Mayor Tom Bates, left, with a senior aide, Calvin Fong replacing chairs after the big brainstorm.
The Chron reported Thursday that Tom Bates was going to "makeover Telegraph" that night.
Calling the evening "a brainstorming session," Berkeley Mayor Bates presented other people's proposed makeovers at Willard School auditorium on Thursday from 6 to about 8.
One hundred Southsiders, who complained they had attended the same meeting for twenty years and were fed up with all the talk, showed up to hear five mini-presentations of Telegraph makeovers.
Afterward the audience made its own presentations.
Sensing the crowd could turn on him, Bates said he was serious (after years of inaction) about doing something for Teley. Seriously, though, he said he would really act this time.
He's going to come forward with "concrete plans," Bates said. He offered much of the same promises a decade ago responding to pleas from Andy Ross, owner of a failing bookstore, Cody's, which has stood empty for years.
Back then, the mayor walked the avenue with disgruntled property owners, promising aid.
i was on that walk. Mark Weinstein, owner of Amoeba's, remembers and so does Craig Becker, owner of Caffe Mediterraneum.
So why were we here, if the mayor can't do anything about the Avenue, and why doesn't he admit it instead of making promises he can't keep?
Spencer J. Pritchard, a student representing the Telegraph Livability Coalition, told the audience that many of the proposals they were hearing had been proposed by his coalition a year ago, when they produced a list of about 20 specific recommendations that were approved by a broad group of stakeholders.
"Why are we still discussing this?" he asked.
Speakers from the audience at the end of the meeting told tales of deja vu all over again. One veteran Berkeley political observer called the meeting "Groundhog Day," a film in which a single day repeats endlessly.
This time there has been some progress, though. Roland Peterson, executive director of the TBID, a Telegraph property owners group, said that a U.C. Berkeley Chancellor's grant had enabled his group to soon switch sodium lights, "a sickening yellow", to LEDs.
The mayor said that plans are progressing to use the grant to bring free Wi-Fi to Teley; although many Teley businesses like coffee houses offer Wi-Fi. It will soon be in the air on South side, the mayor promised. But Peterson said he wasn’t sure there would be enough money left from the grant after the lighting is changed to pay for Wi-Fi too.
Kriss Worthington, the Southside’s District 7 councilmember, said he had attended scores of meetings on Teley but "still the city hasn't stepped up to the plate."
"It’s not enough to pin all our hopes waiting for long term solutions. We need a clear sign from the city," he said.
"We need a short-term plan that makes life better for Southside residents," Worthington concluded to a large round of of applause.
Until Worthington's mention of Southside residents, no one had brainstormed how proposed makeovers on Teley would affect residents near Teley. The brainstorming was all about students, businessmen, and vendors.
Mark Weinstein of Amoeba told me about the malling of Santa Monica, which had built state-of-the-art parking high rises at both ends of its re-designed downtown. But no Telegraph plan offered included expanded parking to accommodate new crowds who might descend on a revitalized Telegraph.
Weinstein shook his head over the prospects of having his store surrounded by major construction (at the Sequoia and Berkeley Inn sites, nearing city approval). When the university quickly erected Martinez Commons a new student dorm across from People's Park last year, they hit a waterline and Weinstein had water damage in Amoeba, he told me.
But Worthington's remarks about the city's stalling on plans to allow retailers to sell from tables on the sidewalks in front of their stores was not popular with some street vendors, who said they would be squeezed.
Russell Andavall, a potter selling on Teley for forty years, said, "Don't take away our three feet and give it to the merchants." He blamed city code enforcement for allowing that.
"Why complain about three feet?" asked Louis Cuneo, who has sold his photos on Teley for twenty years. “There's enough room for everyone. We need some serious cooperation."
Later, Eddie Monroe, who founded the street merchants' association in 1972 told me any turf wars between merchants and vendors could be easily solved if the merchants spent $250 for a vending license and moved into the street instead of in front of their stores.
Zachary Running Wolf, a perennial mayoral candidate, said "We've waited ten years for the mayor to do something."
Craig Becker, president of the TBID, told me that people need to realize that changes to the Avenue must be implemented by the city manager's office, not the mayor.
Russell Bates, no relative of the mayor, attacked greedy landlords and Berkeley businesses, adding "bring on the chains." he also condemned the police and the university.
Steve Finacom, who writes for the Planet and other publications and is vice president of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association and past President of the Berkeley Historical Society, took us back to 1965, the so-called golden age of the Avenue "when some said then that the Avenue had gone to hell."
In response to a makeover calling for chain stores like Target and Staples, Finacom pointed out that there were presently fifteen chains on Teley.
Historically, the avenue has always been "troubled," so why the need to brainstorm?
So here I was at this dysfunctional meeting of meeting junkies, one hundred of the same faces you see at community meetings, and wondering whether I had become one of them.
Why we're hooked
After the meeting ends, another begins. Twenty-five people remain to further discuss the Southside. We have gotten to know and admire each other. It may be that we keep coming to the same meeting because we like to see each other.
The Mayor, who had brought us together to brainstorm, succeeded in that.
With the help of an aide, he piled up the chairs and returned them to under the school stage.
But he won't be making over the avenue as the Chron misreported.
About 25,000 LED lights were turned on last night as part of an impressive light sculpture on the western span of the Bay Bridge.
"The Bay Lights," an $8 million privately funded project created by artist Leo Villareal, will wow visitors near the bridge for at least the next two years, the artist and other dignitaries said before the 9 p.m. lighting ceremony.
Mayor Ed Lee said an estimated 50 million people in San Francisco and the North and East Bay will eventually see the lights, which cannot be viewed from cars on the bridge but will glitter in abstract patterns for about seven hours each night.
Villareal said the public nature of the lights, installed on the Bay Bridge's vertical cables, was what attracted him to the project, which was inspired by the bridge's 75th anniversary and took more than two years to plan, install and test.
"This piece is incredibly accessible, you don't have to buy a ticket, you don't have to go into a building, it's there and available," he said, calling it a "digital campfire that people can be around and enjoy."
Indeed, restaurants along San Francisco's waterfront were booked up well before last night by people wanting a front-row seat for the lighting ceremony.
"We have had to turn down hundreds of people," said Duane Stinson, general manager at Sinbad's Seafood Restaurant directly adjacent to the Ferry Building on The Embarcadero.
"There's been tons of people asking about it," he said.
Lee said "The Bay Lights" will serve as "a beacon for our arts community" and will complement other large events on the waterfront, including the America's Cup sailing race starting later this year.
The mayor said he thinks the light sculpture may be so popular that people will want to keep it beyond the two years for which it has permits from state officials.
"People, including myself, will want this to be ongoing," he said.
Ben Davis, chairman of Illuminate the Arts, the group overseeing the project, said even if the lights remain past the current two-year plan, they would likely have to come down when Caltrans does its repainting and scheduled maintenance of the bridge cables in five years.
"It's on a living, working bridge and that bridge needs to be maintained," Davis said. "It's going to have to come down and another solution will have to be found or it will be an ephemeral work like it was designed to be."
The project is still seeking about $2 million in funding, which Davis said he was confident will be raised.
"This is an amazing, forward-moving project that has momentum, and the love is just starting to mount for it," he said.
Illuminate the Arts would have to foot the bill for any gap in the funding, he said.
As part of the fundraising effort, organizers are offering a "Gift of Light" campaign in which people can name one of the 25,000 lights in honor of a loved one.
Davis said the campaign has raised about $70,000 so far.
Last night's lighting ceremony was streamed live on the project's website, www.thebaylights.org, where more than 10,000 people tuned in to see the lights come on in steady rain that began falling in San Francisco only a short time before the 9 p.m. ceremony.
There is a live stream on the site tonight as well:
On January 22, the Berkeley City Council denied an appeal of the Zoning Adjustment Board’s approval of modifications to a project 740 Heinz Avenue. The project, which would see the demolition of the landmark Copra Building and the construction of a 74-foot bio-lab by Wareham Development, was opposed by the Friends of the West Berkeley Plan.
After a brief hearing, City Attorney Zach Cowan assured the Council that staff’s recommendations were legal. For the record, the real, substantial issues that motivated the appeal were the lack of reasonable grounds on which to award the variances for height (30 feet over current zoning), floor area ratio (FAR=4, where FAR=2 is allowed), and parking (none provided), as well as the lack of a risk assessment for synthetic biology, the likely use for which the building is designed. Since we have previously discussed the tortured issues behind the City’s stand on the height variance (see “The 740-Shuffle”, Daily Planet, January 18, 2013), we here concentrate on the other disconformities of the proposed project with Municipal Code.
Garr Land and Resource Management owns 740 Heinz Ave. – the land and the landmarked Copra Warehouse. Garr has reportedly leased the land to Wareham Development of San Rafael (Rich Robins) for a term of 100 years, with conditions stipulating possible escape mechanisms. Wareham has developed, and owns property adjoining 740 Heinz, which they have named the “Aquatic Park Campus”. In order to solve the problem of providing variances for the excessive FAR and the absence of parking in the proposal, City staff suggested a way to side-step the issue and achieve victory. Zach and Wareham’s representative, Chris Barlow, suggested that 740 Heinz was going to function as a part of Wareham’s “Campus”, and that its open space and parking could accommodate the needs of their 100,000 sq. ft. building. The problem, from a legal perspective, is that the properties are not owned by a single entity, but two.
Cowan suggested that deed restrictions could be written that would serve the purpose of acknowledging the “special relationship” between the properties of Garr and Wareham, and the uses to which the property is to be devoted. This relationship is taken to have the effect of expanding the reference area over which the FAR and the parking requirements for 740 Heinz would be calculated. Cowan said that deed restrictions would be written to ensure that, for perpetuity, the parking and open space needs of 740 Heinz can be met on the property currently owned by Wareham.
How does the City set, for perpetuity, a relationship between organizations that may change on a 10 to 20-year time-scale? The author would like to see. On the one hand, perhaps Wareham will treat 740 Heinz as part of their “Campus”, and all might be wonderful. But on the other hand, there may be a dissolution of agreements that affect the lease on the property, and the City could be left with a seriously non-conforming building. Clearly, Garr does not want to sell to Wareham, or these convolutions would not be necessary. This fact points to the reason why the City Attorney’s idea may be a bad one, since what is to stop a dissolution of this weak bond? Obviously, it is important to check on how the deed restrictions are written. Maybe check in with Garr to make sure they’re in the loop.
However, at present, the deed restrictions have either not been written, or we are not privy to them. For, we are not allowed see what they are until Wareham is ready to build and the building permit is issued, according to a Feb. 7 e-mail from Greg Powell (Planning). It appears that that there is no opportunity to criticize the document before the building permit is granted. From the perspective of what is supposed to be an open process, this seems inexcusable.
Whether it is legal to contort Berkeley’s Municipal Code to allow the excessive massing on one property to be averaged with that of a neighboring property is a policy decision that requires community and commission input, and Council action, before it is adopted. It is not for the City Attorney to pull out of his hat. Let Mr. Cowan write the new legislation and let it go through the Commission system as such policy matters ought to, rather than surprise an unprepared Council.
The Case for an extended public hearing: Council’s rejection of the appeal of the ZAB action on 740 Heinz was made with one piece of relevant information having been withheld. Without question, the proposed deed restrictions are relevant to the proposal. The legal validity of the building permit will be in question as long as there has been no opportunity to discuss the conditions of the deed restrictions in public sessions of the ZAB and City Council before final votes are taken. For, the public has the same intrinsic right to inspect the deed restrictions that it had to inspect the other documents, and to have had access to it before the ZAB meeting of 9/27/12. The conditions of the deed restrictions ought, then, to be considered in a re-opened ZAB hearing.
The City Attorney is using the deed restriction concept as an invisible substitute for the variances that they cannot get through the commission system in a legitimate manner. Instead of grounds for variances (well, there were none), we get nothing but promises.
Some time was spent looking into Wareham’s claims of their need for a larger, big-box building (their 2012 proposal now 105,000 sq. ft.). Wareham claimed that costs for building R&D space in the Bay Area had increased 17% since the time the use permit was granted for the 2009 version of this project. Staff (9/27/12; ZAB) said that the City-hired consultants, EPS (Economic and Planning Systems, Inc.), have independently corroborated this figure. This high rate was used to support Wareham’s claim that they needed to reduce building costs by removing the parking, and the façades, and to enlarge the building to get more rent.
Inspecting the calculations of EPS (see Attachment 7 of the 9/27/12 ZAB Staff Report), we find that they cite a rate of increase of 3.8% per annum for building costs. This rate has no adjustment for inflation. However, the inflation-adjusted rate is 1.3% per annum, which EPS also cites. What both Wareham and EPS have “independently” done is to choose the 3.8% per annum value, rather than the inflation-adjusted value of 1.3%. They do this without saying why they have done it, or even which value they used. Compounded over four years, the cost of building including inflation would increase by 16%, but only 5.4% when adjusted for inflation -- a rather substantial difference. I would believe this is an error of the elementary sort, if it was done by dullards, but these are professionals, and therefore another, more nefarious reason comes to mind – deception. Using the correct number, 5.4%, would remove significant support for removing the parking and the façades, would it not? This is, it seems to me, a crime: misleading a quasi-judicial Board by padding figures in order to obtain permits to build. But it appears that in this case, the criminality is spread evenly between the City, the consultant, and the developer; it was a joint effort. We wuz gamed!
A couple of weeks after the Council’s nay-vote, February 6, 2013, there was better news, as the Planning Commission met to vote on staff’s recommendation that they should rescind all of their recent amendments to the West Berkeley Plan -- changes made in anticipation of Measure T’s victory. Thanks to Berkeley’s voters, the Commission very tamely, perhaps even contritely, voted to rescind them.
[Editor's Note: This article first appeared in the Planet on Friday, April 02, 2010. We are reprinting it because of the death of Hugo Chavez.]
In 2007 and 2008, my wife and I traveled to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela -- where Simón Bolivar is revered as a national hero, the country's liberator from Spain. We were, therefore, cautioned never to show disrespect for Bolivar. Hugo Rafael Chávez Frias, the current president of Venezuela, frequently links himself to this legendary figure to gain popular support for his programs both at home and abroad. But who exactly is Simón Bolivar?
Simón Bolivar was born in Caracas, Venezuela in 1783. At age 16, he was sent abroad to continue his education in Spain and France where he was introduced to the progressive works of Rousseau and Voltaire. He married Spaniard Maria Teresa and returned to Venezuela. Unfortunately, Maria Teresa died 8 months later of yellow fever. He never married again but had many lovers, including Manuela Saenz affectionately known as Manuleta, whom he met in 1822 and who was with him until a few days before he died. After Maria Teresa's death, he returned to France and met with the leaders of the French Revolution. Bolivar then traveled to the United States to witness the U.S. after the American Revolution. He returned to Caracas filled with revolutionary ideas and quickly joined pro-independence groups. Bolivar's military career began under Francisco de Miranda. When Miranda was captured by the Spanish in 1812, Bolivar took command.
Over the next decade, Bolivar commanded the independence forces in numerous battles, including the key battle of Carabobo, which brought independence for Venezuela. Bolivar also brought independence from Spanish rule to the entire northwest of South America, creating the Gran Colombia in what today comprises Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. Because his central government could not govern such a large land mass with its racial and regional differences, his Gran Colombia lasted just a decade. Disillusioned and in bad health, Bolivar resigned the presidency of Gran Colombia in early 1830. He died in December 1830 at age 47, in Santa Marta, Colombia, while on his way to Europe. Ironically, the newly independent Venezuela banned Bolivar from his homeland for twelve years until 1842, when his remains were finally brought from Santa Marta to Caracas and entombed in the "catedral." In 1876, his remains were transferred to the "Panteon Nacional."
During our brief stays in Caracas, Venezuela's capital city, we did a mini-tour of Bolivariana, which began at the Plaza Bolivar. By the way, every Venezuelan city has a Plaza Bolivar. The federal district (Caracas) and the capital cities of Venezuela's twenty-two states such as Merida, Coro, Barinas, Guanare, capital cities we visited, have a statue of Bolivar on a horse. Other major cities have a statue of Bolivar unhorsed and smaller towns have a bust of Bolivar in their Plaza Bolivar.
We visited Bolivar's birthplace ("Casa Natal de Bolivar"), the Bolivar museum next door where I was asked to remove my cap out of respect ("Museo Bolivariana"), the nearby cathedral where he was baptized and where his wife and family lie, and the "Panteon Nacional" containing his body and those of other eminent Venezuelans.
Last year, we took a road trip along the coast from Cartagena, Colombia to visit Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, the hacienda where Bolivar spent his last days before he died. Spaniard Joaquin de Mier, the owner of the hacienda, a supporter of Colombia’s independence, invited Bolivar to stay and rest until his departure for Europe. The hacienda grounds contain massive central structure ("Altar de la Patria"), the Museo Bolivariana, and a 22-hectare garden.
Hugo Chávez envisions a modern day "Bolivarian Revolution," a Latin American political block with a socialist bent as an alternative to United States hegemony. Chávez has been generous with his foreign aids to Latin America and the Caribbean in an effort to blunt U.S.-backed economic policies in Latin America. His efforts have garnered some support among the growing number of Latin America’s left-leaning governments.
Only time will tell whether Chávez's "Bolivarian Revolution" will succeed. In the meantime, many Venezuelans want Chávez to tend to problems on the home front such as government corruption, inefficiency, and mismanagement; the deteriorating health and education programs; the troubled economy; crime, human rights violations, and media censorship. I join the Venezuelans in their fear that the “socialist revolutionary” has morphed into a dictator for life.
Did you know that there is a statue of Simón Bolivar on a horse in San Francisco's United Nations Plaza? It is a 1984 "Gift from Venezuela to the People of San Francisco."
Members of several community groups raised concerns today about the way the Berkeley Police Department handled an incident with a mentally ill man who died in a struggle with officers two weeks ago.
George Lippmann of the Coalition for a Safe Berkeley said Xavier Moore, 41, "had a history of mental health issues" but witnesses allege that the level of force used by officers when they confronted him at the Gaia Building in the 2100 block of Allston Way shortly before midnight Feb. 12 "seemed excessive."
Speaking at a news conference outside police headquarters, Lippmann said, "The community is in shock over his death and is gravely concerned about the lack of information" about it.
Lippmann said, "No police reports have been released but there's a lot of speculation and it looks like something went very wrong."
Berkeley police said the day after the incident that they went to Moore's home on a disturbance call and during the contact Moore "became increasingly agitated and uncooperative to the officer's verbal commands and began to scream and violently resist."
Police said officers eventually gained control of Moore and placed him under restraints but while he was under the restraints he wasn't breathing. Police said officers performed CPR on Moore and he was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Andrea Pritchett of Berkeley Copwatch said she's been told Moore had a drug problem and was a transgender person who lived as a woman. She said, "We fear that the Berkeley Police Department has lost its way in dealing with transgender people."
Veena Dubal, a member of the Berkeley Police Review Commission, who emphasized that she was speaking as a community member and not for the commission, said there has been "a lack of transparency" in the way the city's Police Department has handled the situation and Moore's death "is still shrouded in mystery."
Dubal said at the commission's meeting Wednesday a police representative declined to answer a series of basic questions such as whether mental health professionals were called in to respond to the confrontation with Moore and how the investigation into the matter is being conducted.
Berkeley police spokeswoman Jennifer Coats wasn't immediately available for comment today.
Coats said in a statement Wednesday, "There are significant constrains in place regarding the immediate release of information in a case such as this and we can't comment on specific information or even address inaccuracies which may be expressed in public discussion regarding this incident."
Coats said, "A thorough investigation takes time. We are obliged to wait for the evidence to be examined, the facts to be determined and the investigation to be completed."
There are a lot of things that can spell trouble for nuclear reactors. They can be knocked offline or destroyed by earthquakes, floods, fires, drought, hurricanes and even solar flares. California's Diablo Canyon reactor once was shut down by tide of jellyfish-like salps. A reactor at Browns Ferry was set on fire by a worker using a candle to search for air leaks. And now there's a new, previously unseen threat on the horizon: supersonic rocks from outer space!
A meteor that tore through the skies over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk on February 15 should serve as a blazing wake-up call to pro- and –anti-nuclear partisans from Yekaterinburg to Kansas. Space scientists have been trying to tell us this kind of stuff happens all the time. Every day, more than 80 tons of interstellar stones rain down on planet Earth. Just because most of them flame out in the atmosphere or fall unseen in a wilderness area doesn't mean we aren't under constant bombardment. (For the record, the Chelyabinsk fireball — which measured 50 feet wide and weighed an estimated 7,700 tons — qualifies as a small asteroid.)
And, yes, scientists tell us, significant events like the one that dazzled Chelyabinsk, do "hit home" with some regularity. According to NASA, fragments from 10-meter-wide meteoroids reach the Earth's surface about once every decade. (Within the just the last 60 years, several meteorites have smashed to Earth, damaging cars and homes in New York, Connecticut and Alabama.) Fortunately, larger impacts — like the 1908 Tunguska asteroid that flattened a Russian forest and the blast that gouged Arizona's Meteor Crater 50,000 years ago (once again, it was actually an asteroid that did the damage) are far less common.
Meteors over Mayak
Russia has been doubly unlucky in this astrological lottery, with two major strikes in 105 years. The 1908 meteor that exploded several miles above Krasnoyarsk Krai had a thermonuclear force greater than the explosion of 1,000 Hiroshima bombs. The resulting blast leveled 80 million trees over an 830-square-mile stretch of forest. There were few eyewitnesses, however, since the region was largely wilderness.
The fiery descent of the Chelyabinsk space rock was much more troubling. In addition to damaging factory roofs and smashing tens of thousands of windows, the meteor came uncomfortably close to Russia's once-secret Mayak nuclear facility, a 38-square-mile site that hosts the remains of six Cold War reactors and a sprawling waste storage site.
Rosatom, the Russian nuclear agency, was quick to reassure the public that "the meteorite shower had not affected" the region's six operating nuclear facilities or the Mayak nuclear site.
Located 50 miles northwest of Chelyabinsk, Mayak (and the nearby city of Ozyorsk) were both rocked by powerful shockwaves as the asteroid exploded with the force of 30 Hiroshima bombs, sending a shower of smoking space pebbles crashing to Earth. But, even before this too-close encounter, it's fair to say the Mayak site had racked up a star-crossed history.
The massive industrial complex was a the home of the USSR's "Manhattan Project" — a secret Cold War hideaway for the reactors and reprocessing plants that produced plutonium for the USSR's nuclear arsenal. Mayak's uranium-graphite plutonium production reactors have been shut down, leaving two tritium-producing reactors (Ruslam and Lyudmila) still operating. Plans to add three new reactors were put on hold in 1993 following the Chernobyl accident but Russian authorities still have plans to build as many as four new 1,200 MW reactors by 2020.
Mayak was the site of the "Kyshtym disaster," one of the world's worst nuclear accidents. In 1957, a storage tank ruptured, releasing 50-100 tons of radioactive waste that blanketed the eastern Urals, irradiating some 400,000 people and causing scores of radiation-related deaths. The accident (which was covered up for nearly 35 years) is now considered history's third worst nuclear accident — just behind the reactor explosions at Chernobyl and Fukushima. (A Freedom of Information Act request subsequently revealed the CIA had known about the explosion soon after it occurred but kept the accident secret to protect America's burgeoning nuclear power industry.)
When Space Rocks Meet Reactors
What might have happened if — instead of disappearing beneath the frozen waters of Chebarkul Lake — Russia's latest space-rock had crashed to earth close to one of Russia's nuclear reactors or waste dumps? Well, thanks to a pair of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) scientists, we can draw a pretty clear conclusion: It wouldn't be pretty.
In the early 1980s, MIT researchers Kosta Tsipis and Steve Fetter set out to explore what would happen if a single Russian missile carrying a one-megaton warhead were to strike a 1000-MW reactor inside the US. (To put this in perspective, the one-megaton payload of a Minuteman missile contains the explosive power of about 50 Hiroshima bombs — an impact well within the range of historical asteroid strikes.)
Tsipis and Fetter estimated a post-impact dead-zone would extend more than 500 square miles. A fireball rising 12 miles into the sky would leave a 400-foot-deep crater while a rain of molten rock and radioactive ash would blanket more than 4,500 square miles. Anyone who could not relocate swiftly would be dead within two months.
The MIT team noted that an exploding reactor is even "dirtier" than an exploding nuclear bomb. While a bomb's radiation blast is relatively short-lived, blasting open a reactor core scatters long-lived isotopes over the land. Tsipis and Fetter estimated the total loss from the destruction of a single reactor would be "of the order of 4,000 square-mile-years; consequently it would result in vast capital losses that would dwarf losses from any other single natural disaster in the history of the modern world."
Mayak, of course, is also home to a sizable concentration of stored nuclear wastes and the MIT team considered the storage-site scenario as well. If a single 30-megaton blast were to explode over a nuclear waste storage site, the scientists concluded, the resulting fallout would extinguish all life in an area the size of Utah (85,000 square miles). After 10 years, this no-man’s-land would still equal the acreage of West Virginia (24,000 sq. mi.).
If a space rock the size of a city bus were to come down over Chicago, it would most likely destroy most of the city and the human population along with it. Short of a fiery plunge into a major city, however, the second worst thing a speeding meteor could hit would be a nuclear facility — and there are now more than 435 nuclear sites around the globe, with plans for more than 80 new plants in the pipeline.
Granted, the odds of a nuclear reactor getting hit by a chunk of flying space debris are pretty slim. It is far more likely that the next nuclear disaster will be caused by an extreme weather event, an earthquake, a power blackout caused by a solar flare, or simple human error.
But now that it has become clear that our planet is (to a degree we previously never imagined) just one more rock in an occasionally bruising game of celestial rugby, this leaves us with the question: Do we really want to risk skewing the odds by placing any more nuclear reactors, reprocessing plants, waste storage sites or atomic bombs on the surface of Target Earth?
Gar Smith is editor emeritus of Earth Island Journal, co-founder of Environmentalists Against War and author of Nuclear Roulette: The Truth about the Most Dangerous Energy Source on Earth (Chelsea Green, October 2012).
A light sculpture made up of 25,000 LED lights strung along the western span of the Bay Bridge will be turned on tonight after months of preparation.
The privately funded $8 million project known as "The Bay Lights" will be switched on at about 9 p.m. today following an invitation-only event in San Francisco, according to spokeswoman Barbara Zamost.
Mayor Ed Lee and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom are among the dignitaries expected to attend the event, as is artist Leo Villareal, who designed and oversaw the installation of the light sculpture and will turn it on from a computer, Zamost said.
The lights will not be visible to drivers on the Bay Bridge but can be seen from the East Bay. They are mounted on the vertical cables of the bridge and will be on for about seven hours each night, according to organizers.
The lights, which began being installed last fall, will remain on the bridge for two years.
Trucks are perfect rolling stock for urban artists.
Painting your personal vehicle is an act of "cartistry."
Some artists are called upon to dress up commercial vehicles….
Some acts of cartistry are more successful than others.
There clearly is a deep and intriguing story wrapped into the design that surrounds this truck. Who was Ray? Why a war bonnet? And (on the flip side of this van)….
…why is a black-booted 8-ball flashing the V-sign? And why is the artist inviting the world to "Recycle Picasso"?
Of course, not every spray-job sends a whirlwind of color bouncing down the highway. Some cartists favor a Grateful-Dead-meets-Goth approach…
But come rain or shine, it's all about having your say and making your way.
And there's always the hope that fortune and fame may follow close behind…
…or, failing that, maybe a little bit of "lute."
What's the best canvas for a graffiti artist — better even than a wall? Answer: A wall that's on the move. That's why graffiti taggers target railroad cars and New York subway trains. But, while those kinds of artistic expropriations can get a tagger a ticket, there's nothing illegal about grabbing some spray cans and dressing up your own set of wheels.
Telegraph Avenue, in all its scruffy 1960s revolutionary glory, is headed for a 21st century overhaul. And - hang on to your Mao hat - that probably means more chain stores. Determined to clean up the iconic strip south of the UC campus, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates is embarking on a makeover of Telegraph Avenue, looking at everything from traffic laws to the retail mix. The first step is a community gathering with neighbors, merchants, students, city staff and others to figure out what's wrong with Telegraph and how it can be saved.
Okay, I admit it, I’m a sucker. This community gathering was even touted on the jump page as a “brainstorming” session.
“Brainstorming is a group or individual creativity technique by which efforts are made to find a conclusion for a specific problem by gathering a list of ideas spontaneously contributed by its member(s).”
NOT! I know. I foolishly sacrificed a perfectly good Thursday night to what turned out to be an interminable parade of illegible Power Points delivered by the usual suspects, emceed by Berkeley’s Mayor-for-life Tom Bates, now in his eleventh year of presiding over not-much-happening. What didn’t happen last night was brainstorming.
The event was scheduled from 6 to 7:30 in the auditorium of Willard Middle School, which is on Telegraph just south of the commercial strip. But when Bates took the mike about 6:15, he announced a whole string of speakers intended to provide background on what’s up these days with Telegraph, presumably aimed at attendees who hadn’t been there lately.
Since I’d been suckered about a year ago into attending a similar gathering in a Telegraph-area church, that one billed as a “charette”, just about everything these folks had to say was not new to me, nor presumably to many of those present, quite of few of whom I recognized as the usual suspects, planning addicts who believe in the face of all evidence that well-paid staff planners might sometime take their opinions seriously.
This category includes most of the city council members, only one of whom even showed up at this meeting. That one, Councilmember Kriss Worthington, is not so easily fooled. He pointed out that the council had passed—unanimously, three years in a row—a resolution calling for legal changes to allow building-based merchants to vend their wares from sidewalk tables, as their counterparts can in Santa Cruz and many other cities, and it still hadn’t been implemented by city staff.
(Sidebar for political paranoids: Also present, though silent, was one Ces Rosales, who ran against Kriss in 2010, endorsed by Bates, and might be planning a 2014 run. Could this meeting be a play to set her up?)
The mayor’s beloved alma mater held center stage, as usual. Once again, a U.C. planner showed architectural drawings too dim to be read from the audience which outlined what was going on with the big construction project on Bancroft which has seriously disrupted Telegraph activities.
Noteworthy was her characterization, which I’d heard a year ago from someone, maybe her, of U.C.’s Lower Sproul Plaza as a disaster. Well, I tend to agree with her, since all I’ve seen it used for recently is group dance moves in which students seem to be channeling robots, but just for the record I’d like to recall that the old Chronicle’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning architectural critic Alan Temko characterized Lower Sproul as being a close second to Venice’s Piazza San Marco as a thriving public space.
Then there was the ubiquitous Matt Taecker, the consultant who authored the city’s Downtown Plan, most recently seen as the paid advocate for the first developer who’s stepped up to exploit the concessions in said plan. He primarily re-iterated the charrette results, such as they were, with the main achievement in the elapsed year seemly seducing U.C. into funding the addition of a bunch of fairy lights along the Ave in the not too distant future.
And also, the obligatory city employee from the Office of Economic Development, who presented another illegible Power Point graph revealing that [*SURPRISE*] sales on Telegraph are down. Yes, sure, and also, which he did mention but did not stress, bookstores and record stores all over the country have lost out to Amazon and the like, and also we have been experiencing a national recession, right? No amount of fairy lights on Telly will reverse these trends.
He also kvetched about the number of vacancies in retail storefronts, and opined that maybe more clothing stores, perhaps some chains, might do the trick. Well, whatever happened to the Gap, which used to be there didn’t it? And when we had a high-tech start-up on the second floor of the building which now houses Rasputin’s, there was a Southern California clothing chain, Miller’s Outpost, on the first floor, which was a dismal flop even during the Clinton boom years.
All in all, these tedious presentations lasted until at least 7:15, leaving only a quarter of an hour for any possible “brainstorming” which might have engaged the restless audience. It peaked at about 100, including many obvious professional staffers paid to be there, but by the time they got a chance to speak most of the liveliest civic activists I recognized had left, probably dangerously bored.
Perhaps ten people lined up at the open mike for their three minutes of “spontaneous creative activity”, recorded for posterity by someone’s TV cameras. The crazy quotient didn’t rise above about 20%, which is pretty good for gatherings of this kind in Berkeley, but what most of the others had to say was unremarkable.
A woebegone student who claimed to have sunk his student loans and tuition money into launching a food truck venture lamented that he’d been evicted from Bancroft and Telegraph by the U.C. construction there. A neighborhood mom wished for more retail that didn’t feature tattoos and chains. An artist street vendor wished that vendors and in-store retailers could just get along.
The elephant in the room was the key intersection of Haste and Telegraph, where three out of the four corners are now unoccupied because of two fires and the failure of Cody’s Books. One of the fires, destroying the Berkeley Inn, happened 27 years ago, during the last 10 of which Tom Bates has been mayor, and nothing has been built in its place.
Two of the three parcels are owned by Ken Sarachan (whose rehabbed Rasputin’s building on the next corner coincidentally added carvings of elephants.) Ken’s interaction with the city of Berkeley reminds me of Uncle Remus’s story about the Wonderful Tar Baby.
Bre’r Fox made a baby out of tar to snare the unsuspecting Bre’r Rabbit. In the version of the story I know, it’s not revealed whether or not Bre’r Fox ever ate Bre’r Rabbit, but the refrain is “Bre’r Fox, he lay low” while he watched Bre’r Rabbit getting stuck.
Ken lay low in the audience last night, chatting with key players but not saying anything, nor was he invited to do so as far as I could determine. Yet his plans for his two sites, along with some for the third corner where the Sequoia burned down, have recently gotten a good bit of publicity and might even be making their way through the approval process. Putting appropriate buildings there would do a great deal to make Telegraph more vital. Are his plans tar babies, or the real deal?
Someone somewhere seems to have a new stake in what will happen on Telegraph. The Chronicle piece reeked of some semi-sophisticated public relations person feeding the Telly revival story to a gullible reporter. At least one parallel gushy promotional preview appeared on TV Channel 7’s online page and perhaps even on television, though that could have just been a “rip and read” phenomenon, television re-reporting what was in the morning papers.
The most intelligent comments of the evening, crisply delivered within his allotted three minutes, came from frequent Planet contributor Steve Finacom, who walks the length of the Telegraph commercial strip at least twice every day on his way to work. He challenged the theory that there are excessive vacancies with actual observational data, supported by a two-page handout complete with spreadsheet, which documented a very respectable 89% occupancy rate. He’s promised to supply his analysis for Planet readers, including his spreadsheet and other cogent observations, so watch for them in this space.
But don’t expect to hear about any “21st century overhaul” of Telegraph happening any time soon. . Significantly, the sfgate.com Chronicle headline writer substituted the judicious headline reproduced at the top of this piece, Berkeley ponders Telegraph Ave. upgrade, for the heavy-breathing one which appeared on the print front page. Something might materialize, but as I frequently advise about Berkeley’s grandiose planning extravaganzas, don’t hold your breath
At last year's Telegraph Avenue Charette I reminded everyone at the beginning that the 'problem' with the Avenue's commerce is not design. We designers like to imagine that we can change the world, but the built environment generally expresses social/cultural reality with a real-time lag. Of course better lighting, street furniture, trees, etc. would be great, but nobody wants to countenance a big part of the short term solution - getting rid of certain types of people, and their behaviors. I've been visiting regularly Telegraph since the 60s, and it still works for me (I love used actual paper books) but we hear that the Telegraph Avenue 'brand' has a bad connotation. I propose no big solution: all I can contribute is thoughtful design. Perhaps when the anticipated construction of lots of new apartments reaches a critical mass, then a new mix of people will emerge, and a different 'vibe' will develop. The changes anticipated and promoted by the South Side Plan - which took a decade or so to be adopted - are just going to take time.
RE: Proposed Sale of Berkeley CA Post Office Building
Dear Ms Alvarado:
I write with a unique perspective as to why the Postal Service should reconsider authorizing an immediate fire-sale of the downtown Berkeley Post Office facility to private developers. Alternatively, I suggest that USPS should take time to explore and partner with other public entities (federal, state, county, or city) to find creative alternatives so that this historic building remains in the public domain.
I draw your attention to a remarkably successful example of how this kind of effort can succeed by citing the San Francisco Main Post Office at 7th and Mission streets. Its conservation and conversion to the seat of the US Ninth District Court of Appeals won universal accolades in the late 90's, and now sits as a positive bastion of public investment and presence in San Francisco. As a result of that "magnet" effort, the new SF Federal building was built next door.
Of course Berkeley is not San Francisco and is smaller in scale. However the same elements are in play. This would be the USPS wanting to divest itself of assets that no longer serve its core mission.
All are painfully aware that USPS on the national scale is in the process of redefining what that mission might be. This, however, does not mean that USPS is warranted in a "bail and punt" strategy, most particularly for the historic building assets it holds in public trust.
The Berkeley downtown postal facility is a building of classic historic significance and one that binds our community: I urge you to recommend to your superiors to defer a "sale" at this time, and for a period of 1 year. This will allow our City Council and a united community time to explore, engage and propose public options on how this building can be reconfigured, "repurposed" and maintained as a public asset.
Thank you, in advance, for such a recommendation.
Victoria Peirotes is a Berkeley resident. In addition, she was, for 6 years, the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Architect for the reconversion of the former SF Downtown Main Post Office @ 7th and Mission Streets to the Headquarters of the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
By Noah Sochet, Chair of Peace and Justice Commission
Tuesday March 05, 2013 - 08:58:00 AM
This Tuesday, March 5, the Berkeley City Council will consider a proposal by two city council members (Gordon Wozniak and Darryl Moore) that would dismiss the School Board appointees from the city's Peace and Justice Commission, and ban the School Board from making appointments in the future.
The Peace and Justice Commission was established to "advise the Berkeley City Council and the Berkeley Unified School Board on all matters relating to the City of Berkeley’s role in issues of peace and social justice", and has worked with the City and the School District on many issues of importance to residents of Berkeley for the last 26 years. The School Board's appointees keep the commission engaged in issues that affect young people in Berkeley, providing an important bridge between Council and School Board on issues of peace and justice. The commission has worked with the School Board to support the 2020 Vision, observe a teen dating violence awareness month, alternatives to incarceration for youth, protecting students from JAMRS (Joint Advertising Market Research Studies – a Pentagon recruitment program), addressing child sex trafficking, and various other issues.
The School Board appointees, historically more racially diverse and representing a broader spectrum of age and background than Council appointees, bring fresh perspective to the commission. Furthermore, all Peace and Justice commissioners are volunteers, who work hard to ensure that the valuable functions of the Peace and Justice Commission are carefully executed.
At a time when the city's budget is strained, firing volunteers whose work will need to be picked up by City staff members is a shortsighted and misguided mistake.
Community members are being asked to write to council members and voice support for the participation of the school board appointee on issues of peace and social justice. Berkeley residents are also encouraged to join peace and justice supporters at the city council meeting on Tuesday March 5 at 7:00 pm.
Our legislators get their pay in time while poverty stricken citizens worry whether they can scrape together enough to feed their families. The legislators forget they were sent to the Washington to fix the broken economic system; they were not sent to Washington to enjoy the good life. The legislators must solve the problem of an economy where the rich get richer and poor become poorer. Access of the very poor to schools and colleges gives them a ladder on which to climb from poverty into the middle class. Assurance of continued health care and social security gives our poor elders the safety net they need to live in dignity.
It is high time now to balance the budget with tax increases on incomes of the wealthiest Americans without jeopardizing the status of low income and middle income Americans. Let’s stop paying out the salaries of our legislators so they can experience for themselves what is like to be poor and resourceless. We must make the US not merely a wealthy society but a just society.
By Officer Jennifer Coats, Public Information Officer, Berkeley Police Department,
Friday March 01, 2013 - 01:02:00 PM
We received some additional inquiries regarding the recent death of a person during contact with our officers. Though we are limited in terms of sharing specific details of this ongoing investigation, we wanted to offer some context where we can, as hopefully this may be of some use to you.
We understand the community’s concern over this incident, and the desire to have as much information about this incident as possible.
As you may know, any investigation involving a death such as this includes thorough and detailed interviews with all witnesses and involved parties, the collection and analysis of all available evidence, and preparation of appropriate reports. The Alameda County Coroner’s office is conducting their concurrent death investigation as well.
There are significant constraints in place regarding the immediate release of information in a case such as this, and we can’t comment on specific information or even address inaccuracies which may be expressed in public discussion regarding this incident.
The Berkeley Police Department has a long history of working with respect and sensitivity to mental health issues in our community and among people with whom we come into contact. Our department has a positive reputation in the community for its interactions with mental health consumers.
Furthermore, we are increasing our level of service and expertise in this area through our Department’s new Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) program. This program is based on a national, best-practices model for police interactions with people with mental health issues. These training efforts, and the expansion of the program, are continuing throughout the year.
A thorough investigation takes time. We are obliged to wait for the evidence to be examined, the facts to be determined, and the investigation to be completed.
We are committed to conducting a sensitive and thorough investigation, fair to everyone involved, from the family and friends of the decedent, to the officers and firefighters who tried to save the decedent’s life.
In 1951, only five years after World War II ended, I managed to make my way to Paris where I landed a job as a courier diplomatique (messenger boy) for the United Nations Sixth General Assembly. Despite the years of war and deprivation, Paris still was a special place with its history, its cafes, galleries, bridges, ornate edifices, and narrow winding cobblestone streets, some seemingly as old as the city itself.
Recent reports about how horsemeat has been smuggled into certain meat products in England, Sweden, and elsewhere remind me of one of Paris's unusual features of 1951: the numerous butcher shops that sold horsemeat. Such a shop usually sported a mounted life-sized horse head (made of metal or wood) above the store entrance to advertise unequivocally that the butcher specialized in the sale of horse flesh.
I ate horsemeat at a small neighborhood Parisian restaurant a number of times. It was smoothly textured and more gamy than beef. I wasn't particularly fond of it but it did have the virtue of being affordable. In those post-war days, low-income Parisians were more inclined to eat horses than ride them.
All the talk today about how undesirable it is to consume horses carries the implication that our immense ingestion of other livestock is perfectly acceptable. We are advised not to eat horses, nor dogs, rabbits, or cats---no matter how close to starvation we might be. But devouring limitless numbers of cattle, pigs, sheep, lambs, chickens, turkeys, and ducks is quite all right.
This causes us to overlook the real problem, which is not horsemeat but meat consumption in general. The world cannot feed itself if it continues to make meat a common staple. Millions upon millions of livestock require vast amounts of grain and water, ultimately far more than the environment will be able to provide.
Aside from the survival problems raised by the consumption of immense quantities of land, water, and grain in producing meat, there is another menacing aspect: all the poisons and torture that happen along the way from the feedlot to the supermarket. For the health of the planet and for our own health and for the sake of the livestock, we should stop eating animals. Rather than calling for more regulation of meat production, we need to move entirely away from meat meals.
Originating from the top of the food chain, all animal products menace our health. Pesticides and other toxic run-offs work their way into the food and water consumed by livestock. So with wild and farmed fish, and seafood. Finally, perched at the highest rung of the food chain, we humans feast on the accumulated toxins that concentrate further in our bodies.
Many of us are unsettled about eating horses, dogs, cats, rabbits, snakes, monkeys, rodents, or alligators---which other people around the world do eat. Perhaps we should give more attention to the horrid mistreatment of domesticated livestock, the mass produced cruelties of factory farms, the torturous stalls, the joyless overcrowded feedlots, the loads of antibiotic and hormone additives, the frequent sickness and fatal dismemberments, and the terrible toxic accumulations.
Save your health and your planet. May all animal consumption go the way of the Paris horsemeat butcher shops.
Michael Parenti's recent books include The Face of Imperialism and the forthcoming Waiting for Yesterday: Pages from a Street Kid's Life (a memoir of his early life).
The move to carve out student districts in East Berkeley has caused some to ponder a re-alignment of voting district lines in West Berkeley. West Berkeley’s land is currently divided into two different districts at University Ave. There is no reasonable justification for dividing West Berkeley into two different districts. It should be united into a single voting district -- Council District 1.
Of the principles that might guide the drawing of district lines, I think areas that are geographically distinct, or defined by use or by history, should be prominent in the list. The shoreline industrial town of Ocean View was founded in 1853 when Capt. Jacobs established his lumber wharf and Capt. Bowen built his Inn at Contra Costa Rd (San Pablo) on the high ground between Strawberry and Virginia Creeks, creating Delaware St. connecting them. It was the perfect location; a sandy beach, a shell mound, a source of fresh water with a salmon run. Ocean View spread north and south along the shore. It grew, and joined Berkeley in 1878. Ocean View is the first Anglo settlement in the area
What unites District 1? It is the shoreline opposite the Golden Gate; it is the industrial zone; it bears three great north-south highways of concrete, steel and blacktop. Everything that happens here is influenced by its unique position by the Bay, its cultural features, the people who come to live here, and the laws that guide its development. Recent efforts by the Council Majority to re-conceive West Berkeley on the sly (Measure T), emphasize the necessity for a true Ocean View/West Berkeley Council district. The separation of Ocean View into two has effectively suppressed our political voice in the City. We need a single voice for our district on the Council.
The Ocean View District would go from the shoreline on the west to maybe Curtis Street or the old Santa Fe right of way on the east. It would go from the Albany boarder at the north to Ashby Ave. on the south.
Imagine a committee meeting where California legislators gather to consider AB746, Congressional Representative Marc Levine’s proposal to protect people in multi-unit housing from secondhand smoke. Picture the table, the chairs, the people milling about shaking hands and making introductions.
Imagine that there’s room for about thirty-five members of the public to sit and quietly watch the proceedings. Imagine that after fifteen minutes of discussion, the public pulls out packs of cigarettes, lights up, and continues quietly listening while smoking.
There would be bedlam. Security would be called. People would be arrested. Legislators would rush from the room waving their hands wildly in a futile effort to disperse the smoke. Even those who smoke themselves would recognize this as a terrible, life-threatening imposition on people’s right to breathe clean air. They’d find another meeting room, rope off the area, and scratch their heads at the unfathomable behavior they’d just encountered.
Consider how odd this behavior would be when, after the smokers are cleared from the room, they sit back down and, with the full blessing of the Western Center on Law and Poverty, many of them vote to allow smokers in multi-unit housing to continue to smoke indoors, forcing the whole building to smoke involuntarily; the pregnant women, the children, everyone.
The tobacco industry isn’t the main rock in the path toward clean, smokefree air for the poorest tenants in California, the majority of whom don’t smoke and don’t want their families exposed. The main rock in the road are “social justice” representatives who worry about the imposition it might create for a smoker to use nicotine gum or step outside to avoid exposing the millions of low income nonsmoking renters who can’t afford to move. Tens of thousands of nonsmokers die each year because of the “social justice” rock in the road, the oddest allies the tobacco industry ever had.
Several of the historic and civic individuals and organizations testifying before your hearing this evening have asked me to provide comment on the applicability of the National Enviromnental Policy Act (NEPA) to the proposed relocation and sale of the Berkeley Main Post Office.
By way of qualifications a brief biographical summary is attached. As an individual I am familiar with the Berkeley Main Post Office as a frequent user of it, most recently to obtain passport renewals for my daughters, who attend Berkeley High School within one block of the building.
In my opinion NEPA applies to the proposed action of the United States Postal Serivce (USPS), under NEPA the relocation and sale represent a major federal action affecting the human enviromnent, no categorical exclusion can lie, and therefore before taking any official decision on relocation or sale, an enviromnental impact statement (EIS) must be prepared and circulated for public review.
NEPA applies to the Postal Service. City of Rochester v. United States Postal Service, 541 F.2d 967 (2d. Cir. 1976); Chelsea Neighborhood Associations v. United States Postal Service, 516 F.2d 378 (2d Cir. 1975); 39 C.P.R. part 775.
The "major federal action" --the "whole of the action" -- defined by your notice is that of relocation and sale. ("If this relocation is approved, USPS anticipates selling the current Berkeley Main Post Office building.") The action cannot be segmented into relocation only when the driving force for that action is the intended sale. 40 C.F.R. §1508.25 ("connected actions ... should be discussed in the same impact statement").
Assessment of the relocation and sale must take place at the earliest possible moment to ensure that impacts are acknowledged, alternatives identified, and both the proposal and impacts are assessed before decision and in time to allow meaningful public participation. 40 C.F.R. § 1502.5 (EIS "shall be prepared early enough" to contribute to decison-making .and "not be used to rationalize or justify decisions already made"). Assessment after relocation will prove meaningless, because at that time the remaining alternatives will only ask how to deal with an empty, publicly-inaccessible building.
Substantial, indeed overwhelming, evidence to be presented tonight supports the conclusion that relocation and sale of the Berkeley Main Post Office will produce an adverse impact on the environment, which includes both the loss of an historic resource and community disruption. City of Rochester, supra; 40 C.F.R. § 1508.14 ("human environment shall be interpreted comprehensively" to include "physical environment and the relationship of people with that environment").
USPS cannot rely on a "categorical exclusion" to escape the duty to prepare an EIS. The regulations of both the Council on Environmental Quality and U.S. Postal Service itself do not allow categorical exclusions in cases such as this, representing "extraordinary circumstances in which a normally excluded action may have a significant adverse effect." 40 C.F.R. § 1508.4; 39 C.F.R. § 775.6; see also 39 U.S.C. § 404 (no Congressional NEPA exemption for closure or consolidation of post offices).
For these reasons, the Postal Service is requested to refrain from further actions on the Berkeley Main Post Office until it prepares, circulates, and reviews a NEPA environmental impact report.
Editor's Note: The latest issue of the Pepper Spray Times is now available.
You can view it absolutely free of charge by clicking here . You can print it out to give to your friends.
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When you who are in your forties or younger, look back with curiosity on that dark time, as I think occasionally you should. It will do no good to search for villains or heroes or saints or devils because there were none; there were only victims.” Robert Man-from-Uncle Vaughn (1932- ) relied on American screen-writer and novelist James Dalton Trumbo (1905-1976) for the title of his University of Southern California PhD thesis and for his 1972 book, Only Victims; A Study of Show Business Blacklisting.
The chief function of a Congressional investigatory Committee is to investigate for the purpose of creating legislation. The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC)’s show-business hearings created no significant laws vital to the security of the nation in the twenty-year period l950-l970 examined by Vaughn.
Dalton Trumbo was summoned to appear before the HUAC on October 28, 1947. Like Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner Jr., John Howard Lawson, Albert Maltz, Samuel Ornitz and Adrian Scott, he refused to answer any questions. They claimed that the 5th Amendment of the United States Constitution gave them the right to do this. They became known as The Hollywood Ten and were found guilty of contempt of Congress.
In the 1951-53 HUAC, some of the victims strategized. Lloyd Bridges named “self” in an “executive sworn statement” never made public. Lee J. Cobb named Phoebe Brand, Lloyd Bridges and Larry Parks. Larry Parks named Lee J. Cobb, Anne Revere, and Gale Sondergaard. Elia Kazan named Sterling Hayden. Clifford Odets named Phoebe Brand and Elia Kazan. Bud Schulberg named Ring W. Lardner, Jr., and so on and on.
March is Women’s History Month. Herstory was coined to emphasize that women’s lives, deeds, and participation in human affairs have been neglected, undervalued, or distorted in standard works.
Were any women summoned by the HUAC and expected to act as friendly witnesses by identifying Hollywood communists? The several HUACs’ actions resulted in the demise of many show-business actors of both sexes, spouses, secretaries and other little people and functionaries in the studios and in the Screen Actors Guild. Dorothy Parker, Anne Revere, Gayle Sondergaard were among the women who lost their jobs and their employability, blacklisted. Phoebe Brand (1907– 2004,) a respected actor, director and teacher, outlived colleagues Lee J. Cobb, Elia Kazan and Clifford Odets, who named her as a Communist.
When Larry Parks (1944-1975) was summoned by the HUAC, he eventually named names and was blacklisted anyway. Columbia Pictures dropped him, and a film he had made for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was shelved. And what of Mrs. Larry Parks? The promising career of actor, singer, dancer Betty Garrett (1919-2011) was cut short, blacklisted. Garrett, an alumna of the Mercury Theater and a former dancer with the Martha Graham Company, was a Broadway regular in the mid-1940s, winning a Donaldson Award for her work in Call Me Mister. Signed by MGM, she had appeared in several films including My Sister Eileen and On the Town. In the 1970s, she appeared in supporting roles in two TV sitcoms-- All in the Family and Laverne and Shirley.
Only Victims; A Study of Show Business Blacklisting contains a complete list of the women and men who lost their livelihoods.
In 1952 Lillian Hellman was summoned by the HUAC as a friendly witness in connection with Dashiell Hammett. She testified that she had attended Communist Party meetings in 1937 and that her two-year membership in the Communist Party had ended in 1940, but she did not condemn the party nor express regret for her participation in it, declaring, “I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year's fashions.”
Long before the HUACs, women writers, directors and actors were censored. In 1927 Grace Lumpkin, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Dorothy Parker, Katherine Anne Porter, and several others were arrested for picketing to stay the execution of accused anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti. Lois Weber (1883-1939), the first American woman filmmaker, became a controversial figure but never backed away from issues of public concern. Her Where Are My Children? was very profitable: an idealist physician advocates birth control and is jailed while an unsavory colleague collects big bucks performing illegal abortions. But by 1927, Weber was finished because of controversy surrounding her choice of themes: marital problems, a minister’s romance, a drama about a prostitute, interracial love.
March 8 is International Women’s Day. In 1998, shortly before her death, Bella Abzug declared "They used to give us a day-- it was called International Women's Day. In 1975 they gave us a year, the Year of the Woman. Then from 1975 to 1985 they gave us a decade, the Decade of the Woman. I said at the time, who knows, if we behave they may let us into the whole thing. Well, we didn't behave and here we are."
The Treaty for the Rights of Women, officially known as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and often called the international bill of rights for women, was drafted in 1979 to help curb worldwide gender discrimination. This agreement addressing the rights of women and girls was passed by the UN General Assembly on December 18, 1979 and signed by President Carter on behalf of the United States in 1980. One hundred eighty-six nations have ratified the CEDAW. It has never been ratified by the U.S. Senate. In this, the U.S. is keeping company with such human rights violators as Iran, Somalia and Sudan. While other nations and many local government organizations have adopted CEDAW, the U.S. and California have not yet done so.
After Shyamala Rajender received her PhD in Chemistry, she received a research grant for post-doctoral work from the University of Minnesota, and later was offered a faculty position. After eight years, when she was not given tenure, she asked for a reason and was told, “We have 46 faculty members and all are men. We cannot give you tenure because being a woman they won’t like you there, and also because of your national origin they will not accept you.” She filed a formal grievance, a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and then in federal court. As a result, the university did not renew her contract, and she could not find another job. “I found out I was blacklisted in the academic circles in the entire country”. To utilize her time, she went to law school and subsequently passed the Bar exams. The case took 7-8 years. Shyamala Rajender won a landmark ruling in the first employment discrimination class action ever tried. The judge ruled in 1980: “It is hereby ordered and decreed: The University is permanently enjoined from discriminating against women on the basis of sex.”
Response to female-sex discrimination in all types of work within higher education is exceedingly important as compared with other employment sectors. Students observe role models in classrooms and administrative offices. Young professionals may get their basic standards, perspectives, ethics and even their initial placements in their preparation phase. Academe is the place of many continuing education and retooling experiences and contacts. The university itself employs all types of workers in substantial numbers—clerical, food-service, instructional, technical, counseling, civil services—and including many male-role job fields—agriculture, security, administration, publishing, medicine, law. National, regional, and professional associations are involved via such things as their accreditation programs, publishing activities and recruitment. Certification and licensing procedures are closely related in many jurisdictions. Future professionals—lawyers, librarians, physicians, scientists, social workers, teachers, theologians—are indoctrinated during their college and university years.
There are basics which, until publication in 1975 of Joan Abramson’s The Invisible Woman, had not even been touched upon in the literary market place. The tendency to perceive female sex discrimination as somewhat distinct among the several classes encompassed by the Civil Rights Act and Amendments continues. It is indeed different—so ingrained, historical and pervasive as to be invisible to most males and some females. The university is not a more “professional” employer merely because it is perceived as more respectable, pointing up the handicap of assumptions and stereotypes. Many colleges and universities rely on untenured women without contracts or “benefits” to teach sections of courses with large enrollments. Women who have responded have learned the hard way that the process is itself fraught with built-in limitations. Many have experienced and some have recognized an ordeal analogous to rape: the unenforced laws against sexual exploitation, the initial violation which may ultimately become less traumatic than the attempt to respond to the assault, the victim’s need to prove prior chastity and to face discredit alone, the assumption of her guilt, the protective male bond throughout, and the need for unity if change is to come.
Abramson demonstrated how the academic power structure’s discrimination against women was (and is) different. But her experiences at a major university were typical. Most women academics are still unaware of the dynamics of discrimination and therefore unable to cope emotionally or strategically. Administrators claim to want to understand what “it” is all about. Sex discrimination does not make news, but the mere filing of a charge effectively blacklists a woman in academe. Untenured American women who have taken this step have become unemployed; some tenured women have lost their professional lives, years of delay, division and discredit only just begun.
Affirmatively managed recruitments and advancements can not only achieve compliance but also result in better universities. Professions aspire to maintain relevant standards of education and performance. The university administration, governing body and trustees are ultimately responsible for what transpires on campus. Some states have human rights charters and guarantees relating to the civil rights of minorities. But ultimately the federal government is responsible for implementation of provisions of the United States Constitution and legislation that it has enacted in behalf of the “protected classes.”
On the eve of the World War I the British diplomat Sir Edward Gray is purported to have said, “The lamps are going out all over Europe.” In the wake of the recent Italian election one might reverse that phrase: after years of brutal austerity, collapsing economies, widespread unemployment and shredding of the social welfare net, Italians said “basta!” “Enough!”
And lamps are going on all over Europe.
Slovenians just turned out their conservative government and handed the reins to Alenta Bratusek, who compared austerity to “medieval medicine.” Tens of thousands of Bulgarian demonstrators forced their austerity-addicted government to resign. Support for the ruling parties of Spain and Portugal, which have overseen higher taxes and massive cutbacks, has dropped precipitously. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Democratic Union took a beating in local elections. France’s Socialist Party rode an anti-austerity program to victory, and the leftist Syriza Party in Greece is now the most popular in that country.
Nowhere in Europe, however, has the austerity policies of the “troika”—the European Union (EU), the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)—taken such a thorough shellacking as in Italy. Prime Minister Mario Monte’s government of technocrats, who piled on regressive taxes, cut pensions, slashed jobs, and dismantled social programs, was crushed, while parties running on anti-austerity platforms swept the field.
It was an odd grouping that ran the table in Italy. The biggest vote getter was the center-left Democratic Party (29.5 %), followed by former Prime Minister’s Silvio Burlusconi’s right-wing People of Freedom Party (29.1%). The quirky Five Star Movement, led by comedian Beppo Grillo, which ran on a five-point platform that included a jobs program and a halt to pension cuts, came in third (25.5 %). Fourth place went to the Monti’s Civic Choice (10.5%).
In spite of the political differences among the three top voter getters, all ran on anti-austerity programs of one variety or other. So while there is little common ground between Burlusconi, Democratic Party leader and former Communist Pier Luigi Bersani—most likely the next prime minister—and self-described “wildman” Grillo, all agreed that two years of austerity had done nothing but impoverish Italians and throttle whatever life remained in its fragile economy.
In Europe’s corridors of power, however, the judgment by the overwhelming majority of Italians that austerity had been tried and found wanting was greeted by an avalanche of outrage, ranging from characterizations of Italy—the third largest economy in the eurozone—as a country of “clowns” and “children” to a few outright threats should any other countries dare follow in their wake:
*“More than half of Italians voted for some form of populism,” complained the German newspaper Die Welt. “This amounts to an almost childlike refusal to acknowledge reality.”
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble warned “the onus is now on political leaders in Italy to…do what the country needs, namely form a stable government that continues on the successful path of reform.” Germany’s former finance minister, Peer Steinbruck, remarked that he was “horrified that two clowns won the election,” referring to Brillo and Berlusconi.
“We should be serious when we discuss economic policy and not give in to immediate political or party considerations,” sniffed European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said the election was “a jump to nowhere with positive consequences for nobody.”
Moody’s Investors, which rates countries’ credit status, released a statement that the election “raised the risk that the structural reform movement achieved under the government of Mario Monte will stall, if not come to a complete standstill.”
The “successful path” and “reform” that the Monti government put into place has increased Italy’s unemployment rate to 11 percent—50% for youth—shuttered 100,000 small firms, the heart of the Italian economy, and driven a million university graduates out of the country. Growth is a negative 0.9 percent, and the country is facing it second recession in four years.
It is not just EU officials and the continent’s mainstream media that have closed ranks to scold Italian voters for not doing what the troika wanted them to do. The U.S. media has taken much the same slant on the election’s outcome, led by the New York Times.
A Times piece headlined “Inconclusive vote in Italy invites new wave of financial instability” uses phrases rarely seen outside the editorial pages: “political dysfunction,” “dashed hopes,” failure to form “a credible government,” and characterizing the anti-austerity outpouring as a “protest vote.” It scolded “mass movements” for having “no patience for missteps or difficult reforms,” and lauded Monti as someone who had “been praised across Europe, for his steady hand and willingness to try to reform the economy.” More ominously it warned that should the Greeks have the audacity to elect a government led by the anti-austerity, leftist Syriza Party, “European leaders” would kick Greece “out of the euro.”
The “reforms” the Times refers to—sometimes preceded by the adjectives “difficult” or “painful”—are austerity measures from which the IMF has begun to distance itself. A report released by the organization this past summer found that the lending organization had profoundly underestimated the negative impact that austerity programs would have on economies, particularly those in Europe. Indeed, the IMF’s chair, Christine Lagarde recently tried unsuccessfully to get the EU to moderate its austerity demands on Greece, and asked Germany to reduce the interest rate it was charging. The effort failed.
In a letter to the Financial Times, Emiliano Brancaccio, a professor at the University of Sannio, Italy, and Professor Guiesppe Fontana of Leeds University (UK) argued that the Italian election was “a democratic way to tell policy makers to change course.” They go on to point out the IMF study and the finding that “countries that have imposed harsh economic measures have suffered deep economic recessions: the harsher the measures, the deeper the downturn,” and that austerity has increased debt ratios, not diminished them.
Those massive debts were not the result of profligate public spending—Italy and Spain had budget surpluses—but the product of bank-driven speculation that led to huge housing bubbles. When those bubbles collapsed, economies all over the continent tanked, and taxpayers were asked to bail out the financial institutions that sparked the crisis in the first place. It was this formula of a free pass for speculators and austerity for the average citizen that fueled the anger behind the Italian elections.
How those elections shakedown in the short run is unclear. The Five Star Party seems unwilling to join a coalition with the Democratic Party, in part because while the latter is considered center-left, it supported many of Monti’s policies. Berlusconi—well, the moniker “clown” is not far off the mark for him if one adds the word “evil” in front of it—is hardly someone with whom one would want to enter into a coalition, especially because it would include the openly racist, pro-fascist Northern League. In the end, it is possible that Italy will go back to the polls sometime in the coming year.
But the anti-austerity lamp is lit and putting it out will not be easy, because Italy is hardly alone.
“Portugal has entered a recessionary cycle that has no end in sight,” editorialized Lisbon’s leading newspaper Publico. “Social conditions are worsening and democracy is suffering…the program has failed and it has to be changed. Portugal’s economy is projected to shrink 2%, and unemployment is at 17.5%.
The IMF predicts that economic growth in the eurozone as a whole will fall 0.2% in 2013.
Even countries considered “stable”—read quiescent in the face of high unemployment, frozen economies and widening economic disparity—like Germany, Britain and the Netherlands are not immune from the spreading anger at the EU’s prescription for economic crisis.
Probably the clearest voice of Europe’s anti-austerity movement is Alexis Tsipras, leader of Greece’s Syriza Part. “For our part” says Tsipras, “we are opposed to everlasting austerity as means for fiscal rebalancing on both pragmatic and ideological grounds. The subjugation of democratic process to the markets was the reason why we have the crisis today…we predicted from the onset, well before the IMF admitted to its predictive failures, that austerity-based policies would backfire.”
The Greek economy will contract 4.5% in 2013, and the jobless rate is 27 percent, a staggering 62% for young people.
Tsipras concludes, “For us, economic policy ought to be inextricably linked to social policy with a view to look after the social needs of the people, of social justice, of intergenerational solidarity and of environmental balance.”
Most of Italy, and a growing number of Europeans, would agree.
The March 1st sequester budget cuts are yet another product of crises manufactured by the ultra-conservative wing of the Republican Party. These Tea Party extremists have one objective: crush the federal government. Motivated by a strange brew of Old Testament Christianity and Ayn Rand’s “Objectivism” they’re a lethal force within the GOP – Anarchists.
In August of 2011, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives forced a phony debt-ceiling crisis. In order to raise the ceiling, and to push the matter off the political calendar until after the elections, President Obama signed the Budget Control Act of 2011, which said that if Congress failed to approve a ten-year budget reduction of $1.2 trillion, automatic cuts would kick in. The initial cuts, $85 billion, apply to “discretionary” spending and are divided between reductions to defense ($43 billion), domestic ($30 billion), and mandatory spending ($12 billion) such as cuts to Medicare providers – Social Security and Medicaid are protected.
Who’s to blame?The White House originated the notion of sequestration. Nonetheless, the President had the proverbial “gun held to his head.” There was a dire threat of budget default because House Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling unless there were humongous budget cuts. (At the time the GOP-run House voted on Obama’s request for a “clean” debt-limit increase and all 236 Republicans voted no.) The President signed the Budget Control Act to avoid having the US to go into default and because he was facing reelection and wanted the economy to be as healthy as possible.
Who will the public blame? This appears to be a big political win for the President. On a recent PBS News Hour conservative commentator David Brooks observed,
I personally think the likely loser in this is the Republicans… And they have basically got a problem. I think they need to show the American people that we like some government programs. We don't like others… Unfortunately, when they embrace [the Sequester], they are embracing a piece of legislation that makes no distinction between good government and bad government. It just cuts randomly across the board.
Where will Americans notice the sequester cuts? The New York Times detailed the impacts including furloughs of border agents, air-traffic controllers, food-safety employees, and civilian military employees, among others. In California, the other cuts will impact teachers, teacher aides, and the disadvantaged.
How will it impact the economy? On February 26th, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned Congress that the sequester cuts will create a “significant headwind” for the tepid recovery. Some experts feel sequester will cost one million jobs over two years.
Does the public understand what’s happening? No. A recent Bloomberg poll indicated public perception of the deficit “crisis” is out of touch with reality. During the Obama Presidency, the budget deficit has grown smaller, but only 6 percent of Americans recognize this. Republican Anarchists have done a good job “brainwashing” Americans about the deficit, preparing them for austerity economics.
What does the public want to cut? A recent Pew poll indicated 72 percent of respondents want Washington to reduce the budget deficit. Nonetheless, there was no consensus on what federal programs to cut: only 24 percent wanted to cut military spending and 11 percent wanted to cut education. Republican Anarchist brainwashing has produced a national neurosis: Americans like government programs but don’t want to pay for them.
What will be the long-term impact? Sequester will leave everyone unhappy and set the stage for the next crisis, at the end of March, when Federal funding for the fiscal year expires.
What should President Obama do? The Republican Party has been taken over by Anarchists, Tea Party extremists who do not believe in government. As University of California linguistics professor George Lakoff observed, “They believe that Democracy gives them the liberty to seek their own self-interests by exercising personal responsibility, without having responsibility for anyone else or anyone else having responsibility for them.” Republican Anarchists reject the Founder’s morality, the sentiments that produced the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution. These ultra conservatives don’t believe in the common good or the notion that Americans have a moral responsibility to care for each other. The Republican Anarchist motto is, “I’m for me, first.” (Ayn Rand’s Objectivism glorified self-interest.)
President Obama must recognized that the Anarchists have pushed the United States into a political civil war. The President cannot negotiate with House Republicans so long as they are beholden to the ultra-conservative wing of the Party. Obama cannot negotiate with a fiscal gun held to his head.
The President has to hold firm, even if that means shutting down government for a spell. Perhaps then the mainstream Republican Party will expel the radicals and proclaim they are not against government, in general. Perhaps if the government is shut down, and the economy goes into a tailspin, Americans will wake up to threat posed by Republican Anarchists.
Obesity is a medical issue and frequent cause of premature death faced by a large proportion of persons with mental illness. The medications that we must take often have an effect on metabolism, directly causing weight gain and sometimes diabetes. The medications often make it more difficult to get physical exercise because of the sedation (which is common among numerous classes of these drugs.) Many psychiatric drugs also increase appetite.
It is harder for someone with a mental illness to cut back on food intake, because going hungry, even if for a relatively short time, sometimes has a destabilizing effect. Lack of food affects which parts of the brain are used and this can sometimes create a "fight or flight" reaction. This is a ticket to psychosis for people who have that tendency.
In the mental health treatment system, in which people are given medication, psychotherapy and milieu therapy on an outpatient basis, fattening foods are served. Some mental health treatment venues do not make an effort to cut back on the fat and sugar intake in the meals that are offered. It is not always practical for someone with mental illness receiving treatment at these places to supply their own healthier food, as many do not have access to food preparation facilities, or might lack the income to pay for their own food.
Many people eat poorly merely as a bad habit, without having a good reason. It might never occur to someone with mental illness that they ought to watch their calorie intake and possibly eat foods that are more nutritious.
Healthier eating habits seem to normally come with middle-age for persons who do not have mental illness. Persons with mental illness do not always have the same learning curve and in some respects, we may continue to behave as though in our twenties.
I became overweight for many of the above reasons, and acquired associated health problems. However, a year or two ago I decided I had better lose some weight. My approach was to make an ongoing change to eating habits. I increased my intake of fresh fruit and cooked frozen vegetables. I cut down on fast food and cut drastically down on candy and desserts. I prepare a fresh, healthy meal for dinner most nights for my wife and myself.
Exercise has been more difficult. It is easier to eat less, since that involves not doing something, rather than doing something more.
So far, I have lost twenty-two pounds and haven't gained this weight back. I look forward to again having flat abs as I did when younger. I'm not looking for rapid, drastic weight loss. Such a loss of weight based on an extreme diet will often reverse itself as soon as the dieting is stopped. It works better to make an ongoing change to eating habits, a change that can be realistically sustained, and which doesn't end when a goal weight is reached.
It doesn't do a person much good to have successfully treated their mental health problems if, at the same time, one has bought a premature death due to poor diet. Psychiatric drugs often cause weight gain. However, a person with mental illness can sometimes compensate for this with diet.
" ... the life we couldn't see, but always wanted—wanted so terribly."
'My Recollect Time,' Berkeley playwright Jamie Greenblatt's humane little play about emancipated slave Mary Fields—who posed as a riverman on Mississippi steamers, later working for an Ursuline convent in Montana, where she made a deep bond with the Superior, Mother Amadeus, then (at 60), driving a team of horses to deliver the mail in the wilderness —is in its final week of a premiere by Inferno Theatre, in residence at the historic Arts & Crafts South Berkeley Community Church.
"Little play" because of its apparent scale of production—three actors take on not quite a dozen roles—and its intimacy, not its historic scope or affective potentiality ... Nkechi, playing the straight-speaking, sometimes profane, sometimes hard-living Mary Fields, brings out her wonderment at the world and her determination in the face of countless obstacles; Valentina Emeri, longtime Inferno collaborator, plays Mother Amadeus (as well as a barmaid in a riverport town) with a lusty knowingness, ever her "employee" Mary's equal and confidante. And Jamie Van Camp, who played Achilles in Inferno's 'Iliad' at the City Club, takes on a plethora of roles, brief but sharply defined, from a slave master to a busking musician and the bishop who oversees the Ursulines' mission.
"Welcome to the Wild West, but from a woman's perspective," director-designer Giulio Perrone, founder of Inferno, opens his program notes. Heretofore, Inferno's staged originals by Perrone, a broad range of themes, from 'Galileo's Daughters' to 'The Iliad' to an original take on 'Dracula' (Emeri playing the bloodsucking Count). 'My Recollect Time' is the first play by another author, another world premiere, and further extends the range of this remarkable small company into "the hidden history of America"—and a new directness of address, adding to its already considerable accomplishments.
If you've seen what Inferno can do, 'My Recollect Time' will update and expand on what you know. If you haven't, a visit to South Berkeley Community Church this weekend will introduce you to something refreshing in the Bay Area performing arts scene. (Jovelyn Richards' KPFA radio interview with Giulio Perrone at: kpfa.org/archive/id/88169 )
Thursday & Saturday at 8, Friday at 9, 1802 Fairview (off Adeline & MLK—two blocks from Ashby BART). $12-$25. Reservations: 788-1802; firstname.lastname@example.org
Angela Eden Moser, Anders Froehlich, Elizabeth Baker, Eileen Meredith
Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” produced by Virago Theatre Company at the Hillside Club, is a well-sung, charming few hours.
Directed by international opera star Olivia Stapp, past artistic director of Festival Opera, the emphasis is on the singing rather than the staging.
As so often happens in Mozart, the commoners have the juiciest parts and Jo Vincent Parks and Elizabeth Baker make the most out of their roles as Leporello, the Don’s servant, and Zerlina, the bride-to-be who Don seduces.
Basso Parks’ marvelous voice is paired with an easy comic demeanor. He reacts to everything as a natural actor should, his freewheeling ways carry the audience along in his antics, and we sympathize with the burden of his fickle master’s oppression. He even ventured into the orchestra for what seemed like improvisational fiddle-playing that tickled the audience. Mezzo Baker’s sweet looks, devilish charm, and insouciant resilience refuse the victim role that Zerlina often is burdened with, to the betterment of the production.
Angela Eden Moser sings the role of Donna Anna whose father Il Commendatore (played by Basso William Pickersgill) is slain by Don Giovanni when he tries to intervene in Don’s raping Anna in the opening scene. Eileen Meredith plays Donna Elvira, a noblewomen with whose affections our Don Juan toys. Their soprano voices match the high standards set by Ms. Stapp. Ms. Meredith imparts colors to her arias ranging from tormented to sweet which show her roller-coaster infatuation with Don G.
Raymond Chavez plays Don Ottavio, Donna Anna’s outraged fiancé bent on revenge; his clarion tenor delightfully rounds out the ensemble. The role of the cuckolded bridegroom Masetto is shared by Jason Sarten and Jordan Eldredge.
Anders Froelich as Don Giovanni has GQ/movie-star good looks and is thus a natural casting for the role.
He has the title role in his repertoire from past performances last year with Cinnabar Theatre Company. Trained in dance, Mr. Froelich has the posed and poised comportment of a nobleman.
His well-toned baritone gets better every time I hear him. In this outing, he is sometimes overshadowed vocally by the rest of the cast, and his portrayal of the title role is that of a handsome man who never really had to work to get a woman. We see little trace of what compels him to his serial seductions, or what--besides his daunting good looks and noble position--induce the ladies to part with their virtue so readily.
Music Director Jonathan Khuner leads the singers and the “Shameless Passion Orchestra”* to a superior accompaniment--under the baton of Michael Moran for the performance I attended. The orchestra is positioned on the floor in front of the stage, which was of momentary concern that the singers would be acoustically overshadowed, but after the first ten minutes the cast’s powerful voices projected sufficiently to allay all fears. Maestro Khuner’s subtitles provided smiles with his modern, dead-pan translations. (*Virago Theatre Company’s motto is “a shameless passion for theatre.”)
On the final performance Saturday, March 9, there is a Closing Night Wine & Cheese Soiree with the cast, hosted by Blacksmith Cellars at the Hillside Club.
The Hillside Club at 2286 Cedar in Berkeley was a Maybeck creation restored by his brother-in-law John White after it burned in 1923, and if you’ve never been, it’s worth the very reasonable ticket price to hear an opera there (when you visit, be sure and view the incredible hearth on house right).
Phebe (Luisa Frasconi, center) attempts to woo Rosalind (Maria Giere Marquis, right) as Celia (Alexander Lenarsky) and Silvius (Brandon
Mears) look on.
“AS YOU LIKE IT,” as envisioned and reinvented by Melissa Hillman and the cast and company of Impact Theatre is invigorated and invigorating, a refreshing approach that is out and out funny. When’s the last time you had an honest to god guffaw at Shakespeare? They take the best kinds of liberties with the Bard, and liberty is what it’s all about.
When one reads AYLI, a not uncommon reaction is, “Come on! This Orlando guy is not going to recognize this girl Rosalind who he fell in love with at first sight in a momentary glance when she’s dressed up like a boy?” Yet Maria Giere Marquis is such a chameleon that she becomes almost unrecognizable, and we are entranced by her ability to reveal the inner turmoil of love, deception, and gender confusion.
No “speaking Shakespeare” here in the usual cadence and articulation—instead it’s casual and realistic befitting young people of right now, and that’s the audience. I could count the number of gray and bald heads on my fingers and that includes my own pate.
The cast goes off text occasionally to utter an aside in modern vernacular which adds a very funny level of subtext.
Dave Maier’s fight choreography a la WWE/UFC is believable and wonderfully comedic as performed by Stacz Sadowski as wrestler Charles and Miyaka Cochrane as Orlando. Orlando’s meek underplaying makes him lovably sympathetic.
It’s a gender-bender extraordinaire, and a feminist fête. Rosalind’s best girl friend and cousin Celia is replaced with the character of a young gay man played by Alexander Lenarsky, who enlivens every scene. The duke is the duchess (Marianna Wolff), Jaques is female (Sarah Coykendall), as is LeBeau (Alicia Stamps), and it all works wonderfully. The play’s characters comprise a complicated ménage to begin with, and I feared this extra level of complication would send it over the cliff, but Dr. Hillman thought it through studiously, and there is no confusion.
Luisa Frasconi in the role of Phebe is a joy to watch in her fully committed comic portrayal of a fatuous and conceited teen infatuated with Rosalind in breeches. Dennis Yen as Adam gets lots of laughs in a superb comic characterization of Orlando’s Sancho Panza.
Dr. Hillman’s (PhD UCB) growth as a director is a success story full of chance-taking and innovation. Hillman is grooming the next generation of theatre-goers. She knows her audience and speaks to them in a voice that brings Shakespeare to life with great theatricality without pandering, and serves up plays full of juice and most fulfilling.
Don’t cheat yourself—get a ticket while you can. And you’ll be abashed that you can have such a lively and fulfilling two-hour jaunt for such a modest ticket price.
Impact Theatre performs downstairs in La Val’s Pizza (you can eat your pizza and beer while you watch!) at 1834 Euclid off Hearst in Berkeley at the edge of campus.
WITH: Daniel Banatao, Miyaka Cochrane, Sarah Coykendall, Mike Delaney, Luisa Frasconi, Warden Lawlor, Alexander Lenarsky, Maria Giere Marquis, Brandon Mears, Jon Nagel, Cassie Rosenbrock, Stacz Sadowski, Alicia Stamps, Marianna Wolff, and Dennis Yen.
The first thought an audience is likely to have as Pablo Larrain's exceptional Chilean docudrama begins to screen is: "What kind of cheap, low-budget production is this?"
The film looks amateurish — the colors are off and the images frequently look washed-out and overexposed, like they were shot on an old-fashioned home-movie camera. Turns out, there's a reason for this look — and it's a good one. We'll get to that in a minute.
Directed by Chilean-born Larrain, No tells the alternatively harrowing and hilarious story of how a small team of upstart media-geeks-turned-political-players, went up against impossible odds with an improbable script and wound up changing history and saving lives in the process. You could think of it as a Latin American Argo.
The story unfolds in 1988, 15 years into the US-backed Chilean dictatorship that put an end to the democratically elected administration of Socialist Salvador Allende. Under the direction of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the US dispatched a team of 400 CIA agents to help further the junta's "reforms" — i.e., suspending the constitution, arresting union members, banning political opponents and seizing total control of the media.
In just the first 14 weeks of the coup, at least 1,213 pro-Allede politicians and activists were seized, murdered or "disappeared." (In 1991, a national Truth Commission set the number of victims of "political violence" at 3,172.) No makes it chillingly clear that, even after 15 years under the rule of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, fear of "the generals" was still palpable — and for good reason. The social fabric had become so bloodstained, torn and tenuous that people were even hesitant to even use the word "communist" in private conversations.
A 'Plebiscite' to Legitimate the Coup
After 15 years of tyranny, the political and social situation became so appalling that global concern over Pinochet's iron fist forced the junta to accept calls for a "plebiscite" to give Chileans an opportunity to vote on their political future. Like many international attempts to impose outside solutions, the plebiscite was seen as little more than a face-saving gesture — a bit of political theater to cloak (rather than condemn) Pinochet's coup.
A coalition of 16 political parties united in a Quixotic campaign to unseat Pinochet. The rules of the plebiscite underscored its fraudulent nature. Because the junta controlled the mass media, Pinochet's opponents were only allowed to broadcast their political message for one 15-minute period a day. The campaign was limited to 27 days and the mini-broadcasts were scheduled for 11:30 in the evening when most people were expected to be asleep.
Adding to the skewed odds, the Pinochet campaign was able to outspend its opposition by a factor of 30-to-1 and the government dispatched spies and politic agents to follow members of the NO campaign.
'Everyone Just Wants to Be Happy'
Mexican-born Gael Garcia Bernal stars as Rene Saavedra, a young advertising savant whose outlier personality is telegraphed as soon as we see him commuting to work… on a skateboard. (Pretty rebellious for an ad exec circa 1988.)
Saavedra (a composite of two Chilean ad men) is an unlikely hero. He's a hot-shot at crafting bouncy TV ads but he's got cold feet when it comes to taking political risks. (In a nice, twisted touch, Larrain cast the two ad-men in cameos as members of Pinochet's political machine.)
When Saavedra reluctantly accepts an invited to a screening of the opposition's ads, however, he gets the itch to put on his game shoes. "This doesn't sell," he sniffs. Drop the downer ads listing the junta's atrocities, Saavedra insists. Citing the number of dead and disappeared will only further intimidate voters and strengthen the dictatorship.
"Everyone wants to be happy," Saavedra argues. So the campaign message has to be: "Happiness is coming if you vote NO!" Saavedra's suggestions trigger bitter anger and walkouts from several coalition members who feel his approach is a betrayal of the coup's victims and survivors. But Saavedra prevails and soon is hiring scores of good-looking dancers, singers, and models to prance in front of his cameras singing upbeat jingles about a future Chile that doesn't exist… but just might.
In Larrain's reenactments, we see the ad team sketching and testing ideas and catchphrases on notepads until someone hits on a concept SO simple that it turns out to be, well…. (as they say in the advertising biz) "revolutionary."
The campaign wanted to sound a positive note but they also needed the people to vote against the generals. The solution: The word "NO" followed by a plus sign.
"NO +" turned out to be especially powerful because it not only put a positive spin on the idea of opposition (by adding the promise of something more), but it was also a cheeky visual code for the phrase "No Mas!" (An established, but rarely voiced, cry of the opposition.) This added up to a perfect coded message that, in today's parlance, "went viral." In addition to acknowledging the power of positive messaging, No demonstrates the genius of simplicity. "NO+" was a powerfully charged message that could be chalked on any wall in a matter of seconds.
With a winning sense of irreverence, the opposition dubbed their 15-minute broadcasts NO-ticias (a pun on the Spanish word for "news"). As history records, the campaign caught on.
No's Special 'Look': Truth in Advertising
Now, as to the strange "look" of the film. It is a special gift of Larrain's movie that accounts for the special look. Larrain acquired hours of actually news footage from the 1988 campaign and — even better — he decided to incorporate the actual TV ads the No+ team crafted to challenge the dictatorship.
In order to avoid the visual conflict that would arise from the use this dated footage, Larrain made the decision to shoot the new footage to match the historical footage. In order to integrate the original broadcast ads, Larrian managed to locate and rehabilitate a U-matic camera from 1983.
As Larrain explained, using this antique film equipment allowed him to create "a seamless combination of time, space and material generated with Ikegami tube cameras from 1983." The extra effort was worth it: A quarter-century after-the-fact, the ads — shot like Coca-Cola commercials, filled with color, sunshine, beautiful young people and catchy music — are still irresistible.
Selling Democracy's Sizzle
Surprised by the growing success of the opposition's feel-good ads, the government's campaign team desperately tries (and fails) to echo the youthful enthusiasm and satirical jibes of the No+ campaign. Saavedra knows the stakes have been raised one night when he discovers threatening messages painted on the window of his home and steps onto his porch to discover government soldiers watching over the house from inside armored vehicles.
In a fascinating twist, Rene's boss at the ad agency not only serves as a one of Pinochet's top advisors, he also winds up heading the general's pro-junta advertising campaign. Because of a shared respect, both men continue to work with each other as uneasy colleagues during the day (with occasional bouts of verbal sparring about the upcoming vote). After hours, however, the gloves come off.
"Anyone can be rich," a cynical pro-coup advertising exec snickers at a government campaign strategy meeting. He pauses only briefly before adding the critical qualifier: "Just not everyone."
The myth of becoming a member of the aspiring middle class or the rich elite is simply a trick — like horse races, TV talent competitions and state lotteries — used to keep the poor content. As long as they believe they might someday become one of the "anyones," they won't pose a threat to the "system." This poisonous false-promise of hope also enforces the convenient mental mind-set that sets the individual against "everyone" else.
In the last days of the month-long TV ad war, the NO campaign even ran a number of NOticias ads featuring American film stars. In several of these 25-year-old clips we can see Jane Fonda, Christopher Reeves and Richard Dreyfuss (speaking in Brooklyn-inflected Spanish) all appealing to voters to help topple the dictators.
When voting day came, 97% of eligible Chileans flocked to voting booths. It was an unprecedented turnout. And in an unprecedented turnabout, the NO+ team won nearly 56 percent of the vote. When Pinochet lost the plebiscite with only 44 percent of the ballot, it was hailed as the first time in history that a dictator had been driven from power through a popular vote.
A year later, in Chile's first open election since the coup, Christian Democrat Patricio Aylwin scored a landslide victory with 55 of the votes. (But Pinochet stayed on as Chief of the Armed Forces.)
In a cynical, yet honest, closing scene, we see Rene Saavedra reverting to type — perched atop a high-rise and directing a commercial featuring a bevy of high-fashion models being visually seduced by a well-dressed gentleman hovering above them in a helicopter — just another ready servant of the manipulative, capitalist marketplace.
'The Secret Garden,' a new opera by Nolan Gasser and Carey Harrison, adapted from the Frances Hodgson Burnett cildren's book, will have its world premiere, produced by San Francisco Opera and Cal Performances, March 1-10, various times, at Zellerbach Hall on the UC campus. Conducted by Sara Jobim (presiding over a chamber ensemble drawn from the SF Opera Orchestra) and directed by Jose Maria Condemi, with designs by Naomie Kremer, and a cast including soprano Sarah Shafer, tenor Scott Joiner, 14 year old tenor Michael Kepler Meo as Colin, bass-baritone Philippe Sly and mezzo Laura Krumm. There will be family workshops and other special events around the premiere. $30-$80 ($5 workshops), 642-9988; calperformances.org or sfopera.org Discount tickets at: calperformances.org/buy/discount.php
Famed Afghan singer Ustad Farida Mahwash, the first woman to be given the title Ustad ("Maestra") in 1977, and composer-rubab virtuoso Homayoun Sakhi & the Sakhi Ensemble will present an evening of Afghan music and song Saturday, March 2 at 8 pm, at Wheeler Auditorium on the UC campus, under the auspices of Cal Performances.
Ustad Mahwash, singer of both classical ghazals and popular music, daughter of a female hafez (teacher of the Quran) became popular on Radio Kabul after studying Afghani and Indian classical musicwith Ustad Mohammed Hashem Cheshti. She went into exile in Pakistan in 1991 and took asylum in the US, now living in Fremont and touring the world.
Homayoun Sakhi has said the rubab is over 2000 years old, a predecessor of the Indian sarod, but without meatl strings and played differently.
The Lee Trio--Lisa Lee, violin; Angela Lee, cello & Melinda Lee Masur, piano--will play 'Heptad' by noted orchestral & film ('Clash of the Titans,' 'Man of La Mancha,' 'Becket') composer Laurence Rosenthal; Janacek's String Quartet No. 1, "The Kreutzer Sonata;' arranged by Julian Yu; & Schubert's Piano Trio No. 2 in E-flat Major, Op. 100, D. 929,
8 p. m. Tuesday, March 5 at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Avenue (between Ellsworth & Dana).
A complimentary wine & cheese reception, with trhe opportunity to meet the arists, follows.