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New: Berkeley to Host Global Event on Obama’s "Pacific Pivot" – A Threat to Environment, Democracy and Culture

By Gar Smith
Thursday May 30, 2013 - 01:09:00 PM

Location: Martin Luther King Auditorium, Berkeley. Saturday 10-10PM, Sunday 10-6PM. Saturday $15; Sunday $10; both days $20. Advanced discount tickets available at moanabui.brownpapertickets.com. Full program available online at www.ifg.org.

In Washington's eyes, the Pacific Ocean is anything but pacific. For more than 100 years, the US has made a habit of sending soldiers across the sea to wage bloody wars in The Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and even inside China. In the process, the US has established temporary and permanent military bases in scores of Pacific Rim nations. Now that situation threatens to become decidedly worse.

In 2011, President Obama announced a new military adventure dubbed the "Pacific Pivot" that called for redirecting 60% of the US military's money and might toward Asia and the Pacific. The Pentagon has already made numerous enemies in the region -- for offenses ranging from servicemen beating and raping local women on Okinawa to the seizure of local Islands (like Pagan in the Marianas) so they can be turned into military bombing ranges.

Meanwhile, the people of the vast Asia-Pacific region have a view of a different future -- one without military bases and foreign domination. They even have a different name for this vast stretch of the planet. They call it Moana Nui ("Great Ocean").

For the residents of Moana Nui, it's clear that Washington's 'Pacific Pivot' represents "a threat to land, water, cultures, sovereignties and peace among Pacific nations and Indigenous Peoples."

With the future of the Pacific Basin at stake, 50 scholars and activists from 20 nations are preparing to convene in Berkeley on June 1 for a two-day "teach-in" on the impacts of US plans to further militarize the region and subject it to neoliberal economic remodeling. 

The event, dubbed Moana Nui 2013, is sponsored by San Francisco's International Forum on Globalization (IFG) in collaboration with Pua Mohala i ka Po and the Oceanic Coalition of Northern California. Obama's "Pacific Pivot" is only one of many issues that will be discussed during the two-day Asia-Pacific teach-in. 

"Global corporations are raiding the last resources of Pacific nations," the organizers warn. "From Borneo to Siberia, from Melanesia and Micronesia to the Philippines and Australia, they're grabbing land, forests, palm oil, rare earth minerals and other resources. The giant economies – the US and China – race to dominate the supply chain and trade routes, suppressing resistance and, in doing so, threatening world peace." The US hopes to further its economic influence in the region by imposing a Trans-Pacific Partnership, a "free-trade" agreement that reaches from Japan to Chile – bat manages to exclude China. 

"The peoples of the Pacific need help," the organizers explain. "It is no longer sufficient to speak merely of working to 'protect local cultures' and 'traditional economic practices.' Local peoples are being rapidly overrun by the larger hegemonic battles of the United States vs. China. As the saying goes, 'when elephants battle, the ants are crushed.'" 

IFG organizer Koohan Paik notes "one major celebrity will be the Mayor of Gangjeong village on Jeju Island, who is leading the battle against the construction of a navy base there." For the past seven years, Jeju's traditional fishing community has been nonviolently blockading attempts to destroy precious coastal reefs and beaches to build a massive, joint U.S.-South Korean Aegis missile base. Other participants include: Rosa Koian, from Papua New Guinea; Julian Aguon from Guam; Walden Bello, from the Philippines; Hideki Yoshikawa from Okinawa; Akihiko Kimijima from Japan; and local rights activist Anuradha Mittal, from the Oakland Institute. 

The Berkeley event will be a continuation of the first Moana Nui gathering which was held in November 2011, at the University of Hawaii. It was at this Honolulu meeting that IFG forged a unique partnership with 500 front-line activists from 17 countries and dozens of Pacific Island activist groups. The unprecedented convocation brought together people who live thousands of miles apart, across the sea and had rarely join forces before. For three days, they engaged in spirited public meetings, collaborative organizing, protest marches, and strategic campaign planning. The events received enormous attention and praise across the Pacific region and it was clear that other Moana Nui meetings would follow. 

Moana Nui is committed to responding to some of the greatest threats ever to face Pacific peoples. Recent shifts in US economic and military strategies are could have broad negative effects on the peoples, resources, economies and geo-politics of the Asia-Pacific region. Washington has already jangled regional nerves by deploying 2,500 US marines to a new base in Australia. And, 20 years after a nonviolent "People's Revolution" toppled the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, the new leaders of The Philippines have invited the Pentagon to return to the US Navy's abandoned base at Subic Bay. 

These policy shifts, mostly under the Obama Administration's "Pacific Pivot," threaten to erode the viability and sovereignty of indigenous peoples and small nations of the Pacific. At the same time, the Pivot, could greatly accelerate dangerous power struggles underway between the US and China, and potentially Russia. At stake are geopolitical issues involving trade, maritime and island resources, and economic and military domination of an 8,000-square-mile region. 

The "Great Game" that has been playing out across the vast chessboard that stretches from the Middle East to China, is now shifting to the nations that ring the Pacific Basin. This is not just a Democratic whim that Obama is pursuing. The vision of American power extending even deeper into the region is also embraced by the Republicans. During the Presidential campaign, both Obama and Romney endorsed the idea that the US needed to expand its "presence" in the region. The differences were only a matter of degree: Obama called for building a US fleet of 300 naval vessels to patrol the region: Romney called for 350. 

Moana Nui was created in direct response to a dire situation. There are two primary goals, the organizers explain: 1) to stimulate collaborations among Pacific Island peoples and nations, toward common purposes in behalf of their resources, cultures and sovereignty, and 2) to alert U.S. mainland policy-makers, activists and media to the changes now underway in the Pacific -- and other destabilizing changes still on the drawing boards.  

The struggle against Privatization and Pivotization will require strengthening contacts and support for the indigenous and small nation peoples to enable them to resist domination, defend their traditional cultures, protect their environments, and retain control over their lives. It's an effort well worth undertaking. 


The Moana Nui Proclamation 




In November 2011, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation group -- comprised of economic leaders from across the Asia-Pacific region -- met in Hawaii to discuss revising trade agreements to bolster the sagging global economy. At the same time, indigenous activists convened a parallel conference – one dedicated to finding solutions based on food, not finances. At the end of the conference, they issued the following statement. 

"We, the peoples of moana nui, connected by the currents of our ocean home, declare that we will not cooperate with the commodification of life and land as represented by APEC’s predatory capitalistic practices, distorted information and secret trade negotiations and agreements. 

We invoke our rights to free, prior and informed consent. We choose cooperative trans-Pacific dialogue, action, advocacy, and solidarity between and amongst the peoples of the Pacific, rooted in traditional cultural practices and wisdom. 

E mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono. A mama. Ua noa." 

We ask you to join us in shifting away from neoliberal, profit-driven relations and sign-on to this statement. 




Press Release: Berkeley Police Association to Release Results of Taser Study

From Sgt. Chris Stines
Tuesday May 28, 2013 - 11:16:00 AM

The Berkeley Police Association (BPA), representing 168 police officers, will publicly release the results of its survey to voters on the possible use of tasers on Wednesday, May 29 at the Berkeley Police Association office at 1834 University Ave in Berkeley (corner of University and Martin Luther King, Jr. Way). 

In March 2013, the BPA surveyed voters asking their opinion on potential taser use in Berkeley.  

BPA President Sergeant Chris Stines will be on hand with other BPA officers to release the data and to answer questions. “If using tasers saves just one life, in addition to preventing injuries, then it would be beneficial for Berkeley to consider using tasers,” said Stines. 

The Berkeley Police Department and the City of Alameda Police Department are the only two agencies in Alameda County that do not currently use tasers. In the nine-county Bay Area, 105 of 113 law enforcement agencies use tasers to reduce physical force and firearm use, saving lives and preventing injuries to criminal suspects, police officers and other citizens. Of the eight remaining agencies that have not yet authorized taser use, Berkeley is one of only three departments in the Bay Area that is not currently investigating using tasers in the future. 

The press conference will take place inside the BPA office; entrance to the parking lot is on Martin Luther King, Jr. Way, behind gas station on the corner of University and Martin Luther King, Jr. Way. PLEASE RSVP ATTENDANCE. For more information about the press conference, please contact Mary Jo Rossi at (925) 768-7207.



Berkeley is Burned Up About the Big Tree Brouhaha

By Becky O'Malley
Friday May 24, 2013 - 05:35:00 PM

The East Bay hills don’t need to wait for the next fire storm. There’s one raging right now over a plan to clear thousands of trees—estimates range from 22,000 to 85,00, depending on who you ask—from Berkeley’s Strawberry and Claremont Canyons and parts of the Oakland hills. Some of us who live near the affected area have been aware of this project for a long time and wondered whether it was wise, but others have just recently heard about it and they’re outraged.

It’s shaping up to be an unusual political battle for an area where good vs. evil is usually a clearly defined contest. Gay marriage? Sure. Solar power? Sure. Bicycles lanes? Sure. (Well at least if you’re under 60 and vigorously fit.)

But this struggle, in the first place, pits two groups of tree huggers against one another, and both sides seem to manifest a quasi-religious fervor reminiscent of the Great Crusades. Those on one side (the native plant fans—short for fanatics) long to purify the hills above Berkeley and restore them to their pristine pre-colonization state. The other side just likes a nice walk in the woods from time to time, and isn’t particular about the pedigree of the flora.

And if that weren’t enough, there’s a third flank populated by people who don’t care much about trees one way or the other, but are very worried about fire. And of course all three populations overlap.

What makes this an interesting conflict is that in various ways they’re all “right”. 

Though a lot of people seem to be coming late to the party, Planet readers have been aware of the proposal for a long time. We ran a piece in 2008, UC Lets Tree-Sitters Nest to Divert From Clear-Cutting, written by Robert Bruce. He reported on UC’s developing plans to seek FEMA’s support in order to remove trees above campus in Strawberry Canyon perceived as a fire hazard. 

Bruce identified himself in the piece as someone who lost his Oakland home in the 1991 fire, and he published the Phoenix Journal newspaper for fire survivors. He said he was part of a volunteer group known as the Hills Conservation Network that was trying to stop UC’s clear-cutting and get them to use what he characterized as more rational methods of fire prevention. 

In the five years since, the HCN group has devoted a web site, at least one law suit and many hours to tracking UC’s proposal and what it has grown into. You can follow their side of the story in exhaustive detail here. 

Meanwhile, on June 10, 2010, the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) filed a notice of intent to prepare a federal Environmental Impact Statement for a proposed action. This EIS was triggered by four grant applications submitted to FEMA by the East Bay Regional Park District, the University of California at Berkeley, and the city of Oakland, asking for funding for various tree clearance projects aimed, applicants said, at preventing huge fires in the hills like the big one which took out a lot of homes in the Oakland-Berkeley area in 1991. 

That notice kicked off a public scoping period that ended on October 1, 2010. The application for FEMA funding has been making his way through the EIS process since then, with modest publicity. Comments during the scoping period resulted in a draft EIS. The last iteration was a series of public hearings on this draft, which is now entitled Hazardous Fire Risk ReductionEnvironmental Impact Statement. If you want to see the big picture, click on the link and prepare for a really big read. 

Then, just a couple of weeks ago, my friend Randy Shaw, who among many other things edits Beyond Chron, a San Francisco-based alternative online newspaper, though he lives in the Berkeley hills, got wind of the project and was shocked by what he learned. He ran a story about it on May 16 in his publication, FEMA Plans Clear-Cutting of 85,000 Berkeley and Oakland Trees, which said that “there are countless destructive attacks on the environment that Bay Area activists cannot impact. But this is occurring in our own backyard, and activists must make sure that this cannot happen here.” (Randy is also the author of The Activist’s Handbook.) 

The Planet and Beyond Chron sometimes reprint each other’s stories, but we passed on this one, because I was aware of the back story and knew it was not a simple problem. What Randy didn’t mention, and perhaps didn’t know, is that most of the targeted trees are eucalyptuses, and that many well-credentialed environmentalists favor removing these and other non-native plants in order to allow the pre-European-settlement ecology to establish itself in open areas around the bay. 

That’s an important part of the story. It’s not just about competing methods of fire prevention. 

But fire prevention is important, however you decide to do it. 

I watched the big 1991 fire from my bedroom window as it moved down to the eucalyptus stand behind the Claremont Hotel until the fire department told us to flee. It was plenty scary, an experience I would not enjoy repeating. 

My neighbors Lance Knobel and Tracey Taylor, who might also have seen the Big Fire from their house if they lived here in 1991, promptly published a thorough and informative story on their Berkeleyside.com site, complete with pictures, which reported the official version of the controversy from UC and other sources, along with reporting the point of view of the HCN people. Meanwhile, the Beyond Chron story had been picked up by the widely read California Progress Report online news aggregator, and many other outlets, including television stations, copied the story. 

A lot of people were upset by what they heard about the plans, many of them Berkeley people that I know and respect. Some of their letters are in this issue. 

An added thread some of them raised is that many suspect UC Berkeley of having designs on Strawberry Canyon that have nothing to do with native plants or fires. There are many UC expansion construction projects which have been proposed for that area—including labs for LBNL and their big corporate customer BP—and it would certainly be convenient to get those pesky trees cleared out first. 

So I consulted my experts. Joe Eaton and Ron Sullivan, seasoned naturalists and fine writers who have contributed many excellent pieces to the Planet, are in Hawaii at the moment and reluctant to engage in the controversy from that distance, but they did tell me that the targeted trees are not currently hosting colonies of monarchs, which can be found in many eucalyptus groves in Northern California and are a major motivation for campaigns to protect the eucs. They move around, but as of now, they’re not in our eucs. 

Then I asked an academic ecologist I happen to know, a Berkeley-raised biologist who is a professor of environmental studies. When she was at Willard Junior High long ago, she’d been an active part of the campaign which saved Claremont Canyon from becoming a housing development and added it to the East Bay Regional Park system. She’s climbed Claremont Hill through the eucalyptus groves hundreds of times. (Okay, full disclosure, she’s also my daughter.) 

Her principal observation was that sequencing the human genome was a biology project that was a lot easier than mapping the way an ecosystem like the one in the East Bay Hills works. The FEMA EIS claims that the pre-existing native ecosystem will somehow restore itself if the non-natives are removed, but the science to guarantee that result is by no means assured. Many environmental impact studies under both federal and state law have promised restoration projects that have failed or never even happened. She wasn’t willing to hazard a guess without doing a lot more research about how well FEMA’s predictions were likely to succeed. 

The worst case is that the cure would be worse than the disease. People like Randy Shaw who admit to enjoying a nice walk in the woods, any woods, even non-native woods, are appalled by the idea that what they’ll see on their hikes in the hills if the plan goes through is stumps and mud slides for at least a generation. 

On the other hand, the native plant aesthetic appeals to many thoughtful people. For example, a piece in the Sierra Club Yodeler attacked a 2011 compromise settlement specifying a more moderate approach to habitat modification which the East Bay Regional Parks reached with HCN in their lawsuit against the project. 

Author Norman La Force said then: 

“The best approach to protecting the urban East Bay from devastating fires like that of 1991 is to restore native habitat. This is also the most cost-effective approach for long-term maintenance. 

“The Sierra Club urges the Park District to hire specialists in removing exotics and in restoring native habitat, and to create an open and public decision-making process for managing each area under the wildfire plan. The Club is committed to protecting our urban communities from another massive and deadly conflagration while restoring native habitat that is fast disappearing from our Bay Area.” 

The FEMA EIS process is one result of the HCN lawsuit, like it or don’t. Without the suit the tree removal project probably would have gone forward without an “open and public decision-making process”. HCN now threatens that if the final EIS is not up to their standards they’ll sue again. 

So now it’s down to the wire. 

The last date to submit written comments pro or con on the information contained in the draft EIS is June 17. By all means, if you have an opinion, send it along. Written comments must be submitted or postmarked by midnight on June 17, 2013 and can be sent three ways: 

As of this writing, I haven’t decided myself what I think should happen. FEMA’s EIS focuses mainly on fire prevention, but for East Bay residents who enjoy the parks, that’s too simplistic. 

What I suspect is that a much more gradual approach to replacing the eucs with natives should be employed, one which among other things closely monitors the potential devastation which sudden oak death might wreak on native oaks, California bays and other susceptible parts of the original hills ecosystem. Fears about using the Monsanto herbicide Roundup to prevent re-sprouting would be allayed if non-chemical mechanical means of dealing with unwanted sprouts could be employed. 

Of course, doing things slowly and carefully would be more expensive. In the end, decisions like this often come down to money, sadly. 

If you’re still as confused as I am, here’s just a little reading list, in no particular order. But be forewarned, I’ve read it all and I still can’t make up my mind. 















The Editor's Back Fence

No, You Haven't Missed Anything

Sunday June 02, 2013 - 02:33:00 PM

The next issue is late. A reader told me not to apologize so much for irregular publication dates, so I won't.


Odd Bodkins: Bunnies don't talk. (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Monday May 27, 2013 - 06:29:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Bounce: ... and more Thrills and Terror (Cartoon)

By Joseph Young
Monday May 27, 2013 - 06:35:00 PM


Joseph Young


Public Comment

New: Move-On Petition Opposes FEMA Tree Project

By Lesley Emmington
Saturday May 25, 2013 - 06:24:00 PM

This is not about architectural preservation but natural preservation. I have been reading the EIS for the proposed clear cutting and herbicide application in the Berkeley Hills, specifically Strawberry Canyon, and it is complete overkill--cutting 12,000 trees and applying herbicide to the trunks, including herbicides which are used to eliminate native trees, just not the trees FEMA seems to like.

Fire can be controlled in a more effective manner by selective cutting and clearing as has been done at LBNL.

I received this petition from MoveOn.org and am passing it on to others who may share my concerns. If you want all the details on what is proposed, check http://ebheis.cdmims.com.

To sign the petition, click here:


New: EBRPD-Oakland Fire Hazard EIS

By Anne Krysiak
Saturday May 25, 2013 - 06:22:00 PM

I am not a tree hugger or an activist. Three weeks before our wedding on November 9, 1991, my husband lost everything he owned in the Oakland HIlls Firestorm. I have every sympathy and interest in fire mitigation. I now live near the Lake Chabot area referenced in this proposal.

The problem I have is that this EIS proposal has been essentially hidden from public review. If it hadn't been for an activist finding out about the final public meetings at the last minute and contacting the press, none of the affected residents would've been aware the meetings. Why? 

While there are very rational reasons for vegetation management, I am highly suspicious of the "under the radar" process that EBRPD and the City of Oakland used in their attempt to get FEMA to approve the funding. 

Hopefully, FEMA will think twice about funding this program now that it's obvious that residents and park users are questioning the proposed activities

FEMA Proposal is Not the Answer

By Steve Martinot
Friday May 24, 2013 - 06:01:00 PM

EMA is proposing a plan to deter fire danger by clearcutting several forest areas in the hills, targetting eucalyptus mostly, and spraying herbicides to kill undergrowth.

Here are some facts about the plan.

The herbicides they will be using (spraying) are highly carcinogenic. That means the plan will be detrimental to people. We cannot say which ones. On FEMA's own account, they will be spraying 60 feet from water sources.

The plan will be highly beneficial to Monsanto. 

You can call eucalyptus “alien,” but it is now part of the ecology of this area. It is home to many rodent predators, who keep the rodent population in check. Cut it down, and there will be rodent infestations in Berkeley and Oakland. 

Sudden Oak Death is incureable. Cut down most of the non-oak tree population, and you run the risk of losing everything. 

The cut trees will be given to timber companies. FEMA does not have a good credibility record. They say they will chip the trees out as mulch, exchanging one fire danger for another. Either way, we lose. 

We have the example of Russian River, where they clearcut a forest and the houses got destroyed by landslides rather than fire. We have to resist companies, agencies, and people who love technological destruction (chemicals and chain saws) without attention to side-effects. 

The FEMA funds are to be spent on a one shot project, but the problem is an on-going one. It can’t be dealt with in a one-shot fashion. It will take yearly maintenance. 

How can we do this for people-benefit and not corporate-benefit? Leave the trees standing, and hire the unemployed in this area to do three things. 

1- prune lower branches of trees to remove the fire-ladder by which fire would reach the upper branches. 

2- clear away dry underbrush and grass, both under trees and in dry areas, and clear away fallen leaves, all of which provide fuel for fires. But leave the shade of trees to keep forest areas moist. 

3- Help home-owners cut back vegetation close to their houses, to keep their houses safer in case of a fire. 

By hiring the unemployed, we keep the funds used for this project in the area, to benefit our economy and not someone else’s. 

By refusing FEMA’s destructive proposal, we maintain an ecological system that benefits us. We simply have to intervene to mitigate a certain danger (fire). 

By using the money offered by the government, we can set up an agency that will give the problem the yearly attention it requires, rather than a one-shot destructive fix that will provide false security, along with a host of detrimental and unhealthy effects. 

FEMA says it is their plan or nothing. Doing nothing is NOT the alternative. A rational people-oriented plan is. What FEMA is proposing is simply plain ordinary destruction, at many levels.

Camelot Redux (Or the Democrats’ Built-In Death Wish)

By David Esler
Friday May 24, 2013 - 06:15:00 PM

Rant Warning! The following commentary has been assigned an AR Rating (for “Angry Rant”) by Daily Planet editors. It is the work of a disenchanted old geezer and former supporter of the Obama Administration. Children and idealists should be accompanied by an adult if reading this. The editors sincerely wish the author a speedy recovery and return to a semblance of harmony. The Daily Planet assumes no responsibility for disillusionment expressed in this commentary. 

Okay, Barack, it’s over. You might as well resign now, take Biden and his hair implants with you, and turn the Oval Office over to Boehner for the next three and a half years.  

Your agenda to establish background checks for gun nuts, neutralize the NRA, re-regulate the banks, tax the rich, assemble a fair and effective immigration policy, fully implement the Affordable Care Act, enact meaningful policy to address global warming, and once and for all get America out of unnecessary foreign wars is like so much ashes a’blowin’ in the wind, Dude. Have a smoke, pack up your basketballs, kiss the world’s largest private jet goodbye, and go cut brush in Illinois. Or otherwise descend into obscurity.  

Who was the harebrained imbecile (yes, that’s redundant, but I can’t think of enough adjectives to describe the level of stupidity at work here) in either the Democratic Party or West Wing who decided to sic the IRS on the Republican Tea Party faction during the reelection campaign? In this day and age of Internet porosity, when it is virtually impossible to keep anything secret, how in the Deity’s name did you think you could get away with this nonsensical tactic? Were your people also looking at leftwing quasi-political groups seeing tax exemptions? At least that would have added a semblance of fairness to the IRS’s honey-dip.*  

Why did you think you had to stoop to such Watergate-era nefariousness to ensure victory at the polls when the other side has embarked on a trip into magical realism, putting forth candidates so unabashedly extreme they defy logic and good sense? When Mitt all but assured your victory with his mean-spirited “forty-seven percent” speech, itself leaked to the world by a clever video operator?  

When the ‘Merican electorate – or at least mainstream plurality – has finally come to its senses and realized the Republican Party has been co-opted by a cabal of rightwing lunatics? (Meanwhile, minorities already knew that the Republicans have nothing for them but derision and further marginalization.) As it turned out, you didn’t really have to do anything: just run and make those signature speeches of yours imbued in hope and wholesomeness. 

And how about us working class schmucks who actually pay our taxes? Are you going to data-mine our accounts, too? What about the leftwing political organizations? You see, it works both ways. Has your staff been channeling Nixon? Did they make up an enemy’s list for you? 

Now, add this insult to your Justice Department’s little foray into harassment of the Fourth Estate, specifically the subpoenaing of the Associated Press’s phone records, ostensibly to investigate a potential terrorist plot against U.S. air transportation. Uh, this is supposed to be a Democratic administration, right? Staffed by members of the, uh, “liberal” party, right? The one that allegedly supports unbridled freedom of the press? Who did you send to do it – Nixon’s “plumbers”? As a working journalist, I find this latest move especially egregious. Terrifying, actually, because members of the press can’t do their jobs, can’t speak truth to power, without assuring anonymity to their sources. And, Mr. Harvard Law Review editor, do I have to remind you that a true democracy cannot survive without a free and unencumbered press? Oh, that’s right, we’re an oligarchy now. Silly me. 

Once more the inbred death wish of the Democratic Party has prevailed, yet again snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. And of course, the Republicans are having a field day with this. Boehner and McConnell are nearly choking on their smugness and certitude. What a gift you and your people have given them, all tied up with a big satin bow. They’re talkin’ jail terms and impugning “…once more the secrecy of this White House, blah, blah, blah…” and bandying the “I” word. I can hear it now – déjà vu all over again – “Mr. President, what did you know, and when did you know it?” (And a bubblegum cigar to anyone under the age of 50 who knows where that came from and who Howard Baker is.) 

Egads, it’s Clinton all over again, and just like Ol’ Philanderin’ Bill, whose opponents were looking for anything they could use to either eject him from office or otherwise nullify his agenda, you or your people or the damn Democratic Party have given the Republicans – who virulently hate you and would bring the country down just to destroy you – all the ammunition necessary to, at worse, impeach you, or at the least, heap so many distractions upon your administration that you will accomplish nada for the rest of your term except making lawyers rich(er).  

And oy vey, wait for the midterms now: the Tea Party nuts will go bullshit, and we will assuredly wind up with Hypocrite Party majorities in both houses, followed by twisted sister Bachmann or Ayn Rand disciples Ryan and Cantor running for POTUS in 2016. Forget Hillary – they’re gonna’ hang Benghazi around her neck like an albatross, and she’ll sink like a stone. 

Thanks, Buddy, it was a nice dream…but in reality, that’s all it was. Why did we glom onto you in the first place, anyway? Ah, yes, now I remember: you were the anti-Bush. Hell, after the nightmare of the preceding eight years, we would have embraced Satan himself if he’d thrown his horns into the ring. And boy did we lap up your propaganda; we thought we were embarked on a new era of progressivism. And what did we get? Drones and a kill list and center-right government. Oh yeah, and a “national healthcare plan” that in reality is a gift to insurance companies and which will be repealed anyway with a super majority vote next year when the Hypocrites reclaim their majority in the Senate. 

Of course, we deserve better. But as a friend of mine is fond of saying, this is the era of reduced expectations, where a college degree that renders graduates indebted for the rest of their lives no longer ensures even employment let alone a good career, where home ownership is a lost dream (and in the long run costs more than renting), and where retirement at even a meager level of comfort is a thing of the past. Another friend who, in disgust, abandoned a career in finance asserts the system is rigged in favor of the rich and powerful. So I suppose we need to suck it up, as the Rand devotees would say, and just accept the new normal. But I just wish I could expunge the bitter taste of betrayal from my mouth. 

* The IRS was apparently fishing for Tea Party PACs masquerading as 501(c)(4) tax-exempt “social welfare” organizations. Obviously, any group attempting to cheat the tax system should be identified and investigated, but it is essential to fairness and trust in the system for such sweeps to be conducted across the board without prejudice. Given the cynicism and winner-take-all nature of today’s politics, it is probably safe to assume that there are as many cheaters on the left as the right, but to single out groups of one persuasion over another smacks of using the tax code as a political weapon. 

On the other hand, a friend more familiar with the tax code than I pointed out the implicit hypocrisy of Tea Party groups, for whom any form of social welfare is anathema, declaring themselves social welfare organizations in order to avoid paying taxes. – DE 

Cops or Counselors? The Militarization of Mental Health

By Andrea Prichett
Friday May 24, 2013 - 10:30:00 PM

Recent events in Berkeley have laid bare many of the weaknesses in our approach to caring for those with mental illness. The February 2013 death of Kayla Moore in police custody is just the most recent example. There have been others such as the tragic murder of Berkeley resident Peter Cukor in his own home by a mentally ill person. There was also the recent hog-tying and hooding of homeless youth Jeremy Carter though he was never even accused of being violent and, of course, the daily pipeline of individuals who, instead of getting help managing their mental health, are being processed into prisons where they are in even more jeopardy. The current government system protects neither the person needing help or the public. It begs the question of whether it is the police who should be responding to mental health cases at all. 

Everyday in Berkeley, there are people with mental heath issues who are unable to get the help they need. In cases of emergency, mentally ill people are in serious danger because often those responding to the call are officers trained in using violence to control “suspects” and who come to the encounter prepared for a fight. Notice that Berkeley Police Association is eager to acquire tasers as another “tool” for dealing with people in mental crisis. 

Most police know nothing about how to provide care to people in psychological crisis. Its not their job. While police consider whether to purchase tasers, tanks or drones to supplement their already sizeable arsenals, funding for mental health services has been cut to the bone. The Berkeley Mental Health Mobile Crisis Unit staff has been reduced as has its hours of operation. Copwatch has been told that there are only three full-time staff to respond to emergency mental health situations 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Clearly, it would be better to have non-uniformed people responding to these emergencies. Equally obvious is the fact that three people cannot cover an entire city at all times. 

However, more funds for city staff is not the answer either. Last week copwatchers on a shift where we had heard a call that a woman on Shattuck Ave. was punched by a man. On the scene we saw a barefoot, homeless man in handcuffs speaking with a cop. It turned out that the woman had been punched lightly, but called the cops because she was concerned that he was unstable and might hurt others. Cops searched him then put him in the police car and took him to Santa Rita jail. When asked why the man was not considered to be a 5150 candidate, the cop replied that the homeless man had been assessed earlier in the day and “did not fit the criteria” that the Mobile Crisis Unit has for declaring someone in need of an assessment. Since he was thought to be on illegal drugs, the Mental Health Unit people were not able to offer services. It is shocking that the services we do manage to provide in this town do not recognize the fact that people with untreated mental and physical issues tend to self medicate with alcohol, legal and illegal substances. The Mobile Crisis Unit folks should be very glad that the man only punched someone and did not do more (preventable) harm to the woman. 

We need a new way to deal with increasing numbers of people with various kinds of mental health issues. There have been discussions about of the use of spit hoods, “control holds”, and training materials that advocate the “swarm” technique when trying to manage a resistant person. We have to re-envision and civilianize mental health care. Leaving police the task of providing mental health care to our community is a mistake. 

Change must happen. Berkeley Copwatch along with some of Kayla Moore’s family members, mental health providers and others are sponsoring a public workshop to air some of these issues and to seek proposals for alternatives to calling police when a loved one is suffering from a breakdown. All members of the public are welcome. The event is “Cops or Counselors: The Crisis in Mental Health. It will take place on May 30th at 7pm at East Bay Media Center, 1939 Addison Street, (Between MLK & Milvia), Berkeley. We encourage you to share your thoughts, stories and ideas for how to help Berkeley to regain its reputation as leader in the struggle for the rights of people with mental and physical disabilities.

An honest error, arrogant neglect, or a just a random slap in the face?

By John Herbert
Friday May 24, 2013 - 06:44:00 PM

Last weekend folks managing BUSD/Tim Mollering Memorial Field left irrigation systems running for what appears to have been 72 hours. It is still running at the time of this writing I believe. At a rate of what appears to be nearly 200 gals a minute down into the storm drains.

I observed a twenty-four hour cycle of this by virtue of the park being on my route for walking my dogs.

I observed water running Sunday 7 am, Sunday 7 pm and Monday 6 am.

In comments made by city representatives, this problem may have started as early as Friday May 17.

Calls to BPD, City 311, EBMUD, and BUSD resulted in no correction of this wasteful happenstance. 

In conversations with reps from all of these agencies, (except BUSD which apparently has no answering service unless one knows an extension)I learned that Police, City, and Utility Services have NO ACCESS to this facility, even in an emergency. 

This is a ridiculous set of circumstances. 

I honestly don't understand why EBMUD could not have simply cut the fence with cutters to access the shut off valves to turn off this shameful waste of water. 

Why are shutoff valves not situated on the street curb like residential parcels? 

This happenstance is even more shameful by virtue of the fact that EBMUD will be raising our utility rates by almost a factor of 20% in the next year or two. 

Not only will Berkeley residents pay for BUSD's wasteful "accident", we probably subsidize a preferred water rate for them... 

All the while, residents will suffer __punitive__ rate hikes for what also appears to be egregious mismanagement of resources by all agencies concerned.

Conscientious Objector Day Remarks

By Bob Meola
Friday May 24, 2013 - 06:36:00 PM

Welcome to the 7th annual Berkeley CO and War Resisters’ Day. In 2007, the Mayor and the City Council proclaimed May 15th, “…as the day on which Berkeley acknowledges, honors, and celebrates conscientious objectors and war resisters, civilian and military, past, present, and future.” May 15th is also International Conscientious Objectors’ Day. The City publicly recognized “that conscientious objectors and war resisters, past and present, civilian and military, have, due to conscience and principle, often sacrificed their time and freedom in prison or in exile or underground; and…conscientious objectors and war resisters often worked to end war and have refused for moral, ethical, political or religious reasons to participate in war; and…their resistance to militarism sets a noble example and an outstanding model for our youth and our whole community; and… their strength and their courage in following their consciences is often unsung.” 

Currently, COs around the world are imprisoned, some on a repeated basis, when they are released and repeatedly refuse to participate in military service. In the United States, U.S. Army PFC. Kimberly Rivera, a pregnant mother of four, was sentenced on April 29th, during a court-martial hearing at Fort Carson, Colorado, to 14 months in military prison and a dishonorable discharge after publicly expressing her conscientious objection to the Iraq War while in Canada. Under the terms of a pre-trial agreement, she will serve 10 months of that sentence. The Army has issued the harshest sentences to COs and war resisters who have publicly expressed their feelings about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Kimberly was also not given the information she needed to file a CO application when she declared her CO beliefs to a U.S. Army chaplain. A petition for her release can be signed here: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/752/756/678/free-a-pregnant-war-resister-from-us-military-prison/ 

Kimberly’s recent words before her court martial can be read at http://couragetoresist.org/kimberly-rivera/987-rivera-trial-next-week.html 

This year is poignant, also, due to the long anticipated June 3rd starting date of PFC. Bradley Manning’s Court Martial trial at Fort Meade, Maryland after over three years of confinement, much of it under torturous conditions, for executing heroic acts of conscience when confronted with U.S. war crimes and the knowledge that his command was complicit with them and that only he could shed light on them. 

In recent years, there has been a need, felt globally, to have the right of selective conscientious objection recognized by nations. The U.S. wars of aggression, of the last decade, have caused many U.S. soldiers to wake to the fact that even if they would defend their country militarily, they refuse to fight what they see as illegal and immoral U.S. wars.  


The most powerful weapon we have against war is the refusal of the individual to become a soldier and the refusal of the individual soldier to fight. It is his or her ability to say “No” that could stop armies and end wars. With more soldiers willing to desert and more soldiers willing to stand in solidarity with them doing so, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could not have been waged. Mass desertion by military personnel backed by solidarity strikes in the military and in civilian society could stop many illegal wars as well as spread the message that all war is a crime against humanity. 

When even drone operators resist illegitimate orders to fight illegal wars, we will end these wars. The list of U.S. and international laws violated by George Bush is long, as is the list of laws broken, so far, by Barack Obama. Much of the law is on our side. But it is misinterpreted, misused, and largely ignored. With grass roots education of soldiers, GI resistance can grow.  

More than 200 “GIs have publicly refused service and spoken out against the wars, all risking prison and some serving long sentences. An estimated 250 U.S. war resisters are currently taking refuge in Canada. Countless others leave quietly, disappearing from the ranks, unrecorded by the military.” Regardless of how which states define which terms, i.e. conscientious objection, alternative service, noncombatant service, civilian service, etc. what is needed is a worldwide grass roots movement to demand the right of the individual war resister to be respected for his/her individual definitions and limits of what their consciences will allow them to do and not do. 

Conscience is an individual’s personal moral sense of what is right and what is wrong. It was innately apparent to Bradley Manning that the murders, by his government’s military, that he witnessed on video, were wrong. It was clear to him that Iraqi’s being handed over to be tortured for having exercised their right to petition was wrong. Real existing U.S. law and international law was on his side. But it has not backed up his actions.  

Soldiers like Ethan McCord and Josh Stieber have testified that the murders revealed by Bradley Manning with the leak of the Collateral Murder video, and the Iraq War Logs, and the Afghan War Diaries were not aberrations or isolated incidents. Rather they were routine, everyday occurrences. 

In the international legal framework, “Conscientious Objection to military service is based on the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.” [from Conscientious Objection to Military Service, page 7] From that is derived the concept of conscientious objection being based on religion or belief. We must no longer let any state decide what “belief” is acceptable for an individual or a soldier to hold before they are exempt from soldiering or further soldiering. Presently, a distinction is made between a pacifist and a conscientious objector. A CO may be opposed to all war and still believe in the use of personal, physical violence in response to a physical attack on one’s person or family. It follows that we must now demand that individuals need the freedom to decide for themselves that even if they would defend their nation’s shores from attack in a military capacity, that they still have the right, in every nation, to decide for themselves, to refuse to participate in, or be complicit in any way with, illegal wars of aggression like the imperialist wars waged by the United States in Iraq and in Afghanistan and so many other countries. We must demand the right of Selective Conscientious Objection and support those struggling for that right. 

No government ought to be able to discriminate against any conscientious objector to military service based on the nature of that CO’s beliefs. Selective conscientious objection, allowing an individual to accept the legitimacy of some military action and still refuse to fight in what his/her own conscience tells him/her is an illegal and immoral war, must be respected and legitimized by all states. Opposition to Apartheid in South Africa was recognized as a legitimate reason to be granted CO status and exemption from military service in South Africa. Political opposition to wars of aggression must also be accepted reasons to grant individuals CO status.  

There needs to be CO curriculum taught in high schools, if not also from kindergarten up. There is a need to have the definition of a conscientious objector communicated clearly to soldiers upon their enlistment. And there needs to be an ongoing educational campaign directed toward military officers that it is normal for individuals to evolve and develop and change their beliefs and that they have the right to change their beliefs without fear of penalty, retribution, or retaliation for doing so. 

U.S. Iraq war resister Andre shepherd is still in Germany appealing the denial of his asylum application by the German Federal Office. Andre has been very vocal with his opposition to the illegal war policies of the United States.  

Attorney James Branum, who has represented many, many conscientious objectors and war resisters has pointed out the fact that resisters, including deserters, who have spoken publicly of their opposition to the illegal U.S. wars of aggression have received longer prison sentences than those who have been silent, many of whom have been discharged without prison time. Many U.S. COs and War Resisters are still in Canada and facing the fear of being deported if they are not granted political asylum by the Canadian government.  

There must be nondiscrimination between those who have performed military service and conscientious objectors. Benefits granted by the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, such as healthcare for veterans, housing and education loans, etc., should be granted to conscientious objectors whether or not they have served in the military or performed noncombat service or alternative civilian service if a military draft should return. 

Today, there are C0s in hiding, in open sanctuary, and in prison. Tomorrow COs must be honored and celebrated. In Berkeley, we have passed resolutions extending our sanctuary city status for COs to draft registration resisters, draft resisters, if a military draft should be reinstituted, and to military resisters who might be classified as AWOL or as deserters, even if they are not traditional COs, but are only opposed to the illegal and immoral Bush/Cheney/Obama wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, etc. In 2010, the city council passed a resolution entitled, “Universal and Unconditional Amnesty for Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan War Military Resisters and Veterans Who Acted in Opposition to the War for Matters of Conscience.” These are the possibilities for more of tomorrow’s conscientious objectors and war resisters. 



THE PUBLIC EYE: Good Grief, Barack Obama!

By Bob Burnett
Friday May 24, 2013 - 05:54:00 PM

The most famous running joke in the Peanuts comic strip repeats at the beginning of every football season. Charlie Brown asks Lucy to hold the ball for him so he can kick it. At the last moment, just before Charlie gets his foot on the pigskin, Lucy snatches it away. Despite years of torment, each new season Charlie Brown finds a reason to believe that Lucy will hold the ball down where he can kick it. But this never happens. Sound familiar? It’s the story of Barack Obama and the Republican Congress. 

President Obama keeps acting as if he has no history with Republicans – “This time will be different.” But with each new policy initiative or political appointment, Obama runs up to kick the ball and Republicans snatch it away. Good grief! 

Washington pundits contend this problem originated with Obama. “The President is too reserved,” they say. “He spends too much time in the White House and not enough time schmoozing Congress members.” Washington insiders say that all the Barack has to do is to lay on the Obama charm and Republican obstruction will melt away. The pundits blame Charlie Brown rather than Lucy. 

The truth is Republicans don’t cooperate with Obama because they want him to fail. The President should acknowledge this and paraphrase Lyndon Johnson, who famously declared, “I may not know much, but I know chicken shit from chicken salad.” 

Four and a half years have seen the same recurring pattern: Obama proposes something or nominates somebody and Republicans block it. Their action is not based upon the merits of the White House proposal, or the qualifications of the particular candidate, Republicans oppose anything the President puts forward. 

Recently, Republican Senator Pat Toomey, one of three Republicans to support gun control background checks, admitted the measure died because other Republicans didn’t want to give Obama a victory, “There were some on my side who did not want to seen helping the President do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it.” 

In February, when the Administration leaked its immigration plan, Republican Senator Marco Rubio slammed it, even though it had many common-sense provisions, because it had originated in the White House. 

But the clearest indication of Republican obstruction is their unwillingness to fill vital positions in the government or work on the budget. Writing for “The Campaign for America’s Future” Terrence Heath noted 

As President Obama settles into his second term, a number of presidentially-appointed positions that require Senate confirmation remain vacant – more than were vacant at the end of Bill Clinton’s and George W. Bush’s first terms in office. Of the 68 positions that remained vacant at the end of Obama’s first term in office, 43 had been vacant for more than a year.
A recent New York Times editorial observed 

At every opportunity since they took over the House in 2011, Republicans have made it clear that they have no interest in reaching a [budget] compromise with the White House. For two years, they held sham negotiations with Democrats that only dragged down the economy with cuts; this year, they are refusing even to sit down at the table.
At the beginning of each new football season, why does Charlie Brown believe this year things will be different? Some would say Charlie has held onto his childish innocence. He believes that eventually Lucy will turn over a new leaf and become a partner rather than an adversary. 

We see this same innocence in Barack Obama. He, too, believes people can change for the better and trusts that eventually Republicans will turn over a new leaf and become partners rather than adversaries. Many of admire Obama’s optimism. His fierce belief that “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.” 

It’s admirable that Barack Obama wants to turn the other cheek and try to work something out with Republicans. Unfortunately, they’re like Lucy, who has a character flaw that renders her incapable of cooperating with Charlie Brown. 

Congressional Republicans have a pathological willingness to nurture resentment. Whether this is due to racism or having sold out to billionaires is not important. The reality is that contemporary Republicans are not interested in what’s best for America; they are fixated on defeating Barack Obama. 

Barack Obama has to understand this. He has to start acting less like Charlie Brown and more like Lyndon Johnson. He has to insist that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid enact the “nuclear option” to speed up the confirmation process. President Obama has to make it clear to Americans that Republicans aren’t interested in what’s good for the country because their sole focus is on defeating him. 

But most of all, Barack Obama has to learn the lesson that Charlie Brown never did. Lucy isn’t going to let him kick the football. Good Grief, Barack Obama! Grow up! 

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

ECLECTIC RANT: Time for Israel to Accept the Arab Peace Initiative as s Basis for Peace Negotiations

By Ralph E. Stone
Friday May 24, 2013 - 05:48:00 PM

What happened to the recent Arab Peace Initiative (API) unanimously endorsed by the 22-member Arab League in 2002 at the Beirut Summit of the Arab League? It is time for Israel to accept the API as a basis for peace negotiations. 

The Arab League latest proposed API to Israel states in brief that if Israel ends the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, and allows the Palestinians to build their own state, the Arab world will recognize Israel's existence and establish normal relations with it. Israel would then be able to exchange ambassadors and trade with all its Arab neighbors. The century-long Arab-Israeli conflict would then be over.  

A similar API was rejected by Israel in 2002 because the Arab League had demanded Israel withdraw from all the territories it captured in 1967. This time, the Arabs sweetened the deal, stating that a peace settlement could include modifications to the 1967 borders. This means that Israel could keep many of its West Bank settlements. The Palestinians would be compensated with land from the Israeli side of the border. 

In 2007, U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon urged Israel to restart the peace process based on the API.  

In 2009, in a speech at the Brookings Saban Center on Miiddle East Peace, then Senator John Kerry, (D-Mass.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, re-awakened interest in the API when he remarked, “[t]he Arab Peace Initiative has emerged as the basis on which to build a Regional Road Map that enlists moderate Arab nations to play a more active role in peacemaking and to paint a clearer picture than ever before of the rewards peace would bring to all parties."  

Hamas has rejected the API stating, " 

"To those who speak of land swaps we say: Palestine is not a property, it is not for sale, not for a swap and cannot be traded." 

On May 23, 2013, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Jerusalem in an effort to jumpstart Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiation by reintroducing the API as a starting point for a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. 

Clearly, the ball is now in Israel's court. Yet, the Israeli government has not officially responded to the latest API. If Israel rejects the latest API, the Arab League will probably continue to ratify the API, even if Israel continues to reject it, because it helps to expose the fact that Israel has no intention of ending the occupation unless it is forced to do so. And unfortunately, the U.S. is unlikely to impose sanctions on Israel or even reduce its foreign aid to Israel in the face of Israel's intransigence.

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Oasis of Sanity

By Jack Bragen
Thursday May 23, 2013 - 07:40:00 AM

I am sitting at home after an uneventful outing of doing errands; I have a deep peacefulness as I look at the overcast light filter in through the blinds in my living room, and as I sit in my chair facing my computer. Things seem bright and cheerful, safe and sane, peaceful and comfortable. It has not always been this way. It has been literally decades that I haven't felt safe like this. And yet, the externals in my life are not so different. Sure, at times there have been crises that needed to be dealt with, but there were also uneventful times in which I should have felt at peace, and didn't. 

Schizophrenia is apparently a disease that robs a person of their consciousness. This can take the form of not being connected to one's environment, to one's emotions, and to one's body. I have long desired the day when I would again feel affect coming from my environment, which would tell me that I am connected. 

Feeling present is something most people probably couldn't conceive of not feeling. It is more valuable than money. So is freedom from living in fear. It doesn't matter if one's fears are realistic or if they are from imagined threats, fear is fear. When fear goes away, it is like leaving behind a high school full of bullying students or leaving a horrible job situation. 

When something is wrong with one's brain, it affects a person's experience of life. One's experience of surroundings, one's emotions, perceptions, sensations, and the whole of one's existence are defined by processes in the brain. If your brain isn't working, nothing is. That's one reason why schizophrenia, along with Alzheimer's and other physical diseases of the brain, is so very devastating. 

With treatment, someone with schizophrenia might recover a lot of brain function. But they will never get to the point of total normal, a state which most non-afflicted people believe they can always count on. 

People's experience of living in the US is like an oasis of sanity, fairness and comfort. In fact, peace and justice seem to exist only in the smallest fragments of human times and places. What we consider normal is an exceptionally fortunate way of living, which is rarely duplicated if you look at the human past, at other countries, and likely at our future. Schizophrenia ushers in a level of hardship which is comparable to the normal level of suffering of the human species. 

People with schizophrenia are treated unfairly in society, are targets of abuse, and are betrayed by our own brains. This level of suffering over time can create numbness. Many people with schizophrenia never reach a good level of clarity or of happiness. 

Adapting to mental illness can include either accepting or ignoring being wronged. In some instances, we might be in a position to right the wrongs that are put against us, while in other instances, we don't have that option. We must sometimes accept the injustices perpetrated by the people around us, and with the unfair fate that has given us a brain condition. 

We must obtain the little bits of happiness wherever we can, and this can include a relationship, going to a movie, or something as simple as a cup of tea.

Arts & Events

New: Don't Miss This

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Saturday May 25, 2013 - 06:28:00 PM

One might easily imagine that things in the East Bay would slow down over the Memorial Day Weekend. Not so! There's actually a plethora of exciting events and entertainment the next several days. (How do you like that "plethora?") 

For theatre lovers there's a premier performance of a new play, "Dear Elizabeth", based on letters from Elizabeth Bishop to Robert Lowell. Berkeley Rep. West Coast Premier. (510) 647-2949

Pro Arts East Bay Open Studios. Over 400 artists. June 8-9. Frank Ogawa Plaza, Oakland. A self-guided tour of local artists’ studios. 

Expressions Gallery, 2035 Ashby Ave., through July 26. Wed. - Sat. 12 - 5 p.m. Sun. 12-3 p.m. (510) 644-4930

Oakland Art Murmur Galleries, Sat. Stroll. Open every Saturday 1 - 5 p.m. 

Kate Wolf Music Festival, June 28-30 at beautiful Black Oak Ranch, Laytonville (415) 256-8400 

Fox Theatre, Oakland, "Portugal, The Man". Saturday July 13. 

Sierra Nevada World Music Festival, June 21-23. wwwsnwmt.com

Love our Lake Day. June 9th, Sunday 11 a.m. 4 p.m. Come play in the car free streets and parks surrounding Lake Merritt. Take Bart or AC Transit. Lake Merritt Boulevard. Grand Opening. (Formerly 12th Street). 

Compared to What", written and directed by Oakland playwright, Judith Offer, about the founding of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, three weekends at the First Christian Church Fellowship Hall, Fairmont Ave. 

A Memorial Service for Barbara Oliver, well known and admired co-founder of the Aurora Theatre, June 8th, 2 p.m. at Saint Mark's Episcopal Church, 2300 Bancroft Way. 


I trust that the above mentioned activities will whip up your appetite for many of the cultural events available this Memorial Day Weekend.

Berkeley Theaters Win 13 Critics' Circle Awards

By John A. McMullen II
Friday May 24, 2013 - 05:41:00 PM
Jonathan Moscone of Cal Shakes and Tony Taccone of Berkeley present awards at the Gala
Eric Chazankin
Jonathan Moscone of Cal Shakes and Tony Taccone of Berkeley present awards at the Gala

Sixty actors, directors, and designers received the Critics Circle “Outstanding” awards at the Critics Circle’s Awards Gala & Dance Party held at the California Ballroom in Oakland on May 6.  

Berkeley theatres claimed 13 of those awards, including a sweep of the Original Script category: 

Aaron Henne won for“Mesmeric Revelations,” Central Works producer; 

Ken Slattery for “Truffaldino Say No,” co-production of Shotgun Players and Playground; and 

Tony Taccone for “Ghost Light,” a biopic of Jon Moscone and the City Hall murders, Berkeley Rep producer.th time the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle has bestowed awards at their Gala. 

Awards are apportioned according to size of house: over 300 seats such as ACT, Berkeley Rep or Cal Shakes; 100-300 seats like, Shotgun Players or SF Playhouse; or under 100 seats such as Impact Theatre, Custom Made Theatre, or Masquers Playhouse. 

It was the first time a dance party was included which made for a more convivial “party” evening. The awards took breaks for schmoozing and dancing to the Tal Ariel band (Ariel won outstanding music director last year for “Seussical” at Berkeley Playhouse.) 

Other Berkeley winners of the Critics Circle “Outstanding” award for the theatre year 2012 were: 

For theatres with seating for under 100, Gregory Sharpen won for outstanding sound design for “Mesmeric Revelations” at Central Works, and Laura Jean Bailey for Featured Female in a Straight Play for “Crevice, a co-production of Impact Theatre and Playground. 

For theatres with seating between 100 to 300, Shotgun Players won two more prizes for “Truffaldino Says No”: Maggie Whitaker for Costume Design and M. Graham Smith for Director. 

Howard Swain won the outstanding award for Principal Male in a Straight Play for the Aurora Theatre’s production of “Body Awareness”. 

Berkeley Rep productions won five more “Outstanding” awards for theatres with over 300 seats: 

“A Doctor in Spite of Himself” garnered honors for Kristin Fiebig for Costume Design and Steven Epp for Principal Male in a Straight Play; 

“Ghost Light” won for Featured Female and Male performances in a Straight play, Robynn Rodriguez and Danforth Comins taking home the honors; and 

Joaquina Kalukango won for Principal Female in a Musical for “Emotional Creature.” 

(For a complete list of winners and nominees, visit www.CriticsCircle.org where you can also view Eric Chazankin’s photos of the Gala and the winners.) 

Each Critics Circle member attends over 40 plays per year and nominates worthy candidates in San Francisco, the East Bay (Alameda and Contra Costa counties), the North Bay (Marin and Solano counties) and the South Bay (San Mateo and Santa Clara counties).  

There were three special honorees this year: Actor James Carpenter received the Jerry Friedman lifetime achievement award, Exit Theatre received the Paine Knickerbocker award for continuing contributing by an organization, and Kim Taylor PR received the Gene Price award for superlative professionalism. 

Presenters of Awards from the East Bay included Artistic Directors Melissa Hillman of Impact Theatre, Patrick Dooley of Shotgun Players, Jonathan Moscone of Cal Shakes, and Tony Taccone of Berkeley Rep, along with director Kimberly Dooley and Dale Albright of Theatre Bay Area. 

Actors Equity received a special proclamation on their 100th anniversary of protecting the right of actors and stage managers.  

Mayor Jean Quan of Oakland came to address the 300+ attendees and welcome them to Oakland. 

Co-sponsors were Theatre Bay Area and Actors Equity Association. Pat Paulsen Vineyards and Trumer Pils provided the libations. 

You can take an online tour of the California Ballroom where the Gala was held at www.CaliforniaBallroom.com .