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Bates: Let’s Tax Gasoline and Natural Gas in Berkeley (News Analysis)

By Zelda Bronstein
Tuesday April 03, 2012 - 08:10:00 PM

The city of Berkeley is falling apart. Deferred maintenance on the town’s deteriorating infrastructure—streets, public pools, street lighting, parks, recreation facilities and community centers, storm drains, seismic retrofits of city buildings—has led to $523 million worth of identified, unfunded projects. Between March 14-19, likely Berkeley voters were polled over the phone about possible bond measures for the November ballot whose passage would go toward paying for the repairs. On April 3, the council viewed the sobering results : none of the proposed measures came close to the 67% required to pass new property taxes. Grasping for alternative sources of revenue, Mayor Tom Bates proposed that a follow-up poll ask about a “green tax” on petroleum and a “carbon fee” on natural gas in Berkeley. 

The city paid Lake Research Partners $24,000 to poll 430 voters in a 17-minute survey. Though a majority of the respondents acknowledged the need for infrastructure improvements, and 68% rated both streets and storm drains as important or extremely important, the highest approval rate was only 59% for a $25 million bond for storm drains and water quality. A parcel tax that would raise $1 million for homeless services received a 58% yes response. 

Lake Associates’ David Mermin told the council that if tax measures face well-funded opposition, they generally lose. If there’s no opposition, “you can lift the yes vote” to the 67% threshold needed for approval. “It’s hard to lift,” he said, “but it’s possible”—if you’re starting at 62 or 63%. “That’s a lift that can be done.” But if you’re starting at 56 or 57%, reaching 67% is “pretty tough.” He also emphasized that undecided voters “tend to break toward a no vote in a bond election.” 

Mermin also explained that in the interest of maximum predictability, the sample of likely voters was weighted toward the hills (41%), homeowners (62%) and people who’ve lived in Berkeley ten years or longer (76%)—percentages that are not representative of the city’s entire voting population. In response to a question from Councilmember Wengraf, he said that the hills are defined as Districts 5, 6 and 8. 

With one exception, the council appeared to write off new property taxes. “The property tax is poison,” said Mayor Bates. “People have had it.” The exception was Councilmember Arreguin, who said that when the council had discussed the questions for the survey, he had asked that people be polled about adding 2% tax on the gross receipts of owners of 5 or more residential rental units. He wondered why that question hadn’t made it onto the survey and requested that it be included in the follow-up poll planned for May. Councilmember Wengraf asked the city attorney to see if such a levy would count as income tax, which, she said, would be illegal. 

Mayor Bates and Councilmember Wozniak had a different idea: assess a “green tax” on gasoline purchased in Berkeley and “a carbon fee” on Berkeleyans’ natural gas use. Revenues from the former would go to street repairs, from the latter to “climate action activities,” in particular watershed services. When Councilmember Capitelli noted that a sales tax is regressive, the mayor agreed: “It is regressive.” He went on to say, however, that rent, food and medicine are not taxed. Bates also said that if 67% of respondents in the follow-up survey were agreeable to the gasoline tax of ¼ cent, he would talk to other cities about imposing the same; otherwise, everyone would leave Berkeley to buy gasoline. 

Councilmember Moore headed in another direction. Citing the reduced size of the Berkeley police force and “the need for more police officers,” he said he’d “like to see a question on the follow-up poll about money that would go to hire more patrol officers.” 

City staff and the pollster will return to the council on May 1 with sets of questions to be reviewed for the follow-up survey. Should the council decide to place a bond or tax on the November ballot, it will provide direction on ballot language on June 12, review the final ballot measure language on July 10 and finalize the measures on July 17. 

The April 3 discussion could have been billed “Reaping What We’ve Sowed.” For years, the mayor and council have lavishly praised each other and the succession of city managers and budget directors for their collective “prudence” in managing Berkeley finances. After the council has approved each annual budget, Bates, now in the tenth year of his mayoralty, has triumphantly announced that once again, the city has balanced its budget. 

But California law requires every city in the state to balance its budget. The question isn’t whether you balanced yours, but what you had to do to balance it. At least, that used to be the question. Now, with Vallejo as the national poster child for municipal bankruptcy, with Stockton apparently about to follow suit and with many other cities grappling with multi-million dollar shortfalls, the question may be changing. 

The main reason Berkeley isn’t in Vallejo’s and Stockton’s shoes—yet—has been its citizens’ habitual willingness to tax themselves. There was a hiccup in November 2004, when Berkeley voters said no to four city tax measures. But that was the exception, as a glance at any property tax statement for a Berkeley parcel purchased after 1978 (the year Prop. 13 passed) will demonstrate. 

If the results of the March phone survey indicated that the party is over, Tuesday’s discussion suggested that our electeds are not prepared for that eventuality. Mayor Bates opened the meeting by saying, “This is unacceptable.” What neither he nor any of his colleagues on the dais also said is that their inordinate generosity to city staff is a major source of Berkeley’s fiscal woes. 

Before asking likely voters if they’re willing to pay higher taxes to fund more Berkeley police officers, the pollsters conducting the follow-up survey in May should inform respondents that in fiscal year 2012, Berkeley police officers’ average salary was $125,652; that their benefits (pension, health insurance plus workers comp) averaged 74% of their salary or $92,242; and that their total compensation averaged $217,894 a year. 

Indeed, before posing any questions at all about new taxes, the pollsters should tell respondents that last November former city Manager Phil Kamlarz retired with an annual pension of $250,000, joining 74 other city of Berkeley retirees who are getting pensions over $100,000. 

Also they should state that according to data obtained by the San Jose Mercury, in 2010 over a quarter of city of Berkeley employees—380 out of 1,529—had a base salary over $100,000; and that when cash payments, including overtime, are added, 30% of city staff landed in the $100 K club—and that’s not counting their fringe benefits. Mention, too, that personnel costs account for 77% of city expenses. 

Then and only then, ask those voters if they’re willing to pay higher city taxes. 







Berkeley Murder Suspect Arraigned, Police Seeking Additional Suspects

By Jeff Shuttleworth
Tuesday April 03, 2012 - 07:06:00 PM

A suspect in the shooting death of a 24-year-old man in Berkeley on Thursday night was arraigned on a murder charge in Alameda County Superior Court today. 

Randall Oscar Alston, an 18-year-old Berkeley man, was arrested about half an hour after the fatal shooting of Devin Lee Whitmire of Berkeley in the 2800 block of Sacramento Street at about 7:35 p.m. Thursday. 

Berkeley police spokeswoman Sgt. Mary Kusmiss said investigators believe there are additional suspects in the case and there is a $17,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of all the suspects in the case. 

Officer Shan Johnson said in a probable cause statement filed in court that Whitmire and his brother were on the sidewalk outside Bob's Liquors and Deli at Sacramento and Oregon streets when they were approached by Alston and a second suspect. 

Whitmire's brother knew Alston and acknowledged Alston and Alston responded by acknowledging Whitmire's brother, according to Johnson. 

But Whitmire's brother then saw Alston and the second suspect approach Whitmire and saw the second suspect displaying a black handgun, Johnson said. 

The brother yelled a warning to Whitmire and they both began to flee but the brother then heard "numerous gunshots" and discovered that Whitmire had been struck by the gunshots, Johnson said. 

About 30 minutes after the shooting, Whitmire's brother spotted Alston and "physically assaulted him," according to Johnson. 

Berkeley police who were nearby and spotted the assault then detained the brother and Alston, he said. 

The brother identified Alston and said he was one of the people responsible for shooting Whitmire, Johnson said. 

Whitmire was taken to Highland Hospital in Oakland, where he was pronounced dead. 

Whitmire's death is the third homicide in Berkeley so far this year.

Peter Douglas, Thomas Jefferson to the Coast

By Janet Bridgers, Earth Alert, www.earthalert.org
Thursday April 05, 2012 - 02:42:00 PM

Peter Douglas, who died on Sunday after a long battle with cancer, can be considered the Thomas Jefferson of the coastal protection movement. 

The first similarity was his youth compared to the age of his peers. Douglas was hired in 1969 by then-California Assemblyman Alan Sieroty straight out of UCLA law school. On his second day of work for Sieroty, he began drafting coastal legislation. 

Sieroty introduced the legislation three years in a row in the Assembly, where it passed. But the Coastal Alliance, the coalition of organizations statewide supporting it, was never able to overcome Senate opposition. In 1972, the Coastal Alliance decided to present the legislation as an initiative. Douglas redrafted it. Prop. 20 made it to the ballot on the strength of all-volunteer signature gatherers. 

Douglas participated in the Prop. 20 campaign. Once the Coastal Commission was launched, he became a legislative liaison. He worked for passage by the legislature in 1976 of the Coastal Act, which superseded the initial four-year phase of implementation of coastal protection established by passage of Prop. 20. 

In 1985, Douglas became the third executive director of the commission. Jefferson was the third president of the U.S. Douglas served for 26 years at that position, finally resigning last summer, as his battle with cancer worsened. 

The greatest way in which to compare Douglas to Jefferson was his brilliance in distilling ideas into the legal language that allows the ideas to proceed through the process by which those ideas may become law. Douglas’ legacy as the author of major legislation is secure. The Coastal Act has only been strengthened by subsequent court battles, most notably the California Supreme Court’s decision in the Marine Forests Society case that eliminated the ability of appointing authorities to remove commissioners before their term was completed. 

In an interview I did with him two weeks before he announced his retirement, I asked him what the significance of the coastal initiative was. He explained, 

“I think the coastal initiative was a visionary law and embodied many fundamental principles that changed the way we look at land use, environmental stewardship and protecting resources for current and future generations. So for example… 

Incorporating the precautionary principle, which hadn’t been done before; 

Incorporating a change in the burden of proof that basically anyone who wanted to change the status quo would have to prove that the project would not have an adverse environmental impact, as opposed to the government showing why a project shouldn’t be approved. That was significant; 

The fact that it was the people who stepped forward to protect their precious resource—the coast—making it the people’s law, was huge; 

The fact that it created an independent commission whose members were appointed by a variety of appointing authorities, so that no one ideology would control the decisions to be made and recognizing that decisions were subjective, you could have a good law but if you don’t have good people to implement it, it doesn’t really make much difference; and 

The fact that it came at the height of the environmental movement and changes to the way we deal with land was huge and California set the standard for the rest of the nation and, in fact, the world." 

Douglas explained that most of the things that [the coastal initiative and the Coastal Act] have achieved are things you don’t see, the access that hasn’t been lost, the wetlands that haven’t been filled, the views that haven’t been destroyed, the second home subdivisions that haven’t been allowed, the agricultural lands that haven’t been destroyed. 

“So it’s things that you don’t see that are the major accomplishments,” he said. 

“Also, other things you don’t see are attitudinal changes by elected officials who have come to recognize that coastal protection is a priority, empowerment of citizen activists, another one of those things that you can’t measure but clearly can be traced to the Coastal Commission because of its stress on public participation and transparency of process…Those are all incredibly important elements of our measures of success….” 

Lastly, Douglas recognized, as did Jefferson, that the battle is never done. Jefferson’s prescience that “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance” is the same look into the future that Douglas made in saying, “the coast is never saved. It’s always being saved.” 

No doubt there are those who are happy to see Douglas gone. Some may hope for new success in developing the most beautiful stretches of coast into private enclaves. It now requires a new generation to loudly demonstrate the public’s support for the coast. This generation will have the framework of the Coastal Act to help them. 


New: Housing Authority Asks Berkeley City Council for $400,000 to Privatize 75 Public Housing Units--Vote at Tuesday Meeting

By Lynda Carson
Sunday April 01, 2012 - 12:37:00 PM

The Berkeley Housing Authority (BHA) is asking for $400,000 in what are being called "predevelopment costs," to privatize and sell Berkeley's 75 public housing town-homes, to billionaire's Jorge M. Perez and Stephen M. Ross, of the Related Companies of California, LLC, (a.k.a. Berkeley 75 Housing Partners, L.P.). 

Expenses include $97,000 for relocation consulting fees (scheme to displace public housing tenants), plus $100,000 for the relocation costs of the tenants, and $38,000 in HUD disposition consulting fees, plus $60,000 in legal consulting fees. 

Additionally, according to the BHA, $42,000 is needed for enhanced security costs of the public housing units after they become vacant, and to ensure the safety of the remaining residents and surrounding neighborhoods. The BHA also needs $10,000 for construction consultant fees, and $50,000 for a contingency plan, for a total of $400,000 in what are being called predevelopment costs to privatize and sell Berkeley's public housing units, to some out of state billionaires. 

On April 3, 2012, the BHA will ask for $300,000 in general funds from Berkeley's Housing Trust Fund (HTF), to cover the costs associated with the privatization, sale and rehabilitation of Berkeley's 75 public housing units, in an item scheduled to appear before the Berkeley City Council on the consent calendar, known as "Item 34c, the Predevelopment Loan to Berkeley Housing Authority." 

The BHA expects to receive an additional $100,000 in the deal to privatize Berkeley's public housing units from the Related Companies of California, LLC, after all the public housing residents have been forced to execute relocation agreements, and 75% of the residents who will permanently have to relocate have done so. 

According to public records, the BHA is willing to advance its own funds to start the relocation work (displacement of tenants), but needs a reimbursement from the City's loan funds to operate its Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, in the meantime. 

Berkeley's just cause or "good cause eviction protections" state that landlords are not allowed to evict or displace tenants in residential buildings when a residential building is being sold, but that has not deterred the BHA deal with Related from moving forward with the plans to force the low-income renters to relocate from their long-time public housing, prior to transfer of Berkeley's 75 public housing town-homes to billionaire's Jorge M. Perez, and Stephen M. Ross. 

On March 18, 2012, several public housing tenants expressed alarm at the prospect of being forced out of their long-time housing. Terry Pete is a long-time public housing tenant in Berkeley since 1988, and said, "It is not fair that they are selling Berkeley's public housing, and I am very concerned about what is going on. I have lived in Berkeley all of my life, and I do not fully understand what is happening to my housing at this time." 

Public housing tenant Rhonda Rodgers said, "We have received notices lately stating that the BHA wants us to move. There were 2 meetings last week to tell us about the plan to sell Berkeley's 75 public housing units and how they want us to move, but hardly anyone showed up at the meetings. It's really crazy what they are trying to do to us, and we cannot believe what they are telling us anymore. They want us to move out of our homes by next August. I have been a resident here for 13 years, and I do not want to move. I am a fighter and want to stay where I am at." 

James E. Vann, who was the architect for Berkeley's public housing units back in the early to mid 80s, is shocked by the plan to sell valuable public housing and said, "The city and BHA promised to keep its public housing permanent (in perpetuity) to receive a special "Title 1 Grant" of funding from HUD to build that housing for the poor, and now they are breaking their promise to current and future generations of the poor, who desperately need low-income housing to remain in their communities." 

During July of 2009, against the best interests of Berkeley's existing long-time public housing families, the BHA adopted the recommendation of its consultant, EJP Consultant Group, to embark on a project to privatize and sell Berkeley's 75 public housing units. 

In September, 2011, the BHA announced that it was planning to sell Berkeley's 75 public housing units to The Related Companies of California, LLC, and announced that the BHA has entered into an exclusive negotiating rights agreement with The Related Companies of California, LLC, that will last 90 days, with a possible 30 day extension to negotiate the full terms of the deal. 

On March 8, 2012, the board members of the BHA voted to authorize the executive director, Tia Ingram, to execute the Disposition Development and Loan Agreement (DDLA), as part of the on-going process to sell the BHA's 75 public housing units to billionaire's Jorge M. Perez and Stephen M. Ross, of The Related Companies (a.k.a. Berkeley 75 Housing Partners, L.P.). 

According to the DDLA, the BHA has agreed to pay for the permanent relocation of Berkeley's public housing families (28 families or more) prior to the transfer of the public housing units to Related. It has also been agreed that Related will not submit funding applications for the project until all residents have executed relocation agreements, and 75% of the residents who will permanently relocate have done so. Other public housing residents are being told that they only have to temporarily move from their long-time housing, provided that they can somehow manage to qualify to move back in, at an unannounced later date. As of February 1, 2012, the BHA had 63 occupied public housing units, out of 75 units. 

Item 34c, the Predevelopment Loan to Berkeley Housing Authority, is scheduled to be voted on by the Berkeley City Council, on the evening of April 3, 2012. 

No one could be reached for comment from the BHA for this story.

Third Homicide of the Year in Berkeley

By Sasha Lekach (BCN)
Friday March 30, 2012 - 04:00:00 PM

One person has been arrested in connection to a Thursday night shooting that left one man dead in South Berkeley, a Berkeley police lieutenant said. 

At 7:34 p.m. Berkeley police received multiple calls of gunshots heard in the 2800 block of Sacramento Street. Arriving officers found a victim lying on the street with gunshot wounds on Oregon Street, just south of Sacramento Street, Berkeley police Lt. Kevin Schofield said. 

The victim was taken to Highland Hospital in Oakland where he was pronounced dead, Schofield said. 

Investigators believe two men walked out of a corner store at Sacramento and Oregon streets when they were confronted by a small group of suspects. At least one person in the group was armed with a firearm, Schofield said. 

Bob's Liquors and Deli is listed at that intersection. 

The men started to run away west on Oregon Street when the suspect or suspects started firing at them. One of the two men avoided being hit while the other was struck multiple times, the lieutenant said. 

The suspects then fled before officers arrived at the scene. 

Schofield said the shooting appears to be targeted. 

One arrest has been made since the shooting, but details about the suspect have not been released, Schofield said. 

As of 2 a.m. this morning Schofield said officers were still on the scene. 

Thursday night's homicide is the city's third of 2012. 

Stakeholders Weigh in on UC Berkeley GMO Complex

By Richard Brenneman
Friday March 30, 2012 - 02:39:00 PM

A forum critical of UC Berkeley’s plans to ramp up genetic engineering research at a planned massive new second campus of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Richmond drew a capacity crowd to the David Brower Center Thursday night. 

One speaker after another ripped into the potential consequences of the university’s grandiose plans, including the human and environmental devastation certain to be wrought on Africa and Latin America. 

We will be posting several articles on the gathering, but we will begin with a focus on some of the ways the lab’s end products could impact other lands targeted by the lab’s emphasis on using genetic engineering to transform living plants into fuel. 

A resonant voice from Nigeria 

29 March 2012, Nikon D300, ISO 2500, 60mm, 1/250 sec, f3.5 

Nnimmo Bassey, holding a copy of the San Francisco Chronicle. 

Environmental activist Nnimmo Bassey, executive director of Environmental Rights Action in Nigeria and chair of Friends of the Earth International, ripped into comments made a day earlier by Jay Keasling, UC Berkeley professor, founder of three genetic engineering companies, and head of the Department of Energy-funded Joint BioEnergy Institute [JBEI], which is slated to relocate to the new Richmond campus. 

In an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, Keasling had dismissed criticisms by Bassey and others that any successful program to use genetically altered microbes to create fuel from plant matter would wreak ecological and human devastation in Africa, Latin America, and Asia: 

Nor would food croplands be sacrificed for new biofuels, Keesling [sic] said. The countless acres needed would be wastelands where only otherwise useless plants like switchgrasses would be grown for biofuel, he said. “There’s really no market for that kind of land,” he said. 

“Even with the hype,” Bassey said, it’s certain that the target is the tropics. “Even all the biomass in our forests can’t provide all the energy that is required,” he said. 

“Thast so-called ‘wasteland’ is somebody’s land, Bassey said. The world’s pastoralists thrive on lands marginal or unsuitable for farming. “People do live in the Sahara desert. People do live in the Kalahari Desert. People do live in the desert here in the United States.” 

The one sure result of a global land grab is conflict, he said. A second is the introduction of genetically modified organisms [GMOs] into more nations where they’ve been previously banned. 

Bassey, whose words flow in resonant, almost musical bass tones, is a winner of the 2010 Right Livelihood Award, often called the Alternate Nobel Prize because it is awarded by the Swedish legislature the day before the Nobels are handed out in the same city, Stockholm. The prize is given for “working on practical and exemplary solutions to the most urgent challenges facing the world today.” 

Much of Bassey’s work has centered on the devastation wrought on his country by oil companies like Chevron, which “has sunk its claws and talons into Richmond,” and, like Shell, BP, and other oil companies is moving into agrofuels. 

As Time magazine noted three years ago 

It wasn’t an oil spill that made Nnimmo Bassey an environmentalist. It was a massacre — the 1990 assault by Nigeria’s armed forces on the village of Umuechem, where residents of the oil-rich Niger Delta had accused the Shell Petroleum Development Company of environmental degradation and economic neglect. In two days of violence, 80 people died and nearly 500 houses were destroyed. “We woke up from a sleep and … everything was collapsing around us.” 

Read the rest

He also warned that, once unleashed, GMOs are bound to spread. 

With biotechnology posed to trigger massive lands and the human misery that follows, “Humanity must regain its memory of being human. . .and agree that greed and conflict will not get us anywhere.” 

“We are not just on this planet for ourselves.” 

The view from Brazil 

29 March 2012, Nikon D300, ISO 2500, 60mm, 1/800 sec, f3.5 

The green areas are cane plantations 

Maria José Guazzelli of Brazil’s Center for Ecological Agriculture focused on the impacts of the metastasis of sugar cane plantations to fuel her own nation’s massive ethanol industry. 

And it is sugar cane which is fueling the champagne dreams of investors in the Jay Keasling-launched Amyris which, with the financial backing of French oil giant Total and other corporateers, is using cane fibers left over from ethanol processing and genetically engineered microbes in a thus-far unsuccessful attempt to launch a new agrofuel industry in Brazil. 

Already “a huge monoculture which is linked to global warming and deforestation,” Guazzelli said, sugar cane has been embraced by the Brazilian government, which has estimated that cane plantations could cover as many as 160 million acres — an area equivalent to the state of Texas. 

And while the government initially declared the Amazon Basin off-limits to industry expansion, officials are now saying the basin’s west central region may be suitable for still more planting. “Now we have added rain forest.” 

Just as the Portugese introduction of cane during the colonial era depended on slave labor, so does it today. “Sugar cane in Brazil means slave labor.” 

The work is hard, dangerous, and poorly paid, and, as we noted before, reports of actual slavery — confined workers kept in miserable conditions and unable to leave — are common on the corporate-owned latifundia

Land grabs are seizing soil suitable for food crops and devastating both rain forest and savannah, Guazzelli said, but the nation’s Development Bank continues to pour money into the industry. 

A dissenting view from campus 

29 March 2012, Nikon D300, ISO 2500, 60mm, 1/250 sec, f3.5 

Ignacio Chapela knows what its like to feel the wrath of the genetic engineering corporateers. 

The UC Berkeley plant microbiologist has been targeted by companies in the GMO game, with attempts to destroy his reputation and ultimately cost him his job — finally winning tenure only thanks to a lawsuit. 

Chapela and David Quist found proof that genes from genetically engineered corn had jumped the border and grafted themselves into the genomes of native varieties in Chapela’s homeland, Mexico — whose indigenous people had nurtured the grass-like teosinte over the course of millennia into modern-day maize. 

Monsanto launched a black propaganda campaign, and university administrators denied tenure even though the faculty of his own college had voted overwhelmingly in his favor. 

“I am really privileged to be among the very few faculty members who would even set foot in this gathering,” Chapela began. 

DNA can’t be understood as an isolated molecule in a lab, he said. “It is really the living context of DNA that people use. 

While hundreds of billions have been sunk into commercialization of the fruits of genetic engineering and synthetic biology — the craft of piecing together chemical segments to create to-order strands of DNA — the industry has yet to turn a profit, Chapela said. 

But with the vast flood of corporate cash pouring into the nation’s universities, including BP’s $500 million agrofuel-focused grant to UC Berkeley, “it has had a very effective outcome” in the silence of potential scientific critics, “either because they’re afraid or hopeful they will be able” to capture some of that corporate cash. 

“I worry mostly about the takeover of the last line of defense the public has to confront technological craziness.” 

Chapela said the influx of corporate money puts scientific credibility at stake. 

In 2010, a New York Times headline declared the BP oil spill plume “is no more.” 

The newspaper cited a paper published in Science, Chapela said, that declared “a new microbe had appeared in the Gulf of Mexico, ate up all that oil, and just as miraculously disappeared.” 

The paper was authored by a host of scientists from UC Berkeley. 

Yet the newspaper didn’t note one critical fact: “Every single member of that team was compromised by deals with BP.” 

A passionate stakeholder from Richmond 

29 March 2012, Nikon D300, ISO 3200, 60mm, 1/50 sec, f3.5 

Henry Clark added fire to the heat that had come before. 

A Richmond environmentalist, Clark heads the West County Toxic Coalition, and he knows the university’s site very well from his service on the Community Advisory Group appointed by the California Department of Toxic Services to clean up chemical contamination at the university’s Richmond Field Station and adjoining Campus Bay property, part of which is included in the university’s plans. 

Both sites were massively contaminated by a century of chemical manufacturing, which included blasting and percussion caps made from toxic mercury, pesticides, herbicides, and countless other chemicals, and even experiments with splitting uranium bars with electron beams. 

Clark marched on picket lines at the site, walking with Gayle McLaughlin of the Richmond Progressive Alliance, who was elected mayor midway during the site cleanup campaign, and Jeff Ritterman, a heart surgeon and Physicians for Social Responsibility activist later elected to the city council, where he too endorsed to the project. 

“The City of Richmond has put itself out onto a limb, knowing there were many questions that had not been answered at the time,” Clark said. “They looked at it as a cash cow to bring in revenue and jobs.” 

After working for years for a cleanup at the site, “we’re still not sure what’s there. Are we going to bring in the lab to add more?” 

At the minimum, he said, Richmond residents need answers. “We need full disclosure” of what’s being done at the lab, along with penalties when disclosure isn’t provided. 

“We’re not going for the okey-doke this time. We need clear, definitive answers.” 

And if Richmond wants more jobs, he said, the city must invest in solar asnd wins technology.” 

Clark won perhaps the loudest applause of the night.

Police Transcripts, Police Review Raise New Questions about Berkeley Police Response to Victim's Call for Help

By Ted Friedman
Friday March 30, 2012 - 01:36:00 PM
University police ready to protect their headquarters Feb 18 from Occupys Oakland and Cal. They say they expected an invasion.
Ted Friedman
University police ready to protect their headquarters Feb 18 from Occupys Oakland and Cal. They say they expected an invasion.
All that stood between Occupy Oakland/Cal and UCPD Feb. 18, when Berkeley police changed its emergency call priorities fearing a takeover of UCPD by protesters
Ted Friedman
All that stood between Occupy Oakland/Cal and UCPD Feb. 18, when Berkeley police changed its emergency call priorities fearing a takeover of UCPD by protesters
After "threatening" university police with taunts ("Fuck the Police"), occupiers head for International House for a peaceful reminesense of successful protests. I-House can be seen, left. But Peter Cukor was killed that night.
Ted Friedman
After "threatening" university police with taunts ("Fuck the Police"), occupiers head for International House for a peaceful reminesense of successful protests. I-House can be seen, left. But Peter Cukor was killed that night.

Could Berkeley's Feb. 18 Park Hills murder have been prevented? 

Yes, no, possibly. 

Peter Cukor was attacked at 9:01 p.m., according to BPD timelines, while protestors were just leaving Oakland for Berkeley. Yet police priority changes in ranking calls—tied to Occupy—were in place before they were necessary, according to timelines. 

Recently released police transcripts (Planet, Tues). and questions posed by the Berkeley Police Review Commission on Wednesday raise questionss about Berkeley police response.  

The accused killer, Daniel Dewitt , has been declared unable to stand trial. 

We may never know how Dewitt, who reportedly was living in a downtown Oakland hotel after his latest release from a mental health treatment facility, wound up at Peter Cukor's home near Tilden Park . 

Chief Michael K. Meehan told me recently that Dewitt told police he had walked to Cukor's home from downtown Oakland. He had no bus ticket when he was arrested, according to the chief. 

"He didn't talk to us much," said Meehan. 

Dewitt, according to incomplete police transcripts of Cukor’s conversation with the BPD dispatcher, was "looking for someone named Zoey," according to the victim, who added, "he's pretty spacey." 

"He says that he lives here. He wants to come in which is very strange. I'd like an officer up here right away," the victim told the dispatcher, at 8:48 p.m. 

"Okay we'll try to get somebody out as soon as we can," the dispatcher promised. But "soon as we can" was not good enough—twenty-four minutes later. 

A BPD officer in a squad car downtown heard the call to dispatchers at 8:59, and reportedly offered to respond. But the dispatcher reportedly told the officer not to go. 

Cukor's call to BPD for help, at 8:48 p.m. could not have been more ill-timed, as cops, ill-advisedly or not, scrambled to cope with possible violence from an Occupy Oakland protest just leaving Oakland at around 9 p.m.  

According to a source knowledgeable about BPD procedures, "prowler calls may not have been a top priority on the computer" when Cukor called. 

The source, with whom I spoke Thursday, said that the decision to divert the downtown officer was a command decision, not a dispatcher decision. 

Sharon Adams, a temporary police review commissioner, wanted to know, at Wednesday's Berkeley Police Review Commission meeting, where BPD got the idea that Occupy Oakland/Cal was a threat. It was this threat that was reported to have led to the police department changing its priorities the night of the murder. 

The Chief told Commissioner Adams that the basis for BPD's decision to "monitor" Occupy came from UCPD. 

Recently a highly placed source at UCPD confirmed to me that UCPD took the threat from Occupy Oakland, teamed for the evening with Occupy Cal, very seriously. 

"Our intell indicated they intended to invade our headquarters," according to the UCPD source. 

Occupy Oakland has repeatedly clashed violently with Oakland police. 

I was covering the protest from its arrival at Derby and Telegraph, Feb,18. at 10:20 p.m. I followed it to the university police headquarters, where Occupy huffed and puffed, but failed to blow the house down. No sign of a threat or intention to enter the headquarters. (see accompanying photos) 

Chanting "fuck the police; fuck the police" incessantly seemed enough of a blow-off to obviate further action. 

At a North side public safety meeting, Mar. 8, Chief Meehan spoke with pride of the way BPD had handled that evening. "I am most proud" of that, he said. 

The pride may be deserved. No arrests, no assaults. It was a night of celebration for the two Occupy movements, who reminisced about past actions. 

This was also the night Peter Cukor was killed. 

Did Occupy kill Cukor? Chief Meehan went out of his way in a public meeting, Mar. 8 

to put that canard to rest. Twice he said BPD does not blame Occupy for the murder. 

A Berkeley police squad car with two officers staked out the protest march when it arrived in Berkeley from Oakland at 10:20 p.m., according to the chief. 

They did a good job of concealment. I looked everywhere, but could find no police. 

The Chief has said that at 9 p.m. he "held over" a 12 man squad to have in reserve if the Occupy protest erupted. Cukor was, at this time, about to be killed. 

Cukor's call to police complained about "a gentleman, a young man hanging around my property. I think he's transient. I'm not sure"—at 8:47 p.m., according to the transcript. 

At 8:59 an officer on Shattuck offered to go to the crime scene, but was, reportedly, diverted. The chief has said it takes ten minutes for a squad car to get to the hills. 

At 9:01 Cukor's wife reported her husband was being attacked. Squad cars were dispatched, according to the chief, at 9:02, and arrived at 9:12. 

It took them ten minutes to respond after Cukor's wife reported the attack. 

Let's say the downtown cop had set out at 8:59, when he offered to respond to the call, after reportedly hearing it on his car radio. With ten minutes as the driving time, the downtown cop would arrive at 9:09, eight minutes after the deadly assault began. The cop would have missed the murder in progress. 

But if he had set out at 8:47 (as he would have, had not priorities been changed that evening)—he would have arrived at 8:57; four minutes before Cukor's wife reported the attack. 

More than enough time to possibly have saved a life. 

At the North side public safety meeting organized by Councilmember Susan Wengraf, District 6 (Cukor's district), the chief addressed events the night of the murder. "We've asked ourselves what we are not doing that other departments are doing ….we're just men and women." 

I live here with my wife and kids, the chief said, "and I want Berkeley to be a safe place." 

I asked Wengraf yesterday if she was satisfied with the chief's reassurances. 

"The timeline explained exactly what happened," she said. 

Wengraf described Cukor as a scientist who had gone into high tech. "He was in very 

good shape," she noted, and a "very confident person." 

Wengraf says she's seen so many conflicting media accounts of the murder she often is unsure whether she's reading fiction or fact. 

"It's complicated," she observed. 


Planet reporter Ted Friedman writes from the South-side. Urban Strider contributed to this piece from Berkeley Police Review Commission.

Special Consideration for Senior Seniors?

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Friday March 30, 2012 - 01:56:00 PM

Strawberry Creek Lodge (SCL), referred to locally as The Lodge or Strawberry, was built in 1962 at 1320 Addison Street in Berkeley, California. Its purpose was affordable rental housing for lower to middle income senior citizens. Three adjoining buildings in a park-like setting provide 150 units-- some are one-bedroom apartments, most are studios, all with bathrooms and kitchenettes. An elective, not-free evening meal is served. There is no longer a supermarket within walking distance.

Recently, the Berkeley Daily Planet received a message that “while Strawberry Creek Lodge is being refurbished it's causing lots of problems for the residents.” There have been health and disruption problems at SCL. “We are on pins and needles,” according to a former hospice patient. 

The Lodge is a not-for-profit complex governed by a Board of Trustees whose meetings are attended by a Tenants Association representative. SCL is managed by Church Homes of Northern California (CCH). Income is derived from residents’ rents and HUD subsidies under Section 8. Numerous Internet SCL citations provide inaccurate or incomplete information, e.g. “a retirement home” “one bedroom only,” etc. 

n 1991, when activist Helen Corbin Lima (1917-2005) moved into a tiny SCL studio, her only income was Social Security. She applied for Section 8 housing, and a whole new realm of political activity opened up for her. From then until her death, she was active in the fight for affordable housing and to save Section 8. Until her deteriorating health made it no longer possible, she was also actively involved in the SCL Tenants Association. 

In 1997 Lima launched Save Section 8, a nonprofit self-help, grass-roots effort in behalf of American seniors who need rent-subsidized apartments. No admission or membership fees were charged. Income source was voluntary contributions. Activities included picketing , petitions, meetings, newspaper publicity, proposal of a Berkeley ordinance to protect then-current tenants, publications, presence at California’s annual senior rally, counseling individuals and providing speakers, and production of a video, Housing Is A Human Right: Seniors and Section 8. (It appears no longer to be in libraries; I have a copy.) 


In August 2009, SCL received a 66.69 inspection score, which is 23.2% worse than the average HUD inspection score (100=best) for all Section 8 . It was generally agreed that the buildings were in poor shape. Recently SCL received support for major rehabilitation. Senior citizens as well as disabled persons are Section 8 eligible. 

There are at least two funding sources involved in the work going on at SCL. The City Council granted money from the Housing Trust Fund and the Berkeley Housing Authority (BHA) allocated some Section 8 vouchers to be used as project-based vouchers. Usually when the BHA gives project-based vouchers, the owner takes that to the bank and gets a loan against the increased or guaranteed revenue. Presumably that is how SCL’s rehabitation is being financed. The BHA is allowed to take up to 20% of its portable vouchers and assign them to projects, so these are BHA vouchers rather than directly-from-HUD vouchers. Directly-from-HUD project-based Section 8 does not allow the tenant to retain their subsidy if they move. 


Frail elders are particularly sensitive to the effects of construction work and need a higher than usual level of protection during such a process. I met with 90 year old Albert “Al” Benson, a former art instructor, and his neighbor, 89 year old, legally blind Bonnie Davidson. (I well remember Bonnie from our Save Section 8 days.) 


They estimate that there may be a dozen or so old old tenants -- people who typically came to SCL when they were just plain ‘old’, then in their sixties perhaps. The tenancy is divided – the “others” are mostly boomers and in their sixties. It is the older group that has been most impacted by aspects of the rehab work that is underway: Inconsiderate construction managers. Toxicity from new carpeting and painting. Moving their belongings elsewhere without their knowledge. Indeed, this has happened in at least one other Berkeley Section 8 seniors’ project, wherein an elderly person who speaks no English returned to find her belongings piled up in the corridor, and then in her room while workers departed for the weekend. In the words of another person with a vantage point, “I have heard about the latest Strawberry Creek Lodge drama. I get the sense that the administration tends to use a lord-of-the-manor approach towards its tenants …” Seniors without power, they are further handicapped by not being computer literate. 

On Tuesday evening, March 27, a goodly crowd gathered in Strawberry’s meeting area, a long skinny room in which it’s not always possible for everyone to hear everything being said. Each Lodger had received a flier announcing the meeting. Approximately fifty persons attended; I’m told 33 is a typical SCL turnout. 

Former board member Bill Samsel fended questions and problems, reportedly talking over one gutsy woman tenant. Six-eight persons constituting what might and should have functioned as a resource panel were situated at the front of the room, while the SCL property manager “floated.” Questions and problems from the Lodgers focused mainly on (1) fears of eviction and (2) complaints about work that is underway (e.g., technical electronic equipment assembled over the years by one tenant removed from his apartment and, when returned, not functioning) as well as projected changes. 

I commenced an email trail when I started work on this report. A friend suggested I contact Be Tran in Housing, who referred me to Rachel in the Berkeley Housing Authority, who referred me to Mike Rogers, "...the consultant, hired by Strawberry Creek Lodge to oversee the property rehabilitation," who ultimately emailed “please feel free to give me a call on either line and I'd be happy to talk about Strawberry Creek." Rogers did not return my several phone calls to both lines. Why the runaround? 






Florida Killing Undermines the Rule of Law, and Truth is Another Victim

By Becky O'Malley
Friday March 30, 2012 - 10:47:00 AM

President Obama’s comment, just one among many such poignant statements, said it all: “If I had a son, he would have looked like Trayvon”. The news from Florida about a kid with a pack of Skittles in his hand being killed by a gun-toting vigilante was especially heartstopping for those of us who have children or grandchildren of African descent. I watched my granddaughter flick up the hood on her shocking pink rain slicker and flashed on all those dark-skinned boys pulling up their hoods against the rain as Trayvon did, and tempting fate in the form of fearful cowards with powerful weapons. 

It’s impossible to deny that race played a part, conscious or subconscious, in George Zimmerman’s impulse to finally pull the trigger as the culmination to what seems to have been a series of 40 or more quasi-confrontations with people he perceived as invaders of the “gated community” where he lived behind fences which were supposed to exclude threats from the outside world. At the same time, it’s possible to believe that his father was telling the truth when he said that the family had friends of various races and ethnicities, including some of African descent. 

Much has been made in some quarters of the Zimmerman family’s mixed ethnicity. But “Hispanic” is a linguistic label, not a specifically racial or ethnic one. There’s the full range of genetic origins—African, European, “native” American and Asian—in the Spanish-speaking world, including in Peru, the birthplace of George Zimmerman’s mother. Some reports idly speculated, with unclear motivation, on the possibility of the Zimmerman name connoting Jewish origins, but “Jewish” is primarily a religious category. This Zimmerman family is descended from people who came most recently from Germany, probably like most Jewish Zimmermans, but these Zimmermans were Catholics, if religion makes any difference. 

News reports this week have been loaded with conflicting accounts of what might have happened in the encounter. References are made in the media to “witnesses” supporting one scenario or another, but names are rarely attached to these stories. Bits and pieces of police records have seeped out, but without reliable attribution or physical evidence included. 

From the Zimmerman camp, we’ve heard tales of a scuffle, even of a broken nose. Yet yesterday a police surveillance video showing George Zimmerman in custody at the Sanford police station with no apparent injury of any kind surfaced on ABC News 

Unless and until charges are filed against the gunman, we might never know the truth about what happened that night. Trayvon Martin’s parents are to be commended for sticking to one and only one demand: that Zimmerman be arrested for shooting their son, so that the full power and authority of the judicial system can be brought to bear to seek the truth. 

But—what is truth? 

That happens to be the title of an old Johnny Cash song about a seventeen-year-old boy like Trayvon. A couple of verses: 

A young man of seventeen in Sunday school 

Being taught the Golden Rule 

And by the time another year has gone round 

It may be his turn to lay his life down 

Can you blame the voice of youth 

For asking 

"What is truth?" 

And although the young man solemnly swore 

No one seems to hear any more 

And it didn't really matter if the truth was there 

It was the cut of his clothes and the length of his hair 

And the lonely voice of youth cries 

"What is truth?" 

In the end, most Americans will agree that fear comes in all colors, but “black” is the one that most often terrifies those of European descent who are predisposed to see the world as a hostile place. Whether George Zimmerman admits or even realizes it, it’s obvious that his pathological fear of strangers like Trayvon Martin was amplified that night by the color of the boy’s skin and even the cut of his clothing, his hooded sweatshirt. And also, race and clothing played a role in the apparent indifference of the Florida authorities to determining what really happened. 

Regardless of who struck the first blow, or whether Trayvon was a model boy in all respects or George Zimmerman had previous brushes with the police, what’s rotten at the core of this story is the Florida law which has been interpreted as allowing anyone who feels threatened, for whatever cockamamie reason, to become, in a split second, judge, jury and executioner. 

These two statutes, sections 776.032 and 776.013 of the Florida Statutes, are nothing less than naked attempts to overturn centuries of Anglo-American jurisprudence. Common law has always said that the person who feels threatened for whatever reason has a duty to retreat if possible rather than to attack, though historically there have been a number of specific exceptions in statutory and case law. But the Florida formulation uses extreme language cooked up by the hard-right American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization backed by a number of corporations and advocacy groups which supplies state legislatures with standard statutory language to enact ultraconservative laws. Often the legislators who carry these bills don’t even understand them. 

Killers like Zimmerman have always been able assert self-defense at trial if they’re charged with some form of homicide, whether manslaughter or murder. But Florida’s ALEC-based “Stand Your Ground” law has given law enforcement personnel the idea that such claims must even prevent arrest, which is why Zimmerman has not been arrested. The controversy at the moment is whether this decision, which has variously been attributed to the Sanford police and the prosecuting attorney, was correct given the circumstances in this case. 

A statistical study done by CBS shows that “according to state crime stats, Florida averaged 12 “justifiable homicide” deaths a year from 2000-2004. After “Stand your Ground” was passed in 2005, the number of “justifiable” deaths has almost tripled to an average of 35 a year, an increase of 283% from 2005-2010.” The study doesn’t indicate how many of these instant executions were of Black men, but if the killer’s subjective opinion that he’s in danger is the end of the discussion, it seems that it will inevitably result in more African-American deaths, especially in Old South states like Florida. 

A court of law is the best place to determine which of the conflicting assertions about what happened when the killing took place is correct. When such judgments are left to the killer on the scene, or even to the police, miscarriage of justice is inevitable. All of the states which have been suckered into passing ALEC laws without due consideration should take a second look, in the interest of justice. In Trayvon Martin’s case, federal prosecutors should immediately determine whether there has also been a violation of his civil rights under U.S. law and the U.S. constitution. 

But there’s another factor at play which is even more outrageous: Florida law, like the law in many states, makes it very easy for fools like George Zimmerman to carry hidden lethal weapons. This country’s loose gun laws make any random know-nothing vigilante into a quick killer. 

Misjudging the seriousness of a perceived threat easily becomes an execution. That’s why the truth about what Trayvon Martin was really doing in one sense doesn’t even matter. Nothing that he’s ever been accused of, even punching Zimmerman in the nose, which he probably didn’t do anyhow, comes anywhere near being a capital crime. If Zimmerman hadn’t been packing a pistol with the blessing of the state of Florida, he might have gone into his house, locked the door and called the police like a sensible person. It’s possible Florida will take another look at the “Stand Your Ground” statutes, but unless someone figures out how to take the weapons away from the wackos, not just in Florida but throughout the U.S, we will have more unjustifiable homicides like this one. 




Public Comment

Meet the Real 1%: OCCUPY BOHEMIAN GROVE This July

By Haig Patigian
Tuesday April 03, 2012 - 07:06:00 PM

In solidarity with a number of Occupations, as well as long-running protest group Bohemian Grove Action Network, the call for peaceful protests against The Bohemian Club this July in Monte Rio (CA) are hereby announced. Since Bohemian Grove is on private land, we respect those legal boundaries. Therefore, this communique only endorses peaceful, non-violent protests on the public land existing outside Bohemian Grove. 

The goal is not to “shut down” their party – we simply want to shine a spotlight on it. We feel it blatantly confirms the existence of an interconnected, international power elite that holds a systematic "good old boys" monopoly over portions of the public & private sector. We do not claim this to be a "one size fits all" mega-conspiracy. However, it obviously highlights a literal network (or "mob," if you will) of interconnected power players. 

Currently the framework is in place for two events – July 14th 2012 & July 21st 2012. Mary Moore of The Bohemian Grove Action Network will be the core coordinator for the July 14th protest involving members of Occupy Santa Rosa & San Francisco. 

Full explanation here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/86505846/Occupy-Bohemian-Grove-July-2012 

A group representing Occupy Portland (OR) will be holding a protest against the notorious “Lakeside Talks” on Saturday July 21st. Other events are to be scheduled throughout The Bohemian Club's Two Week Encampment. 

In Portland Oregon, a working group called the “Occupy Bohemian Grove PDX Committee” is assembling this framework. They will be helping to organize the official Occupy PDX protest in Monte Rio on Saturday July 21st. 

In Portland this group will be staging pickets outside events in their area when prominent Bohemian Club members appear at speaking engagements that are compensated with public tax-payer funds. They hope other decentralized groups like this will form across the USA. 

With official Occupy Portland endorsement (through a vote of GA consensus), this working group has sent out the call for any interested Occupy Group to show solidarity under this decentralized OCCUPY BOHEMIAN GROVE banner by participating in an International Awareness Day on July 14th, 2012. The concept is simply to distribute flyers, hold an informative workshop, or otherwise schedule a march as to spread info on this subject. 

The next official meeting will be hosted by Occupy Santa Rosa on Saturday April 14th at the Peace & Justice Center, 467 Sebastopol Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA. Any interested parties are invited. 

Learn everything about this action at the following link: http://www.scribd.com/doc/86505846/Occupy-Bohemian-Grove-July-2012 

What is Bohemian Grove? The short answer is that Bohemian Grove is a super-exclusive encampment/party for the most corrupt of the 1%, whose attendees have included every Republican President since 1888 as well as Fox News CEO Rupert Murdoch, Warren Buffet, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Henry Kissinger, Alan Greenspan, John Lehman, Karl Rove, Norman Schwarzkopf & the Rockefeller Family. Other names include high-ranking members of ALEC, NATO, NAFTA, Stratfor, Haliburton, The United Nations, Bilderberg Group, CIA, FBI, Federal Reserve & the 9/11 Commission report committee. The list continues to spiral with a laundry list of major players in world politics, big business, the banking industry & the military industrial complex. 

Those involved are either guests or members of “The Bohemian Club.” Formed in the 1870's as an artists retreat, this 2700 acre campground (dubbed “Bohemian Grove”) exists 75 miles North of San Francisco. Formed in the late 1800's as an artists retreat, this camp slowly became an annual, clandestine party for the “1%.” 

Every year from mid-July to the beginning of August, these men hold secretive “Lakeside Talks.” This is the cause of concern for us – secret seminars involving unbelievable concentrations of wealth and power. One can ask “if it's secret, how do you know about this?” Because while the contents of these talks remain a mystery, we know for a fact they take place. Also, program guides which have been leaked contain dubious speeches involving everything from reshaping the Middle East through NATO involvement, nuclear energy, prison systems, war strategy, banking cartels, etc. 

Disclaimer: Those working on this action DO NOT ENDORSE the conspiracy talk which claims The Bohemian Club's mascot (a huge owl statue) is some Babylonian demigod. This owl statue IS NOT MOLOCH. This IS NOT a satanic cult. The misinformation comes directly from Alex Jones, who was the first person to infiltrate and film the entire ceremony. Without any evidence to support his wild claims, he built an entire career out of it and is now one of the most popular journalists on the web. As is why most never look deeper into this subject – lunatic websites often pop up with searches. The reality is that Bohemian Grove is more of a pseudo-mystical frat-boy kind of thing, on par with Fred Flintstone & the Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes. So yes, while it is true that burning an effigy under a creepy statue while wearing druid hoods has obvious connotations to ancient sacrifice religions, in reality this is a tongue-in-cheek reference to that sort of thing. And yes, once again, we know what this sounds like. But reality is stranger then fiction. 

Help us make history this July.

Trayvon Martin and the Media Depiction of African American Males

By Dori J. Maynard
Friday March 30, 2012 - 02:41:00 PM

“He’s got his hand in his waistband, and he’s a black male.”

— George Zimmerman to a 911 operator shortly before he fatally shot Trayvon Martin

When people ask why I do the work I do, sometimes I tell the truth — because I don’t want my brothers shot.

Until last month, my hesitation stemmed from fear that this answer sounded overly dramatic for someone who runs a nonprofit focused on helping the nation’s news media diversify its coverage.

Then Trayvon Martin was slain because a neighborhood watch volunteer thought he looked suspicious while walking back from a store after buying Skittles and an iced tea. 

I don’t know George Zimmerman. I don’t know whether he is racist, and I have no idea what was in his heart and mind when he shot and killed the 17-year-old. 

I do know that if Zimmerman consumes news, it’s likely that he’s being fed a steady diet of distorted and scary images of black men. 

A content audit released last October by The Opportunity Agenda (TOA) in New York examined coverage of black men and boys found that often missing from that coverage is mention of legions of boys and men of color who rise every morning and go to school or serve in the military, who are businessmen, schoolteachers, doctors, lawyers, scientists, stay-at-home dads, bloggers and more. 

That one-sided portrait of a multidimensional community has consequences for all of us. 

“These unbalanced and distorted media portrayals can lead to distorted perceptions and discriminatory treatment,” says Alan Jenkins, executive director and co-founder of TOA, which describes itself as “a communications, research, and policy organization dedicated to building the national will to expand opportunity for all.” 

According to a 2000 study, local news consumption and racial fear are directly linked. In “Prime Suspects: The Influence of Local Television News on the Viewing Public,” Franklin D. Gilliam Jr., dean of the School of Public Affairs at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Shanto Iyengar, professor of communication and political science at Stanford University, measured viewers’ racial attitudes after watching local crime news in Los Angeles. 

“Our central finding is that the exposure to the racial element of the crime script increases support for punitive approaches to crime and heightens negative attitudes about African-Americans among white, but not black, viewers,” they wrote in the study. 

According to Dominique Apollon, research director at the Applied Research Center, a nonprofit that has done research on racial framing in the media, “As far as local coverage is concerned, more often than not, the media portrays black and brown men as violent menaces to society [and] as repeat offenders who are beyond rehabilitation. 

“Reporters primarily rely upon law enforcement for quotes, and police often stoke or reinforce the public’s existing stereotypes and fears about black men. The effect is a public that is primed to be paranoid. And combine that paranoia with pro-vigilante public policy and a callous disregard for black life, and you have the tragedy and travesty of this incident and its aftermath.” 

Given the state of the news industry, a concerted effort is required if we want to see balanced coverage of boys and men of color that gives the audience a more accurate and less fraught view of them. 

In recent years, as traditional news media have suffered painful contractions, determination to diversify newsrooms has waned, decreasing the number of journalists of color who could help fellow journalists see communities of color through a different lens. 

Things are not much better on the digital side where an all-too-common complaint is that white men dominate conversations and panels about the future of journalism. 

The case of Trayvon Martin is a stark reminder of why it matters who is in the conversation about coverage. 

The weekend of March 16, black media commentators including Touré, Goldie Taylor and Roland Martin took to Twitter to discuss the shooting, and Charles M. Blow wrote about it in his New York Times column. Meanwhile, a check of Twitter feeds by prominent non-African American media commentators shows that many were talking about Mike Daisey’s misrepresentations in his searing piece on Apple’s Chinese manufacturing partner. 

Both are important conversations that deserve coverage. One is about who we are as journalists. The other is about who we are as a society. 

Both must take place if the media are to meet their responsibility to help all citizens make sense of the world. 

One helped to inform the conversation about journalism ethics during a transformational time in this industry. The other brought the nation’s attention, from Cher to John Legend to everyday people, to focus on the shootings of African American men. 

As we go forward, I hope these same people will rally around the cause of accurate and fair coverage for black and brown boys and men so they, too, no longer risk being mistaken for a dangerous predator. 

Perhaps then this older sister and legions of sisters, parents, grandparents and friends can stop worrying. 

Also see: http://mije.org/faces-black-men 

Dori J. Maynard is the President of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education. Prior to being named president in January 2001, she directed the History project which leads the way in preserving and protecting the contributions of those courageous journalists of color who broke into the mainstream media against the backdrop of the turbulent 1960s and 1970s. Dori also heads the Fault Lines project, a framework that helps journalists more accurately cover their communities. She is the co-author of "Letters to My Children," which is a compilation of nationally syndicated columns by her late father Bob Maynard, with introductory essays by Dori. As a reporter, she worked on both coasts -- The Bakersfield Californian, and The Patriot Ledger, in Quincy, Massachusetts -- as well as at the Detroit Free Press,. In 1993 she and her father became the first father-daughter duo ever to be appointed Nieman scholars at Harvard University. Bob Maynard won this prestigious fellowship in 1966. 

She currently serves on the board of the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation. She received the prestigious "Fellow of Society" award from the Society of Professional Journalists at the national convention in Seattle, Wash. October 6, 2001 and was voted one of the "10 Most Influential African Americans in the Bay Area" in 2004. In 2008 she received the Asian American Journalists Association's Leadership in Diversity Award.  

Maynard graduated from Middlebury College, Vermont, with a BA in American History. 


Money vs. Democracy

By Steve Martinot
Friday March 30, 2012 - 05:53:00 PM

A neighborhood group in Oakland contacted us, the anti-Smartmeter movement, to invite us to debate PGE on Smartmeters. They wanted to learn about Smartmeters, and had already contacted PGE. But they on their own also decided that they should hear both sides. I volunteered to take it on, and contacted the group spokesperson, a man I'll call Jack. Jack then contacted PGE, and they assigned someone, who I'll call Stan, to hold up PGE's side of the debate. The group (I'll call ONA, for Oakland neighborhood association) then hired a room in a restaurant in which to hold the event. The rent was $300. Originally PGE said they would pay for it, but when ONA set up the debate, they properly took on the costs, with PGE's blessing. 


A conference call between Jack, Stan, and myself was set up. Preparatory to that call, I sent both a proposal, laying out a schema for equal time of participation, and suggesting that I speak first since Smartmeters were already an extant issue everyone had already heard about from the utilities. I included time for questions and issues raised by the audience. It was only a proposal, but its central principle was equal time, real debate. 


Stan showed the proposal to some colleagues at PGE, and based on that they nixed his participation in the event. Apparently, equal time, and real debate, scares the pants off them. They contacted ONA, and backed out of the event. I laughed when Jack told me of this, because it so aptly revealed the scam involved in these Smartmeters. 


But Jack then renegotiated with PGE, and phoned to inform me. The deal they came up with was that I would not be listed as a participant. It would be PGE's meeting, and I could attend, ask questions, make statements from the floor as permitted by the chair, but that was all. When I asked Jack why he went along with it, he gave me the bottom line. PGE was going to pay for the room and the event. In other words, for an evening's room rent, he was willing to forego some serious democratic discussion of an issue. 


Well, I blew up. I tend to do that when someone treats me with disrespect. And to renege on an agreement in order to accept a payoff is quite disrespectful. I'm not going to betray myself or accept second-class status because someone else is throwing a bunch of money around. So I accused Jack and ONA of cowardice and hypocrisy, and shot some choice phraseology about that from the hip. We hung up in cool simultaneity. Not only did PGE reveal the fact of a total scam underlying its technology project, but it demonstrated its unremitting hunger to acquire monopoly power over information and decision-making – not to mention electricity. On the other hand, for people like Jack to pretend they are interested in information, and then succomb to the corrupt demands of that monopoly, is truly contemptible. 


Apparently my phraseology wasn't strong enough. They called me the next day to talk. But I refused to have anything to do with a meeting that can throw out an agreement and reduce one party to second-class status because another party pays them money. That kind of corruption doesn't fly. 



All I can think of to say is, people get ready. This incident is only one of many that exemplify the loss of voice and the suppression of information by which we are already ruled. Get ready to first imagine, and then construct new forms of voice. 



ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Magical Thinking

By Jack Bragen
Tuesday April 03, 2012 - 06:59:00 PM

An example of magical thinking is a gambling addict who has the belief he or she is going to hit the lucky number, win a million dollars and live happily ever after. Meanwhile that person is gambling away the food money and the rent money. Magical thinking of the previous President created the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan in the assumption that it would be a much easier and simpler enterprise than it turned out to be. (The U.S. military believed we could install a government in Iraq that is favorable to us, and Iraqi citizens would blithely allow themselves to be governed by it.) Magical thinking is responsible for gross errors in human behavior. It says that wanting something means you deserve it and will get it, in the absence of performing the necessary work. Magical thinkers falsely believe that God likes them better than other people. And they believe there will always be someone there to clean up their mess. 

Magical thinking is where the mind draws a correlation between unrelated events, and does this in order to bring about a desired conclusion. It is wishful thinking that has crossed the line into superstition. 

I am bringing up magical thinking because it is one category of delusions, out of many, to which schizophrenic people are subject. It is a borderline category of delusions which many people who do not have a mental health diagnosis also experience. George W. Bush's administration was an example of the damage that can be wrought by magical thought. By the end of his administration, the U.S. economy was teetering on the brink of collapse. The military was stretched to a dangerous thinness. The government was spending more money than was being taken in through taxes-leaving a huge mess for others after him to clean up. 

Magical thinking is like a more extreme version of wishful thinking, in which there is an element of mild psychosis. It pays the salaries of astrologers and psychics. 

If a person with a history of psychosis experiences symptoms of magical thought, sometimes an increase in antipsychotic medication will bring him or her out of that. Symptoms include a person revealing plans that seem unrealistic, and as a result of those plans, failing to take care of basic necessities. 

Sometimes, people will outgrow magical thinking as they become older and more mature. I have a past history of foolish thinking, I admit. It took me years of enduring the hard knocks created by my foolishness to discover how to have accurate thought. At one point, I was having difficulty finding a home in which I wasn't being harassed, and decided to rent an apartment that, in fact, I could not afford. I believed I would get a job and would be able to pay for this. I borrowed money from a relative which isn't paid back to this day. The outcome of this apartment rental was disastrous. 

There seem to be some churches that propagate forms of magical thinking. For example, the church may promote the belief that you can gain affluence if you ascribe to their practices. Gaining affluence through some type of hocus pocus is no more than fool's gold. Affluence is created either by work, by inheritance, or by some kind of business activity-not by the magic power of the mind, and not by the offers that keep showing up in your spam folder. 

It is interesting to see that organized or collective psychosis is often accepted in society and thought of as valid. On the other hand, if a person invents their own delusions, they become categorized as being mentally ill. The litmus test is to look at whether or not a person can function and survive in society and do the day to day tasks that everyone must do. If a person can function and survive, in the U.S. at least, they are free to manufacture any belief. 

Just a reminder that my book that contains a year's worth of columns is available at www.lulu.com and also at Amazon. It is called "jack bragen's essays on mental illness." Meanwhile, if you would like to send comments, I can be reached at: bragenkjack@yahoo.com please specify whether or not I have permission to publish part, none or all of your letter. You are also encouraged to send comments about the column directly to The Planet.

ECLECTIC RANT: Trayvon Martin Killing: Let Investigations Run Their Course

By Ralph E. Stone
Thursday April 05, 2012 - 02:50:00 PM

On Feb. 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, was shot to death by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman captain. The teen was walking inside a gated community in Sanford, Florida, where his father and stepmother lived. Zimmerman claimed self-defense and was not arrested or charged and little or no investigation was conducted by the Sanford police department. 

On March 19, the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division and the FBI decided to investigate the shooting. 

On March 20, the Seminole County State's Attorney office, which had been handed the case by Sanford police, announced that it was investigating the incident and would convene a grand jury on April 10 to hear evidence in the shooting. 

On March 22, Sanford police chief Bill Lee announced he was taking a temporary leave of absence. This announcement came a day after Sanford's City Commission voted by 3-2 "no confidence" in the chief. 

Everyday we hear about the public outrage about the incident. Isn't it time for everyone to step back and wait for the Justice Department and the State of Florida to complete their investigations. The Justice Department will determine whether Zimmerman violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which among other things, outlaws major forms of discrimination against African Americans and women, including racial segregation. The 911 tape does indicate Zimmerman might have used the word "coon" when referring to Martin and Martin is Black while Zimmerman father is White and his mother is Hispanic. 

Zimmerman was not a member of any neighborhood watch group recognized by the National Sheriff's Association, the parent organization of USAonWatch-Neighborhood Watch . All neighborhood watch programs are not required to be members. Zimmerman violated the central tenets of Neighborhood Watch by following Martin, confronting him, and carrying a concealed weapon. If he had been a member of a recognized group, he would have been subject to a background check, been psychologically evaluated, and trained. And it is not clear Zimmerman would have been allowed to register with a neighborhood watch program because in the months prior to the Martin homicide, Zimmerman had made over 40 calls to police to report suspicious activities. This over-zealousness alone should have raised suspicions about his suitability. 

In his article, "America as a Gun Culture," historian Richard Hofstadter popularized the phrase "gun culture" to describe America's long-held affection for firearms, with many citizens embracing and celebrating the association of guns and America's heritage. According to Hofstadter, the right to own a gun and defend oneself is considered by some, especially those in the West and South, as a central tenet of the American identity. Given America's gun culture, it is not surprising, but regrettable in my opinion, that the Supreme Court in District of Columbia vs. Heller found that Americans have a Second Amendment right to "keep and bear arms." 

In keeping with the Heller decision and our gun culture, Florida makes it easy to own a gun. It does not require a permit to purchase a handgun and there is no requirement to register or obtain a license for a handgun. Florida does require a license to carry a concealed weapon or firearm. I assume that the Sanford police checked whether Zimmerman was licensed to carry a concealed weapon. 

Federal and state laws recognize a defense to certain criminal charges involving force (self defense). Under federal and state laws, the use of force is justified when a person reasonably believes that it is necessary for the defense of oneself or another against the immediate use of unlawful force. However, a person must use no more force than appears reasonably necessary in the circumstances. Force likely to cause death or great bodily harm is justified in self defense only if a person reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm. 

In 2005, Florida took self defense a step further by enacting a "Stand Your Ground" law. Under this law, persons are not required to retreat in the face of danger. Backed by the National Rifle Association, the "Stand Your Ground" legislation won broad support from Florida lawmakers and praise from then-Governor Jeb Bush as "a good, common-sense, anti-crime issue." Critics of the law call it the "right-to-commit-murder" law. 

From 2005 through June 2010, there have been 420 justifiable homicides in Florida. 

Sixteen other states have enacted similar "Stand Your Ground" laws. 

Recently, Florida’s "Stand Your Ground" law was successfully applied in a case against Greyston Garcia. Pedro Roteta was trying to steal the radio from Garcia’s truck when a roommate alerted Garcia. Garcia then grabbed a knife and chased Roteta for over a block, before killing him. Roteta was unarmed. On March 21, a Florida judge dismissed the case against Garcia, citing the "Stand Your Ground" law. Similarly, the law seems to give Zimmerman several protections. Even though the 911 tape suggests he pursued Martin when the police told him to stay away, he has claimed that Martin attacked him and shot him in self defense. The Florida police are placed in a difficult position when faced with a shooting where there is a colorable self defense claim knowing that the courts will freely apply the "Stand Your Ground" self defense law. 

At the very least, states should rethink their "Stand Your Ground" laws, and Sanford should evaluate its neighborhood watch programs. 

I understand Zimmerman has gone into hiding. The New Black Panthers have offered a $10,000 reward for his capture. Vigilante justice is not, and never will be, the answer. Let's wait until all the evidence is in and evaluated. 


My Commonplace Book (a diary of excerpts copied from printed books, with comments added by the reader.)

By Dorothy Bryant
Tuesday April 03, 2012 - 08:10:00 PM

“ . . . the greatest writers inevitably demand too much of, and are failed by, readers.” 

——Susan Sontag (1933—2004) Novelist, essayist 

I scribbled this long ago and have no idea where I read it. Nor do I have a clear memory of what I thought about it—I was too awed by Sontag’s famous erudition to doubt that she must be right, whatever she said. 

Now I’m ready to look at it again, still admiringly, but with questions. 

Obviously, a great scientific writer demands more technical education than I have. Similarly, great or even just good poetry demands repeated reading (silently and aloud) to penetrate its layers of meaning. Ditto for most philosophical writers (bless Bertrand Russell for stooping to write a few books at a level an ordinary reader might understand.) 

Moreover, the meaning of books changes over time—as the reader ages into more experience. The now-hilarious example I can offer is my being required to read Hawthorne’s classic “The Scarlett Letter,” in seventh grade, back in the innocent days when half the class had no idea how Hester earned this emblem of shame, plus a baby whose origin was even more mysterious. In less dramatic examples, a novel like Butler’s “The Way of All Flesh” takes on new layers of meaning (and humor) endlessly, the story seeming to mature with the reader. 

Yet, part of me rebels against Sontag’s assertion. I still believe that the very greatest writers (apart from technical, scientific writers) are the one who achieve a rare simplicity with which they can convey the wisest insights to any mature (not necessarily in years), serious, and attentive reader. 



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


By Bob Burnett
Friday March 30, 2012 - 03:31:00 PM

The Hunger Games movie had a multimillion-dollar weekend opening and seems destined to be the most successful film of the year. Which is remarkable because it’s a political movie set in a not-too-distant America and expresses themes that are familiar and disturbing. 

The Hunger Games was published in 2008, the first book of a trilogy written by Suzanne Collins. It imagines a post-apocalyptic America, “Panem,” with an authoritarian central government set in “The Capitol.” Inhabitants of the Capitol live a life of luxury while the rest of the citizens of Panem live in twelve slave colonies, “Districts,” scattered across North America. Once a year the Capitol televises a great spectacle where two teenagers are selected by lottery from each district, brought to the Capitol, trained and groomed, and then transported to an arena for a battle where only one teenager can survive – the games’ slogan is, “May the odds be ever in your favor.” 

“The Hunger Games” heroine is sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen who represents District 12. She supplements her family’s diet by (illegal) bow hunting. Her archery talents protect her when the games begin. 

“The Hunger Games” novel was targeted for young-adult readers – there’s violence but no sex – and then crossed over to a larger audience. The “Hunger Games” movie grossed more than $155 million in its first weekend: 61 percent of moviegoers were women and 56 percent of ticketholders were over 25. 

Unlike other recent blockbuster movies – “Harry Potter,” “The Dark Knight,” and “Spiderman” – “The Hunger Games” is set in a recognizable America and expresses themes from the contemporary zeitgeist. 

The first is that things aren’t going well. “The Hunger Games” is part of a wave of dystopian novels – other examples are “Pure” and “Divergent” – that are favorites with young-adult readers. The books assume an America that has been ravaged by nuclear war or an environmental calamity. This builds upon fear that the US is headed in the wrong direction – in the most recent Gallup Poll 72 percent of respondents felt this way. 

The second theme is that the central government cannot be trusted. In “The Hunger Games,” President Coriolanus Snow, an autocrat, governs the Capitol, which controls the twelve districts by means of a ruthless police force. In addition to forced-labor camps, Panem utilizes extensive electronic surveillance, and during the period of the games, compulsory television viewing. This reflects the belief the US government cannot be trusted. Those on the right believe the Federal government has been usurped by “socialists” and gotten too big. Those on the left believe the Federal government has been bought by plutocrats and isn’t doing anything to protect workers. Many Americans believe there is too much government intrusion into our private lives. 

The third “Hunger Games” theme is that government no longer works for all the people. There’s a small group that lives a life of privilege while most people struggle to fend off starvation. Collins doesn’t use the terms 1 percent and 99 percent, but it’s clear that those in the Capitol are members of the 1 percent and everyone in the Panem districts is part of the 99 percent. 

The fourth theme is ubiquitous surveillance. There are cameras and listening devices planted everywhere in Panem. Even before Katniss enters the games, she’s aware that most of the time her movements are being observed. After she enters the games she has no privacy; a tracking device is implanted in her arm and every move Katniss makes is broadcast on TV. 

The fifth theme is young adults dying as “entertainment.” This is the aspect of “the Hunger Games” that’s gotten the most negative attention – the notion that a battle to the death involving teenagers serves as a form of reality television for the citizens of Panem. (By the way, the movie is rated PG-13.) But the fact is the US has an unusually high rate of teenage violent deaths. Car crashes are the leading cause of death among all teenagers, but homicide is the leader for black male teens. If you couple these facts with the ubiquitous American culture of violence – the prevalence of handguns, violent imagery in books, films, games, and music – most contemporary teenagers accept the violence in “the Hunger Games” as near reality. Note that at the end of Harry Potter, Harry and the teenage students at Hogwarts School engaged in a battle to the death with Lord Voldemort and his allies. 

The sixth theme in “the Hunger Games” is revolution. This is only hinted at in the movie – there are scenes of fighting in District 11 after Rue is killed. But, in Mockingjay, the final book of the trilogy, Katniss leads a rebellion against the rulers of Panem. We’re beginning to hear muttering about revolution in the US: states seceding from the union, Americans withdrawing to survivalist enclaves in the deep woods, Tea-Party radicals eliminating of the federal government, and so forth. 

Sixty-three years ago, Orwell’s dystopian novel, “Nineteen Eighty-four,” turned out to be prophetic. Will that be true of “The Hunger Games?” Decide for yourself and “May the odds be ever in your favor.” 

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

ECLECTIC RANT: Puerto Rico: The GOP Primary, Latino Vote and Statehood

By Ralph E. Stone
Friday March 30, 2012 - 03:56:00 PM

My wife and I just returned from a visit to Puerto Rico. The temperatures were in the high 80s with very little humidity and no rain. We spent most of our time in old San Juan, but did take a 2-hour road trip across the island to Ponce, named after Juan Ponce de León y Loayza, the great-grandson of Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León.

During our visit, the GOP hopefuls, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum personally campaigned for Puerto Rico's 20 delegates. Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich did not personally campaign there. The vote was held on Sunday -- with no alcohol sales during voting -- and as has been reported, Romney won all 20 delegates to the national convention at stake.

Why would Romney and Santorum spend so much time for 20 delegates when the Illinois primary with 69 delegates at stake was just a few days away? Probably because to win the White House, the GOP candidate will have to win about 45 percent of the Hispanic vote. Obama won about 67 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2008.  

There are about 21.5 million Hispanic voters now eligible to vote in the November 2012 presidential election, with about 60 percent registered to vote compared to 70 percent Black and 74 percent White. If registration drives are successful between now and the election, the number of eligible Hispanic voters will increase. Hispanic voters have a chance to influence the outcome for president in at least 24 states.  

Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens but are not eligible to vote in the presidential election. However, Puerto Ricans are the second largest Hispanic group in the U.S., including those who migrated from Puerto Rico and those born outside of Puerto Rico. That's why both Romney and Santorum felt it necessary to make appearances in the Puerto Rican primary to court the Hispanic vote for the general election. 

Statehood is a hot issue for Puerto Ricans. Puerto Rico is a bilingual island, although Spanish is really the main language spoken with English a second language. When asked, Romney said he would support statehood for Puerto Rico as a bilingual state.  

Santorum on the other hand raised the ire of local voters by stating he would favor statehood only if English was universally spoken. Later he backtracked a bit saying he advocates English as a "language of opportunity," a position held by the Pro English, U.S. English, and Tea Party movements. 

At this point a very brief look at Puerto Rican history is useful to clarify the Puerto Rican statehood issue. On November 19, 1493, Christopher Columbus landed on what is now called Puerto Rico. The first settlement, Caparra, was founded on August 8, 1508 by Juan Ponce de León, a lieutenant under Columbus, who later became the first governor of the island. Spain fortified Puerto Rico because it was the first major island with water, shelter, and supplies that sailing ships came to en route to the Americas from Europe via Africa's west coast. Spain built a massive, complex system of fortifications to protect ships carrying gold, silver, gems, spices, and furs from Mexico and Central and South America. Castillo San Felipe del Morro (“El Morro”), built in 1539, was the major fortification. Spain built nine other fortifications in the Caribbean to provide safe harbors and protection to its ships. El Morro is now part of the National Park Service and well worth a visit. 

In 1898, the Spanish-American war commenced. A U.S. squadron of 12 ships under the command of Rear Admiral William T. Sampson took control of Puerto Rico. One of the U.S.' principal objectives was to take control of the Spanish possessions of Puerto Rico, Cuba, Philippines, and Guam. On December 10, 1898, the Treaty of Paris was signed in which Spain renounced all claim to Cuba, ceded Guam and Puerto Rico to the U.S., and transferred sovereignty over the Philippines to the U.S. for $20 million. 

On July 4, 1950, President Harry S. Truman signed Public Act 600, establishing the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, allowing Puerto Ricans to draft their own constitution. The residents of Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens and they are represented in Congress by a Resident Commissioner with a voice but no vote. Residents of Puerto Rico generally do not pay federal income taxes but do pay Social Security, Medicare and Unemployment taxes, and use the U.S. dollar as their currency..  

There have been plebiscites on the issue of statehood in 1967, 1993, and 1998, all favoring keeping Puerto Rico a Commonwealth. Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuño -- a Republican and Romney supporter -- favors statehood for Puerto Rico.  

A two-part status refernendums will be held on November 6, 2012. The first referendum will ask voters whether they want to maintain the current commonwealth status under the territorial clause of the U.S. Constitution or whether they prefer a nonterritorial option. If more voters check the nonterritorial option, a second vote would be held giving people three status options: statehood, independence or free association. (Under international law, a freely associated state is a sovereign nation in a joint governing arrangement with another nation that either nation can unilaterally end.)  

Even with Governor Fortuño’s support, it is uncertain whether Puerto Ricans will vote this time for statehood. No matter what the voters decide, statehood would still have to be approved by Congress. Last year, President Barack Obama said he believes the island will remain a U.S. Commonwealth unless there is a “solid indication” of support for statehood. That probably means a simple majority would not be enough. 

Puerto Rico is known as the Land of Enchantment, which we can certainly attest to. But underneath, the elements of the U.S.-Puerto Rico relationship have been, and continue to be, matters of debate.

SENIOR POWER: getting online

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Friday March 30, 2012 - 05:45:00 PM

How many senior citizens does it take to fight their landlord in a light bulb?

A group of tenants is fighting their landlord’s online-only rent payment rule. Elderly renters in south Los Angeles’ Woodlake Manor apartment building are suing landlord Jones & Jones. They allege that its requirement could leave them vulnerable to eviction under the Woodland Hills company’s new requirement that they make all their payments online and that a "green" initiative introduced by the company is actually a pretense to evict low-income, elderly renters benefiting from rent-stabilization provisions. 

(Alejandro Lazo in March 7, 2012 Los Angeles Times.)  

State Senator Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) has introduced a bill that would ban the practice of online-only rent payments in California. He shares the tenants' concerns that mandating online payments could be used as a way to find renters in violation of their contracts. "Not everyone has a computer nor do they have Internet access, and even if they have that there are certain people who don't want to pay online for privacy reasons," he said.  

How many senior citizens of your acquaintance have computers or even access to a PC? How many are able to walk to the nearest public library, senior center, or internet café? 


Jones & Jones Management Group, Inc. describes itself as "Family-owned and operated since 1971… Our professional on-site management will meet your needs in a friendly and efficient manner. … Woodlake Manor Apartments is ideally located within minutes of the 10 freeway, Crenshaw Plaza Shopping Center/Wal-Mart, restaurants, entertainment, and schools.” But not, apparently, within minutes of public libraries and senior centers. Public library branches located in the Woodland Hills area provide free computer access, but they are not “within minutes.” 

Woodlake Manor residents told reporters that the company would accept their rent checks only after they signed an agreement exempting them from the rule. The company did not accept the payments of residents until a group organized a demonstration in which residents presented their checks en masse to the rental office. Even so, waivers that residents signed might be revoked at any time.

"I am 86 years old and I am computer illiterate," said Margaret Beavers, a Woodlake Manor resident since 1963 and a plaintiff in the suit against the landlord. "I'd have to buy a computer and learn how to use it… ." Dedon Kamathi, a 12-year resident and an organizer with the Woodlake Manor Tenants Association, said the move by Jones & Jones was “an attempt to exploit a ‘digital divide’ between the lower-income, largely African American long-term residents in the building and the higher-income renters that the company is actively courting. The new rule requiring online payments was aimed at getting these residents — many of whom benefit from the city's rent-control policies — out of the building so that the management company could offer the units at market rate… They want more USC types — USC students, middle-class tenants… The bottom line is the more turnaround, the more you can make money."  

I know from experience the verity of this contention. While I was a tenant in a rent-controlled, Berkeley south campus apartment, I learned that there is little or nothing one person can do or expect of local government when new management decides to dump rent-paying old-timers. 

Larry Gross, executive director of the tenants rights group, Coalition for Economic Survival, which helped organize the Woodlake Manor tenants, said he was concerned that more Jones & Jones buildings may be subject to the online-only rent payment rule. Jones & Jones owns and operates 38 buildings with 2,900+ units throughout Los Angeles and Ventura counties. 

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of four residents of Woodlake Manor, all over age 62, alleges that the new rule violates the city's Rent Stabilization Ordinance because it unilaterally changed the terms of rental agreements. Tenants were represented by Bet Tzedek Legal Services, founded in 1974 by a small group of lawyers, rabbis, and community activists who sought to act upon a central tenet of Jewish law and tradition, doctrine establishing an obligation to advocate the just causes of the poor and helpless.  

Jones & Jones has issued a statement through an attorney regretting that the online payments were being "negatively received." The old blaming-the-victim ploy. 


“Senior Power” readers may be aware of my advocacy for enabling senior citizens to become computer literate. It’s a good thing. Computer literacy is knowledge and ability to use computers efficiently and at a comfort level. A personal computer (PC) is any general-purpose computer whose size, capabilities, and original sales price make it useful for individuals.  

I contend that enabling senior citizens to use email and to access the Internet can be significant in their lives. There are, however, two considerations – attitude and equipment. Both might be dealt with at senior centers and senior housing, and are already shared by public libraries that routinely provide daytime and evening classes, workshops, tutorials, etc. as well as onsite access to computers. There are young and old volunteers who could serendipitously be further involved.  

Computers for seniors projects in California are located in Chula Vista, Costa Mesa, Fallbrook, La Mirada, Sacramento and San Jose. Jean Coppola, a Pace University gerontologist and information technology professor, began a program to bridge the generation gap created by the Computer Age. Seniors learn how to navigate PCs, iPads and smartphones, with university students as teachers. It has become a model for similar efforts. She now has more seniors clamoring for the 7-week course at senior facilities in Manhattan and Westchester County, New York than she has students to teach them. ("Seniors and their iPads, iPhones: Keeping up in the computer age." Michelle Maltias Chicago Tribune, March 21, 2012). 



Congress decided to hold Election Day on a Tuesday because it was the easiest day for farmers, in what was then a largely agrarian country, to get to the polls! Only 56% of eligible voters went to the polls in 2008. Reps. Larson (D-CT) and Israel (D-NY) introduced The Weekend Voting Act to move Election Day from a Tuesday to the weekend. Polls would be open from 10 A.M. ET on the first Saturday of the month through 6 P.M. ET on the first Sunday in the 48 contiguous states and held open overnight if local elections officials decide to do so. 

Other nations, e.g. France, the UK, New Zealand, have dramatically higher rates of turnout -- up to 70% and 80% -- when Election Day is a holiday, or held on the weekend, versus an average of 55% in the U.S. in presidential election years. Here in the U.S., we rank 138th out of 172 around the world in voter participation. 

Tell Congress: move Election Day to the weekend so America can get to the polls. 


MARK YOUR CALENDAR 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.  

Mondays, April 2 and 9. 2:30-3:30 P.M. North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. “Receive help with basic technology needs from UCB students…. Also: Wednesdays, April 4 and 11, 12:30-2 P.M.; and April 13, 10:30-11:30 P.M. 510-981-5190.  

Monday, April 2. 6:30 P.M. Castoffs knitting group. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av. An evening of knitting, show and tell and yarn exchange. All levels are welcome and help will be provided. Free. 510-524-3043.  

Wednesday, April 4. 10 A.M. – Noon. North Berkeley Senior Center Advisory Council. 1901 Hearst. Be sure to confirm. 510-981-5190  

Wednesday, April 4. 12:15-1 P.M. Noon concert, UC,B Music Department. Hertz Concert Hall. Faculty Recital featuring new pieces by Berkeley composer and pianist Cindy Cox, with violinist Hrabba Atladottir, pianist Karen Rosenak, and the Alexander String Quartet. Free. 510-642-4864 

Wednesday, April 4. 6-8 P.M. Lawyer in the Library. Free 15 minute consultation with an attorney. Advance registration is required. Sign up in person at the Reference desk, Albany Branch of the Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. . Or call 510-526-3720 ext. 5 during library hours.  

Wednesday, April 4. 6:30-8 P.M. Albany Branch of the Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. Poetry Writing Workshop with Christina Hutchins, Albany poet and author of The Stranger Dissolves, facilitates this writing workshop. Free. No registration required. Drop in and work on your poetry with a group of supportive writers. Contact: Dan Hess(510) 526-3720 x17 dhess@aclibrary.org 

Saturday, April 7. 1 – 5 P.M. Berkeley Public Library North Branch, 1170 The Alameda at Hopkins. Grand Reopening Event. A ribbon cutting ceremony is planned with local and state officials, music and refreshments. Everyone invited. Library services will begin at 2 p.m. (The final open day for BranchVan Service at Live Oak Park will be Saturday, March 24, 2012.) Details at www.berkeleypubliclibrary.org

Monday, April 9. 11:30 – 1:30 A.M. Older Adult Passover Seder. Jewish Community Center of the East Bay, Berkeley Branch 1414 Walnut Street. Kosher meal will include chicken and matzo ball soup, gefilte fish with horseradish sauce, fresh green salad w/ hard boiled eggs, roasted chicken, matzh kugel, and wine. The Seder will be led by Ron Feldman. $10 JCC East Bay Member. $13 Non-Member. RSVP by March 29. Contact: Front DeskPhone: 510-848-0237. Email: samy@jcceastbay.org 

Tuesday, April 10. 7-9 P.M. Albany branch of the Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. Poetry Night. Featured Poet is Barry Goldensohn. Followed by Open Mic. Contact: Dan Hess dhess@aclibrary.org 

Wednesday, April 11. 12:15-1 P.M. Noon concert. UC,B Music Dept. Hertz Concert Hall. New Music by UC Berkeley graduate student composers, featuring Eco Ensemble, our resident professional new music ensemble directed by David Milnes. Lily Chen: Soundscape for violin, percussion, and piano. Andrés Cremisini: (control) for violin, cello, and snare drum. Ilya Y. Rostovtsev: Understatements for stereo fixed media. Tickets not required. Event Contact 510-642-4864 

Thursday, April 12. 7:00 P.M. El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Avenue. Folk singer Tim Holt performs and discusses our heritage of traditional songs and sea chanteys. Sponsored by the Friends of the El Cerrito Library. 510-526-7512. 

Friday, April 13. 12:15-1 P.M. UCB Music Dept. Noon concert. Department of Music students perform chamber music. Hertz Concert Hall. Free. 510-642-4864 

Saturday, April 14. 2-3 P.M. Be an expert: Genealogy. Berkeley Public Library Central, 2090 Kittredge. Free introduction to online genealogy tools and Ancestry.com, a database that offers searchable census tracts, immigration records, photos and more. In the Electronic Classroom. 510-981-6100 

Monday, April 16. 12:30-1:30 P.M. Library Brown Bag Lunch Speaker's Forum: Richard Schwartz discusses "The Amazing Volunteer Relief Effort in the East Bay After the 1906 Earthquake." Go to www.richardschwartz.info for more information. The forum is co-sponsored by the Albany YMCA and the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av..
Contact: Ronnie Davis(510) 526-3720 x16. 

Monday, April 16. 7 P.M. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av. Author Panel: So You Want to Write a Book? Four local authors discussing their writing journeys. Free. 510-524-3043 

Tuesday, April 17. 6:30 P.M. Oakland Public Library, Rockridge Branch, 5366 College Ave.. Vegan Outreach presents Jack Norris, author of Vegan for Life, speaking about the health benefits of a plant-based diet. This program is part of Oakland Veg Week, April 15-21. Linda Jolivet 510/597-5017  

Wednesday, April 18. 12:15-1 P.M. Noon concert: Highlights: Music Dept. event. Hertz Concert Hall. Songs of Persephone. Soprano Alana Mailes performs 17th-century Italian and French opera arias and cantatas by Caccini, Peri, Monteverdi, Rossi, Lully, Charpentier. Tickets not required. Event Contact 510-642-4864 

Wednesday, April 18. 1:30 P.M. Berkeley Commission on Aging. South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis Street. 510-981-5178 Be sure to confirm. 

Wednesday, April 18. 7-8 P.M. Albany branch of the Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. Adult Evening Book Group: Nadifa Mohamed's Black Mamba Boy. Rosalie Gonzales facilitates the discussion. Come to one meeting, or all meetings. Books are available at the Library. Contact: Ronnie Davis(510) 526-3720 x16  

Saturday April 21. 1-5 P.M. Oakland Public Library Rockridge Branch, 5366 College Ave.. California Writers' Club, a workshop open to all writers. Contact: Anne Fox 510-420-8775. 

Tuesday, April 24. 3-4 P.M. Berkeley Public Library Central, 2090 Kittredge. Tea and Cookies at the Library. A free monthly book club for people who want to share the books they have read. 510-981-6100 See also May 22. 

Wednesday, April 25. 12:15-1 P.M. UC,B Music Dept. Gamelan Music of Java and Bali is performed by classes directed by Midiyanto and I Dewa Putu Berata with Ben Brinner and Lisa Gold. Hertz Concert Hall. Free. 510-642-4864 

Wednesday, April 25. 1:30-2:30 P.M. Great Books Discussion Group: William Butler Yeats’ poem, Lapis Luzuli. Albany branch of the Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. Rosalie Gonzales facilitates the discussion. Come to one meeting, or all meetings. Books are available at the Library. Contact: Ronnie Davis(510) 526-3720 x16 

Wednesday, April 25. 1:30 P.M. Berkeley Gray Panthers. Monthly meeting at North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. 510-981-5190, 548-9696, 486-8010 

Wednesday, May 2. 12:15-1 P.M. UC,B Music Dept.: Renaissance Music, A Cappella. Perfect Fifth, Mark Sumner, director, is an a cappella choir in UC Choral Ensembles specializing in medieval and Renaissance music—sacred and secular, as well as contemporary art music. Hertz Concert Hall. Free. 510-642-4864 

Monday, May 7. 6:30 P.M. Castoffs knitting group. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av. An evening of knitting, show and tell and yarn exchange. All levels are welcome and help will be provided. Free. 510-524-3043.  

Thursday, May 10. 7-8:45 P.M. Cafe Literario at West Berkeley Public Library, 1125 University Ave. Facilitated Spanish language book discussion. May title: La Casa de Dostoievsky by Jorge Edwards. Free. 510-981-6270 

Sunday, May 13. 12-4:30 P.M., 1:30 - 2:45pm. Hertz Concert Hall. Concert and Commencement Ceremony. Sponsor: Department of Music. Concert featuring award winners in the performing arts. Open to all audiences. Event Contact: concerts@berkeley.edu, 510-642-4864 

Monday, May 14. 7:00 P.M. Identity Theft Program. Barbara Jue, a Legal Shield associate, will offer information and advice on how to prevent identity theft and how to cope should it should happen. She will also talk about children and computer use and cyber bullying. Q&A follows. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Avenue. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Monday May 21. 7 P.M. Kensington Library Book Club: Color of the Sea by John Hamamura. 61 Arlington Av. 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. 

Tuesday, May 22. 3 – 4 P.M. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. Tea and Cookies at the Library. A free monthly book club for people who want to share the books they have read. 510-981-6100. 

Monday, June 4. 6:30 P.M. "Castoffs" - Knitting Group. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Avenue. An evening of knitting, show and tell and yarn exchange. All levels are welcome and help will be provided. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Monday, June 18. 7 P.M. Art historian Michael Stehr will discuss Gian Lorenz Bernini, who was the Michelangelo of the Baroque. He will also present a slide show. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Avenue. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Monday June 25. 7 P.M. Kensington Library Book Club: The Chosen by Chaim Potok. 1 Arlington Av. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Arts & Events

Confessions of an English Soap Opera Addict

By Stuart Dodds
Friday March 30, 2012 - 02:34:00 PM

In 1999, at the height of his success, a silver-tongued Prime Minister Tony Blair greeted the Labor Party Conference in Bournemouth with: “My friends! The class war is over!” For me—speaking as one who had viewed the upper echelon with a mixture of caution and envy—the class war ended while watching “Downton Abbey” on television. Something in me snapped. 

I was happy and relieved when Lady Mary hugged her forgiving father, Richard Crawley, the Earl of Grantham, after he told her he had learned all about her night-time escapade with Mr. Pamuk. I was thrilled to hear him say to her: “Get rid of Carlisle. I don't want my daughter to marry a man who is threatening to ruin her.” Robert Crawley is a good man and Richard Carlisle, the newspaper publisher, is intimidating and spiteful, an upstart with a huge chip on his shoulder. Talk about class warfare! I loved it when Matthew clocked him finally although it became an unseemly scuffle and I worried that Matthew might hurt himself or reopen wounds he had received at the front. 

I fought back tears when Matthew’s short-lived fiancée, Lavinia, after seeing he and Lady Mary dancing together said they were just right for each other, that she felt so ordinary by comparison and didn't want to stand in their way. Soon after, almost obligingly, she died of the Spanish flue. 

I was touched when Matthew awkwardly, and I suspect painfully, got down on one knee and proposed to Mary (she had insisted he propose “properly”). They had been through a lot and this was the end of their vacillations. Dan Stevens is a clever actor, in the way he registers the change in Matthew, the psychological scars of war, the bitterness and self-reproach. Miraculously recovered from a crippling injury, he still wears a haunted look that is quite appealing, enhanced by eye make-up, and I fancy that his pupils occasionally would sink into the lower part of the iris. Lord Byron had a similar peculiarity in which his pupils would momentarily disappear. It was known as Byron's “underlook" and it had a devastating effect on women. 

O'Brien has a lot to answer for—possibly murder— but I am glad she never had the opportunity to confess her sins to Cora who was sick and in no position to deal with them. No doubt, there will be more about that in the next series. The confession she seems eager to make belongs in the confessional, if not at the police station. 

* * * 

Cora, the Countess of Grantham, I think, protests too much. She is rather whiney but she has much to put up with and being an American and the mistress of this weird and wonderfully complex English household may have been difficult for her. She’s a worrier. Robert is a recognizable character of his time—a patriot with one foot in the previous century, not to mention the previous war. He is crestfallen at being turned down for active service on the grounds of age while every day of the Great War (one of the most savage in human history) he puts on a uniform in which he looks less than debonair, even a little pudgy, and frets over his family, his castle and an army of servants. Keeping him especially busy are three very modern, highly-strung daughters of marriageable age. 

Emily Nussbaum in a New Yorker magazine review had some astringent words to describe the daughters—"reared like veal, though sharp as vipers." What Edith did was viperous, or vengeful, but there is another side to her. She is not heartless. Sybil is the more rebellious of the three—to her parent’s horror, marrying a chauffeur (their chauffeur), an Irishman and a “Fenian” no less! 

Lady Mary I find to be the most poignant figure in the series, a Venetian beauty like those in the paintings that were on view at the de Young museum this year. Thanks to her sister Edith, she is in a terrible predicament. It takes all of her breeding and all of the social skills in her possession to conceal her suffering and her boredom---from time to time, there is a split-second when the art of concealment seems to desert her. The mask slips. That these times are rare is a tribute to her coolness and to her beauty which is so distracting. That they happen at all must have inspired in Matthew a great sense of protectiveness. Mary, for all of her intelligence, unlike her sister Sybil, doesn't see a way out of the social trap and but for her father would have been blackmailed into a hellish marriage to avoid a scandal. Thank God for the Earl of Grantham! 

The story of John Bates with his marital difficulties and his relationship with Anna, the maid, was real enough but it was monotonous. When he first arrived at Downton, he was fascinating. An incongruous presence in the servants’ quarters, he had the air of a gentleman adjusting to reduced circumstances with the utmost grace and good humor. I didn’t believe in the back-story concerning Robert and “the African War.” (i.e. the Boer War). The Earl of Grantham could have been his batman. Nevertheless, he is now in serious trouble, being convicted (wrongly, it is supposed by everyone at Downton) of murdering his wife. It is likely that the Crawleys with their connections at the Home Office and their friends in Parliament will bring about a retrial or have his sentence overturned. (I must admit to having some doubts of my own about John Bates: There is a hint of violence in him, of physical power held in check. Maybe he really did murder his wife.) 

* * * 

I was glad that Nigel Havers showed up in the second series, as Lord Hepworth. He plays these rogues well—white-collar criminals, cads and criminals of the officer class, so pleasant and plausible and very English. He had been at Downton no more than a few hours when a door on one of the guest floors is opened and—low and behold!—Lord Hepworth is caught in flagrante delicto with the maid of his fiancée. His fiancée! 

Of the Maggie Smith character—-for many, a favorite and a scene-stealer—-I have no pleasant memories. In repose, the elderly Dame Maggie Smith is lovely but in this character, as she relishes her bon mots, I can barely look at her. She is much too like men and women I have known who believe themselves to be witty when they are simply mean and tiresome. Her literary ancestor is Lady Bracknell but her lines cannot hold a candle to those of Oscar Wilde. I am thankful--since she is such a star turn—that she doesn't play a larger role than she does in this grand affair. 

But there is more to come. A third series is in the works with Shirley MacLaine adding to the drama as Cora’s mother. Let’s hope she will give the Dowager Countess a run for her money! 

Stuart Dodds was born and educated in London, England. He served two years of National Service in the Royal Air Force and emigrated to the United States in 1958. He lives in Berkeley, California. Prior to his recent retirement, he was editor/general manager of Chronicle Features, the syndication division of the San Francisco Chronicle.

AROUND AND ABOUT FILM: 'Time Regained' in the Raul Ruiz 'Library Lover' Retrospective at the Pacific Film Archive

By Ken Bullock
Friday March 30, 2012 - 02:22:00 PM

Watching 'Time Regained,' Raul Ruiz's 1999 adaptation of Proust's last book, onscreen at the PFA, over a decade after seeing it projected three times in a two year period, revealed again the density of the film in its engagement with Proust's vision—and with a contemporary audience. 

The collective title of Proust's series of volumes translates as "searching for lost time," and Ruiz—himself the author of well over a hundred films, over a hundred plays and scores of books—seems to have been engaged in a search for the cinematic means to more than represent, but trigger the same experiences Proust found "involuntarily," freeing deep-seated memories and the recognition that doing so can create a poetic awareness and freedom in any individual's coming to grips with their own existence and the consciousness required to do so. 

This's particularly apropos to Ruiz's declarations, in other contexts, of his work being "not fiction ... but about fiction" and that every shot in a film is, in a way, a separate film and the link to other films, both existent and potential. (The second assertion has political implications, as does much in Ruiz's work: he positioned his films in opposition to—and in dialogue with—the Hollywood narrative film and others of its type, which rely on what John Howard Lawson, the blacklisted screenwriter, characterized as "Central Conflict Theory," the plotting of a story "providentially," with a development (conflict) and ending that, in retrospect, seem preordained. 

A few years before 'Time Regained' was scheduled for production, Ruiz talked about his adaptation. Instead of making a film of 'Swann's Way' (as did Volker Schlondorff with 'Swann in Love') or one or more of the other opening books of Proust's series, Ruiz had hit on starting with the end and flashing back to the earlier parts of Marcel's story: "Narrative films are about flashing back, not forward!" 

(He also "included" what other filmmakers had made—or intended to make—of Proust; the sequence near the end of the older Marcel wandering with his childhood self in a chthonic maze of sculted stone, with canals and gondolas, recalls Visconti's 'Death in Venice' ... Visconti had written script based on Proust, but never realized his project.) 

There are many "games," as Ruiz would refer to them—in the sense of Nicholas of Cusa, the early Renaissance thinker who made up games and puzzles to assist mortal minds and perception to grasp the sense of the infinite and eternal—that occur and recur during the film. John Malkovich is dubbed with a feline, aristocratic accent in his role as the elegant and very louche eccentric, Baron Charlus ... but in his final scene, he appears before Marcel after the Armistice, outdoors (Charlus, the creature of the night), obviously recovering from illness, speaking in his (Malkovich's) own voice, so his French sounds halting, childish even, relishing his survival as he names family and friends—each name puntuated by "Mort!" 

Like a counterpoint to Malkovich's dubbed, then natural voice, in regard to accent, Arielle Dombasle, very much a French actress, is cast as the social-climbing bride of Bloch, who has changed his name, hoping to doff his Jewishness ... (Proust, the old Dreyfusard, sharpens his satire on this accomodation to the nouveau riche world after the War, which seeks money and accomodation.) Almost exquisite—or counter-exquisite—to hear Dombasle's impression of a "cultured" American, stumbling over French pronunciation and apologizing in her native tongue, then declaring she's American! ... when her finishing school intonation's mistaken for Public School English ... at an elegant matinee packed with snobs and moribund aristocrats. 

Ruiz, who was Salvador Allende's film advisor, forced to leave Chile for exile in France at Pinochet's coup, holds this class situation in low-key tension, in the background and at the edges of the frame, in offhanded remarks by the characters, as the situation shifts with the social impact of the War. The crucial role of servants and facilitators of all kinds for the upper classes is constantly shown; the sexual habits of the aristocrats often involve their self-consciousness—or desire to escape it—as "the chosen ones." During shooting, Ruiz kept a set of Edward Curtis' photographs of Native American Indians in their regalia (some of whom hadn't worn it for years) with him. "Another dying tribe, aware of their coming extinction," he said, reflecting on Proust's aristocratic dinosaurs, the allegory of a world vanishing, along with survivors it harbored from earlier epochs. 

"Allegory," an important word for Ruiz, the aficionado of Walter Benjamin's writings about art, storytelling, melancholy, politics—as well as Baroque traditions of his native Chile. 

I remember Mick LaSalle's acerbic response to 'Time Regained' in the Chronicle on its commercial release, a year after it was screened (and critically acclaimed, in the Chron and elsewhere) at the San Francisco Film Festival. The chair for the Pink Section's "Little Man" stood empty. LaSalle wrote that he was less offended by the movie being a procession of "impossible to follow" shots and scenes that play with chronology than by his "realization" that it's what the filmmaker intended!—though he does, half-heartedly, come up with some leading phrases: "dream logic," "fever dream" ... It's all in Proust's head, LaSalle realizes, but it must've been on his worst day! (No telling what kind of day it was for LaSalle ... ) 

To make a plotted narrative out of Proust's grand experiment would've betrayed the purpose of the original. But how to compress, however radically, the experience of reading many hundreds of pages, the set-up for the many, many realizations by both narrator and reader in a film of a couple hours? 

Ruiz's answer was to dig deep in the trove of innovations he'd come up with in his almost countless super low-budget films from the previous 30 years, showing his remarkable cast (Catherine Deneuve, Emmanuelle Beart, Vincent Perez, Pascal Greggory, among many others) posed in full antediluvian regalia, often quibbling over some nicety, or a not-so-nice rumor ... Tableaus, sometimes Tableaux Vivants, as when Marcel recalls stumbling on a paving stone in Venice—one of John Ruskin's stones, a favorite of Proust—and stands awkwardly posed, frozen in mid-fall, as present and past swirl around him. Allegories of consciousness in its ebb and flow, its darkness and bursts of light—as in the light that blanks the screen when Proust's servant Celeste opens the curtain in the almost hermetically sealed room in which he dictates his book on his deathbed ... 

Some images stand out by themselves, like the figure of the great Edith Scob as the Princess de Guermantes, standing dazed yet regal, surrounded by monuments in a churchyard as mourners swarm past her at the burial of her son, killed in the War. 

(Later, this tall, elegant figure buttonholes Marcel at a postwar function to fill his ear with venom about the more guiltless characters.) 

Truly a great film, capable of many viewings, many moods. Ruiz's collaborators—including cinematographer Ricardo Aronovich, who shot 'Providence' (a pun Ruiz would've enjoyed, maybe thought of) for Alain Resnais (about an old writer, played by John Gielgud, near his end, remembering—and tinkering authorially with—his life on a sleepless, drunken spree in his lonely mansion), one of the filmmakers Ruiz references, for 'Last Year At Marienbad' (Alain Robbe-Grillet, the novelist who wrote the 'Marienbad' screenplay, has a cameo as diarist Goncourt in one flashback); brilliant Chilean composer Jorge Arriagada (who scored more than 50 films for his fellow countryman), editor Denise de Casabianca (best-known here for 'Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge' from Ambrose Bierce, 'The Mother & the Whore' and 'the Return of Martin Guerre'), and many more—often worked with him on multiple films; some (like actor Jean Badin) were both collaborators and personal friends-and Melville Poupaud, who plays the Prince of Foix, started out as a juvenile in Ruiz's films of the early 80s. 

Following 'Time Regained' on the PFA bill for the Ruiz retrospective was 'Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting' (1979), his most famous film before 'Time Regained,' a free (and wild, but deliciously controlled) adaptation of Pierre Klossowski's novel 'The Baphomet,' featuring literal Tableaux Vivants of scenes from a series of paintings of the 19th century, displayed by an art critic to the filmmaker (who we hear but don't see) as he tries to demonstrate more and more elaborate conspiracy theories just under the surface, or in a stray gesture or glance of the reenacted peintings—all of which lead back to "the hypothesis of the stolen painting," a kind of spoof in advance of 'The Da Vinci Code,' possibly filmed in the same chateau ... Exquisite, enigmatically ironic ... along with the short, "Dog's Dialogue" (1977), a stream of mostly stills with montage of sound and narration, a kind of surreal puzzle of a soap opera-style photo-novela, a puzzle in which all the pieces keep getting swapped around—and all fit together. 

Next is 'The Penal Colony,' from Kafka, relocated to South America, an unnamed country whose only product is torture for view by foreign media—along with Ruiz's segment of Peter Greenaway-produced BBC program, 'A TV Dante,' Inferno cantos 9-14 (so including the great Farinata canto), set during the coup in Chile (another September 11—"our little September 11," as some Chilenos ironically refer to it), with Danteand Virgil's voices by Bob Peck and John Gielgud (April 4 at 7), as well as his first film, 'Tres Tristes Tigres' (1968) on April 14—then 'Suspended Vocation' (1977), also from a Klossowski novel, one of his most outrageously funny movies, loaded with ambiguous gestures, as a filmmaker's hired by the Church to make sense of two films shot by two opposing ecclessiastic factions in different filmic style of the same story, over a decade of social change, finally edited into one unwieldy, incomplete shaggy dog story with an oblique, curiously flexible meaning ... Both Klossowski films shot by Sasha Vierny of 'Marienbad' fame. (April 15). Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft Way (just east of Telegraph, up flight of stairs on UC campus). $5.50-$9.50. 642-1412; bampfa.berkeley.edu