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Bank Of America had refused to meet with a delegation from the community--so this demonstration took place at the Solano branch on Monday.
Harry Brill
Bank Of America had refused to meet with a delegation from the community--so this demonstration took place at the Solano branch on Monday.


Berkeley: 6-Year-Old Boy Injured in May 18 Crash Dies

By Jeff Shuttleworth and Hannah Albarazi (BCN)
Tuesday May 29, 2012 - 09:34:00 PM

A 6-year-old boy has died from injuries he suffered in a car crash in Berkeley 11 days ago that also killed his mother and injured her boyfriend, police said today. 

Xavier Chevez died at about 6:30 p.m. Friday at Children's Hospital Oakland, Berkeley police spokeswoman Sgt. Mary Kusmiss said. 

The boy was injured at about 1:10 a.m. on May 18 when the Cadillac he was riding in crashed into a roundabout and a tree near Allston Way and California Street. 

Xavier's mother, 22-year-old Milanca Alicia Lopez, was killed in the crash. Lopez had been a student at the University of California at Berkeley, where she studied social welfare. 

The driver, 24-year-old Jose Lumbreras, was taken to a hospital after the accident with what police described as serious injuries. 

The Alameda County District Attorney's Office last week charged Lumbreras with gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated for Lopez's death, and drunken driving causing injury for the wounds to Xavier, who became comatose after the crash and suffered paralysis. Kusmiss said the second charge might be amend ed as a result of Xavier's death, but district attorney's spokeswoman Teresa Drenick said a decision on amending the charge won't be made until Wednesday.

Press Release: Boy, Passenger in Solo Car Collision at California Street and Allston Way, Passes Away on May 25, 2012

From Sgt. Mary C. Kusmiss BPD Public Information Officer
Tuesday May 29, 2012 - 01:38:00 PM

The Alameda County Coroner’s Office called the City of Berkeley Police Department (BPD) on Friday night, May 25, 2012 to advise us that Xavier Chevez, born 4/14/06, of Berkeley, died at about 6:30 p.m. that evening. The boy’s autopsy is pending. When the BPD investigators receive the results of the autopsy, they will take the information to the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office (BA) for her review and consideration of added and/or amended charges in the case.

Second Richmond Casino
Dealt a Busted Flush

By Richard Brenneman
Saturday May 26, 2012 - 08:23:00 AM

Richmond, one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s poorest cities, had been betting on casinos to boost a lagging local economy plagued by a decayed urban center and high unemployment. The developers, who recruited landless Native America bands to front their plans, promised jobs for the jobless and cash for the city’s revenue-starved coffers. [Getting a tribal affiliation is critical, since Vegas-style gambling is illegal in California unless it's on land claimed as a tribal reservation, which falls under federal jurisdiction.]

The first proposal called for a billion-dollar-plus Vegas style resort directly on the waters of the Bay near the foot of the Richmond San Rafael Bridge, a major traffic artery connecting Marin County to the East Bay.

There’d be Sin City-style showrooms, a major hotel complex, high-roller tables, gourmet eateries, an exclusive condo development, and more — and all of it “green.”

But Berkeley developer Jim Levine, who made his pile on hazardous waste cleanups [including part of the Richmond site where UC Berkeley hopes to build a massive second campus of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory] was dealt a death blow when the Bureau of Indian Affairs determined that the Guidiville Rancheria band of Pomos had no historic connection with the site — a basic requirement for restoring a landless tribe to a new reservation.

Now the same fate has befallen the second project, put forward by Florida casino developer Alan Ginsburg, who also heads North American Sports Management. 

Florida developer’s plans kayoed 

Acting Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Donald Laverdure dropped the bad news Friday, declaring that the Scotts Valley Band of Pomos has no historic ties to land, disqualifying the site under the provisions of the National Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. 

Ginsburg bought the land back in 2004 through a specially created corporate entity, NSV Development, while a second corporation, Noram-Richmond, LLC, would have developed the project on a 30-acre site just north of the city limits. 

Here’s the verdict, from the Bureau of Indian Affairs press release

“After closely reviewing the Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians’ fee-to-trust application for a gaming facility in Contra Costa County, we determined that the Band’s parcels near the city of Richmond did not qualify as restored lands under IGRA’s equal footing exceptions because it could not demonstrate it had a significant historical connection to the site,” Laverdure said. 

Here’s the key section from the BIA’s official findings

In this case, the proposed gaming site is not located within the Tribe’s former reservation. The evidence in the Record also shows that the site is not even within the territory ceded in unratified treaties by the Tribe’s ancestors. 

Had the tribe chosen a site within their historic range, the BIA wouldn’t have had a problem. 

And there’s no denying that the Scotts Valley band needs help. As we reported for the Berkeley Daily Planet in 2006, the Environmental Impact Statement for the casino project noted that “one-third of the adults are unemployed, 56.8 percent of tribal members receive some form of government assistance, and 95.5 percent are categorized as low income.” 

Legal troubles began early 

Ginsburg planned for a 225,000-square-foot casino. There would be no hotels, no luxury suites, no ferry service like that Levine planned to draw high-rollers to Point Molate. 

Back in the days we started daily newspaper reporting in Las Vegas 48 years ago, folks would’ve called it Ginsburg’s operation “grind joint,” compared to Levine’s “carpet joint.” 

But there would have been slots, lots of slots: 1,940 of them to be exact, along with a sports bar and a showroom. 

Troubles began after the City of Richmond signed a $335 million contract with Ginsburg to provide police, fire, and other services to the casino, even though it's outside city limits. 

Casino foes filed suit, charged that the agreement was illegal because it had been approved without the environmental review required by the California Environmental Quality Act. 

The challengers, members of the Parchester Village Neighborhood Council, Citizens for East Shore Parks, and a newly created group called SPRAWLDEF [Sustainability, Parks, Recycling and Wildlife Legal Defense Fund] won their action, adding another delay to the project. 

In the end, the lawsuit didn’t matter. The project failed on the most basic issue of all. 

Casinos make for strange bedfellows 

During the six years we reported on various Bay Area casino projects, we witnessed the creation of some very unusual alliances. 

But the oddest alliance of all was between Richmond’s black clergy and the casino developers. 

Throughout our reporting days, whenever the subject of gambling came up during our conversations with African American clerics, the reaction had always been negative, with gambling seen as a vice that preyed on the poor. 

But whenever there was a hearing by the city or the Bureau of Indian Affairs on either project, African American ministers were on hand to praise the projects for the jobs they’d deliver. 

Clearly, the developers had played their cards very carefully. 

But it was a third casino project, one proposed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, that would have granted the tribal owners of a small tribal casino in nearby San Pablo the right to build a huge Vegas-style operation, with a major piece of the action going to fund depleted state coffers. 

As we reported for the Daily Planet back in August 2004, one of the major beneficiaries would have been the guy who stage-managed the GOP “Brokers Brothers riot” that disrupted the 2000 recount in Florida and held paved the way for the George Bush presidency: 

The deal gives the Bay Area casino monopoly to the Lytton Pomo Indian band, whose plans were backed by Republican financier Samuel P. Katz, a three-time failed candidate for mayor of Philadelphia, and Roger Stone, a tribal casino lobbyist identified by the Florida Election Commission as the GOP “dirty tricks” operative who stage-managed the irate Republican mobs during the 2000 ballot recount in Florida. 

But that plan also foundered. 

Casino San Pablo is still there, but not the megacasino once envisioned by the Governorator, Katz, and Stone. 

This story first appeared on Richard Brenneman's blog, Eats, Shoots 'n Leaves. 

Press Release: Berkeley Neighborhood Groups Sue City Over Downtown Plan

From Hank Gehman
Friday May 25, 2012 - 09:17:00 AM

The long-established Council of Neighborhood Associations and other neighborhood groups filed suit in Alameda County Court last week against the City of Berkeley’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for its new Downtown Area Plan (DAP). The suit alleges that the City has made numerous changes since it last reviewed the DAP, in 2009, but has not analyzed their effects, as required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In particular, the suit charges that the City has proposed a new zoning ordinance, cynically called the “Green Pathway”, which makes it quicker and easier for developers to demolish older buildings, even if they are attractive and historically important. 

Residents are concerned that the DAP could greatly alter the character of the existing downtown, and turn it into just another generic concrete-and-glass urban wasteland. There have been numerous objections to the new EIR, including a letter from the City's own Landmarks Preservation Commission, but the City Council has ignored them all. 

Another concern is that the Green Pathway, if not challenged, would give the University carte blanche to build labs in the downtown to expand its research in the area of genetic engineering and synthetic biology. This would be done without any community input. In 2005, without consulting its citizens, the City came to an agreement with the University of California (UC) allowing it to expand the building of high rise labs downtown. The University, in partnership with BP, has already built the Helios Energy Research Facility which will genetically engineer plants for biofuel. 

Berkeley citizens are concerned that these potentially dangerous technologies of synthetic biology and genetic engineering are not well understood and are subject to very lax regulation. Any expansion of these facilities in the crowded downtown area must first be openly investigated. The Green Pathway proposal combined with the UC/City agreement will deny citizens their right to adequately review the possibly dangerous consequences and to offer alternative locations for these labs. 

CEQA gives citizens the important right to have some control over the development that is remaking their cities. Because CEQA gives city councils the right to approve their own EIRs, it is not uncommon for them to take illegal short cuts. This lawsuit is important to everyone, because it is intended to protect ordinary citizens' CEQA rights.

Press Release: Father of Free Speech Memorial Planned
Donation Deadline Extended to June 30, 2012

From Bryan Bell / Sonoma State University
Monday May 28, 2012 - 08:21:00 AM

Mario Savio's civil rights work as a university student in the Freedom Summer Project of 1964 in Mississippi led to his involvement as a leader of the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley during 1964-1965. His brilliant rhetoric inspired thousands of students who demanded the administration lift the ban of on-campus political activities and acknowledge the students' right to free speech and academic freedom. Standing on the steps of Sproul Hall, Mario spoke to these students: "There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part...you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus and you've got to make it stop." 

Not known to everyone is that Mario Savio was also a beloved teacher of math, philosophy and the humanities at Sonoma State University from 1990-1996. An inspiring teacher, colleague and friend, eloquent spokesperson and courageous activist, Mario empowered others to act upon conscience in order to ensure justice. He was a strong supporter of student rights, immigrant rights, and affirmative action. A man of great integrity, compassion, and a deep respect for his fellow human beings, including those whose positions he opposed, Mario touched the lives of all who knew and worked with him. 

In November 2011 Sonoma State University approved a plan for a functional memorial. The memorial committee would like faculty, staff, students, alumni and the community to help complete funding the memorial which will be a speakers' corner on campus. 

Your donations will make it possible to keep the spirit of Mario Savio and what he stood for alive on this campus through the Mario Savio Speakers' Corner. According to Mario, "Freedom of speech is something that represents the very dignity of what a human being is. That's what marks us off from the stones and the stars. It is the thing that marks us as just below the angels."
The Mario Savio Speakers' Corner will be located on the northwest corner of the Stevenson Quad. This speakers' area will encourage students and the community to speak freely on issues of concern to them and will be a symbol of the right to speak freely in any public area. 

The plan for the Mario Savio Speakers' Corner will also include quotes which will be engraved on the center of the speakers' area and on the benches surrounding a circular speakers' area set with stones of varying shades of gold, rose and tan. Two wheelchair accessible paths will lead out to the speakers' area, and three flowering plum trees will be planted on the berm directly behind the speakers' area. 

We have raised the first $10,000 to turn the plan into reality. We need to raise another $10,000. The target date to meet our fund raising goal is June 1, 2012.June 30, 2012. Construction is planned for mid-July. 

Given the high regard so many of us have for Mario and his work, our committee is confident that with your help we can meet this target! A generous donation of $1,000 was made in February kicking off our current fund raising drive. We need your help to meet the goal and make it happen. 

Checks should be made out to SSU (memo line, Savio Memorial) and mailed to:  

Mario Savio Speakers' Corner Memorial
Sonoma State University
University Development
Rohnert Park, CA 94928 

Online gifts may be made by going to 


Berkeley's Great Libraries

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Thursday May 24, 2012 - 05:06:00 PM

I've just received the Spring issue of "Berkeley Bookmark," a newsletter of the Berkeley Public Library. It's jam-packed with items of interest for book lovers. Foremost is the announcement of the Friends' Annual Luncheon, to be held Wednesday, June 20, noon, at the Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda, Berkeley. Special Guest will be Ann Thomas, owner of Pegasus Bookstores, speaking on "Thirty Years of Bookselling in Berkeley." Other items to be discussed will include Elections to the Friends' Board of Directors, Financial Update, Service Awards for Library Staff -- Library Director, Donna Corbeil, and Library Foundation Capital Campaign Update. Please bring a brown bag lunch. Beverages, fruit and tasty desserts will be provided. RSVP by Friday, June 15 (510) 981-6152 and bring a friend! 

The Friends of the Library is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to support and expand the educational, cultural and outreach programs of the Library. 

Berkeley's much loved North Branch Library re-opened April 7 after a year's closure for renovation and expansion. Over 1000 people attended the opening ceremonies, and the consensus was "Wow!. Music was performed by the Crowden School's String Quartet, ribbons were cut, speeches made, and refreshments were enjoyed, thanks to the Friends. Some of the improvements of this Library include a spacious meeting room with state-of-the-art A/V equipment, more public access computers, WiFi and video conferencing capability, comfortable chairs throughout, hundreds of new books and other materials, funded by a generous donation from the Friends of the Library. North Branch, built in 1936, cost $45,000; $29,000 of that came from the city, and $16,000 from the Federal WPA. In 2008 Berkeley voters passed the $26 million Measure FF to renovate the branches. Already the Foundation has provided $75,000 for North's new renovation. North Branch is Berkeley's most heavily used branch, hosting more than 320,000 library visits a year. On any given day, over l, 000 items are on hold. The branch staff also provides story time for babies, toddlers and preschoolers, summer reading programs for children and teens, and adults. 

Claremont Branch re-opened on May 5th after a year-long construction process. Its re-opening will be celebrated in the next issue of "Bookmark." 

The Friends' next humongous book sale is scheduled for Saturday, June 2. The Central Library's meeting room will be overflowing with thousands of books, all priced at 50 cents each. Phonograph records, CD's, DVD's maps and other surprised will be sold for the same bargain price of 50 cents each. That's June 2nd, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the third floor meeting room at 2090 Kittredge. 

Another very worth while program is Debbie Carton's weekly "Playreading for Adults," held on Wednesdays at 12 p.m., where a round table of participants read and discuss popular plays, both classical and modern (i.e., Kaufman and Hart's "Merrily We Roll Along" and "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn." 

Creating a great public library requires support from many sources. Your individual donations help keep Berkeley's public library system vibrant and responsive. You can stay in touch the Friends at the Channing Way Book Store (510) - 841-5604 and the Central Library Book Shop (510) 981-6211. Checks made payable to Friends of the Berkeley Public Library may be mailed to 2090 Kittredge, Berkeley, Ca. 94704. 

It's hoped that Berkeley's dedicated library patrons will contribute generously to the outstanding libraries in our community, .

Robert George Chacona
June 3, 1927 - April 21, 2012

Thursday May 24, 2012 - 04:44:00 PM

Robert George Chacona, beloved retired Berkeley Public Schools music teacher, died on April 21, 2012 surrounded by his loved ones. Bob's deepest joys in life were teaching music, playing his trumpet, spending time with his family/friends and talking about "the good ol' days".

Bob was preceded in death by his wife, Jan, but remained very close to her family over the years. He leaves to mourn his beloved daughter Margretha, son-in-law Maurice, granddaughters Angela and Tatlin, and great-grandson Robert; his companion Joan Natkin, her son Ben, and daughter Jessica (Blair) and their children. Bob was a gentle loving person who was deeply loved and will be greatly missed.

A service will be held at 2:00 pm on June 2, 2012, St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 2300 Bancroft Way, Berkeley. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in memory of Bob be remitted to The James Fund (sponsored by the Retired Teachers Association of the Berkeley Unified School District) and mailed c/o Barnetta Robinson, 288 Whitmore St #120. Oakland CA 94611.



Let's Hear It for the Sisters

By Becky O'Malley
Friday May 25, 2012 - 09:10:00 AM

In the latest New York Review of Books. Garry Wills does something I’ve been intending to do for a long time: He speaks up for American nuns, who are now under attack by the Vatican, clueless as ever. 

Wills, an ex-Jesuit and still a practicing Catholic, is the living writer I most admire since Tony Judt is gone. His knowledge of history is both broad and deep, so he’s in no way fooled by the pretensions of the current crop of Catholic hierarchs. Here’s his lead from his piece, Bullying the Nuns

“The Vatican has issued a harsh statement claiming that American nuns do not follow their bishops’ thinking. That statement is profoundly true. Thank God, they don’t. Nuns have always had a different set of priorities from that of bishops. The bishops are interested in power. The nuns are interested in the powerless. Nuns have preserved Gospel values while bishops have been perverting them. The priests drove their own new cars when nuns rode the bus (always in pairs). The priests specialized in arrogance, the nuns in humility.” 

In the same issue of NYR another writer criticizes the abuses of his co-religionists. Israeli professor David Shulman writes under the title Israel in Peril a review of Peter Beinart’s book, The Crisis of Zionism. Like Wills, he deplores a situation in which ultra-conservative members of his own community are exercising power in an extreme anti-democratic way: Israel’s expropriation of Palestinian territory to allow “a mini-state run by settlers, some of them violent and fanatical, that disenfranchises a huge Palestinian population and continually appropriates Palestinian land in the interests of expanding and further entrenching the colonial project of the settlements”. 

Wills and Shulman each spotlight a key value in his own tradition which is being trampled. For Wills, it’s the broadly Christian ideal of compassion; for Shulman it’s the Jewish love of justice. Both are worth honoring, and worth preserving. 

And both are under attack all over the world, even in bastions of liberalism. Here in Berkeley some members of the congregation of St. Joseph the Worker parish are up in arms because the local bishop has assigned a conservative pastor to a church with a traditionally activist role in promoting social justice. And a talk that author Peter Beinart was scheduled to give in April under the joint sponsorship of Berkeley’s Jewish Community Center and KPFA was cancelled because the JCC objected to the choice of a member of the Jewish Voice for Peace as moderator

I’m someone who hasn’t been able to sustain any form of religious belief for most of my life, but I still appreciate the moral guidance which sometimes comes from the world’s religious organizations, though I am frequently annoyed when they do stupid things like these. It’s tempting to reject all forms of religious belief out of hand because of the abuses which have perpetually been committed in the name of faith, but that might be throwing the baby out with the bath water. 

As far as the nuns themselves are concerned, however, I have no ambivalence. As someone whose first thirteen years of education were provided by nuns of the old school, complete with habits which appeared to be derived from the daily dress of medieval peasants, I appreciate the early grounding they gave me in basic feminism. 

That’s right, feminism. At the all-female schools I attended (both students and faculty) it was obvious that women were perfectly capable of running their own show. No one ever told me girls weren’t supposed to get the A’s in algebra or Latin or even sports. Even in the fifties in St. Louis the basketball tournaments for the Catholic school girls were supported by passionate fans — and there was never a suggestion that cheerleader was the only appropriate role for women students. 

Garry Wills notes that “there was a vogue, just after the Second Vatican Council, for some Catholics to demonstrate their liberation from Catholic schooling by making fun of nuns, as strict disciplinarians or prissy moralists. I wrote at the time that this was untrue of the many nuns I have known…” That’s my own experience—though the nuns that taught me were normal members of the human race, which is to say that some of them were small-minded, shallow and disagreeable from time to time. I think that a good measure of the resentment some of their (mostly male) critics enjoy displaying is actually deeply buried misogyny: fragile male egos chafing under open female authority. 

(For a contemporary example of this tendency, check out the reports of the male Safeway vice president who made a “joke” at a recent board meeting comparing Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi, educated by nuns herself, unfavorably with pigs.) 

Most of anything I know now, certainly most of what I can still remember in middle age, I learned from a nun. One, in the sixth grade, gave me a firm grip on English grammar. Another, in the seventh grade, devised a game to drill our class in quick mental arithmetic, so that I can still compute tips from checks with no need for a calculator. A ninth grade teacher encouraged me to appreciate and use my writing skills.  

And in my senior year Latin class, the nun who taught us to read the Aeneid brought in, on smudgy purple mimeograph pages, the steamy passage where Dido and Aeneas consummate their unwed romance in a cave—something which had been omitted from our fourth year “Catholic school version” Latin textbook, probably under orders from some bishop. The love of literature triumphs over censorship—what a fine lesson that was. 

Sadly, the nuns of old are much diminished in number. There are still nuns of the type Garry Wills so justly praises, deeply engaged in good works, enough of them to attract the bishops’ wrath.  

But there are not nearly as many whose lives are focused on producing strong women like Nancy Pelosi and Dianne Feinstein. Expanded opportunities have encouraged well qualified women to seek broader employment challenges, which is probably a good thing. 

Both of the schools I attended, in St. Louis and Pasadena, are now run and staffed by lay persons, probably well qualified—but I can’t imagine that they could be as dedicated to the task of educating young women as my nun teachers were. Today’s girls—including my granddaughters—are the poorer for their loss. 



The Editor's Back Fence

"Cellphonegate" in Berkeley:Another View

Saturday May 26, 2012 - 09:05:00 AM

Have you gotten all lathered up over news reports that Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan sent Berkeley police on the trail of his son's stolen cell phone, following the electronic signal which the phone's tracking device provided? There's an excellent story on the Berkeley CA Patch website by Rebecca Rosen Lum, an experienced reporter who has written for the Contra Costa Times, exploring the question of why the story has just surfaced. One possible explanation: the city police union is out to get Meehan, who's been reported as trying to get them to shape up a bit. You can find the piece here.


Odd Bodkins: Ralph the Theologian (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Friday May 25, 2012 - 08:50:00 AM


Dan O'Neill


Public Comment

New: Opponents Are Still Inflating Sunshine Ordinance Costs

By Josh Wolf for the Berkeley Sunshine Ordinance Committee
Saturday May 26, 2012 - 07:45:00 AM

The cost of a proposed Sunshine Ordinance in Berkeley continues to be inflated by the city government, but the projected costs have been shrinking due to continued community pressure to justify their projections.

When an early draft of the Berkeley Sunshine Ordinance was submitted in 2009, the city tabulated that it would cost $2.9 million each year to implement the proposed open government law, according to city documents the Berkeley Sunshine Ordinance received through a public records request.
Among these costs were $689 office-chairs and more than $3,000 to install three new cubicles. The city also said it would need to buy 13 portable PA systems at a cost of $10,000 a piece in order to record its meetings, and that it would add nearly a million dollars to the photocopy budget in order to make copies of the complete agenda available to the public.  

One of the most confusing line items on the "Summary of Financial Impacts" is the $3,448 allocated for City Car Share so that a city staffer can personally deliver printed copies of the agenda to each of the city's libraries which is a 9-mile route, according to the document. Why the city concluded that it made more sense to play "pony express" than to simply e-mail the documents to the libraries for them to print on-site isn't clear, but this is a prime example why the city needs more Sunshine through greater transparency and open government.  

A revised summary of the financial impacts pegged the annual cost at about $2 million. The nearly million dollars in copy costs were wiped away. The courier costs remain, even though a secured iPad with all of the appropriate city documents at each of the libraries is the only thing that makes sense in an environmentally conscious city like Berkeley. 

But while material costs were reduced in this new summary from May of 2010, the staff-time allocated to implement the ordinance still doesn't add up. City Attorney Zach Cowen told us that there could be as many as 20 additional meetings a year as a result of the sunshine ordinance. In order to create those 20 extra packets a year, Acting City Clerk Mark Numainville says the city will need to hire three additional employees at a cost of $338,317 a year, despite the fact that the total number of agenda items that will need to be researched will essentially remain unchanged. 

Although most of the technology requirements in the Berkeley Sunshine Ordinance are already mandated by the Berkeley's existing Open Government Ordinance, the city claims it will need to hire two employees at a cost of $266,477. Although the changes required by the Sunshine Ordinance are not insignificant, they should not require any significant time once they are implemented. 

The city calculates that if the Sunshine Ordinance passes it will need to hire an additional 14.5 full-time employees; in other words, the city estimates it will need about 580 hours of work a week to implement what are essentially minor changes to how meetings are conducted and how information is made available to the public.  

Now the city is saying it will only cost $1.5 million a year to implement the Sunshine Ordinance, but with a number that continues to slide and remains littered with needless expenses, it's highly doubtful the Sunshine ordinance will cost anywhere near that amount. After meeting with members of the Sunshine Ordinance Committee the city also agreed to make some minor changes to the summary that will appear on the November ballot, but it is still a long way from an impartial summary. 

On Tuesday, the City Council will officially certify the ballot and its summary for the election. The shaky cost projections alone are a reason that Berkeley needs a Sunshine Ordinance, and until it is passed the voters will continue to be left in the dark and denied access to information and adequate notice around council decisions. 

Please support the Berkeley Sunshine Ordinance by writing to your council members and attending this Tuesday's meeting. The Berkeley Sunshine Ordinance has prepared a petition that we urge you to sign if you can't attend. 

This campaign is only beginning and we urge you to visit berkeleysunshine.org and become a supporter by volunteering your time or donating to the campaign.

New: Re: Bullying the Nuns

By Jorge Gomez
Sunday May 27, 2012 - 05:46:00 PM

I strongly disagree with the introductory statements from Ms O’Malley and can’t seem to understand how an ex-Jesuit [Garry Wills] be a “still practicing catholic” after trying to destroy the same doctrine that he claims to “still” profess. 

I learned, at a very early age, that to give any credibility to a person, statements, I had to check the source first and in this case, Ms O’Malley’s and the ex-Jesuit’s seem to be driven more by a secret agenda than true religion, true Catholicism. Based on my knowledge of the catholic faith, both fail in their appreciations of the catholic church.. I also studied religion, maybe not as long and as much as the ex-Jesuit, but I’m sure more than Ms Becky O’Malley, but it’s not words that make the deed, the facts, but following, knowing the real teachings of the catholic church without reservations that determine who is right and who is wrong and if we stick to this premise, we have to conclude that the nuns, the ex-Jesuit and Ms Becky are wrong. Let’s remember, any religion, including Catholicism, is based on faith first and obedience second. Without any one of those two in the equation, there wouldn’t be a religion. Let’s not forget that the most prevalent virtue in Jesus was His obedience. He was obedient until death. The only time that the Bible implies disobedience by Him was when His parents lost sight of Him on their way to the Temple and Jesus told us His reason, right there and then, but it was based on doing the will of the Father, not on disobedience itself. 

One can’t use religion to fight their own devils and can’t get rid of those demons by contradicting the teachings coming from Christ and I mean this in both meaning of the word: Literally and figuratively. Since there can’t only be one Jesus Christ, there can’t only be one Pope and anybody who proclaims to be catholic can’t “appear” to be one and then contradict, deny, denigrate those higher ups in the catholic hierarchy, because they disagree with them. 

I don’t see how the ex-Jesuit can think that the nuns’ job is different from those of priests, bishops, cardinals and the Pope. That doesn’t make sense. There is no degree of compliance with the tenets of the catholic church . You either believe or not. You believe all tenets, you are catholic. You have reservations about some of the tenets, dogmas, teachings, you are not catholic. 

When we generalize about what others do, say, act, that is when I can tell the ex-Jesuit is not without a chip on his shoulder and secret agendas, special interests don’t have a place in religion. Maybe in other “Christian” religions where homosexuality is now, not only acceptable but encouraged and based on what I learned, that can’t be true Christianity, true Catholicism. Religion is not a popularity contest, although and to be fair, due to the numbers now of homosexuals, “Christianity” for those has a different meaning now, forgetting, of course, those words that Christ said: “The world will pass away, but my words will never pass.” homosexuality was as wrong then as it should be now and the meaning of Christ’s words just as relevant today as in His era. This is crystal clear to me, ergo, I don’t understand why the ex-Jesuit doesn’t see it that way, nor Ms. O’Malley, nor the nuns. Quite the contrary, Christ spoke clearly about those who scandalize others. Although Christ referred to children, I’m sure that applies to all ages. 

To give a better picture of what I’m talking about, let me use Maureen Dowd of the NYT as an example. She reminds me so much of this ex-Jesuit and Ms O’Malley. 

She wrote a piece about pedophile criticizing the church for it when she said that “All priests were pedophiles, libertines” and that is as wrong today as it was then and also convinces me that when the ex-Jesuit says: “The bishops are interested in power” and “Nuns have preserved Gospel values while bishops have been perverting them.” he is not only following agenda, but also he is in the same boat as Ms. Dowd, and just as wrong, even worse, dead wrong. Ms Dowd, by her writings, comments corroborates that she is as ignorant in matters of religion and as the ex-Jesuit, but the ex-Jesuit was more immersed in Catholicism than Ms Dowd, ergo, he should know best and yet, because of private agendas, special interests, he is as lost in Catholicism as Ms. Dowd, or Ms. O‘Malley. It’s obvious that Ms Dowd had, has a chip on her shoulder and want the catholic church to pay for her own failings. You can’t make statements like that and still think, believe you have an iota of credibility left, at least, not in my book. For those with similar agendas I will understand, but it will be like preaching to the choir, but religion is as far from those comments as the “still practicing” catholic is from true Catholicism. 

One thing I can truly say about the ex-Jesuit, Ms O’Malley is that he/she strike me as just other radicals from the right that change positions to fit their agenda. Case and point. Living will counseling was in the GOP party platform and president Obama trying to please friend and foe borrowed it, took it from there and as soon as he came out with the same idea, the intransigent racists of the tea party changed that to mean death panels and with that about face, their true colors were more apparent than before and in reality, their true intentions came out quite clear: Racism galore disguised as an appearance of caring for others, trying to sanitize their racism . The same I have to conclude with the ex-Jesuit and soon to be ex-Catholic as well. Of course, I’m not saying the ex-Jesuit nor Ms. O’Malley are racist. I’m just using tea partiers’ shenanigans to say what they don’t mean. 

In matters of religion, nobody, including the ex-Jesuit, can trivialize the different aspects of religious life trying to make a point, without showing how a true hypocrite he is and he should know, because the Jesuits I know and I know many of them have three oaths and most bishops, cardinals have only two. The sacred oaths are and here is the kicker, one of those three is obedience; the other two chastity and poverty. I have never heard, read, seen nuns not having all three, ergo, maybe that is the reason they traveled by bus. As for most of the bishops, cardinals they do have only two: Obedience and chastity. How, let me ask the ex-Jesuit, does he like them apples. 

Another thing I get from the as lost in religion, Catholicism as the ex-Jesuit is that in religion, any religion there is no such a thing as democracy, ergo, trying to criticize the appointment of a conservative pastor for Berkeley indicates to me that he has no idea what true Catholicism is. The new Pope is well known to the whole world for his support for conservative causes and the whole world also knew how liberal John Paul II was and although some criticize one for being too liberal or the other for being too conservative, the whole church has to follow behind. The Pope is the shepherd and the rest are part of the sheep and those who declare themselves catholic have to follow, not lead, not go ahead of the line. 

The church has, almost always, been for the poor, but that zeal has to be within religious parameters, rules. Let’s remember: To Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what belongs to God. Almost all Catholics, one time or another, have been subjected to different interpretation of the same religion, but those interpretations shouldn’t come from the nuns, from ex-Jesuits, but from the Pope and his cardinals, bishops, all others need not apply and this leads me to believe that the “still practicing catholic” has many problems that only God and himself really know how many and this urge to try to change religion to fit his agenda is blasphemous. As far as I understand from Christianity, this life is not supposed to be a rose garden, but a valley of tears and democracy, ideology have nothing to do with any religion, nor Catholicism. In my stages through life I have seen many priests, religious priests like this ex-Jesuit that felt like oracles of religion, when in reality they were, at least in the many cases I came across, lost souls on their way to heresy, a la Martin Luther. They didn’t want to give up their obvious egoism, arrogance and we all know what happened to Lucifer for also trying to be like God, or in the ex-Jesuit, Ms. O’Malley trying to be oracles when they are so ignorant about true Christianity. I’m afraid this ex-Jesuit is more outside looking in than in being a true Christian. Shame on him, shame on the nuns, on Ms Malley for not following the church’s commandments to a tee. The Ten Commandments are nothing new, even if the nuns, the ex-Jesuit think that their task in life is to contradict those they are supposed to follow. The sheep are already too ignorant, too lost to be able to deal with false prophets, false priests. Almost all religions have their different interpretations, sects, but to remain catholic you have to be: Obedient and faithful. The nuns, of all Catholics, should be the ones to obey, not to become focus of discord, discontent. Abortion is a sin just as contraceptives and the position of the Catholic church hasn’t changed and I don’t think will ever change. If those with hidden agendas, special interests want change, then they will have to go to the Anglican church or the other “Christian” churches where homosexuality is not only accepted, but encouraged. 

Another point that brings to light how lost is the soul of the ex-Jesuit, Ms O’Malley’s is that other issue of “ feminism.” Social groups, castes, sexes have no seat at the table of Catholicism ever. There was no one more worthy of being the rock of foundation of the new church than the virgin Mary and yet Jesus chose Peter, a coward, yet a brave man, a full of doubt disciple, but at the same time full of faith, a sinner, yet a saint. Maybe it is this sea of contradiction in a man that appeal to Jesus to give him the keys to the kingdom of heaven and not to Mary. This is why we should be more obedient and less antagonistic, less arrogant, more humble. There is only One Pope, One Church and the rest, without distinction of sex, social group, ethnicity, gentile of Jew, must follow. Some “priests” with liberal ideas like the nuns, the ex-Jesuit have follow their “religious” ideas outside of the true church and many have killed other human beings trying to bring the gospel of “liberation”, cause they misunderstood Christ’s message, but we all know, these nuns, the ex-Jesuitand Ms O’Malley excluded, are as wrong with their “liberation” gospel as the priests that took arms against their governments to try to exploit true religion for their own benefit, fulfillment, but that is not what religion is all about. Many “Christian pastors” just as lost believe, a la Joel Steen, that Christ came to this world so he could have millions, live like royalty and nothing farthest from the truth. The Christ I know, studied said: ”Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Christ didn’t even have a place where to rest His head and these “Christian merchants of religion” distort Christ’s message to fit their special interests and just because they have many blinds following him doesn’t make them right, but more like anti-Christs. I’m going to have to put the nuns, the ex-Jesuit., Ms O’Malley and many like them in the same column as these merchants of religion. 

We know that from the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks and what the nuns, Ms O’Malley, the ex-Jesuit speak is nothing more than looking for ways to make religion, Catholicism fit their agenda, not Christ’s. nor His church. 


Rallies at Berkeley's Bank of America Office are Having an Impact

By Harry Brill
Friday May 25, 2012 - 07:28:00 AM
Bank Of America had refused to meet with a delegation from the community--so this demonstration took place at the Solano branch on Monday.
Harry Brill
Bank Of America had refused to meet with a delegation from the community--so this demonstration took place at the Solano branch on Monday.

I am delighted to report that at Monday's rally at the Bank of America in Albany over 70 of us participated, giving out leaflets, talking to people passing by, carrying informative placards, and not least, providing music led by Hali Hammer which expressed our political concerns with intelligent and meaningful lyrics. 

Many who showed up did so for the first time. And very obviously, the public resonated with what we were complaining about. Drivers honked their horns while others signaled approval with their thumbs up, and also we talked with people going into the bank. Among our aims is to do what we can to assure that the bank does not earn a profit by dealing with the public in a predatory and unprofessional way. We are particularly concerned about the bank unjustifiably foreclosing on home owners and its failure to modify home mortgages so that they are affordable to distressed home owners. We are interested in these issues because it is relevant to our main mission, which is to address the issue of inequality and its consequences for the 99 percent. 

Our rally has already had some impact. We sent a small delegation into the Bank to complain that we hadn't received a response to written concerns we submitted. Unlike our last visit, when the manager refused to speak with us, he was conversant and promised to contact his superiors to urge that they respond to us right away. Of course, we will follow up. 

Next Monday, which is Memorial Day, (May 28th) we will be having our usual Monday rally from 5-6pm by the Oaks Theater.



By Conn Hallinan
Thursday May 24, 2012 - 04:51:00 PM

Asia is currently in the middle of an unprecedented arms race that is not only sharpening tensions in the region, but competing with efforts by Asian countries to address poverty and growing economic disparity. The gap between rich and poor—calculated by the Gini coefficient that measures inequality—has increased from 39 percent to 46 percent in China, India, and Indonesia. While affluent households continue to garner larger and larger portions of the economic pie, “Children born to poor families can be 10 times more likely to die in infancy” than those from wealthy families, according to Changyong Rhee, chief economist of the Asian Development Bank. 

This inequality trend is particularly acute in India, where life expectancy is low, infant mortality high, education spotty, and illiteracy widespread, in spite of that country’s status as the third largest economy in Asia, behind China and Japan. According to an independent charity, the Naandi Foundation, some 42 percent of India’s children are malnourished. Bangladesh, a far poorer country, does considerably better in all these areas. 

And yet last year India was the world’s leading arms purchaser, including a deal that will spend $20 billion dollars on high performance French fighter planes. India is also developing a long-range ballistic missile capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads, and buying submarines and surface craft. Its military budget is set to rise 17 percent this year to $42 billion. 

“It is ridiculous. We are getting into a useless arms race at the expense of fulfilling the needs of poor people,” Praful Bidwai of the Coalition of Nuclear Disarmament and Peace told the New York Times

China, too, is in the middle of an arms boom that includes beefing up its navy, constructing a new generation of stealth aircraft, and developing a ballistic missile that is potentially capable of neutralizing U.S. carriers near its coast. Beijing’s arms budget has grown at a rate of some 12 percent a year and, at $106.41 billion, is now the second largest on the planet. The U.S. budget—not counting the various wars Washington is embroiled in—runs a little over $800 billion, although some have estimated that it is over $1 trillion. 

While China has made enormous strides in overcoming poverty, there are some 250 million Chinese officially still considered poor, and the country’s formerly red-hot economy is cooling. “Data on April spending and output put another nail into hopes that China’s economy is bottoming out,” Mark Williams, chief Asia economist at Capital Economics told the Financial Times. 

The same is true for most of Asia. For instance, India’s annual economic growth rate has fallen from 9 percent to 6.1 percent over the past two and a half years. 

Tensions between China and other nations in the region have set off a local arms race. Taiwan is buying four U.S.-made Perry-class guided missile frigates, and Japan has shifted much of its military from its northern islands to face southward toward China. 

The Philippines are spending almost $1 billion on new aircraft and radar, and recently held joint war games with the U.S. South Korea has just successfully tested a long-range cruise missile. Washington is reviving ties with Indonesia’s brutal military because the island nation controls the strategic seaways through which pass most of the region’s trade and energy supplies. 

Australia is also re-orientating its defense to face China, and Australian Defense Minister Stephen Smith has urged “that India play the role it could and should as an emerging great power in the security and stability of the region.” 

But that “role” is by no means clear, and some have read Smith’s statement as an attempt to rope New Delhi into a united front against Beijing. The recent test of India’s Agni V nuclear-capable ballistic missile is largely seen as directed at China. 

India and China fought a brief but nasty border war in 1962, and India claims China is currently occupying some 15,000 square miles in Indian territory. The Chinese, in turn, claim almost 40,000 square miles of the Indian state of Arunachai Pradesh. While Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says that “overall our relations [with China] are quite good,” he also admits “the border problem is a long-standing problem.” 

India and China also had a short dust up last year when a Chinese warship demanded that the Indian amphibious assault vessel Airavat identify itself shortly after the ship left the port of Hanoi, Vietnam. Nothing came of the incident but Indian President Pratibha Patil has since stressed the need for “maritime security,” and “the protection of our coasts, our ‘sea lines of communications’ and the offshore development areas.” 

China’s forceful stance in the South China Sea has stirred up tensions with Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei, and Malaysia as well. A standoff this past April between a Philippine war ship and several Chinese surveillance ships at Scarborough Shoal is still on a low simmer. 

China’s more assertive posture in the region stems largely from the 1995-96 Taiwan Straits crisis that saw two U.S. carriers humiliate Beijing in its home waters. There was little serious danger of war during the crisis—China does not have the capability to invade Taiwan—but the Clinton Administration took the opportunity to demonstrate U.S. naval power. China’s naval build-up dates from that incident. 

The recent “pivot” by Obama administration toward Asia, including a military buildup on Wake and Guam and the deployment of 2,500 Marines in Australia, has heightened tensions in the region, and Beijing’s heavy-handedness in the South China Sea has given Washington an opening to insert itself into the dispute. 

China is prickly about its home waters—one can hardly blame it, given the history of the past 100 years—but there is no evidence that it is expansionist. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said in February “No country, including China, has claimed sovereignty over the entire South China Sea.” Nor does Beijing seem eager to use military force. Beijing has drawn some lessons from its disastrous 1979 invasion of Vietnam. 

On the other hand, Beijing is seriously concerned about who controls the region’s seas, in part because some 80 percent of China’s energy supplies pass through maritime choke points controlled by the U.S. and its allies. 

The tensions in Asia are real, if not as sharp or deep as they have been portrayed in the U.S. media. China and India do, indeed, have border “problems,” but China also describes New Delhi as “not competitors but partners,” and has even offered an alliance to keep “foreign powers”—read the U.S. and NATO—from meddling in the region. 

The real question is, can Asia embark on an arms race without increasing the growing gulf between rich and poor and the resulting political instability that is likely to follow in its wake? “Widening inequality threatens the sustainability of Asian growth,” says Asian Development Bank economist Rhee. “A divided and unequal nation cannot prosper.” 

More than half a century ago former General and President Dwight Eisenhower noted that “Every gun that is made, every warship that is launched, every rocket fired signifies…a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed…this is not a way of life at all…it is humanity hanging from an iron cross.” 

Americans have ignored Eisenhower’s warning. Asian nations would do well to pay attention. 

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

ECLECTIC RANT: One in Six Americans Live in Poverty

By Ralph E. Stone
Friday May 25, 2012 - 09:47:00 AM

According to a recent survey, a record 49.1 million Americans (16 percent) are living below the federal poverty line. Considering the U.S. is one of the richest nations in the world, the results are sobering. 

A family of four earning less that $23,050 per year is considered living in poverty. 

According to the Salvation Army’s "Perceptions of Poverty" survey (www.salvationarmy.com/usn/2012povertyreport.pdf), 38 percent of Americans report receiving some form of charitable assistance, including food from food banks or financial assistance/housing support; 63 percent who earn less than $25,000 per year report receiving assistance; and among Americans ages 35 to 54, 46 percent report having received assistance at some point in their lifetimes. 

Thirteen percent of Americans report having spent a night in a shelter or on the street due to loss of housing and 26 percent who earn less than $25,000 per year report sleeping in a shelter or on the street. 

The survey found that most Americans believe a helping hand is needed to escape poverty, but there is a significant minority with a definite animus toward the poor:- They are poor because they are lazy; they have lower moral values; the poor will take advantage if given more assistance; and the poor just need a good work ethic to escape poverty, etc. It follows, then, that the further one is away from poverty, the less likely that he or she accepts the reality of poverty. 

Additionally. there are widely-held mis-perceptions regarding poverty, according to the survey, with 59 percent of Americans believing poverty is a trap that no matter how hard they try, those stricken by poverty cannot escape. Fifty-five percent believe it is not possible to eliminate poverty altogether while 32 percent believe there is nothing much they can do to help poor people. 

The survey did find, however, that 59 percent of Americans report donating to charities in 2011. As would be expected, the prevalence of charitable donations increased with income. Seventy percent of Americans earning more than $50,000 per year report donating to charities. Although the more affluent may donate a higher dollar amount to charities, it does not necessarily follow that affluent Americans gift a larger percentage of their incomes to charities. 

The Census Bureau (www.pewhispanic.org/2011/11/08/hispanic-poverty-rate-highest-in-new-supplemental-census-measure) has been developing an alternative measure of poverty that is intended to better reflect the costs of basic living expenses, as well as the resources people have to pay them. Under this alternative measure, the poverty level in 2010 for Hispanics was 28.2 percent; for Whites, 11.1 percent; for Blacks, 25.4 percent; and for Asians, 16.7 percent. 

Part of the problem of poverty in these difficult economic times is the high unemployment rate. According the the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nation’s unemployment rate (seasonally adjusted) in April 2012 was 8.7 percent (10.9 percent in California) with about 370,000 Americans seeking unemployment benefits. The unemployment rate is actually higher as it does not include discouraged workers not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them. Exacerbating the problem of poverty is that when budget crunch time comes, politicians seem to target for elimination or reduction the safety nets desperately needed by the poor. 

There is no secret as to what is needed to significantly reduce poverty. We must expand decent jobs and government assistance programs, redirecting national resources away from the rich and toward those with low incomes. Easier said than done.

WILD NEIGHBORS: The Schreckstoff Chronicles

By Joe Eaton
Thursday May 24, 2012 - 04:50:00 PM
Coho salmon smolts (not smelts!) in the Seattle Aquarium.
"Cacophany" (via Wikimedia Commons.)
Coho salmon smolts (not smelts!) in the Seattle Aquarium.

I’ve heard all my life that dogs can smell fear. If this has been empirically demonstrated, I don’t know about it. However, science has established that fish can. It may only work within a species, and it would be more accurate to speak of detecting schreckstoff than of smelling fear. Still, it’s a neat trick for a fish. 

Schreckstoff—a wonderful word. It has nothing to do with soft-hearted green-skinned ogres; “shreck” is “fright” or “terror” and “stoff” is, well, “stuff,” “matter.” It’s a substance, whose nature was only recently clarified, emitted by an injured fish that alerts other fish to the presence of a predator. 

The word was coined by Karl von Frisch, the German naturalist who decoded the dance language of the honeybee. (Some diehards, notably Adrian Wenner, still deny that the bees are saying anything to each other. Dancing can convey fairly complex information, though; ask any hula performer. And you may have seen one of those Youtube videos in which graduate students dance their dissertations. I recall one in which belly dancers simulated the currents of the Southern Ocean.) 

Anyway, von Frisch, back in 1938, discovered that minnows released schreckstoff when attacked by a predator. The process is triggered by a break in the victim’s skin and results in other members of the school taking evasive action. Most widespread in the large order of fish that includes carp, catfish, and piranhas, chemical alarm signals were confirmed in rainbow and brook trout in the 1990s. 

I first read about the phenomenon when researching an article about salmon and pollutants for another venue a couple of years ago. Nathaniel Scholz, an ecotoxicologist with NOAA Fisheries, reported that young coho salmon (probably in the smolt stage) respond to alarm chemicals from a piece of coho skin smaller than a grain of rice in 100 liters of water. When skin solution is introduced to a clean tank, a salmon, which had been swimming actively, drops to the bottom and hovers in place. But after three hours’ exposure to copper at a concentration of ten parts per billion, the fish doesn’t react—a good way to become someone’s dinner. 

Then last week I was reading the “Findings” column in Harper’s, the back-page feature that reports oddball scientific discoveries. And there was shreckstoff. New research by Suresh Jesuthasan and Ajay Mathuru in Singapore and Rainer Friedrich in Switzerland has isolated its active ingredient: a sugarlike molecule called glycosaminoglycan chondroitin, GAG for short. It’s a chemical relative of the chondroitin sulfate used as a dietary supplement for treatment of osteoarthritis. 

The organism they used was the guppy-sized zebra fish, a minnow relative and a kind of finned lab rat. Ground-up zebra fish tissue was subjected to a series of chemical tests-by-elimination. The researchers destroyed all the proteins in one sample, but it still elicited escape behavior in live fish. So schreckstoff couldn’t be a protein. But when they broke down GAG chondroitin with enzymes or neutralized it with antibodies, the fish didn’t react. 

Friedrich and his colleagues were also able to locate the zebra fish’s shreckstoff receptors: specialized neurons called crypt cells in the olfactory bulb, the part of the brain that processes odors. These neurons responded when the fish were exposed to schreckstoff but not to other odors. When you consider the size of the zebra fish brain, measuring any kind of neural activity must be quite a feat. My hat is off to these guys. 

The release of schreckstoff can be considered a kind of automatic altruism, warning other fish of imminent danger. This could become fodder for the renewed debate over kin selection versus group selection in evolution (E.O. Wilson has abandoned kin selection for group selection; big scandal), since the fish in a school are not necessarily close relatives. It’s also been hypothesized that that GAG chondroitin has something to do with the skin’s immune system, and that its role as an alarm signal is a secondary exaptation. I’m not taking sides here. 

SENIOR POWER: offensive defensive

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Thursday May 24, 2012 - 05:09:00 PM

It wouldn’t hurt if we all became more defensive in our relationships with medical practitioners. If Senior Power were a meaningful concept. 

Practitioners of defensive medicine diagnose or prescribe therapies as protection against malpractice liability. Fear of legal action motivates defensive medicine. Another motive may be increase of services ipso facto increased revenue. Defensive medicine is widespread in the United States, particularly in such high-risk medical specialties as emergency medicine and obstetrics

Does your primary care physician practice defensive medicine of either type? How physicians of various ages, specializations, locations, and sex/genders view what is euphemistically referred to as compensation is worth considering.  

Medscape (Medscape, Inc.) is a web resource for physicians and other health professionals, available free, with required registration, to them and to consumers. Founded in 1995 by SCP Communications, Inc., by 1999 it was trading on NASDAQ. Medscape’s annual Physician Compensation Report of 2012 is based on responses from United States physicians in 25 specialty areas. With a few personal comments interspersed, here are some of the Report’s relevant findings. 

Physician income declined, although top-earning specialties remain the same as in the previous year’s survey. In 2012, radiologists and orthopedic surgeons top the list at $315,000, followed by several gists -- anesthesiologists, cardiologists, urologists. The bottom-earning specialties are family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics. Physicians are nearly evenly split about whether or not they feel fairly compensated. A majority of primary care physicians say they are not being fairly compensated. Senior citizens’ primary care physicians tend to be specialized in family medicine and internal medicine. 

About 42% of the physicians who responded to this survey were under age 45. Two thirds were male; one third, female. Male physicians across all specialties earn about 40% more than female physicians. In primary care, men earn 23% more. In some specialties the gap in income is narrower, e.g. male obstetricians/gynecologists earn about 12% more than their female counterparts. Why do you think this is so? 

Female physicians continue to spend more time with each patient than do male physicians. Roughly 45% of both sexes/genders spend 13-20 minutes per patient visit. Medscape’s commentator rationalizes that "Female physicians tend to concentrate in obstetrics and primary care, where doctors naturally spend more time with patients than do other specialists… Often, they are part-time employees for lifestyle reasons, and their main priority isn't on maximizing revenue for the practice. So, they are able to spend more time with patients." Naturally? Lifestyle? 

Apparently, it is worth the time and money required to become board certified. The majority of the 24,216 survey participants are board certified. Board certified physicians earned 89% more than non-board-certified. Board certification impacts more than just compensation. It is often required for inclusion in health plans and for hospital privileges. More and more patients are researching physicians' backgrounds, which is a good thing. 

Although decreased reimbursement (by Medicare, Medicaid, insurance companies) has been the recent buzz-phrase, some specialists surveyed saw modest gains, while others saw significant declines. Partners in private practice far out-earned physicians in any other work environment. The greatest income increases were in nephrology, oncology, ophthalmology, pediatrics, rheumatology. A buzz-phrase or word is connected with a specialized field or group and usually sounds important or technical; it is used primarily to impress laypersons and becomes nonsense through endless repetition. 

The 13-16 minutes patient visit is still most common, especially in the primary care specialties of family medicine and internal medicine. Dermatologists, emergency physicians, ophthalmologists, and radiologists spend the least time -- a mean of 9 -12 minutes per encounter. The hospital E.R. physician spent exactly 9 minutes determining that the cervical neck collar could be removed, thus enabling the paramedics to retrieve their equipment and get out; I was billed by him as well as the E.R. . 

More than half of these physicians spend 4 hours or less a week on paperwork and other administrative activities. Few family physicians, internists, and pediatricians spend that much time on administrative activity. Medscape proffers the explanation that more documentation is being required than ever before.  


The 2012 survey shows far more dissatisfaction among doctors across all specialties. 

Just over one half of all physicians would choose medicine as a career again. Only one quarter would choose the same specialty. The most frustrated with their specialties are family physicians and internists. Despite lower incomes, 46% of pediatricians would still choose their specialty. The most satisfied specialty is dermatology.  

Three percent of physicians have cash-only practices, although that percentage is higher for plastic surgeons (15%) and psychiatrists (11%). A dermatologist of whom I am aware has notified patients that she no longer accepts any insurances, i.e. it’s cash up front in one form or another. Many senior citizens do not have credit cards. 


“Physician frustration is growing,” reports Medscape. Their comments on the frustrations of the profession include "The regulatory environment and the onerous paperwork involved are making the current situation untenable, " and "I love being a physician, but I hate what is happening to medicine. Too many people are coming between me and the care I provide to my patients." 

Despite the interest in “alternative patient-care delivery models,” only a small percentage of physicians are currently involved. About 3% participate in Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), but some say they plan to become involved. An ACO is a type of payment and delivery that ties provider reimbursement to quality evaluation and reduction in the total cost of care for a given patient population.  

Only 1% of physician respondents practice concierge medicine, also known by some people as direct care, a relationship between a patient and her/his physician which the patient pays an annual fee or retainer that may or may not be in addition to other charges. In exchange, it is thought that doctors provide enhanced care. If you’re laid up with influenza, and your doctor doesn’t deem it worth a house call, or you can’t get an appointment with her/him, your care and your wallet would seem to lack enhancement.  

While all concierge medicine practices share similarities, they vary widely in their structure, the level of service provided, and the amount of the fee charged. It is estimated that 800-5,000 U.S. doctors practice concierge medicine. 

Healthcare reform entails treatment and quality guidelines set by insurers and by Medicare, but physicians are clearly skeptical (Medcape’s adjective) that guidelines will improve patients' quality of care. Physicians perceive guidelines as a greater loss of autonomy. Almost half of physicians surveyed said these measures will have a negative impact; 29% said they will have no impact on quality. Between 26% and 31% of internists, family physicians and pediatricians say that quality measures and treatment guidelines will have a positive effect. Only 25% of physicians believe health care reform will lead to better-quality care. Guidelines and health care reform apparently equate in many physicians’ perceptions.  

In the past, most doctors did not discuss treatment costs with patients. Now, less than half of the physicians surveyed said they occasionally discuss cost of care issues if patients raise the subject. Occasionally? If…? One in seven doctors say they never discuss the issue, either because they themselves do not know the cost of the treatments, or they do not believe it is appropriate to do so. Specialists most likely to participate in cost-related conversations are the dermatologists, family physicians, psychiatrists, rheumatologists. 

As more physicians become employees, they feel that it is their responsibility to treat the patient's problem, rather than worry about the payment issues. For them, the cost issue is a secondary concern. Names, please.  

The healthcare reform goal of reducing "unnecessary care" faces challenges. The vast majority of physicians said they will not reduce the number of tests, procedures and treatments they perform, either because the guidelines are not in their patients' best interests, or because of the need to practice defensive medicine. 



“A Museum Visit For Art Lovers With Alzheimer's” played on the morning edition of National Public Radio, May 17, 2012. It can be read on the Internet; a print transcription will be available. The Kreeger Museum in Washington, D.C., once the residence of former GEICO chairman David Kreeger and his wife, it was designed in 1967 by Philip Johnson. It is one of several museums in the country that have a special program designed for people with Alzheimer's. 

The Berkeley Commission on Aging is: Charged with identifying the needs of the aging, creating awareness of these needs, and encouraging improved standards of services to the aging. Council shall appoint one of its members as liaison.” The Commission’s May 16, 2012 meeting agenda included Adoption of a Mission Statement for the Commission on Aging. “To actively promote older adults health, safety, independence and participation in our community; to enhance quality of life for people 55 years and older; to increase public awareness of their contributions and needs.” [sic] The Commission’s next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 20. But confirm. 510-981-5178. 


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

Until June 30. Gallery Hours: Tuesday - Friday, Noon - 5:30pm; Saturday, Noon - 4:30 P.M. Kala Gallery, 2990 San Pablo Avenue: Visions from the New California. The Visions from the New California award is an initiative of the Alliance of Artists Communities and is supported by the James Irvine Foundation. Each year the awards program celebrates six outstanding California visual artists from diverse communities. The awardees are artists whose work may as yet be unfamiliar to a wide audience, but whose compelling visions help define California. Free. 510-841-7000.  

Until August 31. Environmental Education Center in Tilden Regional Park. North End Central Park Drive. Tuesday through Sunday, and Memorial Day (May 28) 10:00 A.M.-4:30 P.M. Tilden Exhibit Celebrates Conservation Successes. Art exhibit celebrating the successes of conservation in the region, state and nationally. Show features works by 60 artists portraying plants and animals no longer listed as endangered species due to conservation efforts. The exhibit calls attention to the successful strategies of land managers, volunteers and rangers throughout the state and local parks. Includes both two-dimensional and three-dimensional works, including pastels, watercolors and oil paintings, as well as carved sculptures and mixed-media creations. Some of the featured species include the brown pelican, the tiger salamander, the salt marsh harvest mouse, and tule elk. Exhibit sponsors include the East Bay Regional Park District and the Merritt College Environmental Management and Technology Dept. Free. www.ebparks.org 

Until Sept. 2. Berkeley Arts Festival Gallery presents a new exhibition of the work of creative visual artists. Robert Brokl, paintings/prints. Mark Bulwinkle, painted steel screens. Art Hazelwood, linocuts. Roberta Loach, prints. Mari Marks, encaustic paintings 2133 University Av. Free. 510-644-6893. www.berkeleyartcenter.org 

Until Sept. 29. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 1-4 P.M. Joanna Gewertz Harris, Ph.D, Bay Area dancer, dance historian and author of Beyond Isadora: Bay Area Dancing 1915-1965, will discuss the history of East Bay performers, choreographers and pioneers of today’s dance community. The exhibit explores dance in the East Bay and includes a video by Margaretta Mitchell, an interview with Frank Shawl, and archival footage of Hanya Holm. Jeanine Castello-Lin and Tonya Staros, Co-Curators. Wheelchair accessible. Berkeley History Center, 1931 Center St. Free. 510-848-0181 

Sunday, May 27. 1:30-4:30 P.M. Book Into Film: Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn at Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Read the book at home. Watch the movie together. Discuss the book, film and adaptation as a group. Registration required- call 510-981-6236 to sign up. 

Wednesday, May 30. 12 Noon-1 P.M. Playreaders at Central Berkeley Public Library.  

2090 Kittredge. Meets weekly to read aloud from great plays, changing parts frequently. Intended for adult participants. 510-981-6100. 

Thursday, May 31. 1:30 P.M. UC Botanical Garden Docent Tour. With paid admission, free docent-led tours year-round on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 1:30 PM. Plants of the World - General Tour of the Garden. Explore the Garden’s incredible diversity of plants from six continents, including environments as diverse as deserts, tropical forests, redwood forests, and wetlands. Each tour is a unique experience focused on plants at their seasonal best, a variety of themes, and your interests. Event Contact: garden@berkeley.edu, 510-643-2755. 

Saturday, June 2. 10 A.M. – 4 P.M. Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. Semi-annual Book Sale. Books sold for 50 cents each. 510-524-8378 or berkeleylibraryfriends.org

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

Wednesday, June 6. 12 Noon-1 P.M. Playreaders at Central Berkeley Public Library.  

2090 Kittredge. Meets weekly to read aloud from great plays, changing parts frequently. Intended for adult participants. 510-981-6100. 

Wednesday, June 6. 6-8 P.M. Lawyer in the Library. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free 15 minute consultation with an attorney who will clarify your situation, advise you of your options, get you started with a solution, and make a referral when needed. Sign up in person at the Reference desk or call 510-526-3720 ext. 5 during library hours. 

Also August 1, Sept. 5, Oct. 3, Nov. 7 and Dec. 5.  

Thursday, June 7. 3:00-5:P.M. At the Rockridge Library in Oakland, 5366 College Avenue. 51A, 605 bus lines stop in front of the library; walk 5 blocks south from Rockridge BART station. "Explore Your Future" workshops for people age 50+, sponsored by Coming of Age: Bay Area (a national nonprofit initiative.) 4-session series of classes. For Coming of Age members, the charge is $49 for all 4 sessions; for nonmembers, it is $89. But becoming a Coming of Age member is free, and people can sign up on the website at www.comingofage.org/bayarea and get the discounted rate for the workshop and other activities. Meet with a group of people and a skilled counselor to really think about and envision your next steps. 888-308-1767 or 415-474-7787. 

Thursday, June 7. UC Botanical Garden. Tour and Open House – first Thursday of every month. Parking is limited. Docent-led tours for groups are not available on Free Thursdays. In order to minimize the impact on the plant collection, ensure the safety of visitors, and to provide your group with the best educational experience groups larger than 18 students (+3 chaperones) on our “First Free Thursdays” not admitted. See http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu/education/tours.shtml for group admission information. Free. Event Contact: garden@berkeley.edu, 510-643-2755. 

Sunday, June 10. 2 P.M. Blue Suede Jews. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Local rock historian Richie Unterberger presents lecture/footage of Jewish musicians in the golden age of rock roll, including Bob Dylan, Carole King and many more. 510-981-6100.  

Wednesday, June 13. 12 Noon-1 P.M. Playreaders at Central Berkeley Public Library.  

2090 Kittredge. Meets weekly to read aloud from great plays, changing parts frequently. Intended for adult participants. 510-981-6100. 

Thursday, June 14. 8:45 P.M. Cafe Literario. West Berkeley Public Library, 1125 University Av. Facilitated Spanish language book discussion. June title: Margarita, Está Linda la Mar by Sergio Ramirez. 510-981-6270. 

Saturday, June 16. 5 P.M. Claremont branch, Berkeley Public library, 2940 Benvenue Av. Melanie O’Reilly will perform original music inspired by Joyce’s writings. 510-981-6280. 


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

Wednesday, June 20. 12 Noon-1 P.M. Playreaders at Central Berkeley Public Library.  

2090 Kittredge. Meets weekly to read aloud from great plays, changing parts frequently. Intended for adult participants. 510-981-6100. 

Wednesday, June 20. 1:30 P.M. Berkeley Commission on Aging regular meeting. North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. 510-981-5178. Be sure to confirm. 

Monday June 25. 7 P.M. Kensington Library Book Club: The Chosen by Chaim Potok. 61 Arlington Av. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Tuesday, June 26. 3-4 P.M. Tea and Cookies. Central Berkeley Public Library. 2090 Kittredge. A book club for people who want to share the books they have read. 510-981-6100.  

Wednesday, June 27. 12 Noon-1 P.M. Playreaders at Central Berkeley Public Library.  

2090 Kittredge. Meets weekly to read aloud from great plays, changing parts frequently. Intended for adult participants. 510-981-6100. 

Wednesday, June 27. 1:30-2:30P.M. Great Books discussion group. July’s People by Nadine Gordimer. Rosalie Gonzales, group facilitator. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720.  

Sunday, July 8. 1 – 4:30 P.M. The 2012 Berkeley Rent Board Convention will be held in the main meeting room of the downtown, central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge, corner of Shattuck. A slate of candidates for the November 2012 election will be chosen. Contact: www.berkeleyrentboard.org 510-981-6100. 

Wednesday, July 11 6-8 P.M. Lawyer in the Library. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free 15 minute consultation with an attorney who will clarify your situation, advise you of your options, get you started with a solution, and make a referral when needed. Sign up in person at the Reference desk or call 510-526-3720 ext. 5 during library hours. 

Also August 1, Sept. 5, Oct. 3, Nov. 7 and Dec. 5.  

Wednesday, August 1. 6-8 P.M. Lawyer in the Library. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free 15 minute consultation with an attorney who will clarify your situation, advise you of your options, get you started with a solution, and make a referral when needed. Sign up in person at the Reference desk or call 510-526-3720 ext. 5 during library hours. 

Also Sept. 5, Oct. 3, Nov. 7 and Dec. 5.  

Wednesday, August 22. 1:30-2:30P.M. Great Books discussion group. Selections from The Bhagavad Gita. Rosalie Gonzales, group facilitator. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720.  

Wednesday, Sept. 5. 6-8 P.M. Lawyer in the Library. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free 15 minute consultation with an attorney who will clarify your situation, advise you of your options, get you started with a solution, and make a referral when needed. Sign up in person at the Reference desk or call 510-526-3720 ext. 5 during library hours. 

Also Oct. 3, Nov. 7 and Dec. 5.  

Wednesday, Sept. 26. 1:30-2:30P.M. Great Books discussion group. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. Rosalie Gonzales, group facilitator. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720.  

Wednesday, Oct. 3. 6-8 P.M. Lawyer in the Library. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free 15 minute consultation with an attorney who will clarify your situation, advise you of your options, get you started with a solution, and make a referral when needed. Sign up in person at the Reference desk or call 510-526-3720 ext. 5 during library hours. 

Also Nov. 7 and Dec. 5.  

Wednesday, October 24. 1:30-2:30P.M. Great Books discussion group. Troth, by Gregor von Rezzon. Rosalie Gonzales, group facilitator. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720.  

Wednesday, Nov 7. July 11 6-8 P.M. Lawyer in the Library. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free 15 minute consultation with an attorney who will clarify your situation, advise you of your options, get you started with a solution, and make a referral when needed. Sign up in person at the Reference desk or call 510-526-3720 ext. 5 during library hours. Also Dec. 5.  

Wednesday, November 28. 1:30-2:30P.M. Great Books discussion group. Sunday Morning, by Wallace Stevens. Rosalie Gonzales, group facilitator. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720.  

Wednesday, Dec. 5. 6-8 P.M. Lawyer in the Library. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free 15 minute consultation with an attorney who will clarify your situation, advise you of your options, get you started with a solution, and make a referral when needed. Sign up in person at the Reference desk or call 510-526-3720 ext. 5 during library hours. 

An invitation. Candidates for election are welcome to share statements of their accomplishments and plans vis a vis senior citizens and elders. Please email them to me at pen136@dslextreme.com.  

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: The Value of a Caring Family

By Jack Bragen
Thursday May 24, 2012 - 05:00:00 PM

There are numerous sad stories of a schizophrenic person wandering the streets, incarcerated, or missing because of not receiving adequate treatment for their disease. Family members stand by and watch with horror as these misfortunes befall their relatives. 

But for those who ultimately do accept treatment, the support of a caring family is often essential if someone is to fight off the worst of their illness and have a good outcome. 

Having a good family is no guarantee that someone will recover from mental illness. By the same token, the illness was never created by a deficiency in the family. However, having a supportive and caring family is always a help. The person with schizophrenia or bipolar absorb this help on some level even when they can't recover from their acute illness and show their appreciation. 

I remember having my eighteenth birthday party while locked up in Gladman Mental Hospital. My parents, brothers and sister were all there and they brought a cake. It was my most memorable birthday, although it was during one of my most difficult times. 

I recall a few months later when my illness was in a remission, how they tried very hard to get me to be medication compliant, and I wouldn't do it. I didn't realize, at the time, what I had just put them through. If I had been compliant, what a difference it might have made! (As it was, I relapsed after another year and needed to be back on medication.) 

Family members have assisted me materially when I was dealing with the aftermath of psychotic episodes and was trying to put my life back together. They have assisted me when I was in trouble. They have been a source of encouragement and support. They have given me a reason why I should get better instead of giving up. 

A caring family will not cure mental illness the same as it will not cure cancer, heart disease or kidney disease. However, having such a family helps a person heal faster and helps a person become well. The path without a supportive family is much harsher and much lonelier. 

As I get older, I no longer take for granted being cared for by family, and I begin to focus on giving back. My parents are getting older, and my siblings have started their own families. And I have also gotten married. 

Having a wife at my side is another blessing that I shouldn't take for granted. Her care and companionship have helped me stay in remission and stay out of trouble for sixteen years now. This is no small feat for someone who suffers from my disease. 

I only hope that if one of my relatives needs my help, I will be there to assist and support them in the same way that I have been helped. 

It was a source of tremendous joy when I brought with me family members to an event in which I was awarded a Community Service Award. It was something that paid us back for the years of pain we endured when I was worse off. It was also helpful to have someone else deal with the aggravation of driving there, which made me free to deal with the nervousness of getting ready for the event.

Arts & Events

EYE FROM THE AISLE: “FORTUNE” by Ragged Wing (at 2055 Center Street in Berkeley} ends Sunday—DON'T MISS IT!

By John A. McMullen II
Friday May 25, 2012 - 09:49:00 AM
Keith Davis, atop; Addie Ulrey, Phil Wharton, David Stein, Annie Paladino
Ragged Wing Ensemble
Keith Davis, atop; Addie Ulrey, Phil Wharton, David Stein, Annie Paladino

I’m old and jaded, but sometimes serendipity strikes and I remember why I love theater.

There is theatrical magic happening in the recesses of a new building on Center Street off Shattuck in Berkeley.

(This review is far too short to do the specifics and the players justice, but it only plays thorough Sunday and I wanted to let you know NOT TO MISS THIS!) 

Amy Sass and her Ragged Wing Ensemble create full works with low-tech that wow the senses 

Remember when you made a silhouette show in the bedroom with a bed sheet for a screen? 

Or played with your doggy doll. They make that simple play into high art. 

It’s a serious foray into Commedia dell’Arte. 

Sass has assembled an extraordinary performing and creating group, but she is the star of the show in her mute, masked, rosy cheeked, pigtailed “fool” for love. Her grace and expressive movement are poignant I haven’t seen since Jackie Gleason’s “Poor Soul” on TV on Saturday Nights in my childhood. 

It’s got a short film that could be award winner, an intricate parable in silhouette about the life-sucking effects of modern life, and a piece about getting pregnant. With a half dozen cheap teapots (“I’m a little teapot) they take on the weighty and conflicting to procreate in world of 7 billion and growing. It has some extraordinary original music by Kate Kilbane, a cameo from a dog puppet that steals the show, and the choreography will make your mind swim. 

Notable performances are Annie Paladino’s incredibly balanced movement and Keith Davis as a dog puppeteer and each of his various roles, but each and every performer is highly talented and they work like, well, an ensemble should. 

Their method is called “Exquisite Pressure” which is a term used to describe the making of fast and furious artwork. 

A Fool’s Errand directed by core artist David Stein 

Atomic Intuition, written and directed by core artist Cecilia Palmtag 

Maybe Baby, written and directed by Amy Sass with music by Kate Kilbane 

No Outlet, a short film by Matt Jacobs and Amy Sass starring Keith Davis 

At The Osher Studio (in the Arpeggio Building) 2055 Center St off Shattuck in Berkeley 


Featuring Keith Davis, Kevin Dery, Kate Kilbane, Annie Paladino, Soren Santos, Amy Sass, Anna Shneiderman, David Stein, Addis Ulrey, Keenan Varley, Phil Wharton. 

Props, costumes Anya Kasizierski; lighting Linda Baumgartner; Stage manager Suzanne Birrell. 

Company Manager Elizabeth Durst .

EYE FROM THE AISLE: Beckett’s ENDGAME and PLAY with Bill Irwin and Barbara Oliver at A.C.T. in SF

By John A. McMullen II
Thursday May 24, 2012 - 05:03:00 PM
Nagg (Giles Havergal, left) and Nell (Barbara Oliver).
Kevin Berne
Nagg (Giles Havergal, left) and Nell (Barbara Oliver).

Though ENDGAME is a classic, it can be tedious even in the hands of talented professionals.

We expect Samuel Beckett to be enigmatic—we still ponder Waiting for Godot. Other than the Robin Williams and Steve Martin 1988 “play it for laughs” version on Broadway (which Beckett disowned), I’ve never been a fan.  

ENDGAME is a 90-minute challenge to analyze and to endure. There is not a lot of movement in this post-apocalyptic dreary little room created by scenic designer Daniel Ostling. Mom and Dad reside in 50 gallon drums over in the corner. Hamm sits as king of this despondent little realm in a chair on a wheeled platform, with dark glasses, the image of James Joyce, that literary lion, to whom Samuel Beckett toadied for years. The program insightfully informs us that Joyce likewise would position his chair in the middle of the room to dominate it like Hamm does in this play. 

Bill Irwin played Lucky in the Williams & Martin production of Godot, then played Didi with Nathan Lane in the Roundabout Theatre production in 2009, so he knows something about Beckett. 

Bill Irwin as Hamm does his best to enliven things but tying a clown (he started with the Pickle Family Circus) down to a chair is like tying Lebron James’ shoes laces together. Clov (Nick Gabriel), his servant, shambles back and forth from the kitchen to do his bidding, with Job-like patience. Mr. Gabriel plays it realistically and effectively, even including his goony comic posture. It’s the same schtick repeated, though it gives the two the opportunity to play their master/servant war of words.  

Veteran actors Barbara Oliver (founding artistic director of Berkeley’s Aurora Theatre Co.) and Giles Havergal play their parts with poignant stoicism. They embody the mutual care of married elders who cannot physically touch one another—in this case because they are confined to the barrels. 

Most of the 20th century playwrights drew from their own personal and family traumas (e.g., Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neill, et. al.); Beckett seems to disguise his a little more subtly.  

Beckett took care of many of his infirm relatives. He was a war hero with the French underground in WW2. He dedicated himself to humanitarian causes. He was also polyamorous, which is to say that he had intimate relationships with multiple women contemporaneously. 

The evening opener is PLAY which is a 22 minute, 3-character monologue of Woman 1, Woman 2, and Man. 

The trio is in barrels, with spotlights on their pale faces which switch to whoever is speaking. It’s about the man’s infidelity: their rage and hurt, and his rationales. A.C.T. core acting company members Annie Purcell, René Augesen, and Anthony Fusco comprise the triangle.  

So if you want the educational and cultural experience of having seen ENDGAME, I recommend it because you probably won’t get a better rendering anywhere soon. Perhaps your interpretation and insight will be deeper and more rewarding than mine. But you should know what you’re in for. 


Samuel Beckett's Endgame 

with Beckett's one-act Play  

Directed by Carey Perloff 

at the American Conservatory Theater  

415 Geary St. SF 

through Sunday, June 3. 


Seldom Seen Theater Classic Opens in Hayward June 7

By John A. McMullen II
Thursday May 24, 2012 - 04:56:00 PM
Katy Hidalgo, Alexaendrai Bond, Ruby Buckwalter.
Terry Sullivan
Katy Hidalgo, Alexaendrai Bond, Ruby Buckwalter.

Carson McCuller’s THE MEMBER OF THE WEDDING opens in Hayward on June 7 at the Douglas Morrison Theatre (formerly Hayward Little Theatre). It’s an opportunity to see a seldom produced theatre classic. It runs through July 1. 

The long-time community theatre has upped their game and is approaching semi-pro status with more serious pieces and more accomplished talent. 

Carson McCullers herself adapted her novel for a Broadway production directed by Harold Clurman. It won the Best Play Award from the New York Drama Critics in 1950 and ran for 501 performances. The cast included Ethel Waters, Julie Harris, and Brandon deWilde. It was made into a film in 1952 with the same cast. 

It is about the angst of Frankie Addams, a tall, gawky, lonely, isolated, motherless, socially inept, Southern girl on the verge of adolescence.  

It takes place over a few days in late summer of near the end of World War Two. 

Her mother died giving birth to Frankie and her father is a distant, uncomprehending figure. Her closest companions are the family's African American maid, Berenice Sadie Brown, and her six-year-old cousin, John Henry West. 

Her ungainly attachment to her soldier brother and his new bride, her social isolation her difficult relationship with the African-American housekeeper, and her search for her sexual identity are the core conflicts in the play. 

Artistic director Susan E. Evans (formerly of the highly regarded Eastenders Repertory Company) chose “The Member of the Wedding” in a season of “family portraits” that includes “Grey Gardens” and Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons.” 

Ms. Evans noted, “I did a search on Dramatists Play Service website and we are the only producer that shows up this year [doing] The Member of the Wedding,” 

She drew some conclusion on the reasons for this: It isn't a neat play with the moral tied up with a bow at the end. It is not really a feel-good play in the way you walk out the door feeling like justice can happen in the world if we stand up for what's right.” 

Evans explained her draw to the play: “In The Member of the Wedding the race issues are very real, disturbing, unresolved. And the three main characters are a tweener girl, struggling with issues of identity, a strong black woman and a delicate little boy, not quite of this world. Altogether a different kind of family….” 

Directing is Eric Fraisher Hayes who is also the Artistic Director of Role Players Ensemble, and is an accomplished actor and director: MFA from DePaul, acted with Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago and the Magic here. Lately, he's directed Mourning Becomes Electra, Laura, and The Mikado. 

Another reason for the producing difficulty is finding a lead that understands the issues and still looks young enough to plays the role; Julie Harris was 24 when she created the role. 

Playing Frankie is Katy Hidalgo of Hayward who studied acting at Chabot College. 

“Katy is 23; she has this rare elfin quality of seeming like an adult and a child at the same time,” Hayes remarked in a phone interview. “I’ve cast 11 year cherubic Ruby Buckwalter from Albany to play John Henry, the young boy.”  

Alexaendrai Bond of Oakland plays Berenice, the housekeeper and caretaker of Frankie. 

Cast members include Joe Fitzgerald of El Cerrito, Dorian Lockett of Richmond, Cornell White-Cockrell of Oakland, Alex Skinner of Alameda, Alisha Erhlich of El Cerrito, Hallie Frazer of Alameda, Bessie Zolno of Oakland, Sami Cowan of Castro Valley, and Dillon Aurelio-Perata of San Ramon. 

DMT is a little difficult to find, but it may be worth it for a chance to see something that doesn’t come ‘round that often. The Douglas Morrisson Theatre is located at 22311 N Third Street, Hayward, CA, right next to the Senior Center and the Japanese Gardens 

To find out some fascinating background on Carson McCullers that informs the appreciation of this play and all her work, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carson_McCullers for a quick read. 

For more information or tickets go to http://dmtonline.org/ or call Tuesday thru Friday, 12:30 to 5:30pm, at (510) 881-6777 

Look for the “Eye from the Aisle” review of THE MEMBER OF THE WEDDING in early June.

Press Release: City Commons Club of Berkeley --June, 2012 Programs

From David Aroner
Saturday May 26, 2012 - 08:23:00 AM

City Commons Club meets in the historic Berkeley City Club at 2315 Durant Avenue; Berkeley. The building was designed by famous architect and BCC member Julia Morgan. For information about the City Commons Club: www.citycommonsclub.org or call (510) 845-8055 or (510) 428-0222.

Pre-meeting coffee, soft drinks, wine, and conversation from 11:20 in the Venetian Room. Lunch served from 11:45 to 12:15. Lunch is $17.00;coffee only is $1.00. Speaker begins at 12:30 and meeting adjourns at 1:30.Visitors are welcome: please call for lunch reservations by the day before the Friday meeting: Jane Barrett--(510)845-8055.

Friday, June 1,2012 Noon Luncheon

Ms. Hilary Kaiser, Educator and Author of, “World War II Voices: American GI’s And The French Women Who Married Them” “June 6, D-Day: Lest We Forget”
Hilary Kaiser, who was born and raised in the USA, has roots in San Francisco. She has lived in Paris,France, for approximately 40 years. She holds a PhD in American Studies from the University of Paris, and she had a 35-year career as a tenured educator at the French Ministry of Education, having taught at the high school and college levels. Her talk will be based on her recently-published book that tells some of the American soldiers’ amazing wartime experiences on D-Day as well as some of the dramatic stories of French war brides during the War and how they met their GI husbands and emigrated to the USA.
Friday, June 8, 2012 Noon Luncheon
Mr. Gordon Lee, Founder and CEO, Malachi Community Trust, Birmingham, England
“One Person Can Make A Big Difference”
Mr. Lee, with his late wife,Lyn, founded the Malachi Community Trust in 1990 to support children affected by family breakdown and other complex and adverse family circumstances. In his presentation , Mr. Lee will discuss how he developed a non-profit organization that helps Birmingham residents who are primarily low-income people living in neighborhoods that do not have adequate resources for providing important social services.

Friday, June 15, 2012 Noon Luncheon
Mr. Michael Fox, Film Critic and Journalist Former host of KQED's Independent View, a program about film. He has contributed to more than 50 regional and national publications since 1987 "Bay Area Documentary Filmmakers:Think Local, Act Global"
The Bay Area boasts more documentary filmmakers per capita than the media hubs of New York and Los Angeles. Mr.Fox's talk will identify the factors that support our great natural resource as well as convey the scope of local documentaries hitting our screens in the next year.
Friday, June 22,2012 Noon Luncheon
Mr. Nick Maffei, Retired College Educator; and Moderator of The Center For Learning In Retirement’s (CLIR) Popular Travel Programs“How To Travel Better, Cheaper, &Smarter”
This presentation will examine affordable travel for seniors, including learning vacations. It will cover travel and lodging tips to save you time and money. It will also include ways to use a computer—at home or a library—to take advantage of travel websites that can enrich your travel experiences, both in the USA and abroad. Mr. Maffeihas presented this popular program at many senior organizations and has received excellent feedback from participants.
Friday, June 29, 2012 Noon Luncheon: Speaker to be Announced