Full Text



Press Release: Newly Elected Berkeley Mayor to give inaugural address to council meeting on Thursday at 5:30

From Stefan Elgstrand
Wednesday December 07, 2016 - 10:34:00 AM

Newly sworn in Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín will provide an inaugural address to the City of Berkeley at his first Council meeting as Mayor. Arreguín is expected to discuss critical issues facing the city, including homelessness and affordable housing, while providing a message of hope and resiliency in response to the outcome of the national election.  


WHEN: Thursday, December 8, 2016 

5:30 p.m. 


WHERE: Old City Hall – Council Chambers, 2nd Floor 

2134 Martin Luther King Jr Way 

Berkeley, CA 94704 


WHAT: Inauguration of Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín and the new City Council 


WHO: Mayor Jesse Arreguín 

Berkeley City Councilmembers  






Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín was elected mayor on November 8, 2016 and is the city’s first Latino mayor. The mayor formerly served as a member of the Berkeley City Council, where he represented District 4. Prior to serving as a councilmember, Mayor Arreguín was a member of the City’s Zoning Adjustments Board, the Housing Advisory Commission, and an elected member of the Rent Stabilization Board, which he chaired. He earned a B.A. in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley.

New: Preview:
Bellini’s Romeo & Juliet Opera

Previewed by James Roy MacBean
Thursday December 01, 2016 - 09:07:00 PM

On Friday, December 9 at 7:00 pm and Sunday, December 11 at 2:00 pm, Berkeley Chamber Opera will present Vincenzo Bellini’s I Capuleti e I Montecchi/The Capulets and the Montagues, loosely based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The announced cast features two outstanding singers in the lead roles – Juliet (Giulietta in Italian) will be sung by soprano Eliza O’Malley, whose superb interpretation of the difficult role of Cherubini’s Medea I reviewed on May 12, 2014 in this paper; while the role of Romeo will be sung by mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Baker, whose stunning debut recital I reviewed in these pages on October 24, 2016. Tybald/Tebaldo will be sung by tenor Patrick Hagen, Lorenzo by baritone Don Hoffman, and Capellio (Juliet’s father) by bass Paul Cheak. Jonathan Khuner will conduct the chamber orchestra, and I Capuleti e I Montecchi will be staged by director Ellen St. Thomas, with veteran diva Olivia Stapp serving as Artistic Advisor. Performances will be at Berkeley Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar Street, an ideally intimate space with excellent acoustics.  

Berkeley Chamber Opera was founded in 2012 by Eliza O’Malley to offer live opera performances in intimate venues featuring excellent Bay Area singers and musicians at affordable prices. This is a laudable venture. General Admission tickets cost $30, $20 for students & seniors. Children under 12 get in free. Thus far, Berkeley Chamber Opera has presented three Mozart operas – Così fan tutte in 2012, and Le Nozze di Figaro and La Clemenza di Tito in 2015.  

Opera lovers familiar with Bellini’s operas such as Norma, I Puritani, and La Sonnambula, will know that this composer specialized in writing extended melodic lines requiring great breath control from his singers. With this mind, I asked Eliza O’Malley if she had previously sung any Bellini roles, and if so did Bellini’s long lyric lines present any problems for singers not accustomed to these breath control demands. Eliza O’Malley replied, “I sang Norma a few years ago. The interesting thing about Bellini is that each individual long lyric line presents no technical difficulties for me, but the cumulative effect of many such lines in the roles of Norma and Giulietta makes it difficult to pace. In concerts I sang Norma’s part in the famous duet with Adalgesa, “Mira o Norma,” with no problem; but singing it in the context of the whole opera created problems of endurance. In the case of Giulietta, the role is not inordinately long, unlike that of Norma, but Giulietta has three scenes in a row with some of this opera’s most difficult music coming last. My strategy for managing breath control in these difficult passages is to pay attention to the harmonic changes and other details. Then the breath flows easily and efficiently. Also, exercise is key to being in shape to tackle long vocal phrases.” 

LATE CAST CHANGE: Due to illness Elizabeth Baker has had to withdraw from this production of I Capuleti e I Montecchi. Singing the role of Romeo for both performances will be French-born mezzo-soprano Liliane Cromer, of Bay Shore Lyric Opera, who has sung many featured roles in the USA and abroad.

Reflection on the Oakland fire

Tom Butt, Mayor of Richmond
Monday December 05, 2016 - 10:20:00 PM

I am saddened to report that victims of the Oakland Warehouse (“Ghost Ship”) fire included two recent employees of the West Contra Costa Unified School District, Travis Hough and Sara Hoda. I have been informed by District sources that Mr. Hough and Ms. Hoda were among the 36 known victims of the devastating warehouse fire that took place Friday evening in Oakland.

Mr. Hough was an expressive arts therapist at Montalvin Manor and worked with the District through a partnership with Bay Area Community Resources. He served in a similar role at King Elementary during the 2015-16 school year and started as an intern at Helms Middle School during the 2014-15 year. A GoFundMe account has been set up for Mr. Hough and can be accessed at this link.

Ms. Hoda was a kindergarten teacher at Coronado Elementary for the August 2014 through June 2016 before taking a teaching job in Oakland.

This is, ironically, a teachable moment.

As both an architect and a mayor, I am compelled to respond to many comments in the media, social and otherwise, that the root cause of the fatalities was a shortage of affordable housing and studio space for artists, example, “Oakland fire puts spotlight on lack of affordable spaces for artists,” USA Today and “Oakland warehouse fire is product of housing crisis, say artists and advocates,” Oakland Guardian).

I have to disagree. The root cause of the fatalities was that a building owner and a prime tenant were apparently using the building for an illegal and dangerous purpose, putting people in grave danger while making money from it. From news accounts, the building was not approved for residential purposes, and it did not have fundamental safety features like accessible stairways, emergency lighting, fire alarms or sprinklers. 

Image result for ghost ship fire 

It’s not even clear how many residents the building had (the owner says none), but the fatalities were a result not of occupancy by residents (if any) but from the use of the hard to reach second floor for a large party attended by far more people than those who may have actually lived there. In architectural and building code jargon, this is called an “Assembly Occupancy,” which has special requirements related to life safety. 

The building and fire codes we are required by law to live by come from the State of California and are, collectively, the 2013 California Building Standards Code, Title 24, California Code of Regulations, also known as the California Building Code. They include the California Fire Code as well as codes for buildings, including plumbing, electrical, mechanical, etc. Most cities have their own set of amendments that, if adopted, must be stricter than the state codes. The original purpose of building codes was to make buildings safer from fire. Before building codes, cities all over were regularly consumed by fire. 

All cities and counties are required by the state to be the enforcer of these codes. Making sure that buildings are safe for not only their permanent occupants but also for the public that uses them periodically, is a core responsibility of cities, but not all cities do a very good job of this for a number of reasons. Enforcing codes in existing buildings, including making required inspections, is a low priority for many cities. It can be tedious and time consuming and often requires a level of persistence that code compliance employees are reluctant to exercise. News reports indicate that Oakland inspectors made a single effort to gain access to the “Ghost Ship” sometime prior to the fire but were unable to do so. Apparently, they gave up and never came back. 

Cities also get a lot of pushback when trying to enforce codes. Everyone wants to be excused or some reason. Artists want to be excused because they are well – artists. And other people are also sympathetic, explaining that the overzealous city should let them be – artists – just doing their thing. Apparently finding a cheap studio or place to crash is more important than life itself. 

Which brings us to Richmond. I am actually proud of our City staff for bearing down on code enforcement lately, even though we have a long way to go. Richmond has long been known as a place that doesn’t take code enforcement seriously, and even some City Council members, like former council member Corky Booze, who is still being pursued legally by the City for his illegal junkyards, have championed lax code enforcement. 

Image result for horse stable richmond 

One recent and highly publicized enforcement action in Richmond involves a large, unpermitted commercial horse stable (Horses in Richmond? December 2, 2016). Many critics of the enforcement action have urged the City to back off (“The horses aren’t bothering anybody, and “ This is the only place that an ordinary blue collar person can afford to board a horse.” Well, the stables aren’t just for horses. Horse owners and care givers are in there all the time, including children. Haphazard wood frame construction and hay all over the place is a disaster waiting to happen. The place is an acknowledged firetrap. There is no permit, no business license, and there have been no fire inspections. One of the reasons is that such inspections typically tier off a business license, and when there is none; the premises are under the radar. Just like the Ghost Ship, the property owner and prime sub-tenant are making money from the operation, and many people are justifying it because it’s about only – horses. 

We even have our own “Ghost Ship” in Richmond, a place called “Burnt Ramen” at 111 Espee Avenue, an unpermitted, unlicensed night club that boldly bill its self as “an unsafe place for all ages.” Because it has no business license, it has never been inspected. 

Image result for burnt ramen richmond 

Building and fire codes are there for a reason, to keep us all safe and alive. We need to embrace them and hold those accountable who flout them, particularly for the purpose of making money.

The Oakland Warehouse Fire and the Real Terrorism of Profiteering

Carol Denney
Monday December 05, 2016 - 10:07:00 PM

I feel for Mayor Libby Schaaf trying to navigate the symbolic center of the Oakland warehouse fire which has cost at least 36 lives. But the focus she claims is solely on the grieving families looks a little thin after years of an obvious focus, by developers and city planners, on profit -- at the expense of families and young lives. 

Thousands of families are swept out of housing by an inability to pay rents with no realistic ratio to working lives. Thousands are robbed of neighborhood and school connections by accidentally finding themselves an obstacle to new developments with no plans to include them. Thousands can't afford to raise habitability issues, even about heat and water, without courting legal or illegal eviction. 

Artists and musicians have these pressures plus an array of exotic issue; where can you practice the drums, rehearse the band, use a blowtorch or spray paint, dance, work out choreography, etc. 

If the Bay Area wants creative communities it has to plan for them. To plan for them it has to value something besides profit and skyrocketing property values, which, developers argue, would suffer if exacting community standards or rent control were imposed along the way. If the Bay Area wants to nurture the fire in its soul it has to care. Imagine if the arts were funded along the lines of Silicon Valley. Then ask yourself if a new video game is more important than poetry.

Live-Work in Berkeley--selections from the Planet archives

Richard Brenneman
Monday December 05, 2016 - 02:33:00 PM

How live/work buildings in Berkeley's industrial section should be regulated has been the source of continuing controversy, ably covered in the past by Richard Brenneman. Here are a few of the articles that you can find in the Planet's online archives: 

Artists Thrive in Live/Work Lofts at 800 Heinz Ave. By ... - Berkeley

Aug 9, 2005 - A landmarked former margarine factory that's been converted into affordable live/work spaces, the building houses a fascinating collection of ...

Collective's Departure Marks Another Berkeley Arts Loss. Category ...

Aug 4, 2006 - ... another collective, was forced to move to Oakland after run-ins with city officials in 2002, and the artists who inhabited the live/work spaces in ...

Drayage Tenants Refuse to Vacate City Issues Citation, Owner ...

Apr 19, 2005 - The Drayage's tenants include artists, artisans and activists who have united in defense of their unique accommodations and have vowed to ...

"It can't happen here?" (PUBLIC COMMENT)

Larry Bensky, LBensky@igc.org
Monday December 05, 2016 - 10:10:00 AM

Dear Jesse Arreguin and Berkeley City Officials,

As we in the audience began to descend the narrow, difficult staircase into the performance space at LaVal's Subterranean Theater (1834 Euclid Street) Saturday night, news kept being updated on our portable phones. More and more people had died the previous night in the "Ghost Ship" fire; the death toll, by the time our event ended, was over 20, and has since risen to 36.

The event they had been attending was a close relative of the (excellent) performance by the Bay Area Zeta Players that we were watching. Artists of all kinds, and members and supporters of our East Bay creative community had come together as best they could to celebrate their lives, creativity, and connections.

How many of us realized that what had happened a few miles away could quite possibly happen to us, too?  

There is no way that in an emergency more than a few people could get back up that staircase, or find a backstage exit (probably in the dark!). And we were in a basement under large pizza ovens (the noise of whose operations could be clearly heard). Should anything go wrong, most, if not all, of our lives were at risk. 

I notice that a wide range of "permitted" activities are allowed in this space : 

"Live/Work, Exhibition, Studio Art, Meeting, Reading, Screening, Video/Film Shoot, Photo Shoot, Audition, Class, Rehearsal, Performance" 

A question for you is: who "permitted" these uses? What information did/does the City of Berkeley have about not only the LaVal's site, but other hard to access performance/work/living spaces in Berkeley? 

What alternative to such spaces can the City of Berkeley provide? 

There seems to have been a seriously irresponsible, if not criminal, deficiency in Oakland's relationship to the "Ghost Ship," whose dangerous condition should have been obvious. 

Can it happen here? 

I urge you to look into this matter immediately. 


Larry Bensky, LBensky@igc.org

Meet the New "Boss" of Berkeley--
Sorry, Mayor Arreguin, but employees are making policy now

Carol Denney
Friday December 02, 2016 - 01:44:00 PM
Homeless protesters and activists try to recover belongings after an early morning eviction from Civic Center park Dec. 2, 2016.
Carol Denney
Homeless protesters and activists try to recover belongings after an early morning eviction from Civic Center park Dec. 2, 2016.
A new fence surrounds the disputed setting which homeless protesters had been promised would not be raided after Mayor Arreguin took office.
Carol Denney
A new fence surrounds the disputed setting which homeless protesters had been promised would not be raided after Mayor Arreguin took office.

New Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin was interviewed on National Public Radio this morning saying that while the nation was moving to the right, Berkeley was "moving to the left", and that it was time for "bold action." But you wouldn't know it if you were unlucky enough to be shivering in a sleeping bag on the grass near City Hall at 5:30 am this morning.

About twenty-five city police and city staff evicted the protest group known as First They Came for the Homeless in the early darkness from their small grassy setting without notice or inventory receipts. The streets were completely blocked off on Center Street between Milvia and Martin Luther King. Bystanders attempting to help people with their belongings were threatened with arrest.

Sophie Hahn, inaugurated yesterday as the new representative for District 5, stood in front of City Hall during a press conference about the raid saying, "I'm talking to the people upstairs. I'm not happy at all."

The protesters have received conflicting messages regarding the protest's safety from middle of the night raids. New Mayor Jesse Arreguin had, along with several city councilmembers, explicitly requested that the raids stop during the Thanksgiving holiday. His inauguration yesterday invited speculation that the raids would end with former Mayor Bates' administration.

At the "closing party" for the Caffe Mediteraneum on Telegraph last night, Arreguin told Planet Editor Becky O'Malley that he'd reached an agreement with City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley to allow the campers to remain in place until a better location could be identified. But the City Manager stated today to Health and Human Welfare and Community Action Commissioner Dan McMullan that she was "just following policies that were set earlier." An aide to Mayor Arreguin confirmed that his understanding was that the raids were supposed to have stopped.

Two community members stopped by the group and dropped off large contributions of Seismic Coffee and supplies, saying "stay strong."

At1:30 this afternoon, the former campsite adjoining City Hall was completely closed off with plastic fencing.

The Last Day at the Caffe Med

Steven Finacom
Friday December 02, 2016 - 07:33:00 PM
The Med on its last official night open.
Andy Liu
The Med on its last official night open.
The Med from outside, one of the lights of lower Telegraph.
Steven Finacom
The Med from outside, one of the lights of lower Telegraph.
Painter Ed Monroe and the campus painting.  Those appear to be uneaten hash browns on the Med dinner plate.
Andy Liu
Painter Ed Monroe and the campus painting. Those appear to be uneaten hash browns on the Med dinner plate.
Another view of the interior, on closing might.
Another view of the interior, on closing might.

November 30 I went to the last day of the Caffe Mediterraneum. Whether this was the final last day, I’m not absolutely sure. The Caffe has changed hands and was officially closing for remodeling by the new owners, but when I told a friend I was going there for the closing, she said “Oh, the Med has been periodically closing for YEARS!”

People often point to the Med as the first real cafe in Berkeley and the forerunner of Berkeley’s ancient coffee tradition. But although the Med dates to the 1950s and was the local forerunner, the widespread coffee tradition is not that old.

Listen, children, about the early days of Berkeley coffee culture. It has not existed in Berkeley, or the Bay Area, for ever and ever. Back in the ‘70s—oh, so long ago—it was still largely the era of Folger’s, and Maxwell House, and big metal percolators during fellowship hours after church services and community events, even in Berkeley.  

Although the first Peet’s existed, the adjacent Gourmet Ghetto didn’t; the primary features of North Shattuck were a Co-op supermarket and a mortuary. 

This is not to say there weren’t some establishments elsewhere in Berkeley that served specialized coffee drinks. If my fading memory serves me, near Telegraph Avenue there were just three: the Caffe Med, the Cafe Durant (upstairs on Durant), and the something-or-other (possibly the Cafe Renaissance) across from the Cafe Durant.  

And although I imagine some people did go to those places solely for coffee in the morning, the clientele, as I remember it, primarily went there for coffee and—gasp—breakfast. Plates of hash browns and bacon and eggs your style and such.  

The idea that you would go out of your way while headed to work to a business and get only a cup of expensive speciality take out coffee was still sort of alien, just as the sight of a person walking alone down the street and talking out loud was likely confirmation that they were a lunatic. Ah, the days before cell phones. 

Anyway, on Wednesday night I walked into the Med. It was busy, but wasn’t quite packed. First person I ran into was an acquaintance who confided “I just had a meal here, and it was terrible”, which is exactly what I remember some people saying about the Med back in the ‘70s, even the regulars I knew. Some traditions continue. “That’s why I’m not having dinner here”, I answered. I’d come for the atmosphere and a beverage.  

We hung around the counter quite some time before a staff member appeared. Then we ordered and paid, and waited a lot longer for the beverages to appear. This, also, was the nature of the older sort of coffee cafe, not the cookie-cutter Starbuckian “Next! Your order will be right up!” atmosphere one finds elsewhere. 

I ordered hot chocolate at the Med. I’m not a coffee person, and drink it rarely, usually only if it’s the only beverage available. This has gotten me in trouble at places like Peet’s on Domingo.  

“I’d like a hot chocolate”, I say. “You mean a COCOA?” the barista archly asks. “No, a HOT CHOCOLATE”, I’m tempted to say, standing my ground, but suspect I’ll be pulled out of line and torn apart by the grumbling crowd of coffee-addicted Saturday morning recreational cyclists waiting behind me. (Cafe tip; the best hot chocolate in Berkeley from my perspective can be found at Cafe Milano on Bancroft.) 

Before going to the Med we had stopped across the street for dinner in a newish pizza joint, filled with students. The pizza place was in the Fred Cody building, which was the first place I had a full-time job (not for Cody’s, but upstairs in a rented office, above what was then Cody’s Cafe).  

My most memorable moment there was when Cody’s received an early morning firebomb through the front door for selling “The Satanic Verses”. I’d gone into the building by way of the side door, and worked there alone for a couple of hours, not realizing that the front door to Cody’s itself was blocked off by police tape. Literally explosive history was happening just steps away, and I was obliviously processing some bureaucratic paperwork. 

Eventually I ran into a Cody’s staffer in the upstairs hall. He casually mentioned there had been a bomb in the building. What should we be doing? seemed the natural question for me to ask. “Oh, look around your office for anything suspicious”, he said, and went away. Do it yourself bomb discovery, Berkeley, 1980s. 

By way of conversation at dinner I said to the pizza cashier, while waiting to pay, “This area where we’re standing used to be the travel section of a huge bookstore.” “Huh?” she said.  

After I thought about it, I suspected the confusion was not over the idea that the building had previously been a bookstore, but over the concept of what a travel section involving actual books might be. 

The pizza place also had numerous quotes stenciled on the walls, sort of like a sanitized chain corporate version of Top Dog. From where I sat, I could see amongst the inspirational musings of people such as Mother Teresa, Confucius and Oscar Wilde, one quote from Henry Ford, two from Ronald Reagan, and one from…Donald Trump.  

The fact that a Telegraph Avenue restaurant un-ironically decorated the interior with quotes from Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump means…something…I’m not sure what. But it’s probably not good. 

After dinner, and the extended visit to the Med, we went back across the street and browsed in Moe’s. While paying for purchases, made conversation with the pleasant youngish woman at the register. As she bagged up our purchases I said, “Moe used to ask people in a very gruff manner if they wanted a bag, giving the impression that he would be doing you a big favor if he gave you one. Did you ever meet him?” “Oh, I’m not THAT old!” she exclaimed, unintentionally making me feel, well, old. 

I suspect some others writing about the last days of the Med will say that it had become a glass coffin for relic hippies who had been punching the coffee clock there for decades. I don’t think that’s true.  

There were some older customers, indeed—one man at the next table said he’d been a Med regular for more than 50 years—but I looked around on the last night and also saw young people there, not gawking first-timers, but drinking and chatting in what appeared to be their usual place.  

And newcomers. I asked the middle-ageish guy I sat down next to how long he’d been coming there. “Not long”, he said. “I live in Emeryville and I just discovered this place.”  

In any event, it was a true Telegraph Avenue institution, living piece of Berkeley character, and local “legacy business”. The community is vastly diminished by its closing. And thank you to Craig Becker, the owner, for keeping it going for so long. 

Another person I saw at the Med was Ed Monroe, a Telegraph fixture and Berkeley painter, muralist, and writer. You can often find him on weekends selling his paintings and prints—of both local and surreal scenes—at the corner of Channing and Telegraph.  

I had long imagined having an original Monroe painting as a piece of Berkeley artistic history. Then some years ago, out of the blue, Ed had told me when I stopped by his Telegraph display that he wanted to paint me into a picture he was contemplating of the UC campus.  

Why? was my first surprised reaction, but sure, I said. That would be great. Vanity then whispered in my ear and I qualified, “Just make sure I’m wearing a hat”.  

Years passed, and I periodically ran into Ed and inquired about the painting. He said it was in progress, and he was working out the details of this or that aspect of it. Ed is a very dedicated and professional painter and he does what he says, but sometimes he takes long intermediate detours from one project to another.  

So I didn’t have any expectation of a timeline or necessarily even seeing the painting before Ed, or I, expired, like the Med. 

Well, at the Med’s last night, when Ed saw me he jumped up and said “sit down right here! I’ll be back.” He disappeared, for a long time. I rather expected he was in the Med bathroom line, which was also long and didn’t seem to be moving. I chatted with other people at the Med, and took some pictures, then went to use the bathroom myself, but back across the street at the pizza place.  

When I came back to the Med, Ed was sitting there beaming, holding a rectangular canvas. It was the painting! He was done! I had worried my image would be huge—I was hoping for a primarily Berkeley scene, not a portrait. And a Berkeley scene is what it is, essentially a campus landscape with a reasonably small me standing in the foreground. “Take it home”, he said. “But bring it by, I want to make some changes.” 

So I went to the Cafe Med for its last day and got a first picture.  

That’s my Cafe Med closing story. Thank you Med, and thank you, Ed. May something equally magical occur, the next time the Med closes

New Berkeley Council to take seats at meeting on Thursday at 5:30

Thursday December 01, 2016 - 09:33:00 PM

The formal swearing-in of the new Berkeley City Council members will take place next Thursday, December 8, at 5:30 in the evening at the Berkeley City Council chambers at the Maudelle Shirek Old City Hall,2134 Martin Luther King Jr Way ( at Allston Street).

Because of legal requirements, the new councilmembers were sworn in for the first time yesterday morning, as soon as the previous members' terms ended according to the city charter. That action took place before a limited audience of family members and supporters, but the general public is invited to the Thursday event, although seating in the council chambers is limited.

Newly elected Councilmembers are Cheryl Davila (District 2), Ben Bartlett (District 3) and Sophie Hahn (District 5).

Jesse Arreguin is the new mayor of Berkeley. He will be chairing the first meeting with the newly seated city council, which is expected to have a progressive majority. 

At the December 8th meeting, the council is expected to call a special election to fill the District 4 Council seat which is now vacant as a result of Arreguin’s election. The mail-in election will take place on Tuesday, March 7, 2017. 

During the vacancy, Arreguin will continue to assist District 4 residents. If you have a question or issue, you can contact his office at 510-981-7100 or email him at mayor@cityofberkeley.info.

UC Berkeley student attacked near BART station on November 27

Allison Levitsky (BCN)
Sunday December 04, 2016 - 09:43:00 AM

A student at the University of California at Berkeley is in the hospital after being sexually assaulted while walking home on Nov. 27, campus police said Saturday. 

The student was walking from the Downtown Berkeley BART station at around 10:30 p.m. when she was sexually assaulted with the intent to rape, police said. She fought back and managed to get away. 

A campus security authority reported the incident to university police on Friday, but police have not yet determined the incident's exact location. 

The suspect is described as a white man in his mid-30s standing 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighing 220 pounds with a muscular build. He has short, light brown hair and stubble.  

The man was wearing a flat-billed, black baseball cap reading SF in white stitching, dark jeans, dark shoes and a plain white T-shirt under a black and red flannel shirt. 

Anyone with information about this incident has been asked to call city police at (510) 981-5900.

Susan Gaines Dinkelspiel Stern Cerny

Monday December 05, 2016 - 02:19:00 PM
Susan Gaines Dinkelspiel Stern Cerny <br> 1940-2016
Susan Gaines Dinkelspiel Stern Cerny

Susan Gaines Dinkelspiel Stern Cerny passed away peacefully on December 1, 2016, after a long and brave battle with cancer. Born in San Francisco on September 28, 1940, she lived in Berkeley for over 50 years. A graduate of Dominican High School in San Rafael and UC Berkeley with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History, she spent many years as an artist and potter before finding an additional passion in architectural preservation. 

Beginning in the 1960s, Susan created beautiful oil-on-wood floral art pieces which she displayed and sold at art fairs throughout the Bay Area. She was a notable participant of the Live Oak Park Faire as well as served several years on its organizing committee. She added pottery to her repertoire, working out of the Berkeley Potter's Guild and displaying at the ACCI Art Gallery in Berkeley. She also taught children's art classes at ACCI and at her home art studio. She continued to produce art works, including much-loved personalized cards and gift wrapping, for family and friends until the time of her death. 

Upon receiving her Real Estate license in the 1970s, Susan began to focus her interests in local architectural history and historic preservation. She joined the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA) and her first major project was a comprehensive study and presentation on architect Henry H. Gutterson. She was a member of the BAHA Board beginning in 1980, served as its president 1985-1987 and again 1995-1996, and served on and as chairperson of the City of Berkeley Landmarks Commission. She was honored twice by the City of Berkeley for her work in preservation: first in 1998 as an "Outstanding Berkeley Woman" and again in 2015 when she received a proclamation in recognition "for her many contributions to the preservation of our beautiful city and for educating our citizens about our community's history." At the 2015 proclamation ceremony, Susan also received a resolution in her honor from the California Preservation Foundation for her "immeasurable contributions to protect the architectural heritage of Berkeley for the enjoyment of current and future generations of Californians." 

In the 1980s, Susan began writing columns on local architectural history for the Berkeley Gazette, and later for the Berkeley Voice and Berkeley Daily Planet, as well as walking tour brochures. These articles and brochures became the foundation for her first book, "Berkeley Landmarks, An Illustrated Guide to Berkeley, California's Architectural History," published in 1994, and an updated version in 2001. She was the editor of and contributor to "An Architectural Guidebook to San Francisco and the Bay Area," published in 2007, which encompassed the significant historical structures of the nine Bay Area counties. 

Susan also enjoyed traveling and spending free time in Inverness, Marin County, where she and Joe spent many enjoyable weekends at their cabin, hiking, making huckleberry jam, and socializing at the Inverness Yacht Club. 

Susan is survived by her husband Joseph Cerny; her children Elizabeth Stern Coleman of El Cerrito, David Stern of Richmond, Katherine Stern Meurer of El Cerrito; grandchildren Miles, Diego, Jacob Stern; Alexander, Nicholas, Zachary Meurer; and Sara Coleman; siblings Robin Miller of Kentfield, Joan Dinkelspiel of Seattle, Anne Dinkelspiel of Berkeley, and Richard Dinkelspiel, Jr. of San Rafael. 

A celebration of Susan's life will be held at a date to be announced at the Berkeley City Club. In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association in Susan's memory.

Memorial Service for Judith Scherr

Monday December 05, 2016 - 10:08:00 PM

Saturday, December 17th at 11.00 a.m. 

Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave, Oakland (north end of Piedmont Avenue,east of Rockridge Shopping Center near Pleasant Valley Ave [51st St])  

Repast will be immediately following at Albany Community Center, 1249 Marin Ave, Albany



Updated: What the hell is going on at Berkeley City Hall today?

Becky O'Malley
Friday December 02, 2016 - 02:26:00 PM

I was just downtown in a car, something I try to avoid, stopped in a loading zone waiting to drop off something for a friend, and Carol Denney’s emailed story about the homeless campers being busted on this cold December morning showed up on my phone.


Last night the new mayor told me confidently that he and the city manager had reached a meeting of the minds: no more evictions until they got things figured out. But Carol’s got it right—evidently he, and perhaps also the newish City Manager, are not in charge. I stopped to talk to the activists I know, who were standing around on the corner of Center and Milvia, and I’ve been calling the Mayor’s office since I got home, but all I get is voice mail. To add insult to injury, the new guys haven’t even re-recorded their messages, so it sounds like Tom Bates is still in charge.

The activists had two names for those in charge of the raid this morning: Greg Daniel, whose job used to be code enforcement, and Jim Hynes, Assist. City Manager. They said that about 20 cops were involved.

I hate to sound like an angry taxpayer, but how much in wages did this little escapade cost the city of Berkeley? And who the hell authorized it? Is city staff just giving the finger to the new mayor? Heads should roll, but they probably won't.

Since I can’t get anyone on the phone, I guess I’ll have to go down there to see if anyone’s around. I’m getting too old for this.

UPDATE, Friday afternoon: So I went to Berkeley City Hall at 3:30 today, and—SURPRISE!—neither the City-Manager-in-Chief nor her two deputies were there. The receptionist on the 5th floor suggested hopefully that they might be at an off-site meeting, but really folks, it is Friday afternoon, isn’t it? I did run into Councilmember Kriss Worthington, and (as usual the adult in the room) he reminded me that the Mayor and Councilmembers can’t legally tell the city employees what to do. The Council can pass laws, but when the laws are on the books the staff chooses whether to enforce them. It looks like a few laws need to be rethought, which is what the new mayor is promising to undertake on December 13. Not answered: why did the Mayor think he had a deal with the Manager but she doesn’t seem to agree? Maybe she’ll be back in the office on Monday so I can ask her. 

UPDATE #2, Saturday morning: The Planet has received a copy of a memo that the City Manager sent on Friday to the mayor, the city council, and an assortment of city officials, detailing reasons for the raid on the homeless encampment. 

In brief, it seems that (1) someone has been smearing feces, possibly human though not tested to be such, on the doors to city buildings and within a restroom at City Hall. Let’s take this one, obviously disgusting, first. This happened while homeless activists were camped outside the building, but the Berkeley Police Department has not identified the offender, though it’s happened several times. It would seem that the obvious solution would be to install a police officer or at least a video camera to monitor the doors and catch the person responsible, but for some reason no one has made this happen. Also, leaving feces means leaving DNA evidence, which should make it easier to get a conviction if a suspect is spotted in the act. Instead, someone decided that raiding the camp with many police officers and seizing the possessions of those involved was the answer.  

Folks, there are crazies all over the place these days, and it’s not actually right to punish one whole group for the actions of a single disturbed individual who might or might not even be part of it. It reminds me of the grade school teacher who keeps the whole class in detention because someone’s hijacked the eraser. Or maybe it’s like the joke about the person who’s dropped his car keys on the way into the house. His wife asks him why he keeps searching under the lamp post instead of also looking on the sidewalk and in the front yard. Punch line: because it’s easier to see under the streetlight.  

No, no, no. Catch the crazy, don’t punish everyone. Cheaper, and more effective. 

And also (2) someone has chalked messages relating to suicide on sidewalks near City Hall and also near Berkeley High. This has caused concern among mental health workers associated with the high school who feel that it might encourage suicidal action among the students. I’m told by someone I trust that the leaders of the campers know who’s done this, not even one of their number, and have talked him out of it. But in any event: Time, Place and Manner. Cases explaining the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution have consistently told us that only those aspects of expression may be regulated by government, not the content of the speech. The city might try to forbid chalking on sidewalks for everyone, but can’t regulate what one chalker says if others are allowed to chalk other things. The fact mentioned by the manager that someone, possibly a homeless person, used a racial epithet against a city employee is also distressing, but that's also protected expression under the First Amendment.  

And of course, rousting the campers won’t solve this problem, vexing though it might be. I do wonder if the lurid media too many highschoolers injest these days might be more harmful than chalk on the sidewalk. Again, we're looking for the keys under the streetlight because it’s easier. 

Memo to city officials: There are still a lot of people sleeping outside, and it's getting colder. It's better to spend your time working on real solutions than chasing the activists all over town. If there really are bad actors in their number, though that's not proven, what better place for them to hang out than right down the block from the police station? 



The Editor's Back Fence

QUOTE WITHOUT COMMENT:What studies show that Berkeleyans think about the new development here

Sid Lakireddy,President, Berkeley Property Owners’ Association
Saturday December 03, 2016 - 02:03:00 PM

“ …our polling research showed that the electorate was really ticked off about new development in Berkeley. In fact, that number was around 72 percent. Our political consultants said they never in their combined 100 years or so of running political campaigns had seen anything poll at 72 percent." (From the President’s Message in the December BPOA newsletter)

Public Comment

Time for the Grown-ups to Act

Bruce Joffe
Monday December 05, 2016 - 02:18:00 PM

The spoiled brats have the run of the house. They've invited their over-privileged friends to join the party and take what they want while they can. Unsupervised, they are about to wreck our Home of Democracy. It's time for grown-ups in the Electoral College to act, as they were mandated when the EC was written into our Constitution, and prevent this catastrophe. They must elect someone else to be President.

Who Is The Murderer?

Harry Brill
Thursday December 01, 2016 - 09:55:00 PM

Perhaps you are familiar with the movie "Murder on the Orient Express", which is based on an Agatha Christie novel. The task for the detective, Hercule Poirot, was to determine who committed the murder. The problem we learn is that asking the wrong question yields the wrong answer. Like the title of my article, "Who is the Murderer" is the wrong question. The right question should be pluralized --Who ARE The Murderers. It took a while for Poirot to realize that not one but twelve individuals were involved in what was a revenge murder. When Poirot finally solved the mystery, he made the difficult decision not to turn them in because he concluded that the murderers were justified.

This remarkable and brilliant murder mystery is a metaphor for learning something about our own demise The lives of most of us will be cut short because we are victimized by many murderers. They include a substantial number of the unregulated corporations who in one way or another pollute our environment, poison our food and water supply, and produce many products that jeopardize our health. Indeed, each of us is subject to abuse by many corporate assassins who wield their many lethal weapons.

There is an important difference between Poirot's murderers and the corporate prompted assassinations. The type of murders committed in the Orient Express involve a tangible weapon, which is usually a gun but also a knife. And the impact is generally immediate. Last year there were almost 16,000 such homicides. It is these kinds of murders that we generally learn about from the media. Those who are apprehended typically receive heavy sentences particularly if they are racial minorities.

Corporate crime, by contrast, is far more subtle. The "weapons" that assault corporate victims are not tangible or even visible, and if the victims die as a result, it is not the same day or week but years later. So it is much more difficult to connect in people's minds the cause and effect. Also, except for unusual circumstances, corporate crimes are rarely reported in the media. So we can understand why many Americans are more oriented toward supporting capital punishment than punishing capital. 

Yet the big corporations are responsible for hundreds of thousands of annual fatalities. According to an MIT study, air pollution kills about 200,000 people annually and reduces their life expectancy by 10 years. In the interest of making profits, the oil giants have successfully resisted phasing out fossil fuel. Industrial as a well as vehicle generated pollution appreciably assault our health. 

Among the other legal weapons of major corporations is food poisoning, which injures and even kills consumers. More than 200 known diseases are transmitted through food that was irresponsibly processed in corporate factories. In addition, carcinogenic pesticides in our foods are very common. And additionally, we are exposed to many chemicals and products that are dangerous to our health.  

Radiation is also a problem. Take for example the dangerous emissions from cell tower antennas. According to the research, those who live nearby these towers are at a greater risk of contracting cancer. Incredibly, the Federal Communications Commission does not permit local jurisdictions to ban cell towers because of possible health issues! The legal grounds for challenging cell towers is extremely limited and very tricky in ways that favor the corporations. So for example, despite the strong ad legitimate objections of upper middle class homeowners in the affluent hills of North Berkeley, they were still unable to stop AT&T from recently building a cell tower in their neighborhood. 

Occasionally, corporations are successfully sued for violating safety and health laws. 

But it is the corporations and not their executives that are fined. Generally speaking, these fines are not large enough to deter these companies from continuing to do business as usual. The business community has little interest, then, in improving its moral conduct. In other words, the lackadaisicalness of government encourages corporations to continue to commit health and safety violations. 

Let's take a brief view of Volkswagen's outrageous criminal conduct. It installed software in its automobiles --- 500,000 autos in the United States --for the purpose of displaying when examined a much lower level of pollution than it actually emits. Although the company's hype claimed its cars were environmentally friendly, they emitted 40 times more times of the dangerous gas, Nitrogen Oxide, than tests revealed. In the United States Nitrogen Oxide kills an estimated 50,000 people annually.  

The company's deception stretched from 2009 to 2015. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally issued in 2015 a notice of violation of the Clean Air Act but only after it was discovered and made public by scientists in their small laboratory at the University of West Virginia. Clearly, the EPA has failed to do its job of carefully verifying the safety claims made by the automobile industry. Hmm!-- what other health hazards has the EPA been ignoring? Volkswagen has been fined, but nobody at Volkswagen has been tried and sentenced to jail despite the evidence that they knowingly engaged in a crime that kills people. 

Corporations are able to commit crimes with impunity because of their cozy relationship with government. How ironic that although taxpayer money supports the EPA, the agency mainly protects business from properly serving the taxpaying public. Even though Volkswagen is a foreign based company, that was still not enough to arouse the indignation of the regulatory agency. 

Hercule Poirot made a major decision to protect 12 murderers from arrest and prosecution. Like these 12 souls, many of us are furious with the misconduct of our major corporations. But on the other hand, we do not condone taking the law into our own hands even if Poirot would be forgiving. Instead, we need to build a movement which has the credibility to elect candidates to office who will enforce the laws no matter how prominent the violators are. We understand Poirot's empathy. But for us, Poirot's decision is not the route to take.

Fidel Castro

Jagjit Singh
Thursday December 01, 2016 - 09:51:00 PM

I seem to recall reading a Readers Digest article many years ago which lauded Castro for ousting the brutal US puppet dictator, Batista, with his rag-tag army. 

Following his revolution, to the profound disappointment of his people, Castro reneged on his promise to transform Cuba into a functioning democracy and open government brutally oppressing his opponents to usher in his Marxist ideology. He muzzled the press and transformed state run television into a turgid propaganda machine much like regimes that we support with our tax dollars (Egypt, Pakistan, Bahrain. . ) . But don’t we seem to be very selective in our outrage of Castro continuing to coddle China, Saudi Arabia and other ‘basket of deplorable head chopping’ Middle East regimes who are also guilty of horrific human rights abuses? When challenged by this contradiction, President Clinton explained that trade with China was an effort of ‘constructive engagement’. Translation – we need their open markets to enrich US corporations.  

To his credit, Castro ushered in a Bernie Sanders dream, free education, medical care and a host of other social benefits. Castro’s revolution also encouraged other nations to overthrow their oppressive US backed dictators, from Chile of Salvador Allende to the Nicaragua of the Sandinista revolution in 1979, Argentina 1976 to Brazil’s in 1964. The ‘School of the America’s provided much of the training for these brutal dictators.  

Our short-sighted colonial polices were pivotal in driving Castro to the Soviet camp.

Middle America

Tejinder Uberoi
Thursday December 01, 2016 - 10:03:00 PM

Let Middle America rejoice – the master deal maker is soon to relinquish his palatial home and downsize to his more humble abode, the White House.  

The ‘deplorable Democrats’ have suffered heavy defeats, a staggering 63 House seats, 10 Senate seats and 14 governorships during Obama’s presidency. Clinton’s wins the popular vote as a consolation prize. The quintessential bully will soon be coronated and will undoubtedly use the bully pulpit to rail on his opponents including the ‘rigged media’.  

So what are the lessons to be learned from this mother of all shellacking? Let us accept defeat gracefully but with a steely determination to hold the incoming administration to the highest standards of governance. If Trump flips flops over promises he made during the campaign let him flop – the more the better. 

As a footnote, Clinton’s conflicts of interests pale in comparison to Trump’s. It was laughable for the apoplectic Trump to chastise the Hamilton audience booing Vice-President elect Pence when the famous "you lie" to Obama during the State of the Union garnered no such outrage from conservative outlets. 

It is odd for Trump to rail against elites but then chooses elites and lobbyists as his close advisors. He even reminded his critics that Steve Bannon went to Harvard and then was showered with riches from the Wall Street titan, Goldman Sachs. It is hard to believe that this billionaire soaked in the creature comforts of Trump Tower will emerge as the workingman’s president. 

Stop the Center st. garage!

Sennet Williams
Thursday December 01, 2016 - 09:48:00 PM

This fall, UC berkeley finally made public that it is working with "Cybertran," a developer of super-safe, fast, low cost and efficient transit technology: UC Berkeley and CyberTran International Join Forces to Help Solve Traffic Congestion and Other Auto-Related Problems | ITS.Berkeley.edu 

If you read between the lines, it will become clear that someone involved is planning to install trams to Berkeley campus from Richmond, and probably to all points in between. The $100m grant is enough for construction/installation costs. 

This has apparently been planned for a few years, but the city of Berkeley seems to be asleep at the wheel! Why is this important? You may have learned that the City is starting to rebuild the Center st. garage, much larger than before. (The old one was demolished because not enough people were parking there, according to the Daily Cal.) In recent years I had checked that parking structure numerous times, and it hardly ever more than 2/3 full. 

This structure would cost about $50 million, more than $1,000 for every household in Berkeley. (that is apparently what the $100m bond on the Nov. ballot is intended for) The problem is, that parking structure can NEVER pay for itself, and the city will be on the hook for the debt, and also eventually demolishing the unwanted structure. 

Think ahead what will happen when Cybertran is installed through downtown: THOUSANDS of drivers will switch to faster/more convenient trams and so they will not have to pay for parking. The market rate cost of downtown parking will plummet! (Campus parking also) If this is not stopped, they city will face a massive debt. 

The most likely solution that I have identified is for Cal to quickly take the property over by eminent domain for downtown, car-free student housing. If the parking structure is already started, the foundations can still be used for housing, but most of the floors can be built as dorm-style housing, and that will be large enough for 1,000 students who will boost the downtown economy instead of having to drive to Berkeley

New: An Open Letter to the New Mayor and City Council of Berkeley

Dan McMullan, For Disabled People Outside Project
Wednesday December 07, 2016 - 02:41:00 PM

Congratulations to those of you newly elected. Please excuse me for getting right down to business but recent events dictate that I let you and the entire council know about recent events that have caused a lot of pain and anguish to those it was perpetrated upon and consternation to the entire community of caring individuals that got out and voted to bring humanity back to Berkeley and fairness, honesty and transparency back to our elected offices. 

We pray that the voice of one real estate developer being heard over a thousand citizens is over. We expect a stop to Berkeley Tax Dollars being given to "Associations" so they can use the money to lobby against issues important to the average citizen. Issues like the fair wage bill and criminalization of the poor. 

I am sorry, there is no better way to say it...The city manager has issues concerning the telling the truth. She also seems quite willing to to bend past agreements to make an end run around the Mayor and the Council.  

When they came out to crush the homeless, elderly and disabled her representative Jim Hynes stated. "We are here at the direction from the top, the City Council, the Mayor and the City Manager." What he neglected to tell the police department was that he was using a directive from people no longer in office. Bad form.  

The City Manager then told a local blog that She was proud of doing it. There is nothing for her to be proud of. Taking blankets off people at 5 am is negligent. When they die it is negligent homicide. Besides being cruel and sociopathic. She should feel ashamed. 

I was there. For this pre-dawn raid on homeless, disabled and elderly people at 5AM in freezing cold weather. 

I was surrounded by police and threatened. I was prevented from helping people with their stuff. I watched as they flung their things in a truck in purposeful disregard. They even took a man's wheelchair. They blocked filming and witnesses. They also cleared out other unassociated camp's in the park. There were no drugs, alcohol or needle's in our camp. There are sick, elderly and disabled in the camp. One is a diabetic. That is the point. We have people dying out here. Our camp was clean tidy and uncluttered. No one was doing vandalism of any kind.  

Jim Haynes who relishes the pain he inflicts at the City Manager's direction smiled in my face and said. " Have a nice day.." Say that when you are not standing behind four police officers.. Jim is a coward. Most abusers of the disabled, the elderly and women are. 

What kind of person goes out in the night to take a blanket off disabled, elderly homeless? What kind of person, uses their God given brain and college education to demonize human beings instead of using these blessings coming up with solutions. The " Poo-Poo, Needles, Garbage, Vermin" thing, is a little worn after all these years of them (The City Management team) taking money and not earning their salaries with their endless divisive propagandizing. 

The City's Manager, Jim Haynes and Gregory Daniels have to go if we are to get anything constructive done in this town. They have shown nothing but disrespect and willful disregard for the expressed wishes of the new mayor and incoming City Council members who were elected by a City tired of hateful platitudes in place of humane action.

New: Prosecute the Thieves

Carol Denney
Saturday December 03, 2016 - 10:31:00 AM

New Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin walked around in the days before his inauguration not only making promises he apparently can't keep, his staff says the raid on homeless protesters 5:30 am Friday, December 2, the day after his inauguration, came as a complete surprise to him and to his staff, and claim that they're not sure how to stop it. 

A Berkeleyside reporter wrote about the homeless protesters' raid in a story which did not prove but certainly implied that the raid came as a result of vandalism and chalk messages which the city staff found disturbing. Both the Berkeleyside article and the Berkeley City Manager's office assume the chalk messages and the vandalism (smeared feces) were the responsibility of the First They Came for the Homeless group. There were no criminal charges. There was no evidence presented connecting any one person. Just another in a series of raids taking everything all the homeless protesters had with them, including blankets, in the middle of the night. 

If one speaks with a city councilmember or the new mayor's staff, the line is that the City of Berkeley is a headless, heartless machine operating on its own according to previous policies set by a previous mayor and city council. The new mayor and at least some of the new council claims to be distressed about this but claims there is nothing at present they can do. Most people hear this and just think what a shame. Some city staff point out that the council can't technically give direction to the city manager unless they do something formal, like have a meeting, or pass an ordinance, or rescind some previous ordinance. 

This is silly. It is illegal for me, for instance, to decide to take everything you, for instance, happen to own because of some disconnected vandalism taking place in the area. 

I can certainly call the police and report the vandalism, if I have a concern about it. I can try to gather evidence, and work with the police to make a case, if I have one. But there is no law which needs rescinded giving the Berkeley police the right to take someone's tent and blanket on the grounds that some third party chalked an unpleasant message or vandalized a bathroom. In fact, the new mayor should simply call the police and report a theft - by the police -- and prosecute the thieves.


THE PUBLIC EYE: Trump’s Puppeteers

Bob Burnett
Thursday December 01, 2016 - 04:56:00 PM

When historians work out the details of Donald Trump's 2016 presidential victory, the most important date is likely not to be October 28th -- when FBI Director Comey announced he had reopened the Hillary Clinton email kerfuffle -- but August 19th when Paul Manafort resigned as Trump campaign director. While Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon replaced Manafort, the real change happened behind the scene when reclusive billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter, Rebekah Mercer, took control of the Trump campaign.

Who are Robert and Rebekah Mercer? What does their ascendancy mean for the Trump Administration?

70-year-old Robert Mercer is a computer scientist famed for his research in machine-translation algorithms. In 1993 Robert joined Long-Island-based Renaissance Technologies, which became the most successful quantitative hedge fund; Mercer is now its co-CEO. Recently Robert was identified as the largest Republican donor in the 2016 presidential contest. His political giving is directed by his 42-year-old daughter, Rebekah.

Before the Mercers took over the Trump campaign, they funded the unsuccessful presidential bid of Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Cruz suspended his campaign on May 3rd, after losing the Indiana primary, and lost the favor of the Mercers with his July 20th "vote your conscience speech" at the Republican convention. The Mercers renamed their superPAC "Make America Number 1" and shifted its focus to Trump. By election day they had invested more than $15.5 million in the superPAC.

The Mercer's enormous investments in Cruz and Trump reflect the ultra-conservative philosophy of Robert and Rebekah, and give us a good idea of what to expect from the Trump administration. 

1. Contempt for Washington. The Mercers believe Washington is corrupt and look down on most Washington politicians (and the "coastal elites"). It's no accident that both Cruz and Trump campaigned as outsiders who would "drain the swamp." 

2. Radical tax reform: Cruz urged scrapping the current tax system and replacing it with a national flat tax augmented by a sales tax. Trump has called for radical simplification of the tax system and reducing corporate taxes to 15 percent. (The Mercers favored eliminating certain tax laws that pertain to hedge funds.) Under the Trump Administration look for a return to "trickle-down economics" with massive tax cuts that primarily benefit the rich and powerful. 

3. Entitlement reform: Cruz called for replacing the current Social Security scheme with a private system similar to that proposed by President George W. Bush. Both Cruz and Trump have called for scrapping Obamacare and making fundamental changes to Medicare. With massive tax cuts there will be massive deficits unless there are reductions in federal spending. 

4. Reduction of discretionary spending: Cruz called for the elimination of the Departments of Education, Commerce, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, plus the Internal Revenue Service. Trump seems open to such changes and has called for the elimination of the Environmental Protection Agency. 

5. Immigration Reform: Trump and Cruz took a very hard line on immigration. Trump continues to call for construction of a wall along the US-Mexico border and deportation of undocumented immigrants. (The sweep of Trump's deportation initiative is TBD.) 

6. Islamophobia: Trump famously advocated blocking all Muslims from entering the country. Rebekah Mercer is known to be a supporter of Lt. General Mike Flynn, who was recently appointed Trump's National Security Adviser. Flynn has argued, "Islam is a political ideology." There's a strong strain of Islamophobia among Mercer advocates and it's likely Trump will push for a national Muslim registry. 

7. Interventionist Foreign Policy: In addition to supporting Lt. General Mike Flynn, Rebekah Mercer is known to be a strong advocate of (former Bush Administration Ambassador to the United Nations) John Bolton. Like Trump and Flynn, Bolton sees Islam as an existential threat. Bolton is an advocate of an interventionist foreign policy. Recently, he wrote : "The prospect that terrorists could receive weapons of mass destruction risks the perfect storm of more 9/11s but with far more tragic consequences. Moving vigorously to eliminate the rising proliferation tidal wave will either be the hallmark of Trump’s presidency — or possibly its epitaph." Following Flynn and Bolton's advice, Trump will likely attempt to cancel the Iran nuclear agreement and be more confrontational with China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia. 

8. Climate Change: Trump has called global climate change "a hoax." Politico reports that the Mercers "have given at least $1.4 million to organizations that cast doubt on climate change science." (). Look for Trump to back away from Global Climate Change agreements and to suspend climate-change-related research and regulations. 

9. The Press: Robert and Rebekah Mercer have waged war on the mainstream media. The Daily Beast () reported that "From 2008 to 2014, the [Mercer] foundation gave millions to groups looking to change American media." Among these donations was $7.5 million to the Media Research Council -- which generated the "Clinton Cash" book and movie -- and $10 million to Breitbart News (). Look for Trump to insulate his Administration from the mainstream media and to favor ultra-conservative outlets such as Breitbart. 

10. White Supremacy: According to the New Yorker magazine, () since 2011, top-Trump-insider Steve Bannon "has served a political adviser to the Mercers." The New Yorker article describes Bannon as "the poster child for [the] white, nationalistic, alt-right world view." Look for the Trump Administration to continue to curry favor with white supremacists. 

Expect the worst from Trump/Mercer. 

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




ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Filtering the Thinking

Jack Bragen
Thursday December 01, 2016 - 09:06:00 PM

It would be nice if antipsychotic or other medications simply provided accurate thinking, but this is not so. If medicated, a person subject to psychosis still has to work at it to obtain thinking that is mostly not delusional. This is because antipsychotic medications cause parts of the brain to slow down, allowing the potential for rational thought. However, there is no pill that can automatically provide accurate thinking. A person suffering from psychosis must learn or relearn how to think, and must learn to recognize and discard delusions.  

One way to approach this is to look for patterns to the errors. Often an assumption will take root that affects the way thoughts are processed. If you have an assumption that you have psychic ability, for example, (not uncommon among people with psychosis) it can allow almost any thought that occurs to be accepted as truth.  

This is aside from the concept that people have auras and that extrasensory perception may exist. The assumption for someone with psychosis that they are "psychic" is poisonous to recovery.  

An assumption that you are being spied on by the government is also not uncommon. This is aside from the concept that the government does spy on people. The assumption of government spying can allow any situation to be interpreted as a conspiracy of the government. The government is probably busy fighting terrorists and probably isn't highly interested in our lives.  

An assumption of being in contact with extraterrestrials can also wreak havoc. You could have a delusion of being in contact with the E.T.'s, and yet the actual extraterrestrials could be busy with other things and most likely aren't in contact with you at all.  

None of the above are impossible. However, when incorporated as an assumption into the thinking of someone vulnerable to psychosis, assumptions like these, which are delusions, become the basis for entire delusional systems.  

I'm trying to convey that it is easier to recognize delusions and delusional systems if we can track a pattern that they may have.  

When someone is becoming increasingly psychotic, at some point having a delusional system or perhaps more than one delusional system at some point gives way to complete chaos in the mind.  

Certain things promote recovery, aside from medication and trying to fix one's thinking. Communication and contact with other human beings is a great way of developing points of reference, and of syncing your mind with those of others. This doesn't guarantee that you'll know the truth. And yet, your speech and actions are more likely to reflect what is socially considered normal. "Common sense" may not really exist, yet if your beliefs are synced with those of other people, it will render you capable of functioning in society.  

When someone with psychosis isn't medicated, you can't talk him or her back to sanity. Yet, once medicated and returning to reality, it is possible for talking to help.  

In 1990, the movie "Field of Dreams" was being shown at a psychiatric ward where I was staying following a relapse. Somehow that movie brought me out of my delusions, and I was ready to be released very soon afterward. Perhaps it was because I realized, "This is fiction" and yet, "This other thing is reality."  

Watching the movie caused me to relax, and it gave me the idea that I was an acceptable person despite unusual thoughts. The protagonist was at a baseball game, and saw on the billboard the words, "If you build it, they will come." In the movie, at least, the character wasn't judged for having an apparent hallucination. 

Filtering the thinking involves pinpointing the particular thoughts that are creating problems, and deprogramming those thoughts. For this, insight is needed. If meds are too far in excess and block insight, this may not be possible.  

Development of the internal sense, in which you can "see" your thoughts, can take place through journaling. If you write down on a piece of paper what your thoughts are, you can see your thoughts and you can evaluate them.  

Being okay with yourself as someone with a mental illness allows you to deal with the reality of it without the baggage of hating yourself. As persons with mental illness, we are acceptable people, and we should know we are acceptable, regardless of whether non-afflicted, bigoted people hate and/or stereotype us for having a disability that we didn't create.  



Mixed feelings on Fidel Castro’s legacy

Ralph E. Stone
Friday December 02, 2016 - 07:30:00 PM

The Cuban government will observe nine days of mourning for Fidel Castro. After two days of observances in Revolution Plaza in Havana, Castro’s ashes will be transported across the country to the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba. The final mass and ceremony will take place Dec. 4, and his ashes will be interred in the cemetery of Santa Ifigenia. 

In November 2003, my wife Judi and I took a 12-day trip to Cuba with Elderhostel. Elderhostel was licensed by the U.S. Treasury Department to conduct People-To-People tours to Cuba. Its license was not renewed for 2004. During our trip, we visited Havana, Vinales, and Santiago de Cuba. We thoroughly enjoyed our trip; we learned a lot and enjoyed meeting the people. It certainly helped that Judi is fluent in Spanish, which allowed for better interaction with Cubans. 

In April 1959, shortly after taking power, Fidel Castro traveled to the U.S. The Eisenhower administration could have embraced him, offering him economic assistance. But remember this was during the Cold War and Castro smacked of socialism/communism. Eisenhower snubbed him. He met instead with Vice President Nixon for a few hours. No economic assistance was offered. The next year Castro turned to Russia for economic assistance and the rest is history. 

Under Castro, Cuba improved significantly in education, medical care, religious tolerance, and racial relations. However, opponents of normalization with Cuba accuse the Cuban government of systematic human rights abuses, including arbitrary imprisonment, unfair trials, and extrajudicial execution. 

We applaud President Obama's move to normalize relations with Cuba. Making a bit of history, this year the U.S. abstained for the first time in an annual UN General Assembly condemnation of the half-century-old American trade embargo against Cuba. However, only Congress can annul the embargo, and it is not likely under a Republican-controlled Congress. 

Full normalization must include the return of Guantánamo Bay to Cuba. The Platt amendment to a U.S. Army Appropriations Bill of 1901 gave the U.S. the right to intervene militarily in Cuban affairs whenever the U.S. decided such intervention was warranted. Cubans were given the choice of accepting the Platt Amendment or remaining under U.S. military occupation indefinitely. In 1903, the U.S. used it to obtain a perpetual lease of Guantánamo Bay, a blatant example of U.S. gunboat diplomacy.  

I have mixed feelings about Fidel Castro. Castro was like a welcome guest for dinner, who overstayed his welcome. The revolutionary became a dictator for life. But consider that the U.S. got along fine with Fulgencio Batista the thug Castro overthrew. Then Americans were free to frolic at the nightclubs, casinos and beach resorts during Batista’s thuggish regime. But then Batista was in our pocket, whereas Castro was not.  

With Fidel Castro's death, I don't imagine much will change in Cuba. However, his brother Raúl Castro is 85. What will happen after he dies?  

Most of Obama's normalization policies are by executive order, which Trump has threatened to reverse until Cuba grants religious and political freedom for the Cubans and the freeing of political prisoners. Isolating Cuba, however, has not worked. Fidel Castro took power in Cuba in 1959 and then handed power to his brother Raúl in 2008. Thus, the Castro brothers have outlasted eleven U.S. presidents and would probably outlast a Trump presidency.

Arts & Events

New: Adler Fellows Gala Concert 2016

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Wednesday December 07, 2016 - 10:52:00 AM

In promoting this concert, the San Francisco Opera Center coined the phrase “The Future is Now.” A more apt phrase could hardly be imagined, for this Adler Fellows concert on Friday, December 2, at Herbst Theatre offered singers who seemed ready for great things to come, and whose greatness was already evident in their glorious singing here. This concert opened with the orchestral Prelude to Act III of Wagner’s Lohengrin, which was beautifully performed by the San Francisco Opera Orchestra under the leadership of conductor Jordi Bernàcer.  

The first vocal offering was bass-baritone Matthew Stump as the Dutchman singing “Die Frist ist um” from Wagner’s Die Fliegende Holländer. Stump was a powerful and moving Dutchman, taking the lead from the cellos’ lovely introduction to this aria and anchoring it in the dark realms of a longing for death unless the wandering Dutchman can find a woman to redeem him with perfect love. Following this came a surprise highlight of the concert – the aria “Robert, toi que j”aime” from Meyerbeer’s rarely heard Robert le diable, sung here with consummate vocalism by soprano Amina Edris. Egyptian-born Amina Edris, who excelled as Norina in a 2015 Merola production of Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, was absolutely stupendous in the role of Isabelle in this difficult aria from Meyerbeer’s Robert le diable. The aria itself was totally unknown to me, but Amina Edris navigated its difficult roulades with utterly amazing vocal agility. This was truly remarkable singing. Incidentally, in a concert that offered quite a few relatively unfamiliar pieces of vocal music, supertitles would have been welcome to give us a sense of what was being sung. In this concert, alas, they were absent. 

Where a young singer’s career seems promising as a work in progress was amply demonstrated by soprano Toni Marie Palmertree, who sang the role of Nedda from Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci in a duet with baritone Edward Nelson as Silvio. Toni Marie Palmertree does one thing extremely well – she imbues her fortissimo high notes with awesome power and voluptuous tonal coloration. The results are spectacular. However, when she is not singing high notes at full throttle, Ms. Palmertree’s voice fades into the woodwork. None of the emotion, none of the intensity, none of the vocal color comes through when Toni Marie Palmertree isn’t hitting fortissimo high notes. In fact, most of the time, her singing is utterly unremarkable. Listening to Toni Marie Palmertree is like watching a one-trick pony. The trick may be spectacular, but once you’ve seen it all you can do is hope the pony will deliver the same trick a few more times. At this point in her young career, Toni Marie Palmertree might only be suited for the role of Turandot, which requires no feeling whatsoever beyond an ice-princess’s façade. I don’t mean to be harsh. What Toni Marie Palmertree now offers is already something quite spectacular. But if she wants to grow as an interpreter of great operatic roles, Toni Marie Palmertree must find a way to avoid the one-trick pony syndrome. I hope she will. 

Moving on to consider Adler Fellows who have already mastered more than a single trick, let us applaud baritone Edward Nelson, whose voice has developed nicely since his inauspicious portrayal of Don Giovanni in Mozart’s opera in a 2015 Merola production. In this Adler Fellow concert, Nelson admirably partnered Palmertree in a steamy duet from Pagliacci, and he followed this after intermission with a sweet-voiced rendition of Billy Budd’s aria “Look, through the port comes the moonlight astray.” Nelson may never have the dark coloration necessary for the role of Don Giovanni; but judging from his performances in this concert, Edward Nelson seems to have found roles more suited to his lighter type of baritone voice. Moving on, bass-baritone Brad Walker gave a stirring rendition of Count Almaviva’s aria “Hai già vinta la causa!” from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro. Walker’s diction in Italian was especially clear and full-voiced.  

Next came a rather questionable selection from gifted soprano Julie Adams, the aria “Gluck das mir verblieb” from Eric Korngold’s Die Tote Stadt. This is a saccharine bit of music hardly capable of showing off the considerable talents of a singer of Julie Adams’ accomplishments. Although Julie Adams sang it well, nothing could help raise this pedestrian music above a mildly entertaining level. Likewise, a duet from Vincenzo Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi offered little opportunity for Chinese mezzo-soprano Nian Wang and Samoan-born, New Zealand-raised tenor Pene Pati to show off their voices. Another in a series of ill-conceived selections came from Latvian mezzo-soprano Zande Švėde, who sang a rather offbeat aria, “Sily potajnye,” from Mussorgsky’s Khovanshchina. Despite Ms. Švėde’s fluency in Russian, this aria hardly showcased the voice we heard sing so admirably in the flower duet in San Francisco Opera’s current Madama Butterfly. Next came Toni Marie Palmertree who chose to sing an aria from Verdi’s Don Carlo in the French version that premiered in Paris. Palmertree’s French is not particularly fluent and clear in diction, so why she chose to sing this aria in French is not apparent. Suffice it to say that all the plusses and minuses of Ms. Palmertree’s singing I enumerated earlier in this review were again evident in this selection. Finally, the first half of this concert came to an anticlimactic close with bass Anthony Reed singing a low-keyed aria, “Wie schön ist doch die Musik” from Richard Strauss’s rarely performed Die schweigsame Frau. 

After intermission things picked up considerably, beginning with Julie Adams singing “The trees on the mountain” from Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah. Adams bit into the emotional turmoil and fear of Susannah’s predicament, accused of being a sinner by Reverend Olin Blitch and his Appalachian parishioners simply because she was seen bathing nude in a secluded mountain stream where she habitually went to bathe. When Reverend Blitch tries to bully Susannah into confessing her sins, Julie Adams’ Susannah was staunch in her refusal to submit. But when Reverend Blitch, here capably sung by bass-baritone Brad Walker, reveals that he’s a lonely man who needs a woman, Julie Adams’ Susannah acquiesced all too easily, it seemed to me, even taking Blitch’s hand and leading him offstage to a sexual tryst – a grave mistake in staging, for it blames the victim in what should be a case of male sexual opportunism against a female too emotionally spent to put up resistance.  

Following Edward Nelson’s sweet-voiced monologue from Britten’s Billy Budd was a delightful comic turn by soprano Amina Edris and tenor Pene Pati, who sang “Quoi? Vous m”aimez?” from Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment. If anyone ever doubted that Amina Edris is not only an exceptional singer but also an outstanding actress, her portrayal of Marie’s vacillating affections for Tonio in this flirtatious duet provided all the proof needed. Along with Pene Pati as Tonio, Amina Edris as Marie was totally in command of this scintillating duet.  

Mezzo-soprano Nian Wang sang “Crude furie degli orridi abissi” from Handel’s Serses/Xerxes; and although she performed this aria competently her voice is a bit thin and rarely projects enough to wow the audience. Next, bass Anthony Reed gave a sterling rendition of the Viking song from Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sadko. Following this number came one of the highlights of the concert – tenor Pene Pati singing “Quando le sere al placido” from Verdi’s Luisa Miller. Pati has a huge voice, and at times he borders on belting everything out at full blast. But in this sublime aria he was in his comfort zone, and the results were thrilling. Likewise, in the next piece, a duet from Massenet’s Cléopatre, mezzo-soprano Zanda Švėde and bass-baritone Matthew Stump were perfectly paired to offer a moving final scene from this opera, in which both Mark-Anthony and Cleopatra die as the opera comes to a close. Finally, the 2016 Adler Fellows Gala Concert closed with an ensemble of singers performing “E scherzo od è follia” from Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera. Given the consistently high level of singing offered by the 2016 Adler Fellows, it is abundantly clear both that “The Future is Now,” and that these singers have a great future awaiting them.  

New: Joyce DiDonato Promotes Harmony Through Music

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Wednesday December 07, 2016 - 10:51:00 AM

On Sunday, December 4 at 3:00 pm at Zellerbach Hall, acclaimed mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato teamed up with Italian period instrument ensemble Il Pomo d’Oro to perform a theatrical program of Baroque arias on the theme of war, peace and harmony through music. A sure sign that this was no ordinary concert came immediately upon entering Zellerbach’s auditorium, for Joyce DiDonato was already onstage, seated behind the musicians’ chairs towards the back, with a dim spotlight illuminating her regal presence wearing a silver-grey gown. Even before the Il Pomo d’Oro musicians filed onstage, Ms. DiDonato was joined by a male dancer, Argentine native Manuel Palazzo , who appeared bare-chested, wearing only a long skirt-like cloth garment belted at the waist. Mr. Palazzo struck several poses downstage left, while Ms. DiDonato remained seated upstage right. Only when the musicians entered and began playing the opening number, Handel’s aria from Jeptha, “Scenes of horror, scenes of woe,” did Joyce DiDonato arise from her chair and stride forward as she began to sing. 

As conceived by Joyce DiDonato, this was a uniquely immersive multi-media program. Directed by Ralf Pleger, this concert featured imaginative lighting designed by Henning Blum and subtle, semi-abstract video images designed by Yousef Iskandar. The dancing by Manuel Palazzo was never intrusive, yet it added to the overall drama of the music, as did the lighting and video effects. Maxim Emelyanychev conducted Il Pomo d’Oro from the harpsichord.  

The first half of the program dealt with war, the second half with peace; and Joyce DiDonato set forth in program notes exactly how she viewed this program. “As a citizen of the world in 2016,” she wrote, “the temptation to spiral down into the turmoil and pessimism that seemingly permeates all corners of our lives can overwhelm me at times, and the temptation to give in to the dispiriting din of upheaval can devastate the spirit. And yet, I’m a belligerent, proud, willing optimist.” For Joyce DiDonato peace amidst chaos and turmoil can be created through music; and she asks us, each member of the audience at this concert, how we might find harmony and peace within ourselves. Make no mistake about it: This is a bold, probing gesture from a woman who is not only a consummate artist, indeed “one of the finest singers of our time,” as Jake Heggie wrote in Gramophone, but also a woman fiercely committed to urging people to think about how each of us has a responsibility to work in whatever ways we can towards greater peace and harmony both within ourselves and in this world. 

Following the opening Handel aria, Ms. DiDonato tore into an aria from the opera Andromaca by Leonardo Leo written in 1742 with a libretto by Antonio Salvi based on Racine’s play Andromaque. Here was a mother, the wife of the fallen hero Hector of Troy, aghast at the prospect of seeing her son about to be murdered by the victorious Greeks. “Drink my blood too,” she wails in fury. Joyce DiDonato sang this devastating aria with passionate intensity, her voice raging with dark anger and horror in masterful coloratura. Next came two instrumental pieces, one by Emilio De Cavaleiri (1550-1602), “Sinfonia Rappresentatione di anima e di corpo, and a second by Henry Purcell (1659-1695), a Ciaconna for three violins and basso continuo. Then Joyce DiDonato returned to sing Dido’s famous Lament from Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas (1689). Ms. DiDonato sang this beautiful piece with great dignity and poignancy. Next she sang the aria Pensieri, voi mi tormentate” from Handel’s Agrippina in which Agrippina seeks help from the gods in elevating her son Nero to the throne of emperor of Rome. Following this aria came another instrumental work, Trisitis est animam mea from Carlo Gesualdo (1566-1613). The closing work of the first half of this program was Handel’s “Lascia ch’io pianga” from his opera Rinaldo. This beautiful aria was for me one of the many highlights of this concert. 

After intermission Joyce DiDonato opened with “They tell us that you mighty powers” from Henry Purcell’s opera The Indian Queen (1695). Next she sang an aria from Handel’s Susanna (1749) and followed it with another Handel aria, “Da tempeste il legno infranto” from his opera Cleopatra. Accompanying the latter aria about a storm at sea were video images of lightning flashes. Following this came a lovely modern piece by Arvo Pärt, an instrumental version of his “Da pacem, Domine” from 1935. Yet another Handel aria came next, “Augeletti, che cantata” from his opera Rinaldo. For this aria about the sweet airs of birdsong, a lovely recorder solo by Daphna Mor was an apt accompaniment. The final item on the scheduled program was the aria “Par che di giubilo” from the opera Attilio Regolo by Neapolitan favorite Niccolò Jommelli (1714-1774). This aria ecstatically extolling joy made a fitting close to this concert celebrating harmony through music.  

But Joyce DiDonato was not done. For the first encore she and Il Pomo d’Oro repeated the Jommelli aria; then she sang the lied Morgen by Richard Strauss. Ms. DiDonato also spoke quite movingly of wishing to dedicate this concert to the memory of Dr. Alan Curtis, the late musicologist from U.C. Berkeley, and of her hope that we members of the audience would be inspired to write a brief note on cards enclosed in our programs offering our own personal view of ways we might promote peace amidst the chaos of our era. To honor Ms. DiDonato’s request, I wrote “For someone like me who came of age when JFK was elected, the thought of Donald Trump’s finger on the nuclear trigger is ominous to say the least. May the spirit of peace prevail. Let music guide us.” 

Castro Theater hosts A Day of Silents

Justin DeFreitas
Friday December 02, 2016 - 09:28:00 AM

The six programs that constitute A Day of Silents, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival’s annual winter event, feature some of cinema’s finest and most enduring pioneer artists. 

The Saturday event at the Castro Theater begins at 10 a.m. with three of the dozen or so short films Charlie Chaplin made in the East Bay in 1915 for the Essanay film company, which signed the rising star after he had made a name for himself in a series of knockabout Keystone comedies. In the Essanay shorts we see Chaplin developing his Tramp character and honing his unique brand of comedy, which would soon reach its apex in a string of classics that would stretch into the 1930s. 

At 12:15 p.m., Ernst Lubitsch’s famed touch is on display in So This Is Paris (1926), a Jazz Age comedy in which the director depicts the sexual liberation of the era while foiling the censors with his deft use of suggestion and visual wit. The film culminates in a bravura dance scene that expresses the sensuous abandon of the age in the form of a vivid and joyful Charleston. 

The scene shifts to Russia at 2:15 p.m. for the first feature-length film made by Sergei Eisenstein, one of the most innovative directors in cinema history. Strike depicts a series of abuses suffered by workers at a metalworks factory and the resulting strike against the factory owner and Russia’s czarist pre-revolution government. Eisenstein used this government-sponsored film to demonstrate his theory of montage, the juxtaposition of separate images to create new meanings, evoke emotions, or express rhetorical points. 

The same year he played the somnambulist in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Conrad Veidt played what is thought to be the first homosexual protagonist on celluloid in Different from the Others (1919), a German film showing at 4:45 p.m. in which a violinist is blackmailed over his relationship with a protege in an era when homosexuality was a criminal offense under German law. 

The Last Command (1928), showing at 7 p.m., is one of many beautiful films that Josef von Sternberg made in the 1920s and ’30s. The film features German star Emil Jannings as a fallen Russian general reduced to taking bit parts in Hollywood movies under an assumed name. One of his former minions, now a director, recognizes the general and casts him in a movie for the pleasure of subjecting his erstwhile tormenter to a series of humiliations. Von Sternberg’s trademark expressive photography is in evidence throughout the film, and Jannings’ performance is a sort of companion piece to his work in F. W. Murnau’s The Last Laugh (1925), in which Jannings played a proud hotel doorman stripped of his uniform and demoted to washroom attendant. 

The festival closes with some good old American star power: Gloria Swanson, one of the most flamboyant actresses of the silent era, as San Francisco prostitute Sadie Thompson in the eponymous 1928 film, showing at 9:15 p.m. Swanson not only carries the film, she almost single-handedly got it made, overcoming the concerns of censors and studio bosses who were reluctant to put the W. Somerset Maugham adaptation on the screen. Swanson put up $200,000 of her own money and cast the film herself, tapping Lionel Barrymore and Raoul Walsh as her co-stars. The result was Swanson’s most famous film (until Sunset Blvd. two decades later) and one of her greatest commercial successes. 

Saturday, Dec. 3, Castro Theater, 429 Casto Street, San Francisco. Tickets and info: silentfilm.org.