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Mayoral Candidate Kriss Worthington greets the press on the steps of Berkeley City Hall, where he announced Monday that he's entering the November race.
Mike O'Malley
Mayoral Candidate Kriss Worthington greets the press on the steps of Berkeley City Hall, where he announced Monday that he's entering the November race.


New: Broken Elevator Forces Berkeley Council to Postpone Tuesday Meeting

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Wednesday July 25, 2012 - 06:03:00 PM

The Berkeley City Council was forced to postpone its meeting last night because the elevator at the aging building where it meets broke down, city spokeswoman Mary Kay Clunies-Ross said. 

The council meets on the second floor of Old City Hall at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, which was built in 1909. 

People could still walk up the stairs to go to the meeting but the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that the meeting be accessible to people with disabilities, Clunies-Ross said. 

The council had been scheduled to have a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. today on a proposed pedestrian plan and its regular meeting at 7 p.m. The meetings are now scheduled to be held at the same time next Tuesday. 

Acting City Clerk Mark Numainville said he can't remember any other council meetings in recent years that had to be postponed because of mechanical issues or other problems at Old City Hall, which also houses the Berkeley Unified School District's administrative offices. 

Old Berkeley City Hall is thought to be seismically unsafe and last year the City Council considered the possibility of holding its meetings at another location. 

But Numainville said the council ultimately decided that the best option is to stay at Old City Hall and do some seismic upgrades, although that work hasn't been done yet. 

He said the school district plans to move its administrative offices to a building at Bonar Street and University Avenue, which is part of a larger development called "West Campus." 

One of the agenda items the City Council was scheduled to discuss tonight was a resolution authored by council members Jesse Arreguin and Susan Wengraf that urges the U.S. Postal Service not to sell the downtown Berkeley post office at 2000 Allston Way, which was built in 1914. 

Harvey Smith, one of the leaders of a movement to save the post office, said he and others went ahead with a rally at 5:30 p.m. yesterday to celebrate the post office's birthday. 

Smith said The Committee to Save the Berkeley Main Post Office will hold another rally before the City Council meeting next Tuesday night.

New: Berkeley Post Office Rally Highlights Opposition to Sale

By Steven Finacom
Tuesday July 24, 2012 - 11:25:00 PM
Grey Brechin
Steven Finacom
Grey Brechin
Ying Lee
Steven Finacom
Ying Lee
Augustine Ruiz
Steven Finacom
Augustine Ruiz
Steven Finacom
Steven Finacom
Steven Finacom
Steven Finacom
Steven Finacom
Steven Finacom
Steven Finacom
Steven Finacom

The ongoing public protest to keep the Downtown Berkeley Post Office from being “relocated”, and the historic building sold, continued Tuesday evening with a rally on the steps of the building. When the event started I counted about 75 people, and the crowd grew to around 100 before the end.  

While protesters listened to speakers and sang at one end of the steps of the building on Allston Way, a media representative for the Post Office, Augustine Ruiz, stood at the other end and talked to reporters.  

The rally organizers had planned—after hearing speakers and cutting an “early birthday” cake for the Post Office building (which is nearly 100 years old)—to march to City Hall for the regular Tuesday night Council meeting, where an item opposing the building sale was on the agenda. 

However, the Council meeting was cancelled, apparently due to a broken elevator in City Hall. Councilmember Laurie Capitelli attended the rally, applauded some of the speakers, and took the megaphone to tell the crowd, “I fully expect a week from tonight that the Council will take a position to urge the Post Office to take this building off the market and give us some time to find a creative use for it.” 

Speakers at the rally included geographer Gray Brechin, a Post Office worker, former Councilmember Ying Lee, and a number of others.  

(Disclosure. I spoke briefly at the rally and opposed the sale of the building and relocation of the Post Office downtown. I urged people present to work for a solution for the continued public use of the building that is openly negotiated and discussed, rather than worked out behind closed doors.) 

“It’s an old fashioned 19th century land grab of the 21st century” Brechin charged, echoing his theme from last Friday’s hastily organized meeting at the Hillside Club. “The property that your parents and my parents paid for is being put on the market. How does this happen?” 

Brechin recalled, to applause, that during the Great Depression a recurring quotation incorporated into public art was “The noblest motive is the public good”, from Virgil. He gestured at the Post Office behind him. 

“When you go into that building you feel good about your government. The people who have taken over the postal system don’t want that. That’s why they want that flag to come down.” 

Retired Berkeley Art Museum founding director Peter Selz spoke briefly, noting, “mail delivery goes back to the time of the Romans.” “Don’t take this building away from the people who own it”, he said. 

Ying Lee, talked about “this lovely building” and said, “this is the canary (in the coal mine), one of many canaries. We’ve allowed so much to be taken from us.” “ ‘Occupy’ is going to happen again. We’ve got to wake up. We’ve got to keep on fighting”, she concluded. 

Numerous signs were held up in the crowd, and along the street, and passing cars periodically honked. A USPS truck passed by on Allston, the driver peering curiously at the crowd in front of the building. (A postal worker in the crowd informally said that there are currently about 27 delivery routes that operate out of the Downtown building, in addition to the counter service. They added that the delivery routes would be sent to 8th Street, where the bulk mail operations are also going.) 

As the speakers preceded, Ruiz, the official USPS spokesperson was answering questions. “We have a request to go before the City Council,” he said. “Currently we’re in a negotiation with the City manager.” Asked to clarify, he explained that the meeting request was not for next Tuesday night’s Council meeting, but for a future special meeting date. 

He said that two California post offices in Yountville and Oakville had been kept open after public objection and everything that would be said at the meeting with the Council “becomes part of a public document that goes to Washington.” “Everything we’re doing here is very transparent.” 

Ruiz was shadowed by another, unsmiling and silent, man also wearing government ID who hovered behind him and periodically appeared to be snapping pictures of people in the crowd.  

Asked if the Post Office indeed intended to sell the Downtown building Ruiz said, “in this case, since we own the building, we’re attempting to sell, yes.” But “the only thing that will change here is that the retail counter will be elsewhere.”  

I asked where that would be. “We’re looking at other sites, but we haven’t started negotiations with anybody yet”, he answered.  

I asked about the process for the sale. “We have a firm that’s looking into that”, he said. “So far we haven’t had any buyers yet.” “We have a realty firm to help us with the sale…that is all internal.” 

Had the firm been showing the building to potential buyers, he was asked? “They may have,” he said, adding, “I understand that even the YMCA was looking at it”, gesturing across the street at the “Y” complex. 

Ruiz said that at what he characterized as the future “community meeting” with the Council, “we’re going to tell what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and where to send comments.” 

I asked if the sale process would be halted until the community meeting process ran its course. “We are currently looking, right now, for buyers” he responded. “One does not have to happen for the other to happen, if that’s what you’re asking.” 

He said a timeline and milestones for the sale process “will be announced at the City Council meeting.” 

Asked by a reporter if the Postal Service had considered options other than sale he answered “believe me, we’ve looked all the considerations. There’s a certain amount of money this real estate is worth. We have to figure out a way to stop the bleeding” in the Postal Service budget. 

Asked if that didn’t mean the building was being sold to provide ready cash for the USPS operations or deficit, he responded, “we’re trying to sell property, make revenue, and put it back into our operations.”  

“The first class letter is going away, it’s never going to come back”, he said, regarding the future of hard copy mail. “E-mail is not the issue. It’s (e-mail) a competition with the phone company.” “The big beast that is really hurting us is business transactions that now go through the Internet”, rather than as first class letters, he added. 

Besides Capitelli, there were no other Councilmembers I spotted at the rally until Councilmember Kriss Worthington arrived near the end. I asked him for his views. “Our first priority should be to try to keep the Post Office services in the Post Office building”, Worthington said. “There are numerous technical questions about whether the process has been followed” for properly disposing of USPS buildings. 

“The whole push (in government) for austerity and divestment is counter productive to getting the economy moving again”, he added. “The more government lays off people and sells off property, the more they’re creating long term problems.”  

“I think the reason the City doesn’t react is that they are champing at the bit for development,” said Jacquelyn McCormick, who, like Worthington, is running for Mayor. She was in the rally crowd. “You can’t continue to destroy the personality and architectural character of the city.” 

After the crowd dispersed, I spotted John Caner, the executive director of the Downtown Berkeley Association, walking along Allston Way. I asked him if the DBA had taken a position on the proposed sale and closure.  

“The DBA doesn’t have a position” yet, he emphasized, adding that the Board hadn’t discussed it, but he would try to have it on their agenda at their next meeting. 

“It’s absolutely critical to have a Post Office downtown, and I think we’d like to have it where it is”, he added. “Personally, I’d like to see the front (along Allston) remain a Post Office.” 

Steven Finacom is President of the Berkeley Historical Society.

New: Worthington Wants to be Mayor of Berkeley (News Analysis)

By Ted Friedman
Wednesday July 25, 2012 - 10:13:00 AM
Back to our futures. Kriss Worthington announces his opposition to Tom Bates--will oppose him on November ballot.
Ted Friedman
Back to our futures. Kriss Worthington announces his opposition to Tom Bates--will oppose him on November ballot.
Kriss Worthington to oppose Tom Bates in November.
Ted Friedman
Kriss Worthington to oppose Tom Bates in November.
District 7 Councilman, Kriss Worthington, at a meeting of Cal Students to end homelessness. Worthington, unsung, has advised Cal students on homelessness for years.
Ted Friedman
District 7 Councilman, Kriss Worthington, at a meeting of Cal Students to end homelessness. Worthington, unsung, has advised Cal students on homelessness for years.

Kriss Worthington has a steep climb on his journey to unseat Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates in November, but he took the first step Tuesday on the steps of City Hall. 

Worthington is not the first mayoral candidate to file. "I have not asked a single soul for an endorsement yet," the late-runner said. "The only person that I really got support from is my boyfriend. I didn't want to tackle such a gargantuan task without his permission and his support." 

Running on a you-don't-know [what the mayor is doing to Berkeley] motif, Worthington scornfully observed, "some people say Richmond and San Pablo have a more progressive city council than Berkeley." 


"We were first in the nation to do hundreds and hundreds of policies and in recent years, it's a battle to get Berkeley to be one of the first hundred cities to do something, sometimes," Worthington complained. 

Worthington seems to be running for the ideal that Berkeley could again be great. 

"The people of Berkeley are a bastion of liberal/progressive ideas," Worthington said. "They have so many wonderful ideas. There's graduate students, undergraduate students, the average person that just has a regular old job .... we have lots of great ideas of how we could actually accomplish our goals…." 

But what if they aren't? What if they favor the Mayor-sponsored no-sit ordinance? What if they buy into the whole development is good, clean-off the streets, Berkeley-must- change mentality? 

What if the shoot out at OK Corral comes down to the shoot-out at the ballot over sit-lie? 

Or maybe it will be a shoot-out between old allies turned enemies. Acknowledging that he once supported Bates, Worthington observed that "the Mayor is not doing the things that most people think he is doing. People think he is the Tom Bates of 20 years ago so they're like 'Oh! My friend! He was my friend for 20 years' And they think that that's who he still is. But if you look at the council meetings…You know, he's leading the fight against environmentalists, against labor policies, against affordable housing, against the social equity issues of South and West Berkeley….That's not the Tom Bates that these people think that they know." 

If Worthington can convince Berkeleyans they can be proud of their city once more, that the sit-lie ordinance is a fraud, that they need to catch up on Tom Bates' seeming ideological flip-flop--then he might make a real run for it in November. 

Worthington squeaked through a tight race for re-election as District 7 councilman, only rallying with fiery rhetoric in the eleventh hour of the tightly contested race with George Beier. Once again he is an underdog. 

If elected, he could expect a fight with what he calls moderate-conservative council members. But Worthington seems to be putting his political capital on the line--to restore Berkeley's progressive tradition. 

In defeat for the tightly contested district seven council seat, George Beieir commented disgustedly that some on Berkeley's Southside seemed stuck in the past. 

Worthington continues to fight for that past. 

Thomas Lord contributed to this piece. 






New: Kriss Worthington's Press Conference Announcing That He's Running to be Mayor of Berkeley--A Complete Transcription

Recorded and Transcribed by Thomas Lord
Tuesday July 24, 2012 - 05:51:00 PM


Planet reader and occasional contributor Thomas Lord attended and recorded this press conference at noon today and offered his transcription to us for publication. This is unconventional journalism, of course, but we think that some of our readers will appreciate the opportunity to read the whole thing. Tom asked us to emphasize that this is a rush job and probably contains errors--corrections welcome. 


Recent council meetings have been surprising in that there have been multiple issues in one night where what would traditionally have been a sure thing in Berkeley has lost, like at the very last city council meeting where we had numerous environmental groups advocating for the watershed issue. 


Normally, at Berkeley City Council meetings.... the Sierra Club, the Citizens for the East Shore State Park, [Aquatic Park] EGRET .... so all these environmental groups are advocating "we need to prioritize watershed improvements and do what's right for the environment" and the City Council said "No, we're not going to do what's right for the environment. 

Instead, we're going to take 30 million dollars [$30M] of taxpayers’ money and put most of it into repaving streets —which is not a bad thing but the significant environmental issue is getting neglected. 

Also numerous residents of south and west Berkeley advocated that they want to stop the water flow and flooding problems in their districts. I think Max Anderson was eloquent about pointing out — in his simple eloquence — pointing out: "there are more red blobs in my district than anywhere else in Berkeley". Technically, there is this map of Berkeley from the watershed plan which ... nobody else called them red blobs but his simplicity.... if these kinds of flooding were happening in most districts people would be protesting ferociously and they would be fixed. But it's happening in south and west Berkeley and somehow the status quo is OK and we're not going to prioritize fixing south and west Berkeley's water and flooding issues. And these affect businesses as well as residences in West Berkeley. So in one night we sort of rejected the residents of south and west Berkeley's demands to stop the flooding and the environmentalists' requests that we address Aquatic Park and the pollutants that are going in to Aquatic Park and the Bay. 

We're under a federal order that we are supposed to fix Aquatic Park. This could have been the ballot measure that gave us the tools necessary to fix it and, instead, the city council said we're going to create a pool of money that we can decide later what we're going to do. We're not going to tell the voters how we're going to spend the money — we're just going to get 30 million dollars [$30M] and we're not going to tell you what we'll use it for. 

I think given the urgency of the environmental issues in Aquatic Park and the urgency of the flooding issues in south and west Berkeley the voters deserve to know that those issues are going to be fixed. 

Now their defense — the city council members that took the money for other stuff — are that "We might fix some of that with some of this money, maybe." So they're saying that while it's not absolute that it's going to be done. We’re saying that there's no assurance that any of that will gone done at all. We're saying that there's no assurance that one penny will be spent on those issues. 

So, to lose votes like this which historically environmental groups ... and social equity issues ... that historically the city council has been very sympathetic too ... and to lose them because the mayor is insisting that he has to do his pothole measure .... 

. Part of the complexity of doing a pothole measure is that there's already a measure on the ballot county-wide to pay for improved transportation that would double the City's budget for potholes. So having TWO ballot measures for potholes at the same time is very counterproductive because people who want potholes fixed may vote for the city one or they may vote for the county one and they're not likely to vote for both at the same time. 

So, just from the last city council meeting, multiple votes being lost from the progressive side of the issues ... or, I would say, from the common sense... because it's not just progressive issues. 

I would say that multiple things I listed on my”Practical People's Platform" are things that don't really have to do with politics. They don't have to do with “are you progressive or are you conservative or are you moderate?” — they simply have to do with "should we treat people decently?" Should we make hundreds of people come and wait outside or in the hallway, waiting to get into a council meeting, when, one block away, we have a room that is big enough to fit all of them in the room so that they could all be treated equally and have their chance to listen as well as to speak. 

In addition to the procedural issues there are lots of issues of fairness. 

In 10 years of being a mayor I can not find a single day when the Asian community of Berkeley, the Latino community of Berkeley, or the African American community of Berkeley ... have had their fair share of power and positions on commissions as appointed by the mayor. 

How can you go 10 years in a row, never having any of the major ethnic groups have a fair share of seats? Now, to be fair to him at least he has, you know, one Latino and one African American which is more than some others. You know we have some City Council members who have no Asian Americans, no Latino Americans, and no African Americans at all. To be fair to him he does have one Latino and one African American but that's not good enough in the 21st century. 

It's not that hard to find a diverse mix of people. 

Over 40% of Berkeley is people of color and to not have any from various ethnic groups or to only have one ... to me, that's like institutionalized tokenism. Like "OK, we'll make sure you get one from your ethnic group but all the other hundreds of talented people — we won't give them a chance to have a significant say and participate in city government. 

So, that's a whole other issue. 

The issue of how the city government is run... 

The #1 job of the city council is to supervise the City Manager. That's our job. 

The City Manager supervises, like, 1400 employees. We supervise one employee. 

In 10 years, the mayor has opposed — repeatedly — doing evaluations of the city manager's job performance. And, I believe there has only been 2 evaluations done in all those years. 

That's unfair to the City Manager and it’s unfair to the public . They don't get to weigh in and give their opinion of "how good a job is this person doing"? 

We've had multiple city managers who did not get evaluated. If they did a good job they deserve to get praised. They deserve a great evaluation. If they're doing a lousy job, they deserve to be criticized. And if they're doing good on some things and bad on others they should know what they're doing good and what they're doing bad. 

Related to the city manager supervision — 

We now have a .... The Mayor initiated and pushed the council to give a quarter of a million dollars severance if the City Manager gets fired for getting a horrible evaluation. 

The City Manager could have a list of 20 things and do nothing on any of them and they will get a quarter of a million dollars if they get fired for not doing their job. 

What kind of a message does that send to the other city employees who are being told "You're going to have to give up some of your pension benefits, you're not going to get raises, and at the same time as they're doing — you know — voluntary time off, giving up salary — the chief executive officer, the City Manager, is getting an extra 225 thousand dollars [$225,000] in severance if they mess up their job! 

It's not good government to have a severance package if you get fired for doing a lousy job. 

So, Berkeley used to be a trail-blazing city. 

We were first in the nation to do hundreds and hundreds of policies and, in recent years, it's a battle to get Berkeley to be one of the first hundred cities to do something, sometimes. 

Such as: the plastic bag ban, paper bag fee — you know, that policy we've been trying to get Berkeley to adopt. Environment California sent the city thousands of postcards, Calpirg sent the city thousands of signatures on petitions, and over 100 cities and counties across the country have adopted this great environmental policy that protects our water and protects our bay. 

And Berkeley has delayed and delayed year after year — and next year we're going to have a very small program that only covers the largest stores and doesn't cover the hundreds of retail stores throughout the City of Berkeley. 

It's rarer and rarer that we are initiating the policy. You know, some people say Richmond and San Pablo have a more progressive city council than Berkeley. You know they have introduced lots of progressive policies in the last few years. 

So part of why I'm running has to do with policy: the failure to address progressive issues or watering them down, weakening them, delaying them. 

Part of it has to do with fiscal irresponsibility. 

We have a climate action plan. We've got hundreds of things in the climate action plan that are things we might do "some day"... 

But as it was being discussed I repeatedly brought up — you can go back and look on the video tape because somebody said "Oh, I don't think we really said that" but you can actually go back and look at the video tapes.... I said "it's great to have a climate action plan with 100s of nice ideas but we need to know which of these ideas is going to have the greatest impact. We need to know which ones have the greatest impact and the least cost." And we haven't done that. 

And now when we have our report back on the climate action plan it doesn't surprise me that we're told that city government hasn't made much of an impact at all of reducing greenhouse gasses. And, so, we have all this big publicity that we did a climate action plan, but, we're not reducing greenhouse gasses. 

The people of Berkeley are doing all kinds of things on their own with very little help from us, paving the way on environmental issues and reducing greenhouse gasses individually .... but our policies ... those hundreds of things in the plan ... very few of them are being implemented AND we're not actually accomplishing any reduction in greenhouse gasses. 

If you take it seriously that greenhouse gas reduction is an important priority you need to prioritize those policies that actually reduce greenhouse gasses. 

Instead, we're now being asked to adopt plans like the Downtown Plan and the West Berkeley project, ..... these new plans will actually accomplish a net increase on greenhouse gasses in the city of Berkeley. 

So we're being told "vote for this plan ... for the West Berkeley Project" that will increase greenhouse gasses in Berkeley and we can't even get a greenhouse gas neutral plan. 

I mean, I want a greenhouse gas reduction plan and we can't even get a greenhouse gas neutral plan. We get one that increases greenhouse gasses. 

That's not good enough. 

The people of Berkeley are a bastion of liberal/progressive ideas. They have so many wonderful ideas. There's graduate students, undergraduate students, the average person that just has a regular old job .... we have lots of great ideas of how we could actually accomplish our goals and our policies 

and, those policies are being squelched, primarily by the mayor. 

Berkeley City Council Members? Some of them initiate really good ideas. You know, Max and Jesse are really stellar at proposing and fighting for really good ideas.... but all too often people just cave in to the mayor, either out of fear in some cases or out of friendship and loyalty that .. you know, 30 years ago he used to be an assembly member and he was a liberal assembly member and therefore things should be ok and we should go along. 

It's not enough to just go along. We have to think . We have to use our brains and stand up for the people of Berkeley. 

Having a mayor who is constantly advocating for the Chamber of Commerce against the small businesses of Berkeley — let alone against the people of Berkeley — against the interests of the small businesses of Berkeley.... 

I think the #1 reason why I decided to run is most people in Berkeley don't really know what goes on in city council meetings. 

If you didn't have to come to a city council meeting because of some issue you're dealing with, you just think "All 9 council members are great and Berkeley is a progressive city so they all must be progressive." 

But you don't know... You know, Max Anderson is passionately fighting to get funding for his district for the residents of District 3, for the low income neighborhoods, and he's getting stymied. 

Jesse Arreguin is passionately working on environmental issues and immigrants rights issues and mutual aid policies — and getting stymied. 

And, activist groups, you know, in the last few weeks alone ... like the Sierra Club, CESP, all the homeless service groups ... so many of our leading activist groups ideas are being squelched primarily because the Mayor pressures the City Council not to go along with the values and the principles of the people of Berkeley. 

[Q from press — not sure who that was]: You said the West Berkeley Project is not environmentally sound and produces more greenhouse gasses. Can you be more specific about that? 

[Worthington]: Sure. The overwhelming sentiment of the small businesses and the residences of south, you know, south and west Berkeley — they have come in great numbers from the community and the neighborhood community raising concerns about the West Berkeley Project. 

If you actually look at the Environment Impact Report, in addition to their concerns about specific impacts on their businesses and the economic impact of having office space, which brings a much higher rent, driving out the arts and crafts in the area and driving out some of the small businesses and the manufacturing businesses .... if you read the fine print, and I pointed this out to the planning directory and he has never disputed me .... it appears that this project will have a net increase in greenhouse gasses for the City of Berkeley. 

The same thing happened with the downtown plan. It says that there is going to be all this good stuff. The voters voted for the Downtown Plan. And we still have not gotten the fees of community benefit. 

You know, it's a year and half since that plan was adopted. We still have gotten nothing for the fees for the community benefits. We're being asked again and I think Denisha [DeLane][] really said it most eloquently that... you know she's been on the board of the NAACP ... fighting against segregation all her life since she was a little kid ... and here we have a new sophisticated form of segregation where the community benefits and the environmental protections are being segregated by the West Berkeley Plan .... 

What, if anything is going to be done for the poor people the small businesses .... "that is something we'll tell you later after we figure it out".... [but] in the meantime the developers, who want to make their corporate profits and want to do their office space ... they will be allowed to know that they'll get their corporate office space... the community will not know what is going to protect the environment or what will be done to protect their small business or the residents. 

[Lance Knobel] You mentioned Jesse Arreguin and Max Anderson a lot in your earlier remarks. Are they supporting your bid for mayor? 

[Kriss] I have not asked a single soul for an endorsement yet. The only person that I really got support from is my boyfriend. I didn't want to tackle such a gargantuan task without his permission and his support. I do have family values, contrary to right wing stereotype of the gay community and... so.. he's the only person who I consulted as to "should I do this?" and he has expressed strong support and serious concerns about the way that people of Berkeley are being treated and the issues are being treated so .... he's the only one that I've asked so far and now that I've made up my mind to do it... 

You know I have been listening to hundreds of people and I think the first couple of hundred people who said "you should run for mayor" I sort of told "that's a silly idea, why would I run against the person who I fought so hard to get him elected?" 

I didn't campaign for myself at all, I campaigned to get him elected as Mayor and... but.. sadly, over the last few months that they've been saying "why doesn't somebody run, somebody's got to run" and I keep saying "no, no, no" .... every single council meeting it seems the mayor is drifting more to the right and more to the Chamber of Commerce. 

The Chamber of Commerce is attacking the West Berkeley businesses and the Mayor is leading the charge

I feel like, if he doesn't have a serious challenge, from a liberal or progressive point of view, every indication is that he's going to keep dragging the City Council into doing more and more moderate-to-conservative things. 

Maybe if we have a voice that offers a choice... perhaps he will try to return to the values that we had with former progressive mayors. I don't know what he's going to do. Maybe he'll turn even further to the right. 

It's hard to imagine a Mayor of Berkeley being more conservative than he's been in the last few months. 

23:00 [Lance Knobel] Are you suggesting that perhaps your primary goal is to drag Mayor Bates to a more progressive position as opposed to your trying to win the race? 

[Worthington] If Mayor Bates adopts my platform and advocates all of the things that I'm advocating, the people of Berkeley will be in a much better position and so will he

But in the meantime, somebody has to stand up and say "what you are doing is unacceptable, unreasonable, unaffordable, and damaging to the people of Berkeley." 

Berkeley's image as a liberal bastion is being harmed by the very un-liberal and uncivil behavior on the part of the mayor. 

So, you know, he's allowing people like Councilmember Capitelli to attack Max Anderson during a council meeting 

How unprofessional, inappropriate, totally unacceptable.... 

In a council meeting he's attacking another council member sitting next to him accusing him of ... playing to the crowd, and grandstanding ... he's done it multiple times. 

This is totally unacceptable for a politician to be attacking another councilmember in a council meeting. 

It's the mayor's job, when Laurie Capitelli says these false things, to say "Excuse me, but this is not the place for that." I don't know what the place for that is but it certainly is not at a City Council meeting. 

And Tom Bates doesn't have the courage or the strength or the intelligence to tell Laurie Capitelli "Stop your attacks on other council members." 

We need somebody who will stand up for civility amongst the council members as well as throughout the whole council meeting process. 

Tom Bates creates ... the biggest council meeting problems are because he creates them. He refuses to move council meetings to a larger room where everyone can fit ... and then they'll be less frustrated and stressed out. 

He refuses to have a separate council meeting for major controversial because, oh my god, the council members will have to come to an extra meeting. 

Council members used to come to 10 more meetings per year than they do now! So what's wrong with adding 2 or 3 extra meetings, you know, when there's a big controversial issue? 

Council members get paid! They don't get paid a lot but to come to the same number of council meetings that they used to come to every year is not a great sacrifice. 

Especially as our non-profits are suffering by all the cuts they made on them, our employees are sacrificing.... 

Our employees have initiated pension reform! They've proposed pension reform before the city council did

Berkeley is a unique, incredible place and instead of partnering with the non-profit groups and the unions, we have a mayor who is driving the conversation further and further to the center-right. 

[reporter I didn't recognize] Can you speak to your differences with the mayor around [no-sit/lie] ballot issue. 

[Worthington] That is simply one instance in a long list of the drifting to the center-right. To some people it's one of the most outrageous because it appears to be unconstitutional ... you know the ACLU has expressed serious concerns ... many homeless service providers have indicated that this will, by criminalizing the poor and the homeless, it will make it harder for them to get into services and harder for them to get jobs.... so it's actually a barrier to the care they need and a giant barrier to getting a job. Getting arrested is not going to help a poor person get a job. 

So, it's a counter-productive diversion from the real issues... 

Berkeley is suffering from a lack of jobs, a lack of affordable housing, a lack of services ... I mean we've lost our pool services .... and, you know, to pull a Frank Jordan or a Gavin Newsome on the people of Berkeley and attack the homeless to divert them from our serious problems is outrageous. 

Where is the decline of sales tax in the City of Berkeley? Where do you think the biggest decline in sales has been? 

Solano Avenue, and North Shattuck. 

How many homeless people do you see blocking doorways on Solano Avenue and North Shattuck? 

Very, very few. 

The biggest decline in sales from the latest figures we've been given are 5% on Solano and 4.5% on North Shattuck. 

Is arresting homeless people going to fix the dramatic decline in sales up there? Not really, because that's generally not where people are really sitting. 

So, it's a diversion and it's an unfortunate diversion. 

You know, I think Tom Bates probably thinks that attacking the homeless is going to get him elected like it worked for Frank Jordan and Gavin Newsom. It got Jordan and Gavin Newsom [elected] to attack the homeless. And maybe that's what he thinks ... he wants to be like them but I think there's a lot of other things that Gavin Newsom did that were far more positive. I think he's picking the wrong strand of Gavin Newsome 's activities to model himself on. 

But that's just one of many many issues. 

[T. Lord]: Hey, Kriss, can we talk about finances a little bit? I think there's a lot of people who are worried about a heavy property tax burden and who are looking at pension obligations, who are looking at things like the street repairs being in disrepair and needing a bond measure rather than the general fund covering that.... what's your story on that? 

[Worthington] When Councilmember Capitelli said there was no problem with a 100 million dollar [$100M] bond I was the first council member and only council member to speak up and say "These are difficult times." You know supposedly we're out of the recession but people are still struggling. Unemployment is high. Now is not the time for such mega increases in bonds or taxes. We need to be prudent. 

The people who are supposedly from the moderates, like Capitelli, are the ones proposing drastic numbers for the increase to the taxpayer burden! 

And I , who am supposedly like the progressive super-activist ... I'm the one saying "Wait a minute, don't do that to the taxpayers!" 

We succeeded at stopping them from doing those mega-amounts. Unfortunately, the way that they did their 30-million dollar [$30M] bond measure makes it a direct challenge to the county measure for fixing the streets, and increases the likelihood that it will lose. 

Simultaneously putting the West Berkeley Project and arresting the homeless people on the ballot is going to create a lot of negative "We're coming out to vote no" and that's also going to contribute a lot to having bond measures lose. 

Even if just 1% who are angry about something else vote "no" on that, that can be the difference between 66% and 67% .... and you can't win with 50%, you need 2/3s. 

So: the entire way the Mayor has poisoned the ballot in November by putting the West Berkeley project there, making people angry about the bad environmental policies and the lack of affordable housing and open space ... and community benefits sort of channeled off to the future... 

...you know all of that negativity is going to hurt the City of Berkeley. 

It's not going to hurt Tom Bates! 

It's going to hurt the people of Berkeley. 

[no-sit reporter again] Was the July 10th meeting, where that sidewalk vote took place, was that really one of the main determining factors? 

[Worthington] After the July 10th meeting people said "you should run" and I still said "no". The last council meeting where — not only has he attacked the homeless and small businesses and residences of West Berkeley — but now , the last meeting, he's turning down the pleas from West Berkeley for a fair share for stopping flooding in their community... 

And, he's turning down the Sierra Club and Citizens for the East Shore State Park and EGRET and all these environmental groups trying to fix the pollution in Aquatic Park and the Bay. 

The Sierra Club has supported him again, and again, and again and he turns his back on the major environmental issue and ... 

We could have had the money to fix the pollution of Aquatic Park. We could have guaranteed the people of south and west Berkeley they wouldn't have these water and flooding issues. 

And he just said "No way." 

And he ... Councilmember Maio and Councilmember Moore both publicly stated they wanted a watershed bond with some money for street paving. They publicly said that, at the council meeting, on TV. And the Mayor talked them out of doing the right thing for the environment and for West Berkeley. 

So, he's not only advocating bad policy ... he's dragging other councilmembers into doing things that are against the interests of the people of Berkeley. 

If he were just saying things and everybody ignored him, you know, I wouldn't be running. 

If he were just saying things and we were still winning the votes? You know, I don't really need to spend three months of my life in a campaign ... every day, going out there talking, spending hundreds of hours ... but the problem is he drags the other council members into doing the wrong thing! 

I mean: I know that the anti-homeless attacks have actually gotten a lot more publicity but to me the rejection of the environmental groups and the rejection of south and west Berkeley residents' demand for fairness? That really, really made me sooo irate and so upset. 

How can we be turning our backs on these people with these flooding issues? How can we turn our backs on the biggest environmental park issues in our city? And we're just saying "Oh, well, maybe we can get some grants from somewhere else." 

If we had the money from the watershed bond I actually think that would be the secret that would actually attract matching funds that would allow us to do it. 

But to say "We're not going to commit anything to Aquatic Park; we're not going to commit to fixing this social inequity" .... I mean, that actually offended me so deeply, I mean, I was offended by "arresting the homeless" but then slapping around the people of south and west Berkeley, slapping around the environmental groups...and the practical reality is he runs the risk of making all the bonds lose. I mean, he won the battle but is he going to lose the war because getting 2/3 vote for a bond is going to be so much harder when he has rejected the most important things that could have been funded by it. 

And competing with a county measure. 

[T.Lord ][unidentified woman] Kriss, how are you going to deal with ... uh... Bates last time raised 85-thousand dollars [$85,000] for his campaign. Can you raise that much money? 

[Worthington] I have beaten opponents who spent far more than I did. The Chamber of Commerce PAC spent a lot of money attacking me with false information previously. And I still won. 

So, I, you know, I don't expect that I can match the corporate developers contributions and the mega money that will probably be funneled into the campaign against me and on the ballot measures but, you know ... I think the voters of Berkeley deserve to have a choice. 

They deserve to have the facts about what .... 

The Mayor is not doing the things that most people think he is doing. People think he is the Tom Bates of 20 years ago so they're like "Oh! My friend! He was my friend for 20 years!" And they think that that's who he still is. But if you look at the council meetings, the policies that ... 

You know, he's leading the fight against environmentalists, against labor policies, against affordable housing, against the social equity issues of south and west Berkeley.... 

That's not the Tom Bates that these people think that they know. 

That's a new Tom Bates. And it's not a new and improved Tom Bates. 

[end of transcript] 



















Worthington to Run for Mayor

Tuesday July 24, 2012 - 08:41:00 AM
Mayoral Candidate Kriss Worthington greets the press on the steps of Berkeley City Hall, where he announced Monday that he's entering the November race.
Mike O'Malley
Mayoral Candidate Kriss Worthington greets the press on the steps of Berkeley City Hall, where he announced Monday that he's entering the November race.
Mike O'Malley

Berkeley Councilmember Kriss Worthington has informed the Planet that he will run for mayor this November. He plans to take out nomination petitions at noon today at Berkeley City Hall. Already in the race are 3-term incumbent mayor Tom Bates, former District 8 Council candidate Jacquelyn McCormick, poet Mark Schwartz and perennials Running Wolf and Khalil Jacobs-Fantuzzi.  

Ranked choice voting means that voters can choose up to three of these candidates on their November ballot, which should make for a statistically interesting contest.

New: The Death of Dude: Berkeley's People's Park Dog Murder

By Ted Friedman
Tuesday July 24, 2012 - 09:22:00 AM

Murder of a People's Park dog, Saturday, 12:45 a.m., has deeply wounded People's Park regulars, for whom the dog was a beloved figure. The regulars are calling it murder by many names, but homicide is the main category. 

According to a teaching-assistant philosopher in the park Monday, the work of animal rights philosophers led by Peter Singer has established that dogs are sentient beings with many of the rights we have. Singer is a professor of Utilitarian Ethics And Animal Rights at the European Graduate School. 

"Killing a dog," says the TA "is as serious as killing a human being, perhaps more serious since our animals depend on us to safeguard their rights." 

Now we can say we have a murder case, but can we make the case? 

The officer who shot and killed the dog, Kenneth Doughty was back in the park the next day, making an arrest, possibly related to the dog-killing. 

That the dog was killed is clear, although only the officer involved was a witness. According to a phone message from Capt. Margot Bennett, acting UCPD spokesperson, the dog died in the act of assaulting officer Doughty. 

The information officer added that the dog was untethered, a park requirement observed by most park users, who have been warned about this. "We have not had an of-leash dog citation in two years," Bennett said. 

The (murder?) case in the park is not clear-cut, because, according to within-ear-shot witnesses, the dog was killed "mid-bark." UCPD says the dog was in the air coming at the officer "with his teeth bared). On-line sources agree that to justify killing a dog, the dog must be attacking. 

Grieving park regulars Monday were praising the victim, Dude, six-months old (or five non-dog years old), and a Shepard Mix with an attractive tan coat. And condemning the officer, who killed him. 

"He was the sweetest dog in the park, a real peace maker. Dude would never do anything like this [attack the officer}. 

Still Dude is dead. His owner told people on the scene, "the cop just came up and killed my dog." said Papa John a nearby witnesses who rushed to the scene. John described the owner as sobbing, "hardly able to get the words out." 

Police say the owner had failed to respond to the officer, who approached, and that he was drunk and slow to comprehend what had happened. The officer made "numerous attempts" to arouse Dude's owner, according to the police. 

Officer Doughty shot twice, killing the animal, Capt. Bennett stated sorrowfully. Witnesses at the scene afterwards said Dude had been shot in the shoulder and back. 

She would not comment on whether Doughty was a dog owner, nor would she comment on his state of mind at the present, citing privacy concerns. 

Park regulars are saying which dog is next, Aquarius or Silver? They explain that street people can get quite attached to their dogs because they constantly are with their owners and sleep with them for companionship and protection. 

Some believe Dude died in defense of its owner, but all believe Dude didn't have to die. Others say it was folly to have shined a flashlight in Dude's eyes, or for the officer to even have approached at all. 

A "witness" from half a block away followed the policeman's flashlight to the shots, and arrived shortly on the scene. The ear-witness heard, 'bark bark, bang bang." The witness maintains that Dude was tied to its owner's wrist.Officer Doughty, who shot dude, was back in the park early Monday arresting Papa John's wife, John said, on an open-container beef that became obstructing justice. She has been jailed. John believes Daughty is retaliating for he and his wife's version of Dude's death. 

This our South side reporters first "murder" story. 




Press Release: A Practical People’s Platform- Things a Berkeley Mayor could accomplish

From Mayoral Candidate Kriss Worthington
Tuesday July 24, 2012 - 09:15:00 AM

1. FAMILY FRIENDLY COUNCIL MEETINGS: City Council meetings should be moved to a larger room when a controversial proposal is likely to attract a large crowd. This will reduce the frustration factor of people forced to wait outside or in the hallways. People with children, people with jobs the next morning, and disabled residents will be less likely to give up and go home. Any small cost for live television broadcasting is worth it to promote democratic participation.

2. MORE MEETINGS ORGANIZED MORE EFFECTIVELY: Planning Department Public Hearings on ZAB appeals should be scheduled at special meetings with nothing else on the agenda. Staff and management from other departments should not be subjected to hours of unnecessary delay. The number of City Council meetings per year has been decreased. The convenience of hundreds of members of the public is more important than the convenience of nine City Council members. Increasing the number of Council meetings to what they used to be is not an unreasonable burden.  

3. PARLIAMENTARIAN: when a Councilmember (or anyone else) insults other Council members, the Chair or a designated Parliamentarian should point out this is not the place for such behavior. Max Anderson defended himself, but the chair should have intervened promptly.  

4. EQUAL TREATMENT FOR THE PUBLIC: Speakers should not have arbitrary requirements made up on the spot limiting their ability to speak, and the rules should be enforced fairly.  

5. POSTING UPDATED AGENDA LIST: It is difficult for the public in the room or on tv to know what items have been completed, and what items are left to be discussed. Items are added to or removed from the Consent Calendar or withdrawn or postponed but it happens so quickly that the public may be sitting there waiting for the item for hours. After the Consent Calendar is voted on, a list of remaining items could be posted in the room and given to the television broadcasters.  

6. DIVERSITY: The splendid diversity of our City should be reflected in who gets appointed to City Commissions. The Mayor has been elected citywide for ten years, but every diversity study shows a lack of fair representation of Asian, Latino and/or African American commissioners in who he has appointed. Out of thirty four possible appointees, there are many talented people of all races qualified to be Commissioners. 

7. PROFESSIONAL SUPERVISION: The City Council should conduct an annual evaluation of the City Manager. This has only happened a few times in the past ten years. It is an important step to provide praise as well as feedback. In some ways it is the most important job of the Mayor and City Council and it is being neglected year after year. 

8. FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY: If the City Manager were to be fired for horrible job performance, they would still receive a one year severance package of almost a quarter of a million dollars. This is not an incentive for good performance. It is also the wrong message to send to the social service programs that have suffered painful cuts, and employees who have been laid off or sacrificing to save the City money by taking unpaid VTO (voluntary time off) days.  

9. NOT JUST TRICKLE-DOWN DEVELOPMENT: If you have not participated in a development debate you probably think Berkeley is on the right track. Many hundreds of residents who have encountered a neighborhood development issue become frustrated with the incumbent’s starting point that benefits automatically trickle down from development. In reality, development that pays its fair share can be great, but development which fails to pay for fair labor policies, parking, traffic impacts, affordable housing and open space can be very problematic.  

10. COST-EFFECTIVE PROGRESSIVE POLICY: Many other City Councils have eclipsed Berkeley in adopting practical progressive policy. Graduate and undergraduate students have numerous innovative ideas, but are denied their seat at the table. When we adopted the Climate Action plan, with hundreds of possible implementation policies, I repeatedly requested a cost effective analysis of what actions would contribute to the most greenhouse gas reduction. City actions have not achieved significant greenhouse gas reductions, in part because we have yet to receive that analysis and therefore are not prioritizing cost effective strategies. 

Please consider these and numerous other ideas I will introduce during the candidate forums. Public policy is more important than personalities and politics. I am running for Mayor to have a platform to alert people to what is happening and to advocate common sense solutions. 

Berkeley attracts a talented team of City Staff, Department Heads and City Management, then we subject them, and the public, to poorly organized Council meetings that waste their time and leave them tired for the next day’s work. We can facilitate maximum public participation with respect for the public and city workers as well. Berkeley is an incredible beautiful diverse city populated with people providing innovative ideas and leadership on environmental and countless social issues. We can do more to channel their enthusiasm into a dazzling display of democracy in action, if we make some positive practical changes. 

Some say this is a David and Goliath battle where the incumbent will have overwhelming money from corporate developers. Many will be afraid to stand up against the “machine”. Still others fondly remember their former Assembly member and are unaware of current issues. As I walk and talk with residents of Berkeley I hear again and again that they want a choice. I run to offer ideas, and an alternative choice. My middle name is David and I have tackled many difficult and seemingly insurmountable challenges in my life. I welcome this new challenge. There is plenty of room in Berkeley for many opinions. I appreciate anyone and everyone who takes the time to consider these ideas.

Will The World Watch Berkeley's People's Park Again?

By Ted Friedman
Friday July 20, 2012 - 10:42:00 AM
Telegraph business-man, property-owners president Craig Becker reads Chronicle story on People's Park tourism.
Ted Friedman
Telegraph business-man, property-owners president Craig Becker reads Chronicle story on People's Park tourism.

The whole world may again be watching Berkeley's People's Park, if Southside supporters have their way. The last time the whole world watched was 1969—"the Battle for People's Park."

But the whole world's attention can be fickle, and has, over the years, fizzled. I've kept a tourist watch in Berkeley's People's Park for several years, and can report no more than ten tourist sightings, and a few unpublished interviews with them.

The question is whether tourism on Telegraph Avenue has not also fizzled.

Numerous Teley businessmen, and the city's economic planners, attest to tourism declines on Telegraph Avenue. 

Now comes Carolyn Jones, a Chronicle reporter, who reportedly lives in Berkeley, writing Tuesday that the city council was about to "consider a 1 percent assessment on hotel revenue…doubling the city's annual tourism budget…" 

Eighty-eight percent of hotels favored assessing themselves—through their own business improvement district, and Berkeley's city council approved the measure Tuesday. The Hotel Business Districts could cough up $400,000 for city coffers, according to estimates. 

Now comes your typical Southside brouhaha. 

The beef started when reporter Jones wrote: "Berkeley has the issue of, well, being Berkeley, what some affectionately call 'funky,' such as the street scene on Telegraph Avenue, others might view as slightly off-putting." 

And Barbara Hillman, director of Berkeley's Visitor's Bureau, no stranger to Teley property owners and businessmen, with whom she frequently consults, may have innocently stumbled into a pile when she told reporter Jones, "we get people who say…I want to see People's Park…I'm like, why would they [want to go to People's Park]? 

"If you're [tourists] looking for strawberry fields and a nice place to have your lunch," Hillman said, "as a courtesy we need to let them know it's [People's Park] probably not what they're expecting." 

Hillman tells me Jones interviewed her "45 minutes for a two-minute story." Hillman questions the story's accuracy. 

Hillman told me: "People's Park is not a place for a family picnic…Codornices Park, or the Rose Garden is the place for that," wading deeper into the pile. 

"We do send people to Telegraph Avenue for the Free Speech Movement…great history—Berkeley's DNA—but that's not all of Berkeley." 

What some Teley businessmen want to know is whether the visitor's bureau is playing favorites among Berkeley neighborhoods. 

Hillman denies that charge, saying she tries to represent all of Berkeley, promoting Berkeley in 50,000 airports around the world with its visitor bureau publications, and assisting tourists when they breeze into town, after being lured, in part, by Hillman's efforts. 

The Bureau is visited by 30-40 guests daily, and Hillman reports, that Berkeley tourism is growing after being destroyed on 9-11, and in 1997 by a recession-economy. Most tourists, she says, are looking for a place to pee. 

Locals just pee on her new storefront across from Berkeley Rep., she says. 

Al Geyer, owner of Teley's famous 1969 head shop (and a museum of 60s atmosphere) was on the phone with Hillman in the wake of the Chron piece—saying, Hillman told me, "that the park had been cleaned up." 

Geyer confirmed to me Thursday that he had, indeed, "lobbied," on behalf of the park. 

When word reached Craig Becker at his Caffe Mediterraneum via Roland Peterson, spokesman for Teley property owners, that People's Park was not being promoted to tourists, he read reporter Jones' story with aroused interest. 

Becker has mounted, over the years, a one-man crusade, and now through a Teley property owners group he helms, to make Berkeley's People's Park "a clean and welcoming place." 

Interviewed on tourism in the park Thursday, regulars at Food-Not-Bombs' daily meal expressed concern over gawkers reducing park regulars to "animals in a zoo," snapping intrusive photos, especially old men sneaking shots of sexy young girls. 

Although park regulars understand the pervasiveness of voyeurism in our society, they resent being mauled visually. 

One free-mealer said that when he is forced into the park for the free-feed, he descends into a "dystopia" he'd rather experience in private. 

A homeless young woman with great flair elaborated a complete philosophical diorama of the life of the soul, which must be protected from the abuses of tourism. 

Only one park regular (me, actually) accepted People's Park tourism. This mad man suggested that "tourism tells us we are where others (tourists) want to be. "Hey," he enthused, 'if I'm where tourists want to be, I must be in the right place." 

Back at the Caffe Mediterraneum we got Roland Peterson's and Craig Becker's response to the Hillman-Chronicle article. This was all "off the record," but can be characterized as, we reserve the sole rights to criticize Berkeley's People's Park—everyone else, back-off. 

Becker and Peterson have repeatedly complained to the university about conditions in the park, claiming a victory of sorts when the university recently attempted to upgrade the park for residents of a newly constructed student dorm across the street from the park's drug-dealing West end. 

Reportedly filled for the fall, the new structure will open in August. 

But will student dorm residents—next-door to the park—picnic in their own park or head for the Rose Garden? 

Geyer and others have invited Hillman to bring her visiting bureau to the park 2:30 p.m. Monday. We wouldn't miss that for the world. 


I Was a Tourist In People's Park (First Person)

By Ted Friedman
Friday July 20, 2012 - 10:26:00 AM
Meet here, the West end, to begin your tour.
Ted Friedman
Meet here, the West end, to begin your tour.
Tour of Berkeley's People's Park starts at Telegraph and Haste, at the famous People's Park mural by Osha Neumann. Our guide: Michael Delacour, one of the last standing park founders.
Ted Friedman
Tour of Berkeley's People's Park starts at Telegraph and Haste, at the famous People's Park mural by Osha Neumann. Our guide: Michael Delacour, one of the last standing park founders.
Recently installed drainage pipes will solve soggy fields problems in park, pave way for tourism.
Ted Friedman
Recently installed drainage pipes will solve soggy fields problems in park, pave way for tourism.
Hate Man offers to "push" tourists in People's Park for their money. If they win, he'll "pay" them. He will pose for pics, as well, for a price. He may be a well-known philosopher (WIKI), but he's no cock-eyed romanticist.
Ted Friedman
Hate Man offers to "push" tourists in People's Park for their money. If they win, he'll "pay" them. He will pose for pics, as well, for a price. He may be a well-known philosopher (WIKI), but he's no cock-eyed romanticist.

Before the tour busses roll in (see our accompanying Planet piece), I want tourists to know I was here first. 

Although, I have lived a hop-skip-and-a-jump from the fabled park for 32 years, I didn't hang there much—avoided it, frankly—until last year when I began regular coverage of the park for the Planet. 

Here's what a certain type of tourist might like, if the tourist is an adventure, slum, alternative, or action type of tourist; there all types of tourists, with all sorts of taste. 

You will find, as did I when I first began frequenting it, almost daily, that Berkeley's People's Park is not easy to penetrate, but some active (rather than passive) tourists might welcome the challenge. 

Park users are an open, gregarious lot, who will be happy—if not compelled by alcohol and drugs—to tell you their stories and amaze you with tales free-wheeling lifestyles based on a terrible freedom, "another word for nothing left to lose," according to Bobby McGee 

if you hang around long enough you might learn how things work in the park. 

The park is "supervised" by a site co-ordinator, although his title changes, and it is tended by university groundskeepers, and rest-room maintenance personnel, all paid for by the park's owner, the Regents of the University of California, who provisionally allow your use—under park rules. 

According to WIKI, People's Park is a 2.8-acre plot of land in Berkeley, California, USA, a park off Telegraph Avenue, bounded by Haste and Bowditch streets and Dwight Way, near the University of California, Berkeley. The park was created during the radical political activism of the late 1960s

There are more than fifty People's Parks around the world, but none has its own WIKI page, or world-wide fame. Visiting the park is up there with Lincoln's Tomb, and it lies in the heart of Berkeley's student ghetto, near Berkeley's so-called center, a half-block away. 

Botanical tourists will find exotic flora, all planted by volunteer "community gardeners," who wince whenever the university comes into the park for regular "pruning" (with bulldozers recently), last year. 

You may notice the park is divided into camps, each with its own teeming life. The West end is a park bench society sharing common lifestyle interests. The main park lifestyle is homelessness, mental illness, and various drug use or dealing. 

The landmark People's Park stage, recently repainted by community volunteers, is near the West end. This is the location of daily vegetarian free-meals, provided by Food Not Bombs. If you tour at 3 p.m. daily you will be able to get to know park denizens as well as free-mealers. 

You might get to meet one of the park founders, although their numbers are dwindling. 

Like a kaleidoscope, the scene changes. One day you might witness a chain-whipping or fist-fight, or a demonstration. Demos in the park take place in trees these days (on hiatus now) from Camp Tree-Sit at the northeast corner of the park, where a wounded forty-foot cedar tree has lost its lower branches to the university, which has effectively bared access to its uppermost perch. 

AKA Camp Running Wolf, this tree-sitting out post is named for the park-controversial, Running Wolf. RW to his inner circle, Running Wolf brought the university to its knees four years ago with a three-year continuous tree-sit at Cal's nearby football stadium, which cost the university more than a million dollars and delayed construction on a new Cal football stadium. 

Most park regulars despise the tree-sits because they bring heat from park police. But the tree-sitters remain determined to continue "sticking it to the university," as they did four years ago. 

Ironically, Camp Hate, the scourge of tree-sits is close-by, in the park's far South East sector, directly across the street from another tourist attraction—First Church of Christ, Scientist, Berkeley, designed by Bernard Maybeck.  

Camp Hate was founded a decade ago by Berkeley's most famous eccentric in a town of them, a 75 year old former New York Times reporter in the sixties. Hate Man will sell photo ops, and regale tourists with journalism stories. If you really score maybe he will "push you" for a cigarette or a photo—whatever. 

Be sure to tour Hate Man. He's expecting you. Talk with Hate Camp veterans , Ace Backwards, Berkeley's voice of a forgotten Berkeley underground, or the gifted chaos-artist, Planet, who is the park's clothes horse (most of it street score or thrift shop). 

Park regulars have strong opinions on everything, especially the park, which they believe is on the verge of being taken away from them by the university, one way (by force) or another (driving them out by replacing them with affluent students—or tourists). 

Be sure to have someone point out the surveillance cameras in the park. Where else in the world could you be directed to a camera, only to see nothing there. So entrenched is the urban myth that your informants do not hesitate to point to the spot where you cannot see a camera—so strong is their religious faith. 

Ask park regulars about the soon-to-open student dorm across the street from the West end, signaling, they say, the university's park take-over. 

Stay for sunset spinning the park into gold over this patch of costly paradise before you head back to your hotel room, should you score one. Berkeley reportedly is short on hotel space. 

You won't be able to wait to show your souvenirs to friends back in Peoria or Singapore or Panmunjom. 

This could be the introduction to our South side reporter's next book: "People's Park on the Cheap, Weirdo Tourism in a Dystopian Age."

Excerpt 5

By John Curl
Thursday July 19, 2012 - 10:00:00 PM

Copyright © 2012 by John Curl. All rights reserved.

This is the fifth 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. In this excerpt Bates discusses Congressman Ronald V. Dellums, his mentor; Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, his teacher; Assemblymember Dion Aroner, his aide and successor; his frustrated ambitions for higher office; his ouster from the Assembly by term limits; and his difficulties while out of office while his wife, Loni Hancock, was becoming increasingly successful. You can also download a Full PDF. of the entire article.


Bates milked his association with Ron Dellums for all it was worth. “He had this incredible reputation, and I was very fortunate to have a similar reputation by association. You know, everything was Dellums-Bates does this. I guess I was the token white.” In contrast to public appearances, the two always had a distant relationship. “[Dellums] was a person that was, I found, really hard to know… he was sort of ‘on’ all the time. He was always, like telling things and explaining things, and if you were there, it was difficult to have a two-way conversation. It was mostly you listening to him pontificate about various things.” Bates went on about Dellums, “[A] lot of people, when they’re in office… they become kinds of shells of people, in the sense of you don’t really get to know them, they don’t show who they are. It’s more of a persona.” 

“Dellums was really the leader,” and Bates was unquestionably the follower. “Dellums had an advisory committee, which advised him on local candidates, just who he should support… What I found myself was that I was also interested in, whenever possible, supporting the same candidates that he was supporting… Dellums was pretty much the lead… [I] also was, to a certain extent, deferential, deferential to Dellums’ choices. I didn’t really endorse people until I saw what he was doing in terms of his endorsements… Then, once Dellums endorsed, and then I would, representing sort of the liberal, white community, Caucasian community, would support, it added a lot of legitimacy to the efforts.”  

* * * 


One leader in the Assembly whom Bates highly respected, and from whom he learned a lot, was Willie Brown. “Willie Brown was somebody who was a remarkable leader. At one point, when he became the speaker, he became like a Mafia don in some ways. I mean, he had so much power and control over people. It was like the last Mafia. I felt like I got a PhD in leadership from Willie Brown.” Bates also claims that Brown “would show up two days a week, but because of the rules, he would get per diem for seven days a week… He was never there. He was like AWOL… So he was basically practicing law and building his law practice, and these were later years when he had income of, like $200,000 a year coming from outside income that he was making primarily representing developers in San Francisco and in the Bay Area.” 

* * * 


Bates had ambitions for higher office beyond the Assembly, but that was cut off from him. The next step up would have been the state senate. However, his ally Nicolas Petris, state senator from the district, wasn’t planning on leaving any time soon. But then Jimmy Carter got elected president, and rumors circulated that Congressman Dellums was going to be appointed ambassador to South Africa. Bates jumped at the idea that he might have a shot at the congressional seat. But his move was premature and backfired. Dellums did not want the ambassador job. He heard that Bates was eyeing his seat, and was galled. According to Bates, “It well, actually took us a long time to sort of build back relationships… ‘What am I doing running for his seat and he’s not vacating?’… It was like, all of a sudden you think, Whoa, you know this guy’s really ambitious. He’s already planning to run for my seat.” So instead, Bates floated the idea of running for statewide office, and went around the state politicking and campaigning. But after meeting with politicos from Southern California, he came to the sad conclusion that “I would have support from a number of groups, but it was not going to be anywhere near the kind of money and resources I’d have to raise… So I woke up to the fact that that’s not going to happen. I mean, I’m not going to be able to run for a higher office, per se.” 

He hand picked his aide Dion Aroner to be his successor. As Bates himself said, “I think some criticism is probably warranted… You notice that a lot of elected officials, their staff members become elected officials… I was a staff member for Ken Meade… Dion Aroner took my place… Barbara Lee, who’s the current congresswoman, worked for Ron Dellums. Keith Carson, who ended up being elected to the seat that I held on the board of supervisors, and John George held, worked for Ron Dellums for a number of years… [W]e don’t have patronage other than our staff.” The musical chairs would continue later when Hancock took over Aroner’s seat, then moved up to the State Senate when Don Perata was termed out, and former Berkeley City Councilmember Nancy Skinner took over the seat held by Hancock, Aroner and Bates. 

Bates handed the torch to Aroner reluctantly. Although BCA people always said that Dion was actually running the show in the Sacramento office, Bates claimed the contrary, that he helped her exaggerate her resumé to get her elected. “I told her to just kind of take credit for everything I’ve done. So she proceeded to do that… she would talk like she had done it all… Dion would take credit for all these things, all my legislation… And so it was hard for me sometimes to sit there and see this person, like what did I do? So when she got elected, she won the Democratic nomination, I told her it was a great privilege for me to jockey all of her legislation all these years.” 

* * * 


Meanwhile, Bates was being ousted from the legislature by the imposition of term limits. Since there was no opportunity for him to move to higher office, he filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the new term limits law, and fought tooth and nail to remain in office. However, his lawsuit lost, so he was out of a job. 

Bates professed to believe that “people who were in office for a long period of time became the most effective and the best representatives.” However, he conceded, “I think there’s an innate belief that people who stay in office, you know, power corrupts. So that if they’re there a long time, they’re going to become corrupted… And that you can’t get rid of them, and they stop listening. They stop being reflective of the views of the district because they become secure, and so they do what they want, and not necessarily reflect the voters.” 

* * * 

Bates had a tough time just adjusting to not being an elected official, “not being thought of as important; you know, going places and not being introduced, people not stepping aside or people not being interested in what you have to say. You know, people start looking past you. And so, that’s hard, I think, for some people to be suddenly treated differently, especially if they have a lot of ego and a lot of ego wrapped up in the job and the job becomes who they are… I think it’s particularly difficult being a spouse of an elected official, having been the spouse of a mayor of Berkeley… I still found myself being in funny situations with my wife, going places with her and being introduced as Mr. Hancock. This is when she was the mayor, you know: Mayor Hancock and Mr. Hancock… And so, it would be like, ‘Oh you’re the mayor’s husband,’ And to be seen as the mayor’s husband, it’s dehumanizing… And people feel like you’re not of any value, that you’re just like an appendage… Nobody, particularly, is interested in my comments… the spouse: they’re seen as nobodies.” 

* * * 

In 2002 Loni decided to run for Tom’s old seat in the Assembly, and everybody knew she would be a shoo-in. Bates’ fear of being left behind by her probably had a lot to do with his deciding to run for mayor in the same election. 


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. 



Police in Berkeley and Elsewhere Get White Powder

By Sasha Lekach (BCN)
Saturday July 21, 2012 - 11:52:00 PM

An envelope filled with white powder was delivered to a San Francisco police station this morning, as well as at the Oakland Police Department Friday evening, San Francisco and Oakland police said. 

The two departments join four other Bay Area police departments, including Berkeley, that received a mysterious substance Friday. 

Around 11 a.m. this morning personnel at the Northern Station, located at 1125 Fillmore St. in San Francisco, received an envelope with a white powdery substance, San Francisco police said. 

San Francisco fire personnel responded and determined the material was not hazardous. 

No one was injured, police said. 

Friday evening, after 5 p.m., an unknown powdery substance was delivered to the Oakland Police Department, Oakland police said. 

The Oakland Fire Department removed the substance from the building and determined it was not harmful, police said. 

Police said evacuations were not necessary, and no one was harmed in the incident. 

Hayward, Berkeley, San Leandro and Union City police departments also received deliveries of a mysterious substance throughout the day Friday. 

Test results have deemed the substance mailed to those respective agencies was not hazardous, according to Alameda County fire officials. 



New: Rally Planned Against Berkeley Post Office Sale

By Steven Finacom
Friday July 20, 2012 - 05:51:00 PM
An early postcard shows Berkeley’s Downtown Main Post Office, probably not long after its completion in 1914. (Courtesy, Berkeley Historical Society)
An early postcard shows Berkeley’s Downtown Main Post Office, probably not long after its completion in 1914. (Courtesy, Berkeley Historical Society)

“We’re going to stop them. They picked the wrong building in the wrong town”, geographer Gray Brechin firmly told a crowd of about 100 concerned locals who came to Berkeley’s Hillside Club on short notice Friday evening, July 20, 2012, to discuss what could be done to save Berkeley’s busy and historic Downtown Post Office building from closure and sale. 

The next step, organizers said, is a rally in front of the Post Office at Allston Way and Milvia Street at 5:30 on Tuesday, July 24, followed by a presence at the Berkeley City Council meeting that evening. 

On June 21 the United States Postal Service (USPS) said that it was going to sell the building, sending some customer services including bulk mail operations to a remote northwest Berkeley location. The announcement said the Post Office would also continue some “retail” operations in an as-yet-unidentified rental space in the Downtown.  

No details about the sale were given at the time, but the news sparked widespread consternation and comment in the Berkeley community. 

This Tuesday evening the Berkeley City Council will consider a resolution to oppose the sale, authored by Councilman Jesse Arreguin, who represents the Downtown, and Councilwoman Susan Wengraf. The proposal—currently on the Consent Calendar, as Agenda item #13—can be found on line here 

It notes, among other concerns, that “the decision to close the Berkeley Main Post Office came as a surprise to many residents and was done without adequate outreach and input from city officials or from customers.” “The Post Office is…an important retail anchor in the Downtown and an incredible architectural and cultural resource…Given the lack of transparency and input from city officials and residents about the sale of the Berkeley Main Post Office and the impacts, alternate plans for mail service and the future of the historic building, it is critical that USPS not proceed with the sale of the Post office. USPS should engage with city officials and residents in discussions around the sale.” 

At the Friday night event Brechin, a noted University of California geographer and expert on the New Deal and western development, presented a talk rich with illustration, history, and anecdote to put the planned sale in national context. 

“This isn’t just happening in Berkeley, it’s happening all over the country”, Brechin said. “Don’t ever believe when the Postal Service says ‘The Internet made us do this.’ There’s still an enormous volume of mail, and no one else delivers ‘universal service’.” 

“It’s really the cover for what’s going on which is asset stripping—OUR assets,” Brechin argued. “These public treasures are on the chopping block or on the auction block, and I know that the people of Berkeley will rise to occasion”, he said, to prolonged applause. “It’s still a valuable institution. Let’s save it. I think we can do it.” 

He said that the situation is “akin to the great land grabs of the 19th century” when speculators became fantastically rich through acquiring and developing publicly owned western territory, timber, and other assets such as mineral resources, water rights, and agricultural land. 

Now, Brechin said, “it’s happening in the core of our cities and it’s really audacious.” Instead of the Gold Rush, where those seeking instant riches took mineral wealth out of the ground, “the gold IS the ground right now.” That is, the land underneath publicly owned facilities.  

He noted that throughout the country the older post offices often stand in valuable locations, a marquee example being New York City’s grand James Farley Post Office which covers a square city block in midtown Manhattan; how much would a site like that be worth to a developer if they could get it away from the government as “surplus” property, Brechin wondered? 

Throughout California, post offices buildings are being sold and closed, or put on the market. As in the case of Berkeley, locals often don’t know until the last minute, or after the fact, what is going on. In Ukiah, the Post Office said it was closing the main downtown branch there “consolidating for ‘efficiency’ and taking the heart out of a walkable downtown.” Ukiah residents protested, but the branch is now closed and up for sale. In Vacaville, the post office building was sold, converted to a restaurant, which then closed, and now sits empty, Brechin said. 

In Modesto the post office is “the core of what’s left of Modesto’s downtown, but they just threw it on the market.” The La Jolla post office is for sale, the Burlingame post office is being sold, San Rafael is endangered, and “there are a lot of post offices for sale in Southern California”, including Redlands, Venice, and Santa Monica. 

California and the Gold Coast region of Connecticut seem to have the most activity of post office sales nationwide right now, Brechin noted. The planned sale in Santa Monica, Brechin said, “is giving the Post Office a real headache, because they’re nearly as activist as we’re going to become”, he said to renewed applause and laughter. 

Who is doing the selling? The Postal Service Board of Governors has acquiesced, Brechin said, describing them as mainly people appointed by Republican presidents, who are “far less concerned with public service than with public assets.” “This is a classic case of putting the fox in the henhouse.”  

The sales are reportedly being handled by CBRE, an international firm “owned by Richard Blum”, who is also a University of California Regent and husband of powerful California Senator Diane Feinstein. “They actually went after this contract aggressively”, Brechin said. He added that CBRE also, he’s been told, has a contract to advise the Postal Service on what buildings to sell, as well as manage the sales. 

Postal worker David Welch, who spoke after Brechin, said that the criteria for branch closing seems to be “how much revenue does it generate”. The USPS is crippled, Welch said, by relatively recent Federal law requiring that 5.5 billion dollars be taken from its budget each year to pay benefits of future retirees 75 years into the future; no other government agency is subject to this requirement which “looks like (it) was a deliberate attempt to make it impossible to function as a business”, Welch said. 

He also recalled the 1971 nationwide strike by postal workers and said, “the 1% doesn’t like the fact that the second largest employer in the country, the Postal Service, is the largest unionized employer.” 

“There’s a lot of solidarity between the people who work in the post offices and the people in the community who want to save them”, he added. 

The Postal Service itself is 237 years old, Brechin explained, older than the Constitution. The first Postmaster was Benjamin Franklin who, along with Thomas Jefferson, believed “you had to have free communication and universal service.” Post offices became vital centers of communities, large and small, across the nation, and in the 19th and early 20th centuries many stately edifices were built to house them.  

Berkeley’s main Post Office was constructed in 1914. Unlike many older post office buildings, it’s “still virtually the same as it was in 1914”, without extensive remodeling inside or out. The building was designed by Oscar Wenderoth, and, in true Beaux Arts style, modeled on a fine neo-classical example, the Renaissance Ospedale degli Innocenti—or Foundling’s Hospital--in Florence, designed by Filippo Brunelleschi. 

At the same time that the Berkeley Post Office was being build, Brechin noted, the University of California campus, just two blocks to the east, was in the midst of its great Beaux Arts architectural era under the guidance of architect John Galen Howard. The Downtown Post Office was designed “to give this town a special post office that would harmonize with what was going up on the campus.” 

Later, during the Great Depression, many of the already ornate structures including the Berkeley Post Office were further ornamented with public art paid for by the New Deal, and other new post office buildings were constructed. Brechin has focused some of his research in recent years on the art, and showed an array of images of murals, sculpture, and other furnishings of post offices that he has photographed and documented around the country.  

The New Deal murals in particular were very important because they portrayed the dignity of labor and multicultural and community history. Construction workers, agricultural laborers, factory workers, and postmen themselves could see themselves and the history of their communities shown as large, or larger, than life in the new art. 

In Berkeley, Brechin noted, there’s both New Deal mural by Suzanne Scheuer, inside the lobby of the Post Office, and a sculpture in the loggia by David Slivka, showing postmen delivering the mail. Carved in small letters on a string-bound package in the sculpture is this address: “From USA to All Mankind” to “Truth Abode on Freedom Road.” 

After Brechin’s presentation there were questions, answers, and comments from the audience (I counted almost exactly 100 people in the room during the lecture). Some urged a national strategy, there was the suggestion of picketing Richard Blum’s San Francisco office, and a common lament that “very few people know what’s happening.” 

“It’s very important to speak to our institutions, but public input isn’t happening,” Brechin observed.  

Local activist Carol Denney, speaking from the audience, said “Don’t expect the politicians to save us; don’t expect the media to save us.” Turning to a speaker who had called for demonstrations, she said, “Those of you who are saying, why aren’t there demonstrations? Well there was one today, and you weren’t there.” Activists had leafleted on the steps of the Post Office the afternoon before the talk. 

A petition calling on the City Council to approve the resolution against the sale circulated through the audience, quickly garnering pages of signature. Representatives of two groups—the Berkeley Historical Society, and Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association—spoke from the audience, saying their boards of directors had voted to oppose the sale of the building. 

(Disclosure: I’m the current president of the Berkeley Historical Society, and spoke against the closure at the July 20th meeting.) 

For further reference: 

Flyer with details of this week’s activities protesting the sale of the Berkeley Post Office: 

Website of the Living New Deal project, based in Berkeley: 

Save The Post Office website:

Bon Appetit in Berkeley

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Friday July 20, 2012 - 11:38:00 AM

While not widely acclaimed for its Epicurean taste in fine food, Berkeley nonetheless boasts dozens of great restaurants and cafes. Offering a wide choice of food, from plain, no-nonsense dishes to ultra gourmet cuisine, you won't go hungry believe me! Depending on your appetite and your financial situation, you may want to try one or two of these popular eateries: 

Angeline's Louisiana Kitchen -- hot and spicy food!
Ann's Restaurant -- near campus, with great breakfast and lunch items.
Brennan's Restaurant -- enjoy a hearty lunch while watching AmTrak flash by.
Cafe Clem -- a charming outdoor spot below the Berkeley Public Library.
Chez Panisse -- where the elite meet to eat.
Fat Apple -- a comfortable, homey type restaurant.
Kirali -- excellent Japanese menu.
Homemade Cafe -- be prepared to wait an hour just to get in.
Jazz Cafe -- worth going down those steps.
La Mediterranee -- an Elmwood favorite, where you can sit outdoors and watch the world go by.
LaBeau Ivre -- Charming restaurant with occasional musical evenings.
Pasta Bene -- entrees for $5.95 and up, great pizza.
Picante -- Another good dining adventure
Plearns -- Good Thai food.
Skates on the Bay -- great food, gorgeous views.
Saul's -- A typical New York delicatessen.
Venezia -- second best to being in that glorious city.

If you're strapped for cash, the telephone directory lists 21 East Bay McDonald's.
So -- forget your waistline and enjoy -- bon appetit!

In Memoriam Arlene Sagan: 1928-2012

By Ken Bullock (From SFCV, with permission)
Tuesday July 31, 2012 - 09:37:00 AM

Arlene Sagan, 84, died on July 5 in her Berkeley home, where she lived since 1955. She was music director emeritus of the 180-plus voice Berkeley Community Chorus and Orchestra (BCCO), which she directed from 1988, when it was a 30-voice group, until her retirement last year, and of Bella Musica Chorus — just two among many Bay Area musical groups and projects with which she was deeply involved.

With the news of Sagan’s death, members of Bella Musica gathered at her home to sing in commemoration of her life and work. Ann Callaway, Bella Musica composer in residence, remarked: “When we all got together, we went up to her room where she was lying and sang for her, and the words to Sibelius’ ‘Finlandia Hymn,’ about ‘love’ and ‘community,’ seemed so ... her. ... We even managed to do ‘How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place’ from the Brahms Requiem.”

Tributes and memorial statements poured into the organizations Sagan led, recalling (as Callaway put it) her “very deep personal connections with people through music, her dedication to music” itself, and her longtime, firm commitment to include amateur singers, including many who couldn’t read music or who’d never sung before, in practice and performance of “major, difficult choral works, such as Brahms’ Requiem and Orff’s Carmina Burana. 





Deception 101: How to Write a Ballot Measure in Berkeley

By Becky O'Malley
Friday July 20, 2012 - 09:14:00 AM

The Berkeley City Council continues to be a depressing illustration of the decline and fall of democratic government in Berkeley. At meeting after meeting a parade of articulate and well-informed citizens explains to an increasingly out-of-it council what’s happening regarding a cluster of issues crucial to the future of the city, and the council on straight factional votes continues to ignore them.

(At this point, if the Planet allowed anonymous comments, we’d cue the chorus of faceless Fox News wannabes who plague other local online news sources. They would claim that a silent majority of stay-at-homes espouses positions contrary to those of the citizens who actually show up at meetings, speak and write under their real names and show their own faces in public. Uh-huh.)

Below are links to an assortment of respectable news stories from various local media reporting, mostly accurately, what happened at Tuesday’s council meeting. In brief, the council approved ballot language for placing two more items on the ballot for citizen vote in the November election, refused to approve a deal with Safeway to accept trivial payoffs for not opposing its proposed megastore just over the Oakland border, and decided to spend a quarter of a million dollars on YMCA memberships for city employees. 

I went for the second time in as many weeks, not as a reporter but as an open government advocate, to speak in the time allotted for comments on items not on the agenda about the unceremonious and probably illegal way Mayor Tom Bates at the last meeting rammed through placing a measure to prohibit sitting on sidewalks on the November ballot. But I stayed longer than I’d planned, gripped by the kind of morbid fascination which draws spectators to the site of a train wreck. 

What became abundantly clear in the discussions of sweeping changes to the West Berkeley Plan and its zoning regulations (commonly euphemized under the title of “the West Berkeley Project”) and of the $30 million bond issue for street repair is that the strategy of choice is to deceive the voters as much as possible.  

The real progressives, Worthington, Arreguin and Anderson, made valiant tries at telling November voters what they would be voting on, but lost, as usual, because of the iron grip that Bates has over his majority.  

Darryl Moore seems to have turned into the Clarence Thomas of Berkeley, with Bates in the Scalia role. Moore proposes little, says less, and votes with the Bates gang as per instructions. 

Faux-Prog Councilmenber Linda Maio made her characteristic half-hearted attempt to clarify City Attorney Zach Cowan’s suggested shifty ballot language purporting to describe the West Berkeley Project and the bond issue, but got nowhere with it. Cowan quickly set her straight in this exchange with Councilmember Arreguin: 

Arreguin: If we specify certain kinds of projects in the ballot question that the money could be used for… for example in your language you say rain gardens, swales, biofiltration. Does the money have to be used for those purposes? 

Cowan: As written those are examples. The answer would be no. .... I'd not advise it as a general bond drafting question. 

For instance one of the speakers mentioned the library bond. 

It wasn't that it was too general, it was that it was not general enough. 

Whenever you put in a specific requirement or limitation, you are determining for the next X number of years how you can and can't spend the money. We learn more, things change, needs develop. In general, the more general you can be the better. 

Arreguin: If we specify it, it ties our hands so we have to spend it for that purpose. 

Cowan: Yes. 

(Library bond back story: Berkeley voters passed a bond measure to rehabilitate and restore four branch libraries, and then some of them were shocked and surprised when part of the money was spent to demolish two out of four, with promises of rebuilding as yet not fulfilled. The deception left a bad taste in the electorate’s collective mouth—even among citizens like me who didn’t particularly care for the buildings in question. And the same thing happened with a previous vote to support rehabilitation of the warm pool at Berkeley High, now being destroyed with no replacement in sight unless another bond issue passes in November—and don’t count on it even then..) 

It will be impossible, therefore, to know what the money from the streets bond measure will be used for, because it contains the weasel words “such as”. All those lovely rain gardens and bioswales and biofiltration and other environmental goods are just “examples,” not promises: 

There’ll Be Pie in the Sky By and By, Joe Hill sang.  

Which is why environmentalists, including the Sierra Club and Citizens for Eastshore State Park, are very reluctant to support the bond measure, which will look to many like yet another blank check for those who control Berkeley to use any way they please, a slush fund which might all be spent improving streets in the hills or raising administrators’ pensions or paying for their health club memberships. 

And it will also be impossible for voters to find out what the outcome of passing the West Berkeley Project initiative will be because the ballot language there is also deliberately vague. 

Here’s what Kriss Worthington thought of the proposed description of that measure : 

“The motion that is before us is deceptive in describing what the actual implications are of what we're voting on. It's deceptive in implying the limits that are not provided for in the measure. It's deceptive in providing that unspecified community and environmental benefits are guaranteed to happen, when all we know is it's going to go to the Planning Commission and some day something will come back that may be wonderful and may be horrible. 

The entire foundation of this ballot measure is poorly put together. It's inappropriate to adopt such a half-baked plan and it's a tragedy that after all these years of working on it we don't actually have a comprehensive, coherent plan that addresses the issues. So to me, it's an embarrassment that we're adopting this motion as it currently stands. 

And the saddest part of all of this is most of these things could have been negotiated if we didn't go into this with a trickle-down development philosophy. That we're going to guarantee that a certain small number of corporations are going to make megaprofits from a certain amount of office space. And we're going to guarantee they will make their megaprofits but we're giving no guarantee to the community of small businesses and artists and residents as to what they're going to get out of this. 

It doesn't have to be this way. There are many cities and many places that do planning processes that actually come together and bring those different stakeholders and work out reasonable accommodations. After all this time and debate many of the people affected don't know what is going on. The people who are affected the most have told us again and again and again this is not ready for prime time. It's tragic we will have another ballot measure that will contribute to the negative atmosphere in Berkeley this year.” 

And about that Safeway vote…Councilmembers fell all over themselves to unanimously endorse the enunciated concerns of twenty or so well-spoken members of the comfortable educated bourgeoisie, with two and maybe three environmental attorneys in their number, who live on the east end of the Oakland-Berkeley border. I’m one of them, since I live on Ashby, on the third leg of the heavily trafficked triangle with College and Claremont which will be severely impacted by Safeway’s proposed mini-mall expansion, and I threw in my two cents with everyone else.  

I appreciate the courtesy with which the concerns of my neighbors and myself were received. The council made the right decision, no doubt about it. 

Councilman Max Anderson, who represents the less affluent west end of the Oakland-Berkeley border and recounted his bad experience with Safeway when they closed a store in his district, voted with his colleagues from the north and east on this one. But he highlighted the irony in the way comments from the east end residents were treated, as compared to those of his West Berkeley constituents who oppose the West Berkeley project. 

He endorsed “...the concept of having a complete package before you decide on it,” but said he wished that “the same logic was applied to the West Berkeley plan.” 

“Seems to be an interesting divergence of examples here...” he noted with sarcastic understatement. 

Could class—that dirty word in American politics—have anything to do with it? Surely not! 

One thing is sure—it’s going to be a lean year for bumpersticker vendors in Berkeley. . With regret, since I’d like to see the warm pool rebuilt, I expect that for a lot of voters, just one model will suffice: Vote No on Everything, Teach Them a Lesson.  

A negative atmosphere, indeed. 

Read all about it: 







The Editor's Back Fence

Updated: Addie's Closed, Trieste Will Return

Friday July 20, 2012 - 11:46:00 AM


Last week I discovered that two of my favorite restaurants, Addie's Pizza Pie on Adeline (an offshoot of Sweet Adeline's Bakery, still there) and Caffe Trieste at Dwight and San Pablo, had suddenly closed. We were at the Trieste (a franchise of San Francisco's famous cafe) not more than a week ago--and yesterday it was gone. closed for repairs. Addie's, sad to say, seems to be closed for good.  

Nothing could illustrate more clearly that city officials who blame sidewalk sitters for Berkeley's business woes are fooling themselves and potentially the voters, if they really put a sitting ban on the November ballot. I've never seen a sidewalk sitter, or even a standing spare changer, at either restaurant. Times are tough all over, but it's both immoral and ineffectual to claim that poor folks are the cause instead of the consequence of the problems downtown or on Telegraph, let alone on San Pablo or Adeline. 


Odd Bodkins: The Wrong Comic Strip (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Monday July 23, 2012 - 11:49:00 AM


Dan O'Neill


Public Comment

New: Mutual Aid Communities: A Must

By Harry Brill
Tuesday July 24, 2012 - 11:13:00 PM


We are becoming increasingly aware of the dismal condition of the economy and its adverse consequences on our quality of life. Particularly important the long run prognosis for the economy is very bleak for the following reasons: consumers are experiencing declining purchase power, business has been disinvesting in the domestic economy, and imports continue to appreciably exceed exports. 

Only huge increases in government spending can possibly offset the dismal situation. But governments at all levels are instead reducing their budgets and the size of work force. So ALL the major stimuli that drive our economy are contracting. And even if governments find a way to increase spending, you can predict that it will not be adequate. Although we will continue to experience short term business cycles, that is, ups and downs, we will see in the long run a growth in unemployment, underemployment, and poverty. 

Of course we must continue our effort to turn things around. That is certainly our long term agenda. But meanwhile a growing percentage of the population already need or will soon need immediate relief. So we must also prepare for hard times by developing mutual aid programs. We need food on our table right now, and we need adequate housing and clothing right now. A highly reputable poll tells us that 28 percent of our population have no resources at all if they lose their income. Two thirds could not sustain themselves more than six months. Clearly, most people will not be able to survive on their own. Instead, we must build communities whose members help each other stay afloat. I am writing to suggest that we engage in an open discussion of the possibilities. 

Among the options is to participate in urban gardening, that is, to collectively grow our food supply in our own backyards and also in large public spaces. Drop by Peralta near Hopkins in Berkeley to see the wonderful organic community garden. It has been around for a long while. These efforts deserve applause. 

But we need to develop these gardens on a larger scale. Crops were planted by Occupy farm activists on the ten acre Gill Tract, which is a large open space owned by the University of California. Just a few days ago about 60 of these activists broke a lock on the gate to weed and harvest crops that they had planted earlier this spring. The vegetables and herbs will be donated to local food banks. This time, incidentally, there were no interference from the police. Although using public space presents formidable political challenges, we need to take that on. Also, there is a body of knowledge required to figure out what to plant and how to care for gardens. But there are always people, including teachers in any community and beyond who have that experience and are willing to share it. In turn, we can pass the knowledge and experience we obtain to others. 

It is also important to engage in what is called time banking, in which we bypass to a considerable extent the money economy in favor of providing each other with reciprocal services. So if one person contributes an hour of service, that individual is entitled to receive from another member of the "bank" an hour of service. Several highly successful time banking systems are now operating in Pasadena, Echo Park, and elsewhere. We should talk to people in these communities and learn from their experience. 

What I am suggesting hardly exhausts the possibilities. For example, as a community we could negotiate prices with many business establishments, such as automobile repair shops. In fact, communities might even develop worker owned and operated businesses and consumer co-ops as well. A related issue is that we could organize buying clubs. By pooling some of our resources we can buy large quantities of what we need from wholesalers at tremendously reduced costs. The very process of working to achieve our objectives is itself community-building because its success depends upon considerable coordination and cooperation. 

Keep in mind that the projects suggested in this commentary are not utopian dreams. The historical record shows that they are achievable but only if people work together. By starting small and growing gradually we don't have the front-end capitalization costs to worry about. 

Not least, we need to develop a culture that challenges the dominant consumerism which says you are what you buy. Accompanying this, we can challenge the stigma of 'second hand' and make use of the often high quality goods that are available at various "next to new stores". Let us then begin the task of building a healthy counterculture that allows us to create mutually essential economic institutions along with a different and better quality of life.

Open Letter to Berkeley Design Review Committee about Durant Avenue Dorm Project Proposal

By Stephen Stine
Friday July 20, 2012 - 11:18:00 AM

Hello Ann Burns and the City of Berkeley Design Review Committee, 

I have some comments for the Design Review Committee regarding the proposed project at 2024 Durant Avenue/2025 Channing Way (DR#12-30000021). 

Regarding the proposed project: 

--There is a low income senior housing residence at 2020 Durant, right next to the 2024 Durant lot. The residence, named Stuart Pratt Manor, is run by Satellite Housing. 

--I don't see any mention or consideration in the project planning materials or in the Design Review Committee staff report of the fact that a senior housing residence is right next to the proposed project site. The proposed project would house up to 200 students; the proposal amounts to a request to build a student dormitory right next door to an existing senior housing residence. Seniors are a vulnerable population with special needs for peace, quiet, and safety, and their quality of life would be significantly reduced by the current design of the project proposed for 2024 Durant. 

--To maintain the quality of life and safety of the 2020 Durant senior residents, the committee should reject the proposed rooftop deck on the 2024 Durant unit. Rooftop decks would be used by the students for social gatherings, conversations, and parties, which can be expected to generate levels of noise which would disturb the seniors at 2020 Durant. Furthermore, the roof top deck should be rejected so that the seniors can preserve their privacy and not worry about keeping their curtains closed, which they might be compelled to do if students had access to a roof top deck. 

--The committee should also reject plans to build balconies on the west face of the 2024 Durant unit, so that the seniors will not be subjected to noise from students conversing on the balconies. Furthermore, the balconies should be rejected so that the seniors can preserve their privacy and not worry about keeping their curtains closed, which they might be compelled to do if students had balconies facing the seniors' apartments. 

--The committee should allot more than 38 parking spaces to the proposed project. The committee should commission a parking impact study for the neighborhood. Even before adding an additional 200 student residents and their visitors to the neighborhood if the proposed project is approved, parking can be very hard to find in the area, especially on Durant between Milvia and Shattuck. This impacts visitors of the seniors at 2020 Durant negatively--it can be hard for visitors to visit the seniors or transport the seniors to and from a vehicle to take them on excursions from their apartments, as parking is hard to find. These excursions are often necessary and vital, such as going to medical appointments. Other excursions are necessary for the mental well-being of the residents, and decreased parking could discourage friends and families from visiting the seniors. There is doubt among neighbors that 38 parking spaces is sufficient for 200 students--more spaces should be allotted so that visitors to the student residents can park in the garage, to avoid making the current lack of parking availability in the neighborhood worse. 

--The committee should reject the current design of the proposed project's parking garage, which currently has an entrance and exit planned only on Durant. An additional entrance and exit to the parking garage should be added on Channing. Having only one entrance and exit, on Durant, would mean that all vehicle traffic to and from the parking garage would be on Durant, right next door to the senior housing residence at 2020 Durant. This concentration of traffic right next door to the 2020 Durant senior home would endanger the seniors as they walk on the sidewalk to and from their senior home, and would concentrate traffic noise right next door to the senior home. The committee should require two entrances and exits to the parking garage, one on Channing and one on Durant. 

--The committee should reject the proposed six story elevation of the 2024 Durant unit. The six story section of the 2024 Durant unit would be at least 8 feet taller, perhaps much more on average, than the senior housing residence at 2020 Durant. This would decrease the amount of light received by the 2020 Durant senior residents, which would decrease their quality of life. The owner of the 2025 Channing lot created a restriction so that any building on the lot can only be four stories tall--ideally, such a restriction should be placed on the 2024 Durant lot so that the seniors in the 2020 Durant building do not have another building next door completely towering over them. Additionally, the seniors in 2020 Durant will completely lose their east-facing views if the 2024 Durant unit is allowed to be six stories. 

Special consideration should be given to the senior housing residence at 2020 Durant due to the vulnerable nature of the senior population and the seniors' special needs for peace, quiet, safety, and routine visits from friends, family, and other caregivers. These needs can be very easily and predictably negatively impacted by a six-story dorm housing 200 students, which is proposed for construction at 2024 Durant and 2025 Channing. 

To mitigate any negative effects on the seniors living at 2020 Durant, please modify the proposal as I have outlined above. The proposed project needs to be designed in such a manner so that students or other residents at 2024 Durant and the seniors at 2020 Durant can co-exist without one population decreasing the quality of life of the other population. The current design for a student population, with proposed roof top decks, west-facing balconies, a six story elevation, only 38 parking spaces for 200 student residents, and only one entrance and exit to the parking garage on Durant, will significantly decrease the quality of life of the seniors at 2020 Durant. 

Please notify me by email regarding further public hearings and other action on the 2024 Durant/2025 Channing proposal. I would also request the city to lengthen the notification period for public hearings. The notice for the 7/19/2012 public hearing was posted on a yellow project proposal board on the 2024 Durant site on Friday, 7/13/2012, and the meeting is scheduled for Thursday, 7/19/2012. One week of notice is insufficient for members of the public to learn of a public hearing and prepare comments. I am requesting that at least two weeks of notice be required between the time the date of a public hearing is posted and the actual scheduled date of the hearing. 

Furthermore, please consider constructing single webpages for project proposals on the city website which include permit applications and Design Review Committee notices, with the option to subscribe to updates via email. Currently the permit application materials and Design Review Committee notices are on separate pages on the city website, with no option to be notified automatically by email when new relevant materials and public hearing dates are scheduled. 

Referenced documents: 

Staff report and other materials http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/uploadedFiles/Planning_and_Development/Level_3_-_Commissions/Design_Review_Committee/2012-07-19_DRC_Staff%20Report_2024%20Durant.pdf 


Letter from owners of 2024 Durant, August 2011 http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/uploadedFiles/Planning_and_Development/Level_3_-_Commissions/Commission_for_Planning/2011-09-07_Communications_Combined.pdf

On Board the Stand up for the Right to Sit Down Coalition:

Friday July 20, 2012 - 05:33:00 PM


Alliance Graphics
Alko Office Supply
Annaher Grocery (at Dwight & San Pablo)
Art House Gallery
Ashby Flower Shop
Ashby Super Market
Autumn Press
Bear Basics
Blondies Pizza
Café Valparaiso
Café Yesterday
Design Action Collective
East Bay Media Center
Free Radio Berkeley
Helly Welly Lamps
Hippie Gypsy Café
La Pena
Nelson Photography
PM Press
Rasputin Records
Revolution Books
Starry Plough
Subway Guitars
Urban Ore
Youth Spirit Artworks
& Councilmembers Worthington, Arreguin, and Anderson

On Board the Stand up for the Right to Sit Down Coalition- Organizations

ACLU of Northern California
AFSC Street Spirit
ASUC Executive Officers
Berkeley Daily Planet
Berkeley-East Bay Gray Panthers
Berkeley Food and Housing Project
Berkeley Law Chapter of the National Lawyers' Guild (contact: Eve Weissman)
Berkeley Society of Friends
Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency
Community Health Commission
Council of Neighborhood Associations Board of Directors
East Bay Community Law Center
Ella Baker Center for Human Rights
Homeless Commission
Housing Advisory Commission
Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute
National Lawyers Guild SF Bay Area Chapter
Peace and Justice Commission
Revolutionary Poets Brigade
Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP)
Workforce Collaborative
Youth Engagement, Advocacy & Housing (YEAH)


DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: Moral Drones and the New York Times

By Conn Hallinan
Friday July 20, 2012 - 10:04:00 AM

“…it may be a surprise to find some moral philosophers, political scientists, and weapons specialists believe unmanned aircraft offer marked moral advantages over almost any other tool of warfare.”—Scott Shane, national security reporter for the New York Times, “The Moral Defense For Drones,” 7/15/12

First, one should never be surprised to find that the NY Times can ferret out experts to say virtually anything. Didn’t they dig up those who told us all that Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons? Second, whenever the newspaper uses the words “some,” that’s generally a tipoff the dice are loaded, in this case with a former Air Force officer (who teaches philosophy at the Naval Postgraduate School), a former CIA deputy chief of counterintelligence, and political scientist Avery Plaw, author of “Targeting Terrorists: A License To Kill?” 

Shane has a problem, which he solves by a nimble bit of legerdemain: he starts off by raising the issue of law, sovereignty, radicalizing impact, and proliferation dangers (in three brief sentences), then quickly shifts to the contention that “most critics” have “focused on evidence that they [drones] are unintentionally killing innocent civilians.” 

He doesn’t present any evidence that most criticism has focused on the collateral damage issue, but this allows him to move to the article’s centerpiece: “the drones kill fewer civilians than other modes of warfare.” 

Actually, critics have focused on a wide number of issues concerning drones. Is using drones in a country with which we are not at war, and one that opposes their use, a violation of international law? Is targeting an individual a form of extrajudicial capital punishment? Is killing American citizens a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of a trial by a jury of one’s peers? Is the use of armed drones by the White House bypassing the constitutional role of Congress to declare war? Does the role of the CIA in directing killer drones violate the prescriptions of the Geneva Convention against civilians engaging in armed conflicts? 

But for argument’s sake, let’s focus on the point about civilian casualties. According to Shane, the professor of philosophy has found that “drones do a better job at both identifying the terrorist and avoiding collateral damage than anything else we have.” Shane adds that the drone operators “can even divert a missile after firing if, say, a child wanders into range.” 

Nice touch about the kid, but according to London-base Bureau of Investigtive Journalists, as of February of this year, drones have killed some 60 children, among between 282 to 535 civilians. Other estimates of civilian deaths are much higher. 

But, points out the Times, the kill ratio suffered by civilians when Pakistan took back the Swat Valley from its local Taliban, and when Israel goes after Hamas, are much higher. And then, quoting the CIA guy: “Look at the firebombing of Dresden, and compare it with what we are doing today.” In short, civilians should be thankful they are not subjected to the brutality of the Pakistani and Israeli armies, or firebombed into oblivion? 

Shane manages to avoid mentioning Part IV of the additions to the Geneva Conventions (1977) on the protection of civilian populations “Against the Effects of Hostilities.” Article 49 and 50 are particularly relevant. Essentially they boil down to the stipulation that only “military objectives” can be targeted. 

The Time’s security expert also fails to mention the policy of “signature strikes,” which means anyone carrying weapons, or hanging out in a house used by “militants,” is fair game. “Signature strikes” are an explicit violation of Article 50: “The presence within the civilian population of individuals who do not come within the definition of civilians does not deprive the population of its civilian character.” 

Of course, none of us know what criteria are used to identify someone as a “militant” or a “terrorist,” because the Obama administration refuses to release the legal findings that define those categories. In Yemen, many of the targeted “terrorists” are not Al Qaeda members, but southern separatists who have been fighting to re-establish the Republic of South Yemen. In any case, people are being killed and we have no idea how they ended up sentenced to death. 

For instance, it is apparently a capital offense to try to rescue people following a drone strike, or to go to the funeral for those killed. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, some 50 rescuers have been killed, and more than 20 mourners. Many of these small villages have strong kinship ties, and helping out or mourning the dead is a powerful cultural tradition. Acting as a kinsman to someone the White House defines as an “enemy” may end up being fatal. 

In some ways the civilian deaths are a straw man, not because they are not important, but because “critics” have focused on a wide number of issues brought up by the drones. Among them is the apparent dismantling of Congress’s constitutional role in declaring war. When some members of Congress raised this issue with respect to the Libyan War, and whether it fell under the rubric of the Wars Power Act, the Obama administration argued that it did not, because the Libya operation did not “involve the use of U.S. ground troops, U.S. casualties, or a serious threat thereof.” 

But as Peter Singer of the Brookings Institute points out, the Libyan operation certainly involved “something we used to think of as war: blowing up stuff, lots of it.” The U.S. air war was the key to overthrowing Qaddafi. U.S. planes and drones carried out attacks and directed strikes by allied aircraft. The Americans also resupplied allied aircraft with bombs and missiles, and provided in-air refueling. 

Given the enormous expansion of drones, the definition of war as limited to acts likely to lead to “casualties” opens up a Pandora’s box. The U.S. currently has more than 7,000 drones, many of them, like the Predator and the Reaper, are armed. The U.S. Defense Department plans to spend about $31 billion on “remotely piloted aircraft” by 2015, and the U.S. Air Force is training more remote operators than pilots for its fighters and bombers. 

Fleets of armed drones could be released to fight wars all over the world, with casualties limited to mechanical failures or the occasional drone that wandered too close to an anti-aircraft system. Under the White House’s definition, what those drones did, and whom they did it to, is none of Congress’s business. 

What in the Constitution gives the power of life and death over U.S. citizens to the President of the United States? The militant American-Yemini cleric Anwar-al-Awkaki was no admirer of the U.S., but there is no public finding that he ever did anything illegal. Never the less, a drone-fired Hellfire missile killed him last October. And a few weeks later, another drone killed his Denver-born 16-year old son, Abdulraham-al-Awkaki, who was out looking for his father. Ibrahim-al-Banna was the target of that strike, but as one U.S. official told Time, the son was in the “wrong place at the wrong time.” That particular statement is an explicit violation of Article 50 of the Conventions. 

“The question is, is killing always justified?” asks University of Texas at El Paso political scientist Armin Krisnan. “There is not public accountability for that.” 

The Yemen strike has sparked outrage in that country, as have other drone strikes. “This is why AQAP [Al Qadea in the Arabian Peninsula] is much stronger in Yemen today that it was a few years ago,” says Ibrahim Mothana, co-founder of Yemen’s Watan Party. 

There are lots of critics raising lots of difficult to answer questions, and they focus on much more than civilian casualties (although that is a worthy topic of consideration). The “moral” case for drones is not limited to the parameters set by the NY Times. In any case, the issue is not the morality of drones; they have none. Nor do they have politics or philosophy. They are simply soulless killing machines. The morality at play is with those who define the targets and push the buttons that incinerate people we do not know half a world away. 

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

THE PUBLIC EYE: Think Different: What Apple Can Teach America

By Bob Burnett
Friday July 20, 2012 - 09:39:00 AM

In the latest issue of VANITY FAIR, journalist Kurt Eichenwald chronicles the twelve-year decline of Microsoft. Over the same period, Apple prospered, but America floundered. Analyzing Microsoft’s failure and Apple’s success helps us understand what the US needs to do to get back on track.

In December of 2000, Microsoft shares (MSFT) were worth $119.94; it was the most valuable corporation in the world with a market capitalization of $510 billion. Then the slide began; now Microsoft’s stock is worth $30.63 per share and its market capitalization is $257B. During the same period Apple’s stock (AAPL) increased in value from $8.19 to $614.32 and its market cap rose from $4.8B to $574B. Now Apple is the world’s most valuable company.

Why did Microsoft decline while Apple prospered? Eichenwald focuses on management and strategy. But purpose is as important. 

Eichenwald details a series of bad decisions made by Microsoft management, particularly CEO Steve Ballmer and founder and chief software architect Bill Gates. Microsoft has three product lines: personal computer (PC) operating systems – Windows, PC productivity software – Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint…), and Server products (intended for businesses rather than individuals). For thirty years it’s been the dominant software provider. 

In the nineties, Microsoft was the number one US technology company. Brilliant techies flocked to its Redmond, Washington, campus and many suggested products outside operating systems and Office. For example, Eichenwald reports that in 1998 a Microsoft group developed a workable e-book – a digital reading device. Bill Gates killed the product because, “He didn’t like the user interface, because it didn’t look like Windows.” Ten years later, in November of 2007, Amazon introduced the Kindle e-book and it became a sensation – selling millions of units. 

Eichenwald attributes Microsoft’s decline to the shortsightedness of Gates and Ballmer, their unwillingness to look beyond Windows, Office, and Server. It’s more accurate to say that Microsoft had a strategy that worked very well until 2000 and then strayed off course – but the company was making so much money Gates and Ballmer didn’t notice. In 1980 Microsoft executives laughed at IBM executives because the Armonk crowd had been so enamored with their success, as a main-frame computer provider, they hadn’t noticed when the technical paradigm shifted and the personal computer supplanted the mainframe. In 2000 the paradigm shifted again – from the personal computer to the personal digital device – and Microsoft didn’t notice. 

Apple did recognize the paradigm shift. In October of 2001, Apple introduced the IPod -- a digital music player. Steve Jobs saw a sea change in consumer preferences. Smart handheld devices, such as cameras, camcorders, and organizers had become very popular. As a consequence, Jobs moved Apple into the personal digital device marketplace. (Eichenwald writes that Microsoft initially laughed at the Ipod. By the time they realized the importance of the paradigm shift, it was too late – Microsoft introduced Zune, a digital music player, in November of 2006; the product was discontinued last October.) 

Apple followed the overwhelming success of the IPod with the June 2007 release of the IPhone. Thought by many to be the technical product of the decade, the IPhone was not the first smart phone, but it was the first to provide a effective touch screen. Building upon this success, in April of 2010 Apple introduced the IPad – a tablet computer. (Last month, Microsoft announced it’s own tablet computer, Surface, availability to be defined.) 

Eichenwald quotes Steve Jobs saying Bill Gates was the basic Microsoft problem: “Bill likes to portray himself as a man of the product, but he’s really not. He’s a businessperson. Winning business was more important than making great products.” 

This difference between the two companies can be seen in their corporate statement of purpose. Microsoft’s is “Your potential. Our passion.” Apple’s is “Think different.” Over the past twelve years, Apple thought different, developed a long-term plan based upon strong products, and prevailed. Microsoft got hung up making money and stagnated. 

Since 2000, the United States has floundered. We’ve suffered from the same malaise that plagued Microsoft. We’ve had poor management and weak strategy. Our leaders have been hypnotized by wealth. 

Microsoft laughed at IBM for getting stuck in the age of dinosaurs and then joined them. Unfortunately the US has followed suit. The social paradigm has shifted but, as a nation, we haven’t recognized this. 

The official US motto is “In God We Trust,” but it should be “Big is Beautiful.” Our leaders are overly enamored with big: big military, big business, and big money. Some would argue that Microsoft stalled because it got too big. Today, some argue that the US has gotten too big. But Apple is big and it has prospered because it had the wherewithal to capitalize on a paradigm shift. It had the guts to think different. 

The problem with the US is not that we’re too big to govern or that government is too big. Our problem is vision: we’re stuck in the age of dinosaurs and we don’t get it. Americans need to shake it up: emphasize growth rather than profits. Americans need to think different. 

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

ECLECTIC RANT: Mending Fences in Laos

By Ralph E. Stone
Friday July 20, 2012 - 09:56:00 AM

Earlier this month U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton became the first high level U.S. official to visit Laos since the Vietnam War. Although not touted as such, the visit was an effort to mend fences with Laos, the most heavily bombed nation per capita in history.

While in Laos, Clinton made a visit to the Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise (COPE) Center to observe medical and rehabilitation services for amputees, many of whom are victims of explosions from bombs left over from the Vietnam War era. The exhibit included dangling cluster bombs and crude wooden artificial legs made by villagers whose limbs had been lost by unexploded ordinance, a legacy of the U.S. secret war.

From 1964 to 1973, the U.S. conducted a secret war in Laos to support the Royal Lao Government against the Pathet Lao. The U.S. flew over Laos from bases in Thailand to bomb the Ho Chi Minh trail in North Vietnam. The B-52s released many of their bombs over eastern Laos. The CIA effort in Laos remains the largest and most expensive paramilitary operation ever conducted by the U.S. 

According to the Legacies of War , during this period, the U.S. dropped over 2 million tons of ordinance over Laos in 580,000 bombing missions, the equivalent of one plane load every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day, for 9 years. At least 270 million cluster bombs -- a form of air-dropped or ground-launched explosives that releases or ejects smaller sub-munitions -- were were dropped as part of this bombing campaign. Approximately, 80 million failed to detonate and thus, become land mines. 

More than 20,000 people have been killed by the bomblets and more than 98 percent of known cluster bomb victims are civilians with 40 percent of these children, who are drawn to the small toy-like metal objects. 

In addition, about one-third of Laos is contaminated with unexploded ordinance (UXO) thus, prohibiting its use for rice farming. 

In 2008, the "Diplomatic Conference for the Adoption of a Convention on Cluster Munitions" was adopted by 107 countries on May 30, 2008 and signed on 3 December the same year. Seventy-five states are party to the Convention which became binding international law when it entered into force on 1 August 2010. The Convention of Cluster Munitions prohibits the use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of cluster munitions. Shamefully, the U.S. has not signed the treaty although it did not use them in the military operations in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. 

Clearly, Clinton's visit was important and symbolic. Now the U.S. must followup her visit by making a commitment to clear U.S.-sourced ordnance in Laos and around the world. Legacies of War urges at least $10 million for UXO for 2013, sustained for the next ten years, and a commitment for "significant, sustained funding for UXO clearance, victim assistance, and mine risk education in Laos. And finally, it is about time for the U.S. to sign the Convention of Cluster Munitions.


By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Thursday July 19, 2012 - 08:39:00 PM

For powerless seniors, it has become very difficult, often impossible, to identify a physician who accepts (1) new patients and (2) Medicare Assignment. Medicare Assignment refers to the amount assigned by Medicare and paid the provider for a given procedure. Few physicians accept what Medicare pays as payment in full, including those who in the past did so. 

It is even more difficult to find a physician who will treat Medi-Medi senior citizens. Many turn to non-specialists when they need a specialist, or attempt to get help at Over 60 or a hospital Emergency Department. Medi-Medi is a term that refers to Medicare as the primary insurer with Medicaid as the secondary insurer. Medi-Cal is California’s Medicaid.  

(Medicare Advantage, Part C defines those who have signed up for a private health insurance plan to administer their Medicare benefits.) 

Physicians who in the past may have accepted Medi-Medi patients now eschew both them and Medi-Medi. Their chirpy interceptors may explain “Medi-Cal cancels out Medicare”! This is especially true of medical specialists, dermatologists and orthopedists, for examples, who are turning away long-time Medi-Medi patients. Medicare’s website lists physicians who accept Medicare, which does not mean that they accept Medicare’s payment as payment in full, which is called Medicare Assignment. It means that they accept Medicare provided the patient has a secondary insurer other than Medi-Cal. Medicare’s website provider information is based on physician-input. Numerous physicians apparently report that they currently accept new patients and or Medicare Assignment.  


What can you do? Very little, but in behalf of yourself and other senior citizens, you should try the following.  

(1) From the Medicare website, click on Correcting Problems with Provider Information. Ignore the fact that it is addressed to physicians. “If your information listed on Physician Compare is incorrect or has changed, identify your issue from the left and follow the recommended action. Note: Changes… may take three to six months to update in Physician Compare.”  

(2) Consider the Over Sixty Health Center, which states that it accepts new clients and Medicare Assignment. Meet with the Eligibility Specialist to discuss, or call LifeLong Patient Services Eligibility Supervisor Angie Adams at 510-981-4166. If you are hearing impaired, email her at aadams@lifelongmedical.org. (And contact The California Telephone Access Program about the possibility of getting a free amplified phone! In Berkeley, visit Ed Roberts Campus at 3075 Adeline.)  

(3) Attempt to effectuate change locally. Start at the top while working your senior powerful way down. Urge your city council, senior services department, commission on aging (in Berkeley, charged with identifying the needs of the aging, creating awareness of these needs, and encouraging improved standards of services to the aging), and community senior center to survey physicians (other than pediatricians) doing business in the community, and publish the results. Or, suggest a safe alternative— volunteers compile a list of physicians who accept new patients and Medi-Medi, and make available the free (predictably, one page or less) list at community senior centers. Here are a few simple yes/no survey questions: 

Do you accept new patients? 

Do you accept Medicare Assignment as payment? 

Do you accept new patients without referral from another physician? 

Do you currently accept Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid) as all or part payment? 

Do you accept so-called Medi-Medi as payment?
Have you ever accepted Medi-Cal as payment? 

Do you ever turn away a patient who has Medicare with no acceptable secondary insurer? 

How do you instruct your office staff to respond to patients of long sanding, whose Medi- 

Medi has in the past sufficed, when they call to make appointments? 


The Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) program is designed to improve the quality of care people receive at the end of life. It is based on effective communication of patient wishes, documentation of medical orders on a brightly colored form, and a promise by health care professionals to honor these wishes. The term POLST paradigm is used to describe several programs, developed on a state or community-wide basis, having different program names, forms, and policies. A POLST Paradigm Program exists in California; it is being used in all settings – skilled nursing facilities, homes, hospitals, long-term care facilities, emergency departments. My primary care M.D. introduced me to POLST and provided a copy signed by her. It is posted in my kitchen. 

The rates of euthanasia and assisted suicide in the Netherlands in 2010 were comparable to the rates before these practices became legal in 2002. In euthanasia, a doctor administers lethal drugs to a patient who has requested that his or her life be ended. In assisted suicide, a patient self-administers lethal drugs provided by a doctor. Researchers analyzed the Netherlands' death-registry data and found that the total number of euthanasia and assisted-suicide deaths in 2010 was slightly less than 3% of all deaths. Euthanasia is legal in three countries: the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. Assisted suicide is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland and the U.S. states of Montana, Oregon and Washington. A national debate is in the Canadian works.  

San Francisco music seller Sue Silverstein, who was in Nashville, Tennessee for the National Association of Music Merchants convention, reported that she was bitten 200 times by bedbugs during an afternoon nap in her hotel room at the Howard Johnson on Brick Church Pike. [Photos at the July 13, 2012 Tennessean.] Metro Public Health officials investigated.  

“Operation Guardians, a project of the state Department of Justice, has been conducting surprise, on-site inspections of California nursing homes since 2000 to protect residents and improve care for elderly and dependent adult residents. Each inspection results in a report detailing the facility’s compliance with basic sanitation and quality of care standards. The reports are not made available to the public. CANHR made a Public Records Act request to obtain all reports issued from January 1, 2010 through March 7, 2012 and has subsequently posted the reports to its website. The reports reveal a shameful state of affairs in the reviewed nursing homes that is fostered, in part, by a lack of statewide enforcement from the Department of Public Health (DPH).” The 14 Reports appear on the CANHR website. 


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.  


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 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 

Fridays, July 20 and 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.  

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

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

Fridays, July 20 and 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 20. 7 P.M. Am evening with Pat Mullan and her jazz quartet. A concert of jazz arrangements and maybe a little classical music on the side that will be delivered in the unique trombone style. With Curtiss Mays, David Hemphill, Justin Mar and Pat Mullan, leader. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Avenue. Free. 510- 524-3043. 

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.

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: The Issue of Compliance: Weighing Side Effects Against Symptoms

By Jack Bragen
Thursday July 19, 2012 - 08:34:00 PM

If you think about it, the term "noncompliance," applied to persons with mental illness, implies that the medication is some kind of punishment. Or it at least implies that taking it is something the patient is being made to do, and wouldn't do if given a choice. 

If these medications are so great, then why must they be forced on people? 

Psychiatric and other prescription medications are not substances to trifle with. Nearly all of these medicines have the potential for a bad physical reaction. Different medications have the potential for correspondingly different dangerous reactions. 

Concerning unpredictable and possibly fatal reactions from medications, the newer psychiatric medications seem to perform worse than the older substances. For the older medications, the risks are genuine, yet most of them are known. However, for the newer medications, some of the side effects can sneak up on a person. Most of the newer antipsychotic medications can cause extreme weight gain and type II diabetes. 

For example, a person could be prescribed Zyprexa (a commonly prescribed antipsychotic) and could be caught by surprise: in less than a year, their weight had doubled. 

The older antipsychotic medications are known for the possible side effect called "Tardive Dyskinesia." This term describes uncontrollable movements of the face, tongue, neck and upper body. This condition often is not reversible even upon discontinuing the medication. These involuntary movements can be debilitating as well as disfiguring. 

It was originally claimed that the newer class of antipsychotic medications (which are misleadingly called "atypical antipsychotics") didn't cause Tardive Dyskinesia. However, Tardive Dyskinesia can take years to develop; the newer drugs merely hadn't been available for use long enough to find out that they too cause this awful condition. 

Antipsychotic medications can resemble a chemical strait jacket. This is because they very often cause muscle stiffness, difficulty with movement, restriction of emotional expression, difficulty with reading, dry mouth, and restlessness. These are some very common side effects that make taking medication very unpleasant. 

(These side effects may ease up after several years of taking medications, as the body and mind will sometimes adapt to medication.) 

The alternative to taking these seemingly awful medications is untreated mental illness. And this is no walk in the park. If a schizophrenic person believed they were suffering because of being medicated, the suffering of a fully-blown psychotic episode is ten times worse or more. The suffering that a psychotic episode produces for the person with mental illness, at least by my experience, is worse than almost anything else that a person could experience. And there is the sense that this runaway train will never stop. 

The problem doesn't wear off after a while-instead, the mind becomes more and more disorganized, the thoughts become more jumbled, and it can lead to catatonia, eventually. This is if the person hasn't died from acting upon delusions. The longer a person remains off of medication and psychotic, the worse their future prognosis will become upon the medication being reinstated. 

Think about it. If you had a broken leg, you probably would want to have it in a splint. If you contracted Syphilis, you probably would want to get your shot of Penicillin, since the human body is not able to cure itself of this awful disease. And the same goes with being schizophrenic and being medicated. Medical science periodically discovers treatments for sicknesses that have plagued the human race for eons. Doing without some of them can only be categorized as folly.

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

By Dorothy Bryant
Friday July 20, 2012 - 11:23:00 AM

The truth, he thought, has never been of any real value to any human being—it is a symbol for mathematicians and philosophers to pursue. In human relations, kindness and lies are worth a thousand truths.— from The Heart of the Matter (1948) by Graham Greene (1904—1991) 

Graham Greene was one of the most popular writers of the 20th century (twenty-seven novels, many short stories, many movie adaptations of his stories, plus original movie scripts) combining adultery, spying, betrayal, and, oh yes, religion. He was a devout Catholic whose “heroes” suffered from their obsession with God and their inability to avoid sin, even crime. Scobie, the middle-aged protagonist of The Heart of the Matter suffers from “an odd premonitory sense of guilt he always felt, as though he were responsible for something in the future he couldn’t even see.” 

In any case, Greene’s well-written, entertaining, yet serious, combination of spy adventure featuring isolated men with a bad conscience appealed to many thousands of readers and movie-goers, religious or not. 

As for Scobie’s dismissal of the truth in human relations: when we are young, we may tend to be rigidly judgmental, sure that “the truth” as we see it, is best in the long run, in both words and actions toward one another. As the years pass, and we recall comforting lies we wish we had spoken. Then we care less about “truth,” (which itself may have changed as we aged and gained insight.) We learn to prize kindness, and we regret those time we traded it for a “truth” we were so sure we knew. 





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

Arts & Events

THEATER REVIEW: Mime Troupe: "For the Greater Good, or The Last Election'--Free, in the Parks

By Ken Bullock
Thursday July 19, 2012 - 08:28:00 PM

"OCCUPY might not need a leader, but it could use a poster child!' It's summer and the SF Mime Troupe's back in the parks, this time with an inverted, updated melodrama: taking off from Dion Boucicault's 'The Poor of New York' (also Scorsese's starting point for 'The Gangs of New York'), itself adapted from 'Les Pauvres de Paris,' originally about the financial panics of the 1830s and 50s ... "for the Greater Good, or The Last Election.' 

Tipping OCCUPY and the hedge fund crashes into the doubling framework of the potboiler, SFMT comes up with the destitute Mrs. Fairweather (Keiko Shimosato Carreiro), out in the Civic Center camp, "amid the cardboard and the compost" with the protesters, awaiting the return of her daughter Lucy (Velina Brown), deployed from Afghanistan, as 1%-er Gideon Bloodgood (Ed Holmes) welcomes back his beloved kid Alida (Lisa Hori-Garcia) with the gift of a Congressional seat--while she's decided to run away with the 99% circus as "Tanya." Unbeknownst to the Fairweathers, Bloodgood did away with Mrs. Fairweather's husband during an earlier panic, saving his bank with Fairweather funds ... (The surnames and some of the "plot points" are unchanged from Boucicault's original.) 

In quick order, Lucy Fairweather's recruited by Bloodgood as his candidate, as he's being pressed by blackmailer Jack Badger (Victor Toman), and shadowed by mysterious, "caped" Damien Landless (Reggie D. White) of the Occupiers, who turns out to be a drama coach ... Will the downtrodden one-percenters convince the rest that it's lonelier at the top? 

Michael Gene Sullivan has written and directed something that in a way takes the Mime Troupe back a banana step towards their roots ... I remember as a not-so-wee lad, hitch-hiking into the city to catch the Troupe in, say, Washington Square, performing old Commedia plays with all the comic physical style, while voicing (and ad-libbing) social satire, sometimes as asides. 

Mort Sahl, another great generator of asides, defined the great divide in American comedy of late between the parody-ers and the satirists ... The past few years of SFMT shows, I often felt I was watching a skilled live send-up of a TV show, a corner American theater on the whole has painted itself into. With 'The Last Election,' it's at least refreshing, and often pointed and amusing: the very talented players can mug and do the stylized turns of the old vaudeville hams, with eccentric poses copped from silent films—a great burlesque show—yet zing the establishment with asides and a cockeyed logic taking off from the potboiler at hand, turned upside-down. 

It's all in dire good fun. Pat Moran's written some tart songs and leads the multi-instrumentalist band (Joel Fadness and Michael Bello) through a pre-show set, then the perfect accompaniment to the Troupe's apotheosis ... 

And such sobering thoughts emerge, like from a fortune cookie, worthy of a latter-day (but committed) Confucius: "If I were worthy of having a job--I'd already have it!" ... "If history has shown us anything, it's that Ayn Rand was right!" ... "I may have lost a daughter--but I've gained a candidate!" 

Picnic or just loll in the park, while LOL-ing with and at the Mime Troupe—and the State of the Union. 

This Saturday, 1:30 (music) & 2 (show) at Mosswood Park, Oakland; Wednesday-Thursday August 1-2 (6:30-7) at Lakeside Park, Oakland; Saturday-Sunday, 4-5 (1:30-2), Live Oak Park, Berkeley; Thursday August 24 (6:30-7), Montclair Ballfield; Saturday-Sunday August 25-26 (1:30-2), Willard Park, Berkeley. sfmt.org

Around & About Theater: 'Noises Off' at Actors Ensemble of Berkeley; Jovelyn Richards' Own Bistro Variety Series

By Ken Bullock
Thursday July 19, 2012 - 08:23:00 PM

—'Noises Off,' Michael Frayn's burlesque of a farce--both easier and harder than it sounds--as seen from both sides of the stage, upstage and back, will open at Actors Ensemble in Berkeley Friday the 20th ... Directed by Colin Johnson, the cast of eight must essay the theater company's roles versus personalities, literally turn the set around twice--and be very, very inadvertently funny, trying to be both sexy and conventionally funny, while slamming doors and keeping quiet backstage. 

Fridays and Saturdays at 8 (2 p. m. Sunday matinee on August 12), through August 18. $12-$15. Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck (at Berryman). aeofberkeley.com 

—And Jovelyn Richards, host of Cover to Cover, Open Book on KPFA-fm, and whose solo shows (with band) like 'Come Home,' 'Mrs. Pat's House,' and 'Stripping Down to Story' have been written up here, is now welcoming people to Jovelyn's Performance Space and Bistro, 

4148 MacArthur near High Street, Oakland, every 3rd Friday--so tonight--featuring the Summer's Here! Variety Show, with comedians Jeff Applebaum and Nina G. 8 p. m. $10, including one beer/wine. meetup.com.jovelyns-performance-space-bistro

THEATER REVIEW: 'Noises Off' at Actors Ensemble of Berkeley

By Ken Bullock
Friday July 27, 2012 - 12:59:00 PM

"I hope you enjoy the remains of the evening." 

Dropped lines, dropped contact lenses onstage, false entrances and exits, feuds raging onstage and off ... Michael Frayn's 'Noises Off' may not be the definitive farce for a small theater company to put on—but it's the definitive put-on of a small theater company staging a farce—and the mayhem that outdoes the slapstick. 

Frayn came up with the idea while standing backstage during a production by some friends of a mediocre doorslammer. "What I saw backstage was funnier than what was onstage." Act One of 'Noises Off,' the knock-down-and-dirty dress rehearsal of the first act of 'Nothing On,' is upstaged by Act Two, the mostly pantomime brouhaha backstage at a performance of the same—and then there's Act Three, from the audience's perspective, as the company, once on tour, unravels and disintegrates on the boards ...
Actors Ensemble takes on this difficult number—everybody's playing two parts, actors and the characters they portray (the director and his stage manager "protegee" are just as duplicitous), the set must be revolved 180 degrees (twice), the company that's falling to pieces must perform as a real ensemble—and comes through with flying colors, thanks to director Colin Johnson, in his debut at Live Oak Theater, and his valiant cast of nine: Cynthia Roberts, Avi Jacobson, Laura Peterson, Vince Faso, Jordan Michele Kersten, Nick Dickson, Annika Bergman, Theo Adams—and that old hand at East Bay theater, Norman Macleod, trained in theater in York ...
Not to mention the designers: Brian Quackenbush revolving set, Helen Slomowitz's ever-accurate costumery and Alecks Rundell's lights—not to mention AE board member Jerome Solberg, producer and program designer (a kind of Post-Dada/Constructivist collage on the cover).
As the stepped-on lines (and feet), the gaffes in "communication" as well as theatricality, the mistaken relationships, the bruised egos of little theater all add up and spill over, the show becomes more and more—literally—hysterical. The less said about it, the more the surprise—though the cliff it's sliding towards is inevitable—and the greater the fun, whether you've seen this chestnut-of-a-chestnut hammer or no—see it now, a perfect summer comedy, right smack in our backyard, with lots to watch, from crossed signals to slapstick, and shake your head over, laughing ...
Friday/Saturdays at 8, Sunday at 2 (August 12 only), Live Oak Theater (in the Park), 1301 Shattuck at Berryman (just past the Gourmet Ghetto, North Berkeley). $12-$15. 649-5999; aeofberkeley.org

Press Release: COMMUNITY FORUM:The Struggle for Free Speech at the City College of New York: 1931-42

From Carol Smith
Thursday July 19, 2012 - 08:55:00 PM

Carol Smith, retired CCNY faculty, will give a slide lecture of photographs, graphics, and cartoons documenting student and faculty political activism at CCNY in the 1930s, and the ensuing repression which led to the dismissal of over fifty faculty and staff in 1941-42.  

Tuesday, July 24 at 7pm 

Berkeley City College Auditorium  

2050 Center St. Berkeley 

Free Admission  

Sponsor:LaborFest 2012