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Victim in Berkeley Stabbing Dies

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

A 72-year-old woman who was stabbed in Berkeley during an attempted carjacking three weeks ago died this morning, police said. 

Nancy Jo McClellan of Emeryville had been treated at a medical facility for injuries she suffered when she was stabbed allegedly by 18-year-old Kamau Berlin in the vicinity of Russell and Otis streets at about 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 19. 

Police said arriving officers saw a man fleeing the area who matched the suspect description given by callers and were able to detain him in the 2900 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Way after a foot pursuit. The suspect later was identified as Berlin, a Richmond resident. 

Police said it appears that Berlin allegedly stabbed the woman several times during the attempted carjacking. 

After the incident, Berlin was charged with attempted murder and attempted carjacking. 

Berkeley police said they will now seek to have the attempted murder charge against Berlin upgraded to murder. 

Berlin, who is being held without bail at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, is scheduled to return to Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland on Oct. 24 to enter a plea.

New: FSM: A Play With Music About A Moment That Changed America

Reviewed by Conn Hallinan
Saturday October 04, 2014 - 10:40:00 PM

History plays present their own particular challenges. On one hand, the story is driven by the sequence of events in the real world. On the other, the drama has to engage an audience. The twain rarely meet. But Joan Holden’s FSM, under the able direction of Erin Merritt, with music and lyrics by Bruce Barthol and Daniel Savio, pulls off the still more daunting job of creating an evening of theater that entertains both those for whom the events include their own life stories and those for whom it is ancient history.

Subtitled “A play with music about a moment that changed America,” FSM covers a four month period in the fall of 1964 when students took on the University of California at Berkeley over the right to speak and organize on campus. There is a little bit of tongue-in-cheek in the title, and Holden wisely does not try to turn the “Battle of Berkeley” into the Second Coming. But, at the same time, she understands that something unique happened in those fall days when virtually the entire student body came together to confront the powerful and wealthy Board of Regents, and the students prevailed. That victory has echoed down the years, helping to propel the anti-war movement, the women’s movement, and battles around racism, South Africa, and Gay liberation. .

Commissioned by Stagebridge, an Oakland-based theater company of older adults, the play was written with the 50th anniversary of the FSM in mind. It was performed before packed audiences during a weeklong celebration on the Berkeley campus. Many in those audiences had taken part in the events the play portrayed, which made them both enthusiasts and critics. And, Lord, those FSMers can quibble and debate, just like they did a half-century ago. 

The arc of the story runs from the initial arrest of Jack Weinberg in Sproul Plaza, and the subsequent sit-in around the police car in which he was being held, to the key vote in the Academic Senate that finally broke the back of the University administration. Those four months were enormously complex, in part because the FSM itself was such a heterogeneous collection of ideas, tactics and political beliefs, ranging from Communists to conservative Republicans. Nor is it taken out of context. Its antecedents in the civil rights movement are abundantly clear, and the depiction of the sexual politics among the activists presages the arrival of Woman’s Liberation groups a few years later. The complexity of the differences within the various groups—students, faculty, and administration—and their varying certainties and ambivalence, all come into play as Holden refuses to reduce her characters (with very few exceptions, J.Edgar Hoover, for example) to one dimensional mouthpieces for an Idea. The play does an admirable job of reflecting that mosaic without losing sight of the dramatic narrative. As someone who took part in those events 50 years ago, I was continually surprised at how accurately the play managed to reflect the highs and lows of the struggle. 

But FSM is hardly a didactic documentary. Holden, a long-time playwright for the San Francisco Mime Troupe, brings lots of energy, humor, and action to the stage, and Barthol’s and Savio’s music is engaging, even moving. When the students are packed into Sproul Hall awaiting arrest, they sing “Carry Us Away,” a song that mirrors both their determination not to give in and their fear at what is to come. It was one of the play’s most powerful moments. 

FSM moves back and forth between the events of 1964 and current interviews with veterans. Older actors sit and talk about what their characters did after 1964, while the young actors who portray their younger selves stand silently behind them. The cast of 19 plays multiple roles—43, to be exact—and there always seems to be a crowd of protestors (fraternity hecklers, angry citizens, etc.) on stage. 

Director Erin Merritt choreographs a visually arresting montage that keeps the action clear as actors segue from character to character. Stagebridge actors (Abe Bernstein, Patricia Long Davis, Charmaine Hitchcox, Lynne Hollander, Bill Liebman, Merle Nadlin and Miyoko Sakatani) capably portrayed many of the older characters, with Bay Area notables Dan Hiatt (as the grown-up “small town boy” and a clearly conflicted Clark Kerr) and the SF Mime Troupe’s Ed Holmes filling out the senior tier of the intergenerational cast. Brady Morales-Woolery’s portrayal of one of the FSM’s major leaders—or spokesman, as the FSMers repeatedly insist—Mario Savio, sometimes borders on the eerie. Morales-Woolery gets Savio’s body language and speaking cadence down almost perfectly (yes, yes, quibble, quibble). Heather Gordon is particularly effective as the sorority girl turned activist, and the cohort of younger actors, all professionals (Lucas Hattan, Andrew Humann, Danielle Gray, Jeremy Kahn, Damion Matthews, Brandon Mears, Adrienne Walters and the SF Mime Troupe’s Lisa Hori-Garcia), ably embodied the passion of the characters “workin’ in the movement.” 

So, is it history or theater? Both. The question is: can it play Peoria? Probably not, but FSM is bigger, more entertaining, instructive and engaging, than just a play whipped up for a 50th anniversary. On its own, the production is dramatic and fun, the music catchy, and Karla Hargrave’s simple but engaging sets make it the kind of low-cost production that would do well in university towns. 

FSM is not just nostalgia or, in the end, a play about a specific historical event. It is about how people come to commit themselves to something, despite the pressures of everyday life. It is not about activists, but how people become activists. The song “Workin’ in the Movement” picks up the excitement of that commitment, but also the strain it puts on people’s personal lives. But the decision to come together and resist is a formula for how to build a better world. That particular message is bound by neither time nor geography. 

As the director notes in her introduction to the play, “The promise of 1964 remains to be fulfilled 50 years later.” Indeed, it does. Free speech is still under attack. Racism, inequality, sexism, homophobia, and war plague the nation. But FSM presents a hopeful solution: convince people to commit themselves, pack the plazas, and take the bastards on. 

FSM: A Play With Music About A Moment That Changed America” 

Book by Joan Holden 

Music & Lyrics by Bruce Barthol & Daniel Savio 

Directed by Erin Merritt 

Musical Direction Daniel Savio 








Berkeley Grapples with Big Soda

Becky O'Malley
Friday October 03, 2014 - 11:32:00 AM

At heart I’m a contrarian. All it takes is for someone to say “everyone knows” and my impulse is to say “just a doggone minute, let’s check the facts.”

There seems not to be a single person I’ve ever known in Berkeley who does not avow the deeply felt belief that good citizens must vote yes on Measure D, the one that puts a tax on soda pop. Like my fellow Berkeleyans, I deeply distrust your average big corporation, and the transparent campaigning by the Pop Lords puts me off in a big way. Their propaganda clogs my mailbox. Their sweet-faced minions ring my doorbell and innocently repeat the lies they’ve been fed by their bosses.

Pro-D-ers compare Big Soda to Big Tobacco. I know from Big Tobacco, having done a Mother Jones story about fires caused by cigarettes in my investigative reporter youth which took me to the New York City headquarters of the tobacco industry, where a huge disgusting ashtray full of cigarette butts graced the reception desk. It took approximately 30 years for regulations to be passed to somewhat control that problem.

So my instinct is to say that if Big Soda say Down it must be Up for sure. But the refrain from Glitter and Be Gay, which Richard Wilbur wrote for Bernstein’s Candide, keeps running through my brain: “And yet…”. 

I also tangled with Big Pharma, doing a story for The Nation around 1980 about then-obscure research suggesting that the hormones being dished out to women weren’t all good all the time, despite contrary marketing with the imprimatur of colluding physicians. The story made a lot of drug company executives mad. (Nothing changes. See today's New York Times: Financial Ties Between Doctors and Health Care Firms Are Detailed

And yet… 

From the current Mayo Clinic website: “Use of hormone therapy changed abruptly when a large clinical trial found that the treatment actually posed more health risks than benefits …”. 

Abruptly?” Oh sure…it only took three or four decades for the news from the same epidemiologists I consulted for my 1980 story to trickle down to the practitioner level. 

What made me suspicious of Big Pharma and their allies in the first place was one of my all-time favorite books: For her own good: 150 years of the experts' advice to women, by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English, published in 1978. The nostrums which well-meaning members of the medical profession tried to inflict on women are unbelievable. The authors are pioneer feminists, but the sad truth is that a lot of that sketchy medical advice has included men too. 

Yes, yes, I know that nowadays the best people think that “sugar is poison”, to quote one of the more restrained Yes on D people. Hey, I even believe that myself, because I’ve read a couple of books by science writer Gary Taubes and watched him on YouTube. He’s summarized a lot of convincing research in his two books, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health and Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It (which is the easier-to-read version of the first one). And now Nina Teicholz (raised in Berkeley!) has a new book (plus YouTubed talks) which explores in even more detail the politics behind The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet.  

The problem is that from a public policy point of view you have to wonder if it’s a good idea to use the city’s taxing power to promote the latest theory from “the controversial science of diet and health”, no matter how tight it seems to be. And if it’s enacted as an ordinance through a ballot measure, it will take another citizens’ vote to repeal it if scientists change their minds. 

While Taubes and Teicholz make a very persuasive case that the consumption of refined sugar in soda pop is A Bad Thing, they also document decades of apparently erroneous theories about salt and fats which seem to have produced our current problems with excess consumption of simple carbohydrates, now blamed as the main villain in what we’re calling the obesity epidemic. “Bad” fat, now exonerated, was replaced with sugars in all sorts of foods, and here we are. 

So what if we’d decided, way back when, to tax, for example, salted nuts? In the first place, it now seems that salt restriction is only desirable for about a third of the population who have salt-influenced hypertension—some old ladies get in trouble by consuming too little salt in their zeal to comply with poor advice. And those nuts! Fatty, sure, high calories, yes, but they now seem to be good for you, not bad as your doctor might have told you five years ago (or maybe last week if he’s slow to get the memo). 

I’m also uncomfortable with taxing something that none of the proponents of the tax will admit to using: “Oh no, I never drink soft drinks, and Those People shouldn’t either.” 

Most likely These People indulge in the occasional bagel at Noah’s (white flour) or even a pumpkin spice latte at Peet’s or even godforbid a blueberry muffin or worse at Masse’s or Crixa or the Cheese Board. Is it equitable to tax the cheap thrills of low income citizens while letting fancier folk off the hook? 

My mother was from the generation of quasi-Southern women who started each day with what they called a Co-Cola and drank Cokes all day long thereafter. She kept a stash of Cokes in her Berkeley basement until the day she died—at almost 99 years old, lively until the end. Would it have been fair to tax her an extra quarter for every guilty can of Coke, which apparently did her no harm at all? 

And can we really be sure that Measure D is a panacea (“a remedy for all ills or difficulties”) and not a tin fiddle? (A tin fiddle, for those unfamiliar with this grandmotherly expression, is a novel design that seems to the inventor to be a much more robust replacement for the dull old wooden kind, but sounds awful. Tin fiddles are bright ideas that just don’t pan out as expected.) 

No one is quite willing to claim that adding some cents to the wholesale price of a can of soda pop will guarantee to reduce consumption enough to cause a statistically significant reduction in the incidence of diabetes, or even in the incidence of obesity. Well, no, that might not be true—this city is unfortunately full of credulous true believers in all manner of specious health claims. I attribute this to the decline of conventional religious belief—some people just have to have something to believe in, some promise of salvation to which they cling. Others suffer from innumeracy, which is the really dangerous epidemic in this society. 

So, you ask, is the Berkeley Daily Planet endorsing Measure D or not? 

Will I vote for it myself? Probably not. Will I vote against it? Probably not. 

Should you vote for it? You’ll have to make up your own mind about that one. 











The Editor's Back Fence

Schadenfreude Corner

Friday October 03, 2014 - 01:27:00 PM

From Richard Brenneman:

"Copy of an email I got via a friend:

'Bulldog Reporter has filed for bankruptcy and has closed its door for good as of today.' "

Those with long memories may recall that the Bulldog Reporter was the publication run by Jim Sinkinson, one of the unholy trinity who attempted to destroy the Berkeley Daily Planet with unjust accusations of anti-Semitism back in the days when criticism of Israel was effectively verboten.

See these articles , many written by Richard, to refresh your memory. What goes around comes around, as we used to say in the 60s.

Planet Endorsements:
Mail Ballots Starting Monday

Friday October 03, 2014 - 01:46:00 PM

After the previous election some readers complained that they couldn't locate the Planet's endorsements when they went to vote. To make it as easy as possible, between now and the election we're going to maintain this corner of the front page where you can always find our endorsements along with links to editorial material with more detail about specific candidates and issues.

New this issue:

Measure D: no endorsement

Alameda County Measure BB: Yes

From last week: Yes on Berkeley Measure R.

Then, click here for the candidates: Which Berkeley City Council Candidates Should You Support?

Short Answers: District 1, Alejandro Soto-Vigil; District 4, Jesse Arreguin (unopposed); District 7, Kriss Worthington; District 8, Jacquelyn McCormick (rank her first, followed by George Beier, second, and Lori Droste, third. Skip fourth place. )

Finally , check out this May editorial with a self-explanatory title: Tony Thurmond is the Best Choice for California Assembly ...

We're pleased to see that Berkeley Councilmember Jesse Arreguin has added his endorsement to Tony's long list of fans.

In this video you can see Tony explain his campaign in person at a Berkeley house party: 



More to come on the ballot measures and propositions.


Odd Bodkins: An Ugly Brown Ocean (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Friday October 03, 2014 - 12:24:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Public Comment

Perils of Peanuts

David Brown,Kalispell, MT
Sunday October 05, 2014 - 10:18:00 AM

Editor's Note: We usually avoid publishing articles that purport to give medical advice since we can't vouch for the credentials of the author. We're making an exception in the case of opinions on Berkeley Measure D, since it's a political question that embeds medical judgments within it, but we advise readers not to rely on opinion writers for health advice, but to consult a doctor.

In her "Berkeley Grapples With Big Soda" editorial Becky O'Malley said, "The problem is that from a public policy point of view you have to wonder if it’s a good idea to use the city’s taxing power to promote the latest theory from 'the controversial science of diet and health', no matter how tight it seems to be. And if it’s enacted as an ordinance through a ballot measure, it will take another citizens’ vote to repeal it if scientists change their minds."

Yeah, well most scientists don't pay enough attention to the scientific literature to sort things out. I've been studying nutritional issues and controversies for more than three decades. Rather soon after I began my investigations I concluded that excessive sugar intake was problematic. Unfortunately, up until about 5 years ago I didn't realize I was slowly doing myself in by consuming too much peanut butter.

to be sure, Peanuts are no more "poisonous" than sugar when consumed in moderation. But eating a peanut butter sandwich nearly daily during the work week for several decades is not wise. How so? Peanuts contain 4,000 milligrams of omega-6 linoleic acid (LA) in each 28 gram, one ounce serving of peanuts. National Institutes of Health (NIH) scientist Bill Lands emphasized this point in a 2009 presentation (Google - 1 of 4 Bill Lands) about tissue responses to excessive omega-6 intake. 

About 2 months after I stopped eating peanut butter my leg pains subsided. A year or so later I noticed that I no longer had gingivitis. More recently my blood pressure returned to normal and my LDL cholesterol dropped 30 mg/dL. Total cholesterol now hovers around 220 mg/dL which falls on the lowest point of the total cholesterol/mortality curve. Best of all, I've regained much of the strength and stamina I lost as I approached retirement age. 

In early 2010 I began researching the omega-6 hazard, as I term it. What I've learned thus far paints a grim picture. For example, high omega-6 intake prior to pregnancy affects the intelligence of offspring. During the third trimester of pregnancy, the mother's body obtains fats from fat stores to build brain tissue. If fat stores are rich in omega-6s and deficient in omega-3s the baby gets an inferior brain. (Google - Sex Differences in the Relationship of Dietary Fatty Acids to Cognitive Measures in American Children) 

The fatty acid composition of breast milk can also be problematic. Quote: "Human intelligence has a physical basis in the huge size of our brains. It is some seven times larger than would be expected for a mammal with our body size," said Steven Gaulin, UCSB professor of anthropology and co-author of the paper. "Since there is never a free lunch, those big brains need lots of extra building materials. Most importantly, they need omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA. Omega-6 fats, however, undermine the effects of DHA and seem to be bad for brains." (Google - Fats in Breast Milk Linked to Academic Success) 

In a 2013 interview entitled More “Vegetable” Oil? MORE Heart Deaths another NIH scientist Joseph Hibbeln said, "Just as all polyunsaturates are not created equal, all high fat diets are not created equal. A good example of this is an animal study we did where we compared three high fat diets. All with 60% of calories from fat, in mice. We compared high fat diets that resembled the linoleic acid, Omega 6 intakes, comparable to the levels at the beginning of the century, which was about 1 percent of calories, and those high fat diets with 8 percent of calories, more similar to the amount of Omega 6 in the diet simply from soy oil in the U-S diet, today. Moving from 1% to 8% linoleic acid in the mouse diets, not only tripled the levels of arachidonic acids, but also tripled the levels of a critical derivative of arachidonic acids, which is an endogenous cannabinoid, which creates a similar affect to marijuana. So it’s the brains own marijuana like molecules, and we were able to triple the body’s marijuana like hormones, three times higher in the liver and about 20% higher in the brains just by altering the linoleic acid in those two high-fat diets. Normally those high fat diets used for mice in studies are composed of high linoleic acid, found in soybean oil. When we deleted that one single molecule, the Omega 6 fatty acid, we were able to obliterate the ability of a 60% high fat diet to induce obesity in the mice...And we did it also in diets that were 35% of calories from fat, and also diets that were 12% of calories from fat. We were able to induce obesity in low fat diets, in the mice, by changing the bioactive properties of the fat, not just that it was high fat and more calories." 

Considering how toxic the omega-6 molecule is at intakes exceeding 1 to 2 percent of total caloric intake, It's a wonder there's so little interest in or concern about this problem in the scientific community. To learn more about the omega-6 hazard, Google omega-6 in conjunction with any mental or physical illness you don't want to develop or die from. 


New: Disgusted!

Chris Darling, Richmond
Sunday October 05, 2014 - 10:11:00 AM

Editor's Note: We usually avoid publishing articles that purport to give medical advice since we can't vouch for the credentials of the author. We're making an exception in the case of opinions on Berkeley Measure D, since it's a political question that embeds medical judgments within it, but we advise readers not to rely on opinion writers for health advice, but to consult a doctor.

I am thoroughly disgusted with your editorial about Prop D in Berkeley.

The issue that cinches the deal in favor of D is obesity, not sugar per se. Comparing drinking soda to eating a white flour bagel or drinking a latte at Peet's really shows your ignorance about the issue. 

When a person eats food, even junky food, the body knows that calories have been consumed and the person feels full and satisfied because there is solid food in the stomach. When a person drinks soda, because it is liquid, the body does not have any feeling of fullness that comes with all food. So they eat food in the same quantity as if they had never taken in the calories of the soda. 

If soda were drunk as an occasional treat, the body's inability to register the calories absorbed by drinking it would not be a big deal. But there are people who drink multiple sodas a day and a tax is totally appropriate to curb that behavior. Soda really is an evil when it comes to obesity. In Richmond, where I live, the percentage of children that are overweight is close to half. 

In addition, the research is solid about sugar consumption increasing the rate of heart attacks, strokes, and cancer. Your complaints and attacks on that research make you sound like somebody from a tobacco company defending cigarettes. 

If Prop D was about taxing sugar in all substances and not sodas, your contrarianism would make sense because very few of us are perfect when it comes to a healthy diet. But it is a tax on sodas and not sugar. If you are going to set yourself up as an expert with an editorial, get your facts straight. Instead, you went off half-cocked with some incorrect assumptions. What a waste of pixels. 



Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. T.S. Eliot 

Regarding humanity's impact on the Earth: “My grief is beyond healing, my heart is sick within me.” (Jeremiah 8:18)

Death and Taxes: Yes on Alameda County Measure BB

Toni Mester
Friday October 03, 2014 - 12:42:00 PM

With ballots arriving soon in a mailbox near you, the election campaigns are in full swing, and the alphabet soup of measures on the Berkeley ballot is heating up. There are eight proposals in front of the voters and two are direct taxes: Measure F, a special parcel tax to fund Berkeley parks, and Measure BB, the Alameda County Transportation sales tax. 

These are different types of exactions, but all taxes are a hard sell as evidenced in the quote made famous by Ben Franklin, who observed that “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” 

Nobody has died lately from paying taxes, although the Tea Party would have us believe that resistance is patriotic as in Boston days of yore. But those of us who dutifully paid our federal income tax through the Iraq War have a lot more to atone for than shelling out for local benefits. A little perspective goes a long way in sorting our priorities. 

Our local taxes deserve support, but Measure BB is not getting the attention it deserves. If passed, this half-a-cent bump-up in the county wide sales tax promises to fund a broad spectrum of transportation improvements and projects as described in the Alameda County Transportation Expenditure Plan, which takes up 45 pages in the ballot book. 

The benefits of BB for Berkeley are many, but none more important than the rebuild of the Ashby and Gilman I-80 interchanges. 

For many years, the Cities of Emeryville and Berkeley worked with Caltrans in an effort to reconfigure the Ashby Avenue/I-80 interchange and eliminate its substandard features, including the Potter Street on-ramp that runs through the south end of Aquatic Park between the middle and southern most lagoons. 

The on-ramp is dangerous, as traffic enters the park from Shellmound Street and veers left at a 90° turn that some drivers fail to negotiate, running into trees and sometimes right into the lagoon. In June 2011, a stolen car was found in the basin near that corner, and last year, police chased another car straight into the water. As the Potter Street merges first into the Ashby ramp, the traffic has inadequate lane space and time to merge with I-80. Aquatic Park activist Mark Liolios once witnessed a truck overturn at that corner and flip into the middle lagoon. 

The City has long acknowledged these problems. “The current on-ramp configuration is unsafe and incompatible with other Park goals such as habitat restoration, noise attenuation, and safe use for pedestrians and bicyclists,” wrote City staff to Caltrans in 1998, and the next year reiterated, “Removing the Potter St. on-ramp…within Aquatic Park is Berkeley’s highest roadway priority in the Ashby interchange area.” 

Besides eliminating traffic hazards, closing the substandard on-ramp will increase park area, reduce noise, and protect the Potter Street storm drain that lies beneath. The 7 foot high and 9 foot wide culvert empties directly into the Bay, carrying run-off from the largest watershed in Berkeley. During large storms, water floods the lagoons and low lands, including the area around the huts that are now leased to the Youth Musical Theater Company. 

The drain is 60 years old, and with development in Emeryville, the daily traffic has increased to thousands of vehicles including heavy trucks. Closing the on-ramp will allow our engineers better access to the drain in order to make improvements and increase capacity. 

In 1993 Berkeley and Caltrans signed a cooperative agreement specifying City and State responsibilities in carrying out the relocation of the on-ramp, but Caltrans put the project on hold in May 1998, saying it was infeasible. The process continued with a Project Study Report from the City of Emeryville that contained three design alternatives then in consideration. 

After reading many documents obtained through public records searches, I cannot fully account for the past failure to implement the Ashby Avenue project; there were so many factors, including overlapping jurisdictions, lack of continuity in staff effort and political will, legal interference, and the sheer complexity of the issues. But it all boils down to lack of funding. 

Twenty years later, Caltrans might finally get around to rebuilding the Ashby interchange if Measure BB passes this election. When completed, it will not only improve the south end of Aquatic Park for its Berkeley users, but also serve nearby Emeryville residents, who will gain better access to recreational open space. 

A new Gilman Street/I-80 interchange is also included in Measure BB, and little needs to be said about the sad state of that hell hole, which some have called the commuters’ “hall of shame.” The reason more accidents don’t happen there is that drivers are so terrified, they take extra caution in navigating the maze. The substitute configuration is a dual roundabout that would improve vehicle safety and allow for bicycle and pedestrian crossing to access shoreline parks, the Bay Trail, and the Tom Bates sports fields. 

The improved interchange is essential for the successful development of the Gilman corridor, which has seen significant building of late including a Whole Foods Store, under construction, a relocated Office Depot, and promising leases and renovations at the old Flint Ink site, which is slowly being restored to use by Eddie Orton, whose company specializes in updating historic buildings. 

Once past the waste transfer station on Second Street, the area offers destination restaurants like T-Rex, Jimmy Dean’s, Picante, and Pyramid Brewery, as well as wholesale warehouse shopping, REI, the Tokyo Fish Market, and other favorites. 

Berkeley Rep recently announced plans to expand their campus at Harrison and Ninth Street into an artist-in-residence community that will revitalize the neighborhood and serve as a hub for creative theater making, promoting an artistic renaissance in West Berkeley. 

These freeway projects alone are good reasons to vote for Measure BB. A similar plan narrowly failed in 2012, which prompted the Alameda County Transportation Commission to revise its plan to gain endorsements from the Sierra Club and the League of Women Voters. With any omnibus package, there are projects to like or not, but Berkeley needs the rebuild of the Ashby and Gilman interchanges, and there is no other way we are going to get them. 

Death and taxes are inevitable. But paying for what we need and use locally is proof of being alive and contributing to society, and like old age, considering the alternative, I’ll take taxes any day. 

Who are the Khorasan Group?

Jagjit Singh
Friday October 03, 2014 - 01:25:00 PM

Who are the new fighters who have suddenly emerged in Syria called the Khorasan group? The administration claims they were closely linked to Bin Laden but this appears to be a pretext for launching the heavy bombing campaign which had the predictable results of killing a significant number of innocent victims a number who were fighting ISIS. The reason given for the attacks in Iraq and Syria keep changing – first it was humanitarian, now it’s to thwart an imminent attack on our homeland.  

This bombing may have given Obama a new ‘get tough John Wayne’ persona but it will surely backfire much like our disastrous intervention in Libya which has resulted into a brutal civil war. There is absolutely no overall strategy, only a military mindset which is counterproductive and will surely generate more extremism. This war, euphemistically, called a counter-terrorism campaign, is illegal under international law and has no Congressional or UN approval. A far better approach would be to impose a complete embargo on all weapons in the region and elicit the help of Iran and yes, Syria to counter the ISIS and Khorasan threat. We must swallow our national pride and accept Iran’s offer of assistance by first accelerating the unresolved nuclear issues. This will enable our two countries to develop a common strategy to thwart the ISIS/Khorasan threat to regional instability.

October Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Friday October 03, 2014 - 12:30:00 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! 


THE PUBLIC EYE: Campaign 2014: What Do Women Want?

Bob Burnett
Friday October 03, 2014 - 12:39:00 PM

Many themes have featured in the interminable run-up to the 2014 mid-term election: Obamacare, Obama’s use of presidential power, Iraq/Syria, fracking, to mention only a few. But the theme that is perhaps most central to the election – the role of women in our democracy – has gotten little press attention. Yet it’s women who will decide the outcome on November 4th. What do they want? 

In 2012, 53 percent of all voters were women and 55 percent of them voted for Barack Obama. Women fueled Obama’s victory over Romney; there was a 20-point gender gap. According to The Center for American Women and Politics, 63.7 percent of eligible women voted versus 59.8 percent of eligible men. 

Despite their political importance, US women remain second-class citizens. 

Of course, over the last century, women have made progress. There are now 24 female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. More women go to college than do men. And women live longer

Nonetheless, many more women live in poverty than do men. And despite years of protest and countless lawsuits, women still earn less than men when they do comparable work: “Women on average make only 77 cents to every dollar earned by men.“ And despite the accomplishments of women like Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi, white men dominate US politics. (Since 2010 the number of female elected officials has declined.) Recently, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren urged progressives to back female Democratic candidates, observing: “If you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re probably on the menu.” 

And, despite a century of progress, American women don’t have the same rights as men. At the 1995 Beijing UN conference on women Hillary Clinton said: 

Every woman deserves the chance to realize her own God-given potential. But we must recognize that women will never gain full dignity until their human rights are respected and protected… Human rights are women’s rights.
Despite the strong moral case for gender equality, women’s rights are under attack. 

Over the past four years, Republicans have stepped up their war on women. It’s a key element of their political strategy. 

Since the Reagan era, Republicans have proven adept at mobilizing resentment based upon the notion of the “culture of victimization.” In campaign after campaign Republicans have fueled the anger of lower and middle-class whites and redirected it to imaginary groups: liberal elites who promote “sixties values,” black welfare “queens,” aggressive homosexuals who seek to convert others to their “lifestyle,” and supposed promiscuous women who want abortion on demand. Tom Frank described this process in What’s the Matter with Kansas: within the Republican Party, economic conservatives distract social conservatives with inflammatory social issues in order to get their votes and keep them from noticing the life-threatening problems caused by conservative economic policies. 

Since 2011, the misogynistic Republican strategy has denied women political power and basic rights. Three considerations feed the GOP strategy. 

The first is religious. Republicans want to solidify their hold on the south and rural communities in general, areas that are populated by religious conservatives. Writing in the New York Review of Books, Thomas Powers observed that the most powerful religious group in Texas, the Southern Baptists, believes, “the man was created first in creation and the woman first in the Edenic fall;” therefore women cannot be “over” men. The GOP strategy supports this notion. 

Republicans endorse a society where women are second-class citizens. University of California Professor George Lakoff noted there is now an overriding “conservative moral logic” that is patriarchal. 

The second consideration that has fed the GOP’s war on women is economic. Republicans have made themselves champions of unfettered capitalism. As such, they are opposed to any changes of the status quo. This explains why Republicans twice blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act during 2014. 

Meanwhile capitalism continues to exploit women. The US mainstream media promotes sexist images of women. Corporations underpay females and deny them family leave and benefits. 

The third consideration is political. Republicans denigrate women through abortion politics, restrict women’s right to vote, and depict powerful women as mean and un-feminine. 

In the long term, the Republican political strategy makes no sense. If the GOP turns off female voters they will inevitably become a second-class party. But their short-term strategy is to fire up their base and demoralize everyone else. 

It remains to be seen if this will succeed in 2014. Historically, there has been a voting drop off in mid-term elections, particularly among single women . (CNN reported that Democratic polling, “projects a 20-point drop off in unmarried female voters from 2012 to 2014.”) In 2014, Democrats are trying to change this trend with ad campaigns targeted to female voters

Will the Democratic effort succeed? Will women flex their political muscles and decide the 2014 election? It depends upon what they want. 

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

ECLECTIC RANT: The Scottish Referendum in a Nutshell

Ralph E. Stone
Friday October 03, 2014 - 01:04:00 PM

My wife and I just returned from a week's stay in Edinburgh, which was shortly after the Scottish independence vote. The Scots voted to stay with England 55 to 45 percent. There was no rioting in the street over the vote results. 

The "no" campaign always led in the polls but the "yes" campaign was gaining ground. Then Prime Minister David Cameron, Ed Millbrand, and Nick Clegg, the leaders of the three major British parties, signed a pledge to devolve more powers to Scotland, if the Scots rejected independence. It is not clear how much this "pledge" effected the vote, but it might have stopped the growing support for the "yes" campaign.  

What does devolution mean? Scotland is not independent although it has control over some of its affairs through its elected parliament. In the Scotland Act of 2001, Scotland has control or devolved powers over health, education and training, local government, law, social work, housing, tourism and economic development, some aspects of transport, planning and environment, agriculture, forestry and fishing, and sport and the arts. 

The United Kingdom's Parliament retains control or reserved powers over constitutional matters, UK defense and national security, UK foreign policy, immigration and nationality, UK economic and monetary policy, energy, employment legislation, social security, some aspects of transport, and regulation of certain professions such as medicine and dentistry. 

Lord Smith was appointed by Prime Minister David Cameron to head the commission on devolution. The Smith Commission hopes to get agreement between the Scottish National Party, Scottish Labour, the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Greens on the way forward by 30 November. Everyone involved agrees that it will not be easy to get agreement by 30 November. A "command paper," setting out the issues, is also due to be published by October 31, with draft legislation unveiled by 25 January. 

What problems face the commission on devolution? The Scottish parliament wants more authority over tax revenue and housing funds. However most of the funds for these items are determined by a budget set in London. Scotland has a limited ability to raise extra tax revenue, but lacks any kind of borrowing authority. One problem cited is that there is no English Parliament. Rather there is a UK Parliament, which includes Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland Members of Parliament, makes policy. This gives rise to the so-called West Lothian question, which refers to whether MPs from Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales should be able to vote on matters that affect only England in the House of Commons of the UK, while English MPs could not vote on Scottish devolution matters. 

If nothing else, the Smith Commission's progress will be watched and debated until October 31 and beyond..


Helen Rippier Wheeler, pen136@dslextreme.com
Friday October 03, 2014 - 12:35:00 PM

Diane Keaton’s new book may not be great literature, but it’s available in large print. In Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty, sixty-eight year old Keaton recounts a walk in East Side Manhattan. She passes the Museum of the City of New York, where “A Beautiful Way to Go: New York’s Green-Wood Cemetery” exhibit opened last year, celebrating Green-Wood’s 175 years. 

Predating both Central Park and Prospect Park, Green-Wood Cemetery was one of the most important public green spaces in 19th-century America, the second most popular tourist attraction after Niagara Falls. It is notable for its art and architecture as well as its famous “residents.” It is a national landmark. 

Long rows of houses dominated the Park Slope and South Brooklyn sections adjacent to Brooklyn Heights. Known for rows of four-story Victorian brownstones, much of its initial development following the Civil War came about because of the horse car and trolley car. More modest row houses were owned or rented in the lower Park Slope and adjacent South Brooklyn. The development of brownstone houses and later, gray stone English basement houses, churches and other structures in the district within the relatively brief span from the Civil War to World War I provides a cross-section of important trends in American architecture of the time. 

Green-Wood Cemetery was built on Brooklyn’s outskirts, incorporated in 1838, and used as a park in its early years. GreenWood Cemetery (as it was originally known) is located in the borough of Brooklyn, Kings County. Yes, Brooklyn is part of New York City. How come I know all this stuff? I am the possessor of a GreenWood lot, which I inherited when everyone died off, and I also have relatives interred in several other GreenWood lots. My great great grandmother, Helen Amerman Dodge (1813-1896) and my great great grandfather, Alexander Forbes Dodge (1796-1873), are there.  

Sometime following their marriage, my maternal great grandmother, Mary Dodge Wardell (1839-1911) recorded that Charlie had business and was teaching in Brooklyn. There were miscarriages and early deaths until 1864, when their only child to survive was born. Three years later, the family moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn. Mary and Charlie purchased a plot in Green-Wood Cemetery, where their next two children were buried shortly after birth. A son and another daughter, both born in July, died of cholera infantum, then common in young children, prevalent during hot weather in most of the towns of the middle and southern states . 

Grandma Wardell died of “nephritis,” known as Bright’s disease, and was buried in her Green-Wood Cemetery lot in 1911. Sherwin B. Nuland, M.D. in his memoir refers to an aunt's fatal illness as Bright's disease, "at the time a not uncommon process of progressive destruction of the kidneys. It usually was precipitated by an undiagnosed and unremembered streptococcal sore throat, going on to cause renal poisoning and gradual failure. Its relentless advance toward an inevitable death took place over the course of years or even decades." Today, a urologist and a urogynecologist of my ken have, they say, never heard of nephritis or Bright’s disease. 

I recall a pleasant day’s outing as a child circa 1930 accompanying my mother on a visit to the ivy-covered, cemetery site. At that time, our lot was, as they say in mortuary lingo, “full.” Twenty years later, with family deaths in the interim and one imminent, she inquired about the status quo space-wise, and was informed that “… grave #1 will admit of probably three adult interments; graves #2 and #3 will allow of one more in each grave without disturbing the present remains in said graves.” Now, 65 years further along, there’s plenty of space for me and mine. However, I wish to be cremated.  

In December 1953 I sat next to Aunt Pearl, who was profoundly deaf. (Don’t say stone deaf.) We were in one of the limousines in the procession wending its way through Green-Wood Cemetery on the way to bury another relative. It was a brisk but glorious, spring-like day as we drove with the windows partially open through the beautiful grounds, and she asked me “Are there birds singing?”  

As a child, I wondered and asked about the burial solution when there are multiple spouses… like my father and his 3 wives. And like Grandpa, the grandmother who died before I was born, and his replacement wife. At last, my mother’s Mama and Papa were presumably together in heaven as well as in her Green-Wood Cemetery lot. The Evil Stepmother was not subsequently buried there. For one thing, by then, my mother had the deed to the lot! More about these kinfolks in my 2013 book, The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually; A Memoir. 




New: COUNTERPOINTS: Oakland Needs to Clean Up Its Own Trash

J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Saturday October 04, 2014 - 12:42:00 AM

In explaining her decision to abstain on the "compromise" contract dividing Oakland's trash disposal contract between national giant Waste Management and Oakland-based California Waste Solutions-most of it going to Waste Management-the Oakland Tribune said that Councilmember Desley Brooks called it a a dangerous precedent. "It shows Oakland that when people don't get their way and they have a lot of money, they can do whatever they want," the newspaper quoted Ms. Brooks as saying. ("Oakland's $1 Billion Garbage Contract Goes Back To Waste Management Oakland Tribune September 22, 2014 .) 

Many Oakland residents might say that there's no precedent there at all, but just the story of our city, where money gets its way more often than not, and big money gets the biggest share. 

However, Ms. Brooks is on the right track. There is something new in City Council's abrupt reversal of their earlier decision to cut Waste Management out of managing Oakland's waste. Usually, big money likes to hide in the shadows, obscuring its involvement and making it look like everything is being done in the people's interest and at our own initiative. In this instance, on the other hand, the main monied interest made little attempt to hide its tracks or disguise the nature of its actions. Maybe they think it doesn't matter because they don't believe there's anything we can do about it. There is, but we'll get to that in a moment. 

Meanwhile, what was it that big money Waste Management did not bother about hiding? We were the victim of a political mugging. I'll tell you how, but it's going to take a bit, because it's a little complicated. 

To start, Oakland's longstanding waste disposal contract with Waste Management is due to expire at the end of June next year. Earlier this year, after an open bidding process to find out what companies were interested in disposing of Oakland's trash for the next ten years, city staff recommended a ten-year renewal of Waste Management's contract. However, the City Council rejected that recommendation and voted to reopen the bidding process. 

California Waste Solutions, which was already handling a portion of Oakland's recyclables, submitted a bid under the reopened bidding process. The City Council eventually awarded CWS the city's entire waste disposal contract, theirs and the major portion Waste Management is currently operating, including all of the trash and greenery and recyclable pickup throughout the city (the brown, green, and gray rolling bins). 

To say the least, the folks at Waste Management were not particularly pleased about losing a contract they apparently felt was theirs by divine right. 

Saying they believed there were some legal irregularities in Council's reopoening of the bidding process after Waste Management had been recommended the contract by city staff, Waste Management filed a lawsuit against the City and California Waste Solutions to overturn the Oakland/CWS contract. There it should have settled, in the courts deciding the legality or illegality of the Council's actions. But as we quickly learned, the lawsuit-filing was simply the hook to hold Oakland in place while Waste Management-or someone on Waste Management's payroll or with Waste Management's economic interests at heart-launched, orchestrated, and financed a disinformation campaign designed to confuse Oakland public opinion while Waste Management was trying to force CWS out of the game. 

There were, actually, legitimate concerns about CWS, about their ability to handle the entire Oakland waste disposal contract, in the proposed placement of their waste treatment facility in West Oakland, and in allegations of close personal and economic ties with certain Councilmembers. 

Immediately after Council approved the CWS contract, for example several respected and longstanding West Oakland leaders-including former Oakland City Councilmember Nancy Nadel-raised environmental concerns about the proposed placement of CWS' waste treatment plant on the grounds of the old Army Base in West Oakland. Those concerns might-or might not-have been worked out in mitigation negotiations with West Oakland leaders as we got closer to the actual building of the treatment plant and the beginning of operations. We'll never know, because, of course, it never came to that. 

That's in part because someone-and the signs all point to Waste Management or someone doing business in Waste Management's interest-muddled the issue by creating a fake online organization to raise the environmental criticisms from statements of deep concern to a prolonged shout, throwing out unsubstantiated and unverified criticisms of CWS and escalating those legitimate environmental concerns beyond the point of reconciliation. 

The fake organization created called itself "Clean West Oakland Now," and seems to have existed only in the ether of online. As far as I can tell, the "Clean West Oakland Now" Facebook site was opened on June 10th, right about the time-coincidentally-that Oakland was originally considering renewal of Waste Management's contract. Most of the site's posts involve that contract, eventually turning its attention to trying to get Oakland to negate the agreement with CWS by attacking CWS on a wide variety of fronts. 

In a September 10 item, for example, "Clean West Oakland Now" posted three photos of a West Oakland house, along with the caption "This is soot covering the side of a house directly across the street from CWS' Pine Street facility. A perfect example of why allowing CWS to expand its operations is a problem for West Oakland." 

It's difficult to see if there is actually more soot on the house in the posted picture than there is on any house in a semi-industrial area such as West Oakland, but more importantly, we have to take the "Clean West Oakland Now" site's word that whatever soot is there came from the California Waste Solutions Pine Street facility. No documentation accompanies the post to show this to be the case. 

Other posts by the "Clean West Oakland Now" Facebook site repeat that anti-CWS theme, with one of them on September 7th asserting that the city's contract with CWS was "a decision that will result in more garbage diesel trucks, neighborhood litter, and air pollution (more trash = more smells) for West Oakland." 

Legitimate West Oakland environmental leaders were trying to find solutions to these possible problems. 

On September 23rd, for example, Ms. Nadel posted a comment to "Clean West Oakland Now"'s Facebook page that "I think a potential partial solution is to form a [Joint Powers Authority] with san leandro and other cities perhaps, buy out WM for [the company's] Davis St [waste treatment facility in San Leandro] and rehab it to the San Carlos type facility everyone thinks is great. There would be a tax sharing deal with cities involved with San Leandro getting a larger share. Every city doesn't need one of these." 

"Clean West Oakland Now"'s goal, on the other hand, appeared to be to get the city to vacate the CWS contract altogether. 

It does not appear that Ms. Nadel is affiliated in any way with "Clean West Oakland Now" other than, like several other individuals, to post comments or suggestions to their Facebook page. In fact, "Clean West Oakland Now" gives no indication whatsoever as to who is leaders or members are. 

On its "Clean West Oakland Now" Facebook page, the group identifies itself only as "a group of citizens who are sick of West Oakland being dumped on." There is no way listed to contact the group except by posting to the page, no telephone number, email address, or street address. 

The group's website [http://www.cleanwestoaklandnow.com/] is even more obscure about the organization's origins, if possible, where it doesn't even list its concern for West Oakland. 

Meanwhile, at the same time Clean West Oakland Now-whoever he or she is or they are-was pretending to be a real organization and attacking the Oakland-CWS contract from the anonymity of the web, Waste Management was putting together a petition campaign to put a measure on the ballot to try to overturn that contract. And from various and multiple sources, the petition gatherers were using decidedly deceptive tactics to try to get Oakland residents to sign. 

According to the East Bay Express, for example, "Almost as soon as Waste Management's ballot drive began [in Oakland], city officials and other observers accused the hired signature gatherers of spreading false information. Oakland City Council President Pat Kernighan sent me photos of two petition gatherers with wildly inaccurate signs. One read, 'Please Sign to Stop the City from Increasing YOUR Garbage Fees!' which was especially false considering the fact that Waste Management's original proposal called for higher rate increases than CWS's plan. The second sign said: 'STOP Oakland's New 50% TAX Increase For Waste Removal,' followed by 'No Recycling Tax - No Garbage Tax - No Landfill Tax.' Those claims were also false because the new garbage contract has no provision for raising taxes." ("The Problem With Paid Petitions" East Bay Express September 24, 2014 []) 

There are indications that none of these tactics-the false organization, the false claims, even Waste Management's lawsuit against the city and CWS-would have worked. Public opinion seemed to be against Waste Management, and there was a big pushback on the deceptive tactics of the petition campaign, including a counter-campaign to get people to petition the Oakland City Clerk to get their names taken off the petitions on the grounds they had been deceived. From all appearances the Oakland City Council appeared to be standing firm, with only Councilmember Noel Gallo changing his mind on the original decision to take the contract away from Waste Management. 

But then came the surprising announcement by Mayor Jean Quan that a "compromise" had been reached giving most of that waste disposal contract back to Waste Management, with only the recycling portion retained by CWS. City Council quickly ratified the agreement, but it was clear that many of them did so reluctantly, and only because they felt they had no other choice. 

Largely lost in the buzz over the proposed waste disposal contract "compromise" was the fact that CWS was "voluntarily" giving up the entire contract in return for a small piece of the action. But if one read them carefully, news articles at the time of the "compromise" gave some insight as to possible reasons why. 

In the Tribune article "Oakland Company Is Not Bitter About City's Tentative Plan With Waste Management," [http://www.oaklandelects.com/companynotbitter.html] CWS officials said they agreed to the compromise because they wanted to help Oakland. 

"We realized Waste Management would not let up on tactics and campaigns to hurt the city of Oakland and the city sought for the possibility of a compromise and solution," the Tribune quoted CWS Chief Operating Officer Joel Corona as saying. "What the city wanted was CWS and a smooth transition. It didn't want lawsuits, special election, and a referendum based on false information." 

But in the Chronicle article "Oakland Council Gives Garbage Contract Back To 'Bully' Company," [] the explanation was just the opposite. According to the Chronicle, "members of the [Oakland City] council said Waste Management's lawsuits and petitions made it impossible for California Waste Solutions to get loans needed to build the infrastructure to do the job." 

Either way-political pressure was put on the City of Oakland by Waste Management to force CWS to compromise, or financial pressure was put on CWS by Waste Management to force the City of Oakland to compromise, or both simultaneously, perhaps-the result was that the Waste Management tactics forced the City to accept a waste disposal contract it did not want-the contract with Waste Management-by forcing the winning contractor, CWS, out of the game for the entire contract it had already received. 

That, my friends, is the textbook definition of a political mugging. 

It means at the very least that we're stuck with the unwanted Waste Management contract until 2025, when the contract runs out. Even if someone files a lawsuit against this "compromise" contract, we can't force California Waste Solutions to take on a job it has now turned down. And it's hard to see how the situation will change ten years from now, since what waste management company will be able to beat out Waste Management for the next Oakland contract under such circumstances? For that matter, what company would even want to try any more? 

So does that mean the citizens of Oakland are stuck with Waste Management forever? 

Well, not necessarily. 

If a private company is not able to buck Waste Management and win our city's waste disposal contract, maybe Oakland should do it ourselves. 

Perhaps the time has come for Oakland to take the next step and begin the process of taking over the management and operation of our own waste disposal service when the Waste Management contract runs out in ten years. Other cities do itŠmany, many other cities. It's either that or be consigned to the bottom of Waste Management's garbage heap for the rest of our lives, stuck with whatever terms and rate increases they feel they can get away with imposing upon us because there's no credible opposition. 

Yeah, I know that's a big concept, and a lot to take in, and enough for now. Give it some thought, neighbors, and let's talk more, after the election is over. There's plenty of time.

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Noncompliance Revisited

Jack Bragen
Friday October 03, 2014 - 12:30:00 PM

Someone with mental illness may become noncompliant with treatment for numerous reasons. One possible reason is that you don't agree with your diagnosis. Another is that the side effects (for some people on some combinations of medications) are unbearable. Yet another reason for noncompliance is the loss of hope. 

If one's life isn't working while treatment compliant, it may seem like trying to get off medication is a way out of an impossible situation. This is not accurate. If one's situation seems impossible, something other than noncompliance should be tried. Or, perhaps a person has problems that they must just endure, or at least must muddle through in the hope that things will be better. 

If things weren't working for a consumer while cooperative with treatment, it may only compound one's problems to add noncompliance to the mix. If your car gets a flat tire, it doesn't fix things to also empty the gas tank. Thus, if there are problems while on medication, quitting medication will probably not do anything to solve them. 

Compliance has always worked better for me than noncompliance. 

I may have lost some brainpower due to the times I went noncompliant. A full relapse of psychosis due to going off medication may have bad effects on the brain, and these effects can last many years. 

Through deliberate effort, I have been writing for publication in the past thirteen or fourteen years. I began this about four to six years after my most recent relapse. However, I might have done much better at writing had I not earlier tried to go off medication. 

I do know that I owe my current level of liberty to the fact that I haven't been off medication since 1996, thus haven't relapsed, and therefore haven't caused anyone trouble. That is reason enough not to go non-compliant again. A repercussion to stopping medications and getting ill again (with the resulting chaotic or troubled behavior) may be that you could be incarcerated, or that at least you could be living under increased restrictions. 

When someone is on medication and is doing fairly well they may believe they don't need the medication any more. They may have forgotten what is was like to do without medication, as it may have been a few years since they became stabilized. 

There are a lot of problems that can be caused by going off of psychiatric medication AMA (Against medical advice). For one thing, you will be going through withdrawal. Withdrawal from psych medications may need to be done over a period of several years if it is to have any chance of being successful. During those years, it is necessary to remain closely monitored for a return of symptoms. If symptoms come back, the dosage must be raised once again, and one must give up on the idea of going off medication, for another few years at least. 

Withdrawal from psychiatric medications should be done only under the supervision of a psychiatrist. However, many psychiatrists will be hesitant to discontinue medications, since if you are doing well it may mean that the medication has helped you. If you are doing well, it may mean that something was done right, and it does not usually mean that it is time to stop medication. 

It may seem awful to think that you might never get off medication—but things could be worse. 

By continuing to cooperate with treatment, you are giving yourself the opportunity to possibly live in a somewhat normal, and maybe even enjoyable scenario. For one thing, people with whom you interact will likely be more cooperative with you, since you are cooperative with them. By being treatment compliant, you are demonstrating that you can live among people, and that you do not need to be put under various restrictions. Secondly, your mental health will be maintained. 

If you show cooperation with a psychiatrist, they will be more likely to comply with your wishes and requests. For example, if a medication isn't working or causes a lot of side effects, you could ask for a different medication. If a psychotherapist is obnoxious or is just not on your wavelength, you can ask to be switched to another one. 

You will likely live a lot longer if compliant, since the stresses of a psychotic, manic or depressive episode can be very hard on one's physical health, especially when you are getting older. 

Overall, for most persons with a mental health diagnosis, my advice is to be cooperative. This may help to salvage your life situation and your health, and this in turn will allow you to have a better future. 

* * * 

I can be reached with your comments at bragenkjack@yahoo.com, but I can not dispense advice to individuals since I am not a mental health professional. I also have books for sale on Amazon, including a book that contains my first year of columns, titled: "Jack Bragen's Essays on Mental Illness," a self-help guide called, "Instructions for Dealing With Schizophrenia; A Self-Help Manual," and I have a short story collection you should try, called, "Revised Short Science Fiction Collection of Jack Bragen."

Arts & Events

The Liberator: A Superbowl of SuperBolivarian Bravado
Opens October 3 at the Century 9 in San Francisco

Gar Smith
Friday October 03, 2014 - 12:42:00 PM

Let's start with a question: Why is it that an Academy-Award-nominated film about Simon Bolivar is NOT being screened in Berkeley? (I wish I had the answer to that.) Now to the review: 

The Liberator comes on like the South American sibling of Lawrence of Arabia. The background scenery offers a spellbinding array of towering mountains and endless plains while the battle scenes are vast, harrowing and grisly. Alberto Arvelo's epic portrayal, gives us a Liberator who is a liberal-turned-libertine-turned-liberating-swashbuckler—a wounded romantic born to become one of history's Leading Men 


It is impossible to capture a life like Simon Bolivar's in a single 119-minute movie—even one as grand as Alberto Arvelo's sprawling epic (reputed to be the most expensive production in the history of Latin American filmmaking). The director is clearly aware that no film can do justice to Bolivar's history. Before The Liberator even begins, Arvelo flashes some basic background on the screen to hint at all the stories he had to exclude: 

• Bolivar fought more than 100 battles against the Spanish Empire. 

• In the course of these battles, Bolivar rode more than 70,000 miles on horseback. 

• His victorious campaigns covered twice as much territory as that claimed by the armies of Alexander the Great. 

• And "His army never conquered—it liberated." 

Edgar Ramirez is compelling in the title role but for anyone familiar with Bolivar's many thin-faced, narrow-nosed portraits, it takes awhile to accept this hunky Venezuelan actor as El Libertador. (Imagine, if you can, Ben Affleck starring in a biopic of George Washington.) 

Bolivar's astonishing life (and unresolved death) would provide grist for a dozen dark-hearted films laden with conspiracy, intrigue and political betrayals. Instead, with Arvelo's epic portrayal, we are given a Liberator who is a liberal-turned-libertine-turned-liberating-swashbuckler—a wounded romantic born to become one of history's Leading Men. 

The History 

The Liberator (in Spanish, English and French) begins with an 1828 assassination attempt on Bolivar's life in Bogota and flashes back to his privileged childhood in Venezuela. After the deaths of his wealthy parents, young Simon is entrusted to the care of a slave woman named Hipolita. At the age of 17, Bolivar's uncle sends him to Spain where he mixes with the Royal Court and marries Maria Teresa del Toro (Mária Valverde), who returns with him to his vast estate in Venezuela. 

By 1810, Bolivar is committed to the independence struggle but when his commander, General Miranda, agrees to an armistice with the Spanish commander, Bolivar hands Miranda over to the Spaniards and is expelled to Venezuela. (Political backstabbing within the revolutionary movement will eventually threaten Bolivar's life as well.) 

From a new base in New Granada (present-day Colombia), Bolivar crosses into Venezuela, frees Caracas from Spain, and is hailed as "The Liberator." Arvelo's film details some of the dirty nuts-and-bolts of running a vast military campaign. It is necessary, for example, to secure funding from foreign powers (like Britain) that wish to see Spain defeated—so the territory can be exploited by British commercial interests. (See the link to a related documentary at the end of this review.

Bolivar expands his army by granting freedom to Haitian slaves and accepting the services of European fighters—including a tide of red-haired Irish Brigade volunteers. 

By 1824, Bolivar has expanded the new nation of Gran Colombia to include Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru. Two years later, he added Mexico and Central America to his League of United Provinces. 

One of the reasons for Bolivar's hard-won success on the battlefield was that he didn't just raise an army, he went beyond that and created an armed community—an interracial agglomeration of peasant farmers, Indigenous Amazon natives, emancipated African slaves and a contingent of women who marched through mountains, bore children along the way, and took up arms against the Spanish forces. (Take a close look at the faces of the people standing ready at Bolivar's back in The Liberator. Arvelo's camera palpably reinforces the message that this was no ordinary army.) 

Bolivar's most audacious campaign involved a "surprise attack" on Spanish forces at the Battle of Boyacá. It was a surprise because, in order to mount the attack, Bolivar first had to march his army—soldiers, wagons, cannon, women and children—through the waist-deep snows of the Andes Mountains. 

Sweeping Vistas of Mountain Peaks and Bloody Battlefields 

The Liberator comes on like the South American sibling of Lawrence of Arabia. The background scenery offers a spellbinding array of towering mountains and endless plains while the battle scenes are vast, harrowing and grisly. While most "war movies" include staged shots of focused explosions tossing victims off their feet and out of the frame, Arvelo does something I've never seen before. From the air, he shows an entire battlefield stretching over several miles with cannon fire pummeling the earth from multiple directions. When a cannon shot falls to earth, it throws bodies into the air and we see them land in the dust nearby. At the same time, hundreds of other rebels and soldiers are engaged in mortal combat across the entire screen. It's like viewing the Superbowl of Carnage. And the shot only lasts a few seconds. 

In another jaw-dropping scene, Bolivar is shown at the prow of a small wooden war canoe, paddling along a broad river. Then the camera shows us the scene from the air. Bolivar's canoe is at the lead of an armada of hundreds of native dugouts heading downriver to challenge King Ferdinand's soldiers. 

The Women in Bolivar's Life 

In Arvelo's Liberator, warfare is balanced by romance, beginning with a stretch of idyllic months with Maria Teresa on Bolivar's sweeping estate in Venezuela. These scenes are filmed like an extended Cialis commercial, with swooping aerial shots of lovers running blissfully over the landscape as the sunshine envelopes them. But instead of ending with the silhouette of two bathtubs, we get two naked bodies—a definite improvement. 

The Liberator also benefits from its inclusion of the second love of Bolivar's life—Doña Manuela Saena. "Manuelita" (Juana Acosta) was a fiery and cunning revolutionary in her own right. She became Bolivar's ally and used her intelligence and courage to save his life more than once. 

The Liberator also benefits hugely from a musical score composed by Venezuela-born Gustavo Dudamel. Known in the US as the energetic young conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Dudamel also serves as the Music Director of the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela. 

The Liberator ends with a controversial depiction of Bolivar's death. Most histories conclude he died of tuberculosis during a sea voyage. (Former Venezuelan leader—and ardent Bolivarian—Hugo Chavez had Bolivar's body exhumed and declared the forensic evidence suggested "The General" had been poisoned.) Arvelo opts for a more dramatic—and stirring—conclusion. 

Fun fact: Nearly 6,000 costumes were required for The Liberator, 1,500 of these were hand-made for the film. There were 28 specific outfits for Bolivar alone. With the addition of replacements for costumes damaged during the battle scenes, the final tally came to around 100 costumes for the lead character. 

Fun Fact: The Liberator was filmed on two continents—in South America and Spain. The film required 100 separate sets and 10,000 extras. 

Fun Fact: It was necessary to film many of the scenes in Spain's Andalusia region because, in many of the original South American locations, the town plazas now boast large statues of Simon Bolivar. 

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Was Simon Bolivar a Tool of a British-based Masonic Conspiracy? 

For Spanish-speaking conspiraciónistas, check out this controversial full-length documentary that examines the role that Britain's secret society of the Masons may have played behind the scenes of the politics of colonial-era South America. 

Bolivar y San Martín: Libertadores o Cipayos Masones de Inglaterra? 


(May 8, 2013) -- José de San Martín (along with Bolivar, one of the two leaders of South America's wars for independence) was employed as a British agent. San Martin traveled to the Rio de la Plata and then moved to South America on a mission entrusted to him by Britain. There were several British politicians and military friends who influenced the overall adventure—all of them professional soldiers and intelligence operatives who knew very well what they were doing. Throughout his campaign in South America, San Martín traveled under a British passport, after swearing allegiance to Britain.  

Funded by London, he was monitored and controlled by British officials. Simon Bolívar met in London with General Miranda and agreed the invasion of South America would be funded by Masonic lodges in London. The main objective was to defeat the Spanish monarchy and open trade between England and South America.

Aeschylus’s The Persians: Greek Tragedy at the Getty Villa

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday October 03, 2014 - 01:23:00 PM

Every September, the Getty Villa at Malibu presents an ancient play, usually Greek or Roman, at their outdoor amphitheatre built according to ancient proto-types. Over the last eight years I have seen three productions: Euripides’ Hippolytos in 2006, Aeschylus’s Prometheus Bound in 2013, and Aeschylus’s The Persians, which I just saw on Saturday, September 27, 2014. The Persians happens to be the earliest Greek play for which we have the whole text; and in this tragic play we get hints of the early development of Greek tragedy arising, as Aristotle alleges, out of choral dithyrambs. In The Persians, singing takes up nearly half the story and echoes archaic performances in honor of Dionysus before the first actor stepped forth from the chorus. 

Aeschylus won first prize for The Persians in 472 at the Athenian festival of Dionysus. In this play, Aeschylus treats an event of recent historical fact – the Greek defeat of the Persians in the straits off the island of Salamis in 480 BC, only eight years before The Persians was produced. This crucial victory of the Greeks, which changed the course of history, is told by Aeschylus from the point of view of Persians at the royal court in Susa as they await news of the fate of their huge military expedition against the Greeks. When a messenger brings news of the Persians’ crushing defeat, the Persian Queen, mother of Xerxes, and her advisors wail with grief, lamenting the loss of so many sons, brothers and husbands. The utter devastation wrought by war is keenly felt in the grieving dirges of the Persians. 

At the Getty Villa, The Persians was produced by the SITI Company based in New York. Anne Bogart, one of the SITI Company’s founding members, directed The Persians, using a new translation by Aaron Poochigian. In an effort to evoke the choral beginnings of Greek drama, director Bogart had each of the major characters – Queen Atossa, the messenger, the ghost of Darius, and Xerxes – simply step forth from the chorus and deliver their solo lines, then melt back into the chorus. Thus, we can better appreciate that, in this play at least, the tragedy is a communal one rather than that of a single tragically flawed individual.  

Nonetheless, Aeschylus clearly rebukes Xerxes for hybris or overweening pride. The hybris of Xerxes, Aeschylus points out, is seen in his ordering the waters of the Hellespont to be lashed with metal chains when the waves interfere with Xerxes’ efforts to build a pontoon bridge across these narrow straits. This offense against Poseidon, as interpreted by Aeschylus, sets the Olympian gods against Xerxes and his Persian forces. Thus, the victory of the Greeks over the Persians is seen to be as much due to the retribution of the gods against the Persians as resulting from Greek military prowess. For Aeschylus, this is a highly moral and spiritual play rather than a celebration of Greek military victory.

Los Angeles Opera’s LA TRAVIATA

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday October 03, 2014 - 01:17:00 PM

In her fifth role in Los Angeles, soprano Nino Machaidze consolidated her status as a favorite of Angeleno audiences with a superbly sung Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata, which I heard on Friday, September 26 at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. This production, staged by Marta Domingo, reprised the Los Angeles pairing of Nino Machaidze and Placído Domingo heard in June in Massenet’s Thais. In La Traviata as in Thais, Placído Domingo sang a baritone rather than a tenor role, continuing his exploration of the baritone repertory, which he handles with as much vocal artistry as distinguished his tenor repertory. In La Traviata Domingo admirably sang the role of Giorgio Germont, father of Violetta’s lover, Alfredo Germont. As Alfredo, Mexican tenor Arturo Chacón-Cruz turned in a sturdy performance that grew in stature as the opera progressed. 

As Production Designer and Director, Marta Domingo indulged in a question-able conceit in drawing a parallel between the demi-mondaines of Paris in the opera’s setting in the 1850s and the flappers of the American 1920s. By staging La Traviata in Art Deco sets and costuming the female partygoers in flapper-style dresses, adding a vintage automobile in one scene, Marta Domingo updated to the American 1920s Verdi’s tale of 1850s Paris and the high society courtesan Violetta Valery. This updating didn’t always work, however. By the opera’s final scene, the whole Art Deco updating was simply jettisoned in favor of an absurd quasi-abstract staging featuring a round white bed on a bare stage with a backdrop of a night sky filled with stars and snow falling. Hardly an appropriate setting for a woman dying of tuberculosis!  

In Act I’s opening scene, Arturo Chacón-Cruz as Alfredo sang a robust Brindisi. Then alone with Violetta, he launched into a passionate, if naïve, declaration of love at first sight in the aria “Un di felice.” Violetta cautions Alfredo that she knows nothing of love, but she gives him a flower and invites him to return. Alfredo is overjoyed and sings of the mysterious power of love as he takes his leave, promising to return tomorrow.  

Left alone, Violetta sings her three-stage reflection on love, beginning with “E strano,” then transitioning into “Ah, forse e lui,” and concluding with “Sempre libera.” As Violetta, soprano Nino Machaidze brought out all the confusion and hesitancy in this set of reflections, beginning with Violetta’s perplexity at the emotions aroused in her by Alfredo, then progressing to a thought that “perhaps he’s the one,” then brushing off these ‘natural’ emotions as madness (“folia”) and vowing to persist in her ‘unnatural’ social role of kept women, ‘free’ to go with any man wealthy enough to bankroll her lavish lifestyle. This dichotomy between ‘natural’ emotions and social roles expected of us remains the crux of the opera, as Violetta discovers to her dismay. Vocally, Nino Machaidze was superb, steady in all registers, with a plummy mid-range and scin-tillating high notes. Still in the early stages of her career, Nino Machaidze is clearly near the top rank of sopranos, perhaps not yet on a par with Anna Netrebko but in the same rank with Sonya Radvanovsky, who just completed her marvelous run as Norma in San Francisco. (See my review in a previous issue.)  

In Los Angeles, Act II of La Traviata brought together Nino Machaidze and Placído Domingo in the poignant encounter between Violetta and Giorgio Germont. Never has this encounter been so filled with vocal and dramatic poignancy. As Act II opens, it is clear that in spite of her earlier misgivings (expressed in “Sempre libera”), Violetta is now deliriously happy in the love she shares with Alfredo. Then Alfredo’s father shows up; and as Giorgio Germont begins to spell out all the reasons why he urges Violetta to break up with Alfredo, it gradually becomes clear to Violetta that society – and society’s rules – will not allow her to live in happiness with Alfredo. Her sordid past is an obstacle to the marriage plans of Alfredo’s sister; and Alfredo’s father pleads with Violetta to do what is necessary to restore the family honor of the Germonts. In the baritone role of Giorgio Germont, Placído Domingo sang brilliantly, with ringing mid-range tones and deep, dark low tones as well as bracing high notes. Never was a Giorgio Germont more sympathetic! Ultimately, he persuades Violetta to sacrifice her love for Alfredo for the honor of the Germont family and the happiness of Alfredo’s sister. Never was this sacrifice more deeply felt by the audience. 

When Violetta departs abruptly for Paris, leaving Alfredo a parting note, there ensues another extremely poignant scene, this time between Germont père and Germont fils. Although this encounter was beautifully sung, I objected to the decision of Director Marta Domingo to portray Alfredo as weak and childish, even falling re-peatedly to the floor in his devastation at the news of Violetta’s departure and in his obstinate refusal to heed his father’s admonitions. Likewise, in the final gambling scene in Act II, when Germont père confronts Germont fils and rebukes him for his disrespectful treatment of Violetta, Alfredo again grovels on the floor like a scolded child, (which perhaps he is, though this staging carries this interpretation a bit far).  

Ultimately, Violetta, Alfredo and Giorgio Germont are reconciled on Violetta’s deathbed. This reconciliation, she sings, comes too late. But she relishes it none-theless. She even buys in for a moment to Alfredo’s “Parigi o cara” in which he paints a picture of the two lovers leaving Paris and going to the country where her health will be restored. Violetta takes up both Alfredo’s melody and his words and joins him in a dreamy duet, one they both try desperately to believe in, to little avail. Moments later, Violetta dies, bringing La Traviata to a heart-wrenching close. This Los Angeles Opera production of La Traviata was one of the most beautifully sung presentations of La Traviata I have ever heard.