Full Text



Press Release: Waste Pickup Schedule Pushed Back by a Day During Holidays

Matthai Chakko, City of Berkeley PIO
Thursday December 21, 2017 - 05:10:00 PM

There will be no refuse, recycling or compost collection on Christmas or New Year's days.

Following both holidays, residential curbside collection will be one day behind schedule for the remainder of the week for both December 26-30 and January 2-6.

For example, if Monday is your regular collection day, your holiday collection will occur on Tuesday. Tuesday pickup will occur on Wednesday and so on. Regularly scheduled Friday pickups will happen on Saturday.

SENIOR POWER: Holiday Connections

Helen Rippier Wheeler, rippierfamily@gmail.com
Friday December 22, 2017 - 01:30:00 PM

The Rippiers were new to America. Mid-19th century. The name refers to "one who carries fish inland to sell" rather than to something classy and perhaps French, as I for years was allowed to assume. Shades of Hyacinth Bucket and her riparian entertainments. But there’s more! In England it was also Ripper (as in Jack-The…). Perhaps it was changed in the New World, perhaps inadvertently, to Rippier.  

Thomas Shortin Ripper was born on a Terrington, Norfolk County farm in 1824 and indentured at sixteen to a London shopkeeper. Spinster Sarah Clarke and he, a draper, were married in 1847. That year his father wrote to son Thomas at 52 New Bond Street, a London retail building occupied in 1794 by William Gattie, Perfumer, still in existence in 1983 as The White House, and today, Emporio Armani offers Luxury Menswear, Womenswear & Accessories. His father regretted that he would not be able to come and see London that summer as the mustard was nearly fit to cut and was an excellent crop. 

The District Parish Church of St. Peter, Eaton Square, Pimlico, recorded the couple's residences as Victoria Road. My great grandfather's rank or profession as well as that of Sarah's father are recorded as draper, and Thomas' father as farmer. This St. Peter's stands today, serving "a varied social and economic mix of residents, commuters, company offices, embassies, shops, theatres, hotels, transport facilities, mixed primary school and secondary school for boys, within central London." Built in 1827, it was founded to meet the needs of Church of England residents of new houses being built by the Grosvenor family to make what became known as Belgravia.  

London in the first half of the nineteenth century has been described by historian Steven Johnson as “a rank, overcrowded sewer.” By September 1854 a cholera epidemic was rampant in the overcrowded neighborhoods. Thomas and Sarah and their three children sailed for America on the Southampton, considered a reliable ship during her sixteen years of New York-London packet service (1849-1865) with Master Isiah Pratt. She consisted of cabin class and steerage. The Hampshire Independent newspaper carried advertisements in 1854 for the General Screw Steam Shipping Company: First Class fares started at £20 and 2nd Class at £15, including bed and bedding, provisions, and steward's fees. For "Intermediate passengers" at £10 each, the ship provided cooked provisions, mattresses and pillows ("not bedclothes") and mess utensils. Steerage Passengers were allowed five cubic feet of baggage. Westbound trips averaged 33 days. I wonder how Sarah managed with three small children: Agnes age one, Edwin Thomas age three and Arthur age four.  


Thomas and Sarah and their children were processed at Castle Garden Immigration Station at the tip of Manhattan Island. It may have been here that Ripper became Rippier. Ellis Island, in Upper New York Bay, was the gateway for over 12 million immigrants as the United States' busiest immigrant inspection station for over 60 years from 1892 until 1954. From 1855 to 1890, the Castle was America's first official immigration center, a pioneering collaboration of New York State and New York City.  

They settled in Brooklyn, where he established a butter and eggs business. By 1886 he was paying off the mortgage on property at the corner of East New York Avenue and Lackawana Street. Thomas and Sarah were admitted to Henry Ward Beecher's Brooklyn Heights Congregational Plymouth Church. City directories between 1888 and 1890 also identify him as a Fulton Street baker. An 1890 Statement to Thomas from David T. Williams & Co., "Commission Merchants and wholesale dealers in butter, cheese, lard, eggs and provisions, flour, soap, starch, salt fish, salt, etc.," refers to "merchandise and cash to make 300." At the time of his death, in 1895, they resided in the Windsor Terrace section of Brooklyn (“the poor man’s Park Slope”) and summered in the Bedford countryside. Seven years later at the time of her death, Sarah was living with son Edwin.  

My maternal grandfather, Alfred Charles, was born in 1861, the youngest of Charles and Sarah's eight children. The oldest brother, Edwin Thomas, did not graduate from high school and was apprenticed with a dentist in downtown Brooklyn. Later he established his own dental practice and residence at 354 9th Street, moving up in Brooklyn society and politics. Frequently mentioned in Brooklyn Daily Eagle turn-of-the century reportage, Edwin was a Republican, Mason and Elk and a member of the yacht club and Knights of Templar. A formal card directed to "Dr. E. T. Rippier and Ladies" invited them to view the Grand Pyrotechnic Display attending the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge aboard the ferry-boat Garden City. 

In an 1880 letter to his mother, Edwin wrote "My very dear mother… I listened to the first of a course of lectures (Illustrated) by Stodard at the Academy of Music the Subject was Vienna…" He urged his mother to visit: "we have fitted up a nice spare room." And "I have been honored by being elected President of the Brooklyn Dental Society. The first time in the history of the Society that a young man has been chosen. I must say I have lots to be thankfull for to the powers that be. I never thought in the days gone by when it was a struggle for a respectable existence that I would attain the position in life I now hold but in spite of the many sorrows and heart tearings and with a determination of work and wait I got there, and without any egotism on my part I feel that I have the right to be proud… Affectionately Edwin."  

In 1898, Edwin wrote from Bermuda. "I am still gaining strength and now weighing 165 pounds. … I wish the weather would permit. I would come on the next boat… Yours as ever.” By the time Edwin was thirty years old, tuberculosis had become a problem. A generation later, Aunt Sadie's son also was afflicted. Edwin returned from Bermuda through Ellis Island after taking the cure. I don't remember great Uncle Edwin at all, although I dimly recall his sisters, Aunt Aggie (Agnes) and Aunt Sadie (Sarah). By 1920 Edwin owned his own home with a mortgage, had become naturalized, lost his first wife and their children, and started a second family.  

A few years ago I received an email from England from a second cousin I never knew I had – she had found me via the Internet. She was a Ripper and is a genealogy buff. We exchange news and photographs via the Internet email attachments from our personal archives. I shared photographs and clippings I’d inherited that her mother enjoyed before her death. 

This December she writes Dear Helen, I hope this email finds you well. We follow the news from the USA with great interest to see what Trump will do next. I'm not sure that he's going to get a rapturous welcome when he visits the UK next year but I may be wrong. I don't think that you are near the fires in California as they seem to be raging near Santa Barbara but it must be dreadful to be caught up in them. The highlight of our year has been the arrival of another grandson in early November so we now have two. The older one, who is just over two years, is beginning to talk and his vocabulary increases in leaps and bounds. It's wonderful to be able to stand back and be amazed by the development of a child in his early years. Have a very Happy Christmas and best wishes for 2018. 

Alas, I fear she is spot on (as they say) with The Donald not getting a rapturous welcome! 

Although seniors 74-years-old and older are the fastest-growing age group on social-networking sites, some senior citizens are resistant to technology. Would they be less so if senior centers and retirement communities encouraged their pc learning and acquisition? Instruction and equipment are often lacking in senior centers and low-income housing. The Pew Research Center in May 2017 reported tech adoption climbing among older adults. Roughly two-thirds of those ages 65 and older go online and a record share now own smartphones – although many seniors remain relatively divorced from digital life. It seems to depend on income. Distant cousin’s home in England appears online to be quite nice! 

THEATER: 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' At Winter Solstice

Ken Bullock
Friday December 22, 2017 - 01:26:00 PM

"If I do 'A Misummer Night's Dream' for a third time, I thought, I'll do it as a holiday offering, one set in pagan Greece!"

So said Rey Carolino, who is indeed staging the Ninjaz of Drama's third production of The Bard's madcap comedy of lovers, fairies and the Rude Mechanicals right now, not under the midsummer sky in an amphitheater, but ground zero holiday season, at the intimate Phoenix Theatre near Union Square in San Francisco.

Watching the Ninjaz do Shakespeare is always a little revelatory, at least due to the clarity of the text as performed--passages as spoken and expressed through gesture and staging leap out as though never heard before, or never in just that way.

Even more subtly, there's the satisfaction in a sense of plasticity of form, maybe Shakespeare's own secret weapon, here in the expert cutting of the script and in the direction of the ensemble, the relation of scenes playing off each other, and of the different storylines that tangle up together to make the comic confusion of three separate worlds--the lovers, who are of the upper class of Athens (including Duke Theseus--Christopher P. Kelly, courtier Philostrate, Lisa Bettini--and the Amazon Queen Hippolyta, Laurel Scotland-Stewart--and Hermia, damsel-in-distress Irina Dianova; Demetrius, a Wally Cox-like, bespeckled Joey Alvarado; Lysander, intrepid Federico Edwards; Helena, hilarious Brittany A. Kamerschen); the Rude Mechanicals, blue collar would-be thespians (Sheila Cress as Snug the Joiner; Pam Mangan as Francis Flute; Myles Wynn as Quince the actor-manager; Samantha Rasler as the bombastic Bottom the Weaver; Tracy Baxter as Snout the Tinker; Amanda Lee as Robin Starveling)--and the otherworldly fairies in the wood (Arcady Darter as Oberon; Tavi Carpenter as Titania, PoLina Litvak as the ibiquitous, grinning Puck, Lindsey Mitchell as Moth--and others in the cast doubling as the excellent fairy chorus).

So many interpretations of Shakespeare these days are just that--interpretations, usually taking the most abstruse anachronism and running with it. This production has its conceits, the term for concepts in Shakespeare's time--a midsummer's play for the winter holidays, the Mechanicals cross-cast as women led by a man--and most original, the lovers not younger, but mature, pushing middle age ...

All three premises are intriguing, adding perspective, even spin!, to the evening--but each gives an angle of view to the whole endeavor, not just a "twist," some distortion.

I've never seen the Ninjaz do Shakespearean comedy before, but rather those two archetypal tragedies, 'Hamlet' and 'Lear,' both excellently. I was concerned that 'Midsummer ... ' couldn't measure up, wouldn't be able to manage the comic lightness of touch. My concerns turned out to be empty. It's a wonderful evening of fantastic Shakespearean comedy. And as Carolino pointed out to me, "there are parts that are hardly comic!"--The Bard's other great secret weapon: a sometimes wild mingling of styles ...

What started out some years ago with Carolino directing Tennessee Williams plays and starting to pay close attention to language, then following a friend's suggestion to look into staging Shakespeare, has paid off--royally. The Ninjaz are a modest company, announcing in the program that they're nonprofessional. But their achievement isn't so modest. They're a true community theater, not the kind of hobbyist group that's often called that--modern Rude Mechanicals!-- But members of the community at large, moved to band together and explore theater, the work of our greatest playwright and poet--and who bring an admirable sincerity and determination to what they do. Whatever recognition they gather, in any case--it pays off.

Playing Fridays, Saturdays at 8 through December 30 at the Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason (off Union Square between Geary and Post), 6th floor. $20-$25. ninjazofdrama.com

Re Pepper Spray: an Open Letter to Berkeley City Council

Dr. James McFadden
Wednesday December 20, 2017 - 12:59:00 PM

Mayor and City Council,

As you proceed down the path of giving the Berkeley Police whatever tools of violence they demand, don't forget to consider police impunity and abuse of these pain compliance means of torture. The BPD has failed to acknowledge their role in the death of Kayla Moore and for their their violence against respected members of the community during the black lives matter protests, and have failed to even acknowledge racial profiling as documented in the CPE report. Last night you once again caved to the demands for additional police weapons by authorizing pepper spray use in crowds (thank you Cheryl, Kate, Kriss for voting against pepper spray). I suppose the next police demand will be for tasers when their tactics again fail and they blame the Council for not giving them enough "tools" of violence. 

Please watch the video embedded in this Reuters article regarding tasers. This is about police and prison guard impunity to get away with torture. Pain compliance is just a fancy name for torture.  


And for those of you who think pepper spray is just another "tool" - that it is not torture, please view this video of children exposed to pepper spray. 


As JP[Massar] eloquently pointed out - it is the collateral damage that is the problem. Innocent non-violent protestors will be the ones who will get sprayed and react in excruciating pain like these children. And as Kelly[Hammargren] mentioned, if the victims are older, or have health problems, pepper spray could result in death - death that will point back to your votes last night. If BPD escalates their use of pain compliance on protestors, and begins an arms race, those who challenge police in order to incite police violence will not be harmed. As JP pointed out, they will be the agile youth who will know when to move, and will have gas masks for protection. It will be the non-violent public, the innocent bystanders, who will suffer.  

I know it is difficult to admit when you are wrong - especially in public - with TV cameras running. I could see the anger in Jesse for having to face a vote - blaming the PRC for having the audacity to actually question the logic of the pepper spray vote last September. But as Kate rightly pointed out, the Council voted in haste and fear, a shock doctrine vote for pepper spray. Alas it is difficult to admit a mistake. So instead last night one could hear the clownish excuses from Droste about how the pepper spray can was not that big - as if that mattered. You could hear the Police Chief dodge Bartlett's question about under what circumstances he would have used pepper spray during the last year. And you could see Council members falling over each other to praise the police as they provided them a weapon that will likely increase the risk of violence to both the police and the public. It was a sad vote that had more to do with saving face than with reducing violence in our community.  

I hope this path of police militarization does not continue as you face the votes on Urban Shield and NCRIC next year. 

Berkeley and “The Graduate” Fifty Years After

Steven Finacom
Saturday December 16, 2017 - 05:20:00 PM
The Victorian house at 2400 Dana which served as Dustin Hoffman’s boarding house in “The Graduate”.
Steven Finacom
The Victorian house at 2400 Dana which served as Dustin Hoffman’s boarding house in “The Graduate”.
Hoffman’s character, Benjamin Braddock, looking out the attic window down at the intersection of Dana and Channing in a screen shot from the film. (“The Graduate”)
Hoffman’s character, Benjamin Braddock, looking out the attic window down at the intersection of Dana and Channing in a screen shot from the film. (“The Graduate”)
A close up of the window and fire escape, still looking the same today as in 1967.
Steven Finacom
A close up of the window and fire escape, still looking the same today as in 1967.
Braddock arriving on Durant Avenue to run into the Theta Delta Chi fraternity, with the Unit I residence halls in the background. (“The Graduate”)
Braddock arriving on Durant Avenue to run into the Theta Delta Chi fraternity, with the Unit I residence halls in the background. (“The Graduate”)
The 2400 Dana boarding house building in a mid-century photo, taken sometime after 1942 when the building was converted to World War II-era apartments.  (Courtesy, Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, Donogh collection.)
The 2400 Dana boarding house building in a mid-century photo, taken sometime after 1942 when the building was converted to World War II-era apartments. (Courtesy, Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, Donogh collection.)

This week of Christmas, 2017, it’s fifty years since the premiere of the movie “The Graduate” on December 21, 1967. While film and cultural critics have been musing about the role of the movie in American society, I’ve been looking into its connections to Berkeley for the past several months. 

In October I gave a walking tour for the Berkeley Historical Society visiting sites associated with “The Graduate”. On December 15 I spoke to an enthusiastic Berkeley Breakfast Club about the Berkeley connections of the movie. When I gave that talk, I started out asking how many people in the audience had seen the movie when it was first released? A large number—probably a hundred or more—raised their hands. 

So even fifty years later “The Graduate” is still well remembered locally and first hand. 

So what were the local connections? 

First, the movie was based on a book of the same name, published in 1963. The book wasn’t a best seller before the movie—one account I found said it sold only a few thousand copies—but it set the local stage. Although there are some differences, the movie quite closely tracks the book, although a lot of the book’s dialogue is shortened, and some scenes are given more visually dramatic frames in the movie. 

(For example, the iconic movie images of Dustin Hoffman’s character, Benjamin Braddock, speeding around town and around California in a red Alfa Romeo don’t take place in the book. Braddock, upon his arrival in Berkeley, sells the sports car for money to live on. Thereafter, he takes taxis, buses, and airplanes). 

The book, by Charles Webb—who was born in San Francisco, and grew up in Pasadena—calls Berkeley by name as the campus town where much of the story takes place, and describes numerous local sites. There’s an unnamed hotel and theater on a main street that Braddock visits, the UC campus itself, Elaine Robinson’s high rise dormitory, a boarding house, and a cafe on Telegraph Avenue. 

All of those except hotel and movie theater reappear in the movie, although in somewhat altered forms. 

UC campus scenes describe Braddock eating and buying a newspaper at the campus dining commons, seeing Elaine pass through an adjacent plaza, following her to a large nearby classroom building with steps, planters with trees, and benches in front, and waiting there for her to reappear. 

This literary sequence is clearly: the campus cafeteria, new in the early 1960s, now called the Chavez Center, but still hosting an eatery on the Sproul Plaza side; Sproul Plaza itself; and, most probably, Dwinelle Hall which has the requisite front steps and multiple tree planters and benches in a plaza in front. 

In both book and movie Elaine lives near the campus in a modern dormitory in a quadrangle. Most likely this would be either the Unit I or Unit II residence hall complexes on College Avenue. 

There’s the cafe on Telegraph, which became the Cafe Mediterraneum in the movie. There Braddock sits in the window drinking beer, with both the Print Mint and Moe’s Books visible across the street. Moe’s is still there, although it’s now in a newer building constructed on the site of the old one. 

A local site that the movie adds that’s not in the book is the Theta Delta Chi fraternity at College and Durant, across from the Unit I dormitory complex. In the book, Braddock finds out about Elaine’s marriage plans by going to the Berkeley apartment of her fiancee, Carl. Carl has left a note on his door for his own roommate, telling him that he’s getting married in Santa Barbara (why Carl didn’t leave the note inside the apartment for his own roommate, who presumably hada key, is a mystery). 

In the movie, there’s the more dramatic scene of Braddock speeding up to the fraternity in his sports car, rushing inside, and finding a friend of Carl’s in the communal bathroom who tells him about the wedding site. 

Theta Delta Chi ended up in the movie as part of the scenery because an alumnus of Cal and the fraternity was on the production team for the movie. The film crew paid the fraternity $500 for a day’s filming time at the house, and also hired fraternity members—at $30 per day—to walk up and down Telegraph as background pedestrians in the cafe scene. 

Then there’s the boarding house. And this turns out to be a more complex story. 

In my early years in Berkeley, I remember people pointing out a house at Channing and Dana and referring to it as Dustin Hoffman’s boarding house. This was not much more than a decade after the movie came out, and there was clearly a lot of local “word of mouth” that had survived and persisted. 

(In those days, before VCR’s and the internet, memory of the movie was kept alive by periodic screenings at the UC Theater on University Avenue. During the movie at least one audience member was always sure to shout out, to laughter, “You’re going the wrong way!” when Hoffman speeds across the Bay Bridge ostensibly towards Berkeley, but actually headed towards San Francisco. The scene where Elaine and Benjamin board a bus on Telegraph Avenue and disembark at the San Francisco Zoo was also entertaining to many locals. Who could imagine such a fantastical singular transit route, snaking through four cities and across a Bay? The book, alas, explains this much more prosaically. It says they transferred buses a couple of times). 

When I started to research the exact location of the boarding house, I ran into a couple of obstacles. First, one on-line blogger had posted some years ago that the boarding house was at Durant and Dana, a block to the north. That claim had been picked up by others so today, if you do a search for “where was Dustin Hoffman’s boarding house in The Graduate?” the Durant / Dana reference may well appear. 

It’s not correct. Although there were older houses at Dana and Durant up through the 50s, there were none in 1967 when the movie was filmed. The actual location was 2400 Dana Street, a handsome Queen Anne Victorian that still stands on the southwest corner of the intersection. (In the book, Braddock gives a wholly fictionalized address on “Baker Street”, so that’s no help to the factual research). 

The second point of confusion came when I watched the movie for the first time in several years. I expected to see an exterior shot of the boarding house, but one didn’t appear. There are numerous interior shots, but some of them didn’t seem to match the 2400 Dana building. 

For example, in a couple of scenes Hoffman’s character talks in an elaborate staircase with the suspicious owner of the boarding house. 2400 Dana is too narrow to contain such a large stair hall. Also, while 2400 Dana was once actually a boarding house—from the early 20th century—in 1942 the interior was converted into six apartments, most of them with exterior entrances. So the staircase most likely disappeared before 1967 when the movie was filmed. 

This led me to the conclusion that at least some of the boarding house interior scenes were filmed elsewhere. My guess is in some large, ramshackle, Victorian in Los Angeles that I haven’t been able to identify. 

Further evidence for the Berkeley location comes from a 1967 Daily Californian article about the filming. It mentions that scenes were shot at “apartments at Channing and Dana” which confirms the location, since the only apartments at that corner were 2400 Dana. (The other three corners were occupied by two churches, First Congregational and First Presbyterian, and the newly built Unit III residence halls). 

The Daily Cal article also drops another important nugget. It said the filming in Berkeley was brief (three days) and only simple scenes were shot at each location. At the boarding house there’s just a scene of Hoffman looking out the window onto the street. 

Back to the movie. In the movie there’s one scene where Elaine Robinson leaves the boarding house and Benjamin Braddock watches her morosely from his attic window. She crosses the street, and the walls of the Unit III dormitory complex and First Presbyterian Church are clearly visible in the background. 

The window itself—a Victorian divided-light, double hung—and the metal fire escape outside are also clearly visible in the shot. And both of them—window and fire escape—are still there today, in the attic eave of 2400 Dana, looking out over the street. 

That’s proof positive that 2400 Dana was the Berkeley site of Braddock’s boarding house, at least for one scene. 

From looking at the movie, I think possibly one or two interior scenes were also filmed in the attic apartment, but others were filmed in a different building. Features of the room and the background change subtly. 

There’s another interesting aspect to the history of the boarding house. In the late 1930s a young woman from Oregon was studying at Cal. She had a boyfriend, Clarence Cleary, and he lived at 2400 Dana. She would later marry him, and she became Beverly Cleary, the famous children’s author. She wrote about in one of her memoirs that his room would later become famous as Dustin Hoffman’s room in “The Graduate”. 

And many years later, the University built a new residence hall up the street on Channing and named it “Beverly Cleary Hall”. It sits just half a block from 2400 Dana, a charming geographical coincidence. 

There’s also the interesting question of why so little filming in Berkeley when both the book and the movie firmly placed several scenes in the town? That’s a story in itself, that’s partially told by the Daily Californian article as well. According to the piece, the film crew had started negotiating in late 1966 for the opportunity to film on campus. Discussions went on for months, but the University finally demurred. UC press spokesman Dick Hafner was quoted in the article as saying he had read the script and said the film “would not bring out any of Cal’s unique characteristics” and the book could be about a college anywhere. 

Most likely the campus administration was concerned about the Berkeley campus being typecast even more so than it already was by 1967, as a place of free love, rebellion against conventional society, and angst-ridden rule-breaking intellectuals. 

So it appears only one scene used in the movie was actually shot on the Berkeley campus. A brief shot shows Elaine walking through a crowd in what is clearly Sproul Plaza. That could have been filmed somewhat surreptitiously, without attracting much notice. But the rest of the “campus” scenes ended up filmed at the University of Southern California. In fact, the Daily Cal article was even headlined, somewhat sarcastically, “Flick about Berkeley Campus Shot at USC”. 

When the movie premiered it went on to great acclaim. It was the top grossing film of 1968, and earned seven Academy Award nominations. Ultimately, only Mike Nichols, the director, received an Oscar. 

And the movie entered the popular consciousness, backgrounded by the Simon and Garfunkel songs that formed much of the sound track. Critics then and now talked about how the film caught the imagination of the younger generation, with many people going to see it over and over. Like “Bonnie and Clyde”, which premiered earlier in 1967, it signaled new directions in Hollywood responding to new forces in popular culture. 

One critic who didn’t like “The Graduate” much on initial viewing was Pauline Kael, and there’s an important Berkeley connection there, too. Kael had honed her reviewing and writing skills at the Cinema Guild movie theater on Telegraph, just a block up from the Caffe Med. In 1967 when small-time New York stage actor Dustin Hoffman came west to Berkeley and became famous, Kael was making the reverse journey to fame, starting her column of movie reviews in The New Yorker. 

Ironically, if you consider both book and movie, the Berkeley portrayed there isn’t really 1960s Berkeley. Remember that the book was written and published before the Free Speech Movement changed everything. The main local settings and situations in book and movie are an all-male rooming house, a fraternity, sequestered women’s dormitories, conventional classrooms and studies, middle class white people everywhere, and a traditional marriage proposal from blond frat guy going places to straight-laced daughter of wealthy Southern California lawyer. When Dustin Hoffman sits down for a drink at the Cafe Med he doesn’t even order coffee—in both book and movie, he has a beer. 

So perhaps the University shouldn’t have worried much. The Berkeley of “The Graduate” is more the Berkeley of the 1950s than the 1960s. 

The attitudes of both the University and the City have changed towards film. Both now have film offices that work to assist, not obstruct, film-makers who want to use Berkeley as a setting. And you can find on line the titles of some 30 movies that have been at least partially set or filmed in Berkeley in the fifty years since “The Graduate”. So the movie seemed to have started a local cinematic trend. 

What was the long term impact of “The Graduate” on Berkeley? Hard to tell. The settings are still there, although Telegraph Avenue itself faces development pressure which could wipe away most of its character defining buildings. As I learned when constructing my walking tour, it’s still possible to visit almost every site mentioned in book or movie that can be connected to Berkeley. 

Finally, when I watched “The Graduate” earlier this year, for the first time in several years, I saw it in light of the unfolding scandals of 2016 and 2017. Hoffman’s character in 1968 was a tormented young man, struggling to find meaning in life and society. In 2017, he comes across as much more of a creep and, literally, a sexual stalker of Elaine. And Mrs. Robinson who was, to many, a titillating figure in 1968, looks today awfully like a sexual predator. 

When I spoke to the Breakfast Club, I set the scene by imagining Donald Trump viewing the movie today. I created an imaginary tweet for him along these lines. 

“Saw “The Graduate” last night. A very good documentary about the problems rich people face. Liked that sports car and the emphasis on consumption of fossil fuel. Liked the scenes of the affair, very, very, accurate, although usually the man is in charge. Should have been filmed at a Trump hotel. Berkeley radicals. Sad. Liked Anne Bancroft, but my friend Judge Roy Moore says he liked the daughter better.” 

That drew a lot of laughter. It was mainly wry laughter, I think, confirming as I realized through my research, the times have indeed changed and we are aware of that. 

Steven Finacom is researching a landmark application for 2400 Dana Street, based in part on the relationship of the film to “The Graduate”.

The Long History of the Berkeley Civic Center

Harvey Smith, Author, Berkeley and the New Deal
Saturday December 16, 2017 - 05:46:00 PM

Berkeley Civic Center as a concept goes back over a hundred years. However, it is also self-evident that a great city deserves a great civic center. 

Berkeley’s Civic Center District Zoning Overlay, which was passed three years ago, merely respects, codifies, and protects over 100 years of Berkeley history. Civic uses of the district are not in opposition to other types of development in the city but will complement them. 

In 1909, the new City Hall was presented as part of the city's image of the "Athens of the West" and was linked to the neo-classical buildings being built on the U.C. campus. 

City Hall bordered what was planned as a City Beautiful Movement-style central park area. Architect and city planner Charles Henry Cheney, who drafted California’s first city planning act (passed in 1915), provided initial designs for what he called “Liberty Square.” 

The 1914 Post Office was part of this conception and was done in an Italian Renaissance style. 

The Veteran's Building, Community Theater, Farm Credit Building (now the Civic Center Building) and other buildings contributed to this grouping of public buildings. 

Berkeley voters approved a bond measure in 1940 that furnished the last funds needed to complete Civic Center Park. 

The historic Civic Center has the most concentrated number of New Deal-era projects in Berkeley - "Berkeley's New Deal Nexus": Berkeley Community Theater, G and H Buildings at Berkeley High, old Hall of Justice, Farm Credit Building, WPA work on Civic Center Park, art work on and in a number of these buildings (including the Main Post Office). 

The entire district was listed in 1998 to the National Register of Historic Places and the California Register of Historical Resources due to its historic, cultural, educational, governmental and judicial significance. The Civic Center Park fountain is at the center of the axis of these structures representing our community's democratic and social functions. 

Civic Center Park continues to function as site of public events, concerts and fairs, and the adjacent Center Street hosts the weekly Saturday Farmers' Market. Dubbed Provo Park in the 1960s, it was the site of many anti-war demonstrations. In 1983, it was designated as Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park. 

The effort to privatize our postal system and the selling of post offices in the past several years throughout the country illustrate how public assets can be stripped from communities for private gain. 

Citizens in communities throughout the country have protested this heist of cultural heritage. In Berkeley it has been a broad-based effort involving two mayors, the entire city council, citizens of every background, and members of the state and federal legislative delegations. 

The Shattuck corridor, North Berkeley, South Berkeley, West Berkeley, Fourth Street and Telegraph Avenue are target areas for development. Protection from private development of Berkeley’s Historic Civic Center District is seen by many as a way to preserve the civic values cherished by most Berkeleyans. Berkeley citizens are not alone. Across the Bay, San Francisco also has its own Civic Center Historic District. 

Proposed Liberty Square (1919), Berkeley Public Library 



Sexual Sins: Are Contrition and Redemption Possible?

Becky O'Malley
Friday December 22, 2017 - 01:11:00 PM

Let’s start with three words: perspective, proportionality, process. We’ll get back to them.

In 1964, a few of us in Ann Arbor who’d met through our participation in the civil rights movement became concerned about what was going on in Southeast Asia. The president, Michigan’s senators and our local congressman were all Democrats, and the Democratic party was the strongest supporter of the main local civil rights issue, attempts to pass a fair housing law, so it seemed to make sense to enlist the party’s help in questioning the developing war in Vietnam, a place many of us had never even heard of.

The Democrats in Michigan in those days were dominated by industrial unions, particularly the United Auto Workers, and these unions by that time were right there with us when it counted for civil rights. But it was another story when it came to the growing anti-war movement.

Within the UAW, Millie Jeffrey, the first female department head in the Union, was a strong advocate both for civil rights and for stopping the growth of what was to be called the Vietnam War. But most of her fellow UAW leaders in 1964 were leary of opposing policies backed by “their” Democratic administration.

A notable exception was the UAW’s main man in Congress, elected from Detroit in 1964 with union backing, a young lawyer named John Conyers.

Congressman John Conyers was an early and stalwart participant in the anti-war movement, both in public and behind the scenes, in a position where he could easily have faced primary opposition within the Democratic party if he annoyed the union moguls. He took a chance and stood up for what he thought was right.

It goes without saying that as an African-American he was also a strong civil rights advocate. He hired the fabled Rosa Parks as an aide, dispatching her to tell schoolchildren all over the Detroit area about her history in The Movement, including my daughters.

And yes, though I never met him myself, John Conyers was also rumored to be devastatingly attractive to women, and also strongly attracted by them, to a fault. That’s right, that John Conyers. And here’s where we get to the perspective part of the story.

Does occasional lewd, lascivious or perhaps just flirtatious behavior, even with yes, some unwelcome touching, which is all that John Conyers has been accused of to my knowledge, cancel out a long and distinguished career of fighting for important causes?

Maybe, maybe not. Perspective. 

Let’s think now about proportionality. As far as I’ve been able to determine, the very most Garrison Keillor has been accused of is patting a woman’s back, bared by a blouse which seems to have been riding up.  

And for this he’s supposed to become, in Orwellian Newspeak, an Unperson? To lose access to his back shows and his place in the spotlight? 

A long time ago, perhaps 35 years ago, my closest neighbor and dear friend died of breast cancer in her forties, on today’s date, the winter solstice, the longest darkness of the year. I was constrained to attend a semi-compulsory office party instead of dealing with my grief. When I got home that night I switched on the radio out of habit, and there was Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion, which was and is roundly ridiculed by my smart-mouth friends for being corny. Maybe it was, but the show routinely featured classical music as an integral part of popular programming, and I appreciated that. On this dark night they had a choir that sang what I remember as the “Comfort Ye” part of Handel’s Messiah, and it did comfort me. 

We’re talking here about a man who has spent most of his life making his listeners feel better, with a heavy though sugar-coated dose of progressive politics thrown in for free.  

But as they say in that model of English jurisprudence, the trial of the Knave of Hearts in Wonderland: It’s “sentence first—verdict afterwards". Off with his head! said the Red Queen. 

Whatever happened to proportionality, letting the punishment fit the crime? 

And for that matter, consider process. How about due process for Al Franken? 

Yes, I realize that using those two words marks me as being one of those old-fashioned civil libertarians, apparently now almost as unstylish as listening to the Prairie Home Companion. 

But I’m here to report that most of my own women friends and relatives, each and every one of whom would count herself a feminist, are mad as hell about the kangaroo court proceedings which seem to have coerced Al Franken into resigning before the Ethics Committee had a chance to investigate the charges against him.  

Critics of the rush-to-judgment mentality that I’ve talked to about this include one woman over 80 and another who’s 17. They’re reluctant to make a public fuss, but lately some contrarians among them have started speaking up about what they dislike, often invoking memories of Joe McCarthy. 

None of them admires the principal self-designated leader of the Dump Al crusade. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a sometime Blue Dog Democrat who’s defended cigarette corporation Phillip Morris in criminal and civil cases as an attorney. She talks of Zero Tolerance trumping Due Process—an idea that didn’t work well in the war on drugs and doesn’t belong in this discussion either. 

I’m no fan of the kind of rough, vulgar, profane “humor” which characterizes Saturday Night Live and other late-night comedy shows. It seems obvious that Al Franken, who came from that world, has thought that being bawdy is just part of life, which for me it’s not. But that doesn’t negate his serious contributions to public discourse since he’s been in the Senate, and he’s still needed there. 

Women need to be alert to the world of difference on a continuum which includes dirty words, off-color jokes, unwanted hugs, seized kisses, furtive pinches on the behind, indecent exposure, and, on the other side of a line, statutory and forcible rape. It does a serious disservice to real rape victims (not all of them “survivors”) to minimize the enormity of what happened to them. 

It’s bad for women who experience one of those lesser forms of disrespect to portray them as powerless. Almost all such alleged offenses with the exception of rape can often be disposed of with a simple “Cut it out!”, perhaps accompanied by a slap. Young women should be taught that they most often have the power to resist. 

If there’s economic retribution against complainants, there are whistleblower laws which can be invoked to protect them. But it’s wrong to insist that every accused perpetrator should be summarily judged guilty at the moment of accusation. This just in: even some women lie on occasion. 

This is the time of year when even the irreligious tend to connect with their religious roots. My own tradition is very conscious of the existence of sin (another old-fashioned word), which is probably why it offers ample opportunity for sinners to confess and reform. These three men, possibly sinners all, should be given that chance, because they have done a lot of good, and will do more if permitted to. 

John Conyers is entitled, at 88, to retire in peace regardless of what he did in his randy 50s.  

It looks like Garrison Keillor will take legal action against the weak-as-water Minnesota Public Radio organization which dumped him on the basis of a single claim. That might produce eventual justice, whether he’s innocent or guilty.  

But Al Franken should be encouraged not to resign on January 2, his announced date. Contrition can be followed by redemption. He’s a smart and even thoughtful man in this period of his life, and the U.S. Senate lacks those. We still need his work for the public good. 

There’s a petition circulating to ask Franken to stay on, at least through an Ethics Committee investigation. It can be found at Change.org. You might consider signing it.

The Editor's Back Fence

What's new in this issue?

Sunday December 17, 2017 - 10:56:00 PM

If you'd like to make sure that you don't miss anything, you can add your name to our subscriber list. Just email subscribe@berkeleydailyplanet.com and we'll email you links to whatever's been posted in the last seven days. We never share our subscriber list with anyone.

Public Comment

Yemen Situation is Worse

Jagjit Singh
Saturday December 16, 2017 - 06:10:00 PM

The news from war-torn Yemen gets grimmer by the day. 

The US- UK-France coalition supporting the Saudi-led bombing campaign has devastated Yemen’s health, water and sanitation systems and has sparked a massive cholera epidemic. The Saudi-imposed naval blockade assisted by the US navy has prevented critical food, water, medicine and aid from reaching civilians. The United Nations has warned that over 8 million people are “a step away from famine.” It is tragic that not a single US lawmaker has expressed concern for the war crimes being committed. 

Aid agencies still don’t have full access to port Hudaydah, which is the main access port for the most densely populated part of Yemen. The food is coming by land or from distant ports which is driving up food prices out of reach for most Yeminis. The situation is extremely dire. The number of people on the brink of famine has reached more than 8 million. Children are starving to death across the country even in the coalition-controlled territory. 27 million people are being strangulated by the coalition enforced blockade. Disease is rampant. Almost one million have succumbed to cholera and diphtheria. 

It is outrageous that our tax dollars are being used to conduct this immoral war. The US is fully complicit in serious war crimes being committed. I urge concerned readers to contact their representatives and President Trump to call for an immediate halt to military aid to Saudi Arabia and demand lifting the naval blockade.

The Thriving Economy: Fact or Fiction

Harry Brill
Saturday December 16, 2017 - 05:50:00 PM

The press nationwide has been conveying the so called good news they received from the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). We learned that the economy is thriving and at full employment. Why? 228,000 jobs were created in November. According to the Federal Reserve, the nation is at full employment when the rate is at 5 percent. The November rate was even lower, at 4.1 percent. 

Incidentally, the Federal Reserve, which represents the interests of the banking industry, has encouraged banks to raise their interest rates to prevent the economy, it claims, from overheating! But the economy is not overheating. Rather, it is an excuse to increase the profits of the financial institutions. 

Yet The New York Times, echoing the BLS report, writes that companies are posting jobs faster than they can find workers to fill them" Moreover, the Times reports that there has been "broad-based gains in income..." In reality, however, there are far more job seekers than good jobs, and wages are not going up. The official (and underestimated) unemployment rate is exactly the same as the month before and only one tenth lower than two months ago. Also, the increased income is nothing to boast about. Even according to the super-optimistic BLS report, earnings rose by only five cents an hour. And when the inflation rate is taken into account, the gains made mounted to only a few pennies. So despite BLS's report, it is evident from the official data that prosperity is not around the corner. 

Among the recent ominous developments have been the closing of about 5000 retail stores. Over 90,000 jobs have been lost recently. Particularly hard hit have been women who make up 60 percent of retail employees. Many attribute the blame to Amazon and other e-commerce businesses for the loss in sales. But although these companies certainly compete with retail establishments, their impact has been greatly exaggerated. According to the US Census Bureau, over 90 percent of purchases are still made by brick-and-mortar stores. Unfortunately, the economy and working people are in serious trouble. The November job increase has nothing to do with a vibrant economy. Many of the so called new jobs included construction jobs to rebuild hurricane devastated areas. 

From the perspective of working people and their families, the economic situation is becoming more worrisome. Since the year 2,000 over 5 million manufacturing jobs, many of which were unionized and paid good wages, have been exported. 3.2 million jobs have been shipped to China. At least as many have relocated to India. And 700,000 jobs have been outsourced to low wage Mexico. Generally speaking, more than 2 million jobs are being sent abroad annually. Not only did a huge number of job opportunities disappear. Also, with so many jobs vanishing, employers have been in a stronger position to pay lower wages. 

Here's a lesson in establishment statistics. Because the labor market has been becoming tighter, millions of workers are giving up the search for jobs. So they are no longer counted as unemployed. So ironically, the rise in discouraged workers tends to constrain the increase in the unemployment rate. That is among the reason that the current official unemployment rate is relatively low. 

To make matters worse, how employers are relating to employees has been changing dramatically. A growing number of full time jobs are being converted to part time and temporary jobs. Here is another lesson in establishment statistics. Splitting full time jobs in half statistically doubles the number of jobs. Every one hundred jobs split in half become two hundred jobs. So it appears that the economy is growing even though each employee is earning as a part timer substantially less money, and most likely does not receive the benefits that are only available for full time work. In short, then, what appears statistically as very good news is actually very bad news. 

Moreover, more and more jobs are becoming temporary positions in which workers are hired to take on one particular task. As a result, many workers have been compelled to become freelancers who are counted as employed even during periods when they are earning no income at all. Obviously the unstable employment situation of these workers makes their lives very stressful. There are 68 million freelancers in the United States. According to an estimate by a consulting firm, nearly 20 million are freelancing because they are unable to find adequate paying jobs. Since the average annual earnings of freelancers according to the Freelancers Union is only $6,000, it is likely that the number of dissatisfied freelancers is much larger. Particularly distressing, a growing number of jobs are placing millions of workers on the road to poverty. 

We must do whatever we can to reverse the current employment trends, which is increasing hunger and homeless appreciably. 

As Johnny Cash sang: 

"Will we get cold and hungry? 

Will times be very bad. When we're needen bread and meat, 

where we gonna get it, Dad?"

Sexual Assault is as American as Cherry Pie

Paula deJoie
Saturday December 16, 2017 - 05:42:00 PM

Kara Vaughn was the first person who ever told me she had been raped. It happened when she was about 14. She described being forcibly held down by one “friend” while another raped her. They took turns until they left her crumpled, inside and out.

I was a 17 year old freshman at UC Berkeley when I became friends with Kara.

She needed a place to stay. I was living with my grandmother and I talked her into letting Kara move in. We shared a room with twin beds, matching pink bedspreads covered with fuzzy little pink balls. 

I was still a virgin and was eagerly looking forward to changing that status. Not with just anyone. I wanted my “first time” to be with someone I loved who loved me back. Kara dated and had sex with a few different guys. The one she cared about cheated on her with someone else. She cut his tires. 

I met a guy on campus. He was tall, handsome, friendly. He had an accent, said he was from Trinidad. Lorenzo. One day Lorenzo asked me if I had been up to the park in the hills above campus. I hadn’t been to Tilden Park since I was a kid. He said he had a car and invited me for a ride. I went along. 

Tilden Park is beautiful. Acres of winding roads bordered by eucalyptus and redwoods. Fabulous, sparkling views of San Francisco Bay. We drove up a quiet road and he parked alongside a steep ravine. I got out of the car and sat on the ledge, looking down and around at all of the beautiful shades of green. 

I felt him come up behind me. He placed his hands around my neck. He then began to rub the back of my neck and my head. 

“Have you ever had a head massage?” he asked. 

What the hell? Is that what he was doing? Massaging me? 

“No,” I said. 

He continued his massage. I didn’t know what to do, how to get out of this. How to get his hands off of me. And then he said: 

“You know, I could rape you right now if I wanted to.” 

Something clicked inside my head. I instantly knew that I was in great danger. I started talking, as fast as I could. 

“Rape? Ew! Who would want to rape anyone? I mean there are so many girls around who would want to have sex with a guy so why should anyone force somebody I mean you I mean a guy could have anyone they wanted why would they force somebody I mean ew! That just sounds so-“ 

“Never mind!” He removed his hands and stood up. “Let’s go.” 

We got into his car and drove back to the campus in silence. He let me out and I never saw him again. I realized how close I had come to having my first and last “time” result in my abused body being rolled down a hill, hidden by thick foliage and eaten by wild animals. I supposed my valley girl sounding spiel had turned him off. Thank goodness for my years spent at a West LA high school and body surfing on Venice Beach. 

This was the early 70’s and Kara and I were getting involved with different movements on campus fighting for affirmative action, diversity among tenured faculty and a Third World College. We proudly sported our Afros. Mine was huge and thick and wild. Kara’s was more subdued though red, complimenting the copper tone of her skin. Kara wanted to join the Black Panthers, based right next door in Oakland. She began cutting classes to volunteer in their offices. After a few weeks she came home and threw her backpack onto her bed. 

“I’m not going back there!” she announced. 

“Why not? What happened?” I asked. 

“All those guys want you to do is to fuck them or go get them a hamburger. I’m through with that.” 

Stokely Carmichael had declared “the only position for women in the black power movement is prone.” Many men took him at his word and many women backed those men up. Not dissimilar to the ways many white women back up their men, right or wrong. 

When I look at the numbers of white women who voted for Trump and will probably vote for Roy Moore, I wonder how many think they are adhering to the Bible’s lessons on female subservience? I also wonder how many of these women are descendants of those women captured in civil rights era photos who spit on black children walking to school? How many are descendants of those “fine” white supremacist females who packed picnic boxes for their lynching husbands and brothers and sons and fathers so they wouldn’t go hungry during their fun event and for their children so they would have something to snack on while watching black bodies twist and burn. How many are descendants of white women who ordered slaves beaten and their children sold? How many are descendants of those women who cried rape rather than admit an attraction to a black man? It’s an ugly history we Americans have. But it must be taught and discussed and accepted before we can forge a path forward together. 

Black women are in a double bind. We join with all women who are victims of sexual abuse. We also join with all people of color who are still victims of racism in this country. The perpetrators of sexual abuse are usually men, of all colors. The perpetrators of American born-and-bred racism are usually white folks, male and female. This is why Anita Hill was not believed by most white men and women. Neither Joe Biden nor Ted Kennedy came to her aid. Every black woman I know knew she was telling the truth. 

Kara and I finished out the year and we both moved out. I had found a job and an apartment nearer to campus. Kara said she was going to hang out in Los Angeles for awhile and then maybe go back home to Louisiana. As time moved on so did our friendship. We lost touch. 

A few years and relationships later, I landed a plum job with a prominent civil rights attorney. As a kid growing up in Los Angeles I had imagined myself a female Perry Mason and now here was my chance to go out and fight against racism, sexism and injustice! I was thrilled. 

And I was forewarned. When I first inquired as to whether or not this particular attorney had any summer internships available, he immediately responded: 

“You’re so fine you can work anywhere you want!” 

I was startled but I wanted the job. I applied for it and I got it. The sexual harassment began almost immediately. 

He repeatedly complimented my appearance and asked me to “go out” with him. He told me that I needed an older man, that he could help advance my career. Nevermind that he was married and his kids sometimes worked in the office. 

I repeatedly said no. I wanted to learn how to become a successful civil rights attorney. I wanted to change the world! I wanted him to teach me and that was all I wanted from him. 

During the two years that I worked in his office I dated and eventually became engaged. That didn’t stop him from harassing me. He and his law partner hired mostly young women like myself and the atmosphere in the office consisted of working hard and playing just as hard. Several women in the office had affairs with these two married men. At one time, it seemed as though I was the only woman in that office who had not slept with either of them. 

After working late one evening he offered to give me a ride home and invited me to have dinner with him first. During the meal he reached over and grabbed my hand. He reiterated how much he liked me, how beautiful I was and how much he could do for me if I agreed to have an intimate relationship with him. I again told him no. He knew I was engaged and frequently made fun of my fiancé. When we pulled up in front of my house he leaned toward me, grabbed my arms and tried to kiss me. I pushed him away, jumped out of the car and ran up my front steps. 

I told those closest to me what happened. I didn’t know what else to do. A prominent female civil rights attorney sometimes worked in our office. Because she considered herself to be a “feminist” I was hopeful that she would come to my aid. I went to her office and confided in her. With a wave of her hand she dismissed me. She did not want to hear any disparaging words about her hero. 

Eventually, the attorney gave up on me. He began treating me with contempt and criticizing my work. He brought in another young woman and flaunted her in front of me as though he was trying to make me jealous. I ignored him and focused on my assignments. He then told me he wasn’t going to work with me anymore and that I had to work with his partner, a man for whom I had even less respect. After a few months, my new boss called me into the conference room and told me they were letting me go. When I asked why, he clearly said that the two partners felt “very uncomfortable” around me because I knew all about their “personal business”. Although I inquired about it many times over the ensuing years, I never received my last paycheck. 

Shortly after I left their employ I arranged an interview with the competition, two other prominent male attorneys who also worked in the areas I was interested in, race, sex and employment discrimination. They invited me to lunch. They seemed happy to meet me and talk with me. I felt very hopeful that they would hire me. All went well until they asked me why I left their colleague’s firm. I told them. Silly me. Stupid me. 

“You guys would never do that, would you?” I asked. 

I must have sounded like a complete fool. I was so naïve. The atmosphere immediately changed. 

“Oh, no. We would never do that,” one of them said and began making small talk. The other one said nothing else to me. He kept his eyes focused on every skirt that walked by our booth. The interview was over. 

Crushed, I decided that the law was not for me. I went back to school and studied television production. I landed a job writing promos for a nationally televised show. Different field, same environment. You’d walk by one glass walled office and the executive producer would have his secretary sitting on his lap or giving him a massage. The director I worked for had numerous posters of women in bikinis hanging on his walls. Through his glass wall I saw him slap his secretary’s behind as she turned to leave. I was struck by the sad, embarrassed look on her face in sharp contrast to the grinning, nearly naked bodies surrounding her. 

The secretary and I were friendly. She was often nervous and upset. Frazzled. She confided in me that she didn’t know what to do. She worried because her fiancé worked for the same man and he needed the job. Like many women, she initially laughed it off on the outside while she cried on the inside. Eventually, she suffered a miscarriage that she blamed on our boss’s behavior. She quit while her then husband continued to work for the company. We lost touch. 

I decided I wanted to work for a woman. I thought that was the only way to avoid sexual harassment. Over the next several years I worked for three female bosses. There was no sexual harassment but with two of the three women there was abuse of a different kind. The kind that allows power to go to your head. The kind that makes you think you are superior to others and can therefore mistreat others because they need their paychecks so badly they will not complain. But that’s another story. (Or is it?) 

More time passed. I married, had a family, divorced, dated, re-partnered and most importantly spent time with myself taking stock of my life, weighing the pros and cons. Trying not to have any regrets. Trying to figure out who I used to be and who I had become. During this introspective period I thought of Kara Vaughn. I wondered what became of her. Finding the answer was easier and harder than I had imagined. 

I googled “Kara Vaughn, Louisiana” and there it was. Kara Enid Vaughn was a missing person. She’d been missing since November 3, 1993. I clicked on every link, quietly hoping that she had been found and been found alive. I wanted to call her, to hear her stories and share mine. We had shared a bedroom, college life, stories about men and the revolution. Stories of disappointment, close calls and- 

And then I read the line that stilled all hope. 

“On multiple occasions prior to her disappearance, Vaughn threatened to drive her car into the Cain River so her body would never be found.” 

I froze. Eyes wide, my breath caught in my chest. My stomach caved in and sunk to the floor. She was 40 years old. I hadn’t spoken to her in 20 years and I never would again. I don’t know if there were other rapes but I do know that she must have suffered other heartbreaks. To want her very body to not be found, to not be wept over or mourned signified to me that perhaps she thought that nobody would, that nobody cared for or loved her enough to even miss her. 

The image of my old friend plunging into a dark river, perhaps screaming her heart out – terrified, then finished - haunts me. My heart breaks for Kara Enid Vaughn. And for all the other young women who have been brutalized and never healed. 

I was lucky. Or was I? Should I even think of it that way? I was sexually harassed and sexually assaulted. I had unwelcomed, unasked for hands placed upon my neck and my head. Another man put his hands on my arms and tried to pull me towards him for a kiss. I began to list all the times during my life that the message was conveyed that I was somehow inferior to men and that I should do whatever they wanted. From the time I was about 11 on, I had men - grown-ass men - oogling me, calling out to me, complimenting me when they wanted something, cursing me when I turned them down. I remember the look on the face of one of my father’s drunk friends (an architect!) leering at me. My young eyes saw a mixture of hunger and anger that I’d never experienced before. I’ll never forget being driven home after a babysitting job only to have the father (a surgeon!) reach across me to unlock my door and lightly fondle my newly budding breasts in the process. 

I can list many more instances of sexual harassment and assault – yes, unwanted, uninvited fondling is sexual assault – but I’d rather write about why so many women are so quiet about it for so long and why it’s not just our problem. 

In many cultures within the United States and around the world girls are raised to become shadows. They are not afforded the opportunities or the rewards men routinely receive. Women make 79 cents per every dollar made by men. For black women it’s 60 cents, for Hispanic women it’s even less. Most decisions made in almost every major field are made by men. Men like Donald Trump, Jr. who said “Women who can’t handle sexual harassment don’t belong in the work force.” 

The entertainment industry certainly doesn’t help. I’ve worked in both television and advertising (some say the there isn’t much difference between the two) and no matter the outlet, women receive the not so subtle message that their value is measured by how many men find them attractive. Their “fuckability” rating, as it were. As women age, they may become wiser but their value in society is often diminished as their looks… fade? Mature? Change? Many older women begin to think that they are not quite as smart or funny or talented as they once were. Self-esteem goes down. Turn on virtually any television program and whether it’s a drama or a comedy or a commercial or network news, odds are that the females you see have dyed their hair blonde and submitted to botox injections and liposuctions in an effort to appear younger and therefore more attractive. Meanwhile the guys can be old and gray or balding, they can be fat with sagging necks and thick glasses and they have no worries. They will get and keep their jobs, and the money and power that go with it. 

Jobs, money and power. This is what women are afraid of losing if they tell. Young, single women are afraid of having doors closed in their faces. That’s what happened to me. Women with children are afraid of not being able to properly care for them. The fear of poverty and homelessness is real, especially if you are a single mother. Like me, many women feel isolated and fear the absence of support. 

In video games and feature films it’s no secret that women are treated primarily as decoration and sport. Some video games even allow the players to beat and rape women for fun and points. Yay! Look at the bulk of movies produced every year. Plenty of action and violence for the men. Few stories that feature women doing anything other than chasing or being saved by men. It’s said that most movies are written and directed and produced by white men for white male teenagers. If they’re so-called comedies, they all seem to have jokes about large breasts and penises; weepy injured penises or happy penises on the prowl. The men behind this “entertainment” do not appear to be thinking about anything but their juvenile selves. And profit, of course. 

I recently heard a man’s voice on public radio stating that it’s time we use new language when speaking of sexual harassment and rape. He said that there’s complicity among men. They protect each other and the male culture of violence by not speaking up. Who wants to be a snitch? Whether the alleged perpetrator is a politician or a Hollywood executive, a teacher or a soldier, an athlete, a cop, a restaurant manager or a civil rights lawyer, they protect each other at the expense of others. At the expense of women and even children, male and female. This has got to stop. The man I was listening to is named Jackson Katz. I had never heard of him. I bet chances are that you haven’t either. 

Have you heard of Tim Wise? In the same way that Katz explains that the focus should be on the perpetrators of sexual crimes, not the victims, Tim Wise argues that when it comes to racism, similar focus should be placed upon the racists, not the victims of racism. Both of these systems of oppression are endemic and can be linked to the misuse of money and power. Women shouldn’t be forced to live with sexism any more than people of color should be forced to live with racism. We need, not only a clear and open discussion about the history of racism – which inflicts upon its victims mental, emotional and physical violence - but about the history of sexual violence as well. Let’s ask why men rape. Yes, I know that some women rape and some victims are male. However, the overwhelming majority of rapists are men. Let’s start there. 

Hollywood and Congress are considering instituting mandatory sexual harassment training. This may help in if you’re working in these particular professions, however the real training must begin at home. Just as racism is taught to innocent young children beginning in the home, so is sexism. How about we simply adhere to new a version of the golden rule: “If you don’t want someone saying or doing (fill in the sexual abuse blank) to your sister, mother, wife or daughter, then don’t you do or say it. Period.” 

Thinking about Kara Vaughn in this time of steadily increasing numbers of revelations, accusations and limited confessions in the media, I can’t help but wonder how her being raped impacted the rest of her life. Kara was definitely feisty and she had a wry sense of humor. Her jokes were self-deprecating to a point. 

Many of the stories she would tell me and my grandmother were often about how someone had done her some wrong. They would end with her looking up to the heavens and pleading “Lord, build a fence around me!” She’d laugh and we would join in, shaking our heads in wonder – in wonder of this girl Kara Vaughn, a short ball of fire mixed with humor and sadness. She seemed to know already at 18 that life was hard and not to expect much. 

When you are abused and you tell people who could help and they do nothing, your self-esteem is negatively impacted. You feel like you must not be very important, that you must not be worth very much. The feeling that you are not good enough can spill over into other areas of your life. You may accept abuse in subsequent relationships– verbal and physical – because you think you deserve it. You may make choices in many areas of your life that don’t serve you well because, well, who are you? If you believe that you don’t have much or any value, what’s to protect? What’s to nurture? What’s to celebrate? 

Who celebrated Kara’s life? Who found her valuable? 

H. Rap Brown once said that “violence is as American as cherry pie.” Well, that includes sexual violence, whether it’s in the form of harassment, assault or rape. The fact that America was built on slavery means that it was built on a system that in addition to depending upon kidnapping and torture, it also regularly employed rape and child abuse. Sexual violence, both threatened and acted upon steals something precious away from its victims. These violent acts can destroy a young woman’s trust, her innocent belief in the innate goodness of humanity. They can and do leave deep, searing scars upon women and men that can last a lifetime. And those lifetimes can consequently be cut short, like Kara Enid Vaughn’s. 

I look again at the flier with Kara’s photo on it. She’s been classified as “Missing Endangered”. Under distinguishing statistics it reads: “African American female. Black hair, brown eyes.” Wrong. Her hair is red. Even in the small color photo of her at the top of the page she reeks of red. Her copper skin glows. You can make out the now darker red of her curls. A true “redbone” her South would call her. Kara looks straight into the camera. Her chin lifted though not defiant. There is a softness to my old friend that I recognize. Beneath the hurt and the pain and the anger, there was a softness. 



DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: Turkey’s Looming Crisis

Conn Hallinan
Monday December 18, 2017 - 01:43:00 PM

Viewed one way, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan looks unassailable: He weathered last year’s coup attempt, jailed more than 50,000 opponents, fired more than 100,000 civil servants, beheaded the once powerful Turkish military, eviscerated much of his parliamentary opposition, dismissed almost half of the county’s elected officials, and rammed through a constitutional referendum that will make him an all-powerful executive following the 2019 election. In the meantime, a seemingly never-ending state of emergency allows him to rule by decree. 

So why is the man running scared? 

Because the very tools that Erdogan has used to make himself into a sort of modern day Ottoman sultan are backfiring. The state of emergency is scaring off foreign investment, which is central to the way the Turkish economy functions. The loss of experienced government workers has put an enormous strain on the functioning of the bureaucracy. And the promises he made to the electorate in order to get his referendum passed are coming due with very little in the till to fulfill them. 

Part of the problem is Erdogan himself. In that sense he is a bit like US President Donald Trump, who has also alienated allies with a combination of bombast and cluelessness. The Turkish President is in a war with Washington over a corruption trial, at loggerheads with Germany (and most of the European Union) over his growing authoritarianism and, with the exception of Russia, China, Qatar and Iran, seems to be quarreling with everyone these days. It is certainly a far cry from a decade ago when the foreign policy of Ankara was “Zero problems with the neighbors.” As one Turkish commentator put it, it’s now “No neighbors without problems.” 

What has thrown a scare into Erdogan, however, is not so much the country’s growing diplomatic isolation, but the economy and how that might affect the outcome of presidential elections in 2019. 

In the run up to the constitutional referendum last year, the government handed out loans and goodies to the average Turk. Growth accelerated, unemployment fell, and the poverty rate was reduced. But the cost of priming that pump has come due at the very moment that international energy prices are on the rise. Turkey imports virtually all of its energy, but when the price of oil was down to a little more than $30 a barrel, the budget could handle it. 

The price of oil in December, however, was close to $60 a barrel, and a recent agreement between the two largest producers—Saudi Arabia and Russia—to curb production will drive that price even higher in the future. Rate hikes for gasoline and heating will be up sharply in the coming months 

Turkish unemployment is over 13 percent, inflation is close to 12 percent, and the Turkish lira has fallen 12 percent against the dollar. With energy costs rising and currency value declining, Turkey is struggling through an economic double whammy. 

Economist Timur Kuran of Duke University says the Turkish economy is in serious trouble. “The AKP (Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party) is doing massive long-term damage to the Turkish economy. Corruption is up, the quality of education has fallen, the courts are massively politicized, and the people are afraid to speak honestly.” Kuran argues that any growth is based on short-term investments, so–called “hot money,” drawn in by high interest rates. “This is not a sustainable strategy. It makes Turkey highly vulnerable to a shock that might cause an outflow of resources.” 

Under Erdogan Corruption does seem to be increasing. In 2013 Transparency International ranked Turkey 53ed out of 175 countries on its Corruption Perception Index. By 2016 the country had risen to 75th out of 176 countries. 

Turkey’s economy is highly dependent on foreign money, but the continuing state of emergency and rule by decree is scaring off investors. Figures by the Central Bank show that Turkey is losing $1 billion a week in foreign investments. Britain, a major investor in Turkey, has reduced its investments by 20% since the declaration of the state of emergency. 

The uncertainly has spread as well to Turkish citizens, who are putting their money into foreign investments in order to preserve their savings. From the end of 2016 to this November, Turks moved $17.2 billion to foreign firms. 

Erdogan is blaming Turkish banks—in particular the Central Bank—for rising interest rates and the downturn in the economy. But Kemel Kilicdaroglu, leader of the centrist and secular opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) argues that “The real reason why foreign investments other than real estate purchases are decreasing is that [foreign investors] feel insecure in a country where law, justice and press freedom are non-existent.” 

The state of emergency allows the government to suppress trade union strikes, but it has been less successful in damping down what was once a AKP strong suit: rural farmers. 

One of Erdogan’s economic “reforms” was to open Turkish markets to foreign competition, which has resulted in losses for the country’s live stock and agricultural growers. Meat producers are up in arms over an agreement with Serbia to import 5,000 tons of red meat, and tea, grape, tobacco and apricot growers have been hard hit by falling prices and foreign competition. Hazelnut growers were so incensed at the government’s base price for their produce that they organized a large march under the banner of “Justice for Hazelnuts.” 

A study found that foreign imports had reduced the number of families involved in growing tobacco from 405,882 families in 2002 to 56,000 in 2015. 

It is not so much the marches that worry Erdogan, but the fact that some 20 million rural Turks are up in arms against the government, anger that might translate into votes in 2019. In the April 2017 referendum, rural votes solidly supported the AKP, while urban centers—particularly their youth—voted no. Losing cities like Ankara and Istanbul—the city where Erdogan began his political career—was a shock for the AKP, but losses in rural areas would be a political train wreck. 

While Erdogan strains to keep the economic lid on long enough to get through 2019, there are fissures opening within his own party. A wing of the AKP is not happy with Erdogan’s foreign policy disputes and the impact that they are having on the economy. 

On his right, former interior minister Meral Aksener has formed the Iyi Parti or “Good Party” and says she plans to challenge Erdogan for the presidency. Aksener appeals to the more nationalist currents in the AKP and hopes to attract support from the extreme right wing National Action Party (MHP). She is currently polling around 16 percent. 

Polls indicate that the “Good Party” is cutting into the AKP’s support, which has dropped to 38 percent. Erdogan needs at least 51 percent, the figure that he claims he got in the referendum (outside observers called the election deeply flawed, however). Aksener could split Erdogan’s support within the AKP and the MHP, thus denying him a majority. 

Nor has the CHP thrown in the towel, Besides organizing marches by angry rural residents, Party leader Kilicdaroglu pulled off a 25-day, 280-mile “Justice March” last summer that may have involved as many as a million people. 

The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Turkey’s leftist party closely tied to its Kurdish population, has been decimated by arrests and seizure of its assets, but it is still the third largest party in parliament. “It may appear that injustice has won, but this will not last,” HDP parliament member Meral Danis Bestas told Al-Monitor. “Turkey’s future truly lies in democracy, rights and freedom.” 

Erdogan has enormous power and has out muscled and out maneuvered his opponents for the past 20 years. But Turks are growing weary of his rule and, if the economy stumbles, he may be vulnerable. 

That’s why he is running scared. 


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





THE PUBLIC EYE:Make America Weak Again

Bob Burnett
Friday December 22, 2017 - 01:37:00 PM

Humorist P. J. O'Rourke famously said, "Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then they get elected and prove it." After 11 months of total Republican control in Washington, the United States has been weakened across-the-board. Here are ten ways that Donald Trump and company have diminished American society. 

1. Inequality: Rather than lessen the gap between the rich and poor, Trump has increased it. The Republican "tax reform" plan, championed by Trump, benefits corporations and the rich, at the expense of everyone else. Writing in The New Yorker John Cassidy noted that Republican leadership promised revenue neutrality, simplicity, and fairness. "The final bill is a corrupt, budget-busting hairball." Republicans claim the tax bill will increase the deficit by $1.5 billion over 10 years; however, "If you adjust the numbers for a series of accounting gimmicks, such as expiration provisions that are unlikely to go into effect, the real cost seems likely to come out at more than two trillion dollars." 

By 2027 the tax bill will lead to tax increases for 87 million households. Because the bill adds to the deficit, it is likely to lead to decreases in social programs including Medicare. On the flip side, the Republican tax bill is loaded with special benefits for corporations and the rich; Donald Trump will see his taxes lowered. 

2. Healthcare: Rather than build upon the Affordable Care Act the Trump Administration has weakened it. When he was running for President, Trump made bold promises about his new healthcare plan: "No one will lose coverage. There will be insurance for everybody. Healthcare will be a lot less expensive for everyone." None of these promises was fleshed out in GOP legislation. 

Instead Trump settled on a "repeal first, replace later" strategy that would have ended the Affordable Care Act. When this strategy failed, Trump decided to kill the Affordable Care Act by stages. The Republican "tax reform" plan ends the "individual mandate" aspect of the Affordable Care Act. This action will dramatically alter healthcare economics and ultimately lead to the loss of healthcare for 13 million Americans. 

3. National Security: Rather than strengthen the U.S., Trump has made the America more vulnerable to attack. He has accomplished this by three specific actions: First, Trump has made it clear that he does not support the traditional U.S. alliances, such as NATO, the United Nations, the WTO, or others. Trump, by his words and actions, has indicated that his "America First" doctrine means that in all important decisions -- such as the worldwide effort to ameliorate global climate change -- he is willing for the U.S. to go its own way. (For example, Trump is willing to consider a unilateral attack on North Korea.) 

Second, by his immigration actions -- particularly his ban on travel from Muslim majority nations -- Trump has made it clear that Muslims are unwelcome in the U.S. This impacts all our alliances in the Middle East. 

Third, by his biased treatment of Israel, Trump has made it clear that he no longer supports the "two state solution" or other historic U.S. diplomatic efforts in the Middle East. (Trump made this clear by his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel.) 

The net impact has been to isolate the United States in the world community. This will impact our national security and have secondary effects; for example, in 2017 international tourism to the U.S. has declined more than 10 percent. 

4. Global Climate Change: Trump's "National Security Strategy" is based upon U.S. economic strength and military might and ignores the threat of global climate change. This is consistent with Trump's studied indifference to the subject and his declared intent to take the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accords. We're weaker because global climate change threatens U.S. economic strength and our military prowess. 

5. Trade: As of the end of October, the U.S. trade deficit in goods and services had increased by 12 percent since Trump became President . Trump talked about renegotiating trade agreements but hasn't done it. 

6. Public Health: Trump has weakened the Center for Disease Control and set up the U.S. to be vulnerable to a pandemic. () "America First" doesn't work during pandemics. 

7. Jobs & the Economy: While the economy has continued to grown under the Trump Administration, there's no evidence that this has produced meaningful change for working families. 

The U.S. Gross Domestic Product grew 3.3 percent in the third quarter. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has increased by 5000 points. The economy has added roughly 190,000 jobs and the unemployment rate fell to 4.1 percent. Nonetheless, wages have not kept pace; they have risen only 2.4 percent. 

8. Public Confidence: In November, 2016, only 33 percent of poll respondents thought that the country was headed "in the right direction." This past November the number remained at 33 percent. 

A recent Qunnipiac poll found that 56 percent of respondents believed that Donald Trump was not fit to serve as President. These respondents were disturbed by Trump's demeanor and believed that he does not respect women or people of color. 

9. Comity: Trump's foreign policy is "America First." Trump's domestic policy is "White men first." Numerous polls suggest that women, people-of-color, and members of the LGBTQ community feel less safe with Trump as President. 

10. Morality: Trump does not believe in the Golden Rule, does not believe "I am my brother's and my sister's keeper." He does not believe in making America great but only in enhancing his personal power. Trump's not a builder; he is a destroyer. 

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

ECLECTIC RANT: GOP tax overhaul: more Help for the rich

Ralph E. Stone
Friday December 22, 2017 - 01:29:00 PM

The GOP finally got their tax bill -- touted as tax reform, But was it a "win" for the Republicans, and if it was, what did they win? A Gallup poll showed that only about 29% of American approve of the tax bill while 56% disapprove and 16% have no opinion.  

A December 17, 2017, NBC/WSJ poll showed that 50% of registered voters say they prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress, versus 39% who want Republicans in charge. This raises the question for Republicans: When you are down by large numbers in polling against Democrats, why did you push a tax bill favored by only 29% of voters? This seems a strange strategy to win the midterm elections. And Republicans haven't satisfactorily answered why the need for such large tax cuts with a relatively strong economy, unemployment down, and a massive government debt? 

Republicans will now have to spend 2018 selling the short-term relief for the tax cuts to the public, and hope that people feel the impact before the elections. The bill is certain to provide parents some immediate relief from the burden of taxes, but will likely lead to a tax increase for most middle-class families in the long term. By 2027, only families earning $100,000 or more will see any real tax cuts, with two-thirds of middle-class households actually seeing their taxes increase.  

The Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that repealing the individual mandate would reduce federal deficits by about $338 billion over the 2018–2027 period and increase the number of uninsured people by 4 million in 2019 and 13 million in 2027. The individual mandate requires most U.S. citizens and noncitizens who lawfully reside in the country to have health insurance meeting specified standards and that imposes penalties on those without an exemption who do not comply.  

Democrats, on the other hand, will have to focus on who really benefits from this tax bill -- Donald Trump and his family, the other wealthy, and large corporations It will take some time before the large tax cuts for the rich and large corporations fail to "trickle down" to ordinary folks. And unfortunately, voters may not link this tax bill to spending cuts on vital programs in health care, education, retirement, and social services that will inevitably come to make up for the estimated $1.4 trillion in net deficits over a decade. 

Fareed Zakaria of The Washington Post summed up the GOP tax bill nicely, "Those who vote for this tax bill — possibly the worst piece of major legislation in a generation — will live in infamy, as the country slowly breaks down." Instead of draining the swamp, by passing this legislation the Republicans are further polluting the swamp. 

Remember though, the tax bill will not affect 2017 taxes. Hopefully, those who voted for this tax bill will pay dearly in the midterm elections. Now that would be a real win for this country.

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: The Business of Living Disabled

Jack Bragen
Friday December 22, 2017 - 01:35:00 PM

Living as a disabled adult is not as easy as you might think, unless you are categorized as incompetent. If incompetent, others handle all of your responsibilities, you do not have independence, there are a lot more restrictions, and life is relatively simple.  

However, if you are in charge of yourself, as most disabled people are, there are numerous business aspects to living as a disabled adult in California. 

Someone with a psychiatric disorder needs to keep up on her or his prescriptions. This can be more demanding than you might think. Since numerous psychiatric consumers have to take multiple prescriptions, keeping all of the prescriptions filled can be a substantial task. One must make multiple phone calls to the pharmacy, to one's psychiatrist (for psychiatric prescriptions), and to one's medical doctor (for non-psychiatric prescriptions). It seems to be up to the consumer to run the show. The consequences of not keeping up with medication refills can be dire. If you run out of a medication and thereby abruptly stop taking it, you could go into withdrawal, and this could be a very big problem. It could entail physical suffering, a return of symptoms, and even medical complications. 

Additionally, one's drug plan, whether it is Medicare Part D, or other, may arbitrarily choose to stop covering some of the medications that we badly need. Finally, we have to deal with the caprices and the prejudices of some pharmacists and some pharmacy workers who lack basic understanding of mental illness, and who may make derogatory comments, or who may not do their job properly of filling medication prescriptions.  

Other than keeping prescriptions filled and taken according to directions, we must deal with, among several other things, housing. Some of us must have to have a very strict budget so that we can be certain the rent check doesn't bounce. Utilities must be paid on time and fully, including when the electricity and/or heating bill seems outrageous. We need communications. A cellphone is no longer an option, it is a necessity; more so than a landline. Internet is not a luxury; it is needed in order to function in society in any normal manner, and this service has to be paid.  

Keeping appointments with counselors and psychiatrists is a must. If we have medical issues, which most aging mentally ill persons do, we have to deal with those. Thus, the week is filled with appointments.  

If we wanted to get a job to supplement income, it ought to be a weekend job so that we can make it to all of our appointments and other obligations. If we did get a job, we must deal with reporting the income, and with how this affects our government benefits, including Social Security and housing subsidies. If we have more income, it can trigger an increase in other expenses, such as us paying part of the Medicaid, or losing Medicaid.  

If we have a vehicle, it will need gasoline, insurance and upkeep. This can be out of reach for a number of mentally ill people, who simply cannot pay car expenses. Then you're taking buses and other public transportation. This can mean standing at a bus stop in pouring rain or searing heat. And it means that you cannot just get in your car and go somewhere when you need to. 

Public benefits don't pay for much dentistry. You might be stuck losing teeth that could otherwise be saved if you could have seen a decent dentist. 

On SSI, the maximum amount you are permitted to save up is 2000 dollars or 3000 for a married couple. In some emergency situations, this will not go very far. 

If you have adopted a pet dog or cat because you would be helped by the companionship, you have to bring that creature to a veterinarian on a regular basis for shots or health problems. How are you supposed to pay for that? 

If you live on 900 per month, and if you want to live in decent conditions, you probably will need a Housing certificate, and you will need a good credit rating (if you do not want to live in a blighted neighborhood). A good credit rating requires a credit history, and this history must include paying all of your bills on time. And you are supposed to do this on 900 dollars per month.  

With a housing certificate, there come annual inspections of your unit to make sure everything is working, that the place is being kept acceptably clean and tidy, and that you are not operating a meth lab in your unit. Also annually is the requirement to report for a recertification appointment, in which you furnish banking information, pay stubs, and in which you fill out forms. 

If you collect any SSI, something that allows you to obtain Medi-Cal and have meetings with doctors fully paid, you must periodically meet with the Social Security Administration to make sure you are not a multimillionaire collecting SSI.  

Living as a disabled adult requires some skills. Short of that, you could live with less responsibility in a more restricted situation, but if you do, you might question, what is the point?  

For a nondisabled person, all of the above might seem easily enough accomplished. Yet, most nondisabled people have enough financial resources to cushion them from many of life's hardships. 

If you look normal and act normally, people will make assumptions about you. You are expected to have an I Phone or an Android phone. You are expected to have money at your disposal to pay for things. You are expected to have a car, and to be able to drive long distances. Other assumptions are made. Assumptions like these aren't always correct. 

While on a daily basis it isn't as demanding (compared to working) to live on Social Security as a disabled person, there are some demands. We're not getting a free ride, and some things are expected of us. In some ways it is easier to work and earn a living, and in most ways, working for a living is a better situation. Thus, being disabled isn't a lifestyle choice; it is just that some of us are forced into it by our disabilities and by life circumstances.

THE PUBLIC EYE: Trump Should Resign

Bob Burnett
Saturday December 16, 2017 - 06:05:00 PM

The news story of the year has not been Donald Trump; it has been the "#MeToo" movement, where brave women denounced sexual assault and harassment. This movement brought down Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. Now it has prompted new demands for Trump's resignation. 

Sexual assault is one of many reasons why Trump should resign from the presidency. The most important reason is his lack of moral leadership. 

Whether we like it or not, the President of the United States is an archetype. His behavior serves as a model for many Americans. The President is, by virtue of his position, someone that dominates the daily discourse of American society. We are influenced not only by his decisions but also by his daily actions. Good or bad, the President sets an example for our children and other impressionable members of our society. In addition, the President represents us to residents of foreign countries. 

After Trump won a bitterly contested presidential election, many Americans resolved to give him the benefit of the doubt. "Let us give him time in office," they said, "perhaps he will rise to the challenge." 

Trump has not risen to the challenge. On January 20th, many of us believed that Trump was pathologically amoral. Eleven months watching him in the White House, have convinced us that our assessment is correct. 

On December 12th, USA Today published a scathing editorial, "Will Trump's lows ever hit rock bottom?" The editorial was in response to Trump branding New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand as a whore -- someone who would trade sexual favors for campaign cash -- with this tweet: "Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office “begging” for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them)..." 

USA Today remarked: "Donald Trump, the man... is uniquely awful. His sickening behavior is corrosive to the enterprise of a shared governance based on common values and the consent of the governed... Trump’s utter lack of morality, ethics and simple humanity has been underscored during his 11 months in office." 

USA Today detailed six categories of Trump's "sickening behavior." 

1. He lies nonstop. " As of mid-November, [Trump] had made 1,628 misleading or false statements in 298 days in office." 

2. "Trump takes advantage of any occasion — even Monday’s failed terrorist attack in New York — to stir racial, religious or ethnic strife." 

3. He routinely demeans women. "When accused during the campaign of sexually harassing or molesting women in the past, Trump’s response was to belittle the looks of his accusers." 

4. "Trump has shown contempt for ethical strictures that have bound every president in recent memory. He has refused to release his tax returns, with the absurd excuse that it’s because he is under audit. He has refused to put his multibillion dollar business interests in a blind trust and peddles the fiction that putting them in the hands of his sons does the same thing." 

5. He hasn't done his job as President. "As of last week, Trump had failed to nominate anyone for 60% of 1,200 key positions he can fill to keep the government running smoothly." 

6. He enthusiastically supported the deplorable Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore: "Trump summed up his willingness to support a man accused of criminal conduct: 'Roy Moore will always vote with us.'" 

And, of course, we have every reason to believe that Trump cooperated with Russians to subvert the 2016 presidential election. Now Trump seems determined to undermine the Mueller investigation into this treachery. 

Sadly, it's not surprising that Trump has failed as President. What is surprising is that he continues to have the support of the leaders of the Republican Party and that only a handful of Democratic Senators -- including Gillibrand -- have called for his resignation. 

However, the American public has turned on Trump. A new Public Policy Poll (https://www.publicpolicypolling.com/polls/voters-think-trump-resign-harassment-allegations/ ) indicates that "53% think Trump should step down to just 42% who think he should remain in office." 

Donald Trump is a moral cancer afflicting the US body politic. We have to excise this cancer before it fatally corrupts our country. Trump must resign. 

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

SQUEAKY WHEEL: The Sexism Spectrum

Toni Mester
Saturday December 16, 2017 - 05:33:00 PM

Why do women have to be groped or raped before male dominance is recognized as systematic oppression? Because sexism spans a wide spectrum of behaviors, many of which are commonly tolerated as human nature or accepted cultural norms. As a result, many men don’t recognize or understand their own aggression, rationalize and defend misconduct, and let other men get away with it. Too often women are shamed into accepting or excusing aggressions, micro or worse. Think Melania Trump and “locker room talk”. 

Rather than separate male aggression into discreet categories that fit the criminal code, perhaps we should think of sexism as a mental disorder that spans a spectrum, ranging from rudeness to murder, which sprouts from a common root: disrespect for women and inability to treat us as equals. 

The Me Too Moment 

On October 5, The New York Times published an article on allegations of sexual misconduct by Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein that started an avalanche of accusations. Men of all stripes have fallen like dominoes: Al Franken, Kevin Spacey, Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, Israel Horowitz, John Conyers, Hamilton Fish, Mark Halperin, and the beat goes on. Women and male victims are speaking out, sometimes about hurts from long ago. I’ve even begun to tell people that I’m a rape survivor, breaking decades of silence; the moment seems to have given me permission to do so. 

Sexual harassment and assault accusations are a minefield for men, potentially ruining reputations and careers. Many such allegations cannot be proven, since the offense often occurs in a private setting. But when women come forward in numbers with similar stories, they create credibility. Everybody knows this stuff happens. The victims are not only getting even but getting rid of oppressors in positions of power and shedding self-blame, a burden that can also ruin a life. 

Now that the floodgates have opened, The Great Misogynist in the Oval House has entered the crosshairs; his victims recounting unwanted advances from long ago, making America grope again. It’s a sweet moment to savor, but let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that airing old grudges is going to save us from nuclear war with North Korea, climate change, homelessness, loss of medical care, racist violence, threat of deportation, and myriad other cruelties aggravated by this administration. However, allegations of past sexual misconduct just helped to get Democrat Doug Jones elected Senator in Alabama. Attention must be paid. 

Most women who experience sexism on an almost daily basis will never formally accuse a man of assault in a court of law or public opinion and will put up with a whole bunch of bull just because it’s not worth the time and effort to try to raise consciousness among the obtuse. When I encounter sexism in my old age, I’m inclined to just to walk away, but this historical moment has rekindled feminism among veterans of the 1970’s women’s movement. 

The Arc of Female Life 

Women’s oppression starts in the family where girls are treated as second-class, their talents thwarted and their choices limited. Even in the best of families, girls learn lowered expectations. When I graduated from high school in 1965, acceptable careers for girls were secretary, nurse, or teacher in that order of status and intellectual challenge. Few of us imagined ourselves as doctors, lawyers, engineers, scientists, architects, business people, or politicians. It took the “second wave” of feminism to unlock the professions, where gender equality is still an upward battle. Most of us didn’t even know that there had been a first wave other than reading Susan B. Anthony’s name in a history book. 

In the worst of families, girls have been sexually abused at a horrific rate that continues unabated today. While exact statistics are hard to determine because this crime often goes unreported, it is estimated that 20 to 33% of girls are molested. The long-term effects of child and adolescent sexual abuse include higher levels of depression, eating disorders, anxiety, and social problems. According to the Center for Disease Control, boys also suffer sexual abuse before the age of 18, about 1 in 6, but for girls, the frequency is higher. 

Talented young ladies who are fortunate to emerge unscathed or sufficiently recovered from adolescence to enter the academic community need to continually watch their backs on campus. Nationwide, a recent comprehensive study sponsored by the Association of American Universities found that more than 20% of over 150,000 female undergraduates surveyed had experienced unwanted sexual advances. Living in a university town, we are all too aware of misconduct at UC, which has seen more than its share of scandal, the administration settling major sexual harassment suits against professors and undergraduate women filing reports of rape at fraternity parties. Cal police reported 16 rapes in 2016, up from 9 the year before. 

With higher education on their resumes and hopefully their self-esteem intact, female job seekers enter the workforce looking for opportunities to prove themselves and earn enough to afford the ever-increasing cost of living. From 1975 to 2000, the number of workingwomen rose dramatically but has leveled off to about 57%, even while public acceptance for women working outside the home has grown, according to Gallup. Wage equity has increased slightly with women now earning 83¢ to the male dollar. 

A UC San Diego study on the persistence of male dominance in the professions found that women are underrepresented in law, medicine, science and technology. “They are rarest in the most powerful sectors and at the highest level. Women make up only 21% of scientists and engineers employed in business and industry. In science-related university departments, women hold 36% of adjunct and temporary faculty positions, but only 28% of tenure-track and 16% of full professor positions. In the medical profession, women are only 34% of physicians, while they are 91% of registered nurses. In law firms, although women make up 45% of associates, they are only 15% of equity partners.” 

Almost every professional niche has a tale to tell of gender oppression. Women in the military (15% of active duty forces) and veterans face some of the toughest hurdles, including higher rates of PTSD, unemployment, and homelessness. MSN surveyed the twenty jobs with the biggest gender wage gap; sales and financial services topped the list. But these are not the worst paying jobs that include food preparation, restaurant work, retail cashiers, ticket takers, farm workers, personal home aids, and other exhausting and badly paid labor. Over 23 million Americans work at such jobs, and two-thirds are women, earning 15% less than men, and the gap is even larger for women of color according to the Women’s Law Center

There’s a statistical upside. Women are far less apt to become homicide victims, and we live longer, probably due to genetics. Old age is not for sissies because longevity is likely to be impoverished or “economically insecure” says The National Council on Aging. Elderly women live on smaller social security payments because of their lower lifetime earnings. One in seven seniors lives in poverty, according to the AARP, and the numbers will increase as the baby boomers age. 

From Insult to Injury 

That’s gender inequality as seen over the life span, but there’s also a spectrum of intensity in the enforcement, the weapons by which male dominance is exercised in the daily life of women, the up close and personal methods of squelching the ambition of girls, the power of women in the prime of life, the options of mothers, and the spirit of little old ladies. 

We need psychologists to explain sexism; maybe the need to dominate is correlated to an infantile syndrome characterized by lack of impulse control. It’s a mystery. Men are competitive by nature and nurture, learning all kinds of obnoxious behaviors from A to Z. It’s our fate to push back. There’s a library of books on every facet of male dominance from linguistics to war; every woman faces different challenges when confronting insensitivity, injustice, abuse, and brutality in private and public spheres. A female architect of my acquaintance once told me that it was her duty to make sure there were enough accessible toilets for women in public buildings. Every woman’s struggle is different but connected. The personal is still political. 

The second wave of feminism saved my life, and I will always be grateful to the collective of Plexus: Bay Area Women’s Newspaper for the sisterhood, support and encouragement that helped me forty years ago. The women’s movement of the 1970’s challenged the basic dynamics of American society; today we must join with other political struggles to save Mother Earth from the powers of hatred, greed, and ignorance. Science applied for the good of humanity is the greatest liberation movement of all: the triumph of knowledge over stupidity. 

The persistence and extent of women’s oppression can be depressing, especially given the current climate. But we would be fools to give up. It’s always darkest before the dawn. My neighbor Alicia just knit me a pink pussycat hat in honor of that great march, almost a year ago, when women and male allies took to the streets of D.C. after Trump’s victory. Everywhere women are staying strong. Don’t let the jerks get you down. Light a candle for the unfinished business of women’s liberation, and happy holidays. 

Toni Mester is a resident of West Berkeley. 

ON MENTAL HEALTH: Harassment Of Disabled Under New State Program

Jack Bragen
Saturday December 16, 2017 - 05:39:00 PM

Recent California legislation, Assembly Bill 1568, has created a pilot program called "Whole Person Care," a state funded program administered by 19 counties. This project is directed at Medi-Cal recipients, and provides voluntary case management (medical case management and "social" case management). It is intended to reduce the usage of high cost services by those in the Medi-Cal population that a database has determined are "high risk" individuals. The new law provides for coordination between agencies. It provides for tracking of people in a database.  

It seems to me that the authors of the law operate under the presumption that if you receive Medi-Cal, it is likely that you are on narcotics and/or alcohol, that you are a criminal, and/or that you are a high-risk mentally ill person.  

The new legislation seems fine in some respects. However, my experience of being contacted by individuals executing this program has been that it is a way to harass and bully disabled people. This perception is, of course, subjective.  

If you are disabled and a Medi-Cal recipient, and if your name shows up a few times in certain places, you are lumped in with violent criminals, sex offenders, and people who have committed narcotics offenses. And, because of this, the State of California and your county of residence would like to have some control over your life.  

Participation is voluntary. However, this doesn't stop those executing the program from using harassment and intimidation tactics when they approach you.  

In response to being contacted by county workers, I looked up their number and I phoned them back. It seems that they had gathered some information about me, and knew some things about me. However, because I was contacted, it prompted me to do research about this program, and do information gathering of my own.  

I appreciate the U.S., and yet, I do not enjoy being contacted by any part of the government for almost any reason.  

Because the program is voluntary, it stops short of being an oppressive or perhaps Orwellian level of government control. However, their contact with me was very bothersome, triggered my paranoid symptoms, and disrupted what would otherwise have been a productive day at the computer.  

ECLECTIC RANT: Sexual Harassment -- The Weinstein Effect

Ralph E. Stone
Sunday December 17, 2017 - 12:52:00 PM

Ever since more than eighty women accused movie producer Harvey Weinstein of engaging in sexual harassment, sexual assault, or rape, giving rise to the #MeToo Movement, there seems to be daily reports of new accusations of sexual harassment against prominent men. The #MeToo Movement even made the cover of Time Magazine

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a federal law, prohibits sex harassment in employment, including harassment based on sex, pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions. Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations, section 1604, contains the following definition of harassment under federal law: "It is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature." The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency charged with enforcing these provisions. Additionally, most states have their own laws that prohibit workplace discrimination based on sex. 

Of course, sexual harassment is not a recent phenomenon. For example, in fiscal year 2016, the EEOC received nearly 7,000 complaints alleging sexual harassment. State agencies received thousands more. The EEOC estimates that roughly 3 out of 4 individuals who experience workplace harassment do not report it. An overwhelming majority of harassment victims are women. 

Clearly, sexual harassment should not be discounted as it has been for too long. Organizations should have procedures in place so that victims of sexual harassment feel comfortable reporting such incidents knowing that responsible action will be taken without reprisal to the victim. 

But what kind of alleged behavior should be actionable in today's understandable rage over sexual harassment? By actionable, I mean vilification in the media, forced resignation, job termination, and even legal action. Should there be a line drawn between boorish behavior and grabbing women "by the pussy,” or should we continue the zero tolerance policy we seem to be on now? Continuing the latter course of action may become, in some cases, a sort of “sexual McCarthyism.”

Arts & Events

Christian Tetzlaff Interprets Bach’s Solo Violin Works

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday December 22, 2017 - 01:33:00 PM

On Sunday evening, December 17, Christian Tetzlaff returned to San Francisco’s Davies Hall to perform Johann Sebastian Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin. Appearing under the auspices of San Francisco Symphony, Christian Tetzlaff played the last four of the six Bach works for solo violin. In Tetzlaff’s view, there is a trajectory throughout these six works that moves from darkness and suffering into light and joy. The opening Sonata and its Partita, says Tetzlaff, offer a kind of overture. Omitting these in his recital, Tetzlaff maintains that the basic trajectory can be heard as he plays the second and third sets of sonatas and partitas in numerical order.  

These works for solo violin were composed by Bach between 1717 and 1720 while he was music director at the court of Prince Leopold in Anhalt-Cothen. Most of Bach’s compositions from this period were secular works (such as the Brandenburg Concertos) rather than the church music he later composed in such abundance in Leipzig. Although the Sonatas and partitas for Solo Violin have a reputation for being extremely difficult to play, Christian Tetzlaff maintains that once a violinist understands how these works are based on the inhalation and exhalation of human breathing, they become easier to play as the violinist frees himself of preconceived notions of strict order set in stone.  

Opening his recital with Sonata No. 2 in A minor, Tetzlaff fluently executed the first movement’s large leaps in register. The second movement offers a jaunty fugue complete with a descending chromatic countersubject. The third movement, marked Andante, is one of the most thoroughly lyrical of the entire set, its melody suspended over a pulsating bass line. The final Allegro builds in dramatic intensity and employs an “echo” effect in the Italian style, which Tetzlaff seemingly played with tongue in cheek.  

Partita No. 2 in D minor presents a suite of dances – an allemande, courante, sarabande, gigue, and chaconne. The allemande is leisurely and lithesome, the courante is in the Italian style, the sarabande is plaintive, the gigue is lively. Then comes the magnificent Chaconne, a movement as long as all the other parts put together. In this Chaconne, Bach offers a virtual summation of the solo violin’s expressive capabilities. At the end of this Chaconne, which closes the work, the audience erupted in tumultuous applause. 

After intermission, Christian Tetzlaff returned to perform, first, Sonata No. 3 in C Major, and, last, Partita No. 3 E Major. The opening movement of Sonata No. 3 is a slow Adagio with an almost funereal tread. This is followed by a magnificent fugue in which the opening idea is subjected to almost every conceivable contrapuntal device. Then, magically, the theme is repeated in inverted form, as if Bach wished to show how one mood could be transformed by inversion. Tetzlaff sees this fugue as a crucial turning point in the overall trajectory from darkness and suffering to light and joy. Sure enough, the fugue is followed by a Largo of melodious lyricism. The work then closes with a propulsive Allegro assai that is redolent of joy.  

Partita No. 3 in E Major opens with another of the highlights of Bach’s solo violin works, a magnificent Preludio. Here Tetzlaff adroitly handled the torrents of sixteenth notes, maintaining a spirit of improvisation even if, this being Bach, everything was methodically structured and written out. Next came a soft and gentle Loure, a French dance movement that takes its name from an ancient French bagpipe. Following the Loure came another highlight of the entire set, a sprightly Gavotte en Rondeau, jauntily performed by Christian Tetzlaff. Two contrasting Menuets follow, offering their classical lines. Then comes a brilliant, sunny Bourrée; and the concluding Gigue radiates an unmistakable joy.  

As understood through the lens of Christian Tetzlaff’s interpretation, the Bach Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin do indeed seem to progress from darkness and suffering to light and joy. In any case, these are great works that require consummate musicianship from the solo violinist. Christian Tetzlaff presented just such consummate musicianship in this excellent recital.

Sherezade Panthaki Stars in Obscure Handel Oratorio

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Sunday December 24, 2017 - 10:59:00 AM

Under the leadership of Nicholas McGegan, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra has consistently championed the music of George Friedrich Handel, bringing us this composer’s operas, oratorios, and instrumental music in live performances and recordings. Now, in four performances throughout the Bay Area, December 14-17, they have given us Handel’s 1744 oratorio Joseph and His Brethren. A work rarely performed these days, Joseph and His Brethren was extremely popular in Handel’s day, receiving ten performances in England, where it placed fourth, behind The Messiah, Samson, and Judas Maccabeas, in number of performances given in the composer’s lifetime.  

Based on the last thirteen chapters of the Book of Genesis, Joseph and His Brothers was set to a problematic libretto by Anglican vicar, the Rev. James Miller. Neglecting the back story, Miller opted to begin his libretto with Joseph, the second youngest son of Hebrew patriarch Jacob, in an Egyptian prison. Following a brief Overture we hear Joseph’s aria-and-recitative, “Be firm, my soul,” that bears similarities with Florestan’s great prison aria in Beethoven’s Fidelio. Like Florestan, Joseph affirms his innocence, bemoans his unjust incarceration, then resigns himself that Heaven has its secret ways to bring things to a wise end. In these Philharmonia Baroque performances, the role of Joseph was elegantly sung by mezzo-soprano Diana Moore, whose burnished low notes resounded darkly while her shimmering high notes shone brightly. 

Joseph is summoned by the Egyptian Pharaoh and correctly interprets the Pharaoh’s dream of seven fatted cattle and seven lean cattle as foretelling an equal number of coming years of feast and famine. Joseph advises the Egyptians to store up foodstuffs during the feast years to supply them with sustenance during the lean years. The grateful Pharaoh, sung by baritone Philip Cutlip, appoints Joseph, an Israelite, to a top position as his right-hand man, and gives him the Egyptian name Zaphnath. 

Although Diana Moore as Joseph occupies center stage throughout this oratorio, soprano Sherezade Panthaki as Asenath, Joseph’s love interest/wife, simply stole the show. Panthaki was absolutely sensational, singing with sumptuous tone, extraordinarily flexible and apparently effortless coloratura, and impeccable diction. With a singer of the caliber of Sherezade Panthaki in the role of Asenath, the convoluted story of Joseph’s troubled relations with his eleven brothers simply took second place in Handel’s oratorio to the love-story involving Joseph and Asenath. For Asenath, it is a case of love at first sight when she meets Joseph, as she reveals in her opening aria, the soliloquy “O lovely youth, with wisdom crown’d,” which is soon followed by her acknowledgment of burgeoning love, “I feel a spreading flame within my veins.” Joseph, for his part, wastes no time in asking Asenath’s father, the Egyptian High Priest, for Asenath’s hand in marriage. Soon the loving couple are singing a sweet love duet thanking Heaven for their mutual felicity, accompanied by two warbling flutes. Act I closes with a Chorus of Egyptians singing the praises of Zaphnath and Asenath. As they waft the news “from pole to pole,” they descend an octave from first “pole” to second “pole.” 

In Act II, Egypt is now experiencing the lean years, but in following Joseph’s lead they have stored up provisions and enjoy plentiful foodstuffs. Asenath rejoices that the Pharaoh and all Egyptians sing grateful praise of her husband. However, she confides to Phanor, sung here by mezzo-soprano Abigail Levis, that something seems to trouble Joseph/Zaphnath. Perhaps, says Phanor, he regrets his native land. Meanwhile, as a result of yet another back story not included in Rev. Miller’s libretto, Joseph’s ten half-brothers have visited Egypt, not recognized Zaphnath as their half-brother Joseph, whom they abandoned long ago in a pit menaced by wild beasts. The brothers have returned to Israel, leaving behind one brother, Simeon, who is held as hostage by Zaphnath/Joseph. Simeon, robustly sung by tenor Nicholas Phan, who also doubles later as Judah, bemoans his incarceration yet worries over his share of guilt in having seemingly abandoned Joseph to death.  

In a convoluted plot full of weird twists and turns, in Act III the brothers return to Egypt, Zaphnath frees Simeon but now incarcerates Benjamin, Jacob’s youngest son and Joseph’s brother by the same mother. The role of Benjamin is sung by bright-voiced soprano Gabrielle Haigh. Meanwhile, Asenath endeavors to relieve her husband of his fears for his brothers and fellow Israelites. She vows to ask Pharaoh for permission to invite the famine-ravished Israelites to come share in Egypt’s bounty. As she devises this plan, Asenath launches into the extraordinarily difficult coloratura aria, “Prophetic raptures swell my breast.” Here Sherezade Panthaki was absolutely astounding. Her vocal pyrotechnics exhibited a seemingly unlimited range that included dark-hued low notes and electrifying high notes. This remarkable vocal display simply brought the house down, as the audience exploded in applause and shouts of “Brava!” 

The half-brothers prepare to depart for Canaan but plead with Zaphnath to allow Benjamin to return to see his aged father. Without revealing his identity as Joseph, Zaphnath slyly tests his half-brothers. Impressed and moved by their loyalty to Benjamin as well as to their father, Zaphnath eventually reveals that he is their long-lost brother Joseph. Amid general amazement, the oratorio closes not with a celebration of the reconciliation of Joseph and his brothers, but father with yet another love-duet from Asenath and Joseph. Finally, the Chorus praises Heaven and sings Hallelujah!  

Throughout Handel’s Joseph and His Brethren, conductor Nicholas McGegan led his period-instrument orchestra in a rhythmically pulsating score, while the Philharmonia Chorale, led by Bruce Lamott, sang effectively as Egyptian and/or Israelite choirs. These performances of Joseph and His Brethren were recorded and a CD will be released at a later date sometime in 2018.

Mark Morris Revives THE HARD NUT

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Saturday December 16, 2017 - 05:30:00 PM

On Friday evening, December 15, Mark Morris Dance Group opened their perennial Christmas favorite, The Hard Nut, for an extensive run through December 24 at Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall. It’s been more than twenty-five years since Mark Morris premiered The Hard Nut, which of course is his quirky take on Tchaikovsky’s beloved ballet The Nutcracker. Based on the story The Nutcracker and the Mouseking by E.T.A. Hoffman, this charming tale involves the Christmas Eve dreams of a young girl, often named Clara, although in Mark Morris’s The Hard Nut she is called Marie.  

For this production Mark Morris Dance group was joined by Berkeley Symphony led by Colin Fowler and Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir, Ensemble. After a “miniature Overture,” orchestrated without the lower string instruments, the curtain rises on the Christmas Eve party of Mr. & Mrs. Stahlbaum and their children – Fritz, Marie, and Louise. In The Hard Nut, which Mark Morris now sets in an American home of the 1950s, the children sit on the floor in front of a television set, watching a simulated fireplace burning a simulated Yule Log. Marie is performed by Lauren Grant, Fritz by Brian Lawson, and Louise by Lesley Garrison. Mark Morris himself takes the stage as Mr. Stahlbaum/King, while Mrs. Stahlbaum/Queen is danced in drag by John Heginbotham. In preparation for the party, Mrs. Stahlbaum indulges in a few drinks. As the guests arrive, Mr. Stahlbaum organizes dances – a polka, hokey-pokey, hesitation, stroll, bump, waltz. Various male guests sport Elvis or Buddy Holly haircuts, and the women wear fifties-style outfits. Drosselmeier, a friend of the family, arrives and dispenses gifts for the children, including a nutcracker. Fritz manages to break the nutcracker, but Marie solicitously places the nutcracker in a spot where it is safe. In the role of Drosselmeier, Billy Smith is a lean and supple figure, moving with ease and grace. In the role of Mr. Stahlbaum, Mark Morris presides over the party with flowing arm-and-hand gestures, as if conjuring up gaiety out of the thin air of a suburban fifties bourgeois American household. Brandon Randolph dances with great panache the role of the Stahlbaums’ African-American maid. As part of the entertainment, Mr. Stahlbaum presents a robot and a Barbie Doll, who dance quite mechanically for the amusement of the party guests. Spencer Ramirez dances the Robot, and Elisa Clark dances the Barbie Doll. Eventually, the party breaks up and the guests leave. The children are hastened to bed, and Mr. & Mrs. Stahlbaum clean up with the help of their maid. 

During the night, Marie is unable to sleep and checks to see if the nutcracker is resting comfortably. At midnight she is frightened by rats. Electronically controlled toy rats whirl about her, then turn into giant rats danced by troop members in rat costumes. G.I. Joe soldiers sporting machine guns come to Marie’s rescue and battle the rats. The nutcracker, danced by Aaron Loux, helps fight the rats by taking on the Rat King, danced by Utafumi Takemura. Marie deals the coup de grâce to the dying Rat King with a blow of her slipper. Marie is then tucked into bed, while Drosselmeier, who has witnessed the battle, makes his way home through a blizzard. The corps de ballet dances to the blizzard, throwing sparkling snowflakes in the air as they cavort in the snow. The orchestra is joined by the children’s choir. Act I ends to great applause. 

After intermission, Drosselmeier returns to the Stahlbaum home where Marie is in bed with a fever. Drosselmeier, a great storyteller, offers Marie one of his favorite stories. He tells the tale of a King and Queen who had a beautiful baby daughter, Pirlipat, whose face was badly disfigured by the Rat Queen, danced by Utafumi Takemura. Pirlipat is danced by Lesley Garrison. It is decreed that Pirlipat will only regain her beauty if a young suitor can crack the hard nut with his teeth. The King orders Drosselmeier to search the world for the hard nut. If Drosselmeier fails, warns the King, he will be decapitated. 

Now the stage set is dominated by an electrically lit map of the world, and Drosselmeier travels far and wide in search of the hard nut. In Spain, he witnesses a Spanish dance performed by Domingo Estrada, Jr., and Amber Star Merkens. In Arabia, (which on the map is confusingly located in Morocco), he watches an Arabian dance led by Elisa Clark. In China, he is beguiled by a Chinese dance performed by Janelle Barry, Mica Bernas, and John Eirich. Next he ventures to Russia and a Russian dance is performed by six dancers. Finally, he goes to France, where four dancers entertain him. Returning to the Stahlbaum home with the hard nut, Drosselmeier introduces several suitors for Pirlipat’s hand. Two suitors fail, but the third, Drosselmeier’s own nephew, succeeds in cracking the hard nut with his teeth. Young Drosselmeier kills the rat Queen, but he begins taking on the shape and demeanor of the nutcracker toy. Pirlipat rejects him as her suitor, but Marie steps forward to offer her love to young Drosselmeier. Mrs. Stahlbaum acknowledges Marie’s blossoming maturity by leading a dance of the flowers. The young Drosselmeier and Marie go off to live happily ever after; and, at last, Fritz and Louise are sent off to bed, as The Hard Nut comes to a close.  

With choreography by Mark Morris, set design by Adrienne Lobel, costumes by Martin Pakledinaz, and lighting by James F. Ingalls, The Hard Nut offers an affectionate, though somewhat jaded, take on Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. For dates and times of performances of The Hard Nut, check the website of Cal Performances.

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, December 17-24

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Sunday December 17, 2017 - 11:44:00 AM

December 19 is the last Berkeley City Council meeting before the winter recess. Jammed into the 498 page Agenda Packet is the City Manager’s report on the referral process item 36. This is the list of the work assigned by the City Council to the City Manager. While quite a number of referrals are in process or completed, there are referrals from 2014 that are still lingering unfinished. Also in the packet is the Police Review Commission’s (PRC) recommendation to repeal the September 12, 2017 pepper spray ordinance item 40 a. The City Manager rejects the PRC recommendation in 40 b. recommending the ordinance remain in place. Justification for retaining the policy includes the statement, “On August 27, hundreds [emphasis added] of masked extremists arrived on the scene of an otherwise peaceful event in Civic Center Park, accompanied by a flatbed truck loaded with weapons and shields…” 


The Police Review Commission Subcommittee is meeting Monday for discussion and possible action regarding the BPD response on June 20, 2017. Seven protesters have filed a claim against the city for illegal use of violence by police http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2017/12/15/seven-file-claim-alleging-unnecessary-berkeley-police-violence/ 


The project under construction at 1499 University, the corner of University and Sacramento (former gas station site) is a 3 story hotel/motel that was approved in the summer of 2014. The developer is requesting a modification of the plans to put a patio on the roof, which will be presented to the Design Review Committee Thursday. 


Sunday, December 17, 2017 

No City meetings or announced demonstrations 

Monday, December 18, 2017 

City Council Special Closed Session, Monday, Dec. 18, 4:00 pm, 2180 Milvia St, Cypress Room, Agenda: public employee appointments Director of Human Resources, Fire Chief, conference with Labor Negotiators - Employee Organizations Berkeley Fire Fighters Local 1227, Berkeley Police Association, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 1245. 


Tax the Rich rally – Monday, Dec 18, winter hours 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm top of Solano in front of closed Oaks Theater. There will be a two week holiday break after Monday, December 18th. Tax the Rich rallies will resume January 8, 2018. 

Civic Arts Commission – Public Art Subcommittee, Monday, Dec. 18, 9:00 am – 10:30 am, 2180 Milvia St, Redwood Room, 6th Floor, T1 Bonds, BART Plaza, 2017-2018 Civic Center Exhibit 


Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board, Monday, Dec. 18, 7:00 pm – 11:00 pm, 2134 MLK Jr. Way, City Council Chambers, Agenda: appeal 2412 Atherton St Unit #2, displacement disaster victims, community emergency response in large multi-unit buildings, Very full agenda – check links http://www.cityofberkeley.info/rent/ 


Police Review Commission – Subcommittee Review of BPD Response at June 20 City Council, Monday, Dec. 18, 1:30 pm, 1947 Center Street, 1st Floor, Western Sycamore Conference Room, Agenda: make findings, make any needed recommendations based on findings 


East Bay Times http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2017/12/15/seven-file-claim-alleging-unnecessary-berkeley-police-violence/ 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017 

Berkeley City Council, Tuesday, Dec 19, 6:00 pm – 11:00 pm, 2134 MLK Jr Way, City Council Chambers, Agenda: item 36 City Manager proposing per unit fee to monitor below market housing cost of monitoring staff $199,483 (1.115 FTE) to the full agenda packet is 498 pages, item 39 referral process, item 40 a Police Review Commission (PRC) repeal pepper spray ordinance from Set 12, 2017, 40 b City Manager reject PRC recommendation, 


Wednesday, December 20, 2017 

Planning Commission, Wednesday, Dec 20, 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: Commission work plan, calendar, recommendation for Council Housing Action Plan 


Thursday, December 21, 2017 

Civic Arts Commission – Grants Subcommittee, Thursday, Dec 21, 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center Library, Agenda: Discussion guidelines for city festival funding 


Design Review Committee, Thursday, Dec 21, 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, 

1499 University Ave @ Sacramento – Final design review modification – modify previously approved hotel project now under construction to allow roof deck approximately 2080 sq ft 

2556 Telegraph @ Blake – Continued preliminary design ti demolish 2-story commercial building, construct 5-story mixed-use building with 22 dwelling units. 


Open Government Commission - Thursday, Dec 21, Meeting cancelled 

Friday, December 22, 2017 

No City meetings posted, City services are listed as full schedule 

Saturday, December 23, 2017 

No announced demonstrations 

Sunday, December 24, 2017 

No announced demonstrations