The Week

Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin in Ecuador with two local mayors,  with toxic sludge from pools left by oil producers.
John Geluardi
Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin in Ecuador with two local mayors, with toxic sludge from pools left by oil producers.


Richmond Mayor Visits Chevron-contaminated Area in the Amazon Rainforest

By John Geluardi
Saturday September 21, 2013 - 09:48:00 AM

Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin visited a contaminated area of the Amazon Rainforest on Tuesday and experienced firsthand the extent of the oil and chemical befouled pools, or “piscinas,” Texaco left behind when it abruptly moved all of its assets out of Ecuador in in 1992. Chevron acquired Texaco, and its liabilities, in 2001.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa became aware of McLaughlin in August when she participated in a protest at Chevron’s Richmond refinery to mark the one-year anniversary of a massive fire that was caused by criminal neglect. Chevron plead guilty to six criminal charges and agreed to pay $2 million in fines for the incident that sent a miles long plume of toxic smoke into the air and resulted in 15,000 people going to the hospital, most complaining of respiratory problems. -more-

Updated: Fair Campaign Practices Commission to Investigate Measure S Campaign

By Carol Denney
Friday September 20, 2013 - 09:05:00 AM

The Fair Campaign Practices Commission unanimously recommended an investigation into the 2012 Berkeley election’s Measure S’s electoral campaign at their September 19, 2013 meeting at the North Berkeley Senior Center.

David Wagoner, pro bono counsel for complainants Pattie Wall and Bob Offer-Westort, cited reporting violations, misleading slate cards, and cash payments handed out by Downtown Berkeley Association’s director Jon Caner on election day to people most likely to be targeted by Measure S,an attempt to regulate "problematic street behavior" which was placed on the ballot by the city council at Mayor Tom Bates' urging, as squarely within the jurisdiction of the Fair Campaign Practices Commission. -more-

A New Bracero Program Will Hurt Farm Workers

By David Bacon, New America Media
Thursday September 19, 2013 - 09:50:00 PM

Most media coverage of immigration today accepts as fact claims by growers that they can't get enough workers to harvest crops. Agribusiness wants a new guest worker program, and complaints of a labor shortage are their justification for it. But a little investigation of the actual unemployment rate in farm worker communities leads to a different picture.

There are always local variations in crops, and the number of workers needed to pick them. But the labor shortage picture is largely a fiction. I've spent over a decade traveling through California valleys and I have yet to see fruit rotting because of a lack of labor to pick it. I have seen some pretty miserable conditions for workers, though.

As the nation debates changes in our immigration laws, we need a reality check. There is no question that the demographics of farm labor are changing. Today many more workers migrate from small towns in southern Mexico and even Central America than ever before. In the grape rows and citrus trees, you're as likely to hear Mixtec or Purepecha or Triqui - indigenous languages that predate Columbus - as you are to hear Spanish.

These families are making our country a richer place, in wealth and culture. For those who love spicy mole sauce, or the beautiful costumes and dance festivals like the guelaguetza, that's reason to celebrate. In the off-season winter months, when there's not much work in the fields, indigenous women weavers create brilliant rebozos, or shawls, in the styles of their hometowns in Oaxaca,

But the wages these families earn are barely enough to survive. As Abe Lincoln said, "labor creates all wealth," but farm workers get precious little of it. Farm workers are worse off today than they've been for over two decades. -more-

New: Doug Brown, 1939-2013

Tuesday September 24, 2013 - 12:53:00 PM

Doug Brown, machinist, musician, political activist, and member of a large and loving family died at home in Berkeley early in the morning of September 6, 2013, nearly six years after having been diagnosed with an astrocytoma. He was 73 years old. -more-



Redistricting, in Berkeley as in the Nation, Disenfranchises Voters

By Becky O'Malley
Friday September 20, 2013 - 01:46:00 PM

It’s becoming clearer and clearer that your vote counts for less and less. On the national level, clever Republicans (no, not an oxymoron, unfortunately) have gained control of state legislatures in poorly attended off-year elections and have used their power to re-draw national congressional districts for their own benefit. Elizabeth Drew had an excellent piece explaining how this worked in the last New York Review. Here’s the crux of the strategy as she describes it:

“Among other things, [the Republicans] made the House of Representatives unrepresentative. In 2012 Democrats won more than 1.7 million more votes for the House than the Republicans did, but they picked up only eight seats. (This was the largest discrepancy between votes and the division of House seats since 1950.)

“Thus, while Obama won 51.1 percent of the popular vote in 2012, as a result of the redistricting following 2010 the Republican House majority represents 47.5 percent as opposed to 48.8 percent for the Democrats, or a minority of the voters for the House in 2012. Take the example of the Ohio election: Obama won the state with 51 percent of the vote, but because of redistricting, its House delegation is 75 percent Republican and 25 percent Democratic.”
What many Berkeley voters probably don’t realize is that a similar redistricting process is now going on here. It’s a lot easier, too, because the current Council majority (socially liberal, but economically pro-wealth, funded mainly by commercial property owners and developers) is vested by the city charter with the right to control how their own district lines are drawn. Not surprisingly, they’re doing their damnedest to create a district map that ensures that their own seats (some incumbents have been in office for decades) are not at risk. They can effectively pick and choose what kinds of voters are in their districts. -more-


Odd Bodkins: I'm going to be there.

By Dan O'Neill
Friday September 20, 2013 - 09:47:00 AM

Public Comment

New: URGENT: Save the Food Stamp Program

By Harry Brill
Saturday September 21, 2013 - 01:30:00 PM

The House of Representatives just passed a bill by a narrow margin (217 to 210) that substantially guts the food stamp program, which would be devastating to the poorest recipients. If it becomes law almost 4 million recipients will lose their benefits. -more-

Sitting on a Chair Playing the Fiddle: A Crime? The PRC Hearing

By Carol Denney
Thursday September 19, 2013 - 09:37:00 PM
Sitting on a Chair Playing the Fiddle

Berkeley’s last election had a contest between anti-sitting law proponents and those who opposed making simply sitting down a crime. “Measure S”, the anti-sitting law, was defeated at the ballot. It was considered a civil rights victory. But who really won? -more-

Open Letter to Sierra Club Re: Northern Alameda County Group

By Root Barrett
Thursday September 19, 2013 - 10:41:00 PM

Dear Sierra Club,

It has come to my attention that your Northern Alameda County Group is in violation of the Sierra Club´s Environmental Justice policy. The NAC Group has officially endorsed the forcible eviction of sixty-two of Alameda County´s poorest residents from their homes in order to turn their living space--a multi-use commons which hosts recreation, housing, wild space, and community art--into a recreation-only park.

The Environmental Justice policy clearly states that “no community should bear disproportionate risks of harm because of their demographic characteristics or economic condition.” The NAC Group has targeted the Albany Bulb, home to a community of people marginalized by economic condition and in many cases by disability. The Bulb presently offers stable housing to those unable to afford housing anywhere else in Albany.

By targeting the Bulb, this Sierra Club group is participating in taking away shelter as winter approaches. The NAC Group does this fully aware that no alternative housing exists in Albany, and actually advocated against the City giving people more time to find alternative housing. -more-


THE PUBLIC EYE: Obama’s Economy: 6 Truths

By Bob Burnett
Friday September 20, 2013 - 08:59:00 AM

President Obama’s September 16th speech on the economy was overshadowed by breaking news: the tragic shootings at the Washington Navy Yard. Nonetheless, it was an important address that contained six important truths.

The President reaffirmed the economy continues to be his “number one priority …making sure we recover from the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes, and rebuilding our economy so it works for everybody who's willing to work hard.”

The first truth is the economy has recovered since Obama took office. In 2009, the economy was shrinking and “businesses were shedding 800,000 jobs each month.” Now the economy is growing. Since 2010, “our businesses have added 7.5 million new jobs [and] the unemployment rate has come down.” During the same period, each quarter but one has seen a positive GDP and the unemployment rate has lowered from 10.0 to 7.3 percent.

But that’s not the whole story. The second truth is the recovery has been unbalanced. The President acknowledged, -more-


By Helen Rippier Wheeler,
Thursday September 19, 2013 - 09:38:00 PM

Health, housing and transportation are the three biggies for often-powerless senior citizens as well as for many boomers and disabled persons too. Many of the questions I receive involve housing. The problem isn't always getting a rental place or getting a voucher. Sometimes it’s getting peace and quiet and security while in that housing. Fear that activist response may lead to retaliation, losing one’s voucher and or to the landlord’s opting out of Section 8 inhibits some tenants’ attempts to cope with landlord, police, and BHA indifference to, or rejection of, dangerous conditions of harassment, theft, intrusion, contamination and noise.

Here are a few suggestions for coping with those dangerous conditions of harassment, theft, intrusion, contamination and noise, which are often “landlord problems.” -more-

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Reasonable Accommodation

By Jack Bragen
Thursday September 19, 2013 - 10:06:00 PM

What can be done to accommodate high-functioning mentally ill people in a work or other situation? What does "reasonable accommodation," under the Americans with Disabilities Act, look like? -more-

Arts & Events

Masquers “The Lieutenant of Inishmore”—gruesomely entertaining

By John A. McMullen II
Thursday September 19, 2013 - 09:22:00 PM
Padraic (Damien Seperi, center) searches for answers in the death of his beloved cat in the Masquers Playhouse production of “The Lieutenant of Inishmore.” (bottom Alan Coyne, Avi Jacobson; background Jesse MacKinnon, David Stein, and Dan Kurtz).

“The Lieutenant of Inishmore” by Martin McDonagh sounds like an heroic Irish play. However, Martin McDonagh—master of gruesome violence and dark irony—wrote it.

Now playing at Masquers Playhouse in Point Richmond through September 28, the play is about the murderous violence since “The Troubles” began anew in 1969 and lasted almost 30 years.

This play was written in the late 90’s when the violence had become extreme and often turned away from its roots toward gangsterism while being supported in part through drug-trafficking.

It’s about the misplaced affection for a pet of a hardened revolutionary for whom assassination and torture were an everyday occurrence.

Throughout, it is extraordinarily funny in that tongue in cheek Irish manner. -more-

Vanessa in Berkeley This Weekend

Friday September 20, 2013 - 03:24:00 PM

West Edge Opera, formerly the Berkeley Opera, which most recently has been playing at El Cerrito High School, will present a semi-staged concert performance of Vanessa, with music by Samuel Barber and libretto by Gian-Carlo Menotti, on Berkeley Repertory Theatre's Thrust Stage.

Marie Plette will take the title role of Vanessa, and Jonathan Khuner will conduct. Nikola Printz (Erika)was previously seen in Berkeley in a Dazzling Divas production of Cosi Fan Tutte,at the Berkeley Piano Club. -more-

AROUND AND ABOUT MUSIC: Del Sol Quartet at Berkeley Chamber Performances, New Century Chamber Orchestra with Daugherty Perspectives

By Ken Bullock
Friday September 20, 2013 - 09:02:00 AM

Del Sol Quartet will play a world premiere of Gatar, Calligraphy Number 11, by Iranian composer Reza Vali, along with work by Robert Erickson, Lembit Beecher, Uzbekistani composer Elena Kats-Chemin, and Thunder by Irene Sazar, 8 p.m. Thursday, September 26, at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Avenue. A wine and cheese reception with the musicians follows, to which the audience is invited. $25, high school students free, post-high school students $12.50. 525-5211, -more-

Clerestory Sings in Oakland on September 29

By Angela Arnold
Thursday September 19, 2013 - 10:02:00 PM


Clerestory, the Bay Area’s acclaimed 9-man vocal ensemble, has engaged the services of a promising lyricist. Check out his stuff on September 28 in San Francisco, September 29 in Oakland, and/or October 6 in Lodi.

OK, this fellow has a bit of a reputation already... William Shakespeare, a giant of drama and literature, also looms large in the world of music: his clever, innately lyrical words have enticed centuries of composers. With The Bard, Clerestory kicks off its eighth season by paying homage to this greatest of English wordsmiths in songs from the Renaissance through the modern day. Many of the pieces in our program bring to life songs Shakespeare wrote into his own plays—moments in which the drama pauses to elevate a few tender lines or to relish a moment of cheerful coarseness. Familiar favorites from Ralph Vaughan Williams, John Rutter, and Jaako Mäntyjärvi are joined by new treasures from Cory Johnson, Karen Siegel, and others. Are you ‘to be, or not to be’ in the audience? Verily, we hope so! -more-

Guidonian Hand Trombone Quartet at the Berkeley Arts Festival on Saturday

By Bonnie Hughes
Thursday September 19, 2013 - 09:43:00 PM

William Lang, Mark Broschinsky, Sebastian Vera, and James Rogers formed Guidonian Hand five years ago in New York City with a mission to to develop and commission repertoire as well as explore the vast possibilities for this unique instrumentation. They have been the recent recipients of major grants from Chamber Music America, the Barlow Foundation, the Jerome Fund and New Music USA (formerly Meet the Composer) and have worked exclusively with composers such as Eve Beglarian, Jeremy Howard Beck, J. Mark Stambaugh, Mary Ellen Childs and Jonathan Bepler. Recently they recorded the soundtrack for and acted in Matthew Barney's upcoming film, "River of Fundament" in collaboration with composer Jonathan Bepler as well as releasing their first commercial recording, "Awakening" by Jeremy Howard Beck, which they have performed all over the country. Other recent highlights were performing twice at last year's Bang on a Can Marathon and in this year's River to River Festival with choreographers Wally Cardona and Jennifer Lacey. -more-