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Press Release: U.C. Berkeley Chancellor Issues Statement on Armored Vehicle Proposal

From Public Affairs, UC Berkeley
Thursday July 05, 2012 - 06:07:00 PM

The statement below, regarding plans for the joint acquisition of an armored emergency rescue vehicle, was issued today (Thursday, July 5) by UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, in coordination with the mayors of Berkeley and Albany:

The University of California Police Department, in collaboration with the Berkeley and Albany city police departments, recently pursued a grant for an armored emergency rescue vehicle. Law enforcement’s interest in obtaining a vehicle that would protect officers during situations involving oncoming gunfire (or to rescue victims during such situations) — such as occurred at Oikos University in Oakland a few months ago — is understandable.

However, the planned acquisition of the vehicle recently came to the attention of campus and city officials. Campus administrators evaluated the proposal and concluded that such a military-style vehicle is not the best choice for a university setting. UC Berkeley officials are in the process of canceling the order for the vehicle. Officials in Berkeley and Albany agree with the University’s decision. 

Robert Birgeneau, Chancellor, University of California, Berkeley 

Tom Bates, Mayor of Berkeley 

Farid Javandel, Mayor of Albany

Shooting Closes Eastbound Bay Bridge

By Dan McMenamin (BCN)
Thursday July 05, 2012 - 10:32:00 AM

Three eastbound lanes are now open on the Bay Bridge after a high-speed crash and shooting on the lower deck early this morning prompted the shutdown of much of the roadway, a California Highway Patrol officer said. The crash occurred at about 2 a.m. at the S-curve, east of Treasure Island.  

A shooting followed the crash, but authorities are not yet releasing details on the incident, CHP Officer Michael Ferguson said. 

Two people inside the car that crashed were transported to a hospital to be treated for injuries suffered in the collision, Ferguson said. 

All eastbound lanes on the bridge were briefly blocked after the crash. The CHP reopened the lanes but then shut them down again around 4:30 a.m. Most lanes remained closed until shortly after 8:30 a.m. when three lanes were cleared. 

All lanes are expected to be reopened by 10:30 a.m., Ferguson said. 

San Francisco police and the CHP are investigating the incident.

Earthquake with 2.5 Magnitude Strikes Near Berkeley

By Bay City Newx
Wednesday July 04, 2012 - 10:50:00 PM

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 2.5 struck near Berkeley in Alameda County this evening, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. 

The earthquake struck at about 8:40 p.m. at a depth of about 6 miles, according to the USGS. 

The epicenter was about 2 miles east southeast of Berkeley and 3 miles north of Piedmont. 


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Tom Bates and the Secret Government of Berkeley: Excerpt 3

By John Curl
Friday June 29, 2012 - 01:10:00 PM

Copyright © 2012 by John Curl. All rights reserved.

This is the third in a series of excerpts from John Curl’s long article about Mayor Bates and his effects on the city. The article follows Bates and the progressive movement in city government from its beginnings to today, based on extensive quotes from Bates’ own oral history and interviews with other players in the political events. This excerpt accounts Bates’ relationship with the University of California. You can also download a Full PDF. of the entire article.


Bates as an under graduate joined two secret fellowship organizations at UC, Skull and Keys, and Order of the Golden Bear. Skull and Keys is an honor society primarily of undergraduates involved with friendship and partying. The Order of the Golden Bear is a secret society dedicated to serving the University of California and continuing its traditions. The Order’s membership, kept in strict confidence, is comprised of students, faculty, administrators, and alumni, including members of the California Board of Regents and elected officials in local and state government. All members have the duty to serve the University in whatever way they can. The opinions expressed and remarks made at Order forums are never to be revealed outside that room. They meet every other week during the academic year and discuss pertinent topics, including university-community issues. The latter were of particular interest to Bates. While he was an undergraduate, the UC chancellor—the highest office in the school—would attend and participate. It was here that Bates got his first tastes of an inner circle of power, and was taken into it, a position he would cling to and that would serve as a key axis of his mode of operation. His connection to the university would remain a central part of his career. Undoubtedly he remains a member of the Order of the Golden Bear to this day. 

* * * 


One can surmise with near certainty that Bates maintained his alumni membership in the secret Order of the Golden Bear, dedicated to serving the University of California. 

“[UC Chancellor Michael Heyman] and I would meet and have breakfast every month, just the two of us, and his two assistants would come, sometimes Dion [Aroner] would come... [We] worked really very closely, and we had a very common set of goals and objectives we wanted to see happen.” He explained, “The reason that I think they paid attention to me, particularly at the Berkeley campus, was because of my connections with the city government and the local politics. So they saw me as somebody who could… help them navigate…” 

UC set up “a university-sponsored public policy [institute] that would work closely with the legislature around various issues that legislators were interested in.” They would have weekend retreats, paid by Cal: “This would be a weekend, actually, would be set aside where legislators would come from Sacramento to Berkeley, and would be put up at a local hotel, the Durant Hotel. Then they would have a series of seminars that they would organize around specific issues… like, What can we do to stimulate the high-tech industry in California…? But in addition to that, one of the highlights was that they always went to really elegant places for dinner in San Francisco or in the East Bay, and the chancellor would have them over to his house on the campus, where they would also have a chance to talk to him informally. So there was a lot of lobbying and a lot of good will that was built up for the university… So it almost became like a boondoggle… [State Senator] Petris always attended… he would take a very strong pro-university position and, quite frankly, he had much more power than I had because he sat right there on their Budget Committee. So when he did something, wanted something, they did it… immediately, or whatever, as quick as possible… everyone was bending over backwards to do whatever they could for their little demigods, you know, little fiefs running around. Fief is not the right word.” 

“At the Berkeley campus… research money that has come from the federal government has by and large been reduced,… basic research has been reduced. As a consequence, they’ve had to look for a lot of corporate support,… various businesses have come in and made contributions to the university. But then the question was, the research that they were doing, there were a lot of concerns that it would be directed toward things that [the corporation] was interested in. And then questions of patents. Who owns the patent? So there is a lot of sticky stuff that’s come up around corporate coming in and basically giving money, and having strings attached to that money. I mean, it’s just naturally the case… People get concerned that the research won’t be basic applied research, it won’t be allowed to be freely shared with other individuals and other researchers, but it becomes more proprietary and more patented, and so it becomes less in the public interest and more in the private interest and more in the university interest.” 

* * * 


On the down side of Mayor Loni Hancock’s administration, a disturbing incident took place, in which Bates apparently played a role, related to UC’s 1990 Campus Plan. I don’t really know the whole story, but here are some fragments. 

The UC system has a unique status as a public trust under California’s Constitution. At the time of its founding, the college in Berkeley had less than 2,000 students. Today the 10-campus system includes more than 220,000 students and over 170,000 faculty and staff. The University of California is somewhat a country unto itself, not subject to state laws or municipal ordinances, such as local building and zoning regulations. UC executives function with little public accountability. Its governing Board of Regents is comprised mostly of wealthy businessmen and lawyers, most of them large donors to governors’ election coffers, chosen more for their political connections than for their expertise in higher education. California provides millions of dollars in funding each year in a lump sum payment, and the Regents and the President distribute this money with few restrictions. 

The UC master plan of 1990 proposed a great expansion of the university into the community, over which the city would have no control. Eleven neighborhood groups mobilized, and challenged UC with a lawsuit for greater input on growth and to arrange for fair cost sharing for services. Local residents were infuriated by UC’s refusal to take seriously their concerns about tall buildings, traffic, and uncontrolled growth. They asked the city to participate in the suit, and Mayor Hancock worked closely with the groups. The Council was scheduled to vote on the city joining the suit. Then suddenly, on the night of the vote, Hancock announced that the city and UC had come to an agreement to settle their differences. The public never even knew that negotiations were going on. 

The word leaked out that Bates and UC Chancellor Heyman had gotten Hancock to go with them on a secret boat trip, where they convinced her to go along with the agenda. Surely Bates’ membership in the secret Order of the Golden Bear played a role. 

The neighborhood groups vowed to continue on with the lawsuit, but without the city it fell apart. 

* * * 


In 2005 Bates staged a rerun of Loni’s 1990 secret negotiated deal with the University. Once again, his membership in the Order of the Golden Bear, the secret organization sworn to serve the University’s interests, must have played a role. 

When he was running for mayor in 2002, Bates spoke of his concern about the impact of UC expansion on the city. With his Sacramento connections, he could bring pressure on UC and create a relationship in which the city’s concerns would be addressed. Then when UC put forth their Long-Range Development Plan in 2004 he publicly stood up to them and demanded that they deal fairly with the city. UC was planning to build up to 2.2 million square feet of new administrative and academic space, mostly in the downtown, requiring over 2,000 new parking spaces, with no city input. Bates talked tough at first, in a newspaper article quoted as vowing to “fight tooth and nail.” The city filed a lawsuit against UC, and Bates announced, “The university asked us to sign the equivalent of a blank check that would allow it to build wherever, whenever, and however it would like. The lawsuit firmly states that we are not signing anything until we know what we are buying.” 

UC has a huge negative fiscal impact on the city. A 2004 independent fiscal analysis estimated the annual fiscal impact on the city for providing services to UC was then $10.9 million a year, and the projected expansion would drive it up to $13.5 million. 

The lawsuit was moving ahead in 2005 when suddenly Bates announced that he had negotiated with them in secret and they came to an agreement to settle. The deal was quickly rammed through the City Council behind closed doors, with no public review or input. “This is a deal that will live in infamy,” said Councilmember Dona Spring, who represented the downtown area. “The city gave up everything and the university gave up nothing... [The plan] is a violation of public trust… We’ve ceded sovereignty to the university and given up our ability to set our own zoning code.” 

The city made almost all the concessions. Under the agreement, UC would increase their payments for police, fire and sewer services, but nowhere nearly enough to cover their impacts. Before the city filed the lawsuit, the university had offered $1.1 million; the lawsuit sought $4.1 million; and the settlement was for $1.2 million. The shortfall would continue to be paid by the city. The agreement made no mention of lessening the impacts of campus growth on surrounding neighborhoods, and also ignored traffic, the single biggest impact of the university on the city. Worst, it surrendered to UC veto power over planning for the future of the city’s downtown. The agreement did not commit UC to even following the plan, so they could continue to buy downtown land and build whatever they choose. The Council explicitly signed away any rights the city might have in the future to demand increased payments. 

However, Bates spun the deal as a victory for the city. 

* * * 

Some say that Berkeley is a company town, and UC is the company. UC leans on its financial support from the city of free land and services, and obtains perks for private business under its umbrella, because it’s tax exempt. The university’s influence over the city has accelerated under Bates. At the same time, UC’s mission has changed. Education and basic research are no longer its primary goals. A determination was made that the only way to keep the University alive is by pandering to corporations. Now the federal government, through the Department of Energy and big corporate funders, have given it the mission of developing new bio-fuel, bio-tech, and green-tech industries. The contract between UC and BP (British Petroleum) is part of that. The East Bay may become the center of the future’s synthetic biology breakthroughs, but many people think that in the process it’s raping the town financially and environmentally. Is it really green? Is it really worth it? 


John Curl is the author of For All The People: Uncovering the Hidden History of Cooperation, Cooperative Movements, and Communalism in America, with a foreword by Ishmael Reed. 

The Berkeley Rodney King Story You Haven't Read

By Ted Friedman
Friday June 29, 2012 - 02:04:00 PM
1992 Telegraph riots after Rodney King verdict, from Oakland Tribune. Clipping courtesy Berkeley Library Berkeley History Room.
Ted Friedman
1992 Telegraph riots after Rodney King verdict, from Oakland Tribune. Clipping courtesy Berkeley Library Berkeley History Room.

Rodney King's recent death at the bottom of his swimming pool near Los Angeles has spawned mostly stories about King, but little, if anything, on the Berkeley connection. 

Surely some media source has discovered Berkeley's historic role in the Rodney King Verdict riots, after acquittals in Rodney King's assault case against the Los Angeles Police Department twenty years ago. 

Two years before Rodney King, Berkeley was seething (Friday, May 19, 1989), That's when Berkeley radicals, anarchists, and drunken frat boys (reportedly) savaged Telegraph, claiming the title, "The" Berkeley Riot--the Berkeley riot to end all Berkeley riots. 

Riot-rankings were to need re-ranking in the face of subsequent events. 

The King Verdict Berkeley Riots of 1992 surpassed in damages the People's Park volley-ball riots, a year earlier, the rampage on telegraph three years earlier, and even--according to participants-- surpassed the Battle for People's Park, 1969, and the Free Speech Movement riots, 1964, when "the world was watching." 

At the epicenter of 1992's King Verdict Riot, a fire engine was set afire at Telegraph and Dwight, and a car torched at Dana and Bancroft. 

An estimated 2,000 Berkeleyans marching from a rally at San Pablo and University got as far as the Freeway, but were blocked by Berkeley police. 

Along Telegraph, twenty years ago (Wednesday, April 29, 1992), merchants with long memories of being trashed began boarding up and closing early after the King-beating acquittals. The Med across from Moe's books on Teley was open sporadically, but Moe's was closed the day of the riots (Thursday). 

Berkeley, which thought it had seen it all, was on the verge of a world class riot--the aftermath in Berkeley of the acquittals in the Rodney King LA assault-by-police-case, when an entire nation had seen the brutality on T.V. 

During the People's Park riots, Moe's on Teley was reportedly untouched, but Moe's could no longer survive on the kindness of strangers from Oakland and Richmond, headed to Berkeley to loot. 

A writer for the Daily Cal noted, "looters not only came to loot, they brought shopping lists." 

When the Thursday night riot had played out (Berkeley police said the riot had to be allowed to play itself out), twenty-three businesses were looted and badly damaged. Some of these businesses never re-opened. Cost to the city was set by the city at a million 1992 dollars. 

One-hundred adults and thirty juveniles were arrested the night of the riots, according to press reports at the time. 

Although "The" 1989 (May 19, 1989) Telegraph Avenue rampage was bad, the King riot was badder. Or did it just seem so because of wide-scale looting, and Berkeley's first-ever city-wide curfew? 

Berkeley's then Police Chief, Dash Butler, reportedly said the 1991 People's Park volley-ball riots paled in comparison to the magnitude of the Berkeley Rodney King Verdicts Riot a year later. 

(The volleyball riots, even with more than 200 protestors against volley-ball courts in People's Park, failed to penetrate police lines barring them from Telegraph Avenue, but continued three more nights in the park). 

Meeting after Thursday's riot, in emergency session at city hall, the city council voted to impose Berkeley's first-ever curfew, in a curfew averse town. Three council members voted against the 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, the terms of which which were vaguely understood by most Berkeleyans. Police subsequently arrested 20 alleged curfew violators, and for a time blocked off South side foot-traffic from North side. 

The day after the riot, police put 140 officers on the streets to enforce the curfew and maintain order, Friday. By Saturday, then Mayor Hancock pronounced the curfew a success, and said "peace" had been restored. 

But controversies surrounding the city's actions would continue for months. 

The curfew lasted two days, Friday, and Saturday, and apart from spawning a post-riot soul-searching about civil rights, inconvenienced and threatened Berkeleyans, who had never lived through a curfew; weren't curfews southern? 

Eventually the council, and Mayor Loni Hancock wound up defending curfew violators, who were caught up in the city-sponsored curfew. 

Mayor Hancock pulled out of Berkeley in the wee hours two days after the riots, commandeering a county bus, and headed for for Santa Rita county jail to bring back nearly four hundred released U.C. Berkeley protesters, arrested trying to shut down the Bay Bridge. 

Although police conduct would be questioned later, at least one city official praised police efforts the night of the riot. Hancock, the city council, and police could claim credit--and tried--for saving Berkeley from a fate similar to the burning of Atlanta. 

It is a matter of conjecture as to what permanent effect the Rodney King Telegraph riots had on the declining future of Telegraph, but one embittered businessman, who lost his business to looters, declared that, "anyone with a business elsewhere would not want to be here {on Telegraph]." 

No one could successfully argue against the claim that Telegraph's decline dates from the devastating Berkeley King Riots. 

How could a story this big go unreported? 


Part 1, of a three-part series. Next: Background of the Biggie. 









The Little Shop on Telegraph Avenue

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Friday June 29, 2012 - 01:24:00 PM

When taking my daily morning walk, heading toward the U.C. Campus, I pass a small, inconspicuous shop at 2590 Telegraph Avenue, two blocks from my apartment. Above this shop is a bright green sign with a cross, stating "Patients Care Collective." Standing guard at the shop's iron fence are three burly, but amiable young men who work six days a week, 12 to 7 p.m., (closed on Sundays). To gain admittance to this shop, customers must show a doctor's note saying that the marijuana is to provide medicinal relief without getting stoned. I quite often see men entering the shop surreptitiously, as though reluctant to be seen. 

Marijuana is said to help kids with autism, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis. It also eases the nausea and discomfort that accompanies cancer treatment. Lab research shows that over the years the black market has bred almost all CBD out of pot, precisely because it limits the euphoric effects, the feeling of being stoned. Ironically, about 106,000 Americans died last year from pharmaceuticals -- zero died from marijuana! 

I decided I should do a bit of scholarly research on the subject. During a recent House Judiciary Subcommittee Hearing, Drug Enforcement Administrator Michele Leonhart repeatedly refused to admit that anything was more addictive or harmful than marijuana. She was asked whether crack is worse than marijuana and replied, "I believe all illegal drugs are bad." She conceded that heroin was more addictive than marijuana, adding that "some people become addicted to marijuana and some people to methamphetamine." 

So, while federal crackdown may result in marijuana users being treated as common criminals, hopefully Berkeley will continue to extend service to its citizens in need of medicinal relief.



With Elections on the Horizon, Reform Starts (and Stalls) in Berkeley

By Becky O'Malley
Friday June 29, 2012 - 10:55:00 AM

The summer solstice has passed, and the days will grow shorter ‘til we reach November. Election fever is starting to heat up.

In the last week, several election-related occurrences have provided data points for our ongoing inquiry about whether democracy will survive at least for our lifetime. The big news, of course, is that ObamaCare won in the Supreme Court.  

Surely the president’s campaign apparatus is capable of enough jujitsu to turn that derogatory appellation for the Affordable Health Care Act into a salable brand, now that the Supremes have given it their seal of approval.  

I’m already ordering my “I ♥ObamaCare” bumperstickers. Yes, yes, I know it could be a whole lot better, but really, folks, we’ve got to do the best we can with what we’ve got for the moment. 

A better Congress could pass a better healthcare bill. On Monday I went to a meet-and-greet with a guy who’d like to work on that.  

Dr. Ami Bera is running for Congress against the creepy Dan Lundgren in the Sacramento area, and he seems to have a pretty good shot at winning.  

Here’s what he said about the decision yesteday: 

“Today Chief Justice Roberts did what Dan Lundgren could never do. He set politics aside to do what he thought was right. 

"We cannot go back to the days when patients were denied coverage for preexisting conditions and when women were unfairly charged more than men. Health care costs are still rising. Washington needs to put politics aside and make coverage more affordable for our middle-class families and small businesses. 

"As Chief Medical Officer for Sacramento County, I took on big pharmaceutical companies to lower the cost of care and increase coverage; in Congress I will do the same." 

Bera would be more than just another Democratic vote in Congress, though heaven knows we need that too. As an M.D. with public health experience he’d be in a good position to provide some real leadership toward improved health care legislation. 

Then on the local level, on Wednesday I attended a party at Urban Ore put on by a bunch of West Berkeley people who are excited by the idea that at least three candidates have taken out papers to run against the incumbent councilmembers who have treated their neighborhood so shabbily. Two of them, Denisha DeLane and Adolpho Cabral, are running against Darryl Moore, who has proved himself to be a reliable rubber stamp for Mayor Tom Bates’ various schemes to enhance construction industry profits at the expense of local citizens. 

The latest ground zero is in Moore’s own West Berkeley district, when owners of some big tracts near the water are promoting changes to the West Berkeley Plan and its zoning to allow big office buildings to be built on their holdings. Residential and small business inhabitants are concerned, to put it mildly—outraged would be more accurate. 

Ranked choice voting will permit citizens who are tired of Moore to push for change by selecting DeLane and Cabral, in whichever order, for the one-two positions on their ballots. Either one would be a big improvement over Moore’s passive participation in developer enterprises. At Wednesday’s event each candidate gave a thoughtful though not slick presentation stressing community ties and hopes for the future.  

The third aspirant, Jacquelyn McCormick, is running against Bates himself. The Berkeley city charter establishes a weak mayor position, with the mayor effectively just an at-large councilmember who chairs council meetings. But in Bates’ ten years in office he’s managed to take maximum advantage of the perks of the office so that he’s captured a reliable majority of spineless fellow councilmembers to vote for most of what he wants most of the time. 

Although McCormick is a relative newcomer to electoral politics (she ran once in firmly conservative District 8 and lost to the incumbent) she’s a savvy former businesswoman who’s spent two years attending almost every council meeting to get a firm grasp of the city’s problems. Her articulate, passionate speech on Wednesday reflected this experience. And she appears to be under 50, which would be a refreshing novelty in an increasingly elderly council, most of whose members have been in office for decades.  

It’s clear that she’s trying to avoid being pigeonholed as belonging to one of the two factions (once labeled progressive and moderate) which dominated Berkeley politics a decade ago. Thus she’s active with Berkeley Budget Watch, which scrutinizes city expenditures in a time of shrinking revenues, a cause traditionally beloved of the old moderate faction. At the same time, she’s scornful of Bates’ latest attempt to mask the manifold problems of Berkeley’s commercial districts by blaming street sitters and promoting yet another round of controversial anti-sit/lie legislation. This stance earns her major points with Berkeley’s beleaguered progressive element, now disgusted with former progressives Moore and Maio, who weep copious crocodile tears while voting to put regressive ordinances on the ballot.  

This brings us to the latest sneaky maneuver on the part of a city council now in the pocket of the U.C. Berkeley administration and the biotech business interests it increasingly represents. The council has chosen to offload its two most controversial recent proposals, re-jiggering West Berkeley and the sit/lie offensive, into ballot initiatives to be voted on in the November general election. This is, needless to say, the poorest possible public policy, since ordinances enacted by initiative require initiatives to amend or repeal, and these two are full of questionable details sure to cause problems if enacted.  

The worst thing about legistlation-by-initiative is that it provides a prime opportunity for the Citizens United syndrome to rear its ugly head. In Berkeley until now propaganda for or against ballot measures could be published with unlimited and unrevealed corporate funding, and several recent initiatives have accrued secret corporate finance. 

Thus, for example, the recent Measure R ballot measure, which green-washed what has turned out to be carte blanche for downtown development, was passed largely because a very well-designed glossy brochure supporting it was mailed to every voter with the apparent sponsorship of the Sierra Club but with hidden financing by Berkeley’s largest commercial landlord, a corporate arm of the notorious Sam Zell empire. To complete the string of colorful metaphors, the incident gave both the Sierra Club and Berkeley’s election laws a black eye. 

The city’s citizen Fair Campaign Practices Commission has been working on cleaning up this obvious loophole in Berkeley’s election law, bringing forward the Berkeley Election Reform Act to require disclosure of corporate funding on printed election materials. The council finally passed it on Tuesday, after watering down the commission’s initial draft in a number of significant ways.  

But guess what? They also voted, in a quick sleight-of-hand maneuver which went largely unnoticed in press reports, to delay the law’s effect until after the upcoming November election, which will mean for two more years when the next election takes place. Worthington, Arreguin and Anderson protested, but as usual they were outvoted by the Bates faction. 

What this means is that corporate interests which have a strong financial stake in the outcome of the West Berkeley initiative will be able to spend their way to election success with no disclosure that they’re doing so. Similarly, downtown Berkeley property owners will be allowed to buy the results they want on the sit-lie intiative without voters knowing what’s happening. 

What does all this mean for the future of democracy? Well, the forces of good are currently ahead this week by one Supreme Court decision and four promising candidates. On the other hand, the corporate grip on election financing, in the nation and even in Berkeley, persists.  

What will it take for good to triumph? Same old same old: eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. 

But you knew that, didn’t you? What more can be done?  

Amending the U.S. Constitution to overcome the toxic consequences of Citizens United might be an ultimate goal, along with supporting the good candidates who are out there, but simply demanding that the Berkeley City Council implement the Berkeley Election Reform Act before the November election might be a good place to start. Good government, like charity, begins at home. 


Odd Bodkins: Mount Conclusion (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Friday June 29, 2012 - 02:09:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Public Comment

New: The True Turing Test to Save Education in America

By Ronald O. Ross and Jonathan David Farley, D.Phil. with Gregory Labonte
Friday June 29, 2012 - 10:45:00 PM

In Sackville Park, in Manchester, England, a dog once played fetch with a statue. The heroes of England have long been memorialized in bronze, gesturing, with the authority of monarchs and military men, in mighty poses on giant slabs of granite; but this statue is simple. It is but a man―a meek, demure-looking fellow―humbly sitting on a park bench, holding a poisoned apple. 

The raised letters adorning the back of the bench display the man’s name, and, under his name, one finds the letters: “IEKYF RQMSI ADXUO KVKZC GUBJ”―this man broke Nazi codes. 

The inscription beneath the statue reads: 


“Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth 

but supreme beauty, a beauty cold and austere 

like that of sculpture.” ― Bertrand Russell 


June 23 came, and mathematics continues to be wrongly viewed: few people in public education paused to recognize the life and work of Alan Turing on the centenary of his birth on this date. Despite, as Berkeley professor Edward Frenkel has noted, the universal use of algorithms to keep our bank accounts safe, and the obvious fact that we are not speaking German, what schoolchild knows Turing’s name? The most famous mathematician is less famous than the runner-up in American Idol or Britain’s Got Talent.  

To rectify this, we have tried, with some limited success, to bring research-level mathematics into public high schools. By our estimate, only 2 pi research mathematicians in the country even care about our public schools―this is a round figure―and even then usually only when they’re retirement-age, like Berkeley logician Leon Henkin, or when their kids encounter less-than-prepared math teachers in school, like Harvard’s Wilfried Schmid

When one of us invited to his school an award-winning research mathematician such as Edward Frenkel, a former Harvard professor who received full tenure at Berkeley at 28, there was a firestorm. 

When we tried to initiate students to the war-winning mathematics of the likes of Alan Turing, the Board of Regents stepped in to abort the program at conception, saying that its $95,000 price tag was more than the state could afford―this from the people who spent $32 million on test materials featuring talking pineapples. Yet those same Regents’ near panic act in applying for federal “Race to the Top” money was reminiscent of a Three Stooges slapstick comedy. 

Imagine the possibilities if a defense contractor like Raytheon or the Department of Homeland Security were to underwrite a course that would expose the best and the brightest in ordinary public schools to research mathematicians. 

There would be blood, cries of elitism. Of course, you get Turings precisely as a product of an elite education, at Cambridge University in his case. What seems to get lost in the education reform debate today is: What are we doing for the students who really want to work, who have the ability and discipline to do rigorous research at the high-school level? We must devote as much time to our math program as we do to the athletic program

While we can and should spend whatever is necessary to make sure no child is left behind (a phrase, we believe, coined by New York State Regent Ena Farley, although with different intent), what teacher could even recognize a Turing in our crazed test-everyone state? What teacher could risk taking time to work with a young Turing, when the all-consuming test is evaluating her weaker students―and her? Teaching to the test will ensure there are no Turings to be honored in the future―to the detriment of the kids, the schools, and humanity. 

Leonard DiCaprio’s evident effort to make a film about Turing, and TV star Danica McKellar’s New York Times best-selling math textbooks notwithstanding, in the main we are like the dog in Manchester, not understanding why our repeated attempts to improve math education―a ponderous, immobile object―are failing: In the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment, America ranked 31st in math out of 65 countries or country-sized entities. 

However, if the Manchester dog had had its day and could read human script, it would have been awed by who sat before it, a man contemplating the incalculable, a submarine battle of unities and negation raging in his depths: 

Alan Mathison Turing 


Father of Computer Science 

Mathematician, Logician 

Wartime Codebreaker, 

Victim of Prejudice 

Instead, the dog rolls around in the warm grass, pleasantly oblivious. 


Mr. Ronald O. Ross is superintendent of the Greenburgh Central 7 School District, where Professor Jonathan David Farley is a mathematics consultant. Mr. Gregory Labonte is a computer science student from the University of Maine. 


The Case for Ping Pong

By Carol Denney
Friday June 29, 2012 - 12:11:00 PM

Supporters admit anti-sitting laws have accomplished nothing in other cities.[i] They admit the law would be used in a discriminatory fashion, a “back pocket” measure. They acknowledge that the law is aimed at a handful of people who aren’t technically committing crimes. They acknowledge that “the problem” they wish to “solve” is isolated to perhaps two or three storefronts in the city. 

So why are they pursuing an anti-sitting law? “Because we have to do something,” they say with exasperation. 

“Even something stupid?” one is tempted to ask. Even something that will cost taxpayers more than the estimated $26,000 being budgeted for it while service organizations’ budgets are slashed? Even something that further erodes not just the rights of the vulnerable group being targeted, but everyone who wishes to stop and rest for a moment in a commercial district? 

I used to run into this argument in planning meetings, especially after an entire neighborhood would turn dutifully out with solid information proving the building plan on paper would destroy the balance of a vulnerable part of the city. The planners would routinely plead, “But we have to do something!” 

This brings me to ping pong. Listen up, planners, politicians, and meddling merchant associations; if you absolutely must sidestep what works (jobs, housing, recovery services) for people sidelined in life, and if you feel you absolutely must do something, try a game of ping pong. You’ll do less damage, spend less money, and get some exercise along the way. 

[i] Except for Mayor Tom Bates, who cited Seattle’s horrifying street population in his press release, forgetting that Seattle has had an anti-sitting law since 1994.

Richmond Liberals Lose Their Way

By Charles T. Smith
Friday June 29, 2012 - 12:41:00 PM

When Richmond residents stood up to Chevron several years ago they made national news. Richmond voters taxed Chevron and stopped them from processing heavy crude without adequate environmental protections. Today Richmond is again making national news with a proposed regressive tax on sugar drinks. On the surface, considering the obesity rate among economically challenged residents, this may look like an attempt to help people develop healthier lifestyles by slowing down their consumption of sugar drinks. Under closer inspection, however, it reveals a callous middle class bias against the poor. 

The tax was authored and promoted by Richmond Council Member Dr. Jeff Ritterman, the former head of the Richmond Kaiser Cardiology Department. It is Dr. Ritterman’s current position that sugar drinks are responsible for the high rate of obesity in Richmond’s minority community and, therefore, it is in the community’s interest to discourage the consumption of such drinks by adding a hefty City tax. Interestingly enough, in a 2008 National Geographic Special, “Stress: Portrait of a Killer,” Dr. Ritterman expressed a broader view, stating that the daily stress of being poor is what leads to health problems. The relationship between the stress of poverty and obesity was one of the primary points in the documentary. So what could change in four years that would lead Dr. Ritterman to change his emphasis and focus exclusively on the issue of sugar drinks? I would suggest that he is leading his middle class constituency to take the reactionary position of blaming the victims and he is doing so for political reasons. 

Where the poorest members of Richmond live there are no supermarkets but only liquor stores and quick-stops. This has been the case for years. Richmond has a very high rate of unemployment particularly amongst its minority population. Richmond has a high rate of drive-by shootings and homicides. Its schools are not known for their high academic performance and they have been cash-strapped for years. These are many of the daily stressors under which the poorest members of Richmond must live. As a result of these and other stressors they suffer from serious stress-related health problems. The abuse of sugar drinks is a symptom, not the cause, of these health issues which affect a large portion of Richmond’s residents. There is a proven correlation between poverty and serious health problems including obesity. You don’t need to be a scientist or a doctor to Google “what states have the highest rates of obesity?” and then Google “which are the poorest states in the US?” to see that the results indicate the very same states. Clearly, the relationship between serious health problems and rates of poverty is glaring. Health issues are class issues. 

So then, why would these obvious social facts lead “progressives” to support a regressive sugar tax in the first place? The answer is that capitalism teaches us to attribute our economic problems to our own inadequacies rather than to the economic system itself. Rather than fight capitalism we blame the most oppressed members of our society. We blame them for the consequences of being poor as if it were their fault. This is the reactionary response to our problems which creates the cynicism that leads well-intentioned people to support regressive taxes. 

This is precisely the same strategy that is currently being used by the media to blame public workers’ pensions and benefits for the failure of state and local governments to balance their budgets. The attacks on public workers’ benefits are merely distractions so that citizens forget the impacts of non-stop wars and the largest theft of public funds in the history of the world which we, the tax payers, are paying for. 

This strategy is so effective that even the most liberal citizens are falling for it. 

People who are still comfortable understand that their economic situation is changing fast. They are getting caught up in the downward economic spiral. When they are told that the increased cost of their health insurance is due to other people’s unhealthy lifestyles, they quickly support a regressive sugar drinks tax. They support increasing the health insurance rates for obese people or smokers or just denying them health care altogether. The same attitude is being applied to public workers who have paid into their retirement plans but are now under attack for having a retirement plan at all. Politicians and the media clamor for the reduction of their benefits while advocating for them to work longer before retirement. Voters who have fewer benefits or none at all are now supporting these shortsighted attacks. They don’t understand the causes of their own current economic situation. The easy answer for them is to attack their neighbor. We need to stop these mean-spirited, divisive, reactionary attacks on our friends and neighbors, focus instead on the real problem: work to defeat capitalism before it crushes all of us. Progressives should never support regressive taxes. 

New: Vote Yes on the KPFA Recall

By Brian Edwards-Tiekert
Friday June 29, 2012 - 11:09:00 PM

If you're a KPFA member, you should have just received what may be the most important KPFA ballot you ever get. It asks whether or not to recall Pacifica Treasurer Tracy Rosenberg. At stake is whether KPFA survives as we know it. That's why I'm urging you to vote “yes” on the recall. 

Some background: Rosenberg was the chief architect of a political purge that killed KPFA's biggest fundraiser—The Morning Show. That purge was a watershed: it was the first time the factionalism of KPFA's board (where I served as a worker-elected representative) penetrated the station's day-to-day operations (where I worked as a program host). Rosenberg and Pacifica used a real financial crisis as a pretext to fire their political enemies, throw us off the air, and replace us with their own supporters. 

That move cost KPFA tens of thousands of listeners, and hundreds of thousands of pledge dollars. It also violated the station's union contract – which is why Pacifica had to reverse most of the layoffs (including my own) it made in that purge. 

Inside KPFA, we've been slowly re-building. Thanks to heroic fundraising efforts, excruciatingly long fund drives, and a windfall estate gift, we've managed to keep the station solvent -- KPFA's April financial statements show us almost exactly on-budget (within 0.75% of budget goals), which means we're on track to finish the year with an operating surplus of over $150,000. 

We're moving forward: in late May , KPFA launched UpFront—a program I co-host at 7:AM. We launched on three days' notice, with no publicity, in the final week of a fund drive. But in that first week, we still became the station's top fundraiser, clocking $40,000 raised in the seven days we were on the air. If we can keep it up, KPFA can start shortening its fund drives and try to win back some of the listeners who've left. 

Unfortunately, we're poised to lose it all. 

Yesterday, Pacifica Executive Director Arlene Engelhardt sent a letter to KPFA's union (and copied to Tracy Rosenberg), giving formal notice that there will be a new round of layoffs in 30 days. As long as Engelhardt is in charge of Pacifica, and taking her cues from Rosenberg, any such cuts will come in the form of another political purge. I doubt KPFA's ability to recover from this one. 

But if Tracy Rosenberg is recalled, it will send a strong message about what KPFA's listeners will and will not stand for – it may back Pacifica off from making these unnecessary cuts, or at least from making them into a political purge. Most importantly, recalling and replacing Tracy Rosenberg should tip the balance on the Pacifica National Board, and lead to the swift departure of Pacifica's Executive Director, Arlene Engelhardt--the most aggressively anti-union manager I've seen in my nine years at KPFA. 

They are killing our network. The Rosenberg/Engelhardt regime has racked up massive bills from $400- to $500-per-hour law firms that Pacifica's used to fight its unions, its dissident board members, and the organizers of this recall election. Meanwhile, Pacifica's been routinely shorting paychecks for union members at KPFA, and fallen so far behind on payments to Free Speech Radio News that the program may cease broadcasting within a month. (And yet, somehow, Pacifica's board majority has found tens of thousands of dollars with which to fly 22 board members from across the country to a four-day meeting in a Hotel in Berkeley next month.) 

The best defense Rosenberg's supporters have mustered is a tepid appeal to “stop the infighting”. But Rosenberg is actually one of the worst purveyors of infighting -- she just happens to be doing it from a position of power, from which infighting comes in the form of politically-targeted layoffs and program changes. 

Help get out the vote. KPFA elections have low turnout, and tend to be decided by relatively small margins—which is why your actions are so important. Please: 

Pass this on to people you know who might be KPFA members. Go to the website www.savekpfa.org to learn more about the recall campaign. Most importantly, return your ballot now so you don't forget. 

Brian Edwards-Tiekert is Co-Host, “UpFront”, KPFA 94.1 FM and former staff representative (2004-2010), KPFA Local Station Board

Fed up with KPFA Infighting? Vote No on the Recall

By Henry Norr
Friday June 29, 2012 - 12:55:00 PM

In my five and a half years on KPFA's Local Station Board, I've lived through more nasty bickering than at any other time in a half century of progressive activism (and believe me, that's saying something!). But in my book the current campaign to recall Tracy Rosenberg from the local and national boards takes the cake for unbridled factionalism and sheer vindictiveness - not to mention the waste of some $25,000 at a time when the station again faces a severe financial shortfall and the likelihood of more staff cuts. 

If you care about KPFA's survival, please take my advice and vote "No" on the recall ballot listener-subscribers should - finally! - be getting in the mail this week. It's the best way you can send a message to all of the powers that be at the station and its parent Pacifica Foundation - local and national board members, station and foundation managers, and the paid staff's union local - that you want us to cut out the craziness and concentrate on pulling the operation back from the brink of financial abyss, reinvigorating programming, expanding the audience, and catching up with 21st-century technology and tastes. 

Who is Tracy Rosenberg? In addition to her work with KPFA and Pacifica, she is executive director of the Oakland-based Media Alliance; in that capacity she's a nationally recognized leader in the grassroots movement to resist the corporate media behemoths and preserve and extend alternative people's media. From my personal observations I can attest that she is incredibly dedicated and hardworking: for years now, not only as a member of the local and national boards but also as chair of Pacifica's National Finance Committee - always a critical role, but especially in a time of severe financial stress - she has devoted countless hours every month to interminable meetings and grueling conference calls. Sure, she can be abrasive at times, and no one agrees with her about every decision she's been part of - I certainly don't. But overall she's the kind of qualified and caring person Pacifica needs in its governance structures. Instead of a smear campaign and recall attempt over policy differences, we should thank her for service to the station and the network. 

As for the charges against Tracy, go to www.StopTheKPFARecall.org, especially the page devoted to "Deconstructing the Recall Petition," if you want details. Just a few points here: 

• The main charges against Tracy involve her role (real and imagined) in the budget cuts Pacifica required KPFA to make in the fall of 2010, which resulted in, among other effects, the cancellation of the Morning Show. It wasn't Tracy, though, who caused the cuts - they had to happen because the station, after losing $1.4 million over the previous three years and completely burning through its reserves, could no longer meet its payroll. Tracy's contribution, when she and others at KPFA were consulted by Pacifica Executive Director Arlene Engelhardt, was simply to point out the obvious: there was no short-term alternative but to reduce expenses and, since most of the station's budget goes for salaries and benefits and most other expenses are fixed, cutting expenses required, regrettably, trimming the paid staff. Tracy is accused of drawing up a list of staff to "purge from the station." In fact, what that list was was simply the staff seniority list, and the National Labor Relations Board has repeatedly ruled that the cuts were made in accordance with the seniority provisions in the paid staff's union contract. 

• The second allegation on the recall petition, under the inflammatory heading "Election Fraud," actually involves a disagreement over the interpretation of Pacifica's bylaws. Those rules, adopted in reaction to the near takeover of Pacifica in the 1990s by forces deeply involved in electoral politics, include a provision that any member of a Pacifica board who accepts "a political appointment" is automatically removed from that board. In January 2010 attorney Dan Siegel, a member of the LSB who had just been elected also to the national board, accepted an appointment as legal adviser to Oakland Mayor Jean Quan. A majority of the Pacifica National Board - including Tracy - voted that, in accordance with the bylaws, that move made him ineligible to stay on the local or national boards. (His position in the Quan administration was unpaid, but the bylaws make no distinction between paid and unpaid appointments.) 

Whatever you think of Siegel - I happen to admire him for much of his work, in particular his principled resignation from Quan's administration to protest its handling of the Occupy movement - the board's position was at the very least a plausible interpretation of an important element of the bylaws. A local judge eventually ruled in Siegel's favor and he remains on the local and national boards. But should disagreement on such a debatable issue be grounds for recall? 

• The third count in the recall petition - "Email Theft and Misrepresentation" would be laughable if it were not so defamatory and destructive. Just go read the e-mail in question for yourself - it's at www.StopTheKPFARecall.org/?p=367. As you can see, all it does is promote the programming scheduled to air on KPFA's Morning Mix program during the week of March 7, 2011 - and, of course, plead for donations. There's not a syllable in it about internal Pacifica politics or anything else controversial among KPFA listeners. The backstory is that the unpaid crew putting together the Morning Mix, which was then in its first months and, admittedly, still struggling to find its groove, decided to try to encourage listenership by announcing upcoming programming via e-mail. You'd think that would be a routine approach to marketing in 2011, but believe it or not, KPFA lacked the capability to put out promotional e-mail. The Mix crew learned that Tracy had an account with a service that does e-mails blasts to lists provided by the customer - an account she frequently makes available to various progressive causes - so they asked her to send the message out, using a list of addresses provided by Pacifica. 

That, in a nutshell, is the case against Tracy Rosenberg. Only in Pacificaland, I'm afraid, could one imagine that such charges could be the basis for initiating a recall. It's especially tragic considering that the recall proponents claim at every opportunity that they're defending KPFA's workers, yet the process they've imposed will probably end up costing the station close to $25,000 for printing, postage, and administration - money desperately needed to forestall additional staff cuts. 

If this recall effort succeeds, it will undoubtedly encourage others in the future, and still more money and energy that could go improving the station will instead go down the tubes in factional infighting. If you think that's nuts, join me, Grey Brechin, Peter Franck, Jack Heyman, Cynthia Johnson, Barbara Lubin, Michael Parenti, Andrea Pritchett, the late Les Radke, Sally Sommer, Carol Spooner, and scores of other longtime listeners, plus Mary Berg, Dennis Bernstein, Davey D, Anthony Fest, Robbie Osman, Peter Phillips, Kate Raphael, Nina Serrano and many other KPFA staff members (see more names at www.StopTheKPFARecall.org) in voting an emphatic "No" when you get your recall ballot. 

Henry Norr, a retired journalist and Berkeley resident, will finish his second term as an elected listener representative on KPFA’s Local Station Board in December

Tea Party Hypocrisy

By Ron Lowe
Friday June 29, 2012 - 12:54:00 PM

The Tea Party Republicans swept into Congress in 2010 with "Jobs, jobs, jobs" as their mantra. But, what have they actually voted on? 

They've introduced 44 bills on abortion, 99 on religion, 71 on family values, 36 on marriage, 67 on 2nd Amendment gun rights and 522 anti-tax measures. It doesn't take a genius to see that the new Tea Party is the old anti-abortion, anti-gay and anti-immigration religious movements lumped under a new name. 

The Tea Party has voted to keep billions of subsidy dollars for Big Oil companies, refused to keep student interest rates low and rejected a bill ensuring equal pay for women. Every single Tea Party Republican voted against keeping Medicare the same as we know it today, they voted against the jobs bill (remember, their mantra, jobs, jobs, jobs) hypocrites. 

The glue that motivates and holds the Tea Party together is their hatred for President Obama. Why would a nice group like the Tea Party (99% white) hate our black president?

Is It Time to Occupy KPFA Fund Drives? (Not physically, to politically straighten them out.)

By Richard Phelps
Friday June 29, 2012 - 01:22:00 PM

The beauty of the Occupy Movement is that it brought to the forefront of the people’s consciousness the reality of the 99-1 ownership of the wealth in this country. Something the 1% and their media conglomerates have tried to ignore and/or censor forever. 

Unfortunately there is a parallel divide with our country operating at KPFA! Each of us may have our own interpretation of the Pacifica Mission. I do think we would all agree that getting public affairs, news and culture, that the corporate media won’t broadcast, out to the people, is the essence of Pacifica’s Mission. Educate and activate. 

Pacific Bylaws, Article One, Section 2, in part: 

“In radio broadcasting operations to promote the full distribution of public information…” (Emphasis added.) 

Speeches we record need to be broadcast to the entire KPFA audience when they are fresh. Given the steady march toward corporate oligarchy an educated public is needed now more than ever before! Unfortunately over the past several years these programs have been used to fund raise in a backward, wealth biased way. They are seldom if ever played in their entirety for all our listeners to have a chance to hear. Instead they are held captive for the next fund drive when they are “sold” as “premiums” or “gifts”, only part being played to tease listeners to buy them. 

So maybe 1% or a little more of our potential audience ever get to hear the whole speech! This is the OCCUPY parallel! KQED plays the entire program when it does its fund drive and I have seen some of our programs played in their entirety on Link TV during their fund drives. 

I have no problem with selling the speeches and programs as long as they are played for all to hear. The corporate media has a political firewall to stop progressive speeches, programs and culture from getting to the people. KPFA has a monetary sound barrier, stopping those that don’t have the money from hearing these important speeches and programs. Unlike the corporate media, KPFA lets us know of them so they can sell them. How do you think this makes our low-income listeners feel? Excluded, not good enough, not deserving? 

Does KPFA’s entrenched staff think this creates loyal listeners? Do they care? This has been raised many times and they don’t seem to give a damn about our low-income listeners or our Mission. Instead of playing these speeches for tens of thousands of KPFA listeners, they sell them to a small number of people. Is this what KPFA/Pacifica is about? I hope not. 

When I moved to the Bay Area in 1974 I fell in love with KPFA for many reasons. I had just finished 5 1/2 years working on-air in AM and FM radio in San Diego and enjoyed the variety and politics on KPFA. Another reason was that when someone gave a speech and it was recorded, almost anywhere in the country or world, it was on the air for all to hear shortly thereafter. I knew that by listening to KPFA I would know when such programs would be played and wouldn’t miss them. Somewhere along the line some reactionary elements at KPFA decided to turn public affairs programs into just another commodity and sell them. Now we all have to wait weeks or months until the next fund drive and only get to hear a small part of the speech or program unless we can afford to pay the price. 

“…unregulated capitalism knows no limits, and in essence commodifies everything, human beings become commodities, and the natural world becomes a commodity…” Chris Hedges.  

KPFA needs to have some excitement on the air to bring back those that have left and bring in new listeners. KPFA again needs to be the place where you will hear Richard Wolff , Joy Degruy, Richard Lichtman or Chris Hedges right after they give their speeches. Promote it on the air for a few days and then play the entire speech. Of course requests for donations could be made during the program and there could also be callins about the speech and its topics to fill up the two hours. The station gets endless requests for callins whenever there is an open discussion on the air about programming and they happen so rarely, and often with tight control and/or outright censorship of some callers. Why is anyone at a “Free Speech” radio station afraid of what our listeners have to say? 

I have a simple solution for the problem of getting the speeches on the air. We have four music programs on M-TH at 8 pm. To free up a two-hour time slot to play these programs, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday could be freed up for public affairs by either the Monday and Tuesday programs or the Wednesday and Thursday programs alternating every other week on one night. This way we could have an interesting weekly evening program with speeches and public affairs available for our audience to sit down in their comfortable chairs and listen to after dinner. Many people have said they would enjoy such a program. It could also be used for hot topics when they come up, like police shootings, invasion of Gaza etc. I will gladly volunteer to help put it together.

When we don’t have any current programs and have caught up with the backlog, we could play something topical from the Archives (police brutality, Palestine etc.) or have a political discussion time for callers, similar to Air America, so our listeners could share their ideas with each other about current topics. Having these speeches and programs on will increase loyalty and thus donations. It will put some excitement on the air. It would also bring back some subscribers we have lost and encourage new ones to contribute. It is a great opportunity to increase the audience. What do we lose? Only two hours of music out of 60 or 70 per week. 

The financial situation at KPFA/Pacifica is not good. We need to bring some excitement to the station that will bring in new listeners, bring back former listeners and increase loyalty. This program idea has the potential to do all three and thus increase donations. So why not give it a try? Contact the IGM, Andrew Phillips, and encourage him to bring back Mission integrity by playing the speeches for all, not just those that can afford $100.00, and add some excitement to our weekday evening air time, which will increase loyalty and donations. You can reach him at Andrew@kpfa.org or at (510) 848-6767 ext. 203.

Richard Phelps, former Chair, KPFA LSB and 38 year listener/subscriber.


New: AGAINST FORGETTING: The Gender Gap and the American Presidential Election

By Ruth Rosen
Saturday June 30, 2012 - 10:19:00 AM

Who will capture American women’s hearts and help President Obama or Governor Romney win the Presidency next November? 

This is the question that the two major parties and their political analysts try to answer every four years. Should we appeal to them as soccer moms? Working mothers who need broader benefits? Waitresses who are single parents? What do we say about abortion? Economic equality with men? 

A century ago, this was the dream of American suffragists who hoped that newly-enfranchised women would be decisive in affecting electoral politics. But it wasn’t until 1980, when Ronald Reagan ran for President, that their dream began to be realised in the United States. By 1980, more women worked outside the home, lived alone, and voted independently of their fathers and husbands. Even though women’s votes didn’t defeat Reagan, they created what has been called the first gender gap which is the difference between the proportion of women and men who vote for the winning candidate. Since 1980, American women—especially African American women---have decisively helped Bill Clinton and Barack Obama win the presidency. 

This year, the grueling Republican primaries provided American women with ample opportunity to hear the Tea Party’s fringe proposals to repeal the right to abortion, end contraception and the “”morning after pill,” ban funding for Planned Parenthood, cut government spending for services for women and children, and block legislation that would provide women with equal pay---even as they cut the taxes of the wealthy. 

The media started calling their assaults on women “the war against women.” And it did make women angry. When polled in early April, women revealed their simmering rage. A USA Today/Gallup poll showed that “President Obama has emerged with an impressive lead in swing states around the country — thanks to women voters abandoning the GOP in droves, showing President Obama leading among women voters in the top dozen battleground states by a whopping 18 points — greater than the 12-point gender gap he won with in 2008. The president leads him (Romney) 2-1 in this group.” 

As Parma Levy noted in Talking Points Memo, the poll also revealed that 41 percent of women, compared to 24 percent of men, described themselves as Democrats. 

Since Democrats held no primaries to challenge Obama, they quietly cheered at women’s support in these vital states. They continued to support women’s rights and let Mitt Romney hang himself with his own pandering to the Tea Party. Women’s groups, too, felt confident that such a fierce campaign against the rights of women would most likely help re-elect President Obama. 

Mitt Romney didn’t help himself by appearing to have no convictions. As Governor of Massachusetts, he had supported a woman’s right to abortion and had created the only universal health care program in the country to which everyone had to contribute. During the primaries, however, he needed the votes of the extreme right-wing. Suddenly, he stood up against women’s reproductive rights and swore to help repeal “Obamacare,” which was based on his own innovative health care program for Massachusetts. The media began to call him a “flip flopper.” 

For all these reasons, many Democrats and women activists assumed that there would be a strong backlash against the Republican’s agenda to repeal or block women’s rights, giving Obama a tremendous advantage. And that’s exactly what happened during April and May as magazines and newspapers competed to cover the “war on women.” 

By May 20, a New York Times editorial summed up what they called “The Campaign Against Women.” They noted that seven states had banned abortion twenty weeks after fertilization, which violates the 1973 Roe v. Wade constitutional decision and that several governors had eliminated public funds to Planned Parenthood, which mostly provides health care to low-income women, even though abortion is only a small part of their medical services. When the Senate re-authorized the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, which protects women from domestic violence, Romney and his fellow Republicans refused to include gay, American Indian, student and immigrant women. The Times editorial ended with these tough words: "The Republican assault on women’s rights and health is undeniable, severe and continuing.” 

Nevertheless, Mitt Romney is seeking some way to convince women that President Obama is the source of their problems. He blames women’s poverty and economic insecurity on excessive government spending. Yet he supports Republican efforts to block stimulation of the economy, which would help them. Instead, he backs lower taxes for the wealthy and deeper cuts for social services for the women, children and the disabled. 

In such a precarious economy, his argument may or may not work. Nevertheless, Romney is gaining, not losing women voters. By late May a new poll showed that Obama was losing some female support. One reason may be that extreme right-wing women, who detested Romney, have now decided they will vote for anyone except Obama. 

Obama has disappointed his base by not using the bully pulpit to publicize his many accomplishments. What he should now do is showcase his considerable achievements. He has, for example, supported women as workers, and citizens, not only as reproductive vehicles. But will the woman who receives a fairer salary realize how hard Obama worked for that legislation? 

He also ended the gag rule that eliminated money for women’s health care and family planning; supported Planned Parenthood, passed the “Lilly Ledbetter” legislation that gives working women greater rights against discrimination, fought for the Paycheck Fairness Act (blocked by Senate Republicans), passed the first universal health care program in American history, affirmed the right of same-sex marriage, and sought to soften the blow of college tuition. 

After a very short hiatus, “women’s issues” have once again resurfaced. During a heated national debate that questioned whether the “morning after” pill constituted abortion, Romney refused to take a position and remained completely silent. He then supported Republican Senators who successfully blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act that would have provided women workers with greater equality with men. At present, women earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. (Forty years ago, it was 59 cents.) 

An American presidential election is a grueling and bizarre process. But while you’re watching, remember that both candidates will be trying to win women’s support---because it will be decisive. Still, times have changed. The Tea Party successfully moved Republicans to the far right during the last two years. A moderate Republican is now considered an endangered species. As a result, Romney now faces the difficulty of appealing to the general public, as well as to the right-wing extremists he pandered to during the Republican primaries. 

Still, the election is five months away. For some women, the “War against Women” may not obviously include high unemployment and layoffs. They may even conclude that Romney could fix the economy. One terrorist attack could change the entire electoral landscape, despite Obama’s relentless efforts to portray himself as an aggressive military defender of national security. Finally, the European economy may also decide the American election. Eduarto Porter, a New York Times business columnist recently wrote what is usually only whispered, that “Obama’s fate rests in part on Europe.” 

In 2008, hope fueled the millions of people--- especially women and the young--- who campaigned so passionately for Barack Obama. This time, fear, anger and despair will determine the outcome of the election. A Gender Gap will emerge only if women remember who waged the war against women, who fought against their economic inequality and their reproductive rights, and who refused to stimulate the economy to lower unemployment and create a future for American youth. 

This essay first appeared on opendemocracy.org.


By Conn Hallinan
Friday June 29, 2012 - 01:08:00 PM

What was that Turkish F-4 Phantom II up to when the Syrians shot it down?

Ankara said the plane strayed into Syrian airspace, but quickly left and was over international waters when it was attacked, a simple case of carelessness on the part of the Turkish pilot that Syrian paranoia turned deadly.

But the Phantom—eyewitnesses told Turkish television that there were two aircraft, but there is no official confirmation of that observation—was hardly on a Sunday outing. According to the Financial Times, Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, told the newspaper “the jet was on a test and training mission focused on Turkey’s radar defense, rather than Syria.”

Translation: the F-4 was “lighting up” a radar net. It is a common—if dangerous and illegal—tactic that allows one to probe an opponent’s radar system. Most combat radar is kept in a passive mode to prevent a potential enemy from mapping out weaknesses or blind spots that can be useful in the advent of an attack. The probes also give you valuable information on how to neutralize anti-aircraft guns and ground to air missiles. 

“Lighting up” radar was what the US Navy EP-3E Aries II was doing near China’s Hainan Island when it collided with a Chinese interceptor in 2001. Nations normally take a very dim view of warplanes entering their air space, particularly if there is tension between the countries involved. 

As a warplane, the F-4 is a pretty ancient. It was introduced back in 1960, and became the mainstay of the U.S. air war in Southeast Asia. In its day it was a highly capable aircraft, able to hold its own against interceptors like the MIG-21 in a dogfight, and could also carry heavy bomb payloads. It was also cheap and relatively trouble free, unlike the current crop of US high performance aircraft. 

It is doubtful that Syria indentified exactly what the Turkish plane was, just that an unidentified warplane, flying low—generally the altitude one takes when trying to avoid radar—was in Syrian airspace. Paranoia? In 2007 Israeli warplanes—US-made F-16s, not Phantoms—slipped through Syria’s radar net and bombed a suspected nuclear reactor. 

Even if Syria identified the plane as a Phantom, they could have taken it for an Israeli craft. Israel was the number one foreign user of F-4s, although they retired them in 2004. Indeed, the Turkish Phantom might even have begun life as an Israeli warplane. 

If the Syrians are on hair-trigger alert, one can hardly blame them. The US, the European Union (EU), and NATO openly admit they are gunning to bring down the Assad regime. Turkey is actively aiding the Free Syrian Army organize cross-border raids into Syria, and it is helping Saudi Arabia and Qatar supply arms and ammunition to the rebels. 

For Turkey to send a warplane into Syrian airspace—or even near the Syrian border—on a radar mapping expedition at this moment was either remarkably provocative or stone stupid. The explanation could be more sinister, however. 

NATO has established a command and control center in Iskenderun, Turkey, near the Syrian border, that is training and organizing the Free Syrian Army. It surely has a sophisticated setup for tapping into Syrian electronic transmissions and, of course, radar networks. If NATO eventually decides to directly intervene in Syria, the alliance will need those electronic maps. NATO aircraft easily overwhelmed Libya’s anti-aircraft systems, but Syria’s are considerably more sophisticated and dangerous.  

There are a number of things about the incident that have yet to be explained. Turkey says the F-4 was 13 nautical miles from Syria when it was attacked—which would put it in international waters—but it crashed in Syrian waters. Damascus claims the plane came down less than a mile from the Syrian coast. 

Turkey says one of its search planes was shot at as well—the Syrians deny this—and has called for a meeting of its NATO allies. So far, Ankara is only talking about invoking Article Four of the NATO treaty, not Article Five. Four allows for “consultations”; Five would open up the possibility of an armed response. 

A thorough investigation of the incident seems in order, although Turkey’s Davutoglu says, “No matter how the downed Turkish jet saga unfolds…we will always stand by the Syrian people until the advent of a democratic regime there.” In short, regardless of what happened, Turkey will continue to pursue regime change in Damascus. 

The Assad regime’s heavy-handed approach to its opponents played a major role in sparking the current uprising, but the default position of regime change by the EU and NATO has turned this into a fight to the death. Assad is broadly unpopular, but not universally so, and the support of the regime is not limited to his own Islamic sect, the Alawites, or other minorities, like the Christians. 

Nor is all of the opposition a paragon of democratic freethinking. The heavy role played by Saudi Arabia and Qatar in supplying arms and money to the rebels, means the deeply conservative Salafist sect of Islam has a major presence in the resistance. This is exactly how the Afghan mujahedeen mutated into the Taliban and al-Qaeda.  

The demand for regime change by the US, the EU, and NATO torpedoed the United Nations effort for a diplomatic solution. The Assad regime had no stake in a peaceful resolution, since it would mean its ouster in any case. And the opposition knew it need not respect a ceasefire, since everyone who supports them supports regime change. 

It was into this situation that Turkey flew an F-4 Phantom through Syrian airspace. Exactly what did Ankara think Syria would do? On the other hand, maybe it knew exactly what Syria would do. 

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



WILD NEIGHBORS: The Face is Familiar

By Joe Eaton
Friday June 29, 2012 - 11:25:00 AM
Rock pigeon: smarter than we thought?
Dick Daniels (Wikimedia Commons)
Rock pigeon: smarter than we thought?

Here’s another breakthrough in avian cognitive studies: two European teams purport to show that crows and pigeons can tell individual humans apart—the crows by voice, the pigeons by face. 

The crow research, led by Anna Wilkinson at the University of Lincoln in the UK, should not be all that surprising, given what we already know about the mental capacities of the corvid family. Wilkinson’s team worked with carrion crows, midsized corvids similar in appearance and behavior to the American crow. The scientists reported that the birds reacted differently to familiar and unfamiliar human voices, and to the calls of familiar and unfamiliar jackdaws (another European crow relative.) Oddly, they responded more to unfamiliar humans and to familiar jackdaws. 

This appears to be the first evidence of discrimination between individual vocalizations of other species by birds, but it’s well known that corvids recognize individual human faces. John Marzluff at the University of Washington demonstrated that American crows remember people who have invaded their nests to weigh, measure, and band their chicks, and harass them without mercy. This was true even when the bander wore a caveman mask. Marzluff’s crows also somehow communicated to their cohorts that these were not nice folks; the banders were persecuted by birds in a different part of the university campus whose nests had not been molested. 

It’s not just corvids. Gulls, often considered somewhat thick, also recognize and retaliate against individual humans. A few years ago I interviewed biologists who had worked with western gulls on the Farallons and Alcatraz. “The late Larry Spear figured out the gulls on Southeast Farallon recognize people by their faces as individuals,” Russell Bradley of PRBO Conservation Science told me. “He dressed up in different clothes, raingear, and a Nixon mask, and counted the number of times he was attacked when disguised. He was convinced they recognized him as an individual.” Ray Pierrotti, an Alcatraz veteran, concurred: “They recognize individuals even within a small group of people. I handled the chicks while my wife and research partner Cynthia Annett collected data. Almost all their aggression was directed at me.” 

Such recognition skills could be adaptive in a number of ways. Social creatures, including corvids and primates, interact with 

many conspecifics. It would pay to be able to remember who’s a reliable ally, who’s a sneakthief, who did what to whom when. Predators have to be able to read the vulnerabilities of prey, picking out the weak or sick members of the herd. Conversely, prey species may benefit from recognizing individual predators. 

The pigeon study, on which Wilkinson collaborated with scientists at the University of Vienna, is the real shocker. Pigeons that had been trained to discriminate between photographs of familiar and unfamiliar objects were able to distinguish between familiar and unfamiliar human faces. Naïve pigeons were not. Pigeons, as far as I know, don’t have complex social lives; this skill set seems excessive to their requirements. 

I don’t know whether Wilkinson was involved in earlier pigeon research, in which the birds demonstrated that they could tell a Picasso from a Monet. (Could they distinguish between “Guernica” and “The Old Guitarist?”) 

Then again, if paper wasps, as claimed in another recent study, see other paper wasps as unique individuals, all bets are off. I’ve looked closely at the gallery of wasp faces in the July National Geographic. Peas in a pod. Not to another wasp, though. 

ECLECTIC RANT: Obama Woos Latino Voters

By Ralph E. Stone
Friday June 29, 2012 - 12:32:00 PM

In winning the presidency in 2008, Barack Obama won about 67 percent of the Hispanic vote. He probably will need to win at least that percentage to win reelection. There are about 21.5 million Hispanic voters -- 4.4 million potential voters in California -- now eligible to vote in the November 2012 presidential election, with about 60 percent registered to vote. If registration drives are successful between now and the election, the number of eligible Hispanic voters will increase.

Hispanic voters have a chance to influence the outcome for president in at least 24 states. The top ten states with high concentrations of potential Hispanic voters are California, Texas, New York, Florida, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, New Mexico, Virginia, and Nevada. In 2008, Democrats won California, New York, Florida, Colorado, New Mexico, and Virginia.

Two recent events may increase Obama's chances of gathering a large percentage of the Hispanic vote.  

The first was the presidential announcement that “prosecutorial discretion” would be exercised to halt deportation proceedings against young undocumented persons with spotless police records and honorably discharged veterans. However, it was not an executive order that federal agencies are bound by law to carry out. Rather, it was a presidential announcement accompanied by a low-level memo. Will the memo be followed by U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement, which has a history of deporting everyone it could lay hands on? Regardless, the announcement appears to be a hit among Hispanics. In a poll conducted by Quinnipiac University conducted between June 19-25, Obama's shift on immigration policy has boosted his support in the key battleground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida. In Florida, which has a larger Latino population than the other two states, the effect of Obama’s immigration stance is key. Hispanic voters in Florida currently back the president over Romney 56 percent to 32 percent, a five-point jump from before the announcement. And the immigration policy itself has wide support, favored 58 percent to 33 percent by Floridians.  

Obama holds his widest lead in Ohio, where he’s ahead of Romney by nine points, 47 percent to 38 percent. Similar to Florida, the president’s immigration policy is popular 52% for with 38 percent against and his widest demographic leads are with women and minority voters. 

Likewise Obama's immigration policy is favored by Pennsylvania voters 51 percent to 41 percent. 

The second event that are likely to boost Obama's chances with Hispanic voters is the recent Supreme Court split decision in Arizona v. United States l , which struck down the harshest part of the Arizona law, which made it a state crime for an immigrant to fail to carry federal registration papers and invalidated sections that authorized jail time for illegal immigrants who seek work in Arizona and gave power to local police to arrest immigrants suspected of offenses. The court did not strike the "show me your papers" provision that allows law enforcement officers to check up on whether someone is legally in the country or not. But the court signaled that it could be challenged again in the future, depending on how the provision is applied. Hispanics dislike the "show me your papers" provision and may bring out the Hispanic vote. The decision is considered a victory for the Obama administration and may make Arizona a battleground state.  

How will Thursday's Supreme Court decision in National Association of Independent Business v. Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services upholding the Affordable Care Act ObamaCare in toto effect the Hispanic vote? Back in 2011,Hispanics generally had a favorable view of ObamaCare.  

Obama's strategy in selling ObamaCare is to highlight in Spanish-language ads the President’s record on healthcare, touting a record that includes making affordable healthcare available to up to 9 million previously uninsured Hispanics by 2014, enabling 736,000 young Hispanics to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans, strengthening Medicare so that 1.2 million Hispanic beneficiaries can receive free preventive screenings and affordable prescription drugs, and making sure that millions of Hispanics will no longer be denied insurance or charged more for insurance because of their gender or pre-existing condition. What will not be mentioned is the Catholic Church's opposition to ObamaCare's abortifacient mandate. Remember, about 70 percent of U.S. Catholics are Hispanic. However, support may weaken among Hispanics if their economic conditions deteriorate and health care costs continue to rise. 

President Obama appears to be on course to garner a large percentage of the Hispanic vote. But there is four months till the election and anything can happen between now and then. 


THE PUBLIC EYE: Sandusky Nation: The Powerful Abuse the Weak

By Bob Burnett
Friday June 29, 2012 - 11:19:00 AM

After days of graphic testimony, the conviction of former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky on 45 counts of sexual assault came as no surprise. But it had been a surprise when Sandusky was arrested in November after 15 years of egregious behavior that many in the Penn State community had been aware of. Sadly, Americans often turn a blind eye when the powerful abuse the weak. 

For fifty years, Sandusky had loomed large in the State College community, playing a major role in “Happy Valley.” First he was a star football player on the illustrious Penn State team, “the Nittany Lions.” Beginning in 1969, he became an assistant coach, first tutoring linebackers and then rising to the position of defensive coordinator – second in command to the famous coach Joe Paterno. At one time Sandusky was considered Paterno’s heir apparent, but in 1999 something happened and, at the end of the season, Sandusky abruptly retired. While he quit coaching, he remained a visible presence at Penn State. Sandusky focused on “The Second Mile,” an organization he founded to care for foster children, taking boys to Penn State games and into the athletic facilities. 

The first allegation against Sandusky surfaced in 1999, ten years before the grand jury investigation that culminated in his arrest. Over the next decade several sexual assault reports involving Sandusky were dismissed either by the State College police or Penn State officials. The most troubling was the handling of a 2002 shower-room assault witnessed by Penn State coach Mike McQueary. He reported the attack to Paterno, who passed it on to the Athletic Director, and it eventually came to the attention of the Penn State President. As a result, Sandusky was prohibited from bringing children on campus. (Nine years later, the Athletic Director and President were belatedly fired; as was Paterno, who died of cancer in January.) 

There’s every indication that, in 1999, Paterno and other Penn State officials recognized Sandusky was a sexual predator and forced him off the football staff. But they didn’t take decisive action then, or in 2002, or on numerous other occasions. For ten years there was a “gentleman’s agreement” to handle Sandusky informally. 

As abhorrent as Sandusky’s behavior is, it’s not an isolated incident. The Department of Justice reports, “Approximately one in four girls and one in seven boys are sexually assaulted before the age of 18.” (There are 750,000 registered sex offenders in the U.S.) Sexual assault is a subset of the category “child abuse and neglect” and in 2010, 5.9 million children were reported as suffering abuse or neglect. 

These shocking numbers reflect a grim reality: in the U.S. the powerful routinely abuse the weak. Parents abuse their children. Bosses harass their female employees. Employers pay substandard wages or hire only “temporary” workers. Companies pay females less than males for doing comparable work. Corporations systematically pollute the environment. And on and on. 

Americans are aware that the powerful abuse the weak but we often turn a blind eye because we don’t want to get involved. That’s what happened at Penn State; University leaders knew that Jerry Sandusky was a sexual predator but they chose to not report it to the police. And so he continued to abuse boys for a long decade. 

Over the past thirty years, economic inequality has increased. Since 2007 the average American family’s net worth “has dropped by nearly 40 percent… — from $126,400 to $77,300 — wiping out 18 years’ worth of accumulated wealth.” In 2010 the wealthiest one percent captured 93 percent of per-capita real income gains, another example of the powerful abusing the weak. 

It’s not that Americans aren’t aware of economic abuse. Writing in the New York Review, journalist Michael Tomasky observed that swing voters believe economic inequality “should be addressed, but it’s not a top priority for them, and they think that it is better addressed by expanding economic opportunity (69 percent) than ensuring that the rich pay more in taxes (24 percent).” There’s no sense of outrage. 

Perhaps that’s because these voters don’t understand how bad the problem is. A recent study indicated that Americans grossly underestimate the wealth gap. They think the top 20 percent have about 50 percent of the wealth but they actually control 85 percent – and the top one percent controls 35 percent. 

The wealthiest one percent don’t want to talk about economic abuse. That’s reflected in Mitt Romney’s attitude. When questioned on the Today Show about widespread concern regarding economic inequality, Romney said, “I think [this concern is] about envy. I think it's about class warfare… I think it’s fine to talk about those things [the unequal distribution of wealth and power] in quiet rooms.” Romney honors a “gentleman’s agreement” to not discuss the subject, to turn a blind eye to abuse. 

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

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Coping with Loss

By Jack Bragen
Friday June 29, 2012 - 12:46:00 PM

Persons with mental illness sometimes have more difficulty than others coping with the losses that occur periodically in everyone's lives. Losses can include a death, the end of a relationship, or even the end of a good job. Feelings of loss can occur from a relationship that never happened but that the person with mental illness hoped would happen. Everyone has a right to their feelings so long as it doesn't result in harm to others or to oneself. 

I was very upset when my fifteen year old cat, named Boris, passed away. That cat adored me and we were buddies. We would sit together every day. I blamed myself for his death because I gave him Purina cat food, which was something I shouldn't have done. Self-blame apparently is normal. 

I am in the process of dealing with the death of my father, which occurred a little over a month ago. If I were less stabilized, this loss would have resulted in a relapse of psychosis for me. I have delusional thoughts that my father died because of something I did. Yet I realize these thoughts are not rational. 

Losses that occur in everyone's lives are particularly difficult for persons with mental illness, and can result in relapses unless the person is very much stabilized. I am lucky that I have sixteen years under my belt of no relapses, because I really looked up to my father, and I miss him a lot. 

When a loss occurs in the life of a person with mental illness, they should take special care of their self, and they should get extra support from those in the support network that they should have. 

Again, an end to a relationship, even one that wasn't mutual, can entail the experience of loss which is very real. Such a loss can even be harder because of the self-recrimination involved as well as the possible belief that one's feelings aren't justified. 

How well or poorly someone copes with loss can be a litmus test for how well a person with mental illness is doing in life. However, there are no rules to the experience of grief. 

Many people who ordinarily don't have a mental illness may experience a temporary mental breakdown when a spouse dies. I know of at least one person like this. The human organism experiences distress when someone close dies because family members have a strong connection that has biological ramifications. Losing a loved one is very much like losing a part of oneself because we are not the separate units that we appear to be. 

Sometimes splitting up with a loved one can be so difficult as to resemble an emotional amputation. An end to a relationship can be nearly as hard to cope with as a death. It is something that people may automatically trivialize, but that pain is real, too. And if that pain goes unacknowledged or isn't dealt with, it can badly affect mental health. 

When experiencing grief, it is important to "manage" the emotions so that one does not go too deep into the pain zone. You might equate this with repression. However, I believe it isn't good for a person to go too deeply into painful emotions, just as it is bad, on the other end of the spectrum, to not acknowledge these emotions.

SENIOR POWER: Cover that gray!

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Friday June 29, 2012 - 11:48:00 AM

Cover that gray! Dye, color, tint, whatever-it, but cover the gray hair!

Why am I, at age eighty-six, still fixated on disguising my gray hair? In classical psychoanalysis, my libido must have been arrested at an early stage of psychosexual development. Or something.  

As people age, changes in hair color typically occur naturally, eventually turning the hair gray and then white. Think QE2. More than sixty percent of Americans have some gray hair by age forty, but white hair can appear as early as childhood. Think WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange. 

And what about those tales that claim a shock can turn hair gray or white “overnight?” When I failed Latin, my mother went to talk with the teacher and came home with the gossip that Mrs. H. was a widow whose hair turned gray over night when her husband died in an accident. So I had better shape up. I dropped Latin and took up Spanish. 

What are the causes of gray hair and “going gray?” The standard answers are one’s genetics, sex/gender, and or medical conditions. And of course, aging.  



The age at which graying begins appears to be mostly due to genetics. Two genes are likely responsible for the graying process, Bcl2 and Bcl-w.. Change in hair color occurs when melanin (naturally occurring dark pigments, especially the pigment found in skin, hair, fur, and feathers) ceases to be produced in the hair root and new hairs grow in without pigment. It’s unclear why the stem cells of one hair follicle may die before those in adjacent follicles less than a millimeter apart.  

Albinism is a genetic abnormality in which little or no pigment is found in human hair, eyes or skin. The hair is often white or pale blond. However, it can be red, darker blond, light brown, or rarely, even dark brown. Progeria is an extremely rare genetic condition in which symptoms resembling aspects of aging are manifested at an early age. It occurs as a new mutation, is rarely inherited, and occurs in an estimated 1 per 8 million live births. Persons born with progeria typically live to their mid teens and early twenties. Scientists are particularly interested in progeria because it might reveal clues about the normal process of aging. Werner syndrome (also known as "adult progeria") and pernicious anemia can cause premature graying. Vitiligo is a patchy loss of hair and skin color that may occur as the result of an auto-immune disease. Malnutrition is also known to cause hair to become lighter, thinner, and more brittle. The condition is reversible with proper nutrition. 

Black hair is more common in men than in women. A recent study found that blond hair and red hair are more common in women than in men.

Wrinkles and graying hair happen to both women and men as a function of the normal aging process. Study of cultural differences suggests that ageism and medicalization can exacerbate the discomforts of biological transition by making menopause —and gray hai — symbols of passing into the devalued status of old women. Several consequences are reported by women following hysterectomy with or without oophorectomy (removal of ovaries). They include insomnia, hair loss, premature graying, dry eye syndrome, and lowered resistance to colds and infections—all familiar to many older women. 


There’s good news and not so good news.  

The anti-cancer drug Imatinib has recently been shown to reverse the graying process. However, it is much too expensive and with potentially severe side effects to be used to alter a person's hair color. Nevertheless, if the mechanism of Imatinib’s action on melanocyte stem cells can be discovered, it is possible that a safer and less expensive substitute drug might someday be developed. 

Stress is a possible cause of gray hair. Learn how to handle stress, say the experts. Tyler Cymet, D.O., head of family medicine at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, suspects that going gray is "genetically outlined, but stress and lifestyle give you variation of plus or minus five to ten years."  

Smokers are four times more likely to have gray hair than nonsmokers. Smoking also speeds up hair loss once the process has begun. Quit smoking. 

Vitamin B-12 deficiency is commonly cited as a cause for premature gray hair. In young people, it usually happens due to lack of nutrition in their diets. Vitamin B5 is said not only to fight premature gray hair, but to improve one’s moods and to thicken hair. Prevent hair from turning gray by taking 300 mg daily of vitamin B5, also called pantothenic acid. Drink carrot juice for B5. Produce melanin in your body and restore your hair color by taking 4 mg daily of vitamin B6, which is found in egg yolks, whole grain cereals, organ meats, brewer's yeast and vegetables.  

Fifty-two year old Mehmet Cengiz Oz, M.D. is a Turkish-American cardiothoracic surgeon whose TV program focuses on medical issues and personal health. He says soy products may influence darkening of the hair. Leafy green vegetables have something called paba, a precursor to folic acid, which seem to allow hair to turn darker. It doesn't necessarily turn gray hair to dark hair but might make the hair you have darker. Prevent premature gray hair by taking vitamin B-12 supplements. Food sources are fish, meat, eggs, milk and spirulina. Take Para-Aminobenzoic Acid (PABA), 300-400 mcg daily. 


Cover the gray. You can do it yourself, or you can try to locate a copacetic beautician. I know of a ninety-one year old woman who has a regular “touch-up” appointment in a unisex beauty shop. If you can afford a professional salon job and regular touch-ups, by all means, go for it! Either way, all is not lost if you’re not satisfied with your first experience. Those roots will grow in faster than the guy in the car in back of you honks his horn when the light turns green. Remember Are You Being Served?’s Missus Slocombe getting time off because her roots needed touching up? 

If you decide to do-it-yourself indefinitely, you’ll need to purchase a product at the drug store or super market. Look for one that claims “no drip.” You’ll also need cotton balls, SeaBreeze antiseptic, rags or paper towels, Vaseline or cold cream, swabs, a kitchen timer, and some old towels that you dedicate to the cause. Determine which brand kit and color number are best for you. Begin and end the application at the temples and around the hairline. A ‘dye job’ should last at least a month, shampooing twice weekly. I do not advocate do-it-yourself for eyebrows or eyelashes. 

Consumer Reports May 2010 issue refers to “hair dyes” (beauticians prefer the terms ‘color’ or ‘tint.’) It tested 13 home hair-color kits after 16 washings and dryings.  

Actors are perhaps accustomed to roles-related hair color changes. Women find it inordinately difficult to get parts as they age. Fifty-four year old actor and author Jamie Lee Curtis appeared on the cover of the May/June 2008 issue of AARP Magazine with her own gray hair. Seventy-eight year old Dame Judith Olivia “Judi” Dench has allowed her hair to “go gray white.” Forty-five year old broadcast journalist Anderson Cooper is identified with early whitish hair.  

Androgenic alopecia is the most common cause of hair loss and thinning in humans. Variants appear in both men and women. This condition is also commonly known as male pattern baldness. Men today are less likely to wear “a rug.” To cope with high hairlines, balding and graying, men (and not a few women) may go for the baseball cap, a type of soft cap with a rounded crown and a stiff bill eyeshade projecting in front. The back may be fitted to the wearer's head size or it may have a Velcro easy adjustment. Younger men often wear it backwards.  

Seventy-two year old self-help author and motivational speaker Wayne Dyer, D.Ed. has recently self-helped his bald pate by transitioning to a modified baseball cap. The flat cap is a rounded androgynous cap with a small stiff brim in front. Fabrics include wool and cotton.  

To some, gray means grandpa. But here’s the, uh, silver lining: A styled, salt-and-peppered look like that currently favored by fifty-one year old actor George Clooney can make a man seem more distinguished, experienced. Gray hair typically shows first around the sideburns, then spreads to the hairline. Many men want their beautician/barber to provide a toned-down color level—usually 15 to 20% of their hair. Gray-haired men may get a touch-up every two weeks or so, but if they get a haircut in two weeks, they lose most of the color.  



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.  

Breaking news. June 28, 2012. Abstracted from Medscape Medical News’ report: “The Supreme Court today declared that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — the most significant healthcare legislation since the creation of Medicare — is also a constitutional act. The ruling comes as a shock to many observers, who predicted the court would strike down the individual mandate to obtain insurance coverage, if not the entire law, after its 5-member conservative wing voiced misgivings about the controversial provision during oral arguments. The individual mandate was at the core of a lawsuit filed against the ACA by officials from 26 states, all but 1 of whom were Republican, as well as a business association. Similar to their Republican allies in Congress, the plaintiffs claimed that the mandate violated the Constitution's Commerce clause, which empowers Congress to regulate interstate commerce. They argued that although healthcare is a form of interstate commerce, Congress cannot compel "inactive" individuals to engage in commerce; that is, to buy or sell something. To allow the mandate to stand, they said, would open the door to further encroachments on personal liberty.” 

Jack Kevorkian, M.D. died one year ago. Keith Schneider’s New York Times article, “Dr. Jack Kevorkian Dies at 83; A Doctor Who Helped End lives” begins “Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the medical pathologist who willfully helped dozens of terminally ill people end their lives, becoming the central figure in a national drama surrounding assisted suicide, died … in Royal Oak, Michigan. He was 83.” Here’s a bit more: “His critics were as impassioned as his supporters, but all generally agreed that his stubborn and often intemperate advocacy of assisted suicide helped spur the growth of hospice care in the United States and made many doctors more sympathetic to those in severe pain and more willing to prescribe medication to relieve it… Dr. Kevorkian was a lover of classical music, and before he died… nurses played recordings of Bach for him in his room.” This article appeared in print on June 4, 2011, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Doctor Who Helped End Lives. Jack Kevorkian authored four books. His Prescription: Medicide, the Goodness of Planned Death (Prometheus, 1991) is in the Berkeley Public Library collection. The 1992 video, Doctor death: medical ethics and doctor-assisted suicide, is in the collection of CSU East Bay.  



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 - 5:30 P.M.; Saturday, Noon - 4:30 P.M. Kala Gallery, 2990 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley: 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, 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. Works by 60 artists portraying plants and animals no longer listed as endangered species due to conservation efforts. Exhibit sponsors include the East Bay Regional Park District and the Merritt College Environmental Management and Technology Dept. Free. www.ebparks.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 


Starting Tuesday, June 19. 10 A.M. Class will meet Tuesday and Thursday mornings for 4 weeks. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. Victoria’s Legacy on the Island. Judith Lynch (local author, teacher and resident) serving on the City 

of Alameda Historical Advisory Board will provide an overview on Victorian history and culture, highlighting the 19th century buildings of Alameda. Will include 6 slide presentations and 2 walking tours to show you how to recognize architectural details and distinguish among the various styles of fancywork homes that abound here. Sign up in the Mastick Office or call 747-7506. Free. Class limited to 25 participants. 


Fridays, June 29 – July 27. 3 P.M. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Super Cinema. Explore a different theme or genre in film each month. June: Satirical Cinema. June 29: Thank You For Smoking. Free. 510-981-6241. Also July 6, 13, 20, 27.  

Saturday, June 30. Doors open at 10 A.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. The Bingo Committee will host the Summer Bingo Bash. Open to the public (18 years and older). Enjoy socialization, free apple pie ala mode (for participants), and a chance to win cash and prizes. First game begins at 12:00 Noon. 510-747-7510. 

Monday, July 2. 6 P.M. Evening Computer Class at Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Free. 510-981-6241. Also July 9, 16, 23, and 30.  

Monday, July 2. 6:30 P.M. "Castoffs" - Knitting Group at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av. All levels are welcome and some help will be provided. Free. Louise O’Dea, 510-524-3043.  

Tuesday, July 3. 7 P.M. ESL Conversation Group. El Cerrito Library of the Contra Costa County Library. 6510 Stockton Avenue. Free. 510-526-7512  


Thursday, July 5. 10 A.M. Computers for Beginners. At Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Free. 510-981-6241. Also July 12, 19, and 26.  

Fridays, July 6 – July 27. 3 P.M. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Super Cinema. Explore a different theme or genre in film each month. July: Our Weeks With Marilyn. July 6: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Free. 510-981-6241. Also July 13, 20, 27. 

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. 

Monday, July 9. 7 P.M. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. Author Talk and Slide Show. Author-naturalist Laura Cunningham will discuss her book A State of Change: forgotten landscapes of California. Cunningham has not only written the text but has also lavishly illustrated this lovely book. She has written and painted a picture of what California was like before European contact. Free. 510-524-3043 

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.  

Thursday, July 12. 6 P.M. Lawyers in the Library. North branch, Berkeley Public Library, 1170 The Alameda. Free. 510-981-6250. Also July 19 and 26. 

Saturday, July 14. 12 Noon – 2 P.M. Writers on Writing. Rockridge Branch of Oakland Public Library, 5366 College Av. This workshop is for writers. Australian author-journalist Stephanie Dale will help authors. Authors Teresa LeYung-Ryan, Yolande Barial and Joan Gelfanc will discuss the writing process. Reception and booksigning follow. Free. Contact: Artsinthevalley.wordpress.com  


Fridays, July 13 – July 27. 3 P.M. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Super Cinema. Explore a different theme or genre in film each month. July: Our Weeks With Marilyn. July 13: All About Eve. Free. 510-981-6241. Also July 20, 27. 


Saturday, July 14. 1 – 3 P.M. Origami Earring workshop. North Berkeley Public Library, 1170 The Alameda. Learn to make your own origami earrings. Taught by Nga Trinh. 510-981-6250. 

Monday, July 16, 7:00 P.M. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av. “Author Village Rythms: African Village Celebration.” Laura Cunningham. Onye Onyemaechi, master percussionist, educator and performing musician, engages students and families in a participatory experience of African Village life. His repertoire involves student participation in African drumming, dancing, songs and stories. Free 45-minute program part of Contra Costa County Library’s Summer Reading Festival. 510-524-3043. 


Thurday, July 19. 12:15 – 2:15 P.M. Literacy reading club, with Lisa Wenzel. Practice English conversation, meet other adults, build confidence in your speaking and discuss a good book. Albany branch, Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free. 510-526-3720. Also July 26. 

Fridays, July 20– July 27. 3 P.M. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Super Cinema. Explore a different theme or genre in film each month. July: Our Weeks With Marilyn. July 20: Monkey Business. Free. 510-981-6241. Also July 27.  

Saturday, July 21. 11 A. M. Free counseling for landlords and tenants. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Free. 510- 981-6241. 

Saturday, July 21. 1 – 5 P.M. Rockridge Branch of the Oakland Public Library, 5366 College Av. California Writers’ Club – a workshop open to all writers. Free. Contact: Anne Fox 510-420-8775. Also August 18.  

Monday, July 23. 7 P.M. Kensington Library Book Club. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard. Free. 510-524-3043. Also August 27. 

Tuesday, July 24. 7 p.M. Readers Anonymous book club. Amor’s Towles’ Rules of Civility. El Cerrito Library of the Contra Costa County Library. 6510 Stockton Avenue. Free. 510-526-7512. 

Wednesday, July 25. 1:30 – 2:30 P.M. Great Books discussion group: Reader’s choice. Rosalie Gonzales facilitator. Albany branch, Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free. 510-526-3720.  

Thursday, July 26. 7 P.M. Down to the bone: Understanding bone health & Osteoporosis prevention. Dr. Lani Simpson will discuss bone density testing and diagnosis, how to build quality bone with nutrition and healthy digestion, and safe exercises. El Cerrito Library of the Contra Costa County Library. 6510 Stockton Avenue. Free 510-526-7512.  

Friday, July 27. 3 P.M. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Super Cinema. Explore a different theme or genre in film each month. July: Our Weeks With Marilyn. July 27: The Seven Year Itch. Free. 510-981-6241.  

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.  

Thursday, August 2. 12:15-2:15 P.M. Literacy Reading Club with Lisa Wenzel. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Practice English conversation, meet other adults, discuss a good book. Free. 510-526-3720. Also August 9 and 16.  

Thursday, August 2. 10 A.M. Computers for beginners. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Free. 510-981-6241. Also August 10, 16, 23, and 30. 

Thursday, August 2. 1:30-2:30 P.M. HEALTHY EATING FOR OLDER ADULTS: My Neighbor's Kitchen Table. Nutritionists Mary Collett, MPH and RD, Mary Louise Zernicke, MS, MPH, RD, CSG will discuss the special nutritional needs of seniors, including how our traditional foods can fit into a healthy eating plan, taking supplements and much more. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720. Note: This free Alameda County Library program will be presented at 7 libraries. For information about dates and addresses for San Lorenzo, Dublin, Newark, Castro Valley, Union City and Fremont Main libraries, contact Patricia Ruscher, Older Adult Services at 510-745-1491. 

Monday, August 6. 6 P.M. Evening computer class. Central Berkeley Public Library. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Free. 510-981-6241. Also August 13, 20, and 27. 

Monday, August 6. 6:30 P.M. "Castoffs" - Knitting Group at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av. All levels are welcome and some help will be provided. Free. Louise O’Dea, 510-524-3043 

Tuesday, August 7. 7 P.M. ESL Conversation Group. El Cerrito Library of the Contra Costa County Library. 6510 Stockton Avenue. Free 510-526-7512  

Wednesday, August 8. Annual Healthy Aging Fair. Chabot College, 25555 Hesperian BLvd., Hayward. Free. A wheel-chair accessible BART Shuttle will operate from the South Hayward BART station between 8:30 A.M. and 3 P.M. Transportation will also be available from some senior centers. Contact: Delbert Walker 510-577-3532, Amy Holloway 510-577-3540.  

Tuesday, August 14. 2 P.M. How to self publish, with author Stella Baker. North branch, Berkeley Public Library. 1170 The Alameda. Free. 510-981-6250. 

Saturday, August 18. 1 – 5 P.M. Rockridge Branch of the Oakland Public Library, 5366 College Av. California Writers’ Club – a workshop open to all writers. Free. Contact: Anne Fox 510-420-8775.  

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. Free. 510-526-3720.  

Monday, August 27. 7 P.M. Kensington Library Book Club. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. August’s book is Wilkie Collins’ Moonstone. Free. 510-524-3043.  

Tuesday, August 28. 7 P.M. Readers Anonymous. Book Club. Moshin Hamid’s Reluctant Fundamentalist. El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Avenue. Free. 510-526-7512. 

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.  

Thursday, Sept. 6. 10 A.M. Computers for beginners. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge Free. 510-981-6241. Also Sept. 13, 20 and 27.  

Monday, Sept. 10. Evening Computer Class. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Free. 510-981-6241. Also Sept. 17 and 24. 

Thursday, Sept. 13. 6 P.M. Lawyers in the Library. Central Berkeley Public Library. , 2090 Kittredge. Free. 510-981-6241. Also Sept. 20 and 27. 

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

Wednesday, Nov. 7. 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. 


Arts & Events

New: DON'T MISS THIS: 4th of July and More

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Tuesday July 03, 2012 - 10:31:00 AM

"Oh, say, can you see by the dawn's early light?" This, of course, is our National Anthem, sung off-key at baseball games and political rallies. But then it is hard to sing this one. Forget the "bombs bursting in air." Instead, be thinking of ways to celebrate the 4th of July weekend -- bring out your American flag, banned fireworks and cold watermelon. Relaxing in a lawn chair and a hefty slice of watermelon, you might review some of the patriotic activities occurring in the bay area. 

"Fiddler on the Roof," Woodminster Ampitheatre, Joaquin Miller Park, July 13-15 & 19-22, 8 p.m. Kids come free. (510) 531-9597. 

"Sweeney Todd," Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, July 12- August 11. Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson St., S.F. 

Temescal 9th Annual Street Fair, Sunday, July 8th, Noon-6 p.m. Live music, food and drinks, fine crafts and more. www.temescaldistrict.org. 

Jack's Night Market, July 6, 6 p.m.-10 p.m. Celebrating Oakland First Fridays. On the waterfront at Jack London Square. Enjoy a captivating evening filled with merriment and verve. Oakland crafts, artisans and eclectric shopping bazaar. Hop on free Broadway Shuttle to Jack London Square. www.jacklondonsquare.com. 

Fourth of July at the Berkeley Marina, 210 University Avenue., Berkeley. The festival features live music throughout the day, a medley of circus arts, drum performances, pony rides and explosive fireworks viewable at 9:30 pm. from the Berkeley pier and along the waterfront. (510) 548-5335. 

Alameda County Fair, 4501 Pleasanton Ave., Pleasanton. You can catch events like the hot dog eating contest, the diaper derby and barbecued delights. Through July 20th. Tues-Thur. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; July 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. $6-10. Kid under six free. (925-426-7559.) 

Summer Beats Concert Series, every other Saturday at Center Court, South Shore Center West, Alameda. Kicking off with John Lee Hooker, Jr. on Wednesday, July 4th, with future performances b Zydeco Flames, Tito Garcia, California Beach Boys, and Pure Ecstasy. Free parking. 

Smokey Robinson with the San Francisco Symphony. With his satin voice and effortless song style, Smokey Robinson is one of the most beloved and influential singers the history of pop music. Now he comes to Davies Symphony Hall to perform with the San Francisco Symphony, Thursday, July 5th at 7:30 p.m. (415) 864-6000. 

Oakland Art & Soul, August 4 & 5. Oakland artist, Taro Hattori. With a background in theatre setting design, Hattori creates installations, telling stories that are activated by the presence of viewers. ArtsoulOakland.com. 

"Emotional Creature," a new play by Eve Ensler, the creator of "The Vagina Monologues," now through July 15, Berkeley Rep. Under 30? Tickets half price. (510) 647-2949. 

Michael Feinstein (if you're willing to go to Reno, Nevada). July 14, John Ascuaga's Nugget. (800) 648-1177. 

Napa Valley, Festival del Sole, July 13-22. 24 hour plays (Naomi Watts, Liev Screiber) Russian National Orchestra and Dancers from the Bolshoi Ballet. festivaldelsole.org or 1-800-FDS-Napa. 

"Truffaldino Says No," a commedia dell-arte update by Ken Slattery, a Dublin playwright. Shotgun Players, Previews Saturday, July 5. Opens July 6 through 22nd. Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Avenue. $18-25. 

Wishing you all a safe and sound July 4th!

THEATER REVIEW:Mark Jackson's 'Salomania' at the Aurora

By Ken Bullock
Friday June 29, 2012 - 11:29:00 AM

"Active Service Chocolate" with the Union Jack on the Cadbury's label ... It's what all the Tommies are talking about in the trenches—when they're not talking about that scandalous American dancer Maud Allan, who keeps showing up almost nude onstage in London and threatening libel suits to her detractors in the newspapers ... 

Mark Jackson's latest project at the Aurora, 'Salomania,' is the very interesting story of Maud Allan, nee Durrant, late of San Francisco, her London career as a dancer at the time of the First World War, and the libel action she took against MP and tabloid publisher Noel Pemberton-Billing, who'd curiously bannered a condemnation of her artistry and influence as "the Cult of the Clitoris." 

Allan's SF backstory, to use the parlance of screen writers, is interesting, too, something unearthed by Billing, and by playwright-director Jackson: her brother had been executed for the sexual assault and murder of two girls whose bodies had been found in a church steeple, a crime he denied all the way to the gallows. (There's a scene of him with the noose on, communicating or communing with his sister in Europe. Jackson believes much of Maud Allan's m. o. proceeds from the guilt of not being with her brother and mother in San Francisco, rather than studying music in Germany, then dancing in England.) 

Allan's notoriety was keyed up from a single performance she did of Oscar Wilde's Salome, some deeming her Dance of the Seven Veils before Herod in it to be scandalous. The libel trial she set into motion also reminded observers of Wilde's disastrous libel action against the Marquis of Queensbury, father of Wilde's lover, Lord Alfred ("Bosie") Douglas, credited for translating Salome into English from Wilde's original French script. Both libel suits ended in opprobrium for the plaintiff. 

Jackson directed his own version of Salome at the Aurora a few years back, resetting it from Herod's court in Jerusalem at the time of Christ (and soon-to-be-beheaded John the Baptist) to Deco-era New York City. 

Just as "raw" staging, much of 'Salomania'—especially the first part—is the most interesting material onstage I've seen of Jackson's in the 10 or 12 plays of his, including others originals he's both written and directed, I've reviewed over the past decade. The ensemble of Tommies in their trenches at the Front ("Funny name, No Man's Land," one muses, "Quite well populated, if you think about it ... ") are engaging as a group and as individual voices, especially in moments when the conversation, sometimes bickering, stops so they can listen to a solitary bird they've named, singing during a lull in shelling, but at a time they're not used to hearing that rare voice of Nature amid the churned up mud of modern war. And the actors are off their leashes and acting full-out, more than in other Jackson plays ... Kevin Clarke, Alex Moggridge Anthony Nemirovsky, Mark Anderson Phillips, Liam Vincent (who excellently portrays Bosie in all his bitchy, weaselly glory on the witness stand) and Marilee Talkington all play their various parts and combine for the ensemble roles very well. (A London pub encounter between soldier on leave Moggridge and widowed Cockney Talkington, while other players turn the riser their table rests on—like the spiraling camera movement identified with film directors from the late Theo Angelopoulos to Brian De Palma—is a particular high point, a kind of window into the lives of two normal folks in abnormal times, a state of emergency ... ) 

State of Emergency's the word for the sense that impels the play and its players, from the Tommys' fear of death to Billing's wild claims of a conspiracy of sexual deviants trying to literally unman the British Empire (shades of Colonel Jack Ripper and 'Dr. Strangelove'!), to Maud Allan's legal attempt to put any number of old ghosts, personal and quite public, to rest ... 

There are problems, though, with coherence of purpose: to what end is the splicing together of these different stories? They do connect historically, but don't always yield more sense in Jackson's sampling of them, nor do they come together as an anachronistic commentary, outside of brief, not particularly illuminating, references to current crises that have raised the specter of "deviance" as standard for the scare mongers. In fact, the most anachronistic effect is the unfortunate tendency of too many contemporary productions that depict the past in making the audience laugh at how "backward" the past seems through the lens of a contemporary spectacle about it—"they don't undersatnd 'clitoris' or 'orgasm'!"—as if we had come up with an objective standard for history and ideology ... 

Madeline H. D. Brown, a talented actress and physical theater performer, takes center stage when on the stand at the trial, questioned by the devious, yet over-the-top Billing (Mark Anderson Phillips), deflecting his insinuations with her wit and anger. Elsewhere in the play, she's reduced to Chris Black's "decorous movements" (as the Chronicle reviewer aptly called them), roaming or stalking through scenes she would not have witnessed, as in a kind of onstage crosscutting from the silent films of D. W. Griffith, at his apogee in those years, including war propaganda for the British. These movements are a drastic reduction of the kind of post-Isadora Duncan (another SFnative) dance that gripped the modern artists and audiences of the time. There're film clips from that era and contemporary interpreters of brilliance (like San Francisco's Mary Sano) thatreveal something of the revelation—or epiphany—early modern dance inspired, while shocking reactionaries, not the silliness of what seems old-fashioned and passe' to us now, from uninformed "reconstructions," but what made poets like W. B. Yeats come out with paeans to the renewed art such as" "When Loie Fuller's Chinese dancers enwound/A shining web, a floating ribbon of cloth,/It seemed that a dragon of air/Had fallen among dancers, had whirled them round/Or hurried them off on its own furious path ... " ("Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen) 

As for that other Irish poet/playwright of great note, whose specter falls over the incidents of the play, Kevin Clarke manages a good presence as Wilde in an imaginary conversation (also at a slowly rotating table) at the end of the play with Brown's Allen. But the impression of Oscar that comes across, like many others in 'Salomania,' is somewhat banal, too much the Oscar Wilde-wisecracker, self-regarding artist of so many portrayals in film and TV—or in the tabloids ... not the artist (and great aesthetic thinker) who, at the end of his life, exhorted novelist Andre Gide to "Never, ever say I—for in art, there is no first person." 

'Salomania's' an interesting, if sometimes frustrating show, but it advances Mark Jackson in his efforts to mount his own kind of spectacle of the past, past history and fictions, as did his adaptation of Kafka's "Metamorphosis,' last at Aurora. 

At various times, Tuesday through Sunday, through July 22, Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison (near Shattuck). $30-$48. 843-4822; auroratheatre.org

FILM REVIEW: From Paris to Rome: Another Woody Allen Flight of Fancy
Opens July 6, at the Albany Twin Theatre

By Gar Smith
Friday June 29, 2012 - 11:21:00 AM
Woody Allen and Penelope Cruz
Woody Allen and Penelope Cruz

From Midnight in Paris to high noon in Rome, Woody Allen delights in tossing a mad dash of chatty, conflicted characters into ephemeral fantasies that unspool in gorgeous, well-lit locations. His latest romp will delight Allen's many fans (and the resulting surge in Rome-bound vacation travel might actually manage to salvage the Italian economy). 

Allen's last film, Midnight in Paris was a big hit owning to a hard-to-resist movie prank—peppering the film with famous celebrities from another era. Call it the schlock of recognition, but it guaranteed guffaws. "Oh! Look! It's Hemingway!" "OMG! It's Picasso!" 

In Allen's Roman holiday, he eschews such easy tricks. (With one big exception. Allen inserts his "Woody" character into his latest film. And before his character, "Jerry," even utters a word, the audience is already laughing. "Har! It's Woody Allen!" 

Yep, Woody's back, in all his nervous, whining, death-obsessed, neurotic glory. Self-absorbed and impervious to criticism. The ultimate Kvetcher in the Wry. 

From the first frame, Rome is gorgeous, shot in summery hues, walls and windows a-glow. And such is Allen's charm and clout, that he has assembled a world-class cast for one of the most heavily star-populated films this side of Moonrise Kingdom

There are four or five story lines happening simultaneously. As a directorial card-shuffling stunt, it is impressive and deft, fast-paced and entertaining. (It helps that it's fast-paced because most of the story twists are too improbable to withstand close inspection.) There is even a film-within-a-film: an unexplained fantasy of a nobody-turned-instant-celebrity starring Roberto Benigni. (The way this odd parable inhabits a world entirely apart from the rest of the film may leave viewers wondering if Benigni was invited to write and direct his own scenes.) 

Alec Baldwin delivers his patented patter as a sardonic know-it-all, a US architect who enters a Roman wormhole and emerges in a parallel universe where he tries (and fails) to mentor a younger version of himself—an inexplicably unseen onscreen presence. In a cute trick of casting, Allen constructs a love triangle that features Jesse Eisenberg and Ellen Page. (Of course they will fall for each other. Didn't you see Juno?) But, sorry Woody, I still can't buy Ellen Page as a femme fatale. 

Penelope Cruz is hyperbolically beautiful—a larger-than-life, 3-D presence in a 2-D world—looming over the other characters like an R-rated Macy's Day balloon. (But why does Allen have to fill his film with so many prostitutes and morally loose women? Because he can?) 

There seem to be at least 20 major roles shared between a torrent of American and Italian actors. Every member of the cast is exemplary. Allesandra Mastronardi, the Italian actress who plays Milly—a young bride whose misadventures will match those of her misdirected fiancé—is especially enjoyable, her beautiful face alive with riotously colliding emotions. Milly's beau carries off some grade-A physical comedy, from spit-takes to pratfalls. 

The comedic highpoint of To Rome with Love comes with a lavishly mounted performance of Pagliacci staged before a theatre packed with well-dressed opera lovers. The large cast is beautifully costumed, with the sole exception of the lead tenor—who performs the entire opera in the buff, in a shower stall. 

And if that's not enough to pull you into the theater, there is also the wise counsel offered by a self-satisfied chauffer. To wit: Life is a pain, whether you are poor or a celebrity. But, given a choice, it's better to be a celebrity. 


A Woody Allen Bonus for Planet Readers:
Woody Allen, Penelope Cruz, Alec Baldwin, Ellen Page, Greta Gerwig and Allesandra Mastronardi held a press conference in Rome on April 13. It was captured on cellphone. Participating talent included Woody Allen, Penelope Cruz, Alec Baldwin, Ellen Page, and Roberto Benigni (who does most of the talking, but be patient).



By John A. McMullen II
Friday June 29, 2012 - 12:05:00 PM
A soldier on leave (l. Alex Moggridge*) has a pint with a local (r. Marilee Talkington*) and chats about Maud Allan's circus of a libel trial as Maud (c. Madeline H.D. Brown*) and pub regulars (back l-r, Liam Vincent* and Anthony Nemirovsky*) look on in the World Premiere
              of “SALOMANIA”
A soldier on leave (l. Alex Moggridge*) has a pint with a local (r. Marilee Talkington*) and chats about Maud Allan's circus of a libel trial as Maud (c. Madeline H.D. Brown*) and pub regulars (back l-r, Liam Vincent* and Anthony Nemirovsky*) look on in the World Premiere of “SALOMANIA”

Mark Jackson has shown his genius again in “SALOMANIA” at Aurora Theater Co. 

It is a historical piece—which is Jackson’s métier—which has special relevance to current events. 

It is about the radical press savaging a reputation with the charge of homosexuality. (For timely irony, read current headlines about John Travolta!) 

He tells an engaging story ripped from the headlines of 1918 about “The Cult of the Clitoris” set against the background of war when civil rights are apt to go sideways and a frightened populace accepts rumors and nonsense as truth. 

The star of the show is Jackson’s superior directing and stagecraft. His ability to stage epic drama in Aurora’s contained theatre space, and to keep our attention rapt during long periods of immobile conversation is worth the price of admission. 

While preparing for directing Oscar Wilde’s “Salome” at Aurora a few years ago, Jackson came across transcripts from trials of the day that inspired this play.  

Our heroine is Maud Allan (played by Madeline H.D. Brown*), an American, who performs the “Seven Veils” dance in England at the time of the First World War. Having studied music in pre-war Germany and being a friend of the prime minister and his wife, she is an easy target.  

Our villain Noel Pemberton-Billing (played by Mark Anderson Phillips), is a British MP and a publisher who attacks Maud hoping to get a defamation law suit in order to gain publicity for his paper. His “Cult” accusatory article vouches that the wives of the prime minister and other high-ranking officials, along with their husbands, were undermining the war effort through debauchery and being in league with the Enemy Germans. Germans were then portrayed as purveyors of perversion. He touts a secret “black book” with 47,000 names of traitors. This historical vignette gives perspective on our own history: Senator Joe “Tail Gunner” McCarthy whose accusations of Communists in the State Department led to the HUAC trials of the 1950’s (“I hold here in my hand a list of 205….”), as well as current Hate-Radio figures whose names you know but I won’t give recognition to here. Phillips embodies the Machiavel, and we just love to hate him—and we are often emotionally divided when he is making a valid point or ignoring rules of procedure to speak his mind.  

Oscar Wilde shows up as a martyred figure to dispense some witty, if tragic, wisdom. Testifying at Allan’s trial is Lord Alfred Douglas, the son of the Marquis of Queensbury who brought charges of sodomy and corruption against Wilde for which he served two years at hard labor in Reading Gaol. Liam Vincent’s poignant and detailed performance in Douglas’ role wrenches our hearts with the inner turmoil and self-hate that society wreaked on those accused of participating in “the love that dares not speak its name.” 

Though lesbianism was not against the law, the debauchery charges were viewed then as we perhaps view pedophilia now. (When presented with the Sodomy Laws, Queen Victoria refused to sign the part which outlawed female-female sexual relations for she did not believe that women did such things.) 

Jackson’s depiction of soldiers in the trenches is realistic and wrenching, too. They have two distractions from the nerve-wracking tedium and the carnage: the headlines of the defamation trial which Allan brings against Billings, and the singing of a bird near twilight (which harkens to the famous McCrae poem, “In Flanders Fields… /The larks, still bravely singing, fly/Scarce heard amid the guns below.) 

Ms. Brown as Maud Allan has a figure which is a replica of the nude marble female statues popular at the time, and the alabaster radiance of her skin in the light designed by Heather Basarah adds to that effect. Her dancing is modern, and surprisingly chaste for the hullabaloo surrounding her performance. Her dance costume (designed by Callie Floor) is a halter and girdle of hand-stitched pearls and rubies, is much less revealing than that which can be surveyed on the publicly displayed covers at magazine stands today. She wanders through the scenes of courtroom and battles as an ever-present figure in which the Zeitgeist is embodied. 

Men’s ignorance of the word “clitoris” and “orgasm” bring humor until one realizes that this was fact and not contrivance. (To compare how far we’ve come: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clitoris and http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/5013866.stm

The set and its use are exceptional. Award-winning designer Nina Ball has outdone herself with a collage of desks, chairs, sandbags, cabinets—all dirt brown—that supports a platform, which is used as battlefield, judge’s platform and witness box, changing closet, bar, and incites the imagination. 

All actors other than Ms. Brown play multiple roles. The dialects coached by Lisa Anne Porter are reasonably accurate with some variance from actor to actor in authenticity, but overall the players do a believable job in the switching of accents. 

The sound design of Matt Stines and lighting design combine to reproduce photographic flash powder bangs and war sounds which jar us into an aural tension that reflects the action. 

During two intimate and revealing conversations, the staging is inventive and extraordinary. 

It’s a director’s nightmare to have two people sit at a table for an extended period and chat. The same stage picture can put an audience to sleep. Director Jackson employs a simple cinematic device to solve this conundrum. He has two characters push the moveable platform on which sits the table, chairs and actors, across the stage, then rotate it. Having it hand-operated adds to the imagination.  

In another masterful turn, a scene of execution by hanging is done simply with lights and sound and more effective than any trapdoor or other contrivance could have been. I understand that it was an invention since the planned machinery would not comply, and that’s good directing. 

As in so many British or Anglophilic dramas, the Americans take a hit. A paranoid American/Canadian ex-intelligence officer is played by deeply talented Anthony Nemirovsky who has appeared in other Jackson productions, and who, in certain scenes, bears a disturbing resemblance to the great Peter Lorre.  

Kevin Clarke distinguishes himself with turns as the insipid judge, the prime minister, and Oscar Wilde. 

One of the more moving scenes is an encounter in a pub between a soldier (Alex Moggridge*) on a three-day pass and a local girl (Marilee Talkington*) whose abusive husband “was taken by the Kaiser.” It reveals the loathing and desperation war causes; Jackson’s dialogue and their connection in this scene is has a sharp edge of reality to it. Combined with the Maud Allan’s conversation with Oscar Wilde, these two conversations may prove to be memorable moments for theatre-goers. 

(*- member, Actors Equity Association) 

Salomania written and directed by Mark Jackson 

Playing through 7/22 

Aurora Theatre Company 

2081 Addison St. 

Berkeley, CA 94704 

http://www.auroratheatre.org/ or (510) 843-4822