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Berkeley Police Hunt Suspect for Brandishing Gun

Drew Himmelstein (BCN)
Friday August 22, 2014 - 02:06:00 PM

Berkeley police are looking for a suspect who brandished a gun at an apartment complex property manager on Thursday night. 

At 11:20 p.m., the property manager confronted three people in the complex's garage at 2310 Piedmont Avenue regarding their illegally parked vehicle, police said. 

In the dispute that followed, one of people brandished a revolver, police said. 

The suspect and his two acquaintances then drove off, heading south on Piedmont Avenue, police said. The victim was not injured. 

Officers from the Berkeley Police Department and the UC Berkeley Police Department searched the area but couldn't find the suspect or his vehicle, police said. 

The suspect is described as an Asian male, around the age of 26, about 5 feet 5 inches tall with a muscular build, short hair and a mustache. He was wearing a red short-sleeved shirt and blue jeans, police said.  

He was driving a back, two-door Mercedes C-Class accompanied by a man and a woman, police said. 

Police urge anyone with information about the crime to call  

Berkeley police at (510) 981-5900.

Look Who's Expendable

Gar Smith
Friday August 22, 2014 - 02:14:00 PM

Recently, I found myself looking at the new ad for The Expendables 3 in the Chronicle movie section when I notice something odd: There are 17 names listed in the ad but only 16 faces appear in the group photo. 

So who was "expendable"? 

I figured it would be Kelsey Grammer (I never pictured Dr. Frasier Crane as much of an Action Figure). But no, it looks like it's Jet Li who's Missing In Action. 

Why the Jet lag? Couldn't Lionsgate at least have Photoshoped him into their poster? 

My curiosity piqued, I decided to go online. Peering at the Internet through my high-def Googles, I soon discovered there were other "expendables" as well. 

Mila Jovovich and Jackie Chan were—at one point—supposed to be in the cast. (Chan's schedule was booked solid: but word is, you can look for him in The Expendables 4.) 

Stranger yet, there are inconsistent Expendables 3 movie posters available online (presumable printed early in the production schedule before the final line-up was firmed up). These "posters from an alternate-universe" include the names and faces of the following MIA actors: Jackie Chan, Bruce Willis, Nicholas Cage and Steven Seagal (featuring an archival image of Seagal when he was 40 pounds lighter). 

There's an Expendables 3 poster hyping the production as "A John Woo Film" (Simon West is actually the director of this sequel). This version of the Expendables adds the faces of Liam Neeson and Clint Eastwood to the cast. Kurt Russell is featured in one of a series of stand-alone portraits of Expendable 3 cast-members. (Everyone else in this portrait-series is in the movie. Kurt, for some reason, is the only outlier. Perhaps his unconscious body is sprawled out on some cutting-room floor.) 

Most spectacular of the bunch, however, is an elaborate movie poster from the distributor, Lionsgate, that features a cast of—prepare yourself—34 snarling, muscle-bound stars! (Again, I surmise that this poster may have been part of an early financing campaign designed to attract the widest possible interest in a new installment of the Expendables franchise.) However this ad came to be, it did not stint in adding lots of A-list macho-meat to the superhero stew—adding the names and faces of Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Liam Hemsworth, Daniel Craig, Kate Beckinsale, Hugh Jackman, Paul Bettany, Jesse Ventura, Vin Diesel, Ron Perlman, Danny Trejo, Keanu Reeves and one of the Baldwin brothers. (I even believe I spotted an unlisted Duane Johnson—third row from the top, fourth from the left). 

Anyone feeling bereft because Kate Beckinsale does not actually turn up in the final release print of Expendables 3 can take heart in the following report, courtesy of IndieWire.com: 

Expendables 2 director Simon West got the ball rolling in 2012 when he expressed interest in an all-female spin-off of the The Expendables franchise, telling E! Online: 

"I like the idea of the Expenda-Belles where it's seven or eight women mercenaries. It would be Angelina Jolie, Cameron Diaz, Milla Jovovich, the list goes on. Helen Mirren, Jamie Lee Curtis would be great... It would be running parallel. They would meet up and then they would fight and they would join up and save each other." 

Our man Terry Crews, who plays Hale Caesar in the Expendables movies, was vocal with his support of the idea, adding: "I would love to see Charlize Theron. She would be a sweet badass just doing some crazy stuff!" 

(Speaking of doing crazy stuff, when I first saw that movie ad, I had no idea I'd be expending so much time trying to answer this ridiculous question.) 



Why Ferguson Blew Up--and What Can We Learn About Gaza?

By Becky O'Malley
Friday August 22, 2014 - 11:16:00 AM

When I was a child I lived in Saint Louis. Believe it or not, in those days most people didn’t have air conditioning, and it was hot, damned hot, hot as the hinges of Hades the old folks used to say.

And humid. Oppressively humid. No one did much in August if they could help it, just sat out on the porch with electric fans whirring in the background.

I suppose that’s changed now. I expect many more people have air conditioning, at least in one room of their home. But I bet it’s still hot and humid at night on the streets.

One thing that doesn’t seem to have changed much, or at least hasn’t changed enough, is how African-Americans are treated there. Well, that’s a bit unfair, because when I was a child St. Louis was still in the grip of full de facto segregation. No, there were no “White” and “Colored” signs on rest rooms and water fountains, but Black people (“Negroes” if you wanted to be polite) knew very well where they weren’t welcome. 

That would include almost all of the suburbs. St. Louis is oddly organized, with the city of St. Louis proper not part of St. Louis County. In those days African Americans lived downtown and in the city neighborhood of North St. Louis. 

Even the European-Americans knew which neighborhood they belonged in. Some small number of White people, my family among them, had lived in the West End of the center of town for generations. Italians lived on The Hill, and South St. Louis in the city was home to descendants of fairly recent immigrants from northern and eastern Europe. My mother, born in 1914, referred to them disparagingly as “scrubby Dutch”, a corruption of Deutsch (German) and a reference to the immigrants’ habit of scrubbing their front steps on weekends (this despite the fact that her own grandfather was German.) 

Only eccentrics, my family thought in those days, lived in The County. One uncle moved his family to the then small town of Kirkwood and we never heard the end of it. 

In general, the county suburbs of St. Louis were closed to African-Americans. There was one exception, a place whose name I heard occasionally: Kinloch. It was somewhere north of North St. Louis, though I didn’t know exactly where. 

When Michael Brown died, I remembered Ferguson as being just another small town out in the country somewhere, and I wondered if it was near Kinloch. Some online research told the story. (Al Jazeera ran three excellent pieces, and Wikipedia wasn’t bad either.) 

Kinloch, originally South Kinloch Park, was an African American town, the oldest such in Missouri, founded around the turn of the 20th century. By mid-century it was home to more than 6000 residents, almost all Black, living in about three-quarters of a square mile. It had its own school system, a Catholic parish and parochial school, and African-Americans ran both the city and the school board. California Congresswoman Maxine Waters is one of several prominent people raised in Kinloch. 

White residents on the north side of South Kinloch Park seceded to form their own town (coincidentally called Berkeley) in 1937. On another border was the almost all-White town of Ferguson, kept that way by racial-exclusion covenants in home sale agreements. 

A pioneer air field in the area became the major St. Louis airport, Lambert Field. In the 1980s the city of St. Louis began an aggressive drive to acquire Kinloch property to expand airport runways—eminent domain was threatened, so most residents sold. They moved out, and their homes were leveled, but in the end the airport expansion never materialized. 

Kinloch’s population dropped to less than 300 in the last census. 

Former Kinloch citizens moved into crowded cheaply-built apartment complexes in one corner of Ferguson, a small town with only 21,000 residents. African-Americans were not exactly welcomed. White flight ensued, but White control persisted. 

And on August 9 a member of Ferguson’s still overwhelmingly White police force—someone who lives on the far south side of the city of St. Louis where there’s a White majority—pumped six bullets into a big Black kid who might or might not have lifted a pack of cigarettes, and the town’s African-American residents boiled over. 

The heat and humidity of a St. Louis summer probably didn’t help. 

A few background numbers: unemployment for young Black men in the area is 35%. Two-thirds of the population is Black. You can’t have missed hearing that only 3 cops of about 300 in Ferguson are Black. 

And residential St. Louis, city and county, is still segregated, perhaps even more than it was when I was a child. A Brown University study quoted by Jeannette Cooperman on Al Jazeera says that 95% of the population north of Delmar is now African-American. When I was little I lived about 10 blocks north of Delmar, but times have changed—and not for the better. 

Then there’s the general situation faced by African-American men in particular: that they seem to arouse suspicion in the average policeman no matter where they are, who they are or what they’re doing. 

An African-American reader, Joseph Anderson, who formerly lived in my St. Louis neighborhood writes: 

“I was once stopped, detained –as a "suspicious person"—and hassled on a university campus in St. Louis by the campus cop –and I was wearing a suit, with my having a stated appointment, time, specific building address, office number to meet a university dean, including his name! It's a stereotype (even promoted/permitted by the upper-middle-class African American TV/radio punditocracy) that only plus-or-minus 20-something Black males in a hoodie or a side-turned baseball cap, baggy clothes &/or a oversized white t-shirt, with gold teeth &/or neck chains, living in the 'hood, and speaking 'hood English, get stopped by the cops.” 

But getting stopped by the police happens to all kinds of African American men (and some women) all the time. 

Often, too often, suspicion translates into shooting, as it did in Ferguson this month. 

He provided this link to a remarkable set of pictures from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch illustrating exactly how angry Black people in Ferguson have been in the past couple of weeks. 

Really, there’s no reason to discuss any further why they’ve been angry, is there? 

He also supplied these quotes from the past which still have meaning in the present: 

"Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you're a man [or woman], you take it." 

"I am for violence if non-violence means we continue postponing a solution to the American black man's problem just to avoid violence." 

"I just don't believe that when people are being unjustly oppressed that they should let someone else set rules for them by which they can come out from under that oppression." 

Malcolm X, who said these things, came up with some different ideas for how to address such problems later in his life, but the underlying analysis remains relevant today. 

Reading these quotes reminded me of a couple of discussions of the situation in Gaza between comedian Josh Kornbluth and Rabbi Menachem Creditor which I’ve attended in the last couple of weeks. If you’re concerned about what’s happening in Israel/Palestine, you can view Part 1 of their dialogue (and probably eventually Part 2) on YouTube. 

There was approving mention at the second meeting of a Berkeley African American pastor who has gone to Ferguson to try to calm things down non-violently, in apparent contrast to what’s been going on in Gaza. 

I’d be interested in hearing how readers react to this presentation, and how they think Ferguson and Gaza might or might not be comparable. Both are home to people who have been moved, not fully of their own volition, from their hereditary place of residence, and both have erupted. Here's Part 1: 









The Editor's Back Fence

New: The Double Identity of an "Anti-Semitic" Commenter--
Smearing a Progressive Website to Support Israel

Wednesday August 27, 2014 - 10:23:00 AM

Several readers have forwarded a link to a remarkable story on the Common Dreams web site:

The Double Identity of an "Anti-Semitic" Commenter: Smearing a Progressive Website to Support Israel

As the title indicates, an investigative reporter has discovered that "more than a thousand ... damaging comments over the past two years were written with a deceptive purpose by a Jewish Harvard graduate in his thirties who was irritated by the website's discussion of issues involving Israel.

"His intricate campaign, which he has admitted to Common Dreams, included posting comments by a screen name, "JewishProgressive," whose purpose was to draw attention to and denounce the anti-Semitic comments that he had written under many other screen names."

Readers with long memories may recall Richard Brenneman's 2009 story, The Campaign Against the Daily Planet, and notice some similarities to what happened to Common Dreams. One wonders.

Through Another Lens

Friday August 22, 2014 - 02:20:00 PM

One of our correspondents, Steve Martinot, recounts in this week's Public Comment section his own observations of a protest against the role of the government of Israel in Gaza. It can be read here.

Another publication, Jweekly (formerly known a J-The Jewish Weekly) has published an account of the same event from a different perspective. It can be found by clicking here. There's also an op-ed in the same issue of that publication on the topic which can be seen here.

Public Comment

New: Did You Ever Look at a Map?

Daliya Robson
Sunday August 24, 2014 - 11:30:00 PM

The small state of Israel is surrounded by billions of enemies of which most would like to see the destruction of the state . It is interesting that the idealistic left and the Nazi right and the world's terrorists are on the same side now. Israel intends to live. If they are attacked they will fight back .I suggest the writers of the articles against israel go and visit and take a walk they can do in one day across the county to the borders of their enemies. I don't get it . Does the whole world need a scapegoat for all the ills of all societies? Whats the matter with you people? Go visit and see how small that place is and look at the map. Lebanon, Syria ,Jordan, Egypt, Iran. Iraq ,Libya , Tunisia , Morocco, most of Africa now are howling for Jewish blood. People from Moslem and Christian Russian republics, France, Belgium, Uk, USA, Germany , Holland and more all clambering to get on the hate wagon. It's fashionable to be a Jew hater and anti Israel . 

There are not enough Jews on the planet for all these people to kill. What will they do when they run out of Jews for gods sake? Who will they target next ? The Hottentots? Not much mention of all the killing being done by all the other civilized countries of the world . Israel is targeting its enemies and most others are killing their own brothers .The talk about what Israelis should or should not do to survive by all our experts amazes me .Go visit and take a walk across the country . Takes 15 minutes by plane and less with a missile then give an opinion.

New: Gaza

Neil Doherty
Sunday August 24, 2014 - 03:02:00 PM

The occupation and blockade of Gaza (which forces Palestinians to live in conditions where malnutrition among children is rampant) are crimes. Collective punishment and house demolitions (like the one that resulted in Rachel Corrie’s murder) are a crime, as are the mass killings of civilians. And despite the huge media censorship campaign and the very successful use of the word anti-Semitic to silence critics or even discussion of Israel, the world is increasingly aware of Israel’s war crimes. 

Israel's most recent attacks have killed, 2,114 (1,628 civilians) and 10,529 wounded. Hamas has killed 64 soldiers and 4 civilians killed, 450 soldiers and 80 civilians wounded. So who's targeting civilians in this conflict? You have the right to make up your own opinion but you don't have the right to make up your facts. 

In 2009 Israel’s 22-day invasion of Gaza, Israeli military killed 1,330 Palestinians, of whom 437 were children (the wounded included 1,890 children). In comparison, 13 Israelis were killed (of which at least four were soldiers killed by friendly fire). I am neither Jewish nor Palestinian, but I think these numbers speak for themselves. 

To be clear one side has aircraft carriers lobbing missiles at a caged-in population over half of which are women and children. F 15s, apache helicopters, drones , M109 howitzers, the best stuff American tax dollars can buy, the other homemade rockets and some rifles. 

I ask, if you illegally occupy a people, lock them in, prevent them from leaving (oppress them,steal their land, their water, bulldoze their homes, detain and torture their youth etc.) can you claim self defense? President Obama recently said no people would stand by while rockets were fired at their country. But what people would stand by while their children go hungry and their land is stolen (more settlements every day).Youth detained tortured, shot, bulldozed homes, on and on. As Americans should we not support Palestine's right to self defense? 

As an Irish American I know about the crime of occupation and how the occupiers lie and blame the victims while they kill torture, incarcerate, and humiliate a people so they can rob them and laugh all the way to the bank. 

Shame on Israel; and anyone that thinks supporting them is in America’s interest is ill-informed.(U.S. aid is now incredibly over 8$ billion a year). Violence will perpetuate more violence. People must be allowed to be free. Free Gaza now, lift the blockade!

New: Pro Palestinians attempt to stop Israeli ship at Port of Oakland

Gail Taback
Saturday August 23, 2014 - 11:22:00 AM

Of all the human tragedies that could be avoided, the one in Gaza has a solution that would greatly benefit the people and stop the death and destruction that has been going on there. First, Hamas must stop sending missiles into Israel. Israel would stop retaliating and there would be no one dying and no buildings destroyed. Secondly, Hamas decides to recognize Israel and pledge no aggression toward it. Israel stops its bombs on Hamas, opens up the borders for trading, sends concrete and supplies for rebuilding Gaza. With peace between the two people, help from European nations and the U.S. would flow in. Gaza would not only rebuild but develop its economy. The Gazans live in peace and eventually prosperity. They continue to self govern and ultimately become a part of a Palestinian State along with the people of the West Bank. Instead, we have the Hamas ideology and actions that have ignited death and destruction. Gazans need to decide whether they love their children more than they hate Israel.

Israeli Ship Blocked in Oakland

Steve Martinot
Friday August 22, 2014 - 02:53:00 PM

In solidarity with the people of Gaza, and the horrendous attacks upon it by Israel that have killed hundreds, people of the Bay Area came together and blocked an Israeli ship from docking and unloading its cargo in Oakland. Blocking the ship was an enormous effort by the community and the union together. 

The ship, the Zim Piraeus, had arrived on August 16, but had not yet docked. At 3 o’clock that afternoon, some 3000 people marched on the port of Oakland, and blocked any workers or trucks from entering the berth to unload the ship. 

About 1000 of us that met at the West Oakland BART station, and marched from there. By the time we got to the post entrances, there were at least 3000 of us. We had a rally at the berth entrance, with many speakers. Gaza, Ferguson, Haiti, and Oakland were four of the world’s many dots of resistance that were connected that day. The call of the rally was to end the occupation of Palestine. 

The ship was told to stay at sea because it could not be moored at the dock under those conditions. It only docked later that night or early Sunday morning. 

Then, for two days, picket lines were set up at the berth entrance, and the longshore workers from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), local 10, honored the picket lines and refused to cross them. 

Refusing to unload a ship in solidarity with struggles of the oppressed is somethng the union has done before, always in conjunction and coordination with the bay area community. During the international struggle to end Apartheid, the community took the struggle to the docks, and the union joined by refusing to unload South African ships. This union has also shut down the ports calling for justice for Mumia Abu Jamal. 

Monday morning, at 5:30 am, a small number of people, maybe 20 or 30, showed up and picketed the berth entrance. The police arrived, pushed the pickets around, arrested two, but were unable to clear the entrance. No one was hurt. The longshore workers did not cross. 

Monday afternoon, when the next shift was to come on, about a hundred of us showed up. At first there were only 30, and we started picketing in front of the berth entrance. There were about an equal number of police. It took them a half and hour to figure out how to deal with a legal picket, with TV coverage there. And about another half an hour to finally push us off to the sides, clearing the driveway. But with the chanting, the flags, the signs, the music from people who had brought their trumpets and horns, we turned away truckers and workers, even though we were not standing in the driveway. “Free free Palestine, don’t cross the picket line.” By 7 pm, no workers had gone in to unload the ship. 

If a picket line is legal, walking in public space, and expressing a community desire to stop an unconscionable institution from persisting in its business, then any police action to interfere with said picket line would be illegal, as a police action. Such police action would violate each officer’s oath to enforce the law, not to break it. 

The next morning, the same thing happened, but with no arrests. The union honored the picket line. The ship was three days past its schedule, and no one had touched it. 

And that is when the funny business started. 

Tuesday afternoon, August 19, the ship was expected to sail. Its next port of call was in Russia, and it was due there on August 31. It takes about 13 days to cross the Pacific at these latitiudes. 

And indeed, the ship left its berth at around 2 pm, and headed out into the ocean. Those monitoring its movement then called off the picket line at the original berth. On the public webpage of the port, on which each ship’s movement and status is listed, the destination of the Zim Piraeus was posted as Los Angeles. Okay, so it goes down there to get around us. But it got 10 miles out into the Pacific and turned around, steamed back into the bay, and moored at a different berth, in a different part of the port. Its short voyage out to sea and back again took about 4 hours. 

Some picketers were scrounged together in a hurry, and seemed to be at the port in time to be a presence for the evening shift. But they then found out that some longshoremen were working the ship. The port administration had pulled a fast one. They assigned two crews to a different ship that was not being picketed, but was berthed nearby. After the Zim had redocked, they reassigned one of those crews to it. 

In other words, there was double collusion between the port administration (part of the city of Oakland) and the Zim shipping line. The port administration lied intentionally in listing the next destination of the ship as Los Angeles. And this had to be a planned lie since there was no attempt to take the port pilot off the Zim before it turned around. The port administration was in outright premeditated collusion with the ship in undermining the efforts of the Oakland community and the union by assigning and then reassigning that crew. 

It is highly probable that an FOIA application for the communications between the port administration and the shipping line would reveal some very interesting material. 

The ship was docked for 12 hours, while being worked. Some have said that all the freight destined for Oakland was unloaded. Others have said that only perishable goods were taken off. It will be up to those who know or were there to say. The ship then moved out into the bay, and anchored there. This was the morning of the fifth day (Wednesday, August 20). 

The Palestine solidarity movement in Seattle has said that it will give an Israeli ship due there in two weeks the same treatment. 

By 7 pm. on Wednesday, the ship had sailed, and was passing the Farallones. It was gone. 


It is possible that a number of laws were broken by the city of Oakland, in the person of its police officers and the Port Administration. The police prevented a legal picket line from picketing. The port administration lied to the public. And it lied to the union in its original assignment of two crews to one ship, knowing one of those crews would be shifted to the Zim. In doing so, it acted with duplicity with respect to the union and the community of Oakland, and colluded with one party to a labor dispute against the other party, violating the city’s responsibility to remain neutral in such disputes, and only insure that laws were not broken in the unfolding of that dispute. If laws were broken, then this needs to be brought to public attention, and dealt with.

War Is Peace Bulletin (Department of Oh Sure)

Dave Blake
Friday August 22, 2014 - 01:38:00 PM

From the No on Measure R (.org) campaign. (The only name attached to the site is Eric Panzer, but it's publicized by mass email from John Caner, president of the Downtown Berkeley Association, a public-private entity financed by taxes on Berkeley downtown property owners and controlled by them in proportion to their monetary contribution.):

“The backers of the new Measure R refer to it by their campaign slogan, ‘Berkeley's Green Downtown & Public Commons Initiative.’ Since this anti-growth initiative will actually undermine Berkeley's green policies in protecting the environment and reducing greenhouse gases, the initiative's slogan represents a well-known type of political subterfuge called ‘greenwashing,’ which is disinformation designed to project an environmentally friendly public image.”

Greenwashing is, per its Wikipedia page, “a form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organization's products, aims or policies are environmentally friendly.” The Downtown Plan was passed by the Council with a Green Pathway component that provided developers with a rapid approval process in exchange for agreeing to follow green building standards and increase the amount of affordable housing they provide. No downtown development has chosen to take the Green Pathway in the history of the Plan, which means that the Green Pathway element has proven to be textbook greenwashing, as opponents claimed when it was enacted. Measure R softens the requirements of the Green Pathway, but makes them mandatory.

War on Reporters & Whistleblowers

Tejinder Uberoi
Friday August 22, 2014 - 01:26:00 PM

In a new report, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union issue dire warnings of "large-scale surveillance seriously hampering U.S.-based journalists and lawyers in their work." They describe an unhealthy media climate where journalists are forced take time consuming steps to protect their sources. Sources are now in mortal fear of talking, as aggressive prosecutions scare government officials into remaining silent, even about issues that are unclassified. 

For lawyers, the threat of surveillance is stoking fears that will be unable to protect a client’s right to privacy. Alex Sinha, and Jeremy Scahill have authored a report entitled, "With Liberty to Monitor All: How Large-Scale U.S. Surveillance Is Harming Journalism, Law, and American Democracy”. Brian Ross, chief investigative correspondent for ABC News, stated “that we sometimes feel like you’re operating like somebody in the Mafia. You’ve got to go around with a bag full of quarters and, if you can find a pay phone, use it, or use, throwaway burner phones. Journalists are made to feel like criminals”. A number of other reporters including, Jonathan Landay, national security reporter for McClatchy Newspapers, echoed Brian Ross sentiments. 

In a determined effort to protect his source under threat of jail time, James Risen of the NYT has displayed enormous courage under fire and should be awarded the highest honor. Shame on Obama and Eric Holder for vilifying and bullying such an American hero. It is also time to demand that the Obama administration cease and desist its war on Whistleblowers.

Why I'm Running for Berkeley School Director

Norma J F Harrison
Friday August 22, 2014 - 02:52:00 PM

I have studied ‘education’ for 70 years. I’ve seen over and over the futility of the constant, always unsuccessful reform efforts. The reforms do not, cannot! begin to rectify the inadequacy that school is. The problem is school itself. The artificiality of school lessons and classes is felt as insults by all concerned: students, teachers, and their families and communities. Substituting age-segregated routinization – lesson plans presupposing students' interests, abilities, lives they’re living that make the lesson relevant, so informational for them - in externally imposed classroom situations – classrooms created as a place for teachers and staff to earn a living, and for children to be warehoused as labor waiting until some artificially determined time to become a full participant in society - has to come under discussion. Continually expecting that the major tool of our oppression, school, be made useful has got to be the discussion; that and what the choices are. The choice obviously is us all doing our lives together instead of pretending that school equals work. Don’t make people pretend to do the hammering and sawing of living. Let us DO it. 

We’re all teachers – and students! – all our lives. That however is stifled by the insistence that we fill classrooms and school desks, instead. We all have content to teach and learn together, but those are assigned to people according to their age, and then, according to their diplomas. Teaching and learning needs instead to become us working together regardless of age, altogether because of need and desire. I offer the opportunity to enable the discussion of how to remove the present binding form and replace it with the living that will allow us all the joy! of education, the joy of work, of actually participating within our communities.

Genocide in Gaza

Jagjit Singh
Friday August 22, 2014 - 01:32:00 PM

As the Israeli offensive in Gaza continues, more and more children continue to die – 467 since July. 3,000 have suffered severe injuries and 1,000 will suffer a lifelong disability; 1,500 have been orphaned. Many of their schools have been destroyed and few hospitals are fully functional. According to the United Nations, a staggering 373,000 children are severely traumatized. Their future remains extremely bleak. Over 1 million of Gaza’s 1.8 million are children under the age of 17. 

Pernille Ironside, chief of UNICEF’s Gaza field office stated "there isn’t a single family in Gaza who hasn’t experienced death, injury, or the loss of their home; the psychological toll on its people, especially the children is staggering. The type of weaponry that’s being used is literally shredding and obliterating people, and particularly children. All this is coming on top of already deep—deep wounds from two previous conflicts.” Many children have expressed regret they could not have perished under the rubble for there no future in Gaza – only more excruciating pain. 

The norms of international law have been severely compromised where civilians and U.N. facilitates, which have been fully coordinated with Israeli officials, have been deliberately targeted. Not even the sanctity of the UN flag has been respected. Jewish Voice for Peace, Amnesty International, Human rights Watch and many other groups have expressed deep outrage over the ongoing genocide, more especially as our Pentagon continues to replenish Israel’s arsenal of these terrifying weapons.

Why Does the World Condemn Israel?

Richard Thompson
Friday August 22, 2014 - 01:28:00 PM

Very recent events include Israel receiving two-thirds of a billion dollars from the United States to install Iron Dome; Israel promptly withdrew from the "two-state" negotiations. And called Sec. of State John Kerry a stinker for saying Israeli artillery trajectories were "imprecise." After killing 1600+ Palestinians while suffering fewer than 100 deaths themselves, Israel's munitions were replenished by the United States.  

Furthermore, by sending another quarter of a billion dollars or so, the world's largest exporter of arms helped the world's third largest touch up Iron Dome. Our strategic arms treaty with the USSR allowed anti-missiles over precisely two cities—Moscow and Washington DC—now Israel also belongs to this "100th of 1 percent" club.


DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE:Sanctions & the Dollar: A Fall From Grace?

Conn Hallinan
Saturday August 23, 2014 - 11:52:00 AM

The recent round of sanctions aimed at Moscow over the crisis in the Ukraine could backfire on Washington by accelerating a move away from the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. While in the short run American actions against Russia’s oil and gas industry will inflict economic pain on Moscow, in the long run the U.S. may lose some of its control over international finance.  

Proposals to move away from using the dollar as the international currency reserve are by no means new. Back in 2009, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) proposed doing exactly that. SCO members are Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Afghanistan Iran, India, Pakistan and Mongolia have SCO observer status, and the organization has close ties with Turkey and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. 

Ever since the 1944 Britton Wood Agreement, the world’s finances have been dominated by the U.S. dollar, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank. But, according to economist Jeffrey Sachs, that world is vanishing and the dollar cannot continue to hold the high ground, because “the role of the United States in the global economy is diminishing.” 

While it may be diminishing, the U.S. and its European allies still control the levers of international finance. For example, the U.S.’ slice of the global GDP is 19.2 percent, and its share of IMF voting rights is 16.8 percent. In contrast, China, with 16.1 percent of the global GDP, has only 3.8 percent voting rights in the IMF. The presidency of the organization is reserved for a European. 

In 2010, the World Bank “reformed” its voting rights to increase low and middle-income countries from 34.67 percent to 38.38 percent, although even this modest adjustment has been sidelined because the U.S. Senate refuses to accept it. The wealthier countries still control more than 60 percent of the vote. The presidency of the Bank normally goes to an American. 

In early August of this year, the BRICS countries—Brazil, China, India, Russia and South Africa—launched a series of initiatives aimed at altering the current structure of international finance. Besides pushing to dethrone the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, the organization created a development bank and a Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA). The former would allow countries to by-pass the IMF and the World Bank, with their tightfisted austerity fixation, and the latter would give countries emergency access to foreign currency. 

The development bank will start off with $50 billion in the kitty, but that will soon double. The BRICS will also be able to draw on $100 billion from the CRA. While by international standards those are modest sums—the IMF has close to $800 billion in its coffers—the BRICS bank and CRA has just five members, while the IMF serves hundreds of countries. Eventually the BRICS observer members may be able to tap into those funds. 

Last month’s sanctions went straight for Russia’s jugular vein: the development of its massive oil and gas reserves and Moscow’s construction of the South Stream pipeline. When completed, South Stream will supply Europe with 15 percent of its natural gas and generate over $20 billion in annual profits. Indeed, there is suspicion among some Europeans that the real goal of the sanctions is to derail South Stream and replace it with U.S. shale-based American oil and gas. 

Sanctions can do enormous damage. 

The United Nations estimates that the sanctions against Iraq were responsible for the deaths of some 500,000 Iraqi children from 1991 to 1998. 

The sanctions aimed at Iran’s oil and gas industry have cut deeply into government revenues—80 percent of the country’s foreign reserves are generated by hydrocarbons—resulting in widespread inflation, unemployment and a serious national health crisis. While humanitarian goods are not embargoed, their cost has put medical care beyond the reach of many Iranians.  

Associated Press reporter Nasser Karimi wrote last year that some medicine and medical equipment costs have risen 200 percent: “radiology film up 240 percent; helium for MRIs up 667 percent; filters for kidney dialysis up 325 percent.” The cost of chemotherapy has almost tripled.  

Iran’s exclusion from the Society for World Wide Banking (SWIFT) makes it impossible to transfer funds electronically. That, in turn, makes buying the raw materials to manufacture generic medicines expensive and difficult. 

The recent crash of an Iranian passenger plane that killed 39 people was, in part, the result of sanctions. Because Iran cannot purchase spare parts for its Boeing and Airbus planes, it is forced to use alternatives, like the trouble-prone Ukrainian-made A-140 aircraft that went down Aug. 10. Another A-140 crashed in 2002, killing 46 passengers.  

In short, opposing the U.S. and its allies can be dangerous to one’s health. 

There is growing opposition to the widespread use of sanctions, as well as to the ability to isolate countries from international finance by excluding them from things like SWIFT. Coupled with this is a suspicion that the U.S. uses its currency to support its economy at the expense of others. 

After the 2007-08 economic meltdown, the U.S. lowered its interest rates and increased its money supply, thus making its exports cheaper and other countries imports more expensive. Developing countries have blamed these policies for artificially driving up the value of their currencies and, thus, damaging other countries economies. Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega calls it waging “currency war.” 

With the U.S. now pushing higher interest rates and throttling back on buying foreign bonds, many developing countries fear that international capital will flow back to the U.S., leaving countries like Brazil high and dry. 

But as long as the world’s reserve currency isin dollars, the U.S. will be able to manipulate global finance and block countries like Iran from any transactions using dollars. But that may be coming to an end. With China set to replace the U.S. as the world’s largest economy, it is only a matter of time before the renminbi—or some agreed upon international method of exchange—replaces the dollar. 

China is already moving toward bypassing New York as the world’s financial center, instead routing finances through Hong Kong and London. “There can be little doubt from these actions that China is preparing for the demise of the dollar, at least as the world’s reserve currency,” says Alastair Macleod of GoldMoney, a leading dealer in precious metals. 

A number of countries are already dealing in other currencies. Australian mining companies have recently shifted to using China’s reniminbi. How dumping the dollar will affect the U.S. is not clear, and predictions range from minor to catastrophic. What will almost certainly happen is that the U.S. will lose some of its clout in international finance, making it easier for developing countries to move away from the American economic model: wide-open markets, fiscal austerity, and hostility to any government role in the economy. 

Diminishing the role of the dollar may make it harder to apply sanctions as well, particularly in those areas where Washington’s policies are increasingly alienated from much of the world, as in Iran, Cuba, and Russia. The European Union (EU) has sanctioned Russia over Ukraine, but not to the extent that the U.S. has. The EU’s trade with Russia is a major part of the Europe’s economy, while Russian trade with the U.S. is minor. And the BRICS—who represent almost a quarter of the world’s GNP and 40 percent of its population—did not join those sanctions. 

Addressing the BRICS delegates in Fortaleza, Brazil, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that “together we should think about a system of measures that would help prevent the harassment of countries that do not agree with some foreign policy decision made the by the U.S. and their allies.” 

In the long run, the EU may come to regret that it went along with Washington. German industry has taken a big hit—trade with Russia fell 20 percent from January through May—and Russia’s ban on EU agricultural products has badly hurt Poland, Lithuania, Germany, Denmark, Latvia, Finland and the Netherlands. Indeed, European Bank President, Mario Draghi, warned that the current EU recovery is extremely fragile and that sanctions could push it back into recession. 

The Germans are especially worried that Russia will turn to Asia, permanently cutting Berlin out of Moscow’s economic sphere. 

There are enormous changes ahead as a result of climate change and population growth. While there has been a reduction in the number of people living in extreme poverty—making less than $1.25 a day—almost all that reduction was in China. Things have actually gotten worse in parts of Asia and Africa. By 2050 the world’s population will grow to nine billion, and 85 percent of that growth will be in developing nations, the very countries that most need help to confront the consequences of that future. 

Unless the institutions of international finance are wrested from the control of a few wealthy nations, and unless there are checks on the ability of the U.S. and its allies to devastate a country’s economy over a disagreement on foreign policy, those figures bode for some serious trouble ahead. 

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






Jack Bragen
Friday August 22, 2014 - 02:08:00 PM

Many people who are involved in the mental health treatment system, or people who believe they know something about persons with mental illness, are under the impression that we would be just fine if only we would take our medication. In fact, mere compliance to the wishes of treatment professionals and sometimes families is not adequate to make our lives workable. The willingness to take medication entails a great deal of sacrifice. 

The attitude that says persons with mental illness are depraved or ignorant, or that we exhibit turpitude when we become "non-compliant" is not the whole picture. Taking medication to treat mental illness can be its own form of hell. People who take psychiatric medication ought to be given the Medal of Honor, and ought not be treated as less than a person—which is often how we are treated.  

Part of the picture is the numerous, distressing, and sometimes life-threatening side effects of psychiatric medication. 

Secondly, it requires a lot of courage and acceptance to face, and not be in denial of, being mentally ill and of having a "defect" in the brain. And that, by itself, could be a subject for one week's column.  

Listing the side effects of psychiatric medication would require more space than I have here. However, some of them include involuntary movements of the upper body—which constitute a disfigurement and which also are a handicap of their own. Other side effects include extreme weight gain, type II Diabetes, slow reflexes, and extreme sedation. Some of these medications produce breast enlargement in men, and body hair in women.  

Medications that have the side effects of psychiatric drugs, if intended to treat anything other than mental illness, would never have been approved for use by the FDA, because these side effects, some of which are extreme health risks, would ordinarily be considered unacceptable.  

I have seen people with involuntary contortions of the body caused by psychiatric medication, and each time I see this, I question the fact that in my column I advocate compliance with treatment. I, myself have had this involuntary muscle contortion and it entails a lot of suffering. Luckily in my case it wasn't permanent. For some people it is. These contortions, sometimes called "Tardive Dyskinesia," do not always go away once the medication is stopped. And if the medication is stopped, what is one supposed to do? Won't a person become psychotic?  

Thus, taking medication as we are told to do should be considered an honorable and self-sacrificial act. Instead of this type of regard, we are given the brunt of people's disrespect, are presumed as lesser people, and we are viewed with negative stereotypes.  

And yet, there are two sides to this. 

Unlike most other medical illnesses, psychiatric diseases affect behavior toward others. Someone with mental illness who is symptomatic can be disruptive to people's perceived orderliness. Many non-afflicted people perceive us as a nuisance in society or in their neighborhood. Furthermore, someone suffering from mental illness can be a threat to his or her own well being. The common belief that we are dangerous is usually not accurate, but is one reason mentally ill people are forced into treatment.  

If you have any other illness, it is almost assumed that you will get it treated. On the other hand, in some instances, people with a psychiatric problem are not always cooperative, and must be forced to undergo treatment. 

When someone has cancer and wants to pursue alternative medicine to treat it, generally speaking that is his or her choice. They may be pressured a lot by doctors and family to pursue conventional treatment, but generally force isn't involved. In that scenario, someone could be making a decision that leads to their demise. However, usually the individual is free to pursue alternative medicine, and there is not much people can do to stop them. This affects others, because that individual, when they pass away, won't be around to contribute to the lives of friends and family, and they will no longer be performing at their job.  

However, when someone is mentally ill, they are viewed with a perception of shame. This is where people are condemned on an interpersonal and social level for having behavior that doesn't comply to the social norms.  

The idea that we ought to just take our medication and comply with other people's expectations--that we not make any "trouble," is an oversimplification. When we are compliant and when we do behave as people would hope, basically there is little or nothing in life that brings meaning or gratification. Furthermore, taking medication brings real suffering due to the side effects and due to the amount of normal functioning that gets blocked.  

For many persons with mental illness, medication is a necessary evil. Medication isn't a great thing--and sometimes the "cure" is almost as bad as the ailment. This might be one reason why there are numerous mentally ill people who resist taking their medications.  

I see the stick but not the carrot. The mental health treatment system is set up to maintain some amount of control over the mentally ill "population." However, nothing is being offered as an incentive. Many persons with mental illness must look forward to a life of institutionalization, suppression of much of our mental functioning, and deprivation of most of the things in life that bring pleasure to affluent people.  

The above essay describes some of the reasons why I believe a lot is being asked of persons with mental illness, and why I believe we ought to be admired for our sacrifices. 

So the next time you are going to look derisively upon a non-compliant mentally ill person, or, on the other hand, upon one who is cooperating, you should realize you may be looking at a brave man or woman who faces an uncertain destiny.  

* * * 

Click here to view Jack Bragen's page on Amazon with three books for sale in paperback and Kindle formats.

ECLECTIC RANT: Is GOP Lawsuit against Obama Based Partly on Racism?

Ralph E. Stone
Friday August 22, 2014 - 01:40:00 PM

On July 30, 2014, the Republican-led House approved a resolution authorizing Speaker John Boehner to sue President Barack Obama over claims he abused his powers at the expense of Congress and the Constitution. Republicans argue Obama's executive orders in a number of areas were unlawful because it's the job of Congress to make or change laws. However, the GOP are basing their lawsuit on his handling of the Affordable Care Act. And there are persistent rumors that the House plans to impeach Obama. 

Looking back over Obama's years as president, It seems clear to me that racism is a factor in the GOP actions against Obama. It especially sticks in the GOP's craw that Obama was able to pass the Affordable Care Act into law. The Act was later ruled Constitutional by the Supreme Court. Yet, the House has voted unsuccessfully 54 times in four years to revoke or change the Act. 

During a 2009 speech at Emory University (), former President Jimmy Carter hit the nail on the head when he said, "When a radical fringe element of demonstrators and others begin to attack the president of the United States as an animal or as a reincarnation of Adolf Hitler or when they wave signs in the air that said we should have buried Obama with Kennedy, those kinds of things are beyond the bounds. I think people who are guilty of that kind of personal attack against Obama have been influenced to a major degree by a belief that he should not be president because he happens to be African American." 

Later actor and comedian Bill Cosby agreed with Carter saying, "I agree with President Carter that racism is playing a role in recent outbursts against President Obama." 

The GOP has turned much of the Obama presidency into a blame Obama debate based partly on racism, rather than focusing on the mess Obama inherited from eight years of George W. Bush. The GOP are hoping the lawsuit will bring Obama haters to the polls this November. And the ploy just might work. 

Surely, Obama has had successes and failures during his presidency, but criticism of him should be based solely on his performance, not on his race. 

ECLECTIC RANT: John Yoo and the Senate Torture Report

Ralph E. Stone
Friday August 22, 2014 - 01:33:00 PM
John Yoo (from FireJohnYoo.net
John Yoo (from FireJohnYoo.net

Professor John Yoo stepped away from his lectern at the UC Berkeley School of Law to send an e-mail to the San Francisco Chronicle criticizing the forthcoming Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) torture report saying that if "torture was used and it didn't work, she [Senator Dianne Feinstein] is flat wrong." Yoo claimed the report failed to maintain "bipartisanship" that "will undermine its conclusions." I suspect that this is a preemptive attack by Yoo as the release of the Senate torture report will probably place Yoo on the hotseat again. 

The SSCI Torture report has been approved for public release. However, the SSCI and the CIA are fighting over the CIA's substantial redactions to the torture report summary. The torture report is 6,000 pages, adopted by the SSCI in December 2012; it is the most comprehensive report on the CIA's use of "enhanced interrogation techniques," a euphemism for torture.  

Reportedly, the SSCI report found that the CIA misled Congress, the Justice Department, and President George W. Bush about the "effectiveness" of torture methods such as waterboarding, shackling in painful positions, and slamming detainees against walls. The report also reportedly found that those abuses did not help locate Osama bin Laden or thwart any terrorist plots, and were in fact counterproductive. 

In addition to the SSCI torture report, there is a CIA response to the SSCI torture report defending the agency's actions. A third report, commissioned by former CIA Director Leon Panetta, is reportedly consistent with the SSCI torture report findings, but contradicts the CIA’s response to the torture report. it is not clear whether these reports will be released. 

John Yoo served as Deputy Assistant U.S. Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) where he drafted a legal rationale (Memo 1, Memo 2) for “enhanced interrogation techniques” which included stress positions, sleep deprivation, and simulated drowning known as “waterboarding.” The memorandum were signed off on by Assistant Attorney General Jay S. Bybee, head of the Office of Legal Counsel of the U.S. Department of Justice. Yoo, stretching the unitary executive theory, argued that Bush's executive powers gave him the right in the U.S. "war on terror" to authorize the use of torture. And he further argued that the president was above the law and under certain circumstance was in control of the other branches of government. 

In addition, the memos argued that criminal law doesn't prohibit torture because it doesn't apply to the military. Treaties and the War Crimes Act don't prohibit torture because they only apply to uniformed enemy soldiers. And federal statutes prohibiting torture don't prohibit torture because they don't apply to conduct on military bases. 

In 2003, following the accounts of the torture and prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, Yoo wrote another memo concluding "that federal laws against torture, assault and maiming would not apply to the overseas interrogation of terror suspects." This was used as justification for the abusive treatment of prisoners at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp. 

After releasing the torture memos, President Barack Obama acknowledged that "we tortured some folks." Obama repudiated these memos on January 22, 2009. 

How could John Yoo, in spite of the near universal understanding among thinking people that these techniques, especially waterboarding, constituted torture, write such justifications for their use, which led inevitably to the abuses at Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo Bay, and the extraordinary rendition program (secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to other countries where torture was used). By using torture, we lost any ideological advantage we might have had-- the promotion of democracy, freedom and human rights. We become the thugs our enemies say we are. John Yoo bears some responsibility for the inevitable consequences of his memos laying a "legal" basis for the U.S. use of torture 

All misdeeds, however, do not go unrewarded. This year, Yoo was awarded an endowed faculty chair at University of California Berkeley School of Law. He has much to teach the future lawyers of America.  

In July 2014, U.C. Berkeley students, alumni and a group of lawyers in the Bay Area initiated an online petition to rescind UC Berkeley School of Law professor John Yoo’s recent faculty chair endowment. The release of the SSCI torture report should provide additional weight to this petition drive. 

I look forward to the release of the SSCI torture report. 

SENIOR POWER : more about the G word

Helen Rippier Wheeler, pen136@dslextreme.com
Friday August 22, 2014 - 01:14:00 PM

Sunday, September 7, is National Grandparents Day, an annual secular holiday celebrated in the United States since 1978. Then-President Jimmy Carter signed the proclamation. It is expected to grow in significance as the number of grandparents in the United States rises as a result of the baby boom. A national grandparents day is officially recognized in a number of countries on various days of the year. 


The accomplishments late in the lives of Emma Rowena Caldwell Gatewood and Doris Haddock led to notoriety that referred to them as Grandma Gatewood and Granny “D.” Gatewood (1887-1973) and Haddock (1910-2010) were each subjects of books. 

Grandma Gatewood’s Walk , “the inspiring story of the woman who saved the Appalachian Trail” by Ben Montgomery, was published this year by Chicago Review Press. Gatewood was a conservationist, an ultra-light hiking pioneer, the first woman to hike approximately 2,200 miles (3,500 km), the Appalachian Trail from Mount Oglethorpe in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. She did it solo and in one season. 

The Appalachian Trail is famous for its many hikers. Some, called thru-hikers, attempt it in a single season. Books, memoirs, web sites and fan organizations are dedicated to this pursuit. The Appalachian National Scenic Trail (generally known as the Appalachian Trail or the A.T.Trail), the Continental Divide Trail, and the Pacific Crest Trail form the Triple Crown of long distance hiking in the United States. 

Granny D : Walking Across America in My Ninetieth Year, by Doris Haddock, with Dennis Burke, was published in 2001 by Villard. Her book-walk’s message was the need for change in candidates’ abuse of political media and campaign funds. As an American political activist from New Hampshire, Haddock achieved national fame when, between the ages of 88 and 90, starting on January 1, 1999, in southern California and ending in Washington, D.C., on February 29, 2000, she walked over 3,200 miles (5,100 km) across the continental United States to advocate for campaign finance reform

In 2004, she ran unsuccessfully as a Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican Judd Gregg for the U.S. Senate. Haddock requested a name change of her middle name to "Granny D," the name by which she had long been known. In 2004, her request was officially granted by Judge John Maher during a hearing at the Cheshire County, New Hampshire probate court

Johanna Adorjan (1971- ), a journalist at Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in Berlin, has written about her grandparents’ joint suicide pact and their well-planned death sixteen years earlier. Translated from German, published in 2011, An Exclusive Love; A Memoir, is not exactly a memoir nor autobiographical. She conjectures her grandparents’ final days and minutes. They had spent their lives in Hungary, Germany and Denmark. He was a Holocaust survivor. Although a physician, and not too long ago, he was unable to obtain colleagues’ counsel, let alone a copy of Derek Humphry (1930- )’s Final Exit bestseller. 

Adorjan reconstructs the day of her grandparents' joint suicide. Some of it is speculation, some based on her research. In an interview, she has said that half the book-time was spent researching, half writing. She found it difficult to read Final Exit, which her grandparents were ultimately able to obtain and use. 

“This felt really spooky–this powerful book that killed my grandparents. But then I opened it and it described this method of gassing yourself with a plastic bag? And then I thought, ‘My grandfather should gas himself after surviving a concentration camp?’ But then I came to see it as just a book, just words. It doesn’t force you to kill yourself. It just would be of help for people who decided to do so for their reasons.” 


The G word is newsworthy plus having literary and commercial appeal. The Berkeley Daily Planet has reported on numerous Raging Grannies events. Judging by the amount of drug store display space, adult diapers appear to outsell baby diapers. Elder porn is a growing industry. The ageist vendor of Granny Pictures -- free mature sex pics in hardcore mature porno ... is into equal time viz Fighting Grandads. Possibly cautious too-- “this site may harm your computer.” Japan is the world’s second-largest pornography consumer after the United States. “Sex niche” is the current euphemism. 

Many Japanese seniors live in solitude, estranged from or ignored by their families. A government survey found that many persons over age 60 had no neighbors, friends or relatives whom they felt they could rely on in difficult times. Part of the reason for the decline in senior citizens’ standard of living is their living longer. Like the Chinese and Koreans, the Japanese prize filial piety and expect children to dutifully tend to their parents. But Japan also faces the unique problem of tending to an increasingly elderly population. The data appear to be comparable to many Berkeley low-income senior tenants. 

Grandparents are increasingly responsible for child care and support. In 2012, 30% of children in the U.S. under age five with working mothers were cared for by a grandparent, usually a grandmother. Millions of grandparents, by being the primary caregivers for their grandchildren, are faced with the responsibility of raising two generations. Grandparents and boomers are making news defending their rights. Substance abuse, the rise in single parent households, HIV/AIDS, increases in female incarceration, teen pregnancy, and policy changes favoring foster care placement of children with relatives over non-relatives are among the reasons for dramatic growth in grandparent care-giving. Many writers and researchers perceive and report separation and divorce fallaciously in terms of two parents who are, and continue to be, concerned about their children’s welfare. 

Apropos. Lawyer in the Library is a service of some public libraries. In Berkeley, it is monthly on Thursdays, with sign-ups starting at 5 PM; August 28, 2014 Berkeley Public Library south branch 6-7:30. Legal Assistance for Seniors and Legal Assistance to the Elderly are located in Oakland and San Francisco, California. 


Arts & Events

Love Is Strange (and Sweet and Touching, Too)
Landmark Shattuck, Opens August 29

Gar Smith
Saturday August 23, 2014 - 03:07:00 PM

Ben (John Lithgow) is a striving artist whose oil paintings have not yet made a dent on the walls of Manhattan's art galleries. George (Alfred Molina) is the breadwinner, teaching music at a New York school. They've lived together in a comfy New York apartment for 39 years and now, with social mores starting to drift away from their conservative moorings, Ben and George decide to celebrate the state's new gay marriage laws by inviting friends and family to a touching outdoor wedding. This affirmation becomes their undoing. 


Set in New York -- and populated by a talented cast portraying a play-list of colorful characters who chat, clash and bounce off one another's egos in close quarters – Love Is Strange evokes the vibes of a Woody Allen film. Perhaps with this in mind, writer-director Ira Sachs claims the turf as his own even before the opening scene: Instead of soundtrack of jazz classics, Sachs scores his film with the piano musings of Frédéric Chopin. 

Despite the title, there's really nothing strange about love in this sweetly charming film. Although it's a love story about two middle-aged men (who decide to tie the knot and suddenly find themselves at loose ends), their relationship is open, honest, wholesome and completely understandable. The relationship is past the carnal phase and comfortably settled into abiding afterglow of warm, devoted affection. 

Ben (John Lithgow) is a striving artist whose oil paintings have not yet made a dent on the walls of Manhattan's art galleries. George (Alfred Molina) is the breadwinner, teaching music at a New York school. 

They've lived together in a comfy New York apartment for 39 years and now, with social mores starting to drift away from their conservative moorings, Ben and George decide to celebrate the state's new gay marriage laws by inviting friends and family to a touching outdoor wedding. This affirmation becomes their undoing. (Instead of "Love Is Strange," the better title for the film might have been "Love Is Strained.") 

Unfortunately, George's school is a Catholic school and "rules are rules." He loses his teaching job. The hunt for a new apartment reveals how unaffordable New York has become. The high cost of cohabitation forces Ben and George to split up – temporarily, they hope. Ben moves in with his nephew's family while George is "adopted" by a couple of party-hearty gay cops who live downstairs in George and Ben's old apartment tower. 

That's the set-up. It's the Odd Couple squared, with each of the gentlemen tossed into social settings that test the limits of everyone's patience. 

Great performances abound. Marisa Tomei is perfect as a stay-at-home writer/mom who struggles to remain civil while her workday quiet is disrupted by talkative, inquisitive Ben. Her son (Charlie Tahan), a complex teen with a short fuse and a tender side, is mortified that he has to share the bunk-bed in his bedroom with Uncle Ben. 

But it is Lithgow and Molina who carry the show with a glowing subtlety that provides a sense of stability in a world gone crackers. Watching Ben and George cuddle in bed -- exchanging adoring looks and playful kisses – is like watching kittens at play. 

Ben rises above the tensions inside the apartment by seeking solace on the rooftop, with his oils and easel—and the Manhattan skyline as a studio backdrop. George, meanwhile, becomes a bored spectator trapped inside an apartment filled with young party animals playing videogames, watching Game of Thrones and tossing back Margaritas. The prolonged separation is agonizing. When a desperate, unplanned reunion happens one rainy night, there is no need for words. You just want to embrace the screen. 

Sad, unexpected and hurtful things happen in this film, but they always happen off-screen – when a door closes or a subway entrance beckons. Like the characters, we are suddenly confronted with change and left to deal with the consequences. 

There is loss and there is longing but Sachs' film ends on a note of healing. There is new love on the loose in the alleys of Manhattan and the setting sun shines golden from both ends of the street.

Review: Mendocino Music Festival--Fredericka von Stade, Suzanna Smith and Kenny Washington, and the Festival Orchestra Playing the Music of Julian Pollack, Sibelius and Rachmaninoff

Ken Bullock
Friday August 22, 2014 - 02:00:00 PM

Looking out from above the fine restaurant and Grey Whale bar at the venerable old "Mac House" on Albion Street—the MacCallum House, a favorite hospitality stop for frequent visitors and locals alike, its lobby decorated with photographs of the MacCallum family and old Mendocino—over the peaked Victorian rooftops of Mendocino to a few blocks east where there is a line of treetops ... the forest comes right down to Highway One. To the south, Big River flows into Mendocino Bay. Then the Ocean coming into the headlands. Around the point of land the town sits on, there's Goat Island and Headlands Park. It's a pretty quick walk around the little town itself, or out onto the grassy headlands to the brink of the cliffs above the rocks with natural archways, the waters of the Pacific surging through them ... 

On the southern headlands, a few steps from Main Street, sits the big tent, concert hall of the Mendocino Music Festival, in many ways a product of the special relationship between Berkeley and this north coast village. The annual two week-long event takes place every July, this year finishing up its 28th season, featuring 28 performances, not counting 13 open rehearsals. The relaxed, strolling quality of Mendocino—there are wooden sidewalks here—would seem to belie the vigor of the Festival. Actually, it rubs off on it, giving an easygoing sense, just as the Festival injects the little town with its own artistic energy and holiday high spirits. 

This unincorporated town dates back to the 1850s, a lumber town of New Englanders, who imprinted its distinctive architectural look, Azorean fishermen and Cantonese. The lumber industry died down after the Second World War, continuing 10 miles up north in Fort Bragg with the fisheries until the past couple of decades saw a similar decline there as well. 

"You could see the change away from forestry and fishing," said Dave Lipkind of Mendocino Insider Tours, "and slowly, over the last few years, more into tourism, shops, bed-&-breakfast places." Lipkind, a local since the '80s, runs his tours and a shuttle service to feature what's behind the impressive facades, the old Victorians and redwood towers, historically, naturally and industrially, with local history, mushrooming and wine tours, touching on all the different layers of a small, not-so-very-old but complex community. 

There are also his art tours. The revival of Mendocino as an artists' colony started in the late 50s when Bill Zacha borrowed fifty bucks to float a loan and buy the old estate property that became the Mendocino Art Center. Movies and TV shows have been shot there since the James Dean version of 'East of Eden' in 1955; the many episodes of 'Murder, She Wrote,' with Angela Lansbury, featured exteriors of the streets and nine shows shot completely in town and environs during the 80s and 90s. 

All this serves as the backdrop to the Music Festival, but also the marrow of it, bringing a different feel to the artistry of those who come here to perform, or who live here year round, and those who split their time between Mendocino and the Bay Area. 

The Festival was founded by the late Walter Green, former principal bassoonist of the San Francisco Symphony; Allan Pollack, artistic director and associate artistic/piano series director Susan Waterfall, residents of Berkeley and of Albion, just down the coast from Mendocino. Pollack has been a coach/conductor at UC-Berkeley, San Francisco Conservatory, San Francisco State and the San Francisco Music Center. 

This summer, after a standing room-only preview to an enthusiastic audience at the Berkeley City Club on May 28th, Susan Waterfall presented her most ambitious special production yet, BACHFEST ("The music of Johann Sebastian Bach is the foundation, the DNA, of our musical culture"), a kind of mini-festival-within-the-festival, four special programs on the Master over four days—Bach & Beer (he was paid partly in beer!), with her expert collaborators who appeared with her in Berkeley—including flutist Mindy Rosenfeld, violinist Jeremy Cohen and cellist Burke Schuchmann (who had urged the preview audience to catch "the unedited"—or was it unexpurgated?—version in Mendocino) and Waterfall on piano. 

The last evening of BACHFEST, famed pianist Stephen Prutsman, who played Mozart's music the second night of the Festival, led the Festival Chamber Orchestra from the keyboard in Bach's Clavier Concerto in D minor, in a program that included some of the same pieces heard at the City Club in May, the solo canons from The Musical Offering and the Trio Sonata in C minor, featuring Waterfall and her collaborators. The soloists had also played Bach Suites the night before; on the second night of BACHFEST, Waterfall and Carolyn Steinbuck played Bach keyboard works separately and a four-handed arrangement of the six-voice Ricercare fugue from the Musical Offering. 

"From the mathematically revealing procedures of counterpoint to the most intimate of harmonic colorations, Bach's music demonstrates an overwhelming exploration of what it is to be human." Waterfall's productions—which in the past have included such diverse themes as Scandalous Music! Satie, Debussy, Ravel and Stravinsky; Bartok's Women; and Degenerate Music, the modern music of Germany (and the German émigré community) during the Weimar Republic, the Nazi era and World War II—always present exciting, absorbing playing of great music, but are also rare, distinctive examples of what can be called music education, though they're more conversational, truly a sharing of perspective, interest, anecdote ... Her manner is like a friend's turning at a dinner table to answer a question with expert information and wit. There's a sense of immediacy to her delivery, weaving in and out of the playing, that knits together different perspectives from the past two and a half centuries into an intimately conceived prescience, a present awareness of this heritage. It's something unique that needs to be experienced. 

I dipped into a couple days of the second week of the Festival, almost at random, and came up with a gold mine. Arriving on Tuesday the 22nd, I caught the evening show in the tent, Fredericka von Stade with Miles Graber on piano, proving her to be the perfect entertaining hostess—it was like a soirée in her home, before an audience of hundreds, 20 diverse songs seamlessly integrated into a personal show of charm and character, poised before stalwart Miles Graber's piano. "Flicka" breezily narrated her life and careers—her first career as Catholic schoolgirl, then Paris instead of college, where experience as a French maid helped her, she says, with operatic characters, before her noted career that brought her to us started. from Ned Rorem's setting of Gertrude Stein's "I am Rose" to the gripping Poulenc "Voyage á Paris" to charming pieces she collaborated on with Jake Heggie, Sondheim's "Send In the Clowns""—and a showstopping encore after the show ended, the hilarious "tipsy song" from Offenbach's 'La Périchole'—von Stade displayed her warmth, charm, wit—and emotional range—with disarming casualness. 

The next day, after a visit to the tent—with its naturally raked audience seating, every view of the stage is good—for the orchestra's rehearsal the evening program, and a stroll under blue skies out into the headlands, just a few minutes away by foot, I entered the meeting hall beside the old redwood gothic-style pioneer Presbyterian church for an afternoon of jazz vocals with the Oakland's great couple of jazz singers, Suzanna Smith and Kenny Washington, with the remarkable Lee Bloom on piano—between the three of them, all the music anyone would need. The room was intimate—and standing room only. It was a treat, a special show, to see these two partners together, very different as singers and presences, melding their talents and sense of each other into a wonderful, highly satisfying two sets, each laying out their own show, then joined by the other for the concluding numbers each times. Suzanna Smith,, like any fine singer, put it all out on the table in her direct delivery to the audience, displaying her years of careful study of a range of eminent predecessors (Ella Fitzgerald, Anita O'Day, Shirley Horn. Sarah Vaughan)—and her own emerging talents as songwriter-lyricist, maybe fueled by her interest in Peggy Lee and Blossom Dearie. Kenny Washington, a contemporary classic—who singer Mark Murphy has called the only male jazz vocalist carrying on the tradition. Laid back, versus Smith's sense of engagement, he's intense in the clinch of a ballad or uptempo tune, his great range, both in technique and stylistically, choosing songs from throughout jazz and Tin Pan Alley history, demonstrating again and again great rhythmic complexity, bringing the audience to its feet several times in the final numbers the two performed together. 

That night, back to the tent, to hear Julian Waterfall Pollack—son of the artistic director and assistant artistic director, a rising jazz pianist and composer in NYC who's said he grew up at the Festival—present his new composition, Night Flower, playing keyoards with the 80-some-odd-piece orchestra—and with no mean competition: following Pollack's premiere were Sibelius'' Concerto in D minor with acclaimed violinist David McCarroll, and Rachmaninoff's popular Symphony No. 2 in E minor. Pollack acquitted himself well, his piece by turns bright, colorful, playful, with bold chords, then growing in depth through passages touched with angst, percussive ... a great éclat of dissonance! ... showing an ability to move from spare to lush, lavish to acerbic, with a wide range of dynamics, another big stepping-stone for this talent. 

His father's conducting throughout Pollack's piece and its successors on the program was passionate, full-bodied, yet with great attention to detail. That afternoon at rehearsal, Allan Pollack had been all business, shaping up the sound of his enormous orchestra for the evening. But in performance he turned himself loose, emotionally leading pieces that signified, between them, great leaps and bounds of feeling and reflectiveness, always, though, featuring the musicians rather than taking center stage himself. Board member, local piano teacher, chorus member and longtime Mendocino resident Barbara Faulkner had commented ealier to me about Allan's memorable and inspiring manner at the podium. It was in full force that night. 

David McCarroll, a Santa Rosa native, played Sibelius with sensitivity and subtlety, the orchestra nearly as intense in their listening during his unaccompanied moments as he was while laying out during the orchestral portions—and equally with enjoyment at what they were hearing. Sibelius' dedication to Total Music was well-served by all, in this piece and performance of it that showed brilliantly what Picasso called all the "prose" of music, as well as unusual poetry—then soared up beyond the poetry and lyricism to a purely exquisite suspension of breath, followed by éclats or the orchestra joining in and "normalizing" the sound to a beautiful sense of flow. His encore, after many ovations, was from Bach, immaculately rendered, fitting for this Festival. 

After the explorations of the first two pieces, the Rachmaninoff—which Pollack conducted in great, impassioned style—was well executed, its ever-opening out quality a perfect end to a night of diverse emotions and reflections in the music. 

After the show, as the night before, the crowd—many walking together with new acquaintances or those met at previous Festivals—adjourned for the evening—or to Dick's Place, the local across the street from the tent in the field, or to Patterson's Pub a couple locks away. 

Leaving early the next morning, I felt both great satisfaction and a little regret—regret at missing some of the tempting shows before and after, cutting such a wide swath of musical styles—Don Giovanni, with the excellent Eugene Brancoveneau, perhaps the best all-round Don I'd seen, judging from previous productions, in the title role and also stage directing, with Allan Pollack conducting; one of the last touring shows of the great LA country rock band POCO, after an afternoon with former Byrds founding member Chris Hillman in duo with Herb Pederson; Big Band Jazz and Soul, with Kim McNally singing Aretha Franklin and Pollack leading the Big Band and playing tenor sax; New Orleans R&B classic Iram Thomas, here with her band ... or Julian Pollack and Natalie Tenenbaum in piano duets of John Adams, Steve Reich, Johnny Mandel—and pieces by the pianists ... 

But, as Barbara Faulkner said to me, "There's always next year!" And that's something already to look forward to. 


Merola Opera Program’s Grand Finale

James Roy MacBean
Friday August 22, 2014 - 02:57:00 PM

The 57th season of the Merola Opera Program’s eleven week intensive training session culminated Saturday evening, August 16, with the Grand Finale Concert. The 2014 Merola participants, nearly one-third of whom come from outside the USA, per-formed a selection of opera scenes on the big stage of the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco. Ari Pelto conducted the orchestra, and Apprentice Director Omer Ben Seadia staged this concert of arias and ensembles. 

Having previously attended the two complete operas in the 2014 Merola Opera Program—André Previn’s A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE and Mozart’s DON GIOVANNI — I had already noted several standout young singers. And they did not disappoint. Soprano Amanda Woodbury, who sang Donna Anna in DON GIOVANNI, seemed on first hearing to be a sure-fire hit; and in the Merola Grand Finale she again delivered outstanding singing, this time in a duet, “Vains regrets,” from HAMLET by Ambroise Thomas. Ms. Woodbury’s soprano is gorgeously focused; and her diction, here in French, was excellent. Her partner in this duet was baritone Edward Nelson, who earlier sang the role of Don Giovanni. Here, as Hamlet, Nelson seemed more at ease and his voice sounded fuller than it did as the don. Another soprano, Yujin Kim, had sung the role of Zerlina in DON GIOVANNI; and although I can never forgive her for adding a vocal embellishment to Zerlina’s aria, “Batti, batti, ò bel Masetto,” I had to admit that this pert, diminutive soprano has a fine voice. In the Grand Finale, Yujin Kim was a vocal and dramatic firecracker as Marie from Donizetti’s LA FILLE DU RÉGIMENT. 

Another standout soprano, perhaps the one with the brightest future, was Julie Adams, who excelled in the role of Blanche Dubois in STREETCAR. In the Grand Finale, Julie Adams sang Suzel in the famed “Cherry” duet from Pietro Mascagni’s L’AMICO FRITZ. Ms. Adams has a full, ardently colored soprano and admirable technique. I am sure she has a grand future in store for her. Likewise, tenor Casey Candebat, who partnered Ms. Adams in the “cherry” duet, displayed a finely honed tenor voice with lots of power. He too will go places. Together, Adams and Candebat were incandescent, the highlight of the evening. They brought back fond memories of Merola Opera’s wonder-ful 2009 production of L’AMICO FRITZ featuring excellent tenor Nathaniel Peake and exquisite soprano Sara Gartland. 

In this year’s bumper crop of fine sopranos, Adelaide Boedecker sang the role of Gilda in a scene from the final act of Verdi’s RIGOLETTO. Ms. Boedecker movingly sang of the heartbreak Gilda feels as she overhears the philandering Duke of Mantua woo Maddalena with the same words he used earlier in wooing her. As the Duke, Chinese tenor Chong Wang was a surprise hit, as I had not previously heard him sing. He delivered “La donna è mobile” with loads of power. 

Another surprise, at least for me, was soprano Maria Fasciano, whom I had not heard before. Ms. Fasciano sang the role of Nedda in an ensemble scene from Leoncavallo’s I PAGLIACCI. In this heated duet of love and lust, Maria Fasciano boldly portrayed her mixed feelings: She is physically drawn to Silvio yet evinces some remorse about betraying her husband Canio. As Silvio, baritone Alexander Elliott seemed almost overmatched by Maria Fasciano’s fiery passion. 

Yet another soprano stood out, with one small reservation. Karen Chia-ling Ho from Taiwan, whom I had heard earlier as Donna Elvira in DON GIOVANNI, has an excellent voice and admirable technique. My one reservation is that hers is a much darker soprano than most; and thus it may be ill suited to many of the familiar soprano roles. (This, I felt, was the case where her Donna Elvira was concerned.) Of course, I had earlier praised Nicole Cabell’s Violetta in San Francisco Opera’s LA TRAVIATA in spite of Ms. Cabell’s voice being quite a bit darker than most. So who knows? Where Karen Chia-ling Ho is concerned, I would like to hear her sing Princess Eboli, a mezzo role sometimes sung by sopranos, in Verdi’s DON CARLO. I have a hunch she would bring it off brilliantly. In the Merola Grand Finale, Ms. Ho movingly sang the aria, “L’altra notte in fondo al mare,” from Boito’s MEFISTOFELE. 

One mezzo-soprano deserves top accolades, and that is Shirin Eskandani, whose contribution to the Merola Grand Finale was as the Composer in Richard Strauss’s ARIADNE AUF NAXOS. Ms. Eskandani carried off her part in this ensemble brilliantly, far outshining a rather weak Zerbinetta sung by soprano Talya Lieberman. Another mezzo-soprano, Eliza Bonet, was a dramatic whirlwind but vocally on the weak side as the Duchess in Offenbach’s LA GRANDE DUCHESSE DE GÉROLSTEIN. Likewise, baritone Thomas Gunther, who sang the role of Stanley Kowalski in STREETCAR, was surprisingly weak in his aria from Francis Poulenc’s LES MAMELLES DE TIRÉSIAS. A trio from Mozart’s COSÌ FAN TUTTE featured bass Anthony Reed as a convincing Don Alfonso, while tenor Mingjie Lei and and baritone Rhys Lloyd Talbot were less convincing as Ferrando and Guglielmo. At the close of the Grand Finale, all the Merolini joined together to sing the closing fugue, “Tutto nel mondo è burla,” from Verdi’s FALSTAFF.

Around & About Theater: 'Penthesilea' Free Outdoors at John Hinkel Park Amphitheater; Kurt Weill at Masquers Playhouse; Oscar Wilde at Marin Shakespeare

Ken Bullock
Friday August 22, 2014 - 01:20:00 PM

—The Amazons descend on the Trojan War to help the beleaguered city, capture Achilles ... whom their tough female chieftan, Penthesilea, becomes enamored of—and Achilles seems to reciprocate. But if the wars continue—will they have to face each other in combat? 

The old legend, an outrider of The Iliad, is the story for Heinrich von Kleist's great, ambiguous 19th century play named after the Amazon queen. In an unusual co-production by two Berkeley theater troupes, Inferno Theatre and Actors Ensemble, a new adaptation by Inferno's founder, Giulio Cesare Perrone—who also directed & designed the production—will be staged—Free!—in the Amphitheater at John Hinkel Park in the Berkeley hills for seven performances, opening this Saturday and Sunday at 4 p. m. and continuing Labor Day weekend (including Monday), then closing the final weekend of September 6-7, all shows at 4. 

The new version compresses the text, adding new flourishes, according to the companies' statement. Inferno has already staged a version of The Iliad, reviewed in the Planet, March 21, 2011. 

(As an historical side note, Catherine the Great reviewed a detachment of "Amazons" for the Russian annexation of Crimea in 1783, rewarding their leader as the first female officer of the Russian Army—something Kleist would've known about when he wrote 'Penthesilea' a quarter century later.) 

John Hinkel Park, 41 Somerset Place, off Southampton near Arlington. Wheelchair accessible; first rows reserved for seniors & disabled. 649-5999 aeofberkeley.org infernotheatre.org 

—Masquers Playhouse in Pt. Richmond is opening 'Berlin to Broadway With Kurt Weill,' a compendium of his musical numbers from 'Mahagonny' and 'Threepenny Opera' to 'One Touch of Venus' and 'Lost in the Stars,' with lyricists ranging from Bertolt Brecht to Ogden Nash, from Weimar Republic Berlin to Cold War Great White Way ... The great songs—'Mack the Knife' and 'Alabama Song' to ''Speak Low" and 'September Song"—that were debuted by Lotte Lenya, Peter Lorre and Walter Huston, among others ... directed by Ellen Brooks, with music direction by Bruce Haines, with the cast: Nick Hengl, Tina Marzell, Jenny Matteucci, Maria Mikheyenko, J. Scott Stuart and Gayelan Tietje-Ulrich. 

Fridays and Saturdays at 8, Sundays (August 22; September 7 & 14) at 2, August 22-September 20 at Masquers Playhouse, 105 Park Place, Pt. Richmond. $22. 233-4031; masquers.org 

—Oscar Wilde's 'An Ideal Husband,' is opening this weekend at Marin Shakespeare, featuring Cat Thompson and Darren Bridgett, Marcia Pizzo and Julian Lopez-Morillas in Wilde's deft political-social comedy, directed by Marin Shakes' artistic director Robert Currier in the amphitheater at Forest Meadows, Dominican University, San Rafael. Running in repertory with 'Romeo & Juliet,' different weekend nights and matinees, August 23-September 27. $20-$35. (415) 499-4488; marinshakespeare.org