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Carol Denney


Janet Yellen of Berkeley Nominated to Head Federal Reserve

BY Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Thursday October 10, 2013 - 11:08:00 AM

Janet Yellen's colleagues and friends at the University of California at Berkeley today celebrated her nomination by President Obama to be the next chair of the Federal Reserve. 

If Yellen, 67, is confirmed by the U.S. Senate, she would be the first woman to head the central bank, which manages the nation's money supply and sets economic policy to promote the twin goals of stable prices and maximum sustainable output and employment. 

She would succeed Ben Bernanke, who will step down in January. 

Yellen is an emeritus professor at the UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business, where she taught macroeconomics from 1980 to 2006. She's also a former president and chief executive of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. 

Yellen, a native of Brooklyn, is married to George Akerlof, a UC Berkeley economist and emeritus professor who won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2001, along with Joseph Stiglitz, who had been one of her professors when she earned her Ph.D. at Yale University. 

Berkeley-Haas Dean Rich Lyons said of Yellen in a statement today, "I could not think of a sharper mind or a more thoughtful citizen to lead the world's most influential central bank in its effort to regain the economy's full potential. She is part of a rich and proud history of Haas faculty who continue to serve the nation at the highest levels of government." 

James Wilcox, a Haas-Berkeley professor and former senior economist at the Federal Reserve, said "Janet Yellen has the knowledge, the experience inside and outside the Fed, the experience inside and outside of Washington, and the temperament to lead the Fed effectively, especially in the conditions that the economy faces and will perhaps face over the next few years." 

Wilcox added, "By force of her arguments, openness to those of others, and record of accomplishments, Yellen has earned great credibility with and the respect of central bankers here and abroad, of economists, of business, of legislators, and of policy analysts." 

Earl Cheit, dean emeritus of Berkeley-Haas, said, "I hired her and have been pleased ever since. At the Haas School, her colleagues and students admired her scholarship and her teaching." 

Cheit said, "As a dean, I especially admired her willingness to be an institution builder. To me, her defining characteristic is quiet competence." 

Berkeley-Haas officials said much of Yellen's research at the university focused on unemployment and labor markets, monetary and fiscal policies, and international trade and investment policy. 

Earlier this year, she was named a Berkeley Fellow, joining an honorific society of friends of UC Berkeley who have been chosen in recognition of their contributions to the campus. 

Yellen is known for being an "easy money" advocate who favors low interest rates to try to help boost the economy and reduce unemployment. 

Yellen said the Fed is actively promoting a faster economic recovery by large-scale purchases of assets such as government bonds, also known as quantitative easing, and communications about the future course of monetary policy, known as forward guidance. 

In a speech to Berkeley-Haas students at the International House on campus last November, Yellen said the Fed is actively promoting a faster economic recovery by large-scale purchases of assets such as government bonds, also known as quantitative easing, and communications about the future course of monetary policy, known as forward guidance. 

Yellen said the Federal Reserve may need to keep interest rates close to zero until early 2016 to implement its "balanced approach" to meeting its mandated goals of achieving full employment and stable prices. 

She said keeping interest rates low for a longer period of time would generate a faster reduction in unemployment but might "slightly overshoot" the Fed's goal of keeping the inflation rate at 2 percent or lower.

Sierra Club's Berkeley Office Hit by Graffiti Protesting Albany Bulb Evictions

By Carol Denney
Wednesday October 09, 2013 - 02:43:00 PM
Carol Denney

The Sierra Club's office on San Pablo Avenue near Dwight was covered with graffiti on Tuesday morning which said, "Sierra Club Evicts Homeless @ Berkeley Bulb," a reference to the planned eviction by the City of Albany of over 60 homeless people who currently live there. The Sierra Club supports the conversion to a park, which does not currently allow for current homeless residents to remain.

Press Release: Randy Schekman awarded 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

From Robert Sanders,U.C.B. Media Relations
Monday October 07, 2013 - 12:03:00 PM

Randy W. Schekman, professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley, has won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his role in revealing the machinery that regulates the transport and secretion of proteins in our cells. He shares the prize with James E. Rothman of Yale University and Thomas C. Südhof of Stanford University.

Discoveries by Schekman about how yeast secrete proteins led directly to the success of the biotechnology industry, which was able to coax yeast to release useful protein drugs, such as insulin and human growth hormone. The three scientists’ research on protein transport in cells, and how cells control this trafficking to secrete hormones and enzymes, illuminated the workings of a fundamental process in cell physiology. 

Schekman is UC Berkeley’s 22nd Nobel Laureate, and the first to receive the prize in the area of physiology or medicine. 

In a statement, the 50-member Nobel Assembly lauded Rothman, Schekman and Südhof for making known “the exquisitely precise control system for the transport and delivery of cellular cargo. Disturbances in this system have deleterious effects and contribute to conditions such as neurological diseases, diabetes, and immunological disorders.” 

“My first reaction was, ‘Oh, my god!’ said Schekman, 64, who was awakened at his El Cerrito home with the good news at 1:30 a.m. “That was also my second reaction.” 

Schekman and Rothman separately mapped out one of the body’s critical networks, the system in all cells that shuttles hormones and enzymes out and adds to the cell surface so it can grow and divide. This system, which utilizes little membrane bubbles to ferry molecules around the cell interior, is so critical that errors in the machinery inevitably lead to death. 

“Ten percent of the proteins that cells make are secreted, including growth factors and hormones, neurotransmitters by nerve cells and insulin from pancreas cells,” said Schekman, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and a faculty member in the Li Ka Shing Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences. Schekman on the phone 

In what some thought was a foolish decision, Schekman decided in 1976, when he first joined the College of Letters and Science at UC Berkeley, to explore this system in yeast. In the ensuing years, he mapped out the machinery by which yeast cells sort, package and deliver proteins via membrane bubbles to the cell surface, secreting proteins important in yeast communication and mating. Yeast also use the process to deliver receptors to the surface, the cells’ main way of controlling activities such as the intake of nutrients like glucose. 

In the 1980s and ’90s, these findings enabled the biotechnology industry to exploit the secretion system in yeast to create and release pharmaceutical products and industrial enzymes. Today, diabetics worldwide use insulin produced and discharged by yeast, and most of the hepatitis B vaccine used around the world is secreted by yeast. Both systems were developed by Chiron Corp. of Emeryville, Calif., now part of Novartis International AG, during the 20 years Schekman consulted for the company. 

Various diseases, including some forms of diabetes and a form of hemophilia, involve a hitch in the secretion system of cells, and Schekman is now investigating a possible link to Alzheimer’s disease. 

“Our findings have aided people in understanding these diseases,” said Schekman. 

Based on the machinery discovered by Schekman and Rothman, Südhof subsequently discovered how nerve cells release signaling molecules, called neurotransmitters, which they use to communicate. 

For his scientific contributions, Schekman was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1992, received the Gairdner International Award in 1996 and the Lasker Award for basic and clinical research in 2002. He was elected president of the American Society for Cell Biology in 1999. On Oct. 3, Schekman received the Otto Warburg Medal of the German Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, which is considered the highest German award in the fields of biochemistry and molecular biology. 

Schekman, formerly editor of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, currently is editor-in-chief of the new open access journal eLife. 

Schekman and his wife, Nancy Walls, have two adult children.

New: Berkeley Fire on Carrison Street Under Control

By Hannah Albarazi (BCN)
Wednesday October 09, 2013 - 05:24:00 PM

Firefighters battled a single-alarm fire at a four-plex apartment in Berkeley this morning, according to fire officials. 

The fire in the 1100 block of Carrison St., near Ashby Avenue, was reported at 12:21 a.m., fire officials said. 

All four units were evacuated and the fire was brought under control at 12:42 a.m. No injuries were reported, according to fire officials. 

The fire displaced three residents and the Red Cross was called in to assist. 

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Earthquake Near Berkeley

By Bay City News
Sunday October 06, 2013 - 10:14:00 PM

The U.S. Geological Survey is reporting that a 3.1 magnitude earthquake centered 2 miles east-northeast of Berkeley in Tilden Park occurred at 9:26 p.m. The earthquake occurred at a depth of 4.6 miles below the surface, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.  


The Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra was performing Pergolesi's Stabat Mater in Berkeley's First Congregational Church when the earthquake struck, but they finished the piece without missing a beat. 

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Hundreds Gather for Berkeley Peace Walk

By C. Denney
Friday October 04, 2013 - 04:22:00 PM
The packed hall at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church before the peace march on Thursday, October 3, 2013, in memory of the three young men killed in West Berkeley this year.
C. Denney
The packed hall at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church before the peace march on Thursday, October 3, 2013, in memory of the three young men killed in West Berkeley this year.

A walk for peace organized by District 1 Councilmember Linda Maio and local religious and social action groups in memory of three people killed earlier this year in West Berkeley gathered so many people they couldn't fit into the social hall at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church. 

Hundreds prayed, sang, and walked through the neighborhoods where three young men lost their lives to violence, and were met with warm welcomes by neighbors and store owners from Hearst Avenue to Gilman Street. 

Lorraine Taylor, whose twin sons were killed in thirteen years ago, walked and sang despite having walked earlier in the day with another organizing effort in Oakland and getting up at 2:00 am, saying, "I had to come." 

District 2 Councilmember Darryl Moore attended the march, along with representatives from several churches. Most of the attendees were neighbors shaken by the violence and committed to working for peace, bringing along their dogs and their children. 

"We can make change," said Nathaniel, one of the organizers who works by choice with gang members in East Oakland. "We can change it with love."

Flash: Grass Fires Push Smoke into Berkeley

By Bay City News
Friday October 04, 2013 - 02:23:00 PM

A grass fire that started south of state Highway 12 in the Suisun City area this afternoon has grown to more than 1,000 acres, a Cal Fire spokesman said. 

The eight-alarm fire is about 50 percent contained, Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said as of 3:30 p.m. today. 

At least one structure has been destroyed by the fire, and around five to 10 others were threatened. 

The fire, which is being driven south by strong winds, triggered evacuations and road closures in the Grizzly Island Wildlife Area, according to Dixon Fire Chief Aaron McAlister. 

Berlant said the large fire is one of several in the North Bay being fanned by strong winds today. 

The hot, dry windy conditions have triggered red flag warnings in the area. 

"This fire is evidence of what these gusty offshore winds can do and why it's so important everyone be careful out there today," Berlant said. 

The fire has caused reports of smoke throughout the East Bay and even as far away as San Francisco and the Peninsula. Berkeley residents in the Claremont-Elmwood area complained of smelling smoke. 

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District this afternoon issued a smoke advisory warning Bay Area residents, especially those with asthma and other respiratory issues, to stay inside with the windows and doors closed as much as possible.



Berkeley Prof Tackles Inequality: Inequality Persists

By Becky O'Malley
Friday October 04, 2013 - 01:42:00 PM

Almost by accident, the other night I saw the new documentary Inequality for All, which features Robert Reich, now Professor of Public Policy at the University of California here in Berkeley. I know, I know, Paul Krugman called him a “non-economist”. . In fact, Krugman once wrote of Reich “talented writer, too bad he never gets anything right.”

But he’s a pretty good teacher and journalist, skilled at communicating important points so that other non-economists like me understand them. This new movie, which relies heavily on animated graphs, is very simple, and much of it is incontrovertible.

I didn’t plan to see it, because I’ve read many of his columns and heard him often on the radio. What brought me there was that I’d agreed to entertain my eleven-year-old granddaughter for the evening, and her mother, who’d seen the film already, thought she’d enjoy it. And, surprisingly, she did.

A plus for the junior set is Reich’s self-mocking comic touch. He’s a master of the short end of the shtick. Well over four feet tall, he misses no opportunity to turn this genetic fact into funny stuff, starting with the lead-in scene where he drives up to the U.C. Berkeley campus in his Mini-Cooper. (You can watch this in the trailer on the film’s web site)

Admittedly, my granddaughter was also intrigued by the idea that the movie was rated PG-13—she was looking forward to something shocking. The girl in the box office didn’t even ask her age, and in truth nothing in the film, except possibly a clip of Jon Stewart employing his signature bleeped-out “fuck”, could be considered remotely racy. The numbers, however, were scary, as I expected.

The theme is simple, and very familiar to those—well, to those to whom it’s familiar. It’s a cliché in some circles: The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Some of us knew that already. 

In fact, if you don’t have time to take in an hour and a half movie, you can quickly get the message, complete with clever animation, in this YouTubed short with Reich’s voice-over narration: 


The night my granddaughter and I went, we expected to have the theater to ourselves, because when her parents saw it the night before in San Francisco there were only four other people in the audience. But when we got to the Berkeley theater, I was surprised to see a long line of people with nametags waiting to get in. As I got closer, I recognized quite a few heavy duty Berkeley honchos, including both the current and the former U.C. Berkeley chancellors and their wives and our state senator, a former mayor of Berkeley who also happens to be married to the current mayor. 

Clearly, this was some sort of delegation of Very Important People who’d been bussed in for the event. In our seats before it started, we learned that the group, whoever they were, would be treated to a Q&A session with the filmmakers after the showing. 

The meat of the message, also visible on the trailer, is a graph showing that income inequality in the United States has had two peaks, one in 1928 and one in 2007, which in animation looks a lot like the Golden Gate Bridge. The rest of the film is devoted to re-stating this lesson in many different ways, and to attempting to explain how this happened. It’s leavened by lightly inserted clips from Professor Reich’s lengthy, impressive CV, scenes from his U.C. class and vignettes from the lives of workers struggling to establish a toe-hold in the middle class. 

In fact, the film’s subtitle is “A Passionate Argument on Behalf of the Middle Class”. It comes down squarely within the truism popular in the latter part of the 20th century, that we’re all proud members of the middle class, regardless, increasingly, of our income. It’s just that many in what used to be called the working class are finding it hard to stay in the shrinking middle. 

Another featured player in the movie is Nick Hanauer, venture capitalist and scion of a mattress manufacturing family who’s not ashamed to tell the audience that he makes too much money, in fact an obscene amount, though he doesn’t explicitly call it that. He’s emphatically not middle class—he’s also listed in the credits as one of the major funders of this Kick-Started production. 

It was his segments that made the strongest impression on my granddaughter. She found it hard to believe that someone would claim not to know whether he made three million or ten million dollars a year. She is certainly able to count her own single digit resources better than that, as evidenced by the precision with which she spent her full snack bar allocation on popcorn to share. 

The production is called by its backers a documentary. It is that, in the sense that its information is accurate and its characters are real people, but it should really be labeled propaganda, in the non-pejorative sense of the word. Its mission is to teach and persuade—with another cliché as its takeaway, the cynic’s version of the Golden Rule: Those who have the gold make the rules. 

Will it change anyone’s mind? 

After the lights went up a man and a woman—I didn’t catch their names or titles—stood up in front with microphones. After the obligatory thankyous to individuals and foundations who had paid for making the film (KickStarter was involved) they asked the audience for their reactions. 

Almost everyone seemed to be part of the special group with the nametags, and they were a polite lot. The first commenters were generally complimentary. One asked if there had been problems getting distribution. No, the woman said, in fact they had quite a few theater slots already and more in the works. Another questioner said that the cost of going to movies, with tickets, babysitters and parking, was prohibitive for many young families—would there be CDs or streaming? Somewhat apologetically, the woman explained that in order to get theater distribution, they had to promise not to release the film elsewhere until after the first of the year, but something would be done then. 

Another question: how much does Hanauer, the mattress manufacturer, pay his workers? The speakers seemed unable or reluctant to answer this, but the man finally said that the workers are paid according to the industry standard, because Hanauer believes in playing by the rules until it is possible to change the rules for everyone. 

He referred the speaker to inequalityforall.com, the film’s web site, for the six specific actions Reich recommends to accomplish rule change. What he liked about working with Reich, he said, was that in his lifetime (he’s forty) most things economic seemed to have been getting consistently worse. Reich showed him, he said, how bad trends could be reversed, as they have, in the past in this country, for example by the Progressives at the turn of the 20th century, the New Deal and other social movements. 

Then someone not wearing a name tag asked if the problem could be the overwhelming power of 21st century capitalism. (Okay, full disclosure, it was me.) The man seemed genuinely nonplussed by this question—said something about not being an economist, just a filmmaker, and tried to move on. 

But the next couple of questioners followed up in the same direction. One, a woman who said she was from Colombia and had been to Cuba a few times, suggested that trying to fix massive income inequality with the recommended small steps was like convincing yourself that changing your light bulbs will stop climate change—emotionally satisfying but ultimately ineffective. An African-American man in the back of the theater wondered why the film didn’t say much about the genuine bad guys on the other side, people like the Koch brothers and the Tea Party. 

And then the time for talking was up. There was some discussion about followup: the filmmakers again touted the website, and the state senator suggested sending out lots of emails, I’m not sure to whom. 

My granddaughter and I had finished our popcorn, and it was past her bedtime, so we went home. She said she’d learned some interesting new facts, but maybe she was just being polite. 

I still had the same question: would the film change anyone’s mind, or is it just preaching to the choir? And does that matter? Because the choir needs some encouragement if it’s going to go on singing. 

When I got home I checked out the website. It’s a marvel of animation, plenty of click-though activities to keep you busy. 

One section, entitled Take Action, started with a quote from Professor Reich: 

"We make the rules of the economy – and we have the power to change those rules."  

Six actions are proposed, each followed by a “show me how” click menu with its own list of things to do: 

·Raise the Minimum Wage

Help turn the jobs we have into ones that will boost the economy, not bust it. Ensure full-time jobs have wages and benefits for people to afford basics. 

·Strengthen Workers’ Voices

Don’t let big employers take away the fundamental right of people to stick together to speak up for themselves at work; public policy should support workers who choose to form a union. 

·Invest in Education

Ensure everyone has access to a great education spanning from early childhood to post-secondary. 

·Reform Wall Street

Ensure the financial sector is working honestly and accountably to prevent it from taking over our economy. 

·Fix the Tax System

Ensure everyone is contributing their fair share; reverse the “great tax shift” – tax policies that shifted taxes from rich individuals and corporations to the rest of us. 

·Get Big Money Out of Politics

Overturn Citizens United so that corporations can’t spend unlimited amounts of money on campaigns, and in return affect public policy and spending priorities. 

Well, sure, but it’s that last one that still seems to me to be the real problem, the one that makes all the others difficult if not impossible to accomplish. It’s cliché #2: the people with the gold make the rules. 

As of this week, the power of big money has once more overwhelmed democratic process. A few rich guys seem to have bought themselves enough House seats to stop government, any kind of government, from doing anything. And the problem’s not just in Washington: the excesses of global capitalism are making a mess of Europe. 

How, then, are we going to change the rules? How, exactly, do we have the power to change them? 

Reich’s role in making the rules throughout his career is problematic. He’s had important positions in at least three national administrations, positions of power, and yet the rules continue to shift toward the rich and away from the poor. How can the rest of us do better?  

No one talks about the poor any more, do they? Or even the working class. It’s all about the middle class, and yet using Reich’s own statistics we learn that many in the United States spend their whole lives without a prayer of ever making it into the middle class. We seem to have decisively lost the War on Poverty, once thought to be as powerful as the New Deal. 

From the website I learned the name of the earnest young man who’d been answering questions in the theater: Jacob Kornbluth, the one with the "filmmaker" title. He’s the younger brother of Josh Kornbluth, who’s made a nice career making fun of his Communist upbringing in comic monologues like Red Diaper Baby, which I saw and laughed at. No wonder Jacob seemed nervous when I tentatively suggested that capitalism itself might be the cause of inequality. If you can’t believe in either communism or capitalism, what does that leave for you to believe in? 

What should I tell my granddaughter—or Jacob—to do to save the world? 

After seeing Inequality for All, I still don’t know, and I doubt if any of the name-tagged muckety-mucks in the theater had their minds changed by seeing it . 

Before the show I happened to recognize the name on one tag, that of a top-tier administrator’s wife who’d been a board member of a music program for disadvantaged youth that U.C. Berkeley had cancelled last spring. I asked her what had happened (though I already had heard much of the back story). The union, she said, it was the fault of the union—and I remembered that I’d been told that when teachers had charged a manager with capricious firing, the university decided just to axe the whole program rather than deal with the union grievance. 

After seeing the film, will she take to heart Reich’s second action, Strengthen Workers’ Voices ( “Don’t let big employers take away the fundamental right of people to stick together to speak up for themselves at work; public policy should support workers who choose to form a union.”) and speak up for the fired teachers? 

I wouldn’t bet on it. 


The Editor's Back Fence


Odd Bodkins: Captain America (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Friday October 04, 2013 - 05:16:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Public Comment

New: New Berkeley Demolition Ordinance Proposal Threatens Rent-Controlled Housing

By Stephen Stine
Tuesday October 08, 2013 - 12:02:00 PM

I just found out from the Berkeley Tenants' Union of a City of Berkeley draft demolition ordinance that will allow developers "to tear down rent controlled units, even those which are occupied or in good condition, and not replace them. The new draft allows developers to pay an unspecified fee which could be changed by City Council at any time." Now, put this together with the lack of legally required notice to the downtown Berkeley residents regarding the Downtown Area Plan zoning changes, and all the upzonings from R-4 to C-DMU zoning that violated DAP Policy LU-7.1, which ordered that the R-4 properties be downzoned to R-3 zoning, and you have a perfect storm where the city and developers have arranged things so that 1) tenants did not know about the proposed DAP rezonings and thus could not organized and complain about them, 2) the city illegitimately upzoned many properties to C-DMU instead of downzoning them to R-3 in accordance with Policy LU-7.1, paving the way for developers to build six-story plus buildings, instead of the three stories allowed under R-3; and 3) they are pushing this new demolition ordinance draft which paves the way for developers to demolish all of the existing apartments in downtown Berkeley, freely evicting existing rent-controlled tenants, in order to build larger, lucrative luxury apartments which the evicted downtown residents will not be able to afford.  

We'd like you all to investigate these issues and spread the word as these are issues that will impact hundreds, if not thousands of Berkeley residents and will shape the Berkeley of the future.

New: UC Berkeley

By Sheila Goldmacher, age 79
Saturday October 05, 2013 - 03:06:00 PM

After reading that UC Berkeley has spent $16.2 million or thereabouts in the last two years on two football coaches and thinking once again this is not the country I grew up in, this a.m. Saturday, the 5th of October, I tried to park close to the farmer's market downtown. Again I found two streets closed to traffic, guarded by police officers. I figured some important work was going on at Berkeley High. It was hot and I was feeling kinda weak on my way back to my car, 5 blocks away. I stopped and spoke with two kindly police persons who informed me that the streets were closed again because it was necessary to park towed cars illegally parked for the Cal football game somewhere. When I got mad, I was told well this is after all a "college town." What about care and concern for the citizens who pay taxes here, especially those of us who are elderly? And what about care and concern for all students whose tuition continues to rise semester by semester as football expenses take a bigger and greater toll on the supposed "educational" institution we used to be so proud of????????? 

Have you heard enuf yet?

New: Federal Shutdown

By Karen Joffe
Saturday October 05, 2013 - 03:05:00 PM

In shutting down our government, House Republicans are taking legislative brinksmanship to dangerous levels and threatening the health of American Democracy itself. 

The Affordable Care Act, a Republican-style marketplace program, became law pursuant to Constitutional protocols: approval in all three branches of our government. 

Further undermining the health of our Democracy, mainstream media outlets all too often allow Tea Party Republicans to evade answering important questions, allowing them, instead, to hijack “news” shows for their political gain. 

Don’t furlough Federal workers and shut down necessary governmental services (weather, space, Earth sciences, health research and so much more). Give these Tea Party Republican terrorists the boot they deserve. Vote them out of office! 

Why I Voted No on Second Hand Smoke Ordinance

By Councilmember Jesse Arreguin
Friday October 04, 2013 - 04:22:00 PM

I just want to respond to Carol Denney’s recent commentary “Berkeley Boots Smoke Out of Multi-Unit Housing” to explain the reasons why I didn't support the motion a majority of the Berkeley City Council approved on Tuesday, to ask the City Manager to come back with an ordinance that enforces a smoking ban as a public nuisance. To clarify the Council did not approve an ordinance banning smoking in multi-family buildings, an effort we have been working on for years. Despite the fact that Walnut Creek is now the 27th city to pass a smoking ban for apartments, Berkeley will have to wait until staff comes back with a revised policy sometime in the next few months. 

Contrary to the way Ms. Denney portrayed it in her commentary, I did not oppose the motion because I am either against banning smoking in multi-family buildings, or because I did not want better enforcement of a law. 

To the contrary, I share Ms. Denney’s concerns that an ordinance that relies on “private right of action” will create neighbor-to-neighbor conflict and will not be an effective way of holding people accountable for violating a ban on smoking in apartments and condos. 

That being said where Ms. Denney and I disagree is not the goal but the way of achieving that goal. In the years that City staff, the Rent Board and the Community Health Commission have been crafting this policy, they have sought to accomplish two goals: ban smoking in all units while not creating incentives to evict long-term tenants. 

The policy that was brought to us by the City Manager and commissions was a compromise that struck that balance. It included a ban on smoking tied with a requirement for no-smoking lease clauses, smoking cessation, signage and notification. It sought to address the issue through education rather than conflict. However ultimately for those rental units where the lease includes a ban on smoking, the landlord could evict a tenant for smoking because of the required lease clause to prohibit smoking. Many rental units in Berkeley already have lease provisions banning smoking in units. 

The issue is with those units which preexisting tenants live in. Under city law a landlord cannot unilaterally change a lease without the agreement of the tenant. Keep in mind that under state mandated vacancy decontrol landlords can charge a market rent upon vacancy, so for long-term tenants who have lived in their units for 20+ years there are huge incentives for owners to push them out so that the landlord can charge a much higher rent. More often than not it will be those long-term rent-controlled tenants who will have leases that allow smoking and who may likely smoke. It would be preferable if smoking complaints were resolved informally rather than through court or eviction which is why I think that mediation should first be required. 

The motion that the Council majority adopted asked staff to come back with a law that declared smoking a nuisance. This is problematic on two levels. First, under Berkeley’s rent control law, if a tenant commits a nuisance it is automatic grounds for eviction. Second, contrary to what Ms. Denney claims, nuisance is also a cumbersome and time-consuming way of enforcement. It involves substantial staff time and notices, inspections, follow up, fines, and even subsequent action if someone does not comply. To think that nuisance will more effectively and quickly resolve smoking complaints is false. It is very staff intensive and takes time. Nuisance would however be a way around the issue of tenants who do not have a lease clause prohibiting smoking, it would allow owners to evict them if they smoke, and maybe that’s why its being considered. However what it will do is create a pretense for owners who want to kick out long- term tenants to get a new higher paying tenant. I do not object to holding people accountable for breaking a law, what I object to is using smoking as a phony excuse to evict someone so you can charge a higher rent. 

I am also concerned that if the ordinance will go into effect only a few months from when it is adopted, that there will not be enough time to educate tenants and landlords about the new law. 

Now that’s not to say that smoking is acceptable. It is not. It is very clear that there are significant health effects that result from second hand smoke and no one’s health should be at risk. 

So what’s the best way of achieving this? I believe we can accomplish both goals of protecting tenants from exposure to second hand smoke and not allowing landlords to have a pretense for evictions. 

Private right of action (taking your fellow tenant to small claims court) is not perfect and I believe that there is another way to have stronger and effective enforcement without creating a loophole so landlords can evict tenants. 

Here’s why I voted against the motion: Not because I oppose a ban on smoking in multi-family buildings, but because the motion the Council approved was hastily put together, and will have significant ramifications, that could be avoided by taking another approach. 

I object to this false dichotomy that we need to create incentives to evict long- term tenants to address smoking in buildings. We can find a way to stop smoking in buildings and not create incentives for owners for arbitrary evictions. I am personally committed and will work to find a solution that gives Berkeley the most effective smoke-free housing law in California. 

Jesse Arreguin is a Berkeley City Councilmember.

Wimps, All of Them

By Julia Ross, J.D.
Friday October 04, 2013 - 04:36:00 PM

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

New: Flawed Logic – The Tobacco Industry’s Legacy

By C. Denney
Monday October 07, 2013 - 09:28:00 AM

Councilmember Jesse Arreguin is scrambling to justify voting against strong, protective secondhand smoke regulations in multi-unit housing to save thousands in Berkeley from serious toxic exposure. His logic is flawed. 

He claims that the policy rejected by the council on October 1, 2013 promoted change through “education rather than conflict” although it required each and every exposed tenant to turn individually to the courts for extremely limited fines, fines which would never assure any tenant of clean, breathable air. 

The “right of private action”, the rejected enforcement mechanism, is a right all tenants already have --- if they have lots of money, lots of time, can find a lawyer interested in taking their case, and who have a burning desire to be thoroughly hated by their neighbors. The “right of private action” is in fact the current policy, which those of us suffering from cancer know is not working in favor of our health. 

No one disputes that long-term tenants, who generally have lower rents than new tenants thanks to state-based vacancy decontrol, are less lucrative than short-term tenants, and that such a group might inspire landlords to make false charges of property rules violations. But nonsmokers are more likely to be in this category than smokers, who constitute only 10% of Alameda County residents and overwhelmingly (85%) smoke outdoors for obvious reasons. 

Councilmember Arreguin’s claims that strong smokefree housing regulations will create a “rash of evictions” is not supported by historical data, nationally or internationally. The Rent Stabilization Board, which made this same argument, admitted after a public records request it had no factual data to support it. Policy should not be based on hypothetical assumptions strangely consonant with tobacco industry propaganda. 

A “nuisance” designation may be grounds for eviction, but all tenants have to do to avoid contributing to a nuisance is smoke outside. None of them have to quit smoking, although smoking regulations often help them quit. Most smokers already live in smokefree housing by choice, and common law habitability requirements, requirements which require potable water, access to sanitary facilities, etc., presumably include breathable air. Anyone who smokes in multi-unit housing is not just smoking in their own home—they’re smoking in mine. 

Not only do studies prove that low-income tenants’ interest in protecting their own families’ health is the same as any other group, people who struggle with addiction issues, mental health issues, or who were formerly homeless also have been shown to have an equal interest in protecting their own and their families health and no more difficulty complying with smoking regulations than any other group. To argue otherwise is racist. 

Tobacco industry propaganda is powerful, and has influenced many well-intended people and policymakers. I encourage Jesse Arreguin, and anyone else tempted to water down smokefree regulations to the point of ineffectuality, to talk with health professionals about current science and the best practices before sentencing thousands of innocent people to a life of toxic exposure.

October Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Friday October 04, 2013 - 05:19:00 PM

Editor's Note: The latest issue of the Pepper Spray Times is now available.

You can view it absolutely free of charge by clicking here . You can print it out to give to your friends.

Grace Underpressure has been producing it for many years now, even before the Berkeley Daily Planet started distributing it, most of the time without being paid, and now we'd like you to show your appreciation by using the button below to send her money.  

This is a Very Good Deal. Go for it! 

Netanyahu’s uncharm offensive

By Jagjit Singh
Friday October 04, 2013 - 04:40:00 PM

Benjamin Netanyahu used his usual toxic mix of sarcasm and combative words to denigrate Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani. Unlike Israel, Iran has not preemptively waged war for the past 4oo years. 

We should not sabotage new diplomatic openings which offer the best chance to establish a new relationship since the 1979 Iranian revolution which propelled American-Iranian relations into a deep freeze. Iran has ample reason for mistrusting Israeli and US intentions. According to declassified CIA documents, the US played a major role in overthrowing the highly popular democratically elected Iranian government of Mosaddeq in 1953. The Shah of Iran replaced Mosaddeq and launched a reign of terror to neutralize his opponents. The US also played a major role enabling Saddam Hussein to slaughter thousands of Iranians using chemical weapons. 

Israeli terrorists have also launched numerous attacks assassinating Iranian nuclear scientists. 

Netanyahu’s diatribes and threats to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities have fueled much of the anger and emboldened Iran’s hardliners. Likewise, economic sanctions have hurt ordinary Iranians just as they did in Iraq which led to the death of 500,000 men, women and children which elicited a belated apology from Secretary of State, Madeline Albright. 

Could anyone blame Iran from developing effective deterrents to potential attacks? 

Spinning rods might enrich uranium but would undoubtedly impoverish the Iranian people. Furthermore, Iran is prone to devastating earthquakes which render bomb making less appealing. Enough of Netanyahu’s redling, huffing and puffing. Let’s respond positively to Rouhani’s olive branch and give peace a chance.


THE PUBLIC EYE: Why Have Republicans Lost Common Sense?

By Bob Burnett
Friday October 04, 2013 - 04:18:00 PM

On October 1st the US government shut down because Republicans in the House of Representatives refused to pass a budget without limits on the Affordable Care Act. The GOP made this decision despite overwhelming public opposition. Why have Republicans abandoned common sense? 

Interestingly, not all members of the GOP establishment supported the House action. Influential strategist Karl Rove opined the House GOP strategy is “self –defeating… it is an ill-conceived tactic, and Republicans should reject it.” Arizona Senator John McCain observed, “I can tell you that in the U.S. Senate, we will not repeal or defund Obamacare. We will not. And to think we can is not rational.” New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte added, “I don’t believe they should shut down the government to [defund Obamacare], and I don’t think that is a strategy that is good for America.” Even the conservative editorial board of the Wall Street Journal wrote, “Kamikaze missions rarely turn out well, least of all for the pilots… The kamikazes could end up ensuring the return of all-Democratic rule.” 

The conservative editorial board of the Arizona Republic went farther by calling the House Republicans “stupid.” “You accomplish nothing by holding your breath and insisting it’s your way or no way. That’s the stupid approach to governing.” The editorial board was repeating what many mature Republicans have been saying for months, most notably Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal who, in January, told the Republican National Committee 

We've got to stop being the stupid party. It's time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults. We had a number of Republicans damage the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments.

Republican misbehavior and intransigence shouldn’t come as a surprise to Americans. A recent Gallup Poll showed that most Americans thought Republicans were doing too little to compromise. In fact, the number one thing that Republican poll respondents thought about their own party was that it was “Inflexible/Unwilling to compromise.” (26 percent) 

Nonetheless, the House GOP has continued its dogmatic inflexibility. Why? 

Because it’s their strategy. Political commentator Jonathan Chait reported that in January, in response to Obama’s reelection, House Republicans formulated “The Williamsburg Accord:” 

The first element of the strategy is a kind of legislative strike. Initially, House Republicans decided to boycott all direct negotiations with President Obama, and then subsequently extended that boycott to negotiations with the Democratic Senate… The way to make sense of it is that Republicans have planned since January to force Obama to accede to large chunks of the Republican agenda, without Republicans having to offer any policy concessions of their own.

The Williamsburg Accord produced the March budget stalemate. First the Senate passed its budget plan. A Few days later the House passed its budget, authored by Republican Congressman Paul Ryan. The next step should have been to form a conference committee to reconcile the differences between the two bills, but, consistent with the Williamsburg Accord, Republicans refused to cooperate

As veteran Washington reporter David Rogers observed, the Republican boycott produced the government shutdown: 

The lure was always to push Obama back against a debt ceiling backstop. But the sort of entitlement reforms and long-term savings that Republicans want are far better dealt with in a budget reconciliation bill. Now, after blocking the Senate from going to conference, the GOP is left with two time-sensitive vehicles — a [continuing budget resolution]and a debt ceiling bill — to try to effect change.

Meanwhile, America is waiting for Republicans to come to their senses. We may wait a long time. A recent article in the New York Times made a distinction between “two major strands of conservatism in America:” traditional conservatism and Tea Party or “reactionary” conservatism. The article observed that traditional conservatives wish “to preserve a stable society.” On the other hand Tea-party conservatives: 

… generally fearful of losing their way of life in a wave of social change… [are] willing to undermine long-established norms and institutions… for them compromise is commensurate with defeat.

At the moment the House of Representatives has 432 members: 232 Republicans, 200 Democrats, and 3 vacancies. The New York Times reports there are roughly two-dozen Tea-Party conservatives representatives who are leading the House GOP: 

Their numbers may be small, but they are large enough to threaten the speaker’s job if he were to turn to Democrats to pass a spending bill that reopened the government without walloping the health law. Their strategy is to yield no ground until they are able to pass legislation reining in the health care law; if the federal government stays closed, so be it.

At some point, the traditional conservative members of the House will have to regain control of their caucus before their Tea-Party colleagues drive the US over a financial cliff. At some point, Republicans have to disavow the Tea-Party anarchists and regain common sense. 

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


ECLECTIC RANT: Expect More Failed Israeli-Palestinian Peace Negotiations

By Ralph E. Stone
Friday October 04, 2013 - 04:20:00 PM

The Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams met again on October 3, 2013 for the eighth time since direct peace talks were resumed in late July. No one but the eternally optimistic expects any meaningful result from these negotiations. The history of these negotiations is merely camouflage for the systematic annexation of the West Bank by way of settlement construction hoping that this will encourage Palestinian emigration. In short, a state for Palestine and one for Israel is but an illusion

At the creation of Israel in 1947, the United Nations partitioned the land, allotting the Jews 55 percent of Palestine. In the war of 1967, Israel conducted a pre-emptive strike against Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. After the war, the remaining Palestinian territory was captured by Israel. Out of this captured land, Israel created the West Bank and the Gaza Strip by chopping up the land into isolated enclaves surrounded by Jewish settlements and Israeli occupation forces. The Palestinians lost 78 percent of their land to Israel and were left with 22 percent. 

Under the United Nation's Charter, there can lawfully be no territorial gains from war, even by a state acting in self-defense. Therefore, even if Israel’s action were to be considered defensive, its retention of the West Bank is unlawful.  

What do the Palestinians want from the peace negotiations? Palestine has indicated that it would end all historic claims against Israel once they establish their state in the lands Israel occupied in the 1967 Mideast War. The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem captured by Israel in the 1967 War. Israel has withdrawn from Gaza, but about a half million Israelis have settled in the other war-won areas.  

Israel has erected a wall or fence, which cuts deep into Palestinian territory, joining large Jewish settlement blocks to Israel, further confining the Palestinians to isolated enclaves. And Israel continues to establish new settlements (called outposts), demolishing homes and uprooting plantations in the process.  

Back in March 3013, Israel's new housing minister said Israel will continue expanding Jewish settlements. And In August 2013, Israel announced new bids to 1,000 new settlement units in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem. To state the obvious, these settlements alone, are fatal to any possibility of an agreement with the Palestinians. Does anyone really believe that Israel will agree to dismantle these settlements? 

Where does the U.S. stand in all this? Had the U.S. intervened early on, it might have enhanced prospects for peace by convincing the Israelis to cease building settlements in the West Bank. Now we have a White House and a Congress who consider it political suicide to threaten to cutoff foreign aid, military aid or loan guarantees to force Israel to cease building settlements. All that remains to the U.S. is bluster and outrage, which Israel and the Arab world have long realized signifies little or nothing.  

This is the price we pay for our lockstep support of Israel. As a result, the current peace negotiations are doomed to fail. 

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: The Tragedy That Befell Miriam Carey

By Jack Bragen
Friday October 04, 2013 - 04:09:00 PM

Miriam Carey, a thirty-four-year-old woman, with her young child in the car, attempted to crash the gates at the White House, led Capitol Police on a high-speed car chase, and was shot to death near Capitol Hill. 

The symptoms of psychosis that may have led to this woman's demise may not be extremely unusual for people who suffer from bipolar or schizophrenia. I once had a friend who pulled off stunts that were similar--for purposes of this article I will call the man "L." 

The man I knew named L told me that he once attempted to crash the gates at the Concord Naval Weapons Station and claimed he fled in his pickup truck from police who were firing at him. His story may have been a bit exaggerated, since he apparently survived that situation. In his past, many of his delusions concerned the government and the military. L believed he was a CIA agent. 

My friend named L had made a recovery from his illness until shortly after 9-11. Despite his tough exterior, I believe L was a sensitive man and was probably very disturbed by our country going to war. 

Within a year of the 9/11 incident, L became ill one final time and apparently died of a heart attack due to the stresses of being psychotic. 

On the heels of the tragedy on Capitol Hill, and the tragedy of the Naval Yard Shooting, many people might believe society ought to have more control over persons with mental illness. But there are problems with that idea. 

Today, persons with mental illness who are in recovery are subject to multiple pressures. For one thing, the SSI benefits that we receive are no longer sufficient for us to survive--at least in the Bay Area, where everything is expensive. Many persons with mental illness are forced to get food from churches and due to economic pressures must live in partly or completely institutionalized situations. 

In addition to economic pressure, we may have more fear connected to the possibility of relapses. It seems like law enforcement is more eager than it was to lock up persons whose behavior is "different." Thus, persons with mental illness are living with the fear of being incarcerated. 

Today, there is more surveillance than there ever has been which is conducted in the name of national security. When surveillance is real instead of imagined, it is that much more difficult for a person subject to paranoid delusions. Reality has morphed to resemble our delusions, it seems. 

Perhaps the apparent increase of incidents involving mentally ill people is due to the fact that society is putting a heck of a lot of pressure on us. There is currently a great deal of pressure on us to behave "normally" and also many of us have difficulties adapting to the demands of modern society. 

As long as persons with mental illness have some amount of liberty, there will inevitably be some tragic incidents that occur infrequently. However, the solution isn't necessarily found in increasing monitoring and restrictions of persons with mental illness. 

I believe society ought to make conditions better, more hopeful and more comfortable so that we are no longer living in a constant state of fear, despair, and poverty. Improving conditions for us may not completely eliminate tragic incidents, but it should be done on the basis of societal conscience.

SENIOR POWER: Grandparenting is a Gerund… and a Lot More

By Helen Rippier Wheeler, pen136@dslextreme.com
Friday October 04, 2013 - 04:49:00 PM

Many of today’s grandparents want to define for themselves their specific relationship with their grandchildren. Few want to baby-sit regularly or be responsible for child care. Some enjoy taking care of their grandchildren. Most women resist the stereotype of the doormat grandmother -- always there when anyone needs her but otherwise not in the way. 

In California, the high cost of raising a child challenges the state's most vulnerable caregivers—grandparents. A recent study found grandmothers who raise their grandchildren struggle with depression, while another study about the same time reported that closeness between grandparents and adult grandchildren may ease depression! It has been suggested that the health cost slowdown is great for grandparents, but even with Medicare coverage, American retirees over age 65 spend more on health care than on food.  

Arab American elders are facing the rest of their lives alone, says Mohamad Ozeir (New America Media, April 21, 2013). Isolation and neglect describe their current condition-- most emigrated from places where aging is not an “issue” [problem.] Life expectancy in many Arab countries is at best only a couple of years more than the average retirement age in the United States. Longevity for Arabs in the United States is about two years shorter than that of non-Arabs, partly because Arab elders have high levels of chronic illness. Government-subsidized residential centers such as the Freda Centers in Michigan address part of elders’ needs while also presenting new challenges. For example, the high illiteracy rate among Arab American elders, especially women, makes understanding the rules and communicating with senior developments managements and providers very difficult. Some elders violate rules by frequently babysitting their grandchildren; others cook and do laundry for their children. Many of the elders are in poor health and have inadequate treatment for their ailments because they lack information about health services or preventive care. The salient issue [problem] is social isolation, fed by infrequent visits from loved ones and feelings of guilt for being away from their families. Intensifying this problem is the tendency to view isolation as a normal stage of aging. 

In Great Britain, a new study contends that grandparents who are “carers” need time off. Elderly people living alone are being urged to take in a “lodger” to help with household chores and enable them to remain in their own homes as long as possible. (Daily Telegraph [London], August 30, 2013).  

In Germany, emigrant nursing home residents is a controversial movement. The “export Grandma” trend has been denounced as “gerontologic colonialism” compared to nations exporting their trash. Families respond that a lack of affordable quality care at home makes it their best option in order to provide a dignified old age for elderly parents -- and save money. One in five Germans would now consider going abroad for a nursing home (not for themselves, doubtless,) according to a survey by pollster TNS Emnid. “… when your parents get older, send them to Poland,” says a 66-year-old daughter. Her mother’s new home is in a Polish ski resort. The daughter chose the nursing home sight unseen after studying its website and meeting with a nursing-home placement broker . The trade-off for both mother and daughter, who used to live only a two-minute walk apart, is the 350 miles separating them. The owners say half the residents will soon be Germans, who have state-mandated long-term care insurance through a nearly 20-year-old program, a benefit out of the reach of most people outside Europe, including the United States. Not every Polish nursing home advertising in German on the Web is what it seems. However, one, a small residence near the German border, promises rooms that sleep four for an unusually low price of 400 euros per month, with an on-site nurse and mushroom hunting excursions. Read Naomi Kresge’s report Grandma Export Exposes German Struggle With Care; German Grandmas Sent to Poland as Costs Converge," adapted here with permission from Sept. 15, 2013 Bloomberg Newsletter. 


Grandpa, A Young Man Grown Old is a book by Harriet Langsam Sobol with photographs by Patricia Agre. Don’t let the facts that it’s 33 years old and in the public library children’s collection deter you. It’s a good book. Seventeen-year old granddaughter Karen’s views of her grandfather, Morris Kaye (79 at the time) are juxtaposed with his descriptions of his life. A widower, he lives alone in the Westchester County home he once shared and commutes to work. He writes “My office is directly across from the main branch of the New York Public Library so I can go there as much as I want to…When I was a young boy, the books that I read opened the walls of my life. There was a library in my neighborhood of Manhattan called the Seward Park Branch.”  

The Flat opens with the motion picture’s director and members of his family gathered in their grandmother’s apartment after her death. They are there in order to clear out the contents. Fifty-year old Arnon Goldfinger soon finds various items that reveal an astonishing chapter in the family's history that had been kept hidden for decades— their grandparents’ close friendship with a Nazi couple. Goldfinger’s first full length film, The Komediant, released in 1999, was an award-winning documentary about a family of Yiddish vaudeville artists and the history of the Yiddish theater. The Flat is his second full length film, in 2011, an Israeli- German coproduction.  


Marion Lois Ward was nineteen when she was employed to teach in a rural Vermont grammar school and met the man whose remembrance still evoked pleasure for her when I knew her many years later. He was a farmer, big and attractive to women, but with a mean disposition and enemies. There were to be separations and divorces among their thirteen children who, despite poverty, foster homes, epidemics and fires, made it to adulthood.  

Marion Ward Wheeler was twenty-two years old in 1892, when she bore her first son, my father. The autumn of the year that he was fourteen years old and the harvest was in, the barn was full, ready for the long cold winter. When his father’s enemies set fire to it, the depressed patriarch swilled down poison, leaving the oldest son to help his mother on the manless farm.  

Through the years, Grandma Wheeler remained accessible to her sons’ former wives and their children, although my visits were restricted to times when my father and his latest wife were not expected. More than a half-century later, my grandmother and I would sit together and talk during my visits to Vermont. I sensed that I was special, at least to her, because I was his child as well as his only child. Most of my father’s sisters seemed to accept my presence for Grandma’s sake. Most of his brothers made it clear by sullen silence, glaring or absence that they did not. 

In winter, Grandma would be in her rocking chair in the warm kitchen, and in summer, on the porch. The year I was fourteen I visited at Christmas. A big black cook stove in the kitchen and a potbelly in the living-dining room heated the rural house. The double bed in the unheated, upstairs bedroom was warmed before I jumped in. I thought about my father sleeping in this bed during his visits. That he was not alone hadn’t occurred to me. 

Summer visitors and city folk with houses in the area dropped in to use the telephone, get their mail, and gush over the country folk. Grandma lived with her youngest daughter whose handsome hardworking husband was devoted to her. One afternoon during that winter visit my grandmother was alone with several “state” foster children and me. She must have been around seventy-five years old at the time, in good health except for rheumatic knees that required a cane. I was the cause of their piling too much wood into the potbelly stove. When the stovepipe caught fire, she calmly stood up and took over, raising her raspy voice slightly but firmly. A neighbor knew that if Grandma Wheeler sent word, it meant now. He blew in, ran upstairs, and tore open the floorboards and cleaned out the smoldering mice nests snuggled up against the warm chimney. That evening she arranged a sugaring-off party for my benefit.  

As an adult, I continued to visit when I could, welcomed perhaps because I came from a distance to visit Grandma. In 1957, I drove to Vermont for her eighty-seventh birthday. She and I were sitting together on the porch when a man in an old-fashioned horse and buggy drove by on the narrow dirt road, and she said wistfully “Your grandfather courted me in a buggy like that.”  

Marion Lois Ward Wheeler’s reputation as a strong, caring woman had grown over the years. I knew the final time I visited would be the last, and I tried not to cry when I was leaving. I slipped the aunt with whom she lived a note asking that she let me know when the time came. I couldn’t say it. To earn money in ways country women could, these two had managed the United States Post Office in the converted living room. They had boarded the “summer minister” in the spare bedroom. My aunt – the child who was six months old at the time of her father’s death – had driven the school bus and tended store. Together they cared for “state” foster children. More than fifty children had called my aunt mama and my grandmother grandma, been kissed good night every night, and received an occasional slap. Most stayed until they reached age sixteen, when the state required them to leave the system. There might also be one or two grandchildren in residence because their parents were for some reason unable to care for them.  

My grandmother was a matriarch so well known that her funeral in 1963 drew crowds that filled the Grange Hall in the isolated rural community. A friend drove me up from New York. Cars and other vehicles were parked everywhere on the unpaved road and in the dooryard. Country style, a member of the Attending Sheriff’s Posse approached my friend about the car in which we had been seen arriving: a tire was low… would we like him to fix it? After we were bedded down in the big bed upstairs, my aunt drove alone in a pickup truck through the stark rural darkness, up the narrow, winding dirt Stage Road to the remote cemetery at the top of the hill to be alone once more with her mother. 

Adapted from The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually; A Memoir. Inkwater Press, 2013. 


Arts & Events

Enjoy Brazilian Culture at the Freight on Sunday

Jane Lenoir and Brian Rice, Co-Directors Berkeley Festival of Choro
Wednesday October 09, 2013 - 11:52:00 AM

Want to enjoy a night of Brazilian culture and music at the Freight & Salvage Sunday, October 13, and bring along a young music student as well? Then go to https://www.facebook.com/events/456339077807397 and sign up to attend Berkeley's first Festival of Choro, music native to Brazil, and to support admission for a young music student from the East Bay as well. Our band, Berkeley Choro Ensemble, will be playing in this concert, as well as two other Brazilian music groups. 

Your tax-free donation will not only let you enjoy hours of immersion into the Brazilian music experience but will also teach and instruct the students your funding supports with workshops and performances given throughout the Festival of Choro. To donate, go to https://www.wepay.com/donations/1238052087 

Hope to see you Sunday!

AROUND AND ABOUT THE PERFORMING ARTS: 'Angel Heart,' Unusual Family Entertainment Featuring Frederica Von Stade, Malcolm McDowell & Others

By Ken Bullock
Friday October 04, 2013 - 04:38:00 PM

Cal Performances is hosting one of two premiere performances--the other at Carnegie Hall--of 'Angel Heart,' a multimedia "dream of lullabies," conceived by composer Luna Pearl Woolf and soprano Lisa Delan, with a story by German children's fantasy author Cornelia Funke, and the participation of other composers, including Jake Heggie and Gordon Getty, soprano Frederica Von Stade and her Children's Choir of St. Martin Porres School (of Oakland), and Uccello all-cello ensemble, with actor Malcolm McDowell narrating, Sunday at 5, in the intimate, acoustically excellent auditorium of Hertz Hall, UC Berkeley campus. 

Woolf and Delan thought up a performed children's storybook, "where songs take the place of the illustrations," recruited Funke, the other composers (for both original music and to arrange familiar traditional and pop songs), Uccello's ensemble of cellists, von Stade and film actor McDowell, with scenic art by LA studio Mirada. Book, CD, iPad app will all go on sale September 23, with narration by Jeremy Irons, as well as solos by the late Bay Area soprano Zheng Cao. More info at: angelhesrtmusicstorybook.com 

$18 for children, $36 for adults. 642-9988; cal performances.org

AROUND AND ABOUT MUSIC; Jerry Kunderna & Friends Play Anne Callaway's Three Runes and Pieces by Earlier Composers

By Ken Bullock
Friday October 04, 2013 - 04:14:00 PM

Jerry Kuderna--a one man music festival himself--will play Berkeley composer Anne Callaway's Three Runes for Piano Solo (2013), and with Emily Rubis (piano), Jen Adler Mathers (cello), Yuri Kye (violin) and a second violinist to be announced, play the Beethoven Trio in C minor, Opus 1, number 3; Cecile Chaminade's Trio for Piano & Strings, Opus 34 and Debussy's En Blanc et Noir for two pianos (1915), next Friday, October 11, 8-10 p. m., at the Berkeley Arts Festival, 2133 University Avenue, near Shattuck. $10-$20 suggested donation. berkeleyartsfestival.com