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Berkeley Group Seeks Police Review Commission Hearing on Death of Mentally Ill Person

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Wednesday October 16, 2013 - 09:40:00 PM

Several community groups are presenting a petition today to compel the Berkeley Police Review Commission to hold a special hearing on the death of a mentally ill transgender woman who died in a struggle with officers in February. 

Diana Bohn, of the Coalition for a Safe Berkeley, said about 100 people have signed the petition, which stemmed from the death of Xavier Moore, 41, who identified as Kayla Moore. 

Moore died shortly after a struggle with police at Moore's apartment at the Gaia Building in the 2100 block of Allston Way shortly before midnight on Feb. 12. 

Only 50 signatures are needed to compel the Police Review Commission to hold a hearing on the matter, Bohn said. 

Andrea Pritchett, of Berkeley Copwatch, said, "We're asking for a special meeting to present the findings of our investigation" into Moore's death. 

Pritchett said the "people's investigation" into Moore's death found that Moore shouldn't have died, and that the city of Berkeley needs to spend more money on services for mentally ill people and train more police officers on how to respond to calls involving the mentally ill. 

Berkeley police said in a lengthy report in May that they believed Moore's death was an accident and that the physical force officers used to restrain Moore was "reasonable." 

Police said the Alameda County coroner's bureau ruled that Moore died of acute combined drug intoxication involving methamphetamine and codeine, and that an enlarged heart and morbid obesity contributed to her death. 

According to police, Moore weighed 347 pounds, had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was a heavy smoker. 

Officers had responded to Moore's apartment on Feb. 12 after her roommate reported that Moore was acting aggressively and that he feared for his safety. 

Moore's sister, Maria Moore, said today that Moore was simply off of her medication and "was not out of control." She s aid police should have just made sure Moore was safe and then moved along. 

Officers initially put Moore in restraints but removed them after she became unresponsive. She later died at a hospital. 

Maria Moore said she believes the shortage of funding for mental health services in Berkeley was one of the causes of Moore's death. 

She said her family plans to file a lawsuit against the city of Berkeley and its police department seeking damages for Moore's death. 

Spokespersons for the Police Department and the Police Review Commission weren't immediately available for comment today. 

The group that gathered the signatures was planning a news conference late this afternoon in front of the commission's office at the Veterans Memorial Building at 1947 Center St. in Berkeley.

Press Release: Californians to Protest Brown's Environmental Award On Thursday in San Francisco

From Donald Goldmacher
Wednesday October 16, 2013 - 04:45:00 PM

On Thursday, October 17, approximately 200 California residents will be outside Le Parc Hotel in San Francisco protesting the Blue Green Alliance’s honoring of Governor Jerry Brown with its Right Stuff Award. In particular, the protest will focus on Brown’s support for fracking, a massive twin tunnels project and his emissions trading scheme.  

The protest was organized by a group of individuals unaffiliated with national environmental organizations who were galvanized by Brown’s most recent assault on the environment: the green lighting of fracking in California.  

“Jerry Brown ignored the majority of Californians and the rank and file of the Democratic Party who support a moratorium on fracking,” said organizer Damien Luzzo. “He signaled that he would not sign any of the moratorium bills and only signed the already weak SB4, after he gutted it at the 11th hour at the behest of Big Oil.”  

According to organizer Lauren Steiner, “When I worked on Jerry Brown’s presidential campaign in 1992, he was an uncompromised environmentalist. Now he will support any industry, including polluting ones, if he thinks it can bring jobs and tax revenues. In 1992, the old Jerry Brown limited his campaign contributions to under $100, so he wouldn’t be beholden to special interests. The new Jerry Brown has accepted $2.5 million over the past few years from the oil and gas industry.” 

At the rally, Steve Ongerth, founder of the IWW Environmental Caucus, will talk about how he and some Earth First!ers founded what became the BGA in 1998 and how far the group has strayed from its original purpose.  

Pamela Zuppo, from the San Francisco chapter of 350.org, will speak on Brown’s support of fracking.  

Michael Preston, from the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, will speak out against the peripheral tunnels and Shasta dam raise that will cause massive fish extinction and destroy the whole Bay Delta Estuary just to divert water to Big Ag and Big Oil.  

Tom Goldtooth, from the Indigenous Environmental Network, will urge Brown to reject REDD+ carbon trading credits, which allow corporations to grab huge swaths of land in developing countries in order to keep polluting at home, usually in low income neighborhoods populated by people of color.  

Hezekiah Allen, former Executive Director of the Mattole Restoration Council, an organization committed to community-based watershed protection and restoration, forest protection, and water conservation, will talk about how progress in renewable energy can get us off fossil fuels today, if only political leaders like Jerry Brown had the will to do so. 

The final portion of the program will be the reading of a list of groups and individuals who should have received an environmental award this year instead of Jerry Brown. These include: • Holly Mitchell, who introduced a strong fracking moratorium bill in the state legislature and LA City Council members Paul Koretz and Mike Bonin, who recently introduced a fracking moratorium motion in Los Angeles; • Mark Jacobson, from Stanford University, who has developed a plan to power California with 100% renewables by 2030; • The Center for Biological Diversity and Earthjustice, whose lawsuit halted fracking in public lands in California; • Truthout, the on-line publication whose investigative reporting uncovered fracking off the California coast; • The Coalition to Decommission San Onofre, whose tireless work led to the shutdown of this dangerous nuclear power plant; • State Senator Lois Wolk, a tireless opponent of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, whose recently signed bill SB43 allows customers to get more than 20% of their power from renewables; • The Klamath Justice Coalition, a coalition of members of Indian Tribes and activists who have helped stop fish kills and fought for dam removal on the Klamath River; and • The California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, which has filed hundreds of successful lawsuits and complaints compelling industry, agribusiness, cities, counties and water boards to comply with the Clean Water Act. • Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, who has waived residential solar permit fees, initiated a solar thermal rebate policy and a green jobs training program, sponsored Green Building and Compostable Food Ware ordinances and helped negotiate a $114 million settlement with Chevron. 

New: UC Berkeley Police Working to Thwart Robberies after Recent Crimes

By Sasha Lekach (BCN)
Wednesday October 16, 2013 - 09:43:00 PM

Four armed robberies have occurred on or near the University of California at Berkeley campus in the past week, and police are beefing up patrols and reminding students to remain vigilant.  

The latest robbery was reported around 7:40 a.m. Tuesday. A male student told police he had been walking north on the path between North Gate and University Drive at about 7:15 a.m. when two men approached him. 

The suspects demanded his property and one showed the victim the handle of a gun in his pocket, according to police. The victim gave up his belongs and the suspects ran away toward Hearst Avenue. 

The victim was not injured. 

Police searched the area for the suspects, but they were not found. The first was described as a black man between the ages of 18 and 20, standing about 5 feet 10 inches tall with a medium build. He had some facial hair on his chin and was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and black pants. 

The second suspect was also black, and between 20 and 23 years old standing about 6 feet tall. He had a slender build and was armed with a black handgun.  

The armed robbery follows three others since last Thursday. 

A 57-year-old female university employee was mugged by a suspect with a gun around 5:30 a.m. Thursday near Berkeley Way and Oxford Street. Later that day, a 19-year-old female student was held up at a bus stop at 2424 Channing Way, near Telegraph Avenue. 

On Sunday night, a student's phone was taken at gunpoint by two men near the Moffitt Library on campus. 

UC Berkeley police Lt. Marc DeCoulode said the series of crimes is "unusual."  

He said police have adjusted staffing to have more officers patrolling campus, particularly in the early morning and evening hours. 

DeCoulode noted that although none of the robberies have resulted in serious injury, there is always that possibility when weapons are involved. 

He advised students, faculty and staff to be aware of their surroundings when walking in the campus area. One of the victims was targeted for a phone, he said, which serves as a reminder to put away electronics while walking. 

He said many of these robberies are likely opportunistic. 

"It's just one of those cases where we have some people out and they have the opportunity," he said. 

Fliers have been posted on campus about the increase in robberies, and alerts have gone out through an online system to warn the community about the crimes, Decoulode said. 

UC Berkeley police Lt. Eric Tejada called the robberies "troubling." They are being investigated to see if there are any connections but no links have been found so far, police said. 


Press Release: Taxpayers Picking Up Annual $7 Billion Tab for Low-Wage Fast-Food Fobs, According to U.C. Berkeley Study

From Kathleen Maclay |UCB Media Relations
Tuesday October 15, 2013 - 04:50:00 PM

The fast-food industry costs American taxpayers nearly $7 billion annually because its jobs pay so little that 52 percent of fast-food workers are forced to enroll their families in public assistance programs, according to a report released today (Tuesday, Oct. 15) by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. 

“The taxpayer costs we discovered were staggering,” said Ken Jacobs, chair of UC Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education and coauthor of the report. “People who work in fast-food jobs are paid so little that having to rely on public assistance is the rule, rather than the exception, even for those working 40 hours or more a week.”

Fast food is a $200 billion a year industry. The median wage for core front-line workers at fast-food restaurants nationally is $8.69 an hour. Only 13 percent of the jobs provide health benefits.

The researchers found that the fast-food industry’s low wages and meagre benefits, often accompanied by part-time hours, combine to create substantial public assistance needs, including: 

  • Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, $3.9 billion per year
  • Earned Income Tax Credit payments, $1.95 billion per year
  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, $1.04 billion per year;
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, $82 million per year
The states where the fast-food industry’s low wages cost U.S. taxpayers the most include California at $717 million, New York at $708 million; Texas at $556 million, Illinois at $368 million and Florida at $348 million. A breakdown of other states for which data are available is in the report, “Fast Food, Poverty Wages: The Public Cost of Low-Wage Jobs in the Fast-Food Industry.”

“This is the public cost of low-wage jobs in America,” said UC Berkeley economist Sylvia Allegretto, co-chair of the Center for Wage and Employment Dynamics. “The cost is public because taxpayers bear it. Yet it remains hidden in national policy debates about poverty, employment and public spending.”

The researchers said families of front-line fast-food workers are enrolled in public programs at more than twice the rate of the overall workforce.

The report was funded by Fast Food Forward, a coalition of workers and labor, religious and community groups campaigning for higher wages and rights on the job for New York City fast-food workers.

Earlier this year, fast-food workers in 60 cities went on strike calling for higher pay so they could survive without having to rely on public assistance. They plan other actions this week.

The report also indicates that just 28 percent of core front-line fast-food workers regularly work 40 or more hours per week, compared to 75 percent of the country’s workforce as a whole.

Researchers based their findings on an examination of only those federal programs that function as income supplements and of fast-food industry workers not in management positions who put in at least 10 hours a week for at least 27 weeks a year between 2007 and 2011.

Marc Doussard, one of the report’s coauthors and an assistant professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said the report also helps dispel the myth of fast-food workers as largely untrained teenagers.

“More than two-thirds of core frontline fast-food workers across the country are over the age of 20, and 68 percent are the main wage- earners in their families,” Doussard said. “And more than a quarter of Americans working in fast-food restaurants are parents, raising at least one child.” 


For a copy of the report, contact Kathleen Maclay at kmaclay@berkeley.edu or (510) 643-5651.

For contacts with fast-food workers available to talk about their experiences, contact Laura Brandon at laura.brandon@berlinrosen.com or (202) 641-8477.

Parks Meeting to Target South Berkeley

By Toni Mester
Friday October 11, 2013 - 07:31:00 PM
Willard Park
Toni Mester
Willard Park

Parks in South Berkeley will be the focus of a special meeting of the new Parks and Waterfront Commission to be held on Wednesday October 16 at the South Berkeley Branch Library,1901 Russell Street at ML King Way, from 6-7:30 pm.

The public is invited to discuss ideas for improving the City’s parks, pools, community centers, marina, and camps. Please attend and share your ideas about the future of our parks and facilities. The Commission is especially interested in hearing from the African American, Latino, and other minority communities about their park use and recreational needs. All neighbors are warmly welcome; childcare will be provided.

South Berkeley facilities include Willard Park and Willard Swim Center, Oak Park, Monkey Island, Greg Brown, Grove, Bateman Mall, Halcyon Commons, The 63rd Street and Prince Street Mini-Parks, and the LeConte, Malcolm X, and John Muir Schools Parks.

Concerns about other parks or pools can be addressed by members of the public who missed the two prior neighborhood meetings.

These meetings each attracted about forty citizens who spoke to all nine commissioners and three staff members. Chairman Jim McGrath began with a statement of budget constraints that have resulted in the loss of 32 parks positions over the last ten years and a backlog of approximately $40 million in maintenance projects and then asked people to focus on the needs of their favorite parks. The responses ranged from small adjustments such as replacing basketball nets at Strawberry Park, and changing the locale of senior aerobics to removing the barrels adjacent to the steps of King Park and installing toilets there and at Indian Rock. 

At the first meeting Doug Fielding, the chairperson of the Association of Sports Field Users, told the Commission that existing facilities had to be better maintained before new facilities or capital projects could be undertaken and that the Parks department was understaffed. 

But Berkeley citizens have big dreams. Two major projects held the attention of the second meeting: the rebuilding of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp, which the Commission has endorsed, and the potential of building better pool facilities. 

Creating a culture of volunteerism was another subject of the second meeting. Commissioner Michael Boland, the chief planner of the Presidio Trust, said that they have over 6,000 volunteers who have contributed 65,000 hours to various projects, including the rebuilding of Crissy Field. He said that field staff need to be trained to work with volunteers. 

Commissioner Susan McKay recorded all comments, which will be considered in future discussions. 

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 

Margaret Gudmundsson
February 1937-October 1, 2013

Saturday October 12, 2013 - 09:43:00 AM

The world lost a shining spirit with the passing of Margaret Gudmundsson on October 1st. Margaret was very giving and well known and beloved by many. An active member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley where she was board president and chaired a number of committees, Margaret also had a love of community theater and participated in Actors Ensemble of Berkeley (where she was a past president, and the board secretary for many years up until her death), Squirrel Hill Theater and Pine Hill Theater where she acted, directed and stage managed hundreds of productions. Margaret’s love of the outdoors began with her life-long association with the Campfire Girls. She worked for Solano County and the Social Security Administration, and is survived by her three children, Bob (also long associated with Actors Ensemble), Thora and Jon, and two grandchildren, Sayre and Connor.

Services will be held 2:30 this Sunday, October 13, at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Road, Kensington.



There Goes the Neighborhood in San Francisco, with Down-and-Dirty Dealings Borrowed from Berkeley in Play

By Becky O'Malley
Friday October 11, 2013 - 05:27:00 PM

A friend who’s lived in San Francisco’s North Beach since, well, the old days, called me last night all in a swivet. She’d stopped in at Tosca, a longtime neighborhood hangout especially for arty types, which had just been re-opened after new owners from New York took over and made some changes.

She was fine with the modest décor upgrades, fine with the addition of real food, but she was outraged that the signature House Cappuchino, featuring chocolate, booze and no coffee, had doubled in price, from $6 to $12. Yes, yes, all the ingredients are now listed with high-end brand names, but still…who needs a $12 drink? So much for hanging out at Tosca with the old crowd.

It’s just one more example of the “there goes the neighborhood” phenomenon, in which big money, usually from out of town, comes in and destroys cities and their artifacts in order to save them. As the distribution of wealth continues to migrate into dumbbell-shaped graphs, global capital is gobbling up formerly pleasant places to live and turning them into rich-guys’ preserves.

This is not a new story. It’s what ruined Greenwich Village, and indeed most of Manhattan, not to mention a lot of London, and many other places. But the pace at which it’s proceeding, and the number and variety of urban settings which are being cannibalized all over the world are accelerating. 

My San Francisco friend, who’s lived for many years in the same rent-controlled apartment on Telegraph Hill, could be the poster child for the displaced residents. She’s a retired performer who’s reached social security age, but still needs to work pick-up jobs in order to pay the rent. 

As of now, she’s safe where she is, but a rich new owner could move in and move her out in short order with an Ellis Act eviction. And the city that she loves is under siege. Always a politically active citizen, she’s now doing what she can to save it, but it’s hard to fight the developers who’d like to gobble it up. 

The current battle she’s working on is to defeat San Francisco ballot measures B and C, a confusingly paired initiative and referendum which if passed would permanently spot-zone a choice parcel on the Embarcadero to rise above the city’s height limits from 84 to 136 feet. The Yes campaign is sponsored by Australian-born global developer Simon Snellgrove (yes, that’s his real name, though he doesn’t twirl a handlebar moustache) and his cronies, to the tune of $1.23 million as of this week and counting. 

His proposed building consists of 134 super-luxe $5 million condos for the super-rich. Backers are expected to clear about $400 million. 

They have promised to put $11 million of the take into affordable housing somewhere else in the city (some say Chinatown, in return for endorsement by politicians in that community like Mayor Ed Lee and Rose Pak). Eleven million dollars is a tidy little mess of pottage, in return for which those employed in the public housing industry were expected to sell their San Francisco birthrights. But not many were fooled, because that sum won’t build very many affordable units, just a drop in the bucket compared with the number of affordable rent-controlled units which are now being taken out of the market all over San Francisco by the new rich techies. 

Opponents say allowing this project would set a bad precedent which would ruin the Embarcadero area, now in recovery from the demolished freeway which used to block the views there—the campaign is called “No Wall on the Waterfront”. Former San Francisco Bay Guardian editor Tim Redmond, now engaged in trying to launch an independent news venture, has done a great job of explaining it on his blog, but otherwise the contest is largely below media radar. (Tim parted company with the Guardian’s new corporate masters soon after he exposed the many problems with developer-backed Plan Bay Area, which might or might not have been a coincidence.) 

The measures are on the November 5 ballot, but the absentees have already gone out, so opposing teams are in full cry, aiming to corral the mail-in vote. There’s a war of videos online and on TV. 

The Snellgrove set have produced one which spotlights Mayor Lee (as warm and fuzzy as my lapdog Larry Potter and often seen snuggling up to developers) and ex-Mayor Gavin Newsome (he of the trademark greasy hair and oily smirk). They’re fronting claims that all the developers are up to is replacing a parking lot with a park. It looks slick, but at least to me just a tad too slick to be credible. 

No Wall on the Waterfront has its own pair of videos. The latest one features a set of representatives of key San Francisco constituencies, carefully balanced both on issues and ethnicity, and its own ex-Mayor, Art Agnos (to my eye much more attractive than either Lee or Newsome.) Its goal is to refute pro-B&C claims that the project will be good either for tenants or for the waterfront’s public face. 

The Yes campaign has been particularly nasty. Citizens opposed to the Board of Supervisors’ decision to allow 8 Washington needed to gather many signatures to put C, the referendum, on the ballot. When my North Beach friend was circulating a petition in a shopping center, she was surrounding by developers’ shills, pushing and shoving and trying to prevent her from asking voters to sign. 

And there’s the link to the “there goes the neighborhood” mafia now trying to devour our cities. Some of us who live in Berkeley are familiar with these tactics. The late Planning Commissioner Patti Dacey, may she rest in peace, recounted similar down-and-dirty tactics from harassers in 2009, when she was circulating petitions for a referendum opposing the Berkeley City Council’s pro-highrise pro-developer Downtown Plan—which she told Planet reporter Richard Brenneman amounted to “thuggery”

That plan was the bastard child of Berkeley’s Downtown Area Planning Advisory Committee, which was set up to create the downtown plan that Mayor Tom Bates and the University of California at Berkeley wanted. The DAPAC, however, rebelled, and produced a draft plan which was a careful compromise aimed at protecting the city’s fabric from inappropriate exploitation. Not deterred, the Council’s Bates-controlled majority passed its own plan instead, but when the referendum qualified for the ballot it was dropped. 

And here’s where it gets interesting. The Mayor’s appointee as DAPAC chair, who tried unsuccessfully to promote the developers’ agenda, was a guy named Will Travis, a professional planner and a resident of a single family home in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto. Later Patti Dacey identified him as one of what she called “blockers”, the people who tried to intimidate referendum signature gatherers. 

On the Yes on B&C web site is another video with an assortment of talking heads promoting the measures. And who’s the leading spokesperson for this project for “our” waterfront? That’s right, you guessed it, Berkeley’s Will Travis. 


If I were a San Francisco resident I’d be mighty suspicious of where the recent anti-referendum thuggery originated, and mighty annoyed that this guy from Berkeley is portrayed shilling for this bad idea. Just sayin’. 

One of the greenspeak buzzwords prominently featured in the pro-project videos is “park”. It’s true that the condo tower will have a tiny greenspace, mostly enclosed, and who doesn’t like parks? 

But San Francisco voters, whose neighborhoods and parks matter a great deal to them, might do well to remember what Jane Jacobs warned in The Death and Life of Great American Cities

“…there is no point in bringing parks to where the people are, if in the process the reasons that the people are there are wiped out and the park substituted for them. This is one of the basic errors in housing-project… design. Neighborhood parks fail to substitute in any way for plentiful city diversity. Those that are successful never serve as barriers or as interruptions to the intricate functioning of the city around them... 'Artist's conceptions' and persuasive renderings can put pictures of life into proposed neighborhood parks...and verbal rationalizations can conjure up users who ought to appreciate them, but in real life only diverse surroundings have the practical power of inducing a natural, continuing flow of life and use....only a genuine content of economic and social diversity...has meaning to the park and the power to confer the boon of life upon it."
They can be sure that the one-percenters who can be expected to buy the 8 Washington $5 million condos won’t be picnicking on the lawn with the Telegraph Hill dwellers in the park that’s so prominently featured in the project promotions . Instead, the massive building will function as a barrier to neighborhood enjoyment of the waterfront and its views. 

There Goes the Neighborhood, for sure. That’s why my North Beach friend and other real San Franciscans like her will be voting No Wall on the Waterfront, No on B&C. If you know any San Francisco voters, tell them not to sit out this election. 

P.S. A correspondent just sent me Will Travis's Linked-In profile, which calls him a "sea level rise consultant". Among his clients: the Golden State Warriors.

The Editor's Back Fence


Odd Bodkins: The American Way (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Friday October 11, 2013 - 07:39:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Bounce: Liquid Gap of War (Cartoon)

By Joseph Young
Saturday October 12, 2013 - 04:53:00 PM


Joseph Young


Bounce: Diseases of the GOP (Cartoon)

By Joseph Young
Saturday October 12, 2013 - 04:50:00 PM


Joseph Young


Bounce: Wish YOU were here. (Cartoon)

By Joseph Young
Saturday October 12, 2013 - 04:45:00 PM


Joseph Young


Public Comment

Janet Yellen Is No Liberal

By Harry Brill
Saturday October 12, 2013 - 10:53:00 AM

Many progressives are feeling quite relieved that Larry Summers withdrew as a candidate for heading the Federal Reserve. Summers would certainly have been a disaster. But Janet Yellen, who just was nominated by President Obama, is no angel either despite her support from Elizabeth Warren and other liberals. In fact, there are important similarities between Yellen and Summers. 

Yellen, who was in the Clinton Administration, was a strong supporter of NAFTA. The claim then was that NAFTa would create many jobs for American workers. Organized labor knew better, and so was opposed to NAFTA. Since it became law, close to 700,000 American jobs were lost as a result. 

Yellen also was a strong supporter of abolishing the Glass-Steagall Act, the purpose of which was to reduce the risk of bank failures and to protect bank depositors from losses due to very risky investments. Of course the purpose of FDIC is to reimburse depositors for losses due to bank failure. However, if many mega-banks fail, which certainly cannot be ruled out, there is not enough money in FDIC's account to cover depositor losses.  

Among the serious issues that current and future senior citizens confront is the attempt to dilute the social security program. An especially harmful proposal that is being seriously considered by the Obama Administration and many in Congress is to substantially reducing annual pension increases due to inflation. Yellen has been a major proponent of revising the inflation index downward so that senior citizens would receive a smaller increase. In fact, she wrote a letter to the Bureau of Labor Statistics requesting that it develop a cheaper inflation measure. 

Just as we were enthusiastic when a black president was elected, we are pleased that for the first time the future head of the federal reserve will be a woman. But that should not blind us to where Janet Yellen is politically, which is certainly to the right of center.


THE PUBLIC EYE: Inside John Boehner

By Bob Burnett
Friday October 11, 2013 - 07:32:00 PM

As the Republican shutdown of the Federal government moves into its second week, it’s widely believed House Speaker John Boehner could end the impasse by permitting the continuing budget resolution and debt limit increase to be voted upon. Why won’t he?

There are three explanations for Boehner’s intransigence. His base doesn’t want him to permit the vote and he is beholden to them. He’s gotten in over his head and doesn’t know how to end the Republican shutdown without looking like a fool. A third alternative is that Boehner is playing his part in a Machiavellian GOP strategy that has forced the US to the edge of financial chaos in the hopes of getting horrific concessions from the Obama Administration.

On Sunday, October 6th, Boehner appeared on the ABC news program This Week. When asked if the House of Representatives would pass a debt limit increase unencumbered by policy demands (such as defunding Obamacare), Boehner replied, “We’re not going to pass a clean debt limit increase.”

He should know better. Bloomberg News described failure to increase the debt limit as a “financial apocalypse:” 

Failure by the world’s largest borrower to pay its debt -- unprecedented in modern history -- will devastate stock markets from Brazil to Zurich, halt a $5 trillion lending mechanism for investors who rely on Treasuries, blow up borrowing costs for billions of people and companies, ravage the dollar and throw the U.S. and world economies into a recession that probably would become a depression.

While most Americans agree with this assessment, Boehner’s base feels otherwise. An October 2nd CNN poll found that 52 percent of Republicans thought failure to raise the debt ceiling would be “a good thing” (64 percent of Tea-party supporters shared this sentiment). 

Many believe that Speaker Boehner has been forced to take this position because a radical minority controls his caucus. The New York Times noted 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.

However, the number of reactionaries within Boehner’s caucus is actually much larger than pundits believe. Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein interviewed Republican insider, Robert Costa, who explained the allegiances of the 232 Republican house members: “There are 30 to 40 true hardliners. But there’s another group of maybe 50 to 60 members who are very much pressured by the hardliners.” Thus, Speaker Boehner represents a divided caucus where roughly half the representatives support the radical Tea-party perspective. 

This ideological split mirrors the state of the Republican Party. On October 3rd, pollster Stan Greenberg’s Democracy Corps published Inside the GOP about three Republican focus groups: Evangelicals, Tea-Party members, and moderates. Greenberg observed, “Evangelicals are a third of the Republican base” and “Tea Party enthusiasts form just over a fifth of the base Republican voters… [They] are cheered on for the moment by the Evangelicals who are depending on their conservative backbone.” 

Given the contentious nature of the GOP, some believe Boehner is in over his head as Speaker of the House. Robert Costa observed: 

I think John Boehner is frustrated by leading the Republicans in the House but I think he very much loves being speaker… He loves being a major American political figure, but he’s not a Newt Gingrich-like figure trying to lead the party in a certain direction. He’s just trying to survive and enjoy it while it lasts.

Nonetheless, there’s good reason to believe that John Boehner is actually an actor playing his part in a staged Republican drama. Political commentator Jonathan Chait reported that in response to Obama’s reelection, House Republicans, including Boehner, formulated “The Williamsburg Accord:” 

Initially, House Republicans decided to boycott all direct negotiations with President Obama, and then subsequently extended that boycott to negotiations with the Democratic Senate… 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 New York Times corroborated this, noting: 

Shortly after President Obama started his second term, a loose-knit coalition of conservative activists led by former Attorney General Edwin Meese III gathered in the capital to plot strategy…. a little-noticed “blueprint to defunding Obamacare,” signed by Mr. Meese and leaders of more than three dozen conservative groups… articulated a take-no-prisoners legislative strategy that had long percolated in conservative circles: that Republicans could derail the health care overhaul if conservative lawmakers were willing to push fellow Republicans — including their cautious leaders — into cutting off financing for the entire federal government.

What we’re seeing unfold in Washington is a diabolical Republican power play, in which John Boehner has the leading role. 

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




ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Factors That Govern Improvement

By Jack Bragen
Friday October 11, 2013 - 07:38:00 PM

Measuring someone's clarity of thought and overall level of functioning is a complex undertaking, whether or not the subject has a psychiatric disability. When we are dealing with anyone and obtaining facts about them, whether they are an acquaintance, friend or relative, most people automatically will perform guesswork as to the level of the person's functioning. 

Over the years of being mentally ill and in contact with other persons with mental illness, I have had a chance to observe numerous people with mental illness, including myself. Some have had jobs or gone to school, some have not, and all have had their own challenges and assets. 

The longer a person with mental illness goes without a relapse, the more their mental processing might improve. Or, processing might not improve if the necessary conditions aren't met. 

In the process of dealing with life, a human being can grow, develop and improve. When essentially normal mental functioning is restored, it allows someone to chart their path. It is then up to that person as to whether they will get better with age, or, by allowing entropy to take over, will go downhill. 

Examples of a person's "functioning level," might include but are not limited to: the amount of activity they can handle, being able to carry on an intelligent conversation, being more interested in life compared to less interested, attention span, making better or worse decisions, and being able to deal with adverse or good situations that arise. 

Avoiding relapses of severe mental illness entails being medication compliant. If someone can go ten years or more without a relapse, it may bring an amazing level of clear thinking. 

People with schizophrenia may feel as if their medication is preventing them from thinking. However, the difficulty may lie in the initial illness. Blaming the medication for difficulties that may actually come from the illness is a common misperception. 

People with mental illness may have "mini-relapses" that can sometimes be induced by harder than usual circumstances, or by a spontaneous change in brain functioning. 

If a person with schizophrenia begins to backslide a little, it may impact both the judgment of what's real, as well as the person's decision-making. If so, the person might, unfortunately, proceed down an incorrect path of thought. 

If such a person decides that one of their main delusional perceptions is real, then every thought that follows will be based upon that error. Thus, a small relapse of psychosis can turn into a major relapse if it is not dealt with soon enough. If a small relapse is dealt with through getting treated, the bearer can soon get back on track with improvement in his or her level of functioning. 

If a person with schizophrenia is taking the minimum dose of medication, a level that just barely keeps them out of the hospital, I believe it is less likely that the person's level of functioning will improve. The same idea goes for people who are on an excessive dosage of medication, since this isn't good for you, either. 

However, if someone is adequately medicated and put into a good environment, improvement is more likely to take place. Part of a person's environment is created by oneself and results from the person's actions. 

In fact, part of the environment in which we all live is our internal environment, made up of thoughts, perceptions and feelings. Some people have a good degree of control of their internal environment through meditation, affirmations, and/or self-coaching. Meanwhile, others do not have that ability. 

People who are addicted to illicit drugs and/or alcohol have a tendency to deteriorate over time. Dual diagnosis treatment (for people with both a psychiatric illness and a substance abuse illness) exists. 

Making an effort in life will almost invariably create a better outcome than not trying. However, not everyone is able to do that. 

* * * 

I can be reached with your comments at: bragenkjack@yahoo.com

New: AGAINST FORGETTING: “Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink”
A book by Katrina Alcorn

Reviewed by Ruth Rosen
Thursday October 17, 2013 - 09:14:00 AM

One of the most persistent myths about the modern women’s movement is that activists believed we could “have it all.” On the contrary, we knew it was impossible. That is why we demanded universal child care for parents, paid parental leave for men and women, government-subsidized day care, on-site care for children, equal care of children and the home by men, and part-time jobs, health care and flexible work schedules for parents. These reforms were common in most European countries. In the United States, they challenged our deeply held belief in individual solutions. 

So from where did the myth come that a woman could “have it all” without “doing it all”? Helen Gurley Brown’s popular 1982 book, “Having It All,” certainly popularized the idea that women could, in fact, have everything—a career, children, a husband and great sex. Even before her book appeared, however, magazines had begun offering advice to the new working mothers just entering the labor market. They prescribed how women should dress for success, assert their authority, flaunt their skills, reach for the glass ceiling, give their children “quality time” and end the day with the sexual passion of a woman who did none of the above. In short, women gained the impossible “goal” of becoming the perfect working mom. They could have it all, if they did it all. 

This madness has hardly gone unnoticed. During the last 40 years, dozens of books have described and analyzed the impossibility of “having it all.” Some of these books advise women to “lean in” and reach for the glass ceiling. Few address the sticky floor that keeps most women in low-paid, marginal jobs. At least once a decade, The New York Times Magazine features an article about women who have opted out of their careers. 

“Maxed Out: Mothers on the Brink” is a memoir by Katrina Alcorn, one middle-class working mother who, at age 37, suddenly discovers she can no longer be a superwoman. While heading for Target to buy diapers, she suffers a panic attack, stops the car and desperately calls her husband. Sobbing, she realizes she is falling apart. 

There had been warnings. Alcorn realizes that she thinks about her children while at work and obsesses about her work when playing with her children. Sleep escapes her, as does concentration. Yet in many ways she is blessed. She and her terrific husband own their home. She has a fulfilling and high-paying career in Web design. Her husband shares the child care and housework, they have three healthy children, great local child care—no nanny—and she has an understanding and flexible employer. 

Nevertheless, even though her middle-class family requires a double income, she quits her job. She tries cognitive therapy, then psychiatric treatment. She becomes so confused that she can’t tell whether her anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications are helping her recover or undermining her sense of self. Then she creates a blog for women like herself, to which many working mothers contribute and describe their lives. Out of that blog emerges this book. 

Alcorn’s struggle to understand her breakdown saddens me because she doesn’t understand the broader world in which she labors, and sees herself as alone. It is as though she lives in a bubble, unaware of the many decades women have struggled to ease the lives of working mothers. She feels guilt at every turn, when she should feel angry that so little has changed for working mothers. 

There is little that is new in “Maxed Out.” There are literally dozens of books that have described the impossibility of being a perfect working mother. Something has to give. In the aftermath of the women’s movement and a changed economy that now requires two incomes to support a middle-class family, working mothers all too often burn out. These pioneers of the post-feminist age, as sociologist Lillian Rubin once put it, experience a certain “joylessness” because they are completely exhausted, even when both partners contribute to their joint income and take care of the home and their children. 

This is a memoir that will provide consolation for women like Alcorn who don’t understand why they are overwhelmed by stress. They won’t feel so alone. For the rest of us, it offers little that is new, except the details of her particular breakdown. Did she never hear about or read Judith Warner’s 2006 book, “Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety?” Between chapters that vividly describe her decline, Alcorn places inserts of several pages, full of statistics and references, in which she demonstrates that she has finally read the articles and books in which others have explained the conditions that caused her breakdown. For example, she notes that working mothers suffer from the “Time Bind” that sociologist Arlie Hochschild so brilliantly described in 2001. Elsewhere, she notes that other countries offer part-time jobs for parents with young children, lengthy paid parental leaves, flexible work schedules. All this information is derived from scholarly and popular books that have appeared within the last 40 years.  

Amazingly, Alcorn barely mentions the media-generated debate that exploded when Anne-Marie Slaughter revealed in a July 2012 Atlantic article why she left her fast track, high pressured job working for Hillary Clinton at the State Department. Slaughter’s article went viral, setting off a round of attacks and rebuttals about the possibility of women enjoying—not just enduring—family and work. Even a superwoman like Slaughter—blessed with a helpful husband, and enough wealth to buy domestic help and child care—could not do it all. Although she described the insane work policies that made her neglect her family, she implicitly blamed feminism for promising a false dream. It was too hard, the hours too long and the sense of guilt too pervasive. So she returned to her former life as a high-powered professor at Princeton University, which hardly qualifies as opting out of trying to have it all. 

What Slaughter—and Alcorn—fails to understand is that the modern women’s movement sought an economic and social revolution that would create equality at home and at the workplace. For magazine and book publishers, however, it’s more profitable to publish another article or book that blames feminism or the individual for the agonizing choices faced by working mothers. Every year brings one more article on the Death of Feminism or Why Women Can’t Have It All. It’s good for sales. Exhausted by their lives, working mothers buy up copies, hoping to better comprehend their sense of failure and despair. 

True, “Maxed Out” is a memoir, but the author seems clueless about the historical and economic world in which she unravels. Until she wrote her pamphlet-like inserts that appear between the chapters, she clearly didn’t grasp that her breakdown was the result of a systemic problem that is unique to the United States.  

She never mentions that activists in the women’s movement made child care one of their three demands in 1970, when they marched down Fifth Avenue in New York, an event that made the movement into a household word by the next day. Nor does she recall that feminists and child care advocates pushed comprehensive child care legislation through Congress in 1970, only to witness President Richard Nixon veto it the next year. She seems oblivious to the history of women’s struggles for working mothers. 

Reading her memoir is like watching an anguished woman discover, for the first time, what thousands of activists and scholars have been discussing and analyzing for the last 40 years. She never seems to “get” that the personal really is political and that her problems have a political solution, until, that is, she writes a blog, and then a book. Even then, her story is told as if nothing similar is happening in the world around her.  

What’s missing in the book is any recognition that working mothers’ problems should be at the top of the political agenda. Many people gasped when President Obama, in his inaugural speech, even suggested that the government should pay for preschool education. Imagine the response if he had suggested universal child care, one year paid parental leaves, part-time jobs for parents with young children or tax incentives for companies and corporations that embraced “family-friendly” policies.  

American political culture still embraces individual solutions for nearly everything. If you have a child, it’s your responsibility. Can’t find child care? It’s your problem. Your employer won’t allow you to take paid parental leave? Well of course not. That’s what most of the rest of the world does and moreover, it stinks of socialism. 

“Maxed Out” may offer some women consolation that they are not alone. But it is also a cautionary tale about a profit-oriented society that expects people to work 60 hours a week, at the expense of families and individual health. In the end, Alcorn returns to work as a freelance consultant, and the book concludes on a happy, upbeat note of individual redemption. But we have no idea how the “price of motherhood” will affect her old age. 

At the end, Alcorn tacks on 10 things working mothers can do to help themselves. Her most political suggestions—donating to candidate funder EMILY’s List or joining grass-roots organizer MomsRising—do not exactly constitute a political agenda for working mothers. Nor does she explain what these excellent groups have tried to achieve. Alcorn begins her book with the words, “Much ink has been spilled instructing women to have it all—thriving careers, happy children and satisfying marriages.” She’s right. But “Maxed Out” required more than the story of one working mom’s decline. What’s needed is a broader political and economic context in which working mothers can understand their situation.

Arts & Events

New: THE MOSQUE OF PARIS: How Muslims in Paris Sheltered Jews during World War II

Thursday October 17, 2013 - 09:35:00 AM

The Newman Nonviolent Peacemakers and the Fr. Bill O’Donnell Social Justice Committee will sponsor a lecture on Friday, October 18, by Annette Herskovits (PhD) on the role of Muslims in France during World War II.

Dr. Herskovits will tell the story of how she survived as a Jewish child in Nazi-occupied Paris, and present a short film about how the Mosque of Paris sheltered Jews. 

She will also speak of the several hundred thousand Muslim men from French colonies who fought the Nazis with the Allies and suffered disproportionate casualties. 

7:15 pm Friday, Oct. 18,  

Newman Hall/Holy Spirit Parish  

2700 Dwight Way @ College, Berkeley 

More info: 510 499 0537 

New: Living with Arts & Crafts: Berkeley Architectural Heritage Fall 2013 Lecture Series

By Daniella Thompson
Thursday October 17, 2013 - 09:05:00 AM

The BAHA fall 2013 lecture series, “Living with Arts & Crafts,” began in September with an illustrated talk by Dr. Kirby W. Brown on the tiles of the California Faience Company of Berkeley.

The series continues this month with a lecture on the origins of Mission-style furniture.

On Thursday, October 24, Arts & Crafts scholar Timothy L. Hansen will present “Sitting in Style: The Birth of a New Furniture Design,” in which he will offer little-known information about the beginnings of the American Arts & Crafts Mission-style furniture. Mr. Hansen will focus on furniture design from 1894 to 1900 in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York, and Grand Rapids, Michigan, with a new explanation of how the American Arts & Crafts furniture style emerged. On display will be several pieces of pre-1900 Arts & Crafts furniture. 

The series will conclude on Thursday, November 14, with “Progressive Leaded Glass in Turn-of-the-Century America,” presented by stained-glass designer and scholar Theodore Ellison will outline the development of decorative art glass as it grew away from the European tradition toward original idioms created by progressive artists, architects, and designers all over America. Focusing primarily on domestic work, the talk will look at various regional styles and will feature rarely seen images of leaded glass installations from private residences across the country. 

All lectures will be presented at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar Street, Berkeley, CA 94709, and will begin at 7:30 pm. Admission $15. Tickets may be obtained by mail order, online, or at the door. 

For complete information and ticket purchases, visit the BAHA website http://berkeleyheritage.com, e-mail baha@berkeleyheritage.com, or call (510) 841-2242.

Hey Kids (and Parents), It's Time to Get Your Spook On!

By Gar Smith
Saturday October 12, 2013 - 10:58:00 AM

With each day bringing us closer to Halloween, why wait to get your holiday chills? Thanks to Berkeley singer/songwriter/promoter Ira Marlowe, you can get a head start on the spooky season at The Monkey House, a unique live/work storefront cabaret at 1638 University Avenue. For the rest of the month, The Monkey House will be hosting "Mortimus Greely's Haunting School"--"a spooky stage show for kids"--every weekend from October 12 through Halloween. 

Marlowe (aka "Mortimus Greely") is your host at his hidden haunted house. Knock on the door and be surprised as you walk into a fully sound-proofed performance space complete with a stage, video screens and 49 comfy seats. The one-hour show is a kid-friendly celebration of all things ghoulish -- a spine-tingling series of musical, theatrical and interactive treats for "humans 7-12 years." 

"This interactive performance involves a roomful of kids, a handful of ghosts, one ghoulish (yet kindly) instructor, songs, games, interactive video, and a 'calcium-rich anatomy lesson'." In addition to the lively sing-a-longs about skeleton parts and other hairy-scary topics, ghost-master Greely also promises of a rousing game of "ectoplasm dodge-ball." (KGO's Peter Finch recently gave the show two (boney) thumbs up.) 


Here's a taste of Mr. Greely's spirited barrel of tricks and treats:  


Saturdays and Sundays
October 12, 13, 19, 20, 26, 27
Doors 2:45, Show at 3
Halloween show:
Doors 4:45, Show at 5
Final show! November 1, 8PM
Followed by the
Monkey House Halloween Party!!!
For more info, call: (510) 898-1979 

You can also check out: http://www.hauntingschool.com/HAUNTING_SCHOOL/HOME.html 

Tickets are only $10 via Brown Paper Tickets: http://bpt.me/475688 

Opening day (10/12) tickets are only $5, but must be purchased at the door to receive this half-price discount. You can reserve your seats at reservations@monkeyhousetheater.com 

NOTE TO PARENTS: “Haunting School” includes the brief use of strobe lights, as well as a fog-machine using a safe, USA-made water-and-glycerin solution.