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Partial Settlement in Berkeley Balcony Suit

Jeff Shuttleworth (Bay City News)
Monday November 20, 2017 - 09:44:00 PM

A partial settlement has been reached with the owner and property manager of a Berkeley apartment complex for the deaths of six students and the injury of seven others when a balcony collapsed during a crowded party in 2015, lawyers for some of the plaintiffs said today. 

The collapse of the balcony at Apartment 405 on the fourth floor of the Library Gardens apartment complex at 2020 Kittredge St. at 12:41 a.m. on June 2015 killed five students visiting from Ireland, as well as a student from Rohnert Park. 

The seven injured students were also from Ireland. 

Attorney Eustace de Saint Phalle of the law firm Rains Lucia Stern St. Phalle & Silver said the partial settlement is with private equity group BlackRock of New York City, the property owner, and Greystar, which is based in Charleston, S.C., and has officers in San Francisco, the property management company. 

The settlement amount is confidential, de Saint Phalle said. In May, a partial settlement was reached with seven companies that were involved in building the apartment complex. 

De Saint Phalle said settlement talks are continuing with one remaining company that was involved in the construction, Insul-Flow Inc., a concrete company that has offices in California and Nevada. 

De Saint Phalle represents the family of Ashley Donohoe, 22, of Rohnert Park, who was one of the students who died in the balcony collapse. 

The attorney said that although the settlement amount is confidential, the parties are otherwise free to speak about the circumstances of the deadly event. 

"The Donohoe family was insistent that there could be no 'Secret Settlement' designed to prevent the parties from discussing the facts of the case and what they believe to be the cause of this tragedy," de Saint Phalle said. 

"The most important factor of this settlement for the Donohoe family is that they will be allowed to continue their efforts in the legislature to avoid a tragedy like this from happening again," de Saint Phalle said. 

In a statement, Donohoe's family said, "Nothing will stop us from continuing our fight to have changes made to the California building codes and regulations to require regular inspections by qualified people, proper design and use of proper construction materials, and a ban on 'Secret Settlements' that allow contractors to hide defective construction work from the contractors licensing board and the public." 

The family said, "Nothing will ever replace our daughter, our niece or the other four students who died that night. After this tragedy, we would hope all that were involved will join us in our efforts to ensure there are proper changes to the building codes and regulations in California related to annual inspections, balcony design and construction materials." 

The Berkeley City Council passed stricter building codes for outdoor structures after the fatal balcony collapse.  

Also in response to the deadly incident, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill last September that brings more oversight to the construction industry. The Alameda County District Attorney's Office said last year that it won't pursue criminal charges for the six deaths because of insufficient evidence that criminal negligence was involved.

Berkeley Police Ask for Help in Finding Young Man Who May Be Suicidal

Bay City News
Wednesday November 22, 2017 - 09:33:00 PM

Police are asking for help tonight locating a missing Berkeley man who may be suicidal.

Officers are looking for Xavier Smith-Wilson, 20, who was last seen at 6:08 p.m. at 2870 Adeline St. near the Berkeley Bowl.

Smith-Wilson is a black man, 6 feet 2 inches tall, 175 pounds with black hair and brown eyes.  

Smith-Wilson was wearing a black T-shirt, blue jeans and was carrying a red backpack.  

Anyone with information about Smith-Wilson's whereabouts is asked to call Berkeley police at (510) 981-5900 or 911.  

Tiny Houses Ad Nauseam

Carol Denney
Wednesday November 22, 2017 - 09:30:00 PM

Tiny houses have no legal definition. This is no accident. You can gold plate the doorknob of a tiny house if you want to, but you don't have to. You don't have to provide heat, or plumbing, or windows that open, or have a closet, etc. You can plunk down a plastic tool shed or a cardboard box and charge money for it unless you have what California has: habitability standards. 

One of the Santa Cruz council representatives did that. Councilman Micah Posner built a shed in his backyard and rented it without permits, kitchen, heat, bathroom, etc. What's wrong with that? Well, for starters, it's against the law he, as a council representative, is supposed to know. But it takes very special chutzpah to break the law and be on a city council where you not only are supposed to know the law but tasked with weighing in on other people's permit applications and violations. 

If you add heat, windows, plumbing, and a kitchenette to a "tiny home" you've exceeded the cost of simply building a normal-sized apartment unit. There is no advantage to miniaturization if making things smaller which meets habitability standards actually costs more than just building SROs, or apartment units designed for small groups. Having a standard set of sizes for doors, windows, appliances, etc. enables manufacturers and developers to lower costs. And if you're saving money by not paying people that's generally a model most people consider to be unfair

The bait-and-switch tiny house marketing with bells and whistles like plumbing and heat and a cunning, small window works with people who don't ask what that one costs. They click on that fancy-ass thing on the website and they think that's what will be built- because there is no legal definition. But the real issue is- does miniaturization within required habitability standards actually save costs? The answer is no, because it actually costs more to make custom (small-sized or non-standard) windows, appliances, etc. So what's the point? The point, as most developers know, is to undermine habitability standards and tenants' rights so that you can stuff more people in less space and charge them up the ass for housing which would otherwise be illegal.  

There's no way any configuration of a tiny house can shelter as many people for as little money as an ordinary-sized apartment building. And there's no guarantee that charging $2,000 for it won't turn into $4,000, or even more. Doing lucrative favors for developers is what built the housing crisis. Doing more lucrative favors for them will only work against the people they're exploiting in the first place. 

The best way to save money and address immediate needs is to open up unused space: create campgrounds, suspend Airb&b rentals, require spaces on the market for more than 6 months to accommodate people during the housing crisis with eminent domain. Dust off real rent control and bark back at developers and landlord who don't like the constraints on skyrocketing rents by pointing out, ever so gently, that there's a downside to having hepatitis outbreaks and children trying to do their homework from a freezing car. 

Cities like Berkeley, San Francisco, and Santa Cruz not only have enough money to house everybody on the street for five years, they have enough money to send those people through college. They may not budget for it, but that's another story. 






Berkeley Chamber Opera’s Stunning LUISA MILLER by Verdi

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Sunday November 19, 2017 - 12:09:00 PM

Luisa Miller is often cited as the opera that inaugurated Giuseppe Verdi’s “second period.” After churning out fourteen operas during his self-styled “prison years,” Verdi definitely struck new ground in composing Luisa Miller. Adapted from Friedrich Schiller’s play Kabale und Liebe, with a libretto by Salvatore Cammarano, Luisa Miller offered Verdi the opportunity to hold in check his earlier, ‘grandiose’ manner and to portray instead the lives and emotions of ordinary people.

Following their hugely successful productions of Vincenzo Bellini’s I Capuleti ed I Montecchi and Gian-Carlo Menotti’s The Consul, Berkeley Chamber Opera presented two performances of Verdi’s Luisa Miller, Sunday, November 12, and Saturday, November 18. Both performances were at Berkeley’s Hillside Club. At the November 18 performance I attended, I was struck by the high quality of singing by each and every cast member. Berkeley Chamber Opera’s founder, soprano Eliza O’Malley, sang the role of Luisa, and never has her superb vocalism been on better display than in this portrayal of an innocent Tyrolean country girl who, in Act I, falls in love with a young man who sweetly returns her love. In her Act II aria, “Tu, puniscimi, o Signore,” sung under great duress when forced to betray Rodolfo(initially known to her as Carlo) in order to save the life of her father, Eliza O’Malley’s village maiden suddenly takes on the grandeur of a prima donna. In the role of Rodolfo, tenor Salvatore Atti was nothing short of a revelation. A recent transplant to the Bay Area from Boston, where he graduated from the Boston Conservatory of Music with a Master’s degree in opera performance, Atti possesses a robust, ringing tenor. Atti’s Act II aria “Quando le sere al placido” was the vocal highlight of this Luisa Miller. This, of course, is one of Verdi’s finest tenor arias, and it is richly scored, with chromatically shifting chords in the strings and a cello introduction plus a rippling clarinet in the accompaniment. Salvatore Atti invested this bitter lament with great intensity over the apparent betrayal by Rodolfo’s beloved Luisa. 

In the role of Miller, Luisa’s father, was baritone Geoffrey Di Giorgio, a stocky barrel of a man equipped with a stentorian voice that rang out loud and clear. In his portrayal of Miller, an old soldier with a soft spot for his daughter, Di Giorgio was ever watchful over his daughter’s happiness. His aria “Sacra la scelta” was an invocation of Miller’s honor as a former soldier, and it was robustly delivered by Di Giorgio. Likewise, Di Giorgio’s singing in Miller’s duet with his daughter Luisa, in which he dissuades Luisa from suicide, was immensely tender, and as Luisa Eliza O’Malley responded to her father’s tenderness with love and tenderness of her own. 

The role of Count Walter, Rodolfo’s father, was admirably sung by bass Paul Thompson, who studied voice at SF Conservatory of Music. Though Count Walter has his son Rodolfo's best interests at heart, he is extremely domineering and expects, indeed, demands that his son comply with his father’s wishes, especially when it comes to marriage. Walter is unalterably opposed to his son’s desire to wed Luisa, and Walter connives a plot with Wurm to convince Rodolfo that Luisa has betrayed him. For dynastic reasons, Walter wants his son to marry Federica, the Duchess of Ostheim, who spent her childhood in company with the boy Rodolfo at Walter’s castle. In the role of Federica, mezzo-soprano Liliane Cromer was excellent, though she has only one big scene, in Act I, Scene 2, in which to display her gorgeous voice. As Wurm, the unabashed villain of the piece, bass J.T. Williams was suitably sinister, singing with a nasal suavity that fit his character to a T. Finally, mezzo-soprano Jessica Winn was winsome as Laura, Luisa’s best friend and confidante. 

The plot of Luisa Miller is full of convoluted intrigue, and many of its scenes reek of melodrama. The plight of innocent lovers caught in the web of parental opposition to their love is explored from many angles. When Count Walter imprisons Luisa’s father for alleged treason, Wurm offers Luisa a way to save her father from execution. But the price is exorbitant. He instructs Luisa to write a letter addressed to himself in which she must state that her love for Rodolfo was only feigned and that her true love is Wurm. Of course, Wurm insidiously makes sure this letter falls into Rodolfo’s hands. When he reads this letter, Rodolfo bursts into the angry recitative, “Tutto è mensogna, tradimento, inganno!” (“All is lies, betrayals, and trickery!”) Then Rodolfo reflects on his earlier moments of happiness with Luisa in the aforementioned aria, “Quando le sere al placido.” In the light of Luisa’s letter of apparent betrayal, these reflections are filled with bitterness for Rodolfo “Ah, mi tradia!” (“Ah, she betrayed me!”) Rodolfo cries out at the close of this great aria. 

In the final Act, Rodolfo confronts Luisa over the letter, asking her if she did indeed write this letter. At first, Luisa hesitates. When she sadly replies “yes,” Rodolfo drinks a draught of poison and offers the cup to Luisa, who, unknowingly, drinks the poison. Then, with both of the lovers on the brink of death, the truth comes out. Dying, Rodolfo uses his stiletto to stab Wurm to death, as Count Walter and old Miller rush in to find their children dying. 

Throughout Luisa Miller, the ten-piece chamber orchestra was admirably conducted by Bay Area veteran Jonathan Khuner, who prepared the orchestral reduction. The staging by Ellen St. Thomas was effective in spite of having only minimal sets and props to work with. One nice touch was the video footage screened during the opera’s lovely overture, one of Verdi’s finest. The video images of mountain scenery, babbling brooks, and romantic moments shared in nature by Rodolfo and Luisa, culminating in a kiss, effectively set the stage for the melodrama that ensued. Congratulations are in order to Berkeley Chamber Opera for mounting such a successful and engaging production of Verdi’s Luisa Miller.

Pinchas Zukerman Shines in Beethoven’s Violin Concerto

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Sunday November 19, 2017 - 12:23:00 PM

On Thursday-Friday, November 16-17, veteran violinist Pinchas Zukerman returned to join with the San Francisco Symphony under Michael Tilson Thomas in Ludwig van Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61 from 1806. The results were outstanding. Most impressive of all was Zukerman’s masterful modulation of tone as he spun a gossamer thin, softly played tone on some of the highest notes of his register, while he also offered a brilliant and fulsome tone on other high notes in passages marked forte. Of course, Beethoven’s Violin Concerto presents a great many difficulties for the solo violinist, and the necessary modulation of tone may not be the greatest challenge one meets in this work. Through it all, Zukerman demonstrated superb mastery, whether in the fiery outbursts of the first movement cadenza or in the hushed high notes that seemed to float on the thinnest air,  

Beethoven’s Violin Concerto opens in a unique fashion with four beats of the timpani, and these four beats, sometimes with a fifth added on, turn out to structure much of this movement. The violin section of the orchestra immediately imitates the four-and-five beat theme of the timpani. Then the woodwinds introduce a sweetly melodic first theme, which undergoes extensive development before a second theme is introduced, this time in clarinet and bassoon. A second development and climax are heard before the solo violin makes its entrance with ascending octaves. Once engaged, the violinist works in team with the orchestra as they explore the material of the principal theme. In the midst of this exploration comes the incandescent and fearsomely difficult cadenza, performed in magisterial fashion by Pinchas Zukerman. Following the cadenza comes a moment of sheer lyricism, as the solo violin plays the principal theme in all its melodic simplicity.  

The second movement , a Larghetto, features muted strings playing the main, serenely beautiful theme while the solo violin embroiders a filigree around it. A second theme is heard on solo violin, exquisitely performed here by Zukerman. When the first theme returns it is in plucked strings by the orchestra, followed by the solo violin offering embroidery of the second theme. The final movement is a joyful Rondo Allegro, which opens with the solo violin performing a spirited main theme. After this theme is taken up by the full orchestra, a hunting call emanates from the horns, with decoration by the solo violin. After development of the first theme, a sentimental melody heard in solo violin presents the second theme. However, the first theme returns and undergoes further development until the solo violin and orchestra bring this concerto to a spirited close. Working beautifully in tandem, violinist Pinchas Zukerman and conductor MTT made beautiful music together. On Saturday, November 18, Munich-based violinist Viviane Hagner will substitute for Pinchas Zukerman. 

While this Beethoven Violin Concerto was unquestionably the highlight of this concert, I must say that it had poor competition in the form of the Symphony No. 4 by Charles Ives. For some godforsaken reason, MTT insists on foisting upon us the music of Charles Ives, and I, along with many listeners, have little regard for this eccentric composer. MTT tried to ‘explain’ Ives prior to performing the 4th Symphony by playing several of the American revivalist hymns that form the basis of Ives’ 4th Symphony. To my mind, this was unenlightening and, ultimately, merely boring. As for the Ives 4th Symphony itself, it struck me yet again as crude and blustering when it wasn’t simply sentimentally mawkish. To place this utterly primitive bit of music on the same program with Beethoven’s Violin Concerto is a mistake of gigantic proportions on the part of Michael Tilson Thomas. Programming like this, as well as last week’s so-called American Masters program that offered two more treacly and bombastic pieces by Charles Ives, make us wish that 2020, when MTT gives up the reins of San Francisco Symphony, would come sooner rather than later.

Christ Hijacked

Jagjit Singh
Sunday November 19, 2017 - 01:06:00 PM

It is encouraging that Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader and Paul Ryan, the House Speaker, have finally spoken up and stated the accusations by victims of Roy Moore’s sexual predatory actions are credible. 

But what is puzzling is why the more than 16 women who have accused Donald Trump of similar offenses have been dismissed by the White House as liars. While McConnell and Ryan have declared Moore unfit to be elected to the Senate, they and so many other Republican elites remained silent and allowed Trump to slither into the White House. 

It is also puzzling why so many Evangelicals leapt to Moore’s defense. 

The new liturgy has rendered Christ irrelevant and replaced his teachings with the nightly pontifications of Gurus Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson, the high priests of a false religion. 

The Evangelicals tune in nightly to receive their daily dose of right wing propaganda which shapes their whole belief system to the exclusion of all other news sources. Tearful testimony from Moore’s victims seems to be impervious to Evangelicals who regard Moore as a Christian martyr. Herr Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, had it exactly right – spew fake news repeatedly and people will eventually accept them as fact. 



Jagjit Singh

A Beautiful Experience

Harry Brill
Sunday November 19, 2017 - 01:03:00 PM

With Thanksgiving approaching I have been doing my usual holiday thing. I picked up six paper bags which I loaded with change that I have accumulated since last year. I also added a few dollar bills and inserted a holiday card. 

While having coffee at the Cheeseboard in Berkeley I saw an African American guy, who looked down and out, soliciting money. I walked over to his spot and gave him one of my bags. 

About a minute later, I saw him walk over to a down and out white guy who was also soliciting money. He took out some of the change from the bag and dropped the change into his cup. He then returned to the spot where he was standing before. 

This guy understands something very important about how to build a better world.  

What a beautiful experience.

Combating Religious Terrorism

Lord (Indarjit) Singh of Wimbledon
Sunday November 19, 2017 - 12:47:00 PM

Recent terrorist outrages in Manchester and at London Bridge remind us that we have a lot to learn about the way religion can be manipulated to lead to the deliberate killing of innocents.

What generally passes for religion, is in fact a complex mix of superstition, rituals, culture, group history and uplifting ethical teachings. Ethical teachings are extremely easy to state, but difficult to live by, and in practice, greater emphasis is often placed on culture and rituals, and a perversely unifying belief, that God favours our faith over that of others.

This sort of arrogance is not new and has been evident throughout history. It has led to barriers of supposed superiority between our different faiths, and a naïve belief that the Creator of all that exists, has favourites, and takes sides regardless of merit. As Guru Nanak reminded us, the one God of us all is not the least bit interested in our different religious labels but in what we do to serve our fellow beings. 

This bigotry of belief, widespread and very real, is not confined to Islam as some would have us believe. In its milder, ‘faction supporting’ form, it can lead to near racist sentiments like those by Isaac Watts, the author of one of my favourite hymns, the beautiful and moving: ‘O God our help in ages past---‘. He also wrote: 

O Lord, I ascribe it not to chance, but to Your Grace 

That I was born a Christian and not a heathen Or a member of the Jewish race 

At the time, such sentiments would not have raised an eyebrow, but in today’s more interdependent world, they are clearly unacceptable. The dictionary definition of ‘heathen, is ‘someone who is not a member of the Abrahamic faiths’, it includes Sikhs like me. In India, this sort of religious and cultural superiority led to the stigmatisation of a large section of people as ’untouchables’ and to a commonly believed superstition that those who left the shores of India, would be polluted for ever. 

Assumed superiority, leads some to believe that God looks favourably on those that kill and murder in His name, and to horrendous crimes and savagery not only between faiths but within the same faith, and to increasingly familiar terrorist outrages in the name of religion. Today, despite all the lip service to inter faith understanding, there is virtually no dialogue between faiths to explore and understand their different religious teachings, with each remaining smug in assumed superiority. I have been a member of the Inter Faith Network of the UK (IFN) since it was founded in 1987 and of other bodies committed to religious dialogue. Meetings rarely go beyond pious statements, and academic discussions on safe peripheral concerns. The one taboo is exploring the teachings of sister faiths. 

Religious leaders come together, deplore the violence in the world, share tea and samosas, and then go back to their congregations to preach exclusivity and superiority. I remember going on to an internet website on Islam and seeing a then senior vice-Chair of the IFN saying ‘I feel sorry for the followers of other faiths, as they are all going to hell.’ On another occasion, I attended a meeting of the three Faiths Forum where Christians, Jews and Muslims were talking in a superior way about the three monotheistic faiths. The opening line of Sikh scriptures is: ‘there is one God of all humanity’. 

Today’s response to terrorist outrages is frankly pathetic with statements like: ‘the vast majority of Muslims are decent law-abiding people’. Of course, they are. So are followers of other faiths. But what of smaller numbers who earnestly believe murderous action against fellow human beings is justified by their religion? Statements like, ‘we must all stand together, or, that ‘those that seek to divide us will never win’, are fine, but they, and pledges to increase security and intelligence, do nothing to address the underlying causes of religious terrorism. 

Today, there is an urgent need to look at the environment in which the cancer of terrorism thrives. We will never get anywhere until we are bold enough to attack and break down false barriers of arrogance and superiority between and within different religions. If we do this, we will find core ethical teachings have much in common. We will also find cancerous cultural practices, that attach themselves to religion, condoning blatant discrimination against women and others, who are in any way differ from the norm. Such attitudes, questionable even centuries ago, have no place in the world of the 21st century and should be unceremoniously discarded. Not easy. It requires religious leaders to declare that oppressive cultural attitudes, and ancient enmities embedded in religious texts, have no current relevance. Today, whether we like it or not, we live in an interconnected and interdependent world. We can no longer afford the unifying luxury of looking down on others. The need of the hour is to break down walls of prejudice and false superiority and talk openly and honestly about beliefs and practices that concern us. A long overdue spring cleaning of negative beliefs and practices is urgently needed to make religion more relevant to the world of today. 

Secular society, which sometimes shows an aloof superiority to warring religions, should also encourage more open dialogue. With the best of intentions, we skirt around questionable beliefs and practices by using coded camouflage words to address symptoms, rather than looking to the underlying causes of violence and hate. Words like ‘Islamists’ (insulting to Muslims), ‘radicalised’, ‘extremist’ or ‘fundamentalists’, are loaded euphemisms or vague innuendos, devoid of real meaning. The absurdity of such language is illustrated by a true story of a visit to my home by two Scotland Yard officers early one Sunday morning in the mid-80s. I had spoken out against, now proven, Indian government involvement in mob violence against Sikhs, as I have done and continue to do, against the persecution of other 

minorities across the world. I was asked if I was an ‘extremist’ or a ‘moderate’. I replied, that I was ‘extremely moderate’. Clearly confused, they then asked if I was a ‘fundamentalist’. I replied, ‘well I believe in the fundamentals of Sikh teachings like the equality of all human beings, gender equality, concern for the less fortunate, yes, I suppose I am a fundamentalist!’ 

If religions presume to tell us how we should live, move and have our being, they must be open to challenge. Open and honest dialogue and questioning is clearly necessary to bring light and understanding to the hate filled darkness of political correctness in which terrorism breeds and thrives. The same openness will help bring valuable underlying ethical guidance, the essence of true religion, back to the fore in helping us all work for a better, fairer and safer world. 

Indarjit Singh, Baron Singh of Wimbledon CBE (born 17 September 1932), sometimes transliterated Inderjit Singh, is a British journalist and broadcaster, a prominent British Asian active in Sikh and interfaith activities, and a member of the House of Lords. (Wikipedia).

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Learning How to Move On From Someone or Some Thing

Jack Bragen
Sunday November 19, 2017 - 12:27:00 PM

Millions of people are vulnerable because of the desire to connect with someone. This is why it has become lucrative for con artists to approach people over the internet, give a hard luck story while promising to become involved, and obtain money. Once the victim has wired all of their money to the con artist, abruptly, inevitably, the rip off artist is not interested any more.  

If you want to find romance via the internet, you should do so through a well-known, reputable dating website other than Craig's List. I have never done online dating. Yet, at a guess, many people placing ads misrepresent themselves, are dysfunctional in relationships, or are outright con artists.  

Letting go of someone with whom you have been involved (or with whom you wanted to be involved) is a skill. It is a lesson many of us must learn, mentally ill or not, and it can be a painful lesson. Yet, the ability to disconnect from someone, when that connection no longer serves a purpose, can serve you well for the rest of your life.  

I have been in some relationships that terminated in a not very good way. In other situations, things just fizzled out and apparently it wasn't a big deal. Being able to let go of someone, or even of some thing, is mostly learned, and it is a matter of overcoming primitive instincts. Addiction of any kind is messy, and sometimes causes complications that can ruin a person.  

People of any gender or orientation can be victims of catfish schemes. Anyone can end up in an abusive relationship. They can learn "red flags" to look for, through learning from experience, through counseling, or through other programs--to prevent getting into additional abusive relationships in the future. 

Either way, the mental resources must be found to let go of someone.  

Many people with mental illness, at the onset of illness or of a repeat episode, at the same time have issues with wanting a relationship or with a relationship not going well. This does not mean that loneliness or being obsessed with someone causes mental illness. 

Most psychiatric illnesses are based in a biochemical imbalance in part of the brain. Since this impairs how we process information, it can hamper the normal process of letting go of someone or some thing. This is accompanied by other symptoms, which for some include paranoia and disorganization. For others it might include depression, and for some it might include mood swings. Relationship problems aren't central to most mental illness. Many people with mental illness do not have issues with relationships, and do just fine with this area. 

Relationship problems often coincide with an episode of mental illness because relationships have the ability to bring forth strong emotions. The predicament of relationship difficulties could be the straw that broke the camel's back--the individual was becoming ill anyway and this was the last bit that knocked him or her over the edge. 

I have been with my wife for more than twenty years. If I had to let go of her, it would be like a limb being amputated. In some instances, hanging on is a good thing. When you have something that works, there is no reason to bring about the tools that would cause you to let go.  

Pretending to be "above it all" and not acknowledging that you want someone or something when you actually do, ends up becoming self-sabotage, especially if you want to make something work.  

However, if it is clear that a relationship or the seeking of a relationship is having negative or destructive ramifications, you'd better consider getting out. You can't let go of an attachment or an addiction unless you acknowledge you have it.  

(It is like not acknowledging a door that is in front of you. You're trying to get to the next room, yet, if you do not acknowledge the door and turn the knob, you'll keep bumping into the door, as though you were a malfunctioning automatic vacuum cleaner. Even an automatic vacuum, when working, is able to acknowledge a barrier. Why, then, can't we?)  

One way of letting go of a destructive attachment is to seek help. This is the sort of thing that mental health counselors are good for. If medication is at the right level, not too high or too low, if you get help, and if you realize that it is necessary to let go of a destructive perceived need, you should be able to do that.  

The above doesn't cure an underlying mental illness, but it does do a tremendous job of improving quality of life. Or, it can prevent quality of life from getting a lot worse. The ability to let go of a destructive behavior is power. The ability to disconnect when necessary is a form of power.  

A final note: There is nothing to be ashamed of if we've had relationship difficulties. This is a common problem for people with or without a psychiatric illness. And while society may project a lot of perceived shame about this, it is because many ignorant people have Stone Age thinking.  

My new self-published book, "Understanding People with Schizophrenia," is available now on LULU, and is subject to revision. I haven't received my first copy yet, as I didn't want to spend the money for fast shipping. If you buy it now and something needs to be corrected, it may some day become a collector's item. Later, assuming that everything is O.K. with it, it will be for sale in a wide variety of other outlets, including Amazon.

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Sunday November 19, 2017 - 12:08:00 PM

Please mark your calendars for the November 28th City Council meeting. There are three Council meetings left before the winter holiday and they are all going to need our attention - November 28th, December 5th and December 19th 

Everything this week is happening on Monday and then essentially closes down for Thanksgiving extended holiday. It appears someone forgot to cancel the Energy Commission meeting for Wednesday as there is no posted agenda. 

Indivisible Berkeley list of actions you can do from home, https://www.indivisibleberkeley.org/actions 

Phone bank for Doug Jones with Wellstone members http://wellstoneclub.org/ 

If you see an error or omission, please send a note to sustainableberkeleycoalition@gmail.com.  

The meeting list is also posted on the Sustainable Berkeley Coalition website. 


Apologies are extended for the late posting Saturday afternoon. 

Sunday, November 19, 2017  

Local Police Chiefs in Conversation with the Public – Berkeley, Richmond, El Cerrito, Sun, Nov 19, 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm, 1249 Marin Ave. Albany Community Center 


Monday, November 20, 2017  

Civic Arts Commission – Policy Subcommittee, Mon, Nov 20, 10:30 am – 12:00 pm, 2180 Milvia, Pepperwood Room, 5th Floor, Harold Way, agenda: Homelessness and affordable housing collaboration project 


Agenda Committee, Mon, Nov 20, 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm, 2180 Milvia, 6th Floor Redwood Conf Room, agenda: planning for Dec 5 meeting, surveillance technology ordinance, community benefits 


Tax the Rich rally – Mon, Nov 20, winter hours 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm top of Solano in front of closed Oaks Theater, signs and song to oppose the GOP tax bill 

Public Works Commission – Utility Undergrounding Subcommittee, 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm, 1947 Center Street, 4th Floor – agenda, phase 2 report on utility undergrounding 


Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board, Mon, Nov 20, 7:00 pm – 11:00 pm, 2134 MLK Jr. Way, City Council Chambers, agenda: CA State 6 month protection against price gouging 


Tuesday, November 21, 2017  

No posted City Meetings 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017 

Energy Commission, Wed, Nov 22, 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center. Meeting is listed on City calendar, NO AGENDA posted or meeting noted on Energy Commission home page 


Thanksgiving, Thursday, November 23, 2017 thru Sunday, November 26, 2017 

Take a much needed break to rest, connect with family and friends and re-energize, we have work ahead. Consider giving to the Alameda County Food Bank https://www.accfb.org/give/ The Alameda County Food Bank serves 1 in 5 residents of Alameda County, 2/3 of which are children and seniors.

Twitter Rumor of ICE Raid in Berkeley Claimed to be False

Janis Mara (BCN)
Friday November 17, 2017 - 02:43:00 PM

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin is working to dispel a claim tweeted this morning that Berkeley police cooperated in an alleged Immigration and Customs Enforcement action. 

"Reports of an ICE raid happening in South Berkeley are not true. The police were serving a warrant and there was no ICE presence or involvement of any kind. Berkeley continues to be a Sanctuary City and we stand with our undocumented community," Arreguin tweeted. 

The original tweet, posted by a woman who identified herself as Felicia Gustin, alleged that ICE, with Berkeley police "IN FULL COOPERATION [sic], raided a construction site" at Sacramento Street and Alcatraz Avenue this morning. 

ICE and a Berkeley Police spokesmen both said ICE was not involved in the operation, which police said wasn't at the construction site. 

"It wasn't connected with us at all. It wasn't ICE out there," said James Schwab, an ICE spokesman. "They (Berkeley police) wouldn't typically be at an ICE operation." 

Berkeley Police Spokesman Sgt. Andrew Frankel said, "Our special response team served an arrest warrant this morning on the 1500 block of Alcatraz. Police cleared the area. There was no involvement by ICE." 

The action took place near the construction site, but did not involve the site. 

"We were not serving a warrant at the construction site," Frankel said. 

Gustin's tweet drew a number of responses on Twitter. One response, from a Twitter member with the handle "Independent Radio," tweeted, "Some one [sic] needs to be fired. Maybe a group of people. This is Berkeley. DO IT!" 

Others asked Gustin for evidence, tweeting such things as, "This is my neighborhood, do you have any additional information/sources?" 

A message sent by Bay City News Service to Gustin was not returned by press time.

Peter D. Solomon

Annette Herskovits
Thursday November 23, 2017 - 08:01:00 PM
Peter and Annette
Peter and Annette

EDITOR'S NOTE: In March of 2003, while we were engaged with a crew of friends in setting up what was to become the office of the newly revived Berkeley Daily Planet on South Shattuck, a guy I’d know for a while, though not well, dropped in to see what we were up to. I had a speaking acquaintance with Peter Solomon, but was well aware of his semi-miraculous reputation. We had both been, at different times, associated with the San Francisco Mime Troupe, Pacific News Service and, I think, perhaps others, and we had many mutual friends.

Peter was at one point the manager of the ever-impecunious SFMT, and also, he wrote a play or two for them. When I was an editor at PNS, he was remembered in reverent tones for his editorial prowess. He was known in other circles as a printer and/or typesetter. And there was more, much more than I knew about.

In 2003 Peter was coming to terms with Parkinson’s disease. He had trouble walking, but mysteriously riding a bike was easier for him. Though he was a witty talker, he sometimes had difficulty articulating by that time, but such details didn’t slow him down at all.

I’d heard great tales of his term as editor of The Montclarion when it was a lively independent weekly, back before it was essentially deconstructed by an unfortunate series of corporate acquisitions. I was pretty sure he knew a lot more than I did about running a small-time local paper, and he was fun to have around.

So we asked him to join our staff. None of the conventional titles seemed to fit what we needed him to do: come to editorial meetings and tell what we were doing wrong, and what opportunities we were missing. Finally we came up with the right one: éminence grise: “ a person who exercises power or influence in a certain sphere without holding an official position”, after the gray-robed monk who lurked at Cardinal Richelieu’s elbow.

As our éminence grise, he was the guy charged with nurturing “the vision thing.” During our difficult early years, he reminded us, when we had trouble remembering, why we were there. For a capsule discussion of what all this was about, see his graceful piece which ran at the top of Page One of the first issue of the revived Berkeley Daily Planet on April 1, 2003: Whose Berkeley?

Peter left Berkeley and this world in early October. Today, Thanksgiving Day, we are grateful that Peter shared so much of himself with us for as long as his health permitted, and we are very grateful to his faithful Annette, whose remembrance of him is below, for giving him so much joy and taking such wonderful care of him for so many years.

Peter passed away peacefully at home in the night of October 4/5.

He had been diagnosed with Parkinson disease 32 years ago. Only in the last four years did the illness become debilitating, with his mind and body failing him step by step. Several times, he expressed the wish to end it. When a hospital bed was brought to our house in the evening of October 3, Peter, who ordinarily refused medical contrivances and interventions, lay in it almost eagerly. He died 30 hours later with few moments of awareness. He had said to his daughter Rachel a few days before that he was not afraid of death, that it was just the next step.

Peter and I lived together for 40 years. Thanks to his love and patience, I progressively came out from the shadows of a holocaust childhood. I found a voice after many years of being silent.

Peter’s attention and generosity towards others were uncommon. He knew how to listen, how to comfort, how to provide helpful alternative viewpoints.

His mind worked in mysterious ways: he would grasp instantly what might take me days or months to figure out. This enabled him to skillfully edit books on most any topic: medicine, old English, economics, newspaper stories, etc. He wrote a play for a summer season of the San Francisco Mime Troupe, songs for their other plays, humorous political poems, etc.

He was so very funny. His humor was never cruel; instead, he made you see alternative sides of situations that most of us miss.

A journalist friend told me that Peter had been a mentor to a generation of progressive writers, a model for how to write and how to be a human being.

He remained true to his character throughout most of his illness— uncomplaining, available, insightful, funny… I feel so fortunate that we met and spent many years together.

There will be a memorial gathering in a few months. If you have memories of Peter that you would like to relate to me, I would much appreciate it. 



Slowing Down

Becky O'Malley
Friday November 17, 2017 - 03:19:00 PM

As I said in a recent email to my 25+ hyper-extended Bay Area family members, Thanksgiving has snuck up on us. There are so many things going wrong in the world at the moment that I can’t choose amongst them for something to write about, and I notice Bob Burnett reports similar sentiments. It’s time to put the Planet on a rolling schedule, at least through the holidays and maybe longer.

For authority I refer you to an editorial I wrote in 1993, citing a brilliant column by Ellen Goodman which still graces my refrigerator door, yellowed and crumbling. Her theme was that you can’t fax in a Thanksgiving dinner—and now faxes have mostly died, but the turkeys live on (well, not exactly, but you know what I mean.)

And about the rolling schedule idea: I seem to be wedded to (or stuck with) the legacy software which came with our original $14,000 purchase of the remains of the original Berkeley Daily Planet. But as we have adjusted to the all-online world, I notice that I’ve achieved something like what I wanted to do in the first place, back when I put my journalistic inclinations on hold, faced with the necessity of participating in the family tech enterprise. The print Planet was massive overkill.

I’ve always wanted to have a publication that was nothing but letters to the editor. I’ve always had a lot of friends who were both smart and pretty darn good writers, and by encouraging them to send along their informed opinions we’ve had a lot of great copy in the last—how many years has it been now since the print Planet died?

We've kept on posting some straight news when we had it. But with no paid staff we’re really out of the news biz.

There are several local-ish publications, both online and in print, which try to keep an eye on Berkeley news. Overall, they do a credible job, so we don't need to.

We’ve maintained a subscription to the Bay City News Service on behalf of our readers, and they do good reporting too. Our regular pro bono contributors produce a good mix of facts and opinion, which we deeply appreciate. Arts critics of all kinds are always welcome.

Our hereditary format requires occasional purges, which we call putting out “new issues” and have tried to do on Fridays. But access to past issues is easy due to our powerful Google-based archive search and the “Previous Issue” button on the home page. There’s no technical reason that new issues have to be always Fridays, or even weekly.

As an experiment, starting today I’m just going to leave current material up until I get tired of it. I'm going to tinker with the limits of the format and see if it can be improved or at least better used. Let me know what you think.

Have yourself some happy holidays, whichever ones you enjoy. More fun, less fuss, might be a good plan.

And if you'd like me to send you links when new pieces are posted, just write to subscribe@berkeleydailyplanet.com to get on the list. 


Public Comment

The Fastest Thing in the Universe

Bruce Joffe
Friday November 17, 2017 - 02:58:00 PM

The fastest thing in the universe is the speed of light. Nothing can go faster than 186,282 miles per second. That adds up to 5.88 trillion miles per year. At that speed, light from the nearest star, 25 trillion miles away, takes 4.25 years to reach us.

The national debt exceeds $20 trillion. That is $633,612 dollars per second, 3.4 times the speed of light. Interest charges alone on our national credit card amount to $215,000 Million this year. The Republican tax plan would deepen the debt $1,700 Million by lowering taxes for big corporations and the richest people. Their plan's debt would go even deeper, except they are also raising taxes on middle-class earners and revoking the financial obligations for affordable healthcare.  

How will this astronomical debt be repaid? Republicans plan to cut the Social Security and Medicare entitlements that we have paid into all our lives. All this damage so the patrons who finance Republican Senators and Congressional Representatives can collect more corporate dividends and pay less tax. That means less revenue to keep vital government services functioning.  

Looks like the fastest thing in the universe is the scam that has gotten taxpayers to vote Republican. 


The Epidemic of Age Discrimination

Harry Brill
Friday November 17, 2017 - 02:52:00 PM

Several years ago researchers at Princeton University discovered a very unusual development. We have been accustomed to expect that as the years go by each generation lives longer than the previous one. However, these researchers discovered an anomaly, that the longevity of middle age whites -- ages 45-54 --has declined precipitously. The research showed that their marginal connection to the labor force -- high unemployment, low paying and temporary jobs -- has been causing them considerable pain and distress, which in turn has triggered poor mental and physical health. High suicide rates, overdosing on drugs, and alcoholism have resulted in a high death rate. The researchers, appropriately, call this phenomena "deaths of despair".

Yet the government's business friendly Department of Labor apparently doesn't see any serious problem for middle age workers. Its Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), serves as the principle fact finding agency for the federal government. According to the BLS statistics on the labor force, the unemployment rate last month of middle age workers (45-54) is only 2.7 percent. That is lower than the unemployment rate of any other age group. Incredibly, had the Agency's figures included only white middle age workers, the official unemployment rate would be even lower. If the BLS data was accurate, these white workers would be dancing in the street rather than suffering a miserable life and a higher death rate. 

In an ideal situation employers would be grateful to their long term employees. Some actually are. After all, many older employers have accumulated more experience and accordingly are more valuable. But too often they are treated like disposable objects because their cost to employers increases the longer they are on the job. That's why Congress passed in 1967 the Age Discrimination In Employment Act which prohibits discrimination against anyone who is at least 40 years of age.  

The evidence of widespread age discrimination submitted to Congress convinced both the House of Representatives and the Senate that age discrimination is rampant. According to the findings of a survey of older workers, two thirds reported that they have seen or experienced age discrimination. Even obtaining an interview can be very difficult. In an experimental study of age discrimination, employers were sent resumes which specified different ages of the applicants who were presumably applying for job openings. For applicants whose age placed them in the young category, 43 percent were granted interviews compared to only 16.5 percent of applicants listed as older. 

Not only do many workers age 40 and above experience discrimination. Incredibly, age discrimination has been trickling down. In the high tech industry employees in their thirties are being replaced by even younger workers. In fact, many who are being laid off are burdened with the humiliation and obligation of training their younger, less experienced replacements, including workers who have been recruited from foreign countries. The public has been told that they need to fill vacancies due to a shortage of American qualified workers. In fact, the infamous H1-B law requires employers to hire foreign workers only if they are unable to find skilled, experienced American workers. But enforcement for the most part has been lacking.  

The National Association of Manufacturers and the Chamber of Commerce attempted to prevent the enactment of legislation to outlaw age discrimination. Although they didn't succeed, important concessions were made. Older workers were not included in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. The Age Discrimination In Employment Act, which was passed in 1967, is weaker than the Civil Rights Act. Among the differences, the law makes obtaining large settlements for the aggrieved much more difficult. Also the Act legally obligates firms with at least 20 employees. The Civil Rights Act applies to firms with only 15 employees. 

Moreover, in a major Supreme Court age discrimination case, a slim majority ruled that if an aggrieved employee claims being a victim of age bias, the employee must prove that the discriminatory act was the crucial factor for their grievance rather than just one of many factors, Obviously, this places a tremendous burden of proof on employees. In contrast, plaintiffs who are covered by the Civil Rights Act just have to prove they were discriminated against regardless of any other factors that may have contributed to the employer's decision. 

Generally speaking, justice for any aggrieved group is difficult to achieve. But it is almost impossible for older workers. A researcher found that in one year when there were nearly 23,000 complaints of age discrimination, only 12 cases were allowed to proceed! But why are age discrimination plaintiffs treated so poorly. The explanation is straightforward -- older workers are far more costly than other employees. More years on the job has increased their earnings. Also, providing health insurance for older employees is more expensive. And pension costs are far more expensive for companies with an older work force. So many businesses have been willing to resort to almost any means to cut the size of older employees. 

Take for example how Hewlett Packard dealt with the financial burden of retaining older workers. Several years ago the company, claiming that it had an oversupply of employees, laid off 85,000 employees to cut costs. However, it did not announced that it replaced many of these laid off employees with thousands of younger workers. If and when a company rehires workers, there is no legal requirement to give preference to those who have been laid off unless it is stipulated in a collective bargaining contract. 

Rather than being rewarded for longevity on the job too many workers are getting fired only because they are getting older. Moreover, the problem of age discrimination is likely to get worse. At the beginning of this century, older workers made up 25 percent of the labor force. According to the AARP older workforce by the year 2022 will reach 35 percent of the workforce. The problem of age discrimination is especially a problem when the economy declines. According to Patricia Barnes, a former judge and author of books on age discrimination, "Every time there is a recession, there is a pattern of age discrimination". As Barnes commented, many older workers join the ranks of the long term unemployed. If and when they get jobs afterward, they are low paying or temp jobs. These workers are then forced into early retirement and live in poverty or near poverty for the rest of their lives. 

To make matters worse, being a victim of age discrimination does not preclude being simultaneously also a victim of other prejudices that employers hold. One study, for example, found that although some older laid off employees got their jobs back, women were less likely to be rehired. And even being employed by an enterprise that has a liberal reputation is no assurance that its older employees would be treated fairly. Older black women have filed a law suit against the liberal New York times for not practicing what it preaches. They complained that that they were repeatedly passed over for promotion in favor of younger white employees. An additional complaint is that despite the experience and length of service of these older, minority women, young white employees are paid higher salaries. 

When the Supreme Court decided to place serious obstacles in the path of those who challenge age discriminatory practices, several members of Congress expressed their strong disappointment. Yet this body nevertheless has done nothing about it. So as a result of the role of both Congress and the judiciary, older workers have been legally reduced to second class citizenship. What then are the options for obtaining justice? The Age Discrimination In Employment Act should be repealed, and age discrimination category should be incorporated into the Civil Rights Act of 1964 where it belongs with other protected groups. Also, It is immensely important that working people not play off against each other. Instead, workers and their allies must engage in an ongoing and aggressive campaign to persuade Congress and other relevant bodies to enforce the legal rights of all workers, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, religion, and gender. Employers must be persuaded that respecting the legitimate rights of working people is a deeply moral as well as a political issue.

Let the Sage Grouse Plan Work

Vera Brown
Friday November 17, 2017 - 03:06:00 PM

Secretary Zinke has opened the door to putting politics over science in order to undermine and undo one of the greatest collaborative conservation efforts in our nation's history. As a westerner, I am deeply concerned about this reopening of federal plans to protect the greater-sage grouse, which were forged over many years by multiple stakeholders. 

Western governors, ranchers, conservationists, industry groups and state wildlife agencies all came together to develop a truly bipartisan, collaborative conservation plan, which ultimately kept the greater sage-grouse off the Endangered Species List back in September 2015. Making significant changes that weaken the plan in any way would only increase the likelihood of the sage-grouse populations reaching such low levels that bird needs to be added to the Endangered Species List in the future an outcome nobody wants. 

The Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management must let the sage-grouse plans work. Any changes to the plan must be based on sound science and honor the bipartisan, collaborative conservation effort that has helped bring the bird back from the brink and keep it off the Endangered Species List.


ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Living with the Cognitive and Social Deficits of Some People with Schizophrenia, And Trying to Reintegrate

Jack Bragen
Friday November 17, 2017 - 02:46:00 PM

Most people who have a psychiatric condition would rather not be defined by it. It is an unhappy thing to view oneself as "someone with mental illness" rather than as "an individual"-- who defines oneself by her or his career, ethnicity, family, and socioeconomic status.

The fact of being a mental health consumer, possibly one who does not have a job, children, a house, already puts us at a social disadvantage. When there is a conversation in a social context, the first thing that comes up is "What do you do?" How is an unemployed person with a psychiatric disability supposed to answer that question?

Additionally, those with schizophrenia could be socially impaired for other reasons, not excluding causes related to brain structure.

Both inability to socialize, and having social anxiety can cause a lot of awkwardness--which some people could misinterpret as obnoxiousness. This is where something like Facebook can potentially help. Social anxiety may not come up as much when one is in the comfort of one's home, rather than seeing people face to face. 

A cognitive deficiency may not be easy to understand. The person with schizophrenia could be perfectly good at solving a math problem, at reading and following an instruction manual for a gadget, or at understanding the written word. Yet, those sorts of things make up only a small fraction of people's functioning. 

It can be difficult to understand that people with schizophrenia could be doing their best at coexisting with people, but may be tripped-up by their condition. We may not always know how not to commit a faux pas; some of us do so constantly. This constitutes a major impairment in life. 

A social impairment interferes with work attempts. It interferes with being in public places. It interferes with making and keeping friends. 

If we have spent our adult life segregated into the outpatient mental health treatment system, it is a huge challenge if we would like to integrate into mainstream society. Persons with psychiatric disabilities often feel left out--and this perception could be accurate.  

Having a healthy social identity, one that is genuine, not a facade that masks fear and awkwardness, or that masks predatory behavior, could increase quality of life. But how do you get that if you don't have it? 

A sound social identity seems to arise from a history of being treated well by people. However, the big secret is that most people are concerned mainly about themselves. 

Making an effort to "reintegrate" could start with small talk. It also may help to take an interest in other people, in how they are doing today. Or, it could be something like having meaningless and brief conversations with people. If you don't work, you could avoid that subject. You should probably avoid politics, if you are talking with someone you don't know. 

Many people lack social skills, not just mentally ill people. It could help to realize that some of the people with whom you are dealing may themselves have some amount of social awkwardness.  

If your attempts to reintegrate socially don't always work, do not blame yourself. If you've been segregated into the outpatient mental health treatment system for years, you should expect that it will be difficult to fit in with non-afflicted people. 

People should realize that those with a psychiatric illness do not always come across well, yet we may still have good intentions masked by symptoms. I said this last week, and I'll say it again: Mentally ill people may be the most misunderstood category of people.  

ECLETIC RANT: Brief summary of Alabama’s special election

Ralph E. Stone
Friday November 17, 2017 - 02:55:00 PM

The Washington Post published a blockbuster investigative piece alleging that Roy Moore, the bigoted, right-wing extremist Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama, sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl while he was in his 30s and preyed on at least three other teenagers.

The age of consent in Alabama is sixteen.

Later, another woman came forward with her story of being assaulted by Moore.

Senate Republicans are escalating their demands for Moore to leave the race, including a growing faction calling for him to be expelled if he wins next month. Some have suggested that republicans write in Luther Strange, the person Moore defeated in the primary. 

Republicans are also floating the idea of postponing the special election until January. Without the delay, it would be too late to remove Moore from the ballot, because Alabama state law requires candidates to withdraw at least 76 days before an election. But military and other voters have already cast absentee ballots.  

Alabama Republican Kay Ivey is considering a delay, but wants to ensure President Trump’s support, because if Trump himself asked Moore to step down and endorsed a write-in candidate, few Republicans would challenge the new pick.  

Given his rocky relationship with Trump, others have suggested Jeff Sessions run if Moore drops out of the race. However, if indicted before the election, Sessions would make a Senate race difficult for him and the Republicans. 

Right now Moore's opponent, Democrat Doug Jones, is leading in the polls. But remember this deep south state hasn’t elected a Democratic senator in 25 years; anything can happen between now and the December 12 special election to replace Jeff Sessions. 

If Moore stays in the race and wins and subsequently is expelled, then presumably Governor Ivey -- who said she will vote for Moore despite the sexual allegations against him -- would appoint another Republican to replace Moore. 

Right now there are 46 Democrats and two Independents who caucus with the Democrats in the U.S. Senate. By adding Doug Jones, the Democrats would have 49 votes, which would make it that much more difficult for the GOP to pass legislation such as the so-called tax reform bill. 

Stay tuned. 

Arts & Events

Berkeley Chamber Opera Finale Saturday Night at 7

Friday November 17, 2017 - 03:11:00 PM

Luisa Miller, by Giuseppe Verdi

Opera in Italian with English supertitles, with chamber orchestra

Sunday Nov 12th, 2pm, Saturday November 18th, 7pm

Berkeley Hillside Club
2286 Cedar St. (at Arch), Berkeley

Tickets: $35 general, $20 Students/Seniors, Children under 12 free

Buy online from Brown Paper Tickets, by phone, 1-800-838-3006. 

There’s probably no place in the United States except New York City that offers more live opera performances of all kinds than the Bay Area. The commendable broadcast presentations of the Metropolitan Opera in movie theaters have increased public awareness of opera, and now fans who are ready for the next step in the opera experience have ample opportunity to see this art form up close and personal, in small houses for reasonable prices.

The list of local companies is long and getting longer: Island City, West Bay, Verismo, West Edge and Bay Shore Lyric are just a few.

Now Berkeley Chamber Opera, a relative newcomer (third season) on the scene, is gearing up for its second production this year, following its very successful production of Menotti’s The Consul in August.

Verdi’s Luisa Miller will be performed in Berkeley’s intimate Hillside Club on Sunday afternoon, November 12, and Saturday night, November 18.

The title role will be sung by Eliza O’Malley, a company founder who is a veteran of many Bay Area productions and a fervent advocate of what she calls “locally sourced opera”.

Locally-sourced food has been all the rage for a while now, but locally-sourced opera?

Berkeley Chamber Opera hopes to provide just that—productions which showcase the work of the Bay Area’s wealth of resident professional talent in accessible settings, at a price which is affordable for a wide range of opera fans. 

Many who have been introduced to opera through the popular Metropolitan Opera films haven’t yet experienced the unique excitement of live performance. 

Berkeley Chamber Opera intends to change that. 

BCO is dedicated to presenting local professional opera singers in staged productions with a chamber orchestra in intimate venues in the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Eliza O’Malley, who grew up in Berkeley, created BCO as an outgrowth of her work singing leading roles with such local opera companies as Verismo Opera, Handel Opera Project and Goat Hall Productions and producing concerts with the Dazzling Divas

The conductor will be a distinguished pioneer of the Bay Area opera scene, Jonathan Khuner, a longtime Berkeley resident who is now Music Director for West Edge Opera, the company which morphed from the original Berkeley Opera, which performed for years under his baton in Berkeley’s Julia Morgan Theater. He appears frequently with many Bay Area companies—he conducted Berkeley Chamber Opera’s Capuleti e Montecchi last season. This past summer at West Edge he led Thomas’ Hamlet and Frankenstein by Libby Larsen; next summer he will conduct their production of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande. This coming March he will lead Island City Opera in La Sonnambula.  

In addition to his participation in local opera, for decades Khuner has served as assistant conductor for San Francisco Opera, NY Metropolitan Opera, and Chicago Lyric Opera. Occasionally he works abroad, most recently conducting Arjuna’s Dilemma in Kathmandu (2016). 

Director Ellen St. Thomas has performed in concerts and shows across the Bay Area as a lyric soprano. She also cofounded two opera companies: Open Opera, dedicated to free operas in Bay Area parks, and Island City Opera in Alameda. 

Two of the male leads are recent transplants from the East Coast. Salvatore Atti, tenor, came to northern California from Boston, where the Boston Globe wrote that; “As Faust, Salvatore Atti was radiant in his cavatina “Salut! Demeure chaste et pure”. He performed the role of Alfredo in La Traviata in Busseto Italy (Verdi’s hometown) during Verdi’s bicentennial celebration. 

Baritone Geoffrey Di Giorgio most recently lived near Philadelphia, but this past summer he moved west to participate in the Dolora Zajick Institute. He has performed in many cities in the United States and Europe, and won numerous contests including the Metropolitan Opera Auditions. 

Maestro Khuner says this about the upcoming BCO show: 

Luisa Miller is a fairly early opera of Verdi (1849), but, like his next major work, Rigoletto, is already masterful, and even more impassioned. Based on a fiery early 19th century play by Friedrich Schiller, the opera's scenario highlights a tender love affair trying to bloom amid vicious class hatred and unbridgeable generation gaps. The explosive dialectics of the German author have been remolded into a rich vehicle for warm Italian operatic romanticism, with high-tension arias and ensembles, climaxing in a powerfully tragic conclusion.” 


AROUND & ABOUT--Dance: Mary Sano & Her Duncan Dancers' Sunday Evening Salon Concert

Ken Bullock
Friday November 17, 2017 - 02:48:00 PM

"Life is the root, and art is the flower." ~ Isadora Duncan

Mary Sano, who has been keeping the spirit of Isadora alive the past two decades in her Studio of Duncan Dance just a few blocks from the great pioneer of modern dance's birthplace, has returned from teaching and performing in Japan & will be hosting the third of her recent salon concert series this Sunday evening at 6.

Besides Mary performing with her Duncan Dancers, the program will feature singer-songwriter Tony Chapman from LA with his new compositions.

Sunday, November 19 at 6 p. m. at the Mary Sano Studio of Duncan Dance, 245-5th Street, studio 314, between Howard & Folsom, San Francisco. Suggested donation: $20-$30 (Admission includes an entry for the anniversary raffle--all proceeds go to the Studio's 20th anniversary performance project this coming June.) www.duncandance.org or: (415) 357-1817

William Christie and Les Arts Florissants Perform Charpentier and Purcell

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday November 17, 2017 - 03:01:00 PM

If you search in the catalogues of classical recordings under Marc-Antoine Chapentier, you will find that William Christie’s ensemble Les Arts Florissants gets highest marks for their recordings of this 17th century French composer’s output, both the sacred works and the operas. Often, Christie’s group is the only one to have recorded these works. In short, William Christie has almost single-handedly resurrected Marc-Antoine Charpentier from oblivion, even taking the name of his group Les Arts Florissants from a musical idyll of that title by Charpentier. So how appropriate it is that for this visit to Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall on November 9 under the auspices of Cal Performances, William Christie led off the program with Charpentier’s Actéon, a tragédie en musique in the style of Lully, Charpentier’s illustrious predecessor at the court of Louis XIV at Versailles? Actéon recounts the Greek myth of a great Theban hunter named Actéon who chanced to glimpse Artemis (Diana in Charpentier’s version) bathing nude in a spring with her company of nymphs, and as punishment was transformed into a stag and torn to pieces by his own hunting hounds.  

The action of Actéon takes place in six scenes. First is a hunting chorus for Actéon and his men, followed by an instrumental air. Actéon is robustly sung by tenor Reinoud Van Mechelen. The second scene depicts Diana and her nymphs dancing beside a spring and bathing in the waters. Diana is sung by the bright-voiced soprano Elodie Fonnard. In the third scene, Actéon tires from his exertions, leaves his men to lie down in the shade, and happens upon Diana and her nymphs bathing in the spring. Titillated, he inches forward while attempting to conceal himself. However, he is discovered by Diana, who chastises him. Actéon offers only a weak defense, and Diana punishes him by transforming him into a stag. The fourth scene depicts Actéon glimpsing with horror his reflection in the water. A long instrumental plaint evokes his dismay at his transformation into a stag. Scene five depicts the hunters as they watch Actéon’s hounds close in on a large stag. In a robust men’s chorus they call for Actéon to come watch his hounds at work. The sixth and final scene depicts Juno (Hera in Greek), who is sent by Diana to announce to the hunters the death of Actéon, torn to pieces by his dogs as punishment for invading the sacred privacy of the virginal Diana, goddess of the hunt. Juno was majestically sung by mezzo-soprano Lea Desandre. Supporting roles were admirably sung by sopranos Maud Gnidzaz, Rachel Redmond, and Virginie Thomas, and by baritone Renato Dolcini and countertenor Carlo Vistoli. The singers expressively acted out their roles without benefit of costumes or scenery. William Christie conducted from the harpsichord. 

After intermission William Christie returned to lead his troupe in Henry Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas, which most likely premiered in 1690. Once again, Les Arts Florissants presented this opera, like Charpentier’s Actéon, in a semi-staged performance without costumes or stage sets. At the opera’s outset, Dido, Queen of Carthage, sung by mezzo-soprano Lea Desandre, complains to her confidante Belinda of a grief she dares not speak. Belinda guesses correctly that it involves Dido’s burgeoning attraction to Aeneas, leader of the Trojan refugees who escaped alive from the Greek conquest of Troy. Belinda, sensitively sung by soprano Rachel Redmond, counsels Dido to give way to the gifts of love, and she notes that a union of the Queen of Troy and the leader of the Trojans could hardly offer a more glorious prospect, both for the individuals and for the future of Carthage and its people. When Aeneas steps forward and begs the Queen to look favorably upon his suit, Dido hesitates but soon gives in to her feelings and the many charms of Aeneas, robustly sung by baritone Renato Dolcini. A marriage seems to be in the offing. 

However, evil spirits conspire to harm Dido. A sorceress, sung here by countertenor Carlo Vistoli, instructs his witches to throw every obstacle in Dido’s path. The first witch, brilliantly portrayed by soprano Maud Gnidzaz, is delightfully bewitching as she takes playful joy in derailing Dido’s hopes and plans. The second witch, expressively sung by soprano Virginie Thomas, joins her bewitching sister in calling forth storms to hinder Dido’s plans. A thunder and lightning storm interrupts a hunt prepared in honor of the forthcoming marriage of Dido and Aeneas. (In Les Troyens by Berlioz, this storm gives the lovers an opportunity to spend the night together in a cave where they repair alone to flee the storm. In Purcell, however, the lovers content themselves with the hoped for imminent prospect of marital bliss.) Alas, the sorceress appears to Aeneas and declares that the gods themselves have decreed that Aeneas must sail from Carthage this very night to honor his fate as founder of a new Troy in Rome. “I shall obey,” Aeneas declares, adding, “but how shall I find the words to tell the Queen.” 

The scene now shifts to the harbor, where Aeneas’s men prepare to hoist sails, singing a rollicking song about leaving local nymphs behind. The sorceress and witches gather to sing a demonic laughing chorus, regaling in the plight of Dido and Carthage. When Aeneas does confront Dido, he tells her he can do nothing against the will of the gods. When Dido angrily reacts to this betrayal, Aeneas backtracks and says he’ll forsake the gods and stay because of his love for Dido. She, however, will have none of this, arguing that even his willingness to consider giving up their love is tantamount to a betrayal. “Away!” Away!” she declares. As Dido, Lea Desandre angrily spits out her dismissal of Aeneas.  

Only when Aeneas leaves her presence does she confide to Belinda that “Death must come when he has gone.” When the ships sail out of the port, Dido turns once again to her confidante Belinda. Thus begins the great lament, “When I am laid in earth.” Its moving conclusion rings out poignantly: “Remember me. Remember me. Remember me. But, ah, forget my fate.”  

Throughout both Charpentier’s Actéon and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, William Christie’s instrumentalists in Les Arts Florissants were outstanding. Special mention goes to Thomas Dunford on theorbo and Alix Verzier on cello. Violinists were Emmanuel Resche and Théotine Langlois de Swarte. Sophie de Bardonnèche was on viola, and Pier Luigi Fabretti was on oboe. In both works William Christie conducted from the harpsichord. This double bill was a triumph for William Christie and Les Arts Florissants, and the Berkeley audience responded with tumultuous applause. 

Tetzlaff Quartet Plays Mozart, Berg, and Schubert

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday November 17, 2017 - 02:59:00 PM

The Tetzlaff Quartet, formed in 1994, is comprised of Christian Tetzlaff as first violinist, Elisabeth Kufferath as second violinist, Hanna Weinmeister as violist, and Tanja Tetzlaff as cellist. On Sunday afternoon, November 12, under the auspices of Cal Performances the Tetzlaff Quartet gave a concert at Berkeley’s Hertz Hall in which they played Mozart’s String Quartet No. 16 in E-flat Major, K. 428, Alban Berg’s String Quartet, Op. 3, and Franz Schubert’s String Quartet No. 15 in G Major, D. 887. All three of these quartets were written by composers in Vienna: Mozart’s in 1784, Berg’s in 1910, and Schubert’s in 1826. 

First on the Tetzlaff Quartet’s program was Mozart’s 16th String Quartet. This quartet in E-flat Major was the third of a set of six quartets Mozart dedicated to Joseph Haydn, from whom Mozart said he learned much about quartet-writing. In the six “Haydn Quartets,” Mozart definitely deepened and expanded the emotional and harmonic range of quartet-writing. In the E-flat Major quartet, an indication of this willingness to explore new musical territory is evident right from the start. As Dr. Richard E. Rodda wrote in program notes for this Tetzlaff Quartet concert, “The unsettled quality of this work, the sense of straining after strong emotional effect, is established immediately with the main theme, one of the most unusual opening gestures in Classical music – an octave leap followed by a tortuous series of tonality-defying intervals played in mysterious unison by all of the participants.” When this music bursts into dissonant harmony, we are well embarked on a path of chromatic ambiguity that, 76 years later, would lead to Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde.  

There are Wagnerian adumbrations too in the chromaticism of the second movement of Mozart’s E-flat Major Quartet, especially in this Andante’s second theme, exquisitely played here by the Tetzlaff Quartet. A Menuetto movement follows with hammer-like chords over a delicate phrase, and there are surprising key progressions in this movement’s trio section. The fourth and final movement is this work’s most Haydnesque in its light and airy effervescence, punctuated here and there by instants of unexpected silence that serve to heighten the drama of what ensues. The Tetzlaff Quartet dispatched this highly inventive Mozart Quartet with great intensity and sensitivity. 

Next on the program was Alban Berg’s String Quartet No. 3. Though I have a particular fondness for Berg’s later effort in quartet-writing, the Lyric Suite Quartet of 1926, I welcomed the opportunity, a rare one, to hear a leading string quartet perform Berg’s Op. 3 Quartet from 1910. This is a work that straddles the border between late 19th-century chromatic harmony (and Romanticism) and modern atonality of the Second Viennese School. Berg, even more than his mentor Arnold Schoenberg, was comfortable in this intermediate zone, and unlike Schoenberg, never needed the austere device of twelve-tone row construction to anchor his music.  

In Berg’s Op. 3 Quartet there are only two movements. The first, marked Langsam, is lyrical and reflective, while the second is agitated. Throughout this work Berg plays innovatively with traditional structures and forms. The sonata form anchors the first movement, the rondo form anchors the second. However, so complex are the harmonies, and so complex is the interplay among the four instruments, that this string quartet sounds strikingly modern, perhaps even more modern than its later sister, the Lyric Suite Quartet of 1926. The Tetzlaff Quartet tackled the difficult passage-work of the Berg Op. 3 Quartet with admirable tenacity, giving this work a sympathetic reading that brought out its many noteworthy features. 

After intermission the Tetzlaff Quartet performed Franz Schubert’s last string quartet, the 15th, in G Major, D. 887. Once again, I welcomed the opportunity to hear a leading string quartet perform a work one doesn’t often get to hear in concert. Indeed, this final Schubert quartet is performed far less frequently than his earlier and more famous quartets and quintets, which I dearly love. The opening movement begins with a swelling chord and a leaping motif over dotted rhythms. The main theme is based on the opening, leaping motif. The second subject offers syncopation and a chordal structure over the dotted rhythms of the opening. The development section is extensive, offering uncertain harmonies and rhythmic agitation. The recapitulation reworks all the earlier material, as in traditional sonata form. The second movement, an Andante, opens with an extended, soulful song for solo cello, exquisitely played here by Tanja Tetzlaff. Suddenly, the music explodes in violent fashion, with agitated rhythms, bold scales, quaking tremolos, and abrupt dynamic shifts. When calm is restored, the cello and violin explore the opening lyrical theme until, once again, violent music intervenes. When calm is restored this time, there is a sense that calm itself is a tenuous mood, one that can change abruptly at any moment.  

The third movement offers a Scherzo that features six quick notes followed by three longer ones. In the trio section, a dance theme appears in the style of an Austrian Ländler. This is open-hearted, untroubled music, perhaps the only such music in a work that otherwise offers storm and stress. The fourth and final movement is based on a tarantella melody, and it abounds in shifts between major and minor forms of the tonic triad. This finale offered the Tetzlaff Quartet a vigorous workout for all four instrumentalists, and they performed it brilliantly. I was especially impressed by the extraordinary vigor of cellist Tanja Tetzlaff and violist Hanna Weinmeister, though I must also praise violinists Christian Tetzlaff and Elisabeth Kufferath for the strength and beauty of their performance. All told, this was an exciting concert offering difficult, innovative works in the string quartet repertory, all three emanating from the city of Vienna at three distinct epochs of that city’s musical history.