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Updated: Berkeley Boots Smoke Out of Multi-Unit Housing

By C. Denney
Wednesday October 02, 2013 - 01:29:00 PM

The Berkeley City Council mustered five votes to protect tenants in multi-unit housing from their neighbors’ secondhand smoke at the October 1, 2013 city council meeting. The ordinance would go into effect in early 2014. 

Mayor Tom Bates’ motion for a strong law was seconded by Councilmember Capitelli, and supported by Councilmember Susan Wengraf, Councilmember Gordon Wozniak, and Councilmember Linda Maio. 

Councilmember Jesse Arreguin opposed the ordinance after it was strengthened to include a designation of secondhand smoke as a nuisance, which ensures city enforcement as opposed to the original proposal’s “right of private action” enforcement mechanism, which speakers pointed out is both burdensome and ineffective for tenants seeking secondhand smoke protection. 

Councilmember Darryl Moore abstained supported the vote after an initial pass, and Councilmember Worthington was absent for the vote and the discussion, which focused on alternative methods of enforcement. Councilmember Capitelli’s questions to staff at one point included an entertaining hypothetical situation where he decided he “didn’t like” Councilmember Wengraf and made false complaints about her smoking. 

Every councilmember who spoke favored protecting tenants from secondhand smoke. The measure had no opposition at public comment, which featured among others Serena Chen of the American Lung Association, Leslie Zeller of the Tobacco Legal Consortium and Liz Williams of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights. Public policy attorney Leslie Zellers testified as the co-chair of the Alameda County Tobacco Control Coalition. She was not representing the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium. 

[Full disclosure: Carol Denney is a longtime anti-second-hand smoke activist]

Updated: Berkeley Campus Classes Cancelled, Buildings Closed after Blast

By Sasha Lekach (BCN)
Tuesday October 01, 2013 - 10:07:00 PM

A power outage and explosion at the University of California at Berkeley Monday afternoon was connected to a theft of copper wiring, a university spokesman said today. 

The campus-wide power outage began at about 4:40 p.m. on Monday, according to university officials. 

Power had been restored to all but 11 buildings by 8 a.m. this morning. 

Monday evening classes were canceled and all labs were shut down because of the outage. As part of ongoing power issues 113 classes were canceled today. 

The power system failure was followed by an explosion and fire in an underground steam tunnel between California and Durant halls at about 6:40 p.m. that shrouded the campus in smoke, university officials said. 

The explosion led to a call for an evacuation of campus. The fire was extinguished by 8:15 p.m. 

One student suffered minor injuries and was transported to a medical facility and later released, according to university officials. 

During the outage, about 20 people were stuck in elevators in affected buildings, but all were freed by 8:30 p.m., according to university officials. 

University officials have confirmed the outage stemmed from a theft of copper wiring sometime last week from an area about a half-mile east of campus, university spokesman Dan Mogulof said. 

Eleven buildings remained without power throughout today and crews are installing generators to power the buildings, including Dwinelle Hall, which hosts numerous academic courses. 

The group of buildings will not be reconnected to the campus electrical grid until officials complete an assessment of the outage and fully understand the cause of the explosion, Mogulof said. 

Mogulof said it is uncertain how long that assessment will take, but the buildings will run on generators in the meantime to avoid the chance of another incident. 

Despite many canceled classes today, officials expect classes to resume Wednesday morning. 

"We have a high degree of confidence that we'll have full array of classes by Wednesday," Mogulof said. 

Classes and events that were scheduled to meet in Alumni House, Bancroft Library, California Hall, Central Heating Plant, Doe Library, Durant Hall, Dwinelle Hall, Dwinelle Annex, Edwards Track, Haas Pavilion and the Environment, Health & Safety Facility were not held today. 

"It was a significant disruption for students in those classes," Mogulof said. 

University officials asked faculty and staff to be understanding and accommodating for students who may have come unprepared to classes today. 

Many students at residence halls did not have power restored until late Monday night or early this morning, and may not have been able to use computers or have adequate lighting for reading and writing assignments.

Updated: Eleven Buildings Dark at UC Berkeley After Explosion

By Hannah Albarazi (BCN)
Tuesday October 01, 2013 - 08:13:00 AM

Eleven buildings on the University of California at Berkeley campus that remain without power this morning following an explosion Monday evening will not hold classes today, UC Berkeley officials said. 

Classes and events that were scheduled to meet in Alumni House, Bancroft Library, California Hall, Central Heating Plant, Doe Library, Durant Hall, Dwinelle Hall, Dwinelle Annex, Edwards Track (East and West areas), Haas Pavilion and EH&S Facility, will not be held today, according to university officials. 

Classes in other campus buildings will take place as regularly scheduled, officials said. 

Students are advised to check with their academic departments for more information about rescheduling of classes and other events.  

Employees who work in buildings that are still without power this morning should check in with their supervisors about reporting to work today. 

The campus wide power outage began at about 4:40 p.m. on Monday, university officials said.  

Monday evening classes were canceled and all labs were shut down due to the outage.  

The power system failure was followed by an underground explosion and fire in an underground steam tunnel between California and Durant halls at about 6:40 p.m. that shrouded the campus in smoke, university officials said. 

The explosion led to a call for an evacuation of campus. The fire was extinguished by 8:15 p.m., university officials said. 

One student sustained minor injuries, was transported to a medical facility and later released, according to university officials. 

During the outage, about 20 people were stuck in elevators in affected buildings, but all were freed by 8:30 p.m., according to university officials. 

Crews are working to restore power across campus and will update the community via the campus web site, Berkeley.edu as well as via Facebook and Twitter, according to university officials. 

An investigation is underway into the circumstances that led to the outage and explosion. The campus will be updated with any findings, university officials said.

Flash: U.C. Berkeley Center Campus Evacuated after Power Outage, Explosion

By Bay City News
Monday September 30, 2013 - 09:38:00 PM

A power system failure knocked out power at the University of California at Berkeley and led to an explosion in the center of the campus, emergency officials said. 

The campus was evacuated as smoke clouded the academic buildings, but as of 8 p.m. the fire was nearly extinguished and some services were being restored, campus officials said. 

The power outage started earlier in the evening and as firefighters and police were responding an explosion rocked the central campus near the Campanile shortly before 7 p.m., Berkeley acting fire Chief Gil Dong said. 

The explosion was linked to the earlier outage and both stemmed from a power system failure, campus officials said. 

The campus was ordered to evacuate but some were trapped in elevators. One student was taken to a hospital with minor injuries and two other people were injured but declined to be taken to the hospital, campus officials said. 

Everyone trapped in elevators had been rescued as of shortly after 8:30 p.m., according to UC Berkeley. 

UC Berkeley has not yet announced the status of classes for Tuesday and the campus remains closed tonight. 

CONTACT: UC Berkeley emergency information line (800) 705-9998 for further information

Turning Public Assets into Private Gold

By Peter Byrne
Friday September 27, 2013 - 09:55:00 AM

[This is a chapter excerpted from the new e-book by Peter Byrne called Going Postal – U.S Senator Dianne Feinstein's husband is selling post offices to his friends, cheap, The book is available here from Amazon]

How CBRE and Blum Capital tick-tock

CBRE Group, Inc is a one-stop shop. It acts as the realtor and investment banker to hundreds of international corporations and public and private investment funds, and to governments of all sorts, as well as small businesses. It buys and sells and finances billions of dollars worth of commercial properties every year on its own behalf and for its clients.

In 2012, CBRE turned over capital transactions worth $72 billion in the Americas. Ten percent of its business is transacted in one state: California. But 40 percent of its annual revenue flows from its foreign business. Worldwide, it controls 37,000 employees; its recent acquisitions of Trammel Crowe and ING Clarion make it the world's largest commercial real estate company. The secret of its rapid growth has been a willingness to assume massive indebtedness in order to gobble up competitors. Such "leveraged buyouts" are a risky business practice: the firm carries a $2.1 billion debt burden which "constrains the operation of our business," CBRE reported in March 2013 to the Securities & Exchange Commission. 

From its Santa Monica, California headquarters, the CBRE Group operates nearly three dozen subsidiaries that monetize anything that smells of real estate. Leveraging cash from private equity investors and public employee pension funds, it buys, sells, and leases properties all over the planet; it conducts property appraisals and provides accounting services; it manages the daily operations of 1.5 billion square feet of public and private property; it performs construction management services and environmental reviews for state and federal governments; it holds the lead contracts with the Postal Service and the General Services Administration (GSA) for managing the bulk of the federal government's non-military properties. 

The price of goodwill

CBRE is not so much a real estate brokerage firm as it is a money manager. The firm's core operation, the $92 billion CBRE Global Investors, is smaller than Goldman Sachs (which wields a capital of $779 billion), but it beats out the so-called barbarians at the gate, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. ($59 billion) and Mitt Romney's Bain Capital ($11 billion). And it has juice. 

Democratic Party leader Dianne Feinstein has long been the most powerful politician in California. Her husband, Richard C. Blum, is not only the chairman of CBRE Group, he is also a regent of the University of California, which has co-mixed its retirement and endowment funds with Blum Capital Partner's private equity deals and has invested in CBRE. 

California public employees have been very good to CBRE: Much of the conglomerate's investment portfolio is financed by preferred access to billions of dollars controlled by the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS). Both institutions are governed by campaign-fund-seeking politicians, mostly Democrats. 

Given the ups and downs of the global real estate market, CBRE relies upon dozens of contracts with local, state, and federal government agencies to provide it with five percent of its annual revenue—a cash infusion that nearly equals its annual profit margin. To balance its books each year, CBRE depends upon capitalizing a subjectively-valued asset called "good will". Every year the dollar value of its goodwill miraculously equals the gap between its assets and liabilities to the penny. Without the ability of its accountants to create net worth-healing goodwill out of thin air, CBRE's balance sheet would have bled $1.8 billion last year. 

Last year, by the way, CBRE paid taxes on a declared profit of $315 million, but it still owes the United States Treasury taxes on the $1.1 billion of earnings that CBRE keeps in foreign tax havens in order to escape paying U.S. taxes. 

Blum Capital in trouble

CBRE-owner, Blum Capital Partners, is hurting, bad. The overall value of its investment portfolio has plummeted 80 percent, dropping from $3 billion in June 2007 to $612 million in July 2013. Last year, CalPERS recalled what was left of the $500 million it had invested in Blum Capital's Strategic Partners funds, which were down about 20 percent in value and falling. 

Remarkably, CalPERS still pays Blum $3 million a year in investment management fees, even though his funds have cost the pension fund $124 million, according to public records. These loser funds were heavily leveraged to Blum Capital Partner's largest investments: CBRE Group, Career Education Corporation, and ITT Educational Services. After negative publicity concerning the failure of expensive for-profit educational corporations to deliver adequate educational services, the stock prices of Career Education and ITT have plunged exponentially: Career Education dropped from $33 in early 2010 to less than $3 in early 2013; ITT plummeted from $130 in early 2009 to the mid-$20s. 

The California State Teachers Retirement Fund is, likewise, watching its $162 million investment in Blum Capital Partners' funds trickle down to nothingness. 

The poor performance of Blum Capital in comparison to similar funds has caused the Los Angeles City Employees Retirement System (LACERS) to divest itself of $50 million in two Blum funds. Wilshire Consulting (which advises public pension funds) told LACERS, last year, that it "recommends immediate withdrawal of funds from Blum Capital." Wilshire reported that about half of Blum's partners had left his firm as profits evaporated. 

During the spring and summer of 2012 emails subject to the California Public Records Act flew back and forth between Sacramento and San Francisco like screech owls as CalPERS tried, unsuccessfully, to meet directly with Blum to discuss the untenable situation with his funds. 

In July 2012, Blum summoned Joseph A. Dear, CalPERS' chief investment officer, by email, to his $10.3 million home in Aspen, Colorado. Blum and the Brookings Institute and the Gates Foundation were hosting a meeting with staffers from the Obama White House, the World Bank, and MasterCard: 

Dear Joe, 

Please come to our dinner. We also encourage you to attend the Brookings Blum Gates Roundtable sessions. They are only in the mornings and we take great hikes in the afternoons. I'd be happy to show you and Anne around. Please do come to the barbeque. We'd love to have you join us. 

Blum attached an invitation decorated with a pair of cowboy boots to the couple's $10 million Bear Paw Ranch: 

"We are pleased to invite you to a casual country western gathering at the Aspen ranch of Senator Dianne Feinstein and Mr. Richard C. Blum. Casual 'Cowboy' Dress" 

A CALPERS spokesperson said that Dear did not go to Aspen that summer. 

But the terrible returns on its Blum-managed funds have not stopped CalPERS from investing $4.1 billion in GI Partners, a real estate speculation fund created by CBRE Group. And CalPERS holds more than $1 billion invested in several other entities at which Blum is also an executive: TPG Capital and TPG Newbridge Capital. 

But it is clear that without regular injections of the public's wealth, Blum Capital Partners and CBRE would be scrounging for their last meal—if corporations really were people. It almost goes without saying that the Blum-Feinstein family fortune is founded upon its uncanny ability to command billions of dollars in publicly-owned capital, cowboy dresses and barbecues notwithstanding. 

Blum did not return emails and telephone calls requesting comment for this story. 







Berkeley Parks Meetings to Start

By Toni Mester
Friday September 27, 2013 - 10:21:00 AM
Toni Mester

Berkeley’s new Parks and Waterfront Commission invites the public to three Wednesday night meetings in October to discuss ideas for improvements to the City’s parks, pools, community centers, marina, and camps.

The first meeting will be held on Wednesday October 2 at James Kenney Community Center, 1720 Eighth Street (between Virginia and Delaware) from 7 to 9 pm. Childcare will be provided.

Although people may attend any of the three meetings, the focus of each will be on areas of the City defined by the Council Districts. The City maintains over fifty parks, pools, and playgrounds. The first meeting will emphasize parks and facilities in Districts 1, 2, and 4, which include two large open spaces: Chavez Park, formerly known as North Waterfront Park, and Aquatic Park in West Berkeley.

Civic Center Park, Ohlone, Strawberry Creek, Cedar-Rose, and the West Campus Swim Center are among the other major municipal properties that will be discussed. For a complete list, see below.

The meetings will include reports from staff, but most of the time will be devoted to public input. The Commission’s Chair, Jim McGrath, calls these meetings “listening sessions.” Berkeley’s open space and recreational facilities are popular, the competition for use can be intense, and wear and tear has taken its toll. To make matters worse, The Parks, Recreation, and Waterfront division is running on a structural deficit of approximately $700,000 annually despite the reauthorization of the parks tax every four years by Berkeley voters. The parks tax has a built in CPI (consumer price index) increase, but the raise doesn’t meet the increased real operating costs. 

Maintenance staff has been cut from 186 to 155 positions over the last decade, and there is a backlog of repair and renovation projects totalling nearly $40 million. The hydraulic infrastructure of Aquatic Park, built in the 1930’s, needs a major over haul, including the essential central tide tubes , which are corroding on the bay side, and the west side,which could be made more inviting. 

Heavily used Chavez Park at the Marina, has been improved at a bare minimum since the site, a former landfill, was sealed in 1991. Although the clay cap and the methane collection and incineration system present some constraints, the landscape could be beautified through strategic planting and vegetation management. 

Two attempts, in 2010 and 2012, to fund pool improvements through bonds, including the construction of a warm pool at the West Campus, narrowly failed to get the necessary 67% of the votes cast. After the last election, Willard Pool was closed, a heart-breaking loss for the users. Robert Collier, the co-chair of both pool campaigns, feels that “a future ballot measure for parks and pools definitely can win, but if and only if it is carefully targeted on preservation of existing facilities, giving people maximum bang for their buck.” 

The Commission will consider all suggestions including establishing priorities, closing facilities, expanding volunteer efforts, charging higher user fees, finding new sources of funds, increasing the parks tax, closing facilities, and other options. 

The second meeting will be held Wednesday October 9: Live Oak Community Center, Fireside Room, 1301 Shattuck Ave. from 7pm to 9pm. The focus of the meeting will be on parks and facilities in North Berkeley (Districts 5 & 6) including King Swim Center, Live Oak, John Hinkel, Indian Rock, Great Stoneface, Codornices, Dorothy Bolte, Terrace View, Grizzly Peak and, Thousand Oaks Schools Parks, the residential camps and others. The agenda will include a discussion of the potential for rebuilding Tuolumne Camp, which was mostly destroyed by fire in August. 

The final meeting in this series will be on Wednesday October 16: South Berkeley Branch Library,1901 Russell at ML King Way from 6pm to 7:30pm. The focus of the meeting will be on parks and facilities in South Berkeley (Districts 3, 7, & 8) including Willard Park and Willard Swim Center, Oak Park, Monkey Island, Greg Brown, Grove, Bateman Mall, Halcyon Commons, and the LeConte, Malcolm X, and John Muir Schools Parks. 

Please come to one of the following Wednesday community meetings and share your ideas about the future of the City’s parks and facilities. Childcare will be provided at all three meetings. 

Community members who are unable to attend the public meetings may submit written comments by October 30, 2013 to Roger Miller, Secretary, Parks and Waterfront Commission, 2180 Milvia Street, Berkeley, CA 94704, or by email at rmiller@cityofberkeley.info

More information about the City’s system of parks and facilities is available at http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/PRW


Toni Mester is a resident of West Berkeley 

Parks in West Berkeley

Park Name








Berkeley Way Mini-Park  



Berkeley Way & West St.  



Cedar-Rose Park  



1300 Rose St.  



Cesar E. Chavez Park  



Spinnaker Way at Turnaround  



Harrison Skate Park  



Harrison & Third  



Horseshoe Park  



Seawall Drive, Marina  



James Kenney Park  



Eight St. btwn Delaware & Virginia St.  



Ohlone Park West  



Hearst Ave. from Milvia to Sacramento St.  



Virginia-McGee Totland  



Virginia St. near McGee Ave.  



West Campus Swim Center  



University Ave. at Curtis St.  



Adventure Playground  



162 University Ave., Berkeley Marina  



Aquatic Park  



Bolivar Drive, foot of Bancroft Way  



Charlie Dorr Mini-Park  



2200 Block of Acton St.  



George Florence Mini-Park  



Tenth St. btwn Allston Way & Addison St,  



Haskel-Mabel Mini Park  



Haskell & Mabel Streets  



Rosa Parks School Park  



2240 9th Street  



San Pablo Park  



2800 Park St btwn Russell & Ward St.  



Shorebird Park  



University Ave. & Seawall Dr.  



Strawberry Creek Park  



Btwn Bancroft Way & Addison Street at West Street  



Becky Temko Tot Park  



2424 Roosevelt St.  



Marina Mall  



201 University Ave.  



MLK Civic Center Park  



Martin Luther King Jr. Way btwn Allston Way & Cent  



Ohlone Park East  



Hearst Ave. from Milvia to Sacramento St.  



Old City Hall/Maudelle Shirek Park  



2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way  



Presentation Park  



Allston Way at California  



Washington School Park  



Martin Luther King Jr. Way at Bancroft  



Albany Bulb Eviction Threat Draws Protests (News Analysis)

By Lydia Gans
Thursday September 26, 2013 - 01:14:00 PM

Albany Bulb, a chunk of land at the end of Buchanan Street in Albany, has been in the news lately – though not the first time. It is a landfill that was created many years ago from construction debris and landscaping materials and has become a home for a collection of people who by necessity or by choice have no other home. People started camping there in the nineties, setting up tents and more solid structures, and artists created works of art from scrap materials. In 1999 the city sent in the police to evict the campers. However it was unable to enforce the stay-away because Albany had no shelters to house the homeless. The campers soon returned. 

Over the years the city pretty much ignored the encampment providing no potable water nor any basic amenities. The campers policed themselves and took care of the land. This year the city finally had the opportunity to get the responsibility of the Bulb off its back. In June the Albany city council voted to turn the Bulb over to the California state park system as part of the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD). Camping is not permitted in state parks. In mid October all the campers would have to be evicted. About 60 people who have been living there would be made homeless. 

Albany still has no homeless shelters. The city turned the problem over to Berkeley Food and Housing Project (BFHP), allotting $30,000 for a 'Homeless Outreach and Engagement Program within the City'. (It is to be noted that while the focus is on the campers on the Bulb, homeless people throughout the city are included.) The agreement calls for connecting with the individual campers, assessing their immediate and long term needs, and informing them of the various resources available in the community. As for housing, the program calls for helping people “develop plans” for finding permanent or short-term temporary housing. Nothing is said about actually housing or finding any kind of shelter for the people if they are evicted. Although BFHP has many sources and connections for finding affordable housing there is clearly no way they could be expected to find housing for more than 60 people, some are disabled, some have pets, about half have no income. 

BFHP workers have been going out to the Bulb Tuesdays and Thursdays talking with the campers, connecting them with services and taking them to meet what might be a potential housing opportunity. By September, no one had been housed. At the September 3 meeting the council voted to renew the contract for another $30,000. Now, with little time left BFHP in a “final push” is talking with campers urging them to work out options such as reuniting with family or moving into some sort of transitional housing. The city of Albany however, has nothing to offer. 

Meanwhile East Bay Regional Parks District (EBRPD) are exercising their control over the area leading up to the Bulb. For the first time there is a large sign EBRPD sign at the beginning of the parking lot. There is heavy equipment demolishing the lush vegetation on the Neck and the Plateau. A notice posted there explains that the EBRPD will be working there through October to clear the area and “establish coastal grassland”. 

Pressure on the campers is increasing. There is a move to enforce 10 P.M. to 5 A.M. curfew which apparently is an ordinance covering all Park property. This unfairly affects the campers since the only access to the Bulb is through the area already under EBRPD control. Camper Amber Whitson reports that she was stopped coming home from the Target store after 10 o'clock one evening and warned that curfew violators could be taken to jail. It's not clear if others are being stopped or if the Park police are temporarily backing off. 

But something else is happening. Along with publicity around the incorporation of the Bulb into the regional park system news of the threatened eviction of the campers spread rapidly. People who regularly walk their dogs and love the Bulb the way it is objected. They have been accepting the campers simply as part of the scene. When the City Council continued with its plans and extended the contract with BFHP campers and supporters held a protest march to the September 9th Council meeting. The press began to seriously pay attention. 

Individuals and groups of people from different communities who are moved by the situation of the campers are getting together and engaging in supportive actions. There have been community discussions and showings of Andy Kraemer's film “Where Do You Go When It Rains”. Word is that another film maker is working on the story. 

On Saturday morning September 21st a group from Solano Community Church and friends went up and down Solano Avenue making chalk drawings on the sidewalks promoting the campers' message “Share the Bulb”. That message is the title of the supporters' website sharethebulb.org (Unfortunately a sudden downpour quickly washed away the drawings.) 

A film showing and conversation was held at a community center in Oakland. A sociology class at U.C. Berkeley will hold a panel discussion the topic. Saturday the 28th a Community Gathering to Defend the Albany Bulb, with pot luck supper and open mike followed by an 8 P.M. concert, will take place at the main entry. 

The story is getting widespread attention from the press. The plight of the campers is touching peoples' sense of compassion. For the campers, the Bulb is their home, their community, their Village. They planted trees and continue to work hard at clearing away construction debris. They haul out their garbage and carry in their water with no help from the city. They built shelters for themselves to live in and to keep the necessities of daily living and their few personal treasures – more than can fit in a shopping cart if a person is made homeless. 

Yet the city officials are not relenting in their determination to cast them out even though it would be a practical disaster as well as a moral outrage. So far practically nobody has been housed. Amber Whitson, longtime camper and activist on the Bulb reports that of the more than 60 campers 36 have no income at all which for them would mean a succession of temporary shelters or life on the streets. Even for those with some income, anything affordable is extremely hard to find and most likely to be small and dark and not necessarily safe. 

All this doesn't have to happen, there are alternatives. It is good to remember Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well being … including food, clothing, housing ...”



What's the News about Berkeley News?

By Becky O'Malley
Friday September 27, 2013 - 11:54:00 AM

From time to time I get a call or letter from a Berkeley resident telling me about some important event that “you should send a reporter to cover”.

Folks, those days are gone. You might not be aware of this, but the Berkeley Daily Planet is no longer a commercial publication. We no longer sell ads, nor do we employ reporters. The great bulk of what you read here is contributed by the writers--contributed in all senses of the word—-written by people who are not paid for what they write. 

Example: we got an email yesterday from Larry Bensky, fabled KPFA broadcaster of many years standing, subject line “Warren Widener”. 

“Just saw in the "Berkeley Times" that he recently died.

“An important person in Berkeley history, whatever one may have
thought of his politics.

“Doesn't seem to have been covered anywhere!”

I was pleased to be able to reply:

“Except in the Berkeley Daily Planet, thanks to Carole Kennerly.”


And he wrote back, 



“I see the Berkeley Times piece is based on it.  

“One of the (vast) inconveniences/frustrations of not having print copies to browse through is that one tends to miss much in on-line, link-based media, so I missed this in the Planet. Also the supposedly exhaustive web "spiders" that are supposed to grab everything in their web miss a lot. Just Google (nauseating verb) Warren Widener right now. You will see that there's no link to the August Planet piece, and nothing else to indicate that he died nearly four months ago. His Wikipedia bio indicates he's still alive! 

“Perhaps the upcoming 10/3 memorial services will inspire some catch-up work. Warren was an important transitional figure in Berkeley and regional politics...” 



My sentiments exactly. I’m with Larry in preferring print, at least in theory, but in fact I seldom see the various print publications that purport to be covering Berkeley. My consciousness has shifted to online news sources, no matter how much I might deplore it. 


And there’s the additional problem that few reporters, in any medium, are now employees being paid salaries to cover Berkeley. If it wasn’t for people like former Vice-Mayor Carole Kennerly, we wouldn’t know what’s going on around here most of the time. 

We don’t even pay free-lancers any more. Very occasionally, when a professional journalist has put in a great deal of effort reporting a story for us, we direct them to the Fund for Local Reporting, which will give them a modest stipend or honorarium, too little to be called a fee, as a token reward. This issue features an example of one such story, the one about the drive to save the Post Office, by Peter Byrne. 

When readers had organized a fund-raising campaign in an ultimately fruitless effort to save the print Planet, we turned the proceeds over to the Fund for Local Reporting, administered by the non-profit William James Association, so that the donated funds could be used in this way. One stipulation is that the stories produced with FLR contributions must be available to other media, not just to the Planet, and in fact our stories are often linked or copied, either verbatim or paraphrased. That’s just fine with us. 

Readers sometimes ask if the Planet will ever be in print again. Sadly, probably not—we can’t afford it any more and we’re getting too old to do all that work. If someone else with deeper pockets wanted to volunteer to take over and run a print paper, we’d be glad to help, but that's it. 

By the way, when I use the editorial “we”, there’s no one out here but us chickens. Mike and I do the work, such as it is, of getting contributed work online in this format. We also provide the small sums needed to keep the web site operative and the Planet archive (probably the most valuable part of the package) accessible for historical use. 

I’m also making a valiant effort to search other online publications for stories that Planet readers would like to see. The links are to be found under the heading “Now Read This”. Coverage of what’s important to local readers is scattered, but it all adds up to not a bad picture of contemporary reality. 

What can readers do to keep this effort afloat? Plenty, it turns out. First and foremost, our readers who are also writers are now the heart of the publication. Tell us, in your own words, what’s happening, and we’ll publish it. Send your stories to news@berkeleydailyplanet.com, and your opinions to opinion@berkeleydailyplanet.com

And also, send money! The Fund for Local Reporting ia now scraping the bottom of the barrel. The scant funds donated a few years ago, despite having been parsimoniously parceled out, are just about gone. These small amounts are sometimes the make-or-break factor in a reporter's decision to pursue a lead. 

We’ve set up a link when you can send contributions online or by mail. Here it is:: http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/fund 

Will contributing either your writing or your money make the Planet what it used to be? Unfortunately, probably not, but it will keep some coverage of local events flowing. That's worthwhile, isn't it? 

P.S. on Saturday: 

After this piece was posted, the Chron finally caught up with the story: 


As I said, we never mind being copied. 



The Editor's Back Fence


Odd Bodkins: The Carnage in Yuba City (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Saturday September 28, 2013 - 01:51:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Odd Bodkins: The Bancroft! (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Saturday September 28, 2013 - 01:47:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Bounce: Arm and a leg (Cartoon)

By Joseph Young
Saturday September 28, 2013 - 01:41:00 PM


Joseph Young


Bounce: Moon Walk (Cartoon)

By Joseph Young
Saturday September 28, 2013 - 01:31:00 PM


Joseph Young


Bounce: Tenacity ... surfing (Cartoon)

By Joseph Young
Saturday September 28, 2013 - 09:51:00 AM


Joseph Young


Public Comment

New: Shutdown: Who is to Blame?

By Bruce Joffe
Wednesday October 02, 2013 - 02:54:00 PM

Like petulant children, Congressional Republicans shut down the government because they don't like Obamacare. More to the point, they don't like Obama. Obamacare is primarily a Republican program, modeled after the Massachusetts program signed into law by Mitt Romney. It provides health insurance to all through private insurance companies. When bringing the ACA into law, Obama compromised wholeheartedly with Republicans; he even abandoned the key element, a single-payer public option. The Republicans who want to destroy Obamacare by shutting down our Federal government are saying "Obama needs to compromise." Our democracy can not yield to terrorists within the halls of Congress who want to destroy our system of government.  

If Republicans wanted to fix Obamacare, they could pass a specific bill to fix it. They tried 42 times to kill Obamacare and failed. Now they are attacking our governmental budget and national economy. It's treason.

Social institutions vs. the individuals in crisis

By Steve Martinot
Thursday September 26, 2013 - 01:19:00 PM

The question of mental health, and a certain problem with respect to the growing number of people whose mental health is in disarray, or in trouble, was brought to public attention recently by the death of Kayla Moore. Kayla Moore was a transgender man, living as a woman, who experienced a mental health crisis, and died in police custody when the police responded to an emergency call for help. Instead of offering assistance (crisis intervention) to someone in dire need, they attempted to arrest him on an outstanding warrant.

The questions this event raised with respect to how we deal with mental health crises were, first, why police were called to respond to a mental health emergency, and second, why police are not trained in crisis intervention, so that they can tell the difference and offer assistance to those who need it, rather than mechanically exercise the controlling force of arresting someone. When unable to tell the difference, what the police then do in effect is punish a person for needing help.  

Kayla Moore accepted his existence as a woman, as his sexual orientation. Yet he was subjected to emotional crises, starting in his early teens, that were characterized by forms of overwhelming fear. It is possible that the harassment and disparagement he faced in school played a role in this. By the time he was 20, he did what many suffering from such problems do, he turned to drugs. His sister, Maria Moore, has said that the drugs tended to rebalance him. His mood swings and fears tended to diminish.  

Much of the discussion around this incident has highlighted the fact that there is very little assistance that this society provides for those with mental health problems. In particular, the police are trained to control, and to regiment people to their commands. Those police officers who respond to situations requiring humane treatment rather than militarized obedience to force need to be trained to leave their disciplinary attitudes at the door.  

All this comes into sharp focus when we recognize that Kayla had become obese, and thus was not a person who could offer serious combat to the police when he opened the door for them on the night of Feb. 12, 2013 – his last. Alone with the police in his own apartment, by midnight that night he was dead. Neighbors claim that they heard screams from his apartment for a number of minutes, and then silence.  

These issues were addressed at a townhall meeting on May 30, at the Media Center on Addison St.. The man who runs that center, Paul Kealoha Blake, is on the city’s Mental Health Commission. At this meeting, he reported that the next day after Moore’s death, he went to the Police Review Commission, where Police Chief Meehan made a statement about the incident. Blake simply asked “what happened?” and got no answer. He then reported that it took three months to get an answer to that simple question.  

For three months, the Mental Health Commission discussed the problem of what happened, and how to respond in non-militaristic ways. City Council has still not come up with any proposals, nor has it adopted any of the ideas that the many citizen’s meetings, or organizations involved with the issue, have proposed.  

In the city of Berkeley, there are three people on the city payroll who are trained in Crisis Intervention. They only work during the day. In the absence of trained counselors being available, the city, through the police, falls back on technologies of restraint, to be applied at will by the police. The fact that this is inappropriate is indicated by the lack of transparency on the part of the police. To make matters worse, the police think that, for them, a proper alternative would be to use tasers (which are torture instruments). This actually suggests that they are not interested in being trained to deal with mental health crises in a humane way. A woman from San Francisco at the Media Center meeting spoke about their struggle to prevent the police from getting tasers in that city, for precisely that reason.  

Part of the problem is the social attitude toward people with mental health issues. Those with such problems get stigmatized, stereotyped, and disparaged by people and by authorities. They are told something is wrong with them, and they have to be "fixed." Perhaps the police feel that they are the ones to "fix" things. But as one participant in this meeting mentioned, to lay harsh and controlling hands on a person in the midst of a crisis is to commit an act that can only be perceived as hostile, and thus requiring self-defense – which the police call “being combative.” 

A significant presentation was given at the meeting by Sharon Kuehn, Program Manager for an organization in Oakland called “Peers Envisioning and Engaging in Recovery Services,” or simply "Peers," for short. It is part of a movement toward self-help by those afflicted. Its main position is that a person be valued, even when in the midst of an "episode" -- that is, that they need not and should not be "conquered" or diminished by those in authority. 

She spoke of what is called “emotional CPR.” It is an approach to people whose fundamental purpose is to remove the sense of fear that envelops a person in crisis. It is based on three principles: first, connecting with the person positively (valuing them), in a non-derogatory way; second, empowering the person, recognizing and aiding the person to recognize their own self-worth; and third, revitalizing the person, discussing and offering alternatives to their present situation that build on their own inner resources. 

She said that this self-help movement now runs mental health crisis centers in about 20 states. They also run safe houses that offer welcoming space and the presence of trained peer specialists for those in mental health crises, or for people to just come in and talk with someone understanding. 

What her organization offers is the possibility that a peer person could (and should) accompany first responders to a mental health crisis situation. This would be much more cost effective than “calling for backup,” struggling to arrest, putting the person in restraints, taking them to jail, and setting a court date. Not to mention possibly killing them. As Blake mentioned, this society’s response to people with mental health issues is to criminalize them by throwing them in jail. "Peers" offers an alternative. 

As an addendum, on April 30, two and a half months after Kayla Moore’s death, because a police report still had not been issued, the family and friends went to the City Council, to demand an explanation. It was a highly proper time for them to make this demand, since the Council was about to debate declaring May to be “Mental Health Month.” But when family members tried to speak, Mayor Bates insanely called the police to remove them from the room. 


Wimps, All of Them

By Julia Ross, J.D.
Friday October 04, 2013 - 04:34:00 PM

The Republicans are wimps. If they had any guts they'd hold out till they repealed the Constitution.

Press Release: Berkeley Police Association President Says Community Member’s Near Suicide Could Have Been Prevented if Police Officers had Tasers

From the Berkeley Police Association
Thursday September 26, 2013 - 03:10:00 PM

Victim Nearly Succumbs to Self Inflicted Knife Wounds

Berkeley-Last Wednesday, Berkeley police officers answered a call to a home where a man suffering from a mental illness was threatening to slit his throat with a knife. Upon arriving to the property, the man had possession of at least two knives, threatening to end his life. Every attempt was made to negotiate with the community member to calm him down and to get him to release the knives. It became clear that the the suffering man was not going to release the knives, presenting a grave danger to himself, to members of the public at the scene, and to our police officers.

If this had been been any one of the 100 cities in Northern California whose police officers are authorized to use tasers, this suffering community member would have been safely disarmed, taken out of harm's way and transported to a place where he could get help. That is not what happened. The man stabbed himself repeatedly causing massive trauma, and life threatening injuries. Police officers on the scene applied battlefield medicine techniques to stop the bleeding, ultimately saving the community member’'s life.

"If Berkeley police had tasers, we could have safely disarmed this mentally ill man and prevented the multiple knife wounds he inflicted on himself," said Sergeant Chris Stines, President of the Berkeley Police Association. "Tasers save lives and would have allowed us to take this man into custody unharmed so he could get the help he needed." 

Stines said that Berkeley Police Officers often find themselves on dangerous calls when a person is threatening to hurt him/herself, another person and other innocent victims. According to Stines, last week an officer received a broken hand as a result of a confrontation on a call and will be out for some time as a result of the injury. The use of a taser could have prevented this officer's injury and suffering, and in the process, saved the City money. 

"Being able to use a taser as an alternative to physical force, saves injuries to both the subjects and the police officers on the call, on top of protecting the public," Stines added. "It also lowers the costs to the City for injuries and lawsuits." 

Berkeley is one of only three law enforcement agencies out of 113 in the Bay Area that does not use tasers or is not currently investigating their use. In a survey of Berkeley citizens last March, 83% of the respondents indicated that they support the Berkeley Police Department investigating the use of tasers to deter and control violent individuals when negotiating will not work. 

"If our officer at the scene had the use of a taser, this community member would be getting the help he needed right now instead of fighting for his life at a local hospital because of his knife wounds," Stines said. "I dread the day we say if only we had tasers we could have saved that person's life."

The Food Stamp Budget Must Be Increased

By Harry Brill
Friday September 27, 2013 - 04:16:00 PM

The debate in Congress about the funding of the food stamp program, formally named the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), is NOT about whether to make or reject cuts. It is True that not a single Democrat in the house voted for the draconian cuts that the Republicans supported. But the Democrats are not opposed to reducing the food stamp budget. Instead, they support a more modest reduction, which is still substantial. In fact, the Democrats on the Senate Agricultural Committee voted to cut food stamps while increasing subsidies to some southern farmers to guarantee them a certain level of profits. Reflecting the view of the Democratic Party, the Chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Schultz, also favors a reduction in the Food Stamp budget. In her own words, "I'm certain that we could embrace as House Democrats some measure of cuts. I mean, every program can benefit from some savings". 


But not only should cuts be avoided. The food stamp budget should be substantially increased. The abysmal state of the economy FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF WORKING PEOPLE is becoming even more abysmal. As a result, a growing number of middle class Americans are joining the ranks of the poor. Two developments are especially ominous. Many employers are converting full time jobs into part time work. Because up to twice as many employees are needed to substitute for the former full time jobs, the employment statistics reflect an increase in jobs. That looks good on paper. However, its significance is the substantial increase in poverty wage jobs.

Second, layoffs, including mass layoffs whether due to offshoring, productivity gains, or business decline have been substantial. In the last ten years almost 6 million manufacturing jobs have vanished domestically. That's about a third of all domestic manufacturing jobs. Many of these jobs lost are a result of relocating abroad. In one manufacturing sector, the apparel industry, which is labor intensive, the decline in American made apparel purchased domestically has been horrendous. Since the early nineties it has declined from over 50% to about 2 1/2%!
Other sectors too are shedding jobs. The Bank of America has just announced that it terminated the jobs of 1000 employees. The highly profitable bank, Wells Fargo, just sent out layoff notices to 2300 employees. For those who are interesting in tracking daily layoffs, the grim website www.dailyjobcut.com will keep you informed.
Clearly, the private sector is taking us on a fast track toward a deeper economic decline. What is occurring is ironic. Each business is pursuing its own "rational" self-interest by keeping costs, particularly labor costs low. But the sum total of this "rational" behavior causes irrational consequences. In the long run mass buying power appreciably declines which becomes a crisis for business as well as for working people.
The one institution, the federal government, that is capable of taking the larger view, is not doing so. On the contrary, its role has been to deepen the crisis by reducing its budget. Only a mass movement, similar to the experience of the 1930s depression can possibly turn the situation around and achieve a transition from this current Raw Deal period to New Deal programs.
Meanwhile hungry people, including but not limited to children, disabled, seniors, unemployed and underemployed workers, must not be allowed to suffer hunger with its disastrous health consequences.
It is surprising to many California residents to learn that California ranks first in the nation for discouraging qualified applicants from obtaining food stamps. Only about half who qualify succeed. This contrasts with many other states, including Republican states, where 80 to 90 percent obtain food stamp benefits.
Right now every effort should be made to be prepared for another economic decline by assuring that nobody is deprived of food. So we must do all we can for both the current poor and the many who will be soon joining them. Demand members from both houses of Congress and the President Obama to support and vigorously advocate for a substantial increase in the food stamp budget.

The “Substantial” Rock That Could Shipwreck Smokefree Housing

By Carol Denney
Friday September 27, 2013 - 10:11:00 AM

Rent Board Attorney Matt Brown’s passionate “I got nothing” statement to the Open Government Commission last week confirmed publicly that the Rent Board has absolutely no shred of evidence that strong smokefree laws result in evictions. He searched high and low, he said, and came up with…nothing.

Well, of course. There is no evidence of any connection between evictions and smokefree regulations nationally, even internationally. Most smokers in Alameda County already smoke outside, and studies show the few who don’t, even those with mental or addiction challenges, have no more difficulty with compliance than anybody else. Most people know secondhand smoke kills, travels throughout shared-wall housing, etc. Most people aren’t set on killing the neighbors. 

You’ll find embarrassing implications to the contrary scattered throughout official Berkeley discussion of smokefree regulations in multi-unit housing, but not because there is any factual foundation for thinking that a “rash of evictions” is on the horizon of any community that has smokefree multi-unit housing laws, or that people who manage to no longer smoke in supermarkets and movies will find such laws confusing. 

But the most-cited reason Matt Brown insists that a strong law making multi-unit housing smokefree is incompatible with the Rent Stabilization Board Ordinance has to do with something else--the legal interpretation of the word “substantial.” Substantial. This is the rock with the potential to shipwreck the most inexpensive way to save lives and reduce health care costs in Berkeley history. 

A landlord cannot impose a unilateral change to a lease or rental agreement if it is a substantial alteration under the rent control ordinance. And smokefree regulations probably look “substantial” to someone who enjoys smoking in bed, at breakfast, anywhere anytime he or she wishes. 

But all common law presumes habitability in rental or lease agreements. You cannot rent a place without bathroom facilities, without heat in the winter, without drinkable water. One can safely presume the necessity of breathable air. Common law has recognized this principle so well, for so long, that it’s comic to suggest that anyone, property owner or not, can give a tenant permission to do something which kills other tenants in the building who simply have to breathe. 

The very few outdated lease or rental agreements which specifically allow smoking indoors would not survive a court challenge by neighbors forced to breathe smoke involuntarily, because secondhand smoke is recognized by the State of California as a serious toxic air contaminant which a smoker’s neighbors have no option but to breathe. But without a strong law in Berkeley which recognizes that secondhand smoke as a nuisance, as Richmond’s law does, those choking neighbors trying to protect their own and their family’s health will have a lot of difficulty finding a lawyer to take their case. 

This is the real challenge before the Berkeley City Council: support the current weak proposal which only affects new leases, leaves the majority of tenants without protection, and requires tenants to embark on the near-impossible job of suing their neighbors for miniscule fines which won’t result in clean air anyway, or, alternatively, embrace a strong law, such as Richmond’s, which does recognize that secondhand smoke is a nuisance, which lends weight to legal efforts to protect those forced to breathe smoke involuntarily and represents a realistic step toward smokefree air for low-income tenants who can’t afford to move. 

No landlord is within his or her rights to rent or lease a living space that will kill the inhabitant for simply breathing. But getting those rights recognized is an expensive prospect most low-income tenants cannot afford without a strong legal basis. Let’s get this one right, Berkeley. The Rent Stabilization Board lawyers, who probably all live in the hills, will catch up someday. But let’s not allow health policy to be hijacked by mythology. Let’s save lives, and make sure those with deadly habits are not allowed to force them on thousands of innocent people. 







You Don’t Get What You pay For—You Get What You Settle For

by Carol Denney
Friday September 27, 2013 - 02:36:00 PM

In a letter dated September 19, 2013, Downtown Berkeley Association (DBA) Director John Caner acknowledged to Berkeley’s Campaign Fair Practices Commission that on election day, November 6, 2012, he handed out more than $5,000 in $100 cash payments to more than 50 clients of Options Recovery Services to distribute misleading slate cards near polling places. 

Many of the “poll workers”, according to witnesses, had no idea that they were in fact assisting the effort to make sitting down a crime. 

He did so as the campaign manager for “Yes on Measure S”, the effort to criminalize sitting on the sidewalk in Berkeley, a proposal which failed to get enough votes. 

Most of us aren’t surprised when merchant associations lobby for anti-poor laws. They can be pretty predicable politically. They want storefronts and public spaces to look like theme parks. They favor buckets of flowers and nobody looking poor or hungry, so that shoppers are never forced to prioritize their spending between personal indulgences and community needs. 

But we ought to object when the Director of the DBA doubles as the campaign manager for an anti-poor campaign, neglects to report campaign income, is willing to help distribute misleading campaign materials, and snookers vulnerable people he describes in his letter as people who “do not have bank accounts” to assist him. 

Call for John Caner’s resignation from the DBA. The business community is being forced, through the Business Improvement District’s mandatory fees, to pay the salary of someone who committed serious campaign violations, violations which ran the risk of subverting the community’s collective electoral will. 

There is currently no oversight whatsoever for the DBA, an entirely unelected group dominated by out of town business interests. It will be interesting to see if the DBA’s board of directors, in the light of John Caner’s admission, takes any steps to find more appropriate leadership. 


THE PUBLIC EYE: Selling Obamacare

By Bob Burnett
Friday September 27, 2013 - 10:28:00 AM

Three and a half years after President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, “Obamacare,” its primary provisions will go into affect October 1st. While the new health care law will benefit most Americans, it appears to be unpopular. Why? 

Most Americans don’t understand Obamacare. The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 52 percent of respondents “oppose the federal law making changes to the health care system.” However, 62 percent of respondents admit they, “do not have the information [needed] to understand what changes will occur when the new health care law takes effect.” 

Despite widespread confusion, Americans believe that Obamacare should go into effect. A recent Pew Research Poll found that 50 percent of respondents oppose the House Republican move to cut off funding for Obamacare. Pew also found that most respondents want elected officials to “make the law work.” 

A CBS News poll revealed that opposition to Obamacare is nuanced. 20 percent of respondents want the Affordable Care Act to be expanded. 16 percent want to keep it the way it is. 18 percent want to only repeal the “individual mandate” that requires Americans to obtain health insurance if they don’t have it. Only 39 percent want to repeal the entire law. And 7 percent are unsure. Thus, 54 percent of respondents desire at least some aspects of the Obamacare. 

While most Americans are uniformed about important aspects of the Affordable Care Act, polls find the more repsondents know about the law, the more they like it. In a 2012 poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundations

Kaiser asked about 12 specific provisions in the legislation, and found that, on average, 63 percent of respondents approved of the nuts and bolts of Obamacare.
A recent CNN article by Dr. Aaron Carroll, a pediatrician on the staff of Indiana University, declared: 

Obamacare will do more good than harm. Many uninsured Americans are unable to get insurance in the market as it exists today, especially if they have chronic conditions. Those who can afford to often pay a fortune for it. Obamacare is a solution to these problems.
Nonetheless, as we approach the October 1st deadline, Obamacare remains a contentious subject. 

One reason is that President Obama has failed to communicate the benefits of the Affordable Care Act. Last year, Obama admitted to CBS News that the biggest failure of his first term was “emphasizing policy over storytelling…the nature of this office is also to tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism…” The President has not told Americans enough compelling stories about the benefits of his health care reform initiative. 

As the October 1st deadline approaches, Obama is leaning on Bill Clinton to convince Americans of the merits of Obamacare. (On September 24th, the President and former-President talked about health care at a New York event.) Obama is also calling upon his wife, Michelle, Vice President Biden, and members of his cabinet to lobby the nation. In addition, the New York Times reported that the Administration initiative 

… will eventually be augmented by a Madison Avenue-style advertising campaign by insurance companies, which officials say are poised to spend $1 billion or more to attract millions of new customers.
Meanwhile, Republicans are spending millions in a last-ditch effort to derail Obamacare. “Americans for Prosperity, a Koch brothers group… has already spent millions on ads fighting health reform.” (And the House of Representatives has spent an estimated $55 million taking Republican-inspired votes to repeal Obamacare.) 

As a consequence, Americans have been deluged by false information about the Affordable Care Act. Typical is an ad generated by another Koch Brothers group, Generation Opportunity, that claims that Obamacare will result in the government taking the role of the physician

Republicans are doing everything they can to derail Obamacare. Some are motivated by a deep hatred for the President. They don’t want any of his initiatives to succeed. Other Republicans are blinded by their conservative ideology. They oppose the social safety net and do not want to see it expanded – in addition to Obamacare they also oppose widely successful programs such as Medicare and Social Security. Finally, there are many conservatives who are motivated by political pragmatics. They believe when Americans actually experience Obamacare, they will like it and want to see services expanded. Tea Party Senator Ted Cruz observed: 

What the administration desperately wants is to get to January, to get the exchanges in place, to get the subsidies in place… so they want people hooked on Obamacare so it can never be unwound.
The President may not have done a good job selling Obamacare but he’s done enough to push it across the starting line. And once Americans understand Obamacare they are going to like it. That’s bad news for Republicans. 

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



ECLECTIC RANT: Navy Yard Mass Shooting: Déjà Vu All Over Again

By Ralph E. Stone
Thursday September 26, 2013 - 01:10:00 PM

On September 16, 2013, Aaron Alexis, a former Navy reservist, killed 13 people at the Washington, D.C. Navy Yard. Alexis was shot to death by police. Already there are renewed calls for gun control legislation, which will fall on deaf ears. 

The Navy Yard killings is the latest mass shooting in the United States. Consider the following mass shootings since February 2012: on December 14, 2012, 20 children and 7 adults were killed by Adam Lanza at the Sandy Hook Elementary School; on September 27, 2012, Andrew Engeldinger killed five people at the Accent Signage Systems in Minneapolis; on August 5, 2012, Army veteran Wade Michael Page killed six Sikh temple members at Oak Creek, Wisconsin; on July 20, 2012, James Holmes killed 12 people and wounded 28 at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado; on May 29, 2012 Ian Stawicki killed five people at Cafe Racer Espresso in Seattle; on April 6, 2012, Jake England and Alvin Watts killed five black men in Tulsa, Oklahoma; on April 2, 2012, One L. Goh killed seven people at Oikos University in Oakland; and on February 27, 2012, Thomas Lane killed 3 students at Chardon High School in Ohio. 

The U.S. has far more gun-related killings than any other developed country. Americans are 20 times as likely to be killed by a gun than someone in another developed country. It is estimated that by 2015 shooting deaths will exceed auto deaths. 

In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings where 20 school children were killed, there was hope among gun control advocates that a tipping point had been reached and Congress would finally be ready to pass meaningful gun control legislation. It was not to be. Legislation strengthening background checks -- supported by 90 percent of Americans -- was defeated in the Senate 54 to 46, six votes short of the 60 needed. The vote on the ban on dozens of military-style assault weapons was also defeated by a vote of 40 to 60; a bipartisan amendment to stiffen penalties for “straw purchasers,” 58 to 42; a GOP-backed amendment that would have permitted “national reciprocity” of state-issued concealed carry permits, 57 to 43; a GOP plan to extend gun rights for veterans, including those deemed unable to manage their financial affairs, 56-44; and a Democratic amendment to limit the size of ammunition magazines, 54-46.  

Even if this legislation had passed the Senate, it would never have passed in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

Would this legislation, if passed, have prevented the Navy Yard mass shooting? Maybe not. But meaningful gun control laws once on the books and vigorously enforced, over time might temper America's long-held affection for firearms and finally drastically reduce gun-related killings.  

Given the failure at the federal level, gun control is now left to the states. We now have a hodgepodge of state laws, some stringent and some very lax. For example, California has some of the strongest gun control laws. But in Nevada, individuals can legally sell a firearm to another resident at a gun show for cash without exchanging paperwork or conducting a background check. This makes it easy for criminals to purchase guns and bring them into California. That's why we need federal gun control laws. 

Already victims' relatives and relatives of other mass shootings are again calling for federal gun control legislation. But such efforts are doomed because too many legislators are overly responsive to the National Rifle Association lobby, in tandem with gunmakers and importers, military sympathizers, and far-right organizations.  

And members of Congress remember the recent recall of two Colorado state legislators for their votes in favor of gun control. 

After all the sound and fury over the Navy Yard mass shootings dies down, the cycle of killings, hand wringing, and mourning will then continue ad infinitum.

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: The Effects of Teen Bullying

By Jack Bragen
Thursday September 26, 2013 - 01:09:00 PM

Thirty-five years ago places me as a student in high school, where I was ostracized and bullied. In spite of me not being socially adept, the bullying I endured wasn't something I brought upon myself. 

Only in the last ten years has adolescent bullying gained coverage in the mainstream media. I learned that I was not the only one. I also learned that those who are bullied are sometimes subject to suicide or to other causes of an untimely demise. Someone who doesn't fit in socially with their peers and who is the victim of social abuse, as I'm calling it, has less of a chance, compared to an unharmed kid, of being successful later in life. 

The short-term result of the social abuse I received was that I became an obnoxious, inappropriate teen and young adult. This was an unconscious attempt at adapting to a hostile atmosphere. However, this only served to alienate me all the more from fellow human beings. 

I believe that how I was treated was a partial factor (along with heredity) that led to my becoming mentally ill. When I became an obnoxious young person, it only made me unpopular even among "good people" who don't normally bully anyone. At some point, even the people who were originally nice to me finally rejected me. And instead of dealing with this rejection in the moment, (which would have been quite painful) my brain produced psychosis. 

(When I was seventeen and I split off from reality and went into a delusional system, the amount of suffering that resulted was astronomically greater than what I would have felt if I had just dealt properly with the initial painful emotions.) 

Lack of social ability is among the indicators that someone will develop schizophrenia. It is hard to know how much the preliminary social deficit is hereditarily caused. Not only can lack of social ability be a stressor that leads to mental illness, it can also be an indicator that something is going wrong with the brain's wiring. 

When I initially tried to go to junior college (with high hope for a two-year transfer) I discovered that the same bullying kids who had harassed me in high school were now attending the junior college and would then harass me while I tried to get a college degree. Hence, I dropped out of junior college. Thanks for ruining my life. 

Today I find it easier to deal with automated things in our society at those times when I want to accomplish something. For example, I prefer automated phone systems and automated tellers over dealing with human beings. A machine doesn't have social baggage or an agenda that you be a certain way, look a certain way, or behave a certain way. A machine isn't expecting to be asked out on a date. Anything I can accomplish online instead of in person, I will do. 

A few years back I was invited to a high school twenty-year reunion. I stressed considerably on whether I should go and finally decided not to. I could not be sure that the same people, now much older, would not still try some stunt to make me humiliated. 

Verbal taunts and harassment may not break someone's bones, but they affect a person, and in fact, they can kill. I'm glad there is a start to a public discussion on teen bullying, and I hope this will bear fruit.

Arts & Events

Around & About Theater: Studium Teatraine from Poland Performing & Teaching in Bay Area

By Ken Bullock
Friday September 27, 2013 - 10:14:00 AM

Studium Teatraine, directed by Jerzy Grotowski's student Piotr Borovski, will be in the Bay Area next week, a residency presented by the San Francisco Arts Festival, performing an adaptation of Hannah Kral's novel Chasing the King of Hearts, as well as teaching an afternoon-long, free acting workshop and presenting a discussion, Poland During and After World War II, with Dr. Krzystof Persak, director of the Office of the President, Institute of National Remembrance in Warsaw. 

Chasing the King of Hearts concerns the story of Izolda Regenberg, a Jewish woman trapped in the Warsaw Ghetto with her family and her husband's, who escapes, disguised as an Aryan woman, and her wish to free her husband as well. Four actors play 22 characters on a minimal set, following Borovski's interpretation of Grotowski's intimate and intense performance aesthetics.  

Performances: Wednesday-Friday, 8 pm, NohSpace, 2840 Mariposa, San Francisco and Saturday at 8, University Theatre, CSU East Bay, 25800 Carlos Bee Blvd, Hayward. $18-$25. Free acting workshop, Tuesday, 12-6, Studio Theatre, CSU. Free, discussion with Dr. Persak, Saturday at 4, CSU Studio Theatre. Further info: sfiaf.org

Around & About Arts & Entertainment: Fall free For All Sunday at UC

By Ken Bullock
Thursday September 26, 2013 - 01:18:00 PM

Cal Performances' great, open day of performing arts and entertainment for the whole community, Fall Free For All, sprawling all over the UC campus, comes around again this Sunday, beginning at 11 with the New Century Chamber Orchestra, led by Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, at Zellerbach Hall with music by James Daugherty and Josef Suk, and ending at 5 with Theatre of Yugen performing two medieval Japanese Kyogen comedies, the Chaucer or Boccaccio-like stylized farces that accompany tragic Noh plays at Wheeler Auditorium--and much, much more in between and overlapping, in mor than a half dozen venues ... 

... like Marcus Shelby's jazz quintet, with wonderful Howard Wiley, a Berkeley High alum, on tenor sax; members of Prescott Circus; La Tanya, solo flamenco; UC Choral Ensemble, Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies; medieval pop music by Danse de Cleves; Daniel Barrash shadow puppets and workshop; ODC/Dance; SF Opera Adler Fellows; the Venezuelan Music Project ... 

And still more, all for free. Schedules and descriptions at: cal performances.org

Around & About Jazz: Julian Pollack Trio CD Release Concert at Yoshi's: Waves of Albion

By Ken Bullock
Thursday September 26, 2013 - 01:11:00 PM

Julian Pollack is a Berkeley musician par excellence. Son of two gifted musicians, Susan Waterfall and Allan Pollack (Allan teaches music at UC Berkeley), founders of the Mendocino Music Festival, where Julian grew up around the sounds and where he has played his own. Julian's played piano since five, his mother his first teacher. Among my fondest memories of music in Berkeley is the double piano duet Julian and Susan did of John Adams' Hallelujah Junction for the Mendocino Festival at the Berkeley City Club--something of great, interlocking dynamism and compelling musicality. 

An alumnus of Crowden School, as a young jazz player, Julian appeared and played at 18 on the late Marian McPartland's long-running NPR program, Piano Jazz. "A wonderful new player on the scene," saith the Grand Old Lady of the Ivories, "Watch out for the kid!"  

Kid no more, but a maturing artist, who's garnered high praise from the likes of Tootie Heath of the Heath Brothers (who called him a genius) and tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano, besides many other seasoned pros, Julian--now living in New York--will make another triumphant homecoming with his fellow Berkeley High alums Noah Garabedian (bass) and Evan Hughes (drums) this Tuesday at 8 at Yoshi's in Oakland for his Trio's latest CD release concert: Waves of Albion (Berthold Records, Germany), the title, title tune and his photos of the coast evoke Mendocino with lyricism and intensity.  

Yoshi's, 510 Embarcadero West at Jack London Square. $16. 238-9200; yoshis.com

Press Release: Gerard Schwarz Replaces Joana Carneiro in Berkeley Symphony's Opening Night Concert

From Rene Mandel
Friday September 27, 2013 - 10:16:00 AM

Conductor Gerard Schwarz will step in for Music Director Joana Carneiro at Berkeley Symphony’s season opening concert Thursday, October 3 at 7 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall. Maestra Carneiro has had to cancel her appearances due to medical conditions that prevent air travel at this time. The program features the world premiere of Ossicles (Tiny Bones) by Bay Area-based composer and UC Berkeley composition faculty member Edmund Campion, a co-commission with Cal Performances. Ossicles is Campion’s fourth piece for orchestra and refers to the three smallest bones in the human body located in the middle ear. Italian pianist Alessio Bax joins the Orchestra as soloist in Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No.2 with Wagner’s symphonic poem Siegfried’s Idyll also featured on the program. 


Widely regarded for his tenure as Music Director of Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, LA Chamber Orchestra, New York Chamber Symphony and Seattle Symphony, Gerard Schwarz’s most recent project is the All-Star Orchestra. Taking a cue from baseball, Schwarz created an “all-star” team of top musical ‘athletes’ from America’s leading orchestras and brought them all together in New York to create this new eight-episode series now airing throughout the United States on public television. Dedicated to commissioning and performing new music, Schwarz has led more than 300 world premieres throughout his career. Also a prolific recording artist, the conductor’s total discography numbers nearly 350 on labels such as Naxos, Delos, EMI, Koch, New World, Nonesuch, Reference Recording, RLPO Classics, Columbia/Sony and RCA. Schwarz’s pioneering cy cles of American symphonists such as William Schuman, David Diamond and Howard Hanson have received high critical praise, as have his acclaimed series of Stravinsky ballets, symphony cycles of Robert Schumann, Gustav Mahler and Dmitri Shostakovich as well as orchestral works of Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss and Rimsky-Korsakov.  


“It is a huge honor for Berkeley Symphony to welcome Gerard Schwarz,” said Executive Director René Mandel. “I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to make music with this consummate musician, as the Maestro gave me my first job as a violinist back in 1983 with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. Jerry has always amazed me with his ability to lead a vast range of repertoire, including an extraordinary amount of contemporary music, at the highest artistic level. In addition to his many musical talents, Jerry is dedicated to educational projects and is exceedingly generous in mentoring young musicians. He is a true mensch. On behalf of the entire organization, we want to thank Maestro Schwarz for his willingness to step in at this last minute to open our Berkeley Symphony season in such an exciting manner.” 


Founded in 1969 as the Berkeley Promenade Orchestra, Berkeley Symphony has established a reputation for presenting major new works for orchestra alongside fresh interpretations of the classic European repertoire. Berkeley Symphony has been recognized in nine of the past 11 seasons with an Award for Adventurous Programming from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). In addition to its subscription concerts and Under Construction Series, Berkeley Symphony regularly partners with Cal Performances, the performing arts presenter and producer of the University of California, Berkeley, to provide music for visiting artists. Berkeley Symphony’s award-winning yearlong Music in the Schools program reaches every public elementary school student in Berkeley. San Francisco public radio station KALW 91.7 FM is Berkeley Symphony’s broadcast partner, airing all Berkeley Symphony subscription concerts. 

Opening Night: Program I  

Thursday, October 3, 2013 at 7 p.m. 

Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley 

Performers Gerard Schwarz, conductor 

Alessio Bax, piano 


Program Edmund Campion: Ossicles (Tiny Bones) 

(World Premiere co-commission with Cal Performances) 

Wagner: Siegfried Idyll 

Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18 


Single ticket prices range from $15 to $74 and can be placed online at berkeleysymphony.org; over the phone at (510) 841-2800, ext. 1; faxed to Berkeley Symphony’s box office at (510) 841-5422; or mailed to 1942 University Avenue, Suite 207, Berkeley, CA 94704. 


Discounts are available for groups of six or more. Berkeley Symphony offers a $7 Student Rush ticket one hour prior to each performance for those with valid student IDs. For more information or to request a brochure, call Berkeley Symphony at (510) 841-2800, email tickets@berkeleysymphony.org or visit www.berkeleysymphony.org.