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Parsing the Obvious

Carol Denney
Thursday December 22, 2016 - 01:08:00 PM

"Our wonderful Mayor Arreguin has announced ending homeless as his first priority. At our first regular Council meeting we made enormous progress.

We doubled the number of winter storm shelter beds.
We extended shelter hours to twelve hours per night.
We increased daytime Warming Centers.
We started work to create our first Navigation Center.
We rescinded the anti-homeless two foot law adopted last year.
We reinstated funding cut in June to the Berkeley Drop In Center
We reinstated funding cut in June to Youth Spirit Artworks.
All of these are being implemented immediately.

We also appointed a four person committee to come up with additional solutions.
They will explore possible encampment locations and policies.
Also will look at property recovery practices and policy.

One encampment keeps refusing to accept any services, even though their whole group could be inside all day and all night. They pick campsites that break multiple laws and create health and safety problems, but insist they have a "right" to camp even though they are causing numerous problems.
Some of them keep verbally attacking Mayor Arreguin and our wonderful City Manager who are both working very hard and coming up with faster solutions than I have ever seen any government do.
I have fought fiercely to defend homeless people from repressive politicians and laws.
I have been arrested protesting anti-homeless laws from Frank Jordan and Gavin Newsom. I fought against measures N and O in Berkeley, and against Measure S.

I am still trying to work with this group despite their outrageous insulting and false statements, Please do not accept their false portrayal of the situation in Berkeley..
We have accomplished much and are working on so much more."

Kriss Worthington
Berkeley City Councilmember, District 7

The continuing raids on the group known as First They Came for the Homeless, a years-long protest of the unfair treatment of the poorest of the poor, would have stopped at the last City Council meeting ...but for one vote. And the most peculiar behavior that night wasn't from any of the people with mental challenges attending that December 13th meeting - it was from Kriss Worthington, District 7 representative, who introduced a hand-written proposal at the last minute which did not mention the raids, did not second a motion from District 2 representative Cheryl Davila regarding the raids, and most obviously had nothing to say about the raids. 

So it doesn't come as a surprise to some that Worthington issued the above statement attempting to distinguish First They Came for the Homeless as other than the deserving poor, the same tactic former Mayor Tom Bates was fond of using. It seems that the more precisely one points at the inadequacy of the current system, and the more you organize with others to amplify your voice and improve your safety, the more you are ushered into the "protester" group where even a chalked message by one person can be used to violate the rights of an entire group. 

Our community is blessed, generous, and baffled at having to watch the blankets and survival gear they donate to First They Came for the Homeless and others more discreetly living on the streets consistently thrown into city trash trucks in quasi-military pre-dawn attacks on people we all ought to know are just trying to illustrate a problem - they are not the problem. Thirty years under Mayors Bates and Hancock of replacing low-income housing with lucrative luxury units has obvious consequences which need powerful, visible illustration, especially in winter. 

Councilmember Worthington needs reminded that Berkeley is tired of the criminalization of poverty and the selective targeting of its most vocal opponents. It's expensive, it's impractical, it's of course immoral in one of the cities with the biggest income gaps in the nation, but it's also making a very capable, sensible city council representative look like a fool


Berkeley evicts homeless protesters: an eyewitness report

Shane Brodie
Wednesday December 21, 2016 - 10:27:00 PM

On Tuesday night after meditation at my temple, I walked over to the Homeless Protest encampment near Berkeley Bowl (on the grassy median). A spokesperson gave me one of the paper eviction notices from the police and said they thought the police would be coming between 4 and 6 AM on Wednesday morning. They said the police like to roust them in the dark and as they are sleeping. 

The BPD has raided homeless encampments and protests like this several times in the last few weeks. Many local Bay Area citizens keep donating blankets and tents to replace the gear that the police throw away. Is Berkeley a progressive city or is this just hype? I like to think so, but actions of the police department and City Hall speak much louder than words. Together as a community we need to stop this cycle of cruelty toward our homeless and vulnerable neighbors. What we are doing is inadequate, often inappropriate, and it perpetuates suffering. 

I asked the protestors what they wanted supporters to do and they said to please emphasize to the police that it's a protest and they have a right to be there, there's no sanitation problems, and for people to just be there to witness to help ensure that the police don't hurt the protestors. I noticed that the protestors were very friendly and congenial to one another and they were warming a dinner of beans and tortillas for each other over small camp stoves. There were three porta potties (donated by Friends of Adeline Street community group), it was very clean and uncluttered, and I counted 4 wheelchair users nearby. 

I showed up at about 4:15am. I walked around to keep warm and saw police, parking, and park maintenance vehicles lining the side streets.They decided quickly surround the median and to block off Adeline street at about 5am. There were 30 or so police officers plus about as many vehicles - heavy duty trucks, cruisers, undercover vehicles. About 20 park maintenance and parking enforcement workers also helped the police. They put a police tape line around the whole area and no one supporting the protestors was allowed through, not even lawyers, reporters or photojournalists, who are legally guaranteed this right and argued with the police about it. 

The police threw away the protest signage first. Several protestors were arrested immediately and without any provocation. Most people had all of their belongings confiscated and bagged to be thrown away (tents, personal objects, sleeping bags, clothes etc). A few people packed up their gear and placed it on the sidewalk near Berkeley Bowl. A couple of tents plus contents were lifted by the police and placed on the sidewalk. 

It was unclear why some people were arrested and some personal belongings were confiscated and thrown away ...and some were not. I talked to a private lawyer of someone who was arrested; her client didn't have a warrant and she wanted to know what the charges were. The police wouldn't tell the lawyer the charges and she couldn't even talk with her client who was isolated in a windowless van. 

National Lawyers Guild representatives and several people with cameras and cellphones kept walking the perimeter. An older and very feisty Black woman with a walker (from Harriet Tubman Terrace) came out and argued with the police that the people have a right to stay and nowhere to go. One woman who was riding her bike to work kept me company for a while and kept shouting at the police that what they were doing was shameful and to have a Merry Christmas. 

A police officer lied to us and said that people would be offered shelter beds downtown, but I know there's few beds available, because I volunteer at the men's shelter. The statistics that the city loves to cite about available beds on any given night are very skewed. Many of these folks require much more care than those shelters provide and some of them have been 86'ed for mental health problems (or other medical problems such as addiction) that are not appropriately accommodated or they can't even get in because they have dogs. 

After I mentioned some of this, the police officer lied again and said they were going to be taken to a special place they are setting up in west Berkeley. I later asked a representative at Berkeley Food and Housing Project about this "new shelter" and he had no idea what I was talking about. 

I left at about 6:15am and the police were standing around in clumps at that point. They'd been doing a lot of video taping of their interactions and of bystanders like myself. The park workers were erecting a fence around the grassy median when I left. Tonight I scrambled around and asked for donations from friends and went to a thrift store and bought two quilts, two bedspreads, and two sleeping bags. I drove around and I found a group of folks who needed them - 2 women and 3 men who were sitting near City Hall and keeping each others' spirits up. The sun had already set and they only had the clothes on their backs and were quite happy to get something to cover up with on this cold evening. The thicker sleeping bag went to an elderly man who is very ill and was slumped over and not speaking. 

The Bay Area has an ugly legacy of dealing with indigent, disabled, and poor people. San Francisco was the first city to pass "Ugly Laws" during the Civil War.The wounds that soldiers had suffered in war had to be covered from sight and they couldn't beg, even though they had no other way of providing for themselves. The implementation of these laws which were mimicked in many cities across the country, meant that you couldn't be a disabled person out in public. The avid support for these laws and their century-long usage and enforcement was aligned with the rise in eugenics here in the US. We are still living with that legacy

Flash: Merry Christmas from the City of Berkeley to the Homeless

Marcia Poole
Wednesday December 21, 2016 - 10:17:00 AM

They did it again. I got there before 5 AM and at 5 around 20 police and additional staff from public works came to make sure the plot of ground was taken away from the homeless. FTCFTH has now relocated to the grassy area in front of old City Hall. This was the Berkeley City Manager's way of saying "Merry Christmas" to the homeless.

New: Parker Place, now "Parker", an Investor's Dream? (or not)

Gale Garcia
Friday December 16, 2016 - 12:04:00 PM

The project formerly known as Parker Place consists of two big boxes at 2598 and 2600 Shattuck Avenue, with smaller structures under construction behind them. Only 2598 Shattuck, containing 38 rental units, is complete so far. Its ads proclaim "Parker is that thrill you feel when inspiration strikes." These ads have been repeated multiple times per day on Craigslist since June, with asking rents of $4,150 for two-bedroom apartments, and similarly stratospheric rates for the smaller units.

Apartment seekers appear to be less than thrilled. At night, the building still looks spooky dark. Other than lights in the stairwells and hallways, and in the chicly-staged unit featured in the ads, I have only seen a few lights on, ever. 

Maybe 2598 Shattuck will lease up quickly once the holidays are over. But there are 117 additional units yet to open in the Parker project, at which time they too will be seeking luxury tenants. And serious competition will arrive in the Spring, when 99 units open in a six-story project at Shattuck and Dwight, two blocks north (and that much closer to the University and the downtown.) Moreover, nearly every big rental box in Berkeley is advertising at a furious pace, with many offering one month's free rent to entice applicants to choose them over the multitude of similar options. 

Who owns Parker? In a press release of July 31, 2014, Deutsche Asset and Wealth Management (DeAWM), a division of Deutsche Bank, announced that it had acquired the project on behalf of one of its institutional clients. DeAWM's investors include "governments, corporations, insurance companies, endowments, retirement plans and private clients worldwide." I doubt we'll ever learn who (or what) acquired Parker with the expectation that it would "produce excellent returns … throughout the lifecycle of the investment." But I have to wonder if this unknown entity is a happy camper now. 

The press release quoted Todd Henderson of DeAWM, "Parker Place is a high-quality property in a very desirable location that boasts one of the tightest vacancy rates in the nation." That vacancy claim may have been true in 2014, but two and a half years later, with hundreds of new "luxury" apartments in Berkeley clamoring in unison for well-off tenants – I doubt that it is true now. 

On the first Sunday of December, the Parker site was decorated with seven ad banners for the apartments and the future high-end gym in 2600 Shattuck. There were also two leasing ads on the sidewalk – and a sign twirler! 

Beyond the relentless advertising by most of the rental developments in town, there are other signs that investors should consider looking elsewhere for the "excellent returns" they have come to expect from every hulk of "luxury" housing they could score. Asking rents are dropping in the most expensive markets in the country. See "The Great Unwind Unravels Hottest Rental Markets in the US" [http://wolfstreet.com/2016/12/01/rents-decline-in-san-francisco-new-york-boston-chicago-washington-dc/

Furthermore Sam Zell of Equity Residential (EQR), who has a reputation for exiting markets at just the right time, has been trying to unload his Berkeley holdings for over a year. As far as I can tell, only one Berkeley EQR property has been successfully sold. 

While there is a severe housing crisis in Berkeley for people with modest incomes, there is no dearth of "luxury" units, available only to those with ginormous incomes. I believe that there is already a glut of such units. With over a thousand more in the pipeline, this excess will continue to grow. Investors might be in for a surprise.

Identity theft suspect sought by Berkeley Police

Kiley Russell (BCN)
Friday December 16, 2016 - 10:45:00 AM

Police are looking for a woman they say stole a Berkeley woman's identity in order to open several fraudulent lines of credit in businesses around the Bay Area, according to Berkeley police.  

The woman, who has a distinctive cursive tattoo on the left side of her neck and very long brown hair, bought several thousand dollars worth of merchandise at a Costco and a Target in Vallejo, police said.  

At each store she was photographed by security cameras with a man police describe as a person of interest.  

The identity theft was reported on Nov. 30. 

Anyone with information is asked to call Berkeley police at (510) 981-4725.

Berkeley books for the Berkeley reader, Holidays 2016

Steven Finacom
Friday December 16, 2016 - 07:26:00 AM

If you are looking for a last minute holiday gift for one of Berkeley’s intelligent readers, or winter time reading for yourself, here are three suggestions. All are books published earlier this year. They are also all unconventional and extensively illustrated local histories by local authors.

Radical Booksellling: A Life of Moe Moskowitz, Doris Jo Moskowitz, 2016. $18.95.

San Francisco’s Exposition Year: the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition, Anthony Bruce, Trifoil Press, 2016. $39.95.

Quirky Berkeley, Tom Dalzell. Heyday Press, 2016. $15.00. 

Book One: Radical Bookselling 

Doris Moskowitz, the second-generation proprietor of legendary—and still living—Moe’s Books, put together this immensely insightful and thoughtful love letter / memoir of her late father, Moe, and how he came to create and operate the Berkeley establishment.  

Much of the text is developed from a talk Doris gave to the Berkeley Historical Society about her father. (She also sang some of his favorite songs.) There are also essays by friends and employees of Moe, and many, many, photographs and graphic materials collected by Doris. 

This is a poignant memoir not only of the life of an original man, but the development of such an important piece of Berkeley character and culture. There is a great deal in this slim volume, from his childhood and difficult relationship with his father and eventual move across the country from New York, his early acting career, how Moe nurtured other local businesses, his impact on standards in the used book trade, and his involvement with alternative schools in Berkeley.  

A primary impact, according to Doris: “he put a lot of effort into creating his own barter system with books in which one did not need to have much money to b e a part of an economy with knowledge. He helped democratize literacy.” 

It’s also fun and illuminating reading, with descriptions of his days at sea (when a fellow sailor thought he played so badly he threw Moe’s violin overboard), to classes at Cooper Union (“where he had a ‘low attitude’ about following instructions and attending classes about subjects that may have bored him”), to his early business days in Berkeley battling with City bureaucracy over a newspaper kiosk on the sidewalk.  

The book is full of “vintage Moe”. Moe, speaking to a younger Doris when she felt he was embarrassing her with his somewhat messy public eating habits: “Why do you care what people think of you? You need to watch that.” (“He spoke often of the social ills caused by such things as ‘polite manners’ and what people ought to do”, Doris writes. “He wanted to know why.”)  

Moe to Doris when she put a “restroom” sign up in the store: “You need to be direct. Call it what it is. It is a room with a toilet.” (And that’s indeed one of the things I most appreciate about Moe’s. It serves the whole customer; there’s a real toilet you’re welcome to use, up on the third floor. Get a token at the counter. Moe’s is not a “sorry we don’t have one of those, why don’t you try the restaurant down the street…” place. Last time I needed to use the toilet there I stood outside until the door opened, and Julia Vinograd came out. I was using a potty for poets!) 

And Doris about Moe: “he enjoyed shocking people and nudging them out of the usual social customs. Her encouraged everyone to wonder why we are polite and to reassess whether we mean what we say. Perennially obsessed with the truth, he often cornered people who would have rather gone on with their day.”  

Isn’t that last sentence, in a nutshell, a classic metaphor for Berkeley life, encompassing both the appealing and the annoying? 

The first thing I ever bought in Berkeley was a book at Moe’s during a first visit there in the mid 1970s. This was when the store was in the next-door space that would later become The Reprint Mint. I was on a very quick visit to town with an older brother, a Cal student, who helpfully suggested Moe’s as a place where those living in suburbia could make an excursion to find interesting books. 

My ride was waiting and I had only had a few minutes; I devoted them to the science fiction and fantasy section in the subterranean rear of the store where I found and bought a paperback “Dragonflight” by Anne McCaffrey based solely on the cover illustration. I recently rediscovered it while going through a box of old books at home; it was the first of what are probably thousands of books I would buy at Moe’s. I probably paid Moe himself my 30 or 40 cents at the front counter, although I don’t remember. 

I do remember two typical later Moe’s experiences that happened over and over when I would stop by the store after I came to live in Berkeley. Fortunately, for many years it was on my walk route home from work.  

The first recollection (which I recently mentioned in another Planet article) was with Cashier Moe, who always seemed growlingly unwilling to freely part with a plastic bag, no matter how high my stack of bought books.  

The second memory involved browsing as Shelver Moe worked nearby adding newly bought books to their proper sections, which Doris reports he did every day. He would slowly shove a cart overloaded with books along the aisle, cigar hanging out of the corner of his mouth. As the decisive “thwap!, thwap!, thwap!” of books being methodically inserted onto the shelves grew nearer, I would inevitably realize I was being approached by an irresistible force. No immoveable object, I would give way, no matter how interesting the book or section I was currently examining. 

Moe’s is full of affordable treasure. It’s the best used book store I’ve ever visited. Great, fair, prices, and some of the best turnover of stock. And new books, too, and odd little things you find in the corners, like a rack of Ashleigh Brilliant’s day-glow “Potshot” cards which were a serious form of local cultural communication in the 60s and 70s. (I once unsuccessfully used a series of them to try to re-kindle a failed friendship.) 

This book is about that place and, the person who created it. The store, and the book, are essential pieces of Berkeley history. Buy it at the bookstore itself, on Telegraph Avenue. $18.95. And shop at Moe’s in 2017! 

Book Two: The 1915 Exposition 

The great-grandparents and grandmother of Berkeley native Anthony Bruce were living on Benvenue Avenue in Berkeley in 1915 during the PPIE. Fortunately they, and later generations of the family, saved innumerable artifacts from that era including personal letters, photographs, and mementos.  

Anthony Bruce is the longtime Executive Director of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA). He put together this wonderful and sympathetic book about the PPIE, using both the family materials and PPIE items he researched and gathered as the Exposition Centennial approached. 

The result is not only a loving look at how the life of one Berkeley household intersected with the great exposition which he accurately calls “the grand social center for the entire San Francisco Bay Area” in 1915, but a solid contribution to published scholarship about the PPIE. It’s also a really handsome book, filled with color illustrations and laid out by Bruce himself.  

The book divides into three sections.  

First, there’s a roughly chronological account of the PPIE, intermittently seen through family eyes and letters as they get their advance ticket books, join the throngs on Opening Day, help other locals “receive” visitors at the California Building, entertain the Japanese Commissioner to the Exposition at a Berkeley dinner party, and visit various attractions, shows, and special events throughout the year.  

You’ll join “Nannie” as she cajoles Exposition gardeners into giving her bloomed-out tulip bulbs to bring back to her Berkeley garden, writes to her business traveling husband about the latest doings, savors exotic pineapple at the Hawaiian pavilion, and slips inside the guard rail at the Pennsylvania State Building to get a family picture taken next to the Liberty Bell. 

The last section is in the form of an extensive walk through the PPIE grounds and buildings, with many illustrations and quotes from period guidebooks and descriptions. This is really excellent stuff, since it pulls together in a very coherent, readable, and fully illustrated way the explanations and insights of numerous contemporary reviewers. 

In between, Bruce provides detailed bibliographical descriptions of several of the key guidebooks, most of which were written by Berkeley residents and scholars, some of them family friends. 

If you want to “remember” the PPIE in fine form, add this book to your library along with Laura Ackley’s Jewel City centennial history of the Exposition. 

You can buy the book online through Amazon ($39.95), and the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association also has a few copies for sale at its office. 


Book Three: Quirky Berkeley 


If you follow online writing about contemporary Berkeley, you’ve probably seen one of Tom Dalzell’s extensively illustrated articles about the street-visible art oddities and unusual cultural customs of Berkeley.  

This is a really fun little book by Heyday, published earlier this year, that captures many of those experiences and objects in print.  

Since there is so much on line about Tom and “Quirky Berkeley”, including his own extensive website, I won’t write more, except to say visit his website, quirkyberkeley.com and definitely get the book. It’s perfectly sized to be a stocking stuffer. But don’t buy it on Amazon. Get it instead at some Berkeley bookstore you love, and want to see survive. That way you’ll help the quirk continue.



Updated: Are the Berkeley raids going to stop?

Becky O'Malley
Friday December 16, 2016 - 10:13:00 AM

Wednesday morning UPDATE: Another pre-dawn raid on the homeless by the City of Berkeley. See

Flash: Merry Christmas from the City of Berkeley to the Homeless

UPDATE on Tuesday night, Dec. 20: Well, I guess we’ve got the answer. The raids will not stop. In fact, there might be one in the morning.

Contrary to the express wishes of what looked to me like a majority of the Berkeley citizens who worked to get the new councilmembers elected, most of whom also supported incumbent Kriss Worthington for his current council seat, it looks like city employees are yet again planning to evict the homeless people who have settled on the median strip where Adeline and Shattuck come together.

Reports the Planet has received from multiple reliable sources tell us that the inhabitants of the tent village received a “notice to vacate” last evening. If past practice is any indication, that means that many thousands of dollars of police overtime will be devoted sometime soon under cover of darkness to snatching tents, sleeping bags and blankets and turning these hapless souls out into the cold one more time. And a Merry Christmas to all—god bless you every one!

The City Council had the opportunity at their first meeting on December 13 to instruct the city manager to stop doing this, and they did not do so. Rumor, widespread, is that Councilmember Worthington indicated before the meeting that he was not willing, for reasons incomprehensible to me, to supply the fifth vote for what was supposed to be a progressive majority, and three of the other four were loath to proceed since they might lose.

Previous raids have taken place before dawn. Tomorrow is the winter solstice, so dawn’s a bit later than usual, at 6:52 a.m., just in case you’d like to show up in solidarity with the settler community. But be careful not to mouth off to the city officials—they’ve got the power in Berkeley these days, and also the guns.

Tom Lochner of the East Bay Times had the story here: 



“Are the raids going to stop? That’s a simple yes or no answer!”

That’s the question one of the after-Council speakers posed on Tuesday night (or technically Wednesday morning) after a somewhat, no, very chaotic discussion of what needs to be done for Berkeley’s large and increasing population of homeless residents.

I watched all 5 hours and 33 minutes of the proceedings in the comfort of my home, and then checked out the video afterwards. I once passed the California Bar, and I’ve been a reporter off and on for fifty years, but I couldn’t figure out what the Berkeley City Council thought they were doing about the periodic raids City staff has been conducting on homeless encampments.

And yes, I called several of them afterwards to ask what happened. The only one who called back gave me a less-than-adequate explanation. 



Let’s get the good news out of the way first. New Mayor Arreguin proposed a lengthy detailed list of actions on the agenda which he thought were appropriate to deal with what all councilmembers acknowledged was a crisis: close to 1000 human beings living outside in Berkeley in increasingly inclement winter weather. 


Veteran Councilmember Worthington submitted a similar proposal, handwritten in writing little better than my own, which is a severe indictment. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why Worthington thought his was needed, but the council wasted easily an hour chewing it over. 

So, what’s that good news again? Having failed to resolve the discussion of the two competing yet indistinguishable schemes, the council passed the ball to City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley, who proffered the concept of an “Emergency Operations Center”, making her what new Councilmember Ben Bartlett described as a “czar”. A muttered aside from the Mayor seemed to indicate that she’d raised the idea with him prior to the meeting, but on Tuesday night the councilmembers leapt on it like dogs on bones. 

Evidently Czarina Williams-Ridley is supposed to figure out how to offer at least a percentage of the city’s homeless population, perhaps 160 individuals, the chance to get in out of the rain, with the usual hodgepodge of contemporarily acceptable services such as overnight shelter beds, warming centers (places to come in out of the rain), social services etc. etc. This is a big deal legally, because recent court cases point to the conclusion that you can’t arrest people for sleeping on the street unless you can offer an alternative. Check, alternative proffered. 

No one on the council objected to any of this, nor should they. Where will the money come from? It’s up to the city manager, evidently. 

But this still leaves the question posed up top, which was enunciated by someone I didn’t recognize, a striking-looking, small, very dark-skinned and notably determined woman who said she worked with the homeless but didn’t give her name on camera. 

Are the raids going to stop? 

Councilmember Cheryl Davila made a valiant attempt several times to get her fellow members to answer that question on the record, but didn’t get a binding response. Arreguin’s original proposal had included language on the topic, but for some reason it was deleted from his draft at the last minute before the meeting started. 

The two lawyers who have joined the council did a pretty fair job of nailing the legal problems with the raids which have happened so far. Sophie Hahn first introduced the term “selective enforcement”, calling attention to the fact that the only encampment raided in recent weeks was the one with mouthy spokespeople, including Mike Zint, under the banner of First They Came for the Homeless, and Mike Lee, the “Old Bum for Mayor”. Even though people are sleeping rough all over town, singly and in groups, with or without tents, it’s only this loosely affiliated group, which has articulated its intent to call attention to the plight of all their fellows, which has been repeatedly busted. 

That’s a First Amendment problem, as anyone who’s passed the California Bar should know, and I’m sure at least Hahn, Bartlett and the city attorney do understand that. You can’t single out the ones who say things you don’t like and remove them, sorry. 

Councilmember Ben Bartlett did an even better job of—you’d have to call it—cross-examining city staff to establish their intent in choosing these encampments to raid. He prompted the apparent-city-employee-in-charge, a fellow addressed only as “Paul”, to naively admit that the encampment on the city hall lawn had been evicted because someone—not necessarily a member of their group—had chalked suicidal rantings on the sidewalk and Berkeley High mental health people found them worrisome, dangerous to their students. 

Surely Bartlett remembered that under the First Amendment it’s legal for government to regulate the time, place and manner of speech, but not the content. As long as anyone is allowed to write anything on the sidewalk next to City Hall, the government can’t object to what they say. 

And of course: Collective punishment of the campers because one person, not even proven to be among their number, wrote something bad on the sidewalk? 

(City Attorney Zach Cowan said nothing during this discussion, and in fact said almost nothing throughout the whole agenda item. He must know better, but didn’t speak up to advise the council on how to draft their opinions. Wonder why?) 

Bartlett also got into the record that there’s some number of additional campsites, from two to dozens, throughout the city, and yet only this one was busted. More proof, if it should be needed, of selective enforcement. 

But to the disgust of the many activists who showed up for the meeting the council never specifically passed language forbidding the City Manager and her staff to continue raiding the campgrounds. 

Here’s what longtime activist and attorney Osha Neumann said: 

“I came to this meeting with enormous hope and feeling great relief that the kind of knot in my stomach that I used to have when I came to the old meetings wasn't there this time. And unfortunately [my hope]has now widely dissipated and has been replaced by a real sadness about what is happening here with this issue of the emergency around homelessness. I hear the word "emergency" but what has come out of the council is not a response to our emergency. And it leaves in place what is really a terrible blight on this town, which is the way in which the encampment, First They Came for the Homeless, has been repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly raided in all kinds of weather. 

“ For what reason? For no purpose. 

“And as they have been raided, they refused to disband into their little hovels or off into the little behind- alleys. They have kept together to demonstrate the need for this, and they have come to another place and they have been raided again and they have held together. And they have been raided again. Over and over and over again. 

“ And it was the kind of representation of sort of a non‑violent community resistance that really reminded me of Standing Rock, reminded me of people willing to stand together against a force that is implacably against them and not to yield. And I thought finally I was coming to this meeting and that would be over with. Finally I would have a city council that would say to the city that is not who we are. That is not what we are going to do. Right now that is going to stop. Right now we are going to say as a city council that we direct the city manager and the chief of police to designate a place where people can be, and in fact the place that is designated should be, right now, the place where they are. 

“But instead of that what happened? 

“The last‑minute: There's a new revised agenda and the most crucial part of this is taken out. So they are still vulnerable. There is nothing this council has done that will prevent tonight again a raid on that encampment. Those sick people, those defenseless people, there is nothing that is going to prevent that. You could have done that. 

“This would have been a response to the emergency, this would have been the new council, this would have been the hope. And it has been blighted with a few lines which white that out.” 

Danny McMullan, who vociferously represents Disabled People outside and has organized encampments from time to time, closed the public comment period at the very end of the meeting with his outrage, and has submitted his resignation from the Homeless Commission. You can read his comments on what happened here. 

Me, I suspect that someone has given bad legal advice to both staff and council, telling them that they don’t have the power to tell city staff to stop the raids. I’ve heard talk of the staff’s use of the obviously unconstitutional state vagrancy statute, 647e, which forbids “lodging” in the wrong place. That’s nonsense—if the City takes it to court, they’ll lose. Osha Neumann has frequently written and litigated against that particular statute to good effect. 

It should be abundantly clear to Csarina Dee and the rest of her staff that a thirteenth raid on the encampment would be a very poor idea indeed, especially during the cold and dreary days around the winter solstice. Multiple lawyers, including Neumann and Emily Rose Johns of Oakland, who are currently suing Caltrans for rousting the Gilman Exit homeless camp, stand ready to explain the Constitution to the city of Berkeley in court, though we all hope it doesn’t come to that. 

Thanks to Councilmembers Hahn and Bartlett for at least getting the evidence on the record in case it’s needed, and to Cheryl Davila for sticking up for what’s right. 

“Are the raids going to stop? That’s a simple yes or no answer!” 

What is it, yes or no?” 

Maybe some of the erstwhile progressive councilmembers might even grow spines before their next meeting on January 24. Stranger things have happened. 

And happy holidays to all, including all of you fortunate housed people and also to the campers now outside in the cold, cold rain. 






If you’d like to help with insuring that the city can’t get away with any more of these raids, one way to do it is to contribute to Osha’s employer, the East Bay Community Law Center, which does all kinds of good work on many fronts. Here’s their donation page: https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/ebclc . Send them some money. 






The Editor's Back Fence

Don't Miss This

Friday December 16, 2016 - 12:54:00 PM

Public Comment

An open letter to Mayor Arreguin and the Berkeley City Manager

Marcia Poole
Friday December 16, 2016 - 10:49:00 AM

I am concerned that immediately upon the launching of your proposal to deal with the critical nature of our homeless crisis, you have met resistance from that very community and perhaps, you do not understand why. I would like to give you my take on their oppositional position and a solution.

The First They Came For the Homeless camp (Tent City) has been leading the public movement to end the suffering of homelessness by their adherence to being a self-governing, clean and sober community that helps anyone in a similar condition. I have been extremely impressed with their community, by their spirit of generosity and commitment to the “other”. I have gone there several times just to visit and am almost overwhelmed by the fraternal lovingness of it.

Mike Lee and others have endured great hardship living in their camps. First, the City with its predilection to move them every time they get established and structured, is a blow from which they have had to recover eleven times. The raids by the police department, at the instruction of the City Manager’s office, have resulted in their having almost all of their possessions (tents, sleeping bags, mats, clothing, medicine, & food) removed and they have been left stranded over and over again in the cold and the rain with nothing. It has put their lives is jeopardy and has resulted in everyone at the camp getting physically weaker and sicker. True, after a week or so, many of the items are replaced through the kindness of the Berkeley citizenry, but each moment they have to endure such awful circumstances spirals them further downward. I have been out there with them when all that was left after a raid were two large tarps that they had to string up to trees to shelter their people from the rain. They were freezing, wet, unmedicated (hypertension, asthma, antibiotics, etc medicines taken.) and despondent. It is this despondency that you are now encountering in their anger and outrage. 

They need to be indoors now. They need to be warm and dry now. They should not be forced out, back into the rain and cold at 7 AM and told that they can return at 10 PM. Think about what they have to go through for that. They have to take down their tents and cart all of their belongings over to the overnight shelter or warming station, possibly in the rain and without any way to get there except walking. They go into the place, sleep for less than 9 hours and have to cart all of their belongings someplace else and wait and see if that center will be open or have room for them the next night. They can’t leave their tents and possessions in place at the camp because of the “tweakers” that come by and steal from them. Some of them are so sick and exhausted that not being able to stay in bed for longer periods deteriorate their health more. Some can’t walk even a block without severe pain. 

They need a place where they can move their belongings into, be assured they can stay there for a much longer period of time, where they are able to be free of the fear of imminent raids and where they can heal and receive services. That is why they are saying no to the overnight shelters and warming centers. It is not because they are service resistant. They just can’t take being shuffled around every ten or twelve hours. Please listen to what they are really trying to tell you and don’t get bogged down in their emotional reaction. Please think, plan, adjust and help. Now.

Fauxgressives skitter out the back door after council chamber betrayal

Daniel McMullan
Friday December 16, 2016 - 07:07:00 AM
Berkeley activist legend Charlie Pappas speaks out for the homeless.
Berkeley activist legend Charlie Pappas speaks out for the homeless.

In their very first council meeting our new Mayor and City Council (With the exception of Sophie Hahn and Cheryl Davila) backtracked on just about every promise made to the people who voted for them after accepting a bizarre illegible hand scrawled set of amendments from a double talking and purposely delaying and confusing Kriss Worthington, that stripped away any protections for our most vulnerable and gave Czar status to the very person who went behind that same council's back to call out the police under false pretenses to take the blankets off of the disabled and elderly on a freezing, wet night in a pre-dawn raid. One of 12 in two months. Then they hightailed out the back way to avoid looking their constituents in the face. 

I gave notice to the Mayor that I could no longer be his representative on the Human Welfare and Community Action Commission and resigned my position effective immediately.  

It has been my pleasure to work with my fellow commissioners and to introduce city programs like Operation Move-Up and the Volunteer Voucher Program. I look forward to continuing my work with the Disabled and Homeless and will continue to serve in other capacities with people whose values are closer to mine and what the people of Berkeley have asked for. I have to look at myself in the mirror on occasion. Our camp is in serious danger but we will keep our people together and safe against all comers. Your help has made that possible. As we settle in on this cold, rainy night I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for making this respite and shelter possible


THE PUBLIC EYE:From Russia With Love: Donald Trump

Bob Burnett
Friday December 16, 2016 - 07:02:00 AM

As Donald Trump's inauguration looms, there's been a lot of speculation about the nature of his relationship with Russia. Trump has frequently spoken of his admiration for the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin; Trump refers to Russia as a "partner" rather than an "adversary." Meanwhile, the CIA believes that Russian hackers helped Trump win the election. In addition, Trump nominated ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to be Secretary of State largely because of Tillerson's good relationship with Russia. What's going on? 

First, we do not fully understand Trump's business dealings with Russia because Trump has never released his tax returns. On February 28th, Senator Ted Cruz said, “There have been multiple media reports about Donald’s business dealings with the mob, with the mafia. Maybe his [tax returns] show those business dealings are a lot more extensive than has been reported.” Politifact noted, “Cruz’s statement is accurate. Media reports have linked Trump to mafia bosses and mob-connected business associates for decades.” Time magazine , and other sources, have tied Trump to Russian oligarchs. 

Writing in Alternet , Marty Kaplan observed: "It’s entirely conceivable that Russia has something on Trump. They may hold hundreds of millions of dollars of Trump debt. They may have spousally unsettling video of him—a KGB specialty, and a plausible Trump susceptibility. Surely the Kremlin has mapped his character disorder." 

Second, 17 US intelligence agencies believe Russian hackers helped the Trump campaign by hacking DNC emails, as well as those of Clinton Campaign Manager John Podesta, and giving them to WikiLeaks. Recently, NBC News reported the CIA believes Russian operators wanted Trump to win. 

There's no proof that Russian hackers corrupted voting machines or changed vote totals. However there is abundant evidence that the hacked Democratic information, dripped out day-to-day via WikiLeaks, hurt Clinton: it kept down her favorability rating -- leading to a false equivalence between Clinton and Trump -- and reminded Bernie Sanders supporters why they preferred to vote for Jill Stein. 

What's going on between Trump and Russia? Why would Russia want Trump to win the US presidency? 

Russia likely sees a Trump presidency as a "twofer." First, It would strengthen Russia's geopolitical position. Writing in the Washington Post , David Filipov observed, "Whether or not the Kremlin is guilty of doing all the things Western accusers say it is, Russia is now considered a master purveyor of geopolitical disorder. And that, for Putin, is a win." 

Second, Trump could directly impact Russia's economy. Since Russia annexed Crimea and invaded eastern-Ukraine, Russia has been the subject of US and European sanctions. These have impacted the brittle Russian economy. The global decline in oil prices has also contributed to a Russian recession. (In 2016, Russia's GDP is forecasted to decline.) The Trump Administration could render significant aid to Russia by lifting sanctions. 

On the radio program, "Democracy Now" , Amy Goodman speculated: "One of the enormous deals that Vladimir Putin and [ExxonMobil CEO] Rex Tillerson worked on was a $500 billion oil exploration partnership between Exxon and the Russian government’s oil company, Rosneft. The Obama administration blocked the deal when it imposed sanctions against Russia for its intervention in Ukraine... This deal could explain why Putin appears to have interfered in U.S. elections in favor of a Trump victory." 

What would the US get in return? As noted, it's possible that Trump has preexisting deals with Russian oligarchs and improved relations with Russia -- such as the lifting of sanctions -- could benefit Trump's businesses. 

Another possibility is that Trump and his closest advisers foresee a fundamental shift of US foreign policy: Russia becoming a partner in a global war on Islam. Writing in The Atlantic Peter Beinart observed: "Trump and his advisors describe America as fighting a civilizational struggle against the enemies of the West. Seen through that very different lens, Muslims look more nefarious and Vladimir Putin looks more benign... [Trump is moving US foreign policy] away from an ideological confrontation with authoritarian Russia and toward a civilizational conflict with Islam. Trump’s choice for National Security Advisor, General Michael Flynn, has tweeted that 'fear of Muslims is rational' and 'Islam is like cancer' When asked in August about Putin, [Flynn said] that America 'beat Hitler because of our relationship with the Russians' and we should renew that partnership in the new world war against 'radical Islamism.'" 

Since the end of World War II, there's been a "cold war" between the United States and Russia. It appears that Trump wants to supplant this with a "holy war" between the United States and Islam, a war where Russia would be an active partner of the US. For this reason, Trump appears willing to lift sanctions and make Russia a "partner." 

This major shift in US foreign policy seems a likely reason why Russia helped Trump win the presidential election. 

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

THE PUBLIC EYE:What do Trump voters want?

Bob Burnett
Friday December 16, 2016 - 10:28:00 AM

Election exit polls tell us the typical Trump voter was white (non-Hispanic), male, older, rural, and had no college degree. But that doesn't explain why they voted for Trump. There were four types of Trump voters; each having different expectations. 

The 2014 Pew Research Political Typology provides the best categorization of American Voters. Pew described three categories of conservative voters: "Steadfast Conservatives" (15 percent of registered voters), "Business Conservatives" (12 percent), and "Young Outsiders" (15 percent). Since these make up 42 percent of the electorate, and Trump received 46 percent of the vote, let's add a fourth group: "Hard-pressed Skeptics" (13 percent), assuming Trump got some of these -- traditionally Democratic -- voters. 

1.Steadfast Conservatives: Pew says, "This overwhelmingly Republican group holds very conservative attitudes across most issues, including social policy and the size and scope of government. However, they are critical of business and Wall Street. Steadfast Conservatives also express highly negative attitudes toward immigrants and take a skeptical view of U.S. global involvement." Many of these are Tea-Party voters. 

Steadfast conservatives saw Trump as their last chance to "save" America. They operated under a common narrative where they saw America's promise slipping from their reach and believed the opportunities that once belonged to them had been usurped by the undeserving: immigrants, people of color, homosexuals, feminists... Trump spoke to them when he said, "I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people that cannot defend themselves." 

Key Trump message: I will make America great again. Key constituent expectation: White Power. 

2. Business Conservatives: Pew says, "Business Conservatives are traditional small-government Republicans. [They] think that government is almost always wasteful and it does too much better left to businesses and individuals. Business Conservatives differ from Steadfast Conservatives in their strong support for Wall Street and business more generally." 

If the Steadfast Conservatives are "the 99 percent," the Business Conservatives represent "the one percent." They share a disdain for Washington and "the liberate elite." They venerate capitalism and believe the US would be better off in the hands off business leaders. 

Key Trump message: I will get government out of your way by lowering taxes and eliminating regulations. Key constituent expectation: neutered government. 

At the beginning of the Republican presidential nomination process, Ted Cruz was the champion of the Steadfast Conservatives, while Jeb Bush was the champion of the Business Conservatives. In the end, Trump defeated them both and managed to unite the disparate wings of the GOP; Trump convinced Republican voters he was an outsider who would "blow up" Washington. 

3. Young Outsiders: Pew says, "This relatively young, largely independent group holds a mix of conservative and liberal views. And while more lean toward the Republican Party than the Democratic Party, Young Outsiders express unfavorable opinions of both major parties. They are skeptical of activist government; a substantial majority views government as wasteful and inefficient... A large majority of Young Outsiders (81%) think 'poor people today have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return'." 

Key Trump message: I understand you because I am an outsider. Key constituent expectation: good jobs. 

What unites Steadfast Conservatives, Business Conservatives, and Young Outsiders is their disdain for government. Beyond that, they have somewhat different objectives. Trump, with his rambling often inconsistent rhetoric was able to convince each group that he represented their interests. 

4. Hard-Pressed Skeptics: Trump built his winning coalition by including just enough Hard-Pressed Skeptics. Pew says, "Deeply financially-stressed and distrustful of government, Hard-Pressed Skeptics lean toward the Democratic Party but have reservations about both political parties... Hard-Pressed Skeptics are dissatisfied with conditions in the country and their communities... [They] have the lowest family incomes of any of the typology groups." 

Trump reached these workers with the promise he would bring their jobs back by cancelling bad trade deals and penalizing companies who move good jobs out of America. 

Key Trump message: I will bring your jobs back. Key constituent expectation: good jobs. 

Immigration and Race: Pew observes that most of the four Trump groups have very conservative beliefs about immigration and race. "Steadfast Conservatives view immigrants as a burden (73%) and as a threat to traditional values (81%)... About eight-in-ten [Hard-Pressed Skeptics] say immigrants are a burden because they take jobs, housing and health care." 

The Trump groups believe the "civil-rights era" should be over, "About eight-in-ten Business (83%) and Steadfast Conservatives (81%) agree that the U.S. has made the changes needed to give blacks equal rights with whites." 

Steadfast Conservatives are the most demonstrably racist of the four groups. 

Expectations: Steadfast Conservatives expect Trump to "build the wall" and to expel undocumented immigrants from the US. Business Conservatives expect Trump to cut taxes, eliminate regulations, and disband Federal agencies that are perceived to be anti-business -- such as the EPA. Young Outsiders and Hard-Pressed Skeptics expect good jobs. 

Trump may be able to build part of a wall, and expel some undocumented, and cut taxes and eliminate regulations, but he will find big-time job creation a more difficult challenge. As I noted last month Trump seems unlikely to expend his political capital on a massive publicly-funded infrastructure -- which is the one proven way to quickly create hundreds of thousands of decent jobs. 

Trump will play to his Steadfast Conservative and Business Conservative bases. He will disappoint (and disgust) the rest of the electorate, which will be an opportunity for Democrats. 

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

ECLECTIC RANT; Trump inc. goes to Washington

Ralph E. Stone
Friday December 16, 2016 - 10:27:00 AM

Donald J. Trump and his family have business interests in at least 20 countries in addition to extensive hotel and real estate holdings in the United States. The full extent of his holdings is unclear as Trump has refused to release his tax returns or provide a list of his lenders. Could Trump administration actions around the world be shaded even slightly by his ties to foreign players? Would his overseas holdings be targets for terrorism? 

President-elect Donald Trump has also cultivated a personal brand — Trump vodka, Trump wine, Trump chocolate. His name costs millions of dollars to license, and much of his fortune has been generated from agreements to use the Trump name for products and real-estate developments that he doesn’t actually own. According to Bloomberg, a large portion -- anywhere from $32 million to $55 million -- of his estimated $2.9 billion net worth likely comes from licensing agreements. Of course, a brand name is successful or not depending on whether the name projects a positive or negative image. For his followers it is probably positive but to many others it is negative. 

Ordinarily, U.S. conflict-of-interest laws would eliminate or at least curtail any actual or appearance of conflict between Trump's business interests and his duties as a president. However, the U.S. conflict-of-interest laws do not apply to a president or vice president. The law doesn’t say the president can’t have a conflict of interest. But Congress, under Title 18 Section 208 of the U.S. Code, does exempt the president and vice president from conflict-of-interest laws on the theory that the presidency has so much power that any possible executive action might pose a potential conflict. 

The Congressional Research Service in an October Report states, “As a general rule, public officials in the executive branch are subject to criminal penalties if they personally and substantially participate in matters in which they (or their immediate families, business partners or associated organizations) hold financial interests. However, because of concerns regarding interference with the exercise of constitutional duties, Congress has not applied these restrictions to the President. Consequently, there is no current legal requirement that would compel the President to relinquish financial interests because of a conflict of interest.” 

Yet, while they did not have a legal obligation to, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton placed their personal assets in a blind trust, even though they did not have a legal obligation to do so. President Obama did not, but his assets were only in mutual funds and Treasury bonds.  

A blind trust is a financial arrangement in which the president gives the administrator of private business interests to an independent trust in order to prevent conflict of interest. Under the trust, the president does not know how the assets are managed. 

Trump, on the other hand, will place his extensive business interests in the hands of his three oldest children -- Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric Trump, hardly a blind trust, especially since the arrangement is not independent. These children are on the transition team and we don't know what role, if any, they will play in the Trump administration.  

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is planning legislation to require Trump to divest all his business holdings and put them into a blind trust. This proposed legislation is based on the writings of Richard W. Painter, who argues that failure to do so will put Trump in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the constitution states that no American officeholder shall, “without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.” It is unclear whether a Republican-contolled Congress would pass such legislation and if if did, President Trump would probably veto it. 

Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) is planning to ask his colleagues to pass a resolution -- citing the Emoluments Clause -- that would require Trump to hand over the control of his businesses to someone who doesn't have a relationship to him while he is a president. It remains to be seen how may republicans in Congress will sign such a resolution. 

Whether Senator Feinstein's proposed legislation or Senator Cardin's resolution have legs remains to be seen. However, the issue will not go away. The democrats will make sure of that. Or a private litigant may bring a lawsuit.

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: You Are Not Merely Your Brain

Jack Bragen
Friday December 16, 2016 - 07:10:00 AM

There are at least two ways that a person can dis-identify with oneself. One of the two of which I know is a symptom of mental illness that psychologists call "disassociation." This is usually due to emotional trauma. It is often triggered by something in the environment of the past or present, and the individual is effectively unplugged or disconnected from oneself and one's surroundings. Usually, someone in this state is nonfunctional (e.g., she or he would not be able to go to the store and buy a loaf of bread). Or, for some, an alternate personality takes over, in which case the individual has a "multiple personality disorder." Either way, the individual has temporarily lost his or her normal identity. 

Disassociation or "Dissociative Disorder" could be an attempt at protecting the mind from damage, or perhaps surviving, in a situation perceived as overwhelming. It is not an effective way of adapting, even though evolution apparently gave people the capacity for this. 

Another type of dis-identifying is attained by means of a regimen of exercises of mindfulness over a long period of time, often years or even decades. For a mentally ill meditation practitioner (not as rare a person as you might think), it begins with the ego not having a criteria of perceiving oneself as "normal," or perceiving oneself in any other way, to be okay with oneself. This necessitates some amount of mental agility. 

Most people could not accept themselves if they believed they were "abnormal," or "defective." "Dis-identifying," in a meditative way, could mean that such labels do not have any importance. 

As a meditation practitioner continues to gain insight over years of meditative practice, they may gain more power over oneself, and they may have the power of not being upset or feeling threatened in scenarios that would upset or threaten most people. When power is gained over the mind, an individual has more power over his or her actions, including during times of crisis. 

The meditatively attained individual may be misinterpreted as being "out to lunch" when in fact they just don't take seriously something that most people would. 

Being able to consciously disconnect and yet remain in control is a power. This doesn't include situations of harming oneself, nor does it include intentionally creating a problem to see how well you can be immune to it. 

Meditation has allowed me to have more physical bravery than I once had. This has allowed me to find nonviolent strategies to deal with people who have attempted violence toward me. If you are unafraid, you can think--you can use your mind. This is invaluable in a crisis. 

Your brain is the hardware that you have inherited from your parents' genes, your environment, and other biological factors. You did not manufacture your brain, and therefore you did not create your mental illness. No one is to blame for your mental illness. 

Once you are in treatment, and your ability to reason has been restored, you have options. While you didn't manufacture your brain, you have choices of what you will do or not do with it. It is not how good your brain is that matters; it is how well you use the faculties you've been given. 

Learning more about how your mind works, why it does what it does, why certain things work and certain things don't, is a worthwhile course of study. This could be done formally, such as in a meditation class, or it could be done on your own. Recording your thoughts on paper is a very good beginning. This is journaling, and it is a way that you can learn more things about yourself. 

Also, reading books about meditation can help. The rule of thumb with meditation books and meditation instruction is that you should use the parts that work for you and discard the rest. 

While meditation isn't good for everyone, it has helped me tremendously over the years to deal with absurd circumstances, and absurd symptoms of mental illness, and it has helped me to gain release from a large portion of the suffering and despair that I once felt. 

To someone watching me meditate, it might appear that I am not doing anything. Or, it might appear to them that I am going nuts in a chair, due to observable changes in posture or facial expression. Therefore, I am usually at home when I do intensive meditation. I also give credit to myself--while I am not producing anything tangible, I am doing something that is worthwhile. 

Meditation can sometimes be self-taught, which is what I have done, or you could learn it from books or from an instructor. However, it is important not to just sit there and become more symptomatic, which could include just thinking a lot and getting more deluded. This is a note of caution. 

Meditation works for some mentally ill people some of the time, but sometimes it doesn’t. Dis-identifying is the result of some types of meditation, and it can allow an individual to be okay with oneself regardless of labels that people have imposed on him or her. 

I would like to echo something written by Lois A. Crispi in her recent opinion piece in the Planet. Persons with psychiatric disabilities, similarly to Lois's experience, are treated as "nonentities."  

The brainwash that takes place in mental health treatment venues teaches us to disbelieve in our abilities, and to disbelieve in our validity as human beings--even while we are being told this is not happening. The abuse is partly that we are forced to accept the lie that says we are not being lied to.  

When someone with a psychiatric disability shows the capacity to work, we are funneled into a system that removes our ownership of that work, we are told we can only work if they set up a special situation for us, and we are treated as the poster child for a "mentally disabled" person celebrated for the ability to sweep a floor.  

Meanwhile, behind our backs, we are ostracized by counselors, even while they come up with more strategies whereby we can be kept under control and out of the way of those who supposedly are doing the "real work."  

Lois doubtlessly knows more than I do concerning the situation of being disabled in Berkeley, and I would like to see her write more for the Planet.  

This comment is not intended to steal thunder from Ms. Crispi; it is intended to draw more attention to her work. I hope that it succeeds in that.  


Arts & Events

Voices of Music Perform Corelli, Vivaldi & Telemann

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Thursday December 22, 2016 - 10:26:00 PM

Voices of Music, a Bay Area ensemble headed by Hanneke van Proosdij and David Tayler, gave a series of holiday concerts in San Francisco, Berkeley and Palo Alto featuring virtuoso concertos by Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1753), Georg Phillip Telemann (1681-1767), and Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741). I attended their Berkeley concert at the Church of St. Mary Magdalen on Sunday evening, December 18. The concert opened with Corelli’s ever-popular Christmas concerto, the Pastorale, Opus 6, No. 8. Featured soloists in this Corelli concerto were violinists Carla Moore and Lisa Grodin, and cellist Elisabeth Reed. One of the themes used by Corelli is based on a tune traditionally played in Rome on Christmas Eve by shepherds on the Zampogna, a rustic bagpipe.  

Next on the program was Telemann’s Recorder Concerto in F Major featuring Hanneke van Proosdij on recorder. The opening movement, marked Affetuoso, is a liltingly beautiful melodic piece, and the second movement offers dazzlingly difficult rapid passagework for recorder, brilliantly performed by van Proosdij. The third movement is a lovely Adagio, which is followed by a double Menuet that brings this work to a close.  

Antonio Vivaldi was an extraordinarily prolific composer, and over 470 of his concertos survive, and evidence shows that many more were lost. Vivaldi composed many of these concertos for the female musicians of Venice’s Ospedale della Pietà, an orphanage for women. Vivaldi’s Concerto in D Major, RV 564, features two groups of soloists who constantly interact with one another. Here the soloists were Carla Moore and Gabrielle Wunsch on Baroque violins, and Elisabeth Reed and Tanya Tomkins on cellos. The violins play as one unit and the cellos form a second unit, and they trade themes back and forth in endlessly inventive variations.  

The final work of the first half of the program was a Suite by Michael Praetorius ( 1570-1630), from his volume of French instrumental dances Terpsichore. A Prelude was set to Praetorius’ Es ist ein Ros entsprungen (A Rose Grew Forth). Percussionist Peter Maund was featured, as was Hanneke van Proosdij, who played alto recorder, tenor recorder, and sopranino.  

After intermission, Voices of Music first played a work by Jewish composer Salamone Rossi (1570-c1630), an instrumental setting of Rossi’s hymn in Hebrew, “Shir hamma’a lot, Ashkei kol yeri Adonai. Next came Vivaldi’s well-known Concerto in G minor for two cellos. This was brilliantly played by cellists Tonya Tomkins and Elisabeth Reed, who shone particularly in the lovely Largo. The final movement, marked Allegro, also featured pizzicato accompaniment on Violone by Farley Pearce and subtle accompaniment by David Tayler on archlute.  

Following this was another Vivaldi work, the D minor Concerto, RV 565. Soloists in this concerto were Carla Moore, Lisa Grodin, and Tanya Tomkins. After the violins open this work, a brief Adagio ensues, followed by some of Vivaldi’s notorious “hard knocks,” which may be reminiscent of the three knocks which traditionally were heard at the beginning of a play in the theatre. Vivaldi then presents a fine double fugue, intricately wrought. Then comes a beautiful Largo with cantabile melody played by the first violin over thick string accompaniment. The final movement opens with solo violins, which soon are joined by all the instruments which take up many of the themes heard in the first movement.  

The final work of the program was Telemann’s Ouverture a la Pastorelle. This Pastorale featured bell-like notes imitating a carillon, and vigorous passage-work on alto recorder played by Hanneke van Proosdij. All in all, this was a splendid concert of outstanding concertos by leading Baroque composers, beautifully performed by Voices of Music, a world class chamber music ensemble.  

Theater Review: Anton's Well Theater Company & the Bay Area Premiere of Sam Shepard's 'Ages of the Moon'

Ken Bullock
Saturday December 17, 2016 - 09:01:00 AM

Two men sit on a moonlit porch, somewhere out in the country, but God knows just where. One of the pair, we discover (after the dying strains of Hank Williams singing "Have You Ever Been Lonely?") has just traveled "across the country" by bus (again, from God knows where) to sit it (whatever "it" is) out with his old buddy who called him in the middle of the night for his company ... 

This is, not too surprisingly, the set-up for a Sam Shepard play, but one never seen before in the Bay Area, which prides itself on Shepard's career-making stint, featured by the Magic Theatre in San Francisco some decades ago, and on the many plays of his that have been premiered there. 

This isn't one of those. 'Ages of the Moon' is a chamber play, a genuine two-hander throughout--and something like a genial, then contentious, then friendly again game of five-card stud between two old partners at protracted adolescence--or explorations of what they probably believe the code of the frontier would've called "manhood." 

Thanks is due to Anton's Well Theater Company and its founder/artistic director Robert Estes for this enjoyable, engaging production of a later, not so well-known Shepard piece. After a spirited welcome and introduction by the director, telling in part what role Shepard's plays have had in his theatrical and personal life, the long in-and-out dialogue--with a Strindbergian Monologue, spoken to a silent listener, but really directed to the audience, the I-beam of American theater since O'Neill--between the two alternately sly, alternately sincere old varmints commences ... 

In a time where artistic direction has often meant no more than Hallmark-like themed seasons--"Five Plays about Love"--Estes has been practicing his own personal form of dramaturgy with wonderful results--"personal" in that he stages what he thinks should be put on, with the actors and backstage people he wants to work with--and his taste has proven to be on the money so far, even in this case to Shepard skeptics like me in the audience. Through the magic of live theater, a committed director and his equally meticulous and fired-up actors have polished this bit of semi-stylized lunacy up to a lustrous shine. 

David Cramer as the bemused Ames and David Cramer as Byron, his comic sensitive sidekick, make what could just be mannered false naïvete into Manneristic, bittersweet humor--"what you find instead of what you expect to find," as Pirandello defined modern humor--in what Estes calls "this rueful comic drama." Their performances give it the air of one of Peckinpah's "little movies," the details of daily decorum by loners and eccentrics in 'Junior Bonner' or 'The Ballad of Cable Hogue.' Their burlesque team-like rapport plays off the turns of Samuel Beckett's ne'er-do-well duos, underlining the impression that Shepard's scripts are in some ways a combination of the Midwestern madcap loquacity of his fellow Greenwich Village folkie denizen Bob Dylan about the mythical West, reloaded with the misdirections and pauses of a page or two from 'Godot.' 

Their colloquy runs in and around and out of talk about women, none being present: "I can't get her out of my mind." ... "This isn't going to be another song opportunity, is it?" 

It's the last weekend for this show, a little gem of a production. 

Friday & Saturday at 8, closing show Sunday at 2. Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Avenue (between Ellsworth & Dana)$17-$20. (510) 368-0090

Around & About--Theater: Indra's Net Finds 'Darwin In Malibu'

Ken Bullock
Friday December 16, 2016 - 01:34:00 PM

Indra's Net has been presenting plays about science the past few years, and their latest, coming up next week through the holidays till January 15 is the provocatively-titled 'Darwin in Malibu,' by Crispin Whittell, directed by founder Bruce Coughran, with Blake Street Hawkeyes alum Robert Ernst in the cast, performing with two of his longtime colleagues, George Killingsworth and Hal Hughes, as well as Leandra Ramm and Stuart Hall at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Avenue (between Ellsworth & Dana), on a holiday zigzag of a schedule: previews at 8 p. m. Thursday & Friday, December 22nd & 23rd & the 26th & 27th, Monday & Tuesday at 8; opening Wednesday the 28th at 8 and running Thursday and Friday the 29th & 30th--& in January, Thursday the 5th through Saturday the 7th at 8 & Wednesday the 11th through Saturday the 14th, also at 8, with 5 p. m. matinees Sunday the 8th & (closing) the 15th ... 

The play promises "a different angle on the evolution debate: this one from the deck of Darwin's beach house in Malibu, where he prefers a fruit smoothie and a walk on the beach to talk about the Royal Society days." 

$28 general, $22 students & seniors. Indras NetTheater.com or (415) 613-9210