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Press Release: Congressman George Miller Endorses Tony Thurmond for Assembly

From the Tony Thurmond Campaign
Thursday January 23, 2014 - 04:00:00 PM

Richmond, CA – Congressman George Miller, one of California's most respected members of Congress and a recognized leader on education, labor and the environment, announced today his endorsement of Tony Thurmond for State Assembly, District 15. Miller represents Congressional District 11, which includes Richmond, San Pablo, Walnut Creek, Concord and Orinda.  

“Tony Thurmond’s lifelong work helping children escape tragedy and poverty, along with his proven experience as a city council and school board member, make him the best choice to represent us in the State Assembly,” said Congressman George Miller. “Tony understands that when we break the cycle of childhood poverty and trauma, we make our economy stronger and our streets safer.” 

Miller continued, “Tony Thurmond gets it – when we get it right for our kids, schools, seniors and families, we get it right for California. I will be proud to cast my vote for Tony Thurmond for State Assembly.” 

Miller’s endorsement adds to the growing momentum for Thurmond’s campaign for Assembly. He has already garnered support from the California Nurses Association, Richmond Police Officers Association, Richmond Firefighters Local 188, Contra Costa County Deputy Sheriffs Association, California State Legislative Black Caucus, former Assemblymember Sandré Swanson, the Black American Political Action Committee of Contra Costa County, Contra Costa County Supervisors John Gioia and Federal Glover, local educators, community leaders and many more. 

“I’m so grateful and humbled to have Congressman George Miller’s support,” said Tony Thurmond. “For the last 40 years, he has been an ardent advocate for youth and the author of key education, labor and health policies, improving life for families, college students and seniors.” 

Thurmond continued, “As a member of the Assembly, I will champion legislation that improves the lives of California’s youth and families with the same tirelessness as Congressman George Miller. I will fight every day to ensure that we give our children a California as good as its promise.” 

“I am running because our Assembly district needs a leader who understands that our community’s challenges are interconnected, and as a former school board member and city council member, I have over 20 years of experience doing the real work to improve our schools, create sustainable jobs, make our streets safer, and fight for economic and environmental justice.” 

Tony Thurmond is running in Assembly District 15, which includes Albany, Berkeley, El Cerrito, El Sobrante, Emeryville, Hercules, Kensington, North Oakland, Piedmont, Pinole, Richmond and San Pablo. Current Assemblymember Nancy Skinner has held this seat since 2008 and will be termed out in November. 

Thurmond is a former elected member of the Richmond City Council and School Trustee for the West Contra Costa Unified School District. He has the most elected experience of any of the candidates in the 2014 Assembly primary for the 15th District, which includes all the areas Thurmond has represented. 

Learn more about Tony Thurmond’s campaign to make children and families a priority in California at: www.TonyThurmond.com 

Flash: Berkeley Re-Districting Referendum Qualifies for Ballot

Tuesday January 21, 2014 - 09:20:00 PM

A statement from Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, posted tonight on the Berkeley Citizens Action Facebook page, announces that a referendum on the Berkeley City Council majority's redistricting plan has qualified for the ballot:

"Victory! We submitted over 7,500 signatures to stop the City Council majority's unfair gerrymandering of Berkeley! Once again the community has spoken and stood up to big power politics! Let's hope the Council listens to the people and adopts a fair and inclusive map."

The council now must choose between rescinding the redistricting scheme they've adopted and putting it on the ballot for a vote by citizens.

Embedded in The Square: Inside Egypt's Revolution

By Gar Smith
Saturday January 18, 2014 - 03:52:00 PM

The Square is a powerhouse of a film that plunges you smack into the middle of a people's rebellion – Cairo's Tahrir Square in 2011, where the Arab Spring sprang to rambunctious life. Jehane Noujaim's audacious filmmaking dives headlong into the emotions, the debates, the daring occupations of public space and the bloody repercussions that toppled the 30-year rule of the US-backed Egyptian strongman, Hosni Mubarak. The Square delivers 104 minutes of hope, heroism and heartbreak. The Square has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. 

The Square, directed by Jehane Noujaim, opens January 17 at SF's Roxie Theater. 

"We race towards the bullets because we love life and we go into prison because we love freedom." 

From a letter written by an imprisoned Egyptian freedom fighter  

Imagine it's 1776: the Sons of Liberty are planning the Boston Tea Party, and everyone's carrying a Smartphone in their leather pants. And Tom Paine and Betsy Ross show up with camcorders. Paul Revere wears a hat-cam for his midnight gallop thorough Boston. Shaky videos of George Washington crossing the Delaware are soon showing up on YouTube. Well, none of that happened but—thanks to technology and some brave filmmakers—it's a different story with the people's revolution in Egypt. 

The Square is a powerhouse of a film that plunges you smack into the middle of a people's rebellion – Cairo's Tahrir Square in 2011, where the Arab Spring sprang to rambunctious life. Jehane Noujaim's audacious filmmaking dives headlong into the emotions, the debates, the daring occupations of public space and the bloody repercussions that toppled the 30-year rule of the US-backed Egyptian strongman, Hosni Mubarak. The Square delivers 104 minutes of hope, heroism and heartbreak. 

Despite the initial jubilation following Mubarak's departure, the intervening years have not brought a "Hollywood ending" to Egypt's story. The election that brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power started out looking like a victory for popular rebellion but it was soon betrayed by a grab for power on the part of President Mohammed Morsi that reignited the fires of public anger while, at the same time, splitting the unified front that had driven Mubarak from power. 

After winning awards at the Sundance and Toronto Film Festivals, Noujaim has continued to return to Cairo to pursue recording the story of a revolution that is still a work-in-progress. 

This kind of filmmaking is not for the faint-of-heart. Noujaim and her film crew were often in the thick of the street violence and the cameras record shocking sights and sounds as clubs, stones and bullets fly. 

There is astounding beauty and bravery on display in The Square. But, be forewarned: there also are scenes of brutality that will likely haunt viewers long after the film has ended. There is the lacerated back of Ramy Essam, a popular protest singer who is dragged off by police and tortured after an early conflict. There is the upraised face of a young woman with her back jammed against a wall, weeping as she clutches the dead hand of a young man (brother? boyfriend? husband?) whose body, crushed by a tank, lies crumpled on the ground. 

The Square follows five remarkable participants. Ahmed Hassan is a young street fighter with a gift for fiery rhetoric and a seeming disregard for personal danger. Khalid Abdalla, a British-Egyptian actor who starred in The Kite Runner, abandoned the security of a career in London to join the people in the streets of Cairo. Aida El Kashef is a young filmmaker who carries her camera into combat and shares her footage in outdoor screenings. Ragia Omran is a frontline human rights lawyer whose daring makes her a target of the all-powerful Military Council. And, finally, Magdy Ashour, a father of four and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Magdy's story is especially compelling as he attempts to straddle two worlds—on one hand, he is expected to follow the dictates of the Brotherhood; on the other hand, he is driven to follow the dictates of his conscience which allies him with the young people in the street who are driven by dreams of justice rather than religious sectarianism. 

The Square is filled with a dazzling amalgam of images that look like they were shot by a crack team of Hollywood cinematographers. In one scene, Ahmed has returned from a street confrontation that turned especially ugly. He is bathed in blue light. He is nearly motionless as he repeats what he saw. He looks like a made cut from ice. And he looks like he's about to shatter. 

The Square hits US screens at a propitious time. Egyptians have just spent two days voting on a referendum for a new constitution to guarantee peace and protect the rights of men and women alike. But it is clearly understood that the referendum is a mechanism to ensure the power of the ruling triad—the military, the judiciary and the police. The referendum is also seen as a steppingstone designed to install General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as the next "elected" ruler of the nation. 


The Square is a rare and powerful must-see film experience. It's well worth a trip to San Francisco (the independent Roxie Theater is located in the Mission, just three blocks from the 16th Street BART Station). The Square will also be available on Netflix beginning Friday, January 17. 


Finest Kind –Freight & Salvage Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014

By Carol Denney
Saturday January 18, 2014 - 04:18:00 PM
Finest Kind –Freight & Salvage Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014
Alan Dean
Finest Kind –Freight & Salvage Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014

It’s like listening to pure gold.

Ian Robb, Shelley Posen, and Ann Downey of Ottawa’s Finest Kind started singing together after accidentally sitting close together at a singing circle. The sound that their three voices produced naturally was so arresting they couldn’t help but look at each other and wonder if they shouldn’t explore working together.

That was decades ago. Besides being internationally acknowledged as the finest vocal blend in music, Finest Kind has established itself as the pinnacle of musical arrangers, demonstrating their “we vote on every note” methods at workshops and festivals all over the world.

And they are so funny. Their Freight and Salvage show on Sunday, Feb. 2, will be rocking with laughter and sing-alongs – get your tickets early. 

They tell stories about the songs as only historians can, and they joke with an ease that comes of years together traveling and playing. The musicianship is breathtaking; Ian Robb on English concertina, Shelley Posen on guitar, and Ann Downey on bass and old-time banjo. But it’s the vocal blend and the painstaking arrangements that often reduce an audience to tears of joy. 

As local singer Arlene Immerman puts it, “Vocal music, particularly British isles and US traditional songs … brings me in tune with the universe. This is my version of spirituality. And being able to sing with others in a room full of harmony enhances the experience. Finest Kind presents this kind of music in a way that makes me even more rapturous than that. They take the best music and raise it to an even higher plane.” 

Vocal arrangers often fall for overkill – witness any a cappella contest’s excessive willingness to overlook true sync, true blend, for novelty. But Finest Kind puts the song first, always. Unafraid of stops, unafraid of unison, unafraid of seconds, or “jangles” as they put it, a word they coined to describe the more uncommon of harmonies. With Finest Kind, the song always come first, seeming to sing itself, and its context never leaves the room.  

Start this year singing. Start this year with the community of people who know Finest Kind as the foremost purveyors of song. Consider song, if you never have before, as the cohesion that, over centuries, has helped communities worldwide to create true connection.

"...Finest Kind's set on the Saturday night was a flawless piece of work, an extraordinary melding of history and song. Three of the finest voices in Canada singing about our past and filling the dark and still air with soaring, glorious harmonies. In a set of splendid songs, Shelley Posen's "No More Fish, No Fishermen" was, for me, the standout. I have a recording of the song but to hear it sung from that stage, to that crowd, was to understand the passion behind the piece. A very remarkable band... David Francey, at the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival 2002 

Don’t say you weren’t warned. When the Super Bowl is over on Sunday, February 2, stroll down to Addison Street’s Freight and Salvage and check to see if there were any cancellations from what is sure to be a sold-out show. The next day there will be a few hundred people in town smiling from ear to ear at the good fortune of having heard a sound that will probably never be matched in hundreds of years. Be one of them. 

—advance tickets available at : http://www.thefreight.org/ticket-information)

Jerome Carlin

Tuesday January 21, 2014 - 09:50:00 PM

Jerome Carlin, a vibrant force in art, law and social justice in the Bay Area, died on January 7 at his home in Berkeley. Born in Chicago in 1927, he attended the Francis W. Parker School from kindergarten through 12th grade. Its liberal, progressive values had a great influence on him and it was there he formed many lifetime friends. He was graduated from Harvard University where he majored in Social Relations and was the student chairman of the Henry Wallace for President Campaign. He received his Master's and then Ph. D. degrees in Sociology at the University of Chicago. He also received his LL.B from Yale Law School. He wrote two books about the legal profession, LAWYERS ON THEIR OWN, a study of individual practitioners in Chicago, and LAWYERS' ETHICS, a survey of the New York City Bar, while at Columbia University's Bureau of Applied Social Research. Both are considered seminal works in their field. He was a recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship and a grant from The Social Science Research Council.

In 1964 he moved to Berkeley to teach and do research at The Center for the Study of Law and Society. In 1966 he left the University when his proposal to provide, for the first time, major city-wide free legal services to those who could not afford them was accepted by the Johnson Administration and he was chosen to be its director. This was the San Francisco Neighborhood Legal Assistance Foundation, providing storefront law offices in five low-income neighborhoods throughout the city.

In 1970, as the money from Lyndon Johnson's poverty program was drying up, and his activities became more and more administrative, he decided to give in to his lifetime passion to paint. For the past 40 years Jerry was a full time painter with work in the collections of The Art Institute of Chicago, The Oakland Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and in many private collections. His work has been shown in San Francisco, Oakland, Chicago and New York.

But he also continued his social activism. He swiftly opposed the War in Vietnam before it was popular to do so; helped create Bay Area Lawyers for the Arts that has grown to be a very effective and more encompassing organization now called California Lawyers For The Arts. He was active in creating the Bay Area Artists for Nuclear Sanity, supported the Ploughshares Fund, the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden, worked with the Berkeley Fire Department to get a new firehouse built after the Oakland fire, and many other civic and peaceful causes.

He leaves his wife of 59 years, Joy Carlin, two sons, Nicholas, a San Francisco lawyer and cellist, Alexander, a rock musician, and daughter Nancy, an actor and director and four granddaughters, Celeste, Miranda, Sofia and Allegra.


The Editor's Back Fence

Amazing Bedfellows Endorse Berkeley Referendum
Signature Drive Ends Tuesday

Saturday January 18, 2014 - 04:38:00 PM

From the Berkeley Tenant's Union Newsletter:

"The Redistricting Referendum is now supported by BTU and The Council of Neighborhood Associations, SEIU Local 1021, East Bay COPE, former Berkeley Mayor Gus Newport, the Alameda Green Party, the Cal Dems, and former Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean."

Who would ever expected to see all these people on the same page? Must be something going on!

Tuesday is the last day to sign the petition to put it on the ballot.

Public Comment

New: Building Power

By Harry Brill
Tuesday January 21, 2014 - 09:24:00 PM

There are still many who believe that we lack the money to fund and improve our vital social and economic programs. But consider the following -- Social Security benefits can be substantially increased by raising the taxable limit of $117,000. Why should executives who earn, say $500,000, pay no more social security taxes than someone who earns substantially less. How about supporting a viable and expanding food stamp program for the growing number of poor Americans by at least in part reducing if not abolishing the tax deduction for executives who dine their clients and others in expensive restaurants. And generally speaking, how about assuring that the rich pay at least the same rate of income tax as the average worker? In fact, it is commonly known that some corporations that earn billions of dollars pay no taxes at all. What a major difference these changes would make to appreciably improve our quality of life. 

The problem is not, as the ruling circle insists, an economic problem. It is a political problem caused by the collective greed of the one percent. In short, the extraordinary economic inequality in our society reflects the extraordinary political inequality in our society. How, then, can the 99% prevail over the 1%? We certainly outnumber them. 

We are constantly waging political battles. But to stand a chance of winning the war we must always ask the question "How in the course of the many struggles we wage, are we building power?" To do so it is not enough to achieve our specific end. The particular means we adopt are crucial. Most important, are we operating democratically. Democratic participation is not only a virtue onto itself. Democratic participation also builds leadership, encourages activists to develop their skills and self-confidence, and also brings more people out in the streets.. And in the process of building a democratic movement, the vocabulary changes from "I" to "We. Our source of power is building a united front. Only then will Congress really listen to us. Lobbying and internet activism is not enough. 

Please keep in mind the very wise words of Mahatma Gandhi "You must be the change you wish to see in the world".

Setting the Record Straight on the Oakland Zoo Expansion Plan

by Laura Baker, East Bay Chapter of the California Native Plant Society
Saturday January 18, 2014 - 04:24:00 PM

In last week's Oakland Tribune (1/9/14) Joel Parrott called for unity to launch the Oakland Zoo's disastrous expansion plan in Knowland Park, a plan reminiscent of many grandiose projects that appeal to a seductive illusion. Parrott lashed out at park proponents who aren't buying that destroying park land to create an illusory experience is better than holding on to the real deal. The California Trails project would fence, grade, and destroy 56 acres of prime park land in an effort to transport visitors back in time to pre-1850 California and charge them for the experience. To sell the deal, zoo execs have resorted to using secrecy and truth twisting to make some of the more problematic aspects of the project go away. 

Their decision to sink huge resources into the project is already proving costly to the public, the park, and the zoo itself. Last year the zoo spent over $1 million trying to pass a county parcel tax (Measure A1) it claimed was crucial to maintain existing zoo operations. The measure lost—in part because opponents publicized the fact (buried in the fine print) that these tax funds could be used to build the expansion. But instead of scaling back its plans, the zoo plunged blindly on. Last month the zoo's Board announced that it was taking $1.3 million from operations to put into "capital projects”, and had taken out a $10 million bridge loan. 

The City has been complicit in depriving the public of a fully informed decision on this project by never enforcing submissions of financial information required under the zoo Management Agreement. In 2011, despite the fact that the expansion would be one of the largest capital projects in a city increasingly unable to pay for basic services, and ignoring public protests, the City Council approved the project with no capital spending plan. 

Parrott falsely claims that voters approved this project. In 2002 Oakland voters passed Measure G, providing $23 million for a $40 million Wild California project on 40 acres. No location was specified, and many voters assumed the zoo would use the abundant land available within the zoo's current footprint. Today's project would cost $60 million and fence and destroy 56 acres of the richest and most sensitive lands as well as the most frequently visited portion of the park. Parrott's claim that this project would “protect and enhance Knowland Park and its plant species” would be laughable if it weren’t tragic. Once destroyed, the rare plant communities in the project area will be gone forever. And zoo execs have insisted on keeping their options open to develop even more of Knowland Park. 

The distortions continue. Documents from a Public Records Act request revealed that to obtain the $7 million State Parks grant that Parrott claims is evidence of state and public support of this project, the zoo had to tell a real whopper: that the whole project would cost just $23 million (at the same time it was telling the City that the total cost was $72 million). The reason? The application required Parrott to certify that the grant would complete full funding to build and operate the project. It was not true then, nor is it now. 

The high costs of the project were pitched as economically beneficial to the City, including construction contracts that would produce jobs and fatten the City’s taxes. But the recently completed vet hospital shows that the zoo doesn't play fair when it comes to city law. The project cost approximately $12 million (exact figures not released), but not one contract for that project was submitted as required to the City’s Contract Compliance Unit to ensure zoo compliance with City laws requiring that 50% of the contracts go to Oakland companies and small businesses and that there were no conflicts of interest (zoo Board Members include developers). 

One of Parrott's most astonishing claims is that the zoo will be an effective steward of the park. The zoo has had decades to earn that honor, but despite the fact that it gets millions of dollars in public subsidies annually, it has spent almost nothing to care for the park beyond its footprint. Instead, it has dumped manure and trash in the highlands, and spread french broom and other weeds up into the more pristine portions. French broom removal around the vet hospital is not voluntary—it is required mitigation for that project. Community members, not the zoo, have been the true stewards of the park: the California Native Plant Society and Friends of Knowland Park have spent thousands of hours in efforts to bring the park forward out of obscurity and give it proper care by wrenching out broom, taking the public on guided tours, inviting experts in natural resources to help conduct surveys, creating a trail map and website to guide visitors to the wonders of the park. Most importantly, we have advocated tirelessly for the protection of the park while behind closed doors the zoo has relentlessly pressured regulatory agencies to grant them permits by arguing for less environmental protection. 

Perhaps to deflect attention from his own false statements, Parrott says park proponents state "mistruths" and demonstrate a “blatant disregard for facts." Ironically, he ends his comments with the most outlandish “mistruth” of all—that the project "will open Knowland Park to the more than 700,000 guests who come to the zoo every year." Parrott knows full well that this city park has been open and free to the public since 1975 when it was deeded to the people of Oakland by the state under the provision that it always remain a public park. But the zoo project would fence off scenic walking trails and other popular sites and charge admission fees to areas that were formerly free to the public. 

We believe it's imperative that the City wake up and reconsider the environmental and financial disaster that will attend the launching of this project. The very secrecy surrounding its funding is fair warning that the deal is unsound. Without public scrutiny of the finances, it's likely that, if permitted, the zoo will fence and grade the site, digging itself further into a financial hole, hoping that the opposition will go away. But the future of funding for this project through completion and the accompanying increase in operational expenses leave little room for doubt that the zoo will be back asking for more money from the public, despite the fact that the heart of the park will have been destroyed. 





A Muslim American Reflection on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

By Khalida Jamilah
Saturday January 18, 2014 - 04:05:00 PM

On January 20th, Americans will celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr, Day—a day to commemorate his achievements and to end racial segregation particularly for the African-Americans in the United States. Although I am not an African-American, King is one of my inspirations. He inspires me to be perseverant and courageous no matter how harshly people oppose you. And I am even more grateful because in one part of his classic “I Have a Dream” speech, I can make a connection to the Islamic teaching on equality for all humankind. This part, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal" is parallel to the farewell sermon of the founder of Islam. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing of God be upon him) said, “All of you are equal. All men, whatever nation or tribe they belong to, and whatever station in life they may hold, are equal…….an Arab possesses no superiority over the non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab over an Arab.” 

Looking at the similarities between the two quotes, equality is an essential value in Islamic teaching. In practice, Islam’s concept of universality and equality can be witnessed during the annual pilgrimage- Hajj. No other religious experience equals the experience of brotherhood as is felt during Hajj. Seeing all men dressed in two white cloths, regardless of social status, economic status, or the color of the skin, one is forced to believe that in God’s eye there is no white or black or brown. In His eyes all men/women are equal. They differ only in their level of righteousness and nearness to their Creator. 

As a Muslim American, I am responsible to continue Dr. King’s legacy on equality because it is the teaching of my religion. So the two most influential leaders in the world had done their job in conveying the message of equality and universality. Now, what have you done?


THE PUBLIC EYE: 2014 Democratic Agenda: Protecting the 47 Percent

By Bob Burnett
Saturday January 18, 2014 - 04:03:00 PM

Politicians occasionally tell the truth. That happened in September of 2012, when Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney lambasted the “47 percent of the people who will vote for the President no matter what [because they] are dependent upon government [and] believe they are victims.” Romney spoke for the Republican Party, which has decided to turn its back on the least fortunate Americans. The 2014 Democratic Agenda must respond to the cold-hearted Republican stance. 

During a political gathering, Romney said

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it -- that that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. ... These are people who pay no income tax. ... [M]y job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.
Romney’s statement can be parsed in three ways. The first is factual. While it was true, in 2011, that 46.4 percent of Americans paid no Federal income tax that didn’t mean they paid no taxes. According to CBS News, “nearly two-thirds of households that paid no income tax did pay payroll taxes. And most people also pay some combination of state, local, sales, gas and property taxes.” While most of the people who didn’t pay income tax were very poor, “more than half of the filing units not paying income taxes are those with incomes less than $16,812 per year,” more than 100,000 Americans with incomes above $211,000 also paid no taxes. As usual, Republicans bent the truth. 

The second view of Romney’s statement is political. He mouthed the contemporary Republican ideology: “[M]y job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives." Republicans contend that a substantial number of Americans are deadbeats, people who do not want to work. “[W]ho are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.” 

This “dump the deadbeats” attitude is at the core of the Republican resistance to extending long-term unemployment insurance. It’s the basis of the GOP contention that 10.4 million unemployed want a free ride and the supporting claim that unemployment insurance actually promotes unemployment. Recently, Senator Rand Paul argued that extended unemployment benefits, "do a disservice to workers, causing them to become part of this perpetually unemployed group." 

Once again, there’s no truth to these claims, Economists have found that employers have stopped interviewing people who have been out of work several months. “[The] long-term unemployment trap has to do with our great recession, and not-so-great recovery. With a labor market that doesn't work for people who made the mistake of losing their job at the wrong time.” 

The third aspect of Romney’s statement justified the heartless recovery: “[M]y job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” Republicans have turned their back on Romney’s 47 percent and, more generally, on groups that are not likely Republican voters. 

A recent Gallup study found that 38 percent of respondents self identify as Conservative, 34 percent as Moderate, and 23 percent as Liberal. It’s a safe bet that Romney’s 47 percent is mostly Liberal and Moderate voters. 

A 2011 Pew Study sheds more light on this. Pew found that 35 percent of registered voters were in one of three groups: “Staunch Conservatives” (11 percent), “Main Street Republicans” (14 percent), and “Libertarians” (10 percent). This corresponds to the roughly 35 percent of Republican voters that oppose everything that Obama and the Democrats propose. 

The Pew study found that Democrats were in three groups: “Solid Liberals” (16 percent), “New Coalition Democrats” (9 percent), and “Hard-Pressed Democrats” (15 percent). Pew found that moderates were in two groups: “Disaffected” (11 percent) and “Post-Moderns” (14 percent). 

Thus, Romney’s 47 percent includes Democrats plus a slice of Moderates. In essence, he said the only Americans who count are Republicans; specifically older, White, relatively well-to-do voters. (A recent Gallup poll, found that Republicans are primarily non-Hispanic Whites [89 percent]). 

To respond to cold-hearted Republican ideology, the 2014 Democratic Agenda must have a strong populist bent. It should begin with the assertion that the economy must work for all the people. This means ensuring that everyone who wants to work can find a job – a job rebuilding American’s infrastructure, if need be. This means that the proceeds from economic growth must go to everyone, not just the one percent. This means we must protect the 47 percent “have nots” as well as the “haves.” 

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

ECLECTIC RANT: Crisis in the California Courts

By Ralph E. Stone
Saturday January 18, 2014 - 04:49:00 PM

Last year, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, and San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi made statements on the importance of adequate funding for the California courts.

Why? Because the California state court system -- the largest in the world - is in crisis. In the last five years, the judicial branch has been cut $1 billion and over the same time, General Fund support of the court system has been reduced by almost 65 percent and an additional $1.7 billion has been borrowed or redirected from court construction costs.  

The California court system is made up of the Supreme Court with seven justices; six district Courts of Appeal with 105 justices siting in panels; and 58 county Superior Courts with 1,646 judges, 376 commissioners and referees. As of November 2013, there were 8 appellate court and 85 superior court vacancies. 

The financial crisis has meant that 39 court houses have been closed, another 77 courtrooms in still-open courthouses have been closed, 30 courts now have reduced hours, and 37 courts have been forced to reduce self-help and family law facilitators. In short, the court system has been forced to balance its budget on the backs of the most vulnerable members of society by closing or reducing special court programs that deal with juvenile dependency, indigent defendants, drug addiction, veterans, and victims of domestic violence.  

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye has said that it will take an additional $1 billion over the next three to five years to ensure that the courts are open and accessible to all citizens. California is expected to receive billions of dollars in extra tax revenues. But will the court system receive enough of these tax dollars to start restoring access to justice? 

An independent judiciary is one of the foundations of our democratic society. The judiciary is supposed to be a co-equal branch of government. But because the judiciary receives its funding from the state legislature, the judiciary is often at the mercy of the the annual budget. This places the judiciary in the position of being less than co-equal with the executive and legislative branches. 

Californians do not deserve rationed justice. It is time for the legislative and executive branches to infuse more money into the judiciary.

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Tragic Shooting in North Carolina

By Jack Bragen
Saturday January 18, 2014 - 04:11:00 PM

An eighteen year old man afflicted with schizophrenia was shot and killed by a policeman in North Carolina. He hadn't commited a crime, but was exhibiting symptoms of mental illness which may have included agitation and/ or, being assaultive.  

Policemen were in the process of getting the man under control when an additional policeman appeared on the scene, and, believing the young man was a threat, shot and killed him. He (the eighteen year old) had been wielding a screwdriver, and this was believed by this policeman to be a deadly weapon.  

The eighteen year old man was already being subdued and the situation was de-escalating prior to when the additional policeman appeared on the scene and abruptly shot the young man, killing him.  

This young man afflicted with schizophrenia could have been me when I was younger. The incident hits close to home, because we with mental illness are often afraid to call for help when we need it. We tend to worry that we will be treated brutally by police if the wrong officer shows up at our door. It is no wonder that many persons with mental illness are afraid of police.  

I have nothing against those officers who, on a daily basis, are risking their lives to keep our community safe. However, there are some who use excessive force against people with mental illness, and sometimes this seems brutal as well as senseless.  

Certainly, when someone with mental illness is processed by the jail system, they receive inhumane and creul treatment which is undeserved. What I am describing is the flip side of the coin that the public doesn't often hear about, but which happens with great frequency. 

When someone with mental illness shoots innocent people, which is actually quite rare, it is all over the newspapers, and people in the community will call for greater restrictions on us. However, I have witnessed numerous incidents in which mentally ill people who are harmless get treated creully by two or more officers who have hugely more physical strength compared to the ill person. I have heard about several incidents over the years in which a mentally ill person ends up deceased because of the excessive force that officers have used. Yet, when someone with mental illness is killed, few people make a big fuss over that.  

The above paragraph obviously points to a double standard.  

We would hope that in the San Francisco Bay Area, police would have top notch training in how to deal with persons with mental illness, and would handle mentally ill people skillfully and with great care. However, some of the time at least, this has not been so. Some police whom I have dealt with have been fine people who care. However, in my more than thirty year history of being mentally ill and often dealing with police, there have been other police officers I have run across who have been quite pigheaded and nasty.  

There is room for improvement. This can only take place if we put pressure on our state legislature and local government.  

People should remember that in the issue of how to deal with persons with mental illness, there is also our perspective, that of the people upon whom force is used. This perspective doesn't get into the picture very often, but it sorely ought to.  

SENIOR POWER: Memoirs, Memories

By Helen Rippier Wheeler, pen136@dslextreme.com
Thursday January 16, 2014 - 04:08:00 PM

Lately I’ve been hearing a lot about memoirs. All these references to memoirs and memoir-writing and writing about one’s own memories. If you Google memoir-writing, you’ll get ‘how to’ do your own thing as well as eager ghost-writers galore! And there are senior center and library classes on memoir-writing. 

Just what is a memoir? It appears that a memoir can be anything you want it to be. Literary, autobiographical, book-length, or not. At the moment, former Secretary of Defense Robert Michael Gates (1943- )’s new book-- Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War -- is news. Controversy sells. 

Off hand, though, I can think of few authors whose books have been both memoirs and memorable. There’s Mary Therese McCarthy (1912-1989)’s Memories of a Catholic Girlhood, which is autobiographical, as well as her How I Grew and Intellectual Memoirs: New York: 1936-1938 (Harcourt Brace, 1957, 1987 and 1992.) Her best-selling novel, The Group (1963) was a sexual depiction of classmates at Vassar and their lives following college. McCarthy graduated from Vassar when it was a single-sex undergraduate college. (She did not write the screenplay of the 1966 movie.) 

Of his Palimpsest; A Memoir, Gore Vidal (1925-2012) wrote “A memoir is how one remembers one’s own life, while an autobiography is history.” A palimpsest is writing material (like a parchment or tablet) used after earlier writing has been erased. Not quite the same, but reminds me of Lillian Hellman’s (1905-1984) “pentimento.” 

And then there are the memoirs which make it to alumni magazines and public library collections. A memoir doesn’t have to be in book form, nor intended for a specific audience, although I suspect that many old persons (those with families) intend their memoirs to be for the benefit of their offspring.  

The memoirs of twenty women and men are compiled in We Are Here Stories: From the Berkeley Public Library Memoir Writing Workshop edited by Frances Lefkowitz and published by Paper in My Shoe Press of Petaluma in 2013. It is in both the Berkeley Public Library circulating and reference collections. Mark Donnelly, a Queens, New York outreach librarian and writer contributed “Memoir writing for older adult groups” to Librarians as Community Partners; An Outreach Handbook (2010). 

Margaret Cavendish (1623-1673) wrote “… I verily believe some censuring readers will scornfully say, why hath this Lady writ her own life? Since none cares to know whose daughter she was or whose wife she is, or how she was bred, or what fortunes she had, or how she lived or what humour or disposition she was of. I answer that it is true, that ‘tis to no purpose to the readers, but it is to the authoress, because I write it for my own sake, not theirs.” [The True Relation of my Birth, Breeding, and Life. 1656] She had it right. My The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually; A Memoir isn’t in any library collections.  



Katherine Morris, MD, is a surgical oncologist, cancer researcher and assistant professor of medicine who practiced in Oregon, the first state to a pass a Death with Dignity Law, where she saw firsthand the importance of physician assisted suicide. She now practices medicine in New Mexico and is a plaintiff in Morris v. New Mexico, Compassion & Choices' suit seeking the Court's recognition that physician aid in dying for mentally competent patients with terminal illnesses is in no way an "assisted suicide" as currently prohibited in New Mexico. The case goes to trial in December. Aja Riggs is a New Mexico woman with advanced uterine cancer who is also a plaintiff. Dr. Aroop Mangalik is a practicing oncologist as well as clinical researcher in internal medicine and hematology-oncology, and a professor of medicine. 

Mangalik, Morris and Riggs are asking the court to declare that physicians who provide a prescription for medication to a mentally competent, terminally ill patient, which the patient could consume to bring about a peaceful death, would not be subject to criminal prosecution under existing New Mexico law, which makes a crime of assisting another to “commit suicide.” 

The case asserts that choice of a dying patient for a peaceful death is no kind of “suicide and the physician does not assist such a patient in “committing suicide.” Compassion & Choices and the ACLU of New Mexico represent the plaintiffs. 








THE PUBLIC EYE: Why Hasn’t Obama Reined in NSA?

By Bob Burnett
Friday January 10, 2014 - 04:34:00 PM

After the 2008 election, Barack Obama supporters had high expectations for his national-security policy. We thought he’d end US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, and open talks with Iran. We expected he would close down Guantanamo and end the National Security Agency’s (NSA) domestic surveillance program that collects Americans’ phone and e-mail data. He’s accomplished some of these objectives but he hasn’t reined in the NSA. Why not? 

Writing in the New Yorker, Ryan Lizza observed that before becoming President, Obama was inconsistent on national security policy and the NSA. “In 2003, as a Senate candidate, he called the Patriot Act ‘shoddy and dangerous.’ And at the 2004 Democratic Convention… he took aim at the ‘library records’ provision of the law.“ Nonetheless, in in 2006 Obama voted for a renewal of the Patriot Act. 

As a presidential candidate, Obama’s attitude appeared to shift. In 2007, Obama criticized Bush, "This administration acts like violating civil liberties is the way to enhance civil liberties. It is not. There are no shortcuts to protecting America." In an August 2007, campaign speech Obama criticized, “unchecked presidential power” and vowed a change in national security policy: “that means no more illegal wiretapping of American citizens, no more national-security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime… [and] no more ignoring the law when it is inconvenient.” 

Nonetheless, Obama’s presidential record has been disappointing. Lizza noted:

It is evident from the Snowden leaks that Obama inherited [from George Bush] a regime of dragnet surveillance that often operated outside the law and raised serious constitutional questions. Instead of shutting down or scaling back the programs, Obama has worked to bring them into narrow compliance with rules—set forth by a court that operates in secret—that often contradict the views on surveillance that he strongly expressed when he was a senator and a Presidential candidate.

A recent New York Times editorial noted:

■ The N.S.A. broke federal privacy laws, or exceeded its authority, thousands of times per year, according to the agency’s own internal auditor. ■ The agency broke into the communications links of major data centers around the world, allowing it to spy on hundreds of millions of user accounts and infuriating the Internet companies that own the centers. ■ The N.S.A. systematically undermined the basic encryption systems of the Internet, making it impossible to know if sensitive banking or medical data is truly private, damaging businesses that depended on this trust.

There are three explanations for the President’s weak NSA policy. 

1. Obama decided not to expend political capital changing it. Given the economic problems he inherited from George Bush, plus the difficulty of working with a divided Congress, Obama may have decided it was not worth the effort to rein in the NSA. That’s been true of national security in general. Obama had increased defense spending, expanded the national-security state, and maintained the hundreds of US military bases that dot the globe. Obama tried to shut down Guantanamo but was thwarted by Congress. 

2. Since becoming President, Obama has been in a national security bubble. Writing in the New York Times, Peter Baker reported that “the evening before he was sworn into office, Barack Obama [was informed] of a major terrorist plot to attack his inauguration.” (This turned out to be a false alarm.) In December of 2009, the President was shaken by the failed attack of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab who tried to detonate an underwear bomb as his plane landed in Detroit.  

Over the past five years, the intelligence community has alerted Obama to dozens of potential attacks. That’s affected him. This past June Obama defended NSA surveillance, saying, “We know of at least 50 threats that have been averted because of this information.” (Pro Publica reports that the NSA has provided specifics on only four of these cases and there is little support for the President’s contention that NSA surveillance actually “averted” these threats.) 

3. The National Security State is too powerful to change. The President may have decided that it was impossible to make major changes to NSA, and the gargantuan national-security state, so he opted to “bring them into narrow compliance with rules.” Obama inherited a pit bull and decided to handle it with extreme care. 

Both the New York Times and Ryan Lizza reported that James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence who oversees NSA, lied to Congress, in March, when he denied that NSA was collecting data on millions of Americans. It wasn’t the first time the national-security state deceived us. Their litany of falsehoods and screw-ups stretches from Pearl Harbor through the Vietnam War to the 9/11 attacks and the decision to invade Iraq.  

We may never know why President Obama has continued the Bush-era domestic surveillance programs. Whatever his reasoning, it’s time for him to rein in the NSA. 

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

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Contagious Delusions

By Jack Bragen
Saturday January 18, 2014 - 04:13:00 PM

Delusions can become perniciously contagious when more than one person not in treatment associate together and enable one another, especially if they are away from outside contact.  

About nineteen years ago, I attempted to take care of a man who was in a dangerous manic phase. This man was physically assaultive, was wild, and was harmful to people in the community. When medicated, which was always by force, he was a decent man who wanted to help other people.  

(Trying to take care of someone like this is pure folly, and my situation with this man didn't have a good outcome. A few years later, after I was no longer in contact with this person, I was told he had died.)  

However, when in treatment, persons with mental illness are often helpful to each other.  

"Milieu Therapy" is time spent within a group of people with mental illness--and some psychiatrists believe it is therapeutic. In all fairness, milieu therapy can sometimes be helpful. It allows mental health consumers to commiserate and to not feel as isolated.  

On the other hand, when numbers of people with mental illness are put in the same place, sometimes there are common core beliefs and attitudes that get propagated. Additionally, people's delusions can spread from person to person, creating a collective set of delusions.  

For example, an idea was circulated that was called, "spiritual warfare." This apparently consisted of an imagined battle of good versus evil, and the battle takes place on a "spiritual plane." Thus while "spiritual warfare" to my understanding doesn't usually involve anything physical, it can make people act in ways that are very unusual.  

If someone with psychotic tendencies would like to get well, it is probably a good idea to be exposed to some mainstream belief systems. If all of one's contacts with people consist of being around other mentally ill people and mental health caregivers, it prevents a person from being exposed to a "normal" version of reality. In that case, one learns how to behave like other mentally ill people, but one never learns how to exist among anyone else.  

The environment in the mental health treatment system can help, or in some instances, can keep a person stuck in a less conscious, less aware state. It seems that people with mental illness have created our own subculture.  

People with a later onset of their illness have had more of a chance to develop normally in their lives. Not all of those with a severe mental illness have always been immersed in institutional situations. In my life among other persons with mental illness, I have met numerous people who have been more successful than I, who have lived more normally. I have met others who are more impaired than I. 

The more time spent among others with mental illness, the more someone will be mentally offset from the mainstream. This can interfere with having a significant recovery.  

Doing some kind of meaningful activity within the community, such as a volunteer job, can help improve one's condition. Going to school is another option, if one doesn't feel ready to go into a job. There are also online resources that can give people remote contact with others, which is less immediate but better than nothing.  

Spending all of one's time around others with mental illness may be unhealthy. However, for a limited time, involvement in the mental health treatment system can often help.  

Arts & Events

AROUND AND ABOUT THEATER: Shadowlight's Poro Oyna,' Myth of the Aynu

By Ken Bullock
Saturday January 18, 2014 - 04:16:00 PM

The Aynu (or Ainu), indigenous people of Hokkaido, Northern Japan, and of Easternh Russia, whose culture dates back 2200 years, were only recognized as such by the Japanese Diet in 2008. Fewer than 15 native speakers of their language are alive. 

Shadowlight Productions of San Francisco, which Larry Reed founded over 40 years ago to explore the theater of shadowplay and shadow puppets, greatly expanding on that ancient medium with the introduction of projections, cinematic and modern music and sound techniques as well as masked live shadow performers, is putting on a show, this weekend only, with Aynu and Japanese performers featuring live Aynu music and singing, of 'Poro Oyna ["he Great Story"], the Myth of the Aynu,' adapted from Aynu lore of Ainu Rakkur, demi-god who rescued the Sun Goddess from a monster. 

Coming from Japan are Oki, an Aynu performer and stringed tontori player, Marewraw, a fur-woman chorus and members of Urotsutenoyako Bayangans, a Tokyo theater company that performs shadowplay. 

Shadowlight shows are a unique form of spectacle. If you've never seen one, this very rare chance to witness Reed's splendid artistry in collaboration with Aynu and Japanese performers, who together created a manifestation of a little-understood, endangered traditional culture, it's a double reason to see 'Poro Oyna' this weekend. 

'Poro Oyna' Friday at 8, Saturday at 2 & 8, Sunday at 2, Southside Theater, Fort Mason Center, Marina Boulevard, San Francisco. $15-$35. shadowlight.org