head of the Kadima Party, told the Knesset that Arab states were “trying to become a democracy, while we—with these bills—are headed toward dictatorship.” 

Most of these laws are being pushed by Israel’s rightwing Likud and Yisreal Beiteinu parties, but the proposal to drop Arabic comes from the Kadima Party. Ram-rodding many of these laws are Lukid’s so-called “fantastic four”: Danny Danon, Yariv Levin, Tzipi Hotovely, and Ofir Akunis. 

“We are in the process of reducing freedom of speech and the freedom of association, and we are infringing on the right to equality, especially vis-à-vis the Israeli Arab,” Mordechai Kremnitizer, a professor of law and vice-president of the Israel Democracy Institute told the Financial Times. “We are also weakening all the elements in society that have the function of criticizing the governments, including the courts. 

Israeli society is filled with sharp divisions on everything from war with Iran to growing economic inequality. Israel has the highest poverty rate out of the 32-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and ranks twenty-fifth in health care investment. The poverty rate for Israeli Arabs is between 50 and 55 percent. 

Starting in the 1980s, Israel began dismantling its social safety net, a trend that Netanyahu sharply accelerated when he served as finance minister in 2003. While slashing money for housing, education, and transport, he cut taxes for the wealthy and corporations. 

Most of all, however, Israeli governments poured the nation’s wealth into colonizing the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights, where, according to Shir Hever of the Alternative Information Center based in Jerusalem, Israel has spent about $100 billion. A vast network of bypass roads, security zones, and walled settlements siphoned off money that could have gone for housing, education and transportation in Israel. Special tax rebates and rent subsidies for settlers added to that bill. Some 15 percent of the Israeli housing budget is used to support four percent of its population in the Occupied Territories. Add to that the 20 percent the military budget sucks up, and it seems increasingly clear that the settlement endeavor is no longer sustainable. 

Wealth disparity—a handful of families control 30 percent of Israel’s GDP—was partly behind last summer’s social explosion that at one point put some 450,000 people into the streets of Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem demanding reductions in rent and food prices. But so far, organizers of those massive demonstrations have avoided making the link between growing income inequality and Israel’s policies in the Occupied Territories. Many of these new laws are aimed at organizations that have been trying to do precisely that. 

There are other divisions as well. Israelis are split down the middle over whether to attack Iran—43 percent yes, 41 percent no—but 64 percent support the creation of a Middle East nuclear free zone, and 65 percent feel that neither Israel nor Iran should have nuclear weapons. Those are not exactly the home front sentiments that a government wants when it is contemplating going to war. 

Besides the avalanche of right-wing legislation coming out of the Knesset, Israel is increasingly at war with itself over the role of religion in daily life, a conflict that is playing out in one of Israel’s core institutions, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). 

Two years ago, soldiers of the Kfir Brigade, a unit deployed in the West Bank, unveiled banners declaring they would refuse orders to remove settlers. By international law, all settlements in the Occupied Territories are illegal, but Israel claims that only unregistered “outposts” are against the law and subject to removal. The soldiers held signs that read, “We will not expel Jews.” Six of them were arrested and spent 30 days in the stockade. 

The soldiers were graduates of army-sponsored “hesder yeshivas” that allow orthodox soldiers to divide their time between active service and Torah study. Settler rabbis rallied around the six and even provided money for some of the soldiers’ families. 

Writing in the progressive Jewish weekly, the Forward, Columnist J.J. Goldberg says that a “secret report” in 2008 warned that such “yeshiva graduates comprise 30 percent of the junior officer corps and rising. In a decade they will be the military’s senior commanders. If a peace agreement is not reached in 15 years or so, Israel may no long have an army willing to carry out its side.” 

A majority of Israelis support some kind of compromise to achieve a settlement with the Palestinians, but in the most recent set of talks, the Netanyahu government made it clear that Israel will not surrender any settlements, any part of Jerusalem, or the Jordan Valley. In essence, Palestinians would be forced to live in isolated enclaves surrounded by networks of restricted roads and over 120 settlements. The Netanyahu proposal not only violates numerous United Nations resolutions and international law, no Palestinian government that accepted such an offer would survive for long. 

But Israelis who protest an offer that is widely seen as little more than a way to kill the possibility of serious negotiations may find themselves treated in much the same way as Israel has dealt with its Arab citizens. 

Those who agitate against the current government may find themselves hit with the new libel law that no longer requires plaintiffs to prove they were damaged and increases awards six-fold. Bloggers, who lack institutional support, are particularly fearful of the new law. Organizations critical of the government that try to raise money from sources outside the country could face huge fines. 

According to Hagai El-Ad, director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, there is growing resistance within Israel to the attempt to silence critics, as well as pressure from abroad, including the American Jewish community. Even a pro-Netanyahu hawk like the Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman warns “the very democratic character of the state is being eroded.” That resistance has delayed some of the more odious proposals, but the “fantastic four” and their allies are pushing hard to get them on the books. 

Why should Americans care? Because if Netanyahu silences his domestic opponents, he will have carte blanche to do as he pleases. And if Tel Aviv attacks Iran, it will be very difficult for the U.S. to keep clear of it. For starters, the IDF will be firing U.S.-made cruise missiles, flying American-made F-15s, and dropping “made in the USA” bunker busters. With the exception of the monarchs from the Gulf states, no one in the Middle East—or most of the world—is going to give Washington a pass on this one. 

Does America need another war? If it doesn’t protest the assault on democracy in Israel, it may get one, whether it likes it or not. 

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

Arts & Events

Don't Miss This!

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Sunday February 05, 2012 - 05:16:00 PM

For the Groundhog Day faithful, recent mild weather has fostered a widespread expectation that Punxsutawney Phil would predict an early spring. He dashed the hope in seconds. But we in the Bay Area, with its moderate temperature, have no need to worry about frigid weather. And we're happy to offer several "heart-warming" activities in weeks to come. 

Bill Cosby, One Night Only, Saturday, Feb. 11 8:30 p.m. Paramount Theatre, Oakland, 1-800-745-3000. 

"On Grace," written and performed by Anna Deavere Smith, Feb. 17-18, 7:30 p.m. $50-$150. Grace Cathedral, S.F. (415) 392-4400. 

"Ghost Light," Tony Taccone, based on the historic assassination of Mayor George Moscone. Berkeley Rep. Theatre (510) 647-2949. 

"The Rat Pack," Musical Salute to Frank, Dean and Joey. Dinner Show, Friday, Feb. 24. Zio Fraedo's, 611 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill (925) 933-9091. 

"Forever Tango", Luis Bravo, Feb. 14-19, Marines' Memorial Theatre, S.F. (415) 771-6900. 

"Stabat Mater," Smuin Ballet. A response to the Sept. 11 attacks. Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. Feb. 22-26. (415) 556-5000. 

"Jubilate", A celebration in song. San Francisco Boys' Chorus, Sat. Feb. 11th, 5:30 and 7:30. Free admission. St. Dominic's Catholic Church, S.F. (415) 673-0430. 

"Shatner's World," (Star Trek star), a one-man force-of-nature; anecdotes, songs, jokes, etc. March 11, 7 p.m. Orpheum Theatre. (888-746-1799. 

"Blue/Orange, written by Joe Penhall), Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, 450 Post St., S.F. Feb. 8 - March 12. (415) 474-8200. 

2012 California Independent Film Festival. Eleven feature films, 23 short films, 7 documentaries. Feb. 10-16. The New Rheem Theatre, Moraga, www.Caiff. Org. 

Jackie Evancho, eleven year old soprano sensation. Monday, March 26th 7:30 p.m. Davies Symphony Hall (415) 392-4400. 

Marin Designers' Showcase. Bay Area designers create rooms benefitting the Contemporary Architecture of Villa Belvedere. Through Feb. 26, Daily lunch from 11:30 - 2: p.m. $20. (415) 479-5710. 

Tribal & Textile Arts, Fine Arts of Native Cultures, Feb. 10-12, Gala Preview Feb. 9th - 6- 9 P.M. Fort Mason Center Festival Pavilion, (415) 750-3518, 

"Victoria's Reel Blondes," Village Theatre in Danville. Feb. 24-26, March 2-4, 9-10. (925) 736-2858. 

Showman Craig Jessup will perform show tunes with romantic themes for Valentine's Day. Feb. 13-14, 8 p.m. Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson St. S.F. (415) 392-4400. 

"A Steady Rain," West Coast Premiere, "A gritty, rich, poetic and entirely gripping noir tale." Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley, Now through Feb. 26. (415) 388-5208. 

"Higher," by Carey Perloff, starring Concetta Tomei, who made her ACT debut 15 years ago, in previews. Through Feb. 12. American Conservatory Theatre. $10-$65. (415) 79-2228. 

"Becky Shaw," by Gina Gionfridda, directed by Amy Glazer. Through March 1 0th at S.F. Playhouse, 533 Sutter St. (415) 677-9596. 

Oops- have to go now -- it's time for the Super Bowl!

EYE FROM THE AISLE: Becky Shaw at SF Playhouse--a great excuse to cross the bridge.

By John A. McMullen II
Friday February 03, 2012 - 11:09:00 AM
Lauren English, Lee Dolson, Liz Sklar, Brian Robert Burns
Jessica Palopoli
Lauren English, Lee Dolson, Liz Sklar, Brian Robert Burns

It’s sort of annoying when you can’t criticize a play because it’s so good. A baker needs to bake, a critic needs to criticize. That noted, this stymied critic is regaled to remind you that, every so often, there is a reason to cross the bridge. Becky Shaw at SF Playhouse is a great excuse. 

It’s about bigger-than-life women and the men who love them. It may change your consciousness and clarify some ways of the world that we often witness but seldom recognize. 

Damaged people, a dead father, buried secrets, fragile women are all staples of drama back beyond Hamlet. Playwright Gina Gionfriddo took these themes and more in Becky Shaw and with a facility for truth, insight, and witty writing, fashioned a Pulitzer Prize finalist. Her dialogue is full of snipes and wisecracks which cleans the emotional palate so we can take another spoonful of bitterness. 

Damaged people in conflict make good plays. Her characters are distinct and their world view is markedly different, which attracts them to one another and which is a great source of conflict. 

It is a truism that broken, histrionic women whose alternating come-hither/get-away/save-me actions 

(which seem more instinct than strategy) always up the passion and attention of men.  

In the pre-curtain speech, artistic director Bill English said something important beyond, “Turn off your cell phones.” He called theatre an “empathy gym” where you come for an emotional work-out. In this cold, cutting world, where people beg on the streets after six million foreclosures and where assassination and torture are condoned, one has to wear rhino-hide or fall by the wayside. He reminded us that theatre is a place to go to reconnect with being human and work the compassion muscle. 

Then the play turned out to be about empathy, the search for it, and its rarity these days. 

We have two heroines: Suzanna and Becky. Both actresses are tall women and magnetically attractive; their stature highlights their importance in the play.  

Liz Sklar plays psychology grad student Suzanna who is torn between the “manner” to which she has been born, and the possibility of salvation through her idealistic, feminist, ultra-empathetic St. George of a husband Andrew (Lee Dolson) who is out to rescue her from the realist money-managing dragon of her brother-lover Max (Brian Robert Burns). Max is the adopted care-taker of the family and tries to heal them with infusions of reality. As part of his nature and part of his profession, Max has that credit-debit sheet perspective of the world which too often precludes compassion. 

These folks are harsh in the manner that the upper-classes seem to have a corner on. Their home-schooling in cutting remarks and psychological judo seems to insure victory in professional life and mutually assured destruction in their personal ones. Into their circle comes an upstart outsider with chops of her own. The title role is embodied by Lauren English who presents a vulnerable, tearful naïf in an inappropriately revealing dress beneath which may lurk a crocodile.  

The cast of five are all award-worthy. Amy Glazer’s direction makes their engagements hyper-real , full of the non-verbal grimaces, “looks,” and gestures we all use to communicate emotionally, but which are too seldom seen in theatre acting. The timing and rhythms of the repartee and beat changes are impeccable and evidence of a close collaboration between actor and director. 

The play is a little like a biting “Importance of Being Earnest” for a new age with those witty, quotable sayings that fill the play of Oscar Wilde. Lorri Holt, a premier Bay Area actress who created the lead female role in the original Angels in America, can now play mother, and with this vehicle she gets a lot of the good lines. For example, Ms. Holt dispenses this wonderful, cynical Gionfriddo insight and turn of phrase when advising daughter Suzanna, “Be careful about chasing after goodness. When it comes to men, goodness and incompetence often go hand-in-hand.”  

The lighting by Michael Oesch is an object lesson in how to light a small stage with little throw-distance. Everywhere the actors move, they are lit in an almost cinematic way. The look changes subtly from a hotel room to a living room to a café, and captures the luminosity of each separate venue. 

Bill English’s set moves the play along by mysteriously changing the dimensions of the stage in pure entre-scene black-outs so that the illusion is not broken.  

It’s in a small theater up on Sutter, and the walk up from the Powell Street BART offers a prelude with great street theatre vérité.  

BECKY SHAW by Gina Gionfriddo 

Directed by Amy Glazer 

At SF PLAYHOUSE through March 10 

533 Sutter, SF (Jean Shelton Theatre) 

www.sfplayhouse.com or (415) 677-9596 

Set by Bill English, Lighting by Michael Oesch, Sound by Steve Shoenbeck, Costumes by Miyuki Bierlien, Sound by Gregg Schilling 

With: Brian Robert Burns*, Lee Dolson, Lauren English*, Lorri Holt*, Liz Sklar* (*AEA)

Press Release: "Tax the Rich" Rally on Monday on Solano As Usual

By Harry Brill
Friday February 03, 2012 - 10:43:00 AM

Those of us who have been rallying Mondays are deeply troubled about how much inequality adversely effects our lives and the quality of life of the 99 percent generally. Bill Moyers, who has a wonderful way with words, expresses his concern: 

"If you get sick without health coverage, inequality matters. 

If you're the only bread winner, and out of work, inequality matters. 

If your local public library closes down and you can't afford to buy books on your own, inequality matters. 

If budget cuts mean your child has to pay to play on the school basketball team, or sing in the chorus, or march in the band, inequality matters. 

If you lose your job when you're about to retire, inequality matters. 

And if the financial system collapses and knocks the props from beneath your pension, inequality matters." 

We are building a growing movement to address that dreaded disease, inequality. The more of you who join us, the greater our clout. Please come and bring your friends and neighbors to our Monday 4:30pm rally near the top of Solano.  

And whether or not you can make it, also plan to attend our get together at 5:45pm, (Feb. 6) which will be held a half-block away at the Northbrae Community Church (Haver Hall), 941 The Alameda. Parking is available in the back as well as on the street, and both the front and back door will be open. Refreshments will be served.

Press Release: Clara Foltz, California’s First Woman Lawyer
Lecture by Prof. Barbara Babcock

From Linda Rosen, Berkeley Historical Society
Friday February 03, 2012 - 10:39:00 AM

On Sunday, February 5, at 2 pm, at the Berkeley History Center, 1931 Center Street, Barbara Babcock, Stanford Law Professor Emerita, will discuss Clara Foltz, the ground-breaking woman lawyer and subject of her biography, Woman Lawyer: The Trials of Clara Foltz. Deserted by her husband and needing to support her five children, Clara Shortridge Foltz became a path breaker. With the help of her fellow woman suffragists, she fought her way into the California Bar in 1878 and became the first woman to practice law in the state. She introduced the idea that indigent criminal defendants should have state provided lawyers and that convicted criminals should have the possibility of parole. She became the first female deputy district attorney in the United States. 

Foltz worked for women’s rights throughout her career, wrote the suffrage initiative, and was among the few pioneers who lived to cast a legal ballot in California in 1912. Though the suffrage achievement is generally thought to be a result of the progressive movement, Foltz’s life reveals that the foundation was laid much earlier. 

After the talk, attendees may tour the current exhibit, “Berkeley Women Vote: Celebrating California Suffrage 1911-2011.” Admission free; wheelchair accessible. Info: lwvbae.org and http://www.berkeleyhistoricalsociety.org/

Berkeley Women Vote Centennial Committee, the Berkeley Historical Society, the League of Women Voters of Berkeley, Albany, Emeryville, the American Association of University Women, and the Friends of the Berkeley Public Library, which make up Centennial Committee, are non-profit organizations. 

Berkeley Historical Society 

Veterans Memorial Building 

1931 Center Street, Berkeley 

Telephone (510) 848-0181 

Wheelchair Accessible 


EYE FROM THE AISLE: BODY AWARENESS at Aurora—tight, moving

By John A. McMullen II
Sunday February 05, 2012 - 05:07:00 PM
Jeri Lynn Cohen, Amy Resnick, Patrick Russell
Jeri Lynn Cohen, Amy Resnick, Patrick Russell

A peculiarity of contemporary drama is that we often start out disliking all the characters. In good modern drama, as the play progresses and we live their life and struggle with their struggles, our opinion changes. 

BODY AWARENESS by Annie Baker at the Aurora takes us on that kind of theatrical journey. 

The circumstances are particularly apt for Berkeley: two lesbians, one a psychology professor, the other a high school teacher, one Jewish (Joyce played by Jeri Lynn Cohen), one not (Phyllis played by Amy Resnick), live together in a college town with Joyce’s troubled 21-year-old son by a previous marriage. We join them the week of the symposium/festival, headed by the professor, for “Eating Disorder Week” positively renamed “Body Awareness.” Into their garden comes another man to sow more discord: a guest artist Frank (Howard Swain) who specializes in nude photographs of women of all ages. 

The set by Kent Dorsey, with its push-button transformation and cozy apartment, is charming, and the conversion is fascinating to watch. But I do wish that when actors have to strike the set in low light that they would do it in character rather than switch to stage-hand mode; I would welcome the extra few minutes of running time so that they didn’t disrupt my imagination-bubble with that abrupt change and scurrying around to strike the props. Mr. Dorsey also designed the lighting which blends well with the environs he’s created; his choices help change tone and place and come from a talented professional. 

Playwright Baker invokes the idea of “labeling theory”— that if you call a kid bad or retarded that he will behave as labeled. The son seems to have Asberger’s—lacks empathy and social skills, doesn’t like routines disturbed, preoccupied with one subject about which he talks incessantly, etc.—but he refuses to get tested, which is a continuous battle. He works at McDonald’s and reads the Oxford English Dictionary obsessively. So maybe his psychologist step-mom’s diagnosis is correct. 

Patrick Russell as Jared the afflicted son of Joyce, rages and blathers and is mesmerizingly repellent in the role. Amy Resnick shines, particularly in the hyper-accurate portrayal of the role as moderator of the Symposium/Festival which serves as both ostinado for the play and portal to her character. Jeri Lynn Cohen is Joyce, the nurturer, maybe bisexual, fascinated with the work of the photographer, if not an outright attraction to him. Howard Swain hits the right tenor as Frank, a new-agey bachelor who gives women the chance to express themselves by disrobing for his camera. 

Joyce’s attraction to Frank comes from his touchy-feely testosterone as well as the fact—which send Phyllis up the wall— that included in his collection on exhibition at this feminist festival are portraits of naked pre-pubescent females . 

Joy Carlin’s direction keeps the tension restrained where, in another director’s hands, it could have become a soap-opera. Her direction is unseen, which is a high compliment. 

Baker writes tightly—the play runs 90 minutes, no intermission—and she even takes the chance of introducing a brand new, serious conflict during the denouement that provides the resolution. 

The conversations are real in a way that maybe you sort of have to live in Berkeley or Vermont to have witnessed. The screaming rages are disturbingly accurate. And at the end, all these “ironic” characters become real and vicarious friends—even if you don’t see yourself spending a lot of time with them. 


BODY AWARENESS by Annie Baker 

Directed by Joy Carlin** 

Aurora Theatre Company 2081 Addison St. Berkeley,  


Set and light design by Kent Dorsey***, properties by Mia Baxter and Seren Helday, costume design by Christine Dougherty, stage Management by Corrie Bennett* 

WITH: Patrick Russell*, Amy Resnick*, Jeri Lynn Cohen*, Howard Swain* 

Members: *Actors Equity Association, ** Stage Directors and Choreographers Society , ***United Scenic Artists 


John A. McMullen II is a member of SDC, BATCC, and ATCA. EJ Dunne edits. 

EYE FROM THE AISLE: Theater Review:ARMS AND THE MAN at Center Rep—uneven but enjoyable.

By John A. McMullen II
Monday February 06, 2012 - 10:05:00 AM
Maggie Mason and Gabriel Marin
Maggie Mason and Gabriel Marin

Nancy Carlin has directed an enjoyable but uneven ARMS AND THE MAN by G. B. Shaw at Center Rep in Walnut Creek. 

Her cast is excellent, even if the ages of the primaries are slippery. Craig Marker looks too young to play Bluntschli, and Maggie Mason can’t pass for the script-directed 17-23. 

It begins well, with the proper Shavian pace. You can’t take your time with Shaw; the plays are long and speaking quickly emulates the pace of Shaw’s mind and expression. 

But upon the “Chocolate Cream Soldier’s entrance over the balcony and through milady’s window, histrionics prevail for the remainder of the first act.  

There is a foray into mockery of the old “elocution” form of acting replete with “acting nobly and speaking in a thrilling voice.” At one point it devolved into slapstick and melodramatic comic posing illuminated by footlights.  

Perhaps it was a flight of fancy on the director’s part, too tempting to resist, perhaps it was not trusting GBS to carry the day; who knows. But it left this critic in a grump and a funk muttering invective in the interval as he queued up to buy the ice cream cups the pretty young lasses sell down at the foot of the stage in the yummy tradition of the London theatres. 

The second act was spot-on in pace and style, and the social equality and democracy points were allowed to be emphasized. When ARMS was written, much of Europe had monarchies. 

There is an honest attempt through song and costume to put it into Bulgaria 1885, but the uniforms and some of madam’s apparel by Victoria Livingston-Hall also are overblown comic renditions of a the puffed-up military of a proud country subservient to another Empire. 

The set by Kelly Tighe is lovely with Pointillist mountains that change color with the sun, and a starry sky full of Matisse patterns of hearts, arrows, and asterisk stars. 

All speak in the upper class accent except Mr. Marker as Bluntschi, the “Chocolate Cream Soldier” who is a Swiss professional mercenary, , as is proper. His accent is that flat American of our cinema heroes since Bluntschli is of the merchant class, multitalented in management and strategy, and a no-nonsense fellow in the midst of frippery-filled romantics.  

Lisa Anne Porter makes more of a part for herself than Mrs. Catherine Petkoff usually has by her pauses and polished comic delivery, but she betrays the format by employing that flat, pragmatic accent—it gets laughs, and she is very good, but she milks it for all its worth. 

We forgive Ms. Mason’s ingénue Raina if the age is disingenuous for her sweet looks and slight sibilance draw us to her and entrance all the vicarious Bluntschlis in the audience. She is sharp of wit, and can deliver lines at near to 200 wpm, with a comic energy that makes us want to woo her.  

Michael Rae Wisely, always one of my favorites, knows just how far to go with the befuddled general, and we grin at all the inventiveness of his stage business. 

Kendra Oeberhauser is the other female lead, the maid who lacks the soul of a servant and aspires to more. Her “Columbina” is by turns envious, jealous, steamy, pouting, and all those things that would make an officer and gentleman give in to her.  

The show is stolen by Gabriel Marin as Sergius, the romantic, self-obsessed, “Capitano” behind a mustachio of a mask, who convinces us by his investment that any “thrilling” overplaying is no act. 

He is a joy to watch. 

So if you go, stay for the second act. It trumps the first, and is a perfect example of how to do Shaw. 


ARMS AND THE MAN by George Bernard Shaw 

Center REPertory Company through February 25 

Lesher Center for the Arts 

Margaret Lesher Theatre 

1601 Civic Drive 

Walnut Creek 

http://centerrep.org/season1112/armsandtheman.php 925-943-7469 

Directed by Nancy Carlin*+ / Scenic Design by Kelly Tighe / Lighting Design by Kurt Landisman^ 

Costume Design by Victoria Livingston-Hall / Sound Design by Lyle Barrere / Props by Christopher Kesel 

Stage Manager Gregg Rehrig* 

WITH: Lisa Anne Porter* as Catherine; Maggie Mason as Raina; Kendra Lee Oberhauser as Louka; Craig Marker*as Bluntschli; Andy Ryan Gardner as The Officer; Aaron Murphy as Nicola; Michael Ray Wisely* as Petkoff ; Gabriel Marin* as Sergius  


*Member, Actors Equity Association +Member, Stage Directors and Choreographers Society ^Member, United Scenic Artists 

John McMullen is a member of Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle, American Theatre Critics Assoc, and Stage Directors and CHoreogrpahers Society. EJ Dunne edits.

THEATER PREVIEW: Shakespeare at Stimson come-back with CABARET at Fort Mason

By John A. McMullen II
Sunday February 05, 2012 - 05:13:00 PM
Corinne Proctor as Sally Bowles
Clint Graves
Corinne Proctor as Sally Bowles

Three years ago, Shakespeare at Stimson closed. They sent a letter to their audience asking if they wanted more, and there was a resounding, “Yes!” 

They have come back as Independent Cabaret Productions with Jeffrey Trotter as artistic director, and, appropriately, have opened Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret at Fort Mason in SF

Directed by Hector Correa with choreography by Cera Byer, it stars Corinne Proctor who was a Critics’ Circle nominee for Den of Thieves at SF Playhouse and Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at East Bay’s Pinole Community Players. 

Diego Emir Garcia provides musical direction; this is his third collaboration with Director Correa, and Rose Ann Raphael designed the set. Don Cate designed the lighting, and Tammy Berlin the costuming.  

Cabaret is about life in “decadent” Berlin just as Hitler was coming to power. It’s centered in a lurid cabaret/prostitution nightspot called the Kit Kat Club. Well known songs are “Maybe This Time,” “Life is a Cabaret,” “Mein Herr,” and “Don’t Tell Mama.”  

With music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and book by Joe Masteroff, it swept the Tony Awards for a musical for 1966 with Best musical, original score, featured actor (Joel Grey), actress, direction (Hal Prince), choreography, scenic design, and costume design. 

It was based on a book “Berlin Diaries” and the story “Sally Bowles” written by Christopher Isherwood . From this came John Van Druten's 1951 play “I Am a Camera.” Its success green-lighted a 1972 film starring Liza Minelli with choreography by Bob Fosse; it was nominated for best film but lost to “The Godfather.” 

This production is an adult one, with Jeremy Vik as a Mephistophelian Emcee.  

The production features many actors familiar to East Bay audiences: Brieanne Martin has just been seen with Verismo Opera in Carmen and Rigoletto as well as Hunyak in Chicago (CCCT). Lisa Tateosian has appeared with Actors Ensemble of Berkeley and Douglas Morrison Theatre. Tina Rutsch was featured in the Full Monty at Pinole Community Players and in Gypsy at CCCT. 

Max Thorne as last seen at Altarena Playhouse’s stage production of The Rocky HorrorPicture Show in Alameda 

Others in the cast are: Ellen Brooks as boarding house owner Fraulein Schneider; Malcolm Rodgers as Schultz, the Jewish greengrocer; Eric O’Kelly as Ernst, the glad-handing smuggler turned Nazi; Ivan Hardin as Cliff, the bisexual author (the Michael York role in the movie); Tina Rutsch as Fraulein Kost, the nasty boarding house hooker, and Kit Kat Girls and Boys Brie Martin, Bryn Laux, Lisa Tateosian, Valerie Casparian, and Max Thorne. Wayne Roadie stage manages, and the Kit Kat Club Orchestra is comprised of Diego Emir Garcia. Amy Katrina Bryan, Alex Garcia, Noah Riccardi  

CABARET plays in Building B third floor at Fort Mason in the Marina District of San Francisco through February 19 on Thu, Fri, Sat at 8pm, and Sun at 7 pm, with a 2pm matinee on Sun Feb 10.  

Click on http://cabaretsf.wordpress.com or call 415-381-1638

Belle de jour Explores the Dark Side of Deneuve

By Justin DeFreitas
Monday January 30, 2012 - 10:02:00 AM
Directors Luis Buñuel directs the coachman on the proper technique for ravishing Catherine Deneuve in <i>Belle de jour</i>.
Directors Luis Buñuel directs the coachman on the proper technique for ravishing Catherine Deneuve in Belle de jour.

The collaborations of director Luis Buñuel and screen writer Jean-Claude Carriere examine and satirize the dark underbelly of bourgeoisie society. Their films are dark, a bit twisted and sometimes discomfiting. But Buñuel and Carriere do not judge these characters. They are presented from a certain distance; we watch them, we gain a certain understanding of them, but we are not made to either identify with them nor be repulsed by them. Buñuel and Carriere merely present them as they are and allow the audience to come to their own conclusions.  

Their work took on a particularly dark and personal tone with Belle de jour, recently released by Criterion on DVD and Blu-Ray. The film stars Catherine Deneuve as the frigid wife of a young surgeon. They are happy together, but they keep separate beds even a year after their marriage. Gradually we learn that the young bride, Severine, is anything but frigid, and in fact has an active fantasy life. It’s just that conventional lovemaking within a marriage is not sufficient to arouse her libido. And this is where the filmmakers' familiar themes come in.  

Belle de jour is about fetishes, appearances, fantasy and restraint. Severine is overwhelmed by fantasies of being taken by force, of being humiliated, abused and denigrated in strange rituals. Flashbacks suggest that these desires stem from incidents in her childhood, but the fetishes themselves are never explained — wisely, for nothing robs a fetish of its allure than an attempt at explanation.  

Severine’s fetishes, which are often subtly infused into the fantasy sequences, seem to bring her to a frenzy. Like a Pavlovian dog, she harkens to the sounds of ringing of bells and mewing cats. And in her dreams she is objectified and treated cruelly to a soundtrack of primal noises.  

Her desires lead her to take a job as a prostitute, arriving at the whorehouse each day dressed in black, as though in mourning for the life she is leaving behind, and returning home each day by 5 to her unsuspecting husband.  

One scene involves a man entering the bordello with a little black box. We do not see what is in it, but it is enough to cause one prostitute to refuse to do his bidding. Severine accepts, however, enticed by whatever fetish he carries in the box. And his excited ringing of a tiny bell only seals the deal, coaxing an excited smile from her.  

Deneuve is often discussed as simply a great beauty, but she is far more than that. Her acting in Belle de jour is subtle and effective. She is able to consistently demonstrate the duality of Severine’s existence: the trepidation, shame and fear combined with passion and desire, as well as the bliss of masochistic fantasies fulfilled.  

The film’s conclusion is ambiguous and probably has a number of valid interpretations. At first glance the final 20 minutes seem like a 1930s American film under the Production Code, with a wild woman bringing ruin to herself and to those she loves because of her lurid behavior. But another interpretation takes the film in quite another direction. Severine has her fetish: to be defiled, abused and humiliated. Hussan, a friend of Severine’s husband, has his fetish: to defile his friend’s seemingly virtuous young bride. The gangster Severine becomes entangled with has his fetish: to live the life and die the death of an outlaw, disrupting the social order and going out in a hail of gunfire. And the husband can be said to have a fetish as well: a virtuous wife by day, a sexual animal by night.  

The ending, with Hussan revealing Severine’s secret to her paralyzed and unresponsive husband, provides a bit of satisfaction for everyone, for Hussan gets the chance to expose Severine’s tawdry dark side, thereby defiling her in the eyes of her husband; the gangster gets his tragic, romantic death in the streets; and Severine ends up sitting quietly under the mysterious gaze of her husband, exposed and vulnerable, just as in her fantasies — a “slut,” a “whore,” waiting for the “firm hand” to administer punishment. And the husband now has his virtuous and apologetic wife, but a new and improved version, for this one just might share his bed.  

A final dream sequence concludes the film, with the husband forgiving his wife for her actions. Is this a vision of the future, or is it a new kind of fantasy for Severine, one in which her husband finally grants her the forgiveness and understanding her guilty conscience craves? Or perhaps it’s simply a new twist on the old fantasies, with Buñuel and Carriere taking one last swipe at the bourgeoisie as they infuse the dream once again with the ringing of bells and the mewing of cats — everything a good society girl needs to keep her happy.  

Criterion's new edition comes with many extra feature, including a new interview with Jean-Claude Carriere. www.criterion.com 



AROUND AND ABOUT THEATER: Virago Stages 'A Taste of Honey'

By Ken Bullock
Tuesday January 31, 2012 - 09:54:00 PM

Virago Theatre Co—based in Alameda, and featuring a predominately East Bay cast—opens its production of Shelagh Delaney's 1959 hit comedy of asingle mother and her teenage daughter moving into a working class slum in Northern England, this weekend at the Thick House on Potrero Hill in San Francisco. 

Directed by Laura Lundy-Paine, the cast includes David Biche, Michaela Greeley, Bridgette Lundy-Paine, Brian Martin and Daniel Redmond. 

Preview this Thursday; Thursdays through Saturdays at 8, Sundays at 2, through February 25. Thick House, 1695-18th Street (near Carolina), Potrero Hill, san Francisco. $5-$20. (510) 865-6237; viragotheatre.org

Theater Review: Tom Stoppard's 'Arcadia'—Actors Ensemble of Berkeley at Live Oak Theater

By Ken Bullock
Tuesday January 31, 2012 - 09:51:00 PM
L-R Aaron Lindstrom as Valentine Coverly, Jody Christian as Hannah Jarvis, Alona Bach as Thomasina Coverly, Paul Stout as Septimus Hodge, and Rachel Ferensowicz as Chloe Coverly.
Anna Kaminska
L-R Aaron Lindstrom as Valentine Coverly, Jody Christian as Hannah Jarvis, Alona Bach as Thomasina Coverly, Paul Stout as Septimus Hodge, and Rachel Ferensowicz as Chloe Coverly.

A young early 19th century girl, learning about thermodynamics, asking her tutor the meaning of "carnal embrace" ... He replies it's about hugging a side of beef ... A garden in the new "scenic" style, sublime, with a hermitage—but where's the hermit? ... And almost 200 years later, speculation, conjecture—and a costume ball—on the former inhabitants and visitors of manor and garden, which may have included Lord Byron, and their thoughts, their secret loves—maybe a fatal duel over one of those loves ...

Tom Stoppard's 'Arcadia' is on the boards at Live Oak Theater, and looks very good there, the set, props and costuming a triumph for Actors Ensemble of Berkeley. 

The play's a game, almost like tennis, but closer to ping-pong, played back and forth over the net of time, two households over a century apart, between the same walls. 

A thematic form of "Button, button, who's got the button" more than it is an intellectual sport, as its P. R. proclaims, 'Arcadia' does play off the waning of the Enlightenment, with its exultation of sensibility and nature, into the more willful thickets of Romanticism, contrasted with modern life—"civilization and its discontents," to lift Freud's title—with its constant attempts to aggrandize the past. 

Robert Estes has directed a game cast that throws itself into the fun of the thing, as well as the atmosphere—or atmospheres—of both worlds, which eventually link in a kind of exchange program. More than anything, the fun is the key, not the meaning of the game—not nearly so much ... 

The cast includes Alona Bach, Al Badger, Jody Christian, Barry Eitel, Rachel Ferensowicz, Christopher Kelly, Aaron Lindstrom, Shifra Pride Raffel, Jerome Solberg (also the producer, alternating with Greg Estes as Brice), Anthony Sorrels-Jager (alternating with Cameron Dodd as Augustus & Gus), Paul Stout and Matthew Surrence. Lively Alona Bach and resilient Jody Christian turn in particularly good performances in the foreground, with good character role underpinning by Al Badger and Matthew Surrence in support. Paul Stout has a good extended turn as Septimus Hodge, the tutor. 

The crew, more than 20, include Hilary Seeley (costumes), Alecks Rundell (lighting and lobby displays), Jerome Solberg and Gunnar Eilam (set design), Robert Herrera-Lopez (sound design/original music) and Carolyn Day and Corrine Proctor (dramaturgy). The construction crew—Bob Gudmundsson, Justin Scott, Adam Silva, Hugh Carlson and Vicki Siegal—deserve mention; much was created from scratch. The staging has been truly a collective effort. 

'Arcadia' flits back and forth between centuries for over two hours, with changing moods, but a constant comedic air. There's a constant argument in the dialogue, between the centuries and the different personalities and styles in each. Sometimes this gets obscured, partly because of the players' accents, which can be a drain on energy and attention. But the dialogue and its meaning-to-be-sorted-out is also where Jody Christian shines. The rapport between Paul Stout and Alona Bach is charming. Shifra Pride Raffel cuts a figure as Lady Croom, and Chloe Coverly is pixie to Christopher Kelly's windbag. 

(Besides the crowds attending 'Arcadia,' AE's been very busy: the Winter Staged Reading Series moves on next Tuesday to Stoppard's 'The Real Thing,' followed by Pirandello's masterpiece 'Henry IV' on Valentine's Day; and Improv at AE, a new series, features The Streetlight People and Five Deadly Improvisers this Sunday at 7, plus Chinese zither music at intermission.) 

'Arcadia' Fridays and Saturdays at 8 through February 18, and on Sunday February 12 at 2, at Live Oak Theater, Live Oak Park, 1301 Shattuck at Berryman, just a few blocks north of the Gourmet Ghetto. $12-$15. 649-5999; aeofberkeley.org