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New: Suspect in Berkeley Ashkenaz Robbery Identified as Rodeo Man

Sasha Lekach (BCN)
Wednesday March 20, 2013 - 12:41:00 PM

Berkeley police have released the name of a suspect in a robbery and shooting at the Ashkenaz Music and Dance Community Center last weekend. 

Christopher Washington, 25, of Rodeo, was arrested early Saturday morning after two armed suspects entered the music venue shortly after midnight and demanded cash from employees, according to Berkeley police. 

The suspects shot and wounded two employees before fleeing from the center, located at 1317 San Pablo Ave. 

Washington was arrested on suspicion of robbery, attempted murder and other felony charges, police said. He was booked into the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin on no bail. 

According to jail records, Washington was scheduled to appear in court at the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in Oakland this morning. 

The second suspect remains at large. 

The employees who were shot included Concord resident Larry Chin, who has worked at Ashkenaz for about 30 years and serves at the center's managing director. 

Chin was shot in the head, while the second employee, who has worked at the music venue for about five years, was struck in the arm, an Ashkenaz spokesman said.  

The robbery happened after a Friday night show celebrating the 40th anniversary of the center, which is an international music and dance venue and teaching center. 

Both victims have since been released from the hospital and are recuperating at home. 

The center posted on its Facebook page Monday evening that a benefit show is being planned for the victims. 

Donations are being accepted at the center's website at www.ashkenaz.com or by check send to 1317 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, CA, 94702.

Ashkenaz Employees Recovering after Berkeley Robbery

Sasha Lekach (BCN)
Tuesday March 19, 2013 - 09:57:00 PM

The managing director of a Berkeley music venue is recovering along with another employee who was shot during a robbery at the center early Saturday morning, a center spokesman said. 

Larry Chin, who has worked at Berkeley's Ashkenaz Music and Dance Community Center for about 30 years, was shot in the head just after midnight Saturday and another employee was struck in the arm at the center located at 1317 San Pablo Ave., Joe Balestreri said. 

The Ashkenaz Music and Dance Center is an international music and dance venue and teaching center. 

Chin was expected to be released from the hospital today, Balestreri said, and to go to his Concord home to continue his recovery. 

The other employee, who has worked at Ashkenaz for about five years, underwent an operation Sunday and is expected to fully recover, Balestreri said. 

The two were shot early Saturday morning when two armed suspects entered the center and demanded cash. The suspects shot and wounded Chin and the other employee before fleeing, Berkeley police said. 

Officers arrived on the scene within moments and attempted to stop one of the suspects who was fleeing from the area. 

The suspect ran into a yard and officers surrounded the block. 

Police conducted a yard-to-yard search of the area with the aid of an Alameda County sheriff's K-9 deputy and found the suspect hiding behind a building in the 1300 block of San Pablo Avenue. 

Police have not released the name of the suspect who was arrested. As of this afternoon, the second suspect remains at large.  

Balestreri, who has worked at the venue for 16 years, said this weekend a series of events were held for the center's 40th anniversary and continued as planned despite the early morning violence. 

"We felt a real solidarity over the weekend," he said with many supporters and former employees coming to anniversary events after hearing about the shooting.  

"All went well and smoothly and peacefully," he said. 

Before Saturday night's show a community leader led a prayer and ceremony for the two shooting victims, he said. 

The violent robbery has prompted Ashkenaz staff to re-evaluate their security policies, Balestreri said. 

Balestreri said the center is looking into having security staff and having less cash out. 

A security camera at the front door captured some of the violence and the footage has been given to Berkeley police investigators, he said. 

"I still feel completely safe here," he said, emphasizing the staff's prime concern is keeping patrons and employees protected. 

Balestreri said the community is generally peaceful and this was only the second violent incident in the venue's 40-year history. 

Those wishing to send donations or get well letters can find contact information on the center's website at www.ashkenaz.com. 

Anyone with any information about the robbery and shooting is asked to call the Berkeley Police Department at (510) 981-5742 or (510) 981-5900. Those who wish to remain anonymous may call Bay Area Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477.

Campaign launches to return Berkeley “Dreamer” from Mexico

Diana Bohn
Tuesday March 19, 2013 - 09:55:00 PM

Rodrigo was a happy nine-year-old fourth grader at Jefferson Elementary School in Berkeley, where he lived since he was two years old. On January 10, 2013, Rodrigo and his parents, Reyna Diaz Mayida and Javier Ponce Guzman, returning from a trip to Mexico, were detained at the border in Houston, Texas. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) authorities discovered that the father’s visa as well as the visas of Rodrigo and his mother had expired, so the entire family was denied entrance to the U.S. The family was told that they could not re-apply for a visa for five years.  

At the instigation of Rodrigo’s classmates and their parents, the Berkeley Unified School District unanimously passed a resolution on March 13, 2013, to support the return of Rodrigo and his family to Berkeley. On Tuesday March 19 at 7:00 pm at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, the Berkeley City Council will vote on their resolution Bring Rodrigo Home – Kids For Kids to support Rodrigo’s family’s return. This resolution urges President Barack Obama, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, and Senator Dianne Feinstein to write special legislation to grant assistance to the family.  

Rodrigo is having a terrible time adjusting to Mexico. He is stressed, vomits in the classroom and suffers from mosquito bites that cover his body. Rodrigo is sad and depressed about his uncertain future.  

In Berkeley, Rodrigo's classmates are determined to bring him home. Five of them want to go to Washington D.C. to testify in front of the Senate and Congress to ask for their classmate’s right to return to Berkeley. They are studying the struggles of Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez and Rosa Parks for justice and believe today is their moment to battle for a cause they believe is part of our democracy.  

Kyle Kuwahara, a classmate of Rodrigo’ wants to tell President Barack Obama: “This is our time to stand up like Cesar Chavez, Yuri Kochiyama and Dolores Huerta to fight for Rodrigo's rights. We have to fight for Rodrigo's rights because he is not able to do it himself!” 

The Bring Rodrigo Home-Kids for Kids” campaign will include a website and social media outreach with a petition asking for Rodrigo’s return. Rodrigo’s classmates, their parents, and Berkeley community groups are recruiting national youth, social justice, and ethnic and immigration organizations to help deliver thousands of petitions to our politicians.

Now Read This: ZAB Slams Rhoades' New Berkeley Push

Tuesday March 19, 2013 - 09:34:00 PM

In the Chronicle's "Berkeley Blog", a cogent report on the Berkeley Zoning Adjustment Board's negative review of the proposed downtown high rise...or you can watch the ZAB meeting yourself here.

Press Release: Berkeley Police Identify Ashkenaz Shooting Suspect in Custody

Officer Jennifer Coats, City of Berkeley Police Public Information Officer
Tuesday March 19, 2013 - 09:00:00 PM

We are releasing the name of the person arrested on the morning of March 16, 2013 in connection to the robbery and shooting at 1317 San Pablo Avenue, Ashkenaz Music and Dance Community Center.  

Arrested was Christopher James Washington, 25 years old of Rodeo.  

Washington is being charged with California Penal Code Violations 211-robbery, 187/664-attempted murder, 12022.53(d)-discharging a firearm during the commission of a felony causing great bodily injury and 12022.53(c)-discharging a firearm during the commission of a felony. 

We will not be releasing a booking photograph. This case is still active and our detectives are working hard following up on leads. The release of the photograph could jeopardize the overall investigation.  

We do not have any further updates to release at this time. 

Press Release: Berkeley School Board President Resigns

Mark Coplan
Monday March 18, 2013 - 11:21:00 AM

Berkeley School Board President Leah Wilson has recently been named the new Court Executive Officer (CEO) of the Alameda County Superior Court. Due to future potential conflicts of interest arising from her role as CEO and Clerk of the Court, Ms. Wilson is resigning from her position on the School Board. 

"Although I am thrilled by the incredible opportunity presented by my new leadership position with the Alameda County Superior Court, I am deeply saddened that I must resign from the School Board," said Ms. Wilson. "I have taken my role as an elected official, and my responsibility to the community that I represent, including District students and staff, and the broader Berkeley citizenry, very seriously. I apologize for not being able to fulfill my commitment, and will continue to work to support and improve Berkeley schools in whatever capacity I am able.” 

Ms. Wilson will resign her post on the School Board effective March 31, 2013. 

It is anticipated that the Board will seek applicants for a replacement appointment. Ms. Wilson’s resignation will be addressed at a Special Meeting at 6:25 p.m. on March 20, 2013, prior to the scheduled Board Study Session. The location for both will be in room 126 of the BUSD Administration Building at 2020 Bonar Street.

Odd Bodkins: Mom's Birthday And St. Pat (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Sunday March 17, 2013 - 05:40:00 PM

Here's a A St. Pat's Special from Dan O'Neill:  

Dan O'Neill


Updated: Ashkenaz Employees Shot in Berkeley Robbery In Stable Condition

Bay City News
Saturday March 16, 2013 - 06:23:00 PM

Two employees at a Berkeley music venue who were shot and wounded during an armed robbery early today are in stable condition and expected to recover, venue officials said today.  

Ashkenaz Music and Dance Community Center, a long-standing venue celebrating its 40th anniversary in the community, will remain open for performances this weekend, according to a statement released by the center's staff and board members this afternoon.  

"We are deeply touched by the support, love and concern expressed by so many in response to last night's events, in which two employees were shot in the course of a robbery," the statement said. 

The shooting and armed robbery occurred minutes after midnight at the 1317 San Pablo Ave. venue, Officer Jennifer Coats said. 

Two armed suspects entered the crowded center and demanded cash from employees. The suspects shot and wounded two of the employees before fleeing the business, Coats said. 

The wounded employees were taken to a local hospital to be treated for serious injuries.  

Officers arrived on the scene within moments and attempted to stop one of the suspects who was fleeing from the area. 

The suspect ran into a yard and officers surrounded the block. 

Police conducted a yard-to-yard search of the area with the aid of an Alameda County Sheriff's K-9 deputy and were found the suspect hiding behind a building in the 1300 block of San Pablo Avenue. 

During the search, area residents were notified of the incident and asked to stay inside their homes. 

Police have not released the name of the suspect who was arrested. The second suspect remains at large. 

Detectives are investigating the incident and attempting to locate the outstanding suspect. 

Police are urging anyone with any information about this morning's robbery and shooting to call the Berkeley Police Department at (510) 981-5742 or (510) 981-5900. Those who wish to remain anonymous may call Bay Area Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477. 

Police stressed that any information could be critical to solving this case. 

The Ashkenaz Music and Dance Center is an international music and dance venue and teaching center "committed to providing a great place to dance that supports local and international bands of both established and emerging artists in a respectful, comfortable, safe, and family atmosphere," according to its website.

Flash: Two Workers at Berkeley's Ashkenaz Shot in Midnight Robbery

Laura Dixon (BCN)
Saturday March 16, 2013 - 10:19:00 AM

Suspects shot and wounded two employees at a long-standing Berkeley music venue during an armed robbery early this morning, a police spokeswoman said.

The shooting and armed robbery occurred minutes after midnight at the Ashkenaz Music and Dance Community Center at 1317 San Pablo Ave., Officer Jennifer Coats said.

Two armed suspects entered the crowded center and demanded cash from employees. The suspects shot and wounded two of the employees before fleeing the business, Coats said. 

The wounded employees were taken to a local hospital to be treated for serious injuries. 

Officers arrived on the scene within moments and attempted to stop one of the suspects who was fleeing from the area. 

The suspect ran into a yard and officers surrounded the block. 

Police conducted a yard-to-yard search of the area with the aid of an Alameda County Sheriff's K-9 deputy and were found the suspect hiding behind a building in the 1300 block of San Pablo Avenue. 

During the search, area residents were notified of the incident and asked to stay inside their homes. 

Police have not released the name of the suspect who was arrested. The second suspect remains at large. 

Detectives are investigating the incident and attempting to locate the outstanding suspect. 

Police are urging anyone with any information about this morning's robbery and shooting to call the Berkeley Police Department at (510) 981-5742 or (510) 981-5900. Those who wish to remain anonymous may call Bay Area Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477. 

Police stressed that any information could be critical to solving this case. 

The Ashkenaz Music and Dance Center is an international music and dance venue and teaching center "committed to providing a great place to dance that supports local and international bands of both established and emerging artists in a respectful, comfortable, safe, and family atmosphere," according to its website. 

In 1996 Ashkenaz founder David Nadel was murdered by a drunk he refused to let back into the building. 

The non-profit celebrated its 40th anniversary on Thursday. 

Flash: Berkeley's Ashkenaz Robbed at Gun Point at Midnight; Two Employees Wounded;One Suspect Still At Large (BPD Press Release)

Ofc. Jennifer Coats Public Information Officer
Saturday March 16, 2013 - 10:15:00 AM

The Berkeley Police Department (BPD) is investigating the shooting of two employees during a robbery on March 16, 2013 at approximately 12:05 a.m., at the Ashkenaz Music and Dance Center, 1317 San Pablo Avenue. 

Two armed suspects entered the crowded business and demanded cash from the employees. During the robbery two employees were shot and wounded. 

BPD officers arrived on scene within moments and attempted to stop a subject who was fleeing from the area. The subject ran into a yard and officers quickly surrounded the block. 

Due to the violent nature of the crimes committed, BPD’s Barricaded Subject Hostage Negotiation Team (BSHNT) was called in to search for the suspect. As a safety precaution residents in the area were notified of the incident and asked to stay inside their homes. 

Berkeley Officers, working with an Alameda County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Deputy, conducted an extensive yard-to-yard search of the area looking for the suspect. During the search a suspect was located behind a building in the 1300 block of San Pablo Avenue and taken safely into custody. 

BPD’s Robbery and Homicide Detectives are investigating this robbery. One suspect remains at large. 

The injured employees were transported to a local hospital and treated for their serious injuries. 

BPD is urging anyone who may know anything about this incident to call the BPD Robbery detail at (510) 981-5742 or the 24 hour BPD non emergency number of (510) 981-5900. If a person wishes to remain anonymous, he/she can call Bay Area Crimes Stoppers (BACS) at (800)-222-TIPS (8477). Any information may be critical to solving this crime.

Graffitirazzi – A Hole-in-the-Wall on Haste

By Gar Smith
Friday March 15, 2013 - 04:13:00 PM
<b>The size of a small prison cell, the enclosed space expands upwards, rising two stories. A clean-looking folding mattress stands packed along the back wall. Peeling it away reveals walls scrawled with mystic notes and graphic shibboleths.
Gar Smith
The size of a small prison cell, the enclosed space expands upwards, rising two stories. A clean-looking folding mattress stands packed along the back wall. Peeling it away reveals walls scrawled with mystic notes and graphic shibboleths.
Gar Smith
Gar Smith
Gar Smith
It only took a moment to realize this ad hoc art gallery was not a temple of hygiene. The stench of unmopped urine became overwhelming and my clothes carried the scent long after I left. I briefly considered burning my shoes.
              But before leaving, I spotted a single, legible message: the only one that required no decoding. Nestled in the swirl of previous markings, someone had written a personal message.
Gar Smith
It only took a moment to realize this ad hoc art gallery was not a temple of hygiene. The stench of unmopped urine became overwhelming and my clothes carried the scent long after I left. I briefly considered burning my shoes. But before leaving, I spotted a single, legible message: the only one that required no decoding. Nestled in the swirl of previous markings, someone had written a personal message.

              Peering closer, it came into focus. It was a love note (in this, of all places) to someone named Eva who was some stranger's touchstone for beauty – something to reverence in this "whole wide world" of forests, deserts, oceans, mountains and desperate, downtown spend-a-night caves.
              Here's hoping that better days — and nights — await Eva and her anonymous beau.
Gar Smith
Peering closer, it came into focus. It was a love note (in this, of all places) to someone named Eva who was some stranger's touchstone for beauty – something to reverence in this "whole wide world" of forests, deserts, oceans, mountains and desperate, downtown spend-a-night caves. Here's hoping that better days — and nights — await Eva and her anonymous beau.
Gar Smith

Sometimes an open doorway leads to someone's last-ditch crash-pad. Walking down Haste Street, you may have passed one such hole-in-the-wall hideaway. It might go totally unnoticed, if it weren't for the peek-a-boo graffiti. Appropriately, this no-money-down retreat is located in the same building that houses a Dollar Store.

Berkeley Tech Student Assaulted, Robbed Near School

Bay City News
Friday March 15, 2013 - 05:34:00 PM

Police are searching for a suspect who assaulted and robbed a high school student in Berkeley on Wednesday morning.

Police responded to a report of a robbery in the area of Stuart and Milvia streets at about 11:35 a.m., Officer Jennifer Coats said.

The victim, a student at Berkeley Technology Academy, was walking in the area, a few blocks from the school, around 11 a.m. when the suspect approached him, Coats said.

Coats said the suspect, armed with a handgun, demanded the victim's property, but he refused.

The suspect proceeded to strike the student several times with the gun, Coats said. 

In the altercation, the victim lost his wallet, which police believe was taken by the suspect, she said. 

The victim walked back to his school where he placed the call to police, Coats said. The suspect was last seen running east on Stuart Street, she said. 

Coats said the victim was transported to a hospital to be treated for injuries not considered life-threatening. 

Police conducted an extensive search in the area for the suspect, but were unable to locate him, Coats said. 

The suspect is described as a black man in his 20s, standing about 5 feet 10 inches tall with a medium build. He was last seen wearing a black beanie cap, a gray hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans. 

During the search, King Child Development Center, located at 1939 Ward St., and Berkeley Technology Academy, at 2701 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, both within a few blocks of the incident, were placed on lockdown, Berkeley Unified School District spokesman Mark Coplan said. 

The lockdown was lifted in about a half hour, Coplan said.

Berkeley Man Sentenced for Possessing Destructive Device

Julia Cheever (BCN)
Friday March 15, 2013 - 05:37:00 PM

A man who was found to be storing a gun and apparent bomb-making materials in his Berkeley home in 2009 has been sentenced in U.S. District Court in Oakland to two years and three months in prison for two federal criminal counts.  

Emoru Oboke Obbanya, 31, was sentenced Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken.  

He pleaded guilty before Wilken in September to one count of possessing a destructive device -- namely, a flare gun that had been converted into a handgun -- and one count of possessing a gun without a serial number. 

The loaded, converted handgun and bomb-making materials, including what appeared to be a homemade explosive, were found by Berkeley police in a search of the home Obbanya shared with his parents on Grizzly Peak Boulevard on July 18, 2009, according to court documents. 

Police were responding to a 911 call in which the caller hung up before completing the call. Obbanya later said he accidentally dialed 911 when trying to call his father, whose cellphone number began with the numbers 918. 

Obbanya was originally charged in the state court system, but the case was transferred to federal court after he was indicted on the U.S. charges. 

Both prosecution and defense lawyers said in sentencing briefs that Obbanya had mental health issues and apparently had assembled the gun and explosives because he planned to commit suicide. 

Prosecutors wrote that Obbanya "committed serious crimes," but apparently with the goal of harming himself rather than others.  

Assistant Federal Public Defender Joyce Leavitt wrote that Obbanya's outlook has now improved and that he has taught himself computer programming and hopes to pursue a career in information technology after his release. 

The sentence of two years and three months was agreed to by both sides as part of the plea bargain.



The Berkeley Daily Planet After Ten Years: Why a Newspaper Now?

By Becky O'Malley
Friday March 15, 2013 - 02:35:00 PM

De profundis, a plaintive cry from a would-be Planet contributor: “I have no idea what you're doing, but every other publication on the planet can state what it's looking for. Until I get that from you, I won't be submitting.”

Well, yes, I can understand that sentiment, and it’s a wise decision he’s made. In the ten years since the O’Malley family launched this ship of fools, I’ve often wondered myself where it was supposed to be sailing.

It’s also been ten years next Wednesday since the Bush II administration launched an even more foolish endeavor, the pointless invasion of Iraq which resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths both Iraqi and American, and which has left behind it a ruined landscape in continuing chaos.

The two launches were not unconnected. From our first editorial, written by Becky with copious input from Mike and other family members: 

“Our agenda is a simple one: Tell people what’s going on, give them a paper to discuss it in, and trust that they’ll make the right decisions. The last few months have tested our belief in the wisdom of an informed public. One of the most discouraging aspects of the country’s turn toward the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive aggression is not how poorly it’s been covered in print. In fact, the failed effort to head off the Iraq war has produced an outpouring of some of the best prose this country has ever seen. Molly Ivins, Norman Mailer, Henrik Hertzberg, Tony Lewis, Jon Carroll: There’s a seemingly endless supply of cogent argument from articulate writers, and it doesn’t seem to have worked.”
Our first month of operation produced an outstanding example of how the mainstream press could get things really wrong. Technology columnist Henry Norr was fired from his job at the San Francisco Chronicle by then-editors Phil Bronstein and Robert Rosenthal, putatively for taking time off work to participate in an anti-war demonstration. 

The Planet’s op-ed pages hosted a variety of comments about the legality of the firing, but a year later Norr settled his suit. 

From my piece at the time

“The Chronicle’s Monday story about the settlement claims that ‘Norr’s termination occurred as a result of events arising out of his role in anti-war protests against the current war in Iraq.’ Norr concedes that his Iraq opposition, including his arrest in San Francisco, played a part in his eventual firing, but he thinks there’s more to the story.His statement, published in Monday’s Chronicle article, says that ‘because I didn’t violate the ethics policy the Chronicle had in place at the time, it is clear I was fired because of my political views—my opposition to the war in Iraq and Israel’s occupation of Palestine.’
“In an interview with the Daily Planet Monday, Norr went on to say that ‘I can’t prove it, but I have a strong suspicion that one of the main reasons I was fired is because of my support for Palestine.’
"Norr’s July 2002 column about a billion-dollar Israeli Intel plant built on land guaranteed to Palestinians in a 1948 treaty was the subject of a heated campaign by pro-Israel groups, and he incurred further criticism for a vacation trip to the Occupied Territories with the International Solidarity Movement.”
Bronstein and Rosenthal now run the Center for Investigative Reporting, lavishly funded by the late financier Warren Hellman and a major supplier of copy for the Chron. Norr has never again worked for a newspaper. That’s the ball game, fans. 

We should have learned from reporting on Norr’s experience that whose ox is gored can cause major bloodletting. A 2006 op-ed by an Iranian student criticizing actions of Zionists in general and the government of Israel in particular engendered a nasty campaign against the paper and its advertisers which ultimately contributed to the demise of the printed Planet. 

On Day One we did acknowledge that a Berkeley paper was not likely to alter world history “..but we still want to do what we can with what we’ve got. Local coverage well done can still give local citizens the information they need to take responsibility for the actions of local government.” 

We continue to believe that the truth might make the people free, but a better slogan might be that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink (or in its naughty schoolyard version, you can lead a whore to culture but you can’t make her [or him] think. ) 

It turns out that just giving citizens information doesn’t cause them to take responsibility for the actions of local government. Who knew? 

Berkeley, with no term limits, has turned into a gerontocracy wherein mayor and councilmembers once elected are set for life. Our city council is awash in retirees, the majority of whom were in office when we took over the Planet and before. Voters choose familiar names on the ballot with no understanding of what their position might be on key civic issues, if there indeed are any such. 

And it’s not as if we didn’t try to tell them what was coming down before it landed on them. Ten years ago, for example, the city boasted four public pools: now it has only one, and that one has severely restricted hours. We reported extensively on the step by step neglect and disintegration of the pools which have been destroyed under the Bates administration, but it had little or no effect on votes either at the ballot or in the city council or school board. Yet Berkeleyans still bemoan the loss of the pools with no clear understanding of why they went away—and they seem to be prepared to eternally re-elect all the politicians responsible . 

The current online-only publication, with no employees and no budget, can’t contribute much to the public discourse—it’s just a pale shadow of what we were doing in print. But we lost much too much money on the print paper and can’t afford to do it again. 

We are deeply grateful to the citizen volunteers who have stepped up to the plate to provide coverage online, but working for free (some even with full-time day jobs) they can’t be expected to report all the news all the time. Other civic-minded people who could be contributing have understandably decided not to take advantage of the free internet space which we’ve been offering, choosing other ways to make their voices heard or perhaps getting weary of the whole megillah. 

We get statistics on “page views” which seem to show that a lot of people, in the tens of thousands at times, are still reading the online Planet, but we know that compared to the former print readers it’s a drop in the bucket. There are still a thousand or so “subscribers”, people who are so determined to see what we offer that they’ve signed up for a weekly email which provides hot links to major stories. 

With the aid of a local copy shop, for a short time after the print version folded we provided a way that stories from the website could be printed up on demand for those who couldn’t or wouldn’t read on screen. Unfortunately threats by the usual suspects scared the printshop owners enough that they decided not to continue that project. 

Ten years later, our oldest granddaughter is graduating from high school, and the others aren’t far behind. We’d like to enjoy them while we can, and we have other projects and responsibilities as well. Deadlines are seeming onerous. 

It’s again time to consider the question our confused wannabe reporter raised: why are we here and what do we want to do? 

There’s now a patchwork quilt of Berkeley-centric publications both online and in print which when agglomerated do a pretty fair job of letting the small number of those who care find out what’s going on. That might be enough. What do you think? 

As always, we welcome your comments, as long as you’re willing to sign your name to back them up. The address is still opinion@berkeleydailyplanet.com





The Editor's Back Fence

Which Berkeley Is It in the San Francisco Chronicle?

Sunday March 17, 2013 - 03:03:00 PM

Which Berkeley article do you read in the Comical?

A couple of weeks ago, they published a Sunday front page piece by Carolyn Jones that took a dim view of the situation on Telegraph Avenue, one of Berkeley’s traditionally most profitable shopping streets. It noted that things on Teley have gone badly downhill in the last few years (oddly enough during the decade when Tom Bates was mayor):”… sales tax revenues on Telegraph have plummeted, and empty storefronts abound. The intersection of Haste and Telegraph is marred by two vacant lots, and the former Cody's bookstore - once a hub of intellectual life - has sat empty since 2006."

But this week, only two weeks later, it seems everything’s actually coming up roses in Berkeley. This Sunday’s front page proclaims that “Berkeley mayor pushes city to prosperity.”  

Jones glows approvingly in a long gushy puff piece: “Call it Pax Berkeleyana. Crime has plummeted to its lowest level in 50 years. Schools have improved. Home values have remained high (the median home price is $720,000, according to the most recent census figures). Major hubs for environmental and disability rights groups have opened. Hotels, theaters and galleries are all thriving, and more are on the way." 

I guess it’s possible to have it both ways if you hire the right PR firm to hold hands with the press. Does anyone out there know who's flacking for Tom Bates these days? Both his chief of staff and the city's public information officer quit recently, and if you believe the city web site they haven't been replaced. 

I’m not a betting woman, but if I were I’d bet that Bates is finally poised to make a play for the appointment to UC’s Board of Regents that he’s rumored to have been coveting for a while now. That would create an opening for him to anoint a successor to the Mayor’s job, in the time-honored tradition of the Bates-Hancock dynasty.


Odd Bodkins: When too much is not enough. (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Thursday March 14, 2013 - 12:17:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Odd Bodkins: The Celestial Rockpile, etc. (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Thursday March 14, 2013 - 12:13:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Public Comment

New: Rent Board Assertion on Landlord Reinvestment Absurd

By Sid Lakireddy, President, Berkeley Property Owners Association
Tuesday March 19, 2013 - 12:44:00 PM

The Berkeley Rent Board is as is as predictable on rent control as the National Rifle Association is on gun control. In both cases, the underlying assumptions are up front and the ultimate proclamation a foregone conclusion. Stephen Barton is long-time advocate of rent control and has worked for or with the Board for years. Each of his many studies for the Board has been structured to support the program. His latest effort, a summarization of his report in the form of an article in these pages written with Rent Board Chair Lisa Stephens, is no exception. 

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day and some of what the Stephens/Barton article reports is factually correct, or at least logically feasible. Phased-in the late 1990s, the state law known as Costa/Hawkins precluded the Rent Board from setting the new rent on a voluntarily vacated apartment. It granted the property owner the right to establish an initial rent for a new tenancy at market level (not without limitation as the Stephens/Barton piece states). The current aggregate increase in all rents in Berkeley after 15 years of Costa/Hawkins is conceivably over $100 million as reported and these higher rents, roughly applying standard real estate appraisal methods, would translate into greater value for the entire Berkeley rental housing stock of over $1B. How this came about and what it means, however, is not quite what rent control enthusiasts Stephens and Barton imply. 

The legislature of the State of California has never been enthusiastic about rent control. It passed a law in 1977 which preempted local controls. Then Governor Jerry Brown vetoed this legislation stating that he thought that cities ought to be able to experiment with rent controls. This legislation was not veto- proof and the Governor got his wish. While the legislative sentiment to preclude or limit controls remained, there were two powerful Senators in key positions who were pro-controls and for two decades, they did not allow any such legislation to get to the floor of the Senate. Passage in the Assembly was always assured; passage in the upper body was probable but precluded by the efforts of Senators Dave Roberti (President Pro Tem) and Nick Petris (who chaired the Judiciary Committee and represented Berkeley). 

Once avowed Progressives gained control of the elected Rent Board, enforcement of The Berkeley rent law got more and more capricious and draconian. Senator Petris was by comparison a moderate and stories of abuse, particularly from people he know well, finally turned him around. It is the abuses of the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board that ultimately led to the demise of vacancy controls which were mainstay of the Berkeley ordinance. Whether Steve Barton, Lisa Stephens and the Rent Board like it or not, vacancy decontrol/re-control is now the limit of acceptable rent control practice in California. Costa/ Hawkins is the result of the experimentation Jerry Brown wanted. It is also a policy that was driven by reasonableness, political compromise and, in the end, mainly by Berkeley’s own zealotry toward property owners. If any single entity was responsible for Costa/Hawkins, it was the Berkeley Rent Control Board. 

While the magnitude of rent increases reported by Stephens and Barton may be accurate, their claim that only six percent of that money has been reinvested in the rental housing stock is ridiculous. In his study, Barton takes all improvements for which permits were issued and triples the permit estimate, appearing thereby to be generous in what he credits to owners in the way of improvements. What this ignores, of course, is the much, much higher, routine expenditures on improvements which are done without permits. Sometimes owners do in fact do work without permits but much more often, the work done does not require a permit.  

To cherry out an apartment vacated by a long-term tenant, which typically could include sanding floors or new carpet, repainting, new fixtures, correcting all defects and putting in a new kitchen with new appliances, can easily run $12-15,000. None of this required a permit. I know of a building upgraded last year with a fresh exterior paint job, a new roof and the replacement of one hundred 80-year old windows. The total expenditure was over $160,000, very little of which would show up in Barton’s permit-based estimate of landlord expenditures. Only the roof required a permit. Barton’s claim that increased property maintenance since Costa /Hawkins is only $300/unit/year (6% of $100M divided by 20K units) is total unsupported by his assumptions. This claim of minimal reinvestment is the crux of his report and it is just plain wrong. 

The Berkeley rental housing market is currently strong but it is also getting more and more competitive. With thousands of new units coming on line, owners are spending freely to make their properties more competitive. Steve Barton has no way of measuring this. His use of permit data as a surrogate to determine how much is being poured back into Berkeley rental property is seriously flawed. No one knows exactly how much more is being spent since the advent of Costa/Hawkins but the owners of rental housing know individually and we have a sense as to the aggregate. Six percent does not begin to measure the improvements being made. It isn’t even close.

Updated: Berkeley Police Deliver Mental Health Services Rodeo Style!

from Berkeley Copwatch
Saturday March 16, 2013 - 05:45:00 PM

This video was provided to Berkeley Copwatch on Wednesday March 13, 2013 by individuals who happened to be on the scene at the time. 


This incident is especially disturbing for several reasons. 


  1. Where is Jeremy Carter? The man in this video says his name is Jeremy Carter. Berkeley Copwatch has contacted Berkeley police, Santa Rita jail and John George Hospital. As of 3/16/13 none of these institutions has a record of any interaction with this person. WE DEMAND THAT BPD RELEASE INFORMATION ABOUT PERSONS TAKEN INTO THEIR CUSTODY AND THE NAMES OF PEOPLE WHO DIE IN THEIR CUSTODY.
  1. According to witnesses, this person was not violent or resisting the officers involved. Although it alleged that he had a stay away order related to the library, he was not alleged to have harmed himself or anyone else. Were police justified in taking this person into custody and were they justified in using the level of force and restraints shown in this video?
  1. According to dispatch records and the officer, this encounter became a “mental health” evaluation. If this is how people with mental health issues are treated in Berkeley at 11:30am on a busy city street, it raises troubling questions about what happened to Kayla (Xavier) Moore on February 12 in Berkeley when police decided to do a “medical eval” on her in her home. She died and if this is how BPD approaches these types of encounters, it is likely that BPD escalated the situation and then used great physical force on her.
  1. Why are Berkeley officers continuing to harass bystanders who are attempting to monitor the actions of officers? Why are they putting their hands on copwatchers?





Please read the following witness statements: 


Witness #1 


At approximately 11:20 on Wednesday, march 13, 2013, I witnessed the Berkeley police act in an inexplicably violent and brutal manner toward citizen Jeremy Carter. They acted without provocation. 


My co-worker and I were on a coffee break from our jobs in the Human Resources Department of Berkeley Unified School District. We parked on Kitteredge near Shattuck. As we pulled into the parking spot, I saw two officers standing on either side of what appeared to be an African-American youth in front of the Berkeley Public Library, directly across the street from where we had parked. An officer was holding the man's arm behind his back in what appeared to be an awkward, unnatural angle. Concerned that he was a Berkeley High School student, we exited the car to approach. When we were approximately half way across the street, approximately four additional officers arrived and the young man was thrown and was being held down on the cement. My co-worker returned to get her phone from the car as I proceeded across the street. 


I witnessed the young man passively submit to several officers placing a mesh hood taut on his face and proceed to place him in a restraining jacket and then hog-tie him. There was blood smeared across the tight mesh hood at his mouth. I never lost sight of the young man from the time he was standing passively with his arm held behind his back to the time he was on the ground, hooded, bound and bloodied. The young man never showed any resistance, neither physically nor verbally. In fact, as he lay passively, he apologized and told the officers he was scared several times. By this time, several people gathered to watch this horrifying scene, several of whom questioned the police action as the young man was clearly passive, scared and injured. The police reacted aggresively toward the onlookers . At one point, Officer Badge #18 crossed into the street where my co-worker Tracie De Angelis was filming on her cell phone, and violently and aggressively pushed her backward! Moments before he had warned her to back up by pushing her less aggressively. 


She complied by moving into the street where he followed her, pushing her harder. I have never witnessed police officers so out of control and impervious to the safety and welfare of citizens. At no time did the restrained young man resist in any way, nor did anyone witnessing the police action act in a way that could be construed as interfering other than to observe, film, and express horror and concern for the young man. When asked by an observer what the young man had done, Officer Badge 18 # responded that he did not have to disclose that. Several people verbalized that the young man needed medical attention, and several of us considered calling 911 ourselves. Finally, after over half an hour of being bloodied, an ambulance arrived whereupon the frightened, passive and injured young man was loaded onto a stretcher, fully wrapped and hooded. This young man, who identified himself as Jeremy Carter, was never the least bit aggressive in any way from the time I spotted him standing upright with his arm pulled behind his back, to the time he was carted away on a stretcher. 


As a 45-year old mother and Berkeley School employee, I am shocked by what I witnessed today- the total disregard for human dignity and safety by the Berkeley Police, as well as their demonstration of utter disdain for the everyday citizens expressing concern and exercising right of assembly and speech while showing caring and concern for a fellow citizen who was clearly being abused and injured. 


Witness #2: 

At approx 1120 am today, march 13, 2013, I witnessed an incident of police brutality of a young, black man on Kittredge St in Berkeley. I parked on Kittredge street for my coffee break. At first there were 2 cop cars with the young man. This took place in front of Berkeley public Library. The cop cars were parked at different angles:one coming from Milvia,one coming from Shattuck. At the beginning, they had the young man with his arm behind his back. We then got out of the car to make sure that nothing further escalated. The next thing we saw was he was put onto the ground face down. He had not resisted arrest. At this point we were not sure why they put him on the ground. 

At that point I went to get my phone to film. Somewhere in between the time they put him facedown and I got my phone, another three or four cop cars arrived. The rest I have on videotape but what I can describe is they put a spit mask on him and they hogtied him .You can hear on the videotape that the young man was very scared. He was not resisting arrest at any point in time. At one point, Ofc. number 18 pushed me. You can see on the video. He also pushed me a second time when I was out in the street and threatened to arrest me. The other badge number I could get was number 27. It was when I tried to get closer to get the other officers badge numbers that officer number 18 pushed me. I asked them what they were arresting him for. They would not tell me. I asked them why they hogtied him. They told me he was being violent and aggressive. At no point did I see him be violent or aggressive. 

All of it is on videotape and you can see from the video tape that the young man was very scared and was not resisting. I asked him his name. His name was Jeremy Carter. I tried to find out from TJ Curtin who was the sergeant on duty what he was being arrested for, what crime he committed and where they were going to take him: I understand this is to be public information but he would not give me any of that information. At one point I saw blood coming out of Jeremy's mouth and I was not sure what this was from: perhaps when they put him facedown he was injured. I asked on the videotape (you can hear) if they would be bringing an ambulance because he was bleeding from his mouth. the ambulance did arrive and they put him on a gurney and they would not tell me where they were taking him. You can hear on the tape that I did ask TJ Curtain, the seargent, some questions that he refused to answer. This is a case of police brutality and aggression on a young man who was not a threat in any way. 

Rand Paul’s Filibuster on Drones

By Tejinder Uberoi
Friday March 15, 2013 - 03:17:00 PM

Unfortunately, Rand Paul’s filibuster concerning the issue of drones was more political theater than addressing the more critical issues surrounding these terrifying weapons.

Of far greater importance is their clear violation of international law, invading the sovereignty of other nations and targeting their citizenry – often with appalling results. It is worth repeating the results of a Stanford Law School/NYU and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism at City University in London which estimated 98% of drone attacks killed or injured innocent civilians. General McCrystal warned that such attacks are creating a visceral hatred of the US and has served to be a great recruitment tool of our foes. It defies logic why President Obama should persist in this failed and dangerous policy. 

Due process must not be bypassed for the sake of expediency. Minimizing ‘boots on the ground’ logic is extremely vacuous. Those boots should never have been in foreign lands in the first place. 

If Congress is bamboozled into granting unchecked presidential powers it creates an extremely dangerous precedent. Such powers could easily be expanded and misused to usher in future dictatorial presidents who could use them to target political enemies. 

We were outraged when terrorists violated our cherished land and committed violence on 9/11. How can we be so insensitive to other countries sentiments when so many innocent, cherished lives have so been cruelly aborted? 

Short Takes on Big Stuff

Carol Denney, Helen Rippier Wheeler, Ron Lowe
Friday March 15, 2013 - 03:04:00 PM

Thank you for Steven Finacom's excellent rebuttal of the annual weep-in over Telegraph Avenue. I get my largest hanky out once a year to accommodate the fact-free flow of tears most of the media laps up over Telegraph Avenue's mythological woes. 

Carol Denney 

District 8 Supervisor Gordon Wozniak, quoted on berkeleyside.com, told the Council: "There should be something like a bit tax. I mean a bit tax could be a cent per gigabit and they would still make, probably, billions of dollars a year… And there should be, also, a very tiny tax on email," perhaps one-hundredth of a cent. 

He said this would discourage spam and not have much impact on the typical Internet user. Wozniak went on to suggest a sales tax on internet transactions that could help, in part, fund "vital functions that the post office serves." 

Alas, the senior citizen/older person/elder is not likely to be a typical Internet user, and is even less likely to reside in District 8 or a UC,B dorm. Senior citizens are increasingly using the Internet by means of instruction and accessibility at public libraries and some senior centers. Low-income seniors and disabled persons, especially the hearing-impaired, rely on email to communicate with the "outer world." For them, there is no such thing as a very tiny tax.  

Helen Rippier Wheeler 

It must be terrifying to live in Wayne Lapierre's world. The NRA's leader has demonstrated how far off the deep end his organization has gone by arguing against any new gun control laws whatsoever.  

LaPierre insists that every sane American should be loading up on as many firearms as possible, describing the country on the edge of fiscal and social collapse. His America is full of terrorists, gangsters, and roaming mobs of looters and rapists prowling the streets, looking for unarmed prey. And to think, there are millions more just like him.  

It's a wonder the guy ever comes out from under his bed. In reality, violent crime is at a two-decade low.  

Guns, moreover, are far more likely to be used in homicides and suicides than in self-defense. But survivalists like LaPierre live in their own little world - a cold and scary place where you can't trust anyone, and only lethal force can protect you.  

Ron Lowe  

Nevada City, CA


THE PUBLIC EYE: Searching for Republican Soul

By Bob Burnett
Friday March 15, 2013 - 02:57:00 PM

Despite the pugnacity of its leaders, the Republican Party is in bad shape. In 2012 it lost the Presidency, the Senate, and the popular vote for the House of Representatives. More important, it has lost its identity. Other than opposition to everything President Obama proposes, Republicans have no vision for America. Nonetheless, like an aging parent that no longer drives but truculently holds onto the keys to the car so no one else can use it, Republicans are part of the national political process: a perpetual stumbling block. How did they get this way and is there any chance they could find their soul? 

Liberals might clap their hands in glee at the sad state of the Grand Old Party, if it were not for the fact that it is almost impossible to move forward on any of the major issues facing the nation – jobs, taxes, global climate change, immigration, gun control, whatever – without support from some Republican members of the 113th Congress. And, with a few notable exceptions, such as bi-partisan support for the Violence Against Women Act, most Republicans seem content to rail against President Obama and join hands as the Party of No. 

The erosion of the Republican brand spans fifty years. In 1964 the GOP launched its Southern Strategy of weaning southern white voters away from the Democratic Party by appealing to racism against African-Americans. The two Parties realigned with Democrats as liberals and Republicans as conservatives. Before this era, there had been some liberals and some conservatives in both parties, a situation that made it easier to form coalitions and pass legislation. After 1964, Republicans and Democrats moved away from each other both philosophically and socially. 

The Republican brand reached its apex, in 1980, with the election of President Reagan. Conservative economists infused American political discourse with three malignant notions: helping the rich get richer would inevitably help everyone else; markets were inherently self correcting; and, “government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.” 

The Republican brand lost its allure during the George W. Bush presidency when it became clear that “Reaganomics” had failed and Republican leaders were incompetent. Nonetheless, the GOP didn’t go through a “rebranding” exercise and offer Americans a new conservative vision. Instead, Republicans made a series of back-room deals to hold onto their power. They joined forces with the US Chamber of Commerce to promote corporate interests and aligned with the conservative Club for Growth to combat fears of global climate change and promote conservative candidates. This accelerated the GOP slide to the far right. Finally, in 2010, the Republican Party embraced the nascent Tea party movement with the result that more than 50 ultra-conservatives became members of Congress. 

In 2012, the GOP retained control of the House of Representatives, but eviscerated their brand. Pew Research found 

the Republican Party’s overall image stands at one of the lowest points in nearly two decades… 33% of the public had a favorable view of the GOP, compared with 58% who held an unfavorable impression of the party. Majorities of both Democrats and independents viewed the Republican Party unfavorably (83% and 58%, respectively).
62 percent of poll respondents felt the GOP to be “out of touch with the American people,” including 36 percent of self-identified Republicans. 

Meanwhile the tides of national demographics are moving against Republicans. In 1964 the GOP decided to become the party of white men and in the process lost people of color, urbanites, and women. In 2012, Obama won 93 percent of the black vote, 73 percent of the Asian, 71 percent of the Hispanic, and 56 percent of women. 

In addition, Republicans now have to live with the consequences of having partnered with the darkest elements of the American electorate: greedy billionaires, racists, militias, and the “sovereign nation” movement. The Republican majority in the House depends upon the support of self-identified anarchists who pledge never to compromise, want to dismantle the federal government, and preach the President is intent upon suspending the Constitution and forcing socialism on the US. 

Having traveled so far down this dark road, the Republican Party has no easy path to reclaim its soul. They could attempt to muddle along – take advantage of the districts they gerrymandered in 2010 – and hope their brand is magically revitalized. This strategy is unlikely to change their fortunes at the national level. But there is a frightening possibility that House Republicans will force a crisis: tank the economy or worse. 

Of course, the Republicans might reinvent themselves and cast out the most extreme members of their caucus. That, in effect, is what Karl Rove is advocating by raising money to protect “orthodox” Republicans from challenges by Tea Party candidates. The problem with this course of action is that Republicans risk losing control of the House in the process. 

Nonetheless, as Think Progress contributor, Zack Beauchamp, notes, America needs a rational GOP to serve as a countervailing force. Everyone who is serious about governing the US should pray for Republicans to regain their soul. 

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

ECLECTIC RANT: Is Pope Francis the Right Choice to Fix a Church in Disarray?

By Ralph E. Stone
Friday March 15, 2013 - 02:54:00 PM

As the whole world now knows, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected Pope (Pope Francis). Clearly, the cardinals saw him as a safe, compromise choice. In other words, a keeper of the status quo. He holds traditional Catholic Church views. Otherwise he would not have been elected. He opposes abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, adoption by gays and lesbians, and contraception. 

He was criticized by human rights activists for not openly confronting the terrorism by the Argentine dictatorship in the 1970s that was kidnapping and killing thousands of people as it sought to eliminate "subversive elements." In fact, a human rights lawyer has filed a criminal complaint against Bergoglio, accusing him of involvement in the 1976 kidnappings of two priests. At the time, he was the superior in the Society of Jesus of Argentina. 

How will he deal with the various scandals facing the Catholic Church? The most pressing, of course, is the widespread allegations of sexual child abuse by Catholic clergy and the coverup by church officials. A study conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice found that 10,669 allegations of child sexual abuse were reported to church officials in the U.S. alone between 1950 and 2002. 

Similar crimes have occurred in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Italy, and elsewhere. And according to a complaint filed by The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) on behalf of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) before the International Criminal Court, between 1981 and 2005, there are more than 100,000 sexual abuse victims. 

The CCR complaint alleges that Vatican officials, including then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, ignored information that subordinates were committing these crimes and engaged in a widespread coverup of such abuse. The complaint alleges that since 1981, when Ratzinger headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he had primary responsibility for dealing with the clergy sex crimes. His refusal to decisively address the epidemic – and discipline Church officials who protected predator priests – was exacerbated when he became Pope. The Pope's butler, Paolo Gabriele, was arrested and charged with stealing and leaking papal correspondence revealing how the Vatican was a centre of intrigue and infighting.  

And then there is the "Vatileaks" incident. Supposedly there is a secret "dossier" alleging the existence of a gay lobby within the Church, who had some sort of control on the careers of those in the Vatican. And further, the dossier alleges that members of this group were blackmailed by laymen with whom they entertained relationships of a "worldly nature." 

There is some speculation that these scandals caused Pope Benedict to resign.  

Will Pope Francis "fix" these scandals by sweeping them under the rug or institute real reform? I suspect the former, but only time will tell. 

The larger question is whether the Catholic Church has become too rich, powerful, and corrupt to continue. If so, perhaps the Pope should cede all the church holdings to the poor and resume the church's mission in poverty.  

Is this likely? A emphatic "no."

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Tortuous Side Effects of Antipsychotic Medication

By Jack Bragen
Friday March 15, 2013 - 02:58:00 PM

Psychiatric medication, ideally, is a tool to help persons with mental illness become and remain functional in life. Medication should not be an enemy. 

However, among medications, antipsychotic ones in particular sometimes have side effects that can make life seem unbearable. To understand this, the reader would have to try taking this type of medication, and a lot of it, over a long period of time. Taking antipsychotic medication is sometimes a source of agony. 

Some people get worse side effects than others. Some medications work better than others, from person to person, both in terms of minimizing side effects and (as a separate issue) in terms of effectiveness. When someone is first hospitalized, the psychiatrists are supposed to try a patient on several different medications to see which ones give a person less side effects, and which ones do the job of making the patient better. 

The misery of side effects, if someone is on the wrong medication or the wrong dosage, can be enough to make someone go noncompliant with taking medication, or worse. 

Typical side effects of antipsychotic medications (the ones that almost every patient gets and not the "serious" ones) include muscle stiffness, dry mouth, a horrible drugged feeling, being depressed, "motor restlessness," inability to concentrate and being unable to perform simple work tasks. Antipsychotic medication treats psychosis by means of blocking the neurotransmitters of the brain. It does this across the board. 

Psychiatrists often prescribe a second drug, called an antiparkinsonian, to help with some of the side effects. However, these secondary medications also have their own side effects. 

Antipsychotic medication can also kill you. "Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome" refers to an adverse medication reaction (characterized by muscle rigidity, fever and delirium) which can result in death. 

Antipsychotic medication can cause involuntary movements of the tongue, face and upper body-a reaction called "Tardive Dyskinesia." This reaction to medication is debilitating, disfiguring, and is often irreversible, including when the medication is stopped. 

These adverse reactions are not "one in a million" as the people vending these medications might want you to believe. When someone takes antipsychotic medication, they are taking a genuine risk. 

A glut of newer antipsychotic medications has been invented in the past two decades, most of them known as "atypical antipsychotics." Originally these newer medications were touted as having fewer side effects compared to the older class of drugs. However, over time it has become clear that this claim is not accurate. 

When I was first hospitalized in the 1980's, I was put on Haldol, and this made me unable to focus my eyes, and did other weird things to me. The doctors believed I didn't react well to Haldol. When I was to be released from hospitalization, they gave me a drug called, "Prolixin," and I was miserable on it. 

However, after taking prolixin for over a year, my side effects eased up. In 1985, I was able to take electronics training, and I was dating a girlfriend. After a four-month technical course, I got a job as an electronics technician performing TV and VCR repair. I worked in repair of home electronics for several years that followed. (It was a struggle for me to keep jobs for reasons unrelated to the medication.) 

By then, I was able to use meditation to deal with the discomfort of medication side effects. Being medicated became my new normal, and I essentially forgot what it was like not to take medication. The human mind is supremely adaptable, and I had adapted to being medicated. 

Medication side effects are no walk in the park. They can make a person extremely uncomfortable for a very long period of time. Side effects are a major cause of persons with mental illness being noncompliant with taking medications. When you force a person with mental illness to take medication, you are asking a lot. 

I took prolixin for about nineteen years before switching to ample dosages of the newer medications. While I still get a lot of medication side effects, which most of the time I ignore, the newer medications that I take, in combination with meditation practices, have given me a better level of mental clarity compared to taking the older medications. 

(I had several episodes of medication noncompliance over the past thirty years, and one of my main reasons for this has been the anguish of medication side effects. However, since 1996, I have remained medicated. And this is partly due to the influence of my wife, who I first met in 1994.) 

* * * 

My two mental health related books, "Instructions for Dealing With Schizophrenia: A Self-Help Manual," and "Jack Bragen's Essays on Mental Illness," are available on Amazon. I can be reached with your comments at bragenkjack@yahoo.com but I can not give any advice to individuals.

Arts & Events

West Edge Premieres Gauguin Opera in April

By Maura Lafferty
Friday March 15, 2013 - 03:18:00 PM
The post-Impressionist painter Paul Gauguin, sung by baritone Anders Froehlich and his Inner Voice, sung by soprano Shawnette Sulker in the American premiere of Fabrizio Carlone’s Bonjour M. Gauguin at West Edge Opera April 6, 12 and 14.
Chelsea Rowe
The post-Impressionist painter Paul Gauguin, sung by baritone Anders Froehlich and his Inner Voice, sung by soprano Shawnette Sulker in the American premiere of Fabrizio Carlone’s Bonjour M. Gauguin at West Edge Opera April 6, 12 and 14.

West Edge Opera continues its 2013 season with the American premiere of Italian composer Fabrizio Carlone’s Bonjour M. Gauguin on Saturday, April 6 at 8 pm, with repeat performances on Friday, April 12 at 8 pm, and Sunday, April 14 at 3 pm. 

The production, co-directed by Yannis Adoniou of Kunst-Stoff Arts and West Edge Opera General Director Mark Streshinsky, features Anders Froehlich as the post-Impressionist painter Paul Gauguin and Shawnette Sulker as Gauguin’s inner voice. Nicole Takesono, Keith Perry and Paul Murray represent an array of characters from Gauguin’s life. Kunst-Stoff Dancers complete the cast. 

Mary Chun conducts an ensemble of musicians from sfSound and video designer Jeremy Knight brings Gauguin’s paintings to life through creative motion-video. Performances take place at the El Cerrito Performing Arts Theater, 540 Ashbury Avenue (at El Cerrito High School). The production is a collaboration with Kunst-Stoff Arts and sfSound. 

Bonjour M. Gauguin is a multi-media work that combines music, theater, dance and video. It premiered in Venice in 2005, and West Edge Opera’s production represents the American premiere and only its second staged production. With a title taken from one of Paul Gauguin’s own paintings and a libretto using the original writings of Gauguin and his contemporaries, the painter participates in a probing self-study set to music. 

Anders Froehlich, who portrays Paul Gauguin, started his musical training at 10 years old as a pianist, and, at 12, entered the Connecticut Conservatory for the Arts where he studied ballet, acting and singing. After graduation he spent two years studying ballet and music at Indiana University Bloomington, where he danced leads in all productions, including Rite of Spring . 

Since that time he has become a full time singer and has performed with San Francisco Opera, Los Angeles Opera, San Jose Opera and several other companies in the Bay Area. His dance background makes him uniquely qualified for this production, which utilizes both skills. 

For more information: www.westedgeopera.org

AROUND AND ABOUT THEATER: Spring Show for Woodminster Musicals: 'Little Shop of Horrors'

By Ken Bullock
Thursday March 14, 2013 - 03:08:00 PM

Woodminster Summer Musicals has announced a Spring Thing: 'Little Shop of Horrors,' staged March 14-24 at the Regents Theatre in the Valley Center for the Performing Arts at Holy Names College, 3500 Mountain Road, in the Oakland Hills. 

Thursdays through Saturday nights at 7, Sundays at 2 (a 7 p. m. show as well, Sunday March 23). Tickets: $30-$50. 

339-0241, woodminster.com

New: Berkeley Copwatch Democratic Education Series:
Federalization of Police: Update on the Battle to Control OPD

Friday March 15, 2013 - 05:43:00 PM

Oakland based civil rights attorney James Chanin will discuss the federalization of Oakland police and the recent movement to hire William Bratton, the champion of “Stop and Frisk” policing. With over 40 years in the struggle for police accountability, from the establishment of the Berkeley Police Review Commission to the Negotiated Settlement Agreement (NSA) that guides Oakland’s police, James Chanin is a leading voice in the fight to stop police abuse. 

FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC March 18 at 6pm 2022 Blake Street (in Berkeley) (510) 548-0425 berkeleycopwatch@yahoo.com

EYE FROM THE AISLE; Reprise of “The Couch” about Freud, Jung and his women wins for Women’s History Month

By John A. McMullen II
Thursday March 14, 2013 - 03:10:00 PM
Courtney Walsh, Peter Ruocco, Maggie Mason, Louis Parnell (top)
Jim Norrena
Courtney Walsh, Peter Ruocco, Maggie Mason, Louis Parnell (top)

It was in the middle of the first act that I said to myself, “Hey! I’ve seen this play before.” Thirty years ago I was working for the Magic Theatre and Lynne Kaufman’s “The Couch” played there. There is an excellent reprise of it directed by Amy Glazer and produced by 3 Girls Theatre Company at 533 Sutter Street in San Francisco in SF above the Shelton Theatre. 

The highlight of the show is the child actress Hattie Rose Allen Bellino, daughter of the other playwright in the 3 Girls production Suze Allen whose play “3 Shorts “ plays in rep with “The Couch” (didn’t get to see that one) through the end of March. Maggie Mason as Jung’s mistress and protégé Antoinette Wolf and Courtney Walsh playing his wife Emma are the main roles and are both done with aplomb and believability—Freud (played by Louis Parnell) and Jung (played by Peter Ruocco) are ancillary to this feminist script. The story is: what happens when the mistress wants to steal the master away from the wife? It’s timely for Women’s History Month. 

The story follows the quirks of Jung and his conflict with Freud’s emphasis on the sexual. Playwright Kaufman plumbed the historical material well for this condensed psychoanalytical biographical snapshot. 

The set has a starring role. The extraordinary construction along the wide but not so deep stage invites us into a place we’d like to live. Peeks into the hall, garden, kitchen pantry fill us with the a sense of depth and verisimilitude. The set decoration is near perfection c. 1910 from the dried herbs in the kitchen to the crucifix above the door—which Freud surprisingly never alludes to. Set and properties were designed by Alicia Griffiths. 

Three Girls Theatre Company was founded by Suze Allen, AJ Baker and Lee Brady, and has the mission of putting “women’s work on stage…where it belongs.”  

The Couch” by Lynne Kaufman 

Directed by Amy Glazer 

Produced by Three Girls Theatre Company 

At 533 Sutter SF through March 21 



With: Maggie Mason*, Louis Parnell*, Peter Ruocco*, Courtney Walsh* and introducing Hattie Rose Allen Bellino. Set & props by Alicia Griffiths, Costumes by Susannah Mason, Lighting by Claire Kendrick, 

Sound by Nathan Harris.