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Updated: Berkeley Council Considers Redistricting and New Location for Meetings

By Becky O'Malley
Tuesday January 17, 2012 - 08:33:00 AM

Tonight's Berkeley City Council meeting, the first for 2012, has a few controversial items which might bear watching, either streamed tonight or in video form tomorrow. We’ll try to check out what happens, and if there are any truly dramatic moments we’ll post a video excerpt for your amusement.

First up is a public hearing on neighbors’ appeal to the Zoning Adjustment Board’s approval of the big Parker Place development proposed for the current Berkeley Honda dealership site on South Shattuck.

UPDATE ON WEDNESDAY MORNING: Developers Ali Kashani and Mark Rhoades got their permits after accusing the neighbors of being chronic litigants, for which they the developers were roundly scolded by some councilmembers. 

Then there’s another public hearing on the six qualifying proposals for how and when Berkeley City Council districts should be redrawn to reflect the 2010 census. Two camps have emerged in the discussion. One, led by progressive Councilmembers Arreguin and Worthington, urges prompt adoption of one of the plans. 

Worthington issued this statement on his position: 


If Berkeley City Council redistricting is not done in time for the Nov 2012 election Berkeley stands at risk of disenfranchising up to 4,300 residents. These residents deserve the chance to vote in the 2012 City Council elections.  

According to the new U.S Census numbers, the 8 City Council districts have very unequal populations. 

To be true to One Person One Vote, each district needs 14,073 residents. 

District 2 is short by 692 

District 3 is short by 1,049 

District 5 is short by 1.364 

District 6 is short by 1,190 

Total short for 2,3,5,&6= 4,295 

There are 6 viable proposals that have been submitted for where to draw the lines. 

If the City Council adopts one of those proposals, or anything close to the 1986 boundaries then thousands of additional people will be allowed to vote in the November 2012 City Council elections. 

Unfortunately, Councilmember Wozniak has repeatedly proposed to delay redistricting because there is a proposal submitted to create two 80% “student supermajority ” districts. 

It would be illegal for the City Council to vote to adopt that proposal because it conflicts with the City Charter by not coming close to the 1986 boundaries, and by kicking two Council members (Arreguin & Worthington) out of their districts. 

That proposal can be placed on the ballot as a Charter Amendment for the voters to decide. 

If we delay and wait to see what happens with the controversial Charter Amendment, thousands of voters will be denied their chance to vote for City Council in 2012. 



A District 8 resident forwarded to the Planet this statement he received from Councilmember Wozniak: 



If you have received a notice telling you that the legal and democratic process of redistricting is going to “disenfranchise” voters in Berkeley, It’s important for you to know that this is factually incorrect and misleading. There are about 4,000 Berkeleyans who will end up in a different City Council district in order to achieve equal representation. Because City Council elections are “staggered” (that means half are voted on in 2012 and half in 2014), some people who were scheduled to vote for City Council in 2012 will now vote in 2014, and vice versa. This process is known as election deferral.  

This is a routine process, made necessary by the fact that redistricting must ensure equal representation. Please note that this will have no affect [sic] on anyone’s ability to vote for President, Governor, ballot initiatives, Mayor, etc. It only affects voting for City Council for a small fraction of people. 

Some people want you to think that this constitutes disenfranchisement to confuse you. Disenfranchisement is when someone takes away your ability to vote - think literacy tests or “Voter ID” laws. Deferral simply means you now vote for City Council in Presidential years (2012, 2016) instead of gubernatorial years (2014, 2018) or vice versa. Remember, one’s ability to vote for any office other than City Council is unchanged! “Deferral” and “disenfranchisement” are NOT the same thing. Do not let anyone lead you to believe they are! 



Tonight the council could vote to send any of the six proposals to staff for drafting a final redistricting ordinance, or it could vote to postpone redistricting until after the group which wants Berkeley to create two council districts with student majorities has the time to amend the city charter by initiative, which could take at least two years. 



Even if one of the six plans now before council is adopted, the student-district initiative could be proposed and adopted on the same timetable which would be used if redistricting were postponed. If and when it passes, it could replace any plan adopted this year. 

UPDATE: Redistricting stalled. See The Editor's Back Fence for a full rant. 

Wozniak is also floating a proposal which would change some of the quotas for retail businesses in the Elmwood shopping area, located on College between Webster and Russell. If the Council is sympathetic to the concept, it will be sent to the Planning Commission for further study and possible implementation. 

Finally, the council will receive a staff report on new locations for City Council meetings, which recommends that the staff be asked to report back by May 1, 2012 on the cost, schedule, and viability of three new options: Berkeley Community College Auditorium, Longfellow Middle School Auditorium and North Berkeley Senior Center Multi-Purpose Room. The wording of the staff report as submitted is ambiguous, but it appears that the meeting room now being constructed for School Board use on the Berkeley Unified School District’s West Campus is still in the running for council use as well. 

UPDATE: Thumbs down for now on West Campus and Longfellow. BCC and the Senior Center are still in the running. Berkeley High's Little Theater has been added.

Gunpoint Holdup at Berkeley Chevron Station in the Claremont Neighborhood

Tuesday January 17, 2012 - 05:08:00 PM

Berkeley Police have reported that the Chevron service station at the corner of Ashby and Domingo was held up at gun point about two o'clock this afternoon. The gunman, described as a Hispanic male in his teens wearing a grey hooded sweatshirt, black pants and a black mask, fled on foot. 

Multiple police cars and other emergency vehicles sped up Ashby immediately following the hold-up, and police officers were observed combing the neighborhood on foot for a couple of hours later. 

As of 5 p.m. the suspect was still at large.

Bay Bridge Closed Over President's Day Weekend, Starting Night of February 17

By Patricia Decker (BCN)
Tuesday January 17, 2012 - 05:01:00 PM

The upper deck of the Bay Bridge will be closed over Presidents Day weekend to make way for construction, bridge officials announced today.  

The weather-dependent closure will allow crews to create a detour that bridge officials say will enable the bridge's new eastern span to open to traffic months ahead of schedule. 

The upper deck, which carries westbound traffic, will be closed from 8 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 17, to 5 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21, bridge officials announced today. 

On the approach to the span on the Oakland side, the bridge's current westbound lanes stand in the path of where the new eastern span's eastbound lanes will be. 

The detour will shift westbound traffic to the south of its existing path, and will make room for construction crews to demolish sections of the existing roadway that are in the path of the new incline section.  

A video explanation of the new configuration is available online at www.baybridgeinfo.org. 

During the closure, motorists will be encouraged to take alternate routes or transit, which will be beefed up with additional ferries and overnight BART service at some stations. 

Those who drive should allow extra travel time, even if traveling on other bridges, bridge officials said.

DISCLOSE Act Moves Through Assembly

By Richard Knee
Friday January 13, 2012 - 07:47:00 PM

The Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee gave a 5-0 thumbs-up Monday to the California DISCLOSE Act (Assembly Bill 1148), which would require political ads on the web, radio and TV, and in print to identify who paid for them. 

Next, the bill is scheduled to be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Thursday, Jan. 19. 

A mentioned, the measure is intended to to bring transparency to the political process, particularly in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision, in the Citizens United Case, that corporations are people. The primary author of AB 1148 is Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica. 

The Appropriations Committee's chair is Felipe Fuentes, a Democrat from the San Fernando Valley. His Capitol address is P.O. Box 942849, Room 2114, Sacramento 94249-0039; phone (916) 319-2039; fax (916) 319-2139. The committee's phone number is (916) 319-2081, fax number is (916) 319-2181. 

Assemblywoman Brownley also would appreciate expressions of support for AB 1148. Her Capitol address is P.O. Box 942849, Room 2163, Sacramento 94249-0041; phone (916) 319-2041; fax (916) 319-2141. 

To become law, AB 1148 will need approval by two-thirds majorities in both the Assembly and the Senate, and Gov. Brown's signature. Or with simple-majority votes, the Assembly and Senate can place the measure before California voters in 2014. There is little doubt that voters would overwhelmingly pass it, though corporate interests could be expected to spend tens of millions in an effort to defeat it. 

You can see the bill's text and track its procedural progress at http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/bilinfo.html; simply type in the bill number and click on "Search". 

And if you want to become active on this issue, contact the California Clean Money Campaign, phone 310-297-0200, e-mail info @ CAclean.org, web address www.CAclean.org

Richard Knee is a freelance journalist and sunshine activist.

Press Release: Mountain Lion Sighting Reported--Tips on Safety

From UC Berkeley Police
Friday January 13, 2012 - 09:04:00 AM

On Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at approximately 10:14 p.m., there was an unverified sighting of a mountain lion on top of a dumpster at the Smythe-Fernwald apartment complex. In December, 2011 UCPD received a report of an unverified sighting of two mountain lions running north on Lawrence Road toward Glaser Road at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. Last year several sightings of mountain lions occurred in the hills above the Berkeley campus and carcasses of animals suspected to have been attacked by mountain lions were also discovered. 

To reduce the chances of encountering a Mountain Lion: 

• Avoid hiking alone, especially between dusk and dawn, when lions normally do their hunting. Make plenty of noise while you hike so as to reduce the chances of surprising a lion. 

• Always keep children in sight while hiking and within arm's reach in areas that can conceal a lion. Mountain Lions seem to be drawn to children. 

• Hike with a good walking stick; this can be useful in warding off a lion. 

To reduce the chances of an attack when encountering a Mountain Lion: 

• Do not approach a lion, especially if it is feeding or with its young. Most lions will avoid confrontation. Give them a way to escape. 

• Stay calm and face the lion. Do not run because this may trigger the lion's instinct to attack. Try to appear larger by raising your hands. 

• Pick up small children so they don't panic and run. This will also make you appear larger. Avoid bending over or crouching. 

• If the lion acts aggressively, throw rocks, branches, or whatever can be obtained without turning your back or bending over. 

• Fight back if attacked. Since a mountain lion usually tries to bite the head or neck, try to remain standing and face the attacking animal. People have successfully fought back with rocks, sticks, or bare hands. 


As with any emergency situation, if you see suspicious activity, call 9-1-1. 

>From a cell phone on or near campus, call (510) 642-3333.



Serving the Citizenry Should be the Goal of Berkeley Mayor's Staff

By Becky O'Malley
Friday January 13, 2012 - 05:42:00 PM

Who does the Mayor of Berkeley serve? The city charter provides for a “weak mayor” form of government, with the mayor theoretically having not much more power than an extra at-large councilmember who presides over meetings and cuts ribbons at civic events.

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, schooled in the ways of politics by 20-some-odd years in the state legislature and married to the former mayor, has made the most of the job. He is adept at squeezing every possible perk out of the job, though he can’t accept direct pay for his work without losing his state of California pension.

What he does have, and exploits to the max, is a great big city-paid office staff, huge considering what the mayor is supposed to be doing under the charter. When his wife had the job, she increased the staff head count from one (like all the other councilmembers) to four FTEs. They’re well-paid by the city of Berkeley—with 2010 salaries alone totaling close to a half-million dollars, before benefits, which in Berkeley are famously generous.

(These figures come from the San Jose Mercury’s Public Employees Salaries Database—but the city has refused to disclose how much is paid out in benefits despite repeated requests.)

What does the Mayor’s staff do for the citizens of Berkeley, exactly? 

From the Mayor’s website: 


“Julie Sinai, Chief of Staff to the Mayor, serves as the Mayor’s policy advisor on youth, education, jobs, health, social service issues, inter-government relations and is the press contact for the Mayor's Office. [paid $105,956 in 2010]  

“Calvin Fong, Senior Aide to the Mayor, works with the Mayor on transportation, development, land use and housing issues. [$83,508] 

“Nils Moe, Assistant to the Mayor, works on environmental issues, including renewable energy initiatives, the green economy, Berkeley FIRST and climate action policy. He is also the main contact for website issues. [$76,855] 

“Sbeydeh Viveros-Banderas, Assistant to the Mayor, Scheduler and Constituent Services, is the office manager and handles the Mayor's schedule. She also runs the Intern program and handles many constituent services. [$47,748] 

But that’s just the old staff. 

Now the famous revolving door has turned, and Sinai has moved over to work for U.C. Berkeley instead of for the mayor. Some small-minded critics at berkeleyside.com smelled a whiff of corruption even in that move, but there was more to come. 

The revolving door has turned once again. Sinai’s replacement, Judith Iglehart, subject of not one but two paens by Lance Knobel at berkeleyside.com in the last couple of weeks, is a U.C. Berkeley veteran who lately has specialized in business development of university-spawned innovations. 

Here’s part of her bio, from the website of HitBarcelona, a “meat market” where startups are showcased for the edification and potential profit of venture capitalists. (We worked this event, or perhaps one of its progenitors, for our aspiring high tech company many years ago—the only time I ever shook hands with Bill Gates.) 

“During her career at the University of California she worked as a Special Assistant for two Chancellors at Berkeley and four UC Presidents. She served as UC’s Chief Research Development Officer, and Deputy Senior Vice President for Business and Finance, Chief of Staff to the California Senate Majority Floor Leader, as President/CEO of BARTA/TechVentures, a ten county program to identify and assist early stage companies, UC Berkeley’s Director of State and Federal Government Relations, and as the Associate Director of the California Policy Seminar. Today she serves as a State Senate Appointee to the California Governor’s Small Business Board. … Her doctorate explored technology transfer issues at the University of California between 1984-2004. She lives in Piedmont and has two grown children.”
It’s a heady world, that high tech environment, and Iglehart certainly has an impressive list of ex-employers. But what’s someone like that doing as the chief of staff for Tom Bates? Is there something in the works that has yet to be revealed? 

How is she expected to replace someone whose area of responsibility was “youth, education, jobs, health, social service issues, inter-government relations”? 

Well, maybe the third category is relevant, but otherwise why was she hired for this position? There’s a lot in Berkeley that needs doing, but little of it appears to be covered by her resume. 

It’s the small stuff that gets lost in the shuffle, and that’s what the Mayor with his lavish staff ought to be taking care of. 

One small but sensitive example: Someone seems to have sicced the enforcement bullies on the beloved Roxie Deli on the corner of Ashby and Telegraph. Not just someone, actually—knowledgeable Planet correspondents blame the corporate attorneys who are trying to get a liquor license for the Walgreens a couple of blocks away, who might think putting Roxie out of business would improve their chances. 

A citizens’ petition is circulating on behalf of Bill, the proprietor, but what is the Mayor’s office doing about it? Not much, it appears. 

Someone somewhere in the Mayor’s aura seems to have decided that what Berkeley really needs, instead of corner grocers, is more high tech startups. Someone probably thought that the opening as the Mayor’s chief of staff would be the ideal slot for a recruiter of same. 

But whatever happened to the Office of Economic Development? Isn’t it the right locus for that kind of activity, if it’s needed at all? 

As a (retired) entrepreneur who’s actually participated in starting something up, I can testify that adding one more bureaucrat to the Mayor’s office staff won’t make a dime’s worth of difference to location decisions of nascent enterprises. I once was part of a team that surveyed biotech startups for Jerry Brown’s first term Commission on Industrial Innovation. The overwhelming consensus in that field was that the scientists wanted the state simply to meddle out so that they could do their research and develop their products in relative peace. 

Another very relevant question is what Iglehart will expect to be paid. Ironically, Sinai’s salary in the $105,000 range, which would seem generous to a beginning teacher, will look like chump change to someone from the entrepreneurial milieu whose home is in Piedmont. But that’s no reason to pay Iglehart any more than Sinai was making. 

All in all, recent publicity about the compensation of top level bureaucrats in Berkeley and elsewhere indicates that it’s time and past time for the City Council to take a hard look at hiring decisions like this one. That would include the permanent city manager position now supposedly under recruitment, the staffers in the Mayor’s office, and anyone else who’s looking to be paid more than $75,000 a year. 

The Editor's Back Fence

Updated: Berkeley City Council Cancels Redistricting Despite Receiving Six Viable Plans from Citizens

By Becky O'Malley
Tuesday January 17, 2012 - 11:18:00 PM

Well, folks, I just wanted to tell you that I've now watched what must rank as the single most disgusting display of hypocrisy in the close to 40 years I've been watching the Berkeley City Council in action. The council majority, comprised of former-Progs and former-Mods now allied to deceive the citizens as often as possible, employed specious semantics to claim that keeping a couple of thousand citizens from voting for city council in the upcoming election was not really "disenfranchising" them.

I suggest that when Wikipedia comes back up all of these self-righteous pseudo-pedants should check out the meaning and usage of the term.Until then, plain old Merriam Webster will have to suffice:

"to disenfranchise: to deprive of a franchise, of a legal right, or of some privilege or immunity; especially : to deprive of the right to vote." Seems clear to me.

The worst among them was Councilmember Darryl Moore, who defiled the sacred memory of the civil rights movement (Yes, Darryl, I was there—where were you in 1962?) to suggest that it's really okay to deprive some people of their vote for some kinds of offices some of the time.

No, it's not.

Residents were asked to submit plans, and six good plans, any of which would meet the requirements of the Berkeley City Charter, were submitted. But the council majority seized on the excuse provided by a proposal supported by a subset of student pols to postpone redistricting until a charter amendment changing the rules can be devised and passed.

Surely this will happen sometime soon. As Woody used to sing, there'll be pie in the sky by and by.

And while they wait for this blessed day, some number of thousands of voters, including a couple of thousand students, will be deprived of the right to vote for the councilmember who will represent them. But that's not disenfranchisement? Give me a break.

Anyone who has kept their eyes on the prize knows that the real purpose of this delay is to give the council majority time to figure out a way to shove most campus-area students into a single district, thus knocking off the two remaining genuine progressives on the council. Worthington and Arreguin depend on student votes to retain their seats, and their homes could even be cut out of the districts they now represent if lines are redrawn as Councilmember Wozniak proposes.

Wozniak clearly hopes to be left with an all-homeowner District 8, making an even safer seat than he now enjoys. But even homeowners, even comfortable Elmwood homeowners, might eventually get tired of this kind of naked gerrymandering. As might the constituents of the hypocritical Councilmember Moore, who is up for election this November.

This is one council performance that anyone who cares about good government, whether Prog, Mod, Radical, Liberal or just plain old Democrat, should watch. Here it is:

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Berkeley Business in the News

Saturday January 14, 2012 - 11:01:00 PM



Odd Bodkins: The Giraffe Suit (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Thursday January 19, 2012 - 05:11:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Bounce: That Ship Has Sailed (Cartoon)

By Joseph Young
Thursday January 19, 2012 - 05:18:00 PM


Joseph Young


Public Comment

Will Berkeley City Council Consider Real Alternatives to West Campus Council Chamber Site?

By Katherine Harr
Monday January 16, 2012 - 09:35:00 PM

Tonight, Tuesday January 17, the Berkeley City Council will review the staff report on “alternate” locations for City Council meetings. Alternate to what? The corner of Browning and Addison – the residential side of BUSD’s West Campus property.

As the DP wrote, "West Campus is relatively far from the action, and would probably impede rather than facilitate citizen attendance at meetings—but perhaps that’s the rationale behind what appears to be the current plan."

Unfortunately, the report doesn’t provide much in the way of facts or details, and two of the three leading locations identified in the report have many of the same problems that West Campus does: The Longfellow School and NB Senior Center are both in residential areas not well served by late-night transit.

Yet so far the only opposition has been from those of us likely to be dismissed as NIMBY ROBOTS, the neighbors. 

Staff analysis was lacking in so many ways, I hardly know where to start. Main concerns are technical – many of the locations considered don’t have all the infrastructure needed to support TV and Web broadcast or close captioning. Yet the report gives no information about costs for adding those capacities. Even when the report addresses transit, it doesn’t spell out that West Campus is served within half a mile by only 3 buses at night, while locations like Berkeley Community College have at least seven buses coming right by. 

Supposedly, the Browning/Addison chambers will have everything the Council needs, and more. According to the October 24 DP article, BUSD’s $2.1 million cost for that facility would be shared with the city. So how is it, with no location decision yet made by Council, that BUSD is constructing that meeting facility right now? 

Could it be that Council moving to West Campus is a done deal, as the Mayor indicated to speakers on November 8th – the FIRST public meeting on the subject - when he said, “I should point out, we’ve looked everyplace.” 

I may be paranoid, but what if West Campus and Longfellow are the lead contenders because they are in quiet, residential areas? What if public comment will be limited so meetings can end early enough to satisfy neighbors? If you care about public discourse, weigh in January 17 on Council item #33.

How Do We Handle Industrial Evil?

by Gar Smith
Tuesday January 17, 2012 - 05:54:00 PM

"What does it matter to us? Look away if it makes you sick"

— Heinrich Himmler in response to complaints about Auschwitz

They conspired to murder millions with lethal gases. They plotted to seek out and kill children. When challenged about what they had done, they lied, they covered up, they tried to silence their critics. They ranked among the country's wealthiest executives. They are the officers of the US tobacco industry. 

In the aftermath of the Philip Morris disclosures and the Liggett Group confessions, the victims of the tobacco industry are demanding justice. 

A proposed $368 billion settlement would shield the tobacco industry from future lawsuits in exchange for halting advertising, financing anti-smoking programs and underwriting healthcare for children. 

The trade-off is uncomfortably reminiscent of Latin American "amnesty" agreements. In Chile, Brazil, Argentina and Peru, military leaders who plotted the political assassinations of thousands of civilians have escaped punishment entirely under the cover of such deals. 

If a particular make of car is shown to roll over, lose control or explode, that auto is recalled. If pesticide residues in food send people to the hospital, those products are taken off the shelves. Toys that choke children and eat little girls' hair are banned. 

Now that the cigarette makers have admitted that their products kill, why should they be allowed to remain in business? 

Nicotine and Nuremberg 

When individuals and corporations commit crimes of demonstrable evil, by what standard should they be judged? 

The world first confronted this question in Nuremberg, Germany, on November 20, 1946, when an International Military Tribunal of distinguished jurists tried 23 Nazi officials for war crimes. 

On May 3, 1947, a second Nuremberg tribunal was convened. This court charged 24 officials of a powerful German chemical corporation — I.G. Farben — with committing crimes of "slavery and mass murder" at the company's sprawling Auschwitz chemical plant. 

I.G. Farben officials initially claimed that they had no idea what was happening at Auschwitz. When that failed, they fell back on the excuse that, had they tried to prevent the extermination of their Jewish workforce, they could have been sent to jail for "undermining the fighting spirit" of the German nation — a capital offense. 

US tobacco companies do not have this excuse. They did not kill and conspire to save their skins — they did it simply to line their pockets. 

In The Crime and Punishment of I.G. Farben (The Free Press, Macmillian Publishing, 1978), Joseph Borkin reports that the judges were moved by defense lawyers' attempts "to equate the I.G. defendants with their industrial counterparts in the US and other countries as God-fearing, decent and vigorously opposed to communism." 

As the lawyer for Farben executive Carl Krauch told the court: "Replace I.G. by ICI [Imperial Chemical Industries] for England, or Du Pont for America, or Montecatini for Italy and at once the similarity will become clear to you." 

On July 29, 1948, the court sentenced 12 of the 24 Farben officials to prison terms ranging from 18 months to eight years. 

A Corporate Crimes Tribunal? 

The next question became: What was to become of I.G. Farben itself? 

US Gen. Dwight Eisenhower concluded that a peaceful Germany could be assured only by fracturing Farben's strategic role in the German economy. To this end, Eisenhower proposed the following actions: 

* Seize I.G. plants and assets and use them to make reparations to the victims. 

* Destroy I.G. plants used exclusively for war production. 

* Break up I.G.'s monopoly by dispersing ownership of the remaining plants. 

* End I.G.'s interests in global cartels. 

* Take over I.G.'s research programs and facilities. 

"The same day Eisenhower's recommendations were released to the papers," Borkin writes, "the United States Army announced plans to dynamite three I.G. plants in the American zone... [declaring that] these factories would be `the first of many hundreds... designated for actual destruction.'" 

The American military government promulgated a sweeping antitrust law. Companies found to maintain an "excessive concentration of economic power... were to be reorganized and broken up." On June 17, 1947, decartelization began as Farben's holdings in the American zone were broken into 47 independent units. 

But Eisenhower's plan was sabotaged in 1947 by a team of 14 US businessmen who objected that the anti-monopoly drive might interfere with the "possible recovery of the economic life of a starving people." 

The dismantling of I.G. Farben was halted. The firm's assets were consolidated into three holding companies — Bayer, BASF and Hoechst. In December 1951, when these companies announced their new officers, the names included many former Farben executives. 

In September 1955, Friedrich Jaehne, a former war criminal, emerged as the new chairman of Hoechst. In 1956, Fritz ter Meer, a war criminal convicted of both plunder and slavery, became the chair of Bayer's supervisory board. 

As Borkin notes: "In 1977, Hoechst, BASF; and Bayer were among the 30 largest industrial companies in the world.... Each one is bigger than I.G. at its zenith." 

What's To Be Done? 

The late author/activist Richard Grossman has explained how to put law-breaking corporations permanently out of business by seizing their charters of incorporation ["Seize their Charters," Spring '93 EIJ]. The giant tobacco companies are a good place to start. 

The tobacco giants should be boycotted. In the case of Philip Morris, this means shunning scores of products including Duracell batteries, Miller beer, Sanka, Yuban, Shake In' Bake, Post cereals, Kool-Aid, Jello-O, Miracle Whip, Cheez Whiz and Velveeta. 

Tobacco farmers should be encouraged to grow "substitution crops" — e.g., kenaf for tree-free paper and food for the poor. (The US finances similar anti-drug substitution crop programs for opium farmers in Thailand and cocoa farmers in Peru.) 

Genocidal exports of cigarettes targeting kids in Asia and Africa should be banned. 

Finally, corporate reparations should be offered to the victims in terms of lifetime medical treatment for tobacco-linked diseases. Seized corporate assets also could finance drug-treatment programs to help people break their addictions to nicotine. 

(c) 1997 Earth Island Institute. This article originally appeared in the Summer 1997 issue of Earth Island Journal. Reprinted by permission of the author. 

Mic Check! Occupy the Courts Jan 20: beginning 8:00 AM in Oakland; noon in SF.

By Christina Tuccillo and Phoebe Anne Sorgen
Wednesday January 18, 2012 - 12:18:00 AM

For excellent reasons, dozens of organizations and hundreds of thousands of people support the need for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United v Federal Election Commission Supreme Court ruling of Jan. 21, 2010 and prior anti-democratic SCOTUS rulings that a corporation is a person and that money is speech. A Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 80% of Americans oppose the Citizens United ruling, and a Harris poll found that 87% think big companies have too much influence in Washington.

The Occupy Berkeley General Assembly reached consensus twice to support two local Jan. 20, 2012 "Occupy the Courts" actions organized by members of Move to Amend, Occupy Oakland, and Occupy SF. These are outdoor, permitted protests: 

Starting at 8:00 AM - Oakland Federal Courthouse on Clay St., between 13th/14th Streets - http://occupyoaklandcourts.org

Starting at Noon - San Francisco 9th District Court of Appeals, 7th Street at Mission - http://www.occupywallstwest.org/wordpress/?cat=12  

Over 100 Occupy the Courts actions will occur nationwide, including at the Supreme Court. http://movetoamend.org/occupythecourts 

If we want the voice of a teacher to be able to get through the din of attack ads financed by for-profit transnational corporations and billionaires, we need change, or the megaphone of the 1% will continue drowning out We the People's free speech. With the goal of creating a truly democratic society, limiting corporate influence over elections is necessary. With increased regulation of electoral expenditures, maybe we'd get real debates rather than factually incorrect hit-pieces!  

While local and state governments can still regulate campaign spending minimally, because of Citizens United Congress can no longer regulate what comes through Political Action Committees, or PACs. That's a LOT of money. (PACs are private groups that are organized to elect political candidates or advance the outcome of legislation. While they are not run by specific candidates, they may still openly support candidates and be run by former employees of those candidates.) 

Money is not free speech -- it's spending. A corporation is not a person – it’s an artificial entity set up to maximize profits. 

According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, “The historic election of 2008 re-confirmed one truism about American democracy: Money wins elections. From the top of the ticket, where Barack Obama declined public financing for the first time since the system's creation and went on to amass a nearly two-to-one monetary advantage over John McCain, to congressional races throughout the nation, the candidate with the most money going into Election Day emerged victorious in nearly every contest. In 93% of House of Representatives races and 94% of Senate races..., the candidate who spent the most money ended up winning." The findings were based on candidates' spending, and didn't even factor in corporate spending on hit pieces such as Citizens United. 

Money does win elections, which is a huge problem. Big money buying our democracy is one of THE root causes of many of the problems of our era: http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2008/11/money-wins-white-house-and.html 

A subscriber to the Occupy Berkeley listserv, who has rarely come to OB in person, recently published in the Daily Planet a critique of the OB General Assembly decision to support Occupy the Courts. We wrote this in response to what we consider to be his distorted commentary entitled "Mic Check?! State Run Political Campaigns." In the unlikely event that the U.S. government were able to forbid all campaign contributions, the outcome would be preferable to having corporations, super rich candidates, and their backers put million$ into elections that support their profits when many of us can't even cough up $100.  

We continue to be active members of Occupy Berkeley. We are on the facilitation team for the General Assemblies and on the OB Peace Working Group. We invite you to join us in our efforts to create a democracy that responds to the needs of the 99% and is not for sale to the highest bidder. http://occupyberkeley.org/ 



“Those who do not move, do not notice their chains.” - Rosa Luxemburg  

Letters to the Editors

Friday January 13, 2012 - 06:10:00 PM

Kamlarz Rip-Off 

Great article on the amazing Mr. Kamlarz. To make matters worse he "retired" shortly after a review of City of Berkeley finances indicated that he was an inept manager...and he lives in Oakland. Is it any wonder that regular citizens are fed up with the abuse their elected (and non-elected) officials are dishing out to their constituents? Way to go Phil! 

The City of Berkeley owes it to it's citizens to NOT make good on this rip off just as the City of Bell refused to pay their city manager what was clearly an unwarranted sum. 

Dan Grassetti 

Burial of a 5-year-Old Boy 

To the mournful music of a mariachi funeral dirge and with dozens of white balloons drifting overhead, a small white casket holding the body of Gabriel Martinez, Jr. was lowered into a grave Friday afternoon at Rolling Hills Cemetery in Richmond. A Franciscan monk blessed a small golden cross with holy water and presented it to his grieving mother. Gabriel was killed outside his family's taco truck December 30th, the 110th homicide in Oakland in 2011. More than 900 persons attended funeral services at St. Elizabeth's Catholic Church in the Fruitvale district in Oakland last Friday. In a 75-minute ceremony, Pastor Reverend Martin Ibarra addressed the mourners in English and Spanish. "Gabriel's death reveals the pain of the inner city of Oakland that we are forgetting. We pray that today will never be repeated. Let's keep working so that our community will be a safe one. Gabriel belongs to the community of saints now." Gabriel was a beautiful child and, according to his aunt, Elizabeth Pelayo, "He just lit up a room. He was happy, you could see it in his eyes." Last Friday, several mourners were seen gazing up at the sky on a grassy hillside under sunny and blue skies where the last of the balloons were still visible, a white dot drifting off into space. The only source was the continuous wailing of the mariachi band and the uncomprehending crowd. May we hope that Gabriel's cruel and untimely death brings about a new start to 2012? 

Dorothy Snodgrass 

Meeting of Gray Panthers 

The Occupiers: Why We Demonstrate is the topic for the monthly Berkeley-East Bay Gray Panther meeting. Pamela Drake of the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, Ruth Maguire of the Gray Panthers, and activist photographer Anna Graves will tell about their experiences with the Occupations of Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco, and why this movement is so important in changing today's political dialogue. 

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012 at 1:30 PM North Berkeley Senior Center 1901 Hearst, corner of MLK, Berkeley, CA 

All Welcome, Wheelchair accessible. 

From the Gray Panthers 


As results of the Iowa caucuses dribbled in, Americans got to see how the Republican candidates greeted victory and defeat. Rick Santorum rose to the occasion but his true nature still showed through the new camouflage he has put on. Nobody has been paying attention to Santorum so he has been given a free pass and was able to sneak under the radar. Hello, Rick Santorum put the E in extremism. He has all the usual Republican/evangelical baggage: hard-core anti-abortionist, anti gay all the way, anti-immigration and if he was a current politician Santorum would surely have signed the anti-tax pledge. Speaking of pledges, Mr. Santorum recently signed a pledge with Michele Bachmann implying that African-American children were better off under slavery than they have been since President Obama's election. How do you answer idiocy like this except to say, I bet the Republican and Tea party white religious base loved it. 

Ron Lowe 

New Year's Message 

We see a change in the way modern people think regarding sharing of goods and personal comfort. There was a time in our history when even with limited resources, people shared their own cash and goods with those whose need was greater than their own. They must, I think, have derived some inner satisfaction from extending themselves. They must also have derived some “outer” satisfaction from knowing that their gesture was widely appreciated by their community. People used to depend on each other and they knew that they would receive help from neighbors at a time of crisis. People felt connected to each other even when they belonged to different social classes. But in modern life we have learned to think chiefly of ourselves; our extended families and communities do not figure significantly in our thoughts. That selfless action which spreads happiness inside and outside of ourselves is hardly ever practiced. As a result we stay sullen and dissatisfied. 

All of us are part of the family whose home is planet Earth. If we want to stop the surge of unhappiness on our planet, we should learn again how to think of others and to share our good fortune with them. 

May generous neighborliness be our motto for the New Year. 

Romila Khanna 

The Other Gray-Haired Brigade

By Roger O. Blais
Friday January 13, 2012 - 07:02:00 PM

A self-described patriotic friend recently sent me a letter entitled, “The Gray Haired Brigade". He apparently believed I would be receptive to its suggestions that, “You have tasted socialism and seen evil face to face, and have found you don’t like it after all”, and “We didn’t fight for the Socialist States of America, we fought for the ‘Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave’”.

I told my friend I am not threatened by the U.S. Postal Service, Social Security, the National Guard, U.S. Marshals, our National Parks Service, the FBI or public schools. That’s the socialism I have tasted.
I explained that my wife and I are both military veterans, and our son is currently serving in Naval Special Forces. We place our hands over our hearts when saying the words, “With liberty and justice for all”. To us, “all” refers to Americans regardless of religion, race, color, income, sexual orientation, or health conditions.  

My own gray-haired friends remember days when everyone thought it was wrong to freely dump sewage into our water ways and oceans. Americans united did something about it, and built sanitary sewage systems. Republicans now complain that our water and air pollution problems are dreamed up by “radical environmentalists”. That stopping pollution means re-tooling machinery and is just too costly. They claim that the Environmental Protection Agency is just out to get them. We wonder what happened to the days when pollution was everyone’s concern and preserving the environment was valued. 

We too believe in the right to bear arms. Yes, I have weapons in our house but don’t believe that AK 47s or 20 round gun clips should be available for purchase as easily as were the old Daisy BB guns when we were kids. We don’t understand why AK 47s or 20 round gun clips are recommended for home defense or hunting. We do not own hand grenades or rocket launchers either.  

In contrast to the Tea Party folks, I am a proud Democrat following my awakening ten years ago after being a proud Republican for over 35 years. I was taught that the president should be respected. My own gray-haired friends don’t believe in drawing disrespectful pictures of President Barack Obama with a bone in his nose or labeling the president with the N word. In the good old days it was fun to draw pictures of President Abraham Lincoln with his tall top hat. We wonder why such racial hatred still exists but then quickly realize that greed, bigotry, and selfishness are core values to others. 

We remember when folks believed in the value of immigrants building railroads, harvesting our produce and laboring in the service industry. We believe that the same minorities are now some of our finest professionals. It’s odd nowdays how the same Republicans who insisted on opening the doors for cheap labor now claim it’s the fault of “socialist liberals” in government that our borders are out of control. 

We still believe in the value of hard work, labor unions, a fair wage and collective bargaining. We believe in a college education, and support the notion that education should not be merely a gift for the wealthy but the right of all citizens. “One nation under God with liberty and justice for all” still rings true to me. Especially the all part. 

We remember when product icons like Levi’s and Coca Cola were proudly made by American workers in the USA. Now, the self-described “job creators” have relocated divisions of these and other corporations all over the world in pursuit of shockingly low labor costs and minimal pollution restrictions. 

There is still comfort in Old Glory. But patriotism is more than just the bravery of a soldier, singing the national anthem or belief in the United States Constitution. It’s a commitment to resist and defend this nation from within and abroad against the greed, hatred, bigotry and indifference that now threatens all Americans. My friend was right, I have seen evil face to face. 


Worldwide Candlelight Vigil to Unite Movements for a Better World--
MLK, Jr. Birthday, January 15, 7pm

By Kenn Dzaman
Friday January 13, 2012 - 06:38:00 PM

On his birthday and in the spirit of Dr. King’s vision for racial and economic equality, peace, and non-violence, we are holding candlelight vigils at 7pm in each time zone to unite our world in a global movement for systemic change. On January 15, wherever we may be, whether in our homes, in city squares, online, Occupies, places of worship, or at work, we lift a beautiful message high above the political dialogue. We light the dream of a more equitable world in our hearts. We can overcome! 

Dr. King said, “A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas… and say: “This is not just.” 

We gather to empower a great and global dream, a dream we have all dreamt of for thousands of years. We will sing, because “freedom songs are the soul of the movement.” Together, we will make the dream a reality.

No Birth Control for America's Last Wild Buffalo!

By Sandy Sanders
Friday January 13, 2012 - 07:43:00 PM

Papers across the country are revealing horrific plans by the USDA-Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service to sterilize members of America's last wild buffalo population, the beloved herds of Yellowstone country. 

Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) promotes the livestock industry. Now this federal livestock overseer intends to conduct population control experiments upon America's last wild free roaming buffalo. 

APHIS intends to use a chemical birth control vaccine and conduct invasive hysterectomies on wild buffalo stolen from Yellowstone. Wild bison are ecologically extinct throughout their native habitat. Already, fifty-three young wild buffalo have been stolen from their habitat and from the public for APHIS' experiments, due to a back room deal made between Yellowstone National Park and APHIS. APHIS plans to capture and remove up to 108 buffalo, many of which will be killed at the end of their experiment. APHIS has already made its decision to move forward without conducting an Environmental Impact Statement and public review. APHIS states that they will be conducting an environmental analysis, which under federal law they are required to do, but they have already sequestered wild buffalo with full intention on carrying out their nefarious plans regardless of public opinion or justification for the harmful study.  

APHIS's intentions hold no benefit for wild American buffalo. The goal and purpose of this federal agency is to serve the livestock industry, and not wild buffalo. 

In truth, the wild bison of Yellowstone are the *last* wild population left in America. They number fewer than 3,700 individuals and are badly mismanaged under a state-federal plan that aims to serve the interests of Montana's cattle producers. 

Wild bison need habitat to recover their population, not birth control by a taxpayer funded agency acting on behalf of the livestock industry.


THE PUBLIC EYE: The Republicans' Mitt Romney Problem

By Bob Burnett
Friday January 13, 2012 - 09:06:00 AM

After Rick Santorum’s surprising showing in the January 3rd Iowa caucuses, many observers asked, “Why didn’t Mitt Romney win? What explains Santorum’s late surge?” The answer lies at the core of contemporary Republican politics: they don’t have one candidate that appeals to their fractured base. 

A recent Pew Research poll revealed the remarkable diversity in the US electorate. In 2012, Pew projects that 10 percent of potential voters, mostly young people, will not vote; Pew allocates the remaining 90 percent to three groups: “Mostly Republican,” 25 percent, “Mostly Independent,” 35 percent, and “Mostly Democratic,” 40 percent. (This reflects ideology not actual Party registration.) 

The “Mostly Republican” group includes “Staunch Conservatives” (11 percent) and “Main Street Republicans” (14 percent). Staunch Conservatives are older white voters who “take extremely conservative positions on nearly all issues – on the size and role of government, on economics, foreign policy, social issues and moral concerns. Most agree with the Tea Party and… very strongly disapprove of Barack Obama’s job performance. “ Main Street Republicans are similar but not as conservative; for example, they are more likely to house anti-corporation sentiment. Just outside the “Mostly Republican” group is a bloc of Independents, “Libertarians” (10 percent), that typically vote for the Republican presidential candidate. 

Romney is not well accepted by Staunch Conservatives because of his, supposedly, liberal record as Governor of Massachusetts. These Tea Party radicals accuse Romney of being “Republican in name only” (RINO). They point out his transgressions: Romney approved of the TARP bank bailout; he designed the Massachusetts healthcare system that became the model for “Obamacare;” and his positions on values issues like abortion and gay rights have flip-flopped over the years. 

Romney has an additional problem because he is a Mormon. In a June 2011 Gallup Poll,Twenty percent of Republicans and Independents indicate they would not support a Mormon for President. Romney’s religion was a factor in his poor showing in Iowa. A December < a href= http://pewresearch.org/pubs/2144/newt-gingrich-mitt-romney-2012-republican-presidential-nomination-race-gop-tea-party-barack-obama-gender-gap >Pew Research poll examining Republican voter attitudes about the candidates found “high negatives for Romney among white evangelicals.” One evangelical predicted, “Eighty percent of evangelicals will not vote for Romney in a contested primary, and 20 to 30 percent will stay home or go third party in the general election because of the Mormon issue and because they see him as an advocate of abortion and gay marriage.” 

The latest Gallup Tracking poll shows 34 percent of Republican respondents favor Romney, 14 percent want Newt Gingrich, 15 percent like Rick Santorum, and 13 percent prefer Ron Paul – with other candidates in single digits. (In the New Hampshire Primary, Romney garnered 39 percent, Paul 23 percent, and the others split the remaining 38 percent.) Romney’s ahead, as he has been all year, but he hasn’t sold the majority of Republicans. 

As the campaign has progressed, Romney has taken increasingly conservative positions. Romney proposes a six-step approach to job creation.. He would “reduce the corporate income tax rate to 25 percent.” He would accelerate free trade agreements. Romney would cut “non-discretionary Federal spending by 5 percent.” He would “cut red tape” by eliminating Federal regulations that “unduly burden the economy or job creation.” He would boost domestic oil production, “Direct the Department of the Interior to implement a process for rapid issuance of drilling permits.” Finally, Romney would “pave the way to end Obamacare.” 

Romney began his political career as pro-choice but switched positions in 2007 and adopted the conservative stance: life begins at conception, Roe v. Wade should be overturned, and there should be a “Human Life” constitutional amendment to ban abortion. At the beginning of his career Romney supported gay rights but in 2005 he stated his opposition to gay marriage and civil unions. Romney believes in man-made global warming but “is not certain to the extent that man is causing the change in the environment.” He advocates US energy independence that includes both reliance on renewables and energy sources such as “clean coal,” nuclear, and domestic oil – he supports construction of the Keystone pipeline. 

Romney’s biggest problem may not be his religion or his supposedly liberal record or his flip-flopping on major issues it but rather his record as a businessman. Romney’s foes have gone on the attack and posted a video describing him as “corporate raider.” Romney co-founded Bain Capital and over 25 years amassed a fortune estimated at $200 million. Bain Capital “is a classic ‘strip and flip’ shop – a private equity firm that made its money buying businesses and sucking profit out of them by any means possible.” 

In American politics it’s axiomatic that to win the Presidency you have to hold onto your base, breakeven with Independents, and slice off a few votes from your opposition. Mitt Romney’s problem is that it doesn’t appear he can hold onto his Republican base much less garner Independent and Democratic votes. 

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

ECLECTIC RANT: Occupy Groups Move to End Corporate Personhood, Restore US Democracy

By Ralph E. Stone
Friday January 13, 2012 - 09:10:00 AM

January 21st marks the second anniversary of the infamous January 21, 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case, where the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment prohibits government from placing limits on independent spending for political purposes by corporations and unions. In other words, money equals speech. Move to Amend is planning occupations and rallies on January 20th to protest this Supreme Court decision. 

What underlies the Citizens United decision is the assumption that corporations are natural persons within the meaning of Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution and therefore, have First Amendment rights. Corporate personhood dates back to the controversial 1886 Supreme Court decision in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad. Although the Supreme Court supposedly did not make a direct ruling on the question of "corporate personhood," the misleading notes of a clerk finding corporate personhood were incorporated in the Court's decision. Whether this is myth or reality doesn't matter at this point. This result was a Supreme Court precedent finding that a corporation is a "natural person." 

Since then, the corporate personhood legal concept has been codified: "In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, unless the context indicates otherwise-- the words "person" and "whoever" include corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint stock companies, as well as individuals." (1 U.S.C. §1) 

Not surprisingly, the influence of super political action committees (super PACs) was expected in the wake of Citizens United, presently in support of GOP primary candidates. Although super PACs cannot coordinate directly with campaigns, many of them are staffed by long-time supporters of the candidates. According to The Center for Public Integrity , through January 1, 2012, super PACs spent $12.9 million. The next reports for spending are not due until January 31st. 

Consider that super PACs often spend more money in television and radio advertisements than the candidates themselves. For example, "Winning Our Future," the pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC is expected to spend $3.4 million to launch an anti-Mitt Romney film before the South Carolina primary. While "Restore Our Future," the pro-Romney super PAC is expected to spend $2.3 million before the South Carolina primary. 

Clearly, there needs to be more disclosure about super PAC spending. However, the Disclosure Act, which would have increased transparency for super PACs and other groups spending money on campaigns, failed in a Republican filibuster in the Senate. 

Some cities and states have defied Citizens United. In Montana, for example, the state Supreme Court upheld a longstanding law limiting corporate spending in politics. A lower court had held that Citizens United invalidated the state's Corrupt Practices Act, a law passed by citizens' ballot initiative in 1912, when it was common practice for the copper industry to bribe state politicians. On December 30th, the Montana Supreme Court allowed the law to stand in spite of Citizens United. 

In another case, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a 2006 New York City law that, among other things, bans lobbyists from giving gifts to City officials and requires them to disclose all fundraising and consulting activities. Again, in spite of Citizens United, the court upheld the City's right to put limits on political contributions and prevent "pay-to-play" schemes. 

If the Montana or New York cases are appealed, the Supreme Court is likely to reverse these rulings, citing its precedent in Citizens United. 

In other actions, on January 4, 2012, the New York City passed a resolution opposing the Citizens United decision and supporting a Constitutional amendment abolishing corporate personhood , joining Los Angeles, Boulder, Albany, Oakland, Madison and Dane Counties, Wisconsin, and Missoula, Montana. The resolution declares support for an amendment declaring "that corporations are not entitled to the entirety of protections or ‘rights' of natural persons, specifically so that the expenditure of corporate money to influence the electoral process is no longer a form of constitutionally protected speech." On January 4th, a similar resolution was introduced in the California legislature Hawaii passed a similar resolution last year. 

It won't be easy to stop big money from undermining our political process, but there is promising action at the state and local level to change the Citizens United decision either through a Constitutional amendment or through a new Supreme Court decision

SENIOR POWER… The crime of the 21st century

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Thursday January 12, 2012 - 07:32:00 PM

Many of the nation's fast-growing, elderly population are prime targets for abuse — physical, financial, sexual or emotional. Concern among the elderly and their advocates mounts as the number of seniors soars and more of them live longer. The Cedar Village Retirement Community in the Cincinnati suburb of Mason has opened a long-term care facility to victims of abuse. It is the first elder abuse shelter in Ohio and one of only a half-dozen in the country. All are funded by non-profit groups. 

Elder abuse crimes usually fall into 4 main categories: 

  • Physical abuse, including assaults, batteries, sexual assaults, false imprisonment and endangerment;
  • Physical neglect by a caregiver, including withholding medical services or hygiene that exposes the elderly person to the risk of serious harm;
  • Psychological (mental) abuse, including making threats or the infliction of emotional harm; and
  • Financial (fiduciary) abuse, which includes theft of such personal items as cash, investments, real property and jewelry.
In slanguage, a fraudulent business scheme or swindle is a scam, often an example of elder abuse. Financial scams targeting seniors have become so prevalent that they are considered "the crime of the 21st century." Financial scams often go unreported; they can be difficult to prosecute and are considered “low-risk” crime. 

Wealthy seniors and low-income older adults are at risk of financial abuse, not always by strangers. Seniors are assumed by many to have significant amounts of money sitting in their accounts. Over 90% of all reported elder abuse is committed by a person’s own family members, most often adult children, followed by grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and others. The National Council on Aging and the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement have identified the top scams targeting seniors and ways to protect yourself from them. 


Health Care/Medicare/Health Insurance Fraud 

Every U.S. citizen or permanent resident age 65+ qualifies for Medicare. A scammer does not need to research what private health insurance (“HMO”) company an old person has in order to scam her/him out of money. Perpetrators may pose as a Medicare or other government representative to get older people’s personal information or signature. Or they may provide bogus services for elderly people. 

Use direct deposit for benefit checks. 

Funeral & Cemetery Scams 

The FBI warns about two types of funeral and cemetery fraud perpetrated on seniors. 

(1) Scammers read obituaries and call or attend the funeral service of a complete stranger to take advantage of the grieving widowed person. Claiming the deceased had an outstanding debt with them, scammers try to extort money from relatives to settle fake debts. 

(2) Disreputable funeral homes capitalize on family members’ unfamiliarity with the cost of funeral services to add unnecessary charges to the bill. In one common scam of this type, funeral directors insist that a casket (typically, one of the most expensive parts of funeral services) is necessary even when performing a direct cremation, which can be accomplished with a cardboard casket rather than an expensive display or burial casket. 

Fraudulent Anti-Aging Products 

“60 is the new 40.” In an ageist society, some older people feel the need to conceal their age in order to participate in social circles and the workplace. Many older Americans seek new treatments, products and medications to maintain a youthful appearance, putting them at risk of scammers. Bogus homeopathic remedies do nothing. Botox -- botulism neurotoxin -- is one of the most toxic substances known to science. 


Scammers use of fake telemarketing calls to prey on older people, who, as a group, make twice as many purchases over the phone as the national average. With no face-to-face interaction and no paper trail, these scams are incredibly difficult to trace. Moreover, once a successful deal has been made, the buyer’s name is then shared with other schemers. 

Examples of telemarketing fraud include “The Pigeon Drop.” The con artist tells the individual that he/she has found a large sum of money and is willing to split it if the person will make a “good faith” payment by withdrawing funds from his/her bank account. Often, a second con artist is involved, posing as a lawyer, banker, or some other supposedly trustworthy stranger. 

“The Fake Accident Ploy” con artist gets the victim to wire or send money on the pretext that the person’s child or another relative is in the hospital and needs money. “Charity Scams” money is solicited for fake charities. This often occurs after natural disasters. 

Sign up with the National Do Not Call Registry. donotcal.gov 1 888 382 1222 

Never give your credit card, banking, Social Security, Medicare, or other personal information over the phone. 

Take yourself off multiple mailing lists. 

Internet Fraud 

Using the Internet is a great skill to acquire at any age, but the slower speed of adoption among some older people makes them easier targets for automated Internet scams that are ubiquitous on the web and email programs. 

Examples: a senior receives an email that appears to be from a legitimate company or institution, asking to “update” or “verify” their personal information; a senior receives emails that appear to be from the IRS about a tax refund. 

Counterfeit drug scams often operate on the Internet, where seniors go to find better prices on their meds. The danger is that besides paying money for something that will not help a medical condition, the victim may purchase unsafe substances that can inflict harm. 

Do not open emails that have attachments unless you know the sender. 

Do not include any aspect of your name in your constructed email address. 

Investment Schemes 

Because many seniors find themselves planning for retirement and managing their savings once they finish working, a number of investment schemes have been targeted at seniors looking to safeguard their cash for their later years. From pyramid schemes to fables of African royalty looking for a partner to claim inheritance, investment schemes have long been a successful way to take advantage of older people. 

Be skeptical of all unsolicited offers. 

Homeowner/Reverse Mortgage Scams 

Scammers like to take advantage of the fact that many people above a certain age own their homes, a valuable asset that increases the potential dollar value. The reverse mortgage scam has mushroomed in recent years. With legitimate reverse mortgages increasing in frequency, scammers are taking advantage of this new popularity. As opposed to official refinancing schemes, however, unsecured reverse mortgages can lead property owners to lose their homes when the perpetrators offer money or a free house somewhere else in exchange for the title to the property. 

Sweepstakes & Lottery Scams 

Scammers inform their mark that they have won a lottery or sweepstakes of some kind and need to make some sort of payment to unlock the supposed prize. Often, seniors will be sent a check that they can deposit in their bank account, knowing that while it shows up in their account immediately, it will take several days before the (fake) check is rejected. During that time, the criminals will quickly collect money for supposed fees or taxes on the prize, which they pocket while the victim has the “prize money” removed from his or her account as soon as the check bounces. 

The Grandparent Scam 

Grandparent Scammers will call an older person, and when the mark picks up, say something like “Hi Grandma, do you know who this is?” When the unsuspecting grandparent guesses the name of the grandchild the scammer sounds like, the scammer has established a fake identity without even making a background research. Once “in,” the fake grandchild will usually ask for money to solve some unexpected financial problem (overdue rent, payment for car repairs, etc.), to be paid via Western Union or MoneyGram, which do not always require identification to collect. Alas, many older ladies are still reluctant to “hang up” on callers who are unknown to them personally and to demand in person “ID” 

Be aware that you are at risk from strangers—and from those closest to you. 



This week I learned that California Governor Jerry Brown has released his 2012/2013 budget proposal. It eliminates the California Commission on the Status of Women. The budget also proposes steep cuts to health and human services, including Medi-Cal. If you don’t see the “senior” connection, review these facts: 

Most aged persons are women. 

Most low-income aged persons are women. California has twice as many women as men over the age of 85. 

Nationwide, as many as 75% of long-term caregivers are women. California leads the way with an estimated 4 million caregivers – a value to the state of more than $48 billion annually. 

Email. Call Governor Brown: 916-445-2841. Fax (916) 558-3160. Urge him to fund the Commission on the Status of Women. 


MARK YOUR CALENDAR: Be sure to confirm. Readers are welcome to share by email news of future events and deadlines that may interest boomers, seniors and elders. Daytime, free, and Bay Area events preferred. pen136@dslextreme.com.  

Fridays, Jan. 13 and Feb. 17. 9:30 A.M. – 11:30 A.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. Creating Your Personal Learning Network 

Join Mike McMahon, Volunteer, to learn to use the Internet and tools like Twitter and YouTube. 510-747-7510. 

Tuesday, Jan. 17. 9:30 A.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. Mastick Non-Fiction Book Club. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson and/or Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy: A Righteous Gentile vs. the Third Reich by Eric Metaxas. 510-747-7510. See also Feb. 21. 

Wednesday, Jan. 18. 1 P.M. Berkeley Commission on Aging. South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis. 510-981-5170. 

Wednesday, Jan. 18. 7 P.M. Adult Evening Book Group. Ian McEwan’s Atonement. Albany branch, Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free. 510-526-3720. 

Thursday, Jan. 19. 12 Noon. Learn what identity theft is, how to prevent it, and what you can do if you become a victim. This is one in a series of free financial education seminars taught by USE Credit Union. Central Berkeley Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100. 

Thursday, Jan. 19. 6 P.M. Lawyers in the Library. Berkeley Public Library west branch. 1125 University 510-981-6270. See also Jan. 26. 

Fridays, Jan. 20, 27, Feb. 3 and 10. 10 A.M. – 11 A.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. Folk Dancing with Maureen Atkins, Instructor. No experience or partner necessary. $16 per person for four sessions. 510-747-7510. 

Saturday, Jan. 21. 10 A.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. Monoprint Processes. Join Heidi Guibord, volunteer instructor. A beginner’s look at Monoprint with the opportunity to make cards and decorations. Bring items with interesting textures (e.g., leaves, ribbons) to class. $10 supplies fee. 510-747-7510. 

Sunday, Jan. 22. 1:30 P.M. Book Into Film: Romeo and Juliet. Discussion group participants read the play at home and then gather at Berkeley’s Central Library, 2090 Kittredge Street to view the film adaptation. Following the film, participants discuss the play, the film and the adaptation process. Sponsored by the Friends of the Library. Free. Participation is limited and registration is required. 510-981-6236. 

Monday, Jan. 23. 10:30 A.M. – 11:30 A.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. Learn to Create a YouTube Video Jeff Cambra, Alameda Currents producer, will share the basics of shooting a good video and how to get it uploaded to YouTube. No equipment or experience is needed. 510-747-7510. 

Monday, Jan. 23. 12:30 P.M. YMCA/Albany Library Brown Bag Lunch. Speaker’s Forum: Fariba Nawa’s Opium Nation. Albany branch, Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free. 510-526-3720 

Monday, Jan. 23. 7 P.M. Kensington Library Book Club. The Surrendered by Chang-rae Lee. 61 Arlington Av. Free. Book group meetings are usually held on the fourth Monday of every month in the library at 7:00 p.m. Each meeting starts with a poem selected and read by a member with a brief discussion following the reading. New members are always welcome. 510-524-3043. 

Tuesday, Jan. 24. 1 P.M. Doggie Communication 101. Does your dog pull you down the street? Growl or snap? Bark too much? Other annoying or worrisome behaviors? Bring your questions and join dog trainer Ruth Smiler. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. 510-747-7510. 

Wednesdays, beginning January 25. 9:30 A.M. – 11 A.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. San Francisco History and Highlights. Join Eric Hill, Volunteer Instructor for San Francisco History and Highlights. Free. 510-747-7510. 


Wednesday, Jan. 25. 12:15-1 P.M. Michael Goldberg, guitar: Noon Concert Series. 

UCB Hertz Concert Hall. Sponsor: Department of Music Faculty recital.
Luis de Narvaez: Three Fantasias. Turina: Sevillana Bach: Suite in E Major (BWV 1006a). Ponce: Sonatina Meridional. Tickets not required. 510-642-4864 


Wednesday, Jan. 25. 1-2 P.M. Israeli Chamber Project Concert. Jewish Community Center. Berkeley Branch, 1414 Walnut St. Free. RSVP online. 510-848-0237 


Wednesday, Jan. 25. 1:30 P.M. Great Books Discussion Group. Gogol's The Overcoat. Albany branch, Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free. 510-526-3720. 



Wednesday, Jan. 25. 1:30 P.M. Gray Panthers. North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. 510-981-5190. 


Thursday, Jan. 26. 1:30 P.M. Music Appreciation Class. Join William Sturm, Volunteer Instructor. Piano recital and discussion about “The Classical Romantic: Johannes Brahms.” Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. 510-747-7510. 


Monday, Jan. 30. 6 P.M. Evening Computer Class at Central Berkeley Public Library. . Central Berkeley Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100. 



Monday, Jan. 30. 7 P.M. Ellis Island Old World Folk Band Performance. 

Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. Old World and New World repertoire emphasizing the transition that took place when Jews came to America at the beginning of the last century. Tunes from the Yiddish theater and radio featuring vocals made popular by the Barry Sisters, queens of 1940s Yiddish Swing. This award-winning band has pioneered the revival of klezmer, lively and soulful Eastern European Jewish music. Free. 510-524-3043 


Tuesday, Jan. 31. 1 P.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. 

John Jacobs, Vice President of Bank of Alameda, will provide an Insurance Primer. Learn what the current FDIC Insurance limits are and whether you are investing your money properly. Free. 510-747-7510. 





Wednesday, Feb. 1. 9 A.M. – 1:30 P.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. The AARP Driver Safety Refresher Course is specifically designed for motorists age 50+. Taught in one-day. To qualify, you must have taken the standard course within the last 4 years. Preregistration essential. $12 per person fee for AARP members (AARP membership number required); $14 per person fee for non-AARP members. Registration fee payable by check only, to AARP. 510-747-7510 


Wednesday, Feb. 1. 12 Noon. Playreaders at Central Berkeley Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100. Also Feb. 8, 15 , 22 and 29. 


Wednesday, Feb. 1. 12:15 – 1 P.M. Nathan Noh, solo piano: Free Noon Concert Series. UC,B Music Dept. Hertz Concert Hall. Beethoven: Sonata in A-flat major, op. 110
Ravel: two movements from Miroirs Balakirev: Islamey. 510-642-4864 


Thursday, Feb. 2. 10 A.M. Computers for Beginners. Central Berkeley Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100. Also Feb. 9, 16 and 23, and March 1. 


Thursday, Feb. 2. 1:30-2:30 P.M. Fred Setterberg will discuss his book, Lunch Bucket Paradise, a true-life novel about growing up in blue-collar suburbia in 1950s and 60s East Bay. Albany Library, 1247 Martin Avenue. Free. 510-526-3720. This is a program in the Alameda County Library’s Older Adults Services series; for dates and branches throughout the county, call 510-745-1491. 


Monday, Feb. 6. 6 P.M. Evening Computer Class. Central Berkeley Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100. Also Feb. 13 and 27. 


Wednesday, Feb. 8. 12:15-1 P.M. Michael Tan, cello; Miles Graber, piano. Andrea Wu, solo piano. Free Noon Concert Series. UC,B Music Dept. Hertz Concert Hall. 

Rachmaninoff: Vocalise Faure: Après un rêve Shostakovich: Cello Sonata, mvts. 2 and 4 Schumann: Sonata, op. 22 Prokofiev: Toccata, op. 11. 510-642-4864 


Thursday, Feb. 9. 6 PM. Lawyers in the Library. South branch, Berkeley Public Library, 1901 Russell. 981-6100. 


Monday, Feb. 13. 7 P.M. Author talk. Songwriter poet Marisa Handler will speak about her writing, songs and poetry. Her memoir, Loyal to the Sky: Notes from an Activist won a 2008 Nautilus Gold Award for world-changing books. Born in apartheid South Africa, Handler emigrated to Southern California when she was twelve. Her gradual realization that injustice existed even in this more open, democratic society spurred a commitment to activism that would take her to Israel, India, Nepal, Ecuador, Peru, and throughout the United States. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av. Free. 510-524-3043. 


Wednesday, Feb. 15. 12:15-1 P.M. Free Noon Concert Series. Hertz Concert Hall. Recital: Jeffrey Syles, piano, with Axel Strauss, violin, and Jean-Michel Fontenau, cello. Mendelssohn: Piano Trio in C Minor Piazzola: two movements from Grand Tango. 510-642-4864 


Wednesday, Feb. 15. 7-8 P.M. Adult evening book group: E. L. Doctorow’s World’s Fair. Albany Branch, Alameda Country Library, 1247 Marin Ave. Free. 510-526-3720 


Thursday, Feb. 16. 6 P.M. Lawyers in the Library. West branch, Berkeley Public Library, 1125 University. 510-981-6270. 


Tuesday, February 21. 9:30 A.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. Mastick Non-Fiction Book Club. members will review Stormy Weather: The Life of Lena Horne by James Gavin and/or Paul Newman: A Life by Shawn 

Levy. 510-747-7510. 


Wednesday, Feb. 22. 12:15 – 1 P.M. Jazz x 2: Free Noon Concert Series. UC,B Music Dept. Hertz Concert Hall. UC Jazz Allstars, Ted Moore, Director. Berkeley Nu Jazz Collective, Myra Melford, Director. 510-642-4864 



Wednesday, Feb. 22. 12:30-1:30 P.M. Albany YMCA/Albany Library Brown Bag Lunch Speaker’s Forum. Albany Branch, Alameda Country Library, 1247 Marin Ave. Free. 510-526-3720 x 16. 


Friday, Feb. 24. 9 A.M.-4 P.M. Annual convention. United Seniors of Oakland and Alameda County. 510-729-0852. www.usoac.org 


Wednesday, Feb. 29. 12:15-1 P.M. Gospel Chorus, Old Made New: Free Noon Concert Series. UC, B Music Dept. Highlights - University Gospel Chorus, D. Mark Wilson, director. Old Songs in New Clothes: Old hymns given new life and meaning in contemporary compositions by African American composers. 510-642-4864 


Wednesday, Feb. 29. 7:00 PM. Kensington Library Book Club. 61 Arlington Av. 

February's book is The Trial by Franz Kafka. The book group alternates classic and contemporary literature on a monthly basis. Each meeting starts with a poem selected and read by a member. 510-524-3043. 



Thursday, March 1. 10 A.M. Computers for Beginners. Central Berkeley Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100. 






Arts & Events

Around & About Chamber Music: The Israeli Chamber Project at the Berkeley City Club, Tuesday January 24

By Ken Bullock
Sunday January 22, 2012 - 03:47:00 PM

The Israeli Chamber Project--Tibi Cziger, clarinet; Michael Korman, cello; Sivan Magen, harp; Assaff Weisman, piano; Itamar Zorman, violin--will play Bartok's 'Contrasts'; Brahms' Clarinet Trio in A minor, Opus 114; Paul Ben Haim's 3 Songs Without Words for Harp & Clarinet; Shostakovich's Piano Trio No. 1 in C minor; and Sebastian Courier, Night Time for Harp & Violin, at 8 pm, Tuesday, January 24, Berkeley City Club, 2135 Durant. $12.50 (post-high school students), $25 general, students high school & below, free. 525-5211; berkeleychamberperformances.org

Around & About: The Edwardian Ball

By Ken Bullock
Wednesday January 18, 2012 - 10:20:00 AM

Long a San Francisco and Bay Area tradition, costume balls and masquerades have often been an integral part of theatrical events, like the SF Opera's Black & White Ball. 

The Edwardian Ball rolls out the carpet this weekend at San Francisco's Regency Ballroom, which opened in 1909. The Regency's a Beaux Arts Scottish Rite hall, often cited as the greatest example of that style in America. The Avalon Ballroom's part of the complex, a Swing Era landmark--and home to the Family Dog for rock dances during the Haight-Ashbury. 

Rosin Coven and Vau De Vire Society bring an Edward Gorey tale to the stage, with the blessings of the Edward Gorey Charitable Trust. This year's show is 'The Iron Tonic--or, A Lonely Afternoon in Lonely Valley.' 

(Gorey, the Tony-winning designer for the 1977 Broadway revival of 'Dracula,' was also a great book designer and illustrator, wrote scores of droll, macabre parodies of Victoriana from the early 1950s, and ran his own theater company, Le Theatricule Stoique, on Cape Cod. Locally, his friend and director, C. J. Verburg, has directed stage plays for the Fellowship Theater Guild at the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples, Dr. Howard Thurman's integrated church the first of its type.) 

Special events spin off around the two days of the Ball and its Edwardian World's Faire, with "parlour games, steam machinery, aerial performers, sideshow acts, contortionists, sideshow acts, fire performers, thespians and beautiful circus freaks," plus "obscure artifacts, a bicycle-powered Ferris Wheel, period technology and thematic couture venues." The three levels of the Regency will house a Museum of Wonders, an Edwardian Odditorium, a portrait studio and a tea parlour. "Humor and darkness" are promised in plenty. 

Friday & Saturday, January 20 & 21, Regency Ballroom, 1300 Van Ness at Sutter, San Francisco (& in Los Angeles, February 4). Tickets: $29-$85, limited special discounts, VIP and two-day passes available. edwardianball.com or facebook.com/edwardianball

Clerestory 'Resolutions'--Choral Music for the New Year

By Ken Bullock
Tuesday January 17, 2012 - 11:18:00 PM

Clerestory, men's choral group--the name comes from "clear cathedral windows that let in sunlight" (Middle English, clear + story)--opens its New Year Bay Area concerts with 'Resolutions,' "A kaleidoscope of favorites" of the group's first five years, from early Renaissance through English choral music to modern American composers (including Eric Banks, Paul Crabtree and Steven Sametz), this Saturday evening at 8 at the Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Avenue in Oakland. Other Bay Area concerts follow, concluding with a Sunday matinee on the 29th in San Francisco, presented by the Noe Valley Chamber Music series.  

Founded by Berkeley resident Jesse Antin, the ten-man chorus ranges from countertenor to bass, with singers of experience, all former members of choirs like Chanticleer, the Philharmonia Baroque Chorale, American Bach Soloists and the Schola Cantorum. They've been featured on NPR and locally on KDFC-fm. Their records are available for listening and downloading at the website. 

From madrigals to elegies, Josquin to Vaughan Williams, Clerestory promises to deliver "the clear story."  

Tickets: $10-$20. clerestory.org

Theater Review: Ghost Light at the Berkeley Rep

By Ken Bullock
Tuesday January 17, 2012 - 05:55:00 PM

"What kind of son internalizes that curse? If we solve the ghost, we solve the play."

A 14 year old boy watches color TV onstage ... sitcoms of the 70s: Mary Tyler Moore, The Bob Newhart Show ... An interruption, and close-up of a young Dianne Feinstein, President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, announcing Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk have been shot—and that the suspect is Supervisor Dan White

The boy leaps up. He's Moscone's son Jonathan, the dead mayor's youngest child.

The date is November 27, 1978. 

Decades later—a moment onstage—stage director Jon addresses the audience as if its members are his acting students, fishing for ideas from them for a production of 'Hamlet'—in particular, ideas for Hamlet's father's ghost. Running through the house at the Rep's Thrust Stage, Jon is a hysterical caricature of Jonathan Moscone, who has said of the sharp, frequent comedic bits of the play that laughter is a way to confront death.  

The ghost of the father is Jon's obsession, setting the "time out of joint," exhuming other images of obsession and loss. 

Jon, alone, hears phantom sounds—knocking, voices calling ... Apparitions appear: a uniformed man, asking if he's the Mayor's son; a provocative prison guard, brandishing a revolver; a gay hunk surfacing in his bed ... 

The play is 'Ghost Light,' playing at the Berkeley Rep, after premiering last summer as a commissioned piece at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, written by The Rep's artistic director, Tony Taccone—and directed by Jonathan Moscone, himself the artistic director of CalShakes. (Some at opening night still seemed to think Moscone wrote the play and Taccone directed.)  

Over 2 1/2 hours long, 'Ghost Light,' is a welter of vignettes which probe the relationship of a son with his father, famous but absent, absent by assassination, a darker consequence of fame. The show is set before the entrance to San Francisco City Hall, where a good cast plays out scenes of loaded imagery, some dreamlike, others coldly real.  

One scene has Jon confront the watchcapped director of a film about Harvey Milk, Moscone's presence having been progressively elided, shot by shot . Another has him railing against Milk's enshrined memory, wryly noting that he's the only gay man who would deride the martyred supervisor, America's first elected openly gay official.  

"Ghost light" refers to the light kept lit onstage when the rest of the theater is dark. At a press conference the day of the show's opening, Moscone and Taccone mentioned the old theater superstition that the light's on so both the living and spirits of the dead won't stumble. 

It's also said to light the stage when the ghosts of actors play. And having it lit prevents a theater from ever going "dark," or showless. 

When the prison guard brings up the assassination to grown-up Jon, then brutally rehearses it, using Jon like a target dummy, 'Ghost Light' achieves the tension that stalks its themes, as it does in the tender denouement, when young Jon's father mutely straightens his formal clothes, and shows him in personal silence, but to music, how to lead by dancing with him. Such moments reveal the possibilities of the material, how close to the bone it can be. 

But with scene after scene of constant exposition replacing dialogue, 'Ghost Light' is overcome by "the kitchen sink" effect of too much repetition, and the effect of quickly switching TV channels with a remote control, staggering the time sequence of events real and imagined. In the 'Pensees,' Pascal said the cosmos was an infinite sphere, the center everywhere, circumference nowhere—maybe an allegory conceived in advance of the theory of the expanding universe. 'Ghost Light' sprawls, overreaches, coming back to reenter its own events, but without a center.  

There are fine performances by Peter Macon as the uniformed figure called Mister, Bill Geisslinger as the Prison Guard and Christopher Liam Moore as Jon. The only substantive female role of Louise, Jon's collaborator and best friend, proves to be a pitch-&-catch part, interlocutor for Jon's motor-mouth declarations and confidences, fleshed out by Robinn Rodriguez, but nonetheless a thankless task. 

Taccone's script, supposedly cut down from its original length for the Ashland performances, still needs to find a stylization for its wild shifts and swings of subject, mood, and treatment of the aftereffects of an event that has lived on subliminally in the margins of Bay Area life for almost 35 years. Practically everyone living here then remembers where they were, what they were doing, when interrupted by the news of the double assassination that awful day. . 

In the house opening night were Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and ex-Mayor of San Francisco Willie Brown.  

Tuesdays through Sundays, through February 19, Berkeley Repertory Theatre Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison Street, Berkeley. $14.50-$73. (510) 647-2949; berkeleyrep.org 

Addiction Incorporated: The Other Insider
Opens January 20 at the Shattuck Cinemas

Reviewed by Gar Smith
Tuesday January 17, 2012 - 05:50:00 PM
Director Chris Evans, Jr. and whistle-blower Victor DeNoble
Director Chris Evans, Jr. and whistle-blower Victor DeNoble
Big Tobacco blows smoke and makes a killing. Still from Addition Incorporated.
Big Tobacco blows smoke and makes a killing. Still from Addition Incorporated.

In the 1999 movie, The Insider, Russell Crowe starred as Jeff Wigand, a former tobacco industry researcher for Brown & Williams, who dares to reveal the dangers of nicotine to Berkeley-based 60 Minutes producer Lowell Bergman.

This week, Berkeley-grad Charles Evans Jr.,'s Addiction Incorporated hits the Big Screen to tell a parallel story of Philip Morris researcher Victor DeNoble, the whistleblower whose revelations triggered the Congressional hearings and class action lawsuits that forever tarred the reputation of Big Tobacco. 

Addiction Incorporated is a prodigious historical documentary bursting with brilliant interviews with key players from every level of the scientific-media-political-corporate playing field. Addition Inc., reveals the nearly untouchable power of large immoral corporations and demonstrates the ability of committed individuals to insist on justice, even when confronted with the most daunting of odds. Archival footage of historic Congressional hearings is expertly edited into the flowing storyline and, where archival footage is nonexistent or inadequate, the filmmakers have invested generously in "recreations" — including an astonishing scene in a commercial passenger plane when passengers were still allowed to cloud the cabin with billows of cigarette smoke. 

In this beautifully polished documentary (Evans' directorial debut), DeNoble comes across as an incredibly engaging guy with the natural charisma of a movie star. DeNoble also turns out to be a very smart fellow, indeed. Fresh out of college, Phillip Morris sought him out. With all the intrigue of the CIA recruiting a potential double-agent, DeNoble was picked up in a limousine, flown to an expensive hotel and treated to an expensive meal by a mysterious corporate agent who began the conversation with: "First let me tell you about yourself." He then rattled off the names more than 20 members of DeNoble's family and provided detailed information on the personal background of each individual. "I had no idea how he discovered all that information," DeNoble recalls. But he was impressed. 

Philip Morris (PM) was looking for a bright young scientist to head a covert research project. Despite repeated public denials that nicotine was addictive, PM knew the chemical was not only habit-forming but that it was causing smokers to die prematurely from lung and heart disease. 

DeNoble's assignment was to find a replacement for nicotine — a chemical that was just as addictive but without nicotine's lethal side effects. It was never a humanitarian decision. PM was simply facing the fact that addicted smokers would buy more cigarettes if they lived longer. There was profit in extending the customers' longevity. 

DeNoble was hired to conduct animal experiments in a secret lab hidden even from fellow PM staff. Working with rats, DeNoble discovered how to administer nicotine at the same levels that human smokers were subjected to. (In its first half, Addiction Incorporated features several long patches of beautifully rendered — and somewhat creepy — animations of rats that slowly evolve into images of humans dragging rat-like tales behind them.) 

DeNoble initially undertook his research in the spirit of altruism. He saw his role as producing a product that, while addictive, was healthier and would save lives. 

DeNoble proved that rats (whose brains are remarkable similar to humans in this regard) could be trained to push a trigger that released pleasurable doses of nicotine. Once addicted, the rats would push the lever up to 90 times a day! But when DeNoble asked to publish these findings in a scientific journal, PM refused. 

Then DeNoble had an insight that would transform the cigarette industry — at least as far as PM was concerned. What if, DeNoble wondered, there were other chemicals in tobacco that also contributed to the addictive response in smokers? He began to experiment with the scores of chemicals lurking in the leaves until he hit upon one called acetaldehyde. 

When he introduced acetaldehyde to his rats, he discovered that the chemical was twice as addictive as nicotine — and it did not have the harmful side effects. 

This was the Holy Grail and it should have been the crowning achievement of DeNoble's work. But DeNoble tried one more experiment. When he fed his rats a mixture of nicotine and acetaldehyde he observed that the combo turned the rats from "lazy addicts" into "active addicts" whose craving for a cigarette high more than doubled! 

Faced with this discovery, PM's top ranks had a moral dilemma: (1) Swap acetaldehyde for nicotine to produce a mildly addictive product that wouldn't kill smokers or (2) Promote a new product that would be just as deadly but twice as addictive. Being tobacco company officials, they quickly chose profits over body counts and DeNoble's secret discovery gave PM a decisive competitive edge over the rest of the industry. 

While PM's advertizing promoted its cigarettes as a "lifestyle" choice identified with cowboys and the great outdoors, PM's executives clearly understood that their business model had devolved into a simple matter of selling an addictive drug. 

Eventually, when a series of New Jersey lawsuits threaten to put PM's research center under the spotlight, company lawyers recommended that DeNoble's research not even be acknowledged. Of particular concern was a research paper entitled "Nicotine as a Positive Reinforcer in Rats" that was to have been presented at a session of the American Psychological Association (APA) in 1983. 

"They told me I had to withdraw the paper," DeNoble recalls with disbelief. "What do you mean? I said. I grew up in the 60s. We protested everything and I'm used to resisting authority." If he challenged his bosses at PM, DeNoble realized, "they could ruin my career. But, if I didn't resist them, what's my career worth?" 

So DeNoble showed up at the APA meeting's poster session and stood defiantly before a blank poster. Since the title of the paper had already been published in the program, people looked at the blank poster and were able "to put two-and-two together." 

PM President Shep Pollack soon dropped by DeNoble's lab and, in the presence of an attorney, demanded to see the rats desperately pawing the nicotine lever. "Does this mean nicotine is addictive?" Pollack asked. Before DeNoble could respond, Pollack's lawyer lunged forward and shouted: "Don't answer the question!" 

DeNoble and his research team were "called upstairs" and told their research was no longer needed — "Go downstairs and kill your rats. These studies will stop. Turn over your keys. This lab is closed." 

It would be many years before the story reached the desks of the ABC investigative reporters looking into the nicotine question. But, after years of research, the reporters were dumbfounded to be suddenly told their investigation would never air. "No one is interested in this story," the higher-ups informed them. 

That all changed when FDA Commissioner David A. Kessler announced an investigation into the health issues of tobacco smoking. "Smoke Screen," ABC's Day One exposé, aired on February 24, 1994. 

Addiction Inc. offers revealing interviews with 20 of the key players in the extended drama — researchers, politicians, lawyers and even some former tobacco company executives. Recalling the ABC broadcast, PM General Counsel and Senior VP Steve Parrish tells the camera: "It was devastating. Our stock took a huge hit…. Regulators were calling for hearings." 

Rep. Henry Waxman, the relentless chair of the subcommittee hearings on tobacco safety, recalls how, at the time, no one had a clue that PM was intentionally manipulating nicotine levels to increase addiction. The industry had insisted nicotine was included only for "flavor and taste." Looking back, Waxman has high praise for DeNoble: "Victor DeNoble was the first whistleblower…. he was the first one." 

The revelation that the industry knew nicotine was addictive — and had relied on that knowledge to stoke sales — changed the debate on tobacco. It was no longer just a health question: cigarette companies were now revealed as having the same moral standards as back-alley drug dealers. 

PM responded to the ABC expose by filing a $10 billion "libel" lawsuit against the network. Eventually — to the chagrin of the network's investigative reporting team — ABC offered a public "apology" to Philip Morris for airing the program. 

But it was too late. Congressional hearings were underway and, under the glare of publicity, PM was forced to agree to let DeNoble testify about what he knew. 

ABC reporters would subsequently get a call from a source who delivered "the Rosetta Stone of the tobacco industry" — internal documents going back to the 1940s proving the companies knew about nicotine's addictive properties. Their euphoria was short-lived, however. ABC lawyers showed up to confiscate the documents and order the reporters to destroy their notes. Pulitzer-Prizewinning reporter Walt Bogdanich bitterly recalls being told: "There is no news organization in this world that will touch these documents, report on them, put them in the paper or put them on the air." 

The ABC reporters then did something extraordinary (and professionally very difficult): they put their source in contact with a competing news organization — the New York Times. The Times went on to produce a blockbuster series that began with a story headlined: "Cigarette Makers Debated the Risks They Denied." 

Soon, all seven industry officials who had sworn under oath that nicotine was not addictive, had resigned, retired or quietly vanished from the scene. 

Up until that point, the tobacco industry had taken smug pride in the fact that it had never lost a lawsuit. A class-action lawyer named Wendell Gauthier changed that when Victor DeNoble became his expert witness. 

Gauthier's Castano et al. v. American Tobacco lawsuit for compensatory damages was filed in nearly every state in the Union. On the ropes, Big Tobacco decided to cut its losses by "reaching out" to the State Attorneys General. The final settlement of the Castano lawsuit involved huge financial payments by Big Tobacco but no federal regulation of the industry. 

DeNoble saw through the smoke and bluntly told the Washington press corps that he was personally opposed to the settlement. 

Shortly after that outburst, DeNoble recalls, a tobacco industry rep offered him a job: "$5,000 a day for the next six months." Recalling the conversation before Evans' camera, DeNoble gleefully repeats his reply: "You pricks can't buy me!" 

In 1996, US Attorney General Janet Reno prosecuted the tobacco industry for "fraud and deceit" using the government's RICO statutes and won the biggest lawsuit in the history of the Justice Department. The DOJ's withering condemnation of the industry was upheld by the Supreme Court, officially putting Big Tobacco in the ranks of organized crime's most notorious drug peddlers. 

On June 22, 2009, President Barack Obama signed legislation giving the government the power to act against tobacco companies that endanger the public health and giving the FDA the power to demand non-addictive products. 

After 30 years of work, DeNoble now says he no longer believes it is possible to make "a safe cigarette." Today he is constantly on the road, crisscrossing the country to talk to students about the dangers of tobacco addiction. The closing scenes of Addition Incorporated are filled with close-ups of children's faces as they listen to DeNoble's warnings. Is heart-wrenching. You will pray for these children and curse the well-paid executives who profit from their addition. It is both ironic and fitting that DeNoble's work is funded by money from the tobacco company settlement, which requires funding anti-tobacco health education in all 50 states. 

Every day 3,000 kids become smokers and 1,000 will eventually die from the effects of tobacco smoke. DeNoble claims that he takes his message to about 300,000 kids each year. Thanks to Addiction Incorporated, he will now reach many more. 


Around & About Theater: Community Theater Openings—Actors Ensemble of Berkeley, Masquers Playhouse, Altarena Playhouse

By Ken Bullock
Wednesday January 18, 2012 - 10:16:00 AM

A big weekend for local community theaters--three will open new shows on the 20th: 

—Actors Ensemble of Berkeley is staging Tom Stoppard's 'Arcadia,' directed by Robert Estes, who also directed a good production of Shaw's 'Heartbreak House' for AE, and is known for his Grove Talks at CalShakes ... Fridays and Saturdays at 8 through February 18, with a Sunday matinee at 2, February 12. Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck at Berryman. $12-$15. 649-5969; aeofberkeley.org 

—Masquers Playhouse presents Neil Simon's 'Broadway Bound,' directed by Phoebe Moyer, whose production of 'Shadowbox' for the Masquers is memorable. Friday-Saturday at 8 through February 25, with Sunday matinees at 2, January 29 & February 5. Masquers Playhouse, 105 Park Place, Pt. Richmond. $20. 323-4031; masquers.org 

—And Altarena Playhouse in Alameda opens August Wilson's 'Fences,' directed by Gene Kahane, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 through February 19. Altarena Playhouse, 1409 High Street, Alameda. $19-$22. 523-1553; altarena.org

EYE FROM THE AISLE: Theater Review: GHOST LIGHT at Berkeley Rep

By John A. McMullen II
Sunday January 15, 2012 - 09:45:00 AM
Rep, Danforth Comins and Christopher Liam Moore (right)
Rep, Danforth Comins and Christopher Liam Moore (right)

When I first heard that Jon Moscone was the new artistic director of Cal Shakes, my brain went “Moscone? Any relation?” When I found that he was, it always set me to wondering in the way we wonder about John-John and Caroline and other scions of assassinated good-guys. 

When I heard about GHOST LIGHT, I thought Mr. Moscone had written it. When I read the program in my seat at the Berkeley Rep Thrust Stage last Friday, I found that Jon had directed it but Tony Taccone, artistic director of the Rep, had written it. I didn’t know Tony wrote. I did appreciate the play on words of the title: the “ghost light” is the stand with a bare bulb that is traditionally left to illuminate the way in a darkened theatre.  

After 35 years apprenticing by directing and consulting on new plays including Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America” and sending many plays to Broadway, Mr. Taccone turns out to be a very professional and deep playwright. 

The story is an excruciatingly personal one that puts Mr. Moscone’s psyche and sexuality in the spotlight as well as his Hamlet-handed fixation on his father’s death. Directing a play which lays bare one’s soul and personal life, a play written by another, must be an emotional travail. 

Many plays have used Hamlet as the metaphor, but this one seems ultimately apt given Mr. Moscone’s position and profession. The story of the play is that he is directing Hamlet and can’t get past the ghost scene. His costumer/confidant Louise confronts him with this apparent blockage since they are behind schedule. Half of the play happens in Jon’s head, or rather his dreams, in a finely tuned Freudian entourage of sires and grandsires and imagined lovers ironically appearing from the depths of his bed, right beside the Zoloft bottles with the Stoli chaser. Jon loses himself in the electronic play-land of cable TV reruns of “Golden Girls” and “Mary Tyler Moore.” He has extended email courtships to avoid the reality which always disappoints as opposed to the imaginary world one can create in one’s head or onstage.  

The influence of Kushner and “Angels” on Taccone’s writing is evident, but well used. The dialogue is witty and credible; Jon is gay, the bon mots and witty insults, while not exactly Wildean, are appropriate and very funny. His dramatic plotting of the dream world and anagnorisis—that critical discovery by a character—is masterful. We learn much about the former Mayor, particularly his political machinations to repeal laws against homosexuality.  

Casting Christopher Liam Moore in the lead was an excellent choice; he has won LA’s Ovation Award and Garland Awards, and you might recognize him from TV appearances on Friends, Third Rock from the Sun a series regular on Murder in Small Town X (Fox) and Ten Items or Less (TNT). 

It is a dense plot to which you must attend carefully, since many initial scenes are as enigmatic as dreams, but which coalesce later as dreams are interpreted and resolved.  

There are downsides: it needs a more substantial talent as the teenage Jon, and it needs an outside eye with the pair of shears since it is 2:40 with intermission. Puzzlingly, it bogs down in an all-important second act confrontation with the specter of his homophobic rounder of a grandfather who recounts the assassination. The penultimate scene at the grave is hung on to by the playwright like a love object you don’t want to let go of. But the final moments will break your heart. 

I admit to a raised eyebrow when I first heard of the play, but my prejudice was relieved half-way into the second scene. At intermission, I asked an acquaintance who attends a lot of plays what he thought, to which he replies, “Too self-referential and too self-indulgent.” Surely he is correct about the characterizations given that it is about Jon and his prolonged fixation, but —except for the over-writing--not “too” but just “self-“ enough.  



Conceived and Developed by Jonathan Moscone And Tony Taccone 

Written By Tony Taccone 

Directed By Jonathan Moscone 

A Co-Production With Oregon Shakespeare Festival 

Main Season | Thrust Stage 

January 6–February 19, 2012  


Tony Taccone, Playwright; Jonathan Moscone, Director; Todd Rosenthal, Scenic Design; Meg Neville, Costume Design; Christopher Akerlind, Lighting Design; Andre Pluess, Sound Design; Maya Ciarrocchi, Video / Projection Design; Nicole Arbusto / Joy Dickson, Casting; Amy Potozkin, Casting 

WITH: Danforth Comins, Ted Deasy, Peter Frechette, Bill Geisslinger, Isaac Kosydar, Peter Macon, Christopher Liam Moore, Tyler James Myers, Sarita Ocón, Robynn Rodriguez,