The Week



Berkeley Town Hall Meeting Tonight on Banning Drones

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Wednesday May 01, 2013 - 04:46:00 PM

Two Berkeley commissions are sponsoring a town hall meeting tonight on a recommendation that would ban drones in Berkeley. -more-

New: Berkeley Police Officer Stabbed in Burlingame Brawl

By Zack Farmer (BCN)
Tuesday April 30, 2013 - 01:25:00 PM

An off-duty Berkeley police officer was stabbed several times and three others were injured in a brawl involving dozens of people outside a Burlingame bar on Saturday night, a police sergeant said. -more-

Iran's Nuclear Program: Made in the USA (Historical Analysis)

By Gar Smith
Thursday April 25, 2013 - 03:20:00 PM

In the June 6, 2011 edition of The New Yorker", Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Seymour Hersh looked into U.S. intelligence assessments of Iran's nuclear activities, paying particular attention to the 2011 National Intelligence Estimate's (NIE) investigation of the status of Iran's nuclear energy program. -more-

Terrorism, Religion and the Media: When's the Last Time You Read the Phrase "Christian Extremism"? (News Analysis)

By Gar Smith
Thursday April 25, 2013 - 03:17:00 PM

When it comes to terrorism and religion, white guys tend to get a pass. But should a terror suspect hail from an Islamic background – be they foreigners, exchange students, or US citizens — their religious beliefs routinely become a major focus of media coverage. -more-

Graffitirazzi – Live Oak Park, Part 1

By Gar Smith
Friday April 26, 2013 - 11:36:00 AM
                Veer off the beaten (and paved) track just a bit, and you will discover graffiti trolls have been busy along Cordonices Creek -- especially where it crosses beneath Walnut Street. If you look closely, you'll find the massive artwork that completely covers the underside of the steel-and-concrete bridgework (pictured above) contains a memorial: "Rest in Peace."
                Here's is another look at the underbridge artwork that flows above the creek.

Graffiti is not always up-against-the-wall and in-your-face. Sometimes you have to go looking for it. Sometimes it's hidden right underfoot — or, in some cases, under tire. Drive or walk down two popular North Berkeley streets, and you would never know there was a trove of remarkable underground art lurking beyond the concrete curbs and asphalt in the shadows east of Live Oak Park. -more-

Estelle Jelinek (1935-2013)

By Becky O'Malley
Friday April 26, 2013 - 11:30:00 AM

Berkeleyans this week are mourning the loss of Estelle Jelinek, who died on Monday at the age of 78. Estelle possessed a fine intellect and considerable skill as a writer and editor, and she used these gifts on a wide variety of projects and causes, prompted by a strong social conscience and a kind heart. -more-



Boston, Bangladesh, Berkeley--Who Are the "People Like Us"?

By Becky O'Malley
Friday April 26, 2013 - 01:15:00 PM

My day gets off to a better start when Jon Carroll has a column in the San Francisco Chronicle, which since I’m an old-school kind of person still appears on my doorstep in print. This doesn’t happen every day, since the Hearst management which now runs the show over there seems to think that four times a week with frequent absences is plenty of exposure for columnists like Jon.

And I must admit that though I like cats I would prefer never to read 800 words about their cute antics, which is sometimes what Carroll thinks would make a fine piece on a slow day. I can take or leave his columns about the daily life of an aging home-based newsie, a topic I know only too well.

What he does best is two things: nonsense and soapbox. His goofy stuff is sometimes inspired. When I was an editor at Pacific News Service long ago he applied for a job there, submitting with his resume a couple of pieces which were pure Dada. I loved them and wanted to immediately offer him the position. I can’t remember whether soberer heads overruled me—PNS always took itself very seriously— or whether he changed his mind, but he didn’t get the job.

But it’s Carroll’s soapbox pieces—rarer and rarer these days—which are well worth the price of admission. Sadly, the price of admission has gone up. The Chronicle is now hiding its columnists online behind a pay wall, which means that fewer and fewer readers will see them.

Today’s column is the kind of thing which deserves the widest possible audience, and it won’t get it. I think this link will get you over the pay wall, and if you can find the piece, please read it. Not, of course, that I agree 100% with what he has to say, but it’s a topic that everyone should ponder.

Just in case you can’t read the column, here’s how it begins:

“How do we measure our tragedies? Is an industrial accident that kills 14 more tragic than a bombing that kills three? Is it body count that makes the difference? Or is it the age of the victims, so that younger victims count more? Or is it defenseless victims?

“Do we ration our grief by some metric that determines where an incident falls on the tragedy scale? Assuming we don't know anyone involved, how do we decide how affected we will be by this shooting or that explosion? Does the news media have anything to do with it? After all, it is the media that sets the tragedy bar. From the media, we know that the bombing that killed three is more important than the fertilizer plant explosion that killed at least 14.

“We know that from the coverage. It was wall-to-wall search for the suspects. The search for the reasons for the industrial accident was sort of a nonstarter. It was, "Well, you know, fertilizer." Only a few news outlets asked questions about OSHA inspections and previous failures of the plant to follow the rules. “

He goes on to suggest that the plant disaster story was perceived as less important because it was about the failure of government regulation, with attendant neo-con political overtones. Last night on MSNBC Chris Hayes nailed that topic with a detailed report on exactly why dangerous plants like this one continue to exist outside government safety standards.

They’re right: The public’s declining understanding of the role of government in protecting citizens is a big problem. It’s a disgrace to see Tea Party types haranguing against government interference when people are dying because of the lack of it in places like the West, Texas, fertilizer plant.

But there’s more to the question of why few news outlets bothered to pursue the causes of the Texas explosion. It’s a class thing. -more-


Odd Bodkins: The Message of Easter (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Friday April 26, 2013 - 10:58:00 AM

Bounce: Happy Poetry Month (Cartoon)

By Joseph Young
Friday April 26, 2013 - 11:23:00 AM

Public Comment

The Return of Rezoning West Berkeley: An Open Letter to Tom Bates

By Curtis Manning
Friday April 26, 2013 - 02:15:00 PM


The absence of an extra honorific will be explained forthwith. Your Consent Calendar item on the April 30 agenda, would re-zone nearly a mile of 4th St. in West Berkeley from light industrial to commercial without any notification to neighbors, or indeed to the light industrial firms or to the commercial enterprises, who may or may not welcome the extra competition from big box corporate stores.

Here, for the edification of all is item #26; your contribution to the quality of life in West Berkeley,

Consent Calendar (April 30, 2013)

26. Extend Commercial Zoning on Fourth Street and Gilman Street
From: Mayor Bates
Recommendation: Request the Planning Commission consider expanding Commercial West Berkeley (CW) zoning along: 1) Fourth Street to Virginia Street, 2) Gilman Street from Sixth Street to San Pablo Avenue (precise area indicated on map attached to Council report).
Financial Implications: Increased tax revenue and employment opportunities.
Contact: Tom Bates, Mayor, 981-7100 -more-

Final Response to Judi Iranyi on Laura's Law

By Jack Bragen
Thursday April 25, 2013 - 03:47:00 PM

Dear Judi,

I have read and understood much of the text of Laura's Law, as it appears on the California Legislature's website. How can you say it isn't about forcing people, when "involuntary treatment" appears at the heading? -more-

A Letter the Chron Turned Down

By Gar Smith
Thursday April 25, 2013 - 02:43:00 PM

On April 22, the Chronicle ran a story ("Pentagon chief stresses Israel's right to strike") in which US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel explained that, because Tel Aviv felt threatened by Tehran, it had the right to launch a pre-emptive attack on Iran.

When and if Tel Aviv decides to pounce, Hagel added, the US will be duty-bound to protect Israel. This news prompted the following letter to the Chronicle. The Chron's editors elected not to print it.

To the Editor / SF Chronicle:

I ran into Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel the other day.

I felt threatened, so I punched him in the face.

"Just deploying your 'George Zimmerman' theory of deterence," I explained. (Zimmerman, of course, is the self-appointed peacekeeper who stalked and killed a "suspicious," unarmed youth named Trayvon Martin.) -more-


THE PUBLIC EYE: What’s Wrong With Social Security?

Friday April 26, 2013 - 09:57:00 AM

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” For 58 million Americans, the Social Security system works satisfactorily. Therefore, many were surprised when President Obama suggested a fix, using the chained CPI for the cost-of-living adjustment. What’s wrong with the Social Security system? -more-

DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: The White House’s Flawed Korea Policies

By Conn Hallinan
Thursday April 25, 2013 - 03:43:00 PM

In the current crisis on the Korean Peninsula the Obama administration is virtually repeating the 2004 Bush playbook, one that derailed a successful diplomatic agreement forged by the Clinton administration to prevent North Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons? While the acute tensions of the past month appear to be receding—all of the parties involved seem to be taking a step back— the problem is not going to disappear and, unless Washington and its allies re-examine their strategy, another crisis is certain to develop. -more-

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: CPAP, Teeth, and Optometry

By Jack Bragen
Thursday April 25, 2013 - 03:50:00 PM

When one's brain is regularly deprived of oxygen, it can impair the thinking ability. This is one of the problems introduced by sleep apnea. -more-

Arts & Events

Around & About Music: Modern & Contemporary Chamber Music--'Curious Flights,' Debussy Trio at Berkeley City Club

By Ken Bullock
Friday April 26, 2013 - 02:29:00 PM

►Among the number of modern & contemporary chamber music concerts lately (& see below for another), there's one intriguing program tonight at 8, Friday the 26th, at the Community Music Center, 544 Capp Street (between Mission & South Van Ness, 20 & 21 Streets) in San Francisco's Mission District. It features San Jose composer Brian Holmes' piece Updike's Science (Holmes himself teaches sciences, including astronomy, in San Jose), sung by splendid Lithuanian-American soprano Indre Viskontas with Ian Scarfe on piano, followed by Valinor Winds quintet playing Joseph Stillwell's Fantasy Pieces (a world premiere of a commission), Paul Schoenfield's Cafe Music by the Aleron Trio, Khachaturian's Trio for Harp & Clarinet played by Trio for Clarinet, Violin & Piano & Arnold Bax's Nonet, played by the Curious Flights Chamber Ensemble, conducted by Brenden Guy, founder & artistic director of the new series (who also performs clarinet on the Khachaturian piece, as well as on the Stillman--and plays with Berkeley Symphony). $10-$15. (415) 640-3165 -more-

Around & About Theater: Last Performances of Symmetry Theatre's 'The Language Archive'

By Ken Bullock
Friday April 26, 2013 - 01:56:00 PM

Symmetry Theatre's engaging show at the Berkeley City Club, 'The Language Archive,' is going into its last weekend. A romantic fantasy that doesn't take its own metaphors too seriously, Julia Cho's play makes the funny juxtapositions of a researcher into dying languages (Gabriel Grilli) whose wife (Elena Wright) leaves him over his diffidence while he's monitoring a rustic ethnic couple (troupers Howard Swain and Stacy Ross) who speak the endangered tongue--but argue fiercely in English--as well as the researcher's lovestruck assistant (Danielle Levin), an Esperanto teacher-cum-kind of therapist (Ross again) and a familiar face in a bakery ... It's by turns charming, hilarious, offhandedly touching. -more-

“A Killer Story” at Berkeley Marsh—intriguing language, ideas, difficult form

By John A. McMullen II
Friday April 26, 2013 - 11:42:00 AM
Madeline H.D. Brown and Robert Parsons with Ryan O’Donnell (in background)

“A Killer Story” by Dan Harder at the Berkeley Marsh has talented actors and a provocative message about the power of fear and conjecture. However, it’s structure—extensive and overlapping monologues with only an occasional exchange of dialogue holds it back from gripping you as detective stories ought. It could easily be high-level radio drama with a 1940’s touch. -more-

“The Arsonists” at Aurora –Psychological and Virtual Fireworks Prevail

By John A. McMullen II, member, Theatre Critics Circle
Friday April 26, 2013 - 11:45:00 AM
Tim Kniffen, Dan Hiatt, Michael K. Wisely

“The Arsonists” at Aurora Theatre on Addison in Berkeley does much outstanding work, and a lot of it happens when Mark Jackson is directing. -more-

A Discovery (First Person)

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Friday April 26, 2013 - 02:34:00 PM

My spirits absolutely soared today when, on my morning walk, I discovered "Telegraph Commons," a private residence for U.C. students. Located just a 3-minute walk to class and 2 blocks from campus at the corner of Telegraph & Channing, Telegraph Commons is a private dormitory providing a safe, clean and fun experience for students attending the University of California. It has the best value in town, with 118 spaces still available for the Fall semester. -more-