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Councilmember Jesse Arreguin addresses the Save the Berkeley Post Office rally on Saturday morning.  Notables in the crowd: far left, District 8 Council candidate Jacquelyn McCormick; center in red checked shirt, Councilmember Linda Maio's husband, Rob Browning.
Mike O'Malley
Councilmember Jesse Arreguin addresses the Save the Berkeley Post Office rally on Saturday morning. Notables in the crowd: far left, District 8 Council candidate Jacquelyn McCormick; center in red checked shirt, Councilmember Linda Maio's husband, Rob Browning.


Updated: Judge Issues TRO Halting Sale of Berkeley Post Office

Becky O'Malley
Wednesday November 05, 2014 - 04:24:00 PM

United States District Judge William Alsup today issued a temporary restraining order against the U.S. Postal Service, enjoining the USPS and three of its named executives from completing the sale of the Berkeley Post Office until a hearing on the motion for preliminary injunction filed by attorney Antonio Rossmann on behalf of the City of Berkeley can be conducted. 

The motion seeks to halt the sale because “the City believes that USPS will attempt to convey the Post Office property at any moment,” even though USPS reportedly has not performed the reviews required by the National Historic Preservation Act or the National Environmental Policy Act. 

A story given exclusively to berkeleyside.com by an undisclosed source said that the potential buyer is Hudson McDonald, a development company which in the past has had a close relationship with investor David Teece. Who their current investors in this project might be has not been revealed. 

According to Berkeleyside reporter Tracey Taylor “Hudson would not disclose the price the developer has offered to pay for the post office, and said it could change depending on disclosures such as the cost of retrofitting the building.” This would seem to imply that there are contingencies in the sales contract which must be satisfied before the deal is final. 

Rossmann told the Planet he was pleased with the speed that the TRO was granted by Judge Allsup. It will be in effect until November 10 17. The defendants have until noon on Friday December 10 to respond.

Election Update: City Council Districts 7 and 8 and School Board (News Analysis)

Rob Wrenn
Thursday November 06, 2014 - 05:43:00 PM

With 89 more votes counted in the District 7 City Council race, Kriss Worthington's lead widened from 81 to 100 votes. In District 8, 399 more votes were counted, and Mike Alvarez Cohen inched closer to frontrunner Lori Droste, but the ranked choice vote continues to give a narrow lead to George Beier, 1449-1421. 

As of 4:52 p.m. today (numbers in parentheses are votes as of 12:44 a.m.yesteday) 

District 7 Kriss Worthington 475 (421) +54 Sean Barry 375 (340) +35 

Kriss' margin before latest update: +81 Kriss' margin after latest update: + 100 

District 8 Lori Droste 883 (775) +108 Mike Alvarez Cohen 866 (741) +125 George Beier 817 (711) +106 Jacqueline McCormick 579 (519) + 60 

In the initial count reported late on election night, Alvarez Cohen led in the area east of College and south of Dwight, especially in hills precincts above Claremont Ave. Lori Droste and George Beier led in one precinct each east of College. 

George Beier was the vote leader in all but one Willard Neighborhood precinct; Beier has been involved with the Willard Neigbhorhood Association for many years. Droste was leading in one precinct in Willard. 

Droste led overall and was ahead in two south of Ashby precincts, including the Halcyon and Bateman neighborhoods. Jacquelyn McCormick led in the area north of Dwight way including Panoramic Hill and adjacent student areas. 

While Droste leads in first choice votes; Mike Alvarez Cohen led in the initial vote-by-mail ballot count with 30% to Droste's 23%, and may gain more ground as more absentee votes are counted. The Registrar of Voters has not posted information to show which precincts the votes counted today came from. 

In the School Board race, Julie Sinai is still trailing Karen Hemphill (10267 to 10511) in the race for third place. Ty Alper and Josh Daniels are way ahead with 12,688 and 12,207 votes respectively.

Press Release: Alameda County Registrar of Voters Says More Than 100,000 Ballots Still To Count--
Tally Could Take Until Next Week

From Alameda County Registrar of Voters
Wednesday November 05, 2014 - 07:04:00 PM

Alameda County Registrar of Voters Tim Dupuis is estimating that more than 100,000 ballots still need to be counted from Tuesday’s General Election and that the County’s elections staff is working diligently to complete the ballot counting process.

Votes still to be counted in Alameda County include approximately 18,000 ballots cast through early voting; about 82,500 vote-by-mail ballots that were received by the Registrar’s office on Tuesday; and about 24,000 provisional ballots submitted at the polling places on Election Day.  

As of the end of Tuesday night’s vote counting effort, Alameda County had counted ballots submitted by 229,228 voters. 

The vote count is set to resume on Thursday morning and Dupuis says the next update of Alameda County’s election results is planned for 5 p.m. Thursday. 

Vote counting is likely to stretch through the weekend and into next week, Dupuis said. Under State law, Alameda County has until December 2 to certify its election results.

Woolley House Dismantled Yesterday:
Berkeley Needs a Preservation Czar (Public Comment)

Daniella Thompson
Wednesday November 05, 2014 - 01:08:00 PM
The Woolley House bay window as it used to be.
Conrad Jensen
The Woolley House bay window as it used to be.
The west façade of the Woolley House after removal of the bay window.
Daniella Thompson
The west façade of the Woolley House after removal of the bay window.
The discarded bay window materials
Daniella Thompson
The discarded bay window materials
The discarded bay window materials
Daniella Thompson
The discarded bay window materials
Ken Sarachan (bottom left) in front of the Woolley House. The front porch was removed in preparation for the move.
Daniella Thompson
Ken Sarachan (bottom left) in front of the Woolley House. The front porch was removed in preparation for the move.

Berkeley’s precious historic fabric is eroding before our eyes, and the City is doing nothing about it.

Designated landmarks, legally protected by the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance, are routinely mutilated with no official scrutiny or counter-measures.

Take the case of the John Woolley House at 2509 Haste Street. Built in 1876, this Italianate-style Victorian is the second oldest structure on the Southside and a City of Berkeley Landmark. 

After many years of neglect, the Woolley House found guardian angels in John Gordon and Janis Mitchell, whose plan to preserve and relocate it to their lot at Dwight Way and Regent Street was approved by the City. Acquired from Ken Sarachan, the Woolley House is to be moved this Saturday and will join the landmark Blood House, which was moved from 2526 Durant Avenue in mid-August. 

John Gordon, of Gordon Commercial Real Estate Services, is known for having rescued many historic structures in Berkeley. He spent over seven years waiting for the Woolley House and hired architectural firm Siegel & Strain to document it. Preservation architect Burton Edwards created the plans for restoring the two houses at the new site, and Kaufman Construction, experienced in rehabbing old structures, is the general contractor. 

Gordon is away until December 1; his supervisor tells us that the firm took care to save all the trim from the Woolley House. Nevertheless, nobody was on site to observe when Sarachan’s crew dismantled the large west-facing bay window—an important character-defining feature—and discarded the materials on the ground as trash. 

It’s not clear whether Gordon or his consultants ever photographed the Woolley House or made detailed drawings that would enable them to replicate the lost window. When the Blood House was delivered without its roof, Gordon confessed to not having any drawings of the discarded roof. 

Meanwhile, contractor Marty Kaufman determined that the tiny Bonnet Box shop building at 2506 Dwight Way could not be moved whole to its intended new location behind the Blood House. It is not clear whether the City was alerted before Kaufman’s crew dismantled the Bonnet Box, saving only the siding. When reconstructed, this 111-year-old (or older) structure will be brand new. If all goes well, it will wear an old coat, but I wouldn’t place any bets on this happening. 

The City of Berkeley has a lengthy and costly permit process. On paper, at least, it requires projects involving historic properties to apply the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the treatment of such properties. 

The Secretary’s second standard states: “The historic character of a property will be retained and preserved. The replacement of intact or repairable historic materials or alteration of features, spaces, and spatial relationships that characterize a property will be avoided.” 

Very laudable, but it means nothing when nobody is watching and crews are left to their own devices. 

The Woolley-Blood-Bonnet Box case is hardly unique. Designated landmarks all over Berkeley are routinely mutilated with no permit and no followup enforcement. 

Kingman Hall (the historic Theta Xi Chapter House, 1914) replaced its wooden windows with ugly aluminum ones. The shingled William E. Colby House (Julia Morgan, 1905) lost its front garden and acquired a stucco playpen that disfigures its façade. On Regent Street, across from the Blood House, the recently designated Mary J. Berg House (1901) and Lucinda Reames House No. 2 (1903) lost character-defining features singled out for preservation by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. In all those cases, City staff was notified after the fact, but nothing has been done to enforce a remedy. 

No historic building should be dismantled without the presence of a preservation official. Berkeley needs to appoint such a person if it hopes to keep its historic character.

Kriss Worthington Survives District 7 Gerrymander (News Analysis)

Rob Wrenn
Wednesday November 05, 2014 - 10:39:00 AM

With all votes cast at the polls and some absentee votes counted, Kriss Worthington is ahead of his well-financed challenger Sean Barry.

Kriss Worthington: 421 votes (55.32%)

Sean Barry: 340 votes (44.68%)

An unknown number of absentee ballots remain to be counted but are not likely to change the outcome based on the breadth of Worthington's support. He won 8 of 11 precincts, including 7 of 8 heavily student precincts. He lost one precinct in the LeConte neighborhood and one in the Willard Neighborhood. These are the only precincts where homeowners are a significant part of the electorate. Barry was ahead in the initial count after these two precincts and initial absentees were counted but not by a large margin.

Kriss also lost one precinct east of College which includes fraternities, sororities and apartment buildings, but won the other 3 east of College precincts. This area was previously part of District 8. When The City Council redistricted District 7 to change it from a student-majority district to a student super-majority district, they removed precincts that had historically supported Kriss (including my precinct) and added the east of College student precincts. The new boundaries were approved by Mayor Bates and his allies on the Council over Kriss's objection. 

The number of initial absentees and votes cast at the polls in District 7 is tiny. In District 8, all four candidates have more votes than District 7 front runner Kriss Worthington who had only one opponent. While not all the votes have been counted, it's apparent that student turnout was very low. The absence of any hot-button state ballot measures or a hotly contested governor or senate race may help explain this low turnout. 

It's quite probable that Kriss will end up winning with the smallest number of votes ever won by a successful Council candidate since election by district replaced at large elections in 1986. This is a direct consequence of the creation of a student super-majority district, putting a huge number of UC students, especially freshmen and sophomores, who have historically not voted for local candidates in great numbers, in one district. 

It remains to be seen if the presence of a student candidate in a future election will inspire a higher turnout. This year there was no student candidate despite the fact that the ostensible purpose of creating a super-majority district was to get a student representative on the Council. 

Sean Barry outspent Kriss Worthington, raising over $36,000 (based on latest reports) compared to a bit over $25,000 for Worthington. In addition the Berkeley Police Association spent money for Barry and against Worthington (over $7000 total by my count). Barry was able to pay for 6 mailers (based on latest figures) and that doesn't include the literature supportive of Barry and critical of Worthington put out by the police union. 

Kriss certainly benefited from the endorsements by the Daily Cal and by the Cal Berkeley Democrats. His long record of appointing students to boards and commissions in large numbers and of helping interested students to get involved in local politics likely helped him to get endorsements and support from active students and to get the votes of many students even though his opponent is a young Cal grad. His long record of support for rent control and support from Rent Board candidates was probably a factor in tenant precincts

Only In Berkeley: Voters Approve Soda Tax

Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Wednesday November 05, 2014 - 10:43:00 AM

Berkeley voters made history in Tuesday by overwhelmingly approving a measure that will make Berkeley the first city in the country to place a tax on sodas and other sugary drinks, according to complete unofficial election results. 

Measure D, which won with about 75 percent approval, imposes a one-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary beverages. The tax is payable by distributors, not the consumers, and will affect businesses with annual gross receipts of more than $100,000. 

The measure required a simple majority of voters to pass. 

Dr. Vicki Alexander, the co-chair of the Yes on D campaign, said she expects the measure's victory will start a trend of cities taxing soda drinks. 

Alexander said in a statement, "We fully expect other communities to take on the soda industry and succeed." 

She said, "Berkeley has a proud history of setting nationwide trends, such as nonsmoking sections in restaurants and bars, curb cuts for wheelchairs, curbside recycling, and public school food policies. Many communities have the same ingredients that made Measure D possible in Berkeley: proactive parents and community leaders who care about the health of their kids." 

But Roger Salazar of Californians for Food and Beverage Choice, said he thinks Measure D's victory is an anomaly, saying, "Berkeley doesn't necessarily represent mainstream America." 

Salazar said anti-soda drink activists have previously put similar measures on the ballot in other cities and counties across the nation and those were all defeated. 

A similar measure was voted down in San Francisco on Tuesday and Richmond voters also rejected a soda tax in 2012. 

Measure D supporters said during the campaign that the measure is needed because overwhelming scientific evidence shows that consumption of sugary drinks causes widespread health problems, including diabetes and heart disease, starting in childhood. 

But opponents alleged that the measure is riddled with loopholes for some businesses and it doesn't make sense because chocolate milk, alcoholic beverages and some coffee drinks wouldn't be taxed no matter how much sugar or how many calories they contain. 

Opponents also pointed out that the money raised by the tax will be funneled into the city's general fund and city officials could shift the money to other things besides educating people about the dangers of drinking soda.

District 8 Election Far From Over

Rob Wrenn
Wednesday November 05, 2014 - 10:24:00 AM

While the Alameda County Registrar of Voters released unofficial ranked choice voting results from District 8 in the early hours of this morning showing George Beier the unofficial winner in Round 4 with 1267 votes to 1242 for Lori Droste, the outcome of the District 8 election is still very much in doubt. 

So far only 2746 votes for the four candidates, Beier, Alvarez Cohen, McCormick and Droste, have been counted. The County Registrar of Voters has not announced how many absentee ballots remain to be counted. It could take several days for the remaining votes to be counted. 

Total votes cast for District 8 candidates in previous gubernatorial elections are as follows: 

2010: 4569 

2006: 4327 

2002: 4755 

Even recognizing that total turnout was quite probably down this year, it still seems unlikely that it's down 40%. There could easily be another thousand or more ballots to count in District 8. Absentee voting is on the rise in Berkeley and many people drop their ballots at the polls. 

In addition, as a result of redistricting to create a student super-majority district, District 8 has fewer low-turnout student precincts and more high-turnout homeowner precincts than it did in 2010. 

The four candidates are only separated be 256 votes. The results, as of 12:44 a.m. today are: 

Lori Droste: 775 

Mike Alvarez Cohen: 741 

George Beier: 711 

Jacquelyn McCormick: 519

Flash: Thurmond Beats Echols in 15th AD by a Sizeable Percentage

Wednesday November 05, 2014 - 02:09:00 AM

At 2 a.m., with all 328 precincts reporting, Tony Thurmond, with 39,356 votes (54.3%) leads Elizabeth Echols with 33,091 votes (45.7%).

Click here for full details by county.

New: Sophie's Endorsements (Public Comment)

Sophie Hahn
Monday November 03, 2014 - 01:24:00 PM

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Many of you have already voted by mail. Fantastic. If you have a "mail-in" ballot that you did NOT mail, you can still vote! Just fill out your ballot, sign the envelope and drop it at ANY polling place on November 4. Polls are open 7 am to 8 pm for "voting day" voters as well as dropping off "mail-in" ballots that didn't make it into the post.

This is a resend of the voting recommendations I sent out a few weeks ago. Thank you for voting on November 4 and for considering these recommendations!

TONY THURMOND, State Assembly 15th District

First and foremost, please vote for Tony Thurmond. I know Tony well, and he is hands down the best candidate to represent us in Sacramento. This is an exceptional opportunity to elect a dedicated, experienced, ethical and compassionate leader. Tony is endorsed by an impressive list of organizations and individuals - please join them!


Berkeley Candidates and Measures: 

School Board - Vote for 3: Josh Daniels, Ty Alper, Karen Hemphill 

Rent Board - Vote for 4: Harr, Townley, Chang, Laverde-Levine, Selawsky  

District 1 - Alejandro Soto-Vigil  

District 8 - Jacquelyn McCormick  


Measure D: Soda Tax - YES 

(The soda industry has spent 2 million+ to defeat Measure D - the most of any campaign in Berkeley History. This is our best shot to protest against an industry that profits from pushing over-consumption of empty calories)  

Measure F: Parks - YES  

Measure P: Oppose Corporate Personhood - YES 

Measure Q: Flexible Worktime -YES 

Measure R: Green Downtown & Public Commons - YES  

(Don't be misled by the AVALANCHE of developer-funded opposition. Measure R is extremely important for the future of Berkeley. www.berkeleydowntown.com)  

Measure S: Council District Gerrymander - NO 


County and State Candidates and Measures: 

Alameda County Superintendent of Schools: Monroe 

Alameda County Measure BB: Transportation Funding- YES 

Governor: Brown 

Lt. Gov: Newsom 

Sec. of State: Alex Padilla 

Controller: Betty Yee 

State Treasurer: John Chiang  

Insurance Commissioner: Dave Jones 

Attorney General: Kamala Harris 

US Representative: Barbara Lee 

State Assembly District 15: Tony Thurmond 

State Sup. of Public Instruction: Tom Torlakson 


Proposition 1 - Water Bond - No Position  

(CA water management desperately needs help, but is this the right package of projects and policies? Too many dams? Boondoggle for corporate farms? Or, is this the best we can do given all the pressures and players involved? Some of my trusted sources say yes, others say no. Sorry not to have a definitive recommendation on this one!) 

Proposition 2 - Rainy Day Funds - YES 

Proposition 45 - Undercuts Obamacare - NO 

Proposition 46 - Hurts Healthcare - NO 

Proposition 47 - Low-Level Felonies become Misdemeanors - YES 

Proposition 48 - Gaming on "Indian" Lands - No Position  


Most importantly, thank you for voting, by mail or on election Day November 4. If you don't get through the whole ballot, please be sure to vote for Tony Thurmond for State Assembly 15th District.


Thank you for your consideration, and I hope to see you around the neighborhood!

Berkeley Rallies One More Time to Save the Post Office (News Analysis)

Becky O'Malley
Saturday November 01, 2014 - 01:52:00 PM
Councilmember Jesse Arreguin addresses the Save the Berkeley Post Office rally on Saturday morning.  Notables in the crowd: far left, District 8 Council candidate Jacquelyn McCormick; center in red checked shirt, Councilmember Linda Maio's husband, Rob Browning.
Mike O'Malley
Councilmember Jesse Arreguin addresses the Save the Berkeley Post Office rally on Saturday morning. Notables in the crowd: far left, District 8 Council candidate Jacquelyn McCormick; center in red checked shirt, Councilmember Linda Maio's husband, Rob Browning.

UPDATE: Both Rob Browning (husband of Councilmember Linda Maio) and Councilmember Jesse Arreguin have informed me that Browning did not actually say nothing at Saturday's Save the Post Office rally, as I report below. Arreguin said in an email: "I don't know if you noticed but Rob Browning was shaking his head when I spoke about R and was heckling me. No different than Joe Wilson." Browning put it this way: "When Jesse Arreguin used the occasion to showcase his support for Measure R (his attempt to undo our Downtown Plan), I addressed Arreguin directly, in a voice loud enough for many to hear, to make it clear that support for the post office is not synonymous with support for Arreguin’s measure." Since I myself wasn't paying attention at that moment, I'm not sure if it's accurate to characterize Browning's interruption as heckling--but he seems to have made his opinions clear. I do think the First Amendment supports a reasonable amount of tasteful heckling, if that's what it was."

So I went to today’s Save the Berkeley Post Office rally, where I saw what are possibly the best, most public spirited people in Berkeley. Unfortunately, there are only about a hundred of them, and almost all of them are over 50. I’m in no position to complain, needless to say, being a good bit over 50 myself, but still.

It is glaringly apparent to me at this juncture that these worthy people have been sucker-punched by the city council majority councilmembers loyal to Mayor Tom Bates, who were distinguished by their absence this morning. I was told by three different people, all of whom I know to be reliable, that the Bates gang had decided not to show up because supporters of Measure R, the downtown zoning initiative, would be present and perhaps allowed to speak. (Linda Maio’s husband Rob Browning did attend, said nothing.)

A couple of speakers told me they consciously omitted mentioning R because they wanted to preserve the shaky coalition with the anti-R councilmembers—fat lot of good it did them, of course. A couple of Measure R supporters, notably the vanishingly small number of feisty under-30s, brought and flaunted their Yes-on-R signs anyhow. This included Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, the guy who first said that we’d need to enact a zoning overlay to protect the public buildings in Berkeley’s Civic Center, including the Post Office.

He was right, of course, so right that even Berkeley’s conservative councilmembers voted to pass the necessary zoning change before the vote on the Measure R initiative could take place. That’s the sucker punch, of course.

The difference between an initiative and a council-passed ordinance is that the latter can be axed by a simple majority vote of council. I know nothing about sports pools, but if someone can explain them to me I’d like open a pool right now on how long it might take the Berkeley City Council to repeal the historic district zoning overlay if Measure R loses.

If Measure R passes, of course, it would buy more time for the effort to save the Post Office. But downtown developers have invested vast sums trying to defeat it, and they might well succeed.

If it goes down, it looks like the only chance to save the Berkeley Post Office, both the structure and the function, is the lawsuit which environmental law ace Antonio Rossmann, whose office is in downtown Berkeley, has agreed to undertake on the city’s behalf. 

It looks very much like the much-touted “negotiations” which were supposedly taking place between Mayor Bates and the Postal Service executives were just a stalling maneuver until the right buyer could be found. 

I wish I could say I was surprised. 




New: Can Berkeley Stop the Sale of Its Downtown Post Office?
USPS Admits It’s Signed a Sales Contract. (Public Comment)

Mike Lonergan
Saturday November 01, 2014 - 09:52:00 AM

The U.S. Postal Service has walked away from negotiations with the City of Berkeley and the National Trust on an agreement to preserve Berkeley’s Main Post Office. The USPS refuses to respond to questions from the City of Berkeley or from Congresswoman Barbara Lee regarding the imminent sale. We still do not know who the buyer is. The USPS has listed the building for sale since July, 2013, with CBRE, the realty firm headed by Richard Blum, Senator Diane Feinstein's spouse. Attempts to obtain further information from the U.S. Postal Service were stonewalled.  

Those opposing the sale will rally this Saturday, November 1st at 10:30 AM-12:30 p.m. on the steps of Berkeley's Main Post Office at 2000 Allston Way . Music is by Hali Hammer, Redd Welsh and Occupella.  

Speakers include Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, Jacquelyn McCormick from the National Post Office Collaborate, Gray Brechin, Living New Deal, Harvey Smith of The National New Deal Preservation Association, Peter Byrne, author of Going Postal, and Alan Menjivar, American Postal Workers’ Union. Senator Loni Hancock, Mayor Tom Bates, Council Member Linda Maio, all loyal supporters of keeping the Berkeley P.O. public are invited. Congresswoman Barbara Lee is scheduled to speak at 11 AM. 

Berkeley's downtown Post Office was built in 1914 with funds from the federal government obtained by Republican Senator William Knowland at the request of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce. It is a copy of a famous Renaissance orphanage in Florence, Italy. Our Post Office was declared an historic landmark by the U.S. Department of Interior, the State of California and the City of Berkeley. It was paid for with tax money. Save the Berkeley Post Office is opposed to its privatization.  

The Federal Advisory Commission on Historic Preservation stated that the sale would have an adverse effect on the historic post office because the USPS refuses to agree to protect the building through enforceable covenants. The USPS and city cannot agree on how a protective covenant would be administered, as the city argues that the USPS should not be trusted to honor it. 

"It is the ACHP's opinion that the proposed covenant does not sufficiently ensure the long-term preservation of the property since the USPS, as covenant holder, has the unfettered authority to approve adverse effects to the property (including demolition) while having neither the demonstrated experience in holding preservation covenants nor an apparent interest in the long-term preservation of the property," said the ACHP response, signed by Reid J. Nelson, director of the Office of Federal Agency Programs. A better, more qualified covenant holder would be the State Historic Preservation Office, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, or the City of Berkeley. 

The City of Berkeley and the National Trust were in negotiations with USPS for a preservation covenant to preserve the historic features of the building. Abruptly USPS ended these discussions and has entered into a contract to sell the building. The USPS refuses to identify the prospective buyer. 

According to Attorney Tony Rossmann, Berkeley wants to avoid unnecessary legal action. But that if the USPS won’t answer information requests, the City will go to court to prevent the USPS from quickly disposing of the historic post office as has happened in other parts of the country.

Press Release: Berkeley Global Campus: New Plan for Richmond Bay with DOE Funding for Second LBNL Campus Lost

From UC Berkeley Public Affairs
Thursday October 30, 2014 - 06:07:00 PM

Chancellor Nicholas Dirks laid out an “unabashedly bold” new vision for UC Berkeley’s Richmond Field Station on Wednesday, telling faculty members of plans to remake the site as a global campus and “living laboratory” in partnership with public universities from around the world, as well as with private industry.

In a presentation to the Academic Senate, Dirks unveiled the outlines of the proposed Berkeley Global Campus at Richmond Bay, a reimagining of what was originally planned as a joint “second campus” for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and UC Berkeley. In 2013, the Lab lost expected U.S. Department of Energy funding in the wake of federal budget sequestration, leaving development plans for the Richmond Field Station in limbo.

But it also opened the door to the Berkeley Global Campus, or BGC, which Dirks on Wednesday called “a transformational model for expansion of our educational and research activities in a global context.” 

“We have the opportunity to become the first American university to establish an international campus in the United States, right here in the East Bay,” he said. Instead of planting the UC Berkeley flag in a foreign country — the standard “export model” for global universities — BGC would be “a new form of international hub where an exclusive group of some of the world’s leading universities and high-tech companies will work side-by-side with us in a campus setting.” 

Along with its research mission — similar to that previously envisioned for the Richmond Bay Campus — BGC will have a strong educational component as well, with both undergraduate and graduate-level academic programs for U.S. and international students. Programs would be aimed at giving students the tools “to tackle global challenges through a curriculum centered on global governance, ethics and political economy, cultural and international relations,” as well as “direct involvement in special projects with global implications and applications.” 

And despite the new vision, “One thing that hasn’t changed regarding plans for the Richmond campus is our commitment to the community,” added Dirks, vowing to make BGC “a catalyst for developing the city’s south shoreline into a vibrant mixture of high-intensity light industrial, commercial and residential uses.” 

‘Back to the drawing board’ 

In his California Hall office, Dirks recalled how “we had to go back to the drawing board” when federal funding fell through as he was arriving on campus to take over as chancellor. With UC Berkeley taking over leadership of the project from LBNL, he set up a high-level committee to explore other options, which led back to an idea he’d highlighted in his inaugural address: that of a global campus. 

But joint campuses in other countries are subject to limits on academic freedom, both for faculty and for students, Dirks said, which is one important reason to have a branch 10 miles — as opposed to 10,000 miles — from the main Berkeley campus. 

Chancellor Dirks’ full presentation to the Academic Senate (as prepared) 

In other parts of the world, for instance, “If you have academic freedom on campus, does that you mean you have it in a classroom, in office hours, in a seminar?” he asked. “What if you go and have coffee with your professor off-campus? Is that ‘off-campus,’ or is it an extension of the campus experience? Do you have complete access to the Internet? Does it mean everything you post on the Internet — even if the Internet is a controlled platform for exchanges between and among the members of a classroom — is protected? What kinds of things could you potentially advocate for? 

“We talk about a branch campus affording a ‘safe harbor,’” said Dirks, noting that U.S. universities with beachheads in mainland Asia and the Middle East experience “considerable anxiety” when presenting themselves as islands of academic freedom. “Well, this is a safe harbor in a safe harbor.” 

Secondly, Dirks said, the proximity to Berkeley “allows real interaction, collaboration, participation — in both directions — for faculty, students and even staff to develop things that don’t require the first conversation always to be, Who’s going to get the airfare?” 

The third key reason for BGC is “location, location, location,” he said, drawing an analogy to “the New York experience,” in which then-Gov. Michael Bloomberg enticed a stellar group of research institutions to compete for the chance to build an engineering campus on Roosevelt Island, which lies just off Manhattan in the East River. 

BCG is “not a collaboration with the city, but with the university,” Dirks said, “but it’s in a location that’s attractive to people both nationally and globally.” 

Global vision, community benefits 

Yet even as he stressed the lure for academic and corporate partners, Dirks reaffirmed the central importance of the project to the local community, as laid out in a joint letter of commitment he and LBNL director Paul Alivisatos issued in April. The ongoing nature of that local partnership was reflected in comments by two prominent Richmond leaders, both of whom serve on a diverse working group comprising leaders from the City of Richmond, advocacy groups, business, labor and education. 

“As a member of the working group established to advise the university on this new project,” said Jim Becker, president and CEO of the Richmond Community Foundation, “I know that many civic and community leaders are ready to partner with Chancellor Dirks to bring the community benefits in the Joint Statement of Commitment to Richmond to life.” 

Bill Lindsay, Richmond’s city manager, lauded Berkeley’s continuing interest in developing “an internationally respected campus on Richmond’s southern shoreline,” as well as its “commitment to partner with Richmond to bring broad economic and social benefits to the community.” 

“We look forward,” Lindsay said, “to Richmond, Calif., becoming an international hub for education, collaboration and global citizenship through one of the most respected universities in the world.” 


One thing that hasn’t changed… is our commitment to the community. 

– Chancellor Dirks 


Dirks said “active and serious discussions” are taking place with potential partners and investors. 

“Since we began to develop this new plan after the May regents meeting — and that’s really when it started — we’ve already experienced the growth of phenomenal interest in being part of this,” he said. Expressing confidence that “this will happen,” he likened the process to UCSF’s Mission Bay project in San Francisco, which only got rolling after a settlement with the biotech company Genentech provided $50 million toward the construction of its first building. 

Terezia Nemeth, BGC’s development manager, played a pivotal role in bringing Mission Bay to life, first as a special assistant to then-San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and later as a vice president with Catellus, that project’s commercial developer. She agreed the Berkeley project could follow a similar pattern, albeit with one important difference. 

“If we had the kind of money that UCSF had at the time — if we had the ability to get money, say, from a donor or from the state to build a building — we could start creating the Berkeley Global Campus right now,” Nemeth said. “The problem is that we don’t have access to that capital, so we need to depend on partners to help us with bringing capital to the table. 

“We have the land, we have the entitlements, and we have the intellectual wherewithal, the brain trust. But we need investment,” she said. “So, really, we’re down to the money. We just need that initial source of funding to get it started.” 

Dirks, for his part, emphasized the potential returns — academic, economic, cultural and otherwise — from what is still an evolving vision for the Berkeley Global Campus. 

“It’s not just the right thing to do,” he said. “It’s going to bring huge opportunities to the campus, and to Northern California. It’s going to make real a global connectivity, and it’s going to make it real for our students and our faculty. It’s going to bring resources to campus, and it’s going to open up global resources to people from our campus in ways that no other model, I think, would stand a chance of coming close to replicating. 

“We’re not getting money from the state to build a campus,” Dirks said. “So we’re finding new ways to raise money for activity that’s going to permeate the campus.” 



More Sleazy Stuff
Mars Berkeley Campaigns

Becky O'Malley
Thursday October 30, 2014 - 10:11:00 PM

Another day, another mailbox full of campaign junk. It just gets ranker and ranker (or should I spell it rancor?)

I have to disagree with reader Mal Warwick , who wrote in the last issue that he disagreed with reader Joanna Graham’s complaints about negativity in the 15th Assembly district race run by Elizabeth Echols against Tony Thurmond. He said:

“Ms. Graham states that she has never seen such a negative campaign as the one waged by Elizabeth Echols for the 15th A.D. seat. This is laughable. What planet does Ms. Graham live on? The negative campaigns I’ve personally witnessed over the years involve vicious ad hominem attacks, statements quoted out of context, and outright lies.”

You don’t have to go all the way back to past campaigns which longtime political operative Warwick witnessed or participated in (many of which I also remember and participated in) to find “vicious ad hominem attacks, statements quoted out of context, and outright lies.”

Just check your mailbox from the last week.

Let’s start in reverse order with an outright lie. 

That would be the mailer labelled “Paid for by Committee to Save the Downtown Plan, No on Measure R, with Support from the California Association of Realtors, major funding provided by California Association of Realtors Issues Mobilization Political Action Committee, Los Angeles, $50,000; Panoramic Interests, Berkeley, $20,000; District Council of Iron Workers of the State of California and Vicinity, Pinole, $7,500; HSR Berkeley Investments, LLC, Los Angeles, $7,500.” 

A mouthful, isn’t it? The two names here which are not self-evident are corporations which are seeking high rise building permits in Berkeley's downtown.  

And the lie? Inside there’s a photo-shopped picture of what looks like a charming typical Berkeley brown shingle house, with its exploding roof pierced by a big arrow with a very big $ on it. Overall, in large caps with red emphasis; “Measure R would send Berkeley’s housing costs through the roof.” 

Well, no. There’s nothing about Measure R which would raise the cost of buying houses like the one pictured. That’s not true. 

Measure R might, however, adversely impact financial backers of downtown projects like the one proposed by mailer patron HSR Berkeley Investments, LLC. According to Frances Dinkelspiel on Berkeleyside.com, the L.A. real estate corporation “wants to spend as much as $200 million to construct a 180-foot tall tower with 355 residences next to the property that now houses the Shattuck Cinemas and various offices. The new apartments… are designed to appeal to empty nesters and high-income professionals, such as those who work at booming San Francisco technology companies like Twitter and Salesforce.com, but who are having difficulty landing an apartment in the city.” 

Then we have some “statements quoted out of context”. Here Exhibit A is a large glossy brochure paid for by the Berkeley Police Association. Yes, you read that right. Did you know that the Berkeley Police Association PAC is doing its damnedest to defeat District 7a Councilmember Kriss Worthington and elect a candidate anointed by the Bates machine in his stead? 

In giant type on the outside: “CRIME IN PEOPLE’S PARK AND ON TELEGRAPH AVENUE IS OUT OF CONTROL. Want to know Incumbent Councilmember Kriss Worthington’s ‘SOLUTION’ to crime in People’s Park AND on Telegraph Avenue?” 

So open it up. This just in: on September 16 Worthington seems to have suggested that something like a “vibe monitor” at the Park and on Telly might be informative. Oh, the horror! 

Big headline, white on red background: VIBE MONITOR. Do you believe it?!? Shocked, shocked! 

This mild metaphorical idea, floated by Worthington in almost a tongue-in-cheek mode in the hip vernacular, was but one of many,many proposals he has made to improve conditions in his beleaguered south of campus area. Most of them have been rejected by a council which is dominated by well-off homeowners who hate to spend money on a district which is now 84% students. 

Which highlights another bald-faced lie on another piece, this one paid for by Sean Barry, the Bates candidate: “Kriss Worthington has consistently opposed nearly every effort to revitalize downtown, reinvigorate Telegraph Ave. and improve the affordability and availability of housing in Berkeley.” 

Simply not true. Period. I’ve watched the great majority of council meetings in the last couple of decades, and that’s just a lie. Kriss claims 37 separate ordinances introduced, and I think he’s underestimating. Quite a few, though not all, have passed, and he's gotten perks for his district on others. 

And also, same piece, a “vicious ad hominem attack”: “Kriss Worthington: 18 Years of Obstruction Has Led to Sky High Rents and Neighborhoods Decline.” 

A third flyer, a letter from Sergeant Chris Stines, President, Berkeley Police Officers’ Association, claims that “Berkeley needs fresh young minds”—but also says that Kriss’s opponent is “the ONLY candidate endorsed by” fresh young minds like Tom Bates (76), Loni Hancock (74) and Nancy Skinner (60). Ageism, any one? 

The police group’s letter claims that “This is the first time our organization has gotten involved in a City Council race.” I don’t think that’s true either. Those with long memories seem to remember that Berkeley police came out against—Nancy Skinner, when she ran for City Council herself long ago. 

Of course, we in Berkeley can’t claim the sleaze championship if we compare ourselves to Richmond. There Chevron has contributed millions of dollars to the candidates it supports, with the aim of defeating Councilman Tom Butt, now running for Mayor. In one hit piece of cloudy provenance but obvious funding he was labelled “the Arkansas Rattlesnake” (he came from that state) and was accused of a great variety of crimes. 

But never one to take an insult lying down, Tom turned this intended insult into a witty campaign trademark, a song which you can hear by clicking here. 

But we’re no slouches here in Berkeley when it comes to clever campaigning with a positive message. The members of the Berkeley Rent Board, running unopposed, are using the election as a way of educating the electorate about the way “A Berkeley We Can All Call Home” is made possible by our rent and eviction control ordinances. 

Take a look at this: 


It’s too bad the Echols organization and some of the other campaigns didn’t measure up to this standard. I'll be glad when the election is over and my mailbox fills up with unsolicited catalogues again. 







The Editor's Back Fence

Last Call: The Berkeley Daily Planet Endorses

Becky O'Malley
Thursday October 30, 2014 - 10:29:00 PM

This little area is dedicated to those of us who still vote in person instead of by mail. We're the ones who agonize over making up our minds, and feverishly sort through the plethora of brochures in mailboxes and on doorsteps.

First: The Planet strongly supports the unopposed slate of candidates for Berkeley's Rent Board. Their campaign is being pitched as an opportunity for Berkeley voters to reaffirm their support for our long-standing rent control and stabilization law, so don't forget to check those candidates' boxes on your ballot. See today's editorial for a great video they've created.

In other areas (click on the links for fuller discussion) :

Berkeley Measure S (district gerrymander): NO

Berkeley Measure R (green downtown regulations):Yes See Op-ed: Measure R delivers on the green promise for downtown

Measure D (tax on sugar in soda pop) : no endorsement

Alameda County Measure BB: Yes

Judges: Here's a recommendation from an active young lawyer who comes from a family of distinguished attorneys but wishes to remain anonymous: " Liu, Cuellar, Werdegar,Humes, Kline, and Stewart are yes. Ruvolo is the only definite no." She voted yes for everyone but ruvolo.

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. A knowledgable friend says put Droste ahead of Beier, and in truth they're both a lot better than the incumbent. You choose, but leave Cohen off your list. )

And per a reader's request, here again is a link to Margot Smith's recommendations.

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


Please also do look back at the Public Comments in the last few issues, where there are some very intelligent arguments for various candidates and measures.

Public Comment

New: More Said Than Reported at Berkeley Post Office

Rob Browning
Sunday November 02, 2014 - 05:13:00 PM

A friend whose taste for local peculiarities far outstrips mine came across comments you published on yesterday’s rally supporting preservation of our post office. My wife Linda Maio, a member of Berkeley’s City Council, and I have from the outset been strong and vocal supporters of saving the post office. Prior commitments with campaign volunteers prevented Linda’s attendance yesterday.

But I was glad to be able to attend and to show my enthusiastic support for the powerful remarks of Congressmember Barbara Lee, Grey Brechin, Tony Rossman, and Harvey Smith. In your oddly skewed comments on the rally you chose not to report the remarks of those primary speakers but, rather curiously, chose to report that I, in their audience, “said nothing.” I’m afraid you got that wrong. When Jesse Arreguin used the occasion to showcase his support for Measure R (his attempt to undo our Downtown Plan), I addressed Arreguin directly, in a voice loud enough for many to hear, to make it clear that support for the post office is not synonymous with support for Arreguin’s measure. Thanks for the opportunity to set the record straight.

New: Free Speech on the Berkeley Campus?

Eleanor Walden
Sunday November 02, 2014 - 05:30:00 PM

The absurdity of trying to silence a commencement speech by Bill Maher on campus, in the aftermath of the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement, is a throwback to the HUAC and McCarthy era of the 1950's. The reaction against a differing opinion is a screaming fit that overlooks evidence within recent history. 

Why is it that American students, whose parents spend copious amounts of money to have them educated, or who take out astronomical debts for their own education, cannot remember the history of their parents or their century? While they may pontificate on American history for the past 250 years they cannot seem to fit together the evidence of the last 100 years. 

The brainwashing of American youth has been effective; if this IS the case, the right-wing has won! To paraphrase Shakespeare's poetry. The fault is "not in our stars but in ourselves." Oh god, goddess, and common sense!!!

War on Terror

Tejinder Uberoi
Friday October 31, 2014 - 11:33:00 AM

We express outrage when we witness barbaric acts of terror but sadly, our ‘war on terror’ has unleashed the dark side of our own nature. We have committed appalling atrocities in our theatres of war in Vietnam and more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan. A federal judge recently ordered the Obama administration to outline in detail its reasons for concealing as many as 2,100 photographs showing the torture of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2009, Obama agreed to release the photos, but later changed his mind, saying they would "inflame anti-American opinion and put our troops in danger." As part of a decade-long transparency case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, the judge ordered the government to delineate, for each photograph, its reasons for keeping the images from the public. The photographs are reportedly more disturbing than the famous images of torture by U.S. forces at Abu Ghraib

Remove Your Soda Tax Goggles: Berkeley is not Mike Bloomberg’s Sugar Baby

Kathryn Stepanski
Friday October 31, 2014 - 11:15:00 AM

In a world where famine exists and children die daily from starvation I question anyone on this planet who supports taxing distributors of non-alcoholic beverages. While some arrogant individuals in Berkeley proclaim a war on random beverages with sugar in them, I bet they would love a pantry stocked with organic juice and green tea if a huge earthquake struck our town. Michael Bloomberg is one of the funders of Measure D as some sort of vendetta because his soda initiatives failed in NYC. The “soda tax” in Berkeley or Measure D, fails to take a realistic view of reality. First, if it did cut down on people’s consumption of drinks containing sugar then there would be less recycling for the Ecology Center to collect for its “green jobs” revenue. Ecology Center would lose money, the people who collect cans and bottles for their livelihoods would lose money under Measure D. Measure D does not encourage healthy eating and puts people at risk for mental health crises and eating disorders. 

Measure D began, as most political movements in Berkeley begin, as an outcry. Activists wanted to rally behind children and prevent obesity and diabetes. A good intention went awry as the “soda tax” proponents forgot about public health and instead morphed the legislation into a patch job to stop an impending local deficit for a mismanaged budget. Measure D’s per ounce tax on random sweetened beverages, would place generated tax money in a general fund and not any health related program. The destination of “soda tax” funds is ultimately unknown, determined by a capricious city council. 

While Berkeley residents espouse equality for all kinds of people and lifestyles, the “soda tax” fails to demonstrate respect for all cultures and people. Instead, the tax judges and punishes stores and stigmatizes consumers. Rather than allowing merchants and the public to make their own decisions about nourishing their bodies, Measure D scolds stores and people who want specific meal items like an organic sweetened green tea, and a tax would not stop people from buying drinks that contain sugar. 

Food and beverage taxes, which their advocates claim to make strives for public health, do not modify consumer demand. Alcohol or tobacco taxes do not stop people from consuming those, actually harmful, products. The same phenomena is likely to occur with Berkeley’s Measure D “Soda Tax” initiative. People who already consume sweetened beverages, which is the majority of citizens, will continue to purchase those beverages. People will continue to buy organic juice and cane sugar pop, which after all is how Measure D generates revenue for the general fund. 

Berkeley’s soda tax punishes and stigmatizes the people it claims to assist. Research studies show that people who struggle with obesity have an increased likelihood for psychiatric issues. This is the group of people Measure D advocates think they will help, when in actuality that is the group that suffers the most from any food or beverage tax. A sweetened drink tax could stigmatize children, teens, and adults who continue to consume a taxed coconut water or organic lemonade. Under a beverage or food tax people could be scrutinized by the community in supermarket check out lines and throughout the city for what they choose to place in their bodies. There is plenty of pressure for people to have their weight fall into a standardized chart. Food and soda taxes center around conformity, which especially hurts girls. 

People who suffer from eating disorders often have anxiety about others watching them eat. I knew two beautiful girls who lost their lives to food battles. Both of the girls were nervous about other people watching them eat and could not eat lunch around others at school. Food and beverage taxes have the potential to cause people embarrassment about their eating habits and lead them to cut out certain beneficial foods and drinks that they would normally consume. A lower caloric consumption is part of the pathway to an anorexia diagnosis. On the other end of the spectrum, a person could become guilty about drinking a taxed beverage, like an organic lemonade, and begin drinking that lemonade in private away from peers and neighbors. Closeted eating is associated with bulimia as it can turn into a binge to satiate the desire for these stigmatized meal items. The “soda tax” ignores the cultural significance and health role of sweet liquids. 

Juice is a staple. Juicers are great although in a pinch, in a group, on the go, and in an emergency a bottled beverage has huge benefits. Measure D attempts to place a tax on any juice that is not 100% juice. Anyone who has ever donated blood or stayed overnight in a hospital has been offered fruit juice. For someone recovering from a flu, a ginger ale or lemonade might be the only sugar the stomach can absorb. As a person’s unique biochemistry fluctuates in response to illness, environmental factors, stress, pregnancy cravings, that person ought to have the freedom to quench her thirst. 

It is not the government’s place or a group of perfectionists’ duty to shake grocers down for more tax money on the food and drink items they sell. Berkeley needs to stand back and be grateful that we even have stores, stores with fully stocked shelves. The proposed and unconstitutional beverage taxes in Berkeley, San Francisco and New York are signs of the affluent who have lost sight of a fight worth fighting. The group think mentality affiliated with the “soda tax” movement jeopardizes our democracy and first amendment freedoms. 

Kathryn Stepanski is a writer. Her last name was created by a government employee at Ellis Island when her great-great grandfather arrived from Poland. Her ancestral grandparents voyaged to America on the Mayflower in pursuit of happiness.

The Law on Leaf Blowers in Berkeley

Carol Denney
Friday October 31, 2014 - 10:38:00 AM

“…However, if you are going to take away this tool from the worker, YOU WILL HAVE TO PAY HIM MORE if you want him to use a rake, hose or broom to achieve the same kind of cleanliness…” – Hank Chapot, Letters to the Editor, Berkeley Daily Planet October 24, 2014

Hank Chapot’s perspective on leaf blowers is important, since he is a gardener himself. But he is wrong. Nobody has to pay their maintenance or landscaping crews extra not to break the law. 

Homeowners and business owners need to make certain the people they hire to do landscaping and maintenance respect our community, which passed the law outlawing gas-powered leaf blowers in January of 1991. 

I hope Hank Chapot will enlist the University of California at Berkeley’s better nature, and pressure it to trade in the gas-powered two-stroke leaf blowers for electric ones, which are legal under our law, or better still use ecologically sound and sufficiently effective rakes and brooms.

Wall Street Recidivism

Jagjit Singh
Friday October 31, 2014 - 10:04:00 AM

Buoyed by the certainty that that the Justice Department would never hold the titans of Wall Street accountable for their financial shenanigans, they are back engaging in the same dirty business. Just two years after conducting massive fraud, some of the world’s biggest banks are now suspected of a repeat performance. Several large banks and their hired guns - high powered consulting firms - are again in the cross hairs of federal prosecutors. 

Several large foreign banks have been cited for doing business with Iran in violation of US law which was enacted out of deference to Israel which is itself in complete violation of international law. Makes sense? 

Historically, when banks have repeatedly run afoul of the law, they have paid a small fine, pocketed huge bonuses and returned to business as usual in sharp contrast to the average ‘small’ petty criminal. The fines are tax deductible and regarded as the cost of doing business. 

Prosecutors have traditionally favored so-called deferred-prosecution agreements, which suspend criminal charges in exchange for the bank’s paying a fine and promising to curtail their criminal behavior. This has enabled a disturbing pattern of Wall Street recidivism. It is ironic that when assessing the magnitude of the criminal behavior, the government outsources the task to consultants who are often the bank’s own customers. In short, the system is rotten to the core. 

Sorry, But Military Airstrikes Aren’t Going to Stop the Islamic State

Khalida Jamilah
Friday October 31, 2014 - 12:05:00 PM

In his recent address, President Obama reiterated that the U.S. government “will degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL” by providing airstrikes against ISIL targets in Iraq, military support for the Kurds, and political reform in Baghdad. These strategies will only last temporarily because history has proved that when group like ISIL (the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) or now simply called IS (the Islamic State) that has a strong ideology, any military intervention only last temporarily. For instance the death of Osama bin Laden seems as the death of Al-Qaeda but until now Al-Qaeda still exist. Shooting Osama bin Laden to death does not stop Al-Qaeda from operating. The same logic goes for IS. For example, shooting 500 IS militants will not stop ISIL from spreading its wings to establish Islamic State in the world. Thus, the most effective way to stop IS extremism is by educating Muslim youth that IS does not represent Islam because Islam means peace. 

In order to understand why IS does violent actions, one must understand its ideology. ISIL tries to reestablish Islamic caliphate— central Muslim leader like during the time of Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam. IS strongly believes that everyone must convert to Islam and every nation must follow the Sharia or the Islamic law because through this way, the world will be saved from destruction. An elected caliphate will then guide Muslim to achieve that goal. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is a self-proclaimed caliphate and is currently a leader of IS. 

However, there is one Muslim sect that claims to have a true caliph. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community claimsHis Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad to be the true caliph. In a BBC interview, when asked how did he know that he is the true caliph, Ahmad answered, “I never ever thought of becoming khalifa [caliph] but once I was elected, I could see some force from within me or from outside asking me that I must take this responsibility. Always when I take any action, I feel that Allah is helping me.” Ahmad further explained that IS caliph has no legitimacy because if it is true caliphate, it will be supported by Allah. That is the belief of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. 

Because IS mostly targets Muslim youth, Muslim leaders must educate Muslim youth about Muslim identities and why IS does not represent Islam. Sure, IS member can claim they are Muslim and some non-Muslim might have anti-Islam sentiments. However, it is up to people to choose which representation of Muslim they want to belief. And in order to have a better understanding of Islam, one must understand that Islam itself means peace and jihad refers not to war but to a struggle to become a better person. 

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community educates Muslim youth about their identity by launching several programs. For example, it launches a nationwide campaign called Muslim for Life in which more than 10,000 pints of blood is collected annually to save the lost life from 9/11 Attacks. This campaign promotes the true Islamic teaching of the sanctity of life and thus it shows that IS actions of beheading journalists and worker do not represent Islam. As Obama said in his remark on IS, all evil in this world cannot be eradicated therefore not all people will choose the positive way and some people might choose to join IS. 


Khalida Jamilah is a UC Berkeley student majoring in Peace and Conflict Studies and a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Women’s Writer Association. 

Nine Ways Jim Crow is Winning in 2014

by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman,Freepress.org
Friday October 31, 2014 - 11:43:00 AM

Jim Crow is already the big winner in this year’s election.

The corporate elite needs him to gouge the planet, wage perpetual imperial war and rule the rest of us.

So the voting rights of millions of student, elderly, black, Hispanic and other citizens are being lynched.

Which may now decide control of the US Senate, many state legislatures...and the White House in 2016.

The corporate-Christian right has long used the drug war to disenfranchise millions of citizens of youth and color. Gay and reproductive rights, feminism and the politics of hate have mobilized Christian crusaders to flood the polls for the GOP.

But we have turned the corner on the culture war. With the winding down of marijuana prohibition, widespread gay rights victories and more, Republicans now need the outright destruction of democracy itself to win an election:  

1. The Corporate Cash Tsunami: The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision allows gargantuan sums of corporate money to shape this election. It’s now the norm for unlimited cash to buy air time, fake “news” reports, billboards, phony astro-turf campaigns, and key election officials in charge of counting the ballots. 

2. Killing Voter Registration: With a wide range of tactics, corporate/GOP functionaries are restricting access to the polls. In Ohio and elsewhere millions of citizens have been stripped of their voter registration rights, almost all in dense-packed urban areas that lean heavily Democratic. “Golden Days” when voters can both register and vote have been eliminated. Voter registration organizations like ACORN have been destroyed and strict restraints have been placed on others, all with the focused agenda of making it increasingly difficult for grassroots, non-millionaire citizens to vote. 

3. Outright Destroying Voter Registrations: More than 40,000 voter registrations are now “missing” in Georgia, as they were in Ohio 2004. Georgia’s critical US Senate race may well be decided by fewer votes than were “lost”, and we expect parallel outcomes elsewhere. 

4. New Poll Taxes: Despite the 24th Amendment abolishing the poll tax, voter ID and other requirements put targeted restrictions on who can vote. Citizens registered at the same address for decades are being turned away at the polls. At least 500,000 Texas voters may be disenfranchised by ID laws aimed at students, the elderly and people of color, more than enough to turn most key elections in the state, including the widely watched governor’s race. 

5. Discriminatory ID Demands: Student IDs are being rejected in Texas and elsewhere, with the obvious impact of denying young people the vote. Gun owners’ permits are being accepted as valid voter ID. 

6. Electronic Vote Theft: Easily manipulated electronic voting machines were key to Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004 victories for George W. Bush. They have spread far and wide. The easy electronic flipping of entire elections has obvious appeal to hugely funded corporate players throughout the US. 

7. Suppressing Electronic Dialog: But the Democratic Party generally refuses to even discuss electronic vote theft, apparently fearful the mere dialog will scare away voters. The Daily Kos website has banned numerous election protection bloggers (us included), apparently for just that reason. But without hand-counted paper ballots, anti-corporate campaigns are mere exercises in futility.  

8. Bought Democrats: Democrats also depend on corporate money and regularly vote pro-corporate. As with Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004, they walk away from elections they legitimately won, and refuse to fight for the basic rights of their core supporters to safely vote and have those votes counted, even if it means their own defeat 

9. Buying Rigged Legislatures: Numerous key states have been gerrymandered to guarantee GOP majorities no matter what the states’ citizens want. Ohio’s strong popular Democratic majority is “represented” by an overwhelmingly GOP state legislature. And 12 out of Ohio’s 16 US representatives are Republican. Throughout the US, corporate money is buying parallel GOP control of legislatures and Congressional delegations in states with Democratic majorities. 

November Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Saturday November 01, 2014 - 02:22:00 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:Is Bipartisanship Possible?

Bob Burnett
Saturday November 01, 2014 - 08:42:00 AM

As the 2014-midterm elections grind down to their conclusion, voters in many communities continue to be subjected to wave after wave of negative ads. The obvious solution is to take big money out of politics, but another tactic would be to promote bipartisanship, to somehow dispel the rancor between Democrats and Republicans. Is bipartisanship possible? Or is the US too polarized? 

A recent Pew Research study concluded the US is becoming more polarized: 

1. “The share of Americans who express consistently conservative or consistently liberal opinions has doubled over the past two decades, from 10% to 21%.” 2. “Partisan antipathy has risen. The share of Republicans who have very unfavorable opinions of the Democratic Party has jumped from 17% to 43% in the last 20 years. Similarly, the share of Democrats with very negative opinions of the Republican Party also has more than doubled, from 16% to 38%.” 3. “About six-in-ten (63%) consistent conservatives and 49% of consistent liberals say most of their close friends share their political views.” 4. “Differences between the right and left go beyond politics… Nearly four times as many liberals as conservatives say it is important that their community has racial and ethnic diversity; about three times as many conservatives as liberals say it is important that many in the community share their religious faith.” 5. “The center has gotten smaller: 39% of Americans currently take a roughly equal number of liberal and conservative positions, down from 49% in surveys conducted in 1994 and 2004.” 6. “The most ideologically oriented Americans make their voices heard through greater participation in every stage of the political process.” 7. “To those on the ideological right and left, compromise now means that their side gets more of what it wants.”

In a nutshell, Americans are more partisan and more insular. 

The new Pew Research Center political typology poll segmented the American political electorate into eight groups based upon degree of partisanship. There were three clusters. The first is “The Partisan Anchors,” the Republican and Democratic base: “Steadfast Conservatives” (19 percent), “Business Conservatives” (17 percent), and “Solid Liberals” (21 percent). 

When we compare “Solid Liberals” to “Steadfast Conservatives” we see the challenges for bipartisanship. 98 percent of Liberals described themselves as “consistently liberal” or “mostly liberal.” 93 percent of Conservatives said they were “mostly conservative” or “consistently conservative.” 

Liberals believe the “US’s best years are ahead of us;” Conservatives believe the US’s best years are behind us.” 39 percent of Liberals believe the one-year economic outlook “will be better;” 56 percent of Conservatives believe it “will be worse.” 79 percent of Liberals believe the “US is successful because of its ability to change;” 78 percent of Conservatives believe the “US is successful because of its reliance on long-standing principles.” 

Most Liberals agree “Wall St hurts economy more than helps;” most Conservatives – particularly business conservatives – believe Wall Street helps the economy. Most Liberals believe “Economic systems favors the powerful,” Conservatives disagree. 

When asked the question, “I would vote against any official who voted to raise taxes,” 79 percent of Liberals disagree but 77 percent of Conservatives agree. 73 percent of Liberals believe “Government should do more to solve problems,” whereas 87 percent of Conservatives believe “Government is already doing too much.” Not surprisingly, 91 percent of Liberals agreed “Government aid to the poor does more good than harm” but 86 percent of Conservatives disagreed. 

Predictably, Liberals and Conservatives have diametrically opposed views on most important issues. 86 percent of Liberals approve of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare); 94 percent of Conservatives disapprove. (87 percent of Liberals agree that is “the government’s responsibility to ensure all have healthcare coverage;” 92 percent of conservatives believe it is not the government’s responsibility.) 

96 percent of Liberals believe that immigrants “should be eligible for citizenship if meet certain requirements;” only half of Conservatives agree. 

81 percent of Liberals believe that it is more important to control gun ownership than to protect it; 89 percent of Conservatives disagree. 

78 percent of Liberals believe “the earth is getting warmer because of fossil fuels;” 75 percent of Conservatives believe “there is no evidence the earth is getting warmer.” Predictably, 95 percent of Liberals believe alternative energy should be the focus of US energy policy; 66 percent of Conservatives believe expanding oil and gas production should be the focus. 

87 percent of Liberals believe that affirmative action “is a good thing;” 60 percent of conservatives believe affirmative action “is a bad thing.” 

80 percent of Liberals believe that “racial discrimination is the main reason many black people can’t get ahead.” 89 percent of Conservatives disagree, “Blacks who can’t get ahead are responsible for their own condition.” 

There are stark differences between Liberals and Conservatives. The United States is growing more partisan and more insular. It’s hard to imagine how there could be bipartisanship. 

But is possible to imagine how the Liberal view will prevail. Conservatives are predominantly old (67 percent are 50+), white (87 percent are white, non-Hispanic), and men (about 60 percent). The tide of demographics will ultimately erode Conservatism. 

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



DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE:Book Review: The Syrian Labyrinth

Conn Hallinan
Friday October 31, 2014 - 10:06:00 AM

Inside Syria:” The Backstory of Their Civil War and What the World Can Expect “ by Reese Erlich

Forward by Noam Chomsky

Prometheus Press, New York 2014

Reese Erlich’s informative and insightful book “Inside Syria” brings to mind the Greek myth of a vast maze under the palace at Knossos, with one exception: King Minos’ labyrinth on Crete concealed a single Minotaur, Syria is teeming with the beasts.

Erlich has spent almost three decades reporting from the Middle East, and he brings his considerable knowledge of the region into this analysis of the Syrian civil war. A winner of the Peabody Award and the Society of Professional Journalists explanatory journalism award for “Inside the Syrian Revolution,” Erlich combines on-the-ground reporting with an encyclopedic background in the region’s history. It is a combination that is particularly useful for a subject as complex and nuanced as the current war, one that has gradually drawn Lebanon, Israel, Turkey, Iran, and the monarchies of the Persian Gulf, along with the U.S., France and Britain. 

The mainstream media generally considers history an afterthought, which explains why it does such an awful job reporting on the Middle East. Journalists like Erlich, Robert Fisk and Patrick Cockburn understand that the history of the region and current events are one and the same, a sort of paraphrase of William Faulkner’s observation that history is as much the present as the past. 

While understanding the historical context of a story is a pretty good rule of thumb for producing competent journalism in general, that is particularly so in the Middle East, precisely because many people think they know about that past. Didn’t they see “Lawrence of Arabia”? Read “Exodus”? Or—God help them—read the mainstream press or watch television news? 

The book begins with the initial revolt—“The Uprising That Wasn’t Supposed to Be”—and then backs into broader historical context, including a chapter on T.E. Lawrence (if this particular period is of interest to readers, they also might consider picking up Scott Anderson excellent book, “Lawrence In Arabia”). How Syria was created, and the imperial machinations of her architects, Britain and France, is essential to understanding not only the internal dynamics of the country, but its place in the region. The current hostility between Turkey and Syria has roots that reach back almost a century. If you want to understand Lebanon—a key player in the Syrian civil war—knowing how it was created and the strategies of ethnic division that France employed to maintain its colonial grip on this small but strategically placed country is essential. 

The book covers Syrian history without bogging the reader down. This is, after all, a report on the on-going civil war. But Erlich does not glide over the important details, including how the U.S. camel first put its nose under the tent. Two chapters cover the period just after World War I, the impact of World War II, and the appearance of the Assads in 1970. 

Erlich maintains that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s economic “reforms” helped impel the current uprising. Adopting neoliberal policies, Assad sold off state-owned enterprises—generally to regime allies and insiders—and opened the economy to outside competition. The result—aided by a long-running drought—was growing impoverishment and lots of unemployed youth. Joblessness and economic crisis is a volatile mix and needs only an “incident” to set it off. That happened in March 2011 in the southern city of Daraa, when Syrian security forces brutally attacked peaceful demonstrators. 

After laying the historical groundwork for his reporting, Erlich follows with a detailed chapter on the 2011 uprising. 

While Erlich has a clear point of view—he detests dictatorship and neo-colonialism in equal measure—he is a careful and thorough reporter. His discussion of the use of chemical weapons is a case in point. Erlich carefully unpacks the evidence that the Assad regime used Sarin gas and finds that some of it has been exaggerated or even possibly fabricated. Which doesn’t mean the Damascus regime is innocent. His discussion weighs the charges on all sides and concludes that we really don’t know. What we do know is that U.S. intelligence didn’t think the evidence against Assad was a slam-dunk, a fact that the Obama administration deliberately obscured. It is a fascinating treatment of the subject—there were several incidents involving the use of chemical weapons, not just the most horrendous at Al-Ghouta that killed several hundred people—and a good example of Erlich’s diligence as a reporter. 

His chapters on “the Uprising begins,” and “Who Supports Assad” are a must for anyone trying to figure out who is who in this complex tragedy. Erlich details the various factions, how they interlink and how they differ, and why the U.S. policy of arming “moderate forces” is doomed to failure. These chapters are essential for understanding the internal dynamics of the two sides, which are more like a Rubik Cube than two opposing poles. The book includes an invaluable appendix on the groups involved, as well as a useful timeline of the current uprising. 

Syria is part of a much larger picture, and its strategic placement—bordering Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, Israel, and Lebanon—means what happens in Damascus doesn’t stay in Damascus. Why is Iran backing Assad? Is this all about religion? (Hint: nope). What will this mean for the 30 million or so Kurds trying to form their own country? Do all the Kurds want to form a country, and, if they do, what will moving that particular piece on the Middle East chessboard do? How might this affect the on-going fight by the Palestinians to form their own country? 

The Syrian civil war has morphed into a proxy battle with Iran and Russia on one side, and the U.S., Gulf monarchies and some NATO members on the other. While the battle is not over religion per se, religion greases the movement of arms and aid. “To the pious go the guns,” writes Erlich, which means that adherence to the reactionary brand of Islam favored by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies is a litmus test for whether you get arms and ammunition. It is not an atmosphere in which the American’s favored “moderates” can thrive. 

Erlich says the White House recognizes that the “ultra-right wing Islamic groups” like the ISIS, Al-Nusra, and the Islamic Front are growing at the expense of the less extreme or secular groups and at one point considered simply “re-defining” the extremist Islamic Front as “moderate” so it could send aid to that organization. 

Because Erlich is one of those old-fashioned journalists who believes that you need to talk to the principals involved, the readers get an opportunity to listen to what Kurds and Palestinians have to say. This combination of street interviews, suite discussions— he beards the U.S. State Department in Foggy Bottom—and historical background makes for a thoroughly engaging read. While he generally keeps his distance, Erlich injects himself when needed, or when he wants the reader to know that this is his opinion, not God’s. He also has a sense of humor. There is a wonderful moment when he gets off a bus in Gaza to be met by Hamas officials. 

His final chapter—“U.S., Russia, and outside powers”—discusses the international dimensions of the civil war—virtually anything major that happens in the Middle East, with its enormous oil and gas reserves, has an international dimension—and what ought, and ought not, be done, to solve it. 

The Obama administration is slipping into a quagmire that some have even compared to Vietnam. That analogy is probably flawed, but it should still gives us pause—for one, Vietnam demonstrated that air wars don’t work unless you have reliable allies on the ground. Once again, the U.S. is at war. Once again, the U.S. is ignoring international law and choosing to use military force over diplomacy. Once again there is a logic at work here that leads to yet another dark tunnel of escalation. 

In 1966 journalist Robert Scheer wrote a small book, “How the United States Got Involved in Vietnam,” that undercut the popular narrative about Communist aggression and toppling dominos. The book shattered the official paradigm and gave the infant anti-war movement ammunition for its confrontation with the administration of Lyndon Johnson. Erlich’s “Inside Syria” has similar heft and should be widely read, because we are once again at war without the slightest idea of where it leads or what its ultimate goals are. 


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


ECLECTIC RANT: UC Berkeley Decides Correctly to Let Bill Maher Give the Commencement Speech

Ralph E. Stone
Friday October 31, 2014 - 10:00:00 AM

Bill Maher, standup comedian and host of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, was selected to speak at UC Berkeley's fall commencement. Recently, an online petition began circulating demanding that his selection be canceled, claiming that Maher is a "racist" and a "bigot."

On September 29, 2014, Chancellor Dirks announced that the invitation will stand noting that the undergraduate committee known as the "Californians" had selected Maher to speak and now want this invitation to be rescinded, "which appears to have been based solely on Mr. Maher’s opinions and beliefs, which he conveyed through constitutionally protected speech. It should be noted that this decision does not constitute an endorsement of any of Mr. Maher’s prior statements: indeed, the administration’s position on Mr. Maher’s opinions and perspectives is irrelevant in this context, since we fully respect and support his right to express them. More broadly, this university has not in the past and will not in the future shy away from hosting speakers who some deem provocative."

I applaud the Chancellor's decision. It is strange to me that the "Californians" did not know Maher's views before they selected him to give the commencement address. 

Let's look a bit at Maher's views on Islam that sparked the controversy. On his "Last Word," an interview with Sam Harris and Ben Affleck, Maher contended radical Islamists are essentially a "mafia" that will kill you if you say or draw the wrong thing.  

In an interview with Charlie Rose, Maher comparing Islam to Christianity, said, "Vast numbers of Christians do not believe that if you leave the Christian religion you should be killed for it. Vast numbers of Christians do not treat women as second class citizens" and later said, “[Christians] do not believe if you draw a picture of Jesus Christ you should get killed for it. So yes, does ISIS do Khmer Rouge-like activities where they just kill people indiscriminately who aren't just like them? Yes." 

It is because of statements like these that many charge Maher with Islamophobia, which is defined as prejudice against, hatred towards, or fear of Islamic doctrine, Muslims, or of ethnic groups perceived to be Muslim. 

Bill Maher has long derided organized religion. Remember "Religulous," his 2008 feature film which examined and mocked religious beliefs. The film is an example of his notion that no religion or religious culture is above criticism. 

In post-9/11 America, Maher has become an advocate for the view that all religions need to be criticized and identified as antagonistic to liberal principles. In his view, Islam is a singular affront to liberal values, as Muslims are uniquely oppressive and extremist and violent.  

Maher certainly is an arrogant, controversial activist and some would call him an asshole but I don’t know if he is a racist or bigot or suffers from Islamophobia. But "the irony of UC Berkeley [undergraduates] attempting to be more liberal, they have illiberally protested a liberal critique of illiberalism." Now that Maher will speak, why don't the anti-Maher students at the same time have tables with literature or symposiums that explain why they believe Maher is wrong? After all isn’t that what a university education is all about.

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Psychiatric Conditions and the Value of Life

Jack Bragen
Friday October 31, 2014 - 10:33:00 AM

A major psychiatric illness will introduce limits to our lives. It brings baggage, it brings requirements and it brings some restrictions. Taking medication is just the beginning. We have to keep our prescriptions filled. We must meet with a psychiatrist on an ongoing basis. We may be forced to undergo psychotherapy--we may like this and may not. (While in my past I used to get a lot of benefit from therapy, I essentially feel done with it after more than thirty years of it.)  

Mental illness may have ramifications that affect most aspects of our lives. It may, or may not mean that we will not be able to perform full-time professional employment. Or, if we could continue or acquire or employment, there is the question of whether we will remain closeted, or disclose the fact of the illness. Mental illness also impacts whether or not we will have romantic friends--some of them may exit out of a relationship (or would not consider one to begin with) if they find out that we are bipolar, depressed or schizophrenic.  

Mental illness in our society is a package deal. Because of how things are set up for us, with our various appointments, with the sedating effects of medication, and with the value judgments people put upon us that say we are "incapable," we are up against a lot if we are trying not to be defined by the illness.  

Certain people in society, some of whom have authority over persons with mental illness, might prefer it if we would just take our pills and shut up.  

But we shouldn't give up. Having a mental illness doesn’t automatically mean that we can’t do anything in life. I have met numerous people with mental illness who are very productive and who contribute to their communities.  

Perceptions of persons with mental illness are likely to be skewed, since some of us while in public do not appear to be normal--we may be poorly dressed and groomed, may fidget from medication side effects, and may show signs of premature aging. However, we are not seeing the mentally ill persons who are participants in mainstream society, who are members of the workforce and who are raising a family. This category does exist. This is not apparent because most people at your job are not going to declare to everyone in your office that they are bipolar.  

On the other hand, if you find that full-time work isn’t very doable while in treatment for mental illness--then so what?  

Attempting not to be defined by mental illness might be similar to someone who must use a wheelchair not being defined by the difficulty or inability to walk. What you do with your life other than either not walking or having a mental illness, whether the activity is related or unrelated to your disability, could become the real measure of your life.  

It isn't always necessary to do something only when you think you will "get something" for it. Certain things are worth doing regardless of whether or not they come with a reward. I encourage journaling and meditating. I encourage writing. I encourage sitting in a comfortable chair with a book to read and a cup of coffee or tea.  

Volunteer work may not have the same prestige as paid work, but it is still a very valuable activity, can keep a person busy, and it is worth doing. Most of the writing I do is volunteer, which, for a perception of more status, can be called "pro bono."  

If you want to feel good about yourself, my advice is to forget about whether or not you are a "normal" person. Other people have mental illnesses and other physical illnesses. You are not the only one. Why is it abnormal to be mentally ill? You still breathe the same air, must drink water and must eat. How is mental illness really different from any other condition? Is mental illness something we have or is it something we "are"? It is up to you.

COUNTERPOINTS: Niggas, Bitches, Hoes, and Steven Tavares

J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday October 31, 2014 - 11:18:00 AM

A month ago, I wrote about an East Bay political blogger who had posted a bigoted, anti-Asian item on Twitter. 

Steven Tavares writes about local politics-including the Oakland mayoral race-on his EBCitizen blog , some of which is reprinted in the East Bay Express. He also follows local sports on twitter. After Oakland Raiders head coach Dennis Allen was fired at the end of September, Mr. Tavares tweeted on his Steven Tavares@eastbaycitizen twitter account that he was "waiting for my Uncle Eddie to call and tell his suddenly timely joke about the #Raiders hiring a Korean coach named Win Soon." 

As I wrote at the time in an Oakland Elects column entitled "Completely And Totally Inappropriate, Wrong, And Inexcusable" Oakland Elects September 30, 2014, bigoted so-called "jokes" making fun of Asian names used to be common in American life. They have almost completely disappeared from public sight in recent years, but Mr. Tavares seems to have been under the belief that it was allright to pass on this particular bit of racist ugliness. 

I called upon him to provide an explanation and a public apology to both the East Bay's Asian-American community and to East Bay citizens in general. 

As far as I can tell, Mr. Tavares did neither. 

But that was not the end of it, apparently. Following the publication of my "Completely And Totally Inappropriate, Wrong, And Inexcusable" column, a reader pointed out that this was not the only time Mr. Tavares had engaged in racist bigotry on twitter. They invited me to do a little more research on the subject, which I did. 

I didn't find anything inappropriate on Mr. Tavares' East Bay Citizen twitter feed, though, with almost 20,000 tweets on his account, there's a possibility I may have missed something. However, it was a completely different matter when I found an earlier twitter account of Mr. Tavares—Steven Tavares @StevenTavares —which he appears to have stopped using in the spring of 2012. 

What I found were several disgusting tweets associated with Mr. Tavares that are—well—you'll have to read them for yourselves and come to your own conclusions. 

By far, the worst one came on July 1, 2010, when Mr. Tavares retweeted "It's the 1st, I know niggas out doing the most with they welfare checks lol." 

I'll pause for a moment and let you re-read that, if you like, and allow it to sink in. 

The July, 2010 tweet came from earlier tweet by someone from @Its_MelP, who appears to be an African-American rapper out of Detroit. Like far too many rappers, ItsMeLp is fond of talking about his niggas and "bitches" and "hoes," in exactly those words. 

Mr. Tavares, who does not appear to be African-American and does not advertise himself as a rapper, seems to believe that it's acceptable for him to do the same. 

And so, on July 20, 2011, he retweeted something that he apparently thought to be a joke, "Want a smoking hot girlfriend? Set that bitch on fire." 

No, on second thought, it's hard to decide whether Mr. Tavares' "niggas and welfare checks" or his "setting that bitch on fire" retweets would be characterized as his worst. 

Several of Mr. Tavares' retweets are of "jokes" deliberately demeaning to both African-Americans and women, simultaneously. 

On February 19, 2010, for example, Mr. Tavares retweeted "Yall I feel so bad for TigerWoods. He shoulda fukked black bitches. Dey better at bein side chicks than these white hoes." 

Or on January 17th of 2011, two days following the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, he retweeted "'To all my niggas and my bitches and my bitches and my niggas wave yo' mothafuckin' hands in the air!' - MLK." 

Or on August 9, 2010, a tweet of his own creation: "HOW IS #TIGERWOODS SUPPOSED TO CONCENTRATE? On green he's fighting 18 holes with a club. In the hotel room, he's fighting 16 hoes with a rod." 

Mostly, he throws around the two words as if he feels he is inside some boyz-only club where such is acceptable. Mixed in are retweets referring to things like "this nigga has on a turtle neck lol" or "that's a big nigga lol" or "Real niggas eat ice cream in the Winter" or, simply and succinctly, "Nigga get a job!!" 

And, finally, in a revelation, perhaps, of Mr. Tavares' feelings towards the LGBT community, he sent out a tweet of his own composition on September 17, 2010, that read, "The _#49ers have too much bitchy testoterone going on right now. In other part of SF it's called a hissy fit." 

If the person posting all of these offensive and bigoted tweets on the @Stevetavares twitter feed is not the Steven Tavares who operates the EBCitizen blog, then he is the victim of an elaborate and vicious hoax, and the EBCitizen Steven Tavares has good grounds for a lawsuit. The @Stevetavares twitter account has a picture that looks remarkably like the EBCitizen Steven Tavares, and the @Stevetavares twitter account is linked to the EBCitizen website. 

But if the EBCitizen Steven Tavares is, indeed, the owner of the @Stevetavares twitter account and the author of those tweets, he has a lot of explaining to do to the citizens of one of the more diverse communities in the United States. 

I'll reserve any further expression of opinion after I see if Mr. Tavares chooses to respond.

Arts & Events

Around & About Theater & Film: East Bay Media Center Film Festival; Golden Thread Presents 'Dear Armen' from Toronto; Indra's Net Premieres 'Delicate Particle Logic'; Piedmont-Oakland Repertory Theatre Does A. R. Gurney's 'What I Did Last Summer'; Théât

Ken Bullock
Friday November 07, 2014 - 01:42:00 PM


—The excellent folks at the East Bay Media Center are once again hosting the Berkeley Video & Film festival in its 23rd edition, already underway with the Student Film Marathon, featuring in part work by the outstanding students of the famed USC Cinematic Arts program, several documentaries on Tibetan Buddhism & Bön, often shot in situ; Peter Yost's documentary on Mt. Tamalpais, narrated by Peter Coyote; a doc on poetry—and short comedies, drama, all kinds of new film and video, shown in the Center's well-refurbished Performance Space. 7 pm Hallowe'en through November 8, various times. $10; students/elders $5; Berkeley High students free with id—& wear a Hallowe'en costume or mask for 50% off. 1939 Addison, between Milvia & MLK. http:/berkeleyvideofilmfest.org/ or 843-3099
—After the success of Tara Grammy's 'Mahmoud,' Golden Thread's presenting another show that originated in Toronto, 'Dear Armen,' an audience-interactive one, written and performed by Kamee Abrahamian & lee williams boudakian, about the research of a student and writer, Garo, into the life and work of Armen Ohanian, performer and survivor of the anti-Armenian pogroms in Baku, bringing up issues of cultural and gender identity—"their poetic search for self-exploration, artistic innovation and cultural connection blends into a poetry of words, movement and music." Thursdays through Saturdays at 8, Sundays at 3 though November 9, Thick House, 1695-18th Street, between Connecticut & Carolina Streets on Potrero Hill, San Francisco. $25; student/senior/TBA $20. goldenthread.org
—Indra's Net Theater is premiering the fourth in their series of productions of plays dealing with modern physics, Jennifer Blackmer's new play, 'Delicate Particle Logic,' concerning scientist Lise Meitner, the "Mother of Nuclear Fission," and painter Edith Hahn, during the rise of the Nazi Party and concurrent male domination in society. Directed by Bruce Coughran, Indra's Net's co-founder and artistic director. Thursdays through Saturdays at 8, Sundays at 5 through November 23 at the Osher Studio, 2055 Center Street, near Shattuck. Tickets: $20-$28 (Pay what you can at the preview November 1.) www.indrasnettheater.com or (415) 613-9210
—Oakland-Piedmont Repertory Theatre (PORT) is staging A. R. Gurney's 'What I Did Last Summer,' directed by John A. McMullen II Saturdays at 8, Sundays at 2:30 and at 7, through December 13 at 4137 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, across from Barney's, between 41st Street & Ridgeway Avenue. $22 in advance, $25 at the door, $19 at previews, 8 p. m. November 1 & 2:30 p. m. November 2. www.PiedmontOaklandRep.org
—"An empty theater, a bare stage, no need to pretend. Or rather. yes. It is the very issue of pretense that is raised here." So begin the notes by director Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota, artistic director of the Théâtre de la Ville of Paris' production of Pirandello's great 'Six Characters in Search of an Author' at Zellerbach Hall for two performances next weekend, thanks to Cal Performances. Pirandello, awarded the 1934 Nobel Prize for Literature, is one of the greatest modern playwrights and thinkers about the theater, is identified by his idiosyncratic, penetrating sense of humor, which he defined in an important essay and letters before he (a fiction writer of renown) took to the stage as "a sense of the opposite" and as "what you find instead of what you expect to find."
Théâtre de la Ville staged a remarkable production of Ionesco's 'Rhinoceros' here a few years back. Their exploration of Pirandello's most famous play is an event of the first order. "This is a unique opportunity to seek to exceed the limits of theater, not by denying them, but by bringing them to paradoxical consequences." (For the full text of Demarcy-Mota's notes: calperformances.org/learn/program_notes/2014/pn/theatre-de-la-ville-pdf
Other events include a panel discussion, November 7, 12-2 p. m. in Dwinelle 370 on staging 'Rhinoceros'—which UC Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies will perform November 14-23. On saturday the 8th, assistant director Christian Lemaire will discuss 'Six Characters' with Shannon Jackson, director of UC-Berkeley's Department of Art Research at the Alumni House on campus, 6-7 p. m. Both events are free to the public.
Friday and Saturday, November 7 & 8, 8 p. m. at Zellerbach Hall, on campus near Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft Way, $30-$68 (discounts for students & seniors). calperformances.org
—The Aurora Theatre unveiled the Barbara Oliver Bas Relief, a bronze sculpture in honor of its late founder by Fred Parhad, donated to the theater by Venus and Narsai David, on October 28. It will be permanently on view in the entrance lobby to the theater on Addison Street near Shattuck. Barbara Oliver founded the Aurora in 1992. She died this past June, age 85.

AROUND AND ABOUT MUSIC: Countertenor Andreas Scholl with Philharmonia Baroque

Ken Bullock
Friday November 07, 2014 - 01:39:00 PM

—Renowned countertenor Andreas Scholl will sing arias from Handel and selections from Bach with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, led by Julian Wachner—who just made his San Francisco Opera debut, brilliantly conducting Handel's 'Partenope'—this Saturday night at 8, Sunday afternoon at 4 at the First Congregational Church, Dana between Durant & Channing. Bach: Sinfonia to Cantata No. 42, Cantata No. 170, Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 in F major; Handel operatic arias; Teleman: Concerto in F major for violin, oboe & two horns. $25-$100. philharmonia.org

Theater Review: A. R. Gurney's 'What I Did Last Summer' by Piedmont-Oakland Repertory Theatre (PORT)

Ken Bullock
Friday November 07, 2014 - 01:38:00 PM


A middle-aged writer (Brett Mermer) introduces himself to tell us what he did last summer: he wrote a play about what he, as a 14 year old, did one summer years before,--July, 1945, in fact, a war year--a summer that changed his life. This is the slender framing device for A. R. Gurney's coming of age play, which demonstrates both charm and pith in this production by Piedmont-Oakland Repertory Theatre (PORT). 

But first director John McMullen chooses an excellent alternative to what's become by now an old cliché, playing recorded music of a not-so-long bygone era before a show and during the intermission. Instead, Elizabeth Jane introduces and sings well several songs from the times, songs that figure in the play, though there just as a line quoted, a verse thrown back and forth: "Straighten Up & Fly Right," "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree" and so on. A nice touch. 

The cast--Cameron Dodd, Nathan Zabala, Melanie Marshall, Alison Whismore, Rosie Fry and Susannah Wood--make a neat ensemble for the often quick scenes with sharp dialogue and a few direct expositions to the audience by characters, about Charlie and his mother and sister--his father's fighting in the South Pacific--and their somewhat dyspeptic stay at "the lake" near the Northeast US-Canada border, and Charlie's experience with "the Pig Woman," a local character, an independent art teacher with a place down by the lakeshore, a nay-sayer to all that's bright & shiny & "progressive." Susannah Wood's performance is a high point, a character like a radicalized Auntie Mame--if that's not too much an oxymoron!--or like Anna Lee's hardboiled Bohemian artist character Mac in sam Fuller's 1959 film 'The Crimson Kimono'--and there's an old connection between her and Charlie's mother; the scene where that comes out is maybe the real center of the story ... 

It's a fine Fall entertainment--and hopefully PORT has a long run of its own on Piedmont Avenue. 

Saturdays at 8, Sundays at 2:30 & 7, 4137 Piedmont Avenue--across from Barney's--Oakland. $22 advance, $25 at the door. www.PORT4137.info

Richard Goode Plays Schubert’s Last Piano Sonatas

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday October 31, 2014 - 10:30:00 AM

Franz Schubert idolized Beethoven. And in some ways Beethoven and Schubert are alike. Yet also how different they are. Beethoven is all of a piece. Whether composing symphonies, string quartets, piano works, or even an opera, Beethoven is always recognizably Beethoven and no other. Schubert, on the contrary, is chameleon-like. There is the Schubert of the early symphonies and the very different, far greater Schubert of the last two symphonies. There is the Schubert of the lieder. Yet how different are his lieder cycles from one another. Take, for example, Die Schöne Müllerin and Die Winterreise. Then there is the Schubert who himself differentiated between the demanding works he wrote for himself and his circle of friends, such as the C-major String Quintet and D-minor String Quartet, and those he wrote for popular “success,” such as the Trout Quintet, which latter, however, needs no apologies for its picturesque, bubbling lyricism.  

Among Schubert’s piano sonatas, his last three, all published posthumously, have a special standing. Their fame came late, well into the 20th century, due in large part to pianist Arthur Schnabel’s championing of them during the 1928 centennial of Schubert’s death. Schnabel himself was probably the finest inter-preter of Schubert’s piano sonatas. Richard Goode, who has recorded the complete Beethoven piano sonatas and piano concertos, has lately taken on the challenge of playing Schubert’s last three sonatas together in concert. Says Goode, “Taking on this challenge of playing these last three sonatas together is something very personally important for me. I’ve played all three of them separately many times, but I’ve always wondered whether I would have the emotional concentration required to play them together at one time – the extreme emotional range.” 

The emotional range of Schubert’s last three sonatas can indeed be daunting. The C-minor Sonata, D. 958, opens with an Allegro movement that features the torrential drive and leonine strength of Beethoven. The A-major Sonata, D. 959, is as bleak and tragic as the final song of Die Winterreise. And, finally, the B-flat major Sonata, D. 960, has a heroic, Apollonian overview of all life’s emotions as if viewed from somewhere beyond this earth. In tackling these majestic works in his Sunday, October 25th recital at Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall, under the auspices of Cal Per-formances, pianist Richard Goode succeeded in consummate fashion in com-municating the vast expanse of Schubertian emotions compressed into these last three sonatas.  

Goode took these posthumous sonatas in order. He opened the recital with the C-minor sonata, which itself poses a challenge in offering a first movement far more expansive and demanding than the opening movements of the other two sonatas. Worthy of Beethoven in its breadth and depth, the C-minor sonata’s opening movement begins with brusque chords in the lower register, then intro-duces an agitated melody, which, itself, is punctuated by more bass chords before being developed expansively. When a second theme is introduced, the drama is heightened with exciting modulations. This entire Allegro movement, as played by Richard Goode, was an emphatic show of force. The second movement, an Adagio, begins with a slow, poignant theme that becomes probing as it is treated to changing dynamics. The third movement, a Menuetto: Allegro, opens with a lively theme which subsequently is interrupted by numerous momentary pauses before it starts up anew, often with sudden dynamic contrasts. The final Allegro movement features numerous pregnant pauses, long runs, and occasional cross-handed playing before closing with a resounding climax. 

Second on the program was Schubert’s A-major sonata, the most tragic of the three. Its opening movement, marked Allegro, begins with a heroic gesture immed-iately balanced by light, airy falling arpeggios. (The program notes observe that “the opposed states of vigor and languor are juxtaposed throughout much of the move-ment.”) The real meat of this sonata, however, comes in the second movement, marked Andantino, which opens with a sad, bleak melody that, once developed, becomes ominously portentous before returning to an almost moribund re-statement. The third movement, a Scherzo, offers gentle relief; and the final movement, a Rondo, features lovely melodies reminiscent of those heard in Schubert’s string quartets and quintets, here developed with cumulative power. 

After intermission, Richard Goode returned to play Schubert’s last sonata, the B-flat major sonata, D. 960. This work is generally considered the greatest of Schubert’s piano sonatas; and in Richard Goode’s hands it certainly lived up to its august reputation. The opening movement, marked Molto moderato, features a gently flowing melody punctuated here and there by growling low notes. Although one would hardly call Goode’s pianistic style mannered, occasionally in this move-ment Goode’s raised left hand seemed to gently shape the melody in mid-air while his right hand continued to develop the beautiful and majestic melody on the keyboard. Beneath the simplicity of this melody, however, are subtle touches: irregular phrase-lengths, mysterious trills in the base, and a drift into a remote key followed by a triumphant return to the home key a bit later. New ideas then emerge in the exposition and receive extended development before the main theme returns and the movement closes in the pensive mood in which it began. 

The second movement, an Andante sostenuto, is itself a lyric masterpiece. Alfred Einstein called it “the climax and apotheosis of Schubert’s instrumental lyricism and his simplicity of form.” Particularly impressive was Goode’s delicate playing of the frequent left-to-right cross-handed notes that, individually, complete one wistfully nostalgic phrase after another, until, after a richly colored and robust central section, the main theme returns, again in multiple modulations, each ending poignantly in a single cross-handed note, which latterly becomes two notes, and, finally, four notes. The succeeding Scherzo is lively, playful and brief; and the final movement, marked Allegro ma non troppo, offers changing dynamics and a driving rhythmic energy that leads to a robust conclusion, which offers an Apollonian affirmation of everything that has come before, no matter how dark and desolate or poignantly nostalgic. 

All in all, it must be said that Richard Goode more than rose to the challenge of expressing Schubert’s vast emotional panorama in these last sonatas. If Arthur Schnabel was the first great champion of these works, it might well be said that Richard Goode is a candidate to establish himself among Schnabel’s heirs as a great interpreter of Schubert’s last three sonatas for piano.

THEATER REVIEW: 'Redwolf'--Ragged Wing at the Flight Deck

Ken Bullock
Friday October 31, 2014 - 09:58:00 AM

A classroom of students chanting the lesson as the Teacher points to a right triangle--and in the corner, wearing an intense frown, is Red, "bored," as the Teacher later puts it, though her malaise--or wish--is more intense than any boredom ... 

'Redwolf' is Ragged Wing Ensemble's first full-length show in the black box theater at their new, self-built performance center, The Flight Deck, on Broadway at the western end of Uptown Oakland, across the street from the start of Telegraph Ave. A collaborative effort between Ragged Wing co-founder Amy Sass (who also directs) and noted playwright Anthony Clarvoe, 'Redwolf's' billed as a young woman's "journey from girlhood to wolfhood," including awakenings both sexual and to the world of "growth," the constant development that shuts out, obliterates the Wild.  

If there's a map, there's no wild there anymore, one character says. And the surveying crew is aimed at Red's house, where she lives alone, a "default adult," demolition in preparation for constructing The Beltway. 

The biggest breakthrough for Ragged Wing with the new script is the character of Red--and Carlye Pollack's playing the part. By turns smoldering (with boredom? rage? indignation?), playfully teasing, defensive, lost, responsive, Pollack plays Red as a fascinatingly elusive but well-rounded character. Ragged Wing's decade-long string of productions has--as their name implies in one sense--been often fixated on what Sherwood Anderson called The General, the situational, even the symbolic (Amy Sass has a penchant for fleshing out fairytales in modern guise)--in 'Redwolf,' a kind of schematic satire of the schematic drudgery and repression of modern life.  

But with Red as focal point the play takes on a kind of carousel motion--Red in this or that situation, as the schema works its way through ... 

The rest of the cast--Jaime Lee Currier, Cecilia Palmtag, David Stein, Keith Davis, Dan Kurtz--are all equal to the occasion, do function as an ensemble, including some good physical theater, especially during the first half of the play. 

Right before intermission is the best of several particularly good scenes, when Wendell--well-played by Keith Davis--the engineer who's envisioned the Beltway, visits Red in her house and after playing games, gets literally entangled with her. It's a red-hot scene, two actors playing it up perfectly--which makes a later nude scene, well enough played, look tame by comparison, in this exploration of the Wild, and the thought of it. 

Fridays at 8, Saturdays at 2 & 8, Sundays at 7 through November 8, The Flight Deck, 1540 Broadway, Oakland, $25-$40 (student-senior rush, $15, 1/2 hour before curtain): raggedwing.org

Press Release: Piedmont Oakland Repertory Theatre presents A. R. Gurney’s “What I Did Last Summer” November 1 – December 13
“PORT” Moves to Piedmont Avenue in Oakland—and hopes to STAY THERE.

Friday October 31, 2014 - 10:59:00 AM
L-R: Nathan Zabala, Rosie Fry, Cameron Dodd.
John A. McMullen
L-R: Nathan Zabala, Rosie Fry, Cameron Dodd.

The Piedmont Oakland Repertory Theatre will present a full production of A. R. Gurney’s “What I Did Last Summer” at 4137 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland. The play is directed by John McMullen and runs November 1 through December 13, with performances on Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. 

“What I Did Last Summer” is a reminiscence of Gurney’s teenage years in a privileged family in the Northeastern U.S. 

It’s July, 1945, and the war with Japan still rages. Husbands and dads are in the Pacific, and still in harm’s way. Teenage Charlie is summering with his mother and sister at their cottage on Lake Erie. Charlie’s mom is without her husband. She struggles with this rebellious teen-age son, with a sarcastic, snoopy daughter, and with her own loneliness and desires. She is at war with her old art teacher who vies with her for her son’s affections. It’s a hot summer, just before the whole world changes forever. But before the summer ends, Charlie will go through that all-too-universal adolescent rebellion, and along the way, will learn about girls, art, and about thinking for himself. 

The NY Post raved, "Bravo to all and particularly a bravo to that new sage and chronicler of the American white middle class, Gurney." The London Stage reviewed it as "…warm, touching and humorous, with something to say about the conflict between materialism and idealism which is so basic to the American dream."  

 The cast features Rosie Fry, Melanie Marshall, Brett Mermer, Alison Whismore, Susannah Wood, Nathan Zabala, and Cameron Dodd as "Charlie."
According to John McMullen, producer and artistic director of Piedmont Avenue Repertory Theatre (PORT), the group is “in love with” Piedmont Avenue and hopes to stay at 4137 Piedmont Avenue (across from Barney’s) for the foreseeable future. 

“The Piedmont Avenue neighborhood generates a great vibe for a theater. It’s a little bohemian and full of people who appreciate the arts,” he says.  

“We rented a space from the former tenants Capoeira. Agent Eva Chao and Miracles Happen LLC, the owners of 4137 Piedmont Ave., have been very generous in renting it to us for this production, and we are really hoping that we can share it with the next tenant. It would be great if we could have it to ourselves, but we don’t have a spare $70,000—understandably, rent on Piedmont Ave is prime. If there is an angel out there, ring the bell and get your wings!” McMullen added. 

This will be PORT’s third full production and their first on Piedmont Avenue. PORT has presented other Gurney plays: “The Dining Room” last year at Piedmont Center for the Arts and “Love Letters” at 4137. They did a fully staged production of Jerry Sterner’s “Other People’s Money” to great critical acclaim at Kehillah Synagogue this past spring. In the last few months, they have had “concert versions” of “In the Next Room: The Vibrator Play”, and presented a sold-out reading of David Mamet’s “Speed the Plow.” 

“We’re trying our best to keep admission prices low, charging only $22 for a ticket to this fully staged production,” McMullen says. “Besides that, we have very comfortable seating.” 

Tickets online now at www.PORT4137.INFO or call Brown Paper Tickets 800-838-3006. To be added to PORT’s email list, click on “Contact” at their website. 


Preview: Saturday, Nov. 1 at 8:00 pm and Sunday Nov. 2 at 2:30 pm. (Tickets $19) 

Opens: Sunday, November 2 at 8:00 pm 

Runs: Through Dec. 13 on Saturdays at 8:00 pm & Sundays 2:30 pm and 7:00 pm  

Tickets: All seats $22 ticketing online at www.PORT4137.INFO or phone Brown Paper Tickets 800-838-3006 ($25 at door).