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Congresswoman Lee's Statement on President Obama's Strategy to Undermine ISIS

Congresswoman Barbara Lee
Wednesday September 10, 2014 - 07:51:00 AM

Today, the President laid out his comprehensive strategy to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS and his case for the expansion of military action in Iraq and Syria.

The Constitution requires Congress to vote on the use of military force. This is not about this President. This is about any President and any Congress.

We must re-establish the checks and balances laid out by the Constitution.

The facts are clear. We are no longer talking about limited strikes to prevent genocide and protect U.S. personnel. We are talking about sustained bombing and the use of military force.

The threat from ISIS is serious. But before we take any further military action, Congress must debate the threats to our national security, the risks to American servicemen and women and the financial costs of waging another war in the Middle East.

As the President said “we are strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together,” that is why I believe the President’s plan requires a thoughtful debate and vote by Congress.

Bus Hits Hydrant in Downtown Berkeley Causing Major Leak

Scott Morris (BCN)
Wednesday September 10, 2014 - 11:47:00 PM

An AC Transit bus hit and sheared off a fire hydrant this afternoon in downtown Berkeley, causing a geyser of water to erupt, a deputy fire chief said. 

The crash was reported at 4:03 p.m. at Shattuck Avenue and Center Street, fire Deputy Chief Avery Webb said. 

The bus knocked over a fire hydrant and sent a large plume of water into the air. Webb did not know whether the flow of water had been shut off as of about 4:45 p.m. 

No medical assistance was called for, he said.

Berkeley Police Say No Signs of Foul Play in Death Downtown

Bay City News
Wednesday September 10, 2014 - 03:46:00 PM

There are no signs that foul play was involved in the death of a man whose body was found in a parking lot in Berkeley on Tuesday afternoon, a police spokeswoman said today. 

The man, who was in his 20s, hasn't been identified yet, Berkeley police Officer Jennifer Coats said. 

Coats said it appears that the man was a transient. 

Officers responded at 1:54 p.m. Tuesday to a report of an unresponsive man in the parking lot on the northwest corner of Shattuck Avenue and Blake Street and the man was pronounced dead at the scene, Coats said.

Man Arrested for Second Strong-Arm Robbery Near U.C. Berkeley Campus

Andrew Dickey (BCN)
Wednesday September 10, 2014 - 10:49:00 AM

Berkeley police arrested a 22-year-old man for a robbery near the University of California at Berkeley campus last weekend. 

The robbery occurred shortly before 2 a.m. Saturday near the intersection of Bancroft Way and College Avenue, where the suspect punched the 22-year-old victim several times and demanded his money, police said. 

The suspect took the victim's money and fled on foot before an officer spotted him inside a vehicle driving west on Bancroft, according to police. 

Officers stopped the vehicle and arrested the suspect, identified as Malcolm Peterson, on suspicion of robbery. 

The victim suffered minor injuries in the attack, according to police.

Three Arrested in Berkeley Strong-Arm Robbery

Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Wednesday September 10, 2014 - 08:41:00 AM

Berkeley police have arrested three 18-year-old suspects for the strong-arm robbery of a 19-year-old woman near the University of California at Berkeley campus early Saturday morning. 

Police said the woman was confronted near the intersection of Bowditch Street and Bancroft Way at about 1:36 a.m. Saturday by a group of male suspects who started verbally harassing her and her friends. 

The suspects surrounded the woman, called her names, spit on her and kicked her and then one of them stole her phone, according to police.  

The victim, who suffered minor injuries, saw the suspects get into a dark vehicle after the robbery and Berkeley officers who arrived at the scene and found the suspects' vehicle unoccupied and parked at Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue, police said.  

The officers then saw three males get into the vehicle and the males were detained and identified as the robbery suspects, police said.  

Two of the men were armed with firearms, according to police. 

Authorities identified the suspects as Blake Brown, Elijah Mayo and Kendall Segers. 

Police said they don't know if the woman was a UC Berkeley student. 

Body Found in Berkeley Parking Lot at Shattuck and Blake

Dan McMenamin (BCN)
Tuesday September 09, 2014 - 07:03:00 PM

A body was found in a parking lot in Berkeley this afternoon, a police spokeswoman said. 

Officers responded at 1:54 p.m. to a report of an unresponsive male in the parking lot on the northwest corner of Shattuck Avenue and Blake Street, Berkeley police Officer Jennifer Coats said. 

The male was pronounced dead at the scene. There were no obvious signs of trauma to the body and it will be up to the Alameda County coroner's bureau to determine a cause of death in the case, Coats said. 

Police remained at the scene as of shortly after 4 p.m. to wait for coroner's officials to arrive, she said.

Press Release: Starbucks Opens at Ashby and Telegraph and Immediately Violates City Codes

From Andrew Johnson
Tuesday September 09, 2014 - 11:17:00 AM


In March 2013, Sacramento architect Adam Orozco, Arktgraf Inc. was granted an Administrative Use Permit (AUP) for a quick-serve coffee shop at 3001A Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley. The AUP waived 3 City Code requirements: 1) it permitted a 2063 sq. ft. use, larger than the 1500 sq. ft. maximum, 2) it waived the required number of off-street parking spaces for such a large space (7 spaces, 1 per 300 sq. ft.), and 3) it allowed operating hours to start at 5:30 a.m. (rather than the required 7:00 a.m. hour).

The Bateman Neighborhood Association (BNA) and Bateman resident James Smith appealed the AUP to the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) March 29, 2013. At the public hearing of that appeal, Starbucks sent a representative to oppose the appeal. ZAB denied the Bateman appeal 5-4 on June 29, 2013.

Then BNA and Smith appealed the ZAB ruling to the City Council. At two public hearings Starbucks again sent representatives to argue against the appeal. On March 11, 2014, the City Council unanimously upheld the BNA appeal and denied the AUP for the 3 waived Code requirements: Starbucks was not allowed to operate a coffee shop larger than 1500 sq. ft. at 3001 Telegraph, or to evade required off-street parking spaces, or to open before 7:00 a.m.

Immediately thereafter, Starbucks submitted new plans for a 1333 sq. ft. space (see Berkeleyside link noted below), just small enough that no additional off-street parking was needed, accomplished by erecting a wall separating the 3001A space into two distinct spaces, 3001A and 3001B. To comply with City Code restrictions on overall square footage and off-street parking provisions, Starbucks had to occupy only 3001A, not make any use of 3001B, and open no earlier than 7:00 a.m.

Current Situation

Starbucks began serving customers at 3001A Telegraph in early August, 2014. Neighbors immediately noticed that the coffee shop opened at 5:00 a.m. weekdays, 6:00 a.m. weekends, as advertised on Starbucks website (see link below, with stated hours of operation at 3001A as 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. weekends), in violation of Berkeley Municipal Code 23E.36.060 Use Limitations:

A. No commercial use shall operate except between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 12:00 midnight, except as authorized by an Administrative Use Permit, and in accordance with Section 23E.16.010.  

Additionally, Starbucks staff have been observed moving supplies and materials between 3001A and 3001B, effectively utilizing 3001B as storage that was explicitly surrendered when it presented a smaller footprint to the City in its revised plans. Because its operations exceed its 1333 sq. ft. floor plan without an AUP, and without providing offstreet parking spaces, Starbucks is in violation of the very city codes they initially sought to have waived in 2013. 

A representative of BNA contacted the City Planning office on August 29, 2014, to inquire if Starbucks had applied for or received a new AUP for the 3001A space. They had not, and City staff confirmed that operating ahead of 7:00 a.m. was a violation of the City Code. 

Over the Labor Day 2014 weekend, Starbucks posted new hours of operation, 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. each day of the week, along with a note on its window advising patrons of the change, blaming “a Berkeley City code” for the change, and promising to seek a solution to the problem. Starbucks’ website continues to indicate opening hours earlier than 7:00 a.m. 

Berkeley’s City Code provisions should have come as no surprise to Starbucks, given that it vigorously fought to have them waived in 2013, and it actively opposed citizens’ appeal of those waivers for a full year, from 2013-2014. 

While their operating hours now appear to conform to City Code, their utilization of additional space at 3001B Telegraph does not. Starbucks should immediately cease use of that space. 

Beginning operations with flagrant violations of the very City Codes Starbucks previously sought an AUP to circumvent, reflects contempt for City law, City process, and neighborhood relations. Starbucks gave only thin lip service at ZAB and City Council hearings to wanting to be a good neighbor and a good city business, but sought to get away with as much as they could right out of the gate. 



Debate at Noon Today on Berkeley's Green Downtown Initiative

Monday September 08, 2014 - 10:34:00 AM

The Berkeley Chamber in cooperation with the League of Women Voters and the Berkeley NAACP will host a non partisan Government Affairs meeting on the "Downtown Initiative" on the November ballot.  

Speaking in favor of the issue will be Councilmember Jesse Arreguin and in opposition, Eric Panzer from Livable Berkeley. 

The meeting will be held at the Chamber office from 12 noon to 1:15pm on Monday September 8th. Please call or email the Chamber office to reserve a spot as we are limited to 40 guests.  

Phone 510-549-7000 or email cynthia@berkeleychamber.com 

Bring your lunch and prepare to get up to date on what is perhaps the most controversial issue on the local ballot!

Report on Town Hall Meeting on Tasers in Berkeley

Steve Martinot
Friday September 05, 2014 - 03:08:00 PM

There was a Town Hall meeting on Tasers last night (Sept. 4) here in Berkeley (at 1939 Addison St.) The meeting was called to provide information and discussion on this weapon. The Berkeley Police Department has asked the city for permission to obtain them. They had made this request a year ago, and been turned down by the city council. They are asking again. 

The panelists included a representative of the NAACP, the Palo Alto public defenders office, a Berkeley attorney, and a member of organizations that have been active against the use of Tasers. Their names are Barbara White, Aram James, Jim Chanin, and Jeremy Miller. The meeting was sponsered by a coalition of 14 local civic and social justice organizations. 

Here is a synopsis of the salient facts presented by this panel and the discussion that ensued. 

  • Tasers are not non-lethal. Since 2001, over 500 people have been killed by police use of Tasers.
  • Tasers are not a non-lethal substitute for guns. When confronted with an armed person, police use guns. Tasers are for use in situations in which the subject is unarmed.
  • Taser are thus a substitute for other non-lethal means of control, such a pepper spray, nightsticks (aka batons), and dogs.
  • With respect to these other means of control, a Taser are a much more lethal weapon, but easier to use.
  • More people have been killed, or permenantly damaged and disabled from the use of tasers than any of these other means of person-control.
  • The object of the Taser is to cause pain. Therefore, is it an instrument of torture. The purpose of torture, or to cause pain, is to force obedience, even to illegal commands.
  • Obedience by the people is not a power the government has a right to demand. The right to say "no," to object to and to protest what the government does (in the person of the police officer) is a right guaranteed the people by the Constitution. Weapons of obedience are therefore by nature unconstitutional. Weapons of torture are in violation of international law.
  • Disobedience on the part of a person stopped by the police is generally considered "violence" by the police, and dealt with as such. This most often amounts to a criminalization of constitutional behavior.
  • The acceptance of Tasers in the hands of government authorities signifies the acceptance of torture as normal. That means that we as a people live in a society that accepts torture as normal, and that therefore legitimizes torture as routine. This is an ethical question about who we have become.
  • Tasers deliver 50,000 volts in each shock. That is 25% of the voltage used in an electric chair, though the current is much lower. The Taser can deliver repeated shocks, which can cause cardiac arrest. One policeman, who allowed himself to be Tased in order to know what it felt like said it was the most painful thing he had ever experienced. The training manuals from “Taser International,” the company that makes them, warn police officers not to test them on themselves.
  • In-custody deaths increased three fold in California after police departments got Tasers. It is estimated that over 300 in-custody deaths over the last 10 years are due to Taser use.
  • The degree of violence on the part of police toward individuals they have stopped on the street, for whatever reason, has increased dramatically once police departments got Tasers (the actual degree is difficult to gauge since civilian review, and thus strict record-keeping, was gutted in California by the Copley Press vs. San Diego case).
  • Two suits have recently been settled in the millions of dollars for people who have suffered brain damage, and been permanently disabled, by the use of Tasers.
  • Taser deaths are not necessarily investigated by the DA; only firearms death are. Taser injuries in custody are not considered a medical event and thus no medical attention is given to the victim.
At the Town Hall, the people who spoke were generally in opposition to the use of Tasers and the prospect of giving them to the Berkeley Police Department. The general sentiment was that it behooves Berkeley to stand in opposition to the use of Tasers. 

The City Manager was asked to prepare a report on the use and abuse of tasers for the City Council. That report will be submitted to the City Council on Sept. 9 (next Tuesday). The issue must also be discussed in the Community Health Commission and the Police Review Commission. 

The panelists and sponsoring organizations at this Town Hall ask all in the city of Berkeley to join them in opposing giving Tasers to the Police Department. 

Berkeley’s Parks in Peril

Toni Mester
Friday September 05, 2014 - 03:29:00 PM

The Parks and Waterfront Commission meets on Wednesday September 10 at 7 PM at the Frances Albrier Community Center at 2800 Park Street in San Pablo Park to discuss the state of the parks, many of which are in desperate need of repair, as well as the related state of the Parks Department budget, which is currently running a deficit. 

The agenda includes a report on a proposed renovation project at the Ohlone dog park, which has aroused a controversy over whether to subdivide the small area to allow a protected section for smaller dogs or place a quiet area in one corner. Off-leash dog parks continues to be a hot topic at Commission meetings, but we are hoping for a short and civil discussion, as there will not be an action at this meeting, just a report. 

A second problem that aroused interest around the world is the overpopulation of ground squirrels at Chavez Park, which the Water Board has been monitoring because of concerns that their burrows might penetrate the protective cap and allow leachate from the still decomposing landfill to enter San Francisco Bay. 

The City passed a new ordinance (7356) forbidding the feeding of wildlife that includes substantial fines for violation, and a committee of animal care advocates meets regularly with public works officials to develop an educational brochure and appropriate enforcement. 

In June a subcommittee of the Parks and Waterfront Commission held three public meetings to develop new signage for Cesar Chavez Park that would inform users about the new no-feeding ordinance and better orient dog walkers about the location of on and off-leash areas. 

The Commission will hear an update on the new signage as well as a staff report on the parks tax budget that should illuminate the discussion about Measure F, the proposed parks tax increase. In the spring, the Council ordered two community surveys to test the electoral viability of several propositions concerning parks as well as other subjects. 

The parks commissioners watched the debate about a potential parks tax or a Mello-Roos bond with mixed feelings, as the Council shifted its support from one to the other over several meetings in May and June, leaving many commissioners as well as community members with a sense of vertigo, which is a euphemism at best. 

In all commission meetings, public comment is welcome. 

Toni Mester is the Vice-Chair of the Parks and Waterfront Commission. 


Berkeley Friends Hope to Re-Build Tuolomne Camp

Dennis Culver
Friday September 05, 2014 - 12:00:00 PM

It's been a year since a fire destroyed the Berkeley Tuolomne Camp, but that hasn't stopped friends and supporters of the historic camp from working to get the area restored.

On Aug. 25, 2013, the California Rim Fire ripped through the area, destroying 92 of the camp's 111 structures including all of the main buildings onsite.

Scott Gelfand, with the Friends of Berkeley Tuolomne Camp, said community members are still working to bring the camp back.

"It's a vital part of Berkeley and the city's history," Gelfand said. "The community is excited to help out the camp and get it rebuilt."

The camp opened in 1922 and is just seven miles from the entrance to Yosemite National Park.

The fire was the third largest wildfire in California's history and burned 257,314 acres.

Friends of Berkeley Tuolomne Camp is a nonprofit organization that has organized events to help raise money for the camp's restoration. The organization is not associated with the city. 

The organization held three events in recent weeks to raise awareness and money to help restore the camp. 

On Aug. 22, the group held a campfire sing-a-long at Codornices Park in Berkeley. On Aug. 25, the group held a candlelight vigil marking the first anniversary of the fire, and today at 1 p.m., the organization is holding the "Tee off for Tuolumne!" golf tournament and dinner at Tilden Park in Berkeley. 

Gelfand said the money raised at the events will go toward purchasing trees and repairing paths in the camp. 

Gelfand said the camp's restoration is still in the early stages, and he estimated it will be at least four years before it is complete. 


The Drought Song (to the tune of Yankee Doodle)

C. Denney
Friday September 05, 2014 - 03:30:00 PM

California's got the drought
Texas is no better
it's hard on lawns and tough on trout
especially in hot weather
but grapes up north are doing fine
something we can turn to
California's got good wine
coming to the rescue

fill the fishtank with merlot
the dog drinks bloody mary
wash the car with chenin blanc
change the oil with sherry
wash your hair in pinot noir
zinfandel is nifty
water lawns with chardonnay and
wash your socks with whiskey

why not fill the swimming pool
with some refreshing riesling
not the rum or they may have to
peel you off the ceiling
people will admire your
modus operandi
wash your clothes with zinfandel
brush your teeth with brandy

California leads the way
in brilliant innovation
plant your vines ahead of time
before it sweeps the nation
wine will get us through the drought
dry or sweet as honey
disruptive, green without a doubt
and boy will it make money



Target? In Berkeley? Wow?

Becky O'Malley
Friday September 05, 2014 - 02:58:00 PM

Well, whoop-de-do. Target Berkeley! A flurry of press releases in my inbox, plus an article in the trade press and another in a Berkeley local online outlet reveal that the city’s downtown will be honored with some sort of a brand-new mini-Target incarnation: same iconic bulls-eye logo, the whole megillah, just downsized a bit.

The commentariat is wowed. The most prolific local email annunciator, someone whose name seems to be “guest”, was the first up to the plate online: “Great news. Well done, Mr. Caplan. And thanks to the DBA for its efforts to make the downtown a more desirable place to eat, shop and play. More work to do, for certain, but this is a good step in the right direction.”

I guess I’d be wowed too, if I wasn’t cursed with remembering a whole string of similar first steps that never made it to step two. When we were incubating our software company in the early 80s, upstairs in the charming Telegraph Avenue building which is now Rasputin’s, the landlord and downstairs neighbor was Miller’s Outpost, a Southern California clothing chain (do they still exist?) and up the street was The Gap—both now gone.

And downtown: I was part of a big (losing) fight by preservationists to stop the hideous remodel of the building that housed beloved Edy’s ice cream parlor in order to attract the Eddie Bauer chain. Uh-huh. Came and went in jig time. Now we have, what, a cellphone store, in that plug-ugly building? I can’t even remember, because I never shop in downtown Berkeley any more. 

OMG! Can I admit it in print? When I need laundry soap, toilet paper, shoes, and a few other items formerly found downtown, I’ve been known to DRIVE to Target in Emeryville, after first of course checking online to see what kinds of paper products are NOT made by the Koch brothers. So in theory having a teeny Tarjhay, as we in the cognoscenti pronounce it, might be handy. Except that no one in my household is young or nimble enough to schlep huge packages of TP and detergent home on foot, bicycle or even on the bus. But if you are, Target Express might be just what you need. 

Not, of course, that all of those things aren’t already available downtown at semi-competitive prices at Walgreen’s or CVS, despite the best efforts of the PCish crowd to keep them out. (Don't get me wrong. Some of my best friends are…PC.) 

What these fine folks are not recognizing, when they point out the vanishingly small number of independent pharmacies still around, is that all retail is converging, morphing into general stores of varying sizes. Safeway is metastasizing on the corner of College and Claremont, having already bought out and replaced the independent Chimes pharmacy. The florist across College has gone under: Safeway’s new strip mall will have one instead. And so it goes. You can pick up a quart of milk at Walgreen’s anywhere. 

Some suggest boycotting Safeway’s new store, but I never went to the old one, preferring the local independent market which recently had its front window smashed by animal rights activists because it carried a sign advertising meat. Really, it’s a miracle anyone wants to run a small retail store in Berkeley anymore. 

And speaking of boycotts, you might just type “boycott Target” into your search engine.  

Just a sample: In 2010 Berkeley’s own MoveOn was recommending such a thing because, as I remember, Target corporate in Minnesota contributed big bucks to an anti-gay-marriage Republican candidate for Governor. And there’s more, too tedious to recount. If memory serves, Target is now backpedalling on such stances. In any event, I still go there—I can barely keep up with what the Koch Brothers are up to, much less Target. 

(I’ll admit I’m still not able to stomach that fancy downtown restaurant whose proprietor is on record endorsing the last anti-homeless ballot measure and opposing the minimum wage law. But she’s no worse than many of her peers.) 

The truth is that both local stores and malls are now in big trouble because of the Internet. Barnes and Noble came and went on Berkeley’s commercial streets, but so did Cody’s Books. 

Many people seem to prefer shopping from home, and bricks-and-mortar is losing out. One touted feature of the new Tarjhay Express is that it will offer a service that lets you order online from home and pick up in the store. Walgreen’s, of course, already does that—we get good deals on vitamins and cheap shampoo that way.  

But there’s not much really new under the sun, is there? When my kids were little and we lived in the Midwest on a miniscule grad student budget, the Sears catalog offered the same service. Socks, Toughskin jeans, tee shirts, toys…anything we needed could be ordered by snail mail or from pleasant ladies on the phone, at fair prices, delivered to a storefront downtown for pickup or to our door for a few dollars more.  

So you’ll excuse me if I don’t join the general chorus of huzzahs every time another chain dips its corporate toes into Berkeley waters. I guess I’ve just been around this particular block too many times to believe the PR—and I’ll probably continue getting my Tide and TP in Emeryville because it’s impossible to park in downtown Berkeley.  

(Oops, I wasn’t supposed to say that, was I?) 




The Editor's Back Fence

Beer Garden Gathering to Benefit "Yes on Berkeley Measure D"

Department of Oh Sure
Tuesday September 09, 2014 - 10:38:00 PM

We're not taking a position at the moment on Berkeley Measure D, a proposed tax on soda pop and some other sugary drinks, but it seems odd to us that some Yes on D sponsors (the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, no less) are throwing a party in a beer garden to support their cause. The stated goals of the ballot measure, it's said, are to combat obesity and diabetes--maybe we've missed something, but doesn't beer contribute to both of these as least as much as soda pop? Moderation, moderation, sure, sure, but really....could it be that the real purpose of the tax is to raise money to pay public employees, like, say, teachers? Check out this link: http://www.sodaseries.org/beer_garden_gathering


Odd Bodkins: Winslow (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Friday September 05, 2014 - 03:29:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Odd Bodkins: Global Warming (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Friday September 05, 2014 - 03:24:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Public Comment

Ukraine should stay neutral

Tejinder Uberoi
Friday September 05, 2014 - 03:36:00 PM

It is time for the US, the European Union, Ukraine and Russia to dial back the harsh rhetoric lest more and more people die in this senseless conflict. Already close to 3,000 have already been killed. A Human Rights Watch report accuse the rebels of arbitrarily detaining civilians and subjecting them to torture, degrading treatment, including forced labor. Satellite images show Russian artillery, vehicles and troops in and around eastern Ukraine. In a major display of unity, 28 NATO countries and Ukraine are holding an emergency meeting. Both sides accuse each of escalating the conflict. There is little doubt that national pride will triumph concerns for human life. 

It is apparent that Russia is trying to prevent Ukraine joining NATO which it perceives to be a direct security threat. That is precisely what many in the West, more especially in the Baltic countries, and the neocons in Washington want. President Obama should show leadership and persuade our war hungry allies to respect Russia’s legimate security concerns by supporting Russia’s and Chancellor Merkel’s call for an immediate cease fire and urging Ukraine to remain neutral, postponing an alignment with NATO or the European Union for say five years. This would dramatically de-escalate tensions. After all how would we respond if Canada and Mexico were to join an alliance hostile to the US?

September Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Friday September 05, 2014 - 03:14:00 PM

Editor's Note: The latest issue of the Pepper Spray Times is now available.

You can view it absolutely free of charge by clicking here . You can print it out to give to your friends.

Grace Underpressure has been producing it for many years now, even before the Berkeley Daily Planet started distributing it, most of the time without being paid, and now we'd like you to show your appreciation by using the button below to send her money.  

This is a Very Good Deal. Go for it! 


New: THE PUBLIC EYE; What’s Wrong With US Foreign Policy?

Bob Burnett
Monday September 08, 2014 - 03:43:00 PM

Obama bashing has been one of the characteristics of the 2014 midterm election. For the last few months the President was accused of lacking foreign policy leadership. Republicans blamed Obama for deteriorating conditions in Iraq and Syria, implying the President is solely responsible for the bad news. What’s wrong with US foreign policy? 

It helps to consider the historical course of our foreign policy. Before World War II, American foreign policy was guided by colonialism. We were the dominant power in this sector of the world and considered North and South America to be within our sphere of influence – Europe, in particular, should stay away. This policy worked well for American business interests, less so for advocates of democracy. 

In World War II we used our beefed-up military forces to defeat the Axis and established ourselves as the number one world power. With the Marshall Plan, our foreign policy shifted towards spreading democracy across the globe. During the Cold War this meant that if a country adopted socialism, it was the enemy. (In 1953 the US fomented a coup in Iran that overthrew a pro-democracy, socialist regime.) 

When America entered the Vietnam War, our initial objective was to defeat the forces of North Vietnam and introduce democracy to the unified country. Our loss had a negative impact on our perspective and since 1973 US foreign policy has been reactive; we’ve been less interested in spreading democracy. 

Theoretically, when confronted with a foreign crisis, the President should consider the short-term security interests of the US, as well as its long-term strategic interests. 

The Bush administration justification for the 2003 invasion of Iraq initially focused on short-term security issues: "[remove] a regime that developed and used weapons of mass destruction, that harbored and supported terrorists, committed outrageous human rights abuses, and defied the just demands of the United Nations and the world." Later strategic interests were included: "to change the Middle East so as to deny support for militant Islam by pressuring or transforming the nations and transnational systems that support it." The security phase had detailed planning. The strategic phase made a weak attempt to introduce democracy to the region. 

The US occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrated that the US, 70 years after World War II, continues to be effective at regime change; we know how to conduct military operations that decapitate enemy leadership. However, we were not effective creating a stable civil society; we were not able to “change the Middle East so as to deny support for militant Islam.” (To the contrary, in many regions we made things worse.) At present, America is not able to inculcate democracy and nip terrorism in the bud. 

This grim reality explains why Americans are unhappy with our foreign policy, especially the situation in the Middle East – the death of the promise of “Arab Spring.” In the minds of most Americans our foreign policy is based upon our use of overwhelming military power buttressed by the rationale that when we send in the marines we are paving the way for democracy.  

The first US foreign policy problem is obvious: it’s not working. We’ve been unable to bring democratic stability to the Middle East.  

The second problem is that Washington politicians are unwilling to explain why our foreign policy isn’t working. Instead they blame Obama – although he wasn’t the one who created the problem – and argue we should send thousands of our troops back into the region. Few politicians are willing to tell the truth: the US is responsible for the mess in the Middle East.  

In this respect, the Obama Administration’s de facto foreign policy, “don’t do stupid stuff,” makes sense because Bush era foreign policy was stupid, starting with the poorly thought-out war in Afghanistan and continuing through the debacle of the invasion of Iraq. America doesn’t have a long-term strategy to spread democracy. 

President Obama has been characterized as overly cautious in his handling of The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). But considering the US track record in the Middle East over the past twenty years, there’s good reason to be cautious. 

The third US foreign policy problem is that the world Americans desire to create for others should reflect the world we have created for ourselves. But, at this moment, American democracy is not strong. We cannot offer a shining beacon of hope for the world because we have substantial problems. Many of our citizens lack meaningful employment and adequate housing, food, and health care. Many of our children go to bed hungry and are receiving a sub-standard education. Many of our cities are overcrowded and polluted. Many of our citizens do not trust the government and, in particular, their local police force. These problems can be fixed, but Americans understand that we should not be touting democracy overseas when our own democracy is struggling. 

Thus, the fourth US foreign policy problem is that while our armed forces are strong our citizens are dispirited. While Americans are afraid of terrorists many are more afraid of their local police. 

American foreign policy won’t be right until we strengthen our democracy. 

Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer and retired Silicon Valley Executive. He can be reached at bburnett@sonic.net 

ECLECTIC RANT: Ray McDonald Case May Test NFL’s New Domestic Violence Policy

Ralph E. Stone
Friday September 05, 2014 - 08:56:00 AM

I have seen the terrible toll on victims of domestic violence as a volunteer at the Cooperative Restraining Order Clinic (CROC), helping victims of domestic violence obtain restraining orders against their abusers. 

Statistics show that 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, and 1.3 million women are victims of assault by an intimate partner each year. This is simply intolerable. 

Research about whether male athletes are more likely than men in general to commit violence against women is inconclusive, but evidence exists that professional athletes are not punished by their leagues, teams or the criminal justice system as harshly or as consistently as members of the general public. According to “The San Diego Union-Tribune” database of the 32 NFL teams, 21 of them have this year had at least one player who has been charged with domestic violence or sexual assault. (Some were, of course, acquitted.) It should be noted, however, from CROC’s experience, charges are sometimes withdrawn even when the accused is likely to be guilty. 

Consider that women now make up almost half the NFL fan base. More women watched the Super Bowl than the Oscars. And the NFL for four years has targeted women to sell them licensed NFL apparel. That’s why the spotlight should shine on the alleged domestic violence by Ray McDonald, a San Francisco 49er defensive end who was arrested on August 31, 2014, for felony domestic violence against his fiancee, who is 10 weeks pregnant. 

The NFL has finally instituted a policy of imposing a six-game suspension for the first offense of domestic violence, and if a second occurs, an indefinite ban on the employee or player. The McDonald matter may be a test case for this new NFL policy on domestic violence. 

SENIOR POWER: House call medicine

Helen Rippier Wheeler, pen136@dslextreme.com
Friday September 05, 2014 - 08:47:00 AM

Does anyone recall House Calls, the 1978 “comedy drama romance” motion picture? Walter Matthau played a middle aged lech-surgeon-widower. The talents of Glenda Jackson, Art Carney and Richard Benjamin were also wasted. It actually went on to one TV season.  

In 2004 there was Ron Hazelton's house-maintenance tips TV show. 

Thirty-six years later, when you explore the Internet for house calls, you’ll find a lot more stuff. News and advertisements. Like Ina Jaffe’s "House Calls Keep People Out Of Nursing Homes And Save Money" (U.S. National Public Radio blog, August 7, 2014). Bay Area House Calls Physicians declare “We started a new model of practice to bring back an old style of practicing medicine: We make House Calls.” The UCSF Division of Geriatrics Housecalls Program provides primary care to homebound elders in San Francisco.  

Wikipedia defines a house call as a visit to the home of a patient or client by a doctor or other professional. Families used to pay dues to a particular practice to underwrite house calls. Fifty+ years ago, house calls by doctors were 40% of doctor-patient meetings; by 1980, 0.6%. Reasons include increased specialization and technology. Until the Balanced Budget Amendment, team home care, including physician visits, was a small but growing field in health care for frail older people with chronic illnesses. Thousands of home health agencies went out of business. The reasons for fewer house calls include lack of physician education, inconvenience and lower pay. 

On the other hand, there are doctors who like the idea of no office overhead. And of course, a house call can provide safe access to care by people who are sick!  

In 2012 as part of its Action Plan for Healthcare the province of Ontario, Canada expanded funding for access to house calls with its primary focus being on seniors and those with physical limitations making it difficult for travel outside the home. Residents of Ontario with valid Ontario Health Insurance Plan cards are able to take advantage of the house call system, and arrange for appointments with physicians at their home. 

Peter Gott, M.D. (1935-2012) authored four books. His No Flour, No Sugar Cookbook, published in 2008, was a bestseller, but my focus here is his No House Calls; Irreverent Notes on the Practice of Medicine (Poseidon Press, 1986.) As far as I can tell, in California only Loma Linda University Library has a copy; you too can probably borrow it through your public library.  

In the early’80s, Dr. Gott began writing a very popular medical column for The Lakeville Journal. Regarding house calls, he wrote in 1986, “I am fortunate to practice medicine in a part of the world where most doctors seem to have their patients’ best interests as a primary concern. Perhaps that is an advantage of living in the country. For example, to my knowledge, all the doctors on the staff of our community hospital make house calls. What? Oh, you know, when the doctor calls on sick patients at home. Even surgeons here do it. And – hold on to your seat belt –so does our part-time dermatologist from Manhattan. Whatever is in the rural air must be catching. To say that we are bucking a national trend is like pointing out that birds sing in the morning.”  

Dr. Gott died in his Lakeville, Connecticut home, after a six-year battle with Parkinson’s disease. The Princeton University alumni association concluded his obit, “We always will remember this fine man.” 



A reader of August 22, 2014’s Senior Power column, which was mostly about the G Word, has sent news of Grandma Gatewood. Artistic Director of Eden Valley Enterprises Bette Lou Higgins, writes “I just finished reading your article in the The Berkeley Daily Planet. Grandma Gatewood is a lady near and dear to my heart! Her story is truly inspiring and I've been working with Eden Valley Enterprises and FilmAffects on documenting her life since 2009. We've already completed a storytelling program (with companion e-book and DVD) and a one-act play. In May of next year (in time for the 60th Anniversary of her record-setting hike), we'll premier a PBS documentary about her!” 

Nora Super, recently appointed executive director of the 2015 White House Conference on Aging (a more or less every-decade conference), will speak at the October 11, 2014 meeting of OWL: The Voice of Midlife and Older Women. The meeting is free and open to the public, 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM., held at Hyde Park's Hyatt Place Chicago-South/University Medical Center, 5225 South Harper Ave. The theme of the meeting reflects the Older Women’s League’s current campaign: "Our Women Mean Business: Encore Careers after 40." With 9 million+ women-owned businesses in the country, and women starting over 1,200 new businesses per day -- double the rate from three years ago -- they are a powerful force in the economy. [OWL 1625 K Street NW, Suite 1275 Washington, D.C. 20006 202-567-2606. OWL’s San Francisco Chapter is at 870 Market Street, #905 415.989.4422 info@owlsf.org



"New law enhances residents' rights in residential care facilities for elderly," by Katie Nelson (Santa Cruz Sentinel, July 24, 2014). 

"Reuters (news service) says San Diego has best public pension plan in U.S." (XETV Channel 6 [San Diego] TV News, Aug. 22, 2014). 

"New Program Promises Coordinated Care for Low-Income Californians," by Elena Shore (New America Medica, August 23, 2014). 

“California to recover USD 300 million for pension funds in Bank of America settlement," (Contra Costa Times [San Francisco, California], August 23, 2014). 

August 26 was Women’s Equality Day. The gap in life expectancy at age 65 places California 39th. WalletHub conducted an in-depth analysis of 2014’s Best and Worst States for Women's Equality (http://wallethub.com/edu/best-and-worst-states-for-women-equality/5835/). The United States ranks 23rd on the Global Gender Gap Index.  

"Audit finds some L.A. County nursing home cases prematurely closed," by Abby Sewell and Eryn Brown (Los Angeles Times, August 29, 2014).  

"After Ventura County court battle, pension tensions endure," by Austen Hufford (Pacific Coast Business Times [Santa Barbara], August 29, 2014). 

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Therapeutic Techniques that Aren't as Helpful

Jack Bragen
Friday September 05, 2014 - 01:45:00 PM

Most psychotherapists are probably not aware of this; however, many of the techniques that are used to diffuse anger can create a lot of anguish and dis-empowerment for the consumer. Many of the techniques that are used to get us to behave in a manner which is more convenient or more manageable are harmful for our internal thought structures. This is one reason that some consumers resent mental health practitioners. 

When someone's disability is used against them in a discussion it can look like a therapist is verbally outmaneuvering a mental health consumer. The therapist has a separate level of awareness that lies in back of what is being said openly. This dual awareness might utilize the same type of mental capacity that is used when people lie convincingly. 

When a consumer makes a complaint concerning the behavior of a therapist, the first thing out of the therapist's mouth is, "What specifically makes you think that?" And then the consumer may struggle to answer that question, and by the time they have an answer, the therapist is ready with another manipulating question, such as "What is it about that which makes you angry?" The focus remains on the internal workings of the patient's mind, and is kept off of the issue of the therapist's behavior. Thus, the consumer with their complaint is rendered impotent on a verbal level. 

Therapists may have an unfair verbal advantage over most mental health consumers--because of not being medicated and because of having training specifically for the purpose of giving them such an advantage. 

When a psychotherapist is adversarial toward the people they are treating, the result is therapy which is damaging to the consumer. This is so even if the therapist doesn't outwardly show that they don't like a particular client. 

I question the validity of some types of therapy, especially when the therapist believes they ought to ignore the patient's express wishes and complaints. Also, deep probing into the psyche of the patient is likely not helpful for someone who has a chronic mental illness caused by a bio-neurological imbalance. 

If the medical model of mental illness is accurate, then psychologists have no business getting into deep levels of a person and making changes which are based on their agendas and not those of the patient. 

The data that exists between the ears is vulnerable. If this were not so, there would be no such thing as post-traumatic stress. However, there are also subtler forms of psychological difficulties that can come from being inundated with the wrong messages, or that can come from inadvertently assuming erroneous assumptions. 

If you are in regular contact with people who tell you that you are "no good" then at some point, this message could be absorbed. If you are in contact with or supervised by people who assume that you are dumb or intellectually inferior, this message is going to sink in. 

In the past three decades since being diagnosed with a mental illness, I eventually discovered that therapists often had a warped perception of who I am. At times I have been perceived as a criminal. At other times, my lofty ambitions have been presumed to be delusions of grandeur. 

Therapists in a clinical setting are taught to perceive us a "subjects" and not as human beings. Assumptions are made concerning someone's lack of competency and mental inferiority even before the patient has opened his or her mouth to communicate. If someone shows talent at something, they are perceived as even more of a freak, or perhaps as an "idiot savant"--someone brilliant in one area but developmentally delayed otherwise. 

When I refused to answer a personal and inappropriate question of an intern therapist, he resorted to asking me if I was seeing my psychiatrist (the medical doctor who prescribes meds) regularly. Asking me that, in that context, was a form of intentional intimidation. 

In all fairness, most of my experiences in the mental health treatment system have been positive. And most of the mistreatment I have experienced has had some amount of subtlety and has been verbal rather than physical. 

I am speaking strictly from my own experiences, and these may differ from those of other mental health consumers.

Arts & Events

New: Carlisle Floyd’s SUSANNAH: A Folksy American Tragedy at San Francisco Opera

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Monday September 08, 2014 - 03:51:00 PM

Back in 1952, Carlisle Floyd was a 24-year-old pianist and assistant professor of music at Florida State University, when in conversation with a graduate student he was reintroduced to the Apocryphal story of “Susannah and the Elders.” Floyd recalls im-mediately recognizing the operatic potential of this Biblical tale: “the innocent and virtuous Susannah’s being spied upon while bathing by the lustful Elders, who, when she refuses their advances, falsely accuse her of being an adulteress.” The young composer immediately began writing his own libretto. Carlisle Floyd completed the score in March, 1954, and obtained permission from FSU to stage his opera there with professional singers. The world premiere of Floyd’s SUSANNAH took place at FSU on February 24, 1955, and was an immediate success. The very next year Erich Leinsdorf brought SUSANNAH to New York City Opera, where it won a New York Music Critics’ Circle Award and ran for five consecutive seasons.  

In writing his own libretto, Floyd drew on his childhood memories of Methodist revival meetings in the mountains of South Carolina, where his father was a devout and strict fundamentalist. Floyd updated the tale of “Susannah and the Elders,” placing it in a remote valley in the mountains of eastern Tennessee during summer revival meet-ings. He also changed the story from one of vindicating Susannah and punishing the Elders, as in the Apocryphal book of Daniel, to a tale of tragic loss of innocence, in which the virginal Susannah is first resented by the women of the community for her good looks, then is reviled by all for bathing nude in a forest creek, and finally is sexually violated by none other than the newly arrived preacher, Reverend Olin Blitch.  

Musically, Floyd’s score is a mixture of American folk idioms – square dances and folk songs – and neo-Romantic orchestration. The libretto is full of rural dialect that captures the speech of its Appalachian subjects. On Saturday, September 6, Floyd’s SUSANNAH received its official premiere at San Francisco Opera with con-ductor Karen Kamensak at the podium. When the curtain rises, following an overture paired with lovely video shots of mountain landscapes of the Great Smoky Mountains, a square dance is in progress, where the 19-year-old Susannah is the center of attention. The men of New Hope Valley all want to dance with her, while the village wives, led by the acid-tongued Mrs. McClean, warn that she’s evil and will come to no good. Even the newly arrived preacher, Reverend Olin Blitch, sung by bass Raymond Aceto, invites her to dance. In this opening scene, Susannah, portrayed here by soprano Patricia Racette, is the focus of everyone, but is seen and not heard.  

In the opera’s second scene, Susannah has returned to her cabin where she tells Little Bat McClean, a troubled boy who follows her everywhere, about her success at the dance. Then Susannah launches into a dreamy, heartfelt aria, “Ain’t it a pretty night,” in which she sings of the beauty of the star-filled sky and wonders what lies beyond the mountains. One day, she sings, she’ll travel to the big cities and see the pretty clothes the city-women wear. But she’ll always come back to her home in this beautiful valley. As Susannah, Patricia Racette, celebrating her 25th anniversary at San Francisco Opera, sang this lovely aria rapturously. Little Bat, sung by tenor James Kryshak, adoringly tells her how pretty she looks. But he runs off quickly when Susannah’s brother, Sam, returns from hunting. Susannah tells Sam about the dance that evening, then coaxes Sam, sung by tenor Brandon Jovanovich, (whom I heard in this same role in a 2002 production of SUSANNAH by Festival Opera, Walnut Creek), to sing the “Jaybird” song their father used to sing. Sam complies with a lively, high-stepping version of this folksy tune. 

In Act I, Scene 3, Susannah retreats to a secluded creek deep in the forest, where she sheds her clothes and bathes nude, discreetly offstage. The church elders happen by in search of the remote creek where they intend to hold baptisms led by Reverend Blitch. When the elders espy Susannah bathing nude, they are initially transfixed by her beauty. But their appreciation and lust soon turn to anger, and they vow to denounce Susannah when they return to town. When she shows up that evening at a church picnic, Susannah is shunned by all, led, as usual, by the self-righteous Mrs. McClean, excellently sung by veteran mezzo-soprano Catherine Cook.  

Susannah returns home, perplexed by her ostracism. Little Bat arrives and tells her the church elders saw her bathing nude in the creek. “Ain’t nothing wrong in that,” exclaims Susannah. “I been bathin’ there all summer.” Little Bat then confesses the church elders coerced him into saying Susannah “had loved him up,” in other words, seduced him. Indignant, Susannah chases Little Bat away. When her brother returns, she tells him what happened. Sam sings a brief aria about the way folks are: how quick they are to look for evil, when the evil’s in themselves. Act I ends with an unfortunately brassy, pretentious outpouring from the orchestra. 

As Act II begins, Sam prepares to go on an overnight hunting trip; but he urges Susannah to attend that evening’s prayer meeting “to show she ain’t afraid.” Against her better judgment, Susannah does so. Reverend Blitch’s revival meeting, as set to music by Carlisle Floyd, is a famous piece of Americana. But I personally find that the composer has not quite captured the unique verbal rhythms of revivalist preachers as they work up to a fever pitch the fears and hopes of their parishioners. It is an honest effort, however; and Blitch’s preaching has its effect on Susannah, who mesmerized by the charismatic Reverend Blitch, involuntarily starts towards him when he invites her to renounce her sins. Suddenly, however, Susannah revolts, and, convinced that she is innocent of sin, bolts from the church.  

Back home, Susannah sings a mournful aria in which she longs for the return of summer’s warmth. Patricia Racette delivered this aria with poignantly moving sens-itivity. But this aria has a disturbing subtext, for it also sings of longing for a lover’s return, if only for one night, and of her baby that needs a name. In short, this aria is one of lost innocence, and as such, it seems strangely out of place, coming before and thus prefiguring the ultimate loss of innocence that awaits Susannah when Reverend Blitch arrives at her house.  

In this scene, Floyd’s libretto reveals another side of Reverend Blitch. When he fails to exhort Susannah to repent her alleged sins, he starts to leave. But, drawn to her beauty, he opens up and confides that he is a lonely man who longs for a woman. Susannah, now too exhausted and depressed to resist fate, allows him to lead her into the house, where he spends the night. As Reverend Blitch, bass Raymond Aceto was vocally at his best in this scene, where Floyd’s libretto makes him almost sympathetic. 

In the following scene, staged in this production by Director Michael Cavanagh and Set Designer Erhard Rom beneath a brilliantly illuminated giant cross, Reverend Blitch, alone in the church, prays fervently for forgiveness, acknowledging that he has deflowered a virginal Susannah. When his parishioners enter and he seeks to persuade them that Susannah was innocently accused, they coldly refuse to listen. However, in a touch I find totally lacking in verisimilitude, Floyd’s libretto has Susannah show up in church this morning after her deflowering by Reverend Blitch. This seems to me totally out of character, unless we interpret it as yet another mani-festation of Susannah’s utter degradation at the hands of her persecutors. Blitch unsuccessfully begs her forgiveness, and she angrily leaves the church. 

Back home, Susannah bitterly welcomes back her brother, Sam, from his over-night trip. When she tells him what happened, Sam is indignant. Grabbing a gun, he runs off looking for Blitch. A shot rings out; and, shortly, Little Bat arrives to tell that Sam has killed Blitch in the creek while the Reverend was performing baptisms. The townsfolk soon appear, vowing to lynch Sam and run Susannah out of the valley. Susannah grabs a shotgun and threatens to mow them all down. Cowed, they retreat. But an embittered Susannah, now totally cynical about human nature, remains alone, brandishing a shotgun, vowing never to be run off her land. Thus ends Carlisle Floyd’s SUSANNAH. 

Floyd has acknowledged that his early exposure to fundamentalist revival meetings struck him as “mass coercion to conform, whether people are really con-vinced of the doctrine or not. You simply bend the knee without question, which is the basis of any totalitarian society.” In many ways, although no doubt unintention-ally, Floyd’s SUSANNAH effectively dramatizes ideas originally set forth by Freud’s early colleague Wilhelm Reich in his 1933 book Die Massenpsychologie des Faschismus/The Mass-Psychology of Fascism, in which Reich argued that sexual repression often leads to mass conformity to authority. Carlisle Floyd has also acknowledged the parallels between this opera’s plot and the McCarthyist “Red Scare” tactics rampant in the USA at the time of SUSANNAH’s conception in the 1950s. Religious zeal, innuendo, and intimidation were rife in the USA at that time, and Floyd was appalled. He cites Arthur Miller’s plays THE CRUCIBLE, a tale of witch-hunting, and DEATH OF A SALESMAN, about the shallow, self-delusional bravado of American males, as influencing his own vision of a USA dangerously on the brink of totalitarian oppression. While by no means perfect, Carlisle Floyd’s SUSANNAH remains one of the very finest American operas ever created; and to this day it is the most frequently performed. It is thus high time that SUSANNAH makes its appearance in a fine San Francisco Opera production. 

Press Release: Piedmont Oakland Repertory Theatre September Entertainment

John McMullen
Friday September 05, 2014 - 03:34:00 PM
John Hale, Heidi Wolff, Alison Whismore
John Hale, Heidi Wolff, Alison Whismore

“The Vibrator Play” and “Love Letters” are the September entertainment at Piedmont Oakland Repertory Theatre starting September 6th

“We are just tickled that Capoiera Mandinga at 4137 Piedmont Avenue in Oakland is welcoming us to use their space. We are sorting things out so that we can hopefully perform there year-round on Saturdays and Sundays.” 

Sarah Ruhl’s “In the Next Room: The Vibrator Play” started at the Berkeley Rep and moved on the Broadway where it was a Tony nominee last year. It is set in the 1880’s when, with the advent of electricity, doctor used vibrators to treat women’s “hysteria” by giving them “paroxysms” with a vibrator. PORT is doing a “concert version” with the actors reading and acting in place in costume. 

“It’s all the fun and laughter and tears without any of the potential embarrassment—we decided to do the “concert version” staged reading since the audience is only feet away from the stage,” producer/director John A. McMullen II explained. “They will be in 1880’s costumes.” 

“The Vibrator Play” plays September 6 through 21st, followed by “Love Letters” by A. R. Gurney on September 21, 27, and 28. 

“Love Letters” is about a life-long correspondence between a man and a woman born to wealth and privilege from the time they are children through college, war, marriage (to others), a brief affair, careers, rises and declines—two people who mean a lot to each other over a whole lifetime.  

“At thirteen dollar tickets, they are both great ‘date nights,’” McMullen proposed. “We did ‘The Dining Room’ by Gurney last year at the Piedmont Center for the Arts, and everyone seems to love his plays. John Hale, who got rave reviews role as the fat cat financier in “Other People’s Money” last spring, will be featured in both productions.” 

“We sold out both performances of our staged readings of “Speed-the-Plow” in late June. We thought that these two great plays which particularly lend themselves to a staged reading production format would be a good way to draw an audience at an unusually low price to see the talented actors we have in advance of our planned season. If all goes well, in mid-September we will be announcing a fuller season of fully staged and produced plays,” McMullen said. 

“In the Next Room: THE VIBRATOR PLAY” by Sarah Ruhl 

(“Concert version”: all the story, laughter, and heartbreak without the potential embarrassment) 

8 Performances only 

8 pm Sat Sep 6th / 13th / 20th 

2:30pm Sun Mat Sep 7th / 21st 

7 pm Sun Sep 7th / 14th 

“Love Letters” by A. R. Gurney 

4 performances only 

8 pm Sat Sep 27th 

2:30 Sun Mat 28th 

7 pm Sun Sep 28th  

Tickets & Info at www.PiedmontOaklandRep.org

Theater Review: 'Penthesilea'--Actors Ensemble & Inferno Theatre at Hinkel Park--Free

Friday September 05, 2014 - 08:28:00 AM

"Till now I thought force and counterforce were all that Nature knows, that no third power existed besides. What puts fire out will not bring water to a boil and vice-versa. Yet here's a deadly foe of each, and when it comes, fire won't know whether to flow with the deluge, nor water to leap up to heaven with the flames." 

So Odysseus, in the original text of Heinrich von Kleist's 1808 drama 'Penthesilea,' describes the maddening effect on the Greeksof the Amazon warriors appearing in battle during the Trojan War. 

In an unusual, outdoor production, Actors Ensemble of Berkeley has joined forces with Inferno Theatre, also of Berkeley (based at the South Berkeley Community Church), in a new, shortened and condensed version of Kleist's strange masterpiece of war and love, one which both exalts and attacks the body, the other exalting and attacking the identity. 

Giulio Perrone, founder of Inferno Theatre--and formerly director of the Dell'Arte School of Physical Theater near Eureka and on the staff of the Grotowski Institute in Italy--has crystalized Kleist's poetic drama into just one hour of action and speech, getting into the core of the play, when some Amazons begin to experience emotional attachment to their Greek prisoners--and even Achilles and Penthesilea, the Amazon queen, become mutually enthralled. But what if they must meet in battle? 

Perrone has also designed and directed the show, in the old amphitheater at John Hinkel Park, up in the hills near Kensington--the spare outdoor set, the "timeless" costumes of the belligerents, transport the audience under the trees with their sense of suggestion. There are moments of humor, of deliberate awkwardness, carried over from Kleist, as well as his all-embracing irony, ready to show a madly changing battlefield as well as the equally tempestuous inside of the characters who stalk it, carrying out a primitively wayward Uncertainty Principle to a tragic unraveling. 

The cast represents a range of theatrical training and experience--and becomes an ensemble onstage in the amphitheater, the performance of the group--like an army in combat--often standing above the individual actors and their characters. But there's that other triumph, to extend the "theater of war" metaphor--a great sense of presence, and of magnetism, of forces--as Odysseus said--heading powerfully if uncertainly toward reckoning. 

Danielle Martino plays Penthesilea, and Jacob Dean, Achilles. AnJu Hyppolite, Vicki Victoria and Emily Pierce are Amazons Prothoe, Meroe and Asteria, with Simone Bloch as the priestess and Tenya Spillberg and Katherine Potter as her (belly) dancers for the ceremony of roses, with Michael Needham as the wily Odysseus, Jerome Solberg as Diomedes and Manuel and Diego Perrone as Greek soldiers. 

The live musical element--violin, musical bow and sousaphone, plus chanting and singing--works very well,and the brevity of the production gives it a paradoxical--and Kleist-like!--density and complexity. 

It's fascinating to sit back in the shade of the great trees of Hinkel Park and watch the stylized mayhem of ancient battle and of sudden emotional turmoil and discovery, in the overriding atmosphere of a feast--the feast of roses, or a picnic, or the joint companies' barbecue, to which the public's invited. A perfect late summer afternoon outdoors, watching a clever adaptation of a great, intriguing play that's hardly ever performed. And this will be the last of three weekends. 

4 pm, Saturday and Sunday, September 6 and 7, John Hinkel Park, 41 Somerset, off Southampton, off Arlington, from the top of Marin Avenue. Free. aeofberkeley.org or for reservations for groups or disabled, 649-5999.