The Week



What's Behind the Sale of the Downtown Berkeley Main Post Office? (News Analysis)

By Thomas Lord
Tuesday July 31, 2012 - 12:45:00 PM

The Berkeley downtown post office, formally the "Downtown Berkeley Main" station, is set to close and be sold off. There is concern about town regarding the fate of a historic public building occupying incredibly valuable municipal real estate. There is more to the story, though. Congress, it turns out, is waging war against the postal service, or so it seems:

Tomorrow, August 1st, the post office is required to make a $5.5 billion payment to a fund for retiree health benefits. In September, another $5.6 billion is due. The postal service has announced that it will not make these payments. (source: Business Insider (July 31, 2012): Post Office Nears Historic Default on $5 Billion Payment)

It's odd that the Postal service owes $11.1 billion to the health care fund and here is why:

According to the Postal Service Inspector General, the postal service has overfunded its pension fund (not the retiree health care fund). Pensions are funded at 105%. (source: Office of the Postal Service Inspector General (June 18, 2012): Pension and Retiree Health Care Funding Levels: Management Advisory Report)

Did you catch that? Pensions are over-funded by $13.1 billion. Retiree health care is under-funded by $11.1 billion.

Why not, then, simply move $12.1 billion from one fund to the other? Problem solved, right? And with each fund winding up with an extra $1 billlion.

Why not? Because Congress won't let them. The Inspector General writes (emphasis added): -more-

Press Release: ALKO Office Supply Closes Downtown Berkeley Retail Store, Cites Decreased U.C. Berkeley Purchases

From Gary Shows, President, Cliff Radston Company, Inc. dba ALKO office supply
Tuesday July 31, 2012 - 09:49:00 AM

Cliff Radston Company, Inc., DBA ALKO office supply will be closing its store at 2225 Shattuck Avenue in downtown Berkeley once a suitable buyer has been found for the building. This location has been a stationary/office supply store continuously since 1908 when it was founded by Clifford B. Radston. It has been operated by its current ownership since 1972. Its current business entity was formed in 1954. -more-


By John Curl
Friday July 27, 2012 - 04:32:00 PM

Copyright © 2012 by John Curl. All rights reserved. -more-

Press Release: Clean Up Berkeley Iceland Now!

From Tom Killilea
Friday July 27, 2012 - 02:46:00 PM

Berkeley Iceland has been closed for over five years. For the majority of this time, the current owners, East Bay Iceland (EBI, Richard Zamboni, President) has allowed their historic property to be defaced, trash to collect on and around the building, and landscaping to become a receptacle of garbage. Complaints are ignored and the garbage keeps piling up, becoming an eyesore and potential hazard to the neighborhood. A group of SBI volunteers, having seen enough of the total neglect, spent Saturday morning cleaning the front the best they could without trespassing on the property. -more-

Press Release: JVP Asks UC President to Table Biased Report on Jewish Life on Campuses

From Cecile Surasky
Friday July 27, 2012 - 02:41:00 PM

Jewish Voice for Peace calls on University of California President Mark Yudof to table a recently released report on Jewish student campus climate and to disregard its controversial recommendations until a methodologically sound and even-handed report can be conducted. -more-

Arlene Sagan: 1928-2012

By Ken Bullock (from SFCV, with permission)
Tuesday July 31, 2012 - 09:51:00 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.

[read the rest on San Francisco Classical Voice] -more-



All That Can Be Said About Another Assault Weapon Tragedy

By Becky O'Malley,Carol Polsgrove, Dorothy Snodgrass, Ron Lowe, Romila Khanna, Jagjit Singh, Bennett Markel, Carol Hamilton
Friday July 27, 2012 - 11:45:00 AM

This week we’ve had a number of letters from readers around the country about the latest incident of mass murder by assault weapon. In a variety of ways, they cover most of what needs to be said, for all the good it will do. -more-

The Editor's Back Fence

Oakland Planning Commission Approves Safeway Expansion on Berkeley Border

Friday July 27, 2012 - 03:33:00 PM

As expected, Oakland's Planning Commission, which unlike Berkeley's Planning Commission has the power to approve projects, approved Safeway's planned expansion of its neighborhood-serving supermarket at the corner of College and Claremont into a much larger mini-mall with added retail storefronts and a parking garage. Almost all speakers at the hearing were opposed to the project, but it was clear to observers that the deal had already gone down. The fact that the planned structure does not conform to Oakland's just-completed zoning plan for the area was not even discussed by the Commission. -more-


Odd Bodkins: Breakfast (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Friday July 27, 2012 - 02:07:00 PM

Bounce: Einstein's Ear (Cartoon)

By Joseph Young
Friday July 27, 2012 - 02:28:00 PM

Public Comment

Open Letter to BART Re Civil Rights and Public Space

By David G. Carlisle,Legal Intern, East Bay Community Law Center
Friday July 27, 2012 - 02:06:00 PM

My name is David Carlisle and I am a legal intern at the East Bay Community Law Center’s Neighborhood Justice Clinic. For eight years the NJC has worked with Alameda County residents on issues of civil rights, use of public space, and consumer protection.

I am writing to request that you remove a sign posted on the exterior of the Downtown Berkeley BART Station at the corner of Shattuck Avenue and Center Street (see attached photograph). The sign reads “No Loitering, Begging, Soliciting, Open Containers” and lists several state and local ordinances (P.C. 602.1(b), P.C. 647(c), P.C. 602.7, BMC 13.36.070, BMC 13.36.015, BMC 12.70.030, BMC 10.12.110, and B&P 25620(a)). -more-

Who's Fooling Whom?

By Jimmy Holliman
Friday July 27, 2012 - 02:39:00 PM

Why is it the bankers and bureaucrats, the ones who have proven themselves to be the worst of all credit risks, are the ones who determine the loan borrowing rates and terms for the rest of us? It is a very simple, straightforward, and timely question that begs an answer. -more-

Ten Other Things a Mayor Could Do in the City of Berkeley

By Carol Denney
Friday July 27, 2012 - 02:16:00 PM

I salute Kriss Worthington’s “practical people’s platform” of things a Berkeley mayor could accomplish. But a real people’s platform, I’m sure Councilmember Worthington would agree, must come from people, not politicians. In that spirit, here are some additional suggestions: -more-


THE PUBLIC EYE:Renewing Democracy: Shifting the Paradigm

By Bob Burnett
Friday July 27, 2012 - 01:42:00 PM

Thomas Jefferson believed in renewing democracy by regularly shifting the dominant social paradigm. Jefferson argued that constitutions should be rewritten every generation, declaring the “dead should not govern the living.” That explains why contemporary Americans are so fractious: we’re overdue for a new paradigm. -more-

DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: Cultures Of Resistance Review

By Conn Hallinan
Friday July 27, 2012 - 02:32:00 PM

When we think of “resistance,” what mostly comes to mind is guerrilla warfare: Vietnamese closing in on the besieged French at Dien Bien Phu; Angolans ambushing Portuguese troops outside of Luanda; Salvadorans waging a war of attrition against their military oligarchy. But resistance doesn’t always involve roadside bombs or military operations. Sometimes it is sprayed on a Teheran wall, or rapped in a hip-hop song in Gaza. It can be a poem in Medellin, Colombia—arguably one of the most dangerous cities in the world—or come from a guitar shaped like an AK-47. In short, there are few boundaries or strictures when it comes to the imagination and creativity that people bring to the act of defiance.

That art can be powerful stuff is the central message that Brazilian filmmaker Iara Lee brings to her award-winning documentary “Cultures of Resistance.” Her previous films include “Synthetic Pleasures,” about the impact of technology on mass culture, and “Modulations,” on the evolution of electronic music. Her most recent film is “The Suffering Grasses,” about the civil war in Syria. -more-

WILD NEIGHBORS: Six-legged Guerillas

By Joe Eaton
Friday July 27, 2012 - 01:42:00 PM
Long-horned eucalyptus borer, an early suspect.

Those of you who don’t listen to NPR either may have missed an intriguing story about the insects that have been attacking California’s eucalyptus trees, and how they may have gotten here. -more-

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Living with Low-Level Symptoms

By Jack Bragen
Friday July 27, 2012 - 03:02:00 PM

With many medical conditions, doctors and patients seek the "magic bullet" that hypothetically cures the illness and allows the patient to live happily ever after. In some instances it is found, such as with penicillin and the various types of infections that it cures. Another example is treatment for cataracts, in which vision is restored without much likelihood of complications, and with a relatively simple and relatively painless surgery. -more-

Arts & Events

AROUND AND ABOUT THEATER: William Bivins' 'Education of a Rake' at Central Works

By Ken Bullock
Friday July 27, 2012 - 02:02:00 PM

A male Congressman's trying to get the ERA resuscitated and passed—but he has skeletons in his closet. Is he a feminist--or a scalliwag? William Bivins--who's been one of the more noticeable Bay Area playwrights of the past few years (Virago staged his 'Afterlife of the Mind' a couple years back)--wrote 'Education of a Rake,' directed by Central Works' co-founder, Jan Zvaifler, opening this Saturday after previews. Central Works continues to be one of the very most--and consistently--interesting--theatrically interesting--small companies in a Bay Area with hundreds of small theater companies. -more-

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

By Ken Bullock
Friday July 27, 2012 - 01:18:00 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. -more-